Saturday, July 30, 2011

He works in mysterious ways…

Well, it has been a week of wonderful surprises in our household.

Yep. When we least expected it, we discovered we’re going to have a baby!
To answer some questions:
Yes, we were trying, but in no hurry. We were shocked that it happened when it did.
For those of you who have read my recent blogs… you may be thinking “What about adoption?” Well, yes, adoption will still happen in time. We are still looking into paper work. He laid the burden of adoption on our hearts, and I will continue to listen to Him. Adoption was not a second choice for us, not something to be done if we couldn’t “have our own.” it’s not like we will abandon his call just because we’re going to be parents the traditional way as well. We plan to be obedient to His will, simple enough.
Yes, I feel fine. I have a few symptoms, but otherwise, things are pleasant. At this point, we are a little more than 5 weeks with our due date (as of now) around March 30, 2012. :)

I’m aware that it’s a little taboo to announce pregnancy early, and many women like to wait until they are “safely out of the first trimester” so I’m sure there’s someone out there thinking I’m crazy for being so upfront so soon, however, I’d like to explain our rationale for “letting the cat out of the bag” now.
-For one, my folks couldn’t hold it in. :) Precious! Our families are so excited, so joyful, it’s been passed along relatives so much that it just seemed pointless to keep it hush, hush.  Furthermore, I’m bad at coming up with excuses and even worse at keeping secrets myself. It was more of a bother to keep it hidden.
-Also, and probably most importantly, I have no reason to fear my first trimester. I know that in any pregnancy, there is a real risk that something could go wrong at any time, but, albeit challenging, worrying about it is a sin that I’m not willing to commit. I have an overwhelming peace about this, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God’s divine love will lead us through whatever this pregnancy will bring, and I trust Him in all things. No fear, just Him. So again, nothing to hide.

Another thing that’s been on my mind is the absence of a congratulatory comment from a dear friend who has struggled with infertility. Here are my thoughts on this. Being the only one not getting your wish sucks. It’s hard to watch friends get pregnant when you can’t and feel smiley and congratulatory when you can’t help but feel jealousy and maybe even anger. I understand that because I’ve been there. It’s also hard to sit back and watch friends and family enter the childbearing stage without you when you are not there yet… maybe just married and no desire to begin  a family yet, or maybe not even married yet. When your life stages aren’t in sync, it adds a new challenge to your friendship, and sometime you feel left behind.  Kind of like you’ve been lapped. I get that, because I’ve been there too. If you remember, I ranted about so many of my friends getting pregnant not to long ago, because these feeling were all fresh with me. It’s human. But that bitterness is toxic if you let it consume you. I’ve found so much peace in letting go and seeking His heart rather than asking “why” and begging for miracles. And I feel blessed for that.

So, welcome to this new adventure in my life. I’m so blessed as a wife, daughter, and teacher. I am so thrilled to now add “mother” to that list. God is so, so good. <3

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Summer of the Suitcase… A Spiritual Journey

As I mentioned earlier in the summer, this summer has been one of travel.
A trip to the beach with my family… a trip to the SC coast to see my best friend, including stops in Garden City, Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, Pawley’s Island, and Charleston… A romantic and relaxing week in Puerto Morelos, Mexico (near Cancun) with the hubby… a week on St. Simon’s Island, GA chaperoning a youth beach trip… Plus, we still have one day trip and one more pilgrimage to the ocean before we call Summer 2011 a memory.
I feel as though I don’t even know my own house anymore. Through all our many adventures, you’d think we’d been more distracted from our growth in our relationship with Christ, but actually, this summer has been one of growth not only in terms of our marriage, but spiritually for us both.
Not long ago, God revealed to Jake and me (basically at the same moment, in one of those raise-the-hair-on-your-arms moments) that He has called us to adopt. And He’s put a major burden on our hearts for orphans, especially in Honduras. Does that mean we will adopt from there? I have no clue. Does that me we won’t consider domestic adoption? Not necessarily. All we know is this is on our hearts and consuming our thoughts, and it’s incredibly frightening to know God’s leading you into something big. Some of my fears are about the logistics, the financing. How will our friends and family react? Can I cope with this emotionally? How will I balance this with teaching? What about infertility treatments- should we totally abandon that? No, I don’t feel so.  
So here is what I’ve learned in July of 2011.
- I AM going to be a parent in some way, some day.
- At least one of my children will be adopted. God WILL provide a way for this.
- My heart is forever touched by the orphans of Honduras. I want to make a difference there, somehow.

Our travels this summer have been apart of this divine leadership and spiritual conversation have had with God all summer, providing a whole lot of quiet, relaxing time spent with Him. It’s like He purposely put me in an indefinite vacation/beach mode, since He knows that’s when my heart’s most open to hear- when I’m staring off at the breakers, sitting quietly in the sand. It’s funny how He knows me so.

In addition to these revelations about adoption, parenthood, and ministry, our vacations have afforded us a whole lot of fun. I’ve never spent so much time just laughing, relaxing, and having a blast!

Good times with good friends in Charleston…

Adventures in Mexico…
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As I start (officially, this week) preparing for the upcoming school year, I am starting to feel that August angst I dread… the change, the ending of the summer laziness (not that we’ve had much time for that), and that overall sense of impending chaos that begins with a new year. I’m not as scared or angsty this year, now with a little time and experience under my belt. Of course, I’m nervous, but I’ve always heard that’s a common feeling for even 25 year vets.
I know this school year will be challenging to say the least, and I know that balancing that with our endeavors to begin our family (both through infertility treatment and through adoption) will cause stress. But I feel prepared. You know the Scriptures about putting on the armor of God? I feel like this summer has full of His outfitting me with His armor as I prepare for a battle. I know who my enemy is, and I know that I will fight a good fight. The injustices in this world are tremendous, the pain and violence overwhelming. But I am going to make a difference in the lives of young people this year. In my classroom, and in time, in my home as a parent. I am excited and blessed beyond all measure.

Plans (Written July 4, 2011)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

When I graduated high school, I think I heard this verse daily… on cards, banners, signs, even in our graduation program (one of the perks of living in the south… we still can quote the Bible and pray, for now at least). It’s always fallen into the category of Scripture I have in my head as applicable and meaningful, yet overused so much that it feels cliché. Sad, isn’t that? Right there with John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13, and Philippians 4:13… able to be quoted by your average American CEH (Christmas, Easter, and Homecoming) church goer, yet, with all the people who know it, I dare say many fewer people actually “get” these verses. I know it wasn’t until our church did an in-depth (I mean, like, realllly in-depth. We’re talking year-long) study of the book of John, and only then did I start to gain insight on the real meaning and truth within John 3:16, and only then did the cliché sappiness of the verse start to transform into something more powerful.

Anyways, this weekend, Jeremiah 29:11 began its transformation from cliché, memorized Bible verse into God’s Holy Word, living and breathing and eructing power on my heart.

I could blog about the 4th of July holiday… about our trip to the symphany last night.. the AMAzing fireworks show they put on after the concert, running into friends from church, the scrumptious picnic we packed, but it’s all a blur. Nothing since Sunday morning can stay in focus in my head for more than a minute of so except that one verse… Jeremiah 29:11.
Well, let me back track for a moment.
Since I was 15, and I got my mind made up to live for Christ and met jake, I have heard the Lord telling me He was leading me.
Case in point: I’ve looked back on my old blog posts, just to see what God’s been doing in my life and I saw this-
On 11/11/2007, I wrote…
I know it's gonna be the same with us. God would not have lead us here if we couldn't do it. He says he will not lead down any path without helping you through it!!!
So, with this new week, and this new month , this is my goal. FAITH! To be faithful that God will guide us and help us, and to be the most faithful, helpful, loving wife for Jake and to be everything I can be for him. We'll make it I know it.

For the longest time, I have almost heard God’s whisper telling me that He was making plans for me. I think I’m getting hints about those plans and I’m so excited and scared to go along this path, but I can’t worry because I know He has walked it before me and will be my guide and leader!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Say Y-Y-Y-Y-YES to V-V-V-V-VBS!

As I have mentioned before, I absolutely love-love-love our church.
I also love-love-love VBS, which we just wrapped up, and it was just another reminder of how amazingly blessed we are to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.

Since last August, we have grown so much, spiritually. Being involved (not just warming a seat each Sunday) is so much more fulfilling. Getting involved means intertwining your lives with your church “family” so that that phrase is more than just lip service… We’ve been at First Baptist now for 10 months and in that time, between Wednesday night suppers and prayer meetings, Sunday School, Overflow, softball, 8:30 worship, and now VBS, we have gained so many friends we love and trust, people who will be in our lives for the long haul.
I can’t express how happy it makes me to see our new friendships forming and solidifying. Just last night, we had dinner with a few other families, then the Hubby and all the guys went out to a movie.  After Joy (one of the girls… her hubby went to the movie as well) got her infant daughter to bed, she had some of the girls in the youth group over and invited me to join, which was nice since we will be going with the Youth to the beach later this month. We watched Country Strong since we wanted a chick flick (I was stunned at the end, so I’m still not sure I liked it!). Following the busyness of VBS, it was the perfect chill way to end the week.
I’m still singing the songs, and I’m sorting through the many, many pictures we took this week during VBS now, loving the captured smiles and laughs. I taught a class of rising 6th graders, most of whom were boys, so I had my hands full all week. We did Lifeway’s Big Apple Adventure. The music for this theme was fantastic, and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

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Me with some of the kids in my VBS class! Loved them all!

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Tonight, we went out to dinner and then to see fireworks with our long time friends, Heather and Chase, and had a blast, and then on Thursday, we will be heading down to spend some time at the beach with my best friend, Whitney. Life is, indeed, good.
Between all of our amazing friends at church and the friendships carried over from college, I am so very thankful for the relationships my husband and I have with others, from the newest to the oldest.  God truly has surrounded us with good people who love Him and love us, and for that I’m thankful.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Confessions of a foodie…

I am 100% okay with the fact that I will never be skinny.
Ugh, so… maybe not 100%.

Regardless, I am positive that my passionate love affair with my kitchen and the deliciousness that emerges from it will keep my thighs thick and my bottom wide, and there is not much I can do about it.  Like any true blue Southern gal, I love sugah and buttah and eat it wayyyyy more than I should. If you know me well, you know I love go cook, bake, and eat like a mad woman, especially homemade things, (ironically, we just watched the episode of Doogie Houser—it’s on Hulu and we’ve gotten addicted to it—when Doogie sets Vinnie up with Wanda’s “fat” -she was overweight, but still gorgeous, and by no means as big as they made her out to be!- cousin, so Doogie learns about women’s distorted body image and perception of food…) and if you read my blog with any regularity (hahaha…) then you also might have noticed the lack of many recipes or food posts. Well, time management between “me” things and “job” things is still a work in progress. Anyways, to make up for my immense lack of recipe sharing and food posts, I’m going to attempt to make a list of confessions… confessions of deliciousness I have made recently (and in some cases, not so recently, yet still documented on my butt and on my SD card), so hopefully, I’ll read this again in a few years and make them again, or perhaps someone else will get inspired. Enjoy (y’all)! …tee hee hee, Oh, man, I love me some Paula.
So, in no particular order, here are some recipes I’ve been hoping to pass along.

-Company Chicken
Okay, this is not so much a recipe as it is evidence of a well made product. I had a Pampered Chef shower before we got married and I got one of these:
1. I don’t sell Pampered Chef. No endorsement here.  
2. I’m not one of these “gotta have it” people. I rarely find something I just “can’t live without.”
BUT, you reeeeeeeally need one of these. It makes The. Best. Chicken. Ever. The flavors the stone retains just work wonders!
Basically, you just plop a whole chicken, and spices (and veggies if you like… sometimes, I add onion, other times, I go all out with potatoes and carrots, too) and a 1/2 cup or so of broth to keep it moist then bake. I bake at 375 for about an hour and then reduce the temperature way down to about 180 and cook for at least 3 more hours. What you get looks exactly like this picture I found online of a Pampered Chef cookbook:

It is 100% fool-proof and always a crowd pleaser. It’s soooo moist and flavorful. I call it Company Chicken because it is one of my go-to recipes for having guests over.

-Spinach & Mozzarella and Sausage & Cheddar Popovers
Earlier in the spring, Hubs and I went to Merlefest and stayed at a cute little bed and breakfast. Ms. Brenda, one of the inn keepers, did the cooking and kept us wanting more with all her yummy treats- including popovers she made us one morning. After I ate 3 (okay, maybe, like, 6), I asked for the recipe and she kindly obliged, making me a copy. She actually found it on the back of the packaging for the popover pan itself when she purchased it at Williams Sonoma. She made them plain and served them with (awesome) honey butter, but said they were easily adaptable.
So ,I got to experimenting and tried them in muffin cups to see if they’d work for breakfast for our day in Sunday School class. Worked. Like. A. Charm.

At the suggestion on the recipe copy, which mentioned serving with jam, I topped them with a little sweet blackberry sauce I whipped up to serve over a lemon pound cake earlier in the week. It was good, but I couldn’t help but want them more golden and puffy and savory.
Fast forward to Sunday, and I’ll tell you how they went from yummy to scrumptious. I decided to forgo sweetness and added in cheddar cheese and sausage in one batch, and mozzarella and spinach in the other, keeping Sheldon, our Sunday School class’s resident vegetarian in mind. I also filled the cups up almost to the top rather than three quarters of the way to get more of a pop-over effect, and I cooked them a little longer, getting that golden color on top I wanted. Divine! :)
Here’s how you make them:
1/2 stick of butter, melted
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups of milk
2 tsp salt
2 cups of flour
1-2 cups of cooked sausage or spinach
1 cup of cheese
Mix melted butter, eggs, and milk until smooth. Slowly add in flour and salt and mix until smooth. Add in the spinach & cheese or the sausage and cheese. Ladle into greased popover pan or muffin pan or use cupcake liners. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then 325 for 15, or until the tops are puffy and golden. Serve warm.
Sorry that I don’t have a picture of the improved recipe, but trust me, they are quite beautiful, and a very impressive brunch menu item.

-Chicken Tortas
In my obsession of Hulu, I started watching a lot of cooking shows, indulging since we don’t have even basic cable… I found a bunch of epiodes of Mexican Made Easy, one of those to minute recipe shows on Food Network. I watched the one where she made all kinds of Mexican street food, which totally spoke to me! I had visions of this…
… the streets of Mexico! I took those pictures on our Honeymoon, so I was full of nostalgia and and excitement to try the recipes. The one that caught my eye was the Chicken Torta, which was essentially a Mexican fried chicken sandwich with a twist. First, you make some chipotle mayo, (I don’t eat mayonnaise, but I loved this sauce!) using lite mayo and Herdez Chipotle sauce, chili powder, and a splash of lime juice. Then, get three bowls for breading the chicken, filling one with flour and a little salt & pepper, one with a beaten egg or two, and one with plain bread crumbs. Use a meat pounder to beat your thawed, trimmed boneless chicken breasts into thin cutlets. Dip each in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs until fully coated, then pan fry in some canola oil. Don’t turn to quickly, or the breading will come off. Once firm and cooked all way through, the tortas should have a nice golden color. Slice open your bread (I used French bread, but next time I’ll get something more authentic from our local Hispanic supermarcado). Pile on some dark lettuce, sliced tomatoes and onion, then add the torta and a heavy spoonful of the chipotle mayo. Add some crumbled queso fresco if you’re feeling extra special and top with the other half of your bread. Be prepared to bite into the most delicious chicken sandwich of your life. :)
If you want to see the Food Network version, click here.

-Mexican Casserole
With us getting ready to go to Mexico in a few weeks and my discovery of Mexican Made Easy, I felt like something Mexicany for dinner one night and played off of my MIL’s recipe, Enchilada Casserole for inspiration. I basically just cooked some white rice and mixed a little paprika and salsa to make it more flavorful once it was cooked. In a casserole dish, I layered round tortilla chips, my Mexican rice, rinsed canned black beans (No one likes the goo that they come in canned! Be sure to rinse!) and then corn, drained, of course. Then I added a layer of browned ground beef seasoned with southwestern seasonings like paprika and chili powder and garlic. Then I added a thin layer of salsa and cheese, topped off with another layer of tortilla chips, more cheese, and sprinkle of cilantro. I baked it until it was all melty and golden… maybe 20 minutes. It was great!

-Strawberry Lemonade Bundt Cake
Last week, I wanted to go over to my parents’ house and cook with my Mama. Just because. So, she and I whipped up some meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and such for dinner, and me, being me, HAD to bake something for our dessert. It’s like a compulsory itch. No avoiding it. So I just started throwing things in a mixing bowl. True story. And it was scrumptious. To the best of my recollection, here’s what I did.
-I mixed 2 cups of cake flour with a cup and a half of sugar, and blended in two heaping tablespoons of butter. And then I threw in another spoonful because I like butter. I resisted the urge to add even more. I added a tiny-tiny pinch of salt and three eggs, and then milk. I have no idea how much milk I added, just enough though to turn it from cookie batter consistency to cake batter consistency. Then I added a box of instant vanilla pudding to make it moist, and added more milk to keep the batter at a creamy, pourable consistency. Then, I added a handful of frozen strawberries I ran through the food processor until they were just tiny bits. I didn’t, but if I had had some strawberry extract and red food coloring, I would have added a little of that, too.  I poured my batter into a greased and floured bundt pan and baked until it was firm and golden, maybe about 30 minutes. I topped it with a powdered sugar/lemon juice glaze. Perfect summer cake. It was a hit!

I have more to share, but this post is getting loooooong, so I’ll save them for another day. Can’t wait to post these-
-Asian Pork Loin
-Coconut Candy
-Lemon Curd Birthday Cake
-Cream-cheese Filled Red Velvet Cupcakes
-Heirloom Tomato Pie
-Classic Cupcakes (I know, you ask, why? But, simplicity is sometimes a very beautiful thing…)

It goes without saying, I’ll add more as I find pictures on my camera or dog ears in my cookbooks. Smile