Winter Comfort-Soup is On

I love to cook.  Being a part of Debbie Arnold’s food blog is always a special treat and privilege.  If you know anything about Debbie Arnold, you know she is an amazing cook and is full of great tips (which she shares on Arkansas KTHV 11 During Dining with Debbie).  It is always a little humbling to prepare a dish to share on her blog, but the other aspect of Debbie Arnold is her genuineness and love of gathering in the kitchen.   She is a down to earth home cook who inspires you to jump right in and share the kitchen.

Transitioning back to work full-time outside of the home has made cooking at home a little more difficult.  However, I still believe that relationships are most often built around the table.  We were created to need sustenance.  We were created to need relationship.  The table draws us together, allowing for two of our basic needs to be met. That belief, my desire to nurture my family physically and emotionally keeps me working to find ways to meal plan better, to slow down and let the cooking time also be bonding time, and letting go of some of my “perfectionist” expectations of myself.  Meals have become a little simpler.  The crock pot finds it way to my counter at least once a week.  My girls play a bigger role, getting something started as I am on my way home or taking on one of the dishes as we put a complete meal together.  I have also found I turn to some of our favorites more often, cooking less variety during the week.   It just helps keep things simple, and keeps us at home.

Today, I am sharing one of the few soup recipes my family can agree upon and devour in less than an hour.  Cajun Shrimp Chowder.  The recipe, originally passed along to me by a friend from Louisiana, has been given a few Chaplin tweaks. It was the perfect bowl of warmth and comfort after church today.

I hope you enjoy the recipe.  Spend a little extra time around the dinner table this week with family and/or friends.  In a world filled with sadness, turmoil, and busyness we all need the comfort of good food, good company, good fellowship.

cajun-shrimp-chowder

Serve One Another

As a missionary kid I grew up in the midst of people giving their whole lives to service, to making the difference in someone else’s life, seeking to help and to share the gospel. Opportunities to travel the globe as a child and youth exposed me to needs, to political structures which stifled and caused harm to citizens.  I knew from the age of 14 I wanted to work in public service.

This week thousands of us in public service, join the Points of Light Foundation in remembering President Bush’s inaugural speech and his call to action.  We honor him, the legacy he built.  I remember watching the speech.  I remember the reference to the non-profit and government programs spread across the country “like shining stars”.  I remember, in those moments, knowing I had chosen the career that was right for me. Today, as I serve the citizens of Arkansas, President Bush’s words continue to inspire me. Programs and processes do not change people.  Programs ad processes may offer help, they may meet a concrete need, but they do not change people.  People change people.  I believe that, not just because of years of service with government and nonprofit organizations, but I believe that because I know we were created by God to have relationship.  We were created to need one another.

My work plans for 2017 involve the launch of a system to connect people to other people, helping people meet the needs of others.  In my personal life my desire for 2017 is to strengthen existing relationships and open myself up to new ones, to respond to needs when I see them.  As a mother, my greatest desire has been to teach my children to connect to others, to see the needs of those around them and sacrifice their time and resources to meet them.  That character trait is one I have desired to instill and rates high above grades or popularity in our home.  My prayer this week is that they, my girls, and you will read the words of President Bush, be inspired, and then take action.

http://www.pointsoflight.org/people/board-members/president-george-h-w-bush

LoveAllHeart

 

How to…

I am often asked how I get done what I get done.  Let me first say, I honestly don’t think I get more done than most people.  I think it often appears that way because I hold my emotions close, am fairly private and try to maintain my composure.  I fear I sometimes appear “all together” and that is often far from the truth (just ask my family!).  I will admit though, that I have also been a student of time management for as long as I can remember.  I was that child in elementary school who wanted to work my way through every SRA test seeing my name rise on the chart.  I was the high school student who wanted to make good grades, play sports, serve on student council and earn spending money.  I was the college student who had to work her way through college, so I needed to be able to balance studies with work.  I was the young wife who wanted to work, cook fabulous meals, entertain friends and business partners and create a “Southern Living” style home.  And then I became a first time mom to not one, but two beautiful baby girls and I wanted to be present in every way, have our home continue to be a haven and place for gathering, and I desperately wanted my girls to see me serving in the community.

 

I have have learned a lot about managing my time along the way.  Some lessons were learned through painful mistakes, while others were learned as doors opened and new opportunities presented themselves.  I am still learning.  I have revisited many of my favorite tools and books as I have re-entered the workforce after 16 years as a stay-at-home mom.  I have given a lot of thought to what advice I would share with others as I prepare to send my girls to college next year.  Here are a few of my favorite tips:

  1. Choices:  We all have the same amount of time.  We have to make choices.  Anything we choose to do fills our time and requires we say no to something else.
  2. We all need help.  Even the Proverbs 31 woman had help.  She had maidservants.  We cannot keep our homes, do all the shopping and all food preparations, volunteer at our children’s schools and at church, work, serve our friends and maintain our sanity.  We have to allow others to help.  If our budget allows that may mean a hired housekeeper.  If not, it may mean our children have chores and our husband helps. We may need to swap childcare services with a friend.  When I chose to go back to work this year I knew it would require budgeting for a housekeeper and passing off some of the household shopping to my husband and girls.
  3. We need to know our personal rhythm and build our schedule around it.  I am a morning person.  I do my best thinking in the morning.  I have energy in the morning.  As a result I make it a habit of setting my work hours early.  While I would love to be one of those people who goes to the gym at 5:30, it doesn’t fit my rhythm. I do much better jumping right into work and then fitting in a workout on the way home late afternoon/early evening, giving myself a time to transition and a little energy boost.  My natural rhythm also means I need to go to bed early.  I am usually in bed by 9:30 and try to have lights out by 10:30.  I have tried many times to adjust my schedule, to be more like someone else, but in the end my natural rhythm is a part of my DNA and there is no fighting it.  I am a better version of me and am able to perform better when i embrace my personal rhythm.
  4. I live by the 15 minute rule.  Any time I feel stuck, am dreading an assignment or find myself with some extra time I employ the 15 minute rule.  You will be amazed at all you can do in 15 minutes.  Giving your undivided attention to something for just 15 minutes can be the difference between never getting a task done, never starting on a project or complete success.  Here is a list of just a few things you can tackle in 15 minutes:
    1. Empty the dishwasher
    2. Clean out your purse or car
    3. Make your bed
    4. Respond to email
    5. Update/sync your calendar
    6. Create a work plan for a project
  5. Always build in white space.  I always add 15 minutes to the front end and back end of appointments.  This allows me some buffer, keeps me from running late, and is often a source of some 15 minute blocks to tackle some of the daily tasks.  I also leave at least two weeknights open.  This means I have seldom joined a book club or a Bunko group.  This means my husband and I say “yes” to very few charitable events.  (we will pay for a ticket and gladly give someone else our seats)  Early on in our parenting my husband and I made a decision to not let hurry and events run our lives.  We have chosen instead a slower paced way of living, making certain we AND our girls were at home as often as possible.  To some this may have meant keeping our girls from opportunities, denying them the chance to be popular, the best at their sport.  All I can tell you is I have well-rounded, happy girls.  They both have activities they love, lots of friends and our home during these years high school years has been the gathering place.  They would tell you they didn’t miss out on a thing.
  6. Use a calendar.  I am a list maker, but that is not why I advocate use of a calendar.  No.  My advocacy for calendars stems from my desire and intent to be aware of where and how I spend my time.  I want to make choices and know what choices I am making.  Life can and will quickly take control if we allow it.  By using a calendar (which for me is still a paper version) I see how our schedule looks, I know what I have planned for the day, week, month.  I become more conscious, more aware.

I do get a lot done.  However, there are also a lot of things I don’t get done, and most of those are by choice.  I try to extend grace to myself.  I try to maintain discipline without being rigid.  The “how to” is a lifelong learning experience and each season brings new challenges, new lessons, new methods.

If you are struggling to get things done, to get our from under the weight of your calendar I hope a few of my tips will help.  Most of all, I pray you will find some time this week to step back from your life, your daily routine and give it some thought.  Take a leap of faith. Say no where you need to.  Make the desires of your heart your priorities.  Reset your schedule and live your life, not someone else’s.

Breathing,Breaking,Beholding

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I took a break from the blog.  I needed to step back, to really push through to the other side.  I began this blog as an accountability tool for myself.  It then morphed into an opportunity to share about my passion for home and organization, along with spiritual lessons.  Then one day, it just seemed there was nothing to say, my thoughts were dark and anxiety and bitterness were becoming more a way of thinking and living.

Somewhere between facing some changes in our finances, ongoing extended family relationship struggles, approaching the empty nest years, I began to spiral.  My thoughts were consumed with the “what if”…”why didn’t I”… “why does she” questions.  It seemed that nothing in my family relationships would change, and that depression and anger would continue to steal from our relationships.  It seemed at age 49 there were not many prospects for entering the workforce, engaged in something I was passionate about, creating a new identity for myself outside of motherhood.  The chaos of the world seemed to only confirm what I feared.  I was tired.  Anxiety woke me at odd hours, my chest feeling as though an elephant were sitting on it, and breathing was hard, shallow.  Fatigue kept me from moving, doing and too often the end of the day found me sitting face to face with regret, angry at myself for letting the worries win.

I would like to tell you that during my morning quiet time or a church service God spoke, pulled me from the pit.  I’d love to tell you about a “burning bush” moment, but that is not my story.  Instead, it has been a slow process, one that began with a desire to exercise, strengthen my physical being, burn off some steam.  I have slowly climbed my way out of the pit, dragging my body up the muddy hill, pushing, pulling, crying, laughing.

I joined a local gym and signed myself up for personal training.  I did it without talking to my friends or family (yes even my husband, which I do not recommend if you are on a tight budget).  I decided I had to do something on my own, for myself.  I needed to make just one small decision and just do something.  I am not going to lie.  I did it with a little bit of rebelliousness.  It has been amazing!  In a matter of thirty short minutes the trainer can push me through exercises that cause my heart to race, my muscles to ache and my body to sweat.  Learning to use equipment I didn’t know existed, pushing myself past that moment of “I can’t”.  At the end of each session with the last count done and the high five slap a sense of empowerment, accomplishment set in.  What I thought I could not do, I could do.  In fact not only could I do it, but I could do more than what was expected. Pushing myself physically, having someone to speak truth as I pushed, hurt, struggled, got me over the hump.  As I began to see and feel the difference in my physical being I began to realize how much I had let Satan fill my mind with his lies.  I realized that while I was a good Baptist girl who read her bible every morning, attended church and bible studies, I was not letting God’s truth fill my mind.  I was choosing to believe the lies, the distorted messages of Satan and it had and was robbing me of life.  I was focused on all that I didn’t have, on the hard parts of life and was ignoring all that I did have, all I had access to through Christ.

What began as a journey to renew my physical body has become a journey to renew my mind.  I have taken every negative thought captive and wrestled with it, searching out God’s truth.  Some wrestling matches have lasted months, while others stop and start. Some matches I have won and God’s truth reigns.  Everything about us, our thoughts and our actions, rest upon what we believe.  I believe I am the daughter of Christ, made in His image.  His Spirit resides in me and gives me access to His power, the power to overcome, to live free.

If you are struggling I want to encourage you.  Step back, breath, take a break and behold God’s truth.  Let each Word sink in.  Release the lies.

The funny thing is not a lot about my life has changed.  The truth is, I haven’t really changed.  I am still me, the girl I have always been, with the same personality, talents and gifts.  Depression and anxiety still have a hold on a family member.  My girls are still headed to college.  My husband’s business is still recovering from the economic crisis of a few years back.  I have had friends bury children, walk through divorce, and lose jobs.  The difference is what I choose to believe.

truth

 

When Faith Falters

I haven’t posted in a while, a long while.  For one, it is summer and time to savor the moments with family, enjoy a less hectic schedule.  More importantly though I have been processing God’s work in my life.

I began this blog as an accountability piece for myself.  I am a processor, a thinker.  That is not always a good thing.  I can get bogged down in the thinking and fail to act.  I can get caught up in worry and anxiousness as I let my thoughts get the best of me.  I often fall back into the old habit of striving, instead of waiting.  I have done a lot of all the above over the past 5-6 years.  A collapse in economy, changes in my relationship with family, having to end practical support for someone my husband and I love and honor, wondering what life would hold when my girls completed high school, and suddenly I found myself living in a place of anxiety and worry.  My faith faltered.  In all honesty, I was more shaken than I had ever been.

Today as I write, I am so incredibly grateful for God’s grace.  I am so thankful He reminded me time and time again that faltering in my faith does not make me less, nor does it in any way impact His love for me, my salvation, my worth.  More than that, I am glad he saw me through the storm, He opened my eyes to the lessons I needed to learn, and that in the end, He brought about His purposes in His time.  “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”  I Corinthians 15:10a

The journey is the important part of life.  Embracing the season, acknowledging where we are, sharing the struggles.  My faith faltered.  Would I love to have walked the path in perfect faith?  I would love to be without sin, to never grieve my Savior, but He alone holds that place of perfection.  I treasure the journey.  I treasure each lesson.  I treasure knowing Him in new ways.  His grace is sufficient.  His grace has indeed had an effect on me.

If you are struggling today, if you feel less than, remember He alone is perfect.  Remember His grace is sufficient.  Let His grace have an effect upon your heart, mind and actions.

Unity of Thought, Word & Action

This week as I was reading from several leadership books, I came across the above definition of integrity.  Integrity is the unity of thought, word and action.  I was struck by that definition.  I usually think of integrity in terms of someone holding to high values, maintaining a position or set of values.  This definition struck a chord.

My word of the year is consistency.  As I read this new found definition of integrity I could not help but think about my own quest to be consistent.  It seemed to me the two were suddenly one and the same.  I desire to be consistent in my thoughts, words and actions.  I want to be true to the values I profess to hold, the passions I say I have, the priorities I have chosen.

So, in the end does being consistent lead me to integrity?  Or is integrity being consistent?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that word unity changes everything.

I have been in a very difficult leadership position as of late.  It has strained friendships, brought tension into my home and seeds of doubt have overtaken my mind.  It is easy in those times to want to push back, fight, bring people together in thought, word and action.  Five to six years ago that is exactly what I would have done.  But here is the truth.  I can not control other people.  I can’t cause someone to love something the way I do.  I can’t persuade someone to see value in someone or something.  I can’t force people to do what they say and mean what they say.   As I watch those who say they understood and desired the same things I did, step back, distance themselves from me, I am reminded that all too often we abandon our words, thoughts or choose a different course of action.  We live in a world where there always seems to be the desire to have a winning group and a losing group.  We live in a world where people desire to be right for rights sake, or seek to avoid any conflict at the cost of abandoning their morals and values.   I cringe at the divide that has been created and I know it to be wrong.  Unity.  The only way for anyone or anything to succeed, to grow, to develop, to be true.

I heeded the words of my wise husband this weekend and stepped back from the situation. I was raw.  I was alone.  But as I stepped back I realized my only real choice, the only thing I could really do was check my own behavior.  I am very sincere in my desire to see a holistic, full beyond measure approach to this particular thing.  I believe and value the legacy left by so many who plowed the fields, paved the way so that this thing could exist.  I didn’t take this leadership position to be right.  I didn’t take this leadership position to build a kingdom or to pick a side.  I took this leadership position because I believe that people can come together, can create programs that develop whole beings.  I believe in grace and I know my God to be greater than all that is within me.  To be consistent then I have to continue to show grace, I have to continue to extend an open invitation for all to work alongside each other.  I have to continue to put myself out there, knowing I will be hurt, disappointed, fatigued.  I can’t choose a side, even when others want to make me.  I can’t seek to win at the numbers game, but have to stay focused on the purpose, the calling.

This place I am right now is hard.  It is worth it though, because I desire to grow more consistent and I know this is but a learning opportunity.

consistency

I have access to the Master Teacher, the Christ who knew no sin yet bore the world’s.  The God who can be trusted, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  May this journey to be more consistent make me more like Him.

 

The Little Box I Can’t Live Without

Prayerbox

Prayer.  One of the most difficult spiritual disciplines.  I have prayed as long as I can remember.  I believe in the power of prayer.  I have seen God answer prayer in a matter of moments, in weeks and years.  Yet, my prayer life seems to an area I struggle.  Despite all i know about prayer, I struggle to be consistent.  Yes, that word again.  Consistent.  I don’t really struggle to pray, but I struggle with remembering who I promised to pray for.  I struggle to articulate my prayers.  I give up on prayers when not answered my way or in my timing.  For years (23+) I have journaled.  Those journals hold my inner most thoughts, and much of what I have written becomes prayer.  I often look back through those journals and am reminded, struck with a recurring truth or convicted by lessons already learned.  But in recent years, the journaling alone just didn’t seem to be capturing the entirety of my prayer life.  I wanted more.  I wanted to be more faithful (consistent) in interceding on behalf of others.

The little box pictured above is my Prayer Box, my little version of a Prayer Room.  I LOVE it.  It is simple.  I purchased the box and the embellishment at Hobby Lobby.  I purchased tabbed dividers at Mardells Christian Bookstore.

PrayerBox2

I have divided the box by category and subject.  The pink is for all things related to home: family members, physical home.  Blue is for volunteer activities and organizations I am involved with.  Green is for my business and clients.  Orange is for friends and acquaintances.  I simply date a note-card and write out my prayer and any related scripture. When a prayer is answered I write the date on the back of the card and a prayer of thanksgiving.  On occasion I will send the card on to the person for whom I prayed.  Most often I simply place the card in the back of the box.  There are times when I feel compelled to alter my prayer.  I simply date another card, write out my new prayer and staple it to the front of the original prayer card.

I LOVE my box.  I still journal and often prayers from my journal make it to my prayer box. However, my prayer box has proved a much more effective way to consistently pray.  I keep the box next to the chair where I spend my morning quiet time.  I look through it every single morning.  If a prayer request seems more urgent, or I am prompted by the Holy Spirit, I pull a card and carry it with me throughout the day.  Sometimes I hang the most pressing prayer cards on the back of my master closet door so I am prompted to pray each morning and evening.  I love the flexibility this box system affords me.  I don’t feel limited by space.  I am not having to flip back through journal pages looking for a specific request.  Pages are cluttered with extra notes, lines drawn through answered prayers etc..  it is portable.  I can grab the box and pack it or pull out the prayer cards and slide them into my organizer.  I LOVE it.

Prayer is vital to our spiritual being.  Prayer is the opportunity to connect with God.  I believe in prayer.  I want to be a powerful prayer warrior.  I want to persevere, not giving up and believing with faith action.

If you have struggled with prayer, or like me, want to grow your prayer life I challenge you to create your own little prayer box.  See what God will do.

Steps to Creating a Prayer Box

  1. Select a pretty box that speaks to your creative spirit.
  2. Purchase tabbed dividers. You can find them at any office supply store.
  3. Label the dividers according to subject:  Who do you engage with daily?  Where do you serve?
  4. Set aside 2-3 thirty minute segments over the course of this next week to write out prayer cards.  Put in writing those prayer requests you already have committed to. Begin to place those prayers in the appropriate categories.
  5. Each morning look through your prayer box.  Follow the Spirit’s prompting as you name each prayer.  Pull out those you feel compelled to ponder over.

Prayer boxes are great for families and children.  When my girls were young we kept a small box on the kitchen table.  They would pull a card each evening to pray over.  You can simplify or expand the idea above to meet a multitude of needs.