Gluten Free Friday ~ MariGold Bars!

My friend, Mari…{Well, she’s really only my Facebook friend, and the cousin of my dear friend and middle school Spanish teacher, Kelly/Miss Riggs…but those things and the fact that she’s from Texas, and makes gluten free treats, make me love her and know that she is a kindred spirit. ☺} Anyway, Mari is a fitness and weight loss specialist who has had great success in helping people turn their health around in significant ways.  In recent years, Mari’s clients began asking her to recommend a healthy protein bar.  After doing some research, and finding the protein bars currently on the market lacking in all-whole and healthy ingredients, she decided to try her hand at making one.

Well, they were an instant success, and those who tried them requested more…and more…and more. What started with the original “Chocolate Praline Bar” has now turned into seven flavors and even more demand!

Problem is, even with their dedicated kitchen, the FDA requires a uniform size with less than a 4% variation, and that requires special cutting and indexing equipment, which is expensive.

This is where WE come in!  These bars are 100% gluten free.  In fact they are free of most of the major allergens.  Mari uses all organic and “whole” ingredients like coconut oil, raw agave, organic dark chocolate, and cold-pressed whey from grass-fed cows.

As people desiring quality gluten free products, and for those of us also interested in health and fitness, I thought you would like an opportunity to help Mari with the equipment needed to produce these bars more easily and to a wider market.

Watch this video to hear the story from Mari herself ~ and her husband Steve. {And notice how fun and cute they are, too!  They ARE from Texas…☺}

I hope you will consider being a “backer” of this  business with a one-time donation toward the needed equipment.  Every dollar counts, and with a donation of just $25, you’ll receive an assortment of MariGold bars for yourself!

I thoroughly enjoyed becoming a donor yesterday, and even in a very small way, helping them reach their goal of $9,800.  Also, I can hardly wait to get my MariGold bars in the mail!  {Too bad they won’t be in time for my triathlon tomorrow!}

Here’s the site that makes it a breeze to help Mari and Steve keep producing this high-quality and delicious product:

Kickstarter ~ MariGold Bars

I hope you’ll click on over and help them reach their goal! {And help a small business!}

And if you’re interested, here’s Mari’s website for her weight loss method!  Good stuff!

Have a great weekend, and if you think of me tomorrow morning, pray for the strength and endurance to swim a mile, bike 25, and run six!  I’m excited, but so nervous!

Rockin’ the Red Ones This Year

 Cooper was up and at ’em early this morning for his first cross country practice of his sophomore year.  He set his alarm for 6:51am, made himself a breakfast of eggs and GF toast, and headed to the high school at 7:45 for the 8am start.

And he was ready!  He’s been spending some time on the track in the last few weeks getting himself trained up for the season.  Cooper is a dedicated athlete and quite knowledgeable about all things fitness.  He also enjoys all things fashion {being mentored by our friend, the ultra-cool Jerry A.}, so he was MORE than eager to go shoe shopping yesterday.  Unfortunately, Dad went along, too, and could really care less about fashion. There was a bit of a clash over one’s desire for coolness and the other’s desire for arch support.

Last year Coop’s shoes were neon green. This year compromised on the very cool, yet supportive red Nike Flex.  {Sorry, Nike Lunar!}

Coop also got the awesome black Nike Dri-Fit socks ~ because you simply can NOT have your leg sweat dripping into your running shoes.  He’s trying to talk Dad out of his very uncool ankle length running socks.

His practice went well this morning.  There was a half-gallon of chocolate milk waiting for him when he got home.  He’ll repeat his workout again this afternoon from 3-5pm with a little time in the weight room as well!

Can’t wait to see how he does this season. Something tells me, he’s ready to really compete!

Stayed tuned for someone else who’s rockin’ some running shoes around here today…

Gluten Free Friday ~ Swiss Chard “Sushi” & Triathlon Countdown

 Two recipe posts in a row means I haven’t blogged in a week, but there are reasons for that. Would you believe me if I told you that a Sunday afternoon trip to the emergency room with a collapsed congregant {she is fine now}, a bit of a health scare and unexpected trip to my out-of-town doctor {nothing to worry about}, some babysitting, some birthday attending, a few difficult heart-to heart conversations, a heart-wrenching court hearing,  an open-heart surgery {he made it through!}, and a certain 12 year old in bed with me during the crazy and numerous thunderstorms all made their way into my week? Really, there is just never a dull moment around here, and as the saying goes, my best laid plans went awry. Oh, I did accomplish several things that were WAY overdue like homeschool reports, proposals, and portfolios, but I’m certainly not ready to begin teaching my Classical Conversations Challenge 1 class on Tuesday!  I’m hoping the weekend will allow for some cleaning, organizing of the homeschool bookshelf, and preparation to teach 13 students a multitude of subjects come Tuesday morning.

Training for a triathlon really doesn’t fit in with this schedule, but it’s only seven days away now, and I’ve made it this far, so I’m just settled on one more week of all-out training in the midst of our first week of school.  Yikes!  I am so thankful to be able to exercise like this, though.  It really makes a difference, not only in my physical health, but also my spiritual and emotional health.  Here’s what the training has looked like in the last two weeks:

Sunday, Aug.5 ~ Bike 23mi, Run 3mi
{these have to be done vvvvverrrry early in the morning…}
Monday, Aug. 6 ~ Run 6mi
Tuesday, Aug. 7 ~ swim 1mi
Wednesday, Aug. 8 ~ Bike 14mi, Run 6mi
Thursday, Aug. 9 ~ Rest
Friday, Aug. 10 ~ Run 6mi
Saturday, Aug. 11 ~ Rest
Sunday, Aug. 12 ~ Bike 16mi, Run 3mi
Monday, Aug. 13 ~ Run 6mi
Tuesday, Aug 14 ~ Swim 1mi
Wednesday, Aug. 15 ~ Rest {Raining!}
Thursday, Aug. 16 ~ Run 6mi {in a.m.}, Swim 1 mi {in p.m.}
Friday, Aug. 17 ~ Rest

and tomorrow on Saturday the 18th, I’m hoping to do a shorter version of the Olympic length triathlon ~ probably a 1/2 mile swim, a 16 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.  Rest on Sunday, run on Monday, swim on Tuesday and Thursday, bike on Wednesday, and rest on Friday.  The triathlon in is Connecticut on Saturday morning the 25th at 8a.m., and I’ll be doing it with my dear friend, Betsy. We always swim together and she does circles around me! In fact, I may be the last one out of the water next week, but I know I can at least swim for a mile, and maybe I’ll make up some time on the bike and run. I’d like to try and finish in under four hours. {I just read an article called “Breaking the 2.5 Hour Barrier.”  Ha!  Absolutely NO chance of that.}  Now to figure out what to eat and when.  It will probably involve eggs for breakfast and peanut butter and honey somewhere along the way.  That, plus regular water and Vitamin Water seem to do the trick.  We’ll see…

Robert offered to go to the farm for me yesterday and pick up our weekly veggie/fruit share while I was swimming with Betsy.  Then he took the kids for a late afternoon swim.  I got home before they did and realized I hadn’t used all of the veggies from last week yet, which included a bag full of Swiss chard.  I also had carrots and peppers in the frig, so instead of serving sauteed chard like I usually would with other greens, a fresh, raw, appetizer sounded nice.  My friend, Jenna, served something similar to this at a gathering last year, and I had just seen another chard roll like this in my recent issue of Eating Well magazine.

Here’s what I did:

Wash the chard, pat it dry, and cut out the thick stem.  Thinly slice or shred other veggies like carrots, radishes, peppers, cucumbers, and even onions and sprouts. {Avocados!} Spread a thin layer of cream cheese or goat cheese on long pieces of the Swiss chard leaves. Place small amounts of shredded/sliced veggies along the leaf and on top of the cheese.  Roll up and secure with a toothpick.  Have them waiting on a plate when hungry swimmers return home, and watch them disappear!

Now to “deal” with all of the new and freshly picked and delivered veggies, study my Latin declensions and algebraic equations, and put in a few more swims, bikes, and runs.

Oh~  And have a few ladies over for breakfast on Sunday morning to discuss small groups and ministry to women for the coming church/school year.  Can’t wait!

Have a great weekend!

Gluten Free Friday ~ Caramelized Onion Dip

 Well, I was hoping to post about the homemade energy bars that I recently made hoping they would be fuel for my upcoming triathlon, but they did not turn out as I hoped {too soft and messy}, so instead you’re getting the caramelized onion dip that I made on Sunday for our friends and lunch guests ~ Joe and Wendi and their kids. Maybe NEXT week’s post will be about some successful bars. {I had a negative experience with GU, but if you have other ideas, feel free to share.}

I’ve been wanting to try this dip since we had a similar one at my friend Deborah’s house in Stillwater, OK a year or so ago.  It was so good, and the perfect accompaniment to a cool summer lunch.  Funny, I made this version of her onion dip on Sunday, and then just yesterday we received a sweet anniversary gift and note of encouragement from Deborah and Todd.  {Gifts from the Lord!} Not sure why I didn’t just email or call her for her recipe, so maybe you’ll get some edits to this one in the future!?

This one turned out well, though, and our guests had seconds and thirds of it, so I know you won’t be disappointed ~ especially if you like caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar! Yum.


Caramelized Onion Dip

1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp brown sugar
2 + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
2-4 cloves garlic, pressed

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add chopped onions.  Saute onions over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.  Add brown sugar and 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar and saute 15-20 minutes more.  Add teaspoons of water to onions and turn down heat if they begin to get too dry or crispy.  After 20-30 minutes of sauteing, remove onions from heat, and allow them to cool.  Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper.  When onions have cooled, fold them into the sour cream mixture.

Serve with raw veggies, rice crackers, or best of all…potato chips! ☺

P.S.  This reminds me of a dip my dad likes to make that is similar, but uses raw onions.  It is quite delicious, too, and it works best with not regular potato chips {too fragile}, but….Fritos! {and tastes especially yummy in summer while taking a break from water-skiing on a Texas Lake!} Maybe THAT could serve as my triathlon fuel?

Stu and Rachel’s SoCal Wedding {Part 2}

Decadent gluten free waffles and pancakes, a worship service with old friends in Burbank, and an afternoon of beach volleyball ~ that’s what the Sunday after my brother’s wedding held.  We knew that our church-planting friends, Robby and Kim, had, in the last few years, moved from Burlington, VT to Burbank, CA to plant a church there.  Since we were only a few miles from Burbank, and didn’t have to join up with family  until noon, we decided to just show up at their worship service that morning.  It’s called Fellowship Church of Burbank, and it was fun to surprise Robby, but sadly Kim was away with their two girls!  
We decided to leave extra early and eat breakfast out on the way to church.  Robert found a restaurant in Burbank called BeaBea’s that claimed to serve gluten free pancakes, etc. ~ and boy did they!  Not only pancakes, but  big Belgian waffles and even gluten free toast if you opted for an egg and bacon dish.  It was SUCH a treat! {a very expensive one, but it certainly doesn’t happen often!}  Kory had the “Chocolate Fantasy” pancake stack complete with Nutella, whipped cream, and chocolate chips.  Kayla got waffles with bananas and chocolate chips, Coop got plain pancakes with a side of eggs and bacon, Robert got the full-of-gluten “Apple Cobbler” pancakes, and I decided on the egg scramble with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan cheese with a side of GF toast. {Don’t worry.  I ate about half of Kayla’s waffles.  She was still feeling lousy, despite the smile.}
After breakfast and church, we headed back to Santa Monica for an afternoon at the beach with the bride and groom, friends, and family…

…where Kory ended up eating some sand in an intense round of beach volleyball, and Rachel {the bride} showed off her back-bend set. Stu and Rachel actually met for the very first time on the volleyball court, and they are both amazing players.  I think it may actually be a requirement for living in SoCal. ☺

Next up was football throwing between the siblings and nephews.  Even I got in on the action a bit, and I think I’m glad there are no pictures of that.  Sweet, sickly Kayla was lying face-down on a towel on the sand growing more feverish and miserable as the afternoon went on ~ which was day #3 of fever for her.  We kept thinking it would break, but THAT wouldn’t happen for FOUR MORE DAYS!  Poor girl…

My son, my bro, and one little sis.  Don’t they look the part?

Sunday late afternoon was spent on the phone with our pediatrician back in MA getting advice on what to do with Kayla while we are 3,000 miles from home, and then looking up local urgent care facilities as was suggested by him.  We got up early Monday morning and took her to the urgent care that opened at 8am to discover that they didn’t “do” pediatrics!  Crazy.  Then we called “Doctors on Demand,” and learned that they only offer services from 6-10pm.  What?  We happened to be driving past a CVS pharmacy, so I called and asked the pharmacist what she would suggest, and after naming the two places we had just tried, she said to just take Kayla to the UCLA Medical Center ER.

I was picturing a waiting room full of drug addicts and gunshot wounds, but what I found was a new and sparkling facility full of smiling receptionists and kind and gentle nurses who immediately took Kayla’s vitals and discovered a temperature of 103 degrees. {she hadn’t had any Tylenol since the night before} This got immediate attention, and she was quickly whisked off to a room. I actually have a picture of Kayla lying on the bed in the ER room {shocking, huh? Actually Robert took it with his phone.}, but she has forbidden me from posting it.  I think it’s pretty cute, but she doesn’t.

It wasn’t strep throat as I suspected, just a really nasty virus of some sort.  She got a dose of Tylenol and a steroid to help with the throat pain and swelling, and was feeling a tiny bit better by the time we got back to the hotel room just in time to check out.

Next stops Malibu, Pepperdine University, and finally…Palm Springs. {or Palm Desert, to be exact.}

We had been taking in the view toward Malibu, CA all weekend while on the pier and beach in Santa Monica, and have always wanted to see the Pepperdine campus, so we took a little drive north before heading south to the desert. Wow ~ it is so beautiful. Can’t imagine going to college with a view of the Pacific from almost anywhere on campus!  We had fun sending text messages to our friends Austin and Sara who met while students there, and I think Austin mentioned something about “suffering for Jesus” while there in Malibu. Ha!

Our church-planting friend, Robby, suggested that we try and eat lunch at Neptune’s Net just north of Pepperdine. It’s an old and iconic place with great people watching from pierced and leather-clad bikers to the chic LA crowd to the surfers coming up from the beach below.  We gluten free folks enjoyed some yummy grilled fish tacos, and Robert had fish and chips.

And after dropping Melinda off back in LA, we headed 100 miles south to the desert, cruising along “the 10” {Interstate 10} and through the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, which is the second windiest place in the US.  There are thousands of these wind turbines there generating electricity to thousands of households.  Kinda eerie driving through there…
Stu and Rachel live in Palm Desert, so we stayed at their new place while they were on their honeymoon, and even got to help out with a little dog and house sitting.  We also did some really ridiculous sightseeing…
This is the view to the parking lot from the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, which takes you to the top of Mt. San Jacinto ~ where Stu proposed to Rachel.  Those two must be real daredevils, because I can almost 100% assure you that I will never go up there again.  It’s sort of like the Willy Wonka Glass Elevator, which is another contraption in which I would never want to ride.  I was scared to death and could not bring myself to enjoy the beautiful views, because I was too focused on gripping the hand rail.  {As if that would prevent falling to my death.} We packed a picnic and ate on the deck of the visitor center once safely at the top.  Kayla was still pretty puny, so we sent the boys hiking while she laid her head on a table inside. {so sad}  I went to look at postcards and thought the visitor center was shaking, vibrating a bit.  Minor earthquake?  We are in California after all. It was a little bit disconcerting, but then I realized it was my legs STILL SHAKING from the terror of the ride up.  My palms were still sweaty, too. I am getting too old for dangling from a virtually vertical cable while ascending 6,000 feet or so in 15 minutes. {And it certainly didn’t help that I have vivid memories from watching this 1979 movie when I was just nine years old.}  
Beautiful, beautiful views and trails ~ 10,000 acres of them!
The tram that supposedly holds up to 80 people! Oh my.

See what I mean? Vertical.  Straight up.  Who’s crazy idea was this?  Actually, I could tell you the answer, because I did bring myself to watch the movie about the history and brainchild of the tram. {Cool, dark theater where Kayla could still rest!}

And after that way-too-thrilling adventure, we just stayed with our feet firmly on the ground in the condo and did things like check the mail, take sweet Trax for walks {and runs!}, swim in the big, gorgeous pool, and cook meals using all of Stu and Rachel’s new and super-cool wedding gifts! ☺  And poor Kayla, spent most of her time on this couch with an ice pack and cool cloth on her head still trying to fight off that nasty virus.  She didn’t get relief until we were back home.  The poor thing sobbed her way through the airplane take-offs and landings which hurt her ears severely.  Unfortunately, her SoCal experience wasn’t as fun as ours.  Trax gave her lots of kisses, though, and stayed close by her side which helped her spirits.  Thankfully, she’s all better now!
So thankful for the beautiful wedding, the amazing couple, and a few down days in Cali. {109 degrees, but dry and wonderful! Loved the perpetual sunshine and warmth!}

Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ July {Death = life. Chaos = Joy.}

I really never really thought of myself as someone self-absorbed, but alas, it seems I have a serious case of Me. Myself. and I. And it’s not a pretty sight.

Last week I was reading John 12 and came to these verses, very familiar, but freshly full of impact and conviction. {But isn’t that often how it goes with God’s Word?}

“…unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.  He who loves his own life {or soul} loses it, and he who hates his life {or soul} in this world will keep it for life eternal.” 
John 12: 24-25

The summer has been fast-paced and chaotic as usual with non-stop, back-to-back intense activity. {I sound like a broken record on this point, I know.} I was feeling resentful of having all of my time dictated by other people, other obligations, and the intense craving of my {selfish} soul was like the words of Psalm 55: 6-8…

“I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.  Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness.  I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest.'”

Rest. Refuge. Flying away from obligation and responsibility.  Peace.  Quiet.  They are the cravings of my heart so often these days, but John 12 helped renew my perspective, and this is what ended up being my prayer…

Lord, I am so tempted to “love my life” ~ myself, my needs, my desires, when I am tired and overwhelmed from activity.  I’ve been exhausted and cranky and wanting to serve myself since we have returned from all our travels plus… {long list of other contributing factors}.  Anyway, I’m tired and am craving peace and quiet and stillness and alone-ness, but I took comfort and conviction from these verses today ~ that there’s real and true and lasting life to be found in “hating” my own and freely laying it down to be used for your sake.  And also, while I was praying and running this morning you reminded me of how you are the high priest who can sympathize with me in every way.  You were also tempted to love your own life and preserve it ~ especially in the midst of stress, frustration, pressure, people’s needs, being misunderstood, not related to as you desired, etc., and yet you chose to keep marching toward the Cross and go through with the most difficult work of all ~ for me.  Thank you so much for persevering for me, Lord.  Let me take heart in your laying down your life and let me be strengthened by your same spirit inside of me to continue the hard work of this life for your sake and glory and for the sake of those you’ve entrusted to me.  Thank you that your Word is a comfort and an exhortation each time I read it.  Help me to remain in it and in you.

{It’s not that I think rest is selfish.  Actually, I think that resting is a command and gift from God which I am trying to obey and receive!  It’s just that even the six days of “work” are often more than I think I can bear, and my Sabbath has often been “obeyed” on a long airplane flight or in the continuous comforting of a feverish child and a trip to see the doctor.}

And then today I was on to John chapter 15 ~ all about abiding in Him, the true vine…

“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
John 15:11

Life and Joy.  This is what is promised in the daily surrendering of my selfish desires. Die in order to live. Counter-intuitive, yes, but isn’t that often how it goes with Jesus and His Word?

And that full and chaotic life brings gifts it might not otherwise…

1.My kids (loved)
2. Robert (loved)
3. Visit from Karla (loved)
4. Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge (read)
5. Book of Luke by Luke (read)
6. Book of Titus by Paul (read)
7. Grace and Joy (in faith)
8.  Security (family)
9. Worship and Fellowship (Freedom)
10. Fresh farm beets (red)
11. Popcorn (white)
12. Blueberry picking & giving (blue)
13. God’s love (of persistence)
14. Robert’s faithfulness (of persistence)
15. Kelly’s friendship (of persistence)
16. Karla’s temperament (enthusiasm)
17. Klondike Klub kids play (enthusiasm)
18. Olivia regarding Bible study current and future (enthusiasm)
19. Trithlon (challenge)
20. Summer Bible study (conflict)
21. Travels to camp and California (change)
22. Swimming Puffers with Hannah (water)
23.  Pellegrino Sparkling Lemon Water (water)
24. Singing Beach’s refreshing waves (water)
25. Morning runs (rhythm)
26. Titus Poem (rhyme)
27. Paige Brown’s Temple Talk & other GCWC speakers (reason)
28. Spirit’s power (in weakness)
29. Reminders of my need for Christ (in weakness)
30. Gratitude for Gospel (in weakness)
31. Blueberry Currant Jam (in jars)
32.  Gift coins accumulating (in jars)
33. Coconut Oil (in jars)
34. Brett and Jenna’s conception story (of life)
35. Kory’s passion and maturity (of growth)
36. Kate’s setback that is a hopeful bottom (decline)
37. Robert’s fingers with mine (curled)
38. Kayla’s fingers with mine (curled)
39. Worn pages of the Word (curled)
40. Lemons for sparkling water and juicing (yellow)
41. Sauteed farm squash for dinner (yellow)
42. Mango banana smoothies
43. Old and New Covenants (of stone)
44. My engagement diamond and story (of stone)
45. Body of Christ at Crosswalk (of LIVING stone)
46. Beaded garland from Switzerland (hanging down)
47. God’s sovereignty in my kitchen window (hanging down)
48. Branches and vines lining my running route (hanging down)
49. That I can’t do it all (learned)
50. That He doesn’t want me to (learned)
51. That He is living bread and water (learned)
52. My guitar-playing, 80’s music loving husband (musical)
53. Mary Poppins on Broadway x2 (musical)
54. Speakers at the hotel pool (musical)
55. Raspberry Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip bars (baked)
56. Baked Oatmeal via Michelle (baked)
57. Me by the pool (baked)
58. Morning run along Santa Monica beach & pool time (in light)
59. A knowing, encouraging, loving closeness (in dark)
60. Holy Spirit freedom to initiate and acknowledge (in shadow)
61. Stu and Rachel’s on their wedding day (of story)
62. Stu’s salvation, CA church, and friends (of story)
63. Practical Theology for Women author’s testimony (of story)
64. Professionalism and kindness at UCLA hospital (understated)
65. A couple’s deep and vibrant faith (understated)
66. His sacrificial service to me (understated)
67. Mt. San Jacinto view from tram, I think (high)
68. Time in the heat of the desert (low)
69. A grandmother’s concern (far away)
70. A unity sand jar (of sand)
71. Beach volleyball (of sand)
72. The entertainment of endless digging and castles (of sand)
73.  Saturday morning of a great youth camp week (of endings)
74. The last pile of laundry ~ for a while (of endings)
75. Gatherings with those who are angry (of endings)
76. Basil (fresh)
77. Tomatoes (fresh)
78. Snap Peas (fresh)
79. Happy kids (on vacation)
80. Accomplished tasks (at home)
81. Freedom to stop (in relaxation)
82. Cindy and Ben’s wedding (of beginnings)
83. The second 20 years with Robert (of beginnings)
84. Preparation for school year (of beginnings)
85. Eating at our own table again (together)
86. Hearing Ian’s first sermon (together)
87. Birthday Duck Tape purses, FroYo, and campfire meals (together)
88. Thank you (heard)
89.  You are very special to me (heard)
90. I love you (heard)
91. Full of activity life (difficult)
92. Parenthood (difficult)
93. Exercise (difficult)

And so many extras this month…

94. Plane tickets to Cali and safe travel
95. Rehearsal dinner on the roof and sunset over LA
96. Santa Monica sunshine
97. Starbucks IN the grocery store near the beach and hotel
98. Security and joy in my marriage
99. Cute, cool, and cleaned up kids at wedding
100. Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Allsup
101. Less and less need to prove self to others
102. More security in identity in Christ
103. Warm wind of Palm Desert
104. Shopping for gifts
105. 50% off Loft secret sale & a new dress for the wedding
106. Good conversations with my 87 year old grandma
107. Walks with Trax
108. Safe smooth flights
109. Neti pots and fever reductions!

Stu & Rachel’s SoCal Wedding ~ Part 1

It all started with two people moving to southern California from other southwestern states {Arizona and Texas}, deciding to go to the same church there in Palm Springs, volunteering to work with high school students there, connecting with mutual friends, and being introduced over dinner.  Then it was a first date consisting of kayaking and sushi-eating, an eventual and thrilling hand-holding moment at the beach, and then a mountain-top proposal.  Yep ~ that’s how we got to take a trip to California for my brother’s beautiful beach wedding!
After arriving at the Los Angeles airport, meeting up with my dad and sister, making our way through LOTS o’ traffic, and checking in to our hotel, our first stop was the Santa Monica Pier  for Mexican food and ice cream with Stu and Rachel.

 The next day, the cousins arrived from Austin, TX and we HAD to go to In-N-Out Burger!  None of us had ever been, and our hotel was only 5 minutes from this one near the UCLA campus.  {They will wrap your burger neatly in iceberg lettuce if you need a gluten free variety!}

Later, we all got dressed up for the rehearsal dinner, which was to be more formal than the actual wedding, and held conveniently on the top floor of our lovely hotel.  Stu pulled the curtains open right at sunset, and we all enjoyed a gorgeous view of the lights of Los Angeles on one side, and the mountains toward Malibu on the other.  The hotel was round/cylindrical and the view at the top was a 360 degree one ~ so perfect!

We {well, really it was mostly me} kept waking up at about 5am due to the three hour time difference. On the first morning, I stayed in bed until about 6:30am California time, and then sent a text message to my sister Melinda around 6:45am asking her if she wanted to go for a run with Robert and me.  She was awake, too and met us at 7am.  We headed to the beach area in Santa Monica along the Pacific Coast highway, and enjoyed a run along the walkway and park right above the beach and amongst all of the outdoor yoga and pilates classes, still sleeping homeless folks covered in blankets, and lots of  interesting people walking dogs. We continued this tradition nearly every morning we were there.  Talk about a “rave run”!

The part I haven’t told you is that my poor Kayla was suffering with a pretty high fever this whole time. {Don’t be fooled by her beautiful, smiling face in all of these photos.  She felt horrible. More on that later.} Sooooo….in an effort to let her rest before the wedding, she and I camped out in our hotel room all day Saturday while the boys went to Hollywood.  Robert posed with all of his favorite 1980’s music heroes’ sidewalk stars, and they also enjoyed finding Russel Crowe {Coop loves Mr. Crowe’s films}, and Sylvester Stallone, and their all-time favorite ~ Olivia Newton John.  Now, there’s a lady who deserves a star on the Walk of Fame. {And Stu and Rachel ~ if you’re reading this, I went ahead and bought you guys tickets to see her at your local Fantasy Springs Casino on Sept. 15, so mark your calendars, okay?}

After some Chipotle burrito bowls at The Grove, they also stopped at the La Brea Tar pits ~ a place where naturally occurring tar seeps up from the earth and has trapped whole animals, trees, and more throughout the centuries perfectly preserving their skeletons.

Poor mammoth…
The boys returned to the hotel around 4pm, and we all got dressed and headed back to the beach for photos and the wedding ceremony.  In this picture we are standing on the balcony where the ceremony took place.  The guests sat on the chairs in the courtyard below, and the beach was directly behind us.
This one is of my dad, his four children, two sons-in-law, and six grandkids.
This is Natalie and Trey ~ high school students who were hosting the pretty “rock welcome table.”  As each guest arrived, they could write a message to Stu and Rachel on a rock and place it in the tall glass vase.  I asked them how they knew Stu and Rachel, and Natalie said that Rachel is her small group Bible study leader, and Trey said that Stu is his small group leader. There were LOTS of other high-schoolers there as well doing the last minute decorating, setting up chairs, and ushering guests to their seats.  It was clear that they love Stu and Rachel, and have been greatly impacted by them as well.  So fun to see!

Stu, Rachel and Stu’s sisters in the above photo, and our whole side of the family minus children below…

My handsome bro, and his beautiful bride.
A wonderfully humorous and authentic sermon by Stu’s good friend and pastor, Jeff, about Stu and Rachel’s courtship, the biblical purpose of marriage ~ to “showcase the gospel,” Communion, a unity sand vase, and this song ~
Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely you bled, for us
Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bow to none but heavens will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold you down
In strength you reign
Forever let your church proclaim
Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave
Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!
By Matt Maher

And lots of streaming tears in the midst of worship from this sister who was {and is} humbled and so grateful for the Lord’s goodness, provision, and answered prayer in my brother’s life. Christ’s glory does indeed defeat the night!

Stay tuned for Part 2:

The Emergency Room, Malibu, Pepperdine, Palm Desert, a Cute Black Lab, and a Very Scary Mountain Tram Ride

Celebrating 20 Years On A Remote Desert Island

New Year’s Eve in Austin Texas 2012 ~ Four Seasons Hotel
Well, not exactly, but it is an island, off the coast of Maine, accessible only by ferry, and I don’t think cars are even allowed.  This is really a blessing to us, although it has taken me a couple of days to warm up to the idea ~ no stores or restaurants either; can’t drink the water.   We just returned from a week-long trip to California, and before that it was a week-long trip to youth camp, and before that it was a trip to Florida, and that has all added up to me wanting to, yes, celebrate, but celebrate in a way that required very little effort, like maybe a nice dinner and luxurious hotel within a two hour drive or so. 
Hartford Half-Marathon 
 But Robert was praying {in the shower on Sunday morning, evidently} about how to celebrate our 20 year anniversary in the midst of  this crazy-busy summer, and on limited funds, and then at church on Sunday morning {same morning as the shower prayer} a friend offered their family’s place on this small island. {Thank you, Jonah and Michelle!}

Santa Monica, CA & Pacific Coast Highway ~ July 2012 for Stu’s Wedding

Admittedly, I was voting for the Boston Harbor dinner cruise and a night in a nearby downtown hotel {have I mentioned my love for Boston?}, but this was clearly the Lord’s provision, AND Robert promised to do the menu planning and shopping and packing, because…
I. Could. Not. Bring. Myself. To. Plan. One. More. Trip. Or. Meal. This. Week. 

Santa Monica, CA

Florida Trip, Summer camp, California trip, UCLA Emergency room trip, wedding rehearsals, wedding ceremonies, birthday parties, packing, unpacking, gift shopping, food shopping, cooking, and more have got me walking around like a zombie this week. He spent all day today making lists and running to various stores, getting his own work done somehow as well.  Not only did he plan our menu, and shop for our groceries {must take ALL food and water WITH you}, but he also planned the kids’ meals and shopped for their groceries as well.

80’s Party for Robert’s 40th ~ Oct. 2008

He asked me last week what I would entitle our first 20 years of marriage, and I had a hard time answering.  Plus, my zombie state was already coming on, so I was being kinda cranky.  “Hard Work” I said?  “Uphill Climb, maybe”?  And I wasn’t referring to our friendship or relationship in marriage ~ that’s been a blessing and a breeze for the most part.

Captain & Tenille for our friend Allyson’s 50th Birthday

It’s been the work that’s been difficult, but whose work isn’t?  Youth ministry, University ministry, church-planting, child-birthing, child-rearing, child-educating ~ that’s been hard work.  Hard work, but oh so full of blessings and gifts as well.  Sadly, I often lose this perspective.

Bar Harbor, Maine

“Beautiful Battle,” he said to counter my all-negative tone, “that’s what title I would give to our first 20 years.”

Acadia National Park

And he’s so right!  A beautiful and growing friendship between us, three beautiful children, loads of beautiful relationships with beautiful people, and the privilege of seeing the Gospel beautifully transform LOTS of lives.  All of that required lots of battling it out, of course, but all with the strength and power provided by Christ ~ and ALWAYS beautifully redemptive.

Hiking in Acadia

Robert is my greatest gift from the Lord.  We always write each other long notes in cards for anniversaries and birthdays, and mine always say that.  When he asked me to marry him, he said he could only promise two things: to be faithful to the Lord and to be faithful to me.  He has kept those promises in such a tangible way, that the other thing I always write to him is that his faithfulness in these two areas causes me to feel incredibly safe and secure ~ free to be myself, free to be honest, free of judgment, free of guilt, free of worry and fear in so many ways ~ and free to grow closer to Christ because of that provided safe atmosphere.

Switzerland for Romy’s Wedding

The other thing he did for me this week was go out and purchase a new wheel for my bicycle {the old one got seriously and mysteriously bent out of shape} and coach me through changing my own bike tire and fixing a flat.  He has plenty of other things to do, but he’s sacrificing his own time, money, and desires in order to help me get ready for something that I desire to do later this month: and Olympic length triathlon. {I was swimming a mile in our local pond today while he was shopping for our trip, because who can train when jet-setting and wedding attending?}

Our first half-matahon ~ Lowell, MA
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.   For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5: 25-32
I’ve taught on these verses several times this summer to various groups of women.  They were the verses used in the wedding sermon for my brother’s ceremony last week.  Robert used them in our friends’, Ben and Cindy, wedding on Saturday.  They are so important, because the “mystery” is that marriage is intended to “showcase” the gospel, to be an earthly picture of the relationship between Christ and the church, to be a tangible representation of the roles of each. Though neither of us is perfect, Robert, in the power of Christ, lives out his role as Christ so humbly and faithfully in our marriage ~ loving me as himself, giving himself up for me, providing an atmosphere of safety and growth in order for me to truly live and be transformed into the woman God wants and has called me to be.  It is my continual prayer that I would be able to return this love and sacrificial service to him as abundantly, and out of as deep a gratitude and affection, as the church responds to Christ for His ultimate sacrifice. 
Here we are 20 years ago. ☺  Like those suspenders?  This was the engagement photo that was put in our local newspapers.  When my grandmother saw it, she exclaimed “Why didn’t you brush your hair?”  She was obviously unaware of the beauty and high style of the late 80’s early 90’s “big bangs” trend.
So even though the harbor dinner cruise was more on my radar than a three hour drive and ferry to a remote island with solar electricity and not a single restaurant in sight, I look forward to late mornings, scenic runs, gorgeous sunsets, sea kayaking, long talks, and lots of quiet moments with the man I hope to celebrate the 20 year mark at least two more times.  With him, the battle of life is beautiful indeed.