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Chaos, Social Justice, and Facing Fear in order to Seek God's Face

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.  Isaiah 26:3 A warning in advance-in...

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Monday, October 31, 2011

All trick...(is Halloween ever Happy?)

My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed.

1 Peter 4:12-13(GNT)

“Rivaling Hurricane Irene of 2 months ago, millions of customers lost electricity in this Severe Halloween Nor'easter.”
Severe Storms report NECN.com  

We don’t really celebrate Halloween…were evil spirits seeking retribution?    Saturday, October 29, (aka Mischief Night Eve) we gave over what seemed half our lives to sit more than 6 hours in my son’s dojo as he amongst many received new belts after breaking boards as part of the promotion ceremony.  We so love all the things that we love about his school, the level of instruction, the sense of the community, that the fact that we anticipate enduring at least 5-6 hour ceremonies on days where there is invariably extreme weather, e.g., mid-summer heat wave, driving rain, October Nor’easter (yes, these have ALL happened) that I guess we should’ve known what we were in for…. we didn’t. 

Because I did anticipate we’d be tired and I didn’t think I’d want to cook, I suggested we pick up Chinese take-out on the way home, particularly given dangerous weather conditions, downed power lines, broken trees and branches littering our way, and to foster a sense of celebration about our young man’s accomplishment…(in retrospect, you are always able to see the wisdom of things that simply appear to be good ideas.  Why don’t we just recognize discernment when we see it???)

After dodging falling ice and fallen trees, slick roads and snowflakes, we arrived on our half-dark block.  My BFF’s house across the street was lit like any other evening.  Oddly, the houses on our side of the street looked a little more like A Nightmare on Elm Street…

Power failure, and man, was it cold.

At my husband’s insistence, I called my BFF, proffering Chinese for a warm place to hang for a bit.  She basically hung up on me saying I was wasting time talking on the phone when we could already be coming through the front door.  You know that kind of soul deep gratitude that makes you want to cry a little bit when you think about it?  We happily, gratefully headed across the street to hang out for a little while…were we ever thankful…

We hung out long as we dared, grateful for friendship that doesn’t require constant conversation or much explaining, and the knowledge that “the circle is round,” meaning (hopefully) we give as much as we get, then we headed home.  We’d already spoken to my husband’s parents, and knew that just one town away they were safe, warm, and secure in a well-stocked, well-lit home.  They’d offered, we demurred, given that it was too late and too dangerous for us to travel any further than we could walk.  We assured them that if the situation warranted, we’d be glad to accept their hospitality on the morrow. 

It was a cold, long, cold LONG night.  The kids tried bunking together, sharing warmth and company (it didn’t last the entire night, but I applaud the effort).  Everybody slept 3 layers deep (leggings, sweats, tanks, t-shirts, socks), but the ambient temperature in the house was sufficiently cold that nobody slept well.  We were all upstairs; the location to which heat rises….the dog was on the ground floor….he was my 5:30 wakeup call….

Sparing you at least some of the minutiae, we packed up and decamped to the Grandparent’s home at their sincere invitation. (Mischief Night? I'm just sayin')   The good news is that we stayed at my mother-in-laws house.  The other news is that we were….staying at my mother-in-laws house.  I love her and she’s wonderful, but…

Since Saturday evening, I’ve been calling our gas and electric provider for status updates on our restoration.  As of Saturday evening, restoration was anticipated no later than Monday, 11:59 pm.  As of this writing, noon on Monday (Halloween), we’re looking at Friday, all tricks….is Halloween ever happy?? 

The Word says “do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you.”  So the lesson is that painful tests are not unusual? Yikes! Okay, so if I didn’t think before that I needed any more lessons on character and faith, I’m pretty certain now that I’m at least at my quota for the month/year, right Lord? The Word also says, “rather, be glad that you are sharing Christ’s sufferings…” okay, so I’m not glad.  I’m just not that good, yet.  The best I can muster is retaining my sense of humor, which I hope is a sort of gladness.  So, today’s lesson is that it’s not quite all tricks….but it is, mostly.  That I can still laugh is a blessing.  That I haven’t already dissolved into tears, which I might do later, in the privacy of my own shower in my “warmed only by the mid-day sun” bathroom, is both treat and blessing.  And though this is not the end of my saga, it is the end of this lesson.             

Life is never all tricks and no treats; treats are where you find them.  When you’ve lost power but your BFF hasn’t AND invites you over right away, you are abundantly blessed.  When you need a place to go, and people who love you invite you to stay less than 5 miles away, you are abundantly blessed.  When despite the jokes and the stereotypes, you know you can go to your “only child” husband’s parents home and feel like you’re the child and not the one that married into the family, your orange plastic pumpkin overflows with all your favorite things.  And in slightly wrinkled, slept-in sweats, desperately in need of a shower and a spa day, you remember the most important part of the lesson, that being our regular reminder that God is Good.         

Today’s Feast: Homemade Egg Drop Soup

Back story-Saturday night, dinner was Chinese take-out. While we didn’t order egg drop soup, the one I make from scratch is so much better than takeout that I don’t order it anymore.  Once you master this recipe, you won’t either…. 

2 cans low sodium chicken broth
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
3 large eggs, beaten
Dash soy sauce (to taste)

Heat broth in heavy bottomed sauce pan on medium high heat until it bubbles very gently at the edges.  Pour in the eggs in a gentle stream, stirring the broth gently.  The eggs will cook as they hit the hot liquid, cooking into ribbons.  Toss in the scallions and just allow them to begin to wilt.  Serve immediately. Serves 4 as a first course, or 2 as a meal (particularly with the add-ins)

Making it sexy….add any or all of the following after the eggs:
  • ·         diced shrimp (about ½ C)
  • ·         shredded cooked chicken (about ½ C)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Even when I can’t see...

Even when I can’t see...
 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Hebrews 11:1-3(KJV)

According to an article entitled “Scaredy cats, what people are scared of” by Media Central, Inc., nearly 1 in 5 adults fear the dark.  I’m not scared of the dark when I know what’s there; when I’m in my house, or anywhere I feel in control there is nothing to fear.  I’m in my comfort zone.  Faith, “the evidence of things not seen” should be that comfort zone.  If that’s the case, why do we spend so much time being afraid??

We are afraid because we are impatient…
I don’t like to wait.  I don’t think anyone does, and studies now suggest that popular culture (including fast food and advertising) reinforces our not being inclined to sit still and let things happen.  We’re rushing towards what, exactly??

We are afraid because outcomes have trumped processes…
So often, it’s the end that matters, not the journey.  I like processes, cooking, knitting, running.  I also appreciate the outcomes, but if we can’t enjoy getting to them, we miss most of the fun.  Faith is also about hope, remember, and hope anticipates something to come.

We are afraid because we despise failure…
We have become so obsessed with succeeding at everything that we are paralyzed by the notion of failure to the point of inactivity.  My children are loathe to try things if they don’t feel they can succeed immediately.  Where’d they get THAT from?? Are we so preoccupied with being #1 that we are unwilling to enter the race if we don’t already see our name atop the winner’s list?

Faith is trust.  I’m not afraid in my home because I know what’s there.  I trust that the furniture has not moved; I trust my memory about where things are; I trust that I am secure, safe, and that things are well. 

We’ve got to do better.  I trust my memory, but do I always trust God?? There have often been times when my memory has failed me…I have faith in my husband; do I have the same full measure of faith in my Creator, who made that husband AND sent him to me?? We’ve got to do better.  The good news, and there always is some, is that while we are dithering, hesitating, vacillating between fear and foolishness, “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” It doesn’t mean that those things are not there, it just means there is more there than we know.  We don’t know everything, right?

Here is what I know….God’s love is absolute, and His Faithfulness endures…forever. Even when we can’t see.  My memory will fail, as will my sight and ultimately my strength.  But through all, and even despite all, He will not, and I am grateful. Grateful for another reminder that God is good. 
Today’s Feast: Garlic Ginger Seasoning Paste

Back story-Every good cook has go to ingredients and processes. These for me include things I can count on to work well in multiple ways. This is recently discovered, but a keeper, since I almost always use all the elements in savory cooking. 

To a food processor, add equal measures (e.g. one ½ C each) peeled rough chopped ginger and peeled rough chopped garlic with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to start.  Drizzle in additional oil as it is blending to achieve a paste about the texture of coarse mustard.  Store in the refrigerator.  

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is important here because the paste is all about flavor, and because there are so few ingredients.  You can rub this paste on any protein and let it sit, the longer the better. 

Making it sexy….add in any or all of the following:
·         Fresh rosemary (2 T)
·         Fresh thyme (2 T)
·         Lavender (1 t) great for a roast chicken

Monday, October 24, 2011

With no regrets...

He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life

With no regrets...
 To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2(NKJV)

Today, we heard of the passing of an extended family member, affectionately known to us as “Uncle Dennis.” He’d been frail in the wake of a heart attack, and the prognosis was not good.  We’d visited him in the hospital, unresponsive, just a week ago.  We always let him know how important he was to us.  He was a devout man, good man, warm and thoughtful.  For these reasons, amongst so many, I say goodbye with no regrets.
Regret is a hard burden to suffer when it is accompanied by grief.  Grief is bad enough on its own, but when missed opportunity hangs beside the mantle of grief upon your shoulders, the weight can be nearly unbearable.  That is why, despite sadness, I can say goodbye, with no regrets.
There is a time for everything, as I explained to the children this morning.  Quoting their Great-Grammy, herself 92, “we did not come here to stay.” That doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier, when its time.  However, when we can manage even a tearful goodbye, knowing while there may be more to say, everything that needed to be said and done was said and done, perhaps we pine more for what we’ll never do, rather than for what we should’ve done.   
Certainly, mine is not the deepest hurt.  His wife of more than 50 years will miss him sorely.  Peers and those who grew up under his watchful tutelage will have different aches to bear.  I am merely grieving wife of a saddened nephew, mother to children who miss an extra-surrogating grandfather, one who acknowledges that while there are times to be born, this seems my family’s season to bury.
I am thankful that we visited him, as a family, one last time, whether or not he knew we were there.  We said our goodbyes.  So, while I am sad, I shed a few less tears, believing that the full measure of fondness we held for him was known to him. We will miss you, Uncle Den for the blessing you were in our lives.  Your memory stays with us forever, reminding us that even in grief, there is joy, yet another reminder that God is Good.

Today’s Feast: Mama Cile’s Pound Cake

Back story-The southern girl in me starts cooking and baking when somebody dies (it’s what we do).  This is basically the recipe, but it’s not one I ever follow anymore.  I’ve been making this cake for more than 20 years and I add/subtract/ enhance as suits my mood.  If you need a pound cake recipe template however, THIS IS IT. This is a marvelously heavy, dense cake, not for sissies or dieters…I’m just sayin’…this cake is more art than science....

1 lb each:
Eggs (6 large)
Powdered sugar (sifted)
Flour (sifted)
Butter (whipped)
1 t vanilla flavoring or dark rum
1 T lemon, orange, grapefruit or lime zest (any or all)
1 package cream cheese (whipped)

Cream together butter, eggs. And then cream cheese in a large bowl.  Add dry ingredients gradually to the butter egg mixture.  If you’ve done it properly, and it’s a relatively dry (as opposed to humid) day, the batter will look like wet cement (dense).  Spoon into a buttered and flour dusted pan and bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees until done (test with spaghetti, it should come out completely clean).
Remove from the pan and cool, inverted, on a rack.

Making it sexy….add in any or all of the following:
  • ·         Shredded coconut (about 1 cup)
  • ·         Minced fresh ginger (2 T)
  • ·         The juice of any fresh citrus you’ve zested and added (you may need to add a couple tablespoons of flour to ensure the batter doesn’t’ get too sloppy-wet
  • ·         Diced dried fruit (any you like, about 1 cup…you might want to shake it with a little flour so that it suspends in the batter rather than falling to the bottom of the pan)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I got nothin’...

He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life

I got nothin’...
Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
Psalms 139:7-12(NIV)

I gave my daughter my last dollar this morning.  Looking into my wallet, I thought, “I got nothin’.” I was expecting a deposit to hit my account this; it hadn’t arrived.  (Good thing I didn’t make a pre-drop off production of getting to the bank; that could’ve proved embarrassing…)  Clearly I needed to remember from whence my provision comes.  Sighing quietly, clear that it was solely my business and no one else’s burden, I gave away the cash.

“I got nothin’.”  Not a good feeling.  In reality, I have shelter, food,  a car that carries me where I need to go when I need to get there without incident, and I have gas, even at today’s prices.  I am not empty, even if I feel that way. I work hard at being the loving mother, the supportive wife, the “ride or die” friend. I’m just wallowing in being human.

Lately, I’ve been paralyzed by my humanness.  I believe that all is well, and know the anxiety I’m feeling about everything will soon pass, but I think I need a break.  I’m growing weary.  I’m just guilty of being human.  That’s why Psalms 139 is such a comfort and a blessing.  It reminds us that we are never alone. Despite what we feel, we are not empty. 

Suddenly, that realization is enough.  I am sufficiently encouraged to get off my duff, get over myself, and go make lemonade with my lemons.  Or, make dinner from what’s in my pantry (yup, that’s today’s feast). Having re-read Psalms 139, I’m looking up, instead of feeling down, and it didn’t cost me a thing. Thank You, Lord for pointing me once again in the direction of the obvious…my growing pile of evidence that God is Good.

Today’s Feast: Mulligatawny Soup

Back story-When I’m feeling like I got nothin’, I go to my pantry (keep a well stocked pantry). This is lunch, and I haven’t spent a dime. 

3T olive oil
3/4 c diced onion
3/4 c diced celery
3/4 c diced carrot
3/4 c diced mini sweet peppers
2 heaping Tcurry
1t salt (only if necessary, taste first)
1.5 T flour
1 box (32 oz) chicken stock in the box (I use low sodium)
1 finely diced medium apple
½ c leftover cooked chicken
Leaves from one sprig of fresh thyme
2 T coconut cream

Heat oil in heavy bottomed sauce pan  on medium high heat until it shimmers.  Cook the vegetables, allowing them to caramelize. Add the curry, pushing vegetables to the side to allow the curry to toast intensifying its flavor. Stir in flour to make a roux. Add broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze and then reduce heat to low and cook for about a half hour. Add the apple. Now add the salt, if necessary (adding salt earlier in the cooking process may cause the vegetables to release their water, steaming instead of caramelizing them.)   It’s important to taste the soup at this point, because with seasoned leftover chicken, you might not need salt at all.    Cook another 10-15 minutes, until apples are tender.

Finally, add coconut to finish.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Seeing with someone else’s eyes...

He Treats Me to a Feast; Notes from my Abundant Life

Seeing with someone else’s eyes...
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…
Ephesians 1:18(NIV)

The heart has eyes which
the brain knows
nothing of.
Charles H. Parkhurst

I’ve been trying to write a cookbook for a while.  I started with my domain name “treatmetoafeast”, and finally began writing regularly in the form of this blog, which other people might enjoy, but which has certainly been my therapy.  But I’m still trying to write the cookbook.  I have friends encouraging me, including my BFF, about whose eyes I’m writing today.  We’ve been looking at the same things, but her loving heart saw things I didn’t.  She gave me my direction.

How frustrating is it that people in your home can walk past the things they seek to ask you where they are? My personal favorite is my children’s insistence that I have memorized the ever-changing contents of both our refrigerator and the pantry, so they can leave the kitchen to fine me wherever I might be, to ask if we have any (fill in the blank).  ARE YOU SERIOUS?

We don’t see what’s right in front of us.  I’m nearly at the first anniversary of my blog, and there are only a few recipes scattered amongst all my writings.  That was kind of supposed to be the point??? So, on a “hot and cold” day when I needed  some love and clear thinking, my BFF spoke the clearest, most obvious wisdom from her heart that I simply could not see…match each message with a meal.  Laughing, stunned even, I babbled out “today’s feast.”  So stay tuned, my dear ones, because it would seem, as I approach 12 months of writing, that I’ve always got something to say, and Lord knows I’ve always got something cooking.

So, my prayer is that the eyes of my heart might be enlightened to birth something wonderful and new for someone I love from what’s been right in front of them, all along, as my BFF did for me.  And when things are all around you, all the time, clarity of vision, the gift of seeing just the right thing at the right time, is an abundant blessing.  And that is further evidence that God is Good.

Today’s Feast: C (see) is for Chicken Tenders

Back story-My teenage daughter mentioned to her friends that I was making chicken tenders for dinner.  They asked her what brand.  Seriously?? It’s easy, less expensive, and so much healthier when you make it from scratch.

1.5-2 lbs of boneless chicken breasts
1 large egg
¾ c milk
2 t seasoning
1 C panko bread crumbs
Canola oil for frying

Wash and pat chicken dry, then cut into strips.  In a straight-sided bowl large enough to hold all the chicken, combine the egg, seasoning and milk to make a wash.  Add the chicken and marinate at least 20 minutes (you could do all this the night before to let the flavors deepen). Take the chicken out of the fridge long enough before frying to let it come to room temperature, cold chicken might result in uneven cooking.

Toss chicken in the bread crumbs, and place it gently, to avoid splashing oil, in the pot.  Do not crowd the chicken to ensure even cooking. Turn once.  When it’s golden brown, remove to absorbent paper.  Eat and enjoy.

Making it sexy….add in any or all of the following:

to the egg wash:
  • ·         Ground ginger
  • ·         Pesto
  • ·         Hot sauce
to the panko:
  • ·         Shredded coconut
  • ·         Ground toasted pecans
  • ·         Ground almonds

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