A Seriously Excellent Excuse to Slow Down

Food shared around a table can bring some of the most healing and healthy moments to a soul. It is not necessarily the food that matters. The friendship, conversation, and laughter around our tables provide energy and encouragement to engage in the life we were meant to live. I believe it that strongly…and I believe there is research to back up the power of this intimate time.

Though the food doesn’t necessarily matter it sure is nice when it is delicious. I decided to try a brand new meal out on some friends we have known for a long time. It felt like risky business. This could go terribly wrong. And then we would just be eating salad–because it is difficult to mess that up. But I trusted my fellow foodie who shared the recipe and we forged ahead. Oh and by the by, did I mention the recipe included an uncomfortably large volume of onions? I don’t even LIKE onions. But I like food with flavor and these were promising a caramelized taste and I do like carmel and so we went with it! I went on the heavy side of seasoning and heat and decided to add this kale salad…it sweetened the spicy meal a bit…but in only the best possible way.

Because it just isn’t very nice to keep things this great to yourself…I am going to share the whole meal and hope you find the courage to try it. It is not a week night meal–or at least it isn’t in our house. The caramelizing and cooking of the lentils took at least an hour but because I didn’t want to burn them or cook them too fast, it probably took closer to an hour and a half to caramelize my onions. Years ago someone told me you spell LOVE…T I M E. This is a meal made with love…and you have been warned…don’t get angry at the chopping or length of cooking cause love takes time.

Moving forward are Jen Hatmaker’s words describing her Sweet Potato Lentil Bowls. She will guide you through how she cooks this…I personally think the recipe is pretty forgiving…so just go with it.

Sweet Potato Lentil Bowls

1 bag of brown lentils

2 cups of rice (I like basmati here)

8 cups of veggie stock

5 sweet onions

2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

Olive oil Spices: Cumin Cinnamon, Curry powder Cayenne Plain Greek yogurt for serving Chopped cilantro for serving

So basically, this is all to taste, and I am reluctant to tell you how much spice I add because it will seem irresponsible. We like spicy food, okay? Rinse and sort your lentils. Over medium heat in a pot, sauté a chopped onion and 2-3 cloves chopped garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the spices in any quantity that makes sense for your tribe and stir for about a minute (maybe a tsp of each for normal people?). Add the lentils and toss to coat. Add around four cups of veggie stock, cover and reduce heat to low, and cook for around an hour.

Slice up all your onions. Four will cook down so much, so don’t be scared of the enormous pile of raw onions you just amassed. In a large skillet on LOW HEAT (all caps means I am yelling), add a healthy pour of olive oil, all your onions, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir periodically and cook down for around an hour. This will turn into a sweet, carmelized pile of deliciousness that could stand alone as the whole meal if you ask my opinion, which you basically did by reading this. Peel and cube your sweet potatoes, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, and some of the same spices you used in the lentils, and roast at 375 for around 45 minutes. Cook your rice according to package directions. I like to use stock instead of water so the rice tastes like something. One part rice to two parts liquid. Plus salt! Oh my word. Unsalted rice is such cause for weeping. Layer it all up: rice, lentils, sweet potatoes, carmelized onions, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro. You could also add chopped peanuts because it is a free country. My kids pick and choose their bowl layers, but I am here to tell you that somehow every single layer together makes the magic. A couple of my kids leave off the yogurt, and their lives are the lesser for it. Leftovers are delicious the next day, and no one will even realize you served them a totally healthy vegan dinner.

Okay it’s me–Jenni again…

(Thanks for this photo…http://www.mamabirdnest.com/…I didn’t take a photo…mine was not as beautiful as this dish…but to be sure…the food tasted better than this looks.) 

I don’t know how your heart is…or how your much you are needing a slow night to be with your family or a few close friends…but this meal will give you a great excuse to do it.

Enjoy! 

May You Be a Blessing and May You Nourish Your Body and Soul…

Jenni

The Scariest Day of My Life…part 3 IS COMING…

When one sets out to tell a story her fingers move quickly across the keyboard. One word after the other strings together…especially if the story is familiar. In this case…a true story…lodged in my memory…waiting to be written.

Very few people (even close friends and family) know this story because it takes so long to properly tell. I reserve this story for long cross country car rides, or times when we have lost electricity and are looking to swap scary stories in the dark. It is a story that fills time. I shared this story with a friend I met in Uganda…because we had time…loads of time.

It is also a story that takes time to type. Our family is at Windy Gap…one of the most magical places on earth. My job here is to love my family well, support Chris, and connect and care for college girls serving on the summer staff. I love my job. In my free time I am reading and writing and doing a bit of yoga. This week I have been doing quite a bit of writing.

When I started typing my scary story I had a large chunk of time, but the more I began to put it on paper, the more I remembered this story is one that takes extensive time to tell properly! I have begun the 3rd installment and I have blocked off several hours this afternoon/evening to finish the project.

I have been humbled by your enthusiasm and interest in this story. Be looking for an entry late tonight or early tomorrow morning for the final installment of “The Scariest Day of My Life”…

…it is coming as fast as I can type it.

 

 

 

Brownies, Boy Scouts and the Big Dance

 

Has anyone ever made you feel stupid? Or extremely small?

As an adult in those circumstances, I roll my eyes on the inside. I realize the person making me feel small is probably hurting far worse than they made me feel. I mentally place my hand on my shoulder and dust it off. But sometimes that person is from our past and our memories are more inked in. The words are on a permanent feedback loop. Or sometimes, like me, you suppress those mean messages right up until they randomly  fall out of your head. Continue reading

The Unveiling

For as long as I can remember I have been enamored with survivor stories. I read their autobiographies, watch their movies, and re-tell their tales. When I encounter a survivor up close and personal…I squeeze out every detail of their story in an attempt to learn their secret. How does one endure the unthinkable? Did you ever lose hope? Did you blame God?  How is your heart now? I am intoxicated by each individual narrative. I find hope from their healing. These people have become my life heroes.

 Much like super heroes, survivor heroes, are given the choice to demonstrate their “pain powers” for good or for evil. They can live their experience; grow, and eventually turn their pain in to passion. These are the super heroes I follow, they are the ones I cannot get enough of…they inspire me. If a survivor’s pain powers are not used for good he can fall in to cavernous traps of bitterness. He might adopt patterns passed down while simultaneously inflicting pain upon others. The most popular option in our culture is for the survivor to hide her pain history. Not one of us is superwoman, navigating life’s roughest storms without a single scratch. Or if this woman exists, she and I aren’t friends. I steer clear because she doesn’t do wonders for my self-esteem, nor do I find her life very interesting. I guess she should be, with the whole flying capabilities and red cape, but she is cliché. And quite honestly, I live with a low level of annoyance toward those putting up appearances of perfection—real or imagined. There’s only One perfect one. Now sweet pea, remove the cloak of invisibility and wear your wounds on the outside, and we can grab some coffee. Tell me your tale, describe the mystery and miracle behind your survival story and we will be best friends forever.

Writing has been a survival tool for me over the past 18 months. Words on paper placed in the hands of others has given me courage. In the midst of the pain process…I am finding my most honest and real words bring the most healing. While at the beach transitioning from Uganda to the United States, I found Nature was speaking very loudly and I was doing my best to listen. I recorded some of those messages in the form of essays and realized they might be worth sharing with others. I hope my mini memoir: OCEANS BETWEEN US  might bring you (or someone you love) a bit of encouragement as we travel together down this winding road called life. 

(You can download your free e-book of Oceans Between Us by clicking on the sidebar.) 

Grateful to be on this journey with you.

…There are more adventures to come.

Jenni 

 

Out of the Sweatpants Phase

I was about a decade behind on the Friends phenomenon that took over the western world. As a Young Life leader I spent every Thursday night with my Apex High School friends. Friends was pre-DVR, therefore I never got in on the witty banter and coffeehouse camaraderie until I started having babies. As a mom with 3 itty bittys I found myself looking for a 20 minute mental break. Friends was the perfect past time. To this day, I quote Friends in any and all relevant life circumstances. Last week I wrote my Friends’ friends to enthusiastically alert them I was out of the sweat pants phase!  For those of you who know of Chandler’s post break up depression, you know it is a very real phase that one must go through. After taking a much needed time out this past weekend–Chris said, “Jenni, you’ve done some real good thinkin.” (This was Joey’s response to Chandler being banned to a box for 6 hours.)

Chris was right though, I have done some “real good thinkin” over the past few days…over the past month even. My head and heart are less hazy, angry and dark. Colors appear brighter, my heart feels lighter, and I am far more hopeful about the future. Ask me to bust in to out a few lines of, “It is Well with My Soul,” and we might have to put a pin in it…but I am certain I could hum a bar or two.

What has made the difference?

Sticky note reminders: I received two notes within the past week from old Young Life friends. They are two very different young women with two very different stories. Each shared how my faith and friendship made some small difference in their world. One friend went as far as to scan a letter I had penned 16 years ago reminding herno matter how hard and painful life becomes–there is a God who loves her. She was now (unintentionally) throwing my words back at me. I wondered…did I really mean what I wrote? Did I have any idea how hard or ugly life circumstances could get? I think somewhere deep inside I did, but we all need reminders.

The prayers of My People are legit. Sometimes things can only be moved forward through prayer. No doubt in my stuck, stubbornness it is the prayers of the saints (aka: my busted, broken, but wonderful friends) that have moved things down the field. You know who you are…for real…thanks.

Books (the Book and the mentors I mentioned earlier) are speaking loudly to me. One author, who speaks about God in ways I hardly thought possible without a lightening bolt to the forehead; likened his experience of silence from God to a door that had been bolted and double locked on the inside. His questions were so cutting and cold that it made my doubts look and feel lamb-like. I needed an advocate, giving permission to ask the hard questions–instead of stuffing it or falling off the faith cliff.

During my time of “real good thinkin” I found Lewis’ words especially interesting,

“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But rather a special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’ 

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask–half our great theological and metaphysical problems–are like that.”  C.S.Lewis  A Grief Observed

No amount of thinking will fully get my heart unstuck. Yellow is not square nor round. The circumstances surrounding our story this side of heaven won’t likely make sense.

The silence has broken and recently messages of His presence in my life and in the lives of those I love are emerging.

The gap between my heart and God’s had become tremendous. I am certain He remained close–but for me–it felt like there were oceans between us. The healing over the past few days and weeks has been nothing short of miraculous. It is not a coincidence that God re-routed us to the beach for the past month. My most spiritual moments unfold at sea. I began to compile my mental notes and messages. Writing has always been therapy for me. While kicking and screaming…I have been writing. While praying and reading…I have been writing. I have placed some of these words in to a mini memoir of sorts. I am going to put it in to ebook form to share with you. It will be my gift of gratitude for your willingness to stick with our story, for following our epic adventure, even when it didn’t end awesome–and for putting up with my many tantrums along the way.

In the sweatpants phase on Friends you do a lot of moping, crying and eating of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. If you are me, you roll your eyes a lot. You scowl, and kick things. You question what went wrong. Staying stuck in this phase leaves you fat, angry, and not super fun to be around. I am thrilled to have shed the sweatpants and moved on to the next phase.

I don’t know what this next phase has in store but I am pretty sure it entails attempting to live life palms up:

Palms up means you have nothing to hide and nothing to gain or lose. Palms up means you are strong enough to be vulnerable, even with your enemies. Even when you have been tremendously wronged.  Bob Goff

Sweatpants are off.

Bring on the next phase.

Palms up.

 

May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,

Jenni

 

 

 

 

All I Do Is Win

Where are you friend?  

Is a loved one sick?  Is your marriage turbulent?  Annoyed with your neighbors or in-laws or both?  Are you ready for change but there are no opportunities in sight?  Are you exhausted from trying to keep up with the Jones’?  Are you longing for the past…wishing things were where they were before?  Are you experiencing mommy myths saying you have to be super mom?  Are your expectations too high or too low?  Are you tired of waiting for prince charming to enter the scene?  Is work boring, is your boss riding you, or are you working a dead end job?  Are you tired of the same ole same ole?  Are you exhausted from one bump in the road after another?  Are you living in a foreign country with no clear plan or opportunity to go home?  (No?  Oh yeah–just me!)  

Continue reading

I Do Not Love Well…

Love is a choice.  Love is messy.  

Love hurts.  Love is action.  Love is service.  

Love is long-lasting…eternal.  

Love pushes through your crap.  (And loves you despite it.)   

Love sees with fresh eyes.  Love is unconditional.    

Love is sacrifice.  Love is not self-seeking.   

Loving myself is easy.  Loving others is not.

Love is something I do poorly every day of my life.

On this day built around LOVE, unfortunately I am only reminded of how inadequate I truly am.  

“This is love:  not that we love God but that he loved us.”   
1 John 4:10

Love for me, is not possible without God’s love.  I find it too easy to choose myself.  Somehow His selfless Spirit starts to nudge me to do things out of my character and nature.  Then, and only then do I find myself loving in a more pure way…the way I was designed to love.   

Remind me on this Valentine’s day of how to truly love.  








A Re-Gift You Will Want to Re-Gift!

Chris and I volunteer at an afterschool tutoring program once a week for under resourced children in the community.  We help with tutoring and then lead a “large group” time that really felt like pure chaos last night!  The kids were incredibly wild and so we threw out the original lesson and spent the majority of the time singing, “Go Bananas–Go Go Bananas,” playing “Simon Says,” and other physical games which forced kids to move and get some energy out.  We finished with a mad-lib of “The Night Before Christmas.”  I think there was a mention of, “when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a furry sleigh and 42 tiny porcupines.”

 Literally the last 30 seconds of our time Chris together said, “I have something to tell you–this Christmas thing–there is a REALLY crazy story about it–not just the Santa stuff–but there is more–and it is CRAZY and we are going to talk about that next week!”  That was it.  Two girls came running up to me and said, “I think I know what the crazy story is about…Christmas is God’s birthday.”  Another boy said, “my mom reads to me from her Spanish Bible and it says that Christmas is about Jesus.”    

Yep.  It is.  

Why don’t we act like it?  Why do we get so hung up in the tree trimming, the party going, the present buying, and the turkey stuffing that we actually miss the simplicity and purity of the whole thing?

I don’t want to miss it!   The crazy story of God’s love.  The crazy story of a God who put skin on.  A God who wanted to relate and understand life, pain, friendship, betrayal, hope, laughter and love from our point of view.  Love came down because He would rather die than live without me (and you.)  I don’t want to miss the celebration of that crazy story.  

This Christmas I want to re-gift a gift that was given to me.  Ray Seigler was our mentor, friend, and employer throughout our 20s.  He sent Chris and I a set of readings so that we might be able to take a few moments each day of December to reflect on this crazy story and this crazy love.  I realized that the readings might be a gift to others–one that would be worth sharing!  Consider it an early Christmas present from me.  I pray that He might show up for you in December as you reflect on the meaning of this month.  I pray that it would be a sweet time, a slow time, and an intimate time…just you and Jesus. 

Here are Ray’s suggestions for your reading time:

Read one each day December 1st through Christmas Day.  If you miss a day, don’t make it up.  Just enjoy today’s reading.  

Set aside a time when you are most likely to be alert and paying attention.  Allow at least 15 minutes…some may want longer…it is up to you.

The whole point of the readings and setting aside time is to have a more personal encounter with Jesus this Christmas.  The readings lead us from the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, through His birth, in to the comments of the Apostles about Him. 

Before you read, ask God to guide you, and to speak to you personally in your reading.  

Read through the passage once…then read through it again more slowly, maybe two or three times, to let it sink in.

Ask yourself:  

What does this say about Jesus?
About me?
About my relationship with Him?

Relax and enjoy…God wants to be with us more than we ever thought about wanting to be with him.  

December 
1  Isaiah 9:2-7
2  Isaiah 7:14
3  Isaiah 35:1-7
4  Isaiah 40:1-5
5  Isaiah 42: 1-18
6  Isaiah 53:1-12
7  Luke 1:26-33
8  Luke 1:34-38
9  Luke 1:39-45
10  Matthew 1:18-21
11  Matthew 1:22-25
12  Luke 2:1-7
13  Luke 2:8-14
14  Luke 2:15-20
15  Matthew 2: 1-12
16  Luke 2:21-32
17  John 1:1-5
18  John 1:6-13
19  John 1:14-18
20  1 John 1:1-4
21  1 John 1:5-10
22  1 John 4:7-11
23  1 Peter 2:21-35
24  Hebrews 1:1-4
25  Philippians 2-5-11

May You Be a Blessing and 
May You Have a Meaningful Month!

Jenni 



Wanna Be An Elf or Need Some Elf-spiration???

Be prepared to laugh and receive some “elf-spiration” once you watch Sprinkle and Dinkle get in the Christmas spirit! ** 

Friends have asked if they can still be involved in the Watoto Christmas project…and I HAVE THE ANSWER!  

Some donated boxes will likely contain “unauthorized” gifts*.  We will have to replace certain items in the boxes with other items.  

Enter YOU.  

This week I am going to be taking donations of gently used (or new) items that could help fill “incomplete” boxes.  

Have items to share?  Here is the general guidelines for what we are looking for and the age/gender breakdowns.  (I excluded the little ones–those boxes seem to come in complete and FULL…the older kids and moms are the ones who seem to need some assistance.)

  • 11–16yrs: comic books, novels, board games, card games, jigsaw puzzles, hair clips, yo-yos
  • 17yrs+: caps, designer T-shirts, watches, wallets, purses, novels, jewelry, lotions, nail polish
  • Mums (widows/caretakers): lotions, body scents, scarves, shower gels, hand creams, journals, devotionals, jewelry, purse, nail polish 
Please DO double bag any liquids using Ziploc bags.
*Please DO NOT INCLUDE:   War-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; ANY food, medications or vitamins; breakable items; aerosol cans; hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, etc. as they are already provided through Watoto sponsorships.

I will be receiving donations through December 2nd.  


Please contact me directly or via:   

hopeforwatoto@gethope.net  (attention Jenni Cockerham)

No donations…but still want to serve??  I HAVE OPTIONS!

Please consider writing a handwritten letter.  This can be from YOU or your children or both!  Many boxes we have received so far do not have letters!   Please specify what gender/age group on the envelope! (2-5, 6-10, 11-16, 17+, Mum)

You can also help with our sorting project on December 3rd:


**


Thank you for being willing to consider sharing out of the overflow of what God has given you!  

Jenni and Laura Peters 
(attend West Cary?–Laura can give you more info as well!) 

Living Outside the Lines

There are many written and unwritten laws and lines that tell us how to behave and how not to behave.  Grafiti is  an illicit activity, one that is outside the bounds of the law.

Graffiti is often frowned upon.  This book celebrates graffiti and living outside the lines.  It tells stories of lives blending together to make beautiful art.  It does not stay within the bounds of the social  “law” or the four walls of your home.  It speaks of lives mingling with other lives and it all being quite messy.  It speaks of brokenness and of God’s redemption.

Graffiti:  Scribbles from Different Sides of the Street is a short read and for this week only a FREE read!  44 pages long with tales of two lives intertwined and how God makes us all wonderfully uncomfortable so that we can better know Him and his heart.  The holidays are a wonderful time to become inspired as to how you might share your life with another.  May Graffiti be the perfect catalyst for your journey!

For the next week this book will be FREE to those who click here:

http://www.graffitithebook.com/ 


May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed! 

Jenni