Birthday Fun and Yummy Food

Kevin and I had a combined birthday celebration with his family on Saturday.  It's old news that I turned 30 on the 6th, and his birthday is coming up this Thursday, February 3rd.  He will be 34...much older and wiser than me. :)  It's crazy to think that on February 10th we will have known each other for 3 years!  The best 3 years of my life by far.

We had fun and are thankful for the fabulously generous gifts from the family, (like a super-cute purse, pedicure, clothes, and gift cards - yay!), after we enjoyed a yummy lunch.  I thought I'd share a couple recipes with you today.

Our menu:

Chicken Noodle Soup
Baked mini ham and cheese sandwiches
Chips and french onion dip (I'm a big fan of this combo!)
Cookie "Pizza"

The soup was provided by Progresso, :) and definitely lived up to the commercials about "grandma's recipe!"

My mom gave me the recipe for the sandwiches, which we enjoyed for our New Year's eve party when I was home.  There are a couple different variations, but I love this one!  They are so easy and delicious!

2 packages of Hawaiian rolls
2 packages of deli ham (I used honey ham and brown sugar ham)
2 packages of swiss cheese
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. poppyseeds
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. chopped/minced dried onions
1 and 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
3/4 cup butter


1.  Cut the rolls in half and set aside.

2.  In a small saucepan, combine all remaining ingredients EXCEPT ham and cheese, and cook over med. low to med. until it comes to a boil.

3.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

4.  Layer ham and cheese on the rolls, but do not put tops back on yet.

5.  Using a pastry brush, generously coat ham and cheese with butter mixture.

6.  Place tops back on the rolls, then generously brush the rest of the mixture on top.

7.  Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.

These are a party favorite for sure! 

I also made a Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pizza for dessert, because Kevin loves chocolate chip cookies, and when you add peanut butter it becomes a quick favorite!  I found an awesome recipe on pillsbury.com, which by the way, is filled with great ideas for entertaining.  I've also made the Rocky Road Cookie Pizza, which is definitely my favorite!

Click here to find the recipe for this delicious dessert!

Happy Monday to you!  I'm hoping to stretch my "miscellany" out this week into a few more posts!


Zumba Joy

We did it.  My new friend Jessi and I took the semi-embarrassing plunge and Zumba-ed!  I knew I was in the right place when the incredibly enthusiastic, mid-40's instructor said this was not the class to take seriously.  It was FUNNY!!  I didn't stop smiling the entire class, and thankfully stood in the back so I didn't have to watch myself in the mirror the whole time.  Instead, I was entertained by the incredibly zealous "regulars" that stood in the front.  Hilarious.  It's such a fun/funny workout that there was a crowd of people outside the room watching and smiling/laughing as well! 

The Latin music was a little crazy, but the song with the African beat was a blast.  I didn't exactly let loose, but I kept thinking about how much fun I could have with that workout at home. And I was definitely sore afterward. I'm still just so fascinated at the mad hip-hop skills that instructor lady had...and how much she was loving observing those skills in the mirror! :)  Right from the beginning it was extremely fast paced, and she didn't exactly bother to walk us throug the steps.  Trial by fire I guess. She did say, however, that Zumba instructors are like ice cream - they all have a different flavor. ;)
So here's my assessment:  Try it!  Throw aside your inhibitions and shake those hips.  (Though notice I did not include a picture of myself doing so!)  Just know that at least half the people in the class feel at least as or more silly than you do.  They're not all gurus in there, trust me. 

I hope I've encouraged you to take the plunge...in the meantime, just to get the feel of it, play Alicia Keys', "Put It In A Love Song," (that was one we heard during class), and replicate any hip-hop moves you've ever witnessed...especially those that involve an extreme movement of your derriere.  If you do go, let me know how it goes for you!!!  (And Rachel from simple.little.joys,  you ARE Zumba!  Enthusiastic and zealous to the core.  I would LOVE to read about your adventures in Zumba land!)

Grandma, just so you know what I'm talking about, this video is for you!


What I'm Loving Wednesday

It's been quite awhile since I linked up with WILW, so today's the day!

1.  Today I'm loving the two boxers who live with the family we are staying with.  They are such sweet dogs - and Chai gets along with them quite well.  They lay right on top of you if you're on the couch.  I think they might be the sweetest "big dogs" I've ever been around.

2.  I'm loving that tonight I'm going to Zumba!  Trust me, stories to come.  I just hope I can make it through without laughing my head off.  I am quite certain latin dancing is not one of my "natural" gifts. 

3.  I always love The Pleated Poppy.  I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned my affection for this darling blog and her shop, but I frequent it quite often.  I have never actually purchased anything from her, but one day I have hopes to see the most adorable thing, perfect for me...and convince my husband of its perfection. Ha ha.  I especially love her bloom bags, covered notebooks, petal drop necklaces, and petal pushers.  Oh, and the posies are super cute, as well as the tiny pouches!  Who am I kidding, I just love her stuff.  Such fun and beautiful talent.

4.  I'm also loving SNOW DAYS.  Considering I've had about 4 of them in the last week, they're working for me.  Who wants to get out in this cold frigidness anyway?!  I joke with the people we're staying with that they must think I'm some kind of loaf, (whatever that is!), because of how many days off I've had since we moved in with them!  Which begs the question, why not more blog posts???  Well friends, I have no good answer...just trying to get my rhythm and some creativity back! Step one is being willing to do so many posts without pictures!!

5.  Harriet Tubman.  Seriously.  I am reading "Freedom Train" to my little guy at school, and I'm just captivated by her story.  It's been a long time since I have read the book, but it is just amazing what she did to help so many out of slavery.  Such an amazing woman.  There's a place called the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a museum in Cincinnati that does an absolutely beautiful job of portraying life-like scenes of those years that led the journey to ending slavery.  Definitely a must for anyone who has kiddos that live close!

6.  My dear sweet husband Kevin.  He is simply fabulous.  I am so thankful for the ways he is so bold and 'out loud' with his love for me.  In my wildest dreams I don't think I ever fathomed being loved like this on earth.  We laugh often about how crazy we can make each other one minute, and how madly in love we can be the next.  He put a TON  of effort creating the most awesome birthday present for me!!  He put together a beautiful scrapbook with letters and pictures from so many of the people who have journeyed through this life with me and loved me along the way.  (I still owe a big THANK YOU to any and all who contributed who also read this blog!!!)  I am humbled by my husband.  He is working so hard lately, as he over sees many areas of ministry, and my prayer is that God breathes peace into his soul, gives him the strength to endure, and brings great fruit from his labor.

7.  I am most of all loving God - and all that He is teaching me.  So much on my heart that I need to share.  I've had some tearful moments in my car lately, listening to songs and being just so aware and in awe of how finite we are and how majestic and all-powerful he is.  He is the author of every one of our days, the giver of every one of our breaths, and the only reason for every beat of our hearts.  I am overwhelmed by his goodness and so thankful for his mercy.  It is such an honor that he desires us to seek him with all of our hearts, and allows us to find him when we do.

That's what I'm loving on this snowy Wednesday...how about you??


Miscellany Monday

Wow, what a busy but fun weekend...I can't believe it's Monday already.  I'm so ready to share some miscellany with you...

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

1.  I enjoy being 30.  It's like I can take a deep breath and move on.  Transitions are not my favorite thing, but this has hardly taken much getting used to.  However, the kind family we are staying with celebrated their 21 year old daughter's birthday last night, and we got to be a part of it.  It was fun to hear her reflect about her previous birthdays, and to think about the years ahead of her.  I know God will teach her so much, through both tears and laughter.  All I can say is, don't wish away your twenties, but when they're over, thank the Lord for those refining years and move forward with joy.  Of course we all have different stories...my grandma, (who I thankfully got to spend time with this weekend!), had 4 kids by the time she was 24!!  Talk about two different life experiences.

2.  I need to sew!!!  I still haven't told you about the great books I got for Christmas and my birthday, and the projects are beckoning me!  Problem is, currently I'm not even quite sure where my fabric is - though I think it's in storage. (With those headbands I'm sure you all would like to see in a shop!)  I will be so ready to get my craft on once we are back in a semi-permanent one of these days.  I'm looking forward to trying out a couple new canvas projects!

3.  My small group of bible study girls is currently working through a study called "God Seeker," written by the wife of the pastor of the multi-site where Kevin is part of the staff.  She is an awesome lady and they have a passionate, God-seeking family who Kevin and I are blessed to call friends.  The study is one I would recommend that everyone do.  It's a study through Exodus 33, based on Moses' "tent of meeting" where he sought after God regularly.  The study draws you into an intense desire to know you Creator intimately, and pursue him with your whole heart.  The author, Kristen, recently came out with a dvd to accompany the study.  Check out the study here at Further Still ministries, as well as her blog.

4.   Remember long ago when I said Kevin and I were going to make a DIY headboard???  Well, (like many other things!), we have yet to do it.  However we do still have all the supplies, that we scored on sale several months ago.  So while you wait on us to get around to making it, check out this tutorial from the blog, "house of wood," that we plan to use to make it. (In case you get around to it before we do!!)

5.  Finally, I'm in the process of re-reading Karen Kingsbury's "Like Dandelion Dust," before I see the movie that was recently made based on the story.  The dvd is coming out tomorrow!  I really wanted to see it in the theater, but never got around to it.  I've heard wonderful things about the movie, it has a great cast, and the story, while intense, involves the theme of adoption.  I remember loving the story the first time I read it.  Check it out if you get a chance! (I always recommend reading the book first!!!)


Water Aerobics and What I've Been Up To

(No, this is not an actual picture from tonight, but I sure thought it was cute! )

So tonight I participated in "deep water aqua fitness" for the first time at the Y.  Yes, this is what you do when you enter your "30's."  It was seriously so much fun, though I'm sure I brought the average age down a bit.  I have never worked out at the Y, but Kevin and I are staying with some gracious friends for awhile, so I went as a guest tonight.  At first I thought I was going to drown, (ha!), then realized I needed a different floaty thing around my waist.  The instructor cracked me up and worked us hard at the same time.  So if you get a chance to check out a water aerobics class anytime soon, I suggest you try it!  (Next I will finally be checking out Zumba!) :)

As for why we are staying with friends right now...that is what I've been up to - MOVING AGAIN!!  I say that with as much positive enthusiasm as I can muster up, as moving even a large portion of your stuff over and over is just exhausting.  (And wondering what the purpose is of even having 'stuff').We were staying in a (beautiful) house while the owners were trying to sell it...and it sold.  Prayers were definitely answered for them, and we are certainly happy about that.  Yet it meant just a short 6 weeks after asking gracious friends to help us move on the weekend, we had to round up more willing souls who love us enough to do it again.  While the experience has been a weary-inducing one, we know we are on an adventure of faith towards God's provision.  We actually have a place we will be moving into in the near future, (hopefully!), it's just not available yet, so we pray and wait.  We know God's timing will be perfect in this.  It is awesome that we had such a fun place to stay over Christmas, and we enjoyed it to the fullest!

In the meantime, an awesome couple who went to Israel with us last June offered their comfy finished basement to be our place of dwelling for awhile.  One obvious bonus - they have the internet!  I can blog!  I've hated not being an active part of the fun and fabulous blog world.  Kevin and I know we are making young-in-our-marriage memories, and hopefully by the time it's a bit warmer we will have a semi-permanent dwelling -(and a lot less junk!!) 

I have so much to catch up on already in this new year - our Christmas celebration with my family, the surprise birthday Kevin worked up for me while we were at my parents' over New Year's, some other birthday fun activities, and what God is doing in my heart and mind right now.  There's much in store so stay tuned...I've also been working on quite the delicious guacamole recipe - coming soon!!!

Love to all you who have stuck with me and will rejoin the Crazy Joy journey!


"30 is the new 20"

That is my favorite quote of the day! And so far, 30 has been so fun. (thanks greatly in part to my fabulous husband!) I have such peace and gratitude as I've been reflecting on all God has done in my life.

I have many more thoughts to share about this joyous occasion, but the only words that seem appropriate are the amazing ones I read at the beginning of the book "bittersweet" by Shauna Niequist. Read it, think about it, and know how much I've loved sharing this past year with you!

"The idea of 'bittersweet' is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness."

Such rich truth...and much of what I've learned leading up to this truly happy birthday.

"This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it."


A Day to Say Goodbye...to my 20's!!!

(Additional note: I just sat down at Starbucks and set up my computer, and I am listening to 2 very thin girls in their early 20's discuss without end their desired weight and size, their perilous obsession with the size of different parts of their bodies, and the latest happenings of their disgruntled relationships.  And I think: this is why I am celebrating tomorrow.  I want to look at those girls and say, "There is so much more!  Trust God for a bigger picture beyond yourself and do not waste these precious days.")

Well, today is the day…the final day of my third decade of life; the last day of my 20’s! What a great year it has been. I’m thinking these crazy years deserve a recap and a much deserved fond farewell. I had all kinds of intentions to do something creative leading up to this day...but to no avail, the craziness of life's unpredictable moments took over.  So this is it.  While this post is more than a tad long, and posted almost too late, I think this kind of moment can handle it.  (Maybe even one day I'll add photos!)

So here are the highlights:

First, those precarious beginning years as a 20 to 24 year old, feeling insecure, unsure, and completely unclear about where I was headed. Yet I did graduate college, complete a year of grad school for counseling, put my time in both the necessarily evil worlds of waitressing and retail, while also spending most of my time outside of school taking care of three of the sweetest children I know, which lasted for 8 years. All this time I continued to long and pray (with tears) to be a wife and a mom.
Lessons learned: Life does not always turn out like you plan; these years do not define the rest of your life!

I spent the summer before my senior year in college doing an internship with Christ in Youth, an awesome organization for high school kids out of Joplin, MO. God did a huge work on my heart during that exhaustingly sweet summer. I also moved in with my gracious brother, who’s also an amazing friend, at the age of 22, who I would live with for 5 years. Twenty-three was the age when I found and fell in love with my sweet puppy Chai, a joyful choice meant to fill my “desire to nurture” void. He’s definitely been that and so much more. This was also the year my best friend found out at age 37 she was having triplets! Prayers were more than answered!
Lessons learned:  God is faithful and joy comes in surprising ways!  (And you don't have to necessarily know what you want to do with your life when you graduate college...though it's ideal!) :)

Then along came 25. One of the toughest birthdays to date, as I was lonely and afraid, and I just couldn’t see the light at the end of my-heart’s-desire-tunnel. My tearful phone call home was so pathetic that my mom graciously and lovingly drove 4 hours to spend the day with me. That was also the year that I started truly submitting to the joy of fully trusting God with my heart and my life. He had heard my prayers for all the years I had prayed them, and I committed to letting go of the fear that gripped me. I began to see the humor in my so called failures, and I started embracing the season I was in. I started having fun, and I made peace with my thighs. :)
Lessons learned:  Often your closest and best friends are in your family; TRUST God and delight in him even before he gives you the desires of your heart!  The more you love others the more you will love who you are.

 I went on some atrociously funny blind dates (as well as some atrocious real ones!), and God used this time to allow me to learn how a girl should not be treated in a relationship. Those years fueled much of the fire I have to teach young women today to guard their hearts, trust God, and refuse to settle for a relationship that is less than the best God has for them.
Lessons learned:  When the still, small voice speaks and unsettles your soul: RUN to him and away from that which he is whispering or shouting to you about.  God is NOT a God of confusion.  He will let you choose the difficult path, though it may hurt more and he'll have to redeem it in the future.

This age was also around the time I was blessed with an invite to join a Bible Study filled with amazing women who would soon become sweet friends. One of those friends tragically lost her husband of less than two years that year, which was a devastating loss. That experience had a profound impact on me, and forever changed the way I looked at life.
 Lessons learned:  Friends are a gift and a joy.  "He gives and takes away...blessed be his name."

It was then that I also decided to go back to school to be a teacher, and spent two years being crazy busy with multiple jobs and a full-time grad school load. During this time I also managed to squeeze in a try-out with the Ben-Gals, and made it to the finals. Ha. That’s another story for another time. I am more than grateful that was not the “ministry” I was intended to be in.
Lessons learned:  Keep trusting.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS, and one day you'll have time to sleep again.  And you do not want to wear orange lipstick.  Ever.

When 27 rounded the corner, I was super excited to start student teaching the sweetest kindergarten class ever. I loved those kids, and made some great memories during those 4 months. And guess what else happened? I had prayed a prayer telling God I was surrendered to wherever and whatever He wanted for me, and shortly after, was asked to help plant a church.
Lesson learned:  SURRENDER.

Looong story short, hello my Honey-love; enter Kevin, my future husband. That was the epitomy of a whirlwind, and a powerful, falling in love experience. There’s nothing like it. Many prayers were prayed, many 4-hour or more conversations were had. We dated long distance for 5 months, got engaged in the summer, and were married in November. (It was not yet my time to go plant a church). We were more than excited to be better together in our quest to serve God with all of our hearts for the rest of our lives. It was a wonderful, crazy time, but the aftermath was hard. I had left my brother and his house, left the city I had lived in for 9 years, felt like all my friendships changed, and found myself in a role that was shockingly difficult for me to adjust to. But once again, God pursued me in ways I’d never imagined, began to heal my hurts, while he transformed my heart. Now our love feels sweeter and stronger than ever. I would have waited as long as it took to spend the rest of my years with a match that is so much more than I could have ever imagined.
Lessons learned:  His mercies are new every morning.  "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."  Our God can do immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine.  Ask boldly, believe fully...and wait.  Transitions are difficult; God is patient.  A man who loves God more than you is a man you want to marry.

I also experienced the many joys and trials of my first year of teaching less than a year after being married, as well as the difficult sorrow of losing that job, followed by the joy of God’s provision of another. Whew!
Lesson learned: Teaching is hard, loving people doesn't have to be.  Trusting God is worth it!  Oh, and who knew...I can sew!!! ;)

The rest, to you lovely readers, is history. You’ve experienced year 29 right along with me, and I feel like I’ve been saying goodbye to it for the past year. I've learned, I've lost, I've laughed, I've loved.  I've seen many friends and family get married, move, change jobs, have children, struggle, and succeed.  Through it all, the theme that has rung true louder than any: prayer is powerful, God is in control, and the Holy Spirit is at work. Listening to the still, small voice, (and spending time with God so you can hear it) = peace over confusion, strength in struggle.
I hope you’ll stick around for what’s to come in my 30’s. I am beyond excited about the journey before me, and as my friend said, the only bummer part right now is just the having to say, “I’m 30.” I would have to agree. But I think I'll find myself saying it like I earned it. I'm in such a new season of life already; new friendships forming, new dreams being born, fun hobbies being formed. 
I’m moving on to the next chapter with passion and joy, both of which have come from many tears, trials, and triumphs. Above all else, God gets all the glory. I am honored and humbled to play any role in his amazing story, and I am overwhelmed by his love. Sometimes he pursues us with hardship; right now I feel like he’s pursuing me with goodness and joy. I am so thankful to my amazing family and the friends that have walked alongside me and led me through these beautifully exhausting years.

So goodnight to today and to being “20 something”. Bring on tomorrow…and to saying good morning to being a 30 year old. Let this Crazy Joy journey and the adrenaline rush of trust live on!

How appropriate that I would hear a song I've never heard before that sums it all up perfectly as I was driving here.  "Day after day, my hope is in the Lord."