Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Metaphors and Other Beautiful Things

We've been talking about metaphors and allegories at our house.

It all started with The Polar Express. The movie is loaded with metaphor and once we started uncovering them the kids didn't want to stop. I knew things were getting crazy when Olivia informed me that there were metaphors about sin in a Robin Hood episode of Backyardigans.

But the coolest thing ever was when Olivia decided to make up her own allegory.

We live, as many of you know, in somewhat of a... ahem...ghetto. So as Aaron and I were casually commenting on some fresh graffiti, Olivia got to thinking.

Here is her allegory (I'm not kidding. She came up with this all by herself!):

There was a man who had a perfectly clean wall, and another man who decided to graffiti on it.

A policeman came to arrest him, and said, "I'm going to close my eyes and count to 100, and when the time is up you need to be finished cleaning off that wall or you're going to jail."

The criminal scrubbed and scrubbed, but nothing he could do would get that graffiti off the wall.

Then the policeman gave the criminal a helper. The helper didn't just paint over the wall. He tore the whole thing down and built a brand new, clean wall.

We are like the criminal and the graffiti is our sin. The policeman is God the Father, and the 100 seconds is the span of a lifetime. You only have a short time to make your peace with God, and then comes the judgment.

But we cannot save ourselves, just like the man could not remove the graffiti, and so God sends a Savior. Jesus does all the work, and He does it completely. He makes our peace with God.

Of course, it's not a perfect metaphor (none are), but it still sort of chokes me up a little. I love watching my children grow in grace!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Bit of Story

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!

I was exploring in Word and found a snippet of fiction I thought it would be fun to post. I've never done this on my blog before, but there's a first time for everything. This is from a WIP (entitled Isabelle Tuesday) that is currently on hold while I'm working on something else. Isabelle is not one of the point-of-view characters-- she is more like the stone that makes the ripples in the lives of the others. Here is the POV of one of those lives, Taggart Pike, professor:

My goal was to change the world. I was never one for underachieving. I recognize it now as an ego-centric goal—assuming I could somehow save humanity and all that. But I was young, and my world was big, and I was still under the impression people wanted to change.

I’m sitting in the dingy light of an all-night taqueria on Independece Avenue, writing my story onto the empty side of a stack of paper placemats. I bought them, along with a burrito and a cerveca, forty minutes ago from a confused slip of a girl—Honduran, I’d guess, No Anglais—for twenty bucks, keep the change.

The place still smells of cigarette smoke, even though smoking is no longer allowed in Kansas City restaurants. To me, it is the scent of desperation. Mine, not theirs.

The words have suddenly stopped flowing, and it occurs to me that I’m even failing at my own confession. I want to put my pen down, to rip up the things I’ve already written, to come up with some answers instead of all these questions. But if I stop now, will I ever be able to begin again?

A slow Spanish love song begins crooning over the stereo. I glance up at the jukebox, where a woman leans provocatively against the side. She shifts her hip against the machine and lets one thin strap slide a bit down a round shoulder that, by any appropriate measure, should have more covering it. Her eyes catch me looking, and she inclines her head. Void of make-up except for penciled-in eyebrows and darkened lips, she is of indeterminate age and race.

I look down at the table in front of me, focusing on the grip my hand makes on the pen. I refuse to let it go.

I feel, more than see, the woman cross the room. It’s something in the way my chest tightens—not with desire, but disgust, apprehension, the very sort of self-righteous disdain that made Isabelle leave me in the first place. In my peripheral vision I catch the woman sliding into the booth opposite mine, crossing a bare leg, bouncing a high-heeled foot. I turn my head the slightest bit and watch her foot, browned and misshapen with too much time walking in shoes that don’t fit. The foot stills, and I glance up to find her watching me, curiosity and probably greed lighting her eyes.

“You just gonna watch all night?”

I look away, as if somehow a scant four feet away, I hadn’t heard, and take a long, tasteless drag of the now-warm Mexican beer. I shouldn’t have come. I scrape up the makeshift papers and stand.

The woman slides forward a little as if she plans on joining me.

“No,” I say, though I wish I could say more, could say what Isabelle would say. Have I learned nothing in all this time?

The EXIT sign glows red, the same way it did thirteen years ago when Isabelle Tuesday walked out that same, scarred door into a world that didn’t deserve her. The night she said she couldn’t marry me.

This night feels darker though, like it’s shaded by the weight of a world I can’t see. Because finally, I am beginning to understand why she went.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wanna play?

There are no prizes, this is just for glory.
I'll list some lyrics, you name the sang (or artist). These are faves of mine from random corners of my iTunes, (i.e. what I was listening to today.) I love song lyrics because you only get a few words to paint a picture or evoke an emotion. A couple are these are kind of obscure, but if you know me or have ever received a mix CD from me, then this shouldn't be too hard. Feel free to post your own lyrics in the comments. I promise not to google them for the answers.

1. And I can't call it easy
This thing no one will survive,
Though we are all breathing
There are few of us alive.
And we will stand here perishing
In hopeless circumstance
And the wisdom of the world
Will tell us not to take the chance...

2. I've seen the paths that your eyes wander down
I want to come too...
I think that possibly,
Maybe I'm falling for you

3. I love anonymity and I love being noticed
Just the same as anybody else

4. santa is here
sleigh bells are ringing
twenty-one elves
they are singing,
k-mart is closed,
so is the bakery,
everyone's at home
watching tv

5. And the moon is a sliver of silver
Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter's shop

6. I hope we sit together when Jesus serves the wine
So I can look into your eyes when I taste it the first time
And I know there's no secrets when you're sitting at that table
But I believe we'll smile real knowingly when we read the label

And a sad one to close...

7. I drink good coffee every morning
Comes from a place that's far away
And when I'm done I feel like talking
Without you here there is less to say

Have a favorite lyric? Post it, post it! I wanna play too.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Bartered Bride

You may know that back in my Calvary days, I majored in Secondary Education. And since I couldn't decide on a subject, I picked my own: History with a "writing emphasis." My friend, Erica Vetsch (also a Calvary alum) is a girl after my own heart. She's the kind of girl who sees stories in tombstones and and obscure historical trivia. :) Her debut novel, The Bartered Bride, has just been released, and I'm honored to host her on my blog today! 

Here's a little about her book:
Jonathan Kennebrae is furious when his grandfather informs him that his future has been decided. He will marry Melissa Brooke or lose his inheritance. Jonathan has invested years of his life in Kennebrae Shipping, but heaven help him if Grandfather decides to take it all away for this.

Melissa too is devastated when her parents make their announcement. As little more than a bargaining chip in her father's business maneuvers, she feels her secure world slipping away.

Engaged to marry a man she has never met--someone "considerably older" than herself? What have her parents done?

Can Jonathan and Melissa find a way out of this loveless marriage, or must they find a way forward together?

I thoroughly enjoyed Erica's characters (and I loved her ending, well done, Erica!), so I asked her if I could interview one for today's post. :) She agreed, so please let me introduce you to the heroine of The Bartered Bride, Melissa Brooke:

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be the bargaining chip in the middle of a business proposition! 

I am the only child of Lawrence and Almina Brooke. My father controls much of the grain storage capacity of Duluth Harbor and many miles of railroad in the upper midwest. He's quite influential in both the city and the region. My mother is a patron of many charities and belongs to many of the social clubs of the city. As their daughter, there are certain expectations regarding my future. Although it is not uncommon in these times for parents to play a dominant role in choosing their daughter's suitors, particularly when you are of the socio-economic status of my parents, I had hoped to at least be consulted, perhaps presented with a list of acceptable callers, and then allowed to get to know them. From that group of acceptable young men, I had hoped to fall in love, to find someone well suited to me. And I had hoped to delay this process of choosing a husband until I felt the time was right, until I'd accomplished a few of my goals. When my parents bypassed me altogether in the equation, I felt betrayed. I wondered if God was aware of my situation, and just how marrying a stranger could possibly fit in with His promise to have a plan and a purpose for my life.  
 2. Your parents arranged your engagement to Jonathan Kennebrae. What was your first impression of him? What did you notice about him as you grew to know him? 

My first impressions of Jonathan were a bit muddled, as there was a bit of a mix-up about who he was. As I got to know him, I realized how organized and focused he is, how much he cares about his family and the family business, and how, under that all-business front he puts up at times beats a tender heart that feels deeply and loves very much.

 3. I know you are too modest to boast, but I hear you are a lovely musician. What do you play, and what kind of music do you prefer? Do you have any other secret talents we should know about?

Thank you. I love to escape into the beauty of music. I play classical music, though I much prefer the music of the Early Romantic period over the Baroque styles. Beethovan and Schubert, Chopin and Schumann. I've never really been a fan of Bach. His music is so heavy and dark. It evokes sadness and solemnity when I prefer lighter, more hopeful music. 
Secret talent? Through my work with immigrant women, I've become adept at pounding out rollicking Scandinavian songs, though my mother would be mortified to hear such tunes rolling out of our Steinway.

 4. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? 

I wish I would think to pray first instead of worrying. I wish my first instinct was to run to the Lord instead of waiting until my back is to the wall.
And I'd like to be a better linguist. I speak English and French, and a very poor conglomeration of Scandinavian languages. Of Russian and German I know nothing, and more and more immigrants are coming to America from those countries.

5. What are you most afraid of? 

I have an almost paralyzing fear of mice. Oh, and heights. I get dizzy on a step ladder.

 6. You and Jonathan have been through so much together. What have these experiences taught you about yourself and about God? 

Our experiences have taught us that God is sovereign even when, or especially when, our plans are falling apart. We've also learned quite a bit about being open with one another and trusting each other's motives, no matter what.

7. If you were a color, which would you be?

Pink. Such a soft and pretty color, soothing, cheerful. Jonathan often sends me pink roses.

Thanks, Melissa! ;)
You can learn more about Erica and her book on her blog-- www.onthewritepath.blogspot.com.
You can purchase The Bartered Bride here, or leave a comment for your chance to win an autographed copy from Erica! (be sure you leave you email addy so I can contact you if you win!)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

2 for 1!

I've promised you one recipe and you're getting two! :)  

The first one is more of a... recovery method, if you will. If at any point you find yourself throwing a party for seven (awesome) giggly second-grade girls, you will need this. When the front door closes after the last goodbye and the cupcake crumbs are swept and the pizza boxes thrown out, here's what you do:

1. Make up something for your children to do that will give you ten uninterrupted minutes in the kitchen. 

2. Get out a bowl, and double-check to make sure you are truly alone.

3. Enjoy the quiet.

4. Break a handful of pecans into the bowl. Follow with marshmallows.

5. Spoon a giant glob of leftover chocolate frosting on top.

6. Roll the glob around until it looks like a mushy, delicious porcupine.

7. Sink to the floor of the kitchen and eat. Do not share.

8. Repeat as necessary or until the kids find you.

Recipe number two is a little more sophisticated (and also less clandestine). Enjoy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


2 c. flour
1 1/3 c. quick or old-fashioned oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

In a separate bowl, beat until creamy:
1 c. butter or margarine, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar

Beat in:
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in:
3/4 c. chopped nuts (pecans!)
1 c. chocolate chips (okay, so the original calls for 3/4 c. raisins instead, but this is so much better...)

Drop dough by 1/8 - 1/4 c. spoonfuls onto a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are firm and lightly browned. Let stand for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool.

Decorate with your favorite icing. (I kinda like the cookie icing sold in tubes that dries hard and smooth. Great for transporting. If you're sharing, that is.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Random Things I Like Today

- Owen's room! We're almost finished! It was supposed to be a Christmas present, but too many rainy days in a row for my painter/husband means we got a jump start. Here's how things unfolded: Aaron sat me down in a dark corner of the basement and told me to find a way to use leftover paint. :) For some reason I like being forced to fit random things together. There is something magical about taking leftover pieces and making something awesome out of them. I even got to wear my carpenter hat for a while, as we used some chair-rail we accidently (don't ask) purchased at Habitat to make glossy, graphic black lines on the wall. It's kinda nice being married to the best painter ever. Yes, I realize this is blatant self-congratulation, but it looks AWESOME!!

- This baby.

- Pushing Daisies. I'm a little behind; you all probably already know this show is fantastic. But I just got season 1 at the library and I am in love. Okay, so I've only watched the first two episodes, but my hopes are high. I mean, what a great story idea. Wish I'd thought of it. Seriously, I love everything about this show: the setting, the casting, the narration, the characters, the plot. Why was this show cancelled??

- I really like it that I can look totally gross, and my husband still likes me. Hurray for true love!!

- Just Between You and Me, by Jenny B. Jones. Sooo funny! And, wow, does Jenny know how to write tension! I think I may have verbally defended the main character a few times. I got a little involved... And the "aha" moment was just right. This is a keeper. Read it!

- Pumpkin! I can't stop thinking about all the tasty pumkin-y things I would like to put in my mouth right now. And because I love you, I'm going to post the best pumpkin cookie recipe ever. (Tomorrow, because I have to go now.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Early Away

These words break my heart, and when I read them all I can think is, please God, don't let this be me.

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
   What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
   like the dew that goes early away...

(Hosea 6 :4)

Even now as I write them here, they prick at my insides, they peel back a veneer of devotion to reveal the weak, fragile sort of love hidden beneath. Like a morning cloud, like dew that goes early away...

The verse before this says what His love is like:

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
   his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
   as the spring rains that water the earth. 
(Hosea 6:3)

And here:

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
steadfast love;
   break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the LORD,
   that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 
(Hosea 10:12)

It's raining here today, and all I can think about is that it looks like love coming down. Faithfulness in the face of unbelief. Have I given him feeble love, like weak morning light that can't even work up the strength to make it's way through the clouds to heat the earth. Diluted, spent. Have I given my faithfulness to other things when it belongs only to Him?

He asks for one thing, and it sets free in me a soul-deep longing.

 I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
   the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
(Hosea 6:6)

I want it to rain, and I want to love Him because He alone is my treasure. God, break up my fallow ground, give me steadfast love for You.