Five Minute Friday: Try

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is try. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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As I sit here on a beautiful Friday afternoon in July I am trying not to focus on the fact that my days of summer are dwindling away. I’m also trying not to think about all of the unchecked items on my to-do list. Many things I had planned to do this summer are going unfulfilled. Time just slipped away and here were are on the final day of July looking at a calendar that points toward the beginning of a new school year. Time has flown. Where has it gone?

I’ve tried my best to spend this summer relaxing and moving forward with some of my goals. At times, I’ve done a superb job. I’ve read nearly a book a week all summer. I’ve kept up with my writing and blogging, which may not seem relaxing, but for me it is. I’ve done some things I’ve wanted to do for a while like beginning my first ever garden and changing up my diet. At other times I’ve done a less than superb job. I’ve tried to exercise regularly, but it didn’t always happen. I’ve also given in a few too many times to frappucinos and ice cream. (But seriously, I live near too many Starbucks and Jenis shops and what is summer without these two?)

Sometimes trying is the best I can do. I can try to sit here and pretend that my summer isn’t fading away. I can try to live a healthy and fit lifestyle. I can try to make time for the things in life that really matter, but in the end trying doesn’t always lead to success. This is a concept I am working through. In order to be successful in some areas one must try and fail. I don’t handle failure in the best way. I’m working on it. But luckily God is there through it all. He sees my success and failures and loves me the same. He knows that I’m trying in many ways to seek Him and listen to Him, but I fail at that sometimes too.

Today I am thankful for a God who sees my heart. He knows that I’m going to mess up, but all he cares about is my heart and whether or not I am trying to do the right thing.

What are you trying to do lately?

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My Famous Crockpot Gumbo

Since becoming a mother my Crockpot has become my trusted best friend. It allows me to create healthy meals for my family even when my schedule doesn’t allow for much meal time prep. During the school year my Crockpot is a staple to my menu planning and I utilize it a minimum of once a week. Over the past couple of years I have produced my famous Crockpot Gumbo for several friends and/or gatherings. I’ve had quite a few people ask for my recipe so I thought I would publish this recipe here on my blog for any of you that might want to try this one out. What I like most about this meal is its simplicity. The prep time is about ten minutes. This particular recipe calls for more vegetables than most gumbo recipes, but you would never know it in a blind taste test. The flavors blend so well I can never get enough of this one.

Ingredients:

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2 Tb butter

2 Tb flour

1 green pepper

4 cloves garlic, diced or minced

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 quart Chicken broth

2 Tb Cajun seasoning

1 smoked or Polish sausage (we prefer Polish in our house)

1 can diced tomatoes

2 cups diced okra (optional)

Recipe:

1. In a non-stick skillet, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until the flour is golden brown. Add the pepper, garlic, onion, and carrots. Saute for one minute.

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2. Add the mixture to a 4-quart slow cooker. Add the broth, seasoning, sausage, and tomatoes. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

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*3. Add the okra the last  hour of cooking if you should choose to add it. (I rarely do)

4. Serve over a bed of brown rice.

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This recipe is quite mild, but if you want to turn up the heat on your gumbo you can substitute the green pepper for a hotter pepper of your choice. Also, you can add to the amount of Cajun seasoning used as well. It is totally your preference. My two-and-a-half year old loves this dish which is why I keep it pretty mild. She will sit and eat every bite off her plate, and she doesn’t even like carrots. The taste masks that well!

Enjoy!

Some Sperry Love

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I have a thing for comfortable shoes. Scratch that: I have a thing for cute, comfortable shoes. I prefer quality over quantity when it comes to shoes due to my active lifestyle and also my bad knees from years of overuse while running competitively. It’s become a tradition that I ask for new shoes for my birthday each year. This year I was gifted two new pairs of flip flops for my Sperry collection. Above are pictured my Sperrys:

1. Parrotfish Sandal in grey/silver

2. Seafish Thong in black

I have owned a few pairs of Sperrys over the years and I love their durability. Not only are they comfortable with their arch supports and cushioning, but they also last a long time and can hold up through a lot of wear and tear. I visited England recently for two and half weeks. My go-to shoes on the trip were my new Sperry flip flops. Some days I would walk over five miles and both I and my shoes held up just fine. These flip flops even do well in rain. Cheap flip flops and sandals will fill with water and fall apart when wet, but my Sperrys never let me down.

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Last night my husband and I did a long walk through the town where we live and my Sperrys were comfortable for this exploratory walk. They made it easy for us to decide on an impromptu walk. Our daughter was off playing with a cousin and my husband and I grabbed a quiet and romantic dinner followed by a leisurely walk which was not dictated by pavements for the maneuvering of a stroller or cut short by a fatigued toddler. I didn’t have to worry about hurting my feet in high heels and I still felt like my shoes were adorable. If you own any Sperry shoes I’m sure you can relate to the love I have for my pairs. They never let me down. It’s so easy to do life in Sperrys.

Carving Out Time For Me

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Lately I’ve been surrounded with several motivating resources: my husband, friends, family, the blogs I follow and the book I’m reading, The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst. One thing these people have all been encouraging me to pursue is my passion for writing. These are people who have seen some of my best pieces and still continue to believe in my abilities. However, I know that my writing is more than my ability it is God’s gift. When I write he is there with me giving me the words. He’s behind every idea and word that goes from my mind to my fingers to your screen.

Since I was eighteen I have had the dream of one day publishing a novel. I’ve let year after year slip by without making progress toward that goal. The years wrap up and I think to myself, “Next year I’ll make it happen” only to make no more progress than before. I’ve even gotten to points in my life where I get so busy that I don’t even write at all.

But this year has been different. So far in 2015 I have written six chapters of a novel. I’ve taken time to blog daily to practice my skills and then set aside longer duration and intentional time to work on my novel. I read a chapter yesterday in The Best Yes entitled, “Overwhelmed Schedule Underwhelmed Soul.” In this chapter the author talks about how we all have a calling that we are neglecting. For me, it has been writing. In order to achieve that calling we have to be intentional with our time. That means saying “no” to activities that are not absolutely necessary in your life in order to have time remaining each week to carve out for yourself. This should be intentional time spent pursuing your calling.

Yesterday I carved out time for myself. I woke up before my husband and daughter and ventured out to a local coffee shop for two hours. I sat at a table in the coffee shop and I worked on my novel for that entire time. In two hours I produced ten pages to finish up my sixth chapter. I felt so accomplished. That amount of writing could have taken me months according to my old writing plan. I also felt energized all day because I began my day by doing something I had neglected for so long.

So I’ve decided to make this a weekly thing. I’ve taken my planner and blocked out two hours a week for me to escape to a coffee shop and just write. My husband has agreed to allow for this time and so it’s set in stone.

My husband has been reading The Best Yes as well. We’ve had a discussion as a family about not adding things to our schedule just because we don’t want to say “no”. We set our priorities with family and ministry. Things have been extremely busy and so as we usher in a new school year we have both committed to saying “no” to things that do not directly correlate with those priorities. If it is not something that will help us grow as a family or related to our areas of ministry then we have resolved to leave it off our schedule.

I know that those priorities will still keep us busy, but I’m hoping this new school year will at least be more focused than my schedule has been in the past. I’m really looking forward to my weekly coffee shop trips and for making progress on writing.

What are you neglecting that you should be carving time out for?

First5

This week my aunt turned me on to the newest female Bible app and community, First5. The app was created by Proverbs 31 Ministries to ensure that you spend the first five minutes of each day in God’s Word. I came upon the app because my aunt had just read The Best Yes by the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa TerKeurst. On several occasions my aunt sent me recommendations about this book and I began to research it as well as lay claim to her copy once she had finished her reading of it.

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The author is speaking this weekend at a Proverbs 31 conference called She Speaks. At this conference Lysa is speaking specifically to women called by God to write, teach, preach and lead. Which if you think about our calling as Christians that applies to every one of us in some way. Although I cannot physically be at the conference in North Carolina, (once I found out about it I seriously contemplated the idea of hopping on a plane and attending, but alas, it was sold out) I was able to view the opening session upon the download of the First5 app.

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I stayed up late listening to the entire lesson. It was nearly an hour, but the teaching was so applicable and relevant that it hardly felt like ten minutes. During the opening session Lysa spoke about recognizing God’s role in your ministry. I felt so convicted because so often it’s easy to rely on my own strength in ministry without first coming to God and realizing just how much I need God in my ministry before I can be effective.

The scripture that she pulled from was Mark 6:30-56: The Feeding of the Five Thousand and Jesus Walking on Water. Did you know that apart from the Resurrection of Jesus that the feeding of the five thousand is the only other miracle of Jesus’ ministry recorded in all four gospels? It is this very truth that led Lysa to examine this miracle so closely. The things of most importance always seem to be repeated throughout scripture.

Here are three points that Lysa made that really hit home for me:

1. The disciples came to Jesus bragging about their own ministries.

In the first verse of this section it says, “the apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught.” In essence, the apostles are returning from their individual ventures they were commissioned to in the world and were telling stories about all of the things they had accomplished. I picture this as a slightly competitive conversation. “Oh yeah, well I did this…” To me, this passage stood out because I know that oftentimes I try to accomplish things in my own power. Worse yet, I take credit for things that God has done for or through me. I hope I’m not the only person who can relate here. I’m guilty of pride when my blog boosts high stats or when an author of a book I’ve read responds to an email I sent. This verse put me back in my place. Just as the disciples could not have performed their miracles or drove out demons without first having the power of Jesus within them I too cannot take credit for the words that Jesus has divinely given me to use in my ministry of writing.

2. Jesus did all the work. All we have to do is serve.

The disciples are sitting with Jesus getting a little frustrated by the crowd of people he was drawing to himself. All they wanted was a little time alone to recharge and reconnect. But, in the midst of their selfishness Jesus calls them to serve. In verse 36 the apostles plead with Jesus, “Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But Jesus responds simply in verse 37 with, “You give them something to eat.” In this verse Jesus is telling the apostles that their role is to serve the people who have come to learn from Him. He didn’t tell them it was their responsibility to conduct the miracles and multiply five loaves and two fish, but rather to serve the people who were hungry. In the same way we who are called by God to write, teach, preach, or lead are called also to serve those around us. We are to allow Jesus to do His thing without taking credit and humbly serve others.

3. Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

This point was so powerful. Lysa continues to the narrative of Jesus Walking on Water. Not only are the apostles quick to forget what they had just learned with the miracle of feeding the five thousand, but as they are sailing across the lake they fail to recognize Jesus and verses 49-50 say, “when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.” Being the linguisitic nerd that I am I love when speakers dive into the original Greek meanings of Biblical terms and phrases. In her discussion, Lysa says that the term terrified here in the original language means, “setting into motion something that was meant to be still.” Wow! This really spoke to me as someone who struggles with anxiety and fear. Like Lysa, I’m one of those people who is constantly working myself up with worst-case scenarios. But this translation of a word so prevalent in my vocabulary showed me how often I set myself into motion when all I am meant to do is be still. I freak out and imagine outcomes constantly when I should be staying still and putting my faith in God to see me through.

Lysa made more points than just these, but these three that stood out to me that I felt applied to my life and situation. I wanted to share these truths with you.

If you haven’t already, you should download the First5 app. The first study begins on Monday and I am looking forward to it. I can’t think of a better way to spend the first five minutes of each day than in God’s Word. Join me and thousands others as we embark on the journey of First5 together.

The Princess and the Pee

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Maybe it is my educational background, but one of my favorite aspects of parenting is TEACHING. I enjoyed the infant stage to some extent, but the toddler phase is by far my favorite in what I have currently experienced in motherhood. I live for the little lessons that my daughter learns everyday and those that I am learning in the process of teaching my own child. To watch my daughter make cognitive connections and become more and more independent is a such a joy. I grieve the fact that one day I may not be as imperative to her well-being. At the same time I look forward to watching her evolve into a beautiful young lady.

That being said there is one thing they never taught me in my formal education courses. One thing I feel ill-equipped to teach my child. That one thing potty training. For a while it seemed like my daughter was basically going to train herself. She got to a point where she was going 2-3 times a day in the toilet on her own with little prompting. She would stop whatever she was doing and take herself to the bathroom. With each successful trip to the toilet she received rewards and after a day of 3 wees in the toilet she was rewarded with panties that she could wear around the house for a couple of hours which she always kept dry.

The most success we had was back in March. The first weekend of April we took a trip to New York City. To my astonishment she did not have one wet or dirty diaper the entire trip. She spent the weekend using toilets around the city. I couldn’t believe how well she was holding it throughout the day so that she could have the glory of using the toilet correctly.

Once summer vacation began we’ve seen some steps backwards. Lately, we’ve been lucky to get her to go in the toilet once a day. She seems to not be bothered to go even when we ask her and remind her. And usually within minutes of our promptings we are changing a dirty or wet diaper.

I know there are a lot of factors when it comes to potty training a child. Our little Princess will be three in September and I was really hoping that we would have her out of diapers by this birthday. The most frustrating part as a mother is being so close and then for some reason reverting back to square one. What changed her mentality about the potty? Virtually anything we say and do right now is not working. She just is not interested. I’m appealing to the moms and dads out there who have wisdom to share. I understand that some children aren’t ready by their third birthday, but our trip to NYC and the progress she was making in March lead me to believe that she is definitely ready.

HELP! PLEASE!

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photo credit-Grace Green, family friend 🙂

Five Minute Friday: Ten

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is ten. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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Ten years ago I was a crazy and stupid fifteen year old. I spent a majority of my time running and training for cross-country and track. I was obsessed. Among other things, I spent my life focused on me and my independent progress through life and pursuit of my own short term goals. I had little regard for my long term future and lived fully in the moment.

There is a lot that I had yet to learn at fifteen, but there are some things I did to help set me up for a successful, healthy lifestyle. I made sure that exercise was a part of my daily routine. I ran a minimum of three miles a day with some days running upwards of eight or nine miles. I ate fairly well, and maintained a steady, healthy weight.

At fifteen I was a new Christian. I began setting the foundation for my faith at that age and did so by attending a church and youth group regularly. I plugged myself in to a fellowship of believers around the same age as myself and I set myself up for success in this area in the future. Ten years later I am involved in the church we belong to and have plugged my family in to a cLife group at our church which is a group that meets in homes weekly.

As I look to the future me I have some long term goals for myself. In ten years I will be thirty-five. Here are ten goals for the next ten years!:

1. to be happily married as we celebrate our 14th anniversary

2. to gain wisdom and patience as I prepare to raise a teenager (Ari will be nearly 13)

3. to have one or two additional children

4. to maintain a steady workout routine of three or more days a week

5. to earn my Master’s Degree

6. to submit a manuscript to a publishing company and get published!

7. to raise my children to be involved in church and to give them opportunities to encounter Jesus for themselves

8. to travel to Italy or France (or both!)

9. to go on a cruise

10. to visit the west coast of America

I think it is a great practice to reflect on and set goals. My goals are constantly evolving as I change and progress as an individual. I try to evaluate my long term goals every New Year. I look at the progress I’ve made toward each goal and how I can better achieve the results I’m seeking for myself.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next ten years?