The Chair

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“For the next 3 hours, this is a quiet campground. You are to find a place alone and meet with God. Here is your devotional guide for this time. Remember, across this whole camp it is silent.” As I listened to the words of the Inter Varsity camp leader, I thought, what am I going to do for 3 hours? We all stood up and left our separate ways. I wondered around for about 10 minutes, watching as everyone dispersed in their own direction seemingly knowing where to go and what to do. Finally, I turned to my left and saw a little dock on the small lake that was unoccupied and away from others who might notice my uneasiness. I walked out, sat on the rough wood, and pulled out the contents of my backpack. Taking a deep breath, I exhaled and said very, very quietly, “Okay God, I’m here!”

I was 19 years old, a hardcore liberal New Englander, sitting on the edge of a tiny lake on the western bank of Michigan. Having just finished my first year of college in a small town in Ohio, my life was definitely changed. Leaving for college, I sought to find myself. Instead, I found my future husband, my best friend, and most importantly my Jesus. Joining our campus InterVarsity group brought me to this Chapter Camp Week and to silence.

I opened the devotional and my bible to Psalm 23. “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (vs 1-2). What? “He leads me besides quiet waters.” I read it over and over, as I looked up at the quiet water. How did you know God? Tears flooded down my cheeks. The 3 hours flew by. Over the course of that week, with an hour of quiet each morning, I laid before God my high school years of shame. As a terribly confused teenager, I made numerous mistakes that damaged myself worth and embarrassed my parents. However, one week of alone time with God, healed and transformed me, as I realized that there is nothing more precious than sitting at God’s feet.

In 20 years, a lot has changed. In fact, I feel old just writing that. Marriage, a full-time job as a teacher, and 3 kids later, those moments by the lake are a mere memory. The quiet alone time, in nature with the Creator, is a lustful memory of my first love.

For years, I had a chair in my living room. My quiet time chair. I’d wake up before my husband and sit. However, as time grew, the quiet chair was filled with the activity of a growing family, and I was too busy and tired to get up early and sit. It turned into the family chair, the tv chair, the dog’s bed… I needed a new spot and a fresh change. I needed a place to draw near at any time of the day. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Where amongst the insanity of 3 kids, a dog, a lovingly loud husband, a full-time job, and church ministries, could I “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10). I’d try sitting on our deck, but that was only good in the spring and fall. I tried my bed, but most moms know how that went, I’d fall asleep. Finally, in the midst of the grief of losing my grandma, I brought her old chair, lamp, and tiny side table home. I moved some furniture around in my bedroom and found a corner, that I did not think would work before. The chair, lamp, and table fit perfectly. Adding a basket for books, and I found my quiet waters again.

As life changes, we may grow weary, but God is still with us. We need to pursue Him, and sometimes that means looking around and saying very practically, “ok God, where can we have our special time now?” I encourage you to find your chair or your spot. Where can you sit and seek God? And then, let the family know, when I’m in my spot, I am praying.

As I sat down today, my almost 10 year-old was bouncing around. I said to him really quietly, what is mommy doing, “You’re in your chair,” and he sweetly closed the door.

God’s word says He is always with us, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20 NLT) “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  So, where do you meet Him? Where it is just you and God? Where there is no other focus but God’s word? I can tell you, that I pray to God in the car. I worship driving to work. I listen to podcasts working out. I know God is with me in all those moments.  But, my alone time is in my chair; it is my quiet waters. My chair is where is receive rest, peace, strength, and comfort from God. It’s where I meet my Father and receive His love and encouragement.

Find your chair.

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Knit Together- Introduction

Knit Together- Introduction

Here is to fresh starts! I am work at developing a new blog called Knit Together, by revamping the little blog I started in 2015, with a refined focus.  I chose the name, Knit Together, because in so many ways that screams, “JESSICA!”  I love knitting and get super excited any time the words “knit together” are used in the Bible.  “Knit together” has a whole new meaning when  working a strand of yarn into a project.  One of the first verses, I ever read in the Bible (before I knew how to knit) was Psalm 139. Verse 13 tells how God knit us together in our mother’s womb.  Before I was formed, He knew me! (Jeremiah 1:5). So, yes, Knit Together!

Vision:

“I want to encourage and knit together strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.”-Colossians 2:2

To see women from all walks of life come together, and know that they were created for such a time as this, the 21st century!

I want to share things I am passionate about with you. Jesus. Being a wife. A mom. Teaching. Knitting. Diversity. Healthy eating and exercise. Church.  We are multifaceted people.

I believe in Jesus Christ.

A relationship with Jesus is what drives me and sustains me. I was and am a complete mess!  But, I know I have a God who loves me, cares for me, created me, and desires the best for me. So my faith in Jesus is who I am.  I believe we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In other words, we all are a mess and can not come before God, because He knows no sin, no mistakes. Yet, “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). We have to admit, no matter how hard we try, we can’t clean up our mess. We try to make something right, but mess up again and again and again. We all make mistakes and carry hurts. We have to come to realize, that it is beyond us to fix our mess, we need a God who makes all things possible.   Therefore, “If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raise him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10). Thus, we can come before God by confessing our messes and accepting that Jesus died on the cross to make us right before God; this is a beautiful thing. No one can come to God the Father except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). I believe in Jesus, and am thankful He cleans up my messes!

Life Scriptures.

Below are a few of my Life Scriptures. We need scriptures to stand on.  When I need to remind myself who I am in Christ, this is where I turn. When I am in the midst of a rough season, I look to God’s word for encouragement and strength. I often speak these verses to myself throughout my week. Especially, Psalms 19:14- “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight. O Lord, my rock and my redeemer!” I need that reminder more often than most people.  Do you have scriptures that you stand on often? What are they?

Psalms 139

Isaiah 40:28-31

Philippians 4:6-7; 13

Jeremiah 29:11

Isaiah 61:1-3

Esther 4:14

2 Timothy 1:6-7

Psalms 19:14

Psalms 91

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

Proverbs 3:5-10

As I wrap up this introduction, I want you to know that this blog is a journey of faith. Navigating life as a woman in 2017 is not easy. Often the busyness of life places us on our own little islands of endless to-do lists, where we lose sight of the innate human need to fellowship and belong in community; and social media does not cut it. I hope this blog encourages you.  My prayer is to see women knit together closely with those around them, leaning on the love, grace, wisdom, and strength that only comes from God.  I pray this for myself too. May we encourage one another in love!

Good Friday

Good Friday is a day where the name just does not seem make sense. As Christians, we mark the day with a recount of what Jesus’s sacrifice and death:

The soldiers took Jesus into the palace … They dressed him up in purple and put a crown plaited from a thornbush on his head. Then they began their mockery: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” They banged on his head with a club, spit on him, and knelt down in mock worship… Then they marched out to nail him to the cross. (Mark 15:16-20, MSG)

We know Jesus was flesh and blood, he felt pain and hurt feelings, just like we do. He even showed us through prayer.

“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” …“Abba, Father,”[g] he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mark 14:34-36, NLT)

Yet, despite it all, the perfect sinless man, endured, persecution, abuse, mocking, all to lead up to His death on what we call Good Friday. Why? Because, I am messed up and you are messed up. That hurts.

I can’t help but think, I don’t deserve… I certainly don’t deserve the sacrifice Jesus made for me. To be perfectly honest, I feel guilty that Jesus had to die, and often wonder, would I actually pay the price for someone else’s sin. I like to say I would, but confronted with it, how would I act?

Thus, Good Friday to me, is a day mixed with emotional turmoil. As I ponder feelings of inadequacy, I imagine Jesus carrying His cross down the dusty street, blood dripping from his head, beaten beyond recognition. I imagine, His humble acceptance of the will placed on His life. I imagine, each nail banging His hands and feet to the cross. I imagine, Mary watching her son die.     And, just when emotions hit their maximum overload,

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from the top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said. ‘Surely this man was the Son of God’” (Mark 15:37-39)

Can you imagine the high priest’s surprise when the veil was torn, and he didn’t die? Just like that, the separation between God and man was dissolved. Just like that my emotional turmoil becomes joyous. The prophesy fulfilled.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep. (Isaiah 53:11-12, MSG)

And the joy of salvation is real. The celebration of Good Friday is real. I am left with the overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude.

Good Friday, is really a Good day! Easter is right around the corner, and Jesus is alive!

Who else feels the same about Good Friday?

Daniel Fast Recipes- Stir Fry, Almond Milk, Spaghetti Squash, and Roasted Vegetables

Here are a few recipes we enjoy!  I hope they help make your week a little easier.  All recipes are done in roughly 30-40 minutes.  I usually do not mind cooking in the kitchen after a long day of work.  I think it is the chemist in me.  Mixing flavors, spices, and different foods brings me a bit of joy, especially when my family enjoys the meal.

As a little tip, Wegman’s has boxes of Quinoa and Wild Rice for $2.99.  A little bit expensive, but super convenient.  We eat them year round, and when not fasting; I substitute the water for 1 can of chicken broth, and the kids love it.

Stir Fry with Tofu

1 package of extra firm tofu, drained
1 onion sliced
3 carrots sliced
2 stalks of celery sliced
2 handfuls of snow peas cleaned
2 bunches of broccoli crowns
2 cups of cabbage
1sp of ginger
2 cloves of garlic minced
soy sauce (Wegman’s has a hand pressed soy sauce with no other added ingredients)
sesame oil

Directions:

1. Heat a wok on high heat and coat the bottom with olive oil and soy sauce.
2. Add garlic, onions, tofu. Keep stiring for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add carrots, celery, cabbage, and ginger and stir for another 5 minutes. Add more soy sauce if needed.
4. Add broccoli and snow peas. Continue to cook until broccoli is tender.
5. Serve over rice

Serves 5

A special note: After the fast is over, add oyster sauce and chicken or beef!

Almond Milk

Ingredients:

1 cup of raw almonds
Water
Vanilla
Cinnamon

Directions:

1. Soak 1 cup of almonds in filtered water for 8 hours.
2. Rinse and drain almonds and add to nutribullet container.
3. Add vanilla and cinnamon as desired, and fill to the max line with water.
4. Blend for several minutes.
5. Pour into a large mason jar and store in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Note: Almond milk will contain bits of almonds in it. You can purchase a nut milk bag to drain out the almond bits. I don’t mind them. However, I did order a bag from Amazon, and will try it when it arrives.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

1 large spaghetti squash
1 clove of garlic minced
olive oil
salt and pepper as desired

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Spaghetti squash is not the easiest to cut. I score around the squash and then wedge my knife in the squash a little deeper around the scored squash. Finally, once about ½ the squash is cut, I usually get my knife stuck and just bang it on the cutting board. Thinking I was crazy for cutting a squash in such manner, I googled “cutting a spaghetti squash”, and Rachel Ray actually does the same thing.
3. Scoop out the seeds and stringy material.
4. Place the spaghetti squash on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.
5. Place squash in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until you see the top starting to caramelize. Time varies based on the size of the squash.
6. Remove squash from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes.
7. With a fork, scrap the squash. Start with the fork at the top edge of the squash and scrap towards the center. The squash should shred easily like spaghetti noodles.

Simple Red Sauce

Ingredients:

1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
1 TBSP olive oil
½ an onion diced
2 cups of spinach
1 clove of garlic minced

Directions:

1. In a small sauce pan, heat olive oil on high.
2. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spinach. Bring to a light boil. Let simmer until read to serve.

Serves 5

How to Roast Vegetables

I crave roasted vegetables in winter, and have found they are rather easy to make.  The key is to spread the vegetable out on a baking sheet or dish and cook at a high temperature, 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Choose your vegetable or vegetables, clean, cut, and place them on a baking sheet or large pan.  Sprinkle with olive oil and the seasonings of your choice.  Rosemary is great!  Next, roast the vegetables until they start to caramelize.  A little tip, if you chose different vegetables to roast at the same time, make sure their cook times are the same.  You do not want to serve one mushy and one undercooked vegetable.  For example, carrots and asparagus will not work well together.  My family enjoys brussel sprouts and butternut squash.  However, butternut squash takes a little longer to cook than the brussel sprouts cut in half.  Therefore, I cut the butternut squash into smaller pieces.  If you haven’t roasted vegetables before, go ahead and give it a try.  Your family will be impressed.  Happy Roasting!

Enjoy!

Daniel Fast Week 1 Recap and Looking Forward to Week 2

I hope everyone had a successful first week! It was definitely a challenging week for me, as we got back in our daily routine of school with freezing temperatures. We live a little over a block away from 3 railroad tracks on a rather busy commercial railway. On the occasional morning, there is a freight train that parked overnight warming up and getting ready to depart for the morning. The train’s engines first start, and you can hear the engines idling softly for several minutes. As the minutes pass, the engines’ sounds increase to a still rumbling. Finally, around 30 minutes (mind you I’ve never timed this), the train’s horn blows, the rumbling engine turns to a roar and the train slowly crawls forward. For a working mom, who is always on the run, there is nothing more frustrating than sitting at the crossing as this slowly awakening beast begins to roll across the track, when you need to get to work on time. In fact, I am ashamed to admit, but if I pull out of my driveway as that first horn blows, and race down the street, rolling through a stop sign or two, I have a 50:50 chance of beating the train. Unfortunately, returning to school after Christmas break, my kids were much like that train, roaring awake and slowly moving back into their routine. Meanwhile, I was racing down the street, because we do not have any time to idle while our engines warm. It seems that my entire life is rush to beat that train before the railroad lights start and the gates go down. Yet, God says, “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10) How, I long to just be still in His presence, and put all the distractions aside! As a result, I am grateful for this year’s Daniel Fast.

From a fasting standpoint, my husband and I had a pretty good week, much more successful than past years. I will totally admit to eating a cheese stick Friday night. I am an emotional eater, and I hit the wall. What a failure right? However, we had many great meals and I am down to one cup of coffee. Who would of guessed?

As a result, I am excited to share this week’s menu with you!

For breakfast- We are continuing with our nutribullet smoothies. I added an 1/8 cup of oatmeal, with 1/8 cup of almonds, 2 cups of spinach, 1 banana, and 1 cup of frozen mixed berries this morning. My favorite yet!

Lunch- My husband did not eat much for lunch. However, I am sticking with leftovers, or nuts and tortilla chips.

Saturday Night- Black bean burgers and green beans

Sunday Night- Roasted eggplant and zucchini and a side of whole wheat pasta

Monday- Brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and quinoa

Tuesday- Tofu stir-fry

Wednesday- Whole wheat pasta and a light tomato sauce

Thursday- White bean chili

Friday- Spaghetti squash

(I will post a few recipes in the next blog!)

Looking forward! I pray that this brings you encouragement as you start week 2. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego this week. Most know the classic Bible story; King Nebuchadenezzar threw the three in the furnace for not bowing down and worshiping a statue. When the King brought Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before Him, and demanded that they bow down and worship his innate object, the three had the audacity to stand before the king and say,
Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18, Message)
They had faith! They trusted in God!

But notice where God met them, “Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?” “That’s right, O king,” they said. “But look!” he said. “I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!” (Daniel 3:24-25) God met them right in the middle of what most likely was the worst situation of their life. If, God rescued them before the furnace, I don’t think this story would even make the Bible. I believe that God wants you to know that He is right by your side. Be bold and look your situation in the face, saying “My God is Greater!”  God will bring you through your situation, and not a single hair on your head will be singed. This week, look to see God in the midst of it all, even if it’s the hardest situation you have ever faced, knowing that His promises will prevail. Have a blessed week!

Black Bean Soup and Hummus Recipes

Black Bean SoupIMG_1376

Ingredients:

1 onion minced

cloves of garlic minced

2 stalks of celery diced

8 baby carrots diced

1 tsp of cumin

½ tsp of cayenne

1 handful of cilantro cut finely

2 cans of black beans rinsed

1 can of diced tomatoes

2 cups of water

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

½-1 TBSP of olive oil

salt and pepper

Cooked brown rice

 

Directions:

  1. In a medium sauce pan heat olive oil, sauté onions and garlic for a few minutes, and then add celery and carrots until celery is slightly transulent. Put vegetables aside in a bowl.
  2. Add 1 can of black beans, water, and ½ a can of diced tomatoes to the pan. Heat and puree slightly.
  3. Add vegetables, remaining black beans and tomatoes, cumin, cayenne, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pot. Let simmer for 15 minutes until all vegetables are cooked.
  4. Stir in cilantro.
  5. Serve over brown rice.

Approximately 6 servings.

 

Hummus 

Ingredients:

1 can of cannellini beans

2-3 TBSP of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 lemon, just the juice

Salt

Directions:

Add ingredients into a food processor and blend. Add more or less ingredients as you desire.

Enjoy!

 

Finally, I pray that God continues to bless you, as you take steps to meet, hear, and be transformed by your heavenly father!  It’s all about HIM!  May Jesus be glorified in all areas of your life!

In Daniel 1, we read that as Daniel and his crew fasted, God strengthened and equipped them.  Daniel 1:17 states: “God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.”  In other words, God equipped them with His plans and destiny for their lives!  God is so faithful!  HE has a mighty plan for YOU, listen.

In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

Daniel Fast 2015

2015 Daniel Fast- 1st Grocery Trip

Logistically, as a mom, I need to plan for a Daniel Fast. For those who don’t know me, I work full time as a teacher (easily 60 hours a week). I have a husband and 3 beautiful kids, who all have activities of their own and places to be during the week. Therefore, when my husband and I decide to dedicate 21-Days to seek God through fasting and prayer, my job is to make the fasting part feasible for our family.  And to be 100% honest, I am not going to prepare 2 dinners each night one for the adults and a second for the kids.  Therefore, this has to work for our family!

On the Daniel Fast you are allowed to eat all the veggies, fruits, legumes, and grain products you want. However, all meats, dairy, chemicals, sweeteners, and leavening products are off limits. Finally, the only drink allowed is water.  Bottom line, read the labels, and I’m enjoying my last cup of tea before this all starts.

The first glimpse of Daniel’s Fast is in Daniel 1:11-14, when Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego we taken into Nebuchadenezzar’s court.  Daniel and his friends only ate vegetables and water.  (More on this later!)

The second glimpse is in Daniel 10:3, “All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed.”  I am choosing to fast food.  Lotion is a health necessity in the northeastern United States in January.

Now for me, eating veggies for 3 weeks is not much of a problem.  However, I really enjoy my leavened breads, chicken, yogurt, eggs… and coffee!

Therefore, before hitting the grocery store, I created the following plan.

Week 1:

Breakfasts-  My husband and I are pretty happy with nutribullet smoothies.  We keep them simple, spinach, frozen berries, banana, 1/2 a green apple, and a handful of almonds.

Lunches- Leftover dinners will be option #1.  I also picked up a bag of avocados, Wegman’s Blue Tortilla Corn chips, and I’ll make homemade hummus.

Snacks- Almonds, mixed nuts, and pecans, fruits, celery sticks, hummus, water, and a spoon of peanut butter.

Dinners-

Sunday night- Black bean soup- 1 can of organic black beans, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 onion, 2 stalks of celery, carton of vegetable stock (read the labels the first box I picked up was sweetened with wine), garlic, cumin, cayenne, cilantro.

Monday night- Tofu stir-fry- extra-firm tofu, broccoli, carrots, onions, spinach, soy sauce (read the label), garlic, and brown rice.

Tuesday- Collard green and kale soup- Bag of collards, bag of kale, celery, carrots, and either pasta or rice.   I’ll post the recipe, after I make it again!

Wednesday night- Quinoa and Veggies- Red quinoa, butternut squash, brussel sprouts and possible a little tofu for protein.

Thursday- Whole-wheat pasta, diced tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and spinach

Friday- Stuffed peppers- onions, diced tomatoes, frozen corn, garlic, cumin, cayenne, black beans and brown rice.

I did get a few back up foods. I bought ingredients for Weight Watchers Cabbage Soup with vegetable broth, a black bean tofu, lime for our water, and Triscuits.

For the kids, I picked up their favorite breakfast and lunch foods, and I have a few small chicken breasts in the freezer.

The grocery bill for this week was about $15 more.

Remember, a fast is a personal, spiritual commitment between you and God.  Your fast may look different.

Finally, a confession, I am not going to give up coffee cold turkey at sundown Sunday. I am planning a gradual cut back and am shooting for one small “normal” sized cup a day. It’s the 120 middle school students who do not want to see their teacher giving up coffee at 8am in the morning. 😉

Happy Shopping!  Overall, make your grocery trip fun and tap into your creative side!