At the Table

Some more DIY inspiration for your next Easter holiday! IMG_9870IMG_9864

For the bunny-shaped napkins we wrapped rolled cloth around foam eggs and secured them with twine. Easy and simple!

Parmesan Asparagus

Hello bloggies,

Here’s another family favorite for you to try and enjoy! It’s a simple, delicious, and healthy side dish perfect for Easter or any time you’re looking to make a quick addition to your meal. Tell me what you think and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • Asparagus
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese (can use powdered but fresh is best!)
  • 2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450.
  • Spread 2 tablespoons of olive oil evenly across a baking sheet.
  • Spread asparagus onto the pan allowing them to evenly be evenly coated with the oil.
  • Bake for 5 minutes and remove from oven.
  • Sprinkle shredded parmesan cheese (as much as desired) over your asparagus.
  • Place in oven for 2 more minutes. Enjoy!

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The LORD called your name, “A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form”

                                                                                                                               Jeremiah 11:16

Asking for Some Faith

“Why”

We start asking that question just about a year from the time we say our very first word. Question after question rolls off our childhood tongues and later from our worried adult hearts.

I never truly stopped questioning things. Part of that is a grasp for a sense of control–the result of thickened skin, of protective walls that I’ve hedged around myself in response to hurt. Trying to map out my future is like a defense mechanism, a way for me to prepare myself for what’s coming, in the hopes that I might dodge hurtful situations.

“What”

What will my life look like?

“How”

God, how will you do it?

And when things don’t go how I expect:

Lord, why is this the direction my life is going? Show me the lesson, teach me the meaning, the point behind this. Because in this moment I can’t find it on my own. It feels like I’ve been hurt so much even when I thought that I was doing the right thing. If I could sum up the book of Job (who in the face of suffering struggles with many of the same questions) in one word, I would choose the word faith.

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?….Have you ever given orders to the morning,

    or shown the dawn its place,
 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?”

-Job 38

The Lord powerfully reminds Job who is in control of the universe. He asks Job rest in the fact that the Lord is in control, to remember that He holds Job’s life in His very hands.  How much faith that takes!

God’s plans for us are exactly that.. GOD’s plans. Not my plans. He knows our first breath to our last and every moment in between. If you’ve grown up in the church you’ve been fed this theme, this idea that we should find rest in the fact that God knows our future, many times before. It takes A LOT of faith to sit back, to never question, to wait, and to trust in plans that you cannot see.

Lately, I’ve been pondering the idea of vulnerability. And faith, I think, is vulnerable. Completely giving up all control–dropping all expectations and questions–well that’s a dangerous business! We’re asked to produce these massive amounts of faith out of broken and weak lives. In these lives that have been touched by broken promises, by disappointment, and copious amounts of pain, where is this strong faith supposed to come from? Because Lord knows when I’m struggling through something, there’s times I don’t feel like I have an ounce of strength left in my body.

The faith that trusting in God’s plans requires doesn’t come from our broken lives, it must come from outside of them. This kind of faith is a gift. And it’s a gift that only God can give. The song “Give Me Faith” speaks directly into this,

I need you to soften my heart
And break me apart
I need you to pierce through the dark
And cleanse every part of me
All I am, I surrender
Give me faith to trust what you say
That you’re good and your love is great
I’m broken inside, I give you my life
‘Cause I may be weak
But Your spirit strong in me
My flesh may fail
My God you never will
I may be weak
But Your spirit strong in me
My flesh may fail
My God you never will
-Elevation Worship, Give Me Faith

On our own we could never sum up the amount of faith that God is asking us to have, the kind of faith that we need to fully trust His plans. It’s by being vulnerable, by stepping completely aside, that we receive this strength. So while it might seem radical for me to say that faith is vulnerable, I say it with the realization that it is because faith is vulnerable that faith becomes strength. Our flesh fails. It’s weak and broken. Leaning on the gift of faith we recognize that we do not have to do it on our own. That Jesus Christ who lives in us, empowers us to have the faith necessary to fully lean on all of God’s promises. It’s terrifying to step aside and to surrender. But it is this motion, this response that allows the gift of faith to be enacted in our lives.

I’ve been wrong about what I thought the Lord was doing in my life. There’s times when I’ve been so sure of things, only to find that my assurances were moving in a different direction than God’s. This is the ugly part when vulnerability can hurt. But the beautiful thing about faith is that it is not limited. It starts again and again each day. Giving our lives to Christ means that we must rust what He says continually, not only when we think we know what His plan is. It means that even when we are wrong, when our flesh fails, we do not start questioning our God. Where faith surrenders complete control, assurances of love fill our lives. His Spirit is strong in us, no matter our weakness. Ask God for continual renewal of strength this month. Ask Him for that unending and unfailing faith– the faith that is vulnerable and raw, the faith that can surrender everything over to Him. Ask for these things, and I suspect you’ll start to see your life shaped in ways you never would have before imagined. God has a funny way of expanding our little minds to reveal big things:)

To Remain

Waking up in an icy cold room, I slip on a robe and walk to the kitchen where I’ll prepare the morning’s breakfast. Once again, I find myself missing the comforts of home. I miss the feeling of soft carpet under my feet when I climb out of bed. I miss the pantry full of breakfast choices. I miss the hustle and bustle of my family rushing to get ready for the day. But most of all, I miss the people I can count on–the ones whose love I know will remain despite any storm. And I cannot wait until I return.

It’s How We’re Wired

While you may not be reflecting on the comforts of home from a dorm room, I’m willing to bet there’s a sense of yearning in you. Because our hearts were wired to yearn for and to lean towards God, it’s ingrained in our very nature. The problem? That’s not always where we reach. These instincts are often projected onto aspects of life that we try to separate from God. Leaning, wishing, hoping, expecting, yearning–these are postures we pass through in the rhythms of life.  Are you constantly awaiting the next moment or hoping for the future? If you’re anything like me, I willing to bet you might be.

Productivity or Preservation?

We spend a lot of time planning. I’m not talking about big plans like jobs, marriage, kids, and houses. I mean the simple planning. The planning that consumes our day with tight schedules. The planning that leads us to look ahead to the events of the upcoming week and worry about them in the present. img_5499I find myself constantly swayed by a balancing act of worry and calm. We’ve been trained by a society that’s oriented towards productivity. Taught to never waste time, to “seize the day,” to make “every moment count,” it’s like we’re gripping onto something that we fear is going to be taken away from us.

“If I don’t study long enough, that grade is going to be lost. I’m going to lose my career and all of my future plans will fail.”

“If I don’t work more, I won’t be paid enough. I won’t earn that promotion. I won’t be able to live the comfortable life that I desire.”

“If I don’t do XYZ in my relationship, he/she won’t like me enough and I might feel alone.”

Any of these sound familiar? We’re all in different stages, all trying to walk through different storms. And you know what? It. is. exhausting. Afraid we might lack something, we suffocate in our desire to preserve it. While we were made to yearn for God who can satisfy, we’ve begun to lean towards and desperately hold on to the things that cannot.

Where You Stay, I’ll Stay

What’s more is we are constantly told to move, and we’re reminded to do it fast. Lines like “God’s got big plans for you. You’re going to be a kingdom-changer if you choose to follow Him” are fed to Christians on a regular basis. And don’t get me wrong, there is much truth to those statements. img_5493We are called to follow in the footsteps of our Savior. But often, I think we can misunderstand what that following looks like. Because following doesn’t always mean moving. It doesn’t always involve looking to where the next footprint is going to be made. In some seasons of life “following” might really mean “remaining.” And it can be just as hard.

 

Withstanding the Storm

In Mark 14 : 22-33 Jesus leaves His disciples on a boat and climbs a mountain where He begins to pray in solitude. While Jesus sat calmly praying in the presence of the Father, no doubt there was increasing worry, fear, and turmoil in the sea below. The passage tells us the boat is being “tossed by the waves” and the wind was “boisterous.” In the middle of the sea, surrounded on all sides by raging waves and enveloped in darkness, there is no question these men were experiencing great fear. In fact, because of their fear and lack of faith these men believed Jesus to be a ghost when they saw Him walking on water towards their vessel. The disciples would have been desperately praying for God to calm the sea, for safety, and for the return of their teacher.

When we hear this story we tend to focus on the miracle that occurs when Jesus walks on the water. But if we look closer, we find there’s a sharp contrast between the despair and chaos these men experience on the sea,  and the peaceful attitude of Jesus who sits calmly on a mountain top amidst the storm. Standing on the mountain top with the wind raging against Him, Jesus–unlike the disciples that night–had no doubt that the windstorm could be calmed.

I think our lives often look like that night. Only we tend to reflect the disciples’ reactions more often than our Savior’s. When a storm hits our life, we pray for it to cease. We are afraid and doubtful, and sometimes our faith falters. Instead of remaining peacefully in the storm, we yearn for the calm. img_3252.jpgWe hope for the next moment, for the future when “all will be well.” But I think, sometimes, we are called to just remain. Let the wind and the waves rage against us. But rather than fearfully struggling to reach safety, we might practice a little of what Jesus did: Stand firmly in our faith and know that amidst the storm, or the moment we do not wish to be in, our Father is there listening to our prayers sustaining us.

It is in this posture, I believe, that we can find rest. When we remain in God, we accept the position He’s placed us in. Instead of yearning for the present to be over–instead of awaiting a ‘better’ future that we have planned for ourselves, we wait and we listen. Perhaps the storm is happening for a reason. If we yearn for God rather than for the calming of the storm, Jesus will walk through the raging sea with us. And when, in His own timing, He climbs “into [our] boat, the wind will cease.” (Matthew 14:32). So friends, I encourage you this week to examine where you’re at in life right now. Is there something you’re yearning for? Examine what it would mean for you to remain in Christ and in the role He has placed you in, rather than reaching for the next moment ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Country Christmas Tree

This unique tree captures the comfort of a rustic theme while still maintaining the elegance of a classic Christmas. The mix of oversized and mini glass balls give the tree the illusion of being fuller. Mixing in glitter as well as silver among the white ornaments adds a bit of sparkle to the tree. Rustic elements are pulled in with the burlap ribbon, yarn star, cotton balls, and pine cones.

This is the first year that we decorated a themed tree. Every Christmas prior, we decorated the tree with handmade childhood ornaments, collectable snowmen and santas, candy canes, etc. I was afraid that I would miss seeing these traditional ornaments on the tree this year, but we still found a way to add personal touches to the tree! Making wood-slice ornaments painted with our family initial was a fun family activity and added the character our themed tree lacked.

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Sweet Holiday Yummies

This recipe is a part of  our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations every year and is definitely a family favorite! It can be prepared 2-3 days in advance if stored in a refrigerator, making it a great way to save time when preparing the stacked holiday menu!

Sweet Potato Base

mashed potatoes

  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs, well beaten

Topping Ingredients

topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup stick margarine
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Mix together base ingredients and pour evenly into a 9×13 greased pan or glass dish. In a separate bowl, mix together the topping ingredients and pour over the potato base in the pan. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes. 

Potatoes uncut
Fully cook the sweet potatoes before mashing. Using a fork, poke holes on the surface of each potato to allow it to cook all the way through.

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