Monday, August 26, 2013

Culinary Pioneering

I came across a quote from Jonathan Swift this week:

"It was a brave man who first tried an oyster."

I've often had similar thoughts.  So much of what we take for granted in our food and cooking must have seemed so strange when it was tried for the first time.

Who first tried mushrooms?  How did they figure out which ones were poisonous and which weren't?

Who first decided to put yeast in bread, and what on earth did he think was going to happen when he did?  How did we figure out that the texture of bread improved if you kneaded it?

Who decided that pickles and mustard would be good together on hamburgers?

What made someone think that crawfish would be fit for human consumption?  For that matter, what about fish eggs, squid, snails, and stomach lining?

Who thought of breading meat and cooking it in a pool of hot fat?

Whose idea was ketchup?  Since when should tomato sauce be sweet, and who would have thought that it would become the standard topping for fried potatoes?

Someone had to be first in all these things.

The tremendous variety seen in the foods of the world is a testimony to the inventiveness and creativity given to man by God.  The desire to try new things and to use available resources in better ways has not only impacted the history of food, but these are the same desires that have motivated all kinds of exploration and discovery throughout history.

This is the work of man as he is created in the image of God.  The creativity of man shows nothing if not the creativity of the One who made him.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Where is the Story?

I stopped in at the antique store near our house the other day.  It's a quaint place; three old houses full of odd rooms and little nooks where one might find almost anything if one looks long enough.  I've been there on several occasions, and I've always found numerous items that were interesting to look at, and usually one or two that I simply can't leave behind.

On this visit, though, I was struck with an unexpected sense of poignancy.

We've been through a lot of old items recently as we've gone through Grandma's household goods.  Some of these are significant because they are deeply tied to the memories that I personally have of Grandma and Grandpa.  Others provide a tangible link to the great-grandparents or other relatives who owned them.

There have also been many times when someone has asked, "Who did this belong to?" or "Who made this?" or "What in the world is this, anyway?" and no one has an answer.  With some things, we just never thought to ask the questions.  There were other things that we didn't even know existed until we unearthed them in some closet.

The reality is that much of an item's significance is tied up in its story.  An object in which I would otherwise have little interest may become a valuable keepsake simply because of its story.  Contrariwise, when an item loses its story, it loses much of its claim to significance.

This is why my jaunt through the antique store affected me the way it did.  As I walked through the store, I saw many items similar to ones we had brought home from Grandma's house.  I can scarcely think of an item more completely severed from its story than one sitting for sale in an antique store.

It was a house full of orphaned heirlooms.

Stories permeate our lives.  Just as the hand-crocheted doily in the basket at the antique store was made by someone and came from somewhere, even so the day-to-day happenings of our lives do not exist in isolation.  Everything we do and experience is shaped by and founded upon what has already happened in our lives, and is in turn the foundation that will form our futures.

Even as the small events in our lives work together to form a larger story, our entire lives themselves are pieces of yet another story.  We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us, just as those who come after us will build upon the foundation that we are now laying.  In a very real sense, the stories of my ancestors that I never met are my stories, too.

But there is an even greater story.  If one would question the importance of story to us as humans, he has only to look at how God has chosen to communicate to His people.

He could have shown what was accomplished by Christ's atoning death through a series of legal documents.  He could have revealed His nature and character by giving us a systematic theology-- but He didn't!  He told us a story-- a story of the good world that He made, of the arch-villian who introduced sin and death into it, and of the Hero who won redemption for God's chosen ones and will one day vanquish forever His doomed enemy.

And, the deeper we delve into this story of what God has done, the more we find that it is our story too.  This is the story of where we came from.  This is where we must turn to make sense of the brokenness in the world around us-- and to understand the deep brokenness within us.  Here alone we find hope, for here we find assurance that for those who are in Christ, the story has a happy ending.  Only in the great Story do our individual stories have any significance.

The person who does not see his life in the context of the work of God is in a far more pitiable state than any abandoned mementos of yesteryear.  When we no longer see our lives as being directed by the wise, loving hand of our Father for His perfect purposes, the world is indeed a bleak place.

Unlike the antiques in the store, however, whose stories are lost forever, there is still hope for the lost soul trudging his self-absorbed way to destruction.  This is the Story that cannot be lost, for it seeks out those to whom it belongs.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August Newsletter

From Laura, 14 … I’ve always thought of change as a good thing, but recently I have learned that it can also be very hard.  With the death of my grandma this spring, we also lost the thrice-a-year visits, the letters, and the phone calls.  After we finished our work at her house during our summer trip, we left that house for the last time.  My papa has known that house for almost fifty years!  It is the only house that all of us siblings remember.  Our family has lived in several houses over the years, but Grandpa and Grandma lived in just that one.  Another change for us is that my parents are considering selling our big van.  I have also known it my whole life!  We have made uncountable memories in it as a family.

From Becca, 16 … Five of us had a very busy week in Fort Collins last month.  For the first few days, we sorted miscellaneous items and made lists of the things we wanted.  Then, after it had been decided what we would take, we began to pack like crazy.  On the last day before we were trying to leave, we loaded a 17-foot truck—very carefully so that everything would fit.  We found that three girls who aren’t very strong and one man can do more than you think.  We finally finished and came home.  Then we began unpacking.  It has been fun to find places for the wonderful things we brought home.  Here are a few of them:  toy farm equipment that Papa bought when he was a boy, a typewriter that my great-grandmother wrote letters on, a hand-crank wooden ice cream maker, and homemade stilts.

From Seth, 20 … This summer, I have had the opportunity to work with a group of people at school who bounce lasers off of things in order to make 3-D maps and models.  The specific project I've been working on is to compare different instruments (including a prototype we built) that measure the clarity of water.  This is helpful because lasers lose intensity as they pass through dirty water, so the water clarity really determines the depth at which submarine maps can be produced.  It has been pretty interesting to learn about water clarity, to help design the prototype instrument, and to gather field data.
 
From Anna, 23 … I’m in the middle of a bit of a transition right now.  The situation of the family that I started working for last fall has changed so that they’re not needing as much help now.  As that commitment has decreased, I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open for the last couple of months to see what sort of new opportunities might arise.  Just a couple of weeks ago, a family from church asked if I would be willing to work for them three days a week, helping with homeschooling for their three oldest children and other things as necessary.  I’ll be starting with them next week, and I’m looking forward to seeing what sorts of adventures await!

From John, Megan, James, and Ezra (due Nov.) … (by Megan) These last few months since we have written an update have been full, to be sure.  I'm still working on a blog post about it all!  But here are just a couple things to fill you all in.

John and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary!  On the day of we dressed up for a nice dinner at home.  I made lasagna rolls, which is the first meal I made for John after we got married.  That weekend we stayed at a nice hotel in downtown Houston.  We relaxed, walked around the city, and ate at a nice restaurant for dinner.  It was an enjoyable weekend spent as a family in celebration of the blessed two years God has given us!

We found out that baby #2 is a boy (grandson #5 for the other Pedersens)!  We eagerly look forward to Ezra's arrival in mid November!  Ezra is growing well, and is an active baby most days.  We are thankful!

From Ray, Katie, Peter, Samuel, and Andrew (by Katie) Ray is having a very busy summer, with lots of closed transactions and happy clients.  We got quite a laugh when one of them called Ray a "real-estate god...little ‘g’ god, like Zeus."  Ray is ready to go on his own with his business, rather than working under a sponsoring broker, so he is taking steps to set up his own business name, get new signs, business cards, etc, and change his status with the state.  It's an exciting step that will allow Ray to keep all of his earnings, and will position him to have agents working under him if he decides to someday.

The boys are busy with growing, being cute, and keeping me hopping.  Andrew will be one year old soon, and he's been walking for over a month now.  He was very determined about it, apparently deciding that since everyone else was walking, he should walk too.  All three boys have been enjoying the wading pool this summer, and Peter learned to ride a bike with training wheels.  That's been nice, because now on walks, Andrew can have a spot in the double stroller.

From Judith … In early July I flew to Ft. Collins to spend a week sorting and organizing a large amount of Gerald’s parents’ possessions.  I did that so that as much of it as possible could be viewed by Gerald and his sister Karen, and their family members, for the purpose of each person listing what each had an interest in.  Karen and her husband Rob, who live in Ft. Collins, had already been working very hard and productively over the five weeks or so since the memorial service.  I then addressed the kitchen, the laundry area, all the bedrooms, all the closets and cabinets, all the living areas, the bookshelves, and the bathrooms.  I didn’t do any of the shop, garage, or shed.  My time also included listing on Craig’s list some large items, mostly furniture, that were already known to be unwanted by anyone in the family.

This trip was all so strange for me.  I hadn’t flown alone since I was 18.  I hadn’t travelled without Gerald since a 4-hour trip to Ft. Collins in the early 1990s with our three children.  I had only my one little self to feed, so meals were a very small affair.  There was no one to break into my work, so I physically drove myself to exhaustion each of those long days/short nights.  The work, though, largely kept me from being so lonely.  (I never want to live alone.)  I only cried once.  It was when I heard my family on the phone all singing during family worship.

There was sweetness along the way though.  There was a welcome note on the table from Karen and Rob when I arrived at the house.  Via speaker phone I was able to “join” the family in Houston for family worship on a number of the days.  Dear friends and family in Ft. Collins came alongside of me with transportation, box collecting, meals, and fellowship during my week alone and again for the five of us (Gerald, Anna, Becca, Laura, and me) in the second week.

All in all it was a demanding, harried, and emotional time, but also interesting, insightful, and nostalgic.  We were all “immersed” in the world of Grandpa and Grandma as we worked throughout the house.  It’s still hard to fully comprehend that they are now both gone and we’ll probably never again be in their home.  God is ever sovereign, though, and we entirely trust his perfect timing.

From Gerald … I was recently selected to serve as a deacon at our church.  Since then, I have been in training to better understand the Biblical role of a deacon and to become better equipped to serve in this role.  The deacons have been given responsibility to administer the benevolence ministry of the church and to handle various “helps” type of ministry in order to relieve the elders so they can focus more on teaching and on spiritual oversight of their people.  This is an important ministry and I am honored to be considered qualified to serve in this role. 

With love from the Pedersen clan