Crockpots and Comfort Foods: Recipe Roundup #2

I accidentally took a hiatus from the blog this past month. Sickness, moving, guests, Thanksgiving vacation, more sickness...it's been full and slow and messy. In the midst of it all, our laptop completely crashed (it's so hard for me to write and create blog posts on my phone). But I am finally back to a semi-routine, sitting with the covers pulled up as some exciting cold weather brews outside, typing away at my new purple laptop that my husband insisted I buy immediately.

I still feel a little guilty about spending the money. But typing feels really nice, so, well, I guess I'll get over it.

This month I tried some fantastic new recipes and was inspired by a lovely new friend to plan out a whole month of meals. This took a tremendous load of cooking stress off of my shoulders! I thought that it would be so much work to do full-fledged meal-planning, but once I buckled down and began scrawling recipes onto the little squares of my calendar, I realized that this plan would be my jam. I am a planner at heart. Lists and calendars are like my friends. Combining that with food (my love language, incidentally) made this mama really happy. Zero percent stressed. I then made up a huge master shopping list and bought almost everything for the month in one grocery trip.

Holy crap that receipt was a little scary. It was a great idea until I got it all home and realized that our freezer is rather inadequate and my pantry space limited. But in the end I made it fit and went most of the month not having to stress about groceries, dinner plans, or if we had the ingredients to make that new recipe on Pinterest.

So here's the tried-and-trues for November 2017!


// MAIN DISHES //



Boeuf Bourguignon - I was inspired by Jen Hatmaker's hilarious reading of her own recipe (check out the audiobook Of Mess and Moxie on Hoopla; you won't be disappointed), and then this idea was reinforced by re-watching Julie & Julia. So I had to try this elegant French take on beef stew. It's not as scary as it sounds. Plus, you get to use an entire bottle of red wine. Feel bold. My family is small, so I was able to freeze half of this for later in the month, and even give some away to a neighbor. (It loses no flavor in the freezer, I promise.)

Check the size of your beef cubes. I made mine a little bit too small, so during the browning process I cooked them almost through, making them a bit tougher when the stew was finished. Luckily the decadent wine sauce made up for it.
Prep beforehand. This isn't a complicated dish, but it does require a decent amount of chopping. Take your time and enjoy it. Maybe crack open the bottle of wine and have a sip before it all disappears in your oven *wink.*
Make this dish a bit healthier. This main course is, as I said, rich & decadent (duh, it's French). Most people serve this with French bread, noodles, or mashed potatoes, but that just piles on the calories. Try mashed cauliflower, a salad, or a side of green beans to make this a bit easier on your stomach.


Crockpot Cheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken - that kind of feels like too many words for a recipe title, but gosh this combination is anything but too much. It is perfect. My parents were here when I made this and they raved about it. It is incredibly easy to make and super tasty.

Add your own flair. I'm not a huge fan of sour cream, so I usually add about half the amount that the recipe says. I also add an extra 1/2 or more packet of ranch dressing mix to bump up the flavor. SO GOOD. Add some of your own favorite ingredients to mix it up.
Frozen chicken works best. Take the chicken breast out of the freezer. Place in crockpot. Done. You don't have to add any water or anything. Just sprinkle the ranch seasoning packet on top and walk away for a few hours.
Make it health-friendly. Again, this is one of those low-carb, high-fat recipes that I make too much of. To keep it on the healthy side, I serve it with salad or roasted broccoli.


Cilantro-Lime Chicken - this recipe seems a little underwhelming when compared to the above recipes, but the flavors can't be beat. It's a perfect cheap main dish that you can pair with rice and/or beans, keeping it totally budget friendly (and might even remind you of the smells of Chipotle).

Cut your chicken breast in half more often. I found that this meal seemed to stretch farther than my other chicken meals do, simply because I cut the chicken to look like more pieces. Definitely need to do this all the time.
It's easy. This recipe is so easy I don't think I have any tips or changes to offer you!


Mini Spaghetti "Nests" - this has been a year of spaghetti squash. It's quite versatile and also gives me a serving of veggies while making me think that I am eating pasta. It deserves a medal. This recipe was quick and easy and I think kiddos would enjoy it as well!

Avoid the dishes. I confess that I didn't wan the hassle of washing a muffin pan, so I put the whole thing in a small casserole dish. It took a little bit longer to bake, but other than that there were no problems.
Tomato sauce. I've found very few pasta sauces that don't have added sugar; I have, however, almost always been able to find a pizza sauce without sugar. And I usually like the stronger flavors better!
Cooking the squash. There are loads of ways to do this - including using a crockpot - but this method avoids making you slice the giant squash open until it's been softened up in the oven. A real blessing for sure.


Crockpot Beans and Rice - cheap. Easy. Filling. Beans and rice are my go-to, and this recipe made that already simple combo even easier to accomplish. I've never liked beans, but if I serve them up right and season them well, I'll eat them. Why? Because they are a good source of protein that doesn't make me cry when I look at the receipt.

Use dried beans. Included in the recipes is a link for how to cook dried beans in a crockpot. This makes things even cheaper and more meal-planner friendly. I cooked up several cups of dried beans in my slow cooker the day before, then froze them in Ziploc bags in 1 1/2 cup portions. Now all I have to do is defrost a bag and add it to taco meat, serve it with fajitas, etc.
Flavor it up. Add lots of spices! This meal is simple - which sometimes can mean boring if you don't do it right. I added taco seasoning instead of just cumin and garlic powder. You could also add things like green peppers or fresh herbs or whatever comes to mind.


Chicken Pot Pie - this is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. The creamy, garlicky filling, the flaky, buttery crust...the veggies simply drowning in all those good flavors. Gah. We just had this for dinner tonight again, so it's all incredibly fresh in my mind. Yum.

Pick your favorite veggies. I subbed canned green beans for the frozen peas. Peas, blech. Yes, I'm still eight years old. I wouldn't suggest leaving out the celery or onion, though, because those create a fuller flavor overall.
Make your own pie crusts. I know this makes things harder, but working with flour and dough and rolling pins is so fun, and completely worth the extra effort. Those refrigerated pie crusts are so tempting (the Pillsbury doughboy wants to be your friend), but the texture and lack of flavor in those bad boys is extremely disappointing. I found an excellent recipe that I've listed below.
Go all in. I added some cream in place of some of the milk, and some leftover turkey gravy from Thanksgiving. These made the pies turn out incredibly rich and tasty.
Fresh is always best. If you're into garlic like I am, use some freshly minced garlic cloves instead of garlic powder. You can thank me later.
FROZEN PIE INSTRUCTIONS: To bake my pie, I used the instructions from a different recipe and it worked like a dream. First, freeze an entire pot pie (crust, filling, topped with a second crust). Then when you're ready to bake it, let it thaw on your counter for 30 min. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover lightly with foil and bake for 30 min., then turn down the temperature to 350 and remove the foil. The pie should take a little less than an hour to finish baking properly. The filling will be bubbly and the crust a beautiful golden brown color.


// DESSERTS, BREAKFASTS, and EVERYTHING ELSE //


Puff Pancake (low-carb and THM "S" friendly) - I doubled the recipe and ate this for a week of breakfasts. I bought blackberries on sale at my grocery store and made some low-carb syrup and served it with sausage links. Heaaaaveeeennn. I'm actually getting re-excited about this pancake dish as we speak. Food makes me a little giddy #notashamed

Make low-carb syrup. In this recipe there's a link for her syrup recipe; make it now. It's easy, buttery, and makes you forget that you're missing out on anything. I did add a smidge of real maple syrup to the low-carb syrup, just for flavoring purposes.
Pair it with some good stuff. It is decadent, but not as filling as normal pancakes, so definitely serve this with a second protein source (yogurt, meat, eggs, etc.). To keep this "S" friendly for all you Trim Healthy Mamas, stick with berries if you add fruit.
Stevia. Stevia is so much better for you than all of those other "low-calorie" or "sugar-free" sweeteners because stevia is actually a real plant that grow in the earth. I used stevia in place of the Splenda. I recommend it to everyone!


[Healthy] Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins - I've been looking for a good breakfast muffin recipe for ages, one that is healthy but also cheap. Most gluten-free muffins involve special, expensive flours and sugars and that starts to get on my nerves after awhile. This recipe is different. You soak half of the batter on your counter overnight, like you would "overnight oatmeal." This breaks down the grains so that your body can eat bread but still be happy!

Sweeten liberally. Perhaps because their is an acidic element to the batter, it did not taste very sweet to me at all. I used coconut sugar for the first time. But I ended up added more sweeteners. Just taste the batter before sticking it into the oven so you know what you're dealing with.
Acidic liquid. Yeah, this term was new to me, too. I emailed the author of the recipe and she told me to use 1 T. apple cider vinegar mixed with one cup of water. It worked perfectly. You could also use lemon juice.
Be prepared to eat them all. For being healthy, hearty muffins, these satisfied my craving for blueberry bakery muffins in a gorgeous way, and I can't wait to make them again. Breakfast is suddenly amazing again.


Black Bean Brownies - I finally did it, folks. I tried black bean brownies. I've been tempted to go for this for quite some time now, but the time never seemed right. Also I think I was a little leery of the grainy texture beans tend to have. These turned out like dark chocolate sponge cakes, though (completely oxymoronic in nature - they were both dense and light). I rejoiced. May I never fear adding a vegetable or legume to baked goods again!

Blend well. Beans are, of course, an odd texture for a dessert (unless you live in Asia), so make sure you use a good food processor/blender. I used my magic bullet.
Make extra. This recipe made a very small pan of brownies. Just saying.


Perfect Pie Crust - I haven't tried a lot of pie crust recipes, but this one turned out really well, AND there's a secret ingredient that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Double or triple the ingredients. This one is my mom's tip. Pie crusts can be time-consuming, so why not make a bunch all at once? Purchase some foil pie plates at the store, place the pie crust dough inside, and stack them in your freezer. As long as your recipe is basic, you can use these crusts for literally anything - pot pies, fruit or cream pies, quiches...
Butter or shortening? I used all butter because I dislike the idea of buying shortening and had no problems with the dough.
Mixing methods. Using forks or your fingers to cut the butter into the flour works well, but it also takes more time - and softens up the butter or lot. Be sure to refrigerate the mixture before adding the other ingredients.


//

Phew, that was a lot! I made a lot of other new things this month - pan-fried salmon, poached eggs, a whole roasted Thanksgiving turkey, and a French silk pie. But those recipes haven't been perfected enough to warrant sharing. What are some new recipes you've tried? I need some suggestions for the month of January! Or what is one of your favorite holiday recipes? Please share below!

If you think of it, pray for my sick little one who has had a cough for ages, and for my husband who is dealing with some sort of infection/virus that won't go away, and for our old laptop's hard drive, which contains the rough drafts of the two books I'm currently writing...but God is still good and life is still full.

I'd Die For You

"I'd die for you, that's easy to say
We have a list of people that we would take
A bullet for them
A bullet for you
A bullet for everybody in this room
But I don't seem to see many bullets coming through
See many bullets coming through
Metaphorically, I'm the man
But literally, I don't know what I'd do
I'd live for you, and that's hard to do
Even harder to say
When you know it's not true.."

(excerpt taken from Twenty-One Pilots song, "Ride.")

Big, ginormous, life-changing, world-altering events - taking bullets for each other - are things we can handle. They may be terrifying, but they require immediate action. They demand that we pull together and help each other through them. They require sacrifices that seem so monumental, it makes them incredibly worthy of applause. We've all seen it happen when war rips into a country or a hurricane hits our shores.

But the little stuff? No one wants to mess with that.

Daily tasks like washing dishes or vacuuming the floor fall under "menial chores." Changing diapers and answering emails and buying groceries and opening the door for strangers or inviting your neighbor to a dinner that consists of leftovers or babysitting someone else's kid for 15 minutes - these are so often overlooked because they are small. Inconsequential. No one is watching you do them, and no one cares if you get them right. They're just the gross underbelly of our existence.

Sometimes, I'd rather take a bullet for someone than clean up poop again, or wash smoothie out of my baby's hair, or cook dinner for the umpteenth time.

Not because any of these things are truly awful. But because the routine-ness of them starts to grate on my nerves. Their ever-present nag starts to feel like absolute drudgery.

So what are we supposed to do with Jesus's much-quoted words: "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you." (John 15:12-15)

October Recipe Roundup: Healthy Comfort Food

I've decided to do a monthly Recipe Roundup for y'all, since I tend to try so many new recipes each month, and I get excited about entirely too many of them. Today I'm sharing 6 favorites from this month that you are going to loooooveee.

We all know the frustration of trying new recipes on Pinterest, only to discover that they look terrible, take 18 hours to prepare, or taste like something you could have bought ready-made for $4. All those intense people with their gorgeous photos of their food on white counter-tops tend to forget that the people following their recipes are distracted, pressed for time, and cooking with tiny people underfoot.

You won't find any of that nonsense here. I'm not going to list everything that I've pinned in the past thirty days. I'm only including the recipes that have survived my kitchen and lived to be praised by my family and neighbors. Only the tried-and-true creations that are worth adding to your meal-planning list.

Here I'll put all of my favorites for each month, all in one place, combined with any necessary changes or tips that worked well for me when I made the recipe.

Thanks for joining me! If you are a fellow blogger and you want to be a part of next month's Recipe Roundup, shoot me an email and let me know!
This HOMEMADE PIZZA RECIPE that is easier than any bread recipe I've ever tried! You mix a few ingredients in a glass jar or other container, place it in the fridge for 3-14 days, then pull it out and bake it up. Literally so easy. The best part is, it is good for you because it's a sourdough (meaning the gluten breaks down and is easier for your body to digest), and it is actually on plan for Trim Healthy Mama (you can read a bit more about that here).

  • I've noticed that the dough compacts and slowly loses its rise when it's sitting in the fridge. Don't be alarmed by this. It still comes out perfectly good later.
  • The dough puffs up more than you think it will when it's baking, so press it down fairly thin.
  • The parchment paper isn't necessary if you're not using a pizza stone, but it does make cleanup way easier. 
  • The finished pizza reheats fairly well the second day, then declines in flavor as time goes on; if you want to make a lot, I recommend just freezing the pizza crust itself instead of the entire pizza (she talks more about how to do this in the comments of the recipe)

MEXICAN STUFFED PEPPERS that had superb flavor. I remember being grossed out by stuff peppers as a kid (I'm not the biggest pepper fan), but I figured I'd give these a try because, hello, I'm an adult now. Well, these were delicious! But it turns out I'm still not a big fan of bell peppers in any form, so I probably won't be making these again.
  • If you don't like bell peppers either, try making up a skillet just with the rice + bean + meat mixture instead! Healthy, filling, and oh-so-tasty.
  • I did find that the peppers didn't get very soft, even with prolonged bake time, so I'd recommend choosing a small baking dish and making sure the sauce/water comes up higher around the peppers. My sauce mixture was a bit less than half the height of the peppers.

I have probably shared these with you before, but they are too good not to bring them up again: BABY TURKEY MEATBALLS. These fantastic meatballs are perfect for babies, but they taste good enough for the whole family to feast on them.
  • I add a teaspoon of garlic and a teaspoon of Italian seasoning on top of the other ingredients. Amazeballs.
  • As the recipe states, you can do any combination of veggies/cheeses. There really are no limits.
  • To keep these healthier and gluten-free, I sub oat or almond flour in place of the breadcrumbs.
Bomb CARROT CAKE MUFFINS that don't even taste "healthy." I recommend filling the muffin batter close to the top if you want to get that puffy, muffin look; otherwise they tend to hunker down with flat tops. Either way, they taste great. The worst part of this recipe is that it makes 9 muffins. What the crap kind of number is that? I doubled the recipe because I couldn't handle it, ha.

  • If you're not up for peeling and coring an apple, you can substitute 1/4 - 1/2 cup applesauce.
  • I left out the ginger because I'm not a huge fan.
  • I don't have a blender big enough to fit all of the ingredients; all I have is a magic bullet. So I grind the oats first and dump them into a bowl, then blend the wet ingredients together. But you can also do this recipe without any type of mixer/blender.
  • Feel free to sub in things like grated zucchini, too!

And I saved the best for last: MILLIONAIRES SHORTBREAD BARS. These babies are like homemade Twix bars that can sit around in your fridge all week, but not do too much to upset your healthy eating. You still shouldn't binge-eat these things (they're loaded with healthy fats, so they tend to give you a tummy-ache if you eat too much at all, haha).
  • I chose to bake the shortbread layer for 10 min. at 350 degrees. I don't think it made too much of a difference.
  • I'd advise lining your baking dish with parchment or wax paper. It will make getting them out of the pan much simpler.
  • These can end up being really pricey since you use so much real maple syrup. If this doesn't work for you, I'm sure you could sub in some honey, and someone in the comments said that using stevia also worked. Try new combinations!

Thanks for joining me! What recipes have you tried this month that turned out to be incredible? I've found that new recipes are great opportunities for starting up little traditions. Special muffins or cookies that you share with your neighbor. A new dinner dish that you invite friends over to share. Or the homemade pizza that, for us, turned Sunday dinner into and indoor picnic. Bon appetit!

Fears in the Great Outdoors

I’m terrified of bugs. I don’t like admitting it because it makes me sound like a wuss, but there it is. I’ve climbed mountains and kayaked and snowboarded and hiked and swam in dirty-icky ponds and camped in tents and rappelled off of 70-foot cliffs and taken my baby on multiple adventures.

I’ve been out there.

Do I like the bugs any less? Hell no.

The thing I’ve discovered about this insectophobia, is that I am actually more scared of the bugs when I’m indoors. Call me crazy, but a spider or a bee in my house is a major threat to my territory and my happiness. Throw all the shoes, spray all the window cleaner (only thing in easy reach), holler at them - do whatever necessary to eradicate their existence in my home.

But out in the yard or on the trail, the earth is vast and the bug is small and there are a lot of spaces where it could go and I could avoid it. So I find it easier to feel, if not exactly safer, than at least better about coexisting with the creepy crawlies. I can ignore them. Most of the time. (I still wig out to the extreme if I feel myself run into a spider's web. Obviously I've watched the Lord of the Rings too many times.)

Bugs are just the tip of the iceberg for so many people, though. When it comes to getting outside, it just seems to be a lot more trouble than it's worth. It's risky and scary and hard and just plain unnecessary.

I'm going to have to politely (but firmly) disagree.

I'd like you to strap on your daring footwear of choice and get ready to address those powerful fears that are keeping your trapped inside your own home or office or car.

Fear of heights, getting lost, or feeling incapable of dealing with unknown situations. Fear of being out of control of the circumstances. Fear of being cold, getting attacked, or not being able to eat or sleep properly. Maybe you think you'll be bored or too tired or think that the outdoors "just aren't for you."

Whatever it is, take a little time to try to conquer these feelings. Because like it or not, the outdoors is our world, and the benefits of spending time in it will trump any concern you may have.


BREATHE EASY

At the top of my first 14er
Maybe I talk about this one too much since I've started yoga, but man, learning to control your breathing has so many benefits! The more oxygen you are able to get into your system, the more relaxed, refreshed, and re-energized you will feel. This is why our parents never said, "Take a chill pill"; they were always just like, "Go get some fresh air!"

When you're nervous or scared, you tense up, automatically slowing or even stopping your breathing altogether. This is very bad. It makes your insides all taught, and you can't think properly, and then you start actually freaking out.

So when something outside is triggering your fear response, take a minute to breathe easy. Deep, slow, controlled breaths. Count if you want. Then move forward again. If you still feel tense, stop and focus on breathing again. This is a trick I'm learning to use right now in rock climbing.


BE SMART

You know those scary movies where the heroine is all alone and she does something really dumb, like going into the creepy basement alone after dark or chasing something into a cornfield? Yeah, don't be her. Don't pick adventures that obviously place you in the path of danger. Good risks - pushing yourself a little harder on a run, trying a new yoga pose, inviting an acquaintance to come along - are invaluable to your adventurous lifestyle. They help you grow. But there is such a thing as a bad risk - getting too close to the edge of a cliff, doing a handstand without getting your body ready (it can strain your muscles and really hurt your back), going alone at night to unfamiliar places.

Be bold and adventurous, but know your limits. There is no point in doing things that will almost certainly put you in vulnerable positions with no way out.



PRACTICE

Hiking only a mile or so from my house.
I cannot promise that your fears are ever going to completely go away. But you can learn how to deal with them if you practice. That can only happen by putting yourself in those scary situations. If your fear is stopping you from doing something that you want to do, you need to do that thing a lot.

Maybe you want to run in the evenings, while the sun sets. So do that, but run with someone else, pick a safe neighborhood, or choose a trail that others frequent. Maybe you want to explore that forest behind your house. Perhaps you wish you could hike, snowboard, do yoga, kayak, whatever. Or maybe you just want to see more cool things in nature.

Whatever it is, make a plan, and go for it. Be patient, knowing that you'll have to practice doing any of these things before they will come easy to you. Don't become discouraged if your first attempt gets rained out, or you head home all jittery from seeing a few too many creepy crawlies. This is only the beginning.


PREPARE...THEN RIDE IT OUT

Definitely prepare yourself for whatever adventure you're embarking on. Taking adequate amounts of water is a good place to start. Wearing proper clothing for the weather is a good follow-up. Know where you're going and how much time you plan to spend there. (More time equals more provisions, aka food and water. If you're taking little ones on the trip, double these portions, haha!)

Then just go. Don't worry about what you forgot. Enjoy your time in the wide open spaces of earth. Inhale new smells, take in new sights. If something goes wrong (it starts to rain, you get tired, you run out of water), just take the next step. We humans are actually very good at a), going without, b) adjusting to new things, and c) dealing with circumstances that may seem impossible. Rest assured you will figure it out or be able to phone a friend.



VISUALIZE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES


My first surfing experience.
Before you go off on your adventure (maybe the night before if you're that concerned), take a few minutes and visualize what you want to happen. It sounds cheesy, I know, but it's important. Imagine yourself being happy, relaxed, and excited for these new experiences.

Now, let your thoughts take a darker turn. What's the worst thing that could happen? A flat tire, a broken ankle, a spider inside your shirt, being cold and wet, getting no sleep (if you decide to go camping)? Let your mind play it out. Why would any of these things happen? Could you do anything to stop them?

By doing this, you will realize two things: one, the Big Bad that you are so afraid of is probably not that big, and even if it is, the likelihood of it happening to you is almost nonexistent; and two, you can handle it. Whatever it is, you have already thought about it, and you are mentally prepared. You got this.



HAVE KIDS


Wading in a dirty river with a mostly naked baby.
Just kidding. Sort of. Having a kid with you automatically makes you consider their needs first - above your own needs or fears. And kids, while cautious in new environments, are generally fearless. They'll go right up to the edge of a cliff, pick up rocks and sticks and toads, examine bugs with their faces pressed mere millimeters away from them. Take your own kids out for a mini foray into the wild (be sure to bring lots of snacks, water, and an extra outfit for each of you). Or, if you don't have your own, offer to borrow your friend's kid for an hour of outdoor time - she'll totally appreciate it! Go to a park or something and do your best to see the world from a child's point of view. Do things seem bigger or smaller? Scarier or more doable? More interesting, or less important? What can you learn from them? What are they already learning from you?

> > >

I get it. There’s a lot more outdoors that seems to be out of your control than things that happen at home or in the mall. Honestly, there are plenty of times when I don't want to deal with it either. Doing these new things will take up some of your time and energy, and I can't promise that this will be an easy path.

"Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never truly change at all, because you'll be forever in the control of the things you can't give up."
(Andy Law, emphasis added) 

And guess what? That shaky, I’m-not-sure-I-can-do-this feeling? That’s good for you. It breaks you out of your mold and challenges you. It also frees up your mind from its routine thought-patterns that cause you stress indoors.

If you’re still worried, grab a buddy. Learn to face the unknowns together, one step at a time. You'll have different fears and concerns to help each other out with. Don't wait for someday, better weather, or next year. Enjoy this beautiful fall weather while you can!

The Great British Baking Show, Part 2: Sweets

If you were around last week, you know that I shared my Great British Baking Show (GBBS) adventures with bread (though my forays into the bread world are long from finished, trust me; next on the agenda is working with sourdough - stay tuned in the following weeks to see how it turns out!). Today I'm sharing how the show inspired the addition of some new desserts into my life.

Interested in more recipes inspired by and/or taken from the show? Feel free to follow my Pinterest board dedicated to just that.

In the earliest stages of my GBBS obsession, I was impatient and eager and just wanted to eat lots of cake (who doesn't?). But though I have baked many a dessert from scratch, I have never actually focused on the patience and consistency aspects that are necessary to make truly fabulous desserts. This became evident when I tried to bake this spiffy-sounding cake.

The Great British Baking Show, Part 1: Bread

If you're slightly (or massively) confused by the Great British Baking Show (henceforward referred to as the GBBS), this page has some helpful info on the differences between British and American baking terms. For a more thorough delving into the British world of sweets, head here.

Over the summer, I went into a craze over the Great British Baking Show. I spent hours salivating over their scrumptious dishes and scoffing at the bakers who obviously knew nothing. Then I'd pop up off the couch and shuffle through the cupboards, trying to come up with something that I could bake.

I kept a notebook with about a hundred recipes from the show that I wanted to try. I pinned loads of recipes and started planning what I wanted to try my hand at. That's when I encountered a few problems.

Stormy Skies Made Clear

Last week, I shared a bunch of crap that I was going through. I listed, in detail, all of the things that felt outside of my control and that were truly bothering me. I was trapped in one awful storm and it was wearing me down.

It felt honest and vulnerable and right. A cry for help from one woman to another, you know?

And I got responses. Lovely, caring responses, from old friends and new, about how I was doing this mothering thing right, and little tips on how I could maybe do it better.

But I as I read the comments and messages, I realized with a tiny prick of shame that they were not what I needed. I thought that the only thing that could bring me out of this muddy pit would be other people. My emotions had me in a tight strangle-hold, and I wanted some good feelings from others to iron them out.

What I actually needed came later. I was listening to The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst, and I had a little mini-conversation with the Holy Spirit, right there at my kitchen sink. Him reminding me that I was freaking out over tiny, physical things. Him pointing out that I was trying to play the martyr about it, too. I was worrying about food, for crying out loud. Let's not turn our eating habits into something that has earth-shaking ramifications, shall we?

All I needed was that split-second of God's perspective on my problems.

When you turn over your heart to God, your problems tend to become really, really small, and your uncertainty about everything suddenly turns into the clarity of a still-as-glass lake. The Bible is right-on when it says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!" (Ps. 111:10)

It's easy to be overly-dramatic about what we're going through. That's my default, if I'm honest, and I want to pull everyone with me into the emotional, insane rollercoaster that is my life. Unfortunately, this kind of ranks me with those stubborn Israelites.
"Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, 'Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.' " 
(You see how dramatic and messed up we are? These people would rather have lived and died in slavery because there was better food there.) 
"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.' " 
-Exodus 16:1-5, emphasis added
Then, in the midst of this clunk on the head from God, my brain tuned back in to my audiobook, and this phrase stuck out to me: "I take my feelings and fears and CHAIN THEM to my identity in Christ."

What is our identity in Christ? Loved, free, forgiven, chosen, called, remembered, understood...the list goes on. The Bible is full of who God is, and who that in turn makes us out to be. 

This past weekend, I have had a million more moments of weakness and frustration and anger and flat-out yelling at my dog and my husband and my baby. I have been the epitome of Not Cool. The usual things that I turn to (TV, a good book, a sweet snack) were not working. And literally the only thing that could get through to me was this whisper from the Holy Spirit,

"Come. Come to Me and rest."

And if that didn't work...

"Remember what is true. What have I told you to be true?"

In those moments where you are just done, freaking out and caught in the storm, know that He is whispering the same things to you. And all that is needed is to let go of whatever you are going through and meet God in that place instead.

Repent.
Be still.
Remember what He has told you to be true.


To dig deeper, check out:

Mama Needs Some Help

Update: this post contains a lot of negative things in my life right now. I am now a few weeks away from these things, and time has ironed out several of them. But I am keeping this post up because I want y'all to know that life is full of things are tough and that we can't control! I am okay and I will get through it, but I like to know that I am not alone. What's something that's been bothering you lately? What helped you get through it? Do you ever feel like you need someone to just come alongside you and help - or instead tell you to "suck it up"? 

Any and all women, mamas, or knowledgeable persons, I could really use your help today! I am struggling with several issues, all of which have been problematic for two weeks, and I am ready to collapse, give up, and just watch This Is Us for the next 72 hours.

All of the issues are listed in bold, feel free to scroll to the one you have experience with and, I beg of you, leave a comment below with any advice or encouragement that you can muster. I am one tired, fed-up, dried out, angry mama this week, and it's in nobody's best interests that I stay this way.


Roxanne Rae, One and Done

Last week, MY BABY GIRL TURNED ONE.

I’d been thinking about it for weeks, of course, so excited for her first “real” milestone in life, so happy to say that we had all made it one year – one year of breastfeeding and wonky sleep patterns, one year of banana muffins and berry smoothies, one year of baby-wearing hikes and mini rock climbing adventures. We’ve laughed (and cried twice as much) and gotten excited about the most random things (she hugged a stuffed animal! It’s the cutest thing!).

Despite all of the baby birthday hoopla going around these days, I somehow forgot that I needed to prepare for this grandiose event – I was sort of hoping that being excited would be enough. Which resulted in me waking up that morning sporting nothing but the ingredients for an uncertain cake. Oh, and then our kitchen faucet broke.
I want you to know that you do not have to have the perfect plan or the best supplies or loads of time to make a birthday special. You do not need an expensive photographer or photo-editing software. You do not need a huge party or loads of sugary goodies. You do not even need gifts.

You really just have to want it to be special, and then suddenly little things seem to click together. Here’s what I did:
  • Wrapped two of her “old” toys in white printer paper
  • Bought her a new pair of shoes (because I couldn’t resist)
  • Baked and frosted a healthy-ish carrot cake (it involved honey, pineapple, and a smidge of brown sugar; hit me up if you want the recipe)
  • Set up a “photoshoot” outside, where I spent an hour or so clicking my camera happily and telling no one in particular, “She’s so cute! Oh my word I can’t get over how cute she is!” (I know, real classy)
Literally I had no plan. I was like, “We need an outfit and props,” so I threw some apples in a basket, grabbed two outfits, and a muffin in case one of us got hungry, and we trooped to this grove of trees and played around. It wasn’t perfect at all. But we loved it.

The photos turned out beautifully, in my opinion. Some were taken on my Canon PowerShot (probably the cheapest Canon camera out there), and some were taken on my new Droid phone. I edited them using Instagram. Again, my class is real high.
The only slight issue with my choice of props was that Roxy is full of teeth and made it her goal to take a bite out of every. single. apple. I turned them into a pan of apple dumplings, though, don't worry.

The carrot cake wasn’t half-bad. I’m afraid most of it went to waste, though; apparently Roxy wasn’t making quite enough of a mess because Josh and I started throwing frosting at each other and that was it for my clean kitchen. Pretty sure we had more fun than the baby did.
It’s been a good, insane year. Motherhood is no joke. And being plopped into marriage and motherhood all at once certainly ramps things up a notch. But you know what? Looking back over this year leaves me with this: somehow in the thick of it I always focus on the negative, but looking back with a little perspective shows me only the highlights, the good stuff, the things I want to remember.

All those awful, long nights of crying and nursing and no sleep? Yep, they happened, and sure, they made me stronger (or just more tired...). But in the grand scheme, they're not what I want to hold on to as the years go by.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
-Phil. 4:4-9

Any Way You Want It...

"...that's the way you need it, any way you want it!" da da daaaa

Sorry, I've obviously heard that song way too many times...ha. I seriously was meant to live in the 80s. Super high ponytails, over-the-top enthusiasm, obnoxious clothing - BRING IT. (But currently I have a capsule wardrobe with mostly black/grey outfits. So. I'm a little confused.)

All fashion choices aside, I've been getting this crazy message from the world lately that says, "You can be anything you want - AND a mom."

Which sounds spot-on, right? We women are completely free to be passionate individuals, to mother our children while with the same breath giving a speech to our colleagues. We can be #girlbosses and have a giant social media following and be sexy wives and that mom that everyone else wishes they were. We can grow our own vegetables and run a business. We can bake fresh bread and be professional yogis. We can run the show and still have time to snuggle babies, all while making the big bucks.

There is no end to what we can do. Mothering is just a unique piece of the puzzle.

But does all of that sound a little exhausting to you? Did overwhelm just capsize your calm, reminding you of that awful to-do list raging in the background? Because that's what that message does to me. It makes me feel scattered to the winds, eager to do a little bit of everything on the planet.

I want to do it all and have it all and be it all. Right now.

The idea that we can be whatever we want sounds a lot like freedom. But for some reason, it turns into this awkward cage, where our dreams suddenly become expectations that we have to meet. "You can be anything," suddenly turns into, "You have to be everything."

Being everything is not your job. If your goal in life is to kick butt in about 26 different categories of life, then you are going to have your hours full and your heart empty. The world's ideas of "successful motherhood" are not only demanding, but also ever-changing. You are never quite going to win.

So I'd like to tweak the world's message and give you some grace, some purpose, some real freedom:

"You can be anything you want...AS a mom."

For the longest time, I kept telling myself to do what made me happy, and my husband would reiterate that. Yet often what seemed like happiness to me was simply selfishness combined with hormones. What would make me happy right now? Being alone with a giant brownie sundae; getting a pedicure with a friend; disappearing on a train to the California coast; watching Netflix while putting off the dishes, laundry, writing, and countless other things that would actually be good for me to do.

But what I should have been saying is, do what makes you happy to be a mom.

Like a light switch, the focus is off of me as a selfish, untethered individual, and put smack dab in the middle of my role in my family. And the answers change, flowing from a heart that is full of love for my baby girl and my husband.

What would make me happy to be a mom right now?

Maybe it's tickling my baby till she giggles. Eating a snack that she can share with me. Calling up a mom friend to laugh at the things that made me cry yesterday. Going for a walk to breathe deeply. Making my husband something special for dinner. Doing yoga next to the baby instead of cleaning. Reading a book by that makes me laugh at all the gross, uncertain, tangled parts of motherhood (try The Magic of Motherhood or Of Mess and Moxie if you need some mom-love).

We must stop trying to escape from the parts of our lives that make us want to be someone else. I've been there - several times this year, if we're being honest. I keep assuming that I can use one part of my life to escape from something else. But I can't hop on a plane and jet off somewhere anymore.

"In the old days, pre-baby, you could always kid yourself that if your life really started to annoy you, you could just take off, go walkabout, have adventures in the mountains of the Hindu Kush...Once you have a baby, that little fantasy route is closed. You're tethered." (excerpt from How to Really Be a Mother by Emily Hourican)

It IS a bit scary, being tethered as a mama. But here's the thing: mamas have one of the most free schedules on the planet. Yes, our time clocks orient around little beings that aren't exactly predictable. But the only rules that exist are the ones that YOU set up for yourself.

You can have a job, stay at home all day, eat only organic produce, or buy strictly pre-packaged msg crap, for the love of pop tarts! You can be any type of person that you want to be. But you're still a mom. No slicing it up and serving it another way; once a mom, always a mom.

So live in that glorious freedom! Go ahead and ask yourself right now, "What would make me a happy mom right now?"

Capsule Wardrobe, Part 3: Maintenance

In the past few months, we've talked about creating a capsule wardrobe from your existing pool of clothes and giving yourself the freedom to own things you that you love. We've also discussed how to do a second evaluation of your choices, and how to actually get rid of those extra things that are cluttering up your space.

But sometimes all of those initial decisions feel good for only a short time. Then the shopping spree hits, or the emotional crisis comes, or your washer breaks and you wish you had more clothes to avoid washing them so often.

This is when you need a little help in the maintenance area. Pro tip: this maintenance thing applies to any clutter problem you are experiencing, not just that of your closet.

5 Books That Will Change Your Perspective (and the secret to having time to read them)

I know it’s hard to find the time to read – life is so busy and loud, full of to-do lists and errands and social media and Netflix and when on earth is there time to sit and casually read a book?

Two answers:

One, there’s this magical thing called Hoopla that uses your library card to set audiobooks and ebooks right into your lap, at zero charge to you. You can listen while you’re doing dishes, driving to the grocery store, or taking a shower. You can read while you’re sitting in a waiting room, breastfeeding your baby, or when your toddler unexpectedly falls asleep in the stroller. It’s not hard to find a few extra minutes in this way.


Two, just read this quote from Lauren Graham’s new book (which, incidentally, is the first one I’m going to review for you):

3 Easy Ways to Save Money WHILE Shopping

I use these tools because they are easy. They take very little upkeep from me, and I don't have to devote a lot of extra time to them, like I would in the vast realm of couponing, for instance. This post isn't sponsored in the least, I just thought I'd share these with you so we could all save money together. Everyone can use an extra dollar in their pocket, eh?

Basically, what follows are thrifty mom-hacks to get you started on owning your money. A budget helps more than anything, but I'm not super qualified in leading you through that process, so I'll keep it simple.

I'm sharing three tools that I use to to make my shopping a little more worth it, and at the bottom of each summary, I'm including a referral code. If you're interested in using these tools, I'd love for you to use my referral codes and be on my team! It gives me a small bonus on my account, and also in some cases will add you to my team, which means that our spending can add up faster to give us bonuses together! Yay!

Living Succulent

I've been missing for a week or two now. Things have been  c r a z y  (is there ever a month of June that isn't?). Financial stuff, a family death, and some crappy sickness has been beating us all over the place. I kind of lost my blog and newsletter footing for a hot minute. But, in my absence here, I had the fantastic opportunity to do a guest post for Fueling Mamahood! Let me know what you think of it.

I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to grow succulents. You would think it would be easy, considering that I live in the type of climate they're supposed to thrive in. But the problem is, I myself don't understand how to live here.

Currently a transplant from the lush green grasses of Ohio and then the stunning peaks of Colorado, I've landed in the mostly flat and mostly dry desert of West Texas. (I know, technically, Colorado is a desert climate as well. But the snowy mountains, thick pines, and graceful aspens sort of disguised that fact for me.) This change has left me dizzy, parched, and frustrated.

There's a common myth about the desert: things in the desert don't need water the way everything else does. Desert things can basically survive without water - it's their superpower.

But plants in the desert don't need less water than foliage all over the rest of the planet. They have simply learned to take in water differently. 

Donuts, Diets, and That Skinny Chick Next-door

It was an ordinary Wednesday night. A thunderstorm rolled in the darkness outside the windows. The baby was sound asleep in her crib. And obviously, I was exhausted from the day and should have been going to bed.

But I felt a little tease of hunger tugging at me. I could not shake the feeling that I needed me some food. Barefoot, tousled-haired, and determined, I slipped into the kitchen and started whipping up a batch of chocolate chip pancakes.

Ten o'clock at night, and there's butter frying in a pan and mini chocolate chips dotting the floor. (My husband just laughed and told me I was cute. I believed him.)

Skinny chicks can be addicted to food, too.

I'm not talking about eating disorders - obesity, bulemia, anorexia, etc. That's a whole other thing. I'm talking about being emotionally connected to food in such a way that it kinda controls your life. This can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter what you look like on the outside - it matters what food is doing to your insides, how it's affecting your decisions and playing on your heart.

How I Use Pinterest to Meal-Plan

Chili Lime Fajita Salad
My Pinterest is a cluttered, hot mess. Just trying to find my way around all of the boards on there gives me a headache. I end up finding the perfect dessert for next week's bible study and planning how to redecorate the baby's room, but all I really wanted needed to do was make dinner.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a quick and easy way to reorganize and or/delete your pins. I certainly do not have time to sift through 3,000 photos and delete the clutter one pin at a time.

I need a better way to harness Pinterest's amazing resources when it comes to meal-planning. I want to be able to find that one recipe I tried a month ago, without wading through a bunch of other things that make me drool - things that I don't even have the ingredients for.

We've all experienced the before-dinner panic or the pang of frustration when you look at your grocery bill and realize you bought lots of unnecessary items. Meal-planning can save you tons of money and stress. BUT it can sap a lot of your time.

Enter my quick method of meal-planning Pinterest boards.

13 Summer Fun Hacks

Some seasons of life can make you feel like you’re being chased by time in the form of a rabid dog. And in that case, you have no choice but to constantly run away, right?

Summer tends to get that way. Between events that you feel obligated to go to (there’s a long list of weddings and graduations, isn’t there?) and the knowledge that summer is so darn short, you’re likely to get frazzled. In no time at all, you’re hovering in September over a cup of coffee, wondering where the summer went.

Here’s the secret to summer: it’s okay to drop your to-do list. In five years, what will you remember about this summer? How pretty your house was, how much money you made, or how much fun you had with those beautiful people in your life?

Obviously, my go-to activity is taking a hike (because that can happen anytime, anywhere, with anyone big or small), but I want to challenge myself and y'all to try some new things - or some old things, with new flair.

To help you own your summer, I’ve put together a list of things that will take you back to summers as a kid – when everything seemed simpler, and all that mattered was being in the sun with your bestest of friends.

Shame-Dropping, Part 2: Now What?

It's a recurring theme lately, to rejoice in your imperfections. To be "real" and honest with the world. We like to glorify our failures and focus on our chaos. Our day is one long line of messes all strung together. Stress and worry carve lines in our faces and eat holes in our sleep. It's all we can do not to strangle the cat or shout at the husband or cry in the bathroom. Sometimes six cups of coffee and Netflix are the only things getting us through the day.

That is so sad. We weren't meant to barely hang on by a thread and a giant vat of caffeine. 

We have become content with our dirty little selves. We choose to embrace imperfection and paste it all over instagram and facebook, telling the world our laughable sorrows and glorifying our failures. And I'm all for it - but not at the expense of our freedom.

In the midst of being content in our puddles of mud, we have accidentally forgotten that we can stand up and walk to a better place. That finding beauty in the ordinary, while admirable, is not what our lives are really about. Our hope is not in the beauty of this world; our hope is in what we cannot see, things that are meaningful beyond these temporary days in the sun.

It's great that you have dirt and anger and spilt milk and failure in your life. It's great that you are willing to release the shame and share these shortcomings. But we're not supposed to get applause for our messes. You and I are called to renounce our sin. To not only be transparent enough to confess, but also to turn away from the sin and fight against it.

A week ago, we talked about how important it is to confess our sins, messes, fears, and addictions, and bring them into the light. This is huge, not only with the little things, but also the big. Being transparent can open you up to so many blessings.

But what is the point in dragging our pieces of darkness into the light if we're just going to crawl back into that black hole we came from? Showing off our little messes is not enough. Admitting failure is not enough. Taking blame is not enough. Confessing sin is not enough.

"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!" 
2 Corinthians 7:9-11

Worldly sorrow leads to depression, shame, darkness, hiding, and ultimately, death in your soul. "Godly sorrow" leads to repentance and positive actions. Take the darkness within you, confess it in the light, and then move on. If you're trapped in something you did, that is not from God. He seeks to forgive us and free us from our sins.

Sometimes, this is hard to live in. Often it feels like everything in our lives is controlling us instead of us controlling it. We are constantly falling in love with everything but God, and it leads us into slavery to things. Things we disguise ourselves with - yoga or minimalist style or gardening or a new diet or whatever it is. And suddenly our freedom is trapped in all of these lovely little things that aren't really bad.

Yes, I'm kind of preaching to myself. 

You and I must go beyond our love for ordinary beauty in the messes. We must fight darkness. Challenge the devil. Flee sin.

"We don't just confess our sin; we throw in with each other, point each other to the One who forgives and gives us the power to fight it! We have grown apathetic about sin, my friend. We have let it take hold in our lives, and in the dark it has all the power."
-Jennie Allen, in her book, Nothing to Prove

I'm not asking you to fight this battle alone. I'm ready to stand next to you in this war and fight. Fight for prayer in our houses. Fight for love in our families. Fight for freedom from enslavement to depression and anxiety and social media and lies. 

It's time to live fully empowered by the Holy Spirit to get up out of our mud puddle and walk into glorious light.

I think lately I've been giving you a giant me-cupcake with a little bit of Jesus-frosting on top, and I'm sorry about that. I've been sharing a bunch of things about my life, then finishing them off with a timid suggestion that maybe God is important. But as God's redeemed warrior, I have the authority to proclaim His word to y'all as the truth.

No one needs me; I am not important. But what is needed is more and more and more of Jesus.


> > > 

What do you need to fight against? What do you need to let go of? Pick one person (it could even be me) that you can share this thing with. Someone to pray for you, challenge you, and keep you from continuing in your sin. 

(For more reading, check out Romans 6.)

Sweet Summer Surprise

Summer is *officially* here.

I'm in Texas, so it sort of feels like summer started two months ago, but nevertheless, it's for sure happening now because I had watermelon and corn on the cob in the same day. Sweet perfection. What are some things you do to welcome summer?

And now for the surprise. For the last few months, I took part in a spring Mom Love Fellowship. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? You don't even have to know what it is and already you're interested. 

A wonderful woman set up a mommy pen pal system that goes in 3-month cycles. You get paired with another woman, send each other snail mail and one $20 gift over those three months, and receive all sorts of joy from blessing someone else. 

I loved it. Handwritten letters mean the world to me. I was paired up with the lovely Breezy (check out her instagram here). She sent me cute cards every month and her package was the best. It was stuffed with:

  • dark chocolate 
  • a bright headband
  • some outdoorsy "remnant rubs" that work sort of like stickers (does anyone know if you can use these as temporary tattoos or labels for glass jars?)
  • the most adorable mommy-daughter matching elephant necklaces, which you can find at Target (we'll be wearing them for the first time at an upcoming wedding and I'll probably tear up a bit because of the cuteness overload)
Justine, the woman who runs this nifty program, is doing a summer Mom Love Fellowship, and you have a little less than a week to sign up. The deadline is Wednesday, May 31st. It's free to join!! (Besides what you pay in communicating with your pen pal.)

I know we're all busy and short on cash + time, but this is your chance to reach out to someone you've never met before. An opportunity to travel far with your letters when you can't travel far physically. An option to give encouragement - and also get some in return.

You're gonna want to be a part of this.


If you're still not sure, head to this page to get a complete description of what will be required of you.

Summers can get crazy busy, so tell me: what are your must-dos in the summer? I don't want to waste away the months constantly complaining about the heat. I want to fully enjoy this season of smelling like sunscreen and driving with the windows down (while blasting the a/c because, you know, Texas).

Shame-Dropping, Part 1: Confession

Have you ever felt utterly ashamed of something you did or something that happened to you? Overwhelmed by that feeling of shame, did you cower a little and do everything you could to cover up what had happened? Did you hide?

Ugh. I do this all the time. I am easily ashamed. And I figure if I bury it deep enough, it will be like it never happened.

I recently had a beautiful morning with God (that involved me being up way earlier than I wanted to, but hey, these things never come easy) that lit up my heart. I asked God to explore the dark corners of my soul and pull out the things that I'd been hiding from other people and from Him.

He found my Box of Shame.

I don't know why I do it, but I stow away things in this box all the time. Things I'm too afraid to admit to myself that I did; things I'm determined to never let anyone know. The longer they have stayed hidden, the worse they seem to me; unforgivable actions that define me. I fear the judgement from others, my own conscience...and God.

Guilt and shame - they're not from God at all. I'm the one that buries all that crap in the dark. And I think the truth is that most of the time I don't believe that God is bigger than my problems or my sins. 

I say I do, and I mean well. But if I believed that my problems were insignificant in comparison with who God is, then would I really spend hours worrying over them? Crying about them? Stressing to the point of exhaustion? Would my sins make me cower in the dark if I truly believed that they had no power over me?

Maybe you need this reminder, too. This chance to see grace in a different way. Because here's the truth:

God is always bigger.

God is  a l w a y s  bigger.


It's one of those monolithic truths that is almost too big for us to handle. It seems too good to be true, so we write it on inspirational posters and are done with it, moving on to things that are easier to understand.

I'm here to tell you that God is bigger than anything you are ashamed about. And it's time we break the chains of shame that keep us from being honest with each other and ourselves.

Today I'm confessing to you some of the things I'm ashamed about. Things that make me feel weak, inadequate, ugly, unloved. And it is my own fault for letting them control my life this way. I want to take away the power they have over me.

As you read over these little confessions, think about your own Box of Shame. Why is it taking up space in your heart and in your life?

I have dandruff.
Gross, flaky skin cells hibernating on my scalp. Yep. It comes and goes like the freaking seasons and I hate it. It makes me feel ugly and dirty and like a woman-failure, because how good at life can I be if my hair is in this state?

My driving record is completely clean...but I've been in an accident. 
I'm proud of my driving record; it's squeaky-clean. But I have a secret. When I was fresh out of high school and driving my own little car, I stopped at a stoplight behind another car and got distracted. I was fiddling with the radio, checking my hair, whatever. I thought the light had turned green, tapped the gas a little, and rear-ended the car in front of me. I had an immediate reaction of fear and adrenaline and everything in me told me to run. I wanted to get out of that situation. The other driver and I ended up deciding that we could both drive off without reporting it because there was no damage to either car. But I couldn't bear to tell anyone that it had happened.

A few years later, a friend asked me to drive her car for her. All would have been well and good except that our path was blocked by a truck and I had to back down a hill and turn at the same time and I'm not so great at using my mirrors sometimes, so I backed right into the underbrush next to the road and got us stuck. The damage to the car was minimal, no one was hurt, etc. etc. but I was miserable. I couldn't get over the fact that I had let my friend down and worse, caused damage to something she owned. While, you know, making myself look like a complete idiot.

I have creepy dreams.
I'm a completely straight, married woman, but for some reason, Satan likes to send me random lesbian dreams. And not about strange lesbian women, either. I dream that I am a lesbian chick who likes girls. It's creepy and it leaves me feeling dirty and disoriented when I wake up. I also get dreams where a man is attacking me with the intent of rape. These make me feel ashamed, as if I've done something wrong, or my brain is messed up. But that's what Satan likes to do: make us feel dirty and unworthy of God's love. If you think of it, please help me pray away these unnecessary dreams.

Doubting and Worrying is my life.
Every day is a battle between choosing God's peace and joy vs. being controlled by little fears, worries, and doubts. I am constantly on the verge of quitting my day. Fear stops me from doing many things. Doubts keep me paralyzed enough that I don't do the things God asks of me. I worry about my baby, about our future, about finances, yada yada yada. That's why I wrote a post on carefree motherhood. I don't believe moms should be slaves to worry. It doesn't mean that I will ever "conquer" it; but it does mean that every day, I get to exercise God's power over it. Every day I get to come to Him to renew my peace about it. The choice has to be made again every time I come unglued.

I had sex before I was married.
Yep, that's right. I committed one of the "big" sins (isn't it silly how we think sin is big? Nuh-uh; God is big, and our sin is small). I liked having a "virgin card" to play whenever I screwed up in life. I would be like, "Yeah, I'm a sinner and I did that...but at least I'm still a virgin." I compared myself to other girls in my head and I was pretty self-righteous about it. So when I realized that I had lost my one and only bargaining chip with God, I crumpled up like a bag of flour. I know that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, I know that He forgives, and I know that I should never ever compare my sins with someone else's. I honestly had to re-learn my faith in God after this happened (I'm still working on it, actually). It sucked and it was my fault, but in the end it is bringing me closer to Him.

Even writing all this now, my face is burning and my fingers are hesitating and I am shrinking, just a little, from sharing these things with you. And I will tell you, it's easier to share these things via the internet than to speak them to a close friend in my living room. Why? Because I don't have to see your reactions. I don't have to try to tailor my own actions in order to receive the largest dose of understanding from you.

Let me see, I'll act devastated by my mistakes. Or perhaps I should laugh it off. Then they'll understand. Then they won't judge me.

But our mistakes are not made "okay" by other people's opinions of them. Our mistakes come under God's microscope. And do you know what He is saying?

"The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us." 
Psalm 103:8-12
Go and shed some light on your weaknesses and your mistakes and the things you wish weren't true about yourself. Share them with a close friend or just sit with God and open up to Him. Let Him take away all your shame and replace it with His never-ending love.

You are not the first person to know these things. I did share all of them with my husband first, because true confession and repentance is best done with someone else strong in the faith. By sharing these things, I am done with them. By handing them to God, I renounce all of my fear and shame connected to them. I hope that you can do the same.

<<< For further reading, check out 2 Corinthians 4 <<<