In Search of Wisdom and Coconut Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I recite this–the Serenity Prayer—daily, often many times each day. The last line often provides the biggest challenge.
Prayer and meditation in various forms are a regular part of my life though I’m not particularly religious; something six years of Catholic schooling didn’t change. Dad never went to church. He was likely agnostic for all I knew. It wasn’t something we talked about. When I entered my twenties and answers to those kinds of questions started to matter, he was dead. Mom was Catholic, the go to church for Christmas and Easter variety. In spite of or maybe because of her reluctance to be a Sunday mass regular, she made me go. On nice days I’d spend the hour at the playground near the church swinging from the monkey bars in my skirt and ruffled bobby socks. When the church bells tolled it was time to go. Then I’d sneak in the side door of the church and grab a bulletin from the table at the back—the requisite proof of attendance that mom would demand when I returned home. Some days I’d forgo the charade, embracing the peacefulness that the big stone church with its enormous vibrant glass windows offered instead. Father Leon’s gentle voice punctuated with the low murmur of “Amen” was a stark contrast to the soundtrack of barking dogs and shouting matches at home. I sat in the back pew where I couldn’t feel the pitying glances of parishioners who wondered why a young girl was sitting in church alone.
As an adult when peaceful moments were easier to come by, I stopped going to church. The communal aspects never appealed to me, not as a child, not as a grown woman. My backyard is my favorite place of worship today. I can find spirit in a single daffodil, blooming where snow fell only the day before. I can also find it in that first sweet creamy spoonful of homespun ice cream. Spirit is with me when I feel Greg’s hand in mine on an early morning walk. Or when my god daughter wraps her tiny arms around my neck and whispers, “Aunt Bobbi can I have some lip gloss?”
Lately I’ve been praying more than usual. It happens when life’s current lesson isn’t obvious and my purpose grows a little fuzzy and recedes a bit into the distance for only God and my cosmic joker to see. I’m moving forward but it feels like I’m pushing a boulder uphill. History has shown me that I’ll reach the top eventually without being crushed under the rock. It’s also taught me that more valleys and mountains will await me after I do. My spiritual teachers Eckhart Tolle and Eknath Easwaran would remind me to focus on the rock, the moment, now. The past, both mistakes and triumphs, and the future—that mountain top view—exist only in my head, taking up residence with the gremlins there that say, “You can’t do this. You won’t do this.” My heart grows heavy when the voices are loud. Before I succumb to the role of victim and reply, “Why me?” I must remember that I give them the power to run amok in my monkey brain, and only I can take that power away. Sometimes in prayer I find this strength. And sometimes the voices just get louder. In those moments I always return to the Serenity Prayer, desperate to find that line between casting my ego aside and surrendering to spirit–to accept the things I cannot change, and taking action–to change the things I can.
The wisdom to know the difference is often what eludes me. Where is the line between surrendering and copping out? Between taking action and trying to control something that I’m not meant to control? Navigating the space in between requires every bit of patience I can muster. It’s also where I know I’ll eventually find grace. And so I shift my focus away from the blurry future (and a second bowl of coconut ice cream!) and back to my rock and the earth beneath my feet.
Coconut Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
This is the vegan ice cream recipe I promised you in my last post. It’s become a freezer staple over the last month. We topped our last batch with chocolate sauce and toasted coconut–like a Mounds Bar all grown up and more delicious. Play around with the amount of sugar if it’s not sweet enough for your liking. If it’s too sweet the coconut flavor is less pronounced.
2 cans coconut milk
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
- In a small bowl whisk together a little coconut milk and the cornstarch to create a slurry.
- Combine the remaining coconut milk and granulated sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the bean and seeds to the pan. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Bring to a gentle boil and whisk for 2-3 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Let cool then chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight.
- Freeze in your ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.