My friend, Dan

For more than two years, during “life in Austin, act 1”, I spent two hours every Wednesday morning standing next to my favorite gravy guy, ninety year old Dan Watson. Between greeting almost every homeless friend by name and remembering whether they liked their gravy on top of the biscuits or on the side, Dan would tell me stories of his two daughters (who were often close enough to hear him telling stories), his son who lived down in New Braunfels, and his sweet wife who he lost after more than 50 years of marriage. He told me tales of running his flower shop, about playing baseball at UT, and about reffing at basketball games around the state. We would talk about our church and he would tell me of the good work going on in the other area churches (because he served at their Tuesday and Thursday breakfasts- although there, he was the juice man). He always said that folks liked their breakfasts a bit better, because while our biscuits were good, they had eggs. He introduced me to a whole generation of folks in our church family, and I am forever grateful for that.

4D70D8A2-3527-48D3-8DFE-0546FB610003

When Cary and I moved back for “life in Austin, act two”, Wednesday mornings with Dan were a must. I loved being able to introduce my husband to Dan, and later, watch as our college students got the privilege of serving next to him. I always loved hearing him lead the whole room in the Lord’s prayer, and seeing him standing out in front of the church on Sunday mornings always filled me with delight.

1CC974CB-CF29-4005-AD6D-806EAE3D2F23

And while Dan may be known best for his breakfast ministries, he also had a lunch ministry. He liked to take small groups of folks out to lunch after church – never the same group, never all the same demographic. He was an includer to the core. I still remember the first time he invited me to lunch – Gabriel’s across the street, and while I didn’t know anyone else going (yet!), you don’t say no to a lunch invitation from Dan. I loved running into him at the old Schlotzkys on the corner just so I could see what kind of group he has assembled that week. I could never figure out if he was working his way through the church directory, had prophetic revelations, or just invited the first 5 people he saw that day (or maybe a combination). But one thing was clear, he was truly interested in getting to know each person better.

A few months ago, I took Maddie out to his bench that now sits in front of the church and we prayed for Mr Dan. (Her very first and best stuffed animal friend was named after him!) His health has been declining for several years now, and I’m so glad I got the chance to express all these thoughts to him when he was still well enough to hear them and understand them. I just wish both the girls could’ve spent time with him. He was truly a treasure. There is no doubt in my mind that as Dan entered Heaven on Tuesday, he heard those sweet words “well done, good and faithful servant.” Well done, indeed, Dan. You will be so missed. It was such an honor to be your “biscuit girl”.

Dan’s funeral will be on Monday, April 9th, at 10am at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar.

Advertisements

Brisket Stew

For the last four years, Cary’s birthday present has been the same – tickets to the TX Monthly BBQ festival (why mess with a good thing, right?). The BBQ festival is a one day meat extravaganza, where the 30 best BBQ joints from around the state sample their finest meat, all on the lawn of the Long Center in downtown Austin. It’s been such a fun way to try many restaurants that we would never get to otherwise. It’s an event we look forward to each year, and have even roped friends into going with us for the last two years, which makes it even more fun! Our 2017 favorite was Tejas Chocolate Craftory.

One of my favorite BBQ fest memories happened our first year – that year, we didn’t quite know what to expect, but I did “sneak” some Ziploc bags in, knowing that I could never eat our ticket price worth of meat. Come to find out, Ziploc bags are allowed in the fest, but the first year was full of learning lessons. Cary and I circled the whole festival, getting our fill of brisket, sausage, pork, and chicken. Once we couldn’t stuff anything else in our stomachs, we decided to brave the long line for the Franklin tent and give our bodies time to digest. By the time we reached the front of their line, the festival was winding down to a close, and we could tell the Franklin had overestimated the amount of meat they would need to feed everyone… by a lot! So I casually mentioned that we were there celebrating Cary’s birthday to the pit master, Benji, and he promptly handed over a giant six pound pork shoulder! It was awesome! Thanks to our food saver and garage freezer, we were able to save it and ended up feeding our whole family at Christmas with it, with meat to spare!

Ever since that moment, we knew not to come to the festival without baggies and Tupperware galore! Now our game plan is always to both get samples then split Cary’s and dump mine for later. With a toddler who missed naptime this year, we had to cut our festival adventures short, but we still managed to go home with close to six pounds of leftover meat – two of which were brisket (we took home more ribs than anything). Now the only downside about this whole event is that by the time it is over, I usually don’t want to even look at BBQ for a good month. Most of the meat went in bags for the freezer, but we already had a lot of brisket in there, so I was curious if I could come up with a recipe to use up the brisket we got at the festival, without it having too much of a BBQ vibe (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Thankfully, midway through the week, we got a bit of a cold snap here in Austin, which meant Thursday was a really good night to cook up a giant pot of soup! I googled brisket stew, but didn’t have very much luck finding a stew recipe that used precooked meat…. So I made my own! It turned out pretty well, so I wanted to share it here.

stew

(Not the best picture – I snapped it in the break room at work before diving in!)

I love this recipe because it’s flexible – just throw in whatever veggies you have/like. This recipe made a full six quart stock pot, which was the perfect amount for us because we ate half over that weekend, and froze the other half for later this winter.

Ingredients:
Butter – 1 Tablespoon
Flour – 1 Tablespoon
Onion – 3/4 cup, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Carrots – 4 large, chopped
Celery – 5 stalks, chopped
Splash of red wine (optional)
Beef broth – 32 oz.
Diced tomatoes – 14.5 oz can, undrained
Water – 14.5 oz
Sweet potato – 1 potato, chopped
White potato – 2 potatoes, chopped
Smoked BBQ Brisket – 1.5 lbs, cut into 1/2″ cubes
Salt and pepper, as needed

Directions

Melt Butter in dutch oven over medium – medium high heat.
Add onions and garlic, stirring until veggies are translucent.
Add flour to thicken. Add splash of red wine to loosen flour chunks from bottom of pan.
Add chopped carrots and celery. Cook until slightly tender.
Pour beef broth, diced tomatoes, and water into pot and stir.
Season with salt and pepper, as needed.
Add potatoes, and cook on high for 20 minutes.
Add brisket chunks and simmer on low for one hour, or until potatoes are tender.
Enjoy!

After sitting overnight, the potatoes really thickened the rest of the broth up, so it turned into a hearty thick stew, which is my favorite kind! Let me know if you try it!

My view from the back row

As our students finish their final week of classes for the semester, I have been thinking over our last year together. This was our fifth year in ministry at the University of Texas, but our first year as parents. Having a little munchkin around changes a lot about the way we do ministry – sometimes we can’t go to all the events, sometimes we have to leave early, but every time, we have to sit in the back.

thumb_IMG_3709_1024To be really honest, sometimes I resent the back. I don’t always want to be back there. I want to be in it – smack dab in the middle of things. I want to have the chance to talk to everyone, catch up on all the latest happenings, worship with everyone, and pray with everyone. But more than that, I want to do what is right for our family, and right now, that means being in the back. The back lets me find a good balance. It’s important that Madeline sees us loving God and loving others. It’s also important that our students see how we parent Maddie – how we are a team in all things. Plus, she really, really loves all the LFC hugs, and I would hate to deprive her of them. The verse that I have been meditating on all year as our family has transitioned into a family of three is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well.” It’s important that Maddie is around Longhorns for Christ, because we are not only sharing the gospel of God, but our lives as well.

And while the back can be hard sometimes, I have also learned to LOVE it. See, ’m a people-watcher by nature. When Cary and I go on a date, I try and take the chair where I see the least amount of people, because otherwise, I can’t pay attention to him. And in the back, I get to see a lot! In the back, my heart swells with pride. It’s a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God. I wish everyone could see what I see from back there.

Let me tell you what I see….

In the back, I see people seriously living out the command to love God and love others.

In the back, I see an introvert singing without hesitation.

In the back, I see an engaged couple holding hands in prayer.

In the back, I see a senior wrapping her arms around a freshman.

In the back, I see new friends sharing an inside joke.

In the back, I see the seasoned leader handing over the microphone to the one she has pulled alongside her.

In the back, I see a doubter diving in to deep discussions, despite the questions.

In the back, I see courageous students sharing their unique gifts and talents.

In the back, I see church leaders “crossing the lot” in order to engage and invest in our students and our mission.

In the back, I see lonely souls bravely walk in the door for the first time.

In the back, I see old friends helping each other prepare their hearts and minds for the next phase of their journeys.

In the back, I see “The Noticers” – those who see a need and quietly fill it.

In the back, I see “The Includers” – those who always pull up an empty chair for the new faces.

In the back, I see my husband living out his passion and purpose.

In the back, I see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

thumb_IMG_0641_1024

It’s beautiful in the back.

Fall semester starts August 30, 2017. Won’t you join us? I’ll even save you a seat in the back.

 

Chicken Soup for My Soul

I have never been a trendy person. I got my first pair of skinny jeans two years after they became a staple in most of my friends’ closets. I have never used a snapchat filter (and actually don’t even have the app). I did not even think about trying the unicorn frappucino.

We live in a world now of trendy words – slang, buzz words, catch phrases. And in this world of constant new buzzwords, I often have to seek counsel in our college students to explain the meanings (and usage) of such words and phrases. They explain that “on fleek” means cool, great, smooth, etc… and also that it is “so 2015”, and I am too old to be using it. They told me that “Netflix and chill” does not mean what I think, and I should stop telling them all about how it’s “my favorite thing to do with Cary”. I have no idea who Felicia is and why she is always going somewhere. And really, even my examples are not trendy – I have no earthly idea “what the kids are saying these days”… I should just stop trying.

self-care-saturdayOne phrase that I’ve been noticing in my circles lately, and one that does not need decoded by a 18-22 year old, is “self care” – those things we do just to take care of ourselves.  Now, taking care of yourself is not a new concept, but I just feel like I’ve been seeing people more aware of how intentional we have to make it in order for it to happen in our busy, over-scheduled lives. While I find most of the sentimental memes associated with “self care” on the whole pretty corny (side eye to you Mr. You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup), I do resonate with the intent and the desire.

I think a lot of us, me being one of the worst, are really good at distracting ourselves, but not truly caring for ourselves. I attended a Bible study taught by Jennie Allen a couple years ago that called this “numbing ourselves”. We want to rest, but instead of finding things that make our soul feel rested, we flip between 3-5 social media apps and scroll through the same posts for two hours. Or, we turn on Netflix and watch an entire season of a show we’ve seen five times (why yes, husband, I am in fact watching another episode of the Office. Maybe Jim and Pam will get together in Season 2 this time.) Since then, I have become painfully sensitive to the times when I am giving my soul rest / care, and the times when I am numbing myself with distractions. Jesus calls us to times of rest, but I think He calls us to intentional rest – rest in silence, in play, in art, in others, in Him – not with our phones on the couch (ouch – that one hurt). So, that is why I actually love the idea of self care.

chicken soupBasically, self-care is like chicken soup for the soul. Side note: Remember those cheesy books from 1995? My personal favorite was Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. I think every devotional I led at any retreat, camp, or youth group girls sleepover came straight from that book, and was simply supplemented with a Psalm or Proverb. Also, did you know there are close to 200 “Chicken Soup for the ______ Soul” titles? It’s right up there with “______ for Dummies”. I think the best one is “Chicken Soup for the NASCAR soul.” …. ANYWHO…… Back to Self-Care….

In case you resonate with any of this and need some encouragement, I wanted to share with you a list of the things I do for self care. My original list was about twenty items long, but I pared it down to seven. Please note, everyone’s list for self care will, and should, look different. Someone may say the “run” for self care. That someone is not me. Also of note, our self care lists can and should change. The list I made back in 2015 when I went through Jennie’s NUMB study looks very different than my list today. And I’m sure my list will continue to evolve as our seasons as a family changes. That’s the great thing about preserving thoughts in a blog! Here’s what I have right now:

Jinny’s Self Care List:

1) Take Maddie to school on Friday. Cary and I both have days off on Friday, and originally I had grand plans for our little family and ALL the adventures we would have with three day weekends every week. We were going to have ALL. THE. FUN. And then life showed up and I realized how lovely it was for there to be a place for Maddie to go (that she LOVES going to) that also allowed Cary and I to have some uninterrupted time to get stuff done. We run all, or at least most, of our errands and try to do our chores on Friday. This allows for less hurrying on Saturday, and for us to be more fully present for family time on the weekend.

2) Quiet times at the coffee shop. I was not coffee drinker before 2011. But I dated and then married a guy who loves coffee shops so we ended up hangingtreat yo self out in them a lot, and I have learned to love coffee, and coffee shops! My favorite thing to do on Friday mornings after I drop Maddie off (see #1) is to head over to Summer Moon Coffee and enjoy a cup of their magic “moon milk” latte with a book, a bible study, or my laptop (to clear out my emails, because cluttered inbox = cluttered mind). It really is the most tangible “me time” of the week. Sometimes self care means getting to work and being productive, and other times it means “treat yo self”)

Speaking of reading in the coffee shop, here’s what I’m reading right now. It’s called “Of Mess and Moxie” by Jen Hatmaker. It releases on August 8th, 2017, and if you liked her last book, “For the Love”, you will love Moxie. I’ll have a full book review here on the blog later this summer.omam

3) Monthly Check-in with health coach. I meet with a lady one Friday a month (that’s the goal, at least) just to talk about my health. We take weight measurements, talk about water intake and diet, stress levels, and make some healthy decision goals for the month. She helps hold me accountable and helps keep me from getting too far off course.

4) Bible Study. I spend every Monday night around the table with 3-10 of some of my dearest friends. We eat good food, share about the highs and lows for the week, discuss our current Bible study, and most importantly, pray for one another. It is a privilege to sit around the table with them, and no matter how crazy of a day it has been, I always leave with a fuller tank because of them.

face mask trio5) Eyebrow threading. I don’t wear makeup, so getting my eyebrows done makes me feel pretty. Self care is not always deep and reflective. I’m also really loving doing a weekly mud mask facial. It makes my face smooth and refreshed and is a great way to start the week. The masks that I am loving right now are Trader Joe’s Face Mask Trio
 

6) Go to bed early. Like 9:00pm early. 8:30pm if I’m feeling really wild. The late night hangouts are the one area I simply don’t relate to our college students on. I cannot function on little sleep. My goal is a solid eight hours every night. It makes me be a better sonographer, wife, mom and all-around personable human being. Thankfully, my daughter feels the same and cooperates with the whole “sleeping” thing.  #blessed

7) Spend too much time in a hot shower. I do not rush my showers, and would rather go without than have to jump in and out. On the mornings I oversleep or run short on time, I will sacrifice other things – like breakfast – in order to get a slightly longer shower in. One does not simply ” rinse off”.

So there you have it. I’m curious – what’s on your list? Leave a comment and let me know what you do to refill. We can all learn from each other!

Shake N Bake Okra … and I helped!

I’m sure they sell okra in Kansas, but I wouldn’t know, because the Graebner’s didn’t eat it. I could barely pick it out of a line up. Okra was right up there with zucchini and tilapia. Completely foreign entities.

I can’t remember the first time I had fried okra. If I had to guess, I’d say it was in Couch Cafeteria as a freshmen at OU. Pretty sure I thought nothing of it. But then I moved to Texas. I saw fried okra on more menus than I had in my whole life combined. Friends served roasted okra for dinner. HEB had bins of okra on sale and I actually knew what it was! I began becoming more familiar with this odd, slimy vegetable… And then I met Cary. Fried okra just so happens to be his side dish of choice. So like any good girlfriend/wife, whenever he ordered fried okra, I would always take “just a bite to try”. Soon, I too discovered an affection for the salty, breaded, fried green globs.

Cary’s mom makes very good fried okra. I’m sure that’s where his love began. We’ve been married almost six years now, and I have made fried okra exactly TWO times. Y’all, it’s a booger to make. Really, anything fried is a booger to make. You have to “dredge” it. If a recipe calls for “dredging”, you can count me out 98% of the time.

okra 3Why tell you all this? Well, I’ve been hungry for fried okra lately, but I am just far too lazy to make it. I got to thinking – is there a faster way than fried? Sure, I could just chop it up and roast it, but then you risk the slime and miss out on the crunchy stuff! And then it occured to me:

IF YOU CAN SHAKE-N-BAKE TO GET “FRIED” CHICKEN, CAN YOU SHAKE-N-BAKE TO GET “FRIED” OKRA?

And the answer is… No. Nothing beats the crunchy, greasy goodness of real fried okra. BUT my Shake-n-bake Okra was pretty good. It was super fast, easy, and the whole family loved it (yup, Maddie gobbled it up!). And it was healthier than using all of that oil. I will definitely be making it again.

okra 2

INGREDIENTS:
– 1 box of Kraft Shake-N-Bake
(includes 2 packets of breading mix)
– 1 bag of frozen okra slices
(use straight from freezer no need to thaw!)
– A few dashes of seasoning salt
(Lawry’s, Tony chachere’s, etc)
– 1 egg
– foil
– 1 gallon-sized Ziploc bag

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 400*
Line baking pan with foil (for easy clean up!)
Whisk one egg in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle a few dashes of seasoning salt into egg.
Dump bag of frozen okra into bowl and mix to coat all of the pieces with egg.
Pour both packets of Shake-N-Bake into a gallon ziploc bag (the bags that come with the shake-n-bake are too small for a full bag of okra)
Pour okra pieces into bag with breading
Shake to coat
Pour coated okra onto the baking pan
Throw ziploc bag away
Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine took closer to 20 minutes)
Cool for a few minutes, but enjoy while still warm.
Throw foil away
Put pan back in cabinet (I told you, easy clean up!)

okra1

Across the Lot

The leadership at our church has been thinking and discussing and discerning what the future of our church will look like. Throughout that process, there has been a lot of talk involving the campus ministry – the role of the campus ministry and our students in the life of the church, and the role of the church in the life of Longhorns for Christ. It was during a time of discernment that I wrote this poem. I wrote it (and you can read it) from two perspective: as a member of UA speaking to LFC, and from LFC to UA.

ua
University Avenue Church of Christ

Across the lot
God is working
We are messy
We are longing
Filled with love
Love for God
Love for Others
There are powerful stories
Walk beside me
Tell me your story
I’ll tell you my story
On the outside
We seem different
On the inside
We are the same
This is our desire
More of Jesus
More of Spirit
More of Family
More of You
I need you
Won’t you come?
Across the lot

Longhorns for Christ
lfc

New Year’s Eve

welcome weekTomorrow marks the beginning of our fifth school year on the campus of the University of Texas, ministering with Longhorns for Christ. This means starting tomorrow, I will have been at UT longer than I was at OU. The 20 year old me just shuddered. (don’t fear Okies – I’m sooner born and sooner bred, and when I die, I’ll be sooner dead!). We have seen some tough times over the last four years, but more than anything, we have seen blessings upon blessings. Our time at UT has been graced with really meaningful relationships and changed lives. We are so grateful.

While so many celebrate December 31st as New Years Eve, in our world, August 20th seems like a more appropriate date for that title. Each year, this date makes me both reflective and hopeful. I think back on our time with LFC so far and remember all the students who have crossed our path. Some we only got to spend a few weeks with, others a semester or two, and then others who we’ve watched grow from awkward freshmen into beautiful, mature, inspiring men and women. All have been etched on our hearts. And thinking back then propels me to think forward. I get a small knot in my stomach anticipating all the new faces (sometimes scared and shy faces) we will meet over the next seven days. However, I am comforted that before we know their names and faces, God knows them and sees them. I am comforted and excited that He lets us be a part of their stories – for our good, their good, and His glory.

IMG_9844

Because our family looks different this year, I know my role in our ministry will too look different. I really don’t know what our journey will look like – I know some days will be hard as we try and juggle family life and ministry, but I know that most days will be so special as we watch the Spirit move on campus and in our students, and Madeline will have a front row seat to all of that. It is the exact place I want my daughter growing up in and learning from. IMG_8200We have such a sweet community of students that love our little baby so well, and I am so excited about the new friends we will meet and add to our community. Over the past month, the specific word “FRESHMAN” has come to me over and over. And so that is what I am praying for tonight, our campus ministry new year’s eve, is the freshmen coming to the University of Texas. I would love for you to join me.

Three years ago around this time, an email from a blog I follow, Chatting at the Sky, popped into my inbox. It was a prayer written by Emily Freeman (blog creator and author) for college freshmen. It was so sweet, so appropriate, so beautiful that I pull it up at the beginning of each semester and pray these words over the students about to descend on campus.

“Dear Lord,

They move in to the dorm this weekend and will bring their bags filled with clothes and their boxes filled with books. But you see what they bring in their hearts – anticipation, adventure, love, regret, anxiety, motivation, and hope.

They are a mix of excited, ready, terrified, and wide-eyed freedom.

As he looks for a fresh start, remind him of your faithfulness every morning no matter where he calls home.

As she looks for community, remind her you are always with her no matter where she may go.

As he looks for adventure, remind him how you walk on water, turn water to wine, feed thousands from just a few pieces of bread. Remind him how you bring life straight up out of death, beauty straight out of ashes.

May she have the patience to believe even when she doesn’t see results.

May he know the greatest adventures are found in your presence, the greatest love comes from your heart, the greatest hope is that you’ve made his heart your home.

When insecurity, comparison, disappointment and failure knock on her dorm room door, may she turn to you with her questions rather than run the other way.

Weave your wisdom into the fibers of his soul, bearing the fruit of confidence, clarity, contentment and a light heart.

May he not despise his humanity, rather may he embrace it.

May she not despise her body, rather may she learn to receive and respect her shape as a gift.

May he not despise his weakness, rather may he see how weakness brings a daily reminder to trust.

May they not fear failure, rather may they thrive in the midst of it.

May they not be quick to judge, rather may they be patient and curious.

Help them to find true friends and be a true friend in turn.

Help them find their voice and to use it to be an advocate for themselves and for others.

Replace her shame with courage.

Replace his confusion with peace.

Replace her fear with a love that moves within her beyond her ability to understand.

May your grace surprise them kindly.

Amen.”

May your grace surprise them kindly. Amen and Amen. Here is to another wonderful year at the University of Texas – what starts here, changes the world! 13254882_10100585634990127_6361441539026665083_o