Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Last week I saw a new painting in my pastor’s office. I really liked it and told him so. He said that he himself was a bit surprised by how much he liked it, because it is very different from the other works of art that he typically enjoys. In fact, he said he surprised the rest of the church staff by liking this particular work so much.

The painting was quite large, maybe 36”x42” or something like that. It was abstract, very vivid colors painted in a grid. And our pastor noted that he suspected that he liked the painting for that very reason – it was done in a grid. It was abstract, which is not usually his favorite art form. (The other works of art in his office include a Thomas Kinkade and an Ansel Adams.) But there was order to it. There were grid lines, color blocked off in squares, that gave the piece a sense of symmetry and order. He had just finished telling us that he was the kind of person who likes outlines (showing us his finished sermon for the following week, all neatly written out as a point-by-point speech), and then here was this large abstract painting hanging over his desk. This got me thinking…

I learned something about my own taste in art. I have not really been able to pinpoint before now just what kinds of art I like more than others. I like neatness, I like order, I like symmetry. I also like blends of color and texture (seems silly to even say that, because that is really a very general statement. Would anyone say that they DON’T like blends of color and texture?), and my tastes aren’t restricted to realistic art. I like poetry to have a predictable metre, but I don’t need poetry to always rhyme. I guess what I learned is that I can enjoy and appreciate art that is abstract or surreal; but I appreciate it most when it still observes some limitations. I loved the vivid colors and bold brush strokes on the painting in my pastor’s office; but I was able to appreciate them best as they were, confined to their grids, complementing one another without invading one another. There was order, there was clear design. That’s probably why I like Janene’s design works so much. They are bright, vivid, bold…and orderly. Much like creation. God created the world, a beautiful work of art, bright, vivid, bold…and orderly.

That’s probably why I like quilts so much, too, and like making them. There is much room for creativity, even within a given pattern. The quilter gets to choose the colors, the textures, the piecing stitches and the quilting stitches. Two people could make a quilt from the same pattern and they would look completely different. But the pattern is there. There is order. There are boundaries. And within those boundaries, a beautiful work of art is created.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

From the mouths of babes.

I have a precious group of 4th/5th grade girls in a small group at my church. I love them all. They sometimes come up with some rather interesting theological ponderings, and have provided me with a lot of opportunities to practice keeping a straight face.

Last night we all brought snacks to share with one another. One girl, T, brought cupcakes that she had made herself. They tasted like cardboard with sweetened Elmer's glue on top, but I wasn't about to not eat a treat that she had taken the time and effort to make by herself. T was quite serious when she told me why she had decided to use red frosting on her cupcakes. She said, "I decided to make them red because, you know, Jesus died on the cross, blood, I thought it was kind of churchy."

There are a lot of symbols in the Christian religion, and quite a few of them are directly related to Jesus' death and resurrection. T established a new one. I ate a really bad cupcake that apparently symbolized Jesus' blood. At least I can say that T sees the whole world from a Christian perspective. If, as Chris once told me, my eyes can't keep a straight face, I hope that my girls haven't picked up on it.

The Chronicles of Homemaking

I have been asked by quite a few people over the last seven months just what it is that I do all day. I've had everything from a thoughtless, "So, I hear you're taking it easy at home these days" to a thoughtful, "Tell me what your days are like now that you stay home". In case you ever ask a full-time homemaker about how she spends her time, you may want to keep in mind that how you ask makes all the difference in how that woman feels - about you and quite possibly about herself - when she walks away. Anyway, this is a difficult question for me to answer. Elise and I do have a routine, but it is not rigid, and a "typical" day could look like any number of things. So I thought that I would write down what I did today. This is a typical day, even though tomorrow won't really look anything like it.

First, I got up quite early to take my husband to work. Didn't bother with the usual morning routine that early; just got up, woke Elise up, changed her diaper, and hopped in the car. Andy was a sweetheart and made me a cup of coffee (before we hopped in the car, of course). I neglected to start the dishwasher as I had reminded myself to do. I like to run it while I am away as it is really loud. We drove to Redmond, dropped Andy off, and Elise and I went back home. Elise and I ate breakfast together, I checked email, did a more thorough job of making myself presentable, gave Elise a bath, got Elise dressed, took a phone call from my sister, put Elise down for a catnap (there wasn't enough time for a real nap), cleaned up the kitchen a bit, restocked the diaper bag, loaded some stuff into the car, and got Elise up. We then drove to the home of Bob and Grahame, dear friends of ours. Grahame and I sort of trade babysitting on Thursdays. I say sort of because I have had to cancel many, many more times than I have actually made it. But today I made it. Of course, I forgot to start the dishwasher again before I left. Elise and I played with Grahame's daughter for an hour or so while Grahame ran some errands. Then we drove back to Redmond to pick Andy up early from work. Returned a phone call while waiting for him in the parking lot. The three of us drove to Bothell where we had an appointment at our church. We got there early and fed Elise her favorite lunch, sweet potatoes, then had our meeting. Afterwards Andy and I were quite hungry, so we went to Qdoba Mexican Grill for a late lunch. (I had never been there before - it was really good!) We also stopped at the Christian bookstore on the way home, but did not find what we were looking for. We came home and I fed Elise again and then put her down for a nap, which has actually ended up being part of her regular night's sleep as it is now 9:10 and she is still asleep. I finally ran the dishwasher, picked up the living room, gathered laundry to be washed tomorrow, checked email again and responded as needed, flipped through a new book, took a shower, browsed a magazine from Janene, and finished a devotional reading and some journalling. Now I'm blogging.

This particular posting is more for my benefit than for anyone else's, as I realize that it is really boring to read the details of my day. I wanted to write them out because people do ask me quite frequently how I spend my time, especially those who know that I left the professional world to be a mom, and I usually stumble over my answer because, really, it's a hard question to answer. Maybe I should have just written this out in my journal, but it is already typed and I don't want to hand-write it all over again, so here it is for all to see. I might do this a few more times in the weeks to come, again mostly for my own benefit, since our "routine" varies so much from day to day. This is new for me...having a job without a job description, having responsibilities without a boss, having a schedule without set working hours. So if you find this post to be ultra-boring (and I don't blame you), then you won't want to read the rest of them. Fair warning.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

This Blog Will Bore You If You Do Not Sew.

I am making a quilt and am quite excited about it. It is a folk art style pattern, with appliqued wreaths of red flowers and greenery on four cream-print background squares. I'll post a picture one of these days. The applique was a pain in the neck. There were 208 pattern pieces to be traced onto fusible web, then fused onto the fabric, then cut out. (The pattern would have had me cutting out the pieces twice, once on the paper tracings and once on the fabric, which is ridiculous. I stuck the paper to the fabric and then cut the pieces out, just once.) The pattern was also wrong. As a beginner, I hesitate to say that, but it is true. It is impossible for the completed flower wreath to fit onto the background square in the prescribed manner. So I had to adjust the pattern. This was a little bit tricky, but with the help of my engineer husband, a ruler, and a compass (of the geometric variety, not the Boy Scout variety), I pulled it off. That'll teach me to use a free pattern from the Internet. I am now stitching the appliqued pieces into place. I started to machine stitch them using a simple zigzag stitch, but found that there are so many starts and stops on this particular piece that it was impractical to machine stitch it. So I'm hand-stitching it using a blanket stitch. It is slow going, but I enjoy sewing by hand, so it's okay. I will be glad when this step is done, because the next step is my favorite part of quilting - piecing the quilt top together. This is very satisfying. It's fast, relatively easy, and you get a sneak preview of what the finished quilt will look like. I hope to be able to do that part this coming weekend. We'll see.

But Keep The Old

I have lost touch with one of my college roommates. This saddens me. Once upon a time we were great friends. We lived together for three of our four years of college. As time went on, it became more and more apparent that our lives were heading in different directions, and we grew apart even as we were still roommates. The time came when she told me that she had decided the Christian faith was not for her, that she abhorred the way Christians used God as a crutch, and that she was (or at least wanted to be) strong enough to deal with life on her own. I appreciated her honesty. It takes guts to admit to something like that when you live with three Christian women and attend a Christian university. But with the confirmation of her lack of faith, I am sorry to say that our friendship rapidly disintegrated. We weren't enemies or anything; we just didn't have anything in common. My whole life was based on something that she thought was a crock. Now, I have friends who are not Christians, and family members who are not Christians, and we get along just fine. I think that my roommate and I could have remained friends if we had not been roommates - except that by that point our lives were so different that we probably wouldn't have met each other. Anyway, I think that we could have pulled it off had we not been living together. It is one thing to be friends with a person who does not share your faith. It is another thing entirely to live with such a person. So, needless to say, after graduation we went our separate ways and lost touch with one another.

Not all that long ago, our paths crossed again. Attempts were made to reestablish friendship. Social plans were made. And then she cancelled them. Then we crossed paths again, just a few short weeks later (rather coincidental in a city as large as Seattle, don't you think?) . And she ran away. She was with someone, and she pretended that she did not know me. Now this might sound like an action that would really hurt my feelings. It is the kind of thing that would hurt one's feelings. But it doesn't. It just makes me really sad. Sad for her. Introspective also. Why would she pretend not to know me? I have a strong suspicion that it is because she has chosen a life that she knows I disagree with. The part that saddens me and makes me examine myself is that I feel there must be some reason that she would believe that I would look down upon her or ridicule her or condemn her. What would make her think that? I keep looking back to the years when we were friends, trying to remember my own attitude, words, and behavior. What did I do or say that would make her think that I would not or could not love her despite our differences? I hope nothing. I hope her reasoning is based on something else. I would rather that she just didn't like me. But I don't think that is the case. I think there is something more.

It pains me to think that anyone would avoid me because they think that I would judge them. (Christian Lingo Definition: judge: with the Bible as my guide and the Holy Spirit as my Counselor, I believe that I [and all Christians] can judge behavior as right or wrong. I cannot judge people. That is up to God.) Especially people who are not Christians. I can't hold a non-Christian to the same standards that I would expect from a Christian. To hold non-Christians and Christians alike to the same standard would be to deny the necessity of the power of God to change a life. It would be to say, "I know you don't know Jesus, but I think you should pretend like you do." My friend told me flat out, five years ago, that she was not a Christian. And now I'm afraid that she thinks I look down on her for it. I don't. I'm just sad.

It makes me sad that my old roommate doesn't know that I have a daughter, and I don't know how her dad's cancer recovery went, or even if he survived. I've lost touch with a lot of people from college (and high school and childhood and jobs), as is natural. But this one, for whatever reason, pulls hard at my heart.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Tindalls are moving!

Chris and Janene are moving to Snohomish. It's cool. We went and saw their new house yesterday. It's this big, turn-of-the-century (that is, the 19th century turning into the 20th century) house. I won't describe it, because Chris and Janene have both done lovely jobs of that on their own websites, which are linked above. Anyway, I'm so excited for them to be moving into a house that I hope they will love, and I'm so excited to have a friend to visit in Snohomish. Snohomish is a beautiful little town full of quaint shops, cafes, galleries, and restaurants. There are some beautiful old churches (old by northwestern United States standards) and houses. In fact, I believe the house that Chris and Janene will be living in is on the registry of historic houses.

If you get the chance, and like the sort of thing I've described, you should visit Snohomish. I know that Janene and I like to browse through the shops just to admire the artistry that is displayed - quite a bit of the merchandise is handmade - and to get ideas to enhance our own creative undertakings. (Janene is an artist and I enjoy various crafts.) In fact, when we were in Snohomish yesterday to look at the house and to celebrate the birthday of the third member of our triad, Grahame, I believe that neither Janene nor I actually bought anything other than lunch. We just looked, and I daresay we both walked away with some good ideas and inspiration.

I am curious to find out whether Snohomish retains its charm once we start spending a fair amount of time there.

Oh, joy.

Well, it seems I may have to deal with the abrasive woman myself after all. The tactic advised by my superiors is not working. I guess I'm not surprised. What they suggested was really, when it comes down to it, avoidance of the real issues. Sometimes I think that firing someone (which is not an option here) would be easier than correcting them. When you fire someone, you (usually) don't have to deal with them anymore. Out of sight, out of mind. I don't have that option. I'll have to see this woman week after week. But maybe I am not giving her enough credit. Maybe she is really quite mature and reasonable and simply is not aware of how her behavior is affecting others, and maybe she'll be glad that someone has pointed it out to her. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Devotional Classics

I'm reading a book called Devotional Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster & James Bryan Smith. I'm not familiar with Smith, but Foster is the one who wrote Celebration of Discipline, a great book about the purpose of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, silence, service, etc. Anyway, Devotional Classics is a compilation of excerpts by a variety of Christian writers. They range from such ancient writers as Augustine to such recent writers as Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard. Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, Francis of Assisi, Thomas a Kempis, Martin Luther...the list goes on and on. Well, it goes to 52. Then it stops.

I'm really enjoying this book. It has introduced me to several writers with whom I was not previously familiar. At the end of each excerpt, Foster and Smith post a passage of Scripture, some good questions meant for journalling or small group discussions, suggested exercises related to the writing, and a little blurb about their own personal thoughts about the writing. Even though each excerpt is only a few pages long, I feel that this book has substance and is more than a froofy, feel-good devotional that makes your happiness in Christ seem very much like the happiness you feel when you see a cute puppy. After all, a good writer can relay substance with few words. And these guys have, for the most part, really stood the test of time. Augustine's writings are 1600 years old, and still make up a basic component of most seminarians' libraries.

The reading for tomorrow is by Thomas Merton, which reminds me...did you hear that someone recently found something like 3,000 original pages of Merton's work? If I remember the article correctly, there was a completed but unpublished book in there, plus various drafts and correspondence. It has been valued at $1 million, I think, although the finder (formerly Merton's editor, I believe) kindly donated the material to The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Kind of exciting for any Merton fan. No one expects a new book nearly 40 years after the author's death. I just looked at the website for the Thomas Merton Center,, and found a funny photograph of Merton wearing his Trappist garb and a baseball cap. Well, I thought it was funny, anyway.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Spirit of Timidity

I have very narrowly escaped a most unpleasant conversation. There is a situation involving one person's inappropriate behavior towards another, and I am technically the one directly responsible for maintaining appropriate behavior in this particular setting. The offending person is very bold, very abrasive. She speaks in a confrontational, accusing, and frankly very rude manner. (This is, in fact, the root of her offense.) I, on the other hand, am quite timid and passive. I go out of my way to avoid confrontation. I was very much dreading even the possibility of having to approach this person. Luckily for me, I ended up not having to do it. I turned to the counsel of a wiser person than I, and she in turn sought out the counsel of a still wiser person, and we all agreed on a different course of action. Nevertheless, the incident has made me think about my fear of confrontation.

2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that we were not given a spirit of timidity, but "of power, and love, and of a sound mind". God did not give me a spirit of timidity...and yet I am timid. It didn't come from God. It had to come from somewhere. My sinful nature...or, thinking in stronger terms, from Satan himself. When I think of it that way, well, I just don't like it one bit. What's more, if this timidity is a bad thing (and, having not come from God, I would say that it most certainly is), then my extreme avoidance of confrontation is just as wrong as the aforementioned person's love of confrontation. By not confronting wrongful behavior that is in my power (the spirit of which IS from God) to lovingly confront - or even more, that is actually my duty to confront - I am being just as sinful as the person who confronts everyone about everything in an abrasive way. Something for me to think about....

Friday, March 10, 2006

Poor Popeye

I generally consider myself to have a fairly strong stomach. I am not a sympathy vomiter. I can leave the dinner table to change a nasty diaper and then resume my meal without difficulty. I've held a spastic child while a nurse cared for his horribly infected surgical wound. I've even touched a brain protected only by skin, not skull. All of this meant absolutely nothing today when I encountered what is possibly the most disgusting substance on the planet. Creamed spinach.

First of all, the words "cream" and "spinach" should only be used in association with one another when you are talking about a recipe for spinach dip, in which case it is acceptable to refer to "sour cream". That's it. Secondly, it should be a crime to turn such a nutritious, relatively tasty food as spinach into something so grossly....uh, gross. I like spinach, and I like for my daughter to eat nutritious foods, and spinach is a nutritious food. So I bought a jar of Creamed Spinach baby food. All natural ingredients, nothing scary or unfamiliar. I am relatively conscientious about what I allow my child to eat.

I made two mistakes (besides buying it). First, I heated it. That released the smell. Strike #1. Then, as I always do with new foods that I am giving to my daughter, I tasted it. (This may have been the least intelligent thing I have done all week.) Strike #2. I thought for sure that we were going to strike out with this incredibly horrific food. But then, to my shock and amazement, my baby girl actually liked it! No, LOVED it! She ate the entire jar. The whole thing. I gave her bites of applesauce in between bites of icky green stuff, but I admit that the applesauce breaks were more for my benefit than hers. Even now as I think about it, my stomach is churning. Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew. It was so bad. We won't be buying Creamed Spinach again.

Poor Creamed Spinach factory workers...

Follow the leader

I've done it. I've jumped onto the blogging bandwagon. Most of my closest friends have been blogging for years, or at least months. My husband, while not a blogger, has a personal website. Yes, I have been slow to commit to the blogging frenzy. But here I am, at long last, ready to add my two cents' worth to the world wide web. (If thoughts are worth two cents, why do people offer only a penny for them? Supply and demand, I suppose. The consumer has the upper hand here - there is an overabundance of thoughts in our society, so the consumer of thoughts gets to name his price. Ah, but I have misspoken. There is an overabundance of opinions in our society; but a shortage of thoughts. But that is just my opinion.)