Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Almond Butter Granola Bars

It's no secret that we love granola bars around here. In fact, we eat a batch of them just as quickly as we eat a batch of cookies! Here's our latest favorite, inspired by Sunbutter Granola Bars.

 Almond Butter Granola Bars

1 cup old fashioned oats
1 3/4 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup protein powder (or more oats)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp chia seeds, ground flax seeds (or wheat germ if you're not gluten-free)
1/2 cup natural almond butter
1/4 cup coconut oil (or just use a full 3/4 cup nut butter)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dates or raisins
1/4 cup dark chocolate squares or chips

Add the almond butter, coconut oil, honey, dates, and chocolate to a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the oats, coconut, protein powder, salt, and chia seeds and pulse until everything is incoporated.

Press the dough into a thin rectangle on a foil or Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes and then cut into bars. Allow them to cool before removing from the pan. I bet these can be stored for up to a week in the fridge, but we haven't had a batch last that long!

Worth noting: The dough should be slightly crumbly, but easy for form into a ball that stays intact. If it's too wet, add more oats; if it's too dry, add more honey. When we made a batch with sunflower seed butter, we actually had to add almost 1 full cup of oats since Sunbutter is so drippy. The almond butter made for a much drier batter.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Analogy. Or Something.

Yesterday, I finally downloaded some of the pictures I took of all the beautiful trees near our apartment last week. Kansas City has been a riot of color this fall, per usual, and I love it!

As the days get shorter and darker, the trees recognize that winter is coming. In the Midwest, at least, winter is a time for trees to take a break from photosynthesis. As they prepare for hibernation, the green chlorophyll fades from their leaves and their "true colors" shine through. This means that traces of those brown, yellow, orange, purple, and red hues have been there all along- they're just covered with green in the summer!

Granted, the colors are also intensified by glucose, waste products, and what have you, but let's focus on the idea that the colors are there all along.

When the dark times come in my life and the external patina is torn away, what are the true colors that shine through? Am I a dingy brown? A soft pink? A vivid red?

My prayer is that with grace, I can come through dark times shining to the glory of God as an encouragement to others! Let's just say I'm a work in progress on that one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Discerning God's Will

Emily Freeman reminded me last weekend, "sometimes you have to say 'yes' to the wrong thing to know you should have said 'no.'" I feel like that's the story of my life. I'm so tired of making the wrong decision. In the last year, I've mad a lot of them. Sometimes they're framed in the light of a 'greater good,' yet they still met the ends I desired, as part of my 'master plan.' I said yes to the things that don't matter and no to the things that do.

In hindsight, this sounds just ridiculous. But I was building my kingdom and it was imperative that the bricks were placed just so. Yet the foundation? It was rotting from the inside out. When things fell apart, I saw that everything I'd been doing and working toward was in vain. Temporary. Bitterly fleeting.

For a brief time, I was able to live in the freedom of close communion with God. Then slowly but surely, my heart started to harden again. Priorities shifted, plans changed, life happened.

Today I repent that I've let busy-ness get in the way again. In enjoying a renewed friendship with my husband, I've developed a false sense of complacency and faltered in my attempts to purse friendship with others. I've let my goals sneak higher and higher in my list of priorities to the extent that I lost sight of the present. I didn't think I was holding that tightly to my plans again, until a new opportunity challenged me to feel the weight of them. I repent of trying to do things out of my own strength and trying to make decisions out of my own wisdom.

I look down and see my white-knuckled grip, and I'm embarrassed.

Last week, I turned to journaling, I turned to desperate prayers to God, I turned to my Bible, I turned to conversations with my husband for discernment, and then I turned inward. Deeper and deeper. Like I was watching from the outside as my husband tried to communicate with me and I didn't respond. I saw myself being the person I didn't want to be, but I couldn't silence the conflicting voices in my head. They exhausted me, they kept me from sleeping, and Friday night, they even took away my appetite. (That's when you really know something's wrong with me)!

While I was looking in the right places, I was still trying to apply Godly wisdom to my earthly framework. So Sunday at church, I did what I was always too afraid to do, and I went up to one of the pastors to ask for advice. Of course, he didn't have a concrete answer. It wouldn't be right if he did. But he did give me some great resources and an awesome analogy borrowed from Tim Keller that's too good not to share.

In a nutshell, the three elements of a call are: ability, affinity, and opportunity. Ability is endowed by God as well as life experience through which your skills have been or can be developed. Affinity means you have to want to do this thing. You are acutely aware of a human need and you have a desire to fill that need. This desire shouldn't rise out of immature motives, such as a pay increase you don't really need, a desire for glory, or even a need to be needed. (I definitely struggle here. Are my desires the right desires?) Finally, you must have an opportunity to do this job.

Keller notes that when ability, affinity, and opportunity are all present and pointing in the same direction, a person can discern God's call.

Like so.
When I think about my life, I can see that ability and affinity without opportunity leads me to rush God's timing as I try to force an outcome that I want. This often ends up with me taking an even longer way around to the original destination (or, you know, a one-way ticket to an entirely different destination than the one I thought I wanted).

Ability and opportunity without affinity can feed selfish desires but leads to burnout really quickly. These opportunities are the ones I'm most likely to say yes to and then regret. I think, "well, this presented itself to me, so it must be a sign that I should take it." Ummm no. Case in point: grad school. Untold benefits and a great number of lessons learned, but man those classes are like pulling teeth. My middle brother just started law school and he freaking loves it. Why don't I feel that joy?! I think to an extent, it's okay to do something you don't necessarily love if it leads to an end result that you do feel affinity toward, but I'm not sure what I'm getting this degree for at this point. I digress. Basically, when I'm facing a decision involving ability and opportunity without affinity, I need to remember: just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Finally, affinity and opportunity without ability is going to be endlessly frustrating. For example, I would love to run a marathon. I really love running, it's easy enough to sign up for a race, but my body just cannot handle that mileage. I've tried three times, and every time my body just breaks down halfway thorugh the training cycle.

Emily and me after a half marathon (2 years ago already?!)
In the face of a lot of opportunities, I'm praying for affinity for something... anything... right now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Disservice to the Cross

This Friday, a friend made a comment that stopped me in my tracks:

If you go to bed at night thinking you will do better tomorrow, you're doing a disservice to the cross.



Almost every single night, I'm laying in bed thinking that tomorrow, I will stop pulling my hair when I'm anxious. Tomorrow, I will stop eating when I feel sad or bored, and just eat when I'm hungry. Tomorrow, I will do my homework and not waste time. Tomorrow, I will tell my loved ones how much they mean to me. Tomorrow, I will be able to make big decisions. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

Let's be honest. If behavior modification were the answer, I would have 'fixed myself' years ago. The point is, I will never be perfect. While we are still sinners, Christ dies for us. That's a hard truth for me to swallow. I'm well-versed in my own sin. I have no illusions as to the nature of my true self. Why should someone else take the blame?

How do you let someone step in front of you when you know full well that you deserve punishment to fit the crime? When I think I can do better tomorrow or I can fix this, I'm denying the fact that Jesus had to die so that I might live. Because I can't just do better. And if I think I can, I'm placing myself in the position of God, no? Let's not lose the weight of this: WE need GOD. Not the other way around.

I'm not saying that I can't strive to honor the body and the responsibilities and the family members I've been given in this life. But I am saying that only one thing is of first importance. And only in light of the cross can I actually do anything of lasting importance.

And when the idea of doing something of 'lasting importance' completely overwhelms me, I can rest in the arms of my Creator and know that simply living in thanksgiving of this Gift is all He asks of me.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his mercies never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him."

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Right Thing at the Wrong Time

The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.

Such simple words, spoken by a wise woman.

The right thing
at the wrong time
is still the wrong thing.

I have pages and pages of notes from the Influence conference this weekend but that line keeps resonating with me. Unlike it seemed to be for a lot of people, Influence wasn't a super-fun amazingwonderfulspectacular weekend for me. It was, however, thought-provoking and life-affirming. Really, I couldn't think of a better way to sum up this past year. It seemed like each speaker in the "Life" track sessions addressed a different aspect of my 2012.

I slept less than I should have, but that was more thanks to taking Sudafed before bed than to late-night conversations. Even though my roommates and I weren't up late chatting, I couldn't have asked for a better group of girls. Chelsea, Heather, and Emily were easy-going, low-maintenance, and down-to-earth. (And I now know that when your friend is not 6 feet 3 inches tall, it's totally possible to comfortably share a full-sized bed with someone and not touch.)

From dinner Thursday night
So have I been influenced? Absolutely. I'm ready to set this little light of mine on a hill. Witnessing God's work this year has been the joy of my heart and it's growing harder and harder not to share what he's done: pain, mess, and all.

Yet I hesitate. I'm nothing if not impulsive. All-or-nothing. Black and white. This weekend re-affirmed that this season I'm in? It's called waiting. And I'm so pleased to obey my good and gracious Father for once. I don't need to move forward for the sake of progress. I don't need to rationalize decisions and barge into something that allows my kingdom to come and my will to be done. That's ugly. And I've done that for far, far too long.

I feel the simultaneous and conflicting, yet complimentary tensions between 1 Peter 3 and Isaiah 54:
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. [1 Peter 3:3-4]
I've spent so much time being quiet and bitter, or quiet and scared, or quiet and awkward. But finally, I feel the tug toward a quiet and gentle spirit.  At the same time, the Lord says,
Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,

strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nationsand settle in their desolate cities. [Isaiah 54:2-3]
I loved that image when Jessi read this verse on Friday. The call to stretch your tent curtains and lengthen your cords is a call I've reluctantly and unwillingly answered this year. But in retrospect, God is using this stress to strengthen my stakes and I'm rooted anew in a Savior I can never deserve.

I still have a lot to think about and digest, but I'm grateful for this weekend. Grateful for vulnerability. Grateful that I had the opportunity to leave home and become a part of this 'tribe of women,' if you will. And I'm overwhelmingly grateful that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I came home to husband willing to listen to me sort some of this stuff out. So grateful.

P.S. The hotel was attached to a nice mall and I finally tried on a pair of Toms. I bought them on the spot. They're like sweatpants for your feet. Watch out, world. My wardrobe just got more casual. (I can hear Ross cringing already).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Vulnerable (vul·ner·a·ble) adj.

Susceptible to physical or emotional injury.
Susceptible to attack.
Open to censure or criticism; assailable.
I am headed to Indianapolis tomorrow with a handful of people I kind of know and lots of people I've never met. This is very unlike me. I'm a homebody and I like familiarity and routine.
I'm... nervous. And feeling very, very vulnerable. What if these strangers judge me for my frizzy, uneven hair and my ill-fitting clothes? Why has my face broken out again? Why am I so nervous I'm actually nauseated? Will I be able to get the sleep I desperately need this weekend?

Please pray for me if you are so inclined. I see this weekend going one of two ways: 1.) I pull my usual stunts when I'm overwhelmed and I basically cower in a corner and don't talk to anyone because I'm intimidated. 2.) By the grace of God I'm able to reach out and partake in conversations and develop real friendships with other women who have similar interests.

Let's hope for the latter!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Husband I Always Wanted

I recently listened a sermon entitled, New Marriage, Same Spouse. If you had shared this concept with me a year ago, I would have scoffed and laughed nervously. But mercy found me this summer.

Hope is real.

And God is bigger than I ever would have dreamed.

I have a bad habit of discussing an impending decision ad nauseum until I've talked myself in a circle and everyone around me has tuned out. The latest topic du jour has been a mission trip to Guatemala that I need to decide on... today.

Ever since I became a Registered Nurse five years ago (yikes!), I've wanted to use the education I was blessed with for the benefit of someone outside myself. To make a difference and not just a paycheck.

Time and time again opportunities have presented themselves and then fallen through. Last month, I heard about a chance to go to Guatemala through my school. The timing seems perfect and the price is right. I used to be obsessed with Guatemala when I was little. The trip is a pediatric nursing mission trip through a Christian university for crying out loud. How great is that?!

So I signed up and paid a deposit, but it didn't sit well. I wasn't filled with fear of going or a gut feeling that I was making a bad decision, but I just wasn't excited. If anything, I was more afraid of not going and missing out! I was growing frustrated with God. I wanted a clear answer. But all I could think was, I'm so tired right now. Taking a month off from school, being done with my teaching assistant job, hanging out with family over the holidays... those things sound really good. I know this is coming from a place of fatigue and weariness, but I can't deny those feelings.

I have another bad habit of presenting a situation to Ross, asking his opinion, and then playing devil's advocate and arguing the other side until he's really confused and frustrated. This usually ends in an argument not at all related to the decision I was trying to make in the first place. But last night, we discussed. We kept digging. Ross gave an opinion and held his ground. I fretted. Ross presented his case clearly and made me laugh, and I felt at peace.

I'm sad that this trip doesn't seem to be in the cards for me, but I'm overwhelmingly grateful that my husband listened to my heart and helped me make a tough decision! My fear of missing out is really a deep-seated fear that God won't provide the perfect mission trip on my timetable. And that's always a hard lesson to learn.

Instead of cramming more on my plate right now, I'm trying to keep all the current balls in the air and anticipate the moment when I can just sit down and stop juggling.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest.  {Matthew 11:28}

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thoughts Brewing

This weekend, we were social! With friends! Rachel's birthday was this past week and we went on a Boulevard Brewery tour to celebrate.

{P.S. That beer? TOTALLY worth a few sips of each. It was the first beer I've had in years and I loved it! From left to right, I tried Boulevard Stout, Ginger, and Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. The Stout and Tank 7 were outstanding.}

As for Rachel, I think she was more excited about the sushi dinner after the tour! We had a fun afternoon and evening and when we got home I realized I was feeling... content.

Don't get me wrong, life is still ridiculous and I'm so uncertain about so many things, but that time with friends, getting to know a city I love with people I love? Priceless.

And I do indeed love this city. It only took 3 years and a few major heart changes along the way, right?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Currently: October

I saw this list on Magnolia Grace and I really liked it. The "present" is ever-changing and this seems like a fun way to document it! Today, I'm grumpily home on a forced sick day. Darn you chicken pox virus... hiding in my nervous system, ready to strike when I'm at my weakest.

Location: Our one-bedroom, third-floor apartment in Kansas. As of this month, we've been in this apartment for two years and this city for three years!

Watching: The timer... I have cookies in the oven. And the phone... I'm playing phone tag with the doctor's office.

Eating: WAY too much cookie dough. Ugh.

Drinking: Ginger tea in hopes that I can stave off the stomachache that will inevitably come from the above sentiment.

Wanting: To feel peace in my heart.

Needing: To be present and prioritize my time better.

Loving: The warm sunshine today! I hear a cold front is coming in tonight.

Creating: ??? I need to write a paper later...

Thinking: That I can't make up my mind about anything right now and I want to quit everything. Black-and-white thinking, no?

Feeling: I'm embarrassed that my plate is so small. My life isn't even close to being as busy as some other people's lives, but this illness and mandatory sick day is pretty good evidence that I just can't handle having this much on my plate.

Wondering: What beautiful things could possibly come out of this mess of me right now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Clinical Teaching {Check}

Today was our last day of clinicals and my students all passed with flying colors. I, on the other hand, woke up in a cold sweat at 4am because surely over the last 5 weeks I've done something terribly wrong. Clinicals have been going too smoothly to be true. (Of course, we did have a small "incident" this morning involving a rude nurse and an overly-anxious student, but it was a personal problem that wasn't handled professionally, and it didn't affect patient care.)

My students swear they learned a lot. What they don't know is that every time they would say, "Therese I have a question" I would not and smile and think ohmygoshIhopeIknowtheanswer.

On our last day, several nurses between the NICU, mother/baby, and labor and delivery told me that this was one of the best clinical groups they've ever seen: the students were helpful instead of annoying, they were smart, they were eager to jump in... I wish I could take credit, but I can't. The school must've taken pity on me and given me the best students.

I am eternally grateful to a handful of nurses on each unit who taught my students more than I ever could. I'm privileged to have worked alongside such wonderful ladies! And my students... man. I think I'm stressed? That Accelerated BSN program is not for the faint of heart. Then they were so sweet to thank me with a generous gift. They said Ross and I should go to the movies for a belated anniversary celebration!

The past two months have been tough. I'm 27 years old with a college degree, but I have a deep-seated fear that someone will "discover" that I'm just an imposter in this life. That I'm not qualified to do any of these things. I mean, I can't even remember to get new license plate tags when they're due. Who am I to teach nursing students how to do sterile procedures and what qualifies as a post-partum hemorrhage?

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blueberry Orange Scones

This is a Paleo recipe. That means there's no added sugar, no grain, and no dairy. I used orange juice as a bit of a sweetener here, but it's 100% juice with no sugar added. The recipe is really dense so sugar-free doesn't necessarily mean it's low in calories, but this is one of the few baked goods I've made that actually keeps me full for hours. I can eat two of these in the morning with a little fruit on top and be good to go.

I know some bakers are really good at making Paleo recipes that taste astounding and have a normal texture. These scones, well, they had to grow on me. But once they did, I couldn't get enough. Nonetheless, I have to give you the caveat that they're really good for a Paleo baked good.

Now. On to the recipe. Yum!

Blueberry Orange Scones

3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 Tbs ground flax seed (optional)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp apple cider vinagar
1 egg
1 Tbs butter or coconut oil (optional)
1/2 cup blueberries

In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, coconut flour, flax, and baking soda. In a large bowl combine eggs, orange juice, butter, and vinegar. Stir dry ingredients into wet, mixing until combined

Scoop about ¼ cup of batter at a time onto a prepared baking sheet. (This makes 6 scones). Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, until slightly browned around the edges. Let cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes and enjoy!

I can't wait to try a pumpkin spice version next... Happy October!