Monday, October 31, 2016

Coming Home #24

Tis "the witching time of night", / Orbed is the moon and bright, / 
And the stars they glisten, glisten, / Seeming with bright eyes to listen .”  - John Keats


How fitting it is as myriads of trick-or-treaters skip past our home tonight...
As the neighborhood is alive with families and friends...
As each home on our street has their own interpretation of fall cast across their eaves...
That this is the final eve of my #write31days challenge.  


Though I wrote but 24 of the 31, I am beyond thrilled, as navigating this year has led me far away from my reflections and into the very belly of the beast.
So I'm very grateful - as ever - for October and the impetus to get behind my keyboard again. 
I want to thank each and every one of you for being part of my community...
For encouraging me to continue sharing especially when a post resonates with you...
For reaching out and telling me that you're glad Branching Out is popping back up in your inbox...

Thank you for reading...
And listening...
And loving.

Thank you - completely - for Coming Home.




{More to follow in November.
Plus it's NaNoWriMo...
National Novel Writing Month.
It's my goal to complete 50,000 words 
by November 30.
Please say some prayers for me!}


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Simply Saturdays - Coming Home, #23

Two of my recommendations this week are books  and the third rec is a versatile, yummy product that I've recently started using - with interesting results.

Let's talk about reading first...

The first is a book my husband was exposed to at his leadership training in Seattle a few weeks ago.  He travels there again on Monday to take another seminar or two with the author, Craig Weber.
(Autograph anyone?)  
The book is called "Conversational Capacity" and is, not only a leadership tool but, a tutelage in getting on a level playing field with conversations anywhere.

Speaking as a reformed "flame thrower"  ("Must win, must win, must win....strong-arming to ensue to prove I'm right...") - 
converted to a "minimizer" ("I know you've been stressed lately, but I was thinking maybe, if it's okay with you, we could possibly do X." Gross.  It stresses me out just reading that.) -
it has been invaluable to me in assessing my conversation tendencies and rethinking strategies to land on a more healthy interaction with ALL people.  
If you struggle with getting your point across and accepting others' opinions as well, don't walk...RUN to get a copy.


Book #2 is on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It's a Bible study written by Denise J. Hughes that encourages the reader to write every word of the Word.  We're studying Ephesians in this session.  So over the course of the course (intentional), I'll have written every word of this book while studying each.  

Hughes has multiple studies published like this one through #wordwriters and, in addition to being simultaneously lovely and peaceful visually, they encourage a deep dive into the words of Paul.  

Because I love to physically write plus support Hughes' contention that one retains words longer if they are written down, I loved this format.  However, I was sold in her intro to Ephesians...in reference to Paul's message:  "Grace be with all who have undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ."

"Paul knew some strange ideas about God would soon perforate the faith of new believers.  He knew the message of grace would be challenged.  He knew the believers would be tempted to forget their First Love.  Paul also knew his remaining days were few....Paul's letter to the Ephesians is a call to carry on with an undying love for our Lord...And the same saving grace that changed Paul's life continues to change lives today."  

You can look at her book here.  And if you decide to join up, let me know, okay?  We can journey a bit together. 



My last recommendation is organic coconut oil.  
(Nutiva, the brand I chose, also donates 1% of every purchase to sustainable agriculture up to 2 million.) 

So far this week, I have oil pulled (only gotten to 10 minutes at a time...gonna have to work on this one)...
Conditioned my hair...
And used it to soften my feet. (TMI on that last one, I realize.  But they're yikes, so yay me!) The last one, if I continue regularly, I think may actually solve my problem!

I'm looking forward to cooking with it and also trying more of the holistic suggestions I've found on various websites.  Just one referenced here but lots more where that came from. 

Thanks again for being my community through this month's posts.  
I'm so grateful to be here with you. 



{Thanks for reading.
Hope you're having a great weekend.
#write31days #cominghome}

Foodie Fridays (Finally!) - Coming Home, Day #22

Well, obviously I've skipped a few in my #write31days challenge.
But I gotta be okay with it.
My feeling is, if you're trying to write a blog post based on God's grace, and all you're feeling is STRESSED. OUT. there's something wrong with your motivation.
(Or He wants me to work through the stress to get to the message?  Or not?  Or actively seek inspiration?  Or...welcome to my brain.  This argument could go on for hours!)

Anyway, I'm doubling down today.
Posting a Foodie Friday now then a Simply Saturday later in the day.
Then back to a regular post tomorrow.
Then Monday.
Then done with this challenge!
Ask me if I'm happy with doing 20-something posts out of 31, and I'll give you a resounding YES!
Big shout out to Jesus for encouraging me to persevere and my family for (mostly) leaving me alone to write lately.

My final Foodie Friday post (though, I may make it a regular thing after the first of the year...what do y'all think?) is actually a recipe I haven't tried but one that I found that 
I cannot. wait. to eat.
Since I've gone mostly gluten-free for the last long bit (don't stick a plate of pasta with garlic bread in front of me if you expect me to adhere to the GF program, however), 
but wouldn't really willingly eat a waffle or pancake, I've been looking for a more-than-just-decent substitute.
I sure do miss them!
SO when I saw this recipe (with syrup...you'll need to be an essential oil user to make this part to completion...though you can make most of it without them) on the Young Living blog, I had to earmark it.
So I'll give ALL the credit for this recipe where it belongs - to Gourmande in the Kitchen - and include the link here.
In the meantime, here it is...if any of you try it before I get to it, I'd love a review in the comments below.

BON APPETITE!

GLUTEN FREE YOGURT WAFFLES 
with 
LEMON-LAVENDER BLUEBERRY SYRUP
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and coconut sugar. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, eggs, melted coconut oil, and vanilla extract until smooth. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture and mix well to combine. Let batter sit 10–15 minutes for the flour to fully hydrate. While waiting, make the syrup.
  2. Combine the blueberries, honey, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5–10 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy. Set aside to cool slightly; then add Lavender and Lemon Vitality essential oils, stirring well to combine.
  3. Heat waffle iron at medium heat and brush with melted coconut oil. Pour ¼ of the batter onto iron and close. Cook until waffle is golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack set on a baking sheet in a low-temperature oven to keep warm; repeat with remaining batter.
  4. Serve immediately topped with the Lemon-Lavender Blueberry Syrup.


{Thanks to Young Living for this recipe.
And thanks to all of you for sticking with me 
for these 31(ish) days.
#cominghome}

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Spiritual Bliss - Coming Home, Day #21

It's a short one today.
I enjoyed an afternoon of taking my daughter to lunch after celebrating a beautiful Mass all together as a family...
Then napping on the couch while my husband watched football, my daughter baked, my son did homework and it rained outside. 
Kinda perfect.

But I couldn't let the day pass without writing in praise of my husband and his incredible musical gifts.
It was his week to play drums with our praise band - Mark 12:30 ** - 

(Hang on...I gotta go frost a cake...)
Okay, I'm back.

Anyway, we had the great fortune this week to all be involved in our Mass.
I proclaimed the first reading from Sirach.
Braden was with his Confirmation leadership team.
The praise band asked Colleen to cameo in the second Communion song...one of her favorites, "Blessings."
(She sounded so beautiful, I wept.)

And then there was my husband behind the drum kit, keeping the rhythm of the music for every parishioner...
Shimmering the mallets on the cymbals, growing the emotional depth of praise until the building veritably shook with bliss.
Oh, how I love when he plays.
He's steady but spectacular.
After his Masses, I always leave the church better than I entered.

In my home away from home, with my husband behind the drums, the fruits of the Spirit wash over us all.
Thank God for this gift.



** Mark 12:30 - " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (NIV)




{Hope your weekend was as 
uplifting as my morning.
Thanks for reading.
#write31days #cominghome}   

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Simply Saturdays - Coming Home, Day #20

I have only one recommendation for this week because it's a pricey one.  
We had the excuse to spend the money because it was a gift I thought my husband would enjoy, so we got it for his birthday.  
(Although, full disclosure, I think I use it more than he does!)  


Meet the newest member of our household as of August...

Alexa!

(aka Echo powered through your Amazon account)

Here are some of the things that Alexa can do (verbatim as listed on the Amazon page...)

  • Plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice
  • Fills the room with immersive, 360ยบ omni-directional audio
  • Allows hands-free convenience with voice-control
  • Hears you from across the room with far-field voice recognition, even while music is playing
  • Answers questions, reads audiobooks and the news, reports traffic and weather, gives info on local businesses, provides sports scores and schedules, and more using the Alexa Voice Service
  • Controls lights, switches, and thermostats with compatible WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest, and ecobee smart home devices
  • Always getting smarter and adding new features, plus thousands of skills like Uber, Domino's, and more


All of this is programmed from your smartphone with the free Amazon app.  It even has you answer a bunch of questions so it gets used to your speech patterns.  Fun!

Here are the things I like to do with Alexa:

  • Get the weather report
  • Check traffic
  • Add items to my grocery list (this has been invaluable to me as I often don't pause to write it down then I forget!)
  • Set a timer to go and get a kid from school
  • Play my favorite classical music and/or artists
  • Get the day's news while I'm cleaning
  • Play Seinfeld trivia :)
  • Order a pizza

Aaaaannnnddd, Drew's favorite thing...

"Alexa, tell me a joke..."

(Didn't intend to spend $175 for Drew to occasionally hear a corny joke, but...)


Anyway, if you have a techie kind of person at your house....
Or if you feel like any of the functions above would be helpful in organizing your life, I highly recommend Alexa as an investment.

(Plus, sometimes, it's just nice to have someone else's voice in the house when I'm alone during the day...makes me feel a little less crazy as I'm talking aloud.  :)  Man, I gotta get outta here...)

My next play will be getting from programmable light bulbs so I can have Alexa shut the lights off from away.
If you already have an Alexa/Echo, I would love to know what skills you have it programmed for....I'm always trying to learn more to make the most of our investment.  
And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.  
It's been fun programming it to do more and more things each week!



{Thanks for reading on a Saturday.  
Hope your weekend is filled with 
rest & relaxation!
#write31days  #coming home}

Foodie Fridays...Finally! - Coming Home, Day "some number"

Y'all!!

Oh. My. Gosh.
I found the MOST amazing meal the other night while searching for "baked curry chicken."
I have absolutely NOTHING to do with the following recipe...besides having the good sense to find it and prepare it.
But I wanted to share it here because it's Easy. Fast. DELICIOUS.

Wish I had taken a picture to share but trust me, if you like spicy (not hot spicy but flavorful spicy) and curry, this is the recipe for you!

BAKED THAI COCONUT CURRY CHICKEN BREASTS

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (not cutlets)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 (14 oz) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, root ends trimmed (leave the stems - they add amazing flavor!)


PREP

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Sprinkle salt and pepper generously over chicken breasts arranged in a single layer in a roasting pan

In a blender, combine all other ingredients 
Puree until smooth

(I used my Nutribullet again!  Gosh, that gift keeps on giving!)

Pour over chicken and bake for 30 minutes
Turn on broiler and broil for an additional 5-7 minutes, until crispy and slightly charred on top
Make sure to keep an eye on the chicken as broilers vary.
(Mine did not turn out slightly charred but it was still delonsh!)

Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving

I added tri-colored carrots to the roasting pan, pared and cut into thirds, beside the chicken. 
On a small white dinner plate, I placed a handful of fresh spinach drizzled with olive oil; 
layered a ladle-full of brown rice on it; then placed a chicken breast and carrots over the top.
Lastly, I poured the reserved sauce over all of it.

YUMMY!!


Recipe credit:  Epicurious

Note:  If I had it to do over again (and believe me, I will!), I would have added more cilantro and a generous sprinkling of curry powder to the bullet before pureeing.  Just a thought.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Rest at Home - Coming Home, Day #18

Yesterday was a good day.
A weird day.
A busy day.

I was out for a good portion of the day.
Then back at home for a bit before driving kids back and forth to classes and commitments.  
I got home for good at about 9:45 PM...thought about writing...but I was so tired and just wanted to spend time with my husband and kids.
I realized that my #write31days challenge, though so important and life-giving to me most of the time, may in that moment take away from my actual home life.
So I took the night off to equal parts guilt and relief.

This morning I looked back on my decision then forward to getting back to writing.
The right decision to rest at home?
Absolutely.
My brain needed the break and my blood pressure needed the lack of worldly pressure.

So a brief thought for yesterday that moved me when I read it...


"Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. 
It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together.
Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go."

Sarah DessenWhat Happened to Goodbye


I carry my brick buildings, people who loved me and my moments everywhere.



{Thanks for waiting.
And thanks for staying.} 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Making Miracles, Part III - Coming Home, Day #17

(A short and sweet wrap-up to Parts I & II following....read to get caught up.  Grateful for a loving home.)

After my little breakdown and my husband's loving response on Saturday, I was driving my boy to a show that evening.  
Usually we chat and sing and laugh during our drives together, but this time, I was still feeling blue.  
So instead we just listened to the radio as we traveled the ten minutes there. 

I was rather unfocused as a song played until I heard these words pouring out to me...

"So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held.
Your world's not falling apart, it's falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held."
(emphasis mine)

Your world's not falling apart...
It's falling into place.
Yes.

Everything from the day - and even beyond - seemed to suddenly make sense.
If I weren't having problems with friends, I wouldn't have needed to rely so heavily on my husband to listen.
I may have made a phone call outside my home.
And he wouldn't have had the opportunity to comfort me, growing and strengthening our relationship and answering a prayer of twenty years.

Jesus was holding me the whole time.
And continues to.
Yes, these hard things will be hard sometimes regardless.
The friendships are difficult still.
But without the challenges, I would not have been blessed with an added dimension of love and grace to my marriage.
Oh, difficulties rarely make sense when we're in them.
Thank God He's at the helm waiting to put the pieces of our world back into place.
Beauty from the ashes...


Song Lyrics credit:  Casting Crowns, Just Be Held



{So eternally grateful for grace.
And thankful for community with you.
Thanks for reading.}



Monday, October 17, 2016

Making Miracles, Part II - Coming Home, Day #16

(You may want to read Part I of this post before continuing below...)

Saturday was a hard day.  
For no reason other than everything and nothing.  
It started kinda crummy (save the sleeping in…that was the best ever) and continued to get crummier until I was a weeping mess.   
I felt a lack of value.  
I felt - to use a very harsh word…worthless.  
Purposeless.  
(Man, do I despise the devil always whispering low but steady in my ear.) 
It has been a sad but constant theme of late.  

Another running theme is the changing of some of my friendships.
At 48 years of age, I thought I was set for life...maybe adding a friend here or there until I cross over the veil.
But events from this past year have me questioning many things, and disconcertingly, some of my friendships are among them.
My world has been getting smaller and smaller...
Partly by design and partly by choice.
It's a disorienting feeling, like hanging off a cliff wondering whether or not the net that's usually in place is there to catch you.

Since a couple of these friends were ones I often went to for advice or just to talk with when feeling low, my internal compass has felt ever shakier.
So on Saturday, when I was down, down, down, adding to my lack of direction in life was a lack of direction with whom to communicate.

Now shall we get back to my miracle from yesterday's post?

I tried several things to get myself out of the pit.
I read my devotionals.
I wrote a bit.
I cleaned the kitchen and lit my favorite candle.
I made a green drink.
I did an hour on the treadmill.
My heart didn't budge.


And then my husband...that great "doer" - my favorite man of action - he did something so unexpected, I could hardly catch my breath.

He put his arm around me...
Asked what was wrong...
And let me cry.
He didn't offer a word of advice.
No suggestion for action.
He simply held me as I wept, pouring out my heart to him and confessing my most insecure, ugly feelings.
At one point, I said, "I need to get out of here."
To which he asked, "Do you want to leave for the day?"
I replied sadly, "One day isn't gonna do it."
And he just whispered, "yeah," in understanding.

He continued to rub my back and tell me how sad and sorry  he was that I was feeling so worthless.
He told me he valued me.
He told me my job was the hardest.
And he told me whatever I needed to do for the rest of the day, he was fine with.
(Seeing as how we had people coming over for the football game, that was an especially big deal!)

God had answered my prayers from all of those years, speaking to my husband in the perfect way for to him to listen.
In a place away from us so he could focus.
In a forum to help him get better at his work, his place of action.
Then later, He whispered secrets to his heart to make our marriage stronger and more loving....and most beautifully, my guy listened.

Still God wasn't finished working yet.





{Why Part III tomorrow?
Why not just finish the story?
Well, a miracle 20 years in the making 
felt like it deserved a third day.
Hope you come back to finish it with me.
Thanks again for reading.}
















Sunday, October 16, 2016

Making Miracles (Part I), Coming Home, Day #15

A miracle happened yesterday.
A miracle prayed for 20 years.
But I didn’t realize it until today.

My husband and I are alike in a couple of ways (we LOVE to laugh!) but different in most.
Most noticeably, our communication styles are opposite.
Mine is to com.mun.i.cate.  A lot.  Endlessly, in fact.  
For hours.
And hours.
And hours.
And…well, you get the picture.

My husband’s is to "do."  
Action first.
A lot. 
In place of talking.
For hours.
And hours.
And hours. 
And…again with the picture.

Sometimes these qualities, though opposite, are complimentary.
Take for example, when one of our kids is struggling.
I’m happy to listen and talk and listen some more and talk some more and hold them when they need the love – then…you guessed it!  Listen and talk some more.
On the other hand, I’m generally so spent from talking and listening and empathizing that I can’t DO anything else by the end.  In swoops my husband, taking a trip to the grocery store, getting stuff for dinner, often making it and then…still not done DOING...will run to get ice cream at 10PM if that’s what the kid needs.

It works really well for us sometimes.

Other times, however, (read: when I’m the one struggling) it doesn’t work.  Period.
Because my sweet husband will DO anything I need him to.  
But the listening and empathizing does not come as naturally.
“I don’t need you to do anything or make suggestions on how to fix this problem,” I have said probably 1000 times over the years.  “I just need you to listen and empathize and be on my side.”
“Well, you know it’s my nature to fix a problem,” he will respond.  “I can’t be something I’m not.”
This broken record has played over and over again for twenty years.
Never to either of our satisfaction.

He feels criticized and I feel misunderstood and the divide grows.

A few years ago, I just stopped trying to “help him” understand. 
(She says tongue in cheek as it most certainly has not felt like a help to him at ALL!) 
Instead, I just started praying.
“God, this clearly is not working.  He’s unhappy and I’m unhappy.  We just don’t understand one another.  If it’s gonna get fixed, you’re gonna have to fix it.  And you're going to need to speak to him in a way he will understand.”
Then on we would go in our sadly dysfunctional cycle.

Until a few weeks ago…

My husband took a trip to Seattle for the conclusion to a leadership training he has been participating in for some time.   We don’t get to talk much while he’s gone as both of our schedules are quite full.  But every now and then, we’ll stay up talking about what he has been learning, and this trip was no exception.  
I love these times.  
We are both consummate learners, and I live vicariously through him in these times. 

Among other topics, one of the most important ones they covered was that of being an “active listener.” Most of the people taking these seminars are, not only leaders at their place of work but, managers who need to be tuned in to those who work under their purvey.
They need to be able to listen without suggestion or criticism or one-upmanship.
They need to listen only.
No judgment.
No solution.
No donning of the rose-colored glasses.

When my husband was telling me about this  portion of their training, he said, 
“I started thinking about how each of these qualities – the judgment or unrequested solutions among others – aren’t helping the issues that the person talking to us is after.  In fact, I’ve started thinking about how this type of active listening could really help me in my relationships at home.  Especially with Braden.  And even with you.”

(I’m crying unbeknownst to him on the other end of the line by now.)

“Like when Brae tells me he’s had a bad day, I think it would be more helpful if I just say, “Ugh, that’s the worst.” Instead of making a suggestion as to how he could have handled that day differently.”

(Sobbing by now across the miles…)

I was too stunned to remember what I answered but it was something to the tune of, 
“That sounds like a really good idea.  I’m sure he’d appreciate it.”

Little did I know, my prayers were beginning to be answered.
And a miracle was about to occur.





{Please come back tomorrow to read 
Part II to this post.
And know that, whether you know it or not, 
your prayers will be answered...
when you least expect it.
Thanks for reading.}