Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Brutal Demands of Trust.

The sun shines bright in the brilliant blue of an over exposed sky and the sweet wind carries the scent of spring and the last chill of winter.  It is pressing and full of hope.  I stand staring into the promise with hands on my hips and a scowl on my face.  Looking at the Almighty I say with my careless words, my frustrations, that ‘I am not on board’.  He can take his plans and well, that’s up to him.  The blossoms don’t cheer me and I sense the pollen on the wind more than the whisper of joy.  I’m disgruntled and grumpy and I just took it out in my latest bout with the King of Kings.  Only to have him land me completely and lovingly on my rear end.  

Oh, you don’t have this type of relationship with the great I AM?

Well, let me share a little with you, how complete and total, desperate, loving intimacy can look.

You see, I look at the last three years of our life and I get mad.  I get mad at the choices we’ve made, the places we’ve gone, and the life we seem to have missed.  I get mad that we aren’t where we want to be and I feel like we lost so much as we trekked out, following what we thought was right.  So I take these things to my father and I look at him and say, ‘God we thought, we were following you, we thought we were doing your will.  Look where it has gotten us.’

It feels as if the last three years have been a waste.  That we’ve walked in circles and we’ve sunk when we thought we’d flourish.  I can’t tell you, ‘oh, but look we learned so much’, because we lost seems to outweigh the gains.  Though there have been amazing things we’ve been taught and huge hurdles in our life and marriage and family that we have crossed and emerged stronger.  We have fought through and while we may seem a little weary, we are also victorious.  

I still don’t understand.  I don’t have a lot of answers.

I do have a lot of peace.  

I don’t have a time when we’ll be where we want to be and can settle in to life and family, friends and home.

I do have rest.

And.  As I take my hands off of the plans of our lives and let go of my expectations, I have a welling of joy that fills my chest and takes my breath.

I look at my hands and how they have white knuckled it through so much of the last three years.  How they have held the mast together when it should have toppled.  They are cut and broken, bruised, and just ripe for healing.  I let the ship go.  I just stopped.  Stopped trying, wishing, demanding, wondering, and let go.  I put the whole of our lives in the hands of the God I adore and gave in.  I gave him permission to take us where he will, to plant us where we’ll bloom, to use us, to mold us, and to create a deeper, more desperate love and adoration for him.

Before this venture, this journey, we were settled, we were planted.  Then what seemed like a sudden ripping we were cast out of our moorings and set in a rough and troubled water.  I fought, desperate, to hold it together, to keep it like it was.  I created a mess.  A massive disaster and stressed myself beyond my personal resources, becoming a broken record, of ‘we will survive’.

Sometimes it’s better to break.

To let the break be clean and brutal, so that it may heal.

When we get handsy with our lives and try to prevent what we see coming, it creates a mess.  Then what needs to be healed is greater than what would have been if we rested through the process and allowed it to come.

But me and my fear, we fought.  We fought hard.  And we lost.  It is here, lying face up in the water, the scorching of the sun on my face, the tumult of the waves beneath and nothing to hold me up, that I’ve fallen quietly down.  It is here that I’ve found my rest.  In the quietness of surrender.  In the heartbreaking finale of trust.  That no matter what comes, I am okay.  That God’s goodness is not to destroy me, but to hold me through it.  That he is not lurking around the corners with my greatest fears, but he is wooing me to his goodness.  

The resting place of his mercy is that no matter what comes, he will sustain me.  He will strengthen me and if I take my hands off, he will free me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shepherds Pie ~ a recipe

It was a few years ago, I was newly married, my husband requested I make Shepherd's Pie for dinner.  I was sure he was joking.  Images of overcooked vegetables, potatoes and some sort of fear of mince meat mingled in my mind.  He did his best to describe the process and with a blind hope I made my first attempt.   For such an absolute flop, you would think it would have ended there.  However, he really was serious when he said he liked shepherd's pie, so I tried and tried and finally landed on a family favorite.  A couple things I learned from the first - It's better to cook the corn, fresh raw kernels do not cook while in the oven and adding a gravy really enhances the flavor and keeps it from drying out.

I work nights and try to make an easy meal that my husband can heat up while he has our screaming banshees hanging from both arms.  This is their favorite and he never has to push the kids to eat.  Lot's of wins here.

I hope you enjoy.

~ Shepherd's Pie

1.5 lbs ground beef
3 outrageously large russet potatoes
2 cups whole corn kernels
1/2 block cream cheese
1 cup milk
1/3 cup half and half
1 T beef bouillon
2t corn starch or 3T flour
4 T butter
salt and pepper
garlic powder

Total time 1 hour, 30 min prep 30 min in the oven

For a one pot meal there are a ridiculous amount of pots required in the prep process.  You can make it in the morning and bake it in the evening which is pretty wonderful.  The cleanup is only 10 min if you hand wash all the pots and knives and such.

Fill a large pot with enough salted water to cover one inch above your peeled and cubed russet potatoes.  I've used yukon golds and red potatoes, you just need to adjust your cook time.  With my one inch cubes, I let the potatoes boil for 20 min.  I put the potatoes in cold salted water and then time from the moment the boil starts, I believe the whole process is 30 min.

Once the potatoes are in the water and on the stove, I start browning my meat.  Throw it in a pan add 1 1/2t garlic powder 1t salt 1/2t cracked pepper and cook through, about 10 min.

The water for the corn goes on at the same time.  2c salted water, bring to a boil, add 2c corn ( I use frozen, but you could absolutely use fresh, just cook for 5 min) boil 10 min.  When the corn is done just drain and leave it in the pot on the counter (hot pads will protect your counter, but that's on you).

When the meat is done put it in a 9 inch pirex pan or any casserole dish you like.  As soon as the meat is finished I start my gravy.

I do 2T butter, 1T beef bouillon and 3T flour, make a roux, then add 1 1/2 cups whole milk, cook on medium heat til just thickened.  Then pour over the ground beef.  I then dump and spread the corn over the meat and gravy.

                      Mashed Potatoes
The potatoes should be cooked all the way through at this point, drain them completely and then just dump back in the pot.  Add 1/2 a block cream cheese, 1/4-1/3cup half and half, 2T butter, 1/2t pepper, 1t salt then mix with a hand held mixer on high or mash with a masher.  You have your freedom to do whatever makes you happiest.

Then dump the potatoes on top of the meat and corn, spread them willy nilly till everything is covered.  If you like you could sprinkle some garlic powder and grated cheese over the top, but it's up to you.

Then place the pan in the oven at 375 and bake until the top starts to golden, about 30 - 40 minutes.

I like to eat this with a huge salad, but my kids prefer cucumber slices.  It feeds 4 adults.

It's super yummy and I hope you try it and enjoy.

A couple of modifications.

To make it gluten free, I omit the flour and mix 2t cornstarch with the cold milk then pour in to the butter and bouillon for the gravy.

You can use buttermilk or milk instead of half and half for the potatoes and on occasion I will do 1 cup ricotta instead of the cream cheese for the mashed potatoes.

I'm not much for following recipes, so feel free to tweak and have fun with however that looks for you.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Making a Change.

I sat out, under the pomegranate tree the other day.   It was early morning and the air still held the chill and mystery of the night.  I held a hot cup of coffee, laced with cream.  My children sat in front of  me, bowls of oatmeal, just the way they liked it.  One with sucanot and milk, the other raisins and milk.  They took small bites.  I leaned my head back enjoying the moment.  The calm before the rush of the day took over.  Then it came, more suddenly than I expected.

"I don't want to eat anymore.  I just want to drink coffee, like you, mom."  Judah stared at his bowl as if it had suddenly landed from the moon.  His spoon dripping clumps of oatmeal back into the bowl.  Disgust lined his face.  

I didn't know what to say.  Obviously my example was wrong and I was setting it deep into the still permeable stone of youth.  

I hate breakfast.  Really, I do.  It rarely fills me up and I find that I'm still starving at twelve.  I just don't want to teach my kids that coffee is the way to start their day.  

I'm not vowing that I will eat breakfast every day.  I am going to try.  Today was the first and I managed to wait on my coffee and eat a whole bloody egg.  Thanking God for his bounty and praying my heart would shift.

You see I am not a good example in regards to food.  I don't mean to be, but I have my own issues handed down from my parents who received the same from theirs.  It's a complicated generation of eaters I come from.  But, I know one thing for certain.  I want to hand something better to my children. I want to teach them to enjoy, to eat to satisfaction, to appreciate what they are given.  I just wish it didn't have to start with me.  That somehow they could come to this on their own and I wouldn't have to undo thirty or so years of eating disfunction to teach them something better.

I am going to try.

I am quickly discovering that I am something of a closet eater.  I almost never sit while I eat.  I pick while I make my children plates, then I assist them through their meals, eating when they're finished.  I should admit that at this point I'm rarely picking on a salad, rather I'm munching a handful of corn chips, while I clean up the kitchen.  Or I'm too full from taste testing dinner to eat at the table with my family.  A glass of wine is probably not what I want my kids to think makes a healthy meal.  I eat, though.  A lot.  They just don't see me eat.  Okay and I do hide in my room with the door locked eating a bowl of ice cream while scouring the internet.  Hmmm.  Time for a shift?  I should say so.

In every way, except hiding with my bowl of ice cream.  If my children knew how many treats that I eat every day, they would refuse to consume a healthy morsel of food ever again.  Some things are better kept in hiding.  (yes, I know nothing is ever really secret)

Food is important.  Meal time is a special place to pause and enjoy while hearing all about the thoughts and dreams that run rampant through my children's minds.  It is a ritual that I want to train them to value and appreciate.  Learning that they are important and how they fill their bodies is an essential key to long and healthy life.  I know too much about health and nutrition to not hand my children the same keys, the same road map to success.  With it, I'll have to sacrifice my own bad habits, in pursuit of teaching them to love and value themselves.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

a little foolishness.

It was the murmuring of hope.  The silent anchor of joy and desire.

The way she walked, the way she moved, stuck like hooks and pulled.

She was the dream, the fantasy.  The beguiling mystery of what could be, if only.

His mouth watered, the taste and hunger filling his blood, rushing.

She whispered and laughed, he swore she looked right at him.

Her independence and appeal, swirled like a heady aroma and he leaned in to fill himself with what could never be.

She, a passing fancy.  A glimmer of what he would never know.

An old ghost, a hunger that could not be satiated.

He walked, heavy, beyond his years, away.  Silent.  Dreaming often, and lonely.

She flirted by, heavy eyes casting a glance at the handsome stranger.  The lonely man with mystery, dark and dangerous.  He seemed sad and she wanted to feel his head against her, the heat of his worry easing in the curve of her chest.

She whispered to her friend, "that man, there".  "Like him do you?"  "Like?  He's like a dream."  She threw her head back and laughed at her foolishness.  A man like that wouldn't notice her.  Couldn't see her longing for love.  He hadn't glanced her way.  She would have know, would have felt the weight of his gaze.

They passed on.

Silent and longing.  Nothing but an empty wish to keep.

Friday, May 3, 2013

a little secret

Hello.  I have a secret.  It is a good secret.  A happy little something, that I know.  It's about you.  Yep, you.  You are now probably thinking how impossible this is, I don't know you, how could I know anything about you.  But, I do.  You probably need to know it, too.

You are beautiful.
You are talented.
You are amazing.
You have something to offer that no one else in the whole world can do.

Want to know the very sad thing about this?  You probably don't know this to be true or you don't believe it.

That makes me want to cry.  In fact I could fill a whole pot of tear water tea, just thinking of how little you know of yourself.  How carefully you avoid seeing the beauty that dwells inside.

There are so many things that hide you from yourself.  Little lies people have told you, careless words that drove like an arrow into your heart and repeat back like a broken record.  Images you've seen and deemed yourself less than.

And I can bet that you have a list of 'if onlys' walking with you through your day.

If only I looked like that girl, then my life would be perfect.
If only I had finished school, or picked that degree, everything would be better.
If only I lost 100lbs, 50lbs, 5lbs, then I would feel good about myself.
If only I had more self control.
If only my parents had loved me.
If only my life had been different.
If only I had been born someone else.

Oh heartbreak and anger!!  Every single 'if only' I listed is a lie.  It's not true.  You can enjoy every moment of your life, right now!!  But I can't make you.  I can't whisper in your ear when you catch your reflection "you're beautiful".  I can't stand over your shoulder while you're taking a test and remind you "you're smart".  I can't stand like your trainer when you get on the scale and explain that "your weight does not define you".

I have a feeling that you are doing plenty of whispering of your own.  I bet when you see your face,  you wish you were prettier, if you just had a different nose.  I have a feeling that when you can't remember a question on a test you chastise yourself for being stupid.  I guarantee that when you get on the scale and you've gained a pound you berate yourself for being fat and lacking control.

And the cycle continues.  You go round and round wishing and feeling mad at yourself, because the worst thing you could do would not be to accept yourself for who you are, but to love yourself for all that you are.

If you took all the energy you spend trying to change yourself and just began to love yourself, I guarantee things would change.  Your life would shift.  You would find that elusive joy, that desperate sense of peace for which you long.

Since I know so much about you and you know so little.  I have a little job for you to do.  Tell yourself you're amazing.  Remind yourself that you are smart, and talented, and capable.  That you are the only you in all of the world and I'm so glad that you exist.  I am so thankful for you.  You bring something to this massive universe that would be like a black void if you weren't there to fill it.  You are the light and the joy and the smile and the beauty that you were created for.  No one else could take your place.

I hope today that you fill your spot with all of the love and the good that you can be.  I hope that you enjoy your moments.  And I hope that you hear my voice whispering, you've got this, you are so good at all you do.  I'm proud of you.