The Mess of Community

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about community…what it is, how it works, the good, the bad and the ugly of it.  The way we change it and the way it changes us.

Honestly, I am almost at a point where I hate the word. It’s a favored buzz word at the moment I think, which means everybody is using it and not surprising, we end up with our own perception of what it means, how to live in it, and how it works bumping up against someone else’s perception of what it means, how we should live in it and how it works.

Talking with a friend a few weeks ago,  she reminded me that we’re not all on the same page. But that doesn’t have to mean that someone else is on the wrong page.

And that right there is the crux of what makes community messy.

It’s tempting and easy to dismiss others as loving the community less or not protecting the community enough if they don’t love it or protect it the same way we do.

Communities don’t exist in a vacuum. The community of my home overlaps and connects to the community of my church, and in our case both of those communities overlap and connect to our school community.

In talking my way through this with Rob I gained a little clarity. Although the church has primacy institutionally, there is no set-in-stone tier of which community comes first. There are boundaries for each of them though. A father has the authority to tell his kid to get a haircut but a pastor doesn’t have that same authority (unless it’s his own kid). A pastor may be in a position to not allow someone to come to the Lord’s table, but a parent doesn’t have that same authority.

What I am coming to understand is that we have to use a Trinitarian view when living in community. Just as the Father, Son and Spirit exist to serve, honor and glorify the others, so must all the various communities we live in seek to serve, honor and glorify the other. There is giving, an ebb and flow to healthy communities when each community has, at its center, a desire to serve the other.

There are times when there is a clear and present danger in one community and it certainly needs to be addressed. Sometimes it may just be the one community functioning for it’s good in a way that another community doesn’t feel is right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong for that first community to be acting upon a matter the way they have. The pastor may really wish little Buddy would cut his hair, but if the family is good with lil’ Buddy being able to tuck it behind his ears then so be it.

Last week Sam and I went to an art exhibit. The artist uses Legos to make huge and amazing sculptures. When asked why that medium, a child’s toy, his response was that he takes something common and transforms it into something new and different…something greater than the sum of it’s parts.

We have to be willing to not think so highly of our part that we forget that together, working for the good of each other~ community within community~ is the medium THE Artist uses to transform us into something  new and different and all together greater than the sum of the individual parts.


Pinterest Test Kitchen #58 ~ Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Honestly, I’m not sure if I have ever eaten chicken parmesan. I tend to prefer white sauce over red which is not something you’d know from the recipes I share here…I’m pretty sure any Italian recipes have all been red sauced for some reason.

But, I am always on the look out for make ahead tasty meals and this one fits the bill nicely. Served over angel hair pasta with sides of salad and a crusty loaf of bread and it’s a thumbs up kind of dinner. I enlarged adapted  the original to accommodate our family of seven.

What you’ll need:
5 cups of chopped or shredded cooked chicken (I grilled chicken for extra flavor)
1 48 oz jar of your favorite red sauce 
1 cup of bread crumbs 
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese 
1 package angel hair pasta, prepared
What you’ll do:
Layer the chicken in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.
Pour the red sauce over the chicken.
Cover with the cheese.
Sprinkle bread crumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
Serve over pasta.

My girls enjoyed the leftovers warmed up for lunch the next day at school and said it was just as good. It’s also one of those meals that freezes really well.

Titus 2 Tuesday     Tuesday’s Table

Pinterest Test Kitchen #57 ~ Pineapple Orange Trifle

Photo: #picstitch.       Today's dessert...recipe will be on the blog tomorrow.

I really did try in the beginning to alternate sweet recipes with other recipes but sometimes it just happens that we get back to back sweetness. Such is the case with last week’s recipe and this week’s. Straight from the Taste of Home website this is a simple, delicious, and perfect treat for the summer heat we’ll all be moaning about in a  month or so.

(Funny story: one year my m-i-l gave me a subscription to Taste of Home…I had the most fun watching and listening to my beloved search the issue for the hidden toothpick while he narrated in a seriously heavy Minnesota accent. To this day I hear the name Marge and it makes me giggle 🙂
What you’ll need:
1 14oz can of pineapple tidbits, drained with 2/3 cup of the juice reserved
1 11oz can mandarin oranges, drained
2 cups cold milk
1 8oz sour cream
2 small packages of vanilla instant pudding
1 angel food cake cut into 1 inch pieces
1 8oz cool whip
What you’ll do:
Whisk together reserved pineapple juice, pudding and milk until mixed.
Let it stand for about two minutes to soft set and then whisk in sour cream.
Fold in oranges and pineapple.
Put a layer of cake pieces in a trifle bowl. 
Cover with 1/3 of the pudding mixture.
Repeat layers two more times.
Spread cool whip on top layer.
(May add toasted coconut.)
Allow to chill for two to three hours.

Room For Forgiveness

Last year one of our children made a serious breach of one of our family rules. For most people the rule would seem ridiculous anyway and not realistic, but in our house it had always been thus and it wasn’t new or unconnected to our family way. We don’t have a ton of rules but the ones we do have are in place for very specific and thought out reasons.

It was a very big deal and the seriousness of the situation was not lost upon the child. To use my beloved’s phrase, there was a lot of “emotional intensity” that day and it was clear that trust had been broken and would have to be earned back.

But you know what I remember my husband doing next? He set aside his anger and the hurt that every parent feels when their child has grievously sinned, and he looked at our offspring and reassured them that they were loved and that while they had done wrong they had not committed the unpardonable sin. He made it clear that while our fellowship was broken because of their sin complete restoration was possible.

Basically he prepared the soil for their repentance to take root and bloom.

A few weeks ago I shared a post about how important it is that we do not forget the personhood of the one being corrected. It can be easy to so focus on wanting to eliminate the sin that we forget the sinner.

We have to go back to our reason for correction. We don’t want obedience simply for the sake of obedience. In Hebrews 12:11 we’re told that the reason for discipline is so that it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

How we respond to the one seeking repentance is pretty important. If our child’s desire for forgiveness had fallen onto the stony ground of, “Yeah, well you really buggered this up didn’t you?” the odds are that seeds of pride would have been sown instead of the blossom of forgiveness and restoration.

Are there consequences for sins? Yes. But the consequence is not a harsh pseudo forgiveness that comes with the crushing weight of judgment.

When true forgiveness is given there is a liberation. The imaginary of Hebrews 12:11 is the image of resurrection…life being born out of death. Sin is death and repentance is life.

Let us make sure that we cultivate a community that has fertile soil for the seeds of discipline to take root so that righteousness may grow. Let’s prepare the ground in such a way that it’s easy for our children or spouses or friends to seek forgiveness. There are no hoops for them to jump through and we don’t withhold restoration because it is within our power to do so, dangling it just out of their reach.

Christ doesn’t. In I John 1:9 we’re told that He is faithful to forgive us…may we be faithful to forgive each other.

Test Kitchen # 56 ~ Strawberry Almond Cake

Last week Sarah pulled the, “Mom, it’s the last field trip I will ever take…you have to come” card so on Friday, despite overwhelming work yet to be done, including getting her graduation announcements in the mail, I went strawberry picking with the 12th graders and K5ers. (I love how the school matches up the younger kids with the older kids for certain field trips. It really does foster the sense of community. On Thursday I went to the zoo with Claire’s class (1st grade) and the 9th graders.)

fresh strawberries on the vine fruit red ripe delicious

The weather was perfect with just enough cloud cover to keep the temps down and a steady breeze. And the strawberries were so delicious! Did I mention that you can eat while you pick? Yum-o.

We had friends over Friday night and enjoyed homemade strawberry shortcake. It was pretty tasty. But on Sunday I wanted to do something special since it was Mother’s Day so I adapted Rob’s favorite dessert to accommodate the fresh red goodness and the strawberry almond cake was born.

What you’ll need:
yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup of butter, melted
1 cup of milk
1 1/2 TBS almond extract
What you’ll do:
Mix everything together and pour into 2 well greased cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes
Allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes and then flip them out on a cooling rack.
Completely cool before icing. 
What you’ll need for the icing:
2 8oz packages of cream cheese
1/2 stick of butter
1 16 oz box of confectioner’s sugar
1 TBS almond extract
milk to reach desired consistency
What you’ll do:
Cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
Add in half of the confectioner’s sugar and a little milk and beat until smooth.
Mix in the remaining confectioner’s sugar again adding enough milk to reach the desired consistency (I like my icing thick and robust)
Stir in almond extract

Once you’ve done the above put a generous amount of icing on the bottom layer.

Sprinkle sliced strawberries and then add the top layer of cake.

Repeat with the icing and sliced strawberries.

Let the cake chill in the refrigerator for a few hours for a truly scrumptious dessert.

Tuesday’s Table

Fifteen Years

Fifteen years.

Can you believe that, love?

In that time we’ve been blessed with five children and made eight moves.

We’ve known several church families but have called Christ Church home for almost ten years now. Those years in and of themselves have been a wild ride and I am thankful to not only have been by your side through everything but also to call you my pastor.

I love your brain and how you seek knowledge. Not just for the sake of knowing but so you can better serve your King and His people.

I love the way you look at me…seeing who I am and loving me anyways and seeing who I can be.

I love the way you perch your glasses on your nose and give me “the look” over the top of your glasses. Oh, that makes me laugh.

I love your kisses (all eleven of them 😉 and I love the words of your mouth. You encourage and strengthen me with your council and wisdom. I know without a doubt that you will tell me Truth even when it is painful. In this you are a faithful friend.

I love the shoulders that accept the wait of your responsibilities to our family and to our people. You don’t shirk back or look for ways to abandon that which you’ve been given to do.

I love your heart that is steadfast and honorable.

I love the way your hands comfort and guide our family and the way you reach over and rub my back right before we fall asleep.

I love the feet that stand strong and sure in the truth of who God is, and who we are to be in Him.

In short, I love everything about you. All the good I mentioned above but I also love your shortcomings and faults. I love being with you in your struggles because even as you battle your own sin I learn ways to fight might own.

I love the last fifteen perfectly imperfect years of our life. We joke about your boxes, the way you keep things all compartmentalized, and I hope that they are full to overflowing with the same joy that I have found in us.

Even your nothing box.

Because in you and the life that He has given us, God has done abundantly more than I could have ever dared dream of or ask for.

Kitchen Randomness

Here are a couple of things I have been pondering on and thought someone might be helped by my thinking out loud. Or at least amused.

First, this is not a cereal.

breakfast cereal brownies in a box

They can box it up and package it however they like but I know a brownie when I eat one. Whatever it is, it’s good though and I will never ever buy it. My waistline would hate me. (For the record, I didn’t buy this box either. My aunt gave it to me the kids. Most chocolate cereal is easy for me to resist…but not this one.) Have you ever tried it?

Nutella is better hazelnut chocolate spread

The second thing I am putting out there is the idea that there is something else as delicious as Nutella. In case you were wondering there isn’t. We tried this because the shelves were completely bare of Nutella and I needed to make the ooey gooey cake for dinner with friends one night. It was fine but does not equal the chocolate hazelnuttty goodness of the real thing. Do yourself a favor and just but the Nutella.

Another thing made me laugh when it happened.

Despite what the two above paragraphs may lead you to believe I am trying to eat healthier.
We are a house that loves hummus and since hummus is just mashed up chick peas I got to wondering if that means
you can count it as a serving of vegetables? Apparently I am not the only person who has ever asked that question. But here’s my question. Who can’t eat half a cup of humus?

So, I am not really sure what to make of this next thing I am going to share but I will say that it’s pretty clear that convenience reigns supreme for the shopping populace and Land O’Lakes is a marketing genius that is the power behind the throne. If any of you do the BOGO offers then you know that a week or so ago LOL (hahaha…get it? I crack myself up sometimes 😉 one pound packs were part of the Publix’s ad. I’ve mentioned before that we use butter and like butter so this made me happy. I scooped up my two and didn’t realize until I got home that one box was slightly different than the other. I have the same amount of butter but instead of four sticks it’s eight half sticks.

That’s right. Somebody has finally wised up and realized the hardship we have faced for generation upon generation in having to cut our own eight tablespoons of butter down to four. Ladies and gentlemen, our labor intensive kitchen burden has now been eased. Never again will anyone have to lift a knife and look for the clearly labeled markings to indicate the half way point on a stick of butter. Never again will the end of a cut off stick of butter suffer the shame and embarrassment of being returned, uncovered and unwanted to the refrigerator beside all the other whole sticks. Or maybe my friend Sarah was right and these are just single serving size?

Yes, I mock and I am sure that there are people somewhere with valid reasons why this is better but it just struck me as kind of silly. But these little fellows sure are cute though, aren’t they?

butter land o'lakes butter half stick