November 18, 2009

What Does Your Prayer Life Say About You?

One of our campus pastors recently spoke about what our prayer life says about us. I (along with many of us I'm sure) struggle to have a consistant and meaningful prayer life. I'm the kind of person that has God in my thoughts all day and I'm constantly giving shoutouts and I think that is wonderful... but I don't sit down for a long period of time and petition on behalf of unbelievers (although I do reserve my blowdry time for praying), or request that God do amazing things in my life in order to bring him glory. I give thanks and recognition throughout the day, but that's about the extent of my regular prayer routine. The pastor challenged me to question what my prayer-life says about myself. He said a lacking prayer life usually points to two things: pride and unbelief. Does my prayer life show that I think I can do all of this without God? Does it show that I don't believe he'll do amazing works in my life? Does it show that I don't think he desires to bless me and provide for me? Does it show that I think I can do all of this better and know what's best for myself? Does it also show that I don't think I have a role in petitioning him on behalf of those he created to know and love him? For the past few mornings I have been getting up at 7am, reading my daily bible verses, then writing in a prayer journal. I've stayed as close as possible to the format of rhte Lord's prayer. It feels good! Except for my writing hand, it hurts. I don't know how I used to hold a pen and write all the time. Praise God for keyboards.

Au Gratin Potatoes
6 russet potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
black pepper to taste
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

The box kind takes forever to cook anyway, so why not just make it yourself? Besides, have you seen the dehydrated "potatoes" that come in that thing?? Preheat the oven to 375. If it's worth it to you to dirty up one more small saucepan in order to make sure that your cheese sauce is not lumpy, then I definitely recommend putting the 2 cups of milk in the smallest saucepan you can on low. You just need to bring it to room temperature because the cold milk will make the butter/flour mix clump up. Melt the butter over med-low heat, add the flour and whisk until well blended and pasty. Take a measuring cup of any size and scoop in a little of the milk at a time. Whisk it until it is well blended and no longer lumpy. Once you can add a scoop of milk and the mixture does not lump, it's safe to pour the rest in all at once. Once that is warmed through, added the shredded cheese about 1 cup at a time. You can grate your own cheese for this, but you're already making so much of this from scratch, I say take a little help from the store and buy a pouch of already-shredded cheese. Add the nutmeg and pepper. Let the cheese sauce simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, then turn the heat off but you can leave it on the burner. I like to pour in a thin layer of sauce, then add a layer of potatoes, and repeat until I'm done. Bake covered for 45 minutes, uncovered for 10. You can also thin slice an onion and layer it: cheese, potato, onion, repeat. I left the onion out tonight because I'm making this for a work potluck and it's hard to know what people will like.

November 16, 2009

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

I found out that I will be jobless in two weeks. On December 1, Equity Residential hand the keys of Lenox over to the Connor Group and the Connor Group has decided not to keep any of the current staff. We all suspected this was coming, but today we got the official word. I'm so full of emotion about it, but I'm not freaked out. I'm sad to walk out of that property and not go back. I'm sad for my residents who are going to lose every familiar face, every person that they trust and with whom they have rapport. Sigh. I just can't believe that we will go in to work that Tuesday, pack up everything that is marked with Equity's logo, put notices on all the resident's doors notifying them of the change in management, and then leave... then we just leave.

I'm looking forward to seeing what is in store for me. March would have been 5 years with Equity and May would have been 6 years in the industry. I'd really love this as an opportunity to "try" something new, but I will definitely keep my eye out for openings in property management. It would be foolish not to. Maybe God has something completely unexpected that he'll put in my path. I definitely want to be receptive to whatever that might be.

Marinated Chicken Tenderloins
6 boneless skinless chicken tenderloins
(or 2 breasts cut into strips)
1/3 cup italian dressing
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lime juice

Put a skillet on medium heat. On my stove, just under 6 is perfect for this recipe, just over 6 is too much. Too much heat will cause the honey to caramelize too quickly and burn (bad!) before the chicken is cooked through, so just be careful and keep an eye on it. 4 minutes on the first side, 3-4 minutes on the second. We had this with green beans and roasted red skin potatoes. Nothing fancy :)

November 15, 2009

I Love Sundays

Guess what Matt and I did tonight?! We made 4 lbs of candied jalapenos! What fun :) Unfortunately they are WAY too hot for me to feel like we can actually give them out for gifts so we (sigh) tossed all but 6 little 4 oz jars of them and we're going to try again - removing 90% of the seeds this time.

Matt and I have been in much discussion lately about what it means to honor the sabbath. For the most part, I enjoy my Sundays best when I am running errands and bring productive around the home in order to get things straight for the upcoming week. Scripture teaches however, that we are not supposed to pursue our own interests on the sabbath day, and that we are supposed to labor and do all of our work the six other days. For me, honoring the sabbath isn't my first problem, it's working hard enough on the other six days. If I really filled my waking hours with productivity six days a week then I could rest and focus my energy whatever it is that God would have me do to bring the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Matt and I would be free to open our home to anyone and everyone who wanted to stop by. We would be free to volunteer our time in the community, all day if we wanted. We would be free to spend time with friends after church on a whim with no worries about what is at home that is not getting done. For at least one day a week, our goal should be to be as free as possible to go where God directs us on a whim without the distraction of work, or errands, or chores. I don't believe that keeping busy on every sabbath is necessary. Matt and I walked part of the tobacco trail today and just enjoyed the beauty around us as well as the people we passed by. The point is that we were not furthering our own selfish pursuits. We were appreciating our Lord.

Exodus 20:8-10 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates."
Isaiah 58:13-14 "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

November 14, 2009

Welcome to Joes!

You know when you walk in to Moe's all of the employees holler, "Welcome to Moe's!" ? Well for some reason I holler, "ah na na Moe's!" really fast... it sounds almost the same, I promise. Matt and I were in Trader Joes (stop for a second, I have to tell you, we are in love with Trader Joes). It's become a weekend ritual to just walk through and see if we can find something new that we've never tried before. Today I found boursin cheese that is $3.49 when it's $6.99 at Kroger! That's amazing. Matt gets his expensive organic cereal at Trader Joes for the same price as Kroger but the box is about 10 oz bigger. They have these wonderful dried apricots, but they've been out of them the past few times we've looked. Today however, they had them! I ran down the aisle ahead of Matt to check for them. When I found them I stood up, looked down the crowded aisle until I made eye contact with him, and then lifted the back up in the air triumphantly. A lady right in front of me smiled, laughed, and said, "yay!" haha, she knows what it is like to find something awesome at Trader Joes. We also got mini mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. We were so excited about these that we split one in the car on the way home. I'm telling you, we're uncontrollable. And we have Trader Joes to blame for it.

November 12, 2009

I made a mess (again!), but at least it was yummy

It's never worth it to use a pot/skillet/bowl, etc that's smaller than what you need. For some unknown reason, I did that exact thing three times while cooking just one meal. I think I did it thinking that the smaller things would be so much easier to clean in the sink. Instead, I ended up making more of a mess than if I would have had if I had used the bigger things. First, my skillet was too small so the sausage/pepper mixture that I was stirring kept flying out over the edges... greasy sausage landing on the stovetop. Next, I mixed the sausage mixture with the breadcrumb mixture in a bowl that was too small... making a mess on the countertop. Last, and probably the worst, I cooked the orzo in a pot that was too small. Pasta likes a lot of extra water to move around in, that's why pasta pots are so big. But orzo is so small! Surly it won't matter if I cook it in a 3 qt saucepan instead. I then spent 10 minutes blowing down the bubbles every 30-45 seconds so that it would not boil over. Needless to say, I was a mess in the kitchen tonight.

Sausage Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (This is an awesome Emeril recipe, by the way, simplified a bit)
3 portobello caps, remove the stems and rub in olive oil
12 oz of sausage (tubes come in 16 oz, save 1/4 of it for breakfast burritos later in the week)
1/4 cup of green pepper, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (I always use the plain, unseasoned ones)
2/3 cup parmesan cheese (please get a block and have a strong guy grate it and keep it in tupperware... it lasts forever and is sooo much better than the green shaker guy)
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp essence, recipe follows, and yes, it's worth it to make a batch... it's so good and I use it on everything
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400. Cook the sausage until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and cook another 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl combine 1/3 c bread crumbs, 1/3 c parmesan, essence, and olive oil. Mix well. Add the egg and stir again until well combined. Divide the filling among the mushroom caps. Combine the remaining bread crumbs and parm and top the mushroom caps. Bake until golden brown on top, about 15-18 minutes.

I like to serve this with orzo tossed with cherry tomatoes that have been halved.

2 1/2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme

This makes 2/3 cup.

November 8, 2009

The Abundant Life

Today at church our pastor asked a lot of thought provoking questions. One of them that was particularly interesting to me was, "Do I give sufficiently and live abundantly or do I live sufficiently and give abundantly?"

God has blessed with an amazing husband in so many ways, but one of the traits in him that I am the most thankful for is his heart to give. I have always considered myself generous, but Matt challenges me to give to the point of really feeling stretched. It really is our desire to live sufficiently and give abundantly, but what does that look like? It is hard for us to say, "No, we do not need to give me, we already give enough," but at the same time, there has to be some point of giving, where it would not make sense to stretch yourself any further. We care about financial security, and we care about planning and preparing for our own future and the future of our families. Neither of us thinks there is anything wrong with that. We also do not think that there is anything wrong with using God's blessings to spoil ourselves once in a while.

That being said, Proverbs 3:9 tells us how to prioritize our money and our possession. "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce." The first thing God commands us to do with anything and everything he has blessed us with, is to give it away, to bless others with it. I really enjoy this concept. God did not give us "things" for us to first use them for our own selves and our own luxeries or comforts. He blesses us so that we may bless others first. Verse 10 goes on to promise, "your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be overflowing with wine." Matt and I make sure when we are factoring into our budget what we can afford to give away, that it is not an afterthought. This decision does not come after everything else has already been allocated somewhere. We also leave a comfortable margin for unexpected opportunities to meet the needs of others that may arise. This could mean inviting friends over for dinner without regard for the cost of feeding ten, or it could mean filling two boxes of canned goods for the church instead of one. It's important to both of us that the needs of others stay at the forefront of our thoughts.

On the spectrum of sufficient to abundant, if sufficient is 1 and abundant is 10, I would venture to say that we give at an 8 - this is to say that I think we do give on the abundant side of things, but I'm sure that we could stretch ourselves more. My guess is that we also live at an 8... maaaybe a 7, maybe. We have 25 TV stations, but would an antenea and network stations be enough? We pay for the lowest speed internet, but do we need internet? I'm not sure that I believe $37 for TV and internet is "abundant." We live in a 1000 sqft townhouse - this is not abundant. We have inexpensive mismatched furniture and handmade decorations. We both drive nice cars - in my opinion this is abundan. That being said, they are both paid for and reliable. Is it smart to trade them in for more affordable used cars and run the risk of unpredictable mechanics bills? We just don't think so. We eat well and we eat out whenever we would like to. This, in my opinion, is probably the area where we live abundantly instead of sufficiently. We spend about $20 a day on food (for the two of us) and whether we make sure we have enough leftovers for lunches or eat lunches out... whether we get lunch with friends on Sunday's after church or come home to eat, whether we plan meals in advance and to big grocery trips or wing and end up visiting Kroger every time we fix another dinner... we still end up spending $20 a day on food. We don't know how we cut back on this, but from what we can tell, this is not a very high per-day average.

My prayer is that God show us ways we are living abundantly and ways that we might have a lifestyle that would be more accurately categorized as "sufficient," as well as ways that we can open up more room in our budget to give more abundantly. We know that in Luke 16:10 God tells us that "one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. We want the way we live our lives to be pleasing to God, both in the way we give to and bless others and in the way we enjoy what God has given us to keep for ourselves.

November 7, 2009

Our Happy Home

Matt and I got an early start this morning tearing through our chores. If you really want to clean the house invite people over that have never seen your home before. There is no better motivation for me to make everything look spic and span. The front bedroom of the house had become the room where "everything else" goes and it's been that way since a few months before the wedding. Today we gained a second bedroom. For the first time since we've been married we actually have a two bedroom house - amazing! We hung pictures and shelves and artwork. We staged the end table in the "guest room" as well as the second bathroom with all sorts of goodies for company. Things are actually in their place! Granted, for many things, their "place" is the attic, but that is not the same as stuffing them in a closet or cramming them under the bed until we come up with a better spot for them.

When the cleaning and organize was over Matt left for guys night which included pizza, beer, and nintendo. Hard to beat that. I stayed back and had some girls over for dinner (this is the company that inspired the transformation of the Meitl house). Since getting married, it's been very difficult to squeeze in girl time, and I find that I am a much more happy and loving wife if I allow myself these times to indulge in being female with others who can relate first hand.

Since getting married I have been involved in several conversations regarding the divide between "marrieds" and "singles." I won't get into all of my thougths on that right now, but I will say that it was just nice to have a house full of girls. Some single, some married; some parents, some not; some students, some working, and some both, but all female and all dealing with life and relationships and family and responsibilities and purpose. It was nice to spend a night together focusing on all the things we can relate to in one another just because we're women.

Roasted Pork Tenderoin
1.5 lbs pork tenderloin
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
steak seasoning (like mrs dash or mccormick)

Prehead oven to 500. Rub balsamic vinegar over the pork tenderloin. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil and rub over it as well. Sprinkle liberally with steak seasoning and pat into the pork. Roast for 25 minutes. This recipe serves 4-5 people.

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Walnut Pesto
1 18 oz package of cheese tortellini
1/2 cup chicken broth
5-6 oz baby spinach
3 oz walnuts
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Toast walnuts on a cookie sheet at 350 for a few minutes - don't let them burn. Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Heat chicken stock or broth to a simmer, keep on low. Using a food processor, working in batches, grind spinach leaves with nuts, chicken stock, and garlic. Stir in cheese, nutmeg, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Coat cooked tortellini with pesto and serve in a pretty bowl. I had 10 girls over so I doubled this recipe and ended up with a lot leftover.

Roasted Rataouille
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1 in strips
4 roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise and seeded
1 medium eggplant, sliced stacked and quartered
1 medium zucchini, sliced stacked and halved
1 medium onion sliced into 1/2 in rings
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary coarsly chopped
coarse salt and black pepper
olive oil to coat

Preheat oven to 500. Put all of the veggies in a rectangle pyrex. Sprinkle with garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to coat. Roast for 15-20 minutes.

November 4, 2009

From Trash to Treasure (at least, that's the plan...)

I get such enjoyment out of taking something old and making it new again. I wish I could stock my entire house full of things that have been revamped. I think it takes such love for a thing to look at it and be inspired to make it new again. It's been a while since I've done this, but I got inspired today on the Pier1 website. They have this very cute modern looking wingback chairs in bold prints. I scooted up to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store on my lunch break yesterday and found an old wingback chair for $25! She's perfect. She's narrow with smaller wings and she's very comfortable. For some reason I was feeling inspired to do a soft yellow with white zebra stripes and paint the legs black. Matt looked at me like I was crazy. I told him not to worry, I can't design the fabric, and I doubt I will come across yellow and white zebra print in upholstery fabric.

I went to JoAnn's on my lunch break today and found the most amazing fabric! It's a medium yellow with white silhouettes of fern-like leaves and flowers all over it. It's the exact feel I was looking for when I was picturing the zebra print. It will really pop with black legs! Now... I just have to figure out how to reupholster a wingback chair.

November 1, 2009

Bible Study Girls Online

On and off for over a year now some girls from my old bible study and I have been reading through the bible together and emailing back and forth our questions and comments. Three days ago we began following the one year bible track, so I will probably blog here and there about my thoughts on the daily readings.

David really impressed me in the psalm we read yesterday and the one we read today. Psalm 3:2 "many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God." and 4:2 "oh men, how long shall my honor be turned in to shame." We definitely live in a time and place where we get little to no ridicule for our faith. It's almost "cool" to have the bumper sticker or wear the t-shirt. At the very least, it's culturally acceptable to "go to church" on Sundays... whether or not you truly follow Christ. This is sad on so many levels, but for one, I think it makes it harder for me to get through to people that I don't just go to church, it's not about just going to church. There is a God we serve as our Lord that has provided us with salvation, because he's merciful and we believe. How much harder would it be to be a believer if I were in David's shoes? I hate to think that I would be afraid of the path of resistance, but how loudly would I proclaim my Lord if I were being targeted? I think about muslims and other cultures that are often persecuted if their religion goes against the grain or society, and I don't blame them for not embracing our God. Could I do it? It hurts my heart for these people, because for me, compared to them, salvation and following Christ is a cake walk. Aww, these are really sad thoughts for me.

Proverbs 1:20-23 "Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks." Christians often talk about God being "silent" and this proverb reminds me that his Wisdom is loud and crying out. God is always talking to us. Through the holy spirit we have the gift of God in us which, in John 16:7 Jesus tells us is better than having him beside us, walking and talking with us in the flesh. "I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." It is we who do not listen very well. At the very least we always have scripture to help us discern what God is saying to us about anything that we're in the middle of.