08-28-2015

Dear Soccer Coaches {A mama’s diatribe on extracurricular activities}

{READ WITH LOTS OF SARCASM}

Hey Colleen! So you asked if I could get together next week. Well, here’s the thing…

Next week we start this thing called ‘soccer’.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of it before or not, but it {extracurricular activities} scares the crap out of me.

You see, I’m gonna have to be somewhere by 6:30pm three nights a week.

Oh, and not just somewhere. But on a field. Which means not in whatever crap I can pull over my head when I’ve reached the end of the day and would rather just be having a beer as I cook dinner in my pajamas.

And oh yes, let’s not forget that it’s not just me that has a dress code but really it is my son.

Those soccer organizers must have kids who just adore getting into new clothes.

My son informs me every. single. morning. that he is more than happy to go to school in just his underwear.

Which if you think about, I probably created that monster, since getting dressed in our house has always been optional. {I always did think a 1 year year old looked super cute slumming around in a diaper so I never got very good at enforcing dress codes.} So yes, the whole getting dressed thing is probably my fault.

But isn’t it enough of a feat that I get my son dressed and to school on time five days a week and then again on Sunday to church? Now, I’ve got to add evenings into the fray as well.

Oh crap, I just realize as I type this mess that he is suppose to be wearing cleats and I think some type of padding gear. And oh yeah, some type of soccer socks???? Guess I know what I’m going to be doing this weekend then. Seriously, how am I suppose to be figuring this stuff out?

So unfortunately, three of my week nights are being taken up by this thing called soccer.

This may be news to some people but I’m actually really done by 6:30pm at night.

Done being a mama.
Done putting a meal in front of my family.
Done doing anything besides telling my children they should just get along and please, isn’t it bedtime soon?

But I guess that doesn’t work anymore.

Oh, I also informed my husband that now we have to give up occasional Friday nights for this thing called soccer. Guess what my husband told me??? “Well, we don’t have much going on anymore on Friday nights, do we?”

Seriously, this from the man who at 25 threw quite an amazing after bar party. But no, apparently turning the ripe old age of 40 has made him ready to throw in the towel and succumb to this suburban thing called soccer.

And all because he thinks that maybe it will help our child get a college scholarship.

REALLY?
Has he seen our son play sports?

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His last attempt {at age 3} ended before the first practice even got started.

Within meeting the coach and learning he would have to follow someone’s directions, he promptly informed us “I’m not playing. I’m going to go inspect the grass and find some bugs”.

I wish I were kidding.

For some reason I didn’t believe him so I took him back to a second football practice and once again, it was my child in the grass discovering the long begotten beetle of kingdom come.

Even last year when I tried encouraging him to give baseball a go, he himself said, “Come on mom, have you seen me try to hit a ball”. “Yeah, right”, was my response.

Wouldn’t it be better for all parties involved, if we were just a bit more up front with our children’s potential.

I mean, it would be amazing if on Monday night we discover this amazing God given gift of unknown, unparalleled soccer talent.

He has shown some improvement in the last few weeks while playing at home. Which was after we told him we were forcing him to play soccer. I blame my husband. I was more than happy to put off this whole extracurricular activity thing for a LOOOOT more years.

{But in defense of my husband forcing him to play soccer, the conversation went like this…
Son: Can I play soccer?
Mom: Sure, as long as you do your homework prior to practice.
Son: Uhm, well actually, no, I don’t think I need to do soccer or homework for that matter.
Dad: You ARE playing soccer and you ARE doing your homework.}

But really, my son’s God given talent is a love of animals, legos, and taking things apart and putting them back together.

The next Einstein, next Edison, next discoverer of an extinct animal…that is my son. Not the next David Beckham.

{And yes, I do think my son is a genius. You would use that coping mechanism too if your son spoke in animal language every time he met someone new!}

But maybe I will be proven wrong. And my efforts to still be a mama post 6:30pm will be worth it.

Maybe one day he will get a soccer scholarship. But really, I will be proud of my son if he just listens to the coach and stays on the field Monday night. I don’t care if he runs in the wrong direction and I certainly don’t care if he touches that soccer ball with his hands.

So for the next 8 weeks my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings are taken up with soccer.

Feel free to join me out at the fields and cheer me on when we arrive fully clothed! I’m gonna be feeling proud.

jessica

08-10-2015

63 Places off the Beaten Path in Charleston, SC

Finding and exploring hidden gems in nature is one of my favorite past times. Here are our personal favs along with undiscovered places we hope to check out soon. So load the kids up and get up close & personal with the great outdoors. {listed in no particular order}

1. Daniel Island Waterfront Park, Daniel Island
Situated on the shores of the Wando River and replicated to resemble the Charleston harbor, this park’s best feature  is the proximity to the waterfront trails. When facing the water, take the left hand trails and you will come to a small bit of shoreline where the trees are eroding into the river. If you aren’t able to boat out to Capers & Dewey’s, this is your next best way to experience an eroding shoreline.
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2. Trails at Wannamaker Park
There are 2 miles of paved trails, as well as the 8 mile Wannamaker North Trail for bicyclist and nature explorers.

3. Charles Towne Landing
Great for bike riding but make sure to go when it is NOT hot. There is very little shade here.

4. Old Santee Canal Park

5. Charleston Library Society story time, Downtown
This is a completely different organization than the county’s library system. This non profit was founded to expound one’s natural curiosity through art, speakers, and ultimately – books. They have a summer reading time for kids.

6. Historic Charleston Foundation kid programs, Downtown
Who knew that the organization responsible for ensuring our city’s awe-inspiring architecture is protected, also has numerous after school & during the summer educational programs for children?

7. Trolley Rides, Downtown Charleston
Park at the Visitors Center and ride the FREE trolley around downtown.

8. Waterfront Park, Downtown Charleston
A great way to beat the heat and enjoy downtown all in one swoop. Even better, take advantage of the FREE trolleys (see #7) to get there and your kids will think you are the best mom ever.
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9. Sunrise Park, James Island

10. Charles Pickney National Historic Site, Mount Pleasant
My favorite place in Charleston for family photos and kids being kids.

11. Marsh View Trail, Mount Pleasant
An easy paved trail for kids that takes you out to the marsh. Wear flip flops/crocs and you can explore the marsh. We recently found mussels here!

12. Seewee Shell Ring Trail

13. Awendaw Creek Landing
The trails are great for exploring and the dock is fun for crabbing.

14. Hampton Plantation
Explore nature trails and let the kids run wild.

15. The Custom Building, downtown Charleston
It may look formal & imposing, but there is nothing wrong with having your youngsters run up these steps to burn off some energy.

16. Crabbing
Catching crabs on a line of twine with chicken necks is one of my favorite past times, so no, I won’t be sharing my favorite crabbing hole. However, try your hand at these great locations – Shem Creek Park, Awendaw Creek Landing and Pitt Street Bridge. Stop by Haddrell’s for your crabbing and fishing needs.
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17. Farmer’s Markets
Give your children a few dollars and let them pick out a new vegetable to try. Kids are much more likely to try food that they had a hand in picking out and cooking.
Luckily in Charleston, we have farmer’s markets almost every single day of the week.
Monday ~ Seabrook & Kiawah Islands
Tuesday ~ Mt. Pleasant
Thursday ~ Daniel Island and North Charleston
Saturday ~ Downtown Charleston, Goose Creek, John’s Island, & Summerville
Sunday ~ James Island

18. Shem Creek Park

19. SEWEE Educational Center
My kids love learning about all the ‘stuffed’ animals they are able to see here. Plus, they have a boardwalk trail you can explore.

20. Center for Birds of Prey

21. Caw Caw Interpretive Center
Your best chance to see an alligator is here. Perfect for older kids or at least have enough adults to corral youngsters that like to run.

22. Hazel Parker Playground, Downtown Charleston
Nestled behind a City of Charleston recreation department building, this little gem stays tucked out of view from all the tourists walking by. It has something for everyone…different sets of climbing equipment perfect for young & old, tennis, baseball, AND basketball courts. And if that wasn’t enough….THEY HAVE BATHROOMS!! Located inside the recreation department building, you will find restrooms and a water fountain. And if you are lucky enough, the inside doors will be open and your kids can play inside the building with plenty of toys while you get a break from the heat with some air conditioning!
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23. Park Circle Butterfly Garden

24. Magnolia Gardens
Out of the 4 major plantations in Charleston, this one is my favorite. The gardens are romantic, beautiful, and splendid.

25. Tennis Courts (Whipple Road)
When my son was a rambunctious 2 year old that loved to run as far away as possible I would load him up and take him to the tennis courts. He could run & run and never run away from me. I would just hit tennis balls and he’d have to run and pick them up for me. I’m all about free & easy child entertainment!

26. Dunleavy’s Popcorn & Wings
When you need a cheap date with your husband and hiring a sitter isn’t possible, this is the next best thing. Kids eat unlimited popcorn and you take advantage of wings and the salty beach air. !

27. Belgium Gelato
Want to become #momofthedecade? Park at the Visitors Center, ride the FREE trolley, cool off at Waterfront Park, then head 2 doors down for this delicious gelato.

28. Charleston Park Conservancy
Find parks {think nice classical parks, not necessarily with playground equipment} all over town.

29. West Ashley Greenway

30. North Charleston Waterfront Park
Not only is there a beautiful meadow and large pavilion, but there are also sprinklers/spray fountains to cool kids off.

31. Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, downtown Charleston

32. Hampton Park, Downtown

33. Jason’s Lake & Botnay Bay, Edisto Island
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34. Edisto Beach State Park

35. Governor’s Park, Daniel Island
Zipline, playground, shade!, and access to trails perfect for exploring the marsh and estuaries habitats.

36. Smythe Park, Daniel Island
A pirate themed playground with a large lake for kid anglers’.

37. Library Programs, Charleston County
From Picolo Spoleto events to Magic Treehouse Clubs, the library has great programs all summer long.

38. $1 Movies at Regal Cinemas

39. Morris Island Lighthouse
Although you can’t ‘see & touch’ the lighthouse you can find a great view by going to the far end of the east side of Folly. Morris Island is a great lesson for your kids to learn about how the tides continually alter the landscape of our islands.
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40. Bert’s Market, Folly Beach
One of my absolute most favorite places in Charleston! Complete beach dive…where else can you find cold pressed juices, organic hotdogs, and nightcrawlers for bait all in the same place? Seriously, I adore this place and my secret dream is to open one in Mt. Pleasant. I’ve already got the perfect corner spot picked out…think of superman gorillas and you’ll know where I’m talking about.

41. Pick Berries
Whether you pick in town or find an organic farm within an hour drive of Charleston, your kids will love running around dirt fields and eating berries to their hearts content.

42. Charleston Tea Plantation, Wadmalaw Island
Take your girls for ‘tea’ with their favorite babydolls. Or a perfect place to visit sans kids.

43. York Towne/Patriots Point, Mount Pleasant

44. Chapel Park
A favorite hidden gem with a gorgeous water fountain.
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45. Charleston County Park & Recreation docks and trails
CCPRC has fishing docks and trails for exploring at almost every single park they maintain. My kids love the Palmetto Island County Park for its abundance of fiddler crabs found on the creek banks.

46. Bee City, Cottageville

47. Cypress Gardens, Monck’s Corner

48. Bamboo Forest, Sullivan’s Island
Next to the SI fire station, this bamboo forest is so neat and hidden away.

49. A Very Little Book Store, Summerville
The perfect place for a cozy story time.

50. Trophy Lakes, John’s Island
The perfect place to learn to water ski or wake board.

51. Graveyards {self-guided Gateway Walk}, Downtown Charleston
There are lots of graveyards throughout the Holy City but you may not know that there is a walkway that connects quite a few of the churches and graveyards. This would obviously be better for teenagers or sans kids.

52. Gates of Charleston
Here is another idea when you find yourself without children. The peninsula has so many homes with gorgeous gates containing intricate iron art.
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53. The Angel Oak
A pretty neat way for kids to see a very old oak tree.

54. Mace Brown Museum of Natural History, Downtown Charleston
Who knew that College of Charleston had a history museum?? We have yet to check it out but have on our short list.

55. Awendaw Green, Awendaw

56. The Hunley Museum, North Charleston

57. Firefly Distillery, Wadmalaw
Part of Irvin House Vineyards and very close to Charleston Tea Plantation (see #42)

58. College of Charleston campus, Downtown
I am all about impromptu picnics in beautiful locations and the College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard and Porter’s Lodge are too beautiful not to visit.

59. Freshfields Village {Music on the Green}, Kiawah & Seabrook Island

60. Hunting Island, Beaufort
A climbable lighthouse PLUS a gorgeous eroding shoreline.

61.Pitt Street Bridge, Mount Pleasant

62. Seewee Outpost, Awendaw
You know a gas station must be pretty amazing to make it onto a list of the best things to do in Charleston, and this general store definitely delivers! It’s a destination in and of itself. We try not to let our kids out of the car when we stop here to get gas because there is no way you leave without buying some cool classic childhood toy.  You’ll find everything from Cabella’s clothing to the perfect BB gun for your son to that pink fishing pole your daughter just has to have. I’ve never been disappointed when we stop here.

63. The Pickled Palate, Mt. Pleasant
My favorite lunch spot! This funky eclectic panini shop serves up great food along with a one of a kind atmosphere.

08-03-2015

Getting through the dog days of summer

I call a friend, knowing she’ll understand the desperation in my voice.
The words teetering between a whine and a beg.
“Remind me again, how many more days before school starts?”

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Loads of laundry piled up high, dishes accumulating far too quickly, and I’m not really sure the last time my bathroom was cleaned. And if I can be brutally honest…there is mold & scum clearly visible on the shower door.

It reminds me of a bachelor’s house but no, it’s just what summertime accomplishes in this house of mine. Summer will wreck havoc on the most organized of women. So consider what home looks like for me, one of the least organized women!

There is chaos and mayhem in piles of dirty dishes, produce that all needs canned at once, kids insisting they have to help make dinner which translates into even more messes. And don’t get me started on the Legos scattered endlessly over surfaces that are still sticky from yesterdays glued on art project.

On June 1st those messes looked SO cute.
By August 1st that same mess sends me into tirades, screams, and frustrated sighs.

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So how do we make it through this chaotic mess that intrudes so unapologetically into our lives?

Perhaps I need to change my perspective so I can find beauty in this mess.
Find joy in the most unexpected places.

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For along with the chaos and mayhem, there IS beauty that abounds if I stop myself from yelling and choose gratitude instead of frustration.

Beauty is everywhere, if I simply change my attitude.

Beauty can be found… in pajama laden breakfast of homemade Belgium waffles …as the exciting urge to can tomatoes kicks into high gear …in the joy found as my daughter insists to spend time with me, helping peel shrimp for dinner.

And those Legos, that art project that leaves sticky residue all over the kitchen table…doesn’t God want me to see the beauty in the creativity that my children create?

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Perhaps we need to lower our expectations of what we think life should look like and remind ourselves of what really matters.

Summertime {and life for that matter} isn’t supposed to be neat and pretty and organized.

Your house shouldn’t look perfect.
It should look like children live there.

And living means making messes with markers, stickers, and popsicles.

Don’t we have the most fun when there is dirt under our nails, berry juice running down our faces {and ending on our shirts}, and sand stuck to our heels?

So close out of pinterest, with its’ unattainable ethereal perfection, and bring on these last days of summer.

Let’s find beauty in spontaneous trips to the park, even though that means leaving the house a mess.

Let’s experience joy running through a field of clovers, not worrying about the grass stains on our knees as we search for that exclusive four leaf clover.

Let’s laugh our hearts out in a water balloon fight, allowing ourselves to live life as a child, free of care & concern.

Eventually, I will have a plethora of hours and will while away the time by creating a pristine house.
But that season is not now.
And all the grandma’s in my life tell me that when that day comes, I’ll wish I had these begrudged hours back.

So embrace the moment you are in.

Embrace the messy. Embrace the sticky. Embrace the chaos.

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Real living, real memory making is found in the messy, in the sticky, in the chaos.

jessica

{Hopefully coming later this week, The Dog Days of Summer 2: Experiencing joy in the midst of whining kids and emotional breakdowns}

06-22-2015

Love Always Wins

And when we do not know what to pray for, as we ought,
the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Romans 8:28

There are times in life, so overwhelming with sorrow, that prayers can not be uttered.
You’re at a loss for words, with no answers for unimaginable acts of evil.

That’s been me for the past 5 days.

I can’t figure out how to pray because I am so stunned that in the year 2015, an American would desire to start a race war. Really? It’s easy to feel that we are back to square one when it comes to racism.

But more than that, there are 9 families, friends of those families, a church community who is in the throes of deep grief and anguish. And my heart just wants to give them a hug. Just wants them to know how loved they are. And just how sorry I am that someone with the same skin hue as myself did this to them. It makes me want to shout to the families of the 9 victims that the vile creature from Wednesday does not represent white people. That we love them and we stand with them, united together, to support them, honor them, and serve them.

And how the community of Charleston has responded in the past 5 days is mind boggling.

Source: Post & Courier

Church bells tolling united throughout the Lowcounty at 10am Sunday morning

A hands-held together unity chain with more than 10,000 people over the Cooper River Bridge

Hands held high in unison worshipping God at Mother Emanuel AME Church just days after the tragedy

Knees bowed low in unification in Charleston and across this country in prayer vigil after prayer vigil

As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.

Love endures long.
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes.
Love never fails.

I Corinthians 13

To the black community, in Charleston and throughout this country, I love you and I am so deeply sorry for your loss.

jessica

06-09-2015

Chocolate Chip, Hazelnut, Toffee Cookies {Gluten Free}

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Before my days were tallied by how many dishes washed or just how long that 5 year old’s tantrum could last, I counted my days down making call after call, tracking minute by minute of phone time.

I was in software sales and we had to spend a lot of time on the telephone. By the time evening rolled around, I just wanted solitude. And for me that meant baking cookies. There is something therapeutic in creaming butter with sugar, pouring in more vanilla than called for, and eating more than one person’s share of raw cookie dough.

My favorite cookies I’ve ever made are Giada’s Chocolate Chip, Hazelnut, & Toffee Cookies.
Hands down, they are the best!

But then…

I found out it was gluten that had caused year’s of abdominal pain and I wasn’t interested in gritty tasting cookies that would spread out over the entire baking sheet. After countless attempts that stretched out over years, I thought I would never again have a cookie just as good as Giada’s recipe.

But fortunately, I kept trying and have finally crafted a gluten free version that is just as delish as the original!
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Tips & Tricks
Gluten free baking can be very tricky when it comes to using butter. Gluten free flours just do not soak up the fat in butter the same way that wheat flour does. For this reason, do not cream the sugars and butter using a stand mixer. Simply whisk together as indicated below.
If the gluten free flour blend you use already contains xanthum gum then you do not need to add the xanthum gum called for in the recipe.
This recipe is very versatile when it comes to the mix-in’s, if you would rather not have toffee or hazelnuts then use 1 cup of just chocolate chips, or try whatever your heart desires. I have used m&m’s in place of the chocolate chips and those turned out great as well.
If you are lucky enough to not have issues with gluten, then you can try substituting normal all purpose wheat flour in place of the gluten free flour blend.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip, Hazelnut, Toffee Cookies

Yield: 24 Cookies

Ingredients

  • 8 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TBSP vanilla
  • 1 cup old fashion rolled gluten free oats
  • 1 cup gluten free oat flour (purchase or create your own with a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose gluten free flour
  • 1/4 tsp xanthum gum
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped English toffee candy {such as Heath toffee}

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in microwave using small glass bowl, set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium size bowl combine oats, oat flour, gluten free flour, xanthum gum, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk well.
  3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together melted butter, and both sugars. Whisk until very well combined. Whisk in egg and vanilla.
  4. Using a large spatula, stir in flour mixture until well combined and then stir in chocolate chips, hazelnuts, and toffee.
  5. Place a dishcloth or plastic wrap over the bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Place parchment paper or a silpat liner on top of an unrimmed baking sheet. Using a cookie scoop or a spoon, portion out cookies approximately 1 1/2 TBSP size onto baking sheet and then flatten down slightly with your fingers.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet half way through baking time.
  9. Transfer silpat or parchment paper to a wire rack so cookies can cool off and set.

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I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

jessica

04-20-2015

Does God even care about the injustice in this world? Or does He just turn a blind eye to the wrongs in our lives?

The worn down wooden pew beckoned me as if it might shed light on the question that I just couldn’t shake.
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The question wasn’t anything new, it was a dispute as old as time.
And I thought I had tread that question’s path well over the years.
Much like the well worn path a cow makes on his daily trek to drink water.
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But yet, once again, it splintered into my life unbeckoned and this soul of mine would not rest.

God, if you really are real, if you really are all powerful, then why don’t you make the evil of this world go away?
God, if you really care, then why do you let people suffer? Why not answer their deepest yearnings?

God, if you say you love me, then why did you let me suffer years upon years of prayers unanswered?

You see, the Sunday before Lent began, ISIS beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians.
70 days later, as the beheadings continue, it still sickens my stomach.

How can such cruelty exist in this world, and it’s like He just turns a blind eye to it all?
At least it seems that way often enough for the seeds of doubting Him to be planted.

And as I ponder my own unanswered prayers, I began to feel the seeds of doubt take further hold of my soul.

So is it any wonder that during the lesson on Ash Wednesday…that when the pastor asks…

…if there is no one else there at the finish line but Him…no loved ones previously passed on…just Jesus…would it be enough?

And my honest answer was…I don’t really know Lord that you are enough. Because right now, you don’t seem very loving, seem very close, or seem to even care about the woes of this world.

For how could a God who cared let injustice happen in this world? Let injustice happen to those who praise His name?

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So does any of this matter to Him? Does He ever show up to rescue His beloved?

You.
Tell.
Me.

Has He ever taken you from the broken down to the lifted up? Does He send a friend with a hug’s comfort right when needed most? What about that time on your knees in a hospital waiting room…did He not show up then with a kind word from a stranger?

So as I pondered the questions and doubts of my soul, I read His word with one question presiding over every page…
Show me who you are God.

Show me God that you are real. Show me that you care about humanity. Show me that our sufferings are not in vain.

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As I make my way through Genesis and into Exodus it is uncanny, supernatural, what I read on these pages.
For how many times does He show me that he never leaves us, never forgets his promises, and always hears our hearts’ groanings.

When Joseph is sold into slavery, is lied against, is wronged time & time again…God uses it all for good.

When Pharaoh engulfed the lives of the Israelite in slavery, God heard their cries, saw their affliction, and most importantly….
He remembered HIS covenant to never leave them.
“Go in to Pharaoh…so that I may show you all the wonders of my hand…that you may know that I am the Lord”  Exodus 10: 1&2

All of these stories teach me…

God doesn’t use injustice simply for unbelievers to know He is the Lord.
He also uses injustice to remind believers He is Lord.

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 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
{When life gets too hard and you feel the waters engulfing you, stay strong that the tide will not carry you away}
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
{When the muck & mire of grief feel like a cow’s bellowing when writhed in labor pains…you will not be consumed by this tragedy}
For I am the LORD your God…and you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.  Isaiah 43: 2-4

Although the season of Lent may have passed over, I find myself in deep reflections and in even deeper readings.
Good can come from our doubts and our questions, when they delve us further into scripture.

So the reward of asking questions, of searching to know and understand Him better, is that He does show up.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne…and find grace to help in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
He longs to shower you with grace, so approach Him, approach His word, approach Him in prayer… with confidence.

If you seek the face of the Lord, you will find His beauty.
He wants to answer your questions and He desires for you to know Him more fully.
He longs for you and He wants you to long for Him, as Lord of your life.

jessica

 

04-10-2015

Living Life…Enjoying The Simple Moments

As I’ve often said, I don’t want to miss out on the joy of living presently in the moment and miss precious moments that are all to quickly fleeting.

So sometimes months go by before I feel the need to write a blog post.

And sometimes, instead of writing words, I really just want to share photos of how we have been spending our time…

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Being outdoors, enjoying nature, is probably our family’s most enjoyed past time.
I hope you are able to get outside this weekend and soak up some sunshine!

jessica

02-12-2015

Let’s Call It What It Is…50 Shades of Abuse

For two weeks now, as I watch ad after ad of 50 Shades trailers, I have been in a mood of outrage at our society.

How can we be outraged when Rihanna takes Chris Brown back and we watch a Super Bowl ad and say “oh, yes…domestic abuse is an atrocity.”

But then we turn a blind eye to a movie that at its heart embraces abuse, condones misuse of power, and degrades a woman’s self worth.

50ShadesOfGrey_Glamorizes Violence

And just to clarify…I’m not condemming BDSM. BDSM between consensual emotionally mature adults in a trusting relationship…if that’s what floats your boat…then more power to you.

What occurs in this movie is much more than just BDSM. What happens between the two characters is emotional manipulation, controlling another person’s thoughts, words, and deeds, threatening another person’s safety, and the list goes on and on.

At numerous many points in this book {just to name a few…the stalking, the threats, the inequality of power & control} I want to say “The worst thing about these books is…”

But perhaps, the worst part is the underlying effect when abuse embeds itself into one’s psyche.

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…the Grey Shade of Shame
while hiding black & blue bruises on our backs, afraid to undress at the gym for fear of being found out.

…the Grey Shade of Torture
while hearing “If you had done what I told you to, I wouldn’t need to whip you with this belt.”

…the Grey Shade of Fear
while hearing your abuser threaten to rape you.

When caustic comments are repeated day after day, situation after situation, year after year, they get under your skin, degrade your worth, and eventually they tear a woman down. They make her feel she deserves those beatings, she deserves being talked to as if she is a filthy human being.

Whether verbal,physical, or sexual…abuse is psychological.

It gets underneath your skin and affects how you view right & wrong.
It skews your beliefs until you don’t know what to be confident of anymore.

You take a controlling man who preys on a woman and batters her down
until nothing is left
but a stubble of who she used to be.

His actions make her not just FEEL but THINK that she wasn’t worthy of decent love from the beginning.

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Or, perhaps it is this that is the worst part…

For many supporters of this trilogy, they see the plot as being redemptive. For by the end of book 3, Ana has changed Christian to be a better man. Because of her, he is now a loving husband, a doting father.

Women, hear me loud and clear.
No woman has ever changed a man.
NEVER, EVER, EVER.

You love him for who he is. And if he happens to become better over time, that’s great. But at the end of the day…

You only have the power to change yourself.

So what message are we sending young ladies, teenagers, college bound girls….that they will be able to change a man? That their self esteem, their self worth doesn’t matter?

Young women…hear this…

There are awesome and wonderful men in this world who will cherish you, treasure you, and respect you and your wishes more than you ever thought possible. Trust your heart and your body to a man like that.

A man who gets his pleasure from hurting you, from controlling you, from knowing where you are every single second of the day…avoid those men like the plague. The man who makes you second guess yourself, makes you question what his true motives are…those are the ones to leave behind in the dust.

If someone can’t respect you for who you are, if someone has to undermine your value in order to make themselves feel more important – move on to bigger & brighter futures.

Because, you, you are worth SO MUCH MORE than being the object of someone’s issues with their own past.

Let them get help on their own. Let them figure out how to release the demons of their past. But you don’t need to stick around for them to do that.

Instead, find your worth in who you are…a beautiful, brilliant, talented, witty, funny, caring, loveable creation of God.

jessica

p.s…if this post has been touching to you, please forward to the young women in your life. Abuse happens more often that we realize, everywhere around us, even to men by women.

And if you are in an abusive relationship, there are people that want to help you. www.thehotline.org or 800.799.7233

01-29-2015

To the ones whose mind never stops racing, never stops analyzing

The months of 2014 wrap up into a bundle of cold days and frosty mornings. The dawning of a New Year on the horizon and I ask myself what will the word of 2015 be?
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2014 was the first year I had given up resolutions… those pesky nuisances that dangle just out of reach, reminding ourselves that, yet again, we still have more work to complete, more self improvement to think about.

If 2014 was the year of “Say No” {And I had no idea saying no would be so freeing. Saying no meant saying yes to things that ARE my priority} then what would 2015 be the year of?

I lay on the bed, with piles of laundry beckoning and a dishwasher that delights itself in needing to be continually emptied, and my mind drifts to this friendship analyzation, that relationship analysis. My mind is constantly whirling, set on instant {and let’s be honest…a few days past as well} replay…what did he mean when he said that, what did she mean by that facial expression, maybe I should have explained my apology this way???

I’m transported back in time to May 2005…just hours before I walk down that aisle and pledge my life’s remaining balance to another human being. And what does that roommate, the one who knows your intricate self in only the way a roommate can…what does she remind me of?

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STOP ANALYZING JESSICA.

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It doesn’t get you anywhere and you’ve certainly tried.
It’s only 9:38am and my mind all ready feels tired from all the back & forth scenarios I play out.

And the frustrating part…The mind’s analysis is this treadmill that once you start, is pretty hard to jump off of.

The anlysis in our minds are like the strings flying that kite high in the windswept salty air. Keep the strings tight and the kite soars high. Loosen your hold and the kite tumbles down to a mess of strewn strings. Hold tight to the reins of your imagination and you soar. Loosen the strings and let your analysis take flight and you wonder how you will ever get the knotted strings unraveled.

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So why is it, once you’ve declared loud, for all to hear, that 2015 will be the year of Be Still….
Be Still my mind. Be Still my analyzations. Just Be STILL.

…why is it when the decree is proclaimed, that then life unravels and you are left with a corded mess of a relationship that you can’t begin to unravel and you can’t help but analyze.

It’s all good and well to say Be Still when life is like an ice cream sundae. But when waters break months too early, when relationships are severed from a moment’s poor decision, when life’s lemonade is more like a bunch of sour lemons…that’s when it’s hardest to stop the running of that  exhausting pace of your never be still mind.

IMG_9091 IMG_8938But really, all those experiences you rehash, all those conversations you replay…they don’t make time stop.
They don’t change the score. They don’t get relived. Just relived in your mind.

And it’s exhausting. Mentally & Physically.
It saps your mental energy. It creates a run down human being.
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So perhaps we give our analyzations to Him? Find the peace He promises in the scriptures of the Bible?

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.
2 Thessalonians 3:16

Do not be anxious about anything…and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6 & 7

Because isn’t it much more mind boggling to trust that all of us…the has beens, worn-outs, and rejected…all of us can be in perfect peace, in stillness of mind…when we rely on Him to get it right. When it isn’t about our striving, our pleasing efforts. Because we all make mistakes and wish with all our might that our analysis could make time to go backwards and have the outcome be different.

So instead of having to figure it all out and get it exactly right, maybe we just keep waking up, writing down our list of gifts we’ve been blessed with, and try to be present in the moment. Live the life of intentional living. Knowing that even if we waste 17 precious hours today on our mind’s analysis, that He still loves us. That He still guides our lives. That He still wants to be in relationship with us.

And tomorrow I wake up, remind myself to let the mind rest, and Be Still in His peace.

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jessica

01-27-2015

Buttermilk Belgian Waffles {Gluten Free & Eggless}

Regardless of winter’s blizzards or summer’s sunshine, my absolute favorite breakfast will always be Belgian waffles topped with vanilla bean ice cream and local honey.
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Seriously, isn’t that everyone’s favorite breakfast? How could anything else compete?

Unfortunately, going gluten free meant a hiatus from this way too often eaten delicacy. Every recipe I tried was missing something or had a very gritty aftertaste!

And then, it got worse…I realized I could no longer eat eggs!

And eggs are a  vital component to a light and crispy, deeply thick waffle. But there are plenty of vegan waffle recipes, so, I gave them a try.

What a disaster!!! Numerous times I had to use an air compressor to remove the waffle from the waffle iron!
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Then a few months ago I came across America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook.

So glad I did! After months of using their  recipe as my base, I was able to perfect a waffles recipe that is eggless and doesn’t use refined sugar. Voila!

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{Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook}
Tips & Tricks ~

Substituting coconut sugar in lieu of granulated sugar helps produce an even browning throughout and is much healthier.
Using Ener-G Egg replacer has worked like a champ in this recipe. I did not have luck substituting flax or chia seed in waffles. You really need the extra leavening that the Ener-G Egg replacer provides. {Flax & chia substitutes work better in cookies versus bread & waffles where you are trying for a yeasty flavor.}
Most homeowner’s don’t have buttermilk readily on hand, but for this recipe, I suggest using the real deal. I tried using the cookbook’s alternate suggestion of mixing yogurt with milk and they turned out ok, just not perfect. If you try mixing milk with a tablespoon of vinegar {a normally good substitute for buttermilk} it produces a too thin batter that just doesn’t bake up correctly. 

Gluten Free Buttermilk Belgian Waffles

Yield: 4 Belgian Waffles

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (1 1/3 cup + 1 TBSP) Gluten Free Flour Blend
  • 1 TBSP coconut sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup + 1 TBSP buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 2 TBSP almond milk unsweetened & unflavored or water
  • 2 TBSP melted butter + 1 tsp for waffle iron
  • 1 TBSP vanilla

Instructions

  1. Heat Belgian waffle iron on medium, brush iron with a tiny bit of butter as needed.
  2. In a small glass bowl, combine egg replacer with either almond milk or water. Combine well until no lumps remain and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Whisk to combine.
  4. Measure buttermilk in a glass measuring bowl and heat in microwave for 20 seconds, until room temperature.
  5. In a medium size bowl, combine egg replacement mixture, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla.
  6. Whisk liquid mixture into the dry mixture and continue to whisk for 1 minute. The batter will be thick and no lumps will remain.
  7. Once your waffle iron is preheated, spoon a 1/3 cup of batter onto each waffle iron square and cook until beeping occurs.

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Enjoy ~

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