Thursday, August 24, 2006


Oh, the things we do in the name of ministry.

Today -- in a few hours, actually -- I will board a plane and head off to teach at the Calvary Chapel Carson City's women's retreat in ... Lake Tahoe. I know, I know ... some of you are already organizing prayer and fasting vigils to get me through the ordeal. I thank you. But it's all just part of what we do when we're trying to live sacrificial lives.

Dave added a prayer request to our weekly prayer sheet and passed them out last night after service. Inadvertently, he wrote that I was flying to "Lake Tahoo."

Rhymes with "Yahoo."

Sounds about right.

See you next week! I'll be the tanned, relaxed one with the big smile.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

wedding bells--part 2

I'd never been to a wedding with such a gregarious groom.

Terry looked handsome in his tux, and he walked to the stage much the way I've watched dozens of grooms walk to the stage--proper-like, sedate. Serious. But then he broke the mold.

With his back to us, Terry lit a candle on stage. And then he pretended that he had burned himself. At the gasp that flittered across the room, he turned and grinned. Laughter replaced the gasp. Still grinning, Terry walked closer to the crowd to a place he'd been instructed to go. But he couldn't keep quiet. "Hi everybody!" he said.

More laughter. "How ya doin', Ter?" somebody asked.

"Fine ... you?" he responded.

It couldn't have been a sharper contrast to the wedding of the night before. But it carried its own charm.

Cheryl's daughter preceded her, singing "The Rose" and sprinkling rose petals as she walked. By the time Cheryl appeared, Nicole's song had ended and someone had begun playing a recording of a song Cheryl and Terry wrote and sang--a song that celebrated the three-fold chord they were about to become, and the Potter who was even now fashioning their lives into a thing of beauty.

Sometime during the song, I became aware of a little imp sitting to the right of Tera. She had snapping dimples and an uplifted hair-do, and brown eyes that showed she was perpetually on the verge of laughter.

"Take your feet off the pew, Ceriwyn," her mother instructed. Ceriwyn complied, never taking those brown eyes off Tera.

"Can we be friends?" she asked.

Tera did a double take and looked back at me with an 11-year old, Isn't that funny? expression. "Sure," she said.

Ceriwyn's mother shushed her after a few minutes, but not before we learned that she lived on Camano Island but had come from Everett, where she'd been visiting her dad ... and that she loved her high heels, but would probably never wear them again "except for a special occasion, like now" ... and that she was almost as tall as her auntie ... and that she might be a comic when she grew up. "Don't you think I should be a comic?"

I did, and told her so. She had so amused me by that time that I'd already begun scribbling notes on the back of the "Order of Events" paper we'd been handed at the door.

Tera leaned close to me and whispered, "I'm tired and I'm hungry. When we get downstairs, I'm going to stuff myself with shrimp."

Ceriwyn, we learned, has amazing ears. "Me too!" she said, leaning around Tera to flash her dimples at me.

About the time Ceriwyn's mother intervened, Cheryl appeared in the doorway, looking excited and beautiful. The ceremony was lovely--full of tender moments and a few giggles, and a message by Dave that caused several couples in front of me to draw closer, and smile at each other. When it came to an end, the tinkling of bells rang through the church as everyone raised the silver bells we'd been given on our arrival. Cheryl and Terry went outside to line up along the street and greet their guests; we began inching ourselves out of our pews.

Ceriwyn barely drew a breath as she offered information and peppered us with questions. When Dave came along the back aisle and leaned in to ask me something, Ceriwyn leaned around me and grinned at him. "You're a good priest."

"Thanks," he said back, laughing.

"Is it fun having a priest for a dad?" she asked Tera. Tera just nodded.

"I got kicked out of Grace Academy," Ceriwyn offered out of the blue. When I asked what she did to get kicked out of the private school, she explained, "I hit a kid with a pillow. I guess that was sort of my last chance. My new school is much, much better for me. I don't know the principal of my new school, but I saw her once at Walmart. I was SO scared."

We went through the receiving line and congratulated Cheryl and Terry. When we moved along to make room for those behind us, Ceriwyn giggled and said, "The bride kinda got jealous 'cause I didn't hug her first ... I hugged Terry." Because it flowed in a logical sream in that interesting brain of hers, she followed that announcement up with "My mom is an 'accountist.'" and "I'm a dancer, you know. And I have my tap shoes on."

I looked down at her red, fake gem-encrusted Dorothy shoes.

"Mind if I dance for you?" she asked.

Who would say no?

She tapped out a few steps for me right there on the sidewalk. "You're very good," I informed her.

"Yep. I just picked it up when I saw it on a museum and it was whatchamacallit day ... St. Patrick's Day." (I have no idea what all that meant, but I was too busy scribbling notes to verify.)

Dave, Tera and I walked downstairs to the reception. Ceriwyn danced her way down. As luck would have it, Ceriwyn planted herself next to Tera at our table. Tera looked down at the sheet in my hand, noted the rapidly dwindling white space, and said, "Do you need more paper?" At my nod, she scampered back upstairs. When she returned, she plopped two sheets down in front of me--back side up, ready for notes. "I figured you'd need two more."

And I did.

I continued to record Ceriwyn's fascinating observations and comments. "I've never tried mini weenies before, but they look soooo good. Do you think they taste like hot dogs? ... I hurt myself taking a picture once ... Want to know what I learned to do? I don't think I can show you now--it's the splits."

But it wasn't all Ceriwyn. I took note of the way Cheryl kept looking at Terry, and the way he looked back at her. I took note of Cheryl's "adopted" dad (the father of her best friend) and the way he kept grunting, from the back row, "Cut the cake already!" I watched the ladies at the buffet table pushing the potato salad ("You have GOT to try this, John. I think it's the best I've ever tasted!") and kids with cautious steps carrying too-full cups of punch back to their "kids-only" table.

I took note of it all. And when Cheryl's aunt toasted her with "A prayer of mine has been answered -- you look happy," I fought tears. I lost that fight when Cheryl's daughter, Nicole, made her own toast, and said, "Today is huge. Maybe not to the world ... but it's huge. They're perfect for each other. He makes her laugh, and she makes him serious ... sometimes. And now, they're together forever."

"Cut the cake already," the man in back said again. Cheryl took pity on him, pulled her groom back to the cake table, and cut that cake. Just before we slipped out the door, I brought the man a piece.

Oh, how I love weddings.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

ode to granola

You start, of course, with a giant bowl of oats.

I don't mean "quick cook" oats, either. Those worthless flakes pose no challenge to teeth; they offer no satisfaction. Regular oats. Giant bowl.

In a just-big-enough pan, you then heat together a bit of oil and honey. The oil -- in my opinion -- should be olive, because it's so good for you. And as long as I'm being bossy, I suggest you go out and get yourself a bee hive and do the honey right. But if you can't do that ... say, you live on the third floor of an apartment complex with no balcony ... then find yourself some good local honey. It's better all the way around. It's not been cooked to death so as to kill off all the local pollen and antigens.

You then stir those together with your favorite wooden spoon -- the one that's been darkened by a hundred batches of brownies, stew, and caramel corn. That spoon knows its way around a pot. While this mixture is heating, you go a little crazy with the spices. You toss in a generous heap of cinnamon, because you know that's the spice that will circle the house first. Clove is good. And naturally, you'll want a good pinch or three of nutmeg, because there's not a spice in the world as mysterious as nutmeg. It's the one that adds interest to the project ... and you know that.

When the whole spicy concoction is just warm enough, you pour it over the mass of oats and stir till every flake is coated. And then you divide the whole pile onto two baking sheets -- again, the ugly ones, the stoneware slabs you've seasoned up with a lot of good cooking.

While the oats get a head start in the oven, you pull the nuts down from the cupboard and set to chopping. Not too fine. Maybe on this day you feel like biting into a mixture of hazelnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds. So you chop the choppables and toss in the tiny seeds and when you feel the oats have waited long enough, you open the oven door again and add it all together.

Ten minutes pass. Twelve. The cinnamon finds its way through invisible portals in the oven and rushes past you in a teasing stream. You catch a hint of nutmeg, a whiff of toasting hazelnut. People began appearing from corners of the house, sniffing and looking at you expectantly.

When you all can't stand it anymore, you flip the oven light on and hunker down together to peek in the window. It looks good. It smells unbelievable. And at just the right moment -- when the oats and the nuts and the honey and spices have reached the watched-for shade of gold -- you don oven mitts and pull those sheets out. And then, because you're making a perfect batch of granola and it wouldn't be perfect without them, you sprinkle handful after handful of dried cranberries and raisins over those baking sheets. You stir carefully while someone else grabs bowls and yogurt and milk.

And then, while you're tasting that first warm, spicy mouthful of earthy goodness, you turn your back to the east-facing windows, where a sliver of sunshine has fought its way through the clouds, and you look instead out the west windows. You train your eyes on the curtain of gray over the tops of the evergreens, and you convince yourself it's not an August morning, but a cold day in October -- with falling leaves, and a warm fire, and a candle on the mantle.

That's the power of granola.



Thursday, August 03, 2006

announcing ...

It's been a banner week.

I harvested the first batch of zucchini from our garden Tuesday. Turned them into sesame-studded zucchini bread and a pan of garlic-butter sauteed chiplets. So good.

Yesterday, Dave extracted the first jar of honey from our hives. We've waited all summer for that first taste of sweetness ... and it was worth the stingers, the heavy spacesuit, and the sticky mess on my kitchen counter after the spinning of the frames. Dave thinks we'll get about 60 pounds from the two hives. I'm already planning all the honey-sweetened baking I'll get to do over the fall and winter.

Something else happened this week. What was that .... oh yes! My second book was released. :)

I'll post the editorial review for Inconceivable : Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility in a second, but I want to first say this: although the book is marketed toward those who have struggled with infertility, the lessons God taught me through this can be applied to any pain, any loss, any disappointment. The book chronicles my testimony--including my "wandering years" and all the misconceptions I carried about God--before recounting God's tenderness toward me in the midst of my anger and pain.

Here's the review from Amazon.com:

Women who are anxious to conceive—and who have yet to conceive—know about waiting. Waiting is the hallmark of infertility. You wait in doctors' offices. You wait to ovulate. You wait for prescriptions to be filled. You wait for the pregnancy test indicator to light up. You wait for a miracle, and then you wait again.

Inconceivable is the remarkable true-life story of Shannon Woodward—a woman who stopped waiting her life away. She wrote this book for other women who've been waiting—for women who can't afford the next round of medical treatments, who can't bear to let their feeble hopes rise again only to have them crash to the ground in disappointment.

Woodward revisits eighteen years of personal frustration, pain and anger. She speaks of healing, but not the kind that other women in her condition have prayed for. The healing she has experienced is the healing of walking another path—the path of peace that she is uniquely equipped to share.

So there you have it ... my banner week.