Andrew Peterson for Free!

For awhile now, I've been extolling the virtues of NoiseTrade.com, and now they have excelled themselves. Andrew Peterson, who I regard as quite possibly the best Christian songwriter around (almost certainly within the Christian industry), has put up one of this past albums (when he was independent) for free. You are also welcome to make a donation if you want. All you need is an email address.

I can think of only a few reasons why one wouldn't download this album:

1. I don't have internet. In which case, how are you reading this?
2. I already have this album. In which case, you can forward this to someone else.
3. I really prefer bad music. In which case, I have a number of recommendations for you, but will refrain from them in this forum.
4. I think there's a catch somewhere. Unless you consider getting an occasional email from Andrew (which I believe he will use judiciously) a catch, then I swear there is not.
5. I love his music so much that I cry profoundly at its beauty, and thereby become unstable and dysfunctional in my daily living when I listen to it. I have no rebuttal to this.


Maggie Update

Well, it's been some time since we've posted any cute pictures of Maggie on our blog here, and since Maggie's little brother or sister is due to arrive any time in the next month (and will likely thus get more blog space than Maggie for at least a week or so), I thought I'd just give everyone a brief update on our first born.

Mags is now almost 22 months old, and as her 30 minute temper tantrum this morning demonstrated, she is acting very much like a 2 year old! She is still sweet most of the time, and I am able to understand 30-50% of what she says, but she definitely has her own opinions these days! She is jabbering up a storm and has a good vocabulary of recognizable words (to mommy, at least). One thing we have noticed that she likes is multiple beverage options, in good American fashion. See below.
Christmas was pretty low key here, but we bought her a set of plastic kid sized chairs, which she has enjoyed lounging in. She is rarely without her "beez" (beads) and has also learned recently how to climb into adult sized chairs. One of these days we are going to find her on the dining room table, I'm sure....
I gave her a haircut in December--just bangs, but it was a big change for her looks! She is finally letting me put things like rubber bands and bows in her hair without yanking them out, so we do a lot of pigtails. Hmm, blond curly hair. Who did she get THAT from? (sigh, maybe the next kid will look like me!)

She likes trying on mommy and daddy's "dooze" (shoes) and wandering around the house in them. Her expressions are also quite priceless, although difficult to capture on film since as soon as she sees a camera she wants to come over and take a look at the screen on the back.Maggie's "best friend" Abi Fader was gone for 6 wks over Christmas time, back in the States, so Maggie found a new playmate, Micah Cropsey. She was initially scared of his rougher ways, but they are warming up to each other nicely. Outside is always the best place to be...here they are playing on 2 downed telephone poles in the field by our house. We also moved upstairs in the same building to a bigger apartment, so Micah is the new neighbor. Budding romance? We'll see.
Mags has hopefully been getting ready to welcome a new sibling. She seems older to us every day! We have been reading her books like the Berenstein Bears and the New Baby to prep her, but I'm sure she has no idea. She is very sweet to her own baby doll, though, and pushes it in the stroller, feeds it bottles, and covers it for "nah nah" (night night) with a quilt. She can point to some blankets stacked up for the baby, and points to my tummy and says "bay-bee!" with an excited inflection. She tried to feed my belly a piece of cheese the other week, for the baby. :)
Hopefully that's enough of a Maggie fix for now. Love, Eric, Rachel, Maggie, and #2 (due March 15!)


Quotables from Chesterton

For the record, I liked Heretics better than Orthodoxy, though they are both very worthwhile reads. Here are a couple quotes, which I added to the Quotables page:

"We actually love ourselves more than we love joy."

"He says he is fleeing from his street because it is dull; he is lying. He is really fleeing from his street because it is a great deal too exciting. It is exciting because it is exacting; it is exacting because it is alive. He can visit Venice be cause to him the Venetians are only Venetians; the people in his own street are men."


Being Named: Hipster Christianity

Our friends Eric and Keri were just visiting from their home in Swaziland, and they left me with a stack of "Christianity Today" magazines. I picked one up today to read about "Hipster Christianity" (read it here). Here is a quote from Brett McCracken, who apparently wrote a book on the topic:

"Welcome to the world of hipster Christianity. It's a world where things like the Left Behind book an film series, Jesus fish bumper stickers, and door-to-door evangelism are relevant only as a source of irony or nostalgia. it's a world where Braveheart youth-pastor analogies are anathema, where everyone agrees that they wish Pat Robertson "weren't one of us" and shares a collective distaste for the art of Thomas Kinkade...

The new subculture of young evangelicals - I call them "Christian hipsters" - grew up on CCM, Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey, flannel graphs, vacation Bible school, and hysteria about the end times. Now all of that is laughable to them, as they attempt to burn away the kitschy dross of the megachurch Christianity of their youth - with its emphasis on "soul-winning" at the expense of everything else - and trade it for something with real-world gravitas."

He then goes on to name about five more things that fit me like a glove, from N.T. Wright and Sufjan Stevens to ancient liturgies and Henri Nouwen. It must be said that every last point in the article doesn't describe me, but most of you know me well enough to know that if I deny that these are, to some extent, my people, that I'm kidding no one.

It's a good article, with some interesting historical perspective, as well as a decent pros and cons analysis of this demographic. But here's the kicker: I don't want to be a demographic. At least not in these things. My desire is to find what is good and true, and to cling to those things only because they are good and true. And yet, apparently I am part of a demographic, or else the author wouldn't have been able to name me so dramatically.

I want to think that I like N.T. Wright because his scholarship is tremendous and not because I'm part of a demographic. The same goes for Tim Keller, Over the Rhine, and a theology that social justice matters because Revelation is really talking about a new heavens and a new earth. And that may be true. But apparently it may also be part of a cultural wave, and thus may come with all sorts of extra baggage.

So, what to do? Well, I guess I have to own it, and in doing so, the author's pros and cons are worth my attention. His thoughts:

PROS: Concern for justice. A healthy appreciation for the finer things in God's creation and culture.

CONS: Temptation to mimic the world, and a struggle to understand how to "put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Some need to be a rebel. Taking one's self to seriously since, for all their talk of oppressed minorities and justice, hipsters are almost always white and pretty financially stable.

So, I can't vouch for the book, but I'm sure a number of people who read this could resonate like I did, and thus I recommend the article.


Anniversary Trip

For our fifth anniversary, Eric and I took a trip in January to a retreat center called Rondo, located in Kenya's only remaining rainforest, Kakamega. This was the first vacation we've had without Maggie (including since I've been pregnant with Maggie), and although it was only 2 days, it was great! Being 33 wks pregnant at the time, what I needed was relaxation and that's exactly what we got.

We arrived in time for lunch, and enjoyed many tasty meals in a quaint dining room, always concluded by British tea (note the tea cozy in the picture below).
The highlights (in addition to eating and napping, at least for me) were observing the variety of flora and fauna. Here are some of the amazing flowers in the area:
We could also watch three different varieties of monkeys right from our veranda, one of which is the Colobus monkey, seen below. There are 3 in this picture if you can see them (one mommy and baby).
Also, one afternoon while I was napping Eric got to see a hornbill. We also saw a variety of weavers, sparrows, and the Blue Turaco.
Here's me, sitting on the veranda taking afternoon tea (delivered to our veranda every afternoon!). We did a lot of reading and playing Boggle, actually.
After tea, we took walks down trails through the rainforest. There were lots of nice trails and benches to explore.

Finally, our bathroom reminded us of the Narnia wardrobe. Meaning, it looked like a regular closet door, and then upon opening, voila! A bathroom.
Anyway, hopefully in 5 years we can take another anniversary trip. This one was great, and I'm not sure Maggie even noticed we were gone. :)


Five Minute Artisan Bread

Before we left the states, we visited my old friends Chris and Sarah Cropsey (no relation that we know of to the McCropder Cropseys), and Chris was telling me about his ventures into the 5-minute artisan bread. He made us a sample that night, and it was excellent.

For some reason, after more than a year, this popped back into my head, and I wondered if I could find it online. It took a couple YouTube videos, and a couple of links, but I finally pieced together the general recipe and have been trying it out. Here's a photo of one from a couple weeks ago.

The awesome part about this is how easy it is. The recipe that I've put together from a couple different websites is this:

6.5c all-purpose flour
3c room temp water
1.5 Tbs salt
1.5 Tbs yeast

Mix in a big bowl until no big flour clumps. No kneading. Rise for two hours and then store in fridge up to 2 weeks. At any point, you can take it out, flour the surface, pull off as much dough as you want, and shape into a loaf by pulling the sides around to the bottom (see video). Place on a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel and rise for 40 minutes. Cut slits as desired then put into oven, preheated at 425 with a pizza stone (we don't have one and so we skip the pizza peel/pizza stone part) and a metal cake pan on the rack below. After placing on stone, pour 2c water into the preheated metal cake pan for steam to make crustier bread. Bake until golden brown.

The recipe makes about 4 small loaves, and can also be used for a ready-made pizza dough. Again, watch the video for how versatile this can be.



Crafty Mama, Part II

Emboldened by my success at the Christmas stocking, as well as my success with such baking adventures as yogurt, granola, bread, dumplings, etc, I thought I'd try my hand at another craft project. Eric's younger sister Sami is having a baby boy this March, due the same day as me. I saw some cute African mobiles at a craft store in Nairobi and thought to myself, I could make something like that! I'm not sure why I had this thought, since the last thing I sewed that was not from a pattern (e.g. the Christmas stocking) was an ornament I made around the age of 5. But I drew out a little pattern for elephants, and found some African kikoy fabric sitting around, and got to work.The hardest part was that the material frayed easily, and I was hand sewing it all. All I can say is, I think that spending $25 on the version in the craft store would have been cheaper than all the time this took! I remember a doctor friend once telling me that she valued her free time around $75/hr. Yikes! But it turned out nicely, and Sami just hung it over baby Liam's crib. Her shower was this past weekend, so even though the mobile has been done since December, I didn't want to spoil the surprise by posting this earlier.
Voila! (a much less pregnant me than I am currently...)