Investing in hope.

One thing I love every month is making my donations for the children I sponsor around the world. As of last week, that number is now at 3 and it makes me so excited! Child sponsorship never used to be something I felt personally called to – all that came to mind were sad commercials and pictures on a refrigerator. But friends, it is SO much more! My heart was stirred to sponsor a child about a year and a half ago. I went on a mission trip to Lesotho, Africa with my church and one of the girls who led our trip told us at one of our first pre-trip meetings that a child she had been sponsoring (since well before this trip was ever on our radar) lived only an hour or so from where we would be, and the sponsorship organization was working with her to plan for them to meet. As crazy as it feels to say, that was the first time the dots were really connected for me. And it also makes me delight in how beautifully God weaves our lives together – in our human minds we would think that the chances that a random selection to sponsor a child would ever result in a face-to-face connection is basically non-existent. But God knows, and he knew all along. So while we were in Africa my friend got picked up by the organization and driven to the school where this little girl attends classes every day, she got to meet all of her classmates, and then got to go to her home and spend time with the whole family. The girl’s family had been working in the months leading up to the visit to make my friend a beautiful handmade gift that they were SO proud to give to her. They had all the letters my friend had sent over time and they enjoyed looking at them together. It was truly a wonderful day for all of them and our mission trip team was so excited to hear all about it when our friend returned that evening.

So after we got back from Africa, I knew this was one way I could make a difference. I was trying to make sense of all the children we had seen and loved on who needed help and when the need feels overwhelming to us, and makes us feel like there is no place to start to fix it all, the best way to act is to start with ONE.

In the last year and a half I have loved getting the sweet letters in the mail from my sponsored children and I delight in getting to write letters to them. These kids are SO much more than a picture on the refrigerator. They are linked to you, and you to them.

I love this thought from Suzanne O’Dell, a senior staff writer with World Help

There’s more going on here than a $35 a month transaction, or a child moving from point A to B on the poverty spectrum. We don’t get to walk away without being affected.

As a sponsor, you’re a part of a relationship that is mutually beneficial, mutually encouraging, and mutually needed . . . whether you realize it or not.

It’s a symbiotic relationship that thrives when both parties recognize and appreciate their need for one another—to support, to teach, to encourage, and to inspire.

Let’s give our sponsored children a little credit . . . they have more to offer than we could ever imagine!

We cannot forget to share this side of the story.

The idea of even one life being changed is a beautiful thought. But stories cannot be experienced alone. Each one of our stories is composed of reflections—of people who have poured into us, invested in us, and made us who we are.

If you want to read some great information about how effective child sponsorship really is, this is a great article to check out.

As you may know, I am heading to Guatemala on a mission trip with World Help in October, and so with the topic of child sponsorship in my heart lately, I felt like God was calling me to sponsor a child there. So here is Jeymi!

Jeymi Sarai Garcia Perez, Age: 10

For many people, the thought of a monthly financial commitment can seem like a lot – there are a lot of things we could do with $35 each month. I know there have been months for me where I feel like I really need that. But God is always faithful at meeting our needs – just like He is meeting the needs of children in distant places with my donation, He is capable of meeting my needs as well. No month has ever passed where I wasn’t able to make a donation despite the circumstances in my own life. In a way, we are ALL God’s sponsored children. Child sponsorship is such a circular blessing. I find myself now, more than ever, aware of just how abundantly God blesses my own life as I see how He calls me to pour them out into the lives of others. My perspective on the things I feel like I want and need have changed so much. The things I treasure has changed. As it says in Matthew 6:21

…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Putting treasures in the lives of others is definitely a heart-changer.

There’s no better time than right now to begin impacting the life of one child.

Sponsor a child

I’d love to hear stories of children you’ve sponsored! Have you met them? Do you write letters? Where do they live? What do they want to be when they grow up? How has it changed you?

And if you have never sponsored – what questions do you have? Maybe now is the right time!

Have a blessed week!

Advertisements

More summer recipes I’m loving!

I’m waiting for a recipe fail to happen soon because I feel like these past few weeks have been full of so many recipe wins! Here is what I’ve been loving so far this week:

Breakfast: Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffin

Lunch: Greek Farro Salad

Dinner: Zucchini Lasagna

Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffins

FullSizeRender

(makes 10 large muffins – I wanted these to be breakfast worthy and filling, but smaller muffins would make a snack-sized serving)

Ingredients

1 15oz can of pumpkin puree

2 large eggs

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

pinch of salt

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup coarsely ground oats (or oat flour – I used Scottish Oatmeal that was basically just a fine oatmeal)

2 tsp baking powder

Optional streusel topping

2 tbsp canola oil

2 tbsp light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup crushed pecan pieces

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray a muffin tin (or use liners).

2. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine pumpkin, eggs, sugar, syrup, extract, spices, and salt. Mix on medium until smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, mix oats, oat flour, and baking powder.

4. Slowly incorporate the dry mixture into the pumpkin mixture, mixing until just combined.

5. Fill muffin tin with heaping 1/4 cups of batter.

6. In a small bowl combine streusel topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly amongst muffins.

7. Bake 20-23 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

IMG_1795 IMG_1796

IMG_1797

Nutritional Info:

Calories: 300, Fat: 11g, Cholesterol: 37mg, Sodium: 20mg, Potassium: 90mg, Carb: 49g, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 20g, Protein: 8g, Vitamin A: 108%

Greek Farro Salad

image4

(Makes 6 meal-sized servings)

Ingredients

8-9oz package of farro (1 1/2 cups), prepared according to package instructions and cooled to room temperature (Trader Joe’s has a great 10 minute Quick Farro)

1 large cucumber, diced

1 large zucchini, diced

1 cup (10-15) grape tomatoes, diced

1/2 of a large red onion, diced 2 15oz cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and dried*

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Red Wine Vinaigrette to taste (6tbsp is my suggestion)  Directions

1. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and add dressing to taste! Pretty darn easy!

*If you want to roast the garbanzo beans in the oven with some seasoning before adding them, that is a tasty option as well!

 IMG_1799

image1 image2

Nutritional Info

Calories: 381, Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 660mg, Potassium: 220mg, Carb: 50g, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 2g, Protein: 16g 

Zucchini Lasagna

Recipe HERE

I can take no credit for this recipe — I saw a great Buzzfeed article a couple weeks ago and this recipe is a total winner. I kid you not, I have had this for dinner 6 out of the last 14 nights. It’s just so good! There are a lot of great recipes on this site that I can’t wait to try! Also, just a tip – we baked it in a glass square pan, it was easier to store the leftovers for a second night and easy reheating. Plus it can get a little liquidy during baking so the pan keeps it all in one place.

IMG_1800  image3    

Nutritional Info

Calories: 120, Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 19mg, Sodium: 500mg, Carb: 10g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 9g

And there you have it! The recipes I am loving this week!

Summer of Salads!!! The first 3 recipes

In a quest to eat more vegetables at lunch while not getting tired of the daily prep that goes into eating a regular lettuce-based salad (I know it seems dramatic, but I really get tired of the salad prep!), I have been exploring slightly non-traditional salads that can meet the following:

  • can prepared on Sunday afternoon
  • last nearly the whole week
  • be eaten cold
  • contain vegetables, a grain, and some variety of bean

I read an article and then heard shortly after on the NPR TED Radio Hour, all about the studies of National Geographic writer/explorer Dan Buettner. He has spent a long time studying the lifestyles of people in what he has termed “Blue Zone” areas, where people live longer than anywhere else on Earth (it shouldn’t surprise us that our American way of life is costing us about 12 years on average from our life expectancy). Here is his Ted Talk if you want to listen and the full Ted Radio Hour show audio is here – but the Ted Talk by Dan was the best part. Super fascinating! Here is an article with an overview of the biggest takeaways that go beyond just diet.

The biggest food takeaways were:

  • 2 to 3 servings of meat per week (I don’t like to eat much anyways, so this isn’t a problem)
  • daily red wine (can I get an Amen?!)
  • coffee (another Amen!) and tea
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of beans a day as a cornerstone of one’s diet (as well as nuts)
  • dessert for special occasions only (but can’t EVERY day be special?!!)
  • plant-based diet (vegetables are about 80% of their food intake)
  • whole grains (love)
  • fish (meh)
  • water water water

The biggest lifestyle takeaways were:

  • large, thriving social networks – surrounded by healthy people who have positive long-term impacts on one’s behaviors
  • families come first
  • lots of walking – intentional physical activity based on destinations, stairs to get to/from home, gardening, chores, etc – activity centers around things that are enjoyable, an hour a day of usually gentle low-impact physical activity. No one exercises like we do!
  • focus on resiliency and thankfulness
  • faith
  • love

So here are the salads that I’ve enjoyed thus far!

Strawberry Broccoli Salad

IMG_1367IMG_1374

(makes 8 meal-sized servings)

INGREDIENTS

3 large heads of broccoli, chopped (about 6 cups)

2 pounds strawberries, sliced (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup feta crumbles

1/2 cup diced red onion (optional)

2 cups garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup (or more, depending on your desired dressing coverage) of a creamy poppyseed slaw dressing (I found a great one in the refrigerate dressing section of Whole Foods)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Mix it all together in a giant bowl. Done. Eat. 🙂

Southwestern Barley Salad

IMG_1716

(makes 6 meal-sized servings)

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups barley, uncooked

1 large avocado, pitted and diced

1 large red bell pepper

2 cups black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup sweet corn

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved or quartered

4 stalks green onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

DRESSING

Juice of 2 large limes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/4 tsp granulated sugar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 ground black pepper

Kosher salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Prepare barley according to package directions. After draining, give the cooked barley a good rinse in cold water to remove the excess starch.

2. In a large bowl, mix all remaining ingredients. Incorporate barley. Cover salad and refrigerate for an hour before serving. And enjoy!

Southwestern Broccoli Slaw

IMG_1640

(makes 4 meal-sized servings)

INGREDIENTS

2 bags of pre-package broccoli slaw

2 cans (or boxes if you like to avoid tin cans like I try to) of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 bag of frozen sweet yellow corn, thawed and drained of any excess water

1 large avocado, pitted and diced

3-4 tbsp of a southwestern style ranch dressing (I used the Bolthouse Chipotle Ranch)

DIRECTIONS

1. Mix it all together and enjoy!

Great reads: Anything by Jennie Allen

I have been a follower of the IF:Gathering revolution that Jennie founded — it has been gaining lots of attention this past year, so when I saw this book pop up in my suggested reads, I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough! Jennie’s story about how her prayer of “anything” changed her and her family’s lives was honest, humorous, tender, unfiltered, and inspiring. You will feel like you are having a deep and powerful conversation with a best friend while you read this. As Jennie prays in the book “I don’t want to make decisions based on my adequacy and capacity. I don’t want to miss what God has for us because I’m afraid.” It God keeps drawing your heart to find more, to dig deeper, to stop living life safe and comfortable, then I strongly suggest you grab this book and let it be like a comforting and encouraging voice of a friend alongside you as you let go of what binds you here and free yourself up for the glory from above.

IMG_2832.JPG

IMG_2841.JPG

IMG_2842.JPG

IMG_2839.JPG

IMG_2843.JPG

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Goodbye May, Hello June!

Lots of fun stuff happening lately!

First off – donuts. Oh how I love donuts! The DC area is getting in on an Outer Banks beach vacation treat: Duck Donuts! These were excellent! I can see what everyone is talking about when they rave about these!

IMG_2576.JPG


IMG_2574.JPG

IMG_2573.JPG  

The annual PBS Memorial Day Concert on the lawn of the Capitol Building was awesome as always! 

IMG_2583.JPG

IMG_2585.JPG

If you have never been to Harper’s Ferry, VA/MD/WV, I highly recommend it! All 3 states converge at this beautiful spot and there are historical sites, outdoor adventure activities, and much more!

IMG_2594.JPG

I am trying to eat more veggies at lunch, I get tired of a typical salad and then realize that I end up in a rut of eating basically nothing green at lunch for weeks at a time! So this is the #summerofsalads that are of a non-traditional variety! This tasty combo below lasted the whole week and was so yummy! Strawberries, broccoli, almond slivers, get crumbles, chickpeas, and a poppyseed slaw dressing. 

IMG_2600.JPG

IMG_2604.JPG

Last week I had the pleasure of getting to attend a VIP pre-opening dinner at Arlington’s new Tupelo Honey Cafe! Usually I hate Facebook ads, but seeing the ad was what led to getting on the list for this event!  I know this is a popular chain throughout the south and I can see why! Every single thing I ate was so tasty! Can’t wait to go back again!





Last weekend I said goodbye to May with another year of running the Virginia Wine Half Marathon. It was hot and humid but luckily overcast! 





I love you, wine!



And wine tasting back at one of my fave wineries afterwards was a largest way to celebrate a great run!

Oh! And last but certainly not least! A HUGE thank you to everyone who shopped my Stella & Dot eBoutique in the month of May! Thanks to you, we were able to make a donation of $400 to Nepal earthquake relief !

That’s all for right now! Be on the lookout for another post very soon, I just finished a really great book that I can’t wait to share about!

Have you forgotten?

Happy Wednesday! As this weeks chugs slowly towards the weekend (which I’m convinced is because it’s a 3 day weekend and I’m just very excited!) my mind keeps drifting, especially in the slower moments, towards the compassion and concern in my heart for the ongoing devastation in Nepal. The news has gone pretty silent with coverage, but it doesn’t mean the need has gone away. So I hope you’ll join me for a few minutes in bringing our awareness back to them and a few easy but VERY impactful ways you can help.

I think this quote from the book Awake by Noel Yeatts is a really powerful connection between compassion and action.

“Compassion is not pity. It is not simply feeling sorry for someone. It is not sadness or an emotion that we feel.

Most dictionaries define compassion as the awareness of need and the wish to alleviate it. I would take it a step further. True compassion—the compassion that Jesus had in the Bible when He was ‘moved with compassion’ (Mark 1:41 NASB)—is more than awareness and a wish. This kind of compassion requires movement, advocacy, and action.”

If you choose to make a direct donation, there are many relief organizations that are providing ongoing and immediate assistance in every way possible. World Help is one of these, and you can see more about how your donation could help here.

You can also read here about 4 Ways to Help and what life looks like on the ground in Nepal after the earthquake on April 25th and then the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that followed last week. More than 8,000 people are dead and that number is expected to continue to rise, and over 500,000 people are now homeless. But God is at work. Networks of help are in place and hope is rising from the rubble. We just need to be a part of that after the news headlines have turned to something new.

Nepal Disaster Relief - World HelpWorld Help - Nepal ReliefYou can PRAY, you can GIVE, you can ADVOCATE, and you can FUNDRAISE. Imagine how the Nepali people will be strengthened if we all chose even just one of these ways to make sure they aren’t forgotten in their suffering. That we are pouring out compassion. That we are taking action.

Hope for Nepal - World Help

I’m also committed to donating ALL of my commissions this month (25% of every dollar spent) on all purchases through my Stella & Dot eBoutique — an easy way to multi-task your shopping and support the relief efforts! If you want my suggestion of a meaningful gift for yourself or a friend, pick up this Interlock Cross necklace (sterling silver or gold plated) — it’s one of my favorites and a piece I wear every single day.

Nepal Earthquake_7 Nepal Earthquake_11

A great read: Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

I. Loved. This. Book! Seriously, I needed to hear the convicting message of this book so badly. I am often aware how anger is one of the most prevalent emotions in my daily consciousness. Whether it’s something that seems big and important in its injustice or some small and trivial moment of feeling wronged, anger is such a precious and natural part of our lives. We hold onto it like it’s a prized possession. Without realizing it, we use anger to justify a myriad of actions and feelings all day long. We feel like it’s our right to have it, to deal it out, to share it, to keep it as long as we want. Here’s the thing: we aren’t justified to it at all. Anger will always deceive us. It will always make us feel like we’re the victim, that we were wronged, that we deserve something. Our default posture is our strengths and justifying our decisions, our behaviors, and our intentions. We think we need to be right so that others realize they’re wrong. What if instead of being right, we just decided to be love? If we are not capable of judging our own intentions, what makes us think we can judge the intentions of others? In this book, Brant ties these concepts to scripture in such a wonderful, humorous, and truly convicting way. We don’t need anger to seek justice and love mercy. I went into reading this book preparing myself to not be convinced – if anger could be a sport, I would be a star player. Except everyone is a loser in the game. It’s time to stop playing. I’m throwing out my jersey. I hope you check this book out and share it with friends. You will not be sorry!

IMG_1188-0.PNG

IMG_1191-0.PNG

IMG_1189-0.PNG

IMG_1190-0.PNG

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”