Monday, November 21, 2016

Live Out Loud


     Have you noticed? It's hip to be an introvert these days. Online quizzes, diagrams, stories, and personality tests have explained this enigmatic quality far too many times to be revolutionary, far too meticulously to be misunderstood, and far too popularly to be the profile of a minority. Everyone, it seems, is an introvert.
what is this, Monopoly?
     Why is introversion so popular? How is it that seemingly everyone relates? An introvert needs "alone time." Needs to recharge without the constant clamoring for attention from outsiders. Needs to have breaks from pouring herself into those around her. Needs to be able to focus on personal priorities.

     Or, to put it bluntly, an "introvert" needs to have moments of no accountability. Needs to be thought "special" instead of "selfish" in her insistence on being left alone. Needs to be pitied (instead of called out) when she is disgruntled from long-term interactions with others. Do these qualities - these needs - sound like descriptions of a misunderstood personality, or an egocentric individual, longing to be justified? 

     I'm not denying the legitimate differences between "introverts" and that mysterious, little-known mutant group dubbed "extroverts" (I love you guys!), but I do see a GREAT propensity - in my life and others' - to excuse everything short of murder in the name of, "but I'm an introvert!" After all, who doesn't love a get-out-of-jail-free card?*
I'd rather just keep quietly to myself
     All growing up, I was the bookworm in the corner. I remember, on multiple occasions, my mother pulling me aside and correcting me for reading while guests were present. I took books to parties, to dinners when I didn't know the family, to the store - they were my escape, and my parents had to work hard to keep me from disappearing into a self-satisfied loner at the ripe old age of 10.

     The most memorable time my father shoved me beyond my "I'm-shy-and-I-like-it-that-way" comfort zone was when he insisted I introduce myself to a fellow student (we attended a home school science class) to recite a memory verse assignment. I declined in no uncertain terms, claiming I wished to recite to him, but he was undeterred. Scooping up his tween daughter - who, despite her "shyness", had no qualms about kicking and arguing in front of the class as she was carried across the room - he deposited me before another student with the implacable declaration: "She would like to recite her verses to you!"

     When I look back on this winner of Mortifying Moments in Sarah's Life, I feel little (aside from amusement) beyond regret. I see now that what I then called "shyness", and later called "being an introvert", is nothing so noble, so glorious. It was, rather, a hearty blend of pride, selfishness, and the fearful sentiment that if I didn't know for sure that someone would like me, I'd rather not risk it. So I embraced the world's labels, and excused my recluse habits. It was safer, more comfortable, and happier to just keep quietly to myself. 
do I need a spotlight?
     There are those, on the other hand, who find the forefront of a group naturally. Whose personalities sparkle. Who have a quick wit, an open demeanor, and a magnetic charisma to which people flock. Those who carry within themselves the gift of making all around them feel loved, and important. These happy individuals (because, of course, they're always happy) are not necessarily seeking the spotlight; they simply live their lives there, unaware of the sentiments of the sideline shadows. But as a shadow who's struggling not to check out of the real world and into her own personal one, I feel the pressure. 

     If my tendency is to withdraw from life, to live focused only on those things necessary to me, to shrink from reaching out to others - if this is my natural, selfish preference, are the Ones in the Spotlight my models of complete death to self? Is that who I must become to live as God created me to be? Am I somehow broken, that it is so difficult for me to talk to the lady beside me in the grocery store, while my friend can entertain an entire room full of people she has never before met? Should I - horror of horrors - be in a spotlight?
not about the introverts
     My answer used to be yes - but I'm learning it's not true. As an introvert, I face specific challenges in reaching out to others, but identifying and overcoming "introvert" weaknesses,I've learned I'm learning, is not accomplished by pretending to be someone you're not. God has given each and every one of us - introverts and extroverts alike - specific gifts, talents, and strengths. As unbelievable as it may seem, these gifts are not tied to whether you'd rather spend your free time with a gang of friends at the mall, or with a solitary pot of tea in your room. These gifts are based on who God created you to be, and the tasks He has given you to do - and following His leading is not any easier for Spotlight-Dwellers than it is for Shadows. It requires stepping out boldly and running down the path He has laid for you, even when you can't see past the bend. That's the funny thing about following: it implies that someone is ahead of you; someone who partially obscures the way, but who you trust to know the directions.
Live Out Loud
     So, as a girl who'd much rather quietly read in her corner, I'm being taught to live loudly - but this doesn't mean I've magically become the sought-out one, or have found myself a spotlight. Building relationships with the two girls who sit next to me in class? It took a lot of determination to introduce myself and exchange phone numbers - but my Father loves them, so shouldn't I act like that? Paying for the coffee of the person behind me in the drive-through was nothing - but when, today, I wrote him a note to say I was praying for him, and encouraging him to look up a Bible verse, I was almost light-headed with panic just asking the barista to pass it on.

     The fabled extroverts would laugh. This is what it means to her, to live out-loud?

     Yes. Because to live loudly is to live beyond the bounds of my own, controlled little world. To reach out to those around me when I know they can offer me nothing, because I have something, Someone, they desperately need. To remember that grades at school, veggies at the grocery store, or coffees in the drive-through are not the purpose of my day, but a means to lead me toward the people - classmates and coffee addicts alike - who Christ asks me to love.

     And to love them, I must break my silence. Will you live out loud?


*Lauren wrote a beautiful article confronting the introvert mentality head-on, and I strongly encourage all you fellow-introverts to hop over and get a perspective shift

Photo 1 Credit Heigl, Michael. AKG K550 Loud. 12 June 2012. Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo 2 Credit Vanova, Photo. Untitled. 10 January 2015. Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo 3 Credit Barker, Kenneth. imagine what is over there. 6 June 2010. Flickr Creative Commons.

Friday, October 28, 2016

five minute friday: eat


     In his essay "Of Studies," Sir Francis Bacon writes that "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested" - a sentiment I have always loved. Books are, perhaps, amongst the easiest sources of input that one can weigh and evaluate for their nutritional value to our spiritual life. When one has written words, he can easily return to verify their meanings, analyze their ramifications, and raise them for discussion amongst peers.

     But we are surrounded with a daily barrage of input that is not so easily identifiable.

     Songs on the radio, off-hand comments from professors, hidden assumptions under a veneer of compatibility with peers - every single interaction should be either tasted and spit out, considered and rejected, or chewed and swallowed, nourishing our souls.

     I daily have to slap sweets out of my hand, and reach instead for vegggies.

     Are you chewing on the Scriptures? Is it the largest part of your diet today?



five minute friday: Writing for five minutes on a theme. Skip the edits. Skip the considerations. Just write. And post.

Photo Credit
Denise P.S. Twenty-Three - 52. 8 June 2012. Flickr Creative Commons

Monday, September 19, 2016

Once Upon a Time: A Story of Cupcakes

Hello, Lovelies!

Or...Uglies, if you prefer. However, I'm sitting here with a British-flag-covered, steaming pot of tea, and methinks it affects my vocabulary at times. Besides, if you're sparing the time to read of my latest (and *ahem*, long ago) adventures in cupcakery, you are lovely! Shall we begin the tale?

    Once upon a time, when the colors of spring were just beginning to come into focus and warm the landscape, Sarah traveled to the far-off state of Maryland. This land was very merry indeed for the traveler, as it boasted the wonderful attraction of home to her life-long best friend, who had married another life-long friend, the two of whom had an exciting new friend to introduce to Sarah.

  Or, to be more precise, an honorary nephew for Auntie Sarah to meet!!
     Mr. Liam was full of smiles and conversation for Auntie Sarah, and she loved him dearly. Loved him when he napped, when he ate, and when he bounced. They played bump together, read books when Mama and Papa went on a date, and toured the art museum. One day, the adventures of Mr. Liam and Auntie Sarah contained-
What's that you say? You thought you were getting a cupcake recipe? What is this nonsense about cupcakes? Look at the post title. I'm sure I wrote "The Adventures of Mr. Liam and Auntie Sarah"...

Oh.

Cupcakes. Right. I will try again.

     One day, during Auntie Sarah's visit, Mr. Liam regrettably informed her that he had a busy day planned, and advised her to occupy herself as cheerily as she could with Mama while he attended to his duties (he promised to bounce in and out so they wouldn't be too devastated). Mama and Auntie wracked their brains, and finally decided that the best option for keeping happily busy would be the art of cupcakery. But not just any cupcakery. No - it would require a special kind, a kind of multiple colors and dancing flavors, to sufficiently brighten their time in which they could not be playing with Mr. Liam. And so the Sherbet Cupcake was born. Half grapefruit, half blueberry, topped with the fluffiest of So-Fluffy-I'm-Gonna-Die frostings, these cupcakes were masterpieces. Even Mr. Liam, who could not then enjoy their flavor, pronounced the aroma "heavenly" and "oohed" and "ahhed" at the colors. He thought Mama and Auntie were brilliant, and so, today, we share the recipe with the world.
     Because when life gives you no Mr. Liam playtime, you make cupcakes (and Skype him, and save to visit him again, and talk about him, and look at pictures that Mama sends you of him, and...well, you get the idea). So without further ado:

It was so fun to get make cupcakes with Mika as part of our Bloggy Cupcake Party - since we originally conceived the idea the first time Lauren and I got to visit her! For Part One of the recipe (Grapefruit Cupcakes!) and the Delectably Fluffy Frosting (a Mika-Sarah original), hop over to One Bright Corner. Below you'll find the Blueberry Cupcake side of this delicious-duo. Enjoy!



Blueberry Cupcakery
cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup Berry Blend fruit juice
2 - 3 drops purple food coloring, optional
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 cup blueberries (we used frozen, but fresh would be even more delicious!)

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 12-count muffin tin with adorable cupcake liners.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the rice flour, coconut four, tapioca starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.
3. In a larger bowl, beat the sugar and coconut oil together. Add eggs, one at a time, until texture is thick and smooth.
4. Combine the berry juice and food coloring with milk in a small bowl. Alternate adding milk and flour mixture by halves, beating until just combined.
5. Gently fold in blueberries, then fill papers with half Grapefruit half Blueberry batters!
6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until cupcakes spring back when tops are pressed or until a toothpick comes out clean (but remember gluten-free cupcakes are done at a more moist consistency than wheat flour cupcakes). Remove and cool completely on wire racks.
7. Frost!

(Remember, for frosting and specific details in duo-flavored cupcake assembly, see Mika's blog!)



Review:
This was my favorite cupcake recipe so far and receives two thumbs up!! They were flavorful, moist, and delicious with or without the frosting (but if there were any doubters, I'm highly recommending the frosting)! We all thought they had a slightly gritty taste, so I would experiment with substituting sweet rice flour for the brown rice. Also, I have made them again as lemon cupcakes and found them a bit dry - a problem we did not have with the original Sherbet Cupcakes. My hypothesis is that the juicy blueberries kept them moist - so don't skip the fruit! :)

     And now you know how it came about that there were Sherbet Cupcakes in the adventures of Mr. Liam and Auntie Sarah. And I think I can promise you that everyone lives happily ever after.

     Everyone except the cupcakes.

Friday, September 16, 2016

five minute friday

Let go of your priorities
Ignoble, insolent "I".
Self, her needs, desires, and delights - can wait.
Today you must be living-
Enthralled by all the grace that's granted
Nothing lacking but to serve.


five minute friday: Writing for five minutes on a theme. Skip the edits. Skip the considerations. Just write. And post.

Monday, August 22, 2016

No Pictures, Please

     Today, we had an adventure. Not the I-just-single-handedly-stopped-a-gun-point-bank-robbery kind, but the let's-get-out-and-enjoy-our-corner-of-the-world kind. It was lovely, exciting, refreshing, delightful.

     But I was unable to take a single picture! I couldn't post anything on Instagram: #eventhougheveryoneelsedid. There were no stop-by-stop updates for me to put on Facebook: that-moment-when-you-wonder-if-social-media-knows-how-awesome-your-life-is. I wasn't the one sending pictures back to mum and dad at home.

     I'm currently phone-less which means picture-less, but you know what? That's ok. Better, even. Because it means my Sunday afternoon was spent driving and talking and swimming in the river - not checking facts on my phone or trying to snap pictures. It means the day was closed with a fast-paced, steep hike to watch the sun set over rolling hills of evergreen trees, their reflections quivering in the winding river and its tributaries, the very glory of God seeming to burst forth in purple, red, and glowing gold - and all I could do was sit and wonder at its brilliance. Singing praises with my brothers and sisters, grasping to put words to the feeling of worship that throbbed my heart so vehemently I felt I may explode before I could voice it - this was all I could do. And it taught me.

 phones can't capture memories 

     Yet I know, ridiculously, if I had a phone, I would try. I would pull it out, and attempt to portray in pixels the breathtaking event of a Master Painter brushing the sky with broad, colorful strokes. I would set it up, adjust the angle, and try to save in a small electronic device the marvelous event of a massive heavenly body slipping beyond the edge of my mortal sight. I would try, and fail, and try again. I would become distracted, seeking that perfect shot. I would decide to put myself in the picture - probably with a friend - and would push a button over and over again to make sure we saved the most flattering pic possible. The sun would slip below the tree line, the colors would fade, the wind would die down, and I would have missed my chance.

Missed my chance to sing.

To worship.

To glory.

Missed my chance to marvel.

To be in awe.

To lift my hands high, stretching them toward heaven and the One who dwells therein.

     I love taking pictures because, as incomparable as they are to actual events, they have the ability to time-capsule moments. To help you recall, to go back, to say, "Oh! remember singing hymns together as the sun set on Angel's Rest? Remember that fellow-hiker who sat a bit away from us on the outcropping and clapped along, asking us to keep singing? Remember what it felt like just as that last sliver of burning rose-gold dissipated on the horizon?"


I want to remember

     But today I was reminded: it's saving the moments, and praising our King for them, that are the principle things. If pictures help - lovely. Take a couple. But if you're lucky enough to lose your phone and have no camera, drink it in. Cling to that colorful swirl of brilliance in the sky, hold tight to the shivering moments as the wind tries to blow you off the cliffs and the sun is no longer there to warm you, treasure the hours spent in praise and conversation with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

For me, God had to say loud and clear, "No pictures, please."


And it was glorious.