Friday, March 30, 2012

Food on Friday: Green Tea Soy Latte

In high school whenever I would go to Starbucks, my drink of choice would either be a soy vanilla latte (sugar free), a Caramel macchiato, or this delicious-looking concoction. One of my dear friends would always comment on how disgusting this very green beverage looked, and I would respond, "Well have you ever tried it?" Her answer was of course always, no. Now I would ask you reader, would this matcha green tea soy latte ever touch your taste buds? Today, I decided to go grab one from the local Starbucks. And as I contemplated this strange liquid that I had just ordered, I looked around at the customers inside the store. I thought about the brevity of life. I thought about empty pursuit of status. I thought about the simple pleasures. I thought about the complexity of my Savior and his desire for me to savor Him above all things. And then I got my drink: sweet but not all-satisfying. Have you ever noticed how a craving can leave you empty even after you satisfied it? I'm reminded today that everything that is not Christ is fleeting and worthless in comparison to Him. Including my green tea soy latte*.

(*Everyone should still try one at one point, and then tell me once you have!)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dealing with Disappointment

Over the weekend I experienced a rather major disappointment. Let me preface that by saying for the past 2 months my husband and I have been attempting to get pregnant. We haven't used any special calculator nor kept track of my tempature daily. We have simply been trying to educate ourselves and be responsible. So when I didn't get the monthly cycle on the exact day I was supposed to, there were more than a few flutters of hope in my heart. And then I took a pregnancy test. Not pregnant. And then I took another one (this time in the morning). Not pregnant. That was last Saturday morning; what a way to begin the weekend.

In response to this major disappointment I have been thinking all week about how to deal with disappointment appropriately. This morning I was hit with the "cherry on top"... I'll spare the details. But God is so good, in that He gave me many specific things today to help me in my time of need. I'll first explain in this post how to biblically deal with discouragement, then relay the details of the encouragement the Lord gave me through multiple sovereignly ordained means.
First, in order to understand how to respond to the circumstances of life, we must first understand that this life is not how it should be. God in his love for creation, did not intend for there to be disappointments, discouragement, and disarray. When God created, he created a world unaffected by sin--and therefore unaffected by discouragement and disappointment. Adam and Eve lived in harmony and at peace with God until the Fall. When they sinned against God, and God cursed Eve's womb and Adam's work, that is when disappointment entered the world. So things are not as they should be.. but one day God will put right what we humans have broken. He will make all the pieces of the puzzle fit back together as they should, and until that day he called us to live in accordance with His Word. He calls us to live differently from the world, in light of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

That is the first key to our response to disappointment: the Word of God. If you have ever read the Bible you might have an inclination that God's people are just that--people. They have real emotions, including sadness and defeat. David often felt defeated by his enemies and hopeless. Paul was tempted to be discouraged when he suffered much for the sake of the gospel. Everywhere we find the characters of the Bible going through difficult circumstances, and honestly crying out to God for help and comfort. Thankfully, we also have many promises that God gives us that he will answer when we call to him. He will rescue us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will be our comfort in our times of need. So you see, when we have our expectations dashed we are called to respond in agreement with God's Word: with hope, courage, and patience. Psalm 27:14 says, "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord." Psalm 33:20-22 says, "Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you." When our circumstances prompt our natural inclinations to turn inwardly and believe that we are being wronged by God, let us do the antithesis and trust in the One who ordains all things for the good of his people.

The second key to our response to disappointment is: the worth of God. God is infinitely wise. He is the source of all joy and happiness. In his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). He has created all things good, to be enjoyed with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4). We oftentimes believe the lie that God is out to get us, or that God is punishing us for something we've done. But God's ways are higher than our ways; his thoughts higher than our thoughts. We cannot assume that we know the reasons why God chooses to do the things he does, but we can trust in his character as a good and gracious God. He is a majestic King that deserves our worship. Remember all the things that God did for his people Israel? He brought them out of Egypt! Remember all the things that God has done for his people--the church? We are his bride! We are his treasured possession! Remember that God has purchased you with the blood of Christ, if you are in him and possess his Spirit, for then we will choose to instead praise God rather than blame God. 

Lastly, today God has brought me much encouragement in a few specific ways that I'd like to share:

  1. Isaiah 26:3-4 - I just happen to be reading Isaiah and this verse nailed it!
  2. 90.9 - I never listen to the radio in the morning, but I just happened to turn it on as I was pulling into the parking garage at work and the DJs were talking about the fact that God works all things together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8 anyone?), so that was pretty timely.
  3. I found a new blog  called In View of God's Mercy, whose writer is going through a season of infertility (if you click the link you can read all about it)
  4. Pandora - I listen to this internet music station all day at work. "It is Well With My Soul" came on while I was eating breakfast. Perfect.
  5. Run with Mallory - I got to run 10 miles with my b.f.f. of Dallas after work! 
Just thought I'd share God's goodness and his faithfulness in the little uplifting circumstances of today. In light of the disappointment of the week, today was a small victory. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Food on Friday: Best Bread Ever

Yesterday for "Precept Day" (once a week my office buys lunch from the restaurant of our choosing!) I suggested The Kozy Kitchen in Dallas. My co-worker obliged and I ordered a salad with a slice of their Gluten-Free bread. I have eaten their one and a half times before yesterday (one time for a meal, and one time I only got dessert.. to-go=a half time). I was super excited to try their bread out because I haven't had bread in a few months! Since going on this gluten-free diet, I have not yet attempted to bake anything gluten-free. Oops. I will get more adventurous soon, I promise.

So you're probably wondering if the bread met my very lofty expectations. Well to answer your question: YES! It even exceeded them. I didn't take a picture, but above is a picture of their Gluten-Free French Toast with strawberries looking equally yummy. Even if you don't eat gluten-free, this bread is still worth it (well maybe not because it's $2 more expensive). Typical gluten-free (GF) bread is gritty, flaky, falls apart easily, and bland. But this homemade bread was moist, hearty, and thick!

Next time you are in Dallas, let me know and we can go enjoy some Kozy Kitchen delicacies, my treat :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What to Think of Work

While reading Tim Challies' blog - my favorite blog for retrieving new desktop wallpaper each month - I clicked on a link to Matt Berman's website. The former director of strategy at Desiring God wrote an article about our motives at work. It is excellent, helpful, and edifying.

Read it here.

And then apply it.

To God be the glory.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No, You Don't Have To

Yesterday, as I was listening to Dallas Theological Seminary online lectures for my Prophets class (which I am auditing this semester), the professor began talking about ways in which we compartmentalize our 'spiritual lives'. He was talking in context of Isaiah's call to ministry to the Jews (Isaiah 6) and how we shouldn't see the 'spiritual' things we do as simply a means to an end, but as part of the process of getting to know God.

You see, when one is in seminary or any type of vocational ministry (whether actively or training) for that matter, one can tend to become more task-oriented than worship-oriented. My husband for instance is taking seminary classes full-time. His days are full of looking at Greek flashcards, reading hundreds of pages of theology books, listening to lectures being given about exegesis, and the list goes on. This is a tremendous privilege and he most certainly recognizes this! However, for all of us, when we get caught up in routine we tend to lose sight of the privileges we partake in. It is a blessing to have a job to go to every single day of the work week.. but I confess, I tire of the monotony.

As mentioned above, the professor of my online course was talking about "getting to know God" through writing term papers, and vacuuming the house. He made the fantastic point that when we separate God from the more "to-do" list type of activities, our labor will be in vain. Yet God wants us to get to know Him through not only "spiritual" experiences, but in all of life! He said that he gets excited because he "gets to glorify God through loving his wife" which he is commanded to do in the Scriptures. That might mean buying her flowers or doing the dishes, but regardless if he has set his mind on serving her lovingly and willingly (not begrudgingly or out of obligation) then he is reminded that those simple acts glorify God.

This was particularly illustrated when I worked at a Christian summer camp a few years back.  The camp ranged in age from 9 year olds to 18 year olds (4th thru 12th grade) -and thus a pretty wide variety of campers emerged over the course of 10 weeks. But although the age-range was vast, I received the same questioning complaint week after week: "Do we have to do _______?" or "Do we have to go ________?" Now the camp directors and staff had ingeniously came up with a very biblical response to this repetitive complaint, that went a little something like this: "No you don't have to ____, YOU GET TO!" Reader, do you see the difference? When we view the things that we have to do as activities that we merely drag our feet through, we will never honor God in the process of actually doing them. However, when we view our "have-to's" as privileges, however mundane, routine or dull, we will most certainly desire to glorify God "whether [we] eat or drink, or whatever [we] do" (1 Cor. 10:31). God is concerned about us getting to know Him, with our whole beings' and throughout our whole lives.

So the next time I am tempted to think that I have to make another meal for my husband after a long day at work, I will choose to thank God that I get to glorify Him through that kind of service -- what a privilege!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Comfort to my Soul

I love orchestral music. I played the violin for almost 12 years, and since I stopped I have loved listening to stringed instruments and being reminded of all those years of practicing. This morning I was searching another blog and came across this wonderful concept: Scripture Lullabies. This music is gentle, sweet, and not just for babies in cribs! I love the fact that Scripture can be put to music and be sung. I am fairly good at memorizing lyrics and so this for me is a perfect way to memorize Scripture and have my mind saturated with God's truth. I hope that enjoy this as well. I know what my next baby shower gift will be to one lucky mom-to-be!

P.s. I also love the fact that a PSALM is being sung! (If you didn't already know this, I love the Psalms).

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Quinoa (Keen-Wah) California Salad

This is a recipe that I got really into making the first year of Chance & I's marriage. It was the default "healthy" dinner (and it really is!). It is adapted from a salad recipe that was given to me by our former college pastor's wife. So I am calling this the "Quinoa California Salad".

2 cups organic baby spinach
1 cup red leaf lettuce (or romaine)
1/2 c. slivered almonds or candied walnuts
2 green onion stalks, slivered & sliced (use both green & white part)
1/4 c. red grapes, halved
1 green apple (Granny Smith), chopped
1 ripened avocado, sliced
A few shakes of Feta cheese (about 1/4 c.) 
1 c. cooked organic quinoa (use chicken broth instead of water for more flavor)
2 grilled chicken breasts (seasoned)

Juice from 1/2 of an orange
1-2 tbs. safflower or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. poppyseeds
1/2 tsp. organic, all-natural sugar
2 tsp. rice vinegar

Add all salad ingredients (after chopping + slicing) to a large bowl. I like to put the greens, spinach & lettuce, in first then all the add-ons on top because it looks so pretty that way! You can also add raisins to the salad, but the fruit makes it sweet enough. Serve with quinoa and chicken breast on the side OR cut up your chicken in bite-size pieces and add the quinoa on top of the salad greens! Add your own individual dressing, I hate soggy salads. And as a bonus this is a great salad to have at work as leftovers the next day.

Like I said before, this is our healthy to-go meal ... and for Chance that means his "detox" after a not-so-healthy lunch at the nearby Luby's Cafeteria - don't worry, I still love him :)