Means to an end

One of the things that most effectively turns people off to Christianity, or any sort of faith for that matter, is the great tragedies and misdeeds that have been done in the name of God. I think all Christians have met an atheist or agnostic and had a conversation that goes like this…”What about the Christian crusades or the witch hunters or religious wars. How can people do such evil things in the name of a ‘loving’ God?” Or a conversation discussing the great evangelists and extreme claims they made public in an effort to gain money. Or maybe you’ve been present in a church service where the pastor harps about America being God’s special chosen country and God being on our side. I remember when I was younger and people around me would pray for their favorite team to win the superbowl. I always felt extremely confused, thinking why is God on their side and not the other teams? Why does God pick teams, is the other team a bunch of heathens, does God not like them, and what happens to the people whose side he isn’t on?

I think as Christians we often times use God as a means to an end. When I was thirteen I really wanted a yellow corvette for my first car. I dreamed about it and put pictures of it up on my wall, and eventually I just “knew” God wanted me to have it. Did God ever speak to me and tell me he wanted that? Nope. But I felt a magical sense of entitlement to it.

How many times do we allow self-righteousness to become our ally and use God as our mascot? If I’m being honest as a Christian, I have felt that pride build up, thinking God is on my side, I am in the right and no one can stand against me…I mean us…I mean God? Even if something I believe in is good..or scriptural..or beneficial, that does not mean it is right. Maybe it’s not God’s timing. Maybe it’s not God’s will. Maybe it’s not God’s best. Maybe it will hurt too many people in the process. Maybe it’s not about who’s side God is on at all…

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Just Say No

I have a very stressful job. Anyone working in a customer service profession can understand how exhausting it is to be on a people-pleasing overdrive. There is the balance of meeting the needs of your customers, in my case patients, as well as the expectations of your leadership, and also being available to help your co-workers in the midst of their equally difficult work shift. For those of us working stressful jobs, we often bring the stress home with us. I frequently have “nursing nightmares,” and I have heard people in other jobs, like the restaurant industry, describe their equally horrifying “server nightmares.”

So how do we come home from our day-to-day jobs and turn off the constant “service” mentality? How do we find ways to sleep peacefully, and to not bring extra stress into our home lives?

I often find myself in my personal or social life with the same ‘cater to others’ mentality. But there are appropriate times to say no, to make yourself a priority, and to make it known to others that your needs and wants are important. This does not constitute you as a selfish person. Instead it allows you to be assertive, healthy, and stable, and other people will come to respect you for it! Now, it is never appropriate or acceptable to say no to things that are your responsibility.

With that being said, I’ve established a list for myself of times it is appropriate to say no, and maybe it can help others who have the same problem! 

1. Always say no to things that involve spending money you don’t have.

Even if it is helping another person. You cannot reach beyond your means and beyond your budget to help others.

2. Always say no to favors that negatively enable another person.

Even if this person is not involved with a life destroying habit, if you are enabling them to continue a negative habit, you are not helping, you are hurting.

3. Always say no to moochers.

If a person in your life continually uses your kindness to their advantage, say no. This is not a friendship or positive relationship. Don’t fool yourself!

4. Always say no if the request interferes with your responsibilities.

If you say yes to a request that replaces your time for family, God, your children, your health, you will find yourself weak, drained, and less effective and successful in each aspect of your life!

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Poblano spinach and chicken enchiladas

If you are tired of steak and potato leftovers from Memorial Day weekend, this is a recipe that will spice up your midweek monotony and is easy on the wallet as well as the calories. It’s also gluten free! There are endless easy modifications that can make this dish vegetarian, spicier, or even lower in calories…

Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh spinach (roughly chopped)

1 poblano pepper (diced)

1 jalepeno pepper (minced) -if you are not a fan of spice this can be exchanged for 1/2 red or green bell pepper

1 clove of garlic (minced)

2 cans of enchilada sauce -I chose the old el paso because it was lower in calories and sodium

2 packages of 6 inch corn tortillas

10 ounces of Quesadilla Jalapeno Cheese- you can opt for the plain queso quesadilla if you would prefer a milder cheese

1 package of boneless skinless chicken (I used 8 strips) -Use chopped zucchini and squash for a vegetarian optionImage

Directions:

Cook the chicken on a skillet until lightly browned, I used cilantro and pepper for seasoning with about a tbsp of olive oil. Remove and set aside

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In the same skillet add the diced poblano pepper and minced jalapeno and garlic, cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat

Cut or pull apart the chicken into shreds

In a large bowl add the peppers, chicken, spinach, and 3/4 of the shredded cheese. Toss with hands until ingredients are well mixed

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Add just enough enchilada sauce to the bottom of an oven safe dish to make a light coating

Roll the corn tortillas with about a handful of chicken/spinach/pepper mix

Top the dish with the remaining enchilada sauce and cheese. 

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Bake for 30 minutes in 350 degrees and enjoy! About 300 calories per enchilada

This meal pairs well with any traditional mexican sides, chips and salsa, and if it’s a date night, margaritas :). 

Journey to The Center of The Universe

I am quite behind on updating, but I have a such a great story I can’t put it off any longer! Monday, April the 15th was James and I’s 4th year anniversary (crazy in and of itself). Four years ago we made our relationship official. I remember being so hesitant about starting a new relationship, because I wanted to do everything on my own and independently, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of changing in a relationship. In fact I told him we weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend, and every one else we knew as well. April 15th 2009 came, and James was so different and so patient and accepting of all my flaws, that I knew I was ready. So the past four years have been a journey. We have experienced SO much together (insert huge sigh here!) and I couldn’t conjure up a better person to experience so much with. So back to Monday, April the 15th 2013, our 4TH anniversary! James always plans amazing anniversaries, and I look forward to them so much every year because we always ask off work and spend the whole day together. This year, James had clinicals Monday, so he told me we probably wouldn’t get to celebrate til Tuesday. I have to admit I was a little bit sad, but no big deal we would celebrate Tuesday and maybe get dinner or something small Monday. I arrived at James’ house ready for dinner, but asked if I wanted to get dinner first or second. Unsure of what he meant, but hoping for some sort of fun surprise, I answered, “Second!” So we got in his car and started driving…..Down seventy-first further and further and further. I thought to myself maybe we were going to Turkey Mountain. We went there a lot when the weather was nice, and it was a beautiful day. But we passed the turn for Turkey Mountain and kept going further down 71st. He took a couple wrong turns and was slightly panicky about showing up late, before we finally turned down a small road and drove for a few miles. I noticed an airport sign right before he turned into the Jenks airport, and I started to become REALLY excited.

Jump forward and we’re in a helicopter flying over downtown, and I’m just in awe of how pretty Tulsa looks from an aerial view. I’m also slightly terrified, because there were tornado warnings later that night :). We got back to the airport and landed safely, and leave to go eat at Carrabba’s (or so I think). Then James makes another turn in the opposite direction and says we’re headed downtown. He is smiling and starting to look nervous, and I am just trying to figure out what we are doing and what’s going on. We arrive at the center of the universe and I’m still really excited, cause I’ve never actually been there before. Right at the center he says some really sweet things and then says, “I brought you here to the center of the universe, because you’re the center of my universe,” and gets down on one knee (cheesy and adorable), and he popped the BIG question, and I said yes!!!!!! We are so excited, and I feel so blessed to have him in my life. He is such a hard worker and has been always the most encouraging person in my life. 🙂 I am overwhelmed by how much love God can give you for a single person, and how that love can grow even larger through struggles and time. 

And I’ll leave you with a poem from one of my favorite writers.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” -Kahlil GibranImageImageImageImage

Downpour

Finding new music that you love is like being stuck in a downpour. I waste so much time when I find a new artist I’m head over heels in love with. It’s just like a new relationship and that stage where you have to see that person every second of every day. It’s important to have those moments in life when you get lost in something. It’s important to waste time in the downpour. Without them we don’t grow. Without them we don’t move forward or move on. So get lost in something outside of yourself and your busyness and your schedule. Find one and stay there, rather than trying to escape and protect yourself, rather than staying dry, rather than the monotony of whatever it is you’re fighting to keep intact. Get lost in the downpour.Image

Morning Haze

Went out looking for your crooked smile,

Til I ran out of places to go.

It’s feeling more like my heart is on trial,

You’re the only truth that I know.

Revisited wars we should have fought,

Words we should have spoken,

Like how you never gave us a fair chance…

Never gave me the choice to be broken.

I woulda let you take the best of me,

all the best there was for taking.

I woulda given you my morning haze,

all the love there was for making.

Heard you’ve been clean for a year now

Still there’s years we can’t undo

I walk the line for months at a time

Til I relapse back to you.

How I selfishly move on

And still want you for myself

How I hate it when you’re gone

While I sink in to someone else.

I woulda let you take the best of me

all the best there was for taking

I woulda given you my morning haze

all the love there was for making

Favorite Things

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1. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

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2. The Lumineers (every single song off of their self-titled album)

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3. Shirley Gurley’s Banana Nut Bread (best family recipe ever, originally from my Nana’s good friend)

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4. Thank You Notes with a fun water-color feel (Target)

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5. Delicious and beautiful blooming teas (Teavana)

“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.” -Augustus Waters

Let me begin with this, you are the best writing material. All of my over-charged, emotion-driven, teenage verve was centered around you (and you and you and you), and you were the most brilliant, all encompassing, couldn’t-have-created-a-better-if–I-was-God-Himself muse. Every mistake you made, and every flaw you ever revealed was chronicled in crass poetry, and for that I apologize (and thank you). I feel so homesick for the honesty running uncontrolled with pen and ink and type, yet completely lacking in my speech. I want to train myself to be capable of speaking the way I write. I want my thoughts to make sense outside of my body. I feel nostalgia for a portion of my very own self. Why can we not communicate honestly with each other in society? We shuffle around restraining our own truths. We hide from ourselves, we hide ourselves from others. I want to learn to be open again. I want to learn to speak the things I write down or think or feel, especially the ones that contain too much emotion. I want to learn to describe experiences and ideas without using the words “like and very and umm.” I want to learn to look people in their eyes and say sentences thick with content. There aren’t many people who live like this, but when I meet them, I love them and feel instantly addicted to them.

I want to be one of the honest ones.

MMM COOKIE!

Some people really do spend their whole lives together.”

Christmas sugar cookies are a huge staple in my life this time of year. I have never been great at baking, mostly because it requires a creativity and eye for detail that cooking does not. I’ve always thought that if you are talented with scrap-booking, drawing, interior decorating, these types of things….you are probably phenomenal at baking.

Anyways, I have found it is much easier to make iced sugar cookies look pretty if you have “dippable” icing. I made these cookies and icing, and I LOVE the kiddish appearance they have as if they had just popped out of a cartoon. They are so easy and so fun!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups of softened butter
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups of flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp of salt

DIRECTIONS:

Mix the butter and sugar until they are creamed. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. After you have a well formed dough, cover and refrigerate it overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin. If you like thick soft sugar cookies leave the dough about 1/2 in. thick. If you like thin cookies with a crunch, leave the dough less than 1/4 in. thick. Use cookie cutters to create your shapes, and set 1 in. apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 6-8 minutes until a light golden hue is seen on the outer rim.

ICING INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of powdered (confectionary) sugar

2-3 tablespoons of milk

Food coloring

2 tsp of vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

Mix together and dip cookies!

Thanksgiving Week

My favorite time of the year is in November, because it has become a tradition to ask off work for the week and enjoy thanksgiving, my birthday, and James’ birthday. They’re all so close together that it has turned into a week of excitement, surprises, and rest. Monday the nineteenth was James’ birthday, and I really had a hard time this year deciding what to do for him. I love “event” type birthday presents where they turn into doing something fun together. Of course material things are always necessary too, so I try to combine the two. James is not a sports fanatic, but he does love a few things…music, video games, his computer and remodeling it, and delicious foods. He is not much for big social gatherings, so I finally discovered a really fun shooting range, and knew it would be something he thoroughly enjoyed. He has been talking about hunting, gun ownership, etc… for a year now. The last time we shot guns was with my uncle in Alabama…who has a wide selection and a lot of land. James had a blast and has talked about owning a gun ever since. Anyways James had a ton of fun with the target practice and insisted on us buying another round of ammo and returning a couple weeks later…

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We then had an amazing dinner (James’ favorite filet mignon, cabernet, and pumpkin pie)

My birthday was on thanksgiving, a phenomena that happens once every 5-6 years. I really wanted to just enjoy time with my family, cooking, and eating, and playing games. Wednesday night we enjoyed a dinner with my closest friends, and I was so happy to see all of them (missing a few)…We woke up early Thursday morning and made a FEAST and had a wonderful thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s beautiful house.  It was a great day with the family, followed by more time with my best friends, all in all a perfect week with the people I love!!

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One of my favorite recipes this year was Pumpkin French Toast Bake

I found it on pinterest, and it was so easy to make the night before, pop in the oven thanksgiving morning, and serve as a delicious breakfast.

You break apart (or cut if you are extremely OCD like me) into cubes about a loaf of bread, any kind that you love. I chose a thick texas toast. Place the cubes into a 9X13 oven safe dish. I lined the dish with butter, because that’s what Paula Dean would do…

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Whisk together 7 eggs, 2 cups of milk, 1tsp vanilla, 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 pumpkin butter or 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, and 3-4 tablespoons of brown sugar

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Pour the mixture over your cubes and refrigerate over night

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Then bake it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Serve with maple syrup!

I forgot to take a finished picture the next morning, because we all devoured it so quickly :).