If you do one thing well. . .

it should be something that brings wholeness and healing.  And what brings wholeness and healing more consistently than soup?

I ask you.

Now that you have given that questions some thought, let’s take a little excursion back in time. . .

“I am making soup!” I exclaimed to the checkout lady as she scanned my carrots, celery, onion and chicken broth. “Soup is like a warm hug on a cold day,” she replied, profoundly.

This conversation happened 5 years and countless pots of soup ago.  But who can forget such a true statement?  Not this girl.

Today, I would like to recommend Butternut Squash Soup.

Reasons that you should make this:

  1. Wholeness and healing people!  Geez.
  2. Butternut Squash is in season, so it is cheap
  3. Tastes creamy like it has a milk base with thousands of calories.  But it doesn’t! Pretty much magic!
  4. Warm, rich, inviting soup that you can share with your friends or family
  5. It smells gorgeous- check it out!IMG_0113.JPGIMG_0114.JPGIMG_0115.JPGIMG_0117.JPG

TRICKS (to be aware of before getting started):

  1. Prepping the butternut squash- don’t do it!  Cook it whole.  When you can stick a fork in it, it’s done.  300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours should do it (Or 400 for an hour, flipping it over at 30 min).  Then let it cool.  Cut/ peel skin off.  Cut in half, take seeds out and dice.  Takes less than 10 minutes to do two. Yes, I saved you a half an hour AND sore wrists!
  2. Better Than Bouillon IS actually better than bouillon.  It seems pricey, but lasts a LONG time and is delicious!
  3. Chicken broth.  Aldi has 32 oz boxes of Organic AND free range chicken broth.  On a good day, it is only $1.79.  Can’t even get the generic with-everything version for this price anywhere else!
  4. The curry is important on this, trust me.  The recipe doesn’t call for too much so that it takes over the flavor.  It just gives it a roundness that you can’t get without it. And you want yellow, not red.
  5. Below is the doubled version because it is that good.  Also, it freezes SUPER well. When it is cool, I fill (high quality, also important detail) quart size freezer bags and let all of the air out. Then I lay them flat on a cutting board in the freezer.  This way, I can stack them upright (like books on a bookshelf) once they are completely frozen.

Butternut Squash Soup

4 TBSP good butter

One large onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

8 medium carrots, chopped

2 medium butternut squash

2 cloves garlic, pressed

2, 32 oz chicken stocks

1 tsp Better Than Bouillon chicken bouillon

1 1/2 tsp yellow curry

1/4 tsp nice Hungarian paprika (DON’T use smoked )

salt and pepper to taste

pinch cayenne pepper (be attentive here, a little goes a LONG way)

  1. Cook butternut squash (if not a masochist, do it my way)
  2. Melt butter in a big pan.  Add veggies and cook for 5 min or until lightly browned.
  3. Cover with chicken stock and bullion.  Cook until fork inserted shows that they are done (!).
  4. Peel and cube the butternut squash, add it when veggies are cooked.
  5. Put one-two inches of chicken broth in the bottom of your blender, then add several scoops of vegetable mixture over top.  Begin blending.  Add chicken broth as necessary.  ****BEWARE****  Hot things in the blender are dangerous to your welfare. Be careful for the sake of your face.
  6. Get a good-sized, empty soup pan.  Empty blended portions into the pot.  Once all blended portions are added, stir together.  Add spices and taste.  Add more chicken broth if you want it to be thinner.  If it doesn’t have enough flavor I would add a little bit more salt to draw it out.
  7. Enjoy!

 

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This recipe brought to you via. . . I don’t know who.  Probably the internet.  Luckily for me, I make so many changes to recipes that the originator can no longer recognize it as their own.  Yay!

Please try this.  Then I expect a full report!

 

 

 

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Sparkles and. . .

Yesterday I felt backed into a corner and I didn’t like it.  Mostly, I feel strongly about corners.  And even more strongly about those with “Dismiss me” flashing overhead in neon lights.

My co-therapist and I had just finished a family session with a Mom and Dad who are really struggling with each other. There was shouting.  Many “always” and “nevers.” So many.  They pierced like arrows.  After awhile they collected into piles, formed groups and created banners for their respective sides.  They chanted and cheered.  Depending on your stance it was either exciting, an intense nail-biter, or ulcer inducing.

Regardless, I brought my game.  My game flows through my warm, attachment-rich personality. It flows through sparkles and humor.  But not in a Pollyana-ish, patronizing way. It flows through an in-tune-ness that picks up underlying emotions and patterns of relating. And emotions that people didn’t even know were there.  And an internal sense of what those emotions (level of brokenness, hurt, etc.) mean for the other.

And there it is, how I do therapy.  On purpose.  And it involves a significant amount of skin in the game. My skin.

Tonight, at the end of the session the Dad was like, “You are pretty much a kindergarten teacher.”  Once he caught the look on my face he clarified, “That was a compliment.” The Dad said his thing, then clarified its benevolent meaning, then moved on.  And yet, there is this place in me that still smarts over that language.

What I heard: Demeaning of delight.  The jaded adult who is “above” soaking in beauty, creation, wonder.  Who considers these things childish.  And hope as naive.  And uses back-handed compliments that allow him to dismiss me.  This has happened just enough times, unanswered, that my heart automatically goes there.  Be that his intent or not. It returns to the place of belittling and dismissal.

So this morning I was chatting with God about it. There is always growing for me to do regarding healthy boundaries, plenty of growing.  So I am trying to check in with God. Questions I asked: “Why do I let words matter to me so much? and “What truth do I need to hold onto in order to battle this?” In the mean time, longing for God to just go ahead and put some alligator skin over my heart.  Then I wouldn’t ever feel raw or pushed. I would not care what anyone said.  I would be badass.  How I long for badass-ness!

But that was not this morning’s conclusion.  This morning’s conclusion had to do with gratefulness.

Wherein it struck me all at once, “Yes, I am like a kindergarten teacher. Alive!  Excited! Wanting to ask questions until I am questioned out. Getting caught up in moments. Yielding to wonder and delight.  Noticing people.  Then noticing their progress!  Then celebrating it!  Victory is everywhere people (defeat is too, and that is why it is so IMPORTANT to celebrate the victories)!

There it is. I have the perky personality of the quintessential kindergarten teacher.

But you know what else?

I AM a skilled clinician.  I do not leave suffering people alone.  I can sit with them.  Bad behavior?  I can sit with that too.  And I can see.  Into it, beyond it.  Into the murky places where the pain started and where the behaviors made sense.  My curiosity seeks out the motivations.  My empathy feels the truth of why.  And I strive. . . to connect with people.  To draw them deeper into themselves.  And not fear the ground in there.  And even grow to appreciate it.  And ultimately, to invite safe others inside that hallowed ground. Even God.  Especially God.

The sparkles of Kindergarten? Resounding “YES!”  The insight of a trained clinician?  Also, “YES.”

So I accept the compliment. . . more than that.    I see the compliment and I raise it!

Down with corners!

I take the compliment with joy and raise my hand to a God who can bring the warmth and sparkle together with insight and hope.  Thanks God, it’s a good fit for this dark world.  I say, “Amen!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loved back!

Once, a long time ago, I had a job at the library at Geneva College.  God’s hand was ABSOLUTELY in the inception and continuation of this employment opportunity.  And now I look back. . .

Inception:  I moved to Beaver Falls Pennsylvania to earn my graduate degree in counseling. This was a BIG step into my future.  At 16 years old, I said that being a counselor was what I wanted to do.  Fast forward 20 years.  Still considering, fighting lies and NOT seeing the skies part, the sun shining down or hearing the audible voice of God. Yet my heart was irrepressibly drawn to act on it’s desire.  And doors kept opening.  So I came.

After getting adjusted to my first semester and having a very sparse nanny-ing job I thought it was time to look for work that would pay (at least some of) my expenses.  I started praying about this seriously and I got a phone call from the admission counselor in my program.  She said she just heard about a graduate assistant opening at the library on campus.  She said, “Take action right now!”  I did.  And within a week I was hired!

At the time, this absolutely seemed like a match made in heaven.  I consider books art. And I consider good art a vehicle that God uses to express truth.  One that short-circuits our defensive logic.  Then it speaks truth and healing.

I have experienced it.  So I believe it.  My perspective lends itself to feeling romantically towards libraries.  Art, truth, healing, learning and empowering ourselves to act in a broken world. . . all in one building. . .where like-minded people come together. . .  Sigh. . .

Continuation: Then school was really hard.  The fall semester of my second year was approaching.  In which my library job would shift from being mornings 15 hours a week to 20 hours a week 8-midnight shift.  I was taking a full course load of graduate classes (4) and working 15 hours a week at the counseling center on campus.  This would make for 3, 12-14 hour days in my week.  Going to bed at 1 am and counseling students at 9 am the next morning.  I knew I couldn’t do it.  So I asked the library what would happen if it was too much for me.  Could someone else take one of the nights?  No.  In fact, if I anticipated this, would I please decline the job so that someone else could do all of it?

Enter praying, praying, praying and seeking wisdom.  Again, I didn’t feel like I heard strongly from God.  No angels singing.  No audible voice.  But maybe somewhere deep down a, “It’s going to be okay.”  And it seemed wise to have a paying job.  So, with trepidation,  I let the library know I wanted to stay.  With no cushion.  I NEEDED to do it, EVERY night.

Enter the midnight shift.  There I was, having these days where I doubted that I could string together a complete sentence.  Where I was anxious over how far I was behind on my school work, where I had no time to reflect on what happened in my day before engaging the next thing. I was exhausted!  Heavy footed, I clomped over the the library. And tried.  Many of those nights I was tense.  But probably more often I got slap-happy or curious about someone’s research, or desiring to lend a sympathetic ear, or to pray, or to give them prizes or to cheer them on.  So I did.  And this became my zone.  To just use this time to REALLY care about the students.  To love.  To give.

This is the first year that my heart was full on mother’s day.  I had more kids than anyone that I knew!  And I loved them pretty well.

Fast forward 2 semesters and 4 months.  Graduation past, degree completed.  40 hour a week counseling job.

And the students came back to campus!  I invited them over for a party at my house, longing to hear their stories from the summer.  Longing to hug them. But it was a little bit vulnerable for me, because I was just a library worker.  Would they want to come over and visit, sacrifice their time?  Time together, not a happy accident, but on purpose?

They did!  And it filled a place in my heart.  All that time, all those months where I was barely making it, sucking wind, but wanting to care and caring.  All that time, THEY were caring back. They were loving back.  And I was loved.  In their listening, sharing in my joy, accepting small gifts, and coming along for wild research rides!  These, each of these, was (unrecognized) love.

And it washed over me, the sense of God’s goodness in this thing.  This thing.  The anticipation of which made my stomach knot and my anxiety spike. This thing with all of its impossibility.  The thing that God went before me in.  Where he spoke life into my days through students.  Through being loved back.  Whether I knew it or not.

God bless us with eyes to see, presence to soak these moments in, and memory to celebrate these times– the loved back ones!