Banana Bread & Babies

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I had a few bananas on the verge of death and so I decided to make banana bread. I’ve been recovering from a medical procedure and I needed some comfort food! I love banana bread and so I pulled out an old stand-by recipe. It made me nostalgic and so I decided I’d share it with you.

For some reason when I think of Banana Bread I remember my babies, Joel and Katie. I think it’s because the recipe for Banana Bread that I always use is found in my old, ragged, well-loved cookbook, “Whole Foods For The Whole Family.” I got the cookbook when I was was pregnant with my first child, Joel, and working at a health food store. It was first published in 1981 by La Leche League International. It’s an organization that promotes breastfeeding.

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It’s funny, but breastfeeding back in the 1980s was considered a little radical. It was a groovy, tree-hugger, earth mother sort of activity. It’s funny to me because the 80s doesn’t seem that long but I’ve lived through huge changes in childbirth trends since those days. Even the 3 years between my son and my daughter’s birth saw huge changes. Those two births were totally different. With my son, I was in a hospital “surgery-type” room, all sterile and cold, bright lights and scrubs. With my daughter, I was in a birthing center, in a bed with lamps and anyone was free to come and go. So different! This is me and my 1st, my son, leaving the hospital. 

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I remember getting ready for my first child and I thought making and freezing food would be helpful, and it was! I did it again with #2. This banana bread recipe freezes great and was such a comfort. It would be great to make some, freeze them and give them to a new mom.

Let me warn you, it’s a “healthy” recipe which translates to “not very sweet” haha! You can bump up the sugar if you want something that’s sweeter.  This photo is of me pregnant with #2, my daughter. 

I don’t think the awesome cookbook is being printed anymore, but there are a few used

copies on sale on Amazon, here’s a link.

Whole foods for the whole family: LaLeche League International Cookbook

Enough nostalgia, here’s the recipe for

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

1 cup mashed bananas

1/3 cup oil or melted butter

1/2 cup honey or brown sugar (add more if you want it sweeter!)

2 eggs, beaten

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I substituted all-purpose and it’s fine)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup hot water

(You can add 1/2 cup chopped nuts if you want to. The original recipe calls for it. I just don’t like nuts in my banana bread.)

Beat oil and honey together. Add eggs, mix well. Stir in bananas. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with hot water; mix until smooth.

Bake in greased 9 x 5 x 3″ loaf pan at 325 degrees for 55 -60 minutes or until center tests done. Cool on wire rack for 1/2 hour before slicing. Freezes well.

Enjoy!

For The Love of Irish Soda Bread

I have no memories of my mother. I never knew my grandparents. My older father was as silent as a rock. All the history of my family was in the grave or locked in people who were silent or was locked inside kin I didn’t know. So it’s no wonder that in my adult years I yearned, clamored and even demanded to know my heritage. With the help of  ancestry.com, a hired genealogist and scraps of clues the first ship from Ireland emerged from the mist.

Photos of the Emerald Isle and recipes in various cookbooks were my first contact with my origins, my homeland. In 1990 Jeff Smith’s cookbook, “The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors” was the first to introduce me to Irish Soda Bread.

Like a first kiss and a first child, Irish Soda Bread introduced me to the world of food as history and heritage.

Jeff Smith’s recipe has been followed and cherished in my family for 29 years now. My daughter now makes it for her family on St. Patrick’s Day which has become one of our family’s favorite holidays.

So, even though this article by Chowhound, “What Is Soda Bread And Is It Really Irish?” denounces that the origin of soda bread is actually Irish, it does state that the Irish have claimed it as their own! By virtue that there is a Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread I think that even if history doesn’t prove it out, we can give Soda Bread to the Irish!

This is Jeff Smith’s Irish Soda Bread recipe that we’ve used every year. I’m putting it here because I think his cookbook is out of print, although, you can get it used pretty cheap on Amazon.

Jeff Smith’s Irish Soda Bread

Makes 2 Loaves

6 cups all-purpose flour     

2 teaspoons baking soda                                                                                                                       

2 teaspoons baking powder                                                                                                                 

3 tablespoons cornstarch                                                                                                                     

2 teaspoons sugar                                                                                                                                 

1 teaspoon salt 

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Add all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix very well. Pour all of the buttermilk into the bowl at once and stir, using a wooden spoon, just until a soft dough is formed. Do not try to make it smooth at this point. Pour the contents of the bowl out onto a plastic counter and knead for a minute or so until everything comes together.

Divide the loaf into two portions and shape each into a round loaf, pressing the top down a bit to just barely flatten it. Place the loaves on a large ungreased baking sheet. (I like to use the nonstick kind.) Sprinkle some additional flour on the top of each loaf and, using a sharp paring knife, make the sign of the Cross in slashes on the top of each.

Allow the loaves to rest for 10 minutes and then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and done to taste.

Cool on racks.

New Year, New Recipe!

Even though I am grateful for Jeff’s recipe that has kept me for years, I decided to take a chance and try the SPISB’s recipe that they have online. The recipe intrigued me in its simplicity. I liked that it had no sugar, too.

So, I made it! I mixed up the 4 ingredients and in the time it took the oven to preheat, I had it mixed and shaped.

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(That little gadget is a dough scoring tool I bought. You can use a sharp knife, but I love gadgets, haha! You can buy one here. )Risingbreadtool Bread Lame Dough Scoring Tool with Fixed Blade and Cover - Baking Baguettes, Sourdough and French Bread Quick and Easy

 

 

 

I deviated from the recipe in that it calls for you to cook the bread in a covered cake pan. I decided to use my cast iron dutch oven instead.

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It worked amazingly well! It looks, smells and tastes delicious! The crust is delightfully crunchy and the center is moist and hearty! I slathered the hot bread with real butter and it was “slap-your-mama” good! I hate to say it but it’s better than Jeff’s! I can’t believe I said that!

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(That beautiful end-grain cutting board was made by my woodworker friend, Pete, at PMG Woodworks in Georgia. Look him up on Facebook!)

I’ve included the link to the recipe but here’s the recipe straight from the SPISB’s site:

White Soda Bread (reminder: 4oz by weight is a dry “cup”)

  • 4 cups (16 oz) of all-purpose flour.
  • 1 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 14 oz of buttermilk

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees.  Lightly grease and flour a cake pan.

In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients.

Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough.  Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape)

Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough.

Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the bastible  (I think they mean like a dutch oven) pot).  Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped so show it is done.

Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.

 

I wonder if my Irish grandmother, Mano Kennedy, every made Soda Bread?

mama mano kennedy hay

 

Enjoy!

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Erin Go Bragh!

Y’all Can Decorate The Christmas Tree Now!

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Since Thanksgiving, I have been a Christmas tornado. I’ve decorated the house and I’ve pretty much gotten all of my shopping done. What happened? This is not like me!

I usually wait until I’m at least in the month of December and take my time. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

It’s amazing, too, because I’m in a new house in a new place.  We’ve only been in our new house in our new state for 3 months now and the fact that I can get all that done before December starts is pretty amazing – at least to me.

We were in our last home for over 20 years and in the same area for over 30. When you live in one place that long you create trails, patterns, and ruts. You don’t even have to think about how to get to a friend’s house or a store, it’s automatic. It’s nice, I kind of like that longevity. So, coming to this new place we’re having to pioneer it all over again. I have to find trails, watering holes, scout out the good places to shop and eat.

Not only that, but I can’t resort to my old holiday decorating routine. I had to get creative. That meant I had to use my mind, too, haha! When I was packing to move, I remember going through all of my holiday decor and throwing out a lot because it was worn out and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to use it in our new house, because at the time of packing I didn’t know what my house would be like.

But I did it: decorated and shopped all in record time.

Do I sound whiny? I don’t mean to. I’m just thinking that there might be someone out there in cyber world who needs someone to affirm them and say relocating to a totally different place while in your late 50’s is exciting but not easy.

It’s the little things: our doctor of many years, our friends close by, a mechanic we can trust, a neighbor we can call on, having a favorite shopping area or a familiar restaurant and having a memory for every place we pass by is gone. I looked forward to seeing the guy who played Santa every year in the grocery store. And the horrible decorations our town put on the lamp posts that looked like cobras. And our neighbor whose yard looked like Santa threw up all over it. Red and green stuff you couldn’t recognize. I could depend on them. They made the holidays for me.

Now, I have to find new places, new people, new crazies to help me get in the holiday spirit. Where are you?

With all my decorating and shopping done, I guess I have time to seek them out.

Have a great day. As Andy says, “Y’all can decorate the Christmas tree now!” A friend of mine posted that on her Facebook and I had to share.

Peace,

Jill

Costume Success, Rosie, and a Crockpot Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

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So, the “Max” costume was a success! There were a few things, technically, that I was worried about and the crown I made was too small but the knit one I bought fit. He wasn’t interested in the crown anyway, so it was all fine.

His uncle took the photo above, which I was happy about because I couldn’t get him to stay still long enough to get a photo. He was too busy running around growling and showing his threatening claws and was just totally absorbed in being “King of the Wild Things.” This Grandma’s heart was happy!

We had a great weekend with the kids. The 4-hour drive was such a relief. I hope it stays a relief when our memories of a 13-hour drive fade.

The kids had a big, busy weekend at their church. If I haven’t told you, both of my kids started a church together along with some friends and others with like-minded hearts. So, my daughter is the worship leader, her husband is the pastor, my son is the assistant pastor and leader of the media-ops team, and his wife is over the children’s ministry. So, every Sunday, they are ALL busy!

We went up there to attend the big Sunday and to help if we could. So, we babysat and fed them. I cooked chili Saturday night after they had a day of setting up (they meet in a school so they have to set up and break down each week). Then I did a crockpot, cook ahead meal for Sunday after church.

As a mom, it still gives me pleasure to feed them and know that they are getting enough sleep, haha! As a kid, even though I didn’t get them very often, I remember Sunday-after-church- lunches lovingly made by my “adopted” grandmother, Rosie. Going to her house after church and eating what she cooked are some of my very best memories!  I want to give my Grandboys a similar experience.

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This is Rosie and Tommy in their kitchen where many a fine Sunday dinners were eaten. 

I want to tell you a Rosie story. Rosie was the mother of my sister’s husband. Even though she wasn’t technically my grandmother, but rather the grandmother of my nephews, she drew me in and loved me. I remember her as a big, jolly woman. I heard stories that she could snap on you and put you in your place but she never turned that on me. She was married to Tommy but their marriage was not the first one for either of them. So, they created a family with her kids, his kids and then they had a couple of their own. The age span of the kids was pretty big. Rosie was a mother for a long time and she had it down! On Sundays after church, she would fry chicken, make potato salad and biscuits. She’d have a pot of some kind of bean, she’d open a can of corn and there was always a cake and a pie on the Hoosier (I just learned today that’s what the cabinet is called, haha!)

I remember fighting with my nephews over who would get to sit on the red metal stepstool at the table. And I also remember being so hungry and so annoying and running in and out of the back door letting the flies into the kitchen just to see how much longer till lunch was ready. I would watch as she would put the chicken on a platter and carefully sculpt the potato salad into a lovely golden mound onto another platter and sprinkle it with paprika. My nephew thought it was cinnamon! Then she would pile the biscuits on a plate and spoon the can of corn into a bowl.

I remember watching the people start crowding into the tiny mill house. You never knew who would show up. I never really knew all of my brother-in-law’s siblings but I could tell they were Rosie’s children, they all sort of looked like her in the eyes.

The more people who crammed into the house, the hungrier I got and the more worried I became thinking that there wouldn’t be enough food. And I just had to have some potato salad! I just knew that ONE can of corn wasn’t going to feed the multitudes.

Tommy would say grace over the food and we’d all dig in. And it never failed, NEVER, that everyone ate as much as they wanted and she never ran out of food. NEVER! It really was like Jesus and the loaves and fishes. It had to be a miracle that she could feed a crowd of hungry adults and scores of children on one frying chicken and a can of corn.

I sure did love and admire Rosie. I would like to share the same kind of love and food with my family that she did with hers.

Maybe a little of that happened this weekend.

Let me share what I made with you because everyone really enjoyed it and maybe you can use it:  For Sunday lunch I wanted to make The Pioneer Woman’s Pot Luck Meatballs, but when I got there and saw the time constraint, I just bought some frozen Swedish Meatballs and made the PW’s gravy. I put the meatballs in the crockpot, quickly made the gravy and moved on. It’s a good, quick gravy recipe.

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I also made The Pioneer Woman’s Layered Salad. Delish!!

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Green beans and rolls.

I also made my sister-in-law’s crockpot Macaroni and Cheese: Here’s the recipe, it’s one of the best mac and cheese recipes!

CrockPot Macaroni & Cheese

Ingredients:

8oz. macaroni, cooked according to package

3c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

2 eggs

1 large can evaporated milk

1 1/2 c. regular whole milk

1 stick of butter, melted

Directions: Cook macaroni and drain. Put macaroni in the slow cooker that has been sprayed with PAM. Add cheese. Add melted butter. Beat eggs with both milks and add to macaroni mixture. Stir all together well and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

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We also had Blueberry Delight for dessert.

Everyone ate as much as they wanted. And there was enough.

Peace,

Jill

 

Time Traveling

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I’m still new to this grandparenting gig. I’ve only been at it for a little over a year now.

So, these feelings and experiences, which are probably old hat to you veteran grandparents out there are still fresh to me.

My 2nd grandboy, Manny, sometimes looks just like his dad, my son, so much so that it’s freaky. It’s like I have my little boy back for a few seconds or minutes.

And not only that sort of thing but I find that old feelings I had as a young mother wash over me in a wave.

For example, my son arrived on Thanksgiving Day from a trip to Peru where he hiked the Inca Trail. My son is 30 years old. Not my little boy anymore. But when he got to my house, had eaten a good meal and fell asleep on the sofa, the old feeling of peace and contentment that I had as a young mother after my kids were fed, bathed and asleep washed over me. For a moment, he was that little boy safe, warm and comfortable in my care. Tears in my eyes from a warm heart.

Having these grandkids is making me feel like a time traveler jumping back and forth from being a mom to being a grandmom. So weird sometimes.

Peace,

Jill

JFK Haunts Me

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Just when JFK fades from my memory and I’m not thinking about him, somebody has to pull him back. Now, it’s those hidden files that were supposedly released but then taken back to be released in April. Those files have spawned a flurry of new documentaries and conspiracy theories.

I’m a nervous wreck changing the channels because I never know when I’m going to come across footage of that depressing black limo turning onto the street that led to Dealy Plaza and then the horrifying “crimson burst.”

I was almost one and half years old when JFK was killed. Coming from a family that loves a good conspiracy theory, my home was filled with years of discussion about his assassination. And I can’t help but get sucked into them.

I get the reasons why it was such a tragic event. I get why it impacted America so. I understand how horrible and tragic and sad it was.

I also understand why we can’t leave it alone – because we don’t know.

And it’s for all those reasons why JFK haunts me.

I wish, for goodness sake, we could find out who killed him so he can literally Rest In Peace.

His death is one of those moments that people remember exactly where they were when they got the news. I suppose I was sitting in either my mother or my sister’s lap when I heard the news.

Where were you?

Peace,

Jill

My Halloween Life

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As a kid I LOVED Halloween! I’m an actor at heart and having a whole holiday devoted to dressing and pretending to be someone else was just the best! In the 70’s it was a community experience. Everyone was involved. Your respect could go up or down based on the quality of your costume. Candy was king! My Dad was cheap and was always trying to give out apples or walnuts – I was humiliated. Not to mention angry at having to pick up all the apples and walnuts that got dumped in our yard the next day.

When my kids were really little, we dressed them up every year and they were so cute and we’d take them to the mall to get candy. That was during the period where freaks were putting razor blades and poison in Halloween treats. So, the mall would xray the candy for you and when we got home we went through it piece by piece inspecting it for tampering. Kinda took the fun out of the candy part. But the kids were still cute toddling around in their costumes.

Then we moved into a neighborhood with lots of kids and it became a community experience again. Gangs of kids roaming the neighborhood, laughing and getting their sugar high. I never gave out fruit or nuts, just so you know.

Then we got involved in a church that thought Halloween was evil. And so we participated in alternative celebrations. It was fine and good, but being in such an active neighborhood I always felt like I was letting the kids down. I don’t think my stand against the evils of Halloween did anything except just hurt the neighborhood kid’s feelings, actually.

But then as the kids got older, Halloween was just not a big deal anymore. And then when the kids flew the coop, we just became a candy stop and not part of the main activity.

But through the years even that has disappeared. I think over the past two years I’ve had a total of 3 trick or treaters. I understand. We are more aware of the dangers, more suspicious of our neighbors. It’s just the way it is now.

I miss the “glory days of Halloween” when the costume was important and candy was king. I miss helping the kids with their costumes and spending way too much money on good candy.

Now I’m just that weird old lady at the end of the street sitting in her dark house watching old horror movies eating a bowl of candy all by herself. That’s pretty scary.

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But you know, I’ll have that bowl of candy by the door, just in case.

Happy Halloween! Muhahaha!

~Jill

What To Get A 30 Year Old For Their Birthday?

My son just turned 30 this month and I just started feeling substantially older, haha!

He’s also a new father and while we are spending a lot of time, money and energy spoiling the new guy, I wanted my son to know we still think he’s special, too!

He lives 5 states away and we wouldn’t be able to be with him this year, so whatever we got him would have to be sent.

So, what do you get a man to celebrate a milestone birthday and your not a Rockefeller?

30 Gifts! 

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It seems extravagant and outrageous and that’s the perfect thing to celebrate 30 years!

He’s 30 years old and a new father and I’ve noticed that he’s been more interested in reminiscing about his childhood lately. So, going back in time was a pretty good idea I thought. I sat down and listed 30 things that reminded me of my son from his first word, to his love of reptiles to his upcoming trip to Peru. I listed things he loved as a kid to things he needed for his trip in 2 months. I combined memories with current events so I was recognizing his whole life.

Then I looked at the list and considered what I could get that would represent those memories or events. I thought of things that might be meaningful. For example, my son loved Steve Irwin as a kid and so I ordered a patch from the Australia Zoo. He had a pet duck that he loved as a kid and while I’m not going to get him a real duck, I got a little toy one. He also played basketball and loved soccer, so I got him a basketball and soccer ball neither of which he owns right now and he’s got a growing son and those items will be necessary for his sports equipment arsenal. (You see the Grandma heart is strong in this one! I’m still thinking about my grandson while celebrating his father. I can’t help it!)

And, of course I loved my son as a kid, but I think it’s important to recognize the man he is now, so, I got him a few things he’ll need for his upcoming trip to Peru. His wife is always helpful in putting together a Pinterest board for  holidays with gift ideas and links to items. (She’s cool like that, and I tell you about it.) So, I was able to choose some items that he’ll need.

So, I bought 30 gifts ranging from a little plastic snake to an inflatable camping pillow. Wrapped them all, which was no small chore I’ll tell you, and put a number on each one.

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I also included a handwritten tag on each gift that said why I chose that particular item. For example, I got a sketch book and attached a tag that said, “Because we have always been so amazed and proud of your artistic abilities!” I got a little plastic frog and put a tag that said, “Because of my refrigerator.” We all laughed when he opened it because we remembered the time he caught a box full of tree frogs and put them all over my refrigerator like magnets and I didn’t notice until he pointed them out to me. I thought it was funny until one jumped on me!

I packed it and shipped it with a note that said, “Don’t open until we can FaceTime with you.” I wanted to enjoy watching his face as he opened each item. I’m just that kind of Mom. So they called when they had some time and we were able to share the fun with them! (I LOVE FaceTime!)

So, the box was filled with fun memories and items he could use today. And as it turned out, the 9 month old loved the basketball and crawls around the house pushing it ahead of him! Win-win!

Peace,

Jill

 

 

Throwing Rocks

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When I was teaching the kids loved for me to tell stories about myself, my childhood or tell them about what I thought heaven was like. I didn’t mind stopping a lesson to tell a story because in my opinion our lives are not made up of atoms or equations but of stories.

Yesterday I shared about how I met God on the beach and as I was talking to one of my friends online about it I offered to tell her about how I met my best friend, who happens to be her sister. So, here it is, J.

Most of my childhood stories begin with this sentence: My mother died when I was 3. The reason is because that event impacted my life in so many ways. And, this story, too starts the same way.

My mother died when I was 3. I was raised by my father who was a very silent man. My best friend named him “Stoneface” which she never called him to his face. My dad was a Navy man. “Yes, sir!” was the proper response anytime he called my name or asked me a question.

When I was in 5th grade the city I lived in decided to desegregate our schools. That meant that I couldn’t go to the school that was within walking distance from my house, I had to be bused across town to a school in a black neighborhood.

I’ll never forget riding the bus to school that first day of 5th grade. Black families lined the streets and some people threw rocks at our bus. I did not feel welcomed.

Me and a skinny, annoying white girl named Angel who wore dresses everyday, smelled like Play-doh and nervously picked a wart on her knee all day long were the only white kids in our class. I did not feel we were a good representation of our people which made me embarrassed for all white people in America. And even though there were only 2 scrawny white girls in the whole class, the teacher, an elegant, tall, mocha-skinned queen, gave the class a lecture on the proper way to address black people.I knew the lesson was just for Angel and me. I listened with my whole being while Angel nervously picked her wart.

Needless to say, that year was not a happy one. There was tension all over the city. There was tension in my school and in my class. I couldn’t talk to my father about it because, one, he didn’t like to talk and, two, because whenever the subject of busing would come up he’d fly into a cussing rage. He used all the inappropriate names that my teacher told us not to.

One day, feeling particularly lonely and depressed about the whole state of affairs, I got off my school bus and began to walk home. I noticed a girl I had never seen before walking on the other side of the road. I wondered who she was but I just didn’t feel particularly friendly so I kept my head down and plodded along.

Almost home, I heard the familiar, screeching call of my arch nemesis. I’ll call her A (you can assign any name you want to her, I can think of a few choice ones that start with A). She was my arch nemesis because when I first moved into the neighborhood she decided she’d be the boss of me. And because I didn’t have any other friends I had to play with her. She had a whole playroom with a real dollhouse and a Barbie townhouse with working elevator. She also had a Malibu Barbie while I only had Barbie’s awkward friend, Francie who drove Barbie’s RV. Francie eventually got her leg chewed off by my dad’s dog, Alex and so that made her even more marginalized. A always pointed out that my toys were not as good as hers and I should be thankful that she let me play at her house at all.

Well, A, screeched at me to “Come over to my house right now!” I mumbled a response that I didn’t want to or something like that. That sent A into a rage and she started marching toward me on the sidewalk with her finger pointed at me like I’d seen her mother do to her.

A continued to berate me as she approached and as I continued to refuse to do what she wanted, her scoldings became more and more biting and cruel until finally she said,

“Why should I even play with you, you don’t even have a mother!”

Everything got quiet and then suddenly I heard a voice from across the street, “Hey! You leave her alone!”

I looked and I saw that unfamiliar girl coming across the street toward A. She bent down and picked up some rocks and threw them at A as she said, “That was mean! You can’t say things like that! You better go home before I hit you in the head!”

Well, A, being the superior, stubborn girl she was, gave it right back to her. “You can’t tell me what to do! I’ll tell my parents!”

The girl continued to throw rocks at A and yell at her until A finally retreated, terrified into her father’s car. The girl put her fist into the hood of the car and walked over to me, put her arm around my shoulder.

We walked to 7-Eleven, got some Now-or-laters, ate them in the park and we were best friends from then on out.

We had some of the best times. My friend was the type of person who collected strays. Stray people, stray animals like Barney the “corn face dog.” She loved the hurting back to life. She made us, the strays, laugh like life was good. She would feed us and tuck us into safe beds with clean feet. Music and laughter surrounded her.

Looking back, she was probably hurting as much or more than I was but she never told me or talked about it. She was always cheerful around me. She was strong and brave and even as a kid she knew how to help and clean and cook and make gravy for the biscuits her mom, Pearl, would make for us. I thought she could do anything.

She saved my life and I’m thankful that she came to my rescue.

That’s my story.

Peace,

Jill

 

 

 

Lent, the Beach & Spiritual Minimalism

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A friend of mine contacted me and told me that she was following my blog and she asked that if there was a day that I was at a loss for what to write, she wished I would write about the day I met God on the beach.  

I have plenty I could write about today but since it’s the first day of Lent and I was thinking about fasting and I read this quote by Patricia Taylor, “Fasting makes space for God in our lives” and I was thinking about how minimalism is really like fasting – doing without to make room for better things – I realized that what happened to me on the beach 33 years ago really set me on a path of spiritual simplicity and so I felt it all worked together.

So, here you go K.

Let me say first that every step I took, every change I made, I feel was a needed step to get to the beach. I don’t look back on my experiences and say they were stupid or wasted or I was wrong or the people who led and mentored me were wrong. We all did what we thought was the best and I grew and it all worked out for good. That’s how God is.

Let me start again…

I was 22 years old, driving my little orange Volkswagon Beetle as fast as I could down to Florida. My husband was out on the ocean laying cable and I was headed down to visit my sister. I was very upset.

See, I had gotten saved in the Southern Baptist way at 12 years old. The preacher had said, “If there’s anyone you love and they have died and gone to heaven, the only way you will see them again is if you accept Christ as your personal Savior.” My mother had died when I was 3 years old and I really wanted to meet her and I felt this pull in my heart like God had tied a rope around it and was pulling me to the preacher. So, I followed the pull and went down and accepted Christ as my personal Savior. I didn’t know what I was doing but God took me seriously.

In the years that followed I said I was a Christian but I didn’t really know what that meant. I grew older and life happened and then life really happened and it got mean and ugly and dangerous and so at 16 years old I decided I needed to get serious with God because I was going to need Him to get through all the mess.

So, I dropped friends, hurt people, got religious, got serious, prayed, studied the Bible, went to church every time the doors were open, I witnessed and handed out tracts, I worked in the church and worked really hard to be a good Christian. I mean I had to pay God back for what He did for me on the cross, right? They say that’s not what they’re saying but the people in the church act like that’s what you have to do.So I followed their actions. I had to be good enough to meet the requirements to get into heaven, right? They told me that God accepts everyone even sinners, but they gave me dresses and told me how to look and act right to be accepted by Him.

After about 5 years of jumping through hoops, I was getting burned out. I was working really hard, but I always felt like it wasn’t enough. I always felt guilty. I was not enjoying life, but I never told anyone because I didn’t want to complain, seem like a whiner or appear like I didn’t really want to be a Christian. I mean you don’t live for this life, you’re storing up treasures in heaven, right?

Well, the breaking point came. Someone to whom I looked up to as one of the greatest Christians I knew was an absolute jerk to me. Hurt my feelings bad. I mean bad. The funny thing is I can’t even remember what it was but whatever it was gave me the excuse I was looking for to leave a religion that I was already trying to get out of. “If that’s a Christian, then I don’t want to be one!” I said proudly. Lame excuse, I know, but I was grasping at straws.

So, let’s get back in my VW Bug heading down to Florida. All the way down, all 13 hours, I was rehearsing my goodbye that I had planned to give to God. You know, “It’s not You, it’s all the fake people pretending to be your followers” speech.

I decided that I needed to give God a formal goodbye and a reason for breaking up with Him. So, I planned to stop at my favorite beach (the photo above is the place), find a spot by myself and tell God goodbye, bow out and leave.

It’s funny now, but I was really nervous. I parked my car, took off my shoes and headed to the beach. Thankfully it was during the week during work hours and so no one was there. I walked a way down past the boulders dotting the beach and stood with my toes just touching the surf as it gently reached out to touch me.

I took a breath….but before I could speak I heard a Voice.

I can’t tell you where it came from. It seemed to come from behind me, from inside me and surround me all at the same time. The Voice said,

“Before you go, I just want to tell you something.”

I looked around, no one was there. I stood facing the ocean waiting.

“Do you see that ocean?” the Voice said.

“Yes.”

“I thought of you the day I made it. I knew you’d like it.”

I was dumbfounded.

“Before you go, I just want you to know that I love you.”

I fell to my knees in tears as I was flooded with a feeling of love that I had never felt before. I was weeping. My father had never told me he loved me and those were words I had always longed to hear from him. Now I heard them from my Heavenly Father.

The Voice continued, “I don’t care if you ever read your Bible again. I don’t care if you ever go to church again or pray again. I just want you to know that I love you.”

I was undone.

God wasn’t trying to stop me from going. He wasn’t forcing me to do anything. He was just loving me.

In one sentence He had taken that hot, heavy coat of duty of my back and had given me freedom.

I was free to love Him or not. I could go or stay.

But He loved me. He thought of me. He knew how much I loved the ocean. His loving me was not because I read the Bible through in a year or prayed everyday for 15 minutes or went to church every time the doors were open.

He just loved me.

And I loved Him back.

I was free!

But the crazy thing is that all those things that were a burden, Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, became things I wanted to do. I wanted to know more and love more this God who thought of me and knew that I loved the ocean and loved me for just me.

Since that day, it has become my spiritual practice to take off things rather than taking them on. When I feel a church or teacher or spiritual leader begins to weigh me down with things I should do simply out of duty or to meet requirements for salvation and heaven that God has not told me in His Word, I run to that day on the beach and remind myself of my freedom!

It’s funny now that I’m writing this how God sort of taught me how to be a Spiritual Minimalist that day.

Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. That’s all.

Peace,

Jill