Friday, October 3, 2014

Caramel Pumpkin Spice Protein Shake

Usually for a quick, pre-workout energy boost I'm all about those chocolate peanut butter protein shakes.

Since it's finally PSL season, I was itchin' to try and make a pumpkin protein shake.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Establishing a Confident Heart (Hope Verse #1: Psalm 57:7)

In the next few months, I will be sharing verses that have brought me hope. Read why.

My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. 
No wonder I can sing your praises! Psalm 57:7

This is not the first verse that I had in mind for this hope challenge; however, it's the a verse that ended up being on my heart while I was writing this morning.

Sometimes I let my idea of the "picture-perfect" future completely rule my mind. Do you do that too? Lately I've been terrified of the mere thought of interviewing for jobs. I am not the workaholic type by preference and I am definitely not the independent type by nature. I'm not the kind of girl who feels comfortable moving off to a new city by herself, but that will happen in the way-too-near future.  

I don't know where I want to live or where I want to work-- but most of all I don't know where I'll actually end up living and working. I don't know if what will happen will be what I really want

Basically, I am not afraid that I won't get a job, but I fear that I won't like it. To be completely honest, being a 9-5 business professional was never how I envisioned my future. I knew it would happen one day, but I did not expect it to happen so soon! Wherever I am supposed to live is up to God. Perhaps I am supposed to be somewhere far away from my home.. or even my "home away from home." If that is the case, I need to be obedient.

Where is God calling you that you may not want to go? Maybe this isn't a job-related thing for you at all. Perhaps it's a short-term mission trip, a choice to end a relationship, or a step in vulnerability to try something new.

I feel like the very things that I do not want to do are the very things that I'm supposed to do. Sometimes God wants us to push ourselves through discomfort- meaning, God will let us be uncomfortable. That does not sound very nice, but it is the complete truth. How else can we be stretched and challenged? 

The unknown is scary; however, it should not hold us back. I do not know what my future holds; however, I do know that God will not let me fall. Fearing that the absolute worst case scenario will happen to me is like fearing that God does not completely have control of my life. What a shame it is to view God in that way.

Instead of letting fears take-over your mind, focus on who God really is. There are things that I may not be equipped to do, but I know that God will continue to equip me. In moments where I am doubtful, I know that I can be confident in my God. Truth be told, He has never taken me through something that I ended up resenting Him for. Once I start allowing my confidence to fall into His ability instead of my own, that fear that I have will be turned into joy (hence, "no wonder I can sing your praises.")

Ask God to help your heart be more confident in Him.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

25 Scriptures for the Hopeless [Introduction]

I'll be the first to admit that hearing about the struggles of those in 3rd world countries does not really tug at my heart strings like it should. For that, I feel awful. I've even been to Africa, and at the time I came home without the desire to ever return.

Yesterday in convocation Vernon Brewer from World Help came back for his yearly visit. Hearing about the struggles of people in Iraq and Syria did not make me feel sad like it may have for some. Instead, I felt sick.

I am a 21 year old American girl who is pampered, fat, and distracted like the rest of America. My biggest concern right now is what I will be doing post-graduation. I'm not running for my life. I'm not searching for food or mourning over the loss of a loved one. 

I'm the typical American who will be in a bad mood because she ran out of her Girl Scouts Somoa coffee creamer and has to use soymilk instead (gross). I'm the girl who's anxious to get her highlights touched up since her roots are growing out. I'm the student who is complaining that she needs more free time so she can just watch Netflix and eat pizza rolls.

No wonder a lot of people in other countries think we Americans are absolutely ridiculous.

I've been through difficult situations before; however, I'm okay. I have a home that I can rest in. I have nutritious food to keep me healthy. I have a strong support system. Those are the basics, but I have all of the extras too. I have plenty of things to keep me busy and entertained. But there are people who do not even have a safe place to live. There I was... listening to someone advocate for those in need, and I did not care as much as I should have. How pathetic and selfish. I must not see the reality of what is happening right now in the Middle East.

Something that Brewer said that stuck with me is this, 
"The distinguishing mark of Christianity is hope." 
We have it so good here in America, but everyone everywhere needs hope. 

People always often say things like, "I know what I'm going through is not as big as others, but..." Honestly I want to stop them because what people go through may not be big in the whole scale of things, but it is big to them, and that is important.

I've been through my fair share of heartbreak, pain, and fear. The least I can do to help people is encourage them through what I've learned. Although I can pray for those stuck in the Iraq/Syria mess and I can donate to WorldHelp, I truly feel that those two things are not as much as I can give. There are people right here in America who are lost and broken, and those people are more in reach.

I've decided to share 25 verses that have brought me hope through my own difficult times. I will have 25 posts coming through in the next couple of months that will hopefully encourage you right where you're at. Stand by.. post number 1 will be up tomorrow!

Verse 1:  Psalm 57:7- Establishing a Confident Heart

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Art of Attaining Joy: The Focus and The Sacrifice

Since the start of the semester, I've been keeping myself pretty busy. Seventeen credit hours, two jobs, and contributing to ScryptWriter have taken a huge part of my focus in 2014. This year has been a battle with my schedule as I try to learn what works best for my needs. 

As a Christian, being intentional about setting aside time for God everyday is something I've always had to work on as life has a way of staying interesting. With different responsibilities thrown in my direction, I am called to manage my time in a way that will honor the Lord. Some days are harder than others. I hate to admit that sometimes I'd rather choose Breaking Bad season 3 over spending time in the bible.

We hear the common sermon about how joy is not a result of good things, but joy is a choice. I've heard it preached in many different settings. Halfway through the semester, I was on a mission to discover how to have a joyous mindset when I didn't feel like it was possible.

How do you choose joy when you're tired at the crack of dawn? How do you choose joy when you have to pay for car maintenance instead of new clothes? And how do you choose joy when all of your professors assign time-consuming projects in the same week? I couldn't always find the answer to these questions. Asking the Lord to change my mindset helped sometimes, but... not always. What I did not realize was that I was not meeting God half-way with this plead. 

How was I cheating myself of this joy, you may ask? Let me be clear that this post is not another "read your bible everyday" type of thing. I think that sermon is starting to get old as it's not really the solution we need to encourage us during our dry spells. Dear pastor, WE KNOW.

Though it is beneficial for us to engage our relational God on the daily, I'm not recommending that you do so in the way that you may assume. Just simply saying, "read your bible" isn't a full solution.

Instead, I'm asking you to sacrifice something. We can read our bibles everyday and not truly feel much different as our hearts may not be focused. I'm suggesting that you try something new and different with your time with God.

For me and my busy schedule, sleep is honestly the most valuable thing that I could think of. I've gotten past the point of feeling blah from missing TV time or skipping a meal because I was too tired to fix one. That happens so much that it hardly puts a little bullet in my mood anymore. But I do feel pained to wake up earlier than necessary.

Let me paint a picture of my sleeping habits and morning behavior.
First, no matter if I'm in bed early or late the night before, sleeping in until the latest possible minute is something that I have always done. This remains true on the weekends when I can sleep in for as long as I'd like.
Second, 9 times out of 10 I have to prepare myself to see people for a while before leaving my room in the morning. I can't just spring out of bed and head to the kitchen for breakfast. I have to wake up first. If I'm running late and need to get breakfast on, my poor roommates have to deal with anti-social Erika who doesn't really care to carry on a conversation. "Good morning" is all that I have to give. Anything more than that is draining. Mornings aren't normally my favorite.

But God has placed it on my heart to be up an hour or two earlier everyday to have my devotional time.

So instead of sleeping in, I get my morning coffee (and Girl Scouts Caramel and Coconut creamer), bible, and journal. After doing this for 2-3 weeks straight, I have noticed a change in my life. The more I seek God in times that I don't want to, the more joy he gives me that day for my obedience.

 After spending time with God, I'm suddenly a nicer and happier person. I talk to random people (so out of my introverted comfort zone), and I feel more positive throughout the day.  I care about people more than usual. I am going to be the least encouraging to others when I'm not taking care of my own needs. My "God need."

I believe that this blessing of joy from God is a direct result of sacrifice. Sleep may not be something too difficult for you to give up, but it sure is for me. I want to encourage you to give something up to teach yourself to place God at the top of your priorities. It is harder for God to use us when we are not training ourselves to keep him first. The very essence of choosing joy is choosing Jesus.

"For the joy of the Lord is your strength" Nehemiah 8:10

What is something that you can give up to show God that you're willing to put him above the things you value?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

America, the Land of the Tolerant: Thoughts on the Phil Robertson Issue

Diversity is supported in all ways besides thought.

You may hear this idea and say, "No, not true. Tolerance is what we stand for. Everyone is free to express their beliefs."  Blah blah, you now feel better about yourself.

But is it really tolerance that people are supporting? Or is it just the idea of tolerance itself? Think about it: Once someone is intolerant of tolerance, pro-tolerance people choose to be intolerant to that stance. Therefore, they aren't so tolerant anymore. And now, they have voided their so-called support for tolerance all together. 

This morning I woke up, checked all of my social networking website apps as the average American is now programmed to do. And then I saw a bunch of FB posts about Phil Robertson being suspended from Duck Dynasty. After more research, I learned that it was because Phil made "Anti-Gay Remarks". (Big woof). 

I don't watch Duck Dynasty. I only know so much about the show and the family. However, does good reputation matter to the world anymore? Because the Robertson family portrays a great stance in the media. I don't see them getting poked at compared to those Kardashians (I love that show tbh). And since the media (especially LGBT and GLAAD advocates) is itching to find dirt on a wholesome, godly family; they choose to take one man's freedom of opinion and punish him for it.  
  But that's what you get when you are an individual with a contract signed to another presence in the media such as A&E. A&E now looks "bad" too. 

Fox News shared A&E's public announcement:
"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty'. His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks"

What I want to know is why A&E suspended Phil even though they acknowledged that his beliefs were not reflecting the network's opinions. Is suspension really necessary? But of course, in order to keep everyone happy and stuck in their little "tolerance" world, A&E chose to be intolerant. Well, that really makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

People as a whole need to control themselves in the battleground of differing opinion. Although others' opinions can be irritating to us personally, why do we always have to make a big ordeal about it? In the past I used to always think that I was responsible for standing up for anti-God remarks people made. Not only have I been frustrated by certain remarks people often choose to publicize, but I have felt like I want to set them straight or even "help them see." Then I realized that unless someone was directly asking me for my opinion, my thoughts weren't necessary to add to the whole equation.

But in Phil's situation, his opinion was asked of him. He shared, and then everyone went ballistic... that's pathetic. How tolerant of you, America.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Ragamuffin State of Mind

As a writer, sometimes inspiration comes out of unexpected, deep thought. I have a small-sized Five Star notebook in my purse and a pink note-pad in my book bag for head-exploding moments. I admit that there are times that I pretend to take notes in class when I'm really writing out my thoughts. I can't help it. Below are the results of not listening to the summary of 1 & 2 Samuel in my Old Testament class.

I wonder why so many of us feel that we need to present ourselves in a way that gives an aura of perfection. It certainly isn't a true representation of ourselves as we are people who are truly imperfect.

Perfect hair, perfect make-up, perfect closet, perfect grades, perfect influence, perfect love life, perfect belongings, perfect dorm/apartment, perfect car, perfect body, perfect social media image, perfect performances, perfectly balanced schedule....everything has to look put together. Isn't that tiring? And oh, so untrue might I add..

This unnecessary work to be put together is a survival tactic to "get by" in society. A yearning for acceptance will not fill a void in our hearts.

I see a lot of Christian girls (including myself) striving to be this particular image of a "good girl". Like the images above, we like to portray ourselves as beautiful, organized, independent, and godly.

But just because we portray ourselves in these ways... does that really mean that we truly have these characteristics?

You may feel like this girl after you attend a Christian conference, purchase a new Beth Moore book, drive to work with your Hillsong CD playing, get up extra early to do your devotions; or perhaps, when you post a photo of a sunset on Instagram and caption it with something about God's beauty amazing you.

Check, check...

But do you feel like this specific woman after you do wrong? When you're convicted of your sin? Face it: This image is a human standard of perfection that we can never fully meet, not a Christian ideal. The reality is that we are not this girl because "she" portrays herself in a sinless manner, and being sinless is impossible for man. Therefore, her portrayal is a lie. Do we really want to live a lie?

It's not wrong to work hard to present ourselves in the best ways that we can. It's not wrong to care about what we wear, work out six days a week, and to never leave the house without make-up on... But is image our priority?

It's not wrong to work hard for good grades or a job promotion or to always give our best at what we do. But is success our priority?

What is your priority? Where does your joy come from?  Is it from what you do and the reputation that comes with it? Is it from who you're with and the way you're built up from others? OR does your joy come from what God does in your life?

I am learning that we should feel MOST complete as Christian women when we are in the midst of God's grace. Not when we are doing things "right", but when GOD is reminding us of His mercy and His ability even through our messy days.

We won't become women of God if we are trying to be women of God. We become women of God by following Christ and allowing Him to shape our hearts and form our character.

"I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing." 
Jeremiah 10:23-24 

It's not important that we have everything together or even that we feel like we have everything together. What really matters is that we are keeping our eyes on the One who saves us. When we focus on Him, we are TRULY beautiful.

My friend Kat and I were having a talk last summer and she said something like this:

"We really need more ragamuffin Christians." 

She's right.

What she doesn't mean is that we need Christians living in sin and having zero integrity. She means that we need Christians who don't make perfection their goal or prance about like they haven't sinned in a while.

I think that when we make our personal image our biggest priority, we fool ourselves and strain ourselves spiritually.

But when we let God change us and begin work in us, we develop an honorable personal image created by Him. Not sloppily faked by us.

What does it mean to have good character and a strong personal representation of self? Let's look to scripture for the answer...

"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching" 1 Timothy 4:12-13

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

"And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them." Luke 6:31

"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love" 2 Peter 1:5-7

Saturday, November 9, 2013

BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf: A Recipe Review of Iowa Girl Eats

Friday afternoon as I was sitting through my final class of the day, I suddenly had the urge to cook a nice feast. Being in college, I prefer to do quick and easy meals (and healthy usually). And I honestly don't spend a lot of time cooking. I'll have a smoothie here or there. Bake some chicken and add some teryaki to my stir fry and call it a healthy meal. But hardly ever do I cook real meals for myself. I love doing that at home in Indiana, but here in my apartment I'm not a huge fan of it. My roommates usually like to do that for me anyways (No lie, I really lucked out).

So I browsed through my FAVORITE cooking blog Iowa Girl Eats.

I stumbled on her recipe for  BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf, and the easiness of it sold me.

 Now of course I made a few modifications to the recipe that was personally fitting for me, and I will share it all below!

1 LG Sweet Onion
1lb Lean Ground Beef
2oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 Tablespoon Butter 
1 Egg, whisked
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons BBQ sauce, divided
1/4 cup Bread Crumbs
Pinch of Pepper
Pinch of Salt

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes or until no longer pink.
Preheat: 425F

Step 1.  Cut up Sweet Onion into thin slices. Melt butter in a frying pan, and add onion. Cook until 
              golden brown.
Step 2.  Toast two pieces of wheat bread. Break into small crumbs until completely fills a 1/4 cup.   
             Cut up 2 oz of cheese into small cubes. 
Step 3.  Preheat oven to 425F.
Step 4.  Whisk egg into a large bowl.
Step 5.  Add ground beef, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, cheese cubes, fried onions, 2 TBS of 
             BBQ Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's), and a dash of pepper to the egg. Mix it all up.
Step 6. Once everything is combined, make the meat into a large block, and then cut up into 4 equal  
Step 7. Line baking pan with aluminum foil. Add the meat.
Step 8. Bake the meatloaf for about 40 minutes or until no longer pink in the middle!

I had broccoli, mashed potatoes, and a roll on the side!