Sunday, March 31, 2013

Picture Post

Just a few pictures to recap a few things. A few weeks ago I (how many more times can I use the word few??) we had horses stop by to visit on Sunday morning. See? Proof. :)

This weekend was AMAZING!! When I came home from work on Friday afternoon we took a ride out on the golf cart in the sunshine. Paco and I both sat with our eyes closed and took it in (when I wasn't taking pictures, of course).

Look at this face!!

Saturday morning we had an Easter egg hunt for all of the Primary kids. I was keeping an eye on the dog with all the eggs out. I was really concerned he was going to pee all over them (poor kid who finds that egg), but that turns out that wasn't what I needed to be careful of. Two separate times he snagged his very own eggs and took off with them.

Look how proud he is!!

For Easter dinner I made a dessert creation. I call it Banana Cream Puff Cake with Caramel Drizzle. It was pretty delicious, if I do say so myself.

What Easter Means to Me

Growing up, Easter was a day to wake up, grab your basket and search the house for candy! My parents always tried to teach us about the significance of this day (we didn't always pay attention); how its the day we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and was crucified, but above all He rose again on the third day. We learned that the Atonement is such an amazing gift. It's amazing that He would die for all of my sins, he would suffer for all of my pain, paid I bring on myself through sin, but also pain and heartache caused from things outside of our control. He suffered and felt all of that so we could come to Him, the one person who knows EXACTLY what we're feeling, and be made whole.

I didn't grasp the importance of all of that until relatively recently, meaning the last 5 years or so. I knew and thought I appreciated the importance of the Atonement, but it hasn't been until I've had some big, life-changing experiences that I've really come to understand and fully grasp (and I know I'm only now skimming the surface of what this REALLY means) this wonderful gift. And especially over the last year as I've made mistakes and as things have happened in my life that have caused me pain, I've truly learned to turn to the Lord.

I'm so grateful I can repent and be clean, but that through the Atonement I can also be made whole and receive peace and comfort. I am grateful to know that as I truly and sincerely repent of my sins, the Lord really means it when He says He will remember them no more. I learned an important lesson on this matter several weeks ago.

Back in November I was working on a CRAZY project for work. I had 8 hours out of a 24 hour period to complete a task that, to that point, I had worked for 12 hours on and had only completed 30% of it. It was NOT looking good! One of the managers I work with seems to think I also work for him...NOT...and was demanding my assistance on a project and I sort of snapped with him. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't pretty. I knew I was in the wrong and I went back and apologized to him, and that was the end of it...or so I thought. When I went through my year end review, my manager went through the paperwork (and I kind of rocked it, just saying) and then, almost as an afterthought, he thought to tell me that I need to work on my reactions. He cited this one-time incident 6 MONTHS ago. To tell you I was upset is an understatement. I was so frustrated. I had dealt with this personally and had resolved my differences with this manager and everything was fine. As far as he and I were concerned the matter had been put to rest. But here it came to haunt me again.

It was in the moments following that conversation that I realized just how grateful I truly am for the atonement and for the promises the Lord has made to us. If we repent, truly repent, and we mend our ways and really do our best (not the best we tell ourselves we're doing as a cop out, but our VERY best), we'll be okay. Elder Holland said in a talk entitled "For Times of Trouble":

"You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast. That’s another satanic suckerpunch—that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, “I’ll change”—and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend—indeed you had better spend—the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as for Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Even if you have serious amends to make, it is not likely that you would qualify for the term, “the vilest of sinners,” which is the phrase Mormon uses in describing these young men. Yet as Alma recounts his own experience in the thirty-sixth chapter of the book that bears his name, his repentance appears to have been as instantaneous as it was stunning.
Do not misunderstand. Repentance is not easy or painless or convenient. It is a bitter cup from Hell. But only Satan, who dwells there, would have you think that a necessary and required acknowledgment is more distasteful than permanent residence. Only he would say, “You can’t change. You won’t change. It’s too long and too hard to change. Give up. Give in. Don’t repent. You are just the way you are.” That, my friends, is a lie born of desperation. Don’t fall for it."

I love the second sentence of that quote. Repentance always seemed like this months and years-long process. But that isn't the case. As he said the reparations may take that time, but as far as repenting and changing goes, it can happen very fast. We just have to act and make it happen.

Lastly, I love the fact that we celebrate that He LIVES! The most amazing thing is that on that Easter morning, the tomb was empty. Christ lives! He loves us!

So, on this Easter as you are pondering the unspeakable gift of the Atonement, as it has been called, perhaps today is a great day to make a change(s) and repent and take advantage of this miraculous gift and opportunity.

Smally Victory

There's this girl. I've known her now for almost a year. In the time I've known her, I've rarely seen her smile, and when I've greeted her in the past I got this kind of blank stare or half smile, but it was never sincere and she NEVER seemed happy that I was around. Now, many many months later, I saw her the other day and as I always do I smiled at her. And she smiled back!! This is a HUGE breakthrough! Seriously though, where the heck has that been? Who cares?!? Victory is victory. Maybe I'm not such a bad person after all. :)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The First 100

As I'm SURE you know by now I have a goal to walk 500 miles this year! On March 8th (or 7th, I can't remember exactly) I made it through the first 100!! See all the x's on my little chart!!

And this is a picture of my happy face after completing 100 miles (though not "right" after - I promise I don't look ANYTHING like this after I finish working out!)
I figured I had better acknowledge this accomplishment before I do my March recap!

Friday, March 29, 2013

BBQ Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Several weeks ago my brother and sister in law and the kids came to spend the day with us. RJ suggested that we make dinner that night for everyone. We had both seen on Pinterest people making Jalapeno Popper Sandwiches and they looked SOOOO good! So that's exactly what we did!
A couple of weeks later, I was craving the deliciousness that is this sandwich! We also had leftover pulled pork BBQ (seriously, my dad make the BEST BBQ ever!!) and I wanted that too, but I couldn't decide, so I came to the ONLY logical conclusion...BOTH!
I didn't follow the original recipe for the Jalapeno Popper portion of the sandwich, but I will let you in on what I did for this one!
Take two slices of your favorite bread, or a bun, or whatever medium you prefer to use. I am pretty sure I used an Orowheat Thin Sliced Bun (I think I just made that name up!), toasted. I put 1/2 tablespoon of cream cheese on each slice of bun. I then added two jalapenos that had been cooked until very soft (yes, they were also cleaned out to remove some of the spice), one on each side. Then I put in the BBQ. Put both slices together and YUMM-O! I'll definitely be doing this one again!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I've been trying a lot of new recipes lately - healthy recipes - and have found some REALLY delicious ones. My parents have been troopers about trying some of these creations. And quite frankly, I've been nervous about some of them.
This one in particular caused a lot of angst. I am NOT a fan of cauliflower. I don't like it's color, I don't like it's texture, and I most certainly do NOT like it's flavor! So why, you may ask, did I feel like I even wanted to try this? In all honesty...I have NO idea! But I'm so glad I did!
Here's the skinny on this! This is Paula Deen's recipe (surprise!! NO BUTTER!!):

Non-stick spray
2 ½ cups grated cauliflower (about ½ a large head)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup homemade or store bought tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup basil leaves, for garnish

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Grate the cauliflower using a box grater until you have 2 cups of cauliflower crumbles. Place in a large bowl and microwave for 7-8 minutes, or until soften. Remove and let cool. Mix in the egg, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Once combined, pat into a 10-inch round on the prepared pizza pan. Spray lightly with non-stick spray and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.
Top the pizza with the sauce, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bake in the oven until melted and bubbly, another 10 minutes. Top with basil before serving.

As you'll see I didn't follow her recipe for toppings exactly, but it was just as good, if not better! I also recently discovered the wonder that is turkey pepperoni! Delicious!! I put that on this pizza as well! If you're feeling a little adventurous and looking for a variation to standard pizza, give this one a whirl.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happy Space

Yesterday I had to be at work at 6 AM. In the past that has meant that I get to work an 11 hour day. Under my new boss, though, that means I get to leave around 3 or 3:30. So I came home, we ate dinner at an unheard of time - 5:30 - and then I was ready to work out around 6 or 6:30 (not 7:30 or 8 as usual).
I went into the den. This used to be my office space when I worked at home, but is truly an everything room. This space doesn't look like much, but this is where I spend so much time lately. This spot is where I walk! It usually gets its only light from the fixture in the ceiling, but because I was home so early yesterday, the light was pouring in that window! I worked out for an extra half an hour, just because it felt so good to be in the sunshine! This makes me SOOO happy!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A New Day

I see a trend happening in my life. I have been dealing with a lot of things over the last several months, and when I really take a step back and look at the BIG picture, what I’ve dealt/am dealing with really aren’t as big of a deal as I make them out to be. I also realize that in comparison to others trials, what I’ve got is minimal, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important, because they truly are. Each person is given their own trials. They are not to be minimized. We each have the opportunity to learn, grow and be blessed by our trials, though some seem more “blessed” than others. 

I have never been diagnosed with “depression” (okay, so I’ve never talked to a doctor about it because I feel that “it’s not that bad” and “I can deal with it”, also I don’t want to end up with a pill-pushing doctor if I can deal with this on my own or through other means), though I certainly see those tendencies in myself, and more so over the last year or so as so much in my life has changed. It would seem I don’t tolerate change as well as I used to (whatever that means). When I feel depressed, those are the thoughts that monopolize my mind, and as I’ve written, I feel that those are more of the thoughts that are shared than the joy and happiness I know I feel, though it may not be the feeling of the moment.  

With that in mind, I’m going to try to transition/improve the mood of my blog. Less down days, more uplifting thoughts. Less “self-defeating” (not quite the phrase I’m looking for, but it will work for now), more positive reinforcement. Regardless of the moment by moment events of my days and weeks, whether good or bad, I have an AMAZING life! I have been blessed beyond my comprehension and directed in all the areas of my life. The decisions I have made have been in an attempt to follow the Savior and to live righteously and I know in my heart that each piece, though individually may not look like much, is part of the big puzzle that is my life. I’m reminded of a poem I memorized after listening to a talk by John Bytheway. Offhand I don’t remember the author he cited, but it goes like this. 

My life is but a weaving between my God and me,
I do not choose the colors, he worketh steadily
Oft times He weaveth sorrow, and I, in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.
Not ‘til the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reasons why.
The dark threads are as needful in the skillful weaver’s hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned. 

So, here is to a brand new day, a new outlook, a new love and appreciation for the things I’ve been given and the lessons I’ve learned. I guess it’s safe to say that had I not experienced the things (good and bad) that I have in my life to this point, I wouldn’t have come to these same conclusions, or at least not at this time. In the words of Josh Groban, “There’s so much to be grateful for”.

The Lord is my Light - Part 2

Last night as I was reading in the Book of Mormon, I read the following verse:

2 Nephi 22:2 (With all those 2s it should be easy enough to remember!): Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation.

Ring any bells? I think someone is trying to send me a message. I can trust Him. He is my strength, my song, and my salvation!

Today is going to be a GREAT day!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Lord is My Light

There is a vicious cycle happening in my life. Tuesdays through Saturdays are great days. Sure, there are ups and downs, but overall they are also good days and I feel good. And then it's Sunday. Sunday’s are really interesting days. They are busy and I feel good because I get to go to church and I always come away feeling uplifted (and usually exhausted, but it’s all good). Sunday afternoons I end up spending way too much alone time in my head. I think of the way things used to be, I think of the things I’m doing and not doing with my life, what I’ve accomplished and not accomplished, I look at what I feel like I’m missing and what I’ve “given up” and I see myself going into this “pit” of emotional woe. I see it happening and I try to put a stop to it. Relief either comes from taking a nap, cooking (seriously, it’s therapeutic to me), or from getting outside or going to visit someone. Sometimes I’m not quick enough, or I slip so silently into this other realm that it makes it really difficult to come back. It’s a very dark place for me and I don’t like to be there. If I do go there, Monday’s are harder than they should be.

Today started out as one of those Mondays, and the sad thing is that Sunday was really quite great. I felt myself slipping and I took action and tried to steer myself away. And I thought I had done pretty well…and then I woke up. I’m working day by day, week by week, to put an end to these feelings. These dark feelings have no place in my life, not now, not ever! Dark and light cannot exist in the same place at the same time! 

Each time I do struggle with these feelings though, I spend a lot of time praying which is a good thing (I could be doing who know what, right??). My prayers during these times are usually quite simple. I state what I know: that Heavenly Father knows me, that I love Him and that I really do trust Him (despite the worry I cause myself…I’m a work in progress), and that I know that He loves me and He has a plan for my life. I ask for help: simple peace and comfort, a calming of my mind and spirit. Every single time He answers me. He answers ME! Sometimes he sends something to make me smile and lift my spirits. Some days it’s a friend with encouraging words. Sometimes it’s the lyrics to a song. It can be a million things, but it always answers my plea. It doesn’t always come right away, but it always comes! 

Today it was multiple things. It was a phone call from my dear friend, Shelly, who I’m travelling to see next week. She always knows what to say to lift me up. 20 minutes after that it was an email from my missionary friend, Kadi, who informed me she is allowed to email now. She wrote EXACTLY what I needed to hear (seriously it was as if I had written all the troubles I had and she was responding). It was what I knew all along; it was Heavenly Father’s way of reminding me He’s still in charge. And then it was me walking back to my office after lunch, enjoying the sunshine (despite the arctic type wind that has decided to descend on southeast Georgia) and the words to the hymn “The Lord is my Light” popped in my head and I had to sing. I just kept singing over and over “The Lord is my Light, my all and in all. There is in his sight no darkness at all.” I needed that! The Lord is my Light. It is through Him I am able to do all things. I may have these dark moments, but they don’t define me and they don’t trap me (at least not like they used to). So please don’t mind me if you catch me singing. More than likely there is sunshine in my soul coming out in song. 

1. The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?
By day and by night his presence is near.
He is my salvation from sorrow and sin;
This blessed assurance the Spirit doth bring. 

The Lord is my light;
He is my joy and my song.
By day and by night he leads,
He leads me along. 

2. The Lord is my light; tho clouds may arise,
Faith, stronger than sight, looks up thru the skies
Where Jesus forever in glory doth reign.
Then how can I ever in darkness remain?

3. The Lord is my light, the Lord is my strength.
I know in his might I’ll conquer at length
My weakness in mercy he covers with pow’r,
And, walking by faith, I am blest ev’ry hour. 

4. The Lord is my light, my all and in all.
There is in his sight no darkness at all.
He is my Redeemer, my Savior, and King.
With Saints and with angels his praises I’ll sing.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

100 Miles

I reached a fairly impressive milestone yesterday. I completed 100 miles out of my 500 mile goal for 2013. I'm REALLY excited about this!! I'm really feeling like I can totally do this, and for that matter - anything!!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Popcorn Popping

In my ward, I'm currently the Primary Music Leader. It is such a fun calling. It is also a very exhausting calling! There are days when the kids are so rowdy and hyper I feel like nothing is getting through, especially with the little ones.
The first Sunday in Primary this year, I taught the sunbeams "I Am a Child of God". One of the moms took a video later that week of her little 3 year old singing that in the car. And I cannot tell a made me happy.
We recently sang Popcorn Popping and it's a new favorite, especially for the little ones (let's face it, it gets old for the older children).
I try to make it to the church to practice the organ every Wednesday night since it is the only time besides Sunday mornings that I have access to the organ. Occasionally one of my favorite little people will come and want to sing with me. Last night was really a treat. This little one "learned" to play the organ and was singing her rendition of Popcorn Popping!! She is too cute!! I give her a few years and she can replace me on Sundays. :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Living Righteously

Last night my reading in the Book of Mormon brought me to 2 Nephi 9. You know how when you read the scriptures you “find” a new verse(s), when in reality you’ve likely read it dozens of times? That was the experience I had last night. There were a few verses that really touched me and brought me great peace, hope, and motivation.
14: Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness.
18: But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.
39: O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.
49: Behold, my soul abhorreth sin, and my heart delighteth in righteousness; and I will praise the holy name of my God.
These verses also reminded me of a quote from Carlos Asay which says: “There is a dangerous error circulating among some Latter-day Saints, taking its toll among the young. It is that a “balanced man” or woman is one who deliberately guards against becoming too righteous. This misconception would have you believe that it is possible to live successfully and happily as a “double minded [person]” (see James 1:8).” (“It Might Have Been”, Nov 14, 1995, Carlos E. Asay)
I have needed these reminders. As I move forward and continue to make improvements in my life, I hear the voices of some friends (perhaps they’re not true friends) and associates saying that I’m trying too hard, that I don’t have to try to be “that good”. But I do. I want to be at a place in my life where my soul abhorreth sin…ALL sin. It’s easy to see certain things as sins. There are times where you do something and know immediately it is wrong, or you remember the list of the “Thou shalt nots”, but what about the less noticeable sins, the ones no one else sees? I want to move beyond all of that. I want to live my life so that when I move to the next life and I stand before my Savior, I want to be clean so I can have a perfect knowledge of my enjoyment and righteousness.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Beautiful Day

I was FINALLY able to reschedule my vacation from January. I will be going to Utah for General Conference!! Not only do I get to see some of my dearest friends, I get to go to conference (hello..another item off the bucket list!!). I'm so excited!

I saw something today on the way to church that made me COMPLETELY giddy! As we were driving, there were snow flurries!! Yes, S-N-O-W! Okay, so it turned right to water the second it hit the car, but I still saw snow. I have been asking for that for weeks and I got it, and the best part of clean up!

Church was AMAZING today. Testimony meetings are always wonderful and today was no exception! I felt the spirit so strongly. Much of the sentiment was about the stake's temple day on the 19th. I had such a great time - it felt just like heaven. It was so wonderful to see people we knew at every turn. One gentleman shared the experience he had as he found his recommend had expired and he was unable to go in to the temple and had to sit in the lobby while his wife went in. I can't imagine a worse feeling. It was a great parallel of how terribly sad it would be when we leave this life and find that some we love won't be permitted to enter His presence. No thanks! I want to be there - I am going to do EVERYTHING in my power to live righteously. I want my family - present and future - to be there. I want my friends to be there. I want ALL of us to be there (is that too much to ask?)!

I don't always get to go to Sunday School. Sometimes I am a substitute for Primary. Some days I'm getting ready for singing time. But then there are times where I get to go. Today I got to step in for about 15 minutes. We have one of the best Gospel Doctrine teachers I've ever heard. Though I don't believe it went with the lesson exactly (you know how conversations stray a little bit), he said something that I just loved. My favorite quote of the day: "Any priesthood holder isn't worth a grain of salt if he doesn't put his wife on a pedestal and love her as the daughter of a king." All I have to say is, Amen! Thank you Brother McCullers! I must REMEMBER that (it goes both ways, you know?).

One last thing to note today. You know how sometimes you wake up and find a stray cat or dog, or a deer, or something on your property? Well, for the first time in my experience, we woke up to two horses. Mom fed them some breakfast and then they were off. Even though being close to horses (especially horses I don't know) makes me nervous (or downright scared...whatever), I went out and took pictures of them. One day I'll even take them off my camera. :)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Surprise Ending

I had my first taste of chocolate yesterday evening, a piece of cake. Well, it was really a sliver of cake, only two bites. What did I learn from two bites? I missed the flavor of chocolate, but within 10 minutes I had a headache and felt sick to my stomach! So, chocolate and I will not be close friends again, just infrequent acquaintances. Bring back the fruit!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

2013 - February Recap

How about it? March is here bringing with it a very successful February! Let’s recap the success of my goals!!

Read the standard works cover to cover: According to my handy little chart, I needed to read through 1 Samuel 21, and that's exactly what I did!
Walk 500 miles: February was a little slow in the walking department. There were a couple of long days (in to work before the sun came up and not home until way after the sun went down – VERY LONG days!!), a trip to Orlando and that little thing where my knee wouldn’t let me walk at all and I learned how to limp along. Luckily, it seems to be getting better and hopefully March will be a powerful month. The good news is, I was able to make it 30 miles this month!
Go a month without chocolate: This was a surprisingly fun challenge. I made it all 28 days without eating chocolate (though I still feel a little guilty about the chocolate covered strawberry incident from a few days ago). I learned some interesting things about myself.

1.       On a regular day, I don’t actually “crave” chocolate. I eat it just because I can.

2.       When I do crave chocolate, I am usually tired or stressed. I really only missed chocolate this month when I had those really long days at the office and there was no chocolate.

3.       I learned that I have been a weak person when it came to chocolate. You see, in my office in the cabinets behind my desk, we have a candy drawer (see, it looks tempting, doesn't it??). The folks I work with expect me to keep it stocked (this isn't up to par). This has been the hardest part of this whole month. It used to be a habit to eat chocolate. Basically if everyone else were eating it, I was going to partake as well. This month proved that I don’t need it (surprise, surprise), and in fact, most of the time I don’t even WANT it. And the coolest part of all was that when I filled up the drawer this week, the overwhelming smell of sugar and chocolate made me gag.

So, I get to cross that off the bucket list. I proved to myself that I could do it! I haven't quite decided on March's goal just yet, but it'll be a good one, wait and see.