Your Questions Answered: Encouragement in the Kitchen

it seems like you really enjoy cooking. It is definitely something i have a desire to learn, but it seems really overwhelming. my mother wasn't a cook and she never taught me. i try to read recipes online, but i get really stressed out. and i also think most recipes are a waste to make for just one person. i suppose i should cook for my boyfriend, but i'm too nervous! i was wondering if you might have any tips for the kitchen or helpful resources you have used to learn. thanks so much!

I can definitely relate to your feelings regarding cooking, although I didn't really develop a desire to learn until I was married, which made the process even more stressful!

It's definitely gotten easier for me, and part of that has been finding recipes that work for me. I am not into gourmet recipes and if they include more than one or two ingredients I don't keep on hand regularly, I usually go on and pass them up. And that's OK!

One thing I would suggest is to break up cooking into small goals. I decided to try one new recipe a week for awhile that helped me find my groove in menu planning.

Also, since it's just you, what I would suggest is finding recipes and halving them. Most recipes are made to serve 4 people, so half the recipe and you'll have dinner for tonight and leftovers for tomorrow. Plus, if the recipe is a flop, then you won't have wasted as much food!

Another tip I would suggest is being aware that you can freeze stuff. When I first started cooking, I balked at the idea of buying a whole box of chicken stock for a recipe that I only needed a 1/4 cup for (since, of course, I'm a big fan of cutting recipes down into more manageable sizes!). What I soon learned is that there are a LOT of things you can easily freeze to keep your waste down. When in doubt, just do a quick online search to see if you can freeze something. You can also do this with food you've already cooked, like baked lasagna or cooked ground beef, etc.

As for finding recipes, I have had the best luck pulling from fellow bloggers, but it definitely is a gamble. I can't say that I've found one source that always has stellar recipes; I've had to pull from all over to amass my favorites. You might want to browse through this site which has collected a massive list of their favorite food blogs with summaries about each.

Finally, if there's an older woman in your life who is a good (or even just half-way decent!) cook, you could always ask her if you could come over sometime and help her make dinner, so that you can learn from her. Most people would be flattered by that, and it could be a good way to ease your way into the cooking sphere until you feel comfortable going at it alone!

If you have any other questions for me, just let me know! Feel free to browse all the questions I've tackled in my Q&A series.

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Seeds, Soils and Rejoicing in Slow Growth

It was about a month ago that I decided to try my hand at planting seeds. I haven't had much luck growing anything from seed, but I decided, once again, that maybe this time might be different. A month later, and I see little growth in my little cilantro seedlings. I don't know if they will sprout or not, but this exercise is teaching me something in patience and letting nature do its work.

Growth takes time. Roots must grow before the leaves can show and I can celebrate that the experiment is working. It's a vital time where too much well-intentioned watering can kill the seed before it even had a chance to flourish in the soil. We must be patient to let the seed settle in and not expect it to sprout up overnight, lush with stalk and leaf and ripe fruit. We must allow time to tend the process.

This was one of the things that was such an encouragement to me early in my faith, when I found myself upset or discouraged about how long this process of sanctification was taking, though I didn't even know that was the word for it at the time.

I remember wishing I could have it together already, know the Bible already, hear the Holy Spirit crystal-clear already. What was taking so long?!

And then I read the parable of the soils:
"A farmer went out to plant his seed. While he was planting, some seed fell by the road. People walked on the seed, and the birds ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it began to grow, it died because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorny weeds, but the weeds grew up with it and choked the good plants. And some seed fell on good ground and grew and made a hundred times more.

.... "This is what the story means: The seed is God's message. The seed that fell beside the road is like the people who hear God's teaching, but the devil comes and takes it away from them so they cannot believe it and be saved. The seed that fell on rock is like those who hear God's teaching and accept it gladly, but they don't allow the teaching to go deep into their lives. They believe for a while, but when trouble comes, they give up. The seed that fell among the thorny weeds is like those who hear God's teaching, but they let the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life keep them from growing and producing good fruit. And the seed that fell on the good ground is like those who hear God's teaching with good, honest hearts and obey it and patiently produce good fruit." (Luke 8:5-15)
As I read that, I realized that it takes time for the seed to sprout and grow. It can not spring up too quickly or it will not have root—like those where the seed fell onto rock. But if we are rooted, then when the rains and rays and wrath of nature beats against us, we can withstand it and hold fast to our budding faith.

The Lord reveals one thing at a time to us. He walks us through it, instead of pushing us to a break-neck speed. And because we've moved through it slowly and completely, eyes-wide-open and able to savor it more fully, the depth of growth is that much more. We may not realize it from the looks of it above ground, where the leaves are spindly and branches limp, but below ground—where the growth matters—the roots are digging deeper and grasping hard to the spiritual sod that God has lovingly laid down.

As I mulled over this little gardening metaphor, the reality of it hit me more fully: Slow growth is often for our own good! This was an epiphany of epic proportions for me at a time, and one that I held fast to when perfectionism threatened to hurl insults and accusations at me.
And now, a few years later, I still look back at this insight—truly a gift from the Holy Spirit—with marvel. It touched my heart then, and it still does today, as it reminds me to breathe deeply, embrace these moments, these lessons, this blessings—these blessons—and keep sowing, digging and growing with patience.

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Experiments in Decorating

It's been a little over two weeks now that we've been in our new apartment, and most things have found their place into drawers and shelves and closets and even stashed under the couch. (When you've only got one closet in the whole place, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, right?!)

Since I have the luxury of approaching our unpacking and setting up our new abode with time on my side (an upside of not having a job currently!), I am trying to be thoughtful about where things go and rethinking my decorating.

It's easy to take what we had at our old apartment and just duplicate it here, but I want to examine other possibilities and other ways of fitting our things together in new ways. It takes a bit more effort, but I've been pleasantly surprised at how some of the results have turned out, including this little vignette I pulled together atop our bookcase housing our DVD and CD collections: The clock used to be in our old kitchen, the lamp used to sit on my nightstand, and the knick knacks were collected from various rooms, save the green vase which is from a recent antique shopping spree with my mom.

There are still a couple more boxes to go through, a growing pile of craft projects begging for my attention, and almost all of the hanging of artwork and placing of tchotchkes to be done, but a little home is coming together, slowly, slowly, day by day.

I hope that once everything is pieced together a bit more properly, I can share a bit more of our new little place to call home!

My Testimony: Learning About God's Loyalty Firsthand

As the concluding post in the Testimony Series I've been running for the past couple of months, I wanted to share a story of my own. You might have seen this article before at ungrind or on The Joyeful Journey, where it's been shared as a guest post. But I wanted to take the chance to share it here, as well. So here's one, itsy bitsy story of God at work in my life...

When I rewind my life and remember all the milestones that have rooted me in my faith, there is one experience that stands out as a linchpin in my journey. It was during this experience that God brought to life for me, firsthand, one of the Bible's greatest lessons: that of his gentle and unwavering loyalty.

I had been chaperoning a youth group trip to Tennessee and the band had just taken the stage. The music was loud and I sang along wholeheartedly. Until the lyrics of the song, which I knew by heart, reached this point: "Where you lead me, I will follow.... Even if I walk alone, Lord, this I choose to do." Suddenly, I stopped tapping my foot to the beat as the weight of those words, "Even if I walk alone," hit me full force for the first time. They make for a great song, but when it comes to real life, those are hard words to swallow.

I started praying vehemently, God, I love you, but please don't make me go anywhere by myself. Please don't make me have to do it alone. Please don't...

Six months later, I found myself in the very spot I'd prayed against: Making a decision whether to move to a new city where I knew virtually no one and leave behind the city where I felt I had finally come into my own and had forged a rich fabric of kindred friendships. I stood at the cusp, cardboard boxes on one side, comfort and predictability on the other. Which would it be?

Retracing the circumstances that led up to this decision over that span of six months, there was no doubt that God was at work, opening doors in my life and future. But in spite of that awareness, questions still loomed: What if I don't like my job? Who will I hang out with? What if I don't make any friends? Where will I go to church? How is this all going to work? What if this is a mistake? Sure, God had opened a bunch of doors already, but what about the next string of doors?

The decision, then, of whether or not to move, rested on one simple notion: Could I trust God and where He was calling me? Did I truly believe in His loyalty?

A couple months ago, I was reading back through Genesis 1 and noted verse 29 with new eyes. As God introduced Adam to the Garden of Eden, "God said, 'Look, I have given you all the plants that have grain for seeds and all the trees whose fruits have seeds in them. They will be food for you" (Genesis 1:29). As I read that, I realized the significance of the fact that, even before He created the first man (and later, woman), God had already prepared a ripe environment for His beloved creations. They didn't have to ask for food or even know a world without provision—it was ready for them as soon as they stepped onto the scene. That was how God worked out of love then, and God was ever so ready to prove to me that that's how He continues to work today, in spite of my misgivings and dragging heels.

Through much wrestling, godly counsel, and prayer, I decided to move. I recognized that by not moving, I would be turning my back on where God was calling me to go, and I couldn't bear that. Even though I had no idea how this would all work out, I decided I had to take that chance and trust Him. With my car packed full of cardboard boxes, I made the 8-hour drive to my new home.

I remember those first days in that new town, when my boxes were only freshly unpacked and I was just learning my way around. I came across Ecclesiastes 11:4, "Those who wait for perfect weather will never plant seeds; those who look at every cloud will never harvest crops." In a moment of clarity, I saw that this had threatened to be me and my life. I had almost let imperfect circumstances and fears about the future keep me from acting, keep me from sowing, keep me from having to depend on God for the harvest when I couldn't see how this could possibly be fruitful. For those first few weeks, I clung to this verse, whispering to myself over and over again, "Keep sowing. Keep trusting. Persevere."

And as He did for those first humans, God did for me. As He went before them and so many others throughout the biblical narrative, He did for me. As with them, before I even knew what was happening or what to expect, He was at work, bringing the Word to life for me like never before.

He quickly began showing me the frivolity of most of my fears. I found an inspiring church to call home, outlets for volunteering and meeting new people, and things to do on the weekend. Before I knew it, friendships blossomed all around me—a lovely-hearted roommate, friends at work and weekly runs to Starbucks, inspiring girlfriends through church, and a vibrant Bible study. It was obvious that my greatest fears and arguments against going had been for nothing.

Even now, two years after I first wrestled though this decision, God continues to teach me the depths of His loyalty. I carry the reminders and the fruits of that experience with me today, for the times when those pesky questions persist: Can I really trust Him to deliver me this time? How is this going to work? In those inevitable moments, I look back on this milestone and remember to trust that God is at work, prepping the landscape of my future and waiting for me to step forward in faith and sow. I remember the unwavering loyalty He has shown me, firsthand.

Update on Testimony Series

I hope that you've been enjoying reading the Testimony Series that I've been running as much as I have the past couple of months. Women from all over the country (and even a few from outside the States!) have shared their stories of fears, insecurities, heartbreaks, and everyday hardships—and how the Lord came and rescued them each and every time, drawing them closer to himself.

Some of the testimonies have moved me to tears. Some are ones I know all too well from my own experience. Some are ones that drop my jaw in awe. Some have even made me laugh at God's wonderful sense of humor and how he meets us in the most unexpected of places. And yet they all show us, again and again and again, how God is unceasingly working in all of our lives.

To read story after story of God reaching out to his children in miraculous and mundane ways has really opened my eyes more than I could have imagined when the inkling of an idea first came to mind.

Back then, I wasn't sure whether anyone would really be inspired to share their stories. But something encouraged me to at least try. Like I said from the beginning:
I believe in the power of testimony.

When we share our testimony—putting to words the things that God hath done—it increases our faith. Both for the one sharing, who is reminded of how God has moved in their life, and for those listening, who are encouraged from this story to trust that God indeed hears our prayers and is at work today. These stories help us all as we look to the great unknown of the future and trust that the God who was—who touched and mended and saved lives yesterday—is the same God who is today and who is to come tomorrow. We can trust him with all that is yet to be.

But even more than that, sharing our testimonies gives God the glory, glory. We praise him when we recall these stories of deliverance and provision and perfect timing. It says in Revelation 12:11 that Satan is overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Something spiritual happens when we share these stories with one another.
And here we are, three months later, with so many touching testimonies to look back on and encourage our own walks of faith.

I look back on this humble endeavor with awe. Even it is a testimony to God's goodness of taking something little and insignificant and multiplying it for his own glory. How neat is that?!

I say all this because tomorrow I'll be posting the last testimony in the series, a little vignette from my own experience. If you still have testimonies that you'd like to share, please do get in touch and I'd be happy to post them and keep the spirit of testimony-sharing going. But for now, I've posted all the submissions I received.

My thanks go out to everyone (Kate, Tamara, Joye, Rhianna, Jo-Ann, Lindsay and Amy) who has been so humble and gracious to share their testimonies in this series. If you missed any, you can browse them all here.

What I'm Reading: March Update

I love the idea of being able to look back and see where the days and weeks went, see all the places where I rested my eyes and roosted my mind during the passing of the seasons. Which is why I recently decided to keep a running list of all the books as I read and complete them:


  1. Unstuff by Hayley and Michael DiMarco (my review)
  2. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (see the posts i wrote as I read through this book
  3. Sabbath by Dan B. Allender (my review)
(Also, if you're interested, you can also see many of the books that I'm hoping to get around to reading someday on my wishlist. Let me know if you've read any of them or any additional suggestions you might have.)

Here's to growing bookshelves and dogeared pages!

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A New Place to Call Home and Lessons Learned in Moving

Right now, I should be unpacking.

Yep, with only days left at the end of the month, we ended up finding a new apartment and moving two days later. It was a whirlwind, but sometimes I feel like that's the story of our lives. First dating for nine months and getting married ten weeks later, then moving across the country only a handful of weeks after that.

For someone whose greatest pet peeve is being rushed, these fast-paced experiences stretch me, and I'm beginning to learn that that process—however frustrating and stressful it is at the time—is actually a gift. I trust that God is in these experiences, guiding them, timing them, allowing them to transpire in this set amount of time. And that because I'm forced to, I have to lean on him through these things, insignificant as they may be, packing boxes, making phone calls, setting up utilities, turning a cardboard-box labyrinth into a home-sweet-home. Whatever the circumstances might be, it's the leaning on Him that is what matters. That's what it's all about.

This perspective gives purpose to the seemingly small hardships that crop up, that there is potential even in those for growth and insight and awareness and gratitude beyond what we may have ever imagined.

I'm learning to open my eyes to that and thank Him for bringing these things to me and stretching and showering grace upon me through them.

Towers of cardboard boxes loom, even as I've unpacked and unpacked for the past three days. And yet, I'm already finding such joy at our new little abode, even as we discover leaky faucets and forgotten work orders. I'm trying to keep the perspective that matters at hand.

Here we are in a new neighborhood, where Victorian mansions are displayed about like dollhouses in a toystore and serene parks with swing sets for kids dot the landscape. We have a porch and a little shed for storage (you do not know how incredible this is to me!). We have an extra hour to add to our day, thanks to a shorter commute.

Truly, life is good. It is something that I must remind myself of moment by moment in the midst of whatever circumstances arise—today, tomorrow, ten years from now. Truly, God is good, in the midst of every single bit of it.

So now, while I unpack, it's likely that this blog will show a slowdown of posts at least for the coming week or two. But without worry, everything will be back up and running before too long. If I would have had more time to plan, I'm sure that I could have had a bunch of extra posts ready to go. But life doesn't always work out like that, I'm learning! Thanks for your patience in the meantime; it's back to unpacking for me!

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