Category Archives: For the Love of Home

[Recipe] Fresh Peach (or any fruit) Crisp

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Fresh Peach (or any fruit) Crisp 

Ingredients:

4 cup of fresh or frozen peaches (berries, apples, etc.)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 C rolled oats

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange sliced peaches (or other fruit) evenly in an 8X8 baking dish or a large cast iron skillet. Mix flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt into a bowl using a pastry cutter (or your hands) until evenly crumbled. Alternatively, you could do this step in a food processor. Add oats and gently stir into flour mixture. Sprinkle and press topping into peaches. Bake until browned, aprx. 30 minutes.

Now, traditionally, this is served with vanilla ice cream. However, I tend to break traditions and, instead, serve it with cinnamon whipped cream. 🙂

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Ingredients:
2
cups heavy cream
1/2 cups powdered sugar
teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:
In a large bowl, using a mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the cream, powdered sugar, cinnamon.

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The Day I Saw Life In Color Again

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The Day I Saw Life In Color Again
by Jada A. Swanson

Some folks, even some “good” Christian folks, have shared some rather stupid and callous thoughts and remarks regarding Robin Williams’ death, the illness of depression, in general, and how it relates to the Christian life, specifically. Suggesting it’s predominantly a spiritual issue, and the person who is depressed merely needs to “get right with God” to be healed. As a pastor, and one who has walked the dark road of depression, specifically post-partum depression (PPD), I can assure you this isn’t the case.I wasn’t depressed because I lacked faith or didn’t believe enough.

In 2003, ten days after becoming a mom for the very first time, we made a cross-country move, were in the middle of selling two homes, and purchasing another one. Plus, my husband was joining a new pastoral staff; thus, our family was joining a new church. In addition to all of this, I was relocating my job to another state and continuing to tele-commute. Having no family near, living in a new state, attending a new church, being a mom for the first time–well, all of this was just a tad-bit overwhelming for me.

The summer my baby boy turned one, I was slowly beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I could tell little by little, the ‘dark days’ were lifting. Just as I was beginning to feel normal again, I discovered that I was pregnant with our second child, my daughter. This pregnancy was a complete and utter surprise to us, considering we didn’t think we would be able to have anymore children. Thanks to the “happy pregnancy hormones,” the nine months that I carried her in my womb were clear and beautiful and bright.

But shortly after my daughter’s birth, my “ole friend” came to visit once again, this time with a vengeance. Everything seemed to be exacerbated by a hormonal imbalance and an inability to produce milk, which resulted in feeding difficulties. All of which required me to feed/pump/supplement my baby girl every two hours around the clock, sun up to sundown. Can anyone say insomnia? Regardless, I still had a 21-month old son to take care of, along with needing to return to work one month after my daughter’s birth because I didn’t have a job that offered paid maternity leave. All of this made me feel even more lost and alone, even though my husband was amazing, supportive and a complete hands-on dad.

After Jamison was born, I literally don’t know how I got through my days. I would get in the car, put on my seatbelt, start the ignition, and that was it. What happened from Point A to Point B is beyond me. I have absolutely no memories of driving to work or how I got there. Somehow, I managed to make it to work on the days I had to go into the office without having a wreck.

Although I never tried to commit suicide, there were many times I would think and tell myself that my family would be better off without me. I could hardly function. While at home, I was a shell of myself. Crying because I couldn’t find an article of clothing, only to discover I was holding it in my hands the entire time.

Unfortunately, during this time, healthy communication wasn’t my forte and more tears were shed and voices raised than I care to admit. My brain was just too foggy. I was utterly exhausted. And I felt nothing. I knew I loved my family, but I felt no feelings of love or happiness or anything. I was completely numb. Still, my husband stood by my side, unwaveringly. Yet, I am sure, this time was anything but easy for him. After the fact, he has shared with me how difficult it was for him, personally.

At church, I put on the smile that I was supposed to have. I played the part, or tried to play the part. While I was at work at the university, all I wanted to do was crawl under the piano in my office and take a nap, but I couldn’t. To this day, I think my job was God’s gift to me. Because of it, I had to get out of bed three days a week, shower and get dressed in something other than yoga pants or pajamas. But most importantly, my job allowed me to be around people, lots of people.

For whatever reason–pride, all types of fear, even lack of knowledge–I never went to the doctor to seek out help or medication. Looking back, I wish I would have. It would have saved my family and myself from so much turmoil and strife. But I will never forget the day that I saw life in color again. It was the first Sunday of July 2007.

Earlier that summer, my pastor-husband asked me to begin leading worship again. At this point, I honestly couldn’t bare to look at music or sit at the piano for more than five minutes. (Ironic that I was a music professor, eh?) A few times, I had been asked to sing on the worship team at church, but honestly couldn’t remember the words to songs I had sung my entire life.

Even still, I agreed to begin leading worship on one condition: only if it was a small team (me, a drummer and a bass guitarist). If I was sitting at the piano, surely I could read the music. Not to mention, I didn’t have to memorize the words. Plus, with a smaller team, there were fewer pieces of the puzzle to try to figure out. This was all good. Still, I was terrified.

That Sunday morning, I had willed myself out of bed because I had committed to do something. Even in the midst of the darkness, I wanted to keep my word. I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and did a double-take. Seriously, that’s how it went. That’s how quickly it all happened. It was just like the scene from “The Wizard of Oz” when it goes from black and white to Technicolor. It was as if a screen had been lifted from in front of me or as if scales had been removed from my eyes.  (A few years later, I did go for counseling, and my counselor told me that many people shared with her a similar experience when their PPD lifted.)

In that moment, I knew something had changed. Tears flowed from my eyes, but it wasn’t the tears that I had been crying for months on end. These seemed different. Cleansing, even healing. My brain felt significantly different, clearer and more responsive. I called out to my husband to get out of bed, so I could tell him what was happening. He could see a difference on my face.

When I sat down at the piano at church, I could clearly see the music on the page. Before this moment, the music was just a blob of black and white that didn’t make much sense. Or, at times, would appear to be moving, even thought I knew it couldn’t be or wasn’t. That’s how off my mental capacities were. But this day, everything was different. And I sang. And I felt whole. I FELT! I felt so much, internally and externally. I hadn’t felt anything in so many months!

After church, I walked outside and fully experienced the beauty of the Colorado sunshine, and felt it’s intense warmth enveloping me. As I went to bed that evening, I was scared that I would wake up the next morning only to realize it had all been a dream. That I wouldn’t experience the clearness or clarity again. But I didn’t. When I woke up the next morning, I knew I had finally said goodbye to my companion, Post-Partum Depression. It was finally over.

At this point my daughter was nearly 2 1/2 years old. Ironically, a few weeks later, I had an appointment to see my OB/GYN. Finally, I was able to  share all about the dark days, as well as the day I was, once again, able to see life in FULL COLOR. She confirmed that, yes, what I had experienced was PPD. And, most likely, this change was due to hormones being back to normal, consistently getting enough rest, and beginning to feel as if I had found a support system, apart from my husband. Before I left, she asked me why I had never come in for help, either for medication or counseling. I just shrugged my shoulders because honestly, I didn’t know why. Stubbornness? Pride? Fear? All of the above.

Throughout that season, I was hardly able to read my Bible, much less joyfully sing songs. But I prayed. Sometimes, all I could muster forth was, “Jesus, help me!” I cried out to Him. Although my brain was significantly foggy, I knew it had nothing to do with sin or because God was upset with me. And I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he hadn’t left me or given up on me. Still, there were dark days. Many dark days.

In fact, those were the darkest days of my life. And I thank God that I was able to get to the other side. To be honest, there were days I wondered if I ever would. So when I come across folks who make callous, casual remarks about depression, especially those who equate it with lack of faith or disbelief, I get a bit angry. You see, it’s personal for me. I have lived it and experienced it. I am not an expert, just someone who’s walked that road, and can now reach out to others who are walking it themselves.

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression in any form or way, please don’t be like me and not seek out medical assistance. Reach out to others. Go see your doctor or a trained counselor. Know that there are resources to help you. And to others, please remember these words, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”** It may not be depression, but I can assure, it’s something. Be kind. Be available. Be compassionate.

**Edited to note: This quote above has been attributed to Plato, Philio and Rev. John Watson (aka Ian MacLaren). Regardless, it speaks a powerful truth.

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[Recipe] Pork & Green Chile Stew w/ Cilantro-Masa Dumplings

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So far, so good with the Pantry Challenge. Yesterday for dinner, we ate leftovers of the Farfalle Pasta & Feta SauceThis morning, I got out ground pork to defrost, having no idea what I was going to do with it.

Today, in the Pacific Northwest, it’s dreary and cold. (What’s new this time of year?) So, I’ve declared it a soup day. After living in Denver for several years, one of my all-time favorite soups is Pork & Green Chili Stew. Absolutely delicious! So, I decided, that would be my culinary creation for the day. This time, however, I’m adding a little something-something to it: Masa Dumplings! Continue reading

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The Importance of White Space [Scheduling it in, if necessary.]

Yesterday, a friend with whom I have great respect shared an article on his Facebook page that discussed the topic of “community,” and it resonated with me on so many levels. [CLICK HERE TO READ].  

The author, Matthew Hansen, states:

The idea of community is being in and on pilgrimage together with a diverse group of people.  The question is, do we truly believe in doing community, or do we simply believe in the picturesque idea of doing community?  Do we settle for the idea, so that we don’t have to slow down and actually do it?  Do we settle for the idea so we don’t have to enter into healthy dependent and transparent relationships with others?  Do we settle for the idea because it doesn’t cost us the idols we have found our identity in?  I think, yes… I think we, me specifically, believe in the idea of living the lives of those who truly live in community, but we don’t believe in actually doing it, because it would simply demand we slow down.


As the writer shares about himself, I am also a “type-A person,” who loves my work, networking, and getting things done. And I’ve learned, it’s so easy to become entrapped on the “hamster wheel,” and moving at such an intense pace that we lose sight of what is most important: people and relationships, not performance and productivity.  Sure, our jobs require our time and attention. And, of course, we need to be good stewards of the responsibilities in which we have been entrusted, but not at the sacrifice of family, friends or even our own health (body, mind, soul and spirit).

My husband and I have learned that it’s takes quality time AND quantity time to develop any relationship, and to deepen the level of intimacy. Several years ago, when faced with the reality that our lives were too busy, we made some significant changes.  We realized something had to give, and life must slow down a bit. Priorities were checked and decisions were made, in order that we might be more intentional in developing community and investing in relationships in our sphere of influence.

As a result, in the last few years, we have begun scheduling in white space on our calendars*. At first, it felt odd scheduling white space (along with Sabbath and Date Nights). But if we didn’t do this, we knew it wouldn’t happen because there is always something else to be done. We both have jobs we love, along with sharing in the responsibilities of home schooling our children. So, life is full. Yet, we realize that aside from those commitments, we are responsible for how we  allot our time.

Not only do we desire to be good stewards of our time, we desire to be good stewards of our relationships.  For us, it’s became a question of good versus best. We’ve discovered that intentionally choosing to spend time with God, each other, our family, and close friends is always the better choice. Life just feels out-of-whack when these relationships are not properly nurtured. Yet, our society, even our Christian sub-culture, condones busy-ness, oftentimes at the cost of deepening relationships with those in our closest spheres of influence.

Truthfully, this transition hasn’t been easy. We’ve realized in order to say, “Yes,” we have to say “No”. “No” to more than one extra-curricular activity for our kids. “No” to missing family dinner, except on rare occasions (Often, this is how we connect with our community.) “No” to extraneous meetings with acquaintances which take time away from developing deeper relationships with those already in our sphere of influence.

In no way are we saying that developing new friendships is not worthwhile, or that we don’t make time to develop new friendships. However, we strongly desire depth to breadth.  In the last few years, we’ve learned:

source: Pinterest @amandamcrae

source: Pinterest @amandamcrae

When we schedule this intentional down time, in order to invest in our community and to deepen relationships, our calendars do appear overly full. This might unintentionally give the false impression that we are too busy and, perhaps, don’t have time for others. But this is only when folks don’t know our scheduling scheme.

A while back, an acquaintance saw my calendar and commented, “Oh, my word, I could never keep up with your life.” Then, I let her in on our little family secret: “My calendar looks crazy, but it’s because we purposefully schedule ‘down time’ to spend with family, friends, or have an evening out (i.e. Date Night, Poker Night, Book Club).”  My husband likes to call it planned spontaneity.

Along with embracing intentional white space, we are really leaning into the ministry of availability, which we’ve found is so easily taken for granted. Being available means having margin in our lives for those unexpected occurrences. Allowing for those God-ordained moments to drop everything and just show up when someone has a need or crisis. Or having time to connect with a friend over a cup of coffee for a long, detail-laden update on life.

In doing so, we’ve discovered  freedom. Freedom to say, “No,” to those opportunities which might be good, but are not the best use of our time.  Along with freedom to give a whole-hearted “Yes” to life-giving opportunities, which develop community and restore our spirits.

Trust me, we haven’t figured it all out. At times, we still find ourselves on the “hamster wheel,” needing to re-evaluate our commitments and priorities. Still, we are experiencing life-giving community in a new way. Simply by making an effort to turn off the noise of busy-ness and investing in the lives of others, even when it requires us to be vulnerable and without masks. [Which is the topic of another post to come.]

As Matthew Hansen stated in his article:

Learning to become faithful pilgrims amid the brokenness of this world is about becoming more Christian.  A Rwandan proverb says, ‘To go fast, walk alone.  To go far, walk together.’ When we learn how to slow down to make room for walking together across divides, we become more Christian.” from Reconciling All Things 

**By the way, we use Cozi, an online calendar for families.

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