She works with willing hands.

To The Woman Who Aborted Her Child

I know you.  I know how it is.  The news is unavoidable.  The highest court in the land is reviewing a Texas abortion law, and everyone has an opinion.  Pundits critique, protesters yell, people condemn.

But I know you.  And I know how it feels.

You are the woman who aborted her child.  You are not a hypothetical scenario, and you can no longer choose life.  You already made the opposite choice, perhaps many, many years ago.

I know it still hurts, and that you wonder what he or she would look like.  Would she have wild blonde curls like your middle child?  Would he be strong and assertive like your oldest?  Would her fingers be long and slender like her little sister’s?

I know that the pain and “what-ifs” will be with you always.  And I know that some days the grief feels as fresh as if it were yesterday.  Especially when abortion is in the news.

There is so much I want to say to you.  Because there is so much that God has said to me, in his Word, through his Scriptures.

But mostly I want to tell you – there is grace for you.  Abundant, irresistible grace, made available to you through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.

I know that you don’t feel grace from other people.  I know that you feel judged, and confused.  While some women proudly shout their abortions on social media, and a segment of pro-life advocates condemn any woman who has aborted a child, you don’t know where your voice belongs.  Where are the women like you?  The women who aborted their children, and aren’t proud of it?  The women who stare longingly at their dining tables, knowing that there should be extra place settings there?  The women who will always wonder who their dead children would have become?

I know you because I am you.

And I must tell you that there is forgiveness, and so much grace, for you.

God freely sent his perfect, sinless son to die a wretched death and rise again so that you could be forgiven.  And his forgiveness is sweet, and redemptive.  Jesus died for abortion-committing women like you and me.  He said so in Luke 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

There is one way to know the sweet, saving grace of God, and that is by coming to Jesus.

After my abortion, I came to Jesus.  I threw myself at his feet and repented for ending the life of my child.  And because I can now call God my Father, I am forgiven, set free, and redeemed.

I know you.  And I want the same for you.  Won’t you join me?

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

As he so often does, the Lord is leading me down a path with which I am unacquainted.  I can see the road, but not the destination, and I must proceed slowly and cautiously as I veer into unfamiliar turns and proceed up precipitous inclines.

I am most comfortable behind a computer screen, my fingers furiously tapping the keyboard, for fear of not getting the thoughts out of my head quickly enough before they evaporate, and are gone forever.  Then I edit myself a lot, and feel safe pushing “publish” only after I’ve had time to thoughtfully consider my words.  Writing feels safe and comfortable – it is my happy place.

But more and more, I am being asked to speak and teach.  These are things that I can do, and have done, in the past.  As a lawyer (and former moot court member), I was trained in the art of public speaking and persuasion.  As a bible study leader and Sunday school teacher, I have taught many a biblical lesson.

But the truth is – the thought of standing in front of a large group of people who are gathered to hear me speak makes my armpits get all sweaty and my heart pound.

This is not a path that I would have chosen to take without prompting from others and the pull of the Holy Spirit.

In the face of my discomfort, I have chosen to accept several upcoming speaking engagements, and I am prayerfully reliant on the Lord to be my GPS.  I am determined to do my best, and speak honestly and clearly about the things that God has done in my life and the ways he has changed me.

My first such engagement will be at the Saturday Women’s Gathering at Church of the Saviour in Wayne, Pennsylvania on Saturday, May 7th at 9:00 a.m.  I will be speaking on the topic of Bringing Darkness Into Light – The Healing Power of Public Confession.  I hope you’ll join me if you’re anywhere in the Philadelphia region.  I’ll post registration information when it becomes available, and I’ll announce additional dates as they approach.

And if you’re so inclined, please pray for me as I depart down this speaking engagement path with an unknown destination.  I desire for my words to bring glory to God and not to me.  Please pray that I will not fear or crave man’s (or woman’s) approval, but the approval of the Almighty.

Oh, and pray that I find some strong antiperspirant.  I’m going to need it.

Supper Club

grandmas table

Last Friday evening was Supper Club!  Spearheaded by my gal Jaime, a small group of us church girls recently started gathering monthly to eat, talk, drink, share, pray, laugh – and EAT.  Based loosely on Shauna Niequist’s cooking club from her fab book Bread & Wine, we take turns hosting, and select a theme for each gathering.

We’re a mismatched group of eclectic women – all so very different in backgrounds and interests – but with common threads that unite us.  We all love the Lord, and we’re all doing our best in this messy business of motherhood.  Oh, and we all adore food, and everything that life around the table represents.

As Shauna Niequist so aptly writes, “Something extraordinary happens when we slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, and listen to one another’s stories around the table.”  I couldn’t agree more.  The time spent with these women nourishes my soul, much like their dishes nourish my belly.

This month’s theme was “dinner at grandma’s table.”  Lindsey was our gracious host, and we shared stories of our grandmothers’ recipes while seated ’round the table Lindsey inherited from her granny who passed away exactly seven years ago (almost to the date of our supper).

Like all well loved items, grandma’s table shows her age.  But much like grandma herself, she’s not self-conscious about her frailty or imperfections.  She’s lived a good long life, and she’s full of beauty and tales of meals spent with family and friends.  She even surprised us by losing her center support legs near the onset of our meal.  But it was nothing that a few resourceful mamas couldn’t rectify with a of couple of screws and some belly laughs.

table legs

table legs 2

With a few Italians in our group, our meal was deliciously heavy on pasta and red sauce, and Lindsey fried up some ridiculously thin and superbly yummy chicken cutlets.  Serenaded by the rich and scratchy sounds of grandma’s old vinyl records, we filled our bellies and laughed like we haven’t in months.

I made my grandma’s No Crust Coconut Pie, which reminds me of holidays spent ’round the table.  I’ll post the recipe soon, and I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

As the meal concluded with a traditional Italian shot of Sambuca (to aid digestion, of course), we scurried to clear grandma’s table and clean the dishes (many hands making light work) before heading to our own homes filled with husbands (one each) and small children asleep in warm beds.

Until next month, Supper Club…my belly, and my soul will be waiting…

Photography by Lindsey Calabretta Clark.

The Pull of Busyness

Back when I was practicing law (and before I had children), one of my female colleagues had a friend who was a stay-at-home mom.  From time to time this stay-at-home mom would exclaim to my colleague, “I’m just so busy!  I have so much going on!”

I can vividly recall standing in an office with a few other female lawyers and mocking that woman.

“What on earth is possibly making her so busy?!” we jeered, contemplating our own brutal sixty-plus hour work week.  “What is she doing?  Playing tennis and volunteering at her kid’s preschool?  She needs a reality check.”

Her claims seemed patently absurd to a group of young overworked attorneys.  But today, as I stare at my old fashioned paper planner, covered in ink scribbles marking play dates, doctor visits, soccer practices, exercise classes, science fairs, lunch dates, supper clubs, AWANA club, teaching Sunday school, leading bible study, and preschool volunteer obligations (all in this week alone), I find myself in the peculiar position of being the very woman I mocked.

Busyness has a powerful pull.  And if I’m not careful, my life will pass me by in a hyper-scheduled, distracted blur.  It doesn’t matter if it’s due to a demanding career or my life as a stay-at-home mom.  I will fill up my time.

But consider the story of the sisters Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.  And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving.  And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

This passage of Scripture contains a warning about busyness.  Martha was busy.  And the things she was busy doing were good things.  She was “distracted with much serving,” attending to the needs of the people visiting her home.

When I was a young lawyer, I had a good job doing sophisticated work.  And now as a stay-at-home mom, it’s good things like volunteering and teaching that keep me busy.  But what is the cost of my busyness?

For Martha, the cost was missing the opportunity to sit at the very feet of Jesus and learn from his teaching.  God in flesh was in her living room and she was too distracted preparing the antipasta tray to be bothered.  In fact, she complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t busy along with her!

But how often am I like Martha?  How often do I deceive myself – believing I am serving others, when in fact I am so often serving myself through my own prideful works?  How often am I distracted by my own busyness when Jesus wants me to choose the good portion.  Yes, God wants me to serve – but he wants me to serve him – by being transfixed by Christ.

Father God,

I want to choose the good portion.  Please help me stop when you want me to stop, rest when you want me to rest, and sit at your feet daily, immersed in your Word, submitting my heart to your will.  I don’t want my life to pass me by in a hyper-scheduled blur.  Please give me a listening, worshipful spirit.  Please help me resist the pull of busyness.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Korean Slaw

I top my Korean tacos with this easy slaw, and I always prepare it shortly before I plan to serve it.  (There’s nothing scrumptious about wilty cabbage.)

These are the ingredients:

korean slaw ingredients

There’s extra virgin olive oil in that little jar.

Plus this pot of golden deliciousness:

honey

Throw your slaw mix into a bowl and dice two scallions.  Add them in, too.

slaw mix

Measure one-half of a tablespoon of black toasted sesame seeds and pour them in.

sesame seeds

Now give those ingredients a nice toss to combine.

Next juice half of a lime.

lime

I had a blonde moment and juiced the whole lime.  You only need half a lime.  Don’t be like me.

Pour the juice of one-half of a lime into a Ball jar.

ball jar

Then add one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the jar.

Plus one tablespoon of rice vinegar.

Plus one-half of a tablespoon of soy sauce.

Finally, add one tablespoon of honey, and give it all a furious shake.  Pour it on top of the slaw and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

INGREDIENTS

5 cups napa cabbage, carrots, and celery mix

2 scallions

1/2 tbsp. black toasted sesame seeds

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. honey

Korean Tacos With Slaw

I love Korean food.  More heavily seasoned (and typically spicier) than Chinese and Japanese cuisines, Korean food incorporates ingredients like chili pepper, sesame oil, and ginger, all three of which make my mouth water.  I cobbled this recipe together on my own, and it is not intended to be an authentic Korean dish.  But it does incorporate authentic flavors, and it hits the spot when I’m craving Korean tacos.  I often make it the day before I plan to serve it.  You’ll see why in a bit.

I start with chuck roast.  Perfect for braising, chuck roast falls apart when it’s cooked low and slow.  It’s ideal for shredding and throwing into a tortilla shell.

chuck roast

I buy a family pack from Wegmans and use one of the roasts, freezing the other one.  Each of these cuts is between 2.5 and 3 pounds.

Gather this stuff:

korean taco ingredients

That’s fresh ginger on the front right.

Now locate your dutch oven.  I use my large (7 and 1/4 quart) Le Creuset.  It’s perfect for braising.

Place your chuck roast in the dutch oven.  (Note: you do not need to rinse the meat first!  Read here to find out why.)

Measure one-half of a cup of soy sauce.

one half cup soy sauce

And pour it on top of the chuck.  Now use the same cup and measure one-half of a cup of water.  Pour that on the chuck, too.

Next measure one-half of a cup of brown sugar.  (You can use dark or light.)  Dump it on top of the meat.

brown sugar korean tacos

Measure one tablespoon of minced garlic.  I used jarred (because I’m lazy) but of course fresh minced garlic is even better!  Add it to the pot.

garlic on chuck

Now for the secret ingredient!  This is gochugaru (or Korean red chili flakes).  Different than American chili powder or cayenne pepper, gochugaru has a specific taste that is unique to Korean food.  You can find it at the Asian market.  Gochugaru varies in heat (depending on where the peppers were grown and how it is prepared), so don’t go crazy the first time you use this.  I use one-half of a teaspoon in this dish (but you might want to use less if you are heat-sensitive or it’s your first time cooking with this spice – go easy).

gochugaru

And if you have no desire to drag your butt to the Asian market, then just substitute with red pepper flakes.  The flavor will not be the same, but the result will still be yummy for your tummy.

Now grab your sesame oil and measure one tablespoon.

sesame oil

Add it to your other ingredients.

Using the same spoon, measure three tablespoons of rice vinegar.

rice vinegar

Oh my gosh, this was the cuteness going on in the midst of me preparing this.

cuteness

“I shopping, mommy.  I go to eat and shop.”

We call the grocery store “eat and shop” for obvious reasons.  I ply my children with snacks the entire time we shop in order to maintain the peace, and my sanity.

Oh, you’re getting cranky?  Here, want a cookie?

Oh, your brother just hit you?  Want some goldfish?

What’s wrong?  Your [insert body part] hurts?  Would you like a frozen yogurt?

Go ahead and judge.  You may call it bribery.  I call it survival.

But I digress…

Back to the tacos.

Add the three tablespoons of rice vinegar to the pot.

Now grab six scallions, and lob off the ends.

scallions

Then dice.  Look at that beautiful natural ombre.

ombre

Throw ’em in the pot.

Now cut one inch of fresh ginger and peel it with a spoon or a potato peeler.  Find your hand grater and grate the ginger into the pot.

grate ginger

Finally, grab a big spoon and give it all a mix to combine the ingredients.  Slap the lid onto your dutch oven and put it in a 275 degree oven for roughly four hours.  The beef is done when it’s fall apart tender and shreds easily with a fork.

At this point you can either shred it, stir with the sauce, and dig in; or you can let it cool and pop the whole pot into the fridge for several hours or overnight.  When you pull it out the next day, the fat will have hardened and separated, and you can easily skim it off and discard it before re-heating the beef.  I prefer the latter method and usually always prepare this one day before I plan on serving it.  (But again, it’s yummy either way.)

Serve in tortilla shells topped with this slaw and some dashes of sriracha sauce.

INGREDIENTS

3 lb. chuck roast

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. gochugaru

1 tbsp. sesame oil

3 tbsp. rice vinegar

6 diced scallions

1 inch grated fresh ginger

When Worry Creeps In…

I am a worrier.  I’ve always been this way.

I can remember being a child and remaining awake late into the night, snug in my bed – just worrying.

At times in the past, I’ve even mistaken worry as my friend – a constant, familiar companion.  I’ve sought comfort in turning a thought over and over again in my head – the same way a thumb works a worry stone.

But as an adult I’ve come to see worry for what it is…

A burden.

A joy thief.

An enemy.

No friend of mine.

As a parent charged with raising three little ones, an ocean of perils and matters over which to worry stretches before me, deep and wide.  And at times, the tide threatens to pull me in.  Worry laps at my toes, and I feel as if I’m in an often-present battle to avoid drowning.  But I know that the maker of the sea doesn’t want me to worry.  He tells me so in Philippians 4:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul commands the opposite of worry – he tells me to have peace.  But he is not referring to a peace that I can muster by myself.  No matter how many coping mechanisms I learn and no matter how many insightful devotionals I read, the peace spoken of here does not come from my own knowledge or efforts, for this is the very peace of God.

And how do I find this remarkable peace?  How do I remain immovable and firm, resolutely avoiding not just the tide, but weathering even the force of a storm?  How do I cling to the shore like a craggy rock that has been beaten for centuries but remains steadfast?  How do I shun worry, and treat it not as a friend, but as the enemy it is?

By praying to God.

With a heart of thanks for the things that God has already done for me, I am commanded to make my requests known to God.  Because he wants to help me.  He wants to give me his amazing peace that is so complete that I’m unable to fully comprehend it.

So when I am fearful, and worry creeps in like a joy thief in the night, I pray to the Lord.  I tell him my fears, hand him my worry, and thank him for sending Jesus to die on a cross for me.  This is a pattern I will repeat for the rest of my life, because I can’t do it on my own.

Thank you, Father God, for Jesus.  Thank you for saving me and for giving me your peace, which surpasses human understanding.  Thank you for helping me see that worry is no friend of mine.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

My Wegmans Favorites Part 2

After teaching my Mojo Fitness class this morning, I headed over to Wegmans for my lifeblood (aka a cup of Wegmans Donut Shop Blend Coffee).  Happily, Wegmans was having a party to celebrate their 100th anniversary.

There was live music, and an enormous (and tasty) cake.

wegmans cake

Everyone in the store got a piece.

I also picked up a few of my favorite Wegmans items that are perfect for pairing.

1. Wegmans Organic Rosemary Olive Oil Loaf & Wegmans Mild Cave-Ripened Brie

rosemary bread

wegmans brie

This pairing is a staple in my house.  While I myself did not experience the delight of brie cheese until I was in my twenties, my children consider this milky brie their favorite.  (How times have changed.)

We schmear sizable slices of this milky French brie on that aromatic rosemary bread, and gratify both our taste buds and our noses.  Just look at those rosemary leaves baked into the bread:

wegmans rosemary bread

It’s oh so yummy.

2. Wegmans Italian Classics Grandpa’s Sauce & Wegmans Italian Classics Spaghetti

grandpas sauce

wegmans spag

Listen, I’m an unbored housewife and I’m not above popping open a jar of sauce for dinner.  And when it’s Grandpa’s Sauce, no one in my family minds.  This traditional Italian red sauce has just a hint of heat, and it’s the best jarred sauce I’ve ever had.  I always keep a jar or eight in my pantry.

I pair it with the Italian Classics Spaghetti.  The rough texture of this pasta (made in the Puglia region of Italy from semolina flour) holds the sauce when it’s swirled on a fork.  Make it for dinner when you’re feeling lazy.  It’s so good, no one will mind.

I can be whatever the he** I want to be?

whatever i want to be

I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday when I came upon the following post:

Listen to me: I am a clinically depressed MOTIVATIONAL speaker.  So you can be whatever the hell you want to be.  Just raise your hand and say: I AM THIS THING.  The world will BELIEVE YOU.

It was written by Glennon Doyle Melton, the gal behind Momastery.  Admittedly, I am not entirely familiar with her writings, but I liked her Facebook page out of curiosity because she’s sort of a big deal.  She boasts 466,967 (and counting!) Facebook followers and she is a New York Times bestselling author.  The “press” page on her website reads like any writer’s dream, and she is the founder of a non-profit that assists struggling women.

That all sounds pretty rad, and I’m certainly not going to bash this lady.  I think it’s a big deal that she transparently discloses suffering from clinical depression, which certainly encourages other women struggling in the same way.

I can get behind transparency for the purpose of encouraging others.  I like that.  A lot.

But here’s the part that’s missing from her “motivational” post:

God.

Scripture tells us that God is sovereign over all things.  Isaiah 46:8-11 says,

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.  I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

This passage means that God – and God alone – plans and intends all things for his purposes.  This includes both natural and human events, all of which were intended by God long before they ever occurred.  In other words, God designs and rules over all things.

This is difficult teaching to hear, and even harder to digest.  We want to be masters of our own universe, and authors of our own stories.  We believe strongly in human autonomy and we certainly don’t like being confined by a supreme power over which we have no control.  We instead believe in the power of our own free will and think it to be self-determining.  If we just work hard enough, muster enough faith, think enough “positive thoughts” and possess good self-esteem, we can be anything.  Right?

Just like everyone else, I have aspirations, hopes and private desires for the course of my life.  There are things that I want to do, and people who I want to be.  But I know that all of those longings and goals are subject to the authority of my maker, and I pray fervently for a heart that submits my own desires to his will.

So yes, Glennon over at Momastery is a New York Times bestselling author, an acclaimed blogger, a motivational speaker and the founder of a major non-profit helping women.  And those are fantastic things.  But she is those things because God destined it to be so.

Not because she raised her hand and claimed it.

My Wegmans Favorites Part 1

I love Wegmans.  As in, I’m there nearly.every.day.  I go for coffee in the morning, and then pick up produce for my dinnertime meal.

Wegmans has some of the freshest produce around, which I already knew from experience.  But then last year The Washington Post did this fab article about the greatness of all things Wegmans, which confirmed my observations about the store’s produce offerings.  According to the article, “[T]he average supermarket turns over its inventory between 18 and 20 times a year…Wegmans, by contrast, goes through its produce as many as 100 times a year.  ‘That’s why their produce is almost always fresher than their competition’s.'”

Just look at that produce section.  It’s a place of beauty, with a wide array of conventional and organic fruits and veggies, both ordinary and exotic.

wegmans produce

I’ve been shopping at Wegmans almost daily for over six years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had problems with my produce being unsatisfactory.  And in those handful of times, the customer service folks either gave me a refund or allowed me to make an exchange – no fuss, no muss.

So I recommend their produce.  It’s fresh stuff.

Along with their fruits and veggies, I have a repertoire of Wegmans’s house-owned and branded items that I love.  And here are a couple that I’ll be highlighting in this Part 1 of my new continuing series of posts I’m calling “My Wegmans Favorites”:

Wegmans Donut Shop Blend Specialty Coffee

donut shop blend

This is my lifeblood, and therefore an appropriate place to start.

I am a coffee snob.  And as a recovering Starbucks addict (I no longer touch the stuff), I now have a deep appreciation for a smooth and mellow cup of joe.  Do not be deceived, this coffee tastes nothing like the sub-par flavor of a cup of Dunkin’.  This inexpensive blend is perfection, and I drink it every day.  It makes me happy.

Wegmans Mini Vanilla Bean Scones

Need something sweet and carby to enjoy with that perfect cup of Donut Shop Blend?  I have just the thing.

Wegmans makes a variety of tasty little scones:

scones

But see that stack with the lavender label?  There is a reason that fewer of them remain on the table.  They are really darn good.  In fact, they are so tasty that I no longer purchase them because I end up eating the whole package myself.  When a box of those lovelies are in my house, I sink as low as hiding in the pantry, mouth stuffed with yummy vanilla carby-ness so that I don’t have to share them with my kids.

They’re really good – but beware – they may turn you into a selfish and gluttonous mommy.  Purchase them at your own risk.

vanilla scones