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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Exercising Gratitude: 30 Days - 9

Still Thankful

So, it had been my intention to do this the whole month of November, but welcome to me.  Better late than never - at this rate I may have this project done by November of this year :)  What with my life being what it is - you know, acting as chauffeur, lecturer (to children who need a dose of my wisdom), lunch-maker, laundry maid, and pseudo-doctor when Grandma's got major toenail fungus (yes, these days this process of soak, treat, get the water temp just right, occupies a good few hours of my day), or kids are sniffly, and also doing doggie oversight while kids are at school - you know, all that and more, I often have blog posts floating in my head, sometimes popping up at inopportune times (like, midnight or such and I can't drag myself out of bed to wander to the computer to turn it on and blah blah blah...you know).

One of these that has been sitting in my head is that I am thankful for the help of strangers.  There are more than I can count or recall - like the time just after college when I went to visit a friend in Minnesota in the dead of winter and I veered off into the middle pit of a two lane highway...and how a very kind person stopped to help, drove me to their home, let me use their phone to call a tow truck, gave me a cup of something or other and drove me back to the highway after an hour.  I don't know who these people are - at the time I think I got their name and address, intending to send off a thank-you, but as with many things with me, good intentions but poor on the follow-through.  So, if by some chance that kind person ever gets to read this: thank you. 

But more recently I did get a name, and even a number of the kind person that stopped to help me.  And I lost it, but I remember the name, so here I am, thanking God for the kindness of strangers yet again.  It seems I too often end up needing assistance here or there - thanks to my scatterbrained-ness.  Like last year when I went to Chicago for a funeral and forgot my phone.  I took a wrong turn.  I didn't know how to get there - my kids are watching from the backseat wondering how this is all going to go:
"Oh, look, a McDonald's!  I think there's a payphone there!  I'll run in, call Daddy to direct me and we'll be on our way!"
"Sorry, kids, the payphone thingy was empty - I forgot there aren't payphones anymore...oh, look! A taxi! He's parking! Taxi drivers know everything!  I'll ask him!"
Sure enough, the taxi driver DID know everything, and helped me on my way.  To get to this place I stopped to ask at least 4 other people - and all were so helpful.  Lesson I taught my kids: People over technology, every time!  People are so helpful and willing to help and we'll get there and it'll be okay and we don't need to stress, just pray and ask for help.

Well, the 'People over technology' has proved true over and over again.  Just over 2 months ago I was on my way to pick up Caleb from visiting a small college in Iowa.  This time I did not forget my phone! Yay me!  There I am, happily driving along through small towns and enjoying the scenery and imagining a simpler, less-harried life that these quaint, small towns must offer and I suddenly notice I'm low on gas.  Enter technology.  Surely I can pull out my phone and navigate to the nearest gas station.  Surely...NOT.  So I pull over to try to focus more carefully on how to find things.  The thing is, on a regular map, I can turn it around so I'm facing the direction I'm going.  But on a phone map, it keeps turning the map every time I turn the phone, so I get confused and can't figure out my bearings.  I decide I'll just call Sam back at home to ask him to navigate for me...

Sam says, "Are you east or west of (this particular road)?"  I tell him what I think, but I'm looking at the map wrong and got it upside down.  And all this while the car is idling, and I'm beginning to panic - like, oh no, I'm in the middle of nowhere and I'm 2 miles, now 1 mile til empty.  Thank you, technology for so quickly reminding me of my predicament, and for counting down the minutes til I'm high and dry.  I tell Sam, thank you and that a pickup truck has just stopped to check on me since I look fairly randomly placed on the side of a road yelling at my phone.  Hopefully the guy didn't notice my frustration with the phone.

Enter the kindness of strangers: Rich Tessendorf (I think that's what his name was, I lost the paper it was jotted on).  He says, "Can I help you?"  By all means, YES!  "I'm almost out of gas, I just need to get to the nearest gas station."  "Can you make it another mile?  I'm heading that way, just follow me."  And I was ever grateful.  So he leads me to the nearest gas station - embedded in one of those cute little towns I was imagining in my daydreams.  Now, this was an exceptional stranger - and added to my mantra - not only 'People over technology, every time!' But now it is, "Small town people over technology, every time!'  Because not only did he pull into the gas station, but he hopped out to check and make sure all was well.  At this point I'm leaning over to the other seat, digging through my purse to get my wallet.  Wallet...oh where are you, wallet?

Kind stranger stands there.  Watching.  Humoured.  Perhaps chuckling at this sight.  I am mortified.  I know about these situations.  Yes, there's always a story: "I just need a few gallons of gas!  I left my wallet at home..."  And here I am with that story.  And I'm thinking, I know what he must be thinking.  But he's not thinking that.  He is genuine.  Trusting.  I am horrified that I am out in the middle of cute-ville with an empty tank and a wallet that is at home, 2 hours away. 

He offers me money.  MONEY.  I am shocked.  By his kindness.  His helpfulness.  I am thinking he's perhaps an angel - you know, those angel stories you read about in Chicken Soup for the Sentimental Soul books.  (Wait, I'm not sure I've really read those, but I imagine there are these kinds of stories in them).  I am too embarrassed to accept.  He says, "Well, let's go inside and see if they can help."  We walk into the gas station store and he calls out, "Hey Melissa (not sure if I remember her name right), this young lady needs some help."  Now I'm in real small-town culture shock.  The guy just waltzes in and calls the station clerk by name, like that's normal.  As if everyone knows each other's names around here.  And I guess they do.  Not to mention that I don't exactly qualify as a 'young lady,' but I'm touched by the compliment. 

Thankfully they are able to take a credit card over the phone via Sam (Sam is used to coming to my rescue from afar, but in this situation it was like a team was required to help me on my way). 

So, after all that I ponder the kind mercies of God, the blessings of helpful people and the kindness of strangers.  And I think, this - THIS is something to be thankful for.

And if Rich ever happens to see this (or was it Rick?) - thank you, thank you.  People like you restore my faith in humanity.

(Feel free to share if you know this guy)


Monday, December 11, 2017

Exercising Gratitude: 30 Days - 8

I didn't forget about this exercise.  I merely lacked the wherewithall to catch a few uninterrupted moments at the computer.  So I have many more than 30 specific entries to tabulate here...to transfer from handwriting to computer writing.  Thank you for your patience.

So, when I use the term 'today' you may need to realize that that was many days ago...and I am just now able to put it down here.

Today I am thankful for: Kaluvi's Chicken

Okay, now I am sure you are wondering who Kaluvi (said, "Kah-Loo-Vee") is and what's going on with her chicken.

I'm so glad you asked. 

Kaluvi is the woman I met in Zambia about 12 years ago.  She was the house-keeper/helper for Sam's family.  I don't know her well, or hardly at all.  What I do know is she is a local Zambian woman who lives in a village hut with various family nearby.  We would consider her poor perhaps because of different standards of living and wage-earning.  I consider her quite rich when it comes to joy and peace and all the stuff that really matters.  Like most village people in Zambia, Kaluvi had a chicken or two - they keep and raise some chickens for the occasional special event - to have some meat once in a while.  Chickens are an expense - a treat - a commodity. 

I'm talking here about Kaluvi's chicken, but these thoughts will apply to many others who generously give their best, out of their poverty, out of joy and gratitude.  It happened often to my Dad in Vietnam and China and Philippines - people who barely have enough would serve him the best thing they had - the richest most luxurious feast item - to honour him. 

When we came for a visit to Zambia, Kaluvi was so excited to meet me, the one who married Samuel, whom she had known from childhood.  She was overjoyed and overflowed with gratitude for the job she had at the Logan's as well as for the knowledge of God's love, shown to her in Christ.  She wanted to share what little she had to honour us, and she gave us her last chicken.  I remember awkwardly holding this live chicken, not sure exactly how to hold the thing.  I was a bit in shock, realizing that the only appropriate thing to do was to agree to butcher it and eat it.  And of course, the idea of eating the thing I was holding was maybe just a little unappealing and unsettling.  But we agreed to have that chicken for supper that night.  And we did.

Kaluvi teaches me something of gratitude and joy.  She demonstrated for me what we refer to as 'the widow's mite' - that story in Scripture where a poverty-stricken widow puts her last 2 pennies into the coffers as a demonstration of worship and faith.  The religious leaders perhaps scoffed at such a meager gift.  But Jesus affirmed her generosity and blessed her for her faith.  Kaluvi overflowed with generous joy.  And she shows me what I have found to be true so very often: it is the poor in this life who understand faith, who demonstrate generosity, whose hearts overflow with compassion - who give out of their emptiness, who love without restraint.  I know there are the rich who sometimes demonstrate these things too.  But I am encouraged to remember that Jesus blessed those who were poor in spirit, and meek and merciful.  Those who seem to have nothing to give inherit the earth.

So, yes, I'm grateful for Kaluvi's chicken - because it reminds me of joyful generosity, of what it means to extend grace and receive it.  It shows me what giving out of poverty looks like. 

Let's all be givers like Kaluvi - whether it's chickens, dollars, hospitality, graciousness, love, long-suffering, patience, or kindness.  Let's give when it's the last resource we have.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Exercising Gratitude: 30 Days - 7

Creation.

Now, before you balk and say, well, of course we're all thankful for creation...I'm going somewhere with this.  And of course, Creation covers everything so with such a broad category I guess I don't have to finish this project and write anymore posts about what I'm exercising gratitude for.  But so far I've included things like: bananas, my husband, rest - so I'm covering a whole lot of random stuff that comes on my radar, and right now I'm camping out on Creation.  Okay?

(Do I sound in an argumentative mood? Maybe. Sorry, I just have dialogues in my head with no-one in particular and as I write I hear what people are saying back to me, in my imagination of course...no, I'm not hearing voices.  Well, maybe a few...)

My last post was in answer to a question about where we find our worth.  And my answer was long and winding (hum: 'the long and winding road' by the Beatles...as you read that), and circuitous and landed on Creation.  The image of God imprinted on me gives me worth.  (I just saved you having to go back and read all that.  You can thank me later).

But I promised a 'Part 2' to explain how that changes everything for me.

Well, you all probably know I'm pro-life.  I'm also, pro-understanding-the-pro-choice-side.  And for recognizing that any time a political issue is polarizing it probably boils down to overly simplifying the others position.  

But the reason I'm pro-life has everything to do with my belief that the image of God is imprinted on every human being.  That means the one who was born who will never speak or walk or read or hear.  That means the elderly, the frail, the 'weak' of society.  All human life bears God's image and is worth dignity, respect, care and love.  That includes criminals, politicians, people I don't agree with.  It includes gun-toting right-wingers and liberal far-left people.  It means those who love God and those who hate God.  It means the Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Secular Humanists who want to teach evolution.  I know I'm leaving some out, but what I really want to point out is that the image of God in people changes everything - or it should.

It has changed how I parent.  It has changed how I lose my temper (a lot less...because the person you're yelling at is an image-bearer of God and do you want to mar their soul by outbursts of rage that steal their dignity and disrespect the image of God in them).  It has changed how I view domestic violence - both verbal and physical.  

I believe it is hypocrisy for anyone who is pro-life based on Christian views (the image of God in all humans) to protest abortion and yet tolerate child abuse.  It is a double standard.  If churches were as passionate about spousal abuse - the denigration of the personhood of another, whether in word, action or tone, mood, violence - what-have-you - as they are about the politics of abortion, I daresay people would take the Christian message far more seriously.  We proclaim a gospel that focuses solely on the redemption narrative, and forgets the very beginning: we are made in the image of God.  The evangelical church focuses so much on saving the world, and for sure, it needs saving.  I applaud the missionary movement - I love that people serve and give and pour their lives out to reach out in the world for good.  But it saddens me that in the very churches that promote and send missionaries, there is also secrecy about domestic abuse.  The fact that we promote a gospel of salvation and forget the creation account: that all people deserve dignity and respect, kindness, love and that verbal, emotional abuse exists and is harmful and damaging to the souls of people who suffer under it - this is a great sorrow to me.

Now, I know I'm stepping out on some toes here.  Forgive me.  But I wanted to share how the discovery of the image of God in me has radically transformed how I view myself and others.  No longer do I simply take what I read in the Bible as a moral code, but rather underneath it all I see the moral code of Love.  

Do I exemplify this perfectly?  Do I hold myself up as a paragon of loving virtue?  No, I am entirely a work in progress as I trust you are.  But the key word there is 'progress'.  Am I moving, growing, discovering, changing?  Am I finding my inner self being renewed in the image of my Creator?  This is not to create a self-evaluative to-do list.  This is not to bludgeon myself with yet another, "Here's where I don't measure up."  This is to invite wrestling - and to recognize that in the wrestling there lies a blessing.  Jacob wrestled with God Himself, and God changed him.  Forever changed him.

Every day for the rest of his earthly life (and perhaps even in his heavenly one?) Jacob's very steps were marked by that encounter with the living God.  Every effortful step demonstrated his steadfast yearning for the blessing of the One Who made him.  And as I walk, I feel the limp in my soul that defines my every move.  Age shapes our souls.  Movement becomes pained - joints stop working well.  And in this is yet another invitation to ponder, to see, to know and discover the blessing of God.  

Though I limp, I shall not let go until You bless me.

Exercising Gratitude: 30 Days - 6

Natasha.

She's a friend - a classmate from my Hong Kong school days.  I haven't seen and known her since then - so it's not like we really know each other well.  But since the dawning of facebook and how that seems to connect us all in certain ways, she's come back on my radar (Hi, Natasha!!).  So, today I'm grateful for her because she asked this particular question, and I couldn't just blow it off...so I am doing an entire blog post to try to answer it.  Here goes.

Her question:

How do you measure your worth? This is a random and very general question....but I look forward to reading your answers. Do you measure your worth by your paycheck? The friends and family in your life? Academic achievements? Opinions of others?

There are certainly a number of ways this could be addressed.  Instinctively, I think, we all need or long to know or have a sense of our own worth - if only to our selves.  If I value, say, independence, I'll value my worth by the measure to which I achieve (in my own opinion of myself) independence.  So, our worth is subjectively measured by the things we value.  A lot of this has to do with identity - how we see ourselves, what we identify with, things we like and dislike.

I have struggled throughout my entire life with this very issue.  Many of my report cards, which I still have, report that I seem to struggle with self-esteem.  (Well, that should be plainly obvious - who wouldn't given my dismal grades and academic performance!?)  I think it was truer in my youth than now, but who knows - we aren't always as accurate definers of ourselves as we think we are.  At least I'm not (you, whoever you are, probably define yourself just fine).  

I struggled because I could never measure up.  Not to others standards for me, God's standards for me, my parents standards for me, my school's standards for me - or even my own standards for me.  Defining our own worth has everything to do with evaluating and measuring - and in my case I was and still am, on many fronts, a low achiever.  So I muddled my way through, always with a limp in my soul, wondering how I could ever sort myself out.  I couldn't, and didn't and won't ever.  Because sorting myself out, while it sounds grand, is a life-long journey - we're all invited to take the journey, but I daresay, most of us live by default and bury our heads in the sand about who we are, inside and out and live blissfully ignorant til our dying day.  It is my goal to avoid doing that.

So standards of achievement weren't going to cut it for me.  What next?  Success, money, status, appearance (skinny and beautiful, or not skinny and still beautiful or...?), intelligence, career, academics, marriage, kids - how they behave/achieve/look etc. Religion comes into play - how I make my mark on a group of people, say the right things, use 'Christianese' with ease, know the right theology, adhere to a certain group of thinkers...you know - these can all define our worth, in our own eyes, as much as anyone else's.

Until a year or two ago I would've said I figured it out: that I had landed on the 'ANSWER' to defining worth.  That's because I love theology, have studied it at length, and I love the Bible, and I love to know things, and I love to understand people and problems and solve them.  In fact, on more than one occasion I leave from getting a haircut saying, "And now that we've solved the world's problems, we can go back to normal life."  

My answer would have been: Jesus.  (Because, you know, Sunday school?)  Our identity and worth is totally wrapped up in Jesus, if we know Him, have Him, are found in Him.  It's fairly good theology.  And I still kind of believe that.  But it is simplistic.  It isn't enough.  It doesn't go deep enough.  It doesn't acknowledge other realities (like, what about people who don't know Jesus?  Are they not worth anything?  Are those not in Christ worth less than I am? - No, a thousand times, NO.)  You see, good theology is good, but unless you turn it on all sides and ask all kinds of questions what seems good on the outside may be empty on the inside.

So, before you ultra-conservatives out there (if you're still reading, have I lost you yet?!), cry heretic and run, hear me out.  Yes, understanding that Jesus died for me, so of course I'm worth something, is great and all - but it is a truncated gospel.  It ignores the creation account, and the re-creation account.  Creation is a theme throughout Scripture, not just in Genesis.  It pops up in Job, the Psalms (think, 8 and 19 off the top of my head), in the gospel of John, in Pauline epistles (think 1 Corinthians 5:17), and in the Revelation (think: new heavens and new earth).  And it is in these narratives and themes that I come to the beginning of an understanding of my worth. 

The evangelical, gospel-answer to this that: Jesus died to save me gives me worth - has been found wanting for me.  It is true, and it is wonderful, and I love that I can know the living God through the redeeming work of Christ on my behalf on the cross - by all means, the Cross is the crux of it all: "May I never boast except in the cross of Christ." (to quote St. Paul).  But I cannot rest myself on this alone for my worth because there are many who don't know Christ who have immeasurable worth.  And I must affirm that they have significance and worth even without Christ.  By all means, if you are without Christ, I'd invite you to know Him, come to Him, seek Him.  But I can without a doubt tell you, you have inestimable worth because you were formed, fashioned, created and imprinted with the very fingerprints of God.  You were made, you are known, you are loved, you are shaped and formed by the God Who made this world and all the beauty you see in it.  Any place you find worth - what you achieve, what you have, the gifts and talents you are blessed with, your intelligence, your hard-work, your effort, your progeny, your depth, your wisdom/insight - can come up short and leave you helpless with an incurable soul-ache.  Your mind can fail.  Your money can be taken from you.  Your wonderful children can become wicked, go off the deep-end, suffer tragedy and whatnot.  Your career can tank.  Anything else you know or have or rely on can come up short for you.  

But if you are a human being, you are made in the image of God.  He has imprinted you with inestimable worth.  When Jesus was confronted with the issue of paying taxes, he asked for a coin.  "Whose image is on here?" he asked.  "Caesar's" they replied.  "Then, give what is Caesar's to Caesar and to God what is God's."  We can marvel at His wit and wisdom, but let us not miss the crucial point: We are imprinted with the very image of God.  We are His.  We can give our money to Caesar (rightly), and we can give ourselves to God (rightly).  

Now, you may come at life from some other angle.  That's fine - I'd love to hear your perspective.  But I have wrestled through this theme throughout my life and this is the point I've arrived at (which can always change in the future, because, you know, I'm always growing and learning).  

The image of God imprinted on me, gives me worth.  

In Part 2 I will explain how that impacts and changes everything for me.

Exercising Gratitude: 30 Days - 5

Unanswered Questions.

Today I am thankful that many of the questions we face in life remain unanswered.  Why would I ever be grateful for such a thing?  Glad you asked.

If every struggle were met with a pat answer - a manual of 'here's the how and why and what of every question ever' - the inquisitive side of me might lose vigor.  I might fall flat, mope about, unmotivated to seek, to discover, to find.  I'd have all the answers, and I'd live blinded to the journey of discovery.
That's why.

Because unanswered questions invite trust, faith, learning, engagement, hope, surrender, joy, peace.  The unknown can be scary.  The unanswered questions can cause tension, confusion - pain, even. 

To me, the unanswered questions sit, not begging an answer (though on the surface, that's how it seems - but need I remind you, things aren't always what they seem?), but begging to be noticed, heard, pondered.  What do my questions say about me?  What do they say about who I am, what I need, what I'm missing, what I'm longing for, what the deep yearnings of my soul are? 

Questions - especially unanswered ones don't always need an answer.  They need knowing, understanding, openness.  One of my favourite quotes is by Frederick Buechner: "God does not give answers.  He gives Himself."

And the truth in that is worth pondering.  I would say that perhaps God does sometimes give answers - or more likely, we'd like to think He does.  That we have Him figured out to the degree that we can with resolute confidence declare that we have heard/read/understood the answers He's given. 

But I think Beuchner is right.  Jesus said, "Come to ME, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."  He said, "I AM the way, the truth and the life."  He said, "I came that they might have life, and life abundantly."  I haven't found the part where He said, "I came to explain everything to you, and to give you answers.  I came to give you a new code, a checklist of statements that, once you agree to them, you inherit the kingdom of heaven."  Buechner is right:  God gives us Himself, if we'll have Him.  If we'll hear the invitation.  If we are drawn by such grace.  If we can sit with unanswered questions and instead find the love we long for in the person of Christ.

Because I have a hunch that ultimately most of our unanswered questions lie somewhere in the realm of, "Does God really love me?"  (There are of course many other categories of unanswered questions, like, "Why can't I get my computer to work?"  or "Why won't my kid get his shoes on?" or "What is a black hole?" or "Could Einstein have been wrong?" - you know, those kinds of things...but I digress).
Sorry for the rabbit trail.

Most of the pressing, deeply felt, yearnings that prompt the unanswered questions that sit on our souls like dead weight, asking to be acknowledged - most of these stem from a kind of deep need we may not know we have.  The need to know, understand, feel, discover and welcome the love God has for us.  I believe this to the very core of my very fragmented, broken, sometimes wandering, self.

So yes, I am thankful for unanswered questions.  And mostly for the invitation they present to be drawn into the loving embrace of my Heavenly Father Who has given me Himself.

"He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?"  Romans 8

Monday, November 6, 2017

Exercising Gratitude: 30 Days - 4

Rest.

I am thankful for a chance - though rare - to rest.  Sometimes it is more needed and more scarce.  Other times rest is abundant (maybe, on some planet, somewhere, perhaps...not sure). 

I am grateful to be given the opportunity to rest; that I have a choice to carve out time for it; that I have support to help me find it - somehow, somewhere.

Perhaps it is on my 'gratitude radar' lately because I've been craving it so badly.  And last week I came down with an irritating cold/allergies/sniffles/misery.  And it landed just as Sam and I were planning to head away for a weekend for nothing more exciting than rest: undefined time, no agenda, no deep, spiritual goals or anything - just rest.

I hear it is hard for some people to rest.  I know of those people.  I secretly admire them.  They are productive, energetic, happy hard-workers.  If that is you: Go You!!  Woo hoo!!  That is not me.  So here I sit, recognizing that the stillness and quiet of undefined moments and hours is a cool water to my parched soul.

Our weekend away was great...until the ride home where we conflicted (read: fought, argued, misunderstood each other) - irritatingly so.  In hashing that out with Sam I recognized he was very glum about ending our time on a sour note.  I said, "Can you be thankful for conflict?"  There's more to that, but I put it out there because I can welcome rest because it is in contrast to busy-ness, to stress, to intensity.

And so I end with a beautiful poem/hymn that reminds me how the backdrop of our lives highlights the blessings we welcome and often fail to recognize:

As water to the thirsty, as beauty to the eyes,
As strength that follows weakness, as truth instead of lies;
As song-time and spring-time and summer-time to be,
So is my Lord, my living Lord, so is my Lord to me.

Like calm in place of clamour, like peace that follows pain,
Like meeting after parting, like sunshine after rain;
Like moonlight and starlight and sunlight on the sea,
So is my Lord, my living Lord, so is my Lord to me.

As sleep that follows fever, as gold instead of gray,
As freedom after bondage, as sunrise to the day;
As home to the traveler and all we long to see,
So is my Lord, my living Lord, so is my Lord to me.

(Timothy Dudley-Smith)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Exercising Gratitude: 30 Days - 3

Bananas.

It seems a crime to run out of them at our house.  The perfect on-the-go snack - all-natural packaging, densely caloric. 

And when you get too many and they start to ripen, and friends are about to come over and you need to whip out a cake in no time...bananas to the rescue.

And when your kids need extra calories to pack on them for school lunches...bananas.

And when you can't think of anything to eat - grab a banana.  Or make banana bread.

I'm glad God invented the humble banana, and that people in their creativity invented banana recipes. 

Food is interesting - we share recipes and forever link it to a person.  Every time I make banana bread I think of Robyn, who gave me the recipe.  And I have some recipes that are hand-written by faithful friends - seeing Becky's handwriting on my Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe always reminds me of the days in her kitchen when she was whipping up a batch and serving them warm and gooey fresh from the oven.  Memories like these inspire me and make me want to be that kind of Mom. 

So, for today, I give you Robyn's Banana Bread (of course you can call it Sarah's, or whatever, since now I'm the one giving it to you :) ), and Nisa's Banana Cake.  (While 6 loaves sit baking in my oven)...

Robyn's Banana Bread

Cream: 2 c. sugar, 1 c. shortening
Add: 6 ripe mashed bananas, 4 eggs well beaten
Mix: 2 1/2 c. flour, 1 t salt, 2 t. baking soda

Spray pans
Blend wet and dry ingredients.
Don't overmix

350 degrees 45-50 minutes, do the toothpick test.  Then another 1/2 hour probably.

Since I can never follow a recipe exactly, and because this is a heavy laden recipe - I like to add a few things to give it more heft: substitute up to half with whole grain flour, add wheat germ, wheat bran, oats, nutritional yeast flakes.  I just toss in a bit of whatever healthy stuff I have around.

Nisa's Banana Cake (with modifications by me!)

1 yellow cake mix
1 1/4 water
1/3 c. oil
3 whole eggs
2 large mashed banans
2 t baking soda
****Extra optional ingredient: Almond cake and pastry filling (this makes everything yummy)

(Mix and bake til done)

Frosting:
12 oz cream cheese
1/4 c. butter/margarine
2 t. vanilla extract (I use a little almond extract too)
4 c. powdered sugar