Friday, December 21, 2012

Sit. Look. Wonder.

I attended Ada Christian School from Kindergarten through 5th grade.  My elementary school days are some of my most memorable and I still share friendships that were started in the walls of that wonderful, happy place.  When we were deciding on what preschool to send Charlie I pushed ACS from the beginning.  We are still unsure of where our kids will attend elementary school, but for right now, Ada feels like home. I passed my Kindergarten teacher in the hall the other day.  And my 5th grade teacher on my way out today. Simply put, this is amazing, fun and so neat for me. There's just something so right about this place and all of it's wonderful students, teachers and administrators.  I'm only telling you this because of a story I'm about to share. 

There is this Nativity scene. I don't know exactly when it made it's way into Ada Christian, but I have memories of this beautiful crèche.  Mrs. Korf was my art teacher, so I can only assume my memories combined with the following story mean it was there in my time at ACS.  

As we head into the Christmas holiday, let's all pause and remember what it is we are celebrating this holiday season. 

Sit. Look. Wonder.  Jesus Christ is Born.  

Old Nativity Scene Now Inspires Students at Ada ChristianSchool

Tom Rademacher/The Grand Rapids Press

            The pieces from the Herpolsheimer’s display were kept in a basement before being given to the school.
            You can stop reading anytime I start to sound like your Grandfather, but this I know:
            Before the malls, there was Herpolsheimer’s.
            And that’s where you went each Christmas to revel in the Nativity scene.
            Up until some 25 years ago, people would drive downtown or take the bus and top off an evening of shopping by beholding the manger and all it’s attendant figures showcased in the east window of Herpolsheimer’s.
            Which later changed it’s name to Herp’s. Which begot Lazarus. And then the CityCentre. And Mackie’s World. And who-knows-what to follow.
            But forget the future for a moment. Because now it can be told that the past as present is alive and well at Ada Christian Elementary School.
            It came to pass that when Herp’s was being transformed into the City Centre, an electrician by the name of Luke DeVries noticed that the Nativity scene was destined for the trash.
            “What was left over after the liquidation was going to the dump,” said Devries, now 65, and working the same trade for Calvin College.
            “It was in bad repair, but I thought I’d take it to my truck and see what I could do with it.”
            He stored the salvaged items in the basement of his Southeast side home. And at one point during a garage sale, he sold off a camel figure to the owner of a Lebanese restaurant.
            But the other pieces remained, and DeVries eventually offered them to Reny Korf, an art teacher at Ada Christian.  Over the past several years, she’s made the crèche an ongoing art project for her students there.
            A few days ago, the Nativity scene was again unveiled at the school.  It’s set up just inside the main entrance, in an appropriately raw manger setting, but crowned by 18 glittery angels fashioned by talented first and second graders.
            Despite the chips and nicks and retouching each of the manger figures has endured. “You can see the story in the faces of the figures, you really can,” says Korf.
            “They’re all so reverent, so peaceful.”
            I only know about the old Herp’s display being resurrected at Ada Christian because of Judy Alphenaar, a second-grade teacher there.
            “I thought you might be interested,” she said in a letter to me, “because this Nativity scene that brought so much joy to thousands of people who remember Christmas shopping downtown, still brings joy today to the Ada Christian School community.
            When I spoke with Judy’s students, they expressed awe at the display. 
            “I like baby Jesus, because He’s holy,’ said Paul Bratt.
            “I like Mary because she’s baby Jesus’ mother,” said Linden Brinks.
            “I like the angels,” added Sam Wassink, “because they brought the shepherds the news.”
            It is a single shepherd figure, in fact, that appears to have never been repainted.  The face features multiple skin tones, and details lost on the other cast ceramic statues.
            Each December just before Christmas break, Judy brings her second-graders en masse down the hallway to see the exhibit.
            Her own mind drifts back to the 60’s, when a lot of us would wrap up a trip downtown at the Herp’s window.
            “It was just a family tradition,” says Judy.
            To recapture that simple moment again, she instructs her children to sit and contemplate the Nativity scene. 
            She invites them to be quiet, to be still. “I tell them to just look,” shesays. 
            “I tell them to use their wondering eyes.”
            I can’t help but think that on those annual December school days, Judy Alpehnaar’slesson plan approaches absolute perfection. 
            Gather before the Christ child.

"For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness." Isaiah 9:6


Charlie and I sat at this scene for a long while after his preschool program. We talked about it's meaning.  We talked about what a Happy Birthday it is. We talked about so much in our time here.  
Sit. Look. Wonder.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grace ❤ Hope ❤ Love

I've been hesitant to post anything about the horrific even that took place almost a week ago.  I don't share much opinion these days in this place, but I've felt compelled to write. Just to WRITE. My thoughts have been jumbled and foggy through tears as I try, like so many others, to piece together the why and how of our struggling world. So much horror. So much evil.  So much anger. Innocence taken away too soon.  So much pain.  So much confusion. I don't have anything to compelling to write, but I wanted to share a few things I've come across in the last week.

Among all of the darkness, I've seen so much light. As such with any tragedy, love and light will always prevail. Forgiveness prevails. Grace prevails. God prevails.  Just watch this video of Robbie Parker, Dad of Emilie Parker, 6, who lost her life so courageously last Friday. This right here is Amazing Grace.

Just as everyone else has struggled to make sense of our senseless world, I'm struck with happiness by the simple acts of kindness that are flooding the internet.  Have you seen the #26actsofkindness campaign? I urge you to check it out. Perhaps you feel compelled to join the campaign as well. 

I opened my daily journal, Streams In The Desert, on December 15. Saturday morning.  Not yet 24 hours after the horrible tragedy and I read this.  While I don't have any answers as to why this happened, I am restored by my faith and trust in my Heavenly Father. As Psalm 37:3 says, "Trust also in Him." 

Trust and Rest-December 15

The word trust is the heart word of faith. It is the Old Testament word, the word given to the early and infant stage of faith. The word faith expresses more the act of the will, the word belief the act of the mind or intellect, but trust is the language of the heart. The other has reference more to a truth believed or a thing expected.
Trust implies more than this, it sees and feels, and leans upon a person, a great, true, living heart of love. So let us “trust also in him,” through all the delays, in spite of all the difficulties, in the face of all the denials, notwithstanding all the seemings, even when we cannot understand the way, and know not the issue; still “trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass.” The way will open, the right issue will come, the end will be peace, the cloud will be lifted, and the light of an eternal noonday shall shine at last.

“Trust and rest when all around thee
Puts thy faith to sorest test;
Let no fear or foe confound thee,
Wait for God and trust and rest.
“Trust and rest with heart abiding,
Like a birdling in its nest,
Underneath His feathers hiding,
Fold thy wings and trust and rest.” 

Prayers of love and comfort to you, Newtown. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Slow Cooker Cinnamon Chicken

I've made this recipe a few times before but had forgotten about it until a recent visit to The Gracious Pantry.  I was on a hunt for a NEW slow-cooker recipe and came across this one again.  This savory dish is simple to throw together and is a perfect Sunday prep recipe.  I shared it with my accountability group on Facebook and so far it's getting good reviews!! I like to enjoy it over some brown rice or on top of a sweet potato as pictured below.

Cinnamon is a powerful little spice.  It also happens to be one of my favorites! I add it to my tea, on top of my sweet potatoes and squash, even a sprinkle on a steak and I'm a happy gal! Cinnamon has been known to reduce inflammation in the body, fight bacteria and have an antioxidant effect.  It can also help lower the bad  LDL cholesterol and it can stabilize blood sugar making it a great addition to the diet of a pre-diabetic or Type II diabetic. 

Clean Eating Slow Cooker Cinnamon Chicken
Inspired by The Gracious Pantry

(Makes approximately 10 servings)

5 raw, skinless, boneless chicken breasts (approximately 2 lbs.)
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 (15 oz.) can light coconut milk
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
6 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thin
Feel free to add frozen or fresh peppers and onions. Red and yellow bell peppers as well as cubed sweet potato make a great addition!

Step 1 – Place the sliced carrots in the bottom of the slow cooker’s ceramic insert.
Step 2 – Place your raw chicken on top of that.
Step 3 – Put everything else on top and turn on the pot.
Step 4 – Cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until the chicken easily falls apart when poked at with a fork.
Eat and Enjoy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Clean Eating Split Pea, Ham & Barley Soup

I'm on a serious comfort food kick with my last several Food Prep Sunday's.  This cooler weather is inspiring me to make all sorts of soups, stews and chilis. While I was perusing my new Clean Eating 3 cookbook, I came across this split pea and ham soup.  My Nana used to make a fabulous ham & pea soup so I figured I'd give this one a try.  

Split peas are high in protein and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. They are also an excellent source of soluble fiber which binds with bile, where cholesterol is kept and carries it out of the body. Mighty little legumes they are!

This recipe was very easy to whip up.  I ended up doubling the recipe to make 8 servings, but I could have easily brought the serving size down to 1 cup and probably had enough for 6 servings.  While the calories may seem a little high to some, this is a very filling and satiating meal all by itself.  Note that this recipe calls for yellow split peas which were a little harder for me to track down than your usual green split pea.  I found them at my local health food store. Also note that you need to use quick barley, not regular pearl barley (a mistake I made at first before running out to grab quick barley :)

Clean Eating Split Pea, Ham & Barley Soup
from The Best Of Clean Eating 3

  • 3/4 cup dry yellow split peas
  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped
  • 28 oz low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 cup quick-cooking pearl barley
  • 1/2 lb low-sodium, nitrate-free, lean cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 green onions, green parts only, minced
  1. In a medium pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil on high heat. Add peas and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large stockpot, heat oil on medium for 1 minute. Add Spanish onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in broth, 1/2 cup water, carrots, sage and barley. Bring to a boil on high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  3. To stockpot, add ham and peas, stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until heated through. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.
Nutrients per 1 1/2-cup serving: Calories: 460, Total Fat: 5 g, Sat. Fat: 0.5 g, Carbs:77 g, Fiber: 22 g, Sugars: 9 g, Protein: 28 g, Sodium: 590 mg, Cholesterol: 25mg

Egg Muffins with...whatever you like!

I'm a big fan of versatile recipes.  Taking the same "base" recipe and being able to add whatever ingredients you have on hand at the moment makes experimenting fun! I like being able to follow a recipe, but also like having my own creative freedom as it pertains to my food choices.  This is why I love Egg Muffins! These muffins are very easy, versatile and they store extremely well in your fridge for a week of grab-n-go eating!

You can add any type of cheese, blanched or sauteed veggies and meat. You can also use half eggs and half whites or use all eggs.  You choose!

How-You-Want-Em' Egg Muffins
inspired by Kalyn's Kitchen

12 eggs (you can use any ratio of eggs to egg whites)
1-2 tsp. Spike Seasoning or salt and pepper works fine too!
1 cup grated cheese (I like sharp cheddar or feta)

Optional, but highly recommended, 3 green onions diced small.

Optional: chopped veggies such as sauteed spinach with a bit of garlic, blanched broccoli, red pepper, onion, zucchini or mushrooms.

Optional: diced Canadian bacon, lean ham, or crumbled cooked turkey sausage

Preheat oven to 375 F. Use regular or silicone muffin pan, 12 muffin size. If using silicone pan, spray with nonstick spray. If using regular muffin pan, put two paper liners into each slot, then spray liner with nonstick spray. (I prefer to use a silicone muffin pan or silicone liners)

In the bottom of the muffin cups layer diced meat, if using, vegetables, if using, cheese and green onions. You want the muffin cups to be about 2/3 full, with just enough room to pour a little egg around the other ingredients. Break eggs into large measuring bowl with pour spout, add Spike, and beat well. Pour egg into each muffin cup until it is 3/4 full. I like to stir slightly with a fork. Bake 25-35 minutes until muffins have risen and are slightly browned and set.

Muffins will keep more than a week in the refrigerator.  Microwave on high about 2 minutes to reheat.