Friday, December 30, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ White Bean & Pesto Dip with "Pitas"

I miss pita bread.  Right about the time the four of us were being diagnosed with Celiac disease, I had been buying pita bread for sandwiches and snacks for my crew.  And what a perfect accompaniment for my beloved hummus! Nowadays, if I order the hummus plate at a restaurant it requires a substitution of tortilla chips, which is fine, but recently I "made"  my own "pitas" out of  gluten free brown rice wraps or "tortillas."  They turned out fine; even better once I discovered that the wraps should be cut into triangles FIRST and then baked.  The first round I tried it, I just stuck the whole wrap on a rack in the oven and then tried to cut it into triangles once it was crispy.  Needless to say, they just broke into pieces, and did not resemble triangle pita bread at all!

The dip is just a version of hummus I wanted to try.  This recipe uses white beans and pesto, and is really delicious.  I used a basil-arugula pesto that I had made a frozen this summer from our farm share.  Ready made jarred pesto will work just as well.

White Bean & Pesto Dip

2 small cans of white beans, partly drained ~ I used cannelini (save the liquid)
1/2 cup pesto
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp tahini (this can be omitted, but I think it smoothes the taste a bit)
salt and pepper to taste


Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend thoroughly.  Add liquid from the beans if the dip needs to be thinned.  Serve with raw veggies, GF crackers, or homemade "pitas."

Easy Gluten Free Pita Bread

1 package of GF brown rice wraps
olive oil or cook spray, optional


Cut brown rice wraps into 8 triangles or however many you'd like depending on the size you want.  Brush with a very thin layer of olive oil or spray with cook spray if you like.  (Neither of these options are necessary.  I don't use any oil at all, but just bake them "dry.")  Bake at 375° for about 10 minutes until slightly brown and crispy.  Serve with your favorite dip!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

CupFUL of Christmas!

Cute and crazy cousins that my kiddos look forward to being with,
healthy parents and grandparents to enjoy ~ shopping, basketball, you name it,
siblings gathered from the corners of the country,
a sweet, new, Christ-loving fianceé for a brother, son, and uncle,
Kerbey Lane Cafe gluten free gingerbread pancakes...
picking up with old friends right where we left off,
games that bring tears from laughter,
Christmas light displays in nostalgic neighborhoods,
Texas tamales, fajitas, and way too much queso,
provision for blessing kids with gifts that will thrill them...
Color-coordinated (without trying!) family photos,
lots of new Nike gear to sport,
gift cards for coffee and books,
Joyfully gathered together around the tree,
Upscale wrapping paper and Grandad's immaculate bows and tape...
hysterical, contagious laughter over old photos of adults who were kids in the 70's,
Roast beef, green beans, garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, and rolls,
Cut-out Christmas cookies, pecan, pumpkin, and chocolate pies with coffee,
Grandad and teen boys vs. Uncle, future Aunt, and cute girl basketball game,
Lots 'o longhorn paraphernalia and visits to campus...
Searching for the missing baby in the manger,
Reading the Christmas story while wearing new Christmas pjs,
Visiting old stomping grounds,
Sunshine and trust falls ~ forward and back with strong men,
Courtship stories, and wedding plans,
Mariachis, margaritas, and more Mexican food,
Billions of lights lining trees, reflecting on the city river,
shared sarapes for evening shivers,
tourists and townies taking it all in,
joyful, gentle togetherness for days on end,
new dresses, new books, and stockings stuffed with chocolate,
hot tea, late nights, refreshing morning runs in new neighborhoods,
movies and read alouds while snuggled on couch or in car,
growing kids, maturing styles, and emerging personalities,
cards filled with photos and news from far and wide,
high fives, hugs, and family prayers to know the 
God Veiled In Flesh,
carols, candlelight Silent Night, "snow" falling on worshipers,
fireplaces burning in 50 degree weather,
date nights, sleepovers, girl talk on phone and porch,
new friends, new adventures, refreshment, rejoicing, and rest.

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.' " 
Luke 2:10

Good news and great joy, indeed!

Hope your cup has been overflowing this week as well!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!


Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail!  The Incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus ~ our Emmanuel!

Here's hoping that you know and experience Emmanuel, the God Who is with us, this day and in the coming year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ Butter Cookies and Bevo (& Beiber?)

Before driving to Hondo, TX and after a morning run with Robert, Kayla and I made a quick batch of Christmas sugar cookies.  Robert's parents live in Hondo and his sister and family were also headed there for us all to celebrate an early Christmas together by eating lots of fajitas, which is a Texas Christmas tradition second only to tamales.  The tamales will happen tomorrow night on Christmas Eve, of course.  Tomorrow night, I will also have a houseful of gluten free family members, so I wanted to get these made.  Cookies for Christmas Eve and pies for Christmas Day ~ that is the plan.

I used to make these all of the time with regular flour, and I have to admit they are a bit more difficult to achieve without the gluten, but this time I added some xanthan gum in hopes of them holding together a bit better.  I also used more rice flour than tapioca and potato, thinking that would also prevent them from spreading out and losing shape.  They worked pretty well, and this year we made some plain round ones along with the cut ones.  We plan to dip the round ones in chocolate and then sprinkle the chocolate with crushed candy canes.  
  
The recipe is adapted from a recipe out of one of my favorite Susan Branch cookbooks: Christmas From the Heart of the Home.

Sugar & Butter Cookies

2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 egg yolks
4 cups GF flour (rice, potato, tapioca)
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg yolks and vanilla and mix well. Beat in flour, xanthan gum, and salt until well blended.  Add more flour if dough is too sticky.  Letting dough chill in the refrigerator for a while will also help.
Roll dough out on a floured surface and cut into shapes.  Sprinkle with colored sugars before baking if desired or coat them with icing after baking and add sprinkles on top of the icing.  Bake at  350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  They do not need to brown, and will be fragile when done.  Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

 Yesterday, we had the privilege of meeting my brother's fiance.  Stu and Rachel (she's so great!) flew to Austin from California and we met them at Kerbey Lane Cafe on Guadelupe.  Kerbey Lane Cafe is famous for being open 24 hours and having amazing pancakes. I may have eaten a few of them as a college student in need of a study break at 2am!  Now, they even have gluten free pancakes, and we sampled both kinds ~ apple cinnamon and gingerbread.  They were sooooooo good!

Guadelupe street is also known as "The Drag" on the University of Texas campus, and so we also made a pilgrimage to the co-op, which is a bookstore, but also a souvenir shop for ALL things Longhorn and Burnt Orange.  We HAD to stop and get a Christmas photo with Bevo.  (And Beiber, it seems)
And Kory enjoyed posing by the poster of the UT baseball stadium.  

Christmas Cookies, fajitas and tamales, pancakes, new fiances, and LOTS of burnt orange.  Could it get any better?

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas weekend!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Merry Theological & Doctrinal Christmas to YOU, too!

(Just sharing an email that I sent to my Doctrine Bible study ladies with you here today.  Been enjoying thinking on these lyrics this season!)
Hi Ladies ~


I hope you all are well, and that this email finds you finished with papers, exams, etc.


I heard this familiar Christmas carol playing recently and thought of you all. It is full of references to the theological and doctrinal truths that we studied this semester.  The lyrics I've included for you here are the original ones written by Charles Wesley ~ founder of the Methodist Church along with his brother, John.  The ones we have today are the ones that George Whitfield altered a few years later ~ ones Wesley was not happy about.  It's kind of funny to me that Whitfield was much more of a Calvinist than Wesley, who was an Arminian (unlimited atonement ~ remember the chart on page 267??), but Wesley seems to have the more accurate interpretation of Scripture here.


Here's an old article from Christianity Today that gives a few more details about this song:



http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/decemberweb-only/150-52.0.html

This is Charles.  ☺

And this is George.  ☺

And here are the original lyrics...


Hark!  how all the welkin rings
"Glory to the King of Kings;
Peace on Earth and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled!"

(Reference to peace and reconciliation ~ the justification that comes only through Jesus!)

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies
Universal nature say,
"Christ the Lord is born to-day!"

(Reference to the joy of finally receiving the long awaited and prophesied Messiah.)

Christ, by highest heaven ador'd;
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of the Virgin's womb!

(Reference to the truth that Jesus is God, because He is eternal ~ He has no beginning and no end. He is "The Ancient of Days."  Also, reference to the all-important virgin birth!)

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail!  The incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to appear
Jesus! Our Immanuel here!

(Woo Hoo!  Accurate reference to the Trinity ~ the "God who is Three."  Jesus is the deity.  He is divine.  He is fully God, and now fully man!)

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.

(Reference to the prophecy in Isaiah about His coming.  Reference to the Resurrection and the true healing that ONLY it can bring!)

Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the son's of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

( "Jesus in any way cease to be fully God, but rather He chose not to continually avail Himself of His divine rights and attributes while on Earth." p. 231 Doctrine.  Also, reference to the truth that Jesus came for the purpose of dying, and that His death was necessary for our salvation ~ or second birth.)

Come, desire of nations, come
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman's conquering seed;
Bruise in us the serpent's head.

(Hurray!  This is the protoevangelium!  Remember??  The first mention of the gospel in all of Scripture?  It's in Genesis 3 ~ the chapter on the fall and the curse.

Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours and ours to Thine.

( "...By His glory and excellence...you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world."  2 Peter 1: 3-4  Also, Romans 6: 5 ~ "For we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection..." )

Adam's likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

(Sin entered the world through one man.  Salvation comes through One Man ~ Jesus, the second Adam; the last Adam.  1 Corinthians 15 says,  "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  Yes ~ conform us to Your image, Lord ~ stamp it upon us!)

Let us, Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner man:
O!  To all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

(Yes!  The WHOLE POINT of studying doctrine and theology ~ to understand what we have lost, but regained through Christ ~ to have Him formed in our hearts!)


Isn't that a great reminder of so many of the things we learned this semester???  I miss studying and learning alongside each of you ladies each week.  I pray that this old hymn is only among many treasures that lift your eyes and your heart to Him in worship in this Christmas season.


Much love,
Melanie


P.S.  Suzanne ~ thank you for treating us ALL out to breakfast!  So fun.  And Amherst ladies ~ I made it to Goberry once before we came to Texas, and plan on many returns in the spring!  Thank you!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Second Half of the 2000 Mile Journey

 Well, we've been in Texas almost a week now, but I promised to share the second half of our journey, so here goes... (I'm sure you're dying to know the details!)

The first half was to Altoona, PA, and Loisville, KY.  Well, soon after we left our friends' home in Louisville, we stopped at a Starbucks for drinks. When we got back into our vehicles, Robert's truck wouldn't start.  The jumper cables we borrowed from the AT&T store guy did not do the job, so we called AAA.  (Had purchased a membership JUST before leaving MA!)  The AAA guy's cables DID work, but he suggested getting a new battery, so we did.  It put us back a couple of hours, and so we drove to Memphis, TN that day instead of all the way to Little Rock, AR.

Even though two of us were interested in visiting Graceland, we refrained.  I do share a birthday with The King, so I thought it would be appropriate to make the pilgrimage.  Maybe on the way back north?!  Skipping Graceland did allow us to reach the home of dear friends, Matt and Allyson and kids, by lunchtime.  We've known Allyson since she was about 16 years old and in the youth group at the church we served at in Austin, TX 20 years ago! (WE are OLD!) Allyson had visited a new and local bakery specializing in all things gluten free.  She had loaves of GF sandwich bread and GF corn chowder for lunch, and even sweet breads for breakfast the next day.  All of it was such a treat and very delicious.
After lunch, we all went downtown and visited the Bill Clinton Presidential library.  Presidential libraries are ALWAYS fascinating, and this makes the third one we've been privileged to go to ~ LBJ's (Austin) and JFK's (Boston) being the other two.  (Maybe we'll make the George Bush one while we're here in Texas!)  They also tend to have other interesting exhibits going on, and Mr. Clinton's had "The Art of the Brick" exhibit there at the time.  It was an incredible display of artwork done solely with Lego bricks ~ both one and three dimensional pieces.
 Guess who took this one?
 Kory enjoyed looking up what President Clinton did on the day he was born ~ June 29, 1995, as there were binders of agendas for every day of his presidency.
 And then he decided to hold a family cabinet meeting. 
Anyone surprised?
 The next morning, after an amazing breakfast, we had the pleasure of attending church with Matt and Allyson and their kids.  Matt is the pastor of Second Baptist Church in downtown Little Rock, and so it was fun to see him in action ~and fun to just visit a church!
 Don't be fooled by this smile.  The kids were NOT very enthusiastic about doing their schoolwork in the car each day of the long journey, but they did it, and have kept up with all assignments for Classical Conversations, etc.  Actually, Cooper really did enjoy The Phantom Tollbooth very much, as well as the assignment to write one more chapter of the book.  He LOVES creative writing, and is quite good at it.
 We got keys to our temporary rent house on Monday, and got to work with as much Christmas decorating as we could.  I only packed our stockings, the tree skirt, the Nativity set, and Kayla chose only three of our MANY Christmas books to bring to Texas. (Painful.)  Oh ~ and we packed the Advent bags that the kids are used to opening each day of December in anticipation of Christmas day ~ filled them, and put them on the stairs, since I forgot the twine and clothespins we usually use.  They've been opening two per day to catch up!
 Not quite as sturdy and well built as our 1947 home in Massachusetts, but perfect for what we need for now.  They just don't make 'em like they used to...
 Tuesday called for Coop's first basketball practice with a homeschool league.  At practice, they told us there was also a game that night, so we split up and the guys went to Coop's game....
 ...while the girls went to see cousin Madeline's orchestra concert.  Maddie did a GREAT job, and we all enjoyed some frozen yogurt to celebrate after the concert.
 Thursday, we dropped the kids off at Grandad's (my dad) house (for FOUR days) and Robert and I headed back to Austin for a little getaway ~ the first of two we have planned for the sabbatical.  We've been enjoying our time in a lovely downtown hotel.  Our room is technically in the attic of this old building and is called "The Hideaway."  We've bumped our heads on the ceiling walls (rafters?) that angle down above our bed several times, and our private bathroom is located next door, because there is no room for anything but our bed in the actual room!  It is really beautiful, though, and in a great location for getting to the countless restaurants and shops here.  The Snack Bar, with its adorable vintage atmosphere is only one of the MANY fantastic restaurants offering a gluten free menu in this fun city.  Just take a look at this sandwich...
Toasted homemade millet sandwich bread (they make their French toast on this, too!), fried eggs, melted cheddar, avocado slices, lettuce, tomato, and onion ~ and we shared a side of the fries perfectly packaged in their greasy, retro paper sack.  Sooooooo good!

We shopped till we dropped yesterday and  last night, getting much of our Christmas list accomplished, so today we're taking it a bit slower ~ sipping tea and coffee at Starbucks, reading our Bibles, journaling, and reading other books.  Well, and blogging about it all...  

Again, we're so thankful for this gift of rest, unplugging, and being present with each other ~ thankful to the Lord and our church for providing for all of it.  Blessed....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Leaving Whole Foods Richer Than You Were Before: Only In Texas!

When I saw her standing in front of the frozen gluten free breads' case, I assumed she was buying for her grandchildren.  As I stood next to her trying to decide what to buy, she spoke...

Sandy: So, you do gluten free, too?

Me: Oh. Yes. Actually, my three children and I all eat gluten free because of Celiac disease.

Sandy:  (in a very animated 70 year old Texas lady sort of way) Well, good for you.  My husband was recently in the hospital 8 times in 9 months, and the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with him.  He lost 55 pounds and was just so sick.  They were about to open him up for surgery when I decided to take him home and figure out what was wrong with him myself.  I got on the internet and looked up his symptoms. I took him to get tested for Celiac, and that's exactly what it was!

Me: Wow.  That's great.  


Robert and kids are standing nearby watching this exchange in a very congested lane intersection of the store.  Sandy and I kept having to re-adjust our positions in order to continue our conversation.

Sandy:  He's been back in the hospital twice because of cross-contamination.  He's very sensitive to gluten, and we have to be so careful.  It's difficult.  You know this gluten and Celiac thing is so prevalent and the doctors just don't want to believe it.  And it can cause so many different problems, and so many people just don't want to hear it.

Me:  Well, at least it's an issue that can be resolved without surgery and drugs.  I think of that as a blessing. And isn't it great that you were finally able to figure out what was wrong with him!

Sandy:  Oh yes, so glad he doesn't need surgery and medication.  And honey, it wasn't me that discovered it.  It was all GRACE.  Those who have eyes to see will see, and those who have ears to hear will hear.

Me: YES ~ grace! I know. That's how I discovered it in my son, too.  The Lord showed me and led me to the answer. I was so thankful.

Mid-stream in this response, Sandy reached up with her right hand and pulled my face close to her as if she needed to tell me a secret.  Then ~ she kissed me on the cheek!  I was shocked, but so blessed.  All at the same time, I giggled at her gregariousness, and fought tears over her kindness, her friendliness.  I hoped she didn't think I was mocking her, because I wasn't.  I was just SO tickled over this spontaneous friendship with a complete stranger that was happening in this birthplace of Whole Foods ~ Austin, TX, that I couldn't control the giggles.

She chatted a while longer, and then said a quick goodbye before heading off to do more shopping.  I made my way to the checkout line with Robert, Kory, and Kayla.  (Cooper was at his first basketball practice.)  We all marveled together at what had just happened, and it was during those moments in the checkout line that I felt a strong nudge to go and find her again and ask her if I could send her a book.  While my family checked out and waited in the store's cafe, I went to find Sandy.  (I didn't even know her name at the time.) I found her easily...

Me:  Hi again.  I just wanted to find you and tell you thank you.  Thank you for talking to me and for being so kind.  I am from Texas, but I live in Massachusetts, and people just don't usually do that there.


Sandy:  WHY?????  Oh honey, why would you want to live THERE????


Me: (laughing)  Well, my husband is a pastor there.  We moved there about 13 years ago to plant the church.


Sandy: Well, then it ought to be planted by now and you can come HOME!  You are coming back home now aren't you?


Me:  No, we're just on a 3 month sabbatical.  The Lord is doing great things at our church in Massachusetts.  The church is full of college students and twenty/thirty-somethings, and He is really at work among them.  It was just time for us to take a little break.


Sandy:  Oh, I know.  I understand.  Obedience is better than sacrifice.  You've got to obey.


Then she kissed me on the cheek again!  I told her that I had written a book for children about Celiac disease, and asked if she would mind giving a complete stranger her home address, so that I could send her a copy.  She gladly wrote it down for me, and asked to have my address as well.  It was at this point that we finally exchanged names.  It was also at that point that she asked me to pray for her son, who had been in ministry at a large church in Tennessee, but was now living back at home and feeling a bit lost and disillusioned.


Sandy:  I want you to know that this is the first time in two years that I have asked anyone to pray for him, but I'm asking you.  OK?


Me:  OK.  Yes, I will pray for him.  And thank you again for your kindness.  I will send you a book soon.


In parting, she reminded me about a gluten free store nearby who's owner is also a mom who wrote about her son's struggle with and then healing from ADHD/Autism Spectrum through a gluten free diet.  She encouraged me to take my book by there also.  Sandy said a sweet goodbye, and then I caught up with Robert and kids in the cafe.  A few seconds later, Sandy walked through the cafe on the way to the bathroom and waved to all of us.

Kayla wanted to take a quick look in the Old Navy store nearby, so we headed in that direction while Kory and Robert took our grocery bags to the van.  At one point, I glanced behind me and saw Robert not too far behind us on the sidewalk on the way to Old Navy.  I didn't see him in the store right away, but simply assumed he was looking in the men's section and out of our sight.  A while later, he found me in the store...


Robert:  The woman you were talking to in Whole Foods tracked me down on the way over here and gave me this.


He passed some folded money into my hand.  I slowly unfolded it to discover a $100 bill.

Me:  What????  What did she say???  This is crazy.


Robert:  She said she wanted to give me something....for Christmas.  Then she changed her mind and said that she and her husband had recently felt there was too much paganism in our Christmas celebrations, so she adjusted her wording to say she just wanted to give me something.....for me, for us.


Me:  Oh. My. Goodness.  That is just crazy.  Did she say anything else?


Robert:  No.  She just grabbed my arm and said goodbye and walked away.


Me:  Wow.


"The natives (hee hee) showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in, and because of the cold, they kindled a fire, and received us all."
Acts 28: 2

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
Galations 5: 22-23

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!"
Romans 11:33

It was Sandy's kindness that made me richer than I was before.  Her generosity of spirit superseded her generosity of resources.  What a Christlike generosity ~ kindness and abundant provision all wrapped up in one person.  Feeling very rich to have had this encounter ~ even after spending a small fortune at Whole Foods.  Only in Texas?!?!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You Know You're In Texas When...

 The sunset is visible every evening...
 ...the Christmas tree farm looks suspiciously like a big box store...
 ...and your next door neighbor brings you a gift just hours after you've moved in!
We're here, and we're somewhat settled. So nice to wake up slowly this morning, read my Bible, journal, and have an Advent devotion with the kids ~ things that haven't been happening in the last crazy week or two!  Robert and I are also looking forward to a three night getaway starting Thursday.  Looking forward to time together, a little silence, and probably some Christmas shopping, which I've not even begun. Now I'm off to take Cooper to his first basketball practice.  I'll post again soon with some other adventures from our 2000 mile journey which include Legos, Bill Clinton, old friends, very friendly strangers, and teenage drivers!

P.S.  To be fair, our next door neighbor is also our realtor for our sabbatical rent home, but I'm telling you ~ the FRIENDLINESS abounds around here.  Actually, it began abounding somewhere between Maryland and West Virginia, and kept getting more excessive through Kentucky and Tennessee.  Wow.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Halfway There...

 Greetings from Louisville, Kentucky!  We are about halfway through our journey to Austin, TX.  It, of course, took us longer to leave our house than we thought, but finally, around 11am we said goodbye to our little red brick house and hit the road.

Our first night was spent in Altoona, PA rather than in Niagra Falls, since we had accidentally booked a hotel on the Canadian side of Niagra.  Not only do we not all have passports, but we weren't sure how kindly the border crossing would look upon all of the Rubbermaid containers and suitcases with which we are loaded down!  Anyway, we changed our route, and it may or may not have been a good choice since ALL of the journey to and through Pennsylvania was through pouring rain and driving snow.  It was quite brutal, and much of the trip had to be at about 45 miles per hour.  But we made it safely to our hotel by about 11pm.
 Yesterday's drive was much easier ~ clear and sunny, and really beautiful country through West Virginia and Kentucky.  Kory even drove for about 2.5 hours of the 8 hour trip.  The vehicle arrangement has been ~ Mom and boys in the van, and Kayla and her dad in the truck.  Kayla and Robert listened to all of Island of the Blue Dolphins on CD, and the boys and I have started To Kill a Mockingbird.  The kids are also doing some schoolwork in the car which they are convinced in pure torture!  Below is a small sample of my view from the van.  Robert has the GPS in the truck, and I follow closely behind in the van!
We spent the night with sweet friends Keith and Carole Inman last night, and really enjoyed wonderful conversation and fellowship before bed last night.  Right now, Keith is in the kitchen scrambling eggs for my whole family and talking "ministry" with Robert ~ perfect.

Robert and I have even gotten in our regular morning runs this week.  We ran around the UMass campus on Wednesday before packing up and closing down the house, and this morning we ran together in Keith and Carole's beautiful neighborhood.  On our Wednesday run, we kept talking about what a special GIFT this sabbatical is to us.  We are looking forward to the time and to being more PRESENT with each other and more PRESENT with our kids.  And what a crucial time it is for those things with two teens and a tween.  So, we are extremely blessed by this gift of time, of finances, and of rest.  Thanks again, Mercyhouse, for making this possible for us.

Now, off to Little Rock, Arkansas!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Submerged Saints, Sabbatical Send-Off & Starbucks

 It was the PERFECT way to spend our last Sunday at church before heading off to Texas for a while ~ Baptisms!  I know I've told you this before, but it is such a privilege to have a front row seat in the lives of so many people.  Hearing their testimonies, and watching their surrender to Christ, and their obedience in baptism is nothing but a faith builder in my own life!  Jesus is ABLE.  He is able to pierce hearts with His grace.  He is able to conquer sin, darkness, and death.  He is able to strengthen individuals to forsake destructive life patterns. These are always the stories. It would be enough that He has accomplished (is accomplishing) this in my life, but He also allows me to watch it OVER and OVER in the lives of countless others.  What a privilege.  What an honor.
 So, yes ~ it was our last Sunday at church until the end of March, and what a beautiful way to spend it ~ hearing the stories of Erica, Mike, and Chelsea and watching them make their faith known, to their friends, families, and church body.  It was so wonderful.
 There was also a special prayer time for the Krum family ~ a sabbatical send-off prayer by Dan, Lois, and Steve ~ and complete with a gift for the road ~ Starbucks gift cards for mom and dad, Target gift cards for the kids.  All this on top of the generous funds they had already raised to cover all expenses while we are gone.  Did I already mention that we are privileged and blessed?  Yes. Very.  A couple of the sermons from Leviticus in the last few weeks have been about the "partying" and "resting" we are able to indulge in, all because of the payment by Jesus on the Cross.  He purchases true rest for us ~ real sabbatical rest, but we have also been humbled by the lavish way our church is demonstrating to us what Jesus has already done on our behalf.  They have truly "paid" for us to have 3 months of rest by their giving of money, and by their leading of the church while we are away, and by their "relay-prayer" that will happen every single day that we are gone.  What a gift.
 Last week was a mixture of sadness and sweetness for me.  Sadness over some things out of my control, but balanced by such sweetness of fellowship with friends and sisters in Christ. The Lord gave my the idea that it would be fun to wrap up my two women's Bible studies on Doctrine by discussing our chapter on the Resurrection over a meal together.  The Amherst College girls and I discussed the Resurrection over "Asian Fusion" at one of my favorite restaurants in town...
 Such a fun evening with a group of amazing ladies! Thanks Paula, Cecilia, Akosua, Sophie and Nifemi!

And then today, my Sunday morning class met early for breakfast at The Lone Wolf (yum!) before church.
 Erica's mom was in town for her baptism, and so she joined us for more discussion on the Resurrection over eggs, and crepes, bacon, home fries, and coffee!
 Love these ladies and their hearts and minds for Christ.  I will miss my double-dose-of-doctrine every week with these women who sharpen me and challenge me to know and love my Lord and his Word more and more intimately.
Would you believe that a Starbucks iced-coffee was delivered to me DURING the church service?  Talk about spoiled.  Robert happened to be giving an announcement about the internship program at our church when one of our current interns (who also works at Starbucks!) came in with my usual ~ Venti iced coffee, 2 pumps classic, light cream.  It was not planned, but turned out to be a funny advertisement about what the interns actually DO in the ministry. 
You know...like, bring the pastor's wife iced coffee, of course!  Thanks, Josh ~ such a treat!

We're off on Wednesday, and I can't tell you just how loved and supported we feel in going.  Thank you Mercyhouse ~ we'll see you in the spring!  May Jesus show you, as Robert suggested, that HE is the Lord of our church, and means this time of sabbatical to grow ALL of us in that knowledge.  You are loved and will be missed.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ Creamy Chicken Stew & Popovers


Popovers and apple butter.  That is the specialty at Judie's, my favorite restaurant in town, but I haven't been able to eat one there for 8 years now.  Popovers are also the specialty at Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park in Maine, where Robert and I ate to celebrate our 19th anniversary this summer.  I had to sit and watch him eat his warm, crusty popover that night, but he kept assuring me that it tasted terrible. This is the little game we play every time the hot, yeasty rolls arrive at our table.  He devours them while saying things like, "You're not missing a thing. These are really awful!"  

Mmmm Hmmm..... I know better.  My memory is not that bad. ☺

Well, this week I decided to try and replicate the elusive popover.  They turned out.....okay, and I think I learned some things that will help make the next batch more successful.  I served them alongside a creamy chicken stew for lunch after church last Sunday.  The popovers were both buttered and dipped in the soup, which helped this less-than-airy-and-crusty first batch!

Here are the improved recipes:

Popovers

1 cup GF flour blend  (I would use lighter flours.  Maybe 1/3 brown rice, 1/3 tapioca, 1/3 potato)
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs (room temp)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cup milk (room temp)

Set out milk and eggs in order to bring them to room temperature.  Preheat oven to 425°. (<----- I FINALLY learned how to make the ° sign ~ hurray!) When the milk and eggs are no longer cold, place them in a blender along with the melted butter and blend well.  Add the GF flour, xanthan gum and salt to the blender and liquid ingredients.  Blend for 1-2 minutes.  (If you don't have a blender, try to use a hand mixer, at least.  Grease muffin tin or popover pan and set in the oven for 1-2 minutes to warm.  Be sure you don't leave it in too long, or you'll have a kitchen full of smoke because of the grease and heat.  The grease in the pan will also brown and color the bottom of your popovers. (Guess how I know this?) When pan is warmed, remove it from oven and fill each cup 2/3 full with the popover batter.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes at 425°.  Try to resist to desire to open the oven door and "check" on the popovers. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the popovers are "popped" (hopefully!) and slightly browned.  Serve warm.  Set out some butter, apple butter, and honey with them, too, if you want to make everyone especially happy. ☺(<----Might as well learn to make a happy face, too!)

Creamy Chicken Stew

2 lbs chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 package baby carrots, sliced in half diagonally
3 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup GF flour or 1/4 cup cornstarch
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water (or 1 cup water and 1 cup white cooking wine)
1 small package frozen peas
1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
salt and pepper to taste

Melt olive oil and butter together in large skillet.  Add onion, garlic, celery, and carrots.  Sauté 3 minutes.  Add potato and sauté 3 more minutes until everything crisp-tender.  Sprinkle flour over veggies in the pan and stir to coat. Scrape all skillet ingredients as well as the thyme into a stock pot and add chicken broth.  Bring to a strong simmer and then add water.  The soup should thicken a bit as you stir.  Reduce heat.  Add cream, salt, and pepper.  Remove thyme stalks before serving.  

I also like to press fresh garlic in just before serving.  Mainly because it tastes wonderful, but also because fresh garlic is a great way to fend off the cold virus!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More Love To Thee, O Christ

A first time visitor to our church approached my husband after the service this past Sunday.  Having already been introduced before the service began, the man felt free to come and make a comment on Robert's sermon after the service was over.


"The way I've come to judge a good sermon recently is to ask myself if the sermon caused me to love Jesus more than I did before. Your sermon today did just that.  I love Jesus more now because of what you taught today, man.  Thank you."


Later that evening, Robert told me about this interaction with tears in his eyes.  Giving all credit to Christ for the sermon, he was overwhelmed by the honor of being used by Him in that way.  I was in tears as well.  The sermon made me love Jesus more, too, but it wasn't the only thing this week that served to bring about about more love for my Savior.


The other thing wasn't powerful, expositional teaching.  It wasn't a beautiful worship song, or faith exhorting book.  Honestly, it wasn't even the written Word of God which always lifts my eyes and soul to Him.  It was sorrow.  It is grief.  A pained and breaking heart.  Rejection and loss.


"It hurts so much," I say to my pastor husband.  "Like, my heart literally hurts.  I sat in church listening to your sermon that, like the man said, truly was making me love Jesus more, but I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Couldn't fight the tears. I don't think I've ever truly suffered a broken heart until now."


A couple of days pass.  Surely, I'll feel better after some sleep, some daily distractions, some food, I think to myself.  But I don't.


"How are you doing," the husband asks me during our usual 6.7 mile run along the secluded bike trail early one morning.


"It's not better. It is so painful.  The sadness is so present.  All that was invested.  All that I believed. The tears come unexpectedly.  When will I feel better?  How will I move forward?" I cry.


"I don't know, but I think you know and love Jesus more now because of the sorrow, don't you," he gently suggests.


"But I feel foolish for believing and giving so much," I say.


"You did those things unto Christ.  Nothing has been lost.  Much has been gained.  You love Christ more now," the prophet husband speaks.


And he's right.  And I do.


It made me think of Mrs. Campbell from my favorite book...


"I was bound to my God and Savior before I knew a sorrow, it is true.  But it was by a chain of many links; and every link that dropped away brought me to Him till at last, having nothing left, I was shut up to Him and learned fully what I had only learned partially, how soul-satisfying He is."


Mrs. Campbell is a fictional character dreamed up by the same godly woman who wrote this hymn:


More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee
Hear now the prayer I make, on bended knee
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee
More love to Thee, more love to Thee

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best
This all my prayer shall be:  More love to Christ, to Thee
More love to Thee, more love to Thee

Let sorrow do its work, come grief and pain
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet Their refrain
When they can sing with me, More love, O Christ, to Thee
More love to Thee, more love to Thee

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee
More love to Thee, more love to Thee

by Elizabeth Prentiss 1818-1878



And then I came home and opened up His Word, and this is what it said:


"Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble." 
Psalm 143: 10-11

"For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.  He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation." 
Psalm 149:4


For His sake He beautifies me with salvation ~ with a depth of understanding regarding exactly what my salvation is. Freedom from sin.  Freedom to love Him more. (And He will even bring my soul out of its troubled state, as well.)


I think Mrs. Campbell says it perfectly:


"Love to Christ becomes the abiding, inmost principle of his (the mature Christian's) life; he loves Him rather for what He is than for what He has done or will do for him individually, and God's honor becomes so dear to him that he feels personally wounded when that is called in question.  And the will of God becomes so dear to him that he loves it best when it 'triumphs at his cost.' "

So yes, let sorrow do its work: More Love to Thee, O Christ.