Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hey Girlfriend

Let's be honest: women have a bad reputation. No, I don't mean what you're thinking. And this bad reputation is not something imposed by the perceptions of men or society-at-large; it is one given to women, by women. Women are "mean."

You only need to look as far as your tv screen or movie screen to see evidence of this (ex. the movie "Mean Girls"). In schools, at camps, on sports teams or in music lessons, and even at church, girls can be very nasty to each other. Even my Facebook news feed displays evidence of this, ranging from middle school aged friends all the way up to grandmothers. Thanks to social networking, we are now given an outlet to share our feelings about anyone, at anytime, in a very public forum... even if those feelings are negative, hurtful, and ultimately harmful to the other person. And most often, the victim of this nastiness is another girl/woman. We tear each other down in so many ways. It seems as though the "mean girl" stereotype is becoming more and more pervasive, and we're doing this to ourselves. (And ladies, I just have to share my humble opinion: no matter how much we try to re-appropriate or "take back" the "b" word and make it positive, it doesn't work. Even if we try to pass it off as a joke, or as a way to empower ourselves, we are ultimately contributing to the lexicon that continues to spread this "mean girl" trend. Sorry if you disagree, but I just had to put that out there.)

Now, I just have to say, I love women. The relationships I share with other women are some of the most valuable, fulfilling relationships in my life. So instead of focusing on this trend of nastiness, I thought I would share a little about why I feel female-to-female relationships are so important, and why I think we should all work just a little bit harder to get rid of the mean girls within us.

(Disclaimer: to any men who might be reading, or any women who feel like I am going to be "man-bashing," please know that is not the intention of this post. I also value the relationships I have with members of the opposite gender; just this post is not about that.)

Here is a little background on my personal female relationships and why it has been so important in my life. I was fortunate to grow up with two strong female role models intimately involved in my life: my mom and my sister. I continue to have strong relationships with both of them, and deeply value their wisdom and advice. Outside of my family history, I went to an all-girls' summer camp for four years, for two years in high school I swam on an all-girls' swim team, and I ultimately decided to attend a women's college. I used to have mainly guy friends, and never considered myself a "girl's girl," but that has changed over time. And all of these experiences combined have contributed to this incredibly strong emotion I have about the importance of positive woman-to-woman friendships and interactions. Here is a brief list of positive things that can come from these women-friendly situations:

*Supportive, nurturing environment. In college, I was free to be whomever I wanted to be without the fear of repercussion. Sure, there was some drama, but for the most part it was an environment where I could figure out exactly what type of woman I was supposed to be, without having to worry about teasing or negative influences. I was surrounded by women who wanted to support other women and build them up instead of tear them down, and this was exactly the encouragement I needed to grow and challenge myself.

*Accountability. While I was "free to be whomever I wanted to be," I was also held accountable for my actions as a woman.  If I say something offensive of insensitive, I have close female friends that will confront me about it. If I am behaving in a way that is inappropriate, I have women in my life who will gently step in and remind me of the correct course of action.

*Truthfulness. With my very close friends, I always know where I stand. Sure, there are some people I've meet and I can't quite figure out if they're being honest with me; but once I break down the walls and form a solid, strong relationship with another woman, I find that I never have to doubt her honesty or intentions.We can take off our masks and just be real. And that is truly freeing!

*Challenging. My girlfriends don't just let me rest on my laurels when I'm feeling good about myself. They encourage me to keep going, to see what else I can accomplish. In addition, I have friends from all different backgrounds, political spectrums, and social mores. The diverse group of women in my life challenge me to keep my mind open, to re-think opinions, and to continue seeking out the truth. (And the best part: even in the end, if I don't agree with them, we're still friends).

*Friendships. This one might seem obvious, but can I just say: I have been so blessed by the varying depths and elements of each of my unique friendships with women.  My girlfriends totally understand what is going when I cry over something silly, or when I am frustrated about a minor inconvenience. They understand days that I feel sluggish or cranky; they understand days when I am excited and energized. They know how to comfort me when I am grieving, they know how to cheer me up when I'm sad, and they know how to support me when all I need is a hug. (Seriously, women give the best hugs). And I hope I am able to do the same in return! Even friendships that aren't quite as deep still have that underlying connection: we are all women, and while our lives may look very different on the outside, and we may believe different things or like different things or act differently from each other, on some level we are connected. And when it comes down to bare bones, it's that level that makes all the difference.

*Wisdom. This is a big one for me. The wisdom that other women possess - especially older women - is usually tossed aside because us younger women are "more informed" in things nowadays. I've been contemplating this a lot since I've become pregnant. In thinking about the history of birth, it was a woman-centered event. The birth was attended to by a woman (midwife), and there were other women around to support the laboring mother. And besides just the birth event - there was a community of women to support a new mother through pregnancy, labor, and child-rearing. But now we live in a place where we've all grown separated. We are internally focused and private. We seek advice from complete strangers because we lack the wisdom of experience from generations of women who have been there before us. Yes, it "takes a whole village to raise a child," but think about the broader implications of a whole community/village of women who support each other through major life events! Think of all the wisdom that has been lost because we are too proud, busy, or "informed" to ask our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and older friends for advice. These women have "been there, done that." Through celebrations and tragedies alike, we all share common experiences that bind us together. Where has all the wisdom gone? Good news: it's not missing; it's just a little harder to seek out because we are so unaccustomed to sharing it! So please, young women: I challenge you to seek out the wisdom of a female mentor or family member. I promise, you will be amazed at their stories and advice. And wizened women: please, share with us! We need direction and guidance, and you have a lot more wisdom than you give yourself credit for! Let's be a community of women, of all ages, who can share freely and openly and learn from each other. God created women with a gift of relationships for this very reason!

I could come up with many more reasons why female relationships are important, but at some point you'd stop reading. So I will conclude with a story (and yes, it's from camp):

There was a cabin full of girls who were being very nasty to each other. They were putting each other down, gossiping, teasing, etc. Finally, after a few days, the counselors had tried everything they knew to do to encourage positive relationships among the girls. One morning, they took the girls out to the archery range.  They gave the girls paper and allowed them to draw/write what was frustrating them (things about someone in the cabin, etc.). (Okay, I am fuzzy on the details of what they wrote or drew, but that's the general idea). Then, they tacked these pictures up on the archery targets and let the girls have at it. They got to "shoot out" their frustrations. After a few minutes of awkwardness, the girls really got into shooting at the representation of everything they didn't like about someone else, or everything that was frustrating them or hurting them or annoying them. After the pieces of paper were full of holes, and the girls were feeling pretty good about themselves, the counselors removed the paper from the targets. Underneath was an arrow-riddled pictured of Jesus.

The point of the exercise was not to let the girls get their frustrations out.  The point was this: when we put each other down and show hatred to each other, we are showing these things to God. 

See, every woman is created in the image of God. We can't love God and hate each other.

Women are wonderful and amazing (you should know; most likely you are one!). And yet we put ourselves in this cycle of self-destruction, because when we put down other women, I believe we are ultimately putting down ourselves. (And often, the reason we put down other women is because we are trying to feel better about ourselves and our insecurities... by making the others look bad). Let's stand up against this self-imposed attack on our identity. Being a woman is awesome. And it's made even better by the existence of positive, communal relationships with other women. That's no accident! But for these relationships to work, we must abolish the "mean girl" spirit within us. This task may look different for each of us, but I hope you'll join me in this challenge. A community of positive, encouraging relationships among women will stand through the tests of tragedies and triumph, and will ultimately prevail as one of the most valuable gifts you've ever let yourself receive.

So, what about you? What are some blessings that have come from your female relationships? Or, what are some solutions you've found to combat the "mean girl" paradigm?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sweet Treats

Happy Valentine's Day! I am not a huge fan of the holiday and have no plans for it, but it is a fantastic excuse to bake some goodies! I made these this weekend:

Pink Champagne Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Assorted Cake Balls

The cupcakes are now available for sale at my brand new Etsy shop: Other cupcakes and goodies will be listed for sale shortly (I hope!)

What are your thoughts on Valentine's Day? Do you celebrate it, and how so?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Size Matters?

I have had a real wake-up call lately. I have recently begun to realize that body image plays a much larger role in my self-esteem than I had originally thought. To be honest, I have always known that I can be very vain, but I never thought that my identity was so closely linked to my physical size and outward appearance.

I considered myself to be rather "enlightened" when it came to body image. I have always been aware of the way advertising and magazines can cause young girls and women to try to "measure up." In college, my roommate Rosanna and I created a "Wall of Shame" in the hall outside our door. This wall highlighted ways that both men and women were objectified in popular advertising, and included visual examples of things such as "body chopping" in addition to statistics about eating disorders and body image. One of my favorite books is a collection of essays from women of all different shapes and sizes about why they love their bodies the way that they are (despite some of the rude comments they get for it). I loved the Dove commercials that had women of all shapes and showed them as beautiful. For years, I ate up anything that showed all women as beautiful, regardless of weight, height, skin tone, etc. I avoided fashion magazines and even tv shows that featured super skinny girls in tight clothing. And still, every time I gained a few pounds, or spent much time with some incredibly fit girlfriend, I would cast myself into a cycle of self-critique and loathing (feeling fat - deciding to exercise more - failing to exercise more - feeling like a failure and hating myself for it - eating comfort food because I was sad - feeling fat, etc.) I don't know why it never occurred to me that all of this was a sign of some sort of deeper vanity that was keeping me trapped in this cycle. ("There is no lie so sly as the one we tell ourselves.")

To be upfront, I have always been in the "normal" range for weight. At times, I have been thinner or more muscular, and at times I have had a little extra weight. But I have never been unhealthy, and for the last ten years or so, have fluctuated up and down in the same eight pound weight range. Yet, for month in high school I stopped eating for a few weeks because the boy I was dating told me how he could feel his ex-girlfriend's hipbones (fortunately, my parents caught on and put a stop to that nonsense). In more recent history, in the six months leading up to my wedding I greatly reduced my food intake with the motivation that I was going to be wearing a backless dress and I didn't want any "back fat."

What brought this whole heart-issue to light is, of course, pregnancy. At first, I was greatly relieved that I would have an excuse to eat more (and wouldn't have to worry about trying to lose those three or four pounds I had gained recently.) Reading through a pregnancy book during my first trimester, I felt pride over the fact that I was not worried about weight gain while the author of the book shared her feelings about no longer fitting into her skinny jeans (meaning the jeans she wore when she felt skinny, not the new style of jeans that makes absolutely no sense to me.) I just knew I was going to feel positive about the way my body looked all through pregnancy. I was going to be more womanly, curvy, and glowing. After all, I am an enlightened woman who believes in natural, realistic beauty. It was going to be awesome.

Fast forward five months. I am now 22 weeks along and have gained about eight to ten pounds. My husband insists that I still don't really look pregnant, and I can still wear most of my normal clothes. And yet, just last weekend, I spent two hours laying on my bed, in a bathrobe, crying because I had nothing to wear. I felt fat and ugly and horrible. Sure, I might not look very pregnant right now, but I don't look thin, either. I knew I was being unreasonable, but I couldn't help it. My self-deception about my body image had finally boiled over to a breaking point, and all I could think about was Kelly Ripa. Yes, you read that correctly. Years and years ago, I saw an interview with Kelly Ripa when she was about to begin co-hosting with Regis. She was five months pregnant, and was wearing a tight red blouse and a leather mini skirt (or, at least, this is how my memory plays it). The interviewer (one of the late show guys) commented on how she didn't even look remotely pregnant. And now here I am, years later, lamenting the fact that I don't look like that.

I decided that day, crying about Kelly Ripa, that I needed to change. I had to fix something inside of me. I was wallowing in shallowness. Everything revolved around me and how I looked! I was internally whining, "Why am I not more beautiful?" (The irony here, of course, is that I do not put a lot of effort into my appearance; I don't wear make-up, most of my clothes have holes in them, and I am on no consistent exercise plan... But I still want to be beautiful. I just don't want to work for it.)

In the midst of this decision to change (and get up out of bed before my husband was convinced I'd gone completely insane) came a memory from camp (like most of the best memories are). I was working at Camp Piankatank in Virginia and there was a cabin full of middle school aged girls who would wake up early each morning and spend hours in front of the mirror putting on make-up and doing their hair. They would come to breakfast primped and pretty, but definitely not ready for an adventurous day at camp! The two counselors in the cabin wanted to do something to help the girls focus more on God and less on themselves. One night, after lights out, they went into the bathroom and taped giant trash bags over the mirrors. They then proceeded to write Bible verses about beauty and vanity on masking tape and adhere them to the covered up mirrors. When the girls woke up the next morning, they were irate. I think one or two of them even cried because they could not put on their make-up. We all debated over whether or not the move was too drastic. But, by the end of the week, there was a clear difference in the attitudes and behavior of each of those girls. They learned to take the focus off of themselves and put it on each other, and on God.

Remembering this, it hit me: there is no difference between me and those young girls. Of course, I don't spend hours in front of the mirror obsessing over every detail (as anyone who has ever seen me can attest to), but I do spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about how I look, or how other people look, or how I look compared to them. The issue at the center of this is the same; an inability to focus on God's value of me as His child, and instead focusing on the worldly value of my physical being. Some people do this by going overboard with new clothing and fancy hairstyles; I do it by constant comparisons and self ridicule. It's definitely a self-centered heart issue. At some point, I ceased focusing on God and instead turned all my attention inward. It's only when we stop looking at God that we have so much time and energy to spend criticizing ourselves or others.

I think one of the reasons this is resonating with me so strongly right now is because very soon, I will be responsible for raising a daughter. I don't want her to ever feel that insecurity about her image, yet I grew up with supportive, loving parents who worked hard to make me feel confident in my skin. I married a wonderful man who always builds me up and tells me how beautiful I am, even when I'm lounging around in sweatpants. Even with all this constant encouragement, I still found a way to feel down about myself. How am I supposed to teach my daughter about positive self image when she will be constantly bombarded with images and advertisements telling her that she is not beautiful enough? That the outward appearance is the key to your identity, instead of the heart? I'm completely overwhelmed by the thought.

This whole last week, while I have been working hard to avoid any self-pity crying parties in my bathrobe, two songs have been resonating in my head. I think they are both beautiful, and are both great reminders that our beauty and our value comes from God, and God alone. I know that no amount of trying is going to make me beautiful. When I said earlier I didn't want to put any effort into it, I want you to know that there is truth in that desire: God gives us value and beauty regardless of how we dress or how often we exercise; if we're a size 6 or 16 or 26. What a freeing thought! This knowledge has enabled me to relax about my growing abdomen, and embrace these (mostly) awesome changes.


Beautiful Things

Just for fun, I just found the old file with all of the statistics posted on the "Wall of Shame." These are from 2003, so they might be a bit outdated.
75% of women think they are “too fat

The estimated size of the weight loss industry in 1994 was $32,680 BILLION

90% of people with eating disorders are women

81% of 10 year old girls have dieted at least once

40% of girls aged 9 and 10 are trying to lose weight

Women only earn more money than men in two job categories: modeling and prostitution

90% of girls aged 3-11 have owned a Barbie doll, an obvious symbol of unrealistic body images

In 1992, women’s magazines contained 10.5 times as many ads related to dieting and weight loss than men’s magazines.

70% of girls want to look like a tv character.

31% of girls have changed their appearance to look like a tv character.

16% of girls have dieted to look like a tv character.

1,000 American women die of anorexia each year.

Eating disorders rank as the 3rd most common illness among adolescent females in the United States.

63% of high school girls diet to lose weight.
35% of normal dieters progress to pathological dieting.
20-30% of pathological dieters progress to eating disorders.

In a recent study, 16% of underweight women consider themselves overweight, 58% thought their weight was “about right”, and 26% thought they were “slightly” underweight.

59% of average weight women consider themselves overweight.

*all facts taken from*

So, there it is. I'm not the only who has struggled with body image, but in this case misery doesn't love company. So the question is: besides a lot of prayer, what's the best way to combat this issue in girls and women today? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Recipe: Mint Truffle Cups

Mint Chocolate Truffles (sorry for the bad lighting)

Originally, I was going to make some sort of custom frosted cupcake or dessert for the Superbowl. But I was going to a party hosted by a friend who also does a lot of baking, and I knew there would be plenty of food as well as Superbowl-themed desserts. So I decided not to bake anything... until about two hours before it was time to go over. I just got the "itch." I casually flipped through some recipe books that I never use (mainly because most of them involve using pre-made doughs or batters), and stumbled upon this recipe for Mint Truffle Cups. The picture looked amazing (of course), and at first glance it seemed I had all the ingredients. Suddenly, I just HAD to make this dessert, and I had to do it RIGHT NOW. 

As I worked through the very simple recipe, I found out that I did not, in fact, have all the ingredients I needed; I was missing whipping cream and it was 4:00 on Superbowl Sunday. There was no way I was going to the grocery store, and D was busy making hot sauce for wings so I couldn't even use my charm to convince him to go. So I substituted butter and milk for whipping cream, but other than that followed the recipe exactly:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

12 thin chocolate & green mints (i.e. Andes), unwrapped, coarsely chopped

1) In medium bowl, combine powdered sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg; blend well. Add flour and cocoa; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1-2 hours for easier handling. (Note: I lied when I said I followed the recipe exactly; I didn't have time to refrigerate the dough. It was tough to work with, but manageable if you don't mind your cups coming out kind of funny looking. Next time I'll try to plan ahead, but it doesn't seem to have been too much of a detriment at this point).

2) Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Place 1 piece in each of 24 ungreased mini muffin cups; press in bottom and up sides of each cup, level with tops of cups.

3) Bake for 13-16 minutes or until set. Cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pans.

4) Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, combine all filling ingredients. Heat over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Cool 20 minutes or until filling thickens slightly (this took longer than 20 minutes for me; I don't know why, but I can never get ganache to "thicken" in the time most recipes list!)

5) Spoon about 2 teaspoons filling into each baked chocolate cup. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until filling is set. Sprinkle chopped mints on top of each cookie; press in lightly. Store in refrigerator. Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before serving.

These are pretty easy ways to satisfy any chocolate-mint urge you might be having (or to use up that trace amount of peppermint extract left lingering in the bottle, which has been my dilemma). Next time I make them, I might experiment more with the crust dough or try some variations on the filling, but for the most part these are a great & easy treat (and the recipe makes just enough for a small gathering, instead of a large crowd like most mini-muffin pan recipes!) Also, I am really happy that I did not have excess filling left; many recipes like this have a hard time balancing the cookie : filling ratio, and this was perfect.

Any thoughts for ways to improve them? Or similar mint chocolate recipes that you know of?

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Love Story

(Fair warning: this post contains personal information about our pregnancy. If you don't want to know me that well, then skip this and look to tomorrow's post of a yummy recipe! Also, in my head, this post was really eloquent and passionate; but once I wrote it out it became kind of a mess of emotion and thoughts. I could spend time revising it and trying to make it "perfect" but then it would never get posted. So please read with the awareness that it was written mostly by a bundle of pregnancy hormones.)

Even though it seems somewhat obvious, I feel that it is only fitting that my first content-oriented post be about Baby. But, somewhat indirectly. This is a love story - one of the greatest love stories on the planet and one shared by millions of people in their own unique way. This is a love story between an imperfect girl and her all-loving and all-knowing Creator.

I have fallen in love three times in my life. Eleven years ago, I fell in love with Jesus. Four years ago, I fell in love with my husband. And just a few days ago, I truly fell in love with the child growing inside me. Here's how all three of these love stories connect.

First, a little background. I accepted Christ at age 17 but wavered frequently in my commitment to Him. Four years ago, He pulled me back to Him permanently by introducing a rough-around-the-edges, tattooed, pierced, scruffy guy from Buffalo, NY into my life. In Alabama. My love story with D is a great one (at least in my opinion), especially when you consider all of the factors that went into bringing us both to the same place, but that's not what this post is about. To keep it short: he was sick, I saved his life, we fell in love, and got married and are living happily ever after. It's like a fairy-tale, right?

Now, here's the tricky part: we both always knew that we wanted children. We met while working with children, and one of the reasons I fell in love with him was because I could easily picture him as the father of my future children (maybe that's creepy?) But my body doesn't function as it should, and I was told that I would have a very difficult time ever conceiving a child of my own. D knew this even when we were dating, and we were both always open about the idea of one day adopting. There were further complications, as well, and it became pretty clear after just a few months of marriage that having biological children was most likely not going to happen. Still, I decided to go off any artificial birth control and just trust in God (I definitely didn't want to put any more barriers in the way of natural conception, even if it was already "nearly impossible.") By tracking my body's happenings with the natural "fertility awareness" method, I was able to recognize that in almost two years of marriage, I had ovulated twice. That's right, just two times. In the long months that spanned between these random bursts of fertility, I just kept praying that God would bring us children in His time - and in His way. Meaning: we were both still open to adoption, or even foster care, as long as that was His will and He provided the path for those options. We definitely didn't consider that we'd be anywhere close to ready for children at this current stage of our lives, so these prayers were more just general "FYI's" than impassioned pleas.

Back in October, I noticed during my morning temperature-taking ritual that my temperature had spiked (ovulation #2 in almost two years of marriage), and I waited a few days for it to drop again (it usually drops back down after 3-5 days, which is not long enough for a pregnancy to take hold). After eight days, I began to wonder... I started making comments to my husband suggesting that I might be pregnant... and I kept doubting and waiting for the inevitable drop in temperature. After a few more days, I gave in and took the test. And it was positive. I was shocked and... shocked! I had yet to develop a feeling of happiness or joy or excitement. I was just in shock. So was D, once he finally believed me. And that day, sitting on the couch in complete and utter disbelief, I just started praying over the baby. One major reason for early miscarriage is a lack of progesterone - which is also the reason why my temperature was only ever elevated for a few days instead of the average 14. So I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and worried, and finally just committed the baby to God. After all, it would not have been possible without Him, so this was His baby. (I'm a worrier, so I have worried through almost every step of this pregnancy so far...)

Anyway, the first five months were rather uneventful. I had a hard time getting excited about the baby because it didn't quite feel "real." There are also a lot of things going on that make having a baby right now really "bad" timing (at least to me!): D has to have another major surgery at the end of February, he is still looking for a full-time job, and I have turned in my resignation at a job that I absolutely love so I can stay home with the baby (which was my choice, and one I always knew I'd make, but still a very difficult one!). Oh yes, and then there's the piles of medical bills and student loans that we can barely pay each month... it just all seemed like bad timing and it was hard to adjust to for the first few months. But health-wise, everything was good, and the baby was growing well.

A few weeks ago, God gave me peace about the whole situation. This is not to say I am not worried about some things, but about our life circumstances in general, I have a sense of calm. I know that it's not in my timing, but in His. And most importantly, I have learned to completely surrender. I just turned it ALL over to God - the job situations, the health of the baby, D's surgery, our future living arrangements, the debt - and this has been the most amazing step I've ever taken in my life. I feel so close to God lately, in an intimate way that is difficult to describe. I feel loved and comforted (and disciplined), and it is the most amazing experience of my life! So many doors have been opened and so many blessings have come our way just through this act of trust and surrender. And what made this all possible is not my love for God, but God's love for me; His continuous pursuit of my heart even when I have turned away or when I doubt. Four years ago, He called me back to Him when He introduced me to D, and just lately He has shown me love and called me back to Him again through the life of the baby inside me. And while it took a while for me to get truly excited about the pregnancy, I am now so full of joy and of love for this child! Last Friday, our 20-week ultrasound showed everything growing correctly on our precious little girl. Looking at the images on the screen, it was so hard to believe that God has created such a perfect little one inside me. And the coolest part is - He loves her already! And already has a plan for her!

Scripture tells us that God will give us the desires of our hearts (as long as we surrender our selfish desires and seek out His). He promises this to us, and He has fulfilled this promise in my life. D and I always felt that God would bring us children one way or another, but it is overwhelming and awesome that we are having a baby despite all the odds against it. So, this is my love story: I was created by an all-loving, personal God who knows the desires of my heart. He knows my hopes and fears, He knows my best and worst qualities, He knows when I doubt and when I stumble. But He loves me anyway, and He demonstrates this love in tangible, powerful ways. This is the type of love that all fairy-tales should be made of, and yet is not a fantasy; it's the truth.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Blog! (Hopefully I won't forget about it...)

Welcome! After much internal debate, I have decided to start a new blog. I am approaching this endeavor with some hesitancy, because I already have two other blogs that have been completely and hopelessly abandoned. The blog I had about life in general was an unfortunate victim of life itself - I just got really busy and basically just forgot (read: I got lazy). Also, I got married and changed my name - and therefore email address - and now I never log into my old email address associated with my that blog (see... lazy!) The other blog was a recipe blog for my completely amateur baking obsession. Again, laziness just took over with that one, and it has been almost a year since I've posted anything (even though I've tried plenty of new and awesome recipes in the meantime!)

So, I am telling myself that this blog will be different and I will actually stick with it. We'll see how that works out, but thanks for joining me in the beginning stages of this new journey of self-discipline and discovery! I am hoping to combine all of my favorite things into this one place: thoughts on life, major (or minor) happenings, random opinions or stories, and some of my favorite tried-and-true recipes.

I feel this project would be doomed for failure if I did not outline some of the goals I have, so I am going to share them in the hopes of some sense accountability. My previous blog was simply a way to keep in touch with friends and family when I lived in a place with no cell phone service. (Which explains why, when I moved back into the land of telecommunication, it fell to the wayside). So, here are my goals for "Life by the Tablespoon":

1) TO WRITE. I used to write all the time - poems, stories, notes, letters, etc. Now, the only thing I find myself writing are short status updates and quick text messages. I have lost the desire to be creative with my writing, and that concerns me. Also, I have noticed that my grammar use has suffered dramatically, and I am hoping that, by writing with the intention having someone else read it, I will be more intentional with my use of language.

2) TO GO DEEP. I am currently doing an awesome Bible study that is examining the book of James. In the "homework" section, there are questions about different Biblical events and things from the context of Scripture - I love answering these questions and exploring someone else's thoughts! But then come the questions that ask me to look at my own life and apply what I've learned from the Scripture, and I find that I tend to answer these questions with only one or two words (or skip them entirely). I am losing either the ability or inclination to understand myself well, and I worry that I will cease to grow unless I examine these deeper places of myself. This is not to say that these blog posts will be anything overly insightful in and of themselves, but I am aiming for this process to help me go deeper into various thoughts and life events. (Although, let's be honest, most posts will probably be about cupcakes, nature, or babies).

3) TO SHARE JOY. Or angst. Or frustration. Or gratitude. Or whatever emotion out there (or in here) needs sharing. Good things happen all the time, and I rarely stop to share this good news or excitement with others (let's not even get into my tendency to neglect thanking the One who has given me these blessings!) I also feel it's important not to shy away from things that bring sadness or pain (although these will be shared to less of an extent).

4) TO CHRONICLE MY CHANGING LIFE. I am about to embark on quite a few major life changes. I am 20 weeks through my first pregnancy, I am leaving a job that I absolutely love to stay home with the baby when she's born, and my amazing husband is in the process of searching for full-time employment while also preparing for a major surgery scheduled for the end of the month. I feel like these are all things worth putting down - somewhere - and working through via the written word.

So, there they are. I will try to stay true to these four goals as I begin this blogging process, and will just have to see where it leads! Thanks for joining me on this new adventure and stop by again soon:-)