How to Make Scrumptious Sushi

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A few years back, my husband and I got ambitious and decided to host a sushi-making party.  The only problem was neither of us knew how to make it.  Thus began our research.  Over the years we have…well I should really say I have…perfected the art of sushi making.  (Clint has perfected the art of sushi consumption).  Stay-at-home-sushi-date-night has become one of our favorite traditions.  Since the kids aren’t as tickled over sushi as we are, we put them to bed, share a bowl of soy sauce, and dip, chomp, and talk to our hearts content.  It’s significantly cheaper than go-out-for-sushi-date-night, not to mention you can wear your pajamas.  And in case you’re feeling intimidated, it’s really not as hard as it looks.

As my husband and I quickly learned when we began our research, the secret to great sushi is in the rice.  In fact the term “sushi” refers to the specially prepared rice, not the fish.  So the first step to making authentic sushi is making authentic sushi rice.  Here’s how to do it:

(Note: The following is not my own original recipe.  Unfortunately, I perused so many different websites years ago that I don’t remember where this particular recipe came from, otherwise I’d give the website due credit.)

Sushi Rice:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sushi rice (you can buy sushi rice at Publix, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, or a local Asian grocery store)
  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Bring rice and water to a simmer, cover, and cook on low for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Let stand, covered, for 10 more minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make sushi rice seasoning by mixing rice vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved.
  3. Immediately spread the rice on a large cookie sheet, fanning it so that it cools quickly.  (Cooling sushi rice rapidly is the trick to making it sticky.)
  4. Sprinkle with prepared seasoning and let cool completely.

You will also need to purchase Nori, the seaweed paper used to roll sushi.  I usually buy it at Whole Foods or Fresh Market, though if you can find a local Asian store, it will probably be cheaper.  Make sure to buy toasted Nori.  Likely, these stores will also carry sushi mats, the small bamboo mats used for rolling sushi.  Buy one or two and you can use them forever.  The only other items you need are whatever ingredients you like inside your sushi rolls.  Here’s some of the staples we like:

  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Shrimp
  • Cream Cheese
  • Crab meat (imitation is fine—it’s what’s typically used in California rolls)
  • Smoked salmon (if I’m going to use raw fish, I buy it from a higher end store like Whole Foods or Fresh Market just to be on the safe side)

How to Make a Traditional Sushi Roll:

  1. Chop all ingredients appropriately and lay them out along with sushi rice, Nori, one sushi mat, and a bowl of water.  It is helpful to put your sushi mat inside a large Ziploc bag (or wrap it in plastic wrap) to prevent rice from being smashed in between the bamboo slats.
  2. Cut one sheet of Nori in half horizontally.
  3. Lay the Nori shiny side down on your bamboo mat.  Dampen your hands in the bowl of water and spread a thin layer of sushi rice on top of the Nori.  (The thinner the better!  Putting too much rice on your Nori will make the roll fat, and difficult to “seal.”)  The rice is very sticky—use the bowl of water as necessary.
  4. Next, lay ingredients in a straight line on top of the sushi rice about an inch from the edge.
  5. Beginning at the edge the ingredients are closest to, roll the Nori one time around the ingredients as tightly as you can.  Your goal is to lock all ingredients under the edge of the Nori.  Once you have done this, roll it a final time to seal it off.  If you cannot seal it because the ingredients are spilling out, you’ve made it too fat…and as my husband would say, it’s now a burrito roll, and you should eat it accordingly 🙂
  6. Finally, slice the roll into 8 pieces.

How to Make an Inside-Out Sushi Roll:

  1. A California Roll is one example of a common inside-out sushi roll.  To do this, follow steps 1-3 above.
  2. Once your rice is spread on top of your Nori, flip the whole thing over so that the rice is against the bamboo mat.  (For this roll it’s imperative you put your mat inside a Ziploc bag or cover it with plastic wrap).
  3. Now the Nori should be face up.  Line your ingredients along the Nori, then roll tightly as instructed above.  You can add slightly more ingredients to an inside-out roll then a traditional roll and still be able to seal it.  You can also sprinkle an inside out roll with sesame seeds or roll it a final time in salmon eggs (the bright orange stuff) if you want to be fancy!

Some of Our Favorite Homemade Rolls:

Traditional California Roll—imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, and carrots

Giada’s California Roll—imitation crab, avocado, and mango

Salmon Roll—smoked salmon and cream cheese

Spicy Crab Roll—shred some of your crab meat and mix with mayo, cayenne pepper, and chili powder; spread mixture evenly on top of rice before rolling

Seafood Roll—crab, salmon, shrimp, cream cheese, and avocado—often we make this a HUGE roll by using a whole sheet of Nori instead of a half sheet.  We slice the finished roll into ten pieces instead of eight so each piece is thinner.

Veggie Roll—avocado, cucumber, carrots, blanched asparagus

The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating sushi rolls.  One of the most fun things about homemade sushi (besides the joy of gorging yourself on cheap sushi) is the fun of creating it.  For this reason, it’s a great idea for a social gathering.  Throw out an array of ingredients, let everybody build their own, and enjoy the tasty creations you come up with!  Mmmmm…..

On My 28th Birthday

Today I am happy just to be me.
To laugh with my husband and dance in the rain,
To embrace all of life—including the pain,
To see others’ weakness and love them the same,
To belong to a God who knows me by name.

Today I am happy just to be me.
To wonder and dream, to hope and create,
To kiss little cheeks that stay up too late!
To cling to the Cross, to let go of hate,
To relish the journey, to be willing to wait.

Today I am happy just to be me.
To be a little less scared, and a lot more free,
To hold nothing back, to love fervently,
To open both hands to possibility,
To know a little more of what it means to be me.

Today I am happy just to be me.
To be flawed and broken, but holy and new,
To be growing and failing, but tested and true,
To know all my days are hidden in You,
To be loved by Your grace and not what I do!

Today I am happy just to be me.
To live by the gospel, to claim what’s been done,
To be loved by a man, to be his only one,
To give all of myself and not just some,
To believe the best is yet to come!

My Ungrateful Heart

lonely man[1]

I had a little pity party today.  Ironic, I know, considering the fact that thousands of families across America gathered to count their blessings.  The truth is, I have a lot to be grateful for.  But for some reason my heart seemed dead set on finding things to complain about.  Minor grievances, irksome frustrations, circumstances beyond my control.  What got it all started was a comment my husband made in the morning.  I have a brilliant brother-in-law (currently in residency) who rarely gets time off.  This year he and his family couldn’t join us for Thanksgiving until Friday.  Unfortunately, my husband only had Thanksgiving Day off of work.  This morning, Clint sadly made the remark that he was disappointed he couldn’t spend his day-off with his family.  Knowing my husband, he was likely over it about five minutes after he voiced it.  But not me.  I let the comment stew until it began to fester: Yeah, that is disappointing.  Poor Clint!  Everybody will be here tomorrow and he’ll be back at work.  It’s so unfair!  Why doesn’t he ever get a break?  This stinks!  It really stinks!  It super-duper stinks!  Blah, blah, blah…on and on.

It’s amazing how easily my heart can drift into discontentment.  One minute I’m joyful, the next I’m sulking.  In reflection, I think there are two major battlegrounds–the mind and the heart.  Contrary to Paul’s teaching, I failed to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).  But I was especially susceptible to such thoughts because of the idols in my heart.  Like the dry wall in an attic, there are weak territories in our heart–tread too harshly and you’ll come falling through.  These are the sensitive spots, and for me, my husband is one of them.  I am fiercely protective of him.  I’d like to say it’s simply because I love him, but it’s not as noble as that.  I’m protective of him because I don’t trust God with him, and because I am constantly tempted to idolize him.  And my heart was only designed to idolize One Person.  Whenever I take my affections off Christ and lay them squarely on someone or something else, all manner of ugliness spews out of me.  Defensiveness.  Possessiveness.  Anger.  Envy.  (Really, all the things the Bible guarantees will spew out of a heart living in idolatry.)  So what’s the remedy?  I think it starts with learning where the weak places are.  Just like your dad use to point them out in the attic by warning, “Don’t step there!”  Only instead of avoiding them, reinforce them.  Memorize Scriptures to directly combat the idols you’re most tempted to turn to.  And be wary.  That’s what should have happened this morning.  I should’ve recognized that I’ve been here before.  This is familiar battleground, Jeanne!  Stand firm!  God is always in control.  He will minister to Clint.  You have so much to be thankful for.  Can you imagine what a greater encouragement I would have been to Clint?  Not to mention what greater joy I would’ve experienced?

In the end we went to Cracker Barrel for lunch (which, if you didn’t know, is one hopping place on Thanksgiving Day).  And in the process God used something powerfully simple to catch my attention.  I was standing behind an elderly man, waiting to request a table, when the waitress turned to him and brightly asked, “How many?”  The old man quietly said, “I’ll take one Thanksgiving dinner to go, please.”  I looked at him, and my heart fell to my toes.  I pictured him all alone, eating his Thanksgiving dinner by the TV set.  How can there be no one to cook this man Thanksgiving dinner?  No one to share it with him? 

There’s nothing like perspective to give you a cold hard slap in the face.  That old man with his small polite smile broke my heart today.  In so doing, he turned my heart back to the Lord.  With my eyes fixed on Him, the foolish grievances scattered like ash to the floor.  And wouldn’t you know it–my great God replaced them with joy, worship, and yes, even gratitude.  So tonight I am thankful for a gracious Father who faithfully loves every person He created–myself, my husband, and a lonely elderly gentlemen somewhere in Southern Georgia.

Guilt-Free Womanhood

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Wake up running, try your best,
No time today to take a rest,
The dishes weren’t done before bed last night,
And now the kitchen’s a miserable sight.

“Sit in your chair, don’t argue with me,
I’ve got lots to do, can’t you see??”
Hurry, rush, clean, clean, clean,
I wonder if my tone was mean?

It’s grocery day, no time to lose,
Button their coats, slip on their shoes.
Gee, these hand-me-downs look rough,
*Sigh!  I never dress them cute enough!

In the store a thousand choices,
In my head a thousand voices:
You shouldn’t be paying so much for that,
You shouldn’t be buying those salty snacks…

On and on, the voices come,
Talking til the day is done.
Wash the dishes, sweep the floor,
Work til there is nothing more.

Then lay in bed, my spirits sagging,
Count the ways I’ve come up lacking:
Forgot to make my husband’s lunch,
Processed snacks for the kids to munch,

Should have served my husband more,
Shouldn’t have skipped that extra chore.
Gave in to the chocolate crave,
Growing a new species in the microwave!

Did my kids see the gospel today?
Did we spend enough time in play?
Oh, how come womanhood seems to be
Synonymous with “guilt” for me?

I wonder what the Lord would say,
If I let Him speak into my day?
Perhaps He’d take me by the hand,
And lead me to His Word again.

To a place where Mary was rewarded
For leaving her tasks in order to worship.
To a well where a guilty woman like me,
Drank of the Water that set her free.
And to a city where a whore’s red rope,
Bought for her a living Hope.

Maybe He’d take me back in time,
To the woman who pushed ahead in line,
Just to touch the tip of His cloak,
Believing it would rid her an awful yoke.
Or to the woman at the foot of a Cross,
Weeping for the Son she’d lost.

All of these women knew in their being
That He is the greatest reason for living.
And so in the midst of their crazy lives,
They didn’t hold up “effort” and expect a prize.

Instead they hurled all pretense aside,
And ran for the Arms spread open wide!
And with their pride tossed to the wind,
They staked all hope on belonging to Him.

Tomorrow, start over and wake up smiling,
Sing for the joy of simply belonging,
Live by His power like the woman of old
Who touched His robe with faith so bold.

Claim the truth, when you feel guilty,
Like the Samaritan—believe you are free!
And if you must, tie a red rope,
Around your window when you’re tempted to mope!
Remember the faith that Rahab had,
Then sing of His mercy, rejoice, and be glad!

Hold to the Cross in smooth winds and rough,
Don’t live like His death wasn’t enough.
And if you should find yourself suddenly flailing,
Be then like Mary, and choose the better thing.

(Luke 10:38-42, John 4:1-30, Joshua 2, Matthew 9:20-22, John 19)

(Photo not original)

Top Ten Favorite Purchases of 2012

Just for fun I thought I’d share my favorite items of 2012, in case anybody’s getting a head start on Christmas shopping…or Christmas wish-list-writing!  Not all of these things were “newly released” this year; they were simply acquired in our household throughout the year.  In reverse order, here are my 2012 favorites:

10. Mariposa Birthday Candle Holders

This is a great gift idea for a woman who’s got everything.  My sister-in-law gave them to me this year, and I love them!  We have used them on everybody’s birthday cake.  Aubrey has already memorized the “3” in anticipation of it appearing on her cake.

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9. Inchbug Orbit Labels

Whoever invented these is a genius.  You can buy 4 personalized labels for $12 and never lose a sippy cup again!  (Photo courtesy of www.inchbug.com)

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8. Sand and Water Table

We were given a hand-me-down water/sand table from our dear friends when they moved overseas, and it is awesome!  When it’s warm outside, Aubrey can play all by herself, “bathing” baby dolls, “cooking” with Mommy’s bowls, floating boats…  Finally, a safe way to play with water unsupervised.  (Photo courtesy of http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=11145187)

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7. Etsy Personalized Necklaces

I have fallen in love with Etsy jewelry.  It’s the perfect gift for all the sentimental women in your life because everything is made-to-order by hand.  (Photo courtesy of https://www.etsy.com/transaction/101844384)

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6. Personalized Shutterfly iPhone Cover

This was my Father’s Day gift to Clint, and I must admit I thought it was terribly clever.  It’s so hard to buy a guy a sentimental gift because they don’t wear jewelry, or care much for monogrammed things or framed pictures.  You can custom design a case at www.shutterfly.com with your own special photos.

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5. Swing Set

If the grandparents have asked you what to buy their grandkids this year and you don’t own a swing set, it’s worth its weight in gold!  When everybody’s at their wits end, “Who wants to go swing and slide?!” is always a great thing to yell.

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4. The Meaning of Marriage

At some point I will probably give this book its own individual post because it has so deeply impacted me.  But suffice to say, it cut straight to the heart of many of my personal struggles in marriage.  In my opinion, it’s the best marriage book of 2012.

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3. The Jesus Storybook Bible

This book is a must-have for children!  Our church gives them away at baby dedications, and ours has been dearly loved ever since.  The unique thing about this particular children’s Bible is that it places Jesus at the center of every story–Old and New Testament alike.  After reading it for less than a year, my three-year-old can already find her favorite stories, name the characters, and tell the stories back to herself.  Just today I saw her flipping through the resurrection story saying, “And then the stone was all gone, and Jesus could get out.”  (turn the page)  “Jesus is ALIVE!  He is not dead anymore!  And look, Heidi, no more boo-boos!”

 

2. Illustrated Children’s World Map

We bought this children’s map to teach our kids about praying for the nations.  The best thing about it is that it’s covered with illustrations to help kids learn about the animals, flags, and exports of various countries.  It’s easier for Aubrey to remember where countries are located because she can look for the animals associated with them.

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1. Bowflex Dumbbells

This is my all-time FAVORITE purchase of the year!  Each dumbbell adjusts from 10-90 pounds with a single “click.”  Although pricey, when you factor in the cost of buying 10-90 pounds in individual dumbbells, it’s a steal.  Not to mention, they take up a fraction of the space.  But my favorite feature is the accessibility.  Instead of joining a gym, my husband and I opted to invest in exercise equipment for our home.  So I can work out while the kids nap, or (since the “gym” doubles as a playroom) turn on some music and let the kids play while I lift weights.  Amazingly, one of the most fun times of the day is when Daddy gets home and lifts weights.  As I’ve mentioned before, Daddy is the life of the party and Aubrey has her own set of dumbbells, so altogether it is hilarious to watch.  If he ever lets me, I’ll post a you-tube video 😉

When All You Can Do Is Wait

Photo courtesy of http://calledintowork.com/articles/article.asp?articleID=47

I’ve never met anybody who loved waiting rooms.  Think about it—nobody schedules a doctor’s appointment to read the AARP magazines in the waiting room.  You don’t call Cox Cable to listen to the music they pipe through the phone while you’re on hold, and you don’t go to a restaurant for the fun of holding a buzzer in your hand.  Embracing the concept of “waiting” defies our sense of logic.  Waiting is what we put up with to reach the goal.  We endure it.  Deal with it.  Grumble our way through it.  But we certainly don’t embrace it.  In many ways, “waiting” is the enemy.  It is the hairline crack in our perfect plans that terrifies us, secretly makes us question if we’re deficient…if God’s deficient.

I use to view “waiting” as something akin to being a bench warmer.  You’re watching the game, all the while knowing deep down that if you were just a little bit better, you’d already be on the field.  Married to the man.  Given the position.  Pregnant with a baby.  Head of the company.  Healthy and in remission.  It’s taken a painful journey for God to teach me that waiting on Him, is playing the game.  And as such, it requires phenomenal endurance, strength, and training.

Training myself to “wait” in a God-honoring way began with an honest look into why I hate waiting so much.  I came up with three reasons.

1. I want to have control over my life.
I have sugar-coated this for a long time by simply describing myself as a “go-getter.”  I like to have a plan, and I like to accomplish it.  In fact, at random times in the day, my three-year-old will point one pudgy finger forward and command, “Let’s keep moving!”  (I wonder who she learned that from?)

Moving forward gives me the illusion that I am in control of my life.  Being at a God-ordained standstill, when I want to be moving forward, shatters that illusion.  I feel like a cartoon character running as fast as I can, with somebody’s hand against my forehead.  It doesn’t matter how much I want it, I’m not going anywhere.

But oh, the sweet grace, of being stopped by the hand of God!  Of being reminded that He is in control.  The truth is, deep down I don’t want to be in control of my own life, because deep down I know how inept I really am.  To sit back and submit, to quit trying so hard and simply wait on the Trustworthy One—now that is freeing indeed!  To embrace a season of waiting is to embrace the authority of God, to willingly acknowledge that He has complete control.  And it’s impossible to do that and not come to a place of greater peace.

2. The act of waiting is usually accompanied by a host of lies.
For me, it typically begins with worldly idols—for instance, I want the success and acclaim of being married to a man with a phenomenal ministry.  This idol becomes enshrined in worldly thinking.  Look at that other couple—they’ve got it all together.  Look at how their ministry is growing!  If only I could have this or that, surely I’d be content.   Following the really destructive lies come the really depressing lies.  Maybe I’m just not good enough. Maybe God doesn’t love me as much as He loves them.  Maybe there really isn’t a plan for my life.  

In order to embrace “waiting” we must first win the battle for our minds.  And this is no easy task!  As often as the lies come—a million times a day—we must be ready to speak the truth to ourselves.  Like the athlete in I Cor. 9:24-26 who runs to win a prize, disciplining his body, forcing it to submit, we train our minds to feast off of the Truth.  For me, this began with memorizing Scripture that directly countered the lies I believed, for my particular battles it was Psalm 16 and Psalm 34.

3. I had a wrong perspective of waiting.
Earlier, I mentioned my “bench-warmer” view of waiting, but actually my wrong perspective went even deeper.  My focus in “waiting” has always been very literal.  I am waiting to be done with school.  I am waiting to meet the right guy.  I am waiting to get a teaching job.  You get the idea.  But the Bible makes it clear that the thing we are to be waiting for is the Lord Himself.   

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”  (Psalm 130:5-6) 

You see, we aren’t just waiting to pass the home study, make it through medical school, get the promotion, or grow a church.  We’re waiting for God Himself—His presence to fill us, to make us more like Him, to take us deeper into the heart of who He is.  And amazingly, how does He do this?  By allowing us to wait.  The very act of waiting is sanctifying in and of itself!  And in this, we can take great heart!  If you, like me, are in a season of waiting, allow me to say I know how hard it is.  Believe me, I do.  But may I encourage both of us with this glorious truth—you and I are moving forward…just not outwardly.  We are moving forward into becoming the people He wants us to be.  We are moving forward in developing patience, trust, and submission to His perfect will.  We are moving forward into the very heart of God.  All this waiting, it’s not a break in the plan, it’s part of it.

So in these seasons of waiting, let’s train our minds not just to know the truth, but to believe it.  Let’s train our hearts to trust the heart of God with greater and greater stamina, so that if He should say to us, “Wait another month…wait another year…wait indefinitely,” we might courageously and willingly respond, “Yes, Lord!”  If we do that, we’re not only out on the field, we’re winning the game.

The Rollercoaster

Photo courtesy of http://www.newyorknewyork.com/attractions/the-roller-coaster.aspx 

I got on a rollercoaster today.
It didn’t seem I had a lot of say,
For I never ran toward it in haste,
Yet suddenly I was strapping a seatbelt round my waist.

Then up, and up, and up it climbed–
My heart was soaring and so my mind!
At the very top a wedding march played,
Church doors swung open & the bride was displayed!

Just as I thought I’d burst with delight,
My jubilant heart erupted in fright.
Down and down and down we plunged,
Til we could’ve soaked up our tears with a 10-gallon sponge.

Whizzing past failure, swooping beneath bills,
I lost all sight of my original will.
My heart was consumed with anxiety and doubt,
What did we think marriage was all about?

Then just as suddenly we began our ascent,
Gathered extra money–even paid our rent!
Accepted into seminary, a new job for the wife–
Yes, yes!  Now this is living the life!

Laughing with friends, hosting parties all night,
Once more I could feel my heart racing with delight.
Security!  Stability!  Oh, to be young and free!
Wait…wait…wait…what’s happening to me?!

Stomach growing rounder, ankles swelling fast,
Plunging lower and lower–the freedom’s not gonna last!!
My tummy’s churning madly; I’m puking left and right,
Now suddenly I’m in a rocking chair, crying through the night.

Eyes so bleary, mind so crazy, body worn and stretchy,
The rollercoaster’s reached it’s low…and boy does it look messy.
Poopy diapers, spit-up rags, mommy always crying,
Whoever said it’d be sheer bliss surely must’ve been lying.

And then one day a little coo,
A giggle, a smile, a babble–who knew?
A night full of sleep and those first sweet words,
Motherhood, difficult?  Don’t be absurd!

She’s darling, she’s perfect, she’s utterly sweet!
Look!  Look!  She took a step on her two little feet!
Laughing all day, giving Mommy a kiss,
Life doesn’t get any better than this!

The coaster’s soaring high, the wind in my hair,
She is the greatest answer to prayer!
She’s mine forever and I’ll never leave her,
Wait just a minute…is that a FEVER??

Down, down we go flying in the blink of an eye;
What if it’s incurable…what if she dies??
What if she’s rebellious and my world falls apart?
What if some loser breaks her heart?

How much more can I take?  This coaster’s a bear!
I look left and right–are we getting anywhere?
And then I glance backwards and suddenly I know,
I’ve been on this ride forever and there’s forever left to go.

I stare at the track swerving up ahead:
Jobs, babies, trials…I’ll be riding ’til I’m dead!
“Stop the rollercoaster!”  I scream into the air.
It screeches to a halt and I scurry from my chair.

“What is this hellish ride?”  I demand to know out loud,
Glaring at the driver through eyes like darkened clouds.
“This ride is filled with turmoil; it’s insanity and strife!”
He calmly looks at me and says, “The ride is called ‘Life.’ ”

“I hate it!”  I yell.  “I can’t do it, I know!”
He pauses to consider, then answers kind of slow.
“Perhaps this isn’t the ride for you;
I’ll tell you what you ought to do.

Head to that line you see on the hill,
The passengers say that ride is still.
It’s calm and it’s steady; some even claim
They can sense joy on the parts filled with pain.”

“Yes, yes!”  I nod quickly.  “That’s the ride for me!
Oh, thank you and good-bye!”  I shout out with glee.
I pause and turn back, one thing left to say,
“Just tell me what it’s called, so I don’t lose my way!”

Already my heart is light; the peace I nearly taste
As he looks at me and says, “They call that ride ‘Faith.’ “