Saturday, January 12, 2013

How Running Brings Me Closer To Jesus

The streets I run each week.  I.e.: my "wilderness."

How does running bring me closer to Jesus?  I could have a ton of predictable (yet, quite real and valid) answers to that question...

...when I run, I bring my iPod along and exercise along to the beat of great worship music...

...yes...but that's not quite my answer.

...when I run, I observe all the beautiful things in nature around me and praise God!...

...kind of (sometimes I do, I guess)...but, no cigar.

...when I run, I am alone and can think and pray with extreme focus...

...sort of in the ballpark of my answer, but not in the super-purposeful-holy-man kind of way.
 ...when I run, it goes something more like this...
Round #1 around the neighborhood: "Look at me!  Look at me! I am running!  I bet I look like some Nike-advertisement goddess with a beautiful glow and a smile because I am so in shape and so very awesome-looking as I round each corner."
Round #2 around the neighborhood: "Wow!  This is getting a little tough.  Oh, no sweat.  I was born for this.  I was made for this.  I can DO this.  I am still awesome!"
Round #3 around the neighborhood: "(Panting and coughing) I. Can't. Breathe!  Who ever convinced me to run anyway?  What was I THINKING?  Who cares about having muscles and being able to run longer than 10 minutes anyway?  If I ever make it home, I am quitting running for good.  What a loser.  Oh, God, have a care and help this poor woman to make it!"
Round #4 around the neighborhood (i.e.: the final hour, the moment of truth, the nitty-gritty): "Oh, good, sweet, Heavenly Father!  (not a swear, I promise...but pleas for help!)  Have mercy on me!  I am so full of pride in myself!  I think I'm all that and clearly I am not!  Look at me!  I look like a blubberer who can't even make it 30 minutes running (ok, jogging...OK, dragging my lame feet) around the neighborhood!  I need YOU!  I obviously CAN'T do this without You!  HELP ME!  If I make it home, I will never complain again and never get prideful about my own abilities every again!  Only YOU are good, Father!  Clearly, not me!"
That's more like it.
THAT'S how running brings me closer to Jesus.
"...he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else... ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’"
Acts 17:25, 28 NIV

Friday, January 11, 2013

Comfort Food For Wimps Who Shiver at 60 Degrees

Red Beans and Rice a l'Alina

For several days now, we have woken up in the early morn' and experienced the most blessed of all of Thailand's seasons: the cold season.  Cold, depending on where you live, is a relative term.  For us, not having to sleep with the air conditioner on all night is cold.  Wearing socks in one's house means you are cold.  Anything below 70 degrees is...cold.  The 60 degrees I have woken up to every morning for the past week feels like a different kind of Heaven.  I simply cannot imagine how we survived for almost three years in the never ending, sticky heat of Southern Thailand.  It must have been God, or I would have gone insane.

We have sipped hot tea during home school, read our read-alouds under blankets and I have been craving hot comfort foods for lunch each day.  Today, I made a nostalgic favorite: red beans and rice.

Why is it nostalgic?  No, I didn't eat it at Grandma's, live in Louisiana (or some other very southern state with it's own genre of comfort foods...oh wait, I grew up in Texas...does Tex-mex count?), or have some sweet date with Treavor while eating it.  It is nostalgic because it is what we ate about 6 times a week when we had barely enough money to get through each day.  About two years into our marriage, while living in Waco, we had a hard time financially.  Thankfully, we always had enough and were always able to pay our bills.  God showed us miraculous provision at every turn.  Those days were hard, but good.  Good; because we learned to truly rely on Him. 

I tried to get creative with making nutritious, cheap foods that we could enjoy...but after a while, beans and rice was an easy meal to throw together.  Alas, it got old.  Really old.  It took a few years after that season for me to really enjoy eating this dish again.  Now, when I get it, I just get thankful and nostalgic while thinking over all the ways God has been faithful to us over the years.  He is good, all the time.

If you're ever looking for something relatively quick to throw together, but you don't want to drag yourself to the store again for the umpteenth time, make this:

Red Beans and Rice a l'Alina
1 can of red kidney beans (extra points for those of you who prepared them from dried!) - juice included!
1 can of seasoned diced tomatoes (we don't have those here, so I just threw in 3/4 cup chopped onions and 3/4 cup diced tomatoes that I had waiting patiently in my freezer)
4/5 cloves of fresh (or jarred, or powdered, whatever!) garlic, minced
Spices to taste (follow your heart and put in however much you like...I won't tell on you): parsley, ground cumin, oregano, salt and black pepper.
I simmered these all together for 1.5 hours while I was homeschooling, but probably bringing them to a medium boil for 10-15 minutes would do the trick if you're kids are yankin' on your skinny jeans to feed them something. 
I poured the beans over 2 cups (uncooked measurement) brown rice that I cooked in my rice cooker.  Use a rice cooker like me if you tend to burn things due to a short attention span.
Finally, I shredded a lonely chunk of cheddar cheese that was in my fridge and topped the beans/rice with this and some sour cream I had from last week's baked potatoes. 
It fed myself and my three kids perfectly, but if you have a bigger family or teenage boys, I would make more!

Thanks for taking a walk with me down memory lane.  Now, I am going to find my scarf and fuzzy socks while I try to stay warm in our frigid weather.  You think I'm kidding you?  Living here changes things...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Back From An Unintended Hiatus

"Seriously, Mom?! Hijacked by life?  What kind of human are you?"

Seriously, three weeks since I last wrote to you all?  I must have, in the words of Pioneer Woman, "been hijacked by life."  Yes.  Hijacked by life.  That is exactly it.  Over the past three weeks:

:: Huy's 5th birthday happened. I planned my 5-year-old's Superhero Party and Birthday Baptism Bash.  Seriously, a mouthful of a theme, I know.  It sure felt like it, since I basically dreamed and shopped and googled and planned and copied and crafted my way through a week before the 21st (Huy's birthday!)...and despite all of that, I still needed Tan and Koh, Megan and Cassie to save my tail by helping me with the last projects.  It was a blast for everyone, and I was thankful that after all the work of a little kid's b-day party, the end result was fun and celebration.  It was all soooo worth it!

:: Christmas happened.  We tried to keep the gift-giving to ourselves to a minimum (and steering clear from toys...which our kids always seem to have a never-ending supply of).  We stuck to giving worship music, a National Geographic Kids magazine subscription, new clothes (my 7-year old is growing like a weed sprayed with Miracle Grow), and JellyTelly videos (don't you just LOVE them?).  Oh yeah, and we decorated together, made holiday treats together, went to Christmas feasts (American and Thai style, both at the S-clan's house), had a time of bible studies and worship times together...and tried to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus rather than on ourselves.  It is funny how Christmas-time can so easily make us into stressed-out, overfed, unabashedly covetous people.  The point of Christmas is to basically be the antithesis of that!  *off my soapbox...returning to my post*  You're welcome.

:: Vacation happened.  Or, rather, stay-cation happened for a few days and then we left to visit our friend's mountain village about 4 hours away.  After I pried my fingers from the hand-rail near my front seat (those mountain turns almost killed me.  I. Am. Not. A. Fan.)...we enjoyed ourselves for three days as we had our first experience staying with Hill Tribe people here in Northern Thailand.  The whole village believes in Jesus and it was absolutely beautiful to ring in the New Year of 2013 with them. 

:: Homeschool happened.  Run and Huy started Second Grade and Kindergarten today.  Though my school-room is still a gigantic wreck, we started today and the kids were as excited as I was to crack open our new books and dive into this new year.  I promise you, they were actually thrilled.  It is odd.  I am hoping this phenomenon continues through college and I will relish that I spawned kids who actually still like to learn as they grow up.  Did I just type "spawned?"  Ok, maybe they aren't the only odd ones.

:: Lots of other things happened.  Lots of things.  Lots of things that I can't remember right now because I am thinking about all the other things that I need to finish today before the sun sets.  But, now that I have bit the proverbial bullet and written this post to open us all up into 2013 here at Ordinary Life In The Wild...I will leave you all to your resolution list (no, I don't have one this year! freeeeeeeeeeeeeeedom!) and hope to write you soon to keep you up with our crazy little fam. 

Here's to 2013! 

I leave you with Jude 1:2, the Message Version that sounds like you're talking to your Buddy...

"Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!"

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