Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday June 28 Like Dessert, They Are!!

One thing I know grandmas are supposed to do is read to their grandkids, and I have always loved it.  But my two littlest ones live about three hours away, and the opportunities to read to them are few and far between.
Then this last week my son had to have his second hip replacement, and wonder of wonders, we were able to go down…the blessings of online teaching!!  Anyway, it was Tuesday morning, and my daughter-in-law was at the hospital with my son.  I could tell the kids were getting the least bit anxious, so I told them to get some books and I would read to them. 

In seconds, Adrienne was snuggled up next to me on the couch and Tommy was at my feet with a pile of books.  I asked him where he was going to sit, and he looked at me as if I had just asked the most absurd question in the world.  “On your lap,” he replied and backed right onto it.
It was like having the best kind of dessert on the menu, those two little people melding into me, listening and looking at the pictures.  The first few stories were great and familiar Bear family stories, then Tommy handed me the Children’s Bible Stories – sounds wonderful doesn’t it?  BUT THE BOOK WAS IN SPANISH!!!  Fortunately, between my Latin and French studies and teaching English as a Second Language to Spanish speaking migrants years ago, and the reality that I still know my Bible stories pretty well, I was able to fake it satisfactorily.

While part of me was in Philadelphia at Temple Hospital where the docs were repairing my son, this privileged part was there with Tommy and Adrienne, reminding me and refreshing me with the sweet faith and innocence of children.
I had prayed that I would have an opportunity to share God’s love with them, and you could not ask for a clearer and more beautiful way than that.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday June 20 Now I see my problem!!

This retirement thing is like putting a kid in a candy store.  I love to bake and cook.  This week I am baking for my husband’s summer school class, but it is not a big class, so there are left (planned) overs – like frosted chocolate cherry bars and blond brownies.  Yesterday, I noticed that there were only two slices of bread left.  No car to run to the store til night, and Jim is pretty exhausted after teaching on his feet all day. AND, I found packets of yeast in the drawer.  Though it has been many years since I baked bread, it didn’t turn out all that bad. I found some strawberry freezer jam and there is not much better than toasted homemade bread and freezer jam.  Well, you get the picture.
Anyway this morning as I was having my quiet hour, it struck me how happy I was, there in my new office, surrounded by books I love, a beverage at hand, couple versions of my Bible and paper to write on.  As I looked around, I became aware of how rich I am.  No bread, so make some because I can. Cupboards and fridge full. So many clothes I need to store some in other closets…and all my wonderful books. 

I had been reading about Christ’s temptation – we really know very little about those 40 days, and I can scarcely imagine what they were like.  Not only did Christ have no food, but he had no companions, and certainly no things – just wild animals, Mark said.  But Christ persevered, even starving and weakened, thin after forty days of fasting, He resisted Satan’s efforts to destroy Him through temptation. This does come back together…

You see as I looked around my office and at my beloved books, the scent of bread still in the air, the Spirit began to challenge me – with where my affections were placed.  And I am embarrassed to tell you about that conversation. 

I am a child of parents who were children of the depression – don’t get rid of anything because you could use it….so, although I don’t need all the stuff I have, could I really pass it on, recycle it?  And certainly I left hundreds of books over the last year in the hall for others to pick up, but I still have hundreds.  Do I really need them all? 
And back to the loving to cook and bake – I think I need to find a way to give this all to God.  I need to not cook and bake things that give us temporary pleasure and find the courage to focus more on what we need to eat.  Eating should not be a hobby, a recreational activity. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday June 19 Is it too late for me?

One of my big projects, since I have retired, has been the creation of a syllabus for Ministry in Marriage and Motherhood to be taught online. The prof who teaches it on campus uses Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book – Lies Women Believe, and it is a great book. She is also able to have guest speakers on campus, and that is a bit more of a challenge for the online environment.  So, I have been looking for other texts.

When I teach the class, I do it in four sections – Preparing yourself for ministry, Ministry to your husband, Ministry to your children. and finally Ministry in the context of marriage and motherhood. The DeMoss book integrates well throughout the course, but I wanted texts that would be good learning tools for a wife and a mother.  I am grateful for Amazon and all that they tell you about the books they sell; even with that, it took me a couple of tries to find what I think will be very useful books: Shaunti Feldhan’s book – For Women Only and Elyse Fitzpatrick’s (and Jessica Thompson) book Give Them Grace.
Here’s where the too late comment comes in.  My children have children, and most of them are grown.  I wish I had read this book forty some years ago, when I was raising my own kids.  You know, we do our best, but we are flawed people.  And we repeat too many times, the flawed parenting we received.

I did not understand grace back then, so I did not teach my children the amazing concept of the grace of God. In fact, because I did not really understand nor appreciate it, I fear I lived more in fear of the law than in love with the Giver of Grace. I know now it was my own weakness and flaws, but I looked to the church to teach me about parenting…and back then, the emphasis was on obedience, and not so much on obedience with the right motivation – loving God back because of the grace He has shown us.
So, if you are looking for a shower gift, something besides disposable diapers, or maybe with them, this is a great book.  And kids, once more, forgive me for the mistakes I made as a mom.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday June 18 Finally, this is what retirement feels like! and a recipe!!

Well, I finally got the guest room sorted out, as the English would say….we’ve been watching a lot of British TV, if you wondered. Anyway, back in May, I dumped all of my winter clothes on the guest bed.  Then I pulled out the boxes of stored clothes (etc.) from my “attic” room and added them to the pile, and finally, opened wide the doors to the guest room closet.  Well, you can imagine!!  Yesterday, I finally got back down to the bed spread, returned the winter clothes to be preserved to their storage wars (yes, that works) and the hopeful, I do want to fit in them again, to their places, and ended up with a box to add to the landfill, and three, at least, bags to recycle. And I feel free again.

For your amazement and amusement, I also found a slide rule, which I gave to my husband to dispose of (it is a sort of antique though so that may have been a mistake) and some really good Christmas gifts that I overbought and will distribute this next year.
In my new found unburdened time, I actually looked up some new recipes, made a wonderful corn and bean salad yesterday.  A friend or two asked for the recipe for the Forgotten Cookies mentioned yesterday, so I thought I would add the cookie recipe here.  And maybe the salad tomorrow (if I remember)  Isn’t that one thing, older ( I refuse to say old) ladies are good for: recipes?

Forgotten Cookies: You pull this recipe out to make when the oven is hot after all your other baking, or you have extra egg whites, or you want a gluten free recipe, or you want some pretty cookies to fill glass jars with at Christmas. Or your grandsons ask for them for their weddings. Oh, and this doubles easily, but you probably don’t want to more than double it because you have to bake it all at once – for five hours at least!!! Bet that got your attention.
Preheat the oven to at least 250 or use an oven you have been baking in. Then beat two egg whites to a froth and beat in ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar.  Continue beating till peaks form and very gradually add (like a couple tablespoons at a time) 2/3 cup of sugar.  Beat until you have nice peaks.

The fun part comes now.  I tint a batch green with food coloring and fold in by hand a cup or a bit less of mint chocolate chips or flavor this batch with ½ teaspoon of mint flavoring and use regular chocolate chips.
I also tint a batch pink adding ½ teaspoon of good vanilla and fold in regular chocolate chips or my favorite – mini chocolate chips.  You should end up with at least two dozen or more cookies.  I just did it with 3 egg whites and a cup of sugar and got about 40 cookies.

Bake on a baking sheet(s) covered with parchment paper or lightly sprayed with plain baking spray.  Once you put the baking sheets in the oven, turn the oven off and leave them in the oven over night, or at least five hours.  And nothing will happen to them if you “forget” them in the morning.  And remember that sugar makes that many cookies, so they can’t be more than 20 calories or so a cookie.






Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday – June 17 You are supposed to enjoy weddings?

I am so sad to say that it took this long to really enjoy a wedding.  My grandson Jesse, the one I saw born and my husband baptized, got married to Kate Saturday, and it was the most relaxing wedding I ever attended.
I confess that I was working full-time during the wedding months of all of our children and grandchildren, and it was just plain hard to enjoy the celebrations.  It is tough enough for any woman to work full-time and balance being a wife and mom (and grandmom), but to be part of a wedding too, well, I never managed to do it with any kind of relaxation.  Somehow you had to think of the event for starters (and that means praying a lot for the soon-to-be wedded couple).

And you have to think of and purchase the right wedding gift(s). I love gift shopping and I want to choose thoughtfully, imagining how the couple will be blessed by the gift(s), how I will be adding to their nest.
Then there is the cooking or baking part. I don’t care whether you have it catered or not, we haven’t, there is extra cooking.  And I love it.  I love to cook and bake for any family celebration.  But it requires extra shopping and planning and time to create the masterpieces. 

All of that to say, for the last thirty years, it was tough for me to really relax and enjoy a wedding.  But this wedding, Jesse and Kate’s, I was retired. I did not have to plan or shop or bake or cook around anything else.  It was just so much fun!!!!! 
The fact that they were married in the backyard of the house Jesse grew up in, the fact that Kate wanted simple – no big wedding party, no crowd in attendance, no special music, just family and a picnic, also helped.  But I do believe, a big part of what made it possible to really enter into the celebration was retirement, and of course knowing they both love God and each other.

Friday, June 14, 2013

June 13, Day 4 Retirement is a place of refuge, and I met a new friend

I know yesterday I said retirement was lonely, but this is a work in I am a work in progress.  Anyway, today I was reminded of the sweetness of quiet and time to think.  I have settled on 9-10am as my quiet time. 

This morning I read the first five chapters of Mark ( my new friend) in the Message, and question after question piqued my curiosity, like why did Simon and Andrew, James and John just leave their fishing nets and follow Christ? Were they just young men looking for a confident leader to follow, like the young men at BBC?  Or were they such knowledgeable Hebrew children that they readily saw in Jesus the prophesied Messiah?

Then I noticed that Jesus, the Son of God and very God Himself, needed quiet.  So much so that He fled His bed before dawn to find a place where He could hide and pray.  And He did that more than once.  Mark tells how Jesus climbed a mountain to pray.  Can you see Him, sweaty, His hair sticking to His forehead and neck, His robe torn by pricker bushes along the path, His fingernails broken and dirty as He pulled Himself up over rocky boulders to rest in their shade.  It took a rugged mountain to provide a place for Him to get away and pray. And we want a comfortable chair, or a desk with a good lamp...

Mark is the action book, the record of an impatient man...who wrote what he saw, without commenting on it all that much. His perfunctory record of the facts though, has invited closer observation and as I said before, lots of questions - and that, my friend, is not a bad thing.

So today I am learning to embrace the quiet, to read right now this book of Mark, a few chapters at a time,  slowly, savoring, asking questions, writing in the margins, a kind of dialoging with the text.  It's been a while since I could do this, to read and listen without rushing. It's a good thing, I think.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 12 and Day 3: Retirement can be Lonely!

We are a one car family, so when Jim takes off, the walls just echo back at me. I didn’t expect that.
Last week my sisters and I had lunch up in Owego; it was wonderful – that comfortable picking up of where we left off the last time, and honestly, I can’t tell you how long ago that was.  Peg and Sue both live at least an hour and a half away, so we don’t just call up every week and make coffee dates. 

What I realized this afternoon is how much my colleagues had filled that need in my life, the one sisters fill. At work, we regularly shared, not just the comforting fragrance of fresh brewed coffee every morning – thank you Summer and Beth and Karen or Sharon, but our morning cup of coffee, chatting as we filled our cups or made sure everyone got one.  A new recipe – we shared.  A family emergency - we shared and prayed together and held each other.  A national emergency, like 9/11 - we shared in the same way. Fun pictures of grandchildren or nieces and nephews, we shared too, and laughed, and bragged and were grateful for each other.
Today it struck me how much I miss them – Karen and Sharon and Beth and Summer, and my sisters, Peggy and Susan, and I think that is how it should be.  We are part of a body, not just the BBC family or the Brennan family, but the body of Christ, and we are supposed to need each other, to love each other.

In the past, Caryl was my work-sister and so was Marcia.  I loved them, and they made the workplace a pleasure. All of these women loved God, so we had a real and sweet bond. So today I wonder how God is going to fill that void in my life.  I remember, in Africa, I would go weeks without seeing another adult American woman, someone who shared my history and culture, so I know God will meet that need…I am just really interested in seeing how He does it this time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day 2 at home and retired: still too easy to procratinate!

You would think, as I did, that it would be easy to kiss Jim good by as he set off to work, and then deeply spiritual and virtuous as I am, dig deeply into Scripture - the hours flying by as I studied and meditated and wrote.  But truth is, here I am at 9:40 and I have yet to crack a Bible.
I have watched the news, making sure that the day will be sunny and planted  eight perennials, which had reclined on a bench in front of my house for at least two weeks.  I have tidied up the kitchen (read that  rinsed out a saucepan, loaded the dishwasher and rehung two dish towels)  I have carried the Sunday papers out to the garbage bins, and  I have reloaded the toilet paper holder.  Intense and deeply spiritual - and maybe they were.  But that is another idea to write about later.

I comfort myself that I don't believe I am all that unusual, and I am grateful for God's patience and mercy.  He does know I am coming. And I can't help wondering if my day is not a microcosm of what we all face everyday - the evil one at work distracting us from what is really most important.  So, I will say farewell for the moment and head upstairs - to my office which is still technology free and begin with my Andrew Murray devotional journal on prayer.  Then I plan to do some reading in the Message-a wonderful version that reads like it was written yesterday....and I am not sure what comes next - after I decide what journal will become my prayer journal for this new stage of my life.

Have a great day!!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Retirement mediations

June 10, 2013    Titus 2:3-5 Older women
I  can’t believe that it is over a half a year since I have written here, but thanks to a partial retirement, from my full-time role as Dean to part time role as online teacher, I think I can get back at this. There is no denying that I am an older woman now, so I thought I would spend a little time meditating on this passage – perhaps taking several days to look at it.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

reverent in behavior: 1) befitting men, places, actions or sacred things to God; 2) reverent  Strongs=G2412&t=KJV >

Older women are to behave in a way that is reverent, honoring to God as sacred or holy.  I wonder what that kind of behavior looks like, how different it would be compared to my own behavior.  One would think that after 66 years of behaving this way, or behaving in a way that I would hope has been changed over the years to be more conformed to the image of Christ, I would be “humbly” confident that I am doing OK.  But as I meditate on the word sacred, I am not sure OK is the right adjective to describe my behavior, or is it?  Or is it even the standard to which I should aspire.

The expression OK might describe a shirt I wore once, but it is OK to wear again – not as fresh and clean and unwrinkled as when I first hung it in my closet, but I can get another wear out of it.  The first time I wore the shirt it was with confidence; I knew it would make a good impression.  The second time I wore it, perhaps I would not want anyone to look very close.  Is that what OK might look like in my own life when I consider how reverent I live?  “Just don’t look all that close.”

If it is, then there is a problem.  Reverence or sacred means more than OK.  It should allow for close inspection.  It should invite imitation. It should point others to God, or at least make them curious as to why I would want to live in such a way that my life shows what it means to worship God in heart and soul and mind.
Oh most wonderful and merciful God, help me this day to think on what reverence should look like in my life today.