5 Ingredient Granola Bars

I have recently developed an obsession with Clif bars. It started with the classic gateway Clif bar, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, and has quickly progressed to Coconut Chocolate Chip and beyond. So good! However, I decided it was time to break that somewhat expensive habit and find a way to make my own.

When I was on the hunt for a recipe, I knew I wanted them to be healthy, easy, and comprised of ingredients that I already had on hand. I googled “easy granola bar recipe” (had to get straight to the point, ya know?) and this recipe from Minimalist Baker was one of the first ones that popped up, so I went with it. Her recipes are gold.

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The only change I made was to use 1/2 cup of almonds + 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds because I didn’t have a full cup of almonds. Oh and I also added cinnamon because I am a cinnamon fiend. The bars come together so quickly and they taste amazing! They aren’t really comparable to Clif bars, but I actually like them better.

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Next time (and there will be a next time) I will probably double the recipe and freeze a bunch, if only to make them last a little longer than they currently are. Hooray for snacks!

New Year, Old Commandment

So… apparently it’s 2017 now? As usual, it feels like I blinked and 2016 was over. While I know that on a larger scale 2016 was a doozy, I have such a hard time calling it a wash when it held so much beauty for me- getting engaged, getting married, and starting my dream job at WakeMed. As I look back at the year, through the ups and downs and joy and craziness, I’m reminded that God is so faithful.

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[Photo Credit]

I’m not much for new year’s resolutions, but my heart always jumps at the idea of new beginnings and fresh starts. One morning, as I was excitedly contemplating what this new year might hold, I turned to one of my favorite books of the Bible and read these words:

“Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.” -1 John 2:7-8

Wait a minute. I was looking for something different, something intriguing, something that had never crossed my mind before. “Yet it is also new…”

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Boone, NC in December

 

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Another photo from our Boone trip… cramming 6 people in a very small stick shift to drive up a very steep mountain. New year’s resolution: never do that again

As I thought about it, I realized that no matter what year it is, loving people as Jesus loves is something new and radical. It is dynamic, because it can take on a million different forms, but it is also steady and unchanging, because according to Hebrews 13:8 we know that Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever (hallelujah for that by the way).

This year, I want to live out the commandment to love one another. I don’t want to be blinded by resolutions to look better or be better or accumulate more things- all of which can tempt me. In a world where violence and hatred can seem to be the norm, my prayer is that by the grace of God I would be able to live the truth of that old commandment to love. I don’t know exactly what it will look like, but I know that it will be life-giving, because we were all designed to live this out.

Although 2016 was a little scary for our world, I have so much hope and excitement for 2017, because “the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.”

Sabbath – Part II

One of my first blog posts here was about taking a sabbath, but I have to confess that since then, I have gravitated back towards my own way of doing things. I am always well intentioned in setting aside a day of rest, and then it ends up looking a lot like completing random tasks and pretending that it’s restful. I might start off strong with a slow morning, but all of a sudden I’m making lists and crossing things off and running around BJ’s like a madwoman, elbowing people out of the way to get to the sample tables (just kidding about that last part… that’s my husband’s job). Anyway, after reading this post from one of my very favorite bloggers, I was inspired to re-commit!

I am reminded again and again that God commands us to take a sabbath for. our. good. He doesn’t want us to be unproductive or lazy- in fact, just the opposite! He designed us, and He knows that when we take a day to truly rest our bodies/minds/souls, we will be better equipped to walk out our calling during the week.

So yesterday, Josh and I sabbathed. We sabbathed hard.

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I love mornings and tend to wake up early by nature, so I caught a beautiful pink sunrise sneaking up over our apartment complex around 7am. It was quiet and lovely- the perfect way to start the day!

Since I am a foodie at heart, I wanted to begin our sabbath with a tasty breakfast. During the week we usually have some combination of eggs, toast, and smoothies, so I wanted something different. Something decadent and buttery and sweet. Cinnamon rolls, it was!

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The night before, I prepped this recipe and then on Sunday morning I just popped them in the oven while the coffee was brewing. Heaven on earth, I tell you. They were delicious, but next time I would definitely take the time to make some icing for them. We added a little bit of maple syrup which was just as good.

After cinnamon rolling, we headed to church and heard a great message on the book of Revelation. In the past 4ish years that I’ve been going to church, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone preach on Revelation! As always, our pastor was faithful to convey the Gospel, and I was reminded of the crazy awesome truth that Jesus took our punishment upon Himself so that we could be with God for eternity. A reality like that is hard for me to process, sometimes.

Back at the house we lounged around, read, ate, and played a little game of racquetball.

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In the evening, we had Josh’s cousin and wife over for dinner. I made this lentil chili recipe which didn’t feel like work at all because I literally just threw everything into the crockpot and didn’t look at it again until dinner time. My favorite kind of recipe! Also, I just love having people gathered around our little table. We served the chili with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and (homemade!) bread. Dessert was leftover cinnamon rolls, of course.

At the end of the day I felt rested and content. There were a couple times where I had to bat away those anxious feelings that told me I wasn’t being productive with my time, but I know that I need to let God’s voice of grace speak louder than our culture’s voice of more, better, faster. And that’s exactly what happens on a sabbath. It’s a discipline for sure, but one that I want to commit to joyfully, knowing that it honors God and brings peace to my soul.

Homesick

Does anyone remember feeling homesick as a kid? Sometimes I would go to sleepovers and it would be so bad that my mom would have to come pick me up in the middle of the night. Yes, I was that kid. As an adult, though, my homesickness is different. It is a feeling I can’t quite put my finger on. Who am I missing? Which place am I missing? And most curiously- why?

The other day I was reading in Hebrews and this verse popped out at me:

“Therefore let us go to Him [Jesus] outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we seek the city that is to come.” -Hebrews 13:12-13

Ah. There it is. As believers, our “homesickness” is a longing for another kingdom- Heaven- and another person- Jesus.

More often than not, I enjoy this world. People, food, singing, traveling… These things often bring me great excitement and happiness. But just underneath that happiness is a layer of longing that never seems to go away. It isn’t fulfilled by any job or experience or person or meal. As CS Lewis writes so insightfully, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

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As followers of Christ, we are living in the in-between. We can experience great joy here on earth, but eternity has been set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and we are reminded that this world can never feel like our true home.

To me, that is exciting! It means that one day all of our deepest longings and sorrows will be replaced by unshakable joy and fulfillment when we finally see Jesus face to face. I am filled with great expectation and hope as I read this truth:

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” -1 Corinthians 13:12

October & November

October and November in North Carolina are my favorite. They are so pretty and cozy, with just enough warm days thrown in to make you appreciate the cooler ones. Every year I try so hard to slow down enough to appreciate these fall months, and every year they seem to pass by before I’ve even had a chance to register that they’ve arrived.

This fall, there was some bitter along with the sweet. The start of October brought some big challenges for Josh and I, and we had difficulty dealing with them while living two hours apart. At the risk of sounding trite, I believe that ultimately God used those hard things for good in our lives and in our relationship. I will forever be amazed at how He brings such “beauty from ashes.”

On to the lighthearted stuff! Despite its difficulties, October was FUN. Josh and I went to the NC State Fair with some friends, where we celebrated our two year “meetiversary”! Woooo! A lot can happen in two years, let me tell ya.

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We also went to Charlotte one weekend so that I could celebrate a friend’s bachelorette party. We dressed up with a “day of the dead” theme  and went into downtown Charlotte for drinks and dancing. I’m secretly 90 and couldn’t believe I made it past midnight. So fun!

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Another fun thing Josh and I did was use a Sur La Table gift card to attend a cooking class! We made a salady thing, butter thyme chicken, green beans, and caramelized pear panna cotta. It was as delicious as it sounds.

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The beginning of November brought a friend’s wedding on Bald Head Island. We drove down with some friends, ferried to the island, and stayed with a very gracious couple in their Southern Living-esque home. NOT TOO SHABBY. The wedding itself was gorgeous, and I cried during the couples’ vows, as per usual. Josh must be so tired of taking his weepy wife to weddings. The reception was incredible, too- tons of delicious food, a live band, dancing, and a photo booth. Yay marriage!

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This crazy husband of mine decided to go take a swim in the freezing ocean water!
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Shrimp & wine foreverrrr

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In the middle of November, we received the sad news that my grandpa had passed away. So, we canceled plans and rescheduled appointments and prepared to drive up to Pittsburgh for his funeral. The roadtrip happened to fall on my 27th birthday, but it ended up being nice to get to celebrate with my family (especially my mom, whose birthday is the day before mine!).

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Is it bad that the best part of my birthday was the free Starbucks drink? I got their cold brew!

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On Thanksgiving, my sweet family brought the feasting to us. We celebrated at my sister’s house (she lives ~20 minutes from Josh and I) where there were all the classics- turkey, stuffing, roasted veggies, taters, pie. YES LORD.

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I am one of those scrooges who refuses to even think about Christmas until December 1st. So, now that the month is officially upon us… IT’S GAME TIME. I’m off to watch Elf, light twelve pine-scented candles, and belt out “Joy to the World” as often as possible. Merry Christmas-ing!

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(source)

Loving Lately [#7]

I have a list about a mile long of things I’ve been loving lately, but here are my top 5!

1. Bulletproof coffee. I’m finally realizing that this is a trend for a reason- it’s delicious! It took me about a year to try it just because it sounds so weird. There are several recipes floating around, but I’ve been using: 8 ounces hot coffee, ~1 tablespoon butter (I use Kerrygold), ~1 tablespoon coconut oil, and canned coconut milk. Whiz it up and the blender and you have a frothy, tasty drink! You could also add cinnamon and sugar if you’re feeling really crazy.

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2. Mumford & Sons “There Will Be Time.” No words. I just love it!

3. ProBar’s koka moka almond butter. This was a completely random find at REI, of all places. It is basically all my favorite things in one little packet. I’ve been craving smoothies for breakfast lately but they don’t keep me very full, so nut butter packs like these are the perfect accompaniment to take on the road with me.

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4. Brier Creek Beer Garden. Josh and I just moved to the Brier Creek area, so we’re still discovering its hidden gems. On the eve of my 27th birthday, we went here to grab a drink and celebrate. I got a cab sauv and Josh got an IPA which were both good. I loved the atmosphere and all of the plants and stringy lights (two of my faves!). We would definitely go back here again, especially during the warmer months when we can sit outside on the patio.

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5. Homemade bread. My sincere apologies to anyone who has spent time with me in the past few weeks and is sick of hearing about bread, but I feel like I uncovered some age-old secret! Did anyone else know that making your own bread (sans bread machine) was so easy, and so delicious? I did not. I’ve been experimenting with different flour blends, add-ins, etc. New hobby! I used this recipe for my first trial run and loved it.

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Proud mama
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This one is 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white flour- turned out a little chewier!

 

 

 

Lentil Curry

Disclaimer: this recipe looks awful but tastes amazing. I made it one Sunday after church when it was cold/windy and I wanted something hot, but more substantial than soup. Enter: CURRY!

If you’ve ever been to my house for dinner, I’ve probably made you curry, either with chicken or chickpeas. But this recipe uses the humble lentil- cheap, easy, and satisfying (enter Michael Scott joke here).

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This recipe is pretty quick to make, especially if you have a rice cooker, and the leftovers make a great lunch for the next day. Just be sure to use regular coconut milk instead of light, because that’s what makes everything so creamy and delicious. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
-1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
-1 small onion, chopped
-1-2 inches ginger, chopped
-1 cup dry lentils
-1 cup chopped carrots
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1 can full fat coconut milk
-1 tablespoon curry powder
-1 teaspoon of turmeric if you have it, because it’s supposed to be good for you and why not?
-salt to taste

Directions:
1. Cook dry lentils as directed (I cooked them along with the carrots + 3 cups water in my rice cooker, which is magic)
2. Sauté onions and ginger in a big pot with some coconut oil (cook the carrots here too if you aren’t cooking them with the lentils)
3. Add tomatoes, coconut milk, curry powder, turmeric, and salt to pot; boil for a quick sec
4. Add cooked lentils and carrots
5. Simmer for ~10 min

P.S. For best results, serve over basmati rice!

Staying the Course

This morning, I opened up Present Over Perfect (a book that I will likely be referring to until the end of forever) and read these liberating words from Shauna Niequist:

“We live in a culture that shouts, that prescribes rather narrowly what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a success, what it means to live a valuable life. But those definitions require us to live on a treadmill, both literally and figuratively, always hustling to fit in, to be thin enough and young enough and sparkly enough… But that’s not life. That’s not where the fullness of joy and meaning are found.”

She then goes on to challenge readers with bold questions that deserve some thought:

“What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self that God created? What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for His purposes?”

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It was with those questions lingering in my mind that I walked into church this morning, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to me about anything unnecessary I have picked up along the way that may be hindering me from my God-given purpose. Our pastor brought up these verses that spoke directly to my heart:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” -Acts 20:24

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” -1 Corinthians 4:1-2

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I make it so complicated when it is really very simple: I am to stay faithful to the course that God has given me. I don’t need to look around, comparing and competing, but instead I am free (free!) to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God” in my own life, in my own sphere of influence, with my own voice.

The beautiful thing is, testifying to the gospel could look a lot of different ways for a lot of different people. It could mean staying faithful in your job and loving others well even when it’s difficult, or welcoming refugees into America and helping them resettle, or becoming a teacher and sharing the love of Jesus with your students. I bet that if we can quiet the noise of our approval-seeking minds long enough to instead seek God and His perfect will, then He will be faithful to nudge us toward what our “course” is. We are then free to devote ourselves to that course joyfully and wholeheartedly, confident that we are walking out our purpose.

Letting Go

I recently listened to a podcast on stress while, ironically, commuting to work during rush hour. The speaker, Dr. Henry Cloud, mentioned two big ways we can cut down on our stress:

1. Let go of the need for control.

2. Let go of the need for perfection.

For me, I think that holds a lot of truth. This season of my life has held so much joy but also a lot of stress along with it. I am someone who loves routine and clings to it a bit too tightly, almost like a safety net. During these past few months of undergoing what seems like every transition under the sun, I have felt my control of things slowly slip through my fingers. Of course, we are never really in control of our lives, but the illusion of it makes me feel more secure. 😉

As far as perfection goes, I have already blogged about how that myth trips me up time and time again. Of course I am going to feel stressed when I feel that I am not living up to my standard of perfection… I will never live up to it, because it doesn’t exist. It’s like the carrot before the horse and cart, always dangling just out of reach.

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Things that help me release my death grip of control on life: quiet early mornings, slow cups of coffee, and fuzzy socks 🙂

So I’m sitting there in I-40 traffic, listening to that podcast and wondering how on earth a controlling perfectionist like myself is ever going to let go enough to experience less stress. Isn’t it funny how any time I find myself feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, it’s because I have forgotten the central message of the gospel? We are broken and messed up and may never get it right, but Jesus- the only human who ever achieved perfection on earth- loves us and trades our brokenness for His perfection. 

Jesus gives us everything He has- His love, His relationship to the Father, His very life- and asks only one thing of us in return: that we surrender to Him. How freeing it is to give up my illusions of control and perfection and instead trust in the One who actually is perfect and actually is in control.

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Also: fall strolls

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says, For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

It’s a beautiful and freeing concept, but one that is hard for me to consistently grasp. My life isn’t found in clutching at illusions of perfection and control, and beyond that, doing so is actually stifling my soul. The true rest, peace, and freedom I am seeking can be found only when I surrender to Christ. What grace!

I am thankful that despite my need for control, despite my desire for perfection, despite my stubborn insistence that I can do it all on my own, Jesus is constantly offering an alternative that is available to me whenever I surrender long enough to experience it.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

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Our Wedding Day

I’ve been tinkering with words for about two months now, trying to find a way to express how I felt on the day that Josh and I got married. Words that come to mind: peace, joy, excitement, happiness, gratitude… Those are all wonderful and true words to describe our wedding day, but they still fall short of truly capturing what it meant. Entering into a lifelong covenant with my best friend, before God and so many of our family and friends, was such a surreal experience that I am finally forced to admit that I don’t have words sufficient to capture the feeling. So! Instead I will post some of our photos, taken by the fabulous Rebekah Senter. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into our day, and that you are encouraged knowing how purposefully and graciously God weaves lives together.

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