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Monday, May 31, 2010

A Mighty Fortress



This quote rumbled through me as I read it...
"I do not find that this position, that of unbroken peacefulness and inward song, is one which we can hope to hold unassailed. It is no soft arrangement of pillows, no easy-chair. It is a fort in an enemy's country, and the foe is wise in assault and especially in surprise. And yet there can be nothing to fear, for it is not a place that we must keep, but a stronghold in which we are kept, if only, in the moment we are conscious of attack, we look "away unto our faith's Princely Leader and Perfecter, Jesus, who endured."
... Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), Rose from Brier [1933],
See the book at http://cqod.com/r/rs364

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Idle Musings


Like you perhaps, I had a really full week. These are some of the thoughts that flew by my radar as the week went by...

  • I flew to Seattle this week for a youth ministry consulting project, Monday through Wednesday. After each one of these projects, I walk away grateful. There are so many lovely, faithful, hardworking people laboring long and hard in relative obscurity, serving God without much thanks or notoriety. What a blessing.
  • Flying is no longer any fun. As I told a friend, why am I so impressed when a flight actually comes off the way it is supposed to?! I'm not asking for perfection. But I fly enough (about 6-8 times a year) to be able to compare experiences somewhat close together. I know that the airlines cannot control weather, so I don't get mad when there are weather-related delays. In these last 5 months, I have flown 3 times. Two out of three of those experiences were maddening: luggage lost for 2 1/2 days, flight canceled with no explanation given (it was sunny and clear at both departure and arrival airports), a TSA agent on a power trip who refused to let me through because my name on my ticket and ID didn't completely align (though I had flown into that airport just fine two days before)... Not to mention that it is insanely complicated to get through security even when the agents are kind. Between taking off my shoes, pulling out my toiletries in my quart ziploc, retrieving my laptop, emptying my water bottle beforehand, placing my cell phone and change and jacket in a tub, hoisting my rolling carry-on and my backpack onto the conveyor belt, at the same time making sure I don't lose my boarding pass in the midst of all that... phew! Then you squeeze onto a plane seat with 5 jillion other folks (all bringing rolly bags), rustling through little baggies of snacks because you're so hungry and there is nothing to eat. Oh well. At least I arrive safely. That is some consolation.
  • I still really love and enjoy high school students. In the mail this week I received several graduation announcements from beloved students in my old youth group. As I opened each one, a big smile broke out across my face. They look so handsome (or beautiful), so adult and confident and ready. A flood of memories from their childhoods welled up too, having known each of them nearly since they were born. Yesterday, as I walked up to Providence Hall, I cherished the guy who ran up to talk Lakers basketball with me, the other one who jumped over the fence to show me his newest Ninja move, the hugs and hello's and "I missed you so much!" This June will mark the end of my 28th year in youth ministry. What a ride! I love it more than ever. Thank you Lord for being willing to use me.
  • Memorial Day is my "green anniversary." This weekend marks seven years as a bicycle commuter and three years since I bought my scooter. In 2003 I decided to walk or ride my bike as my first transportation option -- for several years I was able to ride my bike to the majority of my appointments. (Current dress requirements for Providence prevents me from doing that, unfortunately...) I once read that bicycle commuting is the "gateway drug" to sustainable living, and oh my, would I agree. After that first commuter summer in 2003, I discovered the list is endless as to ways to simplify -- from there I slowly started the shift: to garden a bit at home, compost, line dry my laundry when possible, cook more at home (as opposed to eating out), switching out all my light bulbs, recycle everything I can, use the library rather than buy everything I read, join a CSA, avoid processed food, eat seasonally... I reflect this weekend on slowing down and trying to consume less, and feel like I've been changed as well. Today, as I dropped off my car to get the tires rotated (yes, I still have my '97 Subaru wagon), I decided to walk to some errands. But I stopped and chatted with a man who was asking for change, saw a friend in Peets and visited for awhile, and prayed for those I saw. I want to keep being more present and aware of the world around me. As I told my Mayterm class at Westmont this week, I am asking Christ to allow me see more of the world the way He does. Slowing down and living more sustainably has helped me to do that.
  • Have I mentioned I love my new kitten? Oliver is a hoot and a half. The Alpha Cat, Eli, has learned to accept his new lot in life, and occasionally they can co-exist (when Oliver isn't relentlessly harassing him, attempting to coax him to play). Here is nap time in the sun recently. I love it.
All in all, a very blessed life as I see God's love, care and provision in so many ways... these verses rang true for me earlier in the week:

Restore us, O God;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:3)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Silence

"Make no doubt about it, the ability to listen to another, to sit silently in the presence of God, to give sober heed, and to ponder is the nucleus of Benedictine spirituality. It may, in fact, be what is most missing in a century saturated with information but short on Gospel reflection. The Word we seek is speaking in the silence within us. Blocking it out with the static nonsense day in and day out, relinquishing the spirit of silence, numbs the Benedictine heart in a noise-polluted world." Joan Chittister

Friday, May 21, 2010

Certifiable Crazy Kitten Owner

I can't really come up with any logical explanation. I am now a helpless Puddle of Kitten Attachment. Here are photos from Week 2 of Oliver...

This was earlier in the week. Eli is not pleased with this current change of events. His world is being rocked by a 1 pound puffball.


















Here he crawled up my leg (OUCH -- I was wearing shorts) as I sat at my desk, then up onto my shoulder. Looked around for the right spot, then promptly fell asleep.



He and the Other Cat of the House, Eli, are still getting to know each other. I get a little nervous when I can't find Oliver after a few minutes because I have found Eli lingering a few too many seconds with his jaw clamped on the back of Oliver's neck... after 5 minutes of being unable to find Oliver, I found him here, fast asleep.






















Taken when Ruth was "working" at home. Notice her toes at the top of the screen.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Freedom

I read this this morning, from Henri Nouwen. It rang true -- and makes me aspire to do the same. What do you think?

Jesus was truly free. His freedom was rooted in his spiritual awareness that he was the Beloved Child of God. He knew in the depth of his being that he belonged to God before he was born, that he was sent into the world to proclaim God's love, and that he would return to God after his mission was fulfilled. This knowledge gave him the freedom to speak and act without having to please the world and the power to respond to people's pains with the healing love of God.

~~~~~~~~~

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)

May we live, speak, serve and love in true freedom, the way Jesus did.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Banana Rice Pancakes


Before you think I'm regressing to baby food or am preparing for dentures, keep in mind that I am gluten-free AND needing to cut down on cholesterol. So I'm always looking for good breakfast alternatives (I still eat eggs, which doesn't make me a true vegetarian... )

Found this recipe in my monthly issue of Bicycling magazine. I'm an eclectic magazine subscriber... Paste (music, culture, books, movies, etc.), New Yorker, Bicycling, Vegetarian Times... oh, and Group, a magazine for youthworkers. I'm well-rounded :)

Anyway, this recipe worked well this morning. I had to make it with white rice because I didn't have time to make brown rice. I'll be trying that next.

BANANA RICE PANCAKES
1 cup cooked rice
2 eggs
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup milk (dairy, soy, almond = I used almond)
1 tb potato or almond flour (regular flour apparently works too)
Optional seasonings: cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a blender (or Cuisinart smart stick), adding more more milk or rice to reach desired consistency. Cook slowly on a griddle on medium heat. Pancakes will be moist and creamy inside when done. Serves two.

Like other new recipes, this might take a little experimentation. My first pancakes were mangled lumps, my second ones were better (recite "patience is a virtue" to yourself as they are cooking). I can't decide if they cooked better on my stainless steel pan, which I prefer, or my old non-stick, which I try to avoid using anymore.

I made the half the batch into muffins (350 degrees for 20 minutes) and will try those at lunch with some almond butter.
Topped my cakes with a spot of butter and some peach jam. Nice.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Smitten with the Kitten


Let's be clear. I'm now certifiably nuts. This kitten has turned me into a helpless puddle of affection. Oliver is, plain and simple, a delight. He's so darn cute, cuddly, hilarious, playful, bold. I'm sure the novelty will wear off by, oh, next year. But for now, I'm smitten.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. Perhaps you should just pray for me :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nutrition Notebook #7


Despite appearances to the contrary, I do have a life outside of my new kitten....

I almost think these entries related to my altered menu should be retitled "High Maintenance and Loving It!" but I think that would open me up to too many smart remarks :)

I've been eating gluten-free for a year now, and have been on a somewhat rigorous, low-cholesterol diet that avoids red meat (all meat, really), sugars, dairy (especially cheese), minimal caffeine since mid-November. Bottom line: tons and tons of vegetables, fruit, salads, brown rice, beans, fish.... all food I'm enjoying immensely.

I haven't been back to my nutritionist for two months, but am continuing faithfully on the plan. I've maintained some weight loss (not tons, sadly, but have held at 8 pounds), and more importantly, feel FANTASTIC. I won't go into details, but everything is working inside and out!

I may wait till my annual physical in late summer to measure my cholesterol, but if you've followed on the blog you'll know my cholesterol dropped 25 points after only 1 month of this approach. I'll be intrigued to see where it is later this year.

Here are my "how I survive" pointers:
  • Amy's Kitchen frozen meals when I don't have time to cook. Newest favorite by a mile: The Rice Mac & Cheese. Oh glory! Better than the Trader Joe's box mix. Really cheesy. So yeah, perhaps I am fudging on the "no dairy, especially cheese" part.
  • Once a month I allow myself a gluten-free dessert... and Simply Pies in Santa Barbara has gluten-free options that are pure food from heaven. The Mixed Berry makes me tear up. Absolutely no sacrifice felt. This is utterly satisfying.
  • Lara Bars. Hello. My every day best friend. If I'm out and about, and starting to get hungry, I always make sure I have these with me. I do not leave the house ever without one of these in my backpack or purse. Current favorite: Cashew Cookie. Though the new Peanut Butter & Jelly may give a run for its money. Whole Foods Market has the best selection.
  • Nuts nuts nuts. Yes, I'm nuts over my kitten, but that's not what I'm talking about. I measure out 3 oz of nuts each day, start nibbling on them about 11am every morning, and keep them nearby. I dip in again mid-afternoon. This helps with protein on salads too. I make a mix of sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, pistachio nut meats and pecan pieces.
  • Pop chips with hummus.
  • Scrambled eggs every third day for breakfast. I LOVE THEM with sauteed onion, garlic, and whatever green things are in my fridge - kale, leeks, dandelion greens, chard have all made the cut. Wrap them in corn tortillas. Talk to me!
  • San-J Organic Tamari Sauce. I could not eat all these vegetables without stir fry (one can only eat so much Indian food, though I eat a lot of it), and being gluten-free, this stuff makes teriyaki and such possible. I have a go-to teriyaki sauce for mahi mahi that should be sold in a restaurant it's so good.
  • When I travel (at least once a month), the trickiest meal is usually breakfast, believe it or not. Hotel continental breakfast is almost always bread bread bread with a token boiled egg or sorry piece of fruit. So I bring a bag of Trader Joe's gluten-free granola with me on every trip. Lifesaver. Great on Greek yogurt too (non-fat, since low cholesterol is key).
I've really cut down on how much I eat out. I've fallen in love with cooking. I snack more on several of the above items when I can't make a meal. All is well.

Monday, May 10, 2010

(For Cat Groupies Only)

I think this will be the last Oliver post (for a few days at least!), but I just couldn't resist...

video

Sunday, May 9, 2010

'Ello Oliver!



I've already posted a photo on Facebook, but hardcore kitten fans can see more here. I had to put faithful Jack down on March 16, and was sure I couldn't get another cat for a long time. But as life carried on, it became immediately clear that the other cat of the house, Eli, was used to having a buddy. He became impossible, for a bunch of reasons that cat owners would understand. Enough biting, shredding, jumping, and annoying behavior moved up the "Get-a-Kitty" date rather quickly.

So here he is, all of 8 weeks old. A couple of friends have this sort of kitty (Persian/Himalayan mix), so my housemate surfed the 'net and found one born March 9 -- a week before I lost Jack.

He's very friendly, floppy and so flippin' cute he doesn't seem real! I may become one crazy cat lady. Tough luck, folks. I'm a goner....

Friday, May 7, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches

I'm a little off my game. My pace for posts here has slowed these last few weeks, and I miss it.

However, that could be due to the fact there are so many other things to enjoy. I feel tremendously blessed and thankful.

Here's a list of things I'm enjoying of late. In no particular order...
  • Cooking. I still shake my head when I say it, but with a broad grin. Me, the girl who flunked Home Economics in 8th grade, LOVES to cook. This week I made Pad Thai, Chiles Rellenos, Pesto out of Kale & Green Garlic. Like it was normal. Go figure.
  • Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice Farina. Sort of a mouthful to say all that, but this stuff makes hot cereal a party in your mouth. Sure, it could be also due to the many add-ins that I will include: diced apple, cinnamon, a teaspoon of peanutbutter, a half cup of frozen berries... and today, just to show off, a small handful of fresh unsweetened coconut, topped off with some almond milk. Yeah.
  • Silk Almond Milk. Speaking of... I'm telling you, if you haven't tried this stuff, jump in your car right now and get some. Thick, creamy, flavorful, low calorie... I prefer it to regular milk. Great for lattes, wonderful on cereal, perfect in smoothies. Rock on.
  • Latest favorite read. I am so completely stoked on this book - Knowing Christ Today: Why You Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge by Dallas Willard. Profound thoughts that I haven't read anywhere else. Deep, powerful, life-changing.
  • My housemate. She celebrated another birthday this week. I'm beyond blessed to know her and call her my best friend. Happy Birthday Ruth!
  • The students and staff at Providence Hall. As the school approaches the end of the year, I want to rejoice at how much I love each person at this place. What a wonderful family. I had so many real, solid conversations this week.
  • NBA Playoffs. I never said this wasn't going to be an eclectic list. "40 games in 40 nights." I dig it!! The Spurs vs. Suns game that I just watched was awesome. And I swear, Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, and Kenny Smith talking after every game? The best show on TV, bar none.
  • Riding my bike. This month marks seven years that I have been riding my bike 4-6 times each week. And I still love it madly. As I was riding to meet friends for lunch on Thursday at Shoreline Cafe, I laughed at myself when I realized what a goofball I must have looked like as I grinned from ear to ear out of the pure joy of being able to ride to the beach on a balmy, sunny day. It just feels so dang good! My faithful steed, a Felt SR71, still rides like silk. Looking forward to many rides this summer.
  • The soundtrack to Wicked. I heard an interview of Idina Menzel on NPR this week, and was reminded of Wicked. I am listening to the soundtrack like it's brand new. How fun is that? Popular ... I'm Not That Girl... Defying Gravity... For Good. Perfect awesomeness.
  • Godly people. My work-related projects have got me going in several directions. But in every case, I am so impressed by the steady, selfless humility of the people I work with. I will not name them, but there are pastors and lay leaders all over the Western US who are laboring in countless ways that teach me daily. Thank you for what you are doing. I see you.