The Other Guy and Cultural Appropriation

One of the topics I found most interesting in my studies of literature was the idea of the other, and how writers have used the other within their work.  In the most general terms, other means someone not like the rest of us.  It’s kind of like the Sesame Street song that has children picking out which object in the group does not belong.  There may be three fruits and a bicycle, and the right choice is the bike, because it is not a fruit. In this case the bike represents the other.

Homer’s The Odyssey is one of the first works of fiction ever created. Homer used the idea of the other to great effect. In the epic poem, many of the people Odysseus and his men encounter are clearly other because they do things that good Greeks don’t do. One does not eat one’s guests. One does not sit around drugged out of one’s mind until one starves to death because no one is working. One does not intentionally lead someone else to their death. These are things that the bad guys do in the story, and they are also things that no good Greek should do. In a way it is a cautionary tale, because it reveals that those who are not Greek do not live by Greek rules.  It also shapes the way those who are good Greeks think about those who are not Greek, because it suggests that people who do not have the same social norm sand codes might be capable of such atrocities.

The first piece of English literature, Beowulf, also uses the idea of the other to teach social lessons. In the case of the story of Beowulf, the characters of Grendel, his mother, and the dragon are all monsters, enemies so great that only the most valiant and skilled warrior can defeat.  Yet throughout the poem are other sub-stories where people act badly – and do things that ought not be done.  One such instance retells how a marriage party went very wrong, because two factions who had bad blood between them got drunk and took offense at something someone said or did and ended up taking their anger out at the wedding, killing during what was supposed to be a truce and causing all out war again. While it is clear that monsters had to be dealt with, it also reminds the reader, or hearer, that the rules are there for a reason, and those other guys who forgot it, brought their people to ruin.

Shakespeare used the idea of other in many different ways. In Othello, the Moore was an obvious other who acted just like any other person might when manipulated by the bad guy who was just a regular guy.  In The Tempest, the ultimate other, the wizard Prospero, recognizes that he cannot do the good he wanted to for his daughter by keeping her isolated from the world, and so lays aside his magic- his powerful otherness- for the sake of his love for her.  But as much as Shakespeare plays with the idea of the other in good ways, he was also careful to set his more fantastic stories far away from the ordinary world of England so that he was not suggesting that the good people who were his audience could ever encounter such scandalous intrigue or villainy.

Mark Twain’s approach was to use the other as a way to exposed brokenness of society.  Huckleberry Finn the story of  a troubled youth running away from his father who travels  with a run away slave, Jim.  They travel down the Mississippi River, thinking they could escape to a better, safer, freer life. Yet for all their efforts to be independent, and to keep themselves separate and other, in the end they are not delivered, but are at risk of even less freedom than they had before.  It is only when someone from their community steps in an vouches for them that they discover they belonged in society after all. It is the squirrelly Tom Sawyer who shows up at from home with the verifiable news that the Jim the slave was really Jim the free, and than Jim reveals to Huck that the man he was running from, his father, was dead. They had risked their lives to be free as others, but in the end were freer as part of what they had run away from.

Cormac McCarthy uses the idea of other with horrific effect. In his book The Road, the man and his son are among the only humans left with their humanity intact.  Almost everyone else they encounter have chosen to see those outside their group as prey for sport or food or both. There is no community to be a part of, only places that used to be homes and communities, with no life in them. On the rare occasions when the man and his son do encounter people who have humanity, they cannot form community because to do so would forfeit their ability to keep surviving.  It is only at the end of the book, when the man has lost his ability to continue protecting his son, that McCarthy gives him a possible hope for his son by allowing them to encounter another family willing to take the son on. Yet even then there is a sense that there will be no happy ending, and no future.

The fiction above reflects the societies they are born out of. The ancient Greek and Roman civilizations tended to elevate their own society over the outsiders they traded with or conquered. In fact, Rome expanded by conquering their neighbors, who were labeled as barbarians, which meant they were less than the Romans-which justified them being conquered and looted. After all, they weren’t civilized.  Ancient England celebrated valor and greatness in warriors, but only if they didn’t let strong drink and old grievance provoke new feuds. Elizabethan England saw that the world had many different people in it, and were not content to believe that to be different was to be bad. Instead they saw that but believed anyone was the capability to be either good or evil, regardless of their place in society. American’s of the late 19th century saw what was wrong and evil that pushed people out of their comfortable society and weren’t afraid to point it out, even suggesting that justice was to bring the others back into the fold. Modern Americans see how evil men can be, and imagine how they would be if all there was was them against the other survivors in a doomed world. Again, it seems, we have come to believe that others are more capable of pure evil than we are.

Right now it is popular to confront and expose cultural appropriation as an evil to be corrected in the world. It celebrates the notion that those outside the culture are others, and as such have no right to be messing with the things that signify a culture other than their own.  Yet part of how we humans function in a larger society is to sketch other cultures with signifiers, or cues,  that enable us to identify those things as from a culture different from our own. Using these visual or cultural cues promotes clearer communication of an idea. One of the most common ways we denote a different culture is through the use of costume. These costumes quickly convey the idea of a certain part of the world or certain era of time.  The word toga for example, is either associated with ancient Rome or Greece, or a modern drunken party on a college campus somewhere. There simply aren’t that many other settings in which toga’s fit. The same is true with straw hats and overalls. The only time we are likely to encounter straw hats and overalls is on a farmer, or someone who is equally poor and earthy. It is not demeaning to depict farmers by dressing them in overalls and straw hats. It is not demeaning to depict ancient Romans by dressing them in a toga.

There are those who claim it is demeaning to dress in the clothing of a culture that one was not born into. They suggest that to wear a buckskin dress to depict an early native American is wrong.  The same can be said for dressing in a sarong to attend a party if one is not Indian, or wearing a keipo without being Chinese. The claim is that only those who have the right ethnicity or background have the right to put on the tropes and icons of a culture.  There is a problem with this sort of thinking. First, it assumes people who are born into a culture have some kind of exclusive right to its costumes and trope. Secondly, it assumes that any use of tropes and costumes to represent a culture by those outside the culture will get it wrong. This in turn will cause that culture and its people harm, by creating stereotypes that perpetuate misinformation about a people group.   This assumes that people outside the culture are automatically bad for the culture or others.

Yet no one can own something as unstable and constantly shifting and changing as their own culture, especially in a country that takes all the many varieties of the ides of culture and weaves them into new ideas and constructions based on new ways of living. The United States is made up from the threads of many different world cultures. We are a melting pot, and part of what happens to everyone who comes here and becomes American, is that their cultural identity changes as the people change adapt  to their new surroundings.  Every tradition is tweaked to accommodate differences in what is available locally, since importing from across the globe is expensive. What is more we share our traditions and culture with others by living and working beside each other. We recognize that our ancestors came from other parts of the world, and that we do not share identical traditions and tropes.  In adapting ourselves to the new landscape, the new languages, and communities that were made up of people who were not like us, our culture changed, and is changing as we are constantly exposed to new ideas and new traditions and new ways of understanding the world.

We used to be okay with the idea that imitation was the highest form of flattery. It might not be such a bad idea to be more generous in our thinking when we see different cultures being interacted with by imitation. We could instead assume that someone saw something of beauty and value in the clothes from a different culture. We could assume that someone really liked the flavors of a dish from a different part of the world so much that they just had to try to see if they could adapt their own favorite dishes to incorporate those flavors. We could assume that someone so was so touched by the traditional music of our homeland that they wanted to make it a part of what their children experienced during their holidays. We could try to see that others are not bad for wanting to be like us. Maybe they are not all that different from ourselves after all.


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Dreams, Faith, and Trusting God

At the beginning of summer break, when May was finally winding down into the last weeks of school with final testing, ending projects, ceremonies and more ceremonies, I dreamed of what my “perfect” summer would look like.  I even blocked it out in my calendar.  The first week of June would be spent in Branson, Missouri, at the annual marriage meeting hosted by Faith Life Church. The last week of June to the second week of July would be spent in an extended road trip to Chicago to  meet my husband’s family and see his old stomping ground. The last week of July/first week of August would be spent in Fort Worth, Texas at the South West Believer’s Convention.  Every week would be full of adventure and spent living life to the full.

It is now the beginning of the third full week of June, and we didn’t go to Branson. The meetings were very good. I watched them via the live stream as I have the past several years. I also spent that week trying to figure out how to pay the bills we had with the money that was available while still reserving enough money for food and other necessities until pay day on the 15th.  Now that that day has come and gone,  I don’t know how we will make ends meet until after school starts up again in the fall. We are looking for summer work, but so far haven’t been able to secure anything.

My dream of a perfect summer is crashing into the reality of the twin giants that have plagued us since our children were small.  One giant’s name is autism. It jerks us back from doing so much – as we adjust over and over again to the needs of the boys.   On a good day they can melt down just from being  together in the same room for too long. Their inability to cope with normal life has kept us out of church, out of fellowship with friends and family, and painted us into a corner so small that our other boys who are not afflicted with the disorder are as bound to the house and the smallness of our lives as the ones who are. It is wrong, but the giant is relentless in its bellowing and punishment of even our smallest attempts at breaking free. The second giant is our finances. Ever since the “good job” went away, we have been swimming against the current, barely keeping our noses above water. This is not to say that the mercy of God has not sustained us, because it is only by the grace and mercy of God that we haven’t failed and gone under completely. Yet, even when my husband had a good job, we had struggled. We have done our best to keep the cage we find ourselves in as gilded as best as we can.  We have invested in virtual escapes to replace real ones, so that the confines of our prison would be more bearable. This has meant maintaining computer and gaming systems that would allow access to the world outside our walls via the internet,  as well as access to games and virtual diversions, allowing us to see the world, even if we can’t be a part of it. The Bible says we are more than conquerors through our Lord Jesus Christ, but just as 10 spies who went into the promised land saw themselves as grasshoppers compared to the giants who lived in Canaan, it has become hard to see us as victorious, for the constant clamor and relentless noise of the giants screeching at us.

This brings me back to my Summer dreams, and the clash between what is happening and what I want to be happening. I can’t say I have earned the right to an adventure filled summer break.  I haven’t worked all year and scrimped and saved in order to make such adventure possible.  In fact, I have never held down a “real” job. I have always worked around my husbands schedule, doing what it took to make life work.  I have always been the one whose first and primary job is to make the family life work. I have been content to be the one who manages the household- an unpaid but time consuming and important position. I am the one who makes sure buses are met, and lunches are made. I am the one who knows if the laundry soap is needing to be replenished, or if one of the boys needs new pants or socks or what have you. I am the one who makes sure that whatever is going to be wanted is on hand, and available for the one who wants to make it for dinner. I am the one who talks to the mechanics, who calls the service guys, who has the number of the owners of our house, and sees if the vacuums needs to be run. I do work. Right now I am looking again for a stop gap job to make ends meet until school and the normalcy and paycheck that comes with it start again. I haven’t earned a nice long vacation, so much as I just really really want to really live and to give a gift of hope and a glimpse of normalcy and what life can look like to my boys who have never tasted such wonders.

The reality I face, which I believe can and I want to believe is being  changed by the truth of God’s word makes having a “real job” a difficult proposition at best for me right now.  The oldest of our two sons who is afflicted with autism is a young man who never grew up, and cannot function without supervision and his daily necessities being provided to him. That means someone has to be here to fix his meals, to clean up after him and makes sure he is safe and secure. That person has been me. This has made holding down a “real” job difficult.  I need to either work from home in a capacity that can work around the excessive noise and commotion that is created by him being here, or I need to find a way to get him out of the house which isn’t the “just send him to a day program” easy thing that people assume it would be. His behavior makes him extra challenging, and there isn’t a good fit for him in the community at large right now.

Now that the giants we face, along with the problems and  commotion they cause have been described, we come back to the truth as the Bible describes it.

  1. Jesus already destroyed the power of autism by going to the cross 2000 years ago. Isaiah 53:4 describes how Jesus would take our pain and suffering- a deeper exploration of the Hebrew words there includes sicknesses and pain.  Further more, Isaiah 53:5 shows us that the same suffering that wiped away the power of sin also restored our peace and healed us.
  2. Further, Jesus was made to be poor so that we could be made rich (2 Cor. 8: 9).

This should not shock us or confuse us. The curse that Adam brought into the world has always included separation from God, physical torment and want. The blessing of God has always reversed every area of that curse, when one believes God. Abraham believed God and was counted righteous. He had fellowship with God and was counted as his friend, even though we know he sinned. He saw his greatest physical brokenness healed as he and Sarah became parents to Isaac. And the blessing of God made him rich. God does not change. His desire to do good for people has never changed, and human’s propensity to believe anything other than God’s word about things hasn’t changed either. That’s why actually believing God will do good for long enough to see God do that good is such a rare thing. Yet those that did and do believe God and kept believing God are the ones whose lives  show us the power of God at work on the earth, and are held up as examples for those who seek walk by faith as they did.

Wishing and dreaming are not the same as trusting God. Neither is begging and pleading or wailing or having a pity party. God tells us to believe Him. In fact it is impossible to please God without having faith. We must not only believe that He exists and is good and able to do good, but that he will do good for those who earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6). If I don’t have the summer I dreamed about, it is not God’s failing- Jesus came so that we could have life, and have it to the full (Jn. 10:10).

Wishing something would happen and even praying something will happen without actually seeking God’s way to do it is vain. We must learn to know His voice and His ways, so he can show us what to do and how to do the things he wants for us to be able to do.  We must learn follow the Good Shepherd to the green pastures and quiet waters he is endeavoring to lead us to. We will never get to those fertile places sitting in the sheep fold wondering if he even cares that we are in the pen, but believing he doesn’t speak to people any more.  We have to follow his lead.  We must be honest and have the courage to take steps into places we don’t fully comprehend, that don’t look like where we want to be going when we are following  His lead. He knows where the good pastures and calm waters are, and we can trust that even if we are walking on a dusty dry path, he is leading us to where we need to go by those paths. We must learn to trust God and to walk in His ways. Or as the Sunday school song says- we must “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Grace and Peace.


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The Gallery Wall

One of the staple decorative motifs my mother always kept was a gallery wall. There were always at least one good, framed picture of each of us kids hanging in chronological order somewhere in her house. I probably would have kept her tradition but I have always struggled to get good pictures of Jon and Josh, and for a while nothing I put on the walls stayed on the walls, so rather than fight the impulses of people who had no impulse control over the state of my wall, I had no decorations of any kind on the walls.

The year my oldest son graduated, we had no money. There was no special senior pictures taken. There was no special year book space bought and filled up with memories. There was barely any celebration- in fact I was so far behind the ball that we had to go buy dress pants and shoes the morning of graduation because the piece of paper that had that as a requirement wasn’t produced until the night before he was to walk with his class. His graduation party consisted of going to Village Inn for lunch- a treat considering our finances but it was hardly a traditional shindig.

The year my second oldest aged out of school, and graduated, his teacher was so gracious and generous and made sure he had a senior picture for the year book and offered to make sure he walked. I didn’t have the heart or the courage to watch his classmates graduate, the valedictorians giving their speeches and see the tangible hope and a future before them, while wondering where the teacher and aides were occupying him so until it was time for him to walk across the stage. We bought cookies, but ended up not really celebrating his rite of passage either.

Next fall my third oldest will be the big man on campus in a very small Christian school. Literally. He is not only taller than any of his class mates, but as a senior he will be one of the leaders, one of the young men that all the little ones look up to. His senior year cannot be a laid back kind of affair that we wrestle with alone as a family that has things besides school traditions and cultural expectations to deal with. He will need a senior picture for the year book. He will need a real, honest to goodness celebrations of his life up to this point to share at his graduation. He will need the ability to take a trip with his class, and the prospect of all of this is both everything I want for him, and a bucket of cold water on my face to show me how far I have let the lives of my own children reflect how incapable I feel to be the one who keeps and passes on traditions and our culture to them.

I used to think the gallery wall was just about having a record of how we were. I didn’t realize it was a model of what it could be like to successfully pass on the torch of the past into the future. My mother didn’t have family that was always there for her. My dad’s family literally fell apart when his mother passed away when he was 8.  I had a man who wasn’t even my biological grandfather who I called grandpa, in Sweden. I saw him twice when I was growing up. I had a my father’s aunt who stepped in and made sure she did everything she could for her sister’s kids as possible, but with a large number of kids, and the fact that she was working full time and supporting her mother, she couldn’t take all of them in. Instead, the older ones grew up faster than one would like, and the younger ones went into the care of strangers. She did her best to keep in touch, and her house was home base for my dad over the years. We were their family. Our pictures on the wall were a daily reminder that they had beaten the odds and raised us and launched us into life in spite of all the things that were stacked against them. They had made a successful family, and if they ever needed proof- all they needed to do was look at the wall and be reminded of how far we had come.

I am not sure how I am doing compared to them- but I do know this- when I am weak my God is strong. When I am unsure, he holds me by the hand and encourages me to keep trying.  When I fall down he helps me stand back up and dusts me off and helps me start again. So with the confidence that knowledge brings me I keep at it, knowing that there is still time, and I still serve the God who does the impossible every day.

Grace and peace.

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That moment when something clicked….

I am writing because tonight as I was going through my Facebook news feed, I saw something  that I had been blind to before- and I thought I would share it with you.  I was perusing a list of “The Grossest Foods from Each State” because there was a picture of a red colored pickle and I wanted to find out what the writer thought was gross about a red colored pickle. I didn’t get very far in the list because I discovered that the writers idea of the “grossest” food from the State of California was “In and Out.”  I am not for or against In and Out- they serve decent hamburgers and we are too far from one for me to have sampled one lately, so I really don’t have an opinion one way or another about In and Out. What I noticed was that I started questioning a content creation system that would allow for something as broad as an entire burger franchise and with a couple clicks of some keys pan them to the rest of the nation or maybe the world, because the author doesn’t like to eat their food.

That got me thinking about how I have been impacted by the little throw away articles that come across my news feed on a daily basis. Trivial little pieces created for the sole purpose of generating the clicks that make money for their company. There is no one looking for bias or fact checking these little pieces meant to entertain, and there is a part of me that has always known this. But there is another part of me that is old school, holding onto the stubborn notion that someone is actually looking at what is being written and holding the authors accountable for what they generate. Most of what I read on Facebook has no editorial process applied to it ever. And if it does, it is not a critical eye on producing unbiased or even factual pieces, but rather it is a process that looks for ways to make it generate more clicks.

This realization has got me thinking about what changes I have made to how I use Facebook and it is not for the better. I started using Facebook because I wanted to share my life with my friends and family in ways I hadn’t been able to before. I find that I still enjoy the posts put up by friends and family that are put up for the sole purpose of encouraging each other, or sharing something that is important to you. But I know I have changed what I post on Facebook because I read in an article that came across my news feed one day. Like the one I was looking at today, it was a list generated by one person who didn’t have a monopoly on all things that are always true about Facebook. But I let that article and others like it shape what I have chosen to post.

At the time I was starting a fledgling effort to sell Mary Kay.  The article suggested that always touting my products would put people off. So I second guessed myself every time I thought about putting up something about my business, because I didn’t want to be one of those people.  Yet as I think about it, right now I have three friends, at least, who regularly gush about their products and their business, and I don’t mind it at all. Its not as if I can’t just scroll past if I am not interested, and I wouldn’t dream of being a wet blanket to curb their enthusiasm. They have caught a dream and are chasing it with gusto! More power to them.  Just because someone has a lap top and gets paid to share their opinion, it doesn’t mean they should have the power to shut down my enthusiasm or squash my little bitty budding flower of a dream because they don’t like what their friends are doing.

The same goes for the notion that sharing pictures of everything from your dinner to an ultrasound of your baby are somehow taboo because a small minded, overworked, underfed, and lonely person needed to generate content and decided to point out things they didn’t like on their news feed because they were having a bad day.  I would much rather see the recipe you found, or the fabulous dinner you are being served than to read another article on my news feed that is all about the clicks. I am on Facebook to share the moments of life that are important to my friends. I am not on Facebook to have nothing to look at but articles that were created simply to get me to click on them so someone gets paid.

Facebook has changed a lot in the last couple of years, at least for me. I have been tricked into thinking that there are real rules of etiquette surrounding what I post and share. I have been silent rather than commit a supposed faux pas that I read about somewhere. I have been complicit in allowing people with nothing better to do than to hate on a burger chain, and those like them, to transform what should be a celebration of the lives of my friends and family into what it has become.

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The Empty Page

Not long ago I wrote a letter. It wasn’t a typical letter to a friend or even an acquaintance.  Instead it was a letter to a woman whom I greatly admire but have yet to meet. I wrote to this woman because although we haven’t met, I trust that the information could be exposed to her in safety, without it coming back to haunt me. If she were by some remarkable turn of events to actually read the letter and respond to it, I know her response would be to my good. I don’t expect that she will actually see it or respond, but I  needed to be examine and expose my thoughts and feelings to the light in a place well out of the public eye.

In the past I have used the very public forum of this blog and other similar ones to process ideas and thoughts that were unsettled and churning inside me. While processing by writing is helpful to me,  I noticed that I sometimes exposed very private matters in a very public forum without giving any consideration to the potential audience that could be reading it. I needed the benefit that came with the writing and processing opted to use what was closest at hand, the blogs so easily accessed, literally at the tip of my fingers. I sometimes have failed to recognize that TMI is still TMI whether the info is being shared on the bus, on Facebook or in a blog post.

All of this has given me pause, and I am sorting through what and where and how to use my writing processes. Someone in one of my English classes claimed Hemingway said, “Writing is easy, all you have to do is sit at the typewriter and bleed.” I am not going to go look up the quote is accurate, but even if it is wrong, the gist of the idea rang true when I heard it, and is still true now.  Writing in any form has its perils. A stray shopping list reveals what’s missing from the author’s pantry. A receipt trodden under foot shares to any reader the intimate details of a private transaction, detailing the money spent, hinting at the account used along with how much of what was obtained.  Just as the pictographs of the ancients remain as proof of their ideas and identities, the markings on our shopping bags reveal where we went to do our hunting and gathering in more modern settings.

With that in mind, I haven’t wanted to be careless with the words I leave in public spaces. I have a desire to write meaningful words well.  I realize I may stumble and still expose more than I intend from time to time. But I hope that by being content to leave the page blank more often than I have been in the past, I will leave less of what I would rather remain private inadvertently exposed.

Grace and Peace.

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This morning it occurred to me that there is an impassible gulf between my expectations and what I am actually willing to pay for when it comes to my plates. Over 15 years  ago now, when we were preparing to move across country from California to Colorado, I bought a couple of boxes of blue plastic picnic wear by Glad.  The set came with 16 oz drinking cups, cereal bowls, and large and small plates. The Gladware was supposed to serve as a stop gap so that I could pack my kitchen and still not be reliant on paper plates during the moving process.  The problem is, the stuff was great, and it gave me an unrealistic set of expectations for how well constructed, how long lasting, and how inexpensive informal dinnerware should be.

When we were settled in, I bought a set of Correl living wear, the kind that comes with dinner plates, cereal bowls, desert bowls, mugs and saucers. I treat the plates as if they were fine china, only bringing them out on occasions when I want to have a particularly nice looking table like Christmas and Thanksgiving. The rest of the time they languish beneath stack of mismatched, decidedly disappointing plastic plates. We do use the cereal bowls, desert bowls and the saucers. You can tell what we use and how much we use them by counting the different stacks of glassware in the cupboard. The plates still have their original 8, but there are only 5 cereal bowls, 4 saucers and 6 desert bowls. The cereal bowls rest beneath mismatched cereal sized bowls, but the plastic bowls are relegated to serving as impromptu side serving dishing, a place to empty a can of baked beans into before blasting them in the nukyerwave for a couple of minutes before dinner is served. We don’t actually eat out of them because I couldn’t find any that were the perfect cereal bowl size.

This brings me back to the Gladware and my unrealistic expectations of what I should be able to purchase and enjoy that its brief existence ingrained in me. For a season after our move, we had a beautiful set of semi transparent, nearly kid proof dishes perfectly sized for every day enjoyment.  The dinner plates were a good size for adult breakfasts and dinners, the small plates were perfect for the kids when they were babies, or for a sandwich and chips at lunch for the grown ups. The cereal bowls weren’t too deep for cereal and soup but still worked well for heating up that small side dish at dinner. I got spoiled. When the inevitable started happening, and they started to wear out I tried to go buy a new set. Unfortunately, my pretty temporary set had lasted so long that by the time I went to purchase replacements, they had stopped selling them.

The first pieces to wear out were the small plates. Serving double duty as both baby ware and lunch plates meant they were the first pieces to meet their demise. I bought a cheap set of medium sized, medium blue ridged plastic plates. They were less than what I wanted in so many ways: they were less lovely, they were more ridged and they were not quite the right size, landing between the dinner ware and salad plates I was looking for. Still hoping to stumble across the translucent deep blue and perfectly  sized Gladware, I bought them as a stop gap. I started with a stack of eight, and am down to 4. I cannot find my second choice plates now either.

My next attempts at replacement table ware were a set of red, lighter weight, less ridged, 4 for cheap plates in the seasonal dishes display. They were at least big enough to serve as dinner ware, and they were a fun color. They worked fairly well. When I went to buy more a year or two later, I opted to buy two more bundles of the red and 4 for cheap. It was only when we started washing them that we discovered that the second wave of the red plates were missing a small ring of reenforcing plastic around the bottom, so they don’t sit flat when something warm is put on them.

We have developed a hierarchy of who gets which plate at dinner. My  husband and I eat off of the medium blue plates if they are clean, or one of the “good” red  plates if not. The round bottom plates get used for the lunches and dinners of the guys who could care less what their food is served on as long as it is served in a timely manner. The ones that do notice such irregularities as a rocking plate get the reinforced ones. We end up using all of them most days, although I watch the blue ones for signs of cracking, as I figure its only a matter of time before the rest of them succumb to age too.

While I don’t fret about my tableware, there are days when I kind of hope to walk by the paper plates and find boxes of translucent cobalt blue Gladware waiting to be scooped up and taken to the checkout again. Having matching, perfectly sized, durable tableware was a treat I kinda miss. It would be nice to have pretty daily use plates instead of make do pieces whose biggest selling point is the number in the bundle.  Sooner or later, age or the stove top will make my shopping for new plates inevitable. Maybe next time I will find something both pretty and durable, and will not find the price point the most compelling consideration when I make my choice. Until then, I am thankful for the enduring nature of my garish red plates, realizing that I have it far better than many folks. 

Grace and Peace.

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So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  Rm. 10:17 (NKJV)

Lately, I have been soaking, like a cucumber in brine, taking in and meditating on a handful of teaching series by preachers I know love God and are called according to his purpose. I haven’t been very communicative – for me at least- during this process.  I am not done steeping, so this post isn’t about what I am learning or what I am gaining by the slow simmer process.

Unlike my studies on the topic of theology, my current process is not taking notes and writing papers and engaging intellectually with the lessons I am taking in. I could go through the process of writing a well reasoned and academically proven paper about each of the topics I am soaking in. But the purpose of my current engagement is not to be instructed about a topic. I am seeking to get the truth of what I am soaking in past my mind and into my heart. It is not enough to know about the truth of God’s word.  If that truth is to impact and change life as you live it, it must get past your mind, into your heart, and it must be so real to your heart that it changes how you think and react and speak. Believing in your heart is not a mental exercise. It is more than agreeing that something is true. It is agreeing that something is true and then allowing that truth to impact how you live your life.  What I am striving toward is not heady stuff- but rather I am striving to enter the promised rest.  I know the Word will reveal Himself to me as I sit at His feet.

Grace and Peace.

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