Sunday, February 6, 2011

Taking Stock

Creel Chapel at
Camp Sumatanga

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

I bought pork chops and blueberries for my most recent dinner.  The problem is my husband did too.  I would have sworn he said he hadn’t, but there they sat, looking at me from my refrigerator.  Clearly, Todd and I got our wires crossed.  Taking stock is something I wish we did a little more often in our refrigerator, freezer and pantry.  Todd probably wishes that I would do it before buying pork chops.  I wish he would before making muffins, forgetting I have bags of them in the deep-freeze downstairs.

On Friday night, I made Pork Chop Casserole and Blueberry Bars.  They were very good and not hard to prepare.  I had to cast around for a vegetable to go with the meal, but at least had fruit in the dessert.  I am thinking that honey might be substituted for the sugar next time to make the dessert a little healthier.  Very likely, I will try it soon . . . now that I have plenty of blueberries.

Taking stock is something that I wish we and every family did more often.  We would probably find ourselves with much more than we think, and probably a bit more than we need.  But there is a different kind of taking stock that has been on my mind lately.

Coming back from a recent trip to my hometown, Florence, Alabama, we decided to take a detour to a place that was important to me when I was young.  We visit the United Methodist retreat center in Alabama, Camp Sumatanga.  In my UMYF (United Methodist Youth Fellowship) years, I would find myself at Sumatanga several times during the year, for one retreat, festival, conference or another.  It was the site of much of my early spiritual formation and is very dear to my heart.  I have missed it these many years.

The camp itself is beautiful, set in the woods of central Alabama hills.  The route we took getting there took us on the curvy roads and switchbacks that are common in this remote area. 

Seeing Sumatanga meant revisiting not only an old haunt, but an old self; a person I used to be who could only wonder at what was ahead.  The kind of taking stock I did on this trip involved remembering who I was then, asking myself if I am who I thought I would be, and noting the disparity between expectation and reality.  The differences are plenty.   I’m not the world traveler I had hoped to be, nor am I fluent in as many languages (my count is still one).  But in thinking through my life, I realize that I am proud of my journey.  I am not sorry to be who I am or to have come this particular distance.  My life has given me both scars and irreplaceable ventures.  I wouldn’t trade them for the highest skyscraper.  My journey has made me a person that I am glad to be.  I can only hope to say the same in another twenty years.

Camp Sumatanga sits in a valley.  On Chandler Mountain immediately behind the old lodge, a large cross stands among the trees.  By night, it is lit up and can be seen from a distance.  By day, energetic campers can hike to it.  The path is steep.  The mountain begins its ascent almost immediately outside the back doors.  I made this climb when I was a teenager and would have made it on my recent trip, but the weather was cold and wet, and my 5 and 8 year olds would likely have protested.  So after a half hour of wandering the sleeping wings where I stayed decades ago, and watching the kids play on an antiquated playground, we began the drive toward the cross.

The directions we were given were almost flawless until we left the main road on the top of the hill.  A sign at first pointed us toward the chapel and cross.  Then, the dirt road forked without offering any clue which road went where.  We went to the right and bumped along for a while in our meant-for-the-paved-streets minivan, before backing up and trying the other way. 

Then suddenly we found ourselves at the foot of the cross.   It was nothing fancy, just a 20 foot metal cross with an amazing view.  I remember this breathtaking view in the springtime – literally – of my youth.  As the weather turned warm, I felt a hope in new beginnings and the promise of what was yet unseen; the kind of bright-eyed expectation that only a young person can have, with no real experience of future or history, but all the belief in the world in what might be.  And I felt a strong belief in a God I had not known for long, but whom I had always found to be faithful.

It was good to have a visit with that old self.  I hope we can be in better contact in the future.  I may not be the same person anymore, but I never want to lose her.

Have you taken stock recently?

Blessed Eating!

Pork Chop Casserole
6 or 8 Pork Chops                             1 Cup Rice uncooked
1 Pkg. Lipton Onion Soup Mix     ¼ Cup Crisco Oil
2 ½ Cups of Water
Put rice in casserole dish, sprayed with Pam.  Braise (light brown DO NOT COOK) chops in Crisco Oil, then place on top on rice.  Ad soup mix and water to pan (don’t drain oil) stir and bring to a boil.  Pour over pork chops.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Serves 4. – Joyce Bass

Blueberry Bars
Base and topping:
3 c. oats, uncooked                         1 c. flour
1 c. light brown sugar, packed    ½ t. backing soda
2/3 c. margarine, melted

1 ½ c. blueberries, rinsed and drained    3 T. sugar
2 t. cornstarch                                                   1 t. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350o.  Line a 9”x13” baking pan with foil, letting ends extend above pan on 2 sides.  In a large bowl mix oats, brown sugar, and baking soda.  Add melted margarine and stir until evenly moistened (Mixture will be crumbly).  Reserve half for topping.
Press remaining half evenly and firmly into the bottom of the ungreased, foil lined pan (I spray mine with oil anyway), and bake 12 minutes to set crust.  While that is baking, mix the filling ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering.  Simmer over low heat, stirring often until juices are no longer cloudy, about 2 minutes.  Spoon over crust.  Spread reserved crumb mixture over the top.  Bake 30 minutes.  Cool completely in pan.  Lift by foil ends onto a cutting board (I usually loosen the sides with a butter knife first).  Cut into 2 inch squares.  – Diane Taylor

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