It’s Finally Here: NBC Food Fighters!

In less than 12 hours, millions of people will be watching as I battle against five of the best chefs in the world on NBC’s brand new culinary competition, “Food Fighters”.

I’ve been sitting at this computer for over an hour trying to figure out what to say about it… and, to be honest: I’m speechless. Even though it’s happening, I can’t kick the feeling that this is too good to be true. Me? Really? Am I really going to be on NBC? Really?

I’m humbled.

I’m excited.

I’m nervous.

I’m honored.

I’m grateful.

And, more than anything, I give all glory to my Heavenly Father for bringing me to this place and to this opportunity, for I am nothing without His grace and mercy over my life.

Wow. Wow. WOW.

I guess the only thing left to say as we push forward to 8pm tonight is… LET THE FOOD FIGHT BEGIN!!

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Photo Credit: Food Fighters, NBC Universal

TUNE IN!

Watch Food Fighters TONIGHT (Tuesday, July 22nd) @8pm ET/PT on NBC

Going Back Home

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…We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame… Romans 5:3,4

 

We just returned from our annual summer kick-off road trip from Portland to Acton, California. We spent two days driving down, spent seven full days with our family, and then took two more days to drive home. For the last three years we’ve skipped town the week after the kids get out of school because you can never, ever count on Portland weather til after July 4th… and, so, we’ve learned: no reason to sit around wasting the first couple weeks of summer in June gloom!

While we typically journey the I5 for ease, this time we took the ‘scenic’ route and headed down the 101. We made a journey through the Redwoods – a journey my man and I last made when we were 21 and just out of college. Back then, it was just us – holding hands, hiking through the massive trees, making stops along the way to picnic and savor ‘dating’ in the ancients. This time, however, we saw it through our babies eyes… eyes that said ‘wow’, and then about 15 minutes into it said, “now how much longer to grandma’s house?”

We spent the night not too far from the Redwoods and the next morning continued down the 101 to the 5 – a route that took us smack dab through my childhood hometown of San Leandro, California. San Leandro was home for me from when I was about 3 ’til I was 8. It’s where my dad had his gyms; it’s where I tap danced; it’s where I had a best friend Beth; it’s where a neighborhood boy took me home on his bicycle handlebars and hit a bump so hard I went flying and scraped off the entire side of my face; it’s where I picked raw sunflower seeds out of the huge sunflowers that hung over the fence two doors down. And, since I hadn’t seen the house since we left over 33 years ago, I knew I couldn’t drive through without going back home.

I had no clue what our old address was, so I called my dad. “It’s on Corvallis St,” he said. “I don’t remember the number, but for some reason 356 sticks out in my mind. I think it must be 356.” I mapped it – we were less than 5 miles away.

As we routed to Corvallis street, I didn’t recognize a thing. I drove slowly with hopes something would jog a memory, but even as we drove down Corvallis, nothing seemed familiar. I remember a tree-lined street, yet the street was very sparse on trees. I remember a quaint little road, but Corvallis had a double yellow line down the middle and was obviously a main thoroughfare. I remember kids playing in fronts of houses and swings on trees and kids on bikes, but I didn’t see one child – just aging folks on slow missions. I started to think maybe my dad had it wrong… but then I saw it. I slowed – and then I stopped right across the street to take it in and make sure. The skin on my arms stood up and announced loud and clear I was officially on the sacred ground of my childhood.

It was so much smaller than I remember… much, much smaller. I didn’t remember it sat on a corner, either. The fence was gone – the big fence that held us kids and all our problems hidden from the world. The big tree was gone – the tree that sat just beside our front door where I’d swing for hours as my nana would cook our meals on her outside wood burning stove. It was not everything I remembered, but yet my heart knew the instant I saw it that I was home.

My eyes welled with tears and I fought the urge to weep. “That’s it. That’s my house,” I said through my tears. “That’s it…” I just sat there, window down, hoping the little man of the house painting the front concrete wall wouldn’t turn and notice me. I didn’t want to be noticed.

Being there instantly overwhelmed me. I felt a rush of anguish from the pets my young heart loved and lost there: two dogs we put down because of a rare skin disorder, a kitten that died in my lap on our front porch, a rabbit that my dogs got to and played to death, and numerous hamsters to who knows what. I could see my Holly Hobby bedspread on my hand-me-down antique brass bed; my plastic yellow record player that sang to me when yelling filled our halls; nights in front of the TV watching Hardy Boys (and my heartthrob Shawn Cassidy); and, I could see my nana – my rock. (Oh, how I miss that old lady.) I felt the pain of being told on my 6th birthday, “If you’re always this bossy you’ll never have friends“; my mind’s eye saw my parent’s fights and struggles in those early years, and the ackwardness and angst I felt in that home.

Seeing my home created an emotional whirlpool and I simply couldn’t hold back the tears.  “Are you okay, mommy?” my little guy asked as he reached his little hand over my seat and touched my neck.

“Yes, honey, I’m okay.”

As I sat there staring at the new life that corner was obviously living, my tears fell, not because of hard memories (although there were many), but because of the realization of the new life I live today. I cried not because I hurt from remembering – I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else, the little girl who lived there made it out. I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else, my babies have a better life than I did. I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else…

He has given BEAUTY for the ashes of my childhood

He has given STRENGTH for the fear of my childhood

He has given JOY for the mourning I once felt

He has filled my life with PRAISE instead of the despair I was destined for.

While I don’t revel in the trials of my 41 years, remembering where I’ve come from (and what I should have and could have been had my Father not saved me) humbles me and fills me with gratitude and thankfulness. That’s why I cried… because by remembering where I’ve come from, I am overwhelmed by the kindness, grace, mercy and love of my great big God.

Life will never be easy or perfect – even though Facebook wants us to think it is and should be. No, there are struggles, and misunderstandings; we hurt people, and people hurt us – often unintentionally; and, every single one of us comes from a past with disappointments, failures, and things we wish we could just wipe away.  No matter where we’ve been, however, every day is a new day… a new day to love, to forgive, to let go, to appreciate.

Every day is a new day to choose joy and find HOPE in this Great Story we are part of… every new day is a new day to be thankful.

Five Ways To Lay Down The Truck Driver

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Last week I hurt my neck/shoulder/back in a 6am exercise class. It pinched real quick as I did some sort of atomic push up, but I ignored it and worked through the pain. It hurt through my bear crawls, then it hurt even more through my frog jumps, and then, by the time I started sprinting, every time my left foot hit the ground it was as if I was being whipped in the center of my back. (Let’s stop and chuckle here together, okay? Laugh with me over the fact I did things called ‘atomic push ups’, ‘bear crawls’ and ‘frog jumps’… and know this: the class I’m talking about is brand new for me and the hardest thing I’ve ever forced my 40-year old body to do. Seriously.)

Because I was surrounded by amazing people who were easily rockin’ this class and doing way more ‘atomic’ stuff than I’ve ever dreamed, the last thing I wanted to do was show weakness, you know? I mean, sheesh, I’m the Quinoa Queen! I’ve birthed three babies, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a go-getter, I’ve carried a 10 year old on my back for a mile uphill after she sprained her ankle – I CAN DO ANYTHING. But none of that stuff mattered in those moments on the the turf and, it my neck stiffened and my back tightened up, the reality hit me: I’m not as physically strong as I think.

(Isn’t that how it goes, though? We think we have it all together until something ‘pinches’ us wrong and we fall to pieces in milliseconds?)

I joked with my man after it happened and said, “Babe, I’m like a truck driver: solid, strong, independent, able to function on little sleep, and live life hauling around for everyone else.” (Can I get an amen?)

But you know what? Sometimes I don’t want to be strong, independent, and hard. Yes, I can do it – WE can do it, can’t we? And, yes, our lives as mamas often require we plug away with a firm grip, a strong back, and stiff upper lip. But I am a woman, not just a mom… and, I – WE – have to do a better job at taking care of the woman inside this mama skin.

I’ve been in a season of go-go-go, which according to the chiropractor, is why the injury decided to manifest itself. (He said by the time we feel pain the body has been pushed beyond 70% of it’s capability.) So, if any good came from getting injured last week, it’s this: it’s made me think about the FIVE WAYS I LAY DOWN THE TRUCK DRIVER:

1) Get up before crazy begins. There is something sacred about getting up not just a few minutes before, but at least an hour before everyone else. The house is quiet. I feed the cats, I put the coffee on. No one is talking, I’m not talking; my mind can wake up and process thoughts and gear up for the day’s job. And, most importantly, I pray. I don’t always sit to pray, and I don’t always even close my eyes. Sometimes I’ll just stand at my counter with my warm cup of coffee in my hands and meditate on something from the Word, or from my devotional. The key is simply that I am quiet, alert and dependent on my Great Big Father. Prayer in those early moments reminds me I’m not alone and of His beautiful, loving heart that says, “Elisha – you are My beloved. I am with you. I’ve planned today from before time began and I will not let you fall.” A scripture that seems to be on repeat in my head these days is this: “Get up, and [get your heart ready], for the Lord is about to do wonders in front of you.” In other words, if we don’t have our hearts in the right place, how can we see God working in our days? We can’t. DO IT.

2) Take a Mid-Day Coffee Break. On days where managing the house is all I’ve done, by the time the kids get home I’m wiped! So, it’s really important to ‘regroup’ before they arrive from school. I ‘clock-out’ from mama duties about an hour before and I’ll make a cup of tea, check email, go for a walk, hit the library – anything that lets me be me for just a bit before I go back into mommy mode. (It’s kinda like putting lipgloss on before my man walks through the door… it gives me a little pep in my step.) DO IT.

3) Write. Putting pen to paper in this crazy technology-driven world is cathartic. I keep a little notebook in my purse and, in stolen moments, I write my heart, my dreams… but, most importantly, I write things I’m thankful for. Slowing down to journal a few things I’m thankful for lifts the spirit and sweetens the heart. (It goes back to the idea of ‘preparing our hearts to see God’. When I can see His blessings clear enough to write them, I’m reminded of His goodness.) Sometimes it’s creative writing, sometimes it’s simply a good memory that popped to mind. It’s simply stepping outside of myself and allowing creativity to flow… and creativity is a good thing. DO IT.

4) Lay flat on your back and breathe. Seriously, when everything is in full swing around here, sometimes I steal away for just a handful of minutes, shut my bedroom door, and lay flat on my back to breathe. I roll up a towel and place it under my shoulder blades; I stretch my arms above my head while my legs are flat out in the other direction, and RELAX. I focus on my lower back being flush against the floor; I feel the stretch in my chest muscles and the relief on my posture. I do what always make me sane: PRAY. (Seriously.) DO IT.

5) Wash off the Day. I didn’t grow up with hot water in my house, literally. So, ‘hot bath’ is only something I’ve come to love as an adult – and especially since I’ve had kids. I consider a hot bath like a reverse of my morning ritual: I shut the door, no one is talking, I’m not talking, and I relax in the heat. I’ll read a magazine or a book or even play some of my favorite music (the kind no one else wants to hear during the day because it’s ‘boring’). I think, I dream, and yes, I even pray and unload all my baggage from the day. It is very therapeutic and grounding for my heart… not to mention it makes for a great night’s sleep. (Sometimes it’s just a hot shower, but it still ‘washes the day away’.) DO IT.

Not every day includes every thing… and some days I lay the truck driver down with a quick workout, a lunch date with a friend, a stop for some new mascara, or even a stint in the sauna at the gym. (If your gym has a steam or sauna, USE IT. There is nothing like a good sweat to get you back on track.)

What I hope you’re encouraged with, though, is how simple it is to reclaim a little of ourselves in the midst of our service… and, it’s vitally important to our mama work to remember we must take care of the woman God created us to be.

(Ok, I’m off… got some hauling to do before I call it quits.)

Tell me: I’d love to hear your secrets for laying down the truck driver… got any additional tips?

BTW: Thank you, thank you to everyone who entered my World Market giveaway last week! It was so fun connecting with new friends and hearing what your favorite ‘goodie’ was. Brittany over at www.modernisticmama.com was the winner… and you should check her out: she’s a cutie patootie with her second baby on the way! Congrats, Brittany!!

Think On These Things

A good memory from a warm summer day years ago… I wonder what caught our attention?

Last night the kids and I ended up at my computer watching videos from when they were little.

Yes, it was bedtime; and, no, I didn’t plan to make it a hang out time with the kids… I was simply on a mission to find a photo one of the kids has asked me for.

But all of a sudden, there we were: my boy on my lap, my girls leaning on each of my shoulders. We were scrunched into a 2×2 foot space, bodies touching, breaths warm… and we were laughing.

Laughing! Free!

Closeness and kindness and joy was filling us up and overflowing and we were swimming in good memories and sweet thoughts.

The kids were saying things to each other like “you were so cute when you were little!” and “oh my gosh, you still make that face!”; and, they find lots of opportunities to mock my ‘mom voice’ (you know, the voice that comes out when we moms take videos of cute things are kids are doing).

We laughed until we were literally crying.

Honestly, though, it was an experience I don’t get much of these days. Yes, we love each other. Yes, we’re close and bonded and thankful to be a family. But here’s the reality: family life can be tough.

There’s bickering and fighting. There’s complaining for space, lots of ‘leave me alones’, and a struggle for independence that comes harder and faster each day the kids get older. There are things to do, places to go, responsibilities to be responsible with. There are stresses, and tears over homework, and yelling, and door slamming. And, while we don’t mean it to, all the day to day messiness often blurs our minds to the truth.

What truth?

The truth that we are human and broken… and all in need of grace….

The truth that we love each other madly and deeply…

The truth that we are who we are because we are together…

The truth that we couldn’t get through life without one another…

The truth that we are each God’s greatest gift to each other…and

The truth that sometimes renewing our joy in the journey begins with stopping to remember where we’ve come from.

Going through the photos and the videos of the ‘good days’ reminded us of where we’ve been: we’ve shared pillows for naps, had dance parties in PJs, made up songs about hot sauce, and taken baths with so many bubbles we thought we’d lose each other. We’ve kissed at monuments, had soggy diapers, cried when we dropped cookies, and helped each other up when we’ve fallen. We’ve made forts out of flowered sheets, set out buffets for stuffed animal families, and squished into beds together because being alone in our own was way more uncomfortable.

We’ve cried… but we’ve also laughed our way through our lives together.

One of my favorite verses in the bible says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is TRUE, and HONORABLE, and RIGHT, and PURE, and LOVELY, and ADMIRABLE. Think about things that are EXCELLENT and WORTHY OF PRAISE. (Philippians 4:8).

Let’s do that today. Let’s rebel from the thoughts that tempt us to bitterness and let’s fill our minds with GOOD things. Let’s go through old photos and videos, put new pictures in our frames… let’s surround ourselves with the TRUTH about our lives: we are blessed.

We are blessed. We are needed. We are right where we are supposed to be.

Where We Go From Here

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

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It’s funny how the stuff of last year keeps stomping right on into the new year, isn’t it?

The laundry that was there before January 1st… yep, it’s still there in the new year waiting to be folded.

The junked up email box that was there before January 1st… yep, it’s still junked up in the new year just waiting to be sorted through.

The rotting greens we forgot we bought for that salad last week… yep, still in the crisper waiting for us to notice them and put them out of their misery.

The insecurities, struggles, things that give us anxiety before January 1st… yep, all still there, staring us right in the face on January 1st.

Even though we like to think there is, there’s nothing truly miraculous about the first day of a new year. Who we were in 2013 is who are the day the calendar turned over to 2014. We go to sleep on December 31st a wife, a mom of three, and a woman stretched in twenty directions… well, that’s who we wake up as on January 1st.

What I think is so beautiful about a new year, however, is this: it wakes up our dreams to be ‘better’.

The start of a new year is a perfect marker for gauging where we’ve been… and where we’ll go. This is why resolutions happen on January 1st: we look at how we lived the year before and set the course for ‘better’ of some kind.

Even though we are who we are in the place where we are… there is a yearning in each of us to take flight and shine brighter than we ever have before. We don’t like being stuck – or feeling stuck. No matter how ‘together’ we hold ourselves out as, the truth is this: we all have something we can be freed from; we all have chains on our spirits we know need loosing, and burdens on our backs we’d love to set down and walk away from; we are all fighting a battle.

As John Watson wrote in his 1903 book “Courtesy”:

“The [wo]man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavoring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we [should be] moved to deal kindly with [her], to bid [her] be of good cheer, to let [her] understand that we are also fighting a battle…”

Let’s not forget that, okay? Let’s BE KIND to each other and ourselves as we find our goals may be harder to accomplish than we expected. Let us speak words that are helpful (to ourselves and each other!) that build up and benefit the hearer, not tear them down. Let’s do things without arguing or complaining because, as the Word says, that’s how we really shine in this dark world. And, let’s not lose our heart – or our joy in the journey – to keep trying just because we feel our state in life isn’t ‘fair’ or that ‘if only things were different’ it’d be easier to be better. Because, the truth is this:

Watercolor by my girl, Selah

Watercolor by my girl, Selah

 

2014 is poised to be as good a year as we CHOOSE it to be. So, let’s choose to endure, to be strong, and to do the work. And, if there is something in our way of ‘better’, let’s not talk about it… let’s just GET TO WORK ON THE TREES.

In addition to the 2013 post I just linked to, here are two more of the most popular from 2013 I hope encourage you in your ‘work’ today:

Motherhood, It’s a Tough Gig Sometimes

Finding Courage to Release the Stuff

Thanks for being here… and, sister, don’t forget: YOU ARE LOVED, YOU ARE AMAZING, AND YOU ARE SPECTACULAR right where you stand.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

A New Year’s Eve Prayer


Father, I am humbled by Your mercy and grace that has brought me to this place. You have been ever so kind as you have walked me down the path of 2013. Through it all – through every joy, and through every heartache (and Father, there have been many of both), YOU HAVE BEEN FAITHFUL.

You have been my strength when I had none.

You were my feet when I could not walk.

You were my courage when I was fearful.

You were my eyes when I could not see.

You were my friend when I felt lonely.

You were my shield when I felt under attack.

You have been my comfort… and my constant.

Please forgive me for when I have fallen short. Forgive me for my pride, impatience, complaining, and lack of faith… and thank you for loving me through it all. THANK YOU.

While I know that your mercy is new every morning (and not just on the first day of a new year), tonight the year ahead is especially on my mind. You have laid dreams on my heart… desires and hopes and plans, and Father, I really don’t know how it’s all going to come together.

BUT YOU DO.

I understand that as the heavens are higher than the earth, Your ways are better than my ways, and Your thoughts are better than my thoughts. So Father, give me courage as you reveal Your plans to me… and as you refine me for your everlasting purpose.

You know how I need to grow…. grow me, Father.

You know how I need to change… change me, Father.

You know how I need to mature… mature me, Father.

I cling to you with all I have tonight because YOU WHO PROMISED ARE FAITHFUL.

Thank you that you’ve gone before me, that you stand beside me, and that you will be my rear guard when times are tough.

You find a willing servant that is HOPEFUL, BRAVE, and with eyes that are firmly fixed on you.

I love you, Father… with all my heart. And, on this New Year’s Eve, I say thank you for all that has been… and all that will come.

In the precious name of your Son Jesus, Amen.

The Only Principle of Gift-Giving You’ll Ever Need to Know

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Giving gifts makes me happy. I don’t think they have to be expensive, or fancy, or huge either… a good gift really just has to be thoughtful.

When I go gift shopping, for example, I’m not just on a mission buy – I’m on a mission to tailor my purchase to the heart of the recipient. So, here’s my tip:

The one principle of gift giving you’ll ever need to know is this:

GIVE IN A WAY YOU WANT TO BE GIVEN TO.

We love to be ‘known’, don’t we? We love when someone remembers our name; we love when someone notices the little things about us like a new hairstyle, our manicure, the fact we’ve lost some weight or bought a new sweater. We love to be told we’re beautiful, and smart, and inspiring… we love to be loved.

There’s something about being valued that warms us up from deep within and encourages us to open up.

So, when it comes to gift giving, give gifts that show you value the person you’re giving to. This doesn’t mean that if they’re not your best friend you’re shooting in the dark, either. To the contrary, even if you don’t know someone on a very personal level, pay attention to the subtle clues their life shares on a daily basis:

  • What does the person talk about when you’re with them? What hobbies do they have? Where do they like to eat? Do they have something they’re learning to do? Do they have a place they dream of visiting?  Do they like to watch particular shows?
  • What have you noticed about how the person walks through the world? Is there a color you notice they wear more often than others? Do you see them with a particular coffee cup in hand? Do they like to wear unique jewelry? What is their style? Do they always carry a book with them? Are their nails always done?  Do they seem to always be in ‘designer’ goods?
  • What is their life status? Do they work? Do they stay home with kids? Do they exercise regularly?

Picking the perfect gift starts out with paying attention to the details of life.

Because the truth is this:

  • A handcream is just a handcream… unless you give a handcream to a woman that happens to cherish her hands.
  • A sweater is just a sweater…. unless you buy it in the persons favorite color from their favorite store.
  • Cooking ingredients and spices are just food ingredients and spices… unless you know the person receiving them happens to be a phenomenal cook and will love exotic ingredients to add to her repertoire.

Take time to give a gift that truly reflects the person you’re giving it. 

Give in a way YOU would want to be given to… and I promise you will light someone’s heart on fire.

With all that said, here’s my AM Northwest segment from today where I spotlighted some great gift-ideas from World Market:

http://bit.ly/J2N4Fa

p.s. If you’re looking for the specific items I mentioned, I’ve created Pintrest boards for each ‘theme’ I talked about: chocolate lovers, the ‘foodie’ ingredients’, Downton Abbey tea inspiration, and ‘flavors of asia’. Also, while I was asked by World Market to do this segment, the choices and opinions are my own.

So, gift to the heart… and happy gifting!

Choosing To Be Cold?

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Every morning I stand in my kitchen waiting for the ‘big reveal’ of what each child will wear that day. They usually enter the room and find me at the stove with my fleece zipped up to my neck, shearling slippers on my feet, and warm coffee cupped between my two hands… doing all I can to be cozy and protected from the smallet draft of chill.

Without fail, however, every morning the ‘big reaveal’ causes the exact same words to fall out of my mouth with each child: “It’s really cold today… it’s only [add daily air temperature here]. You going to wear a jacket over that?”

What gets me more mama crazy that I care to admit is that, even when I’m witnessing a short sleeve tshirt, pegged pants that leave ankles exposed for wind-nipping, or light sweaters meant for summertime BBQs, the answer from my children is always the same, “No, I”ll be fine.”

“You won’t be cold?”

“No, mom, I’ll be fine.”

“But honey, it’s only [insert daily air temp here – with extra dramatic tone].”

“No, mom, I said I’m fine.”

“Okay, I just wish you’d be warmer out there.”

“Yeah, mom, I know.”

Oh, how time flies.

Gone are the days when my babies lovingly looked into my eyes as I wrapped them in their winter jackets, zipped them up, and said, “Oh, you’re so lucky you’re going to be so cozy outside today!”

Gone are the days when I could slip little mittens over their hands and big cozy boots on their feet to make sure not an inch of skin was exposed to the elements.

Gone are the days when I could make them do what I knew to be best… and in have come the days where they have opinions, and ideas, and ‘better’ ways of walking through the world.

But you know what?  It’s their choice.

In spite of how I dressed them as little ones, in spite of how many jackets and scarves and gloves I buy for them, in spite of the example of how I dress for the cold, in spite of my encouragement to dress warmer… they choose to be clothe themselves for the elements as they see fit. I can’t force them to be warm, or protected, or comfortable – they have to choose it.

I’ve learned it is the same with us – us humans. Our Creator is so kind and patient and good. He gives us perfect directions for how we should clothe ouselves as we walk through the world:

He says:

…CLOTHE yourself with strength and your garments of splendor.  Isaiah 52:1

…CLOTHE yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

…CLOTHE yourself with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14

…CLOTHE yourself with the armor of Light. Romans 13:12

…CLOTHE yourself with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:4

…[CLOTHE] yourself with the armor of God so you can stand firm. Ephesians 6:11

He gives me all these amazing things to clothe myself in, yet do I choose them? Or, do I choose to be cold in the thread-bare rags of anger, bitterness, impatience, unbelief, and pride?

If I’m cold, it’s my choice… it’s your choice.

PRAYER: Father, it’s cold outside… and with the businesses and chaos and demands of life, it can get cold in our spirit, too. Thank you for Your patience and for not turning Your back on us in spite of our stubbornness. I pray You be our strength and our warmth today as we face the bitter cold – and face the decisions and circumstances You have brought our way. I pray we choose to clothe ourselves as You instruct; and, through our willingness, I pray we become bright, warm lights of Your glory to our children, our husbands, our friends, our families, and all those You graciously bring into our lives this season. Thank you for watching over us. You are good and perfect in every way. In Jesus Name, Amen.

My Favorite Books to Feed Your Inner Chef

“…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”  -Julia Child

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Years ago when my man and I were newly married, he asked what I wanted for Christmas.

“I really want to learn to bake a pie.”

He looked at me quite confused because, at that time in our life, I had only four dishes under my belt: spaghetti sandwiches, burritos, a baked chicken, and pasta sauce. I was barely a cook, let alone a ‘baker’; me + kitchen was not a natural fit.

“Pies?” he asked? “Seriously?”

“Yes,” I said with enthusiasm and a big smile. “That’s what I want for Christmas… I want to learn how to do it.”

Weeks later as we opened gifts on Christmas morning, I had honestly forgot all about the pie request. But, lo and behold, he hadn’t! My passing comment of wanting to learn to bake pies planted in his heart; and, as I unpacked his  present to me I was dumbfounded! Inside the perfectly wrapped box was every tool necessary to make me the very best pie baker I could be: rolling-pin, pie board, pie weights, pie guard, cooling rack, tart pans, pie plates, and the most amazing pie book in the world, and other little goodies.

I was overwhelmed with excitement – not just because they were the most beautiful kitchen tools I had ever seen, but because he remembered!

“If you’re going to do it right, you must have the right tools,” he said as I unwrapped each piece, “and now you have no excuse not to make the best pies in the world.” (Turns out he had researched and visited several cooking stores to make sure he had all the right stuff. He’s a good man, isn’t he?)

I tell you this story because it was that gift that launched my love of the kitchen. While my man thought he was just giving me tools for pie baking, what he really gave me that year was confidence in my kitchen.

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As the years have passed, I’ve learned it’s less about following recipes and more about cooking from the heart. It’s about passion, and creativity, and a desire to really honor and serve those we love with our food. So, with that in mind, here are some of my favorite books to feed your inner chef – books you might want to put on your Christmas list, or give to someone you know is a foodie at heart:

Cooks Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking

in-defense-of-food-michael-pollan

Table Life by Joanne Thompson

Bon Appetite

… and a few more that are on my Christmas list this year:

How about you: do you have any favorite food books you recommend? Please tell!

Be A Light

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14

This morning I sat at my computer to check email and realized my daughter had left her gmail account open. As I went to close out of it, I noticed an email from my man right at the top with a subject line that said, “Honey, I thought you’d like this…” A video box filled the space – so I clicked.

Now I’m sitting here… teary eyed… thinking about it’s truth. The truth that, now matter how many people we might know, or how many ‘friends’ we might have on facebook, or how many ‘followers’ we may have on any given platform, or how many people we may see in a day…nothing replaces a connection of two hearts.

So, today, I just thought I’d encourage you to reach out to someone. Take just 15 minutes and make a real connection with someone.

Don’t send a text – make a phone call.

Don’t send an email – write a letter.

Bake some cookies for a neighbor.

Invite a friend you’ve been missing out for coffee.

Write notes to your children and leave them on their pillows – and tell them how you’re so blessed to be their mom.

Make eye contact – real eye contact! – with the person at the grocery store, or that pumps your gas, or that is cleaning the bathroom at the restaurant you visit… and tell them ‘thank you’.

Because we could all use a friend… some understanding… a little kindness… a hand of love.

Be love today, sister. Open your heart – move beyond the weather talk and be a friend. You are needed. You are special. You are uniquely placed right where you are.

Be brave. Step out. Your world needs your light.