Vegetable Barley Soup

IMG_2043We got our first snow last night, a winter storm that carried 10.5 inches. I went out for a run this morning, and will presently go run a few errands before night falls, but other than that, I haven’t braved the outdoors. I’ve stayed inside: knitting, chatting with friends, and (a favourite wintertime activity!) making soup.

One of the things I love about soup is that no recipe is required. I simply grab whatever vegetables I have on hand, throw them in a pot, and have something delicious.

(To be fair, in the past a few soups have turned out . . . not so good. But throwing soup away because it tastes weird is very rare indeed.)

Today, with the Thanksgiving holidays upon me, I was trying to use up random vegetables in my refrigerator: carrots and red onion.

Because I hate throwing spoiled food away, and because carrots and red onion make a poor salad, I pulled a soup together. Here’s what I used:

  • Half a red onion, diced.
  • A teaspoon(ish) chopped garlic
  • A pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Five small carrots, chopped
  • Three tiny sweet potatoes, chopped (about a cup’s worth, or a little more)
  • 2 cups of frozen chopped tomatoes
  • A cup and a half of barley, which has been sitting in my pantry since last November

I fried up two slices of bacon, then removed them from the pan. Then in their greases, plus some olive oil, I sauteed the onion and garlic. Then I added four or so cups of vegetable broth, the rest of the veggies, and the bacon. I brought it to a boil, let it simmer for a little while, then added the barley. About ten minutes from when the soup was finished, I added a can of chickpeas for fiber.

I probably added too much barley. When I first added it, I thought I had too little; a few random barley flecks floated about in the soup, and that was it. So I dumped in an entire cup and a half or so of barley. But by the time the soup was ready, the barley had soaked up much of the liquid.

Still, after about half an hour the barley had cooked, the veggies were soft, and I sat down to eat. I put green onions and cheese on top.



Ready for the freezer!


Best of all, I have seven freezer bags full of soup, so I’ll be reheating and enjoying this for some time to come.


Just waiting to cool off.



I’m Tired of Teaching

Today, a student told me he was worried to submit a paper I would not agree with.

We had just wrapped up a successful conference on his third paper. He had an outline, some good research points, and I thought I’d answered all his questions.

Then he asked what I thought of his ideas.

I hedged. He was writing on a topic I have strong feelings about, feelings I’ve worked hard to keep to myself this year, since last year expressing those feelings soured my relationships with students.

His topic, he said, he originally chose to annoy me.

I laughed at that.

Then he said, he stayed with his topic to learn more about it.

Good idea, I said.

He said a friend of his (a former student of mine) told him I’d wildly disagree with his topic.

I stopped him.

I told him I appreciated how balanced his paper was, that it saw both sides of the issue. What students believe is often not as important to me as whether they’re able to see good points on both sides.

And I tried to reassure him that I do not grade people based on their ideas, only on how well they express those ideas. I use a rubric to keep my grading fair. I would consider it unethical to grade someone based on their ideas.

My student nodded, but told me that he’d take my assurances with a grain of salt.


Apparently a fellow student of his had received an F from me, taken it to someone else, and heard from them that it was an A-quality paper. Clearly, the student concluded, the paper was graded down because the ideas were unacceptable.

I heard the student in my office out, assured him one more time that content plays no part in my grading, and invited him to come talk with me if he had concerns. I think (though I’ve been a poor judge of such things in the past) that we ended the conference on good terms, joking around and wishing each other well over the holidays.

But I was heartbroken.

I realize that what I heard was hearsay, gossip, and carries (or should carry) very little weight.

But it does carry some weight.

I’m heartbroken because if it’s true, there’s a student out there who assumes the worst about me and is mad at me and has not spoken up with their concerns. No disagreement can be solved if the people who disagree don’t talk; I’m not going to have a chance to win back this student’s trust.

I’m heartbroken because in my book, if I were to grade someone based on whether I agreed or disagreed with their ideas, that would be one of the most unethical things I could do. I’m hurt that someone actually believes I’m vindictive and untrustworthy enough to do just that.

I’m heartbroken because apparently some (very gently) progressive-leaning viewpoints of mine are still flattening me into a stereotype. I’ve spent all fall trying to shake off a negative reputation I built up last semester as a closet liberal at a Bible college, but the reputation is not to be shaken off.

I’ve had my cry (yes, really!). I’ve said my piece. I’ll be okay. After all, teaching is a great profession. There are few things as delightful as reading a well-written student paper or getting to know the bright, curious, and kind students that sit in my class.

But tonight, I’m tired of it.



John 16.33: “Be of Good Cheer”

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. ~ John 16.33

On The American Conservative this morning, I read an excellent post by Rod Dreher, “The End of Our Time.” Essentially, Dreher suggests when we look at the widespread cultural upheavals, from the mass migration out of Syria to the terror in Paris, we’re looking at the end of a stable Western civilization, brought down (in part) by Westerners’ persistent effort to find life’s purpose in pleasing themselves.

While Dreher contemplates the wreck of the West through the hope of his Christian faith, he does acknowledge that the toppling of Western culture “will be painful, violent, unpredictable, and long-lasting”. And it was this that stuck out to me this morning, in light of my reading in John.

If Dreher is right, the world we know is ending.

But then, the world we know is always ending, and there is always fear and discomfort.

A sudden medical problem, a death in the family, a job loss, and suddenly the world we knew has ended. Suddenly, we’re adrift in a new and unfamiliar one, struggling to find our way.

Or we’re confronted by larger cultural changes. Who knows what changes will follow as our cities and communities accept refugees? Accepting the refugees may well be the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean there will not be changes – deep, uncomfortable, even scary ones.

We face, personally and culturally, a world that is falling apart.

And what strikes me about the passage in John is that this is exactly the world the disciples faced. They, when Jesus speaks to them here, are about to lose their Lord and Savior. They will witness, over the upcoming forty years, increasing Roman brutality against their people and the destruction of the Jewish way of life. They will be killed for their faith.

But when Jesus talks to the disciples, who faced then the same things we face now, he is reassuring.

“You will have tribulation,” He says. There is no escaping it. To some degree, solving the so-called “problem of pain” is beside the point; in this world, pain just is. 

But Jesus has more to say: “In Me,” he says, “You will have peace.”

“Be of good cheer,” He says. “I have overcome the world.”

Jesus has spent the whole of the Gospel of John establishing His identity: He is the bread of life, the fountain of life, the light of the world. Here begins the new life. 

And in this promise of new life, we can find hope. This world may hurt. This world may end.

But Jesus does not end, and in Him, in His glory, we find the peace and hope we need to be comforted in dark times.

I have been concerned with the news about Paris and Syria this week. I have been saddened to hear of the death of two great literature scholars at Wheaton College this last week, one of whom I met personally a year or so back. I have been dealing with ongoing shoulder pain.

But I have been comforted to remember that whatever troubles are around me, in Jesus there is life and hope.