Thankful Thursday – Summer Quiet

Kids are at camp this week. I should be tearing it up, cleaning all the nooks and crannies, (re)organizing, school prepping.

But I’m not. I’m working (mostly from home). I’m exercising and reading. I’m procrastinating on the shoulds. I’m enjoying time with my Guy and myself.

I’m thankful for the sunflowers Tween chose at the market last week, still hanging on this week and adding a sunny burst of joy to our kitchen.

I’m thankful for OPI nail polish, and especially my new OPI Red purchased on sale at TJ Maxx. It’s a delicious raspberry red, perfect for summer (the Amazon link makes it look way more orange-red).

I’m thankful for my rose bushes, and the magical appearance they take on covered in morning dew drops.

I’m thankful for new-to-me books feeding my soul:
The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp, teaching me to be the GIFT (Give It Forward Today)
With, by Skye Jethani, asking me to ponder anew my view of God and how I live my relationship with Him

And Guy, loving our family through service and taking advantage of the hot weather to steam the year out of our sand-colored carpets. Life is good!

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Finding My Tribe

Some days you issue a simple request, and the fulfillment of that request moves you in unanticipated ways… In this case, I asked a long-time friend, “Will you write for my blog?” His submission whisked me back to the magical summer when we met (even before reading this piece, I did think of it as magical). I had no idea, until now, that I had witnessed the birth of his passion for theater. We reconnected in college and I have been grateful to see him perform in multiple plays; in one more case, to be with him in the cast; to take college courses in theater and literature, some of those as we traveled England, and see and discuss more plays than I could count. And I am grateful to know that, even as life seasons have changed, he still finds his place and his tribe on the stage.

re:create recess #13: Daniel Seifert

The summer of 1983 was transformative for me. I finished junior high, turned 14 (I’ll pause while you do the math…did everyone get 48?), and moved to Colorado. In the middle of all that, I performed in my first play. I had seen a couple of plays before, and sang in a school talent show when I was six, but this was a whole new experience, and it changed the course of my life.

I have yet to meet anyone who loved junior high, and I spent those two years feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. The people whose opinions I cared about valued sports and girls, and they weren’t very excited about people who got straight A’s. My athletic ability was mediocre at best; my default when talking to girls was terror; and I learned quickly that sharing my results on our standardized tests would get me teased. Add to that the fact that the last four letters of my last name are F-E-R-T, allow yourself to imagine what Junior High boys could do with that, and you’ll begin to understand that I was ready for big changes in my life at the time.

So, when my mom told me about this group called Christian Youth Theater, I decided that since we were leaving California anyway, I could stop caring about what anyone else thought and just give it a shot. I auditioned and got cast as Muff Potter in their production of “Tom Sawyer.” From the first day, I was pretty much hooked by the whole process. The blocking and rehearsing, the sense of teamwork, even the costumes and makeup – for the first time in my life, I felt like I had found the thing I was supposed to be doing. As a bonus, there were a lot of girls in the group (including this cute blonde named Siv), and even though I wouldn’t describe myself as confident around them, at least I felt less awkward.

Me, left, as town drunk Muff Potter

When we moved to Colorado, then, I had a sense of identity that I had lacked before, and it helped to anchor me. I went on to do several shows in high school, and I was a Theater minor in college. The theater has become a refuge for me – the place that I am willing to work ridiculous hours for little to no pay, all because I love the process so much. The trust and camaraderie that develops in a cast; the hard work and struggle to make the scene come out just right; the mild terror of being on stage and dealing with mishaps; it all invigorates me and restores me to balance. I still do shows when I can, although the demands of a full-time job and being present for my wife and daughters require me to be better at prioritizing my time. I am also pursuing a Master’s Degree from Fuller Seminary, with a view to serving as a kind of chaplain to the performing arts community.

A 2015 production of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ with me as town loser (and drunk) Bob Ewell. For the record, I do occasionally play nice characters.

Performing is my passion, and I don’t know that I would have found it if it hadn’t been for a remarkable summer of change. Oh, one other significant event happened that summer – I kissed a girl on the lips for the first time. [Full disclosure: since it was my first time, “near the lips” is perhaps more technically accurate]. I still know that girl, but that is a story for another time.

Daniel Seifert lives in Westminster, Colorado, with his wife, two daughters, two girl cats and a neutered boy dog.  Though he is an employed and responsible adult, he is still, at heart, kind of a nerd.

Meatless Monday – Tofu Scramble

Tween and I had a nearly perfect week while the Big Guys were away.

With a good balance of (age-appropriate) work and activities and play, alone-time and friend-time, and a huge stream of quiet flowing throughout, we thoroughly enjoyed each day and, at week’s end, we both felt productive and well-rested.

One thing on which we did not spend a lot of time: cooking. I made a couple quick-and-easy family meals (ramen, roasted veggie spaghetti) that provided leftovers. We ate one dinner out with a friend and again came home with leftovers.

For my own enjoyment, I made a tofu scramble that, along with some leftover roasted potatoes, made for several scrumptiously satisfying meals.

When we moved to the Bay Area more than a decade ago, I asked around for breakfast place suggestions. Repeatedly I heard about Rick & Ann’s, which–despite the 20-minute drive and at least 20-minute wait time–has become one of our family’s favorite special occasion spots.

Each of us has a favorite order, the thing we get every time, and mine is tofu scramble. Over the years I have kept my eyes peeled for a copycat recipe; I tried one that looked okay, but wasn’t.

I recently discovered Kathy Patalsky’s recipe in Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen. With just a couple of tweaks (add fresh garlic and ginger and curry powder, skip maple syrup), this is as close as I’ll come to the real deal.

Even better? It’s so easy! Start to finish, I think it took less than fifteen minutes.Tofu Scramble
Serves 4

12 oz firm or extra-firm tofu
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c other veggies (bell peppers, mushrooms)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1″ thumb fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 c spinach, rough chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/3 c nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp curry powder
salt/pepper to taste
Green onion and/or cilantro to top (optional)

Drain tofu, then wrap it in paper towels between two plates, weighted to press out extra liquid. Set aside while you gather ingredients and chop veggies.

In a large pan, saute onion for 3 minutes; if necessary, add 1/2 tsp water to keep onion from sticking. Add other veggies, garlic and ginger and saute for additional 2 minutes.

Add tofu. Either break the block apart with your hands as you add to the pan or (easier if you have it) use a potato masher to break the tofu into bits. Add spinach and remaining spices and stir occasionally until spinach wilts and scramble warms through. Taste and adjust spices as desired.

Top with green onion and/or cilantro, and serve with roasted potatoes or potato-veggie hash and whole wheat toast.

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Seasonal Recreation

How did you play when you were young? And how do you play now? I used to swim and bike for what seemed like days on end. I took art classes, played piano, and read. These days I hike or run or practice yoga. I write, play at art, and have an ever-growing stack of to-read books. It’s good to allow ourselves to grow in play, to try new things, to let go of things that don’t satisfy the same creative curiosities we once followed like rabbit trails. So long as we continue to take time for soul care, engaging in creation and recreation and play so that we can be transformed. We need to set aside time for activities that dust off our souls. You know what to do. Now go do it.

re:create recess #12: Danielle Humphreys

There have been a couple of times recently in which my recreation inspired creativity which led to transformation in me. Recreation, or ‘play,’ in this season of life looks different from when I was younger. In college, I remember being part of “Rec Sports” where recreation looked like playing intramural soccer or taking a fencing class. Being in Santa Barbara, it also meant a fair amount of time at the beach! I also used to read and do artsy-craftsy things, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy these anymore, but recreation now looks a lot like planting seeds and watching them grow into a garden. It also looks like getting out in nature or going someplace new, or listening to music. These are the things that take me out of my head and clear the dust off my soul; where space is created to dream, to feel, to hear and respond.

One such experience was on a hike at the Trappist Abbey in Carlton, Oregon. It was a beautiful Spring day, one of the first in the midst of what seemed like a never-ending wet winter. My friend and I planned to travel together and then spend time apart for soul care as we hiked the vast swath of land at the Abbey. Reaching the vista point, I sat and pondered a shrine there to the Virgin Mary. It reminded me of growing up Catholic and how honored she is in that faith tradition, especially compared to evangelical faith streams where it seems she’s only thought of at Advent and Christmas. I began journaling that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also a fellow traveler in this world and is one among the “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding me (Hebrews 12:1). She is also a fellow mother, fellow disciple and fellow sister. She went before me and cheers me on as I run the race before me. Her model of surrender, faith, trust and patience became new to me in that moment. Looking out at the surrounding towns and landscape, I decided to take out my small watercolor set and paint what I saw. I didn’t paint Mary, but imagined her sitting with me. My understanding of Mary had been re-created.

I also find that listening to certain worship music draws me close to the heart of God and gives permission for my soul to feel and experience the movement of the Holy Spirit. Like I mentioned, the Pacific Northwest winter was a brutal one, even for the Oregon natives around me! One day it was finally dry enough to put the garden in so I carved out space to get all the plants in the soil. The song in my earbuds as I worked was “Bitter/Sweet” by Amanda Cook. The lyrics are simple and repeat. “You make all things new…You turn the bitter into sweet…You turn the winter into spring…You make all things new…”

I found myself praying this to be true as I planted summer squash. I prayed for spring for my friends, for our church and for myself. As I mounded hills of soil around each plant, I prayed for God to be the foundation that supports us, for our roots to grow down deep into the soil of God’s love for us (Ephesians 3:17, NLT) for fruit, and for protection around tender plants, and tender us.

Another time, I ended a long day by listening to worship songs. As the words, melody and truth washed over me, I began to have a conversation with God. I prayed about needing to know God was with me, because I sensed that the Spirit was asking me to be prepared for something new, which made me feel scared. I imagined myself and my family being taken to the unknowns of outer space. The conversation I was having with God started to come out in pictures, so I started drawing them in a small notebook. This became a sacred moment, one that transformed me from a place that felt dizzying and uncertain to one of intimacy and trust in the goodness, faithfulness and nearness of God.

Later this week, I am doing something really out of the box for me (in this stage of my life) and going on a backpacking adventure in the mountains with a group of women I don’t know beyond the friend who invited me! The homebody in me was pulling out cookies from the oven when I got a call from the group and learned that we would be ascending 7,000 feet, and that our gear included both a helmet and an ice ax. What have I gotten myself into?! Recreation via adventure! Blowing dust off of a weary soul. Being surprised by the creativity that springs forth on the journey. Stars and glaciers and the beauty of British Columbia. New soul sisters and pilgrims on the journey. And for certain, there will be re-creation and transformation. I can.not.wait.

Danielle is a native Bay Area gal, (still) adjusting to life in Oregon, married to Matt and mom to 3 kiddos and 1 dog. She has a B.A. in Aquatic Biology, an M.A. in Theology (Fuller), and enjoys conversations about church, community, Jesus, and gardening. She is also a lover of good food, music, creativity, and outer space. She is the Associate Director of Family Ministries at Trinity Covenant Church where her husband Matt is also on staff as a Pastor.

The Struggle is Real

This summer our church has been doing a deep dive into the wisdom of Proverbs. Earlier this week some of us gathered to study this passage from Proverbs 30:

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

When I entered the room, I thought our topic was contentment, or integrity. The more we dialed down, the more uncomfortable I became.

I have a love-hate relationship with money. Mostly hate. I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want a huge house or fancy cars. I just want enough. I want to not want.

I enjoyed a comfortable childhood. We had enough and then some. We had a swimming pool. We attended sleep-away summer camps. We could travel (my dad was a captain with Pan Am). My parents paid for my private college education.

My children don’t experience similar luxury and yet our needs are more than met. We have a comfortable home in a beautiful neighborhood near friends we love. Every time I flip through our photo albums, I feel overwhelming gratitude for God’s good provisions.

Still, money above all is the bugaboo that wakes me in the night, the hardest area of life for me to trust God.

So here’s the story:

The week Teen turned nine years old, our church held its first Mission Market, an opportunity to purchase for your loved ones non-traditional Christmas gifts (for example, socks and underwear for orphans) that benefit our mission partners. Teen wandered in on his own and found a picture of a boy his age who needed support to attend school in the Dominican Republic. Something about this boy’s face stirred Teen’s heart. They both played soccer. He said, “I found my brother.”

At the time, I couldn’t afford to buy a drugstore lipstick. But how could we deny our son a chance to learn the value of giving? He offered to take on extra chores to ‘earn’ the monthly cost of supporting this boy he’d never met. We haven’t missed a month’s support in nine years.

Six years ago we were asked to participate in a Thanksgiving trip to the DR where we could meet this boy. I thought money would be the deal breaker but, through the generosity of others, all four of us participated in a trip that forever changed our family.

This week Guy is leading a group of 20 (mostly teens) on another trip to the DR. I asked him if he’d considered inviting Teen. Both he and ‘his brother’ have now graduated high school; Teen is off to college while his brother has gone to work to support his family. This might be their last opportunity to connect. Guy responded that we didn’t have the money: end of conversation.

Of course we don’t have the money. We will soon take on a lose-my-mind loan to cover out-of-state college tuition. But something in me couldn’t let go of the idea that our kiddo needed to go on this trip. I brought it up again: “Money makes me bananas, so I shouldn’t be the one pushing this, except I can’t not… If we’re already trusting God for this massive college loan, how can we not trust God for the funds for this potentially life-changing experience?”

We asked, and Teen jumped: YES he wanted to go! Some of his best friends are on the trip. He wants to see his brother. And he wants to meet the little guy our family will support now that Teen’s brother has graduated.

We wrote a letter, inviting people to support Teen in prayer and finances. The money came in, in some cases from people we didn’t expect. And before that, in fact, the very week we made the decision in faith to register Teen for the trip, he received a small college scholarship—which felt exactly like confirmation from God that we had listened well.

Who is the Lord? The God who provides.
Lord, help me to trust…

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Do a Good Turn Daily

My friend Tracy works for an in-town start-up company-charity called Sydney Paige. Founder Courtney Brockmeyer left the corporate world to spend more time with her darling daughters, Sydney and Paige, to indulge her passion for education, and to model for her daughters how one person can make a difference.

Sydney Paige is like TOMS shoes: buy one-give one. I buy a pair of TOMS shoes for me, they donate a pair to someone in need. You buy a Sydney Paige backpack for your child, and they donate an identical backpack to a child in need. All good!

Tracy emailed that they needed volunteers to pack backpacks for homeless children in San Francisco. Kids in our area are always adding to their volunteer hours, and parents appreciate opportunities to teach our children solid hands-on lessons about using our time and actions to do good, be better, and love others.

I mentioned it to Tween; he replied, “Yah, maybe…” (he is loving long summer days of video games and bike riding and swimming with friends…). His Scout patrol leader made it a requirement, so we both signed up.

We arrived at Courtney’s garage to walls of boxes and volunteers hiding behind each corner. Our first task: to write notes of encouragement that would be stuffed along with age-appropriate school supplies in each backpack. Tracy explained: “Some of these kids aren’t told they are loved. Some have parents who think school is a waste of time. We get to tell them they can do it, that school is important and so are they.” Tears!

On index cards in brightly colored markers, we wrote encouragement like:
Shoot for the stars
Reach for your dreams
You can do hard things
Keep going!
(Tween wrote our fav): My love for you is bigger than the ocean and stronger than the waves

We opened boxes of backpacks, took them out of the plastic, and unzipped the main pocket. We assembled color-coordinated stacks of school supplies, and then we stuffed. For an hour and a half, we worked diligently until additional volunteers arrived to take our place.

My initially-reluctant Tween hugged Tracy and said, “This was SO great! Call my mom anytime you need help. Seriously. I’ll help anytime.”

In the car he said, “I kinda feel bad about leaving.” I almost turned the car around. Instead we had a heart-moving conversation about volunteering and new opportunities he might pursue this school year.

Two days later we received another plea: 12,000 backpacks were arriving at the warehouse ten days early. Could we help?

We spread the word: Tween had one available friend and Teen had three. Eight of us showed up at the warehouse to rearrange boxes to create space, unpack supplies, and write more notes. We would have given more time, but three of our eight were leaving that afternoon for nine days of work at a Kids Alive International orphanage in the Dominican Republic; their travel schedule made for a narrow window of opportunity.

We volunteered because helping others is the right thing to do. Because we want to teach our kids that a little effort goes a long way in the world. Because our kids brought other kids and the good multiplies. Because our kids are Scouts and, as the Scout slogan says: “Do a good turn daily!” It wasn’t hard, though it wasn’t necessarily convenient, either. Still, it was important.

We helped Sydney Paige and, in turn, Sydney Paige donated 24 backpacks to Kids Alive. This isn’t always the way the world works, but it should be. Good comes from good. Invest your time wisely. Do a good turn daily.

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