Monday, April 30, 2012

Wrapping Up Hannah

The following is an excerpt from a story I submitted to Lion Brand Yarn's story contest. I couldn't resit combining two of my favorite activities, crochet and writing. You can read the full story on Lion Brand's Facebook and while you are there, click the "vote now" button. If you feel so inclined, you can vote daily. Anyone who does feel so inclined, let me know and I'll craft you something for your efforts. Enjoy!

My grandmother was the one who taught me to crochet. I can remember chaining and chaining until I had a chain that stretch all the way down the hall. Grandmommie laughed, and said “I guess I better teach you how to turn.” Eventually I learned to follow patterns and to shape yarn into throws and scarves and hats and toys. It is a hobby I have enjoyed and through it I have learned many lessons about generosity and giving.

Not long after beginning the journey towards adopting Hannah, I came across Lion Brand’s “Garden Square Granny Afghan” crochet pattern. The vibrancy of color drew me to it and made me think of Hannah and her vibrant personality. This was something I could give to my daughter as a tangible reminder of love and hope. It would be a chain of connection to our family—a skill passed down from my grandmother through my hands to wrap a great-granddaughter in love and warmth.

Read the full story and vote...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Servings: Apple Zucchini Bread

No baking this week.

Instead I broke out of the hobby grove and challenged myself to learn to knit. With a brand new pair of bamboo knitting needles , a skein of 100% cotton yarn and a few handy-dandy websites, I set out to make my first ever knitted dishcloth.

My first attempt at knitting.
Grandmommie (my father's mother) first taught me to crochet when I was a kid. The hobby was how she whittled away the time on the long, nine hour trip from her home in East Texas to our home in West Texas.

Since the early days of stitching any yarn together regardless of color or weight or pattern, I have come to like the methodical nature of the craft and have gotten quite good at inventing and reinventing patterns over the years.

Crocheting fuels the creator side of me and I'm hoping knitting will also add fuel to the creator flame.

As I seek to master knitting, this recipe for apple zucchini bread seems the perfect blending of something old and new to compliment my new skill.

I grew up giving away zucchini bread. Every year, my father would grow zucchini in his vegetable garden and my mother would turn the yielding into little loaves of bread. Each little loaf would then get wrapped up and sent to school as thank you gifts for teachers, or to church as Christmas gifts or to the kitchen table to be sliced up and served for breakfast.

I love zucchini in general, but as a bread, it is even more fabulous. And the apples in this recipe serve as a perfect compliment to an old tried and true recipe.

So whether you are starting a new hobby this week, need a few thank you gifts as the US school year draws to a close or simply want a delicious bite for your breakfast table, I hope you enjoy this twist on an old favorite.

Apple Zucchini Bread


  • 4 cups all-purpose (cake) flour (Optional, but I like using whole wheat flour in fruit breads instead of traditional all-purpose flour. If you choose to do so, use 2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups all-purpose.)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (for more appley bread, use applesauce instead)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unpeeled, grated zucchini (baby marrow)
  • 1 cup peeled, grated apple
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or raisins (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a second bowl, beat eggs, and add oil, sugars and vanilla. Pour mixture over dry ingredients; mix well. Stir in zucchini, apples and pecans or raisins (your batter will be stiff, not cake-like). Spoon into three greased 8x4x3in (20x10x7cm) loaf pans.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 50-55 minutes or until top is a deep brown and a fork comes out clean.
  3. Allow to cool in pans for at least 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Saving Limbo

I've been back in the US for three weeks now. As usual with the passing of time, it seems impossible so much time has passed and impossible it hasn't been much longer than three weeks.

I am still very much in a "Now what?" place. A few job interviews under the belt. Lots of networking and reconnecting and figuring out how to live in West Texas again. At this point I will say, Lubbock feels very small and very foreign. It's not the Lubbock of my childhood but in so many ways it still is the very same Lubbock I left.

I'm in one of those transitional limbo periods that come with every move to every new place--where you don't really know the place or how to be in it yet and where the kinks of how to live there are still getting worked out.

I've never been a fan of limbo despite the number of times I've been here over the years. It feels out of sync with the rest of the world. You can see life happening about you. People move freely in their lives and experiences; you, on the other hand, seem to be a few seconds out of sync. You are moving at a slightly different pace than everything around you and taking a bit longer to internalize it all.

I hope I'm dealing with the transition a bit better this time around than I have in times past. I can still see the signs of the anxiety--obsessively checking Facebook and Twitter and my blog stats to see just how many of you are out there, struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with food, staying up too late and sitting in my pajamas for too long the next morning. And all the time wanting to move on to the next phase. But I'm also finding healthy ways to help me work through the transition with projects and reconnecting and leaning into Jesus a bit more than I ever have before in limbo.

Last Sunday's preach was out of John 12:23-29, focusing specifically on verses twenty-seven through twenty-nine. Jesus knows his "hour" is approaching when he will be delivered into the hands of those wanting to kill him. He rightly confesses "my soul is troubled." But then responds with a remarkable statement of faith and understanding of his purpose, "and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' No, it was for this very reason I cam to this hour. Father, glorify your name."

I confess I've been wanting to be saved from this hour, but I know this hour, this limbo, is part of a much larger story of bringing Hannah home and living in obedience to God--living out a better story. In allowing me to be in this limbo, God, I hope, is preparing something greater than I could ever imagine. It forces me to ask the question, am I living right now for my own glory or for God's?

I hope very soon to find a job, the right job, to move into my own place, to settle in and to be out of this limbo stage, but for as long as I am in limbo, I hope to live better and more purposefully and find the better story God has for me even in this stage.

I hope to be honest when others ask me how I'm doing or what it's like being back. And I hope to be honest with myself about all those feelings.

I hope to settle into a natural rhythm and find myself more at ease in transition--less stress and more faith.

I hope to do something better, be something better and believe something better than I have in the past when I found myself in limbo.

I hope to find a joy and a hope and a peace in limbo that I've never known before.

What about you, how are you dealing with limbo or whatever phase of life you currently find yourself in?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Singledom is Not the Ideal, But Neither is Marriage

Last week's post "On the Single Path" came out of several recent conversations and a video Mike Cope posted over on his blog about women and ministry. I'm not, now, talking about women's role in ministry, but what I found interesting about Dr. Ben Witherington's video, and why I bring it up, is what he has to say about "being single for the sake of the kingdom."

Witherington pulls apart Matthew 19:11-12, a statement Jesus makes in response to the disciples asking if it is better not to marry at all since divorce is such a big no-no. Jesus responds, well, if you can accept it, than yes. You can chose to be eunuch-like (or single) for the sake of the kingdom. In other words, if you think you can better serve the kingdom of God by remaining single, then go to it.

This was a radical teaching for first century Jews who took God at His word when He commanded "be fruitful and multiply" and expected good Jews to follow this commandment with all due diligence. Being single in order to better serve the Lord was unheard of except for your occasional, half-crazed prophet and actual eunuchs.

In my current single state, I find this teaching freeing. I too, while not being fruitful and not multiplying, can serve for the sake of the kingdom and do so for the sake of God. Marriage is not a prerequisite for a good story played out to the glory of God. And there is great opportunity here for the Church to be completely radical and shift the marriage paradigm. Marriage for the sake of the kingdom, good. Being single for the sake of the kingdom, also good.

I'm picturing a Church were we dispose of marriage as the ideal and we reshape "single" to no longer be a loaded word packed with negative connotations but filled up with possibility.

Singledom is not the ideal, but neither is marriage. The ideal, rather, is living a life to the good of God. Isn't that what it was always meant to be?

To be clear, I'm not marriage bashing here. I believe fully in marriage, and am so thankful for my parents, friends and mentors who have remained committed to their marriages and been good examples of what godly marriage can be. And I think and hope marriage is a one day prospect for me, but all my hopes are not pinned on it. I know I can live a full kingdom-kind of life today even while trusting for a different kingdom-kind of life later on down the road.

For singles out there who don't see marriage ahead for them, not because they've given up hope but because they actually don't believe marriage to be best for them, how freeing might it be if we removed the pressure to get married and instead responded with an "I'm excited for you and for how God is going to use you in His kingdom. How can I walk alongside you in your journey?"

For singles who want marriage but have given up hope or seem to be hanging in limbo waiting for marriage, how freeing might it be if we stood alongside them in their disappointment and heartache but then exhorted and encouraged them to discover a story worth writing in how they live their life today and not how they might live their life tomorrow?

For singles who are newly single for whatever reason, how freeing might it be if we wept and prayed with them over their very real loss and then helped them pick up the pieces and find a way to live a good story in the midst of their pain? And to not only live a good story but find healing in the story?

I am convinced we can do better for everyone. For as much time and effort as we put in to helping each other have good marriages with our seminars and classes and retreats, I am convinced we can help each other have equally good single lives.

I am also convinced singles can do better in supporting the marriages around us. We need to avoid jealousy, bitterness and third-wheel syndrome in order to stand alongside married couples and help them lift up their marriages and exhort them to live a good story, adding to the bigger kingdom story.

We all have a vital role to play in the Story, and it matters whether we choose to live a good story or not. Whether married or single, our stories matter.

How can we better support singled and married friends and help them to live better stories?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Servings: Hootenanny Pancake

What in the world is a hootenanny? Not sure, but Wikipedia seems to think it is along the same lines of a whatchamacalit or a thingamajig. It apparently, in a corporate setting, can also mean a meeting of the minds, but I'm really not sure what kind of response "I think it's time for a hootenanny" would get.

Check out the original recipe on
Mr. Food's website
But a hootenanny pancake is a delightful breakfast treat everyone is sure to love. I came across this recipe on a local news program and tried it out on my parents for Saturday morning breakfast.

Growing up, Saturday morning breakfast was ritual in the Peterson household, consisting of scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon and canned biscuits. I am convinced my mom makes the best scrambled eggs in the whole world--a talent she inherited from my grandmother and perfected over the years. I've never been able to figure out exactly what she does differently, but whatever it is, it's wonderful. I still won't eat anyone else's scrambled eggs, including my own. And as for canned biscuits, of course I love biscuits made from scratch, but the sound of the vacuum sealed pop when you open the can brings me all the way back to my mother's kitchen, morning light streaming in through the windows, and me on tiptoe peering over the counter edge. And really, Pillsbury canned biscuits are pretty dang good.

Whereas weekday mornings were busy and hectic, Saturday mornings were lazy and slow and there was plenty of time for cooking a big breakfast and sitting around the table to enjoy time with one another. Everyone loves Saturday, and for me these Saturday morning memories make the day all the more enjoyable.

Hootenanny pancake, in my mind a cross between a pancake and an omelette, is a perfect Saturday morning breakfast. It doesn't take much prep work, and as I proved this weekend, you can make it with fresh-out-of-bed, pre-coffee brain. 5-10 minutes of prep and 25-30 minutes later, and you have a fresh baked breakfast perfect for a lazy Saturday morning. It also looks pretty impressive on the table and would be sure-fire way to impress your house guests.


Hootenanny Pancake:


  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted (I used Smart Balance instead of butter, and it turned out just fine and maybe a bit healthier.)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose (cake) flour
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries (Using fresh berries is probably best)
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • Confectioners' (icing) sugar for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Pour butter into a 9x13in (23x33cm) baking dish (I used a slightly smaller dish with no problems); set aside.
  2. Combine eggs, milk and salt; blend until frothy. Slowly add flour, mixing until well blended. Pour egg mixture into baking dish.
  3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and center is set. Top with berries and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Slice and serve immediately.
I plan on trying it with ham or sausage and cheese sprinkled across the top instead of fruit. Another option might be chopped tomato, pepper, onion, sausage and cheese for something a little more hearty.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Far, Far Away

When you are seven, global geography is a really hard concept, especially if you've lived in one city your whole life and have had very limited opportunities to travel.

Before I traveled to Lubbock for Christmas, the plan was to get a new visa, come back to South Africa and to adopt Hannah* through the South African system. But things did not go according to plan in the six weeks I was home. For starters, the trip was only supposed to be three weeks, but then my work permit kept being delayed so my departure date kept being delayed. Then thanks to change in procedures and greater emphasis on South African jobs going to South Africans (a policy I support), my work permit did not end up coming through at all. I would only be able to travel back to SA on a visitor's visa, and without a work permit, I would not be able to adopt through the South African national adoption system.

In the long run, this has turned out for the best. We found out for foreigners to adopt in South Africa, the whole process could take up to 6-7 years before the adoption would be recognized in both SA and the home country of the adopting parent(s). As opposed to the six to twelve months it will hopefully take for an inter-country adoption. But for Hannah, who knows nothing about the adoption plans, the long run, turn out for the best plan has meant Auntie Amanda leaving and going to a place far, far away. And what exactly does far, far away mean?

When the plan was for me to return to South Africa, we had begun to prep Hannah and the other children for my move--a move to somewhere else in Johannesburg. I was planning to find my own place and set-up a home to hopefully begin fostering Hannah a few months after my return. Living in "the box" was no longer an option if life was to move forward with Hannah.

Hannah understood this meant we wouldn't be seeing each other every day any more but was excited about the possibilities of sleep-overs and baking cookies in my kitchen and just generally hanging out at Auntie Amanda's house. She began asking me in anticipation, "When are you getting your new house? When can I come visit?" I had to keep reminding her the new house would only come after I came back from America.

When I did come back from America and the whole plan changed, there was a new conversation to be had. Initially, I just started out saying I might not move anymore. But as things firmed up and the move was a definite, I had to tell Hannah I was moving to the US to be with my family and she wouldn't be able to visit because it was far, far away.

But far, far away is something from fairy tales. For a seven year-old little girl, far, far away doesn't exist.

We tried a variety of ways to explain the concept to her and the other kids. The older children, more familiar with geography, got it. But for the younger children, it is still a hard concept.

When I spoke to Hannah on the phone Sunday, we talked about church and school and what she had been doing since we last spoke. And then she asked, "When can I come visit your house?"

Oh, how those words nearly killed me. My child, asking to see me. Asking to spend time with me and know where I am. Processing all the feelings and sadness of me going away. The confusion and the hurt.

I reminded her I am far, far away. Too far for her to come visit. I told her I didn't have my own house yet, but when I did, I would send her pictures. And I rambled off a few other comments I hoped mended the pain of "you can't."

I know with time, we'll both get used to me being far, far away and get used to phone calls and Skype and letters. But right now, it hurts, and I'm praying fervently for all to go smoothly and quickly so there won't be anymore "you can't"s but an "I'm coming to bring you home forever."

I don't think Hannah will understand far, far away until she has the opportunity to take the 30+ hour journey from Johannesburg to Lubbock, but I'm hoping she comes to a place of at least accepting far, far away soon, and I keep praying for God to guard her heart in the way only He can. And, I'll keep believing someday far, far away will be very near and very close.

*Hannah is a pseudonym. In order to protect her identity until she is fully and legally mine, I use "Hannah" in all posts regarding my one day daughter and her adoption.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On the Single Path

Recently someone asked me how I had arrived at a place where knowing who I am in the Lord supersedes any doubts and fears I have about being single. I had never been asked this question before. How did I get to a point where my single state is simply that--a state of being which does not define who I am, what I can do with my life or keep me in a perpetual state of waiting?

For most Christian singles I know, accepting the single state is difficult. From a very early age, we are taught about marriage--to seek out the "equal yoke", to marry and raise godly kids and to above all remain pure and virginal until said mate is found. We are fooled and fool ourselves into believing  "completeness" comes when you find the perfect mate to spend the rest of your life with--life begins then.

I've heard countless sermons about the "God-shaped hole" in our hearts. A hole we continually try to fill-up with other things--relationships, stuff, jobs, etc.--but God is the only one who can fill this hole and make us complete. And for however many of us have heard this sermon, those of us in the single crowd have a subconscious guilty twinge of "well God and a mate, that's what they really mean."

The first time I thought I had a chance at marriage, I was 21 years old and in my senior year of college. I was certain I had met "the one" and felt sure I had heard from God this man was my husband. The unfortunate thing was, this man did not receive the same message. To be sure, I was so head over heels I made the relationship out to be much more than it actually was. I wanted it to be more. And in building my castles in the clouds and placing my white knight on his steed, I got badly hurt and shut myself off to all possibility of a relationship for many years.

The second time was not castles in the clouds. It was real and tangible with real conversations about marriage and life and kids. But instead of finding myself becoming more complete, I found myself breaking apart. Little pieces of who I was being chipped away and sacrificed for the sake of making the relationship work. And when it didn't, I was devastated. I was a broken shell, so far from complete I was not even sure where or how to begin sweeping up the pieces. It seemed no amount of glue or duct tape could put me back together again. This was not how it was supposed to end. It wasn't supposed to be an ending at all. It was supposed to be a beginning.

Being single right now is not a path I would have chosen for myself. I would not chose to be adopting as a single mom. But just because I wouldn't chose it for myself doesn't mean I'm not content in it and really grateful for being exactly where I am. I know the steps being taken now are good. They are part of a good story being played out, I hope, to the glory of God. And I am confident in Him to provide all I need; He always has. I am confident in a pursuit of God and a love for Him much more rewarding and fulfilling than any marriage, any relationship could ever be.

How did I arrive at this attitude and perception of my singleness? I don't know. I suppose because I'm finally comfortable in myself and I'm comfortable in my relationship with God. I know I don't need to wait for a relationship to live my life and to be a part of the larger story being written all around us. I know God has my best interest at heart and if there is something more extraordinary available than the extraordinary I am already living today in my single state, than God will bring it about in the right time.

Being single doesn't make you less important than your married friends or siblings or whoever. And as a Church, we've got to be better about sharing this message with singles. Maybe less emphasis on helping singles to find a mate with our dating websites and our singles mixers. And maybe more emphasis on telling singles they are important and valuable in whatever their relationship status may be, and not only are they important and valuable, but they have a good story to tell too. They have the same chance for living a really great story as every married or soon to be married or has been married person.

It's not bad to pray for and want marriage. It's not bad to put yourself out there and into opportunities to meet somebody. But what is bad is to think you are not enough and you are not complete and to dwell on the empty house you come home to. So if you are single, my suggestion is to fill your house with good and godly things and to find out how God wants to use you right now, today, in your single state.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Servings: Banana Bread

Baking has not been a priority in the first week of job hunting and settling in. So since I have nothing new to offer, I figure this week's Sunday Serving needs to be something simple and easy, but of course yummy, to bring up loads of memories for just about all of us.

So for your taste buds' pleasure a super-simple banana bread recipe to get everyone salivating because their are few things better than the smell of fresh baked banana bread.

Banana Bread:


  • 3 small or 2 medium-sized over-ripe bananas (I typically put bananas in the freezer for a few days prior. It's important to not use fresh bananas because it's more difficult to get the right batter consistency.)
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour (I like to use whole wheat flour or nutty flours in fruit breads
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder 
  • 1 cup of butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (Optional. I'm not a huge fan of nuts in bread, but many people are so it's up to you. Walnut or macadamia nut would both go well with this recipe.)


  1. Soften butter (do not melt) and mix with sugar. 
  2. Add eggs and bananas. Mash bananas into the mixture. Then add the flour and baking powder. Mix well. Spoon mixture into greased loaf pan.
  3. Bake loaf in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 45 minutes to an hour. Test with a fork to be sure that it has baked all the way through. Top should be golden brown. Allow to cool for ten minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Remembering My Grandmother

I've been thinking about my grandmother a lot in the last week. Maybe because tomorrow is what would have her 104th birthday. Maybe because I drove by her old house while taking my paternal grandmother to her doctor's appointment. Maybe because I'm back in Lubbock where there are a thousand dusty memories and remembrances of her.

Grandma was an incredible woman. Born in 1908, she lived through the world wars and the Great Depression and was shaped, as the world was shaped, by the events of those times. She struck out as a young single woman, going to a trade school and making her own way before marrying in her early thirties. But her first husband died young. She would then marry my grandfather in her late thirties and give birth to my mother at the age of 43. A few short years later, she became a single mother when my grandfather died as a result of a freak accident. She'd eventually marry again for a short time and then lose a third husband when my mother was a thirteen. She then raised her daughter on her own, working as a school librarian for most of her career.

My fondest memories of her are the times we spent the night at her home. It was a treat to stay up late and watch MASH reruns, the theme song forever bringing to mind the musty smell of Grandma's green, shag carpet. Afterwards, we'd brush our teeth with Aquafresh toothpaste, the old-school kind when it was still white, red and green striped. Then just before climbing in bed, she'd rub Vicks Vapor Rub under our noses so we'd breath free and easy through the night. And finally we'd climb into her giant king bed with the orange bedspread, say our prayers and giggle late into the night. In the morning, she'd fix sausage and scrambled eggs, and we'd set up the card table to eat breakfast in the living room while we watched cartoons.

I was a teenager when the dementia began to set in. I went once to spend the night with the intent to write her stories down before they slipped away. I'm not sure what happened to those notes, but I remember the stories of growing up on the farm and chasing chickens. Of how her daddy doted on her and her mother always told her that she never wanted to have another baby (Grandma was the youngest of two). Of getting her finger caught in the meat grinder and how proud my grandfather would hold his baby girl up with pride.

Looking back, I'm grateful for that night. If I could relive it now, I would ask her advice on being a single mother. I would ask her about loosing her husbands and how she overcame the heartache. I would ask her about pain and hardship and love and relationship. I would ask her about her love for the Lord and for others. I would ask her what she knows of life and I would ask her to teach me to sew.

I wonder if my nephew feels like I felt when he visits Nana and Grandad's. I wonder what Hannah will remember in years to come. Will there be particular smells that bring memories rushing back? Will their memories feel dusty like old discolored photos, as mine do now? Will their minds fill with the questions they wished they had the opportunity to ask?

I think Grandma would have appreciated the way I've lived my life and the places I've lived. I think she would have worried about me often and prayed for me more often. I think she would have been the first on the plane to visit me in South Africa even though flying terrified her so much. I think she would adore Hannah and would have walked with me every step of the way. I think she would appreciate my unconventional life as she told me stories of her unconventional life.

My grandmother was an amazing woman, and I hope I live my life even a fraction as well as she lived hers. And I hope that because of her legacy, Hannah will become a wise, strong and empowered woman.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ok, God, I'm Here...Now What?

The morning after my arrival at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (how Lubbock's tiny airport has an international designation remains an ongoing mystery), I sat down to spend some time with the Lord. I cleared out the space in front of me, sat my Bible down and blurted out, "Ok God, I'm here...Now what?" All the emotion and stress of the past few weeks finally released and I sobbed for a long time.

I'm here...Now what?

When I come up against the "now what" question, my first impulse is to make a plan. You can't leave "now what" sitting out there for too long. It needs action. It needs forward movement. "Now what" is the point in the plot line where there has to be immediate action or the story flops. "Now what" taunts you into the next step because you simply can't leave it hanging out there.

But I find myself with the conundrum of not knowing what follows "now what." The past six weeks have been about wrapping up things in South Africa. Finishing the job well. Saying goodbye. They've been about spending loads of time with Hannah and the other kids in Oasis Haven's family homes. They've been about packing and training my replacement. They've been about finishing one chapter so the next part of the story could begin.

So, now what?

Job search, yes. Reconnecting with family and old school chums, yes. Life is moving forward and there is a what happening, but the question is about the bigger "now what." What job? What home? What church community? What form and shape does this new chapter take?

My impulse is to jump. To take a flying leap and see where I land. But I've jumped a lot, and while I've almost always landed on my feet, I think I'm at the point in life where "looking before leaping" sounds a bit wiser. And maybe even, waiting before leaping is the wisest course. Waiting before leaping and waiting on God to take the first step and say, "Here, my child. Come this way." It sounds a lot wiser than my normal mode of operation: "I'm going this way, God. Are you coming?"

There is a desire in me to make it all happen super-fast. Have the job. Have the home. Have the community. Have the kid. But all of these take time. They take patience and waiting. They take trust and faith and obedience. They take quiet and solitude and prayer.

And maybe on the other end, I find something worth waiting for.

So as I wait, I see four major areas for prayer focus right now:

  1. The Adoption Process: For the process to go smoothly and quickly so that Hannah can come home forever. For each step to be entrusted into the Lord's hands. And for those around me watching the process to see God's heart of adoption for them. How He has paid a great cost to chose them and make them His very own.
  2. The Job Search: To find the right job where my skills, talents, gifts and passions can be used to the glory of God. Where I can be light and where I can build others up and release them to do what they do better. And a job where I can be a single mom and where it is a no-brainer that Hannah comes first.
  3. The Home Search: To establish a home that is a place of rest and a place of safety for others. Where people know they can come to find hospitality and peace. A place where the neighbors feel safe when their children come to play and where anyone can drop in unannounced. A place where life and community happen, and a place where generosity and hospitality flow.
  4. The Community Search: To find a place where I can contribute to the community in meaningful ways according to the gifts and talents I have been given and where I can live out my purpose and calling. A place where I can be a contributing member of the body and a place where I can find the support I need to be a woman and a mother.
I hope that you'll join me in praying over these four areas, and please let me know how I can pray for you too.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Sunday Servings: Whole Wheat Bread

After a week of travel and jet lag recovery, I'm signing back on from Lubbock with a simple whole wheat bread recipe I absolutely love. It's great for sandwiches or toast or any basic everyday bread need, but is best served fresh out of the oven with a thin layer of butter spread for melty perfection. Yum...

The first time I ever baked a loaf of bread was in the village. More of that industriousness to stave off Peace Corps boredom. But I quickly discovered that I loved baking bread, and I had a knack for it. I mean, in all honesty, to be able to bake a loaf of bread in a tiny, tabletop oven that never heated evenly and was better at heating the house than the contents inside, well this feat requires true talent.

Bread is such a basic and wonderful thing. It's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It's cinnamon toast. It's a sponge for the last drops of sauce. It's hot buttery rolls and cream cheese smeared bagels. It's breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight snack. Bread feels and smells and tastes like home. It's part of our cultural psyche,  a physical and sensational symbol of our traditions and heritage. Tortillas. Na'an. Unleavened bread. Baguettes. Sourdough. Flatbread. Ciabatta. Each type of bread tells a cultural story connecting us together as we gather around tables to break bread.

Jesus said to the crowd, "I am the bread of life;" I am what keeps you from going hungry. I am what connects you around your dinner tables. I am what brings you together. Because I am here, you no longer need manna or tortillas or brown bread or any bread. I am here to sustain you.

As you celebrate Easter Sunday and remember a risen Lord, remember this bread, broken and shared. Remember what was given so that you could have the sustenance of life. And if you are looking for something more filling, more life-sustaining, consider tasting a bite of the Bread of Life and sharing in His body broken for you.

Whole Wheat Bread:


  • 1 1/2c of warm water (about 110 ° F / 45 ° C)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 envelopes of dry yeast
  • 2c all-purpose (cake) flour
  • 4c whole wheat (brown bread) flour
  • 1/3c packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2c of vegetable (sunflower) oil
  • 1/2c of milk at room temperature (I usually use low fat or skim)


  1. Measure warm water into a large bowl. Stir in 1tbsp of brown sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the top. Leave until foamy (about 10 minutes). (If the yeast sinks or does not foam, the yeast is inactive and will not rise. Yeast lasts longer if it is kept in a cool dry place. I usually just keep mine in the refrigerator.)
  2. Add 1c of all-purpose flour and 3c of whole wheat flour to the bowl with brown sugar, salt, oil and milk. Blend ingredients. Continue to mix, adding the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time. (You may not need to add all the flour.) Mix until the dough clings. Knead dough for 10min. (If you are using an electric mixer instead of mixing by hand, mix at medium speed for 5min.) Oil the bowl and coat the dough. Cover loosely and leave to rise (about 1hr or until doubled). 
  3. Punch dough down and place of floured surface. Split dough into two even halves and shape the halves into loaves. Be sure not to not leave any air pockets in the dough. 
  4. Place loaves into greased loaf pans. Cut slits into the top of loaves. Set aside to rise until your finger leaves a dimple (30 to 45min). Preheat the oven to 400 ° F / 200 ° C. 
  5. Bake loaves for 15 minutes in preheated oven then reduce the temperature to 350 ° F / 175 ° C. Bake for another 30 minutes or until loaves are deep brown. Remove from pans to cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sunday Servings: Simple & Quick Brownies

Brownies have a day of perfection. Fresh out of the oven, they are a wonderful treat. But it is not until the next day when they’ve fully cooled and the fudginess has congealed and brought just the right density of chocolatey-goodness to each bite, that brownies achieve maximum perfection. Allow brownies to last past the day of perfection and they slowly begin to stale and crunch. Eat them all up on the first day and you’ve missed out on the full potential of what they could have been.

My "Little Brother" Papis
South Africans don’t know brownies the way Americans know brownies. With a few exceptions I’ve come across, brownies in SA are more cake-like than brownie-like. Just a bit too buoyant and not quite as fudgy as they ought to be. I quickly learned that a plate piled high with American brownies was a fast way to make friends.

I baked them for tea and for birthdays. For Christmas presents and for Easter treats. For staff meetings and for just because.

My “little brother” in Mmametlhake, developed a deep love for them. If it had been a few weeks since the last batch, he would say to me, “My sissy, you must make those de-de-delicious cookies. It’s been too long, and I need to feel them here,” pointing at his belly.

Brownies are one of those foods that taste of home. All those sweet memories of baking in the kitchen with my mother come rushing back with one whiff of chocolately-goodness in the air. I cannot whip up a batch without thinking of my mom’s green-handled spoon coated in cake batter, just waiting to be licked, or the black tin pan with the grid of scratch’s on the bottom from the hundreds, possibly thousands, of brownie slices.

Each time I’ve shared a tray of brownies, I’ve shared a bit of who I am and where I come from, and they’ve opened up a doorway to share other parts of me. To tell stories about my family and my culture. To talk about how those things have shaped me and formed me. To share a bit of the richness of who I am and hopefully leave a behind a bit of the richness in bellies full of chocolately-goodness.

It’s surprising how incredibly easy brownies are to make. And of course you can dress them up and make them a bit more complex, but I like my brownies simple with that taste of home. So on the day before I depart from South Africa, here’s my recipe for easy brownies and a little bit of home-baked comfort.

Simple and Quick Brownies:


  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup of butter (low fat or full fat will produce equally good brownies)
  • ½ cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of all-purpose (cake) flour
  • ½ tsp. of baking powder
  • ½ tsp. of salt


  1. Melt butter (do not allow to boil) and mix all ingredients in the order listed above.
  2. Spoon batter into a greased 9" x 13" (32.5cm x 23cm) cake pan . The batter should fill only the bottom 1/3 of the pan.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven at 350degrees Fahrenheit (175degrees Celsius) for 20 to 30 minutes. Test with a fork to be sure that it has baked all the way through (allow for a little bit of gooeyness on the fork for fudgier brownies and a clean fork for cakier brownies).
  4. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving, or as recommended above, cook the day before in order to serve on perfection day.
Note: On perfection day, you can reheat brownies in the microwave. Just to be sure not to leave them in for longer than 15-20 seconds, or you will dry them out.