December 31, 2008

Some things are just too beautiful...

Since the image is too big you'll just have to trust that you really do want to click on this link to find out what exactly is so beautiful.


One of the best prank ideas I've seen in a long time.

Thoughts on Christmas and getting it all done

I thought I'd get a start on some of my thoughts about the Christmas season. First of all I want to say that in certain respects this Christmas was rather smoother than last one. Allen and I really tried to communicate clearly about our own cultural expectations of Christmas (ie how it was celebrated growing up, and how we'd like to celebrate now.) That doesn't mean that we didn't discover a few zingers under the surface. That's just married life I suppose. We were able though to get on the same page about a few thing like approximately how many presents belonged under the tree.

In many ways this Christmas was about me learning to manage expectations and priorities. I really can't do it all. I couldn't do it last year when I was at home all the time, and I certainly can't do it now with a job and various other commitments. But I sometimes liked to pretend I can. Those were the days I came home late, tired, and cranky. On the whole though, cookies, crafts, and decorations that couldn't be fit in on a particular day were pushed to another day or trimmed altogether. I still overworked myself and stressed out about how much I was getting done, but I really don't think to the extent I would have if I hadn't been looking for ways to actively manage how much I expected to do on any given day. One day in particular I had to relinquish my plans for the good of others when I really, really didn't want to even think about doing so. It all came out ok though. There really wasn't anything I didn't do that will much matter in ten years.

Things I think I would change to help with Christmas next year:

Make several lists: Sometime in early Nov/late Oct I think I should sit down and make a list of everything I want to get done -looking at my expected schedule for the month and where I think everything could fit. Then I think I should look back at that list and make two more off of it -things I would least mind cutting if time doesn't allow and things I would most like to add if time does allow. I should probably get a list from Allen too. This might sound like make-work, but I tend to loose sight of priorities when I get busy ie trying to get something done a week before I should when there are other things that really needed to get done first. Having some sort of list/time-line would possibly help.

Cook early/make smaller batches: I made about 30 cheese balls sort of at the last minute before Thanksgiving. It was a lot of work, took more than a few hours, and now my freezer is full of cheese. That is easily something I could make in smaller batches a week before Thanksgiving and a week or so after if needed. Ditto for various cookies etc.

Plan meals better: Fortunately I had plenty of leftovers on which to glide through the week or so before Christmas. Week after Christmas when I'm plenty tired and could use the help? Nah. So next year I want to plan to have more leftovers/freezer meals available so that I have more time/energy for continuing the celebration on towards Epiphany.

Really plan for Christmas Eve: By this I mainly mean plan not to have lots of dishes in the sink and stuff strolled around on the floor. Christmas Adam all my plans hit the fan which meant that when we left to go see my cousins not only were things not done, but I didn't really have a chance to clean up from the things I did. Carry that over to Christmas Eve when I ended up going to work, running a last minute errand, wrapping presents, and baking/decorating cookies. Need I mention that Christmas Day the apartment was hardly sparkling? And in the natural relaxing that follows a big effort I've sort of lost momentum here. The apartment, I regret to say, is still not sparkling. For that reason I think it'd be wise to really try and plan to have things cleaned up by at least noon Christmas Eve and henceforth not to pull out anything we'd be too tempted to leave on the counter overnight. This isn't because I don't think you can have fun and celebrate until everything is perfect but because it's hard to find your traction when things have sort of piled up, and you're tired from planning/doing/celebrating.

I have more thoughts on Advent and Christmas that I want to get up later. For now though I need to eat.

Hopping John

Can anyone please explain to me why anyone would want to make hopping john with tomatoes? Here's what you need for hopping john:

black-eyed peas
ham bone
bay leaf
chopped onion
maybe some hot sauce/Worcestershire sauce

See tomato or chili peppers in any combination on that list? Didn't think so. Also, it's not a soup. If there's broth then you're doing it wrong.

This reminds me that I need to swing by the store and grab a ham bone. Can't have New Year's Day without black eyed peas.

December 29, 2008

Gotta dash, but...

Just wanted to stop by to say I hoped everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season, and that their Christmas Day celebration was everything they hoped it would be. I have various thoughts about the season rattling around in my head that I'd like to get put down in words sometime, but for me the aftermath of the Christmas rush had been a free-fall into spending as much time as possible reading and/or playing computer games. Andrew has gotten me hooked on Kingdom of Loathing (accordion players ftw!), and Allen bought me Team Fortress 2 for Christmas (love playing pyro). Add to that a stack of library books up to my elbow, and you have a very chilled out Natalie.

To be honest I think I'm still catching up on my sleep. Allen and I stayed up until 5:30am on Christmas Eve baking cookies, watching movies, decorating gingerbread, and wrapping a few last presents. Christmas day I work up around 8:30. It was a lot of fun, but it does throw off your sleep. Playing new computer games can do that too. Better stop typing. I'm making myself tired.

December 20, 2008

The week before Christmas

So here we are hard upon our third Christmas together, and slowly things come together. My decorating is a tad more polished than it was our first two Christmases together. Things are more intentional. Goodness knows what I'm going to do with the extra ornaments though...maybe time to clean out that closet before putting everything back. It's funny how things happen. Last Christmas I was frustrated that I was too tired/sick/depressed to get much done in the way of baking. This year I'm frustrated that I'm too busy to get much done in the way of baking. It's still frustrating, but I'll call it progress. Better to be too tired for gingerbread after a day of working/running errands/helping at church/babysitting/etc than to wake up tired and go to bed tired from the sheer weight of living. Even though I'm not always doing what I like, I'm certainly doing much more than I was. It's funny. Last Christmas when I didn't have a job or many obligations I was too depressed to really do the things at home that I wanted to do. Now that I have a job I find myself craving time at home to do all those things I never did. I have to wonder what it's going to be next year. I daren't think that I'll finally get it all together. At any rate all this has made the search for traditions somewhat difficult. Traditions take time, space, and energy that it's often hard to muster. A large breakfast on Christmas Eve sounds great. I'd even love to try making homemade donuts sometime. But who really wants to clean up the dishes? It's a lot easier with four women in the kitchen than one. And what if your idea of a good morning is not having to be up at a certain time? It's little stuff like that that makes traditions hard. I know that I only have so much energy. Do I spend it cooking, shopping, cleaning, crafting, or generally making Christmas? My list can only be so long, and I often need to make it shorter.

That said, here are a few things we have enjoyed doing:

Helping Mamaw decorate for Christmas. It really is one of the highlights of Christmas for me. We always have the best time down there with her, and she appreciates it so much.

Planning a Christmas outing. Allen and I have heard the Messiah, been to a jazz concert, seen Trans Siberian Orchestra, and gone to see an old movie. It's always been something different, and we've always enjoyed it.

Watch Christmas in Connecticut. It's one of our favorite Christmas movies. My family always enjoyed watching Christmas movies together, and every Christmas Allen and I pull out a few we especially like -including A Christmas Story and We're No Angels. Allen's not such a fan, but I may have to find a copy of Scrooge to watch. The music is just so good.

Christmas Eve looking at lights. This is one left over from my family. Every Christmas Eve Allen and I get Arby's and drive around looking at Christmas lights just like I used to do with my family. Pringles are important.

And of course we go visit various grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins on various sides of the family.

But my favorite tradition is Christmas Day. In the morning we pack up our presents and go over to his parent's house for breakfast and presents. Then we drive down to the farm for more presents and all the food we can possibly eat. It's wonderful fun.

December 17, 2008

you'll shoot your eye out!

If you've never seen A Christmas Story you really should give a try. It's not to everyone's taste, but you need to see it at least once. Allen and I went with our pastor and his wife to see it at the Alabama Theatre last night and really enjoyed it. You don't often get a chance to see these old classics on the big screen and in such a beautiful theater. One of the fun things about the Alabama Theater is that before the movie they always bring up their organ and have a sing-a-long before the show. Christmas music on a Wurliter is another thing everyone needs to experience at some point in their lives.

It was fun seeing A Christmas Story with someone else who had grown up with it. Allen is rather a newcomer to the movie, but apparently Tom grew up listening to Jean Shepherd telling stories on the radio his dad kept blaring at night while everyone else slept. And Tom understands about the marathon TNT/TBS does every year. On Christmas Eve after you've opened your new Christmas pj's everyone sits down with their hot cocoa and watches Ralphie trying desperately to convince someone that a Red Ryder BB gun is the perfect gift for a certain nine year old boy. Then, on Christmas day, after the presents are opened, we'd turn on the tv and watch a scene or two, clean up or get something to eat, turn it on again to watch a scene or two, and so on through out the day. One thing that makes Tom so cool is that he gets it. Watching A Christmas Story two or three times a season has been a part of my Christmases growing up that not many other people understand, and my pastor gets it. There is just something so neat about that.

December 12, 2008

Mamaw moments

Going to visit Mamaw is like pulling up a rocking chair to an especially cozy hearth and snuggling down on a misty day. Which is not to say that Mamaw owns the hearth in question but only because she is that cozy corner. She is simply the warmest, most comfortable, most loving person I have ever met. Well last night Allen and I went down there to help her decorate for Christmas. We did it last year, and I've been looking forward to it ever since. Unfortunately we got down there sort of late because Allen has been helping his mom with some computer work she needed done for her new health shop. But we put up her tree and set out all the little houses on her tables. We even strung up some lights outside that I'd found on sale last year and been waiting for a chance to put up at her place ever since. It looked so cheerful when we drove away with those colorful lights swagged across the porch and around the window and doors. After we were done we went into the kitchen for beans, casserole, and sweet potatoes. For good old cooking you can't really beat Mamaw's beans. They are amazing. Before we ate thought Mamaw wanted to see us dance. So Allen put on an Andrews Sisters cd, and we showed off some of our Charleston in the tiny space between the island and the kitchen table. Of course she was delighted, and I remember thinking that these are the sorts of moments that make life sweet. Colorful lights shine outside on the porch, and a tree twinkles in the window while over the great old tv stand the houses of tiny cottagers glow like a picture storybook. Inside the kitchen trumpets softly blare as the grandmother laughs with delight over her two grandchildren dancing just for her. Those are the special moments you only get with someone like Mamaw.

After we'd decorated, danced, and eaten our fill we hugged Mamaw extra tight, told her we loved her, and drove away into the drizzling night leaving behind one of the warmest homes I've ever known.

December 10, 2008

four kids 5 and under

Every time I have a "mommy" experience I start to realize how big of a hug these women deserve. Today while babysitting for one of my friends I ended up picking up three kids from school while toting around the baby. Then home for lunch and "please just nobody die/play time" until one mom came to pick her two up and my friend came home. Now you must understand that none of the kids were actually being bad. The baby was protesting a little and dumping her cheerios on the floor but otherwise ok. The three year old was trying to help with the baby and tag along with the "big kids." The two oldest were irritating each other as only a five year old girl and boy can irritate each other when one wants to play one thing and one wants to play another. Then, after the two girls had been picked up, I went and cooked supper, made another casserole type dish to put in the fridge for later, rinsed/washed my dishes, and played hungry hippo with the middle child before heading home. I realize, naturally, that this isn't a tithe of the work most moms do in a single day, but my hat certainly goes off to all the moms out there. You certainly do a lot, and you deserve all the help and support you can get.

December 8, 2008

Grown ups and Christmas trees

Part of my life lately seems to concern finally figuring out how grown ups do things -like wear make-up and decorate Christmas trees. In former years I have been firmly in the "just pile it all on" school of Christmas tree decorating. But this year....I did not put every single ornament I own on the Christmas tree, and I think I owe a lot of that to watching my friend Jennifer surveying her vast mountains of Christmas ornaments and pulling out the colors she wanted. I must say that I rather like the effect. Sure there's a hodgepodge of gifts from Granny and Mamaw, our first Christmas ornaments, childhood ornaments from Allen's mom, hand painted (me) ornaments of the twelve days of Christmas, and of course my apple ornaments. What you don't see though are the indigo and periwinkle glass balls with snowflakes on them or the snowflake design ornaments. I just looked up at my tree with it's array of ornaments and realized it really didn't need any of those ornaments. The result is a rather pleasing (if eclectic) assortment of red, greens, whites, and golds. Speaking of which, since this is the first large tree I've had since Allen and I got married I didn't have enough garland to decorate it, so I ended up twirling some red plaid ribbon from the top. Really looks nice. My tree topper is an origami star Allen folder for me either last year of the year before. Love it.

December 6, 2008

Christmas is coming...

Allen and I bought our first live Christmas tree! I'm so excited. That little tree I've got was fine for a third story apartment, but now I'm so glad we're going to have an actual live tree. It's a big one too. About 7' tall I'd say. It's out on the patio right now. I think we'll leave out there for the night and decorate it tomorrow sometime either before or after church.

Lindy Hop Christmas

Went to the Christmas dance. Had a blast. Brain too tired to make much more sense of anything than that. Swing out!

December 3, 2008

Tired and then more tired

Well Advent has opened with a bang of sorts. Monday I went to work, spent about an hour picking up and delivering a friend's child, went dancing, and probably did something else I don't remember. Yesterday I spent six hours at a friend's house babysitting, driving kids around, baking cookies, and helping her get Christmas decorating underway. Then I went home and cooked supper. Today I went to work, ran errands, went downtown to hang out with kids from a housing project near our church, baked two apple pies which I took to community group, came home, did laundry, and picked up a bit. Tomorrow I'm going to go to work, run errands, pick up my friend's daughter from school, help out a little, drop this same girl off at dance, and then hopefully spend a few minutes pulling out a few of my own Christmas things. Friday I have work and our Christmas dance. Saturday I go back to my friend's house for more decorating, cooking baking, hanging out fun. Sunday? I think I will plan to do nothing whatsoever. And lest it sound like my friend is taking advantage of me I want to point out a few things: A. she pays me to come help her out. B. I enjoy doing it. C. I know I can say no whenever I need to -whether I actually do or not is my problem and not her's. All this to say I've been very busy and am quite tired. I really don't think I'm staying up much longer. Hopefully things will slow down a bit soon.

December 1, 2008


Funny how life happens. I think last year we put up our tree the first Sunday in Advent. This year Advent opens to find nary a bit of tinsel around my little home. But tonight at I church I saw the children come forward to hang their ornaments on the Jesse tree and felt my spine tingle when the congregation broke into "Hark the Heralds, Angels Sing!" for the first time this Christmas season. So tomorrow looks like it will be busy, but bit by bit I'll start unpacking my Christmas decorations and setting them about. I honestly think a bit of my tardiness has to do with pre-Thanksgiving business combined with Black Friday exhaustion. I'm usually not a mob shopper, but Black Friday has proved a convenient time to fill in my Christmas list. However 8-10 hours of shopping on 5 hours of sleep is not a great way to start a productive weekend -especially when you're trying to pile more family time of top of it.

November 21, 2008

If I had a million dollars...or two

So when Allen and his co-workers finally hit on the idea that has Google sprinting to their door with a checkbook in hand here are my plans. (It's good to plan for these things you know so they don't hit you by surprise.)

What I would do with two million dollars:

1. Buy a fairly modest house - You can skip the granite bathroom big enough for a roller rink so long as I get my windows. Having an acre or so yard would be great too.

2. Invest in a couple or 50 acres close to/adjoining the family farm.

3. Label one sock under the bed "Think about using this to buy a ski-boat/bowrider."

4. Label the other sock under the bed "Think about using this to by a camper of some sort."

5. Buy two dresses from Stop Staring

6. Put all the rest in fairly secure assets.

7. Not argue if Allen wants to buy me a strand of pearls.

November 19, 2008

Advent anticipation

There are several reasons why I'm looking forward to advent this year. One of which is that I think our pastor is going to do a great job preaching through Advent and Christmas. Although we haven't talked that much about it I think he sort of understands the strange mix of nostalgia, longing, and childish glee that makes up the Christmas season. I'm glad because I've always struggled with a deep longing for the holidays to be "good." And of course it was never good enough. The awe with which a youngster sees the beauty of a Christmas village displayed on a hutch only makes the bad times that much more jarring. There are more expectations yes, but I think that Christmas is somehow by it's very nature beautiful. The Light of the World comes down to earth and suddenly any bit of sordidness, any unresolved frustration or bitterness, is thrown into sharp relief. It's like a picture of a lovely women only the painter drew spiders crawling up her arm. It's beautiful and horrible at the same time. Anyway, I've struggled with that balance for a very long time, and I'm hoping this Christmas I'll finally start getting a handle on it.

Other things to look forward to this advent.

Christmas decorating. This year I'm going to help a friend of mine decorate. So decorating my small-ish 1970's apartment here in my thrifty, creative wife fashion then on to my friend's historic house to decorate inlaid wood paneling with a lawyer's wife's budget. Yeah I'll end up doing my thrifty thing over there, but who doesn't want more decorations to put up a Christmas? Besides my husband? That notwithstanding we are also going to go decorate Mamaw's place down at the farm. This is something I have been looking forward to ever since we did it for the first time last year. I even bought her some more lights to hang up outside. Light hanger-uppers included of course :D

Beyond that: cookie making -some with my friend's kids. Looking forward to that. Visiting with family. Opening presents with my in-laws. Going down to the farm for Christmas dinner with the family. Looking at lights. Christmas party at Workplay. Being part of the candle-lighting liturgy at church. Yeah, it's going to be a good Christmas.

November 9, 2008

Things I like

Things I like after a series of long weeks:

Sleeping in

Rosemary Clooney

A tidy living room

Hot cocoa with rum and whipped cream

Pizza with grandparents

A good detective story

My green couch

The promise of a leisurely sabbath picnic tomorrow.

November 5, 2008

faith and new things

So last night I was feeling a little bit sick to my stomach about the thought of Obamessiah actually being president. McCain may not have been my choice, but I was at least familiar with the brand of large gov, war hawk, hands across the isle conservatism he offered. an unknown quantity. Potentially less war. More abortion. More paranoia about gun owning families. More bad economics. However, at least he can't say he's doing this as a Bible-thumping conservative, and maybe this will wake up a few of those Bible thumping conservatives who like to view voting as a sacred duty and would sooner miss taking the sacraments than missing an election. Anyway, scooting over to femina to see if I could find a dose of post-election sanity I found several women -none of them hysterical- saying "now this is going to be interesting to watch." It reminded me of that passage from Habbakuk where the Lord says, "Behold I am doing a new thing," and as Christians I am supposing that an appropriate response to that would be, "Praise the Lord." I'm still not happy about the elections, but I think I have a little more perspective now.

Blue Tuesday

Well Allen and I went and cast our apathetic votes for a bunch of people who in the main we'd rather not see running. We did cast a couple of votes on principle which came out as such votes often do. All in all a rather depressing day. All that's left to do is figure out whether we've landed in the frying pan or the fire. Dress appropriately kids, 'cause either way it's pretty warm.

October 29, 2008

Bought the shirt. And the cd.

My ears are still ringing slightly. Allen and I just got back from going to Atlanta to see Great Big Sea live. It was approximately 6hrs round trip and worth every bit of it. If you ever get the chance they do a great live show. We popped in their new cd on the way home and realized that it isn't just a slick production job. These guys really are that good.

October 25, 2008

Finally a weekend at home

Allen and I have been pretty busy these past few weeks. In the past six weeks we've barely had a weekend free, and August wasn't exactly boring either. As much as it's fun running around seeing and doing I'm realizing again just how nice it is to be home. For one thing Allen and I got out our kitchen timer (thanks Flylady) and gave most of the apartment a good once over. It's still not done. We're probably going to hit it again before the day's over, but things have been rinsed, washed, thrown away, hung up, organized, and wiped. Not things that anyone has much time or energy for in the midst of running hither thither and yon. And there's supper in the fridge to boot -homemade vegetable soup and plenty of spaghetti and meatballs. Now that I have the rest of the afternoon in front of me I think I'm going to make pancakes for lunch. Yummy.

I love how peaceful a freshly straightened apartment feels.

October 20, 2008

Officially fall

Well when we got home last night the apartment was cool enough to warrant us turning on the heat, and we haven't run the AC all day today. I'm guessing that means it's officially fall in Birmingham, Alabama.

Captivating: Chap 2

I'm really having a hard time writing this review. I spent 4 years learning how to write what essentially amounted to book reports with all the fixings, and now I've got writer's block. Anyway, let's see if I can get this out.

I suppose the easiest way to start would be to say that in many ways I found this chapter refreshingly true. In a world that often stresses both the practical and the impossible (think size 2 jeans perusing the latest in 5 min recipes) it's good to hear that beauty is at the core of God's nature and therefore essential to the Christian life. And I agree when they say that beauty is at the core of every woman's essence. As I went through this chapter I could see how with regards to my relationship with Allen so many of my moods (playful and otherwise) are prompted by the question "How beautiful do you really think I am? Can my beauty really hold your attention? Are you really as drawn to me as you say." In that way I found their insights very helpful. It's always nice when someone comes along and make explicit what you've only vaguely grasped.

However, that brings me to my main problem with this chapter (and I suspect their writing style in general). I wish the Eldredges would bring more Biblical commentary to their arguments. I know that a lot of people find anecdotes encouraging and illuminating, but I for one feel that most of the quotes and anecdotes simply take up room that could have been better used in further exploration of Scripture. I think one reason this is such a problem for me though is that there are cases where I really don't agree with their anecdotal evidence. For instance, the cite Arwen riding to safety with Frodo as an instance of women wanting to participate in their man's adventure and even as evidence that women are necessary to their man's adventure. What nobody mentioned what that in the book Glorfindel, not Arwen, was the one riding to safety with Frodo. I suspect the change from book to movie was made more to appease the but-kicking feminist demographic than to acknowledge the sort of desire the Eldredges describe. I could go on about what Arwen did do and what I think that means especially when considered in light of Eowyn's character, but there's really no reason to make such a major digression. Needless to day I wish the Eldredges would spend less time with stories of dubious utility.

Overall, I liked this chapter. Despite its weak spots it's a good starting place for people curious about how beauty (feminine and otherwise) fits in a Christian's life.

October 19, 2008

the waves they shape the beach

Allen and I just got back from a long weekend at the beach with his folks. We had a lot of fun even though the youngest had to stay behind for fear of starting the week out behind at university. Aaron is a lot more of a beach bum than Allen, so he and I ended up going out on the beach building sand castles and goofing off in the waves. We ended up building our castle out on a sandbar (how cool is that?), and all these people kept stopping to ask us what we were doing. I remarked to Aaron that if we were 8 and 10 people wouldn't have to ask to know what we were doing. I suppose some people just don't expect to see two people in their mid-20's out in the middle of a sandbar mounding up a huge pile of sand and enjoying themselves hugely.

October 8, 2008

Captivating: some thoughts (Chap 1)

I have a bad habit of either only reading the first chapter in books of this kind or reading them so fast that I quickly lose their sense. So....I'm going to try and post notes on each chapter just as a sort of personal exercise. However, I would love to hear your feedback on the book and what I say about it.

I picked up Captivating (by John and Stasi Eldredge) just to see what it was about, and since then I've read the first chapter. Overall, I think their introduction to the subject is good. Women do desire beauty, a hero, and their part in the adventure. I admit that I'm not sure I see the point of heading downstream in the Tetons at dusk with your two small boys in tow. Just yourselves.... maybe. I still say that's something more like reckless. With small children in tow, just for the heck of it, that almost sounds like negligence. However, that's not the main point, and it's gotten enough chat for now.

I appreciated the point they made about women who serve. I think it's true that in the church you see a lot of tired women who feel guilty that they aren't giving more. On the other hand I think it is part of a woman's nature to serve. I think that by and large we really do enjoy planning events, cooking meals, and caring for children. We enjoy the relational aspects of service, and I think we enjoy the implication that we are needed. I think the problem comes when we feel that as women our worth comes from how many meals we've taken to the sick or how many noses we've wiped in the nursery. Just consider how that sort of assumption must hit the woman who is sick and is visited with meals because she can't cook for her family, or all the women raising young children or working long days who end up giving minutes of service to another woman's hours? It can be a bit devastating. So I appreciate her point, but I'm not sure it's the service that's the issue as much as the attitudes and assumptions surrounding it.

This brings up a related point. We all seem to have issues with the Prov 31 woman, and I don't think Stasi is any exception. No matter how much women have been beat over the head with that chapter we have to remember that all Scripture is God-breathed, and that we can't just dismiss the Proverbs paragon because various people have made her to smile superciliously at our messy kitchen. Stasi says of that passage:

We're all living in the shadow of that infamous icon, "The Proverbs 31 Woman," whose life is so busy I wonder, when does she have time for friendships, for taking walks, or reading good books? Her light never goes out at night? When does she have sex? Somehow she has sanctified all the shame most women live under, biblical proof that yet again we don't measure up. Is that supposed to be godly -the sense that you are a failure as a woman?

And yet I say that we must come to terms with our bad experiences with Scripture badly applied and seek to learn from this woman. I would even go so far as to say the Prov. 31 woman is the anti-gen to the tired, discouraged church worker. Consider where it says "She laughs at the days to come." If you're tired and discouraged your only laugh is hopeless because tomorrow stretches in front of you as weary and full of unfinished tasks as today. When you can truly laugh at tomorrow because it holds no dread that is a beautiful and courageous thing. Once I really started thinking about that verse I lost my fear of Prov 31 because I knew that if I ever managed to get there I'd be joyful and fearless. If I thought I was there and was discouraged and scared that meant I'd better try again, because I was missing something.

Throughout the rest of the chapter I mostly nodded my head. It is important for women to be able to feel and create beauty. Women do need a sheltering masculine heart to flourish as women (either as daughters or wives). We do (or did) have a crush on Aragorn -the man with a vision and the courage to see it through.

Verdict: looking forward to chapt 2

October 7, 2008

You might have lindy fever if...

you come home too tired to cook, clean, or otherwise be a productive member of society but still decide you're not too tired to go dancing for a few hours.

Guess who did that? Guess who is now totally wired from learning a new charleston routine? Guess who will likely be grumbling about stiff legs tomorrow? Me. So maybe it was a special workshop featuring solo charleston. So maybe I've been craving some more solo charleston moves. I still think I'm a little insane.

October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday to me

Well, I'm winding down a very good birthday. Here are a few snippets from my day:

Busy day at work means more tips for me.

Selecting birthday flowers from the freezer of a local flower shop.

Mint tea from the grocery store.

Coming home to find the birthday banner up and Allen in the kitchen baking me a spice cake.

Reading birthday wishes on my Facebook wall.

Opening my present to find a really cool shirt with a hamster on it proclaiming "Books Rule!"

Having a birthday jam at lindy hop class.

Lots of charleston.

Coming back for cake, cards, and lots of candles.

Hot Buttered Rum

It doesn't get much better than a mug of hot buttered rum topped with freshly whipped cream. Goes equally well with board games played by firelight or apple cobbler and a good book.

Recipe (adapted from one by Emeril Lagasse.)

Recipe (serves 6):
1/2 stick salted butter
1 c succanat (dehydrated cane juice)
1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
boiling/hot water
dark rum
freshly whipped cream*

Cream together butter and spices. Scoop 2 tbs of the batter into a mug and add approx 6 oz boiling water. Stir until dissolved and add 1 1/2 tbs dark rum. Top with freshly whipped cream. Leftover batter can be stored in the fridge for later.

*I whipped a pint of heavy cream with approx 1/4 c zylitol and 1/2 tb vanilla extract.

October 4, 2008

Heads up for Christmas

Our church just put out a new Christmas album that is currently available for pre-ordering. If you've never heard Red Mountain Music I really do encourage you to check them out. Not only are the arrangements lovely and listenable, but they include a few tracks not normally seen on Christmas albums. "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" isn't song you see very often in Christmas albums, but once you've heard it you can't hardly imagine Advent without it.

On a more personal and less "no seriously you should get this" level I'm excited because now I've got a Christmas album that really expresses the Christmas our church lives out together. It's classic Christmas with a twist, and that twist is the rhythm of Red Mountain expressway bringing you to worship, the smokey tang of bar-b-que as you turn the corner off University, the rattle of train tracks just to the North. It's timeless, and it's local. Just like God's church everywhere.

Stuff happens

You that part of marriage where they other person hears the words that came out of your mouth and totally mis-translates or mis-files them? We've been doing that today. I'm saying "no seriously I want x to happen." Somehow that seems to translate into "we're both tired; it's been a long week; we'll get around to it." By late afternoon we're both tired and frustrated because x just isn't going down in a way congenial to us both. Then, just when we start getting x together, George (one of our parakeets) hops into the dish water. Allen keeps the little guy from drowning, but then we have to rinse him off. He (George) is getting ticked off and nippy, and I'm snuggling him in a towel to try and keep him warm. Despite all this our apartment looks waaaay better than it did earlier today, and I even got a nap. Allen was right. We have had a long week. This wouldn't be such a huge deal except that I really want us to carve out Sabbath time on Sundays where we can just not worry about dishes, the bathroom, laundry, etc. This is doubly important because Monday evenings we have host my in-law's community group and anything not done during the weekend has to be done either before or after I get home from work. Allen helps, but he also has a full time job to do. I don't, and it's my responsibility anyway no matter how much Allen doesn't mind helping. And! Monday is my birthday. Somehow I didn't relish the idea of running around cleaning toilets on my birthday.

October 2, 2008


So apparently our lindy hop instructors want me to help out with class some weeks. Going along with that Jered (one of our instructors) asked me to come do a lindy hop demo with him at a local university. Two words:



Yeah, we do some pretty upbeat dancing at class considering that pretty much all of us are beginner to intermediate, but for this one he really cranked it. About halfway through the dance I was starting to drag. I really wanted to just sit down and say "nuh uh, no more," but I made myself keep going despite my burning throat and lungs. From what I heard we seemed to have done a pretty decent job. At least I didn't disgrace myself first time in the spotlight so to speak. It didn't help that I'd just been to the chiropractor hours before and gotten some myofacial work done on my abdomen. Guess what muscles a good Charleston uses? Guess how much Charleston Jered wanted to do? Yeah, sore abs. Still, Allen and I really had a good time dancing and seeing people we hadn't seen in forever. I just hope I'll feel like walking tomorrow.

October 1, 2008

The wasted life

The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.
~John Piper

dancing and hiking

I realize it's been a while since I last posted here. That's sort of how it goes I think -some weeks are three a day feasts, and others are barren as the Kalahari. A lot has been going on lately. Allen and I went to Southern Belle Swing Bash in Atlanta. Then, two days later, we drove up to Amicalola Falls near Dahlonega, Ga in the north Georgia mountains. Both times the gas situation got a little bit sticky, and there were a couple times we weren't sure we were going to make it back the interstate/an open gas station before we ran out. Fortunately the shortage in Birmingham area is much less pronounced. Both excursions were thoroughly enjoyable. I learned a lot and got to dance a lot in Atlanta. Allen and I are still sort of feeling our way into the camping rhythm, but we had a lot of fun doing that as well. I grew up mostly traveling with an RV. Allen grew up mostly not traveling and very rarely camping at all. Going from that to tent camping together has occasionally been a little rocky as we bump up against our assumptions, expectations, and ignorance. The weather was about perfect though for early fall camping. I'd get a little chilly at night while we eating supper, but that sleeping bag kept us toasty. Even we were ahead of the spectacular fall color that drives people up into the mountains, I really enjoyed seeing the first blush of fall on the mountains. There was a feeling of being on the very cusp of the seasons. Very enjoyable.

September 16, 2008

Beef and Barley Soup

Allen and I ended up being is sort of a simple mood tonight, which was good because our soup ended up being pretty simple.

Here's what you'll need:

1lb lean ground beef
2 large onions
2 celery hearts
6 med-large carrots
1 basket baby portobella mushrooms
1 cup pearl barley
good squeeze brags amino acids
large pinch salt/pepper
heavy sprinkle gran. garlic
pinch red pepper flakes
veggie bullion/stock
beef bullion/stock


While beef is browning in the soup pot chop/slice all your vegetables. Add all the veggies except the mushrooms to the soup pot and cook briefly (5-10min). Add mushrooms, water, barley, stock, and other seasonings. Cook for about an hour and enjoy the delicious broth. The original recipe off which this is based called for chopped parsley, but I plain forgot to add it. Allen and I thought it tasted great as is. Just make sure to add the mushrooms as they make the broth taste so much richer. Considering how much I do to spice up normal food (with pesto, olive oil, cheese, red pepper, curry, etc) it was really good to have a simple soup with plain, strong flavors. We nearly ate half the pot in one sitting!

September 15, 2008

funny thing

At work I'm all the time asking "How old are you?" "Do you live by yourself/with your parents?" "Did I actually hear you're married?"

Apparently my coworkers assume I'm a 19-20yo sharing an apartment with a friend. My wedding band isn't invisible (at least not to me), and I didn't realize that dressed in our standard issue french blue shirt I look about 5 years younger than my actual age. Maybe I should keep a few to wear when I'm 40? Seriously, some people think I'm young enough to be surprised that I'm married. I think it's kind of funny.

Does busy count?

Coming into the beginning of fall I've been busier than I would ever have imagined. I have a standing baby-sitting job, another part-time job, volunteer work with the church, household duties (that are actually getting done!)....I still feel like I'm waiting though, like I'm not fully immersing myself into the stream of life. While I know you can't really live just sitting around staring at the computer screen I don't think sheer business is the answer. It can't be about making money to buy more stuff or cramming every house of your day with things to do. I know this because there were plenty of times at school when it felt like I was simply too busy to live. But maybe even this was me obsessing about making the right grades and trying to be a good girl at home and didn't have so much to do with how much I was actually doing. I suppose you could say that I'm still looking for a calling. As a woman I know that there are certain built in aspects of my calling, but as Natalie I want to know what that looks like for me. Maybe part of that means going back to grad school. Honestly that's sort of scary. Grad school means getting reference letters. That means going back to all those professors who waved me off to grad school and admitting that I couldn't stick it out or at least that I changed my mind. In reality I know they probably don't care. Over two years out I'm so far off their radar -new rising stars have taken my place. Even then I don't think they much cared what I did so long I was doing what I wanted to do with the training I'd gotten. At that time though I was so caught up in what I was supposed to do that I sort of lost sight of that. And that's not even the truth. I wanted to go to grad school, but when I got there I wanted to be out of grad school. According to some people I'd made a bad choice of school. According to my parents I'd done the unforgivable. Fortunately for them my younger sister (last I'd heard) is planning to get a doctorate and still has her 4.0. It's a bitter feeling thinking that's all they wanted me for, and now that my sister has so ably stepped into my scholastic shoes they don't need me. Maybe that isn't true, but it certainly feels that way. I don't actually feel resentful about it -more sad that that's all the worth they saw in me. So as you can see, in this search for calling and purpose there's still a lot of ghosts I need to vanquish.

September 12, 2008

If I were Brian Murphy...

Driving around town today I found a picture I would have loved to see on Brian's blog. I say his because I really doubt I could have done justice to it. There's a section of town about 10mins from where I live that is rapidly becoming even more gentrified than before. Parts of it were already expensive but zoikes are the condos flying up! This often means that the old apartments are coming down to make way for their high rent successors. At a corner where this was taking place I saw a sign advertising the upcoming residences.The sign pictures stacks of men's straw panama hats looking like extras straight out of an old Hollywood wardrobe. Grouped closely around to one side of the sign a dozen men in hardhats were taking a break from the day's work. In the background stood the apartments that were going to come down in favor of luxury condos. I wondered if the men grouped around that picture of graceful luxury would eventually be pushed out the area as property values rose in response to the work they were doing. Maybe they already had been. I'm grateful for the development that gives men like this work, but having had my eyes opened somewhat to the ways community development helps, enhances, or isolates conditions of poverty I wanted to know that these men had decent homes of their own -that they were not condemned to be continually awash in the wake of the wealthy. This I saw as I turned a corner in Homewood.

SuperMario plate-runner

I mentioned before that I have an actual job. Just started this week. It's not exactly a very cool job, but the hours and pay are just about perfect. Basically I'm a waitress assistant at a small cafe that serves lunch. Since each waitress has somewhere between 6-9 tables they were getting rushed off their feet during the lunch peak when all the tables are full, and the line is out the door. So I come in four days a week for three hours a day to run plates out to tables, roll silverware, make desserts, and basically just make things go faster. The pay isn't amazing, but then again I have a very part-time job that doesn't require me to work nights or weekends. It's also slightly more interesting than you might expect because it becomes something of a game getting all the plates out the door. I admit sometimes I can still hear my mom saying "You dropped out of grad school to do what?" But one thing Allen and I realized is that now that I'm bringing in a little extra money we can looking at me getting a graduate degree that I might actually use -like a master's in education so I could eventually teach. I even looked up some info on that last night. Even though my BA is in English I'm thinking I'd probably end up looking at elementary education since it's much more broadly applicable, and I tend to be more interested in getting young kids interested in learning. If I change my mind....I can teach for a bit and then get another degree in English education. I must admit that the thought of being in the school of education at any of our local universities makes me cringe. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you can almost feel the stupid coming out the walls. I went to a public university (which is probably where I'd get my masters), and that place was saturated with pc standards like you could hardly imagine. I actually did spend a little time there when I was debating just going straight into a 5th year program. But! For all I know it may be worth it. And if it's not then I can be a double grad school dropout. It wouldn't be the end of the world.

September 9, 2008

more than I thought....

Today after supper I looked around and said "I really haven't gotten that much done today." That's when Allen pointed out I'd been gone babysitting for a friend for some hours. I was just looking at the supper dishes and the single load of laundry I'd gotten washed (not folded and put away mind you), but really I'd also spent seven hours today burping a baby and playing pirates with her big brother. Incidentally I'm now convinced that pirate games and baby sitters aren't silly cliches found only in books. The pirate captain of our ship this afternoon was a man whom a witch had turned into a boy because he was going to chop off her head and arms and legs. The captain didn't seem to mind so much though, and we went exploring for buried treasure and hunted down the bad brown ship. We almost got sunk by an enemy fleet before escaping to Pirate Paradise and the Friendly Haunted House inhabited by a little girl who just happened to look a lot like his little sister. Not long afterwords I went home, and Allen helped me fix supper. I got some clothes washed and ready for my other job which I'll go to in the morning, but more about that later. Needless to say that I'm getting pretty busy. I think I like it, but I may have to change my definition of "getting things done" a little. I'm still not giving up on the laundry though. Grrr. I am woman hear me....yawn?

September 5, 2008

Lead, follow, feminist, whatever

So I was reading the first of all two posts that they have up on the Southern Belle Swing Bash Blog. So there's a synergy between throwing a girl jam and being a feminist? Ok, sure. Then someone else comes along and says "Dude, partner dance. Girls don't need their own jam time." Yeah. Sometimes I don't get these people. Do we have to get political about everything? For my part it makes perfect sense. In general guys get more instruction in the dance class simply because if he doesn't know it neither of you can do it. It doesn't matter a flip how many moves the girl knows because she's not leading. Now, I have always been able to go to our excellent leads and get tips on following -direction, momentum, speed, etc. However, that's not the same as getting together with a bunch of girls who know their stuff and learning how to really polish off whatever your lead is giving you. Is that feminism? Is that dissing the leads? No, it just makes sense.

Suppose your church had been doing a series on dating/courtship/getting to know each other with intent to marry, etc. Suppose at some point an older women took the girls aside for some chat on grooming, manners, emotions, etc. Are the guys going to shout "No, fair. This is a couples thing!" Are the girls going to call themselves feminists because "it's about time selecting the right hemline got fair time with the boys." Jeesh you people. It's the same thing with dancing. If you're going to be a consistent feminist it's hardly egalitarian to say that women have a specific and different role in this (dancing) relationship, and they might benefit from some specific training on how to handle that role well. Hmmm, does Titus come to anyone's mind?

Posting on this might seem a tad silly, but with the debate on Palin heating up it seems really, really ridiculous to start an argument over whether girls should have their own lindy hop workshops on occasion. Don't call it feminism just 'cause it has to do with girls. Don't cry foul when the girls want to have a tip-sharing time. /e shakes head

September 1, 2008

scrub a dub dub

Here to report that I have finally scrubbed out my shower! It's been on my to-do list ever since I noticed a suspicious pink crud accumulating in the corners sometime last week, and tonight I finally bit the bullet and went at it-with a toothbrush even. Took me the better part of an hour, but I think anything left is just stained on there. That's the problem with living in an apartment and having an old shower. It looks dirty right after you've scrubbed it, so unless you're a very virtuous housewife who puts the tub on a regular cleaning rotation it's occasionally hard to tell when stained turns into grimy. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it :D

New Blog Look

Expect this blog to change looks fairly often. While I really love having a "not another cookie cutter blogger template" I've had a hard time settling down to any particular template. I'm always wondering whether x color or design is really me. I'm also the girl who will try on 10 different shirts before going to church before finding one that feels right. Go figure. Anyway, I'll probably do a fair amount of playing around with this before I (maybe) settle down.

August 29, 2008

Southern Belle Swing!

I'd been wanting to go to an event for lady lindy hoppers for a while, but I was having a hard time deciding whether or not to go since for roughly the same amount of money Allen and I could go camping in the North Georgia mountains for four nights. Well, this and that started coming together. I found out I wasn't going to be baby-sitting for a friend one weekend in Oct, so that freed up one weekend to do everything I wanted to do this fall. Then I found out that I could volunteer some shifts and get a free weekend pass. Plus we'll be able to stay with Allen's aunt and save the cost of a hotel room. Sooo, that all adds up to gas, some food, and a weekend dance pass for Allen. Looks like I'll be able to go after all. I admit I still feel a little conflicted. That's a pretty long drive for that something pretty much just benefits me. I know that even though Allen likes me to enjoy these sorts of opportunities he'd just as soon stay home. Still I'm pretty excited. Hopefully it will be a lot of fun, and I'll learn a lot about being a good (and stylin') follow.

August 26, 2008

disjointed musings on fashion and looking like the world

Something I was watching on Youtube today got me thinking about what it really means for Christians to not look like the world. If I was to describe to you what I'm currently wearing most of you would probably instantly say "typical conservative." Well, so maybe the slit in the front of my top would be a little low for some of you. Nevertheless I'm pretty sure I'm not walking out the door dressed like a freak. I think I have a little experience with this since I did dress like a freak though much of high school. You should have seen my fashionista friend laugh when I told her the stuff I used to wear. They were all labors of love (I even picked out many of the prints and patterns myself), but golly gee did I ever stick out like a sore thumb. I'd like to go back in time and explain to that young lady a few things about button up shirts covered with parrots in primary colors. There may be good ways for a 14 year old girl to wear that, but I sure didn't know about any. But back then we all dressed funny. Then we sort of started catching up with the times (barely), and I started finding a few things that actually fit and were specifically designed to be worn by a girl my age. My mom started wearing more cute capris and fewer button up denim skirts. Now, in making that transition some people could say that we had started looking for like "the world." Well sure I was wearing more current year clothes from Kohl's junior section and not so many outdated or ill-fitting items from misses-to-old-for-me. I'm certainly not going to say that's bad, and I wonder at what we really think it means to not look like the world. I could dress up like something from Mars. That's not of this world. I don't think Bill Gothard would shake my hand for doing though. It seems like we often mean "weird enough so that no one will suspect than anyone other than a Christian would be willing to look this dorky." Then we end up looking like Mormons and Muslims. Is it better to be mistaken for a Mormon or an atheist? I'm not sure.

Then there's that thing about dressing to frame the face and not the body. Umm, my clothes hang on my body. I could wear clothes so designed that they obliterated every sign that I have a female body, but A. I'm not a muslim, B. some guy would get it into his mind that I must be really hot to take such extreme measures and start lusting anyway, and C. I'm not so sure that fashion gnosticism is all that Biblical. In short, I don't really get it. I understand not dressing so as to display my body in an overtly sexual manner. There's a lot of skin that no one has any right to see except Allen. I really can't help being in some way minimally sexual since I'm a woman and have the kind of body God gave women. I could perhaps obliterate my form with grossly excess poundage and specially selected clothing, but as noted above that won't necessarily stop everyone. Here's my question. Where does it stop? In Song of Solomon the lover didn't cease his description of his beloved's beauty at the neck. There was plenty more to delight his senses above his beloved's collarbone, and yet we sometimes act as though women are only respectable from the neck up. Hmmm. Again, I don't really get this. When I muse like this don't think I'm going to start arguing that we demand noses be covered in public and midriffs bared. God has made it pretty clear that certain areas should be covered. I'm just wondering how much thought has gone into some of these statements we make about how we should act and dress in this world.

All that said...I know that as Christians we should strive to be conformed to the image of Christ and that as we begin to look more and more like Him we will look less and less like the world that hates Him. I hope that the way I dress reflects that. But I don't think someone can say "be ye not conformed to this world" and get after some pastor's wife for wearing capris or a knee-length skirt. The world wears burkas and tie-dye ankle length skirts too. There are certainly lines, but I begin to wonder if any of us really know exactly where they are and what they really mean. I mean, I think I'm pretty right about some things. Sometimes I just wonder if I'm as right as I think I am sometimes. I really don't have any conclusions. This post isn't about conclusions anyway. It's about some of the questions I think maybe need to be asked before we try to pronounce any conclusions.

August 25, 2008

An honest brag

Allen was reading a list of someone's church pet peeves (like bad music), and I was inspired to come here and do a full out brag.

My church's music is better than your church's music -unless you happen to go to my church.

I'm not going to argue the point. It's just a simple fact that our music completely rocks. Lately (well for a couple of years) our church musicians have been going through the Gadsby Hymnal putting music to some of the hymns. What has emerged is a body of music that is poignant, singable, poetic, instructive, uplifting, and feels deeply rooted in this patch of Southeastern USA. It doesn't get any better.

August 22, 2008

More on slave wives and the question of divorce

One of my commentors has asked me to provide a verse explaining why a Christian wife may leave her husband for abuse. I provide the asked for background more for the sake of completeness than with the intention of changing anyone's mind. That said, the text is question is Ex 21:7-11.
7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her [1] for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

I'm sure that people quibble about this passage frequently, but the point that Jordan (and others) are making is that there are three things a husband must provide his wife -food, clothing, and love/intimacy. If he doesn't then a wife may request a divorce. Of course as with many Biblical teachings this is a case for discernment rather than hasty judgments. A husband who works hard to provide his wife with ground chuck and Craft Mac is a faithful husband. A husband who eats sirloin and Stilton while his wife eats ground chuck and Craft Mac seriously needs a visit from the church elders. Not being able to shop Sax 5th Ave isn't legitimate grounds for divorce. Shopping at thrift stores while your husband collects Lear jets....bring back the elders. I'm trying to make this clear because I don't want anyone to say that I support divorce because a wife is discontent with how her husband provides for her. I am saying that a selfish husband who makes his wife eat rotten leftovers to teach her not to waste his money that way and then turns around and buys a gallon of Bluebell for himself probably deserves whatever is coming. Another thing I want to point out is that the woman doesn't appear to be getting any alimony out of this. This presumably encourages several things in a Christian community namely A. the abuse is real and not merely discontentment, and B. the community approves her leaving and is willing to help her transition. If you back to Jordan's article you'll see he theorizes that this could hardly happen in the case of free women since they had a great deal of control over their own property and could (in essence) largely look out for themselves. One may also postulate that a woman of property likely also had family ties that would make physical abuse detrimental to the abuser. This would be the same as a wife today having a sizable bank account of her, possibly even her own house on the beach, and relatives/connections that would make life for an abusive husband very difficult.

I think the truth is that husbands (as well as wives) need accountability. They need to know that there's a point beyond which their wives don't have to put up with their shenanigans. Admittedly both need to understand just where that point is and how far from the reality of a loving (or even moderately exasperating) marriage it is, but they need to know it exists. I'll be very honest and say that one reason I trust Allen as a husband is because I trust his father and brothers. I know that Allen is a trustworthy, stalwart, and faithful husband. I also know that if I ever needed to I could go to Allen's family, and they would take care of us. Although I can't imagine ever needing to it's nice to know I could.

So. I hope that has helped settle any questions that may have come up from my previous post. If not I'm terribly sorry, and I hope you'll still pop back around occasionally.

August 18, 2008

Note on slave wives

There are some people who would tell an abused Christian wife that she should sit down, shut up, and try better to please her husband. People like that need a couple of black eyes of their own in my opinion. They make me sick. In the past, though, I had wondered just where in the Bible God gives women in abusive situations their out until Allen showed me a section from James Jordan on slave wives v free wives in the OT. You can read it for yourself, but really telling a woman to stay in a situation like that is telling her to stay in something that slave wives in the OT didn't have to tolerate. So, according to some portion of the Church, wives can be treated worse than middle-eastern slaves in whatever B.C., and they won't help her get out. Again I am amazed at how God in His Word constantly protects and defends women and at how some people in the same of God deny women the care and protection He established.

Thanks Allen for posting that link in the comments. I just thought I'd put it up with a brief note so no one misses it.

So maybe I'll grant you Wollstonecraft

Lately I've had a few people ask me about my position on feminism. The response I've sort of come up with is "Fine. Call me a feminist if you want to, but about all I can grant you is Wollstonecraft and maybe not even all of her." For those of you who don't know Mary Wollstonecraft published a work in 1792 called Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I say I may not be able to grant all of her because I don't remember all her arguments, and I don't want to get stuck having agreed to something I didn't recall. As far as I remember she's pretty solid though. My point in bringing her up is that I readily acknowledge that there were times in history where women didn't get very good educations (even compared to their brothers) and where they really weren't treated very well. The all-wise Greeks actually classified women somewhere between men and beasts. That was nice of them. Even theologians often didn't have very good opinions of women or our capacity for virtue. That's why I appreciate people like Wollstonecraft who advocated a rational treatment of women. As she pointed out -women were educated to be stupid and then their men complained that their wives were unfit as rational companions. Well duh. Stupid in, stupid out. I don't believe in women being degraded, held back, abused, ignored, etc. BUT! You can't call me a feminist. One simple reason. I believe in male (read husband/father) headship. I don't believe that women should in general be subservient to men. I think that a woman is under the authority of one man. Any other man tries lording over her and she can tell him to f*$# off. Ok, so she should probably listen to her pastor and elders. You get the point. I don't mean authority to the point where she lets him abuse her or put her in dangerous/illegal positions. I mean that when the buck stops it stops with him. He's the ship commander, and she's first mate. For those of you who have seen women in bad relationships because they were being submissive Christian wives there's an article I need to find and link to on the difference between the free wife and the slave wife in OT Israel. Some women are effectively slave wives, and that's wrong. But that doesn't mean that submission and headship have flown out the window either.

So here's me in a nutshell. I got no problem with women going to college, getting jobs, living on their own (although that might not be ideal), etc. However I do think women should learn to think about home first and then career. Growing up they need to realize that God put men and women in different roles for different reasons and that it's a good thing He did so. The should also get a backbone and stop pretending that courage is a strictly male virtue. Being a woman takes guts. The fruits of the spirit are all in one big list. There's not separate lists for guys and girls even though guys and girls may tend to display these virtues differently. Being feminine doesn't mean you have to dress in florals. I would however suggest the cultivation of skirts just 'cause they're so darn fun to wear.

College anyone?

Last night Allen sent me a link to a New York Times article on why college really isn't all it's cracked up to be. We've all heard these arguments from insular Christian families who are scared their kids may watch a movie NOT put out by Focus on the Family and therefore become screaming liberals. This isn't it. It's not even a big brother article about how some people are unfit to go to college and therefore should be shunted off to trade school upon finishing 10th grade. Nope, this author simply looked at how the BA/BS was designed, marketed, and used and decided that it was mostly just that -BS. One of the more interesting points he makes is that the BA/BS degree, which often offers little to no idea of an applicant's actual abilities, serves as a cash/time barrier effectively barring certain people from being able to move into certain (perhaps more lucrative) fields. Instead he proposes that if apprenticeships and national/industry-wide certifications (like the CPA) became more widely used as a measure of competence then a graduate of Podunk U, On-line U, or even Local Library U could actually compete with Harvard graduates in the job market. Obviously this would be easier or harder in various industries, but I love his perspective. Why shouldn't someone with plenty of brains but not enough time/money to commit to a BA be able to study/work their way into a good job? It won't hurt the BA grads who really know their stuff, and it would help competent people at the margins move up in the world. It could even help employers get good employees.

If you're interested in the article here's the link.

August 15, 2008

What does your kid's God look like?

Mostly when I get those flylady testimonials I just trash them, but every once in a while I'll open one that strikes my eye. Tonight I opened one talking about how clutter affects our children. Even if I don't have kids I'm still interested in how our environment affects us. What I read in there is that a mother has decided she's going to practice "tough love" on her temperamental 5 year old son. To that end she gets rid of most of his toys and explains to him that all she owes him is a bed and food -anything else he has to earn. Lo and behold he calms down and begins playing much more nicely with the toys he has left. When his mom says he's been good enough to earn more toys he asks her to do an activity with him instead. (Angels sing) Small child has learned there are better things in life than having three dozen cars and assorted other toys. Also, he's much calmer and better disciplined. Where's the downside? I think is probably a good example of doing a decent thing for rather deplorable reasons. We can probably grant that the kid likely had too many toys piling up in his room and that the over stimulation and clutter were contributing to his bad behavior. What I really don't get is this "tough love" attitude that says "I owe you the bare minimum, and buster you better sweat for the rest." I mean, what the heck is this telling our children about God? God owes us nothing and yet we're told to ask and ask again believing that God delights to give us good things simply because he loves us so much more than we can ever imagine. Earning just isn't in the picture when it comes to God's gifts to us. I don't want anyone reading this to think I believe parents should be pushovers either or that things can't be earned. There are economic realities built into this world -working is correlated with eating. Kids need to learn this. There are also times when parents need to draw a firm line and hold it. Grant, given, and amen.

Here's what concerns me about this attitude. Looking back at my growing up years I'm realizing just how much of my day to day theology came out of our home culture -the way Mom and Dad acted towards us and each other. There were plenty of times when home theology actually trumped Bible theology since it was what I lived day to day. Hopefully this kid in the e-mail is getting plenty of good, true home theology that will teach him experientially the nature of God's love towards us. If not then this kid's definitions of love and provision are likely to be radically skewed when he tries to understand God's love and provision in terms of what he already knows from his family.

However, what this mom has done obviously had positive benefits for her and her son since she reports that he appears to be more content and less troublesome with fewer toys cluttering up his room. As I mentioned before I'd consider this a case of doing a fairly sensible thing for fairly bad reasons (or using faulty logic/theology). Instead of establishing these troubling (dare I say unBiblical?) ideas of owing and earning as described, there are Biblical paradigms that work well here without doing damage to the parent's image as a good and loving provider. Take the parable of the talents for instance. I would say it's perfectly reasonable for a parent to say, "Child, I'm sorry, but I've just given you too much to handle right now. It's obviously stressing you out, and we're going to do something out that. So here's an amount I think you can handle. When you've grown up a little and shown that you can be responsible with what you already have, and when I don't think it won't stress you out, you can try handling a little more. But for now we're going to start small so you can grow into your responsibilities and learn how to take care of things." So maybe it's a small distinction. You could still argue that the kid's still "earning" his toys by being good. At least it doesn't do violence to the child's image of God (as portrayed by his parents) as being a grudging provider whose gifts are given grudgingly as rewards for inordinate virtue rather than a bountiful Father who smallest provision we could never earn. That's what I meant by the title of my post. In some ways we all show God to each other. The only question is whether or not our portrayals will be true or false.

August 12, 2008

A favorite Boston moment

Allen and I were hanging out in the living room watching anime with our friends. We were just in the middle of the theme song when I suddenly said, "Hey! Tom preached on this a few weeks ago!" Both guys gave me the weirdest looks. Allen later confessed that he hadn't been paying attention and hadn't the slightest clue what I was talking about, but our friend seemed to find the thought a bit mind boggling -said he was going to be very disturbed if our pastor got sermon material from "Gurren Lagann." I just thought their reactions to my comment were hilarious. When I told Tom about it (and the jist of the lyrics) he immediately understood what I meant.

I suppose when you're an atheist hearing that a pastor somewhere out there has preached on something sort of relevant to the last issue you would associate with pastors is a bit disconcerting. Just goes to show that you don't really have do any extreme exegetical contortions to make the Bible "relevant." I don't expect human desires and longings have changed all that much between the time of Latin hexameter and Japanese anime. Just preach it straight at us. The Word'll do its work just fine.

The internet is scary

So wandering around the internet I found a 20-somethings forum -pretty crazy. It just makes me realize more and more how much we need the Gospel. All these people running around in horrible relationships risking their health and sanity for the chance to grab at tarnished pleasures. I just shake my head when I reflect on the fact that they think we're the crazy, repressed, narrow-minded, killjoys. I wouldn't swap the relationship I have with my husband for all their so-called pleasures. They want community, submission, expression, approval, fulfillment, headship, etc, but then they end up killing the thing they seek because they will not listen to God who knows that we want these things and has established the means whereby we shall be satisfied. Instead they turn to lies which, containing the smallest seed of truth, pervert their natural desires to evil. Not that fallen man is capable of choosing right for himself but that as an image of God he has within him certain desires which God would satisfy and Satan corrupt. I find the whole mess to be unspeakably sad.

August 10, 2008

Conversing with nerdy atheists

There's a certain sense in which conversing with atheists can be very refreshing and grounding. There's another sense in which it can be quite taxing, but right now I'm thinking about the first sense in connection with visiting Allen's friends at the wedding we recently attended in New York. Allen is one of the few Christians that many of his programmer friends like and respect. In a way that was daunting because we knew up front we were going to surrounded by people who really didn't give a fig about God. And yet in the end I found it curiously easy to talk with them. I think part of it is that from the first day I was prepared to meet and like people with whom I knew I would have very little in common. It wasn't as though we weren't able to find any common interests because we managed to find a few, but they also just happened to be trendy young voter interests such as community supported agriculture and an end to the present war -it's no more than you expect to find in an assemblage of 20-30 somethings. These are things I also have in common with other Christians in my church. I think the real key to the situation is that I knew I was way in over my head. There wasn't one way in hell that I would have been able to fake a real interest (much less competence) in their specific brand of geekdom. I don't know C++ from HTML. Don't ask me about Python 'cause I'll probably start telling you about a snake I used to work with in high school. Plus, I stink at Rock Band. And the Wii. As much as I may like geeks I can't speak their language. So that's one area I couldn't fake. The other one is Christianity. You might say that Christianity is the one thing I could fake. Wrong. Some of these people were high atheists who could quote Deuteronomy with the devil. They can tear down wishy washy Christianity faster than wet paper and have just about much respect for the paper as the Christian. Yet, as I knew from Allen's relationship with them, they could respect a principled, consistent Christianity. From that I knew I had to be prepared to meet and like people just as I am with very little pretense knowing that no matter what I did or said there were some very fundamental rifts between us that would only be healed by the grace of God. On the whole I think I did pretty well in the encounter. I found people that, in spite of all our differences, I liked and whose opinions on some matters I could respect. More importantly, I don't think I damaged the respect Allen already had garnered among them as an honorable Christian. In saying all this I don't want to get the impression that Allen and I merely kept our mouths shut and hid our Christianity because we didn't. We didn't drag Jesus around like a cardboard cutout either.

Thinking about my adventures among the atheists I wonder why we Christians can't approach each other with something of the same spirit in which I approached Allen's friends? That is to say, I wonder why I have such a hard time doing it. With others I always want to be cooler, more competent, less incomplete, more normal, and less marginalized. Perhaps it's because I care more about the opinions of my Christian friends. We're supposed to be on the same team -shouldn't we like each other and get along? What does it mean if we don't? My atheist friends much as I love and pray for them aren't part of my communion. We are not bound by blood and water. In a sense I suppose that's part of what makes me try harder to be liked and accepted by my Christian friends -their opinion matters in a way that other's can't. And yet, I would still like to be able to approach Christians with that same desperate abandonment to authenticity which appeals not to common interests but to a common humanity and (in this case) a common Lord. I want to approach the people in my church seeking to like that person for who they are where they are until the Lord makes us both something better and something closer. I want to cultivate the same kind of witness in my walk among Christians that I pray for in my walk among the heathen - to walk with grace and speak in love knowing that in this God is glorified.

Happy (late) anniversary to us

While visiting friends in Boston Allen and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary. I agree. Spending one's anniversary on an air mattress in your friend's small apartment may not be the obvious way to celebrate, but we left our friends eating hummus and veggie chips and went out for Thai food and dessert. If you are ever in Boston I recommend visiting Finale if only for the experience. It's an almost exclusively dessert restaurant. I believe that have maybe 4-5 non-dessert entrees for those who forget to eat dinner beforehand. Otherwise the menu is devoted to chocolates, pastries, and the most appetizing looking drinks. A word. Unless you have a rather trained and experienced palate I would not recommend the madeira as it's rather strong and syrupy. They do have a variety of other dessert wine pairings (I liked the port) as well as cocktails, coffees, and hot chocolates. Sitting there sipping port and scraping up the last velvety, chocolate covered crumbs from their molten lava cake is quite a decadent experience. Afterwards we walked around Harvard Square for a few minutes before taking a taxi back to our friends apartment where we drank (decent) cheap wine, played video games, and watched anime. Perhaps a bit unusual, but having such a wonderful opportunity to visit friends in Boston for minimal cost we considered it well worth it. I'll try to post some Boston pics later. However since I haven't even gotten through my Savannah pics from last vacation I make no promises.

August 8, 2008

Adventures in the northern climes

My brain is having troubles with coherency today -possibly a side effect of too little sleep in the previous days. Forthwith I shall make a list describing our adventures and perhaps do some blogging at a more convenient date.

1. First time on an airplane
2. Pizza
3. Boarding with a friend's sister.
4. Only two Christians at a very interesting wedding ceremony.
5. Being completely lame at Rock Band
6. Mimosas are good.
7. Allen's geek friends are pretty cool.
8. 80 degrees isn't hot no matter what some people may say.
9. Being real amid the atheists.
10. Yankees talk funny.
11. Fast food looks different up north.
12. Loving people who don't know God.
13. Riding in the car for 4-5 hours either crammed between two guys or unable to put my feet on the floorboards is an interesting experience better not too soon repeated.
14. Some people have lots of video games.
15. Sightseeing with Allen's friends is a lot of fun.
16. Boston is a unique and often beautiful city.
17. air mattresses are ok.
18. Having your 2nd anniversary while camped out in someone's living room is not that bad.
19. New friends are fun to have.
20. It's good to be home.

July 29, 2008

the ways our lives go on

This week is shaping up into a sort of microcosm of existence crammed into seven days. Sunday Allen's mom called to tell us that a very special older woman had died after being sick for two weeks. She had mentored my mother-in-law for I don't how many years and had likewise counseled Allen on various occasions. Later Allen and I both went to see her on several occasions. Allen would check over her office computer for her (she ran a small herbal health store) while we talked. To say that sounds misleading. Really we saved up our troubles and triumphs to pour out at her feet and receive her counsel. Louise Allred was unlike anyone I've ever met. She was a forthright lady who wasn't afraid to ask hard questions, and it took guts to ask for her counsel because she could turn you inside out and reveal all the fears and petty rebellions standing between you and life. It could hurt like heck too. The first time I met her that's 90% of what I say -and a forthright old woman with at least half the Bible neatly indexed and labeled. Then I realized how much she loved people -how much she loved Allen and I in particular. I saw her unending generosity towards us and others in the way she gave of her wisdom, time, and money. Seed planting she called it. I saw her cheerful spirit even after having broken her hip and being limited to a walker. In her direct manner she taught the rock hard, reliable supremacy of God's Word over every trouble and circumstance in our lives. Her death was akin to a door closing. I find myself scrambling to remember everything she tried to teach me -wishing I'd had more time with her, grateful that much of her wisdom will live on in my mother-in-law.

The rest of this week has and will be crammed with time with friends, a memorial service, trip planning, a wedding, more time with friends, visits to family...there has and will be pain, compromise, generosity, confusion, pleasure, boredom, love, grief, expectation, laughter, anxiety... This week is crammed with life. And I am already tired.

July 22, 2008

Thoughts on GLH

This afternoon I picked up White Orchids thinking I might look it over again, and it brought a few things to mind that I'd wanted to say about Grace Livingston Hill's work. There's a scene in there where Jeffrey is taking Camilla out to dinner for the first time. Having been seated Jeffrey courteously asks Camilla if she would care for some wine. BAM! Camilla is struck sick at the realization that there is such a vast gulf between them -all the more impassable because it dealt with "moral standard" she had no right to break. If you read a few GLH books you'll realize this is part of her MO. Good Christians don't drink. And despite the fact that GLH absolutely rejects the idea of an effeminate clergy (most to all of her clergymen are brave, capable, and quite virile) the moral force against drinking is often displayed as feminine -it's the mothers, sisters, and sweethearts who inculcate temperance principles. Alcohol is portrayed as ruinous and very addicting. New imbibers are struck with a thirst that leads to them stumbling home and drunkenly making advances to the pure eyed maiden residing in their boarding house. There is no room in her books for wisdom, responsibility, and moderation. Its not enough to make me stop reading her books, but it is enough to make me wish that there was someone out there who wrote similarly pleasant little novels for the reformed Christian wine drinking set because they really are very pleasant books about people making the best of what they have with grace, courage, and a real reliance on God's direction and provision. Of course they're also fairy tales in which poor girls often marry rich men and poor deserving young men mostly make their fortunes. There are also kidnappings by the evil young men in which the upright young men get to rescue their best girl in the finest hero style. Like I said, fairy tales, but good ones containing some real encouragement and inspiration for Christian women -which is why I rather wish somewhere out there I could find a reformed Grace Livingston Hill whose characters drink a reasonable amount of wine, dance in a suitably modest fashion, and aren't totally dismissive of jazz.

July 17, 2008

Sniffing the wind

So last time I was talking about going every which way. Well, the whichway-ness has potentially increased. Exponentially. I'm not going to spell it out because it's just possible that life around here will merely make a slight adjustment and continue flowing smoothly on. Part of me really, really hopes that happens. The other part of starting to get excited about new horizons and new possibilities. It's a very mixed bag of tricks we're contemplating, and I don't have enough information. Nobody does actually. It's one of those things in the works where you just watch, and you aren't even sure what prayers to lift. I'm hoping I'll know more by next week -maybe even tomorrow.

I know that didn't explain anything, but I sort of wanted to toss this out into the void because it's too hard keeping it bottled up inside.

July 16, 2008

going every which way

So I'm still trying to find my Natalie purpose. I have all sort of generic purposes -be a good Christian, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, granddaughter, friend. Those are sort of "because I am alive and breathing" purposes. I want to find that "because I'm Natalie" purpose to my life. To that end I've been pursuing some different activities. I volunteer for the Shelby County Humane Society, and I'm part of the group helping to plan the tutoring program for the coming school year at Southtown. I've even thought of going back to McWane Center as a volunteer. Having no clear direction in which to go I've just started going. It's all I can really think of doing at the moment. Hopefully something will come of all this. You never can tell.

July 12, 2008

Sailing in the Harbor

I did actually take a few pictures of the area we were sailing around. However with the rise and sway of the ship most of them were somewhat fuzzy, and no matter how you cut it a blurry picture of Fort Sumter just isn't that interesting. As I may have mentioned before, this is one of my favorite sets from the whole trip. I hope you enjoy them.

I couldn't get enough of the sails and ropes -sheets and lines I think to the initiate. Those ships really were beautiful. Can you imagine old Charleston Harbor full of these graceful vessels?

With sails like these who knows where you'll land? My favorite picture of the trip.

She was a handsome thing of knots and timber. Another of my favorite shots.

I love the peace of some of these shots. There was a beautiful, restful harmony of wind harnessed in canvas and cord.

You might almost have thought this ship had been painted and packed so as to strike notes from the dusk.

Framed with timber and rope, watching the sun set behind the battery was something not to miss with all the church steeples strung out across the city.

Unfortunately this is the best picture I could get of the bridge. The ship's movement made distant shots almost impossible. This still gives you an idea though of how fine it looked strung out across the harbor.

That (finally) concludes our visit to Charleston. Later I'll post some of our pictures from Savannah and Jekyll Island.

Some backstory- testimonies

Kat was asking me to post a little more about where I've come from, so I'm going to try and remember to post a little more of my own personal backstory as I go along. There are too many questions to cover in one post, so I'm just going to take a couple and run with them. I suppose you can call this piece of the story my testimony. I'll try to keep it brief.

I have pretty much the typical good Christian kid testimony -never knew a time when I didn't know the name of Jesus. I started out (so far as I remember) going to a little church called Chestnut Grove Baptist Church outside of Atlanta, Ga. I also remember having a little girl crush on the associate pastor there -Preacher Tommy by name. I used to make up songs about him. I don't know that I could have been more than 5-6 at the time. Even though I grew up in church it wasn't until we moved to Alabama that I "prayed the prayer" and eventually got baptized. Throughout that time I went to mainly Baptist and Bible churches. We tended to move around a lot. Something would happen in the church, and we'd pack up and move on. After a while my parents sort of got burned on church, and we ended up taking a year or so sabbatical from church. Us kids didn't much like that, but after we'd about been to every church in town we were getting a little tired of moving. I learned a lot about that though - like just how easy it is to be anonymous in the Church nowadays. Even when you've volunteered for VBS, drama, and been to the church youth retreats you just slip away like you'd never been there. No one calls to ask where you've been or how you're doing. You just roll off the face of their world. Pretty sad I think.

I also learned a thing or two about youth groups. Let me tell you they kind of give me the heebee jeebee's now. There's too much emotional manipulation going around under the name of firing kids up for the Lord. I've been on those camps. You come back after spending your days and night overstimulated by too much noise and sugar, and you just end up depressed for a week or so afterwards. They tell you about this like you're living in a spiritual high at camp that just can't be maintained in real life when really you've been at one huge rockfest all week. That's not a spiritual high -that's overstimulation followed by exhaustion. Somehow I don't think Jesus becomes more real just because you've paid $50 to get away for the weekend with two thousand other teenagers, and the Jesus band has an awesome drummer. That's getting away with your friends so you can clap and stomp your feet to musicians you really like. Don't get me wrong. There are some great musicians out there and some speakers with really great messages. I'm just skeptical about the results of growing up in a pyrotechnic church culture.

Putting that aside-eventually my family ended up going to the church my in-laws used to attend. We'd actually met them previously through highschool debate team, but this was my chance to get to know them better. During the course of this I started getting to know Allen better through their college/career age ministry even though he primarily went to another church. Well finally Allen invited me to visit his church one night. It's the Presbyterian church we attend today. The first time I went Steve was preaching on presbyterian church order. Wow. What a sermon for the new kid. After giving Allen several broad hints that I actually would enjoying visiting his church again with him sometime we ended up going together most Sundays. For me Calvinism just clicked. It explained some things I'd always had questions about. One the most important steps in this journey was reading Putting the Amazing Back into Grace. I was so convicted after reading that book. It answered questions I hadn't even been able to put into words before. I started reading more books by Reformed authors like J. I. Packer, C. S. Lewis, and Peter Leithart. And that's pretty much where I am today. I love going to church that follows the Church calendar, celebrates weekly communion, and is diligently seeking to build a community of grace. I have people around me whom I refer to as "heavenly sandpaper." They are the people who are shaking up my understanding of what it means to be a conservative Christian in the 21st century. I may disagree with them, but through them and with them I'm learning to how to be an authentic Christian -authentic because I'm secure in who I am in Christ and therefore don't need to either boast or whine. I'm still working on believing that God really loves me and responding to Him in love rather than from a sense of duty or obligation, but that will come.

Oh yeah, and last week Pastor Tom told us (the congregation) flat out that we need to aim at reading our Bibles more. Since I know I don't even read mine one tenth as much as I should, I'm really going to try and get on it. Tom is the sort of pastor who makes you feel that he really is looking out for you and that you'd be seven kinds of fool if you didn't listen to his advice.

July 10, 2008

Great Big Sea

They are coming to Atlanta. Allen and I will be there. I am excited. If you want to be excited too you should get tickets and meet us there. In the interest of convincing others how awesome these guys really are I'm including some videos. They don't have good videos of some of my favorites, but these will give you a pretty good taste of their foot-stomping Newfie style.

Donkey Riding

The Old Black Rum

A Boat Like Gideon Brown (on Puzzle Pirates I have a sloop named Gideon Brown)

And a music video of them joined by the Cheiftans on Lukey's Boat.

I wish I could share some of their ballads with you, but they aren't up on youtube that I can find. You'll just have to take my word for it that they can be balladeers as well.