Category Archives: Spirituality

Gluten-free Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Does anyone else feel like there is something altogether wonderful & magical about snow falling in the middle of the night, creating a quiet peace that is incomparable to any other? I wasn’t acquainted with this mystery in the deserts of Arizona. It wasn’t until I visited a high school friend during my freshman year Spring break in Providence, RI. It was a Friday, and all the students on the campus had left for their Spring break. Not only
was the campus and surrounding area quiet, but we soon found ourselves inside looking out to what would seem a snow globe world. Picturesque.

It reminds me of Arizona’s desert night sky. When you look up at the open clear sky, all you see is the infinite expanse of stars. Or what I refer to as “the stars beyond the stars.” Snow falling and covering the world at night creates the silence of peace beyond the silence. It reminds me of how finite I am amidst the vast accompaniment of sound. That’s a bit how I feel with every birthday celebrated, especially my kids’ birthday. This finite person, gets to relish in these moments of seeing the stars beyond the stars. Yet I get distracted or overwhelmed by the greatness of it all…the mystery. I would rather spend my time marveling and rejoicing over the unknown, the stillness of the fallen snow, or simply being given the pleasure to be still with the moment.

These moments, these treasures that I wish I could put in a locket and wear around my neck to serve as a reminder that life is worth living to its fullest.  When I see my daughters laugh and hug one another, when I see the white flag of humility waving, or when I see Veronica’s progress developmentally and she isn’t even aware she has a delay (because she sees the stars beyond the stars).  Oh how wonderful it is to look at the world like that.  I think having Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes also makes it easier for a four years old (or 30, 40, 50 yrs).

A Year Ago: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes, Split Pea Soup, & Mustard Roasted Cauliflower

Gluten-free Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes (printable recipe)

This recipe has been adapted from my non-GF recipe.  Both are wonderful and they are a sure hit at kid’s parties and the adults like to eat them too.  A note about measuring almond flour.  I use a blanched almond flour and I scoop it out with a spoon and put it in my measuring cup.  I encourage you to use a scale, which will get the most accurate results; however, I know that is not always an option.  Do NOT scoop out with your measuring cup, because it will yield a higher weight than what my recipe requires.

Cupcakes Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (180 g) almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (65 g) light agave nectar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (170 g) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) multi-colored confetti sprinkles
  • 12 cupcake GF sugar wafer cones

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 Tb light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the wafer cones in the muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter & sugar until well blended.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until light.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add half of the almond flour mixture, then the milk and then the rest of the flour mixture until well blended.  Fold in the confetti sprinkles into the batter.  Using a small ice cream scooper/cookie dough scooper, divide the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake cones.
  • Bake the cupcake cones for 20-25 minutes.  When you press lightly in the middle of the cone, they should spring back.  Let them cool on a cooling rack until they’re completely cooled.
  • While the cupcakes are in the oven.  Put your metal mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer.  Allow them to get cold (about 15 minutes).  Remove the bowl & whisk attachment.  Add cold heavy whipping cream to the bowl.  Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Add the agave nectar & vanilla and beat on low speed a bit more, just until they are mixed throughout the whipped cream.  If you want to add a color to it, do so now and fold it in with a rubber spatula.
  • Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Twist the bag right above the tip and push it gently inside the tip, in order to avoid the frosting from coming out.  Turn down the opened end of the bag one inch down.  Place the pastry bag, tip side down, into a glass.  Using a rubber spatula, fill the bag with the whipped cream frosting.  Twist the bag, in order to keep the frosting from squeezing out.  Pipe the whipped cream frosting onto the cupcakes and sprinkle with additional confetti sprinkles.

Into the Unknown

This has been a year of working through this notion of forgiveness.  It’s so easy for me to hold onto the past events, conversations, mull over words of pay back to vindicate myself, my family or a messy situation.  As my dear mentor has told me, “pour coals of blessings over your enemy.”  This sounds like vindication, but it’s so different.  It’s being able to wholeheartedly not repay evil for evil, but pray blessings on the person’s life who has done wrong.

It’s interesting how we are all in need of a little grace.  How in Christian and non-Christian circles, we liken to Jesus’ teachings and his life.  Undeniable of his great love & grace.  To the Israelites, his birth meant one of nobility and justice for once–for the usurping hand of the Romans & King Herod.  They likened the coming king to that of the warrior King David, who defended & destroyed.  They wanted to see (what many modernists think) God’s justice & anger to scorn all those who harmed them (we might think of it as the God of the Old Testament).  However, God has always been the same in the Old and New Testament.  He didn’t bring them the warrior king.  He didn’t bring them a priestly, noble baby king born in a palace, wrapped in fine linens.  He turned their worlds upside down.

I read this today from the Apostle Paul,

“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us…See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”

There are people in my life who have betrayed me, and/or people I dearly love.  It’s far too easy to go down that road of devising a plan to repay evil for evil.  It feels good in the beginning to be the giver of justice.  It’s so much more difficult to choose the road of humility, praying blessings upon the evil doer.  Jesus came as a baby King born in a smelly stable, a feedbox bed, wrapped in less than fine linen, living the life of a vagrant.  And when he was falsely accused, he didn’t defend himself, justify his status–he knew who he was & is.  I’m in awe of this ability to love.

“not to pour out his anger on us.  Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever…Hold onto what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil.”

In Jesus’ last hours in the garden, the soldiers came with force to arrest this man who called himself the Christ.  Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, thinking he was doing good by protecting his master, pulled out a sword and cut off one of the soldier’s ears.  When we face blatant evil, wrong doing, our first instinct is to react like Peter.  It’s human.

Jesus stopped Peter, picked up the hacked off ear and healed the soldier to prior form.  This king was like none other and even his followers didn’t fully comprehend his greatness.

And here we are approaching 2011, still with the options before us to repay evil with Jesus’ style love, or with Peter’s vindication.  The Apostle Paul concludes,

Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you to belong to Christ Jesus…Hold onto what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil.

Happy New Year and may this year be more about true life-giving love, transforming your soul and all you encounter.


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


Satisfaction & Lemon Ricotta Muffins

We’ve been busy, but that seems like a typical December response. Our oldest began her special little school this past week. It seemed harder for me than her. I’m amazed by her growth. This little girl is showing signs of improvement with every week, which makes me excited with anticipation to see it all unfold.

As I see life twirling around with what seems longer lines and crowded parking lots, I’ve been reminded to breathe and bring in my family to bunker down. Each night we light our Advent candle, read a small portion of Scripture, say a prayer of thanksgiving and see which girl gets to blow out the candle to conclude one more day.  I’m so thankful that I’m able to be in a season of seeing each day as a gift these days.  When I look back on the summer, walking in some of the darkest days I’ve known to see God’s grace & faithfulness on the other end.  And now here I am in the season of Advent to welcome in the coming of not only Jesus’ birth, but the reminder that he will again bring hope.

So remind me of this moment friends…when I begin to worry about whether V will move beyond her current developmental delays, about my health or my families’, or anything else under the sun (you can fill in your own blank here), that there lies a hope, which I find in this Advent season.  I think King David puts it well:

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Here’s to some satisfaction with yummy muffins.  I have yet to make anything with gluten for a while, so these are from this summer.  However, I think they are fitting for any season, especially a Saturday morning cozy with your loved ones.  Where are you finding satisfaction or sharing that these days?

A Year Ago: Intensely Chocolate Cake & Cranberry-Orange Crostata

Lemon Ricotta Muffins (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted very slightly from Giada De Laurentis.

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tb lemon zest
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds

raw sugar for sprinkling
Directions:  Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with papers.  In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt, whisk together.

In a large bowl, (or bowl of an electric mixer) using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter & lemon zest until light & fluffy (2 minutes).  Beat in the ricotta.  Then, beat in the egg, lemon juice, & almond extract until just combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir till just combined (the batter will be thick).

Scoop the batter evenly among the 12 lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle with thinly sliced almonds & some raw sugar on top of muffins.  Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes (it will smell amazing).  Cool slightly.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


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!


Roasted Chicken

This morning marks the beginning of week three of Lean & Green Challenge (via Jogo Crossfit Gym).  I must report that the lady writing on Paleo day two is quite different from the one writing in front of the computer today.  There are some areas that are still the same.  For instance, walking into the grocery store and seeing the lovely pastry bat it’s eyelashes at me is a bit tempting.  However, what’s most noticeable is my overall health.  It’s not just physical energy, but mental energy.  So when you hear that phrase, “you are what you eat;” well, I think there’s something to it.  My mental state seems to be at its peak.  I don’t want to attribute it all to how I’m eating, but I truly believe what I’m putting in is making a difference to thinking more clearly.

It’s interesting when you think of the various methods people deal with stress & anxiety.  There are those that I know who attempt to drown out the noises by numbing the pain with drugs.  I’ve always thought, “well, at least I don’t do that,” but there is something to be said about what I have used to numb the pain.  I never thought I used food as a “way out,” but on Saturday, it seemed like the advise I had given my friend of being mindful, drinking some tea, etc, didn’t cut it.  As I’ve briefly mentioned before here, we’ve dealt with various difficulties with our oldest.  In front of her, there are many obstacles (in terms of developmental delays) most of which, she has no idea; however, as her mama, I’m fully aware of them.  On Saturday we received a letter from a visit we had with a genetic researcher/doctor.  It didn’t leave me with warm fuzzies either, but more of that pit feeling.  You know the pit.  It appears to be an unconquerable wall standing in front of you, and if you look at this way, then that’s what it will be.

It was in that moment, as my stomach turned with that unwelcome old friend “anxiety,” that I wanted a mocha, or something sweet to deal with that moment.  But alas, I knew it was my will versus the wall, and I wasn’t going to let it conquer me.  It didn’t and I found that my soul needed time to be creative.  To let out tears of the unknown, talk with God about it, paint (something I haven’t done in a while) and create, and I found my soul (and stomach) was the better for it.  I’m learning a lot about myself (and my jeans have also noticed–in a good way).  One of those things is my renewed love of cooking, while baking takes a backseat.  This roasted chicken is one of them.  It will definitely earn you a couple of “ooos” & “awws” in the kitchen, while not taking much time standing in the kitchen.  Again, thanks for reading and sharing with me in this journey.  I’m certain that I’m not the only one with that unconquerable wall staring at me, but I’m certain you too can conquer it.

 

A Year Ago: Traditions

Roasted Chicken (printable recipe)

I love roasted chicken, because it appears that you’ve been slaving in the kitchen much longer than you actually did.  Plus, take the carcass and turn it into chicken broth.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
bundle of fresh thyme
coconut oil
3 strips quality bacon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425.  Have ready a dutch oven.  Take your chicken and remove all the insides, clip any nails still attached and rinse with cool water.  Pat dry the outside & inside of the bird.  Be generous in sprinkling salt inside the cavity of the bird, along with ground pepper.  Rub coconut oil on the outside of the bird on the breasts, along with under the breast skin.  Sprinkle salt & pepper under the breast skin & on top of the breast.

Put the bundle of thyme inside the cavity.  Place your whole bird in the dutch oven.  By using a dutch oven, you will not have to deal with trussing the chicken.  Take the wings and tuck them behind the back of the chicken.  Now with a pair of kitchen shears, snip an opening on the fat portion near the birds downside (butt) on both sides, in order to tuck the drumstick ends through the holes (consult picture).


Place the three strips of bacon across the breast and put into the oven, cook for 20-25 minutes.  After 20-25 minutes, remove the bacon and turn down the heat to 350.  Baste the chicken.  Cook for an additional 25-35 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165 (poke it between the drumstick & breast).

Once it hits 165, remove from oven.  If you want to make gravy using the drippings go ahead.  Serve it up & enjoy.  Be sure to use the carcass for some great stock.


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.


The Old Order

 

Image from StacyLeeArt.com

 

We’ve been faced with a lot of tragedy in our little town these past two weeks.  Life has vanished and I sit wondering how any heart can bear so much angst in the world.  In a life where we are inundated with catastrophe upon catastrophe happening next door to across the seas, it’s no wonder that we sometimes need to shut down the life source (i.e. TV, internet, the paper, etc), in order to simply breathe.  If you’re anything like me, having a sensitive and easily moved/compassionate soul, you just might need to shut out the cries of the world.  It’s far too easy to be moved by a persuasive speech telling me to stomp upon the feet of injustice as hundreds of thousands of children die each day due to starvation, the AIDS epidemic, not to mention the thousands more being orphaned and forced into the sex trade.  Where does the hope lie?  And how do I stand a chance against it all?

There is a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from it.  In our little community, which sits more north than the majority of the Canadian population, a little girl (age two) died instantly in a car accident, a young man starting his college years went missing and found dead, and a little boy born with a heart defect only lived two weeks, while all the parents are aching of a broken heart.  When I hear a preacher tell me about how the world is hurting and how we need to be the ones to stand for injustice, you will most likely see me nodding my head in agreement.  However…Yes, I write, however, it’s far too easy to become claustrophobic by the pangs of all of life, which needs saving and far to easy to forget about what’s right in front of us.  It’s too easy to become ridden with fear, anxiety & restlessness, because we are not the Savior.  We cannot redeem it, and it hurts.

I’ve been reminded how what is happening in my life at home, my neighborhood, and my community might be all that I need to focus on most of the time.  What did people do when there was no internet or TV to broadcast what was happening in the far East, or even the East Coast?  Maybe, just maybe, people were a little more sane and able to extend hands of grace & love to the people they were constantly rubbing shoulders alongside.  I’m not told to bear the weight of the world, and I’m relieved.

While dealing with anxiety like a vice grip, I continued to fear death.  I was bombarded and overwhelmed by the constant reality that I would die and everyone I loved would too.  But, one day driving in the car, I was listening to my good friend Rob Bell (at least I like to think we would be) and he was talking about heaven.  There were many things that struck me, but what struck me the most was if we took sin out of the Bible we would be left with a rather small pamphlet.  It would include Genesis 1 & 2 and Revelation 21 & 22.  In the first garden, God created life and dwelt with his creation.  In the last city, which is many gardens, God redeemed life and dwelt with his redeemed creation.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

God will dwell with us.  I look forward to that reality.  I look forward to those words, “Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…I am making everything new!” That is what gives me hope and enables me to love.  I hope this too will bring you restored hope wherever you are walking in your journey.

 

A Year Ago: Heirloom Tomato Soup

Contentment

What does it mean to be content?  Content in all circumstances.  I’ve been meditating upon this obscure reality for a while.  As I’ve previously mentioned, this summer has been a hard one for me.  I came down with some stomach issues, which made me think I was pregnant, but it left me with more wonder (when I found out I wasn’t) about how I could be feeling so bad.  Through various processes of elimination, it came to my surprise that I was dealing with anxiety & near burn out.  It’s interesting to see how much the mind & body intertwine.  I am not 100%, but what I have been trying to do is be mindful of the moment. God created me with a great imagination, but with that gift comes it’s ruination as well.  If it’s not kept in check, then my mind jumps ahead into the mystery of unknown (the future); thus, a downward spiral of stomach knots & a cluttered head.

Then there’s contentment.  Most times within the Christian circles in talking about contentment it inevitably leads to material contentment.  That’s all fine & good, but I would wager to say that Jesus is talking about something a bit larger than simply monetary means.  According to the dictionary, content as adjective is:

satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.
Living in a world where we are bombarded on what’s next–being content in the moment is quite difficult.  It’s being able to live everyday like it’s a Friday.  I think it’s ingrained in us to keep pressing through the humdrum of our jobs/life, because we are anticipating the next up & coming.  Be it a vacation, a special outing, start of a new job/end of a job, even a new show on TV.  Being content is living in this day that the Lord has made and rejoice & be glad in it.  Easier said than done, because sometimes I use various tools to help me hurry the day along (Facebook, checking my email for the 20th time in a 10 minute window), but what’s happened with that lost time?  I can’t ever get it back.  Maybe, just maybe we are in desperate need to be mindful as we walk through our day, even the boring/mundane parts, in order to see God’s hand throughout it.
Henry Nouwen wrote,
If I cannot find God in the middle of my work–where my concerns and worries, pains, & joys are–it does not make sense to try to find Him in the hours set free at the periphery of my life.
Most of my day is arranged by taking care of two needy little girls.  We are facing more difficulties with our oldest, due to low muscle tone throughout, high possibility of SPD and possible genetic diagnosis (chromosomal stuff).  With her alone I could have my day cut out for me, but there’s still another child who needs attention, discipline & care.  Then, you add in the meals, clean-up (your everyday tasks that always get done) and it’s no wonder parents opt to let a TV babysit their kids.  It’s been too easy to get wrapped up in the mysteries of tomorrow, which only bring more anxiety, tears & anguish.  But then I asked myself, “What do I know about V today?”  Really, that question is relevant to all areas of my life.  What do I know about today?  About the concrete, tangible, right in front of my eyes life I am living–TODAY!

Here’s what I know about today. I have more blessings than I could ever have imagined had you asked me when I was growing up.  I have shelter, clean water, clean clothes on my back & my families, two amazing girls who have God’s image stamped on them saying, “Worthy & Loved,” a husband who tirelessly works to provide, loves deeply & completely devoted to me & our family, and I’m “worthy & loved” too–entitled to grace to continue living.

I believe contentment is so much more than being satisfied where you are at financially & materially.  What does contentment mean to you and how do you cultivate a content spirit?


Beet Salad Done Right!!

I’ve been suffering from a bit of writer’s block.  In college when it came time to write my history papers I would fumble & fumble with the introduction.  And that’s how it’s been feeling when I sit down to write a new post.  I can’t seem to find just the right words to begin.  But, in a way, it’s exactly how life is going in the here & now.  Take breakfast for instance.  It’s 8:00 and I’m actually showered & ready, so breakfast should be a snap.  Not quite.  When I came downstairs I found my “risen bread” to be not so risen, but quite fallen.  I didn’t want to waste it, so I began thinking what I could do instead.

Then, insert two little girls under the age of four asking for, “Mama, can you put Shortcake Swing on?” Me: “Yes! (still looking baffled at my dough).  And since I didn’t move in .milliseconds I was asked the same question again.  Then, Tayers needed her boots on like sissy.  Oh, but my hands were sticky, so go and wash, help with said boots, then back to dou…oh wait, there’s dirt all over the floor.  Find broom.  Another question asked of me.  Me wondering if I had something I was doing in the kitchen.  By the time I got back the dough was sticking to the board.  Eventually, I made a sad excuse for a breakfast pizza (eggs cooking on top, dough a bit soggy [because it was intended for bread in the first place]); however, the girls didn’t seem to mind.

Oh, what I also forgot to mention was the time when we finally ate…oh about 9:15.  Because what ensued from the time I started to the time I finished, well, I have no clue at this point in the afternoon.  I do know that I lost my marbles at one time with a bit more boisterous mama (some call it shouting) saying, “I need to think!  Out of the kitchen…get out of the kitchen!”  I think I was the one who needed an immediate time out and my apologies & reminding myself in front of the girls how we are to “use our words.”  That’s what my introductions to posts feel like.  My life at present is like the first time I learned to drive stick, a whole bunch of jerking stops not knowing how (or if I should) to begin again.

But you know, I find a bit of solace amidst of all this (granted, it’s almost 8 hours later).  As I was picking up the toys, hats, shoes from the floor for the umpteenth time I thought of the people without kids (whether it be the barren, the empty nester, etc) and how this mere “inconvenience” is full of life.  Our home is full of non-stop chatting, laughter, cries, music, movement & breaths.  The silence is more than appreciated & needed, but there’s something about that little voice after nap, which gladly says, “Hi Mama!”  There’s something about it all that I wish I could stuff it into a bottle so it never fades.  It’s contentment in these little things, that makes a Monday feel like a Friday.  This little salad does just that.  The acidity from the marinated beets, sweet licorice blend from the fennel, and the creaminess from the avocado.  You could eat it by itself or put it on top of salad greens.

A Year Ago: Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies & Cabbage-Apple Salad

Beet, Fennel, & Avocado Salad

This salad can be eaten without salad greens, or with.  I found a good washed kind from my Farmer’s Market (had kale, mustard greens, herbs, bibb lettuce).  Be sure you don’t throw out your beet greens.  You can either saute them up with a little minced garlic, olive oil & salt for later.  Or, chop them up to use as part of your salad greens for this here salad.

(printable recipe)

Ingredients:

1 bunch of beets (if you can get a variety sold at a Farmer’s Market–that would be optimal)

4-5 small fennel bulbs (or 2 big ones)

2 ripe avocados

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Kosher Salt or Sea Salt

Olive oil

Mixed Greens

Directions:  Chop the beet greens off (save them for later use by steaming or cut up & put as part of your salad).  Scrub the beets, but no need to peel them.  Thinly slice them using a mandoline.  Put them in a bowl and pour enough raw apple cider vinegar to cover them.  Allow them to marinate for minimum 2 hours.  Once your beets have marinated (I marinated mine for 3 1/2 hours), drain them & if you want to barely rinse them, go ahead.

Slice the fennel with the mandoline (think thin as well).  Put them in a ice water bath, then transfer them to a salad spinner to get the water out.  The ice water bath shrinks the fennel, allowing it to be crunchy.

Transfer the beets & fennel into a bowl.  Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top, sprinkle with salt & cubed avocados as well.  Lightly mix with your hands.  Place a portion on top of mixed salad greens.  Drizzle with a little bit more olive oil and you’re good to go.