The Best Chocolate Cake

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A few months ago, after a period of some significant health struggles, I cut gluten and dairy out of my diet. The transition wasn’t terribly awful, but it has been a constant source of lessons in self-control, self-care, and humility. I hate asking other people to accommodate me so much so that I spent a lot of money on a lot of tests to tell me what I already knew. I needed to cut the gluten and dairy. But hey, now I have a doctor to blame my extra fussiness on right?

In all seriousness, it had been a rough season of mothering, working, volunteering, and struggling every day with the heavy weight of anxiety, fatigue, and a stomach which often refused to cooperate with me.  I knew something was wrong. I knew something had to change. I also knew I wanted to try to attack the problem holistically. So while yes I did adjust my diet, I also starting making time for quiet, studying, reading, and slimming down my schedule. Perhaps the last one was the toughest in our society of more. But back to the diet.

A friend of mine asked me yesterday as she was salivating over some donuts (she is on day 21 or something of Whole30) if it ever gets easier. I said yes with the caveat I feel so much better so it’s not worth it. Which is mostly true. It does get easier and I am feeling better. But I think it’s getting easier because I am learning self-control, not because I am any less in love with pizza and donuts.  Case-in-point, several weeks ago I convinced a group of girlfriends to take a detour on our way home from Nashville so I could get a gluten-free, dairy-free donut. It was glorious.  Some days, as I watch co-workers or friends eat foods I used to love, it’s tough. It makes me want to abandon ship and say “ah what’s the point.” I am learning, though, anything great in life takes work. Hard work. And sacrifice. And lots of moments salivating over donuts and then walking away. Not because a donut is bad. But because there is something better.

Isn’t that what Jesus offered us? An abundant life (John 10:10). Not an easy life. Not a life full of sunshine and roses. But an abundant life. A life of less burdens, less anxiety, less striving (Phil 4:6, John 14:27). Note: I did not say an easy life or a life without struggles or heartache or loss.  Jesus said if you follow me, you will have trouble. He said if they persecuted me they will persecuted you. He didn’t offer us an easy life. But he did offer us an abundant life and he promised to never leave us.  He promised us something better.

Slowly, I am learning to live in light of the something better. To say no to the current shiny object in light of what is better. To say no to the food I know will land me in a heap of pain, frustration, and anxiety. To say no to the activity that doesn’t build community or fit on my short list of things important to me. To give up the pursuit of the good for the pursuit of the best. Good isn’t bad. And perfection is not the goal. But leaning into self-control and sacrifice and discomfort can be good gifts in certain seasons. They certainly have been for me. And in case you are bemoaning my diet or convinced everything I eat must taste like cardboard, I present to you one of the best chocolate cakes I have had in my life. Even my husband liked it.  Enjoy:)

CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYER CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE
(grain-free, refined-sugar-free and dairy-free)

INGREDIENTS:cake

For the cake:
2 cups blanched almond flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp vanilla

For the vegan chocolate ganache:
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
4 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp maple syrup
½ cup almond butter
¼ cup almond milk or coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 6-inch round cake pans with coconut oil. Mix almond flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, water and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For the vegan chocolate ganache:
Melt chocolate and coconut oil in thick saucepan or double broiler. Stir and remove from heat when melted. Slowly add maple syrup and stir to incorporate. Allow to cool. Transfer mixture to mixing bowl and beat in almond butter until a thick, whippy frosting is formed. Add almond or coconut milk as needed for consistency.

To assemble the cake:
Allow cakes to cool. Place one cake layer on a plate. Place a dollop of chocolate ganache on top of cake and smooth over the cake. Layer the second cake over the ganache layer and repeat with a layer of ganache. Store the cake in refrigerator until serving time.

 

 

Reflecting on One Year

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Some days life seems to crawl by and others it seems like I can’t keep track of where the days went. For example, we are celebrating one year of marriage on March 15th. While a year is nothing super monumental, I can hardly believe we have been married a year.  It seems like just yesterday I was tying up loose ends regarding DJs, flowers, and wedding food.  And while this year has had its share of challenges, I can honestly say, one year later, I am more in love and more proud of my husband.

We jumped head first into marriage, ministry, and life together.  Through this, God has blessed us with an amazing community and families who support and love us.  Whether it is lunch with the family, serving at church, or the nights we spend praying for the strip club ministry I lead, we have grown stronger and closer. We put God at the core of our marriage and it has been exciting to see the growth and change in both of our lives as we grow closer to Him and to each other.

We have both learned how to navigate the transition of living together and sharing a space. And while some days are still tough, we made a decision before we ever got married to not share a bathroom and I am convinced this has saved us from many marital tiffs.  While I tend to like neatness and order, my bathroom basically always looks like a tornado went through it. And I wish I could tell my husband this was going to change, but alas, after 28 years, I am afraid this may be a battle not worth fighting.

Some may have counseled us otherwise, but two weeks into marriage, we got a dog. She has been one of the best things for us and sometimes I am a little embarrassed to admit most of our evenings consist of a lot of puppy snuggling.  We love her so much and taking care of her has helped me feel a little better about becoming a mom. She is a constant source of joy and we are both so glad we made the decision to get her.

Perhaps the biggest change after one year of marriage, is the coming transition into parenthood.  This was definitely not my plan.  I imagined many different scenarios, but a baby was not in any of them. Nevertheless, I have fallen more in love with my husband since we found out and we have both learned to communicate better and cherish each other more.  I find myself saying no much more so we have time to spend time together.  I have also had to let go of some of my “perfect” wife notions. When you are sick 24/7, you just have to let go and be ok with spending a lot of time resting.  I am also learning daily I am not in this alone.  Sometimes it is easy to feel that way as my body is the one going through a million changes, but I am learning to rely on my husband and include him in the stresses, the changes, and the million thoughts swirling through my head.

One year later, I can honestly say we talk more, laugh more, and are more in love today than when we said “I do.”  He has become my best friend, my trusted confidant, partner in crime, and huge cheerleader. I would not be where I am or who  I am without his constant support, care, and sharpening.

So babe, after one year, I can say from the bottom of my heart, you were the best decision I have ever made and I can’t wait to see what the next many years holds!

Reflecting..

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There is just something about the end of the year and the beginning of a new one that stirs giddy excitement in my heart. I love the hope of a new year, new chances, and a new start.  I also love reflecting on the past, the lessons learned, the triumphs, and the trials.  So take a minute to pause and reflect on your past year and indulge me for a minute while I reflect a little on mine.

This was a busy year full of changes, growth, and new opportunities.  Oh, and a new name!   This time last year, I was in the very middle of planning a wedding, tying together all sorts of details and trying very hard to control my excitement and stress.  The rest of the year was a ride of faith, excitement, and lots of changes. I can pretty easily narrow them down to two big changes defining the past year of my life.

Big Change #1- Marriage.  No one can really prepare you for the adventure of marriage. Sure, we read books and went through pre-marital counseling and financial peace university (all of which I HIGHLY recommend), but then we stood at the altar and said “I do.”  With those two words, everything changed. My name, my identity, my address, my schedule… for someone who doesn’t particularly love change, it’s been an adjustment at times. We have had to learn how to share a home, navigate families, job changes, and we added the most adorable, loving lab to the mix.  A day has not passed in the last 9 months where I have questioned my decision. In fact, Jordan proves to me over and over just how truly blessed I am to have him as my partner in life.  His support, love, and care have been there through the highs and lows of this year and I cannot wait for many, many more to spend together.

Big Change #2- Ministry.   I hinted to this at the beginning of the year and by December, the dream and vision had become a reality.  I convinced three other dear ladies we needed to love on the women in our local sex industry in a pretty radical way.  Their support, partnership, and friendship has been a constant throughout this year. It has not been without difficulties and I have had to fall on my knees in prayer in order to keep moving forward.  All I can say as I look back is “all to the glory of God.” I simply followed a vision and as I cast my heart, other people have gotten on board.  It has been scary. It has been exciting, And most of all, it has been a front row seat to watching God move.  I cannot wait to see what the new year holds and I am very thankful I know the One who holds the world in His hands. Check out www.thehadassahgroup.com to learn more!

 

The big changes have caused me to learn to depend on God and to ask for help. I am learning I cannot do this alone and including others sometimes brings about the greatest joy. I have learned friends can come from the unlikeliest of places and hard times can bring about the greatest blessings. I have also been blessed with an amazing new family who has welcomed me in and never makes me feel like the in-law. 2014 was truly a year for the record books.

Hope your year was truly amazing as well! Happy New Year! 🙂

Global Leadership Summit Day 1 Re-Cap

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The Global Leadership Summit is one of my favorite conferences and I truly believe the information shared from the speakers is top-notch. After day one, my heart and head are full and I am already feeling more refreshed and enlightened.

My three big takeaways from today were:

1. Leadership is about others. It is not about me, but about using my potential to improve others and build into others

2. Entertain the question-What does enough look like in my life?

3. Leadership is about changing the order 

Here are some additional thoughts from the day 1 speakers-

Bill Hybels- Hard Fought Leadership Lessons

  • Everything that matters in this world rises and falls on leadership
  • Leadership is deeply spiritual
  • Every single decision you make as a leader has a direct effect on the emotions and spirit of those you lead
  • God treasures people most in the world
  • People join organizations, they leave managers
  • What if we all looked at conflict as an opportunity to strengthen a relationship vs. the precursor to relationship ruin?
  • Go Figure it Out
  • Great Leadership is relentlessly developmental
  • Develop leaders with a legacy mindset
  • God has given us enormous freedom with what to do with our dash-we can live and lead safe or pursue a grander vision God will give to you
  • Have I given any real thought to what my legacy will be? What of value and beauty will I leave behind with my dash is done?
  • Develop endurance strategies to stay in the game for the long run

Carly Fiorina- Defining Leadership

  • What you are is God’s gift to you, What you make of yourself is your gift to God
  • Human potential is the only limitless resource we have in this world
  • Leadership is about changing the order of things
  • Leadership is not management
  • Jesus did not go among the poor because he felt sorry for them, He went among the poor because He saw their potential
  • Everyone has more potential then they realize, leaders are made, not born
  • Choose to lead and change the order of things
  • Choose to fulfill your own potential
  • Choose the joy of unlocking the potential in others

Jeffrey Immelt- Positioning Your Organization for the Future

  • “There has not been one moment when any job was beneath me”
  • Be all in
  • Be more of a giver than a taker
  • You want people to be on fire when they come to work
  • Leadership is an intense journey into yourself

Susan Cain- Quiet: Challenging the Extrovert Ideal

  • No such thing as a one size fits all environment
  • Solitude is a precious commodity we must restore in our organizations
  • Rethink what we mean by networking. Focus on service
  • Invite the small still voice back to our organizations
  • Have the courage to speak softly!

Bryan Loritts- Instigating Change through Personal Sacrifice

  • Drink deeply from William Wilberforce
  • We need infinitely more people who are serious about the gospel in the marketplace than in the church
  • Your vocation can become a viable venue to advance the meaningful things of life
  • The blessings of God were not meant to be hoarded, but shared
  • Our vision as leaders has to be more than the stuff that will perish
  • God’s laws are never have to, they are get to
  • God saves us as is, but never leaves us as is
  • The Bible is a transcript of God’s heart, which means I can’t claim to have God’s heart and do nothing for the least of these
  • Look at the way you lead and entertain the question of enough

Patrick Lencioni- The Most Dangerous Mistake Leaders Make

  • Don’t be a leader just to be a leader
  • When people become leaders for the wrong reason, they lose their goodness and stop caring for the people they are supposed to lead
  • The cost of people becoming leaders for themselves leaves a trail of tears
  • If people become leaders because they have calculated the ROI it is just economics
  • When we aren’t vulnerable, we lose trust with the people we lead
  • People don’t want us to perfect, they want us to be human
  • Our identity can get wrapped up in being a leader which is bad when it crowds out our other higher identities

Blog Lovin’ and a Giveaway

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Who doesn’t love free stuff??

 

In an effort (maybe selfish) to expand my horizon of readers, I am going to do a giveaway. It’s pretty simple.

 

Step 1: Subscribe to my blog. (on the right hand side of the screen)

 

Step 2: Check back on February 14th to see if you won.

 

One of my goals for this year was to blog once a week.  I have been going strong so far and I would love to share my blogs with a few more readers.  I average about one blog a week so no worries about your inbox being bombarded with emails and you can unsubscribe at any time (although I hope you don’t!)

In the spirit of February, the prize up for grabs is a set of Peppermint Lavender Valentine’s “XO” soap from the lovely Soap Solutions.   Soap Solutions is a local shop selling the most amazing handmade, all-natural soaps.  I LOVE them and I want everyone else to love them.

 

soap

 

So thank you in advance for subscribing to my blog and happy month of love!

 

*Don’t worry, if you have recently subscribed I will add you to the drawing!

Music, Music, Music!

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For the record, weddings require A LOT of music. Such as…

 

Pre-ceremony Music.  

Processional Music.

Music during the Ceremony.

Recessional Music. 

Music to enter the Reception.

Dinner Music. 

Cake Cutting Music.

First Dance.

Mother-Son Dance.

Father-Daughter Dance.

Dancing Music. 

 

The first time I looked at the list, I just put in my wedding binder and moved on. It was overwhelming to say the least. And I LOVE music. The problem is, every time I hear a song I like or find a song I think I might be ok, I start to pick apart the lyrics, consider the beat and tune, figure out if it flows from the previous song, wonder what the guests will think, ask Jordan what he thinks, listen to it again, and usually talk myself out of whatever song I had settled on. These thoughts race through my mind..  “It’s too fast. Or too slow. The lyrics aren’t right. No one will know it. It may be weird at a wedding.”   Oh, and don’t even say, “well, it’s your wedding” one more time.  Now I just feel like I have to pick an even more perfect song.

 

Music, however, can be a perfect metaphor for life, and choosing wedding music perhaps describes my life more acutely than any other analogy at the present time.  I tend to over-analyze everything.  I debate and evaluate and think and research. I strive (read struggle) for perfection.   And I usually end up stressed out, burnt out, exhausted, and generally not very fun to be around. Ask Jordan. We have both decided if we make it through planning the wedding, we will be set for the first few months of marriage. (who knew weddings caused fights?)   It was cause for celebration when I finally settled on a song to be sung during the ceremony.  We only listened to about 100.

 

The thing is, at the end of the day, no one really pays attention to the music. I mean, how many weddings have I gone to and never thought the music.  The music is just the background noise to the bigger celebration. And with or without it, the wedding goes on and the vows are said.  No one looks back and says, “Oh my gosh, the processional songs were awful.”   (you can’t go wrong with Canon in D)  As I think about the bigger picture, I find so often I get tripped up in the little details. I can’t see the forest from the trees. Sure, I can tell you exactly how many leaves are on the one right in front of me, but I will miss the beauty of the whole forest because I am too busy counting leaves.  And at times I am pretty sure I may miss out on this whole wedding because I am so caught up in the little details. Details no one else will know about or notice.

 

Life is like this. How often have we gotten so worked up over something little only to realize we missed the bigger picture? How many times have we tripped over a bump in the road only to fall into a giant hole? I have stressed myself out over music or decorations or cake and at times forgotten I am preparing for a marriage, not a wedding.  And the next forty years of my life (or more) are a lot more important than one day.  So here is to new beginnings and the hope I can work on seeing the beauty in the big picture, not the blemishes in the small one.

 

Adventures in Utopia

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Utopia: An ideal place or state, any visionary system of political or social perfection

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Over the 4th of July holiday, Jordan and I ventured over to New Harmony, a small community that began as an experiment in utopia. Today it is a quaint little town full of cute houses, antique stores, and history on almost every corner.  Jordan knows me well and suggested we grab our bikes and head over there for the day. He had found an ice cream store he wanted to go to and well, I am always up for an adventure, even if it’s just down the road.  We got to New Harmony right as a golf cart parade was starting to kick off celebrating the 4th and walked through the visitor’s center which is the one building that so does not fit in the spirit of New Harmony.  It’s big, white, and modern, but offered some replicas of what New Harmony used to look like which fascinated me. Every house had a garden and it made me wonder what life must have been like. I imagine it was a lot simpler and peaceful.

We grabbed our bikes and rode around the little town stopping at the roofless church (a historic site), the granary, and the labyrinth. It was a perfect morning for a bike ride and the town was pretty quiet after the parade so we had the roads mostly to ourselves.  After an hour or so of riding, we grabbed lunch at the cutest little store. It is called Vintage Harmony and I HIGHLY recommend it. They only serve wraps and ice cream, but really, what more do you need?  The food was excellent!  We finished our lunch and walked through several antique stores. I even got a lesson in playing the dulcimer. We finished the day with ice cream from the same little shop we ate lunch. They make their own from scratch and it was some of the best ice cream I have ever had!

After our little adventure in New Harmony, I realized how much I enjoy history and traveling, even if the trip is less than an hour.  It seems everyone in New Harmony had time to say hello, tell you their story, or teach you to play an instrument.  I think despite the failure of the utopia, a strong sense of community has rooted itself in New Harmony.  I was also reminded of how much I love Jordan.  We rarely get a day off together and it was so nice to be able to spend the day laughing, chatting, and spending time together.

It was a perfect day and a wonderful reminder of how much I love the simplicity of life.  I came back re-focused, refreshed, and relaxed.  It was an ideal day and something I need to do more often in this busy life.

Have you taken an adventure in utopia lately?  I promise you it will be worth it!

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A New Chapter Begins…

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And it all started with one tiny word- YES.

 

Life has been a bit crazy lately and a minor mishap caused my blog to get lost in cyberspace for a few weeks, but I am back and excited to announce the newest adventure I am embarking on.

 

Planning a wedding.

 

Yep. The man of my dreams proposed to me Saturday.  It was a complete surprise.  Since everyone has asked and because I don’t want to forget, here is the story..

He invited me over for dinner which is not uncommon on a Saturday night. I had been running errands all day and had loaded up my car with boxes to move. I am moving in with a friend for the time being to save some money so I have been slowly packing and moving some stuff to Jordan’s house.  I got there and he said he had flowers for me out back. As we are in the middle of landscaping, I did not think twice about it and figured he bought some more flowers for the yard.  We walked around back and in big silver letters, he had cut out “Will you marry me?” and put them around the pond. Of course, I started crying and he said something about me being the girls of his dreams, got down on one knee, and popped the question.  I said yes of course and we spent the rest of the night calling friends and family.  (He did get me flowers too!) 

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I am so excited and thankful for Jordan and the adventure of starting a new life together.  I will also be back to blogging now that my blog is up and running again!