Meatless Monday – Banana Oat Bran Muffins

I cannot for the life of me believe I haven’t posted this recipe! I make it all the time, for any occasion that needs a (healthy) treat and for no occasion more than having over-ripe bananas.

My friend Julie gave me this recipe years ago. All I’ve done to it is swap a flax egg for real egg, sub some of the sugar for agave, and add dark chocolate chips. Okay, if I’m feeling really wholesome (or happen to be out of chocolate chips), I’ll add berries, usually from frozen as we always have berries for smoothies. Oh, and despite the name, when I don’t have oat bran (most of the time–I keep forgetting to pick some up) I use quick oats in the same amount. No one has complained.

Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal may not be something you have on hand. I don’t typically eat processed cereal but I will occasionally pick up a box of Kashi when I’m at Trader Joe’s. I haven’t tried, but I’m sure you could sub another brand of crushed wheat or oat bran cereal or simply increase the amount of oat bran, oatmeal or whole wheat flour.

I made a double batch and had them in the oven as the kids came home from school today. They dove in as soon as the muffins were cool enough to handle with exclamations of, “Oh, yah…!” They hit the spot.

banana-muffin

Banana Oat Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

3 (or so) medium bananas, mashed
1 flax egg
3/4 c unsweetened apple sauce
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 c sugar
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 c Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal, crushed (it takes about 1 c cereal to yield 1/2 c crushed)
1/2 c oat bran
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash the bananas thoroughly and combine with the egg. Stir in apple sauce, followed by the sugar, vanilla, Kashi, and oat bran. Mix together the flour, salt and baking soda, and add dry ingredients to banana mixture. Divide into muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes.

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Thankful Thursday – My Awesome Doghouse

No matter what you do, how hard you work, how much you invest, how great your love or commitment, you will disappoint people. The junior high and high school popular kids. Certain teachers or college professors. Friends and neighbors. Bosses and authority figures of all stripes and spots. Family members, community members, and church members. Strangers on Facebook. Whoever they may be, critics can crawl through walls like ants.

I said: “I feel like I’m in the doghouse.”
He said: “So make it one awesome doghouse.”

Great advice! I can only do my best and I can’t change the critics. Theirs is not the love I need most (read that with an Obi Wan Kenobi voice: “This is not the droid you’re looking for…” This is NOT the love I’m looking for).

I’m setting myself free to make my doghouse awesome!doghouse

I recently read Shauna Niequist’s new book, Present Over Perfect, in which she wrote:

“This is what I know for sure: along the way you will disappoint someone. You will not meet someone’s needs or expectations. You will not be able to fulfill their request. You will leave something undone or poorly done. Possibly, this person will be angry with you, or sad.

“What you need along the way: a sense of God’s deep, unconditional love, and a strong sense of your own purpose. Without those two, you’ll need from people what is only God’s to give, and you’ll give up on your larger purpose in order to fulfill smaller purposes or other people’s purposes.”

So what am I up to?
* Spending less time on social media and TV, and more time in books. I wandered the library shelves today and found a few to add to my stack.
* Reaching out to friends
* Counting my blessings in my gratitude journal
* Getting outside to walk daily with my sweet Guy or friends, always with dogs
* Drowning out the noise with silence
* Soaking in God’s love through the Bible, prayer, and greater attention to His presence
* Cooking simple, healthy food and drinking lots of water and herbal tea
* Enjoying my work and my play
* Saying yes and taking risks, and learning to say no
* I’ve hit refresh on my wind down ritual and my sleep has improved.

Last night after homework Tween and I played best-out-of-five games of Uno. Despite my strong start, he won. Along the way we laughed and talked. We might do it again tonight, or soon. We’re making what seems frivolous, important. Because it is.

I’m shaking off the dirt and falling in love all over again with my doghouse. Because it’s mine, I’m decorating it with people, activities, and things that fill me up with joy. And I’m grateful!

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Create Challenge Top 10

never-stop-creatingDuring 2016 I invited people I admire for a host of reasons to guest post on Miracles in the Mundane. The topic: creativity. Wednesday became one of my favorite days of the week for having the opportunity to share their stories of creativity, expressed in as many ways as individuals: writing, painting, poetry, business, and relationships. Through their posts they inspired me to live more creatively and more authentically.

Here are the Top 10 posts based on numbers of readers–which really means, not only are these great posts, but also that these folks encouraged the people in their lives to hop on over to read their contribution. You may have missed some, so here they are again!

Creating forgiveness: “Just one time.” by Karyn Bergen.

Creating a safe place for the creatives: Unicorns & Rainbows by A.J. Brown.

Creating colorful waves of art: Daydream Painter by Matt “Cheeks” Hoag

Creating space to hear God through the creative process: To Unite Creativity to Communion with God by Danielle Humphreys

Creating courage in others: Create Hope by Kelly Bermudez-Deutsch

Creating peace for his inner child artist: The (Wounded) Artist by Paul Quinlivan

Creating hope in Haiti: Empowered for Creative Investment by Scott Sabin

Creating a welcoming table: The Table by Cari Jenkins

Creating an openness to God’s plan in painful circumstances: Creating Trust by Sarah Johnson

Creating a fulfilling and thriving new business: Leap of Faith by Shirley DeFrancisci

How about you? How do you create? What do you create? And why?

 

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Meatless Monday – Roasted Veggie Marinara

Some days food is about sustenance. It has to be easy, quick, just satisfying enough. I was sick last week and no way was I going to spend extra time on my feet and in the kitchen when I really needed to stay in bed. That’s when I’m grateful for a husband and kids who know their own way around the kitchen. And food in the freezer. And easy food. Brown rice and a few chopped veggies + soy sauce = Asian bowl. Whole wheat tortilla, hummus, fresh spinach and those same chopped veggies = veggie wrap. That kinda thing.

We also had some grape tomatoes edging their way out. Roasting veggies is about the easiest food prep ever. I put the tomatoes in a bowl and added rough chopped red onion and baby bell peppers. I peeled some garlic and left the cloves whole. No measurements, because it’s about the look of the mix–mostly tomatoes, with a good assortment of complementary veggies (okay, guessing, about 1/2 of a large red onion and 5-6 baby peppers, which might be 1 whole large pepper, erring on the side of a lot of garlic!). I tossed them with olive oil, a couple dashes of balsamic vinegar, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute and red chili flakes and roasted at 400 for about 20 minutes. I checked them and gave them a little more time. This isn’t rocket science, just roasted veggies.roasted-veggie-sauce

When the tomatoes were beginning to blister, I threw the whole gorgeous lot into a stock pot. I added two 16 oz cans of chopped tomatoes in their juice and brought to a simmer. I splashed in some red wine from an open bottle, about 1/3 cup. I drizzled in a little more olive oil. I may have added some extra spices to taste–oregano, basil, etc–but brain in the clouds, I wasn’t really keeping track. I could have added a few handfuls of spinach, but forgot. When it was all hot and smelled amazing, I used my stick blender to puree it into sauce. Meanwhile I had made some whole wheat spaghetti. Even my kid who doesn’t love tomatoes and wouldn’t choose spaghetti marinara, pronounced it “Delicious!”

All in, it took about 5 minutes to prep veggies for roasting. Another 3 to get the sauce and pasta going. That’s about as easy as it gets.

Some days food has to be easy. Other days food makes the party. Today was a no-school day for our kids, and one of our family traditions has been making those days special. The challenge: adolescents who would rather play video games and watch YouTube than hang out with their parents. Forced family fun has its time, but today wasn’t it. So tonight, dinner will make the party. We’re doing Build Your Own Pizzas, with fresh dough from Trader Joe’s and–did you guess?–the leftover marinara sauce. I’m sure one kid will go all cheese. The other will go light on cheese and sprinkle on veggies. Mine will be sauce, no cheese, lots of veggies: more garlic, zucchini, red onion, artichoke hearts, olives, mushrooms. Almost as easy and more fun than take-out.

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Better Together

I’ve been thinking about community…

Recently a friend posted about setting “Better Together” goals with her husband. It got me thinking (thanks, Cara!). I’m not much of a goal setter, too generally scatter-brained. But Guy’s more organized along those lines. What if we set goals together and held each other accountable?

During my Inauguration Day media fast, another friend called and said, “Our church is divided because our country is divided. We need to come together to pray for our country.” Her words rang true in my soul. As we chatted, we realized that we stand on opposite sides of the political divide. And we stand together in prayer.

Last night I scrolled through Facebook and saw pictures of friends all across the country peacefully marching in solidarity with one another. The heaviness in my chest lifted some, replaced by hope. I’m not alone.

I didn’t march. Instead we attended our friends’ son’s bar mitzvah. Despite having taken a few years of Hebrew in seminary, I quickly gave up on the transliteration and instead read and prayed along in English. It was a beautiful service, fascinating and moving and so different and like what we do at church on Sundays.bar-mitzvah-1

Two things especially struck me throughout the day. First, we all ought to speak heartfelt words of blessing, over our children and to one another. How different might our families, our communities, our world be if we noticed and spoke into the best parts, the uniqueness, of the people in our lives? And secondly, I am so grateful for my friends!

As we celebrated the rite of passage that welcomed this boy into Jewish manhood, we talked. We laughed. We danced and ate and drank. But because we also do life together, we asked hard questions. We whispered prayer and rubbed salve on the aches we know our friends carry. We rejoiced together all the more because we have also suffered together.bar-mitzvah-2

Before it started raining this afternoon, Guy and I took the dogs for a quick walk. He remarked, “I really like our neighborhood!” I agree. I like our street, our section of town, this geographic community we call home. And I like our neighbors and friends, the community that fills our hearts. I think we’re better for engaging in life in this place, at this time. I hope others would say the same about us.

So tonight, despite the dumping rain, despite my introverted self running on full-weekend extrovert overload, I will drag myself out of my cozy cocoon to gather with other friends, our church Community Group. We will talk and laugh and discuss and pray. Because I need them in my life. We’re better together.

Come & See
Week 3 – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Connect
Which part of your body do you think is most important? Which would be hardest to live without?

Study
Read aloud 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
Notice who has responsibility for assembling the body parts (vv. 13, 18, 24, 27). How does that knowledge reorient our perspective?
Rephrase the statements in vv. 15-16 as someone might actually say them. How would you respond?
Sadly, how do we communicate “I don’t need you!” to certain members of the body? How can we change our attitudes and actions?
How would you explain to someone who hadn’t read this passage why we need each other?

Live
What are some of the Church’s favorite body parts? How do we demonstrate that?
How would you describe your place in the body? Have you ever wanted to be a different body part? What and why?
There should be no division in the body, but we can all point to examples. How should we address division when we see it?
How do we practically suffer and rejoice with one another?
How can we strengthen our connection to the body?
What does this passage communicate about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple?
What is Jesus saying to you through this study, and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray for stronger connections with other members of the body.

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Why? Glorify!

I awoke today with a few thoughts roiling around in my brain:
I don’t feel well.
I feel like a 13-year-old girl for all the drama in my life right now.
When you want to ask WHY?, it’s time to worship.

Huh? Those may seem unrelated, but they make perfect sense to me. The drama is wonking with my head, my heart, my immune system…and maybe I’ve got a cold coming on as a result. And Thought #3 comes to me now and again, when life seems hell-bent on doing its worst.

It was the main point from maybe the best sermon I have ever heard, given by Bill Oudemolen (pastor of Foothills Bible Church) at one of Mount Hermon’s Summer Family Camps. He was preaching on the biblical book of Job, the Bible’s longest (and potentially most confusing) answer to the problem of suffering.prayer-888757_1920

Job is a good, God-honoring guy. The enemy approaches God and says, “Well, of course he worships you. Look how you’ve blessed him! Give him to me for a while and see if he still acknowledges you.” To which God says, “Okay.”

So the enemy took Job’s oxen and donkeys. He took Job’s sheep. He took Job’s camels. He took all of Job’s children in one terrible blast. Still Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;  may the name of the Lord be praised.”

The enemy attacked Job’s health, at which point Job’s wife has had it. She tells him to “Curse God and die!” Humble Job replies, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Job has three well-meaning friends who accuse him of having done something wrong. Surely God wouldn’t allow this if Job was as upright as he seems. Job must be hiding some dark and dirty sins in his closet. They give long, tiresome sermons that sound right at times, but aren’t. Job is righteous; God does allow suffering, for no reason humans can divine; Job still praises God.

Finally Job breaks (just a little) and shouts his pain at God. He asks, “WHY?” The Lord answers, but not as Job expected (does God ever answer as we expect?).

God asks His own questions: Who is questioning me? Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Who keeps the sea in its boundaries? Have you commanded dawn to appear? Can you direct the stars? Can you make the clouds rain? Is it your wisdom that makes a hawk soar? Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?

Job repents for having questioned God; God rebukes and restores the “friends” who spoke wrongly about Him; and God blesses Job with far more than the enemy stripped away. All’s well that ends well…

[The book of Job makes me grateful for the Psalms–God does not smite the Psalmist for questioning God’s wisdom when life gets hard. For all the times I’ve yelled at God, at least I’ve yelled at God…]

Back to Oudemolen’s sermon:
Job asks, Why?
God says, I’m in control. I made the world, and I’m holding it all together. You have no idea how truly BIG I am. It’s time to worship.

We want answers, results, satisfaction. We didn’t ask for this lot, God, we asked for that one. This one hurts. This one’s messy. We want an exchange. Aren’t you in the customer service business? Can’t you make this right?

He can. Maybe He will. Then again, maybe He won’t. Maybe there’s something in this one we need to learn. Maybe He’s trying to teach us something. Maybe He’s trying to shape us. This work out hurts…

At the very least—which is pretty huge at best—we need to learn to worship. God is good. All the time. All the time God is good. Even when life hurts.

When we want to ask WHY?, it’s time to worship.

Come & See
Week 2 – Psalm 34:1-10 & Romans 12:1-2

Connect
What is your favorite food?

Study
Read Psalm 34:1-10 & Romans 12:1-2.
Notice all the verbs the psalmist uses to express glorifying God (extol, praise, rejoice…). What nuances do you hear in those words? How would you explain their cumulative impact?
In Psalm 34:4-10, what actions does the psalmist attribute to God, and why are those significant in this context?
In Romans 12:1-2, what does Paul require of body and mind? Why are both necessary in glorifying God?

Live
What are some of your favorite ways to glorify God?
How does one “taste” the Lord to see that He is good?
How would you explain Psalm 34 to someone who says that plenty of Jesus’ followers experience troubles in life and lack “good things”?
What do these passages communicate about what it means to be Jesus’ disciple?
Who would you like to invite to worship at your church, and what might it take to get them there?
What is Jesus saying to you through this study, and how will you respond?

Pray
Spend time glorifying God for the things He has done! Then pray that He will give you opportunities to bring others to come and see Jesus.

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Thankful Thursday – Embrace Truth

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glass-89051_640No matter how forcefully you jab at your phone’s red “disconnect” button, it won’t satisfy like the plastic crunch of slamming down a landline phone. The news I’d just heard warranted a strong response.

Something terrible has happened. People I love are hurting. I am hurting.

Through deep sighs, voice shaking then breaking, tears turning to sobs, I breathed out the bad news to Guy. He embraced me, but all the feelings made me restless, too much to be contained. I prayed: Lord, have mercy! I sent a text to my gals, inviting their love and prayers. I poured a shot of tequila. I distracted myself with the best (worst?) online idiocy. I wrote a little, until somewhere in the early-dark morning when my computer conked out and my eyes drooped in bleary desperation.

Sleep came heavy, but not rest. I yanked my sluggish body from the comforter just as fatigued, head pounding, face puffy. I had to go to work. And I decided to embrace truth.

Energy zapped, I had no filter; I shared the story with coworkers. I risked their pity, judgment even. Thankfully, they responded with grace, encouragement, prayer.

Unable to change the situation, I tended to my wounds. I prayed. I tried to nap. I read. I poured myself into work tasks and binge-watched TV. During a break in the rain, I found joy in a laughter-filled walk with friends and dogs.

I keep telling the truth. I am not “okay,” not “How are you? Fine.” I am angry, sad, confused, brokenhearted, aching. On some levels I am fine, and with hope I am getting better each day. Still… I know those are ugly-messy emotions, hard to hear. You might prefer to plug your ears. But this chaos is my song right now, and if you can’t handle my dischords, likely we’re not friends.

At our moms’ group this morning, I stood in front of 150 or so women to ask for prayer. I felt the weight of the pain spread as people felt newly sad with me, for me, for the situation, and my shoulders felt lighter. Some present may have been shocked, probably were. Maybe some even felt embarrassed for me: how dare I have the guts to talk openly about something so awful? That’s behind-closed-doors news, private.

Maybe it has been. But no, not any more. I’m embracing the truth because this messy truth, for now, is our truth. It’s what we have to deal with. I refuse to let you belittle me with your label of shameful when I call it illness, tragic. What we keep hidden in the dark will fester, spreading insidious infection. When we tell the truth, we set ourselves and others free. We share the pain. We create connection. We give and receive encouragement, hope.

Several women approached me after, some to offer a hug, but many to thank me for speaking up. They told their stories. I am sorry, desperately sorry, they have these stories to tell but, through the courage to tell the truth, we find out we aren’t alone.

“…the truth will set you free.” –Jesus