Podcasts, please!

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m an avid listener of podcasts. It’s difficult for me to complete a conversation without adding, “So there was this podcast I was listening to…” There are all kinds of podcasts out there for a motley of purposes. I mainly listen to expository and personal narratives to learn and broaden my perspective. My husband loves to glean through stories. His favorites are harrowing and inspiring tales from international missionaries and, in contrast, true crime mysteries. Like books, everyone has their own genre of podcast they prefer. Because I get asked so often, I thought I’d share some of my favorite podcasts. And if you’re new to podcasts or you’ve never listened to them before, welcome!! Grab your earbuds, and get ready to feel like the greatest multitasker in the world. I swear I get my daily chores done 10x faster while listening to a cast. Laundry (yes, the worst chore ever that I hate with the white hot passion of a thousand suns) goes by quickly. And let’s not even get started on how essential they are to a road trip. I hope this list of podcasts can help you to learn and grow and challenge you, like it has me. Share your favorites with us in the comments! I’m always looking for another show.

The Happy Hour

One of my top three favorites, this podcast makes me cry and laugh simultaneously. It’s equally educational and entertaining and just dang encouraging.

Love Thy Neighborhood

Another top three, LTN inspires me to show the love of Christ to everyone I meet.

The Bible Project

Probably the podcast I listen to the most, Tim and Jon are constantly blowing my mind and causing me to dig deeper into the Bible.

Radical

Because David Platt is just awesome. I appreciate his blunt but grace filled approach to the Gospel and the Christian walk.

Truth’s Table

These marvelous women are sooo stinking smart and wise and hilarious. I love their work and I love learning from them.

Ask Pastor John

If I ever have a question about the Bible, Pastor John has already answered it, thoroughly.

The Defender Podcast

The priority of our family in a podcast. If you have a heart for vulnerable children or want to know what that even means, listen to this cast.

The Gospel Coalition

I can’t go to all the conferences I would like to attend, but I can listen to most of them here. Thank you, TGC!

Red Couch

Because there is nothing funnier or more accurate than this show’s segment of Hood Politics.

Real Christianity (formerly Ultimate Marriage)

The episodes on marriage are really good. Dale likes to provoke, so be ready. Lol

Honestly Adoption Podcast

A great podcast if you’re just wading into the adoption or foster world.

The Heritage Women Podcast

This is a shameless plug for one of my best friends. She’s smart, she’s funny, she loves Jesus, she’s an amazing momma, and fellow dreamer. She just started her first podcast and I can’t wait to see what she is going to do for the Kingdom. Go listen to her on Spotify (coming to Apple soon) and be sure to rate the podcast so it can be available to more women seeking to grow in their faith and relationships.

Recipe Roundup: Pumpkins! Pumpkins!

Shout aloud, O earth beneath; burst into song you mountains, you forests and all your trees.

Isaiah 44:23

Happy best. month. of. the. YEAR!!!! Ya’ll, my family and I look forward to October 334 days out of the year. Yes, I’m as basic a white girl as they come, concerning the autumn season. And if they didn’t cost so dang much, I would be strutting around in those duck boots and fair isle socks. I don’t even know if those are trendy anymore, but that doesn’t matter. L.L. Bean, like Chanel, is eternal. I am obsessed with all things fall. The pumpkins! The leaves! The campfires! The mums! The scarves! The hayrides! The mountains! The flannel shirts! The pumpkins! The spiced teas and coffees! The corn mazes! The festivals! The hot apple cider! The pumpkins!!! Need I go on (I can)??

In honor of this most glorious month, I’m going to share some of my favorite pumpkin recipes and store finds. Try them out, pick up a pumpkin, gather around a bonfire with those you hold dear, and join the celebration of nature praising our Creator.

Favorite Fall Finds

I will first state the obvious: Trader Joe’s is a pumpkin lover’s haven. Go stock up on their pumpkin streusel, pumpkin pancake mix, petite pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin cranberry crisps (sooo good paired with goat cheese), and, my personal favorite, pumpkin body butter. Click the link for even more autumn options.

Caramel apples at Aldi are delicious, festive, and only $2.49 a pack. Aldi, we love you.

Lidl is where it’s at for fresh pumpkins and mums. Large carving pumpkins are only $2.49 and big beautiful mums are $3.99. With these prices, you won’t feel guilty about loading up your front steps with fresh fall decor. While you’re at it, grab a joyful bouquet of sunflowers for just $2.99 and try not to break into a huge grin every time you look at them. I dare you.

 

Starbuck’s new pumpkin cream cold brew is. to. die. for. Get a venti or you’ll live in regret for the rest of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

Silk is making all my dreams come true with a dairy-free option to enjoy pumpkin spice in my morning coffee.

Autumnal Recipes

Pumpkin Bread

I have been making this spicy bread on the first day of autumn every year since I was a teenager. I don’t remember where I got the original recipe, but I’ve tweaked it over the years and I’m convinced there’s no better pumpkin bread. Extra tip: I always heap all my spice measurements and sometimes double them (i.e. 1 tsp cinnamon = 1 big heaping tsp cinnamon).

  • 15 oz can Libby’s pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. cinnamon applesauce
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • Splash of vanilla
  • Chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two loaf pans. Mix together pumpkin, eggs, oil, applesauce, water, and sugar until well blended. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mix until just blended. Add vanilla and nuts, if desired. Pour into pans and bake for 50 mins until toothpick comes out clean.

Fire-Roasted Stuffed Pumpkins

This recipe, from Smoke, Roots, Mountain Harvest, is so stinking easy, delectable, and just too much fun. The main ingredient is time, but don’t let that deter you. You can roast the pumpkins while you make the filling and start the charcoal. Then, just throw it all together. Or stuff the pumpkins and refrigerate the day before and roast when you’re ready. This really is as good as it looks.

  • 4 small pie pumpkins
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (mild or spicy)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 cups crumbled cornbread (bake beforehand)
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 Tbs Fresh green onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Place pumpkins directly on oven rack and roast for 30-35 mins, until the skins darken and become shiny. Remove and let cool until easily handled. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onion, and garlic powder until meat is browned and onion is soft. Remove from the heat. Add cornbread, Gruyere cheese, goat cheese, and herbs. Toss to mix evenly.

Cut the top off the cooled pumpkins like you would a jack-o-lantern. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous innards. Season the inside of the pumpkins with a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Fill the pumpkins with stuffing mixture and replace the tops of the pumpkins. Finish roasting on a charcoal grill (or wrapped in foil on a campfire) in indirect heat until the centers are hot and cheese is gooey, about 30 mins. Transfer the pumpkins to plates and dig in.

Skillet Apple Pie

This is my go-to recipe for fall gatherings. It was featured in a Southern Living magazine years back. It’s super easy and the presentation is festive. Plus, it can easily be reheated over a fire with friends. This pie will knock your socks off, it’s so good. Remember to always always always serve with vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

  • 2 pounds Granny Smith apples
  • 2 pounds Braeburn apples
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Peel apples, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss apples with cinnamon and 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; add brown sugar, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and place 1 piecrust in skillet over brown sugar mixture. Spoon apple mixture over piecrust, and top with remaining piecrust. Whisk egg white until foamy. Brush top of piecrust with egg white; sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar. Cut 4 or 5 slits in top for steam to escape.

Bake at 350º for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly, shielding with aluminum foil during last 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Cool on a wire rack 30 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla or butter-pecan ice cream.

 

Pumpkin Cream

Because I’m obsessed with Starbuck’s pumpkin cream cold brew and I cannot afford to buy a cup everyday, I went in search of a recipe. Give Me Some Oven inspired my cream creation, but I wanted to make a bigger serving so I ended up with this. I’ve been using this cream in my hot coffee, too. It’s the perfect balance of creaminess and sweetness.

  • 1 Tbs canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup half n’ half
  • Pinch of salt
  • Maple syrup (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Combine ingredients and mix with a milk frother until thick and foamy. Stir into your cold brew or morning cup of coffee.

Fall Fun at the Apiarists’ House…

I’m seeing nothing but spoons! Here’s hoping for lots of snow this year!

First fall cookout of the season.

My husband bakes the best cookies. And he builds stuff. And he has a muscle car. Dreamboat.

Adoption Update: CARA Approval

Celebratory ice cream at Melt

Last week, Bret decided we needed to take a few days off to enjoy some time with Clara before school begins. Yes, she’s starting kindergarten in mere days. No, I still don’t want to talk about it. So, on Sunday the 18th, we woke up from our after-church-nap, fed the chickens, and packed up the car to stay with my mom and stepdad at the beach for a few days. We awoke late on Monday morning and I glanced at the clock, relieved that most of the morning was already gone. For the past few months, I’ve fallen into a routine of vigilantly staring down the minutes until 10 am. I knew that if we didn’t get a call from our caseworker by then, then we would not be getting one that day. One more day added to the weeks we had been waiting for CARA approval. (29 weeks and 6 days, to be exact, or, nearly 7 months). We slowly emerged into the kitchen, chatted with my parents over coffee, and started to prepare brunch. At 10:19, in the middle of a sizzling batch of bacon, my phone rang. I glanced down at it, saw our caseworker’s name scrawled across the top, stopped breathing, looked at Bret, watched his eyes grow large with understanding as he took in the look on my face. I answered and managed to croak out a feeble “hello.” Toria greeted me and calmly stated, “I have some good news.” She paused for me to respond. I couldn’t respond. She continued and told me the words we’d been waiting so long to hear… “Your family has received approval from CARA.” I dumbly replied with something like “that is good news,” and then had to hand the phone off to Bret having met my capacity for spoken words. Bret finished the unexpected and long awaited phone call with stamina, as I melted into a puddle nearby. We looked at each other, our cheeks wet and round with smiles and both repeated the surreal words, “We have approval!!” The rest of the trip was spent celebrating and grinning and earning a sunburn and sharing the news with our family. We cheered over nachos, then ice cream at our favorite parlor, followed by dinner with a sprinkled cake and toast at my mom’s house. (We kind of like food). It was pretty great!

All this to say, WE FINALLY HAVE CARA APPROVAL!!!! Praise the Lord!! That means that the Indian government has given us initial approval to adopt. This is a really big milestone in the adoption journey. We are now officially allowed to match with a child on the waiting child database!

So what’s next? We’re waiting on our team of awesome caseworkers at Lifeline to present us with a child’s file. This could happen at any moment. Based on our special needs considerations list, the team will reserve a child’s file on our family’s behalf. Once this happens, we have up to 30 days to decide whether we would like to move forward in pursuing this match or if we would like to release the child’s file back to the public waiting child list. Once we have reviewed a child’s file and are ready to move forward in pursuing their adoption, we will sign off on all of their paperwork and apply for NOC (No Objection Certificate).

We’ve been told the matching process is the most emotionally arduous part of the adoption journey. That’s honestly very difficult for us to imagine after this long wait for approval. We are going into this phase with optimism and we are eager to finally “meet” the babe God has planned for our family.

Will you please continue to join us in prayer?

  • Pray for wisdom and discernment as we review files. We’ve chosen to have pictures withheld until after we’ve accepted a file. We don’t know how we could objectively look at a file with a sweet face staring at us. The very idea of “choosing” a child is bizarre to us and difficult to wrap our minds around. How do you make such a choice?
  • Pray for our hearts as we delve into one of the most emotional decisions of our lives.
  • Pray God’s will be done and that whatever happens is to the glory of His name.
  • Pray for financial provision as we near the end. Once we are matched, several large fees are due, but we will finally be eligible to apply for more grants. We only have about $5000 left and we are praying that the Lord will continue to provide through these grants. We are so thankful for His faithfulness in this area, already.
  • Pray for Clara. This wait for “her baby” has been hard on her, too. Please pray for her little eager heart.
  • Keep praying for our unknown child. That they are safe and loved and cared for. They are unknown to us for the moment, but completely known by God. And that brings us such peace and reassurance.

August Book Talk

Happy hottest month of the year!! I usually dread this month, with its scorched grass and blistering temperatures. I feel so keenly the blaring of the sun, always watching like the Eye of Sauron. I’ve already found myself longing for flannel and spiced hot chocolate and crunchy leaves and crackling fires and pumpkins. But I must not let myself fall headlong into such dreams. Autumn is months away. Months away…. No, this August I will relish the remainder of my. last. summer. with my little lamb before she goes off to kindergarten. And speaking of little lambs and learning, this month’s book talk is for them.

When it comes to choosing books for my girl, I am extremely selective in what we read. Books are the first ways that we shape their little characters and I want to be mindful of that as I choose her literature. It’s important to me that the texts she is exposed to challenges her academically and helps her to grow spiritually. The ultimate goal is that she become a lover of words and a lover of the Word. Many Christians, today, are biblically illiterate and struggle to have a desire to read Scripture, let alone understand it. I want to give my children the tools to read, comprehend, and love the Bible. Here are some things we do to encourage a love of reading in our house and ensure she’s receiving good, life-giving instruction from texts:

  • We read all day, everyday- We start each day with God’s Word and end with God’s Word. Every morning, we begin our day with Scripture. For the past few weeks we’ve been focusing on the Ten Commandments. After breakfast, I settle Clara into my lap, wrap her up in a big hug and we read the Ten Commandments together. Later in the day, we will read a picture book or a chapter from her current read. We’re about to finish reading Ella Enchanted. While she’s playing, or if we are running errands in the car, I will put on an audio book for her to listen to. And then at bedtime, she will pick out a picture book for her daddy to read to her followed by the Bible.
  • We read the classics- I prefer classic literature to challenge her and expand her vocabulary. We love to use the Hoopla app through our local library to listen to such books as Winnie the Pooh, Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, Chronicles of Narnia, The Princess and the Goblin, Mary Poppins, Paddington, Peter Rabbit, Aesop’s Fables, etc. We also use the Streetlights app to listen to Scripture.
  • We assess themes- I’m diligent in examining the themes of a book before reading it to her. I don’t want her reading books that are contrary to our Christian worldview. There will be a time when she is older and can make this discernment for herself, but for now it’s my responsibility to protect her mind and her heart. Preview books before reading them to your children.

    This is an example of why it is important to preview your kid’s literature. This was found in a collection of classic children’s poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is NOT something we want our young children reading. We removed this page from our book.
  • We read poetry- If you want your middle schooler or high schooler to love and understand poetry, expose them while they are young. Shel Silverstein is most American children’s introduction to poetry. And while his poetry is fun and has forever changed the way we think when we see a sidewalk come to an end, it should not be the only poetry our children are exposed to. Read Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman, E.E. Cummings, Gwendolyn Brooks, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes. A vast portion of the Bible is poetry. I want my children to love and be able to explicate poetry.
  • We read multi-cultural literature- God is not an American. I repeat, God is not an American. In heaven, there will be people from every tribe, language, and nation. And what better way to get to teach our kids about their brothers and sisters in Christ than through literature. Books are mirrors and windows for our children. I make a point to purchase books that represent as many cultures as possible to put into Clara’s library. It’s also important to me to not have a bunch of Bible stories with a white Jesus. Be mindful of this. What we convey to our children about who God is, is important. Kid’s Read Truth is one of our favorite resources for Gospel centered lit. Pro tip: When looking for multi-cultural texts, check to see if the author is from the culture being represented.

    img_0523
    Our Princess loves the books by “Once Upon a World.” The series takes classic fairy tales set in different cultures, and uses illustrators who identify with those cultural backgrounds. 
  • We read books with colorful families- As a transracial family, it is important to us to incorporate books in our kids’ library that “look like us.” We choose books with biracial families and transracial families to show our kids that families come in all shapes and sizes. Some of our favorites are The Hello, Goodbye Window, Guji, Guji, The Simple Life of Ollie & Vern, The Lamb-A-Roo.
  • We snuggle- I always wanted my children to associate reading with love. We are intentional about holding our daughter when we are reading to her, pausing for a big hug every now and then, and proffering several kisses on top of her head before the book is through. Reading time has become the most cherished times in our house. When we tell Clara to get a book, she runs to find one and literally jumps into our laps, or as she calls it, ‘her nest.’ And that’s exactly how I want her to feel, like she’s safe and loved and adored in our arms while we read to her.

Hopefully, this post will encourage you to grab a good book and snuggle up with your kids. It’s one of the most important things you’ll do today.

Why I Quit Social Media

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

I didn’t actually think I would ever write this post, but since I deleted my Instagram account back in February after a three month break, I have been asked by so many people why I stopped. I am reluctantly writing this because I know the topic of social media gets pretty dicey rather quickly. But here we go…

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (me, whom has an all-or-nothing personality) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of all millennials or evangelical Christians. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They could be utilized in real-world analysis of social media use as they are based on open source information (the Bible). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of all Christians. The author invokes the scripture Matthew 10:16 “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” as you determine whether social media is for you.

The Journey | Summer 2018

Last summer I kind of had a lot going on and I started to notice how verrrrryyyy much I was on my phone, specifically, on Instagram. I started noticing things about my behavior like how I mostly watched the 4th of July fireworks while on the White House south lawn through my screen instead of actually viewing the spectacular display and taking in the enormity of the moment. I noticed how I would put off answering my little girl or my husband when they would ask me a question because I was busy scrolling or responding to a comment. I noticed how I would get frustrated at my family because “couldn’t they see that I was trying to respond to someone, I mean, I can’t be rude to the well-wishers.” I noticed how almost every picture I took or video I recorded was for the sole purpose of posting it to my social media account. I started to notice that I was actually planning trips and things to do with my family because I knew it would look good on Instagram and people would think we were so fun and adventurous. Seriously. I noticed that a 4.7 inch screen was ruling my life. Somehow, that piece of glass and metal was calling the shots in my day-to-day choices.

So I did what many “self-controlled” Instagrammers do, and I took a break. For a week. What I learned that week was that I was absolutely addicted to Instagram. I found myself sitting at red lights reaching for my phone to scroll, only to remember I had removed the app. I was on a break. I remember feeling ridiculously out of the loop from my friend’s lives and I often felt the need to explain my ignorance in group settings with, “oh, I’m on an Insta break, what’s going on?” Just as I thought the world was surely moving on without me and I was on the verge of dropping off into anonymity, my week ended and I rejoined the masses with much relief. I posted something about how nice it was to take a break and “focus on what really matters” and went on my merry way as a happy member of the social media club.

Winter 2018

By the winter, my life had drastically changed. I had looked cancer in the face (not for the last time) with my mom, and my husband and I had plunged headlong into the adoption process. I had posted about our adoption on my Insta account and received the most ‘likes’ I’d ever received on posts. I was becoming more skeptical about social media and starting to feel really protective of my family. I didn’t like how some people elevated us for choosing to adopt as if we were some kind of super heroes. I also became painfully aware of how many couples have exploited their precious adoption and foster journeys on social media for some paltry ‘likes.’ The whole idea of putting our children’s lives on broadcast for the world to see had become disgusting to me. Being on social media at all was starting to rankle with my convictions.  I texted a couple of my close friends that I was thinking about deleting my Instagram account, and they suggested taking a three month hiatus. So I did.

February 2019

In February, my three month trial period was up and I was more certain than ever that it was time to do away with social media. During my time off, I encountered convicting quotes that made it evident social media was an absolute waste of time and a distraction from the devil. Yes, I know I sound like a total weirdo saying that. Let me explain. While reading “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan, this quote made it so apparent to me that social media is a form of idolatry and that I had to stop… “What is a tremendous, unspeakable honor [speaking of worship] may feel insufficient for those who are used to being god of their own blogs and Twitter accounts. It feels insignificant to those who have erected their own shrines on Facebook and Instagram, filled with beautiful pictures of themselves. Herein lies the danger of clamoring for attention: we don’t realize that true joy comes from the opposite.” I had never heard anyone ever describe Instagram as a shrine before and with that light, I saw it for exactly what it is. I was reminded that God called his people to be holy, to be set apart. To be what the culture considers weirdos and radicals, at times, for the sake of His Name. And that was the end of social media for me.

So what

In my journey through breaking up with social media, I have learned a few things and become convinced of a few more.

  1. It’s a distraction. How many pictures or video do you take just so you can post them on social media? How much time do you spend living through your screen instead of in the moment? How many questions do you miss from your spouse? How many peels of laughter from your children do you watch through a lens? We take picture after picture and video after video because we don’t want to miss a thing, when in fact we are missing all of it. Or how about those posts about social justice that make a poster feel like they are trumpeting a cause when, in fact, you. are. doing. nothing. To quote Truth’s Table on how being anti-racist is in vogue, “When you go home and read a book to your baby boy and your baby girl, is there enough diversity on your book shelf? Is there enough diversity in your children’s church curriculum? Because if your baby and my baby are arguing about whether or not Jesus was white, and you taught them that, you ain’t no anti-racist, you just like to shout on Twitter.” Faith without deeds is dead, my brothers and sisters. Posting on social media is a distraction from actually enacting change.
  2. It’s an idol. Are you spending more time on Instagram than in your Word and praying? Then social media is not only a distraction, it’s an idol. Listen to this song by Jimmy Needham. Is social media an idol for you? “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing?” Isaiah 44:9-10
  3. It’s an addiction. The fact that all the terms interchanged with social media are the same ones we use when speaking of drugs and other addictions, should be cause for a pause. Consider, we use social media. We’re social media users, we detox or quit social media. I recently listened to a well-meaning podcast about how to “control” your use of social media. It went on to document how the creators of Instagram and Facebook actually model their apps off of addictive gambling behaviors. It is created to be addictive, but the podcaster then just says to proceed with caution. Would we give the same advice for drug use? If we know something was intentionally made to addict users, why would we ever submit to it? Jesus came to give us freedom from everything! “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” Luke 4:18
  4. It’s destroying our relationships. I recently hung out with some precious friends and the majority of the night’s conversation revolved around something(s) posted on social media. Since I’ve spent the last seven months social media free, I was hyper-aware that the bulk of conversation centered around posts. I felt that I couldn’t contribute much to the conversation because I had no idea who or what they were talking about. I began to wonder when our friendships came to this point of mostly connecting in person based on our social media connections. I sat in a room with friends that I dearly loved and mourned the fact that what was mostly discussed was frivolous posts, knowing that there was deep pain and need for connection in the room. Knowing that there were women sitting right next to me that needed to be seen and heard and loved in their brokenness. How many times do we miss out on these opportunities to really connect? How often do we look at a friend’s post and think we know what’s going on in their lives, think we’ve connected when we haven’t? How much more alone are we with our hundreds of “friends” on social media who never get a glimpse of the real you? Has social media made you a better friend, one that’s physically present in the pain, one that listens through the tears, one that reads pain on a face, one that sits with someone in joy and in mourning? Or has it made you more indifferent, oblivious? There’s only so many lives we can connect with, after all. Don’t let social media fool you, we don’t have the emotional capacity to invest in all of our “followers” the way they are meant to be loved. The way we are called to love. Social media is arguably (and it issss argued) a great place for meeting people, but does it foster deep, authentic communion with others or is it just a shallow farce of friendship? Btw, the park is also a great place to meet people.
  5. It’s destroying our children. Teaching middle schoolers for 8 years, I have witnessed first hand the consequences of social media use on our youth. I have sat with child after child who has had their character defamed on a social platform and feels like it’s the end of the world. I have grieved with girl after girl whose pictures of their body has been illegally circulated by ex-boyfriends and classmates before Instagram or Snapchat could remove it. Please, turn on Netflix. Watch “Social Animals.” Then try to defend how social media is not harmful to our children. If you’re still not convinced, watch “Hot Girls Wanted” (I do not recommend watching this if you struggle with pornography use) and weigh how the use of social media is strongly tied to pornography, child exploitation, and sex trafficking. And then remember this, “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6 If we don’t want to stop social media use for ourselves, maybe at least consider doing it for our children.

I really think coming to the conclusion that social media is something to be wary of and even quitting is a personal choice that comes from your own convictions. Has social media been used for good? Absolutely! But I’m always asking, at what cost and how good was it, really? I determined it wasn’t worth flirting with for me and my family. Below are some links to articles that have muuuuuuuch more to say on this topic and explain better than my own opinions do. Take a look. Do your own research. Ask God to search your heart. Be obedient to what He tells you.

10 Commandments for Entertainment & Social Media

How Has Social Media Changed Bible Reading

Before the Throne of Social Likes

Why We Should Escape Social Media (and why we don’t)

A Social Media Heart Check

How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers

 

Hey, Locals!

I’m sitting on the back porch, sipping coffee, listening to birdsong and my adorable chickens. Nahhhh! Not really. I don’t actually start allll my blog posts that way, although I’ve been quite redundant lately… I was scrolling through my posts and noticed that in the last three, I’ve commenced two of them with a relaxing scene of porch lounging. Those statements were true, but what’s also true is that an hour of writing later it was 17362517 degrees and 146% humidity. Ahhh, summer in the South.

Enough rambling. This post is for the locals. A summer bucket list of the restaurants you need to try, places to visit, and events to attend this season.

First up, the food: These are the restaurants that have sustained locals for years and the new up-and-comers. Try one of the Monroe classics or a trendy place to hang out with friends.

Pat Thai & Pat See Ew  
Tamarind
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Stone Table

Oasis Sandwich Shop– The best dogs in town. Grab a hot dog and a homemade dessert. Oasis has been around since 1933.

Duke’s Grill– What’s more American than a hamburger and fries? Dukes are the juiciest ones you’ll find. They’ve even been featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives!” Get the chuckwagon. Thank me later.

Koumi Express- For when you need hibachi, fast. And cheap. A favorite college-budget-friendly meal.

La Unica- The burritos are great, if you can ever stop eating the fresh chips and motley of salsa choices.

Stone Table- The best restaurant in Monroe. In the mood for crafted Southern cuisine, but don’t want to drive to Charleston? Head to Stone Table. I think their shrimp n’ grits are actually better than Magnolia’s. Yes. I said that.

East Frank Superette & Kitchen- The newest haunt in town. If you’re a fan of Common Market, you’ll loooove this place. It’s actually owned by the man who started Common Market in Charlotte.

Tamarind- Another new restaurant that used to be in Matthews. They have the most delicious Thai and Lao street food. Super fresh flavors.

Alice Jule’s Coffeehouse– The cutest coffeehouse in the area. Their iced coffee is delish. There’s plenty of room to spread out and study or meet with a friend.

East Frank

Next up, local events and things to enjoy this summer.

  • Independence Day Celebrations
    • Indian Trail: Parade, 11:30 a.m. on Indian Trail Road in downtown area.

    • Monroe: Festival, 4:30-10 p.m., with fireworks around 9:30 p.m.; at Belk Tonawanda Park.

    • Unionville: Parade, 1 p.m.; festival, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Unionville Elementary School.

    • Waxhaw: Parade, 10 a.m. (no fireworks display this year).

  • Cane Creek Lake
    • Swim and tan: Cane Creek Park’s Beach Area will be open ALL WEEK from 11am – 6:30pm. Reminder: Park Hours remain 7am to 7pm
    • Treasure Hunt! Free for all. Go out and search the trails at Cane Creek Park on the Day-Use Side for the missing Treasure Rock. Return Treasure Rock to the Main Office for a marvelous prize.
    • Paddle boarding: Enjoy sunset at Cane Creek Park! 10 Spots available. $20 per person. Ages 18+ only. Sign up online at unioncountync.gov/parks.

      • July 3rd from 7:30pm – 9:30pm.

      • July 16th from 7:30pm – 9:30pm.
      • August 10th from 7:30pm – 9:30pm.
      • August 24th from 7:30pm – 9:30pm.
    • Kayaking: 4 Single kayaks, 4 double kayaks; $15 per person. Ages 18+ only. Sign up at unioncountync.gov/parks.
      • July 23rd from 7:30pm – 9:30pm
      • August 15th from 7:30pm – 9:30pm
  • Union County Farmer’s Market
    • Our favorite “grocery store” in the summer! Open Saturdays from 8am – 2pm at 805 Skyway Dr. The market features locally grown fruits and vegetables, pastured beef and pork, chicken, various eggs, area crafters, baked treats including cookies, bars, bread, cakes and more! Follow them on Facebook at Union County Farmers Market to keep up with weekly activities and offerings (like live music and cooking demonstrations) and sign up for the weekly newsletter Y.U.M. (Your Union Market). The market accepts SNAP/EBT, WIC and Senior Nutrition Vouchers.
  • Treehouse Vineyards
    • The coolest place to hangout in Monroe! What brings on more seasonal nostalgia than sleeping in a treehouse? Enjoy this grown-up version that overlooks a beautiful vineyard. There’s plenty of family-friendly events, as well!
  • Classic Car Cruise-In
    • This event takes place on the 2nd Friday of every month from April – October in downtown Monroe. The City of Monroe Parks and Recreation Department is excited to announce the 12th annual Downtown Monroe Classic Car Cruise In. Awards are given for best in show and 1st and 2nd place for featured monthly car. No registration required. Spots are open first come first serve.
      • Featured Car List
      • July 12th -Motorcycles
      • August 9th – Jeeps
      • September 13th – Trucks
      • October 11th – Corvettes
  • Monroe Sip n’ Shop
    • Customers in downtown Monroe are invited to shop late on the first Thursday of each month at participating local businesses from 4pm to 8pm.  As always, there will be wine and snacks at each local boutique. Stop in to see all the goodies. A great idea for a ladies’ night out.
  • Food Truck Friday
    • This technically isn’t Union County, but it’s the closest food truck Friday and I would argue that it’s the best in Charlotte. There’s live music and plenty of free activities for kids.
    • FTF 2019
  • Music on Main
    • Free! Live music! Every fourth Thursday of the month from April – September, downtown Monroe hosts some of your favorite bands. Bring your lawn chair and get ready for some great music and tasty food! Make sure you check out all of the downtown vendors and shops while you’re there.

Hopefully this post can help you venture out, support local businesses, and make some sweet memories with your fam! Happy summer, ya’ll!!

 

Adoption Update: June 24th

 

I’m currently sipping my coffee on the back deck listening to birdsong and cicadas and my cute rooster (I can say he’s “cute” because he is a silkie and he’s the smallest and fuzziest of the flock. Think: teacup Build-a-Bear rooster with a Napolean complex). It’s a beautiful summer morning. There’s a soft breeze and I can almost smell my tomatoes ripening in the garden. My thoughts are flickering between what I’m going to cook for dinner (I’m making Kerala chicken curry, btw), wondering what Clara is doing with her Lolli right now, and the phone conversation I just had with my husband. I’m also sitting here pondering how to convey an adoption update to you without any actual updates.

From our last update, we organized a yard sale that was very successful thanks to the generous donations of our friends and family. We also had some rockstar friends who came and helped us work the yard sale. Shout-out to the Burns, Propst, and Bounds families!! It was a fun morning under the great oak trees at Mawmaw Medlin’s, and we enjoyed meeting people from the community, raising awareness about the orphan crisis, and having the opportunity to pray with people as they shared their own lives and burdens. Thank you sooooo much to those of you who gave magnanimously and volunteered your precious time. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Transparent moment: This Monday is difficult, as most Mondays have been for the past few months. Each Monday looms ominously over another week of no word from CARA. As you may remember (or may not) Bret and I are awaiting initial approval from CARINGS. CARA is the Indian government agency that processes all adoptions. Once prospective adopting parents receive CARINGS approval, they can then be matched with a child. When our agency submitted our homestudy in January, the approximate wait time for approval was 10-18 weeks. We were so excited to hit the 10 week mark and just knew that we would be getting the good news that we were eligible to match with a child any day. Surely, we wouldn’t be one of the couples that had to wait the full 18 weeks. We gathered up our hope and optimism, stuffed them into a balloon, and held on tightly to the tether. The weeks passed by, but we didn’t hear anything. As the 18 week mark approached, our balloon was on the verge of bursting. We were excited and confident that we would have to hear something by then. We even felt relieved that 18 weeks had come because it meant that we wouldn’t have to wait any longer and we could finally move on in the adoption process. 18 weeks came and went. Some air leaked out. And then 19 weeks. And then 20. And then we came to the stark reality that there is no possible way to know when this waiting period will come to an end. We are now approaching week 22. We are not deflated, but our grip on that hope has become less confident and more desperate.

As we’ve talked with our amazing caseworker, we’ve learned that other families have experienced longer wait times, too. Our agency has been reaching out to CARA and advocating on our behalf and on behalf of the other families. We have no concrete reason why there has been a hiatus on approvals. One theory is the halt is due to the recent elections in India. Maybe the Indian government has put applications on hold as new government officials are sworn in. Since most officials have been sworn in, now, the hope is that the government will pick back up soon and resume processing applications. In the meantime, our agency is using this time to look through the waiting child database and familiarize themselves with our specific special needs list, so that when we receive approval we will hopefully be presented with a child’s file soon after. Our family has also been using this time to design Clara and “her baby brother or sister’s” new bedroom, explore more local Indian markets and restaurants, and apply for Clara’s first passport. Clara is so excited to be traveling out of the country for the first time when we go to meet our child. Her only requests, so far, is that she get to see the Taj Mahal and eat lots of papadum, a thin and crispy Indian flatbread. I’m obsessed with that cutie.

All in all, we trust completely in God’s timing and we know that His plans are perfect and good. Even in the difficulty of waiting. I’m presently studying the book of Romans, and last night, God gave me a beautiful prayer for our current state. Don’t you love when He does that? When He speaks right into the dryness of your spirit and renews your faith with His Word…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~Romans 15:13

Would you be so kind as to pray this scripture over our family? Will you please join us in petitioning God for CARA approval, approval for other families, for the heart of our unknown child, and for ours as we wait? We love you. And we covet your prayers.

Learning how to make Kerala chicken curry with the most amazing friend and teacher!
Supporting other adoptive parents and their fundraisers. Candle: Farmhouse Candles
Fresh jalebi from Rajbhog Sweets and Snacks