05 March 2014

ash wednesday & lent

My first exposure to the liturgical calendar was in college when I worked at our family business. The girls in the kitchen were all Catholic. They all made a sacrifice for Lent, and since we were friends, they assumed that I would make a sacrifice, as well. And I did. I liked the idea, plus we were friends. Since college I've given up something for Lent each year, including Diet Coke, chocolate, cheese, Facebook, desserts and television.

(Then there was the one time I gave up hitting my snooze button. It sounded like a good idea based on the success my friend, Betsy, had the year before. For me? Major fail. Major.)

A few years ago, I began working at an Episcopal school. For the first several months I really struggled through the weekly chapel services. It was just so different than anything I'd grown up with. Things were read. Prayers were spoken aloud, together. There was a prayer for everything. For this girl who couldn't successfully get through a responsive reading at the back of the Baptist Hymnal, it was very different. Plus reading prayers seemed quite impersonal and lacking in meaning. But then? Chapel became easier. I looked forward to it. I started to really love the readings by verse, as well as speaking prayers that are spoken by so many others in the Episcopal church who pray the same thing on the same day. The liturgy went from odd to okay to more-than-okay to meaningful and powerful.

As much as I began to enjoy chapel services, it took me about three years to walk forward on Ash Wednesday for black ashes to be smeared into the shape of a cross on my forehead. That year, the bishop began his homily. And the Lord began to do a work in my heart. Here's an excerpt of what he shared:
Why ashes? They are a sign of repentance, of sorrow and remorse for sins, of the elements from which we are composed and to which our bodies shall return. They are a way of getting in touch with our basic humanness. Ashes are messy. Sin is messy. The cross was messy. The flogging and the thorns were messy. ... We cannot hide our identity. The ashes mark us. The universal Christian mark of baptism is not always a visible sign, but until we wash the ashes off, our Ash Wednesday worship visibly marks us as Christian. Christians ought always to be visible ambassadors for Christ--acts of love, justice, and kindness should make us continually visible.
That homily, that day marked the first time I had ashes smeared on my forehead. It was and is and outward symbol that I am sinful and messy. I like the idea of acknowledging that, of confessing that. 

I walked away from the service this morning with ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead. It caught some by surprise who didn't attend the service. It actually caught me by surprise the first time I saw myself in the mirror. The ashes were dark and imposing, even though my hair covered a portion of the cross. 

This is the first year in a long time that I hadn't decided what to sacrifice for Lent. I stopped drinking Diet Coke in January, so that's out. I've been quite disciplined in my nutrition lately, so that seems too easy. Of course I could give up social media, but that seems so cliche. I prayed about it throughout the day. The one question I continued to dwell on throughout the day is: how will I wake up different on Resurrection Sunday?

This is the first time I won't sacrifice something, rather I'll add a spiritual discipline. On Easter I want to wake up knowing Christ more, loving Him more, hoping to be more Christ-like. Though this has been accomplished over the past few years by sacrifice during Lent, over the next 40+ days, I'll focus on my relationship with Christ. I'll be more structured than simply reading my bible passage for the day. I'll read and journal, pray and meditate on the Word. If you don't typically observe Lent, this is an easy, non-scary way to jump in. Here are a few resources that you might find useful: Journey to the Cross, The Gospel CoalitionShe Reads TruthAnn VoskampPraying Lent, Creighton University.

"Lent isn't about forfeiting stuff as much as it is about spiritual formation."
--Ann Voskamp

04 March 2014

march goals


In January, I set out with the goal of being diligent. It is my one word for the year. Mainly because I like to resort to lazy. I can't think of anything I enjoy more than sitting on my couch, watching television for hours on end. I mean, I like doing other things, but binge-watching a series on a weekend is my favorite thing ever. This is only an issue because of everything else in life. We like to have friends and meals and clean clothes and clean sheets and a picked up house. On top of that, there's a job that makes me do things like get dressed every day. 

I've been super focused on nutrition the past couple of months. So of course I feel that everything else is crumbling because of the planning and cooking and cleaning. On Saturday, I was overwhelmed at the thought of every cabinet and drawer and closet that needs to be sorted. I'm at the point where I'm just tired of STUFF being in my house. I feel certain I'm not the only one who does this, right? So I started what I'll call the Everything-Must-Go Purge of Spring 2014. And you know that means things look worse. Because in a purge, things get much, much worse before they get better. Now there are piles in the floor of my bedroom and living room. And the great debate begins: donate or garage sale. Because I could use some cash for new flooring. But it's just so much work. Hashtag: first world problems.

In March, I'll be working through the Great Purge. Here are some other things I'd like to do, remaining diligent throughout:

1. read three books
2. walk the azalea trail
3. see Veronica Mars (the movie)
4. purge 200 items

03 March 2014

the day we all hoped for

Today, March 3, is a snow/ice day in east Texas. Again, in March. Cuh-razy. You should know that all winter we hoped for an unplanned day off--a snow/ice day--but it never happened. It snowed/iced to the north, south, east and west, but never in Tyler. It was so very disappointing. Every almost snow/ice day I wanted to throw a tantrum when I had to dry my hair, put on my makeup and get dressed.

To say that I'm excited is an understatement. I've had two cups of coffee and have a second pot brewing. I'm currently watching kelly & michael in my pajamas, under a blanket, hair pulled on top of my head, my sweet puppy snuggled close. I just tossed some steel cut oats on top of the ice for the birds so that they don't starve today. And I tried to take a picture to share, but it looks less than spectacular.

Side note: my computer has been dying a very slow death. It's about nine years old. And it's a Dell, so it's lived about 7.5 years longer than life expectancy. Apparently it's the most sturdy Dell on the planet because I can't break it, even when I try. [Not that I've tried...if my husband reads this.] Currently the sound is on mute, but there's static-y noise coming through the speakers, so as I type it sounds like Morse code or that something--or someone--is trying to communicate with me through a dying Dell computer. I'm not sure who that would be, but they like to communicate mostly through the keys on the right side of the keyboard. 

During the snow/ice storm last night, the lights flickered a few times and the cable went out for about 20 minutes. Which. Oh my word! The Oscars were on. Now, I've only seen two of the nominated movies: Gravity and Despicable Me 2, but I love the Oscars. And I didn't want to miss Ellen hosting. Thankfully, we were spared.

Today, I'm catching up on the DVR and continuing the Great Purge of 2014 that I started on Saturday. I'll drink lots of coffee. And make sure the birds have plenty of food.

04 December 2013

december goals


december goals:
1. celebrate well
2. run / walk four times per week
3. see six movies

This month, I want to celebrate well. It's so important to me to prepare my heart for Christmas. I began celebrating advent about four years ago. Now, I can't imagine not taking time each day to focus on the coming of Christ. This year, I'm following along with She Reads Truth. Each day, along with scripture, is a devotional and an advent action. I've been reading along and journaling each day. It really is a special time. I feel like these scriptures are new, even though I've read them each at least a dozen times. If you haven't ever observed advent in preparing your heart for Christmas--or if you just haven't started this year, feel free to follow along with She Reads Truth! 

In addition to Christmas, Jeremy celebrates his birthday in December. I make a very concerted effort each year not to let his birthday celebration meld into Christmas. He actually has an exam the day before and the day after his birthday, so much of the celebration will be pushed to the weekend. But we'll have a great dinner and birthday cake on his birthday!

Let's be honest, I'm not always the best with follow through. It's a flaw. I often have the best intentions, but lack motivation after a couple of weeks. BUT I'm really, really going to attempt run-slash-walking [at least] four times per week. This in an attempt to counteract all of the delicious treats during the holiday season. Although I'd like to do this outside, I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to breathing deeply in the cold, so I have two options for going inside.

At the beginning of the year, we made a goal to see twelve movies together. So far we've seen six or seven. We've gotta make six movies this month! Jeremy will be finished with school next Thursday, so we'll for sure see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug next weekend. Also on my list: Catching Fire, Philomena, Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks.

25 November 2013

-ing

The past two weeks have been crazy. Of the ten business days, I was in the office for half of them. For the other half, I was on a bus with dozens of students. Two days with freshmen; three days with juniors. We visited seven college campuses and watched several movies. Because what else do you do for hours at a time on a bus? We traveled well over 1000 miles. But now? I'm home. And we're on Thanksgiving Break! Yesterday I desperately wanted to decorate for Christmas, but I forced myself to do nothing. Well, except for a visit to the grocery store, barn sale and salon. So here's what I'm up to:

::ADORING::
I participated in a couple of adoption fundraisers on Instagram (same family, two fundraisers). Each time, I paid $5 to send and receive a gift from someone. Most recently, I received my Christmas Exchange package. And OH MY GOSH. It was wonderful. I received on a day that was just crazy. And I hit the exchange jackpot! My super sweet exchange partner went above and beyond! Katy scoured my IG feed, noticed a few repeated themes and ran with it! I received my first coffee cozy (knitted by Katy) (or maybe crocheted?), the most adorable mini-dachshund hoop, felt donut ornaments (with supplies and instructions for me to create a couple more!) and a frame with several coffee prints to be changed as often as necessary (though that one seems quite perfect). 

::COOKING::
I decided that I should be able to cook lots this week. I planned a few meals and grabbed groceries. First up? Chicken & dumplings.You should know that I make really good chicken & dumplings. But I found a new recipe that I wanted to try.

If you grew up with a grandmother who made chicken & dumplings, then you know there are two teams: Team Fluffy Dumpling and Team Slick Dumpling. Grandmothers make only one version. Mine made slick dumplings. She had no use for fluffy dumplings. And I didn't either. (Because I'd never had them.) But I found a recipe that piqued my interest. The picture from this blog made them look not-too-fluffy. So I decided to give them a go. 

OH MY WORD. Y'all. They fluffed up nicely, but then they started to dissolve. Dissolve! For a pot of dumplings, there were only about a dozen semi-cooked dumplings when I pulled them off of the heat. 

Never again. Never. again. I'm sure my grandmother rolled in her grave when I decided to make a fluffy dumpling. I was left with a pot of dumpling broth, 12 semi-cooked dumplings, a huge mess of a kitchen and takeout from Jason's Deli. I vow to never stray from the recipe I've always used.

::READING::
The Funeral Dress | Susan Gregg Gilmore
I've enjoyed Gilmore's The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove and Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, so I was excited when her next book released. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far, I really like it.

The Lumby Lines | Gail Fraser
The Mitford Series is one of my all-time favorite series. I found the Lumby Series and hope that it is as enjoyable, though it's been a rough start. (I've actually read the first three chapters several times, as I let so much time lag between readings.)

::CREATING::
As part of the adoption fundraiser (mentioned above), I created something Christmas-y to send to my Christmas Exchange friend. Here's the deal, I consider myself to be creative. But I don't create regularly, so it leaves me with a lack of confidence. So I mulled over what I would make. (The gift had to be handmade.) I decided to recreate felt hand-stitched ornaments that I made in college. I also did a very simple calendar and found some cute chalkboard tags. I'm sending it out tomorrow. It's a week late, so I hope she's super gracious. And that she loves her exchange.

14 November 2013

november, so far

It's mid-November. Which is a bit unreal. The leaves have changed and are falling from their branches. Caramel and cinnamon and pumpkin have made an annual appearance. Oddly, we've had two nights of frost that claimed my beautiful fall mum. But these frosty mornings make for a beautiful drive to work. The fields are shimmery with white that disappears as the sun makes an appearance.

Never one to wish time away, I'm always excited for November. Days are cooler, which makes for cozy clothes of tights and sweaters and boots. And nights come sooner, which makes for cozy nights with soup and hot chocolate and pajamas.

Over the weekend, I made the decision to decorate my mantle for fall, making the change from Halloween. I debated since I'll decorate for Christmas in just a couple of weeks, and I'll be gone for about five days. I didn't know if the effort would the worth it. But you know what? It was. I did very little, but it's nice to have the change from Halloween. And it makes my pumpkin-scented candle even sweeter.



On Sunday, J and I headed to Dallas for a concert. We thought we bought tickets to a Lord of the Rings concert. You know, they'd play some of the themes from the movie for a couple of hours, and we'd head home. Then I decided to read about it the night before. We actually watched the movie while an orchestra and choir performed the score. SO MUCH BETTER than we ever expected. We both caught things we'd never noticed before. And it was my first time to see LOTR after watching The Hobbit, so even more things made sense. So, so good.



Before the concert, we were able to meet up with our sweet friends, Steven and Christine and their daughter, Luci Belle. We hadn't seen them in months. Let me tell you two things. One: if you live in Dallas, you must check out their farmstore, Urban Acres. They're open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And it's adorable and local and organic and fresh. Two: we had the best lunch that was cooked by Steven, all with ingredients from Urban Acres. Butternut squash soup drizzled with balsamic vinegar and grilled cheese on amazing sourdough bread with a fig jam and two kinds of goat cheese, perfectly grilled with just the right amount of butter. I chose to dip my sandwich in the soup, and it wasn't a bad decision at all. I attempted to recreate this meal last night, but the cheese and fig jam weren't the same. I'll be back in Dallas for Christine's baby shower this weekend, and I intend to purchase exactly what I need at Urban Acres.

This picture is stolen straight from Urban Acres' Instagram. Look for the chicken on the red building. You won't miss it. See the guys on the left side of the building? They're installing a deck. You can grab a sandwich for lunch and eat on the deck, and then follow it with a scoop of Jeni's Ice Cream.


So, that's our November, so far. I feel certain there will be more to share as the month continues.

03 September 2013

Tuesday Things

1. This weekend Jeremy and I went to Dallas for a date. We got dressed up-ish and we went to see The Book of Mormon. Oh, y'all. It is so good, but SO bad. It's written by the creators of South Park, if that gives you an idea of what it might be like. The entire theater was in fits of laughter throughout the 3 hours. And there was lots of silent laughter. Because it was just that funny.


2. After the show, we went to dinner at Abacus. It was a treat, and might just be one of my favorite restaurants now. A high school friend is one of the sous chefs. And he can cook! Now, we didn't get one picture of us. But I did take pictures of our food. So typical. I had the best salmon I've ever had. And J loved, loved, loved the duck.

I've decided that I want some copper cups as Moscow Mules are my new favorite cocktail. Isn't that cup just dreamy?

And then, THEN, our sweet chef-friend sent us a treat. It's an ode to Elvis: honey wheat toast, bacon marmalade, caramelized banana, foie gras (!), marion berry jam and peanut butter butter. Oh em gosh. (That's an ode to The Book of Mormon.) It was so very delicious. Even J, who isn't a lover of liver, loved it. Honestly, I hoped he wouldn't like it so I could eat it all, but it was so good he converted. (Which didn't happen after watching BOM. Thank goodness.)

(I really didn't try to do the whole converted thing [see above]. It just happened. And I'm so proud!)



3. I think I finally have a vision for our bedroom. After 2.5 years of living in the land of neutral--which I abhor--I have some inspiration.

I cannot find the original source of this picture. I wish I could. I'm dying to know where the bedspread is from! 
I love the pink with the orange border. Such a fun pop of color!

I love the light colored walls, and since we don't have a whole lot of natural light, I think it will brighten up our room. I might do a blue-tinted white. I have a DIY idea for the bed skirt. And we have a linen bedspread, which I really like, but it's a khaki color. I told J that I'm going to bleach it. Ahh! I hope it works! If not, it's not like I'd use it anyway. I typically don't use curtains since we have plantation shutters, but I might just to add some texture. I plan on taking out the ceiling fan since we have a mini air conditioner in the bedroom. (It's just as great as it sounds; thank you, former owners!) And one day--hopefully soon--we'll have some pretty wood floors in our bedroom. I'm hoping I love it as much as I think I will!


4. Finally, I found the perfect recipe for a quick chocolate cake fix. You should know my favorite dessert in the world is chocolate cake. To be more specific: my mom and mother-in-law both make amazing chocolate cake. Both very different, but both TO DIE FOR. I've actually had chocolate cake from all over the world and none compare. Since I don't bake, but love chocolate cake, from time to time I make mug cakes for dessert, hoping that it will be a fix when I want chocolate cake. Mostly, they're just OK; often they're dry and a bit tasteless, but for some reason, I just keep trying. And I found one that is so incredible! Even J was impressed. You really should try this Nutella Lava Mug Cake.

Nutella Lava Mug Cake | Honest Cooking