The “Being” of Thanksgiving

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Mother’s Day 2014 with kids and grandkid

 

It’s “ACCESS Week” at my church, Park Street Brethren. It’s one of four weeks out of the year that our church hosts Ashland county people that do not have a place to live. (ACCESS stands for Ashland Church Community Emergency Shelter Services.) Yes, unfortunately there is a homeless population even in little ol’ Ashland, Ohio.

Our team of volunteers cook, serve meals, do overnights at the church, hang out in the evenings, and provide transportation for our ACCESS guests. While these services are all necessary, together our team has been exploring how we can be more impactful in the lives of those living in the trauma of losing their homes. At our last team meeting, one of our volunteers shared she wished she could make a bigger difference. She wants to do more than provide a meal and visit with a guest for an hour over supper.

While I appreciate her willingness to help others beyond what she is doing, I applaud the sacrifice of time she makes to just show up. I think sometimes our churches and other organizations put more emphasis on the doing for others and less emphasis on the being for others.

Let’s be honest. It’s easier to write a check, cook a meal, or give away your old clothes to those in need than listen to his or her story, begin a relationship, and follow-up to see how that person is getting along.

In the realm of doing versus being, I’m a slow learner. Those seven amazing kids and grandkids in the picture above remind me how important it is to just “be.” I’ve learned to tell myself I have a choice to be busy (and miss all the fun) or to be present (and delight in who they are) when they come home.

Did you know that the act of truly being present with someone is healing? That being attentive actually heals parts of the brain that carries hurt, pain, and rejection?* Did you know that when we attend to someone on an interpersonal level, the brain’s neuropathways rewire to expect that people will care about them?

It’s interesting that ACCESS week at our church has coincided with the week of Thanksgiving; a week when Americans are reminding themselves and others the blessings for which they are thankful. Thanksgiving week: a focus on the goodness of God, family, friends, and yes, food.

Being thankful is perhaps the very thing that our homeless population is struggling with.

We blessed people are quite accomplished at giving thanks. In fact, the American evangelical community offers a slew of programs, methods, and books on the ways to thankfulness.

Yes, giving God praise for his provision is central to the life of a Christian. I definitely believe in the act of thanksgiving and praising God for who he and all my blessings. But what rises out of thankfulness? More thankfulness? Satisfaction? Do I dare say complacency?

How do we share our thankful hearts with those who are scraping the bottom of hope with no shelter, no food, and no family?

It’s ACCESS week at my church. We are making up beds for people, serving supper, and driving our guests around town. But more importantly are the moments available to slow down for a moment and be present.

I wonder if the overflow of thankfulness for God’s presence in my life will lead me to be that presence for others.

 

Donna

*For more insight to this topic, check out Daniel Siegel’s work, The Neurobiology of We.

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Stove Top Stew: Rehabbed

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Stove Top Beef Stew

Rehabbed Recipe posts are dedicated to the battle with tinnitus, aka ringing in the ears.  Salicylate free foods make the difference. Gluten free ingredients, as well.

This stew is a great choice if you want a one pot meal on a chilly day. I chose my cast iron dutch oven to prepare the whole meal on the stove top. No need for any other pots and pans. Easy and delicious. As always, follow the ingredients carefully if you are going gluten and salicylate free.

This recipe inspired by pinterest! Recipe rehab changes are in bold print.

Stove Top Beef Stew

Servings: 3-4      Prep time: 20 minutes      Cooking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

1 pound  beef cubes for stew
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup gluten free flour
Onion and garlic salt
1 large, white onion cut up in chunks
4 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks   Carrots are for those without salicylate sensitivities.  

5 medium, white potatoes, peeled and quartered
Sea salt
16 ounces of homemade beef stock
Store bought beef stock has ingredients containing salicylates. The amount, however, is minimal. If you don’t have homemade, go for organic. I go organic and locally grown for all meats, fruits, and vegetables as much as possible. 
1 cup of frozen peas

Directions:

1. Place flour and a few shakes of onion and garlic salt in a paper lunch bag. Add cubed beef and shake to coat.

2. Heat 2 tbsps. of oil on low-medium heat in a cast iron dutch oven pot .

3. Add stew meat. Brown beef for about for about five minutes or until lightly browned on all sides.

4. Remove beef and set aside. Melt 1 tbsp. of oil and 2 tbsps. of butter in pot. Add onions. Lightly salt onions to help them soften. (I took this hint from pinterest.)

5. Add carrots, beef and potatoes. Salt lightly.

6. Add beef stock. Bring to rolling boil on high heat. Immediately turn heat down to low setting. Cover and simmer for about 50 minutes, or until meat, potatoes, and carrots are tender.

7. Add frozen peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

This recipe makes its own thick, flavorful gravy. Check it out. Delicious.

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Comfort food gravy at the bottom of the pot!

Happy Thanksgiving Week,

Donna

 

 

Ina Garten’s Roast Pork and Vegetables: Rehabbed

Rehabbed Recipe posts are dedicated to the battle with tinnitus, aka ringing in the ears. Salicylate free ingredients make the difference! Recipes are gluten free, as well.

Ten televisions suspended from the ceiling at my local gym make exercise almost enjoyable. Shows galore occupy my mind when the workout routine gets boring! I’m always happy to walk on a treadmill that’s stationed directly in front of the Food Network channel. Exercise while watching cooking shows is a little oxymoronic, but the discovering of new recipes is worth it.


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If I hit the gym at the right hour, I get to watch The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. She’s a master chef, best selling cookbook author, living quite well thank you in the Hamptons. Ina’s cooking show is filmed in her beautifully appointed home kitchen. Equally impressive is Ina’s herb garden. It is to die for. And so is her pork roast over vegetables.

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Love Ina’s stainless steel roasting pan!

The Contessa’s roasting methods result in exceptionally juicy, tender meats and flavorful veggies. This rehabbed recipe below for roast pork is no exception.  I’ve included some of the tricks of her trade that go into making this a successful dish. As always, the rehab includes gluten and salicylate free ingredients.

Roasted Pork and Vegetables

Ingredients in bold indicate where I rehabbed the recipe

1 3 lb. pork tenderloin or pork roast

2 tablespoons canola oil  
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I like Bragg’s Liquid Aminos all purpose seasoning made from soy protein; it’s not as salty as soy sauce.)
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Ina’s recipe calls for a mustard rub which would be a problem for those with salicylate sensitivities.  I switched that out for a teriyaki marinade as you can see by the ingredients. 

8 carrots, peeled, and thickly sliced (The carrots are for me and others that aren’t bothered by them. I love roasted carrots!)

Ina warns: don’t cut the carrots and onions too small since they shrink up as they roast.

10 small potatoes (white skinned), cut in quarters
2 small yellow onions, thickly sliced
4 tablespoons canola oil (Sadly, 0live oil is not a friend to tinnitus sufferers.)
4 tablespoons unsalted melted butter

I find it interesting that Ina’s big on unsalted butter so she can regulate how much salt goes into a recipe. Personally, I don’t care for unsalted butter directly on my food; it tastes a little flat to me. But it’s fine in a recipe.

3 fennel bulbs, tops cut off, cut in wedges (I omitted these because I’m not sure if they are “tinnitus-friendly.”)

1 tablespoon kosher salt (Click here if you are salt-confused, like I was!)

Directions

Preheat oven at 425 degrees.

Mix the first four ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over pork and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Letting it sit is a key to tender, juicy pork. Don’t leave out this important instruction from Ina!

Meanwhile, if you are adding fennel, cut the bulbs into thick wedges. Toss the fennel, carrots, potatoes, and onions in a bowl with the canola oil, melted butter, and salt. Place the vegetables in a large roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes. Add the pork on top of the vegetable and continue to cook for another 30 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the pork reads 138 degrees. Remove the meat from the pan and return the vegetables to the oven to keep cooking for another 15 minutes. In the meantime,  cover the meat with aluminum foil and allow it to rest.

Slice meat into thick slices, arrange on a platter with the vegetables. Serves 4-6.

One of our Christmas Eve traditions for several years was to have our best friends and their parents join us for the evening meal. Dinner was followed by candlelight worship at our church. Then we drove around town to find the prettiest Christmas lights and luminary studded neighborhoods. Some years the evening seemed enchanted as snow fell softly when we exited church and drove through town. Back at our house we exchanged gifts and drank spiced cider with dessert: always a plate of assorted cookies that our friends brought to share.  I often served (before tinnitus trials) a roast loin of pork crusted with fennel seeds and other spices. Pork is a nice prelude if you, like our family, have turkey and stuffing on Christmas day. 

Happy Thanksgiving Week and Happy Cooking!

Donna

 

 

 

Attacking Tinnitus: First Steps

Rehabbed Recipes posts are dedicated to the battle with tinnitus, aka ringing in the ears. Gluten and salicylate free foods make a difference. 

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Ina Garten’s Roasted Pork and Vegetables

Hands down, one of the most significant steps for Jim in reducing the symptoms of tinnitus was a visit with an integrative and functional medical doctor. Here Jim learned what to eat to lessen the ringing in his ears. (We haven’t found a cure; it never really goes away.) The doctor’s most helpful suggestion was to avoid the food chemical, salicylate. This pesky little acid is in LOTS of foods. Once home from our visit, an internet search brought us to salicylatesensitivies.com. This site has become our go-to food guide for meal planning. But I think this website should come with a “warning label.”

Warning: reading this site can create great anxiety and discouragement.

I imagine you are wondering how avoiding a food chemical could bring such angst.

Well, take a moment to visit the salicylate sensitivities site by clicking here. Ready? Go.

Now you understand the warning. Food restriction is not fun. Good-bye favorites and so long variety.

Our initial reaction to “foods to avoid” was to gape at the list with our jaws dropped. My first thought was “how in the world am I going to cook for my husband?” JIm’s response was a little more concrete: “What, I can’t have green peppers? No tomatoes? Carrot sticks? Corn on the cob?” And then it dawned on him. This meant no catsup– one of his favorite. Gone were his favorite meat loaf recipe, stuffed peppers, and turkey dressing. And no traditional pizza, most Italian dishes, Mexican cuisine, or fast food.

But Jim was desperate. As I shared before, he’s had some pretty low moments with the volume of noise in his ears. He was a willing patient; depending upon me to nurse his ears back to some normalcy with meals of little or no salicylic acid.

So we cut out what seemed to be a major part of our weekly menus, started cooking according to what was on the “demons list,”  kept a food journal of how his ears were doing, and slowly reintroduced foods guilty of being laced with the nasty stuff. I charted the impact of dietary changes daily. At the end of every evening for several weeks, I asked Jim to give me a number on the scale of 1-10 to indicate how badly his ears were ringing.

Lo, and behold, diet did make a difference. Corn was a killer. Most seasonings (absolutely no pepper!) drove his ears nuts. Oh, and nuts were aggravating so we waved good-bye to peanut butter. Sayonara licorice, his favorite treat, because flavorings produced more ringing.  Juice with breakfast was axed. And on and on the lack of eating options continued. Yet Jim was grateful. I took classic recipes and adjusted them to accommodate Jim’s needs. I call my new recipes, rehabbed recipes. These recipes were worth it, such as Ina Garten’s pork roast shown above. I just switched up the marinade and left out the carrots. The “rehabs” were a huge victory.

As for me, I felt a little anxious. The big question became, how am I going to maintain my diet plan and Jim’s as well? The same doctor that clued Jim in to changing his food choices prescribed the Mediterranean diet for me to lower my cholesterol. It was working so I really didn’t want to give it up. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve finally developed dinner plans that satisfy both of us. Some days we eat totally different foods, other days we eat the same things.

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Jim and our four year old grandson, Owen

 

If you, too, are on a mission to attack the effects of tinnitus, follow these initial steps.

  • Begin with dietary changes. Refer often to the salicylate sensitivities list.
  • As much as possible, eliminate foods in the “moderate” and “high” lists of salicylate for a month.
  • Serve foods that are considered “negligible” and “low” (refer to list on the salicylatesensitivies.com website) in quantity of salicylate acid.
  • Keep a journal. Track the impact of foods on the noise level in the ears.
  • Make notes on the foods that exacerbate ringing in the ears. Eliminate those from meal planning.
  • Reintroduce the eliminated foods foods in the “moderate” and “high” categories. If ringing follows consumption of a certain food, make a note to remove that from your meal planning.

I kept a food journal for about a month.  I know Jim appreciated the effort and time I took to figure out our plan of attack. Support and encouragement are important ingredients to managing food sensitivities. People with tinnitus feel like there is something wrong with them. They keep the intrusion to themselves. Talking about it and addressing it is important intervention.

Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you. Jim’s doctor tested him for food allergies. We discovered Jim has sensitivities to yeast, wheat, and gluten. So all my rehabbed recipes are gluten free as well.

Would love to hear from you and your own experiences with food sensitivities and tinnitus.

Next up: a shopping list of ingredients you can use in tinnitus-friendly, gluten free meal planning.

Blessings,

Donna

 

More Than Shoes

The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

For about 18 months, I was privileged to serve on our church staff as director of outreach ministries. With about twenty lay people, I created CareCommunity to develop relationships outside the church walls. Our purpose was to walk alongside a hurting population struggling with physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.

When I moved from my staff position to lay leader, I wasn’t sure how this ministry would take shape for me. But God knew. I soon found myself in partnership with women from five different churches. I wasn’t really looking for this group; each person showed up at the same time with the same mission! The emails started flying between us, we had our first meeting at a local restaurant, and God’s plan unfolded.

Each woman in this group has a huge heart and a Micah 6:8 mindset with perhaps one exception.

Me.

I was driven more by a sense of duty than compassion.  Like the old saying goes, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I felt disconnected to the people I served. It was not a good place to be.

Shortly after our restaurant meeting one friend in the group, Janet, called me with a request from a Mom she was mentoring. No matter how I’m feeling, I’m rarely able to ignore an opportunity to help. So I shrugged off the lack of connectedness. Besides, the Holy Spirit said respond, respond now.  The need was simple: a pair of shoes for a four year old boy named Aiden. His wardrobe consisted of hand me downs from his big brother. Unfortunately,  brother’s old shoes were two sizes two big. Janet and I decided to pick up Aiden that day and take him to a second hand shop to purchase a pair that fit. Aiden was delighted to play in shoes that didn’t slip off his feet!

After returning Aiden to Mom at his apartment, Janet told me how she came to know Aiden’s family. She met them when they entered the county homeless ministry five years ago. Homeless and hopeless, this particular Mom, Dad, and baby found temporary housing at local churches, and thankfully, my friend.

Beaming with joy, Janet told me how this little family worked to stay together, had two more children, and maintained a small apartment on their own. Currently the mom is working toward her GED and the dad is finding some steady jobs. The kids are doing well in school.

Then Janet said, “It’s amazing how giving people a little hope goes a long way.”

Immediately something stirred within me. That’s when I connected, when I felt something more than an obligation. This thing called hope was my common ground.

I know what it’s like when someone gives me hope.  I know how it feels when someone believes in me. I’ve been in that dark place when I couldn’t see light and someone hung in there with me.

I know hope.

I told Janet, “Isn’t that what we’re all seeking? Everyone needs someone to give them hope.

I’m going to be that someone.