Archive for September, 2011

Why small kindnesses matter

Sunday morning was rough for me.  I was in one of my feeling-down-about-myself moods and was feeling like a failure.  Combine a natural tendency toward depression with hormones and you get one ugly mess!  I didn’t feel like going to church and being around people, but went anyway, knowing that being with God always helps.  I cried through much of the worship, my husband’s supportive arm around me getting me through, along with Pastor Tom’s exhortation to the congregation to let go of our self-centered thoughts and fears and worship the Lord (which initially stung).

After the service, Steven went off to talk to someone, and I was just about to sit down to wait for him, not wanting to talk to anyone.  But, one of the worship team singers came up to me then.  She had seen my tears and was concerned about me.  We’re fairly new to this church and I hadn’t ever talked with her, so I was really touched.  She prayed for me and we chatted a bit.


Photo credit

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that her simple act of kindness changed the course of my day.  She helped me out of my dark world of self-pity and into the light of reality.  I was able to enjoy several other conversations with people at church and had a much lighter spirit the rest of the day.  I am so thankful for her willingness to reach out to me in love.  I hope I can someday do the same for someone else.

Have you been the recipient of a small kindness recently?  Or given a small kindness?

September 27, 2011 at 9:50 am Leave a comment

Love from the Kitchen – Fruit and Vegetable Curry

For me, cooking for others is one way I show my love for them.  Wish I could cook for everyone, but for now, the recipes will have to do!

 

Fruit and Vegetable Curry

 

This sweet and flavorful curry has become a favorite of ours!  It’s wonderful any time of year, but particularly on a cool evening.  We love dishes full of flavor, but not heavy on the heat.  I’ve adapted this recipe here by reducing the amount of cayenne pepper among other things.  Adjust to suit your preferences.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon peeled grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 dashes cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel or whole fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup cut green beans
  • 2 firm tart green pears or apples, cored and cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricot
  • 1/2 cup raisins or currants
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 2-3 dashes garam masala (optional)
  • bananas
  • other toppings (peanuts, pepitas, cashews, chutney, etc)

 

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. Sauté the onions in the peanut oil for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, ginger root, and spices and continue to sauté, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the zucchini and water and stir well so that the spices won’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Cover the pan and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
  5. Mix in the green beans, pears or apples, red bell peppers, and dried apricots.  Simmer gently, covered, for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally and add a little more water if needed to prevent sticking.
  6. When the fruit and vegetables are tender, stir in the raisins or currants and the apricot preserves.
  7. Taste the curry and adjust the flavor to your liking. Add cayenne or garam masala if it’s not spicy enough, lemon juice if you’d like more tartness, or more apricot preserves to intensify the sweetness.
  8. Serve on a bed of rice, topped with sliced bananas and/or any other topping you like.

 

How about you?  What’s your favorite curry recipe?

September 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm Leave a comment

Marriage Changes Things

Some time ago, a girlfriend told me that she thought she’d never marry because “marriage changes things”.  She meant it in a bad way as she looked at all the divorces and watched her mother’s husband go from a decent guy as her boyfriend to a nasty person after they married.  She saw marriage as the cause of the breakdown of these relationships.

This, of course, wasn’t reality, but she was right that marriage changes things.  It’s much more than just moving in with someone you love.  I knew this in theory, but didn’t understand what it really meant.

Steven and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary on Sunday.  So, naturally, I’m reflecting quite a lot these days.  We’ve had our ups and downs this year.  Our first few months were really difficult.  The transition was harder than I expected, and I was battling depression from the birth control I was taking.  But once I went off the birth control and we made some of the transition, things settled down.  We’ve developed some routines that work for us, and a deep comfort with each other is starting to grow.  We are, of course, still learning tons about ourselves, each other and life, and I expect that to never change.

But there is something deeper to marriage than just learning to live with one another.  It’s a holy and profoundly spiritual thing, even for those who do not acknowledge it.  It is a mystery how and what God does to unite a man and a woman in marriage.  I certainly do not understand it, and my experience is much more limited than many others’.  But I have seen a little of the effects of this union played out in life.

It seems to me that marriage brings out the real you.  It strips off the veneer that we often put up so we look “pretty” to the world around us.  Somehow, even though we’d talked a lot before getting married, did counseling, and went through some pretty difficult stuff, parts of that veneer still stuck.  But somewhere between the “I do” and the end of the honeymoon, it was gone (or at least almost; I’m sure there are deeper layers to come off down the road).

Getting a glimpse of the real you can be scary stuff!  I’ve had to admit some not very pretty things about myself that I’ve seen reflected in our marriage.  But this has allowed me to simply be myself in my marriage and opens the possibility of being loved for me, not the image I project.  I have also seen the fruit of the work of God and our own hard work during the previous years.  And that has been cause for some great celebration!

Marriage reveals who your spouse really is, as well.  When I married Steven, I knew I was getting one exceptional man.  But, as we’ve navigated this first year, I’ve come to appreciate that even more.  You know how when you are young and single (and perhaps naïve), you make those lists of the qualities you want your future spouse to have?  I’ve come to realize that Steven meets all the qualities that I would have put on my list had I known what I really needed.  Thankfully God knew!

We are very alike in many ways – our interests, our world view, our general outlook on and goals for life.  But in many others we are opposites and complement each other, even while these differences sometimes cause friction.  His spontaneity and ability to play balances my cautious planning and reserved nature.  His deep compassion for people helps me put aside my very task-oriented tendencies.  His faith and growth in the Lord have renewed mine.  His humility and ability to discuss problems and miscommunications in a calm way is such a blessing.  He is tender and sweet, with a quiet strength, and keeps me laughing (or groaning, depending on just how bad the joke was).  In short, my husband rocks!  I am so glad to be on this journey of life with him!

So, yes, marriage changes things…and I’m so glad!

I love you Steven!  Happy Anniversary!

Photos by Andrei Matetic, a great friend and one of our fabulous wedding photographers!

September 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm 2 comments

Wordless Wednesday – One Year Later: Still Feeling Like A Princess

Our wedding rehearsal one year ago!  I felt like a princess then and still do today!

Photos taken by Curt Morgan

September 14, 2011 at 9:16 am Leave a comment

And so it begins…

I was headed out last night to meet Lori for a girls’ evening out at Panera.  Before I left, my husband asks me, “So, do you mind if I make a mess tonight?”  Uhhhhh.  What do you say to that?  I cautiously ask, “What kind of mess?”  He goes on to explain the project.

We want to build a raised floor over the sunken area in our living room to make it all one level.  Before doing that, we have to redirect one of the air ducts that run under the floor in my office, which is adjacent to the sunken part of the living room.  He was going to try to accomplish this while I was out, which required pulling off some paneling and cutting a hole in the floor of my office.  I resign myself to a mess for a while, given that it took us almost 2 years to finish the bathroom renovation.  Thankfully most of that was before we got married and I had my own apartment and was not living here.

So, I head off to meet Lori.  We have a great time chatting and some good food.  As we’re in the middle of a discussion (most likely about our men), Steven calls.  He asks me to pick something up at Home Depot, which is right around the corner, that he’s ordered online and quickly rattles off the dimensions of something called a stack boot (is that the latest fashion in ladies’ footwear??).  I’m trying to figure out what he’s talking about and scrambling for a pen and something to write on.  Apparently the phrases I’m saying as I do that cause Lori to really wonder and the expression on her face is priceless.  I get the part info, hang up, and have to explain the project to Lori, who sympathizes with me as I wonder what I am going home to.

We part company not long after and I head to Home Depot.  While one guy goes to get the part, I chat with a couple other guys at the service desk about the recent storms and all the complications from it.  They are, of course, all out of sump pumps, which is what every other phone call they get is about.  I get the part, and head home.

I walk into the house and this is the sight that greets me as I get to my office.  The silver part is the stack boot in case you were curious.

As you can see, this is very close to where I work during the day.

Thankfully, he has thought to bring the air filter in here to clean up some of the sawdust and insulation and who-knows-what from the air.  I sit down to putter with things and he continues to put the air duct back into place along with the insulation and floor.  At one point, he says “Just to warn you, I anticipate there being problems with this” and goes on to explain that I can’t walk too near the air vent because it will likely fall back into the floor, at least until he figures out how to keep it from doing that.  I’m chuckling at the whole situation!

I am definitely glad he knows how to do these kinds of things and isn’t afraid to learn as he goes.  And things always come out great.  But the process can be a bit frustrating and uncomfortable as we deal with the mess of the transition.  For now, I have a mostly finished air vent in my office and a cut in the carpet.  I’m secretly (or not so) hoping for some new carpeting out of this eventually.  But that’s for further down the road, however long it ends up being.  These projects have a way of growing well beyond the scope of the original plan!

September 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm 2 comments

Wordless Wednesday – A Ray of Sunshine

Since it is gloomy and raining and I’m stuck in the basement manning the utility pump that’s ridding us of extra water, I need a ray of sunshine and thought you might also.

I’m liking up with my friend Lisa at MakingMemories for my first ever Wordless Wednesday post.  Because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

September 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm 2 comments

Clean and Dry

Steven and I spent Labor Day in the town of Schoharie, NY, helping with disaster relief efforts after flooding caused by hurricane Irene.  We had wanted to help out, and through a round-about way, God led us to a group from Grace Fellowship that was going.  We’d been prepared to go on our own and just see what we could do once we got there, but going with a group was really nice.  They had several houses lined up and knew what was needed at each one.  Just car-pooling down, we met a great woman, Diane, who’d just come back from North Carolina, having done relief work there with Samaritan’s Purse.

The towns in the Schoharie Valley got hit hard with flooding.  The small stream that runs through the valley swelled to fill the towns.  When we got there, it looked like a war-zone.  There were National Guardsmen there directing the very slow and chaotic traffic.  I have been to Mississippi after Katrina and after flooding in Conklin, NY and had seen the devastating effect of wind and water.  But, no matter how many times you see this kind of thing, it’s always shocking and awe-inspiring.

The first thing you see coming into the town are the piles along the road – house debris, tree branches, furniture, and various personal belongings all thrown haphazardly into large piles waiting for pick up.  Trash services had apparently just been reinstated this past weekend, so there was a lot of debris to be hauled away.  We didn’t take any pictures since we were there to work, but this photo from Rotterdam Junction, NY, not far away, gives the idea.

The next thing you notice is the mud.  It’s everywhere, coating the ground and all around it with as much as a couple of inches of mud.  This is the silt washed in by the swollen river and all it carried with it.  And with the mud came the smell, a mixture of river smell, manure, sewage, and various other substances.  Not very pleasant.  This photo is of Main Street in Schoharie shortly after the storm.

The water line can clearly be seen on the windows of this local hardware store.

We worked at a house where the water had flooded the basement and part of the first floor.  The entire first floor had already been gutted and about a foot of water stood in the basement.  We worked at hauling the water in buckets across the corner to dump into the storm sewer so it wouldn’t just come back into the basement.  There were 6 or 8 of us in a bucket brigade, while 2 small pumps had to be constantly attended in the basement so they didn’t get clogged with the muck.  The main goal was to lower the water, which was still coming in through the walls, enough to get the furnace out.  It took all morning and part of the afternoon, but we did eventually accomplish that.  I also worked on gathering up some of the belongings from the basement that had been scattered about the yard.  It felt a little less disheartening to have things a little more orderly.  The decisions of what to try to salvage we left completely up to those who lived there.

We met the couple who lived there, and their reactions were, I suppose, indicative of the range you might see in such a situation.  The man didn’t say much, but worked hard at getting a new sump pump set up to get the water out more efficiently.  The woman was so thankful and amazed we’d come so far to help.  She went and got a camera to take a picture of our bucket brigade.  They had relatives in from out-of-town who were also helping clean up.

As we slogged our way back to the car to head home, I found myself really looking forward to getting cleaned up and relaxing my already aching muscles.  I wanted nothing more than to be clean and dry, not much to ask in most situations.  But, my heart ached as I realized that these people don’t have that option.  All they own is wet and muddy.  They never get away from the piles of trash, the tainted air, and the never-ending work.  And yet, the atmosphere wasn’t hopeless.  There were volunteers everywhere helping out.  People from the Red Cross were walking around constantly offering food or drink, even making sure the National Guardsmen had eaten.  I feel truly honored to be a part of it all.

The only photo we took, after we’d gotten home, but before getting clean and dry:

For more information about how to help in Schoharie County, check out the Schoharie County (NY) Emergency Services facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Schoharie-County-NY-Emergency-Services/145245731287) or the Watershed Post (http://www.watershedpost.com/), among many others.

September 6, 2011 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment


Blessed is the one...whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

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