Changing the Season of Darkness into the Season of Light…

When we lived in the city we had a strategy for homeless people or those on the sidewalks with signs. We carried gift cards for Subway and gave them out one or two at a time. It seemed mostly satisfactory, until one day a guy asked how much was it worth. Later that same week I discovered a “cash-in your gift cards here” machine in the local grocery store.

We have since moved to a small town/rural area, and the people with signs aren’t so frequent. I don’t carry gift cards any more, and I rarely have cash with me, so I mostly just feel bad when I see someone with a Need Help sign.

I was thinking this morning of something that happened last fall before 2020 happened: I had made an uncharacteristic stop at Walmart to get Burt’s Bees chapstick. While there, I bought a rotisserie chicken for dinner. As I was leaving the parking lot, there was an older man standing at the curb. I could barely read his sign; all I got was “Need Help, Lost Job…”

I drove by.

I had a twenty dollar bill in my purse and a chicken for dinner. Playing on the car audio system was “More Like You” by Scott Wesley Brown. If you don’t know that song, the chorus goes like this:

More like you, Jesus, More like you, Touch my lips with holy fire, and make me more like you.

At the bottom of the hill, I turned around and drove back to where he was standing. I gave him the twenty dollar bill and prayed that he would use it wisely. I don’t know. I’m not writing this for any praise from you because it wasn’t my first thought to be generous. It wasn’t even my second thought. And for all I know, he went out and bought drugs or whiskey with it. But the story that keeps coming to mind is from C.S. Lewis: he was walking with a friend and he gave a generous amount of money to a street person. The friend gently chided him, saying the standard remark, “You know, he’ll probably just drink it up.” To which Lewis replied, “Well, so would I.” (This is from a biography of Lewis by Owen Barfield — who actually was that friend…)

But there’s another quote that’s not so well known in Letters to an American Lady.  Lewis writes, “It will not bother me in the hour of death to reflect that I have been “had for a sucker” by any number of impostors; but it would be a torment to know that one had refused even one person in need.”

I’m not suggesting we give money to every homeless person; we all have to figure out  how to live generously and thankfully, and what that means is different for everyone. But the events of this year — from pandemics to hurricanes and wildfires to racial unrest to large scale economic upheaval — have left so many of us feeling overwhelmed by the need. And feeling overwhelmed, I am trying to figure out what I can do.

sunriseToday is the first Sunday in Advent. As we await the light coming in this dark year of dark years, I suggest we choose something to do about it. It could be giving anonymously to someone in need. It could be making a meal for someone who is alone. Maybe every Thursday in Advent, you call someone you’ve been thinking about. Yesterday I read a suggestion–that instead of buying Christmas presents this year, we all donate to food pantries or agencies that are struggling to help people in need. We’re considering this: I’m thinking about making cards to send to family members explaining our strategy. Now, more than ever, is a good time to reconsider our spending habits and instead of spending our money on Cyber Monday, let’s spend it on Giving Tuesday instead…

I’m interested to hear if you have any plans to make this Advent season of 2020 different. To bring joy. To bring light. To this hurting world.

The Pumpkin Disaster; little events that change your plans

A week ago I still had a pumpkin from my garden.

I was planning on cooking it soon, I really was. The thing is, it was Christmas time and the orange pumpkin just didn’t go with Christmas decorations. So I put it on top of the corner cupboard to be cooked in January.

It’s February 6th. Yes, I’m aware of that.

Just yesterday I looked at that corner cupboard and thought, I really should move it out and sweep behind it, and maybe change it to a wall cupboard, just to see how it looks. I didn’t notice that the pumpkin was missing.

This morning I had plans to sweep and mop the kitchen floor, go to the grocery store, visit my neighbor, and maybe when I was done, I’d have some quiet time to write on my novel.

img_7753When my broom and I got to the corner cupboard, my jaw dropped in dismay. There was stuff, gunk, all over the floor, the wall, and everything I could see. I couldn’t tell what it was, but I was sure it was the mice we’ve been having trouble with.  (See former post…) It looked like a lot of mice had been partying hearty behind the corner cupboard.

Of course, you, dear reader, can see where this is going. But I hadn’t a clue. The corner cupboard is filled with all of our dishes, bowls, china, and many heavy items. I had to empty the cupboard before I could move it out from the spot where it has lived for three, maybe four years.

Yes. The overripe pumpkin had fallen six feet onto the floor. On the way down it bounced off the walls and the back of the cupboard. After I moved the cupboard, I didn’t take any pictures of the mess because it was truly disgusting. (And here I realize, for the second post in a row, you may seriously take exception to my housekeeping skills…)

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I didn’t get any writing in that day, but the space behind the cupboard is spotless. And while I was cleaning I thought about these little events that change our plans.

Quite honestly, I’m not very good at having my plans disrupted. Oh yes, I know better. I know what the great philosopher John Lennon said — Life is what happens when you are making other plans. — Turns out he just wrote an already popular sentiment into a song. And the reason it is a popular sentiment is because, Yes, no one likes to have their plans disrupted.

A few posts ago, one of my friends made the comment that how we live our lives generally depends on how well we deal with disruption. I’ve mentioned this quote before, because it is one of my favorites:

c.s. lewis quote on interruptions

I try to practice this — you know, the Keep Calm and Carry On philosophy — but I’m not often successful; imagine if we could just always think of those interruptions, disruptions, intrusions… as our real lives. Forget about our own plans for that perfect day, that perfect week, that perfect life, for those plans (and those lives) don’t exist. Just because our plans are perfect in our imaginations, does that mean it’s real life? Lewis calls them phantoms.

The earlier we learn this in life, the happier we will be. The sooner we learn that every event in our lives is sent to teach us, the more joyful and purposeful we will be. Whether it was actually in our plans or not, God sent it to us to be a part of our lives. No Whining.

And I’m happy to say, that this day I managed to do fairly well. Of course, that’s partially because I didn’t have any big plans. No appointments, No lunch date, No place I really had to be…. And since I had to empty the cupboard, move it, and clean behind it, I took advantage of really moving it and trying it out in a new spot. Where it’s likely to stay until the next disaster… The disaster that, of course, is part of the life God is sending me day by day.

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So since I had pumpkin on the brain and chocolate chips in the cupboard, I made a delicious pumpkin cake. When life hands you smashed pumpkins, make a cake. (Don’t worry, I didn’t use the rotten pumpkin that is now out on the compost pile…)

Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×9 square pan. Gather together: 1 cup pumpkin, 1 cup unbleached flour, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 c. oil (I used 1/4 c. melted butter and 1/4 c. warmed coconut oil) 1/2 c. chocolate chips, 3/4 c. packed brown sugar, 2 eggs, and pumpkin pie spices of your choice — I used 1 t. cinnamon, 1 t. cardamom, 1/2 t. ginger, and 1/2 t. fresh grated nutmeg. You can add 1 t. vanilla too.

Mix together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl beat two eggs and add the pumpkin and the oil. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour into the greased pan and bake for 25-28 minutes.

Pumpkin chocolate chip snack cake

It’s always good to share…

Variations:

  • You could add chopped nuts with the chocolate chips.
  • You could add more chocolate chips on the top and spread them around when the cake comes out of the oven.
  • You could add raisins instead of chocolate chips.
  • You could add raisins and chocolate chips and nuts.
  • You could add a teaspoon of rum instead of vanilla.
  • You could bake it in a 8×8 pan and have it be more like a real cake, than bars or a snack cake. If you do this, add 8-10 minutes of baking time.
  • You could put cream cheese icing on it and call it a real cake instead of a snack cake.

I’ve made this twice now in trying to make sure it is a good recipe for your enjoyment. The second time I used half pumpkin and half applesauce because this IS Apple Hill and I have more applesauce than I have pumpkin.  It was just as delicious.

Enjoy the interruptions to your day…

133. No Time to…

So what happens when one finally gets settled into a routine at the cottage where one has spent three years preparing to live?

Life.

Yes. Life.

Yes. Life. Happens.

There’s a new job.

There’s a volunteer commitment one made before the new job happened.

There’s cooking to do, gardens to plant, flowers to grow, pillow covers to make, Bible to study, VBS to get ready for, neighbors to visit, friends to talk to, firewood to haul, and, yes, there are still boxes to unpack, files to organize and a room to paint. As well as the bathroom to gut and redo, and the back porch to finish.

And suddenly, there’s no time to write.

Ha, silly me. I thought perhaps after we moved here, I’d have spare time to finish that novel… Now I can’t even find time to write 500 words for a blog post.

It’s the rhythm of life. Suddenly there is much going on, but it is the routine of day-to-day, interspersed here and there with a gorgeous full moon, the bloom of a new starburst flower, the scent of peonies, a gentle sunrise.

But that is life, isn’t it? Making the most of those boring bits of life in-between the great, amazing stuff that, if we are honest, doesn’t really happen all that often.

It’s what we do with the routine and the interruptions to our routine that are important. Read this C.S. Lewis quote and put it on your fridge.

 Yes, the unremarkable, the humdrum, the commonplace — that’s the life God is sending us. And do we sing on the way to work, or grump about the trucks that are making us late?

Do we gripe about having to fix dinner on a day when we don’t get home until 6:00, or do we look into the fridge and make it a game with ourselves to come up with the best we can with what’s there?

Do we go to visit the neighbor when we really should be…  (insert really important thing to do here.)

I have to admit that I’m only good at loving the uneventful life sometimes. I try to remember that God has given us this ordinary life to live for him. He sees when we grumble at our husbands for no good reason except a mood; he knows when we choose to be in a funk, rather than pray; and best of all, He understands when we chafe against the boring bits of ho-hum pfhh that so much of life seems to be…
Bare hill
and he graciously gives us new eyes to see beauty in the familiar.