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!