Monday, February 28, 2011

Anger Management

So I normally try to keep our blog very interesting and upbeat. Zach and I are both really positive people so talking about something sort of... negative or ugly is not the norm. Something however has been going on in our life for awhile and I feel compelled to share and be truly transparent here on the blog. To let people into the less colorful and not-so-glamorous aspect of our life. Hopefully the truth from what I've recently learned will change you life as much as it has mine.

So I'm sure the title of this post has sparked your interest. For those of you who know me you know I'm not really an angry person. I'm human, I get angry about things along the way, but I'm not really someone who harbors anger or resentment long term. The reason for this is not that I am extremely mature or super spiritual. It plainly boils down to the fact I've never really had a good reason to be angry. Up until about a year ago I've had a pretty simple and harmonious life.
  • I grew up in a great family, most of whom have devoted their life to serving God and others. My parents loved me whole-heartedly and modeled Christ-like behavior throughout my childhood.
Grandma and Granddaddy Dart
Dad and Mom
  • I was also blessed with encouraging and lifelong friends.
Skiing with Suz
  • By God's grace and guidance I went away to college and continued pursuing that same lifestyle and surrounded myself with others who were trying to follow Jesus.
World Changers Mission Trip to Berlin, Germany
Natalia and I with our campers at the Vineyard Camp
FBC 'Challenge' bike trip and choir tour
  • While living in Atlanta, my life continued to be simple and blessed. Great jobs, great friends, great community, and more trying to figure out what it really means to follow Jesus.
In Montreal with my roommate Brenae
In Savannah for Labor Day weekend
On Jojo with Whitney!
  • Zach was really the first guy I ever dated, so no real relationship baggage... 

In general life was easy and my heart was totally free. And then it all changed without my permission.

For months this once unhindered spirit had become extremely burdened and frustrated by our situation with Allie. I don't want to get into a ton of detail, but for most of the past year we have had increasing tension and difficulty dealing with Allie's mother and stepfather over visitation.  We have tried to make it work, proposed a myriad of new schedules, and compromised in a plethora of ways to get to Allie in order to spend as much time with her as possible, but we've been met with much resistance and there's been little traction. As I am sure you can imagine it's extremely frustrating, hugely painful and massively disappointing. What makes it even worse is that the law is even on our side, but still justice seems to be months away.

Unbeknownst to me, this natural frustration with a very legitimate problem had been ruling my thoughts and slowly morphing into anger. Anger I have been harboring. And it's really hard to deal with anger or even recognize the problem when everyone around you justifies your feelings and confirms you are in the right.

So the other night I was mulling over these thoughts, this new revelation that I was angry, and I wanted to figure out the source of anger. Years ago I read Andy Stanley's book It Came From Within about the four things that linger in our hearts and steal our life.

Pretty much all the sin and problems we have can be boiled down to four disastrous behaviors that get lodged in our heart - guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. I ran downstairs, got the book, and feverishly started re-reading the chapters on anger.

Anger, although sometimes completely justified and warranted, is really just a reaction to not getting what you want. Something has been taken from you. There's been a theft and someone owes you and you aren't willing to let go of the unpaid debt.

You are the victim and yet you also end up paying the penalty for the crime by being consumed by anger. It's tragic.

Anger, left unattended can spread like a cancer and infect all your relationships.

Alarmingly, the consequences of unresolved anger can have multi-generational implications. This truth terrified me. The last thing on earth I would ever want is for Allie to be relationally, emotionally or spiritually harmed by my inability to deal with this anger.

Naturally now that I knew my heart was infected with anger, I desperately wanted to purge myself of it and lift the weight off my shoulders (and mind).

Wisdom and truth from the bible teaches that there is no place in our life for anger if we want to be filled with the spirit and experience freedom.

James 1:19 "...Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God's sight."

Ephesians 4:26 - 27 "And don't sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil."

So how on earth do you get rid of anger?!
The unsuspecting kryptonite of anger is actually forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:31- 32 "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you."

Forgiveness? Really? Isn't forgiveness letting "your enemy" off the hook? Ironically, no. By forgiving someone of their unpaid debt to you you are destroying their influence in your life and giving Jesus all the power in your heart. I mean when you really think about it, it's selfish to hold on to anger and selfishness is the complete opposite of who Jesus was and who he wants us to be.

Matthew 18: 21 -35 instructs us on this continual act of forgiving like God forgave us. If our hearts are constantly centered on how undeserving we are of His grace, it makes it a lot easier to forgive the sins of others against us.

Matthew 6:12 When Jesus is teaching how to pray he says we should ask God to "forgive our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us."

He follows that up in verse 14 by reemphasizing the importance of forgiving others and its influence on our relationship with God. 

Colossians 3:13 "You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must also forgive others." 

Forgiving is completely and totally freeing. Had Zach not been asleep at the time I chose to forgive and move on I would have gone dancing and screaming through the house.

Now once you forgive someone, especially if it is an ongoing sin or problem, it doesn't mean you'll never be angry again. I probably will feel a tinge of anger today about our situation. The point is to always keep it in check, continually forgiving, always giving God the power in your life and not others.

If you struggle with anger or any of the other "monsters within" like guilt, greed, or jealousy I strongly recommend reading Andy's book. Also, for those of you out there like me who didn't go to seminary and have trouble interpreting the bible correctly I strongly recommend the ESV study bible.

 This bible, nicknamed the "big honkin' bible" by our pastor and "the sense-maker" by our friend Justin, is a priceless tool for anyone wanting to know more about the bible or Jesus' teachings. There's much more to the bible than just face-value. Sadly most christians just extract portions of the bible and except them as absolute truth without digging deeper to their original meaning and purpose. This subject alone of how to read the bible should be an entirely different blog post (and maybe will be!), but the point is that it's a great resource.

Anyways, hope this helps some of you find freedom in Jesus by managing your anger and all the little things that can creep into our hearts.

For our Forest Hill family, isn't my recent revelation ironic considering David's message this weekend? Gosh, there was so much truth in what he shared and how he confirmed the importance of ridding myself of anger. If you missed it or don't go to FHC, you can watch it here. It is definitely worth your time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Salad and a Sweet

I love to cook. And bake. Pretty much if it can be even the slightest bit creative and involve food I'm all about it. :) Sharing great recipes is actually part of my Seven Silos blog, but I couldn't resist slapping these two recipes on Citizens.

(Side note: Seven Silos is NOT published yet, but I hope to get at least something going soon on the this.)

Back to the food.

So a few weeks back I posted about a dinner party. All the dishes were a huge hit including this very simple pear salad. It is a really versatile dish that can accompany a sophisticated entree or just be a casual snack.

Simple Pear Salad with Balsamic Maple Dressing

  • mixed greens
  • a fresh, crisp pear
  • chopped pecans
  • honey
  • balsamic dressing
  • maple syrup
  1. Salad
    1. Bed of mixed greens topped with sliced pear. 
    2. Dress with honeyed pecans (In a small bowl, drizzle honey over pecans and mix until evenly covered. Add to salad.)
  2. Dressing
    1. Buy any balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Pour into small bowl and add maple syrup to taste. Drizzle over salad.
Now for the sweet. :) Last Sunday night I made Brownie Pie for all the Advance guys and it also was a huge hit. Our friend Ryan thought he was eating a dessert from Chili's! Ha!

Brownie Pie

  • 1 package Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 9-inch unbaked pastry crust
  • vanilla ice cream (optional)
  • strawberries (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine brownie mix, eggs, oil, and water in large bowl. Stir with spoon until well blended, about 50 strokes. Stir in chips. Spoon into crust. 
  3. Bake 40 - 45 minutes or until center is no longer gooey (I usually do 55 minutes). Cool completely.
  4. Puree strawberries in food processor or blender. (Optional.)
  5. Cut pie into wedges. Serve with ice cream and pureed strawberries. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Long Distance Love

Zach and I are longing to see Allie and have her with us in Charlotte.  For six months we have been working on a new solution to get more quality time with her throughout the year. It has been very challenging, but God is answering our prayers and providing ways for Allie to be with us more regularly and for larger chunks of time. Here are a few cool examples of His provision...
  1. God brought us to Charlotte, a city with a major international airport. 
  2. God provided a house less than 15 minutes away from the airport. (While in Florida we would drive 90 minutes each way to and from the airport.)
  3. Since Charlotte is the hub for US Airways, we have numerous direct flights to Huntsville throughout the day. (Previously it was very difficult to fly direct since Huntsville is such a small airport. This is a huge blessing! Now we have more flight options that do not conflict with school and abide by our legal schedule.)
  4. US Airways has a much more accommodating unaccompanied minor policy than other airlines. This allows us the flexibility we need to get Allie here quickly and safely.
  5. Since we shaved 3.5 hours off our driving distance from Allie, the flight time is shorter as well.
  6. Zach's mom, who lives 40 minutes away from Allie, is willing and able to help transport Allie to and from the airport as well as be her UM escort through the airport. We are so thankful for Cindy and all the tremendous ways she has helped Zach care for Allie over the years. 
  7. God has also provided a fantastic attorney who is well-versed in family law and is very passionate about helping us enforce the visitation schedule and resolve the existing challenges. 
Thank you Jesus! We are so thankful that He knows our hearts, Allie's needs, and the right way for this all to pan out. In this circumstance, we are also grateful for the governing authorities and the laws everyone involved must adhere to. I don't want to go into a lot of detail, but this situation has definitely tested our patience, our character, and our willingness to put our own plans aside and trust God to handle it all. Allie has been entrusted to us by God, but she belongs to Him, no one else. We must always remember that and trust His timing in this.

Even though it is extremely painful to be away from your child for any length of time, I have been so inspired by Zach and how he has handled this situation biblically and maturely. He definitely has Jesus in his heart (that I know for sure) and is extremely passionate about not only being an awesome dad, but a strong spiritual role model for Al.  It's his job, no one else's, and he takes that very seriously. I wish I had the time to tell you all the ridiculous ways Zach has sacrificed for Allie, poured into her, and given everything he has physically, monetarily, and emotionally just to be with her over the years. All you need to know is that he is an incredible father and I am completely honored to parent beside him.

Anyways, this is the first time in my life I have really had an up close and personal experience with a child of divorce and it is definitely challenging. Allie is an amazing child, but I can't imagine how odd it must be to have two families and be raised by two very different sets of parents. To have two homes, two bedrooms, two wardrobes, etc. She also has (soon to be) 4 half-siblings with her mother whereas she is our only child. There are a lot of big differences. Fortunately for her, Allie was still a toddler when Zach was divorced so she does not have memories of a different arrangement or preconceived familial expectations. She adores our family time together and has fully embraced me as her stepmom since day one. Please let me tell you what a huge blessing it is to have an amazing relationship with your stepchild. It's stupid amazing and I know not everyone in my situation is blessed with that.

Even though we are not blood-related, I feel as though she is also my daughter since we have so much in common and communicate so well. I love her so crazy much and am hugely humbled and honored she loves me. From what I've been told, Allie prayed for me for a long time, for someone to come into Zach's life. I cannot tell you how overwhelming and mindblowing it is to be the answer to a precious child's prayer. Words cannot express her tender, sweet spirit and just... all the priceless times she has sat there with bright tearful eyes telling me she's so happy I'm in her life. Seriously?! I am blessed.

So this "part-time parenting" and time away from Allie leaves us looking for creative ways to make her feel a part of our life all the time even if she isn't here. We never want her to doubt that she is a huge part of our life and we want her to know we talk about her constantly and will forever love her unconditionally. Zach calls her everyday (and has for many years since the divorce), but this month we wanted to do something more special since so much has changed in our life. We decided to put together a really creative care package of various items that would be fun, engaging, artistic, delicious, and give her a little taste of her new life in Charlotte. It's just as much a new life for her as it is for us and we want her to be able to experience it as much as possible, even remotely.

Here's a glimpse into Allie's care package...

1. Allie's Adventures photo book
Since it is pretty impractical to send Allie a bunch of loose photos, we made her a book of last year so she can remember all our fun times together and many adventures. It's 58 pages of photos and fun stories. My goal is to make one of these for her each year so when she is older she can visually remember a lot of big and small details from her childhood.

2. Blog posts
Allie doesn't get online much, but we wanted her to see all we've been up to since moving to Charlotte. We are sending copies of our posts from this blog so she can read up and see things like the idea images of her new room!

3. Letters
Zach and I each wrote her a personal letter.

4. New room sample bag
We wanted her to get a taste of what her new room will be like in Charlotte so I am sending a bunch of materials, colors, and textures for her to experience. She's gonna go nuts over this bedroom! :)

Bag full of samples...

New room samples...

5. Musical Notes game
We made up a secret message game using musical notes. Using the alphabetical key and sheet music, Allie will discover a hidden message from us!

6. Yogurt shop drawings
We are sending Allie the existing drawings we've done of her yogurt shop so she can work on it remotely and send me her revisions! :)

7. Did you know? biblical truth blurb
Since Allie loves to build tents, we also are including a little biblical truth blurb about Paul as a tentmaker in Corinth. See Acts 18 for the reference!

8. Treats, of course :)
We are also sending two oranges my parents sent from Florida as well as chocolate-covered oreos I made for her. The oreos were a special treat we would get from a chocolate factory near our Florida house. That girl loves chocolate!

We love Allie so much and are anxious to get our new schedule underway. Please pray for us, but especially Allie, as these new transitions begin to occur.

See you soon Allie girl! We love you!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Nobody's the Same

Lisa Dale. I cannot survive without her. Well technically I can, but it's just not the same.

(Hope it's ok I stole this pic from your Facebook! :))

Lisa was my hair stylist when I lived in Atlanta and Zach's as well once we started dating. I got introduced to Lisa by an old co-worker back in 2006. Carrie May, I am forever indebted to you! :) Anyways, Lisa is seriously the best stylist of all time. And no I am not being over dramatic. I've had my hair cut by loads of folks and she is definitely the best. While living in Florida Zach and I would coordinate hair cut appointments with our trips back to the city when Zach was booked to play or we had some sort of social function. Sadly, that happened a lot less than I had hoped for.

Oh how I miss her. I've had to grudgingly get my hair cut a few times since August (the last time it actually looked good :)) and it's never the same. What is that?! Why can no one else replicate my hair cut?! I show people pictures, I try to describe how she cuts it, and it never looks the same. Never. Zach and I have discussed this many times and we have landed on the fact that Lisa is not a hair stylist, but a hair designer. Her cuts are completely unique every time and she is stupid talented.

In addition to being a fabulous 'designer', Lisa is also a dear friend. Her warm smile and sweet personality make getting a hair cut seem like just an afternoon visit with a friend. Lisa has been so generous to me over the years, especially on my wedding day. She made a big personal sacrifice that day and not only did my hair (which was totally fabulous), but came to the wedding as well to celebrate with us.

Check out my awesome wedding hair. And yes, I had extensions! :)

Lisa fast at work...

The back...

The side...

The front...

A pic through the chandelier...(Lisa doing Zach's hair for the wedding)

Lisa and her husband Phil have their own very unique salon that is also an art gallery for Phil's paintings and display for their daughter's handmade jewelry. It's such a special place filled with creativity and love.

I told Zach today that as soon as I get a job, we are going to Atlanta on our off day and getting hair cuts! It's only a 4 hour drive!

Lisa Dale we are coming for you soon! :)

And for reals... all you Atlanta people, you need to get your hair cut by Lisa! Or if you don't live in Atlanta, go to Atlanta and get your hair cut. She's the best! You won't regret it and you'll leave with a great new friend. :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Sharpened Community

I'm frustrated today because I don't have any new pictures. I hate publishing a blog post without photos. I guess it's because I'm such a visual person. Personally I have a hard time reading blogs that are text only even if the content is really interesting. What's that cliche'? 'A picture is worth a thousand words'? Why yes, yes it is.

Ho hum. A photo-less blog post. That is me today, but I hope you will read on anyway! I'll try to keep it short. :) So many thoughts are racing through my head today as I think over the last few days. Zach and I just had our 7th house guest since we moved to Charlotte. 


And we've been here less than 2 months. AND we already have 4 more coming in the next month. (And double AND...Allie doesn't even count as a guest since this is her home too.)

I feel like I am perpetually washing the guest room bedding and bath towels and making no progress whatsoever keeping things clean. (Ah ha! I will go take pics of the guest room bedding! YES.)

polka dot sheets
city print duvet
center circle
felt pillow
I feel better now :)

So even though there's a bit more laundry, I adore having people in the house talking, laughing, eating, and reading the bible. People striving to figure out what the heck it means to really live like Christ and lead a church.  People who want more of Christ in their heart and less of themselves. People who encourage one another and love each other recklessly. 

I love our community. And I love hosting people in our home. 

I love cooking for others and providing a space people can be comfortable and enjoy each other's company. Seriously, if it were up to me I'd spend all my time just cooking and baking for other people and finding other creative ways to nurture relationships. This new community is such a massive blessing in our life. Zach and I were so hungry for this type of community and it is a joy to extend love through hospitality to those around us.  In addition to people staying at our house over night or friends just coming over, we have been invited to other homes for meals or just fellowship more times than I can count. There's something so special and life-giving about really doing life with other people on a very regular basis. 

Our culture has gotten so far away from this due to our independent lifestyles and values. If you've ever read even just the preface of the book "Outliers" you know how drastically your community shapes who you are and effects every part of your being, even your health.  Eventually whatever you surround yourself with is what you become no matter how strong of a person you think you are.

I have seen evidence of this truth first hand since our move to Charlotte. We were so obviously designed for community! Without community people tend to wither away and lose effectiveness. With it we flourish and thrive, feel energized and encouraged to continue seeking God and a life filled with His true spirit. There is immense truth in

Proverbs 27:17... "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

I am so thankful God has provided this need for us here in Charlotte with such dear friends and fellow ministry workers (and kindred spirits outside of Charlotte as well!). It definitely has challenged, refined, and changed us both in a myriad of ways already. 

Thank you sweet friends for your love, your passion for sharing biblical truth, and your constant pursuit of something greater than yourself. We are honored to do life with you and share the blessings of Christ in our community. 

Now... anyone want to come over for more brownie pie? :) Just let me know... :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

12 Pillows and a Porch

Slowly I am making progress at the new house. This pace is killing me! Ugh! I guess God is teaching me patience? :)

Even though the room is only about 80% done, I thought I should post at least a few photos of our downstairs living room. Our house is a split-level with the primary living area, utility room, one bedroom, and one bathroom on the lower level. This living area is really where we spend most our time hanging out, watching movies, reading, etc.

My camera lens is not so great for interiors, but here are a few shots. It looks pretty similar to our last place, but with a white background and more of an emphasis on the green tones. The modular sofa floats in the middle of the room and is centered off the fireplace.

Previously in our dining room, this grouping of artwork now has an 'asparagus green' backdrop...

One of my favorite things about this area is all the textures in the throw pillows. Lots of velvet, felt, ultra suede, silk, and woven fabrics. It might be a tad ridiculous to have 12 pillows on your sofa, but I love it. :)

More to come in this room once I add drapery, a few mirrors, and some mantle decor!

Adjacent to the primary living area is the screened-in porch. (The deck / outdoor grilling area is off of the kitchen.) I love this porch and how cozy the drapery and table lamp make it feel. I can't wait to sit out here more once the weather warms up.

View from the living room...

View from yard...

Glass jars filled with tea lights and sand (the last remnant of our time in FL!) and empty pots ready for spring flowers dress the coffee table.

And more pillows of course :)

Stay tuned for more completed spaces at the new house! What's next? Allie's bedroom of course!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Blurb Book

I recently made a book for Allie using and I totally recommend it to anyone interested in making books. It's so easy and the end product is really professional.

The downloadable software from the website gives you tons of layout options and flexibility. They also have a number of different book sizes as well as cover and paper options. Here are a few spreads from Allie's book...

Book back

If you are not super creative, Blurb is still for you! You can easily hire an expert to design your book through BlurbNation or sell your finished book on their website. It's seriously awesome and I can't wait to make another one. My goal is to make Allie at least one book a year so she can easily and visually remember her childhood.