Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Frog Prince, Pink Hearts, and Something Sweet

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As my mom gives me a Valentine’s gift, she says to me (please hear the humor in her voice as she is saying this): I’ve prayed and thanked God for the revealing of your husband-to-be until I’m tired of hearing it, and I’m sure God is too…and I’ve listened to your dad pray during our nightly prayer time until I’m just about tired of hearing him pray about it, so this is the best I can do.

As I’m reading the directions, I see that there is this tiny little hole through which I am to fill his tank with water (I like this "just add water" approach...sure beats kissing frogs!)…

then he is supposed to bubble for a few minutes and turn into a prince...let's just say my idea of a few minutes is a lot shorter than the actual time it took for him to shed all of his froggy outer layer...

I watched him transforming for a while, as I could see the prince emerging, I wanted to shake the sludge off of him myself, but he was enclosed so I couldn't do that. My mom, in her wisdom, said, "trust me, even though you want to help speed up the process, it's better if we let it happen as it should...no matter how long it takes." I'm sure this applies to more than my little prince here...I eventually went about the business of the day to come back and find a mostly revealed prince. As directed, I poured out the green water and refilled his tank with clean water. He's still a little slimy, but in 3 days the slime should be gone and this prince should be full grown...I think he'll be quite cute once the goo is gone...

While I await my prince, here are a some treats I'm enjoying this Valentine’s Day…

Raspberry Chocolate Hearts


16 oz. Raspberry Amasai
½ Cup Mini Dark Chocolate Chips

Stir amasai and chocolate chips together in a mixing bowl. Pour into heart shaped mold. Place in the freezer to set. Remove from freezer about 10 minutes to soften before enjoying.

Hearts mean love…especially when made into a “healthy shape” for my niece and nephew…

Brownies for friends…

A new favorite…

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

4 Eggs
1/4 Cup Coconut Flour
1/4 Cup Cocoa
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pressing out any lumps and stirring until well combined. Line Muffin pan with parchment paper liners. Pour into 8 muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting

1 Cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 Cup extra virgin coconut oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup, grade B
1 Tablespoons vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a boiler over low heat. Stirring until chocolate is melted and mixture is well combined. Place boiler in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from freezer and whip with a hand held blender. The mixture will become thick. Spread over cupcakes and share with someone you love!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Amusement Park of Online Dating

Last Summer I was a little bummed about my lack of dating options and wondered if I should put myself “out there”. Wherever “out there” was, I knew that in the very least, it had to be within a certain set of boundaries. I know several happily married couples who met via online dating and ultimately I decided to give it a try. Choosing a reputable online dating website that employed a very extensive (I almost gave up answering the questions there were so many!) questioning process to find the most suitable matches, gave me a sense of the boundaries that I desired. It wasn’t a site where anyone could log in and look around, but the site used a matching system to deliver specific matches to my inbox every morning. I do admit that I was a little skeptical at first and very cautiously dipped my toe in the water. I didn’t post a picture for several days…I wanted to wait and see what this thing was all about. Eventually I decided to post a picture and increase my search area… since I’d “bought the ticket”; I may as well “take the ride”.

From the very start, I set a couple of personal boundaries:

1. I believe that God reveals certain things and it is the man’s role to do the initiating and pursuing, with that in mind, I would only respond to those who first contacted me.

2. To avoid any unnecessary contacts, I would quickly close out any matches that I clearly knew up front would not be a good idea to pursue getting to know.

During 3 months online, I adjusted the search area from within 50 miles of my hometown to up to the 6 nearest states, received over 300 matches, proceeded through the communication process to direct emails with about 10 of them, talked on the phone with 4 and met 3 face-to-face.

It was interesting to see what varied types of men in terms of occupations, physical appearance and personalities with whom I was matched. While I was very hopeful to enjoy the same blessings I’ve seen some of my friends receive from this type of experience, I began to analogize the situation as similar to visiting an amusement park. Although I remained in a very basic “getting-to-know-you” phase with each person, for the sake of simplicity I will refer to each of the following scenarios as a “relationship”.

One “relationship” was like a Fun House. At first the emails were quick, witty, and a lot of fun. When we began talking on the phone I started to wonder if things weren’t quite what they at first seemed. Then we met face-to-face and I saw through the smoke and mirrors. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to find your way out of a Fun House and getting out of this scenario was a little difficult as well.

Another “relationship” was like a Rollercoaster. You know the feeling when you board a Rollercoaster and the harness comes down and is very secure and you feel really safe…then you tug on it a bit and you have a twinge of panic because it’s tight…then you wonder, “but what if the harness unlatches midair”? Well, this “relationship” started off with that sense of security, he was open about his interest in getting to know me and his pursuit of a lasting relationship. We quickly moved through a short time of emailing, a few phone calls and then a face-to-face meeting. Just as a Rollercoaster click, click, clicks on the incline, then swoosh…down you go and it is moving fast! We were off to a fun start. He always had a plan that included some adventurous outing, however, there were ups and downs…we would have a fun date then we’d talk on the phone and our conversations fell flat. We had some highs and lows and twists and turns and very quickly it was all done. Just like an actual Rollercoaster, it was fun for a short time, but you just can’t stay on it too long.

The other “relationship” was like a Ferris Wheel. Everything was smooth and slow and very enjoyable...as long as it was in motion. I remember as a child always looking forward to riding the Ferris Wheel because from the top I could see the beauty of the city lights and it was peaceful and relaxing. I would become a little nervous when they stopped the ride to let others on and off and I was stuck somewhere in the middle, unable see what was going on below, I would wonder, “are we stuck” or “what if we get stuck” and sometimes it would feel like a really long time before the ride would progress and sometimes we’d barely move and it was a little scary being suspended and sort of on pause, not really knowing when it was going to flow or if the next time we reached the ground it would be time to get off the ride. Well, this “relationship” reminded me of that…I really enjoyed the time of emailing, though it was filled with long pauses in communication and after a few months of what seemed like starts and stops in the emailing process we did come voice-to-voice and then briefly face-to-face. There were so many long pauses that left me wondering when or if this Ferris Wheel was going to flow or keep stopping and starting or worse yet, stay “stuck” in mid-air.

So, there you have it…my Summer of online dating took me to the amusement park where I had some strange moments, thrilling moments, confusing moments and an all around fun time. I am ever grateful to have met each person. However, during the process I realized that I can do things to increase the volume of people I meet, but I cannot do anything to speed up or mess up God’s plan and His timing. His plans will unfold just as they should.

Exactly as I planned, it will happen. Following my blueprints, it will take shape.
Isaiah 14:24

Today I am thankful for the abundance of mutually encouraging friendships the Lord has brought into my life that keep me entertained socially and growing spiritually. He knows just what I need, just when I need it.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise You forever for what you have done. In Your name I will hope, for Your name is good. I will praise You in the presence of Your saints.
Psalm 52:8-9

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Toughest One Yet

At 7:00 a.m. over 3,500 runners began the 2012 Double Bridge Run. Prior to race day, I had several friends who had previously run this race tell me that there was always a tail wind and since I’d recently run two half marathons, this 15K shouldn’t be too difficult. This seems to be a theme lately…people telling me, “oh, it will be easy” and then I get into whatever the task at hand is and it is WAY more difficult that anyone ever anticipated. It turns out that this particular morning, instead of the usual tail wind everyone so assuredly proclaimed, we were blessed with the challenge of a head wind all the way to the finish.

In making my way through downtown and to the first bridge, I was constantly reminding myself to look up and out, to help keep my focus on what was ahead and not the constant pounding of the pavement directly in front of me. The morning began a little overcast, but as I entered the 3 mile bridge the clouds began to break revealing little peeks of the blue sky and the sun shining through.

The Lord knows how much I enjoy the warm sunshine and in that moment I was encouraged and thankful. I just kept thinking of the words to the song When the Stars Burn Down:

Star of the morning, Light of salvation
God of all mysteries, Lord of the Universe
Righteous King

I kept thanking God for the sun and His Son and the energy to make it across the bridge. The wind was a constant and growing force pressing against me, almost pushing me backwards and there were times when I felt like I was running and going nowhere or worse yet, two steps forward and three steps back. I thought about the spiritual forces that press against us and how fierce they sometimes are and how we can’t physically see them, but we feel them, pushing us and much like being on the bridge and not being able to turn back (or jump over) we have no back up armor because God leads us through and protects us.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-17

The Lord will go before you; the God of Israel will be your rear guard. – Isaiah 42:12

Sometimes all we can do is bow our heads and go through the circumstance…faith in action. Today, as I reached the steep incline of the bridge, I bowed my head and took it one step at a time, going through, believing in faith that I would make it to the other side.

Sometimes God requires us to go through something to change a weakness to strength, to route a dark enemy. – Beth Moore

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors. - Romans 8:37

When we’ve pressed through and thoroughly conquered the thing, there is something on the other side. Today, it was the victory of crossing the bridge…but there were more miles to go.

I had to constantly renew my mind with The Word to keep running and behave victorious. Every time I quoted the Word of God, I felt a surge of energy as I agreed with God that I could do this, I could press through the wind and the hills.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary… - Isaiah 40:31

Crossing the second bridge to the beach a fellow runner let me know that we had about .5 mile to go…I thought, “We’re almost there, but it sure does seem farther when you are running than it ever has in the years of driving this route for a day at the beach”.

I looked to see the finish line up ahead and thought:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. – James 1:2-3

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1 hour, 26 minutes and 10 seconds…I hoped to finish somewhere between 80 and 90 minutes, so this was right in the middle of my goal. Praise be to God for the strength and endurance to power through…and a tremendous “thank you” to the friends and family who were at the finish line cheering me through.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy February!

I LOVE February…maybe because it means Spring is just around the corner, maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day is in February and I LOVE Valentine’s Day…I know some people say it is overrated and exploited by greeting card companies and chocolatiers the world over…but I LOVE it regardless. We have other holidays that remind us of important events, so why not have a holiday to remind us to tell those nearest and dearest how much we LOVE them? And who can resist a holiday that basically requires all things pink, red, chocolate, heart-shaped and sweet? Ok, I’m off of my Valentine’s Day soap box, however, I will most likely return to it before the month is over…back to why I LOVE February….maybe I LOVE February because it is also the month in which I was born and I love any reason to celebrate, so being thankful that the Lord has seen fit to keep me here another year is plenty of reason to LOVE this blessed month. In the spirit of all things lovely, here are a few pictures of some things I LOVE…

Vintage Valentines...I LOVE saving my old cards and reading them again.

Cole and Chloe's 2012 Resolution to Stay Fit.

Reminders that we girls should always take a moment to twirl and spin with glee.

Beautifully Colorful Radishes

Tiny flowers pushing up through the pavement...ok, so technically this is a weed, but it's still a bright spot in the blah concrete.

Lizard Houses

Double Chocolate Cookies with Berries for Breakfast...ok, so not the most balanced breakfast, but sometimes we just need a treat.

Grocery shopping made easy.