Dreaming the unimaginable

I remember my dreams almost every night. They're always strange, usually interesting, and a lot of times I actually learn something from them.

So... I had this dream a few months ago. It was one of those dreams that, upon awakening, leaves you wondering..."What was that about?"

I should start by noting that the past year and a half has been a hard walk for me. At times I have felt like Jacob wrestling with God in the desert. Dramatic, I know. But I studied acting in graduate school, so being dramatic is impossible for me to avoid.

The struggle has been in me, not Him. He is perfect, and has been perfectly patient with me. I have built up this armor from childhood - and I'll tell you, it ain't the armor of God. Let's call it baggage armor. And as He lovingly carried me through this past year and a half, He has been helping me remove it. Mostly, He has been working to open my arms to release the baggage. Essentially, He's been nudging me towards the freedom of forgiveness and to ask for forgiveness.

Then, I had this dream.

I was in some desperate, ailing area, and a news team had come to do a story on the work I was doing there.  I was taking them on a tour, showing them exactly what I did throughout the day, and the newscaster was floored. He asked me,"How on earth can you do these things?" And in the dream I began weeping, because I suddenly saw things through their eyes. I saw that my life's work appeared to be dangerous, hard, terrifying, gross... even impossible. And then I looked at Him and very clearly said, "When you love Jesus, you can do things you thought were unimaginable. In all areas of your life."

I awoke, weeping in my bed, my husband comforting me as he does when I wake from a startling dream. Eventually I was able to go back to sleep. It took a while because honestly, it was almost as if when I spoke those last words of the dream, I was staring straight into my eyes. My very own eyes.

Hours later when I woke. I had forgotten about the dream.


An event occurred. The what doesn't matter. I reacted so horribly. Angry words, bitter thoughts, you name it. Wounded and hurt, I screamed, hollered, stewed. But thankfully, in the midst of my hurricane, the eye came through. And in that stillness, He spoke.

He reminded me of the year He had taken me through. He reminded me that this human reaction was not what he had prepared me to do.  He had spent months tightly holding my hand so that, in this moment of testing, I would be so in love with Him that I would be able to do the unimaginable. Forgive.

I remembered the dream, and was silenced.

It is true. When you love Jesus - really love and adore and allow Him to carry you - you can do things you never thought you could.

Do you know how freeing and beautiful that is?

But here's the hard part: Its a daily walk. Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23 NIV

When I don't pick it up and follow Him, I am living in my own little selfish world, and it is not a pretty place. When I let Him in, it is Eden. A glorious lovely place for all. Just ask my family and those who deal with me every day!

When Jesus is invited to walk every step with me, He shows me things beyond what I can see. Compassion. Joy. Delight. Forgiveness. Grace. In EVERYTHING. When He isn't invited, everything is about ME. I am ashamed to admit that, but there it is.

And all of you, anybody out there, have full permission to remind me of this. Remind me to invite Him in daily. And I encourage you to do the same.

Because when you love Jesus, really love and embrace him, you can do things you never thought you could do.


When Life gives you Lemons (or Limes)...

We don't drink soda in our home. Well, if we have some sort of stomach bug we do get our Ginger Beer, so to say we never drink soda would be wrong. In addition, my kids rarely get juice unless it comes from the fresh fruit and vegetables we process through our juicer. The littles are actually addicted to that stuff.

But it wasn't always this way.

My older kids did get their watered down apple juice daily. I didn't know any better and they were thrilled with it. And as a mommy I wanted them to be thrilled. Then I began to look at ingredients - the chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. And guess what folks... the foods that target our babies and children with advertisements are the worst products on the supermarket shelves. Its as if companies believe that if their "food" products don't resemble toys with colors not found in nature, our kids won't want them. And we've bought into that.

So, in a family where all we drink is water (with the exception of rice milk for the baby and wine for mom and dad!) we had to find a healthy alternative for sweet refreshment. Our solution: lemonade.  It has absolutely no sugar, yet my kids love it!! We go through a couple of pitchers a day - there are eight of us - and the kids are trained to make a new pitcher if they pour the last glass. Of course, that means it can get pretty funny to see how little they will leave in the pitcher to save themselves from having to make a new batch.

If you are wanting to move soda and junk drinks out of the house, try this. It is really marvelous!

Lemonade-One gallon
Juice from 8 lemons (may vary depending on size of lemons)
Fill pitcher with water
5 droppers full of stevia (we use SweetLeaf SteviaClear)

Stir and serve over ice.

You can also make Limeade the same way, but I only use 5 limes. 

A little advice: If you or your kids aren't accustomed to the taste of stevia, it may take a bit to get used to. You can use your regular sweetener of choice and gradually replace with stevia so you can slowly fall in love with the taste of stevia. 


What's your Talent?

I was sitting in the kitchen with the Spy (my 5-year-old boy) a few weeks ago, and we were discussing food. He commented that his oldest brother is the best griller in the world. I responded that, yes, he is  indeed good at that. The Spy then said, "That's his talent." Hmmm... I was impressed.

I asked if he knew what a talent was. He responded, "A talent is what you are good at doing."

It was so clear in his mind, so I pressed him for more information. I wanted to know what he thought his talent was.  "I am good at jumping. Really high, and off of high things."  I had to agree. The boy has a knack for that. James Bond ain't got nuthin' on my Spy.

And then I asked what he thinks his father's talent is. "Daddy's talent is loving you, Mommy." My heart melted. I was so thrilled he could see that in the way his father looks at me and cares for me. I know that will play a huge part in how he treats his wife.

Next was the Garden Shadow (his 2yo little sister). I had to know what he saw as her talent. "Her talent is biting." We won't go in to details on this. I think you get the picture.

I then asked, "And what is Mimi's talent?" He quickly replied, "Mom, Mimi is just an old lady, they don't have talents."

Don't worry. I didn't leave it at that. We did discuss the fact that age doesn't play a part in talents. But I was amazed that he would think that. Out of the mouth of babes...

We went through the whole family. Then, finally, I asked what I had been dying to know. I selfishly wanted to know what this precious little boy thought that my talent was. "Mommy, your talent is cooking. You cook really good food." Sweet, right?! I smiled, hugged him, and told him how I loved to cook good food for him and family and friends, and I was glad that he liked my cooking.

But deep down, I was convicted. Convicted that the first thing that came to my youngest son's mind as being my talent was cooking and not loving.

Christ did not call me to be a good cook.


Simple Trick, Superior Hummus

Hummus. I love hummus. My family loves hummus.

We go through a couple of gallons a month. Seriously, I do not exaggerate. And in the quest to score the perfect hummus, I've eaten it from restaurants, from the store, and have tried a number of variations at home. But today, I learned something.

For the first time in my life, I started hummus today from dry chickpeas. Maybe that's something you've always done, but it was a first for me.  I've always used canned chickpeas. But since we eat so much, I thought I'd try to make it more cost effective by starting with dry beans. I didn't know it would make it taste so much better. That was a bonus. I like bonuses!

Canned chickpeas are always too firm and never seem cooked enough to me. When I made them fresh from dried beans, they cooked quickly after soaking all night and were nice and soft - and much more flavorful! It has inspired me to grow some in the garden this year.

We now have a bucketful of homemade hummus in the fridge that tastes better than store-bought at a fraction of the cost. No secret recipe. I will happily share:


Soak 1 pound chickpeas/garbanzos overnight with a lot of water - they swell more than you think.
Adding 1 Tablespoon of baking soda to the soaking pot will help with that not-so-fun gas that beans can give you.

Next morning, bring those babies to a boil and then turn down to low and let simmer until they are soft. And yummy. I'm telling you, they're shockingly good.

For every three cups of chickpeas add:

3 cloves of garlic
9 Tablespoons of Tahini
8 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon of salt
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
(Toss in a handful of spinach for green hummus)

Blend in a processor or blender, adding water to get to consistency that makes you smile. Taste and adjust spices to your liking. Its best to put it in the fridge so that the flavors mingle for a while. Tastes better the next day if you can wait that long.


Missing Cheese No More

We are a family of eight who over the past year have removed all animal products from our diet. It was a big step for us as parents. But for my little ones, who think cheese is the best thing in the world, it was a huge blow.

I admit, my two year old still asks daily for cheese. She is strong willed - but in this case, I get it. When you go from vegetarian to vegan, it is that lovely, creamy cheese that is so hard to let go of - and can have you bouncing between vegetarian and vegan for months! Unless you find a cheese substitute that gives you the taste, texture and creamy sensation that totally fools the mind and senses. I had found one recipe that we were all smitten with and then...

Happy Herbivore Abroad brought Quick Queso into our lives, the quintessential cheeze recipe that everyone here loves. It whips up in less than 3 minutes. No lie. My kids are nuts over it. My hubby asks for it. There is always a jar in the fridge. It has a beautiful consistency and we have put it to the test! Hot, cold, over entrees, with a spoon. Trust me here folks, that recipe alone is worth the purchase of the book!

Now the other recipe we use is something I have been making for years. We still love it but it isn't our cheese replacement anymore. While Quick Queso is superior on nachos, this other family favorite really shines as a delicious veggie dip. It is what I call Red Pepper Dip. And if the taste alone weren't enough to recommend it, its a raw recipe - and we strive to have as much raw food in our diet as possible.

Red Pepper Dip
1 large red pepper (I don't even cut it, I tear it so I don't have to wash knife and cutting board)
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup raw cashews
3 Tbs. Nutritional Yeast
1 Tbs Tahini
1 tsp salt
2 tsp onion powder
1 clove garlic
2 Tbs lemon juice (fresh is best)
Sometimes I add chili powder if I want a Tex-Mex zing.

Put all ingredients in Vitamix or blender until smooth and creamy. I like to it make ahead of time and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours because it thickens up a bit.

And there you have it. Easy Smeasy.

You don't have to be vegan to enjoy these. Try them and leave me a comment to let me know what you think!


A lot of years left...

My Great Grandmother lived to 93. My grandfather lived to 88. I have a lot of years left in me. I'm young in my own eyes. I mean, I could go in a car crash tomorrow, I know. I can't choose the timing. But I can choose the way I live up to the moment God calls me home.

I have five kids. Five beautiful, amazing, ENERGETIC kids. One of these babes, my Garden Shadow, is two. A lovely, plump, playful, ever-moving, two year old kid. I am 44. Now, a lot of people I know - I won't name names - think of 44 much differently than I. They think they are old, winding down, and some have admitted feeling useless. I feel the opposite. I feel like I am just getting a grasp on things.

I plan to be chasing my kids, my grandkids, my great grandkids, the wind, up to the end. God hasn't called me home yet and I intend to honor that. Honor that with my body, my mind, my diet and what I pour into others.

You see, there was a time when I was convinced I was dying. I was living a life of a health challenge. That was my focus. Not Christ, not my family - my health, and my health only.

"When you don't have your health, you have one dream. When you have your health, you have millions of dreams." ~Anonymous

True, so true. And I was guilty of that. I only wanted my health. And to be honest, I begged daily for Christ to return to end my pain. Pretty selfish, considering I have many loved ones who do not even think about Jesus. After a year and a half, finally diagnosed, I began recovery. And I began to re-prioritize my life.

That was 8 years ago. I am a slow learner. But God is full of grace and patience.

Cut to today (my husband is a filmmaker).  We moved to a farm. I cook from scratch. We eat gluten free & vegan. I exercise. We lay low when needed. And I homeschool. No cottage schools, no over volunteering, no crazy schedules and no GMO's. We garden organically, clean without chemicals, and do our best to stay away from pharmaceuticals.

We are not perfect. I mess up in ALL of these areas more than I care to admit. That is where God's grace carries me. Me and my family. Because that's what is most important to me - His grace. His love. And the fact that when I mess up - sometimes even willfully - He loves me.  And most importantly, I want my children to witness me living in His grace. His beautiful, mind-boggling, unchanging grace.

God gave me more time. And in that time, I plan to fill each moment with a diet that will carry this body further than the Standard American Diet would. To avoid as many chemicals as I can. To get out and explore his creation as a way to keep my body, heart and lungs strong. Because each day He gives me is another day to love. Love my husband. My kids. My parents. Friends.  Neighbors. Strangers. Everyone.

Because, my dear friends, that is what He has called me to do.

I am 44.

I have a lot of years left in me.

To love.