Thankful Thursday – Maundy Thursday 2017

I did not grow up with a tradition of observing Lent but, as an adult, I have grown in appreciation for spiritual discipline in general and this season of church life specifically. God does great things when we give Him great access to our lives through disciplines that help to tune our eyes and ears to His work.

Before this Lent began I asked God: “What discipline would you have me observe to see you more clearly?” Funny (and I truly believe God IS funny this way, at least sometimes), He didn’t answer clearly. I could take on a discipline of reading the news; in these times, we all ought to read the news more broadly and more carefully. And I put on a ring my mother-in-law gifted to me; as my ‘not typical’ right-hand ring, its presence on my finger has reminded me of Jesus’ presence with me.

And then Lent took a quick left-hand turn into discipline. Situations arose that required prayer; people needed me; I needed Jesus. God knew I didn’t need more disciplined practices than the discipline He was already planning to send my way. (And oh, wowza, did I ever need that ring as a reminder of His presence…!)

Today is Maundy Thursday, which means Lent is almost over. The dark before the dawn, tonight we commemorate Jesus’ last supper with His disciples before He was betrayed. Tomorrow He was crucified. Sunday, at last!, Jesus rose from the grave.

We want to fast-forward the bad stuff to get to the good. We want to skip the pain in favor of pleasure. We don’t want bitter but sweet. In this Holy Week, God calls us to see His glory in the worst-ever scenario, trusting Him to redeem and transform it into more than all we could ask or imagine.

So what am I thankful for on this Maundy Thursday?

I am, as always, thankful for Jesus, who sacrificed Himself in love for me, for all of us, so that our lives not only exist, but matter.

I am thankful for a year, and that the situation that occupied my heart last year is no longer my concern. And I’m thankful for the hope that the situation that occupies my heart now won’t next year.

I am thankful for time, as in, time heals all wounds. The wounds of last year, but also more recent cuts and jabs that, with time, prayer, and careful tending, have already begun to heal.

I am thankful for kind and gentle human beings who willingly give of themselves to help the rest of us make peace–with ourselves, with God, with one another.

I am thankful for the continual bubbling over of last week’s Mexico trip, and the ways I see God has grown and shaped my Teen through this experience.

I am thankful for yoga, and my friends and their friends who filled a studio this morning for a laughter- and fun-filled sweaty workout, good for body and soul.

I am thankful for the rain showers earlier today, for the quail running down my fence line, for the twilight breeze rocking the tree branches outside my window. Peaceful beauty.

I have to laugh at what happens when I pull out my running shoes…

…and say “Thank you!” for what I see outside my door…

The first spring rose in my garden, a gift from a friend

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Fat Tuesday

I didn’t grow up in a church that observed a Lenten tradition. As an adult, however, I have come to appreciate the tradition of giving up or taking on spiritual practices as a way of drawing near to Jesus.

I came to Fat Tuesday even later, and mostly because I like to cook.

Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday; Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. So Fat Tuesday is the final hip-hip-hurrah Day of Indulgence before one abstains for 40 days until Easter.

I’ve seen Facebook posts today about pancakes and just learned why: pancakes are a traditional Mardi Gras food as families use up the household’s fat, eggs, and dairy before Lent.

I don’t try to clean out the kitchen for Lent. Nope, no way I’m gonna try to eat through the leftover holiday candy, or worse, drink through the liquor cabinet! When discipline takes me along that route, I simply ignore the stash on hand for the time being.

But I do enjoy a good excuse to make a tasty meal, and Mardi Gras has its fair share of options. My vegan jambalaya also happens to be one of my favorite meals. It’s taken a while to get it down, mostly because it’s similar to risotto with a long cooking time. And because it takes a while, I only make it a couple of times a year. But it’s good!

Before I scare you off, let me say this: I don’t do complicated food. I like things simple and straight-forward. This isn’t a 30 Minute Meal, which makes it seem complicated. But it’s as simple as tasting as you go to see if the rice has cooked. And who doesn’t mind a sample along the way? Pour a glass of something refreshing and lean in to the cooking process.

vegan jambalaya - a Mardi Gras party in your mouth

vegan jambalaya – a Mardi Gras party in your mouth

Seasoning Mix
1/4 tsp each cayenne, thyme, basil and no-salt veggie/herb spice (like Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
1/2 tsp each sage and black pepper

3+ c veggie stock, divided use
1+ Tbsp olive oil, divided use
1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c diced bell pepper
1/2 c diced celery
3 links vegan sausage, halved and diced (I used one chorizo & 2 Italian)
1/2 c diced fresh tomatoes (in a pinch you can use canned, and if so, use the juice too)
1/2 c tomato sauce
3/4 c brown basmati rice (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can kidney beans
1 Tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
3 Tbsp finely sliced green onions

Combine seasoning mixture. Chop onion, celery, bell pepper. Chop tomatoes and sausage.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 of the onion, celery, and pepper mix and cook until vegetables are tender. Add diced tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce and cook for 1 minute. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 ½ c veggie stock and seasonings and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, add more stock by the 1/2 cup and stir occasionally until rice has cooked – similar to cooking risotto.

In another pan, fry sausage and remaining veggies. Just before rice has cooked, add sausage-veggie mix, beans, Worcestershire and garlic; taste and adjust with salt if needed. Before serving, add parsley and green onions and stir to combine.

Serve with crusty bread and your favorite beer.

Note: Traditional jambalaya includes shrimp. I really like Field Roast vegan sausage and though I don’t use it much, this is one dish in which I always use it. However, the idea of vegan shrimp turns my stomach. If you like it, go ahead and add 1 1/2 cups of cooked shrimp. Alternatively, if you’re cooking for meat-eaters you could cook shrimp separately and add it to individual bowls.

We’re a family of four and this recipe typically feeds us with maybe enough leftover for the lucky devil (or saint!) who gets to the fridge first the next day. As a result, I often bump up the ingredients a smidge to have enough leftover for Guy and I to each have for next day’s lunch – you know, add an extra dash of each spice, one more sausage link, just a little more of each veggie. If you’re going to the effort to make this meal, you want to enjoy it more than once.

The broth: I say 3+ cups, and it might just be more on the plus side of things. You just keep adding broth, stirring, and tasting to see if the rice has cooked. Using brown rice does make things take longer and requires more broth, which is why I suggest adding salt only at the very end. I use low-sodium veggie broth, but as this recipe can require 3+ cups of broth for only 3/4 cup of rice, it already has enough salt for our taste.

One more Mardi Gras fact – New Orlean’s official Mardi Gras colors were chosen in 1837 for their traditional Catholic symbolism: purple represents justice, green for faith, and gold for power. While their current cultural connotation means One Hecka’ Big Fun Party, may we, in faith, seek God’s justice in His power.

Thankful Thursday

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.” –Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go, quoted in Real Simple magazine, Nov. 2014

This month I took on a gratitude challenge, three thanksgiving’s each day for the month. Like most challenges, it started easier than it has finished (though it’s not over yet). Over a particularly busy few days I recorded nothing at all, and gratitude in extended hindsight doesn’t work as effectively – what moments of grace did I experience last Wednesday? Oh goodness, I can’t remember this morning let alone last week!

Yet as with most disciplines, the effort, imperfect as it so often is, pays off. I am grateful to have recorded these gifts, to be able to look back over the month and see God’s goodness played out in the details of my life. How quickly time passes, and how full life can be, especially when I take time to say “Thank you!”

I found confirmation of my experience in this gratitude experiment in this article in Real Simple. Gratitude leads to feelings of happiness, boosted energy, greater health, resilience when necessary, improved relationships, and acts of kindness. Gratitude changes us and those around us in a beautiful cycle of thanksgiving.

This month I have given thanks for shared love and laughter with my family; specific acts of kindness by friends; dog snuggles; a flock of favorite birds in our backyard tree; quiet moments; unexpected words when I needed them; natural beauty; opportunities to serve; fun adventures; home. All this in the midst of so much more.

Some of the “more” in this month has been painful, hard moments filled with negative emotions and tears. Even when life is good it can be up-and-down overfull of good and bad. Which is why I – we – need so desperately to recall the truth: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). God is the God of hope, worthy of praise, Savior who allows us to associate with Him so personally, “my God.” My God!

Which begs the question: just how much harder might this month have been had I not engaged in a discipline of gratitude?

This morning we met up for a beach walk with friends we haven’t seen in a while. SoCal weather has been in the mid- to high-80’s, bright blues and vivid greens-turning-to-browns prevailing. The breeze couldn’t defeat the beating sun, nor did we need it to. The forecast says much-needed rain is coming and for today we enjoy this unbelievable Thanksgiving weather.

Our friends downsized when they moved NorCal south. In their move they gained easy beach access and a simpler state of being. Funny thing, we moved the opposite direction and while we drive much farther to access the coast, we also gained a simpler state of being, a slower pace, the community for which we so longed. As much as I need to remember that, I do miss this:


Sitting and soaking in the view will always be good for my soul, and an extra-special gift this Thanksgiving.

This afternoon the guys and I prepared delicious and (our version of) traditional holiday food with my side of the family; we enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal together with my mom, sister, brother, and nephew. The food and drink was special, the table beautifully set, we wore something a little nicer than our usual scrubs. For a time, any drama was set aside and we enjoyed one another’s company. We laughed and told stories, we remembered those who cannot be with us, we created new memories for times ahead when we cannot be together.

We said thanks, and appreciated this day set aside in honor of thanks-giving.