Archives for September 2011

It’s A Lesser-Known Interpretation But Effective All The Same

I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but the Bulldogs have sort of a big game tonight. They’re playing (on ESPN, no less) a little team called the LSU Tigers, also known as The Quickest Men Alive.TM The Tigers are, in my opinion, the best team in the country right now, which means that by the end of the game tonight I will have either enthusiastically vacuumed every single inch of our house or fallen into a deep, dip-induced stupor and vowed that I will not leave the comfort of my bed until Saturday.

I’m very level-headed and logical when it comes to college football. You may have noticed that.

Anyway, three or four days ago, when I was still replaying the last 25 seconds of the State/Auburn game in my head and trying to figure out a way that I could TURN BACK THE TIME AND ALSO THE OFFICIALS’ HEADS WHEN COACH MULLEN WAS TRYING TO CALL TIME OUT (there. I said it.), I was looking through iPhoto for an old picture from the 2007 Egg Bowl when I ran across this little gem.

If memory serves, we were outside playing one day when the little man – who was four at the time – started humming the Mississippi State fight song (train up a child, way he should go, etc. and so on and so forth). So I ran inside and grabbed my laptop, then set it on the table on the porch and cranked ‘er up.

However, the little fella apparently felt like he could best execute his sah-weet dance moves to a slower version of the fight song. Perhaps the faster arrangement rushed him through the subtle nuances of his “HAIIIIII-YAH!” step. We may never know.

But regardless, the four year-old in this four year-old video is more than likely gonna do me a world of good in terms of keeping tonight’s game in perspective. Mainly because he CRACKS ME UP, and, you know, I’d take one day with him over a bajillionty wins against LSU.

Which is a good thing considering that State hasn’t beaten LSU in 12 years.

NOT THAT I’M COUNTING.

HAIIIIIII-YAH, y’all.

Sic ’em, ‘Dogs.

Because You Can’t Fight Your Calling

Some people blog so that they can encourage you in the faith.

Others want to show you how to have a more warm and welcoming home.

And some folks love nothing more than sharing recipes that will make feeding your family easier.

But me?

Well, I consider it my personal mission to keep you abreast of the latest developments in the field of snack crackers.

Yes. I know. It is an intimidating assignment. But sometimes the Lord calls us to uncomfortable places, my friends.

And listen. The last week has been rife with opposition as far as snack crackers are concerned, as evidenced by the fact that a certain eight year-old recently asked me to please buy Cheese Nips at the grocery store. I was totally puzzled by his request since everybody knows that Cheez-Its are far superior to Cheese Nips, so I said, “Hey, buddy – I think you meant Cheez-Its. The ones that we usually get.”

“No, Mama,” he replied. “I really did mean Cheese Nips. I think they’re cheesier. And better.”

I stood still as a stone for a second, and then the emotion of the moment took over.

“I’VE FAILED!” I cried. “I’VE FAILED AS A MOTHER! I HAVE A CHILD WHO DOESN’T APPRECIATE THE CHEEZ-IT! A CHILD WHO CHOOSES CHEESE NIPS! I’VE FAILLLLLLLLLLLED!”

And then I collapsed in a heap in my kitchen and was only brought back to consciousness when my husband opened a fresh box of Cheddar Jack Cheez-Its and waved them under my nose.

The little man and I really did have a big laugh about the whole Cheese Nips vs. Cheez-Its debacle, and I think he’s since fallen under fresh conviction about the error of his ways. But then – THEN – the most unexpected thing happened. A few days after we set the record straight about our cheese cracker preferences (I recognize that everybody has the freedom to make their own cheese cracker choices, but as for me and my house, we will purchase the Cheez-Its), we were in the Walmarts and saw something that we’d never seen before.

They’re Ritz Munchables Pretzel Rounds. I was immediately intrigued, because was it a cracker? Or a pretzel? Or a cretzel? Or a pracker? I NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND THESE THINGS.

So we bought a box. And OH, MY. I picked the Cheesy Sour Cream & Onion flavor because honestly that particular flavor combination seemed so wrong that it had to be right, and can I just tell you that THEY ARE DELICIOUS? They’re very crackery on the front end, almost to the point that you can envision eating them with a slice of cheese, but then suddenly the pretzel part kicks in and your mouth gets a little confused in the most delightful way because guess what? YOU’RE TOTALLY EATING A CRETZEL.

I haven’t found any sort of dip situation that would be complimentary to the Ritz Munchables – at least not to this flavor – but they’re so tasty on their own that you don’t miss the dip. They remind me of these really good seasoned oyster crackers that my mama makes sometimes, and there’s an element of Chicken In A Biscuit, too. But I’m telling you: it’s that cracker-to-pretzel metamorphosis that really makes these prackers special. I will most definitely buy them again.

Have y’all tried them? And if there’s another cracker / pretzel / salty snack food that you’ve tried recently, BY ALL MEANS share the name of it with the class. Don’t hide your snack cracker light in a bushel – let it shine!

And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

And they also said, “Pass those crackers.”

Or at least I like to think that they did.

It May Be The Best Tuesday Ever

Now y’all know that I love me some music.

And today? Oh, it is a VERY GOOD DAY FOR THE MUSIC.

So here are two things that may or may not change your life forever but will certainly make it better in untold wonderful ways.

(Which, now that I think about it, is pretty much the same exact thing as changing your life.)

(Honestly, I don’t know why anybody puts up with me. I am a case study in redundancy.)

(And I also say the same thing over and over again, only in different ways.)

Okay. First thing.

Travis Cottrell‘s new worship CD, When The Stars Burn Down, is out today, and OH MY MERCY IT IS INCREDIBLE. The word that comes to mind every single time I listen to it is declaration – because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a strong declaration of who God is, how His love transforms our lives and why He is worthy of every single bit of our praise.

I’m crazy about so many of the new songs. I adore Travis’ arrangement of “All My Fountains,” and I feel like “I’m Changed” is the story of my life. “When The Stars Fall Down” stops me in my tracks every single time. And on top of all that, I really do believe that “The Word of God Has Spoken” is one of the most powerful corporate worship songs in a long, long time. I’ve listened to it so much that the other morning the little man asked, “Mama? Why is this song always playing in your car?”

What can I say? I tend to play something over and over and over when it speaks to me. And “The Word of God Has Spoken” definitely does that. Which is why I’ve listened to it approximately 416 times.

The whole CD is a treasure, and it has ministered to my heart like crazy over the last couple of weeks. Seriously. You have no idea. I really can’t recommend When The Stars Fall Down enough, and you can download your very own copy from iTunes. It’s absolutely beautiful worship music, and it’s chock full of Truth. So, so good.

Y’all are going to love it.

Next thing.

Over the last year Ben Rector has become one of my very favorite singer/songwriters, and his CD called In The Morning was at the top of my “best of” list for 2010 (it is an absolutely brilliant CD, and if you don’t have it, you need it). Ben is crazy gifted, deeply talented, and best of all, he’s genuinely humble. Not to mention humbly genuine. That’s a tough combination to beat, y’all.

Ben has a new CD that’s out today. It’s called Something Like This, and even though I just downloaded the songs early this morning, I can already tell that I wouldn’t have missed this CD for the world. Even at first listen it’s full of great, smart pop music with all sorts of wonderful influences (big band, jazz, soul, etc.) that you can listen to with your kids in the car and not be afraid that they’re going to add some colorful new words to their vocabulary. It’s also pretty swoon-y and romantic in places, and that’s so rare these days.

So giddy up, bloggy people.

Great new music from Travis and Ben today.

We’re more fortunate than we know.

p.s. Nobody asked me, paid me or offered me free fried chicken to mention these CDs. I didn’t get anything for free, and the only reason I got Travis’ CD a little early is because we pre-ordered it through Kickstarter. Just thought I’d clarify in case you were wondering. The end.

Enjoy, y’all!

The Good, The Bad & The Oh My Word We Play LSU Next

Well, Sister and I went to the Mississippi State / Auburn game this past Saturday.

Yes. Yes, we did.

And listen. The first six-ish hours of our day were a giant happy rainbow. We left my house around 6, drove straight to Starbucks, fueled up for the trip with some big ole cups of Pike Place, then hit the road. We started driving east just as the sun was starting to peek over the trees, and it made for an absolutely beautiful drive. About two hours later we pulled into The Loveliest Village on the Plains, and since I’d reserved our parking space earlier in the week at one of AU’s covered parking decks (EVERY school should have these; I am such a fan), we parked without any problem at all.

The stadium was only about three blocks away, so after a short walk from the parking garage, we crossed the street and saw the site of Saturday morning’s SEC battle.

Would you be embarrassed for me if I told you that I was really, really nervous?

Because I was really, really nervous.

But I guess that is totally understandable since I play such a vital role in the Bulldogs’ game plan. I mean, I don’t mean to brag, but this arm of mine? IT IS AN OFFENSIVE WEAPON. I can throw the football upwards of five to eight and one half feet AT ONE TIME. So clearly the ‘Dogs like to use me in 3rd-and-short situations, not to mention during all those plays where they benefit from the distraction of having a player who squeals a lot and kicks up her back leg real purty-like when she releases the ball.

Oh, I kid.

Because y’all know that I really play cornerback. Fred Smoot taught me everything I know.

Sister and I decided that it would be fun to join the other State fans who were going to greet the team buses when they got to the stadium, so we walked in that direction and took in Auburn’s gameday atmosphere. Honestly, I was expecting more tailgating than what we saw, but I’ll give the Tigers the benefit of the doubt since it was a morning game and all. Plus, whatever Auburn lacked in the tailgating department, they more than made up for with the landscaping.

Do you see all of that perfectly placed pinestraw? The whole campus looked that way, and it was absolutely beautiful. Call us cow colleges all you want, but nobody can landscape like ag schools can. Combine the beautiful surroundings with down-to-earth, friendly people, and you have an atmosphere where visitors are quick to feel right at home. I’ll take that kind of genuine hospitality ALL DAY LONG. It makes for a mighty fun day of football.

While we were waiting for the team, Sister and I snapped a picture of ourselves despite the fact that we were both suffering from a terrible bout of the flat head. Neither one of us achieved our hair volume goals when we were getting ready Saturday morning, and I told myself that it was because the Lord wanted us to walk in a place of pre-game humility. My hair was so flat, in fact, that I was almost overcome by hair shame, but I felt better knowing that my flat-headed sister was with me. The Lord never lets us walk through these sorts of difficult times alone, you know.

Also, my head is enormous.

Seriously. EPIC.

We headed for our gate about an hour before the game started, but we had a wee small moment of panic before we went into the stadium. I may or may not* have had a cowbell in my purse, and Sister may or may not* have had a cowbell in her purse, and we were worried that our ALLEGED cowbells might be confiscated. We didn’t have any intention of ringing our ALLEGED cowbells during the game, but we’d taken them to meet the buses and ALLEGEDLY wrapped them up in t-shirts and put them in the bottom of our purses.

We also allegedly stuffed socks around the clangers so that they wouldn’t make any sudden noises.

ALLEGEDLY.

Our concerns were unfounded, though, and we made it through the bag checkpoints relatively unscathed. A few minutes later we found our seats and were pleasantly surprised to find that we 1) actually had really good seats and 2) were sitting in THE BLESSED SHADE. We were so excited about that second thing, and even though we knew we couldn’t avoid the sun forever, it surely was nice to know that we had a temporary reprieve.

As the stadium started to fill up we realized that while there were lots of State fans in our section, there were also lots of Auburn folks, and you really never know how that’s going to work out. I have to say, though, that we totally hit the Auburn fan jackpot. The people around us were so nice, so gracious, and so understanding of our occasional (and by “occasional,” I mean “frequent”) need to very vocally support our team.

Like, for instance, when they ran back in the locker room after warm-ups.

The game, in a word, was crazy. Initially Auburn was fired up and State was just flat-out rattled. Eventually, though, the ‘Dogs started to find their way. By the end of the first quarter we had us a real-live ballgame, and Sister and I were as nervous as a couple of long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. By the beginning of the 4th quarter I started to think that the ‘Dogs were out of it for good – but then lo and behold we rallied, pulled within 7 and had a chance to tie or maybe even win the game in the final seconds.

But we didn’t.

And oh, IT SMARTED.

By the way, the sun was brutal during the second half, and while Sister managed to construct an effective sunshade out of an Alpha Gam fan (courtesy of the sweet family next to us) and an MSU shaker, I was not quite as fortunate. At times I draped the t-shirt that I had allegedly used to conceal my alleged cowbell OVER MY HEAD, but apparently my SPF was no match for the BALL OF FIRE in the sky. My sunglasses, however, were very effective, and that is why my face is now hot pink with the exception of two very large white circles around my eyes.

SASSY.

(*YES MA’AM we had cowbells in our purses. THAT’S OUR HERITAGE, Y’ALL. But we really didn’t ring them in the stadium.)

Anyway, even though I have A LOT OF THOUGHTS about how some things went during the game – especially in the second half – at the end of the day none of that stuff matters. Both teams fought like crazy, and in the end, Auburn won.

But did I mention that it smarted?

After the game we walked over to the Student Activities Center so that we could cool off and nurse our wounded pride for a little bit, and about 20 minutes later we decided to walk back to the car. The sun BALL OF FIRE was pounding on us every step of the way, so when we finally climbed in my car, I turned on the air and let it blow full-force for about five minutes before I even made an attempt to back out of my spot. We were BURNING UP – and when we stopped to eat supper on the way home, I am happy to report that I consumed approximately one gallon of assorted liquids. I alternated between water and unsweetened tea, and our poor waitress got a workout trying to keep my glasses refilled.

I believe the word you’re looking for is “dehydrated.”

All in all, though, it really was a great day. It was a great game. I wish things had gone the Bulldogs’ way, but hopefully we’ll bounce back this Thursday night against LSU.

Hopefully.

Because I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they are sort of REALLY, REALLY GOOD.

WE COULD TOTALLY WIN, THOUGH.

How’s that for optimism?

Go ‘Dogs.

I Think Mamaw Would Like ‘Em, Too

When I was a little girl, one of the dishes that was just flat out REVERED in my family was my Mamaw Davis’ chicken and dumplings. Except that we never, ever pronounced the “g” in the word “dumplings.” We said “dumplins.” Still do. So just know that from here on out I’m gonna type it like I say it. Chicken and dumplins.

Well.

Earlier this week I was temporarily overtaken by the plague, and on Wednesday, when I actually wore clothes that were not pajamas and started to emerge from my plague-induced haze, I decided that I had to have – HAD TO HAVE – chicken and dumplins for supper. I always think of chicken and dumplins as the Southerner’s answer to chicken noodle soup, and in light of the week I’d had, it sounded like the world’s most perfect food. So I went to the store, rounded up all the ingredients, then headed home to try to honor my sweet Mamaw’s memory.

I should probably tell you that I’ve tried lots of different chicken and dumplin recipes over the years. I’ve gone the totally-from-scratch route; I’ve gone the add-some-cream-of-something-soup route; I’ve gone the make-dumplins-from-canned-biscuits route. But Wednesday night, I have to say, is when I think I finally hit on the perfect combination of convenience and made-from scratch goodness. Because the chicken and dumplins? THEY WERE TASTY. And the next time I decide to cook up a batch, I’m going to make them the exact same way.

So on the off chance that anyone, you know, CARES, I thought I’d share the recipe. It’s a combination of (no kidding) about three different recipes, and for whatever reason, it works. Be advised that we don’t really enjoy it when vegetables interfere with our chicken and dumplins, so you won’t find any of them in this particular mash-up. You could definitely add them, though.

All righty. Here you have it.

My Favorite Chicken & Dumplins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup buttermilk
(if you like fluffy, biscuit-y dumplins, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder – but we like dense dumplins around here)

*****

2 fully cooked rotisserie chickens
1/2 stick real-live (salted) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 box chicken stock (32 oz. – I like Kitchen Basics)
2 cups water
1/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

*****

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 2 beaten eggs, salt and buttermilk. Once mixture is blended, cover the bowl and set aside. Don’t over mix – it’ll make the dumplins tough.

Pull meat off of rotisserie chickens. Chop into cubes, then set aside.

In a Dutch oven, melt butter over low heat. Once all the bubbles are gone, start sprinkling the 1/4 cup of flour into the pot. Add a little, stir to combine, then add a little more, stir to combine, etc. Once all the flour has been incorporated, continue to stir over low-to-medium heat until the mixture starts to turn a golden color. You don’t want it to get brown – just golden. It’ll only take a couple of minutes.

Once you see that golden color, start adding liquid to the mixture. Add about a cup of chicken stock, whisk it well so that everything combines, then add half the water, whisk to combine, more chicken stock, then whisk – and continue until all the liquid has been mixed with the flour and butter mixture. Turn the heat up to medium and continue to whisk frequently to ensure that you don’t have any lumps.

This is a great time to taste the stock mixture, by the way – the butter and stock already have salt, but you’ll probably need to add more salt and pepper to taste.

Let mixture simmer for about 10 minutes – until it’s thicker and not quite so brothy. Add Worcestershire, garlic powder, half and half and chicken. Stir to combine everything, then taste again. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Once the whole mixture is simmering and is season just like you like it, drop the dumplin dough into the pot by spoonfuls. It’ll start to look crowded, but that’s okay. Once everything is in the pot, let the dumplins simmer (uncovered) for about 15-20 minutes. They’ll cook through, and once they’re done, take the whole pot off the heat, cover it, and leave it alone for about 15-20 minutes.

After 15-20 minutes, take off the lid, grab a ladle, and serve the chicken and dumplins in some oversized bowls.

Be prepared for your people to pledge their undying and eternal devotion.

I’m just sayin’.

Because these chicken and dumplins are slap-your-mamaw good.

(But by all means, please don’t slap your mamaw.)

(I don’t think she would appreciate that.)

(Not to mention that it would be sort of tacky.)

Enjoy, y’all!

Third World Symphony

So here’s the thing that I’m a little bit embarrassed to tell you: for the longest time – for most of my life, really – I would see pictures and videos of people living in extreme poverty in this country and in other parts of the world, and my first reaction would be to fight my inclination to care. Honestly, I was scared to care. I was scared of how caring would change me, of how it would wreck my priorities, of how it would take everything that I’d always thought I’d wanted and render that stuff absolutely meaningless. So I would look at the pictures and watch the videos and nod my head and occasionally feel a tug at my heart, but that was as far as it went with me. It wasn’t that I was callous, but on some level I was pretty dadgum obstinate about not wanting to get pulled outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay insulated in our shiny happy suburbias, you know?

But.

In the spring of 2006 our pastor invited a group of men from the Sudan to speak at our church. And that Sunday, as I listened to the stories of how the people in their village had been persecuted for their faith, how they’d risked their lives so that they could worship together, how they’d suffered in ways that I could not fathom, some of my resistance and reluctance started to give way. In fact, as a result of that particular Sunday, my prayers eventually started to change. And by the beginning of 2007, I had stopped saying “God, am I supposed to go?” – and started saying “God, show me where to go. Show me how to go.”

And get a load of this craziness: in August of 2007 I got an email from someone at Compassion International who wanted to know if I’d be interested in going on a blogging trip (OF ALL THINGS) to Uganda. It was an invitation that seemed to come straight out of nowhere – probably one of the most surprising things that’s ever happened to me in my life – but at the same time I instantly knew that it was something I was supposed to do. Sometimes God whispers, and sometimes He screams – and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was pretty much screaming, “HEY! YOU! REMEMBER THOSE PRAYERS? WELL, HERE’S YOUR ANSWER.”

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do believe that God occasionally enjoys the use of ALL CAPS for emphasis.

The trip to Uganda was life-changing for hundreds of different reasons. It was every bit as difficult as I expected that it would be, mainly because the depth of poverty was shocking to me. It was profound. But I have to tell you: in the midst of those heart-breaking circumstances, I saw so much hope. I saw the beauty that happens when Light shines on dark places. And I was reminded that Joy – deep, lasting, eternal Joy – doesn’t necessarily shine brighter in poverty-stricken areas, but it’s definitely more noticeable when it’s not surrounded by all the junk and the stuff and the things that I tend to cling to in my safe little day-to-day life.

I believe that’s what you call a lasting life lesson, my friends.

On our last day in Uganda the people in our group shared communion on the banks of the Nile River. And as we stood in a circle and prayed together, a guy named Shaun Groves – the guy who dreamed up the whole crazy notion of taking a bunch of bloggers to Uganda and then setting them free to blog about what they saw and experienced – began to sing a song called “Kingdom Coming.” Well, “Kingdom Coming” is one of the songs on Shaun’s new CD, Third World Symphony, and I asked him if he’d do me a big ole favor and sing it for y’all. It never fails to encourage me and remind me of the grace of the Gospel. I hope it does the same for you.

Kingdom Coming for Sophie at BooMama.net from Shaun Groves on Vimeo.

It’s overwhelming sometimes to look around the world and see the extent of people’s spiritual and physical needs. In fact, it’s easy to feel discouraged and think that there’s absolutely no way that we can make a difference. I know that most of us are trying our best to serve our families as much as we can and as well as we can, so it’s not always possible to spend big chunks of time serving people outside of our homes, whether those people are in our own cities or across the ocean in a third-world country.

But what we can do – what is oh-so-possible and oh-so-practical – is to support people like Shaun. His CD sales make it possible for him to continue to get in front of large groups of people and tell them about the work Compassion is doing. And when he tells an audience about Compassion, many of those people will respond by sponsoring a child who’s living in poverty. That sponsorship ensures that the child will have all the medicine they need, all the clothing they need, all the school fees they need. And most importantly, that sponsorship ensures that the child will be involved with a local church where they’ll hear the truth and the hope of the Gospel over and over again. It’s life-changing. It’s life-giving.

And if you ask me, that’s a mighty good return on a a $9.90 investment. Oh yes ma’am it is.

If you’d like more information about Shaun and his ministry, be sure to check out his blog. And if you’d like to buy your very own copy of the (most excellent) Third World Symphony, you can do that on iTunes or on Shaun’s website.

Thanks, Shaun, for doing what you do.

And thanks, bloggy people, for being so willing to help him.