Tuesday, December 13, 2011

eyes wide open...

 "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." 
~John Keating, Dead Poets Society

I found four silver hairs on my head the other day.
When did this happen???
I kinda dig it.

Life really does feel like it's moving at mach speed these days,
and I am painfully aware that these days with my babies
will slip through my fingers like sand in an hourglass.

There are days when I feel so exhausted.
And overwhelmed. 
Days when I feel like I'm just dropping the ball.

But most of the time, I am in awe, 
just marveling at these little beings...
these little souls that have been entrusted to me. 
(very sobering indeed to ponder the great responsibility of that)
I see their innocence, the wonder in their eyes,
how excited they get over marshmallows...
and snow...and just about everything. 
It fills me with a sense of enchantment and a peace 
of all that's still good and right and true in this world. 
It makes me realign my thoughts and put things into proper perspective, 
letting go of things that can easily consume me so that I can make room for 
the moments of life that are happening before my eyes. 
To make time to appreciate them. 
It's such a crazy life right now, 
but it's MY life.
And I don't want to miss a thing...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ever. so. grateful.

"Gratitude is the fairest blossom 
which springs from the soul."  
~Henry Ward Beecher

At last!
A chance to reflect aloud 
on this past week's festivities,
and all of the things that continue
to pluck my heartstrings...
I am ever. so. grateful.
for family, and friends, and health;
for the tremendous outpouring of love 
that has come our way this past month.
Thankful for a weekend of rest,
and for all of the daily provisions 
that we can so easily take for granted.
Thankful that I've been graced with 
four whole weeks of kissing teeny tiny toes 
and chubby yummy knees 
and itty bitty ears 
and plumpy lil cheeks ~ 
for those who may have missed the news:

Luke Xavier Carrillo 
was born on 11-1-11 
at 11:21 am 
weighing 7 lb 10 oz 
and he is simply 
e. d. i. b. l. e.

When I look back at the years gone by,
I still marvel.
All of the mistakes...
And yet God was willing
to take my brokenness
and make me whole.
He was willing to pick me up 
out of the muck and myre, 
and make me...sparkle.
so humbled.
ever. so. grateful.

My contribution to the Thanksgiving table
were these delicious pumpkin cupcakes.
I came across the recipe on Pinterest, 
and couldn't believe how easyyyyy it was.
(Click HERE for the recipe)
I added my own touch but throwing some chocolate chips into the batter,
and prettied them up with a homemade cinnamon and brown sugar whipped topping,
drizzling with caramel, and topped with a single candied walnut.
life is good.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tabbouleh & A Time To Rest...

"Take rest;
a field that has rested
gives a bountiful crop"
~ Ovid

Session Four of the Live Deliciously series zeros in on the meal
that Jesus had with Matthew the Tax Collector (Mark 2:13-28).
It's no secret that we live in a culture drawn to controversy,
we're mesmerized by the unorthodox & the unusual.
Perhaps that's what makes this text so fascinating.
If tabloids were reporting in that day, Jesus would make the front page
Talk about radical...from the company He kept, to the words that He spoke, to the claims that He made;
Ruffling feathers wherever He went, rebuking the religious, challenging the status quo...

Carmen Camino delivered a compelling message that complimented
the week's homework perfectly. While there is much that can be said about each of the powerful truths
she presented, the one segment that echoed in my heart was titled "a time to rest."

Sweet Bellas, we fill our schedules to the brim, hoping to accomplish all that we can, but in reality, what we really need is rest.
She said "extreme busy-ness makes us stop caring about the things we care about." 
Such a powerful statement. We can often become so consumed with things that lead us away
from that which we love the most, even when we have the best intentions.

I've been on a personal journey of my own the last two years.
One of simplifying, of making more time for "more time" and living more fully.
It has been nothing short of invigorating, deeply meaningful, NECESSARY, and
I cannot begin to express what an impact it's had in my life, and the lives of those around me.
I think that's why this segment touched me so intensely, because those truths ring fresh in my ears.
It reminded me of a quote that I've shared in a previous post, but it's certainly worth repeating:

"The ability to simplify 
means to eliminate the unnecessary 
so that the necessary may speak" 
~ Hans Hoffman

If we really take a step back, 
is there something we can simplify in our own lives 
to make time to enter into the rest that our souls so desperately need?
I believe the answer is yes.

She hit the nail on the head when she said we are:

and that His presence is the ONLY place we can:

My spirit leaped within when she said:  
"when we rest, we experience the aroma of eternity."
I just love that!!!!!!
And I find myself instantly at peace just thinking on the implications of that statement.

When I think of the opening quote in today's post, I can't help but smile....we have so much more to give when we have rested,
and those around us will be the recipients of that bounty; they will taste the goodness of Christ, and it will leave them hungry for more.

And so without further ado, I share the recipe that's been given to me for Tabbouleh. 
Would you believe I've never had Tabbouleh before? It's true. 
I love every ingredient in this recipe, so I had no doubt that I would love the flavors.
 There were no disappointments once again, every ingredient came together
in a burst of flavors that even my husband liked! 
This is such a great garnish for a sandwich,
which is exactly what we used it for.
We spread this on top of our lebanese bread and threw on some 
lamb and feta cheese....it was sheer perfection!
one disclaimer: i used flat leaf parsley since that was all I had,
not sure if curly leaf is more customary, but either way
this is a keeper!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 cup of bulgur
1 1/2 cups boiled water
10 sprigs parsley, chopped
1/2 bundle mint, chopped
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
2 fresh and firm tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of one freshly squeezed lemon
pinch of sea salt to taste.

1. Add the bulgur to the bowl, and pour in boiled water. Water level should be 1/2 an inch above the bulgur,
2.Put the plate on top of the bowl and soak the bulgur in water for 15 minutes, until they swell in size.
3. Mix the bulgur in a bowl together with other ingredients. Enjoy!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lebanese Bread & Seasons of Doubt...

"I believe in the sun,
even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, 
even when I don't feel it. 
I believe in God, even when there is silence."
~words that were scratched on the walls of a cellar in Cologne, Germany 
by a Jew hiding from Nazi persecution

So thrilled to be back to share some thoughts on Session 3 of the Live Deliciously series 
which centers around Jesus feeding the 5,000 (John 6:1-58).
As always, there was so very much given to ponder throughout the week's homework, 
and through the main study message...so much to devour!

The dialogue that occurred between Jesus and His disciples during this miracle 
brought to light a testing of their faith, and in spite of their limited finite thinking,
God fed the multitude of people with a small boy's simple offering. 
Have you ever found yourself in a "season of doubt" ~ a time when you doubted 
God's goodness, His plan, His presence amidst trials in your life?

Out of everything we covered in this meaty text, 
this topic of doubt was the one thing that has resonated with me the most.
Maybe it's because it's so tangible...
because these are such perilous times that we live in...
because there are so many I know going through fierce trials right now...
because the sweat on my brow is still fresh from journeying through my own fierce trials....
Lenya pointed out that trials bring tests. 
I can testify to that.
And yet I've seen tremendous trials become tremendous triumphs.
I've seen great testings turned into great testimonies.

In "Waking The Dead," John Eldredge references a powerful passage from a favorite book of mine called Pilgrim's Progress, the famous story by John Bunyan that I find so relevant to this topic of "doubt." He says: 

"Well into his journey towards the Celestial City, Pilgrim grows impatient with his progress. He leaves the narrow path for what he believes will be a shortcut, but is captured by the Giant Despair and held in the dungeon on Doubting Castle. Under the harsh treatment of Despair, Christian loses heart nearly to the point of taking his own life. Listen in on the whispers of Pilgrim and his companion, Hopeful, in their dungeon:

Pilgrim: Brother, what shall we do? The life we now live is miserable. For my part I know not whether it is best to live, or to die.

Hopeful: My brother, remember how valiant thou hast been heretofore? Apollyon could not crush thee, nor could all that thou didst hear, or see, or feel, in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. What hardship, terror and amazement hast thou playedst the man at Vanity Fair, and was neither afraid of the chain, nor cage, nor yet of bloody death?...

Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, broke out in this passionate speech: What a fool am I, to lie in a stinking dungeon when I may as well walk with liberty. I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will open any lock in Doubting Castle."

Pilgrim lay in despair because he had FORGOTTEN. 
Hopeful urges him to REMEMBER, both all he had been through, 
as well as the assurances he has from the One who called him on the journey."
One last excerpt I think you will enjoy, and that ties in so beautifully... 
such a moving reminder that even when we doubt it, He is there, 
and He is working behind the scenes in ways we don't even know about on our behalf. 
Remember that when you are tempted to doubt His goodness... 
This excerpt is also from "Waking the Dead," where John Eldredge references 
a segment from C.S. Lewis' "The Horse and His Boy."  

He says: "In this story, Jesus is portrayed as a lion and comes to Shasta, a young, lost boy who figures the world has all but forgotten him...
“And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.
What put a stop to all this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he had really no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock.
It darted into his mind that he had heard long ago that there were giants in these Northern countries. He bit his lip in terror. But now that he really had something to cry about, he stopped crying.
The Thing (unless it was a Person) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta began to hope he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it, there suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out of the darkness beside him. That couldn’t be imagination! Anyway, he had felt the hot breath of that sigh on his chilly left hand.
If the horse had been any good - or if he had known how to get any good out of the horse - he would have risked everything on a breakaway and a wild gallop. But he knew he couldn’t make that horse gallop. So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer.
“Who are you?” he said, scarcely above a whisper.
“One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.
“Are you - are you a giant?” asked Shasta.
“You might call me a giant,” said the Large Voice. “But I am not like the creatures you call giants.”
“I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, “You’re not - not something dead, are you? Oh please - please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!”
Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”
Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.
“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and-”
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.” 
And as Shasta gasped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I.”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers..."
Oh Bellas, I simply do not understand why things unfold the way they do sometimes,
I do not always understand God's timing,
and quite frankly I know I'm not meant to.
Being given the sterile blueprint
would rob all the passion of living
as much as I'd like to see it sometimes.
But I DO know that He uses EVERYTHING,
even the darkest moments of our lives,
to bring us into His sweet sweet presence
to do something remarkable within us
that we never could have anticipated.
Always remember and rest hard on the fact that God loves you 24-7 because that's His style. 
He loves you enough to watch over you and take over your scene when He wills it necessary. 
He is our help when there is danger – clear and present.

"Oh Taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!"
~Psalm 34:8

And with that, I'd like to leave you with the coinciding recipe that accompanied this section:
Lebanese (Syrian) Bread. 
I was a little nervous about making this, 
because I have never made any kind of bread before, 
not even tortillas....I know!!! 
But this really was a cinch to make
We filled our bread with lamb & tabbouleh....fantastic!!
go on, give it a try :)
Lebanese (Syrian) Bread
Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

2 packages of active dry yeast
1/3 cup of water
1 Tbsp of flour
1 Tbsp of sugar
3 Cups of flour
1 Cup of water
1 tsp of of salt

1. Sprinkle the yeast over water and add 1 tablespoon of flour and sugar. Stir and set aside to rise for about 10 minutes.
2. Sift the 3 cups of flour with the salt. Add the yeast mixture. Knead, adding one cup water gradually, to make a stiff but not dry dough.
3. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down.
4. Divide into 6 to 8 round balls. Place on lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin flatten into 1/4 inch thick circles.
5. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise again for 15-25 minutes. Brush with milk.
6. Preheat oven and baking sheets to 500 degrees. Place the bread on baking sheets or a baking stone until puffed up and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Then turn over so the other side browns also.
When the bread is a little cool, place them in plastic bags to soften.

And last but not least, I would like to extend my most heartfelt and sincere THANK YOU to Elisabeth Pregadio, Audrey Martinez and ALL of the women from our small group in the Live Deliciously series, and to Gail, Krista, & Liz (Lorraine Brown's friends & neighbors) - thank you from the very bottom of my heart sweet bellas for your outpouring of love, for your generosity and kindness, for reaching out to bless our little family in such a mighty way, you truly are a gift to me and we will never forget how God used you to touch our lives in such a special way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Birthdays & Beauty!

"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made"
~Psalm 139:14

I'm taking a quick break from chronicling my adventures through the "Live Deliciously" series to share some introspective thoughts with you this morning....but not just any ol' thoughts....

Always a favorite time of reflection for me as I take a gaze back and a gander forward to ponder what it is I'd like to purpose in my heart for the coming year. It may surprise some that I truly enjoy growing older....I like to look back and consider the pearls of wisdom I have managed to glean year after year...a perpetual rite of passage...and the older I get, the more at rest my soul becomes.

Spent some time in Psalm 139 this morning...sigh....what a smile it brought to my face as I contemplated the richness of it. "How precious also are Your thought to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!" (Psalm 139:17)

I'm reminded of conversations with older women who confess that if they only knew in their youth what they know now, how differently they would have lived. They express regrets of obsessing over their weight and living with such insecurities that prevented them from embracing the best years of their life.

In a post he titles
Leo Babauta says, "I’m not cool, and I’m cool with that. I wasted a lot of energy when I was younger worrying about being cool. It’s way more fun to forget about that, and just be yourself."

Smile. Wise words indeed.

We live in a society that has a very convoluted perception of BEAUTY, would you agree?

I wanted to share a delightful passage from one of my favorite books "Captivating" by Stasi Eldredge...such a courageous reminder that we do not have to "try" to BE, we already ARE!
Live from that place sweet bellas, live like it's real.....much love to you this beautiful fall morning....
"All around us God's creation shouts of his beauty and his goodness. The way snow creates a silhouette of lace on a barren tree, the rays of sun streaming forth from a billowing cloud, the sound of a brook trickling over smooth stones, the form of a woman's body and the face of a child anticipating the arrival of the ice cream truck all speak of God's good heart if we will have but the eyes to see. The coming of spring after a hard winter is almost too glorious for a soul to bear. God's beauty is lavished on the world.

Beauty may be the most powerful thing on earth. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. Beauty is transcendent. Beauty draws us to God.

A woman in her glory, a woman of beauty, is a woman who is not striving to become beautiful or worthy or enough.
She knows in her quiet center where God dwells that He finds her beautiful, has deemed her worthy, and in Him she is enough.
In fact, the only thing getting in the way of our being
fully captivating and enjoyed,
is our hiding and striving.

So Jesus says, "I will quiet you with My love" (Zephaniah 3:17). A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest; trusting God because she has come to know Him to be worthy of her trust. She exudes a sense of calm; a sense of rest; and invites those around her to rest as well. She speaks comfort; that all is well; that all will be well. A woman of true beauty offers others the grace to be and the room to become. In her presence, one can release the tight sigh that so often grips our hearts, and breathe in the truth that
God loves us and He is good."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Come Thirsty...and Feta Stuffed Dates

"Our hearts are restless
until they find their rest in You."
~ St. Augustine

Have you ever felt restless?
Like there is something missing?
And no matter how hard you try to fill that void,
the emptiness remains.
Session 2 of the" Live Deliciously" study focused
on "the woman at the well" in John 4:1-40.
At first glance, one might think
they don't have anything in common with this woman,
but I beg to differ.

So often, so many of us try to find satisfaction in worldly pursuits,
just like this woman at the well.
Some lose themselves in shopping, others food.
We crave that "high."
Some determined to fill their calendars with
an action packed social life or extreme busyness.
Still others pursue their satisfaction
in physical relationships, addictions,
or have become consumed with achieving the "perfect" appearance.
There are so many things
we can find ourselves pursuing
in hopes to achieve a feeling of productiveness,
 accomplishment or validation.
But when it comes right down to it,
there is only ONE
who can satisfy the longing of our soul.

In the homework, we learned that
water is essential to life.
It was highlighted that "just as our bodies
have symptoms of physical dehydration
(such as headaches, dizziness, dry mucous membranes),
spiritual dehydration also has it's symptoms:
fearfulness, worry, and compliance to the world and its futile ways."

There is so very much that can be gleaned
from this story alone,
but one of the main things that stuck out for me
as Larissa Lusko took us through the main teaching,
was to ask ourselves
"Lord, what is my greatest need?"
I acknowledge that He alone
wants to become my greatest need
and longs meet that need abundantly.

"But whosoever drinketh of the water
that I shall give him
shall never thirst;
but the water that I shall give him
shall be in him a well of water
springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14)

You were created to fulfill
your very own special purpose and destiny,
and this is something
that no one else
can fulfill for you.
The homework beautifully illustrated this when it said
"we might be fed for the moment
by hearing what someone else has learned,
but nothing replaces the deep satisfaction of discovering God's spiritual truths for ourselves."
I couldn't agree more...there simply is no substitute
for uninterrupted, undiluted time in His presence.

The woman at the well had already experienced the disappointments of what the world had to offer,
only leaving her empty and longing
for something that would last.
What about you?
Are you thirsting for the living water
that only Jesus can provide?

Came across a poignant passage in "Waking the Dead" by John Eldredge which references an excerpt from The Chronicles of Narnia that I wanted to share, such a beautiful reminder that nothing else in this world can satisfy but HIM....come thirsty.....

"In The Silver Chair, the fourth book in the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis introduces a new character to the land of Narnia. Jill finds herself transported to Narnia as if she were caught up in a dream. The first creature she encounters is Aslan the lion, the Christ figure throughout the series. Aslan appears for a moment, then stalks slowly back into the forest. Jill is terribly afraid of meeting up with the lion, but her increasing thirst drives her in search for water.
Alas! Jill discovers a stream,
but she has to pass Aslan to reach it.

"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.
"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.
"Then drink," said the Lion.
"May I - could I - would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.

The Lion answered this only
by a look and a very low growl.
And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream
was driving her nearly frantic.
"Will you promise not to do anything to me,
if I do come?" said Jill.
"I make no promise," said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

"Do you eat girls?" she said.

"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men,
kings and emperors, cities and realms,"
said the Lion.
It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer.
"I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."

"There is no other stream," said the Lion. "
There is no other stream Sweet Bellas,
there is only ONE who pursues us
to quench our thirst with Living Waters.
Come thirsty...drink....be refreshed.....

"My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water."
(Psalm 63:1)

And with that...I'd like to share with you the recipe that was generously given to us for Feta-Stuffed Dates. You can CLICK HERE to see Lenya Heitzig prepare this delicious treat with step by step video instructions. I thoroughly enjoyed preparing this, another first for me. It was truly effortless, the flavors were both savory and sweet and the lemon just added that extra zing, I'm so impressed! I didn't realize I would love it so much, and I think you will too. If you are looking for a definite crowd pleaser and something unique that you can serve your guests during the holidays, this is it.
Enjoy and Mangia!
Feta Stuffed Dates
recipe courtesy of She Ministries
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 12 minutes

12 Medjool dates
1 cup feta cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
12 whole almonds
honey for drizzling

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray or lay a piece of parchment paper on it.
2. place almonds on cookie sheet and roast until golden.
3. slice the dates along the top, carefully pop them open, and remove the pit.
4. using a food processor (or blender) mix together the feta, olive oil lemon zest, and lemon juice until it is creamy with no lumps. spoon about 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture into each date.
5. insert toasted almonds into the middle of cheese mixture. bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
6. remove from oven and drizzle each warmed date lightly with honey.


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