Friday, July 25, 2014

Flowers Fade Friday: Jesus IS Calling

I've seen it happen so many times before... women desperate to meet with God daily. Women whose Bibles sit dusty on the nightstand while they slosh through the daily busyness that makes up all of life... college classes, a full-time job, dinners to make, diapers to change, financial burdens, home repairs. And yet a voice at the back of their minds says, "You need me. Meet with me. Find me first, before you face the challenges of this day."

And these women are not unfaithful. They hear the voice of the Spirit and they try to figure out a solution to their lack of intimacy with the Lord. This often comes out in the form of a question. A question I've been asked many times before, "What should I read? Do you have a good devotional you would recommend?"

And the answer is... no, I don't. I don't think there is any devotional or theological book in the world that I would recommend to you.

And here's why. If you haven't made room in your life to read the Bible every single day, then you are wasting your time with books and devotionals. Devotionals are good, but they are not the best. And I sincerely, desperately want you to have the best.

I want you to have the living words of the Living God.

I see these devotionals all the time on Instagram and Facebook. Jesus Calling has been the trendy devotional for women for a few years now. And I have nothing against Jesus Calling. I know it's theologically sound and very encouraging. But here's the thing... it's not the Bible. There is truth in it, but it's not infallible. It's encouraging, but it's not guaranteed to change your life. It might convict you, but it doesn't directly command you how to live a godly life. It might remind you of God's goodness, but it doesn't show you His exact promises etched in ink waiting to be fulfilled.

Only the Bible is infallible. It was written by God. The Bible is alive, and it's active like yeast in dough when it gets into our hearts. God promises that when we read His Word, He will change us from the inside out. We don't have to wonder and stress about discerning God's commands, because when we open Scripture they are spelled out on the page. We don't have to battle hopelessness and doubt, because when we open the Word we can see God's character and read the promises He makes for us... promises that He is working for the good of those who love Him always and forever.

Maybe your devotional book begins with a verse each day. And that verse is precious. If I were given the choice between a verse and nothing, I'd choose the verse every day of my life. But why settle for a drop of water, when there is a whole well of Living Water to quench your thirsty mouth?

My friend, Jesus IS calling you. Every day He is beckoning you to come to His Word, to open the pages, and drink deeply the waters of hope, encouragement, grace, and truth found there. Why should a verse satisfy when you can read a whole chapter? Why should a devotional suffice when you have thousands of pages written for you by a God who loves you so very much?

Don't throw away your devotionals by any means; they too are a gift. They are God's grace to you. God has likely called the authors of your favorite books to write hopeful and truthful words to glorify His name. But don't go there first. Don't put your trust in words written by mere men and women. And certainly don't build your life or start your day on a devotional. Turn first to the Bible... cherish it, love it, study it, memorize it, and obey it. Jesus is calling you... and on His pages He will show you His infinite love, grace, and wisdom, and change you and mold you in the process. Can you hear Him?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Four Years

In past years, when Micah and I celebrated our anniversary, I would write these thoughtful posts on marriage. Those days were good. But these days are better. These days I have no time for thoughtful posts. I just have a smiley, chubby baby, a home to manage, and a husband to love. I have diapers to change, meals to plan, and a full load of schoolwork that I juggle each day. And Micah is there through it all. He provides for our family, plays with our daughter, and tries to lighten my load as often as he can. We laugh, we fight, we sneak in date nights when we can. The days aren't glamorous, but they are glorious. This marriage is the best evidence we have to show the world God's glory - to show a love the persists in the mundane, in the messy, in the silly, in the serene. A love that fights, forgives, perseveres, and serves. I'm thankful for four years in the books and eager to see God's goodness and glory in the years to come.

My blue top: LOFT Striped Henley Shell {sold out online, but on sale in stores}
My red dress: Old Navy
Hotel recommendation: Hotel Valley Ho

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Worth It: Summer Dresses

Back in May temperatures were rising quickly in Phoenix and I found myself in a bit of a fashion fix. Since I was hugely pregnant last summer, I didn't refresh my summer wardrobe at all, unless you count picking up a few more Old Navy maternity tanks. {If you are expecting, these are a must.} And truth be told, I haven't really bought new summer staples since our first summer here FOUR years ago! Needless to say I was in desperate need of new summer dresses and tanks. Keep in mind that "summer" lasts a solid six months here, so everything I had in my closet was boring me to death, completely worn out, or both. It was time for an upgrade, so I went on a major online shopping kick one night. I stayed up until midnight perusing all my favorite stores online and using discount codes left and right. I bought way too much, returned half of it, and now I can happily say my wardrobe got the update it needed. I can now make it through the next few months looking fashionable as I sweat. Here are the dresses that made the cut when all the packages arrived at my door...

 {P.S. Those LOFT dresses are actually 40% off! Linking up with The Pleated Poppy.}

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1000 Miles

A couple of weeks ago Micah and I got the crazy idea to do a road trip with our nine month old baby. It actually happened on accident. We had planned to take a weekend trip to Las Vegas at the end of June to visit my grandma, Zianne's namesake. A couple days before we were scheduled to leave Micah remembered that he had Thursday, July 3rd off from work the following week, giving him a lovely, long four day holiday weekend. We began brainstorming how we could spend our extended 4th of July weekend and soon the word "California" was bouncing around our conversation, which is always our #1 destination if we need a quick getaway. For Micah, California means surfing and for me it means time with girlfriends, and we both like to go there as often as we can. But then it seemed silly to drive all the way to Las Vegas one weekend and then all the way to Cali the next. It didn't seem worth it in time or gas until we thought, "What if we just made it one big trip?" And so we did.

Micah was able to work a half day on Wednesday, so that afternoon we headed across the desert to my grandma's house in Vegas. My dad was also visiting her at the time, so it was a fun little family gathering. The next day we took off to California and stayed with dear friends in Rancho Cucamonga for two nights, which included our 4th of July festivities. On Saturday, we all trekked out to the beach at San Clemente for the whole day, where another one of my girlfriends was able to meet up with us for lunch and sunbathing. That evening we headed down south and stayed the night in San Diego with friends, where we were greeted with homemade fish tacos upon arrival. On the way down the coast, we stopped at a few state parks to scope out camping spots on the beach. Micah is scheming a little yearly beach camping tradition in coming years and I'm fully on board.

Zianne did great on the whole trip. It was fun to bring her to visit friends and family, and it was her first time experiencing the ocean. She is such a flexible little traveler and actually did better in the car as the trip went on. Her few whines were easily appeased with Ritz crackers, although her formerly clean car seat will never be the same...

Before we left on this trip, we did the math and discovered our total journey would clock in just over 1,000 miles. We questioned our sanity for a second and then decided to go for it. As we drove that flat, sandy stretch of desert highway on our way back from San Diego on Sunday afternoon, we had smiles on our faces. As we chatted about  our whirlwind five day adventure, we decided it was totally fun and absolutely worth it. Best thousand miles I've traveled in a long time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

In the kitchen: Chicken dip

My first year of marriage, I was like a mad housewife trying out new recipes left and right. I like to cook, but I think I went overboard making these huge, hearty dinners most nights of the week. Eventually, Micah had to tell me to calm down in the kitchen a bit, because I was a) spending too much time there considering it was my first year of grad school and there was a lot on my plate {pun intended} and b) causing him to gain a few pounds with all my cheesy casseroles.

On one of these fanatic cooking nights, I was trying a new crock pot meal in which you slow cook chicken all day and serve it over rice or pasta for dinner. It's technically considered a chicken stroganoff. I came home from school to my perfectly cooked chicken making our whole apartment smell delicious, but in true Jen fashion, I had crammed too much into my day and didn't have enough time to cook the noodles before our community group meeting that evening. Micah came home from work and it was time to go. I stood there helpless and frustrated. The chicken smelled so good, but the meal was not complete. I wanted to cook the pasta and take it to go, even if it meant we were late, but Micah vetoed that idea. Instead, he said he would use tortillas chips we already had in our pantry and dip them into the chicken concoction for his dinner. I was horrified. I had cooked this amazing-smelling new recipe and now he was going to dip chips into it instead of eating it as it was supposed to be served. I think a few tears were shed, and I refused to eat chips for dinner. He took a big pile of the chicken dip and chips to go and I stubbornly decided I would eat mine with pasta a few hours later when we returned home.

When we arrived at community group, I stole a few bites of his dip to discover that it was, indeed, as delicious as it smelled, and that it also made a fantastic dip. Let's just say we've made this recipe so many times since that tearful newlywed night, and we've never once eaten it with pasta or rice. Micah was right all along, and I will forever humbly dip my chips into the chicken dip.

What you need:
2-3 large chicken breasts
1/8 cup butter
One packet dry Italian dressing mix
One can Cream of Chicken soup
1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)

What you do:
  • Put chicken and butter in crock pot. Sprinkle Italian dressing over top. 
  • Cook on low for approximately 5 hours on low or 3 hours on high. (Add an hour if chicken is frozen.)
  • About a half hour before serving, use two forks to shred all the chicken while it remains in crock pot. Add Cream of Chicken Soup and cream cheese, stirring until it's completely mixed in. Lower crock pot to "warm" setting or even turn it off, and let mixture heat throughout, approximately 20-30 minutes. 
  • Serve as a dip with tortillas chips.

This makes a great appetizer for a party, but we usually just inhale it as a meal. Micah had a friend over for dinner last week on short notice, and I was a little embarrassed that I was only serving chicken dip, but it had been in the crock pot all afternoon, so a menu change was not an option. I'm pleased to say Micah's guy friend went back for seconds and thirds. This dip is just that good.
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