Sunday, July 21, 2019

Make the Rough Edges Smooth

Lake Coeur d’Alene is big enough to have waves, and I couldn’t help but look at the smooth rocks in the surf with trepidation last week. The water rushing over the rocks makes the rough edges smooth, and it sounds nice. It looks bearable and maybe even relaxing. I know I have lots of rough edges, and the hardships of life have made me softer, even as I have so far to go. In Isaiah 45:2, God says, “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.” What if the rough place is my heart?

If you’ve been a Christian for a minute, you’ve heard Romans 8:28 in which we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good. If you’ve been a Christian for two minutes, you know God’s definition of good isn’t always the same as mine.

In times of trauma, the line between my "good" and my perceived ruin feels paper thin. Imagine a storm on the lake, gentle lapping replaced by pounding waves, relentless, one after another. Instead of gentle rocking, rocks are thrown around, against each other, unresting. Maybe it accomplishes the same end faster, but is it really necessary? I find myself asking “why” a lot. Why this way, God? And where’s the line between smoothing a stone and pulverizing it into sand?

If God is a wave working for my good, and I am the stone in need of polishing, he feels downright cruel. This is where I’ve been for months and months. Mad at God’s seeming cruelty in the name of my sanctification.

The pastor preached on Psalm 16 this morning, and the middle of the psalm proclaims, "the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." As I read it today, a verse that I once loved tasted bitter in my mouth. I find myself believing that there is no one to stand up for me. My safest places, big and small, have been taken away: relationships, my home, my health which I guard so carefully, my perceived idea of the future I thought was mine. I rage at God, yet return every Sunday because if I don't have Him, I have NOTHING. Yet, I don't even feel like I have him.

Today at church I asked God once again, “can I trust you?” As I cried next to a friend while the church band sang, “glory glory hallelujah, Jesus you are good,” an unbidden image came to my mind. 

What if God isn’t the wave? What if he’s the shoreline? The foundation under the rocks and the destination and, most importantly, the boundary for the waters. I feel like those places in the Old Testament whose borders had been devastated and whose cities had been ruined, and I blame God because, isn't he in control? And doesn't he love me?

But Job 38:1-11 says,

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans

    with words without knowledge?

Brace yourself like a man;

    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

    Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!

    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone

while the morning stars sang together

    and all the angels shouted for joy?
 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
 when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,

when I fixed limits for it

    and set its doors and bars in place,
 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt’?"
I know God can calm the seas, and he's not calming mine. I'm angry. But this is a small bit of hope I can cling to: he's still there. I picture him standing firm and saying to my calamity: "This far you may come and no farther" and I want to cry tears of gratitude, because maybe he still sees me after all. 


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Write This Down

Last September, I started feeling a tug to write again. Like, really write. The One Conference lit a little flame, and small things kept popping up pointing me in that direction. I was in the throes of sleeplessness, but willing to hold space for this passion without feeling obligated to dive in. Then in January, life turned upside down and a big little voice in my heart told me unequivocally that this is the story you need to write. I know writing doesn't have to equal publishing, so with little to no pushback, I said yes to the "Big Magic" as Elizabeth Gilbert calls it.

Which also means that 6 months ago, I dove headfirst into some of the really good memoirs out there (a genre I'd previous been ambivalent about). I've been inhaling books on writing. I went on a reflective writing retreat in March, and I started thinking seriously about what it meant to be A Writer. And of course, I've been sitting down at my laptop to write. So far, I only know this: every effort I've made to sit down and write-- something that happens once every few weeks at best-- has been rewarded with a simple overtone of clarity. The art of holding my attention span to an uninterrupted task until I've wrestled the subtext out of a certain situation or emotion is a reward in itself. I strongly feel that if no one else ever reads my words, that's okay.

However, I wasn't holding so loosely to my words that I wasn't devastated when my toddler dropped my laptop, breaking the hard-drive, rendering the first 10,000 words of what I'd come to think of as MY BOOK un-recoverable. You'll ask if I had backed it up, and I'll tell you, of course I didn't. For the past 6 months, staying alive has been my mantra. Making it through one day at a time. Short-term memory and critical thinking have been reserved for life-threatening situations, mostly involving my children. The rest is just details (as those t-shirts from the 90s used to say).

So here I sit, mourning those words I poured out when the trauma was fresh, grasping in vain at the wisps of ideas that I know passed out of my head and through my fingers a few short months ago, but had been released from the forefront my brain because I felt they were secure on paper. Which is, interestingly, one of the most therapeutic things about writing! It's a fascinating sort of amnesia to read something I wrote any length of time ago. The words, their rawness and confusion, whether coherent or jumbled in nature, take me right back to the space I was in when I wrote them, but I never fail to see the situation more clearly re-reading my words later than I did in the moment.

But now, some of the most crucial words of my life have disappeared into the ether. This both reminds me that they must not have been the most crucial words, and also that words and ideas can be frangible but enduring. They are worth writing again, and worth protecting, even if no one reads them but myself.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Ham and Sage Pasta Toss

16oz gluten free pasta, cooked to package directions

1.5 cups beef stock

2 Tbs grapeseed or olive oil

1 lb mushrooms, sliced

1 cup diced ham

1/4-1/2 tsp dried sage

2 Tbs butter

2 cups fresh spinach, chopped

Bring beef stock to boil until reduced to about a cup (12-15 minutes) (Optional: add 1/2 cup red wine as well)

In large non-stick skillet pan, heat oil over medium high heat, saute mushrooms until soft, then add sage and ham. Saute ham until lightly brown.

Stir in butter and beef stock reduction. Allow to thicken slightly over 2-3 minutes and then stir in spinach and pasta (and 1/2 cup parmesan or Italian cheese if using).

Meals from Friends

We ate like kings in January. Literally in a 4 week period, I think I cooked twice? So so many delicious meals, and I feel so incredibly loved.

Literally every single meal was delicious, and made enough for leftovers. Sometimes lots of leftovers! Like two dinners, and a lunch and some left to freeze. It feels like my very own loaves and fishes miracle during a dark season.

A few meals really stood out and were very different than our usual far, in a good way:

Orange Chicken

Creamy Tuscan Chicken

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

Ham and Sage Pasta Toss

Lick Your Plate Coconut Chicken Curry

Pasta with Turkey Meatballs and Broccoli

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Recipes I Want to Make: Holiday Edition

I get really burnt out on cooking sometimes, but lately I've been itching to try some new recipes. Especially if they're warm and comforting, or holiday-themed!


Soup

Salsa Verde Steak Soup

Celery Root and Cauliflower Soup

Immunity-Boosting Golden Soup



Vegetables

Thanksgiving Panzanella

Shredded Kale Salad



Dessert

This is barely a recipe, but the Pamela's gluten-free dairy-free sugar cookie mix + Miyokos dairy-free butter + 2 Tbs Bob's Red Mill egg replacer + 6 Tbs water + 2 tsp fresh lemon zest = HEAVEN. It's not as high maintenance as it sounds, and the flavor and texture were spot-on.

Peanut 'Better' Balls

Molasses Cookies (would need to sub GF flour)

I'm craving the oreo cheesecake that Modern Love recently added to their menu. But since it's not a local restaurant, these will have to do.

Vegan Salted Peanut Butter Crunch Torte

Vegan Cashew Espresso Truffles

Vegan Gluten Free Gingerbread Cake


Lunch bowls

I've been loving these lately. Highlights include quinoa, beets, spinach, roasted chickpeas, and tahini dressing.

Also loved brown rice, smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes, red onion, capers, Kite Hill vegan ricotta cheese, and Everything but the Bagel seasoning.

Next I want to try this Macro Bowl

This Southwestern Bowl,

and This Rice Bowl with Shitakes and Peas




Breakfast

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal

Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins (still decent when I cut the sugar by about a third)



Dinner

I recently made this Skillet Honey Pomegranate Chicken, and while it was a little more work than I like during the witching hour, it was PHENOMENAL. (I used my dutch oven, and I didn't have pom nectar, so I used a tad more juice and a tad more honey than called for.)

Simple Dutch Oven Chicken. Really similar technique to the above recipe, but a very different flavor. So good!

Vegan Cottage Pie

Basically all of these freezer meals -- This is my New Year's Resolution!


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Meal Planning

This week has been kind of awesome. I'm such a brat about leftovers, and somehow this week we've managed to stretch two big meals into something that felt a little different each night!

On Sunday, I threw a bunch of stuff into the crockpot for Texas chili. Ross grilled hotdogs for the kids, and they had chili dogs, carrot sticks, and apples for dinner. I had leftovers when I got home.

On Monday, we had chili/chili dogs again, but I made a yummy fall kale salad to go with it.

On Tuesday, I made baked potatoes, bacon, and sliced green onions to put the chili on.

On Wednesday, I made fish taco bowls. I guess more specifically, I did the easy version of these. I used the fish rub recipe as posted (YUM) and served with rice, quick pickled onions, red bell pepper (from our garden), jalepenos, canned black beans, sliced Napa cabbage, avocado, and lime. I'm sure chipotle crema on top would be amazing, but I just mixed our favorite vegan Ranch with our favorite mild salsa and it was great! We eat tacos a lot, but for some reason this recipe just tasted totally fresh and different.

Tonight and tomorrow (Thursday and Friday), we are eating the same bowl ingredients except the fish is gone, so I threw some pre-marinated chicken tinga from the freezer and into the crockpot. People can eat it as a bowl, salad, or in tacos.

Then over the weekend, we will use the rest of the cabbage in crack slaw. But in the summer, turning it into actual coleslaw alongside grilled chicken would be great, too!

This has been perfection, because the weather has been sunny and warm in the afternoon this week, so we are taking FULL advantage of it and I'm so happy I don't have to spend each night prepping some new meal!

For the record, Rosie broke her arm 2.5 weeks ago, and for some crazy reason, she started sleeping through the night the day she got her cast on. (I don't want to jinx this!!!) It's crazy how much more manageable life feels when you sleep through the night. I'm so thankful and I really hope this is the beginning of a new normal for us! So if this week's meals don't sound as amazing to you as they do to me, maybe I'm just on a high from sleeping 6 hours in a row, 6 nights in a row!


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The One Conference 2018

So I've been binge-watching this show on Netflix called Jane the Virgin. So... unexpected, right? It's the most bizarre show I've ever seen. More telenovela than sitcom. But you know what? It's really making me miss writing, of all things! It makes me want to read more and write more and really find my voice. But also... I know this isn't really the time or place to suddenly dig into that 100%. So I'll keep posting here. Little Ebenezer stones on this path I'm walking.

Amidst what feels like chaos, I'm starting to see themes emerging again. Instead of straight up survival mode, I'm sensing little love notes from God dropping into my days. Random things that have caught my mind are suddenly being tied together in my heart. And I don't want to forget. So... I write.

And today, I'm writing about water. It has been raining for what must only be 5 days or so, but it feels like forever. The ground is saturated and spongy. My feet actually squelched when I walked across the backyard this morning. It's still warm-ish, so I don't mind so much, I guess. Although I am ready to see the sun soon.

I drove to and from The One Conference in on and off rain on Friday and Saturday. Seven hours of driving in a 24 hour period, and I hate driving. I alllllmost didn't go. Rosie broke her arm last Monday, and last Friday afternoon we got the cast put on! So when I should have been leaving with the carpool, I was instead just getting home from the hospital and feeding kids, doing the naptime routine, and fretting that I hadn't even packed yet. When I did finally leave, I saw that the GPS predicted a 3.5 hour drive time instead of the three I anticipated. Sure enough, there was a super random detour 2/3 of the way through that took me off of I-35 and into Amish country. Like, I actually saw a horse drawn carriage going down the road! But you know what? The drive was really beautiful. Green hills, leaves that were just starting to turn, and a grey sky that somehow intensified all the colors with its filtered, muted light. It was just me, my podcasts, and the view.

Well, and the GPS navigator voice. And the RAIN. Noticeably and gratefully absent, though, was my companion Panic. Once I decided I was still going despite the weather, despite the crazy week, despite the fact that I missed my carpool and missed dinner and I'd be an hour late to the opening session, I just kept going. Because what else can you do? Something deep within me knew I needed refreshment and not just escape. I needed to hear words of life from wise and strong women who have walked their own journeys and found their stories in God's bigger story. And I'm so glad I listened to that voice instead of, well, binge-watching Netflix alone in a hotel room somewhere.

But back to the rain. It's stressful driving in the rain, especially if you're in a new place and the sun is setting and you're running late. I didn't think too much about it on my drive to the conference, but on the way home, the drive afforded some time for my chaotic thoughts to settle, and they started solidifying around a unifying theme: WHAT IF I'M BEING DRENCHED INSTEAD OF BEING DROWNED?* What if the very grace I need is deep within my circumstances? The faith I ask for is found by drinking deeply of what feels like a deluge. I asked for living water and it's being given to me in spades, just not in the way I expected.

"In order to find God, it is perhaps not always necessary to leave the creatures behind... The world is crowded with Him... The real labour is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake." C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcom
------- 

A varied assortment of podcast episodes whose themes seem to have coalesced into my current musings on expectations, rest, and being filled up:

Journeywomen Ep. 70: The New Heavens and the New Earth with Nancy Guthrie

Journeywomen Ep. 45: Rest with Abigail Dodds

Sorta' Awesome Ep. 162: Self-Care, Self-Comfort, What's Healthy, What's Not

Risen Motherhood Ep. 91: Coffee, Wine, and Social Media

Journeywomen Ep. 35: On What to do with Unmet Expectations

Songs:

Rising Sun by All Sons & Daughters

No Longer Slaves by Bethel Music

I Asked the Lord by Indelible Grace




*I have to credit this thoughts to Abigail Dodds, who said in a workshop on Saturday that never to we drink so deeply as in times of trial.