Wednesday, January 30, 2013

accepting imperfection

Today, Ben and I stirred a pot together. Brownies for my sister's birthday (this time topped with coconut, not peanut butter).

 And I am being stirred.

It's that old momma guilt churning up again. My desires and duties mixed with questions of priorities and the reality that Ben will not be this size forever and probably will be off to school in a year-and-a-half.

Today the pot bubbled vigorously. 

I wanted it to be a morning focused solely on birthday lunch preparations to celebrate my sister. But the reality of Ben needing, deserving my attention at least some of those hours bit hard. And here's where the guilt comes in.

Shouldn't I want to lay down my work and sit down with him? Enjoying life at knee-high level, oblivious to the relentless tick, tick, tick of the clock, clock, clock? Especially when I read stories of parents, like Daisy's, who are in the trenches battling for their daughter's life

I do...

And yet, I also delight in doing things for others, beyond my four wee arrows. And I like tidying up the house somewhat because life feels lighter when I'm not tripping over shoes, toys, books, large boxes from a new sink, and sloshing through crumbs and dust bunnies. And there's the reality that if I don't cook, we don't eat.

And I think this guilt comes from expectations I put on myself for what I think a good mother looks like. And other people's idea of what a good mother looks like.

And I wonder if the women of yore ever felt this struggle. But perhaps they were just focused on surviving and dealing with the reality that survival and the most basic of chores took hours. Days even.

So could these modern inventions designed to make our lives easier, make them harder in other ways? Because now that we have more time for other things, we mothers open ourselves to guilt if we place our to do lists above spending time with our children?

I don't know.

What I do know is that God placed me in this specific time, place and location for a specific purpose. And I am constantly going to fail at living out that purpose perfectly. 

I need to let false idol of achieving perfection in my own strength go. Some idols are harder to fall than others.

So for today I face imperfect me and decided to accept her warts and all. And chose to have Ben help make the brownies. And let him play by himself for a while. And cooked some more. And accepted God's grace at having my mom stay for the afternoon which freed me up to read to Ben and play at knee-high level. 

And it feels pretty good. This acceptance of God's grace and the warts. This acceptance of imperfect me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

when you're looking for something to whip up

Doesn't this look yummy?

No? Perhaps like a batch of something left to go severely moldy? Good thing it's not for eating.

It's a batch of play dough I made for Ben last week to occupy him while Dave was trying to study and I was in for a morning of cooking. I'd finally had enough of the DVD player being his baby sitter. :)

Plus I was inspired by this post  at Jess McClenahan's blog back in November and encouraged by how much Ben enjoyed play doughing at our local community family room.

And while he was busy making minty green creations at the table, I was whipping up a batch of these...

I could eat a whole pan by myself. There's just something about chocolate and peanut that tastes just right.

Ever since I've taken a closer look at our diets and how foods affect our bodies, for better and for worse, I've been experimenting with ways to make healthier versions of our favorite food and desserts.

And although it's healthiest to not eat desserts and grab a piece of fruit instead, there are times when brownies are called for. So they might as well be made as "healthy "as possible without sacrificing the chocolate fudgy goodness.

Here's my version of vegan peanut butter brownies which are oil-free (except the peanut butter), egg-free, reduced sugar, low gluten and dairy-free. But I still think they're big on taste. I served these last week with a side of strawberry sauce (just throw (organic) frozen strawberries in a pot and cook over medium heat until the berries break down into a thick sauce).

Vegan Peanut Butter Brownies
*inspired by Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

Moist Ingredients
1/3 c. smooth natural peanut butter
2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp + 6 Tbsp water)
1/2 c. date paste
1/4 c. pure maple syrup*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk**

Dry Ingredients
4 oz. vegan, semisweet chocolate chips (fair trade is best)
1 c. spelt flour (organic is best)***
1 c. buckwheat flour (organic is best)***
1 tsp. baking powder

1. Mix up flax eggs and set aside. Make sure peanut butter is at room temperature or warm in a small pot until very runny.
2. In a small saucepan, combine chocolate, date paste, maple syrup, vanilla and almond milk. Heat over low heat, until all ingredients are well combined, making sure you don't burn the chocolate.
3. Combine flours and baking powder in a bowl.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. The mixture will be very thick. If it looks dry add more almond milk.
5. Pour batter into a greased 8x8 glass baking pan. Spoon peanut butter over batter and lightly swirl it in using a knife.
6. Place in a 275 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Recipe notes:
*You could use another type of natural sweetener but this may change the taste and texture slightly. Agave syrup might be the closest in consistency to maple syrup.
**You can use another type of unsweetened, non-dairy milk if you like. I like almond milk for the natural, subtle sweetness it adds to dessert recipes.
***I liked this combination of flours the best. If you try different whole grain flours, the texture of the brownies may be affected. Buckwheat is gluten free, but spelt is not. Read more about spelt here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

the ride of your life

I've been going through Genesis with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF - it's international so there may be one near you if you want to check it out). It's amazing how much God has been speaking to me through Abraham's story and the whole trusting/believing Him thing.

This week we're reading about Sarah and the birth of Isaac and how God brought her laughter with his birth. And I think that is the kind of joy and laughter we can expect when we believe Him to do the impossible and wait on Him to bring life where it appears no life exists.

I wonder if that's why He had Abraham and Sarah wait so long. He could have given them Isaac earlier, just after Sarah went through menopause. But perhaps He wanted to remove even the slightest inkling in their minds that they could conceive a child on their own. There must have been a reason He wanted them to recognize they pretty much had one foot in the grave before He gave them new life and resurrected what was dead (see Romans here).

This brought me such hope because Dave and I are at the beginning of the waiting season. We're not sure how God is going to work all the details out and how close to He will bring us to death in certain areas of our lives. Because some things have to die before we see resurrection.

But what do we do in the meantime, while we await the resurrection, while we feel we are hanging, on barely to our hope, our dreams, our life

I think we choose to believe we're on the roller coaster ride of our life. Maybe it's cliche, but hang with me for a moment.

I think most people would agree roller coasters are thrilling to ride. Right?

We find joy in feeling our stomachs reach our throats, scare ourselves with the plummet down the first big hill and get banged around the loops and twists and turns of the track. We perceive this is fun because we trust the safety mechanisms will hold and the car will stay on the track.

Imagine that exact same ride done in an ordinary car. Not so fun. I'd probably throw up or pass out from the sheer terror of it. Because I couldn't trust that everything would turn out all right in the end.

And that's what God's been speaking to me lately...that I'm to trust I'm on a roller coaster with Him the power behind the car and the safety net that will keep the car on the tracks. He whispers, "Enjoy the ride. I have you covered. And that first big hill? The one you're speeding down and convinced you're about to crash at the bottom? That's the one that's setting you up for the ride of your life. So enjoy it. Laugh out loud. Raise your hands in the air. Scream with joy. And I'll meet you there at the end."

 We're just gearing up for the real ride before us, chugging up that first hill. Click. Click. Click. Holding our breath, closing our eyes, anticipating what is to come. Click. And though I can't promise God I exactly adore the feeling of my stomach in my throat, I will ask Him to keep me trusting Him for the thrilling ride that's ahead. Because He's got this. It's in His hands. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

God? we need to talk

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged...
 - God @ Joshua 1:9

Commanded me? I am commanded to be strong, courageous, unafraid and encouraged?

Lord, that's a strong word to use - commanded. It kind of sounds like You're serious. Like I would be disobeying you to give into my weak, cowardly, terrified, flat out discouraged self.

You see You have us on this journey that seems really exciting - Dave finally girding his loins with laptop, books, pen and paper, ready to begin the adventure of obtaining his Master's degree in child psychology - but there's also the minor detail of Who's Going to Pay for It. I mean I know You will because You're Jehovah Jireh and our Father and all greenbacks belong to You anyway. But exactly how all this is going to shake out leaving me quaking inside when I think about it.

Which is probably why You tell me not to do that either.

But it would be so much easier to obey You in the strong-courageous-unafraid-encouraged command if I could see little further down the road...You know, like to the end of it.

What's that? I am more blessed if I do not see and yet believe. And that's the point of faith? Good point. I often ask You for greater faith...

Yet I feel like Jacob today, Lord, wrestling with You for a blessing. For some confirmation that everything is going to work out okay (and by okay I mean, by not ending up destitute and on the street at the end of this whole adventure). I think that's what I'm scared of...suffocating under a heaping pile of debt.

 (Is being scared okay? It doesn't sound quite out fearful like being "terrified." More like imaginary monsters in the closet than world coming to an end. So would feeling scared be okay with You? It wouldn't? Because it's the same thing as being afraid and I'm told not to be that either? Sigh. This whole Christ-following this is tough!).

So why do I want to let those scaredy cat emotions out of the bag? Do I think You'll suddenly change Your mind about Dave going back to school now and somehow being more blessed by that than plunging forward? Do I hope that You'll take pity on us and show exactly how all the t's will be crossed and i's dotted so we don't have to worry about the future? Do I really believe that doing this scared is better than confidently walking it out, certain that You'll be there to catch us when we stumble and thankfully this isn't eternity and any discomfort we suffer is only temporary?

Did You hear that teeny tiny part of me squeak out a "yes" to those questions?

Please ignore it.

God, I'd much rather have more of You and learn what it means to walk with You by faith than taking the easy way out. I want this path we're on to be one that brings You glory and I've heard that You get the greatest glory from the places where we are weakest in ourselves. Most of all, I want to know what it's like to obey Your commands -  to live as one strong, courageous, unafraid and encouraged. I see enough of living the other way in myself and in the world around me. I think it's time for a change. Will You help me?


Thursday, January 10, 2013

what makes the cut

Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning. in. all. this. stuff.

And the thought of downsizing it, really downsizing it, sends me into mental hyperventilation. Because looking in all these bins, boxes and baskets, in drawers and behind doors and I can see just how much stuff we've acquired in this home-to-us of nine years.

It would be easier to eat this elephant if I could glibly toss or donate the no longer needed or wanted items.

But Seven showed me the beauty in donating meaningfully.

And as steward of God's earthly home for us, sending all the non-recyclable things to the trash pile doesn't sit well with me either.

What remains is painstaking sifting through years of accumulation. The hardest part is deciding what to do with the items that "might" come in handy some day. There's always that dread of purging our house of some items and then kicking myself soon after because a use for it suddenly popped up.

I could probably count on one hand the number of times this actually has happened.

So I defer to my go-to question: "Would I want to move this item?" That is, "Do I really want to pack this item up, move it to a new location and find somewhere to use/store said item?"

Put that way, there are a whole lot of things knocking about this house that just don't make the cut.

Including many of our *gasp* wedding photos. The ones we paid a stupid amount of money for. The ones sitting in boxes in a cabinet, collecting dust, taken out in less than a blue moon. I won't toss the whole collection of course, but I am paring it back. 

That will be the easy project (because all the best photos are in an album).

The harder project is deciding if or by how much I downsize my fabric collection. Because I still like tackling the occasional sewing project. And is there any good way to get rid of fabric scraps besides tossing them? Anyone want a grab bag of fabric scraps? Leave a comment with your email and I'll send you one (you pay the postage and we can work it all out through paypal). 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

when God says it's time

Yesterday, God officially changed the trajectory of Dave's life (as he likes to put it). "Officially" because we acknowledged the change a month ago, but yesterday was the announcement at work to staff.

For 15 years, it's been on Dave's heart to become a child psychologist. Fifteen years...and getting married and having four children in 12 of those years and somehow the time never seemed right to change careers and pursue a Master's Degree and PhD.

God has been patient. I believe He would continue to be patient except, we are finite beings and while God has all the time in the world, we don't. So now is the time. God made that abundantly clear. And though the way in which this all came about was painful to go through, we rejoice in these circumstances because we know we pursue God's will for our lives.

Next week Dave starts classes and each step we must take for this next season of our life will be steps of faith. I'm just praying we stay on that narrow path because it's all rather foggy right now.

The biggest question is asking God how He will choose to provide for us with Dave in school full time and me a full time mom. The biggest challenge is to have no fear in the process of walking this out.

Or 3 a.m. anxiety and over-thinking things like I did early this morning.

And today His reminder:

In BSF: Do not be afraid [Beloved], I am your shield and your very great reward.

And in today's Gospel portion: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  

Oh how I need those reminders. How I need to repeat them until they become a part of every breath, every heart beat.

And if you pray, we can take all of that kingdom currency that we can get. Specifically?
  • To be strong and courageous. To not be terrified or discouraged and remember that God is with us wherever we go. (Joshua 1:9)
  • To let God's will and His desire for our provision be the number one desire of our hearts
  • To prayerfully consider how and how much we downsize (this has been a prayer of mine for a couple of years now - the desire to live with less so we are open to give more)
  • To be asking God if I am to help with our income (as of now I don't feel called to re-enter the workforce :) but I want to be sure this aligns with God's will

Thursday, January 3, 2013

first verse and creative work outs

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm challenging myself (along with Dave and the kids) to memorize 52 Bible verses this year. That's one per week.

I've attempted something like this before as part of Beth Moore's Scripture Memory Team (she's doing it again this year too). Twenty four verses is easier to tackle than 52, but knowing I had 2-3 weeks in between memorizing each new verse, made it all too easy to let it fall by the wayside.

I'm hoping the weekly challenge will help us stick with it.

Here's this week's verse from Isaiah 30:20-21 in the NIV 1984:
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”   

And as for exercising? Didn't happen yesterday unless you count walking from the house to the car, down a couple Target aisles and around the library. 

With the kids home and daylight hours shortened for a few more months, I can see I may have to be creative in my ways to work up a sweat. 
sledding on New Year's Day 

Today, my mom and I are planning to take the kids sledding on a long, sloping hill near their home. The kind that could benefit from a tow lift. :) Walking in snow + snow gear + plus the probability of having to tow Ben up at least part way should equal working up a good sweat.

Reese gets in two rides for every one we manage

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

a year with no mistakes in it...yet

It's taken me 36 years to see the value in making resolutions at the new year's advent. I resisted in the past because it seemed (I had to look up a good word to capture my attitude toward this new year trend). And making resolutions simply for the sake of making them, but without realty caring whether I broke them or not seemed disingenuous.

But now...

Now I'm beginning to see the wisdom and blessing in dreaming up goals for the new with no mistakes in it - yet (to loosely quote L.M. Montgomery). I certainly made plenty of mistakes in 2012, so the potential of a mistake free year in 2013 is rather appealing. Do I really think I will go an entire year without making one mistake?

No, but there is hope and God's mercies are new every morning and with each rising of sun in sky comes the invitation to embrace the day the Lord has made and to try. my. best. to live the dreams He places on my heart.

And then, of course, there's the fun of looking back from December 31 to see which resolutions stuck, which ones faded away and those not fully realized but the summit is nearer now than 365 days ago.

So here are a few of mine for 2013:
1. Memorize one Bible verse a week with my family.

2. Read the Old Testament in one year to my children. 

3. Get back into exercising on a regular basis and minimize the times when that plan becomes derailed. I finally went for a run again yesterday, snow covered sidewalks and all because I'd finally had enough of not doing any cardio beyond carrying laundry baskets up and down stairs.

4. Continue to press into what it means to love God fully and fully love others as I love myself.

5. Cultivate a habit of holy thanksgiving. I took Ann's joy dare last year...

...and will do so again this year, but with the goal of writing thanksgivings every day and especially in the hard times.

6. Prepare for birthdays and special events at least one month before they happen. Lately, I've developed a habit of throwing things together within a few days before the event which doesn't leave much time for really giving it my all or savoring the event itself.

7. For Advent (because I felt this year's was a total fail): meditate on an aspect of the nativity and/or a Scripture verse and write a devotional for each day of advent. I'm hoping this resolution will help prepare my heart for celebrating Christ's birth and receive God's greatest gift to us.