image by sarah mccoy photo

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spreading the Sugar Around

I know it’s Thanksgiving.  And this is a post about Christmas cookies.  But you’ll soon see why, and perhaps be thankful!

There’s this problem when you have tiny kids who must be taught sugar-limits, and a husband who prefers more steak for dessert.  And when at the same time, you can’t nix any of the traditional recipes from your cookie repertoire, and when you also really want to try new recipes.

Besides the massive workload involved, you just can’t eat them all while they’re fresh.

Last year, I tried making all kinds of dough in advance and freezing it to bake at the last minute.  But because an oven holds only so many trays, this had the effect of creating MORE days of baking chaos, some of stirring and mixing in November, and others of rotating trays and icing things in December.  And in the end, I still had way more than I could reasonably eat. 

Odds are, I eat more cookies than you on any/every given day of the year, so I speak with some authority as a consumer of sweets.  Here’s the authoritative new plan.  You can thank me later.

All those once-a-year recipes that you’d be so sad not to sample?  I started making those in October this year.  Not just the dough.  The cookies.  I make a batch every Monday.  One week we had snicker doodles.  The next it was Rugelach.  This week it’s jam thumbprints.  Next week, I think I’ll make snowballs.  This way we have time and stomach-space for thorough enjoyment.  And I always have something spectacular to dip in my coffee during naptime while I ignore the chores.

When Christmas comes, I’ll probably only make the sugar cutouts (can’t skip those with kids!), and then the standby favorites, toffee oatmeal and chocolate chip.  Everything else?  We’ll have enjoyed those oh, just the other week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wandering Inwardly

If you’re under 30, you might be caught up in it.  If you’re under 25, almost definitely.  There’s even a term for it: emerging adulthood.

Popping up in articles and blogs, this term refers to the putting off of settling, committing, and generally being a grown-up.  We go back to school over and over (or just never leave in the first place), we take our time moving out of Mom and Dad’s and try on a new career or path or partner in search of the mythical perfect fit.  We are always looking for ourselves.

Of course this phenomenon is cousin to that of entitlement complex, and we can blame some of it on the Me culture I love to rant about.  It’s the lie that parents have recently been preaching to kids, and kids to themselves, of attainable (and even soon-attainable) perfection.  So a perfect marriage is something to seek, not to make.  The perfect time for kids is awaited, not created.  And so on.

We seek not actual growth (which is painful work) but to tailor a world to our specifications.

“Emerging Adulthood” is euphemistic.  It sounds like a celebration of immaturity.  So I propose that “lagging adulthood” more aptly describes this ever-lengthening phase of life.

The Biblical treatment of youth entertains no such nonsense.  In Ecclesiastes, having established the pointlessness of everything outside of our ultimate purpose, the writer exhorts the young in particular not to lose time, to waste their lives.  Paul encourages Timothy to be bold and decisive in leadership despite his youth.

I think there is only one solution, and it is to be found in Thomas the Train movies.  On the imaginary Island of Sodor, the worst sin imaginable is to “cause confusion and delay.”  Conversely, the ultimate goal is to be a “really useful engine.”  Notably, the usefulness is not defined in terms of self-fulfillment, but in terms of the larger operation and community.  And what happy little engines they are.

As a cure for lagging adulthood, apathy, lethargy, or entitlement, we won't go wrong embracing the Sodor notion of industry and broader purpose.  These are the real tools that turn a career, a relationship, a life, into a success.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Over the Wall: Part 2 of 2

Netflix and the Art of Empathy

Context: I’ve been watching a whole lot of Sister Wives this week.  This provides a perfect follow-up to the interview I linked to the other day because it involves another of those sin-categories that Christians like to rank high on the Ex-Nay scale.

Something I hear occasionally in Christian circles, usually in reference to the various deviant sexual lifestyles out there, is how “this just sickens me.”  On one hand, we hope that as we get to know God better, we get more sensitive to what hurts him.  But I’d love to hear more people say “this just sickens me” about the sin in their own lives to which they’re suddenly more attuned (you know, hypocrisy, greed, jealousy, gossip, pride, white lies, gluttony—all things that hurt God, too).

It’s easy to have radar for the logs in the eyes of others.  At the same time, it’s easy to rationalize our own specks.  (Well, of course I struggle with xxxx, but it’s understandable, right? Now look what HE’S doing—inexcusable!)  Before we get too busy categorizing and rating what all amounts to the same spiritual bankruptcy, let’s ask a question.

How can a Christian reach out to, pray for, or love a person about whom their primary feeling is revulsion?  I believe that the Bible calls polygamy and many other creative family arrangements sinful.  But if we’re to be Jesusy in this world, we should want to know what moves people, hurts them, makes them smile.  We should see in them a reflection of our own needs and ultimate desires for acceptance, love, and stability, as well as our own brokenness.  We should feel a little bit sickened—by our own shortages of grace—and only then be ready to love and reach them effectively.