Monday, April 27, 2015

A Taste of the South

I have a weird relationship with grocery shopping.  I love food, I love cooking, I love shopping for kitchen things.  I hate shopping for food.  I think a lot of it is because I am a food snob when it comes to certain brands and I have to have ample lighting.  In the small little town I live in, there are not many grocery options and the lighting is always depressing and at times the walls seem like they are closing in on me.  I just find it to be inconvenient.  I am organized in most areas of my life, but meal planning is not one of them.  I don't like to sit down and plan out the meals because I don't know if I will feel like when I get home from work.  I need options and flexibility.  And honestly?  It's just me so why does it matter?

I am moving in about 9 days (assuming I get everything packed).  I refuse to go to the store until then.  Meals have gotten very creative because I am trying to use up what I have.

The other day I was trying to find a place for my newest ice cream creation (sweet potato ice cream with a cinnamon browned butter swirl) and I stumbled on a bag of frozen okra.  I'm sure I bought it in a sheer panic trying to get out of the store as soon as I possibly could. Instead of just throwing it in a pan of boiling water, I decided to try my hand at making gluten free fried okra. All measurements are estimates because much like grocery shopping, digging my measuring cups out of boxes seemed to inconvenient for my hunger.

Fried Okra:
1 pound of of frozen okra or sliced fresh okra
2 Eggs, beaten
1 cup of milk
1/2 package of Ranch seasoning (or 3tps of homemade seasoning if you're feeling daring)
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup Gluten free flour mix of your choice (I prefer Silvana Nardone's  All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour (or you could probably forego this completely, you would just need to add more cornmeal)
3/4 cup Cornmeal
Oil of your choice (I used Grapeseed Oil because it was what I had on hand)
A skillet (I used my Le Creuset Dutch oven because I'm obsessed with it and it is yellow which makes me happy and I don't currently own a good cast iron skillet and of course, I want a Le Creuset one which does not come cheap).

1.  Beat together eggs and milk in a bowl and set aside.
2.  In another bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, ranch seasoning and a pinch of remaining seasoning to taste
3.  Dip the okra in the milk/egg mixture and then transfer to the flour mixture.  Make sure the okra is completely coated.  Once coated, move to a mixing bowl until ready to fry.
4.  Heat your choice of oil in a skillet until it is about 400 degrees. Use a slotted spoon to place the okra in the oil (I have one too many hot oil related injuries during my years at Kanakuk, one including a stint in an eye patch so I am extremely careful about it)
5.  Cook until golden brown, which took about 3-4 minutes.  Once brown, uses tongs to remove.  I put a colander in a bowl to drain the extra grease off.

Then I made a Sriracha Ranch dipping sauce because I have a weird thing with ketchup (meaning I don't love it, and if I do eat it, it needs to be room temperature).  Mix 1/2 cup Ranch with 2 tsp. Sriracha sauce.  Why I have Sriracha sauce is completely beyond me but adding it with ranch was one of the greater decisions I had made in a while.

So naturally I decided I need to deep fry more things so I made some avocado fries and for the memories of frying chicken at K-2, I fried up some chicken then the oil splashed on me so I called it quits.

I may or may not have made an entire meal out of friend food.  I have no regrets. Although I wish I would have taken a picture.

Monday, April 6, 2015

I'm Single: Part 1

I have been a bridesmaid 9 times.
I have caught the bouquet 11 times.
I have been part of the house party of a wedding 22 times.
I have been a personal attendant 3 times.
I have hosted and attended my fair share of bridal showers.
I have a roommate who is engaged.

And I have been single for approximately my entire life.

Each time a friend gets engaged, I grieve a little because I know our relationship is about to change.  I know things will be different but still good.  Each time I feel left behind for a moment as everyone around me is moving on while I am standing still feeling like I am the last one picked for the team.

I would love to be married. I would love to have what I thought I would have at 27.  The conflict between what I want and the perception of what I have creates pain at times.

There is a specific pain in singleness.  It's hard, in ways I can hardly explain.  And through conversations with a few dear friends, I know I am not alone in the pain of singleness. Sometimes doing this life alone is hard. Sometimes doing this life alone is sweet.  It's the truest example I have encountered about having a bittersweet season. At times, I feel forgotten. At times, I fight insecurity.  At times, I question the Lord's plan.  But then I remember, my worth is based on Christ.  I remember that my hope is built on Christ's blood and righteousness.  I remember the Lord's sovereignty.  I remember the people in my life who have adopted me as family when mine is hours away.  I remember and cherish Romans 8..."this is all happening for my good and God's glory."

Marriage has never been the end all be all for me.  I desire it, but only if it is for God's glory.

I would love to not feel like I am missing out on desires I have at times.  This season of singleness  has taught me that I don't want my dreams.  I do, but I really don't.  I want Jesus.  My heart needs Jesus and His unconditional, unfailing, incomparable love.  His love is the hope I cling too. I want Him to cover my heart in grace.  I want Him to remind me who I am in moments of doubt, comparison, and insecurity.  I want him to to be my affirmation.  I want my insecurity and struggles on the earth to drive me to cling to the Cross because it is the only place where my broken soul can be healed.

I will waste this pain if I don't use it as part of my testimony.  I have tasted the Lord's goodness and I would give up anything if it meant I could taste more and see that the Lord is good, because ultimately, that is the dream I want.  I have said it before, but every season is for our sanctification and this one may be the one that changes my heart to be more like Christ.  Jesus walked in singleness, He was rejected and He was tempted but never broke. He went to the Father, and He knew the greater joy that was ahead and rested on that, no matter what He had to endure.

So what do I do now?
I keep moving forward.
I keep pursuing the Lord with reckless abandonment.
I find my fulfillment in Him and Him alone.
I plug in and find people who will push me to the cross.
I hang out with families.
I fight for the marriages around me. 
I do not isolate myself because of my relationship status.
I turn my eyes outward and look where I can serve.
I draw near and continue to pray for sanctification.

In Christ alone, my hope is found.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Where Are My Tic-Tacs: The Struggle is Real

I say/write this phrase on an almost daily basis.  It typically follows a sarcastic remark or goes along with a text to a friend that expresses the frustrations joys of life as a twenty-something single adult who lives in a small tourist town.

It is no secret that one of my favorite movies is You've Got Mail. I am always in the mood for it.  Nora Ephron's writing is honest, has a sense of clarity I love, is covered with a hint of sass and simply makes me happy.  I can always relate a quote from that movie to a current situation in my life.

There is a scene in the movie where Joe Fox is stuck in an elevator with his then-grilfriend Patricia Eden who makes coffee nervous.  Everyone in the elevator is assuming they are not going to get out and making plans of exactly what they will do if/when they do.  Patricia is freaking out because she can't find her Tic-Tacs in her purse. Her struggle was real, as melodramatic as that scene was, I get it.

This life is sometimes hard.
This life is sometimes not fair.
And most importantly, this life is not eternal.

The struggle is real.

It is real because every season is meant for our sanctification.
It is real because of sin.
It is real because this world is not our home.
Christ's return is our incentive of hope.

I have spent a lot of time in 1 Peter this week and this is what I know: Peter understood that the struggle is real. Peter knew persecutions.  He knew how to move forward without bitterness or hopelessness.  He had a faith that I strive for.  He lived an obedient life.  His hope was the living hope of Jesus Christ and his resurrection and future return.  He rejoiced in the struggle. He understood that there is a greater joy ahead (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Nothing on this earth will satisfy us.  Nothing on this earth will fill the hole in our hearts except Christ.

I work in a public school district.  I have to remind myself daily that this life is not eternal.  I have to tell myself that the grace the abounds daily for me from Christ needs to abound daily to the students I see.  I have to tell myself that every day, with every child, no matter the cost that I will show them unconditional love and show them that I am fighting the battle for them.  I have to show them that I am on their side and I will not give up despite any behavior or resistance they may show me.  Even though the struggle is real, I can't stop fighting.

Peter knew the greater joy.  He knew it was worth it.  He knew there was something bigger coming, and that was his hope.  I have spent a good amount of time with a broken heart and in tears over the situations some of the kids I work with are in.  Some of the kids I see are exactly the reason I went into the education in the first place.

This is what I have learned: crying is fine while it lasts but the tears have to stop eventually and I have to decide what to do.

All I am saying is this: we can sit in the stuck elevator and freak out about Tic-Tacs but when those doors open, we need to have a game plan.  We cannot waste our time looking for Tic-Tacs.
Joe Fox left the elevator wishing he knew what he wanted.  The time spent in the elevator made him think.  It made him realize there was something greater.  We need to know what we want. I have spent a lot of time stuck in the elevator this week searching for Tic Tacs. The doors opened and I wasn't ready.

I know what I want.
I want to love the Lord with reckless abandonment.
I want to serve others with a heart like Christ.
I want to make the Lord known despite anything it may cost.

We have the hope that Christ is coming again as He promised.

Until then we fight in whatever situation He has called us to.
Until then we fight for people.
Until then we fight for the lost and broken.

The struggle is real, but so is the hope.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Leaving the Desert: A Year Later

One year ago today, my world fell apart. One year ago today, the Lord started me on a journey that I never wanted to walk.  Saying that this year has not gone exactly as planned would be the understatement of this decade.  I survived.  I never thought I would, but I did.

Throughout this past year I have struggled financially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  I have struggled with pride and self-sufficiency.  I have had to ask for help through the midst of tears and breakdowns.

But even in the trials of the year, I would choose walk through it all over again.  I would take the pain of disappointment. I would take tears, the doubt, the insecurity, the confusion.  I would do it all over again.  Why?  Because the Lord met me where I was at.  He met me in the pain.  He showed His character to me in ways I would have never seen.  He took me on a long way around to get me to a place of total dependence.  He brought people in my path I would have never met who challenged me, encouraged me, and walked alongside me.  He provided in ways I could never of imagined.

I have a Bible crush on Moses.  I always have.
I am always encouraged by his story.  He wandered for 80 years total in the desert.  80 years.  Can you even imagine?  I felt like this year of desert wandering has been an eternity.  But the comforting thing has been is that the Lord will never bring something into your life that He will not use.  He did that with Moses.  Those years were spent preparing him for a greater purpose.

Os Hillman writes: 
     "The desert was a place of preparation for one of the greatest assignments give to one man.  Did you hear what I just said?  Yes, the desert was the place of preparation.  Moses was battle-trained in the same environment he would spend another forty year...What kind of assignment is God preparing you for?  Does He have you in a desert of preparation?  Learn the lessons you are there to learn.  You may find you are called to be a deliver, Just like Moses."

Maybe the discovery of our purpose sometimes can only be forged in a year of desert-dwelling.  Maybe all great works are prepared in the time we spend in the desert.  At times I felt like I was forgotten, but this gives me hope.  Something so beautiful happens when we are void of something that we greatly rely on.  All I had left was the Lord, and that was all I needed.

The verse that I have been holding close to my heart this past year has been Psalm 27.  It has been a pillar for me:

"Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me. 
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
 Because of my foes.
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
 Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord."

This year has been a journey.  But I am standing here, a year later with confidence that the Lord used my year of desert-dwelling to prepare me for something greater.  The Lord took me out of vocational ministry and took me on a journey that led me into a passion and career that I am so excited pursuing.  I never thought that the Lord would call me into education.  I had no idea what this last year would bring.  If I had to do it all over again, I would.  I wouldn't change it because I have found a calling that makes me feel alive.  The Lord took me through the desert and brought me to the other side.  He put me on a path I would have not chosen on my own and I am so grateful He did.

I am so thankful that the Lord sees the bigger picture and knows what His children need to truly experience His faithfulness.

I look back on the year and see the outpourings of blessings, the community that surrounded me, and a God who held me in His hand. The desert was worth it. He had to use the deser to make my faith stronger and His presence more real.

I will gladly take the days or years of wandering the desert if it means I come out the other side knowing my Lord in a more real way.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Creating Margin: Saying No

I have been mulling over how exhausted and busy I have been these past few weeks (or months).  Almost every night I have had something that has kept me out late or ended with me being mentally drained only to crash on the weekends to start the process again.  The last few months I have had to fight for joy on a weekly, sometimes daily basis and I think it has a lot to do with being over-comitted (and under-caffienated) because I have to fight for Christ being the forefront of my life because I have allowed distractions to take priority.

The presence of busyness in my life is the product of a deeper sin.  Most likely the desire to please people and my high need for achievement instead of resting in what the Lord says about me.  In my life busyness is like a sin.  I start out scheduling a fews things a few nights a week which results in me becoming overwhelmed and dreading the daily grind despite the fact I am content and love my life.  I vow to make changes and then I fall back into the trap a few weeks later.

I recently read a book by one of my favorite pastors, Kevin DeYoung.  He wrote one of my favorite books 'Just Do Something' and he did it again with his book 'Crazy Busy'.  Below is a little snippet of one of my best reads of this year.

“I have often marveled to think that Jesus was so terrifically busy, but only with the things he was supposed to do…He was busy, but never in a way that made him frantic, anxious, irritable, proud, envious, or distracted by lesser things…Jesus knew the difference between urgent and important. He understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things he ought to do…Jesus understood his mission. He was not driven by the needs of others, though he often stopped to help hurting people. He was not driven by the approval of others, though he cared deeply for the lost and the broken.”

I was at a friend's house relearning statistics for my teaching exam last week and I always leave her house refreshed (despite the fact I was learning stats) and we talked about the danger of busyness and the importance of establishing margin.  I want to be available.  I need to be know how to differentiate between urgent and important.

Being busy with good things does not make someone a better Christian or more fruitful.  It just means you are busy and more prone to stress, exhaustion, and anxiety.

So to take this problem head on, I stopped saying yes and started saying no.  I gave up the idea of running a half marathon in May.  I stopped and made a list of top priorities and rearranged my life accordingly.  I have created margin.  I searched the New Testament and created a belief statement on busyness.  Jesus did not fill every need.  He did not heal every person.  He took time for Himself.    So now I have one scheduled evening a week.  I cut things out of my life.  I have room for intentional coffee dates, spontaneous adventures, times of personal refreshment, and opportunities to serve. Most importantly, I have time to focus on what I have been called to do.

Being busy had put my heart and joy in danger.  Dangers that I probably would not even have time to consider.  The great Counselor and great Physician is in the process of healing my overscheduled, exhausted soul.  So daily I pray through what healing looks like. I pray for discernment to know the difference in urgent and important. And to daily look to Christ's example in living my life.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

When Community Becomes a Crutch.

I live in a small town but was raised a city girl.  I have been here for 4 years and I have no plans on leaving anytime soon.  I always said I would be here until the Lord called me elsewhere and when He did, I would pick up and move in a hearbeat despite the deep roots I have here.  I thought it was going to be for about 7 months but here I am.

I have friends from church that push me to the cross and encourage me in ministry.
I have coworkers who encourage me professionally in my pursuit of my teaching certificate.
I have families who have given me groceries or gas money in the moments that I could only afford to pay rent.
I have a group of friends that challenge me, hold me accountable, ask me the hard questions, and laugh with me.
I have women in my life in different stages that offer wisdom and discernment in moments of struggle.

I truly believe community can make or break you.
I know from experience I would be in a darker place without the community I have worked hard to establish.

But I would be in an even darker place if I pursued community as a replacement for the Gospel.

Community can be idolized in Christian circles.  Community can be the end result.  The pursuit of community can take place of the pursuit of the Lord.

At times, I have seen it take place of the Gospel.  In my own life I have seen how I have made decisions based on community.  So many times I have seen how I didn't seek the Lord in decisions but I sought the opinions of my community.  I took a safe approach to living my life and living in other's opinion instead of seeking the Lord.

I never want to be a believer that pursues the idea of community instead of the Gospel.  I want my community to mimic the Gospel, with the Gospel as the foundation.  I recently ran across this quote by Bonhoffer:

“The Christian, however, must bear the burden of a brother. He must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated. The burden of men was so heavy for God Himself that He had to endure the Cross. God verily bore the burden of men in the body of Jesus Christ. But He bore them as a mother carries her child, as a shepherd enfolds the lost lamb that has been found. God took men upon Himself and they weighted Him to the ground, but God remained with them and they with God. In bearing with men God maintained fellowship with them. It was the law of Christ that was fulfilled in the Cross. And Christians must share in this law.” 
-Deitrich Bonhoffer

Communtiy should be the picture of the Gospel, not the Gospel itself.  Community needs to ask the hard questions that points us back to then cross and Scripture.

Dont get me wrong, community is great but it can hold you back fom living life according to the Gospel.

Beth Moore tweeted today and exactly what I have been mulling over the past week:
"Just gonna say it like this: get your hind end into a strong community of believers & yopur head in the Scriptures.  You cannot do this alone." 

We can't just have Biblical community, we have to pursue Scripture and pursue Christ.
HE has the power to transform our hearts.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Who Told You?

I wear white after Labor Day.  I think red roses are overrated.  I don't  typically read popular Christian books.  I'm not big into cliches.  A typical cliche for a believer is to start at Bible reading plan on January 1st so that by December 31st, they will have read through the entire Bible.  I started a plan this year.  I wanted to add structure to my quiet time and dig into books I typically don't study.

About two weeks ago I was in the beginning of Genesis.  I was reading about the creation and the fall.  I had gotten to chapter three and I was struck by possibly the most profound verses I have ever read.  It perfectly shows the heart of the Lord and how Satan feeds us lies about who we are. Genesis 3:10-11 says:

     They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  Then the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid; so I hid myself"  And He said,  "Who told you that you were naked?"

Adam and Eve had discovered how deceptive Satan is.  It is one of the first times in Scripture that we see God's heart for His Children.  I think the questions we would be asked now look a little more like this:

Who told you that you weren't beautiful?
Who told you that you need to lose weight?
Who told you that you were going to fail your teaching exams?
Who told you that you weren't good enough?
Who told you that you had no future because of current setback?
Who told you that you weren't going to accomplish your dream?
Who told you that God couldn't use you because of past sin?
Who told you that you were naked?

I have to go back daily.  I have to "let truth scream louder to my soul than the lies that have infected me (Beth Moore)."  I have to dwell on Philippians 4:8-9 
     Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things,  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

We have to remember that in Christ:
We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
His own (1 Corinthians 11:3)
God's workmanship and created in God's image (Ephesians 2:10)
Redeemed (Titus 2:14)
Alive (Ephesians 2:5)
Free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2)
A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
A conqueror (Romans 8:17)
Forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
Delivered from Darkness (Colossians 1:13)
Complete in Him (Colossians 2:10)
We are chosen (2 Timothy 1:9)

It is no secret that women typically struggle with insecurity and I am right there too.  Satan has a grip of areas in my life that I desperately want to drop the chains of bondage in which he has me in and I'm sure that is true of everyone.  I have sin I am working through right now and having to battle the lies I have fed myself over the years and allowed Satan to deceive me with.  I am having to rewire how I think and talk to myself.  I am taking steps and have accountability because I allowed Satan to tell me I was naked and not focus on what the Lord says of me.

But beautiful thing?
The cross of Calvary can set us free from all bondage.  The cross can wipe away every sin, and break every stronghold that Satan has on us.  The cross has the power to transform even the darkest areas of our hearts.

God is who He says He is.
God can do what He says He can do.

We are who God says we are..