On Thanksgiving and Fear

Instead of fear, let us show generosity. Learning-Grace.com

I’m sitting here at my in-law’s table where we will celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow afternoon with family piled all around. I am grateful for so much: my family near and far, my community, my church, my kids. My cup overflows.

But, at the same time I cannot shake these pictures of Syrian refugee children and where they will sleep tonight. I cannot stop the news of activists being shot in Minneapolis, of the racial divide that continues to grip our country. Of the outright xenophobia being expressed by my neighbors. I am thankful and I am deeply troubled at what I see around me.

I have some other more lighthearted blogs in the pipeline, but the current state of our world: the fear, the hate, the misdirected anger, the dividing lines happening in our nation—the world, really—has my mind on more serious matters.

Our world didn’t get this way overnight, but the fact is those attacks in Paris and the ones since have shed light on exactly how polarized we are over matters of terrorism, hospitality, fear, and blame.

I find myself wringing my hands in the face of it all. The problems feel too big and too scary and I just don’t know where to start. And then I think of the saying: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

I can’t solve it all, neither can you. The issues we’re facing really are too big. But we can start with our neighbor and loving that person—showing kindness and generosity to him or her. And then we can start by expanding our definition of neighbor; maybe they’re not just the people on our street, but down the block or in our cities, country, world and then extend it to our neighbor’s neighbors. Instead of fear, let us show generosity. Let us think creatively about that generosity, like the California mom who is getting baby carriers into the hands of Syrian refugees in Greece.

We are all human, after all. The people who are in the midst of all this suffering really do suffer as much as you or I would. They are not made of tougher stock nor are they just “used” to it. They want their children to have a warm place to sleep. Their children are no less cold or afraid than our children would be. I look at my kids cozy in their beds, curled up with their stuffed animals and I cannot imagine them sleeping, cold and exposed on the forest floor. But Syrian kids and kids in many other places in this world (including the United States) do so every night. I just don’t understand shutting the door on them. And where in our Christian community is our faith? Do we not believe in the same God who commands:

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19 (NRSV)

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:33-34 (NRSV)

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44 (NRSV)

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I have no words.

I have no words. by Michelle Okabayashi www. learning-grace.com

I have no words; I have too many words. And so I have said nothing.
Parisians. Lebanese. Kenyans. Iraqis. Syrians.
All crafted by the same God.
They bleed the same blood. They weep the same tears.

While others draw lines in the sand.

Hate. Love. Fear. Intermingled, confused.
The enemy and the victim look the same—to some.

Whom do you embrace?
Whom do you shun?
Who is worth the risk?

I am grieved.
I am moved.
Plunged deep beyond an anchor’s reach.

The hate scares me most: irrational and dangerous.
A torch waving too close to the tinder.

When fear overcomes love.
When “Christians” cower and spew hate.
Is this how we were created to be? Is this our witness?

Oh God, let it be not so.
Let your truth rise above.
Let it drown out the cacophony of hate.

Let your love surround. Heal. Forgive.
Shore up those whose lives have been burst.

Send your ambassadors, the ones with your word engraved on their hearts.
Rise up the fearless ones who know your perfect love is the necessary balm.

 

 

 

© 2015 Michelle Okabayashi. All rights reserved.

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Butternut, Sausage, and Apple Bake

 

Butternut, Sausage & Apple Bake www.learning-grace.com

This squash represents the last of our CSA bounty. It’s always a sad day to say goodbye to our farm-fresh vegetables. I wanted these to go out with a bang. So, I tinkered around and thought of all the wonderful things that I love to eat with butternut squash and came up with this one-dish meal. It takes a while in the oven, but it is so well worth it.

Butternut, Sausage & Apple Bake www.learning-grace.com

First, caramelize two onions. I love caramelized onions, they’re so full of flavor. I use a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. There is a method to cooking up the perfect onions, check this article from Bon Appetite to get the whole story.

Caramelized Onions www.learning-grace.com

Then I just mixed the cooked sausage, rice, apples, and squash along with the onions in a 9×13 baking pan. I added the sage and poured the chicken broth on top. Cook covered for one hour then take the foil off, sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top and bake a bit more. Enjoy!   

Butternut, Sausage & Apple Bake www.learning-grace.com

Butternut, Sausage, and Apple Bake
Serves 6
A one-dish meal full of fall flavors.
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Print
Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
201 calories
31 g
15 g
5 g
11 g
2 g
295 g
404 g
7 g
0 g
2 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
295g
Servings
6
Amount Per Serving
Calories 201
Calories from Fat 42
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
7%
Saturated Fat 2g
10%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 15mg
5%
Sodium 404mg
17%
Total Carbohydrates 31g
10%
Dietary Fiber 4g
15%
Sugars 7g
Protein 11g
Vitamin A
243%
Vitamin C
47%
Calcium
13%
Iron
9%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  2. 1/2 lb Italian sweet chicken sausage, casings removed and cooked
  3. 1 c cooked rice
  4. 2 onions, caramelized
  5. 1 medium-large granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
  6. salt and pepper to taste
  7. 1 tsp rubbed sage
  8. 1 cup chicken broth
  9. 3-5 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  10. Toasted pine nuts and cilantro for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Combine squash, cooked sausage, cooked rice, caramelized onions, and apples in a 9x13 baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle rubbed sage over the entire dish.
  4. Pour chicken broth over the dish.
  5. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour.
  6. Remove from oven, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake 20 more minutes.
  7. Garnish with chopped cilantro and pine nuts and serve.
beta
calories
201
fat
5g
protein
11g
carbs
31g
more
Learning Grace http://www.learning-grace.com/
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Sophomore Parent

If you ever feel like you know something for certain, your child will soon inform you otherwise. It seems to be best to approach every situation with a good helping of humility. learning-grace.com

Many of us have heard the saying: Freshman think they know but they don’t. Sophomores know they don’t know. Juniors don’t know that they know. And seniors, well, seniors know.

I think parents never get past the sophomore level. There are freshmen parents and there are sophomore parents and that’s it. And, frankly the freshmen parents are the ones that give most of us a bad name. If you ever feel like you know something for certain, your child will soon inform you otherwise. It seems to be best to approach every situation with a good helping of humility.

I’m a member of several online parenting communities and I see this dynamic a lot. Earlier this year while potty training S I hit a wall. I was using the same tactics I used with J, but she is a different child and they just weren’t going to work for her. She had firmly given up diapers, but she wanted nothing to do with the potty. I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I turned to one of my online mommy groups for some advice. What I got instead was a pile of mommy shame: I was giving S M&Ms as a reward. (She’s highly motivated by chocolate like her mother.) I was told that was my problem. I was told she was too young, that this could be emotionally damaging. I was told that I clearly wasn’t showing enough enthusiasm to get her excited about the potty. I was told … oh you name it.

The fact is no one knows what’s going on in a two-year-old’s mind—or really in any child’s mind. Parenting is a delicate balance of love and discipline. We have to be a model of authority, setting limits, providing guidance and humility, while also recognizing and honoring the autonomy of the little person before us. If this gets out of balance, we’re sunk.

And so, in my quest to get S out of diapers (well, she had already decided she was done with them) and using the toilet, I went looking for others who might have experienced a similar circumstance to see what worked for them. There’s a great sense of community as well as alot of wisdom and experience in these groups, and the wonder that is social media brought us together. But there’s also a lot of room for these forums to be used for something else: a place to make yourself feel superior, to push for one way of being and doing, to criticize or harass.

And it’s not just on social media, I run into this on the playground, in playgroups, and other places.

It is easier and may even feel more rewarding to be the one with all the answers, or at least seem like it. God knows I have played this role far too often in my life. It’s much more comfortable for me to appear in the know, invulnerable. My tendency is to keep my cards close to my chest. I feel safe that way. However,  it’s not rewarding the long run. It may feel good today, but it’s when you acknowledge your need for other people that community is built and wisdom is gained. It’s in the asking, the searching together that community develops.

Parenting is forcing me out of my safe role because my kids challenge me beyond what I could possibly know each and every day. It does take a village to raise a child and no one is an island, and all those pithy phrases. They are born out of truth. We need each other. One person’s wisdom is never enough.

So, I need to remember that I’m not only a sophomore parent, I’m also a sophomore in life—always aware that there is so much more to learn and a community to learn it from.

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Six Reasons I Color

Six Reasons Coloring Brings Me Joy www.learning-grace.com

I have joined the adult coloring book party.

I’d been thinking about getting one for awhile and then a couple of weeks ago my mom brought me one, along with set of 48 gel pens (glitter, metallic, neon, oh my!). This book of stress menders, sucked me in immediately.

If anyone were to take a peek inside my brain, they’d get dizzy. It’s always going. I think most people’s (especially women’s) are. It is really hard for me to stop and focus on one thing at a time. My husband is always finding my little lists on the back of envelopes around the house. I leave voice memos to myself so I don’t forget things. Focus can be hard for me.

Enter the coloring book. I kinda love it. And because it seems that folks don’t really read anymore but manage to get through lists, here are six things I like about coloring:

  1. Taking time to think about colors, what looks nice, what they represent.
  2. Watching the way the gel ink fills in the small spaces as I move the pen around.
  3. Slowing down my thoughts while I color; I’ve solved more than one problem while coloring; it just comes to me.
  4. Experiencing something that has a defined beginning and end—there’s not enough of that in my life.
  5. Using my creativity without stepping too far outside my comfort zone.
  6. Accomplishing something tangible.

I’ve been trying to do it for a bit before bed to help me relax and stop thinking about whosits and whatsits. And it’s working. It’s not a cure-all for sure, but it certainly is helping me take some time to just “be” instead of “do.”

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Fall Harvest Chocolate Bark

Fall Harvest Chocolate Bark www.learning-grace.com

Or how to impress your friends and neighbors with minimal effort.

I experienced an ice cream shortage the other night which led me to mix a half-scoop of pumpkin with a scoop of chocolate. I wasn’t sure how it’d come out, but I now wonder why we can’t buy pumpkin ice cream with a chocolate swirl.

I loved the pumpkin pie spices with the chocolate, and so I naturally thought about how I could recreate this in some other form. The result is this fall harvest chocolate bark. Chocolate bark is a quick candy to make and with the right care can come out to be absolutely beautiful. Here’s how I made this.

Roast the hazelnuts at 275 degrees for 15-20 minutes. They burn very easily, so pull them out as soon as you start smelling them. Dump the nuts on a dishtowel and wait five or so minutes and rub them together inside the towels to get the skins off. And pop one or two of the warm ones in your mouth. They are SO delicious!!

I chopped those up using my food chopper and set them aside. Then I prepared my work surface with a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet and measured out my chocolates and other ingredients. You want everything ready to go.

Everything you need to make Fall Harvest Chocolate Bark www.learning-grace.com

The only trick to chocolate bark is tempering the chocolate so it comes out looking beautiful. There’s a lot of wonderful ways to do this. I like this reference from Serious Eats. I melted the semi-sweet chocolate on the stove in a bain marie (metal bowl over a pot of boiling water), using unmelted morsels to “seed” and temper the chocolate. I stirred in the pumpkin pie spice at the very end. I melted the white chocolate in the microwave.

When everything was ready to go, I spread the semi-sweet chocolate onto the parchment with an offset spatula and then dribbled the white chocolate over top. Now, here’s the fun part, take a bamboo skewer and draw little circles around the white chocolate to create a marbled effect. It’s pretty addicting, but try not to overdo it.

Then, sprinkle the rest of the toppings on top and lightly press them into the chocolate. Let it cool on the counter for about an hour. If you want to cut it into neat squares, do it now. If you want to break it up into irregular pieces, put it in the fridge to finish hardening, then just break it up.

Chocolate bark makes a wonderful thank you or hostess gift. And it looks impressive with minimal effort. Enjoy!

Fall Harvest Chocolate Bark
Serves 15
Easy and beautiful chocolate bark with pumpkin pie spices.
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Print
134 calories
16 g
2 g
8 g
1 g
4 g
27 g
9 g
14 g
0 g
3 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
27g
Servings
15
Amount Per Serving
Calories 134
Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8g
13%
Saturated Fat 4g
21%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 2mg
1%
Sodium 9mg
0%
Total Carbohydrates 16g
5%
Dietary Fiber 1g
5%
Sugars 14g
Protein 1g
Vitamin A
0%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
2%
Iron
3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 8 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate
  2. 4 oz good quality white chocolate
  3. 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  4. 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  5. 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roasted, skinned, and chopped
Instructions
  1. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  2. Melt and temper semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler or using another method.
  3. Melt white chocolate similarly.
  4. Spread out the melted semi-sweet chocolate on the parchment, using an offset spatula to spread it out evenly to about 1/8-inch thick.
  5. Use a spoon to drizzle melted white chocolate across the semi-sweet.
  6. Use a bamboo skewer to create a marbled effect with the white chocolate.
  7. Evenly sprinkle cranberries and hazelnuts across the chocolate and lightly press them with your hand.
  8. Let cool on the counter for one hour and cut/break into desired pieces.
beta
calories
134
fat
8g
protein
1g
carbs
16g
more
Learning Grace http://www.learning-grace.com/
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