Are you afraid of the dark?

I walked out into the hall carefully shutting the door behind me. Only 10 minutes since I’d gone to bed but there was something (or rather someone) nudging me to go try and be alone in the dark for a while. “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that saved my life over and over again, so there really is only one logical conclusion.  I need darkness as much as I need light.” She said. That she being Barbara Brown Taylor who wrote the book I was reading Learning to walk in the dark.

Go out and experience it, she urges. Meet yourself in the dark and discover what you find.

I crept into the hall quietly, determined not to wake my husband or the baby. Closing the door I found myself looking at nothing. Not a haze of outlines or even shadows of grey. There was nothing in the darkness. Nothing ahead or behind. It’s a cavernous hallway of nothing.

Nothingness as most of us know it is not so bad. I’ve never been afraid to be alone with myself. I love to read and have spent many an afternoon tucked away with a good book. I have often slept in the sun like a cat on the love seat in my living room on Sunday afternoons away from the world and it’s distractions. There can be nothing happening in the house and I am happy to putter and move around completely content to be alone and quiet. This nothingness as we know it in our culture is different from the nothingness that comes from being in the dark. This nothingness is chosen. Darkness just comes, each night to meet you if you let it.

When vision is no longer an option you’re left relying on other senses, other ways of experiencing the world and that can be challenging when one is used to seeing. Those of us who have vision rely heavily on sight. I hadn’t really thought about how heavily until I started reading Rev. Taylor’s book. What we see often pulls us away. We see dinky cars and lego scattered on the floor that needs to be dealt with. We see piles of dishes and stacks of paper that need to be put away. We notice things that must be done and find ways to entertain and distract ourselves. In the dark I see none of those things. I just exist in this moment and space. Any distractions are of my own making. I have to control my thoughts and surrender to the nothingness. I started to get a sense for why she encouraged this exploration. The darkness offers something completely different to the light. Did I want to accept what it offered? Was I ready for what it could give me?

I come face to face with myself in the dark. In the quiet stillness I can hear more of what is being whispered to me. With no distractions I am able to commune with God on a different level if I allow it. The question remains, do I want to hear it? The darkness brings with it a forced time of reflection and contemplation. If I turn off the lights and embrace what darkness offers I have chosen to exist in a way that was long ago forgotten. This is the age of street lights and night lights, of monitors and digital alarm clocks. Darkness in this age is hard to find. I wonder if the extension of day into night in our age of progress and productivity is merely a reflection of our fear of being alone with our thoughts and our God. I wonder what would happen if we consciously embraced the darkness and all it offers.

52 weeks – 52 books

Since the process of assessment and therapy for X began I’ve found myself floating further and further away from myself as my thoughts were consumed with the ‘A’ word and all that goes with it.  Autism can be all encompassing.  Pair it with breastfeeding and a mother is sure to lose herself entirely to obligations, charting, therapeutic methods and growth spurts.  Part of this is normal when you have a new baby. Everything is upside down while you struggle with the new normal.  The rhythm of life changes and you need to learn new dance steps to stay in time.

Lately I haven’t been dancing much at all. I’ve been running full tilt and that has to stop. My mind has not been clear.  Fatigue hit my body hard. I knew that something had to give and I needed to take a little time for myself so I bought a book, sat down with my Kindle and began to read. I read all the time so this wasn’t an unusual action for those around me but lately the books I’ve chosen have been soft, fluffy things to keep my spirits up. Last week though I went another way and purchased Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. Something happened in the reading of this book. It was as if a light switched on inside me which had been off for months. Suddenly I found myself overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas of my own. I was reflecting and probing areas I’d long since neglected. It was wonderful. When I turned the last page yesterday I found myself a little sad that it was over.  Over the span of the evening I found myself flirting with an idea. I thought it might be fun to challenge myself to read 52 books this year. Not 52 books in general. I could definitely read that over the course of a year but 52 books to challenge the heart and mind. Books that would encourage me to think and discern.  Books that require me to actively engage instead of be passively entertained.

I think one book a week is doable.  I have no desire to entirely abandon entertainment reading or the latest episode of Castle and I think this will allow me to incorporate it all.  Some grace will be allowed.  If a book is particularly gruelling or ridiculously long I may evaluate the length of time in which I must have it finished but for the most part I expect a book a week is possible.  If you have any suggestions for books you think I simply must read please leave them in the comment section.  I have 50 more books to choose and would love to discover what has impacted you in your spiritual journey.

This week I am reading The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation by Thomas Merton.  

You matter

fruit fly

You matter.

You may not think you do, but you do. You are important in this world. What you do impacts others and makes a difference in their lives. Don’t believe me? Think of the noble fruit fly. The tiny, insignificant bug that wreaks havoc on the average home. A bug so small you’d think you wouldn’t notice it but you do and in noticing you realize that there are overripe tomatoes on the counter that need to be dealt with.

You matter. You count. You do make a difference.

Go out today and be like the fruit fly. When people aren’t listening get in their face and make them hear what you have to say. Be a nuisance. Be persistent. Take that dream God has planted on your heart and make it a reality.

You matter. You were created for a purpose. Go live out that purpose and see what happens.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

Envy rots the bones.

Like a tiny parasite, envy grows within you at first without you even noticing.  It buries itself deep within your heart and feeds on all those things that you admire and like about those around you.  As you feed it, it grows bigger and bigger.  Then it is everywhere and it’s true nature becomes known to you.  Envy has made it’s way into your life to bring you down.

Envy has struck my heart lately.

It’s not something I’m proud of.  It’s not as though I sit and make lists of things I want or places I need to go.  Envy hits when I least expect it.  When I’m on Facebook and I see something neat that a friend is trying in their church.  It hits when I hear of another friend’s child hitting a milestone for communication. I’m happy for these people.  I truly am.  But sometimes on the tough days a little envy sneaks in and I find myself asking the dreaded question of the ages, ‘why?’.

Why did I study for so long to not work?  Why does my son have to struggle?

Why?

Three letters.  Three small letters that grow and chain themselves around my heart leaving envy behind.

Comparison is not good for the soul.  No ones life is easy.  I’m sure there are some who look at mine and think that it is.  We all face burdens and circumstances that are challenging to us.  Avoiding comparison can help keep envy at bay.  I need to break free from comparison. I need to find peace where I am.

A heart at peace gives life to the body,
    but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30 NIV)

Today’s world is not one that really encourages deep satisfied peace.  Our Facebook feeds feed us the good news of each others lives and rarely if ever showcase the bad.  Media tells us we will be happy if we only have the right underwear, television or car.  Self help books tell us how to change ourselves into something better.  It’s all great but it doesn’t bring peace.  Peace comes from somewhere else.  Peace comes from someone else.

In my battle to beat the demon that is envy I find myself praying daily for a change in attitude, not circumstance.  While I cannot change what is, I can accept it and move forward from this point with a new perspective and hope.  After all I am not alone in this and there is one who knows what will be.  I must lean on him, let go of envy and fear and work my way into whatever plan he has for me from this point on.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

When therapists attack…

Okay, they don’t actually attack.  Maybe ‘take over’ is a better description.  My son’s therapists have moved in and essentially claimed every area that is not our (my husband and I) bedroom as an acceptable place to do therapy.  The type of IBI that X. is currently engaged in is all about learning within the real world so that the skills he learns are transferable to many different situations.  I am behind this 100% but it has left me with almost nowhere to retreat to.  They’ve even claimed my office as it seems to be the most comfortable place to do puzzles and play games.

I don’t want you thinking I can’t live in my own home. I can. I am allowed to play with the baby anywhere and we can co-exist with the therapy but I need some quiet time. I crave quiet time in the day.  So does my little guy.  He cannot nap in chaos.  I don’t think many of us can.  After a month of hanging out in the relative quiet of my bedroom while my son napped in his bassinet mid-afternoon I found myself dreaming of a place where I could leave my computer out and have a few books in a stack.  You know, an office of sorts kind of like the one that was stolen from me.  This dream has become a reality.  While I was walking through Costco last week I found a cheap folding table that was skinny enough to fit in front of my bedroom window.  I’m writing on it right now!  It’s fantastic.  There’s room for a few books, a cup of coffee, my elbows and my laptop.  Have I mentioned it can be easily converted into a sewing station?

window

I feel like a new woman.  Like this week I may write an epic love story or the next great theological text.  While in reality I may just send a few emails and post a blog or two this has folding table has given me the opportunity for a little quiet in quite a loud season and I am thrilled to have found it.  Here’s to the little things in life!  They sometimes make all the difference.

The bag that was not functional.

I’ve been working hard at perfecting my sewing technique.  As my son’s therapy begins and our time attached to the house increases I find myself looking for things to do during nap time and sewing was one thing I’ve always wanted to get better at.  Yesterday during nap time I made this bag.

Bag

Looks good, right? The stitches are straight. The elastic is firmly connected at the seem. The interfacing is flat and functional.  Everything looks good in the picture. It looks like a clutch you could take out on a nice summer evening. It would be great on a nice summer evening if it wasn’t so large. I was going for a larger style but somehow managed to create the worlds largest clutch and it’s really not functional. I now have a lovely bag which is absolutely useless.

This got me to thinking. How often in our lives do we work away and toil at things which are going nowhere? How long do we continue to push ahead on projects that really should be left behind? I can see that there was a benefit to me in finishing this project. I worked on seams and linings. I was able to line up the button and make sure everything was the way I wanted it to be. There were things I learned and I’ll be able to take that into the next project. It wasn’t a total failure on that front but the outcome was not what I would have hoped.

This effort was a good reminder of was the importance to constantly check what it is I am working on and make sure it is going well and is headed in the right direction. This is true for sewing projects, parenting and my relationship with God. From time to time it’s good to evaluate and really see if I’m where I want to be.

How do you do make sure you’re headed where you want to go?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Soaked Oats

Hey there! It’s been a while. Life’s been good here. I got my hair cut. Did some pantry organizing. Had a baby. You know, the usual. I’m starting to feel like myself again and find books and other intellectual pursuits calling my name. I don’t have a lot of time for reading yet but what I can squeeze into my day has been treasured time. It’s lovely to find yourself once more on the other side of delivery.  With the new normal being a little busier than before I find myself looking for short cuts in the things that must be done.  I have discovered a brilliant shortcut for breakfast, the soaked oats bowl.  I didn’t create it.  I merely created my own version.  I don’t know who started it and when but I will say they have my respect and thanks.

Soaked Oats

Soaked Oats

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c old fashioned oats (I use Bob’s extra thick but any kind will do)
  • 3/4 c almond milk (I use an unsweetened vanilla variety)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 apple

Instructions:

The night before in a breakfast bowl layer the following ingredients in this order:

  • oats
  • chia seeds
  • cinnamon
  • almond milk
  • raisins
  • pumpkin seeds
  • shredded coconut

Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator.

In the morning removed your bowl and cover the mixture with diced apples.
Mix everything together and enjoy!

Easy, right? This is seriously the best breakfast option I have on the go right now. It takes about 3 minutes the night before to put together and another 2 minutes in the morning to chop up the apple. It’s the perfect summer breakfast as it’s refreshing, cool and virtually effortless. I hope you like it!

Pirate Oatmeal

Snow at Easter

This morning we woke up to this.  It’s insane.  Yesterday it was so humid in my house and the day was so warm that even opening the doors didn’t bring relief.  Then the temperature dropped, the furnace went back on and we woke up to snow.  Holy week snow.  Crazy!

Just last week I was thinking about making some granola and transitioning into summer breakfast mode. Today I was glad I did not actually get around to making it.  On cold mornings there is nothing that hits the spot quite like warm oatmeal.  If you’re feeling kind of lazy though or just plain frazzled it can be hard to find the time to actually get it cooked on the stove especially if you’re like me and enjoy old fashioned thick rolled oats.  As a compromise for those busy mornings I’ve found that baking oatmeal in the oven can produce a delicious, low effort breakfast that everyone appreciates.

This particular recipe is a variation on my usual morning baked oatmeal in that it has slightly different ingredients.  Pirate oatmeal is loaded with buried treasure.  In any given bite you’ll find something a little different.  Some dried fruit, a slivered almond or two and maybe even some shaved coconut.  If snow has found you once more and you’re looking for a different twist on your regular morning routine, give this a whirl.  You won’t regret it!

Pirate OatmealPirate Oatmeal
Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 c old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c shredded almonds
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c shredded coconut (I use unsweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 c unsweetened soy milk (or whatever milk you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 c unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 c maple syrup

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Prepare a 9×9 pan with a little cooking spray or oil.
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring well.
  • Pour the mixture into the pan.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes until it’s set.
  • Pull out and enjoy!

Extra Information:

  • This keeps very well in the fridge if you’re the only one who likes oatmeal.  It makes for an even faster breakfast the next day!
  • You can throw in all kinds of ingredients to this mix.  Combine any number of dried fruits and nuts to give yourself variety in the morning.
  • If you’re looking for something a little different to serve at brunch this is a nice addition.  It goes well with scrambled tofu (and I would think eggs if you’re serving those).  It’s easy but looks quite nice when it’s coming straight out of the oven.

What a week this has been {and a recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Loaves}

It’s Thursday and I’m already wondering how we’ve crammed so much into this week in this house. On Monday I had an appointment with my OB who informed me that we should be ready anytime for the impending arrival of our child. I have to think this was a bit of an overreaction on his part as it’s now Thursday and he’s still cozy and settled with no moves to enter this world. Tuesday was filled with an assessment and analysis of our son where we had our suspicions confirmed that he has autism. This assessment was followed by lunch with my Sister and her husband and shopping and Costco. It was a busy day, a full, busy crazy day! Yesterday my son and I spent the day at home baking, playing with his monkey and pretend food, enjoying a visit from Grandma and reading some Harry Potter. It was lovely and full. We both went to bed tired and happy. Today is a quieter day yet I’m sitting on the couch after the delivery of our new stove contemplating contacting the insurance company yet again to ask if they’re ever going to come and fix our tiles and cupboards so we can put our dishwasher in. A lot is happening around here and there is much to think about.

There are many things to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.  With a new baby, watching our older son continue to learn and explore this wonderful world in which we live, a house that is complete once more and sunshine returning to our neighbourhood to look forward to I’m sure it will be wonderful. I know that as we live it there will be moments of exhaustion and pain. I know that some days will be better than others. But none of that matters, really. Life is filled with good things and bad. Life is busy days, quiet ones and all kinds of middle ground mixed in. It really is what you make of it and I am currently enjoying my last moments of relative ease with our number two son locked inside trying to make moments matter out here. One moment that mattered recently was baking banana bread yesterday afternoon. My son found the mashing of bananas fascinating and he eagerly awaited the first piece of luscious goodness. He was mildly confused when I referred to it as banana bread (as he sees bread as ‘bread’) but upon tasting it his confusion was cleared as he informed me it was actually a muffin and his world was ok again. This was a beautifully sweet, silly moment that helped me to realize that I may in fact need to haul out the loaf pans more often so he has more exposure to sweet breads!

I share this recipe with you today as it is one of the most versatile, delicious banana loaf recipes we’ve ever used. It’s healthier than most but not too healthy. The sweet crumbly texture is perfect if you’re looking for an afternoon treat. I made four mini loaves so we could freeze some for later and they were the perfect size for us as they prevent us from  over indulging at any one time.

I am hopeful that over the coming weeks and months my voice will return once more and I can speak on things beyond food. Now that the assessments are over and everything ready for the little one to arrive I anticipate my focus will return at some point. Until then I will bake and nap and enjoy some time in the sun.

Chocolate Chip Banana Mini Loaves
makes 4 mini loaves

chocolate chip banana loaves

Ingredients: 

  • 2 c mashed ripe bananas (5-6 large bananas)
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1 1/2 c soy milk
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 c chocolate chips

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Mix the soy milk and apple cider vinegar together and wait until it’s curdled before continuing.
  • In a large bowl combine the bananas, white sugar, brown sugar, oil, soy milk mixture, and vanilla.
  • Add in the flour, baking soda and salt.
  • Mix until combined.
  • Add in the chocolate chips.
  • Pour into prepared pans.
  • Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes or until done.

Extra Information: 

  • You could make these into muffins or two giant loaves. It’s really up to you how you do it. If you make them into muffins they will take much less time to cook so I’d begin with 20 minutes and then see how much longer you think they’ll need.
  • If you don’t like chocolate chips you can throw in some walnuts, flaked coconut or just leave them plain.
  • In my oven these loaves take 55 minutes exactly. It may take slightly less or more time in yours. They are very moist and remain moist over a few days but this is dependent on not overcooking them. Don’t forget about them!
  • The riper the bananas the better the flavour. Use up those very dark spotted bananas no one will eat in this recipe. They are perfect for banana bread!