Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent One: Expecting unexpected joy

Keep awake, be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.  Matthew 24. 42, 26

This past August,  I was in Oregon for my grandson's third birthday.

By the time we’re three, we are really, really excited about our birthdays and the gifts and the cakes and the party.  My grandson was no exception.

The morning of his birthday, and of his party day, too, he and his mom made birthday cupcakes.

I was looking at the photos of their cupcake baking, and was struck by how very, very present my grandson was in the task of making cupcakes. He wasn’t focused on the birthday party or the presents or even eating the cupcakes later that day. He was completely engrossed in each step of the cake baking as if all he had to do in the world was to bake cupcakes with his mom.

There is probably no other time in the year than in these days before Christmas when we have more distractions--certainly at least as many as a three year old on his birthday.  During Advent we have an opportunity to reframe those distractions and to approach them, live them, from a place of being fully present for the unexpected joy that God loves to pour down on each of us.  Of having nothing more important in our lives than finding God in the present ordinary moment.

It's being like a three year old making birthday cupcakes.  Not eyes focused on the seemingly bigger events later in the day (or the week or the month), but on whatever moment God has placed in our lives at the very present time.  When we do, when we are, we will sooner or later be surprised by joy.

And we might even get to lick the bowl.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rain makes applesauce, and apple crisp, too

The very last tree that my dad planted on his farm in Chambersville was a golden delicious apple. When I was visiting my mother at the end of summer, the tree was full of apples and we picked as many as we could reach.

They were pretty hard and not particularly delicious for eating raw (it turns out that part of the reason was that we were picking them before they were completely ripe).  I took a big load home and froze them for later enjoyment.

My very favorite way to eat an apple is when it's a good, crisp, juicy, sweet raw apple--my personal favorite right now being a honey crisp.  My second favorite is apple crisp--apples sliced and baked with cinnamon and topped with a crumble of oats, flour, butter, and brown sugar.  I especially enjoy it warm and topped with Greek yogurt.

Yesterday at church we had our money stewardship ingathering, and to celebrate we had a big Thanksgiving lunch after the 10.30 service.  Sonya and the St. Ann's ministry moved the tables to make long rows for family style sitting together, and then decorated the tables with beautiful decorations.  Every one brought a dish to share--heavy on the desserts, dressing, and macaroni and cheese--and Traci roasted a turkey.  We were full of joy--and delicious food.

I decided that making a crisp from the apples picked from my mom's tree was what I wanted to share.  I hadn't peeled the apples or dipped them in lemon juice before freezing, so they weren't the prettiest apples ever; in fact, one parishioner complemented my plum crisp. Still, with a little extra honey and cinnamon, it passed the taste test as far as I was concerned.

When my daughter, Lisa, was a little girl one of her favorite books was Rain Makes Applesauce.  Turns out that it now has a Facebook page, and you can even read the words of the story on the internet.  I never cook with apples that I don't remember the joy it was reading that book together and saying the refrain, "And rain makes applesauce.  Oh, you're just talking silly talk." My son and I read it, too, and I now read it with my grandsons when I go to visit them.

Later this week I'll go to my mom's for Thanksgiving.  Both of my brothers, one of my nephews, and one of my brother's friends will be there, and the friend is cooking the turkey.  It will be a small gathering, and I know that I'll miss my children and grandchildren, my other nephew, and our extended family of cousins.  My mother has said she has a hankering for some apple crisp, so I'll make some for her to enjoy.

It's cold and rainy today but I feel warm inside--thinking of happy memories of my children and books and family gatherings with both my birth family and my church family, too.  I'll warm up a little leftover apple crisp in a bit and top it with yogurt.  My heart is full of thanks--for a warm home, and enough food to share, and so very much love in my life.

As Julian of Norwich says,

Thanking is a true understanding of who we really are.  With reverence and awe we turn ourselves around toward the working  that our Good Lord incites us to do, enjoying and thanking with our real selves.   True thanking is to enjoy God.