Dumplings and Chocolate

“Mom, why haven’t we had dumplings lately?”

“I don’t know little man.  Do you want some?”

“Yes! I love them. (Now THIS is news to me! Mental note to remind myself that we can attempt them again at home without a fling and throw yourself on the floor battle…maybe?)

“Remember when I tried them last? I hated them.”

“Oh yes, I remember that time dear son…very well.” (And it was at a dear friend’s house and I was nearly humiliated to dust with your rantings and tears over how awful they were when everyone else was gulping them down, only I didn’t say this to you.)

“Mom, what are dumplings?” (It has me wondering at this point in the conversation if we really are on the same page.  Perhaps he’s thinking of something else?)

“They are kind of like a thick noodle only shaped like a ball.”

“Well I don’t like the name.”

“What do you think they should be called?” (I’m very much holding my breath at this point.)

“Chocolate….or maybe candy.  I like candy.” (And we ALL kn0w that my dear little man, we all know that.)

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Enlarged in the Waiting

MP900201793I can recall it nearly word for word snuggled up with little ones reading the pages and yet it still gets me every time. Perhaps because I feel I arrive in this place everyday in one way or the other. I close my eyes words spilling right out, the heart choking tears (and about this time the kids are all asking “mom WHY are you crying…again”):

“You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…

….for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.” ~Dr. Seuss

But is the Dr. really right? Is this place of waiting useless? Because if it is than someone please tell me what I am to do with the  hours..no years! spent here…not to mention the last week of waiting in doctor offices, waiting for labs, waiting for the medicine to kick in, waiting for the tears to leave, waiting for answers, waiting…waiting….waiting….

We gather for Sunday meeting hope nearly run out and the pastor has us turn to Romans and there slipped between the pages it is found. The answer for all this waiting…this hoping…this longing for something to come of the brokenness in and around because we are frail and fragile, torn and tattered in need of wholeness and healing.

“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, anymore than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.  We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us, but the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” Romans 8:22-25

Can anyone spell relief? There will be deliverance! It is coming and the more I am enlarged in this time of waiting the closer I arrive to the moment when all will be set right. When there will be answers. When all will make sense and I will see with mine own eyes purpose in the pain.  And for tonight, this moment when I’m wearied by the waiting, I’m going to hold on that He knows this state I’m in…He knows me far better than I’ll ever know myself….and is “making prayer out of our (my) wordless sighs, aching groans”.

Surrender is a beautiful thing. This waving of the white flag. This agreeing with God that He knows what He’s doing. I sigh…lift hands towards heaven asking that my life with all it’s crazy seasons…especially this season of waiting, would be counted as grace, pure lavish beautiful grace.

 

Mustaches and Straws

It was THE straw. And at the worst most possible time. You see I’m a bit like Mary Poppins. I tend to carry all worldly possessions in my purse, ahem, bag because you never really know when you might need something. Hungry? No problem, granola bar. Headache? Ibuprofen. Coffee breath? Runny nose? Apple or cheese needing sliced? I’ve got the solution for the dilemma: gum, tissues, hair barrettes, pens, pencils, crayons, tweezers, and yes a pocket knife that has come in handy, I must admit, for way too many excursions. And who has time to put on a face before running out the door? Besides it’s way more fun squeezing it in while at a stop light or in the parking lot so any and all people can see the transformation, which necessitates that the makeup I own…or has been graciously hand-me-downed…is crammed into what is affectionately known as my carpet bag.

This morning’s routine was no different. Throwing clothes on, shoving food down, making sure the crazy amounts of meds get in the system and that kids have on proper attire and clean faces, I grab coffee to go and fly out the door. And here we are pulled up at the ninth hour into the church parking lot putting on the final touches of lipstick when the light falls just perfectly across the face to reveal a very full mustache developing across my upper lip and there is nothing in this carpet bag of mine that can even begin to solve this problem not to mention how am I to gather these nerves and emotions about to simmer right over in time to stand in front of everyone and lead an entire set of music for morning service. I know it all sounds so full of vanity and first world problems but it has been that kind of a week and for the moment I hate cryptogenic organizing pneumonia, and asthma and pollen that has me trapped in the house for fear of another sinus infection, and the mask that I have to wear if I want to walk outside with my kids (sorry in advance to all the neighbors I frighten) and prednisone that has me going through clothing sizes and making hair grow in strange places and the endless doctor visits and allergy shots that eat up time like caterpillars on leafs and I just want to run away and hide and stop fighting this daily battle because I am weary. And weary means there will be tears and lots of them. I’m also thankful for my Saint David who stands graciously beside me all the while comforting and affirming and the myriad of friends praying and sending love, but for now…just for today….a bed of tears will do the trick, and somewhere, somehow I know I too will wake and accept all these changes without the need for control and I will remember that this is a season and it isn’t forever and there is a miracle waiting on the other side of the door. And at least for the moment I can take comfort that my day isn’t as bad as this guy has it:

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And just when you needed it, a letter from…

Dear Unique Beautiful You,

Just a note to let you know I AM SO PROUD OF YOU watching you persevere and conquer the everyday challenges in this healing process.  You are amazing and I see my Father doing beautiful things in you through all this.  Don’t weary in well doing and don’t discount baby steps.  After all, you don’t climb a mountain in a day.  You WILL get to the top and the view will be breathtaking.  Think of all the ways you encourage others as a result of this experience, and you already are doing that without even knowing…hearts being touched watching the transformation taking place.  And in case you forget in all the struggling and striving, grieving and grappling; and when you feel bloodied and bruised by the day, remember you are beautiful, loved, chosen, forgiven, set apart, created for something more and I am certain that what Dad has begun in you He is completing.  What you are going through doesn’t compare with the glory I will reveal momentarily.  Keep pressing on to the top.

Lovingly,

Jesus

P.S. And I will be with you even until the end.

An Unlikely Friendship: A Tale of the Wrapper and Stripe

A warm welcome back to my dear husband who’s thoughts on friendship we’ve been pondering together this year… especially as we up and moved from some very near and dear level four friendships.  There is nothing quite like the treasure found in a true friend.  Enjoy…contemplate…and invest in those you love!

            The Candy Crush CHRONICLEScandy crush picRemember those good ole days, when all was well, before chocolate entered your world.  Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.  Well, reminisce with me through the annals of Candy Crush history all the way back to level four.  Here the King introduces us to the unique combination of the wrapper and the stripe.  I am not quite sure why, but somehow this pair just works.  Think about it, each candy has completely different personalities.  One is impulsive.  Explosive to say the least, she will just go off on you when least expected.  The other is straight up.  He’s a predictable bloke, easy to get along with and very efficient.  They become an indispensible duo when you are faced with the temptations and trials of the dark and tainted realm of Candy Crush.  Maybe you won’t always need to draw upon them, but there are times and particular instances for which they are your only hope.  When the two unite it’s like fireworks sending shock waves to and fro wiping out everything in its path.  I must confess this is a particularly cool feeling especially if you are on one of levels where there are those isolated strips that you can’t get at with anything other than the stripe, and with the combo you are guaranteed to inflict the appropriate destruction.  The relationship, that is the combination of the wrapper and stripe, at first glance doesn’t seem to be of much value, but you would be wrong in your assessment.  For these are enduring relationships and they are not only among life’s most prized possessions but should be deeply cherished and nurtured.   “Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a fire?” –Lewis, Letters, 197

The world we live in today for better or worse is incredibly fragmented.  The social structure is so out of whack and backwards that people actually think it is normal to be tethered to some kind of electronic device.  Technology has a serious bent towards destroying our relational cravings.  The fall out is becoming increasingly obvious with the rise of loneliness and depression, not to mention suicide.  How could one not behave in this way?  We have exchanged “real” mail for email, dining rooms for chat rooms, community for online dating, real living for virtual reality.  

C. S. Lewis saw a shift in his day.  Out with the small groups who sat around till 1 or 2 in the morning knocking out problems, in with the masses cramming into lecture halls to hear some renowned speaker.  Lewis says what built the minds of the previous generations were the solitary walks or the walks with a single companion.  Today the one who lives in a crowd or a caucus has replaced friendship.  We have two equally and disastrous scenarios as I see it: the one in which Lewis spoke about and the one in which fools us into thinking friendship involves a machine as a mediator.  So this leads me to a post on friendship. “Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods.  Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life.” –Lewis, Letters to Arthur Greeves, 477

Being social creatures, we all encounter different types of relationships throughout our lives.  Some are mere acquaintances like the friendly neighbor, the lunch lady handing you some variation of chicken, pizza, or taco; or the Starbucks barista who knows your usual.  Though these relationships are needed, they are of the most basic sort; we will call them level one friendships. 

Moving up the evolutionary ladder you will inevitably encounter another sort.  These are your colleagues, people of whom you work with.  They may be on the same intermural kick ball team or maybe your unit if you are of the military type.  You are fine with the occasional interaction, but would rather not spend an inordinate amount of time with them.  They would fall under the classification of level two friendships.

Next, you have those friends that you see on your own accord.  You enjoy being around them, meeting for dinner, playgroups, phone chats and perhaps even a card game or two.  We will call them level three for lack of a better name. 

Lastly, we enter into the uncharted territory of level four.  Many people (I mean many) never attain this type of friendship.  They are few in number, you agree with them on most subjects, can be completely vulnerable with, and you can share your most intimate details.  “Friendship must be about something, even if it were only enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice.  Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.” –Lewis, The Four Loves, 98

They are the friends that won’t let time, distance, or money come in the way of being there for you.  You would take a bullet for them, bail them out when they encounter trouble or help them to the finish line and they would do the same for you.  They are a rarity and when you find them you must do everything in your power to keep them.  “If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I shd. say, ‘sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’” –Lewis, Letters to Arthur Greeves, 477

We were not designed to go it alone.  “Friends look in the same direction.  Lovers look at each other; that is, in opposite directions.” –Lewis, Present Concerns, 20

It is an interesting statistic that about 40% of the people in the Bible get shipwrecked and never cross the finish line of life, 30% end up crawling or limping across, and 30% end up finishing strong.  Level Four’s are needed for the latter.

They may look like the most unlikely of friendships, but so does the wrapper and stripe.

                                                            ~By David Euans

Where It All Started

ireland 1Nearly fourteen years ago and we were off on the adventure of a lifetime. Stumbling along into this thing called marriage, we were only days into learning how to love each other through blunders and staggers and little did we know this country called Ireland would steal our hearts forever.  The people, the food, the land…beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe it.  We did through it all discover that they love their potatoes (it is probably the first and last time we will ever eat chips..french fries…with Chinese food) and David expanded his love of all things percussion by purchasing his first bodhran that I had the privilege of carrying each day for the rest of our three week back-packing honeymoon…now THAT’S love! It was a time we will remember forever.

Last night we gathered our small brood on Saint Patrick’s Day to celebrate the life of an amazing man who dedicated his life to serving God and others and we chowed down on authentic Irish Shepherd’s pie. I found the recipe online years after our visit and have since lost all trace of who it is that should get the credit, but if you have ever eaten at the Euans’ house you most likely have been served this meal.  It is our all time favorite and a definite must on this holiday. It brings back fond memories of the hearty meals we had in pubs. Since the family is not fond of cooked cabbage I decided to make a fresh cabbage salad hailing from my dear old Serbian Grandma who has long gone on but has left her legacy behind with amazing recipes.  It pairs nicely with the main dish and my kids love it which makes it even better.  Lastly, the scones recipe I discovered yesterday and since I just bought 25lbs of oatmeal (don’t think I’m crazy….yet) it makes sense that I use it in every possible way.  They were super yummy served with some warm tea (or hot cocoa as my family prefers).  What a sweet way to end a day honoring such a man of faith.  I leave you with a thought from him, and God knows I need this tonight as we are back to the school routine after a snow day and already feeling behind:

“Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.” ~Saint Patrick

shepherd's pie

Traditional Irish Shepherd’s Pie

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 lb ground beef (or 1 lb lamb)

1 large onion, finely diced

3 -4 large carrots, finely diced

1 cup frozen peas

3 -4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped (I use dry thyme 1/2 tsp.)

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup red wine

3 Tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 cup stock (I use Better Than Bouillon Beef 2 tsp. added to cup of water)

salt and pepper to taste

1 large quantity mashed potatoes (estimating 6 cups, fresh or leftover)

grated cheese

Brown meat and onions in oil.  Add flour and stir into meat to cook the rawness out of the four.  Add in the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer on stove for 5 min.  Pour into baking dish.  Top with mashed potatoes and grated cheese.  Bake at 350 for 45-60min or until nicely browned on top with sauce simmering through edge of potatoes.

Grandma’s Cabbage Salad

5 cups of finely shredded cabbage

3 TBL red wine vinegar

3 TBL vegetable oil

salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cabbage in the dressing and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately or prepare up to a half hour before to let the flavors marinate.

I found a similar recipe online for the scones and changed it to suite what I wanted.  Here is my rendition:

Maple Scones

Maple Scottish Oat Scones

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup maple syrup

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425. Mix in a large bowl all the dry ingredients.  Add the rest and stir until just blended.  Lightly grease a baking sheet (I used my stone) and role out to 1/2 inch thickness into whatever shape you like.  Mine was a big rectangle. Score the scones to whatever shape or size you want to serve them.  Place 15 min. until lightly brown and risen.  Serve warm with maple drizzle.

Maple Drizzle

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 TBL maple syrup

Cream as needed to thin the icing

Stir together powdered sugar and maple syrup.  Add cream as needed to thin it to the appropriate consistency.  Drizzle over warm scones and serve.

                                                                                                                                                   

A Prayer for When You Read the Headlines

Nothing like waking to the day and finding no new news. It’s the same variation as yesterday: nations warring, plane missing, explosions, accidents leaving dear ones dead and mangled, anger escalating into raw violence and the heartbreaking list goes on and on.

And then there’s this dear friend who’s family is living daily life in uncertainty as the powers that be play out in Ukraine and I don’t even know how or what to pray. Do you feel it too? This ache of the world? This groaning for Someone to set it all right? To right the wrongs and comfort the mourning. To rescue the afflicted under tyrants rule and bring peace that flourishes under the sun. And I know that day is coming when He will come back and set it all straight, but until then I pray and I wait because I know we serve a God who listens, who hears, who says I will enter the hovels of the poor, I will come and heal the ache in the heart of the forlorn. Even so Lord, come quickly and 

“Let righteousness burst into blossom and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing. Rule from sea to sea , from the River to the Rim.” Psalm 72

Seize the Date…or at least the Brownie Pie

You know those moments you realize it will all slip by too quickly and be gone in an instant? That if you don’t seize the day, the moment, the night it may never pass this way again?  Well I’ve been living too long on borrowed time.  Thinking that David and I will spend quality time tomorrow, or the weekend or next week and it hit me in an instant.  Why not now, why not today, why not tonight? For this snapshot in time will be history and cannot be lived again, and sometimes capturing the moment means you don’t have time to find a sitter, or plan a date out. So I did the next best thing.  I made the dessert I’ve been craving for weeks now (discreetly of course so the little people would have no idea the plan), bought the ice cream, made certain that electronics and any other distraction was turned off so we could just be. Nothing fancy, no high in the sky expectations but to just enjoy the company of each other and celebrate the week we’ve had. Of course this meant bedtime with kids had to happen first.  And THAT had a lot of expectations (which quickly became apparent as each minute ticked by).  A quick brush and tuck and prayers and kisses and it’s funny how up-ended things get at 8pm at night. Kids wailing about not wanting to go to school in the morning, and why oh why do I never get to stay up with mom and dad…”You all always have such fun after we go to bed.  I’ll even help with the dishes if you let me stay up”. And then there were the toenails needing trimmed a month ago that one never sees until the bed covers are ready to be pulled over so out comes clippers and here I am frazzled a few minutes before nine lining up all three trimming toes and nails. In all this hurry and bustle to close the day in order to seize the next moment it dawns on me that I am missing the present one and perhaps this is what they will all remember most. The hugs and prayers in the middle of tears, the taking care of little things they can’t do yet like nails and braids and this moment is too sacred to rush. So I slow and breathe and pray a few more prayers and kiss the tears and tuck covers, and before you know it it’s time to sneak down to this amazing chocolate brownie pie waiting that will certainly make everything OK.

Brownie Pie

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup toasted pecans

2 large handfuls of mini-marshmallows or enough to cover pie

Mix together all the ingredients except the nuts.  Fold those in.  Pour batter into large greased pie plate.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 min. or until toothpick comes out clean.  Add marshmallows to the top of the pie and place back in the oven just until they begin to melt.  Pour warm frosting over still warm brownie. Serve with or without vanilla ice cream.

Fudge Buttermilk Frosting

In a saucepan add:

2 TBL butter

1 1/2 TBL cocoa powder

1 1/2 TBL buttermilk

Bring to boiling.  Remove from heat and add 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Stir until smooth and pour over warm brownie.

brownie pie

With Fear and Trembling

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I did it! I did this AND my VOICE.DIDN’T.EVEN.SHAKE! You know those mountains that wake you? Your greatest fear looming? The thing that winds you in therapy that you work through and talk through (far too much) and write it all out down to the last jot and tittle and stay up far too late in a cold sweat stuck in each scary scenario? Yeah, it was THAT one and I’m not gonna lie. It wasn’t without a lot of knee bending (and trembling) and placing fear in the right place.  In the One who is to be feared because He has all the wisdom and the power and it is now behind me.  HISTORY.  I MADE IT…no WE made it togetherand it did not destroy me.  Instead it shaped me a little more out of myself and more into Him and somehow I know that it’s the beginnings of deeper trust and I can walk through this the next time stronger, more confident, wiser and a little bit more like Jesus.  I am growing.

Sojourn on friend!  Face those fears with truth because that’s the only way to ever do battle and you never know, they may wind up being your greatest blessings yet!

Friends, food and Chicken Tacos

chicken tacosSo I have a confession.  I collect recipes like my little man collects bugs and my girls collect bracelets and my husband collects books and there is something sacred in each one that has come from a friend.  Behind the ingredients and the set of directions there’s a memory of a meal shared, an event celebrated, or an offering given during a desperate plea for help and those who have come to the door with bags in hand and food brimmed high know the way to this girl’s heart. For each meal (and there are more in the past five years than I will ever be able to count) mattered. It blessed.  It covered tears and fears and pain with a warm blanket and said you are loved, you will be ok and yes this too shall pass because the worst is always over in 24 hours. And then we moved and left all those dear ones behind and each time I pull out a recipe I remember and I say a prayer that they will be blessed in return for the joy that was showered.

This girl doesn’t really feel at home though until there is that one meal, that one friend that says everything HE’S been saying all along. You are not alone in this trial, I am with you all the way. Tomorrow is coming.  This came in the form of dear April several months back who showed up at the door, me delirious from anesthesia and my family weary from nursing after the dreaded bronchoscopy and brought this and armfuls of love and prayers and well wishes…and brownies! (Never forget the brownies for they go great with this meal.)

I pulled out this recipe to make for the first time tonight and gave thanks in the shredding of meat and the pouring of sauce for new friends reminding us of old promises.  HE truly goes with us into new lands, into new spaces, new homes and always forever shows up.

This recipe is so delicious and incredibly easy.  It truly is a wonderful way to end a day’s sojourn or begin a new one whatever leg of the journey you may be on.

April’s Chicken Tacos

6 boneless skinless thighs (I used 6 bone-in chicken leg quarters because that’s what was in freezer and I pulled skin off before cooking)

2 cans tomatoes with green chilies (I used mild for the kids)

1 packet taco seasoning

Place all in the crock pot and cook on low until you can shred the meat (7-9 hours) or you can cook it like I did in a Dutch oven at 300 for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. I then took out the chicken which was falling off the bone, stripped the meat and added it back to the pot.

Serve on your favorite taco skin with all the toppings you love. A chipotle ranch goes nicely with this as well. I can see turning these into amazing nachos or even a taco salad. Enjoy!