30 December 2006

Maternity wear for the *ahem* "bountiful"

I am excited. For the past week, I have been wearing maternity clothes that actually fit thanks to the geniuses at Lane Bryant and the generousity of my mother who made donations towards a maternity wardrobe for her two preggo daughters.
I don't know if I'm the only plus-sized woman who has trouble with maternity clothes, but I am generally pretty unlucky in finding pants and shirts that fit all parts of me at the same time. For some reason, pants that fit my pregnant belly are saggy in the butt or thighs. And it seems to me that manufacturers insist on making maternity pants in tapered or straight leg styles, rather than opting for bootleg or flares, which are much more hip and normal-feeling, at least to me. And shirts that fit my bust are too short to cover maternity panels on said pants and usually are too high necked to flatter my no-neck/double or triple-chin.
No more, my friends! No more! Lane Bryant has added a maternity section to their online store (not available in stores, but I think they are returnable TO stores), so I ordered some basics -- black pants, white shirts and these jeans, with which I have fallen in love. They are a tad too long for my short legs, so I have to wear a shoe with a heel rather than my beloved Keens (though I figured out that my Keen insoles make every shoe better). But they have a great shape and no panel so they look good with all shirts. They are roomy, in fact, I would suggest ordering a size smaller in addition to one's regular LB size and returning whichever doesn't fit. They are are adjustable with side elastic tabs that make them bigger or smaller for wear in all trimesters and have pretty lightweight denim stretch fabric. I anticipate that they will be great post-partum, also. In fact, I'll be taking them to the hospital with me. The only downside is their price, but if you are clever and google Lane Bryant Coupon Codes, you should be able to find one for about 30% off, which is the price at which I bought them. And if you wear them every other day like me, they'll not be too expensive in the end.
At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

27 December 2006

32 down, 6? 5? 4? to go...

I went to see my OB today. For any who don't know, this is not an unusual thing. Starting today, I get to see her twice a week. Lucky I like her a lot.
Also, saw Sir Littler McStew on the bi-weekly ultrasound. He is moving around a lot, measuring exactly at 32 weeks 1 day and his estimated weight is 4 lbs. 3 oz. My blood pressure is climbing a bit and my blood sugar has been going down, so we'll be watching that very closely and it is very likely that my doc will enact the bandied-about plan to induce at 37-38 weeks. But so far -- all looks good. And I'm so, SO thankful for that.
As the appointment ended, however, I had what could be described as a very, very mild panic attack when I realized that this baby is coming into the world in a month-ish! And I'm so unprepared compared to when I had Annalivia and had the hospital bag packed at 28 weeks and crib assembled by this time and the clothes washed in Baby Dreft and diapers purchased and all of my sermons for Jan-May 30 done.
This time -- none of that. Dennis is perhaps going to pick up a crib tomorrow and I bought some fabric tonight to make into a crib skirt and curtain, but there's no paint on the wall, no clothes washed, Baby Dreft has literally not entered my mind until typing this post, and I haven't even finished the bulletin for Sunday, let alone sermons for the next six months.
And furthermore, goodness gracious, am I ever tired!! I hope the fabled energy surge hits sometime soon so I can start nesting with some modicum of enthusiasm. Because right now, I am decidedly unenthusiastic about the vast amount of preparation that should go into welcoming Sir Littler.
I AM, however, enthused about welcoming a little one into our lives again, especially this little one. It seems like he has had to go through an awful lot to get here. And it seems like the least we should do is make sure the boy has a nice place to sleep!
But then again-- who am I kidding? If he's anything like his sister, he'll be sleeping with us for the first two years anyway. And despite the fact that the room is unpainted, the crib is unpurchased, the clothes are unwashed... right now the sheets on our bed are pretty clean.
And, ummmm... that might have to be good enough. Poor guy.

25 December 2006

Happy Christmas!!

I am sitting down for a few moments before we will begin packing for our trip this afternoon. We are all full of cinnamon rolls, breakfast casserole and oranges and grapefruit. Annalivia is running around in a diaper only having discarded her pj's. We are listening to the Boston Camerata's A Baroque Christmas, having already made it through the Glenn Miller Nutcracker album. We might have to switch soon, though. This one is putting me back to sleep.
We had a good Christmas eve yesterday. The church services went really well. The morning service was packed. My family was here and my sister, Marissa, played the drum for us on two choir pieces. It was just the right touch and made the last one very festive. It was great.
The evening service had about half the amount of folks that usually come, so I made them all sit on one side of the church to facilitate the passing of the light from the Christ candle. It was very effective. If I closed my left eye, it looked like the church was full!
I sang Breath of Heaven with Sir Littler kicking my diaphragm the whole time. Precious. It was perhaps one of my most breathless performances ever, which gave me an entirely new understanding of the song and lent a very authentic edge to it, I think. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. The college kids did a great job leading the service. I used the Cloth for the Cradle book that I've mentioned several times here and it was great -- incredibly beautiful words, but not so beautiful that meaning was obscured. It was a great balance. I felt ready for Christ when we left. Which was a gift in and of itself.
Because Annalivia took a very long nap yesterday and only got up from it at 5:30 p.m. when we finally had to wake her up, we thought we'd try to go to the DOC church across the river for an 11 p.m. service. We got to 10:15 with us wearing our snazzy outfits and then I petered out. Annalivia could have kept going just fine, I think. It was her parents that just couldn't do it, so we got into bed late.
We planned to sleep in quite a bit, but I was awakened at 7 by Yappy, my name for the evil weiner dog next door whose lovely owner lets him stand on the driveway by our bedroom window and bark for a half-hour in the morning. Yappy's Christmas present was not getting something thrown at him. So we all got up and opened our presents. Annalivia got a train from Mommy and Daddy. Dennis got the complete Arrested Development dvd's from me, and I got a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous robe from Dennis/ Annalivia. Did I mention that it is gorgeous?
So, now we need to get dressed and packed and head south. We're getting together at Mom and Dad's for presents, then Lil's for dinner. I'm looking forward to the second annual McClure hymn sing featuring selections from The Messiah and various Christmas carols. If I do say so myself, we sound pretty good. We'll probably be getting it on tape this year. We'll see if it's really as good as it is in our heads.
Well, hope that all of you are having a WONDERFUL Christmas day with your loved ones. Many, many blessings to all!

20 December 2006

Into my heart, as into the world

I am sitting here at one minute before midnight while Dennis finishes wrapping the last present we will take to my hometown tomorrow. There is much to do before we leave and we are both tired.
It has been a busy day. We met with our orthopedic surgeon today to check on the progress of our bones, and though they are healing well, the prognosis for the next few months involves more therapy, a possible surgery, many more bills and most of all, uncertainty. I found myself responding in frustration, worry and anxiety.

When we returned home this evening, I worked hard on the Christmas eve candlelight service. I put the service together using many of the words of John Bell and the Wild Goose Worship Group that I found in Cloth for the Cradle. In the midst of the preparation, I grumbled and glowered, feeling weary and inept. I was creating a cloud of darkness to hover over me. And how sorry I felt for myself!

But then I found myself reading again and again the words, "the world was not ready..."

"For He came to his own and his own did not know him."

Born in a cattle stall among dirt and grime and animal droppings. We made no room for him. No, we were not ready to receive him.

And yet, still, He came.

Oh, how I wish that I was one who prepared my heart as well as I have prepared my house to celebrate Christ's birth. But the fact is that I haven't. There's fear and worry and darkness and doubt dwelling there. My heart is not ready to receive him. There is no room at this inn.

And yet, still, He will come. He will come into what little space there is for him amidst cobwebs and dirt, smell and stench... he will come. He will come into my heart as He came into the world. Perhaps unnoticed. Perhaps unwanted. Perhaps uninvited. But He will come.

And I pray that what He finds here will be enough -- that just as the dank darkness of the stable could not hide the Glory within, the veil on my heart will not shadow the Light that has come to dwell among us and within me. For though I am not ready to receive him, I need Him deeply.

Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

19 December 2006

Of cards, carols and computer conundrums

It is a week before Christmas.

No, actually, it is 6 days before Christmas.

Does realizing this lead anyone else to yell, "Aaaaaaaack!"

For all my fancy words about being prepared this December so that we could just sit back and coast through it, I have, once again, found myself in the week before Christmas feeling like a boa constrictor is squeezing the Advent out of me.

Yesterday, I finally finished our Christmas cards. Sort of. And we got them in the mail, which as I have mentioned before is generally half the battle for me. Friends in other states may notice that my card arrives during one of the twelve days of Christmas and probably not before the first one. Consider it part of the festivities, ok?

The bulletins for church are not done. They were done. In fact, about three weeks ago, I spent about four hours off and on at the computer hammering out a bulletin for Lessons and Carols and a Christmas eve candlelight service. Now, they are gone. I have wasted many a minute searching the hard drive, scanning every travel drive we own three or four times, checking Dennis' computer which I have not even been on, and checking our main computer which is downstairs and to which would have required an immaculate computer conception to transfer the files. They are gone. I don't know how it is that they did not get saved, but they didn't. So now I'm redoing bulletins.

I'm excited about the Christmas eve services. The college students who are home are going to be doing the major message-bringing in the Christmas eve candlelight service. It will be dramatic and moving, which is very different for us here. I think it will be a beautiful service. And it's at 7, so if we have any energy left at all, which we never do, Dennis and I might try to head over to the Disciples church across the river for an 11 p.m. service to actually worship together.

The church choir which I direct has been preparing for its big performance on Christmas eve morning Lessons and Carols service. We had an hour and forty five minute rehearsal last night and by the end of it, we had things figured out. I'm really proud of them. The soloist for two pieces is coming back from college tomorrow night and being a diva in his own right, has decided that we need a rehearsal to sing with him. I won't be there (see next paragraph) so he's going to run the rehearsal. The rest of the choir members seem eager to do this, so.... whatever. I don't think an extra practice will hurt. I pray it won't hurt. The soloist is a third-year music education major. Having been a music major I would say -- he could potentially mess some things up. But I don't think it will be permanent damage. At least, I hope not. I guess we'll find out on Sunday morning's rehearsal. In addition to it being a pretty cool service anyway, my family (who is not coordinating a wedding the night before, FYI) is coming up for it and will headed over here for brunch afterwards. Which will also be lovely.

We're going to get lots of family time because on Thursday, we are headed to Eureka. My uncle and his family who live in Arkansas will be there which means that Dad's two siblings and families will converge on my grandparents' house. We haven't been together as a family for a long while. We are staying with Lillia (35 weeks pregnant) and husband Jake, who moved into one of the grand old homes in Eureka this last month and have a guest room and a three-year old daughter who Annalivia loves to torment. That will be fun, too. Perhaps Lil and I can sit around and let Dennis and Jake tend us. We'll see. Anyway, on Thursday night, we're all -- the sistahs and Dennis and I (and Jake, the bro-in-law) -- will be going to see The Nativity Story while mom watches my niece and Annalivia. I'm really pumped about that.

Tomorrow, Dennis and I head up to Rockford to have what we hope will be our final appointment with our orthopedic surgeon. Then we are meeting with a personal injury lawyer so that we can be a little better informed going into any negotiations with an insurance company. We also hope that we can get some shopping for each other done with a mutual agreement to not peak at anything the other would carry out of any retail establishment. We'll see how that goes.

And today, I am going to go have the weekly ultrasound (31 weeks today!) which will become bi-weekly after Christmas, but I am getting to weasel out of my doctor's appointment providing that my blood pressure and pee are ok! I don't know if anyone other than mothers who have been there done that can understand the joy of getting out of a three-five hour series of appointments and tests, but this is a great Christmas gift for me. My doctor is just the greatest in the world. She has a sister in law who's a Lutheran minister and is sympathetic to the particularities of me in ways that continue to amaze me. What a gal.

So. Six days. Lots to do. Plenty of room for grace in there. And that's a good thing. I think I'll need it.

If I don't appear here for a while, y'all know why.

16 December 2006

Date night!!!

Dennis and I went on a date last night!!!

You may be able to tell from the number of exclamation points that this is not a regular occurence for us. But last night, we made the effort and arranged to have Dennis' mom and sister (who is in from Chicago for the family Christmas celebration today) watch Annalivia, got dressed up, and, after dropping her off, headed to the Quad Cities.
Our plan was to leave by 4, make a couple retail stops, eat some dinner, and head to the Nova Singers Christmas concert at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Davenport. I've sung with Nova Singers occasionally over the last couple of years, and my dad sang with them when I was in junior high and high school, and I have to say that hearing glorious choral music in a beautiful setting generally really sets the Christmas mood for me. So, that was our plan. (And because Dennis is going to the Bears game in Chicago on Sunday and will be gone ALL DAY, this was going to be equitable in the end. Promise.)
Anyway, we ended up leaving about 5 and on the way there, I began to reconsider the cost of going to the concert versus, say, going to a movie together at the posh theater (concert would be about twice as much). And I began to consider the wear and tear on our two gimpy bodies while sitting in the hard wood pews of Trinity Episcopal versus sitting in, say, the comfortable padded seats of said posh movie theater. Needless to say, by the time we got to town, we had decided to go to a movie instead of the concert. We drove by the theater and tried to find a place to eat. We both had wanted steak, but the Texas Roadhouse next to the theater was packed. Then I saw that the Biaggi's about a block away was not busy, so we went there instead. After all, we were all dressed up with no place to go!
At Biaggi's, we sat at a great table in the corner in the back room (and got right in without a reservation) and we had really, really good food -- fried calamari appetizer, chicken parmesan for Dennis (he wussed out on the steak out of fear that it would be a little too froofy as some Italian restaurants are wont to present it), wonderfully rare steak for me, and tiramisu and coffee and chocolate torte for dessert. By the time we got done eating, we had decided that rather than see a movie at the theater, we'd just head home and watch Love Actually on the living room floor. Which we did and it was lovely. Then Dennis went out to pick up a wide-awake Annalivia about 11:15 and she was asleep before he got out of his mom's driveway and stayed asleep til 6:45 this a.m.
So. We had a date!! And it was just such a great date and the kind of thing we haven't had the chance to do since we had Annalivia. It was just wonderful -- good food, good conversation, GREAT company. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
Married friends are always telling me that we need to make date night a priority, and in some ways, I'm sure they're right. In other ways, though, not going on many dates makes these extraordinary experiences truly delicious and ones to savor. We didn't take a moment of that date for granted. After all, it may be two years before we get to the next really great one!!

15 December 2006

Friday Five: Yuletide Favorites

From the RevGals:

1) It's a Wonderful Life--Is it? Do you remember seeing it for the first time?
I do remember seeing it for the first time when I was about 12 years old at Ga's house (my maternal grandmother's house). I wasn't really a fan, and honestly, still am not. I have loved the Buffalo Girls song since I first saw it, but other than that -- I can take it or leave it for the holiday season. And I tend to leave it.
2) Miracle on 34th Street--old version or new?
I'm really a big fan of the old version. And apparently, someone else in my congregation is, too, because last year, someone "borrowed" my version after we showed it in the Fellowship Hall and never returned it :( So, no Miracle on 34th Street this year.
I do love Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood, and for that matter, John Payne, because they are such great idealized/ unrealistic characters. And I think Edmund Gwenn is just one of the best Santas ever.
3) Do you have a favorite incarnation of Mr. Scrooge?
Michael Caine, Michael Caine, Michael Caine!! As I explain here, he is the best Scrooge ever, in my opinion.
4) Why should it be a problem for an elf to be a dentist? I've been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for years now, and I still don't get it.
From watching Elf, I learned that elves eat lots of candy, syrup, etc. So, they probably lose their teeth early. If they knew about dental care, the employer (i.e. Santa Claus) would eventually be forced by the union (i.e. Elfen Local 503) to provide dental coverage. The cost would then be passed on to the consumer which, in this case, is unsuspecting parents who are already overwhelmed by rising costs in the private sector. This might require elfen labor to be outsourced to penquins on the south pole who are paid far less, but make products of lesser quality.
We don't want that, do we?And besides, you don't want to mess with the Elfen Unions. I believe Keebler learned that first hand.
edited to add: I should state -- I am just attempting to explain the reasoning here behind this assertion that elves cannot be dentists. I fully support equal rights for elves, Hermione.
5) Who's the scariest character in Christmas specials/movies?
* The Bumble
* The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Muppet Version
* That Mean Magician Who Tries to Melt Frosty
* Your Nomination
I do think that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is pretty scary. Even Gonzo and Rizzo can't hold out against him. So he gets my vote.
Unless you consider Baldrick of the future in A Blackadder's Christmas Carol. His posing pouch is pretty terrifying.

14 December 2006

Figuring out how to say, "goodbye"

I got a surprising letter today at church from my friend, Bill. It was a three-page typed and single-spaced letter thanking me for hunting him down because he is dying and he wanted the chance to say goodbye.
Bill was my supervising pastor in seminary and I worked as his associate for three years. He is a great guy -- funny and clever and intelligent and kind. His sermons were always incredibly thoughtful and full of integrity -- I don't think he ever "cheated" and stole an idea or a passage from some other fine preacher. His office was always slightly messy, which I appreciated, and more than anything else, he taught me that while ministry is incredibly important, it is not most important thing that I or anyone else can do. More important to him than his relationship with one church or another is his relationship with God. And his family. And he has always figured out how to make the first things, the first things, which, I am finding, is sometimes a rare quality in ministers.
Turns out that Bill has been struck with aggressive leukemia. He is basically confined to the house or has to wear a mask when interacting with people. His sister is being tested to be a blood marrow donor, though the chance of her being a match is a 1 in 4 chance. His doctors are advocating an aggressive therapy involving chemotherapy and radiation, but there is also a 1 in 4 chance he will die from it, so he's decided not to do it and instead bank on the marrow transplant.
In the meantime, he is praying and meditating and preparing himself for death. He is telling people he loves that he loves them and is writing music, which he has always loved to do, and he is getting his memorial service together.
This letter to me contained his latest hymn and a request to come to Kentucky and sing for the funeral, if I could manage it, whenever that funeral is. While we are both hoping it won't be for many years, we both know it could be much sooner.
Last night and this morning, I've been writing a letter back to him. He didn't send me his email address, so this letter has to violate what seems to be official McClure policy on letter-sending -- write the letter, put a stamp on it and carry it around in one's car for a month or so. I am trying to bring him up to date on our lives and thank him for his influence in my life.
But, I confess, I am having a hard time figuring out how to do that without the melodrama I wish that I could pour into this letter. Melodrama is not appropriate. Bill is able to maintain levity and perspective and hope, even amidst the most dismal of circumstances. His eyes are focused on the Big Picture, as always. I must honor him by doing the same.
But I also want him to know that his request is more than "no-big-deal." It is an honor that he would ask me to remember his life in song and one that means a great deal to me. And preparing to say goodbye, is not easy for me and not welcome and not fair. And also not about me.
So. I'm tying up my love in a poorly-worded letter and trusting that the Spirit will add what I cannot seem create myself.

12 December 2006

In honor of Christmas tree controversy and my sweet love...


This was Dennis' attempt at decorating the tree by himself when I was pregnant with Annalivia. He came in and said, "Ok, sweetheart, I got the tree decorated." I almost peed on myself I laughed so hard. Good times, good times...

37 years ago today...

The clouds parted, the angels sang, the trumpet sounded and a voice from heaven said...

"Look out below!!"

Happy Birthday, my love!! I am so, so very glad that our paths intersected!! I love you!!!

11 December 2006

Oh, Christmas tree



Just in case you live in eastern Missouri and don't foresee a visit to your friends up north anytime before Epiphany, here is a picture of our Christmas tree. It's much prettier with the lights glowing, but I can't figure out how to take a picture that does the lights justice and is still in focus.
For those of you who haven't been subject to my angsty phone calls as I tried to figure out what to put on this tree, we don't usually decorate our tree with a color scheme like this. Usually, we put out all of our ornaments, including all those my mother purchased for the sistahs and me while we were at home and all those Dennis and I have purchased during our three years of marriage. Most of them are those German glass ornaments and with a toddler around with a propensity for climbing, we decided to go for unbreakable stuff this year.
Hence this tree with red and white cutwork wooden ornaments, our red wood beads that are on our tree every year, brown jingle bells and a couple of little birds purchased at World Market.
It really does look nice and I'm actually enjoying the color scheme thing. And the best part is that while it is really pretty, none of the things on it have been enticing enough to lure Annalivia into touching it. At least, not yet.

Mary, pondering

Mary, pondering

What is this seed which God has planted
unasked, uncompromised, unseen?
Unknown to everyone but angels
this gift has been.

And who am I to be the mother,
to give my womb at heaven's behest,
to let my body be the hospice
and God the guest?

Oh, what a risk in such a nation,
in such a place, at such a time,
to come to people in transition
and yet in prime.

What if the baby I embody
should enter life deformed or strange,
unable to be known as normal,
to thrive or change?

What if the world, for spite, ignores him,
and friends keep back and parents scorn,
and every fear of every woman
in me is born?

Still, I will want and love and hold him,
his cry attend, his smile applaud.
I'm mother him as any mortal,
and just like God.

-from Cloth for the Cradle by the Iona Community Wild Goose Worship Group

09 December 2006

A pointless rant on uncontrollable circumstances - or- my beef with UPS part 5,789

Granted, I pastor a small church. Granted, we do not have someone in the office 8 hours a day. Granted, in order to deliver a package to the church, one might have to leave one's truck and walk the 25 feet to the front door. Whereupon, one might try the door and find the door to be locked. One might then look around, and without moving, see the sign posted at eye level stating the office hours and directing one to deliver the package at other times to the parsonage. One might then leave the customary little sticky note on the door telling any who would happen by the church that a package delivery had been attempted.
Or perhaps one would not get out of one's truck and would not leave the sticky note and would instead contact a dispatcher who would inform one of the alternate delivery address.
Or perhaps one would not get out of one's truck and would not leave the sticky note and would not contact the dispatcher and would then call the church and listen to the message with the phone number where the pastor could be reached at all hours of the day.
What seems clear to me, is that one would certainly NOT not get out of the truck, not leave a sticky note, not contact the dispatcher, and not listen to the answering machine message AND THEN leave a message at the empty church at 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday threatening to send back said package to sender because "we've attempted to deliver three times and cannot contact anyone."
Attempts? Seriously?
What can Brown do for me? Send my package to FedEx. They'll at least deliver it.

08 December 2006

Advent prayer: Open our eyes

Open our eyes, Lord,
especially if they are half shut
because we are tired of looking,
or half open
because we fear we see to much,
or bleared with tears
because yesterday and today and tomorrow
are filled with the same pain,
or contracted,
because we only look at what we want to see.

Open our eyes, Lord,
to gently scan the life we lead,
the home we have,
the world we inhabit,
and so to find,
among the gremlins and the greyness,
signs of hope we can fasten on and encourage.

Give us, whose eyes are dimmed by familiarity,
a bigger vision of what you can do
even with hopeless cases and lost causes
and people of limited ability.



Show us the world as in your sight,
riddled by debt, deceit and disbelief
yet also
shot through with possibility
for recover, renewal, redemption.



And lest we fail to distinguish vision from fantasy,
today, tomorrow, this week,
open our eyest to one person or one place,
where we - being even for a moment prophetic -
might identify and wean a potential in the waiting.


And with all this,
open our eyes, in yearning, for Jesus.


On the mountains,
in the cities,
through the corridors of power
and streets of despair.
to help, to heal,
to confront, to convert,
O come, O come, Immanuel.

- from Cloth for the Cradle by the Iona Community Wild Goose Worship Group
(emphasis mine)

Fa-la-la-la-la Friday Five

'Tis the season to deck the blogs with Boston Charlie, as Gramps would say... So, here y'are RevGals.

1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song.
I love Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as sung by Ella Fitzgerald. I also love the Glenn Miller Band's version of the Nutcracker Suite. That's great background music for Christmas parties.
2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself--the cheesier the better)
Breath of Heaven -- the one sung by Amy Grant, especially since becoming a mother. I remember thinking it was SO melodramatic when it first came out. Now it gets me every time. Of course, that could be gestational hormones...
3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.
O Holy Night. Mainly because it's usually sung by people who have no business singing it. Unless you are of the caliber of Julie Andrews back when she could sing (and have independent varification from someone not-related to you and not in any way associated with the show American Idol or its knock-offs), please, spare us...

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.
It was made into a kick-rear pop-up book by Robert Sabuda. And one of my favorite ornaments is a buckeye pod from Eureka College campus painted to look like a pear. That's redeeming enough for me.
5. A favorite Christmas album

I love the Boston Camerata's A Medieval Christmas, A Renaissance Christmas and A Baroque Christmas boxed set. They get a lot of play time here. Secularly, Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas tops my list!

07 December 2006

Light looked down

Light looked down
and saw darkness.
"I will go there," said Light.

Peace looked down
and saw war.
"I will go there," said Peace.

Love looked down
and saw hatred.
"I will go there," said Love.

So he,
the Lord of Light,
the Prince of Peace,
the King of Love,
came down
and crept in
beside us.


-from Cloth for the Cradle by the Iona Community Wild Goose Worship Group

Jesus goes deep

Overheard at my house as Dennis and Annalivia played with the Fisher Price nativity set:
"Ok, line up. We're going to do the quarterback sneak..."

06 December 2006

A small leap for the technologically impaired

I am rejoicing because it is 11:30 p.m. and I am headed to bed. No, the house is not clean, the guest room is not made up for my sister's family's visit on Friday, the Christmas tree is not unpacked or decorated, BUT I have managed to finally finish a picture that can go out in our Christmas cards. This project has been driving me nuts for weeks and thanks to Crystal and her digital scrapbooking genius, I learned how to cut and paste in my computer program that has been tormenting me forever. So, now I can go to bed with one small thing on the large list of to-do's finished at last. G'night!

The Marleys were dead to begin with...

We are watching The Muppet's Christmas Carol which is one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. I love it for several reasons.
First, it's the Muppets, and the best of the muppets, in my opinion. The hilarity, sarcasm, wit and absurdity of traditional muppet features is perfectly framed by the classic story -- multiple opportunities for creativity, but the story provides the fence the muppets folks need to stay on task.
Second, the story is really very faithful to Dickens and the sense of impending doom present throughout most of the story. At the same time, it is provided a levity by the presence of the Muppets that just isn't present in most Christmas Carol adaptations.
Third, the music is some of the most catchy, yet meaningful ever in a children's movie. I like it all, with the exception of Belle's solo which is just too long and also manages to stick like glue in my head.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Michael Caine is a brilliant, brilliant Scrooge. If you just saw clips of him in this movie, you would think he was starring opposite some of the most acclaimed actors and actresses in the world rather than Kermit and Mis Piggy. He portrays the unreformed Scrooge with a seething crustiness that belies an inner self-consciousness which he reveals tenderly post-reformation. While the Scrooge of Christmas eve is painfully brusque, the Scrooge of Christmas day is almost painfully awkward and hesitant. I love this transformation and I seriously think Caine is the best Scrooge ever. Really.
Fifth, I can watch it a hundred times and find something new each time and it's a movie that the whole family can watch. How many movies can you find that fit that bill?
So now it's back to Kermy and the gang. God bless us, every one!

05 December 2006

My amazing husband -- chapter 3,489,563

Right now, Dennis is hiding out in the bathroom after trying to get Annalivia asleep (she took a looooooong nap today) after giving her a bath after washing dishes with her after climbing under the stairs to get our Christmas decorations out after playing with her for an hour and a half while I was at the board meeting after feeding her after running and getting pizza after working after waking up at 4:30 after going to bed at 11 after playing with Annalivia for hours after going to choir and putting up with crazy women after fixing dinner for us while I was at the doctors after meeting me there to switch cars after working after waking up at 4:30 after going to bed at 11...
He is just the most astonishing guy ever. Really. I don't know how I lucked out that this guy foolishly agreed to let his pastor seduce him, but I am blessed, pure and simple, by every moment of every day that he has spent and is spending and will spend with me and our children. What an amazing, amazing man.

03 December 2006

Talking for me

So often I am so very inarticulate, especially the more pregnant I become. Or I'm lazy and don't take the time to spin out the many ponderings of my heart.
Imagine my joy today when I found that wonderful, amazing, and incredibly articulate Sarah is voicing what I haven't, but have wanted to for some time, though she does it far more beautifully and faithfully that I could. Check it out here.
And thank you again, Sarah, for using that heart of yours so generously!

01 December 2006

Recipe of desperation: Lemon Curd Coffeecake

It is now the eleventh hour, literally, and I am waiting for a coffeecake to finish cooking so that I may take it to tomorrow's Cookies 'n' More Sale at First Christian Church where it will not be sold, but will be given out for free to anyone who is not scared away by its exotic gorgeousness.
For some reason, I am a sucker for old ladies who call me to do last minute baking, especially when their sob stories involve great personal sacrifice, 12 inch snowfall and a retail establishment that remained closed today with our cinnamon rolls for tomorrow firmly locked within its walls. Tell me -- do male pastors ever stay up far past their bedtime baking?

Anyway, here is the recipe, which turned out brilliantly and looks gorgeous and was really quite simple. I created it and I must say, I'm quite impressed with myself.

Lemon Curd Coffeecake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
4 eggs
1 package vanilla or lemon pudding (I used vanilla because I'm going for a Danish-esque sort of thing. You use what you want).

Mix this up for two minutes on medium and spread in 9x13 greased and floured pan.

1 jar lemon curd (if it has been sitting in your refrigerator for a while, all the better)
1 package cream cheese, softened (if it's not a whole package, that's ok, too)
1/4 cup -ish of powdered sugar. (I'll leave this out next time)
2 egg yolks
1 T vanilla (Grammy uses vanilla and a lot of it in all sweet things, so I do too.)
1/2 t lemon extract, if your curd is not lemony enough for ya

Beat this til well blended and pour down the length of the cake in two thick lines. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired, though don't be alarmed when they sink into the cake.
Bake at 325-350, depending on your pan (dark/ coated less, glass/metal more) for at least 30 minutes, probably 40. Check it periodically and make sure that the center cake tests as done. Be sure to test the cake part, not the curd. Don't worry about the curd, it will set up as it sits.
I am going to glaze it with icing and then sprinkle with some more almonds, toasted this time, then drizzle it with a thicker icing when it cools completely. But, let me tell you -- I have sampled it. This is good stuff. I'm pleased.

Friday Five: Adventually

While it is not Advent YET in the liturgical world and I usually don't officially acknowledge it until it happens, since all my sermons are done (hurrah!) and most of the bulletins are finished (double hurrah!!), I feel I am more qualified to comment on the encroaching season than perhaps in past years. So, thanks to the RevGals...

1) Do you observe Advent in your church?
We do. And we actually observe it in pretty grand style, for us, since I've become the pastor. We use purple, by the way, which I have to admit is the only thing that makes sense to me for Advent. Blue -- not getting it.
Only thing is our Advent "wreath" is a HIDEOUS white iron candle stand that belongs in one of those late night goth programs on public access television. If you produce one of those, contact me and I'll see about accidentally leaving the church open to arrange a robbery.


2) How about at home?
When I was single, I tried. I always had a great devotional and an appropriately abstract Advent "wreath", I just never actually used them consistently. Now, with the Little Bug at the brink of awareness, I'm planning to figure out some more concrete (and consistent) ways to celebrate every day.
I guess I do mark it by not decorating 'til after it arrives, and generally Dennis and I have sat in front of our lit Christmas tree with the house lights off every night for a little while talking about life. That's a nice informal tradition I hope we can keep.


3) Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn?
I love People, Look East. That's one of my favorites that we never sing. I also love Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence and O Come, O Come, Immanuel when it's sung well. The one that we use here which has grown on me to the point that I would say I reallly like it is When God is a Child . We use it for lighting the Advent wreath each week and I like it because it actually has the Sundays in the right order. Fancy that.

4) Why is one of the candles in the Advent wreath pink? (You may tell the truth, but I'll like your answer better if it's funny.)
To butch up the purple?


5) What's the funniest/kitschiest Advent calendar you've ever seen?
There are SO many. I think it's rarer that they AREN'T kitchy!

30 November 2006

Blessings and buggers

My mental list made manifest:

Bless the Salvation Army lady with the loud bell and the louder voice who was standing out in weather with a 0 degree windchill in front of the HyVee grocery store in Clinton, IA singing Christmas carols with gusto. I was impressed and told her so.

Bless the HyVee grocery store in Clinton, IA for having a "Reserved for New and Expectant Mothers" parking place right near the door. Their polls shot up just by putting out that sign.

Bless the Whiteside County Health Department lady in charge of WIC who called to make sure that Dennis went back to work and that we don't need the services of WIC. I have never been so impressed with a government program -- they called within 48 hours of our accident in September, then stopped by the house because they knew that Dennis, as primary wage earner, would not be able to work for a number of weeks. He is blessed to have a good salary continuation program at his company, but if we would have had to avail ourselves of this program, I am grateful that it is there and obviously works like it should, at least in this county.

Bless my husband who managed to cram stuff in every nook and cranny in the garage to make room for the van in time to be sheltered from freezing rain. What a wonderful guy.

And on the other side of things...

Bugger to the gas stations in Clinton, IA that raised their gas prices from $2.11 to $2.19/ gallon in the course of the twenty minutes I was in the HyVee grocery store. I assume they did that in light of reports of an encroaching storm. Isn't that price goudging?

Bugger to the people who park in the New and Expectant Mothers space at HyVee who are obviously neither. Especially the middle aged men.

Bugger to Dell Computers who has really, really messed up our church account, from which there seems to be no escapable end since there is no ability to talk to ANYONE in the same department twice in a row.

And last but not least, bugger to me for getting all worked up over these things!!

28 November 2006

17 November 2006

Friday Five: Giving Thanks

A la the Rev Gals, here are five people or things for whom/ which I am thankful this year. They are cliche, but true....
1. My immediate family
Dennis and Annalivia are the most wonderful blessings I have ever received. Every day I am so grateful that I get to share my life with them. I can't imagine what it will feel like when Sir Littler is born.
2. Being alive
Every day since Sept. 19, I have been thankful for the very gift of life. I'm ashamed that it took the accident to make me aware of that most basic of gifts.
3. My extended family
My sisters and mom and dad, and Dennis' family have been so helpful to us -- driving all hours at all times of the day to chauffeur us back and forth. They really are amazing.
4. My friends
For some reason, my circle of friends just keeps getting wider. This year, in addition to the faithful friends of auld lang syne, it has included some wonderful people I've never met and probably never will thanks to the blogging world. I'm grateful for y'all, too.
5. My church
Although I am an incredibly flawed and nutso pastor, they keep offering themselves to me. And although I don't appreciate all that is offered to me sometimes, I am blessed to be here and a part of this group. And, they make really great pies and cookies and chicken and casseroles and offer it pretty freely to others. There's a lot to be said for that.
"Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside...."

16 November 2006

Fried chicken success!!

I have finally made fried chicken worth sharing with people other than Dennis and Annalivia. It has taken me literally five batches to finally get it, but I've gotten it, darn it! Hurrah!
So, just in case anyone is wondering, here's what I did and will do beyond this...
Mix flour with salt and pepper -- I probably used about 4 cups flour and four teaspoons salt and pepper for 24 pieces of chicken. Mix milk with two eggs -- about two cups of milk or something. Dip chicken pieces in flour, then in milk, then in flour again.
Fry in oil set. I fried in about 1 1/2 inch of veg oil in an electric skillet set to 275 degrees. I let it get really brown -- about 15 minutes per side on thighs and 10 minutes per side on drumsticks.
Drain on a paper towel and set in a 200 degree oven. After I fried everything, I turned up the chicken to 350 and cooked for 20 minutes.
We liked the chicken that was cooked in the oven and the chicken fried in the oil, drained and then eaten. The stuff in the oven made a very crisp crust, the one straight out of the oil was slightly less crunchy. The meat in both was delicious and tender and moist.
I'm taking the rest of the chicken to Eureka for my dad tomorrow. His birthday was this week and he's a big fan of fried chicken.
I'm so excited!! I can make fried chicken!!!

Another good jar gift

Here's a very cool looking recipe from Midwest Living.

Toffee Blondies in a Jar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 c coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 c toffee pieces or butterscotch flavored pieces

To make:
1/4 c butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 t vanilla

Layer in a 1 quart jar the following: brown sugar, chocolate, flour, baking powder, salt, pecans and toffee. Tap gently on counter to settle each layer before adding the next. Cover and store for up to 1 month. Or, attach baking instructions and give as a gift.
Baking instructions: Grease an 8x8x2-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, stir together the butter eggs and vanilla. Stir in contents of jar until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until edges just begin to pull away. Cool blondies in pan on wire rack. Cut into 16 bars.

You don't want to know the nutrition info.

15 November 2006

Celebrity boyfriend alert

I was just browsing Netflix and found out that Clive Owen, my celebrity boyfriend, will be starring opposite Cate Blanchett in a sequel of sorts to Elizabeth. This one is called Elizabeth: The Golden Age and will be released in Oct. 2007.
Since Elizabeth is one of my favorite movies ever and Clive Owen is one of my favorite actors ever and Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses ever, I'm pretty excited. Furthermore, according to the director, this will be number two of an eventual three. Very cool. October should be right about the time we get anxious to see a movie in the theater again.

Counting unhatched chickens

So, I guess proverbs are proverbs for a reason. Here's the latest story of visions of straight-stitched sugarplums that will, unfortunately, remain hypthetically dancing in my head only.
Yesterday, Dennis and I dropped off a big box of stuff at Goodwill. While there, I looked down and saw a Singer Featherweight sewing machine in PERFECT condition. It was shiny, black, had the foot attached and was gorgeous! I asked the lady there if they would sell it to me and she told me they couldn't and that they would price it and get it out on the floor the next day (today). I asked if she could take my name. She said she couldn't. I asked when tomorrow it would be on the floor and she said it would be there after 10 a.m.
I excitedly told Dennis about it. It's not that I sew well or anything, but when I was in seminary, I got a sewing machine from a dear friend whose grandmother passed away before I could afford to buy one of my own. It sewed a straight stitch forward and back and was in perfect condition -- had all sorts of attachments and it worked well. I sewed one thing on it and then moved it from Kentucky to Eureka, IL to Rock Falls, IL where it sat in its case in my basement for three years. Last year, I decided to do some decluttering a la Flylady and got rid of some stuff that had just been sitting around. This sewing machine was one of them. I researched it a bit and found out that it was a Singer Featherweight from the first year of production, in mint condition and was highly collectible. I sold it on eBay for $400.
So, seeing one yesterday, I had all sorts of plans for the money we'd receive after I purchased that sewing machine for less than $40 at Goodwill and then went on to sell it on eBay for several hundred. We are in need of a chest freezer and found a great model on sale last weekend at a local appliance store; we just didn't have the money for it. When I sold this sewing machine, I told my husband, we would have it.
Well, I got up early this morning and headed to Goodwill to get our machine. Turns out that the helpful not-so-helpful lady from yesterday had decided to put it out last night because "someone wanted it." It was gone this morning, though the folks this morning took my name just in case it had been set aside somewhere (and wondered why I hadn't thought of giving my name yesterday -- hrmph). So... no sewing machine, no hundreds of dollars, no sugarplums, no chest freezer.
That was one big unhatched chicken.

13 November 2006

Return to normalcy -- sort of

Well, today, Dennis got up at 5:30 to go back to work! This is the first time that he has been to work since Sept. 19, when we had our accident. That's a long time!
He is going back for five-hour days for right now until the doctor sees how physical therapy is progressing. I imagine that I will have a tired love when he gets home after lunch today.
I am glad that he gets to go back to work because he needs it. At the same time, I've really liked having him around and still getting an income! But it is time.
Annalivia wondered where he was this morning. She woke up and called his name for a while, then got up and ran out of the bedroom talking to him, then ran to the basement steps to see if he was down there. I explained to her that he is gone and will be home soon and so she moved on to Sesame Street. I guess things are back to normal.
With Dennis gone, I've realized again the importance of routines for me. Although I did manage to get the sink clean and house ordered last night, I didn't set up breakfast, so Annalivia ate a banana and leftover chicken nuggets this morning. Not the worst food ever, but tonight I need to soak pancake batter so we can actually eat real food in the morning. And I need to do little things like setting out my clothes and showering at night to make the a.m. more smooth for her. With Dennis here, I can slack off. Without him, Annalivia is left bearing the slack and that's hardly fair.
I was thinking about this last night and this morning -- about how much easier it is for me to handle things when Dennis is here, but also how much more I don't handle things because he's here. It is stewardship time at church, and I realized that many of us do this. We use our gifts only when it is absolutely necessary -- when someone else doesn't cover our slack. And in our church, I think we've created a self-perpetuating system to uphold this. We don't just offer ourselves -- all of ourselves that we can. Instead, most of the time, we offer out of guilt or worry or fear or anger. It's a begrudging giving and so it's not really giving. We feel like someone else is taking from us, and that's hardly a gift to anyone.
So I've decided to work on my motivation for giving myself to my family and church. It should be about Love, shouldn't it? The Love Divine who gave All should inspire me to give my all.
Or at least it should inspire me to make a better attempt at breakfast!

12 November 2006

Junk

I am a pack-rat. I hate that I am, but I am. It is not in my nature to throw anything away, though I must confess that I don't put any thought into my saving -- it's not as though I contemplate the possibililty of future necessity of any item. I just keep it. And I don't organize it. It just builds up.
Now, for those who don't know me or my family, I should say -- I come by this honestly. It is ingrained deep in my psyche. My mother is, and her mother before her was. They, however, have/ had plausible psychological excuses. I have none.
To make this worse, I married a pack-rat. Dennis is also an indiscriminatory saver. And although this makes for a peaceable union, it's not exactly orderly.
Which brings me to this afternoon, when I spent about 30 minutes -- not very long, really -- throwing away junk from the garage. I tossed cards from my ordination, notes from lectures from seminary and beyond, receipts from Wal-Mart from three years ago. It is ridiculous that all that stuff was out there, but more ridiculous that I could probably spend 30 minutes for the next two weeks before I get through it all.
On the other hand, if I spend 30 minutes every day for the next two weeks, I should get through it all! Which would just be wonderful to actually know what is out there and want what is out there!
Flylady lauds the value of babysteps and 15 minute sessions and doing things in little manageable bites. I find it difficult to surrender to that. I tend to be all or nothing. But right now, a lot of my "all" is "all junk."
So my plan is to spend 30 minutes in the garage for the next two weeks and see whether a project can really be completed when broken into manageable bites. I have a feeling I'm gonna be schooled on how to get rid of junk.

11 November 2006

Last minute church stuff

The fact is, the sermon for tomorrow is already done, (as are three sermons for Advent, I might add, not to brag or anything!) however, here it is, 8:15 on Saturday night and once again I have figured out a way to do church stuff at the last minute. This time, it's in the form of a pot roast cooking in my pressure cooker so that I, too, can bring an offering to the potluck after church tomorrow. I figured I've been riding the coattails of our injuries for too long, so this pot roast is going to become beef and noodles. Which will be done at 10 p.m. Which is still pretty good for a Saturday night, all things considered.
Thank goodness this isn't last week and when there were bulletins waiting to be created and folded.

09 November 2006

Need some gifts?

Anyone needing some good gift ideas for some hard-to-buy-for folks? Check out the recipes here. I'm going to make some up for my husband's brothers' families who have all sorts of rules for gift-giving, most of which I've not figured out or ignore. These are perfect -- not threatening and the peanut butter cup cookies look mighty fine.

06 November 2006

My new loves


Did you know that Lindt has come out with extra dark chocolate truffles? Divine. And pretty low suguar.

And this may be my new favorite bar. Marzipan, dark chocolate and cappuccino. Mmmm...


Neither are cheap. But wow, are they worth it!

Goodness. God sure did a good thing when God created chocolate.

Casts away

We are casts- free!!

Today we went up to Rockford to meet with our orthopedic surgeons and have the progress on our broken bones checked out. Turns out that our broken bones are broken no longer! They have healed in remarkable time and both of us were able to get our casts removed from our wrists and Dennis was able to have the pins taken out of his hand and foot! It's really quite miraculous!
It's also weird. My wrist feels so odd without support -- I find myself wanting to rely on my wrist splint as much as possible, though right now I am without it. I have very little rotation in the wrist and can't bend it forward or backwards at all, so it's off to physical therapy tomorrow. And we are both molting everywhere.
But for the first time in almost two months, I took a shower without a plastic bag and I was able to run my right palm over Annalivia's hair, though I left little skin flakes all over the place. (She was on her way to the bath, so it was ok.) It's amazing such little things are so pleasureable.
Dennis will go back to work on Monday with limited activity and hours. He's excited. I'm a little concerned about my energy with being alone with Annalivia, but happy for him. The poor man has been tethered to the living room long enough.
And in other news, we got our new van this weekend. It's a 1999 Town and Country LXI with 90,000 miles on it. It's lovely -- champagne is the official color -- and it has leather seats with the seat-warmer feature. Most importantly, it has two sliding doors. It performed beautifully on our trip today, though I think we need to have it aligned. It pulls to the right a little. But when you have a cd player AND a tape player, that's hardly a real concern.
Yep. We're high class now.
Oh, and if anyone reading this hears of a used chest freezer for sale in northern or central Illinois, would you let me know?

04 November 2006

Pancake politics

This morning, we got up early and went to the Self-Help Pancake Breakfast. Self-Help is a local organization that provides jobs for people with developmental disabilities. The Pancake Breakfast is a semi-annual event and is the main funds-raiser for Self Help. It's also usually pretty good, so we try to go whenever we can.
In addition to having apricot pancake syrup, which I consider a big draw, the place is usually teeming with local politicians running for office. Since we are so close to an election, they were out in full force today. One of the more closely contested local elections is between Democrat Stan Steines and Republican Michael Albert for Circuit Judge. Both were pancake-ing today and we got a rather unique glimpse into both Stan and Mike this morning.
When we got there, Dennis got our tickets and got in the food line. I took Annalivia and grabbed a booster chair and went to find seats. Now, those who haven't seen us for a while should remember that we are both are in casts and limp quite a bit and Dennis has a cane and walking boots on both feet. We're pretty gimpy and garner lots of sympathy wherever we go, especially when our child is being particularly precious and actually walking beside us instead of trying to run away.
ANYWAY, I was holding the booster seat in my cast arm and Annalivia's hand with my other hand and Mr. Steines came up and asked if we needed help, especially in light of my injuries. He pulled out Annalivia's chair and asked if he could go get me a plate of food. I said no, thanks and that my husband was in line and I'd go after he came back with his food. Pretty soon, Dennis arrived with Mr. Steines by his side carrying his tray. When he put it down, Dennis thanked him for his help and said, "Now we need to get Mike Albert to carry my wife's tray." Mr. Steines kind of jokingly frowned and then said, "All in good fun!" and walked away.
Meanwhile, Mr. Albert was serving sausage. He was roaming the aisles with a plate full of sausage, but wasn't delivering a whole lot. When the director of Self-Help walked by and saw that we needed sausage, he yelled across the room to Mr. Albert and he came over and gave us each one piece. We remarked that he wasn't giving up that sausage very readily. My clever comment -- he's a Republican and must be pig-scally conservative.
After we left, we were jokingly analyzing the whole encounter and decided that all politicians should be put to the pancake test at some point. We spoke to Mr. Steines a couple more times and he was friendly. Mr. Albert came back and made some awkward conversation. He's much more reserved, at least that's our impression based on our sausage encounters. Additionally, Dennis decided that you could tell a lot about their deductive skills based on our experience with them. For example, Dennis said that Mr. Steines had come up to him in line and asked if he needed help and when Dennis said that he was going to be sitting at the end of the table, Mr. Steines asked if he was with the woman with the little girl. That shows that he's pretty sharp, Dennis said. On the other hand, he said, Mr. Albert had come up to him with the sausage plate and offered a pretty chubby guy only one piece. Not so sharp.

In actuality these guys are both good folks with really honest backgrounds and from reading their campaign literature, interviews in the paper, and articles written by and about both of them, I think our county will be in a good position regardless of who is elected.
But in Pancake Politics this morning, there was a clear leader.
And of course, this is all just in good fun.

31 October 2006

A "booo"tiful night

Wow, I had a lot of fun tonight! The more I think about our little Halloween extravaganza, the more I realize how much fun it was! It was freezing -- literally, I think -- but fun! We had some great hotdogs (we gave away all but 7 including the 2 that visitors dropped on the ground) and the hot cider was a big success. We saw a lot of neighbors, most of whom expressed thanks for our recovery post-accident and many said we had been in their prayers, which was just lovely. We got to see the little three-month old baby of a neighbor girl who is just a child herself; she brought her daughter out specifically to see us. We got to talk with some kids from the housing project on the corner and find out a little bit more about them. We got to see some cousins -- Dennis' brother and kids stopped by and that was fun. In fact, Annalivia got to interact with lots of little ones without leaving the driveway and for two mostly immobile parents, that was grand. And most of all, we just got to be good neighbors, which, sadly, we do not practice often enough.
So -- I'm already thinking about next year's Halloween hot dog event and how we will make it more hospitable. It's such an inexpensive way to make contact with folks. Ballpark Franks were $.99/ pkg and buns were $.89. Throw in two gallons of cider and we're up to less than $10. And it was just so nice to do something focused just a little tiny ways beyond ourselves. So nice.


Here we are -- the King and Queen and their little pet Unicorn. See how much fun we had?

30 October 2006

Happy Halloween!!


Tomorrow night we are going to be out in our driveway where we have bales of straw set up along with some festive pumpkins, grilling hot dogs, sipping cider, and passing out food and candy to congregants and neighbors who happen to trip by the parsonage. If any of you are around, feel free to stop by, too! A little unicorn will be very happy to see you!

25 October 2006

My marital lie

The news of my sister's impending nuptials has brought to the forefront some thinking I've been doing about marriage and relationships. See, as a pastor, I'm in the position to impart wisdom about marriage to all sorts of folks, most of whom don't realize that I don't have any business imparting wisdom to anyone.
Anyway, one of the things that I usually tell these young, impressionable folks is that marriage is hard; it takes love and patience and work and compromise. It's not to be taken lightly, I tell them. It's a high calling and probably the most important human relationship a person will ever have. And while I agree with most of that, I've realized that I always lead off this conversation with a lie.
"Marriage is hard." That's my lie. And while I realize that for some folks marriage can be hard, for me, that statement is a falsehood. Because if there's one thing in my life that's expressly not difficult, it's my marriage. Working with an 80 year old church, forgiving my congregants when I feel hurt, working up energy to get to the grocery store when we need milk... that's hard work. Being married to Dennis Stewart is not in the least bit hard.
Now maybe this is because I married an incredibly patient, considerate, thoughtful, attentive, flexible, and did-I-mention "patient" man. It's so good that one of us is all of those things, because I've never had to work, let alone hard, to be married to him. Yes, I've had to compromise and care and re-frame and re-focus. But work? Nah....
In fact, the hardest thing about being married, is that I happen to be in a marriage wherein I am an integral part. The hardest thing about marriage for me is putting up with me! Working with my thoughts and fears and desires and agenda... that's what's been hard. This marriage would be a complete cakewalk for me were it not me in it! You know what I mean, yes?
So. I've decided that I'm going to quit telling people that marriage is hard work. I'm going to start telling them that it may be hard work, but that, in my opinion, most of the hard stuff should be applied to themselves.
Because as far as I've experienced, marriage is just wonderful. Divinely wonderful through and through. And I'd be lying if I said it wasn't.

24 October 2006

Holiday hurrahs and hyperventilations

About three weeks ago, I began to get pretty excited about the upcoming holidays. I think it was right around the time that the weather changed. Then Flylady started her Holiday Cruise and I brought up from the basement my control journal that I filled in AFTER the holidays last year. I was excited to get it all going, but I have to confess that I haven't put a whole lot of effort into it yet.
Well, now I have motivation. My beloved sistah, Marissa/ Roo, who is #2 in the McClure-girl lineup, is getting married to soon-to-be-beloved soon-to-be-brother-in-law, Matt!! HURRAH!!! Thing is -- they are probably getting married on Dec. 23. That's Saturday, Dec. 23. That's Saturday Dec. 23, before Sunday Dec. 24. That's Saturday Dec. 23 before Sunday Dec. 24 which is Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve -- big day for pastors, let alone when it falls on Sunday and said pastors will be 34 weeks pregnant with a fairly complicated pregnancy. Hyperventilations.
So. It's going to be important... nay, crucial and essential that the holiday be brilliantly coordinated.
Which will be a huge change for me. I always have great intentions at this time of year, and by the time Christmas eve rolls around, I am still at church for 12 hours, running out to Wal-Mart at 3 p.m., finishing up Christmas presents at midnight, and going to bed far too late.
This year, it just has to be different. Has to be. Thank goodness for Flylady. Now I actually need to do the work to get it all together.

22 October 2006

A very fine day and notes on being an aspiring domestic

We had a great early day here at Casa McStew! Just great. And all because we actually functioned like normal people.
The day technically started while we were in bed, but our day started at 4:30 a.m. when I got up to use the restroom, thereby waking Dennis up, and neither of us could get back to sleep. For some reason, Annalivia hadn't awakened at all, so we both figured that the reason we were awake was because we'd actually gotten six hours of good sleep and since we function on about four hours decent sleep and another five of toddler-in-bed-exercising-her-diggy-toes sleep normally, our bodies were just confused. We thought perhaps we should get up, but instead we just lay there and talked about Christmas gift-giving until we were tired enough to go back to sleep.
Anyway, Annalivia slept til 5:30, then came into our room and slept for a little more than two more hours. We got up at 8 and got ready for church and all of us actually went to church for the first time since our accident.
And church was wonderful! For some reason, lots of folks were there including one of our college students home for a visit. Dennis' sister visited from Chicago this weekend and was a big help to Dennis with Annalivia. My sermon was really good, if I do say so myself; I'm finishing up a series I called Christian Basics 101 and today's topic was Forgiveness. Folks liked it and it was actually meaningful, which is just a nice combo, you know?
Anyway, after church, we went to breakfast at our neighborhood diner with Dennis' mom and sister and that was only minorly painful with an antsy toddler. Then we went to Sears and Dennis got an incredible deal on a floor model scroll saw that he's been wanting forever. When we got home, Annalivia was asleep and she took a pretty good nap.
And this evening, I tried my hand at making fried chicken. For some reason, the ability to make consistently good, tender, moist and flavorful fried chicken is one of my great aspirations as a domestic. I don't know why. I just want to be able to make delicious fried chicken.
Tonight's experiment was more of a success than previous attempts, but I'm not really satisfied with it. A woman in my church makes THE BEST fried chicken ever. It falls of the bone, is crispy and full of flavor. It's amazing. She doesn't ever just give out the recipe, so I have to quiz her every once in a while with pointed questions, i.e. "Do you marinate your fried chicken in anything?" So far I've found out that she fries it and then cooks it in this special pan with an open mesh screen and she fills the bottom of the pan with water, which she thinks keeps the chicken moist.
Tonight I tried it, but I think I need to cook it for a lot longer and maybe at a lower temp than 350. Next time I'm going to try to soak it in buttermilk for a while, even though Gerri doesn't do that to hers and then double dip it. I've also realized that it needs the skin.
Anyway, my poor husband is going to be eating fried chicken every time there is a sale on thighs and drumsticks. Someday I'll get the hang of this fried chicken stuff. By then, everyone will probably be sick of my fried chicken. But at least I'll know that I know how to make it!
So. Thus ends the report. It's been a good day -- a very, very good day.

20 October 2006

Friday Five: Word association

Five random words provided by the RevGals and my associations and some considered thoughts on why:

Whirlwind: Romance -- which, in my opinion, is the only way to have it. I told Dennis I was marrying him within the first two weeks. It's been bliss so far.

Foundation: Stone -- although the visual image in my mind was a keystone of an arch.

Lightning: Storm -- boring.

Den: Davenport -- as in "Grampa is in the den napping on the davenport" aka couch, sofa,

Prey
: Birds o' -- and the visual image of this is my sistah Marissa and her excited expression as a sixth grader when she was particularly fond of spotting birds of prey on drives and I'd point out spots on the windshield as stunning examples. I've never been very good with animals.

16 October 2006

Relief

We just received word today, almost four weeks after our accident, that the police report is finally complete and names the southbound vehicle as the culpible party. Now we can refer the hospital and anesthesiologists and surgeons and therapists and supply providers and other miscellaneous doctors to that driver's insurance. I don't think I can describe the relief this brings, so I won't try. Suffice to say, we are relieved. Very, very relieved.

15 October 2006

A Pastor's Prayer

O gracious Spirit, I come before Thee.
Renew my heart, I pray.
When I seek Thee, do not stand far from me.
Come and fill me this day.

Let the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight
Empty me of my incompetence
Fill me with Thy glory and might.

Let those who see me not see me,
but instead see the Son.
For it is in Thy name and by Thy power
that I pray these things will be done. Amen.

14 October 2006

Clairvoyant Clergy: A brief rant

For some reason, every few months, my congregation conducts a highly un-scientific experiment to determine whether I am, in fact, not clairvoyant. Generally these experiments occur randomly, and I don't think they ever occur consciously, but I have noticed that they also seem to be scheduled for times of absence i.e. vacation, maternity leave, emergency care from a serious motor vehicle accident...
Today, I found out almost completely by accident and almost entirely by my own initiative ("almost" because I assume the Spirit is at work in this...) that a member of my congregation is in the hospital and has been there since Tuesday and that he is dying and that a group of 20 women in a Bible study knew about this Wednesday, including my mother-in-law, and though five (5!!) people called the prayer chain captain to tell her about it, everyone -- said mother-in-law, said prayer chain captain, the three elders sitting in the bible study -- all just assumed someone else would let April know. How does one explain that to a grieving wife and children? "Uhhh....yeah... I know that everyone else knew this and that you've been getting card and calls for the last four days and that an elder has been to visit, but I didn't know about it..."
Also at this time, one of our guys has suffered a stroke, another fell, a woman has had surgery and another has had a heart attack. Five people in various hospitals all over northern Illinois. Guess who didn't know these things either?
And it's not as though we don't have a system/ systems in place. It's just that by mass unspoken agreement, the decision is made not to use the systems, and -- voila! Ignorant pastor and congregation wondering why April isn't showing up.
Ugh. So tomorrow I get to give the semi-annual, "I cannot read minds" lecture, wherein I'll remind folks that I'd rather hear something 35 times than not at all. And I will try to make up for the absence of the last few days with presence in the next, while giving stern talks to my elders who, for goodness' sake, should know better.
And I'll start preparing for the next experiment which I assume will occur during the next maternity leave. Apparently, the fact that I always fail the clairvoyance test is not a deterrent.
Though, God knows, I wish it was.

13 October 2006

Friday Five: Comfort, comfort ye, my people

With very cold and blustery sunshine-y weather and a congregant headed over this way any minute with soup and sandwiches for lunch, it's a great moment for a Comforting Friday Five from the RevGals.

1. Comfort drink
Constant Comment tea with a little bit of honey (best with shortbread, of course!)
When sick... really hot orange juice or lemonade

2. Comfort chair
I am in search of a comfort chair. We have a nice chair in our living room, but it doesn't just let one sink into it. In my sorority house, we had a great loveseat-type chair and ottoman that was perfect for homework and lounging, and probably snuggling, had I had anyone with whom to do that! I'd like a chair with that feeling someday. Actually, come to think of it, 10 years later, that chair is probably still there.
3. Comfort read
Whenever I have a chance to read for fun/ comfort, I always return to young adult fiction. Madeline L'Engle, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, Lloyd Alexander, Narnia, Harry Potter...

4. Comfort television/dvd/ music
Well, we watch Intolerable Cruelty every few weeks and I love an Alias marathon whenever possible, but I'm not sure that's for comfort. Comfort music is mainly classical -- Bach's Mass in B Minor, or Rachmoninoff Piano Concertos, or Palestrina, or Vaughn Williams' Tallis. Hymns in a church with a marvelous organ and people actually singing -- that's the ultimate comfort music, to me.

5. Comfort companions
Most of the time, my sweet big love and my sweet little love. Other times, my sistahs. Sometimes my seminary friends. Sometimes my oldest friend, Trina, and a cup of coffee. And a shortbread. Shortbread makes everything more comfortable.
Anyone else want to play? You don't have to be a revgal! Let me know if you do.

12 October 2006

A heartbreaking loss

I just received word that beloved Jenna's little boy, Ezra Lee, was born today at 19 weeks gestation, and did not survive.
Will you please pray for Jenna and her family? They had longed and prayed for this little one, struggled with the possibility of losing him, and have been through more than I can imagine.
My heart is breaking for this family this evening. I pray for a deep peace and comfort that can only come from Jesus. Hold them tightly, Lord, and don't let them go.

First snow!

Today, when Annalivia and I awoke, (we slept late -- hurrah!) we arose to a gorgeous day of blue sky spotted with clouds and a fine dusting of snow on the ground! We had French Toast casserole and cafe au lait and were very thankful for our warm house and beds. What a lovely way to wake up!

11 October 2006

Our latest progress report

Well, lots has happened since last Tuesday...
On Friday, we went back to our surgeon's office and got regular sized casts on our arms. After the accident and our surgeries, we had massive surgical splints on our arms that reached from our elbows to the first joint of our fingers. No clothes fit over them and it was impossible to do anything at all. However, they did provide a lot of stability, which we needed.
On Friday, the folks at Rockford Orthopedic took off the crazy Popeye casts and we got matching black casts. The feeling of having nothing around our wrists was akin to some sort of vertigo. Poor Dennis was really hurting as they had to bend his wrist and fingers all around. But now my fingers are out and I can sort of do a lot of things. Dennis has three fingers available and the best thing is that we can both move our elbows, so sleeping is a lot more comfortable.
We were alone for the weekend and it went well. I did a wedding rehearsal on Friday night and a wedding on Saturday night, which was really quite nice. The couple being married are about my age -- 30 and 31 -- and really wanted to do the whole thing right. They did the counseling, read the books, took the quizzes, and above all, wanted to make sure that their relationship with each other incorporated their love for God from the very beginning. It was one of the best weddings I've ever seen. Really lovely.
On Sunday, I went to church. Dennis and Annalivia stayed home. Church was good, though there were probably half the folks there than usual. I felt like I was garnering a lot of pity by explaining why I wouldn't be driving much this week or preaching very long sermons for the next few weeks or hugging folks after the services, but in church, I've found that it's better to err on the side of communicating too much than not enough. Anyway, church went well, my short sermon was really really good, if I do say so myself, and I was WORN OUT afterwards.
On Monday, Mom came up to help out and she really was a HUGE help. She just does things, you know? And we had a surprise when my sister, Lillia, and her daughter, Cleya, came to visit. Cleya is 3 and Annalivia is fascinated by her. Annalivia had a great time following her around and Cleya was so patient with her. And Lil and I got to go through Annalivia's baby clothes. Lillia and her husband, Jake, are expecting baby #2 about three weeks before Littler McStew is due and baby Hartter is a girl. I am excited to get to share the ridiculous amount of clothes that Annalivia wore as a winter baby with my new niece.
Yesterday, Tuesday, because Mom was here, I got to go and get my hair cut, which was the first time in about five months. I was pretty shaggy. It's amazing how much better a haircut can help one to feel!
Today, without visitors and on a cloudy, cold day, we had a really great day! Dennis made a wonderful omelette for breakfast for all of us and we all ate around the table. Annalivia has taken to sitting on one of the regular chairs and was making both of us laugh til we cried. Then I got to go back to sleep after breakfast, which was amazing. When Annalivia went down for a nap, Dennis and I cleaned up and moved stuff that had been rearranged to accomodate the wheelchair back to original positions. So tonight we have a clean house and we were able to get rid of papers and put away things and things feel about as normal as they have since all of this occurred.
So. That's our big update. We continue to get better. And for all of these things, we are very, very grateful!

Our latest progress report

Well, lots has happened since last Tuesday...
On Friday, we went back to our surgeon's office and got regular sized casts on our arms. After the accident and our surgeries, we had massive surgical splints on our arms that reached from our elbows to the first joint of our fingers. No clothes fit over them and it was impossible to do anything at all. However, they did provide a lot of stability, which we needed.
On Friday, the folks at Rockford Orthopedic took off the crazy Popeye casts and we got matching black casts. The feeling of having nothing around our wrists was akin to some sort of vertigo. Poor Dennis was really hurting as they had to bend his wrist and fingers all around. But now my fingers are out and I can sort of do a lot of things. Dennis has three fingers available and the best thing is that we can both move our elbows, so sleeping is a lot more comfortable.
We were alone for the weekend and it went well. I did a wedding rehearsal on Friday night and a wedding on Saturday night, which was really quite nice. The couple being married are about my age -- 30 and 31 -- and really wanted to do the whole thing right. They did the counseling, read the books, took the quizzes, and above all, wanted to make sure that their relationship with each other incorporated their love for God from the very beginning. It was one of the best weddings I've ever seen. Really lovely.
On Sunday, I went to church. Dennis and Annalivia stayed home. Church was good, though there were probably half the folks there than usual. I felt like I was garnering a lot of pity by explaining why I wouldn't be driving much this week or preaching very long sermons for the next few weeks or hugging folks after the services, but in church, I've found that it's better to err on the side of communicating too much than not enough. Anyway, church went well, my short sermon was really really good, if I do say so myself, and I was WORN OUT afterwards.
On Monday, Mom came up to help out and she really was a HUGE help. She just does things, you know? And we had a surprise when my sister, Lillia, and her daughter, Cleya, came to visit. Cleya is 3 and Annalivia is fascinated by her. Annalivia had a great time following her around and Cleya was so patient with her. And Lil and I got to go through Annalivia's baby clothes. Lillia and her husband, Jake, are expecting baby #2 about three weeks before Littler McStew is due and baby Hartter is a girl. I am excited to get to share the ridiculous amount of clothes that Annalivia wore as a winter baby with my new niece.
Yesterday, Tuesday, because Mom was here, I got to go and get my hair cut, which was the first time in about five months. I was pretty shaggy. It's amazing how much better a haircut can help one to feel!
Today, without visitors and on a cloudy, cold day, we had a really great day! Dennis made a wonderful omelette for breakfast for all of us and we all ate around the table. Annalivia has taken to sitting on one of the regular chairs and was making both of us laugh til we cried. Then I got to go back to sleep after breakfast, which was amazing. When Annalivia went down for a nap, Dennis and I cleaned up and moved stuff that had been rearranged to accomodate the wheelchair back to original positions. So tonight we have a clean house and we were able to get rid of papers and put away things and things feel about as normal as they have since all of this occurred.
So. That's our big update. We continue to get better. And for all of these things, we are very, very grateful!

03 October 2006

The balance changes

Today we got to get out of the house and head over to Dixon to my OB for an ultrasound and appointment.
While we were there, we got to see some great pictures of .... our son!
That's right!! Littler McStew is apparently of the male variety, totally and completely shocking his mother and father. I don't know why, but I was quite sure that was a little girl in there. So much for that.
Anyway, we saw our little boy and right now all looks good on the ultrasounds. Since the accident, our perspectives on this genetic testing have changed a lot. Before it seemed unthinkable to not know for sure. Now it seems most important that we know we are all alive.
So we're preceding a little differently. Since we knew we would not terminate regardless of the test outcomes, we've decided to wait to do the amnio. My abdomen absorbed considerable blunt trauma in the accident and it needs time to heal. Hence we will continue to get monthly or bi-monthly growth scans and if anything worrisome appears, we'll get the amnio. Otherwise we'll wait 'til 32 weeks or so, since 32 weeks is on Christmas day. This way we'll still have the info going into labor and delivery and minimize any risks to baby. And me, I suppose.
The only odd thing is that I feel like we will be holding back a little part of ourselves and our possible excitement til that amnio gives us definitive answers. But we'll deal with that. We are all here -- Daddy, Mommy, big sister and baby boy.... a baby boy!!! (how crazy is that?)
For now we'll focus on enjoying all of this.

28 September 2006

The incident

WARNING!!! the following are accident pics. You may not want to look at them. They kind of make me ill.

Ours is the green van. We were headed north on IL Rt. 2 behind a tractor trailer. The white car was headed south and crossed over the center line knocking the back axle off the truck, then swung into our path. We hit it going 55-65 miles an hour. Here's what it looked like later, minus the tractor trailer.



The guardrail kept us from the river.




The damage done to the driver's side was from when she hit the semi.


We did the damage to this side.

We're ok and the other driver will be, too. Thank God!!

Another scintillating update

Dennis and I are home from the hospital. The surgeries on our arms went well. The damage on my wrist was much worse than the surgeon originally expected and it took about five hours to reconstruct the two bones with plates and screws. Since they had done a lot of the hard work with Dennis' last surgery, this one went well and as expected. The hospital experience this time was fairly excruciating. Lots of waiting, delays in receiving pain meds, and misplaced meals were all par for the course this time. We were glad to be home.
We are improving slowly but surely in marked ways that are very encouraging. Our sprained ankles are holding more weight more often, bruised ribs are less painful, and we are able to get up and down out of chairs far easier. Today Dennis figured out how to get on the floor and play with Annalivia which did both of them a world of good. And I was able to rock her to sleep and get her in her crib one-armed and only had to drop her a couple of inches ;).
Annalivia has had a hard time today with lots of melt-downs and such. We are hoping tomorrow will be more peaceful for all of us.
We continue to have great help from our parents who have all had to majorly rearrange their lives to be here. The church folks are kicking into gear a dinner brigade and a neighbor came down and mowed the lawn, all of which has been great.
And, of course, we continue to receive well-wishes via virtual and real-life friends in notes and cards and flowers, particularly this gorgeous, gorgeous bouquet of roses from my college friends and dear old pals, Amy, Remy and Sarah.
Anyway, we are here and getting better every single day. Thanks again.