In Celebration of Wailing

in Celebration of WailingThe weather here in Northern Idaho was still bouncing between Winter frost and Spring thaw while Tim and I were on our little staycation a couple weeks back. So, after a
depressingly chilly day or two when I was thankful for the condo’s powerful heater, I did the happy dance around our borrowed living room as the sun rose brightly one morning. This called for fresh air so I opened all the windows, enjoying the cool breeze as I folded laundry and washed dishes.

Not only was I afforded a constant flow of Spring air, but because the condo was on the ground floor, a few feet from the sidewalk, I had a steady soundtrack from the day unfurling outside our windows. Several people shuffled by with dogs on jingling leashes. The mailman rattled keys against metal as he delivered envelopes and packages to the group of mailboxes between buildings. Construction workers a couple blocks away shouted instructions over the scrape of bulldozers ripping up concrete.

The noise trade was not one sided. Passersby could also hear the soundtrack coming from inside our open windows. This included the clanking of dishes I was scrubbing clean, the lilting melodies of worship music streaming from my iPad, and the piercing cries of baby James.

Our son is not colicky and generally only fusses when he’s hungry or tired. But on this particular day, James decided to test his pipes. I looked up from the dishes just in time to see our peaceful sleeper go rigid, all appendages stuck straight out from his body. From his mouth erupted a most piercing scream that quickly transitioned to rhythmic wailing.  I hustled with dripping hands from behind the sink to console our crying child.

Normally, crying doesn’t bother me. I hold, rock, whisper, bounce, and shush for however long it takes for James to settle down. But this episode got my heart rate up as I frantically tried to quiet our screaming son. It dawned on me as I furtively glanced to the open windows that I was embarrassed by James’ outburst.

I could hear the neighbors thinking, “Ugh, there goes that baby again. I hope they leave soon.” I could imagine a person out for a stroll wondering if they should call the police for fear a baby was getting abused. What if James was disturbing someone? What if people thought I was a bad parent because my son wouldn’t stop crying?

I looked to the open windows and wished I had kept them closed.

in Celebration of Wailing (2)

The open windows provided a peak into our reality – James isn’t a perfectly peaceful baby and I’m not a perfectly calm mother.  Had I kept the windows closed, I may have been able to mask our imperfections but I would have perpetuated a lie.

There’s something to be said for throwing open the windows of our lives, allowing others to glimpse the imperfections in our hearts, minds, and souls. Vulnerability is an important part of building community, but it’s also scary and embarrassing at times. It’s much easier to keep our windows closed, to muffle our crying, and let passersby walk past thinking everything is hunky-dory.

God’s desire is to work through human vulnerability rather than overcome it.

Mike Erre in Astonished (a fantastic book!)

I think vulnerability is valuable enough for us to not only open our windows, but open our doors – invite people into our messes and our brokenness.

To borrow words from a popular song:

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good [person] you always have to be. Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know. Well, now they know.

Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore.

Let It Go from Frozen

Oftentimes my tendency is to conceal, to not let people see the true nature of my heart. Let’s not be people who conceal the imperfections, who hold back for the sake of appearances. God shows up powerfully when we let it go. Let’s open our windows, open our doors, and celebrate wailing.

 

I Hope He Takes After You

I hope he takes after YouI already know he has your long, dark eyelashes

and the dimples that compress those precious cheeks are just like yours.

I already know he has the same notch missing from his right ear

and a length that hints at a tall frame just like yours.

But, I hope he takes after you.

I hope he inherits your subtle strength and quiet leadership.

I hope he possesses the same respect for women.

I hope he shares your love of coffee, the outdoors, and family.

I hope he has the same caring, sensitive spirit.

I hope he takes after you.

I already know he bares Your image

formed so perfectly and wonderfully in my womb.

I already know he is built for Your unique purpose

equipped with gifts and passions the likes of which only You could supply.

But, I hope he takes after You.

I hope he lives selflessly and sacrificially.

I hope he seeks out and serves the least.

I hope he pursues community and prioritizes relationship.

I hope he values vulnerability over comfort.

I hope he gives grace freely to himself and others.

I hope he loves abundantly.

I hope he takes after You. 

Rosemary Lemonade

Rosemary Lemonade

Rosemary Lemonade 4

One of the houses I grew up in had a massive lemon tree in the backyard. It wasn’t until we moved that I realized it wasn’t normal to have freshly squeezed lemon juice at the ready whenever we wanted. My sister now has the same citrusy fortune at her own house. She sent me a little care package the other day with granola (she makes the best granola!), homemade jam, and lemons. After a cold, snowy winter, the lemons put an instant smile on my face. The cheery color and fresh scent of lemons always reminds me of sunshine and long summer days.

Normally when I receive a lemon windfall I zest and juice every last one and freeze the spoils. This time around I left the lemons in a bowl on our coffee table as a reminder that Spring is coming.

While reading a post on Modern Mrs. Darcy, I saw mention of rosemary lemonade which immediately piqued my interest. We happened to have fresh rosemary AND a bowl full of those beautiful lemons. The weekend fates of good eats were with us! The post didn’t have a recipe, so I Googled it to get some how-to inspiration. I ended up combining two methods (this and this) to create a refreshing, festive drink perfect for warm afternoons in the sun.

Rosemary Lemonade 3

Rosemary Lemonade 2

Rosemary Lemonade

THE drink for sipping in the afternoon sun on the back porch. A great compliment to grilled meats. I think, though I haven’t tested my theory, that a little splash of limoncello would make this a wonderful lemonade cocktail.

  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine rosemary sprig, sugar, and water in a large sauce pot. Bring to boil. Remove pot from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

Add lemon juice to taste. My lemon juice sweet spot was 1 3/4 cups, but I like my lemonade a little on the tart side. Keep in mind the lemonade will dilute a bit when you add ice.

Chill lemonade for at least four hours before serving.

Serve over ice with rosemary sprig and lemon slices for garnish.

 

Embracing Simplicity: #ECGsimplifies

Embrace SimplicityMotherhood has made me a little less uptight about messes, what with the pacifiers in every room, colorful toys scattered around the living room, and a bouncer seat that roves around the house and all, but I’m still happiest in a clean and clutter-free environment.

My preference for order and organization is probably the reason watching Hoarders makes my eye twitch. I just can’t hang with the piles. For whatever reason, these people stack and stuff and accumulate until their homes look more like a landfill than a habitable living environment. Possessions cover every square inch and begin to crowd out the very people who collected them.

It’s possible to do that with our lives. Hoarding is oftentimes a mental disorder, but it can also be a spiritual disorder. Our possessions, our commitments, and our leisure activities can create a hectic lifestyle, crowding out what really matters. Our hearts and our homes become so cluttered, we can’t keep our priorities in order. Sometimes it takes the absence of those things for us to realize that they have been subtracting instead of adding to our lives.

Our little family went on a staycation recently, finishing out the lease on the condo my parents rented for their Winter visit. We spent two weeks living in a smaller space with less stuff. It was glorious. When we transitioned back to our own house, I was totally overwhelmed. Though I enjoy my own decor, access to my full wardrobe, and the comfort of being home, I really enjoyed the simple lifestyle we had those two weeks. The contrast made me yearn to recreate the simplicity of our staycation in our normal environment.

I’m on a mission to embrace simplicity, to untangle and uncomplicate my life so I can focus on what really matters – being present in my relationships with God, my family, and my community.

Simplicity creates margins and spaces and openness in our lives. It honors the resources of our small planet. It offers us the leisure of tasting the present moment. Simplicity asks us to let go of the tangle of wants so we can receive the simple gifts of life that cannot be taken away.  Sleeping, eating, walking, giving and receiving love, the benefits we take for granted, are amazing gifts. Simplicity invites us into these daily pleasures that can open us to God, who is present in them all.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in The Spiritual Discipline Handbook

The first battlefield in my mission to embrace simplicity is my home. In considering what made our staycation so peaceful, I realized it had a lot to do with the physical environment. Everything had a place and there was little excess. I wasn’t distracted by small piles of unfinished business and the niggling knowledge of boxes that should have been unpacked months ago.

My decor style will never be minimalistic or modern, but I can make choices that will make our home a space where all who dwell and gather are filled with peace.

That starts with purging and putting together. I will systematically (because, unlike hoarders, organization is my mental disorder…) go through our possessions and release what is unused and unnecessary. I will make room for the items we love, the memories that are still covered in cardboard. As I “let go of the tangle of wants” that inhabit my home right now, I hope to create a habit of simplicity for the future.

I began this intentional effort to simplify a week ago and am finding the journey a bit draining. The work is physical, emotional, and spiritual as I take steps to free my home and my heart from excess. Sometimes the steps are small, but progress is being made one day at a time.

I’m documenting my progress on Instagram.

Follow along (and join in!) under the hashtag #ECGsimplifies.

What are some ways you embrace simplicity?

 

3 Ways to Jazz Up Store Bought Pizza Crust

store bought pizza crust

For me, cooking is a joy and a stress reliever. I love the process – gathering, mixing, stirring, chopping, creating – but sometimes I don’t have time to immerse myself in that process. And there are some days when the process I enjoy so much just sounds burdensome. Enter one of my new, faux-process dinners: pizza using a store bought crust.

Pizza crust isn’t too difficult to whip up, but on those nights when I’m tired or low on time, store bought crust is a short cut that allows me to serve a home cooked meal with little effort.

Bread is my culinary best friend, so my tastes gravitate towards pudgy, thick pizza crust. However, my love handles don’t always appreciate my carb-laden chum, so Tim and I have been making our pizzas on whole wheat, thin crusts we found at Target. (This isn’t a sponsored post, just FYI.) It’s square, fairly low calorie, and thick enough to be chewy not crackery.

I’m always down for the standard cheese and pepperoni, but it makes me feel more grown up to be creative with our toppings. Plus, that helps me justify having pizza twice in a week (because you have to use both crusts, right…).

Here are 3 ways we’ve jazzed up our store bought pizza crust:

3 Ways to Jazz Up Pizza Crust

Fig Proscuitto Pizza - based on this from Pioneer Woman.

Sweet, salty, gooey with a fresh bite from the arugula. Eat it with a fork.

  • Crust
  • Fig Preserves – Bonne Maman is widely available and super tasty.
  • Proscuitto – crisped in skillet and crumbled.
  • Mozzarella
  • Bake at 400 until cheese is melted, 10 ish minutes.
  • Top with chopped arugula and shaved Parmesan.

Bacon and Egg Pizza – based on this in Food Network Magazine.

Breakfast for dinner is a favorite. Breakfast AND pizza? Yes, please.

  • Crust
  • Salsa
  • Red bell peppers, diced and sautéd until soft
  • Mozzarella
  • Bacon, cooked and chopped
  • Make wells in toppings and crack an egg into each well.
  • Bake at 400 until egg whites are opaque. Check after 20 minutes.

Peppered Ricotta and Roasted Veggie Pizza with Red Wine Reduction

Roast all your leftover vegetables and throw them on top of some creamy ricotta. A drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette would be a tasty substitution for the red wine reduction. 

  • Crust
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese mixed with freshly cracked pepper
  • Roasted veggies (we did 1 yellow onion, 1 red bell pepper, 1 small sweet potato)
  • Bake 400 until heated through, 15 minutes
  • Drizzle with red wine reduction sauce.

Is pizza in your meal rotation? Do you make your own crust? What are your favorite toppings?

When I have time to make homemade pizza crust, I’m going to follow these 9 tricks for making amazing pizza from Erika over at Let Why Lead!