Quail and Why It’s Bad

Last time I wrote (too long ago) we were on the verge of a six month trip to America.  That is over and done and I still have a lot of mental unpacking to do.  The current chunk of thought I am processing came from the Biblical story in Numbers 11.  The Israelites, sick of manna, started complaining that they wanted meat.   So God promised them that they would have meat “until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it.”  Of course they scoffed and of course God delivered because He can.  So much quail flew (or were blown?) in from the sea, flying so low that you could just reach up and grab one out of the air.  At least that’s how I read it as a kid.  Either way, lots of meat.  “But while the meat was still between their teeth” they were struck with a plague and some of them died.  So when they buried those people, they named the place “Kibroth Hattaavah.”  Graves of craving.

First of all, I’d like to make clear that America did not come out of my nostrils.  I don’t loathe it.  But the rest of the story speaks so clearly to my situation that I have been pondering it continuously for the last couple of weeks.  I spent a lot of time living in Europe craving certain things that America can provide.  Easier grocery shopping trips.  Cheaper clothes.  Babysitting from grandparents.  Mint Oreos.  English all around me.  Family.  Sunnier days.  The list goes on and on.  The thing about me and about the Israelites is that our craving for things we thought we wanted blinded us to the miracles God was already doing.  Manna!  What is that?!  A miracle of food delivered daily (except not on the Sabbath) to thousands of people.  The only way to not be satisfied with something so amazing is to be greedy for something else.

Craving is greed.  All those things I craved about America were an active dismissal of the things I already had, a glaring sign to God and those around me that I was not appreciating my daily manna, the miracles God was showering me with all the time.  I’m still trying to open my eyes to all these blessings – a testimony to how badly dissatisfaction blunted my sight.

All those things I craved, I had in abundance in America.  Six months of it.  While no plague hit me, thankfully, I wonder if there is a spiritual plague that comes with this.  When my cravings were finally gratified, they had no taste.  Because I had taught myself to be dissatisfied with what I have.  When we teach ourselves to complain, we will complain in any circumstances.  How could I enjoy quail when I wasn’t satisfied with the miracle of manna?  Graves of craving.  Craving kills satisfaction with anything.  And those graves of craving became a monument to me of my foolishness.

So my task now is to see the manna.  To desire knowing God, not to reject Him by craving for more than what He’s given me today.  To stop drooling over the thought of meat – because it won’t ever taste as good as the manna.  Today’s blessings will always top any granted wish.  Besides, it’s ridiculous of me to think I know what’s better for me than God does.

Conversation

When I was young, and chatting up a storm at my increasingly annoyed older brother, he finally turned to me and patiently explained, “Andra, everyone gets a certain number of words to use in life.  You should be careful or you’re going to run out of words before you’re grown up and then you won’t be able to talk.”  That shut me up.

We’ll skip all of the things we could say about this (his genius, my gullibility, our relationship, misuse of power, etc).  The thing is, all this time I’d been sure he was bluffing, but now I’m not so sure.   There are days (okay, every day) when I feel at some point that I’ve just run out of words.  I’m done talking.  It is SUCH an effort to think with someone else.

Because that’s what conversation is – matching up your thoughts with someone else’s, jogging alongside another brain’s trail.  Frankly, it’s exhausting.

I think there are people who are great conversationalists and they drive the topic.  It’s not exhausting for them.  It’s just bad for those of us who are trying to get our thoughts in line with the leader.  Am I making sense?  I’ll specify.  Here’s a conversation with my little girl in the car:

“Mommy, can people sit down?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Can storks sit down?”
“Uh, yes.” [can’t they?  I think so.  Yes, I’ve seen them do it in their nest.  Good, got that one right.]

“Can cars sit down?”

“Um, not really.  No.”

“Why not?”

“Cars can drive and stop.  That’s all.  They can’t sit down.”
“Can bicycles sit down?”

This went on for quite a bit.  It seems simple (and maybe even cute to those of you who don’t deal with this every five minutes of every hour of every day) but you have to pay attention.  It’s not “uh huh” over and over while your mind wanders over the next hour of grocery shopping and plans date night.  It’s getting half-way through your own thought and getting pulled back (play back what she asked really quickly, think about it, form and answer, make yourself move your lips to answer) into the mind of a four-year old over and over.  And four-year olds are particularly prone to fantasy, which makes it even harder to get matched up with their line of thought.

Ex.Haust.Ing.

Then when my husband comes home, I’ve got to switch gears to adult-style (which is the difference between riding a purple turtle through a lake of strawberry frosting to a castle  on the shore and riding a nice Sedan through the streets of a city – not an easy transition).  The poor man gets a few coherent sentences of conversation out of me and then my words run out.  Just like my brother said they would.

So divy up your allotted amount of talking wisely.  There could be a lot of us old ladies sitting quietly, words all used up, in a few years.

Martha, Martha

I’ve been reading the story of Mary and Martha a lot lately.  (Luke 10:38-42) It keeps coming up somehow.  That’s too vague.  What I mean is that God keeps bringing it up.  Because I am totally Martha. Distracted by all the things that need to be done.

When I was a kid I read this story and thought, “Yes.  Priorities.  Sitting at the Lord’s feet is way more important than kneading bread, Martha.  Duh.  Take a clue from your sister.”  The message was clear.  I liked this story as a kid for its simplicity – even a child can understand that.

I got a little older and thought, “Yes.  Priorities.  Sitting at the Lord’s feet is way more important than doing all the tasks I always seem to feel like I need to do. Take a clue from Mary.”  I realized that I was more like Martha than like Mary (around about the time I started becoming an adult responsible for getting things done.) I worked on having my quiet time in the morning and putting God first.  (And stopped saying Duh.)

Then I got a little older (how does that keep happening?!) and thought, “Yes.  Priorities.  Relationships are more important than tasks.  Huh.  Take a hint, Andra.”  This took a little longer to grasp.  Not just Jesus (who definitely is the most important of all), but all of my relationships are more important than vacuuming.  I have to fight for this in my mind daily.

Then I got a little older and thought, “But goodness, SOMEONE has to get that cleaned up.  SOMEONE has to cook the meal.  SOMEONE has to write that email.  Lord, don’t you care that this work has to be done?  Which is it – tasks or people?”  (This was yesterday, by the way, so there isn’t much getting older in this story.)  I would LOVE to just sit around and play games with my husband, read books with a kid on each thigh all afternoon, call up all my friends every evening, throw the paperwork to the wind (Can I say that again?  It just sounds so deliciously wonderful.  Throw the paperwork to the wind.)  (And…one more time.  Throw the paperwork to the wind.  Ahhh.  Okay, I’m back.  Thanks.)

“Andra, Andra,” the Lord answered, “you are concerned about many things.”  Yes, I know.  And they won’t go away without me taking care of them.  I’m not asking for someone else to help me with them.  I really think they are my responsibility.  That, I get.  But how am I supposed to get them done and still sit at the Lord’s feet?  Still put relationships first?  This frustrates me like crazy.

I know.  Balance your time.  Take care of the people first and then you will have time to take care of your work.  Put the big rocks into your jar first and all the pebbles and sand and water will fit but if I put the pebbles and sand and water in first, the big rocks won’t fit. I know all that.  It’s not helping me.

“Only one thing is needed,” Jesus said to her.  Do I really believe that?  Just one thing?  Surely He didn’t mean we don’t need to cook.  My family would starve.  That’s not helpful for the relationship.  So what did He mean?

I think He meant right then.  One thing that evening.  Jesus, the Lord and Savior, is sitting in your house for that day.  Do you A. Make bread to serve him or B. Sit and listen to Him.  It’s your big chance, maybe your only chance, to hear the Son of God in your own house, one on one (well, two on one since Mary’s already at it.)  That choice is clear.  There should be no doubt, if Martha really thought about it.  If she had just stopped for two seconds to ask the right question.

How many things are needed?

That’s my question.  How many things are really, truly needed right now.  Sometimes, five things are needed.  So prioritize those five things and get at it.  But sometimes, only one thing is needed.  I may think that ten other things need to get done.  They probably do need to get done.  Later. But right then, only one thing is needed.  And if I can chose what is better it will not be taken away from me.  The dirty dishes may not be taken away from me either, but they will be there later.  The relational chance may not.

 

The Re-Entry

We’re prepping to be back in the States for a bit.  This is always a big deal for us – buying tickets is expensive and I always feel like I’m playing the lottery.  Sure, plop down this huge amount of money and just hope that nothing happens to prevent us from getting on that plane (like a traffic jam or worse).  Yikes.  It’s a big deal for us because our kids love love love to travel.  My son was ready to pull out the suitcases two months ago.  It’s a big deal for us because we get to see family again after months (or never, in the case of my two new nephew/nieces.  How do you make that plural when they aren’t the same?  My five new nephces.  My kids’ five new cousins.  Agh, English.) of not seeing them.

So we think and plan and dream and worry, all at the same time.  You would think, being Americans, that it would be all one big high.  We’re coming HOME!  But what does home mean?  I mean, for a traveller.  (Not where the heart is.  I mean really, specifically, what does home mean?)  We have our house and friends and school and work here.  We also have some residue of culture shock and language barrier here.  Less and less, but it’s always going to be there, that we don’t quite fit in.

The first few years of living here, returning to America meant that this culture shock, language barrier and “alienness” would dissolve and we would be among our own kind, our own people (is this sounding like we’re Martians?) who understood and we understood back.  About everything.  How to make a line behind the cash register.  How to order a sandwich.  What to do with your shopping cart.  Where to park your car.  It was a huge relief.  Familiar food.  Directions on the cleaning bottle that I could understand.  Medicine I knew was safe to give my kids.  Relief, relief, relief.  And joy.  I could make jokes.  I could understand jokes.  I could catch up on people’s lives.  Real chocolate chips.

The last time we were back, though, I found that certain things were a little bit of a culture shock for me in America.  I’ve heard of “reverse culture shock” and finally it hit me.  Tortillas (which I grew up on) are too sweet.  (Actually, everything was.  I suddenly could taste the added sugar in everything.  Why do tortillas need sugar??) Shopping carts were littered all over the parking lot (you get your “deposit coin” back when you lock it back into the cart area here, so there’s never ever been a stray shopping cart.)  Grocery bags were not filled to the brim until they started ripping (a pet peeve of mine here) but wastefully filled with about two items.

So great, I’m not at home anywhere.  It has begun- life as a nomad.  I might as well buy myself a tent.

I’m a little nervous about what is going to be a shock to me this time around.  Is even more of my “home” going to feel strange and alien to me this time around?  Will more and more chunks of my previous life fall off with each visit?

I’ve talked to my husband about this.  He’s reminded me over and over that our citizenship is in heaven, and the less we feel at home here on earth, the more we yearn for our real, lasting home.  Heaven is solid, God is unchanging, and when I get there, I will stay there.  Forever.  Suitcase and culture shock free.

In the meantime, at least you still speak English, right?

 

 

Hodge Podge

I actually don’t read too many blogs.  Kind of hypocritical of me, considering how badly I want people to read mine.  But let’s move on to my point.

So…my point.  My point with this post is to say that I don’t really have one.  Of the very few blogs I read, the thing I look for is that they are consistent.  I know what to expect: good recipes with fun commentary, hilarious lessons from life as a mom, book reviews.  THEY have a point.  And this is my official post to say, “You won’t find that here.”

I’ve tried to nail down my blog’s focus.  What am I talking about to the cybervoid?  Who am I talking to?  (To whom am I talking, if I’m talking to the grammar police.)  I’ve come to the conclusion that this is going to be the one place (besides my underwear drawer, but maybe that’s t.m.i.) where things are disorganized.  Some might complain about it being “hit or miss” or “scattered” but I’m going to term it “eclectic.”

The thing is, I’m at a place in life where I feel shallow.  I used to sit and think all sorts of deep thoughts.  I used to read all kinds of convoluted plots.  I used to write without using “I” to start three sentences in a row.  Most days now I’m not sitting at all and my thoughts are about whether I will remember to take the meat out of the freezer to defrost it.  Plots these days consist of “Will the toddler take a nap or not?”  Nail biter, chapter-turners.  Now, piteously, my writing is readable mostly thanks to trusty old spell-check.  Shallow, all of it.

But is it?  Maybe my thoughts are shallow.  Maybe my body is lazy (or just tired all the time.)  But my heart is deep, busy loving a household of big and little people.  And I guess at this point, that’s all that matters.

So when you read (or skim – I know you’re out there) my random blog posts and wonder why I’m rabbit-trailing again, or give up because I’m too “all over the place,” just chalk it up to a shallow head and a deep heart.  That means I have a lot to share but not really, which means my blog posts are not consistent or focused, which means my own blog is not on my short list of blogs I read.   Bummer.

Snack Plate

My kids are at the age when they are about to eat us out of house and home.  I used to roll my eyes when I heard other people say that.  “It’s just food. How expensive could that be?”  But now I know better.

The money issue was only part of the problem for me.  What bothered me even more was the constant pleading for more food.  I literally (and I’m not using that word figuratively) would be washing up the lunch dishes, wiping down the counters and they would walk up (from the table) and say, sandwich crumbs on their cheeks, “What can I have for a snack?”  And then all afternoon, they kept me completely informed by the half hour about how empty their poor little tummies were, begging for scraps lest they wither away and die.

I was going crazy.

So I came up with a solution.  I put a plate of food on the table every afternoon.  That is their snack allotment for the day and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  They are not allowed to ask me for anything different, or for anything else.  But here’s the winning part: They do not have to ask me if they can eat anything that’s on the snack plate.  They love this.  They get to be in charge of when and what and how much they eat (from the snack plate but at seven and four years of age, this suffices as “in charge”).  I decide on cheap, healthy choices and then get left alone the rest of the afternoon about feeding them.  I love this.  Win-win.

Sometimes I take the opportunity to clear out the cabinets.  Leftover whole-wheat crackers from our game party last weekend.  Pumpkin seeds that have been in there so long I thought they were part of the house.  Cereal bits that won’t make a whole bowl full for breakfast.

Sometimes I get fun and make a “theme.”  Round things.  (Grapes, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, and boiled eggs.) Red things. (Red bell pepper strips, strawberries, tomatoes, four red gummy bears.)  On Fridays I like to make it a special treat – banana muffins and maybe carrot sticks to balance the treat part.

Scientifically, I’m not sure how this works, but my kids will almost always completely devour whatever is on the plate.  At dinnertime, fill their plate with carrot sticks and almonds and they will totally balk and spend the entire evening sitting and staring at the grossness I’m making them eat.  But on Snack Plate, different story.  Wild.

And my husband and I find ourselves grabbing a carrot stick to munch on since it’s right there on the table.  Convenience is everything.  I’m such a big fan of this Snack Plate idea. We are all eating really healthy snacks, the kids are getting another intake of vegetables and fruits, my cabinets aren’t so stuffed with junk I bought and we never finished, and everyone is happy about being in charge of their own afternoon eating.

Now my son’s first question when I pick him up from school is, “What’s on the Snack Plate today?”  No matter that it’s a turquoise plate full of vegetables.  It’s Snack Plate! It’s all about the marketing.  Freaky but awesome.IMG_8694

Busy Being Cultured

IMG_8545I got lazy and didn’t post for awhile, but I waited so long that something big happened and now I am totally going to blame that for my blog silence.

My youngest child got hurt.  I was right there.  We think we can control so much of our kids’ lives, be careful about who they play with, where they go, what they’re exposed to.  But when you’re right there when an accident happens, you realize that not so much is in your control.

We headed to the hospital where they decided to keep her in the hospital for several days for observation.  (This sounds more serious than it ended up being, but I’m glad everyone is erring on the cautious side.)

Here is where the fun began.  Let me preface this by saying that I am totally happy with the care she received and everyone was ultra nice, helpful and competent.  She was a trooper, too, and didn’t seem to mind her jail crib too badly as long as the “Pokers and Prodders” (as I know she labeled them in her little mind) left her alone.  I stayed with her in the hospital.  After four days (three nights) in the hospital for both of us, two ultrasounds, four x-rays, and meals, we paid a total of $20.

I’ll explain how this could be done so cheaply.  First of all, I wasn’t given a bed.  I pushed four chairs together and practiced being on the Amazing Race.  Secondly, I wasn’t given meals.  (It was like I wasn’t even there.  Ghost mom.)  My picky toddler actually eats only bread, bananas, and mixed food from a jar.  So my husband brought her food in and I ate the meals the hospital was providing for her.  Which turned out to be mixed food anyways.  (She still wouldn’t touch it.)  I had mashed potatoes and ground mystery meat for lunch each day.  Pink meat the first day – probably tuna.  Second day looked more like ground up scrambled eggs.  Third day pale white was probably chicken.  Oh, delicious.  I just pretended like I was doing research to see what it’s like to be a baby.  Then my favorite dinner: congealed pudding with vanilla wafers floating all in it.  Slightly soggy.  Not even going to comment on that one.

Another point of interest from my week at the hospital:

On my last night, around two in the morning, (I know this because I was laying on mismatched chairs.  Not really in a massively deep REM cycle there.)  someone snuck into the room and put a tray onto the little table.  I spent the next three hours pondering what in the WORLD the nurse could have needed to bring in the room in the middle of the night.  After three hours, pain medication for Evelyn was the only answer I could come up with, although at this point they’d declared that she didn’t need any.  So as soon as dawn broke, I finally rushed over to see what this mystery item was.

Are you ready?

A cup of tea.  For Evie.

Oh, cultures.  You just never get used to them.