Friday, December 21, 2012

...most attractive man I've never met.

I'd be lying if I told you I didn't think he was the most attractive man I've never met.

Because I do. 

This is a photo of my favorite male author, Brennan Manning. His words have had quite an impact on and through my life lately. 

'When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer [tequila&lemonade].

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, "A saint is not someone who is good but who EXPERIENCES the goodness of God."

The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation [obsequious flattery; excessive admiration or praise - blarney] of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that ALL is gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned--our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night's sleep--all this is possible ONLY because we have been given SO much: LIFE itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to BELIEVE where others deny, to HOPE where others despair, to LOVE where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer GIFT; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift, "If we but turn to God," said St. Augustine, "that itself is a gift of God."

My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.'

— Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out) with a couple extra notes and emphasizations.

Knowing that the man in that picture wrote those words makes you reconsider not thinking he was the most attractive man you've never met too, don't they? Isn't it crazy how we over look one's true self for so many other things, even good things... can distract us from really knowing someone and what they stand for. 

That's not actually what I wanted to share though. Just a sidenote.

I wanted to share with you how God's used this man's words through my life recently. This book, The Ragamuffin's Gospel, has always stood out to me. It's of highest quality, utmost truth, and has a raw authenticity that is hard to not identify with. As a result of how my heart responded to this book, I wanted to share it with others. 

So, I sent it to my friend in jail. His response has been so beautiful. He said there are many things in this book that he feels in his heart and has learned recently that are reinforced in this text; particularly God's infinite Love. How cool is that? :)

I posted that excerpt above on facebook. People were encouraged by the reminder of the beauty of grace and shared that with me publicly and privately as well. Manning has intricately woven the good news of God's love and Jesus' outpouring of His love on every single page of that book. I am reminded by my friends and family's response how much our world needs the HOPE of our Savior. This isn't anything new, it's not anything I didn't know before, but it's taken brief moments of me being intentional with very small steps where I trample my pride and reach out to those I expect to be ridiculed by because God loves them just as He loves me. 

And, in the whole big picture... isn't that more most important?

I guess to wrap this up, there were a handful of things I wanted to share:

  • God loves you more than you'll ever imagine or be able to comprehend, even though you have done nothing to deserve it and more than likely a lot of things to make you not deserve it ( case you were wondering, everything I'm writing here, is directed toward me too... I am just as guilty, if not more.)
  • Brennan Manning is an incredible author with the ability to connect with the reader in a very real way that communicates God's all consuming love for His creation, and I strongly suggest you pick up one of his books to experience these truths for yourself.
  • By pushing your natural, humanly desires and instincts to the side (pride, fear, laziness... to name a few) you can impact someone's life for GOOD, for eternity. By being obedient to the calling God's Spirit leads you to, He will work wonderful things in and through you. (That's a whole different entry in and of itself!)

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I think I've alluded a bit to the fact that 2012 has been a bit more difficult than years previous and that the challenges have really sent me into a deeper quest to seek God and His many blessings... constantly. I've learned through this year and this season, if you will, that He really is good ALL the time. He really is good even through the chaos and the hurt and the confusion. He works through these times drawing us closer to Him. He uses these times to help us fully rely on Him and learn what true surrender looks like, helping us to experience His providence and majesty first-hand.

This season has been difficult, no two ways about it, but it really, truly has left me wonderstruck.

Now, I'm a bit of a nerd and would be ecstatic if you plucked me from an ordinary day and placed me in a room full of books and sunlight. In my life, I've learned that God uses different seasons and different authors to teach me more about who He created me to be and the different things He's placed in my heart to make me truly unique and beautiful in His sight. One of the authors that have really touched me in this time is Margaret Feinberg. I first read her work in, Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey. Margaret has a way of writing as if you're sitting with her over a cuppa tea. She speaks true. Her words are genuine. 

All that being said,  :)  she also has a new book and 7-session Bible Study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God (releasing Christmas Day)essentially, it's a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. Tell me, who isn't ready for that?

It is said that Wonderstruck will help you:

·       Recognize the presence of God in the midst of your routine
·       Unearth extraordinary moments on ordinary days
·       Develop a renewed passion for God
·       Identify what’s holding you back in prayer
·       Discover joy in knowing you’re wildly loved

To learn more, watch the Wonderstruck Video, here:

Plus, it's pretty. :)

You may have picked up on this already, but I'm a bit of a dreamer and might just fall into the category of being an 'idealist', so it shouldn't surprise you when I inform you that I sometimes daydream of meeting Margaret and really sitting across the table from her, cuppa in hand and conversation flowing as if we've known each other forever... so, I have become a bit of a creeper, if you will and have gotten some sneak peeks of this book... just like Scouting the Divine Wonderstruck rings loud on my heart strings. It makes me think of things of this life in a beautiful light. I encourage you to at least look into some of Margaret's writings. You can read for yourself her snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog

You can learn more about her newest book by visiting where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.57 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble for all you savvy shoppers. 

So, putting things into application, where have you seen the wonder of God in your life? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Comfort Curry

There was a time when I lived in Europe and I had a lot of difficult days... on these days, I'd get home and do one of three things: 

1) eat two Magnum bars and justify the concept of them being dinner by the ample amounts of calcium... and protein from the almonds, of course.

2) draw myself a bubble bath, set up a make-shift tv stand with my computer and a chair and watch an episode (or three) of Gilmore Girls or McLeod's Daughters, all while sipping a €3 bottle glass of Sauv Blanc -- it really was rough -- dire times, call for drastic measures!
3) invite my friends Anna and Amanda over and make a big batch of curry

This photo shows a particularly delicious batch. The best part about this comfort dish is that it's versatile and often can be made with whatever veggies need to be eaten from your kitchen!

Comfort Curry


-curry powder
-onion & garlic
-veggies (this one has carrots, potatoes, and lentils - because that's what was on hand!)
-coconut milk 
-basmati rice

To Make:

1) Chop onion, garlic, and other veggies.
2) Heat a skillet with a bit of oil. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion becomes translucent.
3) Start rice. Always remember the 2:1 ratio of two bits of water to every bit of rice you're cooking, (ie: if I'm cooking 1 cup of rice, I'd first boil 2 cups of water and, personally, I'd probably throw in a pinch of salt and a chunk of butter.) So bring your two bits of water to a boil, add salt and/or butter [if desired], add rice, and bring the combination to a simmer. Cover the pot for 15-20 minutes. When rice is sticky and done, fluff with a fork and serve.
4) Back to the curry. :) Add the chopped veggies and coconut milk. Cover the mixture with a thin layer of curry powder. 
5) Stir curried veggie mix until tender.
6) Both should be done at about the same time -- serve and enjoy!

Next time I'll include better measurements... but the versatility and flexibility are the beauty of this dish! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reminders from Einstein

This season of my life has been a real challenge. I am generally a chronically optimistic individual. As a result of a lot of unfortunate, irrevocable events, I have found myself discouraged and these past few days, it's been hard for me to see my dreams as reality -- NOT OKAY. 

I recently came across some quotes from one of my favorite thinkers, Albert Einstein. His words have encouraged me to press on and trust that God has a bigger, better plan than I could ever have imagined... it is my responsibility to stay sensitive to the desires he's placed on my heart and recognize those dreams for what they are: beautifully inspired by the Creator of the universe... for me. :)

Okay, so here's what I discovered from Einstein's thoughts: 

1. Believe in your dreams.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Mt. Blanc 2009 -- I had always dreamed of going to Europe. 
Just one example of my imagination proving more important and accurate than my knowledge.

2. Trust your instinct.

“The only real valuable thing is intuition."

My best friend, Hannah, and I at the Garden of the Gods. God has given me a gift of intuition, I always describe it as, "I'm just a 'feeler'." However you describe it, it's good to be convicted of things and be able to recognize and understand truth in unfamiliar situations. Hannah has the best intuition of anyone I know, probably why I don't always go to her first, because she seems to always know best... and the fool that I am is not always initially interested in what's best.

3. Think outside the box.

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."

I've always been a believer in non-traditional, non-conventional education. I think there's so much value in experiencing information and drawing your own conclusions from those experiences. 

4. Be compassionate towards others.

"A person starts to live when he can live outside himself."

My brother and his son -- 
it's been so much fun to watch him sacrificially love and care for his family.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

5. Focus on the present.

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."

6. Fail until you get it right.

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

I failed at line-dancing a good two years before I could dance to a whole song in confidence -- and then I was so excited I danced everywhere I went.

7. Be open to all possibilities.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

You can find some pretty remarkable things when you let curiosity take the lead!

8. Change your mindset.

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Sometimes changing your mindset requires being resourceful!

9. Have no fears.

"The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there's no risk of accident for someone who's dead."

I'm not entirely sure there's a direct correlation between fears and me shooting a gun, but there is a sense of empowerment and capability after an afternoon at the shooting range!

Face life with courage and say, "I will not fear, because greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

10. Have faith in something bigger than yourself.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." --Paul, messenger, ambassador, and author of Ephesians 2.4-10

 "The gospel of grace calls us to sing of the everyday mystery of intimacy with God instead of always seeking for miracles or visions." --Brennan Manning, author of 'The Ragamuffin Gospel'

"You are saved, not because of what you do, but because of what Christ did. And you are special, not because of what you do, but because of whose you are. And you are his. And because we are his, let's forget the shortcuts and stay on the main road. He knows the way. He drew the map. He knows the way home." --Max Lucado, author of 'In the Grip of Grace'


Are you sitting down?? 

I'm trembling I'm so excited right now.


God is good. He always is. He always has been. He always will be.

I know these truths, but sometimes, I get caught up in circumstances and have a hard time truly believing it with every fiber of my being. The last couple of years have been a real challenge for me. I've tried SO hard to find purpose in them and, while I know that things don't always look as I expect them to or make sense to me, I know God has been working in me for something wonderful. 

Maybe, just maybe, this is it. :)

Ah! I hardly know where to start! Haha. So, through a series of unexpected events, these past few years I have become somewhat of a photographer -- it's something I've always loved and others have asked me to document their families in ways to preserve moments for them... well, in attempts to improve my photography skills, I have committed to learning from one of the best photographers in the world, Tim Dodd. Tim is a local photographer, and truth be told, I blush every time I am in public and see him... his talents have brainwashed me into believing he is something other than human and should be revered as Heath Ledger... (okay, that's dramatic, but I had pretty well gotten a grip on my horrible blushing since graduating from high school - clearly he's pretty talented!) Hopefully, I'll be able to come to grips with reality before May.

Things just keep getting more and more exciting. 

Saturday (yes, 5 days ago,) I made a new friend. It took us less than a half hour to realize we are kindred spirits. Cassie is my friend, Hattie's, twin. I'm not entirely sure how we've gone a couple of years without ever meeting, but I know God had this moment planned to bless me like crazy. So thankful. :) Have you ever had an encounter with someone and just known they were someone your heart could just spill to?! Someone you could relate with and who could understand your dilemmas and the things that really get you so crazy, unreasonably excited?! That's how it was meeting Cassie! Just as if we'd known each other forever! 

Well, Cassie's in a similar season of life where she's seeking the Lord and being faithful with what He's given her, but she's discouraged with a lack of fellowship and meaning to her life at the moment. (Again, slightly dramatic, I know there's meaning in even the smallest acts and moments, but seasons sometimes come and go and can be dry... that's what we're dealing with here.) Hattie was the first to recognize that a trip to Italy would be refreshing for Cassie. I had been looking for someone I could enjoy traveling with to go with me, otherwise, I'd be stuck spending an extra $650 to supplement the fact that a single person (yours truly) was occupying a double occupancy room. Within hours, I had come to realize that Cassie was that girl and that my cash stash had exactly $2 more than what was required for the deposit for this trip. All the while, Cassie came to the realization that while she's feeling like she's in a dry season, God has blessed her with a job that pays her very well... we're all convinced it's meant for a time such as this! We're going to Italy!! 

Me with $500 of my $502 and Cassie with her debit card... so excited! I just love when God confirms things with such clarity!!

(Further reason to rejoice is that my previous roommate, Michelle, -- lived with her in Oregon, she now lives in Kansas -- is also coming along... and bringing possibly two three more friends! Michelle and Stacey are quite possibly the two most spontaneous girls I have and will ever meet. Cassie, Michelle, and Stacey are all those girls that everyone enjoys, can get along with everyone, are always fun... the trip is bound to be amazing.)

As if that's not enough to be excited about...

Seriously, brace yourself.

I just spoke with my friend Amanda from when I was living in France. 

Rewind just a smidge. So, I lost my job (I just might post more on that at a later date) in July and have been having a lot more emotional troubles from that than I ever would have imagined. I have been applying for jobs only to find that I'm just not quite what they're looking for. I realize this is the process everyone goes through, but it's the first time for me and it's very disheartening. There has been one specific job working with middle school and high schoolers that I was so excited about the actual job itself, not just the fact that I'd be employed again... I still feel this is something I would be excellent at, the response I received from that church was pretty unimpressive. I was discouraged and embarrassed at how unprofessional and rude it was. However, I can't help but believe it was leading me to this very moment! 

There are a few things I know: 1) I am adventurous and am not willing to sacrifice that for a job or a relationship or... anything, really... 2) I want to be here in the Cedar Valley, my family is here, I grew up here, I 100% feel this is where the Lord has me for the long haul 3) anything is possible 4) God loves to bless and surprise me 5) He's created me for special, specific tasks 6) time is of the essence.

Amanda and I during our Ireland adventure.

Back to that email from Amanda -- Amanda works for the beautiful church I went to while in France. Since I've moved back to the states, she's headed up a church plant in a neighboring town/village. I was there when the seed was first planted and remember praying with her and others for direction in how to make this happen. The thought that I will have the opportunity to see all God has created over the years excites me to no end! Amanda just emailed me that they'll be needing an intern for the church plant for next June and July. That fits all those details I mentioned last paragraph... PERFECTLY. 

I've always been a dreamer. God's always been faithful. I know He's placed these things on my heart for a reason and I just can't contain how excited I am to see His obvious love for me when He arranges such fun surprises!! 

I don't know ANY of the details right now, but I know just as before that God will provide and that everything will come together. 

Let the daydreaming continue. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Coco Loco

As I sit here in in my room of 62 degrees, the anticipation of my roommate(the heat-Nazi)'s return builds and I can't help but reminisce a year ago, gearing up to unwind on the warm, sandy beaches of Isla Mujeres

Ah, life is good there. It seems that physically distancing myself really enables me to let my cares go.

I was always warm. My skin was a gorgeous shade of gold. Cabana boys constantly offered cold beverages to keep us hydrated! Ah, such a nice time.

Hmm.. I have to wonder if a little fiesta accompanied con mis amigos y uno (o muchos) coco locos would ail this chill and ache for the warmth of Mexico?!

I'm thinking once mis amigos (yes, the heat-Nazi... and her sister,) return, we shall attempt to conquer the chill from our very own kitchen!! 

Coco Locos, welcome to Iowa!! :)

Coco Loco


2 oz silver tequila
1 oz light rum
1 oz gin
2 oz pineapple juice
1 tsp simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 fresh coconut 


Saw off the top of the coconut and pour the coconut water into a glass. Add a cup of ice to the coconut and pour in all other ingredients (including the coconut water). Squeeze the juice of your lime. Stir well. Add a straw and pretty paper umbrella. Serve and enjoy! 

(You can also skip pouring out the coco milk/water and adding the ice and just add all the ingredients and chill for a bit by sticking it out in the snow... like we did... probably what we'll be doing since it's already plenty chilly here today!)

Dont' forget to include the happiest face you can make from the fruit you have on hand! (That was always my favorite part.)

What I'm about to share may seem to come across as contradictory to what I just shared at the beginning of this post, to some it may be, but for me, it was an excellent accompaniment to the goal of unwinding from the stress I allow myself to carry around in my day-to-day life and the escape from all of that this trip was intended to be.

While in Isla Mujeres, my friend Glenda and I attended this beautiful haven by the beach housing yogis to guide us in yoga. Our instructor both sessions was a man named Lal. He was a gorgeous old man from India. He shared his life story with us how he remembered as a young boy spending time in the temples while his mother weaved. He came to America where he started a family and became a big-deal business man in New York. He made a good living and had a large family. When one of his daughters became ill and died, he realized none of what he had created and was living for was worth the lack of peace and contentment. He was so unsatisfied chasing his desires that he dropped it all. He left for a period of time and found himself led to Mexico where he now teaches others how to be present and find peace. I tell you what, I could have sat and picked his brain for hours. 

Lal is one of those people you instantly relax around. You trust what you say is safe and that he genuinely cares for you and your well-being. Speaking with him reminded me that that is something I'd like people to pick up from a conversation with me. 

There was more. :) The physical practice was pretty incredible too. There are different poses I hadn't been able to reach before because I hadn't allowed myself to fully relax (constant struggle for this girl!) The class had just three students, so Lal was able to really focus and assist us to improve what we specifically were lacking in. Glenda had broken one of her wrists a few years back and he provided adjustments for her to participate without hurting herself. The next day, she said she could tell she had worked it, possibly even strained it, but that it felt stronger, which she hadn't had since the break.

At some point, I'll figure out how to incorporate photos of these sorts of practices so that you have a visual to help you try the pose for yourself. 

Until then, I encourage  you to check out the website for Na Balam and daydream of how beautiful it would be if you were in the open hut learning from Lal. :)