Gluten Free/Paleo Friday: Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs

First of all, I wanted to say thank you for all of your encouragement and excitement over my seminary acceptance. Robert tells me that the only credential really required for acceptance is a pulse (such a funny guy) which would explain a lot, since my college transcript was certainly no vote of confidence. Your reading about my journey and your kind words and cheers meant so much to me. 
I should mention that I had a lot of help along the way.  My friends Betsy and Kelly filled out character references, Robert had to write an essay explaining his spousal approval and support of my attending seminary, Ryan M., our associate pastor, had to fill out a church recommendation, and Dan M., one of our church elders, also had to fill out a pastor recommendation, since the school has a policy that if your husband is also the pastor of your church, he is not allowed to be that reference.  The funny thing is that Robert DID fill out the reference form before we knew about this policy, and I believe that Dan gave me a more glowing report than Robert. So evidently the concern for bias was not really an issue in our house.  I believe it was the “emotional stability” question that I received an “Excellent” from Dan and an “Above Average” (that was kind of him) from my husband. And I only know this, because they told me, not because I was able to see anyone’s recommendation. We try to keep it brutally honest here at the Krum house.  (Not really.)
My New Student Orientation is next week, and all online.  I can’t wait, but have to admit to feeling a bit intimidated by things like Moodle and the test I will have to take to show that I understand all new student responsibilities and school policies.  I hear students and my own son talk about these things all of the time, but it’s been a foreign language to me so far.  Anyway, I’m excited to get started.
Now, onto the recipe…
One of my favorite bloggers even before we started following a Paleo diet was Elana Amsterdam.  She has a wonderful blog called Elana’s Pantry, and such a lovely, simple style and demeanor. (I can tell all of that from her blog, of course.)  She has been grain free for about 10 years, mostly as a way to deal with her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis.  I highly recommend following her blog and “liking” her on Facebook.  Actually, it was an issue of Paleo Magazine in which she was featured that sort of pushed me over the Paleo edge, so to speak.  She has a very compelling story and inspiring lifestyle.
A few weeks ago, I bought her new cookbook, also very simple and practical.  I just love it, and have made several recipes from it.  In fact, just last night, to go along with our chef-style salads, I made a loaf of her Paleo Nut Bread.  It is just wonderful and perfectly satisfies my craving for toast with butter. (Kerry Gold, of course.  Yum.)

I adapted this recipe from one of hers that is featured in the cookbook ~ even on the front cover, I believe.  It may seem like more of a winter dish.  Folks in New England don’t tend to have central A/C, so no one wants to turn on an oven in June, July, or August, but I still make it occasionally on a Sunday ~ even leaving it in the oven for a couple of hours ~ to eat when we return home from church.

Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs

1 lg pkg chicken thighs (8-12 pieces)
4 lemons (2 juiced, 2 sliced)
2 Tbsp of honey
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic bulbs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken thighs (I like to trim off excess skin/fat.  Not very Paleo, I know) in a large baking dish.  Pour lemon juice evenly over each piece, and then brush each with olive oil.  Sprinkle salt and pepper to your liking onto the chicken, and then drizzle honey over each thigh.  Place in oven uncovered.

During the first 15 minutes of baking, slice the remaining lemons.  Also during this time, take some of the papery covering of the garlic bulbs off and slice the bulbs across the top revealing the “meat” of each clove. (see above photo)  After the chicken has baked 15 minutes, remove from oven and place the lemon slices in various places over the chicken.  Add a garlic bulb near the middle and ends of the baking dish in the midst of the chicken thighs.  Brush a bit more olive oil on the lemon slices and garlic bulbs and return to the oven.

At this point, you can either keep baking at 375 for 45 minutes, or turn the oven down a bit if you plan to leave the house and return more than an hour later, but not more than 2.  I think I usually turn my oven down to 250-275 degrees in this case.

Add a salad and/or your favorite side, and enjoy!

P.S.  Be sure and squeeze the roasted garlic out of its bulb and spread on your chicken or a slice of Elana’s Paleo bread, or on a side of roasted broccoli.  The roasting process makes it taste a bit more mild, but so delicious!

Dream Come True 2

About four years ago I was talking on the phone with a friend, sharing my then deep struggle with depression, weariness, and general malaise. It was a difficult time for me.  It’s not that those emotions were totally foreign to my overall melancholic tendencies and personality (Is this why my name shares so many letters with the word? Sigh…), but the melancholy had elevated to include extreme fatigue, exacerbated despair, and a very strong desire to “check out” of my life. There were many contributing factors, and looking back, I view the very difficult phase as just that ~ very difficult, but also precious. A brutally beautiful time during which the Lord met me in His Word, in prayer, in my husband’s humble service and support, through some time with a compassionate Christian counselor, and through several helpful books.
But in the midst of that difficult time my sincere and well-meaning friend said this:
“I just wish you could do something you really love.
She’s a “head-in-the-clouds-follow-your-heart-chase-your-dreams” sort of person.
I, on the other hand, was recently diagnosed via one of those online personality tests as a “Reliable Realist.” After I read the description, I was amazed at how quickly I could be summed up in a 10 minute test.  It was me to a T.  
  • Reliable Realists are down-to-earth and responsible-minded. They are precise, reserved and demanding. Their most prominent quality is reliability and they will always make every effort to keep any promise given.

  • Their strong points are thoroughness, a marked sense of justice, doggedness bordering on pigheadedness and a pragmatic, vigorous and purposeful manner. Reliable Realists do not dither about if something has to be done. They do what is necessary without wasting words. 

  • They have no problem respecting authorities and hierarchies but do not like to delegate tasks. They are certain that others would not deal with them as conscientiously as they do.

A far cry from the “Dreamy Idealist” this phone friend’s evaluation most certainly would have revealed.  I determined to NOT post my results on Facebook like everyone else was doing, because… “RELIABLE REALIST????”  Ugh. It’s a wonder I have any friends at all. (But evidently, once I truly love, respect, and connect with you ~ you’re stuck with me. And I couldn’t be a “flake” even if I tried really hard, so I guess that’s a plus?)
Now, I KNOW that I am much more than the results of some silly online test.  I am created in the image of God, and that goes far beyond the scope of any temperament test.  But, I do think He uses the different personality “types” with their God-given, sanctified gifts in His Body, the church, and in the world. Sometimes I just wish my “type” was different. I wish I was the funny one and not the serious one. I wish I could be more laid-back and not so scheduled and exacting. I wish I was a team-player and a winsome conversationalist, but I’m really not, and I’m learning that it’s okay. I’m also learning how to adapt and temper the extremes if need be. Marriage, kids, ministry, Jesus Himself, people, etc. have a way of forcing that, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Her comment about “doing what I love” really affected me.  At first I responded with some level of agreement, but then I thought more about the phrase she used. It caused me to realize that she didn’t really know me as well as I thought, because I WAS doing what I loved.  
“I AM doing what I love,” I explained. 

“I am married to a wonderful man, staying at home raising three great kids, homeschooling, ministering to other women through Bible studies and one-on-one discipleship, traveling to beautiful places because of this ministry adventure, and much more. I’ve never wanted to do anything other than these things.”
“So…I am ‘living the dream,'” I urged, “it’s just this dream, which includes all the things I love, also includes some hard realities, and I’m tired.” 
I don’t think she was totally convinced. In fact, I think she may have felt sorry for me. 
(I had even published a book a few years prior, which was a “dream” I didn’t know I had, but it’s what I’m calling “Dream Come True 1” for the sake of this post.)
And speaking of the “chase your dreams” and “do whatever makes you happy” culture we are steeped in these days, which has always rubbed this “Reliable Realist” the wrong way, I read a great, grounding blog post the other day that articulates well the reason I was reacting pretty strongly to this particular worldview.  It’s called “You’re Going To Die And So Might Your Dreams.”  And with that upbeat, glass-half-full, hopeful, optimistic title, I’m sure you will be clicking right over there to have your dreams crushed…or possibly sanctified and refined.
Anyway, I think I’m on a soap box that I didn’t intend when I sat down to write, but this is something I think about a lot.  The truth is that I do have “dreams” or hopes or aspirations or whatever you want to call them.  Maybe even a “calling” ~ I don’t know for certain, but recently I got word that one of my “dreams” could soon, Lord willing, become a reality.
Here it is:

In case you can’t read the email (I can’t!) without enlarging your screen view, it’s an acceptance to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, and I am so, so, excited. (No, I’m not moving.  It’s an online Master’s Degree program!) I have wanted to go to seminary ever since I was a senior in college. Well, either that or join the staff of Campus Crusade (CRU), but I knew my parents would never approve of either of those career paths. Also at that time, the Lord brought a godly, handsome young man into my life who proposed just six months after we began dating. I said yes, and, well, that’s sort of been an all-encompasing-total-life-demanding dream (also not necessarily met with parental approval), so seminary has been on the back burner for the last 23 years.

But there’s the thing. For 23 years it never left my mind. It never left my heart.  It was always there – simmering. I lived vicariously through Robert’s six years of seminary, listening intently to his systematic theology discoveries, staying up late with him while he typed papers on church history and parsed Hebrew in the book of Ruth. All this while being pregnant, raising babies, and continuing to work alongside of him in ministry. (He was employed in full-time church ministry the WHOLE time he was in seminary completing a Master’s of Divinity. It was 90 grueling hours of coursework on top of 50+ hours of a work week as a student pastor. He amazes me.)

I’ve also had doubts about this along the way. About 10 years ago I was thinking a lot about seminary and craving (again) a more formal study of the Bible and Theology, but hearing accusatory voices in my head.

“You’re not smart enough.”

“It’s not proper for a woman.” (This is still a concern that maybe I will write about later.)

“It’s prideful to want to gain knowledge.”

“Why spend years and money when the church needs humble servants and volunteers right now? No advanced degree is required for working in the nursery or cooking lunch for college students or leading a small group!  Just stick with the basics! Tabitha made cloaks, you make chili and baked potatoes and brownies.”

Right at that time I attended a regional conference in Boston called Vision New England. It was the only time I’ve attended that conference, but a breakout seminar caught my attention.  It had something to do with “personal worship styles” or “how you uniquely relate to God” or something like that, and so I went curiously. What the Lord did in that seminar was confirm to me that “academics” and “intellect” is a way that some people best relate with and worship God.  I was blown away, because the other voice I was hearing was the one that said if worship is not emotional and very outwardly demonstrative, it’s probably not authentic or sincere. That voice was particularly concerning and condemning, as I tended to worship deeply while reading of the book of Romans ~ stunned by and in awe of Christ because of Paul’s air-tight arguments and impressive sentence structures.

The funny thing is, I’m NOT that smart.  Really. No one would consider me an “intellectual” and I have my college transcript (which I had to send to the seminary for the application process…cringe…) to prove it. Still, my bent is to be very drawn to the Lord by hearing the preaching of the Word, by reading it for myself, by reading books about it, and by teaching it ~ even if I don’t understand all of its logic and implications and connectivity all of the time.

That breakout session was a great encouragement and affirmation to me. The Lord used it to “validate” my “dream” or His purpose for me, and also His love for and intimate concern for me.  That He would answer so many of my questions, relieve so many fears, and dispel my concerns, and my hang-ups was received by me as a gift of grace upon grace.

By the way, Robert has ALWAYS affirmed this dream of mine and has brought it up occasionally, purposefully over the last 23 years, “checking in” with me about it, letting me know he hasn’t forgotten and doesn’t think it’s silly or unnecessary. (Though he has added words of caution, too, which I appreciate.)

So…I’m taking only one class this fall, because I’m still living the mothering/homeschooling/cook-dinner-every-night/ministry to women dream right now, so I don’t know how feasible graduate school will be. But I sense it’s time to begin. (You know, because we want to see just how many college tuitions we can take out loans for pay for right now.  Praying about that…)

And my ultimate dream? Or at least the goal I think I’m working toward is first of all to love Jesus more through the study of Him and His Word and His Church.  Beyond that, I dream of teaching Bible courses on a college campus. (I also lived vicariously through Kory who had to take two semesters of Bible/Church History at Baylor this year), and so maybe teaching something similar somewhere is in my future. I’ve been telling the few friends who know of my dream that I want to be Jennie Barbour when I grow up ~ who is my friend from church (who recently moved away) and also from England with her PhD in Old Testament who was hired by both UMass and Amherst college to teach Bible courses in their religion departments. It doesn’t hurt that her PhD is from CAMBRIDGE, of course, but maybe there is hope for me yet.

Because even a Reliable Realist can dream.

The Best Man You Know? (A Sad, But Hopeful Tale)

That was the “ice breaker” question.  We went around the circle, introduced ourselves briefly, and then answered that question. A couple of the women wanted to skip answering (but we wouldn’t let them off that easy).  Most had trouble coming up with even one man from their own life they could call “good.” Not one woman was able to say the best man in her life was her biological father. Thankfully, the two of us married ladies in the group were easily able to say that the “best man we know” is our husband (and I happen to be very thankful for a faithful dad and grandfather). The sad, but general consensus, though, was that “good men” are rare ~ very few and far between, as in almost none of these women could name one easily.
This group of ladies is such a joy.  I could hardly rein them in for discussion on Sunday due to their laughter and
chattering and sheer enjoyment of being together.  They also inspire me so much with their wisdom,
insight, and personal testimonies.

Recently, I received an email from a beautiful long-distance friend and fellow mother confessing that she had slept with a man with whom she works. She was grieved over the incident, partly because she thought she was finally free from this destructive pattern and addiction.  She was not attracted to the man in the least, but succumbed to his attraction to and sexual initiation with her.

Several months before receiving this email, a another beautiful young woman told me about the man she had “accidentally friended” on Facebook ~ a friend of a friend, yet a complete, but very handsome stranger to her. (“That’s weird,” I said.  “It’s never happened to me ~ ‘accidentally friending’ someone,” I had to tease.) They agreed to meet.  Alone.  In her home.  While her parents were away.

Her roommates were against the idea entirely.  It was dangerous. It was crazy.  She did it anyway.

Not too long before that story, another beautiful young woman called my cell phone feeling frantic.  She was in her car and driving north on our nearby Interstate. She was headed to meet a man she had struck up a conversation with online and via text that evening. At a motel.  A MOTEL.  With a stranger. She panicked when she began to imagine what would happen there based on what she had led him to believe might happen via a flirty and sexual online chat.  She asked me what she should do. I begged her to TURN AROUND. I pleaded with her to turn around. I all but demanded that she TURN AROUND, as if I had some control over the phone. She was worried about letting him down and making him drive all that way to meet her. (Really?) I was worried for her life and ready to call the police, as if they could do something about a consensual arrangement.

She did turn around, and fortunately had only given the man her first name along with her phone number.

And over the years I’ve heard many similar composite stories (way too many in my opinion) that go something like this: We work together/had class together/were in a campus organization/met at a party. He came to my room/I went to his room. Our interaction turned physical/sexual. It’s not really what I wanted.  He’s not really who I wanted.  But it happened/he forced it/I initiated it anyway.

Beautiful women. Highly intelligent women. Strong and capable women. Women who ought to know their worth, their value.

What’s going on?

(And just in case you were wondering what the big deal is, these are all Christian women who hold to the biblical standard of sex within marriage only, believing it to be God’s will and a beautiful design which leads to life and joy.  And though they were acting contrary to that belief, they also believe, as I do, that marriage is an earthly metaphor, given by God to point to the Gospel ~  His sacrificial life and death for his Bride, the church. So to us, sex before (or outside of) marriage is a big deal.  A REALLY big deal.  And one that leads to lots of soul damage.)

(P.S. NONE of the women I’m describing here are pictured above!)

Eventually, the long-distance friend who grieved an evening fling with her co-worker and I were able to talk in person.  After she recounted the events that led to the sexual encounter through tears and we talked much about God’s forgiveness and grace, I asked her if she had ever had any positive male influences in her life. Did any man ever show a healthy interest in her?  Did any man ever show her proper affection?  Did any man ever teach her anything or try to protect her?

She could think of a lot of men who were around during her growing up years, but all of them let her down.  Some of them even took advantage of her. NONE of them treasured her.  Not one.

And yes, it’s more than having a strong, healthy, protective male presence in your life, I know. It’s also about a fallen world, a lack of preparation by parents, selfish, rebellious choices, the oftentimes negative feminist push for women to have complete and unlimited equality with men, the inherent (created by God) power of sexual attraction, and the exploitation of it all around us, and more.

(But check the research.  A girl who does have a loving and involved father is much better off in every area of her life.)

During one of these many recent conversations, a book came to mind.  I can’t remember where I first heard of it, but I knew the Lord was putting it on my mind for a reason. I ordered two copies, and began to read it and meet weekly with one of the above mentioned women.  It resonated so deeply with her.  It also resonated deeply with me, since I am literally in constant contact with women who are making regretful decisions about their sexuality, which is partly due to their own choices, indwelling sin, lack of responsibility, and obedience to their Lord, and partly due to never being treasured and protected by a good man in her life and consequently not believing they are worth anything more than an illicit affair with a stranger.

I alternate between being shocked at their risky behavior and completely heartbroken over the pain they experience and its destructive ripple effects in their lives.

So I ordered 10 more copies of Sex and the Soul of a Woman by Paula Rinehart, and our church agreed to allow for a 6-week summer small group focused on this book.  We’re half way through, and it’s been such a wonderfully, encouraging time.  Every woman in the group has a story of struggle ~ including me ~ and it has been so helpful and healing to read together the effects that both sex outside of marriage and inside marriage have on the soul of a woman. (The first being negative, and the second being positive.)

There are so many profound sentences and passages in this book, but one of my favorites is this one, because it contains almost word-for-word what I have said countless times to the young (and old) women in my life who are compromising and settling in their romantic relationships…

“I find myself wanting to protest, ‘You are meant to be loved and valued and cherished for the rest of your life by a man whose face lights up when he sees you.’ Whether a woman marries or not, strength and respect are her God-given birthright. I long to help women find the back door out of promiscuity and to recover the parts of their hearts and souls they feel they have lost. Doing so is entirely possible.” p. 24 (emphasis mine)

I can’t tell you how many times I have gently grabbed a woman’s shoulders or her cheeks, locked eyes with her and told her these very words, but it’s more than I like to recount.  This past Sunday during small group, I may have even enthusiastically elaborated on how wonderful it is, how safe it is, how secure and blissful and freeing it is to have sex with one good, godly man for your whole life. And though this particular group of women believes me (believes God!), I fear that, overall, my doing this doesn’t really make all that much difference for other women.  She’s got to believe it, embrace it for herself, and that is really a work of Christ Himself.

And so I pray that in coming together this way and looking at the “profound mystery” (Eph. 5) of marriage and sex the Lord will transform and heal hearts.  I pray that despite the absence of worthy men, Christ Himself would be enough, and that each woman would recognize herself as being created in His image, and therefore worthy of love and steadfast commitment, not lowering herself to the “hook up” culture and what the book suggests is simply a sanitized, acceptable form of prostitution.

Thankfully, this past Sunday, there were stories from these women of the conversations they’ve had with their other female friends ~ instructing them and encouraging them to embrace these truths for themselves.  The book is giving them language with which to speak, equipping them (and me!) with the beautiful reasons behind the biblical standard of sex within marriage only. How wonderful is that?

I pray that we will all know, understand, and experience the larger story regarding sex and enjoy it (eventually for some) fully and within its proper, life-giving, God-glorifying context.

“So sex is always more than just sex. You and I cannot engage in something with our bodies without our hearts and souls being affected.  A man and woman’s passionate longing to be together in a sexual relationship is their greatest clue to how fervently they long for God; the pleasure they bring each other honors God! In most other major religions, to be more spiritual is to be less sexual, but not so in Christianity.” p.99

(There’s soooo much more I could say, but the book does it best, and I highly recommend it to women of all ages and stages of life.) 

Conversations With The Pastor

The sun came out for a few hours today, but it was only 70 degrees.  I have had a very strong desire (really, I can’t overemphasize how strong the desire is) to get in the car and just drive until I arrive in a place that is warm and sunny. I can’t remember the last time the sun was shining here for any length of time. And forgive me for my lofty expectations, but it’s JUNE. I heard it came out while we were away in Baltimore, but I have not seen it with my own eyes, or felt it on my own skin in a LONG time here in Massachusetts. I know it’s not technically summer yet, but come on.

I’ve really been trying not to complain about it (too much), but today I had to hang out at a Starbucks in Connecticut while Cooper and a friend were attending a graduation party.  They had the air-conditioning cranked, so I made it through one chapter of Romans, shivering the whole time, and headed outside, since the sun had come out.  The outdoor table was in the shade, so it wasn’t much better at all.  I ended up back in my van with the windows rolled up and the sunlight streaming through the windows creating warmth inside ~ finally!

Tonight we decided to grill out for dinner ~ have to seize every opportunity to do that in these parts. This is the conversation that ensued, which is fairly typical around here.

Me: (putting a hoodie on to eat our grilled-out burgers on the backyard picnic table) The sun FINALLY came out today, but it was ONLY 70 degrees.  And it’s June.  June 14.  That’s MID-JUNE.

Robert: (slight haughty tone) You know…I’m just glad for my salvation.  Thankful for the Cross.

Me: Well, I think it should be justification AND warmification ~ to at least 80 degrees.

When he went in the house for a second round of food, he came back out wearing his L.L. Bean orange down jacket.

Very funny.

The L.L. Bean Jacket.  Worn in late-November to cut down a Christmas tree.
In my opinion, it ought to be put away for good no later than April 1st.

If I have anything in common with King David, it is this.

Now King David was old, advanced in age; and they covered him with clothes, 
but he could not keep warm.
 I Kings 1:1

Though I’m hoping the remedy for my perpetual coldness will be a home near the equator at some point. Or heaven, of course, where I’m certain it is a constant 85 degrees, because that is the PERFECT temp if you ask me.

Overheard at Whole Foods

On Wednesday morning, I drove to Whole Foods, parked behind the store, walked to our lovely, local bike trail entrance and headed out for my four-days-a-week-six-mile-run.  Typically, I can do this directly from my house, but the trail is currently under construction at my neighborhood access point. Whole Foods is only a mile from my house, and I certainly don’t mind popping in for a smoothie or some hot tea after my run. In fact, a Whole Foods breakfast is a regular occurrence in my life.  Robert and I have a date there every Monday morning after our run.  (Or I should say, after my run and his recumbant bike workout at Planet Fitness now that his back is giving him so much trouble.) It’s where we sort out all of the world’s problems, and have our weekly how-are-we-going-to-survive-this-week’s-schedule huddle.  I always look forward to my organic kale smoothie or egg and veggie scramble, to seeing just how much Robert’s plate will cost this week (you pay by weight), and starting the week by checking in with each other like this.

This particular Monday, though, we were in Baltimore for a pastors’ conference, so my run was along the “promenade” of Baltimore Harbor (beautiful!), Robert’s bike workout was in our quaint hotel’s rec room, and our continental, but fresh and beautiful breakfast was included in the price of our stay.  We returned late Tuesday night, so before returning the rental car, I set out for Wednesday’s morning run by myself (Robert at physical therapy. Sigh…), and then ran into the store for hot tea and cold water afterward.

MANY years ago at the Whole Foods flagship store (a.k.a. Crunchy Disney World) in Austin.
Everyone out of diapers by then!

As I was checking out, I heard the young woman bagging my small order of groceries saying something like this to the male cashier:

“I just feel so sorry for them.  They miss out on so many important things.”

She was seriously troubled, and there was hint of disdain in her voice. I wondered at first if she was talking about people who have to stock the groceries at night, or clean the store after hours.  Maybe she wished they could have the pleasure of people watching like her (always a fun pastime at Whole Foods), or interacting with customers on a more intimate level.  But knowing my context (and the ever-increasing cultural worldview), I had a sneaking suspicion she was talking about “stay-at-home” mothers. When she made these next statements, I knew my suspicions were correct.

“I mean, changing diapers all day is just so awful.  So many women are wasting their time with dirty diapers all day.  I could not do that.  I don’t ever want to do that.”

I was so tempted to say something.  It’s so funny (and often frustrating) the notions of a younger generation (though admittedly, I belonged to it at one time, and some would say I still do), and I was sure I could enlighten her with my own “stay-at-home” experience, but I thought it best to practice keeping my mouth shut and listen to how the young male cashier might respond.  What he said was great.  It was a testimony to masculine logic, masculine courage, and masculine practical wisdom, which is so very refreshing to me and alternatively maddening at times. Not that females aren’t logical, of course, but I do think we tend to be more easily deceived by our emotions and cultural “notions” and when this happens our logic weakens. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, I wanted to hug him when he said this:

“You know, changing diapers is just straight up a parenting responsibility.”

(And QUITE organic, I might add!)

That was SO much better than my snarky, “Ummmm, good thing your mom didn’t feel that way about you!”  or “I know!  Babies are just SUCH a nuisance!  Why would anyone choose to do that anymore?  So menial.  So much drudgery. Such a waste of an intelligent adult woman’s skill and competence! Ridiculous use of valuable time!” or “Yeah, I heard they are doing research and development for a diaper-changing robots which will end all need for ever having to touch your own child!  It’s amazing!  They are even programming it to feed and burp the infant.  As an upgrade, it will read books, tuck in at night, and give hugs and kisses. Revolutionary!”

Yes, sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let the man speak, which I fear is happening less and less these days. I mean, I don’t think this female grocery bagger would have said that a woman giving affection to a baby was wasteful, but like the man said ~ the “demeaning” stuff is part of a package deal called “raising human beings.” I was glad to hear that at least he was up for the task, which I fear is happening more and more these days.  The men value the crucial, but tedious investment; the women have been taught not to, and statistics say they often live to regret it.

I wondered if this woman remembered how a baby gets fed.  (Again, very organic!) Talk about a year or so of sleep-deprived slavery.  And that’s if you only have one child. I guess she thinks a career in bagging groceries is a no-brainer when compared to the career of nurturing human life. (Don’t get me wrong. I happen to value both careers, but in my book kids trump brown paper bags when there’s the option, and they are always more “important” ~ and organic to boot!

As I walked out of the store, having smiled at them and maintained my silence, I lamented the ever-increasing (yet not quite prevailing) negative attitude toward motherhood and then praised the Lord for the privilege of being a mom.  I thought about the many, many skills I have acquired in the process like event planning, semi-gourmet gluten free cooking, photography, business administration, phonics instruction, psychological and biblical counseling, long range planning, artist, interior decorating, war-time strategist, time management coach, care package design, financial consultation, Latin grammar instruction, nursing, fashion consultation, bow tie tying, hairstyling and more. Too bad they don’t transfer well to a professional resume. My diaper changing days are long gone, but they were replaced by endless amounts of the tedious and sacrificial tasks that make up everyday family life ~ grocery shopping, meal planning and preparing, baseball game attending, dance, piano, and gymnastics chauffeuring, life skill training, out loud novel reading, ongoing correction and training, clothes shopping, toilet, sink, and floor cleaning, and dishwashing, dishwashing, dishwashing…

I have been invaluably shaped and developed by what started as diaper changing. Please don’t feel sorry for me. I have a PhD in human nature and nurturing.  Believe me when I say I’m not missing anything “important” and certainly nothing organic.

(And if you are still not convinced that Whole Foods is a very interesting place to interact with people, check out this old post.)

Gluten Free/Paleo Friday ~ Almond Butter Bars (& Summer Stuff)

Happy Friday! We’re still sort of inching toward summer here in New England, and so it’s only about 65 degrees this morning, but it’s sunny, and that makes ALL the difference. Robert is off to physical therapy for his back which has been in constant and fairly severe pain since December. (Pray for his healing if you think of him!)  Kory and Cooper are off helping an older couple in town move into a new house as well as various lawn mowing jobs.  Kayla and I are about to do some “summer Algebra I” (much to her dismay) in hopes of keeping her skills up and lightening her workload in the fall, and then we will get ready for a bit of a girls-hang-out party tonight with her friends ~ pancakes for dinner, a craft, a movie, games, and sitting around the fire pit.

Cooper will be up bright and early for “SAT round 2” tomorrow, and Kory will start his third summer job at Subway. We’ve been replaying Tim Hawkins’ “I Work At Subway” video to celebrate the answered prayer of not just one, but THREE summer jobs!  He’s working at American Eagle (lots of discount perks!), at Subway (where he’ll be tortured with the smell of fresh bread that he can not eat on a perpetual basis), and for a mom from our church who needs various household and lawn tasks done 2-3 times per week. Hopefully now he’ll be able to support his own college habits in the form of Chuy’s fajitas and Common Grounds blended drinks and maybe even buy a textbook or two.

Now, on to one of our very favorite recipes these days…

These almond bars are just so good, and I can’t take any credit whatsoever for the recipe.  My friend, Lois, introduced me to the Unrefined Kitchen blog, and to these “Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies.”  The sad thing is, that shortly after she passed along the recipe to me, she had a serious reaction to all nuts, and can no longer eat them. (Be warned: too many nuts in your diet can cause this to happen. Stick with only an ounce or two a day!)

I’m pretty sure I’ve made at least one batch, and oftentimes two per week since last September. When I traveled to California in October to see my brother, sister-in-law, and my new, adorable nephew, I made them two batches (Rachel was on a semi-paleo diet), and left her the recipe.  My brother texted me a few weeks later with a picture of the recipe I left behind and told me that Rachel had been making batch after batch, too. These really hit the spot with lots of protein, healthy fats, and a touch of sweetness. Post-partum mamas take note.

The only things I’ve done different from the original recipe, are to double it, add an egg, and some cashew flour. The cashew flour is not necessary at all, but since Trader Joe’s just happens to carry it, I decided to try a 1/2 cup in the recipe and see what happened.  I think it may lighten and moisten the texture just a bit.

We tried to keep the deliciousness of these bars a secret, but the kids caught on.  For a while they were just “Mom and Dad’s Paleo bars ~ gross!” but after Kory tasted them over Christmas break, I ended up sending several college care packages to Baylor with these bars included.  Great brain food, for sure!

Almond Butter Bars

2 1/2 cups almond flour/meal (I use 2 cups almond/1/2 cup cashew)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
dash salt (optional)
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened/melted
2/3 cup honey (can be less)
1/2 cup almond butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2-2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine nut flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt in a medium bowl.  Add almond butter, coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and eggs and stir until thoroughly combined.  Spread into a medium sized baking pan ~ mine is 8×11.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is very slightly browned and an inserted toothpick or knife can be removed clean.

Books in Tandem, Grace in Abundance

One of the books was free.  It was a give-away at a pastor’s conference that Robert attended.  I think it was the year he came home with such a big stack of free, but really great books, he wondered if he would have to pay extra for his return luggage due to one more bag or extra weight at least. I was just looking for a new book to read sometime last year, and picked it up.  It was John Piper’s Finally Alive.
The other was a recommendation from our friend, Gregory. There are only a few folks who, due my utter stubbornness and resistance-to-all-things-fad-ish, I will actually take up on a book recommendation.  Gregory is one of them. I can trust him to recommend a book that is either very well written or full of exhortation to continue in a life surrendered to Christ ~ or both. So, when he said he thought Robert and I would enjoy Hammer of God by Bo Giertz, I placed an order rather immediately.
Without knowing it at the time, I was being given grace to respond to the Holy Spirit in the choosing of each of these books.  The Lord had plans to use both books in my life ~ even the order in which they were read ~  to teach me of Himself and of myself.
Finally Alive is an entire book on the Christian doctrine of justification. Yes, a whole book on justification. And as boring and geek-y as it sounds, I actually have a handful of friends who would be willing to talk with me about it over tea. (I think that is a miracle.) It centers on Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus and the radical idea of “new birth” presented to Nicodemus ~ a Pharisee, teacher of the Law, and noble, God-honoring man.  And even though Piper includes this disclaimer…

“In view of how disturbing this can be to the tender conscience as well as the hard heart, I want to be very careful.  I do not want to cause tender souls any unnecessary distress. And I do not want to give false hope to those who have confused morality or religion for spiritual life. Pray as you read this book that it will not have either of these destructive effects.” p. 27

…I still came away fairly distressed. (Maybe I forgot to pray as Mr. Piper suggested?)
Is my heart truly regenerate? Did I really receive new life?  Was I born again?  If Nicodemus didn’t understand, do I?  Have I truly been united with Christ?  Do I sincerely “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord?”
Upon investigation of my own heart and its tendencies, I was unconvinced that any of the above had actually happened to me.  Fearful and desperate even. I began begging God to save me, if indeed He had not done so before.  I pleaded with Him to not let me be deceived by my own morality and my first-born, type A, iron will to act righteously and follow all the rules.  There were real tears in my crying out.
And then I picked up Gregory’s book. 
It took me about sixteen tries to get through the first five pages, probably because I always attempted to start it at 10pm, but I finally forged through Swedish names, locales, and high church and denominational references to the heart of the plot ~ or plots, that is.  It’s really three novellas about three different pastors in three different time periods but all in Sweden.
It was the story of the first pastor that affected me profoundly, and helped me to heal from the completely unnecessary fear the first book produced ~ and even warned about.
I’ve never dog-eared and double-dog-eared a book more than this! (Not even Stepping Heavenward. Whoa.)

In the opening scene, a young and fresh out of seminary pastor, is called upon, in the midst of fine dining and a gathering of respected clergy, by an older bishop to travel by carriage and attend to an unsavory and uneducated parishioner on his death bed. This man is not only quite ill, but seemingly also not in his right mind.  The pastor resents having to make the visit, feeling that it is quite beneath his new and now highly educated status.

On the way to the poor man’s house, the man’s brother-in-law, also a peasant, speaks to Savonius, the pastor:

“Pastor, can you tell me how one shall get a deeply distressed soul to believe in the grace of God?” 

“You’ll have to excuse me, Pastor.  I was thinking of Johannes, the man who is sick.  He is in such vexation of spirit that we fear for his sanity.  He has for a long time been under a powerful conviction of sin.  He has always been a godly man in externals and has not neglected the means of grace. But now these agonizings of soul have come upon him.  He sees only his transgressions.  He digs up all that has been forgiven and forgotten in the past thirty years. It is as though the devil had given him a witching glass that causes him to see nothing but hypocrisy and falseness within – and God knows that he sees very keenly, Pastor. It makes one cringe under one’s own wickedness just to hear him.  But grace he cannot see.  He has eyes like a cat to see in the dark, but he is blind to the light.”

(I think I’ve already told you how much I love a book that uses the word “vexation.”)

It was as if the Lord was answering my cries directly in the reading of this relatable account, and I read on with great eagerness at the outcome of this poor man’s (and my) dilemma.  The interesting thing is that the pastor was at a total loss.  He had no words.  He had no theology.  He had no scripture with which to minister to this dying man.  He was completely helpless in the request that he “instruct a converted sinner about the signs of being in the state of grace” and he was fairly incredulous regarding this ridiculous mission. He tried to assure, but Johannes countered him at every turn with a scripture like this:

“Every idle word that men speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Savonius was no match for the man’s arguments and began to question his own pastoral calling. It didn’t help his ego any when Katrina, a godly neighbor, showed up offer her services. She was kind, yet unruffled and unafraid in the face of the dying man’s spiritual logic.

“Johannes,” said the woman, almost sternly, “answer me this question: Do you really want your heart to be clean?”
“Yes, Katrina. God knows that I want that.”
“Then your repentance is also as true as it can be in a corrupt child of Adam in this world.  Your danger is not that you lack repentance, but that you have been drifting away from faith.
“What then shall I believe, Katrina?”
“You must believe the living Word of God: ‘But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ Up to this day you have believed in works and looked at your own heart.  You saw only sin and wretchedness, because God anointed your eyes with the salve of the Spirit to see truth.  Do you have sin in your heart, Johannes?”
“Yes,” answered the sick man timidly, “much sin, altogether too much.”
“Just that should make it clear to you that God has not forsaken you,” said the woman firmly. “Only he can see his sin who has the Holy Spirit.”
“Do you mean to say, Katrina, that it could be a work of God, that my heart is so unclean?”
“Not that your heart is unclean – that is the work of sin – but that you now see it, that is the work of God.”
“But why, then, have I not received a clean heart?”
“That you might learn to love Jesus,” said the woman as calmly as before.

It was this very passage that had me in tears again. Yes, I’ve been given new life.  Yes, my heart is regenerate and yet it is also in the process of regeneration.  Why not completely clean, and fully able to live in accordance with the Spirit at all times?  So that I may learn to love Jesus.  Some will never understand this and even think it a cruel requirement by an egotistical monster of a God. Those are the ones lacking the “rebirth” as of yet.  I understand the need to “learn” Him, and am so grateful He allows such a process in my life.

And I also realize that I was reading the first book without the Gospel framework that was there the entire time…

“I want you to see for yourselves that, even when you fail to love as you ought, Christ’s perfection stands before God in the place of that failure.  And I want you to see that faith in Christ, not love for people, is the way you enjoy that union with Christ” Finally Alive, p. 133

Yogurt and Out

Kayla and I had been looking forward to some time together after being apart almost two whole weeks ~ I was in Texas and then she was in the Dominican Republic.  So, last Tuesday we ventured downtown, got frozen yogurt, and then checked out some books at the library.  There are two frozen yogurt shops less than a block from our downtown library (how wonderful is that?), which is great, because as you can see, we don’t agree on who has the best yogurt. Hers is of the multiple flavors, serve yourself, add-you-own-toppings, pay by weight kind (which comes as a pre-mixed liquid in plastic bags and looks like colored water when it melts), and mine is of the local, grass fed cow, creamy, made in house variety.  I mean, I really thought I was raising a more conscientious, discerning dairy and dessert connoisseur, but neither my clear teaching nor my living example carries any weight in the face of the pull-any-lever-of-any-crazy-flavor-frozen-“yogurt”-you-want option.  And you can even insert “dividers” in your cup if you don’t want all those crazy flavors to mix. What an evil scheme. Sigh…
This Mommy-Daughter date downtown was the last time I left the house last week before some sort of plague took me down and out for the count.  It took Kayla out, too, but she bounced back a bit more quickly than her mama.  It started with Cooper the week before ~ fever, chills, body aches, and then a terrible cough.  Five days later he was still down and out and despairing that it was lasting so long.  I thought there might have been a bit of teenage drama involved in his prolonged illness (and a golden opportunity to take some days off from his online SAT prep program), until I came down with the dreadful thing myself. My goodness. 
I could feel the throat tickle on Sunday.  Monday morning, I still pulled myself out of bed for a morning run, but had to turn around early due to fatigue and lack of strength. That afternoon we attended a Memorial Day cookout from 3-10pm and I wasn’t feeling so great there, but thought I might be escaping with just a touch of what Cooper had.  Tuesday was the promised yogurt date and it was all downhill from there.
I can not remember the last time I was that sick for that long.  This was no carry-on-with-life-even- though-you-have-a-bad-cold illness.  It was a can’t-pull-myself-out-of-bed-for-two-days-illness. Ugh. I did finish a good book, though, so that was a plus, it’s just that I felt miserable the whole time.  And it’s actually not true that I never left the house.  On Thursday, and in complete denial, I thought I would shower, dress, and walk to the grocery store for a few items. “The sunshine and exercise will do me good,” I thought.  It was a bad idea, and I barely made it home. Back to bed I went ~ this time with an actual fever and awful headache.  I caved and had Kory run to CVS and get me some Advil PM.  I know it’s bad when all my “natural” and “homeopathic” ideals and remedies go straight out the window.  I have a lot of willpower when it comes to following those natural health routines, but not this time ~ or not for very long at least.  Whew.
On Sunday ~ nearly a whole week later, I made it to church in order to begin my new small group. I still wasn’t feeling myself, but definitely better.  It was great to meet with a wonderful group of women and start this book.
There were seven of us total, and we’ll complete this really relevant book over the next 6 weeks.  Maybe I’ll share more about why I chose it soon, but if you’re paying attention at all, I’m sure you can see that there’s been a major cultural shift in sexual ideas and values over the last 50 years, and women have paid a great price for it.  I’ve seen the fallout with my own two eyes and heard it with my own two ears and it. is. heartbreaking. I’m excited to share this book with women and encourage them with the timeless truth that they are “a prize in their own right” (quote from the book) since they have been created in God’s image.
On Monday morning my new running app was greeting me with this message: “We had a great workout last week!  Let’s get back out there today!”  Ha! It’s never had to encourage me to get in a workout, because I have literally never (well, since I started years ago) taken off a whole week from running.  Guess I at least get to experience its many encouraging features. 🙂
And that’s exactly what I did.  I hit the trail Monday morning, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I only got in 3.5 miles, but it was a good first day out after being “down and out” for a week, and it was a beautiful morning, too.
So very thankful to being feeling myself again today, and ready to enjoy the summer which seems to have finally arrived today!