New Traditions for Our Family

My husband is an atheist.

That’s right. I am an ordained minister in the Christian Church and I married a man who could care less about anything remotely related to God.

He will be quick to amend that. He will say that he does care. He cares because I care but it’s not quite the same. It’s not the same as having a partner seated next to you every Sunday in church. It’s not the same as having a spouse that shares some similar experience from childhood. He didn’t have that. Mine was weird.

My father is also an atheist. Or at least, at one time, he said he could care less about God. It was shortly after my mom had died. They’d fallen in love, had two children and then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. They’d been been married eleven years when she died. It was not the ending he would have imagined. It certainly wasn’t what he wanted. He had every right to be mad at God, but that wasn’t how I dealt with it. Instead of rejecting God, I snuck off to church.

It was, as I tell those in the churches I’ve served, my young rebellion.

Marrying my husband was not a rebellion. He just happens to be an atheist. He’s an atheist who chose to marry a Christian pastor and regularly jokes about the bake sales he’ll host as a pastor’s husband when he retires from the Army. There are a lot of things that make our marriage wonderful, but Christmas can be hard.

For you see, I adore Christmas. It starts with Advent. It’s a season that echoes with my soul every single year. It calls me into greater attention with the needs of this broken world and forces me to focus on what I can do to bring hope, peace, joy and especially love into a world that needs so much more of these things, but I love the decorations. I love the lights lining the roof of my neighbor’s home. I love the gift giving and the twinkly tree that I turn on again the minute I wake up.

I love the candles held in the darkened sanctuary as we sing Silent Night. I love the cookies. Well, I love the cookies when I’m not pastoring a church and there are just too many cookies. I love the carols and sappy movies. I love the mall Santas. I love every bit of it.

My husband doesn’t love it. He doesn’t hate it but it doesn’t have the same magic for him. He doesn’t get excited like I do. That would be hard to accomplish for anyone.

He did, however, agree to raise our children in my faith. We talked about it before we got married and it’s still a conversation we continue to share. There are things that come up, things that neither one of us ever expected but things that we need to keep in the ongoing conversation of how we might try to raise the one kid we do have and any other children that might become a part of our family.

So we keep talking. We keep talking because it’s important.

We’ve made some decisions already. We decided we’re not traveling for the holidays. Our children will know a lot of change in their young lives. There will be lots of moves and no matter where we might call home, we want them to have an experience of the familiar. We want them to know that these are the things that our family does.

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Our first Easter Vigil

Earlier this year, we made a list. We picked all of the days that we would want to celebrate and how we might cherish these special days in our family. We talked about what traditions were a part of our younger years and what really matters to us. It’s a work in progress. We both know it will change but we started with an Easter Vigil. I explained the tradition and the big parts of the liturgy to my husband and then suggested a redacted version that might work for our family. Of course, it involves lighting a big fire and food. He was won over and it was wonderful.

I opened the document earlier today to remember what we intended for Christmas. It was blank and perhaps that is right. It’s our first Christmas where it is just us. It’s the first year where we get to try new things and see what fits our family.

Truthfully, the Easter Vigil is the only one we really have figured out. There are other things we want to do, but our baby girl isn’t old enough yet. Service is important to both of us and it’s something we want to share with our children, but there isn’t much that a one-year old can do to serve. There are other traditions that I know will emerge once we all start sitting down to dinner together at the same time, but neither my husband or I have our act together to sit down at 5 o’clock to eat together.

There are things that I hope will happen but I don’t really know what will happen. I don’t know how these practices will evolve in our family. I don’t know what will end up sticking and that’s hard for me. I love a good plan.

So it is with Christmas. I’ve made plans. I’ve planned a menu and wrapped presents. I made elf hats like my great-grandmother made us all wear on Christmas Eve though we will wear them on Christmas Day. We are going out to dinner on Christmas Eve and there will be the cinnamon rolls that I loved as a kid on Christmas morning. I’ve prepared for the details but not for the wonder.

That’s what always surprises me on Christmas. There is something mysterious and magical that happens. That’s what I want to emerge from all of these new traditions that we make for our family but it’s hard to plan for magic. It’s something that comes. It surprises and hopefully delights. My job is to wait for it and to be ready when it comes.

 

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Cooking for the Family, Again

In less than two weeks, worship will end and I’ll hop in my car and drive off into the cornfields. After way too long apart, Nigel and I will be together again. All will be well. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Before then, there are still a few adventures to be had in the kitchen and beyond. Corey is a big fancy graphic designer. (She is actually using the art degree that brought us together in the first place.) This week, there’s an artsy shindig and I get to be her date in the big city. My parents are coming to visit this weekend and next week I’m looking to a final hurrah in NYC and a ridiculous night of fun with my dear cousin in Atlantic City.

I will not be gambling at the casinos but I might be gambling in the kitchen. You heard about my challenges in cooking for Corey and her family in my last post. It continues as I try to cook bland, boring food for children. (I’m kidding. Sorta.) My strategy has been try to make one dish that has a kid version. Sometimes that has even worked. This week is no different.

Here’s the dinner plan for the week. As usual, you’ll see that I get my inspiration from a few usual suspects.

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Tuesday We’ll be enjoying one of my favorites from Cookie + Kate, Spicy Sweet Potato and Green Rice Burrito Bowls. The components of this work really well for kids with a little less spice. Both kids loved her other version of a burrito bowl (as did Mom and Dad). So I’m hoping they like this one too.

Wednesday We have some chicken thighs to use from the freezer so I’m excited to try Smitten Kitchen’s Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka. We’ll be using broccoli with the cauliflower though because the kids love the broccoli.

Thursday We’ll be serving Super Kale, Hemp and Flaxseed Oil Pesto. After conferring with Corey, we are hoping that the fact that it’s pesto will hopefully make the kids want to eat the yummy pesto. We might be dreaming, but we can hope.

On Friday, I’m going out to dinner with my parents but I might never have as good an excuse to make challah than blessing the shabbat table of my dear friends. So, I’m going to take a stab later this week at this Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah. It’s going to be another great week of yummy meals.

Menu planning is a very occasional feature of my blog. I do more cooking in the ministry I offer in Ingredients for Worship and cooking up new and exciting Recipes for Ministry. I love to cook both in the kitchen and swap recipes for all sorts of things. So, what are you cooking this week? What’s on your menu?

Cooking for the Family

It’s been almost two months since I got married. I went on an epic two-week honeymoon and then came back to our house only to prepare the movers. We prepared as best we could in twenty four hours. I preached a sermon in there too, and then the movers arrived. We had the worst possible moving experience known to humanity, but all of the stuff got on the truck. Nigel drive off to our new home where he had to report for duty in seventy two hours and I moved in with my friend Corey.

Corey and I went to college together. A few months back, over lunch in the city, I asked her if she needed a nanny. Corey was, at that point, expecting her third child. I was looking for a place to live as I had committed to a year contract with a church. I wanted to honor that contract but we couldn’t afford two rents, so I was problem solving as best I could. Surely, we could barter. Free room for some help with childcare? That seems like a fantastic idea. Corey assumed I was kidding. I was not. I wasn’t at all.

A few months later, I moved in. Corey had the baby. She’s adorable! Her older siblings are adjusting and things are almost normal. It’s still very weird to be so far away from my husband. Also still weird to say husband. I’m not yet used to that, but weirder still because we’re not actually together. It’s weird to embark on this next adventure when we’re not doing it together. And it’s just so hard to feel settled and normal when everything is not, but thankfully I still get to cook. Cooking makes me feel normal, even in someone else’s kitchen where I can ever find the colander. I can never find the colander in Corey’s kitchen.

Cooking for Corey and her family has new challenges for me. Biggest among them is the fact that there are kids. Nigel will eat anything. He’s really a good sport that way. He’s truly game for anything I want to concoct. And though these kids are not picky eaters, they will not eat anything. Sad but true. Kids will be kids. Luckily, Corey and her husband like to eat and they also like to have someone else do the cooking while they try to feel normal with three kids, rather than too. All of this means I get to cook. I get to cook and we found a new favorite food blog which means we’re basically trying everything that looks remotely tasty on Half Baked Harvest —  which is basically everything. This week is no exception.

Here’s the dinner plan for the week. You’ll note I haven’t made any notes about what the kids are eating. I’m adapting slowly, clearly.

SuperSale

Monday Neighbors have given a stock pile of food for the family with a newborn. (Unlike the other neighbors, they haven’t caught on to the fact that I’m cooking up a storm for the family.) They bright lasagnas, two different kind of quiches ad a case of beer. We will be having the lasagna and making a side salad to go with it.

Tuesday We are trying a new recipe and are beyond excited to gobble down this Balsamic Peach Basil Chicken Salad with Crispy Prosciutto from Half Baked Harvest.

Wednesday After trying something new, we are going to repeat something we’ve enjoyed before. This is the night for 20 Minute Cashew Chicken from Half Baked Harvest. I tried to warn you that we are a bit in love with this blog.

Thursday After being good and having a salad way back when on Tuesday, we are going to go for Cheddar Cornbread Waffle BLT with Chipotle Butter from Half Baked Harvest. Without a waffle maker in the house, and mine being with my husband, we are going to make pancakes instead of waffles. It should be delicious.

 

Friday will be a wild card or the night we eat all the leftovers. It seems there will be plenty of leftovers! Of course, there are other meals to eat and therefore other recipes to try. Earlier this week, Cookie + Kate posted a new recipe on her blog. This delicious fruit salad will definitely make it unto the rotation. Last week, I also discovered avocado toast and it kinda changed my life so I’m eager to try these life-changing variations. It promises to be a delicious week.

Menu planning is a very occasional feature of my blog. I do more cooking in the ministry I offer in Ingredients for Worship and cooking up new and exciting Recipes for Ministry. (Or at least, I hope they are new and exciting recipes.) I love to cook both in the kitchen and swap recipes for all sorts of things. So, what are you cooking this week? What’s on your menu?

Woman, Behold Thy Son

Tonight, I will share in worship with my home church at Old First Reformed United Church of Christ in the remembrance of Good Friday. It is the tradition in many places to share in hearing and reflecting upon the seven last words of Christ. I have never actually been in a place that has done this so when my pastor asked for volunteers, I said: PICK ME! PICK ME!   Thus proving, yet again, I’m a big ol’ church nerd. What follows is the reflection I’ll share tonight on the third of those seven sayings. You can find the whole passage in the Gospel of John in my preferred translation because I loathe the King James Version here.

 

Woman, behold thy son. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved most standing beside her, this is what he says to his mother. Behold, this is your child.

Here is your beloved, the immigrant, the refugee, the man who happens to be homeless, the woman who depends on that welfare check to provide for her children. Here is the woman who is not paid enough for the work that she does. Here is the person you are supposed to love, your family, your very heart.

It’s something that Jesus had heard before any of this transpired. Before his ministry began, before he hung on a cross, God said these words to him. From the waters of baptism, he emerged to behold the wonder that he was God’s child.

Here am I your beloved, the woman, the broken, the hurting, the uncertain and doubting. Here is the person who just needs to pee but can’t because he’s transgender and in North Carolina. Here is the young black boy walking through your neighborhood in a hoodie eating Skittles. Behold, Christ says, this is your child.

Woman, behold thy son. You will be a new family. You will create something new. You will imagine another way and nothing, nothing — not hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword, or even the fact that she is a Trump supporter — will separate you.

The world will build walls. The powers that be will erect barriers and divisions. They will tell you who to love and how to love them. They will try to tell you what love can do. But, don’t believe them.

Woman, behold thy son. Behold the glory of God for it is here in this relationship. It is here in this person. It is here in the love that we dare to find in each other. He wants her to see that. He wants her to understand what he once beheld in the waters of baptism. Behold, he says to this woman who gave birth from the waters of her womb, this is your child.

He does not only speak to his mother, but also to the disciple he loves most which interpreters have wondered if it wasn’t a placeholder. This one whom he loves most is never named. It could be John. Or Mary Magdalene or even Peter. Or it could be a placeholder for you and me. We are the beloved disciple. We are the ones whom Jesus loves most so that he turns to us from the cross, having just told his mother, Woman, behold thy son. He says to us, Here is your mother.

There is no one but you to love. There is no one better at it than you. Behold. “That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart.” The wise one Martin Buber wrote that. “But don’t you know also that God needs you—in the fullness of [God’s] eternity, you? How would [we] exist if God did not need [us], and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you—for that which is the meaning of your life.”

Woman, behold your son. 

I am your child. 

You are my child.

Behold.