Butter and I Have Something Special

So most of my posts are intense and perhaps more than some people really want to read in a blog post. We’ll keep sharing from the depths of our lives, because if you know Tom or me, it’s just part of the way we roll.

But for today, I’m mostly interested in butter. Yes butter. The creamy, saturated fat that has my heart. (Not my actual heart- my cholesterol is just dandy).

Homemade croutons are easy, less expensive and better tasting than what you can buy in the store. What else are you looking for? Plenty have ooo’d and aww’d over homemade croutons, but what they don’t realize is I usually have stale bread (dry but not yet moldy) around and I love butter.  That combination = croutons.

Anytime I’ve got a couple pieces of bread left that are dry, meaning not moldy but past the point of actually wanting to use it, I just throw it into a zip lock bag in the freezer. Then I usually have a few pieces of bread to pull out when I’m ready.

If you want to make croutons but your bread is fresh, just leave it out on the counter overnight and it will dry out or plan on it taking longer in the oven.

Here’s how I do it… nothing fancy:

1. Pre-heat oven 325 degrees

2. Cut your bread into cubes or strips or small slices (any shape works) into a mixing bowl- I usually do about 1 1/2 inch squares. That’s a “rustic” 1 1/2 in. And by “rustic” I mean, never all the same size and never actually measured.

3. Melt butter. Plenty of butter. Pour over bread and toss (hands are easier than a spoon). For about 4-5 pieces of bread cut in 2 in cubes, I would probably use about 4-6 tbsp butter- start there and add more if needed. You don’t want them sopping in butter, but just kinda mostly covered. You can add all kinds of fun things at this point: freshly pressed garlic or garlic powder or garlic salt, salt and pepper, rosemary, thyme, parsley, parmesan cheese…. you get the idea. My favorite is fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Classic and simple.

4. Spread the bread on a foil-lined baking sheet making sure all pieces are flat. Put in the oven and check in about 20 minutes. I’ve never actually timed it but check at 20 minutes and see if they’re crispy. If you want them slightly browned, then turn the oven up or leave in longer. My biggest mistake when making croutons is too much salt, so go easy on the salt and taste before you put into the oven. Always easy to add more salt, but tough (usually impossible) to correct over-salting.

Sometimes on Saturdays I’ll make lots of croutons, all the random pieces of bread I’ve thrown into the freezer over the month. Then store the croutons in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. It’s super easy to pull out what you need for salads or soup.

Now,  you may be asking yourself… isn’t she a dietitian? Is she allowed to love butter? YES I AM and I always will. I keep it in moderation, and since I prefer savory over sweet- something like good croutons are like a good cookie to me.  I definitely recommend using whole wheat bread- 100% whole wheat flour as first ingredient and 3g of fiber per slice, not per serving since some breads will have 5g fiber per serving but a serving = 2 slices which = 2.5g fiber per slice. You want 3g fiber per slice. (You just got a tip on how to choose your bread if you didn’t notice).  But let’s get back to butter. I’m not like Paula Deen with the butter use, but I’ve never given up on butter. I’ve given up mostly on cheese, and cow’s milk . I use coconut oil whenever possible and plan to increase the use of if because I do believe it is as great as everyone says, but butter will stay too. We have something special and I’m not ready to end it.

So next time you’ve got lettuce you really need to eat (but secretly don’t want to), make some croutons to go with it. Or when you have soup, but it’s a little boring- croutons baby.

High quality, homemade, healthier, less expensive food is possible in your kitchen and you can do it.

Dreams

This time last year Tom was moving into this house where I would join him when we got married in April. I was starting a new job just a few blocks away.  This weekend we’re moving out of this house.  We took on a lot our first year of marriage, my job required more of me than I anticipated, and what looked perfect on paper was not what we experienced. If you read earlier posts you’ll hear our deep heart and big dreams for this neighborhood. One way I’ve found to describe what has happened is that it’s the right dream but the wrong application (for us right now). My dreams of life and light and hope and peace and beauty and restoration being brought back to places long deserted are still there.

I’ve been pondering lately  how these dreams are not really my dreams- they’ve been given and passed down. These are the dreams of the Father for the world. These dreams started their fulfillment in the birth of Jesus, then had hands, feet, blood and reality in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. These dreams continue to work themselves out through us, followers of Jesus, until Jesus returns. So although they are not my dreams in origin, they are still my dreams because I’m the daughter of the King and everything he has he has offered me- including his dreams.

I sense that somewhere along the way I determined it was my job to bring about the life, light, hope, peace, beauty, restoration, etc to places deserted and therefore it all rested on my shoulders.  If I am going to be a leader and live like a missionary, I must…. and ought… and should… and before and faster than everyone else. So instead of responding in obedience to the love of a good Father whose joy it is to send us as friends and participants in the dreams he has for the world, I have wrestled  in obligation and  responsibility trying to do and be what was never intended for me to do and be.

This might be something like little girl (or boy) trying to fill the exact same footprint on the exact same path using the exact same amount of steps as a giant because she wants to be as much like the giant as possible. Meanwhile the giant offered all along to pick her up, or give her a seat on his giant boot where she could take all the same steps he took. But she had decided obedience was her job to do. Imagine the strain and  sweat and defeat and frustration of the little girl when it takes 1,000 huge strides to even span the distance between one of the giant’s strides.  Any on-looker would see how unnecessary such striving would be since a little girl couldn’t ever take the exact same strides as a giant.  As a follower of Jesus, or The Way as we see it in Acts, we’re invited on an adventure where he remains the Father, the Giant, the Protector, the Path-Paver,  the King. We can confidently and joyfully go with him- moving by the peace and protection of his voice or we can live in pressure and fear never feeling like we’ll make enough right steps.  The former is a Father’s delight and the latter is so often where I end up when I stop trusting that all can be surrendered to the Good Father.

As I’ve started to re-imagine and re-experience the call of God to participate in his dreams for the world, rather than carry the weight of them on my shoulders, I realized my dreams actually are coming true at my job ( a WIC clinic )  in the same neighborhood we’re leaving. It’s not my dream job. FAR from it. But I find my dreams there because I see glimpses of hope, peace, life, restoration, light as I interact with our clients. Of course it isn’t this way every time I walk into a room because, let’s be honest, sometimes it smells, or someone is rude, or a kid is screaming relentlessly, and I just do what I need to do and get out.  But a few times a week I’ll be with a family where it is clear their lives are packed with generations of pain and chaos.  There’s always a little kid caught up in the middle so confused about what is safe.

I enter the room simply to talk about their growth and nutrition, but a few times a week a kid will stand next to me almost like a little magnet drawn to something without their knowing. So, they stand there with a hand on my leg as I type and I ask their parent questions.  It’s as if their little heart’s magnet is pulled to what I can only conclude is the peace of Christ. And what gives me so much relief is that I’ve done nothing except show up asking God to have his way. I don’t know how long I’ll stay there or what this job will turn out to be down the road, but I do know that the Father is showing me that I am his and he his mine. Despite how any plan, strategy, goal, expectation, or declaration that I make for how I will live and be used by God turns out, I can rest in his character that is never-changing and always good.

So as we move out of the neighborhood we had so many dreams for, and my plans all fall apart, I just laugh. I sheepishly laugh and know how good he is to Tom and me-how faithful and patient he is as I learn to surrender, stand on his feet, and enjoy the ride.

Here’s to 2012 where the Father longs to be gracious to you and me

-B

Learning to Rest

Rest.

I continually long for more time to rest.  However, when I actually have time to rest, I end up feeling that I’ve wasted it.  I’ll think,  Dang, I should have done something different. 

These last three weeks have been a blessing in that, for the most part, I’ve had very little commitments or responsibilities.  No class, no internship, nothing to lead or spearhead.  I was getting a much needed break from the anxiety of life.  Only, the anxiety didn’t lift – not for the first two weeks anyway.  I found that I couldn’t turn off my production mode.  I put large expectations on myself – I will read a book a week, I will work out every day, I will have coffee with friends, I will complete a 20-item list of house chores, I will get caught up on email, I will clean the house daily, etc.  The aim was to rest efficiently in order to produce something I’d be proud of …

… meeting the goal of reaching my own unrealistic expectation, I guess.

Whoop-dee-do.

That’s ridiculous.

No wonder the anxiety didn’t lift.  I wasn’t resting, I was merely working on different kinds of things.  I needed to be still.  Sans production.  God was making it very clear to me that I needed to learn to chill out.  And that made me nervous.  I knew that if I stopped, then I was relinquishing control of my world.  In essence, I’d be saying, that the world goes on and God is still God regardless if I cram in three hours of reading English history, work out, or complete my to-do list.

Yes, exactly.

The blessing of rest is rooted in the trust we have that God is who He is.  Resting is a time to soak in his goodness, and it is a practical outworking of our faith.  Imagine that!  Naps, watching football, playing with friends and family, etc. is a way to say, “You are God and I am not.”  And God delights in this.  I mean, He is the one who created rest anyway (Circa day 7).

Mike Breen has written something to the effect of “We have become human-doings rather than human-beings.”  I totally get that.  Even in my rest I was focused on “doing.”

To be sure, there is work to be done in this life.  And we all have a yoke to carry.  But Jesus offers  us something amazing:

He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

For me, I image that 2012 will be a year of practicing good rest.  If you’re like me – you don’t rest well and you are tired from your labor, then you might consider learning from Jesus.  He’s a good teacher.  Trust me.  🙂

~TP

2012 Blogging Coming Soon!

The Pages are still alive. 2011 reflections + 2012 love coming soon! Here’s a taste of our lovely Christmas

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New Eyes

Everyone goes through stages of spiritual blindness, where even though we see, we feel out of touch with the things of God. Usually, I keep on doing the same old thing, hoping that someday something will give and I’ll end-up on spiritual cloud nine. The passing of time is essential to healing and insight, but I’m learning that sometimes I need to discover new ways of seeing.  Here the passage of time serves as God’s grace toward me as I wrestle to exit a well-worn rut of unintended ritual.

For a season, I may spend 30 minutes to an hour each morning in the Word, praying and connecting with the Father. But, if I’m not careful, connecting with the Father may become secondary to accomplishing “quiet time” or “prayer time.” The Father could care less what I accomplish with him.  He wants me near, soaking in his love.

In order to shake-off the dust of habit, I’m attempting to connect with the Father in new ways. This practice is for me, not for God.  Learning new ways to see spiritually, does not bring God closer, it renews my mind and heart.  God is always close.  But I tend to get in rhythms of taking that for granted.

Two things I’m doing:

1) Reading non-christian books
2) Sensing prayer

Believe it or not, we followers of Jesus, can get locked in a bubble of religious culture.  Shocker, right?  This includes, at least for me, worship and prayer.  It has been essential for me to step out of the bubble.  Recently, I picked up a book called The Year of Living Bibically by A.J. Jacobs.  Get this – it was written by an agnostic from New York <gasp!>.  I loved every page.  Jacobs took on a project of living the bible as literally as possible for one year.  He consulted with both liberal and conservative Christians and Jews, and attempted to synthesize various interpretations into his own belief.  It was fascinating.  It was also, funny, honest, and enlightening.  I was reminded how crazy the bible and religious life can seem to many people (because it is crazy).  And I was reminded how the Word penetrates the soul – it convicts and liberates.

Go buy the book, check it out at the library, or borrow my copy.

The second thing I’ve been doing, I’m calling sensing prayer.  I’m sure it’s not a new thing, but I don’t know what it’s been called in ages past.  Maybe meditation, or nowadays “mindfulness.”  My default when it comes to prayer, is to follow the ACTS model – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  These things are certainly in scripture, but notice … they are entirely one-sided.  I propose a new letter, “F,” which means Freaking-stop-talking-and-listen (it forms the clever acronym FACTS to boot!).  Much of the time I am wrapped up in my own agenda.  My worried thoughts rule the airwaves of my mind.  To combat this I am spending 10-15 minutes each morning just listening – not for some ethereal Enya-like revelation or booming James Earl Jones voice, but rather listening for what merely is.  I attempt to hear everything thing that is: the rush of the wind, the chirp and flutter of birds, the gurgle of the coffee pot, the reverberation of my own heartbeat.  If thoughts of the day come to mind (and they do) I simply focus on one sound and try to know it in detail.

This practice reminds me of the complexity of sound.  How majestic it is to hear.  I am reminded that everything in the world is the Father’s, and it is there to glorify Him.

If you feel blind to the things of the Father, try seeing with new eyes, so that your heart and mind may be refreshed by his goodness.

~TP

Discipleship

Two posts on discipleship that have me encouraged, challenged, thinking and thankful…
Mike and Jo

“If we’re serious aboutdiscipleship we need to be willing to be present.  Apprenticeship, discipleship cannot be contained in…teaching sessions. Discipleship…is where we learn the howof what this Christian life means for our money, our relationships, our values,our gifts and passions, our calling.” – Jo

“If youdisciple people well, you will always get the missional thing. Always.” -Mike

Some Thoughts on Digging

What do you do when you are confused? What do you do when you wish someone could give you the answers? Where do you turn when what you thought was, isn’t? What is the answer when hope is deferred and the heart is sick?

You dig. 

A teaching from Mike Breen titled Lanscape of Life taught me about digging and it’s been an invaluable part of my growth lately. This very short fly by doesn’t do it justice, but essentially in life, there will be times when we experience the eruptive presence of God, like a volcano errupting. There are times we will be hurting, confused or in dry times where the golden thread of God’s presence is met in the pain of erosion– where we’ve gone down deep into pain or darkness and met God in new and profound ways. Then, there are times when where just not sure which way is up and God’s presence seems far away or quiet or dim. It’s in these times when hope seems delayed that we are called to excavate. We have to DIG into the soil of our lives and God’s truth to meet the ever-present golden thread of God’s presence. It’s a solid, steady thread that never dims, moves, or shakes. Our lives do dim, move and shake so  sometimes life requires that we dig to meet God again.

God’s love and character are unfailing, everlasting, eternal, deep, wide, high and long. Ours is not. He is perfectly steady, perfectly loving, and perfectly present. We are not. And nor are any of the lives around us that rub against, spill over, weave through and crash into us. When I was confused, God’s merciful Spirit reminded me to dig.

This is where you might expect a blissful happy conclusion to this post.  And it may have been better to end right there…. but I’m not finished. In the digging, I definitely found God- of course. But, I also found some foul-smelling leftovers in my heart that had to be cleaned out. It became true for me that digging for more of God definitely ends with more of God, but you risk turning up some hidden remnants of life in the process. Just remember it’s worth it,

These are some ideas and questions that were dug up as I began to dig (pray, surrender, listen, ask, seek)  for clarity regarding this season of life.

1. My identity, once again, is too tightly to being a leader or being seen as a leader

2. I have wanted to be an expert or semi-professional at close to 9 different things in life (I’m not a cat… I don’t have 9 lives). Why am I not satisfied with living one life well?

3. God’s presence has seemed sub-par to the accolades, and praises of women and men. What does this say about covenant with the Father?

4. I would be disoriented and feel like less of a person if I wasn’t a missional community leader.  Whoaza!!! Time to ask the Father again who I am to him. (Hint: dearly loved daughter with a Father who was pleased and proud before I ever led anything)

5. My dreams were just that – MY dreams and even if they were birthed by God, I had taken full control over what, when, where, how, etc. Even if they are good dreams and God’s dreams, do I trust him to bring them to pass?

Tom and I have been digging and even though we turned up some stinky socks, it has been a beautiful, life-giving process. We look into each other’s eyes differently. We are accountable to each other in what we’ve uncovered. We’ve experienced more of the reality of our covenant with each other. We’ve heard God’s voice and struggled to surrender to what we didn’t want to hear. And as a result, we’ve shed some excess weight of self-condemnation, self-pity, striving, competition, and celebrity.

Worth the dig.

I just realized tonight that we’re watching all 4 Indiana Jones movies which is keeping the digging theme alive. Take home message from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom:  whining is very unbecoming of a woman.

To Tide You Over

A proper post from me (Blakely) coming later this week, but until then…

This is what I harvested this morning from the garden!

Peppers, tomatoes, basil and sage are looking good!
Kale is growing well too but didn’t make the picture. We’ve been eating Kale from our garden for 2 months and we’re still loving it.

Well, call me Jacques Cousteau

As Blakely and I have been learning to navigate our life rhythms (i.e. when to work, when to rest, when to play, etc.), I find myself asking, “What gives me life”?  This, in essence, is about recreation.  However, when I think of recreation, I imagine over-zealous granola-types running ultra marathons, taking up polo, or hang-gliding over the Grand Canyon.  I tend to forget that recreation means: re-creation.  And it’s been a journey figuring out what re-creates life in me.

A month or so ago, I was able to name an activity that gives me life: exploring.  I love to explore.  And it makes total sense.  For most of my life, I have had a constant inner dialogue with myself, wondering what’s behind a building, what’s over a ridge, how far I can get on my own two feet, or where something might be hidden in the public sphere.  When I think about the Lewis and Clark expedition, I get goosebumps.  This explains why, as a kid, I loved (and still love) movies like Goonies, Indiana Jones, Hook, Big Trouble in Little China, and Star Wars … exploration and discovery.

The problem is finding a place to explore.  A trip to Walmart doesn’t exactly do it for me.  Thankfully, I have friends, like Sean Berger, who are smart and creative.  Sean introduced me to this cool group/annual event called Urban Photo Safari where amateur photographers explore the urban area of KC, take pictures, turn in their best 10 and then vote on the best pics.  So awesome.  This is a step in the right direction.

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Sabbath and Seedlings

Last week Tom was humble and generous enough to give an honest post about how he’s experiencing refinement in this season. He’s correct that it is definitely busy and difficult (did I mention our car got broken into in front of our house on Monday w/ over $2,000 of electronics stolen?). Yet we know that this difficult module at school is 6 weeks long and then the load will lighten. We also know that in learning how to choose a life of mission- being sent by God to bring faith, hope, and love to our neighborhood, the task is not without resistance from an enemy who prefers darkness over Light. And we know Light wins in the end even if we take some hits along the way. So we live in that tension but are encompassed in faith and hope for the story that’s being written. As I’ve been reflecting on the two words busy and difficult this week God is teaching me and showing me more. So I will share some with you.

A Word on BUSY

I had a friend recently give me a beautiful note about how she’s been reflecting on Proverbs 31. As I went back to the passage, one of the first things I noticed was how busy and active is this picture of woman, wife and mother. The passage does not compel me to justify an overly busy life, but actually to ponder the mystery of Sabbath. In Exodus 20 (those 10 Commandment things) God says,  “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day...

In the Old Testament there is an overall rhythm of life- of rest and work,  set in motion first by God’s commandments and carried through faithful generations (hit and miss on a few). There were 3 festivals each year (at least)  that broke up the usual rhythm of work with feasting and celebration (Ex 23:14). Then there was also the Year of Jubilee every 7 years (Ex 23:10-13) that was a whole year of not working so the land and those working it could rest. The  poor/marginalized could also catch a break by getting to have whatever comes up in the unworked/unplanted fields. So when God, in the Old Testament was showing, through the commands and rules of the culture how to set up a life that works, he built into the DNA of their culture a variety of ways in which they would stop, rest, and remember. 

We feel busy, and Tom feels crazy trying to get through a particularly tough module of grad school. In asking if there are things we should start or stop, I’m compelled to more fully commit to and protect the points of stability and rest in our lives rather just try to be less busy. There’s a difference in working hard for things that matter to you and working hard because you can’t say no based on “shoulds & oughts”. I’m also compelled to think that the woman in Proverbs 31, because we can assume she was Hebrew, had points of stability and rest structured into the day, week, and seasons through the year. I’m more and more convinced that the way we rest determines the way we work.  So cool to look at Proverbs 31 AND the command of Sabbath (Exodus 20) together to see the whole picture.

In thinking of The Page’s rhythm, these are the three parts of our life that allow us to work hard like we see in Prov 31:10-28 for six days a week and be sustained through new types of difficulty:

1. Daily: Breakfast/reading in mornings 
2. Weekly: Sabbath* every Sunday (all day but w/o negotiation 12p-6p)  + Friday nights = no plans w/ people (for me given I have an extroverted job)
3. Quarterly: Vacation in July (a.k.a Feast & Celebration)
 (This hasn’t been w/o some trial and error. We have had Sabbath meltdowns as we determine how Sabbath works best for each of us. And we’re not up as early as we want some days, but we’re working it out) 
 

It’s not that we’re not going to be glad when some of the new wears off and school is less difficult or OVER, but there’s no guarantee there won’t be something more difficult ahead. So yes, it’s busy, but it is not without thought and intentionality in how we build a sustainable rhythm of life. We take this seriously because we want to be actively, passionately, and deeply growing in a missional life 50 years from now, so NOW is the time to build sustainability.  

*Sabbath  guidelines I try to abide by from Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God: 1) Do nothing that you ought to and 2) do only what gives life.

A Word on DIFFICULT

As I was thinking about why every piece of our dense life feels wobbly right now I see perhaps it’s because each part of our dense life is a seedling (not yet to flowering size). We’ve both been through recent seasons of abiding where I believe was when God was preparing the soil of each of our lives.

We planted vegetables in our neighborhood community garden within a few weeks of moving in/getting married.  The day after we planted there was a strong storm that ripped the leaves off most of our plants. The seedlings couldn’t withstand the storm. But, they had a modest root structure that allowed most of them to recover quite nicely.

The realization that almost all aspects of my life are in the seedling phase offered a lot of hope to the feelings of difficulty in this season. I mean come on. We’ve been married for 3 months, we’re leading a new missional community meeting in our new house in our new urban neighborhood. Tom has new (hard) classes, new clients at new practicum sites and I have a new job with all new relationships in an area of dietetics that is new to me (learning all about how to get toddlers to eat these days).

And so in a life that feels like rows of seedlings, wobbly and windblown I am doing my best to keep in plain sight the potential and the promises of what seedlings become rather than see the seedlings as not yet enough, not yet mature, not yet the dream, not yet a fruit producing plant, not yet this or not yet that. The reality is…. the soil has been prepared and we’re growing!

Anyone know how to keep the Squirrels away without chemicals?