Toothpaste Caps are Useful Tools

So I need to vent a little bit. Please bear with me. A woman in (midlife) crisis is allowed to blow off a little steam once and awhile! Can anyone please, please tell me why on earth my smart and darling children cannot figure out how to put the cap back on the toothpaste tube?! I am forever finding toothbrushes back in their container, towels on the rack, but always the toothpaste cap sitting next to the tube. Really?! And before you flood the comments saying that I can get those tubes with caps attached… yeah, tried that…cap attached but left open!

It always seems to be those little things that keep coming back to bug me. The toothpaste cap, the shower curtain left open, the lights forever on in completely empty rooms, the cupboard doors left open, the pile of shoes at the front door, the … well, you get my point. We always seem to have some little quirk, some little thing that just drives us crazy. And it is usually something that someone else does. Our quirks. No. Not me. Why do we notice them? Why do those seemingly innocent things urk us to the point we are tempted to declare toothpaste cap war in the bathroom? I mean, does it really matter if the cap is on or off?! (Besides the fact that the caps get lost and then the minty gel is dry and sticky and exposed to who knows what sitting on the bathroom sink…)

Come on, I know I am not alone in this quandering. What’s that thing that drives you batty? The way your beloved folds socks? The way your toddler insists on hiding snacks on the shelf for later? That annoying pen flick ? Or maybe it’s someone at work… or worse, a friend at church? And, no, it’s not going to ruin your lifelong friendship, or cause holy war… but it is just that constant dripping faucet that eventually leads to a complete flood.

Recently, our Bible study group was learning about just such little things. The Devil is devious and uses a variety of ways to deceive us… both big and small. In Canada, Satan uses tiny nuggets of temptation to move us ever so slightly off the path of our journeys with Christ. It’s such a subtle thing. We waiver, or compromise, just a bit, and then a bit more, and soon we are heading in an entirely different direction then we intended. I’m sure you’ve heard countless stories of people who got caught in a “little white lie” that soon snowballed into a deep pit of deception. We don’t intend to blatantly disobey… it “just happens”.

I am sure you would agree with me that those other-people-quirks-that-drive-you-crazy habits are ones that are simply not priorities — to them. Toothpaste caps are obviously not forefront in my children’s minds. Which is why we have practices and disciplines that help us stay on the path. Soldiers and first responders practice drills over and over again, so that when a crisis does come, they simply react automatically. Tiny muscle memory procedures that prevent bigger issues later on.

I guess we all have to learn to be a bit more aware. We all need to focus and question and examine our day to day. Is there something I do that is causing grief? Is there something that is a subtle step sideways that just might lead me down the wrong path? Do we need to establish more practice and disciplines that will help eliminate the subtle deviations? Maybe I should just be thankful that the kids brush their teeth… and put up a big sign on the bathroom door: DON’T FORGET THE CAP!

My Top 5 Potluck Dishes

I’ve been baking today. Technically, I just opened up some pre-made cookie dough and plopped spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets — but that’s considered homemade, right? I like to bake. I usually make things from scratch, but I happened to have this dough, on hand, in my freezer, and they were quick and easy. I’m baking for our potluck dinner after Sunday’s service.

You’re familiar with the potluck, yes? A gathering of people who contribute to the meal by bringing a dish to share. Sometimes you are assigned a course, but I love it when it’s a free-for-all and the “luck” part comes in because you never know what will be on the table. I’m still waiting for the day when everyone brings dessert (and only dessert). Churches tend to organize such things (number one: because it’s cheap!) and the sharing and fellowship around the table brings a coerciveness to a body of believers that is reminiscent of Jesus and his followers. We just “connect” over food. It’s the same when we gather for family reunions or dinner parties with friends. There is just something about mulling over a meal that brings us a sense of comfort, peace and joy. I think we are losing some of that in this day and age when our meals are on-the-go and quick. We’ve substituted the country kitchen for the drive thru. The traditional mentorship of generation to generation is emphasized when grandma teaches the young brides her pie crust techniques. And who doesn’t love baking Christmas cookies as a family? You get the picture.

All this is not to say we can’t enjoy the conveniences of our modern day, however. I am using a premade cookie dough, afterall! But as I do, I muse about the bigger picture: fellowship. It is so vital to our world. We must continue to value it in spite of our cultural, physical and even spiritual differences. We all must eat to survive! So, this season, as you gather together to feast on the platters brought from near and far, consider yourself “lucky” to be blessed by family and friends, new and old, who care enough about you and yours to bring you a plate of freshbaked (premade) cookies!

To celebrate the great potluck, here are my top 5 shareable dishes!

  • Meatballs with BBQ sauce and grape jelly! First discovered from a friend who shared them during a summer potluck at the trailer. Yummy, feeds a crowd, and only three ingredients! Find the recipe HERE
  • Hamburger Casserole! My mom used to make this for every church potluck when we were growing up… and a quick Friday night meal before heading away for the weekend. This is also a pretty easy combination and can be adjusted to your own taste…but this recipe is pretty close to the traditional one mom used to make!
  • Pizza! Potlucks can be brutal for picky eaters who don’t like their food “all mixed together” (can I get an “amen”, oh mom of toddler or teen? No worries — I hear ya!) Pizza of any variety seems to be a big hit — even when they won’t eat anything else. Just buy the ‘walk in special’ on your way to church! We have been enjoying family pizza making nights using my sourdough starter. If you wanna try it, check out this post.
  • Butterscotch Confetti! This one goes under a whole host of names… but it is an old go-to for me from my Company’s Coming cookbook. It’s one of our neighbour’s favourites, and so I make these squares as an afterschool snack for when they all hang out at our place playing endless hours of Risk or Monopoly. It’s also a quick, but decadent, one to take to a ladies group gathering. Try this link for the recipe.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies! This is a personal favourite, and if you read the post here, you will see why. It just stirs up all the goodness of tradition, childhood memories, and all things lovely. Bake a bunch to give as gifts, make some to share, bake ’em with the grandkids!

Have a favourite potluck or shareable dish?! Share in the comments! But above all else, remember that the purpose of the gathering is to celebrate each other… the food is just a bonus!

How to Predict the Future

A few years back, our oldest son was learning magic. We bought kits and trick books and studied the “art of illusion”. He was pretty good at it too. As he was mastering his tricks, we would watch the professionals on YouTube and predicted this or that, or marvel at how good their distraction was as they turned their tricks and slight of hand into entertaining shows. Sometimes we knew how the trick was done, other times we were awestruck along with the audience. The fun was in the allure of the unknown.

Recently, I have been praying along with others, for things unknown. Two friends asked me to pray for upcoming medical appointments. Tests and procedures where the outcomes could be life changing. I pray. But these are the kinds of unknowns that are not so entertaining. These are the kinds of unknowns where we wish we knew the tricks. Where we wish we knew what the future will hold and how the situation will all play out. Will it be good news? News we can handle, and process, and eventually plan for? Or will it be the kind of news that leaves us questioning: “What do we do now?”

Just because we are Jesus followers, doesn’t mean our lives will be easy. We face the same bumps in the road as everyone else does on this journey. We live in a fallen world with unpredictable futures. But. (And I like big butts, I cannot lie…pause for musical interlude to break the tension…) But. We serve a powerful God who does know the future!! How comforting is that?!

My personal readings have led me to the book of Daniel recently. The story begins with one of those life changing situations. King Nebuchadnezzar had trouble sleeping and was bothered by his dreams. None of his wise men could interpret them, and therefore ease his anxiety… so he issues a decree to kill them all off. (Nice, eh?) However, Daniel, through God’s mercy, is able to interpret the dream, and thus save his companions from their untimely deaths:

19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2: 19-23 (NIV)

Isn’t that so encouraging?! God knows the future! We simpletons cannot predict how things are going to play out. And so we pray, along with our friends, to help guide us in the paths unknown. To face those unpredictable turns and trials and twists in the journey. My beloveds, if you are facing one of those life changing moments right now, may you be restored in the knowledge that there is One who knows. There is One who loves you so much, that He wants the best for you. He will make it work out according to His plan for you… and we will (eventually) delight in how the mystery is revealed!