All True Remedy Begins in the Heart Thoughts on Integration in a Broken World

All True Remedy Begins in the Heart, Thoughts on Integration in a Broken World, Liturgy of Life.

I was recently talking with some friends about the challenges of living cross culturally along the border of Mexico when they shared a revolutionary story from their own lives.

 

My friends belong to an affluent church in San Antonio, filled with the kind of folks you want to have as neighbors, who gladly feed your dog and pick up your mail when you are out of town.  They are good looking, professionals and business owners, who jog in the morning and live in comfortable homes and  drive nice cars.

 

 

 

 

Realizing their tendency to attract more people like themselves, and wanting to diversify, they began getting involved with the community in an apartment complex near their church building.  You know the kind surrounded by a barbed wire fence that makes you wonder if it is there to keep the folks from outside coming in or the folks inside from coming out.

 

Initially their involvement was simple and consisted of offering transportation to those who wanted to attend church.  But with one couple, Eddie and Joyce, things started to change.  Eddie and Joyce, it seemed took the invitations to get involved in the church seriously. They began attending regularly and even showed up at social events.

 

Eddie, though he had no front teeth, could keep the crowd amused with his jokes. Joyce had the mind of a child and expressed her affection for her new friends by making crafts, (you know the kind that your kids bring home from Sunday school which you have to quietly throw away once they are sleeping, (it sounds harsh but you just can’t keep all that stuff)).  After a while they even began inviting church members over to their apartment to share a Stouffer’s Lasagna, not realizing the discomfort that was obvious to everyone else.  Most of the church had never set foot inside of section 8 housing and until that moment had never expected to.

 

While my friends were truly growing to love Eddie and Joyce (though they were scratching their heads at what to do with the growing mountain of Popsicle stick picture frames and paint by number boards that Joyce was giving them) they were befuddled.

 

They asked,

 

“What does it look like to be friends with people who are so different from us?”

 

All True Remedy Begins in the Heart, Thoughts on Integration in a Broken World, Liturgy of Life.

 

 

It my sound unkind.

 

We are quick to perhaps jump up in defense, “What do you mean, they are people just like you?”

 

But the truth is that we all have tendency to surround ourselves with other people like us. And we have the census data to prove it.

 

No matter if we believe abstractly in equality, the reality is we are more comfortable with people who look and talk like us and who have our interests and backgrounds.  And while there isn’t anything wrong with feeling comfortable with whom we share much in common, it is also no wonder that America remains deeply segregated.

 

.    .    .

This week our reading group is finishing up  The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer.

 

Towards the end of her book which is mostly about being creative at home she adds an unexpected chapter entitled, “Integration.”

 

Her approach is entirely different than anything you would see in newspaper headline.

 

Her point is this,

 

We tend towards segregation, by race, gender, age, education, religion, economics, nationality.  Our differences frighten us and make us  uncomfortable, but if  we want to work towards peace in the world can and should start at home.

 

And we can begin by doing something as simple as inviting over someone who is outside of our normal social circles and building a friendship with them.  It isn’t much, it is far more than most of us are doing.

 

And it won’t come easily.

 

Relationships require work that most of us are not willing to do. It takes planning and preparation to connect with anyone, especially someone different from ourselves. We may have to think outside of the box and do something unexpected,  plan a music night, or a park day, or read a book aloud, have a cultural dinner, a cooking class, or a movie night. Or maybe we can help during a time of need, give a gift, or plant a garden together.

 

Or  maybe like my friends  we can sit around eating lasagna and doing paint by numbers, wondering what is ever going to become of this, while at the same time knowing that this is exactly what makes us feel most alive.

 

We have looked to government mandates and social reform to bring people with vast differences together and we have seen it fail time and again.

 

The government can’t break the hardness of our hearts. Only Jesus can do that. And Jesus is in us.

 

 

This post is part of a series based on reflections from The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer. To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here. Each year we read a collection of books on life, faith and family, to see our list click here. If you would like to read along, please subscribe and you will get new posts sent to your inbox as well as reading group updates. Feel free to comment or join us in our facebook group for more in depth discussion.

Thanks for being here.

 

Erica

 

Is Consumerism Killing my Creativity?

Liturgy of Life, Is My Consumerism Killing My creativity?
A bag of crumpled paper didn’t look all that appealing until I started seeing it through the eyes of a 3 year old.

 

I had just finished hauling the last of Zenie’s toys out of her play room and jammed them into a closet.  Catching my breath I looked at her sternly.

 

“You see, now you’ve lost all your toys. Next time do you think you will help Mama clean up when she asks you to?”

 

She looked solemnly at the empty spaces.

 

Quietly she spoke, “Well at least I still have my rug,” she said, “And my chair .    .    .  And my my bookshelf.”

 

Horrified by her optimism and her lack of concern over the absence of the piles of toys that we had so lovingly provided her, I reassured myself that certainly over the next few days she would miss them, and then somehow through this exhausting mess she would learn some sort of valuable lesson.

 

.   .   .

It turns out the lesson was mine.

 

I watched her over the following weeks  as bits of paper became food and plates, and as she made games out of old cardboard boxes and rocks.  She tore grass out of the yard and made it into a “swimming pool” which she used far more than she ever used her actual kiddie pool.  It turns out she didn’t miss her toys much at all. And I was witness to the creativity of a three year old at its finest.

Is my Consumerism killing my creativity, Liturgy of Life
Zenie swimming in her “swimming pool” (she had earned her baby doll back at this point and she took her swimming everyday).

 

Around the same time we were reading through the Little House on the Prairie series, and we came to a story where Ma, Pa and Baby Carrie in a run away ox cart. The family survives but in the ordeal Baby Carrie’s brand new handmade dress is torn and ruined.

 

Yet a few chapters later the dress reappears as trim for the curtains in the new house. And though it isn’t written this way I imagine it being incorporated into Laura’s rag doll and Mary’s quilt too.

 

Like Zenie and her paper scraps, Ma took something that I would consider trash and saw it as an opportunity.  What for me is a quick fix via  Amazon with Prime two day delivery of whatever dress I want from all around the world. For Ma it is a challenge, to make good use of what she already has.

 

And I love it when I go there. When I go to the trouble of taking a cardboard box and make it into a bear cave for my daughter (though we have already established that she would have had just as much fun with the original unadorned box, so really the cave was for me). But I love the energy of being inventive and resourceful and making something myself.

 

Still most of the time I don’t bother.

 

Target isn’t far and I can re-decorate for $100. Why would I make new curtains, pillows or picture frames?

 

Panda Express is right down the street. Why would I go to the trouble to chop up all those left overs and make them into my own of stir-fry?

 

Walmart is open 24 hours a day. Why should I start growing my own vegetables?

 

.    .    .

I began this evening by looking around my comfortably furnished home with closets full of clothes and pantry  overstuffed. I began to say, as I’ve been teaching my daughter, “Thank you God for these many blessings.”

 

But then I wondered if I maybe have it all reversed.

 

Now certainly there is blessing in having enough, no doubt in that. But I wonder if perhaps somewhere along the way the scales have tipped and that now each year as my stuff increases  I am actually loosing.

 

What if I am missing out on the chance to create, to express myself and develop my mind?  What if my family is missing out on learning to build something together, or on the unifying experience of sometimes having to go without?

 

But even more than that, what if it is as Genesis suggests, that God made us to be people who care for and work the land? What if it is part of our nature to be producers? What if we experience more of Him and become more ourselves as we create (create can mean a lot of things here, I know we won’t all do arts and crafts, but maybe it’s music or a curriculum for students, or writing, or computer programing, we all have ways that we are uniquely gifted to be creative and we can all in some ways provide for our own needs) ?

 

Maybe it isn’t simply the fun of creating something new that I am missing out on, but that in not creating I am actually missing out on experiencing a deeper understanding of God and the way that He provides for my family.

 

And I know we can’t actually make everything ourselves. But what if we could name the person who made our clothes or furniture? What if our stuff came out of our community instead of being chosen for its pizazz and bargain pricing? How would that change who we are and how we interact with the world? What would it say of us as a people, about our values and standards?

 

.    .     .

I’m not advocating for a vow of poverty. Be assured Zenie eventually earned all of her toys back and once again has a play room full (and has become a pretty good little cleaner upper, I might add). I’m not even proposing a solution.  But I am suggesting that we at least stop and notice that with each convenient new purchase at Wal-Mart (now hear me folks I’m not judging I was at Wal-mart today) we may be missing out on something better, and in fact we may be loosing something that can’t easily be retrieved, something that would lead to the cultivation of our own souls.

 

Maybe we can learn something from St. Teresa of Avila’s simple prayer who when looking at her one change of clothes and simple room in the convent says,

“Thank God for the things that I do not own.”

 

 

This post is part of a series based on reflections from The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer. To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here. Each year we read a collection of books on life, faith and family, to see our list click here. If you would like to read along, please subscribe and you will get new posts sent to your inbox as well as reading group updates. Feel free to comment or  join us in our facebook group for more in depth discussion.

Thanks for being here.

 

Erica

Thoughts on Stuff

Swim Lessons and Gratitude and How Our iPhones interfere with Both

Six Tips on Parenting An Only Child Without A TV And Without Loosing Your Mind

Liturgy of Life, raising an only child, with no tv without going crazy.

 

Watching my daughter gathering her things (Duplos, Lincoln Logs, piles of dried grass, crumpled paper, tiny dishes and most of her clothes) into a basket which will soon be dumped onto the living room rug I begin to feel a familiar tension rising in me.

I love that I get to be home with my daughter, but sometimes I am exhausted trying to keep her engaged while keeping our house and family functioning.   I have always wanted a large family but at moments like these I wonder if perhaps God knew I would absolutely loose it if I had to manage more than one kid at a time.

I’ve been comforted by the words of several friends who have 4 or 5.

“Sometimes having just one is the hardest, they keep you busy because they want all your attention, with multiples they entertain each other.”

I can’t even describe how affirming those comments have been.

So right now in our reading group we are reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking. In it Schaeffer reminds us that our homes are places to express ourselves and to be creative. They are places for family and guests to connect and grow.   And while being home all day alone with a three year old can bring anyone to the verge of insanity it is also an opportunity to create special moments together and to take tiny steps towards raising her to live life in its fullest now and as she grows.

Now I recognize that there are many who have years of experience on me as a parent, and honestly I have no room to give advice. But at the same time the thing about an only child is you only get one chance, you either have just one, or you end up with more kids and the dynamic changes. So no one really can be much of an expert here. Take it or leave it, here are a few pieces of wisdom that I have learned in these three short years.

Six Tips for Raising an Only Child and Staying Sane

1.  Bring them into your world. This has been key for us. We noticed while working in Mexico that children were quieter and more respectful around adults. Of course the Mexican families we knew loved their kids, but their children weren’t the center of their world.  Their children had an important place in their home but the home did not revolve around them.

So this has been our approach.

I aim to bring my daughter into what I’m doing.   I’m always willing to let her help me cook or clean or garden (of course what she has to offer isn’t always “helpful” but I still let her participate, the mess I think is worth it). If I have to do sit down work like writing a letter or paying a bill I let her color or write, do stamps or play dough at the table with me.

I don’t spend a lot of time “playing” with her. But when I do, I make it count.  I usually stop a couple times a day for 10 minutes or so to sit down and play whatever game she wants. When I do, I give her all my attention, my phone is put away (for the most part I leave my computer put away unless she is napping or unless I am like 10 minutes from being done with a blog post when she wakes up) and we don’t have TV. So I play with enthusiasm and I have a blast. Something that I just couldn’t do if our play time had no end in sight.

It may sound a bit harsh but having once been swept into an hour long game of My Little Ponies I learned my lesson.

2. Be creative.  Find things that you actually enjoy doing together. Sometimes I let her pick out a project like making a new diaper for her doll.  Or I’ll see a recipe for homemade play dough and want to try it out. For us this looks like a lot of arts and crafts as well as some nature hikes but for you it might be sports or manicures or collecting rocks or woodworking or taking care of animals or whatever you are into.  If you work at it you can almost always find a way to do something enjoyable, and even productive, together.

3. Get a routine. I’m not naturally organized but since having a kid I’ve realized that establishing a weekly and daily routine is a game changer for us. I found that my daughter functions better and has more fun when she knows what to expect.

A weekly routine my be as simple as: Monday we go to the grocery store, Tuesday we do laundry, Wednesday we have a play date, Thursday we go the park and Friday we do family music night. You probably already have one. Make a point to explain it to your kid and help them feel a part of what is going on.
You probably have a daily routine too. Ours goes something like: get up have tea and prayer time, then get dressed, have breakfast and do some reading over the table, then we either go out or start on some project in the house. Lunch is at 12:00, rest time at 1. We have dinner at 6 then bath and bed. Of course it changes if we have company are out of the house. But keeping the structure of things the same keeps us all on the same page.

4. Know when to break the routine. Sometimes a rough day needs an extra trip to the park or a “let’s drop everything and go get an ice cream cone”.

5. Don’t be afraid of a little boredom.  There will be moments when you have to make a call or wait in line and your kid will start to complain.  Don’t feel like you need to whip out an iPhone or DVD player (do people still use those?). Boredom stimulates imagination and observation. Your job isn’t to keep your kid entertained don’t feel guilty about it.

4. Take a rest time. Even if your child refuses to sleep keep the rest time in your schedule. Even without napping we all have a better day if we have an hour alone to wind down and re-collect. I’ve recently begun letting my daughter listen to music because she hardly ever naps anymore. I put on a CD that is at least one hour long. She has to stay in her room until it is over, if she falls asleep great, if not, at least we both had a relaxing hour to ourselves.

5. Get out of the house. I’m a homebody. But my daughter has energy to burn.  While we do end up spending one day a week entirely at home, I try to at least add in a walk to the mailbox or an outdoor activity. Most other days we run an errand and usually stop by a play ground or the library.  Even a 10 minute stop off  at the swings can feel exciting to a 3 year old. Better yet is a play date, even better is a regular play date or something like library story time. Try to fit a couple activities into your weekly routine that gets you out and that gives you both a social outlet.

6. Give yourself a break. Sometimes, especially for me, as a mom of one who had expected to be a mom of a larger family, I feel the need to relish the time with my daughter. I always imagined I’d have a decade or so with a pre-schooler around, but time is flying by and I don’t want to miss a moment with my one and only precious kid.

But that time is just as precious for her and her dad or other family. And it is important for her to make friends of her own. And sometimes I really need along time, or my husband and I need time together. I need to keep reminding myself that it is good for my daughter to have parents with friends and interests and it is good for her to have other people in her life who she knows and trusts.

 

Parenting is hard.

But no one cares more about parenting our kids than we do, hard or not, we are the best people to guide and shape our little ones through life.

Now to clean up that pile on the living room rug.

 

This post is part of a series referencing The Hidden Art of Homemaking. We would love to have you read along with us. Click here to learn more about what Liturgy of Life is all about and feel free to comment here or join our facebook group for more in-depth discussion.

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Swim Lessons and Gratitude and How Our Iphones Interfere with Both.

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The basic Biscuit liturgy of life

The Basic Biscuit

The basic Biscuit liturgy of life
Nothing fancy but these biscuits have pulled together many a meal for me. Thought I’d share.

Meals during the weekends are always a scramble for me. I’ve gotten better at planning meals during the week (mainly because I’m on a budget and if I don’t plan we end up eating pickles and cranberry sauce for dinner by Friday night) but I tend to forget about weekends.

Sometimes we are out of town, other times we are out with friends. So when it turns out that we are home and Saturday morning roles around and I often realize there is neither bread, milk nor eggs in the house. This realization is followed by a brief moment of dread (now sure I could always send my husband out for breakfast tacos (again!)), but right now we are reading Edith Schaeffer’s The Hidden Art of Homemaking in our reading group.  The whole emphasis of her book  is on being creative, coming up with tiny ways in your everyday life to make something, and to meet your own needs or your family’s needs at the same time.

So I thought I’d share a quick recipe that has come in handy in just the situation mentioned above.

This recipe is straight out of How to Cook Everything.  If you want to learn to cook and just want one cookbook this is the one to go for. Bittman has a recipe for almost everything.  He teaches you how to cook from scratch, not too fancy but just one step above the most most basic. I’ve learned a lot from it including this basic biscuit recipe.

So these are technically buttermilk biscuits. I sometimes do have buttermilk but more often I substitute yogurt and sometimes sour cream here. Since yogurt keeps pretty well in the fridge I almost always have some around to use for cooking, mixing into sauces or for baking.

This whole process takes between 20-30 minutes. So in the time it would take to get dressed and out to the gas station for breakfast tacos you could be enjoying your own homemade biscuits while still in your bathrobe (and have some left overs to dress up dinner).

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for sprinkling on the counters etc.)

1 scant teaspoon of salt

3 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

5 tablespoons of cold butter (I use unsalted because I think they come out too salty otherwise, if you only have salted butter just cut back the salt by 1/8 of a teaspoon)

7/8 cup of plain yogurt or buttermilk (let’s be real here, I always just use 1 cup. And since the yogurt is thicker  you need a little bit more than if you use buttermilk.)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2.  Mix dry ingredients.

3.  Cut  cold butter with a knife and drop it into the dry ingredients. Then pinch the butter and rub it between your fingers and mix it into the flour until all the big pieces are mixed in. (I love getting my hands messy when I cook, if you don’t you can do this all in a food processor).

4.  Add yogurt to dry ingredients, stir until all the flour is incorporated and it has formed a ball. I sometimes need to mix the last bit with my hands which is very sticky.

5.  Dump the sticky dough ball out onto a floured surface and sprinkle it with a small amount of flour, shape it into a ball and then start to kneed it 10 times, sprinkling with flour as needed to keep it from sticking.

If you’ve never kneaded it may sound intimidating. It’s really no big deal it is just flattening the dough and then folding it and then flattening it again. Keep enough flour on your hands to keep it from sticking too much, but don’t use more flour than you need either. Flatten the dough to about  1-2 inches thick then fold it in half and in half again and then flatten it again, add small amounts of flour as needed. You will notice the dough ball feels more elastic and firm after kneading.

6.  Flatten the dough with your hands or use a rolling pin to roll it to about 3/4 inch thick. Take a glass (or biscuit cutter if you have one, I don’t) and dip it in flour and cut out your biscuits like you would using a cookie cutter. Re-dip in flour each time to keep it from sticking.

7.  Place cut out rounds on an ungreased cookie sheet. ( I almost always use parchment to cover mine but you don’t have to, it just makes clean up easier, though not really if you are me who wipes off and re-uses your parchment paper, I have a whole drawer of sued ziplock bags, saran wrap and parchment paper, it drives my husband nuts but it saves me a few cents every month).

8.  Bake for 7-9 minutes, longer for bigger biscuits, shorter for smaller ones. You will see them rise and brown on the top.

9.  Remove and serve hot (though they are a perfectly  reasonable alternative to toast for the next day or two, just store in an air tight container on the counter.

These are great alone with butter and jelly (I’ll post some jelly recipes soon) of course with bacon and eggs, or to use with ham or left over meats to make little brunch sandwiches. I’ve also made random chopped meats or meats in gravy and served them over these when I’m in a pinch to come up with something at dinner time.

A quick tip on freezing. If you go to the trouble of making a double batch you can bake one batch until they rise but aren’t brown, remove a few minutes before they are done. Let them cool and store them in an airtight container and freeze. Then you can take out a few and heat them in the oven for the extra five minutes or until done. Which will make it even easier on you the next time you wake up to the realization that there is no food in the house.