It’s not about my stuff (except when it is)

It’s Ash Wednesday.

I’m not going to write my annual essay about how I’m not ready for Lent yet. I didn’t expect to feel prepared or have the energy to perfectly arrange things as I’d like them to be for our family in the liturgical living department this year. Everything is upside down and completely new and different in so many ways. God is constantly surprising me in this season.

I did think of putting all the Lent and Easter things we usually use in a box marked for that purpose, but when we hit the hardest part of packing and there wasn’t room for everything in the short-term boxes that would go with the movers, that Lent/Easter box had to go in the pod for longer term storage. A lot of my books went there, too, and some sheet music I’ve very much wished I had access to right now. Some of the kids’ stuffed animals also had to go in storage, which they have begun referring to as “POD camp.” Not a day goes by that someone in our family doesn’t say, “I really wish ____ wasn’t in the pod, because I need it.”

Things I could tell you about this situation in this moment, if this was one of those blogs:

  • We’re feeling so unencumbered without our family library that from now on, we’re limiting ourselves to five books each and selling the rest to buy really beautiful bookshelves handmade from reclaimed wood that will look attractively sparse in our home! or
  • We are so grateful that we know we need fewer clothes that we are just going to live in an Airstream trailer and travel the country! or
  • We’re radical minimalists now, and we’re going to make a documentary about our decision to set the pod on fire as a statement against our consumerist society because this way is so much better!

or some variation of this.

(Surprise. I’m not going to say any of those things.)

Tradition is worth a lot, and some of our family traditions are bound up with the stuff we use to carry them out. The burlap cloth and the stones in shades of purple and grey that we brought back from Prince Edward Island are usually arranged attractively in the center of our table by now. I usually have our prayer table set up with a purple cloth and some seasonally-appropriate art and a grapevine wreath. These things appear, and that means it’s Lent.

I went by the chapel at the School of Theology last evening on my way out to practice the organ, and the guy in charge of the liturgical environment was putting the finishing touches on the altar space. It’s draped in purple, with some branches arranged simply on one side and a small pile of stones on the other. It’s striking and prayerful, and it drew me right in. It was completely different from how it had looked earlier in the day, and yet it was comfortingly familiar (even though I’d never seen it that way before) in its penitential purpleness.

That’s what we’re doing at home, too, when we print out the same Lent calendar to color that we use every year, or when we get out the same tablecloth or set of candles or icons. We are making space. This is domestic liturgy. The objects that we use to create the space for our prayer and for our family’s spiritual experience at home during this season are part of that prayer, not just accessories to make the house look nice. Seeing them in our home is an invitation for us to shift our thinking a little…to remember that it’s Lent, that we’re supposed to be thinking about sacrifice and prayer and how we can serve each other better.

So I guess it’s kind of about the stuff.

On the other hand, as I’ve frequently said around here, liturgical seasons come whether or not we are ready, and part of the purpose of the season is to remind us that it’s not about us. Praying in rhythm with the church’s liturgical year is what forms us in our identity as part of the Body of Christ. The most important thing here is our intention, not what we use to carry it out.

I recycled the purple flowers and some greens from the bouquet we’ve had on our table all week, trimmed them stuck them in a smaller pitcher, and put them in the center of the table.

My daughter walked in a few minutes later, spotted the reworked flowers, and said, “Wow, it really looks like Lent around here.”

So maybe it’s not about the stuff, after all.

Anyway, I hope you’re having an appropriately penitential day, whatever that looks like for you, and I pray you’ll have the strength to grasp whatever you need to hold onto and the grace to relinquish whatever you should do without in the coming weeks. God be with you!

#HolyLens, Lent

#HolyLens, Lent 2015

Well, I changed my mind.

I’m allowed to do that, right?

I realized that I was going to miss seeing the #HolyLens posts on Instagram and sharing about our days and bearing witness to the little holy moments in each other’s lives. I remembered that taking tiny snapshots of those moments isn’t a burden- it’s a spiritual discipline. These photos (for me) are more than just photos. They are signposts of God’s grace in my life. I think I need them.

So, just in case that’s true for anyone else, I’m putting up some prompts for Lent.

Here are the prompts for this week. (They will be posted on Sundays for the week ahead.)

I hope you’ll join me. I know there are lots of other photo-a-day projects out there. The important thing isn’t to do this one. The important thing is to remind ourselves that God is always working, even in the most ordinary, mundane moments. This project helps me to do that. If it helps you, too, then please post your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #HolyLens. Let’s keep each other company as we look for the places God is present with us…even if we happen to find him sometimes between the forks and the spoons in the drawer or between the mismatched socks in the hamper.

Have a blessed Lent.

Previous weeks’ prompts:


On Silence. And Lent.

Sometimes, it seems like there isn’t quite enough of something.

I tug at the edges or let out the seams as much as I can, trying to make the pants cover the tops of her socks when there aren’t any other clean pants and we’re late for story time. I look through my yarn stash over and over, trying to find something to use to finish the sleeves on a tiny sweater when the blue yarn I need has been discontinued.  I twist and squish and fold and press the tube of toothpaste to coax out the last tiny bit onto three small toothbrushes, all of them moving targets in the hands of their owners, and I don’t have time to go to the store.

And when there isn’t enough time to write, I scribble my thoughts around the margins of my church bulletin and never get around to opening my computer.

I know this space has been very quiet lately.

I’ve been busy, of course, but I’m almost always busy…there are fourteen activities to fill every waking minute, it seems. The more free time I have, the more ways I find to fill it. Somehow, in the middle of doing school and post-Christmas resettlement and getting my family all healthy again from illness, it’s suddenly Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday? How did that happen?

I’m not at all ready for this. I don’t have Lent “planned.” I don’t have any lists or ideas of what we’re going to do this year to mark this holy time between now and Easter. I haven’t written photo prompts for #HolyLens, or gospel reflections, or blog posts about meatless meals to help inspire me (and maybe you, too). I haven’t changed the wreath on my door or prepared the candles for our table or thought about how we’ll do our family prayers.

I’ve done nothing to prepare.

I’ve been quiet. Reading, writing a little, knitting. Hanging out with my family. Sweeping the floor more often than I used to. Doing the laundry, and doing it again. Reflecting on my life and the gift of those people with whom I share it daily.

With Lent upon me, things feel different this year. I don’t have any activity checklists or new Lenten playlists or collections of helpful links or innovative recipes for cooking meatless meals. I’m feeling an irresistible pull to come inside and shut the door…an urge to look inward and sit quietly with what I find.

I don’t feel called to lead Lent this year. I feel called to pray. To be still. To sit and read and wonder and soak up what’s around me. To gather up what I have, even though it feels small, and offer it to God. I’m going to take my loaves and fishes, and instead of attempting to arrange them artfully on a plate and posting them on Instagram, I’m just going to bring them to Jesus and wait for him to tell me what to do next.

I don’t have any big proclamations to make. I’m not giving up blogging for Lent, but I don’t know how much I’ll write here. Maybe a little. Maybe more than that. Maybe not at all. I’m not swearing off social media, but I probably will take long breaks from it. I’m just looking for Jesus so I can practice walking with him, or sitting with him, or generally being wherever he is going to be, for the next 40 days.

And I’ll be praying for you.

If you have a special intention or prayer request for which I can pray, would you please let me know? I’d be honored to spend the next few weeks holding your concerns and needs. Please feel free to leave me a comment here, send me a message on Facebook or e-mail me.

Thanks for being my friends and for being patient with me. At the end of my life, I doubt anyone will say that I was an excellent blogger- I don’t follow any of the rules, ever. Even so, I’m grateful for every one of you who reads my thoughts here and shares this journey with me.

If you are still looking for ideas of what to do for Lent, try Auntie Leila’s post at Like Mother, Like Daughter. She’s so good at that kind of thing. If you’re feeling short on time and wondering how you can keep Lent as a busy parent, try this lovely, insightful post by Jenna at Call Her Happy or these practical suggestions from Sarah at Two Os Plus More. And if you want some reassurance that (like every year), this Lenten journey is going to be exactly how it is supposed to be, try this post from Laura at Mothering Spirit. I’m taking comfort from Kathryn’s words about Lent this year at Team Whitaker and Molly’s invitation to walk with Christ these 40 days and let our time with him unfold gradually as we go.

Finally, I’m trying to remember that sometimes, all we are called to do is to hold open a space for God. Even a small one is enough for him to use.

I’ll be around. A blessed Lent to you all.

Lent, meatless meals, recipe

Final Week of the Lenten Meal Plan Linkup: Easy Salmon Burgers with Wasabi Mayo

Well, we did it. This is the last week of Lent. Come Sunday, we can eat meat every single day for the rest of the year.

(Just kidding. It’s a good idea to eat less meat, you know.)

The final edition of our meatless meal linkup at Beth Anne’s Best and Two O’s Plus More is waiting to help you figure out what to eat for your last Lenten meal of the year on Good Friday. Be sure to check the Meatless Meals Pinterest board, too, for the master collection of all the ideas that have been shared this season.

My recipe today is a simple one. It’s adapted from my mom’s crabcake recipe and uses pretty standard pantry ingredients (with the possible exception of wasabi paste). If you don’t do a lot of Asian cooking, you might not have this on hand, but it is pretty readily found in the Asian food section of most grocery stores. (If we have it in my corner of rural Virginia, I bet you can find it, too.)

This recipe serves 4 adults (but works for my family of 2 adults and 3 small kids).

What you’ll need:

For the salmon patties-

  • 1 egg
  • 1 can of salmon, drained, bones and skin discarded
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp minced ginger (can use fresh grated ginger if you can’t find the minced kind)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • oil for frying (I like sesame oil for this.)

For the wasabi mayonnaise-

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp wasabi paste…more if you like it spicy!

What you’ll do:

  • Whisk the egg lightly in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Add salmon, bread crumbs, 1 Tbsp mayonnaise, soy sauce, minced garlic, minced ginger and green onions. Stir together until combined.
  • Form into patties. (You can dust the outsides of the patties with additional bread crumbs, if you’d like.)
  • Brush a large skillet with cooking oil to coat. Fry patties until one side is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip with spatula and fry on the other side until done, about 4-5 more minutes.
  • Add 2 Tbsp wasabi paste to 1/2 cup mayonnaise in a small bowl, using a fork to combine. Add more wasabi as needed to strengthen the flavor.

We serve our salmon burgers on whole-wheat buns with the wasabi mayo as a spread and other toppings (like spinach or grated carrots) as desired. Our kids like them with ketchup instead of the wasabi mayo. You can also serve without the buns and use the mayo as a dipping sauce on the side. They’re also really, really good with sweet potato fries.

Enjoy- and thanks for sharing your meatless recipes with us this Lent as part of our linkup.


#HolyLens, Lent

#HolyLens: Prompts for Holy Week

It’s finally here…Holy Week. The last week of our journey together this Lent. I’ve grown from seeing the world through your eyes (and your images) in the past six weeks. I hope you’ve found this project a helpful way to focus on some of the holy beauty that is present every day in our ordinary lives.

This week, our prompts run from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Please share these prompts in your circles and encourage people to join us, even if they haven’t participated before now. Holy Week is a wonderful time to practice seeing the sacred in our everyday lives as we prepare for Easter.

Here are the prompts:

Keep sharing your wonderful photos on Instagram and other social media, but also feel free to link up your favorite photos here in the linkup below. You can share any photos from this Lent as well as the photos you take this week leading up to Easter.

Thank you for your participation and support of this project. I’m grateful for each of you who have spent time with us this Lent and hope you feel it was meaningful.

Have a blessed Holy Week.


#HolyLens, feasts and seasons, Lent

#HolyLens, Week Six Prompts

Greetings, intrepid Lenten photographers!

Here are the prompts for #HolyLens, Week Six. (To find the prompts for previous weeks, go here.)

There’s only one week left after this one- we’ll have special prompts up starting Palm Sunday for Holy Week. If you’ve fallen behind, it’s okay to just pick up and keep going from here. If you’re just joining us, welcome…we’re happy to have you along.

Feel free to share these prompts and the Holy Week ones next week- it’s never too late to join in.

feasts and seasons, Lent, meatless meals

Lenten Meal Plan Linkup, Week #6: Curried Chickpeas

Usually by this point in Lent, I’m in a beans-and-rice rut and running out of inspiration. This year, I feel like the possibilities are limitless, partly thanks to Beth Anne and her recipe-sharing linkup. This week’s edition of the linkup for meatless meal ideas at Beth Anne’s Best and Two O’s Plus More is ready and waiting to receive your favorite meatless meal recipes. Stuck for ideas? Now is a perfect time to go check out what others have shared on the linkup and on the Meatless Meals Pinterest board

My contribution this week comes from the collection of 5 ingredients or less recipes at Stone Soup. Although not all the recipes are meatless, Jules offers great suggestions for cooking quickly and simply using what you have on hand.

Although at first I thought this was a strange combination of ingredients, I tried it one evening when we were in a hurry to get dinner on the table. It has become one of our go-to quick dinners. We almost always have canned chickpeas at our house- all of our children really like them, and they are so versatile. I put them on salads, in soups, and in curries and stews. Plus, everyone here likes hard-boiled eggs.

This recipe is so quick and easy that I can even prepare it at lunchtime (which is usually the most chaotic part of my day). It has the added bonus of being full of protein. After eating this meal, I always feel full. If you feel you need to add something else to it, you can put in canned salmon or tuna with the chickpeas, but I’ve never felt the need to do that.

What you’ll need:

  • 6-8 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or about 2 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons of curry powder
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 bunch parsley, just the leaves, chopped (I cut mine with kitchen shears)

What you’ll do:

  • Boil the eggs using your favorite method. Jules has lots of information here about her method for boiling eggs. George swears by this method. I usually just put the eggs in a pot, cover them with cold water and put them on to boil when I’m starting to cook this recipe. I set them timer for 10 minutes- the eggs start boiling at some point, the timer goes off at some point and I take the pot off the heat. When I’m ready, I run the eggs under cool water and set them aside until it’s time to peel them.

(Do you have a favorite egg-boiling method? Is this something people get passionate about? I’m curious.)

  • Saute the garlic and onion until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder. Stir in the two cans of drained chickpeas and cook until warmed through, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley. 

  • Peel and slice the eggs and top each serving of chickpeas with 1-2 eggs. This should serve about 4 people (it feeds 2 adults and 3 children at our house with extra for second helpings). To make it stretch further or to add more veggies, you can serve it over a bed of raw spinach like a salad. 

For more variations on this recipe and for lots of other great ideas using 5 ingredients or less, visit Stone Soup. Also, be sure to check out the Meatless Meals linkup and Pinterest board this week to see what everyone else is eating this Lent.

#HolyLens, Lent

#HolyLens Week 5 Prompts

Greetings, Intrepid Lenten Photographers!

I hope you are enjoying the prompts so far and are having fun finding the sacred in the mundane with your cameras. It’s hard to believe we’re already on week five…but here are the prompts. This list begins on Wednesday of this week:

Don’t forget to share the prompts…it’s not too late to join in the project.

Blessings on your week!

feasts and seasons, Lent, meatless meals

Lenten Meal Plan Linkup, Week #5: Rosti (Cheesy Potatoes)

It’s hard to believe that Lent is more than halfway over. We’re continuing the linkup for meatless meal ideas at Beth Anne’s Best and Two O’s Plus More and on the Meatless Meals Pinterest board.  If you have a favorite meatless recipe, we would love to add it to the collection. You can link it up as part of the collection at Beth Anne’s Best or send it to one of us to add to the Pinterest board.

Today, I’m sharing a recipe that’s become a family favorite because it is so quick and easy (and because it is kid-friendly in pretty much every way I can think of). The inspiration for this recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks, Simply in Season, which focuses on using foods that are in season locally in your cooking. Since potatoes are a winter food, and since this recipe is so warm and hearty, we often eat it in cold weather (though its simplicity and speed makes it popular in our home year-round).

Technically, rösti does not have to contain cheese. It’s really just the Swiss name for a dish of shredded potatoes that can be eaten at breakfast or as a side at another meal. It originated in the German part of Switzerland in the Canton of Bern (and, funnily enough, the dividing line between the German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland is called the Röstigraben, or “rösti ditch.”)

What you’ll need:

  • 4 Tablespoons of butter
  • Baking potatoes, about 3, shredded (about 4 cups total when shredded)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (we like cheddar, feta, or another cheese with a strong flavor)

Peel the potatoes if you want. (We don’t.) 

What you’ll do:

  • Melt butter in a large frying pan. Add garlic and onion and sauté about 4 minutes until onions are translucent. Add salt.
  • Add potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are slightly browned.
  • Press potatoes firmly into bottom of frying pan (like a big potato disc). Cook 1-2 minutes to brown the bottom, then flip over to brown other side.
  • Top potatoes with cheese and cover frying pan with lid to melt the cheese.
  • When cheese is melted, cut disc into wedges and serve.

We serve our rösti with sour cream, green onions if we have them on hand, and salt and pepper to taste. We have also served it with salsa on the side. Other variations include adding apples, peppers and even ham or bacon to the potatoes while they are cooking. You can be creative.

Enjoy- and be sure to share your ideas for meatless meals with us.

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, which means if you click through and end up buying something from Amazon, your purchase helps support Surviving Our Blessings. Thanks!


feasts and seasons, Lent, meatless meals, recipe

Lenten Meal Plan Linkup, Week #4: Red Lentil Curry

The season of Lent is rolling along, and I’m enjoying seeing all the great ideas for meatless meals that you all have shared at Beth Anne’s Best and Two O’s Plus More. Beth Anne and Sarah have also been pinning lots of recipes on the Meatless Meals Pinterest board.  If you have a favorite meatless recipe, we would love to add it to the collection. You can link it up as part of the collection at Beth Anne’s Best or send it to one of us to add to the Pinterest board.

This week, I wanted to share one of my favorite meatless recipes for Red Lentil Curry. It takes a bit of chopping, which adds to the prep time, but it cooks all day by itself in the slow cooker and is perfectly ready at dinnertime. I love the way my house smells when this is cooking. We usually just serve it as a stew in bowls with naan (often just the store-bought kind) and find it makes a very hearty meal. It can also be served over rice.

The inspiration for this meal is the Red Lentil Stew recipe in Slow Cooker Revolution. One technique frequently used in this book is microwaving the spices and onions before putting them into the slow cooker. This gives them a chance to start getting acquainted before all the rest of the ingredients go in, and it helps the flavors blend a bit better (so you won’t have to wait until the second day’s leftovers for the stew to be really good).

This one is delicious on the first day. I promise. It’s also thick enough to be toddler-friendly- it stays on the spoon nicely. If you want it to be thinner, you can add water at the end of the cooking time.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic (or 6 cloves)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger (you can grate fresh ginger if you can’t find the minced kind)
  • 1/2 tsp each: ground coriander, ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 can coconut milk (14 oz)
  • 1 pound red lentils (rinsed and sorted)
  • 1 pound carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • minced fresh cilantro, roasted sunflower seeds and plain yogurt for serving (or cooked rice, if you prefer to serve it over rice instead)

    What you’ll do:

    • In a medium bowl, microwave onions, garlic, oil, and spices until onions are softened (about five minutes), stirring once or twice to mix things up nicely.
    • Transfer mixture to slow cooker.
    • Add water, coconut milk, lentils, carrots and cauliflower to slow cooker and stir together. Add bay leaves.
    • Cover and cook 6-8 hours on low until lentils are tender. (You can cook on high instead for about 3-5 hours).
    • Stir in the tomatoes and the frozen peas. Turn slow cooker to high until heated through, about 5-10 minutes.
    • Serve topped with a dollop of plain yogurt, roasted sunflower seeds and fresh cilantro.

      Enjoy- and be sure to check out the other recipes at the Meatless Meal Linkup.

      This post contains an Amazon affiliate link – if you click through and end up purchasing the cookbook (or something else), a small percentage of your purchase supports Surviving Our Blessings. Thanks!)