Fussing Over Fish and Fuzzy Beans

Dinnertime kitchen conversation tonight with Kayla ~ the eve of Mommy leaving for Oklahoma for a few days…

Kayla:  What are you making making for dinner, Mom?

Me: Fish!  Aren’t you excited!?!

Kayla:  (groan) Why can’t we have the chili?

Me:  The chili is for tomorrow night while I’m gone to Oklahoma.  I also made pizza crusts for you guys for Friday’s movie night.

Kayla:  I wish we could have the chili tonight.

Me:  Nope.  It’s your favorite tonight ~ fish!  (sarcasm)  The chili is for Thursday and the pizza is for Friday.

Kayla: Ooooooookkkaaaaaaaaaayyyy. (more groans)

Me:  That’s right.  We’re having the yucky meal tonight with mom ~ fish, but at least it’s not salmon.  It’s cod.  And the fun meals with Dad when I’m gone. Oh, and for Saturday I got the ingredients for spaghetti ~ one of Dad’s when-mom-is-away specialties!

Kayla:  Yeah, but Dad will probably still pick out a bad movie for movie night on Friday.

  (Last week’s movie was The Mission, and he’s also been known to bring home 
Joshua or Luther. In his defense, this happens mostly when the three young Krums can not agree on a movie ~ and even still they haven’t yet learned to cooperate!)

Me: Well, at least you’ll be eating pizza with your bad movie instead of fish!

Kayla:  Yeah, or kale or kombucha or those fuzzy beans….edam?  edamam?  edamame?

Me:  Exactly!

And this whole conversation reminded me of a video that we’ve watched multiple times, since a friend of mine posted it on Facebook.  We’ve laughed till we’ve cried each time, because it is eerily similar to some things that go on in our house.

This mom is singing the Carpenter’s “On Top of the World”  WHILE making green smoothies, AND has kombucha fermenting in her pantry.  I’ve been searching for the hidden cameras in my kitchen, but to no avail.  All I have to say is that I’m  very comforted by the fact that there are other kindred kombucha spirits out there.  
At least once a day, someone in our house uses the sing-song phrase…
 “I made you guys a smoothie!”

Sweet Sabbath ~ A New, but Weekly Highlight

Last week the fall semester schedule moved into full swing for me.  Already back to homeschooling for the year, off to a great start with our Classical Conversations program, dance, piano, guitar, baseball, and cross country begun, last week brought the addition of my final weekly commitments ~ helping Robert lead a mid week small group for freshmen in college, leading a Bible/book study for young women at Amherst College, and teaching a Sunday school class for women on the same book at church on Sunday mornings.
Since it was the first of these weekly group commitments, introductions and ice-breakers were typical fare.  When it was my turn to share where I go to school (I don’t; I teach school at my dining room table.), what my major is (plate spinning, i.e. time management and food prep), and what a highlight from my week was with the women from Amherst College, I thought my “highlight” might sound too spiritual, but it was truly my highlight, so I shared it anyway.
“Well, it was Monday,” I explained, “when I got to spend two hours sitting at the picnic table in my backyard, reading, praying, and journaling.”
I explained briefly my struggle to STOP in life, my fear that the world (or plates) might stop spinning if I did. I shared my guilt over leaving anything undone or incomplete whether it be housecleaning, my email inbox, thank you notes, remembering birthdays, returned phone calls, or organizing the linen closet. I explained that wrapped up in all of that is the ungodly perspective that I can earn favor with people and God by always being on top of everything, and that that’s why I’ve been trying to honor and obey the Lord by truly observing the Sabbath, but on Mondays, because Saturdays and Sundays are simply not conducive to Sabbath. (Our whole family worked at Cooper’s cross country meet on Saturday from 7am to 3pm, and Sunday….well, it’s more non-stop than Saturdays!)
That particular Monday, I was only able to observe the Sabbath for two hours.  This was a definite disappointment to me, because it was not my goal or ideal of “stopping” for an entire day, but for two hours, I did stop.  I walked away from the kitchen and the school/dining room table, and I sat down.  And it was wonderful.  Now, I have made a practice of spending time reading the Word and praying on an almost-daily basis, but taking a whole day affords an extended time for this and other restful activities.
He met me there in those two hours ~ of course.  He used His Word to perfectly intersect with another book I am currently reading.  He answered theological questions that I had, just days before, asked Robert about. He encouraged me, and it was pretty clear that He was not displeased with my two hour Sabbath.
It was my highlight of last week.
It’s Monday again today, and I think it will be another highlight of my week.  (Well, except that I’m going out of town later in the week and will get to see wonderful friends!)  Today was a full day Sabbath.  Yes, even the blogging that I am doing right now is a part of it, because it’s for Him and it’s enjoyable to me.  It’s not “laborious work” as the books of Leviticus and Numbers often urge/command the Israelites (and us) to refrain from. (I know it’s a “Law”, but one that encourages trusting in Grace.
It did require laborious work to get here, though.  Yesterday, after teaching Sunday school, attending worship service, cooking lunch (this requires getting up before 6a.m.), and hosting people for lunch, I got busy cleaning and preparing for the week.  All dishes were done, all rooms put back in order, kitchen table de-cluttered, thank you notes written, email inbox nearly emptied, and menu planning and grocery shopping were done.  I sat down with Kory and helped him make his school schedule for the entire week, because then he’s on his own and doesn’t require further direction from me.  I checked in with Kayla and Cooper to make sure they were well on their way to being prepared for Classical Conversations on Tuesday, and knew what schoolwork to do on Monday.  Appointments for the week were made, a fresh batch of granola was made, and I even baked everyone puffed pancakes for dinner.
Then I headed upstairs around 9:30pm and snuggled into bed with Robert who had “Friday Night Lights” queued up on his laptop.  We watched one episode (because we have self-restraint unlike some other church planters from big football states that we know), and the Sabbath began by unwinding with Coach and Tami Taylor, Tim Riggins, Landry, and a full night’s sleep.  (May sound silly, but we don’t really watch any TV, and almost never in bed, so it’s pure luxury to us.)
Want to know what I did on this Sabbath Monday?

  • Slept in till 7:30
  • Went for a 5 mile run (yes, it’s laborious, but also mood-boosting for me!)
  • Worked out at the gym (see above)
  • Got some preaching tips from my hubby over a yummy breakfast at Whole Foods (kids at home doing pre-planned work)
  • Sat at my picnic table reading my Bible and praying and journaling for two hours (He was so present.)
  • Showered and dressed….slowly
  • Got a haircut (which always includes a scalp massage)
  • Went to GoBerry for local dairy frozen yogurt topped with raspberries (frozen yogurt for lunch ~ woohoo!)
  • Ate frozen yogurt and raspberries with homemade granola on a bench in the sun
  • Read my current book ~ The Holiness of God ~ on the same bench in the sun (found out that Jacob’s Ladder was an OT reference to Jesus)
  • Came home to tell you all about it…

And now Kayla is in the kitchen “cooking” the very simple dinner I planned for tonight ~ packaged chicken pesto sausages from Trader Joe’s, brown rice, and frozen peas.
Much was left undone, but I’m learning that much will always be undone. Much was also accomplished yesterday affording a bit more freedom in the resting today.  I really think this is the life rhythm that the Lord was requiring ~ work hard, and then trust Me with the rest ~ both the tasks remaining and the actual ceasing of work. I’ve never really trusted Him with those things before. 
At the picnic table, I spent time reading and praying through Psalm 116.  I’m not totally sure what the specific meaning of “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” is, but I’m fairly certain that the fleshly death to sin is a part of what He holds precious.  Only He can accomplish this in us, and when He does, it is beautiful to Him.  Today I thanked Him for “loosing my bonds” to perfectionism and pride, and I “offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving” to Him by not doing much at all.
It’s a highlight because it reminds me of the gospel, and my salvation, for which I did nothing at all.

Gluten Free Friday ~ Roasted Snacks (Chickpeas! Almonds!)

I’m not even sure where I first heard mention of “roasted chick peas”, but the thought has not left my mind since.  Hummus has been a beloved staple in my diet for years now.  Chickpeas found on a salad bar always make it to the top of my heaping greens.  So, this next level of chickpea infatuation seemed obvious.  I’ve seen recipes for sweet ones and savory ones, but after trying a few at home, I think the savory ones are best.  Even my kiddos liked the savory ones best, especially fresh out of the oven.
Roasted Chickpeas
1 large can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (loose outer layer/skins removed if you like)
(Or use a dried and then cooked-at-home bag of chickpeas ~ I did!)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp garlic powder and other desired herbs, or a garlic and herb sprinkle (I used a McCormick version)
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic and herbs, salt and pepper.  Place drained/rinsed chickpeas in a bowl and pour liquid mixture over, tossing to coat.  Let sit 5-10 minutes and toss to coat again.  Pour chickpeas out onto a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees, turning occasionally so they do not burn on one side.  Serve fresh out of the oven or store in an airtight container for future snacking.

Another roasted snack I made this week involved some almonds that I have had stored in my frig for probably way too long.  I figured that soaking and then roasting them might get them eaten much faster than I could make almond milk and raw cheesecakes out of them.  These are definitely sweet and reminiscent of those roasted nuts whose smell compels you to turn in their direction and promptly pay $4 for a tiny bag of them on the streets of New York City. I can never resist a buying a bag of nuts while visiting Manhattan, and I’ve noticed vendors popping up on the streets of Boston as well.  This homemade version turned out to be just as addictive, and then I found this recipe that sounds even better and doesn’t use white sugar.  I can not wait to try the chocolate version!
Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

4 cups raw almonds
1 egg white
1 tsp water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a small bowl combine cinnamon and sugar.  In a separate bowl, beat egg white until foamy.  Add water and continue beating for one minute.  Pour almonds into the egg white mixture and toss to coat.  Pour cinnamon sugar mixture over and stir until all almonds are coated.  Spread almonds onto a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally to prevent burning.  Cool before serving ~ if you are able to wait that long!

The Summer I Went to Ten Weddings…

…and four bridal showers, and five rehearsal dinners, and 6 different states (not all for weddings), one youth camp, one funeral, two conferences, lots of house guests, the Grand Canyon, and, and, and….
Oh my goodness! It has been extremely fun and joyful and extremely chaotic and crazy all at the same time! I’ve written about some of the perks of being a pastor’s wife before, and weddings are definitely one of them, but TEN in ONE summer??? Privilege may have spilled over into pressure with the clothes, travel, kid-sitting, gifts, and time required to pull this off! And you know what else?  We could have gone to THIRTEEN!  That’s right.  We, regrettably, had to reply “no” to three weddings ~ two were out of state (as in Texas-Oklahoma out of state, not Connecticut-New Hampshire-Vermont out-of-state!), and one was planned after we already had vacation reservations in Maine.
Ready for the Summer 2011 Wedding Tour in Review?  Buckle your seat belt; it’s quite a ride…
Wedding #1 ~ Kristen and Ben
Held in the beautiful chapel on the campus what many hope and pray will soon become the C.S. Lewis College.  Kristen and Ben are now a part of Vita Nova ~ one of our recent church plants.  Nate did a great job on their ceremony, and I think he came close to having as many weddings as we did this summer. I had to steal this photo from Facebook, because I forgot my camera! (And we had to leave quickly from the reception because of kid stuff!)
Wedding #2 ~ Kim and Stu
Their first date was in the spring of their senior year at UMass ~ to the ROTC Ball, and then Stu was off to the Army for 5 years.  I don’t think many people believed they would survive that long distance romance for that amount of time (several deployments, too), but they did!
Kim and I grew close after she had become a Christian and began attending our church.  My first memory of her is from the night our church rented out the local theater for a private showing of The Passion of the Christ.  She didn’t know us personally at that time, but made it a point to come and shake our hands and thank us for hosting the event, as it had a great impact on her.  After that, she was in our small group Bible study, and we enjoyed many Starbucks dates before she graduated and even after, which meant meeting at one halfway between Boston and Amherst! (Or Applebee’s or Friendly’s…)
Theirs was a gorgeous wedding on a resort balcony with Mt. Washington as the scenic backdrop, and since we arrived at there at 4a.m. after flying back from a funeral in Texas, we were glad we booked two nights!
Wedding #3 ~ Katie and Ian
This one surely wins the prize for the longest engagement!  Katie and Ian had been engaged over 2 years by the time their wedding date came around.  This wedding (and the next two, for that matter) meant a lot to Robert, since both Katie and Ian gave their lives to Christ in our church, were also both baptized, engaged, and then married in our church.  What a privilege to walk with people through all of those milestones, and Katie and Ian are such a joy to be around!
They met in the marching band at UMass. They have been kind enough to kid-sit for us on occasion, and now they courageously lead our church childcare ministry ~ which I think is rather interesting irony. In time, I think you’ll agree… 😉
Wedding #4 ~ Autumn and J.J.
Already dearly missed, J.J. and Autumn moved to Colorado just a few weeks after their June wedding.  They love the outdoors, hiking, skiing, golfing, and rafting, so it seemed the perfect place to start their married life together, but our church suffered a great loss because of their move.  They were involved in greeting, leading small groups, organizing outreaches, and just being an all-around encouragement to everyone who came through the church doors.  Beautiful wedding, beautiful couple!  Missing them so much these days!
Wedding #5  ~ Kylie and Dusty
Simply elegant style. Kind, gracious, and humble families.  I had to make two collages for the Kylie/Dusty wedding, because taking pictures was just so fun and easy ~ a beautiful day, and an outdoor reception cater to that, of course, but this wedding was just especially special.  The rain that poured and poured in the days prior to their wedding day were symbols of the attacks of the enemy this couple experienced on the eve of their wedding, but what followed was certainly one of the most beautifully redemptive things I’ve ever witnessed.  They overcame.  Christ in them was the victor, and it was as obvious in their faces and in their vows as it was in the bright sunshine that appeared in perfect time!  The Lord was so present and beautiful!
We’re so thankful that not only Kylie and Dusty are a part of our church, but Kylie’s amazing parents ~ Ralph and Vicky.  What a blessing to watch a family love each other and persevere through all of life’s joys and challenges.
Wedding #6  ~ Kristina and Martin
Winner of the “Most Intimate Ceremony” award of the summer wedding tour, Martin and Kristina’s guest list included only two…Robert and me!  Since it was not a first marriage for either (both of these sweet people have been through so much in that department), they wanted something small.  Even though this was a later-in-life wedding, M & K  have known each other since their Bible college days. These old friends re-connected via the wonders of Facebook. Since Kristina was living in out of state, the New England wedding planning was up to Martin, and I must say, he did a great job! He chose a quaint gazebo in a park in Vermont as the ceremony site.  We headed there after a casual lunch downtown, held the gazebo ceremony, and then walked to the town hall to make it all official.  
(You can get a certificate AND have a wedding all in one day in Vermont!)
Such a privilege to be a part of this sweet couple’s day!  So happy for them!
Wedding #7 ~ Katherine and Tim
Katherine was a part of our church for the four years that she attended Mt. Holyoke College ~ an all women’s campus in nearby South Hadley.  She met Tim after graduation and at the wedding of another MOHO, as they like to call themselves.  Katherine is in the thick of medical school, so pulling off a wedding in the midst of it all was quite a challenge, but she did an amazing job!  I was also amazed at their commitment to pre-marital counseling with Robert, because living in Pennsylvania does not make that a convenient exercise.  We were especially blessed by Tim’s parents who graciously hosted us all weekend and even invited us to the morning after brunch for their family!  As we walked away from our hotel, Robert and I each felt so encouraged and blessed to have been with such kind and gracious folks.  Very refreshing, I tell you!
Wedding #8 ~ Carol and T.J.
I’m sure you’re not keeping track, but so far that’s three outdoor weddings and two outdoor receptions.  Also, that’s SIX brides whose names begin with the letter “K” ~ Kristen, Kim, Katie, Kylie, Kristina, and Katherine.  Wow! I Think it may be safe to say this was the summer of outdoor weddings and 20-something-brides with “K” names.  Must have been a popular letter in the in the mid-80’s?!?  (And the late 90’s, too, I guess, as I have two “K” kiddos myself!)  Phonetically speaking, there is one more “k” bride, and she would be Carol! (I’ve got one phonetic “k” too.)
Carol and T.J. also had an outdoor wedding overlooking the scenic Quabbin Reservoir.  This place is just a few miles from our house, and yet we had never seen it.  We vowed to return, though, since it was so beautiful.  This was the red-and-white-complete-with-gloves-and-hats-wedding ~ such coordinated style! We thoroughly enjoyed meeting each of the families, and Robert enjoyed eating the most gigantic plate of Chicken Parmesan and pasta I have EVER seen at the rehearsal dinner! (Chicken Caesar Salad sans croutons for this GF gal.)
Wedding #9 ~ Amanda and Aaron
Aaron and Amanda ~ A & A ~ the double vowel couple ~ no “k’s” here.  I think I can sum this one up by telling you that Amanda’s Jackie-O-esque wedding dress had POCKETS.  It made me want to get married all over again.  To Robert, of course, just with POCKETS in my dress!  But pockets were only one perfect detail of this sweet country wedding.  The bridesmaids wore cowboy boots, the favors were jars of homemade jams and jellies, wildflowers in glass bottles served as centerpieces, and homemade fabric garland and pennants graced the outdoor reception patio.  Reba McEntire even made a guest appearance to perform a singing “toast” looking eerily similar to one local church worship leader named Cindy.  And the wedding cake?  Peach cobbler and homemade ice cream!
Aaron and Amanda left Mercyhouse a while back to be a part of the start of Valley Church.  They were missed, of course, but we are so thankful that Ryan and Christie got to have such a wonderful young couple to support them as they planted another church here in the Valley.  Ryan did a great job on the ceremony, and is looking pretty good here surrounded by all of his pretty ladies.
Wedding #10 ~ Leah and Patrick
 Well, we started with a Vita Nova wedding and we got to end with one, too. (There were several in between, that we were not a part of!)  Nate did a wonderful job laying out the biblical purposes of and roles within marriage during this ceremony.  It truly is a metaphor for the gospel ~ for the relationship between Christ and His bride, and it was just the thing that Leah and Patrick wanted their guests to hear. Another highlight of this wedding was the couple’s first dance.  Now, you have to know that even as athletic and tough as Patrick may seem, he was a dance and theater major in college, so I was not THAT surprised when he began dancing and lip-synching to “A Whole New World” from the Aladdin soundtrack.  What did surprise us was that Leah did not skip a beat in joining him for her part in the duet and dance!  It was about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen ~ so original, and such a gift for all those watching ~ smiles and laughter all around! 
(I heard they did the MJ “Thriller” dance later, but we had to scoot to baseball games and 
cross country meets.)
Whew!  If you are still reading, you are probably as worn out as we were by this matrimonial marathon!  
But it was a wonderful sort of weary, and definitely a perk for this pastor’s wife ~ and family.

Welcome to Mercyhouse for the 13th Time!

 Students returned to town last weekend which means lots more traffic on the streets AND at church. This years marks the 13th that we’ve experienced this “return.” (Which means Kory was 4, Cooper was 2 and there was no Kayla for the first “return”!) Robert says it’s like planting a new church every year ~ lots of new faces, many new believers, some curious seekers, and fresh opportunities to reach out.  He absolutely loves this, and there is truly an excitement about it that fills the hearts of all involved just as the crisp autumn breeze arrives to fill our little valley. 
 (The low was 38 degrees on Saturday morning!)
 Robert and I heard the beginning of a radio sermon on the book of Leviticus early this summer by Chuck Swindoll.  Unfortunately, we were driving from the Grand Canyon back to Phoenix to catch an airplane at the time and lost the station rather quickly, but it got him thinking.  I was already reading Leviticus which is why I tried to tune into the sermon for as long as possible.  Anyway, the Lord used those moments and the fact that many in our church do not have much Old Testament knowledge to convince Robert that this was the book to teach through this semester.  So, “Blood and Guts of the Bible” was birthed, as well as a passion to share the ways the book prepares the way for Jesus so clearly.
 Cindy (with Nicolette joining to help lead worship) is a master at choosing songs that perfectly prepare us for and then help us reflect on the teaching of whatever book of the Bible we’re studying.  Today was no different ~ 
See from His head, his hands, his feet ~ sorrow and love flow mingled down…

You came into a world of shame, and paid the price we could not pay
Death that brought me life, blood that brought me home…
 The announcement guys ~ Chris and Brian ~ were as entertaining as usual!
 Opportunities for Sunday school classes, mid-week small groups, and all areas of service, not to mention free books and not-so-free t-shirts, were beautifully displayed thanks to intern Josh and others.
Tables were hosted by knowledgeable and smiling volunteers. Cute babies named Owen were especially helpful in drawing the reluctant to go ahead and check out the information at the table!
Kory took his every-Sunday position at the computer and sound board in order to run PowerPoint for the music and sermon.  Ian is the master sound and video guy!
And below was my table to host along with another Josh ~ the Mercyhouse University Table.   This is our version of Sunday school, and four classes are being offered this semester.  Mine is “Doctrine for Women” using this book. (Not “women’s doctrine” ~ whatever that might be, but a class on Christian doctrine for women only!)  Josh is teaching Tim Keller’s Reasonable Faith, Greg is teaching a class called “Christ in U” on surviving the college years, especially the challenge to faith those years can be, and Liz is teaching Me, Myself, and Lies ~ also a class for women only.
Robert’s sermon today took us from the first chapters of Leviticus with its instructions on how the Israelites were to bring an unblemished animal to the tabernacle to be slaughtered, bled, and burned on the altar to John the Baptist’s declaration upon seeing Jesus for the first time:
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 2:29
(Truly it was, Greg.)
“Pastor, from your sermon I understand the concepts of imputation (our sins were transferred to Jesus, His righteousness was transferred to us) and of propitiation (His appeasing sacrifice on the cross), but why was all of this necessary for ME?”  was one of several gospel-centered questions my husband was more than thrilled to answer today after the services even if it meant a trip back to Genesis.
(He reported this joy to me over iced coffee in our kitchen when he finally got home this afternoon ~ our own little “church debrief.”)
I love my church, and my husband’s heart for the gospel.
And because of all of this, I have loved my Lord more and more with each of the thirteen years we’ve been privileged to serve Him in this way.

Gluten Free Friday ~ Back-To-School Chocolate Waffles

My friend Rachel just sent me a link to her blog on which she recently posted about MY blog being an encouragement on the gluten free journey.  So, I guess this means that this is a post about post about a post?!?  Anyway, she shared about wanting to try a gluten free diet with her kids and herself, but finding the endeavor discouraging at times.  This waffle recipe came to mind when I read her blog and saw her adorable kiddos!  Hope she’ll be able to add this to her list of recipes her crew will enjoy!
Our back-to-school breakfast was over a month ago now when Cooper started back to his Classical Conversations Challenge B program.  Kayla started Classical Conversations this Tuesday, but we treated Cooper’s first day of CC as EVERYONE’s first day of school.  Kory is not doing CC this year, as there is no Challenge III program nearby, (he’s a junior this year!) and this mama decided to take a year off from tutoring the high schoolers – or any schoolers for that matter ~  ‘cept my own!  I’ll write more about what we’re doing with Kory for high school as well as the other kiddos’ curriculum soon, but I though I’d at least post our back-to-school breakfast today!
Birthdays and back-to-school days always get a special breakfast around here.  One of the favorites was the year we had been reading Farmer Boy and had apple pie and ice cream for breakfast to kick off the school year.  Another favorite was the year we had chocolate chip cookies (among other good sources of protein!) for breakfast.  This year Kayla requested chocolate chip waffles.  After doing some thinking and research, I wasn’t so sure how chocolate chips in the batter would work in my Belgian waffle maker (the cleaning up part especially), so I decided to just make the entire batter chocolate.  This, of course, is not that difficult ~ just add come cocoa powder to the dry ingredients!
I served them with the proper condiments ~ butter and syrup ~  and alongside a sausage and egg scramble.  My kids loved this, and Kayla was not disappointed in the least that they did not have chocolate chips in them.  BUT, if you desire something even more festive, you could add whipped cream and mini chocolate chips on top!
Chocolate Waffles
3 1/2 cups all purpose GF flour (mine is rice/potato/tapioca)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp xanthan gum (optional ~ use extra oil or an egg if you don’t use xanthan gum)
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk (or milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar)
6 eggs (it’s a lot, I know, but even 8 wouldn’t hurt!)
2 sticks butter melted
2 tsp vanilla
Mix together all dry ingredients ~ flour, cocoa, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar.  In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Melt butter, and pour into dry ingredients along with egg/milk/vanilla mixture.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Use a ladle to pour onto hot, greased waffle iron.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.
*Add more milk if batter is too thick!  Also ~ I may have added a bit of canola oil, since gluten free baked good can turn out dry and crumbly at times.  Extra oil or egg always helps a bit!

Swim, Bike, Run = Fun!

 3:45 a.m. ~ Wake up and look at alarm clock which will go off in 15 minutes.  Lay there and wonder if I actually got any sleep (I did!), and then turn it off so it doesn’t wake Robert up.  He’s got a big day of preaching, teaching, meeting, and greeting ahead of him!

3:55 a.m. ~ Get out of bed, put on bathing suit and over-clothes, grab prepared backpack, and head downstairs for more packing and breakfast.

4:10 a.m. ~ Open my Bible and read Psalm 106…

Praise the LORD! 

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the LORD, Or can show forth all His praise? How blessed are those who keep justice, Who practice righteousness at all times!Remember me, O LORD, in Your favor toward Your people; Visit me with Your salvation, That I may see the prosperity of Your chosen ones, That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, That I may glory with Your inheritance….

Thank the Lord for the grace of a healthy body that is able to exercise ~ it has been such a source of restoration and healing for me ~ a lifter of my heart ~ a tool for transformation of mind and perspective ~ a spark plug for joy.  Thank Him for friends to join with in races and other adventures.  Ask for His strength and help.  Ask for His presence to be known at church and His Word to be powerfully taught through Robert.  Ask that Jessica’s memorial be meaningful testimony of God’s sovereignty…

4:30 a.m. ~ Put toast in toaster, start water for hot tea, grab a couple of bananas. Remind myself not to forget my bike helmet.

(Can not get those lines to STOP being highlighted in white!?!?)

4:45 a.m. ~ Jenna and Jennifer quietly knock at my front door.  They were a bit early, because they were planning to grab some coffee at Dunkin Donuts, but it doesn’t open until 5a.m.  Jenna has already eaten her oatmeal; Jenna is drinking her homemade berry and yogurt smoothie.

4:50 a.m. ~ Make myself 2 fried eggs, butter one piece of GF toast, put tea in to-go mug, and head out to the van with J & J.

5:00 a.m. ~ Drive to pick up Betsy (just a couple of blocks away) and discover on the way that I DID forget my helmet.  Get Betsy loaded up and head back to my house to get my helmet.  Make sure everyone else has helmets, towels, running shoes.

5:05 a.m. ~ Betsy prays for our trip to Connecticut and for our safety and endurance in the race and that the Lord would be glorified in all of it.

5:08 a.m. ~ Be the first customers of the day at Dunkin Donuts for Jenna’s Latte Lite.  Begin the 1 hour and 15 minute drive to Farmington, CT.

6:15 a.m. ~ Arrive at Winding Trails Park in Farmington, CT, park, go get registration packets, and then head to the body marking station! Your bib number is written on your right arm and calf, your AGE is written on the back of your left calf.  There were some in our group less than happy about that last part.  I won’t mention any names, but I will tell you that their names did not start with J’s.
6:25 a.m. ~ Trip to lovely blue porta potties.

 6:30 – 7:00 a.m. ~ Unload van of bikes, helmets, backpacks, water bottles, etc. and head to “transition area” to set up.  Learn a few things by watching the pros: how to hang bike on rack, strategic placement of towel, shoes, socks (one in each shoe ~ not in a ball!), helmet on bike, bowl of water for washing feet?!?! (This must be because it was 30 or so yards from where you exit the lake after swimming to the transition area where your bike it ~ plenty of sand, dirt, and grass between the two.)

7:10 a.m. ~ Another trip to lovely blue porta potties.

7:15 a.m. ~ Gather on beach with all participants. This triathlon was for women only, which I though was especially nice, and it was fun to see all of the different faces, ages, and groups of friends.  Each age group had its own color swim cap!
7:20 a.m. ~ Silently watch a color guard come through the crowd of women with the flag.  They were led by a man playing the bagpipes.  Hear female announcer welcome everyone, recognize the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and lead everyone in a prayer.  (To God!  In New England!)  Listen as a man read a short biography of another man who lost his life on one of the planes that crashed on 9/11 ~ 33 years old, from Sudbury, MA, businessman, college shot put and discus champ.  Hear the bagpipes play Amazing Grace, and join in silent prayer as requested by the female announcer.
7:30 a.m. ~ Final porta potty trip for some of us!

7:40 a.m. ~ Swim waves begin.  Yellow caps first, then pink, green, white, blue, etc. ~ 4 minutes apart.

7: 48 a.m. ~ My swim wave begins.  The water is actually WARM ~ Hurray!  I’m slapping others and getting slapped myself, but it’s not as claustrophobic as I feared.  The sun breaks through the clouds, and I thank the Lord for that gift, as well as the gift of strength without panic.  I actually feel GOOD swimming for the first time! (Every training swim at Puffer’s Pond was cold and dreadful.) It takes me about 23 minutes to complete the 1/2 mile swim.

8:15 a.m.(ish) ~ Jog to transition area to dry off, pull on tights, t-shirt, shoes and socks. Serious triathletes try to accomplish the “transition” in mere seconds.  Mine was more like 5 minutes!  Jenna waited for me, so we could do the bike and run parts together.

8:30 a.m. ~ Biking and enjoying the scenery ~ beautiful homes and farmland.  Passing some, but hearing lots of “On your left!”  I’m behind Jenna on her mountain bike.  She’s pedaling like crazy, but the road bikes just go faster.  The bike ride was 12 miles total.

9:00 a.m. ~ Transition time again!  Hang bike on rack and begin the 3 mile run.  My legs feel like bricks and rubber all at the same time, but Jenna and I finally hit a good pace on the wet, muddy-in-places, rocky, root-y, leaf-y trail through Winding Hills Park.

9:15 a.m. ~ Still running and even passing some of those “On your left”-ers now.  Every time we pass someone, we hear an encouraging “Way to go, ladies!” or “Lookin’ good!” or my favorite ~ “You guys aren’t even breaking a sweat!” from the other runners or walkers.  I loved that the whole atmosphere of the event was so encouraging and supportive.

9:29 a.m. ~ Finish line!  As Jenna and I cross together, Betsy and Jennifer are waiting for us.  Hugs and congratulations all around.  I stand in amazement of my friend Betsy, who started her swim in the wave AFTER me, (which, ahem ~ means she’s older than me) and finished the entire race 22 minutes BEFORE me!  I never even saw her pass me!  (I think she swam underneath me!) That’s Betsy for you ~ she is lightening fast.  I am SO proud of her for finishing 7th in her age group and 74th out of about 500 overall.  
(I was more like #353.  My time was something like 1 hour & 52 minutes.)

9:40 a.m. ~ Food and other freebies time!  We grabbed bananas, bagels (well, for J, J, and B), chips, wraps, chocolate bars, and  Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee.

9:50 a.m. ~ Pick up all gear from transition area and load it into van.  Pack bikes in and on the van.  Change into fresh dry clothes and marvel that it’s not even 10 a.m. yet!

9:55 a.m. ~ Porta Potty!

10:00 a.m. ~ Photo session on the beach as requested by me ~ must have numbers and swim caps!  How can we NOT capture this moment of fluorescent, flat-headed, fun?  Even the buoys are fluorescent orange, but they had already been retrieved from the lake, so you can’t see our swim loop.  It was basically a triangle from one part of the beach, all the way across the lake, back to another part of the beach.   

10:30 a.m. ~ Back to finish line area for more free food ~ Jennifer is ready to eat chips now, and I somehow missed the chocolate the first time around. One more round of iced coffee for everyone, too!  (It was either that or beer, and no one in our group had a craving for THAT at this time of the morning or after the challenging race we’d just finished!)

10:45 a.m. ~ Walk back to the van, but not without stopping for a photo of the famed blue porta potties ~ a necessary evil of every race in which one participates.  Pretty sure Jenna holds the record for number of times visiting the pretty potties!  🙂

1:30 p.m. ~ Arrive back home after one flat tire (yes, really) and dropping Betsy and Jenna and their bikes at their homes.  Jennifer drives herself home from my house ~ bike fastened to roof of car.  Unload bike, backpack, water bottles, etc.

2:00 p.m.  Get a text from Robert who is still at church:  “How did it go?”  I respond, “It was great!  Challenging, but really fun!”

2:05 p.m. Get a phone call from Robert next asking me to pick up my kiddos from church as he has meetings for a while longer.  Thank the Lord for a great triathlon experience and adjust mindset to “Back to real life”  wife, and mommy mode!

5:00 p.m. ~ Robert is finally home and we all head to Goberry to celebrate mom’s triathlon!  Goberry is our new frozen yogurt shop in town.  Local, grass fed cow’s milk yogurt, only lightly sweetened, amazing flavors (chai! coconut! blueberry! java!), and fresh fruit to top ~ or chocolate or toffee or sprinkles…..it’s my current addiction! (Oh ~ and big self-serve bottles of honey or chocolate syrup!)

5:30 p.m.  Let the family know that the yogurt they just ate is going to double as their dinner.  This mama is tired now!

10 Years Later ~ Remembering the Day and Jessica

 Ten years ago tomorrow, I was doing the breakfast dishes and watching the Today Show on our small kitchen television when they started to show footage of the World Trade Center on fire. They said it was an airplane that caused the fire. Kory, who was 6 at the time, came running through the kitchen, and I said, “Hey, buddy, look at this big building that just got hit by an airplane!” I simply thought the tower had been side-swiped by a big jetliner.  Actually, I was hoping that was all that happened, as I had tickets to see Elton John’s “Aida” in New York City the very next day along with my sister who was in the air at that moment flying there on a plane from Austin, TX. (She was grounded in Houston.) Kory immediately got out some drawing paper and drew a picture of the scene.  Little did I know in those moments that the plane was actually lodged inside that tower, and even worse – that a dear friend and former church member was on that plane.
 Kory’s drawing ~ The eager firefighters with their hoses and ladders.
The smoke and flames coming out of the windows.
 Jessica  had just graduated from the University of Massachusetts and had recently begun work for an accounting firm in Boston. She boarded the plane that day for a business trip. We didn’t find out until the next morning that the tragedy was much closer to home than we thought. Robert and others from our church spoke at her funeral which was covered by many local news stations. It was a beautiful celebration of her life and her faith – exactly as she would have wanted. Her parents requested that all gifts in memory of Jessica be given to our church. For over a year we received checks in the mail – everyone from American Airlines to Jessica’s immediate family and co-workers. That money is how we were able to eventually purchase a building for our church, but that is another story.

Five years ago, Jessica’s parents were pondering a positive way to spend the five year anniversary of her death. They asked that people send in a story or memory about Jessica. I gathered stories and letters from many in our church – and even many from those who had moved away. They were wonderful, and they blessed her family greatly. Below is what I wrote for her parents and family on that five year anniversary……
(edited a bit for your understanding!) 

Jessica on the left with her friend, Sarah.  Sarah’s husband, Nate, now pastors one of our recent church plants.
Jessica was such a presence! I remember meeting her a couple of months after moving here, and learning that she was really the only student to be a part of the beginnings of MERCYhouse, our church plant. She explained to me that she had talked quite a bit to John Ramirez at the Baptist Convention of New England about getting a church or ministry started at The University of Massachusetts. It was upon this meeting that I first saw her passion and tenacity in her love for the Lord and for ministry.
I remember her being in our home often and that the atmosphere was always one of joy and laughter and joking when she was present. She loved everyone – everyone was her friend! As my friend Shemaiah, who came here from Oklahoma to work with us for just a summer, has often said, “Jessica was my first friend in Massachusetts.” Jessica, who had known Shemaiah for all of about one hour invited her to go home with her that night and watch a movie with some other friends. 
Jessica was always quick to inquire about how I was doing and was always so generous with her hugs and words of comfort. If I was considered “Mom” at MERCYhouse, she was “Mom #2” – always looking out for the needs of others – physical, spiritual and emotional. She considered it her privilege and duty to make sure all those around her were thriving. One Valentine’s Day she gave me and several others a painted terracotta planter. I still have it. It was such a blessing to me that she had thought of me along with her many other friends.
One of my favorite biblical topics is that of created masculinity and femininity. When I began leading a Bible Study along these lines for the young women of our church, I also began to hear rumblings that Jessica was not necessarily thrilled with this idea. She never told me this directly, but the other girls did. She felt that “submission” was a bad word associated only with doormats! We eventually talked about it, and together came to a place of friendly understanding and even the ability to joke about it from time to time. 
Despite these strong feelings regarding the idea of submission, Jessica greatly desired to be married. She came to me on several occasions expressing bittersweet feelings over her friends becoming engaged, and her own struggle with loneliness.
I know that she carried around in her heart a lot of inner turmoil, insecurity, and emotion. And yet when we worshipped together at church through music or prayer, she was fully engaged, seeking the Lord with her whole being. Watching her always brought joy to my own insecure, emotional, and even at times, depressed and lonely heart. She was an example and inspiration to me in her walk with the Lord in this fallen world.
I will leave you with a verse that was found underlined in Jessica’s Bible. In the margin next to the verse she had written, “I like this verse.”
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 
I Corinthians 1:18 
We will be celebrating Jessica’s life again tomorrow during our morning church services.  The students are now all back in town in this 5 college region, and many of them have already begun visiting our church.  Robert has had the opportunity to ask many of them how they found out about our church.  “I was just walking by,” is what many of them have said.  
Five years ago, when the opportunity to purchase the old Methodist church near the campus of UMass was presented to us, we had the exact amount of earnest money required to pursue it, because of those memorial monies.  That miracle of thousands of students “just walking by” and then deciding to come on in is due to Jessica and her parents.  Her life and ministry will never be forgotten.  
The redemptive-in-spite-of-evil- ways of our Lord Jesus Christ won’t either.

Gluten Free Friday ~ Camping Gluten Free

 Recently, I was asked to share my “emotional transition” story in having to adjust to a gluten free diet.  What’s funny is that I had to share that I  had a difficult time relating to those who were having an emotional transition, since I was just so relieved to discover that my son’s (the first to be diagnosed) symptoms and deteriorating health were disappearing in just two weeks off of gluten!  Overjoyed!  Grateful!  Giddy! And honestly, I felt the same when I discovered that my long time tummy troubles were also due to Celiac. However, I did cry when my first born and last to be diagnosed at 13 years old got a positive test result!
But I know from spending time in a Celiac support group that many people do have a very difficult time adjusting.  They feel so restricted in what they can eat and fearful of eating contaminated food.  Some were hesitant to attend social functions, and others would not even consider the idea of travel, eating out, or camping.  Fortunately, there are so many resources now for those with Celiac disease, and even restaurants are becoming very savvy, but I still though I’d share how we make camping trips work in our family! (And it’s an excuse to show off all of my silly food photos.  Who takes photos of all of their meals?)
 The first photo that happened to load here was of dessert, so I guess we’ll go backwards!  I didn’t even plan for dessert (except for the bar of dark chocolate!), but when I saw the bananas, the chocolate, and the homemade GF granola, it looked like a delicious dessert.  I threw them all in foil, added the leftover nectarines from our “appetizer plate” (also above) and then put it on the fire for about 20 minutes. It may not look so appetizing in the “after” picture, but I can assure you it tasted good.  Keep in mind this was adult-only camping.  The menu is different when the kids are around ~ campfire nachos and muffins in orange peels!
 Dinner each night was what I’ve called “hoboes” since I was a Girl Scout: some sort of meat, chopped carrots and potatoes, salt, pepper, and lots of butter.  We used chicken both nights, and added LOTS of green stuff.  I brought the veggies from our farm share that week, and so we added kale, chard, collards, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, zucchini, white potatoes and sweet potatoes.  We seasoned them with salt, pepper, butter, and “Bone Sucking Sauce” which I found at Whole Foods.  This version was not actual sauce, but a dry seasoning.  I think the second ingredient was brown sugar, so you can bet it tasted great.
 And breakfast… On the camp stove we fried bacon and scrambled eggs in a bit of the grease. (Sorry, vegetarians, but nothing is quite as tasty, and I’m not even a pork lover.)  Then we grilled the corn tortillas on the stove ~ also in a bit of the bacon grease.  🙂  We added grated cheddar, a vine-ripe tomato, and salsa.  Oh my.  It is hard to say which was my favorite meal.  My mouth is watering as I type!
 For lunch on hikes or bike riding adventures, we packed cheeses, GF crackers, prosciutto, pepperoni, hummus, apples, and clementines.  And we just packed them all in a small backpack ~ no ice.  I used to be pretty uptight about refrigeration until my friend, Trish, from South Africa commented about “Americans and their refrigeration” one time when I brought a cooler to the park packed with cheese and hard boiled eggs.  I think her bread and cheese were wrapped in a towel ~ together, and simply unwrapped for lunch.  Of course, it’s also not 110 degrees here, so a few hours without refrigeration worked just fine.
No emotional transitions here except for pure enjoyment of lots of good food!  Hopefully, others will feel encouraged that the gluten free lifestyle can go anywhere and do anything!

And Then the Kids Came to Maine…

After Robert and I enjoyed 4 nights in Acadia and Bar Harbor, Maine, our friend, Lois, drove the kids up to meet us in Ogunquit.  I think we’ve spent time in Ogunquit, ME nearly every one of the 12 summers we’ve lived in Massachusetts ~ again, thanks to a very special couple and the studio cabin they use as a ministry to those who are in full-time ministry.  This year it was very rainy upon arrival and all through the first night, so after some delicious hamburgers with Lois at Wild Willy’s on their amazing gluten free buns, we went back to the cabin for an evening of teaching the kids how to play Spades in front of the wood stove.  (I know my friends in Texas and Oklahoma will find it hard to believe that we needed a wood stove, but believe me, we did!)  The next day was not rainy, but it was a bit chilly and overcast, instead of going to the beach, we opted for walking around Perkins Cove and making our annual stop at the “penny candy” store!  Then it was back to the cabin and wood stove for more Spades!
Our second day brought sunshine and highs in the 80’s.  And again, lest my southern friends be confused, that was the air temperature, NOT the water temperature.  The water was 60 degrees.  I dipped my toes in, and when they became frostbitten and paralyzed, I decided to spend the rest of the day recovering by reading a glorious stack of magazines in my chair on the warm sand.
Well that, and taking pictures of my favorite beach bums!
As you can see, they are much more resilient to frostbite than their mom. (But Kayla’s face gives you an idea of how shockingly cold the water was!)  Even Robert took the plunge a couple of times with Kayla, who really wanted to play in the waves.
Going out for ice cream every night is a vacation tradition ~ Moose Tracks and Black Raspberry Chip have been the favorites for two years in a row now.  Yum!  Sometimes, Robert and I opt for coffee and tea over ice cream.  The cute cove cafe we go to has seating outside with these beautiful views of the rocky coast, ocean, and lots of boats
I love ending our summer this way!