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Awesomely Blessed

We are blessed.  All of us.  When life is great and everything goes our way it is easy to recognize and easy to say.  As broken as the systems of this nation continue to be, if you live here, you are blessed. Yes, even when life takes unexpected turns. We have many more resources, opportunities, privileges, freedoms, and rights than most around the world. Should we be concerned when rights are ignored, twisted or revoked altogether? Sure, and there should also be a measured and appropriate response.  In the midst of our railing against wrongs though, let’s not forget to also be thankful. 

Be thankful for a roof over your head and shoes on your children’s feet. Be thankful for family, friends, or even strangers who show up when you are in need. While you’re at it, give thanks for grocery stores and power and transportation. Seriously. Above all, be thankful, blessed, and at peace knowing that God sees it all. He sees both the good and the bad and is not surprised. 

It is easy to feel like society, culture, country, and world are spinning out of control. That may be. Knowing that the God and creator of everything holds it all in the palm of His hand brings peace and assurance. 

Breakfast Anyone?

My new favorite start to the day is this delicious little scramble.  Start by sautéing diced green onions and sliced baby portobello mushrooms in a little olive or coconut oil.  Salt and pepper to suit your fancy.  Add in two eggs, lightly scrambled, and cook until almost set.  Crumble goat cheese over the top, reduce heat, and cover for about two more minutes.  The goat cheese will be just starting to melt and get creamy.  Voila!  Pair with fresh fruit and you have a delicious start to your day!Image

Find Your Rest

The holiday season is upon us!  It brings lights, trees, gifts, lots and lots of mouth-watering food, friends, family, probably some travel and (hopefully) some snow.  It can also bring something else.  Stress.  I know, burst your euphoric, jungle bell filled bubble, didn’t I.

When I pause the hustle and bustle of my life and take a good, hard look around something stands out.  Whether it’s a story in the news, an acquaintance, coworker or someone near and dear there are major things happening in the lives around us.  Sometimes good and sometimes not-so-good, these stressors tend to take on a life of their own.  When they do they can morph into a Goliath.

Goliaths become bigger than life.  Goliaths are consuming.  They exhaust our mental and emotional resources and can suck our souls dry,  leaving us paralyzed on the side of the road, desperate for escape.

When we curl up and rest at the feet of Jesus, our personal Goliaths begin to shrink.  All of them.   They shrink because they are not ours to bear any longer.   They shrink because we turn them over, we give them up, we no longer try to desperately manage them.  Our Goliath ceases to be that dead weight around our neck pulling us to unforeseen depths.  It stops consuming us.  The yoke is lifted.

This world’s yoke is a heavy, back-breaking, beast that we were never meant to carry.  And we don’t have to.  I was reminded today that when we are at our Father’s feet, with our eyes upon Him, we truly find rest.  He takes our burdens, if we bring them to Him.  He lifts the heavy yoke, if we trade it for His.  In this world that is relentlessly taking, taking, taking, He delivers.  He moves our mountains for us, or flattens them into plains, or carries us over or around.  You see, we are not always delivered from our trials.   Sometimes, we are painstakingly, mercifully, beautifully, delivered through them.  When we come to Him.  When we let go.  When we throw our hands up and scream, “I can’t!”, He does.

Rest.  Curl up at His feet.  Lay your burdens down before the only one who can take them.  He came to deliver the burdened, to give rest to weary souls, to love.  He waits to give you the relief you so desperately need.

Rest.

Remembering…. and learning

September 11th.

9-11

It has been twelve years since the towers came crashing down, since so very many lives were lost.  In that day, in those moments we were all changed.  As the years have gone by, though, many have begun to say that we’ve heard enough, that it is time to move on.  Yet, this morning I find myself compelled and driven to bring 9/11 to my children, to lay it and all its heartache and all its lessons in their laps.  Oh, they’ve heard the phrases “twin towers” and “9/11”, and we have certainly explained the day to them in the past.  But, even they, find themselves, this year, not knowing or not remembering what happened.  It breaks my heart.  It also gives me pause.

The most significant event of our recent history should never be forgotten, should never be brushed aside, should never be treated like a reminder to do our chores, bringing barely tolerant sighs – even from the adults.

Why the drive to teach them again this year?  Maybe it is because, when I look down my street, not a single flag is flying.  Maybe it is because most of those houses don’t even own a flag.  Maybe it is because when we forget the lessons we should have learned then we run the very real and great risk of having to learn that lesson again.  Maybe it is because, as a nation, we have made ourselves vulnerable and weak in recent years.  And, particularly, in recent days.  Maybe it is because our nations’ children should not have to relive and repeat tragedies because we got tired of hearing “the same ol’, same ol'”.  Our laziness and foolishness will lead to their harm.  Maybe it is because we really do learn from lessons past down generation to generation and this younger generation is being fed a washed off, cleaned up, distorted can of worms.

When this nation is vulnerable, my children are vulnerable.  They deserve to know why.  They have the RIGHT to know why.

So, we will spend some time today.  We will watch the memorials.  Yes, they will see the images.  They will hear the heartbreak that still lingers in the voices of those who lost so much more significantly than we did that day.  We will talk politics.  And religion.  We will talk of love and hate.  We will discuss and debate and reflect and soul search.  We will talk about lessons to learn from really bad things in life.  Perhaps a little innocence will be lost.  That I do regret.  But as I prepare to gather them in I cannot negotiate that consequence away.  It is necessary.  And I love them.  And they will be aware, and they will have informed and educated opinions of their own, and they will know truth and be able to separate it from the rest.

Because they are young and vulnerable.

Because we have the responsibility to protect and teach them.

Because I love them.

Birthdays, Angry Star Wars Birds, and Boys

It was birthday time again.  Again. My children just refuse to listen when I tell them that they aren’t allowed to get any older or bigger.  And, so, here we were.  Another year past.  More clothes and shoes outgrown and creeping farther into the land of tween boys.  Yikes!  That kid’s feet are getting huge!

A number of years ago I made the mistake, er, joyous discovery, of creating ‘special’, ‘personalized’ (*read: complicated, time consuming, and brain numbing  – yet strangely satisfying) cakes for them.  Seriously, what was I thinking?!  A box mix cake, in a casserole dish with a can of frosting and the appropriate number of candles stuck in the top is a beautiful, quick, and relaxing thing!  Really, I mean it!  And , every time I go back to that they give me the ‘look’.  You know the one.  It’s the, “gee, thanks”, “oh”, “you shouldn’t have, oh, wait, you didn’t” look.  It’s the one that says, “Mom, I like it.  I was just kinda hoping it would be something like the dragon you made that one year.”

So, when Scout came up and asked what kind of cake I was going to make and proceeded to show me sketches of ideas he had come up with I knew there was no getting out of it.  I had to make the lad a cake.  What to do, what to do?!  For some reason coming up with a theme for a tween boy was challenging.  His ideas were terrific – and incredibly detailed and complicated.  I really, really, really wanted to retain some shred of sanity when all was said and done.  Eventually I settled on Star Wars Angry Birds.  Luke Skywalker it would be!  We managed to find a decent gluten-free cake mix to boot!  Hooray!  No, I was not willing to experiment with a scratch mix at the last minute.  I’m not that crazy!

He loved it.  The only thing missing was a light saber, which I ran out of time to complete before we had to head across town to celebrate with a nice healthy dose of pizza and laser tag.  Don’t worry though, we all got to eat chunk upon chunk off the half finished weapon later that night.

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Here we are, the final product.  There are definitely improvements I would make on a repeat effort but considering how long it has been since I’ve really tackled one, I’m satisfied.  More importantly, Scout thought it looked and tasted great.  I call that a success!

Mexicali Stew and Blueberry Pancake Kind of Week

Tocci Cafe

The Tocci Cafe is open, and oh, so delicious!  That’s what my little monkeys dubbed our kitchen some time ago and boy, are they knockin’ it outta the park. I can’t wait to see what they are going to try next.

This Week:

Mexicali Chicken-Tortilla Stew

Homemade Corn Bread (gf)

Blueberry Pancakes (gf)

Burgers and BLT Salad

Ham Cannon Balls

Green Beans with Lemon-Herb Butter

The Mexicali Stew was sensational and our oldest did a fine job of preparing it and the corn bread in time for a very busy evening.  I should have a lovely, tantalizing photo for you.  But, no.  I spent the last two days feasting on the leftovers for lunch.  Yum!  I’ll do better, I promise!

The original stew recipe is from Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cooking, click the link to find it on Amazon.  We did a little tweaking, cuz that’s what we do, and used what we had.  While we love black beans, we happened to be out and used kidney instead – still delish!  This was definitely one to keep and use again later.

Tocci Café version:

2lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast 48 oz. chicken broth 1Tbsp. olive oil
½ – ¾  c. chopped onion 2 tsp. minced garlic 2 c. chunky salsa
1 c. frozen corn 1 Tbsp chili powder 4-6 soft corn tortillas, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, diced 1 can (15oz.) black beans, rinsed, drained 1 can (15oz.) kidney beans, rinsed, drained

In medium pan, boil chicken and broth.  Reduce to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes until chicken is done.  While this is cooking, heat oil in large pot and cook onion and garlic until tender.  When chicken is fully cooked, remove from broth and set aside.  Add broth to garlic and onions along with the rest of your ingredients.  Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes.  Shred chicken and add to stew.  Cook another 5 minutes until heated through.  Top as you like with shredded cheese, sour cream and cilantro.

Enjoy!