Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I See Myself in You





I see myself in you, little girl.

When they wink and call you cute, but they don't take you seriously.
I see myself in you.

When they expect you to go along just to get along instead of having a mind of your own. I see myself in you.

When they tell you to speak up for yourself and then you do, but they still don't listen. I see myself in you.

When they call you selfish for wanting more than the cards you've been given.
I see myself in you.

When they say, "Baby, you're gonna be a star if you sign on the dotted line."
I see myself in you.

When they pin you up just so they can pin you down. I see myself in you.

When they try to wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. I see myself in you.

When you make your bed and have to lie in it, too. I see myself in you.

When you feel naked and ashamed. I see myself in you.

When they come in and go out like you have swinging doors. I see myself in you.

When they take one down and pass it around. Ninety-nine bottles of I see myself in you.

When you forgive them for they know not what they do. I see myself in you.

When they feast on your flesh like it's holy communion. I see myself in you.

When you start to see the beauty in being broken. I see myself in you.

When you realize you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I see myself in you.

When you make a man inside you and are the making of the man beside you.
I see myself in you.

When your soul doth magnify the Lord. I see myself in you.

When you understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is for you. I see myself in you.

When you finally know your own strength and feel it burning in your chest.
I see myself in you.

When they tell you you're gonna turn out exactly like your mama.
I see myself in you.

And I hope you do, too.


Friday, November 25, 2016

A Little Southern Hospitality


Hubby with Buddy Jeff Gebott


I have never been a food blogger, but I am today. 

When you have one of the best meals of your life, somehow you magically become one. My apologies to my mother, my mother-in-law, my grandmother and my husband's grandmother (God rest their lovely souls), but I just had THE best Thanksgiving meal I have ever eaten. 

Hands down.

My husband's high school buddy Jeff (whom he hadn't seen in 24 years) joined us high in the snowy Colorado mountains for Thanksgiving this year. Oh... And did I mention that he just so happens to be a famous award-winning chef? 

That's right. Chef Jeff.

It's nice to have friends in high places. Literally. So, when Jeff arrived at our mountain getaway and politely asked if he could take over our kitchen, we gladly handed it over to him. We sat like sponges and absorbed everything as he worked his magic.

If you haven't heard of him yet, I'm sure you will soon. 

Allow me introduce Chef Jeff Gebott, who recently competed in the 2016 World Food Championships.

And now--without further ado--here's a look at our Thanksgiving feast:

The Bombers:  Galaxy, Christmas Ale, Friek, and False Summit

Funkwerks Galaxy:
A Single Hopped Saison with passion fruit juice


St. Bernardus Christmas Ale:
Traditionally made by Trappist Monks in France and Belgium, this is a dark seasonal with a spicy, mint-like flavor profile exuding the tastes of warming alcohol, fermented molasses, apricots, licorice and marzipan that are highlighted by the perfect balance of brewing sugars

Odell Brewing Company Friek:
An ale fermented with wild yeast, tart cherries,
and raspberries, and aged in oak barrels

Elevation False Summit (My personal fave):
A seasonal quadrupel ale aged in Breckenridge bourbon barrels with aromas of dark fruits, vanilla, bourbon, caramel, oak and dark Belgian candi sugar

The Wine: 2013 Helfrich Vin D'Alsace Gewurztraminer

Golden yellow, floral and spicy, with delicate hints of rose petal and lychee fruit. Rich, full-bodied and well-structured, it reveals aromas of flowers, spices and exotic fruits, such as mango and passion fruit and develops with rich tangy notes that bring out the freshness of the wine.



The Turkey

THE most tender turkey I have ever eaten. Dry rub seasoned and smoked slow and low with cherry and hickory wood. Oh, but the gravy. The gravy stole the show. Brown sugar, mustard, garlic, and turkey drippings--think golden barbecue sauce--but still think gravy. Just trust me when I say this...
BEST. DAMN. GRAVY. EVER. 


The Ham

Dry rub-seasoned, glazed, and smoked to spiraled perfection. Enough said.


The Dressing
Buttery and fluffy. We put beer in it. It was divinity.
Chef Jeff also made a pomegranate and persimmon compote and fresh cranberry-orange sauce with macerated oranges to go with. Delish.


Roasted Potatoes Ready for the Smash

A variety of Colorado potatoes including russets, yellows,
reds, and fingerlings. Roasted and smashed like a boss.


Bourbon-Soaked Green Beens

Bourbon, bacon, onions, and garlic cooked into a jam for these green beans.


Pecan Pie

To die for. Secret recipe--all I know is it has bourbon in it.
I was told he'd have to kill me if he told me any more info.



Now, please excuse me while I enter a turkey-induced coma.

Happy Thanksgiving!






Monday, November 21, 2016

What You Can Learn on a Mountain



"There is no place so awake and alive as the edge of becoming." 
~Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter


You can learn a lot about yourself on a mountain.

Just ask Moses. Or Elijah. Or Abraham. When you get a view from the top, you can't come down unchanged. Very often, you are forced to leave your comfort zone. Very often, life and death are on the line. Very often, your faith is tested and you have to remove your sandals because the place where you are standing is holy ground.

God tends to reveal Himself on the mountaintop.

Sometimes it's a burning bush. Sometimes it's a sacrificial ram. Sometimes it's fire falling from the sky. Or sometimes, God provides you with a scathing glimpse of exactly who you really are.

The first time my husband took me skiing, I realized what a complete and total wuss I was. I absolutely spazzed out and hyperventilated at the top. I had to be dragged down the slope on my rear end.

True story.

In hindsight (pun intended), I see that I approached that mountain exactly how I approach life. As far back as I can remember, I have been timid, shy, and fearful. Afraid of dogs. Afraid of heights. Afraid of roller coasters. Afraid of airplanes. Afraid of failure. Afraid of confrontation. These things I have avoided at all cost.

That is, until now.

Recently, God has been calling me back up the mountain. I can feel Him gently leading me by the fingertips to the edge of a mighty precipice--to the steep rock face of a cliff. He is asking me to trust Him. He is asking me to take risks.

Some of you are right here with me.

I look to my right and to my left and I see you--wide-eyed and mystified with wonder--the wind in your face with your toes hanging over the edge just like mine. Not knowing what we will be asked to sacrifice but entirely confident that the God of Abraham will provide. Knowing full-well that the God who spoke to Moses from a burning bush and defeated the prophets of Baal with fire from heaven is the same God on this mountain with us now.

This is the place to be. This is where I want to stay.

Right on the edge of becoming. There is no place so awake and alive. God is not yet finished with me. He is not yet finished with you. And the One who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.

We cannot walk away unchanged.

I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere along my way back up this mountain, I unearthed a part of myself I never thought existed. I broke through hardened soil and tunneled down deep with picks, shovels, and trowels. I exposed long-lost artifacts and excavated treasures untold. I brushed away the dust and dirt and uncovered the rarest find of them all:

Myself.










Monday, November 7, 2016

Rapunzel Syndrome





Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there was a beautiful girl trapped in a tower. The only way in or out was through a lonely little window. She would often fling her long, flowing hair out of the window and watch as her golden waves cascaded down in the sunlight like spun gold and were tossled about by the wind. 

But that's when things start to get ugly. That's when things get tangled. 

Because inside the tower walls, her captive heart grew colder and colder day after day as she daydreamed about a handsome young prince coming to rescue her--even though, all the while, she possessed the power to free herself.

Whenever she pleased, she could grab the pair of sheers on her bedside table, give herself a cute little pixie cut, rappel down the tower wall on a braided rope of her own hair, and make her getaway scot-free. But instead, she chose to pass the time by pointing fingers and placing blame. She became hardened by unforgiveness. Everything she did was tainted with the stench of resentment.

I used to be this girl. The damsel in distress. 

Waiting on my prince to come to the rescue--not because I couldn't save myself--but because I believed I shouldn't have to. I had Rapunzel Syndrome... and it was poisoning my fairy tale.

Sometimes I feel sorry for the poor prince. 

He had no idea of Rapunzel's lofty expectations. He didn't even realize he was letting her down (in all the wrong ways). The long-awaited hero was already defeated by no fault of his own even before the Once upon a time

He didn't have a fighting chance.

Once I had a spa day with Rapunzel (just go with it). We reclined in shampoo chairs. We had our hair lathered and rinsed and conditioned and detangled. We heard the latest salon gossip. We debated how many inches she should cut off and then I watched her eyes widen as those beautiful blonde tresses fell silently on the hardwood floor. I heard her exclaim to the stylist, "I don't know why I didn't think of this before."

Rapunzel always held the key to her own happiness. 

It was never dependent upon a handsome prince. 

I still believe in fairy tales, but I've never seen her since.




Friday, October 21, 2016

Whom to Schmooze If You Wanna be a Writer



If you want to be a writer, it's all about who you know. 

In this dog-eat-dog world of literary prowess, even those with intimidating writing chops beg for someone on the other side of the fence to throw them a bone. Sure, it starts with having something interesting to say and an incredible knack for cleverly stringing words and phrases together. 

But it also helps to have friends in high places. Or friends in low places, for that matter. Like that old Garth Brooks binge-drinking song. 

If you're gonna be a writer, you have to get cozy with a few particular bedfellows. Because if you don't schmooze with these guys, you lose.

Introduce Yourself to Inspiration. If you don't know him, you're toast. But he's really kind of a player, so when he leaves, just let him go. You can't force him to come back to you. You can't make the guy commit. He likes to be in charge. He likes for you to submit. He winks at you from a distance. He likes to tease because he can. He likes to watch your body rise beneath his masterful hand.

Become Frenemies with Frustration. Inevitably, you will invite inspiration over to Netflix and chill and he will stand you up. You will wait for him and wait for him and he just won't come. Or, he will come so much that the rest of your life goes to shambles. You will be SO full of inspiration that your kids will have to ransack the pantry for snacks because YOU forgot to cook a meal. The laundry will pile up and no one will have ANY clean underwear. But you won't care because you're a freaking writer. You will rationalize this insane behavior by telling yourself that you're sacrificing for the sake of your craft.

Make Waiting Your Wing-Man. Let's say you write something earth-shattering that will enlighten the masses. You don't want to be flying solo when you make your approach to pitch it to an editor. And even though you might feel the need for speed, editors are not necessarily shaking their tail-feathers to get back to you any time soon. You're gonna need someone to play Goose to your Maverick so they can talk you up a smidge while you're waiting to be shot down. 

Ride Shotgun with Rejection. Even though it's the best thing you've ever written. Even though you had to dig down to the very depths of your soul to beget such brilliance. Even though you can't possibly fathom ever writing anything better than that  ever again. It's still simply just not good enough. So, buckle your seat belt, put on some road trip tunes and do some car karaoke with your old pal rejection. But be sure to use your GPS so you don't lose your way. It's gonna be a LONG drive.

Count on Criticism. She will always be there for you. Ride or die. Come hell or high water. She's in it for the long haul. She's the friend who will tell you if you have food stuck in your teeth or toilet paper on your shoe. If your zipper is down, she will notify you. Do not be offended. She's just being constructive because that's what besties do. 

She really does love you. Just the way you are. 

She just loves you too much to let you stay that way.



Friday, October 14, 2016

Staying Salty


One perk (or occupational hazard) of teaching high school is staying current in modern slang.

My students often tell me I talk like "a preppy white girl" and take it upon themselves to teach me all the latest lingo they think I should know. 

I will admit: Sometimes I have to consult urbandictionary.com to fully comprehend the language of the modern-day teenager

Most recently, I learned what it means to be salty:


salt·y
ˈsôltē/
adjective
  1. exceptionally bitter, angry, or upset 
(i.e. She's salty because she just got played.)


Before you take this definition with "a grain of salt" (sorry), I should probably point out that The American Dialect Society gave the word "salty" (with the above definition) the Most Likely to Succeed Award at its 25th Annual Word of the Year Conference in Portland, Oregon. 

No. I am not kidding. 

Don't believe me? Check out this article in The Wall Street Journal
Also worth noting is the winner of Most Creative Word of the Year

Columbusing. 

Kind of apropos since Monday was Columbus Day.

By the way, columbusing is a term used to describe white people "discovering" things already known to minority cultures. Guilty.

Jesus had a lot to say about staying salty. 

But he wasn't using the new award-winning definition of the word. 
Even though he was the word made flesh, Jesus didn't have urbandictionary.com. Jesus was old-school. 

He meant the kind of salty that adds just the right amount of flavor to a dish. 

The kind of salty that preserves. The kind of salty that heals. The kind of salty you fling out over the roads to clear a path for safe travel through the snow. 

He dubbed His early followers "the salt of the earth" and urged them to stay salty. After all, what good is salt that has lost its flavor? 

But, to be honest, some of us have lost our flavor. Some of us have become useless. Instead of clearing a path through the snow, we have become the frozen chosen. Others are so salty, they completely ruin the main dish. There is nothing to do but toss it in the trash and start again from scratch. So, how do you know if you're still tasty? 

Here's some food for thought to whet your appetite:

1. You're too salty if you don't have any unchurched friends. 
Know what you get when you have too much salt all in one place? Sardines. It's good to have friends who share your beliefs, but if you don't have any friends who aren't Christians, then you and your crew are like a can of smelly sardines. Take a big whiff.

2. You're not salty if your friends don't know you're a Christian.
If you do have unchurched friends and they can't figure out you're a Christian just by being around you, then you're as bland as can be. There should be something inherently different about you. We are called to be in the world but not of it.

3. You're too salty if you have an agenda. 
WWJD? He would love people. All kinds of people. The sinners and the saints. But mostly the sinners. And that's exactly what we are called to do. Love people. Just as they are. Not because we want to bring them to church on Sunday. Not because we are trying to convert them. Not because they are a soul we want to win and hang on the wall above our fireplace. Just genuinely love people like Jesus did. Your saltiness will naturally make them thirsty. Then you can lead them to the well of living water that never runs dry.

4. You're too salty if you are easily offended. 
If you are appalled every time you see a tattoo and hear profanity escape from someone's lips, and if you unfriend people who are voting differently than you, do us all a favor and take a chill pill. You're too salty if people have to walk on egg-shells every time they are around you. You might be on the spice rack, but you won't be invited to the table.

5. You're too salty if you don't have a sense of humor. A little bit of self-deprecating humor and laughing at the occasional dirty joke goes a long way when it comes to making you an approachable and relatable bloke. If you always take things too seriously and can't laugh at yourself, people will think you're not worth your salt.


6. You're too salty if you think you're better than other people
.
So what if you go to church every Sunday and never miss a prayer meeting? That doesn't make you better than everyone else. Get down off your high-horse and mingle with the commoners. You might learn a thing or two. Like humility.

7. You're not salty if you're bitter.

Trying to be salty when you have unforgiveness and resentment in your heart is like using a clogged salt shaker. Even though you know it's in there, nothing's coming out. You might be a valuable commodity, but your vessel needs a good cleansing. 


Stay salty, my friends.


"You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt that has lost its flavor? 
Can it be made salty again? It is not good for anything except to be 
thrown out and trampled by men." ~Matthew 5:13~



Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Into the Deep




"They that go down to the sea in ships;
That do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep." 
~Psalm 107~



Lately, I feel pulled to deeper waters. 

The sudden rushing in of the tide caught me wholly unaware in the midst of my everyday life. The whitecaps with their foamed hands gestured for me to follow their rip-current further out to sea. "There's something more," they whispered. "Come out where it's deep."

I've lived most of my life wading in knee-deep water.

It's safe there. In the event of impending danger, you can easily splash your chicken-shit way to shore. I've never wanted to venture out so far that I can't look down and see my submerged feet shallowly staring back at me. 

Danger is always lurking in the deep. 

And yet, I hear a seafaring voice beckoning me to embark on a maiden voyage. It's a quest to leave shallow waters behind. A quest to embrace the unknown. To let the turbulence of the salty waves show me exactly what this vessel is made of.

Every maiden voyage begins with the ceremonial launching of the ship. 

We break a bottle of bubbly against the bow marking the birth and naming of a new vessel. It's a holy christening. A baptism of sorts. It's a tradition soaked in superstition that goes back thousands of years. 

The Ancient Greeks wreathed their heads with olive branches, drank wine to honor gods and goddesses like Atalanta, the virgin goddess of adventure, and poured water on the new vessel as a sign of blessing. In 18th and 19th century France, a priest would bless the newly named ship with holy water. England's Princess Alexandra commissioned an Anglican choir to sing Psalm 107 at the launching of her namesake battleship: "They that go down to the sea in ships; That do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep." 

Sometimes first launch is disaster. 

The anchors fail to hold the ship's forward progress and it capsizes and sinks in deep waters. Onlookers have even been knocked into the water and drowned by the sheer force of a ship's wake. 

I'm aware of the dangers. I'm aware of the risks. 

But I know the care and precision the master shipwright put into shaping this vessel. I have a hope that is a sure and steadfast anchor for my soul. Like theologian William G.T. Shedd so aptly stated, "A ship in a port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for."

This ship was built for adventure. This ship was built for the deep.

My oldest sister (who always takes exceedingly good care of me) used her big sister intuition (one of her super powers) to sense that I was getting ready to embark on a journey. She gave me a timely book to read called When the Heart Waits by one of my favorite authors, Sue Monk Kidd (which I highly recommend if you, too, are hearing that seafaring voice). 

Kidd recounts advice a friend gave her when she found herself navigating uncharted waters: "If you think God only leads you beside still waters, think again. God will also lead you by turbulent waters. If you have the courage to enter, you'll think you're drowning. But actually, you're being churned into something new."

And so, I find myself setting adrift aboard a virgin vessel christened with new name and ancient blessing to do business in great waters. I want to see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. I'm fully trusting Him with the weight of my hull--and if you look closely, you can see H.M.S. Atalanta painted in red. 

I'm sliding down this slipway stern-first, starboard bow facing God. 




Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dirty Little Secret




There's a whole lotta dirt in the Bible. 

If you think it's just a hum-drum collection of stories about cookie-cutter Christians and their squeaky-clean lives, then think again. From the dust of the ground that formed the first man in the Garden of Eden to the dirt the woeful sailors throw on their heads as they mourn the burning of Babylon in the book of Revelation, you just can't seem to thumb through a few pages of scripture without getting your hands dirty. There's temptation, seduction, incest, prostitution, adultery, vengeance, murder, and more. 

If it sounds like I'm talking about a racy New York Times best-seller, I AM.

Not only is the Bible the best-selling book of all time, it's the best selling book of the year. Every Year. To the tune of half a billion dollars annually. Don't believe me? Google it.

It might be called the holy book, but the Bible is chock-full of unholy people. 

And I'm not talking about the villains here. I'm talking about our beloved protagonists. The people whose lives we follow. The people after God's own heart. The people on whom His favor rests. Over and over again, God chooses to tell His love story for humanity through the filthy lives of the fallen. Through the scandalous deeds of the unrighteous. The unclean. And with this much dirt to work with, it's a good thing God has a green thumb. 

I have often wondered what kind of dirt I am. 

Jesus lays it out for us pretty clearly in the parable of the four soils. Some dirt is too rocky and shallow. Plants spring up quickly, but they have no roots so they are scorched by the sun and wither away to nothing. Some dirt is bedded with thorns that grow up and choke the young seedlings. And sometimes there's no dirt at all, but a path. A broad path with a wide gate that leads to destruction. It's the way of the world. The way for those who follow the crowd, not the road less traveled. 

Me? I like a dirt road. 

And being a southern girl, my favorite ones are made of red Georgia clay and lined with rows and rows of peach trees as far as the eye can see. Clay so red that it stains your bare feet and completely devastates your clothes. It leaves its mark on you. It makes for dang sure you never forget your adventures in the sticks.

I'd like to think I'm the good soil. 

The kind that produces a crop thirty, sixty, a hundred times what was sown. The kind of soil that gardeners love. It's loamy and mealy-- soft, dry, and crumbly-- in your hands. It has just the right combination of silt, sand, and clay. It's rich in minerals and lets air and water penetrate right down to the roots. 

That's the kind of dirt I want to be. 

The kind that Jesus leaves his footprints in. The kind that produces something lasting and worth the wait. The seeds may not spring up quickly, but when they do, their roots go deep and they are well-grounded. They can't be scorched and withered by the sun. They can't be plucked away by birds or choked to death by weeds. He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 13).

Here's a dirty little secret for figuring out what kind of soil you're working with. 

It's called the jar test: Take a sampling of your soil, put it in a small jar, and shake vigorously. Then, let the dust settle overnight. In the morning, you'll finally see distinct layers of soil. Sand at the bottom, clay at the top, and silt inbetween. It's only after the soil is tested and tried that you know exactly what kind it is. 

But me? I don't like to be tested. 

I don't like to be sampled and sifted. I don't like to be shaken vigorously. I have been through trial by fire before and came out burned and scarred for life. But the thing is, you can never really know yourself, all the nooks and crannies of your inner-most being--both the good and the bad you are capable of--until you are tested. Until you are shaken. Until you are sifted. 


And then you wait...



And then the dust settles... 



Then you know who you are in the morning. 




Thursday, September 8, 2016

About a Boy



Do you have a second? I want to tell you about a boy. 

A boy who has completely swept me off of my feet and stolen my heart. A boy who always treats me right and makes me laugh so hard I have to pee. He is patient and he is kind. He puts other people's needs before his own. He is intelligent. Articulate. The perfect gentleman. And I am so madly in love with this boy.

He recently celebrated his 10th birthday. 

That's right. My first-born is finally double-digits. But, a decade ago, I wasn't so smitten. The transition to motherhood was difficult for me, to say the least. The baby blues. Postpartum depression. I'm not sure what to call it. But I do know how I felt... 

Trapped.

Even though I had always wanted to be a mother. Even though we had struggled with infertility for years. Even though I had a miscarriage before I got pregnant with him. Even though he had been longed for and prayed for. Even though he was the answer to all of my prayers.

It didn't help that I caught a terrible respiratory infection while I was in labor and delivery. So, when my husband brought the two of us home from the hospital, he had to spend more time taking care of me than our new baby. I have never been that sick. I'm talking deathly ill

Plus, breastfeeding sucked. Literally. 

I wanted to be good at it. I really did. I had big, big plans--that fell through. It wasn't the latching on. We had that part down pat. It was just that no amount of lactation consultations could make milk appear where there was none to be had. So, that was a big source of my frustration. I felt like a failure. I cried every day for a month. 

And so did my baby boy. 

Every single time I tried to sneak out of bed to take a shower, it seemed. And to top it all off, my boobs were engorged and my belly was wobbly and horribly stretched out of shape. Battle scars or tiger stripes, call them what you will. I called them depressing--at least I did back then. But my belly wasn't the only part of me that was stretching. 

Becoming a mommy squeezes all the selfishness right out of you. 

Before baby, I only had to worry about me, myself, and I (and my husband, of course). Then, all of sudden, I had to give myself over--body and soul--to the needs of a tiny human who was completely and utterly dependent upon me. I felt like a wrung out rag.

But then he smiled at me. 

Then I heard him coo and laugh. Then he grabbed onto my my finger with that chubby little dimpled fist, and I was hooked. I didn't know what the heck I was doing, but I was hooked.

And every day after that, it just got better and better. 

Every year after that was my favorite year. Every age he has been has been my favorite age. And now, he's 10 and he's looking at me with those big baby blues, and I am still hooked and I am smitten. I am so madly in love. He is mine and I am his. Forever and always.

Thanks for listening. I just had to tell you about a boy.