Thursday, January 16, 2014

That Comfortable Silence

"I'll set up my residence in your neighborhood; I won't avoid or shun you; I'll stroll through your streets. I'll be your God; you'll be my people." (Leviticus 26:11-12, The Message)

You know those seasons of a beautiful, sustained friendship where you can sit for hours in a comfortable silence and just know that each other are there? Those times where you're just looking at the wonder around you and your friend is by your side and you're just sitting there, silently, enjoying the beauty around you or just the comfort of each other's company?

Yesterday while I was reflecting on some things, I realized that this is the season that I am having with my relationship with God. 

The realization of this came from having the thought that things had been quiet there for a while. Not in a way that I haven't been praying or neglecting to read my devotionals or feeling far from him - but just... quiet. When I thought about it, I realized that I don't feel far from Him right now - in fact, I probably feel God's presence more in my life recently than I have in a while. He is answering our prayers and we have felt His provision and protection in more ways than we have ever felt before. We are watching as He moves in our friends lives in various and amazing ways. The ways that He has placed blessings big and small in our lives are not going unnoticed or taken for granted.

Yet, despite all of this, I feel like I am in a quiet, comfortable silence with God right now.

I think that part of the reason is that on the surface, life is kind of normally flowing right now. We get up, we shower, we do our things, we have dinner, we go through the bedtime routine, we wind down, we repeat the next day. We have good moments in which we have been smiling and finding joy, and we have bad moments in which we recover and have grace and forgive and process. The difference, I think, is that recently I have been much, MUCH more aware of God's presence in all aspects of my life. Not just the crises or the giant celebrations - but all of the aspects.

So what am I saying here? What's my point?

Will reminding Daddy that God is even at work with him during the day.

The bottom line, for me, is this: God is always there. He is the bestest of the best friends, His presence is one that never leaves. The key is to find that presence tangible - which is not always the easiest of things to do. Recently, I think that is what has happened; I have begun to feel God's presence more constant. He is always there. And for me, finding Him in the day to day has always been the most difficult. The "quietness" that I am feeling right now is, I think, His presence in the ordinary.

I have a couple of close friends - my husband included - that I can sit in comfortable silences with. They don't need to say or do anything, but I know they're there. Sometimes those silences are created by distance or time, sometimes they're created by lulls in conversation, sometimes they're created intentionally while we watch life happen or spend time outside in creation just watching. It doesn't matter what we're doing or how the silences are created... those friends, those relationships - they are still there.

Some of my most comfortable quiet God-moments have been beside the ocean.
So right now may seem like a time of ordinary sprinkled with the occasional extenuating circumstance, but it doesn't matter. I don't need a major event to feel God's presence... I just need to be aware of His presence in the normal moments of the day.

Today, take a moment to pause and find God in your ordinary moments. Find peace in that, then when you've found Him in one moment, look for Him in another. When you are seeking Him out intentionally, you will find that He is everywhere. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Macaroni & Cheese for One

Our son Will, like most kids who don't have dairy allergies and are able to eat full meals, LOVES macaroni and cheese. If I make him a plate of mac & cheese, he will quietly eat his lunch and oftentimes clean his plate. There are a couple of problems with this, however, when it comes to classic boxed macaroni & cheese:
  1. Will needs to gain weight. While the macaroni & cheese you get from a box does have more fat in it than the typical adult would prefer to have in their diet, our doctor had suggested we try to sneak more fat into our buddy's diet.
  2. No toddler can polish off a box of macaroni & cheese in one sitting, and it tastes terrible on the second day so leftovers are (kind of) out of the question. Which means that if I make Will M&C for lunch - it means that I also will be having macaroni and cheese. And typically this means that I end up having a little over half a box. Which I probably shouldn't be having. (2a - I LOVE MACARONI & CHEESE! Especially with some peas mixed in and a dash of black pepper... oh man...) Really... this is the bigger issue as there are a million ways to sneak more fat into Will's diet and I am very, very weak-willed when it comes to mac & cheese of any kind.
While I was pondering this issue, I remembered that I had once come across a recipe for "revolutionary macaroni & cheese". I had made it once for a friend of mine & I and it was delicious. I knew that I could adapt the recipe for one serving and fatten it up so that our little man was getting a fatter mac & cheese (in fact, in our house we call it fat-mac) AND I wouldn't have to be subject to a half of box (or more) of mac & cheese very time he had some (oh the horror...). A couple of tries, and I have perfected it! There are even a couple of veggies that I sneak in for total nutrition awesomeness for my toddler buddy.



Macaroni & Cheese for One 
Adapted from Revolutionary Mac & Cheese from Macaroni & Cheesecake

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup pasta (penne, tri-color mac, rotini.... your choice)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp - 1/4 cup frozen spinach (or 1/3 chopped frozen broccoli)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Method:
  • In a small saucepan, put the pasta & milk and bring to boil. This will happen faster than you think - so don't walk away! As soon as it starts to boil, bring down to a simmer and make sure to stir constantly. 
  • About 5 minutes after bringing to a simmer, add the peas & spinach. Bring back to simmer & cook until noodles are tender (about 5-7 more minutes).
  • Remove pan from heat - DO NOT DRAIN!!! Add both cheeses and stir vigorously until cheese is melted in. The sauce will thicken upon standing. Add salt & pepper and serve. Or just eat it out of the pan, after all - this is only for one person.


A couple of things... first, this will easily feed two toddlers or one adult. I usually fill up Will's plate and then there's a few bites left to fulfill my macaroni weakness until I make it for him again. If I were to make this for myself - I would substitute in skim milk for the whole milk and it would work just as well and be just as delicious. Will loves this stuff; we've tried it with a couple of different cheeses but this seems to be the way he likes it the best. He'll eat either spinach or broccoli in it for us - whatever we have in the house - but the peas are a must. And in the long run it's cheaper than boxed mac & cheese... really, this is a winning situation all around! 

If you are in need of a quick comfort food fix or a good lunch for your kiddo... definitely give this a try. You won't regret it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

With a Thankful Heart...

During the month of November, I took part in a sort of meme that I had noticed people were doing leading up to Thanksgiving. Each day, I posted a picture and note of something that I was thankful for. Some of them were relatively inconsequential - like sales on kids clothes - and some of them were a bit deeper - aspects of my faith or family and friends. Originally, I wasn't going to participate in this meme and then I thought about it a bit before I jumped in. There were a couple of reasons that I decided to go ahead and take part.

30 Days of Thankfulness - Days 1-6
Running water, imagination, ability to cook, kids' sales & coupons, childcare workers, our family photographer

The first reason is that while I am always grateful for the things in my life, there is something about intentionally thinking about the many ways that I am either blessed or touched or impacted that really helps me to persist in being genuinely grateful. From my husband to my kids to running water to the minds that invent washable crayons - there are so many things both big and small that I can be thankful for at any given point in the day. If I ever stop being thankful, I might start to take my blessings for granted and not see them as gifts given to me and others by God. And so, every once in a while I think it's a worthwhile exercise to stop and reflect on the various things I am thankful for in my life.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 7-12
God's promise to be there, great minds, answered prayers, our veterans, our new baby's health, and my husband

The second reason I went through this exercise was that I had a small hope that I would also inspire other people to pause and think about the things that they are thankful for in their lives.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 13-18
My parents, great medical care, people who invent recipes, our pediatrician, my moms group, & being a stay-at-home mom.

Why now? Because I feel like the real reason for the Thanksgiving season is often lost in a shuffle of giant feasts and food comas, family obligations, high expectations, football rivalries, and preparations for intense shopping expeditions. While I think that any of those things can be an extremely fun experience, I also think that it's important that we take MORE time during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to pause and be thankful for what we have in our lives - no matter how little or how plentiful it is.

30 Days of Thankfulness, days 19-24
Our Will, his relationship with his Daddy, our friends, my siblings, our church, and NAPS!

My posts on "30 Days of Thankfulness" technically ended yesterday, but I feel a renewed sense of gratitude for the many ways God has provided for my family, answered prayers according to his plan for our family and friends, and just cast His love out in so many ways. I am thankful for the various ways He has gifted people that make our world such an interesting plays. God is so, so good. I am thankful for His plans, I am thankful for His love, and I am thankful for his blessings.

30 Days of Thankfulness - Days 25-30
Children's perspective, my extended family, our Journey group, critical folks (PD, FD, EMS, etc.) working on holidays, God's abundant provision, Jesus' death on the cross

I'll close with a wish of a wonderful holiday season to everyone who reads this and their families. May you enjoy richly all the ways you've been blessed.

"Let me shout God's name with a praising song, let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks." (Psalm 69:30, The Message)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Having Faith, Always Praying

We sat with Nana in her dining room, all looking quietly at my newborn son. She shook her head, sighed, smiled, and looked at me like she was going to say something before stopping to look at the baby again. 

"You know," she said after a brief moment passed, "I just don't understand how people can look at babies, new babies, and not believe that there's a God."

Steve and I looked at each other before responding; she had no idea what truth she spoke in our lives that day. 

"Yeah, Nana. I know. Babies are miracles," I quietly said. 

Steve nodded in agreement before also responding. "That they are..."

What she didn't know was that for us, William was an answer to prayers. Prayers spoken, prayers unspoken, prayers on our hearts and minds for quite some time. I had been told that due to a medical condition I had, the best chance we would have of getting pregnant would be immediately after coming off of birth control. When it didn't happen in the first two months, I assumed that God's answer was that we would not be having children and I quietly came to terms with that. After all, sometime's God's response to our prayers is a no.

But then two more months later... we saw two lines on our pregnancy test. 

Will & Mommy (Photo credit RLPhoto, 2012)
I found out several months later that while my husband sat in a lecture at a conference about a professor that videotaped his son's first two years of life to analyze how we learn communicate, he prayed that someday - despite the odds - that we could experience that wonder ourselves. That we could watch our own child learn, grow, develop, explore in those early years. 

I had written off the idea and silently dealt with my disappointment to a prayer I incorrectly thought had been answered no, trusting that God had plans. Steve held on to hope and asked God for a child. 

We were already two or three weeks pregnant when Steve prayed that prayer and had no inkling. Two weeks later we saw those two lines on our pregnancy test. 

For us, William was truly a miracle. William was a blessing that not only enriched our family, but expanded our trust in God's plans for our lives. William taught us to never stop praying boldly for those things we feel urging us strongly in our hearts. William taught us - and continues to teach us - more about God and faith than anything other experience we have ever encountered. 

"I just don't understand how people can look at babies... and not believe there is a God."

Steve and I are in a season right now where we have really felt God moving in our lives via answered prayers. Some of the answers haven't been immediate - but some have. We've had medical issues that looked to be very concerning in our house that have turned out to be minor and manageable after we've prayed endlessly to God about them. We have had decisions to make that after praying about them felt like we were being pulled in a certain direction, and have had situations appear that have confirmed we followed God's lead for where we were going. We have felt Him move in our marriage in ways we haven't before. 

We have friends who literally have hundreds of people praying for them after they went into pre-term labor 5 weeks ago at 28 weeks. At 33 weeks & 2 days, she still hasn't delivered and is leaving the doctors thinking she's a complete mystery. 

The works of God so often are just that - a mystery. And if the fact that she's still incubating isn't a powerful testimony to the power of prayer - I don't know what is.

This summer, Steve and I decided that we were ready to have baby number two. Sometime in mid-July, as we sat in bed talking with God in our nightly prayer, Steve said "God, I think we're ready for another kid. If that's Your will, we're ready for it." I squeezed his hand, and soon after we said "Amen". 

It was never mentioned again. We just let God know - we're ready if You are. Your call, God.

As the math worked out... not long after that, a week or maybe two, we became pregnant with our Little One. Twenty-three(ish) weeks from now, sometime next April, we'll be welcoming a new Baby Athanas into our home. 

Little One at 14(ish) weeks - Due April 2014!
Another miracle. 

Another answered prayer. 

Trust that God has our best interests, that He has plans for us. That He hears our prayers. Pray boldly, pray constantly, trust in His answers. 

"And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for." (1 John 14-15, NLT)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Baby Applesauce Mini Muffins


Our son Will is 16 months old and is getting to the age where he doesn't want Mommy to feed him anymore. This means that trying to feed him the infant cereal in the mornings has gotten... interesting. I've been putting a little in a bowl with a spoon for him to "feed" himself while I give him the rest, but that doesn't always catch his attention. He wants to do it himself. While I want to embrace this independence, I want him to continue getting as much of the nutrition that the baby cereal offers for as long as reasonably possible.

This in mind, I recently went on a hunt for things to use the baby cereal as an ingredient in. The problem that I was running into was that a lot of the recipes I found for things like cookies or muffins had added sugar in them in addition to whatever fruits or vegetables they were adding in as well. One recipe even added molasses on top of the sugar (and bananas and another fruit).

The last thing I think my energetic toddler needs is more sugar.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands and played around with a couple of different ideas. What I ended up with ultimately are these applesauce mini muffins. They use 7 ingredients of which NONE of them are sugar, are all usually found in my house, and for the most part are things that I would be feeding him anyways.

Baby Applesauce Mini Muffins 
(makes about 20 muffins)

Ingredients*:
- 1/2 cup Baby Cereal (I used Earth's Best Multigrain cereal)
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk

Method:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spray mini-muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a larger bowl, combine cereal, flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.
- In a smaller bowl, combine egg, applesauce, and milk until egg is well beaten.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
- Put the batter into the muffin tin and bake for 10-13 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted comes out cleanly).
- Put on cooling rack or plate and allow to cool completely before serving.

I am a firm believer of not feeding anything to my son without trying it myself first, so I made sure I tried one of these before giving him one. They are actually pretty good! These little muffins are incredibly moist even when cooked through. After they cooled, I put them in an airtight baggie in our fridge and I expect them to keep for a few days (maybe 4 or so), so the next time I make them I will try freezing half the batch to see how they fare in the freezer.

But did they pass the ultimate test?


Our little man ate 3 of these yesterday and one so far today. He shoves it in his mouth as soon as I hand him and devours it. I'd say that they're kid-worthy.

*These are not dairy or egg free. I have not tried cooking these with egg substitute or soy/almond/rice milk. If you DO try to make these with substitutions, please leave a comment and let me know how it works out for you! Would love to hear (and you never know, our next kid might have an allergy I'll need to work with)!