Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Quite literally, folks.

The winner of The Hardest Peace Giveaway is…

winner, winner, chicken dinner!

And seriously, I have the yummiest and easiest one dish recipe for you!! You must try it. I’d bet you probably have the ingredients on hand to make it tonight! #boomwinner, winner, chicken dinner!

We had company for this meal and everyone enjoyed seconds and thirds! 

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Boneless Chicken Breasts Cubed
  • 6-8 Medium Skin-on Red Potatoes Cubed
  • 1/3 c Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 c Shredded Cheese (I only had Sharp Cheddar and Mozarella on hand and it was delish)
  • 1 c Crumbled Bacon
  • 1 Large Sweet Potato
  • 1 Steamer bag of Fresh French Style Green Beans (You can find at Walmart in the produce section)

Instructions

  1. Starting with a cold oven, line a baking sheet with aluminum and cook half a pound of bacon.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bacon should be nearly done by the time the oven reaches 400 degrees. If so, drain bacon fat (save for other recipes) and set aside.
  3. While the oven is preheating, spray a 9X13? baking dish with cooking spray. I like to line my baking dishes with aluminum foil b/c I am lazy and don't want to scrub.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, (You could add hot sauce if you want.)
  5. Add the cubed potatoes and chicken and stir to coat.
  6. Carefully scoop the potatoes and chicken into the prepared baking dish.
  7. Bake the potatoes and chicken for 55-60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until cooked through, crispy, and browned on the outside.
  8. Steam green beans in microwave and add to dish during the last 10 min of cooking the chicken and potatoes.
  9. Once the potatoes, chicken and green beans are fully cooked, remove from the oven.
  10. Top the cooked potatoes with the the cheese and bacon.
  11. Return the casserole to the oven and bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  12. Enjoy and you can serve with sour cream or ranch dressing, if desired.
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What are your favorite one pot wonders? Would love to know! Happy Wednesday!!!

Repenting Of My Lenting (That One Time We Decapitated The Easter Bunny)

A few weekends ago, we piled our crew in the car and made the trek home to see my family in WV. Home is where your people are, am I right? It was so good to be home!

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My parents are just amazing. 182Also, it should be illegal to live 10 hours from your sister and her babies. 133

One of my kids’ favorite WV activities is to go to “the museum”. (Also known as The Huntington Mall….We don’t get out much.) It’s a fun little treat for us all because we get to eat something special for lunch, play in the soft play area that my kids adore and ride the indoor train. It’s fun for me because I get to stroll down memory lane recounting all the years I spent as a little girl in my dad’s bookstore, then as a teenager working at Chickfila and now as a momma wishing I had one of those backpack leash things.214

Halfway through my walk down memory lane, my kids start going nuts jumping and pointing to a giant stuffed Easter Bunny standing proudly in the center of the mall. They ran to hug and crawl all over the thing. They begged to have a million pictures taken in front of the thing. Did I mention we don’t really do all the Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny stuff? Until we do it really loudly in front of my entire hometown. It was amazing.

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Please note the slight head tilt…
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Joel walked up chuckling at the spectacle we had created with all our enthusiasm. Because, seriously, a small crowd had formed. Then, being the engineer, he was curious to see what this giant was made of, so he gently placed his hand on the arm of the rabbit…and proceeded to decapitate the Easter Bunny.201This is the face of someone who does not like to draw extra attention to himself.

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And this is the face of a father-in-law who thinks the whole thing is absolutely hysterical and can only shout “Take a picture! Take a picture!”

I could barely see through my laughter-induced tears to help lift the plywood Bunny head back onto it’s shoulders, but I had to! It weighed so much we needed 3 people! So glad an innocently bystanding child was not crushed!!!

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We finally got things situated JUST in time for the local Paul Blart Mall Cop to walk up and scold Joel for messing with the display.

I don’t know the last time I laughed so hard as the time we decapitated the Easter Bunny. I mean, Joel Hurdle will not stand for the commercialized desecration of our sacred holiday! :)211

Speaking of our beloved sacred holiday, did I tell you about last week when I 100% completely lost my mind over my children losing half our Resurrection Eggs?

Or the time I screamed at them for snooping in my closet and finding the Easter Baskets that I took great care to make for them?

Or when I rolled my eyes and huffed in frustration when they spilled the flour that we’ve used to practice confessing sin?

Y’all. If last year I was all “LENT IS THE NEW BLACK FRIDAY” this year I am all, “WHOA, DANG 40 DAYS IS A LONG TIME.”

In my mind, I long to create an atmosphere and environment that helps our family relish the sadness of Jesus dying, but the gladness of Jesus rising again. Yet in my heart there is continual striving for perfect performance and pinnable traditions.

So, I’ve been repenting of my lenting.

I’ve been talking to God about the anger in my heart. I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of my desire to “do for rather than be with” when it comes to my children. I’ve been holding their not-so-little-anymore faces close up to mine as I ask for their forgiveness for 100% completely losing my mind over Resurrection Eggs (THE IRONY!!) I’ve been asking wiser moms how on earth I can recover the joy of letting them be little while trying to mold them into functioning members of society who freaking love Jesus.

And it all comes back to the fact that I can repent, believe and take initiative in the power of the Holy Spirit, but the results really are up to God.

And isn’t that what Lent is all about anyway? 

Weak and wounded sinner

Lost and left to die
O, raise your head for love is passing by

Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain

So sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live

And like a new born baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall

So fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain

Then cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live

Ohh, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside

Then dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on glory’s side

And fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

-Chris Rice, Come To Jesus

If you too feel like a Lent loser, come, sing, fall, cry, dance, kiss and fly to Jesus. Don’t abandon yourselves to despair, because by grace, we truly are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.lent

Praying for College Students

There are 30 days left of the Spring semester. It’s so crazy to me! Did I not just put up the Christmas decorations? (Oh, right, I did. It’s just that it was 3 months after Christmas that I chose to put them away…) Thirty days with which to invest our time as missionaries here at Ole Miss.

What will we do with these fleeting hours? How will we invest our lives? How will we prepare for our summer assignment overseas? What will help students feel most cared for and how will they best be prepared to walk with God for a summer or graduates, for a lifetime?

These are the questions burning on the minds of Joel, myself, our team and campus ministers everywhere. All of these questions bring us to our knees and we wanted to ask you to join us in praying for college students and for those who minister to them.

Maybe it’s a university in your town or your alma mater. If nothing else, would you join us in praying for college students here at the University of Mississippi? How To Pray For College Students

Praying for College Students 

  1. Pray for students’ minds to be strengthened by God’s truth and able to reject philosophy of the world. (2 Timothy 3:16, Colossians 2:8)
  2. Pray for believing professors to be a winsome witness in the classroom and boldly share Him with colleagues.  (Ephesians 6:19)
  3. Pray for non-believing professors to come to know Jesus. (2 Corinthians 3:14, 2 Corinthians 4:4)
  4. Pray for lost college students to see their need for Jesus. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  5. Pray for Christian students to understand their identity in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1)
  6. Pray for Christian students to understand the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8, Galatians 5:22-24)
  7. Pray for Christians to join in on evangelism, discipleship, prayer, fellowship and missions on campus and in local church bodies. (Acts 2)
  8. Pray for the Gospel to go out on social media platforms used by college students. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  9. Pray for missionaries to be sent out from college campuses into vocational ministry and into the workplace to have a ministry. (John 3:11, Matthew 28:18-20)
  10. Pray for a love and understanding of God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Psalm 119:105) And from that a love of righteousness and disgust for sin. (Psalms 78:1-8, 103:17-18; Isaiah 54:13; Ephesians 3:20-21)

Thank you for joining us in prayer for these world-changers!

The Hardest Peace (And A Giveaway)

I can’t thank y’all enough for your words of affirmation and tangible encouragement following my pain last week. Writing is how I process and after I “got it out” I felt like I could move forward with peace and comfort of His presence. Coffee, flowers and the most beautiful letter, texts and comments sure did help.

I went back and forth about posting on social media, because I didn’t want to be all “look at me and my sadness” but then I was all, “the mess is the message“ and with the click of the button a good old fashioned vulnerability hangover hit me like a semi-truck. I felt exposed and insecure, ashamed and embarrassed by what I had shared. 

It was so strange…I love vulnerability and real talk. But as it turns out, I prefer to care for and encourage others MUCH more than I enjoy letting others do that for me. So, here I am feeling at peace with our family situation but now having to uproot the prideful lies surrounding my need to live in community with others!?! Se la vie. Thank you so much for being used by God to mutually encourage.

Speaking of vulnerability and encouragement…there was a book sitting on my nightstand that I had avoided picking up since the day came in the mail. You know the type of book that you know will require some emotional stamina to get through? The one your KNOW will bring on the tears? Well, I finally cracked it open (and then devoured it in 48 hours) and was blessed beyond measure.

I had hoped to share about this book last week, but then, well, last week happened. So, here I am writing about “The Hardest Peace” by Kara Tippetts today. Today, which just so happens to be  the first full day of Kara being absent from the body and present with the Lord.

I had wanted her to hear my feeble attempt at sharing highlights and thanking her for her book that touched my soul, but instead, it will be a commemoration of her life’s work.

This morning, as I looked at the beautiful flowers friends had dropped by and noticed the tulips beginning their descent, I was reminded of Kara and the beauty with which she lived, faded and died. 

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Kara’s book recounts her tumultuous childhood followed by disorderly adolescent experience of “keeping quiet and looking good” in stark contrast of her beautifully healing salvation experience. She shares the good, bad and the ugly of learning and loving Jesus, the family He gave her and the family He would use to make her into a woman who could embrace suffering and declare life with Christ as better.

She walks you through her cancer story in the most gentle way. She’s real, she’s aware and she’s hopeful. Her words tapped into my own pain and lifted my chin to look long at God’s character. I’m amazed by how she crafted her message to apply to any struggle.

The way she speaks about marriage is striking and makes you intensely reflect. Her mothering, is an incredibly powerful message for all moms. Her take on church life and community was beautiful and helpful to someone in a new town. Her perspective on boundaries and connecting is powerful. Her view of Heaven, magnificent. I can’t say enough about her writing style and her heart. You can also view the remarkable 3 minute documentary of her life HERE.flowers4

My favorite quote from the book was:

“The God I know, the sovereign God of the Bible, knows well my story of suffering and offers Himself at every turn. If the honesty with which I tell my story were the limitation of His strength, well, I would be utterly screwed. But imagine if He were intimately involved in my story, WHICH HE IS. Imagine if He showed Himself in my hard, WHICH HE DID, and what if the hard of my story is the beautiful redemption of my today? Could suffering then take on a different hue? Could the coloring of the hard not be so dark, so hateful, so gloomy? If our hard is the absence of a good God then how can anyone walk in faith?”

The part that made me sob was:

“I wanted him to hear me say, You are an excellent husband. Be a husband again. Be discerning, be cautious, be patient, but don’t close your heart ot the possibility of love. Go for it, dearest–we met the best of life in the gift of marriage. In the places of Jason’s begging for more time, Jesus hears him and loves him exactly in the place and grants me that next breath. But I know, I quietly know, when the time comes for that last breath to take place, a beautiful grace will meet my dear love in that sacred moment. What seems utterly frightening and lonely will be a moment filled with grace and peace.”

And what made her beautiful in her dying was her confidence in the love of God:

“My little body has grown tired of battle, and treatment is no longer helping,” she recently wrote. “But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well.”

The Hardest Peace (And A Giveaway)

Kara sent two copies of “The Hardest Peace”–one to read and one to give to a reader. Please comment below if you’d like to win a copy of this beautiful memoir of faith. 

So take seriously the story that God has given you to live. It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze. –Dan Allender

 

The Presence Of Pain

I could’ve sworn this time I was.

I was so freaked out that I couldn’t even take the test for fear of a positive sign.

But, I am baffled by my fear. Isn’t this what we’ve been hoping for these last 5 years?

My sheer terror tells me that it’s still less about the baby and more about the “no”.

I hurt less because of empty arms and more because of the ever-elusive answer.

Why on earth, not??

And then there’s the surge of guilt because my arms aren’t actually empty. In fact, they’re not empty at all. My arms are full with Him and His plentiful gifts. 

My pain is muted by Presence.

The Presence of One who sees me in my pain and uses my pain to produce a whole host of things. The presence of dear ones who think to ask and pause to pray. And most tangibly, the presence of two darling children who fill our hearts and home to the brim. I am totally satisfied and complete. Until I’m not.

Because there’s still pain.

I’m the girl who starts her period at baby showers. On Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Valentine’s. The cycle of hope and despair is relentless. It’s unstoppable really. And if I don’t have my eyes locked on Him it all just feels mean. 

So, here I sit after 40 minutes of just staring out the window. Trying to lock my eyes with His but making peace with just glazing over in the darkness of early morning. His eyes haven’t moved from me. I can rest in the darkness snuggled and comforted by my well-worn quilt that has faithfully softened the blows.These squares of fabric have been my physical reminder that His banner over me isn’t mean, it’s love. The stillness and quiet help me linger. I’m begging for light to delay its coming.

Daylight means productivity. Productivity and pain don’t mingle well.

But, daylight also means perspective and life and peace and a perfect plan.The Presence Of Pain

So, I think I’ll ease into the day leaning into the pain instead of judging it. I’ll try and attend to the freedom and need I have to be gentle with myself. I’ll share my pain with others, even when and especially when it’s tiring and embarrassing. (Blogging can be this sheepishly weary person’s best way to be vulnerable :) And I’ll choose to pleasure in His Presence in the presence of pain

A Habit of Nourishing Self Care (Sunday Night Smoothie Prep)

Green smoothies.

They are all the rave, aren’t they? I totally get that they are full of vitamins, minerals and all the nutrients my body needs. I know that they give me the extra energy I need to chase kiddos all day. I’m convinced they make me feel nourished and set the tone for more mindful health choices all day…yet, 99% of the time I am too lazy to get my blender out and care for myself…UNTIL, I had a lightbulb moment. 013Every Sunday night I do sit down for 15 minutes to Meal Plan, and I absolutely LOVE freezer cooking, so why not begin a habit of nourishing self care also known as Sunday Night Smoothie Prep?
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Why lug out all the spinach, kale, berries, chia seeds, flax seed, etc. etc. multiple times per week when you can get it out once on Sunday evening, ration it all into individual bags, zip them, freeze them and throw them in the freezer? Then, as you’re scrambling to get the kids to school and the last thing you’re thinking about is how to mother yourself, just pull a smoothie bag out, add some water, orange juice, and maybe even 1/2 an avocado and enjoy! It’s like putting 20 minutes of your life on cruise control! 016Between this and Plan To Eat’s meal planning service, the administrative part of my need to feed is SET! Here’s a 30-Day Free Trial of Plan To Eat if you’re interested in trying it out. (Also, it wouldn’t have worked for me if I hadn’t watched these videos. Hope they help!) xoxo

 

How To Set Up A Morning Routine

I very well remember the days of floating through life a little bit more at my own pace…waking up whenever, exercising whenever, having people over whenever. Strolling into the kitchen at five o’clock deciding what we were in the mood for that night. Life, and especially the domestic upkeep of my home, was on my terms. I thought my mother-in-law was c.r.a.z.y because she did laundry EVERY DAY… while we were more of the “why do laundry when there’s still one more pair of clean underwear” school of thought.

Well, when the kids arrived there was no room in the inn for our lackadaisical approach to getting out the door, serving meals or cleaning a sufficient number of underwear. We had to figure it out.

It was in the thick of our figuring it out, that a wise woman shared with me how her “Morning Routine” was helpful for coordinating her large family. She told me that having a morning routine helped her home-life function in an organized fashion while using very little mental energy.

Mindless organization? SIGN ME UP.

How To Set Up A Morning Routine

She suggested that if I could start thinking of a few simple rhythms to incorporate into my days, that these habits would soon become ingrained rituals. And these rituals would become second nature and would help my home run at least at a bare minimum, without me having to think. Thinking really is so hard, isn’t it?

So to put an end to the drudgery of waking up and stumbling through my day, I found myself soaking up any and all tips and tricks I could find on how to set up a solid morning routine. There were some really helpful thoughts on Inspired To Action, LifeHacker and My Morning Routine. Yes, this is totally my personality and may not even come close to working for you, FREEDOM!! But, I needed a routine to help simplify and streamline our household tasks.

How To Set Up A Morning Routine:

I began making notes of what the pain points were in our home:

Dishes in the sink really get on Joel’s nerves.
The continual clutter feels like really loud static in my brain.
The laundry seems out of control 24/7, and by the way, where have all the school uniforms gone?
Speaking of school, we are incessantly late. 
Also, who is packing lunches and making these children supper? Oh, that’d be me. 

Once I wrote out the pain points, I could begin framing up some simple tactics to help alleviate the stress. And from that The Daily 5 was birthed. Five simple tasks that I would aim to complete each day to keep my household viable.

To Domestically Stay Afloat, I Must Daily: 

  1. Do a load of dishes 
  2. Do a load of laundry
  3. Set out supper
  4. Make beds
  5. Wipe down surfaces

This list is magical. Quite profound, really. Except for the fact that it’s not. But if it can help some other young mom from walking around like a zombie then it’s worth spending a nap time outlining it here. And really, 9 times out of 10 we all just need someone to hold our hand, tell us that it’s all going to be okay and then to remind us of what we already know.

So why these five simple, mundane tasks? Well because…

A Load A Day Keeps The Crazy Away- In my house, there are always more dishes and dirty clothes a comin’, so I try to begin the day with an empty sink and hamper and embrace the momentum it creates. 

Setting Out Supper Stabilizes Sanity- Each morning, while I still have a drop of energy, I check my Plan to Eat meal planner and pull out all the ingredients so that they are sitting on the counter giving me a sideways glare that says “WE HAVE A PLAN, WOMAN, and no, no you may not eat a 6-count CFA Kids’ Meal for dinner tonight.”  

Making The Beds Makes Things A Little More Beautiful- Even if there are Legos and Barbie shoes all over the floor, I can walk past the bedrooms and feel some semblance of order if at least the beds are made. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Kids Are Sticky, You Better Wipe Away All That Icky- We host a lot of people in our home and I am always trying to stay on top of the level of gunk that a lively family produces. Starting the day by grabbing a tub of antibacterial wipes and making sure all the surfaces are wiped down makes a huge difference and is a nice Daily 5 finishing touch. Lighting a candle when I’m through doesn’t hurt either!

After about 18 months of practicing these rhythms (and posting them like a crazy person all over our home), the tasks have become as normal and thoughtless as brushing my teeth!! Meaning, they happen at least 2.5 times a week!! :) Major progress. Miles away from perfection (just ask anyone who knows me in real life) but def progress.

Now that I’ve seen the difference a morning routine can make I’ve tried to start thinking through rhythms and routines to bring order out of the chaos that is the rest of life and work.IMG_8823[1]Let’s just say my kids are all about flipping through and accomplishing “their cards” to get ready in the mornings…or maybe they’re just all about the screen time that they earn after they jump through the hoops, regardless, these habits have brought boatloads of Type A order to life and have allowed for more fun in our days.

What about you? What’s your “Daily 5″? DO you have a morning routine or other habits that work for you? Does this kind of thing jive with your personality? How do you find freedom and order in your home life? 

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Because It’s Monday

Because it’s Monday and I’m a chronic, yet recovering hustler.

 
Because I want to do great and grand things, meanwhile there’s still a Valentine’s Day wreath on my front door and a nativity scene in my garage.
 
Because I forgot to eat breakfast this morning and just made a fierce u-turn on the way to the gym.
 
And because hormones are giving me ALL the crazy thoughts.
 
Because I need the gentle reminder and because maybe I’m not alone.

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And because His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways better than our wildest dreams. Also, because He has given us the mind of Christ!

 
1 Corinthians 2:9-16

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this tin words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
 

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Take heart! HE has overcome the world…and any case of the Mondays we might have!