Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Thematics: Binding Up the Brokenhearted

Thursday Thematics is a new and ongoing series of posts focused on given topics or passages of scripture relevant to adoption, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @AmandaEPeterson.

For our first theme, we're walking through the anointments of Isaiah 61--the passage Jesus read in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-20). After finishing his reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says to the crowd, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." If this scripture has been fulfilled, how does a fulfilled version of Isaiah 61 impact our lives today?

...He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...

What breaks your heart? or What has broken your heart?

Few of us if any would truly be able to say we've never had a broken heart.

Maybe we've never been the protagonist of a Greek tragedy, but even "small" things break our heart from time to time--disappointment, gossip, white lies and black lies and gray lies and sometimes the truth.

The heart breaks in many ways and because of many things.

With my niece and nephew staying with us last week, I watched a lot of Winnie the Pooh. Benjamin loves the classic 1980s version of the cartoon and often pulls out my parents old VHS tapes despite the track lines bleeding across the animations.

I don't mind watching them over and over because I love Winnie the Pooh too. I love traveling to the Hundred Acre Wood and waiting for Christopher Robin while the silly old bear and his friends get themselves into all sorts of trouble.

What I love most about these old cartoons and the original A.A. Milne books--and what I think keeps drawing children back to these classics--is that every tale is just ever so slightly sorrowful. If you really follow the plot line, if you really listen to the dialog between Pooh and his friends, you'll find a gentle sadness permeating throughout.

Of course we all know Eeyore for his gloomy outlook. Poor Eeyore, so often overlooked by his friends. So often dumped on by Rabbit. So often unable to do many of the activities his biped friends can do.

And then we know Piglet for his perpetual fear of everything.

And Rabbit for his anxiety and worrisome nature.

Tigger and his bouncy-trouncy self is a bundle of laughs, but take away his bounce or have him discover there is something he can't do and Tigger too falls into the doldrums.

What of the lovable Pooh?

So often, to me anyway, Pooh Bear is the most sorrowful of them all as he daily fears one day waking up and finding Christopher Robin gone and the magic of the Hundred Acre Wood all part of a dimly lit past.

Children connect to these sorrowful heroes because of their fear, because of their anxiety, because of their poor self-esteem, because of their sadness. Because even when we're children, even in a two-parent home with no abuse and little fighting, even in the most charmed childhood existence--we all experience sadness. We all fear the monster under the bed. We all get disappointed when we fail. We all have hearts that break from time to time.

Throughout my career, I've had the privilege and the heartache to work with and know children whose broken hearts need much more than a hug and a kiss to heal.

Abused and neglected children. Children living below the poverty line and in extreme poverty. Children of drug addicts. Children of military families. Hungry and starving children. Abandoned and orphaned children. Children finding out their HIV status for the first time. Children dying of TB. Children forced into running away. Children raising other children. Children alone. Children whose hearts seem broken beyond repair.

But so often I've marveled at the resiliency of children. Children overcome their broken hearts so much better than adults. Given love and a safe and stable environment, children can and do heal.
I love the image of binding up the brokenhearted. It invokes a picture of a broken arm in a sling or a broken leg in a cast. The injury is bound up so it can set and mend. I love the image of our broken hearts being bound up in a cast--held so closely and so tightly until they can set and mend fully.

I love the image because I've seen firsthand the hearts of children bound up and held close in love and safety and security.

I've seen and known personally the effects of binding up a heart and know how it can change a life.

I love how Jesus can come into our lives and bind up our broken hearts. I love how he comes into our lives and uses our bound up and healing hearts to help bind up the hearts of others. I love how our bound up hearts can empathize with the broken and bound up hearts of others. I love that the idea of binding up signifies a process of healing rather than an instantaneous healing. I love that a binding up kind of healing takes time and allows us to learn through the binding up and the healing.

I love an anointing on Jesus to bind up the brokenhearted. I love how that anointing overflows from Christ onto us. I love how in Christ, we can trust for the binding up of our own broken hearts and for the binding up of the hearts of others.

I love it. I'm thankful for it. And I'm awed by it.

How has Jesus bound up your broken heart? How is he using you to help bind up the hearts of others?

This is the second post in a series on the anointings of Isaiah 61. You can read the first post on "proclaiming good news to the poor" here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The June List of Loves

Every couple of months, I put together a list of the things in life I'm loving (or in some cases just liking a whole lot) at the moment. It's a reminder to be thankful for the big and small and to enjoy both the incredible and the every day.

So here's a few things I'm loving right now:

Regina Spektor's new album What We Saw From The Cheap Seats for its simple, musical genius.

Rachel Held Evans' blog for her challenging, fair and respectful tone.

Kim Van Brunt's blog for her incredible honesty about life and adoption.

Bob Goff's new book Love Does for his frequent use of the word and love for "whimsy."

The 9 Thumbs podcast for three likeable guys (and an occasional appearance by Rachel Held Evans) who like things and like to share things.

Knitting for the repetative motion that calms my soul.

A new workout video from Jillian Michaels for literally kicking my bum.

Tortillas for being an old love and a new love and a missed love while in South Africa.

A new video endeavor from my friend Ike.

Skype for how it connects worlds together.

Pandora for its world of music that was unavailable to me in South Africa.

My niece's attempts at frog jumps--really just touching her toes and throwing her hands up in the air--for watching her grow up and seeing her think she's frog jumping just like big brother.

Desktop wallpaper for letting me see my future daughter's face every day on both my work and home computers.

US office supplies for being wonderfully crafted and organizationally sound.

The Galations series from Matt Chandler and The Village Church.

What are a few of your every day and incredible loves of the moment?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Servings: French Toast

Baking is an act of generosity. It is love and kindness and sorrow and hope baked into a loaf of generosity. Sunday Servings is an attempt to spread the generosity a little further by sharing stories and recipes. If you would like to share your own story or recipe, please do so in the comments section or tweet ideas to @AmandaEPeterson.


This week my nephew and niece have been staying with us while their parents are away. We've had lots of fun running amok and this morning decided to make French Toast for a lazy Saturday morning breakfast. Probably not baking, but a lot of fun to make with a six year old.

Since there were five of us, Benjamin cracked four eggs into a bowl which we beat with about a tablespoon of cinnamon. (I like to blend the cinnamon with the eggs so each bite of toast is perfectly cinnamony.)

Then we plopped in a piece of bread, soaking both sides. Benjamin got pretty good at making sure each piece was sopping with egg and ready for the griddle.

We heated the griddle up to 350°F (175°C) and toasted each side for about 20-30 seconds (until browned on each side). 

Katharine and Grandad watched with growly tummies.

A bit of (or a lot of) powdered sugar (icing sugar) and then some sliced pears. (I like being creative with my fruit and nut add-ons: sliced almonds, strawberries, blueberries, pear, mango. This is your opportunity to let your creative side shine.)

Finally we poured on some syrup and enjoyed our lazy Saturday morning breakfast treat. (Whipped cream is a nice add-on too if you have it.)


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday Thematics: Proclaiming Good News to the Poor

This week I'm starting a new series entitled Thursday Thematics. Thursday Thematics will consist of groups of posts focused on a given topic or passage of scripture relevant to engaging culture, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @AmandaEPeterson.

For our first theme, we'll walk through the anointments of Isaiah 61--the passage Jesus read in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-20). After finishing his reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says to the crowd, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." If this scripture has been fulfilled, how does a fulfilled version of Isaiah 61 impact our lives today?

...the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor...

One of the last things I did before leaving South Africa was visit a tattoo parlor for some new ink.

Both of my tattoos came about in a similar manner.

I designed and prayed and thought about them for months upon months. And then one day the design and the purpose came together and I knew without a shadow of a doubt it was time to get inked.

When that day showed up it was only two weeks before I got on the plane to go back to the US, and I knew, if it was going to be done in SA, it had to be done that day or not at all. The tattoo would need time to heal or altitude and the infections so easily spread on airplanes would cause all sorts of gross, pussy kind of trouble.

Thankfully the Lebanese dude who ran the shop fit me in to his packed schedule for the day.

Getting tattooed is not an experience you quickly forget, but I'm pretty sure this one was chart topping:

Danny (guy from Lebanon) as my South African tattoo artist.

His South African wife running the front desk and then running to get me chips when my blood sugar dropped because I was silly and didn't eat before hand.
His Moscowian colleague cutting up from across the room as he inked some college girl.
And an in depth conversation about the Syrian conflict, its impact on Lebanon and why he had left Lebanon over a decade ago and taken up refugee status in South Africa.
Oh, and let's not forget the eight foot boa constrictor who added a bit of much needed nuance.
And the whole time Danny is inking my left shoulder blade with a beautiful hand drawn Baobab tree with the words Mafoko a Molemo underneath.

Mafoko a molemo is deep or old Setswana for good news.

Good news of the kind taken straight out of Isaiah 61--the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

Some how it all seemed fitting.

Here I was chatting it up with a Lebanese, a Russian and a few South Africans with good news literally being written, with the buzz of the needle, over our conversation.

But what is this good news to the poor Isaiah and then Jesus and now us through him are to proclaim? What kind of good news have we been anointed with?

I know a lot of us who work in the helping professions, those of us who move in and among the poor on a day to day basis, and probably most everyone, we want good news to be news of riches and changing circumstances. We want poverty, especially extreme poverty, to be done away with for all time and for the good news to be news that we've in essence won the battle against poverty.

Yet it is so easy to get discouraged when that kind of radical, poverty-eliminating ending is thwarted by shortsighted congressional representatives or neighbors turning a blind eye or natural disaster or whatever.

I told a friend recently that when I get to those places of being so discouraged and thinking things will never change, I go to be with the poor. I go and visit the friends I have who are counted among the poor. I play with the kids I know who have lost mothers and fathers to poverty and its consequences. I enjoy life with the poor. And there I find hope.

I believe that kind of hope is the good news Isaiah was talking about. I don't think its good news that all your problems will be lifted and go away forever--though I do think there is much that can and should be done to help people lift themselves out of poverty. But I think it is good news that there is a togetherness--a unity--in poverty. A shared hopefulness. A shared fullness. And a God who comes down and meets the poor just where they are in there poverty.

I think it's the good news of a Jesus who praises a woman giving away in faith her last two coins to the temple collection. I think it's good news of a Jesus who says "Blessed are the poor." I think it's the good news of a Jesus who finds coins in fish's mouths. I think it's the good news of a Jesus who feeds the hungry with a few meager portions. I think it's the good news of a Jesus who recognizes how wealth can corrupt a young man's heart and keep him far from God. I think it's the good news of a Jesus who had no home and no place to lay his head. I think it's the good news of a Jesus who experienced stigma and was often forced into the margins of society. I think it's the good news of a Jesus who was abandoned by his friends when times got tough. I think it's the good news of Jesus who tells us to store up in heaven and makes us heirs along with him.

I have good news tattooed on my shoulder because every time I see it I am reminded to be good news in the lives of the poor in my life. And reminded to cease my striving for riches and to strive to be more and more like the good news Jesus.

And when I look at my tattoo, I see the baobab tree--a huge tree who can reach up to 30m or about 100ft in height. The largest in the world is in the Limpopo province of South Africa and has a circumference of 47m (about 154ft).

These trees thrive in arid climates because they are capable of storing huge amounts of water--up to 120,000 liters (32,000 gallons)--and so are incredibly drought resistant. For humans they provide a wealth or resources: water, edible leaves, fruit and seeds, fiber, dye and fuel.

Baobab trees are good news trees. They stand up in the toughest of conditions and provide and share.

I can think of so many of my friends living in poverty who are Baobab trees in their communities. Who bring water and food and fuel and life.

They are good news trees.

This is the anointing we have on us, to not only proclaim good news to the poor, but to be good news to the poor. To be baobab trees standing tall and being hope and being community and being life-bringers and good news speakers.

That's what's at the heart of being anointed to proclaim good news.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Forays into Kings & Chronicles

In my morning devotionals, I've been sitting in those really heavy Old Testament books for a while now. The ones in between Ruth and Ezra. Those heavy ones full of despicable acts of betrayal, war crimes, genocide and a lot of stories I have a hard time reconciling with the God of grace I know from the New Testament.

Samuel and I generally do okay because there's Hannah--Hannah my hero, Hannah whose heart I know so well. And then, Samuel's not such a bad guy either.

David's a bit "eh" for me, but he has his moments--like the story of Abigail and the story of him dancing before the Lord and the story of his humanity displayed in his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah.

So with Hannah and Samuel and David, I usually make my way through the Samuels without too many hangups or pitfalls

But the Kings and the Chronicles...those I can generally do without.

When I do choose to brave the depravity, I find myself clinging to stories of Elijah and the widow or Elisha and the Shumanite woman, trying to find the smallest glimpse of the God of the New Testament and trying to not get hung up on the stories of genocide. Or the stories of war. Or the stories of rebellion and betrayal.

My mom and I were chatting last evening about how everything just seems to be so messed up. From politics to financial markets to global epidemics to the crazy stories we can both share from working with low income families locally--it seems everything is just too messed up for us to possibly find our way out. It seems so similar to the ever downward spiral I've been reading about in the Kings and the Chronicles.

But I suppose what I'm liking about the Kings and the Chronicles is how they simply tell it how it is. There's no sugar-coating. There's no romanticizing. There's no glamorizing. The stories are the stories--they're ugly and raw and real.

I've heard a lot of talk since I've been back in the US about getting back to the way things used to be--to the "good ol' days" if you will. But I think in our disgust for the present, we've romanticized and built up the past in to something it really wasn't. We look back with romantic eyes at simpler times, and gloss over citizens being denied basic civil rights. We forget about recessions and depressions gone by. We forget about war. We forget about the things of those eras that aren't so romantic, that weren't so good or so simple. And I'm convinced we need to look more objectively and see with objective eyes the ugly and raw and real.

One of the greatest lessons I took away from living inside another culture is that culture is a living, breathing, evolving thing. If culture stagnates and does not evolve as its environment presses in on, it does not survive. 

There are always traditions and mores that should be preserved, but culture itself has to move forward. It cannot move backward. I think we call that kind of folding back on one's self implosion.

When I look back on my own stories, I try to balance the romantic wonderment with the ugly and raw and real. Otherwise I'm always moving back to Portland where it was gorgeous and the people were so earthy and gritty and granola. Or to Colorado Springs where mountains were my playground and I lived in such perfect harmony and balance with my relationships. Or to South Africa where everything was exotic and diverse and perfect every day.

If you knew me in any of those places, you probably just laughed out loud because you know the ugly and the raw and the real part of life for me in those places as well. And I know that while all those places were those things, there was a lot of ugly and raw and real too.

We have to be careful of living too much in the past and not enough in the present. It's in living too much in the past that we can lose our hope for the future and our sight for the right now.

It's a dangerous thing when we as individuals or we as a culture spend too much time looking backwards and not enough time looking around us and ahead of us.

For certain, there are lessons to be gained from the past and much history can teach us, but it does us no good if we're constantly fighting to get back to that reality or not spending enough time looking forward and applying the lessons we learned when we looked backwards.

The Kings and the Chronicles? I think they get that. This is what happened so take the lesson and apply it. It ain't pretty. It ain't sugarcoated. It is what it was. Now what will you do with it?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Serving: Plum Bread

In all my early childhood memories, my father is standing--standing and doing, standing and moving, standing and serving.

Memories of my father standing in church with hymnal in hand, skillfully leading the congregation in A capella harmonies.

Memories of my father standing in a circle with other men and praying as I danced around the periphery.

Memories of my father shuffling folding tables and chairs from fellowship here to fellowship there.

Memories of my father teaching Sunday School and telling children stories of Jesus and building in them a love for a gentle and yet wild savior.

Servant leadership is one of those terms Christians like to toss around and is often overused, but I love the concept and believe no term could better describe the type of leadership our Jesus displayed throughout his earthly ministry.

When I think of the servant leaders who I have know and who have influenced my life, my dad is always one of the first to come to mind.

There is no other way to describe his leadership:

He leads through serving.

And he's taught me to lead through serving.

To lead by giving away and giving of myself wherever and however I can.

To lead through generosity and hospitality.

To lead by believing the person in front of you is the most important person in the room and deserves every bit of your attention.

My dad and I have had a bumpy road of a relationship, but it has been good and sweet in the past few years to come to a deeper understanding of one another and to allow our similarities be what we most love about each other rather than what keeps us from getting along.

I am so grateful for his daily example of servant leadership in my life, and will always strive to be a faithful mimicker of that example.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. Thank you for the being the father you are. Hope you enjoy this bread from one of your favorite fruits.

Plum Bread

Original recipe available at


  • 1 cup pitted, chopped red/black plums (about 3 small plums)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Spray a 9x5-inch (23x13-cm) loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Sprinkle chopped plums with 1 tablespoon of flour in a bowl and toss to coat (this will keep your batter from turning red if you are using red plums). Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter, white sugar and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. In another bowl, sift together the rest the of flour with salt and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, alternating with yogurt until the mixture forms a smooth batter. Lightly stir in the flour-coated plums and pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the top of the batter with brown sugar.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pan for slicing.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spewing Gossip

I'm a gossiper.

No lies. I gossip. I gossip regularly.

It's not that I want to spread gossip and be a known gossiper. I just like being in the know. And I justify it that being in the know helps me do my job better or helps me know my peers better or helps me be a wiser more educated person.

But really, I just want to be in the know. I want to be the person who knows things.

I want to be the person who the boss trusts to tell her woes about coworker X to. I want to be the friend trusted to hear the story about what friend A did to friend B all under the guise of advice and a listening ear. I want to be the person who knows. And I want other people to know I know.

I am a pretty good secret keeper and for the most part I think I can be trusted, but all too often the thought passes through my mind, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but... Especially if you haven't said to me those important words, "Don't tell anyone."

And I know I'm not alone because you gossip with me.

You tell me secrets and what you heard about person Y and situation Z. You come into my office, and I go into yours. You text me, and I text you back. I email you, Skype you, call you, talk to you, and you listen and you gossip back.

And men, don't deny it, you gossip too. Just as often. Just as much.

Coming into my new job, I didn't want to be the gossiper anymore. I wanted to remove myself from the situation when the gossip starts. I wanted to fight the urge to go tell so and so what what's his face just did. I wanted to keep my excellent, social worky, empathetic listening skills in check, and not use them to get my peers to start gossiping.

I wanted to keep it all to myself and not be that gossipy girl.

I think I'd been doing a pretty good job of it. No, I know I'd been doing a pretty good job of it. Or at least I was doing a pretty good job until I got home at the end of the day and let my parents hear it all. But that's just venting, right? Not gossip?

Yesterday, however, the urge got to be too much. I knew something good. I knew something really good. And I knew colleague G would be interested in my gossipy news.

It was like one of those moments from the old cartoons when the little demon and the little angel pop up on your shoulders and debate the good and bad with you. Why is it the little demon and his pitchfork and horns are always so much more convincing?

I b-lined for colleague G's office. My erupting volcano of gossip spewing all over her.

I expected to feel relieved of my burden and satisfied with the release, but this time, for maybe the first time, after releasing my gossip, I saw with clear eyes the mess I had just made. I saw the stains on the wall. I saw her gossip splattered clothing and at that moment knew no mop, no amount of bleach, no rag would ever fully clean those stains.

I had dishonored one coworker by gossiping about them and disrespected another by sharing my gossip with them.

My friend Claire once told me about a pact she had made with some of her girlfriends to hold each other accountable when they started gossiping. Just a simple, Hey, that's gossip, and an agreement to end the conversation there and go on to another topic. No judgement. Just accountabilty.

To be honest, when Claire told me this, I remember thinking, Wow, that's a bit idealistic and over the top.

But then we all know just how hurtful gossip can be. Even the gossip we think is harmless can be incredibly destructive.

So maybe Claire and friends and their idea isn't so over the top.

James wasn't exagerating when he called the tongue "a fire", a small spark able to catch an entire forest on fire (James 3:5, 6).

I also agree with James that at least this side of Kingdom come, I will never fully tame my tongue, but I think I can work on breaking it in. I know the Spirit of God within me is much more powerful than my gossipy tongue. I know the heart and the will not to gossip is stronger than the desire to gossip.

And I just keep thinking, what a testimony, what a light, to be the one who walks away from gossip and refuses to take part. The one who chooses to not judge those who are gossiping, but rather to call others out when you can and walk away when you can't. To be the person everyone knows will never gossip about me and is completely trustworthy.

I want to be that kind of testimony to the goodness of God within me.

Today, I went back to my colleagues office with a "Hey, I owe you an apology. That thing I told you yesterday was really gossipy and I feel like I dishonored colleage C and disrespected you."

No agenda. Just an apology and a I want to better in the future.

Does gossip trip you up? How are you learning to manage gossip in your own life?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Deep and Simple

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

Please won't you be my neighbor?

If you grew up in the era of PBS children's programs being the acme of educational television for kids, then the friendly jingle probably popped in your head as you read the above and you pictured the familiar kindhearted grin, hand-knitted sweater and canvas tennis shoes of Mr. Rogers, everyone's most beloved neighbor.

Thanks to the guys at the 9 Thumbs podcast, I came across a great little documentary a few weeks back called Mister Rogers & Me .

The film follows Benjamin Wagner, MTV producer and Nantucket neighbor of Mr. Rogers, as he seeks to find the meaning behind Mr. Rogers words to him:

"I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex."

Watching this documentary, seeing new and familiar images of our beloved neighbor, hearing his neighbors talk about him and his passion for deep and simple--I found myself challenged.

Deep and simple.

In a New York Times article about the film, Maxwell King, a senior fellow at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media in Latrobe, Pa.--Mr. Rogers’s hometown--said this of Fred Rogers:
“He embraced television, the cutting-edge technology of his day, but he always used it and wanted to see it used in the most thoughtful and measured way to be helpful to children and families, never to exploit them."
To me, that is why so many people admired Fred Rogers and why he captivated the minds of children for decades.

Mr. Roger's never had an agenda. He never tried to sell you a product. He never used propaganda of any kind.

Sitting on the living room floor in front of the television, you believed and you knew Mr. Rogers was there because he cared about you and all that made you uniquely you. Even if he was trapped behind the bubble of the television screen, Mr. Rogers knew about the things that made you scared, the things that made you happy and the things that made you sad. And you could trust him with those things as he helped you work through them in his own soft and gentle way.

He acknowledged the hard feelings--the sadness, the hurt, the pain, the sorrow, the fear--that children feel without glossing over them and making light of them. He dealt with serious issues of death and divorce with grace, encouraging kids to feel every emotion and allowing them to hurt in healing ways.

Deep and simple.

What made Mr. Rogers a television icon was his simplicity and his gentleness. Even "speedy deliveries" happened with a deliberate slowness that allowed all of the feeling, all of the emotion, all of the moment to happen.

Mr. Rogers never rushed, he never hurried to the next thing, and in that slowness he allowed the full moment to happen with every detail in place and each detail equally as important as the last detail.

Watching, you somehow knew at that moment, you were the most important person in Mr. Rogers' world.

Those who knew him in real life and not just in the make believe world of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood say it was like that in real life too. When Mr. Rogers talked to you, when he interacted with you, you were the most important person in his world in that moment.

Deep and simple.

Watching Mr. Rogers and Me, I discovered, decades later, I still have a lot to learn from Mr. Rogers.

Our world swirls in complexity around us. Politics and the economy. Education and business. Media and entertainment. Church and church politics. They all swirl about us making our lives ever more complex and, often, ever more shallow.

I think it is impossible to obtain real depth--to go deeper in your relationships with people and with God--without slowing down, breathing in the quiet from time to time and allowing deep and simple to envelop you.

Walking in the front door, taking off your suit coat and exchanging it for the warmth of a hand-knitted sweater. Removing your dress shoes and putting on a simple pair of tennis shoes. And setting aside all the complex for a little time in make believe, allowing a bit of whimsy into your life--those moments of deep and simple will be the moments we take with us. They'll be the moments that remain long after we're gone.

I'm inspired by the life of Mr. Rogers to make deep and simple the norm of my day to day and shallow and complex the fleeting. And I want to teach Hannah to treasure the deep and the simple instead of storing up the shallow and complex.

The way we love others. The way we love ourselves. The way we love God. That is deep and simple.

I'm convinced deep and simple is at the very heart of the what and the who God created us to be.

I'm convinced deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Servings: Pear Bread

Being the new gal on the job isn't all that easy.

Fumbling through the day, asking question after question of colleagues, double checking and rechecking to be sure you filled out the form correctly and generally feeling somewhat adrift.

But I think it is equally hard, if not more so, for everyone else, especially if you and your colleagues need to work closely together to get the job done.

From the person who trains you and puts off their own deadlines to make sure you swim and not sink the first time you head into the waters on your own.

To your teammates who are used to the manner of their former coworker and are not quite sure about this new person and their personality and whether they'll jive with the rest of the team.

To the boss who's encouraging you and giving you pats on the back, all the while praying she made a good decision in hiring you and you'll step into the role without too much difficulty.

And finally there's all the people on the periphery who are just trying to remember your name when you smile and tell them good morning on the way in and good evening on the way out.

It's an adjustment for everyone.

I've been pretty blessed to work with some wonderful teams and at some wonderful places throughout my working career. Each place had its own culture and its own spirit. Each place accomplished and did in its own way.

I've learned with each new job, it takes time to assimilate into the culture of a company. It takes time to learn what the politics are and then how to avoid them. It takes time to get to know people's personality quirks and to recognize when they're having a bit of an off day. And it takes time to know exactly who you are within the organization and how you fit into the workings.

I'd been with Mmametlhake Family Care Centre for about three months when my first birthday in Mmametlhake rolled around. Although I'd been living in the village for just under a year, I had only been working directly with the centre since January and was still in the early stages of learning the culture of the organization and finding my role within it.

The morning of my birthday, after coffee and dressing, I pulled out the big bag of pears I had lugged home from my shopping town a few days before and began to grate them--one after another after another until my fingers were wrinkly from the pear juice.

As I shredded pears and mixed the batter and baked the loaf, I thought about the centre and how blessed I was to be a part of this little NGO in this little village. How I was somehow fitting in quickly despite not really knowing the culture of the organization and barely knowing Tswana culture or the culture of South Africa. How blessed I was for the friendship I had with my coworker Elias and how excited I was for the World Cup camp we would put on for the local school children in a few months.

I thought about how weird and wonderful the last year of my life had been--living in the rural areas of South Africa, far, far away from friends and family.

I thought about the journey that brought me there and the journey that was still to come.

I thought and dreamed and baked, and then I wrapped up my fresh loaf of pear bread and carried it the short distance to the centre's office and shared my birthday treat with my new colleagues.

My favorite was Pastor Bethuel's face as he enjoyed one slice and then another and then asked to take some home to his wife.

It was a special blessing to get to share that loaf of bread with those good folks--a special blessing and a special treat I will always remember.

I've pulled the recipe back out for this weekend and will take a fresh loaf of pear bread to my new colleagues on Monday. It's a gesture of thanks after two weeks of kindly dealing with my newness, but I think for me it is also a gesture of remembering and in remembering blessing--blessing the new job with the goodness of the old one. And a gesture of commitment--of committing whatever talent and skill I may possess to support and help my new team and those we're serving. And a gesture of thanksgiving for how God provides for us in ways we cannot imagine and cannot understand.

I hope you enjoy!

Pear Bread

Original recipe available on


  • 3 cups all-purpose (cake) flour (or 1 cup all-purpose and 2 cups whole wheat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups peeled shredded pears
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)


  1. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl combine the oil, eggs, sugar, grated pears, pecans and vanilla. Blend well. Add to well of dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 9x5x3in (23x13x8cm) loaf pans.
  3. Bake in a preheated 325°F (165°C) oven for one hour and 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack before removing from loaf pans.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

I Hear of Women Rising

I witnessed it in a thousand little ways every day in South Africa.

Little, tiny, insignificant ways, but when you put them together all of those insignificant things became one very significant thing--the daily "depowerment" of women.

It was so evident, I couldn't even define it as unempowered, but needed to create a new term to describe how women were being robbed of their power by both small and large daily acts.

Over and over again, I met women who were leading their households, raising their children, leading in their jobs and bringing home the family's main source of income, but did not know they were powerful. Did not know they could possess power. Did not know that God created them to be powerful, valuable and worthy women to his honor and glory.

I interacted with fiercly intelligent women, managing their households with skill and wisdom whose husbands or boyfriends would come home and rape and beat them into submission.

I met girls with every opportunity to excel in school, go on to a career and lift their family out of poverty who got pregnant at a young age in order to recieve a child support grant from the government--a small stipend designed to support impoverished mothers and children that all too often was not used to support the child.

I worked alongside amazing women at various NGOs capable of great leadership but daily demeaned by men and superiors who expected her to make tea and clean the office while he sat and waited for something more important to do with his own two hands, idle and just as capable.

And here I was, standing beside them, an empowered woman who had received all the benefits of feminism. I could do for myself, speak for myself and generally take care of myself, never fearing the retribution of my partner or male colleagues.

I ached for the woman around me to know the same power in themselves, and I wept whenever I saw the Church as the author of these depowering acts--shunning women who got pregnant out of wedlock, instructing women to submit to their abusive husbands, forcing women to fall inline with cultural traditions that promoted men in value and lessened women in theirs.

There were, of course, exceptions. There are always exceptions to every generalization and every stereotype.

The first time I ever heard a woman preach was at a small, village church.

I was mesmerized and amazed by this beautiful, strong, pregnant South African woman who spoke with authority and full confidence of the Spirit of God within her.

She and her husband faithfully pastored that little church with grace and love. They consistently empowered both men and women in their community and were a blessing to me throughout my time in the rural areas of South Africa.

And then there is my friend Elias who remains always my friend and graciously served me tea more times than I can count as he daily and faithfully served and empowerd his community.

And then the many, many women I met who had empowered themselves or were rising above and choosing empowerment.

These exceptions brought me joy and hope and encouraged me when I was disheartened by little and big acts I saw, both rural and urban, that silently spoke messages to women: You are less valuable. You are less worthy. You are less important.

And as a future mother of a daughter, I am concerned with images I see now in the US that silently speak those same kinds of messages, especially those images I see within the Church.

It concerns me that in so many of our churches, young girls can be active leaders in our youth groups, graduate, and find the church no longer wants their leadership gifts.

It concerns me that in so many of our churches, men are given roles of prominence while women hold supporting roles, unable to fully use the gifts God has entrusted them with.

It concerns me that in so many of our churches, we are not setting the example for millions of women and girls oppressed in our country and worldwide who need to see the Church demonstrating You are valuable. You are worthy. You are important.

The abused and beaten wife. The mother struggling to feed her children. The woman abandoned by her lover, pregnant and alone. The woman forcefully mutilated by traditions valuing female circumcision. The woman trafficked into sexual slavery. The daughter struggling with her self-worth.

These women need to know a Church who says, You are valuable. You are worthy. You are important, not just by their words but by their deeds, by the image they show to the world.

We need Esthers and Dorcas'. We need Deborahs and Abigails. We need Ruths and Mary Magdalenes. We need women who can empower other women by their actions and show them their value and worth.

But we also need Elishas and Elijahs. We need Pauls and Davids. We need Johns and Jesus'. We need men who see, know and build up women with their words and deeds.

We need a Church living out the fulfillment of the Creator God's image on both men and women.

And as much as I see it not happening, I am also thankful for the little pockets where I see it taking place.

I see conversations being held with mutual respect between egalitarians and complementarians. I hear of women empowered with small daily acts of greatness by the men and women around them. I hear stories of churches finding ways to liberate trafficked women and turn cultural practices that demean and suppress women on their head.

I hear of women rising out of the depths of depowerment.

And it makes my inner-most shout aloud and rejoice.

Today's post was written in conjunction with the “One in Christ – A Week of Mutuality” synchroblog at Join the conversation about women in the Church this week. Connect and spread the good news.

For more on the depowerment of women across the world and in the Church and how we can be involved in empowering women, I suggest you check out Half the Sky  by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and Half the Church  by Carolyn Custis James.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Expecting Ingratitude

All the books will tell you and you will hear it over and over again from your caseworker, your support group and everyone involved in making your adoption journey a reality--do not expect for your child to be grateful.

Do not suppose, when he is home and safe, well fed and well clothed, secure and loved that he will look at you, eyes wide with gratitude, and say, "Oh, thank you Mommy for saving me from that life I had before."

An orphaned or abandoned child has experienced more loss in their short lives than most of us will experience in our entire lives. And though there will be times when she is able to express her gratitude, there will be more times when her heart will hurt and she can't explain why, more times when he simply can't understand why you don't understand him or how he needs you to respond, more times when she has to deal with what life is instead of what life could have or should have been.

The loss of biological family, the loss of family identity, the loss of medical history and genealogy, often the loss of culture and the chance to grow up in a family that looks like you--adopted children will grieve these losses and others in different ways and at different levels for their whole lives no matter how loving their adopted family.

It's not about ingratitude. It's about sincere loss.

With all this loss added to all the newness of their lives, children don't know how to, cannot express and often genuinely don't feel gratitude towards their adoptive families, and it is perfectly understandable.

Gratitude should not be the expectation.

I read another article on this subject last week as I was dealing with my own ingratitude issues and found myself being so thankful for a God who, being the ultimate adoptive parent, doesn't expect us to always respond with gratitude to his blessings but rather offers us more love and more grace in our ingratitude.

I wanted to be grateful. I wanted my heart to be overflowing in the bounty I was given. I wanted to thank God well and be a grateful child, but I simply couldn't find it in my heart. And I felt guilty and shameful for not being so.

I find it's in those moments when more than any other moment I ought to be grateful and I want to be grateful--it's in those moments when God comes down close and whispers his grace again--when he comes in a gentle whisper as he came to a heartbroken Elijah, an Elijah who ought to have been thankful for God showing up in an awesome way, but an Elijah who couldn't muster the strength for gratitude (1 Kings 18:16-19:18).

I am grateful for a God who doesn't expect my gratefulness.

I am grateful for a God who knows my heart in and out--who knows my sadness, who knows my fears, who knows my laments--and knows the gratitude at the core of me when I can't express it in my outward me.

I hope I can take a lesson from my Papa, and show Hannah the same sort of grace on those days when the laments overwhelm the gratitude.

I hope on those days, I can lean down and whisper in her ear of my love and my nearness. I hope I will lament with her and not shield her from her loss but help her walk through it. I hope I can hold her and love her through her ingratitude no matter how much it might hurt me.

I am amazed by a loving Father who chooses to love us both on the days when our cups are overflowing with gratitude, awe and adoration and on the days when there seems to be a hole in the bottom of the cup.

I am amazed by a good Father whose love never fails us even when our love fails him.

I am amazed by a joyous Father who draws near and laments alongside us when we don't know how to do anything else but lament.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Sunday Servings: Zucchini Apple Bread

Summer and farmers' markets.

It just doesn't get any better than all the fresh, local produce suddenly available--strawberries, blueberries, zucchini, squash of all kinds, peppers, green beans and more.

I love the many, many tastes of summer.

I love my father's little garden in the backyard, this year with herbs mixed in among the tomatoes and okra.

Summer is one of those seasons where it is so easy to get in touch with nature again.

My new office is just across the way from Mackenzie Park--the finest of Lubbock's parks with entertainment such as Prairie Dog Town and Joyland amusement park, but also with a few acres of wild.

When I arrived there Friday with my lunch in hand, I slipped off my shoes and walked idly through the freshly cut grass.

More than sandy beaches, I love walking barefoot through the grass. I love the initial pricks of the blades as your foot meets the ground. I love how those pricks transform into a bed of softness, cushioning your foot. When I walk barefoot on the grass, I feel at one with nature and at once transformed into something more nymph like than human.

In my nymphin state, I meandered across the park--sometimes following the creek, sometimes wondering through the trees. Stopping at a footbridge to watch a turtle catch a bite to eat and smiling at the children's racing past bellies full of picnic delights.

I found myself walking through a painting of summer bliss.

And with a few apples and zucchini, I've found another way to recreate that painting of summer bliss in a taste sensation straight from your local farmers' market.

I love this recipe for it's light, sweetness, and the combination of the apple and zucchini is phenomenal. I hope you enjoy it and find a bit of summer bliss in each mouthful.

Zucchini Apple Bread

Original recipe available on


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (for a heartier bread, use 2 cups all-purpose and 1 1/2 cups wheat flour)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2 cups peeled, chopped zucchini (know as marrow in South Africa)
  • 1 cup chopped, peeled apple


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease two 9x5in (23x13cm) loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, white sugar, brown sugar, oil and vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Fold in walnuts, zucchini and apple. Pour into prepared pans.
  3. Bake 1 hour, or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Let cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.