This week I'm thanking God for some of my favorite things. Some serious and some silly perhaps, but all are things that make me feel blessed, loved and happy to be alive. This list won't include everything I love and enjoy (that would take far too long!), but it's a taste of what makes me, me and what makes my heart feel full in the best possible ways.
“Cooking is not to rush. It’s a prayer. A gift of love. It’s family. It’s standing in the company of your ancestors and feeling their hands, helping you.” ~ Stephanie Kallos
I love cooking. I love trying new recipes. I love inviting friends and family into my home and making something yummy for them. I love when I find a recipe that someone loves. I have one friend who always wants me to make Asian Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing and Pickled Cucumbers - I've made it for her 5 times in the past two years. :) Our beloveds have deemed my homemade tortilla soup their very favorite, and though I usually change up my soup recipes each time I make them, I had to write down exactly what I did so that it will always be the same. My favorite meal for my aunt to make is her Green Chili Smothered Burritos and I often make it at home and think of her. My mom always wants homemade wonton and lumpia for her birthday each year and my dad's favorite recipe is his mom's Soya Chicken. Food involves memory, community and connection. It can make us happy and it can make us feel loved and appreciated. Here are some of my favorites from this year: French Onion soup, Heavenly Hummus Wraps, OMG Garlic Bread, Quinoa Taco Bake and Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies.
My job & coworkers
“Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship – a different kind of ‘sacrifice’ – that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”
~ Hebrews 13:16
~ Hebrews 13:16
I absolutely love my job and I have the best coworkers. I love what I do and I feel like I am daily doing something of meaning and making connections with people that are important. I feel confident and content in my place and know that this is the perfect job for me. I'm in my 15th year and I can honestly say that each year I love my job more. In the past few years I've really deepened my connections with my coworkers to the point that many of them are also dear friends who I look forward to spending time with outside of work. I enjoy the conversations about our jobs, about our families, about our lives. With one coworker, I enjoy talking about watching the TV shows the Bachelor and Bachelorette. With another, we talk about movies and books and pretty much anything and everything. One coworker always makes sure we have snacks and meals available and does so much for everyone. We all work together well and get along with each other well and it makes life at work such a blessing and joy and I'm so grateful!
“Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.” ~ Longfellow
I love painting and have definitely made more of an effort this year to spend time doing art. This painting was inspired by an evening spent swinging next to the ocean under a sky full of stars. It was a lovely moment that I will cherish forever, and enjoy the ability to have captured it in paint and can look at it every day. In February, I was on vacation with my family and the timeshare we stayed at offered painting classes and my sister and I took all three that were offered in the week we spent there. It was so fun to do something creative together, and now those paintings are a reminder of fun time spent with my sister. This year I've given paintings to several of my friends and family as gifts, and it's been special to be able to think of something they will love and then create it on canvas. I love the opportunity to give something personal and creative...something of myself to them. I'm thankful for the abilities God has given me to paint, as well as being thankful for the art teachers who have taught me so much and encouraged my talents.
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.”
~ Stephen Chbosky
~ Stephen Chbosky
I am thankful for blogs. For the fact that they exist. For the many people who write them. For their willingness to be honest and real and vulnerable. For the connection that I feel when I read someone else's words which seem to connect straight to my heart. For the sense of community that can arise when I see so many people struggling with and writing about the same type of issues. For the "me too" moments. For the humor, the illustrations, the stories, the advice, all of it is so meaningful. For the opportunity to write my own blog and share my stories with others and hear their moments of connection and encouragement. This year I've been particularly encouraged by three amazing blogs. The first is Micah J. Murray - I am so blessed by his raw and open stories. He struggles, he fails, he learns and grows, and all along he's really real and I find his blog refreshing and sometimes shockingly honest. But I love it and I'm thankful for his willingness to share. Through his blog, I found Amber Salhus - I love her humor, her vulnerability and our shared love of TV. Her writing helped to bring me back to writing this blog and I have been so encouraged and convicted by her posts. Additionally, I've felt like I've made a friendship connection of sorts - like a pen pal and it's been a blessing to communicate with her through comments and Facebook. The other blog I've been so encouraged by is called Brave Girls Club and I so deeply love it. One of my absolute favorite things is their daily truth emails called A little bird told me - these come daily Monday through Friday and include an encouraging and inspiring message along with a beautiful photo. The words may be simple but there is so much truth and love and encouragement and I just love them. I'm so thankful for the women who started this blog and spend so much time and effort writing beautiful words and creating beautiful art and making such a difference in so many lives.
Date Nights with Josh
“Come, let's be a comfortable couple and take care of each other! How glad we shall be, that we have somebody we are fond of always, to talk to and sit with.” ~ Charles Dickens
I'm so thankful for have a husband who I enjoy spending time with, who loves me more than I deserve and who is always there for me. We love our pajama days when we stay home and read books or watch TV/movies and stay in our pjs all day. We love traveling together and trying new restaurants. We love sitting and talking about our days and the things we're learning and discovering. We enjoy cooking together and having friends and family over to enjoy meals with us. Our date nights are also fun because they can range from grocery shopping together preceded by dinner at Rubio's or Five Guys, to fancy dinners at our old favorite French place Les Rendez-Vous, and one of our all time favorites is dinner at Joe's Crab Shack followed by dessert from Krispy Kreme. Yum! Mostly we just enjoy spending time together and that is one of my favorite things about us...and I'm so thankful for the blessing of my hubby! xo
“Each time you happen to me all over again.” ~ Edith Wharton
I really love TV, especially well-written dramas with amazing characters and dramatic twists and turns as well as laugh-out-loud comedies with running jokes and lots of humor. Josh & I have very different tastes in a lot of things, and TV is no exception. But we do have some shows we watch together and Netflix has been one our very best investments. Some of our favorite shows to watch together are The West Wing, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Survivor, The Big Bang Theory, Agents of Shield, The Black List and currently we're obsessed with Scandal. I love my shows and especially the ones I've watched for years I get very attached to the characters and care deeply about them. Many times I am drawn to the darker ones who can be a bit prickly and lash out but over the course of time you see them begin to trust and feel loved and blossom - characters like Alex Karev on Grey's Anatomy or Huck on Scandal. I love shows like Modern Family, The Goldberg's, Arrested Development, The Mindy Project and New Girl because they frequently make me laugh out loud so much that I often have to pause the show in order to breathe again. I also love shows like The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Once & Again and Mad Men because of their continuing storylines, deep and well-written characters and the emotional connection I feel to the stories being told. I also admittedly love reality shows like The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Masterchef, Worst Cooks in America and especially Survivor - even though it's been on for so many years featuring the same basic plot, every season is different because of the people involved - their past/present, their insecurities, their passions, their ability to relate to others, their ability to deal with the crazy elements - it all adds up to one of my all-time favorite shows and I never get tired of it. I'm so thankful for the variety of TV and the many ways I'm able to watch and enjoy it.
“I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll
It would be impossible to say all the things I love and am thankful for about friendship. My friends have had such a profound and important place in my life and I really would not be who I am without their presence and impact. I feel surrounded by people who love me and really get me. People who encourage me, love me deeply, listen to me, speak truth to me, make me laugh, are willing to cry with me (or often watch me cry). These friends come from a variety of backgrounds and have come into my life through mission trips, school, church, work, and even the internet. Each of them provides something special and wonderful in my life - they are unique and gifted and incredibly special to me. I am thankful for their prayers, their words, their tears and laughter, their inspiration, their love and support. They have helped to teach me how much God loves each of us, about how important it is to be vulnerable, about how I can trust them and they can trust me and I would not be the same with each and every one of them...and they know who they are. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
I hate controversy and generally avoid sharing my opinions about anything controversial, but I think this thing about Starbucks red cups is so dumb. I love Starbucks and all I expect from them is that they provide a consistent delicious coffee or tea beverage when I order it. I love my vanilla latte and I love my iced caramel macchiato upside down and I love the holiday treats of peppermint mochas and brulee lattes. My ability to celebrate Christmas is not affected in any way by the cup my coffee comes in. My faith has not been hurt because Starbucks decided not to put any designs on their holiday red cups. I don't need to boycott their business or force them to write Merry Christmas instead of my name. These voices speaking out against Starbucks are not making people want to come to Christ, they are forcing people away or just reinforcing what others think Christians are all about. If you don't want to buy Starbucks, do it because it's expensive or you don't like the taste or you'd rather support small businesses...but don't make it about something that has absolutely nothing to do with it. I'm thankful for Starbucks because I like their coffee and who cares what the cups look like?
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
~ Jacques Cousteau
~ Jacques Cousteau
Oh, my most favorite place in the world is Cayucos! I love the small town, the scent of the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing, the bright reflection of the sun on the water so it looks like diamonds, the yellow green hills surrounding the town with solitary trees that seem peaceful and also melancholy. It is a place of peace and comfort and rest and I love it so much. I first visited the summer of 1996 at the end of my mission trip and we spent 4 days there debriefing from our 8 week summer mission (as a student). I visited again the summer of 1998 after a 10 week mission trip (this time as nanny to the team leaders 3 children). About seven or eight years ago, Josh & I started visiting for our anniversary and he loves it so much too. My family has also developed a love for this small wonderful town after we spent Mother's Day weekend there and now look forward to being there for a week soon. This place is so very special to me and I am so incredibly thankful to be able to visit and love it like I do - it reminds me of God's amazing vastness, His creativity in creation, and His desire for us to rest. I love this place and am so excited and blessed to be able to be there again soon. Thank you God!
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds...” ~ Psalm 107:8
Dear heavenly Father, thank You for all the many ways You show Your love for me. Thank You for the many wonderful things in this world to love and enjoy and be thankful for. I hope I never lose the ability to thank You and praise You for the things I love and appreciate and enjoy. Thank You for loving me so much, I love you too. Amen.