153 fish

We weren’t even two weeks into the pandemic. I wasn’t yet annoyed by the word “unprecedented”. Everyone I knew was making bread of some sort (I chose both the banana and Amish friendship varieties). Clorox wipes were harder to find than Waldo himself.

We had just sent our students off for spring break, and suddenly we were canceling our spring retreat and preparing to finish the semester online. We didn’t know those last quick hugs would be the last for a long while. We weren’t going to get to look our seniors in the eyes as we blessed them and sent them. The end of a school year is always bittersweet, but it seemed like the sweet was getting ripped out from under us with each passing day. As the cases of Covid increased, my hope of a quick return to “normalcy” decreased. 

One afternoon during that beginning phase, I found myself sitting in the sunshine on the back porch reading the book of John, specifically chapter 21 – a story that takes place after Christ’s resurrection. 

John 21:
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas(also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee,and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered, 

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

I love the book of John. Even in just these fourteen verses I can find multiple nuggets of wisdom. Usually when I read a passage like this, I try to imagine myself as one of the characters in order to find the lesson. Would I be a disciple, sad and returning to their fishing boat, the only thing they knew for certain? Would I be Peter, wildly jumping out of the boat in hopes of forgiveness and reconciliation? Both good lessons, but neither of which were sticking with me on that day. You know what I couldn’t get out of my head that day? The net

It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 

Full, but not torn. Heavy, but not torn. 

And then there were the fish. 153 fish. Why scripture is that specific, I’m not sure. I AM sure you could go down quite the Internet rabbit hole chasing many different ideas about that number. But again, my interest was not in theories, just in the existence of the number.  153. One hundred and fifty three. One. Five. Three. The number rolled around in my head and my heart for days – I couldn’t seem to shake it. Since March 15th was the first Sunday that our church was closed, and the first weekend of spring break, that is the date I had marked as the beginning of our pandemic season as a family.  I remember typing into google “when is 153 days from March 15th?” The answer: Saturday, August 15th. I remember thinking “there is NO way this is going to drag on THAT long…” . And now here we sit, on August 15th – 153 days from the start of it all. And just like why the number of fish is noted in John, I desperately want to find meaning and purpose in it all. But honestly, I don’t know what that is, and may never know. 

But here is what I DO know after 153 days. My heart has felt full in the best ways, but hasn’t torn. My heart has felt heavy in the worst ways, but hasn’t torn. And through each day, I can lift my eyes and see Jesus, standing in the shore waiting to give me all the right things at all the right times. And sometimes, that even looks like breakfast.

Cheer

I know I’m several months behind the rest of the world, but this weekend I finally finished “Cheer” on Netflix. Since coming out, I’ve seen a lot of reviews of the show (almost unanimously positive), but most of the reviews tend to focus either on their coach, Monica, or on one of the team underdogs, Jerry. Now let me say, Monica is a great coach and I loved watching how she inspires her students. And Jerry is humble and hopeful with a magnetic energy, as well as just a ton of fun to root for.  But more than these two, what really stood out to me most were the other students. For a documentary about cheerleading, I thought it offered a small glimpse into the struggles that a lot of college students (regardless of university or Athletic status) face in 2020.

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When I watched CHEER, I saw a lot of our UT students in the students of Navarro. Here’s what I saw:

Adversity

anxiety

loneliness

trauma

pressure

expectations

Bad decisions

Good decisions

community

drive

persistence

resilience

hard work

hope

If you haven’t seen it yet, let me recommend the six-part series to you. Not only has it been thought provoking for me, it truly is an entertaining show. I found myself clapping along to the finale, and even found myself doing 8-counts as I was getting ready yesterday morning (1.2.3..5..7..) And then after you watch it, think about the college students in your life, and find a way to love on them today. Don’t know any? Start there.

*one final note, on the team of 20 cheerleaders, THREE of them publicly admitted to attempting suicide over the course of 6 Episodes. It is heart-breaking!  If you are hurting, there are resources to help (800-273-8255), and my phone is on.

 

(photo: property of Netflix) 

Advent – a season of waiting

Today, December 1, is the first day of the 2019 Advent season. Advent is celebrated in the Christian tradition on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas (in contrast to the chocolate advent calendars that always start on December 1 and countdown to Christmas). The Advent season is followed by Christmas, or Christmastide (on the liturgical calendar, Christmas is 12 days long – hence the carol), and Christmastide ends on January 6th, the day of Epiphany. 

I did not grow up in a tradition that recognized or celebrated the Advent season. In fact, I’ve only really been aware of it for less than a decade. We first celebrated the Advent season when Maddie was nine months old. Our church gifted each family in the children’s ministry with a “Jesse Tree” – a wooden tree with ornaments for each day of December with coordinating devotionals that teach us about the story of the birth of Jesus. That gift opened the door for my piqued curiosity about the liturgical calendar. Over the past couple years, I have read about the seasons, feast days, festivals, and “ordinary time” from women like Tsh Oxenreider, Sarah Bessey, and Erin Moon, who are more familiar with these traditions. Thanks to these women, as well as other very smart voices, this last year I found the gift of observing the Lenten Season for the first time as well. 

As we have learned more about the Advent season, we have tried to incorporate more of it into the life of our family. There are four weeks of Advent, with a theme each week: hope, peace, joy, and love. Each evening, we pull out our Jesse Tree devotional to read as a family. Those devotionals help point us back to the week’s core theme. After the reading, the girls take turns unwrapping the ornament for the day and hanging it on the tree. Then, because kids love chocolate and they sat patiently through a devotional reading, they each get to open their chocolate advent calendar for the day. Every other day, we place a new character in our nativity set, completing the Holy Family on Christmas Day with the addition of baby Jesus. The nativity scene and the Christmas decorations stay up through Christmastide. On January 6th, we add the wisemen to our nativity scene and talk about how the Gospel is for all people – how we want to be a family who welcomes all at our table. The weekend following, we will slowly pack up our Christmas decor for the year, thanking God for an intentional time of remembering and waiting. 

Today, we begin this process again as a family with the theme of HOPE. Especially in the last few weeks and months, I have been acutely aware of the recurring theme of the coexistence of hope and grief. You don’t have to look too hard at the world around us, in our very own communities and circles, to see that people around us our struggling, hurting, and frustrated. I’d say that I’ve been able to claim those things to some degree as well recently. So how do we hold HOPE in times like this? Sarah Bessey, an author we’ve been reading in our small group, wrote a bit about that this week, and I thought her words were too good not to share. She writes, We don’t get to have hope without having grief. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to grieve. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason for why we need hope to begin with. Advent matters, because it’s our way of keeping our eyes and our hearts and our arms all wide open even in the midst of our grief and longing. The weary world is still waiting in so many ways, in so many hearts, in so many places, for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come.”

So as I gather with my daughters and my husband tonight, to open our Advent box and begin another season of waiting and remembering, we will not ignore the grief of those around us, or the grief we feel in our own hearts, but we will remember the truth that God has come, God is here, and God will come again to bring Shalom – peace, wholeness, and the making of all things right. 

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Does your family celebrate Advent? Leave a comment below and tell me about YOUR Advent traditions! 

What I’m listening to this week: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus 

What I’m reading this week: Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camealy

30 minute Cinnamon Rolls

If you asked my three year old what her favorite food was, she would have a clear and quick answer for you: CINNAMON ROLLS (thanks to Uncle Adam for that introduction). While she loves to help me out in the kitchen, I’ve yet to be brave enough to try real two-day prep, overnight rise, yeast cinnamon rolls. we have, however, been experimenting with”semi-homemade” cinnamon rolls. I’m here to tell you about our favorite recipe hack to date – 30 minute cinnamon rolls!

My inspiration came from a combination of two things. First, this recipe video I saw on Facebook last week. Second, this jar. 

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Trader Joe’s released a large portion of their fall products this week, and among all the delicious seasonal classics we’ve come to love, a new product this year was their cinnamon bun spread. I saw a lot of discussion online about different ways that folks were using it, but as soon as I saw the jar, I knew I had to try it with this recipe.

So on this Saturday morning, I grabbed my sous chef, all my ingredients, and we got to work on breakfast! The beauty of the recipe is that nothing is measured – these cinnamon rolls are all about eyeballing. They came together in less than 10 minutes, and baked in twenty. By the time coffee was made, we were ready to sit down and devour. Mom, Dad, and little sister gave the cinnamon rolls two thumbs up, but big sister said they weren’t as good as her favorite (little Debbie honey buns). We’ll definitely make them again!

30 minute cinnamon rolls 

Ingredients
1 pkg. TJ Aloha Rolls (or Kings Hawaiian)
Softened butter
Jar of TJ cinnamon bun spread
Cinnamon Sugar mix (optional)
Powdered sugar
Milk

 

Directions

  1. IMG_8171 Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Spray your muffin pan, or butter 8 of the wells.
  3. Slice entire package of rolls, so that it opens like a book. On one side, spread thin layer of softened butter. On the opposite side, spread a thin layer of cinnamon bun spread.
  4. Place layers back together like a sandwich, and grab your rolling pin. (This was Maddie’s FAVORITE part). Now, rolls the package of rolls THIN. Really smoosh them down.
  5. On the top, add another thin layer of cinnamon bun spread.
  6. Roll entire rectangle length wise to form a long roll. Slice into 8 slices, about 1″ thick.
  7. Place each slice, swirl up, in a muffin tin. Top with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.
While they baked, I put on a pot of coffee, and mixed up the icing. In a small bowl, place 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Add a teaspoon or two of milk, literally drop by drop, until your desired consistency is reached. When the rolls are done, place on a plate and drizzle with icing. All that’s left is to enjoy!

If you like the recipe, leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite fall Trader Joe’s product is this year!

World’s Most Okay-est Cookie: A tale of Sugar, Butter, Flour

Sunday, August 4th is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!

I had grand dreams of celebrating this momentous day by creating and publishing the world’s greatest cookie recipe. I channeled my inner Monica Gellar, gathered my ingredients, and set out to create mouth-watering cookies from scratch. The recipe would be my legacy…

But do you remember that episode of Friends? Monica tried to recreate Phoebe’s grandma’s famous “family-secret” chocolate chip cookie recipe. She spends two days and makes over twenty batches, changing each ingredient little-by-little. Finally, she throws in the towel and begs Phoebe for any information that would help her recreate the recipe. It’s then that Phoebe mentions that her family in France may know the secret, since the creator was a French woman named “Nest-ley Toulouse”. The perfect recipe had been in front of Monica the whole time…

Well, I don’t have quite the endurance for a 48 hour baking session (plus running the oven that long in August? no thank you), but I did make several batches of different cookie recipes over the last several months in an effort to educate myself on ingredients and ratios. Last night, I penned my recipe, and this morning, I got to baking. And I ended up baking…. the world’s most okay-est cookie.

World’s Most Okay-est Cookie
Yield: 4.5 dozen
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2 sticks salted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup AP Flour
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer MINI chips, but used standard size today)

Cream butter and sugars for at least 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Once well combined, slowly mix in the dry ingredients, stopping to scrape bowl after each addition. Finally fold in chocolate chips. Chill dough in fridge for 30 minutes. Scoop into 1 Tbsp. balls on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes at 350*.

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If any culinary experts out there want to tell me where I went wrong, I’m still open to tweaking and perfecting. These cookies, while tasting perfectly fine, were a bit dry and a bit light for my tastes. I was hoping the addition of the cake flour would help achieve the right texture, but I think it actually worked against me. For my next batch, I’ll switch it back to only using all-purpose flour. I prefer a cookie that’s golden in color, thick, and CHEWY. How do you like YOUR chocolate chip cookie? Thin and crispy, soft and fluffy, dark brown, light brown, completely unbaked and straight off the log from the fridge?(don’t act like you haven’t done it)

For now, I’m sticking with the original – Nestle Toll House: The recipe has been on the back of the bag since the 1930’s, but can also be found here.

Other recipes I used for inspiration are:

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From Euna Mae’s Love Welcome Serve Cookbook, by Amy Hannon: These are very good, and I love how specific Amy is with her instructions, but they had a lot of different ingredients, and a lot of steps. The rest of the cookbook, however? Totally worth every step and every ingredient. It’s my favorite cookbook right now!

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Levain CopyCat:  These are AMAZING, but they are HUGE (and I even made them smaller than the recipe said too). They were a hit with Maddie, the college students, and my coworkers. This will be the recipe I use when I have somewhere extra special to take cookies, but for an everyday cookie, they’re just simply too big.

My Favorite Cookie Dough for the Freezer – Celebration Cookies: I bake these straight from the freezer, and I love to have at least a couple dozen in the freezer at all times. The dough balls are also great to take to new moms, because they can pull out just one or two at a time to bake when the craving hits. Plus, they abide by my life mantra “sprinkles make everything better”, and they are just so fun to look at, as well as eat! A great party cookie!

What’s your favorite cookie recipe?

On pulling out the fine china

In honor of mother’s day, I thought I’d publish some words I wrote for our church’s recent Tea party, on pulling out the fine china:

When I found out I was pregnant with Maddie, I knew almost instantly what I wanted to do for the nursery. Growing up, my grandma had the old Fisher Price farm (the red one with the separate silo), and I have always been drawn to those vintage toys. So I spent the next nine months collecting vintage toys from family, friends, and lots of antique shops. But at the center of them all – my grandma’s toy farm.

A few weeks ago, Maddie asked to play with a few of those toys that I had displayed on a shelf, far out of reach. My first inclination was a quick NO! What if she broke them or messed them up? She wouldn’t appreciate them like I do. But then I began to think about that toy – it was a TOY! It was meant to be played with!! And I think if my grandma were still alive, nothing would delight her more than to watch Maddie play with a toy that she saved for and bought for the enjoyment of her kids. So we pulled the toys down, sat on the floor, and played. And as we played, I got to tell Maddie all about her great-grandma. Through the playing, we honored and remembered her.

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Today, we have pulled our church’s fine china for a tea party. The tea cups and plates we are using this morning were given to our church by two faithful women, Allene Pope and Margie Barker. For those that may not recognize the name, Margie Barker was Ann Hailey’s aunt, more like a mom than an aunt. While I did not have the privilege of knowing these women, some of you did. Let me encourage you, if you did, to share a story about these women with the ladies at your table during one of our breaks today. But while I did not know them, I’m sure that they would also be DELIGHTED that we have pulled these pieces out to be used today. Because toys are meant for shelves, and tea cups aren’t either. And so this morning, we remember these women, we honor them in the use of the treasures they have passed on to us.

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So I’d like everyone to raise a cup, and raise a pinky, and let’s begin our morning with a toast to Allene and Margie. TO ALLENE AND MARGIE!

And to Grandma G – whose apron and pearls I donned for the day. img_2800

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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(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.

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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!