Lent musings #2

 

 

Another week of engaging with my Lent app and I am finding it a powerful way to re-focus on what is really important. The message of each daily devotion is not about me at all – no lifting me up, making me feel better about myself, no setting vision or discovering my purpose.

It’s a message that invites me to meet God in the desert places, the wilderness, the prison cell and to  linger there a while  if that is where He is speaking to me. It’s a message that  challenges me to look out, see beyond myself; to stand next to and reach out to the other, the stranger, the not-like-me.

Then as my day goes on, I am again immersed in the flow of social media, colourful, busy, exciting, enticing  me through endless memes and inspirational quotes to follow my dreams, have my best life now, believe for the impossible. I’m not sure about others but this often leaves me with a vague sense of dissatisfaction that my life is very mundane and ordinary, and that others are having much more exciting life adventures than me.

Jesus didn’t seem to say a heck of lot about personal fulfilment and I suspect at least   couple of the disciples might have had to lay their personal dreams down when making the decision to follow Him.

I saw a great tweet- “The Prosperity Gospel marketed to Millennials is not cars and money, it’s the fulfilment of personal aspirations.”(@DanielWhite). This really struck a chord with me (and I am way too old to be a Millennial). We continuously are encouraged to focus on developing ourselves: live that dream, realise our potential, take  that first step to becoming great, do something extraordinary.

Such a delicate balance between leading a life of meaning and purpose, ordinary though that might look; and  honing your life looks until it looks like the one on your Instagram account.

So I re-read the reflections for this day on my app.  And I get a glimpse of the Kingdom and the small but vital part I have to play in it. And I am content.

There may be more to learn by climbing the same mountain a hundred times than by climbing a hundred different mountains.

Richard Nelson
The Island Within

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Lent musings #1

A thought-provoking article Death, the Prosperity Doctrine and Me was sent to me by my husband yesterday, and then it popped up on my FB feed. It’s a beautiful and honest piece written by the author just after she was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer at the age of 35. I’ve read it several times  since then and it’s really challenged me.

The temptations of the world are so subtle. We might say we don’t buy into a prosperity doctrine but I am challenged almost daily at the moment as to how this has subtly leeched into my theology. There’s a fine line between  being grateful for the blessings that flow from grace and being confident as a child of God; and expecting that God will provide me with the life and opportunities I secretly think I deserve. Yes God has a plan and a purpose for our lives but it might (in fact probably won’t) be quite what we have lined up for ourselves.

Coincidentally (or not I suspect) I’m working through a 40 Days of Lent app which focuses on matters about as far away from the prosperity gospel as you can go. This is the first time I’ve really focused on Lent (I’m ashamed to say) and it is definitely changing my perspective.

“Into the Desert” is a fantastic free digital resource (available on Google Play and in the AppStore) put out by the Australian Anglican Board of Mission. consists of daily scriptures, reflections and prayers for the 40 days leading up to Easter. It explores the imagery of the desert, the words of the desert fathers and mothers, and  importance of the wilderness and emptiness at times in our journey. It’s not too late to jump into the study if you are looking for something to hone your focus at this time.

“Do not always want everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases; then you will always be undisturbed and grateful in your prayer.”
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Empty nest?

At the interesting  and definitely enjoyable stage of life we find ourselves, we often get asked about what it’s like having an empty nest, especially as our nest was such a big one!  ‘Empty nest’ to me is quite a negative phrase and always seems to be accompanied by images of forlorn nests slowly falling apart, tufts of baby feathers the only reminder that this nest once was full of bustling life and energy. We even describe it as  Empty Nest Syndrome  and there is a lot written about it, much of it dire.  I’m certainly not saying that this isn’t a difficult and challenging time as we learn to let our children go – but the connotations of an abandoned nest don’t help.

The analogy breaks down pretty quickly too – don’t most birds build a new nest every year? Do the newly flighted fledglings come back for dinner/budgeting advice/free laundry/more dinner? Do the adult birds visit the nests of their children to check out their eggs and chicks?

Our adult children and our one remaining teenager are definitely carving out their own paths – spouses, houses, babies, overseas study –  but our home is still full of people coming and going. Lots of celebrations and family dinners with those living in the same town as us; endless FB messenger conversations, photos,snapchats  and videos with the teenager and his girlfriend so many miles away in the UK.

This weekend we hosted 40 people for a baby shower for our daughter  and son-in-law  (It was more of a full-on party as the guys were all invited too. As our son-in-law said – it’s his baby too!) We  got to talk to  some of their friends we had not seen before, or had only said a quick hello to at church. It was a wonderful occasion, helped by a beautiful Auckland afternoon – community being extended and strengthened, lots of laughing and connecting, toddlers staggering around, new babies being admired.

The last thing our home felt like yesterday was an empty nest. Yes today the house is very quiet (just me and the animals) but I know that this nest isn’t empty, isn’t forlorn, and hasn’t lost its purpose as a hub for our family. While part of me misses when they were young and I was essential to their lives; another bigger part of me loves being the parent of adults. I don’t want to spend the next few years mourning the loss of one facet of parenting, huge though it was, and risk missing out on the richness of the next phase.

So I’m looking for a new analogy to describe a family where the children  have left home – something more positive than the dreaded empty nest. Anyone got any ideas?

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Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins

Step aside cupcakes – I reckon muffins are due for a comeback!  Endless possibilities for different flavour combinations and a great way to use up fruit that hasn’t been eaten. When our children were growing up we would easily go through a couple of batches a week and I always had some in the freezer.

I’ve been sitting on the urge to make some muffins all week. The argument against making them is that  there’s only three of us at home now so we will end up eating more of them than we probably should. The argument for is, well, muffins!

Below is a basic muffin recipe that can be experimented on easily. I went for raspberry and white chocolate as I had a punnet of fresh raspberries in the fridge and a packet of white chocolate chips half open. I love using white chocolate chips as the exposed ones caramelise during cooking and might actually be the best part. Any that fall off when transferring the muffins to a cooling rack are fair game to be picked off by the cook!

A couple of tips for really great muffins. Use a separate bowl for the dry ingredients and add the mixed wet ingredients to it. I usually mix the wet ingredients in my stand mixer and fold them into the dry ingredients with a spatula.

You want to combine them with a minimum of mixing – you don’t want to end up with an elastic looking mix as the muffins will be dry and tough.

These are suitable to freeze.

Basic mixture

Wet mix

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup white chocolate chips (can substitute milk or dark)

3/4 – 1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen (can substitute blueberries)

 

Dry mix

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour

 

Method

Grease the muffin tins or line with muffin cases. Pre-heat oven to 200° C.

Blend butter and sugar together thoroughly. Beat in the eggs and then milk.  Mix in chocolate chips and raspberries, taking care to keep raspberries as intact as possible. Gently fold the wet mixture into the flour making sure you don’t over-mix.

Place large spoonfuls into prepared muffin tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 – 20 minutes.  Muffins are cooked if they spring back when touched or when a cake tester or knife comes out clean.

Makes 12 – 14

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Chasing Lemons

Those who know me will know that one of the loves of my life is our Cavspoodle Bosco. Having some Cocker Spaniel genes in the more usual Cavalier/Poodle makes him a delightfully complicated  and slightly neurotic little being.

One of the loves of his life is tennis balls. He has a running file in his head of where they are stashed, where one might have been hidden, which bed one is stuck under. if he finds a trapped or inaccessible one he will not stop whining and worrying until it is safely set free.

Recently I bought a ceramic lemon for the new bookshelves in our new house – no particular reason except it is pretty, matches our curtains and has a nice feel when you pick it up.

Bosco lemonUpon spying it, Bosco went into full-on lost tennis ball mode. He was so excited to meet this new companion. I took it down and showed it to him and he was obviously shocked, then confused and then devastated – how could this be? He tried biting it and licking it and eventually settled for eying it with disgust. Back onto the shelf it went.

Bosco is a pretty smart little dog and usually learns things quickly.
Not so with the ceramic lemon. It’s been in our house for a month and I  will still often catch him staring at it longingly, or laying beneath the book shelves. Every time I take it down he is again surprised andIMG_1706 disappointed that it isn’t a tennis ball. I have even let him try to play with it. I am assuming that eventually he will realise that it is not, never has been and never will be  a tennis ball. But he can’t tell just by looking – he has to taste it and lick it to be convinced.

Despite a  similarity in colour and a vague likeness in shape these are not the same. One will break if dropped, one will bounce. One is flexible and one is unyielding. One will roll and travel, one will not. One has potential and energy, one does not.

There’s a few things in my life  that I thought were tennis balls that have turned out to be ceramic lemons. I have spent a lot of time re-examining and picking things back up and, like Bosco, being surprised to find out that they are useless inflexible items rather than the bouncy ball full of potential that I thought they were.

This year I’m keen to learn to leave the ceramic lemons  on the shelf and focus on getting on with ferreting out some of the tennis balls under the couch or buried in a pile of leaves, or even opening a tube of brand new ones.

Sunday night frittata

We do our very best on Sunday nights to cook only with what’s in the fridge/pantry – which can mean some interesting dinners. One of my go-tos is a frittata as it is incredibly forgiving to creative and unusual combinations of ingredients.

This week I assembled some slightly shrivelled mushrooms, a few overripe tomatoes, kale and herbs from the vege jungle,a red onion, some potatoes and a block of halloumi I had bought and forgotten to use.

While chopping things up I also discovered the bonus of a couple of chorizo.

Kale, Chorizo and Halloumi Frittata

olive oil
1 red onion
handful mushrooms (optional)
2-3 small chorizo
three medium potatoes (can also use sweet potato)
4-6 eggs
herbs – I used thyme and rosemary
salt and pepper
halloumi cheese
bunch of kale (or spinach, chard etc), washed and chopped
tomatoes (enough to put a few slices on the top of the fritatta)

Peel and chop potatoes and boil until just cooked through. They will cook a little more in the frittata but not much so you want them to be soft but not falling apart. While they are  cooking, heat some olive oil in a large oven-proof pan and saute onion, mushrooms and chorizo.

Drain potatoes thoroughly and add to the pan. Continue frying gently for around 5 minutes. If your potatoes are a little hard you can extend this phase.

Whisk up eggs and add any herbs you are using, salt and pepper. If you need to extend the dish but only have a limited number of eggs you can add a little milk or cream.

Add a little more olive oil  to the pan, if necessary, turn the heat up and pour egg mixture evenly into hot pan. turn heat back to low and simmer at  for about 5 minutes to set the base.

Spread chopped kale evenly on top and then cover with slices of halloumi and tomato.

just before oven

Put under the grill until halloumi is golden and egg mixture is firm (about 10 minutes).

finished fritatta1

 

 

Meatball and Spinach Baked Ziti

This looks really good and will help solve our glut of silver-beet which I will use instead of spinach. Any homemade-tomato sauce will work well, or there is always the ubiquitous jar from the supermarket!

 

Inside Kel's Kitchen

This was originally shared by another blogger, but it looks delicious! Instead of the jarred marinara, I would use homemade. I posted an easy, low-fat marinara recipe back on 8/11/15.

Ingredients: Cooking spray, for baking dish 2 c. ziti Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 lb. ground round 1/2 small onion, chopped 1/4 c. panko breadcrumbs 2 garlic cloves, chopped 1 large egg 1 tbsp. canola oil 1/4 c. dry red wine 1 (24 oz.) jar marinara 2 bunches flat-leaf spinach, stems discarded and […]

http://sporkchop.com/2016/02/05/meatball-and-spinach-baked-ziti/

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