Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Help Those Who Have Lost

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“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” -Anne Lamott

When I first lost my dad, people asked me all the time how they could help me. When a little time had passed and people knew I was comfortable talking about it, they'd ask me how they could help others in their lives who were grieving. I actually did some research by asking many people I knew had lost people recently and not so recently. I don't have heaps of wisdom or advice, but I'm going to share what I do know. I meant to write this a long time ago. A long, long time ago when my grief was still really fresh. Little did I know it would get "fresh" again the closer the year mark and holidays get and be a perfectly timed reminder and therapeutic thing for me to write.

The biggest thing to know and remember about grief is that every person grieves differently. Therefore, the number one thing you have to do is ASK. Yes, grieving people are fragile, but we're not as fragile as you think we are. Asking us how you can help us is not going to make us break into a million pieces. We might cry when you ask, but you can handle it! Just hug us, or pat us comfortingly on the back, or just sit there. We'll stop crying eventually and be able to tell you. And, we might not even cry in that moment! Asking a grieving person how you can help them, actually meaning it, and waiting for an answer, is the best first thing you can do.

Some people want to be alone. Some people want people there. Some people might want you there while they cry. Some people might want you there to do something that feels normal and gets their mind off things. Some people might need you to bring them a meal. Some people might need you to watch Netflix with them. Some people might need you to make them get up and fix their hair. It changes. It's not a cut and dry cycle. In the first weeks, lots of people will be around. Lots of people will care. Lots of people will help. But as the time passes, the helping and caring people fade.

And grief, though it may change and go in and out of tougher cycles, it doesn't fade as quickly as the helping and caring people do. If you have a friend that you genuinely care deeply about and want to walk with them through this hard time, I think the biggest thing you can do is to remember that it's not over for them. All these suggestions are for expected grief moments. There are two different kinds of grief moments. The expected and the unexpected. Since the unexpected are, well, unexpected, it's hard to plan for them! But I have a theory that if we plan for and have people who intentionally care about our expected moments, it will be easier to reach out to them when the unexpected, sometimes even harder, moments hit.

Get out your calendar and remember the important and more difficult days with and for them. Grief comes in moments and memories, but for a lot of people it also comes with dates. They might reach out to you when overwhelming moments come from unexpected moments and memories, but every person I asked, male, female, old, young, new loss, old loss, said they would never get angry or be annoyed if someone remembered their hard days. And, if you intentionally remember these expected grief times with them, they are more likely to reach out to you when the unexpected grief hits.

My dad died on November 18th. November to January was awful. For the first 6 - 8 months the 18th of every month was hard. I learned to expect it and know it would be hard. The 11th month was the first month that the 18th didn't get to me. I've been told that after the first year, the monthly anniversaries aren't hard, but the big expected ones continue to be difficult days. Do unexpected grief moments still come? Yes! And there simply isn't anything any of us can do about those. But remembering the expected ones means a lot to someone who has lost.

Dates to remember: 
  • in the first year, the monthly date anniversary
  • the yearly anniversary
  • father's days/mother's day (if a parent)
  • the lost loved one's birthday
  • when it's a lost spouse, the wedding anniversary
  • holidays 

What can you do on those days? Nothing fancy is required! One of my best friends asked me early on how she could help and be there for me from afar (she lives in Georgia, I live in Mississippi). She added the 18th as a monthly reminder. On the 18th of every month faithfully this year she has text me and simply told me she knows what the day is, is praying for me, and asked me how I was. It meant the world to me! It wasn't fancy, but it was perfect. Simply letting them know, "hey, I know what today is, I know it might and probably will be a rough day, and I'm thinking about you," means so much.

On Father's day my friend helped my other friend who lost her dad this year also and I host an intimate dinner party where we cooked our dad's favorite things and invited "safe" people to remember them with us. Another person I asked questions to about her grief, said on her dad's birthday she often asked friends to go out to eat to celebrate his memory.

For holidays, make sure they have places to go. Help them come up with a proactive plan to make it through the holiday season, especially in the first couple of years. Grief is magnified during the holidays because it was often the time you saw your loved one most.

Also help them proactively plan for the year anniversary and other years if it's still hard. That's not just from me either! It's from multiple counselors. Being proactive is the wisest thing a grieving person can do. If they can't be proactive on their own, help them come up with a plan. On the weeks and days leading up to the big hard days (especially the first year anniversary, feeling the effects of how hard that one is now), check on them. Pray for them and let them know you are praying for them. Be patient with them! They probably already feel like they are being a burden and that everyone else thinks they should be more okay than they feel. Let them know it's okay! Make them feel like how they feel is normal. Don't expect them to come to you. They might! But they also might not have the emotional strength. Go to them. Initiate.

And lastly, I can't stress patience enough! I like words and quotes, so naturally I've googled "grief quotes" a lot. One quote that I didn't quite agree with says the grief doesn't change you, it reveals you... How I hope that isn't true, haha. I've been a mess at many different moments throughout this year. I was mean to people. I forgot how to filter my thoughts and feelings and just spilled them all out to everyone, pushing many people away. I was destructive at different times. I'm not how I was before I lost, but I've figured out how to be balanced again. Be patient. If they are mean to you, they probably don't mean to be. If they are making bad choices coping with their grief, help them find their way back to truth and non-destructive ways in love, not condemnation. Don't give up on them. Be patient.

To summarize my rambly advice on how to love grieving people well: 

Ask. Remember. Pray. Plan. Patience. Normalize. Initiate. 

And in case you need inspirational motivation or a reminder of why you should care and/or do this for the people in your life, scripture is full of them. God had a heart for orphans, widows, the fatherless  and the mourning, we should too. 

Romans 12: 15-16a
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another."

James 1: 27

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Deuteronomy 10:18

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow."

Psalm 68: 4-6a
"Rejoice before him—his name is the LordA father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing;"

Psalm 149: 9
"The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow."

Isaiah 1:17

"Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow."

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance."

And in an effort to be transparent and vulnerable, I do ask for your prayers. Today is November 14th, November 18th is in four days. I feel it. Every day closer is heavier. I am struggling with default defense mechanisms to be destructive and numb pain. Before noon today I had already had two of those unexpected grief moments and had to just let the tears fall like they needed to and then was fine. Not that death is ever or can ever be timed well, but my loss happens to bleed in to the holidays and most of my big hard days are all grouped together. Maybe it's a blessing to have them so concentrated and not so spread out. Nonetheless, still pray for my brother, my step mom, me, and all the people in your life who have lost.

My upcoming expected grief dates:
  • yearly anniversary - November 18th
  • Thanksgiving - November 28th
  • Christmas - December 25th
  • dad's birthday - December 26th 

If you have lost, please share your dates with me! I'd love to be able to pray for you and encourage you on your expected hard days. 

How the Church Loves

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I started to post this really long "status" on Facebook and then thought I might annoy some of my Facebook "friends" by being so wordy. I had the following conversation with myself inside my head (yes, I'm that crazy, love me anyway).

"Why don't you post this on the blog you've been shamefully avoiding since you 'quit' that challenge? "

"I can't. I failed at something I said I'd try to do, I just can't."

"It's okay you know. They don't hate you. They might even miss you."

"It is YOUR blog, a BLOG, a place meant for words and sharing."

"You know you want to."

"Okay fine!"

So, let's get this part I've shamefully avoided out of the way. I didn't finish the challenge! I was a dummy to think October was a good time to commit to something like that. I had Homecoming, events, Halloween, catering orders. Silly me. I'm sorry! I wanted to do it, I really did, but I didn't. I hid from you for a while because I was ashamed, but I like and need writing too much to stay away. But, I do apologize from the bottom of my heart!

Now, back to my meant to be Facebook status that got too long, I was reading in She Reads Truth earlier this week:

"After Jesus tosses out those who would pervert the temple of God into a temple of wealth and greed and convenience, He does something revolutionary: He invites the Least inside.

The blind, the lame, the children all come in and Jesus welcomes them, heals them, confirms their place among Him. He cleared out those who profaned the temple and ushered in those who humbly sought after God.

When I picture the scene I can see myself in the wings, on the outside looking in. I am nervous, I am afraid, but I am drawn to this house of God and so I watch and wait. Those inside seem to have it together, bringing riches rather than sacrifice, doing religion like a business. All I have is this humble offering in my hands, carried the long journey from my home, over rocky roads and mistake-laden miles. Then I see Him. And right before my eyes I watch Him turn it on its side, all the pretension and injustice and darkness that kept me at bay. He sends out those who’ve come not for God but for gods. And then? He looks me in the eye. Me. Lame, frightened, filthy from days of travel, He looks at me and sees me. He motions for me to come in and then He tells me I belong.

Oh, Sisters, this is our Christ. He welcomes in the defenseless and He becomes their defense. He brings the weak to Himself and makes them strong. He desires not the shiny sacrifices our pride wishes to bring, but only a heart that is stayed on Him."

I was reading these beautiful words while listening to these lyrics from All Sons and Daughters song, All Praise to You:

"Hear our cries, Lord. Come shake these walls. Oh and rattle the steeples Lord, we are Your people!"

Well, I was once again weeping in Starbucks! I've said it many times, and I'll say it many more, but I'm so thankful for my church. I'm thankful for a body of believers who truly loves and longs for the the Least, the messy, and the far from perfect (like me). I hope for all churches that we'd cry out for shaken walls and rattled steeples, that we wouldn't be comfortable in our "Christians who have it all together" Sunday services. That we'd long to have rattled steeples and shaken walls where the Least feel welcomed, drawn to, and loved.

I'll try to be back more! And share things here even if I don't think they are "fancy" enough.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


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I'm gonna be honest. I'm struggling right now. Not only with being consistent in posting and keeping my promises (obviously I didn't post twice today like I promised to make up for yesterday), but also with having a negative, insecurity, and believing what I'm speaking for myself.

I'm choosing to fight through and believe that God loves me, even though I feel the most unlovable I've felt since starting this journey right now. I'm not going to write more, because I do want to "do everything without arguing or complaining," but if I write right now, I'm going to be arguing with myself and complaining. Honesty. It's gross sometimes.

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


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Tonight, I confess that I'm exhausted. I didn't have a moment to sit down at my computer all day. I've been staying up too late posting these posts (and last night baking), and I need to go to sleep right now so I'll get up and spend time with Jesus (and wash my hair!). Jesus makes me love writing and I need some quality time with him! Since today is a making the kitchen manageable day, I'll throw in a kitchen tip...

Sometimes, it's okay to need a break. Sometimes it's okay to make hamburger helper. Sometimes it's okay to order a pizza. Sometimes it's okay to eat cereal for dinner. HEAR ME SUPER WOMEN EVERYWHERE... IT'S OKAY TO NEED A BREAK. And so, I'm going to bed, and taking a break. I'm even leaving those dirty dishes in the sink.

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Favorite Day

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The Preface

My favorite day... is not today. My favorite day is a week from today. But today, I want to write about my favorite day. And since I'm super in love with this day and feeling super cheesy, I'm even going to label each section with chapter titles! (Just love me and all my weirdness, okay? Okay!)

However, allow me to interject and say today was an incredible day! I can't imagine my actual favorite day being better than today, but I know it will be just because of the memories and memorial-like meaning it has. The longer my celebration of my favorite day has gone on, the more the week leading up to it and days after it are just as lovely! I will return to my explanation of my favorite day and why it's connected to my #31Days topic on daring to believe in God's love for me, but for a brief-ish moment allow me to tell you about today!

Chapter 1: The Interjection

Today was just fabulous. I accidentally overslept because I dreamed someone told me to go back to sleep so I could go to the doctor later (what?!), which seems bad, but actually felt quite nice! I woke up in just enough time to get ready and be at work on time. It felt beautiful. I wore leggings and a cardigan and a bow in my hair. I had Boo Berry cereal for breakfast and drank Cheerwine for my morning caffeine since I didn't have enough time to get or make coffee. If you are from the East coast, you might not get why Cheerwine would make me so happy, BUT I've never been able to find it in Mississippi. I discovered it the summer I spent in Charleston, South Carolina. And Sunday night I found it in a Dollar General in my town in Mississippi! The afternoon was good, door open, feeling the cool, crisp new air. Hung out with a friend. Washed clothes without having to wait on students to use the machine. And then I met with my accountability group, some of my favorite girls on the planet right now, at our local coffee shop, Cups. We opted to sit outside because it was a beautiful 59 degree night. As we sat there sipping our coffee, or pumpkin chai tea latte for me, talking about Jesus and our lives, a four person folk-ish band was practicing outside with us! At one point as we were all basking in the giddiness of the night I said, "Is this real life?!" IT. WAS. BEAUTIFUL. If I didn't already have a favorite day, I would have officially made today my favorite day! End interjection.

Chapter 2: The Introduction

So, I have a favorite day. October 14th. Inevitably I will be counting down and chattering about my favorite day until it gets here and apparently having a favorite day is not super common/normal. Therefore, people always ask why I have a favorite day. Of course I will still happily tell them about it, but I thought I'd write about it since I gush about the favorite day countdown and details on social media and have many new followers and friends who are new to my life and may not know the story.

Chapter 3: The Story

Once upon a time, almost 11 years ago, on October 14th, 2003, the leaves fell from the trees, swirled through the air, and landed on the ground in an exceptionally beautiful way. In the way that makes your insides jump with giddiness and a huge cheesy grin form on your lips and stay there. In a way that makes you close your eyes and take in the moment, the wind on your cheeks, the coolness in the air, the feeling of life. Some people say everything feels alive in the spring, I happen to think it feels ironically most a live in the fall.

You see, fall is my favorite. I've come to realize not everyone has a favorite everything, but I am not one of those people. I have a favorite EVERYTHING! Multiple favorite everythings. Ask me simple question like, "what's your favorite color?" Well I'd say my favorite color overall is pink, but my favorite color to wear is green and my favorite color to decorate with is red. I have a favorite cup, lipgloss, chapstick, nail polish, flour, flower, store, cardigan, dress, and I could go on and on. But fall, fall is a different kind of favorite. Fall has always made me ridiculously happy, giddy even. And on this lovely day when the leaves swirled in their exceptional sort of way, the 20 year old college sophomore version of me noticed.

I cancelled all my classes for the day (what I liked to call skipping), and stayed outside the entire day. I played in leaves, laid in leaves, crunched leaves, had a picnic outside, prayed, and decided to remember that October 14th was an exceptionally beautiful fall day. The next year my theory proved right about the day, it was just as beautiful. In college I was a lot better at believing God loved me. It wasn't until some stuff from my childhood, the ways it manifested in my life as some sin struggles and chains, and the shame that came with it all a little later in life that I lost my ability to believe in God's love for me. One the first October 14th, and even more so on the second when it was again a beautiful day, I vividly remember believing with all of my heart that October 14th was the day that God made for me. I remember knowing and believing that it was going to be our day, a day for me to remember Him and that He loved me enough to give me such a beautiful day.

In case you didn't know or couldn't tell, I'm quite the share-y type. So of course, October 14th caught on. It became a day that my friends and I celebrated! I even got presents (one year one of my friends even made me a t-shirt). I get almost as many calls, text, and Facebook posts wishing me a happy favorite day as I do on my birthday. Somehow, even during the years that I was struggling with depression and completely taken over by unbelief, I still felt God's love every October 14th. Even on the days when rain was predicted for October 14th, it usually didn't rain, and if it did, it was short-lived. And the rain on those days? The most beautiful rain! Even on years when I thought God had forgotten me, somehow He always showed up to remind me He was there and loved me.

So, I always make plans to celebrate it. I do care about my birthday (more than most people), but I love October 14th even more. One year when I was living in New Orleans we drove to a beautiful part of town, brought drinks and picnic supplies, got crepes from a walk up place, and had a beautiful picnic in the middle of a beautiful park. Many years we've gone to dinner, always opting for places with outdoor seating. I could tell so many stories and list the gifts people have given me (totally unnecessary of all of my friends, but so sweet and loving!). And so of course, when someone reminded me today that my favorite day was a week away, I immediately jumped to action to come up with a plan (in addition to deciding in that moment that I'd write this post). I just so happen to not have to work that day because it's a game week and I get Monday off instead of Friday off! See?? God knew. I'm convinced.

Chapter 4: The Plan

-Sleep until 9:00 am.

-Wear a pretty dress and a scarf, have cute hair, wear makeup (I rarely wear makeup, so it's significant!).

-Start the day with an hour or so Jesus at Starbucks with a pumpkin spice latte sitting at an outdoor table.

-Pack a lunch, a blanket, and book and eat, read, and rest outside under a tree.

-Have a BYO (bring your own) dinner picnic.

-Walk to Cups to meet with my accountability group, drink something fall-ish, walk home (or with them while we're meeting) and take a detour to the Old Towne Clinton Courtyard and end the night by thanking God for using something silly like a favorite day to show His love for me and pray for my future husband (and that he's in the near future vs. the far future!).

Chapter 5: Believing

I'm super convinced that this October 14th is going to be the best yet. Even if the temperature is a little too hot and something doesn't go just right, I've never been as close and intimate with Jesus as I am right now or as aware of His love and redemption of my life, and for those reasons, it will be beautiful, new, and crisp.

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Meal Planning 101: Week 41

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Am I gonna use a regularly scheduled meal plan post to count as a #31days Food for Thought post? Why yes I am! If they fall on a day that happens to be one of the making the kitchen manageable days, why not?! It counts.

Am I going to keep it short and sweet because today was another busy day (first Sunday Gathering for Arise Church - the new church plant I'm part of + crock pot prep + sewing project with friends for orphans = NO MORE TIME!), yes, yes I am! 


Crock Pot Pumpkin Chili  (with tortilla chips and toppings)


OWLs Dinner? (if we have it bringing Pumpkin Spice Latte Baked Donuts (sort of this recipe, gonna change it up a bit), if not, leftovers!)


Hosting Missional Community! Serving a baked potato bar (baked potatoes, cheese, green onions, pumpkin chili, bacon, broccoli, butter, sour cream ranch, etc) and a s'mores bar. 


Leftovers (baked potato smorgasbord) 





So... maybe I went a little crock pot crazy with this meal plan, but it actually feels like fall!

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Love Defined

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I now know that posting on the weekends for this #31Days challenge is going to be hardest! I'm a routine kind of person. I post and do everything best when life is routine. Weekends are meant to not be routine! It's 11:31 pm on a Saturday night right after I just hosted a girls' night and I've got nothing. NOTHING. Well, I have my outline, but not enough time to write about what I "planned" to write about. And so, I'm going to cop out and do two things. 1. define love. And 2. Post a video.

1. Love: an intense feeling of deep affection; deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment; devotion, adoration, doting, passion, ardor, desire, yearning, compassion, care, caring, regard, solicitude, concern, friendliness, friendship, kindness, charity, goodwill, sympathy, kindliness, altruism, unselfishness. 

What I want to do is write about all these words, I probably will come back to some of them. But... It's 11:52 now. So what I'll do is say let bask in these together. God loves me. He loves you.

2. This song always gets me. It always always always reminds me that God can handle my heart. With all it's doubts and craziness and that he's big enough to love me in all of my me-ness and because of it.

Sorry for the cop out! I'll make up for it, I promise. I don't promise, however, that a couple more posts like this won't happen during my #31Days. :) 

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall To Do List

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If you're keeping up, today is one of the making the kitchen more manageable days in my Food for Thought series. After the super lengthy meal planning post and the super length love and bad moods post I decided you might enjoy a fun less wordy more listy type post! One of the things that I think is essential to a manageable kitchen, is having fun things to look forward to. What's more fun that fall?! Absolutely nothing in my book. Fun fall things to bake and make, fun fall parties to have and host, fun ways to decorate your kitchen and make it even more fun to be in. IT'S ALL ABOUT FUN! I've seen tons of fall to do lists on Pinterest, and though I love Pinterest and use it for many things, make your own fall to do list! Put things on that list you want to bake, make, cook, and do. The kitchen will always feel more manageable when you make it a fun place to be.

My Fall To-Do List: 

Make fall flavored baked donuts. (doing it this week!)
Make homemade hot chocolate.
Make homemade apple cider.
Go over board on decorating. (done!)
Make a family recipe for dressing.
Cook a real pumpkin.
Make a new fall wreath. (done!)
Master three new soups.
Make homemade apple sauce.
Make my favorite pumpkin cookies. (done!)
Host a girls' night with fall themed goodies. (doing it this weekend!)
Take a nap outside with a blanket in leaves.
Go on a hay ride.
Make my nanny's apple dumplings.
Go to a bonfire (and have s'mores).
Crunch every leaf possible. (in process!)
Start sewing Christmas gifts for people.
Have a picnic.
Pick out pumpkins. (done!)
Go to a pumpkin patch.
Collect real leaves and acorns for a fall arrangement.
Go on a walk through the Nature Center.
Drink a warm beverage at the Olde Towne Courtyard with people or a person. (Preferably on a date in October! Now taking applications... Just saying.)

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Love and Bad Moods

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I had over half of a post written about my struggle to believe in God's love in my singleness, and it was positive and great! I was looking forward to writing the rest. I even had a great outfit day (lots of compliments aka outfit confirmations), a perfect side braid day, and a coffee meeting that involved a PSL.

And then...

I got pulled over for speeding. Yes, wrong. But I didn't actually know I was speeding or what the speed limit was. 44 in a 30. All my fault. But I got a ticket. Was late meeting the people I invited over to my apartment to watch the season premieres of two long anticipated shows. Then discovered I no longer have the channel that the show plays on. THEN I realized I wore a price tag connected to my shirt under my armpit ALL DAY.

And so, I'm not nearly as positive as I was earlier. Is it the end of the world? No, obviously! But I know my post about being loved and single has so much more potential with me in a good mood, so I'm delaying it. The past me must have known the future me was about to have a stinky evening because I was drawn in by the marketing genius to get the Taylor Swift edition Diet Cokes. I mean Taylor Swift + a cute tall can + Diet Coke = WIN! I also happened to pick up some Reese's pumpkins. So when I got home, I let my self shed a tear or two, found another show to watch, ate a Reese's pumpkin, and had a fancy Diet Coke! The writing on the box got my attention when I got home (after all the chaos).

"If you're lucky enough to be different, don't ever change." Thanks Taylor. I needed to be reminded that in all my craziness of crying and freaking out about a ticket and a TV show for teenagers, wearing a price tag on my cute shirt all day, and buying Diet Coke just because it has Taylor Swift's name on it even though I'm 30, that I'm still lovable. Being reminded that my craziness is okay, also lead me to be reminded that regardless of how my crabby mood could most definitely probably make every person I know decide not to like me, God still loves me.

Though it may be a small thing, it's a big thing for me. My brain is a little crazy, if I haven't mentioned that enough in these few paragraphs, so the fact that I went from thinking I should minimize my people intake so I don't make people hate me to a happy thought about God still loving me is a big deal! Instead of defaulting to my old way of thinking and processing to allow something like getting a speeding ticket to lead me into a place of self condemnation and dislike, a night of sadness, and convincing myself that no one, friends, family, myself, or God should like me, let alone love me, I was [almost] instantly reminded that God loves me, people love me, and I love me (not in spite of all the things that make me "lucky enough to be different" but because of them, because God loves me, and more)!

My spirits were lifted. I was still a little bit mad at that dang cop (how dare he do his job!?), but I enjoyed my fancy diet coke, got in comfy clothes, chose to write about singleness when I wasn't mad at a cop, indulged in a little chocolate treat, and watched some feel good TV (thanks Glee for NOT playing the Finn episode tonight, couldn't have handled it!).

God often uses things like Taylor Swift Diet Coke quotes, TV commercials, Dr. Seuss, and many more oddities, to remind me of truths about Him, and I'll never be sad about that. Just more proof that God knows me and how my brain works and loves me. Taylor's Diet Coke quote, reminds me of some ever familiar scriptures in Psalms and Luke.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them. If I would count them, they are more than sand. I awake, and I am still with you." (Psalm 139: 13-18, ESV)

All the bold emphasis is obviously added my me. But these parts I added bold emphasis to, they stick out to me. They speak to me. Not in a way that I'm translating them from the original language and deciphering the meaning of each word (so thankful people can and do that). But in a way my heart and imagination, the heart and imagination God gave me, see them for me. Why?

"You formed" - HE took the time to form and create ME! And He loves me.

"You knitted me together in my mother's womb" - I'd like to think it took a little extra work to knit together such a beautiful baby girl (I was a stinking cute baby!) in the womb of a drug addicted mother (whom I do love dearly despite many of her life choices) that was the a combination of DNA from another drug addict and alcoholic (my dad, whom I love more than anything, miss every day, and rejoice that Jesus saved and changed him before he died) who was given then name Kasia (a "lucky enough to be different" kind of name). And He loves me.

"fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your work" - Me. Loved. Cherished. Special. Fearfully and WONDERFULLY made. His works are wonderful. I am His work. I am wonderful. And He loves me.

"My frame was not hidden from you" - My frame. My specific frame that often causes me to doubt my ability to be loved. My frame, one that isn't skinny. It wasn't, it isn't, hidden from Him and He loves it and me.

"intricately woven" - Every detail. Every mannerism. Every last freckle, bad eye, crooked tooth, and quirk. And He loves me.

"the days that were formed for me" - Even the days that I get speeding tickets and have a crabby mood. Even the days that I don't think I can make it through like the upcoming year anniversary of my dad's death. He knew them. He knows them. And He loves me.

"Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke 12:7, ESV)

And I have a lot of hair guys. I don't know if I have more hair or freckles. But He knows the number. Every one. He even knows the number of worlds I ramble on and on about and type on and on about. I can't keep up. Can you? And He loves me. And He loves you.

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Making the Kitchen Manageable: Part 1 - Meal Planning

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I simply can't start a series about making the kitchen manageable without starting with the thing I think is the foundation of a manageable kitchen: MEAL PLANNING. Meal planing, it really works people. If you are a semi-regular reader here, you know I talk about it all the time and post weekly(ish) meal plans. There are many things about managing life that can be stressful, the kitchen doesn't have to be one of them. I hope by the end of this series you will believe me and feel less stressed about the kitchen. Whether you are a planner or not, you can make meal planning work for you and reap the benefits.

What are the benefits? (Most of this info was posted over a year ago in my original "How to Meal Plan" post, but it's worthy of repeating here!)

1. IT SAVES MONEY! Really, it does. If you don't meal plan and just shop when you come up with something, you know you always add extra things to the cart with each trip. Those extra things and extra trips add up. You also buy groceries with more intention. Yes, every kitchen needs staples (we'll talk about those later). BUT when you don't plan you aimlessly buy things you think you need, that you don't actually need! It also minimizes the amount of times you feel too stressed to come up with something for dinner and end up just eating out. If you plan, you eat out way less and make meals you're proud of that cost a fraction of the price they would at a restaurant. Also, going to the grocery store every time you cook dinner is stressful because the grocery store is stressful (AMEN?!)! 

2. IT'S STRATEGIC! It cuts back on the amount of products you waste. If you find one recipe you want to make that requires buttermilk, you can find others to include in your plan that need buttermilk. Thus you don't waste the rest of that buttermilk. When you don't plan, lots of things end up expiring and going to waste. Better for the environment and again.. YOUR POCKET! 

3. IT'S HEALTHIER! When you plan your own meals you are much less likely to plan an abundance of unhealthy things. As mentioned earlier, it also cuts back on the desperation fast food trips.  Not to mention, when you plan and cook your own food, not only do you cut back on fat, but you control the amount of sodium, butter, oil, preservatives and exactly what goes into everything you eat.

4. IT'S NOT BORING! It's exciting. The number one thing I hear from people who cook is that they get tired of cooking the same things. If you think and buy for meals on the fly, you're always gonna gravitate to the same things (spaghetti, hint hint). In meal planning you get to plan in your own excitement to your meals!

Sold yet? You should be! But now, how? 

1. Don't be overwhelmed! Start small. Try it for one week at a time first. Currently I do two weeks at a time because that is my pay schedule (every other week). When I got paid once a month I did do it a month at a time. I planned the entire month and shopped only once a month. Yes! It is entirely possible. 

2. Use your resources! Those cook books you have? Break them out! Read them. Set little fun goals. When I was doing monthly planning, I set some guidelines like at least one new recipe a week and at least two recipes from my cookbooks a month. The internet is your cooking companion. Let's call her you sous chef! There are SOOO many food blogs out there. Pinterest is of course a great resource as well. 

3. Look at sale ads. I know Kroger and Target send weekly sale emails. Wal-mart has a weekly sale paper. Don't be afraid of coupons! If you have a farmer's market, find out when they sell things. Fresh produce is better and often cheaper. If you have a Sam's Club, it's not just for bulk items. I am a single person and every two(ish) weeks I visit Sam's! Sam's is wonderful for cheaper produce and meats. When I did monthly planning, I would wait to plan my meals until  I knew what meats were on sale.

4. Have fun getting organized! I have a friend who always had a big dry erase white board calendar where she recorded her meal plan. I posted a picture of the method to my madness above. I've tried apps and digital list makers, but there is just something I love about writing out my own list. I have a magnetic list on the fridge where I write random things I think of through out the week or things that I run out of. During the week, I out meal ideas and groceries I need or needed for meals. A day or so before I will be doing my shopping, I plan out 5-6 full meals, make my shopping list, and organize the shopping list grouping items together so the grocery store isn't as chaotic.

With a bigger family you'd need to cook more than 3 times a week, but I'm just me so I eat leftovers about every other day. I feel like this is A LOT! But if you want more, I can totally give you more ideas and suggestions. Just try it for a month, make it a habit. You really will begin to experience the benefits. 

And now, a list of every meal plan I've ever posted! PS. Don't expect every post in this series to be this long, haha. I just have a lot of info on this topic. Hence why I think it's the foundation to kitchen management.

Meal Planning 101: Week 1
Meal Planning 101: Week 2
Meal Planning 101: Week 3
Meal Planning 101: Week 4
Meal Planning 101: Week 5
Meal Planning 101: Week 6
Meal Planning 101: Week 7
Meal Planning 101: Week 8
Meal Planning 101: Week 9
Meal Planning 101: Week 10
Meal Planning 101: Week 11
Meal Planning 101: Week 12
Meal Planning 101: Week 13
Meal Planning 101: Week 14
Meal Planning 101: Week 15
Meal Planning 101: Week 16
Meal Planning 101: Week 17 and 18
Meal Planning 101: Week 19
Meal Planning 101: Week 20 and 21
Meal Planning 101: Week 22
Meal Planning 101: Week 23
Meal Planning 101: Week 24
Meal Planning 101: Week 25
Meal Planning 101: Week 26
Meal Planning 101: Week 27
Meal Planning 101: Week 28
Meal Planning 101: Week 29
Meal Planning 101: Week 30
Meal Planning 101: Week 31
Meal Planning 101: Week 32
Meal Planning 101: Week 33
Meal Planning 101: Week 34
Meal Planning 101: Week 35
Meal Planning 101: Week 36
Meal Planning 101: Week 37
Meal Planning 101: Week 38
Meal Planning 101: Week 39
Meal Planning 101: Week 40


Lunch Ideas 15
Lunch Ideas 16
Lunch Ideas 17
Lunch Ideas 18

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why Love?

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As mentioned yesterday, I'm participating in the #31days challenge to write about a specific(ish) thing for all of October and I have chosen to do a series called Food for Thought. I'll rotate between talking about ways to make life in the kitchen more manageable and inviting you on the journey with me to actually learn to irrevocably believe God unconditionally loves me.

"Why kitchen?",  is simple! I couldn't go 31 days without posting about things that happen in my kitchen. I am a food blogger. I love the kitchen. I want you to love it too. Several faithful readers requested time management and practical tips.

But why love?

"Knowing" God loves me has been something I've "known" for a long time. Though I didn't grow up in a Christian home, I did grow up in church. Most children who grew up in church can sing the words, "Yes! Jesus loves me," before they even know how to read. I've known for a while that actually BELIEVING God loves me has been a struggle for a me. I wholeheartedly believe He loves YOU. I just struggle with the concept of unconditional love, self condemnation, and believing that He can and does love me. I KNOW logically, Biblicaly, and in my brain that He does. But I don't always believe that He does. It's something I've talked through with my former counselor and mentors many times.

I was helping implement an event for women this past weekend with the non-profit women's ministry organization I'm part of and passionate about, Total Woman U. The theme for our event was Dare to Believe. Even though I was busy with helping make sure the event ran smoothly, I wanted to walk away from the weekend daring to believe something. Little did I know it would be love. One of the simplest things to know and understand about God, but one of the most complex things for me to "get."

The very last session by the very last speaker had me holding back a total weep fest. She talked about God's love and her journey of discovering and believing He loved her. She called herself, and all of us, His favorite. She pointed out that John 3:16 doesn't say, "For God was so fed up with the world, that he gave his only son." It says, "For God so LOVED the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

I've had that verse memorized for so long that I don't remember ever NOT remembering it! It never hit me like it did this past Saturday, sitting there, swallowing the lump in my throat to keep from ugly crying, steadily wiping tears from my eyes, as a 30 year old woman. I've probably been able to quote that verse for at least 75% of my life. I've always been moved by Jesus' sacrifice in dying for me and God's sacrifice in giving His only son. And my head has always known it was because He loved me, but in that moment it rocked me to the deepest part of my heart, that HE LOVES ME!

She also said that He loves His children (ME) so much that He even takes our mistakes, failures, and the ways others try to harm us and mean for bad and uses it for good. So love. That's why. I need to take this journey of daring to believe God loves me. As simple as it is, it's where I am. I need to process it. I need to live in it. And what better way than the accountability of 31 days? It might be rambly. Some days will DEFINITELY be shorter than this. It might be super honest and raw. Sometimes, it might not even make sense, but I think in the end, it will be beautiful. Thanks for reading.

For the month of October, I'm participating in The Nester's #31Days blog writing challenge. My topic is Food for Thought. I'll be writing about two main things. 1. Understanding and believing God's love. 2. Making life in the kitchen more manageable. You can read all my #31Days posts here