Monday, January 30, 2017

Fabulous Factoids (or Random yet Cool Stuff I've Learned by Reading Books)

Lately, my nightstand stack of books has been rather, um...varied.  A biography of a Baptist missionary icon-ess, a "culinary history" of spices in American cuisine, a precious A.A. Milne-esque children's book featuring an ant and a snail, and a re-re-re-read of an Austen classic.  Mini-Hooper continues his literary reading quest and keeps me informed, on a near daily basis, of the great stuff he is visually digesting.  While, He Who Is Now Waaay Taller Than I is diligently making his way through Wuthering Heights and Gatsby.  

So, in no particular order, here are some interesting facts that I have gleaned from the books sitting atop my nightstand--and scattered across the living-room coffee table.

1.  In the China of the late 1800s, one would sit upon a Kiang as one would a sofa in the living area.  It also serves as the hostess' master bedroom.

2.  We derive our modern-day word "ketchup" (also catsup and catchup) from the Indonesian word, ket-siap or kez-jap.  Heinz didn't invent the word.

3.  Even when you're lost, you should always find your way back to the place that fed you well.

4.  “Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives.” 

5.   The iconess to whom I refer above is responsible for the notion of furloughs being introduced into long-term mission work, both domestic and international. She herself was not granted such a gem of refreshment until she had served in China for 14 years.  Yes, fourteen years.  5110 days. Think hard about that.

6.  Apparently, if you don't like someone, you should throw a party for them.  It will throw everyone involved off the scent.  At least, that is our dear Emma's logic.  

7.  Sriracha sauce is named for a city in Thailand--Si Racha.  

8.  "Historical Gastronomist" is an actual occupational title.  Essentially, it means that you get to research random culinary trends, get free food at ethnic restaurants, and employ an intern to help you re-create a garlic-centered menu from the 1840s.  

9.  A song that you can sing from the beginning or the end--and ultimately meet in the middle--is the very best kind of song.

*These lovely little factoids are gleaned from the following books:  The New Lottie Moon Story (Elizabeth Allen), Eight Flavors (Sarah Lohman), At The End of the Beginning (Avi), and Emma (Jane Austen).  

Image result for stack of books nightstand

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ill-Fitting Clothes

So, it all started with a Bible study in the book of James.  If you know anything, anything at all, about the book of James, it’s not for the faint of heart.  No bumper sticker platitudes, relatively few options for Pinterest-happy memes.  Meaty.  Challenging. Convicting.  Keeps you real.  Much like looking in the mirror, first thing in the morning, without even having brushed your teeth.  Yeah, THAT kind of real.  James, the writer, doesn’t mince words.  He was not a Marketing major.  Or Social Work.  He puts it plain. 

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…” ~ James 1:2

He goes on to encourage the readers, us—if you will, to remain steadfast under trial (v.12) and recognize that temptation is not from God.  You can’t blame your own inclination towards sin, no matter how pretty it looks, on God.  We are “lured and enticed” by our own desires (v.14).  Those desires when conceived give birth to sin, and fully grown sin becomes…death.  Yeah, not on the Oprah Book Club selection list.

James reminds us not that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” There is no shadow, due to change.  He is immovable.  Unshakable. Steadfast. 

Then, as if that weren’t enough, we are told—imperatively—to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”.  This is not a suggestion.  Nor can I flip around the verbs and adverbs to make it more like me—“quick to speak, slow to hear, and warp speed to anger”.  Dressing ourselves in His clothes is hard.  And, that’s when she said it.  My honest-to-the-core sistah-friend put it plainly.

“Sometimes, the clothes don’t fit right.  They’re heavy.  Like a polyester choir robe that belongs to the towering gentleman who sings bass, down the row from you. And, you can’t trade it in,” says she.

Wow.  Ill-fitting clothes.  Garments that I, as a Christ-follower, am called to wear.  But, sometimes, I just don’t feel like it.  The polyester is itchy.  The robe doesn’t hang right.  It’s too long, I think.  I’m rather petite (or fun-sized, like those Hershey miniatures that you get on Halloween). 

“Quick to hear”.  Yup, I can listen.  Most of the time.  But, am I just hearing other people speak?  Or am I really listening?  Am I listening in such a way, that I understand?  Or am I just waiting to put in my two cents, or to add a witty comeback?  Zoinks.  That robe is uncomfortable. 

“Slow to anger”.  Not my best fruit of the spirit, folks.  I am a “spitfire”, as He Who Is Now WAY Taller Than I says.  It’s genetic, I say.  The biological fuse with which I was endowed is microscopic.  I can be feisty.  Particularly at perceived injustice.  Or something that should work a particular way; but, alas, it doesn’t.  Stupid robe.  The zipper gets stuck and constricts my movement.  Ill-fitting clothes. Again.

And let’s be honest.  Sometimes, we simply don’t want to wear it.  Or, let me drive this car closer to home—I don’t want to wear it. I want to be snarky without remorse—or quick-tempered without regret.  Later, our friend James says that the tongue can start a fire.  Not a romantic, “chestnuts roasting on an open” kind of fire, but a relentless white-hot blaze, destroying everything in its path.  We “let it fly”, as it were, and all that’s left are the ashen remains of someone’s heart.  Or someone’s delight.  The damage may not be visible to the naked eye—but, down deep, you know it’s there.  And so do they.  You both know who lit the match.  The hem of that robe just tripped me up.

Yet, He gives grace and mercy, the Tailor who remakes us.  And, then, piece by piece, seam by seam, the clothes seem to fit a wee bit better.  It’s not a quick fix—it’s lifelong.  Lest we “get the big head”, it is not because of anything we’ve accomplished or earned.  It’s all Him. 

It’s that “good and perfect” gift that’s come from above—growing us, stretching us, taking in a bit here and there. Generally speaking, fittings are uncomfortable and revealing. You might even get a pin stuck in you here and there. It gives new meaning to “Extreme Makeover”.

Or better yet,  "What Not To Wear".  

But, one day, those clothes will fit.  Just right.  As though they were Hand-crafted for us.

Imagine that.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Usual

Our little neck of the woods is often referred to as “Flyover, Tennessee”—because we are nearly smack in the middle of two major cities, at least by southern standards.  Not only can we call ourselves the rhinestone on the buckle of the Bible Belt (actually, that’s just my affectionate nickname for our bold dot on the map), but we also can claim a part of the title in “Chain Restaurant” land.  Give or take a 3-5 year delay.  Cheddar’s and Applebee’s are our two major additions, national brand-wise, of the last few years.  But, hey, we have two Chick-Fil-A stores—and we do "eat mor chikin".  Don’t mess.

Image result for tulum jackson tnBut, it’s the one of a kind places that usually top one’s favorite restaurant list.  Independently-owned, using fresh (even local) ingredients, the kind of place where it just makes you happy to say the name.  For us, it’s Tulum (TA-Loom).  It’s our Sunday lunch go-to place.  Home-made salsa, fresh guacamole, and never-ending chips.  And, their fish tacos are the bomb.  Oh, and the Baja Shrimp Tacos.  Honestly, I haven’t had anything there that I wouldn’t recommend.  And, no, I’m not getting free food for a year or something like that by writing this blog. 

The owner, who knows us by face, is a native of sorts—by way of a decade or so “detour” in San Diego.  Hence, the reason that dining at Tulum makes us feel like we’re well-fed extras in a Jimmy Buffett video. 

Last Sunday, as we stepped up to the counter to order, Robert (one of the fabulous young managers) looked at me and said, “Baja Shrimp Tacos.  The meal.”  The Philosopher and I share a plate--isn't that cunnin'?  Looking (up) at He Who Is Now WAY Taller Than I, he said, “Traditional chicken chimi, all the way.” And to Mini-Hooper, it was “Traditional Gringos tacos. Chicken, no guac.”  And four waters!  Yeah, if we order their “nectar of the gods” mango tea, it’s an extra $10 for the entire fam.  So, we drink agua.  He knew our whole order.  I loved that!  It’s one of those moments when “the usual” is extraordinary. 

I have to admit, living in a place where they know your order, what your husband does for a living, and notice if you happen to stop by twice in a week (lunch “meetings”), is cool.  Our little rhinestone town is pretty nifty like that.