Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Living in the Moment: More Peaceful Living

It was the second day of summer, and I was loving it. I sat on a chair with my bare feet wading in the kiddie pool watching Duckling nod off on his bumble bee float. The sky was clear and blue, and the sun sparkled on all three inches of pool water. Off in the distance I could hear the hum of an air conditioner, and much closer, the song of birds. The air smelled fresh and clean. My brain was parked in neutral. I was having that elusive experience that is a complete moment of peace.

I had the presence of mind to ask myself, how did I obtain this moment? How can I have more?

One thing I noticed was that in my peaceful moment, I was engaging almost all of my senses. Everything I saw, heard, touched, and smelled was calm and pleasing. The other thing I noticed was that I was completely engaged in the moment. There were no thoughts of what needed to be done or what happened yesterday. It was full immersion in the present. What a blessing it is to focus on being and not doing, to celebrate and give praise to what life is at that very moment. Oh, it's so simple and yet so rare!

So here is another lesson I learned on obtaining a more peaceful life. Take time to live in the moment. Engage all of your senses in that moment. Most importantly, plan for peaceful moments, and if you can't plan, then be on the look out for random moments of being still that you can cultivate into quiet moments of joy.

Notice I said, engage all your senses. You didn't think I'd forget about taste, did you?

It's berry time, and I'm thrilled that despite my complete negligence of them this past year, we've been enjoying a black raspberry harvest. I love these berries. They are actually quite scarce in our area and expensive when found.

This is a recipe I adapted from Country Woman. You can use any kind of raspberry for it. In keeping with my simple yet practical style, it's fast, easy, and you can reconfigure the sugar content to suit your taste. My berries went from fresh picked to dessert dish in about 20 minutes.Could anything with the word dumpling in it ever taste bad?

Raspberry Dumplings

  • 1 pint fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cups sugar, plus an extra 2-3 teaspoons for dumpling mix
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 and 1/2 cups prepared baking mix*
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Ground nutmeg for sprinkling

  • *Big yellow box, store brand, or your own.

    In a 3-qt. pan, combine raspberries, 1/2 cup sugar, water and cornstarch; stir to blend. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to low.
    Meanwhile, combine baking mix, milk and a couple teaspoons of sugar sugar in a bowl. Mix until a soft dough forms. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto berries. Cook over low heat, uncovered, 5 minutes. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes more, or until dumplings are cooked through. 

    Sprinkle dumplings with a dash of nutmeg and serve warm with ice cream. 
    Yield: 5 servings.

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    Peaceful Living: One Big Thing

    Hydrangea time
    It was a late spring day like any other. The front door seemed to slam repeatedly as the loud thud of the Mister's work boots walked to and fro, retrieving tools, taking measurements, an occasional hammer or electric saw. A tractor across the road set the dogs off on a barking frenzy. Somewhere, a car horn expressed discontent or malice. The phone rang. In accordance with the laws of nature, our phone only rings when my hands are full, usually carrying a huge pot of boiled water. Not wanting to waste it by pouring it down the drain, I was making my way outside to pour it on the weeds for some quick organic weed control. It's a constant battle to keep our stone driveway from sprouting a meadow in the warm months. Canning season does a lot for organic weed maintenance when I can kill them off with hot water.

    Ignoring the phone as usual, I made my way outside just as a car was pulling into said weedy driveway. A man poked his head out of the vehicle window.
    "Are you the goat people?"
    "Do you have goats?" he asked.
    I looked around to double check. What if I said no while there was a runaway goat standing behind me?
    I confirmed that we did not, but I know who did, and so after some directions to our neighbors, the man thanked me and made his way to the house one street over. But before he did, he made a curious comment.

    "It's so peaceful out here."

    You could have fooled me.

    Surely I gave him a look that showed I had no idea what he was talking about, but I did know. It's easy to view green fields and quaint country churches sandwiched between farm stands and feel, well, soothed. Even with nearby cities and suburbs encroaching from all sides, people find rural stretches of road synonymous with peace. Less traffic, less noise, more sky. I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

    I make peaceful living a priority. That means I limit artificial noise whenever possible, noise made by non-organic things. We'd rather hear the duckling laugh, the rain on the roof, and the dog bark rather than electronic beeps. I'm always on the look out to clear clutter, which is nothing more than visual chaos. We like fresh air and a relaxed lifestyle. All too often, these things elude me and circumstances takes over. Even the quaintest landscape looks most peaceful before the tornado funnel arrives.

    One way I've put more peace into my life lately is by throwing away my to-do list. This doesn't mean I chuck all my responsibilities out the door (who could get away with that?) but if I'm going to make peaceful living a priority, then I need to save my sanity and revamp my goals. Instead of a to-do wish list, I've started doing what I call "one big thing." Every day when I get up I ask myself what is the most important "big thing" that has to be done today. It could be laundry. It could be seeing a friend. It could be a much needed trip to the store, or a home project that needs attention. Barring sickness, emergencies, or locust plagues, I can usually get the one big thing done. Anything else I can do on top of that is icing on the cake, and it feels so good. Most of the time it's surprising how many other things I am able to get done besides the big thing, but there is no pressure to do them. I feel more productive and less stressed than when I held myself to a list of demands which often made me feel like a failure when I couldn't complete all of them in a single day.

    My image in the bird bath, looking for some still waters.
    What makes your life peaceful? Tell me about it, or just think about it, but by all means, don't put that on your to-do list.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Book Review: Your Secret Name

    I decided to pray about a ministry opportunity for the second half of my life. You know, I'm 40 years old. This is half time. I want God to use me for something in the upcoming years, where I can serve Him and others. It's in helping others that we lose ourselves, and those petty me-centered house flies that keep sneaking in through the hole in the window screen. Although that is something I cognitively know, it's sometimes a challenge to apply.

    Right around this time, someone recommended a book called Your Secret Name by Kary Overbrunner, which uses the story of Jacob and Esau to helps you better understand who God intends for you to become. The author injects a lot of his own story into this book, and as he had a history of self abuse, his story of overcoming this difficult burden can be very hair raising at times. I had to admire him for having the guts to tell his story and transformation in such a real way. I don't always admire raw honesty because not everything needs to be said all of the time, but it served the purpose in this case.

    Anyway, I had been praying about how God might want to use me through some of the things he has given me a heart for, some of my gifts. It's hard to look that far ahead and imagine how He might use someone who as of right now is knee deep in the unassuming world of baby care and home management. But the more I prayed about it, the more God gave me clarity by helping to recall a few key moments that happened over the years which provided a glimpse of where He might use our family one day. It was soon after recalling these events that I read Kary Oberbrunner's take on this:

    We get a tiny peek of what could be- the possible -while taking a vacation from what is- the actual. Only a fleeting foretaste, and then, as quick as it came, it's gone. The following days, years, and perhaps even decades help us hone in on that original vision we received. Time brings clarity. Yet for the moment we must be content to simply understand where we are and how far we must travel in order to arrive at our destination.

    ...The hope is that such a glance, however brief, will inspire us to get on the path of discovering who we were created to be.

    I love when a book I'm reading is timed perfectly to be relevant to real life, right now.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and just wanted to share an encouraging piece of it with you. Did it help me find my secret name? Perhaps. Even better, while reading it I got some affirmation about pursuing a ministry idea for the future. Now I'm really excited about THAT and someday if, no, when, that idea comes to fruition I'll gladly share it here.

    Just one other random note on this book. I have no idea why the publisher chose the cover that they did, with the lady in sandals and a long dress. The cover kind of feminizes the book unfairly, because it's definitely not a book written just for women, and the author is a man. I just felt it was an odd choice, but maybe there is some symbolism I'm missing out on that others might comprehend.

    Finding a good book at the right time is like finding a four leaf clover.

    On a final note, this book was recommended by Trudy Metzger who is doing an excellent blog series on the topic of spiritual abuse. If you or someone you love has ever been hurt by a church, organization, or someone in position of leadership, I urge to you to check her blog out.


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