REMEMBERINGS : SACRED MOMENTS IN AFRICA

11-africa(Image collection from my post on Vagabond Original)

As Jeff mentioned in his post a few weeks ago, my travels and experiences across Africa were some of the most important times in my life. As significant as they were, I still sometimes dread sharing my experiences. How do you casually share a story about something that changed the entire course of your life? How do you share about the tragedy, the suffering, the simple pleasures, and the overwhelming joy – and explain how all those things could possibly exist in the same moment? I was often in the midst of an internal battle to reconcile and balance the combination of polar opposite emotions that usually accompanied every situation.

Even now as I write, my eyes well up with tears as I remember a tragic, and yet very sacred moment. It was 2005, my first time in Zambia, and only a few days into our trip. My fellow volunteers and I traveled to a nearby teaching hospital to visit our friend, the head nurse of the NICU. After she and her staff showed us around the few sparsely equipped rooms, we were free to wander the ward, assisting where we could.

Toward the back in a dimly lit room, I found rows and rows of tiny, quiet cribs. There were so many babies whose mothers had either abandoned them on the hospital steps or had died in childbirth. Too many of the babies were close to dying themselves; some did while we were there. They were so tiny and weak that they didn’t cry, just lied and waited. They had to drink formula from a cup as they were too frail to nurse from a bottle.

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While the other volunteers busied themselves changing diapers and talking with new mothers, I felt the need to be with those babies whose time on Earth was hours from ending. Surrounded by loneliness and tragedy, I felt my heart numb as I subconsciously tried to protect myself from the overwhelming sadness. I didn’t want the trauma of what I was witnessing to define my time with them, so I slowly began to shift my focus. Instead of being overcome and wanting to distance myself, I wanted to honor them and their short time of life. I knew cognitively that I could transform this heartache into a holy moment and I was determined to do so. I held them and sang to them and prayed for their quick return Home.

Since that time, I’ve had numerous experiences when life is too overwhelming and I find myself retreating into the numbness. Through my experience in Zambia, I know that not only are you not protected when you distance yourself, but you miss out on empowering, sacred moments. When we build fortresses around our hearts, we really only wall in sadness and hurt. It is through our vulnerability that we find healing and beauty in life’s most brutal moments.

And so it is through my vulnerability of sharing these most holy moments that I hope to chip away those walls and encourage you to do the same.

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SLOW GRILLED TRI-TIP

SLOW GRILLED TRI-TIP

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I do love steak. I love grilling, and I love steak.

Earlier this spring, on Easter Sunday, I thought I’d try my hand at slow-grilling a nice big chunk of tri tip. I’ve had it in restaurants and always thought it was delicious. For those who don’t know, it’s an extra tasty sirloin cut of beef, with a nice layer of fat on top. It is generally served medium-rare to medium.

I learned how to slow cook it on the grill by following the instructions by The Tri Tip Guy. He deserves the credit. The short version is:

1. Let the meat warm up to room temperature before you grill it.
2. Pre-heat the grill to 350-375 (and keep it there the whole time).
3. Place the meat on the grill, fat-side-up.
4. Close the lid and cook for 15 minutes, keeping the temperature at 350-375.
5. Flip it (use tongs – not a fork or knife, as you don’t want to lose those good juices).
6. Let it cook for another 15-20+ (depending on the size of the roast)
7. Once it “bounces” off the grill, you’re getting close (watch his video to understand this better).
8. Use a meat thermometer. Take it off the grill once it hits 135 degrees or 140-145 degrees for medium.
9. Let the meat rest for 8-10 minutes before you cut it open. Yes, really. It’s important. In fact, I like to heat up the serving plate in the microwave first before placing the meat on it. This helps to keep the meat from cooling off too much while it’s resting.

 

While you’re grilling – especially once you flip it – that fat’s gonna start to drip and catch fire. Do your best to keep the flames down, so you don’t scorch the outside of the meat.

As far as pleasing everyone regarding medium-rare or medium, keep in mind that it’s a large chunk of meat; if it’s medium in the center, it’ll be more well-done toward the outside edges. I wouldn’t do any more than 145 degrees, or you’ll end up with some of it being much more well-done than you probably intended. Once it’s done, there’s a nice charred layer of fat on top that gives it a great flavor.

It was a fun new challenge. I like that you have to be precise with the temperature, chasing it up and down the gauge to make sure it stays in that 350-375 degree window. It takes at least a good 45 minutes. I was on crutches, at the time, and I ended up sitting down in front of the grill and using my crutch to open and close the lid when I saw the temperature gauge climbing. :)

 

GRILLED ASPARAGUS

For the asparagus, we like using an Italian salad dressing as a marinade. Once the asparagus has marinated for 30 minutes or so, toss it onto the hot grill for probably no more than 2-3 minutes (unless you like them soft and rubbery). To test, I use tongs to pick one up and wiggle it – once it starts to wiggle (it’s no longer stiff/rigid like when it’s raw) pull them off.

It was so fun to do this for Easter Dinner. One roast easily fed four adults.

If you like steak, you will love this. If it’s your first time, definitely head over to The Tri Tip Guy’s website and watch his video tutorial. Super helpful.

 

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An Orthodox Easter + Freebie Easter Printable

This past weekend we celebrated Easter with our Greek Orthodox hosts. (The Greek Orthodox Church calculates its feast days by the old Julian calendar, a calendar that was replaced by our now standard Gregorian calendar that saw the addition of leap days. Because of this, Orthodox celebrations typically fall on different dates than the rest of the Christian world.)

In the States, the celebration of Easter seems rather low-key compared to how the Greeks observe it. Weeks of fasting, daily services, a national day of mourning, and hours-long feasts are just some of the differences.

For 5 days, the region of nearly 4 million seemed practically deserted as Athenians traveled to their family’s villages.

For Jeff and I, that meant it was a great time to see some more of the neighborhoods and coastline without the usual crowds. (More to come on that, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek photo.)

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It was also a great to spend time with our lovely hosts and to take part in their celebrations. Cookies were made and hard-boiled eggs were dyed red, symbolizing the Atonement.

eggs

The Easter Sunday lunch was very traditional with roasted lamb with garlic and lemon, potatoes, cabbage and carrot salad, and the hard-boiled eggs and cookies.

It was very delicious and a wonderful way to spend the Sabbath. To show our gratitude, we got chocolate covered almonds and I made this hand-lettered card.

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I realize it’s now after the Easter season, but luckily celebrating Christ’s sacrifice and Resurrection can be done year round, so I thought I would share this free printable with all of you. Mail it to a loved one, take it with you on your Visiting Teaching outings, or just save it for next year. Enjoy!

Printable Freebies:

He Is Risen 4.25 x 5.5 Cards

He Is Risen 5 x 7 Print

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Hello, 2015.

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Though it’s only been the first day, my 2015 is already awesome and filled with excitement. As business continues to increase with our web media studio, Vagabond Original, and as we embark on adventures here on Wander, we are really glad to be able to share that with all of you. This year holds some amazing adventures and opportunities (a few of which will be announced in just a couple of weeks). As excited as I am for this new year, I’m so grateful that this past year has been incredible and I’m not just glad to have it over with.

At the start of this year, Jeff and I have a few New Year’s resolutions that we feel will make a real and lasting impact on our happiness, well-being, and productivity. While our’s is primarily centered on setting priorities, achieving goals, and sticking to a schedule, we really liked these ideas from a post we found on Tumblr.

No. 1 – Guard your time
No. 2 – Let kindness rule
No. 3 – Create good habits
No. 4 – Choose to focus on the good
No. 5 – Start each day with goals
No. 6 – Find the good in others
No. 7 – Be the best version of you
No. 8 – Believe anything is possible

I like that I really feel inspired and encouraged to accomplish these goals, not pressure or shame or guilt that I feel with some of the typical do’s and don’ts. What are some of your favorite resolution ideas? Do you stick with your resolutions or do they eventually fizzle out? Or maybe you’re more like me and usually don’t even care to waste the time promising yourself things you have no intention of fulfilling :) Whatever your style, I hope 2015 is a happy one for you and your family.

Words to Live By: Stars

I HAVE LOVED THE STARS DESKTOP

This quote is often incorrectly attributed to Galileo. It was, in fact, written by English poet, Sarah Williams in the mid-nineteenth century as a part of her most famous work “The Old Astronomer.”

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

Ever since I was little, I remember my father continually instilling in me awe, wonder, and curiosity about the universe. He would tell me about the times when he would skip school in order to watch the shuttle launches on TV, and I did the same in the 8th grade when John Glenn made his return to space. Some of my favorite memories with him are of watching movies and documentaries about the space race, moon landings, and early astronomers.

In recent days, Jeff and I have been watching the series, Cosmos, and I have been surprised that with the upbringing I did, how little I really understood about galaxies, super novas, nebulae, and so many other things too old or gigantic to fully comprehend.

But instead of feeling overwhelmed by it all, it just increases my curiosity and desire to learn more. We’ve made special trips to star gaze near a mountain lake, see the recent Blood Moons, and spent hours waiting for a rare glimpse of the aurora borealis that never showed quite this far south.

I made this design as a gift for my father and thought I would share it with you as well. Feel free to save it for use as a desktop background. Enjoy!

Words to Live By: The Love of God

could we with ink

I happened upon this hymn the other day while browsing through my Tumblr called The Love of God by Frederick Lehman (although there are other authors who contributed to it). The first of these authors, Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, a Rabbi from Germany penned this beautiful verse in Aramaic as a part of his poem, Hadamut, near the end of the 11th century.

Many centuries later, Lehman was seeking inspiration for the third stanza of his hymn and remembered a poem someone had given him. As he read the words, he knew this was exactly what he had been searching for. He then noticed this writing on the bottom of the card:

“These words were found written on a cell wall in a prison some 200 years ago. It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated; neither is it known if the words were original or if he had heard them somewhere and had decided to put them in a place where he could be reminded of the greatness of God’s love – whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell. In due time, he died and the men who had the job of repainting his cell were impressed by the words. Before their paint brushes had obliterated them, one of the men jotted them down and thus they were preserved.”

As I read these accounts, it reminded me of some of my favorite scriptures I came to love in high school,

Romans 8:31, 35-39
If God be for us, who can be against us?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

This image is free for you to use for a desktop background or it would make a lovely gift as a card or fridge magnet. If you use it, I’d love to hear about it, so leave me a note in the comments section. Enjoy!