Friday, October 18, 2013

Why am I here?

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog. I find that I don’t often have the margin in my life for writing out my thoughts like this, especially since the school year began. Being back in the classroom is great, but it makes my life full to the brim. Whenever I have an open hour, I have at least 3 choices of good, productive things that I could do with that time. And that doesn’t count the marginally good leisure activities. (Like fatty foods—good in small amounts only.)

Most of the time, since we got back from the US in July, I have been living day to day. I look ahead only for the purpose of making my to-do list. Each day, each hour, I try to figure out the most important things I should be doing and just do them—play with Kaitlyn, plan a French unit, make a shopping list, check Facebook, whatever. I’ve tried to balance my time well and wisely, without stressing too much. Overall, I think I’ve managed well, by God’s grace and with His strength, but it’s hard to know when you’re in the middle of things.

Last weekend, we had our mission’s conference with other TEAM missionaries working in the Philippines. Part of our time there was spent sharing self-evaluations of our own work and ministry in the past year. Preparing for this conference meant doing that self-evaluation, which meant stepping back from my life for an hour, pausing and seeing what I thought of it all.

And what I realized was that I need a better understanding of my priorities right now.  Not only do I need to know those priorities, I need them to be rooted firmly in my heart, will, and mind. I have more roles and more options than I can possibly do. And that’s ok! But if I’m not careful, I will get caught up in activities that are not my top priority, and leave un-done the things that God truly wants from me right now. So last week I spent some time thinking again about why I am here, in this particular here-and-now, at this specific stage in my life. I have lots of roles—daughter of the King, wife of Seth, mother of Kaitlyn, teacher (and therefore student) of French, student of Tagalog, friend and daughter and sister and neighbor and coach and… Which ones are most important right now-- and how does that look? How does God want me to layer my thinking so that I layer my life accordingly?

These questions are not unique to me, nor are they new to me. Everybody deals with the balancing act and the choices among many available activities. In the past, at one point, I actually wrote out a weekly schedule of everything in my life to help me figure out how many hours I had available for fun stuff and ministry, and when those hours would happen regularly! But this adventure of parenting and teaching together is making the questions crucial in a new way. I did some prioritizing over the long break before school began, but I definitely needed this chance to re-think and re-set myself. It’s different now that I’m actually living it!

I’m slowly learning to be ok with NOT doing it all. I’m slowly learning the self-discipline I need to work well so that I can play well, too. I’m slowly learning how to focus on the moment and enjoy it, not heeding the siren song of multitasking. This day-to-day stuff is relentless! But I’m also finding grace and peace on this path, and they are enough.

Food Fail / Food Win

This Wednesday, I tried a couple of experiments in the kitchen. Both were rather spectacular, if I do say so myself, though in opposite ways…

In the afternoon, I struggled to find enough food for me to eat for lunch. We’d been away for the weekend and were out of some key items and low on good leftovers. Then I remembered that a week or so ago, I had bought some camote at the market. This is the Filipino version of a sweet potato. I bought them intending to try them out. I wanted to see how they differ from the American sweet potatoes I’m used to, so that I could decide how to use them in future dinners. I thought this would make a nice addition to my lunch, so I pulled them out. Apparently they had been in the refrigerator longer than I realized because only one of them was still good enough to cook. I tossed the others and cleaned off the one I planned to eat. Since I was figuring on eating the camote plain, I thought I would just microwave it like a baked potato. That works with both potatoes and American sweet potatoes, so I assumed it would work just fine. This is not true, as it turns out. It was a small camote, so I set the timer for only a few minutes. About 2 minutes in, I noticed the smell of the potato cooking and thought, “Oh good!” Then about 30 seconds before the end of the timer, I noticed the smell change… When I opened the microwave, smoke poured out, along with a strong smell like burnt popcorn. The camote was both blackened and whitened, completely charred. It was actually stuck to the microwave plate. Two days later, the smell is still lingering; I notice it again every time I open the microwave.  I bought new camote at the market yesterday. I still want to find out its taste and texture, but this time I shall do a little research before I try to cook one!

Not my macaroni and cheese, but mine looked similar! :)
Last weekend, I made a casserole that included a cheese sauce. When I had made the sauce and was pouring it into the baking dish, I tasted a bit of it and was immediately transported to my family’s kitchen in Wheaton. It tasted just like my mom’s homemade mac ‘n’ cheese! For me, macaroni and cheese is a serious comfort food. In the US, I always had a box or two of the store-bought stuff in the house. Since I generally want comfort food on days that I don’t want to put effort into dinner, I’ve never tried to make it from scratch. Here in Manila, I’ve just done without. Boxed mac ‘n’ cheese is only available at stores with lots of imports (which are all pretty far away from me, so I never shop there), and it’s quite expensive. But when I tasted that cheese sauce, I suddenly realized that I had another option! (Shocking, right?) I decided that I was definitely going to try to make my own mac ‘n’ cheese, and Wednesday turned out to be a good day for it. Seth was gone to Bible study all evening, so in the late afternoon, Kaitlyn played in the kitchen while I made us an early dinner. We were both hungry when it was ready. (As you may recall, some of my lunch plans didn’t work out so well…) And it was perfect! Kaitlyn hasn’t been a huge fan of pasta before, but she couldn’t put these in her mouth fast enough! This recipe may or may not actually taste like my mom’s recipe, but it sure tastes like my memory of her recipe, and that’s good enough for me. We shared it again yesterday and today; there’s only one more Kaitlyn-sized serving left. I don’t think Seth even got any! Which will now be my excuse to make it again soon. :)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Random tropical fruit confession

Recently, rambutan were in season here. (I think they're out of season again now. I only saw a few at the market today, and the ones I saw didn't look terribly fresh.) I was reminded a couple of weeks ago that I like them, so I bought a bunch last week.

This is what rambutan look like when you buy them.
Whole rambutan
And I think I may have read too many sci-fi and fantasy books in my life because they look to me like very small monsters that might go scuttling off at any moment. Or maybe like aliens who will be offended if I pick them up. Honestly EVERY time I go to eat one of these, I have a very quick moment where I have to remind myself that it's a fruit not an animal, and that it's definitely not going to bite me.

You eat rambutan by peeling off that crazy-looking skin. The fruit is white and sweet, and you just eat it off the pit in the center. They're pretty small, so it takes some work to get a real serving, but they're definitely among the tropical fruits I enjoy when their season comes around.
Peeled rambutan, ready to eat

Rambutan pits
There are some other tropical fruits that I find funny-looking (like durian) or ridiculously complicated to eat (like mangosteen). It makes me wonder what temperate fruits are weird to people who didn't grow up with them. None of them look like aliens to me, but perhaps I just don't see it! Peaches? Raspberries? Anybody know? :)
Durian, which is not actually one
of the tropical fruits I enjoy. It's
smelly and tastes odd.
Regardless, it's funny-looking.
Mangosteen-- Once you get through
the really thick skin, each of those
little sections has its own seed that
you have to eat around.
So yummy but a lot of work!