Book Review: "Seeds of Turmoil"

Today I am pleased to introduce my first guest poster on Life Blessons, and none other than my very own husband! Michael is reviewing the book "Seeds of Turmoil" by Bryant Wright. Enjoy!

In his first major publication, Pastor Bryant Wright seeks to uncover “the Biblical roots of the inevitable crisis in the Middle East” in Seeds of Turmoil, recently published Thomas Nelson and provided to me for review.

Wright is head pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, a church with a membership of 7,500, which (in complete transparency) I personally attended for two years during high school. I was also a part of a Bible study Wright led for a group of high school senior guys.

I like Wright, and he contributed a great deal to my personal growth as a Christian. He is a gifted communicator and has a love for God and for people. Yet, after reading this book, I see that Wright and I fall on differing sides of the issues he addresses in Seeds of Turmoil, especially many of the assumptions he draws from Old Testament promises and prophesies that have dire repercussions.

In Seeds of Turmoil, Wright attempts to explain the strife in the Middle East by looking back to the Bible and the story of Abraham and Sarah. As many of us know from Sunday School, the Lord promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the sands of the seashore and the Promised Land “flowing with milk and honey.” But in a move of impatience to bring the promise to fruition (rather than waiting on the Lord and his perfect timing), Abraham and Sarah took things into their own hands when Abraham slept with Hagar and Ishmael was conceived.

It is here that Wright says the “seeds of turmoil” were sown, regarding the conflicts and violence we see today in the Middle East. That’s because God’s promise was intended to be fulfilled through the legitimate child of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, not through Hagar and Ishmael. It is through the lineage of Isaac and his son Jacob, who is later re-named Israel, that we get the people of Israel.

Wright focuses in on Ishmael, whom an angel prophesies will be “a wild donkey of a man,” and who later settles in an area in what Wright believes is the modern-day Arabian Peninsula. Because of this, Wright believes that Ishmael is the father of all Arabs, and because Muslim’s founding prophet Muhammad was an Arab, Wright deduces that Ishmael is the father of Muslims. Wright also states that the prophecy that Ishmael will be “a wild donkey of a man” extends even to his descendants—essentially, today’s Arab/Palestinian Muslims—and that they are destined to be violent people, with a special hatred for Jews, the descendants of Ishmael’s half-brother, Isaac.

Wright believes that the promise God made to Abraham that his descendants would inherit the Promised Land as “an everlasting possession” still holds for today’s Jewish Israelis, in that they have a Biblical right to the land. However, according to Professor of Old Testament Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, John Goldingay, the emergence of the nation-state of Israel is of political significance, as opposed to theological significance. The original promise was for Abraham’s descendants to inherit the land “flowing with milk and honey” and be set apart (in terms of worship, governance, etc.) from all the other nations around them. There was not, however, any promise made that the Jews would possess the land in the same ways other nations did.

Wright states that Bible believing Christians should (must?) support modern-day Israel, and that this extends to their possession of land as well as their violence toward Arab/Palestinian Muslims. What I found troubling about Wright’s book is how he is unashamedly supportive of Israel’s actions, which include military preemptive strikes against their enemies. To Wright, the fact that Israel, a small country compared to its enemies in the Middle East, has managed to survive and defend itself, must mean God is on their side and is helping them “win.” Because he sees the Jews as God’s chosen people and that they have right to the land, it seems that he believes that any and everything must be done for Israel to keep the land. That Wright supports all the acts of violence Israel has leveled against its enemies in the Middle East is troubling to me.

Wright also tends to group all Muslims into one category, as if the religion is monolithic among its millions of followers. No doubt, there are Muslims who are violent and who want to kill Jews and Christians, yet there are also Muslims who are peaceful. Wright would disagree with my last statement, saying there is no such thing as a truly peaceful Muslim.

As a follower of Jesus, I believe I am to pray for and to love both sides of this issue. That means that I can be tough and compassionate on both Israeli Jews and Arab/Palestinian Muslims. The New Testament exhorts us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors and to do good to those who do evil. Jesus’ Kingdom is about living in a new way, where love for enemy wins out over bombing our enemy.

In the end, Wright acknowledges the only hope for not only the Middle East, but all of us, is Jesus. This, I completely agree with.

For anyone who wants to know why or how Christians are so supportive of the present-day nation of Israel, this book is a good explanation of such views. Personally, though, I do not believe that any such views ought to excuse the violence or hatred that’s occurring in the Middle East.

Find Seeds of Turmoil by Bryant Wright on Amazon.

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An Update on the Job Search

A few weeks ago, I shared that I got news that my freelance job will soon be coming to an end. I posted that once the job had officially been posted online and they were accepting applications to replace my position, since they wanted someone to work in-house and I currently live 800 miles away.

Since then, I've been diligently scouting out and applying to various professional jobs that require a writer or editor. Most of these jobs have been for corporate positions, including for Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army and Home Depot, which all have corporate headquarters in Atlanta. There have also been some small boutique agencies and educational institutions with promising openings.

So far, I haven't heard back from any of them, just yet.

At other times in my life, I've sent dozens upon dozens of resumes and applications to any and all positions that just might be a possibility. I figured, "Why not?" and shot off as many applications as I could manage. Can you guess what happened next? Nothing.

It was the times when I sat down, took the time and invested in crafting up a personalized cover letter (rather than simply cutting and pasting from old versions), that I was most apt to get an interview and, oftentimes, a job offer. (Of all the in-person interviews I've had in my entire life, I've only not gotten the job once. So the problem clearly is getting in the door in the first place.)

As I've considered jobs to apply for, I've made sure to only apply for ones that I think I am well qualified for and that I think there's a decent chance I'd enjoy. (I'm well aware that a job is a job, so I don't have any expectations that I'm going to be paid to have the best time of my life or feel completely fulfilled. But there are definitely some jobs that are better than other and that I can just tell aren't a good fit for my personality.)

The update, essentially, is that the job application process continues on and we wait to hear what comes next. I still don't have any news about how filling my old job position is going. All I know for now is that, today, I have a job, and my husband has his part-time job at Starbucks. (Which he is loving by the way!)

What happens next, we don't know. But for now, that's OK, because we're fine. Of course it would be nice to know all the answers and know for certain and when everything is going to work out. But I know that "each day has enough troubles of its own," and "tomorrow will worry about itself."

For now, we wait and trust and "look forward to the future with joy"...

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Getting Crafty: A Look Back at Our First Monthly Girls' Craft Night

I told you that lately the itch to craft has been nagging at me. Coupled with my recent reorganizing spree, I've found a whole list of crafting prospects hiding throughout our house.

The truth is, there's always some craft vying for my attention. It's just a matter of whether I act on that compulsion or not. For the past few months I haven't. Which is why a couple of weeks ago, I gathered a group of wonderful lady friends and we had our first Monthly Girls' Craft Night.

In my living room, there were four sewing machines (and only six gals!), a huge bag of yarn, fabric scraps, needles, floral tape, patterns, even an ironing board and iron. All in the name of ladies getting around to make things with our hands.

We spent the night cutting and stitching, bouncing ideas of each other, and creating. Albeit, progress wasn't all that fast, given the fact that we were also getting to know one another even more and chatting the night away. By the end of the night some paper flowers, a curtain, some cloth napkins-turned-dish rags, a blanket and an apron in-process told the tale of our evening together. For myself, I made one of those thick belt that you wear at your natural waist, out of some fake leather and, MacGuyver-style, a paperclip. (I'll show you all that soon, I promise.)

Getting these friends together and seeing their projects was such an inspiration to me, and one that hasn't worn off yet. My mind has been brainstorm craft after craft ever since, which is exactly why I needed this to look forward to each month. Pure and simple motivation. (And of course, an excuse to gab with some lovely-hearted women!)

When Michael came home later that night (our male counterparts nabbed the opportunity and enjoyed a night of boys-only Settlers of Catan), he was telling me about how it was hanging out with the guys. And he told me about one of their conversations, where they said, "I thought our wives would have outgrown this crafting thing by now?" That made me laugh that they think that crafting is something you can ever outgrow, so long as your knuckles and joints can stand it.

I hope this isn't overspiritualizing it, but I always go back to the Proverbs 31 woman, who is called by the NIV translation: The Wife of Noble Character. Not only does this passage of Scripture praise her for her love of the Lord and being a servant to all, but it also points out her industrious spirit—and her crafting.
She selects wool and flax
       and works with eager hands.
(verse 13)

In her hand she holds the distaff
       and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
(verse 19)
So perhaps this crafting is not something we're meant to outgrow. Maybe it's something that's good for us to cultivate and revive? Perhaps there's more going on than just making things pretty...

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What's On My Craft To-Do List

Today is Michael's official birthday! So instead of typing up my usual weekly to-do list, I'm going to take it easy and post my crafting to-do list, instead. (And then start baking some celebratory cupcakes before going out with friends this evening!) 

(Feel free to still link up your own to-do list, crafting, errands or whatever it might be, in the comments below!)


A Birthday Ode: 23 Things I Love About My Husband

On Sunday, my dear husband turns #23. So, in celebration here is a list of 23 things I love about this man!
  1. I love how he listens to the Holy Spirit. This is something I picked up on early in our relationship and that made me confident in marrying him. I know that if the Holy Spirit is leading and guiding him and if he is obedient to the leading and guiding, then I am in such good hands. I know that I can trust his actions to the Holy Spirit and that rather than nag, I can pray and let the Holy Spirit do his work. I know that even when he suggests something that seems foreign to me, that if he says he feels like the Lord is urging him to do this, then that likely is the case. And I have seen the fruits of that time and time again. Which is incredibly reassuring and comforting!

  2. I love that he is my very best friend and makes me feel so perfectly comfortable. This was one of the things I recognized early on that made me fall in love with him so quickly. I felt like he understood me so well that I could tell him anything.

  3. I love when he tells me, "Everything is going to be OK." I am easily swayed by worries and anxieties, whether it's over big things (finding jobs, paying bills) or little things (did I say the right thing to that friend? will the package arrive on time?). And no matter the size of the worry, he will always come alongside me, wrap me in a hug and tell me, "Everything is going to be OK. Now you say it." And he makes me repeat that phrase until my faith is bolstered and my worries quelled.

  4. I love that he isn't a worrier and shows me what it means to trust God with our future, finances and circumstances. He is such a balance to my worry-wort tendencies and has such a healthy perspective on the possibilities of what the future holds. He teaches me by example in so many ways!

  5. I love that he makes us breakfast every morning, without fail. It's so relaxing to wake up and ease into the morning, knowing your sweet husband is busy boiling the water for oatmeal and coffee and you don't have to do a thing.

  6. I love that he reads his Bible first thing every day. Every morning when we get up, just before he starts our breakfast, I can look into the kitchen and see him with his Bible open as he scribbles notes down on paper. Morning after morning, this routine never fails, and it's so inspiring for me to see that habit and discipline exemplified day after day, because it is one I personally struggle with greatly. (Yet another reason why he's such a great role model!)

  7. I love that he is such an academic and devours books like chocolate. If you look at his nightstand, it is stacked tall with various books he's reading at any given time, and they're all way over my head. He loves biblical commentary, deep theological musings, challenging social writings. And he's always enthusiastically sharing what he's learning, even when  they're the littlest details that no one else might bat an eye at. I hope our children inherit  that trait from him, especially in regards to their faith.

  8. I love that he loves to ride his bike and go running. While I love the outdoors, I love it without sweat dripping down my back. My sport of choice is walking. But my husband enjoys pushing his muscles and biking to the gym or even doing some yoga in the living room. Do you know how much that makes me smile to see him enjoying exercising and being fit?

  9. I love that he will randomly start talking in funny accents. It makes me crack up every single time, and I hope he never grows too old for that.

  10. I love that he loves his family so very much and really cares about being a good role model to his little brothers. Those are the things that made me realize, early on, how great of a dad he will be someday, and I'm honored that someday our children will be so fortunate to have him to look up to.

  11. I love that he will pray for me whenever I ask, even if it's just because of a tummy ache. It makes me feel so well-cared-for when he takes even my smallest requests seriously. And I always feel better and more at peace after he prays for me! Which shouldn't be surprising, given that the Bible tells us, "The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and accomplish much."

  12. I love that he loves cleaning and is more often than not the one wielding the broom in our apartment. I mean, who wouldn't love that?!

  13. I love that he cares about social justice and "the least of these" so very much. It's so easy for us to care for the people who love us back, but to care for complete strangers is much more telling about the state of our heart. And so when I see him giving freely to those who ask, taking time to talk to the homeless men in our neighborhood and looking them in the eye, it convicts me of my own selfishness and inspires me to remember the truth in Jesus' words about what it means to serve him.

  14. I love that he takes his role as a husband and someday-father so seriously. I knew early on that he would make a great father. And knowing that, I knew I could trust that he'd make a great husband. Which he certainly has!

  15. I love that he laughs at my jokes and the silly songs and dances I make up. It's one of my favorite things to do, really: To try to get him to laugh. And when I succeed, it's such a good, satisfying feeling. Even if I do have to make a fool of myself in the process!

  16. I love that he is so supportive about me and this blog of mine. There are often times when he'll say, "You should blog about that!" or "You should post this recipe on your blog!" or he'll grab the camera to take some photos and suggest putting them up on the blog. Sometimes I feel silly for having an online hobby like blogging, but his support and encouragement means the world to me.

  17. I love that he never complains about my cooking, even when it is a disaster! He never the one to suggest that a recipe failed. If I ask him what he thinks, he'll volunteer that it's OK, but he'll never be the one to say it's gross and barely edible. (Remember the polenta incident?)

  18. I love that he serves our church in so many ways. As I see my husband volunteering to run sound on Sundays, stay late to make sure everything's working perfectly oversee the Welcoming Ministry, come in on Saturdays to help clean up the grime and the dirt of the church, or play bingo with the elderly folks at our local nursing home, I am so aware of how great a servant's heart he has and lives out in the most unassuming and humble of ways.

  19. I love that he is such a hard worker. The other night, he started making flash cards to remember different Starbucks drinks.  Or for running sound at our church, he has been reading info and watching videos online and going in on Saturday to make sure all the wires and amps are hooked up just so. All because he wants to make sure that he does the best job possible. It's such a good, solid work ethic and one that I can surely stand to learn from myself!

  20. I love that he prays for us at every meal and every night before we go to bed. That he takes these routine prayers so seriously. Especially because I too often fall asleep in the middle of our bedtime prayers!

  21. I love that he always forgives me so effortlessly. Sometimes I'm so surprised at how easily and effortlessly he'll say, "Yes, I forgive you," without holding a grudge or bringing it up ever again or even showing signs of offense. He has such a good heart and treats me so well--even when I don't deserve it!

  22. I love that he never gets tired of hearing or saying, "I love you." Because I never get tired of it either!

  23. I love him for so many more reasons, which I keep discovering day after day.
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We just paid off the last of our student loans and are officially debt-free!


We just pressed "Submit," and sent off the last payment for our student loans, making ourselves officially, completely, 100% debt-free.

That's a good feeling, let me tell you.

It's a good feeling because, while I know student loans are considered "good debt," they're still debt nonetheless. And when you are working a job that can end pretty much at any point and your husband is still trying to battle the job market himself for a full-time job, this is time for celebration.

It's also a celebration, because it's another milestone we've achieved during our short marriage already. I'm grateful for the lessons we're learning during this time in our marriage, when we have to adhere to a strict budget and get excited when we find free events or figure out how to make our pantry last a few more days until the new month starts. I'm grateful that we're learning to make decisions and sacrifices together and learning the value of saving and planning. I'm grateful that we're learning these lessons early, now while we're young and supple and resilient, we can bounce back from them with greater ease.

I know that as we grow older, we'll have more sacrifices to make. And at least now, we're not getting too comfortable in the DINK (double-income, no-kids) lifestyle that can make cutting down to one income or making room for children harder to stomach once you're used to the extra pocket change and indulgences. I'm very aware of how hard it can be to "go back" once those habits are ingrained.

While sometimes it would be nice to have a little bit more for this or for that, right now we are basking in the strides we have made and making it a point to give thanks our current state—however welcome or unwelcome it might be—and celebrating as we go along.

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What I'm Currently Reading

Awhile ago, I wrapped up reading Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. I kept looking at my bookshelves and wondering what book to pick up next. I have a whole list of my top choices, but even of those, nothing jumped out at me.

I then reorganized my bookshelves (separated by genre into Christian non-fiction, other non-fiction, reference/Bible-study, and fiction) and organized them somewhat by spine color, as seen in the photo above from the fiction section of our shelves!

Still, nothing called to me from the bookshelves, even though I eyed them with admiration and satisfaction.

Finally, a couple days ago, I picked one. I'm now reading through (currently on page 17) Experiencing the Holy Spirit by Andrew Murray. I've already started taking notes, including, "We can know that it is God's will for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And he will give us this if we desire and seek after it."

I can already tell that this book is going to rock my world. A very good choice, indeed!

Meanwhile, I also requested (and am waiting to receive) the audiobook of Three Cups of Tea through my local library. (I know, I'm three years behind on this one.) When we were on vacation in Virginia Beach with Michael's family, his mom and grandmother highly recommended it, so I'm excited to get a glimpse into a world I know little about, other than news headlines and magazine articles.

Finally, as far as my Bible reading goes, I'm getting my fill of the Old Testament, which I always love. My Bible reading plan walks me through the Bible (kind of) chronologically and currently I'm in Daniel. Then, Michael and I are reading through Hosea together (and have even written our own little ode to the book!).

Needless to say, even though it was about a month without any reading materials on my plate (other than my daily Bible reading, which I've kept up) it feels mighty good to back to the reading swing-of-things once again!

Enough about me. What are you currently reading?

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This Week's To-Do List

Every Sunday I share what's on my to-do list for the week ahead, and mark the items off as I go. See all my past to-do lists here. Read my list below, and then link up your own!
  • Memorize Scripture verse: I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. - Philemon 1:6
    (I'm giving myself two weeks to memorize each verse, so that I am able to really etch each one into my heart and know it for the long haul, not just to check it off a list!)

  • Go through papers on bulletin board
  • Organize under sink in kitchen and bathroom 
  • Look for and apply to some more jobs
  • Organize materials in my sewing and craft shelf 
  • Deposit checks in bank and set up some additional "intentional savings" accounts for gifts and medical expenses
  • Find a new wheat tortilla recipe (so far, I've tried two and neither have been great)
  • Wrap Michael's presents for his birthday on Sunday
  • Clean & mop kitchen floor
  • Refab two cardigans I found while going through my closet so that I wear them more
  • Type up some more recipes to post here
  • Determine this week's menu & grocery list
  • Paint water color picture
  • Work on my bulletin-board map craft   
Now go read the to-do lists that other bloggers have linked up!
Diary of a Chocoholic

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My Latest Endeavor: Watercolor Painting

As a child, I knew I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but when there were so many to pick through, and only a handful of minutes, you had to have something to go by. For me, it was all about the pictures, and I always seemed to gravitate toward the ones with the pages daubed with ethereal watercolor brush strokes. There's was something about the way these pictures were able to transform the ordinary into something magical. Those gauzy edges and the way the colors merged together like kindred spirits always had a hold on me.

Recently, that endearment has been reawakened, and I've found myself marveling over the medium once more. I started pulling out my little palette that I got at a dollar store a long time ago and painted some little vignettes: an apple, a pear, a little hillside. All reminiscent of the kid-friendly nature that this craft holds.

When I was young and first reading these books festooned with watercolor pictures, I did fancy myself an artist. I thought for awhile that that was what I was going to be when I grew up. But soon, that talent plateaued out and went no further.

Until now. I'd like to show time that it has not won out, just yet.

I just bought a new, slightly more grown-up watercolor kit and hope to make it a habit of painting one thing a week. I have no expectations of this hobby ending up in a gallery or on etsy. But I'd like to be able to pour my creativity out onto paper in a way that words cannot, translate them into pictures. I'd like to be able to paint a picture and pin it on my walls, rather than depend on Target to supply all my decor. I'd like to be able to try my hand at something that's always enamored me, and see where it leads.

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An Epiphany About Reorganizing

If you've been paying attention to my weekly to-do lists lately, you've noticed that I've been on something of an organization kick. So far, I've been working my way through our bookshelves, our built-in cabinets, the freezer, my closet, and my nightstand. 

It's my natural tendency to love organization and for everything to have its place. There's something soothing about knowing where things are when you need them. So when Michael and I first moved into this little apartment of ours, I took my time trying to think through the process of where each piece belonged, grouping like items together, finding apt-sized containers to corral smaller items, trying to think ahead about where I might look for a certain object.

And for the past year, the organization has worked. When Michael asks where something is, I can usually tell him within one or two guesses—it's either here or there.

But lately, I've started looking at this humble abode of ours with new eyes. I've started to think, "Now what if I rearranged that?" "Is there a way I could make this arrangement even better, even more practical?" "Where is space being wasted?"

And as I've asked myself these questions, I've started getting new ideas, seeing new solutions and fine-tuning the layout and structure to make something that worked well to work even better. The lights click on and keep clicking as I make my way through our cupboard and shelves and drawers.

It's been an epiphany to realize that I don't have to wait until something needs to be fixed, but I can be preemptive and bring improvement now. Normally, if something is working well, I leave it as is and don't mess with it until need be. But over the course of a year, things that I thought would work inevitably show less practicality or stumble slowly into disarray. 

And so I'm discovering and relishing the opportunity to, slowly but surely, look at this little realm of ours and find little ways to make it work better for us. Which goes to show that it's never too late or too early for a little change.

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Cupcake Reminders that Life is Sweet, Even When It Doesn't Feel Like It

A couple weeks ago, Michael was running some errands, dropping off a job application, meeting up with folks for lunch, etc. He returned, looking dapper not only because he was donning a shirt and tie, but also because he had a surprise for me. Oh, how I love surprises!

I think Michael learned early on that it takes little to make me squeal with delight. When we first moved into our apartment, we had to run up to the home improvement store for some nails and screws. He ran in, while I waited in the car. And what did he come back with, but a candy bar. Give me a 50-cent candy bar, and I will feel like you just gave me the world.

So when he came home, he had a fancy bag behind his back. After I closed my eyes and held out my hands, I discovered that inside the bag were half a dozen cupcakes of all different flavors. There was cookies and creme, red velvet, carrot cake and, my favorite, mint chocolate.

It could not have been better timing because it was later that day that we received the news I've been dreading for months—almost a year—now: That my freelancing gig will soon come to an end.

Now mind you, I am well aware of how blessed we are. This was only supposed to last a couple of months, originally December at the latest. But it has now lasted more than a year. A year of getting to wake up whenever I like, work from my couch in my PJ's, take a manuscript and read down at the park, and mull writing ideas while I'm running errands.

And so now that the sands of time have revealed themselves, that time is running out, I struggle to not be disappointed. Because this past year has been so good for me and so good for my marriage, to get to set my schedule around Michael and his classes or his studying. It's allowed me to run errands during the day, when grocery-store aisles are empty and the post-office lines are short.

We're not positive when the end will be. It's really not about time, though, but instead about God and his provision and trusting him. He can work miracles and provide a job in a less than a day. So even though I am admittedly disappointed, I remember him and his promises and dare myself to see this as an opportunity to watch him work.

After I read the email that shared the news, I turned to Michael and told him, "Well, now I'm really glad you got those cupcakes!"

So, for the next few days, we ate like kings and queens. Eating up our little cupcakes, bite by bite, we were reminded that even when things look scary and uncertain and foreboding, life is still sweet and full of surprises to come.

Note: I originally heard the tentative news about 6 weeks ago, but didn't want to post anything until things started looking more official (which I hope you can understand!). I'm still holding out hope that it will take awhile for them to find my replacement, to give us ample time to find a full-time income replacement for either/both of us. From here on out I'll do my best to share any other updates in a more timely fashion! Thanks for your support! 

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What's On My To-Do List for This Week

Every Sunday I share what's on my to-do list for the week ahead, and mark the items off as I go. See all my past to-do lists here. Read my list below, and then join in and share your own via the link-up that follows!

  • Memorize Scripture verse: I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. - Philemon 1:6
    (I'm giving myself two weeks to memorize each verse, so that I am able to really etch each one into my heart and know it for the long haul, not just to check it off a list!)
  • Finalize plans and decide on the projects I'll be working on for our upcoming craft night this week!
  • Research ideas for making a cute map where we can push-pin all the places Michael and I have been as a couple. Currently we're using a big free one we got from the Sierra Club, but it does nothing for our decor, in my opinion :)
  • Continue sorting through my clothes to donate or to add to my craft shelf
  • Re-organize drawers in my nightstand
  • Keep reading through Cooking for Geeks to review
  • Type up some more recipes to post here
  • Start ramping up on planning for Michael's birthday in two weeks!!
  • Determine this week's menu & grocery list
Link up and share your own to-do list!
If you want to join me in posting your to-do list (for the day/week/month/eternity!), all you have to do is copy one of the lil button codes below and paste it with a link back here into your post. (If you're reading in a reader, the code probably won't show up, so just come to the site directly to copy-and-paste.) 

Then just come back here and leave a comment with the direct link, so that we can all pop over and pay it a visit. And I'll manually add your link directly into the body of this post. Fun, right?! I hope a few of you chime in and participate. I'm looking forward to it!


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What I Accomplished from My To-Do List Last Week

Herbed Tofu Fish Sticks Recipe

I think I'd only had tofu once or twice before. Neither time did it leave all that appetizing of a taste in my mouth. But when I saw this so-simple recipe for turning tofu into a favorite guilty pleasure of fish sticks (I don't remember the last time I had some!), I couldn't resist giving tofu another shot.

And I wasn't disappointed one bit. The crunchy crust, the chewy consistency all reminded me of the little fish sticks in the freezer section. Dip in some ketchup, and you can barely tell the difference. Yum!

Herbed Tofu Fish Sticks Recipe

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1 pound extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry
canola oil

  1. Find 3 medium-sized bowls. In the first bowl, measure the flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and mix together.  In the second bowl, crack the eggs and gently whisk. In the third bowl, measure the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir together.
  2. Slice the tofu into strips, making them as thick or thin as you like. I sliced mine to make 12 sticks.
  3. Take each strip and coat it on all sides with the contents of each bowl; first covering it with the flour, then coating it with the egg, and finally into the bread crumb mixture.
  4. Once all the strips have been coated with each layer, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add some canola oil to the pan, then place each tofu strip in the pan. Flip after 3 to 4 minutes, until all sides are browned. (You might have to add canola after you've cooked some of the strips if they're not browning as easily.)
  5. When tofu strips are crispy, take off heat and serve warm with choice of condiment.
    (Serves 4.)
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An Introduction to Canning and Preserving

When I was little, my grandparents had a small but robust garden in their backyard. Each summer, they preserved the fruits of their labor with the generations-old pastime of canning. In their cellar, there was a little room lined with shallow shelves that held can after can of their homegrown produce, ready reminders of the summer's bounty and waiting to be enlisted at the supper table for the seasons to come.

There was something that captured my fascination back then when I'd run my finger along the light film of dust that had gathered on the rows of glass containers in their basement. And now that I'm older, and dreaming of my own someday-garden, the desire to pick up that pastime of canning has only grown.

Which is why when I came across Canning and Preserving by Ashley English (who also blogs for ReadyMade and Design*Sponge), I was thrilled.

Her book is a primer on canning, offering an overview of the science behind the process, a list of all the essentials you'll need to get started, a handy reference guide to which fruits and vegetable varieties are best suited to canning, trouble-shooting any difficulties that might crop up, in addition to all the how-to's of canning itself, which are thoroughly illustrated step-by-step through instructional diagrams and photographs.

There are recipes and complete instructions for making jams, jellies, relishes, pickles, marmalades, chutneys, butter, sauces as well as preserving whole fruits and vegetables—basically whatever you might dream of that will fit into a glass jar.

I have not gotten to make any of the recipes just yet—I don't want to waste my effort on store-bought produce—but have pages earmarked that walk you through making strawberry jam, apple butter, and tomato basil sauce (although I'll need a pressure canner for that one). Those are some pretty basic recipes, but there are also more exotic ones like Fig and Thyme Jam, Curried Winter Squash Chutney, or Peach and Lavender Butter.

I think that if you're just starting out with canning and preserving, like I am, this is a great resource. However, it's not an exhaustive guide if you're looking for tons of recipes: In total, there are 28 recipes provided, which cover 8 canning classics and then 20 unique seasonal recipes (like the examples listed above). Personally, I wish there were more of the "canning classics" recipes included, but I guess they figured that you can look those up easily anywhere?

Regardless, I look forward to the day when I can line my own pantry shelves with little glass jars that suspend summer for just a little bit longer...

Find Canning & Preserving by Ashley English on

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Some Good News...My Husband Got a Job at Starbucks

I haven't written too very much about the job search going on in our household lately. For awhile, it was all I thought about and fretted about. But at some point along the journey, the Lord reminded me that I'm here for now and not to waste the here on all those cumbersome worries. It was then that I decided to relish the joys of our uncertain state of employment, and what do you know but all those worries wouldn't have done us much good anyway!

A little refresher for those of you who might not be up-to-date on all the deets:
  • Last August, I quit my job in Michigan so that my husband and I could move to Atlanta.
  • When I quit, I told my boss that I'd happily work from home while they searched for a replacement. From the beginning, this has always been a temporary situation, but I've been able to continue doing that job freelance for them for more than a year now!
  • Meanwhile, my husband graduated in May with a teaching degree for high school history. Alas, we soon learned that those jobs are incredibly hard to come by.
So nothing permanent has arisen for either of us, yet.

However, my husband just got news yesterday that he got a job at the Starbucks down the street! That's been some exciting news, hopefully providing some extra money to build up our savings and also feed our love for coffee! He starts tomorrow and then we should have more of an idea about what to expect, as far as hours, pay, etc. Plus, he'll be working alongside one of his good friends (another musician), which I know he'll love.

We're still holding out hope for some of the full-time jobs he's been looking into and patiently trusting the Lord with those. But for now, this is great news and quite an encouragement to us both.

And as for me, I continue praying that this temporary little gig of mine will continue stretching itself farther and farther, raining down our own modern-day manna day after day as proof of God's continued, plentiful provision.

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I've got a sewing itch that needs scratching...

When I was in high school, I was really into "t-shirt surgery" or "reconstructing" clothes, where I'd go to a thrift store, find some cheap but promising article and stitch it into shape. I did this mostly with
vintage t-shirts that were well-worn in all the right places, usually just five sizes too big. There were also some skirts and dresses and occasionally a pair of pants (but that didn't go well...inevitably they'd literally bust at the seams).

But it's been a very long time since I've pulled my sewing machine out. And I'm starting to miss it...

Mostly it's because I haven't been shopping in a very long time, either. I've found that the shopping sprees of post-college still suit me quite well, and since our income has been questionable, I haven't
felt right going shopping for things I am too well aware that I don't need.

But the itch to create and tweak and personalize and transform has been begging for my attention more lately, as I get visions of decorating cardigans with little bouquets of felt flowers or turning a scrap of fabric into a fun belt or dreaming up some high-waisted skirts.

So, I decided to invite a couple girlfriends from church over to a monthly craft night. We'll get together, bring whatever projects we're working on and catch up with each other while catching up on our creative endeavors. I'm really excited about this, and it will be a great motivator for me to scratch this itch of mine. (And to finally get around to #13 on my List of 27 Things To Do While I'm 27: "Undertake a new craft.")

Our first get-together will be next week! In the meantime, I think I'm going to dig through my closet and see what items I discover that are ripe for scratching this nagging itch of mine...

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What's On My To-Do List for This Week

Every Sunday I share what's on my to-do list for the week ahead, and mark the items off as I go. See all my past to-do lists here. Read my list below, and then join in and share your own via the link-up that follows!

  • Make new batch of baking-soda shampoo
  • Drop off recyclables at Whole Foods
  • Download photos from camera, and type up a bunch of recipes that I've tried recently and plan on posting soon
  • Find some photos to accompany a couple of posts I've typed up recently
  • Add a couple of extra navigation buttons to the rainbow table-of-contents I have going on in the columns here (I'm thinking one for "green living" and another to keep track of my weekly to-do list projects)
  • Transfer prescription and order some photos I've been meaning to print
  • Organize the shelves inside our built-in hutch that houses all my projects for work and office supplies
  • Go through my closet and get rid of clothes that I don't wear anymore (either to donate, use for crafts or find ways to update them so I'll wear them more often)
  • Hang some small artwork in our kitchen
  • Grocery shopping and determine menu to make sure none of the veggies we bought at the farmer's market go to waste!
  • Print out and file away some new recipes I've found to try
  • Read new book I got to review, Cooking for Geeks
Now, go check out the to-do lists other bloggers have linked-up and posted for this week:
A Chocoholic's Diary

Yours Truly, H

A Little Gray (where she shares some terrific news in her list!)

Link up and share your own to-do list!
If you want to join me in posting your to-do list (for the day/week/month/eternity!), all you have to do is copy one of the lil button codes below (a variety pack assortment, just for you!) and paste it with a link back here at the end of your post. (If you're reading in a reader, the code probably won't show up, so just come to the site directly to copy-and-paste.) 

Then just come back here and leave a comment with the direct link, so that we can all pop over and pay it a visit. And I'll manually add your link directly into the body of this post. Fun, right?! I hope a few of you chime in and participate. I'm looking forward to it!


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Last Week's To-Do List

Thoughts on Change and Wondering What the Future Might Hold...

As summer wanes, and autumn inches closer, I've been thinking about the changing seasons and the future that will soon arrive with the chilled winds and knit scarves in the back of my closet that I look at longingly.

Sometimes when I try to think of "the future" it seems hard to think of things being any different than they are today. It is hard to see past this current limbo, while we try to figure out what's next for us and our careers and our finances and our futures.

The sensible part of me knows that change is inevitable and will at some point come to pass. That's exactly what time does, after all: usher in change of some sort, whether it's growing limbs, graying hairs or graduating into the next phase of life. Things will of course fall into place, because they always do, even if it's not the way we'd like it.

And lately, I've been feeling like that change is on its way. I have no idea what it will look like, the form it will take and the ripple effect it will induce upon our current "normalcy." But I can sense that this change that we've been awaiting is finally coming towards us and advancing.

And then I sit back and wonder, What will it be like when change does say hello?

I realize that it's likely I'll mourn the loss and the days of having Michael around to keep me company or chat to across the room while I'm doing some freelance work. I know that when change comes it will not be all wine and roses, like it appears from this angle. With the security comes other sacrifices, because there are always sacrifices.

And as I meditate on this more, I remember that one of the things that characterizes changing seasons the most is that we usually miss out on the changing altogether, until the old has completely dissolved and passed away. We open our eyes to realize that fall has become winter and our lashes are laced with snowflakes, or that spring has sprung into summer, just as we're cannon-balling into the swimming pool.

I realize that even though I might not see it happening around me, change must be taking place, because that's how life, that's how God, works. Even though I may not see it from this vantage point, I know that God cares intimately about us and hears our prayers, as he divinely ties it all together into one beautiful tapestry that we won't even notice until we look back behind us.

It's then, when I'm praying and am quiet long enough, that I  can begin to sense the feeling of change. That it's happening, even now, being woven together, bit by bit.

And so as I intermittently long for change and fear what it may bring, I submit to the fact that it is inevitable. And I try to remind myself to relish this now and this season of life—however long it sticks around.

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My List of 27 Things to Do While I'm 27: August Update Edition

It was five months ago that I turned 27 and kicked off my List of 27 Things to Do While I'm 27. Since then, I've been keeping track of my progress of the dozen-or-so items on that list. Some of them are easy, some are meant to help me spread my wings in this new-ish city of mine, some are nigh-on impossible that I'll be chasing after for years to come. But they're all worthy goals to guide this glorious year of 27.

Here's how I've fared on the list during the month of August. (I'm almost at the halfway point!)

Goal #5: Go swimming.
I thought this one would be easier than it was, but with such a stifling and scathingly hot summer, it seemed too much work to even enjoy the pool.

However, we did make one outing to the community pool down the street from us. And lo and behold it even has a (very, very, small and short) lazy river through one stretch that made me love it, in spite of the fact that we could only stay an hour because of the heat. (Think we're wimps? I'm fine with that. Not a single sunburn for me this entire summer!)

And, when we went on vacation with my in-laws to the beach, there was plenty of swimming (on purpose in the pool and accidentally in the ocean) that made up for our lack of it at home. We got to hop waves, spot dolphins, play pool games with Michael's little brothers and I even got to do some poolside reading: Iconicly summer and satisfying.

Goal #15: (Of course make trips back to Ohio, but that’s a given, isn’t it?)
As it would turn out, we haven't been able to make as many trips back to Ohio as I would like, and have only been back once the entire 2010 year! We managed to squeeze in a week-long trip and get to see some of my favorite familiar faces, which is always such a thrill to be able to catch up, even if it is only for a short jaunt over dinner at Panera or breakfast at First Watch. I miss all of you already!

Goal #19: Take as many walks outside as possible.
During the springtime, I would usually be able to squeeze in a walk if not every day, then every other day. But, due to the heat wave that's been unrelenting, my walks have seriously slacked of late. I could wake up earlier to get one in before it gets too hot, but I just haven't felt that motivated. Sometimes after dinner, if Michael and I don't have evening plans, we'll take a walk once the temperature has cooled off. I'm hoping to get back into my regular routine and ramp up the walks, since it's really the only kind of exercise I enjoy--and consequently will actually do with any consistency!

(Here's my original List of 27 Things To Do While I'm 27, along with links to my monthly progress updates.)

Related Links
My Goals for This Year
My Mid-Summer Progress Update

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