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Monday, October 25, 2010

Ajvar Making

Ajvar making is a traditional autumnal activity in Macedonia. It is a very work intensive process, so as a result has become an activity which the whole family participates in to make it manageable. Walking outdoors in the fall, the smell of roasting peppers pervades the air, one of the essentials for the creation of a truly Macedonian autumn. This year I got the privilege of experiencing it for the first time with my friend's family in Veles.

We started with 80 kilos of sweet red peppers, and about 25 kilos of eggplants. We washed them all then removed the middles and the seeds.

Next we roasted each pepper and eggplant on the woodstove, a very tedious, time consuming process.

After letting the roasted peppers and eggplants cool, we peeled each one by hand.

Finally, we put them all in a grinder, to grind them into a pulpy texture, then poured them in the big ajvar pan with some oil and salt. The pan stayed on the stove for several hours, during which we had to stir it almost constantly to keep it from sticking to the bottom.

So, we spent the whole day talking, drinking coffee, washing, roasting and peeling peppers together. We ended the day with a quintessential Macedonian meal of fresh ajvar, bread and sirenje (white cheese).

My Inheritance

I stand in awe watching the way God is moving. I took Him at His word when He promised me that what I ask for in faith I would receive. I began asking, talking to Him about what was happening in my life and in the lives of the people around me. I told Him about the hurt, the brokenness, the lack, the sadness that I see around me. I asked Him to bring change, to bring His kingdom to come here on earth, just like it is in heaven. I knew that He would be faithful to His promises, but I did not count on His extravagance. I found out that He was just waiting for me to ask, and when I did, He opened the floodgates of heaven, and poured out in answer more than I could ever have asked or imagined. He began moving in peoples lives, changing circumstances and bringing healing and restoration.

God doesn't answer my prayers half heartedly, He is a Kingly giver. He gives everything He possibly can, everything I could ever hope for and more. I can live a life full of joy, something that does not depend on the circumstances around me. As His daughter I have access to all the resources of heaven, a never ending supply of love, grace, healing, compassion, hope, joy and blessing. I don't just have enough, I have an abundance, so that I never have to live in lack. And from this, I can give to everyone around me without ever running out. I am loved completely, and because of this I can love others completely. I can give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Where there is pain, sickness and disease, I can release healing. Where there is sorrow I can release joy. Where there is depression and despair I can be a bearer of hope, because my Father has given royally to me, and now I can give royally to others. This is my inheritance.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reflections on a Rainy Day

I woke up this morning to a gray sky and slow, drenching rain. Off to Shutka I went, umbrella in hand. The kids were waiting outside the church door earlier than normal today, wearing their winter coats for the first time this year. The conversations and little interactions I have with the children is what makes it all so interesting. Today Bajram asked me with great drama, "Jenn moved to Greece didn't she?" I informed him this was indeed true. "It's warm in Greece!" was his response. The other children were gazing up at me, waiting eagerly for my response, as though as I held all the answers. I told them that Greece is indeed warmer, but that does not mean it is always warm. I could see the longing in their eyes for a place where they would not have to suffer from the cold.

I sat on the bench with a little girl on either side, one of them clutching me around the waist. Looking out at the rain I asked them jokingly if they thought God was crying today. One little boy quickly corrected me, "No, the Lord is crying." Bajram chimed in with great solemnity, "No, God is not crying. The way it works is that the water falls from clouds in the sky, and then when the sun comes out the water evaporates, and forms clouds again." . I praised him heartily, telling him I could see he had been going to school (something I do my best to encourage at every opportunity, since some of the children don't bother to go). This began a competition to see who could impress me with their educational accomplishments.
One boy puffed out his chest, looked over at me and announced, "I am in sixth grade!" . His declaration was followed by hoots of laughter and shouts of, "He's lying! He's in first grade with the little kids!" . I laughed, but was sad at the same time thinking of little Zunka sitting next to me in sullen silence, tears on her cheeks from when the big boys had been tormenting her with teasing. She is so little and helpless and sweet, and they tease her so badly.

Then conversation turned to our new friend from America, Sam. They were asking me about him, "Hey, what's that guys name?" "Is he from Germany?" Then one boy turns to the other, "I think he's Jesus!" (Sam has shoulder length hair, like the picture of Jesus on the church wall) "Yea, his hair is really awesome and long like Jesus'!" Sam quickly assured them he is not Jesus, but they still thought his hair was awesome.

Just as we started serving the food to the children the electricity went out. No electricity, no water. So, now there is a pile of dishes from about forty children sitting unwashed in the sink until the electricity comes back on. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Shutka.

Walking to my language class I got an unwelcome shower. The drainage system in Skopje is nearly non-existent. Every time a car goes by, huge waves of filthy water shower anyone standing within a six foot vicinity. Today I was victim. I chose to take the bus home because of the rain. To my chagrin, the bus was not much of an improvement over outdoors. There were so many holes in the roof I had to dodge the dirty drops of water. I considered the possibility of opening my umbrella, but decided that would just look too absurd. By the time I excited the bus to walk home I was so soaked I didn't care any more whether I got hit by another wave from a passing car, so I just quit paying attention. Oh well, it just makes a warm house and cup of tea that much more inviting. :-)