Explore the Archives: November 2010 on Life Blessons

I'm still plugging away at manually creating a browser-friendly archives page for all my past blog posts, month by month. Here's a look at what was going on in my life, way back in November 2010. From how God finally answered our prayers for stable employment (and a look at his perfect timing in doing so!) to some of the lessons I'd learned about being a one-car couple, I hope you enjoy getting to take a little step back in time with me:

Archive Posts from November 2010
I'll share another post in a couple of weeks with the next installment of archives, but you can always jump ahead and browse all the posts in the archive.

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Our Love Story: The Ups & Downs of Dating

(This is the story of how my husband and I met and fell in love. If you are just now jumping in, you can catch up on last week's post or start back at the beginning.)

Because we were dating long-distance, much of our relationship took place over the phone with long conversations, which really helped us get to know one another in a concentrated sort of way. So much so that just a couple of months in, we both were pretty sure that we could see ourselves getting married.

Things between us—mainly our minds and hearts for God—just clicked like they never had with anyone else before. I remember thinking that sometimes when I talked to him, it was just like I was talking out loud to myself or to an imaginary friend, the conversations just flowed so naturally and we were crazy in-sync on tons of things that mattered, like how we wanted to raise children someday or what we saw as priorities in our lives.

Being with him also really challenged me. I mentioned before that I was so impressed to see him hunkered over his Bible while the rest of the world was swirling about him; he always made that a priority. At that point in my life, my Bible reading was not so intentional (whenever I could spare the time), but he challenged me on it. He set the example but he also called me out on my own passivity. Part of it bothered me, of course, but it also showed me who this guy was. He was willing to journey through the discomfort for the sake of truth and obedience. And for my sake, too. He was a man of integrity, and I saw that through and through.

I remember early on in our relationship reading a verse that says, "I will bring you gold in place of bronze, silver in place of iron, bronze in place of wood, iron in place of rocks." (Isaiah 60:17) In its biblical context, that verse has nothing to do with dating, and instead comes when the Lord is calling his people to be faithful again and promising them that their punishment will not endure forever, but mercy is on the horizon.

But during that time in my life, I saw in that verse how the Lord makes it his gift to take what we have and dazzles us with things more brilliant than we could have even expected, much less deserve: We have bronze, but he gives us gold. He gifts us riches that make us stand in awe. I had expected someone who was "bronze." And yet the Lord did not stop there, but gave me a man who was stronger, purer, wiser than my wildest dreams. God chose to, in love, give me “gold.”

That is not to say that things were perfect between us. Things were better with him than they were with anyone else I’d ever dated and I felt more accepted and loved and more myself around him than with anyone else, period. But we also did our fair share of arguing and not seeing eye to eye and getting frustrated with each other. (A lot of it was over issues that really probably weren't the effort. I remember getting into a fight once about the evils of big-box stores and another about how much the Old Testament applies to our lives today.)

Yet, it was conflict, and conflict was something we had to learn how to process and address early on, since nearly all we had was the phone to keep our relationship going. We couldn’t just go buy an ice-cream cone and push it under the rug. It forced us to really weigh what we were doing here; were we going to fight for this relationship even when it’s difficult and when it hurts and when it isn’t pretty? Or were we just going to give up on it? We decided to keep fighting, to keep working through the issues, to get really good at apologizing and to start to figure out the dance of communication and conflict resolution and compromise and picking our battles.

But I totally believe that was another aspect where God knew what he was doing as he was writing this love story of ours. We had to face those situations (which we all face at one point or another) while we were still dating, which gave us a chance to address and learn from them then, before our hearts were married together.

And by addressing them then, those times of conflict gave us the chance to work on our communication even more. I think it really paid off down the road because although it felt like we had a lot of arguments while we were dating, once we were married, the frequency really abated and today, we find ourselves in disagreements very rarely and even when we do, we’re able—because of all the “practice” we’ve had—to address them in more constructive and loving ways that make them a lot more effective a lot more efficiently.

In that aspect, even though there were tons of bright spots in our dating relationship, it was also hard, as I think most relationships are at one point or another, in one way or another. I don't want to gloss over that because the truth is, that's par for the course in any human relationship. But it's also a chance for us to learn more about ourselves and what it looks like to live in Christ's footsteps, forgiving and serving and loving even when it takes effort to do so. And only then can we learn to appreciate those hard parts because they have the potential to shape and chisel our hearts so intimately—if we let them.

Click here to continue reading the next post in this series. Or, you can catch up on all the posts I've shared in Our Love Story.

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For the Times When the Grass is Looking Greener…

With a new house and a blank slate on which to make my decorating mark, I’ve found myself over the past few months turning online to unearth all varieties of interior inspirations, pinning ideas and coming up with more craft ideas than I can possibly manage. 

And as I’ve found so many smart ideas, I’ve also found myself growing—I'll admit it—jealous. Jealous of the houses outfitted in West Elm and Anthropologie. Jealous of the incredible renovations with breathtaking before-and-after sequences. Jealous of the owners’ mad DIY skills. Jealous of folks younger than me with houses fit for a magazine and who seem to have it all.

I’ve noticed—how quickly, how easily—it is that I’ve forgotten all that I do have when I see all that I do not have, all that I probably will not have for a long time, all that I may never have—ever. 

And that’s where I get stuck. On everything that’s a “not have.” Instead of remembering all that I do have. And not just stuff, but all that I do have in my life, in my heart, in my soul.

Because, though my walls feel embarrassingly bare, I have a husband to whom I can bare my soul to him without fear.

Though my living room is filled with thrift-store furniture and hand-me-downs, my heart is rich and filled with good friends and family who are always so kind, so encouraging, so uplifting.

Though my crafts look just like that: crafts, rather than the artisan creations I had in mind, my life is a testament-in-progress to the One who is continually crafting and working me into a new creation, lovingly guiding and leading me, answering my prayers and showing me grace upon grace.

When I feel my heart starting to wish and want, I have to remind myself that there are plenty of things that I do have that are worth wanting, savoring, cherishing. And I cannot afford to neglect or dismiss those treasures. Especially not in exchange for things like curtains and couches and other accoutrements that quickly gather dust and go out of fashion.

That stuff, I have years to pick it out and make it my own. But all this, what I do have in plenty? That’s the stuff that lasts a lifetime, that truly makes a life beautiful and breathtaking. And that’s something you can’t buy at Pottery Barn.

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My First Three Months of Pregnancy

Last week, I wrapped up my first trimester being pregnant. I’m three months down, six more (or so) to go. Here’s how it fared, more or less:

MORNING SICKNESS. I started having morning sickness just days after I took my first positive pregnancy test, when I was about 5 weeks along. At first I thought the nausea I was experiencing was just psychosomatic, that I was mentally psyching myself into having pregnancy symptoms since I knew I was pregnant. But soon they’d grown so strong I knew there was no way I was faking it.

I never actually threw up, but I felt like I could at any moment. The smell of food cooking disgusted me and the thought of almost every food outside of toast or cereal made my stomach turn. We ended up eating out quite a bit those couple weeks because for some reason, if I didn’t have to make the food myself, the nausea wasn’t quite as bad.

FATIGUE. I was also tired as all get out, taking an hour or so nap each afternoon and then going to bed by 8pm and sleeping in until 9am. I’ve always only ever needed 7 hours of sleep so this took me by surprise, especially since at this stage, the baby was only the size of a grain of rice. But there’s lots of other changes going on in there, evidently requiring lots of energy!

At times, it was actually pretty miserable, but fortunately since I get to work from home, I was able to roll with all the punches and listen to my body pretty closely, whether that was taking a nap at the drop of a hat or eating every two hours. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have survived if I hadn’t had the luxury and flexibility of being at home.

A RETURN TO NORMALCY. Fortunately, as my nurse predicted at my first appointment, things started to get better for me, around week 9. The nausea subsided quite a bit (though it still heaves up every once and awhile) and I have a lot more energy (though I’m still hitting the hay early and sleeping in nearly every day). So life feels a lot back to normal now; I’m back in the kitchen cooking and have even taken care of some crafts. It feels good not to feel chained to the bedside all day long!

DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENTS. We’ve now had two appointments, and each time have been able to hear the baby’s strong heartbeat, which really made everything feel so much more real! The first time was by ultrasound, the second by Doppler. When the doctor did the Doppler, the doctor found the heartbeat at once, but soon the baby was moving all around and the doctor was having to chase him with the wand. It was pretty funny and makes me wander whether the baby’s going to be handful on the outside, too!

BONDING WITH THE BABY. We’ve been talking to the baby, which for now we are assuming is a boy, because I really don’t want to call the baby an “it.” (Plus, there’s a 50/50 chance we’ll be right!) I’ve also been doing my quiet times and all my praying out loud so the baby can be getting to know more about God even in his earliest stages of development. And I am resting on the truth of Isaiah 55:11, that God’s word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” That even in utero, it is accomplishing a purpose!

BABY STUFF. It's still so early on, I haven't actually purchased anything yet (although I have taken some time to look longingly at all the stuff in Target's baby aisles and make mental lists!). I also have been doing a lot of research that will hopefully make things easier for me later on when there are lots of things to be bought and picked out. I did however break down and do a little baby sewing project last week, though: Some wipeable bibs, fashioned from some flannel-backed table cloths I had that have really cute patterns. I made one with a snap-able pocket to catch crumbs, although I'm fully aware that it will be a long time before that gets used! But I figured I might as well take advantage of the downtime I have now, because I imagine it will be in shorter supply when that time does come!

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Our Love Story: A Long-Distance Relationship

(This is the story of how my husband and I met and fell in love. If you are just now jumping in, you can catch up on last week's post or start back at the beginning.)
One of the things that I learned during that three-hour-long phone marathon with my husband-to-be was that he was only going to be in town for two more weeks before moving back to Georgia when fall semester started back up because he was still in college.

Two weeks isn’t very long at all, but I’d already become so enamored with him that I felt—and he did, too—that it was worth it to take a chance on the relationship and see where it would lead. Even though the circumstances might make it seem like there was no hope for the relationship to flourish, there was something in me that knew that wasn’t the case.

I had been praying boldly for a godly husband for a couple of months at this point and so I had to trust what God was doing—and that God was, in fact, doing this. That he was the one working all of this out right now, and that he would continue to work it all out in the future, when we’d live more than a 16-hour car drive apart from one another.

So, we decided to take full advantage of the two weeks we had remaining and spend much of it together, going on dates, meeting one another’s families, getting to know one another better and better. And in that time, my husband was always aware of what we were doing—we were not biding time but we were exploring a relationship.

So he brought up things like our intentions and what we expected from the relationship and what we hoped for in the future. It was the first time that I was with someone who was so intentional, who cared about guarding my heart just as much as I did. It was a breath of fresh air for me—and made me attracted to him even more.

It was a whirlwind two weeks, to be sure, but it was clear by the time that he had left that we were falling for one another, and we decided to continue exploring this budding relationship of ours as a long-distance one and decided to officially make ours an exclusive ("boyfriend-and-girlfriend") one. That night, upon determining that this relationship was to be an exclusive one, we also had our first kiss, and I swear I saw a shooting star overhead.

The thing was, I wasn’t afraid of having a long-distance relationship. In my mind, I figured that if that was the way that God was going to write my love story, then it must be that it’s for the best. God could have brought us together earlier in the summer, but we spent almost that entire time avoiding each other or thinking the other person hated us. It wasn’t until time was dwindling that we actually overcame all those thoughts and fears and questions and discovered that there really might be something here.

And so I just simply trusted that that must be what was for the best—for us to live far away from each other, at least for now, and get to know one another via near-daily phone calls and the occasional weekend visit. As it turns out, of course, that was the case—God did know best.

We both look back on those times now and know that while long-distance dating is not for everyone, it was for us. It gave us an incredible chance to get to know one another’s hearts without the distractions or temptations that come with in-person dating. Much of those things were filtered out so that all we had was time to talk and learn and work through getting to know one another. We read books and discussed them together via our phone dates, talked about our days, about our dreams, about what God was doing in our lives, about everything.

It's funny to look back on it and see how simple my faith was during this time. I so simply trusted. Sometimes it baffles me to see how I responded to situations, to see the faith God gave me to traverse what would have otherwise been trying and heart-wrenching decisions. I mean, dating across the country is not a task without its cost (emotionally, relationally but also financially). Instead, he gave us both a deep peace that seemed to melt the miles and fold away the distance.

Click here to read the next part in Our Love Story. Plus, you can catch up on all the posts I've shared in Our Love Story so far!

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Telling the World You’re Pregnant Can Be a Scary Thing To Do…

Thanks so much for all your kind, kind comments on my post last week about the news that we're expecting a baby this coming winter! It is so encouraging to be on the receiving end of all that love. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Truth be told, it hasn't been super easy announcing the news to everyone that I'm pregnant.

That's not because I'm not excited; I certainly am! I have been looking forward to this time in my life for a long time now and it's something my husband and I have been actively praying about for more than a year.

No, it's because there's still a chance something could go wrong.

Even though we've passed the first trimester mark where people say it's "safe" to share the news because your chances of miscarriage are so low (less than 5%, now that we've heard the heartbeat twice), there's still that percentage of people who fall into that 5%. For them? Those statistics don't mean a thing. They still experience pain and hurt and disappointment at 100%, not just 5%.
The truth is that by telling people the good news, that means that if some bad news comes along, I'll have to share that, as well. Which is just heartbreaking to me.

Telling people adds vulnerability to the situation and feels, to me, like a leap of faith. A leap of faith because God has already brought us so far and we're announcing to the world that we trust him to carry us the rest of the way—no matter what happens next, whether we fall into that 5% or not.

And I truly believe that community is an essential part of this Christian faith we practice. We are called to open ourselves up to one another, for both the good times and the bad. We cannot live our lives of faith inside a safe bubble where we only show off the perfection of our lives; no, we have to draw others in even to the bad and the unknown and the messy and the ugly.

So even though in my heart, where I want the world to be a place of safety and comfort, I'd prefer to wait until the baby is born and announce, "Surprise! Look what we did over the weekend!," that's not the way God has called me to live.

God has called me to peel open my life and share it with my community (with you) before it's all smoothed over and polished and fine-tuned. I have to invite you into my life in its midst because it's in that place--that messy, anything-could-happen place—that we see miracles happen and God's grace and mercy shine down like the night sky ablaze with shooting stars.

And so I take that risk sharing it all with you and with everyone else who's journeying alongside me in this because I know God can be trusted. No matter what happens next.

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There’s A Secret I’ve Been Keeping…

For the past month or so, there’s been something that I’ve been biting my tongue to share but needed to wait until the right time. Fortunately, now I can finally share it:

I’m pregnant!

There’s a child in there! It blows my mind.

Today is the last day of week 12, so the end of our first trimester. We currently have a projected due date of February 23. We’ve known for about a month and a half now and have had the joy of getting to hear the baby’s heartbeat twice now, see it on the ultrasound, as well as watch it grow slowly and steadily with my belly!

This has been something we’ve been praying about and awaiting for more than a year. As with so many good gifts that the Lord has given me—whether it was for a husband, a steady income or now a baby-on-the-way—those answered prayers have not come without persistent prayer and plenty of patience as we waited on God to provide an answer. And this time, it’s one that I’ve looked forward to for years, having always known that when I grew up, I wanted to be a mother. I’m blessed to think that I’ll finally get to experience that!

I won’t go into all the specifics of how it came about just yet (I’d like to wait until after I’ve wrapped up the Our Love Story series), but suffice it to say that it has been such a wonderful and encouraging and sweet story of the Lord at work in our lives—yet again.

(By the way, I know those photos don't really "show off" the bump. Sorry about that; honestly, it's still pretty small. Although, the flowy shirt probably doesn't help either, but it's part of what has become my bump-friendly wardrobe. In due time!)

Anyway, I hope to keep monthly updates going on here through my pregnancy. (There’s no way I think I could commit to weekly ones. Monthly seems a lot more do-able.) And, like I mentioned before, I’ll share the story behind this baby in a few weeks, which hopefully will be yet another testimony to the incredible “blessons” God has gifted me.

In the meantime, if you have any pregnancy or pre-baby tips to pass along, feel free to send them my way!

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Our Love Story: Our First Date

(This is the story of how my husband and I met and fell in love. If you are just now jumping in, you can catch up on last week's post or start back at the beginning.)
At this point, we were back in town after spending a week chaperoning a youth group trip where we got to spend more time together and get to know each other better (the good and the bad).

Even though there'd been plenty of things that should have turned my husband off, there was still something in him that kept him interested in me, despite all my flubs and goofs. He decided to talk to the youth pastor at our church (who knew both of us quite well by this point) and tell him about his interest in me.

I'd already told the pastor about my desire for a godly husband and that it was something I was actively praying about, so he urged him to go on and ask me out. They decided to make it a group date along with the pastor and his wife.

(Of course, with the two of us, nothing is ever quite that easy!)

My husband called that night, around 9pm, but I didn’t see the missed call until after 10pm and my mom always taught me that after 9pm, it's not polite to call someone you don't know well. The voice message was brief and didn't really give any details, so even though my curiosity was running wild, I decided to do "the right thing" and wait until the next day to return the call.

(Due to the delay, my husband became even more convinced nothing was going to happen.)

But, as I was leaving work the following afternoon, I called him back. He told me he was calling to see if I wanted to “hang out” with him and the youth pastor and his wife that coming weekend. It sounded like a double date, but it also sounded just like, well, “hanging out.” I agreed but I hung up the phone still unsure what was going on here.

Fortunately for the sake of my curiosity, there was a planning meeting later that night at the youth pastor’s house. My husband wasn't at the meeting, so after everyone else left, I asked the pastor what was going on. “Is it a date or what?”

He laughed and laughed, because it was too obvious that I was totally interested in this guy. To my relief, he told me that it was indeed intended to be a date but that he’d encouraged my husband to phrase it casually so that it wouldn’t sound too intense and scare me away.

With the situation clarified, I started to get really excited. I honestly had never seen this actually happening! Hoped? Of course. But given all that had come before, I never expected anything to come of it.

The date came that Friday night, when he picked me up and we drove downtown to meet the pastor and his wife for dinner. After dinner, we walked around downtown and grabbed some dessert.

It was a fun group dynamic, but by the end of the evening, I didn’t feel like I knew him much better—or whether the two of us would actually click or not. At one point, when my husband was off in the restroom, our pastor asked me what I thought. I told him I had no idea, as much of the evening had been based on small talk and stories—not really heart issues, which is what really mattered most to me. That's what I was waiting on!

One of the things my husband will now say that attracted him to me so much back then was that I knew what I wanted. I’m not sure how I conveyed that, but I guess he knew that I wasn’t just dating for the fun of it. If I was going to do this, there wasn’t going to be any playing games or hard-to-get. Fortunately, he felt the same way, which is why he called me the very next day. None of that “wait two days” or however long “the rule” is supposed to be. He called the next day, which I appreciated.

When he called, I was a couple of hours away, visiting my best friend. So I called him back on my drive home. I had no idea what to expect when I called him back; all our other interactions had been so brief.

But this one was different. It finally felt like the walls came tumbling down and I got to really know this man. It was a two-hour car drive and I was still talking to him while sitting in my driveway for another hour or so before going inside.

I can’t remember what all we talked about, but we talked about enough stuff—real stuff, meaningful stuff about God and family and character and priorities—that when I hung up that phone that night, I knew that whoever got to marry him—me or anyone else—would be a lucky woman. It was evident from that moment that he was the real deal. He was the kind of godly man I’d been waiting for.

Click here to read the next part in Our Love Story. You can also catch up on all the posts I've shared in Our Love Story series.

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Planning A Surprise Date for My Husband: Two Years in the Making

A funny thing happened the other day.

My husband was reading through the posts in the Our Love Story series (checking them for any errors, he says!), when he somehow ended up at an old post I’d made more than two years ago.

It was on the cusp of my 27th birthday, and I came up with a list of 27 things I wanted to accomplish that year. Some of them were easy, some were meant to help me spread my wings, and some were simply nigh-on impossible that I'll be chasing after for years to come. (You can see all the goals on that list with a bunch of the updates I made here.)

As my husband read through that list, he came across one particular goal that never managed to get accomplished that fateful year:

#26: Plan a date for my husband. (He deserves it!)

Well, truth be told, that never quite happened. Not because I didn’t want to, but because when I’ve tried to plan surprises in the past for him, they’ve never quite turned out as exciting or as perfect-for-him as I’d hoped. He always appreciated the effort, but usually it just wasn’t what he would have envisioned the gift or the outing.

So, that goal fell by the wayside for two years, until he rediscovered it and brought it back to my attention.

Fortunately, he also pointed me in the direction of what he thought would be a great surprise—a trip to a local brewery. I don’t drink at all and my husband only has a beer every once in a blue moon, so it definitely wasn’t something I would have thought to do. But, it seemed like a neat way to get out, explore the town (especially now that we’re out in the ‘burbs!), and even learn a thing or two.

I did a bunch of research on what else was near the brewery and came across a couple of different restaurants that I thought would be up my husband’s alley, as he has recently begun eating vegan. He looked at the menus and we settled on a cute little place that is definitely nicer than our usual outing (typically something like Moe’s or Chipotle).

We got a little dressed up, drove down to the brewery (where I ohhed and ahhed over the brewery’s outdoor wildflower landscaping!), my husband sampled a couple of different beers (a blueberry and a raspberry), and we learned quite a bit about the history of this local business.

Then, since I hadn’t had anything to drink, I drove us over to the restaurant where we settled into a dark little corner and ordered what ended up being positively delicious meals (I picked a peppercorn-encrusted tempeh over mashed potatoes, which was fun, as I’ve never had tempeh before!). We both practically licked our plates clean.

Afterward, we stopped for some coffee and tea before heading home.

We’re typically pretty big homebodies, preferring to pick up a pint of ice-cream at the store and scoop it out over a Netflix movie or bring home take-out to eat before playing a board game. So this date night was pretty special for us and one that we savored.

The funny thing is that while it took me two years to finally sit down and do it, now that I have, I’ve started brainstorming a bunch of other date ideas for us—especially things like day trips to nearby towns and nature spots. So, even though I probably could go on and cross that one off my list, I plan on leaving it there for awhile, and seeing what other surprise dates spring up…

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Adventures in Trying New Foods: Quinoa Update

Over the past couple of years, trying out more grains (or grain-like foods) has been something I’ve been interested in. I love going into places like Whole Foods, where you can grab a few spoonfuls of out-of-the-ordinary grain salads, made out of quinoa or couscous, barley or wheat berries.

And yet, I haven’t tried too much of that at home, save for my Balsamic Barley Salad.
So I was looking forward to the quinoa challenge for the month of June as a part of my Adventures in Trying New Foods challenge.

I started off strong, picking up a box of plain quinoa, as well as a package of pre-seasoned, Mexican-inspired quinoa and black beans. As my foray into the world of quinoa, I started the month off with the quinoa-in-a-bag, since I figured that would be the easiest.

It was so simple; just rip open the bag, pour into a pot with some water, boil it for 15 minutes or so, and it was delicious. I added a cup or so of additional black beans, and we spooned some salsa over top. I’m not typically a big pre-packaged fan, but this stuff was totally worth it, although I’d really love to figure out how to recreate it on my own. I haven’t found a good replacement recipe yet.

With that attempt stamped successful, I decided to venture out into trying making a quinoa dish from scratch. I received the book Quinoa Cuisine for review with this challenge, and it’s filled with 150 different recipes for using quinoa, whether it’s whole quinoa or quinoa flour and flakes. Some of the recipes in it were more obscure or involved than I was looking for (particularly the ones using quinoa flour, since I don’t have a gluten allergy and can readily use wheat flour).

However, I did try the traditional recipe for mixing up a tabouleh salad, a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. It came out okay, but I think in the future I want to try using less mint. The book also has some tasty looking recipes for a black bean, corn and quinoa salad as well as a dish of quinoa, sweet potato and orange pilaf, which is supposed to make a super-healthy version of your typical sweet potato casserole. I never got around to making either of those for this challenge, but really want to.

I also tried a quinoa pizza casserole recipe I’d found on Pinterest that was okay, but not one I’m in any hurry to repeat. Plus it was kind of involved to make your own sauce, when I imagine I could have just used some of my own pizza sauce and called it a day.

Finally, I also tried whipping up a quinoa creation of my own, loosely inspired by the original Mexican one from the bag. I cooked some quinoa, threw in some corn, black beans, red peppers and scooped some salsa over top and ate it with tortilla chips. Pretty good, but I still need to figure out the seasonings to add. I’m thinking some lime juice, cumin and crushed red pepper maybe?

We’ll see, but in the meantime, I’m still experimenting with this new-to-me food and enjoying branching out, especially since quinoa is a super good-for-you food (packed with protein) that the Incas referred to as “gold.”

Do you have any good tips or recipes for making use of this “gold” in your own kitchen? I’d love to hear any of your recommendations in the comments!

(You can read up on all the posts in this challenge here.)

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Our Love Story: Seeing is Believing

(This is the story of how my husband and I met and fell in love. If you are just now jumping in, you can catch up on last week's post or start back at the beginning.)

At the same time, while I was trying to actively pull myself away from him and fight the attraction I had felt from day one, there were other things going on that made that harder and harder to do.

While we were serving as adult chaperones for the youth group trip (which I talked more about here), I got the chance to see who this man was in a rare, close-up way. We saw each other every day, whether it was congregating in the cafeteria, meeting together in discussion groups, attending worship services together, or just hanging out as chaperones while the kids were in different sessions.

While we didn’t talk too much in a one-on-one setting, I had the advantage of seeing him interact with the teens and with the other adult leaders. I remember one day at breakfast, while a bunch of the boys were goofing off and scarfing down McDonalds, he was sitting amongst their antics, calmly and deliberately reading his Bible.

As with any teen trip, there were plenty of issues that we had to deal with, from unruly behavior to flirting to picking on each other, I got to see how he handled some of those instances, how he was talking to the guys and quoted from Proverbs or explained why, as Christians, this kind of behavior was or wasn’t right.

Since it was the heat of summer, I also remember one time when all the chaperones were going to meet up and we were trying to sort out details. My husband was the one who suggested that the guys get the van and bring it to pick us ladies up. Not sure the other guys were too thrilled about it, but I certainly was impressed!

So I got quite a few glimpses to see more of what he was like, in a real-life kind of way, that made me appreciate his heart more and more.

But at the time, I still was convinced that he did not like me, and as it turns out, he was convinced that I did not like him. So none of that really mattered all that much at the time—since it seemed it wasn’t going anywhere. Plus, there was the fact that I’m 4.5 years older than him, so that was a big factor in him believing nothing would pan out. (That and all the kind things I said to him so far that summer!)

Still, something in him told him to at least try.

For some reason, even though he thought I hated him and that because I was older there’d be no possibility, he actually was interested in me and decided to ask me out anyway...

Click here to continue reading the next part in Our Love Story. You can also catch up on all the posts I've shared in Our Love Story series.

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I Used to Hate Grocery Shopping. What Has Happened Since Then…

You know what’s funny? I remember a time—not all that long ago, mind you—when I used to hate grocery shopping. It was my nemesis, my tormentor, forcing me to wander around a bleak store pushing a hulk of a shopping cart down aisle after aisle, lined up in rows like dominoes.

That’s how it felt then, when I went to the store once a week, with my paltry list that read of basics like bread and butter, Boca burgers and bananas.

It’s funny what learning to cook can do for you.

Now, when I go to the store, I have a pretty good idea where the wheat germ should be, even if I’ve never bought any in that store before. I know that the roasted red peppers will be near the pickles and that hydrogen peroxide is in the first-aid aisle.

Now, when I go to the store, I’ve done it enough and paid attention enough to know when something is a good sale price and to grab a couple to throw in the freezer to feast on later. I enjoy discovering these sales and mark downs (maybe even using a coupon or two), finding ways to keep our grocery spending under budget but making meals that bespeak nothing of lack.

Now, when I go to the store, I know enough about cooking to know whether I ought to stray from my list and pick up this or that, whether I have enough at home to make a full meal of it and use it all. There’s some security in knowing how to use all these ingredients and pair them together and no longer be intimidated by it all.

Because not too long ago, that was exactly how I felt. (I wrote about that feeling of being intimated by cooking and grocery shopping and all that goes into that element of housewifery here.)

And today?

Today, my list of errands includes two grocery stores. And you know what, I’m actually looking forward to it. Somehow, what once was a bother in my routine is now something that I can actually say, I enjoy.

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Our Love Story: Attempting to Guard My Heart

(This is the story of how my husband and I met and fell in love. If you are just now jumping in, you can catch up on last week's post or start back at the beginning.)

Finally, it was time for the teen conference, where both my husband and I would be serving as chaperones.

By this point, we’d talked a few times, with plenty of them involving me making personal character flubs. Humbling, humbling, I tell you.

So it wasn’t too hard for me to convince myself that he was not interested in me in the bit, which is why at the conference, I made a sincere attempt to not interact with him too much. For me, it was a matter of guarding my own heart and not let my emotions get carried away. I was sick of crushes and didn’t want to nurse this one.

There are a couple of moments during the conference that I remember vividly about this interplay where I intentionally pulled away not because I wanted to play hard-to-get, but simply because I needed to guard my heart. It was still a part of me sticking to my no-flirting vow:

At one point, we all had to squeeze into a van and the only space left when I got in was, you guessed it, right by him. At another time in my life, I would have been thrilled, but this time I nearly groaned because I was trying to avoid getting too close to him (literally and figuratively!) for the sake of my own heart. I frantically looked around for any other place I could sit. Alas, that was really the only seat, so I think I sat half hanging off to leave as much room between us as possible.

I don’t think he noticed that one, but I know he definitely did take note of this next one:

Near the end of the conference, we were to divide up into groups to pray with the teens. The youth pastor assigned me and my husband to the same group. I immediately asked if I could instead be in a group with one of the female leaders, who was also one of my best friends. I wasn't trying to be rude but I was desperate to quell the crush and keep my distance from him, even when it was under the most un-flirty of circumstances.

(When my husband remembers this incident, he took it as pretty insulting that I wasn’t even willing to pray with him. He thought I pretty much hated him. Especially after all the other run-ins we'd had since meeting. It's really a wonder anything ever happened at all. But of course, that's part of God's graciousness in this whole story, and more about all that later...)

The youth pastor (a smart man, who later presided over our nuptials) denied my request and we sat in the same group. We gathered around a picnic table with the students and again, when it came time to sit down, the only space left was directly beside him. I couldn't get a break even if I tried!

As a group, we all held hands to pray, which meant we ended up holding hands since we were sitting next to each other. At the time, I remember being surprised that when we held hands to pray, there was no “electricity” that you sometimes feel when you hold someone’s hand for the first time. It was surprising but also almost comforting in a way. I thought maybe my efforts to guard my heart were working...

But that didn't last long.

In spite of my efforts to peel my heart away from being interested in this guy, I couldn't help but think, as we sat there, holding his hand and praying together, “I could do this for the rest of my life.”

How right I was!

Click here to continue reading the next part in Our Love Story. You can also catch up on all the posts I've shared in Our Love Story.

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