Friday, July 25, 2014

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

Yesterday I had a really stressful work day. So basically, I decided that the best thing to do was make myself blueberry muffins. Because there really isn't anything quite so gratifying as beating eggs when you're frustrated. Except perhaps tenderizing meat. But sadly I didn't have any to tenderize.

So I ended up adapting a blueberry muffin recipe to make it gluten free!


Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthum gum
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp grated lemon peel
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 quinoa flour
1 cup gluten free all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix together all the liquids in a bowl. Add the salt, xanthum gum, baking powder, and lemon peel. Stir thoroughly. Gradually add sugar and flours. Fold in blueberries. Dip into greased muffin tin. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.


I loved how the flours I milled with my new mill and my gluten free flour chart helped me make delicious and real tasting muffins without a second thought. Gluten free baking couldn't be easier! Or yummier. There may or may not be any muffins left after a mere 24 hours.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gluten Free Flours!

When I found out that I was gluten intolerant, I was relieved. I was so glad to finally know what was wrong with me! The journey to my diagnosis was so hard, I didn't even mind that I had to stop eating bread. Even though I grew up baking and eating bread every day. (I always thought it was strange that eating nothing but bread and water used to be considered a punishment!)

A year later, I'm a little less content with this state of affairs.

On the bright side, I have significantly more experience in cooking gluten free; and I think I am finally ready to venture into the world of gluten free baking. All I have to do is figure out gluten free flours. Which may be slightly more or less easy than figuring out the War of the Roses. But in any case, I've spent the last couple of weeks researching different kinds of gluten free flours online, and I finally made myself an RDC. (For all of you who aren't lucky enough to have a chemist for a father that means Reference Data Chart.) 

I totally laminated this so I can keep it handy in my kitchen. (Life hack: instead of spending money and effort on a less than perfect lamination job, just put it in a sheet protector - then it can go in a cookbook if you want!) 



A few notes about the RDC:

1) It does not include all gluten free flours. I just put in the ones I thought I was likely to try based on their potential deliciousness and relative ease of economic acquisition. (I mean, arrowroot, really?)

2) Buckwheat is not a wheat. It's actually a fruit related to the rhubarb. On a similar note, you will not see spelt, semolina, kamut, barley, or rye flours on here, because they are either made from wheat or related to wheat.

3) The percentages are the maximum amounts recommended to substitute for wheat flour in any given regular recipe. For example, if you have a bread dough recipe that calls for 4 cups of flour you should only put in 1 cup of almond flour.

4) Most of the information I found on all of these flours recommended keeping them in an airtight container and refrigerated, so I just started refrigerating mine even though I haven't noticed a problem in the past. But I still keep my all purpose flour in a canister on the counter.

5) Even with the large variety of gluten free flours to use, they still lack one thing: gluten! Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, and rye, that is responsible for making things you bake stick together as well as keeping your dough strong enough to stand despite all those little air pockets. As a result, a lot of gluten free doughs you make may be crumbly or experience difficulty rising when you bake them. Add eggs or milk to help with the former problem and use xanthum gum to help with the latter.

6) Feel free to print the RDC out and use it yourself. As most of the information on the chart was found online and not through personal experience, I cannot guarantee that it is entirely correct. (And I would definitely recommend doing your own online research before beginning.) I will probably be making changes to the chart myself, but I would love to hear if you have any tips or changes to make.


In other news, I got myself a mill! I'm truly excited about this, because I am tired of paying $6 for 3 cups of gluten free flour. (True story.)

Yesterday, I milled my own white rice flour, potato starch, oat flour, and quinoa flour. In an hour. And it's sooooo much cheaper. Seriously. I went to Costco and spent $45 on bulk size rice, instant potatoes, oats, and quinoa. I milled 45 cups of flour, and I still have 3/4 of a ten pound bag of rice, a large box of instant potatoes, and an even bigger bag and a half of oats in my pantry. So that's already about $1 per cup of flour - and it will ultimately be even less! (As soon as I figure out how much flour all this stuff makes!)

I also made my own gluten free all purpose flour using 6 cups of white rice flour, 2 cups of potato starch, 1 cup of tapioca starch. I had to buy the tapioca starch, because my mill's warranty says I can't mill tapioca. Sad day. But I totally love having flour back in my canister. (PS: Don't forget to add in xanthum gum when you're making a recipe!)

A few lessons learned:

1) Always attach the hopper to the mill before you start milling. Otherwise, you will end up with flour all over everything. (I might have been a tad bit too excited to try my mill. Haha.)

2) Use a plastic tablecloth for easier clean up. Because even if you manage to obey rule #1 you will probably still end up making a mess. A big one. Oh, and everyone says use a damp paper towel ... nuh uh. Use a broom instead. You can thank me later.

3) To prevent clogging the mill put a small square notch in the side of a plastic cup you don't care about and place it over the grinder before you pour in your grain. Turn the cup as you mill, and the grain will enter the mill at a steadier rate.

4) Get more canisters before you start! (Shout out to my mother in law who made me take a large storage container home with me after vacationing at her house.)

5) Make a delicious homemade pizza as a reward when you are done.


More recipes and tips to come, I'm sure!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Glamour of Gluten Free (Or Not)

If you've gone out to eat or gone grocery shopping in the last year chances are you've seen something labeled as "gluten free". You probably wondered to yourself what gluten was and then dismissed it as the latest diet fad that would die out as soon as everyone realized that the food was nasty and the corporations increased prices over a silly label. Or when the next diet fad came along.

(Maybe next time someone will decide that vegetables are actually unhealthy!)

It's not just a diet fad. There are people who are actually allergic to gluten. And I am one of them.

And it's anything but glamorous.

My journey into the gluten free life began almost 2 years ago when I started to feel sort of ill all of the time. I didn't really think much of it at the time because I was working a lot and then commuting an hour to a neighboring city where I was starring in the play "Wait Until Dark"; this hectic schedule necessarily meant eating a lot of fast food or not getting enough food, period, or enough sleep. That was enough to run anyone down, right? But then I quit that job, my play finished, and I was still feeling ill.

I thought.

I wasn't very sure about myself because the symptoms were initially very vague. They varied from digestive troubles and fatigue to muscle spasms and brain fog. So I kept making excuses. Maybe I'm just doing my weird I'm-never-sick version of that stomach bug that's been going around. Maybe I'm pregnant! Or maybe I'm just imagining that I'm dumber now than I was before. And I kept at it until Christmas when I had a really bad episode: I experienced excruciating abdominal pain, almost lost consciousness, and ended up going to bed at 8pm. (Which is really early for night owl just-graduated college students.) It was after that episode that Allen made me promise to go to the doctor once we returned home.

But the doctor thought I was a hypochondriac.

By this time, I knew that I was ill. Almost every bodily function I had was not working. And it was downright discouraging that I couldn't persuade my doctor that I was sick. I asked him about the possibility of a gluten allergy right off the bat because my look alike aunt has one, and I figured if I looked like her I might possibly be sick like her. He dismissed it with disdain. So we went through a random battery of tests but I felt like we were just going through the motions. Especially when I discovered my birth control affects thyroid function tests, and my doctor refused to rerun the test. Eventually, my doctor determined that I would always have to live with these symptoms and sent me home with a few bottles of pills that might allay them a little. Maybe.

And I asked him to refer me to another doctor.

I probably would've been better off finding a gastroenterologist on my own, because the new doctor was almost as skeptical as the old one. He came to the same conclusion. I was beyond frustrated. Fortunately, for the doctor, I still had some semblance of manners left. I commented that there were a plethora of illnesses one could have which encompassed all of my symptoms. He agreed. So I asked him why both he and my previous doctor were so ready to consign me to a lifetime of ineffectual pill popping. I will never forget what he said then: "Because I've treated thousands of patients like you and the chances of actually discovering what you have are very minimal."

I went home and cried. A lot. For the zillionth time.

This particular doctor had "pity" on me and offered to do a colonoscopy "but we're not going to find anything." At this point, I had been ill for 9 months. I was depressed, antisocial, and very desperate for an answer besides "you'll just have to live with this", so I agreed. I think I regretted that decision most when I was sitting on the toilet with the pre-surgery laxatives in my system reading Les Miserables and I just happened to be in the part where Valjean is hauling Marius through the sewers of Paris.

All time low.

I was extremely nervous about the procedure, but the anesthetics worked great and I don't remember a thing about it. When I woke up, I was in rare form. I flirted with my husband, I informed the nurse that Dr. Pepper is the blood of Texans, and I felt great. Really great. I felt like myself for the first time in almost a year. And I was really hungry. My entire system was devoid of any trace of food.

That's when I realized that it must be something I was eating.

Once, I had determined it was my food, it was pretty easy to figure out. I ate rice for a week straight. I was too afraid to eat anything else. That this living a normal life would turn out to be just a dream. Eventually, I would try a little bit of corn or soy hoping it wouldn't crush me forever. But I determined that it was actually gluten combined with a slight lactose intolerance.

I cannot describe to you the relief I experienced finally knowing what was wrong with me.

However, I wasn't out of the woods yet. The world of gluten free is extremely confusing. What is gluten anyway? How do I know if something has gluten in it? Will I ever be able to eat out again? What about going to people's houses for dinner? What if people just brush me off as a fad dieter? Will I ever be able to eat anything that actually tastes delicious? How will I get all the nutrition I need? What if I get something that claims to be gluten free and it's not?

These were all questions I had to answer over the last year. And while it was a struggle with many unfortunate setbacks, I have answered most of them and you can expect to see many comments or posts about gluten free living. But most importantly, I finally discovered something very key: gluten free living may not be very glamorous, but it's living.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Navy Wife Life

I haven't been a Navy wife for very long, so I try not to pretend like I know everything about it. Because, honestly, I don't. But I've learned so much in 8 1/2 months that I thought I might drown. And I'm not entirely sure that's outside the realm of possibility even now!

Sadly, I even had a "head start".

I come from a very military family. My great grandfather fought in WWI; Grandpa saw action in both WWII and Korea; Opa served 3 tours in Vietnam (ever seen the movie "We Were Soldiers"? Yeah, he was there); I have an uncle who was a career Airborne Ranger; my other uncle was in the Navy; and my own father served in the Army 24 years. I grew up on stories of these men and their spirited supportive wives, and I had the chance to observe my mom in the same role. These women performed their duties with courage and dignity. They were feisty and independent and didn't need a man to hold down the fort, but they fiercely loved a man with all their hearts nonetheless. Because of these stories and my own experience as an Army daughter, I thought I knew what being a military family member was all about, and I didn't think it would be too difficult to follow in their footsteps as a military wife.

Boy, was I in for a surprise ... Navy wife life is hard.

You rarely know where he is, what he is doing, or when he is coming back. And when bad news comes, you have to keep it to yourself or rant in very vague terms to your mom for operation security's sake. You have every video calling and international texting app on the face of the planet. You check your email every 3 minutes, and you will wait for hours - all night if you have to - for a five minute conversation that may or may not even happen. You never put down your phone. Just in case. You spend hundreds of dollars on putting together and sending care packages, and then wait for weeks hoping it makes it. You keep yourself busy and sociable but at the end of the day, no matter how wonderful it all was, you still have to go to bed alone. Your best friend is not there to share your laughs with you, and you slowly realize that no matter how many letters you write, stories you tell, or pictures you take, there are literally months and years of each others' lives you will never get back. You miss birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays several years in a row. You have to smile when you feel like crying and be supportive and patriotic when you're angry. And when he does finally return, sometimes, you have to say goodbye when you've only just said hello; and you must accept that the People need your man more than you do. Even if the People don't deserve him.

But as horrible as Navy wife life can be, it's also pretty wonderful.

You learn to converse on less superficial topics than what he did today. Ironically, you become more emotionally stable as you learn to cope with uncertainty and bad news on your own. Flexibility is your new middle name. You have less things on the "honey do" list and more on the "I'm gonna freakin' do it myself" list, and you feel like superwoman because of it. You know the value of time spent with a loved one and become disinclined to be distracted when you have a chance to talk to him. You get the joy of a generous heart when you hear how much he loves his care package. You try all sorts of new and cool activities as you keep yourself busy and find instant companionship and friendship with other Navy wives. Even if they drive you crazy, too. You become really good at taking pictures of everything and telling stories. You get to live the one-of-a-kind experience of a homecoming ship. You find reasons to celebrate other days besides birthdays and anniversaries. Small things become big causes for gratitude. You get to burst with pride when people thank your husband for his service and sacrifice. And you burst again with tears when people thank you, too, because deep down inside you're glad to know that someone recognizes and cares.

Inconceivably, somehow, some way, all the pain and struggles become worth it. As of this moment, I'm not even really sure I fully understand how or why that is. I made a commitment to my husband forever with full knowledge of his career plans. I encouraged him to pursue his military ambitions, and I promised him that I would try to be the best Navy wife ever. I don't regret that choice, and given the chance, I know I would do it again in a heartbeat. That doesn't make it any easier. Ever. But it does make me more determined than ever to own it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I was Nominated for the Liebster Award!


Today, you get a special treat courtesy of the lovely Stacey Bradshaw. Stacey is a fellow actress, and I am privileged to call her my friend. She nominated me for the Liebster Award on her blog There And Back Again where she writes about her experiences as an actress.

The Liebster Award isn't your typical award. I didn't really do anything special to earn it other than writing on this blog regularly. Well. Semi-regularly anyway. The Award is designed to help people network better. And YOU get to find more blogs to read and learn 11 random things about me. It's a win-win! Sort of.

The rules are as follows:

1. Be a good friend. Give a shout out to the blogger that nominated you!
2. Be polite. Answer the 11 questions the aforementioned blogger asked you. (Honestly.)
3. Share with others. Nominate little known bloggers that deserve recognition.
4. Be inquisitive. Write 11 nosy questions for them to answer.
5. Tell them the good news!

So, without further ado, eleven random facts about me.

1. What is a ministry you are really passionate about?

Children. They are so alive and full of ambitions and questions. They have so much potential if only someone will come along and encourage them. Or at the very least NOT trample on them with their cynicism and practicality. I never would have thought that I'd be terribly good at children. I generally feel like hiding in terror whenever children want to play with me or if I am (heaven help me) actually babysitting. But I discovered that I really loved children when my family became a foster family. I became a sister to almost a dozen children who needed a family so very badly. I got to give them a bright spot to cling to in the hard places which children should never have to live. I am almost certain that I will end up teaching drama again at some point in my life, and I would really love it if I could start an children's home or two as well.

2. Random childhood memory?

Well, it's not very random, but one of my earliest memories is the fateful day that I decided to play barber with one of my friends. I'm not really sure why we thought this was a good idea. Perhaps, we thought that we would actually look better after we applied scissors to our scalps. But in any case, after a spanking and a trip to a real hairstylist, I ended up with a VERY short haircut that I hated. I remember bawling as I attempted to get my centimeter long hair into a ponytail holder, and not even a phone conversation with my favorite uncle could console me.

This memory is not only the number one reason why I will never ever post a Throwback Thursday picture of me at this age, but it's also very interesting to me because it is one of the few memories I have of the time before I received my hearing aids. My perception of the world when I was deaf is something I like to keep with me. Even though I was also four.

3. Favorite animal?

Foxes. And then raccoons. Hands down. If any of you want to get me one as a pet I would be eternally grateful. And my husband would probably send you toxic spiders in reply. Haha.

4. Favorite ice cream flavor?

Anything BlueBell! Though I think if I was forced to pick only one flavor I would go with Butter Crunch. It's pretty hard to beat peanut butter and chocolate in my book!

5. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Oooh, tough. Allen and I have often talked about where we might live if and when the Navy ever lets us go. But we can never decide. The problem is we love the culture and politics of the Great State of Texas ... but we both like mountains. A lot. You can see our dilemma. Ha. Then there's the question of living close to family. Mine in Texas and his in California. We will probably end up living somewhere in between. Like Arizona or something.

Oh, wait! I'm being practical again. Haha. Um, anywhere in the world? Probably Scotland. Maybe New Zealand. But as I haven't been to the latter, I couldn't say for sure.

6. Have you traveled abroad? If so, where?

How perfect a segue! Yes, I have traveled abroad. My dad was in the Army, and we lived in Germany for 3 years. (No, I'm not fluent in German. But I can count to twelve if you insist.) So my parents, being the wise people that they are, decided that we should definitely invest in traveling while we were overseas. Anyone who has ever paid for an international flight probably understands. Hence, I've been to: Germany, France, England, Holland, Austria, and Switzerland. Sadly, we didn't quite make it to Italy due to a family emergency.

I also managed to do some traveling on my own. I had a brief mission trip to Uganda which had a big impact despite tragic circumstances. I traveled to Scotland as part of an acting troupe in which I played a very blonde Eve. And I traveled to Dubai of the United Arab Emirates this year to visit my deployed husband while he was in port.

7. What is your favorite historical era?

Pretty much anything American. I know that sounds elitist, but it's not intentional. I love reading or watching movies about the colonial days, the American Revolution, the Age of Expansion and the American Dream, the Civil War era, pioneer/cowboy era, and both WWI and WWII eras. But it sort of ends there. You lose me once you hit the '60s. And yes, I absolutely meant to skip the Industrialization. I leave that for the engineers to freak out over.

BUT if I had to pick a favorite. I would probably say between 1840 and 1890. My favorite TV show is Bonanza, if that helps.

8. Do you have a favorite author of classical fiction?

Can I have more than one? Is that allowed? I love Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. British humor is the best, and there is nothing else that will make me snort and chortle in enjoyment quite so much. They are so clever! And when it comes right down to it, they are very thought provoking, too.

Also, I randomly really like Alexander Dumas and Victor Hugo.

9. Do you have a favorite author of contemporary fiction?

Hmmm. Probably Agatha Christie. She's British, too. And she writes the best mysteries I've ever read. I almost never know "who dun it" before she makes the reveal. And in my book, that means you did a good job. I routinely pick up one of her books and devour it in 2 hours.

10. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? And how does that compare to what you do now that you ARE grown up?

I'm grown up now?! Haha, just kidding. Sort of.

Pretty much everything. I'm not kidding. At different times, I wanted to be: a ballerina, a rancher, a farmer, a forest ranger, an archaeologist, an actress, an author, a pilot, and a missionary. At one point, I even had it all figured out how I could be ALL of them. In one lifetime. (Obviously.)

As you know, I ended up being an actress. This was an older dream that I had sort of given up on for many foolish reasons. Fortunately, that story has a happy ending which is still being written.

11. What motivates you?

Well, the Sunday School answer is God. But He's not the only motivation in my life. And I can't honestly say that He's even always the highest motivation in my life. Because He isn't always. Though I do try to remember that I serve Him and not myself, sometimes I get distracted by the lesser motivations. I am also motivated by the desire to excel, to make my family members proud of me, and the need to do something with my life. I really can't stand doing nothing. And if I'm going to do something, I have to be the best. Or at least one of the best. And worst of all, I hate disappointing my family and feeling like I've disappointed God.


That's all, folks!


I hereby nominate:

Hannah of Psychotic Dichotomies: Hannah is a brilliant author, and she always has something thought provoking to say. Or just flat out amusing to read. The variety I find here is wonderfully fresh. You never know quite what to expect!

Mary of Wandering Star: Mary is very real and honest. Though her blog often contains music references I don't understand because I'm not as cool as she is, she talks openly about common struggles. I have been brought to tears more than once by the realization that someone else understands.

Amber of Living With Addison's Disease: Even if you don't have Addison's Disease, this is a blog worth reading. Amber writes that those with Addison's Disease OR a gluten allergy are clearly alive. She is a source of encouragement, camaraderie, and learning to the struggling or the friends of the struggling.

I query you ...

1. Describe yourself using only song, book, or movie titles.
2. If you could meet anyone, past, present, or future, dead or alive, who would you meet? (Besides Jesus)
3. What is your proudest moment?
4. If you could have any job in the universe, what would it be?
5. What is your favorite holiday?
6. If you could change one thing about your city, what would you change?
7. Do you have a favorite family tradition? What is it? And why is it your favorite?
8. What is your idea of romance?
9. What is your dream vacation?
10. What is your guilty pleasure?
11. Do you want to build a snowman?

Have fun!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How NOT to Achieve Your Life Ambitions

Last night, I dreamed that Allen and I had our first kid, and we named him Kelly Michael. Poor guy. Upon waking, I promised myself to never let my subconscious name anything. Ever.

Unless it's a character I don't like in one of my stories.

Dreams often don't make any sense, and you are left trying to figure out what actually happened. Or sometimes, they make perfect sense when you are dreaming, but when you try to tell someone else about the dream all of a sudden it makes no sense at all. Dreams can be sweet one moment and turn absolutely ridiculous the next, and you just fervently hope that no one ever knows how weird or crazy your subconscious really is. On occasion, dreams are terrifying, and you feel the need to call your mom for a head count of your sisters. And a lot of times, you dream, and you don't even remember that you dreamed. Or you recall that you had a great idea in your dream or a pleasant experience, but recalling what it was is just outside your reach. Dreams are bizarre bits of our lives that occur to everyone, but they are varied in nature and irrelevant to our daily lives.

Which is why it amazes me that speakers of the English language choose to describe their ambitions in life as their dreams. I mean, really? Are we trying to tell ourselves that our goals in life don't make sense? That they are ridiculous? Outside our reach? Irrelevant? That in many cases when it comes right down to it we won't even remember that we ever dreamed at all? Perhaps, the comparison is unintentional, but in reality, it perfectly encapsulates how I've viewed my own ambitions for most of my life.

"I had a dream once." (If you didn't see a Disney reference coming ... I'm sorry. You must have a sad life.)

I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to live a thousand different lives, go on twice as many adventures, and die a hero without ever feeling any pain. I wanted to sing and dance, ride horses, and throw knives. I wanted to wear every one of the dresses in "White Christmas". I wanted to be a lady of glamour and class, a role model for girls who think they have too many freckles or that their body is ill-proportioned. I wanted to earn a pot of gold to build an orphanage for little girls called "Talitha's Home", fund cures for the world's worst diseases, and end world hunger. In short, I wanted to change the world.

But I did the practical thing instead.

I majored in Biblical Studies, History, and English. I could be a teacher then. Or maybe a journalist. Or a missionary. Now, don't get me wrong. Those are wonderful roles. Important ones. In fact, I thought they were more important. I strove for those roles, because I was ashamed of my love for drama and of stories. Why do we spend so much money making and buying movies? Why do people devote their entire lives to projects that end up in the $5 bin at Walmart? There are children starving in Africa ... and in our very own country for that matter. That doesn't make any sense! How frivolous! How ridiculous.... I bet it was out of reach, anyway. No one would ever want to cast a small-busted, befreckled, deaf girl. I'm not a role model. I can't change the world. Not me.

I'll just forget that I ever dreamed.

I was unhappy. Of course I was. I tried to pretend I wasn't who I am. I tried to be someone else. I wanted so badly to be a missionary. I wanted to serve God. Not myself. I wanted to make an impact. But the fact of the matter is, this deaf girl does not do well with learning spoken languages. That's why I took New Testament Greek in college. It's a dead language that no one knows how to pronounce anymore. And this introvert sucks at speaking without a script. Add to that my penchant for thinking you can actually theologically argue someone into the Kingdom, and you have an unholy mix of the worst talents ever for a missionary.

I decided to teach drama. That was acceptable, wasn't it? I could teach children social skills, diction, how to work together, how to be comfortable in front of crowds. How to be someone else. After all, I was so very good at it. But one day while I was teaching, I said something that I didn't even know I knew: "A lot of people like drama because they get to pretend to be someone else. But the fact of the matter is, in order to be a truly good actor or actress, you have to like who you are. Then and only then can you truly excel at playing another role."

Thus, I came to terms with my love of drama: it was a hobby! Just something I do on the side. You know, just for fun. Perfectly harmless.

Then God dropped a film role in my lap. And I loved it. So much so that I didn't want it to be my hobby anymore. I wanted it to be my life. There was a joy there I couldn't find anywhere else. So I pursued it. But in the back of my mind there still resided a niggling sense of guilt. I could be out saving souls. Such a shame. Why didn't you make me differently, God? Why am I good at this of all things? Why can't I be happy just cooking dinner and raising kids? I want kids. I do. And being a mom is such an important task. It's like having a second chance in life because I was such a failure.

Last weekend we visited a new church.

It's not at all the sort of church I would normally attend. In fact, it's everything that I've never liked about many churches. The music is like a rock concert: loud with lots of special effects and expensive robotic lights. The people wear what they wore yesterday to the football game and seem to be overly concerned with standing in the free coffee line. The pastor is the hippest of them all choosing not to preach in a suit and tie with a leather bound Bible behind a podium but rather he wearing jeans, a plaid shirt, and preaching from an iPad while sitting on his bar stool. At least, he didn't preach out of The Message. Smh.

But it was exactly what we needed. (And if you attend a church such as I described, I'm sorry for thinking disdainfully of you and your church for so long.)

The pastor preached on a passage I've heard many times: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. It's much too long to attach to this mammoth of a blog post, but essentially Paul says that just as the human body is composed of a billion different and unique parts, so too, the Church is composed of a billion different and unique people with different roles. The pastor harped on this point for the entire sermon. We shouldn't put preachers or missionaries on a pedestal because they do what they do, and we shouldn't look down on ourselves because we are gifted differently. He insisted that the nursery workers aren't just holding babies, but providing much needed relief for parents who need time with God. The coffee people weren't just serving coffee, but in fact saving marriages. Moms aren't just moms, they're cultivators of the next generation of leaders.

Then my brain was impertinent and contributed its own assertion: you're not just an actress.

I was blindsided by my own brain. (I think that takes talent?!) This passage was about the gifts that one used in church. Spiritual matters. My spiritual gift was hospitality. Been there, done that, took that quiz. There isn't anything new to learn from this passage. I had always thought that.

And I had always been wrong. Because we don't serve God only when we are at church. We shouldn't anyway. "Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord." Therefore, whatever we are good at IS a spiritual gift. Even if it's not a talent you use at church. Even if it's not being able to evangelize at the coffee shop. I shut my eyes. "To obey is better than sacrifice." Oh, God. I have been unutterably stupid. And for so long. I'm so sorry. 

(Probably won't be the last time I pray that prayer.)

My flair for the dramatic is not something I ought to quell or look down on, and I don't need to feel guilty because I'm not a missionary. Instead, I should rejoice, because God has given me the ability to do something incredible. I get to bring family and friends together for a movie night. I make people cry and laugh because I invite them to step in someone else's shoes and be a part of someone else's world. I get to tell great stories that shape ideas and culture.

I get to be an actress.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reflections on Memorial Day

The stars and stripes flapped in the gentle breeze bathing in golden sunlight. The somber notes of "Taps" drifted among the carved columns and rippled over the fountain in their midst. I stood facing the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. honoring those who gave their lives in service to our country. My husband stood beside me in his striking white uniform. I was proud. As always. But my thoughts dwelt on the speaker's turn of phrase: 

"Thank you to those who gave us all of their tomorrows." 

When I was younger, I used to be paranoid when good things happened in my life. I would imagine an imminent tragedy and that this was intended to be my last happy memory. 

(Being a creative storyteller can have its downsides.) 

Eventually, given the significant lack of terrible accidents, paralysis, or kidnappings in my personal history, I gave up worrying about it altogether. I trust God to take care of me, and I relish the many good things in life He gives me. I find that it's easy to trust God with myself. If I die, I go to heaven. And everyone can shed a tear or two for their beloved departed angel. 

(Ha.) 

But it's significantly harder to trust God with the dearest and best part of my life: Allen. If Allen dies ... I'm alone. 

Yes, I will have a few good memories. And I will treasure them until they are threadbare in my clutches and petrified by my tears. But there will be a whole life we did not get to live together: the places we longed to see, the adventures we yearned to brave, or the children we desired to raise. This is my deepest and darkest fear. And fighting it does not come easily for me.

Especially when people orate on military sacrifice. 

True, Allen will probably not die for his country. His work does not involve personally being in the thick of combat. I try my best not to imagine the plethora of accidents or incidences he could encounter on his ship, and when he is deployed I daily endeavor not to regret Allen's service to his country. That is a paranoia I have to fight. 

But it's a paranoia that many others have to live.

"Thank you to those who gave us all of their tomorrows." 

So often we talk about those who "gave their lives", but I am not entirely sure that we know what that means. The phrase is old and worn out, and we forget that its truth still lives. Do we recognize what those men and women gave up? Do we acknowledge the pain and the emptiness of those left behind? And lastly, have we grasped at opportunities to show gratitude? 

I used to think that thanking the dead was a difficult matter. Given their condition. But it isn't really. Perhaps, the better term is "honor".

Having a moment of silence is an appropriate means of honoring the dead. So is simply behaving like an American. Vote, become politically involved, do your share in protecting our inalienable rights. Show gratitude to those who are left behind by hugging a mom in the stead of her deceased daughter or playing ball with the child whose father won't ever get that chance. Thank the soldiers who are still alive to hear you. Send a care package to a sailor or write a letter to an airman. 

But whatever you do, don't let those tomorrows be given in vain.