Tasty Tuesday

Today is all about two of my favorite ‘S’ words: smoothies and salmon!

With two jobs, school, and Bible study two nights a week I have a lot of appreciation for easy, yet delicious recipes.  My husband and I are three months into our marriage and until this past weekend still have had yet to use the blender my mother gifted to us at my bridal shower.  I was so excited when I got it, because it was the same Ninja that my parents have at their home so I knew exactly how easy yet effective it was to use.  So after months of collecting dust on our shelf, I finally took it down and decided to try some smoothie recipes I had found on Pinterest.

I knew that making homemade healthy smoothies would mean they wouldn’t taste like Jamba Juice, but I was still very disappointed after my first smoothie making attempt.  The second day I did a little better, but it wasn’t today until I decided to try to make my own recipe on the spot and hope for better results than the past two attempts.  I was so happy with the results that I actually felt myself break out into a huge smile.

This recipe isn’t anything special, but I figured if I posted it I would never lose it, and also it might help anyone who is new to the art of the smoothie like I am.  The measurements I used were for one serving.

Breakfast Smoothie: (I couldn’t think of a more creative name on the spot)

  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 2% since it’s all I had, but any kind would do)
  • 1 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 of a fresh banana
  • 1 handful frozen strawberries
  • 1 handful frozen pineapple
  • Chia Seed (however much you like)

Since I used frozen fruit, I didn’t feel the need to add ice cubes, but feel free to add ice or anything else to achieve the desired consistency.

Finding a smoothie I really like is a big deal to me because I am one of those people who have fallen into the horrible habit of skipping breakfast on a daily basis.  I don’t have enough time in the morning to make myself much of anything, and I typically don’t even feel hungry in the mornings.  However, as soon as I sit at my desk at work I instantly regret skipping the most important meal of the day.

In addition to a quick breakfast, I also appreciate a quick dinner recipe.  My favorite at the moment (and my husband’s favorite as well) as a quick salmon recipe.  This particular recipe only calls for two seasonings and takes no longer than 25 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • salmon fillets (2-4 depending on how many people you are feeding)
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  While the oven is preheating, place the salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle the chili powder and salt evenly over the meat side of the salmon (if you prefer skinless salmon as I do, simply sprinkle over whichever side is facing up).
  2. Once oven is preheated, bake the salmon for 20 minutes.
  3. Once salmon is finished, place a few paper towels on a plate and transfer the salmon from the baking sheet on top of the paper towels to remove any extra oil.
  4. Serve with a side of choice.

As with the smoothie recipe, experienced cooks who are used to dealing with salmon probably wouldn’t even glance at this recipe.  However, for someone like myself who doesn’t have a lot of cooking experience or a lot of time to make gourmet meals, this recipe is perfect.  Also, it tastes absolutely amazing.  When I’m in a hurry I usually make frozen veggies to go with it, but it goes well with almost any side!

This is my first “Tasty Tuesday” post, but as I continue to come across or come up with quick and yummy recipes, I will definitely be sharing them.  Enjoy!

-SM

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You Are Enough

Dear Son/Daughter,

You are enough.

Plain and simple.

We live in a world that wants you to feel worthless.  Our society will constantly tell you that if you reach a little bit further or try a little harder you might finally reach the illusion of perfection.

Please believe me when I tell you that perfection is not something that can be attained.  We are imperfect people living in an flawed world.  But also believe me when I tell you that life does not have to be flawless to be wonderful.

If you are female you are constantly being fed the lies that you are not pretty enough, not feminine enough, not thin enough, not tall enough.  If you are male you are being told that you are not masculine enough, not tough enough, not strong enough.  Regardless of who you are you will be told that you are not smart enough, not cool enough, not outgoing enough.

You will be told that you are not enough.

One of my biggest fears is that you will believe these vile, loathsome lies.  However, I know that everyone will feel that they are not enough at some point.  It’s inevitable, and it absolutely breaks my heart to know that there will come a time when you will start to believe that you are less than enough.

You are enough. You are more than enough.  I want to speak this truth into your veins so that it flows throughout your being and is as real to you as the air that you breathe.

You are so worth loving simply because you exist.  You are beautiful because you are you.  There is no one else like you, and there never will be.  You can spend your whole life chasing after a perfect image that you will never reach.  Some people waste their days away trying to be something that they are told they should be but they never will be.  That kind of life can drive you mad.

The truth is that there are days when I feel that I’m not enough.  And there will be days when you feel that way too.  On those days we have two options.   We can choose to give in to society’s demands and make ourselves miserable trying to be something we simply were not made to be, or we can choose joy.

I hope you remember that nothing is worth it if you are not happy.

I hope you choose joy.

I hope you know that you are enough.  Because you will always be enough for me.

-SM

I’m Not Ready

Tomorrow I get to marry my best friend. Tomorrow a new chapter will begin to unfold. Tomorrow I will get a new last name. Tomorrow everything changes.

This year-long engagement has been a a blessed one, a journey that the two of us will always look back on with nothing but smiles. The question we have been getting the most lately is “are you ready?”. We know that when they ask this they are asking about whether our favors are done, his tux is picked up, etc. We smile and nod and tell them everything they want to hear.

But you know what the truth is?
We aren’t ready. Not even close.

Marriage isn’t something that you just gear up for. Marriage isn’t about one day, it’s about a lifetime. You can do all the premarital counseling and read all the books in the world, but you still will never be ready. One moment you’re cutting cake and dancing with your friends and family, and the next you find yourselves alone in a new home asking yourself what you’re supposed to do now.

As strange as it sounds, that “what now” moment is probably what I’m most excited for. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. There will be ups and downs, good days and bad days. But the beauty of it is that you get to embark on this imperfect journey together. This man I’m marrying is God’s provision for me. How special is that? Probably one of the most wonderful gifts there is. Today’s society sets so many standards for the “perfect marriage” and tells us that if we aren’t happy we probably married the wrong person. Society tells us that divorce is an easy fix. Society is wrong.

There will be arguments and disappointment, but from that will come learning and growth. Of course I’m not ready to be married. How can I ever be ready for something I haven’t experienced? That being said, what I am ready for is to see God’s plan for us start to unfold one day at a time. Our prayer for our marriage is that we always remember to keep God at the center of it, and that others will be able to see His love in us.

I’m excited,nervous, anxious, and overjoyed all at once. The one thing I’m not is ready. The cool thing about that is that it means I still have so much to learn, and tomorrow I get to start learning with my best friend. Knowing that is what will make tomorrow the best day of my life.

A Letter to You

I’ve been thinking about you lately.

To be honest, I’m always thinking about you. You may be tucked away in the back of my mind, but there are always things that show up in every day life that act as if their sole to remind me that you are there.

I don’t believe in death the way it is defined. It took me a while to realize what it means to truly die. Just because your body is gone, doesn’t mean that you have to be. As long as people continue to remember you, then your spirit is still alive.

I know that you are still here with me. You are the ray of light emerging from the clouds for just a moment on a cloudy day. You are the smile from a stranger, the breeze that whispers around me.

The day that God took you home I didn’t cry. We were coming to see you one last time, but we were too late. You knew we were there though. I know you did.

I didn’t cry the next day, or the day after that. I felt silly crying, I was only twelve and there were so many people there that knew you longer. They were the ones that earned the right to cry. I didn’t cry until five years later. You see, I was trying to move on, and in doing so I was also trying to forget you.

I finally realized that I was starting to lose you for good. I forgot what your hand writing looked like, I forgot what your laugh sounded like. You were becoming dead to me. You were such a remarkable person, you deserved better than that. I locked myself in the bathroom, turned on the faucet so I wouldn’t be heard, and I cried.

You told me once that when bad things happen to us, we can have one long good cry about it, but then we have to pick ourselves up and carry on. So that’s what I did.

I miss you everyday. I wish you could see us now. So much has changed. But in some ways, so many things are still the same. It’s hard not to imagine what it would be like if you were here.

I had never really felt hate until the day cancer took you away from us. For the longest time I was so angry about it and couldn’t comprehend why it had to claim the life of someone like you.

As I’ve grown closer to The Lord, I know that everything happens for a reason, and you knew that too. Through all of it, you demonstrated such admirable faith and peace that still inspires me to this day.

I rode a Ferris wheel this weekend, and it immediately brought me back to when I was just nine years old sitting next to you. We sat there high above everyone else and talked about everything there was to talk about. Up there with you I was invincible. I never wanted to come down.

It’s memories like that one that are proof that you’re still here with me. I can’t see you, but I can feel you. And I know that you’re safe now.I want you to know that I love you. We all do, and even though we might not admit it, we are thinking of you.

I love you, and I’ll be seeing you.

Making Time for What Matters

When I was living in Fresno for my first year of college, I found myself not being as close to the Lord as I wanted to be.  I wasn’t doing my daily devotionals and I was not attending church.  When I decided to take a semester off of school (with the exception of one online class) to focus on work and figuring out exactly who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, I was making sure that I spent some time in the Lord’s word daily and made an effort to attend church regularly.  This past week I began my first semester at Modesto Junior College as a full time student, and right away I caught myself slipping on my time with God.  I caught myself using the excuse “I just don’t have time today” on days I didn’t do my Bible study, and this weekend I was so burnt out and exhausted from the long and busy week I had that I decided I was too physically exhausted to make it to church.

Then today this thought struck me: how lucky are we that God never decides that He doesn’t have time for us?  Could you imagine going to Him in a time of need only to have Him respond with, “Sorry, I’ve been really busy this week and am pretty worn out so I’m going to have to get back to you later.”  How blessed are we that no matter what, God will always be there for us?  I have been so immensely blessed in so many ways.  Every day I find a new reason to be thankful, so the least I could do is take time out of my day just to be alone with the Lord.  I’m not saying that not going to church makes you a bad Christian or even a bad person, and obviously God is still going to love me regardless of if I memorize all His scripture or not.  But if I can make time to watch football on Sunday, yet can’t make time to just sit and be with the Lord and give him thanks, isn’t there something wrong with that picture?

We live in such a fast-paced society, one where everyone is constantly on the go and so caught up in what they think needs to be done and what they want to do.  While obviously my education and work are important, the bottom line is that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the grace and love of God.   Yesterday my Niners suffered a devastating loss against Seattle for the NFC Championship.  I’m a very competitive person, and typically I tend to overreact about these things to the point where if someone were to walk into my house with no idea of what was going on, they would probably think I was in actual physical pain.  However, last night when it was clear what the outcome of the game was going to be I removed myself from the room and spent some time alone and really put thought into the situation.  Was it upsetting? Yes, of course.  Did it affect my well being?  I could probably get creative and find some way to make the argument that it does, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t.  I still have my family, my health, a roof over my head, and so much more.  Football didn’t give me those things, my loving Heavenly Father did.  And yet, I made time to put off my homework and studying to sit in front of my TV and be frustrated, but I was too tired to make the five minute drive down the street to church and give thanks.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

As I’ve stated before, I’m not one for “New Years Resolutions”, I prefer to make goals as I see fit.  And after this weekend, it’s pretty clear to me that I need to get better at making time for what really matters.  Whether that be time with the Lord, my family, etc.  It’s so easy to make excuses and put things off.  But the fact of the matter is that my daily devotional takes up about thirty minutes of my twenty-four hour day.  That’s less than 4% of my day.  So as the year is still young I urge you to figure out what really matters in your life and make an effort to make time for that every day.  Everyone is different, and I know that what I wrote today won’t apply to everyone, and that’s okay.  But the bottom line is that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so never put something off with the excuse that you will get to it later, because you never know what could happen today.

The World Needs More Love Letters

More Love Letters is an organization made up of a community of individuals who come from all over the world and different walks of life, all with one common desire.  To spread love to those who need it the most.  They spread that love by scripting letter after letter to complete strangers in an effort to remind them that they are loved and that they matter.  For more information on what More Love Letters is all about and how you can get involved, you can visit them here.

The reasons I got involved with this cause are enough to form a blog post of their own (keep an eye out for that this weekend), so I won’t be getting into all of that right now.  What I want to do tonight is talk about something wonderful this organization is doing for the holiday season.

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This is the third year that More Love Letters has ran its annual “12 Days of Love Letters” letter writing event.  Basically, individuals are nominated to receive a love letter bundle.  The first names of these people along with their stories are posted online for us to write and send letters of love and encouragement to.  These requests are updated all year long, but during the 12 Days of Love Letters campaign a new request is posted daily for twelve days.  You can view the letter requests here.

Today’s letter request really moved me.  It was for Jenna and Paul, whose three month old son Jordan has been diagnosed with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  If you’re like me and aren’t familiar with what this condition is, it is the inefficiency of major bodily organs (especially of the respiratory system) caused by rapid motor neuron death.  Babies diagnosed with type one SMA generally do not live past two years of age.  Approximately ten percent of cases live into adolescence and/or adulthood.

Despite all of this, Jenna and Paul will make their little boy’s life as normal as possible.  In the midst of this heartbreaking news, Jenna and Paul have continued to pour out their unconditional love and nurturing upon their beautiful baby boy.

I have scripted quite a few love letters for various letter requests, but there was something about this one that weighed so heavily upon my heart that I was nearly in tears as I wrote my letter for this amazing couple.  My letter for Jenna and Paul is as follows:

My Letter to Jenna & Paul

“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” -Zara Neale Hurtson

Dear Jenna & Paul,

When I heard your story, this quote is the first thing that came to my mind.  My heart goes out to the both of you and your beautiful child.

I cannot even begin to imagine what you must be going through, but I strongly believe that if God has brought you to it, he will bring you through it.  The both of you are such an inspiration to so many people.  Your unconditional love and faith shines among the brightest of lights and is touching the lives of everyone you meet. 

No matter what happens, I pray that you never lose faith.  Never give up.  Years from now, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as some of the most beautiful.  Your son is so immensely loved and is in my prayers.  I believe in him, and I believe in you. 

With Love,

S.

 

If you want to write a letter in support of Jenna and Paul, you can mail letters to the address below:

Jenna & Paul’s Bundle

c/o Colleen K.

4 Chapman Street

Apartment A

Newington, CT 06111

As long as your letters are in the mail by December 20th, they will be included in their letter bundle.

 

Walk, Don’t Drive

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Tonight I had the pleasure of being able to walk through the local “Christmas Tree Lane” with my wonderful sister and fiancé.  Though I have driven through a couple different Christmas Tree Lanes in past years (once a few years back with my parents, once last year while living in Fresno), there was something about walking through it with the two people I hold dearest to my heart that really sparked something inside of me.  Call it holiday cheer, call it the Starbucks kicking in, but tonight was definitely something special.

As we were nearing the end of our magical journey through this lovely neighborhood I heard a parent near us tell their child that they had reached the end and it was time to go home.  The child, being rather young, didn’t want to leave.  They whined and begged to stay, and upon hearing this I couldn’t help but smile.  Had I been walking through this winter wonderland of sorts at their age, I probably would have done the same exact thing.  When we are young we wish magical and beautiful moments like that could last forever.  Maybe it’s something as remarkable as Disneyland, or something as simple as Christmas Tree Lane, but there is something special about these places that spark a feeling in our hearts that is so unbelievably rare and magical.  As children, we want these moments to last forever.  We want it to be Christmas every day of the year and we want to live in Disneyland forever.  But as we get older, we realize that it’s how rare these moments are that make them so special and memorable to us.  When I was young, adults would tell me that if I got to go to Disneyland every single day it wouldn’t be special anymore.  To this day I do have my doubts about that statement, however they make a valid point.  We took a week long trip to Disneyland when I was ten years old, and as much as I loved that vacation, I couldn’t tell you much of what we did everyday.  It all blends together in a blur of music, junk food, and rides.  However, there is one specific moment of that vacation that I remember so vividly and beautifully.  I remember watching the fireworks over the water in front of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.  I remember being so entranced by the combination of the dramatic music and the lights over the water.  But most of all, I remember out of the corner of my eye seeing my dad look at me with the biggest smile on his face, because even though I didn’t know it then, he knew a beautiful memory was being formed in my mind, and he got to be a part of it. 

Days come and go. They begin and they end, usually with nothing remarkable happening in between.  But within those days are moments.  Moments that stand out from others, and it is in these moments that we have the opportunity to create memories that will last forever.  Had Eddie and I simply driven through Christmas Tree Lane tonight by ourselves the way we had originally planned on doing I’m sure that it would have been fun, but as the years went on it likely would have blended in with and eventually gotten lost in all of the holiday memories that are to come.  But at the last minute we asked Christa to come with us.  We decided to wear silly Santa hats and get Starbucks and listen to Christmas music on the way there.  We decided to go through the neighborhood by foot as to not feel rushed and to be sure we had time to fully take in the sights that this community works so hard to create for us.  Because we made these decisions, tonight’s adventure won’t just be a moment, it will be a memory.  When I look back on it I will remember making jokes about how long it would be until Christa tripped, as she was prone to do.  I will remember Eddie and I almost crying because of how hard we were laughing at her irrational fear of smooth jazz.  I will remember our deep discussions of antiheroes and villains in classic Disney movies as we walked back to where we had parked our car.  I will remember the music and displays that we were able to stop and admire and might have missed had we drove on by. 

This time of year it is so easy to get lost in all of the holiday shopping, planning, and rushing to get everything on our to-do list taken care of.  It is easy to forget what this time of year should really be all about.  Years from now you won’t remember who you forgot to send a Christmas card to.  It won’t matter if you didn’t have time to make that extra side dish for dinner.  What will matter is that you took the time to step away from all the craziness and spend time with the ones you love, that you chose to walk through this season with the people that matter the most to you instead of driving through so fast that no lasting memories were formed.  The days will come and go and the moments will fade with time, but the memories will always be with you, tucked safely into the corners of your heart.

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