Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gratitude in God’s Timing

August 3, 2014

I wanted to call this Remaining Grateful When it Seems God is Taking FOREVER to Answer a Prayer… but that title was way too long to fit the space this blog format gives me to work with.  This is my “take-away” message from Church today because so much of the focus was on gratitude and that all prayers are answered.  We may not get the answer we want or get it when we want it but it is answered.

For the first time in a long while I felt an answer to my prayer one night last week.  Derek had a rough day filled with disappointments at work and during his bitter complaints there was a little piece of me that started to doubt his success in this career choice.  I had some moments of fear that he would do something stupid, like walk off the job, and send us plunging right back into the same financial crisis we are trying so desperately to escape.  I don’t have any more help cards to pull out so that is especially frightening and stressful to me.  When I spilled out my fears in prayer, I heard a distinct “Don’t worry… I got this!” in response.

That doesn’t sound like a very Godly way to word it, does it?  But that is what I heard.  And after a long dry spell where it felt like the heavens were closed to me, I’m not sure if I felt more excited about the offered relief or grateful just to get an answer!
Photo credit: http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com

At Church a woman I’ve become rather friendly with mentioned finally receiving an answer to a prayer 24 years later.   You could see the amazement and gratitude in her countenance when she spoke about this long sought answer.  What a testament to patience!!  I think I probably would have given up, assumed the answer was no and forgotten all about it.  I know it probably doesn’t seem like nearly such a terrible wait in the reckoning of God’s time but it’s mind boggling to me.  And I sincerely hope it doesn’t take 24 years to see my prayer’s answer come to fruition!!

One of our lesson topics today was prayer or, more specifically, about listening for His answer when we pray and how sometimes our minds are so full of clutter and background noise that we miss it.  Maybe at some later time, we realize that it was there but “in the now” getting an answer is not part of our conscious recognition either because our own pride won’t accept an answer different than what we seek or that we’ve failed to calm our minds enough to hear His still small voice.  Somewhere in scripture it talks about the voice of God being in the stillness following whatever tumultuous event is giving us grief.  He doesn’t speak to us in big grand ways that get the attention of the whole world but rather in a soft quiet voice only we can hear… if we are ready to listen.  That darned “if” clause gets us sometimes…

Our Relief Society President was teaching the lesson.  Two months ago her husband had a stroke.  He made it to the hospital and treatment was started in under an hour and, amazingly, he’s retained much of his functioning.  He walks and talks so well that people who didn’t know what had happened probably wouldn’t guess.  If that’s not amazing enough in and of itself… they both count his stroke as a blessing because of what it’s taught them about prayer and paying attention to see God’s answer applied to their lives.  She gave some specific examples of how she’s doing that.  She spoke of things like turning off the radio chatter when she’s driving to work and using the time to talk to God and just be quiet and listen.  Sometimes she plays a CD of hymns as soft background to her reverie.   And it’s astounding what she’s learned about herself, her husband, how to meet their family’s needs, how to answer hard questions that are posed to her as Relief Society President, how to better meet the demands of her job and a long list of other things just by purposely making her drive a quiet time of seeking heavenly inspiration.

I’ve been trying to carve out some quiet in my day several times a week.  Actually, it's a line item on my To Do List though, admittedly, it’s something that gets sacrificed when I fall behind on other chores and has mostly been turning into a nap when I do take the time.  I’ve been telling myself that the napping is just part of getting my strength and stamina back so hopefully one day it can be what’s intended because I really want it to be my time to turn to the scriptures and pray… and listen.

Beef Barbacoa

August 2, 2014

Yesterday I tried something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and made Beef Barbacoa in my slow cooker.  It tasted perfect!  The only way it could have been better is if I could have started with the right cut of meat and been able to actually shred it.  But with stew meat in the freezer, and not a nice roast, I used what I had available.

Beef Barbacoa is a very simple dish to prepare.  Measurements are approximate because I eyeball stuff instead of dragging the proper tools out and assume about 6-8 pounds of meat are being used.  Simply brown your meat (cut the roast into manageable pieces) in a frying pan and then place in your slow cooker or crockpot.  Add a small jar of your favorite salsa and enough beef broth (or water and bullion or beef base) to submerge meat.  You don’t want it fully covered just submerged because you are going to, over the course of the day, cook off 90% of the liquid.  Heat on high until it is bubbling consistently then turn to low and let simmer for 6-8 hours.  A couple of hours before you are ready to serve, pull the meat out and shred it.  Return to the cooker with just enough brown sugar to cut the acid from the salsa and give a mildly sweet flavor to the remaining liquid.  Stir occasionally until dinner time.

I imagine a couple of you are mentally raising your hands with questions already… Yes, 6-8 pounds of roast is a lot of meat.  This is what I call a ‘Planned-Over’ kind of recipe.  What you don’t use right away can be frozen for quick meals later on.  And, yes, you can use pork roast if you prefer and it comes out just as perfectly delightful!

5 ways to serve Beef Barbacoa…

In a Mexican Style Salad
Place a big flour tortilla in the bottom of a large shallow bowl.  Add in this order:
Scoop of Green Rice (recipe at end of post)
Scoop of black beans
Scoop of Beef Barbacoa
A big handful of lettuce or mixed salad greens
Tomato and avocado wedges
Squeeze juice of ¼ lime over the top
A sprinkling of queso fresco
A few fried tortilla strips
Dress with ranch (or Google “CafĂ© Rio Creamy Tomatillo Dressing” for something absolutely drool inducing!)

In a Burrito
Place a scoop of Beef Barbacoa and a bit of shredded cheese on a large flour tortilla.  Roll up like a burrito.   Serve as is or top with Salsa Verde and grated cheese and place under the broiler until heated.  Serve with Green Rice, black beans, and salad greens on the side.

On an American Style Salad
Place a healthy serving of shredded lettuce or mixed salad greens on your dish.  Top with tomato wedges, grated cheese, thinly sliced red onion, a scoop of Beef Barbacoa and a handful of onion straws.  Dress with your favorite salad dressing and a drizzle of barbeque sauce.

On Southern BBQ Joint Mac ‘n Cheese
Go all out and make homemade Macaroni & Cheese with your favorite recipe.  Place a dinner-sized serving in a shallow bowl and top with a scoop of Beef Barbacoa, a drizzle of barbeque sauce, thinly sliced red onion, grated cheddar cheese, and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

In a Sandwich
Place a scoop of Beef Barbacoa in a toasted hamburger bun.  Top the meat with a bit of shredded green cabbage (or coleslaw if you like it) or a thin slice of cheddar cheese and onion straws.  Especially good served with potato salad and pickle wedges.

To make Green Rice, I put a bit of olive oil in a frying pan and add long cooking white rice.  Toast it over medium high until the kernels of rice become mostly opaque (the heat turns them from translucent to a creamy solid white and acts to set the starch so that the rice doesn't come out sticky).  Add chicken broth (or water and bullion or chicken base) to cover.  Don’t worry about having enough water to fully cook it at this point, you will add more later.  When it comes to a boil, add half a jar of Salsa Verde, a small can of mild diced green chiles and 6-8 roughly chopped tomatillos.  Cook until rice is nearly tender adding water as needed.  When it’s almost done, add the rest of the Salsa Verde, a handful of chopped cilantro, appx. 1 tsp cumin, and some chopped green onion or chives.  Test for salt.  Let sit covered until the last of the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender and fluffy.

Happy eating!

Coffee, Science and Judgment

August 1, 2014

Photo credit: http://kristentorrestoro.myadventures.org/?

I’ve never fancied myself as a scientifically minded person, but I do like to know how stuff works.  And when I really want to know I will ask questions of every person who I think might have some possible insight.  I will ask and ask and ask, probably to the point of making an annoyance of myself.  That’s how I found out why coffee makes ibuprofen work better for my knee pain.

When I’m hurting badly and ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen just don’t touch it on their own, taking 800 mg (4 tablets) of ibuprofen with a mug of coffee brings the pain down to a bearable level.  Yes, I do know 800 mg is more than the recommended dose on the over-the-counter label but it’s less than you get with 1 prescription Advil.  And since I don’t do it every day my nurse friends tell me it’s a pretty safe dose.  For years now I’ve known that it worked but I didn’t know why.  And the “why” part bugged me.

Many years ago I worked with a man who had a prescription from his dentist for a cup of coffee every morning with whatever painkiller he was taking for otherwise untreatable tooth/jaw pain.  I rolled my eyes and thought he just liked coffee and needed the prescription to excuse it and keep his Temple Recommend so his wife wouldn’t kill him.  (He was, and I presume still is, LDS and drinking coffee is against the dietary code for Mormons in much the same way that Jews don’t eat pork.  As I understand it, the reasons are a little different but that a dietary code exists is similar.  For Mormons it’s a test of obedience while Jews are avoiding contact with an ‘unclean,’ and therefore harmful, substance -- for example, fat, naturally high sodium content, parasites and other diseases that would be readily transmittable because our body chemistry is so similar to swine that medical science can, today, use their organs for transplants in humans.)  I really didn’t give it much more thought until several years and a couple of jobs later when I found myself with a raging headache and a full afternoon of flashy PowerPoint presentations in a dark room ahead of me.  My boss handed me a couple of Advil and sternly told me to go get a cup of coffee and put my head down for 15 minutes.  Her persuasive powers finally prevailed…  And my headache went away.

I assumed it was the caffeine giving the painkiller a boost.  So, being Mormon myself, I tried to replicate the effect with other beverages.  I tried hot chocolate, Dr. Pepper, energy drinks, even caffeinated bottled water.  It didn’t work.  I got the energy bump but there was absolutely no effect on pain.

Ten years of asking everyone I met with any sort of science background and Googling it nigh to death… and I finally have my answer.  I met someone who knew and the patience to explain it in terms I understand.   FINALLY I know how it works!!

Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant.  That’s why you wake up or get the little energy bump from consuming it.  But caffeine is not the only stimulant in coffee.  The oil of the coffee bean contains bioflavonoids that specifically stimulate blood flow.  More blood, and consequently more of the painkilling and anti-inflammatory compounds in the ibuprofen, is delivered to the site of pain.  And that’s what gives the relief.

I really kind of love logical, tidy, simple answers like that!

The physician who explained this to me cautioned that the increase in blood flow is generally considered medically insignificant.  And, like any medication, the effect (pain relief in this case) doesn’t happen for every person who tries it.  But there is a growing body of documentation that for a certain segment of the population it is effective so maybe it’s more significant that medicine recognizes today.  And that is good enough for me.  There’s no guilt about having the occasional mug of coffee now that I know there is sound scientific reasoning behind my claim that it’s doing something positive in my body.  And I guess if I end up needing a prescription to justify it I can get past feeling so utterly silly asking…

Funny how sometimes it takes years for God to show you that your rash judgment of someone was way off base isn’t it?  Maybe that co-worker from years ago liked the pain relief more than the coffee.  I shouldn’t have assumed anything about his habits or motives.  I would do well to love more and judge less!