Day 3/31 Five Minute Free Writes: Believe

Day 3

As a mother of two babies, I can scratch the surface of understanding how God feels about me.  When I look at my precious girls, I look at their big blue eyes, long eyelashes, ginger curls, dimpled fingers, chubby thighs, knee rolls, doughy bellies, tiny toes, and not quite pinned back ears with adoration.  Each part of them is something unique to them, yet still part of me.  Everything about them is perfect, intentionally created.  Nothing about them physically would I change.  How much more love and grace does our Creator have for us, when I can’t fathom the depth of love and grace I have for my own children?  I believe God has created each of us exactly how we are supposed to be, despite how we feel about ourselves.  Feelings are fleeting, but I know we are each created for a purpose.

 

This song from Lauren Daigle is so beautiful, and the lyrics hit to the core:

 

Day 2/31 Five Minute Free Writes: Afraid

Day 2

Afraid to speak the words I know to be true

afraid to speak truth

for fear of the repercussions of confrontation.

will the truth be accepted?

0r will the truth be despised?

my stomach is sick, churning like the ocean waves of a storm.

my hands are shaking

my ears are hot

knowing the words I say need to be said

but the fear of your response

gives me pause.

until I realize that the truth will not be spoken to you if I stay silent.

Day 1/31 Five Minute Free Writes: Story

Day 1

I always have thought that God has a sense of humor, and that He allows funny things to happen to people who can tell great stories.  When I meet people I want to know their story.  I want to know where they’re from, what their family is like, what their interests are.  As a mom, I am interested in knowing what other moms were like before they had kids.  Becoming a mother is not a dream killer, we just use our energy in encouraging and fostering our kids’ dreams over our own.  There is a story behind the eyes and face of every person, it just takes some intentional digging.

Five Minute Friday: Storm Crowd

Today, I’m writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group, and this week’s word is CROWD.  If you’d like to join in (or just to read other great bloggers’ work), the linkup is here.

Last week, the meteorologists predicted a beast of a hurricane to blast the coast of North and South Carolina.  Initially, it was charging the coast as a Category 4 like a Jurassic-sized tortoise, at under ten miles per hour.  My sister called me, just after my husband and I decided to open our home to any willing refugee family members living in Wilmington.  She asked if she could drive her two girls to our house, ages ten and eleven, before she was placed on lockdown at the main hospital there.  It’s been nearly a week, and blessedly, we have not seen nor felt nearly the ravages that most people who stayed in Wilmington have.  Thankfully, my parents, brother, and grandparents are safe despite staying.  Their homes neither flooded nor had trees crash on them, but they’re stuck in Wilmington.  All roads in and out are blocked by walls of water.  Wilmington has become an island.  A crowded one.  Our house has a few more girls than usual, but I’m thankful they’re here and not adding to the crowd there.

Five Minute Friday: Wonder in the RAIN

Today, I’m writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group, and this week’s word is RAIN.  If you’d like to join in (or just to read other great bloggers’ work), the linkup is here.

When I was a kid growing up in the sticks of Virginia, my mom would excitedly let my brother, sister, and I hang out on our front porch so we could watch as dark storm clouds rolled in.  Since our porch was covered, we felt perfectly safe under the roof even as hail balls the size of quarters pelted our front lawn.  Because of my mom being so excited for the storms, I never had a fear of those cracks of lightning or window-rattling booms of thunder.  I can’t however, say the same, for our dog Shep.  He was grateful we all piled onto the porch so he could weave around our laps for reassuring pets on the head and ear scratches.  Yesterday, a storm cloud was right over our house, yet the sun was bright in the sky just behind us.  I excitedly ran into my 2-year-old’s room and lifted up the shades so we both could see the sun glistening through the fat raindrops.  We then ran outside into the downpour so we could look for a rainbow.  We came back inside soaked and happy, despite not finding a rainbow.

Five Minute Friday: Please Don’t RUSH Me

Today, I’m back writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group after a several month hiatus, and this week’s word is RUSH.  If you’d like to join in, the linkup is here.

I can remember my mom half-joking with me growing up that she had “people to see and things to do.” She no doubt said that to me because I was notoriously slow in getting ready.  Everyone in my family knows it, and now my dear patient husband knows to give me at least a half hour buffer so I’ll show up on time.  While I am totally aware of the fact that I dawdle and lose track of time, I am not patient at all when it comes to other people making me late.  I have zero grace for that, as hypocritical as it may be.  And yet, I have a nearly six month old and a two-year-old girl. I have a feeling God is trying to teach me something.  If I have a plan in my mind to go grocery shopping or to get to the YMCA or some other place, inevitably, my two year old will take her sweet time eating her Cheerios one. at. a. time.  If I’m already running late to get somewhere,  of course, my baby will have a huge blow-out diaper I have to change.  When I really think about it, my childhood memories are so sweet.  The long days of summer seemed to last forever.  Birthdays and Christmas and Thanksgiving took a lifetime to arrive.  I don’t want to rush my babies through each day.  I want to breathe them in.  Savor the bubbles of their precious, fragile, and fleeting childhood.

 

Mom Connections

It was my second time back to my twice-a-month moms group after giving birth to my second baby girl. Several moms there asked me how I was doing.  At that time, my baby girl was six weeks old.  I was able to tell them all, without the tiniest inkling of feeling like I’d cry, how things were a million times better than they were even two weeks prior.  “You were having a hard time two weeks ago?” I was asked with shocked expressions.  I must have been putting up quite a brave front. Maybe I was wearing makeup? I had been on the verge of tears for four weeks straight two weeks before.  I’d felt like I had pulled an all-nighter since my baby had been born.  My 2-year-old would question me in my apparently surprising bursts of laughter, “Mommy crying?” because for most of the day, I had been streaming tears.  While seeming to be perceptive on one hand, she would also lunge for her baby sister’s head with her fingernails at every opportunity. She would angrily bark, “No!” every time her baby sister cried, which ripped my heart out.  As I drove home from that moms meeting, I was heavy-hearted. Had I not shared the truth about how I felt because I didn’t feel like the opportunity was there?  How many people do we encounter that are struggling but we never ask, because they seem to have it all together?   Or worse, maybe we don’t ask because we don’t want to go that deep with people.

Motherhood is incredibly isolating and lonely, particularly as a mother of babies. Prior to moving to Charlotte last July, we lived in Connecticut and I had just two close mom friends.  It wasn’t a lot, but those two moms were exactly what God knew I needed to get through the first year of my first-born daughter’s life.  Those women were my lifelines.  I met my first friend while working at Yale New Haven Hospital.  She was a PA and I was a research coordinator. She had three boys ages 1, 3, and 6, and invited me over at least once a week. I was terrified to drive anywhere with my tiny new baby in that huge car seat, but I drove to her house every time, which made me braver at each visit.  Initially, we would just have coffee in the morning, but then our visits turned into all day events.  We’d have coffee, lay our babies down for naps, we’d do an exercise video, and then sit on the couch or work in her garden and talk about life.  I met my second mom friend in our church’s community group. She had her baby boy a few months after I had my daughter, and it was such a sweet time of life for us to figure out together breastfeeding, sleep schedules, introducing first foods, and how to maintain a relationship with God and with our husbands when our babies were getting the first and best of us.

Sharing life and being completely transparent with those two women did not happen overnight.  It was a little awkward at first, but as we continued to see each other each week, we felt more comfortable and could share more intimately.  Along with prayer, they truly brought me through the first year of motherhood.  I don’t think I would have held on to my sanity or my joy without them.  Intentionality is the key to any relationship that is worth maintaining.  We must be intentional about getting together and/or having conversations, and we have to be brave and be willing to be real.  Facebook posts and texting just doesn’t cut it.  We were created for community.  Especially as moms, we need each other.  It seems the harder life is with small children, the harder it is to get out and be social.  I find myself not leaving my house for millions of reasons, like my baby is fussy, or because my two-year-old has a runny nose, or it’s a hundred degrees outside, or because I’m exhausted.  But I can feel the lack of kindred adult interaction drain me. When life is hardest and least convenient, that’s when we need encouragement and community the most.  Motherhood, and life in general, is messy, frustrating, gut-wrenching, emotionally and physically exhausting, but it is also beautiful, rewarding, and challenges us to become better.

We can only realize the full beauty and joy of raising children when we ourselves are filled. We cannot expect our children to fulfill our souls’ need for friendship and community. Firstly, God alone fills that hole.  He is our creator and only when we have a relationship with him is our identity found.  Secondly, we need other moms around us.  And not just any mom will do.  We need moms who are real, not afraid to bare their tears or scars through smiles and laughter.  We need moms who will not flinch when the truth is ugly.  We need moms who love their children for the God-given gifts they are, and who want to raise (or have raised) their kids to be bright lights and world-changers.  We need moms whose lives are also messy and inconvenient, but still choose to make the time to go deep.  This year, I’m jumping in.  I will be the first to be that mom.

Buttermilk biscuit muffins

I’m going to be up front and tell you that I did not grow up in a Southern family.  While I did grow up in Virginia, my mom grew up in the midwest and her parents were from California, and my dad was born in France and was raised by a French mother.  Nobody in my family will lynch me for making “non-traditional” biscuits.  However, if you and your family have your religion based on southern buttermilk biscuits, you may choose to stop here. However, I guarantee if you taste these babies, you will convert.  I actually was planning to make traditional buttermilk biscuits, but I didn’t want to make a dozen of them.  Biscuits always taste the best right out of the oven, and just don’t taste the same as leftovers.  So, I followed my recipe, cutting in half every ingredient.  That is, every ingredient except for the buttermilk.  I realized it only after pouring my whole amount of milk into my food processor, and watched it get completely absorbed by the flour.  There was no way to pour it out, so I decided to keep going with the recipe.  The dough was too wet to actually form into a ball, so I scooped it out into muffin cups and baked them for the same amount of time prescribed.  I was beyond excited that they came out into perfectly tender, flakey, buttery biscuit muffins.  They’re delicious with jam or honey and butter, or plain and serve them with gravy or with soups.  The only thing you may not be able to do with them as you would a traditional biscuit is make them into a sandwich because they’re so delicate.  As an added bonus, these are quick to prepare as long as you have a food processor.

This recipe makes enough dough for 6 muffins.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c plain cake flour (if you don’t have cake flour, substitute with all-purpose flour and use 1 Tbs more buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbs (half a stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 3/4 c cold buttermilk OR
    • Pour 1 Tbs lemon juice or white vinegar into a measuring cup.  Then, pour enough milk (nothing less than 2%- whole or even half & half is best) to fill to just above the 3/4 cup line.  Stir with a fork and allow to sit in fridge until ready to use.

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 450 degrees.
  2. Place all the dry ingredients into the food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Process with six 1-second pulses.  Or use a whisk and combine.
  3. Remove the cover of the food processor and distribute the butter pieces evenly over the dry ingredients.  Cover and process with twelve 1-second pulses.  If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingers to quickly cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

     

  4. If using the processor, remove the cover and pour the buttermilk evenly over the dough.  Process until the dough is completely combined, and there are no more flour pockets.  If making by hand, stir in the buttermilk with a rubber spatula or fork until completely combined.  The dough will be fluffy with lots of air bubbles.

5.  Scoop out with a rubber spatula into a greased muffin tin, or the silver muffin cup liners.  I used paper ones because that’s all I had, and they work, but when you want to eat them warm, some of the muffin sticks to the paper.

6.  Bake until the tops are light brown, 10-12 minutes.  Serve immediately.

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Fruit and Spinach Smoothie

A few years ago, one of my dear friends told me about a documentary entitled, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.”  While it sounds horribly depressing, it was actually a very uplifting and encouraging documentary about an Australian businessman who decided he was tired of being overweight and tired of popping steroids every day for an autoimmune disorder.  It was his quest to try a juice fast for 60 days while road-tripping around the US.  Throughout the film, he loses weight, his autoimmune disorder disappears, he comes completely off steroids (all monitored by his physician), and he helps other people along the way.  I was intrigued.  While I didn’t have weight to lose or an autoimmune disorder, I definitely didn’t feel like I was eating enough fruits or vegetables every day.  I didn’t have a Breville juicer, but I did have a Vitamix (a very cool and admittedly pricey, blender), and so I decided to start making a smoothie every day.  Starting from just before I got pregnant with my now two-year-old, I have been pretty consistent having one a day as long as I’m home and have access to my Vitamix.  If I skip a day, I actually crave one.  It’s a perfect way to get a bunch of fruits and veggies knocked out in one glass, and it’s darn delicious.

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This is my Vitamix. Probably the most utilized appliance in my kitchen.

This is a general recipe, but definitely feel free to add your own fruit mix to it.  This will make one HUGE smoothie, or enough for two medium sized glasses.

  • 1 ripe banana (you don’t want a totally green one or it will taste starchy, nor do you want a super spotty one that should be used for banana bread)
  • 1 good sized juicy fruit, seeded and cut into chunks (a peeled orange, a ripe peach, a ripe pear, or about 3/4 c of grapes all work great)
  • about 3/4 cups of plain cashew, almond, or coconut-milk yogurt  *stay away from dairy, and use this amazing Cashewgurt made by Forager Project*
  • 2 handfuls of organic baby spinach (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 c frozen mixed berries or other frozen fruit (I love the frozen blueberry, blackberry, strawberry mix- do NOT get the kind that has the kale in it. Yuck.)
  • 1 c water

other optional add-ins/replacements:

  • 2 Tbs flax seeds
  • 1-2 Tbs Elderberry syrup
  • replace the yogurt with a ripe avocado
  • 1 raw carrot or one cooled, peeled, roasted beet

Today’s smoothie consisted of a banana, a navel orange, cashewgurt, spinach, a carrot, Elderberry syrup, frozen mixed berries, and water.  Absolutely delicious.  And my two-year-old sucked it down too!

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An unexpected memory

I just found out last night that a man I used to work with nearly 18 years ago passed away last year.  John was a big, loud, boisterous guy whose daily uniform consisted of a short sleeve button down shirt and some Loony Toons tie.  He always had a story to tell, even if you didn’t have the time to hear it, nor the desire, since he never recollected which stories he’d already shared or with whom.  He had two little girls and was always proud to show off their pictures.  I remember he wanted to meet my dad and shake his hand when I told him that my dad had me watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail before letting me go off to college.

It was my first “real” job after college and I had eagerly accepted the opportunity to live in Baltimore, not far from where I had spent the first 16 years of my life.  Hearing the news about his passing brought a rush of memories to my mind from those nearly four years of my life.  During that time, the attacks on 9/11 occurred during the day we were all supposed to move our cubicles into the newly renovated part of our building.  All of us dragged out the move, one box at a time, as we each snuck out to the greasy restaurant next door to watch the only television in the building.  Our managers kept telling us to get back to work and be “billable,” since we were contracted for a specific project.  Of course, their warnings fell on deaf, distracted ears.  But, none of us had any idea how or how much the world would be forever changed that day.   Just over a year later, another crazy, scary event occurred.  In October 2002, there was a sniper going around the DC/Maryland area shooting people at random in parking lots and gas stations.  I can remember pumping gas with my heart thumping with fear in my chest.  As I squeezed the handle, I was purposely dancing around so I would be a harder-to-hit moving target, and laughed nervously as I met eyes with everyone else at the gas station thinking and doing the same thing.

Those three and a half years were formative ones, almost like an extension of college. Most of my coworkers had also just graduated from college, and this was their first job away from home.   The few, older coworkers we had ended up being reluctant parents to us all, no doubt shaking their heads and thanking their stars they were past this stage of life.  We all grew up while making a ton of dumb, embarrassing decisions in the process. Well, I sure made a ton of them anyways.  I don’t often get to see those Baltimore peeps, nor do I keep in touch with many of them, but that season in our lives links us.  No explanation is needed.  While I haven’t thought about John in several years, I mourn his loss.  While I wouldn’t go back and relive those years, those people and that time hold a special place in my heart.  A great quote from Steve Martin’s character in Father of the Bride said this, “Well, that’s the thing about life, is the surprises, the little things that sneak up on you and grab hold of you.”