Thursday, June 1, 2017

bittersweet

      As I've finished this school year, I looked back and saw that every year I make a post about the end of the school year. Words can never adequately describe the bittersweet feelings I feel as the year closes. Currently, I am in full swing summer break mode. I've been finishing things I haven't had time for in months. Cleaning things. Taking my time grocery shopping. Walks outside. Meeting people for mid morning coffee and what not. I love it. I still think about my dear hearts that resided in my classroom for this past year, but I'm not worrying about their grades or if they'll work out their arguments or any of those things. The stress has definitely toned down about 12 notches. At the core of my thoughts, is that this bittersweetness is truly derived from change. I realize that while not everyone has the same change as a teacher has, we all deal with change.

     Maybe change looks like trying a new job. One that you don't know or understand. You show up and you still wonder if anyone is going to see through you and realize you don't actually know what you're doing yet.
    Maybe change is loss. You're adjusting to life without a loved one. Maybe you lost someone from a break up or from a friendship gone bad. It feels very bitter and it seems that only unending heartache lies ahead.
    Maybe change is moving. Terrifying and exciting, yet leaves you wondering if you'll ever feel connected. You wonder if any of these people will ever become your people.
    Maybe your changes are small. Maybe you're trying a new type of exercise. And it's hard and makes you question who in their right minds does this stuff. (Or like some of us, trying an old form of exercise for the thousandth time and it seems that for some reason it's much harder than you remembered. Welcome back to my life, summer running.) Maybe it's trying to eat healthier foods. Maybe it's cooking for yourself instead of always eating out. Maybe it's a new hobby or a new church.

Whatever the changes you're going through, whether they seem good or bad, they have elements of sweetness and bitterness. Sometimes the sweetness doesn't come till much later, possibly not even here on this earth. But I believe that in the midst of these things in our lives God sends us the hints of sweetness. We talked about thankfulness last Sunday at church (shout out to the Vine) and all week that has been in my mind. A friend of mine shared that she had been asking God to show her something to be thankful for each day, even in the midst of a very difficult season. It helped me to look at my own heart and realize in the midst of many blessings and very few bitter moments lately, I've been forgetting to seek out the sweet.

So while I will miss my students and the way things were, I will be grateful for what God has done and look forward to what he will do. And before I even get to that, I am going to enjoy the sweetness of summer. A summer of resting and seeing what God has to teach me. How he wants to move me and grow me. A summer of looking for the sweet.

One of my favorite parts about having some free time is trying out new recipes! I've taken on a role as the household cook for the summer and get to bless my housemates by trying out these new recipes on them. Who knows if they will all be a blessing, but I thought I'd share two of them today.

Dill Yogurt Chicken Salad

    I've been into dill lately because it just tastes like summer! So, I made it into a delicious chicken salad. Here's what you'll need:
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
-salt
-pepper
- onion powder
-1 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 green apple
-  1 tsp (or so) minced garlic
- 2 tsp dill
- 3 stalks (pieces? what do you say for just one part of the whole thing?) of celery
- onions are optional
- almonds or other nuts are optional
1. Place a piece of foil on a baking dish. (magic for cleaning up) place your chicken breasts on the foil. Drizzle them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then salt and pepper them as much or as little as you'd like.
2. Bake the chicken breasts in the oven at 400 degrees (I think about 30 minutes, or until cooked through)
3. Cut up your chicken breast and mix in a bowl with finally chopped celery and green apple. (If you want to add onions or nuts, do so)
4. Add greek yogurt and stir in dill and garlic. Chill in the fridge. It's really delicious with spinach. I love it in a wrap.

Now for something that is a bit bittersweet but so delicious!
Yogurt Grapefruit Poppyseed Bread

I had this at a brunch party a few months ago...and it was so delicious. I had to try to replicate it. With the whole wheat flour and greek yogurt, it's actually even a little bit healthy. Here's a link to the recipe I used. I wish I could take credit for this one, but no such luck.

http://www.greensnchocolate.com/2016/02/grapefruit-yogurt-poppy-seed-bread/

Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What more does He have for me?

It's unseasonably warm outside for February. I've watched as the warm sunshine draws people out of their houses and into the streets. I've seen more people walking, including myself. I've taken advantage of these days by walking to some of my favorite downtown spots. My backpack in tow, I carry some papers that should have been graded last week, my trusty laptop, and my favorite colored pens. I join the hustle and bustle of the local coffee shop. I people watch. I work. I wonder if my life is finding its place in this season, in this place.

I've been gaining a new and different appreciation for this little city of Goshen. Somehow, sneakily, over the past year and a half it has settled itself in my mind and heart as a home of sorts. It's not the sleepy little town where I lived with my parents. It's not the bustling noise and adventure of Tegucigalpa. It has a few more amenities than the small town life, and a bit less of the danger and excitement that lurks in the big city. To some, it might still seem like a small town. And even though it is practically the same place I grew up, I'm still always discovering, and always finding a new person I haven't met before. There are untold stories in the little streets, businesses, and houses that populate this town. I'm finding ways to get out of my comfort zone. People always say to me, "You know, you can be a missionary right where you are." To be honest. I kind of hate that. Here's why: you sure can. However, most of us don't. Yes, living as a missionary is, in part, just doing life in another place. I had a job, friends, a church, etc. when I worked in Honduras. But there is an intentionality that comes out of it. Something that is sometimes forced because it is so painfully obvious that this is not your home. Most of us, don't live like that. Yes, we are faithful people who go to work, encourage our friends, give money, and go to church. Those things aren't bad. But do we ever actually seek to find people who need Jesus? Or someone who might need our help? Do we dare to, like a missionary let ourselves enter into a world that isn't really our own?

When I went to Honduras, I fully expected to find myself out of place, to find myself surrounded by people who grew up differently, spoke differently, and lived differently than I. I laugh occasionally when I realize that most people consider the neighborhood I live in "the bad part of town". I laugh because even still, most of the time I can be comfortable here in Goshen. Find a spot. Surround myself with people who are just like me. However, lately God has been showing me that he wants to surround me with people who aren't like me too. "Those people". The ones who maybe didn't go to college. The ones who didn't have supportive parents. The ones who have taken a path they wish they hadn't. I'm learning to listen to the stories and be ok with the fact that I don't know what to say. That I don't understand the difficulties they have gone through. But that they don't have to be separate from who I am, because we are all human. We are all desperately loved by Jesus. At the core, I am not different from "them".

Dear friends, don't think that I view myself as having figured this out. That I have somehow discovered how to be a hometown missionary and maneuver all the social interactions with great finesse and give to all the poor. To be honest. I kind of stink at it. It's limited to awkward interactions with my neighbors, offering them a fresh loaf of pumpkin bread and stopping to hear their stories. It's trying to go to a neighborhood Bible study where not everyone goes to the same type of church, grew up the same way, or has the same struggles.  Sometimes I smile awkwardly at people and then have no idea what to say. Sometimes I see someone I could help, but for fear of awkwardness or whatever other strange fear, I walk by. But I'm in this place where I'm asking. I'm wondering. How can I give more? How can I be less scared? How can I start seeing people more like Jesus does? How can I love people and also speak truth?

I don't have a huge lesson to tell you about. No stunning conclusion. I just want you dear friend, to join me on the quest. The quest to make the places we live our homes and our mission fields. You may say that isn't your calling... or maybe that you already are doing this. But I beg to differ. I think there's more. There's more for me. There's more for you.

In this not so perfect recipe of reaching out to neighbors and people around you, I also present you with a not so perfect recipe of my own. I am always tweaking recipes. Sometimes for health purposes. Sometimes because I like certain things better. Sometimes simply because it's fun...and sometimes just like other things in life, I mess it up the first time.


So today's recipe: Zuppa Toscana
This soup is delicious. Just don't spill a half a cup of pink Himalayan salt into it like I once did... or you'll gain 4 pounds over night and feel very bloated....oops.

You will need:
1 lb Italian Sausage ( I like to use the turkey sausage from Aldi, for the win!)
2-3 large potatoes
1 large onion
1/2 cup bacon crumbles ( this is optional, but tasty. I've made it with and without)
3 garlic cloves (ok, they say two... but I probably put 4, so I'll compromise here)
2 cups kale (this makes it healthy, right???)
16 oz of chicken broth
1 quart of water (sometimes I use a bit more chicken broth and less water)
1 cup half and half (they say heavy cream, I usually do half and half or whole milk instead to cut down a bit)
1 tsp of red pepper flakes*
1 tsp of Basil*
1 tsp of Oregano*
Salt to taste (go easy at first)

* I made up the measurements for those spices... I never measure them. It's a chronic problem I think... so try that and if you want more, add some more!

Directions:
1. Brown sausage in a large soup pot. Easy! I like to add onions and garlic here, but you can also do that part later.
2. Add water and chicken broth.
3. Cut up the potatoes in halves and then into thin slices, like 1/4 inch thick. Throw those in the pot.
4. Cook at medium heat until those potatoes are done.
5. Add bacon and spices
6. Cook for 10 more minutes then turn to low heat.
7. Add cream and kale
8. Make sure it's hot! It tastes really great with a little parmesan cheese on top! Yum!

Enjoy!


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Homemade Date Bars (The fruit, not the social engagement)

      I can hardly believe it's been over a year since I returned to the United States from Honduras. I miss it dearly. I am not sure that it will ever lose its place in my heart. However, I do see God's faithfulness in allowing him to make this my home too. I have a deep seeded contentedness that I know comes from the fact that the Lord is working. It's a new school year and so far it's been a year of new adventures! I really have felt the Lord challenge me to step out in trying new things, so I am being obedient and seeing what he does as I step out and let him work.
     My class this year is a special one, we have a great connection. Maybe it's something about my second year in a place??? Don't get me wrong, I loved my students last year and teaching them, but there is something really different about our atmosphere this year. These kiddos love singing and acting and seem to adore any little song or creative element I can bring to the classroom. We have been learning our verses via song this year and it's been so fun. You can check out one of my songs here.


This year, I've also gotten to help out with the fall play. I am so excited to see these hard-working high schoolers perform their hilarious play in about 4 weeks! On that same vein, I also decided to try out for a play at a local theater and was somewhat surprised that I actually got a part! So you all should make your way on over to see me perform in the Christmas play at Essenhaus's Heritage Hall. 

    In cooking adventures, I have been experimenting with finding ways that I can eat "sweet things" without actually eating processed sugars and baked goods. So without further ado, I present to you the recipe for homemade date bars (ahem, sort of like Larabars). I found one on the internet and then I tweaked it. So enjoy. =) 



You will need:
Chocolate Coconut 
- unsalted almonds (about 8 oz) 
- 1 cup of dried dates
- 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut
- 1/3 cup of cocoa nibs or 1/4 c cocoa powder
- 1 tsp natural vanilla extract 
- If you so desire, you could also add dark chocolate chips or pecans 

1. Grind the almonds in a food processor until fine, but not pasty. 
2. Soak the dates in warm water for about 5 minutes

3. Drain the dates and add in with the almonds, coconut, cocoa nibs, and vanilla. 
4. Use the food processor until it all kind of sticks together. 
5. Cover a loaf pan with plastic wrap and then press the mixture inside with another piece of plastic wrap. 

6. Put it in the fridge for about an hour. Cut them apart in the size you want, serving size would be into about 10 pieces. 
7. Wrap them in plastic wrap. Keep them in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer up to 6 months! (You may want to thaw it if you get it out of the freezer, unless you like to break your teeth) 




Blueberry Muffin flavor: 
3/4 cup dates
1/2 cup dried blueberries
3/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup whole oats
a dash of cinnamon (whatever that means, put in however much you like) 
1 tsp of vanilla 

I also did a recipe with blueberries, where you follow most of the same directions, but instead of 1 cup of dried dates, you do 3/4 cup of dates, 1/2 cup of dried blueberries, both soaked. Instead of coconut, put in 1/2 cup of whole oats. Throw in a dash of cinnamon and follow the directions. =) 
Enjoy! 


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Summer is coming...

Summer is starting to breathe down our necks. The air is getting warmer and filled with tinges of humidity. The children are getting more and more restless each day. It gets harder and harder not to surrender to the "eh, whatever" attitude. The last week of school is one of the hardest weeks of the year. My brain feels fried. I question whether or not I picked the right career. My head is spinning with closing things well and also with a million new ideas of what I will do better next year.

Yet something happens in those last days. I have been asking for weeks, has it been enough? Did I teach them enough? Will they be prepared? Did I love them enough? Do they know who God is? Will they remember anything, educational or otherwise? I start to let it soak in... no it will never be enough. There will always be more. But that's why these children belong to God. It's my time to let them go, knowing I've done my best. All of sudden these children who a few weeks ago I was certain had turned into mutant versions of themselves called middle schoolers have turned back into the endearing children I remember from the beginning. I suddenly feel sentimental and feel like I need to give them one more speech, one more devotion, one more word of encouragement and pray that love echoes in their ears. The truth is they really have changed and while it doesn't feel like enough, they have grown, matured, and learned this year. They've become better readers, writers, mathematicians, and friends. I love each one of them in a totally unique way and I know they will continue to grow and soar as they move on. Yes, the end of the year is bittersweet for this teacher, but I can't say I'm sorry that summer is coming.

During this end of the year, everyone seems to bring in treats. It can become rather hard to resist. I've been trying to limit myself but also find healthy alternatives. One of my healthy alternatives- some "granola bars" packed with tons of healthy energy. No sugar added. No flour. No butter. And yet still really pretty delicious, give it a try!
Here's what you'll need... I buy most of my ingredients at Aldi or Kroger.
\
1 cup of whole oats
2 T flaxseed
2 T chia seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries)
1 large ripe banana (or 2 small, about 3/4 cup)
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of vanilla
2 T of organic raw honey
1/4 cup all natural almond butter
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (chopped)

1. Mix together oats, flaxseed, chia seed, coconut, cinnamon, dried fruit, and chocolate.
2. Mash banana and add to the oat mixture.
3. Melt in microwave or stove top the honey, vanilla, and almond butter.
4. Pour almond butter mixture over oat mixture and stir together.
5. Press into a 8X8 square pan.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes

Cut them up! They stay freshest in the fridge because of the banana. They definitely satisfy a sweet tooth even without the added sugar and provide a great energy boost! Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

starting over

I started a blog several years ago and really got into blogging when I moved to Honduras. I knew that it was a way for people to stay in touch and for me to remember those times in my life. When I was in Honduras, after a while it started to feel normal and ordinary. When I moved back to the United States, I stopped blogging because I felt it was too ordinary, save for one reflection on coming home. Recently, I've been missing it. Writing my thoughts and sharing, in hopes that people might gain some truth from the things I'm learning. Since I moved again recently, (the 5th time in the span of a year, ha) I decided that I might as well start fresh again!

But what do I blog about?
I often feel as if my life here is just ordinary. What do I have to offer? The truth is we are all unique so we all have something to offer. So this is my attempt to find new adventure in a new space. To write about God, teaching, life, community, and throw in some of my food adventures.

One of my favorite things in the world is cooking, especially for other people. I love experimenting with recipes, making things that people love and feeding them. I love seeing people around the table enjoying a good home cooked meal. I think the table shows God's provision, his design for community. Sometimes our "table" is sitting around the couch. Sometimes it's talking. Sometimes it's watching a movie or playing a game. So today, I thought I would share a recipe with you from dinner tonight.

If I had to choose a staple dish of my favorite thing to make for people, I would choose Coconut Chicken Curry. I have tweaked this from the original recipe and often it changes from one time to the next. =) But here's my recipe:
Ingredients:
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
Salt and Pepper
1 yellow onion
2 T coconut oil (or other oil if you want)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T of curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 (16 oz) can of coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 (16 oz) can of diced tomatoes


Optional add ins (That I like): Sweet Potatoes, chick peas, broccoli, bell peppers, pineapple

1. In a large pot, put in oil and heat it on high for about a minute. Add in chopped onion and minced garlic, when it starts to get fragrant, add in the curry powder and sauté a bit longer.

2. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add into oil and onion mixture. Coat with curry/oil. Cook on medium high until cooked through.

3. Once the chicken is cooked through, add in diced tomatoes, and/or other vegetables.(Today I added in sweet potatoes and pineapple). Let it cook for just 3-5 minutes to start cooking.

4. Add in coconut milk and tomato paste and stir. Add in cumin, red pepper flakes, and more curry power if desired. Let it simmer for 30 minutes. You will want to make sure the vegetables are soft, but pretty much the longer you can let it simmer the better the flavor.

Serve with Jasmine rice and enjoy.








Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dear Readers, Thanks. Love, Jennifer

It's been over a month since I hopped on a plane, said a few tearful goodbyes, or rather see-you-laters and landed back in good old Indiana. This strangely familiar place where I spent many years of my life. But I haven't lived here in this area for 8 years... how on earth did I get to be so old? My life seems to have gone in 4 year increments, 4 years of high school, 4 years of college, and 4 years in Honduras. I'm not sure if that means I have to stay put again for another 4 years, but I guess we will find out!

This has been a month full of adjustments... and realizations about new patterns of life etc.  I am going to write them thank you letter style. (Thanks, Jimmy Fallon and Jen Hatmaker for your inspiration in my daily life)

10.  Dear gas prices,
Thank you for being conveniently low right now so that I can explore many different places and drive "far" distances. I had forgotten how spread apart everything is and while it may be quicker for me to get to place in Indiana than it was in Honduras, it is much farther. Now I remember why carpooling is a thing.

9. Dear Car,
Thank you for providing me with freedom that I had forgotten about for a lot of time, and also that whole thing where I spend time by myself for at least 20 minutes a day going to and from work. I am amazed at what that time to think and pray does. I forgot that it is possible to be in a car alone and just drive places.

8. Dear Indiana,
Thank you for being beautiful and big with your wide open spaces over corn fields galore and rosy pink sunsets. While the speed bumps you call hills pale in comparison to the majesty of Honduran mountains, I must say your trees and fields that I can see for miles have their own unique beauty to behold.

7. Dear socks,
I really don't have a very good relationship with you, but even though the weather has barely cooled down I am exceedingly grateful for the warmth you provide for my feet. It's seems my dear Honduran toes that prefer to be in sandals can't handle the cold already.

6. Dear Amish buggies,
I can't say that I've exactly missed trying to pass you on the road or cleaning off my tires from your droppings, but you represent a familiarity. Thank you for representing a heritage that is alive in my family today, even if I am far from Amish.

5. Dear Grocery Stores,
Thank you for causing me breakdowns because I cannot possibly decide what type of coffee creamer, yogurt, chip or any other thing that I should eat. SERIOUSLY. There is just an overload of choices. This is quite overwhelming. Then again thank you for providing snack foods I've missed at regular prices, you know who you are, ALDI.

4. Dear "You choose everything yourself restaurants",
Thank you for contributing to my indecisiveness and "oh no, what if I don't get to come here for a long time, I have to make the right choice" anxiety. It's not just Chipotle any more folks. You can make your own ice creams, make your own smoothie choices, make your own pizzas all right in front of you with thousands of combinations.

3. Dear Mexican grocery stores,
Thank you for being conveniently located close to me. While you are not Honduran per say, you carry my kind of beans, in a bag. You have mangos and all sorts of goodies that I am tempted to buy. I never even knew that Suavitel fabric softener existed nor Sedal shampoo and now suddenly I have the urge to buy them off of your shelves. But I am so grateful that you make me feel right at home. And Bonus thank you to the cashiers who automatically speak to me in Spanish and warm my heart so.

2. Dear huggers of the world,
Thank you for offering me your hugs. There aren't many of you around here, but I so appreciate them. I think that according to some statistic I need 12 hugs a day to survive. Thankfully, I tried to stock some up in Honduras before I left, but I think I'm running dangerously low on my supply. But thanks to the people who hug me and love me right where I'm at.

1. Dear friends and family,
Thank you for welcoming me with open arms as I have attempted to get used to some of these more serious and not so serious things. Thank you for dealing with my desire to want to greet and hug everyone everywhere, my lip pointing, my trouble making decisions, and constant amazement over things that I forgot about like Pandora? ( I can totally use that again!!!) Thank you for listening to more stories than you care to here that start with "One time in Honduras..." or " In Honduras, we usually..." It's going to take me a while, this isn't going to be easy or fast to make this feel like home again, because of part of me will always be left in Honduras. Thank you for allowing me to grieve what I lost and celebrate the things that I am also gaining. There are so many more little things that I am loving or missing during these days than I can possibly list in 10 items, but I hope these made you smile and also made you understand a bit of what I am thinking at times.

Love,
Jennifer

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Best is Yet to Come

Life has its way of changing. If you were to go back to the beginning of this blog, you would find a different person. I was in college, full of hopes, dreams, and wondering what my life would be like. This isn't to say that I've lost those things. In fact, I still have a lot of hopes, dreams, and wonderings. Sometimes I do like to look back at those things and remember. I miss the people and the places of those times, but I think I also miss who I was at that point in time, that I will never be that exact same version of myself again. I know someday I will look back at the person I am right now, this current moment. I will remember my dreams. I will remember my thoughts. I will remember some of my struggles. Mostly, I will remember the things that bring me joy. I will remember God's faithfulness in this season. While I know as I get older, I miss those points and who I used to be. I am also extremely grateful. Without who I used to be, I would never be who I am. Besides that, there is something beautiful about who we become. We don't have to miss it because even though we might lose some things, we gain many more. I've realized that reflection is an important thing for me as I prepare my heart to leave Honduras, but then another part comes. I have to let go. As CS Lewis said, "There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

This is no way saying that Honduras wasn't a great chapter of my life. I think this quote is always true. For one, our One True Love will return to this earth and bring us to spend eternity with Him. The best is always ahead. Also, anytime we are following him, it has to be what is better for us. Staying where we are no longer supposed to be, is not doing the best thing. I'm excited to see what God will do in this next chapter. It's hard for me to give up this place, this experience, the people who have touched my life. I know that my adventure is far from over. Moving to the States again is not the end of living my life as a missionary. I likely won't be there forever, and even if I am, there is a purpose in wherever God takes us. I must remind myself that adventure isn't just taking huge leaps of faith, climbing mountains, traveling to unknown places, and being somewhere different. Sometimes the little steps of faith right in front of us are the every day adventure God has. It's His story. I know that the Holy Spirit who dwells in me here is the same one who dwells within me wherever I go. He will not allow me to go back to the person I was. He will not cease to work in me.

Thanks for joining for "Jennifer's thoughts and ponderings on life", and now we will move on to the segment called... "We want to see some pictures!!!"
 I could keep showing you the same pictures of my teaching. But let's face it, that's really not that exciting to look at again and again even though it's a huge part of my life that I enjoy.
These lovely ladies have been a light in my life over the past two years. They bring joy, laughter, and love to my life. It's been hard saying goodbye to friends like these. 

I had the opportunity to go back to the dump. This time we had a worship service, served tamales, and just got to talk and pray with people. I prayed over an infection in this woman's ear. It started to get better there and we are both believing for complete healing! 

I did get to see the beach one last time before leaving. =) What a beautiful place and a constant reminder of God's great love and majesty. 

These two fine ladies blessed me with a visit. We got to explore and I got to show them a bit of my life. 

I am so grateful for friendships that last from childhood and continue on through many miles, and many changes. 

That concludes pictures for this episode of Jennifer's Life. 

In all seriousness, I'm sure you'll get to hear from me again soon as I get back to the States, next week! I need your prayers now, same as ever. 
Please pray for:
- Transitioning home. Especially with culture shock and all of the changes, it is bound to be difficult at times. 
- Pray for energy, strength and wisdom as I prepare for my new classroom. 
- Pray for relationships, knowing how to continue the ones from a distance that should continue and knowing how to reestablish old ones and build new ones.