Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is always a surprise for us. We never really make plans, so we often sit at home watching football. Now and then we get invited to a party, so we celebrate there. A few times the girls have had friends over. And 2010 Corinne and I were in LA because the Walton band marched in the Rose Parade. This year is another surprise: friends from California and Pennsylvania are here for the Passion 2013 conference, so we have five extra people. Caty and Corinne each have a friend over, and Carrie and Mike are here.  So, Brian whipped up a mashed potato bar and veggies and his famous cheese puff for snacking, and then built a fire for making s'mores. Good times.....and a pleasant way to bid farewell to 2012.

This song from Holiday Inn has been running through my head all day, so here are the lyrics with a wish and a prayer for a blessed 2013.

One minute to midnight
One minute to go
One minute to say good-bye
Before we say hello

Let's start the new year right
Twelve o'clock tonight
When they dim the light
Let's begin

Kissing the old year out
Kissing the new year in

Let's watch the old year die
With a fond good-bye
And our hopes as high
As a kite

How can our love go wrong if
We start the new year right?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Love. Laughter, and Lobster

Both last year and this my little (okay, younger) brother has gifted out family with an extravagant dinner experience for Christmas: live lobster. This year's guys were REALLY active--had they been less carefully packaged, they just may have made it back to the Atlantic. Happily for us, they only made it as far as our boiling pots of water. The meal is an experience from opening the box through the post meal scientific inquiry. Brian and Corinne both enjoy dissecting the remnants and identifying parts. Of course, such science generally leads to hilarity since the tools are more blunt than true science would suggest, and lobster parts end up all over. This year there was lobster on the wall, the table, and everyone's faces/hair/clothes but mine. Being the photographer does have its benefits.

















Thanks for the memories, little brother!



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Perspective

I did pretty well with the word for 2012: Connection. I made an effort to be more sociable without denying my introverted self. Hopefully I was able to communicate that, although I am by nature an introvert, I DO care. This extroverted society makes it a challenge, that's for sure!

I think my word for 2013 will be Perspective. I think it's important to remember what REALLY matters: "mere" Christianity in all its perfection.It's really all about Jesus and everything else falls under Him. If I remember that, then the frustrations and challenges and triumphs of my days will take care of themselves. That will be real freedom.


Friday, December 21, 2012

All the little chickens are in the nest...sort of

Tis the season! The college girl and the married girl are both home. The one who actually lives here, however, is still out an about. It will be a while before we actually have all of the children home together again. It's kind of weird to see them growing up, becoming independent, and making lives of their own. Normal is taking on yet a new meaning. We still laugh a lot, make bad jokes, and enjoy hanging out. Hopefully that will never change. Now, however, we never know which subset of Loomises will be around. And that is the way it should be. We give them wings, teach them to fly, and push them out of the nest. We let them go with no expectations except that they will soar. We hope that they return to visit. We hope they choose to build their own nests nearby so that they can fly by for short visits. But we refrain from pressuring them. Once they leave the nest, they fly on their own, making their own choices, living their own lives.

Weird.

Love these girls

For six years I have been Auntie Stephie to Caroline and Abigail. They are precious girls and part of my heart.


Monday, December 10, 2012

A Good Question

Every time I sit down to read a book by Madeleine L'Engle I find myself first caught up in the pure beauty of her prose and secondly challenged by her questions. Her questions make me think and ponder what I know and what I think I know about the Creator. This particular question, from her book Bright Evening Star, has me considering the impact of the Incarnation on all of the created world:
Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all His love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?
Did all of creation stop for that one brief moment in response to the greatest single act of love in its history? I don't know, but it certainly seems plausible. Time stopped for Mary in that moment when she said, "Let it be done to me according to your word" to the angel. Time stopped for Joseph when he learned that his betrothed was with child. And then it stopped again when the angel came to him in a dream. Time must have stopped for their families as they reeled in imagined betrayal of faith and the consequences thereof. The angels live outside of time, but surely their heavenly activity ceased for what we call a moment.

One moment to change human history. One moment to demonstrate God's power and His love all at once.

One moment.

Would that I remember to stop and ponder in awe at that one moment.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Just a little fun...





Siewart Family Photo Shoot

The Siewarts are neighbors whose pictures I did a couple of years ago. Last week Martha called to see whether I could take a new set of family photos. So Saturday, we spent about 45 minutes and captured a few memories. These are my favorites:









Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Too sick to think...but well enough to create

I hate getting sick. Ever since I can remember when people around me would catch colds, I would end up with bronchitis or pneumonia. I avoid sick people. I stopped teaching elementary ages because I would work one day and be sick for a week. So, when this particular virus attacked, I fought it...and lost. I am finally at the point of recovery that I find the most annoying. As long as I hold still, I feel okay. For a while. I can't focus well enough to think, and moving around makes me breathless, but if I just sit still. I can see that I am improving.

So this afternoon a friend send me to a Pinterest board of jewelry. And I just happened to have everything on hand to make something. So I did. I didn't get any lessons planned (that requires thinking), but I did keep myself occupied for a few hours while I held pretty still.







 So, thanks, Rebecca, for inspiring me to do something entertaining and still. I kinda like the result.

Here is the link to the inspiration board:
YesterYearPrimitives


Autumn


Saturday, October 27, 2012

German Chocolate Cake

Brian loves German Chocolate cake. Every year for his birthday, it's the one thing he looks forward to most. This year I made a gluten free version that turned out to be delicious; I started with a mix, but added ricotta cheese, coconut, and cocoa for extra flavor and richness. As usual, everyone started with a slice, but heaven forbid the cake be uneven! Brian is always careful to ensure that whatever cake remains on the pedestal is perfectly even. It is a sacrifice he is willing to make for aesthetics. (Silly boy.)


Portrait of Corinne


Sunday, October 07, 2012

As Near the Ocean's Edge



The Fisher's Boy
Henry David Thoreau

MY life is like a stroll upon the beach,
  As near the ocean’s edge as I can go;
My tardy steps its waves sometimes o’erreach,
  Sometimes I stay to let them overflow.
My sole employment is, and scrupulous care,        5
  To place my gains beyond the reach of tides,—
Each smoother pebble, and each shell more rare,
  Which Ocean kindly to my hand confides.
I have but few companions on the shore:
  They scorn the strand who sail upon the sea;        10
Yet oft I think the ocean they’ve sailed o’er
  Is deeper known upon the strand to me.
The middle sea contains no crimson dulse,
  Its deeper waves cast up no pearls to view;
Along the shore my hand is on its pulse,        15
  And I converse with many a shipwrecked crew.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

My road bike's new life


Can I buy an hour--or two?

This year's schedule really has me spinning in circles. Six classes, one day of child care, making fancy coffee drinks at the JFBC Cafe, training for a marathon, and trying to make some time for a Sabbath rest means my poor blog is neglected and I can't plan any farther ahead than about 24 hours! My Etsy store is empty and my photography business has dried up for lack of attention.

For all the insanity, however, I am learning a lot. The C.S. Lewis class is far and away the most challenging thing I've ever done, but I love every minute of it. It challenges me on every level: spiritually, artistically, and as an educator.


So far I think my best art piece related to the Lewis class has been my collage for The Problem of Pain. Lewis attempts to make sense of the pain and suffering in this world, and for the most part his logic is flawless. It is still so hard to see that a loving and merciful God allows such things to happen to the innocent, but without suffering, there can be no joy. If He didn't allow man to be cruel to his own, then Christ's work would be in vain.  Free will has consequences.

We're moving on to The Screwtape Letters. The reading is less heavy, but no less powerful. Every chapter has some element that strikes me to the core and challenges who I think I am and who I really am. Ouch. It makes me grateful every time I think about it that I know whom I have believed and He is able!!

So much to learn...so little time on earth. Grateful for an eternity to really understand it all.

Monday, September 17, 2012

This is Love

"This is love: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin." (1 John 4:10)

This verse is committed to my head and heart in a song I learned years ago (GT and the Halo Express--not only for the kids). I've studied it, I've though about it, I've meditated on it. But I never considered it in terms of a Divine humility and the need for me to destroy my illusion of self-sufficiency.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis develops the concept that God allows pain in human life for a number of reasons, primarily, however, to remind humans of our limitations in front of the Almighty Creator of all things. Today's Western culture has become so secularized that God is forgotten, ignored, or even intentionally cast aside. We usurped the role of the Creator, putting our own hearts and minds at the center of conscious thought, and making ourselves a form of a god. Human nature always puts itself first until that self is surrendered in willful obedience to the One who made it in His image. This is an act of the intellect, emotion, and volition, which makes it utterly impossible to accomplish without supernatural aid.

Lewis's view is that we will not even attempt that self-surrender without pain or suffering as a motivator.  He says, "Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him" (Lewis, The Problem of Pain chapter 6).  Why should we? If our own hearts and minds are contentedly at the center, why change it? "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" says the old adage. So, knowing the inclination of humanity, God allows circumstances to "break" us in order that we might take our eyes off our own self-centeredness and correctly re-focus on our true purpose in this life: to live in fellowship with the Creator.

Lewis calls this a "Divine humility" because it demonstrates God's willingness to accept us when what we have to offer him is worthless. If we come to God at our best and happiest, our offerings are only slightly sweeter than when we come to him utterly spent and empty-handed. Lewis says, "He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had." (Lewis, Pain, ch 6) Ouch.

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Certainly we know at an intellectual level that no human on earth has the capacity to be perfectly good, and yet that is what God requires of us. He cannot look on anything less. In our own scheme of things, it would be easier to throw away the imperfect project and start over. But God is so much greater than we can even imagine. He gave us free will in order that we might choose Him, knowing full well that we would not. Then He provided a way for us to reconnect with Him, knowing that a great many of us would thumb our noses at Christ and still put our own selves at the center. He pursues us with a passion of Love that is beyond the scope of human understanding, until finally, we determine to surrender our wills for His, and we come to understand that His Love is far greater than anything we could ever ask or imagine.

This is Love.

Teaching the Hard Things

C.S. Lewis=Mind Blown. This is not news to most people; it's not even news to me. Quite possibly the greatest apologist of the 20th century, and certainly one of the greatest minds, Lewis writes about the hard things of life unapologetically and with insight so deep that I fear I may drown in it. It is important to think on these things, particularly in our current highly secularized culture. It is critical to know what one believes and, more importantly, why. So, I will continue to challenge myself with the hard things--and to hold myself accountable to perseverance, I will commit to teaching the ideas to high school students.

When I suggested the class, I knew it would challenge my ability to think, understand, and teach, but I knew that God could (and would) use it somehow. Even if the only person who learns something is me, the time and mental energy spent is well worth the effort. However, even after just a few weeks, I see that students are taking it in and struggling through the material, not because they must, but because they WANT to learn it. I love that. And that motivates me to push myself that much harder.

Monday, September 03, 2012

On Fitting In

I've never been one of those lucky ones who had a small group of close friends who could read each other's minds. I was usually pretty low on the invitation list for birthday parties and spontaneous shopping trips. I knew people in every clique in high school, and even in college, but wasn't really a member of any of them. I've always been everyone and nowhere at the same time. I've always been able to bounce from one group to another without really missing a beat as long as I had some space in between to myself. Growing up that usually meant I had lots of acquaintances and friendly relationships, but not that soul-friendship I would read about in my ever-present books.

At the time I thought perhaps there was something about me that kept me from really fitting in anywhere. Why didn't God make me able to feel part of a group? I was certainly independent enough to rehearse with the drill team, have lunch in the drama group, talk intelligently with the honor society types, and end the day working with adults on a musical performance. But I still felt like I was missing out on the concept of a core group. Not having sisters, I envied those who did. I filled my days with activities I enjoyed, and I developed a wide variety of interests.

Thirty years later (how can that be?) I am reaping the benefit of "not fitting in." As a teacher, my experiences in so many different things allows me to connect with students better than if I had been relegated to one particular group of people. I can talk science fiction (Dr. Who, anyone?), NASCAR, football, music, theater, literature, religion and theology, philosophy, art, photography, running, and countless other topics with students because I enjoy them all. I like learning from my students whether their interests are astronomy or ballet. Being versatile means I can adapt lessons to individuals and classes and use their interests to make classic literature come to life.

Had I limited myself to one group or another, I doubt I would have the breadth of interests that I do. My greater challenge now is balancing my time between all the things I enjoy while continuing to learn and grow and connect. I like having people in my world with whom I can discuss literature and others with whom I can compare notes on sports. Instead of being everywhere and nowhere, I am just anywhere I choose to be at any given time. And I am grateful that God wired me differently, just as I am.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Absolutely ridiculous

But hysterical. The youth/music guys at the church I attend have waaaay too much creativity (and apparently, time).  Enjoy their latest:




Sunday, August 05, 2012

Who me?

A woman called me "beautiful" today. I've been having a kind of "confidence crisis" the last couple of weeks. My weight is up a little and won't budge. My running is slower than a year ago. I keep getting blisters (going back to Ryka running shoes). My clothes don't quite fit right. I haven't completed any of my planned projects for this summer and school starts in just over a week. (The workshop WILL be done tomorrow.) Suffice it to say, I feel substantially LESS than beautiful.

Then today. I was working in the Cafe at church, as I do every Sunday. Kiahla was on the espresso bar, so I was doing odd jobs: cleaning tables, pouring iced tea, fixing hot chocolate for kids (extra whipped cream), and making sure there are cream and sugar. Nothing fancy, nothing special. A customer was waiting for her latte and she said something--I don't even remember what-- but she ended with beautiful. The surprise must have registered on my face because she added,, "Every Sunday you're here with that beautiful smile and friendly spirit. You are beautiful." Wow. Thanks, Lord, I needed to hear that.

Then I decided to go for a walk. I downloaded one of Louie Giglio's sermons to listen to. It was the first in a series called, Wide Awake, and it was titled "Who You Really Are." It a nutshell, Passion City Church has been in a 30 day mission to "Receive Love and Reflect Love," sending out e-mails with a single scripture verse and the reminder:


Good Morning... just wanted to remind you who you are in Christ:
God-designed, purpose-intended, significant, lavishly-loved, prince/princess, son/daughter of the King of the Universe.

I had been reading the e-mails and even sending them out to friends whom I thought needed a boost. I hadn't really considered that God wanted ME to get the message. I am beloved. I am beloved of the Creator, who knit me together and knows me inside and out. Beloved. I know that. Apparently, I reflect that--even when I have nagging self-doubt. Wow.

That God can work through me when I'm not paying attention, or in the mundane tasks, is overwhelming. It also reminds me that people are watching--even though they don't know it. Finally, and most importantly, God loves me so much that He orchestrates words of encouragement in the most unexpected places.

Wow.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Not Really a Recipe


Gluten Free Lemon Mint Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

First things first. I am not a chef. I'm not even a great cook. We have a saying in our home: "Mom cooks to fill the hole; Daddy cooks to fill the soul." My daughter, Carrie, has an amazing food blog with all kinds of terrific recipes that are both healthy and delicious. 

Having said that, I've had some success baking in my lifetime, and more recently, baking gluten free. Yesterday I hosted a creative event (another blog for another day) where a number of the attendees had gluten issue, so I made sure to have treats everyone could enjoy. The hit of the evening were the lemon-mint cupcakes with lemon cream cheese icing. I promised a recipe, so, here it is...sort of.

I'm terrible about measuring--even when I bake. And I never write anything down. So, this is the closest approximation I can do. As I said, I'm not a chef. 

Lemon-Mint Cupcakes

1 package of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix (it's mostly sorghum flour for loft and rice flour for structure)
1 lemon
A handful of mint leaves (the fresher the better)

Make the cake mix as directed EXCEPT:
    Finely chop the mint and add to the dry ingredients.
    Add the zest from the lemon plus a splash of lemon juice to the wet ingredients. How much is a splash? After zesting, I squeezed the lemon into the water--maybe a tablespoon's worth. Or less. 

Fill the muffin tins about half way, and bake according to package directions. I use an ice cream scoop to make sure most of the mixture makes it into the pan and the muffins are close to the same size.

Lemon-Cream Cheese Icing

1.5 packages of Neufchatel (light cream) cheese, softened
1/4 cup skim milk 
The rest of the lemon from the cupcakes ( no waste)  juiced to about a quarter cup liquid, lemon tidbits good; seeds, not so much. 
Scant teaspoon stevia powder
Powdered sugar---a couple of cups to make the icing thick enough to use

Blend the Neufchatel until smooth and fluffy.
Add the stevia to lemon juice. I heated the juice and stevia a few seconds in the microwave to help the powder dissolve. 
Add the milk to the cheese and stir in before adding the lemon (otherwise the milk curdles and that would be unpleasant.)
Once the lemon is fully mixed in, add powdered sugar until the icing is thick enough to spoon over the cooled cupcakes.

Spoon the icing over the fully-cooled cupcakes and let set up for 15 minutes or so. 
Add a fresh mint leaf as garnish.


Now, for a REAL food blog, visit A Guiltless Glutton and tell Carrie her mommy sent you!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Altered Shoes Part Two


 Start with inexpensive canvas shoes. Wash and dry them. Tape off the rubber with painter's tape.

Let the fun begin.



I used a combination of Textile Paints by Jacquard and  Lumieres by Jacquard. The Lumieres I mixed with fabric medium. I also used some acrylic paint, again mixed with fabric medium.

My inspiration for these shoes was a beach sunset, so I focused on colors of water and the shades of reds, golds, yellows, and pinks of the sunset.




I then sewed large sequins around the seam using embroidery floss and a tapestry needle. I had a pair of jewelry pliers handy for when the needle got stuck, as canvas is a pretty tough fabric. I actually broke one needle.








I added a charm that says, "dream" to each shoe.













I dug out blue and green beads that I had in my stash and used the same embroidery floss to sew them to the back seam of the shoes. I looped them in threes for a sort of scalloped effect.













I liked the look of the beads so much that I added beads to the sequins on the top seam.













I finished the look with some fun laces I found at Target.



And now I can kick back and enjoy my custom shoes.

Chillin'