Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Wine and the Winepress

Oswald Chambers said that we often see the "wine" of people's lives, without having to see them going through the "winepress."  

As I've spent this amazing weekend at the Linger conference, I wondered, "God, why did you bring me 1,120 miles from home, just to tell me I need to spend intimate time 'Lingering' with You?  Couldn't You have found a cheaper, more efficient way to remind me of this truth--that still involved some sleep & solitude?"  :). 

Of course, He could have.  He could have let me see Shane & Shane, learn from Jennie Lee Riddle, hear Matt Chandler, etc.  I could have drank deeply of the "wine" of these teachers, absorbed their wisdom and experiences--but then I never would have heard the stories of the winepress...

I met this guy, Darrin, who went through a very interesting career change.  He was in the military when his parachute didn't open properly, and caught his leg in the straps.  His back was badly injured, and of course, he couldn't jump out of planes any more.  Did I mention he had a wife & kids to support?  

It put our family's struggle with the academia-vs-business career paths in perspective, let me tell you.  

Then I met this guy--the founder of a small business that makes bean bag chairs for churches.  You can check him out at

 Now, they're AWESOME,(and I spent two hours sleeping on one yesterday) but the desire of his heart was to be in ministry.  "My M.Div really prepared me for the bean-bag business," he said with an eye roll.  But he has four kids, and wanted his wife to be able to stay home...and bean bags paid better than ministry.  He had to experience the long slow death of a dream.

Then I took a class from Randall  Bayne:
He wrote a play that went to Broadway.  Seriously.  It only took him twelve years, a ton of rejection and heartache, constant criticism from the Church for using profanity or secular environments in his art, and the constant, nagging feeling that what he was doing wouldn't *accomplish* anything.  

This guitar player/songwriter blew me away: 

(His name is Sean Carter, and you can listen to his amazing song "The Desert" at this link on Youtube--just know his voice is actually 1000x better than that recording.)

  I spent a little time talking with him, and found out that he and his wife literally didn't sleep for three years.  Three. Years.  (I just met his wife, who took the picture, and she corrected him: it was five years for HER.  Sean is just a deeper sleeper.). 

Their daughter had a perfect storm of medical conditions that wouldn't allow her to sleep--so she screamed all night.  They would hold her, hand her off, doze, rinse, repeat.  His incredibly energetic wife, Christi, STILL can't sleep consistently. She said, "Eight hours of sleep means PARTY TIME!!"

I've struggled for years with sleep--but I thought I was the only one. 

Oh, and the beautiful lady singing next to Sean? That's Crystal Yates:

She has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard.  Ever.  (The other would be Christine Kimball.). Crystal has a 17 year old.  And a one year old.  (Do the math.). This baby came *after* she and her husband Will gave away everything they had to live with and be mentored by a worship leader they'd never met. She didn't complain, but my guess is that it was stressful. Mildly stressful.  Just mildly.  

My favorite story of the trip was of the mom of four kids who wrote a worship song using only four chords on the guitar--because they were the only four guitar chords she knew.  She'd been making spaghetti and changing diapers and teaching classes and was EXHAUSTED...and then it took another *nine years* before that song was ever released to a wider audience.  

Her name? Jennie Lee Riddle.  Her husband is Darrin, the former paratrooper the first picture.  The song was Revelation Song.

The icing on the cake?  Finding out that this guy on the far right end of the panel didn't go on a date till he was 30!! 
Yeah, that's Shane Barnard.  

I'd heard all of my life that believers have God fighting on our behalf, that we're over comers, that of course we suffer, but, you know...VICTORY!!! There's such an insidious lie that worms through the underbelly of my theology:  if things are going badly for you, you must not be doing something right.  You need to do more.  Try harder.  You're not married yet?  You're not in the ministry or career you want?  You don't have enough money?  You don't have kids?  You have too many kids?  Do more.  Try harder.  Things don't go badly for believers if you're REALLY walking with Christ. 

Yes they do.  They go badly, even if I'm doing everything "right."  Dreams get derailed.  People get sick.   Children come and go and change me. Marriages need work. Or marriage doesn't come at all!  Sometimes, it has NOTHING to do with anything I've done or haven't done.  

Yet, in the midst of all their pain,or their   struggles, or their "wine-pressing-moments", these people I met here at Linger trusted God.  

And they created.  

And we drink their delicious wine, the fruit of their labors, without ever seeing the pain of the winepress.  

Thank You, Lord, for bringing me 1120 miles to show me the winepress.  Thank You for Linger.  Thank You for rest. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"If you give an INTJ a chore..."

If you give an INTJ a chore, he'll ask you to be more specific. You specify the kitchen. He'll narrow his focus to the dishes.

He'll want to make out a detailed action plan for accomplishing that chore.

After making that plan, he'll realize he didn't account for a couple of contingencies

So he'll develop contingency plans...49 of them.

While he's developing the plans, he'll realize, “This could be much better organized with a spreadsheet and a mind-mapping tool!”

So of course he'll have to look for some free mind-mapping software.

While he looks for the software, Linux crashes. So he re-installs Linux.

After Linux is fixed, he resumes his search for the free mind-mapping software. He finds four different types, then has to narrow it down to the most efficient, but feature-rich, and scriptable program.

After choosing a program, he works on the first three mind-maps, before realizing it's a repetitive boring chore. So, he decides to write a Python script to generate maps more efficiently.

Which means he'll need to review class-based coding techniques.

Satisfied that he has mastered Python's class implementation, he proceeds to write the script.

While writing the script, he has a great new idea for improving his Geogebra workshop. He reprograms his workshop, changes the powerpoint presentation, records his lecture, and sends it to his collegues for review.

But suddenly is distracted by his ENFP wife, showing him her latest bulletin board on Pinterest, with great designs for their kitchen remodel.

They spend the next hour dreaming about the perfect kitchen design, and planning out the finances and steps for the next year's household projects.

Suddenly, they realize they're hungry. But before they can cook, they have to have the non-stick skillet. 
 In order to get the non-stick skillet—the INTJ has to do the dishes.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Missionary Envy, The Mess...and The Ultrasound

I know this isn't true, but it feels like most of my close friends from college are missionaries now, or at least used to be--out there in the world, making a difference for Christ, helping the poor and oppressed, lifting the downtrodden, translating the Bible into languages that never even had the printed word before...sigh.

You know what I did today?  I made cupcake frosting!!  It had no dairy or soy, and it was deeeeeelicious.  

You know what else I did today? CLEANED UP MESSES. 

Why yes, that IS snot mixed with Frosted Mini Wheat crumbs.  Want a kiss?

Some days I can't help but be a little grossed out by my world.  Bodily fluids and yucky foods, smells, and situations are just a part of life for me.  Wiping up little booties and noses just doesn't feel as (drum roll please) world changing as going to Africa.  At least in Africa, smells and mess and lack of sanitation would have a bit of glory attached to it.  "You endured all THAT for the sake of the gospel?  You must be really strong."  As a mom, you're supposed to just deal with it---and clean it the heck up.

Once, I was having a particularly rough patch of missionary envy.  One of my closest friends had (AGAIN!!) gone overseas.  (My friend-losses to the Missions call were in the double-digits by this point.) We were giving her a small monthly support check, so we got these nifty little newsletters from the missions organization.  One of the writers talked about how stretched he was, about how he was translating one day, fixing a tractor the next, and learning how to build a gravel road the day after that.

 (I was still wearing the same spit-up covered sweats from three days ago, and hadn't left the house in a week.  In that moment, I would have given ANYTHING for that kind of variety.)

The  ended the article by telling a little story about a missionary doctor who approached him.  He only read French and either Afrikaans or Swahili, and the author could read English and French.  The doctor had just received an ultrasound machine--but the instructions were in English.  Not only that, the doctor had never even heard of an ultrasound before!!!  So, the writer ended his day by training a doctor in how to use an ultrasound machine

Seriously? Seriously. 

I felt like the most useless person on the face of the planet.  I spent all of my time pregnant and breastfeeding and cleaning--and this guy was literally saving the lives of women and their babies, just by knowing two different languages. 

At least, I felt that way until I had another ultrasound.  Suddenly, I imagined being a fly on the wall during that missions conversation: 

"Um, this is a probe."

"...and this is a probe cover."
"...then, apply a lubricant to the probe.  No, I'll explain that in a minute..."

"...then drape the patient's knees to give her some privacy.  No, it doesn't make any sense to me either.  Then you insert the probe here..."

"Well, then you look at the screen, and you can see the actual baby!!  See, there's the heart, lungs, brain...look, it's waving at you!"

Long, long ago, I loved an album called "This Beautiful Mess" by Sixpence None the Richer.  I realized that, regardless of whether I was serving God overseas, or serving my kids here in my own house, we were all living in a Beautiful Mess.  Our callings weren't always going to be easy, or comfortable, or worthy of a slide presentation at a church missionary tea (gross...) but we were all serving the same Lord. 

I don't have missionary envy any more, but I am taking steps to make sure that I'm doing what God called me to do every day.  Sometimes that includes yucky stuff, like snot and diapers and dishes caked with gluten-free cajun chicken bits.  Other times that includes guitars.  Today, it includes trying to encourage you--God didn't assign you a ranking based on some mythical Missionary Awesomeness Scale.  He loves you, and He will use you exactly where you are.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Insomniac Wonder Toddler

It's 3 a.m.  The Insomniac Wonder Toddler is crying, and crawls into our bed.

 (Let's just call her the IWT for short.  I call her the IWT because she seems to function on less sleep than a frat boy during finals week, yet she never loses her sunny disposition.)

She still has her shoes on.  We allowed this at bed time as a compromise--you take the yucky cough medicine, and we won't make you take your beloved shoes off.  

I don't get it, but two of my three girls have loved these shoes so much that they've snuggled them...
She gulped it down, and only then did we realize it only lasted for four hours.  Labels, dang it, are there for a reason. 

However, it's 3am, and she's not coughing, so I fall back asleep pretty quickly....

...only to get slammed awake by a solid kick to the mouth with the shoes. 
IWT's favorite sleep position, diagrammed with precision by
I'm incredibly blessed, because I have no missing teeth, no bleeding lips, and IWT is still mostly asleep--however that's when the cough medicine decides to wear off. 

I wake her up juuuuust enough to threaten to take the shoes away, and get her to swallow some of the medicine--while she allows  the rest to trickle down her cheek, providing an excellent sensory experience as she smears it all over her hands and jammies.  After three kids, I know cold wet wipes and late-night clean ups are not my friend, so I turn on some hot water and get a wash cloth to juuuuuuust the right temperature to be soothing, not burning, not cold...and she still screams like I'm raking her face with sand paper. 

Finally, we're both tucked back under the grape-stained covers, and since she's wide awake, she's inspired to sing:

 IWT: "I'm higher than the ceiling, the ceiling, the ceiling. I'm higher than the ceiling..."
Me: "Honey Bear, shhhhh...."
IWT: "But I want to siiiiiiiing!!!" [Starts crying]
Me: "Honey, you can sing when the sun comes up."
IWT : "Ok. I looooove my sisters and Daddy and Mommy..."
Me: "Honey Bear, shhhhhhhhh""
IWT: "I'm not singing!!!  Jesus loves me, dormez-vous, dormez-vous, Jesus loves me, dormez-vous...."

I'm too busy giggling to care.  I prop myself up with a few pillows, snuggle her in the crook of my arm, and wait to see how long sleepiness will take to settle back in.  IWT talks and sing-songs about night time, the snow, her big sisters, that Jesus loves her. 

I feel the baby kick hard in my belly,  pull up my night shirt, and  put her hand on the bumpy spots.  "No, mommy, close it!  I don't want to see the baby!!  Noooo!!" 

It took an hour, but she finally succumbed to sleep again. 

This is pretty typical.  It used to be a lot worse.  She used to wake up three times a night, ready to play, to chat, to explore the house.  The pediatrician finally suggested benadryl at night--which hyped her up.

 I've HEARD of kids getting hyper on Benadryl, but I'd never actually met one until I gave birth to one. 

He allowed me to try half a miligram of melatonin for a week, to see if it would re-set her schedule.  It seemed to help, but started to give her nightmares, so I only used it for five days. 

But at least we're sleeping MORE.  At least today is Saturday, and the Mathman let me sleep, got the kids up, gave them breakfast and let them veg out on Netflix-- before they got bored and started making up their own stories about evil witches that want to eat little children and steal them out of their beds in the middle of the night.

I mean, where could they have gotten an idea that their sleep would be disrupted by a cackling hyper active squealing person who laughs at their misfortune??  ;) 

Friday, January 31, 2014

"How Bad It Had Been..."

When Mrs. Moore, the woman that C.S. Lewis had lived with for several decades, finally passed away, he wrote to a friend, "I'm only just now realizing how bad it has been..."  (

I can't, for the life of me, find the letter right now.  I'm 90% certain he wrote it to Arthur Greeves, but most of my bookmarks have fallen out.)

Only after Mrs. Moore was no longer a part of his life, did he realize he'd been subjected to years upon years of verbal and emotional abuse.  

I can't help but reflect on how liberated he must have felt, as I emerge from a cocoon of sadness and sickness myself.  Since last August, I've been struck with hyperemesis, a fancy way of saying, "She pukes all the time while she's pregnant."  To add insult to injury, I developed a gallbladder problem, which had me nauseous and vomiting AGAIN, as soon as the hyperemesis wore off. 

In addition to that, my youngest daughter (who just turned two) is an Insomniac Wonder Baby, and I've not had consistent sleep since she was born.  I've been exhausted, nauseous, vomiting, weak, short-tempered, frustrated, and barely coherent for all of recent memory.

Until last week. 

Not only did IWB sleep at least six hours at a time, but I must have either passed the gallstones or gotten my diet in a better place---because I wasn't nauseous, wasn't vomiting, and I was rested.

All day yesteray I PLAYED.  I played with the toddler, and I played guitar.  I felt like a new woman.  I smiled.  I cheered.  I cleaned my house. 

Then, the Insomniac Wonder Baby got a cold, and coughed all night last night.  She's still too young for most cough medicines, so....welcome to my first night in a week with no sleep.

I feel like a train hit me.

All I want to do is read old novels and mindlessly surf the internet.  I'm so exhausted and sore and brain-dead that I can hardly function. 

 For the last several years, I've wondered, "Why haven't I been getting more done?  Why haven't I accomplished more in my life?  Why haven't I been more successful?  Why haven't I finished such-and-such project?  Why am I so dead?" 

Well, I've been pregnant seven times in the last nine years.  I've lost three pregnancies (one was twins).  I've nursed.  I've bottle-fed.  I've worked third-shift.  I've gone so long without sleep, because I had an undiagnosed sleep disorder.  I've had food allergies, I've had moves, I've had infants, toddlers, school-aged children....and I've had hyperemesis.  I've been nauseous, vomiting, sleep-deprived, over-worked, uprooted....

...and I'm JUST NOW REALIZING how bad it has been.  

After this past week, I'm more and more confident that it will get better.  No more babies.  No more ridiculous expectations.  Small, gentle goals.  Rest. 

The Insomniac Wonder Baby is napping right now, so I think I'll join her....zzzzzzzzz............

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

INTJ Parenting

She got bored with Dr. Seuss pretty quickly.  My Mathman husband thought, "Well, this will at least put her to sleep," but nooooooo...........she was thrilled. 

This was when our little Firecracker was six.  Now she's eight, and has already read all of the Narnia, Percy Jackson, Little House, and Dork Diaries books. 

We didn't special-order her this way, or do anything to "foster a love of reading," except be fans of good books ourselves.   Now, we can hardly keep up with her voracious appetite for more stories. And [wipes away a tear] she's started writing her own.

Any book suggestions for a third grader who reads at a high school level???

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sherlock's Parents........Sooooo Normal!!!

The thing is, I married Sherlock.

(Well, I married a milder, more caring, less sociopathic version of Sherlock.)

Different Meyers-Briggs enthusiasts have pegged Sherlock as slightly different personality types.  I say he's a textbook INTJ, like my husband.

It's an eerie thrill when I hear words in a British accent that my husband has said, in exactly the same context, in exactly the same tone of voice, for exactly the same reason.

It's a hilarious release to watch John Watson's reaction, knowing that I'm *not alone* in my dumbfounded response to cold-hearted analysis.

The best part about last night's episode?  Meeting Sherlock's parents.  :)

Sherlock's reaction to his parents was simply classic iNtuitive/Sensor interaction: the
parents talk about concrete, every-day things, with an adult child who was only interested in the world of ideas.  The parents were caring, normal, every-day people who had absolutely no clue how to interact with their abstract, mind-palace loving son.

The SJ  (Sensor/Judging) personality type makes up about 45% of the population.  The SP (Sensor/Perceiving) type is 35%.  My beloved  NT's (iNtuitive Thinkers) are only 5-10%.  That means that NTs--our question-asking, saliva-analyzing, wall-shooting abstract thinkers---are very, very likely to find themselves in households completely dominated by Sensors.

(I married one NT, and then gave birth to another.  It's never dull around here.)

Problems arise between Sensors and Intuitives, usually because one spends time judging the other.

The SJ rolls his eyes: "Dear God, get your head out of the clouds and be PRACTICAL!"
The NT snarks, "Stop boring me and think."

The difference is that I've watched my husband work very hard to learn how to communicate with the Sensors in his life, while Sherlock just shoves them out the door.  (Cause, um, I didn't marry a sociopath!!!  And I have to say, "Go Molly!")  He shows so much love and respect towards his parents, and other SJ relatives and friends.  It was just hilarious to see the NT/SJ interaction in its unrefined state.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

An 8-Year-Old ENTJ Corrects Her INTJ Daddy. In Front of His Class!

The other day we had one of those scheduling snarls, where I had to take one child to a doctor, and my husband ended up taking the oldest two into his class with him.  Justin teaches math for education majors, and my kids are usually really, really good about doing their homework--or at least behaving--while their Daddy teaches the teachers. 

Well, those students got an ENTJ behavior.   (Yikes!!)

I came home and found this stack of papers.  Apparently, Lily had written out several notes, and placed them, one at a time, on her Daddy's chalkboard.  During class. Yeah.

We had a conversation about how this needs to NEVER, EVER happen again during class--after I laughed my head off and took pictures of everything. :)  Unfortunately, she wrote several notes in yellow highlighter that I couldn't make show up properly, but you get the idea. :)

 She's a firecracker.  She always will be.  I love that about her. :)

Ooooh, Villains Say BAD WORDS!!

In the few short months I've been working as an Author's Assistant, I've been amazed at how closely and lovingly these writers interact with their fans.

I'm also amazed at the feedback they receive!!   I don't get my clients' emails, but I do usually get their Facebook messages and social media posts.  Here's a comment that comes up over and over again, in a hundred different variations: 

"I LOVE your books, and I think you're the greatest writer EVER, but would you please stop swearing in your novels?  It's just too much for me." picked up a book about a small-town female police officer stopping a serial killer that happens to be her ex-husband, and you expected them to say "Darn" and "Oh sugar!" when they get shot?  

Sorry, not buying that excuse. :)

I love, love, love this job, and I love my authors, and I hope that they never change their dedication to bringing authentic stories to life for their fans. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Brownie Cupcakes" and why we call them that. :-)

 Since Lucy Guardino is "Just your average Pittsburgh soccer mom, baking brownies
and carrying a loaded forty-caliber Glock..." I had a crazy idea.  In the shower.
Which is where I get all of my crazy ideas. :-) "What if I offered some of my brownie 
cupcakes as a prize, if the novella reached 200 on the Kindle rankings?  I mean, I can't
offer a loaded glock, but this is the next best thing, right" ;-)

Well, I had no idea that the response would be so overwhelming!  Lucy Guardino fans
responded instantly, and AFTER SHOCK's rankings went up over three hundred
points in just two days!!  Fans from all over--including at least one all the way from 
Australia--had a sudden, incalculable chocolate craving. <3

Sadly, I can't send cupcakes to all of you, but you all certainly made my day--and CJ's!!
 At the very least, I'll share the (original)  recipe with you, and the story behind
creating it. (I also hope to add pictures soon, but I got preggo-sick tonight, so it
couldn't happen yet.)
See, I'm allergic to wheat and milk. Seriously.  Unlike Scarlet in BROKEN, my allergy
actually causes me to swell up, have trouble breathing, and cough my lungs out until
I'm doped up on Benadryl.  

This meant I had two options: 1) I could spend the rest of my life eating over-priced
gluten-free foods that tasted like processed cardboard, or 2) I could become the best
dang scratch-cook in allergy-friendly history.  

I chose the second option. :-)  It took about two and a half years, but I managed 
to develop a knack for making food that was nutritious, yummy, and wouldn't keep 
me in a perpetual Benadryl coma.  A girl's gotta have priorities.
A friend of mine posted a cupcake recipe on a blog that we tried to create together, but 
every time I tried to make it, the cakes kept falling apart.   Plus, they were dry, and I left a
trail of crumbs that would put Hansel and Gretel to shame with every bite.  It took about
three months, (I had to eat all my mistakes. Darn!) but I finally made enough tweaks and
changes that the cupcakes that came out were moist, held together fairly well....
...and when my kids ate them, instead of spitting them out and going "YUCK!!, Are 
these gluten-free?" they licked the paper liners clean and said, "Oh mom, they taste
like yummy brownies!!"  
And that's how these brownie cupcakes were born. :-) 

         3/4 cup Teff Flour
         1/4 cup Sorghum Flour
         1/2 cup Tapioca Flour
         1 cup good quality baking cocoa
         1/2 tsp baking soda
         2 1/2 tsp baking powder
         1/2 tsp salt
         1 1/2 sticks margarine (Earth Balance is is dairy free, and they have a soy free option as well) or butter, room temperature
         3/4 cup brown sugar
         1 cup granulated sugar
         4 large eggs
         2 teaspoons vanilla
         1 1/2 cups milk (dairy, rice, soy) plus 1 1/2 tsp vinegar to mimic buttermilk
         1-2 cups of Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (these are dairy-free, but if you don't have any allergy, you can try regular chips)  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
This makes about 2 dozen cupcakes. Lightly grease the bottom of the
baking pans, then dust with a little cocoa powder, or line 2 muffin tins with cupcake

Whisk the three flours together. Add cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda to the 
flours and whisk together in a medium bowl.

In a separate bowl, with your mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Slowly add the
brown sugar and the granulated sugar. Whip this mixture until fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time to the creamed mixture, then add the vanilla.
Turn the mixer to low and alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk.
Using an eighth-cup measuring cup, fill the cupcake liners to 2/3rds full.  Then, one
teaspoon at a time, add the Enjoy Life Chips to each cupcake.  Stir with a toothpick to 
incorporate into the batter.  (If you don't do this, the chips tend to settle to the
bottom, and you lose a good bit of moisture.)  
Bake immediately for 12-15 minutes, until the cupcake is springy to the touch and a 
toothpick comes out clean.  [Careful, because the toothpicks can come into contact w/ 
yummy gooey chocolate chips!]
For frosting, you can either 1) Buy frosting that's labeled gluten-and-dairy free, or
 2) Try  mixing one part shortening to one part cocoa, and three parts powdered
sugar, then adding soy/rice/almond milk, a teaspoon at a time, until it reaches the
consistency you want. 
 (I wish I had a more specific recipe for this, but since I make different quantities all 
the time, I just TASTE it until I like the results I get. :-)  With a disposable toothpick, 
of course.)  
Enjoy, and let me know what you think!  
Lots of Love,