Sunday, September 30, 2012

Norton Grapes and a Whirlwind Trip

I'm behind on a few big blog posts, and this is one of them. Two weekends ago, Ross and I made a quick trip to Omaha with our friends Rachel and Marcus to help my family harvest grapes. Yep, my dad's "hobby" is a full-blown vineyard! He planted it the year I left for college, so I haven't been able to help a lot. But my dad, mom, and brothers have put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that land.

Harvest if obviously the most fun part, and the part I've been able to help with before. I feel a little guilty enjoying the fruits of someone else's labor, but it's just so nice to be outside doing something physical. And grape harvest is hardly back-breaking compared to other farm chores! Unfortunately, this year's harvest was especially easy because the birds had feasted on the ripe fruit in the week leading up to harvest.

Anyway, we decided to be crazy and drive to Nebraska when Rachel and I got off of work at 7:30pm on Friday. We set up camp in the dark and it was a colder night than we anticipated,

but it was worth it to wake up to this:


Fog, sunrise, crisp air... heavenly. We left the farm really quick to have breakfast at my maternal grandma's house-- yum! We were definitely fueled for the day when we left, and my family and a few friends had already started picking grapes when we got back.

We jumped right in.

grapes and some sad, empty stems

Ross was color-coordinated

Once we'd collected what we could, we took a quick detour to the Union Orchard nearby and I got my first apple butter of the season. I'm officially okay with it being fall now!

After that, we went back to Omaha for a quiet afternoon and then had dinner at Upstream before heading back to KC. Ross and I hadn't been there since our rehearsal dinner almost 4 years ago to the date, so that was really fun. What an exhausting trip. But so worth it!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pumpkin Paleo Cookies

Let me start off by saying that the genius behind these cookies definitely gets accredited to Danielle from Against all Grain and her outstanding nut-free Paleo breakfast cookies. I simply added a fall twist when I made them. Again, since they're Paleo, they don't have the "chew" you normally expect from a cookie. However, they are definitely sweet enough with the pureed raisins and banana in the batter.

Pumpkin Paleo Cookies

1 ripe banana (about 1/2 cup mashed)   
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 Tbs. coconut oil, butter, or nut butter
scant 1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup coconut flour
2 Tbs. flaxseed   
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, puree the bananas, raisins, pumpkin, and butter until the mixture reaches the consistency of baby food.

Add the coconut flour, vanilla, baking soda, lemon juice, and spices and pulse 5 or 6 times until combined. Stir in the shredded coconut if desired. Spoon Tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a prepared cookie sheet. Flatten them a bit, if you want. These cookies don’t spread while baking.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely before removing from the pan, then store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes 12-18 cookies.

I've started baking as a reward for extended periods of paper-writing for school. In my stress-filled moments, I'm having a hard time stopping at 3-4 cookies. They're so easy to eat!

Also, happy birthday, Momma!

And T. G. I. F.

{Edited to Add: I have made these cookies numerous times now. Surprisingly, my favorite version is without the raisins. It's only a tad less sweet, but much easier to make since you can just dump everything in a mixing bowl. Also, the coconut is really not optional if you want a more traditional cookie-like texture. So. Final verdict: make these without pureed raisins, but with coconut. You won't be sorry!}

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Faith vs. Amazement

Last Sunday, Paul David Tripp preached a sermon on Faith vs. Amazement. Download it and listen now, not later. It's one of those amazing sermons that will mean something to you to matter who you are or what you're doing.

I'm sure I'll talk more about the sermon, because I've been thinking about it every day since I first heard it. The premise is this: when you see God's hand in your life, does it lead to amazement or faith? I thought I had faith, but my actions say otherwise: I've been living in amazement and not in faith. Amazement is good, mind you. But it's not enough. Awe of God must lead to a deep trust in Him! Indeed,
"Where your treasure is, your heart will be as well... No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will love one and despise the other." Matthew 6:21
Where do I spend my time? Working toward my own goals without considering God's providence? Then this morning I read this verse:
"Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
Do I live with the assurance of faith, or do I toil in vain toward my goals and my priorities? Do I have a "back up plan" for God? I struggle with the saying, "God will provide" because I doubt that God wants to see us waste opportunities and sit around feeling entitled to provision. But then I read Matthew 6:28-34:
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin, yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, will he not much more clothe you— you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness... Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
 What do I do with that?!


I won't say a lot about this for confidentiality purposes, but one of my students is so anxious and so worried about how every step and decision will play out in the scheme of her life. I find myself thinking, Stop obsessing! No matter how hard you try to make all the puzzle pieces fit, God will still take your plans and mold them how he sees fit! And then I realized THAT WAS ME about 6 months ago. I mean, I'm still a little obsessive (and I see now that it gets really old really fast) but those iron-clad plans, that flat-out panic that one little slip could throw everything off... ouch.

In hindsight, a lot of my plans not working out this past summer has already been a show of mercy. If nothing else goes "my" way for the rest of my life, I will still know that I have already been blessed beyond anything I deserve.

In my heart, I know that my plans are now held with a much looser fist. In fact, I think it's safe to say I'm currently balancing them in an open hand. Grad school? Travel? Career change? I can browse job pages all I want, but I'm not going to find the perfect job. There is no perfect time to have kids. There is no way to know if/when I will use my MSN degree. But today, I'm staying where I am until God tells me to move, and I'm at peace with that. In the meantime, I can continue to pray beg God for direction and guidance!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Berry Banana 'Bran' Muffins

Overall, eating gluten-free is a non-issue for me. I feel so much better avoiding wheat, barley, and rye, that I rarely feel like I'm "missing" anything. However, my mom's bran muffins are one thing I really miss. I tried to re-create it using flax seed meal. This muffin tastes nothing like a bran muffin, but it's pretty darn good, so I had to share. (P.S. There's no added sugar. That's not an error. The banana and berries are sweet enough!)

Berry Banana 'Bran' Muffins (gluten-free, Paleo, dairy-free)

heaping 1/2 cup cashews
2 Tbs oil (I use 1 Tbs coconut and 1 Tbs. olive)
1 banana
1/4 cup frozen berries
2 eggs

3/4 cup flax meal (golden flax tastes better and has a better Omega-3 profile, FYI)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Pour the cashews into a food processor and blend until they form a moist crumb. Add the oil and process until smooth. Then add the banana and berries (I used frozen blueberries in this batch). At this point you will have a super delicious mixture. Try not to eat it all.

Next, add the eggs, baking powder, flax, and salt, and pulse until incorporated.

Allow the batter to sit for several minutes and thicken. Then distribute into a prepared muffin pan. Pour 2 Tbs batter per muffin and top with additional berries if desired. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


If I were to sum up this season in my life in one word, it would be this:



Ross and I capped off our wedding anniversary week by attending a powerful marriage conference at church this weekend. I can't think of a better way to celebrate. I have much to say about it, but for now I will simply say that it was outstanding. This conference came at a perfect time. The sheer redemption of this summer has already faded into the rushed busy-ness of our lives right now, and petty arguments are cropping up as we both turn inward again.

I'm SO thankful that we were able to go and focus on the condition of our hearts.

Backtracking to Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I had the opportunity to go to a 3-day conference in town. I'm now a Certified Breastfeeding Educator. I also got a great thesis idea that I'm currently discussing with my advisor.

So a busy productive week combined with a full weekend off to talk about all things marriage with Ross, and I was happy as a clam. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the first day of fall was being ushered in with perfect mid-60 temperatures. Makes me miss running, but that's another story. I have 2 papers due this week, but they're much more manageable than last week's literature review (not sure why those overwhelm me so much).

When we got home from the marriage conference, I was feeling pretty good about the weekend. Calm for once. Then I checked the messages on my phone. Apparently I was scheduled to work today. Of course, it looked like I blatantly ignored their calls when really, I was gone all morning and didn't have my phone with me. I felt... ridiculous.

I knew I'd disappointed my co-workers and let them down. In 5 years of nursing and 15 years of being employed in some capacity, I have never been a "no call, no show." I called the manager and talked to her and it was just a major miscommunication and scheduling snafu (don't get me started on the scheduling "methods" in our unit). But still. It kind of ruined my day and my heart felt heavy and guilty.

Then, praise God, the sermon at the 5pm church service tonight could not have been more apropos. I am so grateful. We are always meant to be right where God puts us.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Thanks for the anniversary well-wishes. Lots of people asked how we celebrated, but it was pretty low-key. I had clinicals until 7pm and Ross had class in Lawrence and didn't get home until after 9pm. So Thursday, we headed out to Cafe Gratitude. It has a special place in our heart after this summer, AND I can eat anything off of the dessert menu. Win-win.

Best potatoes ever
Warming ginger drink
The view from our table!

We have much to be grateful for.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Tip my Hat


Four years ago today, we spun around the dance floor to Tracy Byrd's "Keeper of the Stars." We had a trial dance-off to half a dozen songs in my apartment while we were engaged, and this song was the lucky winner.

I loved the first verse:
It was no accident, me finding you
Someone had a hand in it
Long before we ever knew
Now I just can't believe you're in my life
Heaven's smilin' down on me
As I look at you tonight
We were pulled together so magnetically and so perfectly 5 1/2 years ago that I knew we were never not meant to be. I took great comfort in this evidence of a God who knew my story before I did. We were engaged 5 months after meeting each other and married 10 months after that. Surely God was writing a "happily ever after" masterpiece.

In the last year and a half, I've had serious reasons to reconsider that fairytale. But through the transforming grace of God, I've seen your heart change and I've seen my heart change and I can see that God intended for this to happen all along. These four years have not been for the faint of heart, and I wouldn't wish heartache on any marriage. 

But without the storm, I wouldn't have seen the rainbow. I wouldn't be in a marriage that's so different and that's growing into something so much better than I thought possible. I would not have faced the darkness in my own heart or learned to begin to forgive the darkness in another's.

Today I can stand back and laugh at the days to come and shake my head in awe of this wonderful God we serve. Indeed:
I tip my hat to the keeper of the stars
He sure knew what he was doin'
When he joined these two hearts
Our marriage has been the best thing that ever happened to me, and the worst thing that ever happened to me in my 27 short years on earth. We almost didn't make it to this four year milestone, but I'm grateful we did. Even after everything we've been through, it's easy to start focusing on my messy piles of paper, your inability to leave the toilet seat in the proper position, our disagreements on what makes an acceptable dinner or date night or vacation. We sometimes think that lack of intensity and lack of agreement means lack of love.

But if we're graced with many decades together, I pray that we never forget what God has taught us through marriage. We aren't entitled to the gift of marriage or even someday, God-willing, children. But through God's mercy, we are called to living the life we're given with grace, and I'm grateful that Grace has given me you.

your wife 

p.s. thanks again to Erica for taking such treasured photos this summer!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Day

Oh. Em. Gee. Large chunks of time have gone missing from this month already. I am averaging well below my happy place of 8 or 9 hours of sleep at night, I haven't worked out in a week, and my right eyelid has been twitching every day for the past 14 days. I can practically feel the cortisol coursing through my veins and my acne has never, ever been so bad. I'm a hot mess. Today I can't help but wonder: When do you stop saying, this is just a season, and start acknowledging, this is my life?

I want to shout, "I'm not really like this" every time I complain to someone about how busy I am. While that may have been true for a while, I have to face the facts. For now, at least, this is my life. This spilling-over-at-the-seams-and-not-necessarily-in-a-good-way modus operandi appears to be here to stay. I want to be reasonable about it, but it's really hard for me to admit this as I face the reality that I'm about to turn in a really, really half-assed paper.

Let me clarify, lest you think I'm some straight-A stick-in-the-mud. I'm not. I'm so not. Nursing school wiped that notion off the board entirely and my middle name became Avoidance. I've been treating grad school as a way to redeem my undergraduate academic habits, even though I know that's placing unreasonable expectations on myself given two jobs and a marriage that are now part of the picture.

I'm now 5 classes into grad school and, for the first time, procrastination is my true and real foe. Until this week, procrastination had the happy side-effect of somehow brute-forcing a high-quality paper. But today? This sheer and utter exhaustion and nonstop schedule has left me scrambling to write a literature review at the last minute (well, I'm about 8 hours in and I have 2 hours and 3 minutes until the literal last minute). And you know what? After all that, this paper is going to be sub-par at best. I can barely focus my twitchy eyes on the screen. My butt actually hurts from sitting for so long today. Even my customary snack breaks (which will be the death of my jeans this winter, by the way) have lost their allure.

It's hard to settle for less than perfection, to just feel overwhelmed when it gets to the point that I couldn't do anything about it even if I did muster up the energy to try. For all my complaining over the past 10 months, today was the first day I really and truly thought about dropping it all. Screw grad school. Try as I might, I just can't seem to reset myself for a higher capacity just because life starts demanding more of me!

Today while I was driving across town to and from class, I was listening to a sermon on my iPod. This Kevin Cawley quote hit me: "If the entirety of your life isn't about God's glory, the entirety of your life will disappoint you." I feel this truth in the depth of my soul, but I'm unsure about how to respond to it minute-by-minute. Can I just hide in my closet and read books about God all day? (Because that sounds amazing). I don't think that's the answer. I think the answer lies along the more practical lines of something as simple as keeping my journal and Bible right next to my bed so I can do Bible study before I roll out of bed and face the assault of 1,000 temptations and distractions.

And because I did start my day in the Word (and I plan to end it that way as well), I'm going to count it as a success. Everything in between was a train wreck. Today, simply Not Avoiding was an achievement in itself.

One hour and 38 minutes left.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Coconut Milk Caramel Sauce

The other day, out of nowhere, I had a huge craving for salted caramel. I think it blew Ross' mind that 20 minutes after I announced that, I walked into the office with some caramel on a spoon for him to taste. What can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants.

Coconut Milk Carmel Sauce
3 Tbs butter (or butter substitute if you're vegan)
1 14 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
up to 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Put the butter in a medium sauce pan set over medium-high heat. Allow the butter to melt for 1-22 minutes and begin to swirl it around the pan, allowing it to brown. Keep the butter moving so it doesn’t burn. Browning should take about 3 minutes and you’ll know it’s done when it smells nutty and it has a dark golden brown color.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the coconut milk, sugar, and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Raise heat to medium-high again and boil the mixture, stirring frequently with a heat-safe spoon or spatula, until the sauce thickens. This takes about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, allow to cool for a minute or two, and add vanilla.  Serve over ice cream, on a pear crisp, with apple slices, or on a spoon!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The second week

I tell you what, I'm learning just as much as my students this semester. Labor inductions, fundal checks, and Rhogam shots galore. I think I've done more now than I did in my own clinicals! There's a lot more to having a baby than just the baby. (Duh. Humor me, please.)

I'm out of my comfort zone in a big, big way. And I think... I think it might be stretching me to grow in a painful, stressful, but satisfying way.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I Won't Give Up

Months and months ago, I fell in love with the Jason Mraz song, "I Won't Give Up." My friend Rachel did, as well. So much so that she bought tickets to the fall concert at Starlight Theater. Her boyfriend swears he doesn't like Jason Mraz, so I was the lucky recipient of the second ticket. Thanks, Marcus!

It was random that the concert was on a Wednesday night, but it was a gorgeous night to be outside listening to music.

Of course, they saved the best song for last and it was so heartening to listen to that song live, six months after I first heard it. It's a happy song now. Thanks for letting me join, Rachel!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Re-claiming and Re-focusing

Re-claiming the office

Two years ago, we traded up from our beloved one-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom + study. Since we're both in grad school, the study has been a godsend. It's sunny, colorful, and a little crowded. But it's our space.

This past spring, I spent one miserable day sobbing on the floor of said study. Then I calmly got up, closed the door, and pretended it didn't exist.

But now, homework beckons. When I shut myself in the office with my school work, I'm somewhat free from other distractions in the apartment. It's time to re-claim this as a happy space and not a painful one.

Re-focusing on school

My mind wants to be elsewhere, but pretending that my homework doesn't exist is a terrible way to live. The weight of procrastination is miserable and completely self-inflicted. Today is my ONE DAY OFF this week. Do I have to spend it writing a paper? Why yes, yes I do. But this paper is a tiny one, really only requiring several hours of dedicated work. It would be better to get it done and then ENJOY the last few hours of my Friday before working all weekend, no?

Here we go!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Two things.

1.) Who knew being back at work work today would be such a breath of fresh air? I was stretched further than I relized in the last two days and familiar faces and routines were a sweet relief this morning.

2.) Back in college, my favorite song was called "Breathe (2am)." The line that had me listening to the song on repeat crooned, "There's a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout. 'Cause you're just as far in as you'll ever be out. And these mistakes you've made, you'll just make them again. If you'd only try turning around."

I was struggling a lot during those years-- yearning for control yet not knowing where my life was going to go. Except I couldn't put my feelings into words back then and I just felt general teen angst for lack of a better term.

If I start thinking too hard right now, that familiar angst tries to come creeping back. I spent the last 2 days working very long 12-hour clinical shifts in charge of a cohort of students and yesterday around lunchtime, when I realized I was actually going to survive those first two days (thanks for all the prayers), it hit me that I still had to go to work work this week and my heart sank. Five 12s in six days doesn't leave much time for reading and writing the paper that I have due on Monday. It also doesn't leave much time to hang out with my husband who's also busy with school.

Really, the point I'm trying to make here is that a.) I'm surprisingly not drowning in panic like I was this past January when I was equally as busy, if not more so. I am exhausted, though. And b.) there's a light at the end of this tunnel. I finish my current class and clinical rotation mid-October and conveniently (more Providence than coincidence) the Influence Conference falls over my fall break. I bit the bullet this summer and bought a ticket. A friend even set me up with my roomie: the lovely Emily from Country Roots and Cowgirl Boots.

Influence is a Christian women's conference that stemmed from the conversations of several women and their desire to make much of Jesus. I was sold when I read this description:
"If you’ve ever wondered how or why the Lord was going to use you in your home, work, community, or online – Influence is a fantastic place to connect and learn. We believe that God has given you influence right where you are, for one purpose: to make much of Him. At Influence we’re going to dig into the common thread of all of us – the Good News. We plan on doing a little teaching, talking, sharing, and celebrating concerning the ways He might want to use you on the individual platforms He’s given."
Since the conference is rapidly approaching, a few bloggers thought it would be fun to link up to some other women attending. I'm linking up to Jessi's post over at Naptime Diaries. The prompts for the meet and greet are pretty simple:

3 get-to-know-me things
2 things I'm looking forward to about the conference

1 thing I can't leave home without

get to know me

...I desire deep friendships but between being introverted and hearing impaired, I fear I often come across as rude. If I don't talk to you, please come up and talk to me! I'm just waiting for an icebreaker. Also, if we're talking and I don't reply or if I have a confused look on my face, I probably didn't hear you. I'm not ignoring you. I love listening!

...Completely on a whim, I changed my major to nursing at college orientation. I wanted to change majors every semester thereafter, but for some reason I stuck with it. The minute I graduated, I realized choosing nursing was one of the best decisions I ever made and I can't take any credit for it!

...I'm the oldest of 4 kids and the only girl. Consequently, I tend to mother people. It works great for my babies at work, but not so great for the ever-loving people in my life who don't want to be treated like they're 5 years old. Oops!

what I'm looking forward to at Influence

...Meeting like-minded women and making lasting friendships with women I seem to have a lot in common with.

...Exploring a new city and taking a vacation without the weight of homework hanging over me.

can't leave home without

...A water bottle and a snack in my purse. If I do leave without these things, I'm often cranky a few hours later!


...I'd love to learn how to blog less about myself and more about God's glory.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

{my first day on the other side of clinicals}

This Master's degree I'm working toward? It's a Master of Science in Nursing with an emphasis in Education (it was either that or Administration and I would be a terrible manager).

I'm a teaching assistant at my school right now and I kind of got shoved into the role of clinical instructor this semester, which I wasn't really prepared for. Yesterday was the first day and oh. my. gosh. It was so stressful!

I mean, I wanted to alternately throw up, cry, and quit right this second all morning. I kept praying it would get better and eventually, once the unit census picked up and the students had something to do, I felt a bit of relief.

But JEEZ I was exhausted when I got home. I mean really, I wasn't even thinking straight or making conversation with Ross even though I was so relieved to come home to him at the end of the day.

I did get one of the best compliments of my life a few hours before post-conference, though. I was walking down the hallway and as I passed a nurse practitioner she said, "I've heard nothing but good things about you and your students today. Sometimes students just get in the way but not you guys!" I was walking on air after that. But this morning, I'm back to panic. Now I have to uphold that standard.

I could keep rambling, but I need to go do some quiet time before the crazy starts all over again. I'm still not sure I "have what it takes" to be a nurse educator per this video, but I'm chugging along.

If you're so inclined, please pray for my students and me today!

Monday, September 3, 2012

This Summer

Happy Labor Day! I'm not ready to surrender to fall quite yet, but Ross had I have had a blissfully relaxing weekend and I've had some time to reflect on the whirlwind that was this summer.

This summer...

I did a lot of Bible reading,

Body Pump,

and swimming.

I biked to the pool.

I got my first flat tire in thousands of miles, thanks to a goat head thorn.

I earned the best tanlines I've had since high school.

I eased back into running and biking.

I learned that exercising for my physical, mental, and emotional health actually makes me a happier person and it's possible to stay in shape without training for a race.

This summer was the best summer of my life.

And it ties with last summer for also being the worst summer of my life.

I enjoyed 7 blissful weeks off of school and redeemed my quiet time and my daily routines.

Of course, I wrestled with several existential questions and I'm still struggling with a few.

I was much more social that I have been in a long while.

I finished my weekend contract and then worked night shift for 2 weeks to help with staffing.

I kept my promises.

I went without internet at home for the month of July and I wish I could get rid of it again right now.

I stuck to a budget and I liked it.

I did more reading for fun than I've done in years.

I saw a lot of sunrises and sunsets. 

I ate only local food for one week and it was much more work than I anticipated.

I committed to attending one church regularly instead of bouncing around.

I found a restaurant with a menu full of desserts that won't upset my stomach!

I found a butcher shop I love.

I found a sno cone/coffee/homemade soda shop I love.

I finally clicked with Kansas City. Greater things have yet to come, greater things are still to be done here.

I got to spend time with my family.

Ross and I took a staycation to Excelsior Springs in July and had a blast.

I fell more in love with my husband.

I fell more in love with my Savior, and my need for Him has never been greater.

I fell more in love with summer and more in love with life.


What was the best part of your summer?