Sunday Night Traditions

(It has been months since my last post. I purposed from the start to keep my blog a lower priority than my family. They have been a busy bunch this year! Sorry for my silence. Thank you to those who have said they’ve missed my posts.)

A weekly tradition

We’ve started a new Sunday tradition. We enjoy a fellowship meal (of sorts) and I make Apple Pie and Custard for dessert.

I say a fellowship meal of sorts. On Sundays, for us, it means Andrew and I make the meal together and serve it to our family. We so enjoy the time to work together creatively, often talking through things of the weekend, Church and what lies in the week ahead, and even if we have guests we find ourselves preparing and serving the meal together.

Boy rolling pasta with Dad

Boy rolling pasta with Dad

Last week it was homemade pasta and sauce. Andrew made the pasta and I made the sauce. If you’ve never tasted fresh, handmade pasta you are missing out! It is like angel food! It is extra special for us as we use the eggs our hens lay right in our front yard. The yolks are so golden and creamy and unlike even free range eggs from the store! These colour the pasta beautifully.

Tonight we’re having homemade pie. Andrew has made the pastry and I’ve made the filling. The picture is from the previous time we made a pie, which had a pepper steak filling. Tonights is creamy chicken and mushroom. The pastry is too buttery to indulge in often (seriously, so much butter that we half expect the fat police to knock on the door any second!) but it is so amazingly yummy! It is glazed with a beaten egg, again courtesy of our sweet feathered girls out front.

Yummy pie!

Yummy pie!

You asked for it….

The Apple Pie and custard is a throw back to a few years ago. I was terribly ill in the early stages of pregnancy and I asked Andrew what he wanted for supper. He replied “Apple Pie”. Much to the amazement of the children, I actually made Apple Pie for supper! I justified it by saying it was a Sunday night and we used to eat strange things for dinner on Sundays because I didn’t feel much like cooking at the end of the weekend.

Ever since then, Andrew and the children have asked for Apple Pie for supper on Sundays! (But I haven’t made it again for dinner, I promise!)

A few weeks ago, we decided to make Apple Pie a Sunday night tradition. For dessert, not the main course! It is the only apple pie recipe Andrew actually likes. I prefer it with vanilla ice cream, but he likes it with custard.

Sometimes we watch a family movie too. Tonight it will be an Afrikaans comedy to help Amie with developing her vocabulary for an upcoming exam.

All about Family

Traditions hold a special place in the heart and rhythm of our family. I have long believed that traditions help build special family memories and in turn keep families coming together for decades, even through marriages, grandchildren etc. After a few years of working out and starting some traditions of our own, we have all come to value them and look for opportunities and ideas to start new ones.

I look forward to many more years of fellowshipping with my wonderful husband as we prepare meals together on Sunday nights to serve to whomever the Lord brings to us as “family” for that evening, followed of course, by Apple Pie!

Basic Brown Bread

Bread5

Daily Bread

Is there anything to match the aroma of freshly baked bread?  When I was taking fresh loaves from the oven yesterday, Cael clasped his hands under his chin and said “Yay! Mommy bread!”.

Here’s the scoop: it’s tough to beat the nourishment and thrift of fresh, home-baked bread too!

This basic, no-knead recipe is very forgiving – in 13 years it has never flopped, not once! Sometimes the texture is better than other times, but it is always yummy bread.

Baking this bread costs exactly half of what store-bought bread costs us, and we all prefer it. Give it a bash, it is worth it!

Basic Brown Bread (makes 2 loaves).

Ingredients: 

4 cups brown bread flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 small packet instant yeast (about 1 Tablespoon)

1 Tsp sugar

1 Tsp salt

1-2 Tbsp Oil (sunflower, avocado or olive)

2 – 2,5 Cups warm water (baby bath temperature)

Method:

Mix the yeast and sugar into half a cup of warm water (even if the package says not to premix, do it anyway. It vastly improves the texture of the bread). Leave to sit for about 10 minutes, until it is frothy and foamy.

Bread1

 

Mix the salt and flour into a large bowl. Add the foamy mixture, oil and remaining water. Mix/stir well with a wooden spoon for a few minutes. It should be a sloppy, thick dough, difficult to stir but quite wet (see photo).

 

 

Cover the bowl loosely with a lid, plastic or damp cloth and leave it in a warm place (but not hot) for about 40 minutes, until the mixture has doubled in size.

Bread2

 

Stir down well, cover again and leave to rise again for another 30 minutes. At this stage the dough has thickened and is more elastic.

 

 

 

Bread3

 

Stir down again and divide dough between two greased loaf pans.

Leave to rise again, for about 20 minutes (a little more if it is a cold day) and bake at 200 deg celsius/ 400 deg fahrenheit / gas mark 6 for 30 minutes.

 

 

Bread4

 

Leave to cool in pans for 10 – 15 minutes then turn out gently. It is difficult to slice while still warm but if you don’t mind thick, chunky slices of bread, go ahead and enjoy while warm!

 

 

Store in airtight container. Store in the fridge in summer as the lack of preservatives means this breads starts to grow mold quickly.

 

Notes:

You can use any kind of flour (all brown or all wholewheat or another combination, even white flour if you choose)

You can replace some of the warm water with warm milk or buttermilk – this adds protean and a milky taste but does increase the cost of the loaf slightly.

This is a very versatile bread. It makes delicious open sandwiches but is also lovely to eat with soup.

This makes a lovely hostess gift.

This is perfect for “bulking up” or stretching a meal – serve with the meal or after with jelly/jam, marmalade, honey, cheese or fresh, ripe tomatoes.

Served with cheese or salad or boiled eggs, and crisp apples on the side, this is great for a picnic!

It freezes reasonably well.

To soften the crust to make slicing easier while still warm, dab cool water over the crust as soon as you remove the loaf from the oven (use a basting brush or dab with your fingers), while the loaf is still in the baking tin.

Add seeds and/or wheat germ and/or oats for health if your budget allows.

At this time (early 2014), it costs about R10 (excluding electricity) to make two loaves. 

 

Stepping out in faith

We have had a burden on our hearts for young adults ministry for several years. In the years between us finishing school and getting married, we were part of a young adults group. We met every week, taking it in turns to meet in each others homes. The meetings took the form of a Bible study but deep relationships were built during this time as we usually chatted for hours over coffee and treats. We celebrated weddings, births and birthdays together and spent many lovely afternoons at the dam or beach, went on walks, the guys played ball together on Saturdays and so on. Things were always simple, because most of us were either students or just starting work, but that never bothered anyone. Many of those relationships have endured and we’re all still in touch today, although now scattered across the world.

After getting married and moving to another city, we have never found another group or ministry like that. As the years have passed, we’ve started to see that fewer and fewer young adults are seriously attending Church and for those that do, groups for them are either non-existent or unsustainable. Having been involved in youth ministry in some way or another through all our years, we’ve seen the young people move away once they leave school, sometimes for practical reasons (school, work etc), but sometimes because they find no place to belong in their local Church family. No longer part of the youth group, but not yet ready for the more serious “adult” ladies and mens Bible studies and such, they fall into a gap, and all too often, through the cracks.

Not just us

We listened as a good friend shared his frustration with us a short while ago. He is in his early 20s and moved from another city about 2 years ago. He has tried various Churches looking for places to make like-minded friends but wasn’t finding young people like himself to befriend, or found that the churches that were attracting people of his age shared different views and practices of theology which we wasn’t comfortable with. He attends our Sunday services but wishes for more community, similar to what he had not that long ago in his youth group. We’d heard this story before, from different faces. And we’d lived it ourselves.

We looked around and realised that he wasn’t the only young person in our Church family. We counted several 20 somethings. The problem is that there isn’t really a platform to meet and befriend people as part of a morning service, and without some kind of organised group, it is actually quite hard to meet people and “plug into” community.

Doing something

No longer satisfied to sit by, Andrew approached our Church leadership and asked if we could start a young adults group in our home. We were delighted to be given the go-ahead!

We personally invited those we knew were looking for this kind of a group and decided to serve a meal as part of the meeting each week. We believe that food facilitates fellowship and relationship-building and also see this demonstrated in Jesus life with His disciples and in the early Church model.

On a practical level, this allows people to come straight from work, provides nourishing, home cooked food for the single people who live alone and don’t often cook for themselves, and is our way of inviting them to share in our lives as a family as our younger children eat and chat with the group, and for them to be a part of the group by eating with us before the study and discussion starts, which is when they go to bed.

It is important for us to approach everything we do with a sense of shared ownership, vision and “buy in” from every member of the family. Without this, conflict arises and distracts. With it, we work together in unity and accomplish more, all the while teaching, guiding and moulding our children and growing as parents.

Ready, set…..

We’ve been going for three weeks now. There are 8 regulars, plus Andrew, myself and Amié but since our sitting room is small, it feels like more. At first there was limited conversation but as the meal was served that first night, people started to relax and conversations started. After our study ended, they lingered and chatted for an hour while we served coffee. This pattern has continued.

People have asked if they could bring others along. They all said that they had been wanting or asking for a group like it.

We are so excited to see what lies ahead for this group. We have been praying about it every day. We asked them to communicate what they wanted or needed from us as the group leaders and told them that we are here to serve them but need to know how. Some suggestions have already been made. Andrew and I are bursting with ideas but want to proceed gently and try to nurture the group towards sharing their own ideas and gifts and ultimately having a sense of belonging and ownership. It is their group, not ours.

Andrew continues to study towards his theology degree and help as a youth group leader, we serve as a family on the music team and and today we were asked to help with mentoring students from the Bible seminary attached to our Church. While we haven’t done anything like this before, at least not in any kind of structured way, we are being provided with material to guide us and we know that the leaders and other mentors (who have way more experience) are just a phone call away. We feel honoured to be considered worthy of the task and are humbly grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow more while walking beside these young men and women.

There are details to work out as our ministry commitments increase, such as Andrew balancing work, study and family and for me to figure out how to work them into a rather busy season with the children (our eldest child in her final year of school, two demanding little ones and Jess in between). But convicted of saying “Yes” to God when He places something before us, we’re trusting Him to work out the details.

 

 

2014. So far, so good.

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Wow, the first month of 2014 is now just a memory! It can be difficult to comprehend how quickly days turn into weeks and the weeks into months…. And I’m constantly aware of how badly I need to pay attention to this because I fear that I might blink and just like that be facing empty nest syndrome, these days with my precious little ones gone in a blur.

I am so grateful for my personal challenge to first and fore-mostly live more intentionally, to be more attentive and more available. I’m thankful for the “fruit” I already see as an outflow to this commitment. Along with the goals I set for myself for this year (and I’ll write more specifically how those are shaping up next), I have had a good start to 2014.

Dreaming big, living little

At a recent gathering I asked those present about their goals and plans for the year ahead and was quickly shot down and chided to dream and trust God for big things instead of “setting goals for ourselves”. I understand how utterly useless New Years Resolutions are, and also see how the area of goal setting can be high-minded and ungrounded. But for me, and others I know, the process of planning and goals is done prayerfully, yielding to what we believe God wants to teach us and following where we believe God is leading us. I believe God honours this. Actually, I know deeply and personally that God honours this. To trust God for bigger and better is good and right, but not in place of seeking His will for our lives with purpose and dedication.

Quite contrary to big, dream-worthy things, I’m finding this plan to live intentionally is being worked out in the small, quiet, almost insignificant things. But the results, or fruit if you will, are anything but small. It can be hard to understand just how much can overflow from very small, simple acts of paying attention and making the most of every opportunity.

What “intentional” has looked like for me, so far

In the past few weeks it’s been things like a phone call to a friend just to say “Hi” and find out how they are. It’s telling a friend I’ll pray for her, and actually praying daily until the situation is resolved, and then giving thanks with her. It’s sitting with another friend at the hospital so she isn’t alone while her dad undergoes risky surgery. It’s inviting a single young person to hang out with us on the weekends because he doesn’t have family nearby and lives alone. It’s a 5pm call to invite a friend to stop by after work to enjoy a drink on the patio on a beautiful evening. It’s taking out our calendar and scheduling a long weekend to visit with faraway friends we don’t often see. It’s calling neighbours when we hear their burglar alarm sounding as we had a break-in in our street in December.

It’s seeking out and and asking others about themselves and listening carefully to find out what we can learn from them. It’s arranging meals or coffee with them to ask questions about a road they have walked already that we are just embarking on. It’s showing up at events even when we’re not sure we have anything to offer or gain but know our presence is appreciated.

It’s the conversations with my daughters while we prepare meals and go about other very menial tasks such as grocery shopping, bathing babies, hanging up laundry and watering the garden together, where time allows for our subjects to take twists and turns and arrive at surprisingly deep places. It’s scouring charity shops and online stores to find the kind of clothes one daughter really loves and some very special gifts for upcoming birthdays when the budget doesn’t allow for much. It’s “face time”, setting aside the holy grail of multi-tasking and listening more closely to what they have to say without simultaneously paying attention to the TV, radio, computer, babies or anything else.

It’s running more warm water into the tub for a 4th or 5th time because the babies are enjoying their bath so much. It’s doing things at a slower pace so a toddler can “help” and cuddling the baby extra long because she won’t be so tiny, cute and cuddly forever.

This morning, it was getting up early and sneaking the babies off to the lounge behind closed doors so that Andrew can sleep in after a week of midnight oil to complete assignments and prepare a teaching for the youth group.

It’s been taking note of the ways God works in my life personally but also all around me all the time. Going beyond coincidence and synchronicity, I’ve seen and marvelled at the clear evidence of the hand of a loving God over my every day life. I’ve only noticed this because of my resolve to be attentive, my good intentions to be more intentional.

Yawn….

These things are all quite ordinary. But they have changed my life, and the pace of our family and tone of our home. In an unexpected way, this has ‘rubbed off’ onto the rest of the family, and I see them all being more patient and intentional with one another too. This has surprised me as I never asked them to share my goal or consider it for themselves, or even spoken of it with them (the children at least).

And it’s not that life has been peaceful and uneventful, quite the opposite actually. We have had a very full month and my convictions have had to play out in moments of chance and be carved into the daily routine of, well, routine. It’s been the choice to linger longer, to sit beside a child and play a few more minutes or chat longer over a cup of tea instead of checking my email, or Facebook, or WhatsApp, or read/write a blog post (smile). As such, intentionality has largely been lived out in my home and with those closest to me. In the weeks and months ahead I hope for this to extend to others not on my everyday “radar”. This takes more time and forward planning, of course, which makes it both easier and harder, depending on how you look at it.

As I’ve lived out my conviction, admittedly some days better than others, I wondered in response to the comments I mentioned above if I was short-changing myself, and worse, God Himself in settling for the joy and accomplishments in these small things. But if I waited for the occasional big moment to experience purpose and life-changing growth, I don’t think I’d experience full depth and fulfilment from the life I’m living right now. All the more, I’m grateful to experience the hand of God daily, to relish His presence and grow in it moment by moment rather than wait for a rare miracle. Of course, it doesn’t have to be either/or, and I know big things do happen and dreams do come true. Of that, there is no doubt.

So I’m living a small life in small ways but with huge purpose. And the blessings are anything but small. 2014 has settled in. If the year continues as it has begun, it will be a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Cards

Today I’ve written and posted 4 birthday cards. It got me thinking ….

You know what the really great thing about receiving a birthday card in the post is? It means that the sender actually remembered your birthday! They didn’t wait for a computerised calendar pop-up or Facebook reminder on the day to prompt a quick text message, write on your wall or, at best but rare these days, make a phone call.

They intentionally made a plan to remember your special day in advance in order to do something personal and meaningful to bless you.

In this world of faceless voiceless contact, personal contact means something. Actually, it means a LOT! One nice thing about social media is that acquaintances who would otherwise not know your birthday can now send a cheery greeting. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people you have more than a superficial level of relationship with and won’t see on or around their special day.

No, I don’t manage to send a card for every single birthday. But usually when I don’t manage it is because I have procrastinated or been a poor manager of my time. Not always, life is seldom predictable, but usually that is the case.

I know it takes time. I know it takes effort. It even involves a cost. But to bless a friend, I believe it is worth it.