Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Goal #2: Life Updates - August

August was a rough month for me.

When Devin found himself without a job, as much as I fought to stay positive, I internalized more of the stress than I realized, or was willing to admit. As we searched for direction as to what to do and where to go next, I found myself constantly playing all of our alternative futures in my head. Being one that doesn't handle change all that well (read: horribly) picturing all the different directions our life could go did not do good things for my psyche.

There where many a night where I was kept awake while negative thoughts advanced on my sleep-deprived, vulnerable brain. These things (change, stress and fatigue) are all triggers for my depression, so as I enter into September I'm trying to make a game plan to nip this in the bud before I go down the dark rabbit hole again. Loosely, the plan includes:

  • Exercise (never underestimate the power of endorphins to cheer you up and help you sleep)
  • Eating more fruits and veggies (thanks to the Daniel Fast, this doesn't seem so daunting)
  • Serving others (It is amazing how focusing on helping someone else distracts you from you own worries and makes them fade in contrast)
  • Continuing my mornings of breakfast and devotions on the porch (I've keep that schedule since "completing" Goal #30 and I can't imagine how worse off I might be emotionally had I not been spending this time with the Lord)
  • Staying transparent about how I'm doing emotionally with my husband and my accountability partner.
  • Remembering that I've been through this before and made it to the other side and that I can do it again (with God's help and the incredible blessings of the family and friends that He's given me in my arsenal).

I don't share this to have an "oh-poor-Jen-pity-party," but because I remember what it was like to be extremely depressed and to feel completely alone - to feel that no one else could understand. Four years ago, when I was in my darkest days, I didn't talk about the fact that I was in counseling, or that I had a psychiatrist who prescribed me anti-depressants, or that I felt an overwhelming hopelessness. I feared that if people knew, they would think I'd gone and flew over the coo-coo's nest.

Eventually, I realized that I was not alone and that other people do struggle with this. Once I opened up to those closest to me and sought help through a blend of Christian counseling and medication, the isolation began to slowly, slowly fade and the fog of hopelessness I'd been engulfed by began to lift. All praises to God that I haven't had a serious attack in nearly four years.

There is a certain stigma surrounding depression, especially (I feel) in the Church. People just don't talk about it or understand it all that well. That's why, when its appropriate, I try to speak openly about my own experience with depression, in hopes that someone who has not felt comfortable with sharing their battle will have the freedom to do so. I remember feeling alone all too well and I don't want to miss the chance to give someone else hope.

My depression is not in the least-bit fun. Even though God has brought good out of it, I don't know if I'll ever be able to call it a "blessing." Given the choice, I would selfishly choose not to have this battle. However, God has allowed it in my life and He has certainly used it in the past to bless and encourage others and to strengthen me and for that I am profoundly thankful. It is a strange paradox to wish you didn't struggle with something, but to be thankful that God has used it for good.

Q4U - How has God used a struggle in your life as encouragement for someone else?

Monday, August 30, 2010

One More Person

Sweet Nabakoza passed away on Wednesday. That she survived as long as she did in the care of Auntie Renee is a miracle in itself. A miracle that blessed Nabakoza with twelve days full of love, tenderness and comfort. Her first time experiencing these affections and God gave her twelve days when she medically should have only lasted about 48 hours.

I want to share with you something Renee wrote to Nabakazo on her blog:

 My heart hurts for the hard life you had to live, but your pain was not in vain my friend. Because of you hearts are being stirred, God is calling out a people who desire to bring about change in this world. You made a difference in this world, Nabakoza! You matter. It’s a privilege and an honor to call you my friend, my sister. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life even for a short time. Thank you for forever changing mine. I love and miss you. See you at the golden gates…

Starvation has a face and a name for me now. And in comparison the the value of a life, of Nabakazo's life, the things I spend my money on are such a waste. I am so grateful that God brought me to Nabakazo's story. Because for the past couple of weeks, when I've wanted to buy something frivolous, I've thought of Nabakazo - even when I didn't want to. When I wanted to make pretty seat cushion for our dining room or buy a new watch, Nabakazo's face popped into my mind along with others who I don't know names or faces of, but who could be saved if I would give more. How many people could have had clean water or food if I had given the money I spent on that new shirt, or the cute picture frame or the adorable hair accessory? It is certainly a challenging thought and one that I plan to start acting on.

I ask that you'll watch a short clip from the movie Schindler's List. I hope that it will challenge all of us to consider what one person's life is worth. (In case you're not familiar with the story, Oskar Schindler was a member of the Nazi party who, during WWII, hired nearly 1200 Jewish workers in order to save then from the concentration camps.)

Friends, I know that we can't save everyone. But we can save some. We can save more.

(if video doesn't play, please click here)

"I knew the people who worked for me... When you know people, you have to behave towards them like human beings." - Oskar Schindler

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Goal #19 - Theatre Revived

Goal #19: Attend a show at Ethington Theatre (the theatre at my alma mater) when it re-opens.

Ethington Theatre Class of 2006

Imagine being a theatre major and having your program cut your senior year. Imagine trying to finish your degree with no upper-level theatre classes available, no plays to act in and bills for outrageously expensive private tuition still taunting you whilst you complete your theatre degree with substitute classes that have nothing to do with craft you so dearly love. 

Now imagine sitting with the opening-night audience as the lights come up for the first time in four years to illuminate the stage that was your home for countless productions. The play starts and people are again enjoying the delightful work of Ethington Theatre.

In case you can't imagine, I'll tell you: It was thrilling.

Last night, I had the joy of attending the grand re-opening of Ethington Theatre. The featured production was The Pirates of Penzance, which is a show that had been near and dear to the heart of this theatre for decades. What made this performance so special (besides the obvious fact that it was the re-opening) was that there were eight alumni actors joining the cast of new students. The guest performers included two actors who reprised their original roles from the 1997 production.

The cast was wonderful. The costumes were wonderful. The choreography was wonderful. The whole experience of seeing my old "home" revived was just all around wonderful.

The last production before Ethington closed in 2006: The Robber Bridegroom. I played Raven (pictured far left).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Have Some Negative Encouragment On Me

I'm torn between sharing too much and maintaining a no-I'm-not-perfect-just-like-you honesty. Between this post and a teaching I heard by author/speaker Emerson Eggerichs, I feel challenged to reconsider how much I edit my life on this blog (which is quite a bit sometimes). Eggerichs mentioned how people assume that everyone else is getting along fine and they are the only ones with problems. But sharing vulnerabilities gives us hope and acts as "negative encouragement." In other words, it encourages others when they know everyone around them ain't perfect.

So here's my disclaimer: I don't want this blog to be a place of negativity and ranting. I do want it to be a place of encouragement and often times (a lot of times actually) it is encouraging to know that other people struggle with the same things you do. 

So that's that and here we go.

I checked the mail Sunday and low-and-behold, my copy of Radical had arrived. I got nervous/excited chills reading the sub-headline: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. In addition, plans were in the works to start the Daniel Diet/Fast on Tuesday (more on that later.) So - a book arrives Sunday that is bound to alter the way I view my life and I'm starting an "alright-God-you-have-my-attention-fast" on Tuesday. Guess what happens on Monday? You got it: Complete. Meltdown.

I have battled clinical depression for a good chunk of my life and I've had some incredibly dark days. I am also fairly skeptical about "Satan is attacking me" stories. But hooo-boy was Monday night a doozey! I'm not kidding y'all - it has been a long time since I was attacked with such intense, dark emotions - mentally, spiritually and even physically. Devin and I had just finished a chapter in Crazy Love and I became overwhelmed to the point of trembling with thoughts of hopelessness, of not being and never being good enough for God, for my husband or for my children-that-I-don't-even-have-yet. I felt a severe sense of self-loathing, which unfortunately spewed all over my dear husband.

I tried to sleep in order to escape the constant outpouring of these negative thoughts. Sleep wouldn't come. Nor would prayers beyond, "God help me!" Which, incidentally, is a difficult prayer to even consider while you're being swarmed by thoughts of worthlessness.

My husband was a trooper through all of this. Even though my anger at myself was coming out as anger towards him, he coxed me into talking and held me until I finally cried myself to sleep. It was awful. I was awful. I'm embarrassed even remembering it.

Since that night, things have stabilized emotionally, but I have to maintain honestly here and say that this episode really freaked me out. I have never experienced such dark opposition when trying to turn my life over to God's guidance. It makes me wonder what guns will roll out when I actually start particpating in the Radical Read-Along or when I actually start doing some of the things I've been reading about.

It's scary to me. But it also makes me think, "Wow. There must be major potential for some awesome things coming up in my life. Satan does not want me to read this book or make this change." I don't know if that makes it easier to handle (not yet at least) but it does offer me comfort that I am right smack-dab-in-the-middle of God's refining fires. It's hot and uncomfortable and I just want to run away and hide sometimes. But I know, I know in my heart, that if I let those fires refine me, I will come out of this time of learning/changing/growing stronger and more ready to live for God.

Q4U-  Anyone else faced some intense spiritual/emotional/mental attacks when preparing to do something for God?

Friday, August 20, 2010

OUTSIDE My Own Little World

Yesterday, I wrote about being stuck in my own little world. Today, I want to talk about looking outside my own little world.

I saw some images yesterday that shook me up. Here is just one of them:

This is Nabakoza. She lives in Uganda. She is twenty-three-years-old. She weighs thirty-seven pounds. Yes, that's right - 37. She will very likely die by the end of this week. Katie, the woman holding her, is giving her the love and tenderness that she has been deprived of her entire life. There is little doubt that Nabakoza will die soon, but because of the sweet women caring for her, her final days will be overflowing with God's love.

At first, I didn't want to post this image of Nabakoza because I thought people might get upset and say that I was trying to "guilt into giving." I'd like to say that I don't want you to feel guilty, but I do. Shouldn't we feel guilty when we look at precious images like this one?

But as I thought about it some more, guilt is not truly want I want to you feel. I want you to feel compassion. I want you to feel love. I want you to feel joy as you see lives changed. I don't think that a bunch of guilty Christian do-gooders is what God had in mind with He commanded Christians to care for the poor in their distress or to give with a joyful heart. Guilt isn't a part of the equation when your heart longs to give and to serve others freely. So, I don't want to make you feel guilty and I can't make you feel compassion, but I can share with you how God has been working on my heart in this area.

Let me tell you about Nazziwa. She is my nineteen-year-old Compassion sponsor child and she lives in Uganda. (Can you tell I have a thing for Ugandans?) For the past four years, I have had the privilege of sponsoring her and getting to know her better through letters and pictures. I love this girl so much, and look forward to meeting her one day (I'm planning a trip with Compassion in November of next year.) Nazziwa loves to sing and I can't wait to sing with her!

This Barbra, I've been sponsoring her for about a year-and-a-half. She loves the color blue. She wants to be a nurse. She always asks me in her letters to pray for the sick, hungry babies in her country. Even at seven years old, Barbra is filled with such compassion and it makes my heart ache with joy. I want to help this darling little girl fulfill her calling to be a nurse so that she can help those precious little ones for whom she already cares so deeply. (She is also from Uganda, so I will get to meet her too!)

Let me take a minute to help you visualize how easy it would be for most of us to sponsor a child. One sponsorship through Compassion is $38.00 a month (about $1.25 per day) so:

One of these:

 Plus two of these:
 Plus one of these:

Equals one of these:

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

There is so much need and it can seem so overwhelming sometimes. But we can start by making a difference in one life. It won't change the world, but it will change the world of the one person you help.

You know that little baby I pictured at the beginning of this post?
This is him today:

Don't you just want to kiss those sweet little cheeks? Cheeks that literally didn't exist seven weeks ago. (Pictures are from the organization Serving His Children.)

We can help and it can start today. I pray that everyone reading this will be filled, overcome and taken over, not by guilt, but by JOY that God has given us the opportunity and resources to change lives. 

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work... You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." - 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 11

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In My Own Little World

I had an ugly day today and it's only 8:30am. Ugh. Nothing like listing your struggles and the ways you are trying to overcome them only to be smacked in the face with your stinky attitude the very next morning. I was both resentful and selfish today. "Hello Humility, I'm Jen... I think you and I will be forced to spend a lot of time together in the near future."


Come September, I'll be joining the Radical Read-Along over at Marla's blog. A whole bunch of us from all over the place will be reading this book together and having an on-line book group/discussion. If you are ready for your comfy little world to be ripped in two (or three, or four...) by the Gospel, then I hope you'll join us! Even if you don't think you're ready or this sounds scary to you, I still hope you'll join us, because I don't feel ready either. I feel nervous too, but I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with my own comfort and  I know it's time for a revamp.

I heard a new song by Matthew West and thought it expressed perfectly some of the things I've been thinking and feeling lately and the things most of us joining the book group are struggling with. (You can listen to the song here.)

My Own Little World

by Matthew West

In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In my own little world
Population me

I try to stay awake through the Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give ’til it hurts
I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
It’s easy to do when it’s
Population me

What if there’s a bigger picture
What if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world

Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Saw a cardboard sign said “Help this homeless widow”
Just above this sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?”
So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
and my own little world reached
Population two

What if there’s a bigger picture
What if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world

Father, break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me

What if there’s a bigger picture
What if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now

I don't want to miss what matters
I want to be reaching out
Show me the greater purpose
So I can start living right now
Outside my own little world

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Facing the Sunshine

"Keep your face to the sunshine
and you cannot see the shadows."

- Helen Keller -

I've been a bit MIA in the the blogosphere the last couple of weeks - at least in regards to doing or posting anything significant. There is just so much to process in my current circumstances and I guess my brain has been a little overwhelmed. But there is a lot to be grateful for and many ways in which this trial is growing, shaping and strengthening me. Today, I'll choose to focus on those things. And tomorrow, I will again make the choice to focus on the sunshine.

Things I'm learning:
  • I have a unique opportunity during this time to appreciate and experience the burden of providing that husbands have to carry.
  • I'm seeing Devin express a deep desire to take that burden from me, as soon possible. This is encouraging for me to see and I am grateful that my husband wants to fill that role so passionately. 
  • During this season of jobless limbo, Devin has been spending so much time in prayer and really searching himself and his relationship with God in order to find direction. It has been a great source of joy for me during this time to see how he's growing and hear about all he is learning. His leadership skills are definitely being honed. 
  • God has brought along two amazing men to mentor and help guide Devin through this process.
  • I'm learning patience and learning not to look too far into the future - which just causes me to worry, which does nobody a bit of good.
  • For the most part, I've been uncharacteristically calm during this time. I think that one of three things is happening: A) I'm in shock. B) I'm in denial. C) God slipped me a spiritual sedative. (I'm gonna go with 'C')
  • I am aware that a stressful situation such as job loss could very easily push Devin and I apart, but by God's provision and some deliberate choices on our part, this time has served to draw us closer. 

I can't deny that there are too many days where I succumb to the stress, or that there are days when I struggle with selfishness and even (brace yourselves) resentment. But there is still so much to be thankful for.  I'm trying my darnedest to focus on those good things first and keep them in the forefront of my mind.

The days when I do give in to those negative feelings, I am learning that I have a husband who loves me and cherishes me despite how ugly I act. If he can still find me lovable during those ugly times, how much deeper must God unconditionally care for me? What an incredible, tangible example of God's love our husbands can show us!

Q4U-  Tell me about a time when your spouse demonstrated for you a small glimpse of the kind of love God has for you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Photo Chain - A Fun and Free Date

This was possibly one of my Top Five Favorite Dates with Devin. We spent the evening creating a "photo chain" together. How a photo chain works is this: Person A starts the chain by taking a photograph of something. Person A then "tags" something in that photo (a color, shape, concept, etc.) Person B must then take a completely different photo that visually describes the tagged word from the previous photo. This continues back and forth indefinitely. We had a awesome time driving around town making our photo chain and plan to continue adding to it in the future.

I started the chain by taking this photo and tagging "Pink."

Tag: Pink

Below, is Devin's photo titled "Pink." He then tagged "Lens Flare."

Title: Pink  Tag: Lens Flare
Title: Lens Flare  Tag: Silhouette
Title: Silhouette  Tag: Life
Title: Life  Tag: Circle
Title: Circle  Tag: Technology
Title: Technology   Tag: Contrast
Title: Contrast  Tag: Reflection
Title: Reflection  Tag: Repetition
Title: Repetition  Tag: Green
Title: Green  Tag: Metal
Title: Metal  Tag: Architecture
Title: Architecture  Tag: Up
Title: Up  Tag: Name
Title: Name  Tag: Parallel Lines
Title: Parallel Lines  Tag: Attire
Title: Attire  Tag: V
Title: V  Tag: Touching
Title: Touching  Tag: Through
Title: Though   Tag: (TBD for next time...)
This would be such a fun event for a family, youth group, couple or any group of people with a camera and the ability to think creatively. Thanks to the wonder that is digital cameras, this date/event is FREE (with the exception of gas money if you plan to drive around.) So grab your camera and go have some fun!

All images © Devin Hanson Photography 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010


"Ask friends or church members if any own a vacation or weekend home. Arrange to rent or borrow it for the weekend." 
 - Dates on a Dime (This makes date 8 of 20 for Goal #44.)

Devin and I altered this date work for us and our non-vacation-home-owning friends by enjoying a stay-cation while house and dog sitting for my best friend. She and her husband got to go to San Diego on their vacation... But I won’t dwell on that.

Besides, they have a gorgeous house...

photo © Devin Hanson Photography 2010
...that we got all to ourselves... minus the dog who howled and whined every time we kissed for more than a split second.

Seriously though, it was a great weekend with my husband and I was very grateful we were able to have this time away. Sure, we were just fourteen minutes down the road from our own place... But what that really means is that we were completely and utterly separated from piles of paper work, laundry and to do list (yes, I have are piles of to do lists). The thing about being cut off from all the stuff you should’a/could’a been doing is that you are forced to relax. It was fantastic and we milked it.

We watched all three extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I cried at the end of the third one... a lot... Just like I did when I first saw it in the theaters seven (SEVEN?!?!) years ago. Yes. I am a nerd.

We played way too many (but not nearly enough) games of Nintendo 64 James Bond 007. It. Was. Epic.

I haven’t played James Bond in years, but was obsessed in high school and college. I was pretty impressive at it too. And not just for a girl. Not surprisingly, none of my female friends cared to play James Bond, so I learned to play against my brothers and guy friends. One time in college, I played an impromptu tournament against my guy friends and some of the male students from other dorm rooms heard that some girl was kickin' butt and came over to check it out and play against me. Yup. As established with my Tolkien-induced cry-fest: I am a nerd. Fortunately, I married someone as nerdy as I am who also delights in hobbit and Nintendo-filled weekends.

There were some frugal perks to this little stay-cation of ours as well – not paying for water, air conditioning (which is a big deal when its 110 degrees) or food for four days and getting a little - unexpected, but appreciated - cash thrown in the bargain!

Oh yes. And this is Lola.

photo © Devin Hanson Photography 2010
Lola is the adorable, affectionate but-oh-so-energetic puppy that we were watching. She devoured the wiring for one of the surround-sound speakers (fortunately my handy hubby was able to fix it.) She stole and half-ate my unmentionables while I was in the tub (there were words, but she was forgiven.) She deliberately (and loudly) tried to keep me from being affectionate to my husband. Amazingly enough, this was the best I've ever seen her behave in all the time Megan and Brian have had her.

We also found this not-so-little guy:

His visit was short lived.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Our Husbands and the Bride of Christ

photo by Simply Knot Photography
Last night, Devin gave me the best compliment I think I have ever received. I felt so undeserving, but so honored just the same. Let me back up a little first...

We've started reading Crazy Love together (Devin reads it out loud and they we discuss it - he has a wonderful tone to his voice and it's just delicious to hear... mmmmm... Anyway.) There is a section where Francis Chan talks of how relentlessly God pursues His creation - like a lover wooing his beloved. Chan mentions the Biblical analogy of Christ as the groom and the Church as the bride. Being a woman, I've never had a hard time grasping this idea and even get shivers at the beautiful, romantic word picture. This is possibly one of the most gorgeous descriptions of a believer's relationship with Christ and yet, its one that most men can't relate to. I mean, how many men really want to picture themselves in a white gown walking towards their groom, Christ - another DUDE? Yeah. I can totally understand why this analogy is lost to most guys.

But here's where the awesome-wow-I-can't-believe-God-used-me-like-this part comes in. After reading this section, Devin turned to me and said, "Thank you for being such a wonderful wife, because I think I understand this concept for the first time. When I see how you love and respect me and submit to me, I finally understand how that relates to Christ and the Church. The way you treat me helps me to understand how I'm suppose to respond to God in the same way."

Um. Wow. I was speechless. I've only been a wife for a grand total of ten months and one day so I know I have a lot still to learn about being a good one. This was a very humbling accolade to receive. And a very eye-opening one.

Christian wives, we have such an incredible honor to fulfill in this area! One that we sadly don't make the most of many times. The way we treat our husbands can help them to understand their relationship with God better. What a crazy, unbelievable responsibility! And what a wonderful motivation to strive to love our husbands better, to respect them more and to submit with joy to their leadership. We're our husbands most tangible example of how the relationship between Christ and the Church works and how we treat them can deeply affect what sort of response they will have towards Christ. I know I'm repeating myself here but - wow. I have never thought about my role as a wife in this way. Even though that is how the scripture describes the wife's role - I guess I just never really made the connection.

Q4U-  Ladies: What are some ways that you can give your husband a tangible example of what this bride/groom relationship with Christ looks like?

Friday, August 6, 2010

No-Cost Decorating

Lately, I've gotten REALLY into "no-cost decorating." It started when I became addicted to this blog and was so inspired by these ladies' creativity that I wanted to do some fun decorating projects of my own. Only problem - I can't spend any money on this fun, but unnecessary "want.' So what's a creative gal to do? Use what I already have of course!

So for the past couple of weeks, I've been redecorating our living room (and kitchen) with empty glass jars from our spaghetti dinners, ribbons left over from our wedding invites and the gobs of paper, paint, fabric, tags and buttons that I have in my collection of craft stuff. It has been a really fun challenge and I haven't spent a cent! Here are some of my favorites (sorry that I don't have "before" photos.)

After digging through a bag of block letters that Devin's grandma gave us (for Devin's infant photography), I spelled out "Hanson" on our bookcase.

Spaghetti sauce jar filled with stale coffee beans, wrapped in leftover ribbon; add a cute little tag from scrapbook stuff and silk flowers I already had; arrange with candle, photo, shell from our honeymoon and cute mini jar wrapped in matching ribbon- and voila!

I organized all the markers and pens that were scattered all over our kitchen into this adorable labeled display using more jars and tags, leftover fabric, ribbon and some glass stones that I already had.  (We also already had the little photo plates.)

A plain black frame and a simple silver digital frame got new life with the help of a little paint, scrapbook paper, ribbon, buttons and double-stick tape. I added another tag/ribbon combo (I'm obsessed) to our "goodies" jar.

To consolidate all the random items we had sitting on our coffee table, I grabbed an adorable "breakfast in bed" tray that we hardly used and accented it with scrapbook paper (that matches the above picture frame.) ::SIGH:: I love when organization looks so pretty.

Last little touch: I wrapped the bases of one of our lamps in brown ribbon and added a blue button for a pop of fun and color.

Next stop: Our bedroom. Dum-dum-dum....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Boys Allowed!

(Some of my best friends from college - Brittany, Julie, Jamie and Megan)
Goal #100 - Take a “Girls Trip” with girl friends

When I wrote this goal I had a glamorous vision of a week-long cruise or a trip to California soakin’ in the sites and sun with my college girl friends. But when I started thinking about the reality of taking such a trip, I had to admit that it was unlikely and unwise for most all of us involved. Between our group of friends finances are strapped – we’ve got one girl with a baby on the way, two husbands out of work, one husband in med school full time, very limited paid vacation time for most of us and one crazy gal (::ahem::) doing some six-months-of-radical-frugality project. Going on even a mildly extravagant trip would have caused more financial stress than fun for us. That’s when I came to the conclusion that I would be just as happy taking a (nearly) no-cost trip over my birthday weekend and spending some simplistic, quality time with my ladies.

Sooo... We borrow a van and headed a couple hours north for a wonderful, relaxing weekend in a cabin in the woods of Christopher Creek. Our gracious host was the incredible and sweet Mimi (my best friend Megan’s grandmother-in-law), who loves having “her girls” come up for a visit. We probably go up to Mimi’s about once a year and always wonder why we don’t visit more often. Mimi is so welcoming and at ninety-years-old (and four-foot-five-inches) she is very independent and has a wit as sharp as a tack.

(Mimi & Megan)
Mimi’s cabin backs up to a creek and I spent the early morning of my birthday sitting alone by the water thoroughly enjoying the peacefulness and basking in the beauty of God’s handiwork. What a glorious way to start my twenty-seventh year!

Coming from the sweltering Phoenix temperatures of 110 degrees, my friends and I relished the beautiful, pine-laden scenery and cooler temperatures. We took “nature walks” and played lots of games on rainy afternoons. On my birthday we went berry picking and found delicious pea-sized strawberries that we each had about... oohhh... four of? Not quite worth the effort, but a fun memory nevertheless. We were originally hunting for blackberries, but became engulfed in fog and decided against going any further up the mountain in search of berries that we weren’t even sure were in season (we found out later they were not). The fog was quite eerie and some of us (them) were a little scared.

I was also very impressed with my girls’ cooking abilities. We all chipped in with bringing and cooking meals and ate some seriously scrumptious food. Including homemade chocolate chip banana pancakes and some fudge-like brownies that were less than 100 calories and 1 gram of fat each! (I’ll share that recipe at the bottom of this post – you will not believe what goes into these and how amazingly good they are.)

Cost of this trip – about $20 per person (once we factored in the food we each brought). Thanks Julie, Jamie, Brittany, Megan and Mimi for a wonderful birthday weekend! I love you girlies.

Brownie-like Fudge Bars 
(or Fudge-like Brownie Bars if you prefer)

One box fudge brownie mix
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tbs room temp peanut butter
Preheat oven for 350
Combined Brownie mix and pumpkin. Batter will be very thick
Prepare 9"x13" pan with non stick spray and pour in batter.
Swirl peanut butter on top.
Bake for 30-35 mins. They will appear undone. Let cool then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Each Brownie (about 2"x2") has less than 100 cals and about 1 gram of fat! Enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Grateful in the Trials

We found out recently that the coffee shop where my husband works as manger will be closing down on August 11th. With so many people loosing their jobs in the past couple of years, I have been exceedingly thankful that the Recession had not touched either of our jobs in this way. But now that this is no longer the case, I am still finding so many things to be grateful for despite the circumstance we find ourselves in. God has given me such a peace and as one generally prone to be a little ... um... shall we say, high strung?... my response of calm can only be attributed to God's provision of peace.

When we got the news, instead of having a panicked meltdown, the first thoughts that flooded my brain we ones of thankfulness (again, only through God's provision). The more I think about it, the more astounded I am at the many ways that God in His goodness has been preparing us for this. Here are just a few examples:

  • Devin was pretty unhappy at his job and we had been praying that there would be an opportunity to leave and find something else soon. Not exactly what I had in mind, but the prayer was answered in a way that will catalyst Devin into finding another job soon (hopefully one he likes better). (I do feel terrible for the owners of the shop though - a very sweet retired couple who got dealt some stinky circumstances outside of their control.)
  • We have been living well below our means financial the past few months and have a good amount of margin to live by. The only thing that will "suffer" is the amount we can put into savings each month. But other than that, our life will pretty much stay the same.
  • In the last year, my brother-in-law and my best friend's husband have lost their jobs. I obviously wish this wouldn't have happened to them, but it is a small comfort to have my sister-in-law and my best friend able to relate and give counsel on how to respond in a godly way.
  • The morning after we found out, I was doing my devotions and picked up where I left off reading the day before. Wouldn't you know it, the section of scripture I was on was Jesus' sermon about not worrying because God will provide (Luke 12:22-34). Wow!
  • When I went to work the very next next day, we all found out that our health insurance costs where going down.
  • For the past month or so, I have been reading The Excellent Wife and learning a lot about supporting my husband and aligning my attitudes and behaviors in a way that honors God's design for a wife. I really think that this time of growth has prepared my heart to be a better wife to Devin during this transition. God's timing is so perfect!
  • This is an opportunity for me to follow Devin's leadership as he follows God - wherever He takes us.
I still have anxious thoughts creeping up in my head (or sometimes flat-out pounding down the door), but it is causing me to run to God and trust in Him more than ever. (Been quoting Phil 4:6-7 to myself a lot lately!) 

God is so good. In the great times, the terrible times and the less-than-comfortable times.

    "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7