It’s okay to cry

Sometimes, I try really hard to be tough.

Oh, I don’t go out and chop wood, lift weights, put criminals in jail, go to battle, fight for the innocent, save a life, or conquer the world. (Though many women do a darned good job at those things!)

I don’t do a lot of tough “stuff”.

….or do I?

I try to roll with the punches. I endeavor to always be the optimist. I try to be strong for those close to me. I strive to encourage those I love. It is my ultimate goal to see that my family is loved, cared for, safe, clothed, and fed. I want to be the best wife, mommy, sister, daughter, and friend that I possibly can be.

I know I am not perfect and that I can’t “do it all”, and that I will make mistakes. But that doesn’t keep me from trying.

I pretend that things don’t bother me. I pretend that words don’t hurt, circumstances don’t worry me, and that I have perfect faith in the Lord at all times. I pretend that I can take whatever life throws my way, somehow make the best out of each situation and emerge with a smile on my face. That’s a good goal, right?

I try to hold everything together. I have this nagging thought that if I let go and relax for a bit, things will fall apart and I will be the one to blame. I suppose it’s pretty self-centered of me to think that the entire world rests on my shoulders. But sometimes it feels that way! Does anyone relate?

The truth is, I struggle. Sometimes daily. Hourly.

And because of my pride, sometimes I’m afraid to show it.

Women as a general rule have a reputation for being overly emotional. Emotions are God-given, but we sometimes use them to manipulate others, for attention, or for an excuse to say what we want. While many times our feelings are valid and real, there are times when we spout then write it off as PMS or hormones instead of having self control. I’m not bashing, because I am right in the same boat!

My sanguine personality can fall easily into this category. Just like any other member of the female species, I have this thing called emotions. Lots of them. Who knows where they come from, but it doesn’t take long for them to surface. My entire life I’ve always been known as a talker. Talkative people can be like a faucet for unbridled emotions to pour out if left unchecked. The animated, outgoing one whose opinions and stories tend to splatter across the room. I’m not hating, God loves the talkies too, lucky for me. 🙂 But there’s balance to be won in realizing that maybe not everything I have to say is necessary. And (confession): I maybe even kinda sorta might be….a big mouth.

While it may be a true weakness of mine, I hate that stigma and am working hard to let God refine my tongue. Big mouths mean trouble. 🙂

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” – Proverbs 18:21

So, thus enters my journey to learn to, well, be quiet.  Because of some of these stereotypes, I suppose I resolved to be different. I don’t really know why or how. But at some point or another, I decided that I would beat the emotional status quo and be tough.

Over the past several years, I’ve realized that in my intense well-intentioned desire to be strong, I’ve instead become a stuffer. While I still love conversation and telling a good story, I’m finding that I may have gone to the other extreme when it comes to talking about my feelings. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it, so I think I’m okay. There is something about becoming a wife and mom that has made me want to take care of everything, fix everything, and be everything to everyone. Even typing that makes me realize how ludicrous the idea is! Darn it, there’s that people-pleaser girl again!

Yesterday morning I woke up with a headache. It wasn’t bad at first…but it crawled from the knots in my shoulders up into my neck until I felt like my head was in a vise.

NOT. GOOD.

Not even two cups of coffee and some Extra Strength Tylenol could kick it.

While nothing bad happened at work, a simple discussion with my hubby started a little leak in the dam I had unknowingly built up inside. He didn’t even say anything super hurtful, he was just sharing some things that were bothering him about several circumstances in our life in the past few years (job, family, friendship, etc). I did my best to do what I do.

Support and encourage him. BE STRONG. Give an answer. Tell him it’s okay.

I left for work again feeling BLAH. I shoved it aside but this time I couldn’t quite plug the leak. It wasn’t until I was on my 20 minute drive to pick up my girls that I realized…

“I’m not okay. Sometimes I feel let down. Sometimes I hurt too. “

At that point I began to finally think, pray, and allow myself to feel. I was surprised to find that some of the things I thought I had a grip on, large or small, I really didn’t.

In exerting all of my energy to be strong and tough for those around me, I was left weakened and feeling empty.

On the way back home, I cried, really cried for the first time in a while. I cry frequently when things touch me, or in sympathy for other people, but rarely just for myself. Maybe it just seems silly. Because I should be tough.

In the midst of all of the thoughts inside my head, I felt a still, quiet voice speak to my heart…

“It’s okay to cry.”

Simple, right? It shouldn’t be that big of a deal. But relief flooded my spirit and I felt a weight come off as I let myself just….be weak. Be vulnerable. While I know it in my head, I hadn’t been living out the fact that I can’t do it all. I don’t have all the answers and shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling. For wondering and for not being able to understand.

God is so good and gracious. When we are weak, He is ever strong. I am guilty of endeavoring to carry the weight of life on my own shoulders instead of trusting my Creator, then wondering why I feel empty. He didn’t create us that way. We can’t do anything apart from Him! We aren’t designed to carry those weights. He took them for us on the Cross. Me trying to rely on my own strength and do things on my own essentially says that I don’t believe that Jesus’ work on the Cross was enough. Pretty convicting when you think of it that way!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”                       – 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” – Psalm 55:22

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you; casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

Praise the Lord that His strength is made perfect in the midst of my weakness. That I don’t have to be tough. That He will continue to help me as I will likely stumble in this area again and He will help me to learn. That He is kind, compassionate, loving, and His arms are always there to guide me back to center. That because of His great strength that bears the load, I am free. I’m okay.
And for me, it’s okay to cry.

Being Intentional in Marriage

Do you remember when you and your spouse were dating? Your engagement?

Think about it for a sec.

(Let’s see ….uhh…wait…yep, there it is!)

There is something sweet about reminiscing to the days of young love. You are head over heels, endeavor to see one another at every opportunity, put lots of thought into gifts, dates, and plans. The other is the apple of your eye, and there is that unmistakable glow in the face of a young bride. While the dating era isn’t without it’s conflicts, that aspect seems dimmed by the spark of passion and exciting anticipation of building a life together.

While I have only been married for five years and in some ways our wedding day seems just like yesterday, in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago. Our lives have changed so much! In the past few years, our lives have been filled with crazy schedules, night shifts, job changes, financial struggles, and finishing degrees. We also went from just “us” to a family of four in just over a year and a half. Whew! Not until the past several months have we actually slowed down enough to evaluate our relationship and realize that, honestly, there has been some drift.  Both of us had been feeling disconnected and didn’t even realize it. Speaking from experience, disconnection from your spouse is a breeding ground for conflict. There are more assumptions, misunderstandings increase, and resentment can build. It can leave you scratching your head and wondering what in the world happened.

If my six-years-ago self could read what I am writing, I would be utterly heartbroken and mad. Me, the overly optimistic hopeless romantic, would aspire to believe that passion never wanes, and that wedded bliss CAN happen, because love always wins.

Well, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with that girl in the mirror six years ago, but experience is a pretty good teacher. I love being married, my husband is a wonderful man, and I am crazy about him. But, like anything good, it takes work to maintain and protect. Slack on the maintenance, and things get rusty! I’m learning that without intentionality, wedded bliss will undoubtedly remain a hope unfulfilled. It is possible to have a happy marriage, but it doesn’t just happen by itself. Not because we don’t looooove one another, but because we’re human. Being a part of the human race means that the law of entropy is constantly at work in our lives.

(Side note: Before you start thinking I am even a little bit smart by throwing out a law of physics, I had to ask my semi-nerd husband for a definition of it even though I get the general concept. His big-worded definition kinda made my head hurt (he’s way smarter than me), so I asked my left-brained sister, Arica, instead. She gave me a more palatable answer. I took it another notch down from that, and that’s what you’re getting below. Let’s hope there aren’t any scientists or engineers who read this blog! 🙂 )

[Law of entropy: Any natural thing will tend towards deterioration if left unattended. It must be acted upon by an outside source of energy in order to maintain growth or motion.]

Okay, back to planet earth. 🙂

Basically, with regard to marriage, there is going to be inevitable deterioration of the relationship unless we intentionally fight against it.

Oh, we all know that…right? Everyone told us that when we were engaged. It’s the premise of almost every marriage book out there. But if you’re like me, knowing something and actually doing it are two completely different things.

I’ve found that, generally speaking, deterioration doesn’t happen on purpose and it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual, unseen process of shifting priorities. We get immersed in other friendships, clubs, hobbies, committees, busyness, jobs, fixing household issues, finishing degrees, serving other people, and raising children. Things grow stagnant. Two well-intentioned, in-love people can move to two people who basically coexist and whose intimacy is mediocre at best.

Who wants to live like that? Not me!

I realize that it takes work, but the gap between “getting it” and actually “doing it” can be pretty vast. Especially in my current season of life with two little ones, any spare time with my hubby is extremely rare! I’m learning, once again, that unless I am purposeful about my thoughts and actions concerning the relationship, things can slip.

So, here’s what I’ve gotten so far. Maybe I’m the last girl on the planet to finally realize some of this stuff, but something tells me I’m not alone. 😉

Intentional communication.

While it seems simple enough….just take the time to have real talk. Unless we put effort towards it, much of our conversations can end up being more like a business transaction. We talk of issues with the kids,  things that need to be fixed, what groceries need to be picked up, and appointments that need to be made. While those things are important and necessary, there isn’t much room for a heart connection. Days and weeks can go by without knowing how the other is really doing.

We have been working on setting aside a mutually agreed time, and that has helped tremendously. Such as during morning coffee on Gavin’s days off, or for a few minutes on the couch after the girls are in bed. Just taking a few minutes to focus only on each other face-to-face, talk about our daily struggles, or just to catch up. For me, setting a time also gives me something to look forward to. I love to talk! 🙂

Intentional “us” time.

Scheduling regular date nights and alone time  is a necessity. Personally, while being immersed in the throes of parenthood, we have really slacked on this one!  One thing or another always seems to keep us from planning an outing. We would feel guilty about asking someone to watch the girls, feel guilty about spending extra money, or we would just be too busy and worn out to even think of it.

We’re realizing that none of those things should get in the way of prioritizing quality time together.

Finding an activity we both enjoy, going out for dinner or coffee, a walk at the park, or an evening at home alone have been a few ideas. Plan it. Put it on the calendar. Budget for it. Then be protective about it and don’t schedule anything else over it. (I am preaching to myself here.) I don’t know about you, but I get super excited about date night!

Intentional thoughts.

A recent study we’ve been doing in our church young adult’s group, Love & Respect, has really prompted me to start being more intentional in the ways that I think of Gavin. If I didn’t know it before we were married, it has become increasingly clear to me how very DIFFERENT we are! One might think this is a no-brainer, but he has very different needs than I do. The things that make him feel loved and respected aren’t necessarily the same as the things that make me feel loved. While I might think that I am loving him by sending him lots of text messages (which I would love!), he might feel it more by me making his favorite dinner that evening or by making sure his uniforms are clean. What things make your spouse feel loved and important? This takes purposeful thought!

It takes intentional effort on my behalf to think in Gavin’s terms, and to speak his love language, which is very different from my own. To get outside of my own preferences of what I would deem to be “loving” and instead, do the things that are loving in his eyes. To search for the things are important to him, and then do them. I must work to find out what things really touch his heart.

Intentional prayer.

At the end of the day, the best thing I can do for Gavin and that any of us can do for our spouse is to pray for them and for our marriage. God is bigger than anyone or anything and knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He brings light into any situation. We also have an enemy, Satan, whose primary objective in marriages is to destroy them. The only way to fight against that and the natural drift that comes from being human is to surrender the whole thing to God.

Instead of sending broad prayers toward heaven about my marriage, I have been challenging myself to be specific and intentional about how I pray.

What things have been issues of discussion lately? What decisions will he be making in the near future? What struggles does my husband have with his job that I can pray for? How can I be a better encouragement and support for him? As we seek Him, God is always faithful to give us insight to show us how to pray for our spouse.

Intentional grace and forgiveness.

I must purpose to remember that my spouse is an imperfect human, just like me. Decide not to hold grudges and keep a record of wrongs. I can choose to hold him to a higher standard than I should even expect of myself, or be an agent of grace and forgiveness. I can choose to let love win. God offers infinite grace and forgiveness to me, and I am commanded to do the same for my husband.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins; bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Colossians 3:12-14

So, I don’t have it all figured out…but I’m hopeful that as the Lord continues to guide me, wedded bliss will not be some far-off ideal. I know it will not be perfect. It will take hard work, getting rid of my self-centeredness, and some a lot of tears (I am a girl, after all!), but it is so worth it! 🙂

Some great resources that I have found to be awesomely helpful:


Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian

Heavenly Layered Pudding Dessert

My dad requests this simple dessert nearly every time our family gets together for a big dinner. On Easter morning before church, I texted him and said, “I am making the special dessert :)” (that’s what he calls it)

He got real excited and even called to let me know he was.

It’s super easy to make! And easy makes it good in my book since now I generally have a little aspiring chef pulling on my legs anytime I’m in the kitchen. 😉

Any flavor of pudding or toppings can be used. I thought sprinkles were appropriate to make it more Easter-ey.

Plus, who doesn’t love sprinkles? They make everything taste better. 🙂

Pretty sure there are lots of versions of this dessert. My favorite is from http://www.grouprecipes.com.

Enjoy!

Heavenly Layered Pudding Dessert

  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely-chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 eight-ounce packages softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 eight-ounce containers whipped cream such as Cool Whip
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 small boxes instant pudding mix, any flavor
  • toppings of your choice, such as nuts, chocolate chips, etc.

In medium mixing bowl, cut together one stick butter or margarine, flour, and chopped walnuts or pecans. Press evenly into ungreased 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven until light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. In a medium mixing bowl, cream together confectioner’s sugar and softened cream cheese. Fold in one 8-ounce container whipped cream. Spread over cooled crust. Beat milk and two packages pudding mix. Spread over cream cheese layer.  Spread one 8-ounce container whipped cream over pudding layer. If desired, sprinkle toppings or additional finely-chopped walnuts or pecans over top layer.

Refrigerate several hours or overnight until ready to serve.

First Easter Egg Hunt

I remember being soooo excited about our annual Easter egg hunt growing up. My parents have tons of albums and home videos filled with my siblings and I, donned in matching homemade Easter outfits (thanks, mom!), frolicking around the yard in wide-eyed wonder at all the colorful treats peaking out from under every plant or yard gnome.

(Okay, so it wasn’t quite that picturesque. It was more like an all-out free for all of kids running crazily around the yard trying to beat the others to the punch, running over anyone in our way, and parents/aunts/uncles trying to mediate and make sure the littlest ones get at least a shot. I’m sad to say, there is video documentation of yours truly smacking my little sister and screaming at the top of my lungs, “BUT I WANTED THE PINK ONE!!!!!!!” The camera abruptly turns off. Take two finds a post-paddling, tear-stained me pouting away while my angelic sister STILL has the pink egg in her Easter basket while I had icky blue. Oh, the things I endured. 😉 )

Such memories. 🙂

Oh, and my favorite color is still pink. Psh. One little egg incident couldn’t ruin that.

Anyway, Gav and I couldn’t wait to see how Addie Kate would react to her very first Easter egg hunt. Before our big dinner, my dad went outside to hide the eggs and hopefully have a successful egg hunt before more rain decided to fall.

With a little help from Daddy and Auntie Ariana to show her the ropes, she caught on pretty quickly.

She even decided she could handle the Easter basket all by herself.

Although the weather was a bit chilly and damp, she LOVED it.

So much, in fact, that the world almost ended when the Easter egg hunt was finished.

And, the eggs are always prettier in the other person’s basket…

🙂

Surprise…they weren’t just eggs!

Ava was content to stay inside and snuggle with Auntie Arica. Oh, and feed her obsession with ceiling fans, which is what she was staring at when I took this picture.

Such a wonderful day with family….

….we are blessed beyond measure!

It wasn’t fair

Life isn’t fair, right? We’ve all experienced that phenomenal revelation at some point or another.

Life throws us a curve ball, great or small. It can ruin our day….our week…our year…our life, if we let it.

They are very real experiences. Heart-wrenching, painful, exhausting, infuriating, life-changing, annoying, inconvenient, disappointing….it comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are worse than others. We wonder what in the world we did to deserve our lot. While most of us are experts at creating our own problems (I can raise my hand here!), there are plenty of things that are simply out of our control. Sudden deaths, accidents, terminal illness, violence, victimization, disease, natural disasters, lost jobs, financial ruin. There are lots of big “life” questions that I don’t pretend to have the answer for other than the fact that we live in an unstable, corrupt world in desperate need of salvation.

No matter how hard we may try, you and I aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. We hate. We lie. We grow jealous. We gossip. We hold grudges. We put ourselves ahead of others. We incorrectly discern. We mess up our priorities. We expect more out of others than we expect of ourselves. We get angry. We say things we shouldn’t. We make poor choices. We overreact. You get the picture.

I know I’m in good company because you’re human, like me. 🙂 God is perfect and when He created this world, it was perfect. However, because of Satan, our human hearts, and our God-given free will, sin entered the world and we were no longer perfect. Our perfect relationship with our Creator became estranged, putting a curse on mankind. God is perfect, glorious, holy, and He cannot be anything other than that! He is GOD. His standards are high…so high that even hatred is considered murder. And because of sin, we don’t make the mark. Not one of us.

“There is none righteous, no, not one…” –Romans 3:10

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23

When push comes to shove and when we each stand trial to answer for the things in our lives, the verdict is the same across the board: guilty.

We aren’t perfect. We all are all guilty. And we all have a sentence to serve. (Don’t stop reading here…good news to come!)

There was One who walked this earth who WAS perfect. While he experienced every human aspect we experience – emotions, temptation, fear, heartbreak – he did not succumb to the curse and he walked blamelessly throughout His life. He loved perfectly, healed the sick, comforted the afflicted, and gave us insight into God’s heart for us, the people of this world. While he felt the real emotions, weight, and struggles that any natural man might experience, he DIDN’T sin. His heart remained pure and above reproach. However, he was accused and put on trial anyway. And despite the evidence, found guilty.

And it wasn’t fair. 

I am sad to admit that there are times I have cruised through the Easter holiday with a casual offering of thanks to God for what He did for me. And that’s a shame, because His sacrifice was far greater than anything I can fathom. I’m not saying this to evoke some sort of condemnation on myself or anyone else, just being real.

When we consider the crucifixion and the immense debt that Jesus paid on our behalf, it was much more than unimaginable physical pain. Much more than public humiliation, brutal beating and whipping beyond recognition, betrayal of friends, being mocked by His peers, and death on a cross.

(Take a moment to consider that…being publicly mocked and spat on by former followers, peers and those in authority would be utterly excruciating if we can even begin to imagine ourselves in a similar circumstance. Wow.)

On his own innocent back, he took on the sins and punishment for a world who was guilty and undeserving. Served a sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. A sentence that each of us, apart from God’s grace and our acceptance of His Lordship in our lives, are bound to serve. But He was obedient and did it without complaint.

And it wasn’t fair.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. ” -Isaiah 53:5

If in some hypothetical circumstance, a gang of criminals guilty of terrible crimes were on trial and I was asked if one of my sweet little girls would serve their sentence so that they could go free….uh, NO. WAY. The very thought of that kind of circumstance might seem crazy, even preposterous. The idea that an innocent child would suffer and pay for something for a bunch of immoral, selfish derelicts who wouldn’t even think to thank her…yeah, that wouldn’t happen. But, friends, that’s what God did for us. He sent his only beloved Son to die for the sins of a world who would disregard Him as nominal, disposable, and unimportant. When viewed in light of  a father, THAT is one hefty sacrifice.

It wasn’t fair…but He did it anyway.

Why?

Because God loves us. In fact, so much that He planned a way through His Son for us to not only be redeemed from our guilt, but to have eternal life instead of serving our sentence in eternal damnation. And, it’s not just about fire insurance. Or getting us a ticket to heaven.

Nope.

It’s because God desires a relationship with us. It’s been His plan since Adam & Eve’s first sin in the Garden of Eden that put a wedge between He and mankind – to make a way for us to be in right relationship with Him. Not only to give us eternal life in Heaven, but also to bring us a full and abundant life while here on earth. It won’t be perfect. After all, life isn’t fair. Things happen. People disappoint. We’re human. But, our lives can be full of hope, peace, and joy knowing that God IS in control, has a plan, and loves us so much that He would make the ultimate sacrifice for us.

For me.

For you.

The imperfect, full of issues, still-going-to-make-mistakes-every-day  people who need hope to survive and a Savior to live freely.

Even if we were the last people on earth, He would still make the sacrifice.

He served our sentence so that we might go free. 

It wasn’t fair that I should receive such an amazing gift, but, through the good and bad,  I can truly be thankful that not all things in life ARE fair.

Because if life WERE fair and just, I’d be in eternal chains. But instead, I am a sinner saved by grace and can thank God for the gift of freedom through the death and resurrection of His beloved Son.

He lives! And because of that, I can face tomorrow’s unfairness. 🙂

May you be blessed this Easter.

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

It’s wet, chilly, and rainy here.

(Ugh.)

Good food always cheers me up when the day looks dreary. Well, actually food makes me really excited just about any time! But anyway…

Nothing beats a good hot meal on a rainy day. Chicken pot pie sounded perfect! I didn’t have a recipe, so I just used what I had that seemed like it should go into pot pie. I shared the recipe below, but just a small warning…for better or worse, I’m not the kind of cook that measures anything unless I am baking. So, follow this recipe at your own risk…I kind of guessed when writing how much of each thing I put in. 😉 This one passed the hubby test – he loved it! So did I. However, little miss Princess turned her nose up at it.

…Not that I should expect more out of a 16 month old who would live off of fruit and vanilla wafers if I let her. 🙂 Anything with even a hint of green goes against her toddler rules.

But, I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit where credit is due…

Mommy's little helper

How many one-year-old’s do you know that can make chicken pot pie? 😉

I forgot to take a picture before, so here is our more-than-half-eaten chicken pot pie. We pigged out. 🙂

Chicken Pot Pie

Crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening (I use butter flavored Crisco)
  • 7-8 teaspoons cold water

(note: crust recipe from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook)

Filling:

  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and cut into small pieces
  • 3-4 small potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2-3 cups of chicken broth (or enough to cover veggies in a large pot)
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion (I didn’t have any fresh onions on hand)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper

For crust:

Sift salt and flour together in a bowl, then cut shortening into the flour using a pastry cutter or fork until well combined, or until dough pieces are the size of small peas. Add water one tablespoon at a time, sprinkling over dough mixture then combining with a fork. Divide dough even into two portions and use hands to form two balls. Using a floured surface and rolling pin, roll each portion into a circle that is about 1 inch larger than the dish you plan to use to bake. Press first one into bottom of deep dish pie plate.

(Tip from my sister, Arica: Refrigerating the dough for a while before rolling it out makes the crust flakier and also makes it easier to roll out!)

For filling:

Place potatoes, carrots, and peas in a large pot, and pour enough chicken broth over them to cover veggies. Heat on medium to med-high or until veggies are cooked. Turn down heat. Add cream of chicken soup, chicken, and spices. Mix well and let simmer for a bit. Pour into pie crust and cover with second rolled out crust. Crimp edges and cut slits for venting.

Place strips of foil over crust edges and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes; remove foil. Return to oven for about 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Enjoy!

Being Intentional {Part 2}: Time with God

I promised myself that I would endeavor to be as real as possible on this blog. Well, the reality is that I am almost nervous to write a post on this topic just because I really, really don’t have it figured out. Not that it should come as a surprise, being human and all. 🙂 I am far from perfect, but my pride would tell me that I should be farther by now in this area. Don’t get me wrong – I do pray frequently throughout the day as things come to my mind. I relish many sweet times I’ve had in prayer or when God shows me something heart-piercing through Scripture.  But, to be perfectly honest, carving out specific time during my day for “quiet time”, or time for Bible reading, meditation, and prayer has never been a strong point for me.

I don’t know about you, but I seem to go through seasons where I am really digging in, and others where I either get lazy or busy. It has always been my personal goal to set aside time early in the morning, simply because so much happens throughout the day. I get busy, and by the time girls are in bed, I am ready to turn my brain off and veg!

Through my recent heart examination regarding discipline and the idea of being intentional about various things in my life, one thing is clear. The effectiveness of all other areas hinge on this area. Thus the well-known verse in Matthew 6:33…

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Pretty simple. When God is at the center of our lives, everything else tends to fall into place. He is the source of all things good.  The place where obtain our hope and strength to navigate through life. When I feel confused or my direction seems foggy, I must remember that God sees everything, knows everything, and wants to help ME! We experience much greater peace, joy, and contentment in our daily lives when we look to Him first and foremost instead of ourselves or the things around us. Not only that, but the more we get to know Him, the more we want to know Him!

There are four primary things that I’ve learned:

1. God wants to talk to us.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel insignificant, like one speck of dust among many. To feel like perhaps God won’t notice if don’t talk to Him, or He might even be mad at us for it….so we don’t. But, God is just like any good father (only better!), He really REALLY wants to have a relationship with His kids! He loves to hear our prayers, and He also wants to tell us things, too. He’s not looking for performance, He’s looking for a sincere heart that desires that relationship. Things are really put into perspective for me if I think of Addie or Ava growing up and rarely taking the time to call or stop by for a visit. While I would still love them, that would seriously devastate my heart! If only we knew how deeply God cares and desires to show us things!

2. Be intentional. Make a decision to do it, plan it, then do it.

I’m learning that if I want to continue to grow and cultivate my relationship with God, I have to be intentional about it. Intentionality in this area will look different for everyone depending on their circumstances. For me, it means setting a specific time of the day. In this season as a busy mommy of two little ones, if I don’t plan to do it and allocate a specific time for it, it doesn’t get done!

I don’t believe there is a cookie-cutter formula for the “right way” of spending time with the Lord, because we are each unique and in different seasons of life. A retired empty-nester may have more time to allot than someone with a demanding job schedule, homework load, or toddlers to chase. God knows each of our hearts and meets us where we are. Whether its early in the morning with a cup of coffee, at night before bed, on the road to work, listening to worship music on your iPod while jogging, whatever  – just taking the time. Being consistent. And for me, when I feel myself slacking, it’s dusting my britches off and getting back on the wagon instead of getting stuck in a guilt trip that keeps me from moving forward.

3. Be intentional about the study approach

This is not by any means intended to portray “THE” way to study or have a devotional time, this is just what works for me and my easily distracted brain. 🙂  I’ve found that having an intentional plan of study helps keep me focused. Otherwise, I seem to spend half of my time staring blankly at the pages wondering what I should read while a barrage of random thoughts and proverbial to-do lists pummel my mind.  Am I the only one who experiences that? There have been times when I have felt prompted to go to this book or that verse, but generally I try to go through one book at a time so that I have time to let it soak in.

A typical morning would consist of me reading several verses in whichever New Testament book I’ve chosen to study, as well as some verses from an Old Testament book I’ve picked. Or some mornings, I only read from one and then read from a favorite devotional. This is usually in the morning before the girls wake up, with a cup of coffee (ESSENTIAL!) in my hand. It doesn’t always happen, but I don’t sweat it. I can always wait until the girls’ nap time if need be! Ava is still waking up for middle-of-the-night feedings and is quite a night owl, and there are also days when Addie Kate decides to wake up earlier than normal. Routine is still a bit hard to come by in my house. 🙂 Instead of trying suddenly to wake up at the crack of dawn, I’ve been working my way up the clock gradually. Setting my alarm for 15 minutes earlier than normal for a week or two, then once that is doable, setting it for another 15 minutes earlier, and so on.

4.  Don’t make it a legalistic burden.

While we are commanded as God’s children to seek Him wholeheartedly, it’s not something that should impose a heavy weight of guilt on our shoulders. This is made pretty clear in Matthew 11:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is something I have to be reminded of, since the perfectionist part of me tends  to get overwhelmed and throw in the towel when I can’t do something perfectly. Our relationship with God should not be cumbersome, but rather our source of strength and rejuvenation. I also have to be wary of the comparison game. There will always be someone more disciplined than me who seems to have it all together. But, God is concerned with my heart, not my best shot at winning the spiritual giant of the year contest. 😉

Well folks, that’s all I’ve got for today. I hope that leaves you encouraged!

What are your thoughts? What do you do to carve out time in your day for God?