Now That I’m a Wife…

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Now that I am a wife, I “tweet” about and take pictures of all the new recipes I am trying with all the new baking dishes I have received, all for the new stomach I am in charge of keeping full. It’s as if all my wildest dreams have come true! A Texas-size grocery store just across the street, more time than I know what to do with, no need to fit into a small white wedding dress, and a man who will eat just about anything… except mushrooms.  So what have I done since becoming a wife? I have become irritatingly domestic and a self-declared Pioneer Woman wanna-be.

Yesterday, I posted this picture of a lasagna that I made for dinner.

 

Yes, it tasted as good as it looked.

The response from friends and strangers asking for the recipe was a little surprising and I refuse, as a fellow foodie, to let others go without doing a head stand into such a dish for themselves. So here it is, as given to me by a close family friend.

Spinach, Pesto, Chicken & Artichoke Lasagna

You will need the following ingredients to start your party: No boil lasagna noodles, pesto sauce, raw spinach, artichokes, garlic, yellow onion, ricotta cheese mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, chicken, one egg, and salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions for starting said party:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray (Fact– I cheated on this step and slathered the pan with a stick of butter instead.)

3. Heat olive oil in a saute pan and saute your yellow onion, finely diced, with about 3 cloves of thinly chopped garlic. (Note, this is where you would also add your artichokes. However, I cheated yet again, and used already marinated artichokes.)

4. To the onion and garlic mixture, throw in 24 oz of fresh spinach. Cover, if you have a lid, and let it wilt (takes about 5 minutes).

5. In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups of ricotta cheese, 1 egg, 1 1/2 cups of pesto and 3/4 cups of parmesan together.

6. Then add the spinach and onion mixture to the pesto/cheese mixture. Incorporate well.

7. Spread a small amount of the cheese and spinach mixture onto the bottom of the pan and then begin layering noodles.

8. Once a layer of noodles is laid, spread the spinach mixture generously, top with chicken and  spread a healthy handful of freshly shredded mozzarella cheese on top. (‘Nother note– I used a fully cooked rotisserie chicken instead of cooking it myself. Just peel off the skin, and tear the meat straight from the bone. For time and sanity’s sake, I suggest doing the same.)

9. Add another layer of noodles and repeat process.

10. When finished, place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Just than 10 steps! This is not only super simple, it is ridiculously delicious.

If you give it a shot, let me know how it turns out for you!

 

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Of Shoe Shiners & Saints

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There are countless reasons I could give for why I love working at Compassion International. If you asked my everyday for a year, I am confident I could give you a different answer.

It’s not just the work that we do, releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name, that brings satisfaction.  Honestly, there are some days that if feels more impossible than probable.  The issue of poverty is huge, and when push comes to shove, we have a long way to go.  But those days are growing fewer as the Church begins to awaken to the call of Isaiah 58.

It’s working alongside faithful followers of Christ.  It’s the church, being the church, that is perhaps the biggest blessing and greatest comfort in carrying my seemingly small day-to-day responsibilities. In the grand scheme of the Compassion totem pole, I’m somewhere very close to the bottom.  And yet, I know that the light load I am able to carry, must in fact be carried so I am grateful to play my part. Everyone from our CEO and President to the crew that translates child letters to the team that processes every check that comes in, touches the life of a child simply because they showed up for work.

But this is still not even what I count the greatest benefit.

It’s hearing God tell His story.  It’s seeing Christ in the smile of every child that survived another year and every sponsor that decided having cable wasn’t a justifiable excuse for not sponsoring a child.

It’s seeing the King and Creator of the universe manifest Himself in the most unlikely, humble, and easy-to-miss places. In mud huts covered with thatched leaves in Ethiopia, eating nothing but bread. In cardboard shanties along sewage-ridden streets in Kenya, drinking dirty water. In the cold and desolate mountain communities of Bolivia, herding lamas.  In the most rural and indigenous forests of Ecuador, hunting with a bow and arrow.

In a small town in South Korea, shining shoes.

It’s the stories.  And this, is just one of dozens that we see and hear about every week.

It’s the stories of ordinary people with ordinary lives, doing the most extraordinary things, because we serve an extraordinary God.

Every week I come to work, I pray that He writes an extraordinary story through my ordinary life.

I pray that you invite Him to do the same.

there’s something to be said for…

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I’m beginning to notice a pattern as I get older.

Life is becoming more complicated.  More decisions need to be made. More responsibilities are  graciously bestowed.  More time is requested.  More attention needed here.  More detail needed there. More bills come monthly.  All in all, more experience is available to be had, whether you went looking for it or not.  And that experience than needs to be filtered; it needs to be  unpacked and repacked into something useful.  Like perspective.

There’s something to be said for perspective. There’s something to be said for being able to seeing beyond your circumstance and considering that where you are not is now where you’ll always be; you’re only passing through and for some reason you may not understand, the Lord saw fit to take you on a scenic route.

There’s something to be said for perspective and how it’s ultimately undergirded by faith. Oswald Chambers illustrates it this way:

God called Jesus Christ to what seemed absolute disaster. And Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death, leading every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken. His life was an absolute failure from every standpoint except God’s. But what seemed to be failure from man’s standpoint was a triumph from God’s standpoint, because God’s purpose is never the same as man’s purpose.

If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. As we grow in the Christian life, it becomes simpler to us, because we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose. A Christian is someone who trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God.

There’s something to be said for perspective.

There’s something to be said for understanding and  accepting the fact that we are simply not our own. And if we’re not our own, then where we go, what we do, and how we get there isn’t up to us. But what is up to us, is what we do with everything we encounter along the way to being drawn closer to the heart of God.

Will we look for the mysterious ways that the Lord has woven together a tapestry beyond our wildest imagination?  Or will we see only the other side of the pattern? The knotted and messy strings being pulled and poked here and there without realizing what lies on the other side?

One Word: Six Months Later

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I jumped on this bandwagon a little late so it stands to reason that I would update late as well. Luckily, this is voluntary and not graded which means… I do what I want.

You may remember a post I wrote earlier this year called One Word. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions that I would undoubtedly give up on, I chose to focus on one word instead.  To be honest I haven’t been as diligent as I would have liked in keeping this theme at the forefront of my mind, but I am here to refresh my own memory, to reflect on the ways that I have been able to “behold” God’s goodness, and hopefully inspire a little more focus on the back half of this year.

A lot has happened in the last 6 months.  For starters, I got engaged which, I’ll be honest, I didn’t see coming. And while being betrothed to an incredible and Godly man would be a sufficient thing to behold and reason to count this year a success, it was what led up to the engagement that is what I am truly in awe of beholding.

I’m a bit over-analytical.  I think too much about too much. I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a real kill-joy.  My way of preparing for the unknown/future is to conjure up the worst possible case scenario and plan from there.  Because, in my poor little head, if I am prepared for the worst possible situation, then I will be all the more equipped to handle a potentially great scenario.

The tragedy of this kind of thinking is that a state of angst, worry, and fretting tend to smother any hope for a good situation completely. That and this kind of thinking demonstrates two things:

1. Little to no actual faith (exemplified through a mind at peace and a heart at rest) in a sovereign and holy God

2. A serious control issue

What I found to be God’s response to an unfortunate twit like me is this: He’ll prove Himself. Unwaveringly gracious and tirelessly patient, He will come down and make Himself undeniable.  He will reveal Himself to the doubter, worrier, and pathetic pansie (*pointing to myself*) and He’ll settle in close.  And when you’ve (me again) done everything you can to keep things clean and tidy and right where you want them, because you’re comfortable with never rearranging or changing anything, He’ll rearrange and change everything for you.

He’ll uncover all the desires of your heart that you didn’t have the strength to hold onto and shoved under the rug. He’ll dust them off, polish them up and remind you that He made it for you; He created such a treasure for you to experience.

For me, that was hope for a relationship, the dream of marriage.  And to make the giving-up of such hope a little easier, I put up road blocks and fortress walls. “Do Not Enter” signs hung on my heart.

Then Toby gently began to break them down.  He didn’t even ask to, he just started to chip away here and there. Layer by tender layer.  What scared me the most was not letting him in.  What scared me was the reaction of what he would find.

Instead of being disappointed or surprised or even deciding to walk away, he loved me more. He loved me intentionally, with grace and compassion; his mercy on my mess felt like the warmest and most welcome blanket.

So what did I behold? The love of Christ. Unconditional, non-judgemental, and completely accepting. Real love. Transcendent of accomplishment or right standing. God drew near, spoke sweetly to me and whispered “I want you.”

One of the biggest certainties I have in marrying Toby is this: his display of God’s love and pursuit of me makes me desire the Lord. Do I love and appreciate Toby? Of course.  But I need the Lord more.  And my genuine desire is that I encourage Toby, in my love, to press into Christ; to lean on Him and to know Him better.

Six months in to 2011 and God has done a miracle.

Bring on six more months.

 

 

The NATOPS Manual & The Bible

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On a recent trip down to Pensacola to see the man (aka soon-to-be-husband), we went to lunch with his roommate, Ben and the roommate’s girlfriend,  Jenny (now affectionately referred to as “Benny”). Ben is in the process of becoming a Naval Aviator and Jenny recently earned her masters as a Nurse practitioner.  They’re an intelligent couple.

The four of us got to talking about ways that we try to keep Christ at the center of our relationship.  Benny asked us “What do you two do to make sure that your relationship is Christ focused and God honoring?” Toby and I looked at each other and each replied.  Our collective answer was that we encourage each other to make sure we are personally pursuing the Lord and our walk with Him as individuals.  Making sure that we each remember that He is our priority has made growing closer to one another a simpler and joyous adventure.  And as we seek Him separately, we have more to talk about and learn together.

We then reciprocated the question to Benny.

Jenny responded first and then Ben.  It was Ben’s response that captured my attention and has since stuck with me. His answer went something like this.

“I’m finding that I need to truly know and apply the Word to my life in every circumstance.  You know what has really shaped and taught me more about the importance of scripture in my life as of late? The NATOPS manual.”

He took a bite of his sandwich and I looked at Toby. I looked back at Ben.

“Can you explain that to me, please. I’m not sure I’m tracking.”

Ben went on. “NATOPS stands for “Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization.” In that manual resides everything we need to know in order to be pilots.  How the aircraft functions, what different controls do, how to use the controls, and most importantly what to do in various cases of emergency. If I don’t know the definition and application of what is in the manual, I will fall right out of the sky. It’s the same with the Bible. If I don’t make the effort to learn what it says and how it instructs me to live, then I will fail in this life. It is critical that I spend time studying God’s word so that I prepared and able to live as He has called me to.”

And with that, he took another bite.

Weeks later, I am still convicted and challenged to treat my Bible as more than a story book. It is an instructional manual; it is the believer’s “how-to” book and we must drink and eat of it often for it is our soul’s only source of sustenance.

 

Where I’ve Been

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Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve been unplugged for the last couple of months.

Maybe you haven’t.

Maybe you have wondered where I’ve been and what I have been up to.

Most likely not.

Regardless, I thought I’d fill you in on the ever evolving transition that is my life.

For starters, my roommate got married.  So she is no longer my roommate… even though I tried to convince her and her now-husband that our apartment was plenty big enough. Three’s really not company, it’s just cozy.  They didn’t buy it. I had the privilege of standing by her on her wedding day.  And I sobbed like an idiot. Then I stood up and gave a speech at her reception.  And I cried some more. Finally, I invested in water-proof mascara.

Shortly after, I moved to a new part of town into a townhouse with a close friend. Her name is Tanya and she busts out of her room in the wee hours of the morning to sing to me when I am in my bathroom getting ready for work.  She’s actually a really incredible singer. Even at 6:15AM… without caffeine.

Momma Dunn came up to help me move, as she always does.  I’ve never moved without her.  She’s my sanity when it comes to moving.  And she’s my decorator. And as always, she put a perfect touch of “home” into the new abode with a dash of fashion, a hint of country, and plenty of sass.

The boyfriend and his lovely mother also came to help.  The moms bonded and I left plenty of wall hangings for the boyfriend to hang so I could watch him use a hammer and nails.

Speaking of the boyfriend, I’ve been continuing my adventures down to Florida to see him.  My most recent trip was in May to see him finish primary aviation training at NAS Whiting where he selected an aircraft. By “select” I mean that he was told what he would fly for the rest of his career.  He was given Ospreys. I won’t lie, it’s a bizarre looking aircraft, but he gets to maintain his daily uniform of a flight suit, so I’m perfectly content.  Flight suits are the best looking onesies I have ever seen. In case you were curious.

But I have to be honest. He’s not my boyfriend anymore.

Last weekend he came to visit me.  And not only did he come to visit me, but he brought me a present.

A shiny present.

And I accepted.

See?

 

He Giveth More Grace

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He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Annie J Flint