Category Archives: Hospitality

I’ve Moved to Redeeming the Table Blog

Redeeming the TableI no longer write here, but you can come to Redeeming the Table, which is my new blog.  I write on hospitality, storytelling & food.  If you’ve subscribed to Evangitality via RSS or email, then come over & change it to Redeeming the Table.

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You Say Goodbye & I Say Hello

It’s with immense joy that I get to say “Goodbye” to my beloved blog Evangitality.  I’ve been evaluating my life a lot and I keep running into clutter.  Whether it be my dresser top, my basement, my inbox…it’s always there.  It feels like it’s symbolic of the times with two young children (the creators of constant clutter trails); yet, I cannot help but find myself looking for a place of semblance, a quiet place I call my own.  Interesting isn’t it.  I long for a place, or an environment I can control.  Except, hospitality is anything but that.  I guess that’s why it’s so hard to truly extend hospitality.  Why so many of us want to give sacrificiously.  To give with everything we have to make the world a better place.  We want to give yet still control the world in which we live.  Unfortunately, we can’t have both.

I am on a journey to embrace this constant loving & giving word…idea.  It’s both noun & verb, they live side by side.  We cannot simply talk about this great idea of how to extend hospitality and leave it as noun; rather, we must allow the action…the verb…to marry the noun.  And that is where I’ve decided to say goodbye to Evangitality.

I’m not saying goodbye because I don’t want to embrace hospitality.  I’m saying goodbye to bring more cohesion to the story.  I feel my time at Evangitality has been fruitful and wonderful.  I’m thankful to have a place to share my heart for loving others, sharing stories & yum food.  But….

I’ve always been a bit annoyed with the name Evangitality.  Whenever I see someone in public they can never pronounce the name.  I’m big on correct pronunciation of words (and correct spelling), especially when the name is dear (as in someone’s first name, or something they love).  I’m never annoyed with the people who cannot pronounce the word Evangitality; rather, I’m annoyed with myself that I made it so difficult.

I felt like the name Evangitality is so limiting to what I can write about (because I have more than recipes & hospitality brewing in my head & heart).  I wanted to journey in a less cramped place (blog).

Another thing is I have a personal family blog that some of you don’t read.  I write little updates about my family, share videos, photos and basically (let’s face it) give grandparents a dose of their grandchildren.

I wanted to combine my worlds into one space.

I brood over possible names, Genuine Hospitality, Radical Hospitality, but those too were a bit too confine.  Then, I began thinking how I really love storytelling.  You know, that oral tradition that has almost died in our culture, but it’s kept alive by a couple of embers in the pit.  And not only do I love stories & storytelling, but I really like food.  It’s something people associate with me.  So call me crazy, but I thought I should incorporate that into the title.

I thought, Around the Fire sounded nice.  You know, we cook around the fire, oral tradition of telling stories around the fire, we commune around the fire, etc.  But, I wasn’t sold and when you type it in a search engine you get this weird movie that came out in the 90s, which I wouldn’t want my blog associated with.

My friend Hilary (who will be writing a guest post soon) suggested, Around the Table, recalling scenes from Moonstruck and the sacredness of the table.  I liked it, but wasn’t completely sold.  Then, I went back to look at my personal mission statement and there was one word that popped out to me.  I adore this word.  In fact, if Tayers had been a boy, her middle name would have been Ransom, which means Redemption.  When I look over my story, I see God’s redeeming hand in it all.  When I look at life, I’m always reminding of this word…Redemption/redeem/redeeming.  That’s why I am so happy saying goodbye to Evangitality and saying HELLO to:

 

Click on the picture to take you to Redeeming the Table

Join me in saying goodbye & saying hello.  I am thankful for you readers who keep coming back and even more thankful for those of you who encourage me in writing & posting (you are a source of my joy).


In Like a Lion

Hopefully March will be out like a lamb.  I’ve been bathing in 48 degree weather, which sounds terribly cold to this native Arizona, but the acclimated Washingtonian…it sounds incredible.  I’ve been relishing in time with Ben, my girls, friends & a nice visit with my mom.  Life is too short to feel tied to blogging (since I don’t do it for a living) or keep my incoming traffic here consistent.  I would be defined as a failure in blogging terms (i.e. don’t allow days at a time without a post), which is bull if my aim in life were to live for the stats & being popular.

But I suspect that I, like you, have other things in life that need to be lived and if that means taking a break; well, then a break it is.  I was recently on a date with Ben and he was talking about how much he needed to be surrounded by good music & books.  Then, he went on to say, “life’s too short to read boring books.”  Isn’t that true!  In so many areas of our life, I feel like we could sub the “read…books” part and put something else in.  It’s finding the areas that are enriching to our souls, mind & body.  Life truly is too short to read boring books, to short to watch crap shows/movies, to short to fill my time with life outside of my own reality.  Lent is this Wednesday, and again I’m reminded to quiet my soul & mind, in order for me to hear what is truly good.  To fill my body & soul with good & lovely things.  To know what life is worth living for (because it is shorter than I know).  Wherever you are on life’s journey, I hope you are finding those still & quiet moments to fill it with the truly good things.

 

I have a big surprise coming in my next post, which might come out tomorrow or Tuesday.  Stay tuned!


Final Thoughts on Mission Statements

 

In coming up with a mission statement, it’s good and easy to have one; yet, much more difficult to stick with it.  In Part 1, “what makes you unique?,” we address & answer that first, most vital question.  It’s the map that sets us on our journey.  In Part 2, “what’s your rally cry, your top priority?,” we address & answer how to eliminate stress by focusing on one area (rally cry) in our lives we can work on (& achieve in 2-6 months), which will help us stick to our journey.  Now, in Part 3, the final question remains.

Question #3: How do you talk about and use the answers to your questions?

It’s one thing to know what makes you unique.  It’s also another to know one area to focus on to eliminate stress & lack of vision/focus.  Yet, it’s another thing to know how you are going to accomplish it.  We could write a grandiose mission statements filled with our core values & strategic values.  We could have our rally cry that sings in unison with our soul & mind, creating a Zen-like space, free of clutter & distraction.  Better yet, picture yourself 50 lbs overweight.  You tell yourself, “I’m better than this.  I deserve more for my life!”  So, you go out and buy some exercise clothing, rid your house of the junk food and fill your fridge with clean, nutritious food.  You tell yourself, “By the end of the year, I’m going to be one hot mama/dude!”  You make the appointment with the gym and start your regime to better health.  After your first workout you think, “this is hard, I don’t know if I can do this.”  You look in your fridge and wonder, “salad with chicken doesn’t sound appetizing.” Your body says, “OH.MY.GOSH.  I didn’t know there were muscles here,” you’re in pain.  You go the next day to stick with the plan, because you remember your long-term goal.  Yet, by the second week, you sleep in…missing the gym.  You begin to buy a couple more food items away from what you intended.  You find yourself paying for a gym membership that isn’t being used.  Question 3 helps us continue going to the gym, eating healthily without letting the food rot and the exercise clothes sit clean in the drawer.  Here’s how…

1. Find a time every week to evaluate.

Spend 10 minutes every week (preferably on the same day) going over your ‘rally cry’ and the defining objectives & standard objectives.  Are you finding that your defining objectives might have been too vague (notice I redefined one of mine)?  Or did you try to over achieve?  Were the objectives too narrow that no one could fit through them?  If so, you might need to tweak it a bit.  If you find it hard doing this on your own, then maybe there is a trusted friend or spouse you could share your rally cry with and they can help you with accountability.

2. Keep it Visible

It’s one thing to have your mission statement, rally cry, & objectives written out.  It’s another thing to have them in clear view to see everyday.  Keep them posted for you to see and be reminded of who you are and where you are headed. Put them in a place you walk past every single day.

Kamille’s Scoreboard

1. What is my top priority right now?

My Rallying Cry: “Creating a gentle spirit that listens.”

Defining Objectives:

  1. Spend time in solitude every week (have scheduled internet times).
  2. Pray earnestly for the Spirit’s empowerment daily, begin with this each morning.
  3. Journal 3xs a week.
  4. Spend quality listening time with each family member everyday (start with five minutes).
  5. Cultivate a heart that allows interruptions, mess…play with the girls, embracing this daily.
  6. Update: Go to bed by 10:00, in order to have a well rested body & spirit.

Standard Objectives:

  1. Exercise & maintain health
  2. Marriage
  3. Home administration
  4. Girls & family fun (means our family of four)
  5. My Spiritual Life

2. What makes me unique?

I’ve been blessed with a sensitive spirit, which is moved into action by standing up for righteousness, especially for people. I value my relationship with Jesus and how he has imparted me with a storyteller’s heart and redeemed my story. Through this, I am called to encourage & empower my family & others to find their story and how to connect to others with it. I also value good, quality food and love creating nutritious & delicious food through cooking & baking. All of these have ignited a strong call to genuine hospitality within me.

3. How will I talk about and use the answers to this information?

I will spend time on Sunday afternoon evaluating how effective I have been in following the defining objectives.  I will include Ben on this conversation for accountability.  I will look over journal entries & track my sleep time as well for encouragement.

 

Where are you finding yourself among these questions?  Where in your life is asking to be your rally cry?  Which question seems the most discouraging or daunting?  Add to the conversation to impart your unique perspective.

 

Part 1, 2, & 3 have been influenced & inspired by Patrick Lencioni’s book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family.
A Year Ago: Mascarpone Chocolate Cheesecake

A Mission Statement…Now What?


Part 1: What Makes You Unique?: Writing a Personal Mission Statement

Can I just say that I feel very “legit” and “organizational” writing up posts like this one and How to Write a Personal Mission Statement?  I’m a bit scared, not because it’s totally out of the ordinary, but how much I love this sort of thing and my nerdy side is coming out.  You might also be thinking, “how does writing a personal mission statement have anything to do with Evangitality?”  I would wage to say it has everything to do with it.  Whether, you are a free-spirit individual embracing spontaneity & labeled with a “P” on Myers-Briggs; or, you like a bit more structure, and direction of where you are headed with a “J” on Myers-Briggs…all of us need to have some element of intentionality in life.  We need to know what it is we value and who we are if we are going to show genuine love & hospitality to the many people we encounter.

So, maybe you finished your personal mission statement and are wondering what you do with it?  Or you haven’t started and you don’t know if you ever will, because let’s face it, there is still that box of old stories on tape that you promised your husband you would go through to declutter and bring order to your life (oops, maybe that’s just me?).  Either way, I believe having a mission statement is good for destination & keeping one on track.  However, a mission statement alone doesn’t help us navigate through the journey to get to the final destination, which is what question 2 of the Big 3 Questions addresses…

1. What is your rally cry?  What is your Top Priority?

It doesn’t take much to figure out your rally cry–really, it doesn’t.  Make a list of a couple things that you see right here and now as a hindrance to get to your destination.  It’s not a science.  Overthinkers need not apply.  Choose something that you can achieve within 2-6 months–that’s it.  It your rally cry can be fixed in a week, don’t choose it.  If it’s something that takes longer than 6 months…leave it alone.  Pick one thing to rally around.  Here was my list:

  1. Being gentle in my responses.
  2. Having an activity everyday for my girls.
  3. Do gross motor exercises with V everyday.
  4. Provide nutritious meals for my family.
  5. Provide spiritual growth opportunities for the girls.
  6. Develop storytelling curriculum.

As you can see, all of these happen to align with my personal mission statement.  And any of them would be good to pick.  I can stress (probably like others) about picking the best one, or wondering if I don’t pick the gross motor exercises for V then I’ll be throwing her further behind in her development.  Or if I don’t pick spiritual growth, then my girls might become spiritually destitute (a little dramatic flare thrown in for good measure).  But, when I boiled it down, I knew I wanted & needed a gentle spirit that listens above all else.  My rally cry is:

“Creating a gentle spirit that listens.”

2. Create Defining Objectives

Once you have picked your rally cry that can be accomplished in 2-6 months, write up five defining objectives on how you will get there.  These should be clear & concrete (and tangible).  Granted, my rally cry of creating a gentle spirit that listens isn’t as tangible (or even as measurable) as #2: Providing activities for my girls everyday; however, I think my rally cry is more essential to the person I desire to become.  Here are my Five Defining Objectives:

  1. Spend time in solitude every week (have scheduled internet times).
  2. Pray earnestly for the Spirit’s empowerment daily, begin with this each morning.
  3. Journal 3xs a week.
  4. Spend quality listening time with each family member everyday (start with five minutes).
  5. Cultivate a heart that allows interruptions, mess…play with the girls, embracing this daily.
  6. Update: Go to bed by 10:00, in order to have a well rested body & spirit.

Not easy, but doable.  Notice that I didn’t say I would journal everyday, or spend an hour (or even 1/2 hour) with each family member, it’s about scaling it to what I can do and building upon it.

3. Create Standard Objectives

Standard Objectives are those areas in your life that always need to get done while you focus on your rally cry.  Again, yours will look different from mine.

  1. Exercise & maintain health
  2. Marriage
  3. Home administration
  4. Girls & family fun (means our family of four)
  5. My Spiritual Life

Maybe after reading all of this you are feeling a bit overwhelmed?  I hope you give yourself grace as you walk through these steps.  Allow yourself the freedom to become intentional without legalism.  Look at your present, forgive yourself from your past failures and walk in freedom with your future.  When in doubt, watch What About Bob and begin chanting, “babysteps!”

A Year Ago: New Beginnings & Chockful Blondies and Homemade Graham Cracker Sandwiches

Apricot Rosemary Bars & Post Whole 30 Living

The end of Whole 30 has come & go and I’m able to eat whatever I’d like.  If I want chocolate, I can.  If I want dairy, I can.  If I want to continue eating Whole 30 style, I can.  After reading about my limitations during November, you might think I would wholeheartedly forgo what I did in those 30 days.  But, I have found a different kind of freedom and my tummy (and more) actually has made it quite clear what should not go in it.

I think the hardest part for me is the anxiety about eating food that might be less than optimal for me.  I have gained not only a leaner body, but the best energy level I’ve ever known.  I even got to a place where I wasn’t even tempted to eat sugar, drink a mocha, or have a pastry.  I have come to recognize where my pitfalls are along the way (sugar is huge).  I feel like I’ve found food salvation.  A freedom to eat to nourish, sustain & enjoy without partaking in what might be viewed as “extras.”  And I truly would love for everyone I love to give it a try, because I think it will not only tell them a bit about their physical body, but mental & spiritual body as well.

Where do I stand at this point in life.  I haven’t felt any better than I did during Whole 30 and the days following.  When I added gluten, dairy, sugar or corn back into my body (even in small amounts) it didn’t leave me with a great, healthful, energetic feeling.  Dairy hit my stomach with gurgles.  Gluten has done some other stuff, along with inflammation throughout.  While sugar is a big one.  Just the littlest amount made me sick.  However, being a couple of weeks off of the challenge, I have had a bit more sugar than I would have liked to put in.  I’ve realized that although I had a sugar upset in the first couple weeks (post Whole 30), it would go away if I continued to feed my body sugar.  My body would get use to the upset; however, a host of other problems occurred that had gone away when I wasn’t partaking in sugars.

What I’ve discovered so far is I’m pretty sure I’m going to eliminate gluten from our household, along with most grains (gluten and non); as well as, limit sugar intake.  (Sidenote: I’ve also noted the rise of behavioral episodes in my girls when they have had refined sugars & gluten in their system) I like what these posts have to say about living out a balanced life.  I’ve hit a place in my life where I actually don’t feel like I’m missing out by not having a mocha, or gluten-filled goodness.  I have also realized that I’m excited about balancing out the sweets I make, and the challenge I get to embrace by transferring all my baking & cooking knowledge to this new food eating thing.  So, if I can share one of my first baked goods creations with you, I’m certain you’ll be surprised that this does not fit in the ‘bleh’ gluten-free, sugar-free, grain-free category.

Here are my Apricot Rosemary Bars. I spotted them in the book Baked Explorations.  I knew that I would need to change it up quite a bit.  And let it be known that I’m not willing to compromise taste, or make something that was once texturally appealing is now very ‘bleh.’  I am also fine with using butter.  If I can sub in another form of healthy fat, then I will.  But when a recipe would benefit from the buttery goodness found in “butter,” then you’ll find it here.  But…I will still keep my recipes with gluten and non on this blog, because they are apart of my journey.  And you will receive no scorn from me if you check out some of my other goodies from last year–Merry Christmas!

P.S. Today is my nephew Lucas’ birthday.  I still remember seeing him just a week old, while Tayers was 6 weeks.  He was a little pipsqueak, but so very precious.  His parents were overcome with joy as their anticipation was finally revealed.  Seems fitting as he was born just two days before Christmas.  Happy Birthday sweet Lucas!

A Year Ago: Gingerbread Man Pancakes & Swedish Tea Ring (Vetekrans)

Rosemary Squares (printable recipe)

This recipe is inspired from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  I have revamped quite a bit from the original; however, the spirit of the original is still fully in this recipe.  I used Honeyville Blanched Almond flour.  I also used California dried apricots and not the typical, sweeter ones you find, which are a product of Turkey.  Opt out of the product of Turkey and find the California ones, which are a bit more tart and a beautiful, bright orange (Trader Joes carries them).  Also, I don’t have a dilemma in using real butter; yet, I chose to do half coconut oil & butter.  Another fat option for the shortbread might be olive oil.  If you are wanting to make this without the egg yolk–it would be fine.

For the rosemary shortbread dough:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, chilled
6 Tb coconut oil
1/3 cup + 2 Tb (70g) raw clover honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of half a lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 cups (250g) almond flour
1 egg yolk

For the apricot filling:

2 cups (8 ounces, 230g) California dried apricots (not from Turkey)
1 1/2 cups (375ml) water
3 tablespoons (60g) honey
pinch of salt

For the crumb topping:

1 cup (85g) almond flour
1 Tb raw clover honey
1/3 cup (40g) pecans chopped
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, chilled

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9-inch (23cm) square pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides of the pan.

2. Make the rosemary dough by creaming the butter & coconut oil for about 1 minute, or until it’s fluffy & creamy.  Add the egg yolk and mix just till combined. Add the salt, vanilla, lemon zest, and rosemary, then add the 3 cups almond flour, mixing until the dough is smooth and all the ingredients combined.  The dough will be more sticky, but not wet.

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and pat it flat into the bottom of the pan. Spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula.  (if you want to refrigerate for 30 minutes you can; however, I did not and it was fine.)

(No need to wash the mixer bowl; you can use it as is for the crumb topping in step #7.)

4. Bake the rosemary shortbread for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Once baked, let the shortbread cool to room temperature.

5. Make the apricot filling by combining the apricots, water, honey, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, or until all the liquid has just about been absorbed. Let cool for a few minutes, stirring, then puree in a food processor until smooth.

6. Make the crumb topping by mixing together the 1 cup (85g) almond flour, honey, pecans, salt, and butter in the bowl of the stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, until the mixture just barely starts clumping together.

7. Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread in the pan evenly, then top with the crumb topping and bake for 25 minutes, until the topping is browned.

8. Remove from oven and let bars cool completely in pan.

To slice, lift the bars out of the pan by grasping the edges of the parchment paper. Slice into squares.


Finding Your Voice

There are those moments when I want to chase after my dream of performing vocally, buy a mandolin & join a band.  They are fleeting, meaning they only last a couple days.  But, I miss singing with other musicians.  I miss finding my voice.  My voice singing that perfect song lifting the melody up like a free flying bird in the blue sky.  Or my voice slowly melting like butter against the tongue as it accentuates the melody with it’s dear old friend called harmony.  It’s no wonder we chose the name Cadence for our youngest as she kicked twice as hard when I sang with the bass.  It’s seeped in our veins.  Every person, whether musician, vocalist, longs to find their voice.

Do you ever feel like your looking for your voice in all the wrong places?  It’s easy to do in our day of instant messaging & communication.  We forget how to find our original voice as it gets lost & muffled among so many others.  I have found myself searching for my voice; whether it be in the musical sense or life sense.  I wrote about something similar about comparison & living life looking through rose colored glasses.  And although I’ve written about it before, I’m reminded time & again how vital it is as a person to find the voice I was given and embrace it.

But like the beauty of life, seasons change the elements.  In this season of Advent & Christmas, I have purposed to not put any expectations of busyness on me or my family; while, I have purposed to say yes to rest & togetherness.  Today I was encouraged & reminded of just this…resting in the mercies I’ve been given.  Resting in the peaceful baby King born in a lonely stable.  Resting in knowing I do not need to fill my week with buying more presents, baking new cookies, writing a Christmas letter, or staying stagnant in hopelessness.  I’m filled with awe & wonder that this baby King has given me a voice of hope to sing.

And that’s why I haven’t been here lately.  I’ve been resting from any expectation to blog, to do what I feel someone else expects of me, but to listen.  This is critical in being hospitable, which the false hospitality world would make you think is anything but that.  In order to love, make room for the stranger/guest, we need to listen to find our voice amidst all the other voices.  We might need to take a backseat and say no.  We need to be more like Mary who took the time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.  We might need to neglect the duties, the expectations of tending or organizing all of life.  I would love to hear where you are finding your voice these days?  Where are you finding your voice being muted?  Where are you finding it come to life?

Have a restful week and embrace the hope!

Coming Up This WeekApricot Rosemary Bars…gluten-free, refined sugar-free and you wouldn’t even know it!  Get ready by having the ingredients:

  • blanched almond flour
  • raw honey
  • coconut oil
  • butter
  • pecans
  • California dried apricots
  • lemon
  • fresh rosemary

A Year Ago: Grandma’s No Bakes, Orange Cardamom Cookies, & French Lentil Soup


Thankful with Sweet Potato Goodness (& so much more)

The words that penetrated my soul the most, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.” This was part of a guest speaker’s story. She was a small Honduran woman, measuring a mere 4 feet and 9 inches, but she made up for it with tremendous heart & conviction. Her name, Danubia Orellana Lopez, and she is apart of the Agros village of Brisas del Volcan.

Danubia was the speaker at the Agros International fundraiser dinner Ben and I attended at the end of October.  It seemed fitting that we attended just days before we plunged into doing this 30 day challenge.  Agros is an amazing organization, who seeks to empower people in Central America & Mexico through micro loans to purchase land.  Many of these people, like Danubia, lived in the slums and had to wake up at 2:30 am to walk 2 hours to get to the farm (to which she & her husband worked for someone else), work an 18 hour day and only get paid $.40 a day.  She recalls the times when payday arrived and the owner of the land wasn’t there to pay her & her husband.  Those were the days when all she could offer her children was water to fill their bellies.  She also recalled a time at the age of 14, when her mother only had 3 eggs to feed the 14 kids….I am truly blessed.

I can’t imagine that world.  To feel absolutely defenseless and unable to give your children a basic necessity.  Agros seeks to extend both physical means to these people who are willing to work REALLY hard to till their land; but, also give them emotional/spiritual means.  They come in to teach the people how to cultivate the land, how to educate themselves, how to make financial deals, etc.  What Agros does, is tell these people like Danubia, that if they are willing to want something more, then they can have it.  More importantly, what Agros does & says to them, “You are worth it!  You have value!”

Danubia spoke of telling her mother that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.  Her mother said, “Danubia, people like us don’t dream, because our hearts just get broken.”  After Agros came in to empower Danubia, her family & community, she and other women worked together to make the men realize that they are just as important & valuable as them.  And you know what, after the women worked just as hard, the men realized that these women, their women, had dignity & value.

When I think about what Evangitality means–this is it.  This is the global representation of it.  It’s finding value, dignity & worth in each individual, because they are created in God’s image.  It’s empowering them by giving them a hand up, and not a hand out.  It’s not entitlement, because there are many people who choose to stay in slums so they can keep their TV or refrigerator.  Instead, it’s for the people who want something more, who want to dream.  Life without dreams isn’t a life worth living, and Danubia knew this.

Walking back to the hotel that night, I told Ben, “You know, the poor in America aren’t that poor.  They still get assistance.  They’re not putting their children to bed without food.”  It has made me more thankful than ever.  And that’s why I give thanks before my meals.  I thank God that I have more than enough to fill my family’s bellies.  So when I’ve been cranky during this 3o day challenge, or hear people whining about, “Oh, I ONLY get meat, vegetables, limited fruit & nuts, and eggs,” I’m reminded of Danubia’s words, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.”  Oh how I have nothing to complain about, and everything to give thanks about.

I’m thankful for simple meals too.  So simple it seems almost too good to be true.

A Year Ago: Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Sea Salted Caramel Frosting &   Oatmeal Carmelitas

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Goodness (printable recipe)

This is for one sweet potato, but you could easily increase the amount and play with the ingredients.  If you’re not a cinnamon fan, sub some nutmeg (but go easy on it) or add some smoked paprika.

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

1 tsp coconut oil

dash sea salt

2 Tb pecans

sprinkle cinnamon

Directions: Bake a sweet potato on 350 for 30 minutes or so (check a source, I’m that person who pops it in and doesn’t worry about it).  Do this the day before if you’re having it for breakfast.  Remove the skin and cut up the sweet potato into chunks.

Heat up coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add the sweet potato & salt.  Stir around letting it get a bit golden, about 3 minutes.  Add some chopped pecans & a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Cook for an additional 1 minute or so.  Serve and enjoy!


Telling Your Story

What’s that saying, “to those who have been given much, much is expected?”  Or something along those lines.  Story is the same way.  If I can substitute it, “to those who have been given a story…then share it.”  When I was pregnant with my oldest, I began to bleed while she was 7 weeks in the womb.  Ben was out of town and I was a mess.  My most wonderful boss & friend, Carol, and her husband John were persistent on having me stay the night at their house to ease my mind & heart.  It was just before that time, I began asking God what we should name our child.  My worries were eased as I heard “joy amidst the trial” (to which we did receive joy 8 months later) and knew this child would bring joy.

We ended up having a list of 10 boy names & 10 girl names, which we decided we would narrow down for a first & middle.  Each name having a good, solid meaning.  At the time of my pregnancy (and prior), I was known by many of the children at Hillcrest Kids Early Learning as the storyteller.  I had the privilege of telling them God’s story everyday in the summer–what a treat.  So, while Ben and I were looking at our top 10 girl’s list, we had decided upon ‘Veronica,’ meaning true image of Christ.  We began looking at the list for middle names; but, I went against the “rule” and chose a name not on the list.  I suggested ‘Storey.’  Ben wasn’t sold at first.

Storey means “strong & powerful.”  Such a vivid & beautiful depiction of the word.  I told him that if this was a girl inside, then she’s apart of God’s story, which is strong & powerful.  Yet, she would have her own story to tell and encourage others in; as well as, help others find their story.  It was about two weeks later that Ben & I were walking home from an evening church service where he said, “You know, I’ve decided I like the name Storey for a middle name; because, this child will be apart of God’s story and it’s like we’re saying in giving her this name–‘here’s your story and be sure to help others find theirs too–to find their story intermingled with God’s story.'”  I turned and smiled.  He must have forgotten that I said about the same thing.

What about your Story:

Some of us have wretched stories, fantastic stories, dark stories and redeemed stories.  But whatever story you have, it’s yours and it was given to you for a purpose.  Part of my story includes family dysfunction, brokenness and a bit more hardship than others.  But the exciting notion is that it’s mine, and I get to choose what I do with it.  Some choose to continue living a wretched, dark story, while others choose to embrace a redemption lost story.  Mine, well, I’m constantly choosing to see the bad for what it’s worth and allow Jesus to come into the dark parts.  Because who wants to listen to a story without hope? I’m thankful for how hard life has been in my formative years, because it wouldn’t have made me who I am now.

Tonight I get to share a little snippet of my story with people in my church family, which I hope to share a bit later with you.  What I do know is your past is history, your future is mysterious and your present is worth living & telling about now.  I want to leave you with a comment I received in the summer from Ashley, who tells a bit of her story.  How her story formed in her a heart of hospitality & a life of evangitality:

1. I think my heart for hospitality began to grow at a very young age. Hospitality is a strong characteristic of my mother. And I always remember having people over or bringing food/hospitality to people. I LOVED to help my mom with cooking, baking, making cards and other trinkets, whatever it may be. When I was in middle school however, my dad left our family and not only that, but left us in a great deal of poverty. Suddenly, the roles were reversed. Where we were once the ones who were able to bless, we were in great need of support to make it through the day. I don’t know that there is any one specific example that I can point out from this time, but I do remember day after day feeling overwhelmingly blessed and grateful for the hospitality of others. Meals, bags of groceries, gift certificates to still do things as a family, people who fixed our car, helped mow the lawn, etc. And it wasn’t just for a while, it went on throughout the years, beyond what we ever could have fathomed – the Lord was gracious and looking out for us through the expression of hospitality from others. Although this time was a painful road for all of us, I still am able to look back on the last of my growing up years with joy in God’s faithfulness brought to us by hospitality. These years of hospitality have only enriched my heart and desire to serve and bring God’s joy and faithfulness to others as well.


Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars

I will continue to love Autumn more than any season, and I don’t think it will ever leave, to which I’m grateful.  The vibrant colors alone rap my heartstrings (doesn’t take much).  And nothing says Fall quite like the wafting aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & cloves.  Puddle jumping never seemed so invigorating.  Then, there’s the visit to the pumpkin patch or apple orchards, while bundled up in “sweater weather” with the crisp air and crunch of the leaves with each step.  Oh Autumn, can you stay like this well into late November?  Autumn seems to call out, “come inside, bundle up, sip some cider by the fire, and be.”

 

 

How they smile for the picture

 

With the busyness of summer feeling a bit nomadic, Autumn let’s us know that it’s okay to be sedentary, to regroup and develop a game plan (fitting that football is in the Fall) of where you’re going next.  I’m reminded of traditions being rekindled or brand new ones beginning.  I know our family has been like running one 800 meter to the next without a time to catch our breath, much less time to ‘know’ one another.  This season reminds me of how I can make room for the new college student who has moved to town as well; but, it reminds me that if my family is on a constant chase without any reprieve, then it’s pointless.

I rarely make dessert specifically to be eaten after dinner, but sometimes having dessert planned with dinner when you’re not having guests over can be…well, special.  And I think making a dessert for my family, unannounced communicates that I think they’re pretty darn special.  These Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars are perfect for that.  Plus, they taste better the next day.  So, you don’t have to be in the kitchen making dinner & dessert all for the same meal.  They’re wonderful, and these little gems are sure to procure you praise for at least a couple of days (reason enough to make them).  I would love to hear what you do to usher in Autumn!

A Year Ago: Rarely for the Planned

Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from The Good Cookie cookbook.  It reminds me of an apple pie baked from Dutch Mothers in Lynden, WA, but without having to deal with the rolling & chilling that comes from making a pie crust.  The key is to let it cool to get the best overall taste.


Crust:

1 1/3 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup unrefined evaporated cane juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp cold water
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Apple Filling:

1 pound Jonamac apples; peeled, cored, & sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tb apple juice or cider
2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tb brandy
4 Tb unsalted butter
1/2 cup rapadura sugar

Topping:

1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup unrefined sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1/3 cup rapadura sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Sour Cream Mixture:

1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

Make the crust: In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, & salt, combine 30 seconds.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, pulse 6-8 times.  In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, cold water & vanilla.  Then, with the food processor running, add the liquid and combine for 15-20 seconds.  Dump the dough into a 9-inch square pan and pat it down evenly with your hands.  Bake in preheated oven of 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Make Apple Filling: In a medium bowl, combine the peeled/cored/sliced apples, lemon juice, cornstarch, brandy, & apple juice.  Toss it around and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the sugar to cook.  Stirring constantly until there are no more lumps.  Add the apple mixture and bring to a boil.  Cook for 5 minutes, or till the apples are soft on the outside but still slightly crunchy inside.  Empty contents into a bowl and allow to cool completely.

Make the topping
: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon & salt.  Add the melted butter and mix with a fork, stirring until the dry ingredients are all moistened.  Set aside.

Make the Sour Cream Mixture:
In a small bowl, whisk the egg until well blended.  Add the sour cream, cinnamon & salt to the whisked egg and whisk till combined.

Assembling the bars:
Take the sour cream mixture and combine it with the apple filling.  Stir well and spread evenly on the baked crust.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the sour cream apple mixture.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and set.  Cool the bars completely before serving.  You can dive right in if you’d like; however, they taste so much better when they’re completely cooled.