Wednesday, April 3, 2013


As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening to an account on 105.9 about how worship music has made an impact on one particular individual.  I started reflecting on all that has happened in the past year or so and how my hearts desire in the good and in the bad truly is to worship God.

This past year has probably been one of the hardest in my adult life so far.  There has been tremendous loss, heart break, health concerns, loneliness, and questions of my value in others' lives.  There has also recently been a heart-wrenching (but very heart-healing) adventure to encounter new freedoms from old pains.  But through it all, my go-to is worshiping at the feet of the Lord.

I have said it before - transparency is hard.  I try.  But really, I am terribly afraid of other people's opinions and possible rejection.  And so, I keep most things hidden away inside of my heart.  I don't think that it is the healthiest thing for a heart - and really it isn't the easiest - but it is a process that I am working through.  On my bathroom mirror I have written, "My value is not found in the opinions of other's, but in knowing who and whose I am."  I need to read this each day, to keep my heart focused on the truth.  So, because I think it will be good for my own soul, I am going to write about some of the challenges of my journey over the past year and a half.

Loneliness: I feel like there is a vital piece of me missing!  I am alone.  Most all of my friends have moved away from the Austin area over the past year.  I am not "attached" to any community.  My day consists of caring for wonderful children, but there is not really any adult camaraderie.  I have a church, but it is not a church home.  I go, I worship, I listen, I leave.  I have a couple of friends, but do not feel connected or know HOW to feel connected -- it isn't organic for me.  And as the days go on, my soul longs more and more for a help-mate.

Grief: As I mentioned, many friends have moved away and there has been a need to mourn the loss of having someone to be with me ... to get coffee, have a fun shopping day, cook a meal, or just hang out with.  I mostly do these things alone now, and it just isn't as much fun.  In addition to friends moving, my oldest sister -- my very best friend in this world -- also moved ... to Arizona.  I miss her so much!  Sure we talk, but I miss "Baby Sister Day", sister hugs, and lazy Sunday afternoon movies with her and her husband.  And from that list, I think it's the hugs that I miss the most.  To add to this sadness, in April (almost one year ago) my dear Grandfather (Mom's Dad) passed away and then less than six months later my Grandmother (Father's Mom) passed away.  She was my last living grandparent, and having her pass away made my heart feel so very empty.  And grief does not limit itself to the loss of relationships - I have also grieved health issues, childhood pain, and other "losses".

Health: My battle continues.  7 years ago I had debilitating migraines, severe pain, loss of ability to move properly, and a myriad of other "symptoms" that made no sense.  With many doctors looking at me like I was either insane, excessively needy, or just a hypochondriac; I continued to pursue "figuring out" what was "wrong" with me.  Finally, I said the right combination of things to the right doctor (who by the way had encouragingly and repeatedly told me that he would not give up on me) and a diagnosis came in the summer of 2007 -- Advanced Rheumatoid Arthritis with organ involvement (or what the Dr. refers to as Lupus Tendency).  I immediately went into a rigorous treatment plan involving some horrible medications.  Shortly after the diagnosis of RA, came the addition of Celiac Sprue Disease.  And shortly after that, my list of food allergies began to exponentially multiply.  Although this all occurred over a long period of time, my body has continued to attack itself to the point that last year the proverbial rug got pulled out from underneath me.  I do not have health insurance and because of that, once I got to a "maintenance" point in RA treatment, I stopped taking most all prescription medications.  There was an immense amount of provision from the Lord to get me to this point and I do not in any way want to discredit the miraculous thing that this was!  However, a little over a year ago I had an injury to my neck that led to a herniated disc. Treatment began for this, but I was in an overwhelming amount of pain - which led to additional flare-ups of RA, which led to additional joint damage and fatigue, which led to a further compromised immune system, which led to an additional need for medications... And so the saga goes!  I have been doing my very best to manage my health, but I feel extraordinarily limited.  I am in pain - both physical and emotional - and I am weary!

Finances:  Isn't it always the case that we could think of a thousand ways to spend just a little extra money?  I am always very reticent to mention finances because I want to be sensitive to my readers.  And even more-so, it is very important to me to have a grateful heart!  The challenge is that I also want to be able to be honest about where I need prayer, support, and a greater measure of faith!  This is it.  And very very honestly, health is the largest financial fight that I have!  I have been amazingly blessed several times this past year in the way of finances.  In part because of this, I don't stress about money nearly as much as I once did.  I have learned that somehow it usually works out.  :)  Having said that, I do still experience stress here.  There has not been a single month in the past year that I haven't needed financial support in some way.  I HATE IT!!!  I am a very independent person AND I really do want to be a self-supporting real-life grown up! Not to mention I feel like I am not able to prepare for the future because I am so financially caught in the moment.

So where does that bring me?  First of all, please do not read this and think that I have forgotten all of the good things this year has brought.  There has been much to rejoice over and thank the Lord for!  And that is where this started!  Through all of this pain and misery, I find myself lost in worship!  When my heart aches, I am before the Lord seeking comfort.  When I am overwhelmed with gratitude, I am in His presence declaring His might and faithfulness!

And through it all I can smile, laugh, rest, and declare that God is good...ALL THE TIME!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


This week has carried with it a load of sadness.  Not so much for myself, but for several that I care about.  This week came with the death of four different individuals who are family or friends of friends of mine.  Even though I do not know well those who passed away. my heart still feels heavy and sad.  In a year where I have lost several loved ones, I know quite intimately the pain of death.  Whether it comes as a surprise or as an expected experience, the passing of a loved one hurts.  Tonight my heart goes out to the friends and families of the two women who lost their lives in car accidents, to the parents and community that lost a baby with an illness, and to the friend whose father passed away this morning.  My prayers and sympathy are with you all.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Just a Few Notes

I have so much that I could talk about, including another recipe.

I had a friend ask me last week if I plan on turning my blog into a cookbook.  Probably least not anytime in the near future. But for the time-being, I will post recipes as I am inspired to do so.

This past weekend, I took a trip to Abilene.  This is where I went to college...many moons ago.  I still have a couple of friends who are there, but this past year my friend Wendy moved to Abilene as well.  She was one of my roommates a few years ago and she became a wonderful friend.  I stayed with her and we had a lot of fun.  

Some of my high points of the weekend were meeting my dear friend Olivia's daughter.  Long story here, but basically I don't know if I have ever been as excited to see a baby as I was with this one.  She is absolutely amazing!  On Saturday, Wendy and I went shopping for some new work clothes and then we went to the opening game for the Abilene Roller Derby Dames.  This was the first Roller Derby for both of us.  On Sunday we chilled out and played games at a coffee shop.  Then on Monday, on my way out of town, I had lunch with a fabulous friend, Lauren.  

In addition to having fun time with friends, this trip was also about making some space for my heart to explore some things.  I needed some time-out with God and an opportunity to ask Him what He is wanting to do in my heart, mind, body, and soul.  WOW!  I had some treasured time with Him, and then on the way home prayed for 3 straight hours declaring all of the places in my life that I want freedom.  I had an amazing time of honesty with my Maker, telling Him what I want, asking Him what He wants, and discussing what I think I am and am not ready for.  Not to negate the special times that I had with my friends, but I think this was the true purpose and need of this trip.

I got back home, and pretty much jumped back in to life as normal.  However I feel like I have a better sense of peace and resolve as I walk into a season where I am expecting change and healing!  Just fabulous!

And now for another recipe (or two).

Last night I made an Herb Baked Salmon.  I was at Whole Foods and the Sockeye Salmon (a personal favorite) was on sale for 9.99 per pound as opposed to the standard 14.99 per pound.  I got a whole fillet and it was just over a pound.  I cut off 1/3 of it on the tail end and pan cooked those pieces for tonight's dinner.  The other portion I baked in the oven with some fresh herbs from my patio garden.  So here are the recipes.

Herb Baked Salmon

1 Sockeye Salmon Fillet
Fresh Herbs - thinly cut (I used Indian Basil, Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Marjoram, and Chive)
Sea Salt
1 lime thinly sliced
1-2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1-2 Tbsp Bacon Drippings
1 Tbsp Raw Honey
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (if desired)
Drizzle of Lemon infused Olive Oil

In a baking dish, drizzle Bacon Drippings.  Rinse Salmon, remove pin bones, and make certain it is cut to fit the baking dish.  Place skin-side down.  Sprinkle Sea Salt and herbs across top of Salmon (include Crushed Red Pepper Flakes if desired). Drizzle Lemon infused Olive Oil and Honey over herbs and then  place a single layer of thinly sliced limes over the top.  Thinly slice 1-2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter and layer on top of the limes.  Cook in oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until cooked.  DO NOT overcook this fish or it gets dry, rubbery, and kind-of yucky.  

I paired this with some baby carrots that I steamed and added a little honey, cinnamon, and cloves to.  It was YUMMY!

Now for tonight's dinner: 

Ok - so anyone who knows me well knows that tuna fish salad makes me gag like nothing else.  I find it to be detestable!!  Some may consider this is a upgraded version of tuna salad, but it is YUMMY!

Creamy Salmon Salad:

Here is what you need...

Pan Seared Sockeye Salmon (keep reading for how I made this) (about 1/4-1/3 pound)
Fresh Herbs (I used the same combo that I did the night before)
1-2 Ribs of Celery; finely chopped
1 small Apple (I used a Pink Lady; but Gala, Winesap, and Honeycrisp are all great options)
1-2 Green onions with chives; finely chopped
Raw Honey
Chia Seeds
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
Sea Salt and Pepper
Earth's Best Olive Oil "Mayo"

To make the Pan Seared Salmon, I took the tail end of the fish and cut it into 1 inch thick strips (with skin), salted with sea salt, and squeezed fresh lime on top.  In a hot pan, I added about 1 Tbsp Olive Oil and then placed the salmon skin side down in the pan.  LEAVE IT BE until it lifts itself away from the pan surface.  If you mess with it, the skin will stick and the fish will fall apart.  Once it will easily move, flip it and sear the top.  Flip again to cook the sides.  All together, the fish is in the pan for less than 10 minutes.  Refrigerate and leave for the next day.

To make the Creamy Salmon Salad, heat a small skillet on the stove top and add butter to melt.  Add in the celery, apple, and onion and cook until the colors are bright and mixture is just beginning to soften. Add in the herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, and 2 tsp Raw Honey.  Cook a minute or two longer.  Set aside to let it cool.

In a small bowl, take each salmon piece and pull off skin and flake the salmon.  Add 1 Tbsp "Mayo", 1-2 tsp Chia Seeds, lemon zest and juice, and celery mixture.  Stir together and place in freezer for a few minutes to "chill".  

I paired this with some pre-made rice crackers and Garlic Broccoli.  I cut up four crowns of broccoli, including the rabe.  In a hot skillet, I placed 1 Tbsp Bacon Drippings, broccoli and rabe, and 2 tsp chopped garlic.  Stir quickly to cover all broccoli with garlic and fat.  Add a small amount of water for steam.  Cook for about 5 minutes so broccoli still has a small amount of bite and is bright green.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Bacon Basil Burger served on Thick Cut Roasted Sweet Potato "Bun"

This dinner was super easy to make, but it did take a total of 3 pans.  Not a huge deal around my house, but I can see how it may be a challenge for some.  One way to "simplify" this would be to cook the bacon in the microwave instead of on the stove top.

The Burger:
1/2 lb Ground Bison
1/2 lb 10% fat Organic Ground Beef
6 Fresh basil leaves (Chiffonade)
2 Tbsp fresh Chives (Chiffonade)
1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt (more or less to desired taste)
1 tsp Dry Ground Mustard
Cracked Pepper (to desired taste)

The Sweet Potato:
2 Large and Round Organic Sweet Potatoes
Organic Canola Oil

Maple Ketchup:
4 Tbsp Organic Tomato Paste
1 1/2 tsp Organic Dark Maple Syrup
1 tsp Lemon Juice

4 Slices Thick Cut Bacon (I use an All Natural Applewood with No Preservatives)

Mix all of "The Burger" ingredients together in a large bowl, divide into 4 portions and round into patties.  Place in an oven-safe skillet and put in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes (to desired temp.).

Slice the sweet potatoes into 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick slices (to make 8 slices total).  Lightly oil each slice with canola oil and place in an oven-safe baking dish.  Cook for approximately 20 minutes while cooking the burger patties.  Tip: You don't want to overcook or you will not be able to make a "bun" with this.

While burgers are cooking make the Maple Ketchup by mixing all of the ingredients together in a small glass bowl.  Store leftover covered in the refrigerator.  

Pan fry 4 slices of bacon.

1 Sweet Potato Slice
One Burger Patty
A smear of Maple Ketchup
One slice bacon
Top off with 1 more Sweet Potato Slice


Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Granola Recipe

It is so yummy, I had to write it down.  

3 Cups Gluten Free Old Fashioned Organic Oats
1/3 Cup Coconut Chips
1/3 Cup Organic Pumpkin Seed
1/3 Cup Organic Sunflower Seed
2 TBSP Organic Flax Seed
1/2 Cup Organic Almond (Raw, Whole, Unsalted)
1/2 Cup Organic Cashew (Raw, Whole, Unsalted)

1/4 Cup Organic Raw Honey
1/4 Cup Organic Dark Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Natural Almond Butter (Creamy No-Stir)

1 TBSP Organic Lemon Infused Olive Oil
3 TBSP Organic Canola Oil
1 tsp Cinnamon (I use a blend of Ceylon, Saigon, Vietnamese, and Korintje)
1/4 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Vanilla

1 TBSP Zest from an Organic Orange (about 1 Orange)
1 TBSP Organic Lavender Flower (Dried, Edible)

1) In a large bowl, combine Oats, Coconut, Seeds, and Nuts
2) In a large measuring cup, combine Honey, Maple Syrup, and Almond Butter.  Microwave in 30 second increments just long enough that these can be mixed together into a thick syrup-like state.  (Usually takes 1-2 minutes.)
3) Add oils, Cinnamon, and Salt to Syrup and blend well.  
4) Pour over Oat mixture and cautiously mix well with spatula until all ingredients have been coated.
5) Place in preheated oven at 215 degrees.  Bake for 1 hour, mixing well every 15 minutes to prevent burning.  Add Orange zest and lavender flower.  Bake approximately one additional hour, stirring every 10 minutes.  Watch carefully in this final hour as it can go from toasted to burned very quickly.

The Granola is done when the syrup mixture has dried and other ingredients are well toasted. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan.  Store in airtight container or bag.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Pain of Love

One of my many "roles" in life, is that of nanny to two of the most precious little boys that have been a part of my fabulous life journey.  The oldest is 4 (as of last week) and the youngest is 1 (also as of last week).  I have been one of this families caregivers for almost 3 1/2 years.  That means that for more than 3/4 of the oldest ones life, he has been an integral part of my identity.  

The relationship of nanny to child is a very special and very unique one.  I can't imagine the degree that a mother or father feel for their child, but I can tell you that not a day of my life passes without thinking about and praying for these two boys!  They are somehow included in every story I have.  Most every decision I make about my career, future, and even where I may choose to move at some point includes them in some way.  In some sense, they are my family.  

Today was quite possibly one of the most painful days in my life.  This child that I have snuggled and cuddled, loved on, cooked for, cleaned for, prayed for, sacrificed for, banged ouchies for, struggled through the terrible two's...and three's with, and tried with all of my might to teach to have joy, love, honor, and respect; somehow managed to tear my heart to shreds today!  No, my love for him has not diminished.  In fact it may have grown.  But today, this 40 pound, 40 inch, 4 year-old child brought to my heart a sadness that I don't think I have ever quite experienced to this depth.  

As he is growing and establishing his own will and ability to choose for himself, there are certain to be bumps in the road.  This I know.  I have seen mother's weep because their precious baby said something like "I hate you" or "I don't like you".  I imagine this feeling they experienced in these moments is probably something like what I experienced today.

One little boy, who I love so very much, managed in one day to try my patience like it has never been tried by a little boy before.  I think that maybe the difference here is that I love this child more deeply than I have ever known love before.  In a heartbeat I would climb mountains, swim oceans, give my life to protect his!

But perhaps what hurts most of all is that today I witnessed this precious, seemingly innocent baby sin.  It was big, it was bold, and it was brash.  And I find in my heart a bit of anger that the enemy managed to influence this amazing little boy into making a series of such hurtful choices in one day.

He refused to eat, he threw big tempers, and the very ugly words "shut up" came out of his tiny little mouth...hurled at me.  He didn't trust me to provide for him.  He didn't allow me to comfort, console, or convince him to change his path as he tread the deep and dangerous waters of defiance.  In one day, he managed to lose every toy in his bedroom.  With a painful but mouthy smirk he told me he didn't care if I took his toys away for the day - and he was NOT going to stop screaming at me!

I have been caring for children since I was twelve years old and teaching them for fifteen years now.  I have worked in daycare, preschool, private kindergarten, mother's day out, church programs, early childhood intervention, family shelters and the like.  I have been a nanny (live-in and live-out) for multiple families.  I currently work as a children's pastor as well as a nanny for this particular family.  I am not a stranger to discipline or tough love.  I am not a push-over or a pansy.  I am firm, stern, and absolutely loving!  I have a patience and resolve with children that only comes as a gift from God.  I cherish every child I work with, and have a special bond with those children who are labeled strong-willed or difficult.  Probably because I was (and still am) a very strong-willed person.  I know that these battles happen.  And I know they can have the power to be lasting lessons for good.  I know that when a child asserts their will over something as small as refusing to eat the egg (that they asked you to cook for them), there is often a much bigger battle taking place.  And I feel pretty safe in declaring that it is a battle of the spiritual nature.  

But even with all of the "practice" I have had in molding, shaping, pruning, and relinquishing to the Lord these small people; my heart was pricked ever so much more painfully today.  Children - just like all of us adults - are on a journey.  It is one of both wins and losses.  And children - just like all of us adults - need to know that sin can be forgiven.  It may leave it's scar - at least for some time - but there is forgiveness.  This child has been forgiven!  But right now, my heart still bears that very fresh wound that hurts all the more because it came from the mouth, hands, feet, and will of my precious sweet boy!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Healing is exactly what I am crying out for!

Please stick with me for a moment while I complain and explain.  And then I will move on.

I have a growing list of food allergies (about 32 at current count), multiple auto-immune disorders, and am about 120 pounds overweight.  I am constantly fatigued, feel as though my brain is always going at light-speed in 40 different directions, and sustain myself on a VERY limited diet.  For years now, my diet has been almost 100% gluten, dairy, yeast, preservative, and egg free.  This past year peanuts, mushrooms, strawberries, a multitude of spices, and several different types of fish got added into that mix.  I even had to go without lettuce...yes I did just say lettuce...for six months and can now sporadically eat it with limited problems.

In an attempt to manage and reduce food allergies, I have done restricted, elimination, and rotation diets.  In hope that my body would "reset", I even attempted a vegan diet...for about two weeks.  But I soon realized that due to hunger and low blood sugar I was pretty much chewing up and spitting out every person that crossed my path, so I abandoned this experiment.  

Through all of this, my food allergy list has grown, my diet has become more limited, and my weight has stayed the same.

I try to prepare most of my meals at home, from scratch to monitor the ingredients I am using.  Going out to eat is ALWAYS an adventure, so I tend to not stray from the places I know.  Whenever I do choose to go out, I feel like a super-pest because I am asking for a manager, requesting my food to be prepared in a separate pan with no seasonings, no sauces, and a very watchful eye to ensure that nothing touches it that could possibly contaminate it with a single speck of gluten, msg, peanuts, or any other enemies of my immune system.  Then when I get my food, I carefully inspect it to make sure I don't see any possible culprits for anaphylaxis, eczema, migraines, or wrenching stomach pains.  After confirming that everything was prepared just so, I PRAY PRAY PRAY that I will not have any food reactions this time.

I am not content! I do not like things the way they are.  I want something different!

There are so many amazing and wonderful things about myself and in my life that I LOVE.  But there are these few things that on occasion just leave me feeling absolutely, utterly, overwhelmingly DEFEATED!

And the only response that I have is to cry out to Jesus for healing to materialize.  I ask for more faith to expect to see the revolutionary, transforming power of God in my life!  I look to Him and declare that on my own I am weak, helpless, and so very desperately in need of seeing, feeling, and hearing His love for me!  I know that I carry in me the most powerful and amazing thing in this world!  I carry the power of Christ.  

I know there are so many of us who are crying out for healing for one thing or another, so I ask the Lord to pour it down on us!   For myself, I ask for healing from food issues, a wonky immune system, and the fear that I will somehow never be everything that the Lord created me to be.  For ALL of the brokenness in my life, I ask; because I NEED HEALING!