Thursday, August 28, 2014

::this summer::



I have not done a {weekly} update since June.  I took the summer off to re-focus and to be more present in what I was doing.  I'm now ready to return to writing regular updates again (just haven't decided yet if they are going to be weekly or monthly).  
This summer was wonderful... busy, but really good.  
Jeremy did some traveling and speaking.  He was also on the radio and a podcast.  We did some traveling as a family to Lafyette and Virginia.  Jeremy and I had a few day trip to the beach.  And we all had a lot of fun.
We started a monthly community group, I continued with the monthly ladies book club that I organize,  I started a facebook NOLA parenting and play date page and coordinated several mom and kiddo events. (as always, anyone interested is welcome to any of these events).
There is a lot that we have been working on that will be coming out in the upcoming months/ year...  Jeremy has been working on a short ebook on rest.  He is also in the process of writing his next book, sort of a follow-up to The Longest Bridge Across Water.  I have a business project that I have been working on.  Jeremy has a new website that should be completed and public soon.  Jeremy has a few more traveling and speaking engagements this year including Monroe LA, Columbus OH, and India.  Jeremy and two other friends of ours are in the beginning stages of planning a conference in New Orleans for early 2015.  And more.
I could not possibly fit an entire summer of experiences and revelation into one blog post, so I'll try to summarize and highlight some of what has stood out to me the most...

praising:

in awe at just how good, faithful and loving God is.  so much more than I can imagine.  in awe at His creation... at nature... at people.  at how intricately, beautifully and powerfully we were created.  in awe of how He designed our bodies to heal themselves... when we get a cut, it heals... how stinkin' cool and crazy is that?!

all of the open doors and opportunities that God has given us this summer.
some really cool feedback and testimonies of how God has worked in people's lives through The Longest Bridge Across Water.  

praying:

for provision... we could really use some additional monthly donors and/or one time gifts for Bastion Ministries.
for clarity and our path to be made straight regarding church... we have been visiting a few churches looking for a church home to connect with and pondering and discussing the purpose and meaning of church altogether.

with a heavy heart for the needs and hurts of several friends who are suffering through some really tough things right now.

reading:

Genesis, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Acts, Luke, An Everlasting Meal, Organized Simplicity, Living Room Revolution

thankful for:

provision.
health.
our summer.  time with family.  time with friends.  time away.  fun activities.  relaxed time.
our city and house.  we really do love where we live.  we love so much about this city, and about our neighborhood.  I'm so grateful to be somewhere that is so diverse, beautiful and historically rich.
all of our trips and travels and the bonds and memories that were made along the way.
all of the interesting and unlikely people we've met this summer, and friendships that were made.

cooking: {this week, I could not fit an entire summer here}

huevos rancheros,  whole wheat pizza with turkey pepperoni and jalapenos, vietnamese noodle bowls, chicken sausage on buns with sauteed onions and peppers, sriracha lime brussell sprouts, maple roasted carrots, banana chocolate chip muffins, lime bars, mango smoothies

creating: {this week}

some appliqued onesie baby gifts, some felt mask kiddo gifts, baby shower decorations

doing: {this week}

this week we celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary.  it was absolutely perfect!  we had 24 hours without the kiddos and really enjoyed our time together.  we really do enjoy our regular everyday life, so we did very normal things and enjoyed all of the uninterrupted time together doing them.  we got to go pray for a lady together, spend some time restin with God at J's office, went to the gym, went to coffee and discussed the book J is working on, I got to read the book on rest he has almost finished, a yummy sushi dinner, and then a movie and some froyo on our couch.  very simple, and I wouldn't change a thing.  we have had anniversaries where we spend a bunch of money, stayed in a hotel, did the tourist thing and had a super fancy dinner... but it's just not us.  it's good to know who you are as an individual and a couple and live from there.
in addition to that we have a few dinners with friends, kiddo playdates, and our regular weekly activities of the group in Slidell that J does and my weekly ladies Bible study.

pondering:

there are a few main themes and specific things that the Lord has been teaching me/ telling me this summer;


  • persevere- through a passage in Mark and some circumstances in life God was telling me to persevere.  I didn't really understand it, and then I realized that due to some hurt feelings and fear I was unknowingly withdrawing from a lot of things... things that I enjoy, things that give me life, things that I'm sure are His will and purpose for me.  and since I've returned to walking by faith and not fear I feel more like me, more like who I was created to be.  and so I'm learning to persevere when things get tough.
  • as I mentioned in the prayer section, I've been pondering what church is... what it was in the book of Acts vs what it is now.  pondering why and what God's design for it is.  pondering what church looks like for Jeremy and me in this season of life.
  • expect- this was the one word that God laid on my heart for this year.  last year was believe and this year He is building on that and taking me a step further.  last year He was teaching me to believe for greater things, to believe for miraculous things, to believe that He would speak and reveal Himself to me.  this year I am now learning not just to believe for those things but to expect it.  to not just hope and believe that God can do something, but to expect Him to.
  • enjoy- this has been another huge lesson He has been teaching me over the last year.  God has been taking me out of a sterile and mechanical relationship with Himself and showing me just how good He is.  teaching me that relationship is not about obligation, but love and enjoyment.  taking me from reading my Bible and pursuing Him out of duty to doing it from an overflow of joy and pleasure in Him.
  • how so many people that I know express discontentment with their friendships.  I hear an overwhelming sense that people are longing and looking for deep connections with others and community, but are continually coming up short.  why is this?  are we too busy?  do we not know how to connect anymore?  are there more barriers to connectivity than in the past?
  • rest- Jeremy and I talk about rest a lot.  it's a big theme for us and has provided huge breakthrough in our relationship with God.  learning how to take our thoughts captive and turn down the noise of the world and rest in our oneness with God, in His presence in us.  and then learning how to carry the rest that we experience in our intimate time with God over into the chaos that can be daily life.  Jeremy said something to me recently that I can't get out of my mind... he suggested that perhaps why it is so common for people to receive revelation or dreams from God at night is that that is the only time that we are still and our minds are quiet enough for us to actually listen and hear Him.  perhaps He is constantly trying to speak to us but we don't often slow down enough to realize it.  I've been thinking a lot on that statement.  after some good quiet and still time resting with God this week I was extremely renewed by an awareness of Him and these song lyrics by Catherine Mullins became so real to me "in your presence, Jesus, every insecurity fades away...".  it is so true... I sat down to enjoy God feeling a little frazzled, distracted, bitter and more but by simply meditating on Him and who He is in me all of those feelings melted away and He replaced them with His all consuming peace and joy.  it is that easy y'all!  stop trying, stop doing and simply relax into Him.  another song stood out to me this week (by Steffany Gretzinger) illustrating this point; "I'm letting go, falling into you".  that's the perfect verbal illustration for rest, we let go of striving and working and fall into God.
I hope that your summer was fun and relaxed, full of laughter and love, lived from a place of awareness of God in and through all things.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Our Love: A Story of Redemption



In honor of our 7 year anniversary I thought I'd tell my version of our love story...

Jeremy and I met at church.  I had been attending a Thursday evening young adult service for over a year at which Jeremy played guitar.  We had seen each other and probably knew who each other were for that year, but had never met until one night when a friend introduced us.

After being introduced we talked for a while and went through the general get to know you type of conversation.  The next morning Jeremy showed up at my work unexpectedly.  (I later found out that he had forgotten where I work and had to call a friend to refresh his mind with this info).  It was a bold move though, to show up unannounced at my workplace, but I didn't mind one bit.  In fact, I was extremely impressed at how nicely he cleaned up... until this point I had only ever seen him in ripped jeans and converse shoes at church, but upon seeing him in dress pants, a dress shirt, and a tie I was taken aback at how handsome he looked and how much of a sense of style he had (this was not what made me interested in him, I really enjoyed our conversation the night earlier, but it sure didn't hurt his case any!).  So he showed up at my work, sat down at my desk, and we talked for a while.  Minor details aside, we ended up going on our first date a few days later.

He picked me up, and we went out for sushi.  Many people would consider our first date a train wreck.  I have since learned from the mistakes that I made due to insecurity.

A little back story may be in order here... Jeremy was the first Christian guy I had ever dated.  And at this point in my life I was 25 years old, had had a successful career for 7 years, and owned my own condo... I was very independent.

Mistake number one.  We walked into the restaurant and I took charge, walked straight up to the hostess and requested a table for 2.  I have since learned this was a little bit of a turnoff to Jeremy by my need/ desire to be in charge.

Mistake number two.  At this point in my life I had only been a Christian for about a year.  I had a past that I thought most Christian men might not be comfortable with.  Out of insecurity, I wanted to (and did) verbally unload my entire past {baggage} on Jeremy during dinner.  I was scared... scared we would date for months, fall in love, and then when I broke all of the news to him he would run for the hills and leave me hurt.  So I decided to air all of my dirty laundry up front and see if he was up for sticking around.  I basically spent 2 hours giving him all of the reasons he shouldn't date me.  After that was done I felt free and comfortable and we actually ended up having some good conversation following my confessions.  But, I still didn't think I'd ever hear from him again after our first date.

You see, on our first date Jeremy didn't kiss me, didn't hug me, didn't even try to hold my hand.  Based on the fact that he paid for dinner though I was pretty sure that it had indeed been a date and I wasn't just mistaken.  I had never in my life been on a date where a guy didn't try to physically pursue me.  In fact, I had spent the majority of my life thinking that sex and physical affections were the only reasons guys talked to girls, took them out, or bought them dinner.  So I was quite perplexed by the lack of advance on Jeremy's part.  I was pretty sure I was in the friend trap.

But then he called me.  And we hung out again.  And again.  But still no signs of physical affection.  At this point I was sure I was in the friend trap because dating without physical affection was an oxymoron to me.  I had never seen it, experienced it, or even heard of it.  So one night, being the independent modern woman I was, I decided to take matters into my own hands... when Jeremy was at my house I pinned him down and kissed him, much to his surprise.  The next day he called me and wanted to talk about that incident.  He said something to the extent of how that had been fun and all, but that God was leading him to pursue me in a different way, without all of the physical stuff.

And I was dumbfounded.  At this point in my walk with Christ I had read the book of Ruth, and had been praying for an honorable man to pursue and honor me like Boaz had, but I had no idea what that looked like.  And here I was, someone actually doing it and I had missed it, and rather than trusting and following the lead of said man, I grasped for control trying to shape our relationship into exactly what I didn't want, but that was all that I knew.

We dated from July 2006, until we got engaged in April 2007.  The whole time we dated we never kissed.  I wouldn't prescribe this way of dating for all people, but it was God's gift to me.  It was His way of redeeming a past of feelings of being used, cheap, abused, and only pursued for physical reasons to giving me confidence in me, my value, and that someone could love me for who I am and not what I do.  Instead of spending hours making out we spent hours talking, getting to know each other, and finding out each other's passions and desires.  We got to know each other really well, and know that our visions of the future and expectations of marriage were compatible.  We built a solid foundation of friendship and companionship upon which to build the rest of our lives.

After we had been dating around 8 months I knew that I loved Jeremy and I so badly wanted to tell him but I was determined at this point to wait on him to lead our relationship and not make the same mistake that I did with kissing early on.  So I waited, and waited, and bit my tongue holding in my feelings and emotions.  Feeling secure in our relationship and Jeremy's affections for me, but always kind of wondering why he wasn't yet dropping the L word.

And then I found out why...

On Good Friday 2007 we went on a day trip to Charleston, SC to shop, walk, eat, and enjoy some relaxed time together.  While sitting on a park bench Jeremy told me that he had never told me he loved me because he didn't want me to give my heart away until he was ready for the responsibility of accepting it.  In this moment he pulled out a ring, told me he loved me, asked me to marry him and gave me my first kiss (well 2nd, but we don't count the first one).

We got married 4 months later, 13 months from our first date.

Our story is the story of God working in our lives... of bringing us both to an unlikely place at the same time, introducing us a year and a half later (after I'd had the chance of coming to know God and deepening my relationship with Him), redeeming dating and physical pursuits for me, and teaching me just how good He is... how He has a plan for each of us... how intimately involved in the details of our lives He is... how He gives us good gifts, better gifts than we could even imagine or dream up for ourselves... how valuable we are to Him and more.

Our story is the story of me learning to accept love from another person, from my Maker, and to love myself.

Jeremy, I'm so grateful for you.  For the honorable way God led you to pursue me.  Of how He brought us together and has given us a common purpose and vision for our life together.  You make me a better person.  You model Christ's love to me.  You are amazing... a man of honor, integrity, character and faith... the man I wanted, the man I prayed for.  I love you.  I love us.  I love our life together and the God that we serve side by side.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lime Bars


I used my go to lemon bar recipe and substituted the juice and zest of some fresh local limes that I was given.  We love lemon bars and were a little nervous that the lime bars just wouldn't taste right, but we actually ended up liking the flavor of these a little better than lemon bars.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

{Lightened Up} Key Lime Pie


Key Lime Pie

Unless your limes are key limes (which mine weren't) this doesn't technically qualify as key lime pie, but "lime pie" doesn't sound like a fancy enough name, so key lime pie it is.  I was in a hurry today, distracted with the rest of dinner preparations (and my 2 rugrats) so I chose to make this easy and use a store bought crust, which is not something I'd normally do, so please substitute your favorite homemade graham cracker crust if you like.  To me this dessert screams summer; it only bakes for 15 minutes, not overheating your kitchen, is easy to prepare, and is cool, tart and refreshing.

-1 graham cracker crust (homemade or store bought)
-1 heaping Tbsp lime zest
-1/2 c fresh lime juice
-4 egg yolks
-1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- (optional) whipped cream for topping

In medium bowl, mix together lime zest, lime juice and egg yolks.  With mixer on medium high, beat in sweetened condensed milk until thoroughly mixed.  Pour filling into crust.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Allow pie to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate at least 2 hours prior to serving. 
Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Brownies


Amy's Brownies

These brownies are from the book An Everlasting Meal.  I have always struggled with scratch made brownies and have never found a recipe that I was completely happy with.  Brownies have always kinda been my nemesis because I think I'm pretty good at baking and bake a lot of great things and cannot for the life of me understand why I can bake cakes, breads and muffins but can't seem to conquer something as simple as a brownie... I mean there isn't any yeast and there are hardly any ingredients so they really shouldn't be that hard.  I am happy to report that I have conquered the brownie and these actually turned out well.  The reduced amount of flour (than most recipes) and high amount of chocolate and butter lend themselves well to a moist, fudgy brownie.  I do tend to like my brownies on the thicker side, so next time I'd probably bake them in a smaller pan than the recipe states so that each square has more height to it.  Other than that, I wouldn't change a thing, and I was quite pleased by the short ingredient list and simple steps for this recipe.

-4 oz unsweetened chocolate
-1 c butter
-3 eggs
-2 c sugar
-2 tsp vanilla
-1 c flour
-chocolate chips or walnuts (I omitted these)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13x9 baking pan.  Melt the chocolate and butter in a mixing bowl placed over a small pot of boiling water.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Beat in 1 egg at a time.  Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until combined, then add the flour.  Spread in the pan and top with chocolate chips or walnuts or anything else you like.  Check them after 20 minutes.  They should be done by 25 to 30.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal


Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

This is a slightly different spin on my standard baked oatmeal recipe.  Jeremy, Eli and I all really enjoyed this, but I haven't met a baked oatmeal yet that I didn't like.  If this was just for me I'd probably add in a touch of cloves and nutmeg also, but Jeremy tends to not like dishes like this with much spice so I left them out for him.  You could also add nuts, raisins or craisins to suit your taste.  Baked oatmeal is such an easy, nutritious and inexpensive breakfast to serve, or we eat it as breakfast for dinner in our house often.  You can prepare this and bake it immediately, or I often prepare it the night before, refrigerate overnight, and then pop in the oven upon waking up.

-4 c rolled oats
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 Tbsp baking powder
-1.5 Tbsp cinnamon
-3 eggs
-1 c (no sugar added) apple sauce
-1 c sugar
-2 c milk
-1.5 Tbsp vanilla
-3 apples, peeled and diced
-2 Tbsp brown sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together oats- cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs-vanilla.  Stir oat and egg mixture together.  Stir in apples.  Spread into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle brown sugar over top.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thai Sweet Chili Dressing


Thai Sweet Chili Dressing

I whipped up this simple dressing to enjoy on one of my Vietnamese Noodle bowls because I had leftover Sweet Chili Sauce lying around to use up.  I really liked this combination of sweet, spicy and tangy over the bowl, and would buy (or make) sweet chili sauce in the future just to make this dressing.

-1 c sweet chili sauce
-1/4 c rice vinegar
-4 Tbsp lime juice
-2 Tbsp fish sauce or soy sauce
-(optional) 1/2-1 tsp sriracha sauce

Whisk together all ingredients and chill until serving.