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Conversations That Matter

scared

What happened to talk of the weather and the latest story of what your dog swiped off the counter and consumed? Where is the easy cadence of saying not much? Of bringing up what you read about or watched on the news and not feeling like you are making a political proclamation, but just discussing a current event.

It feels like the conversations I am a part of are all big these days, talking about future plans and current fears and past regrets. We may start off in the safe zone, only to quickly delve into the murky waters of what if and what now. Please understand that this is the place where I tend to be most comfortable, I am notoriously bad at small talk, but the weight of our words seems to be so much heavier lately; the sentences that I am stringing together can truly cut someone deeply, or sway their decision or even let them off the hook. It feels like a huge responsibility.
In today’s society it is easier to offend or get offended than ever, so we can be tempted choose to say nothing, believing that we are keeping the peace. I have been guilty of this, but the truth is that this crazy world needs your words, especially if they are not reckless and reactionary. We need to share our deep thoughts and ideas, and be okay with the fact that everyone will not agree. There is no license here to pound our thoughts on others, but we must, at the very least, be ready to give a reason for the way that we view a topic. Sometimes I can say that I don’t have an opinion on a prevalent issue, but the truth is that I probably have not taken the time to research and form one. That doesn’t mean that I should shout it from the rooftops, but I should wrestle with it until I have a clear opinion.
I don’t understand it, but God has trusted us to emulate Him with our words and actions. Talk about a huge responsibility! He assures us that He is with us in these conversations, and if we will trust Him, we will be guided through. He also promises to give us understanding if we pursue it. I am going to keep going with the deep conversations that seem to be happening more than ever, I’m not going to shy away from them or the people who are behind them, and I’m going to do my part not to get offended when someone sees it differently than me. Will you join me in the quest for deeper understanding, richer connections and thicker skin?

Éclair Torte

 

eclairThis dessert has been around for many years, I have no memory of where I first learned of it, or even when I began serving it. The base has no sugar in it, giving it more of a European taste.

Éclair Torte

1 c water

1/2 c unsalted butter

1/4 t. salt (or use salted butter and leave this out)

1 c flour

4 eggs

1 package cream cheese (8 oz, room temperature)

2 packages vanilla instant pudding (3.4 oz each)

3 c cold milk

12 oz whipped topping (I make my own)

chocolate syrup for decorating

Bring the first three ingredients to a boil in a saucepan . Add flour all at once and stir until a smooth ball is formed. Remove from heat and let stand for five minutes. Add eggs and mix until smooth. Spread the mixture into a greased 13×9 pan and bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Cool completely.

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, pudding mix and milk until smooth. Spread the mixture over the cooled puff and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Spread whipped cream over the top, sealing it. Drizzle with chocolate syrup just before serving.

 

Encourage

 

encourage

Our pastor has told us before that he gets some pretty heavy condemnation on Monday mornings, critics of yesterday’s sermon or people with better ideas of how church should be done will often unload on him via email. I can imagine he dreads opening up his laptop at the beginning of each new week. He says the only thing worse than that is to receive it in person before, or between gatherings on Sunday mornings! Can you imagine?

I think we all have some idea of how he feels; does everyone have at least one person in their life who at any given moment, could be releasing harsh words on you as readily as encouragement? You take a look at your phone and see that a call/text/email is coming in from that person and you need to take some time before even touching it. Yuck.

There isn’t much I can do about that person in my life, except limit the access I have with them, out of a need for protection. If it were someone who I completely trusted, maybe I wouldn’t need a barrier, but if it were someone I completely trusted, maybe they wouldn’t need to bash. Right?

There is one thing I can do. I can resolve not to be that person to others. Can I have the self-discipline to communicate encouragement and positive observations when I am reaching out with the help of my phone? Of course I can, but it will take intentionality. If I truly feel the need to correct or critique someone, I want to do that with kindness and if possible, in person.

So when my pastor sees a text message pop up from me on a Monday morning (or any other day, for that matter), I want him to eagerly see what I have to say because he can expect nothing but encouragement from me. Heck, I want that for all my friends.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Gluten Free Vegetarian Lasagna

img_2479We do eat gluten in our house, but a lot of my friends and my kid’s friends do not, so I wanted to have a recipe for something we could all enjoy. I found gluten free rice pasta by a company called DeBole’s at our store and honestly I cannot tell the difference. I only buy oven ready lasagna noodles, and DeBole’s came through. Does anybody boil lasagna noodles first these days? I would never make the dish.

1 box gluten free lasagna, oven ready

2 jars marinara sauce, or 4-6 cups of homemade sauce

2T olive oil

1 large zucchini, sliced

1 large squash, sliced

5-6 portobello mushrooms, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

2 c fresh spinach

1 1/2 large cartons cottage cheese

3/4 c parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1/4 jar pesto (small jar)

8 0z mozzarella

Place olive oil in a skillet and heat it up. Add the sliced and chopped vegetables and allow to cook 5-10 minutes, enough to become soft. Set aside.

Mix together the cottage cheese, parmesan, eggs and pesto in a large bowl. Set aside.

Pour 1/4 jar of marinara sauce into 9×13 pan. Place one layer of noodles over the sauce. Pour 1/2 of the cheese mixture onto the sauce and spread over the whole pan.  Scatter 1/2 of the cooked vegetables over the cheese mixture. Top with all the spinach. Repeat layers, ending with vegetables on top. Pour the second jar of marinara sauce over the top and spread it to seal the whole pan. Top with the mozzarella and any remaining parmesan cheese.

Refrigerate for up to 2 days and bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, then uncovered for 30 minutes. If baking immediately, reduce uncovered time to 15 minutes. Allow to set for 10-15 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

Notice

swing

On the way home, taking a route that I drive 1-2 times a week and noticed something was different at an intersection. You know how you walk into a room and know something has been moved, but you can’t immediately put your finger on what it was? Just like that. I kept driving and it actually bothered me, it felt like it was important to remember and notice.

And then I saw it in my mind; an old house with a dilapidated porch rotting on the front, dirt driveway, no sign of life in the building but almost always a vehicle, maybe an old truck, was parked out back. Lots of junk and brush around the house, what may have once been bushes or landscaping. Then I remembered seeing someone walking towards the house one time. Man or woman? Had to be a man, no…..I don’t remember. But today this house, this structure was completely gone, as if it had never been there. In its place was a huge field ready to receive the grocery store that will be built there in the next few months.

As I put more distance between myself and this scorched earth, I tried to understand why it mattered to me. I have moved many times over the years, lived in 9 very different states, and each place holds so many memories. Each house was important. There are some that I haven’t seen in decades, that would be difficult for me to even find. But they are no less important, and neither are the memories made there.

I felt a strong need to remember that old house that was just torn down. It was so gone, there is not even evidence of the dirt driveway anymore. Nothing to show that it was just there. But I know that it was, and I am certain there is at least one family, if not several, who made memories between those walls. Yes, you mattered, and so did your time there.

Nothing that seems permanent in this world truly is. It can all be torn down, removed and replaced. But the very things that can seem so iffy – love, memories and relationships are what cannot be taken away. Just because life changes the details, doesn’t mean it never happened. I want to remember what is truly important and take notice, and feel the loss when something that was so real is gone.

Photo credit: John Clayton

 

Pork Roast with Apples and Onions

IMG_2430.JPGThis is a favorite in our house, and it takes time but is not difficult to pull together. The glaze that you thicken at the end makes it special! I got this from the Pioneer Woman years ago and we have it several times a year. We had this last night with  kale salad and Southern green beans.

Pork Roast with Apples and Onions
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 whole Pork Shoulder Roast (also Called Pork Butt)
Salt And Pepper, to taste
4 cups Apple Juice
1 cup Beef Stock
3 whole Apples, Cored And Cut Into Wedges
3 whole Medium Onions, Sliced
1 Bay Leaf
2-1/2 cups Wild Rice
4 cups Water
3 cups Chicken Stock
4 Tablespoons Butter

To make the pork roast, heat olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Salt and pepper pork roast, then sear on all sides to give it some color. Reduce heat to low. Add apple juice, apple slices, onions, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 3 hours. (Or you may place in a 300 degree oven if you prefer.)

Toward the end of the cooking time, make the rice: melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add pecans and saute for a couple of minutes. Add wild rice and liquid, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until all liquid is cooked out.

When the roast is done, remove the roast, apples, and onions to a platter. Raise heat to medium-high (to high) and boil liquid, reducing it until thick and rich.

Spoon thick sauce over the roast, then cut the roast into slices. Serve with apples, onions, and wild rice. Serves 6-8.

 

X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan)

We have done something similar for years, but without spelling it out quite like this. Please parents, be this for your teens.

Bert Fulks

Friends, as most of you know, I get to spend an hour each week with a group of young people going through addiction recovery.  Yes.  Young people.  I’m talking teenagers who are locked away for at least six months as they learn to overcome their addictions.  I’m always humbled and honored to get this time with these beautiful young souls that have been so incredibly assaulted by a world they have yet to understand.  This also comes with the bittersweet knowledge that these kids still have a fighting chance while several of my friends have already had to bury their own children.

Recently I asked these kids a simple question:  “How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stuck around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?”

They all raised their hands.

Every single…

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