Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Vacation: Seattle, Portland and the Oregon Coast (Part 1)

I just returned from our family vacation last week.  I had been keeping my expectations low for vacation.  Would I be able to sleep on the road?  (Thanks to insomnia, this is often a problem for me.)  Would I feel well enough to walk around and see the sights?  Would I be able to eat anything good (thanks to continuing nausea)?

I have to say that things went better than expected.  We went to bed early each night, woke up early and spent our mornings (when I had more energy) walking around and doing fun things.  When I began to crash in early afternoon, we returned to our hotel and Christopher took Burrito to the pool or somewhere else fun and I laid down and rested.  It worked pretty well!  I'm a bit disappointed that my nausea limitations kept me from enjoying as much of the ample foodie-friendly cuisine to be found on the coast as I would have liked, but I'm happy that I did manage to try a few highlights.  Now, I will simply have to return another time when I am feeling better!

In Seattle, we bought the City Pass and found it a great way to save money and simplify our site-seeing.  My favorite site was the Space Needle, which was a super classy way to see the views in Seattle.  They had one of the best gift shops among the city's attractions too.  I will have to return sometime to sip a glass of red wine from the top of Seattle.

We also managed to escape the rain for a day and get to the Woodland Park Zoo, which was fun for Burrito.  She also greatly enjoyed the Aquarium, which is super toddler-friendly.  In one section, kids can reach into touching pools and touch starfish and other underwater animals.  Christopher and Burrito, my science buffs, enjoyed the Science Museum quite a bit.  We took a Harbor Tour through Argosy Cruises as well.  The boat could have been a bit cleaner but our tour guide was well informed and entertaining and we enjoyed being out on the water.

My very favorite place in Seattle, though, was the Pike Place Market!  This, my friends, is foodie mecca!  If I lived in Seattle, I think I would do most of my grocery shopping there.  From fresh farm vegetables and fruit, freshly caught fish (I forgot how good fresh fish smell), handmade cheese (and you can even see it made at Beecher's Handmade Cheese), sausages and prepared meats, bakeries....This is the home of beautiful food!  We spent the morning of my birthday at Pike Place and it was wonderful.

We stopped at the beautiful Le Panier Bakery and sampled pain au chocolat along with gorgeous, colorful macaroons.  This may be hard to believe, but I had never had real French macaroons before.  Now I see what all the fuss is about!  We had orange and lemon macaroons.  Little pillows of joy!

We lunched at Pike Place Chowder; their clam chowder is the best I've ever had: buttery and flavorful!  We enjoyed the joy of the fish tossers and the live musicians and the general happiness among everyone working and shopping in the market.  And of course I had to visit the original Starbucks and grab a birthday mocha!  Pretty sure it tasted better from the original store!:-)

We also managed to stop by one of the most famous food trucks in Seattle and the United States: Maximus Minimus.  This pig-shaped food truck has been featured on a number of TV shows and is known for its pulled pork sandwiches, with either Maximus (spicy) or Minimus (sweet) barbecue sauce.  We also got some delicious mac and cheese that is prepared by Beecher's and available in the Market, topped off with some Maximus sauce.  It was all pretty crave-worthy. 

In my next post, I'll share why keeping Portland weird is not an unreachable goal and how the ocean is the best place to be, even if a toddler is nagging at you the whole time.

To be continued...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nik Wallenda and the Power of Awe

Friday night, stuntman Nik Wallenda (descendant of the Flying Wallendas) became the first (and perhaps only?) person to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  He did this on a tightrope the width of three pennies and the length of four football fields.  He did this in the midst of rain and swirling wind.  He did wear a safety tether (something he had never used before in his tightrope walks but required by ABC, the sponsoring network).  The safety tether hardly took away the danger, however.  Even with the tether, this was a very dangerous stunt.

Wallenda was calm and cool as a cucumber as he approached the walk and even as reporters asked him questions in the midst of the walk.  Before he got on the wire, one reporter asked him how he managed to stay so calm.  Did he use some sort of meditation to keep his cool?  Wallenda replied, "I have the peace of God in Christ."  Until this statement, I had been unaware that Wallenda is a self-described born-again Christian.  But he shortly was about to make sure everyone knew.  All the way across the wire, the miked Wallenda was heard saying over and over again, "Thank you, Lord God.  Thank you, Jesus."  For a half hour on network television, an earnest Christian was praising God without censorship.  Wallenda said he felt incredibly privileged to see the splendor of the Falls as no human ever had before.  The joy of the moment for him (despite its difficulty and even suffering) was clear.  What was also clear was that he could do no other than walk that tightrope.  it was where he belonged.

What Wallenda taught us as he walked across the Falls was the power of awe.  He taught us the power of worship.  Intensely concentrating in order to maintain his balance and composure, Wallenda's mind was on His God who had given him the incredible ability to pull of this stunt and who had created wonders of creation such as Niagara Falls.  And so he gave witness to Christ all the way across the Falls.

In a world of iPhones, iPads, iPods, laptops and numerous other distracting devices, for those with the eyes to see, there was a pull into a moment where we sat down, riveted and in awe.  A quick perusal of Twitter after the walk revealed plenty of snark and sarcasm in response to this incredible feat, but many people also sat on the edge of their seat watching Wallenda.  We were in awe of what he was doing, but also in awe of the grandeur of creation.  Wonder.  Awe.  Worship.  When was the last time you stopped what you were doing to focus on God and the amazing world He has created?  When was the last time you said with the Psalmist,
"When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)

Wallenda said his goal was to inspire people everywhere.  He has certainly inspired me...to stop before the burning bush and be still...to remember that Wikipedia has not conquered the world, for the world is far more mysterious and wondrous than humans can ever describe, organize, or understand...to know that I cannot experience everything there is to know through the internet.  He has inspired me to stop and really focus and see this incredible world God has made.  He has inspired me to worship boldly my awesome God.  Well done, Nik Wallenda.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review Friday: Creating with God by Sarah Jobe

As I have been struggling through the first trimester of this pregnancy (perhaps more than the previous pregnancy?), I was desperate for an uplifting, Biblical perspective on the sufferings I was undergoing.  Certainly, they are not as bad as the suffering of infertility (for my sufferings are short in time and have a good end ahead), chronic illness, or so many other forms of suffering.  But these truths do not negate the difficulties that one does indeed face, going through the nausea, the deep-down exhaustion, the struggle with caring for one's family in the midst of these challenges.  That I am not suffering in the worst possible way does not negate that I am suffering as a pregnant woman, suffering in order to bring life into the world.

The suffering of pregnancy and childbirth is so significant that the Apostle Paul wrote about it in Romans 8 as a metaphor for the Christian life this side of heaven: "22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies" (NIV).

I have been struggling greatly with my attitude as well.  I've been feeling sorry for myself and in sore need of perspective.  In the midst of this struggle, I found myself searching the Christian pregnancy books on Amazon.com.  The most intriguing title was Sarah Jobe's Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy (Paraclete Press).

Jobe had my attention right away when, in the prologue, she described her best friend, Holly, who couldn't wait to get her maternity clothes out of storage for yet another pregnancy.  Holly loved pregnancy.  But Jobe lets us know, "I love Holly.  But I think you should know, right from the start, that I'm not that type of pregnant woman....I won't say that I hated pregnancy.  But I can't say that I loved it either.  Pregnancy was the most difficult endeavor I have ever undertaken."  Jobe says this in spite of two uncomplicated pregnancies.  It was simply the mundane miseries of being pregnant that were so difficult for her.  I read this and thought, "Here is someone I can relate to!"  Jobe has the added benefit of serving as a Baptist minister; I can also relate to her on the level of a woman in ministry (but her book would be beneficial for any Christian woman).

This book provided numerous insights from the Scriptures on how to deal with the indignities and sufferings of pregnancy.  Jobe writes, "This book is about naming.  But it's not about naming our babies.  It's more about naming ourselves.  In this book, I will muster up the courage of Eve, the courage that motherhood has given me, to make some bold and joyous proclamations.  I will name the work of pregnancy as the work of God.  I will name the pregnant women around me as the image of Christ.  I will call the pains of pregnancy 'spiritual disciplines.'"  So often the nausea, pain, tears, and exhaustion seem so pointless--especially before you can feel the baby move.  The pregnancy seems theoretical; though you know you are growing a child in your womb, you have nothing but negative symptoms to tell you this.  How good it is to know that it is not for nothing!  God is seeking to bring spiritual growth in our lives in this time, in addition to the physical growth of our babies.

One of the most important areas of spiritual growth is learning to rest in God.  Rather than frenetically doing and going, a pregnant woman must rest.  Jobe writes, "We can try to work even when our bodies cry for us to do otherwise.  Or we can rest like God does in Genesis.  We can learn a  Sabbath rest that God calls blessed and holy."  Viewed this way, even the exhaustion of pregnancy is an opportunity, not a burden.

One of my favorite insights from the book was Jobe's point that the way a mother feeds her baby, both while the child is in the womb and through breastfeeding is a powerful metaphor for how Christ feeds us spiritually through communion.  Just as Jesus said to us that His body is real food and His blood is real drink, so our bodies too become food and drink for our babies.  This provides a very human connection point to understand one of the most challenging doctrines of the church and to understand it experientially. 

There are many other powerful insights in this book.  I found it extremely helpful in weathering the physical challenges of pregnancy and finding meaning in them.  I also appreciated Jobe's conversational tone that was very accessible to any young mother.  If there is any caution I would offer, it would be to be aware that there are female metaphors for God in this book.  I did not, however, find them objectionable because each one was well supported from Scripture.  There are times when Jobe uses female pronouns for God, which is not my preference, but because she was dealing with female-oriented metaphors each time she did this, I was able to follow her.  She does not exclusively use female pronouns for God, which I found important.  I hope this aspect will not keep women away from this book, however.  There are so many insights Jobe provides that it is worth weathering a difference in terminology.  I also trust Jobe's writing because it is solidly based in Scripture.

4.5 stars. Highly Recommended.

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