Friday, August 3, 2012

3½ cups of goodness (and a recipe for Borscht)

Clay teaset
What do you accomplish in a day? Do you ever think about all that running around and working? Wonder if you’re leaving a mark on people or the world among all the busy-ness of modern life?

I have little earthen cups and a teeny teapot, suitable for tea in a crowded city like Beijing. I also have medium-sized china cups and saucers that remind me of our stay in England. And now – my favorite purchase yesterday – I have a 3½ cup tea mug that fits Montana perfectly.

The BBC recently mentioned the wonder of driving in Iowa for 40 miles and not seeing a soul. “That would never happen anywhere in the UK,” they exclaimed. But it’s true for parts of Montana as well.

Volunteer firefighters
The siren still goes off in Hungry Horse to call the volunteers for fires, medical emergencies, or Search and Rescue missions. The one grocery store in town and little post office suffice. And as I wrote yesterday, any news is interesting.

The days pass here, one after the other, just like anywhere else. Yesterday I walked to the post office and to the wi-fi spot (and got rained out), drove 25 miles to look around some shops, and walked to a neighbor’s for an excellent Mexican burritos and enchilada dinner. I felt satisfied, crawling into bed.

3 1/2 cups of tea goodness!
Drinking deeply from my Big Cup of peppermint tea, I felt better about the day than I sometimes did after “a good day’s work” at the office. I’d met people, talked to them, walked, and read a story aloud. I’d played with the dogs and skipped rope. I’d cooked a fine borscht soup for lunch (recipe below), freezing the leftovers for two more meals. It was uneventful, crisis-wise, and totally compelling - I'd like to repeat it again.

Such sabbaticals (of rest, not study as in academics) offer God’s respite between energized work. I haven’t heard a Great Task to which I’m called next season. I’ve considered starting a study  of Bible characters, in a public space, with whomever shows up.

But the ideas for the next season are hazy and fluid … and few. I’m loving it. For a task-driven person, such a vacation from “I should” and “I could” can only be healing and God’s kindness!

How about you? Are you accomplishing much with all your activity? Or have you bought into the culture’s hopes that busy work will still the restless soul, that external productivity will reduce the longing for internal significance?

A peaceful spot in Montana
Steal away alone for an hour, a half-day, a day, or a weekend. (If you’re married, offer the same timeout to your spouse.)

Listen for God’s stillness. Perhaps he will speak into your heart that He is enough and we are enough. Just as he made us. Just where he put us – whether that is in the frenzy of output and production that drives capitalism, in the stress and helping mode of people-care, or tucked out of sight on the back shelf, in the pause that encourages prayer and reflection.

Borscht, sour cream, and dill:
the perfect combo
Not-Your-Russian-Grandma’s Borscht Soup
Meat* (vegan option below)
1-2 tbsp. oil
Onions, Beets
Savory herbs and spices
3-8 c. water or broth – the amount depends on how much soup you want
Optional: cabbage, beans, carrots, etc.

1.     In a non-aluminum soup pot, lightly brown 1-2 sliced sausages, 2-3 slices of bacon, OR ½ cup leftover meat in 1-2 tbsp. oil.
2.     Add a chopped onion and stir into the meat until it is translucent.
3.     Meanwhile, cut 3-8 beets into ½-¾” cubes.
4.     Fill the pot with 3-8 cups of water or broth and add beets. (I used 8 beets in 4 c. turkey stock.)
5.     Sprinkle in savory herbs to your own taste. I used 2 bay leaves; a teaspoon each of dried marjoram, parsley, thyme;  ½ tsp. each of celery salt and mustard seeds. (I chose those because they were near the stove, not for any particular culinary reason.)
Optional: add up to 1 c. each chopped carrots, sliced cabbage, or a mix of beans, Brussels sprouts, or other vegetables to taste.
Cook for ½-1 hour. You can let it sit in a non-reactive pot until the meal. Heat it up and salt to taste before serving. Options: a tbsp. of sour cream in each bowl, fresh dill on top for flavor.

Vegan option: skip the meat, brown the onions, add vegetables, herbs, and spices to a vegetable broth. Include cabbage, smoke salt, and sautéed mushrooms for a heartier taste. Vegan “sour cream” (1 cup): mix together 1 c. soy yogurt + 1 tbsp. lemon juice + ½ tsp. salt.

Leftovers freeze well.

Read more: 
*All a man's ways seem right to him, But the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2 NIV  

*Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34:14

Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 1 Peter 3:8

Moravian Prayer: In our families and in our church families, O holy Mediator, help us to reflect your love. Forgive us when we wrong those around us and restore us to your harmony and peace, in your Son’s name. Amen.

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