So long . . .

It has been a whole year since I last wrote and a very long time since I wrote regularly. For the last year, I've actually wanted to write, but free time has gone hither and yon and been used wisely and wastefully (social media!). But also, everything online feels so contentious and I don't like online conflict and while I've still got some strong opinions I feel less full of wisdom than every before, I now feel more reluctant to say anything. Who knows where this blog is going to go!

I'm reading several books right now. One is, The Gospel has a House-Key by Rosaria Butterfield. Y'all, I was REALLY grumpy at Tuan for ordering this book. I didn't want to be convicted about hospitality or be challenged and when it came in the mail I opened it and left it on the piano so HE could read it. And then I walked by and picked it up and read from the middle to the last 3/4 without stopping . . . and then I turned to the front and skimmed the first half. Now I'm all convicted and uncomfortable and it's all his fault!

I'm still processing how this applies in my own life. The Butterfields are extraordinarily hospitable (as in EXTRAORDINARILY). Not all of us are called to do it the same way, but as believers we are all called to be hospitable, and I want to do this better. Particularly, I want to be more spontaneous, and invite people into our ordinary life more often, and just be more intentional with gospel conversation. I can have 70 people over for gallons of soup without flinching, but I really have a harder time with just inviting people to join us for regular dinners and life. I also get this mental block about it at times--it can seem daunting, but I REALLY love it when it happens. So, if you are a camp neighbor, and reading this, please just invite yourself over and help a sister out!

This ties in with another book I'm reading, Spiritual Mothering by Susan Hunt. Three other women and I went to a conference where she spoke on Titus 2 discipleship and we all bought the book. I'm so encouraged by what I heard and read and am just pondering a lot and thinking about how I can be more faithful and gospel-centered in my own relationships with women. So many dear women have poured into my life and prayed for me and my family and pointed me to Jesus. I pray that I can do likewise.

This is a wild and wonderful season. Schooling the kids is pretty consuming, but we have turned a corner in life where I am not having to keep my eyes on someone at all times and the kids can go visit friends and I can even run an errand to camp while J babysits. It's a sweet, sweet season with our kiddos and as my older two are on the edge of adolescence, I am just clinging to these days and trying to really enjoy them.

So many wonderful things are happening and going on in our life right now. God is teaching me hard and good lessons and I'm grateful for this "good" season.


This is Why We're We

Morning quiet time . . .  Reading amiably in our chairs.

I speak first. "We should fry things EVERY Friday because its 'FRI-day', get it"

He replies, "absolutely we should." resumes reading, then says thoughtfully,

"I wish we had bought cabbage."

"ME TOO! I had the same thought fifteen minutes ago."

He grabs my hand.

"I love you."

Yes. Indeed. We are but one mind and one way of thinking.


When TV and Real Life Collide

This past spring and summer I got Tuan to watch Friday Night Lights with me. It is a series that just really stuck with me and I wanted Tuan to kind of understand this part of who I was. So, we watched the entire series (skipping most of the stuff with Jason and Lyla, because basically they are the Jack and Kate (LOST) of the show and annoying as all get out and both couples could/should have been written out much earlier on).

Then, we went to family camp and there was a counselor who looked an awful lot like Tyra Collette, which had us tickled. As luck would have it, there was a red-headed kid there that week named Landry!

At one of the activities, Tuan walked up laughing and whispered, "'Tyra' is belaying Landry and keeps saying, 'come on, Landry, you can do it!'".

We got SUCH a kick out of that. I had to write it down for memory's sake.

We also found out after we got back from Glorieta that LONGMIRE is filmed at and around Glorieta and wouldn't ya know, we keep seeing VERY familiar spots as we are watching that series.


Pleasant Places

I tossed and turned a lot last night. Tuan is out of town and I don't sleep well when he's gone. But with each waking in the night, waves of gratefulness kept sweeping over me.

I think that's the theme of this season of my life: gratefulness. After some wild and crazy and hard and good years, where we saw the LORD move in incredible ways to guide and provide for us--even as we struggled with the means of His provision, I'm just so thankful for right now.

Our hearts beat for camping--for serving this gospel ministry and the staff who do it. In the season where the LORD took us away from camping (and provided in amazing ways!), I wrestled so much with contentment and this question: Is Jesus enough? Could I be content just in Him, even if the door to camp never opened again and we stayed in our current situation for the rest of our days? I think I was just beginning to dig into the depths of my heart on the matter when this job was offered. Lots of folks said, "of course you'll go back into camping!" However, I knew that the LORD might not do that, and my heart needed to be okay with his leading. It was a similar situation to the chaplain who told me when Aubrey was in the NICU (and all was uncertain), that "your baby is going to be just fine." Well, no. God hasn't promised those things. Can He? Absolutely. Will He? I don't know. I only know what He has promised in His word.

I'm in a bit of a skeptical place where when I hear outside-the-Bible advice and wisdom, that I question it. "Is what you're so passionate about declaring as true for the mourner, the wounded, the refugee and the oppressed as it is for me?"

So here we are. The Ebenezers are piling up and I'm just savoring HIS kind mercies and graces. It isn't always easy, but its good. I'm deeply thankful that Tuan loves his work and that the kids have friends to play with. I'm thankful for the staff and every chance I get to talk with someone and hear their stories. I'm thankful for a church family to get to know. As the psalmist said, "the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places". Then again, they always have. It's just easier to see it right now.

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

  As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

  The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or ltake their names on my lips.

  The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

  I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
  I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
             Therefore my heart is glad,              and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

  You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16


Easy Breezy Artisan Bread For the Laid Back and Frugal Crowd

I have shared a few pictures of our "no-knead, quick, artisan bread" on Instagram and a few people (two!) have asked for the recipe. I thought I would sort of blog it out with pictures if you want the full idea of how this works for me. (I think they asked in JANUARY. So sorry for the delay!)
You know how on Facebook these people post a recipe with the disclaimer "hundreds are asking me for this recipe again, so here it is and share it on your wall so you don't lose it." Well, I'm under no such delusion of grandeur. This one's for Melanie and Carol!

Here's the short and sweet of it. (I can't find the original recipe source, but it has been slightly modified).

In a large bowl or container, combine:

6 Cups warm Water
1.5 TBSP Yeast
1.5 TBSP Salt
1.5 TBSP Sugar

Then, add in 13 cups of bread flour. Stir until just combined, leave loosely covered in a warm place for two hours or until the dough doubles.
Pull off as much as you like, shape into loaves (add extra flour if needed). Place in or on a pan (lined with parchment is best!) and let rise for forty minutes. Store extra dough in the fridge covered with a little bit of gap in your lid for air.

Bake at 485 for 20-30 minutes

The dough keeps for around a week. Anytime you want to bake, remove from the bowl, shape, let rise for 40 minutes and bake 20-30 minutes at 485.

It's so easy!

I started doing this when money was a little tight and spending heaps of "dough" on bread was KILLING me. This method is so economical and really stretches our grocery budget. I can get a massive bag of flour for around 8.00 and it lasts many, many batches.

I buy my flour and sea salt and yeast at Sam's. The flour is stored in its own bag, wrapped in very fancy plastic. : ) I want to find a good flour bin, but I'm not shelling out money for a full price one, yet.

The dough is stored in this FANTASTIC, vintage Tupperware cake plate I bought ages ago. It's huge and wonderful. Because it is always is in the fridge, I don't clean it thoroughly between uses and I am convinced the bread tastes better because of it. I scrape it down with my bench scraper and it dissolves into the warm water of the new batch.

To keep it simple, I taped a card with proportions of ingredients, so that when I bake, I don't have to find the recipe card. Mine is kind of janky and sad, so I am providing a printable card for anyone who wants to have a prettier label.

You can use the dough for loaves and boules and baguette shapes and pizza. I think the loaves make a heavenly tomato sandwich. And the wetter the dough, the better. Just flour the outside enough that you can shape it.

It really makes a good pizza dough--knead just a little with flour to not be sticky and then roll it out on a mixture of cornmeal and flour. Sometimes I spread a little olive oil on the crust.

Lining the pans with parchment paper (bulk purchase from Sam's) is a huge help--nothing sticks and I don't have to scrub pans.

We don't eat the bread every day. But I usually start the week out by throwing a batch together on Monday morning and we just have it as we need it all week long. It's so handy to be able to throw a loaf in the oven when I can't figure out/am not prepared for lunch.

Final things. I think every kitchen should have a "bench scraper". It's so helpful for scraping down the sides of the bowl, cleaning a wooden cutting board and moving chopped things. Its one of my my most beloved tools.

The "lastest" thing is that if you had ANY doubt this recipe isn't perfectly suited for Type B folks, let this spoon and cup reassure you. I lost all my measuring spoons in a move, so for the last two years I've been using that soup spoon for my tablespoon measure and I often use that cup for my cup measure . . . and the bread STILL turns out. Every time. Eventually I'll break down and get a new set, but I take a bit of perverse pleasure in not using real measuring spoons.

Happy baking! Let me know if you try this method!