Friday, November 22, 2013

More Than The Cliche: Thanksgiving

Well compadres, it is Friday night in my world. I think that this would be considered just barely sliding into home base in terms of meeting my Friday blogging goal! LOL. I'm sure that posting a blog at ten p.m. is prime time, right??!! Ah well. I'm kind of enjoying the quiet of a Friday evening. This is going to make me sound way more domestic than I am but I made a homemade vegetable stock tonight so that I can use it to start brining a turkey tomorrow. It smells DElightful in this house! In fact, it's starting to smell like Thanksgiving!

Truth be told, Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite holiday. December 25, I may be whistling a different tune, but for today the approach of Thanksgiving is feeling wonderful. I love the opportunity to celebrate with a thankful heart and to recall all that has been a blessing. AND - I do love me some Thanksgiving dinner!!!

Sometimes I have to catch myself though. The truth is that thanksgiving is really quite powerful because the act of thanksgiving can breed change in our hearts. Whether it's our daily facebook post of what we are thankful for, or quickly mentioning how thankful we are for x, y or z to a friend, it is so easy for thanksgiving to become easily talked about. Sometimes I have to ask myself whether or not my heart is truly engaged in thanksgiving....

Because somewhere out there is a connection that goes a little something like this: born out of my humble willingness to say 'God I can't do life on my own and I am not enough on my own'....which leads me to a vulnerable place of true trust that my God will show up in my weaknesses or that I am simply choosing to trust that He will show Himself true despite difficult circumstances.

That may be a little half-baked, but I am pretty sure there must be something between thanksgiving, humility (I'm not enough in and of myself), and trust in Him. Some of the most powerful moments I have experienced of feeling heaviness lift off of my heart have been when I truly feel the temptation to dwell on the dark but make a conscious decision to lift my eyes. To start telling Him what I am thankful for about His character. To start reminding myself that this One has been faithful generation after generation. That He has delivered me countless times before. That He is at work even when it's hard to perceive. That the truth is, no matter how I feel, I am protected. I am shielded and I am comforted.

And that is when thankfulness helps to break us through that seemingly impenetrable wall of doubt, disappointment or just a stupid ol' case of the doldrums. When we start talking to our soul and redirecting the choices of our hearts, heaviness has to lift to some extent.

Paul so simply reminds me in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Hmmmm....give thanks in ALL circumstances. That doesn't mean act like things are perfect when they clearly aren't. Robotic declarations won't do us much good, will they? But why would Paul go on to say that this is the will of God for us? To be thankful in all? I think it probably gets back to that trust thing. Because, I can be thankful in all when I trust that I am not alone. Which is the truth for each one of us. We are never asked to walk alone!

Mercy I get so stirred up when I think about thankfulness like that. I think that when we connect thankfulness to trust, the enemy must get nervous!

I wish I knew what your plans are to celebrate Thanksgiving! I wish we could sit down and share with each other the truly remarkable things that have happened this year to once again show us His trustworthiness. Man alive....that would be a long coffee date.

Speaking of Thanksgiving and things I enjoy, may I leave you with something truly wonderful to my family? It's my Gan's recipe for cornbread dressing. I can't get over it and I don't ever want to. If you're looking for a great East-Texas approach to Southern dressing this year, I think you'll like it!

Click here for the recipe!

Love y'all and Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Can't help but say that I am really proud of my man these days. Really proud... and THANKFUL for him and all that he teaches me.

AND I am thankful for this one bear I know:

AND I am thankful that Starbucks has given me incentive to buy five holiday drinks so I can get my sixth free. I am up for the challenge and I'm taking it seriously!

Gan's Southern Cornbread Dressing

Gan is my grandma and she taught me how to make this recipe. I think it was actually my Grandy's (grandpa) mom's recipe so it's got roots and it's been tested by time! Enjoy!

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg

Blend all ingredients. Beat vigorously 1 min. Pour into 8" or 9" square pan. Bake 20-25 min. at 425 degrees.

Cornbread Dressing:
1.5 recipes of cornbread
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 pieces white bread
1/4 cup raw rice, cooked
2.5 cups turkey broth (preferably from the turkey you make for the meal)
OR 1 can chicken broth
1/2 TBLS salt
1 TBLS pepper
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp sage

Mix all of the above except eggs and broth. Store in tupperware overnight and up to three days (I usually store it at least two). Then add raw eggs and broth. Some fat from the turkey can be added in. Bake at 400 degrees in a 9 x 13 dish for about 30 min. Allow to set.

Now I don't know where you stand on gravy but I CANNOT eat my dressing without gravy. Will not. So, here's the giblet gravy recipe too:

Ratio: 2 TBLS fat:2 TBLS flour: 1 cup giblet broth

Add flour to melted fat. Stir with fork until brown. You can repeat the fat and flour step as many times as you'd like to the base for more gravy. Add broth slowly. Cook slowly, stirring until foam is cooked out. Salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped giblets.

Should you need to know how to cook giblets while we are at it:

Cover giblets with water. Add onion, celery, carrots and two peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer until all is done, 1-2 hours. Keep covered.

Enjoy my friends! I just wish I could make this with Gan again this year because I sure do miss her!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Haircut and Hearing His Voice

Happy Friday to you!!! There is a serious delightfulness to Fridays whether you work out of the home, in the home, both, are a student, are retired...whatever. It's that little internal signal to have a little fun!

This is one of those posts in which my heart is brimming with much to say and much to express but the question is - where to start? Have I ever mentioned that my favorite bloggers are the ones that tell funny stories? And have I ever mentioned that the one thing I genuinely struggle to do whilst blogging is to tell funny stories? LOL! I mean, sometimes I sit here and think 'You've got to be kidding me. I know something funny happened to me this week. Something quirky. Some sort of picture perfect / you-see-it-coming kind of story that perfectly illustrates a point. Nope, still nothing. So, we'll go back to what we know best...serious.' LOL! Maybe I should start asking God to give me funny stories!

No - the truth is that in the midst of finding straggler pantry months (which are actually worms before they become moths: gag a million gags) this week, doing the dishes what felt like one hundred times, dealing with a two year old that has the most precious highs and some interesting lows, and getting my hair cut to make me feel more like the real me, the Lord has been speaking. Yes, yes He has been speaking. Not loudly mind you, but quietly.

Do you remember me mentioning a few posts back, that if there is one thing I think He wants of me - it is my voice? If you don't, no biggie. I won't go into it all now, but that's what I have felt since I was about sixteen. Somehow putting it out there to the blogging world though - that I felt I was called to be a voice - opened up a whole world of crazy. I think that's what actually started to make blogging in and of itself seem so intense. All of the sudden, this pressure to say something that mattered via blogging took over. The truth is, sometimes I type things that resonate and sometimes it falls flat. The falling flat started to feel terrifying rather than just 'eh, it happens.' The pressure!

But, God is really nice. Have you ever thought that of Him? He was nice to me one morning and literally woke me up to His truth. It was one of those mornings where I woke up to a Scripture rolling over and over inside of me. Honestly, that doesn't happen that often, so I pay attention when it does! These were the words reverberating inside of me:

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and he eat with him, and him with me."

Revelation 3:20

(God's hand could look like a white woman's hand, right? And this is exactly what my door looks like, wink wink.)

Wow! I mean, if I am honest, one of my heart's true desires is to become more adept at memorizing Scripture. It's been years upon years since I have really done it. I hadn't thought of this verse at all recently, it was out of the blue, but word for word. Do you think He had my number? I think so :).

It's just never ever about how good we are at anything. It's not about how consistent of a track record I can build up. It's not about how articulate I can be. It's not about how well we can perform! It's about Him wanting to demonstrate His strength - a particular facet of Himself - through us. It's about Him! Duh, right?

The reminder of that particular part of His truth calmed me so much that morning. I had been focusing inward so much and allowing the pressure of performance to creep upwards, slowly but surely. He broke through all of that in an instant. In a moment He reminded me that it is HE who knocks. He who initiates. And that He DOES knock and if I simply listen for that voice and open up...not only will I hear Him, but He will hang out with me.

Since then, the pressure tries to creep back up occasionally, but it doesn't stick. It is Him that is the voice. I'm only a reflection of His voice and I am way way human. There will continue to be occasional (or more frequent lol!) flat moments and I will miss the mark. BUT, He is knocking and in the end, that's all that really matters. He is knocking.

I could easily close there but can I just pretend for a moment that we are sharing a cup of coffee?? I've got some fun ideas for the future rolling around inside of me and I'd love to bounce them off of you!!! Any and all feedback is welcome! Along with hoping for continued inspiration for the moment as I blog, I've got some ideas for some planned series in blogging:

A series of posts on mentoring (how to find a mentor, how to be mentored when you don't have one, and how to be a mentor)...accompanied by some 'meet my mentor' posts...a casual interview with three women who have mentored me.

A series of posts on the real things that have made a big impact in our marriage (liking him, learning to play on his team, and praying for him)

Girlfriending: How to be a friend worth having and how to find them yourself

If you've got any feedback - I'd LOVE to hear it! Thanks so much for joining me on this ride. It's an honor to share life and a few moments with you. And who knows, maybe the Lord will bring out my funny story telling capabilities after all!

Happy weekend!

BIG FAT P.S. If you're anything like me, if a new haircut is mentioned, it is cruel to not show pictures. You know how you have to guard yourself from comparing and contrasting too much on social media? Because after all, people only show you the side they want you to see at their best moments (guilty here)? Well, this isn't my worst folks, but it ain't my best either. This is second day hair, worn off makeup and tired Abi at 9:30 at night. You're welcome. :)

(Let me be honest: the lipstick was freshly applied. I am Cheryl Booth's daughter, after all. We is better with lipstick on.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Other F Word

Do you remember this post? It was just a few weeks ago and I was reporting for duty but sweating. I am happy to report that I'm not sweating this week! Blogging once a week is starting to feel like a fairly good flow and I'm even starting to have those feelings of excitement that I had talked about losing! Yesssssss and amen. Just wanted to put that little update out there. :)

Last night, we wrapped up a book study that I facilitated. You probably remember me mentioning it a while back, but it was a first for me. For the longest time, the idea was growing in my heart. I had fully intended for it to be a summer book study, actually, but that didn't quite happen. I'll never forget finally sitting down and officially sending out all of the emails letting people know about it. There is truly nothing like knowing that you've not only said - yes - you have followed it with action.

I was shocked when ten girls enthusiastically signed right up! And then (you can see this coming), my precious little pride had to take a deep breath when we whittled down to half of that in the end. LOL! But still, my heart is just soaring over the fact that this vision of my heart is now a done deal! And let me tell you - the girls that stuck it out were just the most precious, varied, and open group you could wish for. When I first envisioned this, there's no way that I could have quite pictured the collection that gathered and stayed to the end.

There were moments during the study when I could see the numbers slimming and it was so funny to watch my heart in those times. I would find myself thinking 'I probably don't need to keep emailing the group once a week now.' It was almost as if all the umph would want to fly out of me as our numbers slimmed over the weeks. But wouldn't you know, in each of those moments here would come reminders of truth: "Abi, do NOT despise small beginnings" (Zechariah 4:10) and "Abi, if you are faithful with this little I have given you then there will be more to be faithful with....but faithfulness with the little matters to Me!" (Matthew 25:23)

I just couldn't shake how important it is to be faithful with whatever it is that He has put in your path. Regardless of size, impact, results, or stature - all that truly matters is faithfulness.

Our dear friend, Ray, is a very talented guy. A very smart guy. And he's a particularly good coach to business people who have big-time jobs. But he has this one question he asks that pierces straight through any acumen you may have and digs straight to the heart:

"How would your life look different if all that mattered was faithfulness?"

Join me in letting that one work its way through you!

Let's play that out a bit.

What if He isn't asking you to be responsible for the results? He is just asking you to be faithful.

What if He isn't asking you to know where it's all going? He is just asking you to be faithful.

What if He is wanting to lead you through a quiet season that doesn't look impressive to the outsider? He is just asking you to be faithful.

What if all those diapers you change today, those dishes you wash today and the messes you pick up for the umpteenth time are not meaningless to Him? What if He sees that as faithfulness?

What if you step out and do what He's been leading you to do - but you are afraid? Oh man. He loves that faithfulness!

What if you step out, and things don't go as well as you would have liked, but you don't quit? Faithfulness.

What if your world seems to be falling apart, but somehow you find the desire to not give up on God? Dear one, THAT is faithfulness!

Maybe none of these sound like you. Maybe it is something else entirely but it is both frightening and freeing to realize that faithfulness is all that matters. Come on now - it IS a little frightening because it removes the barriers that currently hold us back from moving forward in action! Ahhh! But truly it is SO freeing. You are off the hook in many areas that you may have thought mattered. It's not that results don't matter. It's just that He rarely says to us "I want you to do X and see it have Y results." It's usually more: "Child, follow me and do X." Whew!

I SO wish I had remembered to get a little picture of our group last night. Let me tell you, we may have dwindled but I am so honored by the girls who made it to the end with us. They are each treasures and it became such a life-giving place to be honest in and to spur each other on to Truth. It was an amazing blessing to me and I will never forget this experience. It took me months upon months...okay let's be honest it took me more than a pull the trigger on faithfulness but I'm so thankful it finally happened. It's almost like a snowball effect now - stepping out in faithfulness is contagious to the other things in my heart that have been building!

Be encouraged today, journeyer! All He's asking is for your faithfulness - He is more than capable of taking care of the rest. He'll get you to the next step when you're supposed to be there.

Happy Friday y'all!

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Halloween to Remember: From All Out Crazy to a Rebound

You know those days when it just seems like you woke up and stepped right into a war zone? Yes indeed that was my yesterday. Geez, Louise!

As I reflect on what actually happened - of course it wasn't as bad as it felt. But here's how the morning went: Liam and I both woke up late meaning that I didn't have the chance to make Z's coffee for his drive to work. I am no saint of a wife - but it's a little something he looooves and I love doing it because he loves receiving it. Did I mention we both woke up late? That got us off to a wonky start because I had a meeting late morning and there was no way around it - yesterday had to be a shower day.

I try to negotiate out of showering...well really, out of fixing my hair post-showering... on just about any occasion that I can. But it was non-negotiable yesterday. Please don't judge - but Liam took a shower with me. He usually loves it but yesterday was a challenge from minute one. So what is usually fun play time in the water while Mommy showers turned into Mommy washing that hair as fast as her hands could move...cue blood pressure rising. And let's see - that put us at about 8:30 getting out of the shower. I'm out of quickie breakfast options at the moment - so eggs it is. Not that eggs are hard but where is a Nutri-Grain bar when you need one??

I had to dry my hair immediately after the eggs were made. Do you have curly hair? If you do, you know that there is a VERY REAL window of time in which you can start the process of drying curly hair into straight hair. I was on the verge of expiration and that precious little clock was a tickin! SO I put Liam in my bed to eat breakfast and watch Curious George while I dried my hair. What ensued from there was just a little snowball of guilt-thoughts: My mom would have never put me in bed to eat breakfast! Three episodes later plus a Daniel Tiger episode (not kidding) 'um I think we're getting pretty much to the two hour point of tv watching.' Yay ME!!!!!!!!!

Now - in the midst of drying the aforementioned head of curly hair into straight hair - I remembered that I needed to go create a quick word doc and email it to be printed off for the women's ministries bulletin board before the meeting. And - I needed to start drafting an email to gather a group of women for a brainstorming night because frankly, the inviting was supposed to happen yesterday and today. Hmph. So - I'm drying one section of the hair and then running in and writing an email, back and forth etc. All the while - hating that Liam is on his forth episode of tv!

The hair finally got dried. The make-up was hastily applied. The emails were sent. And then it was time to dress Liam. Can I just say that it's SO MUCH FUN to dress a two year old these days! :) He has opinions and he's decided that most of the time this is an opportunity to play a game of 'No I don't want to get dressed!' Two year old running from Mommy. Mommy really really trying not to scream. Bottom line - he got dressed. It wasn't too ugly - but you would have thought I was fighting a real war with how frazzled I was.

And then most of all - there was this. This question that had been asked of me the night before: Abi, what do you do most days? It came from a good friend who is a question-asker-extraordinaire. There was zero mal-intent on his part - only genuine curiosity. But can I tell you that during all of these little battle-esque moments of the morning - that question and more accurately my answer were running through the background of my thoughts. In retrospect, I hated the way I answered it more than anything. I seem to ALWAYS FREEZE when a question like this is posed to me. It's as if I suddenly have no earthly clue what fills my time and I feel like I'm answering 'Uh uh uh uh.' I rambled on about cleaning the kitchen a lot and doing laundry. Seriously.

So as I'm having the not-so-great shower, as I'm feeding my child eggs in bed and asking Curious George to work his magic, as I'm drying my hair and writing emails at the same time, as I'm chasing a two year old to clothe - I'm thinking "Who am I kidding? How do I spend my time? Taking three hours to get showered and dressed."

Ahhhhhh the glory of days like that right? You've been there. You know that feeling when literally nothing feels easy and even keeping your hair dryer plugged in is hard (it happened).

Liam and I finally got into the car. It was my first chance to sit that morning so as we're driving away I start quietly saying "Oh Jesus help me, oh Jesus help me, oh Jesus help me...." Which, as is our norm these days, elicits an unbelievably cute voice asking "Mommy, what happened?" I told him that Mommy had just gotten too stressed out that morning and that she was asking Jesus to come and settle her insides. And you know what? Just like that, peace started to come.

As we continued our drive, a Scripture popped into my mind from Colossians 3:

"If then you have been raised with Christ, set your mind on things that are above, where Christ is - seated at the right hand of God."

When you've had the kind of morning I'd just experienced, you start saying words with some attitude! There we are driving down the road and I'm saying out loud - 'Wait a second, I HAVE been raised with Christ and right now I CHOOSE to set my mind on Christ. Yeah! Bring it!' Where was my coach to slap me on the hiney and tell me to get back out there???

Sometimes all it takes is one moment of truth to break the cycle of crazy going on inside of us.

Being that yesterday was Halloween, there were some pretty precious moments to follow that crazy morning.

I got to do dishes (I did somehow remember to recall to my friend all of the time I spend doing dishes and how significant that is to my destiny <right!!>) and look at this and see God yesterday:

And then, be still my heart, I got to meet the two most adorable Super Men ever.

Moments like these help me to remember that, by the grace of God, crazy days can find peace. Bad starts don't have to mean ugly endings to my day. God is there. I pray that your day is covered by grace and that you stop to allow yourself to be settled a lot faster than I did yesterday!