Friday, November 15, 2013

Let It Shine

I've been musing on light this week. It all started last Sunday night when I pulled off the road on my way home from Austin (MN) to try and capture the incredible sunset. I'm not a very good photographer, and while this picture isn't as good as the real thing, you can still tell that it was something pretty special:

It was almost exactly 5pm and it was just breathtaking. I had no trouble believing that God was in heaven and all was right with the world.

This of course was just after the time change weekend and I realized I had been missing the sunsets in my transition from work to home at the end of the day, because I don't always work regular hours that take me home as the sun goes down.

Monday morning I woke with the sun and immediately recognized a change in the quality of the morning light in my bedroom (whose only window faces east). As I lay there thinking about the day ahead, some long untapped memory of lights past sent me flying out of bed to look out the window. And there it was: snow. I had forgotten. When there is snow on the ground, the quality of the light changes. It's reflected upward. Light "goes" in both directions, all directions, and things are suddenly brighter.

Here's the view from my front door. I didn't want to step outside and mess up the pristine perfection of my front yard just yet. It was still snowing at this point but later in the day the skies turned blue and the whole world sparkled.

Tuesday the wind picked up and the snow swirled in a way I couldn't capture photographically (though I even tried to make a video,)

Ironically, Tuesday was in the low teens - very cold - but I was almost hot in my office because of the sunshine streaming in my windows. Can you imagine that sunbeam beating down on me as I worked?  I didn't want to close the blinds because it was so gorgeous outside, so I just sunned myself like a cat for about half of the day. Beautiful warm, buttery, sunshine - on the coldest day since March.

Wednesday brought a few city lights as I traveled to Rochester for a lunch meeting (which included a burger at Newt's, one of my favorite places to eat there.) Thursday featured firelight as I hung out with the Seventh Grade confirmation class in the Fireside room at church and later, a spotlight on human trafficking as I attended a talk by some Franciscan nuns brought to Blooming Prairie by the AAUW.

Earlier this morning I reflected on how it takes darkness to bring the full bloom of my Christmas cactus into the light.

As always I am overcome with awe that the writers of scripture, who had such limited experience of the world, could capture the essence of God so wondrously - I keep thinking of the first verses in the book of John:"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:1-5 (RSV)
  • In the Genesis account of creation we hear that God "speaks" light into being with the command "Let there be light." How can this be?
  • And in my extremely limited understanding of the Higgs boson, or "God Particle" it seems that the best analogy has to do with light going through prisms or water, and being broken and re-formed.
  • I think of the people of the Philippines who will be without electricity, and by extension light, for some time to come. 
  • And of Advent arriving in two weeks, and the candles I must buy soon, before they are not to be found.
  • And of how brightly the stars shine in the deep darkness of rural Minnesota.
Still missing the city lights and the bright smiles of my dear friends, but settling into life here with a "lighter" heart each passing week.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Homesick Kitchen

Last week I ate an entire jar of Pace medium picante sauce. Put it on eggs, chips, and chicken wrapped in tortillas; I think I even dipped a pretzel or two into its spicy, tomato-y goodness. I just needed a little heat on my tongue. I even lit up like Christmas over Qdoba. (Thank you sister and nieces for indulging me!) Mashed potatoes used to remind me of home. Now they are home. I wonder if they would taste good with picante sauce on them. I'm betting yes!

Last night I held the first Sunday night get-together for the 10th, 11th, and 12th graders of First Lutheran. It was my first new initiative and I have been working toward it for a couple of weeks. I planned to have us cook a meal: Jambalaya as a tip of the hat to New Orleans, because it was All Saints Sunday, and because several of these youth had attended the National Youth Gathering there in 2012. And so I bought enough groceries to make a LOT because on Wednesday night we are going to feed some homeless people at a shelter in Rochester so I figured I would just freeze any leftovers and be ready for that event too.

I also built an entire Jeopardy board using my printer and lots of paper and tape and all the wit and wisdom I could muster.

The picture stinks but there are awesome categories and fun questions.

Saint-ly Cities for $100, Julie:
A: The capitol of Minnesota
Q: What is St. Paul?
I'll take Saint-ly Holidays for $400:
A: Holiday where coffee is served to people still in bed by a young woman wearing candles on her head.
Q: What is Santa Lucia Day?

As you can imagine, I had a ton of fun dreaming it up, and if you are a total nerd like me, you can even play the game here:  Beware of the New Orleans Saints category, most of the questions refer to things that Vikings fans would know.

I also had a really good devotion planned. . .

One kid came. ONE. She was adorable. And we had three great hours of conversation and cooking. I have plenty of Jambalaya left for the hungry people on Wednesday night.

Doesn't this make your mouth water? It's delicious, and very easy, and a perfect recipe to cook with a kitchen full of kids with different skills. But I only had ONE . . .

So I was disappointed, and homesick for Triumphant Love where an evening in the kitchen with "moi" would likely draw a bunch of kids. So when all was chopped and cooked and sampled and the tools washed up and put away, I went home and had a few chips and salsa while I watched a sappy movie on Hallmark.

Then I went to bed. And as is my habit, I prayed for my new young friend. A young friend who was feeling lots of loss on All Saints Sunday. A young friend who at 16 has lost two friends to suicide, and another to a car accident. Whoops! I guess this wasn't about me at all. I guess I was right where I was supposed to be, with a person who loves hanging out in the kitchen, trying out new foods, talking about God, and who needed someone to talk to about the people she was missing. As I prayed for her I realized that there was probably no one else in this town who didn't know at least one of the people she was grieving and so her loss would have been diminished, because everyone else was grieving too. And had 15 kids showed up, she wouldn't have shared so much. . . God had a plan. And my ignorance of the plan probably prepared me perfectly for what was supposed to unfold. I feel so privileged to be useful in this way. So blessed to have God walk with me step-by-step. And so stupid that I miss the point and get all wrapped up in my own plans.

Today we had a skeleton crew at work so we had a little Jambalaya for lunch, and as I shared about last evening I received wonderful words of encouragement to keep at it, and that the kids will come, it will just take time. God blessed me with another little helping of comfort from the kitchen.