The resident chef outdid himself. Today was the first Quirky Faith dinner. We spent most of the day in preparation.
I invited everyone who has submitted a story for Wall of Faith. It was my attempt to say thank you. It was also my blatant effort at bribery for future writers. (I'm gonna do this again....send me your story!)
My husband owns a pretty slick pasta roller. He recently got the ravioli attachment. Oh happy day!
It's fun when you gather a bunch of story tellers in the same room. We sat and ate and laughed and listened.
I found these dishes at Goodwill the same week I launched Quirky Faith. I texted my husband a photo. He told me to buy the whole set. I love when God builds fun affirmations into my life.
I present Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Basalmic Vinegar Butter sauce and topped in Parmesan and Walnuts.
Have I mentioned food is my love language?
Chocolate mousse and Fudge cake topped in Raspberries. See?! Massive rewards for sharing your story.
Here is the reality though. This dinner is a symbol that shows what happens in life. We all have a story. Some are funny to bring laughter and joy. Some are inspiring. Some help us understand.
I understand this format may not be a good fit for you. Some stories are too painful for the public. You still shouldn't carry it alone. Tell a counselor, a pastor, a friend.
When you let people see your flaws you meet someone else's hunger.
When you give credit to God for His Grace in your life you see more beauty.
When you are set free by sharing the truth you are open for new friends.
Tell your story. The rewards are food for your soul.
I was sitting at work this afternoon contemplating working late. I got an email from the resident chef. “What time are you getting off? I’m making a special dinner.” Well. There isn’t much that keeps me away from dinner and much less that could prevent me from being present at what my husband considers a special dinner.
When I got home, my daughter and husband had an assembly line prepped on the kitchen table. Dried corn husks, chili pork, and dough (which I learned later is called Masa). Oh happy day. TAMALES! The three of us sat together and hand rolled tamales. One corn husk, two tablespoons of Masa, one tablespoon of pork with chili sauce. Roll them together and fold up the end so it doesn’t all fall out. Tuck them together in a steamer basket. Steam for 40 minutes.
I figured if I had homemade tamales in my very near future I better get a run in. I love days I run. I figure if I tie on the shoes, go at least two miles and break a sweat then I can eat whatever I feel like with no guilt associated. I should get a t-shirt that says “I run so I can eat”.
My sister and the five-year old came along for the run. My daughter runs with me about once a week. Normally she can do almost half a mile no problems. Today she was tired at the first lap and asked if she could walk. We told her to pray and ask God for strength. That girl prayed.
"Jesus, help me.”
“God, Help, Help”.
“I know you can help me run”.
Pretty soon she was saying;
“I’m not going to stop until I get home”.
When we rounded the last lap to drop her back off at home she said
“Thank you for helping Jesus. Thank you.”
About this time I was wondering if I would be able to breathe better when the lump in my throat left. I’m amazed at the faith of this girl.
My mom talks about how when she saw me cross the finish line of the Portland Marathon that she burst into tears because she saw a picture of what it would be like when I cross the final finish line and hit heaven. Today I understood what she was talking about when I saw the courage and faith of my daughter.
When we got home, the house smelled like heaven. The tamales were perfect. Warm and a little spicy. Guess what? Going home for dinner is a good plan. Keeping your eye on heaven as your real home is better. I am not going to quit until I get home. I should get a t-shirt that says that.
Have you ever had the rug pulled out from under you? Ever feel like you've lost your sense of security? Your ability to support your family maybe? Ever doubted that God really had your back? I know there are thousands upon thousands of people who have lost their job. I had never been one of them. I had always left a job on my own, usually to move on to a better job somewhere else. I went through a pretty trying time recently and I want to share it with you. It definitely started out as a big fat negative in my life, but with a little courage and a whole lot of faith it became one amazing positive.
Okay let me back up a few months. I worked for a local subcontractor. I have been there eight years. EIGHT YEARS. That's a pretty long time to hold down a job for one company. Before this job I think my longest anywhere was around 2-3 years. I like change - what can I say! I actually really loved this job. I had gone through several changes in positions with this company, and had finally found my niche. I had an amazing relationship with the owner. He was someone I could talk to. He was my mentor for many years. I valued my relationship with him very much, still do. He was sort of like a second father to me. A Jack of all trades kind of guy that knows how to do pretty much anything you can think of. If I wanted to stain my deck, this is who I would ask for advice on what product to use. If something happened to my car, and I had no idea what it was (because I'm completely NOT a mechanic) he could diagnose it, and tell me what part to buy. Add to this a great working relationship. After so many years together, I knew how he liked the ship run, and I was good at keeping it afloat according to his preferences.
So keeping all of that in mind, I started to feel off. I started to feel like something wasn't right. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something changed. I tried to self diagnose the issue and just dig in and work harder. I even went to my boss and asked, "Was everything okay? Are we okay?" I found out that day that everything was not okay. There was a giant ugly issue, and unbeknownst to me, it was rearing it's ugly head. It really didn't have anything to do with me, personally. But I was left with the byproduct, which changed my ultra secure feeling of employment into a giant hesitation. I still dug in and did the best that I could. Hoping that things would blow over and return to how they had been for so many years.
But something had changed in me. I prayed about it and still felt uneasy. I started looking on craigslist for what jobs were out there that I was qualified for. Just to put my mind at ease. It didn't work. I talked to my husband and he tried to reassure me that everything would be fine. My company needed me! Or so I thought. Turns out I was wrong. I got a phone call one evening about a week before my birthday (Happy Birthdaaayyy toooo meee!) and I was let go. Eight years of service, and I no longer had a job.
I just bought a new house with my husband. I was the main source of income for our family. I was devastated. I was crushed. I was broken. I cried and poured my heart out to Jesus "Why?!" "Why would this happen?" "Had I not been a faithful follower?" "Did I not trust God enough?" "Had I done something wrong?" "Was I not good enough?" You get the idea. Pretty much the most awful thoughts about yourself is what I was thinking. I learned that night that a replacement had already been hired. I was asked to train her. I was expected to come to work and still contribute and still be professional and still do my job. I cried and prayed with my husband that evening as we lay in bed together scared for our future.
I barely slept that night. And when I woke up in the morning, I strangely felt okay. Like really okay. I had this sense of calm that came over me somewhere between drifting off to sleep and waking in the morning. I knew God loved me. I knew that he had a plan. It was like all of a sudden, he was saying to me, "Cast your worries on me, and all will be well". One of my favorite verses in the bible is 2 Corinthians 5:7, "Walk by faith, not by sight." And this verse came to me that morning as I lay in bed wishing the night before had been a dream.
As the days went by, and my replacement learned the roll, I started to even feel excited. Excited over the chance to do something new. I sent a few emails to colleagues of mine, trying to network and see what was out there, job wise. One of them sent me to a recruiter that she knew, and within a few days I was sent a profile of a job that had just become available. Literally, they placed their ad for this position the day before I was let go. And reading over the job description I just knew, this was it. But I kept praying anyway. I didn't want to get too excited, I mean... just because I knew I was perfect for this position didn't mean that they would agree! My resume was forwarded to this company, and I received positive feedback via my recruiter. It seemed too good to be true. My prayers were basically "Whatever your will is Lord, wherever you want me, I will go." "If this is not the job, than I know you have something out there for me." but MAN I wanted it to be this job!
I went through what seemed like the Olympics of a hiring process. I had multiple interviews, online assessments, personality tests, background tests, I kept thinking to myself "What's my next event?!" followed quickly by "Jesus, give me the tools, the words, the wisdom!" On one of my visits to the company for an interview I was given a tour of the offices. I saw what would be my office if I were to get the job. It even had windows! (I had worked in a windowless office for 8 years). It really did seem too good to be true. But that sense of calm was still there. That feeling of excitement and knowing that God had a plan, and as long as I was trusting him - it was all going to work out. I was blown a way when I did receive an offer for the job. So many people told me, without a degree, I wouldn't be able to make the same income as I had with my prior company. But guess what? I'm actually making more.
God is so good. Even in the scary times we went through with my job loss, I never lost the faith. Jesus walks beside you if you let him. He has a plan for your life. He may not let you in on the details, and you are going to have do some walking by faith and not by sight.. But it is so worth it! Get out of the way, and you may be surprised by the miracles waiting for you.
I lote blackberries. That is not a typo. It's a love hate thing all smashed together. I love warm blackberries off the bush and blackberry crisp and canned blackberry jam. I hate the stinking bushes. Our particular bushes hang over our fence from the neighbor's yard. Convenient when the fruit is ready. A hazard to drive through or walk through on the way home. I've got scars to prove it. Saturday I donned my crud clothes and my heavy duty gloves and went out to battle the blackberries. I always feel like the underdog when I go out into the yard.
The most well known story in the book of 1st Samuel has to be the epic battle between David and Goliath. The little guy beats the big guy saga is woven throughout literature and pop culture. It's included in any self-respecting self help book. Most of the time though the retelling skips an important piece. The story isn't really about the underdog vs. bully. It's about the power of God. David wins because he trusts the character of his creator. That same power is available to you. Fight your giants. God is bigger.
"And David said, "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine," I Samuel 17:37a
Just like David and Goliath, the rest of the stories in 1st Samuel are beautiful puzzle pieces all by themselves. Little character portraits that we can draw wisdom from and apply to our own lives.
Hannah: We spent two years of our marriage wondering if we could have a baby. Surgery and therapy and lots of prayer later and I identified with Hannah. Later my eldest daughter was convinced she would be an only child forever. She told me she prayed for a sister for over a year. When we read about Hannah my kiddo said she understood. Hannah cried out to the Lord and he heard her plea. Like all kids, Samuel was a gift.
I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. I Samuel 1:27
Samuel: This boy was dedicated to the service of God from birth. He grew up in the temple helping the prophet Eli. When Samuel was around twelve, he heard God speak. His response is one we should all mirror. Speak. I'm listening.
"Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." 1 Samuel 3:10
Saul: Samuel grows up to be a great prophet. The people come to him and beg for a king. They want to be like all the surrounding countries. So in grief, Samuel asks God. And God replies with a classic parenting method. You aren't gonna like it....but okay....here is a king. Sometimes we manipulate our lives to the point that we get what we want. It would have been better had we waited. At any rate, God appoints Saul to be king. This goes okay for a while but Saul becomes a bitter, jealous, arrogant man. God eventually tells Samuel his reign is over. Saul spends the rest of his life trying to kill David. Like most things, it's all about the heart. When the motives are wrong the situation deteriorates.
"But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart". I Samuel 16:7
At one point on Saturday I was standing under the berry bushes cutting down the tangled vines above. The branches were heavy with dried leaves and leftover berries. Each time I cut a vine out of the mess I was showered in dust and dried bits. It got in my hair, down my shirt, into my eyes. Every time. The fallout was painful. Frequently the puzzle piece stories of 1st Samuel show the consequences of choices. Fallout.
Jonathan: I love the story of Jonathan. He is Saul's son and heir to the throne. He was also good friends with David. You would assume that when the throne was given away Jonathan would have joined his father in a temper tantrum. He doesn't. Jonathan spends the rest of his life protecting David. Love helps us let go, support others, protect.
"As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." I Samuel 18:1
David: This shephard boy turned giant slayer turned great king is perhaps the pinnacle character in the entire Old Testament. David is called a man after God's own heart. He is a servant leader, a humble king and as we'll see in 2nd Samuel a repentant flawed soul. David is also a symbol hinting at the servant savior promised to Abraham who will be fullfilled in the coming Messiah. (Hint: Christians believe that was Jesus).
Saturday afternoon as I stood back from my now cleaned up fence line I thought about the book of 1st Samuel. The stories wind and weave together a lot like my blackberry vines. Some of those stories are sharp warnings to avoid the barbs of jealousy and rebellions. Some give lessons to sweeten our lives. The full picture that the book of 1st Samuel makes when it is pieced together and seen in context of the entire Bible narrative is breathtaking. It's full of courage and redemption. Promise and consequences. The grand picture continues to be that God's eternal plan will be worked out for good.
Read Scripture: 1 Samuel. Here you go! If you haevn't watched these yet, grab a cup of coffee and catch up. They are a great tool.
Handy infographic from New Spring Church along with a whole array of stories to help you think about and process the book of 1st Samuel. Read here.
There are TONS of great books about the characters in 1st Samuel; Hannah, David, Saul, Goliath. Here are a few I've read and enjoyed. Click on the book to purchase a copy through Amazon.
Mark Batterson's newest book is on my to read list. I loved In a pit with a lion on a snowy day. This one is the sequal. Chase your lions!
For our anniversary last year I signed my spouse up for a subscription date box. This is a kit that shows up in the mail once a month and includes a variety of themed items for a date night. My husband was less than impressed with the first box which included instructions on how to give your wife a fantastic massage. This might be one of those times when I gave him something for me.
Subsequent boxes were better. We've even let the kids tag along on a couple boxes as we made cake pops, roasted marshmallows over some homemade candles, planted carrots in our hand-crafted pinch pots and played lots of games.
This month's box was touted as an International Date Box. It included instructions for how to make an origami crane, two Suduko games and a whole kit for making your own sushi. It also included a grocery list. I hauled home sushi grade tuna, shrimp, crab, avocado, and cucumbers. I was excited about this one. My eldest daughter loves Sushi, the littlest is generally willing to try anything her older sister will eat and my husband is a fantastic chef. High hopes.
The kids and I sat at the counter watching the resident chef set up while we happily folded paper cranes and worked on Suduko puzzles. I'm a confident Suduko whiz so I used a pen.
Two hours later and my Suduko puzzle was a big ink blob of errors. The cranes were crumpled messes. The youngest one was sobbing. The oldest was hiding in the corner on her iPod. The resident chef was declaring that he was going to throw out every sushi item in the entire kitchen as soon as we ate the stupid rolls. Turns out that it takes forever to chop and set and roll and cut those gorgeous california rolls. I took pictures of the pretty ones. I did not take pictures of the ones that we called snowballs. We were starving. And tense. We ate our sushi in non date like silence.
The best part of the entire evening was when we opened our fortune cookie.
We all grinned. We threw out the sushi tools and shrugged our shoulders.
I've been married for 17 years. We have a great time together. Most of the time. However, we are both first born strong willed people. Our children are not mild. Therefore, not all our days - or our dates - qualify for Instragram photos and beautiful blog posts. Sometimes we argue and cry and pout. My guess is that's true in your family as well.
Relationships can require a lot of work. They may need counseling and self help books and lots of prayer and heart change. We've certainly had those chapters in the last 17 years. But I've also discovered that frequently there are problems you can solve in simple ways. It doesn't always have to be complicated. Sometimes shrugging your shoulders and throwing out the sushi tools is enough.
Seriously. How to save your marriage from yourself?
Cut each other some slack.
Take a deep breath.
Tell a joke.
It was pointed out to me recently that I have lots and lots of stories about how God has worked in my life. It is sometimes hard to see when it’s your own life. God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, redemption, and grace are interwoven throughout many stories in my life. Yet, I need to start where it began.
I wasn’t raised in the church. I went to church once in awhile, and knew of Christ, but had never truly accepted Him. When I was in high school, everything changed, and I accepted Christ as my Savior and devoted my life to Him. As many relationships do, I fell hard and fast, then slowly let it dwindle. I never gave up my relationship with Him, but I did become a long-distance friend for awhile.
During my “long-distance” relationship period, I got married, despite the red and yellow and orange flags before me. I got married at 18, had a baby at 19, and the divorce was finalized at 21. When I first held my baby girl, Sarah, in my arms, I realized I had to get things right. When my divorce was finalized, I realized I was solely responsible for making sure things were done right by her. My long distance relationship with God needed to become near and dear, so that Sarah would have a close relationship with my Lord and Savior. And, truth be told, I needed God more than ever at that point. I was hurt, lost, confused, and alone. I had nowhere to go, but up.
I started a full time job and went back to school. A few months later, I started another full time job. I was busy, but I was closer to God than ever before. I felt peace from Him and learned how to receive comfort from Him. He became my rock, my shield, and my protector. During that time, I clung to the verse of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I trusted God and I worked hard. I prayed that someday the hard work would pay off, so I could get more time with Sarah.
God had plans for me. Finding a man that had a close relationship with Christ, who would be willing to accept and love a daughter, seemed like an impossible task I wasn’t willing to take on. And, honestly, I didn’t have the time. After 5 years of being a single mom, I knew I wanted more, but didn’t think it was in God’s plans for me. However, God knew the desires of my heart. Psalms promises, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). God knew my desires and He had major plans for me.
I was first introduced to a man at a church picnic of a new church I began attending. My first reaction was “Not for me!” Six months later, we met again at a church small group. He began talking to me and I slowly opened up. After six months of talking, I knew this man was handpicked for Sarah and me. When I first introduced him to Sarah, he didn’t even flinch. He was willing to take on both of us.
On our wedding day, Graham wanted Sarah to feel just as special as I did. He wasn’t just marrying me; he was becoming a father to a 7 year old. Graham bought and gave her a necklace. This was a token of love that Sarah will cherish forever. It was beginning of a strong father-daughter relationship.
A few months after the wedding, Graham adopted Sarah as his own. Before the adoption day, we sat down and told her that he would like to adopt her. Graham asked her directly, “Would it be OK if I adopted you, as my own?” Sarah said “Yes.” On the day of the adoption, we went for a walk around the court house. He took her in his arms and told her he loved her. This was an unconditional love. A love that only a father can give. A love that our God gives us.
Sarah had to accept the adoption for her to be just as happy as Graham was. God wants this also. We have to accept our adoption into God’s family. If Sarah had said No, the joy would have been dimmed significantly. There would have been a struggle to go through with it. There would have been tears of sadness. Sarah needed to accept it. She needed to want to be a part of his family.
So, we celebrated the adoption afterward with ice cream. Is there a better way to celebrate? We celebrated with tears of joy, smiles, and laughter. When God adopts us into His family, there is a big celebration in Heaven too. Luke 15:10 tells us, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
If Heaven celebrates adoptions with rejoicing, then adoptions on Earth should be celebrated with tears of joy and laughter. And, as always, ice cream!!
I have two daughters. My heart walks around ouside my body. I think about the days I have to play and teach and mold. There aren't that many really. I hold their hands and cuddle in and tell them stories. Some to make them laugh. Some I hope they take to heart. One of my favorite tales is the short four chapter Biblical saga of Ruth.
Once there was a young woman named Ruth. She was a Moabite woman. She fell for an immigrant, an Israeli boy, a refugee who had left his home country with his family to escape famine. Ruth married her man and she committed fully. Ruth bonded with his faith and family. Ruth loved his mama, Naomi, as her own. Then tragedy struck. Her father-in-law, brother-in-law and her husband all died. The famine was closing in. I'm sure she was scared and hungry.
I watch my two girls and wonder what the future holds. I pray we equip them with deep roots and steadfast souls. They will have good days and bad. Joy and sorrow. They will fall down. We all do.
Naomi sat in her grief and saw only one way forward. She had to move home. So she turned to her daughter-in-laws and told them to do the same. Go home girls! They had a good cry and one left. Ruth sat still. She didn't move.
"Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." Ruth 1: 16
That verse is the most popular in the book of Ruth. It's said at weddings and stiched on pillows. But I love this one more.
When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. Ruth 1:18
Naomi saw the loyal soul of her daughter-in-law. This verse makes me proud of my tough and steadfast girls. I want them to be brave and unmovable on the things that matter. This is why I tell them the story of Ruth. When it matters - Don't move. Perseverance leads to success. Temptation quits when it sees determination.
Ruth and Naomi travel back to Israel. And Ruth kicks into gear. Ruth spends her days gathering leftover barley from nearby fields in order to feed Naomi and herself. Word of her effort and her loyalty reach the ears of the landowner. Hard work is always a good idea. The best way to get noticed is for character. Enter the male lead - Boaz. This wealthy farmer starts to assist Ruth and gives her a blessing.
May the Lord reward your work, and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge." Ruth 2: 12
Oh my daughters! May you choose wisely where you seek help. Trust God. Watch for miracles great and small. They are all around. What a joy it is to celebrate when God builds serendipities into our lives.
When Naomi hears that Boaz is helping Ruth she grins. You see Boaz is their kinsman reedemer. Close relatives were charged with rescuing widows, managing their land and continuing their family line. So Naomi smiles and her heart starts to hope. She starts to plan.
Girls. Wish big giant dreams. Plan and pray. Get after it. Be bold. Control what you can.
Ruth listens to Naomi's plan. She dresses in her finest. Brushes her hair. Approaches Boaz and makes her situation clear. Heads back to Naomi. Then they wait.
Listen my loves. Once you've done all you can, then you wait. Watch and see. The Lord fights for you.
"Then she said, 'Wait my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today." Ruth 3: 18
Naomi and Ruth's story includes a wedding and a baby. A home and a future. A family tree that leads to King David and ultimately to that long awaited Savior.
"Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel." May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him." Ruth 4: 14
You see when God gets involved our story weaves into His. While He does not promise everyone a fairy tale wedding; He does promise a secure future. He promises us all a redeemer. A restorer. A sustainer.
My daughters. Be a Ruth. Loyal. Steadfast. Committed. Determined. Hard Working. Celebrating. Grateful. Bold. Patient. Redeemed.
The Bible Project has succeeded again in this walkthrough of Ruth. The discussion of God's providence and plan working out through individual people's choices inspires me. Watch it!
Liz Curtis Higgs is an engaging funny author. I love her take on the book of Ruth. Click to buy your own copy.
Here is a handy infographic from NewSpring Church for the book of Ruth. This one is pretty! You can check out their Bible study on the book here.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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