Storm Before the Calm

packing

We are moving.  We have anticipated this day.  In fact, crazy of crazy, we chose this!

We are thrilled to be constructing a new home.  One built for us as “empty nesters”, though not yet there.  It’s also being built in hopes it will be an enticement for lots of friends, college girls to return home to, and one day grandchildren to play at.  I know.  Lofty expectations.  I seem to have a problem with high expectations!

As we prepare, although it’s a little hard to say “we”, I am reminded that more often than not, life is a storm before the calm.  I know the saying is reversed, but in my life, storm before the calm seems much more appropriate.  My schedule often hits storm level before I find my way to decisions about what I am to be engaged in, what is “best” for me/us.  The house often hits tornado storm stage, before I see clearly where I want things to b stored/used.  So it is with a move.  The house is in “controlled” chaos as cabinets are emptied and only what we love and use finds its way to the boxes.  Packing 13 years of stuff seems overwhelming.  The storm tosses and turns us as we seek to move towards the calm.

Yet, if I am honest (and all of my friends can attest to), I love change.  There is something about the storm that energizes me, drives me to activity and dreaming.  I push hard and accomplish a great deal.  Maybe it’s because I long for the calm and know it will serve as great reward.  Whatever it is about me, I love change.  I also love houses, and family, and entertaining and well, LIFE!  So, how do I survive the storm called ‘moving’?  I do it with a plan.  I attack it much the same way I attack any organizing project for SOS: Simplified, Organized, Styled.

1.  Pick a room and begin there.  DO NOT move on to another room until you have pretty much completed that room.  I began with the master bedroom.  I packed up our out of season clothes-being ruthless as I went.  I typically pack clothing and bedding in plastic bins purchased at a discount store.  I am going to try some of the new Zip Lock space saver bags.  (I’ll try to remember to post my opinion of  them.)  I then packed up books, recycled all the magazines, and packed the extra set of linens (If you remember from a previous post, I only keep one set of extra linens per bed-we use ‘em ’til they are threadbare and ready for the trash-then purchase a nice new set. Why store linens when 90% of us just wash the set on the bed and put it right back on!)  All of these boxes are labeled MASTER and are stacked neatly in a corner.

2.  Pick the next room.  For me, it is the great room.  Books and shelving decor packed first.  Then small furniture cleaned and wrapped with protective foam on legs, drawers removed from side tables etc…  Once again, these boxes are clearly labeled and stacked together IN the great room.

Continue this process.  I generally live by the “15 Minute” rule, but for this project it’s more like the “1.5 hour” rule.  Turn a show on and get to it!  You’d be amazed how much you get packed and how ruthless you can be about stuff after a full day of work :).  My goal is always to have things grouped by room so that as the movers load the truck the items go on the truck in a group.  This should mean that as they are unloaded, they come out in groups as well.  The plan isn’t perfect, but after 9 moves, I can tell you it is 90% full proof.

I’d write more, but guess what?!  Yep, boxes are calling.  Remember, there’s always a storm before the calm.  Think towards, plan towards the calm.  It’ll be all the sweeter AFTER the storm!

 

Over-Complicated Life, Over-Simplified Faith

I fear we have over-complicated life and over-simplified faith.  The result?  More young adults leaving the church than ever before.  Why are they leaving?  Research says they are leaving because they have no real theology and do not see the church to be authentic, do not see their parents as authentic.  Ouch.  This has happened on my watch, my generation seems primarily responsible.  Could it be in our abundance, we failed to focus on the important?  Could it be that as we were caught up in the “good life”, the church sought to make itself appealing to us through music, watered down sermons, worship centers that look more like gymnasiums than the House of the Lord, espresso to see us through a one hour service, and church names that bare no sign of any particular affiliation or theology, and so it all became nothing more than one more activity on the calendar?

The simple message sounds good-believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, that He was born of the virgin Mary and died on the cross to atone for our sins.  He rose on the third day, victorious over death.  All you have to do is believe.  You believe and you’ve got a seat reserved in heaven.  Simple enough.  Sounds great.  In our over-complicated lives, an over-simplified faith sounds appealing.  We can get people to make that kind of decision. We can make that kind of decision.  But once our seat in heaven is reserved does all else in scripture falls by the wayside?  That’s just it.  It’s an over-simplified faith.  Christ didn’t just come that we might be saved.  He came that we might be saved and have life abundant.  One in two marriages ending in divorce.  One in six men in the church addicted to pornography.  In other words, things that were more prevalent outside the church and its members, are now as prevalent within the church and its members.  That’s not life abundant.  That’s not life that reflects a living faith.

I am convicted.  I am saddened.  Is it enough though to feel those emotions?  I do not write to judge, but I write out of conviction, out of a desire to spur myself to change and accountability.  I am but a fool if I do not give thought to the research, to what my own girls have seen lived out, heard from the pulpit and understand from their friends.  I am a fool if I think, “But never my child.”  The wise heed instruction.  The wise allow God to instruct, prune and rebuke.  I want to be wise.  I have three more years with my girls-three more influential years before they are set free to fly, to discover, to choose for themselves.  Will they do as their father and I have done?  Will they choose, “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord?”  I pray they do, but if they do it will not be by chance.

I have given a lot of thought lately to “what else” I want to implant in my girls’ minds.  I have given a lot of thought to my own choices and daily conversations, wondering if they ring sincere to my girls.  Am I authentic? Am I willing to be authentic?  It’s not easy.  I don’t want to get caught up in the past, falling into despair over mistakes made.  I want to look back just long enough to know what needs to change.

I need to get back to or begin the following:

Prayer time with my girls’.  Those were treasured evening rituals when they were younger.  We’ve let it slide out of our habits.

Letter writing to each other.  We used to leave each other little notes or letters.  Not daily, not even weekly, but at least once a month.  I keep a journal for my girls-prayers, scriptures, thoughts…  I have kept it since before their birth.  It will be theirs when they leave for college.  But the letters, the letters were just little extras that opened the door for spiritual discussions.

Less complaining and worry.  This is a big one for me.  My greatest sin is worry.  Lately I have let it become a major stumbling block.  That is not faith-it is the complete opposite.  That is not what I want to be remembered for, nor is it the pattern I want to teach my girls.  I am convicted.  I am working diligently in this area.

Joy.  It’s hard to have joy, when you are full of worry.  But joy is what we need.  Even when life is hard.  Even when we have no idea how college will be paid for, or how medical insurance will be paid for… there  is much in life to be thankful for.  Out of thankfulness grows joy.

Most of all, I want us to have conversations about faith-that it is complicated, hard, but oh so worth the perseverance.  I want our lives to be simpler and our faith to be more complicated.  I want us turning to His word, trusting His word and living His word.  We are going to turn it upside down.  The Chaplin home is going to have over-complicated faith in an over-simple life.

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You Gotta Keep Cooking

Life is full right now.  I really want to say life is crazy right now, but isn’t it always?  After all, life is just a series of events, and it never stops.  As they say, time marches on.  So, even in the midst of all that is to be done, yet to come, not done… I must face the fact that everyone still wants to eat, and so I must keep cooking.  At the same time, lest I sound like I am complaining, I confess I find great comfort in cooking and sharing a meal with my family.  Maybe it’s because it brings us together in some uninterrupted time.  Maybe it’s because it brings a sense of normalcy.  Maybe it’s because there really is both physical and spiritual nourishment in breaking bread together.

One of my favorite “go to” comfort meals is Italian Sausage Tortellini Carbonnara.  I think I first found the recipe in a Southern Living magazine, but have long since lost it and rely upon memory and my own little “additions”.

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This dish can be doubled and freezes well.  It is to my family the ultimate comfort food and I must say is in high demand from friends and families when there is a new baby or illness.  Top it off, it’s easy!

Begin with 1 pound Italian Sausage.  I buy the sweet kind, but if you like heat, go for the spicy.  Brown the sausage and drain.  To the sausage add 1 TBSP minced garlic, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.  Pour over the sausage mixture 1 cup of heavy whipping cream (I did not say this was a healthy recipe, I said it was a really yummy recipe).  I have on occasion used fat free half and half (only 3/4 a cup)  Add 4 oz shredded or freshly grated Parmesan.  Heat this mixture over a low heat until it comes to a gentle bubble and the cheese begins to melt.

While preparing the Italian Sausage mixture, cook one package of cheese filled tortellini per package directions.  Drain the tortellini.  In a large skillet or bowl combine the Italian Sausage mixture and tortellini, gently coating the tortellini.   Pour into a lightly greased 9×13 pan.  Sprinkle with Italian Style breadcrumbs (optional) and 4 oz shredded/freshly grated Parmesan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes-until top is slightly browned.  Serve with salad and garlic bread.

Gather your family around the table and create some normalcy.  Enjoy breaking bread together.  Breathe deeply and fellowship around the table.  Let meal-time be the time to pull away from the “crazy’ pace and events of the world and refresh, nourish, fellowship.

Can We Even Know Him in the Good Times?

We live in a culture seemingly all about happiness, success, livin’ it up…  Even our churches present “happy” experiences-upbeat music, bright lights, flashy screen shots, indoor playgrounds, more programs and activities than we can possibly fit into our schedules …  Yet, in other parts of the world, life is hard, food is lacking, no church buildings exist.  Who really lives the better life?

I find myself in that season of life facing the care and encouragement of aging parents, while raising teen daughters, working, and seeking to be active in my church and community.  Repeatedly though, the reality of  it all strikes and I am reminded WE CAN NOT do it all.  In deed, there are seasons of life, and in each season we have time for only what is BEST during that season.  We CAN NOT live all of life in one season.  I am also reminded my faith walk is enhanced and strengthened mostly in the hard times, the bad times, the difficult times.

This week one of our parents lays in ICU, something that has become an annual if not bi-annual experience.  Life hangs in the balance and all that we had planned, gets pushed to the side.  Family rallies, prayers become fervent and constant.  We seek to plan, and yet what is to come is out of our control.  Each time we have walked this path, my girls’ have questioned.  They too have grasped that all too often the only thing we can cling to is our faith, our relationship with the one true God.  They too have begun to understand that all too often we do not know how to pray, or what to pray, yet Christ, our intercessor speaks on our behalf.  I am reminded once again, that broken hearts enable us to more fully know our Lord.  There is no self-sufficiency when living with a broken heart.  There is no earthly cure for a broken heart.  Once again, the upside down nature of God’s ways points us to all that we must hold firm to.  His Son, broken, hanging on the cross met all our needs in death.  He claimed the victory, that we too might have victory.  In our brokenness we are raised up, filled up, made strong.  Not by our might, but by His.  We are instructed to “be glad in all things, giving thanks…”  It seems impossible.  It seems especially impossible during the bad times.  Yet, when our lives are shifted, our hearts struck, it suddenly makes sense.

Life is a bittersweet journey.  Yet, in Him, we find peace and strength.  In looking back we can give thanks for the trials and tribulations.  Hopefully I am learning and teaching my girls that in the midst we can also give thanks-not for the hardship, but for His presence, His grace, His sufficiency.  I would not fully know Him were it not for the difficult times.  They draw me to Him and in my weakness I seek Him more, only to find Him and come to know Him more fully.

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May the generation behind me know the meaning of the cross.  May they stand in its shadow, clinging to all that it represents.  May I and all who stand with me in this season of parenting live our lives faithfully at the foot of the cross, reminding those behind us of its presence and its power.  I love this daily representation in my brother’s home.

Beg, Borrow, Steal Recipes! Easy Fajitas

As organized as I am, I struggle with menu planning.  I love to cook.  I love good food.  I collect cookbooks like some collect antique dishes, or shoes (yet, confess I have a little issue there too).  Home is the smell of fresh baked cookies.  Friends should be gathered ’round the table.  Fellowship is centered on a beautifully set table with a savory meal.  Maybe it’s a Southern thing.  I don’t know, but I love food, I love cooking and I love serving.  So, one would think this menu planning thing would be a breeze.  WRONG!  I struggle.  I have decided, like so many things in life, I just get overwhelmed by the array of choices, I like change, and well, to be real honest, my expectations are just way too high.  I’m not satisfied with serving leftovers, frozen meals or chicken nuggets.  I fall into bed feeling disgruntled and disappointed.  I know I shouldn’t, and by no means am I judging those who can throw Stouffer’s in the oven or heat up some nuggets and go merrily on their way.  I’ve tried the on-line meal planning services, I have printed off at least 12 different, adorable menu planning sheets, heck, I’ve even purchased some!  All to no avail.  I give.  I have decided I’ll never be the mom that has a year worth of menus, or rotates weekly or monthly dishes.  Just isn’t going to happen.  It’s just not me.  I am embracing me.  The best I can come up with is a monthly plan, kind of sort of.

I print off a plain old ugly blank monthly calendar.  I spend an evening going through recipes, write down the recipe book and the recipe page number and add the ingredients to my grocery list.  Then there is this whole coupon thing I do, but I’ll post about that next week.  I do everything in my power to do one BIG grocery trip per month, but usually end up doing two middle sized.  I don’t stockpile.  No purpose.  I rarely cook the same things.  I do keep on hand a few staples, and yes, in reality I do have about 5 “go to” recipes.  In the end though, as said, I am embracing who I am.  My creative outlet is cooking.  I am giving myself room to experiment, print off those yummy posts from Pinterest and see what the family says is a keeper.  AND, when my friends treat us to a scrumptious meal my gang won’t quit talking about, I beg for the recipe.  Today’s recipe is just such a recipe.  It’s from my dear friend Lisa Blake, who also happens to be my girls’ god-mother (and the coolest one ever in their eyes.)  She and her husband live on a “mini” ranch in TX, so only fitting that on our last visit she treated us to THE BEST fajitas.  Of course, everything tastes better in Texas, right?!

Easy Chicken Fajitas

4-6 Skinless, boneless chicken breasts

equal parts Italian Dressing and Soy Sauce (we both used the light, low sodium in both products)

I added 2 Tbsp minced garlic, 1 tsp dried red pepper and 1 tsp cumin

Mix the Italian Dressing, Soy Sauce and spices.  Pour over the chicken.  Wrap tightly.  Let marinate overnight.  Cook the chicken breasts on the grill.  Mix up one half cup of the Italian Dressing and Soy Sauce (equal parts).  Saute sliced onion and bell peppers in a little bit of olive oil.  Pour the Italian Dressing/Soy Sauce mixture over the onions and peppers and cook on low in a skillet.

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Serve with white or whole wheat tortillas and condiments (avacado, salsa, cheddar cheese, sour cream).  Add a side salad and you have a great, easy to prepare, quick dinner.  I promise, this marinade will have you hooked.  Who knew-soy sauce in your Mexican food!

I’m gonna keep working on my menu planning, but don’t get your hopes up.  I’m learning to let myself off the hook for some things, but more importantly, learning to embrace the me I am and love living life.

No Looking Back, No Looking to Tomorrow-Just One Simple Step in Obedience (and When the lesson is wait)

Posting a second time.  Today’s struggle. Media!

Living in Brokenness continues to be my theme.  I can’t express enough the freedom I am finding each day as I embrace the truth that God’s fragrance spills forth from me as I leave myself broken at His feet.  It is that moment in time when head knowledge meets heart knowledge and you wish you had gotten the lesson earlier!  As I embrace this truth, let it sink in and remind myself moment by moment to leave the shattered pieces of the alabaster jar, refrain from “fixing”, I am free to pursue obedience in the moment.  It doesn’t mean there are no plans.  It just means that the plans, the steps of obedience are leading me to His purpose for this moment.  I no longer have to look back dragging with me all the regrets or things to be fixed.  I no longer have to look to the future trying to figure it out and do what I can “in my power” to make the puzzle pieces fit.  No, instead I only have to obey the promptings for this moment, knowing He has a plan.  He has already ordained my days.  By keeping my eyes on Him and releasing all that He has already forgiven, wiped away, I can simply do the task of the moment, trusting the small steps in obedience lead to His master plan.  I am free to enjoy the journey.  I am free to rest in Him.  I can experience the joy of hope, true hope that comes only from trusting enough to live in the present.

Keeping my mind filled with truth is a step in obedience I need to take.  I read scripture daily and spend quiet time each morning reflecting on His word and in communion with Him.  I still lack.  The days get busy, I feel pulled, the emotions rise and Satan gets a foot-hold in my mind.  Oh, the battle begins, and too often that pesky devil wins.  I have long known of the use of affirmations-those little pep talks promoted by Zig Ziglar, Gary Keller, and others.  I know those have value, but God has impressed upon me I need Spiritual Affirmations to recite daily.  I am beginning the process of finding 50 scripture to rephrase into Spiritual Affirmations.  I am going to put them in a bound index card holder and carry them with me.  I have begun my journey placing one of Emily Burger’s (www.emilyburgerdesigns.com) scripture based prints called “You’re An Overcomer” in a frame on my vanity counter.  It is the beginning of daily reciting Spiritual Affirmations to fill my mind with truth and have an arsenal of His words to combat Satan next time he makes a move on my mind.  My heart is sealed.  Christ sealed my heart with His blood for all eternity the day I accepted Him as my personal Savior.  My heart belongs to Him and Him alone.  My mind, well my mind is mine.  He grants me freewill.  So for this moment, my act of obedience is to gather His truths, make them personal, recite them and commit them to memory.

This blog post spoke to me as I am on my own journey.  It seems I am coming out of a desert experience, 3-4 years of waiting.  I hope this will give you encouragement in your walk-especially if you are waiting.  When the lesson is wait.