Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Church Shopping

If you read the Ok, God, I'm Here...Now What? post back in April, you might remember I laid out four specific areas of prayer and focus:

The adoption process,
The job search,
The home search, and
The community search

Their have been a few updates on the adoption process, now waiting on the home study report to say I'm a sane and will be a relatively good parent.

I'm settling into the new job and getting acquainted with my coworkers.

For the most part all of the boxes are unpacked and I'm settled into my new home.

But community?

I've been "church shopping" a bit. I hate to put it that way. I hate the way it sounds like I'm in the dressing room trying on pants. I hate the way it sounds commercial and materialistic. I hate the way it seems to cheapen the many great churches I've visited. But really that is what it is. I'm shopping.

I'm evaluating churches on what I hear from colleagues, friends and family.

I'm perusing websites and have admittedly been turned off by many outdated or poorly designed sites, leading me not to even consider the advertised church as a possibility.

I'm visiting and trying not to let first impressions be too powerful or too judgmental.

I'm worshiping alongside believers I don't know and worshiping in ways familiar and unfamiliar.

I'm shopping.

I'm trying on churches on to see how they fit and how I fit in them.

Church shopping is an intimidating thing, especially when you're introverted. While I'm not extremely introverted, I do lean to that side of the scale, and in a crowd I don't know, I'll do my best to remain as unnoticeable as possible.

This is absolutely a honed skill.

For starters, do not sit on the back pew. Sitting on the back pew makes you too conspicuous. You may think it is easier to arrive late and duck out early, but most ushers and greeters are looking for new faces on the back few pews. Better to sit middle-back where you blend in a bit more.

During the inevitable greet your neighbor time. Greet your neighbor first. This way you seem like a regular and the other person will assume you're a member they don't know. This keeps the conversation short and allows you to quickly spin around to greet other neighbors and avoid personal questions.

Bring your Bible or at least be prepared to whip out your Bible app on your smart phone. This makes you look seasoned and as though you are very familiar with the pastor's teaching style--even if he/she does not reference Scripture once, you are prepared.

Tithe. I mean why not. Whatever this church is going to do with it, what they're doing, they are doing in the name of Jesus. Take the opportunity to bless his kingdom and avoid standing out when you whip the collection plate, bag, basket, etc by you.

Tell people to "have a nice day" on the way out. You're being nice and avoiding the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look as you make a break for the parking lot. And don't run out of the sanctuary/auditorium/meeting room too quickly or you'll single yourself out. A casual stroll at the same pace as the rest of the congregation will do nicely.

Seriously, though, church shopping is not for the faint of heart. But if your goal at the end is to find a community where you can give of the gifts and talents God has given you and find the support you need for your everyday, then the effort to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, introduce yourself to a few people, and yes, even fill out the dreaded visitor's card that will most definitely mean a phone call from one of the pastor's later in the week (I got a free t-shirt for filling one out this week), is necessary and hopefully in the end well worth it.

What's great about this church shopping experience compared to others I've had in the past is that this time I'm not community starved. I have my family around me, and my colleagues who are slowly turning into friends while a few old friends are becoming new friends. I'm hoping this puts me in a much healthier position to seek out a church where I can give and receive and does not allow me to get to a place where I'm only able to receive because my community cup is running so low.

I'm also hoping to invite a bit of wisdom and maturity into the shop. This is not the search for the perfect pair of jeans that make my butt look perfect and my thighs look skinny while elongating my legs to make me look super tall and sexy. This is rather a search for a community not perfect but striving for Jesus, getting it wrong from time to time, but willing to admit, refocus and move on. This is not the search for the relevant church but rather to myself be relevant in the Church.

Church shopping is exhausting, and my family can attest, after the past few weeks, I've felt ready to throw in the towel and give up the search. But I hope my heart to be in and be of and be part will lead me to a place to be in and be of and be part.

Until then, I'll keep honing my being unnoticeable skills...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Servings: English Saffron Bread

With the London Olympics starting this week, I wanted to bake something Londony.

Those who know me well, know I am a huge anglophile--loving everything from British cinema to fiction to sports to television to music to, well plain and simple, the British people.

Living in South Africa, a former British colony, only increased my love for the British. I'm fairly positive some of my English South African friends thought I was a bit nuts. But for me you only need turn on an episode of Doctor Who or Downton Abbey or Sherlock, and I am transfixed.

So, yes, I'm super-excited to have two and a half of weeks of 24/7 London.

Not to mention it's the Olympics, and who doesn't love the Olympics? Who doesn't love the world coming together and putting everything else on pause for a few weeks for a bit of fun?

There is no doubt sport does something to us. It does something to our collective spirit, and I think for me, anyway, this opportunity to bring the world together reminds me of the humanity and spirit of people all over the world who we often stereotype so freely and dismiss so flippantly.

I love the games because we can marvel at true athleticism and then pretend to be experts in fields we know nothing about and in the end be inspired by stories of individuals who have overcome the odds to get there.

Sports fan or not, the Olympics are a great few weeks, and I plan on enjoy every minute of them.

English Saffron Bread

View original recipe on


  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon saffron*
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour


  1. Heat milk in small saucepan until it begins to bubble, remove from heat. Add butter and sugar and stir until melted. Allow to cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl, soak saffron in hot water. Allow to cool until lukewarm, drain and reserve liquid.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine milk mixture with reserved saffron water and eggs. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Add salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon zest and 4 cups of flour. Mix well. Add remaining flour a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil large mixing. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  4. Deflate dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into three equal pieces, form into 14 inch long "ropes". Braid ropes together and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove to wire rack and cool.
*Original recipe called for two teaspoons of saffron, but one was more than enough.

Like today's Sunday Serving? You might also like Whole Wheat Bread.

Friday, July 27, 2012

In Which my Worn and Faded Reading Chair is Saving Me

The smell of coffee encircles me in comfort as I curl into my worn and faded reading chair in the early morning gray. My bible laid before me, my hair still wet from my post-workout shower. The chair and I old friends reunited. We've missed our early mornings together in the gray before the world awakes. We've missed our few stolen moments together--together in the early morning light with the scripture and the Spirit awakening my spirit.

Four years my reading chair has sat in my parent's guest bedroom, piled high with grandkid toys and waiting, waiting for me to come home from across the sea and curl into it, book in hand.

Now we are home here in the early morning gray.

I think of the Lowery's who donated it to my sparse Portland apartment. I remember the mornings curled in front of the window, always coffee in hand, asking God the difficult questions and working through the pain of depression and eating disorder. I remember the move to Colorado for the healing and the rediscovering and the space it filled in the corner of my quirky, basement apartment. I remember how I learned to love tea there, sitting and sipping hot tea with friends on bitter cold winter nights.

And now here we are again in the gray of the morning with our coffee stains and our faded upholstery. Here we are inviting the Spirit to join us and asking the hard questions again. Here we are looking and searching for the hope. Here we are praying for the day and the people in the day and the unexpected of the day. Here we are reading about King Jehoshaphat and how he followed after the heart of God. Here we are in the calm of the morning gray curled against the faded orange upholstery.

It's this place in the morning gray that is saving me right now. It is this place keeping me centered and focused and giving me the courage for the new day. It's this place in my favorite reading chair where I find myself, where I find again the me God created me to be. It's in this place I find Jesus, sitting with me, breathing in the morning gray and speaking the quiet I need for today.

This post is written as part of the "What is saving your life right now?" syncroblog taking place over on Sara Bessy's blog. Check out what is saving others and share your own life saver.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday Thematics: The Year of the Lord's Favor

Thursday Thematics is a new and ongoing series of posts focused on given topics or passages of scripture relevant to adoption, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @AmandaEPeterson.

For our first theme, we're walking through the anointments of Isaiah 61--the passage Jesus read in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-20). After finishing his reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says to the crowd, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." If this scripture has been fulfilled, how does a fulfilled version of Isaiah 61 impact our lives today?

...to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God...

With my adoption in the in-between place--in the waiting and the paperwork and the approvals and the waiting--my heart feels in the in-between place too.

Yesterday was a difficult day. A difficult day because I found out the process is going very smoothly but is going to take longer than we hoped. Probably not home for Christmas and family as we had hoped.

That hurts.

It hurts in a way I have no words for.

It hurts in a longing way and a deeply anguishing way and a telling yourself to hold onto the glimmer of good and the glimmer of hope way.

I'm caught in this in between place where I know in the deepest parts of me that Hannah* is my daughter but yet she's not my daughter.

My daughter in the pray everyday for every moment of her life.
Not my daughter in the waking her up for school.
My daughter in the aching when she aches.
Not my daughter in the preparing her favorite dinner.
My daughter in the language I use when I talk about her.
Not my daughter in the holding her close and kissing her forehead.

It's a here and yet coming kind of thing. And it hurts beyond hurting but produces hope beyond hope.

When Jesus quotes Isaiah's proclamation in Luke 4:18-20, he ends his reading with the line, "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" and does not finish the couplet, leaving out "and the day of vengeance of our God."

This omission was another way of Jesus saying to his listeners the kingdom of God has come and is yet still coming. Here I am, bringing the kingdom--bringing grace and acceptance and favor and restored relationship with the Lord--but I'm still coming again to bring the kingdom--to bring vengeance on my enemies and an end to sin and death. Here I am fulfilling this proclamation in your hearing, but there is more to be proclaimed, more to be made right.

Jesus is setting us up for the inward groaning we eagerly await the appeasing of. He is setting us up to be made right and walk along side others sharing our Good News and to eagerly await his return--his return with the fullness of the kingdom.

I can't honestly say I've ever groaned in my spirit for Jesus' coming. I can't say with honesty I'm eagerly awaiting the day. I would be lying because I secretly often think, "Jesus, we're still working on it. We need more time. I need more time." I don't long for the fullness of reunification with God. I don't long for it because I want to keep doing good with my own two hands. I want to keep bettering the world as it is and to keep trying.

I am known to occasionally in a moment of frustration throw my hands up in the air and tell Jesus, "Today, right now would be good," but we both know I don't mean it.

However, the groaning for the fullness and the completion of the adoption...that...that is true. That groaning is deep within my spirit as a I pray and long for it's fullness, it's completion.

And I wonder as I write, if it's like this for God. If his Spirit groans for our homecoming for the fullness of our adoption.

Hannah, I won't say blissfully, but thankfully is unaware of the adoption. I've had many tell me since I've left how much she misses me and how grateful she is to be able to talk to me "on the computer" through the miracle of Skype (and yes, I do absolutely believe Skype is a miracle). I've even read in one school report how she considers me to be her family. But thankfully, she does not know I've left in order to adopt her--that I've left to make her legally my family. And I say thankfully because the burden of the waiting would be too hard on her almost eight-year-old self not to mention the horror of it all falling apart. And I'm glad I can at least a bit protect her from the groaning that is in my heart.

Papa God, do you groan for us like that? Do you groan for the proper time when all the paperwork is in order and everything is set right? Do you know my feeble heart cannot take the groaning? Cannot take the waiting? Cannot take the full knowledge of the separation?

I hope he does. And I hope he will tell me of it someday as someday I will tell Hannah how I prayed and how I hoped and how I worked and how I groaned for the day she would come home.
*Hannah is a pseudonym I use in my online activity to protect my someday daughter's identity until she is fully and legally mine.

Please consider supporting Hannah's adoption by visiting the Just Love Coffee website and purchasing great, fair trade coffee through our storefront.

Like today's post? Read other posts in this series:
Proclaiming Good News to the Poor
Binding Up the Brokenhearted
Proclaiming Freedom for the Captives

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Slow Slow and the Fast Fast

Saturday I sat in my new abode with my home study social worker talking adoption. Talking parenting styles and personality. Talking height and weight (that's right, for a reason unknown to my social worker, my height and weight bear relevance on whether or not I'm a fit parent).

I answered questions one by one and tried to be as clear and straightforward as I could.

Praying and hoping.

We got to the end and I hazarded the question pulsing in my brain: Am I allowed to ask? And if I'm allowed to ask, am I approved to adopt? Do you think I will be a fit parent?

She laughed and told me not to worry. If she'd been concerned about anything, she would have let me know. She would have asked more questions and asked for clarity. No, you're good. Just need time to prepare the report now.


I mean, I thought it was going well. I thought the answer was yes. I thought when she said things like "I bet you can't wait to have her home" it was a good sign. But still there's that little bit of doubt tugging at you. That little bit of fear. That little gnawing feeling you can't let go of. And I stared at Hannah's pictures newly spread all over my new home, and I thought and I prayed, "Please, Lord. Please."


There's the slow parts and then there's the fast parts of adoption.

Most is slow. Most is patience and waiting, but every once in a while everything starts to move very fast. It's thrilling and terrifying. Exciting and panicky. Joyous and overwhelming.

It's like the amusement park ride you wait in line hours for for a few moments of thrilling terror.

You draw closer to the front of the queue and you can feel the excitement begin to grow. Then you're buckling in and you can't believe you've finally made it to this point, and you're fearful of the drops and speed and twists and turns ahead. You wonder if you can actually make it through this ride. Might it possibly be too much for you? But there's no way you're backing out and no way you're getting off the ride. Not now. This is what you've been waiting for.

The last week was fast, fast.

Pulling together all the final documents, unpacking and trying to make my new place look as presentable as possible, preparing my heart and mind for the home visit.

On the other side of Saturday, all still feels fast, but I can see us coasting into the ride exit. Home study ride almost at an end. Time to stand in the queue for the dossier ride.

I must admit I love the riding part, but I am not so great at the queuing part.

Yet again back to perseverance and patience.

And I think of how Hannah* is being patient. Patient and praying and trusting every day God will answer her prayers for a "new family," a family of her very own.

I think of how we've talked about God looking for the right family for her and how the right family is better than any family.


I am so thankful for a few weeks of fast. I needed the past few weeks to keep me going and to buoy my spirits. I needed for everything to move forward one giant leap so I won't get discouraged by the tiny baby steps.

I needed to be on the ride. I needed the wind in my face and my stomach rising up into my chest and then dropping out of my body. I needed my body to be twisted and torqued. I needed a big something to help me remember the importance and the necessity of the small somethings.

There's more slow ahead and more fast. And hopefully because of the last few weeks I'm a little more prepared, a little more ready for slow.

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

Please consider supporting Hannah's adoption by visiting the Just Love Coffee website and purchasing great, fair trade coffee through our storefront.

Read more about our adoption story:
Hannah's Prayer
Telling Hannah
Far, Far Away
Superfluous Smoke Detectors and All

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Servings: Strawberry Lemon Muffins

Baking is an act of generosity. It is love and kindness and sorrow and hope baked into a loaf of generosity. Sunday Servings is an attempt to spread the generosity a little further by sharing stories and recipes. If you would like to share your own story or recipe, please do so in the comments section or tweet ideas to @AmandaEPeterson.


Everything feels a bit surreal.

To be in a place again where I have more than two options of where to sit. To be in a place where I can move from room to room. Choose which bathroom to use. Decide which is the best cupboard for glasses and which for plates. Set things where I want them set and move them where I want them moved. And generally have the freedom to indulge in the bigness of life.

I haven't accurately measured, but I'm pretty sure you could fit four of my old room "the box" in my living/dining area alone and probably two and a half of my little house in Mmametlhake.

Not to say my new place is huge, but it feels the right size. A Goldilocks perfection--not too big, not too small, just right.


A few days into the unpacking, I took a break to enjoy my new kitchen.

Still in a summery strawberry mode, I decided to whip up a few batches of strawberry lemon muffins and take them to the neighbors.

I've never paid much attention to my neighbors before. I've always whipped in and out and tried to avoid having to say hi.

I'd excuse myself saying hospitality was not part of my gifting and I had this thing to do and that thing to get to and I didn't want to slow down and have to take time to chat.

But truthfully, I think I was afraid to engage. I was afraid to let these strangers into my life.

If you opened the door a crack, could you slam it closed again?

What if these people who live in such proximity see? What if they find out how incredibly messy and ugly the reality of my life is? That I'm messy and ugly and totally imperfect? What if I see their lives and the messy, ugly reality? What if I get sucked into their messy, ugly, imperfect.

No, better to rush from car door to front door and avoid it all together.

But South Africa changed that for me. I slowed down and I took time and I discovered I needed and rather enjoyed hospitality. I needed and rather enjoyed knowing my neighbors and being a part of their lives. Even the messy, ugly parts. Even the allowing them to see my messy, ugly parts.

Now, opening my doors to my new home, airing out old ways and replacing them with new creation ways, I want my home to be a place of peace and rest and hospitality for my neighbors. I want them to know they can come and sit on my couch and find a place to stop and be for however long they need it.

I want my home to be a place of rest for weary travelers no matter where they might be traveling from, traveling to, escaping from, escaping to and no matter what load they may be bearing.

I want it to be that for Hannah and for her friends and for every person who trespasses on our doorstep.

What I think I've maybe learned and what I'm maybe learning is that hospitality is not a hard and scary thing when the invading love of Jesus consumes your heart. When you start to love a little more radically and a little less selflessly. When you choose to live a little more simply and shut down the slightly more complex for a little while.

Hospitality is the overflow of all of that. And it's an overflow that just might sweep you up and bring you to a fuller, richer life.

Strawberry Lemon Muffins

Check out the original recipe on


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped ripe to over-ripe strawberries*
  • 1 tablespoon flour


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease muffin tin or line with paper liners.
  2. Mix chopped strawberries with tablespoon of flour and set aside. In a medium bowl, lightly beat together oil, milk, egg and lemon juice. In a separate large bowl, mix lemon zest, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, white sugar and brown sugar. Slowly stir in oil mixture until just moist. Stir in strawberries being careful not to over mix. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full with batter.
  3. Bake 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing from the muffin tin. Best served warm and fresh from the oven.


* You can use fresh berries, but over-ripe or handpicked berries will melt and create tastier muffins.
**Lemon combines well with most berries. Had too many strawberries this summer? Substitute berries of your choice.

If you like today's Sunday Serving, you might also like Strawberries & Cream Scones and Streusel Topped Blueberry Muffins.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday Thematics: Release from Darkness for the Prisoners

Thursday Thematics is a new and ongoing series of posts focused on given topics or passages of scripture relevant to adoption, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @AmandaEPeterson.

For our first theme, we're walking through the anointments of Isaiah 61--the passage Jesus read in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-20). After finishing his reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says to the crowd, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." If this scripture has been fulfilled, how does a fulfilled version of Isaiah 61 impact our lives today?

...release from darkness for the prisoner...

I reported a child abuse case to Children's Protective Services yesterday.

A first.

Yes, I know and have known many kids who have been abused. I've been involved in their healing process. I've been involved in loving them and teaching them to trust adults again. I've been on the what-happens-after side of things.

And yes, I've suspected children I know are being abused, but I've never had enough evidence to report. I've never been able to say I know.

I know.

And it feels dark and heavy.

Hanging up the phone with CPS, I wanted to run into the open air, to feel light and sunshine on my face, to throw off the darkness.

I left my desk for a bit and took a walk around the building.

I shed a bit of the darkness and prayed. I prayed as Jesus taught me to pray:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, 
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.

I prayed for this family. I prayed protection over them. I prayed for the evidence to be clearer to CPS than it is to me so the family might get the help they need. I prayed for light to penetrate the darkness and for all to be exposed.

I prayed for a family, for children, imprisoned in their own home and begging for the light.


Preparing for this post, the phrase "release from darkness for the prisoner," stumped me. Release from darkness seems to be so much more than simply being let out of prison. To my mind, the simple poetry of it had to imply a more metaphorical meaning.

Other translations use a more literal "opening of the prison" (NKJV) and some repeat the idea of "freedom" (NAS) from the previous statement. But pulling out the big word study books given to me years ago as a college graduation present--the big books that were too much for the Peace Corps luggage weight restrictions and have set in storage for three and a half years dearly missed--there seems to be a much bigger idea here. It seems to be both a literal opening of prisons and a figurative opening of eyes.

Emma Donoghue in her novel Room tells a transfixing story of a boy and her mother taken captive by a man and imprisoned in a one room shed in his backyard. The woman is the man's sex slave and the boy the result of years of imprisonment. Donoghue crafts her story entirely from the view point of this little boy who was born in the room and in his five years of life has never left it.

Never felt sunshine on his face. Never felt grass between his toes. Never smelled fresh air. Never met another human being besides his mother and the man.

(Spoiler alert)

Eventually the boy and his mother escape and he is introduced to the world outside. It is both a terrifying and freeing experience for him as he longs for the comfort of the known but is discovering grandparents and trees and wind and all the many things that make up the world. When he eventually goes back to see the room he grew up in, he finds it small and barren and colorless and not a place he wants to be or live.

I think this is what release from darkness is like--opening the prison and opening our eyes to what we were not aware existed. This release is the awareness that comes with encountering Christ and discovering our own bindings, our own prison. It's the encounter we have each time the Spirit shows us something in our lives we didn't know was there, we didn't know was holding us captive. It's the coming back to the old prison, the old habits, the old life after we've found freedom trying them on again and realizing they are much less satisfying than our new life. It's the shedding of the old way of life and the being made new.

It's the blind man healed.

There had to be moments of terror. Moments when he wanted to unsee what was just seen. Moments where the world seemed unbelievably big and overwhelming. But if you asked him if he wanted to be blind again, I have no doubt he would say "no" every time. Just as the prisoner will say "no" every time you ask him if he wants to go back to prison.

This release from darkness is a whole new way of life--a whole new way of being. And we're fools if we choose to go back into the darkness. We're fools if we choose dark over light.

We're all familiar with the groan moment that comes when we've sat in darkness for a long time and someone walks in and flicks on the light. You're eyes cringe at the sudden brightness and you squint and try to make your eyes adjust faster so you can see once again.

But eventually your eyes adjust and the light is welcome. You see more clearly.

This is what Isaiah is saying, Jesus is coming to flick on the switch and bring light were there was once darkness. He's coming to release you from the darkness where you are bound and imprisoned.


Read other posts in this series:
     Proclaiming Good News to the Poor
     Binding Up the Brokenhearted

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Room of Her Own

Over the weekend my family graciously helped me move into my new home--a new home that is both old and new, unfamiliar and yet completely familiar, strange and quirky and yet comfortable and known.

Full of memories and ready for new memories.

My new home and my grandmother's old home.

Since my grandmother moved out of her duplex and then since her passing, my parents have rented the house to various strangers and now have generously made space for Hannah* and I to make our first home together.

I'm living on the opposite side of the duplex from which my grandmother lived--a perfect mirror image which causes all the newness of a new home to be squished together with all the oldness of old memories. I've felt again the same closeness to her I've felt in recent weeks and have entwined those feelings with the hope and anticipation of Hannah coming home.

Halfway through the day on Saturday, my sister asked me if she should put something in "Hannah's room."

Hannah's room.

I hadn't allowed myself to call it that yet. All day telling people to put it in the "middle bedroom" or calling out, "It's in the middle bedroom." Could I let it so freely roll off my tongue as she just did? Could I call it that? Could it really be Hannah has a space? A space and not just a box in the corner full of things already bought for her and already made for her--bought and made and waiting?

I practiced it a bit and tried to follow my sister's good example:

Hannah's room. Hannah's room. Hannah's room.

It sounds strange and too impossible. It sounds too real.

All the praying and hoping and the steps taken and the steps being taken, but this is something real and tangible and hers; even piled with boxes and things we don't know where to put yet, it's hers.

And I want to call her and tell her, "It's here. It's waiting for you. A room being prepared just for you."

And I think of Jesus telling us, "My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2, 3).

And I dream of going back to South Africa and taking her to be where I am, and I dream of being where Jesus is, and I marvel at the story being written over our lives.

I think of my anticipation in the coming back and taking home and I imagine Jesus' anticipation. I think of how close and near I am through the miracle of Skype and international phone calls and letters and packages and yet how far, how much is yet to be done for our family to be as it should be--whole and together. I think of how Jesus is very near and yet coming and his nearness will be unparalleled with the nearness we now know.

Who am I that this story gets to be written over my life? Who am I that I get to be mother to such a precious little girl? Who am I that Jesus would love me with such anticipation?

In a few more days, the social worker will come for my second home visit and then all the paperwork will be complete and the next wave of waiting will begin--waiting for the completed home study report to be issued, waiting on countries and courts and waiting on a day when I'll be told it's time to come back.

Waiting with anticipation.

The anticipation both unbearable and completely worth it.

*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.


Read more about our adoption story:
Hannah's Prayer
Telling Hannah
Far, Far Away
Superfluous Smoke Detectors and All

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday Servings: Triple Berry Buttermilk Bundt

Baking is an act of generosity. It is love and kindness and sorrow and hope baked into a loaf of generosity. Sunday Servings is an attempt to spread the generosity a little further by sharing stories and recipes. If you would like to share your own story or recipe, please do so in the comments section or tweet ideas to @AmandaEPeterson.


Seasons are back where they are supposed to be.

It's July, and it's summer.

And that feels right and very proudly American because of course, the southern hemisphere simply has it wrong. Christmas happens in winter and the 4th of July occurs in summer.

This is how God ordained it.

Well...for the northern hemisphere anyway, but it was definitely something I never got used to in the three years I lived in the southern hemisphere--the strangeness of it all highlighted by shopping malls decorated in wintry, snowy fashion for Christmas while the sun blazed outside.

Opposing seasons--one of the many things that make your world feel all topsy-turvy when you make the move from northern to southern, and I suppose vica versa.

Happy to be back where the icy-cold weather does not prohibit you from dragging your South African friends outside for a braii reminiscent of an American cookout and forcing them to engage in a celebration of American independence.

In that spirit of happiness, I stole another recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen and made this delicious triple berry buttermilk bundt for our 4th of July celebrations.

This cake is a flavor-intense experience with a taste of summer berry season goodness in every bite. The sweetness of the blackberries and blueberries perfectly compliment the tartness of the raspberries and the sourness of the lemon glaze.

Best part, this is a seasonal all-around cake. Simply replace the berries with different in season fruits throughout the year. For instance, you can make an autumny rich cake with cranberries and walnuts. Or a late summer peach-blast.


Triple Berry Buttermilk Bundt

Check out the original recipe on


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups mixed berries (I used blueberries, blackberries & raspberries, but any combination of berries would work.)
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups powdered or confections’ sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 small lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, very soft


  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10-cup Bundt pan, either with butter or a nonstick spray (Bundts are tricky, so for best results use a greased, non-stick pan.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk or sift 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and very fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and mix (if using a mixer, use a low speed and scrape the bowl between each addition). Beat in vanilla, briefly. Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour mixture, scraping down bowl as you go. Do not over mix. In first bowl, toss berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. With a spatula, gently fold the berries into cake batter. Don't worry about squishing some of the berries in the process.
  3. Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 minutes so cake browns evenly. Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, before inverting cake onto a serving platter to finish cooling. Allow to cool completely. 
  4. Once cool, whisk powdered sugar, lemon juice and butter until smooth and very, very thick. (For thinner glaze, add more juice.) Spread carefully over top of cake, letting it trickle down the sides. Serve at once or keep it covered at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.


*Add an additional cup of berries for a very berry cake.


If you like today's Sunday Serving, you might also like Mango-Berry Crumb Cake.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Thursday Thematics: Proclaiming Freedom for the Captives

Thursday Thematics is a new and ongoing series of posts focused on given topics or passages of scripture relevant to adoption, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @AmandaEPeterson.

For our first theme, we're walking through the anointments of Isaiah 61--the passage Jesus read in the Nazareth synagogue at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-20). After finishing his reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll and says to the crowd, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." If this scripture has been fulfilled, how does a fulfilled version of Isaiah 61 impact our lives today?

...to proclaim freedom for the captives...

In Love Does, Bob Goff tells the story of rescuing Ugandan children languishing in dark, dank jails waiting years for trial dates that never come. Most of these children are charged with petty crimes like theft and some with the more "serious" crime of defilement--having consensual sexual relations before the age of eighteen. (Essentially, parents who disapprove of a daughter's choice can simply accuse a boy of defiling their daughter and send him to jail--no other proof of the misdeed necessary.)

After rescuing more than a dozen children from one jail, Goff took the old wooden door of the jail, ripped it off it's hinges and placed it in the corner of his office as a reminder--a reminder "that God searches for us, no matter what dark place we're in or what door we're behind. He hears our impossible, audacious prayers for ourselves and others. And he delights in forgiving us and then answering those prayers by letting us return home to him. It reminds [him] that when we take Jesus up on his promises, he doesn't just stand in our lives knocking. He rips our small view of him and what he can make possible right off the hinges."

Right off the hinges.

The image is a violent one--ripping, not unscrewing and gently lifting, but ripping.

It's a violent image because I think when it comes to captivity we need to be violently released. We need a prison break. We need the earth to shake and the walls to crumble. We need impossibly thick curtains ripped in two. We need doors to be ripped off their hinges.

It's a violent image because we need the impossibility of the door ever being put back on it's hinges.

The kind of freedom--real true freedom--Christ proclaims to the captives is a violent freedom that comes with a high cost. It comes with the death of a savior. It comes with the falling apart of all our earthly hopes so they can be replaced with heavenly ones. It comes with a law made obsolete because of a grace so big and so full. It comes with a tearing of us from our sin and scrubbing us clean in Jesus. It comes with a flooding light casting out all the darkness.

The first time I ever visited someone in jail I had just graduated from high school and was preparing to go off to college.

A longtime friend and a fellow pastor's kid had gotten into quite a few scrapes over the years, and now eighteen, one of those scrapes had finally landed him in the county jail.

We'd been writing letters back and forth and eventually he asked me if I would visit him.

It was a strange experience for an eighteen year old girl.

This wasn't the kind of visit you see in the movies with a visiting room where you sit across the table and get yelled at by the guard if you try to touch the other person. Nor was it the scene with the thick plate of glass and the telephones.

Instead we were led to the actual cells.

A long blanched white corridor. Caged light fixtures spaced evenly down the corridor. And thick steel doors each with a tiny flap covering a tiny window into the cell.

All of the visitors were escorted down the hall, each to an appointed door, the flap over the little window was opened and we picked up the phone hanging just to the right of the door.

You couldn't see far into the cell because it was so dimly lit, but I could count out six or seven bunk beds and could see a few human figures lying on them.

My friend's face appeared in the window, so different and so the same.

I don't remember what we talked about after general how-do-you-do's, but I remember distinctly when the phone went dead.

Time was up and I hadn't said goodbye. I hadn't said I'd pray for him. I hadn't said all those things I'd thought about saying on the drive over and in the line to sign-in and on the elevator ride up to the floor and on the walk down the corridor.

I hadn't said those things and now all I could do was press my hand against the window, mouth "good-bye" and shut the little flap in his face.

What I remember most about the event is how much light there was where I was standing in the corridor and how much darkness there was in the room on the other side of that inch of glass. I remember how pale and ashen he appeared with the light from the corridor illuminating his face and shadowy darkness around him. I remember wanting their to be more light on the other side. I remember wanting to be able to see him clearly--to see not only light on his face but to see hope and freedom on his face.

I remember wanting to rip that thick steel door off its hinges and let the light come flooding in.

Some of the youth I work with in my new job come to us for court ordered classes. Most of them have minor offenses and debts to society they are working off through community service and anger management classes and the like.

Often when I meet with one of these kids for the first time, I tell them for homework to go home, write down their transgression on a sheet of paper and then rip it up or bury it or burn it or cut it up or do something to destroy. Something really destructive and violent. And then when they've done that thing to tell themselves, it's in the past and it's time to deal with the consequences and move on and move towards their dreams.

I tell them this because I can see the shame in their body language and in their eyes a need to be forgiven, a need to forgive themselves, a need not to carry their transgression around with them anymore.

But I think how they find that forgiveness has to be violent. The emotion--the shame, the fear, the pain, the guilt--it has to be ripped out of them.

For these youth and for us who are emotional or mental or physical captives, it's the "impossible, audacious prayers" for forgiveness and homecoming answered in a complete tearing away of the old that give us a new, extraordinary opportunity to be new and wiser creations.

Freedom for the captives is a violent proclamation that rips and tears and makes new.


Read other posts in this series:
Proclaiming Good News to the Poor
Binding Up the Brokenhearted

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

It's the How You Get There

I've been wanting to write another post about perseverance for a few weeks now, but I just haven't been able to. (I know...there's a really good joke in there somewhere.)

I guess the problem is perseverance is such a ridiculously hard thing to put into words.

We all know what it is. We all know it's pushing through and keeping on keeping on and all those cliches, but taking it past the cliches to a deeper more robust meaning--the deeper more robust meaning we all know it has--well, I've found it's just plain difficult.

Checking into what those really intelligent, New Testament, Jesus follower types said, did not clear up the matter for me:

Paul said of perseverance that "sufferings" produce it and it in turn produces "character" and "hope" (Romans 5:3-4).

James said it was not only suffering but trials and faith testings that produce it. And then goes on to say perseverance has a work to "finish" so we can be "mature" and "complete" (James 1:2-4).

And Peter, he said we add it to self-control which was added to knowledge which was added to goodness which was added to faith. After all those first sums, we're then to add godliness to perseverance and to godliness mutual affection and to mutual affection love (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Um, guys...what the heck? Could you be about as clear as mud? I got lost somewhere in the causation and found myself in the effect and I was actually looking for the what it looks like and the how you do it?

Why perseverance?

Because perseverance is this year's theme. It's the character trait I said at the beginning of the year I wanted most to pursue and learn about and become more of.

And, um, well, that was obviously a silly thing to ask God to teach me about.

Okay, maybe not a silly thing because I really do want to be a person whose known for her perseverance. But as usual with my yearly themes I think I know at the beginning of the year how those lessons will play out, and they never play out the way I think they will.

It seemed appropriate at the time. After all, pursuing adopting Hannah seemed like it would be a really good opportunity to learn about perseverance--and it has been. But the hoops I've jumped through and the hoops I'm jumping through and the hoops I see coming up next weren't the expected hoops. Higher and fierier and turned at odd angles and just plain hard to jump through without a stepladder and a few additional acrobats on hand.

I keep finding myself throwing my head back, looking up in the sky and saying to the cosmos, "Seriously, God. I mean seriously?"

There's been everything from the utter ridiculous to the ire-inspiring to the just plain annoying to the just try and tell me I can't.

A year and a half in, I truthfully feel I know less about persevering than when I began. Which does two things to me:

It makes me want to huff and puff and whine a bit more.

And it makes me want to go all linebacker and do whatever it takes to sack the quarterback.

About a month ago, I took a look at the ever-increasing pile of waist yarn from various projects over the years, and I decided I really needed to do something about it before I bought any new yarn.

Want the pattern? You can find it here.
I found a pattern for one of those handy, reusable grocery bags and decided this would be the perfect project. Recycling yarn and avoiding using up precious oil resources on plastic bags--two birds, one stone--somebody give me a pat on the back. And bonus, it was a knit pattern rather than a crochet pattern so I'd get to work on my new hobby and further develop my skills.

That bonus turned out to be a bigger bonus than I planned. Lots of unraveling. Lots of starting over. Lots and lots of re-winding balls of yarn and untangling knots.

In the end, I have a lumpy, over-sized bag because I used too weighty of a yarn--not what the pattern called for. It looks alright, but I'll never be able to use it for groceries because it's way too big.

No doubt there was a lot of perseverance that went into it--a lot of unraveling and re-knitting. A lot.

But the piece is not what I envisioned. It's not the perfectly cute bag from the picture on the pattern and it does not serve the purpose it was designed to serve. I'm sure I'll find some other purpose for it or I'll give it to someone who will, but it doesn't change the slight irk of having it not be what I envisioned.

But I persevered.

I suppose, maybe after all, I'm learning perseverance is less about the getting there and more about the how you get there--the what kind of person are you while you're pressing through.

Are you a whiner? A moper? An overzealous Pollyanna? A what will be will be sort? A got to do it all yourselfer? A do it all for me sort? An ignorer? An eat a lot or shopping spree or an over-exerciser kind?

Do others know you for persevering well--for showing character and hope and godliness and mutual affection and love?

I hope others are seeing in me the latter more often than the former options, but I know I've been those too. And I know I will be those again and again this year and in years to come.

I really want persevering to be about the end goal. I want it to be about Hannah home forever, legally mine. And it is to an extent, but I'm finding perseverance is much more about the who I am in the middle of the persevering and the whose I am and the how I choose to reflect that to others.

I started a second bag this weekend with less weighty yarn. So far, I think this one will turn out closer to the original pattern and will serve the designed purpose. And I guess that's the other thing I'm learning, when we give up or don't get it quite right the first time, we can always start again.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Sunday Servings: Strawberries and Cream Scones

Baking is an act of generosity. It is love and kindness and sorrow and hope baked into a loaf of generosity. Sunday Servings is an attempt to spread the generosity a little further by sharing stories and recipes. If you would like to share your own story or recipe, please do so in the comments section or tweet ideas to @AmandaEPeterson.


My favorite store bought scones come from Dogtooth Coffee Company just north of downtown Colorado Springs and very close to my old basement apartment on Wood Avenue.

Some of my best memories of living in Colorado take place in the autumny brisk air on the walk from my apartment to Dogtooth--the trees dressed in splendor of reds and oranges and yellows and the faint smell of coffee roast growing ever stronger as I draw nearer.

A bottomless cup of coffee and a warm buttery scone baked fresh that morning.

It was the perfect place for a little writing, reading or catching up with a friend.

Photo credit ColoradoConnection.com

I've thought a lot this week about Dogtooth and my other favorite Colorado Springs hangouts--Jack Quinn's and Kimball's and the Manitou Incline and Poor Richard's and Garden of the Gods and Phantom Canyon and my quirky basement apartment with it's iron 1909 water pipes you had to duck under to avoid a nasty headache and it's hobbit-height doorknobs. I've thought of these places as I've scrolled through pictures on Facebook and tweets for aid and prayer. I've thought of these places as I've watched a different kind of splendor of reds and oranges and yellows light up the mountains against the night sky on tiny screens that simply don't do justice to what my friends have seen firsthand. I've thought of these places and prayed for Colorado Springs and the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Working a community outreach event this weekend, I wanted to bake a special treat for all of us who were giving up our Saturday to be there and to do a little PR for child abuse prevention and our organization. I came across these scones a few weeks ago on Smitten Kitchen (if you are a foody, Smitten Kitchen is a must read), and I had been waiting for the right opportunity to try them out.

Biting into one, hot out of the oven, I was for a moment back at Dogtooth and in the quiet and hope and healing Colorado had been for me. I was wrapped in the smell of fresh brewing coffee and ever so chilled by the fresh autumn breeze. I was with my friends around a small table sharing stories and life and good things.

Colorado Springs and the lives of my friends there have been set aglow in the shadow of a fiery mountain this week and the road to recovery will be long and painful.

It's been wonderful to see a glimpse of the community coming together to care for the evacuated and the now homeless and those whose lives have been forever changed. An amazing testimony to community and neighborliness and kindheartedness. And I'm thankful I once called a community like that home.

Colorado Springs, my friends there and everyone you love--you are in my heart and my prayers as you now begin to pick up the charred pieces and find healing and hope.

Strawberries and Cream Scones

Check out the original recipe on
Smitten Kitchen


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped, very ripe strawberries*
  • 1 cup heavy cream 


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in butter with knives or a pastry blender, breaking it up until the mixture resembles a crumbly meal with tiny chunks of butter. Gently stir in strawberries, so that they are coated in the dry ingredients, then stir in heavy cream. When mixed, knead once or twice in bowl to create one lump of dough. Do not overwork.
  3. Generously flour counter. Transfer dough to counter, generously flour the top and with hands or rolling pin, gently press or roll dough out to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2-inch circles with a floured biscuit cutter or top edge of a drinking glass, pressing straight down as you cut (do not twist). Carefully transfer scones to prepared baking sheet, leaving a couple inches between each. Re-roll scraps of dough, cut and transfer. Dough will be more wet as strawberries have released more of their juice.
  4. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until bronzed at the edges and strawberry juices are trickling out of the biscuits in places. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


*Hand picked berries or those from a farmer's market will melt better than those from a supermarket as they are more fragile.