Merging the blogs

If you currently subscribe to Ordinary Pen, first of all, thank you! Thank you for listening, reading, encouraging, and following! As some of you know, I’ve had a separate website/blog up for a while dedicated to my music endeavors.  I’ve decided to finally merge these two blogs and will be posting from now on at www.caitelen.com

I’ve exported all of my posts from Ordinary Pen so you’ll still be able to find previous posts there. In the future, I will post there exclusively. I’ll continue to write about parenting, faith, ministry, health, and food, and will have my “herb store” up. I’ll also have updates about my music, past and future recordings, thoughts about music/worship leading/being a musician, and info about any upcoming “gigs.”

I hope you’ll head on over and follow me there!

 

www.caitelen.com

 

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“Mommy, Can You Be Happy?” – A Confession and A Call to Fight for Joy

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That stinging question hung heavy in the air. 
The weight of what she asked sank into skin, rushed into blood, and stopped me cold. 

             “Mommy, can you be happy?”

I was caught in a moment of visible anger, grumbling, impatience, and frustration. It oozed from me, grimy as the water from the dish rag I held. I hadn’t even noticed that while I stewed over some minor mishap, what was brewing within had become tangible. A foreboding cloud of discontent around me. 

Indeed, from the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise to silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2) …. to silence these thankless lips.  

How did I get here? The short answer: idolatry that leads to sin.

I see my tendency to value convenience more than my own children, and more than God (idolatry). When my 3-year-old’s inconvenient “mistakes” challenge my comfort, or she somehow fails to meet my expectations, this gives way to under-the-breath complaints and bitterness building up so that when she willfully acts out I’m already at the tipping point where snapping, sarcasm, yelling, and disciplining in anger inevitably ensue (sin).

No one can dispute that motherhood is one of the toughest, most demanding jobs. Is my desire for structure or occasional time away inherently sinful? Absolutely not. But when those desires become the cause of discontent and bitterness,  they have become idols-something other than God that we turn to for salvation. 

For me, these idols of comfort and control often result in:

1. Scoffing at my child’s shortcomings instead of encouraging her toward growth.

2. Correcting impatiently and pointing out wrongdoing instead of stooping down to guide and nurture.  

3. My fiery tongue whipping out with sharp words instead of being the balm of a gentle answer.

 “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45 (….OUCH.)

The truth is, my lack of “happy” is not a reflection of my lack of “me” time.

It’s the result of my desperate grappling after false gods.

The curtain is lifted. The idols are revealed. And OH! The weight of that truth flooding my heart would surely crush me, and I would be reduced to a constant state of of tears and self-loathing on the kitchen floor, spiraling into even further depths of despair …

BUT for these truths:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (emphasis mine)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:4-10 (emphasis mine)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

           

Oh, hopelessly meritorious Mommy…

 

Are your bootstraps, like mine, worn to threads from trying to pull yourself up by them?

Are you, like me, caught trying on your own strength to claw your way out of the pit of guilt

that overwhelms each failure?

Hallelujah! All we have is Christ!

 

We cannot will ourselves up the hill,

because Christ has taken the cross up for us.

We cannot earn our freedom from sin and mom-guilt,

because Christ has already won it for us.

We cannot find joy in our lot apart from the truth that in

HIM is the fulness of joy by his GRACE.

IT. IS. FINISHED.

Even when we fail, we can fight for joy for the sake of these little hearts we shepherd.

Even when they push us to the edge, again and again and again, we can get down on our knees. We can forgive them and be forgiven again and again and again.

This is not a “happy-slappy,” grin and bear it kind of joy. It’s a joy that says HE IS GOOD in the hard days. It’s a battle call for us to preach this to ourselves and to our children:

That IN and THROUGH our suffering and sin, the

joy of the Lord is my strength.

IN and THROUGH the mornings when it’s not even breakfast and all toddler hell breaks loose,

the joy of the Lord is my strength.

IN and THROUGH the hormone-raging, sleepless delirium, deepest, darkest doubt,

the joy of the Lord is my strength.

This JOY is costly. It was purchased by the blood of Christ. Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it pleased the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…” When God poured out His wrath on His Son, instead of us, it pleased him. It’s also translated as “it was His will.” He was satisfied once for all.

Sisters, THIS is how we can have joy.  Because Christ’s sacrifice brought the Father satisfaction, we too can be satisfied in the Son’s saving work and, in turn, live with JOY….a deep, sober, humiliated (in the RIGHT sort of way)  JOY.

This kind of joy also means humbling ourselves before our God IN FRONT OF our children. It means seeking forgiveness from them when we fall sort, and modeling repentance. This allows our children to see us at our weakest, so that they might see more of Jesus, and so that we may demonstrate for them the profound truth in that simple, gospel song we sing to them:

“We are weak, but He is strong,

Yes, Jesus Loves me….”

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I DELIGHT in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 (emphasis mine)

This process is painful. It’s exposing and scraping away the chaff. And I believe (Oh, help my unbelief!) that it will produce fruit in my life, and Lord willing, in my children’s. Not because of my perfect parenting, but because Christ works in spite of me, through the mess, and in my weakness and humility.

His mercies are new EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

HE has conquered my shame! I can choose to look into my child’s face when she is posed with that question…that call  to FIGHT for happy. And by God’s grace, I can answer her, “yes, I can be happy.” And I can smile,  humbled but not ashamed, tears brimming, weak, yet finding strength, not in my comfort, not in my ability to control, not in my self-righteous, sinful anger, but in HIM.

Im HIM we find true satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness in what we’ve been called to, no matter what threatens to undo it,

because the JOY of Lord  is our STRENGTH.

“Once for all, O sinner, receive it,
Once for all, O doubter, believe it;
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall,
Christ has redeemed us once for all. “

From the hymn by Philip P. Bliss, 1871, alt., Music: Zac Hicks, 2013

Take a Deep Breath, and Read

She curls up next to me with a pile of picture books and half-whispers to herself:

“Take a deep breath, and read.”

Simple words, not intended as a command. Yet, from the lips of that babe, what my heart needed to hear was this call:

Take a breath, Mama. But don’t just breathe. Breathe deeply.

Slow down and dive into a luxurious tale with a toddler.

Enter into the wonder she experiences in narrative.

And then….leave some of those dishes in the sink and go read something that gets you out of your own head. Read something that challenges and inspires you.

Stop outputting for 5 minutes and recharge.

Fill the well!

Drink deeply of His Word.

You NEED it like you need air.

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Why is it that my daughter wants the same story read to her again and again? She knows almost every line by heart.

Because, simply hearing the story once isn’t knowing it. And even “knowing” it by heart isn’t enough. She wants to experience it again and again. She wants to participate in the drama of the narrative, feel the anticipation climbing from page to page toward the end. There’s a kind of security in the repetition of it. A kind of strength in consistency that brings about calm and knowing. And, in the really good stories, the ending leaves her with both a sense of completion, yet wonder at what’s beyond those final pages.

Christian, isn’t this what we need when it comes to the Gospel?

To be drawn into that story again and again? To return to His Word and look into the redemptive work of God throughout the ages? To see it all pointing to Christ? To see the reality of our sin, but remember the sweetness of living by his grace?

Too often, I find myself clinging to fragments of His story, but living completely caught up in my own myopic, selfish version of it, which is mostly law-driven and utterly condemning. In doing so, I’m leaving out the best parts of the story! The GRACE parts!

We need to experience the Gospel grace stories again and again. We need to be like children, wide-eyed with wonder and compelled  by that grace to return to the story. Our story. We need to set our minds on those life-giving truths and let them saturate and nourish our weary hearts. We can read our story and feel that sense of completion and wonder because through Christ it is finished, yet we wait for his return.

Oh Lord, slow us down to return to Your story again, and take a deep breath, and read….

….and breathe in, grace. And breathe out, grace. 

New Year, New Song

IMG_4536It’s been almost a year since I’ve written here!

My last musings were on the exciting adventures of the Paleo Whole30 cleanse (of which I am due for another!), and as you can see I’ve changed the “look” of the blog a bit. I do plan to get back to sharing recipes, writing about some aspects of my journey as a mom, and up-keeping my recently re-opened side business working with herbs. But, I have also been busy in my “other life” as a musician and wanted share my recent endeavors!

So, belated as it is, here’s my most recent song, released for the Christmas/New Year season. It’s FREE to download on bandcamp.

Hope it blesses you!

Behind the Music

Lately, I am learning to be a Momsician. Living and creating in the “present” of fragile 2 hour nap-time slots, with towels stuffed under the bedroom door and duct tape holding the mic to its stand. I accept as a precious gift the few moments I can steal to be inspired and make art….read the rest of the story here!

 

Easy “Paleo-ish” Chocolate Almond Bark

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I’ll get right to it. ‘Cause nobody wants to read sentiments when there’s CHOCOLATE to be consumed.

So, go buy these ingredients, make yourself a batch, and DON’T TELL ANYONE so you can eat it all!!!

OR, be a good neighbor and share it with me 🙂

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**Why “paleo-ish?”- I consider the chocolate used in this recipe to be as paleo as it gets in that it does not contain soy, wheat, or dairy, as many other chocolate chips choices do. However, it does contain evaporated cane juice which is technically sugar.Though not refined, it is still sugar. In that way, it is not paleo, and definitely not Whole30 approved. For hard-core paleo people, it’s probably sacrilege to even have paleo as part of the title, but as a gal who is comfortable functioning as “paleo-light,” (and enjoying moderate and occasional treats), I consider this a fair alternative to many of the other sugary choices out there. It’s also very easy to make. You could certainly find a way to use raw cacao and honey or something, but this is a quicker recipe. Enjoy!

Easy Paleo Chocolate Almond Bark

Ingredients:

1 10 ounce bag of Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1-2 cups raw almonds, whole or chopped

Wax paper

Double boiler or medium saucepan

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Instructions:

1. Slowly warm the double boiler or pan. Meanwhile line a cookie sheet with wax paper.

2. Melt the entire bag of chocolate chips in the double boiler and TRY not to grab a spoon and go to town on the whole thing right then and there.

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I mean, seriously…..this is ridiculous…..

3. Remove from heat

4. Stir in almonds (as few or as many as you want)IMG_3532

5. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate onto the wax paper. Don’t spread too thinly. I usually spread it into a rectangle-ish shape.

6. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until hardened.

7. Break into pieces (easier said than done, I had to use the blunt end of a knife).

8. Eat your heart out!

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** VARIATION: Add a pinch of cayenne papper to the melted chocolate!!

 

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The End…? Whole30-Day 30!

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I made it!

(Admittedly with one or two small cheats–most unintentional, but one or two calculated) 🙂 Greg and I feel great and plan to do this cleanse again in the future. In the meantime, we also intend to take it easy on the filler foods, sugars, and adult beverages so that we can sustain a better overall relationship with our food to the benefit of our bodies. And so that when date night comes around, we can actually enjoy some of those things as special treats in moderation, and not feel too guilty about it !

What I’ve learned/gained from this cleanse:

  • How addicted to chocolate I really am! Besides dreaming of it a lot in the first couple of weeks, and being tempted to lick up a nasty old candy bar off the pavement in the parking lot, I did pretty well. But, one of my small, yet calculated, cheats was 4 or 5 of those mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips last week (we’re talking tiny, people!). And just that taste of chocolate triggered something in my brain. For a second I found myself thinking, “MUST pour myself a bowl of these immediately and go to town!” Thankfully, I did not indulge beyond those few VERY SMALL morsels. But it did reveal to me just how wired I am, even still, to overdo it on the chocolate. This is something I will be continuing to reign in post-cleanse!
  • More sustained energy throughout the day (no more bursts of energy brought on by popping a chocolate almond as a pick-me-up, then crashing into exhaustion mid-afternoon).
  • A more sensitive palate. I actually taste the sweetness of fruit and it satisfies. I’ve enjoyed the taste of herbal tea without added honey, and haven’t needed as much salt to “bring out the flavor.”
  • A more sensitive nose! Surprisingly, I find myself more sensitive to the smell of things as well. Although, it’s  really not that surprising when you consider how tied to your sense of taste your nose is. Any scotch lover or wine connoisseur will “nose” their beverage thoroughly before sipping in order to fully taste it. Why should the experience of eating be any different?
  • A happy gut. Let’s just say, eating more fresh veggies and gut friendly foods makes things “flow” a little easier 🙂
  • More knowledge about my body and how I respond to certain foods. 

Final Thoughts & Tips On Doing The Whole30

1. Avocado with everything! A perfect source of good fats and oils. Dice it and use it to round out just about any dish. We found ourselves enjoying a slice or two with our morning eggs, in soup, on salad, and any time we just needed a little somethin’ extra. 

2. Eating out is hard nearly impossible. By the time you’re done inquiring about what exactly is in the salad dressing, and what oils they used, and asking for no rice, or cheese, or beans on the side, most of the time, you’re left with something rather bland and uninteresting. We did find a couple of places in town that had accommodating options, but it was hard, and I’m sure we inadvertently cheated once or twice with things like salad dressings. But we really did try!

3. Eating IN is best. Kinda goes without saying. You know exactly what is in the food you prepare, plus you save money and get to learn and be creative!

4. Nursing mom’s on Whole30 still need sugar and starch. Around day 3 I was feeling a bit woozy and nauseous on and off. A friend, and fellow mama, who has done the cleanse several times advised that we should up the intake of approved starchy foods and make sure I got plenty of fruit. After a couple of meals taking her advice I was feeling much better! I made sure to include things like sweet potato, spaghetti squash, yams, and parsnip.

5. Eggs, eggs, and more eggs! You use a lot of eggs on Whole30 and in the paleo diet. 2 Costco sized packs of organic eggs feeding two adults and one child would only last about a week and a half, or less sometimes! They are the best breakfast option by far. I had 2 scrambled every morning, and hard-boiled them for snacks,  and cut them up in salads.

 

Recipes Of The Week

 


Tortilla Espanola

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IMG_2533This was a BIG hit! A friend sent me the recipe, and I substituted sweet potatoes. In addition, I browned up some ground beef, seasoned it with garlic, salt, and pepper, and used it as a “topping” of sorts.

Click HERE for the original recipe!

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Kombucha Tea

I’ve had a “home brew” kit for kombucha in my pantry since before we moved. Finally this week I started making it! It looks disgusting right now, but I love the final product, and since it is so expensive to buy individual bottles, and lately they are bottling a less effervescent version to regulate the alcohol content (what little there is), I wanted to try my hand at it!

I used THIS STARTER KIT

But there are many other ways to get started, and I am no expert on which is the best. This is my first attempt!

This website has a lot of helpful info on the benefits of kombucha tea, and how to make your own, etc. But I’ve pasted a few of the health highlights from their site

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*Probiotics – healthy bacteria
*Alkalize the body – balances internal pH
*Detoxify the liver – happy liver = happy mood
*Increase metabolism – rev your internal engine
*Improve digestion – keep your system moving
*Rebuild connective tissue – helps with arthritis, gout, asthma, rheumatism
*Cancer prevention
*Alleviate constipation
*Boost energy – helps with chronic fatigue
*Reduce blood pressure
*Relieve headaches & migraines
*Reduce kidney stones
*High in antioxidants – destroy free-radicals that cause cancer
*High in polyphenols
*Improve eyesight
*Heal excema – can be applied topically to soften the skin
*Prevent artheriosclerosis
*Speed healing of ulcers – kills h.pylori on contact
*Help clear up candida & yeast infections
*Aid healthy cell regeneration
*Reduce gray hair
*Lower glucose levels – prevents spiking from eating

Slaw Stir Fry

 

There’s not much to this fast lunch or dinner option. Just tossed together the following ingredients with a bit of coconut oil, and, as you can see, enjoyed some avocado with it!


IMG_2502Garlic Chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s bag of raw carrot and broccoli slaw

Cherry tomatoes

Kale

Asparagus, chopped

JUST Fruit Smoothie

 

We have a great cafe nearby that does yummy smoothies using just organic fruit and nothing else, so we indulged in a couple of those. But they are ridiculously easy to make yourself. Here’s one recipe, but you can sub any old fruit you want! (Berries are the best!)

1 Cup frozen raspberries

1/2 cup frozen mango

1 frozen banana

1/2 cup coconut water

Blend

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** And here’s the snapshot that sums it all up! From an evening when we had some neighbors over and I put out my favorite chocolate almonds for everyone else to enjoy while I had to stick with this avocado. I was tempted, but prevailed!!!



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I Think I Can! Week 3- Whole30 & New Recipes!

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A mango has never tasted so…..mango-ey?

It’s true. Week three on the Whole30 I actually taste things differently. As cliché as it may sound, I feel as though my palate is reawakening!

Suddenly, I notice that the inside of a blackberry actually has a subtly different sweetness and flavor to it than its outer drupelets, and hubby and I both don’t need as much salt on things to bring out flavor. It’s amazing how dulled my senses were just a few weeks ago!

And now for the food highlights of the week…..

Roasting & Salting Your Own Cashews

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One of the caveats of the Whole30 cleanse is that you have to avoid several kinds of oils, like canola, peanut, vegetable, etc.

Cashews are one of the “approved” nuts on the cleanse and are recommended “raw.” I prefer them roasted and salted, but every time I go to buy some, it always lists canola or some other sketchy oil added.

So, my mission this week was to figure out how to do it myself! After some trial and error, I think I may have finally nailed it!

You’ll Need:

1 LB raw cashews

1-2 TBS Olive or Coconut oil (*coconut oil gives it a kind of popcorn taste!)

Sea salt

Large bowl

A cookie sheet lined with tin foil

How to:

Preheat oven to 250.

The key is to SOAK the nuts in salt water first. Pour the nuts into a large bowl and add enough warm water to just cover them. Sprinkle about 2 TBS salt over the nuts and stir a few times. The water should be pretty salty. Let the nuts soak in the warm salt water for 15-20 minutes.

While soaking, line the cookie sheet with foil and rub a bit of oil on the foil. Drain nuts and spread out onto the lined and oiled cookie sheet. Sprinkle a bit more salt over the wet cashews and place in the oven.

Bake at 250 for 1-1.5 hours, or until slightly golden. Let cool and enjoy!

Some of the salt you sprinkled will fall off when you move the nuts to store them, but some of that saltines from soaking with remain!

 

Fun New Veggie Of The Week:

ROMANESCO!

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It’s hard to miss this crazy vegetable in the store. It is neon green, spiky, and downright otherworldly! A cross between cauliflower and broccoli, romanesco (also known as green cauliflower) packs a punch of  B vitamins, as well as A, C, and K, fiber, magnesium, protein, potassium, omega 3, and even tryptophan!

I chose to simply pull apart the flowers and sauté it in ghee, sea salt, and lemon pepper, with some carrots, zucchini and yellow squash. It was a hit! My daughter enjoyed the funky texture and asked for more!

 

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Maté Latte !

I enjoy my maté the traditional way, in the gourd, with the bombilla (see my earlier post!). But it’s also nice to just have a cup the lazy way with a tea bag sometimes.

This week I tried the Guayaki  brand. Since the individual bags contain only a fraction of the leaves you would use when drinking it in the gourd, the flavor is definitely not as strong (which some may prefer), but it did allow me to enjoy my tea as a “latte.”

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I simply added 1 TBS of coconut milk, and for extra immunity, energy, and good fats, I threw in a teaspoon of coconut oil.

The result was a smooth, creamy, yerbalicious latte !

(Might try with a tad bit of honey when I’m off of the cleanse).

Simple Salmon

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I found a lovely wild caught filet at Trader Joe’s this week and here’s how I recommend preparing it:

Drizzle a little olive oil and lemon juice over the filet. Sprinkle some sea salt and chipotle seasoning (ground garlic, cumin, cayenne, and onion). Set the oven on low broil and move the top rack as high as it goes. Broil for about 10-12 minutes or until the fat turns while on the top and inside the thickest part is still a little translucent and juicy. 

Served it up with some sweet potato and kale sautéed over medium heat (covered) with ghee, sea salt, and herbs de province. Easy peasy!

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Prosciutto Egg Cups

Breakfast is so important. But eggs every morning can get a little boring. So I tried this….

Got the inspiration from a pin on pinterest, (but used prosciutto instead of ham). My finished product does not look as pretty, but they were tasty and a nice variation from scrambled eggs!

Directions:

Simply spray a little olive oil in a few cups in your muffin pan. Line the cups with prosciutto (one slice per cup should do it, but may need a piece or two extra to fill an any gaps). Crack one egg into the cup. Sprinkle with a little pepper and sea salt. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until the eggs whites are cooked. If you like them more over easy, you may want to take them out sooner. These yolks were cooked all the way through.

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Speaking of Pinterest….

You may be interested in following me on Pinterest. I’ve been pinning many whole30  and paleo recipes, some of which I had tried, and many of which I have yet to try!

(**Side note** If you’re living in or new the San Diego area, you also might be interested in the Pinterest site I manage for Dining Out San Diego- The Magazine. I pin and review all the best local restaurants. It’s a helpful tool for choosing from one of the many, many amazing places to eat! We’ve also got a tumblr site, and you can follow us on Fabcebook as well!) #shamelessplug