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A Little Turn

If you’re sagging a bit today, grab your journal and write down all the things in your life that bring you joy. If you can’t think of anything, consider what could bring you joy if you just tried it.

Maybe you need a new hobby or a new routine. What about trying to grow something, learning photography, taking a new route on a walk, or cooking a new meal? What about trying something new just for fun? Maybe you get a gym membership and start swimming. Maybe you start to write a novel. Maybe you join a group in your community like a book club, a knitting group, or a hiking group.

Think of trying something new like you’re turning the kaleidoscope of your life just a bit. Even the tiniest change makes the whole view transform into a brand new beautiful thing. That change in your life might bring you to a new friend or a new experience that will flood your heart with joy.

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To Handle the Cold

We finally invested in a nice electric blanket. Last night, we turned on the blanket 15 minutes before bedtime. Heaven! Warmth! It was the coziest, most wonderful feeling to go to bed without freezing cold sheets.

I think we’ll save money on our heating bill, and I also believe we’ll enjoy a better bedtime routine. With temperatures in the teens and the icy wind howling outside, we’ll enjoy the warmth of our electric blanket all throughout the winter.

Sometimes small modifications bring so much joy and add to healthy rituals. I cannot wait for bedtime!

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A Nostalgic Little Gift

Yesterday, I thought about books from my childhood. When I arrived to the English Department at Penn State today, a professor who studies folklore surprised me with a late Christmas present:

I couldn’t believe it! I told her that I loved this book as a child, and she found a copy for me. What a lovely, nostalgic gift to return to my fascination with gnomes as a girl.

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A Winter Soup I Adore–Button Soup or “Knoephla”

I recently learned about Button Soup–a traditional German soup you might find in North and South Dakota and Minnesota. It’s also called Knoephla Soup (pronounced neh-fla). It’s the perfect winter soup. My husband and I both went back for a second bowl, and I heated up the leftovers for lunch today. You will love it!

I used this recipe from the Food Network, but I made my own modifications to save time. Essentially, this is a vegetable dumpling soup! It’s called button soup because the traditional dumplings (when made from scratch) look like little buttons. Check out the Food Network’s recipe to learn how to make the dumplings if you don’t want to use the refrigerator dough. Here’s my recipe:

Button Soup

3 tablespoons butter

2 large carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 large onion, chopped,

Salt and Pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

10 cups vegetable stock

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon dried parsley (or 4 sprigs fresh, chopped)

1 teaspoon dried dill (or 2 sprigs fresh, chopped)

2 bay leaves

1 pound red or fingerling potatoes chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onions, a good pinch of salt and a few turns of pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 more minutes.

Next, stir in the stock, herbs, bay leaves and potatoes. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then cover and cook for 40 minutes, but set another timer for 20 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, open a can of refrigerator biscuits. I used Wegmans. Cut each round of biscuit dough into four pieces. When the 20 minute timer goes off, add the dough to the soup pot, cover, and cook everything for the last 20 minutes. When there’s a minute left, add in the heavy cream and any more salt or pepper you’d like. Enjoy!

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If You Ask

I’m noticing all the asking in the book of Matthew. It’s not the verb that stumps me, though. It’s the word “faith.” In particular, it’s this verse from Matthew 21: “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

I’ve been thinking about what it means to have this prayer-answering faith and how to increase my faith.

I know that God assigns a certain measure of faith to people (Romans 12) but that our faith can grow (2 Thessalonians 1:3). I know that our faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). I know faith is something given by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9). I know, most importantly that Jesus is the “founder and perfecter” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We look to Jesus and our faith grows. Faith also grows in the good deeds we do (James 2:17). I know our faith is tested so it might grow (1 Peter 1:7).

As I think about growing my faith in prayer specifically, I thank God for giving me the Bible to help my faith grow. I thank God for the trials and opportunities to serve that help faith grow. I look more and more at Jesus and see my faith grow. It seems that every situation becomes an opportunity to help our faith grow. What a different way to see our situation!

I pray God increases our faith in prayer. May we say at the end of January that it was a month our faith in prayer grew. 

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Staying In

I thought I would venture out in the beautiful snow, but it’s a mere 18 degrees. I know for some of my more northern friends, this might feel warm. But for me, at least today, I stay bundled under quilts in the warmth of my upstairs office. It’s an evening to watch the snow, not walk it in.

Once, a younger me had no problem throwing on all the layers to go out in the snow. An older me weighs her options and decides to stay warm for once. It’s just a small thing I notice about aging. You do indeed mind the cold more. That’s OK.

Maybe tomorrow.

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In Winter

I talk to my friend about what it means to become like a child in winter. Here in Pennsylvania, we’re expecting a big storm tomorrow–maybe up to 10 inches of snow! I felt a little dread. I longed for the beach. I shivered in my thermal coat. But then, just when I felt the dreariness of grey skies, icy sidewalks, and bitter cold, I remembered to become like a child.

For children, snow means absolute delight outside: skating, sledding, building snowmen, making snow angels, designing snow forts, and turning the woods into a winter wonderland.

And it’s not only a season for being outside. Being inside in wintertime means the coziness of hot chocolate with plenty of whipped cream, the warmth of a kitchen with soup on the stove, and the sanctuary feeling of a home with candles to light, books to read, and blankets to arrange with room for cats to join you. It’s a slower, contemplative time. One day, I might have a fireplace! Until then, I can watch the snowfall as the sun sets in the forest.

I’m looking forward to a few things including snowflake photography, winter hikes, and skating on Colyer Lake. I’m looking forward to walking in my boots with my YakTrax and returning to hot chocolate. And this week, I’ll make a vegetable dumpling soup. In other news, my husband and I decided we might try an electric blanket to heat the cold bed at night. He wants to learn cross-country skiing this year, too.

When God has you in a certain location, you surrender to it. You realize all the joyful things in store for you right where you are. Sure, I think about my friends in Florida sometimes, but then I remember my particular calling to a season of snow. I fall back into it and wave my arms to make the angels—who were always there—appear. 

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Like Children

This morning I read in Mathew 18 when Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

And what is a like child like? In my journal, I write down some key characteristics of a child: utterly dependent, trusting, joyful, resilient.

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Peter and His Fish

In my study of Matthew, I find myself drawn again to the passage in Matthew 17 where it’s time to pay temple taxes. Jesus engages Peter with a line of questioning essentially telling Peter that children of God don’t necessarily have to pay the temple tax, but they should. And then the most curious thing happens: Jesus says, “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Jesus uses the ordinary things of Peter’s life: the lake, the fishing line, the fish. Peter knows all about these things. The lake and fish are his whole life before Jesus calls him to follow Him. But this time? Something whimsical and miraculous happens. The fish Peter will catch will contain the tax money they need in his mouth. Think about it. Did Jesus command the fish to swim to the bottom of the lake and retrieve a coin? Did Jesus make a coin miraculously appear in the mouth of the fish? If so, why not just hand Peter the coin at the beginning? Why make him go fishing? 

It makes me wonder if God kept needing to teach Peter this new way of kingdom living with Him. It will always involve the miraculous and supernatural alongside the ordinary things of life. It will always involve provision and power in ways we aren’t expecting. I also notice that Peter had to obey God to see the miracle. He had to go fishing–something probably at this point mundane and boring to him. Sometimes, I’m learning, the miracle comes where we’re just doing ordinary things. To the outsider (and even to ourselves), we’re just going about the day. But the whole time, God is behind the scenes and about to do something extraordinary.

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Small Little Investment

Today I decided to eat a big salad with just about every vegetable we had in the refrigerator. It was an investment in myself. Maybe I’ll try to eat a salad every day.

With the holidays finally over, I’m still attempting to remember a life without sugar, without all the goodies, and without all the rich food. There’s another life I could live–the one with vegetables and water and whole foods. In that world, I feel better; I sleep better; I look better; I think better.

I love both worlds, but it’s time to live a life with vegetables again. At least until next December.

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