Crema

noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

When Opposites Attract February 8, 2016

During the 10 hour drive between MI and Iowa, the adult passengers shared stories of people with somewhat opposite personalities, strengths, interests, and characteristics finding one another, pursuing one another and resulting in marriage. No one intentionally sought out an opposite, but attraction to the opposite was the common thread in every story.  Also common was that the differences have worked together not against the relationship.   In fact the opposite qualities become complimentary over time. My own experience would say that is because I’ve pushed back less, and appreciated the differences more;  I rely on what my hubby is wired to contribute and accept his ‘opposite’ as necessary to bringing out the best in me – and our ‘opposites’ functioning together bring out the best in us.

Turns out, this opposite attractiveness shows up in circumstances as well as in people.  I have a fresh experience that I need to write down somewhere.  Its too much for me to hide, to keep to myself.  And because it’s raw, real, recent, there is no filter.   My father has pancreatic and liver cancer.  He responded well to chemo for months, but in the last few weeks has made the shift to facing end-of-life rather than more treatment. He is still living with love, in faith, not in fear.    My brother Jim and I (we both live out of state) got to be with my dad and my mom this past week.  And really – we did a lot more being than doing. That doesn’t feel like much, but its good.  My brother Jeff and wife Sara who live there are so present, kind, compassionate.  Their little kiddos are refreshing diffusers of the intensity.   So thankful for this time to be together.  However, during this same week, some many-year, long-story unfortunate circumstantial crap stirred itself up.  Just trying to write that sentence sucks air out of my lungs, makes my hands shake.  Does anyone else relate to hard things piling up – coming at you in multiples?  Sheesh.  It nearly wrecked me.  Nearly.  Thank you friends for phone calls/texts; you people who I know well – who know me well, and who know yourselves the wallop of hard things.  In one conversation the words of Psalm 23 about the darkest valley (or valley of the shadow of death) came up and the truth that its real but we can “walk” through it because were not alone in it.  I would admit sometimes the walking looks more like crawling with bloodshot eyes, snot running out of your nose, gasping for air.  Or looks like fist pounding on what seems like steel doors, crying for mercy.   We’re not alone.  The opposite of the darkest valley makes me vividly aware of my need for the Presence of Jesus.

The valley of the shadow of death isn’t imaginary.  It isn’t figurative.  The shadowy valley of darkness isn’t inviting or attractive, never on someone’s bucket list.  No one will escape it.  Though most will want to avoid walking through it themselves or with someone they love.  Normal.   I find its hard to breathe and my chest feels tight and I can’t swallow easily  when I’m walking through that valley myself or alongside someone.  A sense of helplessness bounces off the valley walls: ‘I can’t make this go away; I HATE this; I can’t DO anything to change the outcome; I can’t fix anything; I have no control; I don’t want this to be happening.’ It is threatening and oppressive – alone.   Ps 23: 4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil for You (Jesus) are with me;  your rod and your staff will comfort me.”  I will walk through dark valleys but I can without fear…and with provision, protection, comfort, peace – the Light.  You can too; we are NOT alone.

Joy meet grief.  Sorrow meet beauty.  Celebration meet suffering.  Dark valley meet Light. These opposites actually seem to attract.  My friend Rachel told me about an unreal circumstance her friend is living right now, unborn baby, cancer.  no No NO.  Same story: best doctors available, treatment, plans for summer, and the beauty of a Spirit filled prayer.  Please – pray for Rachels friend, her name is Rachel.

And Please don’t push back on the light in your own life, maybe a birthday celebration, maybe a baby on the way,  an engagement, vacation, a childs school program, the job you like, a snow day, even if you also have unreal circumstances in your life – in your friend, family, neighbors life.

Yesterday Dirk the pastor told the story of Elijah who was in the darkest valley; ( I Kings 19 ), Elijah who just had his life threatened by a nasty angry kings wife; a prophet who had ENOUGH; a man of great faith who was just done; who was afraid; who ran away – away from people and places and civilization.  He got to the wilderness alone, away from the dark place, but not really away from the fear or feelings of being overwhelmed.  He lands under a bush and actually prays this prayer:  “Enough of this God, take my life, I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave.”  Then he falls asleep.  I hate to admit, but I get you Elijah.  I relate to the fear for my life, to the having had enough, to the desire to run far away from people, places, civilization.  Anyone else want out of the dark valley?

Thank goodness Dirk the pastor included the next 5 verses.  Here is where the opposite of despair shows up.  An angel shakes Elijah awake and fixes him breakfast!  More sleep, more food and he is ready to take up a long journey to a place where God Himself comes to Elijah in a gentle whisper and sets him back on his feet, back on task. Dark doesn’t win.  I again relate to this story – arriving home, exhausted and waking up to someone making me a great cup of coffee and an spinach, egg, and cheese mexican breakfast torte smothered in Nanita’s hot green chili.  Thanks JR,  you angel you.

People, please believe me.  God is for real.  He is good.  He is greater than the darkness which is also so very real and no one denies.    Don’t push back on Who the Light Is.  If you are curious or skeptic, desperate or not; if you have sat in a church for years and are pretending to believe but really don’t, or have never asked a single question about God – Please just ask God to show Himself to you.  He will.  I can’t help but share what is so real for me in the current dark valley.  I don’t know too many people who haven’t lived through rough patches.  What I know to be true is that the greatest opposite of those places, of those people, of those circumstances is the way Jesus shows up, encourages me and sets me back on my feet – back to living.  He is doing that now.  The cancer isn’t gone, the crap isn’t gone, I’m not done walking through.  But I didn’t run and die alone under a bush.  And I know for certain – I am not walking through alone.

Are you in a dark or dangerous place?  Is hard piling up?  Wanna run?  Too overwhelmed to even know what you need?  This is true: You Are Not Alone.  God is everywhere and will not let you be overcome.  As we are unique, our circumstances unique, God meets us uniquely.

Sometimes it begins with breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wisdom For A Decade September 21, 2014

The Wise Woman’s Stone

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream.  The next day she met another traveler who was hungry and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food.  The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him.  She did so without hesitation.

The Traveler left rejoicing in his good fortune.  He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.  “I’ve been thinking,” he said.  “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious.  Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone.”

                                                                                                                                    from The Best of Bits and Pieces

There are a number of especially wise women in my life.  One raised me.  A couple are long time friends.  One is a couple of decades older, a few are a decade or two  younger.  I know this is a gift – to have more than one wise woman who will speak into your life.

Alice is one woman of wisdom who shares what I have to look forward to, prior too each decade birthday.  On the eve of this 50th decade, I would like to pass along the wisdom of the decades I’ve received.

Prior to turning 30 I fought, kicked, bit, pushed, pulled, and attempted to ignore the fact I would not be 20something anymore.  Into this somewhat….ok completely immature and ridiculous behavior Alice the wise woman spoke.

“Laura, the 30’s are the age of wisdom and beauty.”

Well that put a different spin on things.   And so the decade went, where I realized some of the beauty she spoke of was inner, not just outer.

Prior to turning 40, there were no tantrums.  Yet, I wasn’t anticipating what sounded like an older-ish decade with any enthusiasm.  I called Alice.

“Hi Alice,  I was wondering if you had thoughts on what I have to look forward to in my 40’s?  You told me the 30’s would be the age of wisdom and beauty, what are the 40’s the age of?”

Her reply:  “Ugh, aging.  And denial…about aging.”

“Really?!”  I said with a look on my face that  appropriately reflected her answer.  “You are telling me that I am going from wisdom and beauty to Aging and Denial?  Forget it.  I’m tapping out.”

After some thought she said something wonderful that I have found to come true…slowly… over the last 10 years. “Freedom.  You find the Freedom to know and be who you are.”

This week, finishing up being “still in my 40’s” (and saying that A LOT), I contacted the wise woman.  Before I share what she said, there are two things you need to know.

  1.  My physician, Dr. David Thayer in Boulder CO,  has been my MD for 30 years.  The last few annual appointments he said:  “My job is to get you to 100 and then you are on your own.”  I take him seriously.  The whole ‘over-the-hill’ thing I am rejecting.  I think this is the half-way-there mark.
  2. This wise and wonderful friend has spent this year getting to know Cancer, Chemo, Surgery, Needles, Drains, Drugs, Discouragement, Doubt, Pain, Nausea, Help, Healing, Hope, very personally.  I won’t lie, I hesitated calling.  Yet, I’ve known Alice long enough to push hesitation aside.  You see, her wisdom & truth come from a heart and mind tuned into the Holy Spirit; from life experience and lessons learned through rough patches.  I knew I wanted what she had to give.

Here is the actual dialogue:

Me – still in my 40’s:
That time has come again.  Alice, what do I have to look forward to in the decade of the 50’s?
Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
Alice:
Hi Laura!

It’s so good to hear from you! ❤️

What to look forward to in the 50’s?

Grandchildren! 😀 But that element is outside our control and determination. However it is an effervescent gift beyond words!

By God’s grace my marriage survived the 30’s and 40’s, and I can say the 50’s is the most rewarding decade of all with my husband. Our love has deepened through trial and longevity. We enjoy hanging out together!

This is a quieter decade. Our nest is empty. And that’s okay.

Finally having the guts in this decade (where maybe I’ve grown a little bolder) to pursue God’s call to write full-time. And having the new maturity to cast everything aside that hinders the call (even the very good stuff) as I pursue His will and way.

Finally understanding His choice is the best possible one for me, designed for me — to bless others in His name — as I run the race He’s set before me. (And I fought tooth and nail to avoid his initial call! I was so afraid! 😩)

I think there’s less fear in this decade.

Greatest 50’s gift — God is gifting me with a significant life purpose as scribe. I don’t need to live vicariously and bug my grown kids to create my life. I get to live through my own life! 😀

Hope that helps as you step into a new decade sister! 🎉🎉🎉🎉

Talk soon.
Alice

Alice again – a follow-up reflection:
One more thing —

In my fifties I learned I’m vulnerable to disease. 😥

So now in recovery I try to view each new day as a gift and to be thankful for it.

❤️

Based on this wisdom, I think tomorrow may be the beginning of the Best Decade Yet!   I decided I’m going to strap on my Great Anticipation Cape and leap forward with feet flying, arms flailing, and shouting:  “HERE’S TO BEING HALF WAY THERE!”
 

Pizza Floats August 24, 2014

I have an issue with getting started.  Its just plain hard to get going on anything.  My issues shows up first thing in the morning; getting out of bed; putting on my swimsuit to do laps; getting all the necessary car paraphernalia together to go somewhere; sitting down to write something; dialing a phone to call a friend; the full list would bore you.  So today it was not a surprise that it was hard to get myself going EVEN to go kayaking with the hubby.  I normally overcome the getting started issue and did today – thankfully.   This morning paddle was a chance for exercise, enjoyment, and fear facing.

 

And I found out that pizza floats.

 

Calvin the dog and I mutually enjoy one anothers company.  He made it clear that he would like to be with me on the kayak.  So, he got strapped into the a dog life vest I recently purchased.  Don’t laugh – today it did just what I needed it to do.

Before the hubby was seated on his kayak, Calvin fell/slid/losthisbalance/jumped out of the boat.   Know that I am not afraid of the ocean, but am afraid of this sting-ray, big fish, gigantic iguana infested intracoastal water.  For the dog, I am afraid of not getting him back in the kayak, and that he might swim away from me in front of another boat or too close to the razor sharp barnacles.  Reasonable Fear.

Calvin went out of the boat twice (the second time followed the pizza sighting).    We did not capsize.  I did not go in.  The handle on top of the dog life vest made it possible for me to pull his soggy 80 lb body onto the kayak.  I Am No Longer Afraid…to kayak with the lab…who whined the entire ride.   I now know if he ends up in the intracoastal, I don’t have to join him.

Halfway through our mostly delightful yak paddle, we came upon a large slice of pepperoni.  Pizza Was Floating, I never wondered before if pizza floats, but I am here to let you readers know – it does.  Pass it on.  Eat it, throw it away, but please don’t put it in the ocean. Yuck.

Dinner tonight – Pizza.  My Adie-foodie-friend shared this recipe via her son who prepared it for her.  It apparently has the WOW factor.  Looks simple enough to make.  I make my own pizza crust because its yummy, easy, & inexpensive.  No special recipe for that part.  Here is the  recipe for Malaysian Chicken Pizza

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons natural-style chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 (12-inch) Basic Pizza Crust
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 500°.

2. Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl; stir well with a whisk.

3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove chicken from pan.

4. Pour rice vinegar mixture into pan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 6 minutes or until slightly thickened. Return chicken to pan; cook 1 minute or until chicken is done. (Mixture will be consistency of thick syrup.)

5. Sprinkle cheeses over prepared Basic Pizza Crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border; top with chicken mixture. Bake at 500° on bottom oven rack for 12 minutes or until crust is golden. Sprinkle with green onions. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Note:  This recipe originally ran in Cooking Light September/October, 1991 and was updated for the November, 2012 25th anniversary issue.

(more…)

 

The Hubby and The Ham Balls May 16, 2014

Filed under: Birthdays,Cats,Creativity,Fear,Food Stories,My husband,Uncategorized,Writing — lauradegroot @ 11:44 pm
Tags: ,

Disclaimer for my vegetarian/vegan friends:  the following contains material of the meat type.  In no way is it meant to offend or gross you out.

The Vitamix earned its keep.  Today it ground up the last of my ham.

I’ve owned this bad boy for approximately 6 weeks.  The majority of its life in the DeGroot household has been spent pulverizing seeds, blending fruit, and smoothie-ing kale and spinach into our breakfast (pictured below).  The Vitamix came with a recipe book which I’ve read more than once.  Most recipes take less than 5 minutes which means a fresh batch of hummus for a snack, lunch, or appetizer is always an option.  Because the hummus is so delicious and simple, garbanzo beans show up on my grocery list all the time.   That is, until I came home with 2 more cans and when I put them away I realized I already had 6.

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“Settle down with the garbanzos now Laura.”  I know I know.  I always want more of a good thing and got a little crazy with chick peas.

The Hubby has had his eye on the Vitamix for some years.  Not a new one, but the one that he could possibly inherit.  Thankfully, the relatives who own said Vitamix are in great health.  No impending inheritance…  So I suggested we save up our “funny money” & birthday money to buy our own.  The Hubby immediately labeled an envelope,  we accumulated the funds, and recently purchased the item our children now can inherit!    (But not for MANY years girls).

I can’t decide if this marvelous machine is a toy or a tool.  Either way it is a creative outlet and helps me live out my love language:  “Love people; Cook them tasty food.”

Back to the ground up ham.  I did a small batch at first.  Used the pulse button on level 5.  I didn’t want to make ham glue.  When I poured…shook…well, kinda poured-shook-scooped the ham out onto a plate I felt like something special happened in my kitchen.  I threw a little into my almost scrambled egg.  I gave Pekoe the cross-eyed kitty a few bits in her bowl.  Calvin ate them.  I gave Pekoe a few more bits in her bowl.  (Rabbit trail…Pekoe will only eat wet food.  All her 11 years of life – no dry, no cat treats, however she loves ham and pancakes.   Cats Are Weird.) I did give Calvin one ham chunk even though he stole Pekoes.  And then I talked to the ham.  “I just don’t know what to do with you yet.”

I might be lonely.  Or just really excited about making my own ground ham.

Grandma Rozie came to mind.  She used to make such good meat.  That may be where my affinity for things made with ground ham started.  Ham salad, like tuna or chicken salad, was pretty common in the midwest, best served on a soft squishy buttered white bun.  Even better was ham loaf, like meat loaf, with BBQ sauce on top.  And then there are the ham balls.  Ummmmmmm.  My mouth is watering right now.  They too are baked with a sweet and sour or BBQ sauce of some type and because of their shape, every bite comes with sauce.

The credit for the idea to use the Vitamix to grind up that ham goes to…….The Hubby!   He suggested it in hope of getting some hamballs.  I debated, I procrastinated, I almost gave up and just sliced it.  So why the emotional drama over meat?

I was afraid it wouldn’t work and I would end up with nasty ham paste, a clogged up Vitamix, and wasted time.  That’s the truth.  Ridiculous fear in this profoundly mundane thing of life.  Truthfully,  fear (ridiculous or not) often has a stronghold in the somewhat and profoundly difficult things of my life too often.  I’m working on a project about fear Knots and fear Nots.  My hope is to discover, then have as my own, tools and truths to fight and conquer fear and anxiety.

I will reach a mile marker this year – getting half way to one hundred.  Some people when facing this age,  set goals and train for triathlons, conquering high mountains or long bike journeys.  My goal is to live the second half of my life un-afraid.  I’m training for that.  On my desk are notecards with 34 of the 365 verses where Scripture says “do not be afraid/anxious/worried.”  These are some of the tools and truths I hope to understand and use to run my race.

And, like I share the wonder of the Vitamix, I hope to share what I learn about what it takes to live un-afraid.

Back to the ground up ham.  I think I know what I’m going to do with it.  Its time to call mom for a ham-ball recipe.  Hubby, this is your lucky day.

 

 

 
followingthewatershed

wa·ter·shed (noun) 1. an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. 2. an event or period marking a turning point, a change of course.

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noticing joy on the surface of simple things … the evidence of holiness happening in the daily grind.

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