Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekend Re-cap and Meal Plan Monday (3/31)

It's Monday! I hope you had a great weekend! Ours was a little nuts-o, but still a fun one. 

We ended up going on a last-minute double date night with my sister and her husband on Friday night. Thanks to my mom and dad for babysitting on short-notice. 

I got up early on Saturday for my 18-mile marathon training run. The forecast was calling for a chance of rain all day, but it held off for the entire run! I was really grateful, but also annoyed, because I had to run with my rain jacket tied around my waist. Overall, the run went really well. I did a short yoga stretching session later in the afternoon, and I think that helped with soreness tremendously! Ben went to the dodgeball tournament fundraiser in the afternoon, and he had a great time. We went to his dad's birthday celebration that evening. 

Sunday morning, Ben did a great job teaching about suffering, trials, and temptations in the lives of Christians, and how they are really the only way for us to mature and increase our faith. The thing that stuck out the most to me is the point that even in blessings, trials and temptations can be produced; because when we are cruising along all jolly and fine, we can be tempted to become lazy in our faith, complacent, and even fulfilled by our state of "good". So often, this has happened to me, and when I fall into one of these states, I am so shocked when I realize that a bad attitude has crept in, whether it be self-destructive thinking, being critical of others, being jealous of others, being obsessed with my own happiness and contentment, etc., etc. I drift just far enough away from my dependency on Christ that I freak out. (The old song "Throw Out the Lifeline" comes to mind.) But the Holy Spirit helps me (us); he gently reminds me of my need for full reliance and intentional pursuit of God in all situations: good or bad, happy or sad, peaceful or crazy, smooth or unorganized. I cannot let the blessings of life blind me to my need for Him all day, every day. I bet you can relate to this too. 

We went to Dollywood all afternoon before evening church service. Needless to say,, the kids were exhausted last night when we finally came home! :)

Well, on to the meal plan. I haven't posted one of these in quite a while, but I'm doing it a bit differently. This is actually our meal plan from last week with some pictures and some recipes. Maybe it will give you some idea for a new meal for your family. 

Spinach tortellini with broccoli and marinara (recipe coming Thursday in my Munchkin Meals post)

Spinach quiche

Pulled pork sandwiches with slaw, roasted potatoes and mushrooms, and cornbread muffins

Homemade pizza

Brittany's Sweet potato and black bean chili

Check back in later this week for Munchkin Meals hosted by Brittany.

Have a happy Monday!!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Favorites (3/28/14)

Hey, y'all! I haven't been making much time for blogging lately, but I have really missed it. We've had lots of things going on lately... nothing major; but you know how it is. Sometimes life just kinda takes over. 

One of the highlights during my blog-break was getting to do a service project with the young marrieds small group Bible study that we lead. We stationed ourselves at both entrances of a local grocery store and handed out water bottles with our church invite cards attached while attempting to simply talk with people. 
We had hopes of getting opportunities to ask people what was going on in their lives and if we could pray with them/for them about anything. Our signs said "Free water, free prayer." 

Many people were very distrusting of us, refusing the water; (I think they thought we were going to trap them into something if they took the water but didn't want to talk.) There are lots of great stories from that day, but the thing most worth mentioning is how much our eyes were opened to hurt all around us that people keep hidden but will gladly tell someone about if they sense genuine care. I was humbled by the experience of showing compassion to strangers in this way. I was also emboldened; I know now that it is a very simple thing to ask someone the question, "Is there something that I can pray for you about?" The worst they can say is "no." But when they say yes, God pours out His love into us, as we pour it out into another person. "For whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Jesus in John 4:13-14

This past week has been a fairly normal one. The weather has been really wacky, but we have still gotten some outside playtime. Here are some of my favorites from the week:

Playing outside on Saturday afternoon, grilling turkey burgers for dinner, and eating on the deck. 

Getting back to reading My Utmost for His Highest in the mornings, now that our church-wide devotional is over. I love the teachings of Oswald Chambers. 

Trying out a new slow cooker recipe for pulled pork sandwiches. Oh. My. Heavens. 

Brainstorming a service project with the moms group at church related to low-income / at-risk expectant moms. I am SO excited about this!

Catching up on some blog reading. Becky's post blew me away yesterday!

Trucking on with marathon training. I did 16 miles for my long run two weeks ago and 12 miles last weekend. Both runs went really well. I am supposed to run 18 miles this weekend. It's only a little over a month away to the race!!! Eek!

Rush is sounding out words and spelling them!!! This little boy is blowing my mind! I haven't pushed this type of learning because he has never shown eager interest in it. He is much more concerned with riding his bike and scooter and playing baseball,etc. It is amazing watching his little brain develop. He is like a super-sponge right now at 4 1/2. 

We have NO plans for this evening, so we'll probably have homemade pizza and watch a movie in the living room. {My favorite!} Tomorrow, Ben is playing in a dodgeball tournament as a fund-raiser for a St. Jude fund-raising team called "AC and the Tough Kids." These are friends from our church, and they are amazing people. 

Sunday, Ben is teaching a lesson on suffering and trials in our lives and how  we are always responding to our circumstances, good or bad. I really enjoyed this chapter in the book How People Change, so I am looking forward to the lesson. 

I hope you have had a great week too!

I want to know:
What's the last service project you did?
What's your favorite meal to eat outside?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Waiting and Working

We've been trying to sell our house for quite some time now. 17 months to be exact. When we first listed, we were planning to move into the city where Ben works because he has quite a long commute that we felt was taking away too much family time. We also felt that his life and mine and the kids' lives were not in-sync, since my extra-curriculars and his were in different towns with different people. {You can read more about our original plan for moving here.}

Over time, our hearts began to change while waiting to sell. 

We are still waiting for the house to sell, but after all the waiting, things are looking positive. 

The hard part for me is keeping my emotions out of it all. I go from overly excited and hopeful to worried that things won't "pan out" in a span of 30 seconds. Really, I can do nothing in the situation except trust God. And that is so freeing. Proverbs 3:5-6 says "Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and  he will make your paths straight." 

Through my BSF study, I have been reminded recently that I should be living with more of an eternal mindset. And since the whole house-selling thing is what causes me more worry than anything, I realize that I must let it go. Yes, moving to the area that we desire will allow us to be more involved in ministry at church, but our current situation is not preventing it altogether. I need to focus on how I can use my current circumstances for God's glory. If I waste the time that I have been given here and now just because I want to live somewhere else, I am going to be missing out on opportunities to spread hope and love. 

“When circumstances rise to levels of importance way beyond their actual importance, they exercise more control over us than they should … The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of forever give us a sense of priority and proportion.” ~Paul Tripp, Forever (pg. 87)

I don't want my circumstances to completely control me. I want hope in Christ to be my priority. 

"we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” ~2 Peter 3:13

When I keep my eyes on the promise of my future (complete righteousness and perfect fellowship with God), joy and contentment will be the result. And I won't find it hard at all to keep working while I'm waiting. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Favorites (3/14)

It has been a short week this week since we drove back from DC all day on Monday. {Here's a re-cap of the trip.} Ben used a vacation day on Tuesday so that we could have some family time with our kids since they stayed back in Tennessee with their grandparents. It was a fun day, and we ended it with a meeting with our realtor. We have our house now listed with an agent again. The prospect of selling seems a bit more promising this time around than it did before, just based on the market. Wednesday I had BSF in the morning, and choir in the evening. I made a new recipe for veggie enchiladas for dinner. They were amazing!

Definitely my favorite meal from the week.

Favorite blog reads:

Gospel Homemaking: Creating Calm in the Chaos
Delights and Delectables: Adoption Finalized!

Miles and Blessings: Run for Jaime

Favorite Workout:
Running outside this morning. My marathon plans have changed: I am now planning to run the New River Marathon on May 3 in North Carolina. More in this later...

Favorite God-Moment:
Doing the spiritual surveys in D.C., and seeing the students be inspired to share their faith.

Favorite Kid-Moment:
Playing with Lottie on Tuesday while Rush was at school. We played doctor, tea, party, dress-up... all fun stuff! 
Rush is such a big kid now! He retold the story of Jesus miraculously feeding the crowd of 5,000 perfectly! 

We are looking forward to a fun weekend! The weather is going to be nice, so hopefully we'll get to play outside. Hope you have a great weekend too!

What are your plans?
What was your favorite meal this week?

In case you missed it:

D.C. Re-cap

We were in D.C. all weekend with the college kids from our church. As I'm typing, we are in the van driving back home right now. :) Here's a photo of Ben and me with my sister and her husband who is the college pastor (that's how we got asked to help on the trip).

We had a really great time getting to know everyone. We did an "amazing race" on Saturday morning, and my team won! 
Team 1 rocked!

We never took any pics, but Beth (my sis) and I cooked dinner for the whole group on Saturday and Sunday nights. There were 20 people including us. That was fun (and hard!). Ben and I got to do the shopping for Sunday night at a VERY busy Whole Foods. It was pretty much a nuthouse, and I almost cried once because I couldn't find soft tortillas... But it was fun to see all their awesome food since I never get to shop there at home. 

We took along some "spiritual surveys" and encouraged everyone on the trip to approach at least one person to ask them the questions. We shared about our responses after dinner on the last night, and it was amazing. I was so proud of how bold the students were and also how they conveyed the love of Jesus in how they responded to some of the answers that they were given. It was made very clear to all of us through the surveys that there is so much confusion in the world about who Jesus is. We can put ourselves in such a bubble sometimes that we take Jesus and our knowledge of him for granted. I am fairly certain that a girl that my sister and I talked to had never even heard someone pray! But through Beth praying and calling out the different names for God/Jesus, she was able to get a glimpse of the Gospel, which hopefully was planted in her heart and will sprout when the time is right. Please pray for her heart to be opened to the reality of a real, true, loving God. Her name was Genna.

I am so glad that Ben and I got to be a part of this trip! We were encouraged; we learned through Jared's teachings based on Matthew 18; we made lots of new friends!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Thursday, March 13, 2014

9 Years Later... {What I did not imagine as an engaged girl}

I'm linking up for Thrive at Home Thursday hosted by Jenni and Amy, two awesome Christian bloggers.
thrive at home thursday 1

Ben and I got engaged nine years ago* today! We were married three months later!!! Yup- three months!

Life was so different then... Time has FLOWN by! My heart has changed so much since then. I thought I'd share a few things that I never thought about back then:

I never knew it would be so much intentional work. I always heard people say that marriage was hard work, but of course you can't understand something fully until you experience it. Fighting my human nature/flesh of putting myself first takes God's help and intention on my part. I don't have to be "right"every time.   

I never knew we would change so much- together. God has rocked our world, but our world is just that: ours. It's not Ben's world and April's world.  So when life smacks us in the face, we go to God together; we struggle together; we learn together... so we have changed together. You could call it marital sanctification, I suppose. 

I never knew marriage would make me closer to God. As most people in their early twenties believe, I had it all figured out nine years ago. I thought that life could not be any sweeter. I thought that our love as a couple was what it would be like forever. I seriously believed that we would have fun all the time, smile all the time, be romantic all the time, make good decisions all the time. But that hasn't been so. Life has not been all rainbows and roses. Our love has changed. We don't have fun and smile all the time. Romance is not all day every day, though there has been plenty. And we have had disagreements and made some not so good decisions. But one thing has stayed the same: God's love for us. For every moment that I have felt disappointed or ashamed or sad, God has been there to remind me where my true sense of identity and satisfaction should be. Thankfully, Ben reminds me of this too. (And it takes the pressure off of him.)  My life is not defined by or even valued based on my level of happiness, success of relationships, quality of decisions, behavior of my children, etc. The root of my life and existence should be my heart connected to the heart of God. So when not-so-happy marriage moments happen, I don't have to worry (read Romans 8:28).

Our love has grown exponentially as a result of the "hard" stuff; not because we've done anything right, but because our eyes are on Jesus. Our marriage will continue to grow and change. But I would not want it any other way! God has done so much in these nine years, and I cannot wait to see where we are in another nine. 

Thank you, Ben, for directing our marriage and family to a life in pursuit not of this world, but of righteousness. 

Part of our engagement page from our wedding scrapbook

Note: This post was written originally on March 12, 2014. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Toddler Snack Ideas {Munchkin Meals Link-Up}

Nothing too exciting going on with Rush (4) and Lottie's (2) meals lately... they have been snacking like crazy though! Here are some of their favorites. [Some are packaged, others are semi-homemade, and some are totally homemade.]

Visit Brittany over at A Healthy Slice of Life to see some other great toddler food ideas!

Fruit & cereal bars 

Peanut butter & berry granola bars from Olives and Wine 

Graham cracker with peanut butter and sliced bananas

"Snack packs:" baggies with raisins, almonds (or any nuts), Kashi chia-flax "cheerios," and maybe some mini marshmallows for a little treat.

Horizon organic vanilla and strawberry milks (We tried the Kroger Simple Truth, but once refrigerated, the flavor would not mix with the milk no matter how much we shook them; chunks of "syrup" were not toddler-approved.)
This one was non-refrigerated, so it was perfect for the little lady. :)

Mini-Muffins of any kind (just like their mommy)
I think these were cranberry-orange-oat. 

Applesauce pouches (We also have reusable pouches that we fill with homemade pudding and jarred unsweetened applesauce.) 

Hummus and veggies
Lottie just takes the whole container!

So, those are just a handful of the common snacks in our house. I don't know about your toddlers, but snacks are a big part of their diet, and I don't want to sabotage their health for convenience. I am always on the look-out for easy, healthful snacks. Hopefully, you got some good ideas here.

What are your munchkin's favorite snacks?
munchkin meals