Insanity and the Perfect Chai Tea

One evening this week I entered my kitchen to find the end of the world was upon us, and it was clearly starting in MY kitchen.  Normally, I am not one to freak out about bugs, spiders, snakes, etc.  but this had been a long, tiring, boundary pushing sort of week, and my sanity was already stretched to the breaking point.  The memo had been sent, God and I had chatted, and it was clear–nothing more was to happen this week, or I just might have what I commonly refer to as “a moment.” Those moments are not pretty. They may be filled with tears, the weeping and nashing of teeth, and the loss of any semblance of sanity.

I entered my kitchen to find it quite literally swarming and crawling with hundreds of little dark colored bugs.  Immediately I felt my skin start to itch as my mind raced.  WHAT WAS HAPPENING?  Quite literally just 15 minutes earlier I had seen no sign of bug life, and now it felt like I was living through an Old Testament plague (though small in scale).  I started stomping bugs while calling my husband and demanding that he come home immediately if he indeed loved me as he claimed.  Nothing was at all irrational about my screeching, panicked demands into the phone.  Nope, nothing at all.  The more I stomped, the quicker they seemed to multiply, and I could feel it coming…the complete loss of my remaining sanity.

Hubby came home in time to find me sitting on the floor crying, laptop in hand, updating my Facebook status.  Yeah, totally normal.  He may have asked why I should pick now to post to Facebook. Clearly, he did not understand my normalcy!  I may have not so calmly retorted through clenched teeth, “Vulnerability and transparency.  Have you forgotten that I am all about that?  And heaven forbid that I should show just how imperfect our life really can be?  Why do you question me, when clearly I am in deep need of prayer because I AM LOSING MY MIND over here.”  Yeah, like I said, totally normal.

My husband became my hero and killed all the big bad bugs, and I finished up my cry while I googled the bugs in question.  Termites!  Mating-looking-for-a-spot-for-a-new-termite-colony termites!  Oh, no, not in my kitchen you are not! After realizing what was happening, I decided to find the hole that they were using for entry.  And then my brilliance astounded even me—God bless my low income childhood. I decided that duck tape could indeed save the day.  Yeah. Duck tape.  Don’t judge me. And as my husband mocked me and questioned my sanity over such a choice, he humored me and patched the small hole with duck tape.  And, dear reader, much to my vindication, it worked!

Though my spouse has agreed never to question my brillance again—something I wish I could hold him to—I have been feeling the need for a victory in my domestic skills…the need for a little redemption in my otherwise less then stellar week.  And so, on my 5th attempt at making the perfectly spiced vanilla chai, I think I have achieved the greatest victory I dare hope for in this area—and a little normalcy—because, really, I am a budding Martha Stewart. (cue laughter) The bonus?  It costs far less then $1 a serving.  So, without further ado, if you like a sublimely flavored vanilla chai tea, then you have to try out this tasty recipe.

Vanilla Chai Tea Concentrate

Cheesecloth

8 bags of your favorite black tea

1 tsp. ground cloves

1½ tbsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. ground ginger

8 cardamon pods (cracked)

2 star anise pods (cracked)

¾ tsp. ground black pepper

2 tbsp. honey

½-¾ c. coconut sugar, to taste

4½ c. water

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Method

First, measure out all of the spices into a large pot.  I found that using mostly ground spices really helped to enhance the flavor of the tea.

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Then, over medium-low heat gently message those tasty spices and warm them up for their adventure.  Not only will this make your house smell like an overly priced Yankee candle, but it will help make the concentrate taste even yummier.  (usually 2-3 minutes)

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Add water and stir.

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Throw in the tea bags, sugar, and honey.  Let them all mingle and become good friends until things get too heated (boiling).  Once it has started to boil, cover and turn off the burner.  Let steep for 10 minutes.

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Now pour the whole tasty mess into a strainer that you have lined with a cheese cloth.  This step removes the gritty taste that leaving all those ground spices in would give you…don’t ask how I know, just trust me. ;)  You can rinse out the cheese cloth, boil it in water for 15 minutes, (or you can totally forget it is boiling on the stove, boil all the water out and almost catch the remaining cheese cloth on fire) and reuse or you can just throw it away and buy a new one for the next time.

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Now gently stir in the crowning glory of this drink…the vanilla.

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Store in a glass container in the fridge for up to a week.  Mix concentrate with equal parts of your favorite milk (my favorite is half almond milk by Silk and half coconut milk).  Sprinkle with a bit o’ cinnamon and enjoy!

Betrayal, Love and the Easter Bunny

Easter.  Easily my favorite holiday.  And while I personally am not into the whole egg laying bunny or elaborate easter baskets, I hold nothing against them.  On a typical year we reread the story of Jesus’ resurrection, dress up in our spring best, dye eggs, cook yummy food, and enjoy family and friends.  This year, I am just not feeling any of the celebration.  This year, I am just still—face bowed, eyes full, hold me Jesus kinda still.  I have read the words so many times and never once stopped to pause at them:

Betrayal

He ate his last meal with the very one who would betray him.  I mean if you knew it was your last meal, as Jesus did, would you make sure to include your enemies?  I can only imagine the sorrow Jesus must have felt and the love that held him there.  The love.  Oh, the love!  I mean, this Jesus had been teaching this crazy concept of “loving your enemies,” and now here he is, in the last hours of his life, giving us such a powerful and vivid example of what that very idea can look like.  He even stooped to wash their feet.

“It was just before the Passover Feast.  Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.  The evening meal was being served…so he [Jesus] got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:1-2;4-5)

I am undone.  I am struggling to wrap my head around this sort of love.  It defies all earthly logic and wars against my flesh.  This is not simply a warm, fuzzy, feel good sort of love.  This is a totally selfless, I’m-willing-to-lay-my-life-down-and-hold-you-at-your-worst sort of love.  Agape love.  Simply, a only-God-can-do-it-in-you sort of love.  I will be quick to say that while I indeed want to be the recipient of this sort of love, I fear it would be all too easy to never learn how to truly give it.

I have known betrayal, heartache, and rejection…and my first response has never been to do what Jesus did.  And yet—the beauty of it—can you just picture it?  The incredible beauty of what Jesus did, and has done, and continues to do!  The one who loves us at our worst, just as we are.  The one who is the God of second chances, the forgiver.  The one who ultimately bore our crap so that one day we might know THIS sort of love.  A love that never fails.  This love, it takes me in, it lifts me up, and it changes me.  I want to love like Jesus did.  I want to love without first counting the cost; to be vulnerable, open, real and to not fear.  I want to love without putting up walls because of previous pain.  I want to love not just those who love me, but also the very ones that don’t.  That love is revolutionary, it changes everything, and it is the very heart of God.  Lord, please teach me to love like this.