August 21, 2013

The End in Sight

Somewhere between the mountain hiking, beach bumming, and trips to In-N-Out, life in California became my new normal. With only a week and a half left until my return to the Mitten, I realize time definitely got the best of me this summer.





Seriously. Where did it go, and why did it have to go there so fast?

Although I will be greeted by familiar faces and places, I can't shake the anxiety that always comes when life is on the brink of change. I will settle into a rhythm soon enough, I have this awesome gift of adaptation, but I haven't reached the point of wanting to have to do so. I know I will leave a piece of myself here, but I hope by the time I find my seat on the plane, the rest of me will find its way to Michigan.

Until then, though, I plan to soak up as many rays of the California sun as possible, dig my feet into the dirt of the mountains of Big Bear, and love wholeheartedly the people who have made this summer my favorite.

July 24, 2013

When Life Calls For Butterscotch, Make It From Scratch

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

Don't believe it? Spend a few minutes with my boyfriend, the lover of what he likes to call, "yum yums," which are basically any tasty treat that is most likely really bad for your health.

Although I do worry about his yum yum obsession, it did make it easy to decide what to do for him to celebrate one year of dating. I went with one of his favorite yum yums, "Scotcheroos." His mom made them this past Christmas, so I was able to experience first hand just why he raves about this dessert.

She was nice enough to give me the recipe, and as I bought the ingredients, I tried not to think about the fact that I was going up against years of Scotcheroos perfection. That didn't last long, though, because the recipe calls for butterscotch chips, and apparently they don't sell butterscotch chips in Pasadena this time of year. How could I not think about the years of Scotcheroos perfection knowing I was going to have to make homemade butterscotch?!

Also, I gave my mom a good laugh when I called to ask her if corn oil was different than corn syrup. Note to self: it is.

Anyway, although intimidated, I was bound and determined!

Before I knew it, it was Saturday night, and I was preparing my ingredients. Every butterscotch recipe I read stressed the importance of moving fast between each step. Apparently, I didn't move fast enough, though. Somewhere between dumping in 1/4 cup of whipping cream and pouring another, the butterscotch began to harden. Crap. I was sure my frantic attempt was a lost cause. I decided to try cranking the heat, hoping to re-liquidize (is that even a term?) the butterscotch to the desired consistency.

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I'll admit, I was feeling pretty proud as I poured the sweet smelling butterscotch into a readied glass bowl of melted chocolate chips. However, when it was time to slather it on the peanut butter, rice krispies goodness that is Scotcheroos, my heart sank a little. The butterscotch and chocolate spread took on a sand like texture. All I could do was hope it tasted better than it looked.

24 hours later, Dave and I devoured 3 slices of the Scotcheroos...EACH...IN A ROW! That should tell you something about the finished product.

Also, it should tell you a little something about life. It might not look how you thought it would, but that doesn't it mean it can't still taste sweet.

Yum yum on my friends,

<3 Elise

"Meating" My Cooking Goals

Last week, with the help from my bosom friend and her reference to The Pioneer Woman, I ventured out into the scary world of cooking with meat. Being the unexperienced cook I am, I decided to start with something simple, Penne With Chicken Thighs.  

Now, I'm going to be honest, chicken thighs were never a part of the original plan. I bought the thighs thinking they were breasts (if you didn't believe me when I said I knew nothing about cooking, I'm assuming you do now). Luckily, PW speaks highly of thighs, and I can see why!

I only had to make slight adjustments to the recipe. The thighs were skinless and boneless, I didn't have fresh garlic, parmesan, or basil, so I used powdered, and instead of plain marinara sauce, I used tomato basil. I realize everything tastes better fresh, but I'm on a budget and don't have a car. So cooking experts, forgive me for working with what I had.

Anyway, there is no satisfaction quite like that of cooking, what I consider, a "real" meal. The anticipation almost killed me as I followed PW's orders to wait for 1 1/2 hours for the chicken to cook. When it was time to plate my dinner, I let out a big sigh before taking the first bite. I let out another big sigh after realizing I wanted a second bite. As the recipe promised, it was delicious.

The only problems I ran into were a lot of second guessing games and making an absolute mess of the kitchen. Seriously, I am no graceful cook. Maybe that will come with time? Either way, the fact that I successfully made a meal and didn't start a fire or die made cleanup a little bit more enjoyable.

So, there you have it. I cooked with chicken. My only regret is not taking a picture.

Who knew "meating" my cooking goals would be so fun?

See what I did there? ;-)

Cook on my friends!

<3 Elise

July 9, 2013

"We're Up All Night to YOSEMITE!"

First of all, let me explain the title of this post. For about a week or so, Dave has been singing "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams NON-STOP. Naturally, it became the theme song of our three day trip to Yosemite over the 4th. Dave replaced "we're up all night to get lucky" with "we're up all night to Yosemite." It's pretty fitting because we were, in fact, up all night to Yosemite.

In my opinion, it wouldn't be a true adventure, if there weren't some hoops to jump through. I knew very early on our trip to Yosemite would be a true adventure because

1. We didn't reserve a campsite,

and

2. Jason missed his first flight and didn't arrive to LAX until midnight on said departure date.

Thus, the boys drove through the night with hopes of arriving to Bridalveil Creek Campground early enough to claim a site before the rest of the crowd. Surprisingly (I definitely had my doubts), the plan worked! It was only after a bit of digging that we came across a warm Australian couple who invited us to share apple slices and swap stories of our travels before starting to set up camp as they tore down.

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Although already exhausted from the long drive and quick setup, we headed to The Valley to embark on our first hike of the trip.

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Our exhaustion quickly transformed into adrenalin, after our first view of all Yosemite had to offer. We started with about a 7 mile hike (roundtrip) to the top of Vernal Fall and then to the top of Nevada Fall.

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Vernal Fall:

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Nevada Fall:
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Waterfalls are something I haven't been able to experience with our San Gabriel hikes, so it was definitely a nice change of pace. Plus, being as hot as it was, it was nice having a way to cool off.

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We decided to take a different route back down which was a good decision. Not only was it less strenuous, but  it also provided equally as beautiful, yet different views.

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Believe it or not, our day was not finished. After some delicious camp food, we headed to Glacier Point to watch the sunset.

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Over the past year, I've been able to hike a ton, and it has become a very spiritual hobby for me. As Dave and I were watching the colors and shadows change, I couldn't help but think of the parallel of God's beauty on display and the beauty He sees when He looks at our lives. The two falls you see in this picture are the very falls I had just hiked. During those hikes I had moments of pain and joy, shortness of breath and never feeling more alive, feelings of defeat and feelings of triumph. All the while, though sometimes I was unsure and didn't know how exactly it would happen, I knew I would get to where I was going. Life is often like my hikes, but when I am given opportunities to see my hikes from afar, I get a glimpse of what God must see when He looks at our lives. He knows there are the long uphill battles, He sees those gritty details, but He also sees where we are going. More importantly, He sees how all of it creates what is displayed in this picture. Beauty for His glory.

I think it's safe to say, the sunset at Glacier Point was the more contemplative part of my trip.

As much as we didn't want to leave, the thought of much needed sleep sounded pretty good, too. Despite being cold and thinking I heard a mouse in the middle of the night, I felt pretty rested the next morning and was excited and ready to conquer Upper Yosemite Falls!

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This was another strenuous 7 mile trek with what seemed to be a hotter sun. However, the views at the top of the fall made it all worth it.

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And how could I resist experiencing the falls for myself?

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Once we reached the bottom again, it was time to say a dreaded goodbye to The Valley and spend a relaxing evening in hammocks around the campfire.

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Our final hike of the trip was in the cool of the next morning to Sentinel Dome. This hike was far easier on the muscles, and a lot less crowded. Only 2 miles round trip and we were still blessed with more amazing scenery.

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We sat at the top for a while, enjoying our last moments at higher elevation before heading back down to pack up. We loaded up the car in record time and ventured to our last site of the trip: The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

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We found it took 1o of us to wrap around the entire tree. I never thought I could feel THAT small.

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Yosemite was a more beautiful trip than I imagined, and I have every intention of going back before I leave California. There is so much more to climb and explore. I wouldn't mind having my first bear siting either. ;)

Adventure on my friends!

<3 Elise

June 25, 2013

California: My Delicious Dose of Reality

A little over two weeks ago, I flew anxiously through the clouds and colors of the evening sky and a few hours later, landed among the Los Angeles lights. My summer residence greeted me with its usual hustle and bustle, but my midwestern heart didn't mind one bit. The months spent praying, planning, and trusting proved worth it, as my feet hit the California ground and as I took my first breath of the LA air...smog and all.

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The short weeks since my arrival have proven to be anything but dull. I've relished in the still surreal fact that I live across the street from my boyfriend. I've visited old friends, and I've made new ones. I met Mickey Mouse and realized the child in us never really dies. I continued to slave away at my computer, competing with every other soul applying to the same job, and ended up landing a job without having to fill out an application. God sure has a sense of humor.

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 And of course, I've had my share of embarrassing-to-admit "firsts." After 24 years of living, I have for the first time EVER: Bought 2 weeks worth of groceries (fresh fruits and veggies included) Paid rent Lived alone Baked homemade chocolate chip cookies And the firsts are sure to continue. Cooking with meat is next on the list... 
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Living alone is an exciting but challenging reality. I have been fortunate enough to be living with families up until this point, and although the free rent and home cooked meals have been great, I realize the woman inside of me has been ready to give all that "adult" stuff a try for some time, now.

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So far, this season has been doused with answered prayers, and I am thankful. I know, however, far more awaits, and I look forward to sharing. :)
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With all the beauty of California, 

 <3 Elise

April 28, 2013

24, Timelines, and Ecclesiastes

Yes, there are still 2 days left in April. No, I will not finish a book by then. Between birthday celebrations (mine included), summer job hunting, and house sitting, reading just didn't happen this month. Also, Lent ended, meaning I had a lot of TV shows to watch. Don't even get me started on Downton Abbey.

Anyway, let's talk about the fact that I'm now 24, find a new grey hair at least once a week, and have come to the realization that I am totally one of those people who have been basing their life's happiness on a timeline. I guess I should be thankful that most of what I wanted to happen by my 24th birthday didn't happen, or else, I would have never known I was even living in such a way. Now, by God's grace, I've been making a conscious effort to live without one, and slowly but surely, I've noticed a change in attitude and heart. It turns out, living life based on an unrealistic supposed order of events is quite depressing.

A lesson learned, and in my humanness, a lesson that will forever be a challenge to live out.

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This morning, my brother and I decided to have church at home. With our coffee and toast, we squeezed onto my tiny twin bed, and started a series on Ecclesiastes. I was killing two birds with one stone here, seeing as this is the same series we are discussing in the Bible study I attend. Considering the content of Ecclesiastes, Matt Chandler's sermon complimented my current "living without a timeline" mentality quite nicely.

A few valuable thoughts I took away:

1. When you come to the same conclusion as the author (everything under the sun is meaningless), you will develop the sixth sense: FAITH.

2. Faith has the power to take us BEYOND the sun.

3. "Sin is building your self-worth on anything other than God." -Søren Kierkegaard

4: When you take a good thing and make it an ultimate thing, you have ensured that that thing will drive you to the ground.

5. God is not the enemy of good things. He brings meaning to the good things.

4 and 5 are INCREDIBLY important ideas for me to grasp, and I've always struggled to do so. My "timeline" is a perfect example. All it entails is good, but I bring tension to the good things when I make those good things idols. However, when I become aware of these idols (a step in the right direction), I also begin to have a skewed perception of who God is and believe the lie that God doesn't want me to partake in His goodness. I punish myself, instead of learning from God's loving and perfectly implemented discipline.

All that being said, I am thankful for a loving, patient, and gracious God who doesn't need me, but continues to show more of Himself everyday He gives me breath.

Here's to 24.

Soli Deo gloria,

Elise

April 3, 2013

"Cold Tangerines" Review

Being a lover of harmony, all the debate amongst Christians these days makes me want to set up camp in the woods and become friends with the squirrels. Although I am thankful to have people close to me with differing opinions and perspectives on hot topics, I often feel like we are all playing a game of tug-o-war, and I'm the rope. But by God's grace, slowly but surely, I am learning to recognize and trust 
Him even in the midst of this burdensome tension.
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That being said, my reading for March was a nice mental break from all the banter and commotion. "Cold Tangerines" by Shauna Niequist was truly a breath of fresh air.
" Because we are made for motion, for arching up toward God with all the energy and passion of a thunderstorm, lightning slicing through a sleepy world to remind us that we serve a fast-dancing God, a God who set this world whirling and crashing through space so that we could live from our toes and drum out the pulse of a billion veins carrying lifeblood to a billion hearts, temples to a God that got his hands dirty making us from dust. Let's get dirty, in his name. Let's sizzle and pop in his name. Let's dance and shimmer and scrawl out our stories across the sky like he taught us to. Let's echo his words, and let our lives speak those words: It is good."
Niequist writes with wit and charm, imagery and voice, vulnerability and empathy. You can't help but feel like you are having a conversation with your best friend from page 1 to 252. Each chapter is a scene from her life, recognizing the beauty of God in all circumstances. As she gracefully divulges her struggles, you begin to feel not so crazy, not so alone.
Basically, if you are looking for an easy, refreshing, joy inspiring read, free up an afternoon, grab a copy, and take a bite (or two) out of "Cold Tangerines."
And as always, happy reading!
<3 Elise

March 6, 2013

Life on a Treadmill

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Yesterday, as I was hurrying up the steps to work, the winter air reminded me she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. She felt colder than ever, ruining my plan to run outside this week, forcing me to grudgingly make use of the family treadmill.
I've always hated treadmills, and despite my best efforts to give it another chance, 2 miles later, I still hated it, vowing to never use one again.

Here's my qualm: while my legs are pounding, my back sweating, and my pulse racing, I'm going absolutely nowhere. Nothing feels more defeating than putting in the miles with no change of scenery and ending up right where I started. Running on a treadmill is like having to endure the same hardship twice because I didn't learn my lesson the first time.

Sometimes, life can feel like running on a treadmill. Who am I kidding? Sometimes, MY life can feel like running on a treadmill, at least I'm tempted to view it that way. A temptation rather easy to concede to, as I write this in the company of the purple walls and polka dot bed spread I've had since I was sixteen and as I daily walk the halls of my old high school and as I drive down all too familiar streets that hold fond memories but an uncertain future.

If I dig a little deeper, though, I can see God's purpose for the treadmill. I can see how He uses it to build my trust and faith because on the treadmill, I have to run in place. There aren't distractions or frills. I have to find beauty and contentment in the ordinary and the mundane. I have to believe that what was told to the saints in Philippi, "that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ," applies to me, as well. I have to trust that even when God asks me to run in place, He's still actually taking me somewhere.

Hmm, maybe treadmills aren't so bad after all.

Happy running,

<3 Elise

February 27, 2013

"Kisses from Katie" Review

I didn't know if I'd finish a book in February (I hadn't been reading as much, since I started working), but I took advantage of a fairly lazy weekend and was able to cross Kisses from Katie off my list.

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Honestly, reading Katie Davis' story broke me into a million little pieces, encouraged me to live the life God has given me with JOY, and probably more than anything else, brought some harsh realities about myself to the surface.

"My knees are dusty orange, stained by the soil into which they press for hours as I beg God for the mercy and strength to continue. My tears flow in puddles that do not soak into the red, parched earth of Uganda. The puddles and the color of my knees remind me that I was not to leave this life unstained or unscarred. Even Jesus kept His scars after the resurrection. My stains are beautiful to Him and as I become dirtier and more beat up, I am becoming perfect, transformed into the image of the One who made me. And I am thankful."

That is her attitude. That is her faith. That is the Spirit of God working in her.

Katie is 23 years old and:

through adoption, is the mother of 14 children from Uganda,

is "mommy" to countless more, through her open heart and open door,

is the founder and director of Amazima, a ministry that provides hundreds of children from Uganda with medicine, meals, and education,

would be the first to tell you that, although God's call on her life isn't easy, it is simple,

and she has made Uganda her home.

But, as much as this book is about our call to care for "the least of these," over and over again she reminds us that in order to do so, that doesn't mean everyone needs to move to Uganda and adopt 14 children, but it does mean we have to obey God when He shows what living out that commandment looks like for each of our lives.

Since we're on the subject, my dear friend, Mindy, who recommended Kisses from Katie to me, has started the adoption process. God has beautifully stirred her and her family's heart to adopt a child from Haiti. To read about their journey and consider how God can use you to help (if He lays it on your heart to do so), visit their blog.

I'll be the first to admit, my willingness to get uncomfortable is weak most of the time, but I am thankful that God uses strangers like Katie and friends around me to encourage, inspire, and convict.

And if you choose to read Kisses from Katie, which I hope you do, I pray God will use it as a seed that He will further nourish and make grow.

Happy reading,

<3 Elise

January 22, 2013

Eshet Chayil! ("A Year of Biblical Womanhood" Review)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans may seem like a strange experiment making a mockery of the so called "biblical woman," but I assure you, it is nothing of the sort.

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As she dedicates each month to a different discipline (gentleness, domesticity, obedience, valor, beauty, modesty, purity, fertility, submission, justice, silence, and grace), she takes you on her thought provoking, challenging, and even humorous spiritual journey of literal interpretations on what it means to be a "biblical woman."  Her time spent hosting dinner parties, sleeping in a tent, wearing head coverings, calling her husband "master," and spending time with monks and Quakers is enough to keep you turning pages.

And though what she decided to take part in for a year was interesting, it was what she learned about herself, about being a woman, and, most importantly, about God that was truly inspiring.

As I was reading about a woman facing her Susie Homemaker fears and shattering her once held judgments of women living out God callings different than her own, I began to feel a Holy prompting to face some fears and judgements of my own.  And although our fears and judgments may be very different, I was resonating with her earnestness to let God take her out of the shoes she had been wearing, and by doing so, taking her down her road less traveled.  For her, that road was pots and pans, babies, and needle and thread. For me, that road is my new job, a masters degree, and independence.

Through other women, God can show us more of His grace, His goodness, His Truth, and how the notion that we can keep Him all for ourselves, wrapped in our pretty little boxes, is ridiculous. I think if we're honest with ourselves, we all have roads God yearns to lead us down, and maybe not even for our own benefit. Maybe trusting God to take us down our "road less traveled" is for the sake of other women. For the sake of understanding those who are different and realizing in the end, we are all the same to Him.  When it comes right down to it, He calls us all to be, as Evans would say, "Eshet Chayil," A Woman of Valor.
"The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it--with valor. So do your thing. If it's refurbishing old furniture--do it with valor. If it's keeping up with your two-year-old--do it with valor. If it's fighting against human trafficking...leading a company...or getting other people to do your work for you--do it with valor."
And may I suggest getting your hands on a copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood and reading it?...
...With valor, of course! ;-)

January 15, 2013

A People Pleaser's Plea

I am convinced I came out of my mother's womb wanting to please people. Somehow my little, baby brain knew if I entered this world sucking my thumb, it would generate exaggerated awes and sappy tears. Unfortunately, almost 24 years later, sticking my thumb in my mouth just doesn't have the same effect.

People pleasing became a lot more difficult. Constantly striving to do so became exhausting.

However, I think I speak for most "people pleasers" when I say that the coined term is a bit of an understatement. It's more than just not wanting to displease someone, it's about not wanting to hurt them. The inner turmoil I experience when deciding if I should tell someone my honest opinion about what I think of their outfit is the same inner turmoil I experience when deciding if I should tell someone my honest opinion about what I think of their life choices. The first is of less importance than the other in the grand scheme of things (unless you're Barbie), but in either situation, I am capable of hurting someone.

Who really wants to hurt people they care about deeply? Why wouldn't I want to avoid doing so, if I can? These are questions I am constantly bombarded with in pretty much every situation involving my opinion and others, yet, I admire people who freely give their opinions. I'm not saying people who voice their opinions are inconsiderate of other people's feelings, but they seem to have a balance I am only beginning to find. I've wrestled with this before God, asking for discernment on how to find the balance of being considerate without losing my own self in the process.

However, as much as I need to work on finding a balance, I believe those who know me as a people pleaser need to find it, as well.

As many times as I've heard statements like, "you will never be able to please everyone," "you're not perfect, so you will hurt others," and "you need to do what's best for you," I've realized very few people actually mean what they say. People get used to the people pleasers in their lives, and they appreciate them more than they realize. So when the advice they give involves their people pleasing friends applying it to situations leaving them displeased or hurt, they either respond negatively or don't know how to respond at all. In return the people pleasers who finally feel like they've gotten a hold on their people pleasing ways are left feeling guilty from the ones who gave them the advice in the first place.

Confused? You're telling me!

I realize how frustrating we people pleasers can be, but here is my plea:

If we are expected to stop "worrying so much" and stop "trying so hard to please everyone," we need the people in our lives to start letting us live this way. If we are to accept the fact that we may hurt people now and again, we need the people in our lives to accept the fact that we may end up hurting them now and again.

I realize I may have made people pleasing sound like some disease. Though it's not that serious, this part of me does play a huge role in my daily decisions and interactions, and I consider this post a step in the right direction for myself.

And yes, the people pleaser inside is telling me to delete this...just in case you were wondering.

January 2, 2013

2013 Reading List: Fiction Edition

As if the temptation to be glued to the social media world wasn't strong enough, I now have an iPhone. Don't get me wrong, I'm in love! However, the few short weeks of ownership has proved the necessity for balance in my life. And so, in the spirit of 2013, I vow to read one book a month. Not only will this goal benefit my reading habits, but it will also ensure more blogging (you better believe I'll be writing reviews)!

So without further ado, my 2013 Reading List-Fiction Edition:

The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien)

The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)

Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger)

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)

These are just some classics that come to mind, but I'm open to suggestions. Happy New Year. Happy reading.

I think I'll start with...
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

2013 Reading List-Non-Fiction Edition

If you read my last post, you would have discovered that 2013 will be filed with reading. I am currently toying with the idea of graduate school and realize if that does happen, I'll have plenty of reading to do there. Until then, however, I intend to fill my free time with good, thought provoking reads.

Here it is, my small list of non-fiction books I've either been meaning to read or that have recently caught my interest:

Knowledge of the Holy (A. W. Tozer)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Rachel Held Evans)

Evolving in Monkey Town (Rachel Held Evans)

Walking on Water (Madeleine L'Engle)

Kisses from Katie (Katie Davis)

The Irresistible Revolution (Shane Claiborne)

God's Politics (Jim Wallis)

I would really love for this list to grow and gain some variety. Any suggestions?