Sunday, October 31, 2010

Baby steps

It's been a while since I posted about our baby. Part of that was deliberate, and part was the result of life still going on and me still being in it. It's been two and a half months since I miscarried. A few weeks have gone by since the last time I felt like everything was falling apart ... a few hours have gone by since the last time I cried over his little life. I know that my heart is on the mend, one baby step at a time. I also am coming to realise that a little piece of a mother's heart becomes attached to each child that she conceives, and when that child is gone the part of her heart that's left behind will always hurt a little. And the part of my heart that is with my baby boy is singing and dancing with him.

"Sing, O barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor"

This is the verse that was spoken prophetically in church today. I felt that today I had to make a choice. One of my good friends is almost 20 weeks pregnant - about a week off of what I would have been right now. Mark and I have been close to this couple for years, and since miscarrying I have NOT been able to deal well with seeing her. After much soul-searching, I have decided that this is not borne out of bitterness. My struggle is that every time I see her, she represents a joy that that I will never know. She reminds me of my grief. Of the 'should have beens'. And I know that this will not be 'fixed' by getting pregnant again - the joy that I've lost was for this baby. Having Anna, I know what I am missing out on! And that is what my dear, sweet friend represented to me. Lost joy.

At church, I felt that this was the day that God wanted to break that. I think part of that was up to Him ... but He also showed me that a lot of the ache I felt whenever I was reminded of my loss was something I was holding onto, and could choose to relinquish. Paradoxically, it is easier for me to fall back into grief and pain than to be joyful in this situation (why would I choose to hold onto something that is hurting me...?). But God is calling me to sing, to burst into song and to shout for joy - in spite of missing a little piece of my heart.

I cried through worship today, I cried through communion, and I cried as I found my friend and hugged her. But I am choosing to relinquish my hold on the ache.

(And, as a sidenote, I am remembering that this baby of mine is not lost! What an inaccurate and hope-less expression we have developed as a euphemism for miscarriage. I didn't 'lose' my child - I know exactly where he is, and that he is safe and exuberantly happy!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Homemade pumpkin pie!

Mark and I took Anna to the pumpkin patch recently. It was so much fun; Mark was working at a hospital a mile away from the pumpkin patch, and he was having a slow afternoon so he came and joined us for a little while. Impromptu family date :) She was old enough this year to actually enjoy running around and looking at pumpkins, and she picked out a couple pie ones to bring home. For the last two years (since having a child to take to pumpkin patches!) I have made pies from scratch, and really enjoy doing it! It only takes a couple of hours from start to finish, and I get far more compliments on my home-made pies than I ever do when I just buy one from Walmart :) I decided to blog my pie-making experience this year, so here you go: pumkpin pie from scratch! (Note: I am NOT your resident pie-making expert! If you have other tips you can share, I'd be glad to hear them! :) Also, I used a frozen roll-out crust rather than making my own. There's only so much time in one little girl's nap!)

1. Go to the pumpkin patch and get someone cute to help you pick out your pie pumpkin. Ours were about 8 inches in diameter. (This is a guess; they were very similar in size to Anna's head, so find a 17-mo old's head to compare!)

2. Rinse your pumpkin to remove any dirt from the outside.
Tip: before you do anything else, get a Walmart bag and spread it out in your sink so you have somewhere to throw all the mess. This makes cleaning up a lot easier!

3. Cut the pumpkin in half. A serrated knife and sawing motion seemed to be the general online consensus, but I found that a 'rocking' motion with the knife was easier than straight-up sawing.

4. Scoop out the guts. For a smooth textured pie, scoop out all the strings. I used my ice-cream scoop, which was pretty labour-unintensive :)

5. Cut each half of the pumpkin into smaller chunks, ready for cooking. I cut each half into thirds, and then cut each of the thirds into thirds too. Obviously the smaller you cut the chunks, the quicker they'll cook :)

I steamed one half of the pumpkin in the microwave in a pyrex bowl with a lid, and the other half on the stove in a steamer. I didn't find that one was any quicker or more effective than the other. With the size of chunks that I used, it took between 15 and 20 minutes to completely cook. (I set my microwave to cook in 5-minute increments and just kept checking it.) It's done when the flesh of the pumpkin pulls away from the skin easily.

6. Peel it! I found using a dessert spoon to be quite effective. Also, preheat the over to 425.

7. Blend or puree the pumpkin flesh till it is smooth and without chunks. I have used my hand blender each time I did this and the texture is great; I'm sure any blending appliance would work just fine!

8. Get your pie crust out! Like I said, I bought one of those refrigerated rolled-up sheets of pastry and cheated on the crust. I did have to trim it to size and lay it in my pie dish, though, so I stopped one step short of totally selling out and getting a ready-to-bake one :) I baked my crust before adding the filling. If you do that, remember to put tin-foil over the edges of the filled crust once you bake it again, so the edges poking out above the filling don't get burned.

9. Add the following ingredients to the pumpkin puree and mix well. I just used my hand blender again. The resulting mixture will be runny; mine is usually about the consistency of stage 1 baby food. Panic not, the pie will thicken up perfectly :) Pour the pumpkin into your pie shell. I had a lot left over, as you can see from the picture below. I just froze it in a gallon ziploc.

1 cup sugar
1.5 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cloves
1 t ground all-spice
0.5 t ground ginger
0.5 t salt
4 eggs
18oz evaporated milk (= 1.5 tins)
0.5 t vanilla extract

10. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. In my oven, with a pie the size mine turned out to be, this took about 40 minutes. Invite some friends over for dessert, and enjoy!

(I got my recipe from this website. The author has plenty more fun pumpkin ideas on her site!)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Little deaths

When I last posted, I meant to write about England and Bible Course, since both had recently happened. I spent so long going through my England pictures that I ran out of steam for Bible course, so now I'm playing catch-up again!

Four days after getting home from England, Mark's whole class left Tulsa for a New life Ranch a couple hours East of here. We spent a week there for Bible course; each day we had different speakers talk to us about some aspect of faith, medicine and the combination of the two. We also had the opportunity to do the ropes course there at the ranch, which was super-fun and filled with enough adrenaline to last the rest of the week!

One of the 'team-building exercises' was belaying for each other so no-one would crash to their death from great heights :)

Climbing Jacob's Ladder. the rungs got further apart as you climbed higher, and the vertical 'beams' were actually just metal cables. Made for a pretty tough climb!

Zip-line :)

The teaching we received was for the most part very inspiring and challenging. ("For the most part" because one of the speakers seemed to have a personality that I find very difficult to get along with, which made what they had to say more difficult for me to accept.) I think the one point that stands out to me the most from all of the teaching was something Dr Chris Berry (an Image grad) said while talking about weaving our faith into the way we practically live out our lives. He was talking about the love of God, and the facts that a) this love was most clearly demonstrated by His death on the cross, and b) we are called in John 15 to "love each other as I have loved you." This means that if we are truly loving the way Jesus does, there will be times that it feels a little like death to us. This is so counter-intuitive to me. When I hear the word 'love', it sounds warm and happy and fuzzy to me. It doesn't sound like dying! But when I am really and truly loving, this will often mean putting aside my own selfishness and sense of self-importance, and replacing those things with somebody else. And that sounds more like dying! But the reason that those little deaths are ok is that whatever I do for the least of these, I am doing unto my Jesus who, ultimately, is the One I want to love.

Now to put it into practice....!