Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just Peachy

I bought peaches at the Cabot Farmer's Market on Saturday. Yes, they do have a Saturday market in Cabot, and yes it is a little...different. While the NLR and LR merchants may be content to allow shoppers to peruse their goods in understood silence, the Cabot folks will start hollerin' at you before you've even gotten all the way out of your car. (I can make this observation because I grew up there.) It's a far cry from the Rivermarket Pavilion, but they had the cutest little peaches...and I'm a sucker for cute fruit.

Somehow, just thinking about baking a peach pie made me tired. All of that dough-making, then cooking the filling, then baking the crust, then baking the whole thing. I mean, that's like, two hours of mid-day oven time. No thanks, mister. If I want to put my head in an oven, I'll stand outside for a few minutes. Plus, I had a bushel full of jalapenos from Nana's garden, and I was going to have to figure out what to do with those things, too.

Then inspiration struck - peach salsa. After some googling and some kitchen-cleaning, I got started. I knew I wouldn't be content for throwing some diced peaches, tomatoes and peppers into a bowl and tossing it around with various herbs and seasonings. No, this was going to be a bonafide simmered, full-bodied, saucy salsa. So much for staying away from the stove. Below is my recipe, if you can call it that. It's more a loose description of what I did and how I did it. I try to stay away from recipes whenever possible. Every artist needs her freedom, after all.

Andrea's Peach Salsa
8 small-ish ripe peaches, peeled and diced
2 medium fat-boy or very large Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
5 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/3 c. vinegar (distilled, white wine, apple cider would all work. I have an orange muscat champagne vinegar I plan to try next time.)
3/4 c. water
some more sugar (I use turbinado sugar, probably about 1/2 cup. If you use white sugar or sucanat, I recommend sugaring to taste.)
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
dash nutmeg
tee-tinsy bit of salt

The very first thing you want to do is remove the seeds and membranes from your jalapenos. After you do that, wash your hands thoroughly. I recommend making a baking soda paste and thoroughly scrubbing your hands, including under your fingernails. Once you're sure that you won't inflict injury upon yourself by rubbing jalapeno oil into your eye, you may proceed.

To peel the peaches and tomatoes easily, bring a medium saucepan full of water to boil. Plunge the peaches/tomatoes, one or two at a time, into the boiling water. Leave for 30-45 seconds, then remove. This should make fairly quick, un-frustrating work of the peeling.

In a medium-sized Dutch oven (if you have one), combine the peaches, tomatoes, onions and peppers. Add everything else. Stir well, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let boil for 3-5 minutes. Bring down to a simmer. Make a cornstarch/water paste with about a tablespoon of cornstarch, and add the paste to the simmering mixture, stirring constantly. It should cause the mixture to thicken; if not, make more paste and repeat. After a good while of simmering (mine was 30 minutes, but I think 10 would be okay), taste the mixture and discover, with horror, what I discovered: this tastes like peach and pepper cobbler. The fruit is very upfront, so you'll likely need something to amp up the savory-ness. I tried adding more garlic - no dice. As proud as I was of my super-fresh, home-grown sweet summer salsa, I knew that I needed to go to the pantry on this one. Tentatively, I opened a can of Ro-Tel (Mild). I carefully added a meager teaspoon of that tomatoey-peppery-spicy goodness to a tiny bowl of my peachy invention, and I waited. Then I tasted it, and all was right with the world. I dumped the whole can into my pot and kept on simmerin'.

The result, you ask? A peach salsa that is as tasty as it is pretty. See for yourself.

I was able to fill 2 wide-mouth pint jars and 1 very cute 6 oz. jar when it was all said and done. This can definitely have various uses: straight up chips and salsa, as a garnish to fish tacos (yummm), on grilled pork chops or chicken, you name it. Buon appetito!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thanks a Lot, Eve.

There's a fairly common saying that says, loosely paraphrased: beware of asking God for more patience; you'll just end up with more opportunities to wait. It's meant to be funny, and as is often the case, its humor lies in its truth. How many of you have prayed for patience and found yourself catching every single red light the next day, stuck behind the slowest human being in the entire universe at Target, or sitting in the Walgreen's drive thru for thirty minutes only to find out that your prescription hasn't even been called in yet? Yep. Thought so.

So it comes as no surprise that, as I was boldly proclaiming my desire to fully live out a life filled with Christ's love, a sweet little surprise was waiting for me in the pages of Ethel Herr's "Chosen Women of the Bible". And it's only Chapter One, y'all.

A Suitable Helper

As you may have guessed, the first chapter/lesson in Herr's book is about Eve. A couple of years ago, I started Kay Arthur's "Show Me Your Ways" study, and I've considered myself a little bit of a creation story pro ever since. Funny how a handful of fresh insights can make us feel like subject matter experts. I sailed through the first three questions about Eve, and that's when the trouble started. See for yourself.

"NOTE: The word 'helpmeet' in the King James Version may be translated 'suitable helper.' Check other translations for further ideas."

Gladly! I thought. Man, have I ever wanted to find a new way of saying that. (This may be a good time to warn you that there are what could be interpreted as possible feminist undertones ahead. If you stay with me, you'll see it all ends well. I think.) Never one to ignore a challenge, I did what I always do when I want to figure something out: I googled it. What did I see, other than a link to The Help Meet Dilemma. Jackpot! Among some of the more precious thoughts in this woman's study are the following definitions of the original word for helpmeet, a Hebrew word "ezer", from Genesis 2:18.

"The Hebrew term 'ezer' is actually based on an ancient word 'azar.' The Strongs Hebrew dictionary translates it as 'to surround, i.e. protect or aid:--help, succour.'

I personally had to look up the word succour. It means to be the one who gives assistance in a time of great difficulty."

How's that for a purpose? I absolutely love the idea of surrounding someone who needs protection, of helping someone in great difficulty. Granted, I am not a wife, but I am a mother, and I know just how strong those instincts can become after having a child. I find a ferocious sense of freedom in the thought that I was created to surround, protect and aid my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. What a wonderful calling.

All the Single Ladies

You know, I've read the creation story thousands of times; I have contemplated the curse again and again, but I have always stopped just a little bit short in my sorting out of it all. After all, if a girl doesn't have a husband, then she doesn't have to worry about desiring one who rules over her, right? Right! Besides that, husbands aren't supposed to lord their authority over their wives anyway, right? Right! When Herr asked if God intended for man's role of leadership in the marriage to "become a dictatorship", I couldn't have felt more validated. Finally! I thought, as my firmly penned "NO" declared jubilant victory for oppressed women everywhere.

I could not have predicted what happened next, but it's safe to say that it was the spiritual equivalent of a body slam.
How do you think God intends a woman to relate to men other than her husband in matters of leadership and authority?
I literally stopped breathing. Maybe I thought if I was really, really still, I wouldn't have to answer that question, that the Holy Spirit would let me inch right on past it. After all, I'm an Adam-less Eve. And this question doesn't specifically refer to women who aren't married. Even if it did, though, I'm supposed to be exempt from submission. Right???

No such luck, sisters.

When I started breathing again, I closed my eyes, and I tried to quiet my screaming heart, and I prayed. Show me Your truth. I promise to see it. In an earlier question, Herr had referenced Ephesians 5:22-23, so I returned to that passage. Wives, do this. Husbands, do that. Real specific marriage stuff, or so it seems. But if you back up a verse to the passage right before, you'll see what verse 21 has to say: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." In God-breathed, useful for teaching, double-edged black and white. I knew those were the words for me. Christ, who calls me beloved. Christ, to whom I belong. Christ, who calls me His bride. Out of reverence for the One who loved and gave Himself up for the Church, I am called to submit to my brothers and sisters in the body. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church. (v. 29)

I can do that.

It's not easy, and that's probably why I've enjoyed a self-given exception to the rule for so long. Even now, as I think about submitting to others, to loving them above myself no matter how contentious they (or I) may be, I'm tempted to find a way to spend as much time as possible in seclusion. How very quickly the well would run dry. If my purpose is to be a helper, then I need to be out there helping.

What an excellent reminder that our role as women is universally applicable. It dates to our creation, and while we often see it as having been created within the context of the marriage relationship, it is first and foremost a role given us by our Creator. We were created by Him, for this purpose. Nothing--absolutely nothing--is more beautiful than the fulfillment of His purpose.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'd Walk on My Lips

When did we stop saying please? When did we give ourselves permission to be so hateful? Yes, the heat is scorching all of us straight into crankiness, and the economy is still in the crapper, and no one can figure out how to share their political opinions without being labeled something really ugly by one side or the other, and we're flying from home to work to the grocery store to church to school to home, where we're falling into bed with the promise to wake up early and do Pilates/laundry/the dishes/our quiet time still on our lips. We wake up late instead of early the next day, and we do it all over again. Our lives are slowly circling the drain of preoccupation, and as our worn and feeble fingers try to claw their way out of the cycle, we find that we've nothing left for anyone else - not even a 'thank you', and certainly not a 'please'. I'm beginning to take issue with that.

If You Can't Say Anything Nice About Anybody, Come Sit By Me

I remember a time when we would move our carts for each other in the grocery store aisle. Lately, I find myself thinking instead: "I'm tired. I am stressed. My daughter is restless, I resent having to be at the grocery store in the first place, and who really needs to inspect the cake mixes that closely, anyway? Good grief, lady, there's a bakery not fifteen feet from here - save us all the trouble and GO BUY ONE THAT'S ALREADY MADE!" You'll all be very relieved to know that I usually move my shopping cart out of the way and simply think these things as I'm walking away, having completely forgotten about whatever I was looking for in the first place.

But see, the thing is, I used to smile, say "excuse me", and move my cart up the aisle without the slightest hint of a mental tirade. It simply didn't phase me. What has happened to make my skin so prickly that I bristle at the thought of moving five feet forward to serve anything other than my own all-important purposes? Besides leading such busy lives that our reserves are more often depleted than restocked, perhaps the strain of living in these times, in this culture and with these pressures has left us feeling more battered and bruised than we stop to realize. Like injured animals, we lash out at anything that comes near us, threatening or not.

Though we're tempted to behave as though it is, the weight of the world is not actually on our shoulders. It's already been carried. Why, then, am I allowing myself to become burdened again by a yoke of slavery?

Let This Mind Be in You

I was driving home yesterday, and I was thinking about boundaries, and protecting ourselves in potentially toxic relationships, and I thought about Jesus. I thought about His close relationships with family and friends. I wondered how He handled the challenging ones. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say, "Then Jesus sat down with so-and-so to have a talk about healthy boundaries." But it does tell us how He loved. How He forgave Peter after he betrayed Him, how He went to such great lengths on the beach that morning to give Peter just as many opportunities to tell Jesus that he loved Him as he had vehemently denied knowing Him. And it hit me - He was so filled with the love of the Father that relating in a healthy way just came naturally. Maybe He didn't need to have boundaries talks. Because love covers a multitude of wrongs. He trusted His Father's protection so thoroughly that He was freed up to focus less on self-preservation and more on literally saving the world.

And I'm getting snarky about sharing a 35,000 square foot grocery store with a few people?

The Breach in My Wall

All of this tells me that two things are needed: a slower pace, and a stronger spiritual focus. This is the part of the post where I confess a greater need for both. I keep returning to the passage in Nehemiah...workmen by day, guards by night. It's not enough to either guard or rebuild. We have to do both if we don't want to be staring at the same pile of rubble in 10 years. Why is it so hard to do both?

I'm thinking of starting a study called Chosen Women of the Bible. I tentatively started it about a year ago, but I only got as far as Eve, if that tells you anything. I'd love to hear how different people approach this - what works, what hasn't worked so well, etc. - so if you have input that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear it.

If we're going to love people, we need to be whole. We might be able to phone in the housework and taking care of ourselves and even, occasionally, the job. But the life of love to which we've been called requires full-on participation. We just don't have anything to pour out if we're refusing to be filled. Oh, for grace to trust Him more.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


My child is on the brink of becoming a 3 year-old. And I'm not gonna lie to ya - up until now, I've had it fairly easy. She was an early self-soother, meaning she settled very nicely into the Baby Whisperer routine as an infant and learned, almost immediately, how to go to sleep on her own. She didn't waste any time learning to feed herself, and as soon as her sense of balance agreed, she was beginning to walk. Six months ago, she put up such a fight to all of my potty-training efforts that I threw in the towel (or toilet paper) and decided to wait until she was ready. I figured I'd have this mystical mommy-inuition moment where I could suddenly tell that it was time. Instead, my baby girl woke up from a Sunday afternoon nap three weeks ago, ever so casually went poo-poo on the potty, and she has been completely potty-trained ever since. So you see, I've had to do very little of the titanic struggling that most moms go through to get their children to perform the basic functions of life: sleep, eat, walk, poop.

Did I mention that she can count to 17 and say most of her ABC's?

It's no wonder that I almost feel like I'm getting ready to be a mother for the first time, all over again. I thought the walking/talking/eating/pooping thing would be tough. But this next part is scaring me to death: she has learned to reason. All of a sudden, she's spitting out these complete sentences that display an uncanny ability to understand her environment and respond with her-gasp-thoughts. It really is terrifying. I tell her that it's time for bed, and she not only tells me that she does not want to go to bed, she tells me precisely why she would like to stay up. I have this brilliant little debater, and I am ill-prepared for her arguments.

I don't want to respond with the traditional "because I said so" and "don't talk back to your mother" and "1...2...2 and 3 quarters...", but I don't know how to get the right words across to her. She was arguing with me about watching Blue's Clues Friday morning, and when I tried to explain to her that watching too much television is not a good idea, she just squirmed and wiggled and whined. Is it possible for a child's mind to be able to send arguments and not yet be capable of receiving them? Is that a verifiable developmental stage?

You know, before they begin to speak full sentences and show powers of deduction and reasoning, you talk to them like they're still part-baby, part-child. You wonder how much is getting through, how much is making an much will be remembered. Almost like you're talking to someone who you think might speak a little bit of English, maybe. And when the part-baby grows up and English is no longer a second language, the realization of your words' weight is staggering. All of a sudden you're unwittingly shouting every word through a megaphone into a room the size of a shoebox. I'm dissecting everything I say to her. When I told her to sit down, was I too harsh? When she asked me for some milk, did I act put out that she needed me? Can she tell that I'm frazzled tonight? Am I smothering her with affection? Am I endangering her sense of security? Does she feel loved?

Mercy. Seriously. I need it. I'm asking for a double portion in the days to come. I breezed through the weeks that leave many moms in a tearful, tired, poo-covered heap. The fact that I breezed through them on the wings of grace is not lost on me. Something tells me I won't breeze through this next part. And that's okay - I want to welcome every new season in my sweet daughter's life. So as I stare at her in wonder, I remember that God is just as faithful today as He was on the day that I had Olivia. He is just as loving, just as powerful, just as generous. And I learn to hold on...

Prayers for this Child
Sara Groves

I do not know how I am to pray for this child
as a mother I don't want my baby denied
but in the waiting in the waiting
I learned

every instinct in me wants to shield him from pain
take the arrows of misery heartache and blame
but in the sorrow in the sorrow
I learned to hold on

I only have two eyes - be all seeing
I only have two hands - be everywhere
I do not know enough - to be all knowing
I give this baby up into your care

I do not know how, how to pray for this child
I want to guard her from everything wicked and wild
but in the trial in the trial
I learned to hold on
And in the trial, in the trial
I learned to hold on to the heart of God