Transformational Jesus Time

In case you didn’t know, I also manage another blog and blog along with seven other women for an organization called Total Woman U. Each of the eight of us submit one post a month for the blog. My first post was a two part post about something I’m very passionate about – having transformational and consistent time with Jesus. I’d love for you to read the posts and get to know my heart a little more!

Transformational Jesus Time: Part 1

Sneak Peak: I was motivated to read my Bible every day so I could check it off of a list, because doing the things on that list seemed to be the opposite of spending eternity in a fiery pit.  I was motivated by a “supposed to”, not by love (love for my Savior, and believing and understanding His love for me.) 

Tranformational Jesus Time: Part 2

Sneak Peak: Stop believing lies.  Let your Savior woo you back to Him.  Don’t be motivated by a “supposed to” or check off list.  Be motivated by your Savior’s complete, beautiful love for you.  When someone loves us that much, and we actually believe it, giving Him a little bit of time can become natural and not a hassle.  God knows you.  He made you.  He knows what you need, how your brain works, and wants you to love and enjoy spending time with Him.  Start today. 

#SheSharesTruth Psalm 38

Confession. When I read this passage on Monday when SheReadsTruth announced it as the reflective passage for the upcoming SheSharesTruth on Friday, I was unaffected. In that moment, I felt I had it all together. I had given up something for Lent, messed up once towards the beginning, repented, and felt like my heart was in the right place. I even felt lead to add another thing, and it was going well too. I made a note in the journaling margin of my handy ESV Journaling Bible that read, “So good for those moments when we have to come back again because we went away again.” And I was good. And my heart was right. I decided I had nothing to share for SheSharesTruth this week. But then…

For two days I unintentionally stopped remembering why I was fasting from things: to depend on God to heal my wounds – big and little – instead of relying on other things that bring me a therapeutic sense of security in some way. So quickly I went away again and needed to come back again. I thought myself to be fickle, incapable of fasting from the things I cling to for 40 days. I had mentally decided, not verbally admitted, that I was giving up on my Lent callings.

Last night, I hung out with a college friend I haven’t been active friends with since college until now. In college, I still operated in a shame based identity. Because I’m so open and transparent about most things now, I sometimes forget that people I knew then don’t know many of the things about me that people I’ve met sense do. I unhesitatingly shared many things about my childhood and family without emotion, not emotionally closed off or anything, I am just so far removed, that it’s normal to talk about. My friend, fighting back tears, said that she wished she had known these things about me, my life, and my family in college. She often thought no on else had been through things like she had. She said it made so much sense, the way I’m different now, released from all of the shame. In my sleepiness, I was thankful, but not reflective enough to be fully moved.

I sat down this morning at my normal Starbucks table, determined to come back and not give up on my Lent calling to fast. I was reminded of Psalm 38. I began to fight back tears and spill my coffee as I reached for it in an attempt to distract myself from crying [again] at Starbucks. I knew that what on Monday I decided not to write about, today I needed to write about. I was back in one of “those moments” needing to come back again because I went away again.

My sin, my iniquities…

“like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” Psalm 38:4b

“I am feeble and crushed. I groan because of the tumult of my heart.” Psalm 38:8

“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me.” Psalm 38: 9-10a

Utterly aware of my weakness and need to return, I was reminded of last night’s conversation with my friend and able to process how far away from chaos God has taken me, how much He’s done. I have been released. I wrote on the coffee and tear stained pages of my journal, “Why do I live in THAT [chaos, lacking control, the past, being characterized by who I was and how I was raised and how I should have turned out] place when You have brought me so far?! I am released to run after You!”

“But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Psalm 38:15

“I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.” Psalm 38:18

And then Ellie Holcomb’s song Marvelous Light in perfect timing had it’s turn on shuffle and filled my ears with even more applicable truth.

“I am not who I once was, define by all the things I’ve done [and things I used to believe]. Afraid my shame would be exposed. Afraid of really being known. But then you gave my heart a home. From fear of shame into the hope of life.”

Friends, we are released! Free from shame, free from the past, free from lies. Yes, we mess up and need to come back often, but we’re free! We GET to come back. We are released to run after Him!

How the Church Loves

I started to post this really long “status” on Facebook and then thought I might annoy some of my Facebook “friends” by being so wordy. I had the following conversation with myself inside my head (yes, I’m that crazy, love me anyway).

“Why don’t you post this on the blog you’ve been shamefully avoiding since you ‘quit’ that challenge? ”

“I can’t. I failed at something I said I’d try to do, I just can’t.”

“It’s okay you know. They don’t hate you. They might even miss you.”

“It is YOUR blog, a BLOG, a place meant for words and sharing.”

“You know you want to.”

“Okay fine!”

So, let’s get this part I’ve shamefully avoided out of the way. I didn’t finish the challenge! I was a dummy to think October was a good time to commit to something like that. I had Homecoming, events, Halloween, catering orders. Silly me. I’m sorry! I wanted to do it, I really did, but I didn’t. I hid from you for a while because I was ashamed, but I like and need writing too much to stay away. But, I do apologize from the bottom of my heart!

Now, back to my meant to be Facebook status that got too long, I was reading in She Reads Truth earlier this week:

“After Jesus tosses out those who would pervert the temple of God into a temple of wealth and greed and convenience, He does something revolutionary: He invites the Least inside.

The blind, the lame, the children all come in and Jesus welcomes them, heals them, confirms their place among Him. He cleared out those who profaned the temple and ushered in those who humbly sought after God.

When I picture the scene I can see myself in the wings, on the outside looking in. I am nervous, I am afraid, but I am drawn to this house of God and so I watch and wait. Those inside seem to have it together, bringing riches rather than sacrifice, doing religion like a business. All I have is this humble offering in my hands, carried the long journey from my home, over rocky roads and mistake-laden miles. Then I see Him. And right before my eyes I watch Him turn it on its side, all the pretension and injustice and darkness that kept me at bay. He sends out those who’ve come not for God but for gods. And then? He looks me in the eye. Me. Lame, frightened, filthy from days of travel, He looks at me and sees me. He motions for me to come in and then He tells me I belong.

Oh, Sisters, this is our Christ. He welcomes in the defenseless and He becomes their defense. He brings the weak to Himself and makes them strong. He desires not the shiny sacrifices our pride wishes to bring, but only a heart that is stayed on Him.”

I was reading these beautiful words while listening to these lyrics from All Sons and Daughters song, All Praise to You:

“Hear our cries, Lord. Come shake these walls. Oh and rattle the steeples Lord, we are Your people!”

Well, I was once again weeping in Starbucks! I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it many more, but I’m so thankful for my church. I’m thankful for a body of believers who truly loves and longs for the the Least, the messy, and the far from perfect (like me). I hope for all churches that we’d cry out for shaken walls and rattled steeples, that we wouldn’t be comfortable in our “Christians who have it all together” Sunday services. That we’d long to have rattled steeples and shaken walls where the Least feel welcomed, drawn to, and loved.

I’ll try to be back more! And share things here even if I don’t think they are “fancy” enough.

A Brief Update/Announcement

Don’t get your hopes up, I’m not finished with THE MONTH OF CRAZY that happens as a full time employee of residence life at a university, and therefore not “back” yet. So no meal plans, recipes, pictures, nail polish posts, or fashion updates. 

Well… let me chase a rabbit here to give you one fashion update. I bought in to this “no poo” natural DIY beauty routine thing. I’m totally sold! Go buy these four things (or steal them from your cabinet) and when I get back from THE MONTH OF CRAZY I’ll tell you what to do with them, OR just Google it. 

1. baking soda
2. apple cider vinegar
3. cornstarch
4. virgin coconut oil 

I’ve been washing my face with baking soda, spot treating blemishes with apple cider vinegar (which disappear the next day), washing my hair with a baking soda wash, spot treating my scalp psoriasis with coconut oil, moisturizing and coconut oil, conditioning my hair with a apple cider vinegar rinse, and using my DIY dry shampoo for dark hair made of cornstarch and cocoa powder. SOLD! I’ve “washed” my hair twice in two weeks and it looks fabulous. Like I said, more after THE MONTH OF CRAZY (yes, yes I am going to type that in all caps like I’m yelling it or saying it in a booming, deep, Morgan Freeman-like voice every time, because I am). 

End rabbit chase. 

The reason I am popping in to give you an update is because I have a need to tell you a vitally important update about my life. 

I found “the one” tonight. 

Okay, I didn’t find my future husband, just wanted to get your attention by being dramatic (especially after chasing that rabbit). I did however experience something that I have to believe feels something like the feeling people say they have when they “just know” they found “the one.” Not when middle school (or college freshman) girls say they found “the one,” but when loving married couples reflect back on the moment they “knew” and were right. 

I mentioned before (see Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding post), that I was living life with a new church. We’ve been taking turns telling our life stories. Tonight was my turn. I won’t share my whole story here (though I am praying about what that could possibly look like and mean), but I will share my “opener” to help explain the moment I had tonight. 

“If I were going to sum myself up in a few sentences, what I’d want you to know about me is that I’m passionate about cooking, baking, writing, women’s ministry, being connected to a church that believes in being a family, and living the Christian life out with others with transparency and vulnerability. Since this is a unique season and community where we’re trying to know each other in depth so that we can be a family, I’ll tell you a lot more, and by a lot, I do mean A LOT, but I believe my story as a whole, as traumatic and long as it is, gives explanation to these things I’m passionate about and vividly portrays the gospel message throughout. Because I’m passionate about writing, it’s my favorite way to communicate, so naturally I wrote my story out in story form and would like to read it to you.


“Every story whispers His name,” is the tagline of The Jesus Storybook Bible. It tells the stories of the Bible, New and Old Testament, in a storybook form for children of all ages and points every story back to Jesus and how it connects to the redeeming salvation story. Every story in Scripture does in fact whisper His name, and some stories scream His name. Our stories, stories of redemption and salvation, do the same. Allow me to tell you my story, one that whispers, echoes and screams His name through every detail.”

And so I read my story for approximately 25 minutes to this new church family. It was terrifying to be so vulnerable, but in the two short months we’ve been meeting together, I found myself able to trust them. It was one of the most incredible experiences. I was immensely encouraged and humbled. I’ve never felt such freedom from the trap of shame that often comes when I think about my story or free from the bonds of sin. I’ve also never felt so loved and accepted by such a large group of people. One of my best friends who had been praying for me asked me how it was after. My first response, as I sobbed happy tears all the way home and at least an hour after we met, was “indescribable.” As I continued to reflect more on how I felt, I sent her the following message.

“You know how people say when you meet “the one” you “know?” I feel like this feeling has to be similar to that. I feel like I just had a moment where I “knew” these people are going to love me forever.”

Her response was, “That’s so sweet. You should tell them.”

Since the way I communicate best is via writing, I immediately opened my computer and clicked “new post” and began to write about this moment. I can say with confidence that tonight will be a moment I remember for the rest of my life and that will forever now be added to my story. I literally sobbed, overcome with joy, that God would allow me to be part of such a moment.

Arise Church FAMILY, because we really are family, I love you. I’m beyond excited for this journey. Thanks for affirming me, thanks for accepting me, thanks for encouraging me, thanks for supporting me, and most of all, thanks for CHOOSING to love me (and each other). Because like I said tonight, if there is one thing I’ve learned from my being healed from my past journey, it’s that the choice to love someone is often more meaningful than loving someone because you are “supposed” to.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Coffee Sauce

If you know me in real life or follow me on twitter or Facebook, you probably know I’m going to a new church. It’s a new church plant in my town, something I’ve prayed for for two years since I moved here! I specifically prayed over and over again that God would bring a church plant to Clinton, Mississippi. And he did! It’s exciting! I’ve been part of two church plants previously, three now including this one. It’s where my heart is and has been since roughly 2004, almost 10 years!

I love and feel called to church plants for many reasons, which I’d love to talk to you about! But my cooking journey and church plant families hold a special connection for me. Most, I’d venture to say all, churches have events with food. I started going to my first church plant as a college student, right as I begin to explore cooking and baking. I knew I was better at baking than I thought I was when one of my favorite people from my church, sort of a mentor, told me she wanted to learn to bake cookies like my honey oatmeal cookie so she could bring them to her future kid’s school parties and he could say that his mom made the best cookies in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some traditional church potlucks! However, bigger churches often have potlucks so big that your little dish gets lost or they are too big for potlucks and have events catered OR there are so many sweet grandmas with their classic staple dishes that you don’t even want to try to compete! I’m sure I would have discovered my love for cooking and baking without my supportive church plant families. God is good like that. But I sure am thankful for the part they played in my discovery something I love and feel called to do.

So ALL that to say…

Actually, let me interject again. Have I mentioned that one of my strengths (from the StrengthsFinder assessment) is connectedness? I have discovered recently that not everyone sees the connection to every detail of their life and how it connects to the bigger picture like people with this strength do. Am I thankful I have this strength? Heck yes! Does this strength (paired with my communication strength) means I talk (or type) about A LOT of possibly unnecessary details in every story? Yep! Too much? Maybe. Am I going to stop or do I want to change? Nope. Just felt the need to share with you why I feel the need to share with you!

So again, I say ALLLLLLL that to say, I’M GETTING TO COOK FOR A CHURCH FAMILY AGAIN! Missional community focused church plants tend to put great value on doing life together (the main reason I love church planting!). A big part of doing life together is EATING! Every other week it’s my turn to be part of the team the provides the potluck meal we eat together. I get so excited to plan out what my contribution will be each week. Most of my contributions have been dessert so far, of course. (Though last night I brought some loaded mashed potatoes that were a crazy huge hit! More savory contributions are in the future.) This humble chocolate chip bread pudding with coffee cinnamon sauce was a big hit!

First let’s talk about this sauce… Cinnamon, brown sugar, COFFEE! I mean… I can’t even… Most bread puddings are good as is, but with the right sauce they can be elevated from humble beginnings to a dessert as tasty and classy as any fancy dessert. This, my friends, is THE right sauce. Not only was it delicious, but it was also so pretty! I just kept taking pictures of it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 4 tablespoons light butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Directions:

Melt butter and brown sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbly. Add in coffee, instant coffee powder, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Whisk together until combined. Stir in evaporated milk. Continue to whisk, letting it very softly bubble, until it begins to thicken some. Set aside while bread pudding cooks.

Now let’s talk about bread pudding. Not everyone loves bread pudding, and some people genuinely actually don’t like it, BUT some people just haven’t had good bread pudding. I’ve had many people try different versions of bread pudding I’ve made who claim not to like and they liked it! There are a million recipes out there for bread pudding. Many of them suggest fancy breads like brioche, which no doubt is good, but I will continue to stand by my humble bread of choice. Buns! Hamburger or hotdog, they make the most amazing bread pudding. Whole wheat or white can be used.

The thing I love about bread pudding and what gives it charm for me, is that it’s perfectly acceptable, even preferable, to use leftovers. How many cookouts have you been to where there were leftover hotdog or hamburger buns? Most people ask if anyone wants them, most people shrug them off thinking they won’t use them before they go bad. TAKE THEM!!! ALWAYS say yes. I throw them in the freezer until I collect enough to make a bread pudding. Put them in the fridge to allow them to defrost and then impress people with a bread pudding creation of your choice, maybe even this one!

Ingredients:

  • 7-8 cups of cubed bread
  • 4 tablespoons of light butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (1 1/2 cups) fat free evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. If your bread feels too soft and not quite stale enough, pop in the oven for a few minutes until it feels like stale bread. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray and fill it with the bread cubes and chocolate chips, shaking to disperse chocolate chips and bread evenly.

Whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, fat free evaporated milk, skim milk, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Pour liquid mixture over bread cubes.

Now, this is where methods vary, but I stand by my method. It’s messy, but makes the pudding gloriously combine together so it seems like bread transformed into a dessert verses bread stuck together with some liquid and sweet things. I dig in with my hands. I use both hands to mix the bread, liquid, and chocolate chips together. It helps disperse the chocolate chips and keep them from settling in the bottom and helps the bread start to meld together. It should feel squishy and wet to the touch.

Now wash your hands (obviously) and pop it in the oven. Bake for about an hour until golden brown and the center is set. Check at 45 minutes. When you shake it, if it still jiggles it’s not ready. I poke holes in mine with a drinking straw when it comes out and pour over a few tablespoons of the coffee cinnamon sauce over it. Slice into squares and serve with extra sauce. Whipped cream is also a good addition.

One more picture of the sauce. I just can’t help myself!