Year 2 With #TwoPigtailsandaCowlick

Dearest Little Ones,

I know it’s a bit hazy to you now, but two years ago, Daddy and I stood before a judge, raised our right hands and promised to love and keep you forever. We said “yes” without a doubt in our minds. You were ours from the first time we met.leavingcola 017

It still blows my mind to think that God so perfectly picked the two of you and the two of us to be together as a family. D, you with your brilliant mind and your tender heart. EG, you with your charming ways and vibrant love of life. God’s gift of you was more than we could have asked or imagined.

It feels like 5 minutes ago that we met you for the first time, yet it seems like you’ve always been a part of us. It’s taken time to get to know your hearts and your hurts and it’s taken time for you to learn to trust our love. I can’t wait to see all the progress and growth and bonds that continue to form as we continue this ordained adventure together.

Thank you for the grace you so freely give, the laughter you infectiously create and for finally starting to sleep through the night.

All My Love & His,

Mommy

P.S. Your Aunt Heather made you this fabulous video :)

Year 1 Video

Hurdle, Party of 4 Video

De Nigris Balsamic Addiction = Bacon Roasted Balsamic Brussels Recipe

It’s 100% accurate to say that I am officially addicted to balsamic vinegar. As in, I might have to start a series of recipe posts in which I share the 101 ways I am currently guzzling balsamic vinegar.

I know. It’s a strange love affair, but it’s sincere.

A fancy shmancy oil and vinegar shop opened on our town square and it’s all the rage. They pair olive oils with flavored balsamics and host fun little tastings. A friend and I popped by to see what all the fuss was about. And we fell in love.

I got home that evening and found a huge box on my front porch. I didn’t remember having ordered anything, so in a flurry of packaging popcorn, the kids and I unwrapped…drumroll…12 bottles of balsamic vinegar from a company I had previously agreed to collaborate with and review their product! I freaked out and sent a quick text pic of the balsamic jackpot to my balsamic lunch buddy.

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I was pumped, but in the back of my mind I was CERTAIN that since they were free samples, they would taste, well, free. Or at least reminiscent of knock-off ketchup.

Joel and I were invited to dinner with friends the following Saturday and I was asked to bring bread. I took this opportunity to load up my prized balsamic collection, hit up Panera for some Asiago Cheese Bread and BAM, I was party ready. 

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I laid out tasting bowls and poured samples from each bottle so friends could taste for themselves. Everyone loved it. And would you believe that THIS BRAND tasted EVEN BETTER than the gourmet store on the Square?

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The more I learn about the world of balsamics, the more I appreciate the chance I have to review this product. Who knew that balsamic vinegar begins with the crushing of sun-ripened grapes which produces grape juice called “must”? It is then concentrated through simmering in copper caldrons over wood fires until it is reduced to about 40% of its original weight. This densely concentrated liquid is placed in wooden barrels of oak, cherry, mulberry, chestnut and juniper for aging. As the years go by some of the liquid in the barrel evaporates and some is absorbed into the wood. Each year the vinegar is transferred into smaller barrels of different woods. It’s really a science and yet an art! I loved learning how the higher the percentage of grape must, the thicker the consistency and sweeter the taste! Put the aged 65% must over vanilla ice cream and your taste buds will sing! And if you want to fall in love with cheese or strawberries all over again, drizzle the aged balsamic fo shizzle.

That dinner party was 3 weeks ago and I haven’t stopped drinking enjoying this stuff! I’ve been experimenting and pinning my little heart out looking for more ways to incorporate these flavors (and the health benefits) into our meals, so I thought I’d share a current favorite that I came up with recently!

De Nigris Balsamic Addiction =

Bacon Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

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Layer a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread out bacon on prepared sheet.

Starting with a cold oven, set the temp to 400 and let the bacon cook until the oven is preheated.

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While the oven is preheating trim the stems of the sprouts and cut in half. Toss Brussels, olive oil, salt, pepper in a glass bowl to evenly coat.

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When bacon is finished, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat off the baking sheet onto the Brussels and toss again.

Remove bacon from baking sheet, chop. Spread out the Brussel sprouts onto the sheet that held the bacon, but now just has rendered fat.

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Cook Brussels Sprouts for 10-12 minutes or until nicely browned.

While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes or until it is thickened and lightly coats a spoon

Toss roasted Brussels sprouts with the crumbled bacon and drizzle all that yumminess with a heaping helping of De Nigris Balsamic Vinegar.

Serve and watch even your husband and children scarf down their vegetables!

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Bacon Roasted Balsamic Brussels

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 LB Fresh Brussels Sprouts (outer leaves discarded, bottom stems trimmed, cut in half)
  • 1/3 DeNigris Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 Slices Thick-cut Bacon, Cooked and Crumbled
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Rendered Bacon Fat

Instructions

  1. Layer a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread out bacon on prepared sheet.
  2. Starting with a cold oven, set the temp to 400 and let the bacon cook until the oven is preheated.
  3. While the oven is preheating trim the stems of the sprouts and cut in half. Toss Brussels, olive oil, salt, pepper in a glass bowl to evenly coat.
  4. When bacon is finished, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat off the baking sheet onto the Brussels and toss again.
  5. Remove bacon from baking sheet, chop. Spread outthe Brussel sprouts onto the sheet that held the bacon, but now just has rendered fat. Cook Brussels Sprouts for 10-12 minutes or until nicely browned.
  6. While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes or until it is thickened and lightly coats a spoon
  7. Toss roasted Brussels sprouts with the crumbled bacon and drizzle all that yumminess with a heaping helping of DeNigris Balsamic Vinegar.
  8. Serve and watch even your husband and children scarf down their vegetables!
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For other great recipes using De Nigris products (all of which I have fallen in love with) follow the #DeNigris1889 hashtag. And come back, because I can’t fight the De Nigris Balsamic Vinegar feeling and will be using them in plenty more dishes! The whole De Nigris line is available at your friendly neighborhood Walmart and/or Amazon.com and while this is a sponsored post, y’all know all opinions are my own! xoxo

How To Host A Missional Progressive Dinner

You know that feeling when you walk into church and \see a ton of semi-familiar faces, but you don’t know the names of any of them? Or maybe you recognize a person’s name from your Homeowner Association’s Facebook Group, and you know they only live a street away, but you’ve never met face-to-face? I find myself a year and a half into a new town, so people are familiar but still unknown.

It’s the same within our campus ministry. It’s so easy for adults and students alike to mingle with the friends they know and never venture out to make new connections. Because we’ve been praying for deeper community for our students and because this translates just as easily into our church and neighborhood, I wanted to share “How To Host a Missional Progressive Dinner”.

The staff women on our team had a great time planning this simple and affordable event that helped many girls connect more authentically. 

First, we chose a home and hostess for each course of the meal. We did some simple publicity, handed out invitations at our weekly outreach meeting, made a grocery run, and that was that!
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Everyone arrived at my friend Amy’s house at 6 and we served appetizers and salad. She made a delicious Bruschetta, Caprese and Caesar Salad that got the evening started off deliciously!

We knew we wanted to be intentional with conversation throughout the evening and since deeper community is what we’ve been praying for our women’s ministry, we centered our questions around that topic.

We had the girls turn to discuss these questions at Amy’s house:

  1. Describe your best friend in 3rd grade.
  2. In your opinion, what stands in the way of authentic community?
Then we loaded up into cars and headed to my house for lasagna (thank you, Stouffer’s) and a balsamic bread dipping bar. (More on that Wednesday…I am in love.)
At my house we asked the girls to pair up with people they didn’t know and discuss the following questions:
  1. In what setting do you feel most comfortable talking about deep things? (On a run, on the phone, online, over a good meal, over coffee?)
  2. With what type of person are you most likely to open up?
  3. Share a time when someone else’s honesty gave you permission to be honest too. What made them feel safe?
Our grand finale was decadently drool-worthy desserts at my friend Meg’s house. We asked the following questions to the group at large this time (instead of them turning to the people around them to discuss):
  1. What are some signs or markers that a community is reaching a healthy level of vulnerability?
  2. How do you feel the women of Cru are doing at this?
  3. How could you help increase honest, transparent community in your sphere of influence? In Cru?
As the discussion naturally progressed, I shared a few devotional thoughts from 1 Peter 2:9-10.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We printed out 1 Peter 2:9-10 in the NIV and walked word-by-word through the verse discussing our observations, interpretations and applications. Then I read to them from The Message, which added another layer to our discussion.

1 Peter 2:9-10The Message (MSG)

9-10 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

We talked about Western Christianity being very personal, individualistic and disjointed but how God has called us together as a people and a priesthood.
We discussed the perfect unity and community that existed within the Godhead, how that was broken by sin, how the story of the world is a story of redemption (using God’s Big Picture principles CAN’T RECOMMEND THIS HIGHLY ENOUGH) that rights all the wrong and heals all the brokenness.
We talked about the Church Age which is the community in which God’s rule and blessing are known and are on display so that in the Perfected Kingdom every tongue, tribe, and nation will be God’s people in God’s presence, enjoying God’s rule and blessing. The day is HERE and the day is COMING.
Why did we tell them the story of the world?

Because it’s too easy to live for the dot instead of for the line.

It’s too easy to be consumed with OUR schedules, OUR comforts, OUR egos, OUR images and OUR stuff and not live in light of what God’s been building up to all this time!
By our love for one another (community) they will know we are His.
By our investment in each other we will be spurred on toward love and good deeds and will be pumped up to reach the lost.
By being honest about ourselves and our sin in community we can leave the darkness and walk out into the His marvelous light.
But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in community.
We challenged the girls with a call to action knowing that He chose us “that we may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
For our intent and purposes our challenge was as follows, but you could tweak it according to your needs:
  • If every student leader is leading others we will reach the campus. (Sr–>Jr–>Soph–>Fresh)
  • If you’re pouring out, we want you to be present for us to pour into you through monthly womens’ discipleship times, leadership meetings, conferences, retreats and small groups.
  • If you come to Cru and wonder if it matters, make it matter for someone around you.

It was a really encouraging night and it was much more simple than I originally thought it would be. Sure you need paper products and drinks at each house, but when all you’ve got to do is one portion of a meal and 2-3 discussion questions?! Easy peasy. You can do it! I want to encourage you and your friends to give this a try! Let me know if you try this. I’d love to know any other ways you’ve seen success creating missional community in your home! 103

Favorite Things For Spring

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It’s been a while since I’ve written a Favorite Things Post. But trust me, I have a long mental list of all the things I want to tell you about. You, or the random person standing behind me in line at Walmart, or really anyone who will listen! I don’t know what it is about me, but if I find something I love I want everyone to know.

I went back and reviewed all the posts from this series and was pleasantly surprised to still be enthusiastic about the products, ideas and services I had promoted!

I’m still obsessed with StitchfixAlessa’s White Balsamic Reduction, Puffy Tacos, Skinny Pop, Eucerin Hand Cream, 

I still love my Ebatesmy Shark vacuum cleaner, If Equip Bible Study and Benefit Primer. 

And don’t even get me started about the Hipster Jesus Kid’s Bible App, cooking bacon in the oven, my upright freezer and organizing my kids uniforms.

More recently I raved about the public library, podcasts, and all things Walmart (cheap jewelry, chocolate covered almonds and pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls)

So, in keeping with the only store in our town Walmart theme…

My Favorite Things For Spring!

1. Who knew Walmart was ROCKING the maxi dress scene? I’m just saying. I went for bread and left with a $15 Easter dress. IMG_2047

2. I ‘d like to take a general poll, please. Do you people know about this stuff?? Maybe don’t tell me if you do because I was SO mad when I mentioned my recent bath conversion to two friends who said, “Oh yea, I use it every night. It’s too good not to!”

AND DOESN’T THAT MEAN IT’S TOO GOOD NOT TO TELL ME ABOUT?!? JK about being mad. Mostly.

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Friends don’t let friends NOT take baths. And take it from me. I was not a bath girl.

My thinking is, who has time to float around in their own scum? Okay, well, that train of thought has been luxuriously derailed by Dr. Teal.

When I say I feel like I went to the spa after using these bath salts, I am not overstating the fact that 15 minutes of the hottest water and steam I can stand, then 15 minutes with the overhead fan clearing the steam, a quick exfoliating scrub and shower then a good slathering of lotion and essential oils…equals sheer bliss!!!

So heavenly that I feel it my civic duty to tell everyone in the soap aisle at Walmart that THEY NEED TO BUY THE GOODS. (I just started mixing Dr. Teal’s Lavender Salts with the Spearmint and Eucalyptus and using the oil for my feet just before bed.)

Moving along.IMG_2190

3. Okay, one more thing to add to your Walmart list…I like to call this “miracle mousse”. At the beginning of the year, I flew to Asheville for a Writer’s Retreat and asked our hostess, Kristi if she’d mind to let us use her toiletries so we (okay really I) didn’t have too pack quite as much heat. (If you know me, you know I need all the help I can get in the packing department.) Well, I’d seen her post about fine hair, but then BAM, I used her product and realized I could buy it at Walmart and now I have new hair. Namely volume and texture.

Joel walked past me as I was getting ready the other day and said, “Since when do you use mousse?” 33 years later this dog has learned a new trick.

little house4. Audio Books- Seriously, since Spring Break, my children have loathed “room time”. We do Room Time every day! What’s not to love? Well, apparently a lot because I’ve had little people pitching fits to get out of their rooms.

Then, of course, I start to second guess my whole “hold the line on Room Time” philosophy because they’ve flopped around like dying fish and guilted me into believing they are being held as POWs in their rooms.

Nevertheless, thanks to the audio book section at our local library, momma can fold the dang laundry in peace. I can’t recommend them highly enough. You can get real fancy and find picture books and DVDs that coordinate and you can make a whole “unit” out of it. You can also save your sanity during the carpool commute by just slipping in an audiobook! Our faves are whatever the library has on tap AND: Little House On The Prairie, Pippi Longstockings, Rush Revere & The American Revolution, and more!

5. And now…I’ve saved the best for last. Oh my stinking word. Have you heard about Pley.com??? IT’S LIKE NETFLIX (back when you had to mail the DVDs back), BUT FOR LEGOS!?!?

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D decided to use his Christmas money to get a few months of all-you-can-build-enjoy-and-send-back-Legos and we are ALL loving it. People, my kid is in a Lego trance and I am doing the no-clutter dance. Not only can you make your own “pley lists” where you can choose all the sets that you’re too cheap to actually purchase, but they also sanitize the bricks before they mail the sets. This is a fabulous feature because somehow the top of the Eiffel Tower ended up in our toilet…so there’s that.

I’m just telling you, if you come to our house, do not use the silver tweezers. 

So, yeah. We just received our second set and are completely LOVING building, playing, admiring, taking pictures, shipping and getting another set 2 days later!!! But, I know what you’re thinking, but you can lose up to 10 pieces and not be penalized. Also, shipping both ways and a handy dandy zipper pouch is included! WHY did we not come up with this?!? There is some mom out there who’s paid off her grandkids college tuition by now. Plus they have an affiliate program where if you refer people you can get 10% off your next pley. Click HERE!

Those are my faves as of late. What are yours?

 

Every Day Is An Easter (Basically A Post For The Grandparents)

This one’s for the Grandparents…AND also for those who like to ogle at Southern children in smocked dresses and seersucker (thank you hand-me-downs + consignment sales) AND also for anyone longing to embrace and embody the truth that EVERY day is an Easter.

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Every Day an Easter

J. R. Miller, 1899

Easter comes in the calendar only once in a year—but for the Christian, every day is an Easter. Each morning we should rise to newness of life. In midwinter we do not need to wait for the coming of springtime, to get the lessons of Eastertide. Christ arose once for all and the glory of his victory shines everywhere, and the power of his resurrection is felt wherever he is known and loved and followed.

Easter ought to leave in every Christian heart—new inspirations, a new uplift, new revealing of hope. It ought to be easier for us to live nobly and victoriously after we have enjoyed another Easter with its great lessons. A wave of comfort should roll over the world, as the day bears everywhere its news of resurrection. Death has been conquered. A grave is no longer a hopelessly sealed prison—its doors have been broken. This is the message which Easter carries to every home of sorrow, to every lonely, bereft heart.

But that is not the whole meaning of the Easter lesson. Perhaps we narrow it too much. We keep its comfort for the days when death is in our home, when we are standing beside the graves of our loved ones. Blessed is its message then! It tells us that what to our blinded eyes seems death—is life; and that the grave is but a little chamber of peace where our dear godly one shall sleep until the morning.

But the lesson reaches out and covers all life. It sheds a glory over every sorrow. It whispers hope in every experience of loss. It tells of victory, not only over death—but over everything in which men seem to suffer defeat, over all grief, pain, and trial. Jesus himself stated the great principle of the resurrection victory when he said, “Except a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies—it abides by itself alone; but if it dies—it bears much fruit.” The dropping of the grain into the earth, to perish there, is not misfortune, not the wasting, the losing, the perishing, of the grain; it is but the way by which it reaches its full development and comes to its greatest fruitfulness.

The little parable had its first interpretation in the death of Christ himself. Dying would be no misfortune for him; it was but the way to the higher, larger life into which it would introduce him. He was standing then face to face with the problem of his cross. It certainly seemed a terrible waste of precious life, that was demanded. Would it not be better for him to avoid the sacrifice and live on, seeking refuge, perhaps, in another land? Quickly came the answer. The grain of wheat might be withheld from the sowing—but it would be only one clean, whole, shining grain then—without any increase, without any unfolding of its wondrous secret of life and fruitfulness. The only way for that blessed life to reach its full beauty, and for its mystery of good and glory to be wrought out—was for it to accept the cross. “If it dies—it bears much fruit.”

It is easy to understand how this came true in Christ’s life after he arose. No doubt his friends grieved over his dying, thinking it a terrible mistake. If only he had lived on to old age, continuing his ministry of love through the years—what blessings he would have left in the world! But his death in the blackness of crucifixion, had quenched the light of his holy life. That was the end. What a waste! But we know how mistaken were all these grievings and regrettings of love. If Jesus had withheld himself from the cross—there would have been one beautiful life prolonged for a few years more of holy teaching and of loving ministry. But he gave his life—the grain of wheat fell into the ground and died—and we see the harvest today in Christianity, with all its blessings.

While this great law received its highest illustration in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is also the law of all spiritual life. Just after he had spoken his parable of the grain of wheat, the Master added, “He who loves his life—shall lose it; and he who hates his life in this world—shall keep it unto life eternal.” Thus the law is made to apply to all men and to all experiences. The way to fullness of life—is through death! We may save ourselves from loss and cost and sacrifice, if we will; we may refuse to make the self-denials which love demands of us; we may indulge ourselves, and decline to do the things for others which we are called to do, and which would require toil and pain. It will seem that we are saving our life—but really we are losing it. The way to our best in character and in fruitfulness, is through death. We must die—to live. We must lose—to gain.

This is the great lesson of Christian life. It is not one which applies only to death and the hope of immortality: it applies to all life’s experiences. It does not come in merely once a year, with its brightness and its joy; it is a lesson for every day, and it has its inspiration for us in every phase of living. We are continually coming up to graves in which we must lay away some hope, some treasure, some joy—but from which the thing laid away, rises again in newness of life and beauty.

Every call for self-denial is such a grave. We come to a point where the law of love demands that we give up a pleasure on which we had set our heart. If we are not ready for the sacrifice, if we cannot make it—the grain of wheat abides alone, with no increase, no fruit. But if we, in quiet love and faith, do the hard duty, accept the self-denial; render the costly service—the golden grain falls out of our hand into the earth, and dies. Yet it does not perish. It lives again, springing up from its burial in new and richer life. We lost our coveted ease, or our cherished possession, we gave up our pleasure—and spent our strength in helping another; we forewent our evening’s rest—and hastened out into the storm to do good—but we have a spiritual blessing whose value to us—far surpasses the little ease, comfort, enjoyment, or rest—which we gave up and buried away in our garden sepulcher.

Every call to a hard or costly duty—is a seed. It lies in our hand—what shall we do with it? Shall we keep our little ease, our piece of money, our pleasure, our quiet hour? Or shall we let it fall into the ground and die? Some one puts it thus: “I was given a seed to keep as mine. When I most loved it, I was bidden to bury it in the ground. I buried it, not knowing that I was sowing.” We know what comes from sowing—the seed springs up into a plant, beautiful, fragrant; or into grain that waves in a golden harvest; or into a tree on which grow luscious fruits.

But it is not easy to drop our seed into the ground. It appears to us like wasting it, losing it, throwing it away. We want to keep it! Well, if we do—it will be nothing more than it is today—a pleasure, a coin, an hour of ease. But if we give it up in answer to love’s call or need—it will grow into a great harvest of blessing.

We do not like the word “duty.” It seems to mean something hard and unpleasant. But when we accept it from our Master and take it up with love in our heart—it is transformed for us into something beautiful. A traveler in South Africa tells of picking up a rough pebble. As he turned it over in his hand—his trained eye saw the gleaming diamond. Just so, duty may have a rough and unattractive crust—but he who accepts it and looks at it through eyes of love—sees it in a service for Christ which will yield the heavenly treasure of peace and joy.

This is the law of unselfish living. We are apt to pity those who are called to deny themselves for the sake of others—but every call to self-denial is a call to a new enrichment of our own life—as well as to a new service of love which shall do good to others. The lower is to be sacrificed, for the sake of obtaining the higher. As in the grain of wheat is hidden, a secret of value and growth which can be realized only through the dying of the grain in the earth; just so, in every fragment of human happiness and comfort, there is covered up a secret of blessing and of good, which can be brought out only through the losing of it, and the giving it up.

Phillips Brooks has put this truth well in these words: “You are called on to give up a luxury—and you do it. The little piece of comfortable living, is quietly buried away underground. But that is not the last of it. The small indulgence which would have made your bodily life easier for a day or two, or a year or two, undergoes some strange alteration in its burial—and comes out a spiritual quality that blesses and enriches your soul forever and ever. You surrender some ambition that had exercised a proud power over you, in whose train and shadow you had hoped to live with something of its glory cast on you. You send that down into its grave, but that too will not remain there.”

Thus everywhere this truth of the gospel comes to us with its divine revealing. We deceive ourselves, whenever we try to save our own life, keeping it back from hard duty, from costly service, or from sacrifice. The only way to the best and the highest—is through the losing of the lower. The rose leaf must be bruised—to get its fragrance. Love must suffer—to reveal its richest tenderness and beauty.

Life is always double. There is an outer form in which it presents itself to our senses; and there is an inner spirit which is the vital quality. But this inner, spiritual, immortal element—can be found only through the dying of the outer and temporary form. The golden grain must be buried in service or sacrifice of love—that from its grave may rise that which is unseen and eternal!

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Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Quite literally, folks.

The winner of The Hardest Peace Giveaway is…

winner, winner, chicken dinner!

And seriously, I have the yummiest and easiest one dish recipe for you!! You must try it. I’d bet you probably have the ingredients on hand to make it tonight! #boomwinner, winner, chicken dinner!

We had company for this meal and everyone enjoyed seconds and thirds! 

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Boneless Chicken Breasts Cubed
  • 6-8 Medium Skin-on Red Potatoes Cubed
  • 1/3 c Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 c Shredded Cheese (I only had Sharp Cheddar and Mozarella on hand and it was delish)
  • 1 c Crumbled Bacon
  • 1 Large Sweet Potato
  • 1 Steamer bag of Fresh French Style Green Beans (You can find at Walmart in the produce section)

Instructions

  1. Starting with a cold oven, line a baking sheet with aluminum and cook half a pound of bacon.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bacon should be nearly done by the time the oven reaches 400 degrees. If so, drain bacon fat (save for other recipes) and set aside.
  3. While the oven is preheating, spray a 9X13? baking dish with cooking spray. I like to line my baking dishes with aluminum foil b/c I am lazy and don't want to scrub.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, (You could add hot sauce if you want.)
  5. Add the cubed potatoes and chicken and stir to coat.
  6. Carefully scoop the potatoes and chicken into the prepared baking dish.
  7. Bake the potatoes and chicken for 55-60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until cooked through, crispy, and browned on the outside.
  8. Steam green beans in microwave and add to dish during the last 10 min of cooking the chicken and potatoes.
  9. Once the potatoes, chicken and green beans are fully cooked, remove from the oven.
  10. Top the cooked potatoes with the the cheese and bacon.
  11. Return the casserole to the oven and bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  12. Enjoy and you can serve with sour cream or ranch dressing, if desired.
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What are your favorite one pot wonders? Would love to know! Happy Wednesday!!!

Repenting Of My Lenting (That One Time We Decapitated The Easter Bunny)

A few weekends ago, we piled our crew in the car and made the trek home to see my family in WV. Home is where your people are, am I right? It was so good to be home!

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My parents are just amazing. 182Also, it should be illegal to live 10 hours from your sister and her babies. 133

One of my kids’ favorite WV activities is to go to “the museum”. (Also known as The Huntington Mall….We don’t get out much.) It’s a fun little treat for us all because we get to eat something special for lunch, play in the soft play area that my kids adore and ride the indoor train. It’s fun for me because I get to stroll down memory lane recounting all the years I spent as a little girl in my dad’s bookstore, then as a teenager working at Chickfila and now as a momma wishing I had one of those backpack leash things.214

Halfway through my walk down memory lane, my kids start going nuts jumping and pointing to a giant stuffed Easter Bunny standing proudly in the center of the mall. They ran to hug and crawl all over the thing. They begged to have a million pictures taken in front of the thing. Did I mention we don’t really do all the Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny stuff? Until we do it really loudly in front of my entire hometown. It was amazing.

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Please note the slight head tilt…
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Joel walked up chuckling at the spectacle we had created with all our enthusiasm. Because, seriously, a small crowd had formed. Then, being the engineer, he was curious to see what this giant was made of, so he gently placed his hand on the arm of the rabbit…and proceeded to decapitate the Easter Bunny.201This is the face of someone who does not like to draw extra attention to himself.

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And this is the face of a father-in-law who thinks the whole thing is absolutely hysterical and can only shout “Take a picture! Take a picture!”

I could barely see through my laughter-induced tears to help lift the plywood Bunny head back onto it’s shoulders, but I had to! It weighed so much we needed 3 people! So glad an innocently bystanding child was not crushed!!!

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We finally got things situated JUST in time for the local Paul Blart Mall Cop to walk up and scold Joel for messing with the display.

I don’t know the last time I laughed so hard as the time we decapitated the Easter Bunny. I mean, Joel Hurdle will not stand for the commercialized desecration of our sacred holiday! :)211

Speaking of our beloved sacred holiday, did I tell you about last week when I 100% completely lost my mind over my children losing half our Resurrection Eggs?

Or the time I screamed at them for snooping in my closet and finding the Easter Baskets that I took great care to make for them?

Or when I rolled my eyes and huffed in frustration when they spilled the flour that we’ve used to practice confessing sin?

Y’all. If last year I was all “LENT IS THE NEW BLACK FRIDAY” this year I am all, “WHOA, DANG 40 DAYS IS A LONG TIME.”

In my mind, I long to create an atmosphere and environment that helps our family relish the sadness of Jesus dying, but the gladness of Jesus rising again. Yet in my heart there is continual striving for perfect performance and pinnable traditions.

So, I’ve been repenting of my lenting.

I’ve been talking to God about the anger in my heart. I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of my desire to “do for rather than be with” when it comes to my children. I’ve been holding their not-so-little-anymore faces close up to mine as I ask for their forgiveness for 100% completely losing my mind over Resurrection Eggs (THE IRONY!!) I’ve been asking wiser moms how on earth I can recover the joy of letting them be little while trying to mold them into functioning members of society who freaking love Jesus.

And it all comes back to the fact that I can repent, believe and take initiative in the power of the Holy Spirit, but the results really are up to God.

And isn’t that what Lent is all about anyway? 

Weak and wounded sinner

Lost and left to die
O, raise your head for love is passing by

Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain

So sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live

And like a new born baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall

So fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain

Then cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live

Ohh, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside

Then dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on glory’s side

And fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

-Chris Rice, Come To Jesus

If you too feel like a Lent loser, come, sing, fall, cry, dance, kiss and fly to Jesus. Don’t abandon yourselves to despair, because by grace, we truly are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.lent

Praying for College Students

There are 30 days left of the Spring semester. It’s so crazy to me! Did I not just put up the Christmas decorations? (Oh, right, I did. It’s just that it was 3 months after Christmas that I chose to put them away…) Thirty days with which to invest our time as missionaries here at Ole Miss.

What will we do with these fleeting hours? How will we invest our lives? How will we prepare for our summer assignment overseas? What will help students feel most cared for and how will they best be prepared to walk with God for a summer or graduates, for a lifetime?

These are the questions burning on the minds of Joel, myself, our team and campus ministers everywhere. All of these questions bring us to our knees and we wanted to ask you to join us in praying for college students and for those who minister to them.

Maybe it’s a university in your town or your alma mater. If nothing else, would you join us in praying for college students here at the University of Mississippi? How To Pray For College Students

Praying for College Students 

  1. Pray for students’ minds to be strengthened by God’s truth and able to reject philosophy of the world. (2 Timothy 3:16, Colossians 2:8)
  2. Pray for believing professors to be a winsome witness in the classroom and boldly share Him with colleagues.  (Ephesians 6:19)
  3. Pray for non-believing professors to come to know Jesus. (2 Corinthians 3:14, 2 Corinthians 4:4)
  4. Pray for lost college students to see their need for Jesus. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  5. Pray for Christian students to understand their identity in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1)
  6. Pray for Christian students to understand the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8, Galatians 5:22-24)
  7. Pray for Christians to join in on evangelism, discipleship, prayer, fellowship and missions on campus and in local church bodies. (Acts 2)
  8. Pray for the Gospel to go out on social media platforms used by college students. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  9. Pray for missionaries to be sent out from college campuses into vocational ministry and into the workplace to have a ministry. (John 3:11, Matthew 28:18-20)
  10. Pray for a love and understanding of God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Psalm 119:105) And from that a love of righteousness and disgust for sin. (Psalms 78:1-8, 103:17-18; Isaiah 54:13; Ephesians 3:20-21)

Thank you for joining us in prayer for these world-changers!

The Hardest Peace (And A Giveaway)

I can’t thank y’all enough for your words of affirmation and tangible encouragement following my pain last week. Writing is how I process and after I “got it out” I felt like I could move forward with peace and comfort of His presence. Coffee, flowers and the most beautiful letter, texts and comments sure did help.

I went back and forth about posting on social media, because I didn’t want to be all “look at me and my sadness” but then I was all, “the mess is the message“ and with the click of the button a good old fashioned vulnerability hangover hit me like a semi-truck. I felt exposed and insecure, ashamed and embarrassed by what I had shared. 

It was so strange…I love vulnerability and real talk. But as it turns out, I prefer to care for and encourage others MUCH more than I enjoy letting others do that for me. So, here I am feeling at peace with our family situation but now having to uproot the prideful lies surrounding my need to live in community with others!?! Se la vie. Thank you so much for being used by God to mutually encourage.

Speaking of vulnerability and encouragement…there was a book sitting on my nightstand that I had avoided picking up since the day came in the mail. You know the type of book that you know will require some emotional stamina to get through? The one your KNOW will bring on the tears? Well, I finally cracked it open (and then devoured it in 48 hours) and was blessed beyond measure.

I had hoped to share about this book last week, but then, well, last week happened. So, here I am writing about “The Hardest Peace” by Kara Tippetts today. Today, which just so happens to be  the first full day of Kara being absent from the body and present with the Lord.

I had wanted her to hear my feeble attempt at sharing highlights and thanking her for her book that touched my soul, but instead, it will be a commemoration of her life’s work.

This morning, as I looked at the beautiful flowers friends had dropped by and noticed the tulips beginning their descent, I was reminded of Kara and the beauty with which she lived, faded and died. 

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Kara’s book recounts her tumultuous childhood followed by disorderly adolescent experience of “keeping quiet and looking good” in stark contrast of her beautifully healing salvation experience. She shares the good, bad and the ugly of learning and loving Jesus, the family He gave her and the family He would use to make her into a woman who could embrace suffering and declare life with Christ as better.

She walks you through her cancer story in the most gentle way. She’s real, she’s aware and she’s hopeful. Her words tapped into my own pain and lifted my chin to look long at God’s character. I’m amazed by how she crafted her message to apply to any struggle.

The way she speaks about marriage is striking and makes you intensely reflect. Her mothering, is an incredibly powerful message for all moms. Her take on church life and community was beautiful and helpful to someone in a new town. Her perspective on boundaries and connecting is powerful. Her view of Heaven, magnificent. I can’t say enough about her writing style and her heart. You can also view the remarkable 3 minute documentary of her life HERE.flowers4

My favorite quote from the book was:

“The God I know, the sovereign God of the Bible, knows well my story of suffering and offers Himself at every turn. If the honesty with which I tell my story were the limitation of His strength, well, I would be utterly screwed. But imagine if He were intimately involved in my story, WHICH HE IS. Imagine if He showed Himself in my hard, WHICH HE DID, and what if the hard of my story is the beautiful redemption of my today? Could suffering then take on a different hue? Could the coloring of the hard not be so dark, so hateful, so gloomy? If our hard is the absence of a good God then how can anyone walk in faith?”

The part that made me sob was:

“I wanted him to hear me say, You are an excellent husband. Be a husband again. Be discerning, be cautious, be patient, but don’t close your heart ot the possibility of love. Go for it, dearest–we met the best of life in the gift of marriage. In the places of Jason’s begging for more time, Jesus hears him and loves him exactly in the place and grants me that next breath. But I know, I quietly know, when the time comes for that last breath to take place, a beautiful grace will meet my dear love in that sacred moment. What seems utterly frightening and lonely will be a moment filled with grace and peace.”

And what made her beautiful in her dying was her confidence in the love of God:

“My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping,” she recently wrote. “But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well.”

The Hardest Peace (And A Giveaway)

Kara sent two copies of “The Hardest Peace”–one to read and one to give to a reader. Please comment below if you’d like to win a copy of this beautiful memoir of faith. 

So take seriously the story that God has given you to live. It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze. –Dan Allender

 

The Presence Of Pain

I could’ve sworn this time I was.

I was so freaked out that I couldn’t even take the test for fear of a positive sign.

But, I am baffled by my fear. Isn’t this what we’ve been hoping for these last 5 years?

My sheer terror tells me that it’s still less about the baby and more about the “no”.

I hurt less because of empty arms and more because of the ever-elusive answer.

Why on earth, not??

And then there’s the surge of guilt because my arms aren’t actually empty. In fact, they’re not empty at all. My arms are full with Him and His plentiful gifts. 

My pain is muted by Presence.

The Presence of One who sees me in my pain and uses my pain to produce a whole host of things. The presence of dear ones who think to ask and pause to pray. And most tangibly, the presence of two darling children who fill our hearts and home to the brim. I am totally satisfied and complete. Until I’m not.

Because there’s still pain.

I’m the girl who starts her period at baby showers. On Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Valentine’s. The cycle of hope and despair is relentless. It’s unstoppable really. And if I don’t have my eyes locked on Him it all just feels mean. 

So, here I sit after 40 minutes of just staring out the window. Trying to lock my eyes with His but making peace with just glazing over in the darkness of early morning. His eyes haven’t moved from me. I can rest in the darkness snuggled and comforted by my well-worn quilt that has faithfully softened the blows.These squares of fabric have been my physical reminder that His banner over me isn’t mean, it’s love. The stillness and quiet help me linger. I’m begging for light to delay its coming.

Daylight means productivity. Productivity and pain don’t mingle well.

But, daylight also means perspective and life and peace and a perfect plan.The Presence Of Pain

So, I think I’ll ease into the day leaning into the pain instead of judging it. I’ll try and attend to the freedom and need I have to be gentle with myself. I’ll share my pain with others, even when and especially when it’s tiring and embarrassing. (Blogging can be this sheepishly weary person’s best way to be vulnerable :) And I’ll choose to pleasure in His Presence in the presence of pain