Worth the Making

For me, holiday season means baking season. I know we aren’t quite there yet but this weekend I made a big batch of sugar cookies for Halloween. I didn’t decorate them like I normally would have which makes me a little sad, but we truthfully don’t have the counter space or storage space for such an endeavor. Just making the cookies themselves took me 3 days. The kids helped make the dough on Friday and then I spent 2 days baking them.

Normally, it doesn’t take 2 days, just a few hours. But when you are living in a space that isn’t your own and you don’t have your regular tools and pans, things can get a little tricky. Like in this example, where the largest “cookie sheet” I have isn’t actually a cookie sheet but a 9X13-ish cake pan. The most cookies I got on that thing was 9 at a time and that was pretty squished. This recipe made nearly 60 cookies (I know, I should have halved the recipe, I usually do. I blame pregnancy on that particular decision-making moment).

As I was going through this baking marathon, before I had decided not to decorate them, I found myself wondering if it was all worth it. I mean yes, these cookies are good, but they aren’t the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Yes, they can look super cute when they are decorated well, but to truly decorate them well would have taken at least another 2-3 days depending on how long naptime was. To really go all out with these cookies is a multi-day extravaganza that usually leaves me with cramped hands, sore feet and no tupperware left.

For what? Someone to walk in and eat 2 cookies in under 2 minutes. Days of work for a brief moment of enjoyment. Surely it would be easier to go to H.E.B. (Texas’ version of Kroger/Jewel/Raley’s) and buy a box of cookies. Why pour my soul into something so fleeting?

I believe that we do these kinds of things because of the way we were created. God didn’t make us up or imagine us, He gave us life as a reflection of His very self. God poured His breath into Adam while fully knowing that this firstborn of creation would choose disobedience over obedience. God creates us still knowing that now, because of original sin, our lives on earth are but sparks in the night, there for a moment and then extinguished.

We are capable of reflecting God in all things, even in our creativity. Think of someone who is passionate about gardening. They work their soil, preparing it for seeds year after year, constantly trying to improve its nutrients and suitableness. They weed, they prune, they cultivate. They marvel at each flower and enjoy the fruits of their labor. They do all this, knowing full well that these plants that they have loved into existence will die come winter.

Or consider the people who have booths at your local craft fair or fall festival. These people have worked all summer, some all year, long to bring you their merchandise. The hours spent deciding on paint color, harvesting the right kind of wood, repeating the same pattern over and over, was done out of love for their craft. Of course, the financial compensation is also a motivating factor, but for many items these crafters are making pennies on the dollar when you consider an hourly wage and the cost of the materials. Their passion is both a testament to their creativity but also a reflection of the creative God who made them.

Naked pumpkin sugar cookies from the post "Worth the Making" on Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
Naked pumpkin sugar cookies. Copyright Kate Taliaferro 2016

So yes, the cookies are worth it. Even if this time they are naked =)Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Surviving Monotony

Part of parenthood is coming to terms with your child’s fascination and obsession with monotony. Anyone who has heard the question “Why?” more than 5 times in a 60 second window understands. Anyone who has had to read the same story 10 times in a single day can empathize. Anyone who has had to listen to the same music in the car for days on end feels my pain.

It’s rather incredible how kids can get the same, if not more, enjoyment out of an activity that they have just engaged in no less than 30 seconds prior. The sheer wonder and pleasure they get from that book, song or slide is baffling. But I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of it.

If I read the same book over and over, I would get bored. Hearing the same music over and over again just makes me lower the volume. Adults seem to value change much more than monotony, which is exactly the opposite of children.

Children, above all, thrive on repetition. I’m currently reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (free on Kindle – nice!). It is a really interesting read. Basically, it’s about his person journey of thought to Christianity. In one section, he talks about how adults shy away from monotony. In his estimation, we falsely believe that when something is monotonous, it is dead – think of a clock, consistently ticking with no variety, no change. “People feel that if the universe was personal, it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance.”

Chesterton offers an alternate way of viewing monotony. He suggests we look at children and their love of monotony. “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.”

It’s so true! It’s exhausting , almost painful, to read Goodnight Moon after the 8th time. The words start to run together, you try to skip a page but your child knows the story too well and catches you and you start to doze by the time the quiet old lady/rabbit whispers hush.

Chesterton challenges his readers to consider someone else who perhaps enjoys monotony. For Chesterton, the world was full of wonderful miracles and as he grew, he began to wonder if perhaps these miracles were more than just happy coincidence, what if they were “repeated exercises of some will.” He says “I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller.” Or, in other words, God.

What if

God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them….The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

I love this outlook. For those of you who believe in a personal, loving, creative God, this about sums it up. God creates from pure love and joy, exulting in monotony while at the same time creating each person, each tree, each flower uniquely and individually.

So yes, monotony can be grating on the nerves. Rather than letting it irritate us, we can use it as an opportunity to be grateful. We can look at the sunrise and instead of seeing something automatic, pause to revel in it’s brilliance. Instead of dreading the music on repeat, we can appreciate of gift of hearing. We can speed our way through Green Eggs and Ham, or we can let our children’s delight become our own as they shout with glee “I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM!”

Do you struggle with monotony? How can you turn something that is monotonous into an opportunity for appreciation or gratitude instead of a moment of frustration and a strong desire to escape?

Reading the Same Sheet of Music

If you read my last post it shouldn’t come as too big a shock at a subsequent post would follow the story to the next rehearsal.

I was glad when Sunday arrived. Not only does it mean going to church, it also now means nearly 2 hours of music rehearsal – by myself! Big plug for my husband who is hanging with all 3 kids so that I can indulge my musical side.

While I was happy to be singing, I was looking forward to bell choir. When we got the bells out, I got straight to work highlighting my music. As we are all novices to the bells, our choir director asked us to highlight all our notes to help get everyone on the same page, or measure for you music folk. Each bell is one note, like one key on the piano. By highlighting wherever your note or notes (if you are in charge of multiple bells) appears, it helps keep everyone together. We have three songs for Christmas this  year, so we were all a bit scattered as we highlighted. I was absorbed in The First Noel – the bells I have been assigned are used frequently and play important roles in keeping the tune going. I looked up and realized we were going to start playing, so I got ready. 1, 2, 3, 4 Go!

It was so hard! I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to find my place. Then, when I thought I had found it, I had completely lost it again. I was counting, I was focused, I couldn’t figure it out. When the piece was finally over, the director looked straight at me and said, “Ok, good, good. Now, Kate, I didn’t really hear the C though.” I glanced at the music stand next to mine. Mine, as you know, said The First Noel. Everyone else’s said “Away in the Manger.” Oh dear. And in that one my missing “C” note messes up everyone! I was so absorbed in what I was doing, that I missed the direction to switch songs.

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