Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thinking about Santa

Advent: Waiting for Jesus #6

We have always tried to help our children understand as much about God as they are able at whatever age they are.

So what about Santa? How does he affect the way children understand Christmas? At the Desiring God blog, you can read some of my thoughts.

Monday, December 14, 2009

If not Santa, what?

Advent: Waiting for Jesus #7

Christmas past

My family in 1957. I'm at the top of the "stairsteps."

Jesus Tree

Advent: Waiting for Jesus #5

Over the years, during Advent we've used a Bethlehem Tree, a Jesse Tree, and now what we call a Jesus Tree.

At the Desiring God blog, you can read about them, and how in the world a disco ball is related.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A newish Christmas Eve tradition

We went to see
The Nativity Story in 2006 when it was released in theaters. Since then, it has become a new tradition at our house to watch it together on Christmas Eve.

I agree with Justin Taylor's appreciation of the film:

I thought it was an excellent film—great production values and excellent acting. The reconstructions of the architecture, clothing, and landscape seemed especially well-researched. Of course a movie like this has to take some imaginative liberties, but on the whole it was pretty restrained. I’m not sure I’ve seen a better job of portraying Joseph, an oft-neglected character in nativity plays and movies.

Christianbook.com is offering the video for only $4.99 for a limited time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, Abraham Christian Piper

We met you face to face 30 years ago
on December 12, 1979.

You've come a long way, baby.
And we love you more every year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking forward: Preparing to meet Jesus face to face

Advent: waiting for Jesus # 4

The word advent means coming.

Jesus has come and he will come again. The season of Advent is a time of looking back and remembering the first coming.

But it is also a time of looking forward. There will be another advent of Christ; he will come again. This makes Advent a season for introspection. . . .

You can read the rest at the Desiring God Blog.

(This Advent series begins here.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Looking back: Advent Candles

Advent: waiting for Jesus # 3

Advent Candles probably are the most common Advent symbolism of looking back to the days of waiting for the Messiah God had promised. . . .

My advent series continues at the Desiring God blog.

(This series begins here.)

Next: Advent #4

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Taking care of Baby Jesus

"Look, Grandmama. I'm Joseph taking care of Baby Jesus!"

God doesn't leave anything to chance. So when he chose Mary to be the mother of his son, he was also choosing Joseph, her betrothed, as the right man to be Jesus's earthly father.

Joseph was a just man, who wanted to protect Mary from the public shame of being pregnant before she was married. He was obedient to God, apparently without question, even though it would mean sharing her embarrassment (Matthew 1:19-25).

Knowing that Joseph was that sort of man, I wouldn't be surprised if he did actually crawl into the manger to care for their baby.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent: Standing in the Middle

Advent: Waiting for Jesus #2

During Advent, it’s as if we are re-enacting the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. Then at the end of the four weeks of Advent, Christmas is a heartfelt celebration because that ancient waiting is done.

And yet we are still waiting. . . .

At the Desiring God blog, you can read the rest of this, adapted from my book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions.

(This series begins here.)

Advent: waiting for Jesus #3

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What is Advent?

Advent: Waiting for Jesus #1

Here is the first of some holiday thoughts I'll be posting at the Desiring God Blog during this holiday season.

We are a people of promise. For centuries, God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that he would give a way to draw near to him.

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. . . . (Read the rest).

Advent: Waiting for Jesus #2

Friday, November 27, 2009

The thanks goes on -- Talitha

Seems like everything is related to everything. So it's not surprising that Thankgiving blog posts overlap with "Life with Talitha" posts.

I learned long ago with our other children that you often learn more about your children through other people than through your own conversations at home. A few days ago we had a taste of Talitha's growing maturity and thoughtfulness when her friend, Olivia, interviewed her.

I am thankful every day that God added Talitha to our family. I can't imagine us without her.

p.s. One commenter at Olivia's blog says, "Talitha, I love how you sound like your Dad when you use phrases like... 'Being physically adopted is very special, but being spiritually adopted is ten thousand times better!!'"

Well, maybe she sounds like him. Or maybe one of the effects of having a teenaged daughter is that he's starting to sound like her?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The thanks goes on

It's time for bed. The house is very quiet. This is the sort of quietness that lets my mind go back over the noise and busyness of the day and remember even more things that I'm thankful for.

Here's #1 on the list: The Lord is good and his steadfast mercies endure forever.

Giving thanks together

Dinner is soon. Afterward come the apple pie and pecan pie that Talitha baked yesterday. Can't wait.
Soon the table will be filled with family and some friends.
The centerpiece of wild grapes and hydrangea.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving for Mother

Mother's 88th birthday was earlier this month. Here she is (on the left), having a birthday tea with one of her daughters and 2 daughters-in-law and a friend.

Mother and this friend are members of the Gideon Auxiliary. For years, these two have visited the county jail most months to meet with women inmates and give testimony to the gospel. Often when I've been down in Georgia, they have taken me with them.

I thank God for Mother. There are many ways I want to be like her when I'm 88, if the Lord should give me so many years.

Thanksgiving for Mentors

Across the street from our house is the convergence of I-94 and I-35W--many lanes of freeway. On the fence that separates our street from the freeway are vines of tiny wild grapes. At least that's what they look like.

Anyway, I just cut a few lengths of vine to use as the main part of our Thanksgiving centerpiece tomorrow. Walking back into the house, I realized that dried hydrangea blossoms from our border will probably be all I need to complete the arrangement.

So I'm feeling rather Edith Schaeffer-ish this morning.

And that reminds me how thankful I am for all the women who have been my mentors, both the ones I have lived with or known personally and the ones who have mentored me through their writing and speaking.

(I'll post a picture of the table and centerpiece when we see how it works out.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Digging out of Chaos -- Thanksgiving

Today I am thankful for the encouragement that so many of you have given me in my efforts to dig out of chaos. I am still working on the 1st main project, making a study for myself out of the junk room that was supposed to be my study.

Here's the status. You saw the room with everything emptied out. Then you saw it with a new desk, carpet, windows, paint, etc. There is still more furniture I hope to get as the budget allows--2 under-desk drawer units and 2 lateral file cabinets that match the desk.

My Christmas wish list includes an armchair for comfortable reading and 2 adjustable-height chairs to pull up to the side of the desk opposite my chair. They will be for homeschool sessions with Talitha and for visiting grandchildren who want to do desk work near me.

In the meantime, I've borrowed a file cabinet from friends. This week I hope to get the files loaded in. I was feeling overwhelmed with the thought of sorting and organizing the files. Then one thought changed that feeling: I don't have to sort the files now. I just need to get them in the drawer where they belong.

At this moment, Johnny and Talitha are hanging the valances I made today. The material is from Turkey and was the inspiration for the paint and carpet colors.

I wouldn't have believed how even this one room freed from chaos has opened my heart to greater feelings of thanksgiving this week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life with Talitha: How would our families feel?

I promised a series of thoughts and stories about our becoming a multi-racial family. I am going to do that, Lord willing. But the holidays are here. So I'm going to pick up the series in a few weeks.

In the meantime, today I'll combine a bit of the holidays and "Life with Talitha." Today I am filled with thanksgiving for our extended families.

Quite some time before Talitha, I wrote to my father wondering about maybe adopting from Asia. Daddy assured us that he would welcome any child of ours. But he discouraged us because he wasn't sure how some of the extended family of his generation might react. (Daddy hasn't met Talitha yet, because he was already with his Lord when she was born).

When we told Johnny's dad that we were going to adopt an African-American daughter, he was hesitant for several reasons. But he was content to wait and see how God led us.

So how did our families respond to Talitha?

1. I've already written about my Mother's enthusiastic welcome.

2. Our fair-skinned, redheaded, 7-year-old nephew, Luke, was adopted in America and raised in Africa. When he got the news by email, he said, "Cool! We could use a little more color in the family."

3. When Talitha met Johnny's dad, she was in one of those shy-baby-no-strangers stages. Despite that, she lunged from Johnny's arms into her Opa's arms. And Opa just laughed.

4. At my family's reunion--with my siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins by the dozens--the squealing, cooing, caressing, and head-patting was the same as for every new addition to the family. Neither then nor in the years since have I seen a hint that anyone has a problem with our adoption. And considering how sensitive my antennae were back then, I'm pretty sure I would have noticed.

And so I say to God as I have said hundreds of times for thousands of reasons, "Thank you for our families."
Talitha and her Opa (above). Piper reunion (below).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Noel's Easy Cranberry Relish

The rest of the family prefers canned, jellied cranberry sauce. And so did I, and I really didn't care for the canned whole-berry relish. That was until I tasted a version of the relish in this recipe. I have to keep myself from spooning it out and eating it up ahead of time.

1 c honey
1 whole orange (peel and all), cut into quarters, seeds removed
1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries

Put it all in blender in the order listed and pulse till it's ground, but not pureed.

Refrigerate and don't eat it up before Thanksgiving dinner.

That's it!

"Boy, am I steamed!" . . .

. . . reports the Pipers' 24.43-lb. turkey, which is the oven this very moment.

Right. It's Friday before Thanksgiving, and the turkey is cooking right now. I don't think any cook would say it's roasting. It's more like steaming.

Lynn Rosetto Casper, of public radio's Splendid Table has her annual "Turkey Confidential" program on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving?! Who has time to listen on Thanksgiving? And if I didn't already have a pretty good idea what to do with my turkey, a program 11 am to 2 pm would be way too late for me.

Maybe there's someone else who cooks the turkey the way I do, but I've never heard of it. Here's how it evolved over 40 years of Thanksgiving in my kitchen.

1. I decided not to serve any more undercooked or overcooked, dried out turkey.

2. There's only so much space in the oven, and the turkey's not the only thing to be cooked for dinner.

3. I got tired of all the other food fading to room temperature while I wrestled with cutting up the bird.

4. I have way better things to do after dinner than picking over a turkey carcass.

5. No Piper male was ever excited at the role of carving a beautifully browned bird at the table.

So, here's the evolution so far of Piper Thanksgiving Turkey:

1. Thaw the turkey according to packaging instructions.

2. Optional: Remove as much of the skin as you can. Do you remove the skin before you cook chicken parts? If so, just peek at how much fat is hiding under the turkey's skin. Unbelievable. I trim away as much of that as I can too. Hot running water rinses some of it away.

3. Rinse the turkey well, inside and out.

4. Place the turkey, breast down, in the roasting pan. This is upside down from the traditional drumsticks-pointing-up position, but it lets the moisture from the dark meat cook down into the less-moist white meat.

5. Pour water into the pan, about 1 inch deep.

6. Cover well, with roaster pan lid or foil.

7. Bake according to the temperature and time on your turkey's packaging.

8. It's done when the wings or drumsticks start to hang loose from the body. (Or you can use a meat thermometer).

9. Let the whole thing cool enough to handle.

10. Then take the meat from the bones and put it in a sealable plastic container. You can choose whether to slice it now, or just store it in whatever size chunks you get.

11. Pour over the meat as much of the pan liquid as the container can hold.

12. Refrigerate, if it's only 1-2 days ahead of your meal. Otherwise, freeze it. Also save the rest of the pan liquid to use later for gravy or soup.

13. If frozen, defrost the day before the meal.

14. On Thanksgiving, microwave the meat in the liquid in a covered container. I usually use a slightly lower power setting, maybe 70-80%. If the meat is packed pretty tightly into the plastic container, it will be good to loosen it up, maybe by separating into 2-3 microwavable containers. That way you can heat just what you need, one platters' worth at a time.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

By popular demand: Noel's Spaghetti

You can this and other
Piper family recipes in
Treasuring God in Our Traditions.

Noël’s Spaghetti

This is a family favorite, the choice for most birthday dinners, and a perfect make-ahead. I make a huge batch—for about 15 adults. The recipe can easily be cut into thirds.

  • 3 pounds ground meat (beef or turkey or combination with Italian Sausage)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T whole oregano
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 T salt
  • 2 T Worcestershire Sauce (if you have it)
  • 3 T dried parsley
  • 1 large onion (or 1/3 cup dry onion flakes)
  • 6-10 drops Tabasco Sauce (optional. Doesn’t make it hot, just gives a slight zing)
  • Institutional size can Tomato sauce (or six-seven 15-oz cans / or combination of tomato sauce & canned tomatoes)

Brown meat. Drain well. Stir in flavorings. Add tomato sauce. Simmer at least ½ hour.

For freezing ahead: Often I freeze the cooked meat/spices combination and then when I'm ready to use it, thaw and add the tomatoes. Takes up lots less space in the freezer than sauce.

Noël’s secret to non-sticky pasta.

(And you can make it the day before. )

(Pasta purists, just look the other way.)

  • Cook pasta until done, but not overdone.
  • Strain off hot water.
  • Immediately rinse with cold water until noodles are cold, and strain off the water.
  • With hands, mix in oil to coat all the pasta. (about 2-3 T per pound)
  • Cover well until ready to use.
  • Heat in microwave.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Talitha and the comforter I made from Asian batik material

Life with Talitha -- Part 2

In the first weeks or months of Talitha's being part of our family, I found myself being very watchful in two different directions.

1. I was watching Johnny to see if Talitha was as much his daughter as mine. When the idea of adoption had first come up in our family, I was ready to do it and Johnny was more hesitant. Then came the day when adoption was no longer just an idea, because there was an invitation to adopt one particular little girl. We spent time then, praying and seeking counsel.

Then Johnny said Yes, and Talitha became our daughter.

Despite his earlier hesitation, I didn't think his Yes was just to please me, but I needed to be sure. I found myself watching how he acted with her, especially when it wasn't just fun playtime. When she cried at night or had a messy diaper--in other words, when parenting hit its normal rough spots--did he expect me to be the one who should care for her because this was somehow my "project?"

I never saw any such attitude, and haven't until this day. When he said Yes, we said yes wholeheartedly together. Talitha is our daughter.

2. Now we were white parents with a black child. For a while, when I was out in public, I was hyper-aware of people's responses to seeing us. I imagined hundreds of eyes on us. Did they disapprove? Do they think I'm taking good enough care of her?

It seemed a lot of people stared at us more than they would have in our pre-Talitha days. But what I came to realize was this: I stare at cute babies too. Staring doesn't have to mean disapproval.

And what about stranger's comments? In general, white people didn't say anything. More often, a comment would come from an African-American. And it was likely to be something like, "What a beautiful baby!" which I came to hear as implicit approval.

I don't assume that everyone thought it was proper for a white woman to have a black baby, but none of them ever made themselves known.

After a while, I relaxed. I was me and this was my daughter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One time, a long time ago . . .

Life with Talitha -- part 1

Talitha has “always” known she’s adopted. It’s the story she asked for and listened to more often than any other.

Well, Talitha . . .

One time there was a little girl named Noël and a little boy named Johnny. They grew up and got married. They loved each other and hoped that God would give them children someday.

And he did. First, they had a round, blond boy named Karsten. Then they had another round, blond boy named Benjamin. Then came another round, blond boy named Abraham. And finally came the roundest, blondest of all, Barnabas. Sometimes their daddy called them the cookie-cutter kids.

Johnny and Noël said to God, “Father, You are the one who makes families. Thank you so much for our boys. We can’t imagine life without them. You have been very kind to us. So we don’t want to be greedy, but do you suppose there might also be a little girl for us?

Time passed and the boys were getting older and there were no more babies. Noël said, “I guess the way we will get daughters is by our boys getting married and giving us daughters-in-law. . . . Or maybe someday a little girl will knock on my door and say, ‘Will you be my mother?’”

One sunny day in May, surrounded by green grass, young birches, and branches of lilac, Karsten married his sweetheart, Shelly. Johnny and Noël thanked God for their new daughter.

Just a few months later the phone rang. It was Johnny’s and Noël’s friend who worked at an adoption agency. She said, “There is a little girl born just a few days ago. I’ve been praying about what family God wants for her, and you keep coming to my mind. Would you please consider adopting her?”

Noël said, “This sounds like somebody knocking on my door and saying, ‘Will you be this little girl’s mother?’”

Johnny and Noël said, “Yes, we believe that God is adding this little girl to our family. She is Talitha Ruth.”

Finally the day came when their friend was bringing Talitha to them. They waited at church. And waited. And waited. Every time they heard the outside door open, they jumped up. Then one time it opened and around the corner came their friend—with Talitha.

She went first into Johnny’s arms. They touched her silky, black curls, and soft brown cheeks. She stared at them with her dark eyes and she smiled.

Then she burped. Barnabas laughed and laughed. And Abraham said, “Coo-uhl.”

Here, Talitha and I break into laughter, and that’s the end of the story.

Part 2

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our whole family

(You can find the beginning of our adoption story here.)

Part 17

When Talitha arrived, only Abraham and Barnabas were living at home. Karsten and his new wife, Shelly, lived in Boston. Benjamin was in Georgia.

So it was a sweet time a couple of weeks later when all us were together for the first time. That called for a photo.

Ah yes. Family group photos. My children roll their eyes when I say, "Hey! We're all here. Let's . . ." They interrupt, with less enthusiasm,". . . take a picture."

Those photos become more precious to me now that all our sons are married and scattered. The times when we're all in the same place at the same time become more and more rare.

Perhaps we don't recognize the full value of family photos until we have lost one of those family members. I had no way to know, for example, in 1970 that the snapshots during a picnic with my family were the last images of my 16-year-old brother, Benjamin. He died a few months later in a car crash.

Then, two years ago, we lost our granddaughter Felicity. She was stillborn and there never will be a photo of her being enfolded by all of us. So now our whole-family photos will never be completely whole.

Each photo is a record, a reminder, of the changes in a family. I'm thankful that many changes are happy ones. Right now, there are 2 grandchildren who aren't yet with us in a whole-family photo.

Well, here's our whole family the first time we were all together with Talitha Ruth.

I think this is a good place to end this series. But what do you think about a new series? The new one would be about becoming a multi-racial family (and maybe a little about adjusting to having a girl).