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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alabama Fire Crackers

My husband and I love to entertain, but some months money is tighter than others.  We don't want that to be an excuse, so we've found some cheap and delicious party finger foods to serve to our guests.  These are a favorite of ours and our guests.  

Serve Alabama Fire Crackers with cheese (we like a variety, but try some smoked cheddar!) and these simple (and cheap) crackers will add a punch to any party!  


Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups vegetable oil  (Don't use Olive Oil--they will be too greasy!) 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 (1 ounce) envelopes ranch dressing mix
  • 3 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes (Depending on the freshness of the flakes, adjust this to you heat factor.  1 tablespoon of fresh flakes was spicy!)
  • 1 (16.5 ounce) package saltine crackers

Directions 

Place the vegetable oil, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, ranch dressing mix, and crushed red pepper flakes in a 2-gallon (or larger) plastic zipper bag. Seal the bag and gently shake/move with your hands to thoroughly combine the oil and spices. Place the crackers into the bag, seal, and turn the bag over to cover the crackers with the spice mix. Let the bag sit for about 1 hour, then turn again. Repeat several more times until the crackers are well-coated with spice mix, and allow the bag to sit overnight. Remove crackers and serve.

    Friday, July 13, 2012

    You Reap What You Sow


    This photo was making its rounds on my Facebook feed the other day.  It's profoundly true--relationships just don't happen.  We reap what we sow.

    This idea of "reaping" and "sowing" is an archaic one for most Americans.  We go to the store and buy our fruits and vegetables--never putting a seed in the ground and waiting for it to grow.  That's sad really, because the illustration of the principle of reaping and sowing is so powerful.

    Both of my sets of grandparents were gardeners.  They taught me this lesson in tangible ways, but I know this applies in all areas of life.

    Principle one:  You reap WHAT (or in kind) to what you sow.  In other words, if you plant a corn seed you should NOT expect watermelon to pop from the ground.  Anyone, even those without a green thumb, would understand that.  So why do we not understand that in other areas of life?  If you want deep, meaningful relationships, you have to sow time, patience, and friendship.  You can't go about your life investing only into yourself and expect to have real and authentic friendships.  It's like expecting a watermelon to grow from a corn seed.  What you put in, you will get out.

    Principle two:  You reap LATER than you sow.  This is not an overnight process.  When my grandparents planted their garden a lot had to happen.  They had to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, and water it daily.  The sun, soil, and water had to work together.  The seed had to die, actually, for the plants to establish roots.  It was not an overnight process.  It took months for there to be any fruit of their labor and time to show.

    Likewise, our relationships with people take effort.  LOTS of effort.  It is not passive effort, either.  It is intentional effort--preparing the "soil" of your heart for healthy relationships, planting the "seeds" of relationship by investing what you want to reap, "dying" to oneself (putting your interests behind others), and "watering" through investment of time.  This principle is true of romantic relationships and also platonic friendships.  For a large and healthy crop, we have to invest our time into people.

    Principle three:  You reap MORE than you sow.  One little seed will yield a large crop.  By planting one tomato plant, my grandparents would reap dozens and dozens of tomatoes.  The investment in the one seed will reap more than you can imagine.  This is a great principle as long as you like what you've sown.  All three of these principles are true whether you are sowing GOOD things or NEGATIVE things.  If you sow selfishness, you will reap that in return as your relationships fall apart.  Likewise, if you sow friendship and love, you will reap a harvest of that in return.      

    Last week I got to reap some of the harvest I'd sown in college and beyond.  My good friends, the "N" family, came to visit.  I invested my life into Susanne (and she into mine), and now I am encouraged by her friendship and marriage.

    Then my two best friends from college, Dana and Natalie, surprised me with a visit as well.  If you've read my previous posts, you will know I've miscarried twice in the past year.  They knew I was feeling down and wanted to encourage me in person.  They took time away from their families and drove 5.5 hours to come see me for the weekend.  I got to reap some of the time and encouragement that I'd sown into them over the years.

    TRUE heart friends are my harvest.  I know, though, the harvest didn't just happen.  I am reaping what I have sown.  I did and am continually intentionally investing in what I continue to sow, knowing that in time I will reap the benefits of it.

    Good relationships just don't happen.  It's true.

    What are you sowing right now?  If you don't know, look at what you are reaping.  If you don't like what you are reaping, ask yourself what you need to sow to change that.

    Relationships--an investment into people--is, in my opinion, one of the best thing you can sow.  It might mean giving up things you like or time you would normally spend on yourself, but I know what the harvest will be.

    And I know I need more of that in my life.

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Lego Gummy Snacks

    I love all things gummy--bears, worms, fruit shaped.  I recently ran across this recipe for homemade gummy "fruit" snacks and thought it would be fun to make these.  Plus you can make all your favorite flavors and skip the ones you don't like! 

    Ingredients:
    1 (3 oz) package gelatin, any flavor
    2 (.25 oz) envelopes unflavored gelatin
    1/3 c. water

    Directions:
    Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.  Pour into molds and allow to set at least 20 minutes.

    But what shape to make them?  After doing a quick search, I found these amazing lego-shaped fruit snacks!  My husband loves Lego's.  Although we don't have kids yet I might have to make these just because they look so fun!


    I found instruction on how to make the Lego mold here.  Below are some pictures (from the tutorial) of the mold-making process.

    First build your structure. 


    Pour the silicone...it looks like a candy syringe or tool might be necessary.


    After setting, your mold is ready to make Lego fruit snacks!!


    I think the whole thing looks so fun to make.  Once the mold is done, you can use it again and again!  This would be great for kids' parties, special gifts, or just for all the Lego geeks you love! 

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    How "Mike" is Stealing the Real "Magic" From Relationships

    If words could cause a black eye, I think I would have one good shiner.  

    Recently I posted an article on Facebook that spoke out against the movie Magic Mike and books like Shades of Gray.  This topic has gotten a lot of chatter in my circles lately, so I wanted to try to post some thoughts on the subject.  

    You can't pick up a magazine, turn on the TV, or even breath air without hearing or seeing something about Magic Mike.  As of last Sunday, the movie about a male stripper teaching a younger performer "how to party, pick up women, and make easy money," had already grossed $39.1 Millions in box office sales.  That's $39.1 MILLION in its first 3 opening days.   

    Disclaimer:  I have not seen the movie.  Usually I don't respect people who make over-generalized statements on something they've not experienced, read, or seen.  So I post these opinions as that--opinions based on a limited knowledge of the movie itself.  However, I feel I know enough from the interviews, news articles, advertising and marketing campaigns to know why they want me to see it.  It is also important to note that I am a a person that follows Christ.  That means I try to live my life according to my understanding of the Bible.  I pray.  I attend church and small groups that discuss Jesus.  Therefore, my world view has that as the foundation.  At the same time, I want to be clear that I am not perfect.  I don't have all the answers, nor will I ever.  I am simply someone in constant pursuit of knowing God more.  This post is directed primarily (but not exclusively) at those that also identify themselves as Christ-followers (i.e. Christian, believer, or follower).  I hope that all that take the time to read it will at least walk away with something to think about.

    So, what is so wrong with Magic Mike?   

    Many Christians think that watching movies like Magic Mike is just harmless.  I disagree.  In the book Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose at Both, Laura Steep, a Washington Post reporter, interviews young women about the emotional effects of “hooking up.”  Hooking up, according to Steep, eludes a neat definition. It can be anything from an innocent kiss to sexual intimacy.  

    For many years, it is safe to say that men have viewed sex and sexuality in a disconnected, purely physical act.  Porn, for the most part, was focused on men. ( I believe porn/views of pre-marital sex is an issue for both Christian and non-Christian men).  Finding a godly man (that was also a virgin) is more and more rare.  Many women, although virgins themselves, usually don't expect their future husbands to be sexually pure as well.  Things have shifted, and now it is just as common that the guy and the girl have had previous sexual relationships, and if not, many of them engage in it before marriage.  

    Generally, it was women that held onto the sanctity of sex.  Women that "put out" had the bad reputation while male counterparts were considered studs.  There has been a double standard for years and years.  Since the 60's sexual revolution and women's liberation movement took root, however, the divide between male and female standards of purity and sexuality has drastically decreased.

    We now live in a culture where traditionally "male" issues with pornography and sexual promiscuity are just as rampant in Christian women's groups.  The difference?  I know that Christian men are being taught how to avoid these sins.  They are asking their brothers to keep the accountable.  They put filters on their computers.  They don't go see the movie.  More than anything, though, they admit there is a problem

    Well, thank you Magic Mike.  Now we have a very popular movie that sheds light on this subject.  Christian women--married and single--are flocking to this movie with doe-eyed innocence.  They don't see the double-standard.  They don't see the problem.  This is NOT a new issue, people.  It's been growing under the surface and now we have fruit of generations of changes.  

    Lloyd Kolbe, who formerly served as an adolescent health director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that the majority of adults interviewed avoid talking about early (first) loves.  Kolbe says, "We demean first love, deny it, trivialize it, and so our young people trivialize it.  We lose the opportunity to talk (to young people) about real things, like the difference between lust and love."

    Adults clammed up and didn't talk to their kids about how to date.  So, television shows, popular culture, and media started speaking up.  Over time the shift happened.  According to Urban Dictionary, "Hooking up has replaced mainstream dating....It's no longer, 'OMG! When will he call?' but...'OMG, that was awesome, I wonder when he'll ask me out after [last said hookup].'"  
      
    Add in popular, "award-winning"  tv shows like Sex in the City and "hooking up" is down right glamorous.   

    So now, romance, monogamous relationships, and dating are seen as messy and time consuming.  Young women (and men) postpone love--or worse--see it as pretty much impossible.  A good number of women get physically or emotionally beat up by the new dating scene.  Even the Christian young women may feel pressure to engage in physical relationships because "if I don't, he will find someone that will."   

    The result is a generation of young people who don't know how to date or where to turn for help.  A young women Stepp interviewed says it this way, "A girl can tuck a Trojan in her purse on Saturday night, but there is no such device to protect her heart."

    Stepp goes on to quote William Beardslee, a psychiatry professor at Harvard University.  He says a girls are too quick to believe that they can't be hurt when engaging in this type of activity.  "The big issue for me is it's hard to believe that true sexual intimacy is unconnected from personal intimacy.  These young women need to be careful not to fool themselves."

    Stepp describes the stories of these scantily clad coeds who keep count of the number of guys they have slept with--many complete strangers.  Although these girls avoid anything more than the "casual" hookup, Stepp shows that, in fact, they become emotionally involved anyway.

    It's not just an innocent movie.  You can't just "casually" watch men strip without being affected.  Always, your mind and heart is involved. 

    Magic Mike is a symptom of a much deeper issue.  It represents so much that is wrong with our relationship culture today.  Men AND women are going to things (books, porn, or hooking up) to meet a need that is meant to only be enjoyed in the confines of marriage.  If we take nudity (even partial nudity), seductive dancing (meant to elicit physical excitement), casual non-committed sexual relationships as entertainment and then also expect solid, good marriages, we are deluding ourselves. 

    "Surpriseingly little research has been done on what kinds of relationships leads to good marriages.  But the traits that characterizes good marriages are firmly established and include trust, respect, admiration, honesty, selflessness, communication, caring and, perhaps more than anything else, commitment," writes Stepp.  "Hookups are about anything but these qualities."

    How is watching another man strip firmly establishing trust, respect, admiration, selflessness, and commitment to your spouse (or future spouse)?  It doesn't.  When we let outsiders into our marriages, relationships, and thoughts, we are eroding our relationships with those we have a covenant relationship with.   Comparison is our natural response: Man, my husband doesn't look like Channing Tatum.  I wish he would work out more.  I wish he would say "x" to me like that.  I wish...  When we compare our husbands to fiction, they will lose almost every time.  Discontent will build, and marriages will fall apart. 

    As women, we should be especially understanding of this issue.  Female nudity is rampant.  I don't know many women who would like their husbands looking at other women and then comparing them to that ideal.  Moreover, it steals from our relationships the power of true intimacy.  There are things that should ONLY be known by my husband.  That is a special and unique gift I give to him.  If it is shared with the world (literally, like in Magic Mike) how can the wives of these men still feel special.  The whole world can see what is meant for only them.     

    Intimacy is meant to be between husband and wife exclusively.  Bring in outsiders--through books, movies, internet, porn, or fantasy--is dangerous at best.  The Bible is much more black and white on the issue.  Matthew 5:28 says "if anyone who looks at a women lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."  Obviously, this is true also for a women.  The Bible is very clear on this subject.  The principle remains true whether you are single or married.  (If you are single, you are still to remain pure for your future spouse.)


    I know many think this a dooms-day response.  It's JUST a movie, and I am here, like Chicken Little, screaming, "The sky is falling!  THE SKY IS FALLING!"  
     
    In Psalm 1:1 (NIV) it says:
     
    "Blessed is the one
         who does not walk in step with the wicked
    or stand in the way that sinners take
         or sit in the company of mockers," 

    There is a progression here.  First is walking.....then standing...then sitting.  You go from a passive acceptance to being emerged in it.  Alicia, a women interviewed by Stepp, put it this way:  "Once you've trained your mind...your habits linger."   

    I believe there are numerous scriptures and reasons that we shouldn't see the movie.  Almost more than that, though, we need to go to the root of the issue--the real problem.  As women that follow God, we need to address this hook-up culture.  We need to talk to our daughters and the women we disciple and ask them if they are struggling with pornography, sexual sin, or lust.  We need to admit there is a problem and address it in a God-honoring way.  If you are a women who is struggling with these issues or have made mistakes in the past, do not lose heart.  Please find someone you respect and talk with them about it.  It's not just a "male" issue anymore.   
     
    Stepp summarizes the gravity of the issue well,  "The need to be connected intimately to others is as central to our well-being as food and shelter.  In my view, if we don't get it right, we're probably not going to get anything else in life right." 

    We need intimacy with God.  We need to protect our intimate relationships with our spouse.  The whole of life can be boiled down to our relationships--with God and with others.  Let's take a stand against movies and books that endanger these relationships.  Moreover, let's talk to those people God has placed in our lives and ask the hard questions and encourage one another to God's standard.

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    Facebook Response to Magic Mike Post

    So I posted this blog on my Facebook wall yesterday, and went to lunch with friends.  When I checked FB again, there were 30+ comments.  I was really shocked by the reaction.   

    Facebook is not the place to really have huge discussions, so I decided to move my reply here.  If you're not a FB friend of mine, then my reply might not make a ton of sense.  I am planning to write a longer, more detailed response to this issue later.  


    For those who were in the conversation, here is my take on some of the discussions from yesterday. 


    So I have purposefully not responded to this post because most of the time I believe the saying, “it is better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” is truly the best way to go.   I slept on it and feel that I do want to say a few things.

    First of all, I read a blog post yesterday, and I like it.  So, I posted it on my wall.  There was no motive behind it other than sharing information that I liked.  I know Facebook is not the platform to debate hot topics, and I am honestly shocked at the response the post got.  Controversy, shamming, judging, etc., was truly NOT my intent.  That being said, the post struck a nerve and I want to address that.  

    I totally agree that female pornography has become more and more of an issue over the past 10+ years.  It is something that is just as dangerous to our marriages and families as “male” porn.  I don’t think, however, understanding of what makes things “porn” for women, or even talking about it has been addressed much in the church.  I think a lot of women (especially younger Christian women) really don’t even know it is “bad” for them—or how our American culture has influenced us.  (I can say that tt has influenced me more than I realize, at least.)  I do believe there is a problem that we need to address.

    HOWEVER, I do not think it is my personal right as a Christian to condemn each and every women on the planet.  I believe there is ONE Judge and that is Jesus Christ.  I can merely play the part of a witness.  A witness is called to a specific case.  I don’t just walk into any courtroom and say I am here to be a witness against the accused.  However, if I have involvement in the case—I know the people, the actions, etc.—I can then witness to the issue at hand.  Basically, I feel I am called to correct, encourage, and teach the people in my sphere of influence.  I need to have a relationship with them for the correction to be heard in a redemptive way.  Why should I listen to some random person that doesn't know me or my situation or history?  That is why we have the most impact with people that know us, and we know them.  

    Yes, I can also do my part corporately by taking a stand and not putting my time/money into things like this movie.,  And I can lovingly engaging those I know by explaining why I don't want to see it.  Better yet, I can proactively give people a choice.  Where are all the believers that are ALSO amazing artists, musicians, movie-makers, or fiction authors?  Am I trying to use my God-given talents to offer alternatives?   

    Look, I am not perfect, nor will I ever be.  I have read and seen things I regret.  I, like, oh, pretty much everyone, have my blind spots to my own sin.  I need people to be a witness for Jesus in my life--not act as His personal judge and jury.  I need people to care more about my true spiritual state more than about being right or arguing their point.  Again, I think there is a problem and we do need to address it.  I am just asking for us to think about how we do that.  Asking yourself, “What is my motive for speaking up?”  Is it to just be ‘right,’ Or is it for redemption?”  If it is truly for redemption, what is the best way to bring about that redemption? 

    I am still fleshing out my thoughts.  If you care to continue the dialogue here, please comment below.  I will also try to post again on this topic more fully.  Just know that if I engage you here or in person, it's out of love.  For now, I'm going to enjoy my weekend.  Hope you do as well!

      
     

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    You are true....Even in my wandering

    The worship set at church yesterday was really good.  Music is like words spoken directly to the soul.  The songs weren't new to me--we sing them often actually.  Today, in light of what I was going through last week at this time (see previous post), the words to Hillsong's "Forever Reign" really spoke to me. 

    You are good, You are good
    When there's nothing good in me
    You are love, You are love
    On display for all to see
    You are light, You are light
    When the darkness closes in
    You are hope, You are hope
    You have covered all my sin

    You are peace, You are peace

    When my fear is crippling
    You are true, You are true
    Even in my wandering
    You are joy, You are joy
    You're the reason that I sing
    You are life, You are life,
    In You death has lost its sting

    Oh, I’m running to Your arms,

    I’m running to Your arms
    The riches of Your love
    Will always be enough
    Nothing compares to Your embrace
    Light of the world forever reign


    Lately I have seen no "good" in me.  I feel like darkness has surrounded me more than light, and "wandering" is a good way to describe how I feel most days.  I like the contrasts in the song and the "otherness" of God is comforting.

    I was always a daddy's girl.  When I was most upset, I would bury into my dad's side and cry.  Today, as I sang the chorus "Oh, I'm running to Your arms" I felt like that little girl being comforted by her daddy.  Its been a while since I've felt that way toward God.