April 22, 2011

Good Friday, Bread and Saying Goodbye to Friends

Yesterday was Good Friday. At least for some of us. The pastor speaking last night wondered if the residents of heaven, especially Jesus, would consider it to be a good day. It was a day Jesus had to "...endure the cross, scorning its shame..." (Hebrews 12:2a). Chances are, he would only think it good because meant that his work of justifying an undeserving people was finished and because, in the perspective of eternity, it was over in the blink of an eye.

Speaking of Jesus, I made an experiment this week with our bread machine that will ensure home baked quick breads throughout the summer. For those of you who are confused, Jesus claimed to be the Bread of Life, meaning that only He can satisfy our deepest needs. I know, the link is tenuous. Please give me some grace. Because our Breadman Ultimate Plus is of this world, it has a weakness in making quick breads. It doesn't mix the ingredients well. Many times, I have tried making banana bread, even stopping the cycle to mix the ingredients myself during the mixing cycle only to see white chunks of flour in the finished product. This week, I took my parent's zucchini bread recipe, mixed it in my Kitchen Aid, and poured half the recipe into the breadmachine to bake at the specified temperature and cooking time. It turned out great. The other half I baked in my mini-loaf pan. I like using the bread machine because, being a MUCH smaller oven, it doesn't heat up the house as much. I made carrot raisin bread last night, right before going to bed so that we would have portable, relatively nutritious breakfast ready in time to go to Kyle's 8 a.m. baseball game.

My father-in-law and his wife suffered a huge loss on Thursday when his friend, Don passed away. The picture to the right is of Don sitting next to my sister-in-law, Michelle during one of the many bonfire parties. Don was a frequent Boundary Waters canoeing partner of my FIL and the two couples often got together for food and games. My memory of him was being very gentle, very funny, very quick to smile and loving the outdoors. My heart goes out to his wife, Dorothy, daughter Beth and all the other kids and grandkids who will miss him, as well as my in-laws. And so, for yet another reason, I have a reason to rejoice that Jesus is "the Resurrection and the Life" and remember that just as he raised Lazarus from the dead and just as he was raised from the dead, so too, we will one day be resurrected and join Don in bodies that are unencumbered by age and free of any kind of disease. He is probably eating bread that tastes even better than the carrot-raisin bread that my bread machine baked because all food will taste heavenly in heaven.

Another comment that my pastor made last night was how inadequate, how understated, how lukewarm the word "good" is to describe this particular Friday. A song describes it as a "beautiful, scandalous night." I would describe it as horrifically wonderful day. But then again, maybe words cannot describe a day when God stooped to humble himself so much as to willingly accepted the punishment that we earned, so that we can receive the gift we can never repay.

Happy Easter!

April 19, 2011

Second Summit Achieved: North Mountain

The kids and I packed our camelbacks and snacks for our second hike to a summit around Phoenix: North Mountain. I discovered while hiking that Shadow Mountain, Lookout Mountain, North Moutain and Shaw Butte are all pretty close together. This time, we invited two other families to join us.

One family I met a year ago the Veritas homeschool group when they moved to Arizona from South Carolina. We actually live no more than ten minutes away from each other, walking at a six year-old's pace. She has three kids roughly the same ages as John, Kyle and Jessi. We have been getting together since August for a little group P.E. in a nearby park. Kyle and her middle boy are fast friends and are playing baseball together on the same team. Elizabeth has found a kindred artistic spirit in her oldest son, who is Jessi's age and Jessi and her young daughter like to play together and Jessi gets her Barbie fix at their house.

The other family I met through two different families. She emailed me in the winter with a list of prayer requests for a family we know whose wife was going through breast cancer surgery. I knew the woman, a busy mommy through a Bible study that we had attended and she had a Boy Scout connection. A week later, I actually met her when I helped a mom in my homeschooling group run a garage sale to help her raise funds to go to Africa to see the sons that she "adopted" living in an Ethiopian-run orphanage. Since then, I started to consistently run into her in our church and she decided to join the homeschooling group. Isn't it funny how God throws people together?

The hike started out cool and cloudy with a bit of a wind. Since the beginning of April, temperatures had taken a twenty degree dip, which was actually welcoming. However, a couple of my kids complained about being cold in their short sleeved shirts (don't laugh, you Minnesotans and Chicagoans! Don't cry either.) However, the sun soon burst out from behind the clouds and those wearing coats soon gave them to their moms because they became too hot. The start of the trail was steep but wide and soon turned into an aging road that led almost to the summit. The summit is actually being used for micro-wave extenders and cell phone towers. The trail seemed to end there, though a small, round, sun faded sign indicated another trail that looked more like a foot trail than a groomed trail. However, it took us down, winding around boulders, making us sit down sometimes to get to the next ledge (for those of us with short legs or weak knees). Most of it was rocky, though there were a few times when it became those little small pebbles that can easily cause you to land on your derrier. There were at least a few times when I wondered if I lost a marble or two to let my kids scramble down the steep path with a drop off so close that would lead to certain damage if they slipped off it. Plus, I had heard from a mom at our P.E. class that this is the time when hibernating snakes, grumpy and starving, come out of hiding for the first time all winter. However, the kids kept their footing and we didn't see any snakes, at least on that hike. The only potential problem came when one child, terrified of bees, encountered bees flying too close to the path. The kids all seemed to hit it off and the moms who didn't know each other got to know each other better. A fun time was had by all. I hope you enjoy the "movie" I put together.

April 6, 2011

Flying solo

My WH is gone for a few days on a business trip. Again. This is the third time in four weeks that he has had to travel to get his project tested and ready for reality. It looks like he will be gone next week, too. However, I really have no reason to complain now that my kids are older and can help me out and, in these travels, he has at least stayed in the same time zone, rather than traveling halfway around the world, as was required of him in his old job. Whenever he is gone, I have taken the opportunity to watch movies that he wouldn't want to see, like romantic comedies or sappy dramas. Lately, however, I have watched documentaries when he is gone. Last time, I watched "Which Way Home," about a couple of boys who are barely teenagers illegally crossing the Guatemala border into Mexico and riding on the tops of trains to try and reach America, the Land of Hope and Opportunity. I watched it because immigration is a huge issue in my neck of the woods. Last night, I watched "The Spill" because my cousin worked on it as a researcher. It was about British Petroleum (BP) and examined their corporate culture during a time time that they experienced four disasters in six years. It was well done, of course, because my cousin worked on it ;-). If you get the chance, watch those films. Both of these films were made available to me on Netflix instant access which will be making cable obsolete pretty soon.

I also tend to stay up too late , either watching movies or surfing the net or reading. Last night was no exception as I went to IMBD to view some upcoming movies to see if there were any that I really wanted to see. One preview caught my attention because of one line. The movie is called "Limitless" and it is roughly the same storyline as "Flowers for Algernon" for those of you who read that in school. The line that caught my ear was this: "How many of us ever know what it is like to become the perfect version of ourselves?" Isn't that the same theme in most superhero stories--ordinary people receiving extrodinary powers through radiation (Spiderman, Ginormica in "Monsters vs. Aliens), a ring (The Green Hornet), scientific experimentation (The Hulk, Captain America), really cool toys (Megamind, The Green Hornet, Batman) or otherworldy parentage (Percy Jackson, Harry Potter)? Everyone wants to be better than they really are, which is why we have a huge section of self improvement books in the bookstores and surgical/drug enhancement tools to help us in that goal. However, this is worldly thinking and is totally against the gospel message. Phillipians 2: 6-8 sums up the anti-superhero plan of Jesus pretty well:

He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death--and the worst kind of death at that--a crucifixion (The Message).
This isn't a new concept, I guess. Just a great reminder as I get ready to celebrate the beautiful, scandelous night of Good Friday and the joyous, victorious Easter that Jesus died so that I could become a child of God, with the superhuman power of prayer, forgiveness, grace and the love of God, which surpasses all human understanding.

April 1, 2011

Happy 1st Day of April

The Overtoom pool was opened for swimming today. No, this is not an April Fool's Day joke. My wonderful husband (WH), who saw that the temperatures were going to be reaching the 90's by the middle of the week, covered the pool with a solar blanket on Sunday to help warm up the pool so we could enjoy it during the heat of the day. Today was Veritas Park Day. The kids played outside for 2 1/2 hours as the temperature climbed from the low 80s past the 90s. You could feel the promise of the breath-stifling, pizza-oven summer heat yet to come. Trust me folks, that is a promise that no one really enjoys being fulfilled. Anyway, the kids were hot and grumpy from all the running around and playing in the sand. After lunch, we took a bit of a rest and then donned our swimsuits to see if the pool was warm enough to be able to stay in it. It was quite bracing, even with the help of the solar blanket, but felt awesome against the 98 deg heat. We played in the water for about an hour before the kid's chins quivering with the cold drove us reluctantly from the water. It was a great end to Spring Break.