Five-Minute Friday: Begin

Welcome to Five-Minute Friday!  We’ll be moving from Lisa-Jo Baker‘s blog over to Heading Home with Kate Motaung.  But it’s still a bunch of great writers, given one word to write about for five minutes.  Check out some of the other blogs that are participating!

Today’s word:  BEGIN.

Brian had brought home a men’s devotional book from church several weeks ago, and I picked it up this morning and flipped through it.  In doing so, I came across this quote:

“Jesus measured spiritual maturity by fruit.  And fruit implies seasons.  And though we only harvest fruit in one season, we need all four to produce it.  Winter is as necessary to bearing fruit – to deep spiritual maturity – as spring or summer is.  I think most Christians miss this – and the seasonality of the heart in general – because the idea that darkness, sadness, stillness, and unproductivity might be a necessary condition for bearing fruit collides with our reigning paradigm, the spirituality of busyness and giddiness.” – Mark Buchanan

Interesting.  And as I rolled that around in my head, I thought about my own winter.  The one I’m in right now.  The one that is beginning to feel like it will never, ever, ever end.  Perhaps this dark, difficult time is necessary for me to grow, for whatever seeds God is planting in my heart and soul to germinate, so that my life can yield glorious fruit according to His timetable and not my own.

So I take a breath, put aside my impatience and my self-pity, and wait hopefully on the Lord.  Because even when the woods are deep and dark, the promises remain, and one day the light will break, and I’ll know that spring is about to begin.

Image from superbwallpapers.com

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The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall – Author Interview and Giveaway!

HesitantHeiress I had the opportunity recently to read Dawn Crandall’s debut novel, The Hesitant Heiress. Being a fan of both historical fiction and Christian fiction, I jumped at the chance to be a part of her book release team.

{About The Hesitant Heiress} After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn’t who she thought at all.

I absolutely loved this book.  Romance, suspense, action, mystery, characters you love, characters you hate, characters you want to punch in the nose – it’s got all that and more!  Interested yet?  Read on.

Picture with Quote

Amaryllis Brigham is a young woman who’s known some difficulties in life, having lost both her parents to tragic circumstances.  She’s working toward her dream of someday opening her own music academy, studying at the Boston Conservatory.  But that, too, is turned upside down when she’s summarily expelled from the school.  She goes to live with her aunt (who’s quite a character and not always what one would expect from Boston high society!), and learns that she stands to inherit a rather sizable amount from her grandmother – but only if she marries within a year.

Amaryllis is determined not to be married, and she is also determined to hang on to her dislike of Nathan Everstone (based largely on her belief that his father, Bram, is responsible for a lot of the problems she’s faced, including her dismissal from the Boston Conservatory).  Nathan doesn’t come across the way she’d expected, though.  He’s constantly surprising her with things he says and the way he acts toward her.  She realizes she’s starting to fall in love with him, but fights it every step of the way.

This was such an enjoyable book to read.  I felt like I was part of high society Boston as I read.  It just drew me in and made me want to read more.  The characters are very engaging and felt almost like friends by the end of the book.  I wanted to punch Nathan in the nose when he left town unexpectedly after saying he’d stay for a while.  It threw Amaryllis for a loop (whether she wanted to admit it or now), and I did – I just wanted to sock him for the way he was acting.  I wanted to reach into the pages and have a little girl talk with Amaryllis and tell her if she didn’t let Nathan know how she felt, she was going to miss out on a good thing.  (Did she figure that out?  Read the book and see!)  Really, really a delight to read.  I can’t wait for the next two books in the Everstone Chronicles (to be released in November 2014 and February 2015)!

The Hesitant Heiress will be released on August 1.  As she prepares for the release date, Dawn kindly took time to answer some questions for me about the book, her writing career, and life in general.

When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than just a hobby?

Ever since I was young, the idea of writing a “real book” has appealed to me. Writing was my favorite thing to do in school. I didn’t read much as a child because I had a difficult time finding books I liked. I remember ALWAYS checking and rechecking Beatrix Potter books out at the Public Library. It wasn’t until high school and college that I found books that I actually enjoyed—most of them were classics. And that was when I decided I wanted to someday write a book. However, even though I’d sporadically thought about it on and off again since college, I never wrote a word for the longest time. Partly, because I have ADD and took medication for it from the time I was seventeen (which I am thankful for—otherwise, I would never have had a chance to graduate from college!) until I was in my early thirties. When I stopped taking the medication, it was like a flood of ideas came at me and I had to sift through them all to find what I was truly looking for. It was in 2010 that actually I started writing The Hesitant Heiress as a hobby. I didn’t really have a choice about when it became “more than a hobby.” My husband had insisted that I attend the 2011 ACFW conference in St. Louis… and then I had two agents offering to represent me by Thanksgiving.

What does a “typical” day of writing (if there is such a thing!) look like?

I don’t have “typical” anymore because I have a four month old son! Before I got pregnant, however, I would have two or three 8-10 hour long writing days a week in which I’d completely immerse myself in the story. Having ADD actually helps with this, since the main problem with ADD is that the person who has it really only wants to pay attention to one thing… and my one thing was this book. How did you come up with the characters’ names? I actually had Amaryllis Brigham named way back in college. She was just a name at the time, but I knew someday I would write her story. I chose Nathan as the hero’s name because my husband’s name is Jonathan. I also had the name Everstone picked out back in college.  

Amaryllis plays the piano in the book.  Do you play any musical instruments?  If so, which one(s)?

I don’t play any instruments, but I do adore classical music. What was the easiest part about writing the book?  What was the most challenging? When I remember coming up with the chapters and scenes in The Hesitant Heiress, I recall having so much fun that it never felt difficult! I was writing it for myself, and having fun was my primary goal. Getting into the heart of my main character is also really fun and easy once I’m in her head. The most difficult part is always wrapping everything up at the end! I try to thread so many things together throughout my books that getting them all tied up tidily at the end takes some extra time.

If you’re in a slump and the words just won’t come, what do you do to get them flowing again?

I go back and read parts of the book I’ve already finished, I’ll sift through the photographs I have saved of my “story world,” and I’ll THINK THINK THINK things over and over. Sometimes I need to pre-write a scene a couple different ways before landing on the way I really need to make it.

I’m a mom trying to work from home, so I know from experience that it’s tough to keep working time from taking over what should be family time.  Now that you’re a new mom, how do you keep family time and writing time balanced?

Since I’ve only had four months to figure this out… I actually haven’t yet.

If a friend asked you for suggestions for a good book to read, what would you recommend (other than your own work! :) ) and why?

I would suggest Lori Benton’s debut novel, Burning Sky. I read chapter one online when it came out and immediately went out and bought it. I loved it! It was so different and amazing! And it just won THREE Christy Awards! So I’m definitely not the only one who thinks so!

Where would you go on your dream vacation?

I would spend a whole summer on Mount Desert Island visiting Acadia National Park’s rocky coast! There’s a reason I couldn’t help but write the coast of Maine in my book! I love it there! (Lisa’s note:  After reading the book, I’m ready to go on a trip to Maine!  It sounds delightful, and I’ve never been.)

How can readers connect with you online?

Facebook: facebook.com/DawnCrandallWritesFirst

Book Review Blog: APassionforPages.blogspot.com

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/dawn_crandall

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dawnwritesfirst

Email: dawncrandallwritesfirst@gmail.com

Twitter: @dawnwritesfirst

I mentioned the giveaway, right?  Here it is!  Dawn will be giving away a prize pack for each of the six weekends of the book tour (now through the end of August).  To be entered, just comment on this post and leave your e-mail address.  No e-mail address, no entry.  :-)  You’ll be entered into each weekly drawing and then into the grand prize drawing at the end of the tour.  Winners will be announced on Dawn’s blog, www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com.  (Please note:  I have to approve comments before they show up, so if you don’t see yours right away, don’t panic.  :) )

THE FIVE WEEKLY PRIZE PACKS: a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

THE GRAND PRIZE (at the end of week six): a Kindle Fire, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Dawn Crandall {About Dawn Crandall}   A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming published, he let her quit her job in 2010 in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary. Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a premarriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter. The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the serieswere semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Giveaways | 35 Comments

Five Minute Friday: Exhale

Time for Five-Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker and a host of other creatively gifted women!  Just writing, one word, five minutes, no editing, no takebacks.  Today’s prompt:  exhale.

It’s early evening.  He was playing with his friends, just outside, my 8-year-old.  I peek out the window, and there are no children in my yard.  Where did they go?  To one of his friend’s houses?  They’re all right nearby, they’ve done that before.  I go by Shelby and Stephen’s – no, he’s not there.  I go by James’s – they aren’t even home, his mom is coming up the walk as I get to their door.

So where is he?!  Panic starts to set in.  He’s only 8.  Where did he go?!  Why didn’t he say anything to me?!  He knows better.  What if it IS the worst-case scenario?  Did someone grab my sweet boy and carry him away?  Should I call 911?  There’s a lump in my throat as I ask a man in the little park-like area nearby if he’s seen an 8-year-old boy, blond, about this tall.  He shakes his head and says he’s sorry, he hasn’t, but he’ll keep an eye out.  I feel like I’m choking, and tears sting my eyes.  WHERE IS HE?!

Frantic, I start to move more quickly, dragging my toddler along with me and calling, calling, calling my son’s name.  I don’t know where else to look.  I’ve got the phone in my hand, ready to call in law enforcement (but what can they do, he’s only been gone a little while, what if they tell me to wait 24 hours and I can’t find him and what if he’s really really gone and noooooooooooooooooooo).  Suddenly, a shout – he’s found, he’s safe, he’s been across the road at a friend’s apartment, he didn’t hear me calling for him.  He had to cross a busy street to get there, and it’s somewhere he never goes and shouldn’t ever have gone alone.  He sees me and realizes the error of his ways, comes rushing across the street, repentant.  I hug him tight, tight, tears streaming down my face, too relieved to even fuss very much.

That will come later, after I’m able to finally exhale.

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Five Minute Friday: Release

It’s Five-Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker – writing for five minutes, straight from the heart.

Today’s prompt: release.

Release the prisoner!

Release the hounds!

Same word, two different connotations.  When a prisoner is released, he’s set free from bondage.  When the hounds are released, they’re freed to hunt something – or someone – down.

Lately I’ve been contemplating the direction of my life – I’ve talked about it a bit previously.  When I lost my full-time job in January (yikes, that’s a while ago), I thought it was a release, a chance to be freed from the 8-to-5 office gig, a chance to run with the long-held dream of having more flexibility for my family, being there for my boys.  I set out seeking endeavors that would give me the income our family needed, but that wouldn’t put me in an office on someone else’s timetable.  Anything seemed possible at that time.

But as time has passed, as weeks have turned to months, it’s feeling more like the hounds have been released and they’re hunting…me.  Brian has commented that the minion of Satan assigned to our street must be working overtime on us, because it’s always SOMETHING.  An unexpected bill, application paperwork gone astray, a computer problem when transcription needs to be turned in – never anything huge, just little things that keep cropping up and testing our faith.

And now I wonder, perhaps I was wrong about this.  Perhaps what needs to be released here isn’t me.  Perhaps what I need to release, to set free, is that dream of working from home.  Maybe it’s not meant to be.  The hounds of the bill collectors are starting to sniff around as this or that falls behind, so the math of being at home certainly isn’t working out at this point.  Perhaps there’s someone working in an office who needs to see God’s love, who needs an encouraging word, and perhaps I’m the person who needs to be there to give it.

So.  I haven’t had much in the way of interviews, to be sure.  But maybe the right job just hasn’t opened up yet.  Maybe home isn’t where I can best serve God and my family and others after all.

God, I’m letting it go.  I’m releasing this dream of being at home.  I’m turning it free, putting it back in Your hands, and if it comes back to me, then it’s mine and it’s a gift from You and it’s meant to be.  If it doesn’t, well, perhaps it’s been a prison of my own making all along.

 

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A Place in His Heart – Book Review and Giveaway!

From Amazon.com:

Anglican Mary Langton longs to marry for love. Puritan Barnabas Horton is still in love with his deceased wife and needs only a mother for his two young sons. And yet these two very different people with very different expectations will take a leap of faith, wed, and then embark on a life-changing journey across the ocean to the Colonies. Along the way, each must learn to live in harmony, to wait on God, and to recognize true love where they least expect to find it.

This heartfelt tale of love and devotion is based on debut author Rebecca DeMarino’s own ancestors, who came to Long Island in the mid-1600s to establish a life–and a legacy–in the New World.

Do you like historical fiction?  Do you like romance?  Do you like books that show that yes, God does have a plan for us, even when we can’t always see it clearly?  If so, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of A Place in His Heart, the debut novel from Rebecca DeMarino.

A place in his heart cover FINALThe novel tells the story of Rebecca’s Colonial ancestors, Mary Langton and Barnabas (Barney) Horton.  Mary’s father is hoping to arrange what he sees as a profitable marriage for her, but Mary doesn’t want that – she hopes to marry for love.  Barney Horton, the local baker and a widower with two young sons, is still devoted to his first love, his deceased wife, Ann.  But he realizes that his boys need a mother, and Mary is a likely prospect.  After overcoming Mary’s father’s objection to Barney’s Puritan leanings, they are married, and work to build a life together.

Mary loves Barney and his two sons, but she knows he remains deeply attached to Ann’s memory.  She finds herself trying to win the heart of Barney’s older son (and his father’s as well), to learn how to handle the responsibilities of a household, and to prepare herself for a journey that will take her far from everything she’s known.  Barney has told Mary of his plans to leave England and growing religious persecution to travel to America, the New World – plans that he chose not to reveal to her at the time of their wedding.  How will she bear leaving her family behind?

As the story unfolds, Mary struggles to understand why Barney doesn’t seem to love her the way she loves him, Barney tries to learn how to love again, and they both seek God’s will throughout. Sometimes more urgently than others, but they never completely forget that God is in control.

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I felt like Mary and Barnabas were friends by the end of the book, and I hated to say goodbye. I hope to find out more of their story and that of the other characters in future books in this series.  The language used fits with the time period, but is still easy to understand, and I would encourage anyone who likes historical fiction, a lovely romance, a story with a Christian message, or all three, to grab a copy of A Place in His Heart.

To celebrate the release of A Place in His Heart, Rebecca is hosting a giveaway with over $300 in prizes!  Just go to Rebecca’s website to enter.  The grand prize winner will receive a $100 gift card (winner’s choice of Amazon, Wal-Mart, or Target), a lovely silver necklace with crystal accent, and a signed copy of A Place in His Heart, and there will be other great prizes as well!  And while you’re at her site, stop by some of the other wonderful blogs that have taken part in this book tour and give them a little love.

About the Author:

When Rebecca DeMarino traveled to Horton Point, Long Island, with her mother, Helen Jean Horton Worley, in 1999, passions collided: her love of faith, family, travel, history, and writing. Rebecca’s debut novel, A PLACE IN HIS HEART, is a historical romance based on Mary and Barnabas Horton, Rebecca’s ninth great-grandparents. Set in 1600′s Southold, Long Island, book one of The Southold Chronicles will be released by Revell in June, 2014. She lives in the Pacific Northwest and when not writing, she enjoys family and genealogy, travel, reading, running, baking and gardening. 

Want to get in touch with Rebecca?  Find her here:

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the author for review purposes.  All opinions expressed in this blog post are mine and mine alone.

 

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Giveaway winner!

My apologies, y’all – this was supposed to be up yesterday.  But I’ve had one child with an injured knee, and the other with strep, and it’s been a mite hectic!

So without further ado, the winner of the Rhinestone Jesus giveaway is…

Melinda Zedekar!

I used random.org to select the winner based on the number of comments made to enter the giveaway.  Yours came up.  :)  I’ll get your book ordered and sent on your way!

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Why sparkle when you can shine? Rhinestone Jesus review and giveaway

If you’ve been reading along the past couple of months, you know that our life situation has changed somewhat.  We’ve gone from me working full-time outside the home to trying to make it working from home, and it’s been challenging in a number of ways, not the least of which is financial.

Last week, though, Brian felt very strongly convicted about something – so strongly that he didn’t wait until he got home that evening to discuss it with me, but called me right away.  Our general mode of operation is that if one of us feels very strongly that God is leading us as a family in a particular direction, and the other one doesn’t share that strong leading but also isn’t getting the sense that God *doesn’t* want us to go that route, then we go ahead.  This was one of those situations.  Brian felt very much that we needed to make a commitment to give regularly to something that God could use – not necessarily a big commitment (because goodness knows it doesn’t feel like we have a lot right now), but a regular commitment.  An offering above our tithe, if you will.  We found such an opportunity that we both agreed on, and made our commitment.

We were talking about it that evening, discussing how Brian had had the feeling for some time that we needed to do something outside our regular tithe, and how we’d often said, “If only we had more room in the budget to do more with.”  It occurred to me, and I commented, that maybe it’s not so much a change in finances as a change in perspective – we don’t wait for God to make our finances better, we just ask Him to point us to opportunities and help meet those needs in faith that He will meet our needs.

And then I picked up Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God when Sparkly, Safe Faith Is No Longer Enough by Kristen Welch.  Kristen is the founder of Mercy House Kenya, and Rhinestone Jesus is her story of how Mercy House came to be.  It is a story of heartbreak, dreams, and one small yes that led to big things.

Rhinestone Jesus 2

Kristen visited Kenya as a guest blogger for Compassion International, and the things she saw there broke her heart and changed her life.  She saw that there was a need for maternity care for young unwed girls, and said yes to God’s urging to start Mercy House, having no idea how that simple “yes” would change her life, her family, or her faith.

And after our discussion about giving and perhaps the need for a change in perspective, I read this:

I can remember from a young age hearing my dad say, “You can’t outgive God,” and I watched as he opened one hand to give to others and opened the other to receive from God.  My dad once emptied our family savings account to give it away, and we watched God replace every dime.  This picture of open hands for giving and receiving shaped me.  We can all be part of that conduit, standing in the middle between God and people in need, ready to give spontaneously. – Rhinestone Jesus

This book was already moving me to tears on just about every other page, but that?  Man, that hit home.  You can’t outgive God.

You.  Can’t.  Outgive.  God.

Y’all, I was convicted in a big, BIG way.  Here we are, feeling kind of sorry for ourselves because our finances aren’t all that right now, thinking, “Oh, if only we had more in the bank, we’d give more, wouldn’t it be nice if we had the resources to really help meet needs that we see, blah blah blah.”  We can’t outgive God.  If we give in faith when He puts a need in our path, He will be faithful to meet our needs.  I had let that slip to the back of my mind, or maybe I never really understood that, not heart-deep.  I had to apologize to God for putting Him in the tiny little box of my thinking, of seeing what He can do only through the lens of what I perceive as my lack.

And when Brian opened his Bible that night, he found this:

“If only My people would listen to Me and Israel would follow My ways,
I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes.” But He would feed Israel with the best wheat. “I would satisfy you with honey from the rock.” – Psalm 81:13-14, 16

It all came together.  I’ve been feeling that God wants me to do SOMETHING for a while now.  And all He wants is my yes to whatever opportunities He puts in my path.  That’s the something.  God isn’t waiting on me to make more money to do more for Him.  He isn’t waiting on me to have a neater house, or a better job, or a picture-perfect family.  He’s just waiting for me to say yes to what He asks of me, right here, right now, right in the middle of my mess with a pile of laundry to put away and toy weapons strewn up and down the stairs and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.  Yes.  That’s all He wants, that’s what He’s waiting on.  And that’s what Rhinestone Jesus is all about – not waiting until everything is just so, not clinging onto what’s safe and known, just stepping out in faith, pursuing the dream God puts in your heart.  Thank you, Kristen, for taking your step of faith, for saying yes, for putting your heart into words to inspire me and touch my heart when it was most needed.

Rhinestone Jesus is one of those books I am going to read over and over, and highlight in, and cry on, and carry around until it falls apart.  It has touched me so deeply that I want to share the love, and  I’m giving a copy away.  (No, not mine – I’m keeping that one!)  For the winner of this giveaway, I’ll order a copy from Amazon and have the book sent directly to you.  Just leave a comment on this post to enter with a way to get in touch.  The winner will be announced on Monday, May 5.  And if you don’t win, please, please, please get yourself this book.

Rhinestone Jesus Pre-Order

Pre-order by May 1, and you’ll get a free e-book, Saying Yes to God as a Family, and part of the proceeds will go to benefit Mercy House.  It’s moved me to look for ways to say yes to God every day.  I’m looking forward to seeing what He can do through me, and to seeing my faith lose some sparkle and begin to shine.

 What is God asking you to say “Yes” to?

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Faith, Giveaways | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Free ice cream at Carvel!

Free ice cream AND a chance to support a good cause?  What’s not to like?  For those of you who have a Carvel nearby, pay them a visit on May 1.  They’re celebrating their 80th anniversary and kicking it off this Thursday with Free Cone Day.

carvel-free-cone-thursday

Carvel…America’s Freshest Ice Cream® is launching its summer-long 80th anniversary celebration with Free Cone Day Thursday, May 1 from 3-8 p.m. Participating Carvel® shoppes will treat guests to a free junior cone filled with their choice of freshly made vanilla, chocolate or their all-new salted caramel soft-serve ice cream.

In addition to enjoying free ice cream, guests can support a good cause on Free Cone Day. Throughout the day, Carvel will offer a $2 coupon book worth more than $20 in savings. 100% of all proceeds from sales of the coupon books will go towards a $30,000 donation to the American Red Cross® to support Disaster Relief. This effort will raise the company’s total contributions to the American Red Cross to $80,000 over the last three years.

Go out, get yourself a yummy ice cream cone, pick up a coupon book, and support a worthy cause.  I mean, salted caramel ice cream – how does anyone turn that down?!

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Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

So excited to be posting my first recipe that I’ve come up with myself!

I was in the mood for stuffed peppers last night, but couldn’t find a recipe that was precisely what I thought I wanted.  So, I came up with my own – Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers!

First, you brown 1/2 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound of ground turkey.

Meat Browning

When it’s nearly browned, add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery (I use the pre-made seasoning mix because I don’t want to spend my life chopping the Holy Trinity of veg to go in almost every dish I make, but if you’re chopping fresh veg, I’d estimate about 1/2 large onion, 1 good-sized bell pepper, and a couple of ribs of celery).  Continue cooking until the meat is browned and the vegetables are soft.

Add one packet of taco seasoning and a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes.

Add Tomatoes

Add one can corn and one can black beans; mix until thoroughly combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I also added some Slap Ya Mama to kick it up a bit – we like things well seasoned around here.  Let it simmer about 10-15 minutes.

Add Veg

While the meat mixture is simmering, wash your bell peppers and slice in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds and clean out the inside of the peppers well.  Place your peppers in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and add about 3/4 cup of water to the bottom of the pan.  I find this helps keep the peppers from sticking.

After the meat mixture has simmered, add three cups cooked rice and combine.

Stuff the pepper halves generously.

Ready to Bake

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Remove foil from pan, top with shredded cheese, and put back in the oven long enough to get the cheese bubbly.

Finished

Brian and I loved it.  Thing One and Thing Two tried it and declared it not their favorite.  My kids are weird.  If yours are normal, they may love it.

[recipe title="Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers" servings="4-6" time="1 hr 30 min" difficulty-"easy"]Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef (I used 85/15)
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 15 1/2 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 15 1/2 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cajun seasoning of your choice (optional)
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 3 large bell peppers (I used green, but any color will do)
  • Shredded cheese to taste (I used queso Chihuahua and Colby Jack, you pick your favorite)

Directions:

  1. Brown ground beef and ground turkey in a large skillet.
  2. When meat is almost browned, add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery.  Cook until meat is browned and vegetables are soft.
  3. Add taco seasoning and crushed tomatoes.
  4. Add corn and black beans.  Mix until well combined.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste, and Cajun seasoning of your choice if you want to amp up the spice a little (I recommend Slap Ya Mama or Tony Chachere’s).  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  6. While meat mixture simmers, wash bell peppers.  Cut in half lengthwise and clean out seeds.  Place into a 13×9 inch pan with about 3/4 cup of water in the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add cooked rice to meat mixture and combine.
  8. Stuff peppers (and stuff the heck out of them – this makes a lot of filling!).
  9. Cover pan with foil and bake for about 45 minutes.
  10. Remove pan from oven, top peppers with cheese, and return to oven long enough for cheese to get bubbly.
  11. Enjoy![/recipe]
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Love your neighbor – but how?

We were out in our yard one sunny afternoon, and noticed a throng of people, big and small, down by the retention pond for our neighborhood.  Apparently at least one person was fishing in it, because our next door neighbor commented as he walked by that it looked like they were having a Bassmaster meeting down there.  Brian turned to me and commented, “What does it take to get to where we can just hang out and have that kind of interaction with our neighbors?  Or do you think we’re just too odd?”

I’ve kind of been chewing on that.  I truly believe that God opened doors to get us into this house.  We would have been happy with a smaller house, an older house, it didn’t have to be a brand new house.  We prayed about this house, a LOT, because it was a big deal for us financially.  And now here we are.  The thought occurred to me one morning as I was out walking that we don’t have to go to a foreign country, or even another state, to do missionary work – this street right here is our mission field.  We can reach out to our neighbors and show God’s love to them, right here where we are.  But what if we’re too odd to truly connect with our neighbors?

I’ve got no problem smiling and waving as we pass.  I’m fine with small talk – how’s the weather, how ’bout those Saints, whatcha planting in your garden this season.  But is that enough of an interaction – enough of a relationship – to let the love of Christ flow through us and to someone who may, behind the small talk, be hurting in ways we can’t even fathom?  Or will it just take time and us reaching outside of our comfort zones (because deep down, I’m really fairly socially awkward) to make those connections, build those relationships and be available when there are needs we can meet?

And make no mistake, we’re not exactly conformists.  My husband wears a kilt, and you don’t see a bunch of those in this part of the world unless you’re at the Renaissance Festival.

Lisa and Brian August 2013

We have the only two-story house in the neighborhood (that doesn’t make it any fancier, nor does that make it the most expensive one by any means, it’s just two stories – better use of space for us, and yes, different).

100_0199

I have a Dalek sticker on my car that I can pretty much guarantee is the only one like it in the Baton Rouge metro area.

Dalek Sticker

(If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you know what that is.  If you’re not, Google it, and then go watch some Doctor Who and see what you’re missing out on!)  We’re Baylor grads in the heart of LSU’s Tigerland.  So yeah, we’re odd.  We are the one that is not like the others.  But are we SO odd that we can’t learn how to love our neighbors?  I sure hope not.  I guess all we can do is pray on it, and keep on reaching out when and where we can, have patience, and give relationships time to grow.

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Things to Think On | Tagged , | 7 Comments