26 April 2007

Recipe: Vegetable lasagna

It's spring and time to celebrate with the ingesting of many fresh veggies! Here's a recipe I'm really excited about making since I found whole wheat lasagna noodles at Target in the Cities yesterday (yes, I know -- probably most of the world has access to those in regular life. We, on the other hand, have to drive an hour or so to find them. It's a real triumph here.)
FYI, I adapted this a tiny bit from Rachael Ray. Her original used cheese ravioli instead of lasagna to cut the time. But this doesn't take much longer and I find that we don't usually miss the extra cheese.

Vegetable lasagna
1-2 large packages chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic chopped
1 can quartered artichokes, drained and chopped
3 zucchini, shredded, squeezed dry
1 package mushrooms, chopped
1 lb asparagus, lightly steamed, and cut into 1-2 in pieces

1 package lasagna noodles

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock (or veggie is good, too)
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half (or you can use evaporated milk too)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and black pepper

2 cups grated mozzarella, provolone or Italian Cheese blend

Boil water for lasagna.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a skillet then add mushrooms and zucchini. Cook for a bit til mushrooms release water, then drain. Add a teeny bit more oil and garlic, cook for a bit, then add shpinach and artichokes til heated through. Remove from skillet.

Place skillet back on the heat and melt butter. Whisk flour into butter and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk stock into flour and butter and let it bubble. Whisk in cream and Parmesan. Season sauce and let cook for a couple of minutes til thick.

Cook lasagna noodles according to directions. In last 3-5 minutes of cooking, add the asparagus spears to a steamer basket or colander and let steam til just tender. When noodles are done, drain. Add the asparagus to the other veggies.

For traditional lasagna: Put a small bit of sauce in a baking dish (just so noodles don't stick) and add noodles, then add one half of veggie mix. Add about one third the sauce. Then add more noodles, more veggies and next 1/3 sauce. Then finally noodles, sauce and cheese. Put in 350 degree oven and bake until cheese is bubbly, or just put under the broiler til cheese is bubbly.

For non-traditional lasagna roll-ups: Put some sauce in the bottom of the pan, then spread veggie mix on a lasagna noodle, roll up and place in the pan. Continue til done, then pour remaining sauce over the top and add cheese. Again, cook in 350 degree oven, if you have the time, or broil if not.

Note -- if you really like alfredo sauce, you may want to make a bit more. I try to keep mine on the non-saucy side to cut the caloric intake.

Hope y'all enjoy!!

25 April 2007

The blessing of a marvelous man

My sweet love related a story to me tonight on the way home from class. His professor, in teaching his class some miscellaneous management theory, asked the men to write down five things which defined "Beauty." He called on Dennis and asked him to share his definition of beauty.

Dennis said, "My wife."'

Oh, I do love this man.

24 April 2007

Young Clergywoman Conference

A groundbreaking conference for clergywomen under the age of 40 is being planned at the Cathedral College of Preachers in Washington, DC from Aug. 6-10. The conference is a preaching conference open to ordained and lay women.
There is a SIGNIFICANT amount of grant money available. There is not, however, childcare arrangements, which limits the possibility of folks like myself being in attendance. While I'd like to post a whole rant about this, I recognize that this conference is in its infancy and can't be perfect right away. It does, however, look like a GREAT event, so please, if you have the time available, consider attending and applying for financial aid, if needed, RIGHT AWAY. (FYI -- grant money is based on your church's budget, not your personal finances.)
Go forth and preach the good word, sistahs!!

23 April 2007

A child more biblically literate than I

In an attempt to help Annalivia reach adulthood with more retention of the Biblical stories than a vague remembrance that Exodus is after Genesis and that Jesus is mentioned in the second half of the Bible, we have been reading The Toddler's Bible.

I have to say -- I highly recommend it. In fact, I wish I would have bought it a good year ago. The illustrations are very nice gentle depictions. The stories are VERY simplified and are each about four pages long with about two sentences per page. I personally think Annalivia could handle more detail, but I like that this format leaves lots of room for discussing and interpreting the stories. Each of them can be easily embellished, but they are also simple enough that each of them can be easily remembered by a little one.

Annalivia is particularly fascinated with the baby Moses story, which I suppose I should have predicted given that she is obsessed with babies and dolls. She loves to flip through the book and find the pictures of the baby Moses and then talks about every detail of the illustration.

In fact, what I like most about this book is that Annalivia is drawn to it. She wants me to read it to her several times a day and I often find her leafing through it on her own. It would be so exciting to me if my children could have a grounding in scripture that would encourage their faith. It really would be nice if they didn't have to wonder what the Bible said about something (even after four semesters of seminary Bible class) but instead knew it in their hearts.

19 April 2007

Three reasons why I've not been here... and may not be for a bit

1. Life has been so incredibly full of, well... life, these last two weeks.

2. In the midst of triumphs and struggles being encountered by friends and loved ones and to a much lesser extent, us, taking time to type one-handed posts while juggling Daniel and ignoring Annalivia has seemed a poor and irresponsible decision.

3. I've been using the time when I juggle Daniel and ignore Annalivia (I hope everyone realizes I'm being facetious) to read some books.

I'll be back very soon.

16 April 2007

And the winner is...

Leah of Desert Spirit's Fire -- in a randomly selected drawing, you have won a gift certificate worth 10 sets of 100 pennies to Amazon!!!

THANK YOU to all who played in the 100 Things Contest! It was so neat to read your lists!

And for those who asked -- I'll put mine up in a separate post this week. If anyone else wants to link their list on the original post even though the contest is over, feel free!!

11 April 2007

The sorrow of loss

Today held the sad news that little Sawyer James Rennie died. Sawyer was born to Amy and Jim on Mar. 31. Last night his little organs failed him and he passed away early this morning. Amy and Jim lost their first son Brian who was born prematurely, also. I can't imagine their grief. Their pain must be overwhelming.
This evening, I found out that my dear friend, Bill, my seminary mentor, passed away yesterday after a long, hard fight with acute leukemia. He was an extraordinary person -- a pastor, musician, composer, intellectual, husband, father, grandfather and friend. Though we were not in touch frequently, I'll miss him terribly. I'll be travelling to Kentucky to sing at his funeral on Saturday and remembering how he drove through a snowstorm to be in Illinois for my ordination.
And it's snowing here. The Easter promise of the resurrection seems a little less shiny tonight, though I know it is there. If you are so inclined, I appreciate prayers for my dear friends above.

And more pics...

Little Daniel Robert practicing head control

Daniel and the Easter bunny
Annalivia arranging her hunted eggs at my mom and dad's house
One of the more hilarious Easter eggs, this one by Geoff

For some reason, my youngest sister, Kalin, managed to avoid being photographed. But here is my sister, Lil, brother in law, Jake, and their children, Cleya and Lirah

And here's my sister, Marissa, her boyfriend, the good Rev. Geoff, and her son, Rhys holding an egg that he decorated to look like her.
Marissa decorated an entire series of eggs to look like each of us. Those pics are on Lil's camera, though, so they'll have to come later.
Annalivia flowering the cross on Easter morning at church
The flowered cross. These flowers were given to us by my mother from her garden. They were going to be attacked by a frost, so she cut them down and gave them to me to be used for the purpose of celebrating the Resurrection. I thought it was a great metaphor for the Resurrection itself -- when death threatens the beauty we are created to be, Christ offers us the opportunity to be used for something greater. Pretty neat, eh?

We'll let her out of the house someday

In the meantime, she's highly protected.

Annalivia on her new tricycle with requisite safety gear. That racing suit is actually pajamas.

10 April 2007

My time, which is not mine

ARGH... today is one of those days that seems to have been allotted less time than other days. Between church folks in crisis, children needing something or other, food in the refrigerator that needs to be cooked before its last breath, toys and books and coloring papers all over the floor, dishes that need to be washed, children needing something else or another... I remain unshowered and unable to accomplish much of anything on any tasks associated with the aforementioned list. I'm only blogging because Daniel is eating and I can type with one hand and hold the bottle with my face at the same time (perhaps the only advantage to having a double chin.) Some days just seem to be stacked in the favor of a ticking clock. This is one.
Ok. I'm done whining.

09 April 2007

First family photo

Yes, 8 weeks after Daniel's birth, here's finally a photo with all four of us in it. And in our Easter finest. And freezing.

Oh, and happy, too.

Y'all will want to read this

More Cows has a great -- GREAT -- Easter sermon posted at her place. Makes me want to bookmark so that I can claim that my Easter preparation is done for next year, too!
BUT, I won't...

08 April 2007

The risen Christ is everywhere

On Maundy Thursday, my mother came up to hang out with Annalivia and Daniel while I was at our Upper Room dinner and Dennis was at school. Mom didn't end up leaving until about 9:30 p.m. About 25 minutes later, Mom called from her cell phone. She had happened upon a family who had hit a deer with their van. When Mom asked them where they were from, they said that they were from here. She offered to give them a ride home and eventually it came out that they had been living in their van for the last two months.
The couple is in their late twenties and have been married for five years. He is black. She is white. They have three children aged 3 and under. Her parents hate him because he's black. His parents tolerate her barely because she's white. After he lost his job in a factory, her aunt here in town said that she and the children could come live with them. He couldn't come. He's black, after all. But they had no other options, so she and the kids came here. He went home to Arkansas.
Here, the mom and kids tried to make a life. She had a job, then they found that the 8-month old baby has a heart condition that will require surgery in Rockford, north of here. She was in and out of doctors' offices and clinics, making working almost impossible. When the aunt lost her job, she said that she didn't want the kids in the house when she was home. So they tried to drive around while the aunt was at home. Eventually, the aunt suggested they move out completely. They moved into the van.
On Thursday, the family was on their way to her parents' house in Indiana, even though they knew that they'd have to be split up again. But they had no money or food. They had to do something. Her mother had sent her $40 for gas and tolls. She filled up the tank for $38, realized there was no way she would make it on the toll road that runs by our town, and headed south to pick up the next interstate.
When she hit the deer, the radiator on the van was finished. The headlights were broken. The airbag deployed. Two teens driving behind them stopped and offered to call 911. They were drinking beer, the woman said, and must not have called because no one came. My mom came upon them an hour later in 30 degree weather, called 911, and summoned a sheriff who got the van towed. Then Mom brought the family to the homeless shelter here in town.
They had to leave the homeless shelter at 7 a.m. We picked them up and took them to church then got them set up at a local motel that has a weekly rate of $155. The hotel is not the greatest place to be, but it is warm and has beds and a shower. And there's a laundromat there, all of which is a far cry from the seats of their van and bathrooms in rest areas where they have been taking sponge baths and trying to rinse out clothes for the last few months.
At the same time we were doing all of this, Dennis was talking to the guy who owns the place where the van was towed. We were worried about how much things would cost to have them repaired. A radiator, headlights and a new airbag are not cheap. We had a generous donation of $500 to help with the cost of the repairs, but we were worried it would be far more.
We were also worried about the family's supplies. The baby had one outfit which she was wearing and was filthy. The clothes they had were mostly moldy because they'd been washed out in rest area bathrooms and hung in the cold van to drip dry. And they needed shoes and bottles and suitcases or bags and diapers. It seemed kind of overwhelming.
I had only $200 in my discretionary account, most of which was spent on the motel room. I went to a local secondhand shop that always has cool Christian hip-hop and gospel blaring through the speakers. I picked up a bunch of stuff and at the counter, when asked about the various sizes, told the girls there about the family. They discounted everything 50% and took my name so that they could pass along other things when they find them.
I also got return calls from other pastors who offered to use their discretionary accounts, if necessary. The Catholic priest in particular, was very helpful in figuring out some basics in terms of care for these folks. And then the guy from the auto shop called. The van was done. Dennis and I went to get it and Dennis went in to pay for it. When he came out he handed me the bill and said, "The man's a saint." The bill was $50 to cover the cost of towing. The man had donated all labor and parts, and discounted the towing a heck of a lot. I almost cried.
And then there's my momma, who is just one of the most generous, giving, and compassionate women in the world. She spent the day getting clothes for the family and washing them all up, placing them in new suitcases and getting them ready for us to bring back to them after Easter.
After each new development, I would stop by the family's hotel room to explain what was happening to them. The mother wept openly every time I stopped by their room yesterday. Her husband whooped for joy when he heard about the van being fixed. They kept saying that they didn't understand why people were being so kind to them. In their hometowns, in their families, there was never grace or second chances or forgiveness. Why are they encountering it now?
I told them that this is our job as Christians -- to be Christ to others. The new life we have should change how we live this life, I told them. They didn't understand why this grace is offered now, but they want to, so they're coming to church today.
In the process of all of this, I have received renewed affirmation as to the power and presence of the Spirit in the followers of Jesus. As I said to Mom near the end of the day yesterday, after receiving the gift of that $50 receipt, "The risen Christ is everywhere."
And He is. It's HIM that this family is talking about -- this unseen thing that offers them and us grace abundant -- this reason "why?" which requires us to do better and be better than the standards set by the world around us. In the midst of life -- the pretty and ordered, as well as the messy and difficult -- He is risen. And it is our great privilege as Christ-followers to proclaim Him at church, at the grocery store, in the traffic lane, at the auto shop...
"I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you," he says.
And he has.
He has come to this family, though they might not recognize Him yet. And he has come to me and my family, reminding us again of why we put on His name and call ourselves His.
He has come.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed!

Have a blessed Easter, all.

03 April 2007

100 Things Contest

4/4: Please see prize update at bottom of post!!
In honor of the 100th day of the year, which is Tues. April 10, and all of the free time with which those of us in church leadership will find ourselves in the days immediately following Easter (y'all have not a thing to do, right?), I am sponsoring a 100 Things About Me contest.
The jist -- you write your 100 Things and post it here, and your name will be entered into a random drawing for a fabulous prize somehow related to the number 100. Actual rules follow.
More than receiving the token prize, I think the blessing for most of us will be in sharing this spiritual exercise together. God is with us all of our days -- the busy, the lazy, the joyous, the downright hard. I think sharing these Things, as mundane as they might seem, allows us to see, with a little more clarity, his fingerprints on our lives. At least, that is my hope. So whaddya say? You in?

Here are the rules:

1. Contest begins now and ends on April 15, thereby allowing all of us to focus on something in addition to getting our taxes to the post office by midnight. A winner will be named shortly thereafter.

2. Entries should be in the form created by lovely Queen Heroical at this link . Please number your list like hers, too.

"I have lived.." followed by 10 things
"I have witnessed..." followed by 10 things
"I have heard..." 10 things
"I have lost..." 10 things
"I have found..." 10 things
"I love..." 10 things
"I can..." 10 things
"I loathe..." 10 things
"I hope..." 10 things
"I am trying..." 10 things
Please use these categories, though you may rearrange them as you'd like. And though QH is amazingly creative, please try not to plagiarize her any more than necessary.

3. It's ok if entries were published before this contest began.

4. Entries must be posted in the comment section of this blog. Feel free to link to your blog, but do copy your Things here so we can all enjoy them in one spot.

5. Anyone can enter -- clergy, laity, man, woman, Jew or Greek, slave or free. Entrants must, however, be human and living on Earth. As charming as it is, I don't care about the 100 Things about one's pet. Sorry.

6. I reserve the right to erase any icky entries. Challenging is ok. Vulgar isn't.

Updated to add: I've decided the prize will be a gift certificate in the amount of ten sets of 100 pennies to Amazon.com. NOW are you in??

02 April 2007

The strife is o'er, the battle won...

I know I'm jumping the gun a little, but I just have to share some Easter excitement because the EASTER WORSHIP SERVICE PLANNING IS DONE!! Hurrah!!
My secretary is on a mission trip this week so I have to run the bulletins off and fold them, but that won't be hard -- BECAUSE THEY'RE DONE!!
I was so ticked off at my secretary last week when everything had to be done so early to accommodate this last minute mission trip, but now I'm very grateful -- BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS DONE!!
And now, for the first time in ministry, licensed and ordained (i.e. 10 years) I get to spend Holy Week actually (gasp) thinking about the Holy, not the minutiae of what goes where and when. And why is that again? BECAUSE IT'S DONE, DONE, DONE!!
Can you tell I'm a little excited?
done, done, done, done....done!

01 April 2007

Little Sawyer James arrives

Little Sawyer James was born to Amy and Jim on Mar. 31 at 2:43 p.m. He was 1 lb. 9 oz., having been born at 23 weeks and 6 days.
Sawyer's got a long way to go, but his dad reports that, "He is an extremely handsome and very feisty little boy already." We're cheering for all of them here, but I know they appreciate your continued prayers as well.