Monthly Archives: August 2011

As I type this, my mom is undergoing 12 hours of surgery to — among other things — resection her spine.  It is serious work and a long recovery.  Please pray for her body (which is quite frail) to be able to not just withstand the surgery, but to emerge triumphant.  Please pray for her surgeons (three directly involved, more on standby).  And for her family, emotionally, as we support her.  Thank you so much.

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Embracing the pain (sort of)

If you’re here for the recipes, you may just wanna skip this post.

The more I think about it — and I’m thinking about it a LOT lately — there are so many incredible parallels between natural childbirth and our walk in relationship with our Creator.

Something that has been percolating through my thoughts is the idea put forward in this verse:

To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children…” (Genesis 3:16a)

There is the idea floating about, in some Christian circles that a woman just MUST birth in pain;  it’s part of the price she pays for the fall of man, the sinful nature, the original sin of Adam and Eve, et al.

I’m not saying that childbirth is or even should be 100% pain-free — though I’ve heard of pain-free births, I’ve not experienced any.

HOWEVER.  I think the focus on the pain misses the point.

In Christ, there is never purposeless pain.  GOD DOESN’T JUST HURT US TO HURT US.  Ever.  I’m not saying that God’s ways are entirely pain-free.  Until we get to heaven, there simply IS going to be pain, as part of our lives here in on earth.  However, our God isn’t sitting up there in heaven saying, “You’re in pain?  You deserve it.  Ha ha.  Part of the Fall, baby!!  It’s the price you pay.”

Every trial we endure — no matter what kind — even if not directly ordained by God (though some are!), can ALWAYS be ultimately beneficial for us as His children.  Always.  God isn’t a masochist.  The pain He allows us to go through will — if we submit to His ways and if we’re intent on gaining HIM in the process — produces a “harvest of blessing” if we don’t try to opt out of the trial, or circumvent His process, seek a shortcut, or try to… self-medicate, rather than lifting our heads to look squarely in His face and say to Him, “What are you trying to teach me, Father?”  If, instead, during difficult times, we yield completely to Him, and allowing Him to teach us, to bring us closer to His heart, to — for our own benefit — prune sin or dysfunction or destructive behavior from our lives, we’re ALWAYS better off in the end.  His ways have an end, and the end is GOOD.

He disciplines those He loves.  I’m not suggesting that birthing a child is discipline or God correcting us…  But the experience of birth can DEFINITELY be used by Him to perfect us in His love — our experience of His love for us, our love for our husband, our love for our newborn, our love as a family, our love for Him…

I posted recently on I John 4:18a (NASB) “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”  But, I want to take this a step further.  I know that the Amplified Version makes for awkward reading, but hang with me here:

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].  I John 4:18 (AMP)

What I suggest, and what the very end of the Amplified Version of this verse is saying is that, when we walk in fear of punishment (i.e., God is out to get us, God just wants to hurt us because we have it coming to us), that perspective is based out of a lack of understanding of His love.  “…he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love.”

GOD LOVES US.  He really does.  And when we see birthing as an extension of His love — even when it involves pain — and instead of being afraid of the pain, choose to embrace His process, and trust Him completely, we will then reap the fruit.  In terms of natural childbirth, the “fruit” doesn’t just refer to the baby, but (among other benefits):

  • Feeling profoundly grateful to Him
  • Closer to our husband and more appreciative of him
  • In awe of our Father God’s creative power working through us
  • An overwhelming experience in delighted love
  • A profound sense of a job well-done
  • Optimal physical health (natural birthing is better for both mother and baby)
  • Creating an amazing experience for EVERYONE who witnesses or participates in the birth
  • And a billion other things, most of which you could not anticipate or appreciate beforehand, but just have to experience to believe and understand.

In short (or, shortish), PLEASE don’t just brace yourself for pain and think that pain is just “meant to be”.  Embrace the process, even if the process involves pain.

Next up (as soon as I can get it written down, in my spare time between tending to my home, homeschooling four of my five children, baking the perfect gluten-free loaf… ):  why just “getting through” labor short-sells you as a mother.

 

Would you travel to a foreign land with no preparation? (An allegory of natural birth.)

Picture by Nigel Richardson

Imagine yourself:

  • Landing at the airport of a foreign country, to which you’ve never been.
  • Your husband is with you, but he’s never been there, either.
  • Neither of you speak the language of the country.
  • You have a destination that is off the beaten track;  only a very small percentage — maybe 3-4% — of tourists each year visit your chosen destination.  You’ve heard that it’s a beautiful place, well-worth seeing, but a hard journey to get there.
  • You have no maps.
  • You have no personal guide.
  • You’re not familiar with the city at all — you don’t know the streets or even how the transportation system or even where to go for help.
  • A vast majority of those around you don’t really care if you reach your destination.
  • Worse, many of these strangers seem antagonistic of your efforts and seem to be sabotaging your efforts to reach your destination, and continually try to steer you to a different place.  “I don’t understand why you want to go there.  It’s not really worth it.  Why don’t you go here, instead?”

This is the picture I get in my mind of too many women who want a natural birth.  They have heard that it’s a fabulous destination.  But, they may or may not even know anyone who has reached it.  They just have the desire to go there.

Now… might the above travelers reach their destination?  Yes, they might.  If they stumble upon a kind and helpful stranger, or perhaps if they’re really hard-headed and determined and are able to stand firm in the face intense opposition.

But, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I wanted to have a natural delivery, but…”  Then, the mother finishes story with a heartbreaking account of unintentionally poor — almost always avoidable — choices which almost always reveal a lack of adequate planning and usually non-existent support.

When you step onto a bus in a foreign land with a desire — yet no other preparation — to reach a particular destination, though you may eventually reach where you desire, it’s much more likely that you’ll end up in some other place, perhaps the exact place that you did not want to go.  You many even end up being poorly treated, leaving you with memories that make you cringe with regret for literally the rest of your life.

Now, it’s also possible that even with a thorough education, perfect planning, supportive and helpful people around you that you still may not reach your desired destination.  But, your chances of reaching that gorgeous glade of ecstatic achievement, rest, beauty, intense emotions, and alert and glorious health are MUCH, MUCH higher with good planning than without.

Though this may sound harsh and perhaps even unbelievable, especially to a first-time mom, simply a desire to birth naturally almost never translates into an actual natural birth…    You can’t just want it.  You have to educate yourself, starting with being aware that what you want is something that 95% of mothers in the United States never do.  Of the 5% or so who do birth naturally, a percentage or two of those were unintentional — usually fast labors, arriving at the hospital too late for an epidural.  In this country’s highly medicalized hospital culture, most women — and even most health professionals — don’t recognize the physical and emotional benefits — for both baby and mom — of natural birth.  It’s messy.  It’s hard.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s intense.  Emotional.  It can be draining for everyone around a naturally laboring woman, not just the mother herself.  It’s just a hard path that most people don’t choose, so a mother choosing to birth naturally MUST realize that she is completely swimming upstream, and has to prepare herself in every way, be convinced of the benefits of natural birth, and commit herself to the process.

It IS possible.  I’ve done it five times.  My own dear friend Nicole just birthed a baby yesterday evening in a hospital with even more abysmal statistics than most:  98% of laboring women (minus the planned c-sections) birth with an epidural.  However, she not only desired a natural birth;  she was determined, and planned to make it happen.  She read books.  She watched videos.  She talked to everyone she knew who had had a natural birth, gleaning insight and tucking advice away into her heart.  She hired a well-recommended doula, who was great.  Her husband was 100% on board.  She chose an OB whom she knew (through the recommendation of another naturally laboring mother) was very supportive of natural birth, and discussed her plans with him beforehand, and re-discussed them, and re-discussed them, making certain that he wasn’t going to pull a “bait and switch” — talking reassuringly, but then not supporting her efforts.  In other words, she not only had sight of the goal, she knew what she was up against, and she prepared accordingly.  And just a few hours after she arrived at the hospital, her 7 lb 11 oz son was born, 100% naturally — not induced, no meds, no interventions.  She DID IT.  Even though she ended up with a nurse who was not really supportive — which can really be an obstacle — she and those around her were prepared, and the nurse didn’t become a deterrent to the process.

So can you, anyone who is reading this.  You REALLY CAN.  You just have to prepare.  Know WHY you want to go there.  Know the lay of the land you’ll be visiting.  Read the visitor guides beforehand.  Practice at least a few key phrases.  Discuss your travel plans with those who have been there before, taking their instruction and suggestions to heart.  Consider hiring a guide.  Know the way:  know which roads to take, and which to avoid.  Limit the access you give, in your mind, and in your physical presence, to naysayers.

And then when you DO arrive, bask in it, knowing you’ve done a hard job well.

Galty Mountains, County Tipperary, photo by TJ Tierney

 

Karen the Birth Instructor — almost a reality!!

I have the thumbs-up to teach my first birthing classes!  No, I’ve never formally taught any birth-education classes before — just spent countless hours talking with other mothers-to-be to give them encouragement, help, and direction.  The dear, expectant couple is willing to grant me the experience of teaching classes, and in exchange, I will instruct them for free.

We’ll begin in November.

I will use a combination of materials from Transition to Parenthood, plus my own experience of naturally birthing five children, plus other birthing stuff I’ve gleaned over the years from books and bloggers.

I had so longed to teach the classes, but just this morning, I felt compelled to TOTALLY YIELD the outcome to God — that is, whether or not they would let me be their teacher, even though I have never done any formal classes before.  In my prayer journal I wrote, “…if it doesn’t work out for the two of them, just please help me keep learning and that I wouldn’t be waylaid by dismay, but that I would persevere.”  That happens way too often — becoming discouraged to the point of inaction when my Plan A doesn’t work;  by the grace of God, and His unwillingness to let me stay in that place, I am working to overcome that unhealthy pattern.

Not too long after I journaled that, the expectant mother called me to say that she and her husband had prayed, thought, and talked about it, and have decided to go for it!  Ha!  God does that so often with me:  Wait until I YIELD the outcome, 100%, to Him, before He answers my prayer.

In a follow-up e-mail I sent to the mother, I closed it out with:

Thank you SO MUCH for allowing me the privilege of sharing this amazing and important time with you and [your husband].  I look forward to you becoming amazed and blessed by God’s plan for the birth process, and to be able to go into your delivery with zero fear and enough information to be confident in yourself, and to come out of birth with a gloriously expanded appreciation for our Father, your husband, and in your own abilities.

After I wrote that, I re-read it and thought, “I need to rework that and turn it into a purpose statement for use in the future.”

My favorite book for any expectant mother.

 

Just the right amount

About a week and a half ago, a friend saw me dancing, and had a thought that she didn’t know at the time I would really need to hear.  She didn’t tell me about it just then, but about a week and a half later.

Since I was about 18 — it took me a while — I realized that I wasn’t nearly as girly as most other young women around me.  I had been a tree-climbing, kickball-playing, barefoot tomboy as a child, with absolutely no regrets.  It didn’t bother my mother, either, at least not that I know about.  I went to a small elementary and high school — a VERY small school — and there weren’t enough people to form cliques.  Pretty much everyone was friends with everyone, and no one got singled out.  I would be teased occasionally for my love of “weird” music, but I think that’s about it.  Unless I was clueless to others’ opinions of me, which is a great likelihood.

I think it wasn’t until I got to college and witnessed — from afar, by choice — the sorority rush season at the school I attended, Tulane.  And I lived in a dorm with a bunch of young women.  And I saw a wider range of girls than I’d ever been a part of, previously.  And it dawned on me that I really wasn’t interested in what about 98% of them were interested in, and I started feeling like I had somehow missed the instruction manual on How to Properly be a Girl.

I’m now 38, and I have carried that my whole adulthood.

Yet, I like my interests.  I can’t imagine not liking baseball, or hiking (a neighbor gasped recently, “By yourself?  Aren’t you scared?” which hadn’t even occurred to me).  I think I look better wearing make-up, but most days, I don’t.  I feel like a faker/poser when I wear anything fancier than jeans.   I wear a dress maybe six times a year.  My walk feels clumpy to me — I’m bowlegged, my feet point out, I have thick ankles…

Sometimes my felt lack of femininity — both internally and externally — bothers me, sometimes not.

But, there are definitely times where I feel a disconnect when talking with other women, and that troubles me.  I do a lot better now than I used to;  I specifically look for things in which I can connect, things in common, and when all else fails, I just keep asking them questions and don’t talk about myself at all.  Most women like to talk about themselves.  😉  But, more often than not, I start feeling awkward and too aggressive, and less feminine… or that I’m missing cues she’s sending (because that doesn’t come naturally to me), or something like that.

When thinking about this post, I could come up with about fifty things, right off the top of my head, where I’m really not as girly as most women, or things I like that most women don’t like…  Then, I started getting depressed, and decided to stop making that mental list.

So, please imagine my surprise when a lovely lady, my friend Brenda, pulled me aside and quietly told me a few days ago, “I watched you last Sunday in SuperChurch while you came off the stage and danced*.”  It was the Cha-Cha Slide, which the kids love to do, and is loads of fun; the teachers will occasionally put the music on when the adult service is running long and they need to kill some time with the kids.  She continued, “My thought right then was, as I was watching you dance, ‘She is so feminine.’  And I thought I should share that with you.”

She did this because in a conversation on Facebook, I had made the comment, “I tend not to read books for women because I get discouraged about how… unwomany I am.”  A few responded with encouragement, a few with incredulity, a few with, “I feel similarly!”  Brenda never commented, but she told me that after she read it, she thought to herself that I’d probably appreciate her sharing her thoughts with me.

Which I did.

Then, she made it even better by saying that she was thinking about how to tell me, and she got the thought, “You have just the right amount of femininity.  Just the right amount for yourself, and just the right amount for your daughters.”

Tears welled up.

That was so significant for me.

It sunk in deeply, immediately.  I could feel how important this was, and that this was going to be a pivotal moment in my life.

I’ll never forget it.

It made perfect sense.  YES, I’m not all crazy-feminine with pink, lacy frills, talking about Coach bags and mani-pedis (I’ve never had either), and neither do I seek out chick flicks — I’ve never seen Titanic or The Notebook —  and I don’t think I’ve ever cried at a commercial.  I have NEVER watched Lifetime channel.  I’m low-maintenance, and I love sports and I don’t run from conflict (even when, perhaps, I should).  I don’t like to be the center of attention, and tend to shy from anything flashy or shiny.  I generally don’t ever fear for my safety, and I worry that my children will look back and think I wasn’t nurturing enough as a mother.  But, God knew what He was doing when He made me, and in His wisdom, He gave me just the right amount of femininity.

Just the right amount.

————————

*I had led worship for the 6-12 year old kids.

Perfect love…

I had a thought yesterday that had me trippin’!

I absolutely adore it when I make a discovery or read something where science supports the Bible.  Add that to the science of birthing, and it nearly had me hyperventilating with excitement.  (I know, I get excited about weird things.)

Let’s see if I can explain my logic:

I was thinking about how, during the time when a woman is in labor with a baby, it’s really beneficial to completely banish fear, to have a 100% fear-free birth.  This is because fear releases adrenaline and noradrenaline (or epinephrine and norepinephrine), which triggers the “fight or flight” response.  These “fight or flight” hormones are also the polar opposite, endocrinely speaking, of oxytocin;  adrenaline pretty much negates the action of oxytocin:   adrenaline will “inhibit oxytocin production, therefore slowing or inhibiting labor“.  Oxytocin is a beneficial hormone released during labor that empowers contractions, enables breastfeeding, helps the mother to feel loved and to feel love towards her baby, and strengthens mother-child bonds.  Anything a mother can do to feel at ease, to feel protected, to feel loved and well-cared-for while birthing enables her to birth in such a way where her body is not fighting against the mechanisms of the birthing process, and enables her to feel better, all around.  In other words, it becomes a reciprocal process:  A mother feels loved and safe, so oxytocin is released.  That oxytocin, in return, enables the mother to feel even more at ease and calm.  “The baby also has been producing increasing amounts of oxytocin during labor;  so, in the minutes after birth, both mother and baby are bathed in an ecstatic cocktail of hormones.

Healthy birth, the way God created it, is a fear-free experience.

In other words, “perfect love casts out fear.”

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  I John 4:18 (NKJV)

Drawing by Cindy O. Used with her permission.

Garden! Honey laundering! Motivated Moms! Obsessed with bread! New glasses! Hiking!

  • Rhubarb Chard from Seeds of Change

    I have carrots, green onions, broccoli, and red chard seeds planted in my garden.  I’ll be planting more of everything, plus lettuce and bulb onions, as space allows.  Still growing:  Mexican grey squash (I’ve eaten lots of them, raw, when they’re about 3″ long, right before they turn yellow and die); Yoeme purple string beans (tall and mostly green, but appears to be heat-stressed… some blooms… I’m waiting to see if the plants will do better as the weather cools);  basil (the only thing that’s really thriving;  we eat basil in stuff 4-5x/week now);  tomatoes (loads of blooms, but not really vigorous, strong plants… again, waiting until it cools to reassess);  hot red chile plants (healthy-looking, but small and no blooms).  I’m trying to decide what to do about my ginormous Hopi pumpkin plant.  It is literally spilling out of my raised bed… the squash plant is about 10′ x 4′, and it is taking up so much room that could be used for something else.  The plant appears to be thriving, with huge, green leaves and dozens of blossoms, and it would be a shame to rip out something so vigorous.  But, the pumpkins grow about 2-3″ big and then die, much like my Mexican grey squash.  My husband thinks it’s due to the heat and that I should give it some time.  I’m trying not to think about all the other, possibly more fruitful veggies I could plant in the space that dumb pumpkin is hogging.

  • PLEASE READ this article on honey.  Please.  Who knew that honey was such a controversial topic??  It is imperative to your safety that you buy honey that is a product of the USA, or at least the western hemisphere.  Honey from China — tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals — is saturating the American market, because honey from China is banned in Europe.  “Some of the largest and most long-established U.S. honey packers are knowingly buying mislabeled, transshipped or possibly altered honey so they can sell it cheaper than those companies who demand safety, quality and rigorously inspected honey. … Almost 60 percent of what was imported – 123 million pounds – came from Asian countries – traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone.”  HONEY SMUGGLING.  Who knew?
  • "Like" OSC on Facebook for new post updates, quick responses to any questions and comments, plus additional tidbits.

    Perhaps it’s too early to make a true judgement, but Motivated Moms seems to be working great.  It’s oddly helpful to be accountable to a sheet of paper which is waiting for me to tick the boxes.  The system is a real change for me, because instead of cleaning the bathroom in one fell swoop, it has you clean the toilet one day, the mirrors another day, the sink the following day, etc.  However, breaking each task into 2-to-20 minute segments makes each of them more do-able for me.  Plus, I find it difficult to disappear into my bedroom for an hour and a half to clean the master bath from lighting fixtures to tile;  I just don’t have that large chunk of time often enough, and I just can’t leave my kids unsupervised for that long.  But, pretty much everyone can function on their own if mom is only “gone” for 20 minute segments.  It’s just now noon, and I’ve already accomplished more than I would in an entire typical day.  Plus, I’ve gone on Facebook, done some gardening, made a loaf of bread, and busted a few heads.  Not really “busted”.  I’ve applied some mothering.  😉

  • Speaking of bread, I’m an obsessed baker again.  I’m really motivated to find a recipe that WORKS, simply.  I have been making my Best Ever Gluten-Free Flour Mix for the last couple of months, consistently having it on hand to whip up some cupcakes or muffins or pancakes, and that has been wonderful and helpful.  Though it is a really versatile mix, I haven’t been able to successfully make sandwich bread with it, and I’m determined to come up with a bread recipe that will work using that flour mix.  Simple = sustainable.  I want to be able to daily (or nearly so) bake bread, and I know I won’t do it if I have to get out twenty billion ingredients, or remember a complicated process.  So far, the results are tasty, but too dense.  I’m tinkering with everything tinker-able — amount and kind of liquid, oven vs. breadmaker, amount of sugar and yeast, amount of rising time, etc.
  • They make me look hipper than I actually am.

    I got new glasses.  🙂

  • I went out hiking, early Saturday morning, with two friends, Cristi and Wendy.  It was the first time I hiked in about six weeks.  The hike wasn’t particularly strenuous, but it was good to just get out and get moving again.  What with the heat, a summer Bible study, my garden, our vacation, and simply getting out of the habit, my hiking went by the wayside.  I’m re-motivated now.  🙂

Organized moms, unite! Just kidding. I’m not really organized, but I’m trying.

  • This morning, I started a prayer journal.  I have journaled a LOT throughout my life, but I have never had a journal where each page is specifically devoted to one item I’m holding in prayer.  I think it’s going to take a couple of weeks just to write everything down!
  • In other organizational news, I’m trying to become a Motivated Mom.  I paid $4 (half price) for the planner for 2011, choosing the daily full-page version, and printed it off yesterday (well, printed Aug 11 through the end of the year).  I have a love/hate relationship with lists.  I do get more done when I write out what I need to do, yet I feel cowed by all there is to do, and all I don’t get done by the end of the day.  This is someone else’s list, so maybe I’ll do better with that.  🙂
  • I updated my boys’ chore chart.  They each have daily chores, plus items that are done once or twice weekly, assigned for age-appropriateness and skill.   Click here for a PDF if you wanna see how I slave-drive my sons.  (For the record, Ethan is 14, Grant is 12, and Wesley is 9.)
  • Last bit, not anything do do with being organized:  I have a friend from church who gives music lessons.  She can teach violin, flute, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, and keyboard/piano at her home or at yours.  (She can actually teach many more instruments, including brasses, but the six listed are her strongest suit.)  Her name is Leslie Herweg and her number is 616.566.0943.  That’s a Michigan cell phone number, but she is local to the Phoenix area.  43rd Avenue and Northern Ave area.  Her rates are $15 for a half-hour session with one child, or $25 for a session with two children.  🙂

Knock, knock…. KNOCK, KNOCK!!!

I struggle with being discouraged too easily and reading the wrong thing into roadblocks.  It came as a complete revelation to me that just because the initial answer appears to be “no” that doesn’t mean God wants me to stop trying.  Perhaps He wants me to try a different way, use a different approach, or wait…  You know, persist.  Persevere.  Ask and keep on asking.  Knock and keep on knocking.*  Seek Him out.  Pray a bit more.  Fast, even.

That’s hard for me.  I was raised in a “No means no” world, and I tend to be like that myself.

I found myself in adulthood with the mistaken impression that if something went wrong with my plans, then it wasn’t meant to be.  And, the inverse:  If God wanted me to do something, He’d make it easy for me.  <facepalm>  I can’t believe now that that was my understanding of blessing.  I thought if something was His plan for me, that if I was following His path, that surely He’d make the way smooth.  Proverbs 3:5-6 does say that He will direct our path if we’re trusting in Him, but it took me years — YEARS — to understand that sometimes, He directs our path through some pretty rocky terrain.

I remember my first months of marriage, and me being really shocked with how difficult it was.  I cried every day for the first three months.  Part of that was from difficulty adjusting, and part of it was, “HOLY CRAP.  What have I gotten myself into???”  I was really panic-stricken, because I thought that my husband Martin was God’s plan for me, but if he was, then why were things so *@&#)(*&!! hard???  So, I thought that maybe I had heard wrong from God, and now here I was, stuck in a marriage that was not of Him, stuck because I didn’t believe in divorce, and if I had made the wrong decision, I was going to have to suck it up and live — until death do us part — with my poor decision.

I didn’t understand that many, many, many times, God uses difficulty to refine us, to teach us, to draw us to Him, to bring us to maturity…

Ease ≠ God.

At least, not necessarily.

I think I had fabricated a holy-ish interpretation of the obviously fleshly maxim, “If it feels good, do it.”  I had turned it into, “If everything goes smoothly, God is in it, so it must be right.”  Turns out, that’s not in scripture.  That’s just not His way.  Lying on your back in a green field, looking up at the puffy clouds as they float by is pleasant, and there truly are some beautifully pleasant times with God;  He is a God of peace.  But, He is also a God of discipline.  I mean discipline in the best sense — the ordered, structured process by which we reap something fruitful from our well-directed labor.

I’m thinking of my garden right now.  It has been an unending metaphor for my life.  “If I pick the right seeds — heirloom, native, organic — and plant at the right time, and tend it properly, I will have LOADS and LOADS of abundant produce, and I will share it with everyone, and I will can the overflow, and we will save on groceries, and I will be productive, and my husband will appreciate my efforts on behalf of our family!!!”  Well, it hasn’t turned out like that.  I did a whole lot more learning in the last six months or so than reaping.  These past couple weeks, I have been preparing the soil for a better harvest…  About 3″ more of (organic, homemade) compost, about a 1/2″ layer of sand, a handful of Ironite, a sprinkling of gypsum, turn over the soil as deep I can, mix it in, mix it again, turn it again, get down on my hands and knees with a little trowel and little cultivator and try to work every cubic inch of soil, down at least 12″.  THAT IS HARD WORK.  I have worked up a sweat.  I have gotten sunburnt.  I have gotten COVERED in dirt.  And it takes all day to do about 20 square feet.  All day.  Sore muscles, quarts of water consumed, swatting away the flies…  Ugh.  It hasn’t been pretty, that’s for sure.

But, I have hope, you know?

I’m not as idealistic (which is a whole ‘nother topic — harmful idealism) as I once was about the garden, and I find myself saying, “Well, maybe the winter crop still won’t be fruitful.  But I’m going to keep on trying, keep on learning, and I’m not giving up.”

I know, I know… I’ve already blogged about this.

This post, by the way, is NOTHING like what I set out to write.  I was going to write about how a young woman wanted me to be her unofficial doula last year, and I invested HOURS of time on her, and when it came to labor, she totally chucked all the natural stuff out the window and had a pitocin-and-epidural birth and was disappointed by the results, and how she didn’t feel euphoric when the baby was born (drugs’ll do that, because they’re endocrine disruptors).  Then, she got pregnant again, and didn’t invite me to the birth, which I was OK with, because the first one was a hard disappointment…  But her first words to our mutual friend after her second son was born was, “I wish Karen had been here.”  Which made me happy and sad.  I should have at least asked if she wanted me there, instead of saying to myself, “Hmph.  I’m not even going to offer, because if she really wants to do it naturally, she’ll ask.”  Gah.  I feel like a slug for having thought that.  AND, it’s one more instance of me giving up too easily, letting my disappointment beset me, and that keeping me from doing something I really should have done.

I remember one night in a small group Bible study, about fifteen years ago, and a guy named Doug said something about seeking God out, and that sometimes, it’s like God plays hide-and-seek.  I was offended.  That went against EVERYTHING I believed.  God doesn’t HIDE from us!  If God wants us to know something, or do it, He will let Himself be known.  We don’t have to LOOK for Him!  Doug said that God hides in such a way like we might with a small child — with a big toe sticking out underneath the curtain which we’re hiding behind, or we might cough a bit.  I cannot begin to describe my shock.  Then Doug had the audacity to Scripturally back up what he was postulating, using verses in the Song of Solomon.  The whole thing really… well, I don’t know if it changed my paradigm right then, but it at least started the process.

And, I think Doug was onto something there.

He’s now a pastor at my church, too.  😀  Turns out he does know a thing or two.

So.

The moral of the story is, instead of expecting God to just appear with an orchestral crescendo and sprinkle magic pixie dust on my life and make it easy, I’m learning to look for His big toe, the hint of His presence, and not be so easily discouraged when He doesn’t show up with blessing like I thought He was supposed to, in the way I want Him to.

He DOES bless, but He doesn’t bless by making things EASY.  Martin IS the right man;  it’s just that marriage is hard work, and honoring my husband and laying down my life — in some ways literally, in some figuratively — for him is hard.  The garden isn’t flawed just because it needs some hard work, not the garden in my back yard, nor the garden of my life.

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*“ask” in Matthew 7:7 — αιτειτε  verb – present active imperative.  In other words, you DO it and you keep doing it.

Summer Garden Beef Pot Roast (GFCF) recipe

I must say that after about nine months of composting, it is still very satisfying.  It’s satisfying to mix in homemade compost into my garden, and satisfying that those veggie kitchen scraps are going to good use, and not just thrown in the trash.

I was thinking about that this morning as I was peeling carrots.  🙂

I was also thinking about a recent visit to allrecipes.com, a site which I really like, and seeing “recipes” for chicken whose sole ingredients were:

  • A chicken
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp paprika

That’s it.  The recipe in question has received more than 1,000 reviews (average of 4.5 stars, out of 5), and nearly 71,000 people have saved it as a favorite.  😮

Call me a snob, but I just don’t consider that a recipe.

My sweet friend Daja blogged about this cultural phenomenon recently:  Recipes that aren’t, which she entitled They just don’t make ’em like they used to, in which she contrasted old fashioned recipes with newer “recipes”.

Or how about this gem: specific instructions on spreading marshmallow cream and peanut butter on bread.  Silly me, I thought that was something we didn’t admit to eating, not something we outlined in great detail.

Lots of good, fresh recipes on the site from which this pic was taken! The Seasonal Gourmet. Perfect.

So, anyway.  I was thinking about all of this, considering whether or not what I was making this morning qualifies as a true recipe.  I decided that, yes, it does, even though I almost never actually use recipes for dinner.  I pretty much just buy what’s on sale and in season (and now, what I can reap from my garden, or what was in my weekly CSA basket), look in the fridge and assess what I have, and come up with a plan that matches what I have on hand.  That’s what I did, this morning.  Since it’s summertime, I used ingredients that I probably wouldn’t have on hand in the winter, like red bells, fresh basil, and zucchini.  And, of course, if you’re going to make a pot roast in the summer, you must use a Crockpot.  Heating up the whole house just makes no sense.

Here ya go:

Summer Garden Beef Pot Roast

serves 6-8
(click here for pdf:  Summer Garden Beef Pot Roast pdf)

  • 3-5 lb beef chuck roast, bone-in
  • 8 medium carrots (about 1 pound)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large zucchini (about 1 pound)
  • 4 stalks celery, with leaves
  • 1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes OR about 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp sweet California chili powder OR paprika
  • 1 tsp dry, rubbed sage
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (about 10 – 15 large leaves)
  • 8 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • IF you have a very large (8+ quart) Crockpot, 3 lbs Yukon gold and/or red-skinned potatoes.
  1. Place the roast in the bottom of a 6 or 7 quart Crockpot (usually oval-shaped, rather than round).  No need to cut it up.
  2. As you prepare each veggie, just throw it in, atop the roast.
  3. Peel the carrots and slice lengthwise.  Cut each “stick” into 3-4 pieces.
  4. Core and seed the red bell pepper, cut into pieces approximately 1″ x 1″.
  5. Peel and slice the onion into about 16 sections.
  6. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into quarters and chop into pieces about ½” wide.
  7. Chop the celery into pieces about ½” wide.  (Leave the leaves.  They add more flavor!  Or, just do what I do:  Cut off the dried ends of a bunch of celery, then chop from there until you have about 1 cup of pieces.)
  8. Add the tomatoes, chili powder (or paprika), sage, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  9. If you used canned tomatoes, add some water to the can to rinse out the remaining tomatoes and add to the Crockpot.  If you used fresh tomatoes, add 1 cup water.
  10. If you still have room remaining in your Crockpot, cut each potato into 4-6 pieces and continue adding until Crockpot is full.
  11. Gently stir contents of the Crockpot with a wooden spoon (or just plunge your hands in and mix).
  12. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 6-7 hours until meat is fall-apart tender.
  13. If you added potatoes, you have a complete, one-dish meal.  If you did not add potatoes, serve over mashed potatoes or rice.
  14. Enjoy!
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