My Five Things – Part 2

As I shared yesterday, I discovered a fun pandemic-related blog topic going around called “My Five Things.” I started playing with the idea and got a little carried away, hence two posts.

I’d love to read your five things, fun ways you are staying sane during these unusual days. If you’re a blogger, tag me. If you’re not a blogger, leave a Five Things list in the comments. Let’s play!

5 Things New to My Life Since Quarantine
Anxiety (related: Headspace – offering a free year for those unemployed due to the pandemic)
At-home yoga with the Down Dog app (purchase includes customizable workouts + HIIT, Barre, and 7-minute total body workouts)
SoundCloud, particularly 2F Big Bootie Mixes, upbeat dance mixes long enough to make my dog walks (almost) commercial free
Take-out food from local restaurants on a regular basis
I joined a writing group

5 Bands/Musicians I Listen to on Repeat
U2
Mumford & Sons
Judah & The Lion
Indigo Girls
David Crowder

5 Books I’ve Just Read
I’d Give Anything by Marisa de los Santos
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Daily Rituals edited with text by Mason Currey
Radical Compassion by Tara Brach (almost done)

Read all my reviews on Goodreads

5 Books in My To-Read Queue
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Beach Read by Emily Henry
(Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.)

5 things I Want to Do When the World Feels Safe Again
Take the dogs to the beach for a long walk (repeat as often as possible)
Hug friends
Gather with others – at church, a movie, a concert
Camping
Explore a new neighborhood, a new city, or a new country – or all three

My Five Things – Part 1

The other day I discovered a post by Rebecca Goes Rendezvous called “My Five Things.” Following the links, I realized that other bloggers had also posted their Five Things lists. I thought I’d try my hand.

I’m breaking this post into two parts because I had so much fun with it that it got a little long. If you’re a blogger, I’d love to see your Five Things. If you’re not a blogger, leave a Five Things list in the comments.

5 Things Getting Me Through Quarantine
My amazing husband who has done all our grocery shopping for 11 weeks
My Kindle and the online library system
Stretchy-comfy clothes
Writing
Limiting social media exposure

5 Things Making Me Happy
Painted rocks adding whimsy to my neighborhood walks
Painting my nails – completely unnecessary, but lasts longer than make up
Creative cooking – check out my 5 Recipes on Repeat
My blooming rose bushes and cut flowers in vases everywhere
School done and summer arrives for my high schooler tomorrow – hallelujah!IMG_7665

5 Topics I Blog About
Spiritual formation/Bible studies
Books
Vegetarian cooking
Parenting adolescents/young adults
Creativity

5 Pictures You’ll See on My Instagram Feed
Flowers
Dogs/Pets
Something related to my most recent blog post
Food
FamilyIMG_7629

5 TV Shows I’m Bingeing/Watching
Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu) – also an excellent book (please note: as an Amazon associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases)
Upload (Amazon Prime)
The Big Flower Fight (Netflix)
Amy Schumer Learns to Cook (Food Network)
Snowpiercer (TNT)

Alrighty, now it’s your turn!

Cover Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

Meatless Monday: 5 Recipes on Repeat During Quarantine

One of the benefits of shelter-in-place for those of us who enjoy cooking has been more time to indulge. It has also forced creativity, since we can’t hit up the grocery store whenever, especially for that one odd ingredient. My gracious husband has done all our shopping (so grateful!), which means I’ve written careful lists and also relinquished control.

We’ve had fun with it. Each of the following recipes we made for the first time during quarantine, and have made more than once since—family approved and then some!

5-Minute Hummus
The first time I made this, a delightful friend offered to trade me hummus for sauvignon blanc—easy decision!

The second time I reached out to a Lebanese friend whose hummus was the best I’d ever tasted. She taught me tricks. One: to remove the skins and make the creamiest hummus, you can boil cooked garbanzos (either cooked from dried or canned) with a little bit of baking soda until the skins disintegrate, then give them a good wash before mixing; you can also peel by hand, or toss them roughly in a wire-mesh strainer, but her method is easier.

Secondly, add an excessive amount of lemon juice; since this recipe calls for two cans of garbanzos, she recommends adding juice from four to six lemons. On my own, I discovered that we like way more garlic than called for, at least four to six cloves (my friend advises crushing the garlic before adding to the mixer), and I topped my finished product with lemon-infused olive oil and ground paprika. The recipe makes a lot, perfect to share with a friend.

Bombay Potatoes
I wanted to do something different with potatoes. I found this recipe from The Wanderlust Kitchen and decided to riff with what I had and also make it easier on myself. In the end my potatoes were Indian-spiced, not “Bombay.”

I combined 1 tsp turmeric, 2 tsps dried ground mustard, and 2 tsps curry powder in a large bowl. I cubed all the potatoes, no peeling. I tossed the potatoes with the spices and put them on a roasting pan, lightly sprayed with oil, and roasted them at 450 for 20-25 minutes.

My son, who couldn’t wait for them to cool, declared them “phenomenal.” That first batch was for dinner. I made them again and tossed with a breakfast hash. I’m making them this evening for our at-home Memorial Day BBQ; I will boil cubed potatoes briefly before tossing with spices and my husband will finish them on the grill.

Pad Thai
My eldest son loves pad Thai, but it typically has egg and shrimp in it. Someone recommended this recipe from Minimalist Baker and I realized that, though I rarely stock tamarind paste, we had recently ordered out Indian food which came with several small containers of, you guessed it, tamarind!

My tweaks: I doubled the sauce, subbing less maple syrup than the recipe calls for coconut sugar. Since I was also making Thai spring rolls (next recipe), I wanted to make one sauce that could be used for both + more for serving. I baked the tofu on a lightly sprayed roasting pan at 400 for about 15-20 minutes, and added some extra veggies, shredded carrots and edamame.

The next time I made it I doubled everything. Note to self: keep tamarind in stock.

Thai Spring Rolls
You’re watching more TV than normal, too, right? We caught Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode when he made Thai shrimp spring rolls. Marinated tofu makes for an easy substitution. On his next shopping trip, Guy bought all the ingredients. This made for a fun date night (first try) and family project (second try). It’s also an easy way to get kids to eat veggies!

Before baking tofu for the Pad Thai, I cut off eight thin slices and poured a little sauce over them, marinating while I prepped other ingredients. We didn’t have cilantro and didn’t miss it. The second time we also added some microgreens.

Quarantine Cookies
So far in quarantine, I’ve mostly stayed away from baking except for the occasional quick bread. Sourdough starter seems WAY too much work, I’m lazy that way.

Last week, though… I never thought I’d say this, but I got tired of reading, and I couldn’t stomach one more TV show, and two out of four of us were on evening Zoom meetings. And I’d been eager to try my pal The Creative Resource’s new cookie recipe. Especially because she included vegan adaptations—she loves me so.

Except…quarantine. I didn’t have granola, and definitely not cacao and cashew butter granola, the exact reason she created this cookie recipe, for Kellogg’s no less; she blows my socks off in amazement, landing a food photo shoot for one of the nation’s leading food corporations.

I took stock of our pantry. I had granola bars and stale multigrain cereal. I had a couple of mostly-used-up jars of nut butters in the fridge. I pulsed granola bars and multigrain cereal in the food processor and subbed for the amount of prepared granola. I subbed some nut butter for plant-based butter. Vegan, I subbed flax egg for actual egg (I hadn’t tried this in a cookie recipe before—so glad to know it works!). I added a little canola oil because my dough was too dry, likely due to my nut/plant butter substitution.

Her cookies may be better, but these turned out so dang good. I mean, with granola and cereal, they might even be breakfast fair, we won’t judge (don’t judge: we may have had them for breakfast. More than once).Cover image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

When did you last feel guilty? What did you do, and what did you do with your guilt: confess it and make it right? Hide it and walk away?

What are you ashamed of? It could be related to the same situation if your guilt went unresolved. But shame is sneaky. You likely feel ashamed for things that aren’t your fault at all: body image, not fitting in with whatever group you were made to feel you had to fit in, insults you internalized as a child that reflected more about the person who uttered them than any truth about your character.

Guilt: I did something bad.
Shame: I am bad.

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that guilt can lead to feelings of shame. I did something bad because I am bad. And shame can lead to further guilt: since I’m bad, I might as well act badly. Like Adam and Eve eating the fruit in the garden (guilt) and realizing they were naked (shame over their beautifully created bodies), and hiding from God.

But those things are more easily dealt with than the shame most humans carry through no fault of their own. That requires much deeper, harder work, and I’d wager that most of us don’t want to go there…until for whatever reason we realize we have to.

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times (John 18), just as Jesus had told him he would (John 13). Peter felt guilty, but the way Jesus restored him indicates that Peter may also have been feeling ashamed (John 21).

The real shame expert, Brene Brown, says that if we wanted to grow shame in a petri dish we would add secrecy, silence, and judgment, all ingredients in ample supply.

Even though Peter denied Jesus publicly, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Peter had buried his actions. The other disciples weren’t there, so how would they know? And how would they react if they did? Again, judgment isn’t a huge leap… Oh Peter, how could you? Although, given the circumstances, maybe they would have done exactly the same; or maybe they could have imagined themselves in Peter’s sandals. But Peter wouldn’t know that, since he likely kept his guilt and shame to himself.

Secrecy, silence, and judgment multiply shame. Jesus not only addressed Peter’s guilt, He also obliterated Peter’s shame. This conversation wasn’t just redemption, or restitution; this conversation became a catapult to mission. Without it, we might not have the Church.

I find it fascinating that John chose this scene to conclude his gospel. Peter, who had lived and served with Jesus for three years, denied even knowing Jesus on the night He was arrested. But that doesn’t stop Jesus’ love, Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus’ mission. John wants us to know that no matter what we’ve done or how unqualified we feel, Jesus will meet us there, gently and lovingly lift us up, and give us meaningful service.

Leave behind guilt. Do whatever hard work you need to do to move beyond shame. Let Jesus love you right where it hurts (especially if you’re not ready to admit that it hurts…that’s where you need it). And then get up and follow Him on the adventure He has waiting for you.

Connect
Share some of the ways you demonstrated love for someone this week.

Study
Read aloud John 21:15-25.
Also read John 18:15-18, 25-27. How did Jesus questioning Peter’s love three times connect with Peter’s three denials?
Even though Peter felt hurt by Jesus’ questions, how was Jesus demonstrating love for Peter?
How did Jesus ask Peter to demonstrate his love (vv15-17)? Why is that significant?
Since Jesus knows all things, why did He have this conversation with Peter? What difference does it make to say the words out loud?
Why did Jesus refer to Peter’s death (vv18-19)?
Why did Peter ask about John, and how did Jesus respond (vv20-24)?
Why do you think John chose this to be the last scene in his gospel (v25)? What does this scene tell us about Jesus and His followers that might act as a conclusion to the story?

Live
How do you define shame? How is it like/different from guilt?
When is shame an appropriate response? When is it unhealthy?
How can safe and loving conversations and an appropriate course of action be helpful in overcoming shame?
If you can, share about a time when Jesus redeemed your shame.
Why is it important to demonstrate love with words and actions?
Are you better at loving with words or actions? How can you grow in balancing expressions of love?
How can you demonstrate your love for Jesus as you love others with words and actions this week?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Thank God for loving us no matter what and offering redemption from shame.

Family Share Questions
Reflect on John 21:15-19 individually and with your family:
How do you show someone you love them?
How does loving people help you love Jesus more?
Thank Jesus for all the people you love.

For more on shame, watch this Ted talk by Brene Brown.

 

Images by John Hain from Pixabay

Reading: May 2020 pt1

I normally post reading reviews once a month but we no longer live in “normal.” I’ve read more books in two weeks than in a typical month. Maybe I haven’t read more pages, though, since I’ve read several YA books, including a graphic novel. I love a good YA and even more so now in these upside-down times.

Let me know what you’re reading in the comments. Now is a perfect time to catch up on some new and old favorites!

A Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Human beings’ innate desire to live and to thrive even in the most difficult circumstances, and to find beauty therein, remains one of our most defining characteristics. Like the one tree that grows in the cement between tenement buildings in Brooklyn at the turn of the century, we are a resilient species. No wonder this book is a classic, such a *true* story, though the book’s length sometimes felt like a slog.

“What must I do, Mother, what must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?”
“The secret lies in the reading and the writing.”

“…the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination.”

“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere–be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minutes. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”

New Kid (New Kid, #1)New Kid by Jerry Craft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a geek for the Newbery Medal books, and New Kid is the 2020 Newbery Medal recipient – surprising for a graphic novel to win, but not truly surprising when you read it. The coming-of-age story is well-told, nuanced, with relatable characters struggling in real ways. And the art is beautiful to boot. A quick and worthy read.

Your Perfect YearYour Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the 2020 World Book Day free Amazon/Kindle downloads, this was a fun book to read and so good for shelter-in-place since it is light and life-affirming. Definitely chick-lit, with a slight touch of The Rosie Project in Jonathan’s awkward offensiveness. It challenges us to say “Yes!” to life, to take stock of what we enjoy/don’t, do more of what we love, do hard things when necessary, be kind, and watch our thoughts since they create our actions.

We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober LifeWe Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life by Laura McKowen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This “quit lit” memoir is really a story of becoming, of choosing to stop just being and rather become, of creating a life instead of simply existing. Drinking may not be your issue, but this book has something to say to anyone who wants more of life.

“This is how it is done–how anything is done. One moment, then the next, then the next. This is how this book is being written: I type this word, then this one, then this one. The words build sentences. The sentences build a paragraph. A book is impossible, but a word and then another word is not. A lifetime of sobriety was impossible, but a moment of sobriety was not. I was doing it, and I was doing it, and I was doing it again.”

“The truest story–the one that will always be trust–is that I am a human being, being human. Sometimes, I am my best self. Sometimes, not so much. But goddamn, I am trying to do better. I am always trying to do better. My guess is that you are, too.”

Merci Suárez Changes GearsMerci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2019 Newbery Medal winner

Merci is an 11yo Cuban-American living with her inter-generational family in Florida and dealing with the drama of attending (on scholarship) sixth grade at a private school while her beloved grandfather shows signs of progressing Alzheimer’s Disease. This was a sweet story, I like Merci as a character, but it didn’t rock my boat the way other Newbery winners have.

James and the Giant PeachJames and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My son cleaned off his bookshelves during shelter-in-place and I decided to read some of the classics he’d stored in his room before deciding whether to move them to my shelves or eventually donate them. I love Matilda and The BFG. James was a quick read (started last night, finished this morning) but so odd. Dahl’s style rings through every word and image, and I had to wonder if he was writing today, would his books receive the same reception? Children are abused, neglected, or both… Maybe he was the literary precursor to Lemony Snicket and Miss Peregrine? Though this wasn’t my favorite, I appreciated the developed personalities of the characters and how they came together to form a well-rounded team.

As a writer/reader, this was my favorite bit of wordplay:
“…and all the time the water came pouring and roaring down upon them, bouncing and smashing and sloshing and slashing and swashing and swirling and surging and whirling and gurgling and gushing and rushing and rushing, and it was like being pinned down underneath the biggest waterfall in the world and not being able to get out. They couldn’t speak. They couldn’t see. They couldn’t breathe. And James Henry Trotter, holding on madly to one of the silk strings above the peach stem, told himself that this must surely be the end of everything at last. But then, just as suddenly as it had started, the deluge stopped.” (98)

Fantastic Mr. FoxFantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since I didn’t love James and the Giant Peach, and I remember not liking the few scenes I caught when my kids watched the movie eons ago, I set my expectations low for Fantastic Mr. Fox. In turn, it pleasantly surprised me. It’s plain ol’ fun! I can absolutely imagine reading this aloud with kids and then discussing both the farmers’ and the animals’ perspectives for a meaningful conversation. In fact, I’m sorry I missed that opportunity with my kids.

View all my reviews

Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases. 

Cover image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Fear & Peace

For two long days last week as my pastor-husband prepared a sermon, I overheard his end of several zoom interviews asking people two questions: What causes you fear? and How have you encountered Jesus at your point of fear?

I couldn’t hear their answers, so I pondered my own responses to questions I’d been asking myself for weeks.

Shelter-in-place brought on an anxiety I couldn’t control or explain. I felt uncomfortable, awkward, ashamed. What is wrong with me? I wondered. Not in a high risk category, I’m not really afraid that I’m going to contract COVID-19. And, at least on the surface, my life hasn’t changed that much. So where are these Big Feels coming from?

  • Sleep immediately flew out the window for me and our kids. “Bedtime” suddenly shifted to 3 am, which meant we also slept half the day. It took about a month to settle into a healthier sleep rhythm.
  • The loss of routine. Our family doesn’t easily set our own routines, meaning that we rely on external structure to organize our days.
  • With everyone at home all the time, there’s no solitude, little silence, and regular interruptions, which makes it hard to concentrate, to write, to be creative. I have been less able to plug in to my natural outlets.
  • The obvious loss of social outlets. ‘Nuff said.
  • I’m not working, and I don’t know what work will look like in the future.
  • The comparison game at which I keep losing: others claim to be living their best life, developing new skills and side gigs, while I want to crawl in a hole and cry, or at least, hole up with a book or three.
  • The fear of the unknown: how long will this last? And all the swirling questions: how long should it last to keep us all safe?
  • And the big one: I fear that others aren’t taking this seriously, that they’re not truly sheltering-in-place, they’re not social distancing, they’re going out too often and letting their kids hang out with others. And by not taking it seriously, they’re invalidating my taking-it-seriously actions.

So where is Jesus in all this? Sheepishly, I asked Guy if anyone had dared to answer that they didn’t know…or that their fear was not having heard from Jesus during this time. Good for them, but no, no one answered that way.

I know Jesus is with me, but He hasn’t exactly been dramatic about announcing Himself. So I keep doing what I do to cultivate an environment for peace: I persist in my daily gratitude hunt. I find joy in exercising with my dogs. I’ve rediscovered a yoga practice that I can maintain at home long-term. And I write Bible studies where Jesus helps me craft questions as He speaks to my heart.

As the days plod along, slow and steady, I am grateful for faith in His gentle presence in the heart of our home. Even when I feel less than peaceful, I trust He’s here with peace in hand.

Connect
Name one of your biggest childhood fears. Alternately, share about something that currently makes you fearful.

Study
Read aloud John 20:19-23.
Put yourself in the room with the disciples before Jesus shows up (v19). What are you thinking and feeling?
How does Jesus’ greeting also address the disciples’ fears (v19)?
Why did Jesus show them His hands and side (v20)?
Why did Jesus emphasize peace (vv19, 21)?
How are peace, the Holy Spirit, and forgiveness connected? Why are they important for the ones whom Jesus sends?

Live
When do you feel most peaceful?
What does it look like for you to receive Jesus’ peace?
If you can, share about a recent time when you felt afraid and how Jesus showed up for you.
In the midst of fear, how can you actively put your trust in God?
How does a sense of purpose help one deal with fear?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Ask God to meet you in your fears and fill you with peace.

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on John 20:19-23 individually and with your family:
What are you afraid of?
How can Jesus help you feel peaceful?
Ask Jesus to help you trust Him when you’re afraid.

If you’d like to hear Guy’s sermon based on this passage, you can watch here. The Scripture reading followed by the sermon starts at 13:32.

Image by Raheel Shakeel from Pixabay

Bees (or, What Anxiety Feels Like in My Body)

On Easter Sunday we went for a hike in the hills beyond the end of our neighborhood. The boys went off looking for snakes, per usual, and texted us to stop at a turnout. After a quick photo shoot of our dogs amidst the wildflowers, we waited.

As I surveyed the surrounding green hills (big picture) and the lizard doing push ups on a log near my feet (close up), I noticed right in front of me a bee unlike any I’d seen before. Fuzzy, soft latte brown, it buzzed at me, zig-zagging near my abdomen. Then I saw another, and another, until suddenly I noticed they covered a nearby bush; I wondered how I hadn’t heard the buzzing.

Bees sense fear, so I consciously took deep, even breaths and watched it. I asked it nicely to please fly away and not sting me. Slowly, I took a step backwards. It flew off.

All during shelter-in-place, I’ve felt the persistent buzz of anxiety. Like too much coffee, which I haven’t had since C21 has discovered that he also likes coffee and so the pot is almost always empty by the time I reach for a second cup.

I don’t typically have anxiety. This is new for me.

I didn’t notice the actual bees in front of me because for weeks I’ve been annoyed by, denying, avoiding, or trying to manage the buzzing inside me. Sometimes the anxiety feels like background noise, the hum of one bee, or a few. Other days, I feel shaky, unable to take deep breaths and step back. The bees swarm in and around me.

I know these are just feelings. Like clouds moving across the sky, my feelings are not the sky. The anxiety will blow over and I will still be here. The bees can’t hurt me, but they sure can rattle me.

I have tried all the things: writing and exercise. Talking with loved ones and with God. I drink lots of water, make healthy meals, try to reign in the detritus of everyone home all the time. I’ve drastically limited social/media media exposure. I crawl in bed at a reasonable time with a book. I try to sleep.

Generally, I feel better in the mornings, a fresh start. And over time, now eight weeks into shelter-in-place, living with bees has become increasingly ‘normal.’ Always on the lookout for gratitude maybe–somehow, eventually–I’ll even learn to make honey.

 

Cover image by shell_ghostcage from Pixabay