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As I was making things for the boys’ parties, Sam remarked, “All women are crafty!” Without making a distinction as to which homophone he may have intended, I’d say this may not be universally true, but I think his statement is right to some degree. He’s said things like this before, and to clarify, it is not in an air of sexism or stereotyping, but rather bewilderment at having married into a family of six women, and after nearly five good-humored years, of still trying to figure out why we are the way we are.

I think it is in the nature of humans to be drawn to things that look good, to want to be surrounded by things we think are nice, to wish to imitate that which we admire. It’s what drives the entire enterprise of Pinterest, am I right? Could it be an effect of being made in the image of God? I mean, as far as I know, no other creatures are quite like this; creative, nurturing, caring for beauty and not just survival. A squirrel doesn’t delight in the state of her pantry, and a mama bear doesn’t make an effort to make her den look cute. Ants and bees are exemplary in the running of their households, but no ant or bee ever marveled at the intricacy and efficiency of their organization, and to be sure the animal model lacks the nurturing effect of love.

I think what we are striving for when we pin those gorgeous homes, adorable crafts, and ingenious household hints is perfection.  Deep down we know we fall short, we have a gnawing sense of discontentment with ourselves and our surroundings. What we seek is outer perfection, what we need is holiness. As we are made in the image of God, but are in fact sinners living in a fallen world, this craving is only natural, and is, I daresay, inescapable. We very well ought to desire holiness, to be perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect.

In the same way I believe it is part of the makeup of women in particular to want our surroundings to be perfect too. Our homes are meant to be a reflection of our eternal home, but how often I get it all wrong in the carrying out of this endeavor. A party is to honor others, but I was thinking of no one but me when I carried on and cursed my stupidity for not knowing basic geometry and rolling out my double-batch of pigs-in-a-blanket pastry to quadruple the proper size. (Divine justice I’m sure for the gloating I was doing not long before as I chuckled at the task of dredging hot dogs—hot  dogs!—in flour for homemade pigs-in-a-blanket.) And it was all about me when I botched the frosting. I should have scraped the bowl during mixing; a realization that became clear only after ¾ of the cake was frosted. Notice there are no close-up pictures of any of the sewing projects I worked on for the parties? That’s because I’m an even worse seamstress than I am a baker, though I may have spent more time trying not to be than I did spending quality time with my boys. A home is to be a haven of comfort, but I’m sure there was not much of that when I snapped at Sam for SITTING DOWN! HOW CAN YOU EVEN THINK OF SITTING DOWN RIGHT NOW THE PARTY IS SUPPOSED TO START SOON AND THERE IS SO MUCH LEFT TO BE DONE! WHY DON’T YOU HELP ME! I appreciate all your kind comments on the posts and pictures of the boys’ birthday parties, but you have to know, what may not be visible in the pictures (or perhaps I’m just fooling myself there, maybe it is) is my pride.

I could go on. And on, and on. I have about a million examples of my failure to make my home a reflection of my heavenly home, let alone be holy myself. Perhaps that should just become the subtitle on the header of this blog, as it truly is a constant theme around here.

The point is, although I am happy with the way both parties turned out, it did not do a thing to remedy that gnawing sense that I have when I browse the internet, that sinking feeling I get when I look at the messy ugliness of my life. Only God is holy, and only he can make me so. I must strive to emulate Him, who by grace has given me a whole year with one of the sweetest baby boys I know; the privilege of being “Mommy” to my favorite three-year-old in the world; a gracious husband who helps me even when I’m awful to him and loves me in spite of it; and generous, loving sisters, parents, in-laws, friends, and grandparents to boot. He is a creative God, maker of all things beautiful, unapproachably holy yet abounding in love so that I may, somehow, with my imperfections and failures, stand before him and be seen not as I am, but as covered by his perfect Son.

I started to write this post weeks ago, before we even celebrated William’s birthday. Shame on me for delaying so long in sharing what really went on behind the scenes of these parties. Writing my thoughts did help me to have a better mindset the second time around, for William’s party, but I still have a twinge of regret for not getting any pictures of the food table in all its glory (because it wasn’t all that glorious), and I know it’s so selfish and silly! And I still want to write a post about the Camping Party games, but now you know. I don’t deserve your words of praise. Is there a good segue from “I’m a sinful, superficial human being,” into “Oh, by the way, here’s that brisket recipe I was telling you about”? Anyway, here it is.

Make Ahead Oven-Barbecued Beef Brisket
Adapted from Cook’s Country
Serves 10

  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1  4 to 5 pound beef brisket, fat trimmed to about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound bacon
  • heavy-duty aluminum foil
  1. Make dry rub: mix all but brisket and bacon together in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees.
  3. Massage dry rub into both sides of meat and poke all over with a fork. (This allows the flavors and fat to permeate the meat = tender and yummy!)
  4. Arrange half of the bacon strips on the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish. Place brisket, fat side down, on top of the bacon, and lay the rest of the strips on top of the brisket, tucking the ends under  the brisket if possible.
  5. Cover the pan with foil and roast until meat is fork-tender, about 4 hours.*
  6. Very carefully remove pan from oven. (I can’t stress this enough. My 5+ pound brisket fit snugly in my pan at the start of cooking. When the time came to take it from the oven, I was unaware it was brimming with juice. I sloshed a lot of it onto my stovetop and into the oven. I’m lucky to not have been burned, but what a mess! So, be careful!) Let the entire pan rest until cool enough to handle.
  7. Lay out a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, large enough to wrap entire brisket. When cool enough to handle, remove bacon from the top of the brisket (save for homemade barbecue sauce, if desired), place brisket fat-side up on the foil, leaving bottom bacon in the pan. Wrap tightly in foil (I do the “match up ends and fold over” method). Now do a second layer of foil.
  8. Refrigerate brisket up to 3 days. About 1 hour before serving, heat brisket in 350-degree oven about 1 hour, or on covered grill, until heated through. (Oven method has not been tested, and since grill temperatures are hard to measure, I can’t give an exact time, but I believe our brisket took less than an hour on the  Smokey Joe. Use your best judgement; the meat should already be fully cooked, you just want to get it up to serving temperature. Overcooking it a little will just yield fall-apart tender meat, and anyway, it’s camping food, not gourmet fancy restaurant food.)
  9. Unwrap brisket, slice against the grain, and serve with barbecue sauce.

For Will’s party, I served our brisket with a jar of Russ and Frank’s BBQ Sauce, but for those who don’t like to waste, you can make your own barbecue sauce with the leftover bacon and cooking juices from your brisket. Since I haven’t tested the recipe or adapted it in anyway, I don’t feel right about posting it on my own blog, but after having mentioned it in a previous post, I thought I’d at least direct you to it over at Cook’s Country. With a pound of real bacon in it, how could it be bad?

By the way, if you end up with leftover brisket, as we did, there’s no better way to use it than smoky, barbecue nachos. I’ll admit, I may have had this idea in mind all along; for quite a while I’d been craving my favorite thing on the menu at Jethro’s, a local barbecue joint, just waiting for an excuse to recreate it. It’s not precise, but here’s the how-to:

Jethro’s Barbecue Nachos
Adapted from Jethro’s BBQ

  • Tortilla chips (You could fry your own, or not.)
  • Leftover barbecue brisket (If you made a whole brisket just for nachos, I would not judge you.)
  • White Cheddar cheese sauce (Again, you could make your own, but I went the lazy route and picked up a can of Rico’s Queso Blanco. I intentionally did not look at the ingredients list, but it tasted decently good, and certainly true to the creamy sauce of the college town sports bar original.)
  • A sprinkle of taco seasoning (Only here must I insist you use the homemade stuff. I have a rough mixture in my cupboard that involves brown sugar, paprika, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, salt, and pepper.)
  • Shredded cheese, if you so desire
  • Sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Pickled jalapenos, if you like ’em

I love these with a drizzle of barbecue sauce, but Sam prefers the classic salsa. Do as you please, or go with both! Jethro’s also tops theirs with smoked corn pico de gallo, so some fresh tomato, onion, chiles, and/or corn could only put these over the top.