12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 4

I’ve been writing for several hours this evening, and while I thought I was going somewhere very specific on this 4th Day of Christmas (5th on the East Coast; sorry, friends!!), it turns out that the somewhere I thought I was going should wait.

For this reason, my fourth share with you is the thing that makes me love Netflix more than anything else. Yes, more than House of Cards and Fuller House put together. For me, the gem of Netflix is the documentary selection.

If you’re still of the mind that documentaries are just “boring movies,” it’s time to catch up, my friend. There is a whole world out there of people telling incredible stories in beautiful and compelling ways. Documentaries are the peoples’ stories. They are research and they are art. Documentaries make for great discussions with friends and with people we otherwise may not know how to find a connection. Through the screen, documentaries teach us about a topic in much less time than personal research.  Maybe that’s their key selling point, that we can get information quickly and beautifully right from our own television in an afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong, documentaries are not the end all of learning about a topic. But, if you’re interested in learning more about food, education, the prison system, farming, other cultures, or anything else under the sun, documentaries are a wonderful gateway. They help us begin good and necessary conversations.

I’m going to keep this one brief, and I highly doubt this post is changing any lives, but if you haven’t embraced the world of documentaries, I encourage you do so. Go out (by staying in, of course), and learn something new today. Maybe it will spur you on to greater things tomorrow.

Have you ever watched a documentary that helped change your life or views on something? Tell me about it!!

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 3

Today is the day! It is THE day! After four years, our calendars are marked, we have accepted the invitation, and we are ready. to. go. As I wrote about before, four years ago Kris and I set out on a journey to figure out our personal finances. We had no prior understanding of budgeting or debt or anything in regard to money.

Though several friends suggested we take some plan of action for our finances before getting married, it never caught on. It never stuck. And by that, I mean we weren't interested in hearing about money--it sounded boring and not "for us." At least not until that January of 2013; not until desperation began to take over and we had no choice but to do SOMETHING--ANYTHING to get our finances in order. Once we had no money, no career, and nearly $100K in student loan debt, we knew something had to happen.

What happened next was one of those experiences I wish more of my life looked like. It was one I think could be compared to a marathon instead of a sprint...not that I would know, but it was one I can look back on and see that we didn't simply recognize a problem, but we took the hard, difficult, and necessary measures to change them.

So often in life, recognizing our issues isn’t the difficult part—at least not if we’re being honest. The difficult part is figuring out what needs to be done in order to change our path, to redirect our steps. And we actually did, my friends. We actually changed our outcome. I hope that as time goes on, this part of our history is something we can pass down to our children and their children. I hope this isn’t an aspect of our lives soon forgotten because this wasn't easy and because it's an experience worth passing along.

I’m not going to get into all the details of the hows, the whys, and the mistakes because I’ve shared that with you already, but I am going to share the tools with you in hopes that it will continue to inspire others to make the necessary changes. I'm going to start by saying that money and personal finances and budgeting and debt and workbooks and courses all sound like an awful combination of words that make me want to fall asleep just thinking about it. But please trust me when I say that Financial Peace University can truly be a tool that changes your life. No, I'm not getting paid for this in any way; I'm just a really happy student whose life and family were changed because of this material.

There are classes you can attend, which honestly may be ideal as far as having others to go through this process with, but that’s not how it looked for Kris and I. I honestly do not remember the conversation or the final push that made us decide to go through the FPU material, but I do remember it was on sale. I also remember being sorely disappointed when I thought I’d ordered DVDs, but in fact ordered CDs—uh….what? 13 sessions (now 9) of teaching on personal financial over CD. . .?

I mean, it already sounded fun, but man…now we’re really in for a treat.

But guys, it actually worked. For one, Dave Ramsey is hilarious. He’s engaging and he speaks from and to the heart. He shares his own past and struggles with finances and he gives so much detail and encouragement that he really just kind of pumps you up, even over CD-Rom.

Anyhow, there we were 13 CDs and a workbook (a workbook of which I bought used on Amazon because we were so broke) at our fingertips. Quick survey, does anyone still own a CD player? We sure as heck did not. What to do now?

Fortunately, we had a road trip planned. NJ>Niagara Falls>Grand Rapids>Columbus>NJ.

We’re pretty roundabout people, as you can see from a map, but we made the best of our long, snowy drive that January of 2013. We listened; we wrote. Most importantly though, we learned to talk about money and how to get on the same page with one another in regard to our finances.

Four years later, we’ve hit our goal. Today is the day. The final payment is headed to Great Lakes this very day.

I hope you can hear this, friend. If you’re struggling at all with your finances or you simply want to get to the next level, take the time to take FPU. It’s worth it. It’s nothing more than a tool, but it’s a really great tool that helps people find financial freedom.

I think the idea that really sums up the material for me is that Kris and I stopped being controlled by our money, and we took control of it. And by that, I don’t mean either of us spent uncontrollably or had major money issues. But, in truth, we just didn’t know where it was going. We didn’t know how much we made or had or how much we spent on food or gas or electric bills. We learned to be the ones to make those decisions before they just happened.

Have you taken the course? How did it help your family? Have you thought about it and not gotten around to it? Where are you in your financial journey?

Merry Christmas, and have a Financially Freeing 2017!!

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day 2

Community is not everything. Community is not everything, but it is necessary for a full life. Community is not easy, but is hard work. Nay nay, it is extremely hard work. It is hard work to fall short, to be humbled before others, to live so closely in the presence of others that we cannot hide our deepest, darkest selves. It’s easy to give up and walk away instead of face our inner selves with others.

Community is something that is formed, it is molded, and it changes over time. Community welcomes joy and celebration over jealousy. Community welcomes suffering and empathy over self-centered thinking. Community prioritizes the choosing of love. It calls us out and tears us down, while also lifting us up.

Community is made. It is made with those whom we chose to make it. Community is a two-way street. It is not always gentle and sometimes it is a downright pain in the ass that you kind of want to punch in the face; it is seemingly unworthy of the suffering it may cause.

Community is created in our homes and on the streets. It establishes itself in parks and on city streets, in public and in private. Community is a recipe made for a slow cooker. Community is read about in books, but seldom lived out. It’s too hard; people don’t want it. Not truly. We are selfish. We get caught up in the things of this world; we get by just fine living our lives, never embracing our deepest selves.

Community is shaped around the table, in conversation, in getting to know one another, in living alongside one another, in choosing one another. Community is doing one another's dishes before we go back to our own dwelling. And not to force this horribly obvious transition, but what a joyous occasion when those dishes can be kept to a minimum.

I love this meal I’m going to share because it does just that. This meal is like community. It’s simple, yet profound.  It is a dish full of grace, which let’s be honest—all communities need to be. This dish looks at it’s own imperfections instead of pointing out the imperfections of other dishes. To top it off, it has all the necessary pieces of a well-balanced meal while sticking to one casserole dish and maybe a bowl or two. It has the veggies, the meat, the potatoes, and the bread. In my eyes, it is truly the perfect community dish. And now, I share it with you to share with your community as it was once shared with me.

Chicken Pot Pie:

1. Set the oven to 375 degrees.

  • SautĂ© 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
  • Add 1 cup of butter—Usually two sticks.

2. Once melted, add dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tsp-1 tsp. pepper

3. Stir in wet ingredients:

  • 3 cups chicken broth (or veggie!!)
  • 1.5 cups of milk (or non-dairy sub)

4. Stir until thickens

5. Add:

  • 1 bag of frozen veggies. I usually do Trader Joe’s Organic Foursome
  • Shredded chicken (leftovers are GREAT for this!!)

6. As those ingredients are combining, I place those little frozen, garlic potato pods (also from Trader Joe’s) along the bottom of a large casserole dish with a splash of milk).

7. Pour the blend from the pan over the potatoes.

8. The Topper: in a medium sized bowl, whisk the following:

  • 2 cups of your favorite biscuit mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk.

The consistency should be a little thick, but not too thick. This part may take a little practice. You should be in love with the topper. If you’re not, try the recipe with halved, uncooked biscuits instead.

9. Put in oven for 30 minutes:

10-15 minutes in, put slits in the topper. I don’t know if this does anything to the meal itself, but it sure does look pretty!!

Enjoy this meal. Love one another deeply. Pray for and with one another.

For dessert, I recommend a round of Ticket to Ride :)

Overall shopping list:

  • 1 onion
  • butter
  • flour
  • milk (or non dairy sub)
  • chicken broth (or equivalent)
  • salt, pepper, and thyme
  • 1 bag frozen veggies
  • chicken
  • frozen potato pods
  • biscuit mix
  • eggs

OH YEAH! One more thing: This is a great recipe to take to people's homes if they are sick, just had a baby, lost a loved one, etc. I suggest doing so in a throw away tin dish so as to not burden them with cleaning and keeping track of dishes afterwards.

 

 

12 Days of Christmas: A Sharing Sesh // Day One

ahh, my people! It's been too long. I've been thinking about my blog and all of you every day since I last wrote you. I've been thinking about what to write, what to possibly share in this chaotic time.

This year's presidential outcome, racism, devastation, terrorist attacks, and war seem to be overtaking our world. It's all been on my heart and mind, and in my prayers, but what could I say? Every direction I turned, people were talking, people were hating, judging, and pointing fingers, so I stepped back, breathed deeply, and searched for my direction.

I've had an amazing few months with my two daughters and husband: laughing and delighting in one another, stretching and growing as a family of four. I've been tired and at a loss. I've had margin, but in all honestly that margin has been used to make up for sleep-deprived nights. Over this past year, my heart drew deeper and deeper into my desires of researching, writing, and sharing, and for this reason, I am thoroughly excited to see what awaits in 2017.

But! In the meantime, I have so many things and people and passions I want to share with you! When I found out last week that the traditional "12 Days of Christmas" begins on Christmas day, I was excited to bring a writing idea to life. Only now, that idea looks slightly different than it did initially. At first, I was going to share with you 12 coffee shops, no—books, no—coffee blends, no—coffee shops in the East Bay...Uhh, do you see my dilemma? There are SO many things I love and want to share with all of you for the 12 Days of Christmas. So now, I'm just going to share 12 anythings I love: some coffee, some people, some books, some organizations. I have a few passions swelling up in my heart; and now--they are my gifts to you.

I want to start today by sharing a person: a writer and fellow saint of the Christian faith who passed into eternity 20 years ago this past September. As I laid (lain? lyed? l...?) awake at 4:45 this morning, I picked up one of his books where I last left off some time last week…in the introduction. After reading through a couple chapters, I began to think that this man might be the single most influential writer for me in 2016. Over this past year, this man's words brought healing and restoration for both my husband and for me. His words have been an arrow pointed towards, and shooting us full force into the direction of, grace and redemption.

I have had a bumpy relationship with Henri Nouwen over the years. Craziness--I know. I first picked up one of his books, Return of the Prodigal Son in 2009, and I couldn't even finish it. I remember something about his voice bothering me, and I put the book down. I picked it up and put it down again. Though it screamed redemption, art, beauty, and story telling, I couldn't hear him. I was distracted, and I never finished it.

A couple years later, my girlfriend lent me a copy of Reaching Out. Ugh, this guy again. His voice. I couldn't read it. I couldn't read it, but I also couldn't let it go. Three years—maybe four years later, when the cross-county move and therefore, the Great Book Purge came upon our family, it was one of the few I held on to. I didn't know why; I didn’t even like this guy's style. Maybe because I wasn't the book's true owner or because the original owner was now living in New Zealand and the friend who lent it was up in New York, and yadda yadda. It was small enough in size, wasn’t mine to give away, and so I brought it over 3,000 miles with me.

This past spring, I decided to read it. No, I needed to read it. It stared at me like a portrait in hush hush art museum. Shh, don't speak. Listen. What is the art saying? I don't know because it keeps following me around the room. Haha, I'm somewhat joking—I love museums. But really, the book had this you-must-read-me-now sense about it. It had a voice that whispered, "I will bring you healing. I will help you rest in the love of your Heavenly Dad." It said, "I know you couldn't hear me in the past, but the time for healing is now, right here, in the midst of my very few pages."

And it was right. It brought to light, it convicted, it healed, it encouraged, and it spurred me on to the deeper life. It was JUST what I needed right when I was ready to hear it.

After I closed the last page of the book, I hoped my husband could hear it too. I hoped that he too could hear that we were arrogant and self-centered, that we were living out of a place of loneliness. And again, it did.

A few months later, he (Kris) says that he found another Henri Nouwen book that is slaying him. "I have your next book," he says to me.

"Ugh, I don't want to be slain again. We're going through all of this wonderful Emotionally Healthy Spirituality material with the church, and that is already doing a great work in me. Do I really have to?"

Enter: Christmas Morning 2016. 4:45am. The children all tucked under their blankets with care. "What the heck, man? Why am I awake???!!!" Usually. Ok—sometimes, and really only on my best, most devoted, deep, and obedient days, these early-morning moments beckon me to prayer. But this morning, at the early hour of 5am, I was beckoned into the world of Henri Nouwen once again. I was called into the world of Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World and oh. em. gee.

Like, the literal Gee. Does he ever slay me with His love? I am a beloved of the great I AM--the God who is with us, which we are reminded of every year on this very day. Many of us will sit in church buildings and hear the message of the good news of Jesus, our ultimate beloved One, but will we hear? Will we understand? Will it change us?

I know, I know, shouldn’t I be talking about baby Jesus and the manger and all things Advent and Christmas for these next 12 days? The truth is, these are the things that point me to Jesus. The everyday moments and people, books, coffee shops, and conversations that point me to my Beloved.

Merry Christmas, dear friends, family, and strangers alike.

Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you have touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper. -Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World

If you're in a place of hearing him too, here are some of my personalized links to a few of Nouwen's works: