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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lovely Lasagna

Gluten-free joy abounds in my home this week. (Yes, I am easily pleased. Cut me some slack.) Someone gave me a box of Rice Lasagna noodles and I was stoked at how EASY it made everything...

I didn't have to cook the noodles ahead of time -- what a beautiful thing. Some gluten-free pasta is gummy and hard to work with. This was not that way at all. It was delicious and tasted like real lasagna. Plus the leftovers for lunch the next day were even better.

In the thick of zucchini season, I love to have such great options. And if you like meat, it would be easy to add some ground turkey to this recipe. My favorite part of it was the taste of the cream cheese and cottage cheese combo. It really works.

Thanks to Cooks.com for the recipe. I stole the photo from the internet, but this is essentially what mine looked like. Does that count?

1/4 c. butter
8 oz. fresh mushrooms
4 c. thinly sliced zucchini
8 oz. lasagna
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
3 c. cottage cheese (24 oz.)
1/3 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. celery salt
2 1/2 c. spaghetti sauce
3/4 c. Parmesan cheese
Heat butter in large heavy skillet. Add mushrooms and zucchini. Cook about 10 minutes. Prepare lasagna according to package. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Combine cream cheese, cottage cheese, parsley, and celery salt. Layer lasagna and cheese mixture in dish. Cover with 1/3 vegetable mixture, 1/3 spaghetti sauce, 1/3 Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy Kelly

One of the major downsides of eating gluten-free is the deprivation of baked goods one experiences, especially in social situations. You'll be sitting at someone's lovely brunch and while everyone else is oohing and ahhing over the homemade blueberry scones or the divine banana bread, you're eating plateloads of fresh fruit to keep yourself busy. Perhaps a little egg bake too. But the aforementioned "one" is quite bitter inside...

(And don't go thinkin' "Why can't they just fudge once in awhile and eat food with gluten?" I will spare you the details of the results when "one" does this... suffice it to say, it's not pretty).

Hurray! The day has come... "One" is bitter is no more! I made a gluten-free zucchini bread this morning (pictured to the right) and it is ONE. HAPPY. DAY. here at my house. Moist, sweet (but not too sweet), perfect. And used a friend's backyard zucchini. Yay seasonal, local, organic cooking.

I found the recipe on the interweb. The key ingredient is finding a gluten-free ("GF" for those in the know) all-purpose flour. I have found success with two -- Beth's Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour and faithful old Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose GF Baking Flour.

Ingredients (I made a half-batch for this trial run. Worked perfectly)

  • 3 cups All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini

Mixing and Baking

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans
  3. In a medium bowl sift together all purpose gluten free flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  4. In a large bowl beat together eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar.
  5. Once mixture is creamy stir in shredded zucchini.
  6. Slowly mix together dry parts into zucchini mixture.
  7. You may also want to add walnuts, pecans, or chocolate chips.
  8. Pour mixture evenly into loaf pans and place in oven.
  9. Let bake for 45-60 minutes or until toothpick or other tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf.
  10. Let bread cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Ingredient Modifications

  • Substitute one cup applesauce for one cup vegetable oil (I did this)
  • Substitute one part maple syrup for one part white sugar. You may want to substitute half of the sugar for maple syrup instead of the whole amount. (recipe would change as follows: 1 1/8 cup white sugar, 1 1/8 cup maple syrup). (ever the rule breaker, I went my own way -- I did 2/3 white sugar, 1/3 agave)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pouring In

This has been an encouraging week with students. Last Friday we took an all-day retreat together, which included a lot of laughs, too much sun, and some good times of singing and learning. Let's be honest -- I was exhausted by the end.

We spent time talking together as an entire school about what leadership in the Kingdom can look like -- studying from Acts 18 -- and how each of them wants to grow in that this year. We looked at six different qualities of leadership. The one that still resonates the most with me personally is that of pouring into others. I am grateful for the opportunity to pour into them.

This week has given me tremendous chances to do that...
  • a surprising lunch on Tuesday with two sophomores who wanted to talk theology;
  • Wednesday morning together as an entire school -- students were invited to share brief testimonies in order to learn more on how to do just that as we finished our study for the month of September in the Book of Acts. The shower of stories was a delight.
  • breakfast on Thursday morning with 7 servant leaders -- their energy to serve and know you more is such a motivation to me.
I feel very fortunate to know this group. This fall marks the beginning of my 28th year working with youth. How great that it's still so challenging and fun for me -- and that they still want to talk to me!

This morning, in my own reading, I started on Ephesians. These verses were a great reminder of what it is I want to pursue in leading and pouring into young people.
That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! (Ephesians 1:15-19, The Message)
I feel so blessed at the thought of those who have done this for me. God, use me to do that same. That is my prayer this year.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Video of Claire's Memorial Service

I'm not really able to watch this yet... but I am grateful for Chris Mundell's willingness to edit down our service from August 20. Here is the link, for those of you who were unable to attend, or who want to see this again and perhaps share it with others.

Claire Carey Memorial Service Video

I miss her.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Henri Does It Again

Thinking about yesterday's entry and the reality of Christ as Heart-Knower, I especially enjoyed the quote of the day I received by Henri Nouwen:
How can we not lose our souls when everything and everybody pulls us in the most different directions? How can we "keep it together" when we are constantly torn apart?

Jesus says: "Not a hair of your head will be lost. Your perseverance will win you your lives" (Luke 21:18-19). We can only survive our world when we trust that God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. We can only keep it together when we believe that God holds us together. We can only win our lives when we remain faithful to the truth that every little part of us, yes, every hair, is completely safe in the divine embrace of our Lord. To say it differently: When we keep living a spiritual life, we have nothing to be afraid of.
We are known well, dearly loved and lifted up by the Heart-Knower. This is truly good news.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It's hard to believe that today marks one month since we lost Claire. Though we have each carried on with much of our daily lives, I still hear from many as to the ways we feel her absence, in ways large and small. Just today I got this email from a former student, now a college graduate and newly married:
Claire was a wonderful small group leader and I remember very clearly the summer camp of 2000 when I was entering my freshmen year in high school. But even more than that I remember how wonderful, fun, and kind Claire was. Whether it was dealing with a bunch of squirrely Jr. High Students, co-leading Bible study with my parents, or seeing her at church, I will always remember Claire's smile and her heart.
Last Friday night I shared dinner with some very dear friends, and we spent the evening reflecting on our last visits with Claire and what those times were like. We laughed over her stubbornness, and we cried as we recalled how much she struggled on despite so many limitations. Though it was sad in some ways it was ultimately so good to be with others who knew her. There were no explanations needed, and we could just let down our guards and rejoice that we knew her and were loved well by her, shortened as the time was.

At Providence Hall, where I teach a class called Foundations of the Christian Faith, we are currently studying the Book of Acts for the month of September as an entire school. There is one lovely phrase from this far-reaching book (which is chock full of great stories, I might add!) that has stayed with me. In Acts 1:24 it says, "Then they prayed, 'Lord, you know everyone's heart...'" and in 15:8 it says, "God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them..." But in the original Greek, these two phrases are directly translated as:
  • O Lord Heart-Knower of all...
  • the Heart-Knower God showed them...
As I have shared with my students, just as we can call God "Father" or "Savior" we can call him "Heart-Knower." He knows our hearts better than we do ourselves... Thus he is able to translate our feelings for us, and will then guide us out of the sadness and loss, into more life. It is a great comfort.

John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim's Progress, once said, "The best prayers often have more groans than words." I am thankful that groans are enough sometimes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beet It!

Most of my recipes are ones I find on the internet, or cull from my handful of cookbooks.

But this one I made up all by my lonesome (though I found this photo online as I prepared to post this...)

This is so good because it's a great combination of sweet and salty, and the beets give it substance. Very satisfying, I must say.

Not sure what to call it. Guess I'll go with the main ingredients:

(Serves 2)

1 package pasta (I used DeBoles Rice Spirals -- their shape grabs the ingredients nicely)
2 beets, peeled & boiled
1/2 c crumbled feta
Diced fresh tomatoes (I used local red & yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered)
Shredded parmesan
Olive oil
Garlic salt

Optional (choose as many as you want):
Green or black olives
Diced onions, sauteed or roasted
Sliced mushrooms, sauteed
Fresh spinach, roughly cut, or arugula
Pine nuts

1. Preheat oven to broil for beets.

2. Start the water boiling for the pasta; cook according to directions.

3. Dice the beets (and onions, if you want) and coat with a little olive oil and garlic salt. Lay out on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Broil them for about 10 minutes (keep an eye on them).

4. Meanwhile, dice up the other ingredients and pile them into a bowl, including the feta.

5. When the pasta is done, drain well and then pour them into the bowl with the vegetables. Toss well, adding a little olive oil and garlic salt (not too much -- you want the flavor of the roasted beets and other vegetables to come through). Garnish with pine nuts and parmesan if you want.

I served this with some steamed green beans and garlic bread.

Try to eat slowly and enjoy it!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shameless Plug

OK, I have to admit, I did a little personal jig today... I knew I was going to have an article in the latest issue of Youthworker Journal (yes, I'm fully aware that you don't read it -- only other youthworker nerds like me), but I did not realize that I would get a little shout out on the cover as well. (Squint and you can see it under "Changing the World")

Certainly not fame and most definitely not fortune, but heck, it's something, right?

Here's the link to the digital version. My article is on page 26.

Thanks for listening. Or reading. Whatever.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Saw What I Saw

Yesterday I was riding my bike and listening to my iPod on shuffle.

Normally I just enjoy songs I know, think and pray about my day, make sure I don't get hit by drivers who don't look for cyclists...

But this day a song decided to laser in deep. You know what I mean... You're listening to a song you've heard many times before, but that day the words and the music work together to put your feelings in a blender.

The song is titled I Saw What I Saw by Sara Groves. Now viewing it as a YouTube video, I see that it was inspired by a trip she made to Rwanda. Watching the video takes me back to my Guatemala trips, and even my years with Kids' Club on the Eastside right here.

But the lyrics find me where I am right now as well, still walking through the first weeks of grief for my friend Claire. One line in particular is what is staying with me still:
I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and I can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it

Something on the road, cut me to the soul

>> Your pain has changed me <<
your dream inspires
your face a memory
your hope a fire
your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
(what I am made of)
and what I know of love

we've done what we've done and we can't erase it
we are what we are and it's more than enough
we have what we have but it's no substitution

Something on the road, touched my very soul

I say what I say with no hesitation
I have what I have and I'm giving it up
I do what I do with deep conviction

Something on the road, changed my world
I had breakfast with a friend this past weekend who also knew Claire very well. While this was a horrible experience, he said, he wouldn't have traded it for anything. We both agreed: the horror of walking with someone into death changes you. I am a better person because of it. As the song says, her pain has changed me. My understanding of courage, faith, love and eternity were stretched and expanded... your courage asks me what I'm afraid of ... I am now more readily touched and affected by the pain of those around me... Something on the road, touched my very soul... I am more willing to sit and listen, and not try to fix or solve.

More than anything, I am reminded that nothing else in our day-to-day grind is really that important. Stress is irrelevant. A student brought up this passage in class this morning -- oh how I love the earnest faith of high school students. It tells me what is truly real:
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rock of Ages

I woke up with the refrain from Rock of Ages running through my head:
Rock of Ages
Cleft for me

Let me hide myself in Thee...
Indeed, that's what I want. Or if I'm being honest, sometimes I just want to hide. Period.

I have deeply grieved before. I lost a mentor, who was like a treasured parent to me, to ALS in 1996. I lost a dear student five years ago. I walked with a friend who tragically also lost a battle with a brain tumor in 2006, and the father of some beloved students died in a plane crash last year. I somehow thought I knew how to do this grieving thing already.

Instead, I am moving slowly, as if running through deep mud. Earlier in the week I noted that after the week of stunning loss there comes a month of minimal interaction with others. I love what I get to do for a living; but at this point, it's all I can do. I come home each day completely spent, and I really don't think it's from working too hard.

At this point, I am finding it most helpful to not think I know at all what I'm doing. I seek the counsel of others:
How can we learn to live this way? Many of us are tempted to think that if we suffer, the only important thing is to be relieved of our pain. We want to flee it at all costs. But, when we learn to move through suffering rather than avoid it, then we greet it differently. We become willing to let it teach us. We even begin to see how God can use it for some larger end. Suffering becomes something other than a nuisance or curse to be evaded at all costs; but a way to deeper fulfillment. Ultimately, mourning means facing what wounds us in the presence of the One who can heal. (Nouwen)

We'll feel better in time, and in less time if we are able to express our sadness. If we do not open a wound to the air, it is harder for the wound to heal. If we do not surface our grief, it cannot move away from us, leaving us ready for new life. We need to be gentle with ourselves as we would be with a wounded child. (Martha Whitmore Hickman)

Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. (Psalm 116:7)

If I love God, suffering does not ultimately matter. Christ in me is what matters. Pain does not cease to be pain, but I can "rejoice in my suffering" (Romans 5:3) because the power of God in my life is greater than suffering's vice grip can ever be. (Joni Eareckson Tada)

The one true freedom in life is to come to terms with death, and as early as possible, for death is an event that embraces all our lives. And the only way to have a good death is to lead a good life... The more we do God's will, the less unfinished business we leave behind when we die." (William Sloane Coffin)
(Thanks to Russell Smelley for these quotes)

These help me to see that it is more than ok to go slow, to be quiet and less active. As the Whitman quote says, we need to be gentle with ourselves. I find grief to be alternately a fascinating, baffling and frustrating experience. It manifests itself in the strangest ways. In the midst of an enjoyable moment with others, suddenly a wave of sadness will wash over me, and I'll silently cry while others continue to laugh around me. I have physical symptoms that catch me off guard -- certain things go on in my body that are apparently resulting from stress that I do not know I'm feeling. And I am having an active dream life, picturing scenarios that are clearly connected to my loss and anxiety.

As I type this, I am listening to a song by Shane and Shane titled "Beauty for Ashes." It is simple and quite appropriate:
Beauty for ashes
A garment of praise for my heaviness
Beauty for ashes
Take this heart of stone and make it Yours, Yours

I delight myself in the Richest of Fare
Trading all that I've had for all that is better
A garment of praise for my heaviness
You are the greatest taste
You're the richest of fare (taken from Psalm 63, Isaiah 61)
More than ever, I am recognizing that I must live in the immediate moment. Not because I want to revert some youthful "carpe diem" adventurousness, but because the present is all I can handle. Again, Chittister educates me:
God is in the Here and Now. It is we who are not. It is we who are trapped in the past, angry at what formed us, or fixated on a future that is free from pain or totally under our control. But God is in our present, waiting for us there.
The Rock of Ages is indeed cleft for me. It is good to hide there.

Psalm 61:
1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

4 I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The God-Life

In my reading this morning:
We do what we do in life, even holy things... not because we are so good but because God is so good and enables us to rise above the misery of ourselves. Even the spiritual life can become an arrogant trap if we do not realize that the spiritual life is not a game that is won by the development of spiritual skills. The spiritual life is simply the God-life already at work in us. (Joan Chittister)

Not to us, O LORD, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Ear of Your Heart

I'm up at 6:30am, but I'm foggy and slow. Sleep is not steady or deep in these days of fresh grief. I shuffle around and know that I really need to get a move on if I want to get out the door by 7:20. I have breakfast and coffee to make, some sort of outfit to put together, and in the midst of all that, I want to pause for a few minutes and pray.

In past years, it was too easy for me to skip that third part. I'd often seem to run out of time in the morning, and that was the first thing to go out the window. Not so much these days. I can't seem to pull it together on my own. I need that time to gather my head and heart, to feel ready to step out into a world that is bustling, demanding, and often overwhelming.

The Benedictine Rule says it this way:
Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart...
Life does not operate according to a set of instructions that I can follow and obtain guaranteed results. Joan Chittister says, Life is not a series of events to be controlled. Life is a way of walking through the universe whole and holy. I have spent way too much of my energy trying to make things go "my way." The amount of stress that I have created over the years by trying to control outcomes and situations was a waste of time. These days I'm learning how to pay attention to what is going on around me by spending daily time tuning in my soul's radio dial to God's channel. (Yes, I'm entirely aware that sounds corny... but I can't come up with a better way to describe what prayer calls me to.)

If we do not live life consciously, in other words, we may not be living at all, Chittister says. Rather than try to govern life by my self-focused agenda, I yearn to be sensitive and aware of what is going on around me:
Spirituality does not come by breathing. It comes by listening to this rule and to its insights into life "with the ear of the heart"... What attention to the spiritual life does change is our appreciation for the presence of God in our dull, mundane lives. We come to realize that we did not find God; God finally got our attention. The spiritual life is a grace with which we must cooperate, not a prize to be captures or a trophy to be won.
This morning, in preparation for my lesson with the Providence students, I re-read Acts 1. This verse is like a clanging bell each time I read it:
Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart... (Acts 1:24)
I love it because I remember it from when I took Biblical Greek. In the Greek it is literally written, O Lord, heart-knower of all..

God is our heart-knower. He knows us far better than we know ourselves. Such a comfort! And we will learn to know our hearts the way he does, and more importantly, know his heart better, when we learn to listen in prayer with feeling and spirit, not just our minds.

We are studying the Book of Acts for the month of September at Providence Hall. As a new school, I feel we have much to learn from the early years of the church. Personally, I am humbled by their persistent and humble prayer and worship. As I stumble through this season of losing my friend Claire, I cannot stop the habits that have sustained me, no matter how thrown off I am by the events of these past days. Weakened as I am, I realize anew that I need to find God's order for my days, rather than think I can put it together on my own. In my sadness, he has my attention. And that is a good thing.