Sunday, April 21, 2013

An Open Letter to My Daughter

Dear Bridget,
     Today the Holy Spirit revealed something wonderful to me:  I hate my life.  I know that sounds strange.  Please bear with me.
     I have been struggling for a long time now with frustration, anxiety, and bouts of depression.  I was frustrated when I spent days alone in the house;  I was frustrated when I had to take care of company.  I was frustrated if your Dad was home too much; I was frustrated when he was gone a lot.  I was frustrated almost all of the time.  I had anxiety attacks.  I got down and couldn't find any energy or joy.  Yet, through all of this, I loved my life.  I was grateful to God to have such wonderful children and a wonderful husband, a beautiful house and plenty of money.  Most of the time, I was happy with the decisions I had made in life.  So why was I struggling?
     Lately, I have been sinking into another spell of the blues.  I came up with so many excuses:  the recent move, the mysterious stomach pains, your growing up, my need to find a close friend in LaGrange, the chilly spring.  So many, many more.  Still, the confusing thing is that when I actually think about it, I have the things I've really sought:  children, marriage, old house, great church, etc. .  Today, I had one of those fits where I decide all I ever do is clean, and yet the house is never clean.  I began filling the donation boxes, as I usually do during these times.  I think the idea is solid:  if I didn't own so much stuff, I wouldn't have to spend so much time cleaning my stuff.
Love hurts.
     As I was working, I was talking to God.  One of the nice things about being home alone is that I am completely free to talk out loud to God.  I was telling God that I am so SICK of spending all of my time on meaningless labor.  I do dishes, laundry, floors, beds...meaningless, cyclical work.  Please don't try to explain how satisfied I should be.  I finally got so frustrated that I shouted to the Lord, "I HATE MY LIFE!  THERE!  I SAID IT!  I HATE MY LIFE!"
     As soon as the words were out, I felt a bit of peace come to my spirit.  That Still Small Voice said, "Good.  That is the first step.  Now, what did I tell you?"  My mind was immediately filled with scriptures:  Luke 14:26-28, and the story of Mary and Martha.
     In Luke 14, Jesus finds Himself followed by a large crowd.  As usual, Jesus reacts by separating the men from the boys, so to speak.  He says, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?"  Our culture teaches us that to love one's life is a virtue.  If I don't love my life, something is terribly wrong.  Today, the Holy Spirit said to me, "Finally.  You are finally ready to become My disciple."
     The hardest part of coming to this point of realization was coming to terms with my role as a woman.  Ever since I got saved at 18, the loving folks I did church with began teaching me to love being a homemaker, and to find fulfillment there.  I did.  I still love being a homemaker.  Nonetheless, I am not fulfilled by housework; nor do I feel that housework and childcare fulfill my calling as a disciple.  As a youth worker, I have heard countless speakers assure crowds of youth (of both genders) that God has a plan for their lives and a calling on them.  Somehow, I do not believe that that calling is to a sink full of dishes.  Nor even to childrearing.  I believe that, as we fulfill our Christian calling, we set the example for our children.  We also bring them along with us, so they can begin their own good work.  That is how a woman raises the next generation of Christians, not by pampering and protecting them behind the middle-class walls of American suburbs.  Walls which I have sometimes protected and pampered my children behind.
     I think a woman is just as called to discipleship as a man.  Like it or not, Jesus had female disciples who travelled with Him and supported Him financially (typically the job of a rabbi's disciples, see Luke 8:1-3).  Consider, also, the familiar story of Mary and Martha.  In Luke 10:  38-42, we see Martha keeping busy with household work.  Mary, on the other hand, was completely focused on Christ.  Martha complained that Mary wasn't helping with the work.  What did Jesus say?  "There is only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."  Boom.
The point of this letter is two-fold:

1.  Don't ever fall for the teaching that women are not as called as men.  Stay in the scriptures and in prayer.  You are an anointed woman,  as were many women in both the Old and New Testaments.  Act 2:18:  "Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy."
2.  Don't be sad that I hate my life.  Be happy for me!  I believe the wind is picking up.  Do you know the wind I am talking about?  I think you do.  And if you ever find yourself thinking, "I hate my life," don't despair.  Brace yourself.

     With all my heart, I love you, Bridget.  --Moma


What To Do With Grits

     My in-laws ain't from around here.  They live in Iowa.  Every time he has breakfast with us, my father-in-law asks, "What's a grit?"  Well, grits are ground corn.  They began as a cheap way to fill hungry bellies.  Lately, I see them on snooty foodie shows.  The grit has arrived.  Up for your consideration:  2 easy ways to use grits.  Note:  I only use regular grits.  No quick grits.  NO instant grits.
     I frequently serve grits as a quick-and-easy weekday breakfast.  Mix 1/2 cup grits and 2 cups water in a large microwaveable bowl.  The bowl should seem a bit ridiculously large because the water will bubble up while the grits cook.  Throw in some salt, depending on how salty you like your food.  I add pepper, too.  Cook it 10 minutes on power level 6.  You may need to adjust these settings for your microwave and your taste in grits.  I like mine thick, not watery.  While the grits cook, get out an egg, grated cheese, butter, and milk.  Remove the bowl from the microwave when it finishes, and immediately stir in one raw egg, while the grits are still burning hot.  They will cook the egg, but you can micro it a little longer if you are the nervous sort.  Next, add 1-2 tbsp butter, 1/4-1/2 cup grated cheese, and some milk if it gets too thick.  The purpose of these additions is to enrich the grits with nutrition, calories, and flavor.  My boys don't eat much in the morning, so I pump up the calories.  And they are skinny.  When I make grits for myself, I usually leave out the butter, and just add cheese or an egg.  This recipe serves 3 if they aren't big eaters.  2 if they are.
     While grits are wonderful in the morning, they are becoming increasingly popular as a dinner dish.  Shrimp and grits is a classic, and I have my own quick-as-a-flash version to share with you.  First off, I try to put a bag of dried red beans, a chopped onion, and 8 cups water in the crock pot in the morning.  Let it cook all day on low.  Or the first few hours on high if you will be around to change it to low, and you don't get them in till noon.  Otherwise, canned red beans are fine.  You will need:
Red beans, one bag or 3 cans
1 c grits
4 c water
3 tbsp butter.  Accept no substitutes (like margarine) but olive oil is fine.
bag of pre-cooked shrimp.  I used large, tail-on.  You don't need pre-cooked, really.  I used what I had. Thaw if frozen.
3 tbsp paprika, to taste
Jane's crazy mixed-up pepper.  Or any pepper blend you like.
     Combine the grits and water in that big bowl.  Microwave 13-15 min, power level 6.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium frying pan on high heat.  Drain any water from the shrimp and add them to the pan.  Sprinkle on paprika, salt to taste, and pepper to taste.  Heat the beans if they are canned.  Cook the shrimp until the paprika thickens around them.  Remove from heat.
     Put a serving of grits in a shallow bowl, top with a scoop of beans, and top again with shrimp and sauce.  Enjoy.   Makes about 4 servings.

Bridget loves grits.