Spicy Orange Greens and more!

Sorry I’m a day behind… But here is the recipe for the Spicy Orange Greens that I made the other night. It is from the cookbook Everyday Happy Herbivore by Lindsay Shay Nixon. Before I typed it out, I googled it to see if it was already publicized anywhere online and I hit the jackpot! Turns out that the makers of Forks Over Knives (an awesome documentary that you should go check out right this minute!) had compiled 5 of Lindsay’s Happy Herbivore recipes in one place! I have personally made all of these except the sweet potato dal, which is dog-eared in my cookbook as one I’ve been wanting to try. They’ve all been delicious. In fact I haven’t been disappointed with one single recipe I’ve ever made from the Happy Herbivore cookbooks or web site.

The Spicy Orange Greens recipe is included in this, and the cool part is that even though I used broccoli and quinoa for it, it can be modified many ways. Todd doesn’t care for the texture of quinoa, so I put his over brown rice. You can even change the greens to use collards or kale or whatever. The spicy orange sauce is delicious and you can adjust it to your own tastes very easily. Follow this link for all 5 of these recipes from Happy Herbivore!

Click to access FOK_EHAPPYHERBIVORE_RECIPE_FINAL.pdf

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Advice from a 2nd grader

Every year my students write an advice letter to next year’s crop of 2nd graders. They mention some things they liked about our class and some things the new students need to make sure they pay attention to. I always crack up reading these. I love that they always seem to talk about serious business! I’m spoiled by these amazing kids.

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I Haven’t Washed My Face in a Month

Okay, well that’s not an entirely true statement. Let me rephrase:

I haven’t washed my face with soap in a month. Or face wash, or cleanser, or exfoliant scrub, or facial cream or any other sort of generally acceptable stuff people use to clean the funk off a face.

Now before you go unfriending me from Facebook and deleting the link to this blog because you think I’m a completely unclean weirdo… Let me explain.

A while back, when I was reading through yet another blog-I-found-through-a-blog-through-some-other-blog, I stumbled upon Simple Mom. Something about natural this or simplify that caught my eye there, and I was hooked on this lady’s pretty little pages. Then one day I stumbled across this post about cleaning your face naturally, which gives an incredibly comprehensive teaching on how to clean your face with oil.

Um, excuse me…what?? OIL. Olive oil, that is. Same stuff as in your kitchen. Usually mixed with Castor Oil, too. Yeah, people…that’s what it said. My eyes could hardly believe that business as I read the words of this seemingly-otherwise-normal lady describing how she puts straight olive oil in the palm of her hands, rubs it all into her skin, then steams her face and wipes it off. Ummm, yeah…sign me right up for that. I envisioned a cheesy commercial with a lady in a gauzy white dress skipping through a flowery meadow with the breeze blowing her hair as I read claims of how great her skin felt after voluntarily participating in this insane ritual of face-greasing. That is just all kinds of crazy.

Fast forward a while and I’m checking out some other chick’s blog… The site is called Sorta Crunchy, and much like before, I was enamored by the cute little header on the main page and fun posts all over the place. Then, what do I find?? A colorful section of the sidebar that states “I wash my face with oil.”

Oh no, another straight-up weirdo!!! How do I find these people!?

After that I did what I always do when I hear about weird and/or interesting thing: I googled the heck out of it. I started reading about this OCM (oil cleansing method) stuff like it was my job.

And what happened….? Well, let’s just say I think I need to eat some crow…

So, my apologies, Simple Mom and Sorta Crunchy gal, for thinking you were off-your-rocker weirdos who grease up your face because you just like breaking the laws of well-accepted skincare routines. I confess that I’ve tried the OCM for a month now based on your helpful recommendations and I wholeheartedly love it. LOVE IT. My skin looks great and feels so soft I can’t believe it. And I’m not even using face lotion, which I used to pay a fortune for because I needed it to fix my dry, tight skin.

And the biggest, craziest part: In the last month or so, several different people have commented on how nice (even glowing) they thought my complexion looked! Thank you, EVOO and castor oil!

So, are you thinking about jumping on this crazy train? It only takes about 5 extra minutes a day to properly massage, steam, and rinse your face. You aren’t putting yucky chemical weirdness on your face and you’re saving a bunch of money. What’s not to like?? And before you go saying how you could never do that because you have overly difficult fill-in-the-blank type of skin, just read some of these super helpful links about the OCM before you dismiss the whole shebang. There are oil combination recommendations for every type of skin. Your pores might just thank you for it. 🙂

Sorta Crunchy: I Wash My Face With Oil

Simple Mom: How to Clean Your Face Naturally

The Oil Cleansing Method (Yes, there’s a whole site devoted to this)

For My Sista-Wives…

Every 4th Thursday, a group of my girl friends and I get together for dinner. It might be out at a local restaurant or just bringing a dish to share with each other at one of our homes. No kids, no dudes, just us girls.

There are about 8 of us (for now) and we don’t all necessarily make it every time, since we’re all juggling the normal home/work/husband/kids/and/or bazillion other various responsibilities on our to-do list at any given time. But about once a month, these gals and I (known within our group as simply The Divas) carve out a little bit of girl time. And even though it’s difficult to fit the date in sometimes, I know that I am so much better for it. I love these girls.

No, wait… you’re not hearing me… I said I LOVE them.

Like seriously love them to pieces.

Like I-can’t-believe-I’m-even-lucky-enough-to-have-even-one-of-these-amazing-women-in-my-life-let-alone-all-of-them kind of love.

I been thinking that since I’ve pretty much gone off the blogging grid for the past few months, (sorry people!) I should probably write my “comeback post” about something incredible. Something super awesome that will captivate every reader. Something flippity-darn superb.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to tell you a bit about these everyday, magnificent superwomen and pray they don’t ask me for that big of a cut of the royalties when this little description of their awesomeness inspires a Lifetime movie. (Seriously girls… Would I even allow Lifetime to exploit your awesomeness like that!?)

Anywhooo…I want to take a moment to share just a few reasons why these women are so important to me. The things you’ll read below are just a few drops in the bucket. Without them I’d be less of a person than I am today. Learn from these beauties. Fo’ real.

These ladies are givers. They pray for me (and for each other) anytime we need it, and especially when one of us thinks we don’t. They cook meals for people who aren’t well, or for other women who just had babies. They willingly give out even more of their already stretched-thin time to help someone else who is in need. They are each connected in unique ways to amazing causes that better the lives of children, empower women and families, fight cancer, bring clean water to people who don’t have it, etc.. etc.. And I am sure my tired, foggy brain is leaving something very cool off that list. Seeing these women, who are in many ways more busy than I am, give of themselves in all of their various ways and never ask for anything in return…I’m so inspired. I’m a more generous person because of these women.

These women are devoted wives. They regularly praise their husbands. Vehemently. Loudly. Publicly. Often. They constantly pray for their men, who they know fight everyday battles both on the outside and the inside. When everything around them says: don’t even bother relying on a man; fight for what you deserve; you better get busy with controlling everything because Laaawwwd knows there ain’t no man who can do anything right these days… Even with all that nonsense floating around them, they are the first to speak up to encourage their husbands and let them know they are loved, appreciated, and respected. With their words and with their actions, they encourage the rest of us to do the same. I’m a better wife because of these women.

These girls are some amazing mommas. They have all kinds of wild adventures raising their wildly different children! They parent with very healthy boundaries and loving temperaments, but never, ever by taking themselves too seriously. They respect their kids as individuals, wanting what is best for them and knowing that it naturally lines up with what God says is best, not whatever is on TV that night. They understand that the upbringing of their children has earthly impact and eternal value. These women have blessed me by recognizing that motherhood comes in all shapes and sizes and colors. They’ve allowed me to share my heart as a mother, no matter how unconventional. I am a better mother (and teacher-momma!) because of these women.

These women are just the right mix of freakin’ hilarious and reflective. There are few people on earth that can get me to nearly squirt soda out of my nose or almost pee my pants because of the crazy stuff they say…Unless you count these ladies! They all know how to laugh at the right time and cry at the right time and tell you to get a grip at the right time. We laugh together on a regular basis. We’ve wept together when we’ve needed to. We’ve questioned and doubted and been confused together at times. We’ve thought about the what if’s and the why’s and the how’s of all the things we see in front of us that we just know God’s got, hands-down, even when they don’t make sense to us. Then 5 seconds later we’re cracking up about the legendary antics of a certain infamous clerk (who works at a certain store whose name I shall not disclose here. I will only say that its name rhymes with “Tall-Fart.”) That’s what life is really like…different from every moment to the next. I am a more real person because of these women.

So, my Divas…if you’re reading this, I want you to know how thankful I am to have each of you in my life. I have no idea how I have become so utterly blessed. I need you to know that I wouldn’t be the same without the influence you have on my life. I am so inspired by the way you love Jesus and how He shows up through you all the time, even when you think you’re not so hot. I have come to realize that you are all part of the repayment that God promised me years ago, and you were worth the wait.

Thank you so much for being my friends and sisters (aka sista-wives! HA!!) I love you. Now get outta here and get back to being awesome.

India Chronicles: A Different Hospitality

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “hospitable”as:

a : given to generous and cordial reception of guests b : promising or suggesting generous and cordial welcome c : offering a pleasant or sustaining environment

I’ve always thought I was a pretty hospitable person. I think I got it from my momma. We both have always enjoyed the hard work and planning of hosting large groups of people for dinner, our house busting at the seams with people laughing, eating, and enjoying each other.

But while in India I experienced something much more than that. The pastor who we stayed with mentioned that some families from his church wanted to have us over to their homes for a meal. Very cool. I thought: real Indian cuisine cooked by our very own Indian brothers and sisters and shared with them over their very own tables.

It went a little something like that.

When we arrived at the first home we visited, as soon as we got out of the vehicle I could tell that this family was of modest means. Now, they were living in a first-floor home right in the city, and it appeared to be fairly nice, albeit quite small. I later learned that being on the 3rd level of a building was preferable to the 1st floor because of all the dust and noise that you avoid. Good to know. This family brought tables into their living room to create one large dining space where we sat while they brought out platter after platter of delicious food for us to enjoy. Now, when I host people over for dinner, I always get everything ready for the guests before I start eating along with them. You’re the host, so you want your invited guests to be perfectly comfortable and cared for before you bother tending to anything for yourself, right? I noticed these folks doing the same thing, and I kept waiting for them to sit around the table with us and share the meal. They never did. In fact, they stood by the table while we ate, watching for any moment that they could slip in and refill a drink or put more (and more!) rich Indian food on our plates. They were more than happy to stand by and watch the smiles on our faces and laugh along with our conversation and see us groan and clutch our stomachs, declaring that we were too full to eat another bite…right before they brought out dessert.

It all felt supremely odd to me…to be served in such a way. They were perfectly content to smell the aroma of the dinner, and to watch us enjoy it, without themselves enjoying the flavors. I learned later that Indian culture dictates that guests enjoy the meal and the host family serves their needs, then eats their portion after they are gone. SO weird (for us Americans anyway.) Later I found out that this family had apparently hired a chef to cook this meal for us! They wanted it to be the best, so they outsourced the cooking! They had even borrowed fancy platters and cups from neighbors so they could serve us on beautiful tableware. Wow. Friday night I had a bunch of folks over and I asked my sister to bring some paper plates so I wouldn’t have to do more dishes. Nice, right?

Yet another night we went to dinner at a different family’s home. It was just a husband, wife, and their daughter who appeared to be around 20 years old. That particular night, our pastor had become very stomach-ill and was not able to attend this dinner with us. So off we went…me, my husband, and 7 other ladies, so these folks’ house. Now, although they were happy to have all of us come for dinner, I am sure it was a huge disappointment that our pastor and his wife were not able to come. They’d been expecting him. And being a pastor in India is nothing like being one here in the US. Many people don’t see being a pastor as all that big of a deal here in our country, perhaps because Christian pastors are a dime a dozen. But in India, where less than 2% of the people are even Christians, when the pastor comes over, it is a BIG deal. He is revered and treated with the utmost respect. They treat their own pastor that way, and to have the opportunity for a pastor from America to come into your home, well… that’s a big honkin’ deal. So you can imagine what I mean when I say the family was disappointed that he couldn’t make it. They handled the news with such grace, though…they still cared for all of us very sweetly while we were there. When we were about to leave, they brought out a painting and asked if we could take it to our pastor. They had purchased it for him and his wife as a gift. So incredibly amazing. (Now he was gonna really, really feel bad that he was too sick to make it!) As we were thanking them for the gift on his behalf and saying our goodbyes, Pastor Stephen, (the Indian pastor whom we were staying with) turns to me in typical Indian fashion and says “tell her to sing song” while pointing at one of our traveling companions, Leann. Um, excuse me??

Now Leann was one of the youngest of our crowd, and generally a very shy and quiet-demeanored young lady, but she literally has the singing voice of an angel. We had been given the chance to hear her sing The Doxology just days before inside the prayer tower on the property where we stayed. I remember standing there perfectly still in awe of her voice, as it echoed all the way up to heaven through the top of that prayer tower. We were blown away. Pastor Stephen remembered this, and I am not sure if it was because these people had just given a gift to us to accept on our pastor’s behalf, or just because he was just plum crazy, but when he pointed to Leann and said “tell her to sing song” I half-protested with “um…right now??” but he had already turned away and was talking to the family again. I awkwardly motioned to Leann and tried to quietly convey the request, which of course we both knew wasn’t really a request at all. But there was no time… Pastor Stephen was already turned to Leann and was announcing “And now she will sing song!” Everyone in the room (who was American) was shocked and waited without breathing to see what would happen. Everyone in the room who happened to be of Indian descent seemed rather pleased with this announcement. So, sang she did.

Right there in the middle of this living room, after we’d eaten rich, fried, spicy food for nearly 3 hours, after we’d talked and talked until we were exhausted from talking anymore, a family we had just met that night was now staring intently at this shy young lady, who was singing The Doxology in the most beautiful voice any of us had ever heard. At the end, all of us had tears in our eyes, and they applauded. I have a feeling that was a pretty darn good gift to leave with our hosts. Maybe Pastor Stephen wasn’t plum crazy after all. 🙂

The last family we visited was the home of man named Prenab who is on staff with the ministry. He runs the grounds where we stayed, and he was hosting us for a breakfast, along with his wife and parents. He and his wife had a daughter who was 7 and a 2 month old baby girl as well. We hiked up to their 3rd floor home and sat as we realized that someone had told them the wrong arrival time for our group. They weren’t expecting us for another hour. I could tell they were trying to be polite as they scrambled to accommodate us. We assured them it was no problem, we were in no hurry whatsoever. Prenab’s father came out to talk with us while everyone else prepared the meal. I’ve never been more thankful to have a bunch of “down time” at someone’s house. This 84 year old man had been a pastor most of his life, but he related his story of being a young man from a Hindu family. When he was young his mother began attending a Christian church and learning about Jesus. Because of this, her husband began refusing to allow her to eat. He was trying to starve her to death because she was converting to Christianity. Some time after that, he began sneaking off to attend church with his mother, and when his father found out, he would no longer let either of them eat any food at their home. After this had gone on for a while, his father became so furious that they were going to church, he came home day, stood about 12 feet from his own son, and shot him in the chest 3 times with a shotgun. Amazingly Prenab’s father lived. I cannot see any possible way that he didn’t die except for the fact that it was a miracle. There’s just no way a person could live through being blown straight through the chest like that. And the kicker?? Prenab’s father hadn’t even converted to Christianity yet when that all happened. It wasn’t until about a year after the shooting that he devoted his life to Jesus! This man has been a pastor ever since, regularly walking many miles to remote villages to share the gospel with people who have never heard of Jesus, and who face just as much danger as he did just for becoming acquainted with the Savior.

But he wasn’t even finished yet. As we sat there, stunned after what we thought was just going to be some pre-breakfast small-talk, this elderly man asked in very broken English if he could pray for us.

Wait…what?

You want to pray for us?

Like we would refuse! He stood over us and prayed boldly in a language I had never heard of, and I felt more power come over me than I’ve ever felt in my life. I was weeping from the moment he began until he finished by saying”amen, amen, amen, hallelujah.”

Now that’s a gift.

After visiting all of these families, the thing that affected me the most was realizing that as much as we’d been preparing for months to take this trip and to visit these unknown friends, they’d been spending as much time and energy preparing for us to arrive. They’d been praying for safe travel for us for many months. They’d been saving up money and borrowing dishes and hiring people to help with the big day when we would finally step foot into their homes. Very humbling. And in all of it, they’d considered it an honor to serve us in their homes.

These visits made me think about hospitality in a whole new way. How much effort do I really put into preparing for someone’s visit to my home? Am I praying for their safety as they travel there? Do I treat them as well as or better than my own family?? Do they feel blessed when they leave my home, as I did when I left the homes of my Indian brothers and sisters? I don’t even think that the elaborate food and lovely dishes had much to do with the hospitality I felt. I think it had much more to do with the spirit of love I felt from these beautiful people who I’d never met and may never even see again. These people whom I likely can never really repay for their hospitality. These people who poured welcome over us. I am forever grateful to them for redefining my ideas of what it means to be hospitable, and what it means to live a life of faith & love.

Life, death, and in between

Today is the day. I am finishing a pedicure and Todd is making his famous pancakes for breakfast. We’ve had this trip planned for more than 6 months, and now here we are…getting ready to leave for India. It still doesn’t even seem real somehow, even though our bags are packed and we’re getting picked up in a couple of hours, I’m still asking myself…are we really doing this?

About a month ago, our pastor sent us a list of scriptures. With his experience visiting India many times and the objectives of the trip, he suggested they may be good ones to meditate on before we leave. I looked them over and recognized many of them as familiar text, so I decided to go online and print them off in a couple of different translations in the hopes that I could get a fresh perspective on the message the words carried.

I had read the verses that follow a million times from Matthew 8 and was always surprised by the harshness of them. Different people who were wannabe followers of Jesus were coming up to him and proclaiming their loyalty. Immediately he questioned their commitment.

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Jesus, what’s up with that second dude? I can see you rebuking the teacher of the law because he was used to staying in fancy joints and you knew he couldn’t handle the way you roll. But that second guy just wanted to lay his parent to rest. Wasn’t that a little much? But then I read the same words in the Message translation, and it stood out to me like a bright light among all the other verses that had been recommended.

When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake. As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.

20Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

21Another follower said, “Master, excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have my father’s funeral to take care of.”

22Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.”

Wow. That last section kicked me in the stomach for some reason, although I wouldn’t know for a long time what it might really mean to me. First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life. That’s Jesus talking…and you don’t really ignore Him.

So I started thinking what that could mean for me in my everyday life. What does life and death look like when you’re not necessarily dealing in matters of life-and-death? I started thinking in terms of death-by-a-thousand-cuts over a lifetime. Like how you can look at a middle-aged person who is broken and messed up and hates the world and has zero joy, and you just know that a million little things have happened to them over the long period of their life to make them that way. I started looking at my students, just 7 and 8 years old, who already have scars from some of their thousand cuts. I started thinking…that’s how I bring life instead of death…I try not to be one of those cuts. So I really began paying attention to how I was speaking to them and to others…thinking…is what I’m saying right now bringing life or bringing a little bit of death? You know just what I mean…the way you say something can bring death. Like when you give a backhanded compliment. Death. Or when you say something in a certain way only because you know it will force someone to have to give you a pathetic compliment. Death. When someone is talking to you but you’re not really listening..and for one split second they notice your eyes glazing over. You just made them feel unimportant. Death. Or when you walk by someone and you could look them in the eye, smile, and say hello. But you choose not to. Death.

So not knowing at all what else those verses would mean, I simply went along trying to be about the business of life, not death. Pursuing Jesus and the things He represents are pure life. Anything else is death. Not bad, right?

Then a few weeks ago my son overdosed on a combination of drugs. He was in the hospital for nearly 2 weeks. No one knew if he would recover or if he would be normal again after he did. Arguments ensued over the outcome of his care. Lies were told. Commitments were broken. False accusations flew. Death, death, death. Every little thing started to go awry in our world, from the big and important to the smallest detail. Confusion, dissension, anger, brokenness. Death, death, death.

Then, death really came along. On December 22nd I got a call that my mom was being taken to the hospital after collapsing at home. I was on my way there to be with her and figure out what was happening when I got the second call that her heart had stopped and she was gone. GONE. Death.

Your business is life, not death.

It was my momma’s 76th birthday, and she died suddenly. A few days before Christmas, a few days before we were to leave for India. How would we get all the arrangements made before I had to leave the country? Would I actually miss my own mom’s funeral? Or should I try to rearrange my trip to stay here?? None of the options seemed good. Death. Right in the midst of planning her funeral, we found out that Todd’s mom was also now in the hospital and may need surgery. No, Lord, not more death…please.

It took me a day or so to get it, but eventually I could really see what Jesus meant by saying that my business was life, not death. Even in the middle of everything going on around me, including a thousand other things I haven’t even mentioned, I was still somehow concentrating on trying to bring life to the thing. And it definitely wasn’t because of my well-grounded abilities… God was keeping my focus for me. How else does someone’s family go through so much in such a short period of time and still come out halfway sane? Life. Prayers were answered (and continue to be) in ways I never would have imagined before. Life. Every little detail of my mom’s funeral was taken care of with relative ease, all in time for us to hold the service yesterday… Before we were to leave for India today. We put her to rest in a funny and perfect way that matches her personality. Thank you, God. I prayed for healing of my ear, which the doctor told me held so much fluid that it would likely burst if I flew. It has improved dramatically and I am no longer congested, but breathing normally. Life. My son has recovered and not only is out of the hospital, but he asked to come home and stay with us…. Words we’ve hoped to hear for a long, long time. Life. He has given his life to Jesus, and I’m already seeing the new creation God is making him in to. Life!! There is peace in our home and all around us even with some things still up in the air. There is peace all around us. Life, life, life.

I can’t wait to look into the beautiful brown faces of the little girls at the children’s home in India, and smile and show them life. I cant wait to hug the 300+ lovely people who live at the leper colony, praying they can understand that they, too are made in the image of God. I can’t wait to pray for healing and rest and peace for our friends and soon-to-be-friends on the other side of this world we share. And with all I hope we’ll accomplish there, I have a feeling that I will receive much, much more life than I could ever possibly dream of giving out.

“First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.” -Jesus.