My Manger

My God, my hope

My nothing less 

Than all.

Come quick, come fast

And land again amidst the roiling swell

Burning dove of Zion,

Reigning kind and friend to men.

Hunker in my hurting heart;

Make refuge, 

Hiding, humble in the crowded cave.

Boom out to all with ears to hear

Your joy for all the worlds:

You’ve stayed your hand,

You’ve stayed with man.

My God, my God

Come dwell again in me.

Recipe Thursday: My Dad’s Turkey and Dressing

Thanksgiving is coming up! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was one of my dad’s favorites too.

Now, on the subject of turkey, in my circles I’ve noticed two main comments around turkey: 

  1. I don’t really care for turkey—it’s too dry.
  2. No, I’ve found the perfect way to make turkey. This is the only way to make it!

Anybody with me on this? But, unless you’ve had my dad’s turkey and your perfect way is his way, then I’m going to have to disagree with you 😉 My dad loved turkey and dressing so much that when he was a bachelor, he used to make the full Thanksgiving meal for himself all throughout the year. He truly mastered it. So many amazing Thanksgiving memories with him and our family every year. 

And, so special, Dad once wrote out in detail the way he made the turkey for our dear friend Kristi. Now we have the recipe just the way he did it, in his own words. I’ve added some of my own notes to the bottom, which I made when my lovely friend Jodie made her turkey this way a few years ago.  

And now, I would have to say, my sister, Nathan and I have also mastered the turkey. Molly can do it all by herself! And she handles the lovely table arrangements.

Also, another note, you must enjoy this recipe with TONS of cranberry sauce!

And we’ve also enjoyed adding the Baker favorites to our traditional Thanksgiving, as we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving together many times since our marriage! Maybe we’ll share those recipes later! 🙂

I hope you enjoy it! We do every year!

From Dad: 

I BUY A 20 POUND FROZEN BUTTER BALL TURKEY. IT TAKES ABOUT 2-3 DAYS TO THAW OUT .

TAKE OUT THE HEART, NECK AND LIVER AND COOK IN A LARGE POT UNTIL SOFT AND PUT THEM IN THE REFRIDGEATOR OVER NIGHT.

I COOK THE BIRD ON 180 DEGREES OVERNIGHT FROM 11 PM TO 7AM.

I PEEL 2 LARGE SWEET ONIONS AND PUT THEM IN THE TURKEY RIB CAGE.

I CUT UP 2 STICKS BUTTER AND STICK THEM IN ALL THE SKIN FLAPS AND UNDER THE WINGS AND LEGS.

I SPRINKLE SALT AND PEPPER, POULTRY SEASONING ALL OVER THE BIRD. THE INGREDIENTS ARE: THYME, SAGE, MARJORAM, ROSEMARY, BLACK PEPPER AND NUTMEG.

NEXT I DOUBLE WRAP THE BIRD IN 2 LAYERS OF HEAVY DUTY FOIL.

I FOLD  2 MORE SHEETS OF FOIL TOGETHER AND PUT IT IN THE BOTTOM OF THE COOKING PAN. 

PLACE THE WRAPED UP TURKEY, BREAST DOWN, ON THE PAN, WRAP THE  2 FOIL SHEETS AROUND THE TURKEY AND PUSH IT DOWN NICE AND TIGHT, ADD 1 MORE SHEET OF FOIL OVER  THE TURKEY THE PUSH DOWN TIGHT.

(YOU PROBOBLY THINK I HAVE A LOT OF REYNOLDS WRAP STOCK IN MY  401K,  BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO SAVE ALL THE  TURKEY BROTH AND MELTED BUTTER AS IT IS USED  IN EVERY PART OF THIS MEAL, FROM GRAVY TO DRESSING.

IF EVERTHING WORKS OUT THE TURKEY WILL BE FULLY COOKED AND SITTING IN 3 TO 5 INCHES OF GOLDEN STOCK BY MORNING.  POUR THE BROTH INTO A  LARGE BOWL AND COVER.

NOW FOR THE DRESSING.

I USE 1 BAG OF SEASONED CROUTONS AND 1 BAG OF CORNBREAD CROUTONS.

4 TO 6 STALKS OF CELERY CHOPPED 1/8” TO 1/4” SATAUED WITH THE COOKED ONION FROM THE BIRD CUT UP

TAKE ALL OF THE MEAT OFF  THE TURKEY NECK, CUT UP THE LIVER AND HEART, PUT ALL OF THIS IN THE BLENDER ALONG WITH SOME BROTH AND PURREE IT. THIS LOOKS AWFUL BUT IT GIVES A GOOD FLAVOR TO THE DRESING.

PUT THE 2 BAGS OF CRUTONS IN A PAN AND ADD SOME BROTH

THE ONIONS AND CELERY AND THE PUREED MIXTURE AND STIR AROUND

AND ADD 2 TO 3 CANS OF CRÈME OF CELERY SOUP.

ADD POULTRY SEASONING AROUND TO TASTE. THE DRESSING SHOULD BE FAIRLY WET.

COOK IN THE OVEN UNTIL THE TOP IS BROWN AND CRUNCHY AND THE BOTTOM IS SOFT BUT NOT WET,

 LET ME KNOW HOW IT ALL TURNS OUT!

From Tessa: 

For the poultry seasoning, I just use poultry seasoning from the store—I think he included the list of ingredients in case poultry seasoning wasn’t available.

The goal is 180 for 8 hrs. You’ll want a poultry thermometer to plunge in in the morning just to be sure it’s done. We have typically pulled it out then, drained out much of the broth (for dressing, gravy, etc.), but left the turkeys wrapped in the foil for most of the day while we do other cooking. Sometimes we’ve put them back in for a warm up later on—right before serving. I think as a family we’re used to eating the turkey at room temp, and we don’t mind that (since it’s cooked), but if you want it hot you’ll want to reserve time at the end for putting them back in—just be aware when you put them back in that that can dry them out.

We don’t put our stuffing in the turkey, so we don’t stuff them and then put them back in—but we need the broth for the stuffing, so we drain it out and then close up the foil. Sometimes if you’ve done the foil well you can poke a small hole near the bottom and pour out a lot of broth without even opening up the turkey, and I usually do the poultry thermometer through the foil, so as to keep the turkey sealed for warmth.

The foil is really important. You’ll want to put two pieces side-by-side and fold them together (connecting them on the long side, sort of like a hem), and lay that in the bottom. Then put the turkey on that (in a casserole dish or on a baker or something). Then, do the same thing again (two pieces, folded with a hem), and lay that over the top, then connect the top section and bottom section with the same kind of hem . . .  does that make sense? The foil is really important for making lots of broth and keeping the meat moist—because turkey has such a tendency to be dry.

Good luck!

Wormwood

If a am a tree I am dead

Dried-up wormwood,

Eaten through 

With homegrown lies—

A dirty dearth of earthly material.

Burn through me;

Cut me down.

Grow your fresh green shoot

Up through my roots

Reengineer ancestry

And plant me by the stream

That feeds the boughs which 

Blossom in the eons.

Recipe Thursday: “Greek Tacos”

Mmmm, this is a favorite!! This is a whole meal with several elements: garlic naan, sautéed chicken, cucumber-dill yogurt, and lemon rice

First, the naan. Here’s the naan recipe I use. This one took me a little while to get the hang of—especially how to gently flatten and stretch the dough balls—but it’s worth trying a few times to get the feel of it in your hand. And don’t forget about kneading some crushed garlic into the balls and putting butter in the pan and on top of the cooking naan (so on both sides). Delicious!

Next, I make cucumber-dill yogurt. I use the recipe at this link—I’ll also copy it below because there are some other recipes on the link as well. 

FOR THE YOGURT SAUCE

  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 cup plain low-fat or whole milk Greek yogurt (do not use non-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.”

Next, we also cut up a chicken breast and marinate it with (loosely): 

2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp turmeric
2 cloves fresh chopped garlic
1 tsp fresh dill

I put the cut chicken in a bag, add the above ingredients, and shake it around, then store it in the fridge until later. When I’m nearly done cooking all the naan, I put this oil, spice, chicken mixture into a pan and sauté it. 

Finally, we make lemon rice, according to this recipe. I usually leave off the last three ingredients because I often can’t find them.

Once everything is done, we put a naan on our plate, spoon some yogurt on top, and add rice and chicken. Then we roll it up and enjoy!! If you can find feta cheese, this is also delicious to add. 

This is one of our favorite meals! Enjoy!

Resource Spotlight: Preschool Fun from home!

Tessa here, with a few fun preschool resources that have been a lifesaver for us during this time! Chyella was loving her French preschool here in Toliara, and thankfully has been back in school for the month of October! During the “confinement” as we have called it here, we found these great websites for educational worksheets and videos! These links work for me here in Madagascar, but may not work for you if you’re in the USA—sorry about that! Just Google the names and that should work, and let me know if you have trouble 🙂

Thanks to my friend Jodie’s recommendation, we used Talking Letter Factory and Talking Word Factory videos to introduce basic alphabet and reading skills—Chyella watched these repeatedly last December and learned her letters–woohoo!

We worked through this “Letter of the Day” worksheet series from Preschool Mom twice! 

Great “Read the Alphabet” curriculum from This Reading Mama. We haven’t really tapped into all the resources here, but our favorite worksheets in this reading series are the “Color by Sight Word.”

And speaking of sight words, this whole series of “Meet the Sight Words” videos from the Preschool Prep Company has helped Chyella a ton with learning the blends and lots of new words.

We also have some favorite books—the Jesus Storybook Bible of course, and God’s Very Good Idea. This last one is a new addition and Chyella loves it!

Also, here’s a fun shot of Chyella trying a sidewalk chalk obstacle course we did–thanks to a friend, Caroline, for this idea on Facebook! 🙂

Recipe Thursdays: Chicken Pot Pie

This is one of those recipes that has evolved over time. It started with a turkey pot pie recipe from my friend and first Mada roommate Melody–thanks Melody! But we always used chicken. Hers had a biscuit topping, which was tasty, and then a few years ago I switched to a pie crust top and bottom. I also switched to that canned veggie assortment of peas and carrots . . . just to make life easier! But the main thing about this recipe is that it’s very forgiving!! It’s one of those you can use at the end of the week to get rid of extra veggies—that’s one of the reasons I love it! Here’s what I do:

Ingredients – Filling:

  • Five garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast or pack of tenders
  • 2 T olive oil
  • any extra chopped, fresh veggies you want to use
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth (or water and bullion cubes)
  • ½ cup sour cream (or ½ cup heavy whipping cream + ½ T vinegar)
  • ¼ cup corn starch

Directions – Filling:

  1. Chop the garlic and onion, and begin to sauté it in a big pot with the oil. 
  2. After a minute or two, lay the chicken breast or tenders in the pot and pan fry them.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper, a chicken bouillon cube, and any spices you like. 
  4. Be ready to add oil or a bit of water to make sure nothing burns.
  5. Break up the chicken as it cooks. 
  6. Add any other fresh vegetables you’re including: chopped green beans, fresh carrots, chopped potatoes, chopped zucchini. 
  7. Once the chicken is cooked through and browned just a bit, add about two cups of water (and maybe another bouillon cube) or chicken broth. 
  8. Add the canned carrots and peas.
  9. Take ½ a cup of the hot broth out and mix in ¼ cup of cornstarch, and then mix back into the pot. 
  10. Mix ½ a cup of sour cream into the pot. 
  11. Turn off the stove and add the mixture to the pie crust in the casserole dish. 

Then, here’s the pie crust recipe I use. I almost always have salted butter, so then I just leave out the teaspoon of salt. Make the crust sometime during the day and then have the two “disks”—the dough balls of the pie crusts—in the fridge. 

Once I have the filling made, I roll out one disk, press it into the bottom of a 9×9 casserole dish, and put it in the oven at 190 C. After about 10 minutes, I pull the casserole dish out, spoon in the filling, and then roll out the other disk and lay it on top. Then I put it all back in the over for another 30 minutes or so. Sometimes I put on the top grill for a few minutes at the end to brown the top.

This is one of our favorites! Enjoy!

Job in folklore and in our own time

We were able to get out to the churches in the South (some of our so-called “bush churches”). Thankfully, we have some good, godly leaders who, even though like everyone else have been slowed down by COVID-19, continued to care for their communities.

Meeting can be very hard for these leaders who are separated by a day’s walk in a place where almost everyone has to walk. So we kept picking up folks in our truck and carried them to the final village. They killed a goat for us and cooked us some of their meager rations of rice. These people will literally starve themselves before being inhospitable. Then we met. And we met. We met well into the night and then the morning. Then we got up early the next morning and continued meeting. We talked about good things and bad things, encouraged one another and grieved together. But everyone was so happy to see each other!

That next morning, as we all sat wrapped in blankets in that sparse, concrete schoolhouse, we presented the story of Job. We brought a recording we had just completed the day before, where a team of Malagasy created a radio drama of the story of Job. The leaders sat in rapt attention and then, when the story was done, we began asking questions and drawing out what everyone had understood and learned from Job.

Those men and women sat there, after they had told us how hard things had been and how hungry they were, and vowed to be like Job and never turn their backs on God. Satan would not get the best of them, no matter how hard he tried!

One leader, Emanda, who serves in a local government capacity and serves as the statesman and wise elder of the group, said it reminded him of a Malagasy folk story, a story I now share with you . . .

In the kingdom before there were two great friends. These guys were inseparable. It didn't matter what they were doing or where they were going; they were always together. They had been friends since anyone could remember and nothing could drive them apart.

But one day, a troublemaker came to the king of that land. The king was watching these two guys walking down the road together, laughing and enjoying one another's company. "Do you see those two?" the king asked. "There's no one else like those friends. Nothing could ever break their bond!" But the troublemaker overheard the king. "What's that, O King?"

The king again point out at the two friends. "Nothing could ever drive those two apart, they're inseparable!"

"I can do it," said the troublemaker. "I can drive a wedge between them."

"You're lying!" cried the king. "And even if you could if would take so long it wouldn't even be worth it."

"Oh no, O king," said the troublemaker, "I'll be quick. I'll have them hating each other even for this day is dark."

So as the king and others watched, the troublemaker set out ahead of the two friends. As they passed him on the road, talking and carrying on with each other, the troublemaker flagged the one down. "Hey," he said waving. "I need to talk to you for a minute. It's important."

So the one friend broke off from the other and came to the side of the road where troublemaker stood. "What's up?" Troublemaker didn't say anything, he just looked at him for a minute. "Make it quick, man," said the friend, "I've gotta get back to my friend."

Then Troublemaker pulled him in and began whispering to him, making sounds with his mouth that never formed into words.

The friend pulled back in horror. "What in the world? What are you trying to say, man?!"

Troublemaker pulled him in again and whispered still, still moving his lips but not saying any distinct words. The friend was angry. "Listen, I'm not sure what you're trying to do but you're not saying anything! I'm going back to my friend." And he left, racing to catch back up with his friend further ahead.

"What was that all about?" asked the other friend once they were walking together again. "Oh nothing. I can't even tell you anything he was saying!" His friend stopped suddenly in the middle of the road. "You can't tell me he didn't tell you anything. I saw him pull you in and whisper to you. Now, please, tell me what he said."

"He didn't say anything!" exclaimed the one.

"You're planning to kill me aren't you? You're going to kill me and take my stuff!"

And the two friends argued and went their separate way to their own houses, each now the others' enemy. And Troublemaker laughed as he watched, having separated the best of friends without ever having said one word.

The whole point of Job is that Job refuses to jump to rash conclusions while still grappling with what he has seen and what has happened to him. Job struggles mightily not to read into what’s happening to him and instead just take his complaints directly to his friend, God. In the Malagasy story, it would be as if Job stands their quarreling with his friend without storming off.

I couldn’t help but ponder our sound and fury right now during this season. It’s not that I think there’s nothing behind all the accusations we’re hurling and the existential panic we feel. But as Job and folklore remind us in our time, we never really know what’s going on behind the scenes. But trust is key, and we need to spend more time building trust than tearing down one another.

Hail, Homeland Security

With an austere glance and an upright heart

We, the people, watch our troubled world.

Conflicts abounding and they all take part

As we sit and watch and rest in peace.

Why should we worry

And leave our tranquil home?

Their troubles are their duty.

We’ll stand on this ground we died for,

Where the rocks don’t move, the flags wave on and, the flowers always grow.

“Protect and defend our rights!”

Cry the people,

“We worked for our shade and green grass.”

There’s a dark, real world out there,

you’ll see, visceral and rife with humanity.

“We’re safer in here,”

We the people say,

“Live and let live! We’re better off alone.”

And so alone we are

In our corner of the world

Marked by our rocks and flowers and patterned stripes and stars

Spattered across our safe, clean, cemetery plot.

And we are safe,

We, the people,

O, so safe!

The dead need not fear.

Friday Family Update – October

We’ve had a great month here! We made a quick trip to the capital to work on renewing our visas. This trip was a huge emotional encouragement for us—it coincided with the opening of domestic flights (suspended since March) and the lifting of some additional travel restrictions of the past few months. We also had the opportunity to visit some of our coworkers there—such a blessing! 

Chyella bravely faced a COVID test and 4-year vaccines on our trip—what a plucky girl! And Jairus enjoyed exploring a new place! 

With the start of October, we were able to put Chyella back in preschool. She is soooo happy. She loves the time at school and all her friends. We’re so grateful for this opportunity for her to play with other kids. Churches has begun to open as well, so we’ve been enjoying finally worshiping together with local believers again.  

Jairus continues to be a smiley, happy boy! At 9.5 months, he’s still cruising around, and we’ve caught him standing on his own for brief moments . . . I think he’ll be walking pretty soon! 

Nathan and the local team here wrapped up a radio drama from the book of Job—20 minutes, four voices, and sound effects! They had a great time working together to create a story to encourage people here during these challenging days. Nathan has also been able to visit the rural churches to the north and south with the local pastors, to hear how God continues to sustain and use them, and to encourage them during this time.

I’ve had the opportunity this month to interview many of the local leaders here about how they disciple people in their churches to spiritual maturity. What a rich example of self-sacrificing, dedicated, humble care for the health of their people. I’m learning so much about the personal integrity and everyday obedience to God’s Word that characterizes the spiritual maturity of Malagasy people. Very thankful for this opportunity.