Monday, October 31, 2011

Giving by Faith

Giving has been on my mind lately, especially because several of my friends are on support-raised salaries. Each month, Chris and I go over our monthly budget and decide where/who to give to. Our list is long . . . and our funds are limited.

I know that giving in general has decreased as our nation goes through economic hardship.  A little over two years ago, the non-profit I worked for had to lay-off hundreds of people (including me) because giving was down. I work for another non-profit now and thankfully no one has mentioned "lay-offs" but other cuts are always being made. I am so thankful to the donors who support my employer so I can continue to make a living.

I will be honest: I am very thankful that I don't have to raise my own support. I've raised funds for a few short-term missions trips and that was stretching enough for my taste. My heart goes out to my ministry friends who do have to raise their own support. They did not shy away from the work they are called to do because they'd have to ask and trust God for their salaries. They are much braver and more full of faith than I.

Recently, we've been made aware that quite a few of our full-time ministry working friends are in need financially. They, too, are being impacted by the nation's poor economy. As donors/supporters lose their jobs or go through hardships of their own, they are forced to stop giving.

And if that happens to several of your donors . . . what happens to you? Talk about carrying each other's burdens! I bet my ministry friends are the most faithful prayer warriors for my job!

I know many of you may already being giving as much as you possibly can - and I applaud your faithfulness! It takes courage to give when you cannot be certain of the job market next month. It takes great faith to trust in our Provider for our daily bread.

I want ask those of you who want to (or know you need to) give—but do not know where to give—to let me know so I can connect you with our friends who need you! (For privacy sake I am not posting specific names/ministries here but will email you a list if you are interested.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Week in SF

It's hard to say goodbye to old friends. We left all things familiar to us almost 2 years ago (my goodness, time flies by). So it is always a blessing and joy (I do get a little giddy) when those friends take a trip out to see us.

Our good friend Josh was here this past week to see us and a few other friends. And it just so happened that Chris had the week off of work (not by choice). This week of unpaid time off would have been a huge disappointment if it hadn't been for Josh's visit. The timing of it all was just so perfect--Chris could spend the entire week hanging out and being Josh's tour guide.

On Thursday night after work we all went to the California Academy of Sciences. Chris and I love going to their "Night Life" when we have guests. They have music going, dim the lights, and serve cocktails! There is no better way to see a museum! They have a really cool aquarium too but I don't have photos of that.

On Friday we tried something new. We went to "Off the Grid" for dinner. Food trucks gather to form their very own food court in the middle of a parking lot. Take your pick from Mexican, Korean, Indian, Filipino, Chinese, Thai, and plenty of others.

This is a sandwich with waffles for the bread -- strange but delicious!

We took a little walk out on a pier and saw the sun set -- just beautiful.

We all had a great time together. There is nothing quite like reconnecting face to face. Josh -- thanks for visiting SF -- come back soon!

Christmas Stocking Complete

December is just around the corner! Yikes! I had been waiting for a piping/zipper foot for my sewing machine to arrive in the mail all week. I was hoping that it would come before Saturday so I could work on our Christmas stockings. I had gotten as far as I could without that accessory but I could not move forward without it.

Friday night, it came! And Saturday afternoon was free! It took me the whole afternoon but stocking number one is finished! I'm hoping stocking number two is a bit easier now that I have done it once.

Here it is! I used the same material I had for the tree skirt I finished a few months ago.

The other side

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My CSA Box

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. I was not familiar with this term until a year ago. Basically it's a program where area farmers bring their produce to your doorstep/drop off location for a membership fee or charge per box. It's a food network of sorts. Usually organic. 

We finally decided to give it a try. There were several farms and companies to choose from but I'll spare you those details and say we found one that was a little cheaper and delivered to a drop off site that was more convenient than others. We signed up for a 4-box trial. This meant that we would receive one box every other week for two months. 

I was really excited to try cooking with vegetables that I wasn't used to cooking (or eating) and to try cooking according to season. This was more challenging than I would have thought, but it was fun too.

We just picked up box number four today so I thought I would share with you my experience with my CSA box.

This is what came in our box today! This is by far the most variety we've seen in our four boxes. Boxes 1 and 2 included a wonderful assortment of tomatoes, tomatillos, and herbs but I had a hard time using all of it. This box has some of our favorites: romaine lettuce, egg plant, sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli, and apples. It also included fennel (which will be the second time I've come into contact with it), swiss chard, tomatoes, radishes, and bok choy (also a new one for me). I have yet to plan how I will use these throughout the coming weeks but I am excited that we have such an assortment!

Over the last few weeks I've tried new recipes to incorporate my new produce. Some were great successes, others just ended up tasting okay but being more expensive in the long run. One of my hopes was that each box would supply us with all the produce we would need for a week making it cheaper than my current form of produce shopping. And it did in quantity but not in the variety. Many of the vegetables could not be used on their own (or if they were it wasn't very filling or tasty). I ended up buying even more produce to supplement what was missing (spinach and lettuce for our salads and fruit which was rarely included).

I've made things like zucchini linguine, pasta with swiss chard, stuffed peppers, swiss chard and zucchini quiche, eggplant ziti, tomato-walnut pesto with pasta, zucchini frittata, and tomatillo salsa. We enjoyed all of them. It also made our evening meals more vegetable based rather than meat based.

I cooked these green beans with dinner tonight. They were so delicious! They looked beautiful too.

So, we've concluded that although it is fun to get a random box of produce every other week, it makes meal planning and budgeting a little harder. My next experiment will be to go to the farmer's market every other week instead. There I will be able to pick out what produce I want for the following weeks and shop around! My hope is that I can make it a more affordable option for my family.

Are we there yet?

Most you have hopefully forgotten that at the beginning of 2011 I set a goal to walk 700 miles. Oh, you remembered? Well, then I need to catch you up! As of October 19, 2011 -- 10 1/2 months into this challenge, I am at mile marker 450.

You could look at this two ways:
1) Gee whiz, girl, you better get a move on; you still have 250 miles left to go! What's taking to long!?
2) Wow, that's awesome, you're over half way done and you still have some time left! Go for it!

I go back and forth between these two all the time. I know I'm a little off of meeting my goal. I thought by now I would have been zooming past mile marker 600. But then I have to remember that for the past 8 months, my feet have been in pain every day and I just can't walk long distances. I have to give myself a break from this standard I've been holding myself to. And then I think, "Wow, it's pretty great that I've walked this far!"

Since February I have seen physical therapists, a podiatrist, a neurologist, and my general doctor. I've had x-rays and MRIs and an EMG (not on my feet though). I've done yoga and pilates as encouraged by these professionals and I've also tried acupuncture. I've purchased new shoes and two different types orthodics.

I'm tired. And no one really knows why this is happening. I hear things like "my core is too weak" or "you are wearing the wrong shoes" or "it's mechanical" or "it's just how I am." None of these really sound acceptable to me. But it is probably a little bit of all of the above and then some.

Some days are worse than others and if I reflect back to the pain I was having in March and April, I am doing pretty well by comparison. So, I'm choosing to look at these last 450 miles an accomplishment rather than a failure. And remember --  I still have time left!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Women of the Bible" Review

A friend of mine and I are going through "Women of the Bible" by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda together. The book is broken up into daily readings (5/week) in 52 chapters; each chapter covers a different woman of the Bible. This book is perfect for a one-year study. (Or longer if you so choose!)

I was a little hesitant at first since other books that I have seen in this format didn't keep my attention and I never finished them.

But this book is amazing! Seriously. We are six weeks in and have read about Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Lot's wife (they never tell us her real name!), Rebekah, and Rachel. Each week I have been amazed by the story telling of the authors and the bible study questions they ask.  I have never thought about these women in such a human/real manner before. And I have been reminded again and again that God chooses to use women just like me (a sinner) for His Kingdom purposes.

If you're part of a women's group and looking for something to try next, I would highly recommend this book!

"The Soldier's Wife" Review

Last week I finished "The Soldier's Wife" by Margaret Leroy. It's a novel about a woman's life living on the island of Guernsey during WWII when her husband is off at war. The German's take over the island and enforce rules on civilians and build labor camps for prisoner's of war. 

I can't imagine being left to raise a family without my husband, much less during a war where their are low food rations and the "enemy" living right next door. The question is raised throughout the book of befriending the Germans or maintaining a cold distance. Every character seems to think through that process differently and the way they answer that question will affect their experience of the war. It raised the question in me of how morals change when the circumstance is war. I have to admit that I have not affected by the war efforts of our own country after 9/11

The story takes turns I would not have expected which made it a more enjoyable read even if I didn't personally agree with what the characters did or the choices they made. It was a good read--but I'm glad I borrowed it from the library!

"One Day" Review

A while back I read "One Day" by David Nicholls and I just never got around to posting my thoughts about it. Sorry -- here it goes.

I had seen the previews for the new movie based on the book and thought I'd like to see it since I usually love movies that Anne Hathaway is in. A friend recommended the book so I thought I'd read it before venturing out to see the movie. 

As far as reading goes, I found it to be entertaining. I definitely wasn't going to quit reading half way through, but I did think the lives the two characters lead left something to be desired. Granted, I'm sure my life isn't thrilling at every turn either but we don't normally read about "normal people's lives" now do we . . . oh wait. Never mind. (You are reading my blog!)

I didn't really enjoy the story of two people's lives never really fitting together like you want them to until life was almost over. But in retrospect, the choices the characters made could very well happen to anybody. Missed opportunity. Waiting for life to happen. Pride. Shame. Regret. Unemployment. Bad employment. Who hasn't experienced that stuff? 

The book is dramatic and I was entertained for a few days. I don't think I'll be going to see the movie.

"The Help" Review

I picked up The Help by Kathryn Stockett in August. 

I have to start out by admitting that I saw the movie before I read the book. I don't prefer to do things in that order but that's how timing works sometimes. At first, I couldn't get the characters from the movie out of my mind. I do think they matched up with the book fairly well, but the book did offer more depth and explanation than the movie depicted. By the middle of the book, I had mostly forgotten the movie and was engrossed in the book as though hearing the story for the first time.

I loved story. And after talking to some friends from the south, I think it could be more than a "story" -- it could be real. I had later heard that the author used her own family story as a guide in her writing. 

This book made me think a lot about the current state of racism and slavery.  We often think that those things are long gone and don't affect us anymore -- but that's not true. I won't go into that now, but its helpful to remember that the 50's weren't that long ago and we aren't that far removed from it.

Walk for Life - Final Total

All my fundraising dollars are in. The grand total was $410 -- WOW. Thanks everyone who gave, encouraged, and prayed! Continue to pray for the center as they reach out to women and families in need. I really enjoyed the walk this year and  I hope to participate in this event again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Denver Omelet--Made in California

A few weekends ago we were feeling adventurous and decided to stray from our normal pancake breakfast. I found this recipe for a Denver Omelet. I don't know why it's called a "Denver omelet," but this fluffy or "puffy" omelet was delicious. I filled it with green pepper, green onions, ham, basil, and tomatoes.

*Recipe found in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

2011 Walk for Life - Complete

It was the most perfect day for the Walk for Life. I arrived at the Alpha Pregnancy Center in SF with the sun shining and the promise of warmth -- the high for today was 66 degrees. It was perfect. After completing my registration and turning in my fundraising dollars, I joined my team. (I'll get to my fundraising results in a minute.)

I had originally been assigned to a team that would be walking a total of 2.2 miles which is what I had hoped for since I wasn't sure what kind of shape my feet would be in. (They are still going tingly on me.) Anyway, I ended up being moved to another team because they needed one more person. "Team I" needed to walk 3.7 miles. (Oh, boy! Help me Lord!) I haven't walked that far in a few months.

After a brief orientation where we were given directions and guidelines on what to expect and what to do, the 9 teams split up to cover a 4 mile radius of the city. Each team was given numerous gifts to deliver to a family who has been blessed by the services and care of the pregnancy center. A few teams were asked to visit two families, but my team was assigned to one. Then we were to walk to a near-by park for a BBQ.

This "Team I" -- Matthew and Grace above and Reed and Dylan below. (I even had someone take my picture too so you knew I was there)

When we got to the home of the family, we were greeted by the mother and she asked us to wait 5 minutes while the kids finished taking their bath. We arranged the gifts outside the door and waited. 

The mom came back 5 minutes later with a 6 month year old in her arms and two little boys at her feet (2 years and 4 years old). They just stared at the pile of presents and then slowly warmed up to us and started reaching into the bags. There were gardening tools, stuffed animals, books, and so much more. We didn't open everything with them, just enough to keep them occupied while we spoke with the mother and asked her how we could pray with her. 

After we prayed for her, her children, and the specific requests she mentioned, we said good bye. We started our walk to the park. This stretch of the walk was a little more rigorous; the first half had been pretty easy and flat, but now we had hills to go up . . . and down. Got to love San Francisco!

Once we made it to the park, the director of the Alpha Pregnancy Center shared a story of one of the ladies who was blessed by the services and counseling of the center. She was so changed by their ministry to her that she now volunteers twice a week! Then we had a picnic lunch to celebrate!

I know you are all curious how my fundraising went for this event -- and I have to say I was blown away by the encouragement I received and willingness of many of you to be a part of helping families in this city (whether it's your city of not). I had started with a goal of $250 -- which I would say for me was pretty substantial. I haven't attempted to raise money for anything in years! And I'm just so excited to say that you met and exceeded my goal! I was able to turn in over $300!  How awesome is that! I'm still waiting to receive a few donations in the mail so I don't have an exact number yet. I'm also hoping that I can find out how the whole event did and be able to share that with you too. So stay tuned!

My feet did pretty well during the long walk -- only a few times did they start to feel a little weak and tingly. But I made it! I did all 3.7 miles! PTL! This was just one more blessing for the day.

Thanks for all your support and prayers for me and the families that the pregnancy center helps!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Greeting cards . . . for men

It takes a little bit of work for me to design cards for men -- I like using pink things and ribbons and those are not usually appreciated when received by the male gender. Here are a few I did just to have on hand.

Mom's Cowboy Cookies

My mom has the best chocolate-chip oatmeal cookie recipe. I learned how to make them at a very early age. In fact, I first learned how to bake using this recipe . . . measuring flour, sugar, softening butter etc. I have very vivid memories of my arms getting tired as I stirred in those cups of flour. The County Fair saw plenty of these cookies over the years as each of us kids entered them . . . several times! What can I say, it's a blue-ribbon winner!

Last week, I had a strong urge to bake. I wanted to bring in something special for my co-workers as it was my boss's birthday. This recipe was perfect! It's really quick and easy and I know it turns out great.

Sorry about the color -- I have horrible lighting in my kitchen after dark (for photos anyway). This is what you need: 1/2 cup Crisco, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, two eggs . . . mix those together. When blended add: 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend that in well. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 cups oatmeal and 1 cup chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Let them cool (if you can) before eating! Delicious!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Walk for Life--Fundraising Update

Next Saturday is the "Walk for Life" fundraising event for the Alpha Pregnancy Center in San Francisco. I'm really excited . . . I can't believe it's just 7 days away. I've been walking a bit more lately, in hopes that my feet are in good shape for the 3 miles I'll be walking that day (I haven't walked that far at once in a while.)

I wanted to give a public "shout out" to all the people who have sponsored me so far in this event. I've never done a sponsored walk/event before and I am blown away by the generosity and encouragement I have received thus far. So, let me say a big "Thank You" to all of you! I feel so blessed and loved . . . and this is totally not even about me!

It's all about helping families in need and supporting life!

I also wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that I am so close to my fundraising goal! I am only $55 away from my $250 goal. I would love to bring in even more, but as I said before, this is my first sponsored event and I didn't know what to expect. Anyway, if you are considering becoming a sponsor/supporter of this Walk for Life event, please act soon!  There is still time to get a check in the mail or go to and give online. *The amount shown online does not represent the gifts I have received in the mail.*

I'm so excited to be a part of the event this year and hope to have stories to share with you next weekend! Stay tuned . . .