Banana Chocolate Chunk Muffins

1 3/4 c. flour

1/4 c. ground flax seed

1/2 c. sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3/4 c. dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%) chopped (I had a few chocolate chips as well so I threw those in too)

1 egg

1/4 c. milk

1/4 c. oil

1 c. mashed bananas (about 3 small-medium sized bananas)

Combine first five ingredients in a bowl.

Whisk liquid ingredients together in a small bowl.

Add mashed bananas to liquid ingredients.  Add this to the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated.  Drop into muffin tins lined with muffin cups.

Bake at 400 for 20 – 25 minutes.  12 good-sized muffins

A Grace Disguised

The accident set off a silent scream of pain inside my soul.  That scream was so loud that I could hardly hear another sound, not for a long time, and I could not imagine that I would hear any sound but that scream of pain for the rest of my life.  ~ Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss

Sittser wrote this book three years after his wife, young daughter and mother were killed in a car accident by a drunk driver.  The book was recommended to me by our pastor after our friends lost their son suddenly last July to help me understand a fraction of what they were going through.  I was sorrowfully adrift at that time, not knowing how to help them.  Little did I know how much this book would also help me with my own losses.

Sittser’s passages are at times raw, honest, dark and bleak, and, at others, hopeful, quiet, and even joyful.  He tries several things to escape dealing with the pain of his loss – anger, bargaining, indulging, and denial. As he would soon learn, however

 … the pain of loss is unrelenting. It stalks and chases until it catches us. It is as persistent as wind on the prairies, as constant as cold in the Antarctic, as erosive as a spring flood. It will not be denied and there is no escape from it. … Pain will have its day because loss is undeniably, devastatingly real.

He speaks of living in the tension of ambivalence

in those of us who believe in the resurrection. We doubt, yet we try to believe; we suffer, yet long for real healing; we inch hesitantly toward death, yet see death as the door to the resurrection.

This illustrates, he says, the duality of life.

Or, as one Puritan put it:

Now life will be a little less sweet, death a little less bitter.

Sittser says that love and loss are inexorably linked; that one cannot exist without the other.  This reminds me of a passage by CS Lewis:

 To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable . . . The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers . . . of love is Hell. C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Sittser chronicles his journey from raw suffering, dark depression, grief and pain to a life that was transformed by grace.

If you let it, your sorrow will increase your capacity to live life, and to experience joy, not after the darkness, but even in the midst of it.

More than a memoir, this is a beautiful handbook for both those who have both suffered loss and those who walk alongside them.

Super Speedy Stir Fry with Orange Hoisin Sauce

1 sirloin steak, grilled to your preference. We grilled ours on our indoor grill for about 7 minutes.

1/2 c. each of the following vegetables, chopped:

zucchini, red pepper, broccoli, carrot, onion

Brown vegetables, then add some fresh grated ginger and approximately 3 – 4 T. each soy sauce, orange juice and hoisin sauce. Simmer for a few minutes. Cut up steak and toss with vegetables. Serve with rice. Serves two. (Note: Any combination of vegetables can be used.)

Lessons From the Bereaved

As our friends grieve, it strikes me that there are parallels between looking after yourself while grief-stricken and self-care for someone newly diagnosed with an illness, or other live-changing events.

 

  1. Initially, after you are diagnosed, take a break from “life.”   Get out of as many commitments as possible.
  2. Gather your family close. You won’t be up to dealing with too many other people but having family support is critical.
  3. If able to financially, and your employer offers short term disability, take a leave from work.
  4. Do only what’s essential.
  5. Decide how much of your story you want to tell, and whom to tell it to.  You may choose to tell some people all of the narrative, and others a scaled down version.
  6. Don’t stuff your emotions; allow the tears to flow and the anger to rage.
  7. Seek professional help with number #6 if necessary.
  8. Pace yourself.
  9. Look after your sleep – medicate if necessary.
  10. Don’t over commit, even once the initial stages of the gong show of actually getting a diagnosis, and the reactions within post-diagnosis, have settled a bit, watch your obligation levels.
  11. Later, as you are feeling more up to rejoining “life” again, play it by ear when considering what you want to do.  See how you feel in the moments before considering an activity so as not to put too much pressure on yourself.
  12. Don’t isolate; hang out with “safe” people who know and love all those parts of yourself.
  13. Cut yourself some slack.  I remind our friends “grief has no timetable.”