Wednesday, October 26, 2011

hey! crafting is fun! (when my goals are clear)

One of our first (and favorite) crafts: Fruit of the Spirit apple garland.
Every time we hit a new kid stage, the whole family has to adjust.  Ever since Burrito hit the "real deal" toddler stage a few months ago, I've been struggling a bit.  Struggling with her unpredictability.  Struggling with less free time some days.  Struggling with what on earth to do to keep her entertained and engaged.  Struggling even to find ways to teach her and help her grow in faith.  Not too long ago, I was talking with our youth director who said that there was a time with her daughters when she always did a craft in the morning after breakfast, as a routine.  I think that piece of advice stuck with me, even though I didn't do anything about it right away.
I learned to make these cute bracelets at MOPS.

Then I had a heart-to-heart with my Mom, who did a fantastic job of passing on the faith to my brother and I.  I told her I was struggling with how to teach my daughter about faith, given that she won't sit still!  Mom reminded me that she used actions to teach us Bible verses.  She encouraged me to use Burrito's interests and strengths to teach her.  So, I went back into the most important jobs I have (mother and faith teacher) with renewed motivation. 

I decided to start with the most important Bible verse of all: John 3:16.  I made up actions and acted super enthusiastic as I said it.  Before I knew it, she was joining me and now she has almost the whole thing memorized (including the reference!).  Today, we started on Romans 10:13. 

Pumpkin seed pumpkin.  We rinsed the pumpkin seeds and dyed them by shaking them with paint in 3 Ziploc bags.
I also decided that to connect with my daughter, who when it comes to the 5 love languages is a Quality Time and Gifts kid, that I should really be doing more crafts with her.  She responds very well to crafts and the time we spend together making something is time away from the TV and time in which she feels especially loved.  So we have started doing a craft almost every day.  I especially like using crafts that incorporate some Bible teaching, but I can't always find them, so as long as it is something constructive, I do what I can find.

Fall wreath (Sprout TV idea).
I even went to the craft store a couple weeks ago and picked up a bunch of crafting supplies: felt, paper stock in pretty colors, construction paper, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, buttons, a hole punch, jewelry wire, etc.  I was surprised how many supplies I was able to get for a low price.  In the meantime, I had been scouring crafty mommy blogs (such as this one) to find good craft ideas for Burrito and I to do.  A good craft needed to be age appropriate, not too expensive, and something that would take about a half hour to work on.  I started listing links to good crafts in a Word document.

And then I discovered Pinterest (follow my boards here).  It took me a day or two to get up to speed with it and then I was off and flying.  I was so excited to find a visual scrapbook where I could "pin" my ideas, recipes, etc.  Also, I could see my friends' ideas.  It was a great way to find good craft ideas.

For years I've described myself as the least crafty person ever.  And it's true that I'm not artistic and I've struggled with working with a sewing machine in the past.  I'm not the greatest spacial thinker.  I'm a conceptual thinker.  Big ideas are my purview.  Big abstract ideas.  But, for Burrito, I was going to try.  And I was finding a surprising number of very approachable crafts.  After all, if a toddler can do it, surely I can too!

Painted mini-pumpkin.
So, I really began to get into it.  And I started remembering myself as a child.  Weaving potholders on those little looms.  Cross-stitching complicated scenes for Christmas presents.  Doing calligraphy.  I even remember receiving a child's sewing machine that delighted me.  I may have my deficits with certain types of crafts.  I may prefer to express my creativity through writing.  But it's kinda fun to do a little craft.  Not only that, but I am finding myself connecting with Burrito.  We both look forward to doing a craft together.  Some work better than others (apple card lacing was not so popular--but she still said doing a craft that day was the best part of her day!).  But we always have good quality time together.  We gain confidence as we successfully complete simple projects.  We put our own spin on ideas. 

Watercolor painting that Burrito titled "Spider."
I'm also finding that I'm thinking of more ways to re-use things that I might other-wise throw away.  Toilet paper rolls.  Random scraps of cardboard.  The big box the diapers come in.  That has to be positive, right?  Less buying and more using (at least in theory!). 

I may not be the most crafty person ever.  I don't quilt.  I don't sew (other than a little slip stitch).  I can't draw.  But I can do simple crafts with my toddler.  Sometimes I can even use them to teach her about God!

Monday, October 24, 2011

multitudes on monday (71-75)

71. My daughter's exuberant joy as she sang with the Sunday School kids at church on Sunday.  She was jumping up and down and singing and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry from all the joy she brings me.

72. The continued wonderful class at church on evangelism.  It is through the Institute of Lutheran Theology and has opened my eyes to how evangelism can be done in a Lutheran way.  Lots of wonderful, Bible-based teaching.

73. The great Sunday School program at our church.  The kids may be small in numbers but the teachers and volunteers are so dedicated and I see such a difference in the life of my daughter and the other kids at church.  Positive peer pressure for Jesus!

74. That after a tough night with a sick and freaked out daughter, she woke up perky and happy.

75. That my husband is bold and courageous as a leader, willing to follow the Lord faithfully.

That's my list.  What's yours?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

the upside of depression

If you struggle with depression, particularly chronic, lifelong depression, as I have (although at times my depression and even more prominent anxiety abate for a while, they always come back), it is probably pretty hard to see any upside to their place in your life.  I know it has been hard for me.  Sometimes the weight of these emotions on my shoulders has been significant and even crippling at times.  A while ago, I saw Nassir Ghaemi interviewed on The Colbert Report, concerning his recent book, A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness

I found Ghaemi's thesis so encouraging: that during crisis times in history a person with a non-psychotic mental illness such as depression or anxiety is of more use than a person who scores high on the optimism scales and would generally be described as mentally healthy.  This is because a person who battles depression or anxiety has certain qualities such as resilience and realism that well-equip them to deal with trying times, qualities which the average healthy person does not possess in the necessary quantities.  Well, I have had A First-Rate Madness on my library waiting list for a while, so in the meantime, I got a book that follows the same theory, but zeroes in on just one great person from history, Abraham Lincoln.  The book is Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk.

For any person who struggles with any mood disorder and wonders what the point of it all is, this is highly recommended reading.  Abraham Lincoln's journey with depression is carefully portrayed, with all the fine elements of story.  This is no dry history book, but a living, pulsing account of the private agony that Lincoln suffered throughout the course of his life.  It emerged publicly in young adulthood and at that time, Lincoln's friends sought to protect him from suicidal urges.  Later, Lincoln's depression became quieter and more indrawn, particularly after his marriage to Mary Todd.  He was able to use the energy of his depression to fuel a larger purpose, for which he became relentless and more determined over time, the cause of ending slavery.

Shenk shows how Lincoln was able to deal with the complex times into which he was thrust through the perseverance that he developed dealing with depression throughout his life.  He shows how Lincoln developed patience that enabled him to plod through, steady as the tortoise to the hare.  He shows how despondent he was over his failures but so willing to continue in what he believed.  He shows how Lincoln overcame his suicidal tendencies to live for something greater than himself, how brave this was, and how Lincoln can be a profound role model for the depressive.  As I was reading the book, I said to myself, "there is no way Shenk could write about the agony of depression the way he does unless he himself had suffered from it."  And sure enough, a perusal of his website reveals that part of the attraction to Lincoln's story for him was that Shenk was battling depression.  It appears that Lincoln's character became profoundly transformative for him, just as I believe it will be for any depressive who reads this book.

Lincoln's story gave me great courage in thinking of what the life of a depressive can look like through the years of life. So often, it is easy to look at "just now" and feel that all is lost.  But if I can train myself to take the long view, as Lincoln did, I can let the storms of depression carve my character out of the rock of life.  I can nurture in myself creativity, resilience, and realism that will make me available to the challenges of leadership that come my way.  Rather than viewing my depression and anxiety as shameful, I can look at them as opportunities to deal with life as it really is, rather than with avoidance of challenges.  Depression can be an awful burden but it can also be a great gift.  I have written before about leaning into the pain (rather than avoiding it) and how that has been a helpful metaphor for me in dealing with depression.  Shenk's book on Lincoln provides even more hope to embrace the gift of depression and the benefits it brings with it which would not otherwise be possible.

I'm linking this post up to Momma Made it Look Easy and you should too!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Resolutions Challenge: Join up!

If you follow my blog on Facebook, you know that I've begun a Fall Resolutions Challenge through the middle of November.  The challenge is basically to make a weekly goal for the next month and see it through.  You can find accountability to accomplish your goal through the Flathead Mama blogging community.  There's still time to join up, if you're interested.  Just go to my page on Facebook, click "like" and post your challenge for the month.  Make sure the challenge is something simple and achievable for you.

Where did this idea come from?  Well, check out this post for the back story.  I guess I just finally got tired of being out of shape to an extent even shocking for a sedentary person like myself.  I know that I'll never be a great athlete, but surely I can take some simple steps to be a bit healthier.  I also know that since I suffer from anxiety and depression, exercise can be a powerful boost to mood.  I read an article in Oprah's magazine a few years ago that cited research showing that exercise can be as effective as an antidepressant. 

Anyway, I have made the goal for myself to get in three workouts a week, either walking for a half hour or doing a Pilates routine (if it's raining).  This seems like an achievable goal for me and I sat down with my husband to discuss how we could make it happen realistically in our schedule.  It's just about getting some movement and feeling and looking healthier. 

For me, I feel that exercise that is natural has a better chance of succeeding.  Hence, walking!  The Flathead Valley is beautiful this time of the year as the leaves begin to change.  I love the smells of wet leaves, moist earth, and pine trees.  I love the fresh, clean air.  I love the beautiful mountains, jutting up into the sky.  Honestly, it's a real shame to live in such a beautiful place and spend so little time (lately) getting out in God's creation.  And yet, it is rainy season again in the Flathead, so I wanted to make sure to have an alternate plan in case it did rain.  Pilates is a fun activity I have enjoyed for a few years now.  It's a great form of exercise for someone like me who has bad knees and is not a great athlete.  It is low impact and is able to be challenging no matter how much you practice it.  It requires a lot of concentration and deep breathing too which is wonderful for people who struggle with anxiety.  I still would prefer a walk out in nature but if need be, I have a back-up plan.

And I have to say, after a couple of walks, I have come home feeling alive and exhilarated!  It's amazing what a little fresh air and getting your blood flowing can do for a person.  It's also a great time to unplug from noise, electronic devices, and stress and just reflect, pray and enjoy creation.

So, those are my goals for the next month.  Who wants to join me?  Don't forget...Go to my page on Facebook to join up.  Your goal does not have to be fitness-related, by the way.  It can be any simple, achievable goal.  Happy Goal-making!

Friday, October 14, 2011

if only magic would work!

Today, I went to buy some new clothes.  And as I tried them on in the fitting room, I came to see through the multi-mirror view that I now have shall we say "cute baby chubs" despite my not being the aforementioned cute baby.  Since I have always been a very slim girl with a high metabolism who could eat almost anything I wanted (yes, I know...hate me!), it came as a bit of a shock.  I have been eating a lot of butter lately and not exercising much, so I guess it shouldn't be much of a surprise, but I've not had much trouble in the past with the same scenario.  I guess you can blame the famous slowed-down metabolism of aging!  I came out and asked my husband why he didn't tell me that I had these not so adorable rolls.  He claimed not to have noticed (bless the man!).  I was discussing this with him while Burrito was eating dinner tonight and upon finding out that I was upset that I had these "chubs" going on, she promptly got out her pretend wand a la Fairy Godmother, shook it over me, and said, "Bibbidi Bobbodi Boo!"  If only....If only...:-)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

self-care for moms

I think that one of the toughest challenges for us as Moms is make sure that we give ourselves good care.  We tend to put ourselves last on the list and then after we neglect ourselves over and over again, we eventually get to the point where we get so resentful of not having our needs met that we explode!  Well, at least that's how it works for me sometimes. 

There are some ways in which I'm great at self-care and some ways in which I seriously stink.  Have you ever heard the HALT acronym?  It tells us to never let ourselves get too "Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired."  Trouble will result when we allow that to happen.  I routinely let myself get in these states, however.  One of my biggest offenses is letting myself get too hungry.  This was particularly true when Burrito was a baby.  It seemed that I never got enough to eat or drink and I would get ravenously hungry and then I would start getting angry.  Sigh.  I'm trying to learn to remember to eat enough.  Unfortunately, now that I'm remembering and Burrito isn't nursing anymore, I find I am gaining a little bit of weight.  Not an insane amount, but still.  Now, I must remember not just to eat, but to eat more vegetables and fruit!

Here are the top 5 self-care practices that I find important to making sure my "cup" is filled.  Unless I am filled up, I find I don't have a lot to give out.

After you read my list, please share your list!  What are your top 5 self-care practices?

1. Reading the Bible.  My husband and I generally read the Bible at night together before going to bed.  We tend to read through whole books.  Right now, we are in the Gospel of Luke.  We read a small portion, discuss it and say our prayers.  I'm searching for a better way to do a personal time of Bible reading, however.  After all, we are pretty tired when we read the Word at night.  Still, I'm glad that we do.  I find it even more helpful to attend a regular Bible study in town.  I gather with some other moms who are in the same stage of life and there is free child care.  I get a lot out of this undistracted time of studying God's Word.

2. Sleep.  I think I've written before about my battles with insomnia.  Until I went through this trial a couple of years ago, I don't think I realized how precious sleep is.  I know I definitely appreciated it much more now.  I usually get around 8 hours of sleep at night.  And it feels good!

3. Community.  I find that I get a little weird when I'm not in community.  I need people around me, friends to talk with, to joke with, to share my heart with.  If I don't have people with whom I regularly share my life, people in the flesh, then I start getting really in-drawn and depressed.  But I feel most whole when I have people to talk to.

4. Eating.  Like, whole grains, protein, veggies and fruit.  It's so easy to forget to eat this stuff but it's amazing how some apples dipped in peanut butter or a piece of cheese will pick me up.  If I'm getting grouchy, I need to remind myself to eat something healthy. 

5. Doing things I love.  That means, reading for fun!  I have a huge list of books I hope to check out from the library all the time.  I love to read...especially dramatic plots and books that open my world up to understand things differently.  I love how reading makes me a better writer.  And so writing is also a very important part of self-care for me.  Writing is like my third arm.  It's been a part of me since I was a little girl and I am not whole without it.  And in the category of things I love is also the enjoyment of good movies and TV shows.  There's something very relaxing for me as an introvert in curling up on the couch and enjoying a favorite show.  It's great to have that down time when nothing is required of me. 

So, those are my 5.  What are yours?

Monday, October 10, 2011

multitudes on monday (66-70)

This week I am thankful for:
66. A great class on Lutheran evangelism that we are streaming to our church through the Institute for Lutheran Theology (ILT).  This is great timing for me to have such a wonderful, Biblically-based class as I've been struggling with some related questions.

67. The blessing of a great Sunday School program for my daughter that encourages her to grow in her faith.

68.  A great talk with a friend who lives far away and who understands me so very well.  And loves Jesus!

69.  That my husband is back from his 5-day trip to a church conference!  I always appreciate him more when he returns from a trip!

70. That the week when Daddy was gone, we were safe and everything went fine.  And we had great fellowship with friends so that we were not lonely!

What are you thankful for today?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

what evangelicals mean when they call mormonism a "cult"

I think that as the election season begins to heat up, I will probably begin to incorporate more posts about politics into my blog.  I promise to try my best not to be reactive, but instead to be reflective and think carefully about what I write.  Please feel free to share alternate opinions (or agreeing ones!), but with respect and kindness to me and to other commenters!  Thanks!

The political world is all atwitter about the evangelical pastor who introduced Rick Perry at an event and called Mormonism a cult.  Perry later said he did not agree with the sentiment and that he didn't choose who introduced him.

To me, this was a non-event.  Except that I was initially a little surprised to find that Rick Perry, as an evangelical Christian, did not view Mormonism as a cult. I have always believed Mormonism to be a cult.  This does not mean that I disliked Mormons as people or felt that they were unworthy of participation in society.  In fact, there were some things that I thought they did better than some Christians: family values, the willingness to commit to being a missionary, the courage to be different in society.  I'd be very happy to have Mormon friends.  I have no problem with them in leadership and judge them the same as I do other leaders (are they good people of character? etc.).  I just don't think they are saved.  I don't think they trust Jesus as their Savior.

But for the first time today, I stopped to analyze the word "cult" and to wonder what the non-Christian world hears when they hear the word, "cult." I  began to wonder if what they hear is "weird, chanting, Kool-aid drinkers."  Which is not what I mean when I use the word, "cult."  What I mean is that Mormonism, although it calls itself "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," is a religious group that falls outside the beliefs of orthodox Christianity.  The main issue with Mormonism is that it denies core teachings of the Christian faith.

But given this definition, I am beginning to think that it may be more helpful language for us to use as evangelical Christians to call Mormonism "another religion." This still respects the fundamental difference between its beliefs and orthodox Christianity while not using language that suggests child sacrifice and mass killings (to some hearers).  It gives a better opportunity for witnessing too because we're just being honest about the significant (and salvation-impacting) differences instead of calling names.

I have had an issue for a long time with the religious significance many Christians give to the self-named religious revelations of another Mormon, Glenn Beck.  I'm not gonna wrangle too hard with you as a Christian if you agree with him politically.  But if you are a Christian and you ascribe spiritual significance to what he teaches, I am very concerned, because he is not a Christian.  He is the proponent of another religion.  He has every right to participate in society, and even to practice his religious beliefs and speak about them.  He has every right to use his free speech.  But as a Christian, I should be getting my spiritual guidance from my church, from other Christians, and from the Bible.

But I don't have a problem with Mitt Romney being a Mormon, in terms of whether he should be President.  He's not trying to guide me spiritually.  He's trying to assume an elected office.  Martin Luther once said something along the lines that he would rather have a wise Turk than a stupid Christian ruling in the land.  I agree.  I think that we don't have to have a Christian be the President.  I think it's great if there's a smart Christian who will lead well and have good ideas and morals, but if the best candidate is not a Christian, it's ok.  There is a difference between the realm of the church and the realm of the government.  And sometimes it's healthy for the church not to have all the power.  Look at how strong the church was in ancient Rome when it was persecuted by rulers who were far from God.  And look how ugly the church got when Constantine converted to Christianity and made the whole empire Christian.  Sometimes Christianity functions best as a minority.  Why?  Because we do not rely on our own strength but on God and we lean hard on Him.  We grow in our faith far more this way.

I submit these thoughts for your consideration in the midst of the broo-haha surrounding "that Mormon remark."  With all love and respect.:-)

Friday, October 7, 2011

your mommy "sweet spot"

There are many times as a mother when I feel that I am not good enough.  For example, I stand in awe of "crafty moms."  They know how to do things with beads and buttons and glue guns that I can't even envision.  Granted, having Burrito has made me a little more open to crafty things.  We color and paint and I haven't really done that since I was a kid.  But sometimes I look at other moms who can really come up with all kinds of creative, adorable projects and sew their kids' clothes and I just feel, well, inadequate. 

But I'm coming to realize that there are strengths I have that other moms don't.  For example, a lot of moms don't like to cook.  They don't feel confident in it and haven't had their moms teach them to do it.  They may be great at teaching their kid to horseback ride or dance, however.  They may be fantastic at coming up with kid games.  They just have other strengths.

Well, for me, cooking is one of my very favorite things to do with Burrito.  She's getting to the stage where she loves to stand on a chair next to me while I cook and either help me or ask about every step of the process.  I suppose this might annoy some moms.  And the constant questions annoy me in other tasks.  But not with cooking.  I feel pretty confident with cooking.  Most of the time, I know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.  And I think I'm pretty good at teaching cooking too.  Burrito knows by now that we spoon out the flour and smooth it over with a knife.  She knows why we put bay leaves in the flour container  (to keep the weevils out!).  She has been taught why we put the pie crust in the fridge before rolling it out.  She knows that yeast and time make bread rise.  It's so much fun for me to teach her, too.  I love her eager, open mind and her enthusiasm for cooking.  I like to think that she gains some of that enthusiasm from my delight in cooking.  It brings me joy to share one of my favorite activities with her and to know that she is gaining a life skill that will serve her well down the road.

My second sweet spot as a mom is in taking Burrito to the library.  She has already caught Mommy's attitude toward this most wonderful place on earth and always comes home with lots of books.  No matter how many books either of us have, we always want more.  She often spends lots of time in her room, before sleeping or when she wakes up, sitting and paging through books quietly.  I love her enthusiasm for books.  And she's already recognizing most of her letters (thank you, Super Why!) and even an occasional word.  I love her love of words, stories and beautiful pictures.

My third sweet spot as a mom is taking Burrito to interesting cultural and artistic experiences.  In our town, we have an art museum and every time there is a new exhibit, we stop by to look at it.  Some of them interest her more than others, but sometimes she requests to stop by, rather than just me suggesting it.  I think she is getting something out of it and I love the opportunity to expose her to the arts and beautiful things.  We also have great theater in our area, including Children's Theater.  I love taking her to see plays (which she, amazingly, mostly sits still for).  And then there are fun experiences like food festivals, farmer's markets, museums, and live music.  And soon, I hope to take her to her first ballet.  I love being able to share a rich cultural experience with my daughter and I love seeing her enthusiasm for the arts.  It's beautiful seeing it through her eyes and we almost always make a great memory together.

No, I can't do great arts and crafts.  I can't sew.  I'm not the best home decorator.  But I'm pretty darn good at cooking with my kid, reading with her, and exposing her to great cultural experiences.  I'm learning that every mom has strengths and weaknesses.  Every kid will miss out on some stuff.  Every kid will have some special experiences.  And kids catch your enthusiasm for what you love. 

So, I'm curious...what is your mommy "sweet spot"?  Please share! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

gov. chris christie: saying no to big opportunities

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has done several things recently that have impressed me quite a bit.  I don't know his politics much and haven't taken much time to study his positions on the issues that matter to me.  But I know that as a leader and as a human being, I am really coming to respect him. 

The first thing moment that greatly impressed me was when Christie appointed a Muslim-American lawyer who had defended terrorism suspects (who never ended up being charged) as a New Jersey Superior Court judge.  The pick was criticized by certain bloggers and columnists, charging that the judge would be more likely to attempt to follow Shariah law.  To this, Chris Christie responded, "This Shariah law business is crap.  It’s just crazy and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies."  He knew the judge personally and defended his character and reputation.  This reply to the controversy from a Republican made me sit up and pay attention.  Yes, both parties have their problems, but I have seen all too many "fear-mongering" techniques to gain votes coming from the Republican party lately.  It's not necessarily a popular Republican position to suggest that a Muslim judge could be a great judge.  Christie didn't care.  He spoke the truth as he saw it.  That takes guts.

The second thing that Christie did that caused me to sit up and pay attention happened this week.  Despite intense pressure from important and ordinary people alike, Chris Christie decided not to run for President at this time.  A lot of people would probably yield to the pressure.  A lot of politicians are so lacking in a personal compass and so lacking in an internal sense of purpose and worth that they will jump at being asked to doing something important, even if the timing is wrong, even if it means abdicating important commitments, even if they feel unprepared, even if people are trodden underfoot.  Because their sense of importance is tied to achievement and opportunity, they just can't say no

Christie showed a different example for us all.  Despite the extremely flattering attempts of powerful and everyday people to get him to run, Christie considered it carefully, but in the end decided that he needed to finish his commitment to New Jersey.  He said that he worked hard to get that job and wanted to be true to his commitment.  I think this shows character, something I always look for in the people I vote for. 

But Christie's response to this opportunity left me thinking even more about the character I am attempting to develop in my own life.  The character to do things because I feel called to do them, not because I feel pressured to do them.  It has been a hard realization for me that I am a people-pleaser.  Oh, how disappointing!  I always thought I was more hard-core than that!  But no, I often do things to get people to approve of me.  I often do things in order to gain the success that I use to feed my self-esteem.  Rather, than living out of a sense of purpose and giftedness, I often find myself doing things in order to fit the mold of what people expect of me. 

This was a big problem for me as a young pastor because I had 600 bosses and was always worried that I was not doing things correctly enough, that I was not filling the picture people had of what a pastor should be, that I was not giving people enough of their money's worth.  It turned into a crazy treadmill as I tried hard to please but felt it falling flat sometimes because I wasn't always being true to myself.  I often thought of myself as putting on the "proper pastor" mask.  I had things to say, challenges to make, a different way of living that I was often afraid to express because of the fear of social disapproval.  But really, it isn't other people's fault that I felt this way.  It's mine.  I idolized people above God because of my own inner uncertainty about myself.  Getting approval from people can easily become more important than getting God's approval.  (And maybe that's because we can see other people, but we can't see God.  But that's why Scripture teaches us to live by faith.)

I was worried that I would fall into this same tendency as I now serve as a pastor's wife.  There are plenty of ideas of what a pastor's wife should be like and I knew my tendency to people-please by now.  I also know my tendency to over-commit myself in order to feed my self-esteem. 

Well, I have been working hard on this problem.  First of all, I actually took a "big gulp moment" and told the council and call committee about my struggles with people pleasing and my worries about being a pastor's wife.  And it was so freeing!  To be real about those struggles! 

And I am working hard on how I respond to others.  I won't say that I am always successful in resisting the urges to be a people-pleaser, but I am getting a little better at it.  I have said "no" to a couple of big opportunities lately.  I think that a few years ago, I probably would have said yes, because I would have thought, "If I don't do this now, another opportunity will never roll around again!"  I would have thought, "If I don't do this (even though I don't feel ready or even though it doesn't feel right), the success train will pass me by."  Now, I am learning (emphasis on the learning) to say no and trust God instead of my own achievement.  I am learning to trust that if I am true to what I can handle and do a quality job at now, if I put my priorities in the right place, if I tell the truth, if I dare to ask for what I'm worth in work matters, I will find peace.  It is so freeing to say no to opportunities!  It is freeing to know that I don't have to be God and do everything.  I just need to do what I'm called to do and do it well. 

I'm grateful to Gov. Christie for putting his ego aside and making a decision that was best for his state, his family, and ultimately himself.  I don't know if he had any faith reason for making this decision.  I know that faith in Christ has helped me greatly in finding the inner worth that I long for and that I have too often tried to find in achievement and pleasing people.  I am worthy though I am a sinner because Christ loved me and died for me.  Because I am already worthy, I am free to make decisions based on good reasons to do things, instead of reasons like "if I don't do this, I will never get another chance!"  I don't always remember that I am free.  But I am learning to remember.

Monday, October 3, 2011

multitudes on monday (61-65)

This week I am thankful for:

61. The continued blessing of "computer Sabbath" on Sunday. 

62. The joy of a wonderful date with my husband on Friday.  The joy of having places to go with him that refresh me and quiet my sometimes anxious heart.

63.  A daughter who sat still at church on Sunday and mostly behaved (except for the moment when her blankie went airborne during the service!).

64. A community that feels like a family to me.

65. The continuing opportunity to do something regularly that engages me and fills me with joy: write.

What are you thankful for today?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

my favorite restaurant in the flathead valley: When in Rome

I've mentioned Bigfork's When in Rome (which used to be called Sun Mountain) before but have not yet devoted a full post to my favorite restaurant in the Flathead.  As the restaurant gets more and more popular, perhaps a post becomes less and less relevant because so many people are writing about When in Rome.  Even the Food Network declared their pizza to be the best in Montana.  They are written up in the newspaper all the time.  And their "Best Pizza Ever" pie won second place in the nontraditional western division of the International Pizza Expo competition and fourth place for the traditional western competition.  And, oh yes, it is that good.  More on that later. 

If everybody is writing about When in Rome (and rightly so, because they deserve every bit of honor they are getting), why add my voice to the pack?  Well, because this is partly a food blog and I can't avoid writing about my favorite restaurant in the Flathead: The place that creates pure happiness for me.  The place that makes me feel for an evening like I've been dropped into the heart of Europe.  And...mark it down...I loved it before it was this popular. 

Our first trip to When in Rome occurred when we came to visit the church where my husband now works in Montana.  We were knee-deep in the heart of an unexciting-food micro-town of North Dakota, where eating out meant getting a pizza from the local Cenex, complete with ingredients that barely resembled food and tasted like they had been sitting in engine oil for years.  Gross. 

So, you can understand how enchanted we were when we stepped into When in Rome (then called Sun Mountain) and found that we could get a soda and two huge slices of artisan-quality pizza with fine ingredients for $5 for lunch (now the special is $6, but it's still a great deal).  The idea that we could live in a place where we could get outstanding food like this was astounding, starved as we were for the real thing (There were many great home cooks in North Dakota, but most restaurants were unimpressive and uninspiring at best.)

Now that we have moved to Montana, we have visited lots of area restaurants, but we keep coming back to When in Rome.  You can get a beautiful large pizza for $15-25 for take-out, but we almost always eat in the restaurant.  Yes, it's more expensive, when you consider tip and drinks and the inevitable appetizer that calls our name, but it's worth it for the ambiance and the joy that eating in a place where the owners (Engjell Vrapi and Kaleigh Brook, a married couple) put such passion into everything that they do.  

It's a pleasure to sit and watch them in the kitchen, putting such detail and beauty into their food.  It's a joy to talk to their talented servers who love the food they serve and who present it without pretension.  It's the rare thing when great food people can welcome you in to what they do, instead of making you feel "outside the club."  When in Rome achieves hospitality and artistry at the same time.  A couple on a date, a seasoned retired couple, or a family with small children are equally at home.  The dining room is small and intimate, decorated with many lovely touches that suggest Europe.  Rick Steves always plays on the flat-screen TV, making you feel as if you're looking out the window to the beauties of Europe. Tables are adorned with simple cut flowers.  Vrapi directs his kitchen with joy and fine organization, donning a white chef's coat.  

I find myself relaxing when I go to When in Rome.  The stress melts away.  And the food!  Oh, the food!

When in Rome has a menu of Mediterranean dishes (mostly pasta), always an interesting special, and some inventive salads.  We love it all, but we especially love the pizza.

When we visited last night, we had the spanakopita, a dish that I enjoy but rarely get too excited about.  But this time, from my first bite, I was in bliss.  The delicate layers of phyllo melted in my mouth, buttery and crisp.  There was a delicious tzatziki dipping sauce that only enhanced the cheesy, buttery taste.  I was in heaven.  

Pepperoni/"Best Pizza Ever"
I was primed and ready and the pizza arrived a few moments later.  We had ordered half pepperoni and half "Best Pizza Ever."  Both are beautiful pizzas.  The crust is a thin crust, crusty on the edges and soft and tender in the heart of the pie.  The pepperoni pizza uses the best quality meat I have ever had on a pizza, salty, herb-infused, zesty.  The zesty red sauce makes a perfect match for this pizza.  The "Best Pizza Ever" is a white pizza with more of that great pepperoni, roasted red peppers, red onions, gorgonzola cheese and garlic.  It came to us piping hot and full of buttery and deep, rich flavor.  The sweetness of the peppers and onions and the sharpness of the cheese with the saltiness of the meat make it a melt in your mouth affair.  I had it with a glass of the red wine special (Italian wines are featured in this restaurant) and as I sat there consuming such beautiful food and drink, I was filled with such happiness.  Exciting, approachable food, a beautiful atmosphere, the joy of my husband's company.  What more could I ask for? 

When in Rome, baby.  When in Rome.
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