Tuesday, April 14, 2015

::this month::




the week that i typed my last monthly update we had a ton going on! we were in the midst of funeral plans and preparing for what jeremy was going to say at said funeral. we thought we were going to have to be out of our current place 3 weeks before our closing date on our new home, causing us to move twice and get storage and stay with friends. then a few days later we were wondering if the whole contract on the house was going to fall through all together causing us to have only one and a half weeks to find a home to rent for the next year and move. let's just say that we had a lot up in the air. i wish that i could say that i handled it all with grace and faith but there were moments when i cried, worried and felt anxious trying to resolve all of the details. then, within 3 days most of the difficult circumstances were resolved and provided for in miraculous ways. i was left looking back wondering why i had wasted time worrying and not trusting god, when i have so many prior memories of him making the impossible possible in my life. fortunately he is better than we know, better than we give him credit for, and he can and will do far beyond all that we could ask or think.

despite all of the ups and downs that have been in the process, we still hope to close on our home in april, and jeremy will be doing some traveling, and then we'll have family in town for a week. it looks to be another full month.

i am so glad to say that i am finally over the first trimester hump and am feeling so much better! i feel like myself again. i have energy, have been getting a lot done, and have been able to really enjoy and be present with the people around me. after months of feeling awful i am so unbelievably grateful to feel good and really live each moment. all of my senses seem more keen and aware and everything around me seems so wonderful, as if i have on rose colored glasses. i have been doing a lot of processing this month... possibly correlated to reading the book make it happen and asking myself all of the questions it entails. i've been looking at how i spend my time and energy, the things i invest myself in, my passions and overall values and evaluating all of these things considering what is and is not working in each of these areas right now. for the most part, i feel like i'm right where i'm supposed to be right now, but there are a few things that i'll be changing over the next month or two, and i'm also planning to start taking active steps towards some of the long term (5-10 year) goals that i have, rather than passively waiting for them to happen in the far off future.

last month jeremy was on 2 podcasts. he's still working on his next full length book, as well as 2 shorter ebooks. he also has a few upcoming projects and groups that he's working on putting together, more details on those to come.

praising:
that despite my fickleness and lack of faith at times that god is faithful, constant, unchanging, and always working all things for my good, even when it doesn't seem that way. i'm grateful for the ways that he miraculously provided us favor and changed circumstances to move forward with our house.

that my god is a living god, who died and rose again, who has defeated death and sin on my behalf so that i can truly live.
 

praying:
for a smooth and speedy process for our home to close

for wisdom and discernment as we continue to process some upcoming changes.


reading:
psalms, john, romans, 
make it happen, savor, all the light we cannot see
 

thankful for:
to be feeling well physically, emotionally and spiritually.

spring. we have had lots of sunshine. me and the boys have spent lots of time outdoors. it seems that the whole world around me is coming to life just as i'm emerging from a several month slump. i see flowers blooming, butterflies flying, hear birds chirping, and am just so grateful for it all.

our time living by the bayou. seeing as how we will be moving into our home within the next month and leaving our current neighborhood behind, i am so grateful for our time here. we are very excited about our new neighborhood and new home, but there is something so special about the area that we've been in the last 3 and a half years. we have really enjoyed this area, taking almost daily walks along the bayou and to the nearby parks and playgrounds. this is currently my very favorite neighborhood in new orleans, but i'm pretty sure i'll feel that way about our new neighborhood before too long.

cooking:


huevos rancheros, whole wheat pizza with turkey pepperoni and jalapenos, thai chicken pizza, vietnamese noodle bowls, chicken sausage on buns with sauteed onions and peppers, gumbo, caesar salad, grilled cheese and tomato soup, four cheese lasagna with turkey sausage, whole wheat banana bread muffins with chocolate chips, taco soup, tacos with homemade salsa, italian stuffed peppers, chicken pavlava, fried rice, maple balsamic pork tenderloin, chai bars, veggie tray with curry dip, green well salad, lemon bars, coconut lemon chickpeas with sundried tomatoes and spinach, zuppa toscana, spinach and feta pie in puff pastry, baked risotto with peas, white chicken chili, cornbread
 
baby update:
i still haven't been to the doctor yet (i've been working with our insurance to change my plan so that i can go to my doctor whom i love who did not accept my prior plan). i do have an appointment next monday, so we will know more soon. as of right now, we think i'm around 18 weeks pregnant. that said, we've been joking that by the time i finally go to the doctor they will be confirming my pregnancy and telling us the gender all in the same appointment. i've been feeling much better, and more like myself again, although still a little nauseous here and there and still unable to consume caffeine and fried or greasy foods. in addition to the cravings of sushi and pho that i mentioned last month this month i've also been craving lime popsicles, homemade salsa, beef, lebanese grape leaves and orange juice. as of now i've gained a few pounds and think that my belly officially popped this month and has started truly appearing to be in the early stages of pregnancy. we have not discussed, or even thought of names for this baby yet, because it has been a crazy busy few months, but we still have a girls name leftover from eli, so we have one unofficial girl name idea and no boy names. good thing we still have several months to go.
 

doing:
all the usual activities; weekly homeless outreach, monthly book club, monthly community group, radiant monthly ladies gathering, lots of playdates and dinners with friends.

pondering:


proverbs 23:7 for as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

i've been thinking about this verse. that how a man thinks of himself so he will be. so he will act. so will be his fruit.

what are you/ i thinking of ourselves? are we thinking that we aren't good enough, aren't talented enough? are we thinking that we are lesser than others? worthless? insignificant? flawed? broken?

or are we believing the truth? the truth that we are redeemed. whole. holy. loved. accepted. valuable. forgiven. reconciled. clean. without sin or flaw. that we are covered in and defined by the blood of christ. worth his coming to earth. worthy of his sacrifice. that god loved us so much to send us his son. and his holy spirit. that we have been equipped, empowered, sent out. that we have the fullness of god's power dwelling in us.

i want to believe the truth about myself, and so be those things. act those ways. bear that fruit.

may we do that together, friends. may we see ourselves as god sees us and define ourselves by what he says about us. may we live in constant communion with him. basking in his love and rest, manifesting his kingdom on earth. may all of the lies have no foothold or roots in our hearts and minds.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Taco Soup


Taco Soup

This soup is so easy that I almost don't count it as cooking because all you really do is chop an onion, open cans and dump everything in a pot.  If you'd like to liven it up with a little more freshness (and more work) you can also saute some diced bell pepper or minced garlic with the onion, or you could even toss in some freshly chopped cilantro at the end.  Part of the comfort of this soup is that it is so uninvolved though, and we all need a few recipes like that in our arsenal.  Serve the soup with cornbread or tortillas chips and cheddar cheese and sour cream for topping.  This recipe makes a lot.  It fills my whole large pot (not stock pot).  I'd say it serves at least 10-12 heavy eaters.  It's great for a football party or anytime you are feeding a crowd because you can make it in advance and keep it warm for an entire party.  If you're serving a smaller group I'd recommend cutting everything in half and you'll still have plenty for at least 5-6 people for dinner.

-1 Tbsp olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-2 lbs ground beef
-4 cups beef broth
-1 (29 oz) can diced tomatoes (with their juice)
-1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with chiles (like Rotel)
-1 (15 oz) can corn, drained
-3 (15 oz) cans any type of bean, rinsed and drained (I did 1 pinto, 1 light red kidney bean and 1 dark red kidney bean in this batch)
-1 can chopped green chiles
-1 envelop ranch dressing mix
-4 Tbsp brown sugar
-1 Tbsp chili powder
-2 tsp cumin
-1 tsp oregano
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
-3 Tbsp cornmeal mixed with 3 Tbsp water

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Saute onion and beef, stirring often and breaking up, until beef is cooked, about 10 minutes.  Drain off fat.  Add broth- cayenne to the pot with the beef and the onion.  Simmer over medium heat until flavors come together, at least 20 minutes.  Stir in cornmeal/ water mixture and continue to simmer until it thickens, at least 5 minutes.  Serve with desired toppings.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Slow Cooker Pulled Buffalo Chicken


Slow Cooker Pulled Buffalo Chicken

Although this recipe contains more processed ingredients than I normally use, it is super easy, a crowd pleaser and it hit the spot on a spicy meaty craving for this preggo lady. Because I made a double batch to feed a crowd we had lots of leftovers that I plan to use making lettuce wraps, quesadillas and buffalo chicken pizza. This filling could also be great on a salad, in enchiladas or wrapped inside of a tortilla.  If making sandwiches like I did in the picture above serve with your choice of  buns/ bread/ tortillas, ranch or bleu cheese dressing, bleu cheese crumbles, lettuce and shredded carrots.

-2 pounds chicken breasts
-1 (12) oz bottle hot sauce
-1 packet ranch dressing mix
-2 Tbsp butter

Place chicken in a greased slow cooker and cover with 1 c of hot sauce and 1 packet of ranch dressing mix.  Cook on low for 6 hours. Remove meat from the slow cooker and shred using 2 forks. Discard juices from slow cooker.  Return meat to slow cooker, add butter and additional hot sauce to taste. Continue to cook on low an additional 30-60 minutes.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

::the last 2 months::



now that we've covered that announcement i can address why i have been a slacker at blogging for the last two months.  i have been feeling sick for the past two months.  i have done the bare minimum possible in almost every area of my life and have basically just been treading water to stay afloat, rather than swimming and accomplishing anything extra {aside from building a tiny person inside of me}.

we have been busy.  with school applications for noah.  with personal and bastion taxes and year end accounting.  with jumping through hoops on the house that we have under contract.  with all of our regular activities and groups.  with regular visits to a friend who has been battling cancer for months and who passed away last friday.  it has all been a lot to keep up with and all i have wanted to do has been give in to my pregnancy hormones and lay on the couch and nap.  so blogging just hasn't happened lately.  but i'm starting to feel better and feel able to return to my regular routines again.

praising:

god's faithfulness, grace and abounding love... how he is always present and always good even when i don't feel like it, even when i don't see him and his true attributes when i look around... he is always the same... and always has grace to cover the lack in how i am perceiving him.

that god really does work all things for good.  i believe this from the depths of my soul.  i can be confident that in all things he will use them for good.

praying:

for chet's family and friend's as they mourn, miss him and process the loss of a loved one.  he was so full of life and laughter.  he was so vibrant, engaging and enchanting.  he was so loved.  he brought out the best in others and challenged them to pursue their dreams.  we miss him, but are so glad that he is no longer suffering and we are completely confident that he is in heaven right now.  jeremy will be speaking at the funeral this saturday, which will probably be one of the hardest things he has ever done, but we are looking forward to a sweet time of celebrating and remembering chet's life. 

for wisdom, clarity and favor as jeremy and i dream and plan and talk to god about what's in store for bastion ministries and our family this year, next year and the next several years.

for the process to go smoothly on the house we have under contract.  there is a possibility that we'll have to be out of our current rental 2-3 weeks before we close on our house.  which makes things complicated...  it means we'd have to move twice, get a storage facility and stay with friends for a few weeks.  there's also a possibility that our new closing (and moving) date could fall on a week that jeremy will be out of town for 5 days speaking at a conference.  so prayers for favor in all of that are appreciated right now!

reading:

psalms, esther, john, a house in the sky, make it happen

thankful for:

friends.  new and old.  on earth and in heaven.  we have been blessed to be surrounded by such great people.  given recent events, i'm not {or trying not to} taking{take} a single moment or memory with anyone for granted.

lots of extra help and support from my hubby, family and friends during this several month season of me not feeling well.  my hubby who has been so patient and understanding when i haven't been as engaged or emotionally present as i normally am.  family and friends that have watched our kids, done our laundry, cooked us food and shown me grace when i haven't been the kind of friend that i normally am.

all of the fun birthday celebrations this month.  i felt so loved and celebrated and am so grateful to have such great people in my life.

grace. despite the complications that have been thrown our way with this house and the move, i am so completely grateful to have options.  to have gotten to live in a place that we have loved for the last several years.  to get to buy a beautiful home and grow deeper roots here.  to have a fun option of staying with good friends, even if we do end up having to move twice.  things have gotten seemingly inconvenient, but we are so blessed.  we have always had a wonderful place to live and we've experienced such favor in all of these details, and just maybe there's a reason for the current complications, and just maybe we will find blessing in them.  because whether they are from god or the enemy, i know that god works all things for good, and so this too, will be worked for good.

cooking:

huevos rancheros,  whole wheat pizza with turkey pepperoni and jalapenos, vietnamese noodle bowls, chicken sausage on buns with sauteed onions and peppers, korean beef, spicy chicken enchiladas, pumpkin pasta with turkey sausage, pulled buffalo chicken sandwiches, steak, caramelized brussel sprouts, veggie tray with curry dip, gumbo, sloppy joe's, caesar salad, grilled cheese and tomato soup, jerk chicken with jamaican red beans and rice, creole okra and tomatoes, chinese char siu roast pork, vegetable soup, thai tilapia curry, chai bars, pumpkin oat muffins with chocolate chips, four cheese lasagna with turkey sausage, chana masala

baby update:

i still haven't been to the doctor yet but we are thinking i'm around 12 weeks pregnant now and will be due around the second week of september.  as i mentioned, i have felt pretty nauseous and tired for the last two months, but am feeling a little better each day as of now.  as of now, this pregnancy is pretty comparable to my first two.  i've felt pretty much the same and had the same cravings and aversions.  my biggest cravings have been sushi, pho and caesar salad and my biggest aversions have been coffee, sweets and anything fried or greasy.  my belly is just starting to pop out and appear a little pregnant, although it's still easily covered up by baggy shirts. 

doing:

all the usual activities; weekly homeless outreach, monthly book club, monthly community group, radiant monthly ladies gathering, lots of playdates and dinners with friends.  a homeless outreach with our community group.  hosting a local new orleans gathering for the yearly women's conference "if gathering".  a few mardis gras parades and festivities.  several birthday celebrations for me including an overnight date night without the kiddos, lunches and breakfasts with friends, and a ladies road trip, sushi dinner and worship night.  packing.  cooking in a yearly gumbo cook off.

pondering:

in my last "monthly" update i talked about my word for the year for 2015.  in addition to that, there are a lot of words that god has put on my heart that i have been meditating on that are an indication of some of what is going on in my heart right now.  these are areas that i want to be more intentional in, grow in and thrive in in 2015.

-present: i want to be present always.  with god.  with those around me.
-enough: this word has been standing out to me for months.  ever since reading daring greatly.  i want to be confident and fully know in my heart that i am enough, just as i am.  to really know in my heart that nothing i do defines me or changes my worth, but that i am enough.  and that god is enough.  that all of my needs and desires and found in him.  of course i know these things in my head, but i want to walk in the deep heart truth of knowing them fully in every part of me.
-savor/ enjoy/ cherish: along with being present, i really want to savor/ enjoy/ cherish each moment, each person, each interaction.  i think this starts with being present, and then builds on it.

***

i've also been processing how i have felt spiritually complacent this year.  the last few years i have felt like i walked in such faith, believing and expecting the impossible and miraculous and not feeding into fears and doubts.  i really felt like i lived out 2 corinthians 5:7 and walked by faith and not by sight.  over the last few months i feel like this has decreased.  i've been giving more credit to my natural circumstances, to fear, to emotions and feelings, to the approval of others and have slipped away from walking by faith alone.  so i've been coming back to 2 corinthians 5:7 and meditating on it.  letting god speak to my soul and renew my mind and heart to who he is and who i am in him.  and he's been giving me opportunities to walk this out... to say no to fear and doubt and to proceed forward in faith and trust.  it's a lot easier to say that i want to walk by faith than it actually is to choose faith in those situations (over fear, worry and doubt) but i am being refined and renewed along the way and i'm gaining a little ground with each step, each time i trust, each time i say no to the enemy and his tactics.

***

i've also felt lately like i'm in a season on waiting... there are some promises that god has spoken to me and given me dreams and a vision for, but many of them are at least 5-10 years out from the current time.  so it can be easy to loose sight of them and question them.  it could be easy for me to sit back and say that i know this isn't the season for them so i'm going to sit back, relax and wait.  but lately god has been whispering something to me over and over again.  he's been saying that "waiting isn't passive".  that waiting is a season of preparation for the one to come.  it's a season of tilling the ground, planting the seeds and watering, so that in it's time, the crop will come.  it's a season of believing in the unseen and speaking things into existence, step by step.  waiting is active.  the character needed for the next season is being built and established in this one.  there's a responsibility for me to actively believe for what is to come, like the "heros of faith" mentioned in hebrews 11, who believed god's promises even though most of them never actually saw the promise come to pass.  they still had to live their lives in faith, believing for the promise and establishing the groundwork which would make the promise possible for the next generation.  like david, when he didn't actually step into the role of king until over 15 years after he had been anointed by samuel.  and during those 15 years his circumstances started to look like he was getting further and further from being king... he began to be persecuted by saul, then his men began to leave him, and it appeared that he had decreased in favor and was forced to live in hiding and isolation.  he could have easily given up on the promise that he would one day be king when his circumstances seemed to be saying the opposite.  but he never gave up on himself, or god, or ceased to let his character be built through the process (when he chose not to use the opportunities that he had to kill saul). and so i'm learning to wait actively as opposed to passively.

 




 
 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts



 
 
Caramelized Brussel Sprouts
 
Until recently, Jeremy said that he didn't like brussel sprouts and now he has announced that we could eat these for dinner every night.  This method is simple and fuss-free, but ends up with such delicious results.  You can also toss in some bacon or pancetta with these while roasting, as we had in a restaurant in Ohio a few month ago.  I follow this exact same method for roasting carrots  (peeled and cut into 1" chunks, or whole baby carrots) also, I just increase the cooking time.
 
-2 lbs brussel sprouts, rinsed, trimmed, sliced in half
-1/4 c olive oil
-3 Tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
 
In a medium bowl, stir together oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Toss with brussel sprouts.  Roast at 400 for 35-45 minutes (or until desired browning has occurred), stirring every 10 minutes as you go.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chana Masala



I made this Chana Masala from the book A Homemade Life.  Our book club read the book and we each brought a recipe from the book to share for our dinner.  EVERY. SINGLE. RECIPE. WAS AMAZLING!  This Chana Masala was great over basmati rice, but would be good served with naan also.  There were a few things that I changed from the recipe, mainly that I used ground cumin and ground cardamom because that was all that I could find at my store.  I also added a tsp of sugar because I like a touch of sweetness in anything that has tomatoes.  Other than that I followed the recipe as directed and would do so again.  Try this.  It's easy and nutritious. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

6 Profound lessons I've learned from doing homeless ministry with a fast friend



First I'd like to introduce you to my friend Heather.  Isn't she beautiful?  She's just as stunning in person, and even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside.  I met Heather just a few months ago and it was love at first sight.  She spoke a language of faith so similar to my own that I knew it was a God ordained relationship.  We talked about God the entire evening, sharing testimonies of our encounters with Him and the revelation He has given us.  There was power on that conversation and I left knowing that  we would be friends and eventually have opportunities to partner together.

Last year Heather started a ministry called Kingdom Project and has a beautiful and passionate heart to love and serve on people that are in need.  She is gifted in evangelism and teaching and is doing and is going to do great things and "greater things"!  Shortly before I met Heather she had started going out to the French Quarter, to where the broken, hurting, lonely, needy people were and meeting them where they were to bring them Jesus.  She brought them food and clothes for their physical needs and love, hugs, Truth, prayers, encouragement and a listening ear for their spiritual and emotional needs.

For the last month or two I've had the privilege to go out and minister with Heather and two other ladies (hi Lyndsey and April, y'all are awesome also, but that will be a story for another day) almost weekly.  God has taught me so many lessons along the way and I wanted to share some of them with you, that they may be of encouragement to you in case you don't have a Heather in your life.



1. You/ I can do this!!!!!  The "this" might be different for everyone but I've always thought of evangelism and street ministry as these big scary things that only the super spiritual people do (whoever they are).  Whatever your "this" is I bet it's not nearly as scary as you've made it out to be in your  mind.  I bet it seems bigger and more complicated than it actually is.  I bet you were made for such a time as "this"!  I know that God prepares, equips and calls us to things that are so much bigger than ourselves, so much bigger than what we think we can do because He loves to show off using ordinary people, and really, no one is ordinary because He uniquely created each one of us for a purpose and for great things!  And if He is for us, who can be against us?



2. Start now.  Start right where you are.  With whatever you have.  Heather could have waited until she had more free time.  More money.  A team of more people.  She could have waited and waited and said "I will do this when _____________________".  But she didn't.  She just started.  She took the little bit of time that she had.  The little bit of resources she had.  And combined it with passion, purpose, and trusting that God is sufficient and she stepped out in faith.  She didn't wait until she had it figured out, or all of the right answers and methods.  But she set out on a journey, learning along the way.

do you see this smile?  we gave him 1 pair of socks, a breakfast sandwich and a used sweatshirt...  and he smiles like this!  have you smiled like this today?  take a minute to reflect on all of your blessings and SMILE!

3. Give thanks always.  Each time we go out it humbles me by just how appreciative everyone that we minister to is.  (There may very well come a time that someone isn't receptive, and that will be ok, but I thought that people wouldn't be receptive, that they would be mean).  One day when we went out several of the homeless expressed their gratitude to us by coming up with and reciting a poem, singing us a song and/ or playing us an instrument.  They had so little, yet they were so grateful for each and every thing that they had.  For us giving them some food, clothes and speaking life to them.  I felt awful that I wasn't doing more.  Wasn't giving them a home.  A shelter.  A job.  Or something that would more tangibly change their circumstances other than meeting their immediate needs.  But they didn't see it that way.  They weren't concerned with what I wasn't giving them.  They didn't think about the fact that I was going back to my comfortable home and was not going to be any less comfortable by doing something so simple for them.  We have so much, and yet can feel so dissatisfied with our much.  Thinking we need more.  Or better.  They have nothing.  But are so grateful for each crumb thrown their way.

this guy played us a Johnny Cash song to thank us for the supplies.  he's a retired veteran.

4.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  As I mentioned in the prior paragraph, one day when we went out at least 5 different people used creative efforts to thank us for what we were doing.  They received blessing from us, but turned right around and immediately poured it back out.  Isn't that how it's supposed to work?  Aren't we supposed to take every single thing that we receive and immediately turn it around and bless others?  They could have thought poorly about themselves and thought they had nothing to offer us but they didn't.  They just blessed us.  It was a natural reaction.

I think this guy's name is Eugene.  this hug made my day!  I was blessed!  we were out of food and sweatshirts when we met him but we prayed with him and spoke truth over him and he cried and smiled and grinned and we were all touched. 

5.  When we bless others we are blessed.  It's such a Kingdom principal that through humbling ourselves, we are exalted.  Through death, we find life.  To be first, you must be last.  To lead, you must serve.  When we bless, we are blessed.  ALWAYS!  Being blessed is not why we bless others, but it's always the fruit of putting others first and blessing them.

this is Tom holding a donated coat we were able to give him.  he's a carni who came down here hoping to rent a room daily but the rates were too high so he ended up homeless.  he has a brain aneurysm and gets dizzy spells.  we listened to him, spoke truth over him and prayed with him.  he was so moved that we cared.  that we listened.  that we prayed and hugged and embraced him.  that he was seen, heard, touched, valued.

6.  When we know our need, we can fully receive.  If any one of these people chose to live in pride, not wanting to accept help from others they could have turned us away.  They had the power to not receive our gifts and blessing.  But because they knew their need, and were willing to humble themselves, they were able to receive of the gifts that we had for them.  When we won't admit or come to terms with our needs then we miss out of the gifts available for us.


These lessons aren't just for me, they are for you too, friend!  May we live them daily.