Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reuse and Recycle

Last Friday while my husband and I were taking out the recycling, we noticed a nondescript box sitting out next to the garbage dumpsters. We presumed it was intended to go out for paper collection, and we thought we'd do our neighbor a favor and bring it to the curb.

Before we did, though, I peeked inside, just to be sure it was really for recycling. It was full of magazines. I slid one out to look at the title. Cooking magazines. From the late 80's. It was full of them. I groaned. My husband laughed at me. He knows I have a weakness for cooking magazines.

Our elderly downstairs neighbor, a very dear friend, passed away about a month ago, and her children have been sorting through her old things, leaving piles of stuff on the curb for garbage. Not out of any disrespect, but purely from the perspective of one with little income and a family to care for, I often looked at those bulging black bags and wondered what little treasures were being discarded, things that might be useful with a little bit of ingenuity. I have resisted picking through them, like a vagabond on my own property. And then we found those magazines. I just couldn't toss them all out without at least looking through them. What if my next favorite dish was hiding between those warped and yellowing pages? Bless my husband, he usually tries to counteract my pack-rat nature, but this time he chuckled and helped me transfer the magazines from their rain damaged box into a dry one we had on hand so we could haul it upstairs. I told him I felt a little like the pilfering sneaks in "A Christmas Carol," taking the bed curtains from the home of the departed Scrooge. Silently I begged my neighbor's forgiveness for saving her twenty-year-old copies of "Food & Wine" and "Bon Appetit" from the recycling pile. I'd like to believe she would have given them to me whole-heartedly. She was that kind of woman. Later I realized with a twinge of regret that in all the times I used to sit and visit with her, we never talked about cooking. I think it came up in conversation once that I enjoyed cooking, and she seemed surprised, or at least intrigued. It's obvious from the fact that she subscribed to both these magazines simultaneously, and kept them for all these years, that she must have enjoyed it, too, although while I knew her she was so limited by diet restrictions and lack of mobility that she didn't cook much. I wish now that we had talked about it more. I would have really enjoyed that.

Will I get to look through all these magazines before I toss them back into the recycling? Probably not. Will I ever cook the recipes I tear out and file away? Maybe when my kids are older and less picky, but that's unlikely, too. So maybe I didn't really gain any new recipes from this little episode, but there are two things I'm taking away from it instead: I love that even though I know it drives him crazy when I save things that ought to just be thrown away, my husband let me keep those magazines, and even helped me do it, just because he knows me, and what delights me. And secondly, I have learned that I need to dig a little deeper in my friendships if I really want to uncover the treasures.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Scientific "Constant"

My daughter just completed her first school science project. She and two other friends were testing which light source was best for growing plants. Each girl had three different seeds planted in three little pots, perched under one light source in our various homes. A couple days ago, we collaborated and analyzed our collected data and drew conclusions about which light was best.

I've been trying to suppress my usual urge to question and look for the problems. For instance, we never checked our respective home temperatures. Our plants were not in an isolated room where the particular type of light provided was the ONLY source of light. No one was regulating how often or how much the plants were watered. In proper scientific method, all these factors, otherwise known as "constants," have to be regulated in order to rule out the chance of their affecting the results, thus skewing the conclusions you could draw.

So as I was thinking about this, it made me think about the importance of having "constants" in our lives. The title of my blog is, of course, drawn from the paradoxical expression, "The only thing constant is change." I chose that title first of all because I've felt like my life has been so full of changes lately it almost makes my head spin! But I also intentionally didn't use the whole phrase, because on the other hand, I believe there is one other very important thing which IS constant, and that is Jesus Christ.

In this experiment called life, with all the things that change continually, isn't it wonderful to have an anchor to hold onto, something we can rely on to stay the same? We can use the "constant" of Christ to correctly analyze the data we collect on a daily basis, and thus draw accurate conclusions which we can then use to adjust our behavior in ways that will bring us better results. Change is important. It keeps us on our toes, challenges and stretches us, and gives us the opportunity to grow and become something greater than what we are today. But thank goodness there is one great constant we can always count on as well!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Of Caterpillars and Chrysalides

I heard once that a caterpillar in its chrysalis has to liquify completely before it turns into a butterfly. As gross as that is, it is a fitting analogy as to how the Lord often times will break us down completely before he can make anything out of us.

For the past ten years or so, my husband has enjoyed a sporadically successful career as a musical theater performer ("sporadically" is here meant to qualify the word "career" rather than "successful". Every job he has had has been wildly successful, but they have usually been spaced apart by scary periods of joblessness). He has both understudied and played full-time major leading roles in national tours of some of the most popular musicals in the world. He has recorded 2 solo albums, sung in numerous solo concerts and as a notable guest soloist, and he frequently receives fan mail from people who love his work and whose lives have been changed by hearing him perform. I don't say all this to brag, but to just to let you know what a dandy, impressive little caterpillar he has been.

And then God said, "I'm going to make you a butterfly."

A few months ago my husband started to feel the stirrings of change. He felt like it was time to do something different and a little more stable as the father, husband and breadwinner for a family of 6. There were logical reasons for us to change course, but many of the reasons were just impressions, feelings. It makes me wonder what kind of tingly prickles let a caterpillar know when it's time to start its long incubation. A wise friend once told us that my husband's career in acting was like riding a loud and exciting speed-boat. It was fun and fast-paced and fulfilling. But he counseled us that over the roar of the proverbial motor, it was paramount that we listen carefully for the call of the Master to come in to shore. If we could always stay attuned to that quiet call, then we could safely motor on.

Even though we have felt that call, getting in to the shore has been a long, sometimes painful process. First we had to figure out where "the shore" was! And it has changed a few times. We've revised our career and schooling plans, changed where we thought we would move to, or when, and changed and changed again. We've spent lots of time on our knees, lots of time fasting, lots and lots of time discussing ideas, raising problems and concerns, and trying to listen to each other and the Spirit. It has often been very frustrating, and at times my prayers seemed to be, "Just tell us what to do and we'll do it! All we want to know is what to do!" I have truly felt liquified.

But it's starting to come together. We're starting to see the colors of our wings, and I think the result will be glorious.

A New Day

I was up at 5 am this morning. My youngest, almost 1, has been starting his day early the past little while. But it gave me a few extra hours at the beginning of my day, instead of at the end. I find extra hours at the start are often much better spent than extra ones at the end. There's something about a fresh start that makes it feel more like a gift, while hours tacked on to the end of a day always feel stolen to me.

So here's how I spent my morning: starting up the blog I have been contemplating yet resisting for a very, very, very long time. But there are a lot of changes coming in my life, and I might as well add one more change: joining the ranks of the cyber-voiced. Now I can cast my stream-of-consciousness bread upon the waters and see what returns to me in the form of comments, support, sometimes a jibe or two. Not that I really needed something else to do, but it may be interesting for someone out there to know what it's like from my angle of the wide universe, and what this journey feels like.