How meeting your friend from high school turns into strawberry cream pie ~ Jen

I was Facebook resistant for years. Years.

Then my niece convinced me I could lock a Facebook page down so tight that my name wouldn’t even appear in a search. I was ok with that.

I have 42 friends. That’s all.

Thankfully, one of them is my friend Jeannette from high school. We reconnected last summer through our other friend, Kristen.

Jeannette lives an hour away. But it is an hour that all Inland Empire Californians are happy to drive. When it is 117 degrees in my town for the entire month of July, it is a sea-cooled 80 in coastal North County.

Which means that while the rest of the nation is digging out from that last Spring snow, or sandbagging for the Spring thaw, in Southern California, we have this:

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The other day we piled up the kids and went to a U-Pick field.

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Kate had the bucket for 10 minutes and not one strawberry made it in. Not one.

And yes, she did accessorize it up for this adventure.

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Gabe took picking seriously, so much that he was standing in six inches of mud to get the best berries. “I had to” he told me.

(Sigh. See previous post.)

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Annie was mostly unimpressed, but that’s because I woke her up from a nap.

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At the end, the kids had strawberry juice everywhere. Evan is actually dripping in this picture.

Luckily, I had wipes. We cleaned them up before we walked backed to the car, past the sign that said “No eating while picking”.

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On the ride home, we talked about what to do with all our strawberries. Gabe and I decided we would make a strawberry cream pie. So we turned this:

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Into this:

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I had to hurry, because every moment, there were less and less berries in the bowl.

Shea blames Lizzie, but I’m on to him. Her fur is white. If she was eating berries, I would know.

Thanks to Go Bold With Butter (www.goboldwithbutter.com) for the recipe:

Strawberry Cream Pie

Vanilla Cream Filling:

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

3 cups half and half

6 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

Crust:

1 ½ cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used chocolate Teddy Grahams and processed them in the mini-prep)

½ cup butter, melted

1 quart strawberries

Directions:

Begin by making the filling. In a medium-size saucepan, whisk together cornstarch, flour, salt and sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together half-and-half, egg yolks and vanilla. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the cornstarch mixing, whisking constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. When it thickens, remove from heat, and push through a fine sieve. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours. This can be made 24 hours ahead of time.

Hull strawberries, cut in half and toss with a tablespoon of sugar. Let rest for two hours.

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350°. Mix the cookie crumbs with melted butter and press into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes, cool completely on a rack.

Pour the vanilla filling into the cooled crust. Arrange strawberries over the top of the pie.

Keep the pie in the fridge until ready to serve.

Nutritional Information (10 servings):

Calories: 408; Fat: 23; Cholesterol: 181 mg; Carbs: 43.9; Protein: 7.7;

The recipe got a grade of D in terms of health. But it’s homemade. And it has 68% of required daily Vitamin C.

That counts for something, right?

We Are Raising a Man ~ Jen

boys

A few weeks ago, I watched a young boy hitting and tackling and tattling his way through a party. His dad refused to intervene, saying “The other kids have to stand up for themselves. When they’ve had enough, they’ll hit him back. It’s no big deal. Boys will be boys!”

There’s been a lot of conversation the last few weeks about what that phrase means. You know, in places like Steubenville, OH.

So here’s my two cents.

Before Gabriel was born, my experience with boys came from teaching 16 year old boys: smelly, crude, hopeful, strutting, foolhardy, proud.

The cinnamon challenge, after all, was invented by boys.

A few years back, Eric came walking into my first period minus his left eyebrow. The whole thing. His team lost the Super Bowl, so he lost his eyebrow. He was proud he had paid up on his bet. That strip of pale skin was a badge of honor.

Shea has some stories, too. He grew up on a sugar cane plantation on Maui, climbing banyan trees, swimming in irrigation ditches and sleeping in caves. He’s been bitten by scorpions, geckos, centipedes, crabs and a parrot. He fell out of the tree in his front yard and broke his nose. Twice. His mom told him to put some ice on it and shake it off.

And the apple did not fall very far from the tree. Last week, Gabriel went downstairs to get a pillowcase out of the laundry room and didn’t come back. I yelled down the stairs to find out what was taking so dang long.

“I can’t get past the dog gate.”

Why didn’t you ask for help?

“I was trying to build a bridge over the gate.”

My sister-in-law reminded me of the family party when her mom heard the boys yelling “Walk the plank! Walk the plank!” They had taken the flimsy cardboard sandwich board and stuck it between the bed and the top of the dresser. When she caught them, Gabe was just about to take the first step.

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And there are six boys across the street from us. The youngest ones are Gabe’s favorite accomplices buddies. Mostly they play loud and rough, with the older brothers to referee. It’s when they get quiet that we worry. Like when they concocted a plan to turn the lawn red. By the time we caught them, they had the red dye in the water, ready to go.

All of this is in my wheelhouse as the mother of a boy, along with dinosaurs, rock collections, bug catchers, and pee in the trashcan right next to the toilet.

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But violence? Nope. Even when he was hitting at age 3, we doubled down and put a stop to it. We never ever shrugged our shoulders and said “What can we do?” And we surely never expected someone else’s older, stronger child to “teach him a lesson”.

The problem is that we still box boys into two categories: “all boy” and “mama’s boy”. We stopped doing this to girls 30 years ago. But boys are either strong or weak; winner or loser; hard or soft. Worse, we confuse physical aggression with physical strength. Somehow, we feel better if our short son socks the taller boy right in the face. We think this proves that he has “guts”.

And we confuse physical strength with godliness. At a football game a few weeks ago, the opposing coach apologized to Shea in advance for how badly they were going to beat us. “My son is ranked in the Top 100 of five year olds in Junior All-American” he said.

Dad was 5’7” in his cleats and mom was a petite little blond. I am 6’1″ and Shea is 6’5″. Gabe had his Top 100 son by four inches and 20 lbs. Dream on, I thought. We’ll see how they’re ranked when they’re 15.

See? Even with the best of intentions, it’s hard not to get sucked into the competition.

Whether my son plays the violin or football, he has to learn to be a good person. No one will cheer louder than me when he sacks the quarterback fairly. Or wins the violin competition. But that will not be the measure of my success as a parent.

When he reaches down to help the quarterback up, or shakes the other violinist’s hand, then I will know I am on the right track.

When he loses gracefully, cheers for the winners and knows that his wins and losses do not define him as a man, then I will know I have succeeded.

Real men believe in God. They do not use their fists, feet, or weapons to make their mark. They respect themselves, and others, and show courage for what is right in the face of danger or censure.

Maybe boys will be boys. But I didn’t marry a boy. And we are not raising a boy.

We are raising a man.

The Promise of Spring ~ Dana

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So, it’s been a while.  And I have wanted to write this great post about the symbolism of Spring and Easter, about the daffodils and the tulips pushing their way up through the ground to greet the first days of spring, about the warming earth, about the days lengthening into summer after the equinox.  But it just didn’t come.

I blamed my writer’s block on kids, stomach flu.  You know, life.  And as I was talking to Jen about it, she, as a good committee member should, told me the real truth.  “Maybe you haven’t written your spring piece because you just don’t feel like writing about life and regeneration and renewal.”  Boom, baby.  Truth.

Since Halloween night, I’ve watched my dad waste away to 120 lbs at the hands of chemotherapy.  He missed the birth of my second daughter.  We’ve missed holidays, birthdays, and just every days.  This week he’ll be heading to San Diego for two months to undergo a stem cell transplant.  How can I write about Spring, hope, and life, when I’m watching and fearing his death?

But on Easter morning, I had an epiphany.  While on Facebook, nonetheless.  I was up early with the baby and I felt pretty sorry for myself.  I would miss seeing my mom and dad again.  Another holiday missed.

I settled down on the couch with my phone and began to read my Facebook news feed.  Glennon from Momastery updated her status with the following: “Easter means that nothing is too dead to live again. Underneath the frozen, barren ground a seed is pushing its way toward the light. We can’t see it, but it’s there just the same. Friday comes and we cry. Saturday we wait. Sunday we REJOICE.”

Suddenly I couldn’t stop the tears.  NOTHING is too dead to live again.  Nothing.  In the depths of my sadness, these words were a small pinhole of light. This is the symbolism of Spring.  The tip of the equinox means that days are filled with more light and warmth.

And hope.

Before all of our modern conveniences, Spring’s warmth meant health. It meant that the cows had their nutritious milk.  It meant longer days for farming.  It meant the return of the crops.  All of these things brought the hope of life that winter’s cold stole all too easily.

Perhaps underneath his frozen, barren ground, he is pushing his way toward the light.

We have passed our fall and winter, literally and figuratively.  And Friday has come and gone and we have cried.  But when those cells are transplanted, they will be his own little Spring tulips and daffodils, pushing their way to the surface.  It’s true that we are in the Saturday wait.  And waiting sucks.  We wait and we pray.  But Spring shows us renewal with the return of the sun, and promises us the hope of life.

The Best Dang Caesar Salad Ever* ~ Jen

Grace

I was 18 when I first ate this salad at my teammate’s home over Winter Break. Like so many of the best things we eat, there was no written recipe for this salad. Her mom “just knew” how to do it. So one time, I showed up early for a party at their house to watch her do her stuff. I’ve been making it ever since.

We’re sharing it now because it is a magnificent accompaniment to Easter ham. I have already been told that it is my contribution to my family’s Easter table on Sunday.

Serves six; I usually make a double.

1 large head of romaine, chopped or torn into pieces, chilled

¼ cup olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 large, juicy lemon

Grated parmesan cheese (the good stuff, not the stuff in the green can)

Worcestershire sauce

Croutons

Directions:

Crush garlic into olive oil and let sit for at least one hour (if you want some serious kick, let it sit longer than that)

To assemble salad, add olive oil with garlic, the juice of one lemon and a healthy dose of Worcestershire sauce to taste. Toss and taste. Adjust lemon, oil and sauce as needed. Toss again. Add pepper to taste, parmesan cheese and croutons. Serve.

MmmMmmmGood!

Approximate nutritional information:

Calories: 142; fat 11.2; cholesterol 7; sodium 209; carbs 7.2; protein 4.2; vitamin A 6%; calcium 11%; vitamin C 9%; iron 3%

Happy Easter!

*In my family, this salad goes by the name of Bad A**. As in “Hey, will you make Bad A** for Easter dinner?” I tend to go strong with the garlic.  But we’re not trying to offend anyone here. So feel free to call it what you like.

Mary Meets Jesus~ Jen

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It’s Holy Week. So I’m going to be repentant and reflective one more time. And then, with the Easter season, we will embrace the warmth and light and love of Spring.

When I first saw The Passion, it was on DVD. There was no way I was facing that thing down on a large screen. I knew it would hurt me, and it did. Not when they flog Jesus. Not when they nail Him to the Cross.

When Mary meets Jesus.

She’s following her Son, but not where He can see her. She’s hiding. She knows she has to witness her Son’s pain. But she’s terrified.

She leans against a wall, agonized. He’s coming, she can hear the crowd, and if she doesn’t turn now, He won’t see her. Then He falls. And in her memories, she sees Him fall as a baby. As she did when He was young, she runs to Him and says “I am here”.

Watch it here.

Jesus’ suffering was immense, and purchased my salvation. He is my Lord and Savior.

But I relate to the women of the Passion: suffering Mary, brave Veronica, and the weeping women of Jerusalem. Now that I have children, Mary’s story is personal.  She was obedient, but God asked so much of her and her faith never waivered.

How did she survive it?

My journey this Lent has been to let go—of the paralyzing fear that feeds my need to control and steals my joy.

And Mary’s story, the loss of a child, is the thing I fear the most. The Worst Thing.

I found a story a few months ago, when Glennon from Momastery posted it on her Facebook page. I think that reading this story was the first step on my Lenten path. I believe that examples of Mary walk among us. And I believe this is how we survive the Worst Thing:

Nelba Marquez-Greene’s daughter, Ana, died at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14.

On January 14, Ana’s parents gave an interview to Good Morning America. You can see it here. It’s rough. Nelba’s pain is fresh, her face is worn.

Afterwards, through a mountain of love and support, some folks also called her motivations into question.

Nelba responded on Facebook:

I wept when I read some of the comments after our interviews. Most were beautiful. Some suggested we were actors. Oh how I wish that to be so. It was purely by God’s grace we had the strength to stand yesterday and everyday since December 14th. One comment read, “So fake. These people are actors. What 6 year old loves God”? Well I’m here to let you know that our six year old loved God! So DOES my eight year old. So do I. So does my husband…For me, love is not about what others choose to feel or act or say. It’s about what I choose to feel or act or say. I choose love. 

Then she said this:

Evil visited Newtown. Now it’s our choice to respond. We choose good. We choose life. We choose hope. We choose that even though we’re sad and we weren’t perfect parents we got one thing right- we invested in eternal things.

Eternal things. An Ultimate Plan. A Life after Death.

Jesus died on that cross to save us. It was horrible and painful and bloody. But it was also Glorious and Loving and Amazing. God’s love wins.

That’s what Mary knew. That’s how she survived the Worst Thing. That’s what Nelba knows. That’s how she’s surviving the Worst Thing.

On Sunday morning, we celebrate the victory. No more fear. God’s love wins.

https://www.facebook.com/RememberingAna

Joy wins ~ Jen

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Joy: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying

The last few years, anxiety has become a constant in my life. The doctors speculate that this is partly due to the stressors in my life, the synthetic thyroid hormones I take to replace my missing thyroid, and my fine family history of anxiety and OCD.

I am better now. The kind of better that helps you see how bad it really was and for how long.

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown nails my anxiety on the head. She calls it foreboding joy. Every time something wonderful happens, or a moment of deep satisfaction or gratitude, it is followed by a sense of dread. What will happen to balance this? When will the other shoe drop?

I lived in fear and didn’t realize it. I felt joy, but then the forebodings crept in and my fear made me feel out of control. I got angry and demanded order. Once everything was in its place, I felt some sense of control again.

On birthdays. Anniversaries. Vacations. Holidays. As you can imagine, this was very fun for my family.

I’m tired of fear winning out. The constant tension between enjoying my life, and being scared to lose it. Trying to control everything so we are predictable, quiet, safe.  This cannot be my best life.

A month ago I asked myself a question: Can I choose joy? Is it that simple?

I made myself get inside my fears. I have never done that, because of my superstition that if we say things out loud, we call them to our lives. Now I realize that if I let them lurk in the corners, they are always threatening me.

Then I had to face down what I really believe about how God loves me. I have issues with Christians who camp out in the Old Testament, as if Jesus never made a new covenant through his life and death. But I did that, too. Fearing the vengeful God of the Hebrews, the God of Job. I can’t just say that I accept God’s love for me. I have to do it.  And I have to know that God loves Shea and my three babies even more than I do.

And I have to live Here. Shea and I like to dream—five years from now, ten years from now. But I always take it a step further and start planning. Planning for ten years from now. And the planning causes me anxiety, because there are so many variables and I can’t plan for all of them. Then I worry about things that have not happened, and probably won’t.

This steals my joy. I do it to myself.

So enough. Enough planning, enough anxiety, enough fear.

I think we can make this choice. I think we can say that fear doesn’t win. Even if the last few years have been hard. Even if there is sickness, or failure, or betrayal. The fear costs us too much. It costs us sleep and health and relationships. It costs us opportunity. It costs us love. What are we doing?

I say, let’s be brave. Let’s choose joy. Let’s choose to be joyful Here.

I don’t think it’s easy, but I know we can do it. We can choose joy. And when we do, joy wins.

The Committee ~ Jen

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My cousin Lesley had just gone through some mess in her life, held up by all her friends. She was feeling the love, how we all surrounded her and made this trial easier to bear. She said “Everyone helped me in different ways. Like each friend has their own special gift that they bring.”

So true.

Every good friend in our lives has her reason and purpose for being there. God puts the very people in our path that we need. I call them my Committee. They have special gifts: The listener, the counselor, the mentor, the cheerleader, the historian.

We are good, strong women. We have our issues, but truth is our core value. We love each other in spite of and through our flaws. We make each other solid and reflect back love. That makes it easier for us to go out in the world and love others.

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Only girlfriends need apply for these jobs. The men in our lives keep us accountable and happy for sure, but they are from Mars. My husband is not going to answer the email I send him from Macy’s that says “Shea, Jennifer thought you might like these boots!” He does not want to discuss The Real Housewives of New Jersey. He wants to pretend that shows like that don’t exist. But The Committee loves to reflect and learn from other women’s foibles. Preferably over lunch and Margaritas.

It’s not important why women need this. We just do. It makes us better women, to feel connected and solid.

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My 20 year old niece is having a hard experience. Some girls who she thought were her people are turning out to be transparent—maybe someday, they will solidify into honest, trustworthy, happy women, but right now they are not. And she feels bewildered, because she believed them. Even though she’s 20, she’s pretty solid herself. She is part of my Committee, for sure. Every Committee needs a youthful perspective.

She made a big investment with these girls. She was all in, which is her sweet way. They know things because she trusted them. Now she wonders if those things will be used like weapons against her.

I worry that if they wound her, she will learn the wrong lessons, that no one is trustworthy and that she has to protect herself from others to stay safe.

So here’s what I told her:

A true friend holds you up, prays for you, pushes you to be your best version. She demonstrates her love and loyalty over and over until you would be crazy to question her. She holds your hand and tells you the hard truths, in your life and in hers. She makes room for you, and respects your boundaries. She asks nothing and everything, all at once. You never ever have to wonder if you are getting more than you give.

She loves you into solidity—in your heart, in your mind, in your soul.

There will always be transparent girls in your life. Some of these girls will grow into solid women eventually.  You will learn the difference. What is important is that you keep searching until you find your women and gather them around you.

It’s powerful and necessary, this type of friendship. We should never turn our backs on it. It is a special gift from God.

Today I am thankful for the amazing women God has placed in my life.

Food from Scratch

We are not conspiracy theorists. We believe that the food innovations of a generation ago were developed with good intentions.

But it didn’t work. For the last ten years or so, we’ve had evidence that this food is hurting us. Our weight. Our blood pressure. And cancer.

The food industry and big agriculture will be slow to change. Their businesses are profitable and their argument is twofold: It’s not broke (for them) so don’t fix it; and no one is forcing us to eat their food.

Ish. Read this NY Times article for more on that.

Cancer has walked into our lives, both of us. So we try to do what we can in our own kitchens.

Our motto is “No Fake Stuff”. We use butter, sugar, olive oil and coconut oil, but search for lower sugar and lower fat recipes. We do not do “Fat Free”, “Sugar Free” or even “Low Sugar” if that involves chemicals, like fake sugars. The kids drink 100% juice, watered way down, or water. We buy organic when we can afford it, and the closest thing to it when we can’t. We try to buy local. If we can’t get fresh, we buy frozen. And one of us (Jen) just started canning her own jam and baking her own bread.

It’s true: we can do this stuff because we stay home.

But it’s also true that we were doing some of it while we were still working.

Working moms take a lot of flak in the media and in the blogosphere. So do stay at home moms. We think that sucks.

Another thing that sucks is marketing aimed at working moms that says they are so busy and so worn out from being Supermoms that they don’t have time—to cook, to shop, to bake, to can. This marketing convinces moms that the only solution is some packaged, processed, shelf stable box of food.

The companies that pay for this marketing don’t want you to open a cookbook and see how easy and economical it is to make your own pancakes, bread, applesauce, jam and peanut butter.

And they surely don’t want you to know how much healthier it is.

So we had this idea: what if we did some marketing of our own?

What if we do the legwork? And put the recipes right here where you can find them?

What if we tell you exactly how much time you need to make them, how much it will cost you and how healthy it is? Like we did with the Lentil and Smoked Sausage Soup.

Will you consider that this:

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Is better than this:

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Not to make anyone feel guilty. We hate that. Moms should not feel guilty for doing the best they can.  And not to say “Look what we do!” We hate that more. We aren’t here to compete. We’re here to support and to share ways to be healthy, happy and frugal.

Let’s start with this:

Super Secret Saturday Pancakes (adapted from pg 72 of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book)

These take five minutes to whip up, which is only two minutes longer than adding the milk and eggs to the boxed versions.

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon cooking oil (such as coconut)

Super secret ingredients: vanilla and cinnamon (we eyeball it)

Mix together and cook! Makes 14 3 inch pancakes (Jen doubles it for her family of five and has some left over)

Optional ingredients: chocolate chips, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc. We drop these in while the first side is cooking to ensure even distribution (in case you also have Chocolate Chip Equality Cops in your house…)

Nutritional Data: 58 calories; 1.7 grams fat; 13 mg cholesterol; 55 mg of sodium; 8.9 grams of carbs (1.8 sugar); 1.9 grams protein; Calcium 4%; Iron 3% 

Cost:

Ingredient Cost (bulk) Cost (per recipe)
1 cup flour $1.99/5 lbs $.19
1 tablespoon sugar $2.19/4 lbs $.02
2 teaspoons baking powder $2.19/10 oz $.03
¼ teaspoon salt $.99/16 oz Less than a penny
1 large egg $4.39/dozen $.37
1 tablespoon oil $3.29/48 oz $.03
Total Cost $15.04 $.68

Revival ~ Jen

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Our church does a Revival during Lent. I’ve never been, but the picture in my head was a version of the movie style tent Revival—songs, scripture, Spirit. Loud and joyful.

This year I decided to go, looking for some Lenten feel good. The speaker was a young, hip missionary named Ennie Hickman. You can see his website here. He rocks.

Within five minutes, he was inside my spiritual kitchen, talking about the sad state of the world and how Christians are instinctually, compassionately, emotionally moved to help. I was feeling it. Loving others, helping others. Here comes Easter, when Jesus gave the Greatest Help of All. Bring it, brother. Call me to help.

Except  Ennie said this: “We don’t get to heaven by helping others. We get to heaven by belonging to God.”

Whaaaaat?

This is a Revival! I’m not here to talk about my personal relationship with God. I want to talk about how I can score double bonus points by helping others during Lent.

“You know when people come to your home for the first time, and you show them around? Do you open the closets? Or look under the beds? Right? Because that’s where we hide stuff. We present the home we want people to see. What do you do when you welcome God into your heart? Do you open the closets and show what you’re hiding?”

Oh wow. So when you say Revival, you don’t mean fluffy, feel good, pump us up for being people of God. You mean down and dirty in the muck, shine the light and find some Truth.

Well, all right then.

I think Ennie knew he had us on our heels. He gave us a moment to pray. And I noticed something, in the quiet.

Have you ever felt like gravity increased and grounded you in a moment, holding you right there, where you needed to be?

It happened to me at Revival.

The idea of walking away from the belief that helping others comes before helping myself. Even though it feels counter-intuitive, it’s true. I have to be right with God before I can serve others.

The idea that we can’t only show God the lovely parts. We have to open the closet doors. God already knows what is in there, but he wants us to show Him, to lay it all at His feet. Then He will show us that even so, we are worthy of love, and He loves us.

The idea that my intentions in helping others are important. I can’t tap dance my way to distracting God by helping others. I can’t help to cover up or polish what’s in my closet. I have to help from a place of good intention towards the other and not towards myself; I can’t use helping others to fill what’s missing in my own heart.

The idea that I can walk away from the stress of the world, to take care of myself. I don’t have to be driven by anxiety. I don’t have to worry about the upheaval, the strife, the suffering. God is Here. He will handle it.

I went to church this week to feel good about myself and my faith. I came away knowing that I have some housecleaning to do.

Good thing Lent is a time of Reflection and Repentance. Those are heavy words.

As it turns out, so is Revival.

Lentil and Smoked Sausage Soup

We’ll explain more about our approach to cooking homemade later, but it’s going to be chilly for the next few days* and we wanted to share a great, healthy, easy recipe that our families love—even the babies.

You need a pot, these things, and an hour and fifteen minutes. But you only spend 30 minutes actually standing over  it. That’s all. Then you walk away for 45 minutes and let the goodness happen.

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2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup dried lentils

1 onion, chopped

1 cup shredded cabbage (red or green; I buy a head, cut it in half and chop it up myself to save money)

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 smoked sausage, cut into pieces

1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes

2 cubes bullion (I have used veggie, chicken and beef, and they all do the same good work)

4 cups water

Bay leaves (we play a game at our house that whomever gets the bay leaf in their bowl gets good luck; this means I put three or four bay leaves into my pot)

1 tsp thyme (ground or leaves)

Salt and Pepper to taste—I always forget this step and never miss it

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Stir in lentils, cabbage, onion and garlic and cook until tender. Add sausage and tomatoes. Crumble bullion cubes over mixture and stir til dissolved. Add water, bay leaves, thyme; bring to a boil and simmer until lentils are tender (40 minutes). Serve.

This recipe feeds my family of five, with leftovers for lunch the next day. Here is a cost breakdown (since some things can be used for more than one recipe, I listed the real cost vs. the cost per recipe):

Ingredient Cost Cost/recipe
Bullion 1.25 .45
Lentils 1.89 .95
Cabbage .89 .45
Sausage 3.99 3.99
Garlic .50 .50
Onion 1.27 1.27
Diced tomatoes 1.99 1.99
Thyme 6.59 .55
Bay leaves 4.39 .36
Total $10.51

And the nutritional breakdown, thanks to Caloriecounter.com:

For eight servings:

139 calories/serving

4 grams fat

7 grams protein

18 grams carbs, of which 8 grams is fiber

Vitamin A: 10%

Vitamin C: 21%

Calcium: 3%

Iron: 12%

Recipe grade: A

Enjoy!

*By chilly, I mean it’s going to rain and get down into the 40s here in So Cal. But the rest of you are going to get some snow, so really, this works for everyone!

High Harvest ~ Dana

When Jen and I were brainstorming names for our new blog, one of the words that really resonated with me was “Harvest.”  I bounced around a lot of titles including this word because I feel like this time in my life is the High Harvest.  It’s not the Thanksgiving, end of the season harvest, but the one where things are just starting to get good.  It’s like when the grocery store finally has good fruit again after a winter of just apples.

For as long as I can remember, I assumed that my life would be like my mom’s life:  That I would meet my future husband in college, that we would be married after we graduated, that we would start a family after a few years of getting used to being married.

But of course, my journey was quite different.  After school I lived in Europe.  I came home and bounced from job to job.  I met my husband the year that I turned 30.  And after a few years of dating, and a few years of marriage, Here we are.

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Where the strawberries are, I see my two sweet daughters’ faces smiling back at me.  Amongst the watermelons, our lovely new home.  Tucked in with the pineapple, my darling husband.  And here and there, with the asparagus, the leeks, and the heirloom tomatoes, my family and the friends whom I cherish.

Now, lest you think that the harvest is a time to rest on one’s laurels, let me assure that the harvest is still work and life is not perfect.  We have two little ones, still in diapers.  My dad is in chemotherapy, fighting for his life.  My husband works time and a half every day so that I can stay at home with our children.  This is far from easy.  And we are not resting.

Still, I look at all of the wonderful things that are coming from my years of hard sowing and in those rare moments of solitude and quiet, I am so grateful to be just where I have landed.  I am enjoying the High Harvest and wondering which seeds I will sow next.

Here ~ Jen

Home

For those of you who are new, I started on a blog called Hallelujah Highway with three good friends. For years and years, the Highway metaphor was apt for my life. I was journeying towards marriage, motherhood, economic security, health. There was always a bend or fork in the road up ahead, and I was moving, moving, moving.

My job was my gas pedal, speeding me on. Working required me to box my life into neat chunks of time. On a good day, all the chunks got checked off and I fell into bed with a book for one last twenty minute chunk before sleep.  I was good at this. Ninety miles an hour with my hair on fire.

Then I quit my job to stay home. Not without a lot of soul searching. I had a master’s degree and tenure and that cushy teacher’s pension everyone complains about. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. Life at home is busy, but moves at a softer speed. There are no defined chunks of time, just things to do. No pressure. No lists. No expectations. Believe it or not, that’s a hard adjustment.

I had a newborn, and for long months the goal was to get through each day. By the time she was old enough for me to think about a schedule other than hers, our lives had settled into a lovely rhythm that I didn’t want to disturb.

And now a year later, I know this: my life is not a highway anymore. Once I slowed down, I noticed that I had arrived. I was Here.

This is not about being a stay at home mom. That’s not what I mean by Here.

Here is a place for which my husband and I hoped, prayed and worked.

Here is a destination to be savored and explored.

Here there are graces and blessings and peace.

Here is what I wanted; I need to stand still, right Here and live it.

The journey is important. The journey pushes and strengthens us. But every journey needs a destination, or it’s just wandering.

We want this blog to be a place where we celebrate the Here. Our Here. Your Here. We want to bridge the gap between working moms and stay at home moms and figure out ways to help each other be happier and healthier in our Here.

Welcome!

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