Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days of Missional Meals

" Someone with whom we share food is likely to be our friend, or well on the way to becoming one." -Tim Chester
If you've been reading here any length of time you know that one of the focuses of my writing is on missional living. For the sake of this series we'll define missional as "living as a missionary." What this looks like will vary widely based on your context. But in the U.S. I believe a simple formula is applicable in most contexts. Are you ready for it? Live your life with intention. That's all.

I believe that the American church for the most part consists of two types of people. Either you are someone who pulls into your garage each night and stays mostly at home, hangs out almost exclusively with other Christians, and has limited community involvement. Or you go out on weeknights and weekends, hang out with mixed groups of people, and are at least beginning to be connected to your community. If you are in the former group than missional living is going to be a bigger challenge for you as it's going to cause you to have to reorient your life and priorities. If you are of the latter group than for the most part missional living will be easy because you'll simply need to do what your already doing but with intention.

The good news is that meals are an easy place for anyone to start on their missional journey. In my experience I have found that meals are among the great equalizers in life. If you take a moment to reflect on some of your greatest memories you'll realize that many of them took place around the table. Meals are a great catalyst for building community, deepening relationships, and finding unity.

If you'd like to find inspiration for more meaningful life around the table, I invite you to join me for the next 31 days. I believe you'll find the simplicity of missional meals inspiring for intention in other areas of your life. Besides, you find yourself at the table roughly three times a day don't you?

Day 2: Plan a Dinner
Day 3: Eat with Those Who Are Lost 
Day 4: Eat with Those who Are Found
Day 5: A Resource for Your Journey
Day 6: As You Approach the Table
Day 7: Eating with the Lost and Found
Day 8: Eating Around Your Table
Day 9: Eating at the Public Table
Day 10: Authenticity is Key
Day 11: On Listening Well  
Day 12: For Your Weekend Reading
Day 13: Finding Jesus in Your Meals
Day 14: Stories Matter 
Day 15: There is Grace 
Day 16: A Theology of Food 
Day 17: For Your Gospel Centered Conversations
Day 18: Where We Are
Day 19: Life as Mission: A Visual 
Day 20: A Prayer for You 
Day 21: A Welcoming Home 
Day 22: Memorable Meals 
Day 23: It Doesn't Have to be Perfect
Day 24: Pantry Essentials and a Recipe
Day 25: Why Meals Matter
Day 26: Resources for Your Meals
Day 27: For When You're Hungry
Day 28: So Far
Day 29: More Resources for Your Journey
Day 30: Put Mission on Automatic
Day 31: Today is the Day

Over the next 31 days I'm joining with The Nester and 1000s of other bloggers who are writing on nearly every subject under the sun for the month of October. Want to read more? Join us here.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Meals, Memories, and the Perfect Alfredo Sauce

I remember the first time I attempted Alfredo Sauce.


It was fat-free everything. Bland and all together uninspiring. The kind of meal you try to forget but can’t quite shake from your mind.

In 2005, I knew nothing about the real food movement or the need for good fats to add a healthy dose of flavor to a meal. I grew up cooking with margarine, drinking reduced fat milk and consuming artificial sweeteners. Their addictive qualities still plague me to this day.

The second time I made Alfredo I purchased heavy cream for the first time in my life and comnined that with full fat sour cream. What was originally a horrible white sauce only slightly elevated above the stuff in the jar was at once a symphony of garlic and cheesy creaminess. It was perfect. And I never looked back.

Once, my first husband’s side of the family wanted something atypical for their Christmas Eve feast. We went with an Italian theme and I made my Alfredo Sauce and scattered it in small ramekins around the table. Its purpose? Purely for dipping your bread in or even drizzling over everything else. Needless to say it was a hit.

Food is the Great Unifier 


I remember the time we hosted a known food connoisseur and close friend for the first time on New Year’s Day.  Of course, my go-to was the Alfredo Sauce as star in a build-your-own-pasta bar. We had salad, bread and dessert too but everything is but a bleak memory in comparison to that sauce. I’m so glad that was the meal the four of us shared together in our home. Little did we know that just the next month my first husband would be involved in a motorcycle accident that would eventually take his life.

I’ve shared my Alfredo Sauce with more people and for more occasions than I can count. If it’s your first meal at my home I’m usually serving it up.  If I’m trying to impress you or it is a special occasion, it is at the top of my go-to list.

It’s amazing how food and meals can leave such memorable imprints on our minds. I know some of the best conversations I’ve had have been around a shared meal. Some of my best memories include food. Around the table you can build community, solve problems, and find yourself again.
Imagine if we lived in a world where our government leaders, when faced with monumental decisions, got out the olive oil, onions and wine? What if Joe Democrat uncorked the bottles and began filling the glasses while Jim Republican started browning the onions. And then they all sat down together around a spread of meat and bread, produce and pasta, uncorked another bottle and began to talk and eat…

I’m not an idealist. I don’t believe shared meals can bring world peace or cure cancer. They’re not the answer to all our problems. But I do believe that if we came back to the table on a regular basis with our friends and our foes then our society would truly begin to change.


On Making Memorable Meals

Before I go any further I want you to know that I’m a Christ follower. Now regardless of whether you believe God exists, what you think about Christians or if you practice a religion, I believe we all can find inspiration for more meaningful, intentional lives around the table. In the month of October I’m writing a series called Missional Meals at my blog. It will help people discover how to intersect their faith and life by gathering around the table and sharing meals. If that appeals to you I’d love you to join me beginning October 1, and if it doesn’t that’s ok too.

In Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist relays her experience reading of an article about famous chef Thomas Keller. Keller writes that the first time you make a recipe you should follow it exactly to the author’s instructions. The second time, he says, you rewrite the recipe adjusting for your own preferences and tastes. The third time? You make it you make it by memory and then it becomes yours.

So I encourage you to make my Alfredo sauce yours. It’s probably not something you’ll make regularly but it is quick and easy. If you don’t have a block of Parmesan lying around you can even use the sprinkling cheese in the green can which I’ve done in seasons of life when finances were tight. But as with most things the more quality ingredients you start out with the better the end result. And once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to bottled stuff again. So invite some friends over, open a bottle of wine and relish your first time with this sauce. I hope it’s one of the meals you won’t soon forget.

Perfect Alfredo Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ½ cup sour cream 
  •  ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • Fresh basil for garnish (optional)
  1. Melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until softened and barley golden.
  2. Add cream and wisk in flour vigorously. Heat to boiling stirring often.
  3. Beat in sour cream with wisk. Reduce heat to low and cook 1-2 minutes more until heated through.
  4. Remove from heat and add cheese and spices.
Serves 4-6

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When You're Married to Your Best Friend

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When most weeks I spend all day Monday writing alone in the office it's this week that he is there too. I'm typing until my fingers feel numb or the HTML code makes me crazy (whichever happens first). He's working on his Master's, taking tests, writing papers and the like.

And finally it's time for a break and by God's grace our breaks overlap and so we cook lunch together. I break up the sausage in the pan and he breaks the butter up with his fingers and rolls the dough out by hand. It's biscuits and gravy that day. And while not entirely healthy it is entirely delicious and Southern. It's all meat and milk and butter and flour for the most part. It's real and made by our own hands. But most of all it's made together.

And going on nearly five years of marriage we've learned a few things. Ironically we've learned that when I'm doing what I love I'm happier and thus a better wife. More loving, more patient, more serving, and more generous. And so I support him in pursuing his dreams believing that he could become even more grace filled if he wakes up one day wanting to go to work each morning...

And like every marriage we have struggled. We have had our line-in-the-sand moment. Our was in October of 2010 to be exact. And for a bit we didn't know if the marriage would live or die. But we decided to keep moving forward. And that next year was the hardest. And I'll be honest that I questioned our decision.

But here we are. And once again I can't believe how beautiful marriage can be. And I think for this past month I've started to fall more in love with him again. I love the way his lips feel against mine and the way he smells. He is predictable in such a comforting way. He is strong and warm all in one. And he is truly my best friend.

This is what I know: marriage is one of the hardest pursuits in this life but if you can keep moving forward the rewards are equally incredible. And perhaps because this is the way of life this side of Heaven we'll some day have another line in the sand moment. And so for today and every day forth I pray God will remind me that it is worth it. And that nothing can compare to being married to your best friend and sharing all of life's joys and triumphs with him.

Monday, September 23, 2013


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She is every woman who has had a baby born still at birth. She is every woman who has aborted but not known the breadth of her actions. She is every woman who has miscarried or never gotten pregnant.

She is the one who doctor’s say it’s unexplained; she’s perfectly healthy. She is the woman who has lost her life to fertility treatments. She has a laid in a sterile room on a cold table and felt less like a mother and more like a number.

She is every mother who has lost a son or daughter before their time. To motorcycle accidents, or drunk drivers, violence or the like.

She is the temporary mother who has fostered a child for a season to see them ripped away or hosted a child to put them back on a plane.

She is every woman who loved a baby she did not fully know. And lost that baby from her life before she had the chance to know it. She is every woman who has writhed in pain on the bathroom floor. Or stood in NICUs and at gravesides when it should have been the reverse.

She is every woman who has had an open heart but empty arms.

And she is not alone.

This post is linked up with the Five Minute Friday community.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Coming in October

October 1st will be my two year anniversary of writing this blog and every year I participate in The Nester's 31 Days series. Each year thousands of bloggers write about a topic of their choice every day for 31 days. In the past I have written 31 days of Intentional Living and 31 Days of Missional Living. This year I'm writing 31 Days of Missional Meals.

You see what I've learned about missional living through doing ministry in Downtown Orlando is that it's easy. I don't mean that living as a missionary in your context won't be difficult or require sacrifice. But missional living simply requires you to live a life of intention.

For most people this means they can do what they're already doing but recognize that their lives should intersect with their faith and thus result in regular opportunities to engage others with the Gospel. This means you can find the sacred in the mundane. And that something seemingly simple like a meal can be a catalyst for deep and meaningful conversations that lead to life change.

I hope you'll join me in October as we learn to make our meals intentional, missional ventures. Be sure to subscribe using the button to the right so you don't miss a single update.

Are you planning to join in with The Nester's 31 Days challenge? I'd love to hear what you'll be writing about in the comments below.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Finding Yourself

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"I starting to feel like me again," I said to him.

"What do you mean by that he says?"

It means that cooking is becoming life giving to me (again). That's it's once again starting to look more like real food than processed stand-in imitation products. That as I listen to the swift sound of the blade chopping and feel the vegetables against my fingers I'm starting to find myself.

I'm remembering that there is joy in serving others, my husband included. There's also joy to be found in homemaking. Those joys I knew existed but I had lost the path back to them.

When you spend most of each week in an environment that sucks you dry you have nothing left to give at the end of a long day. So it's all frozen pizza and "pick up your clothes," for the one millionth time. And you don't know if you'll ever get back to her. The girl who took joy in serving and found life in feeding people around her table.

So when a longing fulfilled becomes a like "get out of jail free" card you should be celebrating, yes? But we see it in criminals released all the time. They don't know how to embrace their new freedom. Many are doomed to return to a life of captivity. And I was wondering, was I too doomed?

But I  started to rediscover myself around a table with friends. The six of us hadn't been together since the beginning of summer. Our regular dinners remind me that fall is coming and being with them makes everything feel right in the world. And it was that night I caught a glimpse of her. The self I though was long gone.

And then I'm standing in a Puerto Rican kitchen with Colombian music, of all things, blaring. And we're nibbling on avocado salted perfectly and bits of guava paste on white cheese while the sofrito comes together in the pan. And as the scents of garlic. cilantro, and peppers fill the air I'm thinking that I'm uncovering more of her.

But then the days come that don't go as planned and all the joys I'm rediscovering are being covered by busyness and to-do lists. And I'm realizing this finding yourself and embracing freedom thing is much more difficult than I would have imagined. That it will take much longer than I would have anticipated.

Because sometimes the person who's lost is you...

Have you ever felt like you've lost yourself? Maybe to work or kids or a relationship? I'd love to hear your story of breaking free in the comments below.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mercy (Five Minute Friday)

Five Minute Friday

Mercy. That act of not getting what you do deserve. Like a true criminal set free. Their sentence paid by one not guilty.

And I'm great at extending mercy to you. Or him or her. Or that homeless guy on the street. Or that celebrity who I'm certain just needs a second chance. Let me boldly extend radical grace and second chances to everyone. But myself...

I must pay for my crimes. The voice echoes in my head. Even for things long forgiven I hold myself accountable. For things Jesus blotted out I make myself pay.

When it comes to me my standards are high and grace is limited. Legalism reigns and I am always under the weight of one self imposed limitation or another.

So mercy, I know what it is. And I can give it to you. But mercy extended to myself? That is something else entirely. Something else I must continue to learn and work at. When I'd rather be shaming myself I must believe that God's words are true. That my sins are gone and I'm clothed in righteousness.

That I am the receptor of his mercy.

Today I'm joining a community of writers that encourage each other on Fridays. Interested? Join us here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I Have Doubts Too But I'm Still Beautiful

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Previously I affirmed our beauty, yours and mine too. Today we talk about the reality of doubts and the unchanging truth.

Recently I wrote about my own beauty and yours too. I wrote about how I love myself and am confident about who I am and the way I look.

But I have doubts and imperfections too. Just like you. I know I could loose a few pounds for health’s sake and I hate cellulite. Have you noticed how cellulite has a mind of it’s own? Sometimes I see women that are several sizes larger than me with perfectly smooth legs. And I start comparing. Other times I see woman much smaller than me who cannot wear shorts and sadly, I start judging.

Let me tell you a story about cellulite and stretch marks. I know a girl who eats perfectly, schedules her life around CrossFit, and recently cut out her only cheat day. She’s what society says we should all strive to be. But want to know a secret? She has visible cellulite on her legs. And no matter what she does she can’t get rid of it. Her life has become a prison sentence that doesn’t allow for food to be enjoyed and may keeps her captive to those bumps on her thighs for the rest of her life.

I have another friend who has gained weight over the years due to a series of health problems, hormone issues, and the birth of a baby. She commits to healthy eating plans and works out regularly. And much to her chagrin she has made little progress in the weight department.  And you know what? I wish she could see how beautiful she is. She has a servant’s heart, works hard to be a loving mom, and create a beautiful home. And she is hands down one of the two women who keep me above water whenever I feel like I’m drowning.

As longs as sin plagues this world our bodies will continue to present us with  doubts. People will continue to struggle between gluttony and eating disorders. But you’re not alone. I’m in this with you. Its’ ok to have doubts. But know this, every day, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. No matter what.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I'm Beautiful and You Are Too

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I’m gorgeous. Seriously. I’m genetically predisposed to be curvy. All the woman on my dad’s side of our family are either curvy or “big boned” as we like to say in the South. For most of my life I’ve had long blonde hair that’s gradually darkened as I’ve grown older to become more dirty blonde. I’m also genetically predisposed to be short. That comes from my mom’s side of the family. Being short has never bothered me. I’ve always embraced it.

By the grace of God I’ve always been relatively confident about the way I look. Sure people haven’t always been kind. This was especially true during puberty in elementary (a recipe for disaster if ever there was one). But over all I look in the mirror and I’m happy.

I take pride in the way I look and each day I fix my hair, accessorize  and put on makeup. While spending time getting ready is one of my least favorite things I’m always thrilled with the results of the time I invested. Getting dressed from head to toe even has a way of staving off depression and anxiety.

Here’s the thing, our society doesn’t want me to comfortable in my own skin. It doesn’t believe me when I say that even when I eat healthy foods I don’t loose weight. It doesn’t like that my doctor each year always give me a clean bill of health. It wants me to be constantly comparing myself to the photoshopped celebrity on the magazine cover in the grocery line. Our society doesn’t want me to enjoy food but instead would prefer me to skip meals in favor of scouring Pinterst for thigh gap inspiration.

Guess what? I won’t do it. And you shouldn’t either. We all have our own struggles with beauty, comparison, and weight. But you and I were made in the image of the Creator. We are his daughters. He loves us and made us just the way we are. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Whatever you’re season in life, whatever your current struggles, you are gorgeous!

So how about this, what if every morning for the next 30 days you look at yourself in the morning and say, “I am beautiful.” You don’t have to believe it at first and it’s ok to feel silly. But just do it everyday for 30 days. I dare you. It will change your life.

Below are some resources that I’ve found helpful in my view of body image and food:
So are you up for the challenge? Let me know in the comments below if you're going to tell yourself the truth, that you are beautiful, everyday for the next 30 days.