Soul Food for Memorial Day Weekend

We started Memorial Day weekend off a little early last night with a spur of the moment dinner out, soaking up the beauty of our town. So full of gratitude!

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Whenever you start it, I hope you all have a delightful weekend, perhaps sharing the sentiment of one of my favorite Instagram posts:

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And if it’s been a bad week, just shake it off!

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I want to spend every minute I can outdoors, but our forecast has a bunch of rain in it so I may get into some of the books I want to read…

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Unfortunately, my friend Michelle won’t be getting outside. I went to see her in the hospital today where she’s on bed rest waiting for her 3rd baby to arrive.  She’s longing to be outside this weekend, but is doing the important work of growing a baby!

As hard as it is to be patient, she shared encouragement she got from the Lord on a hard day (she’s already been in for 3 weeks!). They did an ultrasound and not only did it show this clear, tiny foot…

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but God brought to mind Proverbs 16:9 which she wrote on the back of the picture.

In their heart, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

What a great reminder for anyone waiting for anything this weekend!

Summer’s almost here and that means salads, so here’s a new recipe I like…  I found the original on Pinterest.
Ingredients
  • 1 bag spring salad mix
  • 1 bag romaine
  • I made my own bacon bits but burned them so ended up using a 3 oz bag of Hormel real applewood smoked bacon bits
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1 large granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or almonds
  • 5 oz  Gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbled

Directions
Clean lettuce, place in large bowl and top with ingredients – toss.

Tips

  • You can add more or less of each ingredient – do what you prefer.
  • Chop the apple right before serving to prevent it from browning.
  • This salad is great with grilled chicken tossed on top for a meal.
  • I’m thinking I might try a variation and replace the fruit with blueberries and add red onion

    Mary’s Sweet Balsamic Dressing

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or canola
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 3 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
    • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard (or a little squeeze of Grey Poupon mustard)
    • Few twists of fresh cracked pepper Or use 1/8 tsp of reg ground pepper

That’s a little bit of what has delighted me this this week. What about you?

When You Open Your Bible

There are many mornings when I don’t feel like reading Scripture. But almost inevitably, when I do, God smacks me upside the head with something

a. relevant

b. encouraging

c. convicting

d. all of the above

I love our friend Mark Batterson’s line: “When you open your Bible God opens His mouth.”

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Today it is one line from 1 Samuel 14:36 that God speaks to me.

Saul is passionate! Charging ahead! Wanting to knock off the Philistines (for God of course). And then this…

But the priest slowed them down. “Let’s find out what God thinks about this.”

I don’t like Saul, but I am so like Saul – Fire, ready, aim!

I needed this reminder today! I think of my “to do” list – so many plans, ideas… I stop when I read this verse and think also of Nehemiah who had the wise rhythm of prayer/action/prayer/action.

I take out my journal and pray through my plans,

God, what do YOU have to say about this…?

What are my motives in this thing…really? Will this honor You?

It’s one thing to ask, but shoot…then I have to pay attention, like for more than a minute. And I’m a little spiritually ADD.

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. trying to listen.

What to do When Your Marriage Is Less Than Perfect

Our marriage is far from perfect, and always will be because, well, we’re us. Broken. Selfish.

Still, I am so over the moon thankful for my amazing husband. He is patient when I am so…not. He is cool and steady when I am a hot mess. He is grace personified, spoiling me, serving me…and he’s the most fun adventure companion.

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But, we’ve been married almost 33 years, so there have been one or two seasons when we weren’t as crazy about each other.

The season when kids are tiny can be particularly stressful on marriages because you both are stretched thin like wet spaghetti ready to break. And you both desperately want to be selfish because YOU’ve changed 7,624 dirty diapers and got up with the crying baby LAST time, and cleaned up the crayon masterpiece on the couch, and YOU.ARE.SO.TIRED.

There was another season, though, about 8 years into our marriage, when the kids were out of diapers and I went through a time of having an incredibly critical spirit towards John.

You said WHAT? You didn’t do WHAT? You want to wear WHAT?

It seemed like everything made me cringe and I couldn’t figure out why. John and I were still the same broken and beautiful people who married each other, but I was wearing a different set of glasses.

There are times when absolutely, counseling is the best choice you can make. But there are other times when just a little tweaking is required to get back to a healthy spouse-loving place, and if I was talking to my 32-year-old self, here are some of the things I might say.

First of all, you see what you’re looking for. 

Scientists call this “confirmation bias”.

Confirmation bias – refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.

Have you ever noticed how once you decide you don’t like someone, you see more and more evidence that your judgment is correct?

I’m still not exactly sure why that was a bad season for us, but I do know marriage is like a flywheel – it takes some hard work to get it spinning one direction, but when it does, it seems to keep going.

When the flywheel is flying negative it takes some time and energy to change direction.

If I was talking to my younger self, I’d say, look for anything and everything authentic to affirm in your husband. And then SAY IT. Tell him how much you appreciate it when he’s home on time for dinner, or takes a turn reading Good Night Moon, or changes a diaper.

More than that, the next time you’re out in public, find a way to honestly brag about your spouse to someone else. If the conversation is about a politician making rash, irresponsible statements I could say “That’s one thing I really appreciate about John – he’s wise and patient. He thinks before he speaks.”

If I was talking to my younger, critical self, I’d also say, pray. And not a rant of “Lord can You even beLIEVE what this husband of mine just did?! For the love of all that’s holy, would You just CHANGE him already?” No, I’d say pray for grace, strength, wisdom, and patience for both you and your spouse. Pray that God would equip him for every good work as he goes through his day and then watch for God to show up.

Again, you see what you look for.

What about you? Those of you who have been married a long time, what might you add? 

 

 

 

When the Church Leaves the Building

Yesterday I had the chance to climb to the top of this dome for the third time in my life. IMG_4659

St. Paul’s Cahedral has been standing in one form or another on this spot since 604. It was rebuilt after the great London fire in 1666. It was repaired after being bombed in WW2. It is magnificent.

I love seeing many churches in the U.K. that have remained empty for years, now being refurbished and reclaimed, slowly filling with people – like the plants of Holy Trinity Brompton, where Alpha was started.

We entered into vibrant worship Sunday at St. Luke’s Kentish town – one of these church plants in a reclaimed building.

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Nikki Gumbel (pastor at HTB) compares church revitalization to the story of Lazarus being brought back to life:

This passage indirectly provides a picture of hope for the church. There is a sickness in parts of the church and many are declaring its death. Some parts of the church seem to have ‘fallen asleep’ (John 11:11). And in some cases there seems to be a ‘bad odour’ (v.39).

This passage reminds us of Jesus’ power to bring even the dead to life. This resurrection power is still at work in the church today.

The church is not dependent on the building of St. Paul’s, or St. Luke’s or wherever.

Jesus said, “I will build this church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Mt. 16:18

The bottom line is that we are the church.

And something powerful happens when the church leaves the building.

For a season, some mentors of ours, Gordon and Gail MacDonald, were pastoring in New York City.  They befriended some city bus drivers who were Christ-followers. The bus drivers were discouraged because they felt they didn’t have an environment for ministry.  Gordon pushed back and suggested:

“Why don’t you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming (while still empty), walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.’ You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary.”

The bus drivers took his suggestion and experienced a transformation of perspective on their everyday life.  Suddenly their buses were a safe place where they were aware God was present and welcoming.

For my friend Anne a 747 is her sanctuary.  I can’t imagine anyone more full of the love of Jesus caring for weary travelers with joy and patience on the long flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam.  Her flights are places where God is present and welcoming. Recently Anne switched her schedule to work this flight when I and my colleague were on our way home.  She treated us like royalty, but she does that with everyone she meets!

Another friend moved to a new home a couple years ago and before painting over the walls of her living room, this is what she wrote:

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She and her husband are declaring their home to be a sanctuary where the Lord lives.

The church leaves the building anytime you create a sanctuary in your neighborhood, or office, or on your team, or in your home.

Is there an everyday space that you might pray over and be intentional about making it a sanctuary?

One Secret For Everyday Battles

John has a yearly board meeting in the U.K., so we tend to take a couple of extra days when we can, to see something new. This year we packed a lot into two days.

My husband is much more into history than I am, so when he got excited that we were going to be near a battlefield outside Hastings I said “Woohoo!” without much true enthusiasm.

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Turns out the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is a pretty big deal and was a fascinating visit with an audio guide that revealed several leadership, marriage, and faith lessons I’ve been thinking about ever since we left.

The bottom line in this battle is that Harold, new king of England (by questionable means), was defending Great Britain against William the Conqueror from Normandy (his name kind of gives away the story), who wanted to be boss of the island too.

At one point in the battle, William’s French soldiers mistakenly got word that he had been killed. They lost heart and started to retreat with the British soldiers hot on their heals.

William got wind of this and galloped his horse over to that part of the battle. He lifted his helmet/mask thingy, revealing his face and yelled something like, “I’m alive! Don’t lose heart! Victory is in front of you, only death behind!”

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The men, energized, inspired, and encouraged, turned around and eventually they won the battle.

I just keep picturing this leader, lifting his mask so his troops can look him in the eye and know that all is not lost.

I think of God, lifting His mask and showing us His face in Jesus.

I think of all the times that the battle seems too much…

We’re discouraged, tired, overwhelmed, lonely. We feel beaten up.

We forget who we are and whose we are.

But every time we open the Bible, God lifts His mask again. We see Jesus and we receive encouragement, inspiration and the assurance that He has the battle in hand.

This is what the Lord says to you_ ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Soul Food Friday

Sharing some “soul food” that brought me joy this week…

First, a little Instagram delight for all you mamas limping to the finish line of the school year.

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Oh my gosh, we all need some good news and uplifting stories these days, right? This first video was sent to me by daughter Maggie and brought tears to my eyes. Such a beautiful picture of community and caring.

And this one…Wow, what a Jesus-like picture.

I read Secrets of a Charmed Life this week and loved it! It takes place during World War 2 in London and is totally engrossing. I couldn’t put it down as the author weaves the stories of two half sisters and their unmarried mother through the Blitz and beyond. Such a great story that keeps you guessing to the end.

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I took dinner to a new mama this week and had small group dinner too, so it was a great excuse to try out this new recipe. Holy buckets! Definitely a winner! (I’m not very good at cutting or food styling, but trust me…yum!)

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SNICKERDOODLE CHEESECAKE BARS (original recipe here I always change them)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRUST:

  • 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 12 full size grahams)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

FOR THE CHEESECAKE FILLING:

  • 2 packages (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

FOR THE SNICKERDOODLE LAYER:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

FOR THE TOPPING:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Spray Pam on a 13×9 baking dishPreheat oven for 350 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers with sugar until fine crumbs. Add in melted butter and pulse until combined.
  3. Press crumbs into bottom of prepared baking dish. Using palm of your hand (or bottom of a cup) press crumbs firmly until they are pressed into the bottom of the pan.
  4. For the cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese with sugar, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer. Beat until fluffy and smooth (about 3-4 minutes). Pour over graham crust.
  5. For the cookie dough, beat butter with sugar for 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat thoroughly. Add in baking powder, salt, flour and cinnamon and beat until fully combined.  Scoop dough by large spoonfuls onto the top of the cheesecake layer. Try to use your fingertips to spread gently until cheesecake layer is fully covered.
  6. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon topping. Sprinkle generously over the cookie dough layer.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, middle may still “jiggle.” That’s okay. You want the cookie layer to be completely cooked and browned. Remove from oven and cool completely. Once cooled, cover with foil and refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight. Cut into squares and enjoy. Keep leftover bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  8. yield: 24 LARGE BARS
 Happy, happy weekend friends!

One Prompt and Three Ways to Become More Like Jesus

I really hate the term “spiritual discipline”.

To me it sounds legalistic and rigid and joy-less and not very Jesus-y. Which is ironic, because “spiritual discipline” is about becoming more like Jesus.

Though I don’t like the term, I love the reality that there are little experiments and experiences, prayers and practices and prompts that we can use to help us become more loving. I’m grateful that God is at work transforming us in our everydayness when we pay attention.

Since 9/11 this is a common sign to see around airports or subways.

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I’ve been thinking…What if we use this as a prompt to help us become more like Jesus?

Jesus was a noticer. He looked people in the eye. He saw, He affirmed, He named what was wrong, He questioned.

So how about… 

  1. If you see something positive, you say something positive  When you observe someone (yes even a stranger) doing ANYTHING you admire, if you hear them affirmed in a conversation when they’re not around, use that as a prompt to say something or write a note telling them specifically what is awesome about them. Don’t let affirmation go unsaid.

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2. If you see someone overlooked, say something. A friend was sharing the other day, how she is trying to “see” the unseen – the grubby guy at the car wash, the old lady with a walker – and say something. Engage them in conversation. She sat down on a bench with an old scruffy guy and just asked him a question, so he felt seen and valued.

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3. If you see something wrong, say something is wrong. I was walking with a young woman recently who shared the pain of being shamed loudly in front friends and no one named it. No one checked in to say, “You know that thing that so-and-so said? How are you feeling?”  If you see injustice or unkindness, say something. Don’t let the elephant in the room hang around. 

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If you see something, say something. Write a note, ask a question, say “Way to go!” or “That was wrong.”

 

 

How Do You Choose Life in the Midst of Death?

Friends, I share this in the hopes that it will encourage those of you, in particular, who have dealt with loss this year.

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Dear Baby David,

It’s a lilac-blooming, cut-grass wafting, bike-riding spring season here. Life is bursting out everywhere.

Today is your birthday. It’s also Mother’s Day – a cruel irony for Mom.

A year ago you were in the midst of the fight for your earthly life. And then in two months it was over.

You’ve been gone from our sight since July 18th, but you continue to show up when I see a mischievous grin, or an arms-open-wide welcome, the painting of a fly-fisherman, a dad playing ball with his kids, a question that is asked in order to take a faith conversation beyond the surface…

It’s still hard to comprehend that you are not physically here with us. As the year progresses, we link arms as a family, stumbling together through the holidays and everydays. The thing we share is our steadfast love of you and each other. But we each grieve and process in different ways. We’re trying to listen deeply to each other.

I think when someone we crazy-love dies (husband, dad, brother, son) the biggest challenge is continuing to choose Life.

First of all, we just. don’t. WANT. to. We want to wake up and have you grilling on the patio like you should be. We don’t want to let you go – as if we could, by sheer will pull you back in like a kite that has been taken out of sight by the wind.

Also, it feels somehow that letting go and envisioning a new life without you in it is wrong…a betrayal. Like doing that somehow negates our love and devotion to you…How can we possibly continue without a vital, beloved piece of our lives?

But here’s the thing that helps me. In the everyday ordinary stuff and even as you were dying, you chose Life.

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You chose Life first and foremost because you chose Jesus, affirming that He loves and forgives us, and as you always said, “He’s the good Author of our story.”

And then you chose life by seeing the image of Jesus in others, and serving those who felt like their life was over, and by laughing easily at yourself, and by your delight in His creation.

So we continue to choose Life even in the midst of death.

Susan is both devastated and courageous.

The tension between acceptance and the temptation to be stuck wallowing forever is real, but she has taken monumental steps in choosing Life.

She can be brave because you affirmed every day that she is capable of doing hard things. You would be so proud of her just as we are.

  • She does the hard dance of stretching herself, but knows when she needs to withdraw and rest with Jesus.
  • Her faith remains authentic and vibrant, but she hasn’t been able to go back to church without you and she knows that’s ok in this season.
  • She goes back into cancer wards with Sophia the wonder dog to bring comfort in painful situations she is all too familiar with.

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  • She organized Team Dave Strong and Courageous to raise money for Melanoma research.

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  • She is painting the downstairs a lighter color to lighten her mood.
  • She put together the Dave Johansen Memorial Leadership Lending Library at your office, so you are continuing to mentor others even in your absence.
  • She seeks grief support and community, but isn’t afraid to say what is helpful and what isn’t, what’s too soon, what’s uncomfortable, and what works. She recently has connected with a group of young widows started by another person YOU influenced with your life.
  • And she continues to seek glimpses of the Eternal. This was what she posted yesterday.

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Loss hurts, but love wins when we continue to choose Life. You probably already know all this, but we’re trying down here. We’re really trying.

love,

Your “Sweet sis”

 

Soul Food to Celebrate Life

If you’re a mama or if you’re not, this is a great weekend to celebrate Life in every expression! Here are a few things that were life-giving to me this week.

Our daughter Katy works as liaison between USAID (humanitarian aid) and Capitol Hill. She sent us this video that made us all cry. Powerful stuff!

If that one made you cry, this video will bring a smile. During a season when there’s so much focus on what divides us, this is a reminder of the things that we can celebrate together.

Favorite Instagram. Nuf said.

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A beautifully written book I read this week was Purple Hibiscus. This amazing book is written in the voice of a 15-year-old girl living a life of privilege and abuse in Nigeria. It brings to life all the sights and smells of the culture and all the intricacies of family dynamics.

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This Sunday is Mother’s Day, but it would also have been my brother David’s birthday.

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He had the gift of hospitality, always drawing people together and welcoming them in. He was also the Grillmaster. So in honor of David I’m sharing our favorite turkey rub recipe from one of our friends. We call it Turkey ala Bob. It’s awesome!

1 clove minced garlic ++

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coarse sea salt

2 TB minced onion (I use the dried kind)

2 ts. crushed red pepper flakes (I cut this way back cuz we don’t like spicy hot)

2 ts. coarse ground black pepper

1/2 ts. EACH cloves and allspice

Pat turkey with oil. Rub in marinade. Double bag for 2 days.

To grill use a aluminum drip pan and grill for 11-13 minutes a pound. Let it stand for 15 minutes. Read more here.

And lastly…

Happy happy weekend!

What is it that you do, dear?

I was putting together a little care package of cookies and flowers for a friend who’s pregnant and on bed rest.

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For months.

With two other toddlers. Active toddlers.

Yeah. Wow.

As I  pray for her and write a note, this is the verse that comes to mind:

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” Nehemiah 6:3

God gives Nehemiah the important job of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, but there are many who would like to distract or deter him from his work – get him to come down off the wall.

My friend has the great work of resting so that God can safely nurture and grow the life in her womb.

Another friend has the great work of finishing her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Another has the great work of gently confronting a friend with a drinking problem.

My 88-year-old aunt who has the great work of praying for the world.

Our “great work” can take so many different forms. But often the refrain that plays in our head is:

“I’m not doing anything important. I’m only a _________________” 

Whatever we’re doing is a “great work” when given by God and done for Him.

What great work has God given you to do that you need to resist distractions from?

If you’re a mom at home with kids this Mother’s Day, remember what Peggy Campolo would answer when someone asked, “And what is it that you do, dear?”

Peggy would reply, “I am socializing two homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation.”

Then Peggy would ask the other person, “And what do you do?”

Single or married, mother or auntie, volunteer or paid, we all have a great work – significant work from God.

You are doing a great work. Don’t come down.

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