Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday's Ten -- Nashville

Ten Things to Do in Nashville with Guests

I have great friends that are scattered all throughout the country. This week, one of my suitemates from freshman and sophomore years of college is here! Gwen and I haven't spent any real time together in YEARS, so I'm really excited that she'll show up at my house TONIGHT to spend the weekend (she has been at her brother's house down the road for the last few days). Then, later in March one of my best friends from high school, Nicole, will be spending a weekend with me. Here's the places I love to take my friends who visit.

1. Radnor Lake. I posted pictures earlier this week from there. It's absolutely one of my favorite places in the city. A short walk gets you to the lake, but you can most definitely take a longer and more strenuous hike--which is what I prefer. Something for everyone.
2. The Village. Hillsboro Village, to be exact. It's a very artsy-fartsy area around Vanderbilt and Belmont campuses. Unique dining establishments, cute little shops, and also a great running area! (no, I don't make all my guests exercise with me! Although I have been known to drag a few to yoga class with me!)
3. Franklin, TN. Just a few miles from Nashville, and voted the best small town in TN several years in a row. This place has it all. Great places for lunch, a real city square, a pub, and lots of little boutiques. It's also a VERY family friendly place. Be prepared to see lots of moms/nannies and kids.
4. Opryland Hotel. It's beautiful, especially all lit up for Christmas.
5. the Pub. Dan McGuiness in Cool Springs, to be exact. Friday or Saturday night, to be precise. That's when our friends Sean and Josh play live Irish music. Fun, fun.
6. downtown. There's so much touristy stuff--the Wildhorse, Tootsies, etc...but just walking up and down 2nd Avenue is fabulous.
7. Baja Burrito. It's a Nashville must-eat-at.
8. Centennial Park. It's even got an exact replica of the Parthenon...just in case you can't swing that trip to Greece!
9. Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately there's more of a limit on when I can take people, but it's GORGEOUS in the summer!
10. The Frist. Especially when they have an Impressionist exhibit featured!

and for our spiritual focus of the day...

Prayer for Lent (from

Lord, your love for me is so great, you breath life into my dry and dusty soul. You satisfy my thirst with living water. You anoint my head with perfumed oil. Yes! By your astounding mercy and love, I am no longer dead, but alive! And though I repeatedly refuse your blessing of milk and honey, choosing instead to wallow in the very dust you free me from, each day you lift me up again. I am redeemed by you, again and again. Praise you Lord. May your name echo through the whole Earth!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday...Lent Begins

The last few years I've had some interesting Lenten experiences. Among things I've given up:

credit cards

fast food (and what it represented--using God when it was convenient)

the scale (oooh, that was a HARD one that year!)

My criteria (besides the first couple of years I observed it) has always been that whatever I give up has to have REAL meaning. None of this giving something up that I'm not particularly attached to, or that doesn't represent a true sacrifice for me.

This year I'm going to be doing things slightly different--although still with lots of meaning.
I'm giving something up, but I'm also adding some things in.

I'm adding more emphasis on relationships.
More times of reflection and prayer. Anthony and I will be doing a Lent reading every night together, over the phone or in person if we happen to have a date that night.
And more awareness of God's presence around me. This means whenever possible I'll be outside in nature, I'll be driving without the radio/cd's on quite often, and I'll look for those "fingerprints of God" in my everyday life. I'll also be limiting my computer and tv time somewhat.

What am I giving up?

unhealthy snacks.

this means no mint chocolate oreos before bed each night. If I'm going to have one, it'll be tagged onto the end of dinner. I can still drink milk before bed, or have a cup of hot tea :)
this means no sneaking a bag of chips in the grocery bag.
this means no stopping at McDonalds because I'm having a french fries craving.

It DOES mean that I'm focusing on my body as the temple. That I'm feeding my body pure and healthy snacks, and that I'm not taking the easy way out by opening a package of overly processed food. Instead I'll have to make more room in my fridge and fruit bowl. And my going to love it.

It doesn't drastically change my eating habits--I'll still have the occasional bad-for-ya meal...but between meals? All healthier options.

As for today itself, Ash Wednesday, I'll be liquid fasting from sunup to sundown. Because of my history, it is dangerous for me to do a true 24 hour fast, so this is my modification.
I'll also be down to one meal on Fridays, so in essence will be doing a repeat of Ash Wednesday each Friday. However, I'll also observe the tradition of no meat on Fridays--and for me that includes fish. Doesn't hurt that I'm not really thrilled about fish in the first place ;-)

I'm going to end by posting a poem that I found floating around the internet...I have no idea who to give credit to, unfortunately.

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them.

Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

Fast from worry; feast on trust.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.


Ash Wednesday Memory (2008)

This was written the day after Ash Wednesday last year. I am sharing it here because I wasn't too active in the blog world at the time I wrote it, so most of you have probably never seen it unless you're on my facebook or myspace pages.

reflections from the last 24 hours:

I overslept this morning. But that's not the story.

I got pulled over last night. But that's not the story either. Well...not really.

Ok, so I was feeling *really* good last night. I'm on my way home from Mass thinking how this Lenten season is going to be so spiritually building for me and how I think I finally have things in perspective...bad thoughts.

I was fully praising God--I was singing one of the songs the choir did, I mean I had my hand raised and everything. I completely lost track of...well, everything. And then I saw the cop...

After I pulled over I couldn't remember where my hazard lights were. Seriously, I must have looked for them the entire time it took him to pull in behind me and walk up to the car. Because I literally turned them on and he knocked on my window. So of course now I'm thinking ' he thinks I was looking for something and is going to search the car.'

He was absolutely the nicest cop that has ever pulled me over. And I was completely honest with him...I mean I had ashes on my head for crying out loud...I told him I was praising and got carried away.

He comes back to the car and hands me my ticket to sign (yeah. don't even get me started on the fact that I have NEVER been pulled over and NOT gotten a ticket. Seriously. Good thing I'm rarely pulled over!) I joked that this was a nice way to start off Lent and he says "I'm sorry. I really hope this doesn't put a damper on things for you". Yeah. Like it's his fault, right?

He then proceeds to tell me that they're always in that spot so to make sure I'm within 10 miles above the limit when I pop that hill. (yeah. he tells me that and *still* I get a ticket!). And then he tells me that he really likes my glasses. See? Told you. Nicest cop ever.

He pulls off and I can't find my license anywhere. I mean, we're talking dump the purse, search the glove compartment, get out of the car looking. I finally gave up and called the police (furthering the "Lora is an idiot" claim) and they call him...he tells them it's not in his car. I later get a voice mail from HIM saying "I'm sure it'll turn up in your car. I distinctly remember handing it to you and you switched it from your left to right hand." So meanwhile I'm having nightmares about being pulled over again and having to tell them "I'm sorry, I don't have my license. I think the other cop must have it."

So by the time I get home I'm pretty worked up. I dump my stuff in the house and go back out to the car to look under the seats and all (because you don't want to do that on Briley Parkway). No license. I walk back in the house and trying to calm myself with a bit of humor I say:

"Who's that patron saint of lost things again?!?"

Now, I don't often claim to hear the 'Voice of God'...actually, I don't think I've ever claimed that. But I swear to you, at that very moment I heard:

"I am all you need"

I started to say something and heard it again.

"I am all you need"

Whoa. God of the universe has just taken my joke and made it into a serious moment.

At this point I just lost it. Began crying and shouting "I know! I know You are all I need. But I don't feel that way right now. and I haven't in awhile. I want to, but I don't."

Whew. Can we say a year of frustration and questioning all came to a head in that moment? God and I had some talking to do.

A few moments later--after that chat--I put on my pajamas and decided to look in the car one more time. I grabbed a flashlight, opened the door, and the light hit it. It had *somehow* landed under the seatbelt hook on the floor.

(makes you wonder, doesn't it?) my opinion, this is an awfully expensive way to learn that God is all I need. Apparently all the free ways were taken. In the grand scheme of things, a ticket and temporarily lost license are not that big of a deal. But if I don't trust who He is in the little things, how will I trust him when the next bombshell comes? Because...there will be one. No amount of not going to retreats or withdrawing away from people I love will change that.

So that's what I learned yesterday, as cliche as it sounds. God is all I need. He is present in ALL things--even those situations we've been dealing with lately that seem so ungodly.

And one more thing...if you tend to worship as you drive, I highly recommend cruise control!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Titus 2 Tuesday

Everyone seems to be getting into it early this week, so I'll follow the trend :0) See the original Titus 2 blog to participate!

What have learned from another woman this week? (or ever)

Today I'm going to share my friend Kathryne with you.

Kathryne is one of the first people I became close to at my church. I remember a few of us sit
ting around talking about 2 years ago and her stating "I don't remember ever meeting Lora. I think she's just always been a part of us." And honestly--I have no recollection of meeting her either. But I know we have a strong connection, and always have.

Kathryne is a mother--her son is in college, her daughter a junior in high school. I was actually privileged enough to have her daughter in my mentoring group when she was in middle school, which was pretty cool. Kathryne is the kind of mother I want to be--nurturing, but not smothering. Her children are well loved, but they have been brought up to make decisions--and even mistakes--in a safe environment. I have remarked to several people (including the boyfriend) that when I have children I will be sitting at her feet to learn. And anyone who knows her understands why I say that :0)

Kathryne is an amazing prayer warrior, and a beautiful example to anyone who is seeking in faith. She doesn't have all the answers, and she doesn't mind telling you she doesn't. But she's the first person who will sit with you, cry with you, pray with you and just BE with matter what. She's lived enough life experiences to be empathetic and kind through it all.

This is why when I asked her to drive me home after having my wisdom teeth removed a couple of years ago she refused. She insisted that I instead come stay at their house for at least 24 hours after the surgery. It's what I needed.

This is also why she was one of the first people I called when I lost my job in August.

I don't have any "good" pictures of the two of us, but here are a couple. The first is of the two of us the year we shared a cabin full of 7th grade girls for a week at youth camp (the best co-counselor I ever had...hands down). The second is from this past fall when we led worship at our church's women's retreat. (I look suspiciously big around the middle, but I assure you it was a camera not a baby or anything!) Incidentally, the 3rd woman pictured with us? Jennifer, from my very first Titus 2 blog.

Kathryne has become a true spiritual mentor to me, and I'm going to close with one of her favorite verses to share--from our favorite translation, the NLT:

Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for what He's done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
- Phillipians 4:6-7


Recipe of the Week -- Shepherd's (Cottage) Pie

I was going to wait to post this recipe. It's becoming a tradition for me to make it on St Patrick's Day, so I was going to post it sometime in March. I can't wait. Which means I'll probably be making it this week!

Just for the record, I call it Shepherd's Pie. But...I don't make it with lamb, so it's technically a Cottage Pie :0)

Shepherd's Pie

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped
clove of garlic
1-2 cups mixed veggies (I use carrots, corn and peas)
1 1/2-2 lbs potatoes
1 stick butter
1/2 cup beef broth
2-4 tbsp tomato paste, or can of tomato sauce (there are times that I add a can of each, actually)
splash of red wine
3 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
salt, pepper, other seasonings

Begin by peeling, chopping, and boiling potatoes in salted water for 20-30 minutes

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large frying pan.
Saute onions in butter until tender over medium heat (approx 10 minutes). About 5 minutes in, add clove of chopped garlic and the carrots
Add ground beef and saute until brown. Add peas and corn, salt and pepper, worcesterchire sauce, splash of wine, tomato paste/sauce, and half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth (or wine) as necessary.

When potatoes are tender mash them. I add about 2-3 tbsp butter, milk, and even amounts of salt and pepper as I mash.

Line baking dish with beef, onions and veggie mixture. Layer mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so peaks will brown nicely.
Cook at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Turn on broiler and let brown for an additional 5 minutes.

Pictures from the weekend...

Radnor Lake

So Saturday the boyfriend and I celebrated 6 months of officially dating...which we both agreed was a great milestone :) Since we were getting together with 2 other couples to celebrate 2 birthdays that evening, I suggested that we go to one of our favorite spots in the city and do a little hiking. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't entirely conducive to this plan so we did a mini-walk to the lake and right back to the car. I WAS able to snap just a few pictures in the few moments we were out there.

On Sunday we were able to swing by the pub to see a friend of mine who was in town for the weekend. The pub was always a favorite hangout of Erin's while she lived here (she's temporarily moved to work on her Master's degree) so it was no surprise to walk into the room and see her surrounded by the other Sunday night "regulars". We had dinner, I had a bloody mary (my favorite!) and we listened to the lovely live Irish music. Ahhhh.

The Pub

what kind of blogger are YOU?

You Are a Pundit Blogger!

Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.

You're up on the latest news, and you have an interesting spin on things.

Of all the blogging types, you put the most thought and effort into your blog.

Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday's Song

A worship time from Christ Church here in really all boils down to this, doesn't it?
(oh, and as usual, you'll have to pause my music player over there on the bottom right in order to not be annoyed by two songs playing. Sorry!)

"We Love You Lord"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I got an Award...and I'm passing it on!

I was so pleasantly surprised to visit Leslie's blog tonight to find my name on her list of awards given out!
Leslie is a new friend of mine, as I just discovered her blog within the last few weeks. She's fast becoming a favorite blogger of mine though, with her refreshing perspective, honesty and charm. Her writing makes me think and strengthens my faith. I'm truly honored that she would choose me for this award!

Here are the rules: “These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

So here are my 8:

1. Nicole at What a Trip!
2. Caitlin at Gidget Charm-Your-Pants-Off
3. Amber at Kiss My Cheek
4. Bethany at Striving to Be Bold
5. Shanda at A Teachable Heart
6. The Blonde Duck at A Duck in Her Pond
7. Mrs. Naz at Becoming Me
8. Judy at In His Grip

Thursday's Ten

I'm going a little different this time around.

10 Ways I Pray

(I feel like I owe you the explanation here that while I am a God-seeker and truly believe it is ALL about the relationship--hence the prayers--I am in no way an expert on these sort of things. But I think getting creative and out of the box with prayer sometimes helps us to see God in a whole new light)

1. prayer journaling.
simply writing my thought and prayers to God. this is such an effective way for me to look back and realize the answers to those prayers and how the prayer changed ME.

2. rosary beads (or you can use any prayer b
I know that my friends who are Catholi
c actually pray the Rosary. Um, I don't know how to do that. I'd really like to know how, and maybe I'll have a chance to be in a service someday soon where I can. However, I use my beads. Each decade (10 beads) is assigned kind of a mantra prayer such as "Lord of peace, give me peace". I pray that phrase for each of the 10 beads and then when I get to the bead at the end of the decade I use that bead to hold and dwell on what exactly I need peace in. It's a spontaneous prayer where I truly pour my heart out to God. If I am simply praying for peace in my life, I continue with that prayer all the way around the beads. If not, I move on to something like "Giver of all joy, bring joy into my heart".
At the end of the rosary there are "extra" beads. They do have a purpose.
I use them to pray for those closest to me, for my church, for our nation and the world. And I end on the crucifix by praying the Lord's Prayer--Our Father.
I realize that this was long and quite unorthodox--but it's truly helped me so much in my faith journey. My favorite rosary is one I bought at the Vatican.
Pictured is one that I actually made last year. I carry it in my purse because if it break
s I can always fix it--the one from the Vatican is irreplaceable!

3. scripture prayers.
I really got this idea from doing a Beth Moore Bible study, but have adapted it to my own. Similar to my prayer journaling, I keep a tiny notebook in my purse where I write down scriptures that speak to me/are prayers or have special meaning to them. Periodically when I'm prompted to I'll flip through the book and find a scripture that fits the situation I'm praying about in my own life or that of a friend. I use the words of the scripture to pray over that situation, then on the back on the page where the scripture is I write the date and the situation I prayed over. It'
s amazing to look back over that notebook and see the many times I've used it, and how these situations have worked out.

4. breath prayers.
Our worship minister, Randy, introduced this idea to us. Simply a phrase to be prayed over and over. Inhale: part one (Lord Jesus), Exhale: part two (be with me now). It's a very calming way to pray if you're stressed or in a situation that is particularly overwhelming. I also use this method of prayer when I'm on my yoga mat.

5. with a friend.
I don't know about you, but I often feel better about a situation if I can talk it out with a friend. Talking it out with a friend AND praying together about it is even better. And I don't even have to have anything wrong for this to be a special and intimate time. Anthony and I try to pray together regularly, just in general. I have other friends who will pray with me often. Such a special bond.

6. crossing myself.
Again, I'm not Orthodox or Catholic (although I do attend Mass quite regularly and even sing in the choir when I'm there!). But when I see an ambulance, an accident, something that I think should be brought to my Father, I simply cross myself. For me, it's saying (with my body) "Father, Son, Holy Spirit, be in this situation right now

7. go to nature.
Something about running water brings me to a point of praise and prayer. Something about sunsets makes me realize the majesty and glory of God. And a walk in the woods clears my mind and sets it on things above.

8. praying other people's prayers.
Aren't there times when you
just can't think of the words you want to say? Thankfully, there are prayers written and spoken all throughout the ages that exactly reflect my thoughts and feelings. The Psalms are full of them. I also love the prayers of St. Francis, Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, and others. (incidentally, the handwritten prayer to the left that you're seeing is claimed to be in Mother Teresa's own handwriting.)

9. lighting a candle.
This is especially seen during Advent in my house, or when I go to Mass and light a candle there. But I often will light a
specific (unscented, white) candle in my house to represent a prayer that is close to my heart. Something about the flicker of the flame assures me that the prayer is still being heard by my God.

10. singing.

Music speaks to me like no other. So it's little surprise that I often choose to speak back to God by singing songs of praise or lament. Once in awhile it's a lyric that just stumbles into my mind, one that He gives to me. Most of the time it's an already existing piece though.

I have a good friend, Kathryne, who often states: "I pray--not because it changes God, but because it changes me." And how true that is!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Titus 2 Tuesday

Oops. I'm late...but I've committed to actually doing this weekly, so in this case it's going to have to be better late than never :0)
So here's the usual question:
What have learned from another woman this week? (or ever).
Go here to participate!

This week I'm choosing to honor my friend Angie. Angie and I met when we got to middle school, and I'll never forget that one of the first things she ever told me was that I shared a birthday with Reba McEntire. She was much more excited about this little fact than I was, but still it paved the way to a tentative and then genuine friendship.

By the time we were in high school we were "thick as thieves" as my parents would say. We wrote stories to pass the time away in classes such as chemistry, watched Veggie Tales during our peer facilitating class (hey, we were learning valuable lessons in order to help those kids we were working with...right?), and crossed the bridge together to go to the parking lot each day when the bell rang.

Angie and I had a lot of fu
n together, but our lunchtimes were probably my favorite part of the day. It was then we would discuss our very limited understanding of faith and how it affected our daily walk. We were so young and naive, and our journeys were just beginning, but we "got" that it was about some form or fashion. I was fortunate to have a high school friend with which to discuss the things that are underneath all that surface stuff most of us are focused on in high school.

After I graduated and moved to TN for college we kind of fell out of touch for awhile. Neither meant for it to happen, but we both got busy... During this time we each journeyed deeper into faith and understanding what that really meant. It's amazing what life experiences will do to you, ya know?

A couple/three years ago we reconnected...amazingly enough through myspace and facebook first. Since then she's come to stay with me for a few days in Nashville, and I get together with her every time I make it to my hometown in Indiana. We send messages, texts, and occasionally a phone call (although neither of us is in love with the phone). It's kind of funny how we have parallel lives in so many ways--for example, right now we've been dating wonderful men for about the same amount of time (they're a little ahead of us) and we've had SO much to talk about regarding that. It has been SUCH a blessing to me to pick up where we left off and to be able to still talk about what's real with my dear friend.
Angie (left) and me

She's an amazing woman with a beautiful heart and who never fails to make me smile. We still don't talk as often as either of us would like, but we connect often (oooh, way to work in the word of the month, Lora!). I've learned from her how to laugh at myself and not take myself seriously, how to have REAL conversations, and how to maintain relationships across the miles.

So I am thankful for the chance to be real, to talk about faith, and to have a friend to journey with me. I'm thankful to have Angie in my life.

Recipe of the Week -- Creme Brulee

When I make something like my angel food cake I always end up with lots of leftover egg yolks. Thankfully, you can freeze them (or egg whites) so I don't have to completely waste 12-14 yolks! However, they do need to be used at some point...

There are several recipes I use that call for only yolk. This one, though, is by FAR my favorite.

Creme Brulee (food network's version)

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (they are SO expensive, but make all the difference)
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided in half (you can make vanilla sugar by simply adding vanilla extract to the sugar)
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch*, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

*if you don't have a torch (like me) you can use your broiler setting on the oven to brown the tops. Just make sure to watch closely--the last thing you want is burnt brulee...even though "brulee" means burnt!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday's Song -- Savior King

Tonight in a beautiful time of worship, our student praise band introduced this song to us. It's a beautiful song out of Hillsong (Australia)...which isn't a surprise. I find myself loving nearly everything they put out. The lyrics are so REAL and true to life.

Savior King

And now the weak say I have strength

By the spirit of power that raised Christ from the dead
And now the poor stand and confess
That my portion is Him and I'm more than blessed

Let now our hearts burn with a flame
A fire consuming all for your Son's holy name
And with the heavens we declare
You are our king

We love you Lord, we worship you
You are our God, you alone are good

You asked your Son to carry this
The heavy cross our weight of sin

I love you Lord, I worship you
Hope which was lost, now stands renewed
I give my life to honor this
The love of Christ, the savior king

Let now your church shine as the bride
That you soar in your heart as you offered up your life
Let now the lost be welcomed home
By the saved and redeemed those adopted as your own

I give my life to honor this
The love of Christ, the savior king

If you want to hear it, just scroll down on my page to the music player, pause it, and click "play" on this video. It's Hillsong's version :0)

I'm so blessed...

Truly. I've met an amazing, Godly man, and he never fails to make me feel special and cherished. :) There's not really a whole lot to say about tonight--very low key, we went to dinner at a fabulous local Italian place and watched a movie, and he made a pie for us :0) but just being able to spend that precious time together (one of my primary love languages) and truly enjoy each other's company was wonderful.

He tells me all the time that he's lucky to have me. I disagree. I think I'm the lucky one. :0)

Happy Valentine's Day, all!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday's Ten

Ten Books You Probably Should Read...or at least that I recommend you read!

1. The Shack (William P Young)
i know. it's becoming cliche. but there's a reason for that. I thought I had a pretty open view of God...and after a few pages into this book I realized how much room for growth I had in that area. Amazing piece of work.

Girl Meets God (Lauren Winner)
amazing story of one woman's faith journey...that turns out to reflect many of our stories

3. The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Kim Edwards)

4. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)

5. Real Sex (Lauren Winner)
yes, I'm single. it isn't REALLY about sex. well, it is. just not in that way.

6. The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman)
I learned a LOT about myself from this book

7. The Kite Runner (
Khaled Hosseini)

8. The Book of Uncommon Prayer (edited by Constance Pollock and Daniel Pollock)
this is an amazing collection of writings from well-known authors throughout the ages that all reflect on their picture of God. I love it.

9. Blue Like Jazz (Donald Miller)
amazing, honest and direct look at faith

10. Grace For the Moment (Max Lucado)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Recipe of the Week -- Turtle Martinis

For the first time EVER I'm posting a recipe here that I haven't tried. I'll be making it this Saturday, however, for the boyfriend and I to have when we come back from dinner to watch Casablanca :) So, I'll post a picture sometime soonish...anyway, I'm assuming by the ingredients alone that it'll be fabulous. I can see me serving it as a girl's night beverage too ;)

Here it is, from food network

Turtle Martini

cocoa powder
powdered sugar
caramel sauce (in a squeeze bottle)
chocolate sauce
2 ounces vanilla vodka (I'll use Stoli)
2 ounces white creme de cacao (or dark if you prefer more of a chocolate look)
2 ounces Praline New Orleans Style Pecan Liqueur
crushed ice

garnish ideas: roughly chopped chocolate squares, roasted pecan halves, turtle candies

mix cocoa powder with powdered sugar until it's sweetened to taste. Take large martini glass and very carefully coat the rim in caramel sauce, being careful not to let it drip too far down the sides. then, dip the entire rim of the glass into the sweetened cocoa powder, being sure to coat all of the caramel so that you have a "dusted" caramel effect. put just a drop of chocolate syrup at the bottom of each glass for color.

for the drink, shake vodka, creme de cacao and praline liqueur in a martini shaker with ice to chill. Fill the martini glass with crushed or shaved ice, strain the drink into the martini glass.

garnish atop the floating ice with the roasted pecan half or small piece of chopped chocolate. Or garnish with a half of a Turtle candy by making an incision and hanging it on the rim of the glass.

Titus 2 Tuesday

I found a fabulous blog today. Apparently this has been going on for awhile, but I'm just discovering it. A Titus 2 Tuesday simply means that we're honoring the women of influence in our lives. You can read more about it here at the blog I found this morning. Read all the way down--there's a beautiful piece of Beth Moore writing in it, and she's one of my favorites. :0)

I'm stumped on this one though. Not because I don't have anyone to write about...but because there are so many. So I'm symbolically pulling a name out of a hat here :0)

A woman who has influenced me this week is my friend Jennifer.

Jen and I both sing on the praise team at church and have discovered over the past months that we have many other things in common. Strangely enough we've become closer because of facebook, even though we live in the same city and attend the same house of worship. Our paths cross more often now than they did when we first became friends, and I'm happy to have her in my life.

Jennifer influences and inspires me because she's real. She's hilarious, loving, and a God-seeker. She has a way of talking about her husband and three daughters that lets you know how much she adores them...and when you see them together there is no doubt that the feelings are mutual. She has loyal friendships with wonderful people and would do anything for them. She is part of a close-knit cooking club, Bible study, and small group Jen also obsesses over tv shows (Lost and Flight of the Conchords come to mind) and gets a little stressed when everyone in the house gets sick. She has a sarcastic and witty sense of humor. And there are times when she needs to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine.

Why does she influence me? Because in knowing her I've learned to not be afraid to be real. To show ALL sides of me to those who are in my life. If they love me, they'll love me through all my stuff, not because I wear a mask easily.

Why does she inspire me? Because I'm aware of some of her struggles and I know that she is overcoming. I have faith that I can do the same. Because she is a true worshipper--when I see her at church I know that she is truly standing at the throne. And because she truly treats those around her with respect and dignity.

I'm thankful to know her, and I'm thankful to call her my friend.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bucket List and Other Stuff

I'm at a good spot in my life right now. No, I really am. I think this "season" of financial uncertainty is a great learning experience. Now, it's not necessarily fun. But I've grown and learned so much about myself. And for that I am truly grateful.

As for everything really is good. I'm blessed. I've seen God at work, and I am surrounded by people who love me--and love me well.

I was blog-surfing this morning and found this "bucket list" at the
Sweet Spot. She suggested that we post it as here's mine. Feel free to copy it to yours as well!

Things I've done are bolded.

Things I've Done... How About You??

1. Started your own blog (that one's kind of a given :0)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/World
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris (I am going back here someday, it's in my top 5 cities ever.)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (from Germany to France I believe.)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (we called them "mental health days" in education)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (but it's in the near future...I hope)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (we decided they were too expensive!)
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (after a scary elevator ride TO the top!)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (on the list for this summer!)
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House we didn't get to go in, but I SAW it!
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (ok, this takes some explaining. I was involved in a no-fault accident, the other driver didn't have insurance and sued for med expenses. However, she shouldn't have been ON the ROAD, considering her license had been revoked. She was ticketed at the scene, blah, blah)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

I'm not sure who created that list, or who decided that those were 99 important life experiences. Some of the things on that list (bungee jumping for example) I have absolutely no desire to accomplish. Some are dreams that may never come true. But as I read through the list I realized that even some of my seemingly mundane and everyday happenings ARE significant. Life has that way of being more than you make of it sometimes, you know?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I laughed, I cried, I sang

Praise Team Retreat -- one of my favorite weekends of the year! We always gather at one of my old stomping grounds: the Nazarene campground for the TN district. It's a great facility, with one aspect that always makes me giggle. If you come in the back way, you literally drive through the creek. See? I took a picture on my way out this morning!

Anyway, retreat was amazing as usual. It was smaller as far as participants this year, but we still packed a lot in. I was asked to help lead worship with some great friends on Saturday evening, which was great. We got in some good reading of new music, input on the worship ministry, and even an intimidating session of being critiqued by our peers and worship minister! Then there were the times of silly games like Catch Phrase, which we took to an entirely new level of crazy (I laughed), serious talks about things that matter (I cried), and wonderful times of worship (I sang). It was a great way to
connect with my good friends (and learn some exciting baby news as well as some sad moving-away news) and with my Father who is always ready to connect with me even when I forget.

It's always good to get away. But I'm glad to be blogging from my couch again as I catch up on a few tv shows that were waiting for me when I walked through the door this afternoon. I feel like I've hit the "reset" button for the next few days. Kind of a fresh start all in itself. It's a beautiful thing :0)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday's Ten

In the spirit of trying to become healthier this year, I'm writing a fitness-related ten list today.

Ten Ways to Exercise for Free...or Cheap

1. Walk to more places you would normally drive. A prime example for me is walking to teach piano lessons once a week. That's 2 extra miles walked/jogged a week!

2. Use the greenways and parks. I love Nashville's natural beauty. When I'm hiking Radnor or running on the greenway I often forget I'm actually exercising!

3. Do yoga on the patio, or set up a sanctuary in your home for a relaxing session. Or roll up your mat and take it to a pretty, relatively quiet grassy area. Parks are good for this :0)

4. Did you know there's exercise OnDemand with Comcast? And DirectTV has fitTV. Both are great channels that you ALREADY pay for. Use 'em!

5. Stair climbing on your actual stairs. What a concept.

6. Garden and/or mow the lawn. Mowing is my personal favorite (not with a riding mower, obviously, with a push), but I sadly am not able to right now since I don't have a yard of my own--our homeowners association takes care of the common area. But in a pinch, gardening now only burns calories, but has a beautiful--and tasty--end result

7. Play with kids. I don't have kids of my own, but I do babysit a lot. Take a walk with them (pushing in a stroller if they're infants, strolling at their pace if they're young), play in the backyard, or go to the part and stay off the bench.

8. Ride a bike. Ok, this takes an initial investment if you don't have one, but it's pretty low-maintenance after that. And this opens up a whole new world of getting around town. For example, you can ride it to Target if you live 2-3 miles away like I do...and there are bike paths the whole way :) Now...I don't have a bike currently. But I plan to get one soon (well, it's on the list for when I'm employed) and I have neighbors and friends who have told me I'm welcome to use theirs if I want. I'm gonna start taking them up on it!

9. Do exercises such as crunches and push-ups while the TV is on. Unless it's a show I LOVE, I'm usually not paying *that* much attention to what's on the tv. I could certainly spend some of the time I'm usually sitting with the laptop open and surfing the net by exercising something more than my fingers.

10. A fitness magazine or dvd every couple of months is STILL cheaper than a membership to a gym. Sure, I'd love to join a gym and I probably will (again when I'm employed and stable again). BUT for now, I think I have enough variety to be able to handle exercising for free...and besides, when it's nicer out I prefer to exercise outside anyway!

Blissful Giveaway!

All I had to do was see the picture of this month's givewaway at SITS to decide I want IN on this one!
Sheets, pillows, linen spray, towels, lotion, candles...and a Target gift card? That's SO right up my alley. :0)

You should go enter for this one too! The instructions are in the blog!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Word of the Month: Connect

You know, awhile back I wrote this blog about my word of the year, which is BLESS. I am still striving daily to bless others--by the words I say, by the things I do. I can honestly tell you that I've received even more blessings personally by being more aware of what I can do to bless others.

So I've decided that to really take this seriously and to a new level, I'll focus on a different way of blessing others--and my Lord and Savior--each month. So every month will have it's own word, relating back to BLESS. I chose to do it monthly rather than weekly, because let's face it--life gets busy. I want each focus to be given the amount of time and attention it deserves.

This month the word and focus is connect. Here's how it's going to look:

I will be connecting with my Creator each week at church. I will try to be more focused on my worship, more attentive to the words my pastor and other church leaders give, and more focused on the students in my youth lifegroup that I help to mentor.

I will also connect with my best girlfriends here in town by calling, texting and making a concentrated effort to get together if not every week, every other. It's so easy for us to say "we'll get together soon" because we know we can--but we need each other. That's why we're friends :0)

I will call or send a personal email to my beloved friends who don't live nearby at least once this month, to let them know that I still love them and still value the connection we share.

I will be sure that my boyfriend knows how much I value him and his impact in my life by making sure that we have real conversations--the kind that truly connect us--even during our chats that seem relatively mundane. I will also let him know how appreciated he is in my life. This should be a good month to focus on that--not only is Valentine's Day in a little over a week, but we also celebrate 6 months later on in the month!

I'll make sure to keep connecting with those friends that I hang out with often--the ones I play rock band with, the ones with whom we break bread with, the ones who ask how things are going and genuinely mean it, and the ones who I'm just getting to know and love.

And for those who I call "friend" who don't see or hear from me often even though we live in the same city...I will try to do better at deepening our connection. I'll return the phone calls, send an email to let them know I'm thinking of them, and try to hang out more.

You know, it all sounds SO simple when I write it out. And once the habit is there, I think the actual practice will be pretty simple too--and rewarding beyond measure.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Recipe of the Week -- Iced Coffee Latte

My friend Beth gave me this recipe a few months ago when I went over to her house and fell in love with the homemade frappacino-type thing she gave me to drink :) It's easy and a lot cheaper than going to my favorite place...Starbucks. :0)

Iced Coffee Latte (from Pampered Chef)

1/3 cup instant coffee granules
1/2 cup boiling water
(for this I substitute 1/2 cup of hot coffee)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups cold water
1 qt cold chocolate milk

mix coffee granules and hot water, whisk in milk and cold water
pour into pitcher, add chocolate milk
chill at least one hour before serving

I'm going to try a few variations on this, like adding cinnamon to the coffee and other fabulous spices. Let me know if you add something that works well!