Tuesday, March 26, 2013

R&R: Learning to Abide

This past week, John and I had the opportunity to spend time just resting. Since we had already blocked off our calendars for our trip to Uganda, we decided to still take the time off even though our trip was postponed. Instead, we spent the week in Vero Beach, FL, where we were literally the only ones on the beach for a mile.

It was such a time of rejuvenation and just what we needed after the stressful past few months. John and I spent the days waking up late, reading on the beach, throwing the football, playing Bocce ball, going for long walks, and making dinner together at night.

Gluten free chocolate cake that we made
Shrimp tacos with homemade guacamole 

If we had a rainy day, I was planning on writing but the weather was gorgeous the entire time... that not too hot, not too cold feeling. And instead, it was refreshing to have nothing in particular to do at any time.

In this busy, fast-paced society it is difficult to incorporate rhythms of rest in your day, your week, or your month. And this constant striving is exhausting.

Something that John and I talked about was how to bring a rhythm of rest home to Atlanta with us. We're starting with going through our calendars with each other at the beginning of every month, and setting days aside each week for downtime together, evenings with friends, etc. Intentionally blocking off days on the calendar to stay home we think will help us incorporate more rest into our schedules.

The week was such a needed time of R&R, and when we returned home the importance of rest was reiterated during the sermon on Sunday:
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me." -John 15:4
Abide: remain; hold onto.

So often I find myself going, going going and doing, doing, doing as I try to "produce fruit" from my own efforts. Yet I was reminded at church that we are simply called to remain in Christ ("in the vine"),  and fruit will be produced through us.

This gives us the freedom to rest, knowing that One more powerful is doing work through us.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fitness Friday: 30 Minute Cardio Killer

I created this workout on a day I was feeling like mixing things up, not wanting to get bored while working out. With all of the different moves, the workout flew by! This workout is easy to do at home if you have a set of dumbbells, stability ball, and medicine ball.

If you're short on time (or energy) just do one of the circuits... trust me, you'll still be getting a good burn in!

Enjoy working up a sweat!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Advice from Alice in Wonderland

Oftentimes before students start the Student Launch Pad program, they have changed their minds multiple times on what they want to do, how they view what they are good at, and where they see themselves in the future.
With these frequent changes of heart, it is easy for students to dismiss the importance of envisioning their future. They think, “Why map out action steps to reach future goals when I might change my mind again?”
This thinking can make students immobilized and not able to decide what action to take. Or, it causes them to be mobilized in the wrong direction because they have not thought through where they actually want to be in the future.
In Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat and Alice have the following conversation:
Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.

If we were to take the Cat’s advice, as long as we were not sure about our next steps, we would not need to make decisions about where we want our future to go.

However, even if you don’t know which direction you should be headed, it does matter what way you go. There are critical actions you can be taking now as you figure out future plans.
As Alice lets us know, “I could tell you my adventures — beginning from this morning… but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” 

Click here to continuing reading on Student Launch Pad's blog for the five key steps to get you started heading in the right direction for your future – even when you’re not sure where you want to end up...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Colorful meals for gray days

The weather in Atlanta couldn't make up its mind in February. It'd be beautiful and sunny outside then suddenly rainy and cold. During some particularly rainy stretches I wanted to make dinners that were a lot more exciting than the view out the window. Below are some highlights from the meals.

Now it's turning into a gorgeous spring. I love that it's staying lighter so much longer, though it is strange eating dinner while it's still so bright out. I feel like it's summer already... not that I'm complaining!

Here are some meals to inspire you to brighten up your dinner plate, whether it's sunny and warm where you are or still rainy and cold. (Bonus points if you serve it on brightly colored Fiestaware too!) Enjoy!

Salmon with Jalapeno Slaw

This recipe was inspired by my new dairy free, gluten free cookbook, Cooking With Isaiah. I brushed salmon with a chili-lime sauce before baking it. I tossed lime juice and zest, fresh cilantro, olive oil, and sea salt with sliced red onion, yellow bell pepper, and jalapeno for the salmon topping. I served it with a side of mushroom risotto and an arugula salad, tossed with a homemade dressing of 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. honey, sea salt, black pepper, and lime juice.

Chicken Fajitas

I topped corn tortillas with brown rice and sauteed veggies and chicken. I cut up my chicken in strips, seasoned it with black pepper and dried parsley and sauteed until done. I then sauteed yellow and red bell peppers, cut into strips, chopped onion, chopped mushrooms, and diced jalapenos. I seasoned the veggies with black pepper and cayenne pepper for a little extra heat. I topped the fajitas with fresh cilantro and sliced avocado. 

Sweet Potato Chili

I love sweet potatoes. So when I saw this chili recipe from the blog 86 Lemons that included sweet potatoes I was excited to try it. And it didn't disappoint! I followed the recipe to an extent, and it came together fast. I essentially sauteed red onion, a bell pepper, diced/peeled sweet potato, a diced jalapeno, and mushrooms. I then added a can of fire roasted tomatoes, garbanzo beans, black beans, and two cups of chicken broth. I added ground cumin, a dash of red pepper flakes, a clove of chopped garlic, a dash of cinnamon, and ground black pepper. I topped mine with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime, but you could add cheese, sour cream, and sliced avocado too.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Practicing Presence

When I chose "grace" and "courage" as my words for 2013, I could not anticipate how much I would need to rely on them. In the first three months of 2013, John and I have been faced with trials and doubt, and yet I keep hearing the whisper that God is gracious and merciful and that He strengthens me with courage. 

Without going into details (yet with his permission to share), John has been battling health issues for the past several months, making it an especially trying time for us as the doctors have not yet diagnosed what is wrong. Through sleepless nights and agony, we have been asking God for answers and healing. 

As a wife, it has been difficult for me to stay strong and not let anxieties and worries take over. We had to make the difficult decision as a couple to postpone our trip to Uganda this month. Although we were extremely saddened to let Ronald, our Compassion International sponsored child, know we could not visit him - yet, it was the right decision. And hopefully we will be able to reschedule our trip later this year (...and thankfully those 5 painful vaccines we got will last for a couple of years!). 

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons that we are learning right now is giving everything up to God. After making the courageous decision to go to Uganda and then experiencing God's peace, now He is telling us to wait. I was so conflicted over why we felt led to go only to have to postpone the trip a few weeks later. I so desire control - over my calendar, our plans, our hopes for the future - yet I am learning that all of my confidence needs to be placed in God.

On Sunday, some friends visited us and brought as delicious, homemade chicken tortilla soup. It was so refreshing to visit with them, and during our conversation, they mentioned that they were reading The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. I'd read this book from the seventeenth century in high school, so after they left I picked it up again and read through my highlights. 

Passages of challenging encouragement continued jumping out at me:
"He sometimes permits bodily diseases to cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage then... Ask of God, not deliverance from your pains, but strength to bear resolutely, for the love of Him, all that He should please, and as long as He shall please. Such prayers, indeed, are a little hard to nature, but most acceptable to God, and sweet to those that love Him. Love sweetens pains; and when one loves God, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage... Comfort yourself with Him, who is the only Physician of all our maladies. He is the Father of the afflicted, always ready to help. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine. Love Him then, and seek not consolation elsewhere." 
Yes, indeed, these prayers are hard. Yet, I've seen that "God is often (in some sense) nearer to us and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health." 

And so, John and I continue to count our gratitudes in our journal, thanking God for the wonderful blessings that we have in each other, our family, friends, work, neighborhood, church, city...

I'll finish with a passage from Charles Spurgeon that my father-in-law sent to us, based on Isaiah 48:10:
"Comfort thyself, tried believer, with this thought: God saith, "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." Does not the word come like a soft shower, assuaging the fury of the flame? Yea, is it not an asbestos armour, against which the heat hath no power? Let affliction come—God has chosen me. ...Sickness, thou mayst intrude, but I have a balsam ready—God has chosen me. Whatever befalls me in this vale of tears, I know that He has "chosen" me." 

Monday, March 4, 2013

The most filling, delicious breakfast ever

I haven't done a post on what I'm eating lately, so without further ado...

Chia Seed & Oatmeal Chocolate Pudding

I was originally inspired to try chocolate chia seed pudding from the blog Peanut Butter Fingers, but I wasn't in the mood for dessert. Instead, I waited until the morning and made it into a scrumptious breakfast by mixing oats and peanut butter in!

Serves 1
1/4 cup chia seeds
3/4 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup instant oats (gluten free)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
Sliced banana


  1. Combine chia seeds, almond milk, cocoa powder, and sugar together in a container. Store in fridge overnight.
  2. In the morning, transfer chia seed pudding to bowl and combine with instant oats, water, and peanut butter. Heat in microwave for 2 minutes, stir, and then heat another 30 seconds. (Note: I use Trader Joe's gluten free instant oats so you may want to check the recommended cooking time for your instant oats.)
  3. Top with sliced banana and enjoy!
This breakfast is guaranteed to keep you full until lunch! Plus, it's chocolatey, peanut buttery, and delicious.

Homemade (Gluten Free) Protein Bars

Going gluten free has required a little more foresight in planning quick, on-the-go snacks. Since I teach a lot of my Student Launch Pad students during their lunch period, my lunch either has to be eaten before 11:30am when I leave or after 2:30pm when I'm back home. As a result I've relied on eating filling snacks in the late morning and a lighter lunch in the afternoon. These homemade protein bars, inspired by No Meat Athlete, are a perfect solution!

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 large banana, mashed
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups oats (gluten free)
1 cup Silvana's All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour blend (any flour will work here)
1/4 cup shredded coconut 
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. chia seeds

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine chickpeas, peanut butter, honey, mashed banana, almond extract, and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Add oats and flour and pulse to combine, adding 1/4 cup water if needed. (Or alternatively recruit your husband to scrape the mixture out of the blender and kneed it all together with his hands, like I did!)
  2. Add in coconut, cranberries, chocolate chips, and chia seeds, and stir to combine.
  3. Spread mixture into greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven, let cool, and slice into bars. Store in airtight container.