Vacation means….

Vacation means having no agenda or script. It is an essential break from the routine traffic patterns of our lives. It gives us a chance to see things from new perspectives, to discover new aspects of our relationships with family and friends.

As children, my siblings and I spent hours upon hours in the back seat of our Volvo station wagon, driving back and forth across the country (New York to California and back). We entertained ourselves, bickered, tickled each other, and negotiated the allocation of space repeatedly (driving our parents mad at times!). Wonderful memories!.

Here’s to summer and making space on the calendar for those unscripted, no-agenda times!!

unscripted 3

Valentine Scone Love

Valentine Scone Love

My Valentine’s Day was full of goodness from start to finish! Traveled to Denver with mom. Breakfast at Snooze. Denver Art Museum. Cream scones at House of Commons. Fabulous dinner prepared by my brother. Then, home to make a special dessert. All good. Beautiful, easy-going sunny day.

Advent 2013: Yielding Hearts

Heart and Blue Sky

Advent is a season of readying the heart for God with us. Although I didn’t exactly plan it this way, my personal spiritual journey seems to coincide with this theme. Advent is an opportunity to draw close to God. In the midst of all that shapes us, it is a chance to remember him.

I’ve been learning to listen, really listen, to God. I have been putting things I am considering before him and asking him what he thinks. Stillness is necessary. I find I need to recall the things he’s already said and done. Over time, he has spoken, whispered even, through his word when I’ve sat with him, through observations and conversations with others, and through his Spirit. My belief is that this truth, from a Spirit-saturated culling of communications, trumps everything else I think I should be doing, could be doing, or might be doing. And it is this truth – this directive from the King who responds to the “thy-Kingdom-come-thy-will-be-done” prayer – that will bear fruit (if put to action) .

God’s quiet voice can get lost in the din of busyness. Then, it feels almost justifiable when we sit in confusion about which way to turn. When we are torn between a range of thoughts and ideas, it is possible that we are being double-minded or double-hearted. James (James 1:6-8) warns against double-mindedness, and I have often wondered about that term (perhaps I couldn’t understand it because I was in the thick of it!). In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he tells them not to be conformed to or shaped by the world around them but to let God transform them by changing how they think (Rom 12:2). The “world” consists of family patterns, family idolatries (worshiping approval, pleasure, success, service, praise, money, ease, image, etc.), unhealthy relationships, and cultural and societal norms – all the things that shape our identity, our sense of being “okay” in the world. These are so deeply ingrained that sometimes we don’t even recognize them as being unhealthy burdens that God never intended for us.

Listening for God’s “no” or “yes” on decisions I put before him means I need to be open to hearing. It also means remembering what he has said and trusting him enough for me to brush the other things off the table and focus on the things I know for certain.  Tonight, over dinner, reading the December 6th entry for Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling,” I was struck by these words that fit the Advent theme and my personal reflections:

“Stay ever so close to Me, and you will not deviate from the path I have prepared for you. This is the most efficient way to stay on track; it is also the most enjoyable way. [People] tend to multiply duties in their observance of religion. This practice enables them to give Me money, time, and work without yielding up to Me what I desire most—their hearts…. What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the Joy of My Presence!”

If you are unsure about what God is speaking directly to you, take a moment to be still with him. Ask him what he is passionate about. He will tell you what moves his heart.

Panna Cotta for All!

It wasn’t exactly as I’d planned, but it was an evening full of grace and good dessert. I invited my uncles and their wives for a special Italian dessert and a preview of Italy (Rick Steves), in light of one uncle’s upcoming trip to Italy.  It was a spur-of-the-moment invitation — some could come and some could not. Sadly, the uncle heading to Italy could not come.

The guest of honor was the Panna Cotta dessert, which is Italian for cooked cream.  It is an eggless custard, and I wanted to share it with them.  In fact, I made quite a bit of it (I doubled the recipe thinking 6-8 might be too few). There was more than enough, so I expanded the invitation. Bring your whole family, friends… Come one, come all.  We gathered in my small apartment for an evening of Italian decadence, savoring dessert, laughter and conversation, and the Italian countryside.

Panna CottaPanna Cotta & Raspberry Coulis (puréed, strained raspberries)

This Panna Cotta recipe is from Lynne Rossetto Kasper (of NPR’s The Splendid Table), and it is by far the best I’ve tried.  I prefer the slightly firmer method, with more gelatin.