Saturday, September 29, 2012

the best present

This has been a hard week.  Longs hours at work, a baby toddler who seems very aware of her new locomotion and independence, and Jeff's beloved Granddaddy finally made the transition to an Alzheimer's unit.  It is the best place for him, and yet we all struggled with the decision.  Especially our Memaw (his wife).

So I was more glad than ever for our Saturday nights.  My parents-in-law give us the most amazing gift.  They keep Vicki at their house pretty much every week.  We take her over in the afternoon, go out and have fun (or stay in and rest), and we all meet again at church in the morning.

Vicki with her grandmother.
Vicki with her Pawpaw Randy.

 Tonight, I did nothing more than make a trip to Target for dishwasher detergent and dryer sheets.  I leisurely tried on clothes and sipped a Slurpee, reveling in the novelty of not having share it with anyone.

Now I will go eat sushi and seaweed salad, by myself, with a book.

A wild Saturday night, I know.  But a welcome one.  I adore spending time with my daughter.  And spending time away from her occasionally makes me love our time together that much more.

I've said before that the single biggest reason we wanted to return to Nashville was the support we would receive from our family network.  Saturday nights are one of the best examples of that support, and I couldn't be more appreciative.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

and she's off!

My nephew was born five years ago.  Long before I even contemplated having a child, I remember my sister telling me about the things he learned to do.  Things you never even give a second thought to.  Walking in flip-flops.  Holding an umbrella.  Climbing into the sandbox.

It is true that seeing the world through the eyes of a child reintroduces you to the complexity involved in even our simplest tasks.

Vicki Jo has begun to walk, finally, and definitively.  She flirted with it for a long time, walking while holding on to my finger, but then dropping to crawl when she spotted something she wanted.  She cruised along the walls and from item to item in each room.  She pushed her walker wagon along with confidence.  And then she walked.  At nearly 18 months, she is on the very late end of the curve here.  Although my anxiety attempted to rear up on a number of occasions, we allowed her to unfold this mystery on her own, with no interventions or extra supports.  (It helped that one of our dear friends from Topeka, who is also a pediatric physical therapist, did a casual evaluation at our home when Vicki was about fourteen months, and found no problems.)

It has helped that she is still quite small and slim.  People didn't seem to think it was so unusual when we were out and about that she wasn't walking.  Not that that makes any difference, but it can wreck your confidence to hear from a thousand strangers that your child is somehow messed up!

Many people with late walkers told me that the major benefit is your child will fall less and be a better walker from the jump.  This has been true for us!  There haven't been the wipeouts, the blackened eyes, the skinned knees that have plagued my friends with normal-aged walkers.

In general, a trait I would ascribe to Vicki Jo is carefulness, or meticulousness.  Each thing needs to be carefully placed in its proper spot (even if it seems to make no sense to me!).  She looks at the ground as she walks, not missing bumps or steps.  She is careful and slow.  

<--  Walking whilst also wearing big-girl undies!  Achievements!

But the other thing people told me about having a late walker (namely:  "enjoy it!  Once she starts, you'll be chasing her forever.") is true, too.  She is off and there is no telling her that she won't be walking here or there because it isn't safe.  

I won't say it was easy to sit back and let her develop as nature intended.  But there was no other way.  There was no forcing her to walk.  And I'm glad we didn't try.

Going to visit her great-granddaddy at Memaw's house.  He has severe Alzheimer's and yet he remembers her name!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

bygone days

Kansans know about prohibition.  Isn't it crazy to think that our country just out-and-out illegalized alcohol for fourteen years?  Back when we had cable included in the cost of our rent, watching Boardwalk Empire was one of my favorite Sunday evening activities.  What a fantastically done representation of this time period in American history.

But Kansans, special gluttons for punishment, outlawed liquor and beer from 1881 to 1948 - longer than any other state.  And on-site sale of liquor (i.e. licensing for bars and restaurants to sell alcohol "by the drink") was prohibited until 1987!  Over one hundred years of restricted access.  Did it work?  All I can say is that a large number of my family members managed to become alcoholic Kansans during that time period - so I think not.

Even still, there are complicated laws about alcohol percentage, what time different percentages can be sold, where they can be sold (proximity to schools and churches), and what days of the week. In my younger days, there was a frequent dash to the store before 11 pm so we could buy something over 3.2% by volume.

The first legal brewery to open in Kansas after prohibition ended is in my hometown.  It's called Free State Brewing Company (I will save the Jayhawker obsession with all things "Free State" for another post).  Open since 1989, Free State is a landmark in downtown Lawrence, occupying the space of an old train station.  It was mandatory in my adolescence to own at least one shirt with their locally famous slogan:  "because, without beer, things do not seem to go as well . . ."

Their beers are scrumptious, hand-crafted, seasonally changing, and are probably responsible for establishing a discriminating palate for fine brews amongst the people of northeastern Kansas. 

It doesn't hurt that the food is pretty freaking good, too.

One perennial favorite of picky kids and open-minded adults alike is the Cheddar Ale soup.  It warms you in fall and winter.  My friend Lauren notoriously ordered chicken fingers and Cheddar Ale soup at Free State for years. 

Naturally, their Ad Astra Ale (a rich, balanced amber ale) features prominently in the recipe, but I have no access to it here in Nashville.  They also use Alma cheddar, which I can't get ahold of either.  So I made some adaptations.  I subbed Yazoo Gerst Amber Ale (Nashville local brew) and cheddar from our CSA.  I found the recipe in a 2010 issue of the Lawrence Journal-World.

Cheddar Ale Soup

3 T butter
3 T AP flour
1/4 C minced onion
1/4 C small diced red bell pepper
1/4 C small diced green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C amber ale
3 oz cream cheese
3 C cream
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 t hot sauce
fresh parsley and thyme to taste
6 oz grated sharp cheddar

Add 1 T butter to a large Dutch oven.  Cook peppers, onion, and garlic over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until translucent.  Add remaining 2 T butter and flour, whisking vigorously to incorporate.  Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the ale in small increments, whisking well to avoid clumping.  Cut cream cheese into smaller cubes and add to pot.  Mash and stir cream cheese until it is totally melted.  Gradually add the cream to the pot, mixing well after each addition.  Add salt, pepper, hot sauce, thyme and/or parsley, and mix well.  Bring the heat up a little bit (you may want to use a thermometer - they suggest heating just to 160 degrees, but not above). 

Add the grated cheese in three increments, mixing well after each addition. Stir until totally melted.  If the soup seems thin, add more cheese.  If it seems thick, add a bit of milk.

Serves 6-8. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

family dinner

Jeff and I are so lucky.  Well, there's a certain strain of Christian thought that there is no "luck," that God predetermines everything and sets circumstances.  I struggle with that because then that means God wanted some people to suffer unbelievably.  Just can't get down with that.  But I digress.

We are lucky.  We spent many years working at a camp that attracted tons of like-minded, free-thinking, open and affirming young adults committed to living out their faith.  They are some of our oldest friends, and the group has grown as people have gotten married, as siblings come into the group, and now as we have babies!

Every Sunday night, we gather for "family" dinner.  I certainly can't take credit - this tradition was going long before we moved back to Nashville, but we were graciously invited to join the group when we reappeared. 

I've known Eric and Julie as long as I've known Jeff - over nine years.  We were on staff together in 2003.  I officiated at Julie and Jimmy's wedding in 2010.  Eric and his wife, Mackenzie, met at NYU  - I got to meet her in 2004 or 2005 while I was still in college.  Now they have a baby, Remy. 

I met Stephanie in 2004 working on staff.  Stephanie, Julie and I were roomates when I came to Divinity School in 2007.  Stephanie's sister Julianne moved to Nashville just as we moved away, and now her boyfriend Parth is part of the circle as well.

That makes a raucous crew of eleven every Sunday evening.  A few weeks ago we gathered at Parth's.  He lives in an unbelievable 7th floor apartment in a trendy area of Nashville called the Gulch.  There is a wall of windows leading onto a balcony over 12th Ave. S.  I felt terribly underdressed when I walked into the chic lobby holding my tupperware.  The doorman made me feel better, though.

Parth is Indian, and so he and Julianne fixed an Indian feast for us.  I love Indian food, and I wanted to make something cooling and refreshing to go with it.  We got cucumbers in our box last week, and we had yogurt and mint in the fridge already.  Raita!  It's the best.  For this, if you need to strain the yogurt, start that the night before.  To do that, just set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl.  Line it with paper towel or cheesecloth and put the yogurt in there.  Refrigerate and drain overnight.  Save the whey that drains off to make pickles or other lactofermented things!

Cucumber-Mint Raita
1 cucumber, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1/2 C mint, chopped
2 C Greek yogurt, or regular yogurt that has been strained overnight
1/4 t honey
1/2 t cayenne pepper
3/4 t ground cumin

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for several hours.  Serve as a condiment with spicy food.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

nemoi nepravitaka

My father studied Slavic languages, and he began a family-wide fascination with all things Russian and Balkan.  My parents, brother and sister lived briefly in Yugoslavia (when it was still Yugoslavia, Tito and all) before I was born.  I remember my mom always talking about her netted market basket, and she wistfully recalled the lovely open markets she used to frequent when shopping for dinner.  My sister did an exchange program in junior high.  She went to Russia for several weeks, and then we had a Russian student named Katja come stay with us.  And my dad and stepmom went to go teach at the American School in Skopje, Macdeonia, when I was about twelve or thirteen.  They lived there for a year or two. 

While they were there, Dad and Tammy became close with a Macedonian family.  Maria was the high-school aged daughter, Valentina was her mother, and Filip her little brother, probably about four or five.  When it was time for Dad and Tammy to come back to the States, Maria came with them to capitalize on the opportunities for American education.

Dad and Tammy lived in Las Vegas at that time.  I usually came to visit for some holidays and then for a longer period in the summer - about a month.  That summer, Maria's mother and brother were also visiting.  In a two-bedroom apartment, we had three adults and three children.  It was tight quarters, to say the least!

I remember so much about living with the Macedonians that summer.  Dad and Tammy both worked, so most of the days it was just the four of us.  We went swimming, we went to the store, we fixed lunch.  They taught me how to make tatziki.  They loved the stuff - garlic, yogurt, cucumber, vinegar.  They loved vinegar.  They would just swig it out of the bottle.  It started kind of a love affair with vinegar for me, too.

The best part, though, was Filip.  He was your standard five-year-old boy - rambunctious, mischievious, irritating, exhausting, etc.  But he couldn't speak one word of English.  Not a single one.  It was up to me to figure out how to communicate.  So, we used the board books he had brought with him.  Rather than him learning English, I learned Macedonian as if I were a young child.  I learned the Cyrillic alphabet first.  Then we just started trading vocabulary.  "Avione" = airplane.  "Soova sleeva" = prune.  And so on and so forth.  It was actually great fun. 

But the words I learned to use the most with Filip were "nemoi nepravitaka."  They are the same words you would use a lot with any five-year-old:  "Don't do that." 

We all went our separate ways at the end of the summer, never to meet again.  Within a few years, Dad and Tammy were divorced, Maria had graduated from high school, and Valentina and Filip probably forgot all about me.  But I never forgot learning to communicate with Filip.  And it helped a lot when I began to learn Greek in seminary, as Cyrillic is morphed from the Greek alphabet. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

circle of the church year

We began our Godly Play sessions on Wednesday evening.  Godly Play is a Montessori-inspired faith formation program using story, wondering, response, and feast as a way to communicate God's love and desire for each of us. 

We face a dwindling number of children at our church.  This is not at all uncommon.  It causes you to face a sort of existential question:  at what point does it just no longer make sense to offer children's programs?  I have decided that so long as we have one child that needs to learn the story of our faith, I will continue to offer developmentally appropriate ways for that to happen.

So, our small group of three on Wednesday evenings gathered and shared our first presentation:  the circle of the church year. 

Like all Montessori-based learning, Godly Play uses special materials that are calibrated to engage children and provide natural control of error.  The circles of the church year that I looked at online were gorgeous.  Carved and painted wood, fitted to slots so that each tab occupied its own natural place:

But it also cost $160, and we are not exactly swimming in that kind of money!

I set out to make it myself.  Crafting is decidedly not my thing, so please don't laugh too hard at my measly efforts.  It was kind of calming and meditative to set my mind to a task using my hands, though.

I cut out two felt circles, one larger than the other.  I'm sure I could have used a compass to make this all much more exact, in terms of size of each tab in relationship to the diameter of the circles.  But where's the fun in that!?

Then I cut out 53 itty bitty tabs (one for each Sunday of the year, plus one for Christmas on those years it doesn't fall on a Sunday).  There are white tabs for our times of celebration (Christmas, Easter), purple tabs for our times of preparation (Advent, Lent), the great green season of tabs for our times of growth, and the special red-hot tab for Pentecost (they loved that one!).

I also cut out four arrows and secured them to the center of the felt circles with a brad.  Three white arrows and one red.  The three whites point to our great feasts:  Christmas, Easter, Pentecost.  The red one points to where we are now (18th Sunday after Pentecost). 

The kids enjoyed it.  They were entranced during the presentation and time of wondering.

Afterwards, they were invited to choose their work for the evening.  Because we are just starting and I am making everything as I go, they don't have many story materials to work with.  They all chose to respond using the art shelf:

There are carpets for all work, big paints, little paints, clay, drawing, and journaling. 

Our three children chose purposeful work and worked diligently.  The work they chose did not seem to engage much with the presentation, but that is okay.  They are there to confront their four existential limits (death, the threat of freedom, the need for meaning, and fundamental aloneness)*, not do a craft that relates to the lesson. 

Finally, we shared our feast:  clementines, oatmeal-raisin cookies, and water.

They served one another with grace and courtesy.

It was great fun, and I'm excited for next week!  Creation cards.  Stay tuned.

Jerome Berryman, Teaching Godly Play, p. 68.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"our" farmers

Wednesday is my happy day. Between 3:45 and 4:15 on Wednesday afternoon, I pick up our box at the Christian Church down the street. It is loaded and cold from being on the truck all day.

We speed home (it's usually Vicki and me) and I unpack item after item, a smile of contentment slowly spreading across my face. It may just be my favorite part of the week.

I have written a lot about how much I loved our CSA in Kansas. I really enjoyed getting to know John and Ramona, seeing their farm, and tasting their food. On a larger, ethical level, I like knowing that my money is supporting them and not Monsanto. But John and Ramona could only go so big with their family farm. They were able to supply us with vegetables, some fruit, eggs, and chicken.

My friends Julie and Jimmy have been doing a similar program through a farm and co-op called Avalon Acres. Because of increased demand from the Middle Tennessee consumers, they have taken it to the next level. They offer subscriptions for vegetables, grass-fed meat (pork, beef, chicken), eggs, cheese, raw milk (has to be called "pet milk" in Tennessee and labeled that it is unfit for human consumption!), goat milk and cheese, bread, pasta, home-jarred goods, and more. You put together what package you want per week, sign a contract stating that you will be responsible for paying for it through the end of the season, and you pick up your food weekly.

After we found we would be moving back to Nashville, Julie told me about it and I investigated a little further.  I basically had one thought:  Yes, please.

We signed up for a somewhat ambitious package. Every Wednesday, we get 1/4 share of produce (usually one fruit item and four or five servings of veggies), 1 dozen eggs, 10 oz of cow's milk cheese, and an assortment of meats.

This week:  eggs, tomato-herb cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes, green heirloom tomatoes, french beans, summer squash, delicata squash, cucumbers, okra, potatoes, jalapenos, banana peppers, breakfast sausage links, ground chuck, pork chops, whole chicken.

The meat has been an interesting situation. In the program descriptions, we checked the box next to the meat selection that had 1 chicken portion, 1 pork portion, 1 beef portion, and 1 breakfast meat portion per week. The portions were described as "enough to feed two adults." I thought it would be just right, since Vicki still doesn't eat a whole serving of anything at meals.

What has been arriving has been WAY more than that. I'm having trouble complaining about it, because the meat is amazing! Tender, flavorful, well-marbled steaks, plump chickens, delicious chuck for burgers, bacon to die for, etc. But we have easily been getting enough to feed four in each of those portions. For instance, today we got: 1 whole chicken, 1 lb pork chops, 2 lbs ground beef chuck, and 1 lb of breakfast sausage links. Tell me what family of two adults can get through that much meat in a week!? My freezer is bulging already. I think what I will do is just continue with this through the end of the season (late October) and then do a veggies, eggs, and cheese only package after that for awhile to work through my backlog of meat.

I have tried their raw milk, and was impressed with the quality.  However, the cost was high.  $3.75 per quart.  Since my Avalon Acres subscription started, I've found a separate co-op for raw dairy that is much more reasonable ($3.50/gallon). 

So, for all this locally-grown, absolutely delectable, high-quality meat, dairy, eggs, and produce, we must be paying an arm and a leg, right? You may be surprised.

We pay $72.75/week for all this food. What we buy outside this is negligible (coffee, milk, tea, a bit of fruit, bread, pantry items). I would say that, in all, we pay about $100/week for groceries. It's certainly more than if I just went to Kroger and got the store brand of everything and the cheapest meat available. But it is so much better in every way. I literally feel better after eating a meal from the farm. I digest everything well. I feel light and energetic.

Call me crazy, too, but I really trust these people. The Avalon Acres farm works together with three Amish communities in a sort of co-op to get their food to the consumers and our money to them. I tend to feel that the Amish, as a whole, are one of the only groups left in America whose product billing and promises are real. I trust their word if they say the cows are fed grass and hay. And my husband will tell you that I don't trust people easily. A bit of a cynic over here, especially about marketing and branding.

If you are in Nashville and are interested in this kind of program, you must try it out. Perhaps don't dive in headfirst like we did! But give your money to this community and your heart and your body will thank you.

P.S. My old junior-high colleague Erin did a great piece on her blog about how the "locavore" movement is really kind of silly, or at least doesn't have all the environmental benefits that its adherents claim. I think that's probably true. The old truck that delivers my box every week is certainly not very fuel-efficient. But from a health standpoint, I can say that this kind of eating does seem to be better for me. Also from a "help your neighbors"/invest in local business kind of standpoint.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

how to make a super-sweet countertop

One of the most fun parts of buying your very own home is that you get to do kind of whatever you want.  Although I have moaned and groaned about the extended length of our addition/renovation (which, after talking to some, is really not that long at all), the amazing thing is that it will yield exactly the kind of house we desire. 

When we bonked down half the wall between our kitchen and back bedroom to make an open living-kitchen space, we needed to put a countertop/bar in to offer more workspace and a transition from one room to the next.

The wall behind the stove in this picture is completely gone (and the door-frame and door into what was the second bedroom).  We moved the stove to the opposite wall, completely re-wired the house and moved the breaker box to another wall, tore out those cabinets, knocked down the wall behind them, and that's where we needed some kind of counter.

I looked at the options for counters.  Stainless (yuck - reminds me of nails on chalkboard).  Corian or other composite (sticker-shock).  Granite or marble (quadruple sticker-shock).  Butcher block (hard to take care of?).  What was attractive to me about stainless and butcher block was that, for most foods, you didn't need a cutting board.  Obviously you need one for raw meat, but for fruits and veggies, you can cut right on the counter.  Also, these surfaces are heat proof.  No need to worry about setting hot pots and pans right onto them. 

I was unimpressed by our standard options.  So we decided to do something completely different.  

We nailed a layer of plywood onto the wall stump, after installing the dishwasher underneath (kind of where that slim little cabinet was in the photo above).  Onto the plywood, we placed large squares of mosaic backsplash tile.  In the middle, we put two brass channels and in between we laid out old broken stained glass (some of it from the backyard stockpile).  After everything was in place, we started layering on Glaze-Coat.  This is a product you've most likely seen on bar tops.  It's a high-gloss self-leveling epoxy resin.  It is heat-proof, and nearly indestructible once it sets.  We thought about grouting the tile into place before adding the epoxy, but decided to just go ahead.

It took us about six or seven applications to get a nice thick layer built up.  We were also covering a pretty large area - about four by six feet.

It has been one of the best turn-outs of our projects thus far! 

One unanticipated cool effect is that the Glaze-Coat makes the mosaic tile look dimensional, although it is actually all the same height.  You can't really tell that from the photo.  It also makes the stained glass really brilliant.  We obviously still have a bit of work to do on it:  we need to trim out the counter, and sand off the bits of painting tape left on from the epoxy applications.

Here's a side view with dishwasher and cabinet we moved.  This is the kitchen side, obviously:

You can see the open feel from kitchen to living room here.  Love it.  We have bar stools on the other side.  I also love the tiny nook we created that is the perfect size for the trash can!  No more tripping over that.  We still need to trim around the dishwasher, as well.  And paint the drywall on the upper right wall.  But all of these things will be done, in time.  No pressure.  Not like we're trying to sell in the next twenty years!

So, if you're re-doing your kitchen and feel stymied by the standard array of counter options, consider this little homemade remedy!  Mosaic tile and Glaze-Coat.  Solving the world's problems, one counter at a time. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

100 in 1000: ben-hur

What fun!  Our project commences.  For those who missed my brainchild post, it's a simple idea.  We are working through the American Film Institute's Top 100 Films of the Last 100 Years (10th anniversary edition - 2007).  Because life is crazy, I can't guarantee one movie per week, but I thought 1000 days, or almost three years, might be a reasonable goal.  Plus, 100 in 1000 just sounds a little bit catchy, yes?

#100 on the list:  Ben-Hur:  A Tale of the Christ.  The subtitle is just absolutely misleading.  This is a tale of the Christ like ketchup is a vegetable.  I'm not sure if, in 1959, mentioning Jesus was a good marketing technique? 

Still, as a Biblical scholar, an erstwhile student of Latin language and Roman culture, and a Christian myself, this movie presented a fascinating glimpse into life in ancient Judea and the Roman Empire.

The film centers around Judah Ben-Hur, the only son of a prominent Judean family.  His childhood friend, Messala, has just returned from Rome to be a tribune in the local government.  But while Messala has been gone, Rome has turned his blood icy and ambitious.  He demands that Judah betray the local Judean rebels to him.  Judah refuses, and thus ensues a blood feud between them that frames the rest of the plot. 

Judah and Messala

This is a saga in the grandest sense of the term.  There is action (chariot races, ship wrecks, battles).  There is love (but not any sex - refreshing, if you ask me).  There is an Odysseus-like journey away from home and then back to home and family.  There is Charlton Hesston (portraying Judah Ben-Hur) with his glass-cutting jaw and trembling blue eyes.  There is betrayal, revenge, and redemption.  There is even some leprosy for good measure!  All in a measly four hours. 


Yes, this film is 222 minutes, or nearly four hours.  Now, a goodly portion of that is consumed by the Overture and the Entr'acte.  I guess this is the way movies were done.  It reminds me of Gone with the Wind.  I had to split it up into two nights.  There was just no way, after the baby went to bed, that I could stay awake for four hours to watch a film, no matter how engaging. 

The strengths of this film are in the details.  Nothing was skimped in the production and set design.  The circus in which the famous chariot race is set is gorgeous.  The extras who flood the street behind Jesus of Nazareth trudging to his death are legion.  The technicolor saturation is intense and vivifying. 

The chariot race

The historical detail is admirable for the time period in which the film was produced.  If anything, it probably worked to combat some tide of anti-Semitism that was (and sadly, still is) rife in America.  Jews are portrayed as noble sufferers and rebels under a stifling Roman oppression.  The Romans are hard, stiff, bent on domination at all costs. 

And Jesus?  He's in there, too.  He is mainly tacked on after the effective climax of the movie (the chariot race), to offer a dimension of redemptive hope to Judah and his family.  The sad fact of this film is that the accomplishments, relationships, and triumphs of these Jews couldn't stand on their own.  They needed to be improved by an unnecessary encounter with Jesus.  I could have done without the Tale of the Christ in this one.

Jesus doing his preachy thang.
Next up:  Toy Story (1995).  This one might get to be a family movie night!  

Monday, September 17, 2012

fussy mcphusserson

No, I'm not referring to the baby.  Although she has had some questionable evenings of late between learning to walk well, getting some new teeth, and finding her will (polite way to say freaking out at the slightest provocation or intimation of the word "no").

I'm talking about fussy recipes.  In general, I don't like them.  Most people don't.  There are a lot of areas in life that demand our attention - why fuss over the food?  Just buy good ingredients, prepare them simply, and they speak for themselves.

That's my philosophy in general, anyway.  However, I just finished a fussy recipe that was so totally worth it.  It is an adaptation of  America's Test Kitchen's Cream of Tomato Soup.  You may not have the patience to muddle through all of these steps, and if you don't, I understand.  But this is how you can capture the flavor of summer in liquid form.  Trust me.

Creamy Tomato Soup
2 lbs fresh ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 T brown sugar (use honey if you don't want refined sugar)
1/2 C minced shallot (3-4 shallots)
4 T butter
2 T flour (whatever kind - AP, sprouted, whole wheat)
2 C chicken stock
1/2 C heavy cream
2 T sherry
salt and pepper

First, deal with the tomatoes.  This is better done the night before or some other time before you want to make the soup so you don't spend 400 hours in one day in the kitchen.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Prepare a large bowl of ice water.  Score the tomatoes at one end (make a shallow "x" with a sharp knife).  Drop them into the boiling water and let them float for 45 seconds.  Pull them out with a slotted spoon and place them in the ice water.  Leave the boiling water on the heat.  Let the tomatoes sit for a few minutes in the ice bath, then pull the skins off.  They should peel pretty easily. 

Cut the cores out of the tomatoes without disturbing the juicy part (cut a circle with the diameter around the core end).  Take the peeled and cored tomatoes and put them back in the boiling water for five minutes.  Pull them out with the slotted spoon and put in a container.  Put them in the refrigerator until you are ready to make soup.  (Incidentally, you can can or freeze your tomatoes from this point to put them up for winter.)

On soup day, preheat your oven to 450.  Take the peeled, cored, and cooked tomatoes out of the fridge.  Place a layer of tin foil on a baking sheet.  Put a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, and use your fingers to break open each tomato, reaming the juice and seeds out over the sieve into the bowl.  Also reserve whatever juice was left in the container that the tomatoes overnighted in the fridge in.  Then take the flattened tomatoes and lay them out onto the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar and place in the oven.  Cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are lightly browned - about 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add minced shallots and cook until they are soft - 5 or 7 minutes.  Add the flour and stir continuously for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, making sure it is well incorporated.  Add whatever juices are left from reaming the tomatoes over the sieve and the container from the fridge (I had about 1 1/2 cups).  Bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Add the roasted tomatoes, peeled from the tin foil.  Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the soup from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Use a blender to puree in small batches (or use an immersion blender in the pot). 

Add the cream to the pureed soup and warm over medium-low heat.  Remove from heat and add sherry.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

This made about four servings.  I suppose it depends on how juicy your tomatoes are.

So, there you have it.  Are you not slightly exhausted after just reading this recipe?  But take my word for it - it was worth it.  Even with a demented 17-month-old underfoot mixing the dog's food with the dog's water and eating half of it while I was making this.  Couldn't possibly make that up. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

100 movies in 1000 days

When I was a young warthog (when she was a young warthoooggg), my senior year AP Literature & Composition teacher, Mrs. Wedge, passed out a list.  It was 2001.  We were working our way through some very dense reading (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead; Beloved; Cry, the Beloved Country, and others), but she thought we also needed to be reasonably well-versed in poetry and cinema.

On one side of Mrs. Wedge's paper were the greatest poems and collections of poetry in modern English.  On the other side of the copied-together sheet was the American Film Institute's "Top 100 Films of the Last 100 Years."  It was released in 1997.  There were some predictable elements:  Citizen Kane led the pack,  a couple members of The Godfather trilogy were included, and The Wizard of Oz made an appearance (always making Kansans joyful).  But there were surprises, too.  Tootsie, Forrest Gump, and Bladerunner were all adds that had me scratching my head, but smiling at the same time.

Starting that year, I took it upon myself to watch all 100.  I inched my way through the list, picking up one here and there.  And then suddenly it was 2007 and they had released the tenth anniversary edition.  So I decided to start over.  And offer my reviews here, to my sweet little readership.  I can't promise you that we will make it through the list in one year, or even two.  But we will do it!  And hopefully the Nashville Public Library will help out with lots of free movies.  I'm thinking I will give myself 1000 days to complete the project this time.  I always do better with a deadline. 

First up, Ben-Hur (1959).  It's #100.  Look for the review soon!

Friday, September 14, 2012

the pear tree

My baby and I were both born in the spring.  I am March 21 (the equinox, most years), and she is April 2.  Some years it is bright and sunny in that stretch of time.  The year she was born, we were finishing up our last big snow storms of a 30-year winter. 

My mama, the original Vicki Jo, planted a pear tree in our side yard the year I was born.  Each year we took a picture by it.  (Oh how I wish I had some of these to share with you!  I have no idea where they are.)  It was a full, white-blossomed, lovely tree.  I hated the smell - I still do.  It smells like old dirty underwear to me.  But it makes a great picture. 

So when the new Vicki Jo was coming, my mother-in-law collected prayers for her at one of my showers, and planted them all in the ground underneath a pear tree for the baby. 

The tree is growing strong and fast.  I can't wait for the spring, when we can take our Easter picture next to it and remember old life and new life. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

breastfed baby growth chart

Oh, "the chart."  Am I ever familiar with "the chart."

My baby is at the top of the chart!
My little one never made it onto the chart . . . 
My daughter fell off her growth curve and our doctor is concerned.
My newborn wasn't gaining on the chart right and was diagnosed with failure to thrive.

Here's the thing about the chart.  Doctors have all different ones that they use!  Some doctors are using a growth chart from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Some doctors are using a chart drawn up by using their patients as a sample, so your child is being measured against all the other children in that practice.  The one that they should be using, according to the CDC, is the World Health Organization breastfed baby growth chart (if the child is breastfed, of course!).  I eventually started disregarding the chart the doctor pulled out at our visits, and plotted the weights I took at the breastfeeding clinic onto the WHO chart myself.  I have only recently stopped doing this!  It became somewhat of a ritual for me.

You can find the links to all the charts - boys and girls for weight, height, head circumference, and more - here.  

Another thing about "the chart" is that it functions sort of like a bell curve.  Not everyone in this class can get an A.  For every child that is in the 90th percentile, there must be a child in the 10th percentile.  For every child that is "off the chart," there must also be one that never made it on.  For each parent to think that their child should be near the top of the chart is a logical fallacy.  This is something my doctor never pointed out to me.

Vicki Jo started off right at the 50th percentile:  7 lb, 1 oz at birth.  But here's yet another thing about that weight:  we had both been pumped full of IV fluids for about 24 hours before she was born and weighed.  It certainly bloated me with extra water.  I can only imagine it did the same for her.  By discharge, 24 hours after birth, she was down to 6 lb, 12 oz.  I suspect this is nearer to her actual birth weight.  Turns out my suspicion is probably right.  If we had used her discharge weight instead of her birth weight as the starting point on the chart, no one would have been concerned about her low weight of 6 lb, 6 oz.

Because she lost a lot and was slow to gain it back, though, I was discouraged about the progress we were making with breastfeeding.  And all of this parenting stuff is a confidence game, let me tell you.  I swore to myself that after receiving this blow to my confidence early on, I would tell other new parents I knew about the WHO chart, in case it might help them.  So consider this your PSA!  In fact, I used it just last week, in a rather underhanded way.  Our friends Eric and Mackenzie had a baby in April, and they have been hosting a friendly "guess the baby's weight/height/head circumference" after her regular well-baby visits.  They provide the last check-up's figures, then solicit guesses.  I just took those last figures, plugged them into the chart, and saw where she should be on her curve at this point.  Lo and behold, I was right - down to the ounce! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

theology tuesday: church and the city

In 2009, I took a summer course at Vanderbilt Divinity entitled "Church and the City."  It was meant to be a bridge between what can be the insular world of academia/church politics and actual, living, breathing, hurting people.  Nashville is so great because it is full of start-up non-profits to address almost every need:  food insecurity, homeless families, immigration documentation and services, and more.  The class consisted of touring these places, meeting the people, and experiencing different ways of life than we might on the tony West Side.

Instead of a sermon today, I want to share a poem I wrote as part of my final project in the class.  The poem describes the day we met Randall Vincent at JustPeace.  He told a story that is too common in urban poverty.  I think you can gather the story from my poem.

"Randall Vincent, May 14"
Emily Reeves

Words flowing fast from the mouth of this man.
Black track-suited and sporting a smart mouth,
He bears forth on the text of the day, the
garbage made of a generation.

Two boys he compares, painting two bleak scenes -
Both grown indifferent to the plights they have
embodied.  The sins of the parents are
more than visited upon these two boys.

These boys grow into men, indelibly
marked by factors beyond their own control.
Ignorer and ignored suffering much,
The same cultural disease, but seen fresh,

Manifest as a man with no feelings.
But the one never learned how to cope with
all that society expected of
him and soon got in trouble with the cops.

Earlier than you'd think was possible -
Ten, eleven, twelve, and by thirteen he
is on the corner and not in school, in-
visibility the skill of his trade.

But he is disposable, no value
to his work except for the prison
brokers who wait for him with their teeth bared.
And this black track-suited man is talking.

And what he tells me about the boys is
sad, so sad, that my throat lumps and my eyes
squint, and my reaction is visceral.
The presence of God denied residence.

But how come nobody does anything?
We get stuck:  people versus a system.
Where do we start?  And then we do nothing
at all because we are scared of the boys.

But let us remember that the boys al-
ways become men, and people are systems.
And we cannot afford anymore to
abandon one of those boys in his need.

Monday, September 10, 2012

bacon mayo (and meal plan)

This week I wanted to give you a glimpse into what our menu plans have been like lately.  Although I'm submitting this to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie, our menu plans actually begin on Thursday each week and run through Wednesday of the next week.  This is because we get our magnificent farm delivery box full of meats, eggs, cheese, veggies and fruit on Wednesday afternoons.  (Blog post on the amazingness that is our CSA forthcoming.)

So, because I base what we will eat for the following week on what we get in the box on Wednesday, I'm going to give you our menu plan for what we ate from last Thursday 9/6 through what we will eat on Wednesday 9/12.  Adequately confused?  Okay.

Also, a note on breakfast.  I am boring and eat the same thing every morning (unless we go out).  Two eggs scrambled in butter or bacon fat.  Coffee (either hot or iced) and milk.  Sometimes some bacon.  Sometimes I add a little fruit if we have it and I want it.  But I love my eggs and they do wonders for me.  Skipping grains in the mornings leaves me feeling full right up to lunch time.

Thursday 9/6
Lunch:  leftover chicken, carrots, mashed potatoes; banana bread; kombucha
Supper:  Watanabe with Jeff's folks for his birthday dinner (sushi & seaweed salad!)

Friday 9/7
Lunch:  Used a $25 giftcard at Longhorn Steakhouse to split fried shrimp, steak and baked potato with Jeff
Supper:  Pork chops with djion sauce; mashed apple & celery root; flat beans with bacon

Saturday 9/8
Lunch:  cheese, bread, mustard, leftover flat beans, half a peach, olives
Supper:  Chinese Democracy salad from Pied Piper

Sunday 9/9
Lunch:  Memaw's for dinner after church (pot roast, creamed corn, broccoli and carrots, rolls, tomato & mozzarella salad)
Supper:  Family Dinner (we brought maple-glazed butternut squash and pumpkin)

Monday 9/10
Lunch:  leftover squash and pumpkin, cheese, mustard, sourdough bread, kombucha
Supper:  BBQ chicken, summer squash pancakes with sour cream, okra creole, rice

Tuesday 9/11
Lunch:  leftover BBQ chicken, okra creole, rice
Supper:  Cheeseburgers, buns, pickles, tomato jam, onion, bacon mayo, grainy mustard

Wednesday 9/12
Lunch:  leftovers
Church Supper:  chicken & dressing, broccoli & cheese, sweet potato, cornbread

As a bonus, find my recipe for bacon mayonnaise below!  I love making my own mayo because it's very difficult to find it at the store not made with soybean oil (in fact, I don't think I've ever seen it without soybean oil there).  But I don't like the strong flavor or off color that olive oil imparts, and I don't want to keep any special oil on hand just for making mayo.  One night, after cooking up bacon for cheeseburgers, it came to me:  use the melted bacon fat!  It was perfection.

Bacon Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1 t dijon mustard
1 t apple cider vinegar
1/2 C liquid bacon fat (but not so hot it burns your hand when you touch it - you don't want it to cook the egg)
salt and pepper

Whisk the egg yolk, mustard, and vinegar together.  Add the bacon fat in a slow stream, whisking constantly.  The mayo will begin to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper.  When it reaches your desired stiffness, it's ready to serve!  Store whatever you don't use in a mason jar in the fridge for several months.  Particularly delicious on cheeseburgers.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

frustration and taking the long view

You have heard me talk about the additions and renovations to the home we just bought.  This project has been going for almost three months now, and I must be honest:  I'm tired of it.  There are a few things you should know about why:

1)  We spent up the budget we had allotted for the house about a month ago, with many more tasks left to do (I missed the memo on adding 25% to your budget for these kinds of things right off the top).  Rather than continue financing it by taking out loans or going through savings, we are doing what we can as we gather the money.  This is a stressful setback for me.

2)  We had planned to do many of the small things (mudding and sanding drywall, laying floor, staining and hanging trim, etc) ourselves to save on labor cost.  This was an unrealistic plan.  Between work, the baby, and taking care of family we find ourselves with little extra time to do these tasks.  What free time we do have we want to give to relaxation, not hard work.

3)  I am impatient by nature, and I want a nice, finished place to entertain friends and let my child run free yesterday.  It is very difficult for me to live with the continual dust, debris, clutter and chaos that this project entails. 

4)  Through the bottle fiasco, it has become clear that our house is not sitting on very solid ground, and there is some sloping on the east side.  I believe that foundation work is in the future and it is just a matter of time.

I feel pinned in at all sides.  I want it done quickly, but we don't have the money to hire the work out.  I want to save money, but I don't want to put in the time that it takes to DIY a big home project.  And in the midst of these frustrations, I begin to feel aggravated myself because all of this is so very whiny.  So I use one of my time-honored stress relieving tactics, which I call "zooming out."  Picture yourself zooming out from seconds to minutes to hours to days to weeks to months to years to decades.  In twenty years, what will I remember?  I will remember this frustration like a passing bump in the road. 

I also try taking the long view.  We want to live in this house for many years.  We have a lot of time to turn it into what we want; there is no deadline.  We want to raise Vicki Jo and whatever other children we have here.  Even if I am reappointed somewhere far off, we intend to keep this house as a Nashville home base.  We love the neighborhood.  If we are lucky enough to lottery into the magnet school two blocks away, our kids will be at amazing schools within walking distance.  We have eventual plans to add on a master suite and another bedroom and bath in the attic.  Eventually this small space will have four bedrooms and three baths!  If we ever do sell it, we are guaranteed to get much more out of it than we put into it. 

I am tired of making lists and not seeing anything get crossed off.  But I never, ever want to take for granted the level of blessing and luck that are present in our life. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

lemme lemme upgrade ya . . .

Anyone else remember when Beyonce did that horrendous commercial for Direct TV?  "Lemme lemme upgrade ya upgrade ya"?  And she shimmied in the golden dress with fringe?  I lived with my friends Stephanie and Julie in a little basement apartment in a rundown complex in a rundown part of town when that commercial came out.  I watched a lot of TV, and I swear I saw that commercial fifty times a night for fifty nights.

Anyway, the song came into my head because we experienced an upgrade in our babywearing gear.  For the last seventeen months, we have had the Moby wrap and a Kelty front carrier.  It took me six or seven months to figure out how to tie the Moby tight enough to really hold Vicki Jo securely.  The Kelty I only ever used a few times at the grocery store before I realized that it incorrectly distributed her weight right onto her crotch.  (I thought about how I would feel in such a position - not comfy!)

So for our walks and frolics for the past year or so, we have been using the Moby.  Although it is rated to 35 pounds, I was having to tie it so tight as Vicki creeps up into the mid-20s that she was right in my face as we walked.
Despite how much I loved being slapped, pinched and scratched in the face while walking (and despite all admonitions to "be gentle!"), it was time to invest in a back carrier.

So we walked our happy selves down to the local baby goods store.  It only opened a few weeks ago, and it is heavenImse Vimse diapers, hand-dyed clothing, natural wooden toys, amber teething necklaces (picked up one of those too), and all at not-unreasonable prices (plus a 10% discount for folks living in the neighborhood!). 

But I had my eye on the Ergo Baby carrier in the corner.  The owner helped me try it on, get Vicki inside, and away we went!  The comfort level is beyond comparison.  She is much happier on my back, I am much happier without her fingers constantly in my mouth, and I feel better aligned.  We wore it today down to fEASTival and we didn't need any adjustment for the whole several-miles walk.  It was pricey for sure (about $110 after my discount), but it will be well worth it, and can be worn on front with a small infant as well.

What is the best upgrade you've ever made?  (Baby gear or otherwise.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

big girl

Our good friend Kevin is in barber school.  He makes the most fantastic designs and styles.  Vicki Jo has been staying over with Kevin, Andrea, and their daughter Cannon a little bit.  (Much to Cannon's sheer delight.  Yesterday she stayed home sick from kindergarten and got to play with Vicki and their pet chickens.) 

A week or two ago, Kevin's barber instinct kicked in, and he commented to Jeff that we really needed to give Vicki a trim.  See, her hair color and texture are just like mine (namely:  brown and fine).  But the growth pattern is all Jeff.  He is the only person I've ever met who can grow a fine mullet with absolutely no effort.  In the "before" photo, you can get a nice feel for just how flowing her mullet was becoming.  Yesterday she got her first haircut!  She wouldn't sit still this morning for a good "after," but you can get the idea.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

the elements of clean

[This post submitted to SortaCrunchy's Your Green Resouce.]

The arrival of Real Simple magazine used to be the highlight of my month.  I would prowl the mailbox and snatch it from the mailman's hands, eagerly devouring each page and advertisement within a day or two.  Before I realized it was neither real nor simple, I believed I could live in the clean, sparse, non-cluttered reality that was presented in the publication.  As my adult life took shape, I saw that this was not to be.  My life was not, and will not be, really simple.  It is full of complicated situations and feelings. 

There are a few holdovers from the days of Real Simple, though.  Every fall and winter, I make a rendition of their butternut squash soup with sage that is just killer (although on second thought I think that one actually came from Meals Made Easy).

The main thing I've held onto is a print-out from a 2005 article called The Elements of Clean.  Appealing to the dorky chart- and table-loving side of me, it presents as a periodic table, but instead of the elements from chemistry (which I had to memorize in 10th grade!), it has cleaning tasks divided into categories of frequency:  weekly, monthly, every three months, every six months, annually. 

[Click here for an enlarged .pdf version of the image above.]

For starters, I love the fact that I can mark off about twenty percent of the chart right away because it does not pertain to our home setup.  We have no stove burner grates to clean since we have a glass-top range.  We don't have a microwave.  We certainly don't have curtain or drapes - only blinds.  Leather furniture . . . ha.  Stove hood:  a "someday" dream involving cutting a hole in our kitchen ceiling.  No slipcovers, fabric shades, stove hood filter, pantry, or carpeting. 

I try to stick to the schedule for the more infrequent cleaning tasks, but I must say that I use the "weekly" list most of all.  I basically just divided the tasks by room and try to do each room once a week.  I dust all the furniture and hard surfaces weekly.  I do the bathroom (the shower, bathtub, mirror, and toilet) weekly.  I do the sheets each week as part of our regular laundry.  I try to sweep, mop, or dustmop all the floors weekly (if not everywhere, definitely in the kitchen and bathroom, which are tiled).  And although I wipe the counters, kitchen sink and appliances pretty much every day, once a week I give them a more intense washing.  Except for our stainless stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher, for which I have special polishing wipes, I do this all with baking soda, vinegar, water, and elbow grease.  Cheap and safe. 

So now you know my housekeeping secret.  My special periodic table, which I've carried with me now for almost eight years.  Hope it's as useful for you as it has been for me!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

wee helper

Wednesday is typically my day off.  I go in for our Wednesday evening supper and program at church because I run it, but I get to spend the day with the dog and the little one.  Today's been a good one, so far.  We:

-Had an electrician out to look at the oven.  Computer busted, cost:  $500.  Kill me.  Pretty please, home warranty, cover this?
-Prepped for Godly Play sessions that happen Wednesday evenings.  Today, I'm working on the Circle of the Church Year wall hanging!  More to come on this later.
-Helped Jeff/dad celebrate his 29th birthday!  Happy birthday bartender!
-Tried unsuccessfully to take a morning nap (why, oh why, must we lose two naps and go to one!?).
-Toyed with Google Analytics
-Tried out Vicki's new underpants for the morning!  (Big girl.)
-Finished up some laundry:
My assistant loves to help with laundry.  She uses her walker wagon to collect her dirty clothes and bring them to the washer, then take the clean ones from the dryer back to her room for folding.  Jeff just commented this morning that he hopes Vicki continues to love chores this much for the rest of her life!  She can't get enough of washing, wiping, folding, collecting, sorting, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and feeding the dog. 

Happy Wednesday to all!  Oh, and guess what I'm getting the bartender for his birthday??  That's right - a tattoo of a wedding band!  Now he can never get rid of me!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

being institutionalized

Today's sermon (really more of a reflection/brief message/testimony) represents a kind of full circle in my life.  It was prepared and given for a group of youth and adults at a place called Institute.  In the summers of 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2010, I spent a week at Baker University in Baldwin City, KS.  This week of spiritual growth, renewal, and fellowship for youth is called Institute, and it goes way back.  In 2011, when I was invited to come and give this message, Institute was celebrating its 100th anniversary. 

Find me third from the left on the front row from 2001, the year I was in leadership; the photo on the right is is the 1912 Institute group photo.
Institute shaped my life, my faith, and my calling dramatically.  To be invited back to share with the community was oen of my heart's greatest desires.  So, as you read this message, try to picture yourself as an awkward 14-year-old attempting to reconcile the faith your parents have taught you with what you are finding to be true in your own life.  Do we ever really grow out of that?
I Samuel 20:42:  Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.’”  He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city.
So, I’m glad to be here with you tonight.  This is just a very special place for me.  I was an Instituter myself, from 1998 to 2002.  I came from Lawrence First UMC.  I was on YCT in 2001, and Kurt was our YCTC, and if was everything you can imagine it would be.  I’ll just say that there was a gigantic pair of women’s underwear involved.  Now I’m 26 and I have a baby girl and a husband and other adult life things that sometimes still seem unreal.  But one of these adult life things is a job.  It’s a calling actually, as a pastor, and I serve God at Countryside United Methodist Church in Topeka.  Institute was a big part of what helped me find this calling.  I was allowed to practice things like praying, speaking in front of people, leading groups, and helping interpret the Bible to folks.  Okay, but enough about me.  Let’s talk about you.
How many of you have had one or both of your parents dislike one of your friends?  And you were like puzzled as to what they found so objectionable about this particular person?  I remember this well.  I didn’t have a lot of friends over to my place when I was in high school because my mom had cancer and things were a little weird around my house, but I went over to my friends’ houses all the time.  And they would offer me snacks, and I guess at my friend Becky’s house I got a little too casual about the snacks, because I’d start rummaging around in the fridge and the pantry and help myself.  And then one day, Becky awkwardly mentioned that her mom didn’t want me to come over anymore, because I was eating all their food!  I was mortified.  And that was pretty much the end of our friendship, sadly.
So, in our Scripture story, it’s like Becky’s parents but on steroids.  In that little snippet of Scripture I read earlier, you’re just hearing the end of a story between Jonathan and David that has a whole bunch of history.  Their friendship goes way back – they were pretty much raised together.  Jonathan was the son of King Saul, and Saul was, by all accounts, pretty much insane.  Seriously, to say he disliked his son’s friend David is like saying it’s been just a little warm outside.  Saul tried to kill David on numerous occasions, and also tried to kill his own son a few times for good measure. 
So I want to look at this situation in Scripture from a variety of viewpoints, and then we’ll come back around and see where we fit into all of it.  Imagine this from Jonathan’s standpoint.  He has this amazing best friend, like almost a soulmate.  Like if they lived in Facebook time, they would be “liking” all of each other’s statuses and photos and constantly commenting on each others’ walls and all the stalkerish stuff my best friend and I do on Facebook.  Except that one’s dad hates the other so much that he wants him to get in on the plot to kill his best friend.  This is the kind of stuff that psychologists dream of.  If he lived now, Jonathan would probably be in therapy every day for hours. 
And now imagine it from David’s point of view.  He had been plucked out of his big happy country family and forced to fight a giant (ever heard of Goliath?), and then after he won King Saul was so threatened by him that he brought him into court to keep a closer eye on him.  Then it was back and forth, up and down.  Some days Saul was really into David – like on Facebook he would have been following his profile all day to see his updates and stuff.  And then other days, (the Bible says there was an “evil spirit” that came over Saul sometimes) there were death attempts.  It was the ultimate “de-friending.”  And, because David didn’t have any choice because Saul was the King, he kept having to accept his new friend requests from Saul every time he changed his mind.  If you were David, you probably would have gone crazy just because you didn’t know if today was the day the King would love you or try to kill you!
And then finally, imagine this situation from Saul’s perspective.  Have you ever felt a little crazy?  Not like to the point of killing someone, but just thought to yourself, ‘Why can’t I get ahold of myself?  What’s wrong with me?’  I think Saul probably had no idea why he was so angry and violent some days, and then so kind and friendly other days.  Mental illness is scary, and it really can take you by surprise.  But I think we’ve all been there, just a little bit, at different times in our lives.  God knows I’ve been through some crazy times.
The thing all three of these characters have in common is that they’re human.  They share all of our human traits – fear, frustration, a little craziness sometimes.  A lot of the time, when we start to feel some of these more negative feelings, we imagine that we’re alone or isolated.  Not true!  All creatures feel this way sometimes.  It’s because we are creatures, created by God.  We have flaws, imperfections, reasons that people would want to “de-friend” us.  And we want to hide all of that, because we don’t want to acknowledge it. 
When I was an Instituter, I had just as many flaws and imperfections as I do now.  A lot of the time, back then, I felt like I was living a double life.  Some of you may know what I mean.  Sunday morning I was at church, I was always at Institute, I was always involved in Conference stuff.  But Friday and Saturday nights, I was doing some other stuff that was probably not part of what was being taught at church.  And even Monday through Friday, I was being rude and insensitive to people at school and teachers on a fairly regular basis.  Luckily, I had these faith communities at Lawrence First UMC, and at Institute, that helped me to reconcile those two identities.  Ten years later, I can say that I am now one person.  I certainly have other imperfections, but I’m not living a double life anymore.  And it was because I had this kind of community helping me understand that God loved me unconditionally, no matter what my mess-ups had been during the previous year.  When I came to Institute, I was able to feel God’s presence so near that I felt without a doubt that God was working in my life, even in those times when I felt like I was hiding from God. 
God accepted Saul, David, and Jonathan.  Even in spite of their fear, lies, death threats and general craziness.  And God accepts you, too.  God doesn’t deny any friend requests.  God can see all the photos, videos, wall posts, and statuses.  And God accepts it all.  Sure, God may want you to make some changes in your life, but it doesn’t ever mean that God has turned God’s back on you.  So, if you feel like you’re living a double life, or if you feel scared of someone, or if you feel bulldozed by your parents or other people in your life, or if you just feel crazy, don’t ever think that God will reject you because of it.  Rejection isn’t part of God.  God accepts you, God loves you, and that will get you through the toughest times in life.