Happiness List

Another Friday, another Happiness List!  (the first, second, third...) Keeping our focus and continually remembering good things cultivates gratitude and helps our minds get used to seeing goodness and beauty around us–I’m using these weekly lists to train my mind and heart to see light.

1. Seeing Grandma & Grandpa

2014-08-21 18.17.11 HDR

(1a. being in the Twin Cities, 1b. St. Paul having a heat advisory at 78 degrees)

2014-08-21 12.12.48

2. After a long week, a bit of encouragement in Jeremiah 1:7:

“But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.”

Not least evidenced in my post this week on the Covenant Blog…

3. a trip to Lush while in the Cities…

2014-08-21 20.13.34

Since there isn’t a location of my favorite cosmetics store at home in South Carolina, I tried out lots of new products and loaded up…

I fell in love with their solid shampoo when I bought some in Canterbury this summer; so I tried Seanik.  I also grabbed Jungle, a solid conditioner, to try (I’m flying, so I couldn’t get lots of liquids).  Angels on Bare Skin is one of their most popular cleansers, its scent and exfoliating ground almonds were amazing, but I wanted to try something with a little more power, so I got Dark Angels.  It’s intense!  But I haven’t experienced the tightness and itchiness that usually accompanies cleansers that are too powerful (like salicylic acid cleansers–for me at least).

I was unexpectedly taken in by a jasmine scent and decided to try some solid perfume, “Lust“!  In my defense, I thought I wanted “Karma,” because I so love the smell of the Karma Koba, but when I tested the other few solid perfumes, the flowery-yet-grounded jasmine scent did me in.

listening to the heart of God

“But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast; my soul is quieted within me.” (Psalm 131:2, BCP)

2013-09-03 11.13.17Babies know when Momma is holding them; Dad doesn’t sound or feel quite the same, and though Grandma and Auntie and Brother are lovely, no one is Momma except Momma.

From our very moment of creation–those little cells furiously dividing in a womb–there’s one voice, one heartbeat, one digestive system that calibrates reality for us.  When we are again near that same heartbeat, napping on top of Mom, or hear that same voice (even decades later!) the deepest, most primal part of us responds.  Some bit of ourselves, deeply coded with the nourishment (the life!) that this person provided for us, always knows Mom’s voice and body, the being that taught us by her simple presence and lifeblood what life and the world are.

God does exactly the same thing for us, but on an even deeper and more primal level.  The most profound calm, the Most-Anti-Anxious-State, the greatest security, and the truest reality arrives when we sit in the presence of God.  Yoga and meditation (and prayer) teach us to do this literally–to physically sit down, to face up to our racing minds (and hearts) and start digging in our heels, slowing down our minds, listening through distractions and listening into quietness.

One of my colleagues has a plaque on his office wall, “Bidden or unbidden, God is present.”  God is sitting next to you, where ever you are, whether you want him there or not–when we quiet down, we can start to notice his presence.

Part of the point of yoga and meditation and prayer is to help us recalibrate to that original orientation–sometimes it’s awkward and feels uncomfortable or even painful (physically, or socially, or psychologically) to slow down, to sit down, to quiet down.  Persistence in sitting quietly, in praying (or meditating or doing yoga), begins to loosen up our knotted up selves, and the searing shout of silence starts to feel more like a peaceful river of quiet.

God, his identifying heartbeat, his stirring voice, is not always the loudest or most insistent sound (often it is one of the quietest) in our lives, though it is the most profoundly sustaining.

 

For what God says to us in the quiet, a sermon preached by Sam Wells, “The Heart of God.

For what struck me about Psalm 131 last September, “Psalm 131 Mash Up” (isn’t it funny how certain poems speak to you at particular moments of the year?  And isn’t it funny how the same words evoke something so different in the same person a year hence?)

how to make: banana chocolate chip muffins

Based on my favorite muffin recipe at Durham’s Nosh Food restaurant, these muffins have the best texture–crunch, moisture, and a little chewiness–ever.

IMG_0107.JPG
Oven at 350 degrees, greased 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine:
¾ cup white flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a two-cup liquid measuring cup, combine:
¼ cup oil
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 mashed bananas (small to medium sized)
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

IMG_0081.JPG
I add the ingredients to the measuring
cup in that order, so that I can use the cup’s lines for the first three ingredients. I dry-measure the sugar, but add it to the wet ingredients, because I’ve found it helps to let the sugar dissolve a bit before baking.

Carefully pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and fold just to combine–they’ll rise better if the batter isn’t over-mixed.

Bake for 25 minutes, cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the muffin tin & serving. If not eaten right away, these keep best frozen–take out as needed and warm up in a toaster oven set to 400 for 5 minutes (to preserve crunchy outer shell–the microwave will work of course, though the crisp top will go soft).

The Future of the Church

IMG_0006.JPGChoir Camp is still knocking around in my head and heart, I couldn’t help but write more about it!  Today, I reflect further on how God is at work in Trinity’s Choirs of Boys and Girls over on Covenant, The Living Church‘s blog. Check it out here!

 

 

how to make: one-bowl banana bread

20140810-185328-68008144.jpgCaught with 6 speckley bananas and a dirty kitchen aid mixer, I scoured the internets for super easy banana bread recipes.  The first 6 or 8 started out like this: “Preheat oven to 350.  Grease loaf pan.  Cream butter and sugar on high…” Nope.  No creaming of butter & sugar for me today.

I am no stranger to fussy recipes, as my addiction to croissants attests, but this rainy afternoon required something super easy.IMG_0042.JPG

The plethora of bananas allowed testing two recipes at once–for back-to-back comparison.  First, I made Julia’s Best Banana Bread,IMG_0045.JPG I’m not sure who Julia is, but her bread is awesome (it’s not Julia Child, I can tell that, at least).  When baking, I usually weigh at least the flours I’m using, if not all my ingredients, and I wonder if that affected the look of the loaf–it was a super liquidy batter that didn’t quite have enough substance to rise and crack as I usually expect of quick loaves.  The bread was moist and springy–it held up well, but wasn’t dry the way that stiffer quick breads often are.  I attribute the success to the three eggs and 1 1/2 cups of sugar used–the other recipe, which was much more dense, used only one egg and a third less sugar (1 cup).

IMG_0043.JPG

 

The second recipe, which I’ve made with much success in the past, is Deb’s Jacked-Up Banana Bread, featuring optional extra flavor from a bit of bourbon and a selection of spices.  In baking, especially using American recipes, spices are generally toned down so much that they’re indistinguishable–the mix in this recipe adds great heat and interest.  For some reason, when I made it this time, it turned out much more dense and dry than other times (it was a bit overbaked–they both were; I got distracted by quilting!).

Both are worthy, in my estimation, and though I usually put chocolate, nuts, or both in my banana bread, I opted for pure, plain bread this particular afternoon.  I especially highly recommend the Jacked-Up ‘bread with chopped dark chocolate!

Finally, to keep it real:

20140810-185328-68008537.jpg

This is what baking looks like at my house.

IMG_0081.JPG

IMG_0083.JPG