Category Archives: My Journey

Final Thoughts on Mission Statements

 

In coming up with a mission statement, it’s good and easy to have one; yet, much more difficult to stick with it.  In Part 1, “what makes you unique?,” we address & answer that first, most vital question.  It’s the map that sets us on our journey.  In Part 2, “what’s your rally cry, your top priority?,” we address & answer how to eliminate stress by focusing on one area (rally cry) in our lives we can work on (& achieve in 2-6 months), which will help us stick to our journey.  Now, in Part 3, the final question remains.

Question #3: How do you talk about and use the answers to your questions?

It’s one thing to know what makes you unique.  It’s also another to know one area to focus on to eliminate stress & lack of vision/focus.  Yet, it’s another thing to know how you are going to accomplish it.  We could write a grandiose mission statements filled with our core values & strategic values.  We could have our rally cry that sings in unison with our soul & mind, creating a Zen-like space, free of clutter & distraction.  Better yet, picture yourself 50 lbs overweight.  You tell yourself, “I’m better than this.  I deserve more for my life!”  So, you go out and buy some exercise clothing, rid your house of the junk food and fill your fridge with clean, nutritious food.  You tell yourself, “By the end of the year, I’m going to be one hot mama/dude!”  You make the appointment with the gym and start your regime to better health.  After your first workout you think, “this is hard, I don’t know if I can do this.”  You look in your fridge and wonder, “salad with chicken doesn’t sound appetizing.” Your body says, “OH.MY.GOSH.  I didn’t know there were muscles here,” you’re in pain.  You go the next day to stick with the plan, because you remember your long-term goal.  Yet, by the second week, you sleep in…missing the gym.  You begin to buy a couple more food items away from what you intended.  You find yourself paying for a gym membership that isn’t being used.  Question 3 helps us continue going to the gym, eating healthily without letting the food rot and the exercise clothes sit clean in the drawer.  Here’s how…

1. Find a time every week to evaluate.

Spend 10 minutes every week (preferably on the same day) going over your ‘rally cry’ and the defining objectives & standard objectives.  Are you finding that your defining objectives might have been too vague (notice I redefined one of mine)?  Or did you try to over achieve?  Were the objectives too narrow that no one could fit through them?  If so, you might need to tweak it a bit.  If you find it hard doing this on your own, then maybe there is a trusted friend or spouse you could share your rally cry with and they can help you with accountability.

2. Keep it Visible

It’s one thing to have your mission statement, rally cry, & objectives written out.  It’s another thing to have them in clear view to see everyday.  Keep them posted for you to see and be reminded of who you are and where you are headed. Put them in a place you walk past every single day.

Kamille’s Scoreboard

1. What is my top priority right now?

My Rallying Cry: “Creating a gentle spirit that listens.”

Defining Objectives:

  1. Spend time in solitude every week (have scheduled internet times).
  2. Pray earnestly for the Spirit’s empowerment daily, begin with this each morning.
  3. Journal 3xs a week.
  4. Spend quality listening time with each family member everyday (start with five minutes).
  5. Cultivate a heart that allows interruptions, mess…play with the girls, embracing this daily.
  6. Update: Go to bed by 10:00, in order to have a well rested body & spirit.

Standard Objectives:

  1. Exercise & maintain health
  2. Marriage
  3. Home administration
  4. Girls & family fun (means our family of four)
  5. My Spiritual Life

2. What makes me unique?

I’ve been blessed with a sensitive spirit, which is moved into action by standing up for righteousness, especially for people. I value my relationship with Jesus and how he has imparted me with a storyteller’s heart and redeemed my story. Through this, I am called to encourage & empower my family & others to find their story and how to connect to others with it. I also value good, quality food and love creating nutritious & delicious food through cooking & baking. All of these have ignited a strong call to genuine hospitality within me.

3. How will I talk about and use the answers to this information?

I will spend time on Sunday afternoon evaluating how effective I have been in following the defining objectives.  I will include Ben on this conversation for accountability.  I will look over journal entries & track my sleep time as well for encouragement.

 

Where are you finding yourself among these questions?  Where in your life is asking to be your rally cry?  Which question seems the most discouraging or daunting?  Add to the conversation to impart your unique perspective.

 

Part 1, 2, & 3 have been influenced & inspired by Patrick Lencioni’s book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family.
A Year Ago: Mascarpone Chocolate Cheesecake

A Mission Statement…Now What?


Part 1: What Makes You Unique?: Writing a Personal Mission Statement

Can I just say that I feel very “legit” and “organizational” writing up posts like this one and How to Write a Personal Mission Statement?  I’m a bit scared, not because it’s totally out of the ordinary, but how much I love this sort of thing and my nerdy side is coming out.  You might also be thinking, “how does writing a personal mission statement have anything to do with Evangitality?”  I would wage to say it has everything to do with it.  Whether, you are a free-spirit individual embracing spontaneity & labeled with a “P” on Myers-Briggs; or, you like a bit more structure, and direction of where you are headed with a “J” on Myers-Briggs…all of us need to have some element of intentionality in life.  We need to know what it is we value and who we are if we are going to show genuine love & hospitality to the many people we encounter.

So, maybe you finished your personal mission statement and are wondering what you do with it?  Or you haven’t started and you don’t know if you ever will, because let’s face it, there is still that box of old stories on tape that you promised your husband you would go through to declutter and bring order to your life (oops, maybe that’s just me?).  Either way, I believe having a mission statement is good for destination & keeping one on track.  However, a mission statement alone doesn’t help us navigate through the journey to get to the final destination, which is what question 2 of the Big 3 Questions addresses…

1. What is your rally cry?  What is your Top Priority?

It doesn’t take much to figure out your rally cry–really, it doesn’t.  Make a list of a couple things that you see right here and now as a hindrance to get to your destination.  It’s not a science.  Overthinkers need not apply.  Choose something that you can achieve within 2-6 months–that’s it.  It your rally cry can be fixed in a week, don’t choose it.  If it’s something that takes longer than 6 months…leave it alone.  Pick one thing to rally around.  Here was my list:

  1. Being gentle in my responses.
  2. Having an activity everyday for my girls.
  3. Do gross motor exercises with V everyday.
  4. Provide nutritious meals for my family.
  5. Provide spiritual growth opportunities for the girls.
  6. Develop storytelling curriculum.

As you can see, all of these happen to align with my personal mission statement.  And any of them would be good to pick.  I can stress (probably like others) about picking the best one, or wondering if I don’t pick the gross motor exercises for V then I’ll be throwing her further behind in her development.  Or if I don’t pick spiritual growth, then my girls might become spiritually destitute (a little dramatic flare thrown in for good measure).  But, when I boiled it down, I knew I wanted & needed a gentle spirit that listens above all else.  My rally cry is:

“Creating a gentle spirit that listens.”

2. Create Defining Objectives

Once you have picked your rally cry that can be accomplished in 2-6 months, write up five defining objectives on how you will get there.  These should be clear & concrete (and tangible).  Granted, my rally cry of creating a gentle spirit that listens isn’t as tangible (or even as measurable) as #2: Providing activities for my girls everyday; however, I think my rally cry is more essential to the person I desire to become.  Here are my Five Defining Objectives:

  1. Spend time in solitude every week (have scheduled internet times).
  2. Pray earnestly for the Spirit’s empowerment daily, begin with this each morning.
  3. Journal 3xs a week.
  4. Spend quality listening time with each family member everyday (start with five minutes).
  5. Cultivate a heart that allows interruptions, mess…play with the girls, embracing this daily.
  6. Update: Go to bed by 10:00, in order to have a well rested body & spirit.

Not easy, but doable.  Notice that I didn’t say I would journal everyday, or spend an hour (or even 1/2 hour) with each family member, it’s about scaling it to what I can do and building upon it.

3. Create Standard Objectives

Standard Objectives are those areas in your life that always need to get done while you focus on your rally cry.  Again, yours will look different from mine.

  1. Exercise & maintain health
  2. Marriage
  3. Home administration
  4. Girls & family fun (means our family of four)
  5. My Spiritual Life

Maybe after reading all of this you are feeling a bit overwhelmed?  I hope you give yourself grace as you walk through these steps.  Allow yourself the freedom to become intentional without legalism.  Look at your present, forgive yourself from your past failures and walk in freedom with your future.  When in doubt, watch What About Bob and begin chanting, “babysteps!”

A Year Ago: New Beginnings & Chockful Blondies and Homemade Graham Cracker Sandwiches

What Makes You Unique?: Writing a Personal Mission Statement

In the midst of life’s craziness, it would seem impossible to simply survive.  As a stay at home mom, I find myself trying to constantly balance out spending time with my girls, taking care of the house, making meals, caring for my relationship with Ben, finding time with close friends and find time for myself.  It sometimes feels like my life is like a gerbil in a spinning wheel losing sight of the goal.  Then, there are other times where I fixate on the end goal that I neglect the important right now realities of life (sound familiar to anyone?).

I began thinking & writing.  One can easily go to many of the “mom” or “homemaker” sights telling us how to bring organization to our life and maintain it (because isn’t the maintenance the hardest part).  These writers have great resources and have even inspired me.  Yet, sometimes it can be so hard to know where my unique voice is amidst the writer’s advice.  I find myself either thinking I need to be like that person, or feel completely inadequate and back to square one.  It got me thinking about who I am.  What am I about?  What is unique about me?  I went even further by asking myself, what do I want to accomplish here at Evangitality.

I had read this book, The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni, a while back.  The principles here are devising a family mission statement unique to your family, while addressing one family priority that needs to be worked on/fixed within a 2-6 month period (you work on one big issue at a time, not all of them at once).  These are the three questions  Lencioni addresses (I’m only going to address Question 1 today):

  1. What makes you unique?
  2. What is your family’s rally cry (i.e. the most important thing right now to address)?
  3. How do you talk about and use these answers to these questions?

Then, I got thinking about how I could easily write-up a personal mission statement using these principles.  My struggle is comparing myself to others & losing track of who I am.  I forget to listen to my unique voice and pay homage to it.  So, I needed something concrete & tangible to go back to when I find myself looking at what someone else is doing, or putting pressures on myself that don’t align with who I am.  Furthermore, I want to be a person who is genuine and encourages others to find who they are as well (not who I think they should be).  So, here is how I came up with my personal mission statement unique to me, Kamille.

1. What makes you unique?  Part 1: Core Values

Take a piece of paper and write Core Values on one side & Strategy Values on the other, draw a line between the two.  Core values are those attributes that are undeniable about your person.  You’ve never been able to escape them.  Think back over your life and you’ll be sure to see these core values in you even as a child.  They make you who you are–they make you…YOU!  This list should only be about five-six items and then narrow it down to two or three. Here was my short Core Values list:

  • Empathetic to others needs
  • Stand up for people
  • dramatic–storyteller
  • seeks truth
  • sensitivity/sensitive spirit
  • diplomatic in dealings
  • strong opinions

I took this list and narrowed it down and redefined, because you don’t want to use vague/general words (loyalty, love, caring) and came up with Dramatic Storyteller, Sensitive Spirit, & Seeks Righteousness (combination of justice & honesty).

2. What makes you unique? Part 2: Strategy Values

Under Strategy Values, write everything that is true about you.  This list can be as expansive as you’d like.  My list was very long.  My list included: *baker, *singer, *mom, *wife, *likes making lists, *kids under four, etc.  Then, when you’re done with the strategy values, find themes throughout.  I found that my themes were Family, People Oriented, Food & Connection.

3. Writing Your Personal Mission Statement: Putting it altogether

Take your finalized list of Core Values & Strategy Values and write a unique mission statement that describes you.  It doesn’t have to be eloquent or wordy.  It simply needs to echo who you are.  Don’t try to sound like me, or someone else.  Use your words, your language, your voice.  Your personal mission statement should be describing you.  Think of it as a map to guide you where you are headed.  You might even find yourself changing your personal mission statement when your Strategy Values change (and that’s okay).  Obviously, my mission will look different when my children are grown & out of the house.  Here is what I came up for me at this present moment in time:

I’ve been blessed with a sensitive spirit, which is moved into action by standing up for righteousness, especially for people. I value my relationship with Jesus and how he has imparted me with a storyteller’s heart and redeemed my story. Through this, I am called to encourage & empower my family & others to find their story and how to connect to others with it. I also value good, quality food and love creating nutritious & delicious food through cooking & baking. All of these have ignited a strong call to genuine hospitality within me.

I want to encourage you to find time to write-up your own personal mission statement if you don’t have one already.  I would love for you to come back here and share what you’ve come up with.  It will be exciting to see how different we all are as reflective in our Personal Mission Statements.

A Year Ago: Crafting Hospitality


Gluten-free Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Does anyone else feel like there is something altogether wonderful & magical about snow falling in the middle of the night, creating a quiet peace that is incomparable to any other? I wasn’t acquainted with this mystery in the deserts of Arizona. It wasn’t until I visited a high school friend during my freshman year Spring break in Providence, RI. It was a Friday, and all the students on the campus had left for their Spring break. Not only
was the campus and surrounding area quiet, but we soon found ourselves inside looking out to what would seem a snow globe world. Picturesque.

It reminds me of Arizona’s desert night sky. When you look up at the open clear sky, all you see is the infinite expanse of stars. Or what I refer to as “the stars beyond the stars.” Snow falling and covering the world at night creates the silence of peace beyond the silence. It reminds me of how finite I am amidst the vast accompaniment of sound. That’s a bit how I feel with every birthday celebrated, especially my kids’ birthday. This finite person, gets to relish in these moments of seeing the stars beyond the stars. Yet I get distracted or overwhelmed by the greatness of it all…the mystery. I would rather spend my time marveling and rejoicing over the unknown, the stillness of the fallen snow, or simply being given the pleasure to be still with the moment.

These moments, these treasures that I wish I could put in a locket and wear around my neck to serve as a reminder that life is worth living to its fullest.  When I see my daughters laugh and hug one another, when I see the white flag of humility waving, or when I see Veronica’s progress developmentally and she isn’t even aware she has a delay (because she sees the stars beyond the stars).  Oh how wonderful it is to look at the world like that.  I think having Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes also makes it easier for a four years old (or 30, 40, 50 yrs).

A Year Ago: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes, Split Pea Soup, & Mustard Roasted Cauliflower

Gluten-free Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes (printable recipe)

This recipe has been adapted from my non-GF recipe.  Both are wonderful and they are a sure hit at kid’s parties and the adults like to eat them too.  A note about measuring almond flour.  I use a blanched almond flour and I scoop it out with a spoon and put it in my measuring cup.  I encourage you to use a scale, which will get the most accurate results; however, I know that is not always an option.  Do NOT scoop out with your measuring cup, because it will yield a higher weight than what my recipe requires.

Cupcakes Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (180 g) almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (65 g) light agave nectar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (170 g) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) multi-colored confetti sprinkles
  • 12 cupcake GF sugar wafer cones

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 Tb light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the wafer cones in the muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter & sugar until well blended.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until light.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add half of the almond flour mixture, then the milk and then the rest of the flour mixture until well blended.  Fold in the confetti sprinkles into the batter.  Using a small ice cream scooper/cookie dough scooper, divide the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake cones.
  • Bake the cupcake cones for 20-25 minutes.  When you press lightly in the middle of the cone, they should spring back.  Let them cool on a cooling rack until they’re completely cooled.
  • While the cupcakes are in the oven.  Put your metal mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer.  Allow them to get cold (about 15 minutes).  Remove the bowl & whisk attachment.  Add cold heavy whipping cream to the bowl.  Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Add the agave nectar & vanilla and beat on low speed a bit more, just until they are mixed throughout the whipped cream.  If you want to add a color to it, do so now and fold it in with a rubber spatula.
  • Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Twist the bag right above the tip and push it gently inside the tip, in order to avoid the frosting from coming out.  Turn down the opened end of the bag one inch down.  Place the pastry bag, tip side down, into a glass.  Using a rubber spatula, fill the bag with the whipped cream frosting.  Twist the bag, in order to keep the frosting from squeezing out.  Pipe the whipped cream frosting onto the cupcakes and sprinkle with additional confetti sprinkles.

It’s a Birthday Week and a New Year!

I’ve adopted having a birthday week as of last year.  Too much stuff to cram in on one day.  V turns four on Sunday and it continues to blow my mind that she continues to grow & age and I cannot ever have yesterday back.  She’s a delightful kid with a crazy imagination, the kindest heart that you could encounter, tons of emotion (which she is getting under control with every year under her belt), and has me quite smitten.  Last year we went to the mall to get a charm bracelet, along with a charm.  We started the week by picking out a new charm (Hello Kitty was the charm of choice–I was hoping she went for the donut), which left Tayers in tears saying, “I want a bwaycwet, toooo!”

Birthday week means doing special little things everyday with anticipation for the “birth” day.  And since I get a bit nostalgic, I retell her of a mommy & daddy living in a little duplex awaiting the birth of their first child.  With a middle name like ‘Storey,’ it’s no wonder she sits absolutely quiet, staring intently, while her little mind is picturing how the story looks (it’s also no wonder she asks us to tell a story at least 10 times a day).

In honor of birthday week, we will also be doing some special food items.  I haven’t made scones or muffins in a while, and these are the times to celebrate (still eating paleo).  She has already planned on having Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes for her birthday cake of choice (by the way, this recipe is my number one recipe viewed here–it’s that good).  The difference is that I’m going to use GF ice cream cones and swap out the flour with almond flour, or coconut flour.  We will also be putting butterflies on top (a new V fad).

As for our family, Ben has initiated a technology black out starting at 5pm the whole week.  I’m looking forward to unplugging with a purpose.  He also initiated a little family retreat, which will be a couple of days next week. This year I’m going to embrace simplicity & contentment.  I see how this area has been blooming in my eating & exercise life.  I’ve found peace in feeding my body whole, clean food; as well as, learning how to find contentment when the stress waves hit me by not quenching it with a food “treat.”  I’m seeing this needing to be applied in our finances, our family time, and general interactions with others.  I’ve been asking questions, “Do I need to buy something to make me happy?  In order to make a meaningful time with my family (Ben, or a date with the girls), do I need to purchase something; whether, it be a hot cocoa for the girls, toy, trinket, etc?  How can we enjoy “being” together without the other stuff?

I’m reminded how music is so integral to who I am.  I love singing, creating music and listening to good music.  It’s something I’ve put on the back burner.  This 2011 is about me picking up my ole’ Washburn, that has not seen light more than five times in the past year, and creating with it.  But don’t despair, I will still be creating in the kitchen, too!  What’s been mulling around in your head about this coming year?

A Year Ago: Meyer Lemon-Cranberry Scones


Into the Unknown

This has been a year of working through this notion of forgiveness.  It’s so easy for me to hold onto the past events, conversations, mull over words of pay back to vindicate myself, my family or a messy situation.  As my dear mentor has told me, “pour coals of blessings over your enemy.”  This sounds like vindication, but it’s so different.  It’s being able to wholeheartedly not repay evil for evil, but pray blessings on the person’s life who has done wrong.

It’s interesting how we are all in need of a little grace.  How in Christian and non-Christian circles, we liken to Jesus’ teachings and his life.  Undeniable of his great love & grace.  To the Israelites, his birth meant one of nobility and justice for once–for the usurping hand of the Romans & King Herod.  They likened the coming king to that of the warrior King David, who defended & destroyed.  They wanted to see (what many modernists think) God’s justice & anger to scorn all those who harmed them (we might think of it as the God of the Old Testament).  However, God has always been the same in the Old and New Testament.  He didn’t bring them the warrior king.  He didn’t bring them a priestly, noble baby king born in a palace, wrapped in fine linens.  He turned their worlds upside down.

I read this today from the Apostle Paul,

“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us…See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”

There are people in my life who have betrayed me, and/or people I dearly love.  It’s far too easy to go down that road of devising a plan to repay evil for evil.  It feels good in the beginning to be the giver of justice.  It’s so much more difficult to choose the road of humility, praying blessings upon the evil doer.  Jesus came as a baby King born in a smelly stable, a feedbox bed, wrapped in less than fine linen, living the life of a vagrant.  And when he was falsely accused, he didn’t defend himself, justify his status–he knew who he was & is.  I’m in awe of this ability to love.

“not to pour out his anger on us.  Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever…Hold onto what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil.”

In Jesus’ last hours in the garden, the soldiers came with force to arrest this man who called himself the Christ.  Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, thinking he was doing good by protecting his master, pulled out a sword and cut off one of the soldier’s ears.  When we face blatant evil, wrong doing, our first instinct is to react like Peter.  It’s human.

Jesus stopped Peter, picked up the hacked off ear and healed the soldier to prior form.  This king was like none other and even his followers didn’t fully comprehend his greatness.

And here we are approaching 2011, still with the options before us to repay evil with Jesus’ style love, or with Peter’s vindication.  The Apostle Paul concludes,

Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you to belong to Christ Jesus…Hold onto what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil.

Happy New Year and may this year be more about true life-giving love, transforming your soul and all you encounter.


Finding Your Voice

There are those moments when I want to chase after my dream of performing vocally, buy a mandolin & join a band.  They are fleeting, meaning they only last a couple days.  But, I miss singing with other musicians.  I miss finding my voice.  My voice singing that perfect song lifting the melody up like a free flying bird in the blue sky.  Or my voice slowly melting like butter against the tongue as it accentuates the melody with it’s dear old friend called harmony.  It’s no wonder we chose the name Cadence for our youngest as she kicked twice as hard when I sang with the bass.  It’s seeped in our veins.  Every person, whether musician, vocalist, longs to find their voice.

Do you ever feel like your looking for your voice in all the wrong places?  It’s easy to do in our day of instant messaging & communication.  We forget how to find our original voice as it gets lost & muffled among so many others.  I have found myself searching for my voice; whether it be in the musical sense or life sense.  I wrote about something similar about comparison & living life looking through rose colored glasses.  And although I’ve written about it before, I’m reminded time & again how vital it is as a person to find the voice I was given and embrace it.

But like the beauty of life, seasons change the elements.  In this season of Advent & Christmas, I have purposed to not put any expectations of busyness on me or my family; while, I have purposed to say yes to rest & togetherness.  Today I was encouraged & reminded of just this…resting in the mercies I’ve been given.  Resting in the peaceful baby King born in a lonely stable.  Resting in knowing I do not need to fill my week with buying more presents, baking new cookies, writing a Christmas letter, or staying stagnant in hopelessness.  I’m filled with awe & wonder that this baby King has given me a voice of hope to sing.

And that’s why I haven’t been here lately.  I’ve been resting from any expectation to blog, to do what I feel someone else expects of me, but to listen.  This is critical in being hospitable, which the false hospitality world would make you think is anything but that.  In order to love, make room for the stranger/guest, we need to listen to find our voice amidst all the other voices.  We might need to take a backseat and say no.  We need to be more like Mary who took the time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.  We might need to neglect the duties, the expectations of tending or organizing all of life.  I would love to hear where you are finding your voice these days?  Where are you finding your voice being muted?  Where are you finding it come to life?

Have a restful week and embrace the hope!

Coming Up This WeekApricot Rosemary Bars…gluten-free, refined sugar-free and you wouldn’t even know it!  Get ready by having the ingredients:

  • blanched almond flour
  • raw honey
  • coconut oil
  • butter
  • pecans
  • California dried apricots
  • lemon
  • fresh rosemary

A Year Ago: Grandma’s No Bakes, Orange Cardamom Cookies, & French Lentil Soup


Satisfaction & Lemon Ricotta Muffins

We’ve been busy, but that seems like a typical December response. Our oldest began her special little school this past week. It seemed harder for me than her. I’m amazed by her growth. This little girl is showing signs of improvement with every week, which makes me excited with anticipation to see it all unfold.

As I see life twirling around with what seems longer lines and crowded parking lots, I’ve been reminded to breathe and bring in my family to bunker down. Each night we light our Advent candle, read a small portion of Scripture, say a prayer of thanksgiving and see which girl gets to blow out the candle to conclude one more day.  I’m so thankful that I’m able to be in a season of seeing each day as a gift these days.  When I look back on the summer, walking in some of the darkest days I’ve known to see God’s grace & faithfulness on the other end.  And now here I am in the season of Advent to welcome in the coming of not only Jesus’ birth, but the reminder that he will again bring hope.

So remind me of this moment friends…when I begin to worry about whether V will move beyond her current developmental delays, about my health or my families’, or anything else under the sun (you can fill in your own blank here), that there lies a hope, which I find in this Advent season.  I think King David puts it well:

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Here’s to some satisfaction with yummy muffins.  I have yet to make anything with gluten for a while, so these are from this summer.  However, I think they are fitting for any season, especially a Saturday morning cozy with your loved ones.  Where are you finding satisfaction or sharing that these days?

A Year Ago: Intensely Chocolate Cake & Cranberry-Orange Crostata

Lemon Ricotta Muffins (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted very slightly from Giada De Laurentis.

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tb lemon zest
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds

raw sugar for sprinkling
Directions:  Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with papers.  In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt, whisk together.

In a large bowl, (or bowl of an electric mixer) using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter & lemon zest until light & fluffy (2 minutes).  Beat in the ricotta.  Then, beat in the egg, lemon juice, & almond extract until just combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir till just combined (the batter will be thick).

Scoop the batter evenly among the 12 lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle with thinly sliced almonds & some raw sugar on top of muffins.  Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes (it will smell amazing).  Cool slightly.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


Whole 30: Day 30 & Key Lime Pie Kamillebars

Well friends, today is day 30 of my 30 day challenge.  It is officially over at 12:01 am, but I will avoid any temptation of getting out of bed for a glass of wine.  These 30 days have been quite remarkable, in the physical yes, but even more in the emotional, mental & spiritual realm.  It’s interesting when I tell people about this challenge, because there have been typical responses.

  1. Eyes pop out of their head
  2. They realize their eyes popped out and try to compose their facial expression to a more subdued look.
  3. Nodding of the head (as in I cannot believe you are doing this to yourself).
  4. The response, “Wow, you must have a lot of willpower,”
  5. Or my other favorite response, “That’s amazing (but I wonder if they really think I’m nuts), but I couldn’t live without…FILL IN THE BLANK!”

As for willpower.  I guess if you asked my mom about me being a girl, if I had a strong will, she’d say yes.  If you asked Ben the same, he’d probably agree.  However, I think willpower is more about seeing the potential for something good and setting on the course to achieve it.  It’s making choices everyday because you see the end goal.  I make choices now as a mother to discipline my girls, in order for them to know of life’s consequences and how to have enough “willpower” to say no when faced with life’s bigger dilemmas (you know the ones that have catastrophic effects).

When I looked at myself in the mirror even three years ago, I didn’t see someone who was healthy or someone I wanted to be.  But when you hit a place in health decline, whether that’s being overweight, chronic health issues, lethargic, etc, you can easily get so trapped and wonder, “How did I get here?  And how do I get out?”  This goes for any challenge in life, it just happens to be nutrition & exercise for me.  And specifically, this 30 day challenge was a challenge; considering I love to bake and my shelves are overflowing with cookbooks.  Yet, when I see myself now compared to the girl who walked into Jogo August 4th for a basecamp fitness introduction (ached for days), I remind myself of her.  I see that girl and think, “that’s willpower, to get up at 5:30am to come workout, completely out of shape and all because she wanted better in life.”

Who would’ve thunk it?  Certainly not me, but I’m SO VERY THANKFUL for it.  In fact, it’s amazing how alive your taste buds are when you take away sugar for 30 days.  Dates are simply ethereal (and a bit dangerous) and figuring out how to make my own Larabars were even more so.  I first had a Key Lime Pie Larabar during the challenge, and I could have sworn there was cream cheese in it.  The ingredients simply said: dates, cashews, almonds, key lime concentrate.  I set out to do what any rational person would do…figure out how to make my own.  And they’re good, really good!  But, I’m warning you right now to only save a couple and share the rest, because 1. you’ll be sure to make friends that way and 2. you’re body will thank you later.

Key Lime Pie Kamillebars (printable recipe)

I have made these twice.  The first time they turned out better than the second time, merely because the nuts didn’t get finely chopped in the food processor.  I realized that the first round I used dates from Trader Joes, which were more dry.  I think more dried dates work better in this recipe.  While the second time I had these wonderful, soft dates from Costco.  Due to the dates being quite soft, they pureed before allowing all the nuts to puree.  So the pureed dates caused everything to stick without chopping.

Ingredients:

16 ounces dates (weight is based on dates with pits still in)

2 cups/225 grams raw cashews

1 1/8 cup/165 grams raw almonds

1 cup/80 grams unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 tsp pure lime oil

3-4 key limes, juice OR juice of 2 limes (the kind you find at the grocery store)

Directions: Place cashews, almonds, coconut, & pitted dates into the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the nuts are almost pureed, just not into a nut butter.  You may want to pulse a couple times.  Once the the nuts & dates are chopped well, add the lime juice & oil and pulse to combine.  You will want the mixture to be a bit sticky.  Taste to see if you need to add more lime juice.

Put in a 9×9 square pan, patting down evenly.  You can slice fairly soon after.  I cut mine into small squares; rather, than the traditional bar.  If left out they will dry a bit.  So cover them if you want to retain some moisture.


Thankful with Sweet Potato Goodness (& so much more)

The words that penetrated my soul the most, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.” This was part of a guest speaker’s story. She was a small Honduran woman, measuring a mere 4 feet and 9 inches, but she made up for it with tremendous heart & conviction. Her name, Danubia Orellana Lopez, and she is apart of the Agros village of Brisas del Volcan.

Danubia was the speaker at the Agros International fundraiser dinner Ben and I attended at the end of October.  It seemed fitting that we attended just days before we plunged into doing this 30 day challenge.  Agros is an amazing organization, who seeks to empower people in Central America & Mexico through micro loans to purchase land.  Many of these people, like Danubia, lived in the slums and had to wake up at 2:30 am to walk 2 hours to get to the farm (to which she & her husband worked for someone else), work an 18 hour day and only get paid $.40 a day.  She recalls the times when payday arrived and the owner of the land wasn’t there to pay her & her husband.  Those were the days when all she could offer her children was water to fill their bellies.  She also recalled a time at the age of 14, when her mother only had 3 eggs to feed the 14 kids….I am truly blessed.

I can’t imagine that world.  To feel absolutely defenseless and unable to give your children a basic necessity.  Agros seeks to extend both physical means to these people who are willing to work REALLY hard to till their land; but, also give them emotional/spiritual means.  They come in to teach the people how to cultivate the land, how to educate themselves, how to make financial deals, etc.  What Agros does, is tell these people like Danubia, that if they are willing to want something more, then they can have it.  More importantly, what Agros does & says to them, “You are worth it!  You have value!”

Danubia spoke of telling her mother that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.  Her mother said, “Danubia, people like us don’t dream, because our hearts just get broken.”  After Agros came in to empower Danubia, her family & community, she and other women worked together to make the men realize that they are just as important & valuable as them.  And you know what, after the women worked just as hard, the men realized that these women, their women, had dignity & value.

When I think about what Evangitality means–this is it.  This is the global representation of it.  It’s finding value, dignity & worth in each individual, because they are created in God’s image.  It’s empowering them by giving them a hand up, and not a hand out.  It’s not entitlement, because there are many people who choose to stay in slums so they can keep their TV or refrigerator.  Instead, it’s for the people who want something more, who want to dream.  Life without dreams isn’t a life worth living, and Danubia knew this.

Walking back to the hotel that night, I told Ben, “You know, the poor in America aren’t that poor.  They still get assistance.  They’re not putting their children to bed without food.”  It has made me more thankful than ever.  And that’s why I give thanks before my meals.  I thank God that I have more than enough to fill my family’s bellies.  So when I’ve been cranky during this 3o day challenge, or hear people whining about, “Oh, I ONLY get meat, vegetables, limited fruit & nuts, and eggs,” I’m reminded of Danubia’s words, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.”  Oh how I have nothing to complain about, and everything to give thanks about.

I’m thankful for simple meals too.  So simple it seems almost too good to be true.

A Year Ago: Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Sea Salted Caramel Frosting &   Oatmeal Carmelitas

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Goodness (printable recipe)

This is for one sweet potato, but you could easily increase the amount and play with the ingredients.  If you’re not a cinnamon fan, sub some nutmeg (but go easy on it) or add some smoked paprika.

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

1 tsp coconut oil

dash sea salt

2 Tb pecans

sprinkle cinnamon

Directions: Bake a sweet potato on 350 for 30 minutes or so (check a source, I’m that person who pops it in and doesn’t worry about it).  Do this the day before if you’re having it for breakfast.  Remove the skin and cut up the sweet potato into chunks.

Heat up coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add the sweet potato & salt.  Stir around letting it get a bit golden, about 3 minutes.  Add some chopped pecans & a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Cook for an additional 1 minute or so.  Serve and enjoy!