At the end of all the holiday activity I had carved out a day to go see Les Miserables with a couple of friends. The previews alone were enough to fill my eyes with tears so I knew well enough to grab a couple extra napkins to sop up my tear-stained cheeks but what I didn’t know was that it was through watching the movie I would pick up a sentence that I now hope to be my theme for 2013.
First let me tell you briefly of the story – enough so that you see the power in these words but not enough to spoil it as you really must see this film. It’s a story of redemption. For stealing a loaf of bread to feed his nephew, a man named Jean Valjean toils in prison for over 20 years working tirelessly and endlessly cast down with shame. In the end he skips parole and spends the rest of his life running from the law. Along his journey he meets a priest who sees him not as a criminal but as forgiven and free from the shame that he had carried with him as a heavy burden. He struggles with his identity until he understands his forgiveness and finds peace in that freedom. Jean Valjean’s freedom allows him to love others and care for a child that is not his own. He overcomes shame and alters the lives of others through his love.
These few sentences don’t do the film nor the book any justice but it is this picture of grace that always speaks to me most clearly when watching this story.
In one of the final scenes (I promise, I’m not giving it away) the words “to love another person is to see the face of God” ring throughout a candlelit chapel. With tears streaming those words rang in my ears and have not since left.
I have a few goals for the new year. I’ve already begun the annual call for health by supplementing all the cookies and fondue I ate over the holiday with greens; loads and loads of greens. Also, I’m allowing Jillian Michaels to kick my butt by way of the 30 day shred. I’ve even made the doctors and dentists appointments I’ve been putting off for months. There’s talk of tighter budgets and bigger homes. We’re thinking about travel plans and garden plans. And I’ve been thinking a lot about the blog – how I want to be a better writer, photographer and recipe developer, but most importantly I just want to be here more. Even when the words are fumbled and the images aren’t perfect I just want to be here. Because of course we all know reality isn’t perfect and I’d rather you know more about the real me than see me as something that I am not.
I’m not setting a lot of specific goals this year but with the ones I do make I am I’m holding them with an open hand. The idea of creating a goal is not to create anxiety along with it. To rob my year of peace in order to live a year devoted to doing a lot of “things” is actually exactly the opposite of what I want. Which is why everything I do put on my list of “goals” or to dos for the year must first pass through the filter of “to love another person is to see the face of God.” That’s what I ultimately want. To get a glimpse of glory by loving those around me.
I want to love my husband better. To enjoy him more freely and to be less selfish in my love for him. And my children. It’s so easy to go throughout our hectic days and miss the opportunity to pause and look them in the eye and remember that they aren’t just little ones clamoring for more of this or more of that but they are individuals each with their own needs, desires and gifts. I want to know them more and love them as who they are more effectively this year. And myself. I want to stop fighting to be some sort of image of who I think I should be and really enjoy who I was created to be. To not make excuses for what I have deemed weaknesses but to live fully in all of myself – forgiving and asking for forgiveness often and laughing at myself the hardest. And my community. The one closest to me and the one beyond – which also includes you all. I feel so loved by you and it’s quite humbling in that I’m not sure how to return the favor but I do want to share more, show more and eat more so I do hope you’re okay with that.
After many days of very few vegetables, we are loving our bodies a bit better by upping the salads and decreasing the sugar. I love vegetables but it’s still hard to make that transition after cookies, candies, cakes and cocktails became the norm for a few weeks so I make it a little easier on ourselves by making a delightfully creamy dressing to coat our greens. The thing is though, that although this dressing is creamy and as satisfying as the one found in the Hidden Valley it’s made from plain yogurt instead of the usual mayonnaise and sour cream. It’s tangy with a bit of garlic bite and the sort of freshness that you think is only possible in the summer.
It seems silly to talk of dressing while at the same time speaking of love but ever since I’ve had those words stuck in my head it helps me give intention to my actions. It helps me prioritize and simplify. My life is filled with purpose and joy – even in the little things, like a green salad.
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Yogurt Ranch Dressing
After a holiday party where fresh vegetables were served with a classic Ranch dressing I knew I had to recreate that nostalgia with something a bit lighter. Since then our carrot sticks have never looked back. Feel free to use whatever herbs you might have. I used fresh but dried would work too – just not too much as dried packs more punch than fresh. And of course real garlic can be used instead of the garlic powder but for the sake of nostalgia I went with the powder.
½ cup whole milk plain yogurt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (dill, parsley, basil, chives, thyme – whatever you have)
salt & pepper
Combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust to your liking.
If you think the dressing too thick you can add a bit of milk, water or olive oil.
Spoon on top of clean, cool greens.