Monday, March 26, 2012

You Can Pretty Much Count on Corrie Ten Boom to Say What Needs to be Said

I'm going to take a blogging break this week in order to devote more time to a couple of pressing projects.  I'll be back next week.  In the meantime, I'm thankful that today's responsibilities, opportunities, sorrows, challenges, motivations, insights, and joys are the perfect preparation for the future work God has for us.

Quote by Corrie Ten Boom
Calligraphy and photo by Jonalyn Fincher

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© by scj

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Which I Mention a Fantastical Creature

Hay Caramba.  It has been muy dificil to sit down and write my weekly 'Monday' blog. This has been a theme lately.

Today, I think my problem is writer's brain. I've been writing all weekend, working toward a couple of rapidly approaching deadlines. Which is to say I've been staring at my computer, pacing to and fro, and gazing out the window for days.  Fortunately I managed to get a really bad first draft on paper, too.

Writing, for me, is an idea generator.  After a particularly good session of staring, pacing, and gazing, ideas start ricocheting through my brain like elves in a bounce house.

This is not nearly as fun as it sounds, because by the time I'm done with my writing task I've reached my weekly word quota and I can't put any more of my noisy, flailing ideas to paper.

Bounce on, little elves; bounce on.

Teaching does the same thing: it provokes thought, but drains my words.  This is probably why I am known to stop lecturing in the middle of an impassioned sentence, my arms in the air, my face flushed, my eyes utterly blank, and my tongue totally tied.

 Come to think of it, walking tends to do this to me, too.  And eating.  And reading.  And sitting.

So if you shout 'hello!' to me on the street and I respond by walking mutely past you with glazed eyes and no signs of recognition, you know why.

Blame it on the elves.

Sometimes, though, something happens that brings my thoughts to a screeching halt. Elves freeze mid-flip and mid-yelp so that another fantastical creature can walk to the center of the bounce house and make an important announcement.

This is what happened yesterday when one of my students sneezed.

These sorts of earth-shattering occurrences are usually what trigger my epiphanies.

It wasn't a particularly grandiose sneeze, I'll admit.  I've heard better.  But it sure got my attention, because, although I was in the middle of explaining a writing workshop, I was overcome with the impulse to stop everything so I could bless him.

It was a strong urge.  Almost a temptation-like urge. An elf-freezing urge.

This is an interesting cultural phenomenon.

Someone publicly discharges the dust and mucous in their sinus passage, and what do we do?  We bless them.

This 'wishing well' is so important to us that we teach our young to do it.

We emphasize its importance in our school curriculums.

We clap and cheer when our toddlers say 'bwess you' for the first time.

We do everything we can to make sure that for the rest of their lives their brains will hear a sneeze and stop.everything. to wish the sneezer well.

I like this.

I think it's marvelous that we can train our brains to make blessing someone's involuntary 'discharging' so instinctual.

This has me wondering: what would it take to develop other sneeze/blessing-esque brain pathways, so that our positive responses to people became instinctive—not robotic (because our soul gets to choose what it will do with our brain's recommendations), but natural?

Like what if every time I saw a human face my brain sent me a strong signal to treat that person like they were my long lost friend from camp?

Or what if every time my brain heard someone offer up a personal idea or observation it instructed me to praise their creativity and originality?

Or what if every time country music came on in a public setting my brain commanded me to line dance, right then and there?

The world would be a much better place.

Our lives would be richer.

Our souls sturdier.

This brings me to the part of this blog where I tell you I don't really have anything more to say about this.  No conclusions, no helpful ideas.  I'm still waiting for that fantastical creature in the middle of the bounce house surrounded by frozen elves to tell me something important, something life-changing I can latch onto.  But I think the fantastical creature is a purple, musical sloth.  She is quietly humming to herself while she creeps sloooowly to 'center stage.'  So I'll end with this: I'm not sure how to create these positive impulses—to train my brain to instinctually affirm and dignify—besides lots and lots of practice.  But I'd like to create them.

I'd really, really like to.

© by scj

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday Things: You'd Better Pull on Your Galoshes

Well folks, it's Thursday. Hit-your-snooze-button-five-times-and-roll-out-of-bed-feeling-like-you-got-hit-by-a-train Thursday.  Thanks to the daylight savings time change, this Thursday feels even more Thursdayish than usual.

Perhaps this is why I am finding it so difficult to write today.  Thinking sort of feels like wading through knee-deep mud wearing red galoshes that are three sizes too big for my freezing cold feet.  I've always wanted a pair of red galoshes.

Part of the problem is I worked a ton this week and didn't do anything especially blogworthy, except for attending a Gungor concert with some good friends.

All my mushy brain can muster up about that concert is Wow. Beautiful. Moving. Also, I never knew a xylophone could be so useful, outside of being featured on the third-to-last page of every alphabet book. I like the way it sounds. Almost as much as I like it when bands combine the electric guitar with cellos and the violin.  Love. (Thank you, Tiffany, for a break from work!).

Anyway, today, because my muddy thinking has impaired my judgement, I'm going to write about something I've never tackled before. Something profound.  Something Intriguing.  There's no time like Thursday to venture into uncharted terrain.

So hold on to your hats (or galoshes), people.

And let's talk about blood oranges.

1. Our blood orange crop abounds this year.  The branches are so weighed down by Winnie the Pooh-hued globes that I'm tempted to eat oranges with every meal.  I hate to see things go to waste.

2. What is a girl supposed to do with so many blood oranges?

3.  I've been juicing like a fiend.

4. Has anyone ever played Power Pete?  It was the only computer game my siblings and I played as kids. It features a dark-haired and, of course, powerful man named Pete.  He wanders through castles and candy lands trying to rescue bunnies, and shooting evil toys while shouting "Take that, you fiend!!!"  I can't say the word fiend without remembering him.

Power Pete, your legacy lives on.

5. I love juicing blood oranges.  The colors are so vibrant.  Correction, the colors and shapes are so amazing that I don't actually like the part where I juice, and therefore ruin, the oranges.  Although drinking crimson O.J. is fun.

What I love is admiring the counter full of sliced blood oranges.  If I could I would decorate my studio with blood oranges.  I'd have 'em on every surface in my little place.

7. But I can't do that, so I make juice and then figure out what to do with all of it.

8. I've started using some of it to make honey-sweetened blood orange sorbet.  It's tangy and refreshing and makes me pucker my lips.

9. I made a rather large batch of sorbet awhile back, and discovered all of my large tupperware were in use.

Fortunately, I found a big container holding about 1/2 cup of very rotten black beans I'd forgotten about.  Unfortunately, I opened the container in my house.  It was 24 hours before I felt comfortable breathing without a face mask.

I remained undaunted, however, and I scrubbed that container with every last ounce of elbow grease I had before plopping the sorbet in it.

Two days later I pulled it out of the freezer and opened it up, eager for an icy treat, only to collapse on the floor reeling from the oppressive, fetid smell of rotten black beans and blood orange sorbet.  I had to toss the whole batch.  It hurt.  I hate seeing things go to waste.

10. The good news is our blood orange crop abounds.

11. I've discovered a recipe for blood orange scones.  But there are still more oranges than I know what to do with.  I'm open to every blood orange suggestion you can give me.

Well, that's about it, folks.  You can take your galoshes off now.  Go kick up your feet, drink a glass of O.J. and enjoy the rest of this Thursday.

I'm going to do my taxes now.  This blog was actually a stalling technique.  Ahhh, the benefits of blood oranges.

© by scj

Monday, March 12, 2012

Free From Our Cages
When I was in high school my piano teacher told me that the best songs “let the bird out of the cage.” When I heard my college roommate, Rachel, sing for the first time I understood what my teacher meant.

When Rachel sang she translated the beauty in her soul into sound waves. Her music often floated through our apartment, making my soul soar with the rifts and crescendos like a bird that has flown the coop. I can only imagine how Rachel felt when she sang like that.

I recently learned that Rachel’s singing doesn’t satisfy her soul the way it used to. She’s suffered some health problems over the years that have affected her voice, making it hard for her to control her dynamite rifts and hit notes with her former power. Singing is frustrating now. Like trying to fly but slamming into a ceiling mid-summit. The voice that has always sounded freedom to me now makes Rachel feel like a bird that cannot escape its cage. She is learning to live with the gnawing ache of unfulfilled longing.

Hop on over to Positively Human for the full article.

© by scj

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thursday Things: a Month of Sisters

This has been a good month.  The best month of the year.  It's not because the students in my evening class make me laugh until my stomach hurts, or because I finally made a successful batch of gluten, sugar, and dairy-free muffins  And it's not because the breeze daily reminds me that the jasmine is in bloom, or because our blood orange crop abounds.

It's because this month was a month of sisters, and I've never been able to say that before. Sisters.  As in, more than one.

On April 14th, 2012 there will officially be more Jackson women than men.

My little brother is gettin' hitched.

Aaron is marrying a lovely woman named Natasha.  Aaron and Natasha met at Biola University.  You can read more of their story here.

Natasha is thoughtful, kind, disciplined and gorgeous, and we are excited to welcome her into our family. 

For the last year Natasha has been living in Canada where she is training for the 2016 Olympics.  She is a track and field heptathlete.  This basically means she is Superwoman.  She does the 100 meter hurdles, 200 meter sprint, 800 meter run, javelin throw, shot put, high jump, and long jump.  Amazingly, Aaron keeps up with her.  Their kids will have the agility of a gazelle and the speed of a cheetah.  

A few weeks ago Natasha came for a visit.  I got to hog her all to myself, and I loved it.

We chatted and sipped tea on my patio, and ate the successful gluten, sugar and dairy-free muffins I made.

I also got to attend a bridal shower for her, hosted by some of her old roommates.  It was a fun day full of yummy treats, lots of laughing, and, of course, toilet paper.  No bridal shower is complete without at least 217 rolls of toilet paper.

A week after Natasha left, my little sister, Rebecca, came for a visit.

Rebecca is hilarious, beautiful, insightful, wise, and creative and I love her.

For months I have been texting Rebecca pictures of me sitting on my patio in the sun, sipping freshly squeezed orange juice.  It was a subtle campaign to get her to visit.  It worked.

Here we are sitting on my patio in the sun, sipping fresh orange juice.

We only left my patio three times the entire time Rebecca was here.

It was glorious.  We both relished the time to rest, get caught up, and laugh together the way only sisters can.

Our patio time was the highlight for me.

We also had a few fun outings.

First, we went to my good friend, J's, house for dinner and a movie with friends.

We all enjoyed sitting out by the fire and talking about swing dancing and high-waisted pants. We like to discuss life's deepest, most complex issues while sitting around the fire.

From left to right: J, Me, Rebecca
Do you see J's feet tattoos?  When J puts his feet together they make a Christian fish.

Here J is cooking some sort of amazing Italian pasta dish to go with the caprese salad he made.  He cooks scrumptious food like this often.  He gives hope to women everywhere.


The next day Rebecca and I went paddleboarding with our cousin, K, and her husband, M.  We battled fierce winds, and narrowly escaped a shark (turns out the guy we passed was shouting "Mark!").  By the time we explored the bay and returned to shore we were feeling pooped but victorious.

We spent the rest of the day watching a beach volleyball game.  M and his buddies played, and we gals cheered.

The windy beach was deserted so we had it to ourselves

The crew, during a break from the game

It was a dangerous affair.  Mostly because there were 7 million seagulls flying over our heads at any given point.

Somehow we escaped unsoiled.

K is our cousin on our dad's side.  She is gorgeous, funny, hospitable, and gracious and I love her very much.

Rebecca and I were both sad to say goodbye to her and her wonderful husband.

And now we've arrived at the part of the post I always hate, because this is when Rebecca hops on an airplane and flies home. So I'll just skip this part, and end with this instead:

Guess what's in this box?!

It's a bridesmaid dress.  And next month, Rebecca and I will each be wearing one while we watch our brother marry us a new sister.


© by scj

Monday, March 5, 2012

Deep Magic

Every once in awhile I get too caught up in the books I read.

About 50 pages into a good book I become the main characters. My adrenaline pumps when they're in danger. I cry when they experience growth or grace. I find myself praying for them when they're in dire need of divine intervention. But these tendencies are not the problem.

The problem is that sometimes I finish a book series, go about my day, and have moments when I  forget I'm not the main character in the book anymore.

Case in point: Not too long ago I finished re-reading the Harry Potter series for the sixth time. For ten glorious days I was immersed in the World of Hogwarts. I went to sleep under an enchanted starry ceiling, and woke up to House Elves bustling about to prepare my breakfast. I used my magic wand to fetch distant objects and make nearby objects invisible. I was Harry Potter fighting dementors one day, and Hermione outsmarting Death Eaters the next. I was swept up in something bigger than myself. No big deal.

But then, I finished the series and had to return to work. It was a particularly wet and gloomy day, and in the middle of teaching my college freshman I got a hankering for a steaming cup of tea.  But the coffee cart was miles away, and class wouldn't be over for another hour, anyway.  So what did I do? I reached for the magic wand I had stashed in my robe. Naturally, I planned to summon a cup of tea. And then I remembered that I wasn't Harry Potter. Or Hermione. Or Ron Weasely.

My disappointment got me thinking.  Wouldn't it have been lovely if God had made a world full of magic, like Narnia, or Hogwarts, or the Shire?!

Then, several days ago while on a walk, I saw this:

A magic wand. Long and slender, sturdy at the base and narrow at the tip, surrounded by dozens of other magic wands.

And magic of all magic, something was shooting out of its tip. Something unexpected. Something so different from the wand's soft, sappy core, you'd have to see it to believe it.

Leaves.  Waxy, vibrant, green.

And blossoms.  Fragrant and delicate.  Pink, white, and yellow.

What makes this magic?

I'll tell you, but you won't believe me.

It's light. And water.  And air.  They are stirred together in the great blue sky cauldron, and they make wooden wands shoot out magic.



Prickle balls.

Cotton ball clusters.

All wooden wands, all imbibing the same sky-cauldron's potion, each wand's magic just a little different.

J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis couldn't have dreamt up this kind of magic.  A stick absorbs sun, air, and water, making leaves sprout, followed by buds.  The buds unfold into blossoms and the blossoms turn into fruit.  Juicy, tart fruit with seeds.  Smooth, fleshy fruit with pits.  Vitamin-packed fruit in shades of brilliant orange, green, yellow, red, blue, purple—all the colors of the sun's magical light.

How can it be that the fruit from these magic wands powers our dusty bodies to produce millions of cells daily, and keeps blood pumping through our 60,000 miles of blood vessels?!

Magic for us to see.  Magic for us to smell.  Magic for us to touch.  Magic for us to taste.

Magic to teach us at winter's end that death does not have the last word.  For light, air and water are mixed together and make a barren tree sprout life.

These magic wands make it easy for me to believe in the magic the ancients taught.  An apple is eaten and life with God is lost. A stick hits a rock and water gushes out.  Trumpets are blown and city walls tumble.  A leper bathes in the river and he is healed.  God's son dies on a cross, and takes our sin upon himself.  Three days pass, and he teaches us that death will not have the last word.


Life-giving, fruit-growing magic.

© by scj

Friday, March 2, 2012

An Anonymous Rodent: Revised

Today as I was walking out my gate to go for a walk I ran into a furry little creature ambling through the weed patch.

My presence startled him out of his reverie, and he nervously scurried to and fro, trying to find a place to hide.  When he couldn't find a cozy den or long tunnel to escape to, he began furiously digging at my feet, determined to make a tunnel deep enough to hide in before I could close the three-foot gap between us. He clearly did not have a good sense of time.  No doubt he is the rodent who shows up late to every critter party.

But I still mentally cheered him on.

What the heck, shoot for the stars little guy!

Somehow, he managed to dig a hole about two inches deep in thirty seconds.  Without wasting anymore time, he stuck his head in the hole and let his body rest limp and still on the mound of dirt behind him.

Seconds passed.

Perhaps he thought that I couldn't see him if he couldn't see me?

Or maybe he was learning to stand on his head, but needed extra support?

Or maybe he'd just had a bad day?

I need to know, guys.  What was he thinking when he buried his head in the ground?  Why did he do it?

I feel certain there's a good story there.


What in the world was he? A mole?  A distant cousin to Mr. Rat [shudder]?  A short-haired guinea pig? 

There are so many wildlife mysteries on this property, I tell you.

Fortunately, I managed to get a video of the critter before he made a startling mad dash toward me. Although I didn't do a great job of capturing his headstand...

THE REVISION: Today marks the day that I overcame some towering technological obstacles.  Namely, that I figured out how to make the original video less blurry.  I'm hoping this version is better suited to your viewing pleasure.

Please excuse the rapid camera movement and strange sound effects toward the end of the video.  For a moment it looked as if a RAT was charging toward me.

However, in retrospect that thing was way too cute to be a rat.

Look closely as you watch, because I'm hoping one of you can tell me what , exactly, my new little tunnel-digging, head-standing friend is!

This is a matter of the utmost importance.

© by scj