Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just WOW

Saw this on a friend's facebook page. (Thanks for posting, Mrs. Debbie!) Had to share. . .

Rhema Marvanne sings Amazing Grace. Warms my heart and gives me chills all at the same time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Good List 7-28-10

10. The way Joseph Gordon Levitt dresses in Inception.
9. Bananagrams. Super fun, silly game.
8. Vermont weather! The highs have been in the low 80s for most of the last couple weeks with these amazing mountain breezes flowing through the trees. So awesome!
7. Suave Rosemary Mint shampoo and conditioner. Smells just like an Aveda spa for the bargain price of $1.29/bottle. Very refreshing.
6. Our new neighbors, Licorice and Oreo (see photos :-D)
5. Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers. What a heartbreaking, yet beautifully redemptive story.
4. Date Night with my baby. Few and far between, but always worth the wait.
3. Vocation Bible School. (And no, that's not a typo.) We do it a little differently at our church, and I love it! We offer a list of workshops that children (and adults, actually) can attend to learn some new skills as well as hearing about Jesus. It's been a fantastic week!
2. The looooooooong talks I get to have with Macy and Grace while we do jigsaw puzzles together. (They have no idea this is one of the main reasons I love doing them so much.)
1. The reservations Jared and I just made to attend Gospel Coalition 2011. I'm already excited!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

So I Have This Friend. . .

. . .Her name is Rachel McRae. She is far more awesome and amazing than I'm sure she has ever even briefly considered. This is not because she has low self-esteem or anything like that. It is simply because she spends far more time considering others than she does herself. Whatever is the opposite of self-absorbed, this is the definition of Rachel McRae.

I'm guessing she may not even recall everything I will mention here, and I'm certain she doesn't realize how much she has affected me over the years. But she is indeed one of the most precious, adorable, funny, giving, fabulous people I have ever known.

I recall the first time I met her a loooooooong time ago. She was working in a LifeWay store in Knoxville, TN. I was working in the LifeWay corporate office in Nashville, TN. A group from corporate was out on store visits, and we stopped in her store. It was one of the oldest, and (pardon me) ugliest buildings in our entire chain, and yet Rachel (who had every reason to complain and be frustrated by her store's desperate need for a facelift or relocation) somehow along with the rest of the team in her store had it looking absolutely fantastic. No complaints. They just got the job done. I remember the corporate team getting back into the vehicle and having stunned conversation about what that store's staff had been able to accomplish with the less than mediocre building they inhabited at the time. (Fortunately it has since been relocated.)

That was my first impression of Rachel. Needless to say, it was excellent. But it was just the beginning. She was eventually promoted to the corporate office (I mean, DUH--if she could make THAT store THAT good, what could she do for the REST of the chain, RIGHT?!?) After she moved to Nashville, I had much more opportunity to get to know her better, and this is what I learned. Rachel is excellent at her job. Excellent. One of the hardest workers I know. But even more important and more impressive than that--Rachel truly loves people well. She listens. She learns. She remembers. She gives. She encourages. She KNOWS people, because she CHOOSES to, and then she LOVES them in the way she knows they enjoy receiving love. It is something she has been good at since the moment I met her, and she has mastered it over the years.

My recent reminder of all of this came in the form of a book she sent me in the mail. Seems so simple, but this is what makes it profound (at least to me)-- Rachel and I had a conversation YEARS ago about the book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I shared with her how much I enjoyed the book and what a beautiful and significant impact it had on my life. Since then, she has remembered that. So when Francine Rivers wrote her most recent book just a few months before I resigned my position at LifeWay, Rachel happily shared it with me. (It was FABULOUS, btw--Her Mother's Hope. I highly recommend it.) Unfortunately, Francine decided that the story needed to be long enough for 2 books, so the second book would not be published until after I resigned and moved away. BUT guess what-- My awesome friend Rachel sent me a copy. She suuuuuuuuure didn't have to do that. But she's awesome, so she wanted to. This is just one of many reasons she is so amazing to me. Not because she sent me a book. Because she remembered why I would love the book so much.

NASHVILLE peeps--if you agree with me and you can reach Rachel, please give her a GIANT hug for me! If you don't agree with me about her, there is something wrong with you. It's probably serious. Get some help.

Love you, Rachel!!! And THANK YOU!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Good List 7-21-10

10. Blue nail polish. Not sure why, but it always makes me happy when my toenails are painted blue.
9. The smell of freshly cut wood.
8. Blueberry-Cranberry juice. It's so delicious it feels like a huge indulgence, but it's sooo good for you.
7. The crazy thunderstorm that's swirling around me right now. Oddly soothing and relaxing.
6. New friends who feel like the best kind of old friends.
5. The sound of old church bells ringing.
4. My friend Rachel McRae who is so awesome she deserves her very own blog post, which will be coming soon.
3. The following sentence I found spelled out on my fridge today in magnet letters: "My sister is funny."
2. The plane tickets my sister Jody and I just booked for her WHOLE family to come spend a WHOLE week with us in October. Awesome.
1. Every single prodigal story that ends in reconciliation. Gorgeous.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Best Banana Bread Evuh!

I have a confession. I have never cared much for banana bread. Weird, right? I mean, it's not like I thought it was disgusting or anything like that. Just didn't seem worth the calories to me. However, in my new chapter of life, I consider it a personal failure to waste food. :-D I have more time to manage all of this stuff, so I should be on top of it, right? SO when I noticed some bananas looking a little less than perfect for raw consumption, I was determined to find a way to make a recipe I would enjoy. I've been experimenting a lot lately with baking with fat free sour cream (to add moisture without tons of fat) and sugar free vanilla pudding mix (to brighten up flavor with almost zero additional calories or fat.) I can get away with less oil and butter this way, but still end up with something I'm proud to serve. SO--with that in mind, here is the recipe I ended up with, and I must say--it is DELECTABLE! Super moist and full of flavor. And this recipe has only 236 calories and 5 grams of fat, but also 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per serving. (One serving equals 1/8 of a "regular" loaf or 1/4 of a mini loaf.) You could probably reduce the fat and calories further by replacing 2 of the eggs with 3 egg whites, but I haven't tried that yet, so didn't want to post it until I tried it. Here you go: Enjoy!

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Mix oil, eggs, sour cream and mashed bananas.
  3. Combine remaining ingredients and add to banana mixture.
  4. Grease and flour pans (either 2- 9x5x3 inch pans or 4 mini loaf pans) and place on baking sheet.
  5. Bake 45 minutes for mini loaves or 1 hour for regular loaves (or until bread tests done.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Good List 7-14-10

***in no particular order

10. The way Rob Thomas sings like his life depends on it. I love that.
9. The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. This is where hot wings were INVENTED!
8. The rest stops along I-90 in upstate NY. These are not your typical toilet and vending machine facilities.
7. Centrifugal force. Think it over. It's pretty fun.
6. The "bulk" section of our local grocery store where you can buy all sorts of yummy, healthy treats for very reasonable prices. Like roasted almonds for $2.99/lb and banana crisps (not to be confused with banana chips--the crisps are actually yummier) for $1.99/lb. Awesome.
5. The fact that Macy and Grace are GREAT at long road trips. (The trek between Nashville and Houston trained them well.)
4. Niagara Falls. So glad I got to experience it with almost my WHOLE family.
3. Being married to someone who loves to make me laugh.
2. Seeing 2 EXCELLENT family movies this summer--Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me.
1. The fact that Macy and Grace enjoy listening to
good music when we're all in the car together.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Great Adventures and the New Normal

Last Tuesday, Jared and I loaded up the girls and took a road trip to Niagara Falls where we met my oldest sister and her family (who were about 3 days into a drive/camping adventure from Houston, TX all the way to our house in Vermont and then back a different way.) FUN! PLUS we also picked up Grandmom and Granddad (my Mom and Dad) at the airport in Buffalo so that they could enjoy Niagara Falls and then ride back home to Vermont with us for a few days. It was a spectacular adventure! Everyone LOVED Niagara Falls and had such a great time enjoying the views and the fresh weather (which they are certainly not accustomed to down in Texas.) Our time there was absolutely perfect--brilliant weather, light crowds, and lots of hugs and laughing. Awesome.

Then we all came back to Vermont together for even more adventures. This was the first visit for my oldest sister and her family, which includes my 20-year-old nephew, almost 17-year-old niece, and 8-year-old niece. I'm pretty sure they had as much fun exploring my old house and the big barn in our back yard as they did enjoying any of our other adventures. They investigated the cellar, including finding their way into a garage that has been sealed up for decades from the outside (my Dad was just SURE they would find an old classic car in there that someone had forgotten about ;-). Then they wandered through the attic, fascinated with all of the old books and pictures and furniture. THEN they set out for the barn, which almost made their heads explode. Josh saw an old sharpening stone--the wheel kind with a manual crank--and some other old tools, but I think their favorite part was the "basement" part of the barn, which for some reason just screamed mystery to them. It was pretty fun watching them experience our new world. Leah (my 17-year-old niece) said at least 5 times, "If I lived here, I would never be bored." Awesome. Also, I'm pretty sure they love our waterfall almost as much as I do. :-D

The house is now empty again. Mom and Dad flew back to Houston, and the Maywalds have continued their camping adventure back toward Texas. I miss them. I love having my family around. But I don't grieve "going back to normal" like I used to. It used to mean going back to work, feeling rushed all the time, only seeing my kids and husband a few hours a day (on good days), etc. Now it means spending all day with my kids, cooking and baking for my family, loving on my friends, spending time in prayer, planning adventures for my family, actually having time to do my chores every day, and even fitting in some reading and hobbies. This is my new normal, and I LOVE it!