for snow days in Georgia.

When they say the south doesn’t really handle snow very well, they weren’t kiddin’.

The blizzards I grew up among in the midwest were brutal, and sometimes we literally couldn’t leave the house to go to the store that was probably still open.

Down here–it’s a different story. People tend to panic a bit, and all schools and businesses shut down at the mere prediction of snow. If you visit the grocery store, you’ll see all the milk and bread sold-out…since two days ago {the snow just arrived this afternoon}.

The word “snowpocalypse” has been thrown around. And while that’s an accurate assessment, it’s endearing and sweet. I don’t mean that in a chastising “well, bless your sweet heart!” kind of way.  In all honesty, I don’t blame my fellow southerners at all–if anything, I admire them. They’ve all teamed up to help one another, those stranded on highways and byways; they’ve offered food, a place to sleep, and transportation to those without.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the south, it’s that people here do things right and well, with intentionality and attention to detail like I’ve never seen before. From their well-decorated porches, to their amazing pies, I find myself taking note. Maybe this is the southern hospitality I’ve always heard of.

But perhaps the thing I most desire to mimic in my life are their hearty, get-to-know-you questions and conversations, the ones that cut straight to the heart. By listening to the people around me, I’ve not only learned how to better serve, but I’ve become more sincere in the process.

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So, even on snowy sick days when I’m not well and only want to snuggle my cat; when my sweet little make-shift kitchen {okay fine, it’s a mini-bar} could be more efficient, it has more-than-sufficed for me and my needs, and I’m grateful. I’ve learned the art of using the Crock-Pot, toaster oven, electric skillet & water kettle, and blender. Sometimes that’s really all we need to make hearty, healthy dishes that can warm up any day winter solstice decides to show-up; the kind of meals that on-their-own invite our friends and loved ones to the table around us, for robust relationships and the richest, most kindred discussions.

Below you’ll find a few of my recent creations: Spicy Broccoli Pepper-Jack Soup to warm you up on the coldest day, and a sunny, summer snack, Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus with Fresh Green Beans, to later cool you off. Enjoy!

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Broccoli Pepper-Jack Soup {via Crock-pot, but easily altered for a stove-top}

4 large heads of organic broccoli, diced into small, bite-sized pieces
1/2 large organic yellow onion
5 red “baby new” organic potatoes
2 quarts of organic, low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half & half
10 oz. pepper-jack cheese
2 Tbsp gluten-free rice flour
2 tsp unsalted butter
organic extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper to taste

First, heat crock pot on high for 10 minutes. Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and add diced onion and diced potatoes to “sweat” and simmer for 15 minutes. Once they’re opaque, season with salt and pepper. Add enough chicken broth just to cover the top of the vegetables, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Gently pour everything into the blender, and let cool before blending.

Add the rest of the chicken broth and all of the broccoli to the crock pot, and bring to a slow boil for 30 minutes, seasoning with more salt and pepper to taste.

Add 1/2 cup of half and half, and stir through.  Add the blended mixture of onion and potato back into the soup, and allow the soup to simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp unsalted butter. While it melts, slice the pepper-jack cheese into small pieces, and set aside. Stir in 2 Tbsp gluten-free rice flour to melted butter. Cook for 3 minutes until flour is no longer raw, and add the other 1/2 cup of half and half until the mixture thickens. Once it has, turn off the heat, and add all of the cheese, stirring constantly until it melts. It should be extremely thick, with no clumps or bubbles.

Add cheese “sauce” to crock-pot, gently stirring in with broccoli, and allow to simmer on low for an additional 2 hours, or until you are ready to serve, stirring occasionally so cheese/milk does not burn. Yields 10 servings. Enjoy!

Sun-dried Tomato Hummus served with fresh green beans 
1 can organic garbanzo beans
2 oz. organic tahini
1/3 cup of water
1 clove of fresh garlic
2 Tbsp of sun-dried tomatoes
the juice of one whole lemon
organic extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper to taste

First, in a blender, combine the lemon juice, water, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic clove. Next add the tahini, and blend. Last, add the garbanzo beans, plenty of salt with pepper, and blend a third time on high while drizzling in the olive oil until a hummus forms and thickens to the consistency you prefer, with no clumps.

Serve with any veggies you’d like, but I recommend fresh, raw, organic green beans, and a light balsamic vinaigrette. Enjoy!

From my tiny kitchen to yours, I pray warmth and favor over your life during these long and trying winter months. 

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for homemade living.

This week has been one of those that flies by, where the office was a-buzz with blessing & commissioning out new college-aged missionaries to the field; the excitement was contagious, but the busyness and to-do lists took their toll.

And after a somewhat discouraging visit to a new chiropractor, the words “improper leptin release/absorption” seemed to seep out of the doctor’s lips and paralyze me a bit. So, by Friday night, I slowly made my way through the entire grocery store where I walked around like a zombie, reading every label and sizing it up next to its comparable neighbor. When all was said-and-done, I was left in complete recluse mode, so I carried my groceries through the frosty air to my little wooded abode, lit a yummy-scented candle, and my Gilmore Girls marathon commenced while I ate leftovers that required little-to-no effort.

No wonder it’s been so difficult to get back on the healthy track I was once living: my brain stem is pissed, according to my new Chiropractic friend. 

But all excuses and labels aside, it’s time to not only recognize my lack in #27by27, a program I started by myself, for myself, but to continue the forward motion I began and really stick to my guns, so to speak.

With that said, I’m in the process of making some radical changes to my lifestyle, and I’m about to begin selling Juice Plus+, some amazing supplements I’d love to tell you more about.

In the meantime, I figured I’d continue my clean-eating regime with a Saturday morning BANG! One of my all-time favorite comfort, breakfast foods, is blueberry pancakes, so I’ve created a healthier version.

The best thing about this recipe is it can be easily modified to be entirely gluten free/dairy free/vegan, so I’ve included the modified version below. Enjoy!

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LemonBerry Pancakes + Potatas

Begin with your flavor-packing, immune healthy produce:
1/2 cup organic blueberries, rinsed and drained
{or you can use canned organic berries; just be sure to rinse well and rid of all of the “syrup” they’re packed in}

the zest of one whole lemon–roughly chopped
{& one of my favorite smells in all the world, right up there with fresh laundry and new cars and libraries}

Next, measure all dry ingredients into a large bowl:
1 1/4 cups gluten free rice flour
1/2 cup ground whole grain organic oats {i use my coffee grinder for this}
1 1/2 tsp baking powder {look for a brand with no-alumninum added}
7-10 packets of Stevia {depending on how sweet you like your pancakes} OR 1 Tbsp raw, organic honey to be added to the wet ingredients instead {if you’re a Stevia hater}
1/2 tsp sea salt

Combine with whisk and set aside.

Separately measure all of your wet ingredients:
1/4 cup organic coconut oil, melted in microwave for 30 seconds on high
{let fully cool before combining with the rest of your wet ingredients, so as not to curdle the yogurt/eggs}
1 cup vanilla almond milk
2 Tbsp honey greek yogurt {full fat content…none of that “light” greek yogurt}
1/4 cup water
2 large, brown organic eggs

Combine with a whisk thoroughly, then slowly pour into your dry ingredients, incorporating well yet not over-mixing + gently fold in your lemon zest

To cook:
Heat your pan/griddle to 325 degrees, and lightly grease with coconut oil
{butter or Smart Balance is okay, margarine is death, so throw that crap away!}
Use a ladle to measure out 2 medium sized individual pancakes + gently spoon fresh blueberries on top {uncooked side}
Cook approximately 2 minutes, until many bubbles appear, checking bottom {pan} side to ensure it’s golden brown. Once it is, flip ‘er over!
Continue cooking until second side is golden brown and pancake feels firm to touch {no raw batter in the middle}

In place of maple syrup:
melt raw organic honey with 1 tsp butter in microwave for 20 seconds on high, and drizzle over cooked pancakes

Breakfast Potatas {“Poe-Tay-Tahs”}:
3 small “baby new” {red} potatoes, diced into 1/2 ” pieces
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Toss to coat all potatoes liberally, and bake at 400 degrees until lightly golden {approximately 10-15 minutes}, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking on all sides

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Modified Gluten Free/Vegan Version:

omit the following entirely: organic whole grain oats and greek yogurt
use your preferred egg substitute
do not use any butter, but stick to coconut oil or non-margarine butter substitutes

{Leaving any/all of these ingredients out will not affect the outcome of this recipe, however your batter will be less dense, so your cooking time will therefore need to be shorter.}

I hope you enjoy this meal {on any day of the week} as much as I have! I’ve learned that the batter will store well in the fridge in a glass jar with a lid for a few days, so if Tuesday calls for pancakes, by golly, I’ll be ready! 

Well, time to do the dishes…

What helpful tips or similar recipes do you have {like, for instance, a healthier version of biscuits and gravy}? Please feel free to share in the comment section below.

for husband hunting: part two. {+ the “F” words}

Recently, a few of my girlfriends have begun blind-dating and seeking out their husbands courageously. Their goal is to simply get to know people, go out on a limb, have fun, and broaden their friend-groups. If something comes of it, great–if not, great.

I think it’s amazing and admirable and takes tatas.

Meanwhile, I’ve realized there are two “F” words that reign in my heart and life.

The first, I’ve realized, is this habitual motion of sinking back in fear.

Fear of rejection.
Fear of failed relationships.
Fear of perpetual dating into my 30’s without finding my husband.

The second, which is a bit less easily detected, is the epidemic of a fleeting heart.

I happen to work in a very fluid, transient environment where new faces are the norm on any given Monday morning. I’m part of a Body that is comprised of 75% women, so when the new faces are male faces, it’s safe to say we all take notice.

More than just notice, we let our hearts instantaneously go to the place of writing the stories I mentioned in part one of this blog-series.

We freeze-up, and sometimes think, “what if that’s him?” 

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Yet, in the midst of it all, cynicism and doubt pervasive, God has revealed the real root issue lending fear and a fleeting heart the momentum they need to rule and reign in my life:

The issue here is I don’t fully trust Him like I say I do.

Instead of wanting to be honest and open with my girlfriends about my crush, I hide it, sitting on it as if it’s an egg in a nest, a little secret to grow and nourish with my wild stories. I lock it up and throw away the key, and as soon as I find out another girl has feelings for the same egg I’ve been so patiently sitting on, my feathers get ruffled, and I wallow for weeks, months, a whole year, even. I stop utilizing my gifts. I forfeit ministry opportunities. I bow out.

And instead of praying for the man who has my attention, for his intimacy with Christ to deepen, his gifts and talents to be used for the Kingdom, his home life and family issues to find resolve, I selfishly pray that he won’t leave and follow where God is calling him, so I can keep him all to myself.

So at the end of the day, because of my choices to live in fear and allow my prone-to-wander heart, I’m left standing at the altar of my disappointments.

But I’m beginning to see it’s my doing.
I have no one to blame but myself.

Why?

I’ve never not had to share the feelings I feel for a guy with another girl who feels the same.

I’ve never not had to fight for the affections of a boyfriend, whose attention was divided a number of different directions.

I’ve never been up-front and honest about how I feel for a guy straight to his face, but instead I’ve kept it to myself, and watched it fizzle out because I couldn’t just say where I was emotionally, honoring him as a Sister by simply having a mature conversation, putting myself out there, regardless of how things ended up.

I’ve been a Samaritan, secretive and legalistic in all I do.
I’ve entertained “husbands” for years because I didn’t know how to put myself on the map with the courage it takes to truly know who I am and what I’m capable of.

Just last week, during our Monday morning worship at work, a man within our community whom I’ve not yet met humbled himself by coming up in front of everyone to give us a word he had heard loud and clear from God:

“Do not awaken love until it so desires, brothers and sisters.”

My knees grew weak, and I sunk to the floor, leaning against the vending machine as I knew His words were straight from the heart of Jesus to my water-fetching, thirsty heart.

At 27 years of age, I still don’t know much.
But I’m learning.

I’m learning it’s time to trust Him, because He is trustworthy.

He knows our deepest desires by calling them out, and it’s no one else’s job but our own to take back all the enemy has stolen. And even if I’m not actively searching for my husband, my heart is still fleeting and fluttering all over the place, which is the same thing, except it’s the unhealthy version.

It’s more-than-okay to long for him…
But not before I long for my Heavenly Groom.

So, will you pray for me in this?

In my moments of weakness, pray I march my soul straight to the Well that does not run dry.
Pray I would hold fast to my desires, and not let them be squandered by cynicism and lust.
And pray for my future husband, because he’s going to be the best of the best, and God has spoken:

It will be worth it in the end. 

for husband-hunting: part one {+ an apology}.

I have never been one of those girls.
You know, the ones who incessantly pray for, speak of, and entertain thoughts about their future husbands. I’ve never been the type to slyly slip him my phone number on a receipt or napkin.

As a matter of fact, I came to a place where I was one hundred and fifty percent fine with never being married. I’m independent to the core, and suppose I can attribute that to a lot of things, including being raised by a hard-working, single-mom. We were the Little Women of our neighborhood.

little women

Kitchen sink has a clog?
Crawl into the cabinet below and fix it.

Light bulb burned-out way up in the rafters?
Find a 20-foot ladder and climb it.

Patronized by the general contractor you hired to finish mom’s basement?
“Buh-bye!”, and then finish it yourself.

Now, before you go thinking I’m some femi-nazi, let me assure you, I’m not.
But that was my reality, and in a lot of ways, it still is.

Last April, self-sufficient to the core, through freezing rain and drenched everything, I fully loaded my entire Jeep within an hour. Climbing on top of it to strap huge Rubbermade containers full of my belongings down to the roof, I prayed they wouldn’t budge during my 15 hour trek to Georgia as the guys who live next-door gawked, knowing better than to ask if they could help.

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And then when said Jeep broke down due to some crazy belt coming loose 20 miles outside of Nashville at about midnight in the middle of a tornado warning, it was all I could do to steer it safely off the highway since my power steering had kindly died. So naturally, when a middle-aged Tennessee gentleman pulled over and positioned himself beneath the hood of my smoking vehicle, instantaneously shouting above the wind in a deep southern draw, “Heeyyyy, I found your problem, ma’aaam!”, I knew God was about to knock me straight onto my knees in enormous, humbling ways.

Through many of the ministries I’ve been a part of, and through moving to the south, where chivalry is very-much still alive, God’s using men to teach me things about His own heart.

Yeah, I said it.
I’m taking notes from men, and I’m doing so willingly.

He’s showing me it’s okay to ask for help from men, depend on them, even.  It’s okay to let a man offer to move all of my stuff to a new house without having to pay him in beer & baked goods for life; just a simple, “Thanks!” will suffice. It’s okay to pray for a man, and yes, dare I say it, even  sometimes with one.  It’s okay to have legitimate brothers in Christ who I love and admire purely and learn from on a daily basis.

And maybe, shocking as it was to me, and as my dear friend Hope boldy points out, it’s okay to desire a companion, someone to do life with, to be equally yoked with, to grow weary and hopeful and old and more into Heaven with.

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Yes, what God’s shown me lately is that it’s not only okay, but He’s planted that innate desire deep within me. He’s also gently revealed the root issue of all of my fears in this whole debacle.

Just like in John 4, when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and calls her out on being the “Desperate Housewife” of her time, thirsting for things that cannot fully satisfy or quench her thirst, He’s calling out the same in me. “Yeah, I know the guy you’re with now is not your husband. You’ve actually been married five times,” Jesus points out to her. And He’s saying the same to me.

Finally, fully, the woman realizes she is known, and can stop seeking the approval and affections of man. She can worship freely, in spirit and truth, because the one who knows her deeper than her marrow dwells among her, in her, even, and He calls Himself the Christ.

Although I’ve never actually been married through the church and written consent of covenant, I’ve come to realize the ridiculous number of “husbands” I’ve had throughout the years, relationships where I’ve been emotionally, unequally yoked to men in many unhealthy ways.

I’ve lusted after a man because he supposedly loves Jesus and music and traveling and has a beard and wears plaid, and oh my gosh, we’re clearly MEANT to BE!

I’ve practiced my signature with his surname attached to mine.

I’ve written story upon story in my heart and mind: He and I are walking through the woods hand in hand, looking at the trees and the sky, talking about what our house will look like, which countries we’ll adopt from, and the names we’ll give our children. And then he surprises me with a Burnese Mountain puppy, and I get all weepy, and he lays the {plaid} blanket he’s been carrying on the crunchy ground and we sit down upon it to watch the sunset, followed by his heartfelt proposal, & happily-ever-after-amen!

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{Ladies, I know you know what I’m talking about, here.
Men, this actually happens, so someone had to tell you.}

So herein lies an apology that is long-overdue.
To those of you who talk about it loudly and often, I want to tell you I’m sorry.

We are one in the same. I’m no different than you; I’m more like the woman at the well than I’d dare admit, and I’ve obviously entertained the same thoughts in my own heart and mind countless times. And maybe that’s the most dangerous thing of all, because these thoughts have been kept in the dark, unaddressed and avoided.

Many of you have celebration stories, or little miracles you’re living in because of God’s faithfulness to you in finding the man who made it all worthwhile.

Don’t let me squander your beautiful, God-written story.
And as I work on heaving my junk out into the Light, will you accept my apology?

{…to be continued tomorrow morning.}