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Chris & Kellie.

 

Lots of times in life we don’t realize we’re living a “moment in time” until after we’ve lived it. And then – every once in a great while – there are days like today, when you are fully aware of the “moment” you’re living.

This was the opening line of my journal entry from last week. The day before, I had gotten the dreaded phone call from Kellie. The one that said, “The doctors have told me it’s time to call hospice.”

No. No. NO!

Our minds (or maybe more appropriately, our hearts) are very weird. Even when we know, short of a miracle, something is coming, it’s still so very hard to hear. Or accept.

Feeling helpless and not knowing what else to do, I flew to Atlanta.

When I got to the cancer center in Newnan last week, I wasn’t ready to see Chris’ physical appearance. The last time I saw him was in November. He was thinner, but he still looked like “Chris.” Now, he looks like he has cancer. He’s frail, and very very thin. Well, all except his belly. This iron man/tri-athlete who has never had anything less than a six pack, now has this protruding belly, one that we all tease – Chris included – makes him look like he’s about to deliver. Because humor gets us through, and because we are all pretty irreverent, I said to Chris: “Are we in a cancer hospital or the maternity ward?” Of course he laughed as best he could. It didn’t take long for him to shoot one back at me… “You know I’m going on ahead as a diplomat, right? To make sure you and Kellie get in.” lololol. Tears. Laughs. Tears.

If I had to name someone in which to compare Chris, I would tell you “think Tony Dungy.” Chris has that same quiet strength. He’s not loud or flashy. He’s a man of integrity and character. He’s silly. He’s an instigator! He’s a good listener. He’s not judgmental. He’s always, always positive. He’s a good friend. And a good man. His family is everything to him. Other than worrying about his girls (all 3 of them), he is ready. He loves and trusts God with a blind faith that leaves me wanting to sit at his bedside and ask him to speak wisdom into my life.

We sat for a bit and talked about what kind of service and music he wants. His words: “I want a party!” I told him we wouldn’t be much in the partying mood. He did tell me the songs he would want played. He even pulled up a YouTube video of one of ‘em on his phone to show me. He did have one mandate: “No sad songs!” I asked him if he was at peace. He said “yes, God’s been preparing me for this, for a while.”  I told him, “Chris, you are SO LOVED. I hope you know how much everybody loves you.” I think he does.

Pete flew up a day later and we were able to spend a few days together. It was a beautiful visit. We did such normal things. Pete & Chris watched the Gator basketball game in between naps (Pete napping too!). Kellie and I went for a walk. Pete treated me and Kel to pedis and manis. All so normal. Yet so abnormal. Chris is in his 40′s. It’s surreal knowing what you’re really doing is saying goodbye. On the positive side, we are so grateful for the gift of being able to leave nothing unsaid. Not everybody gets that. It’s a gift we are holding tightly.

My emotions are still all over the place. I’m tender. I’m raw. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. And I’m mad. All normal, I suppose. The scripture I keep repeating to myself…”even when we are faithless, You remain faithful.” Thank you, Lord; I’m clinging to this promise.

Kellie & Chris

Kellie & Chris…so beautiful! and so handsome!

Today is hard, too…today is Chris & Kellie’s 29th wedding anniversary.  I can’t stop thinking about them. It feels odd to call and say “Happy Anniversary!”  I know she is grateful for the 29 years God has given her with Chris. But I also know she would eagerly sign up for 29 more. I simply can’t imagine there being a time when there’s a Kellie “without a Chris.”  I think about the vows they took all those years ago. When you promise “in sickness and in health,” you really aren’t picturing this. But it’s life, and it’s what we enthusiastically promise. I can’t tell you what a wonderful caregiver she is being to her husband. She’s amazing. I know people go through this every day. And I know she isn’t exempt.  We, as believers, aren’t exempt. I know we aren’t immune to pain. And I know God said, “In this world you WILL have trouble; not IF you have trouble.”  I know God doesn’t owe us any explanations. I know His ways are higher. I know He loves us more than we can imagine. I know He has prepared a place for us. I know we are just passing through. I know this isn’t our home.  I know, I know, I know….

But still.

Spending these last few days with Chris have left me feeling really dwarfed by the magnitude of God; we truly operate in nothing more than an “illusion of control.” But even though I’ve felt really small, I’ve also felt His nearness. I know He sees us. I know He hears us. And I know He catches every single tear. I watched a sermon by Britt Merrick the other day called “When Sparrows Fall.” Britt is a pastor who recently lost his daughter to cancer. He said this: In times like these, we ask the wrong question. The question isn’t “Why?” But rather, “Who?”  It’s not, “God, why is this happening?” But rather, “Who will carry us through?”

I know God will carry Kellie, Hope, Caroline, Cynthia and the rest of Chris’ family through this. I also know their darkest days are still ahead of them. As family and friends, we’re transitioning from praying for a miracle to praying that he not suffer long. And of course, trying to figure out how to say goodbye.

 

Dave’s Mom’s Biscuits

 

Blondie's biscuits

Blondie’s biscuits

OH. MY. WORD! I’ve not had biscuits like my Maw-Maw Brown used to make since she passed away. Well, not until today!!! Dave’s mom, Blondie, shared her family’s biscuit recipe with Dave and he is now sharing it with us!! He and Emilie made these for us last night, and Bill and I are feasting on them this morning!! My record is 17 biscuits in one weekend (not kidding! I had 9 on Saturday and 8 on Sunday when I was 12 and spent the weekend with Maw-Maw & Paw-Paw Brown!) If I didn’t have to share with Bill, I could totally finish off the platter by myself!!

Blondie’s Biscuits:

Pioneer Original or Buttermilk Biscuit & Baking Mix

3 cup Pioneer Original or Buttermilk Biscuit & Baking Mix
1 cup Whole milk (or buttermilk)

Preparation Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 450°F.

2. Mix ingredients just until a dough forms. Do not overmix.

3. Turn dough onto floured surface; shape into a ball. Knead 3 to 4 times.

4. Roll 1/2-inch thick. Hand form biscuits (should be 2 to 3 inches).

5. Place with sides touching on lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the top of each biscuit with oil

6. Bake 11 to 13 minutes.

7. Brush with melted butter

 

Aunt Judy’s Chicken Pilau

Just the way Aunt Judy made it!

Just the way Aunt Judy made it!

 

Well, this is Bill’s Aunt Judy, not mine! But I’m excited about his family recipe. It’s a simple Southern comfort food dish. It’s super inexpensive too!

Get the recipe here.

 

 

My Dad’s Chili Recipe

 

I recently taught my daughter, Abbey how to make my dad’s chili. This sparked a conversation between Dave, Bill & me. This week on TMC, I’m making my dad’s chili, Bill’s making a chicken dish of his aunt’s, and Dave is making his mom’s biscuits.

Family Recipe #1:

Carmen’s Dad Chili Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs Ground round
1 medium yellow onion
McCormick ORIGINAL chili packet
1 large can (31 oz) Van Camps Pork & Beans
2 cans (16 oz) Bush’s Pinto Beans
1 can (16 oz) Bush’s Dark Red Kidney Beans
1 can (16 oz) Bush’s Light Red Kidney Beans
1 large can (28 oz) Hunt’s Whole (Peeled) Tomatoes
1 bottle (2.5 oz) McCormick Chili Powder

DIRECTIONS:

Brown the ground round. Drain and rinse with hot water. Set aside.
Chop onion into frying pan. Add the McCormick chili packet, then fill empty packet with water and add.
Brown onions in the seasoning mix.
Add cooked ground round and heat.
Drain all cans of beans; remove pork fat from Pork & Beans
In a large crock pot, stir:
Van Camps Pork & Beans
Bush’s Pinto Beans
Bush’s Dark Red Kidney Beans
Bush’s Light Red Kidney Beans
Hand-crush Hunts Whole Tomatoes into medium-sized chunks, add to crock pot.
Add browned meat and onions.
Add ½ bottle (or to taste) McCormick Chili Powder

Cook all day.

Serve with sour cream and melted cheese.

 

excess.

 

Today’s my 42nd birthday. I’m sitting outside of a Starbucks waiting for my Genius Bar appointment to check on the battery life of my iPhone. It’s ironic that I’m sitting in a mall right now, given the decision I’m making today.  This has actually been on my mind and heart to do for the last several years, but for this reason or that reason, I’ve not yet done it.

But today is the day.

As of today, February 27, 2013, I am not shopping for anything new for an entire year. Nope. I cannot buy one stitch of clothing, a purse, or costume jewelry for myself until February 27, 2014.

You may be thinking…”Carmen, are you confessing to being a shopoholic?” Nope. I’m not. Because it’s not that at all. The reason is simple…

I have enough.

A few things have brought me to this decision.

The first was the 4 mission trips I’ve been on the last 5 years. Once you’ve visited a foreign county, you realize just what a consumption society we are.  This isn’t an indictment against anyone, our country, or standing in protest. I’m all about supporting our economy! And I will continue to do so. I just won’t do it by purchasing clothing, purses, jewelry (and maybe) shoes. I’ve not decided about this one yet. Shoes aren’t my weakness; purses are.

The second is that every time my birthday rolls around, Pete, the girls, and my mom ask me what I want for my birthday. I honestly can never tell them one single thing. Can anybody relate?  As a family, we’ve really transformed our Christmases the last couple of years. We were having the same conversation year after year, “Girls, what do you want for Christmas?” // “I don’t know, Mom, let me think about it.” End scene. // Frantically, I’d end up at the mall, walking around for hours, hurrying to buy more of what they didn’t need, for more money than I should’ve spent, and wasting lots of hours I’d never get back. It was madness. So the last few years, we’ve not done gifts, and have spent quality time together, making a memory instead. At this point, I do feel the need to say emphatically … BY NO MEANS am I saying it’s not good to buy Christmas gifts for the ones you love! I still buy my girls small stocking stuffer type gifts. I do buy them birthday gifts. I do still buy gifts for lots of people! I love buying gifts. Gifts are my love language. But I buy gifts now because I want to; not because I have to.

But I digress regarding Christmas. Probably because Christmas has been another indicator that we have enough. More than enough.

Lastly, I’ve been reading a book called “7, An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker.

7, an experimental mutiny against excess

7, an experimental mutiny against excess

I’m only on Chapter 3, but I love where it’s going. Long story short, Jen and her family took in another family during a hurricane. When their guests arrived at their home, a little boy ran inside and said, “Look dad, they’re rich!” Jen lives in a normal, middle class neighborhood. But to this child (and accurately so) she was rich!

I’ve been to Peru. I’ve been to Guatemala. I’ve been to Honduras. Trust me, we are rich. I live in a 2100 square foot, 2 bath, 2 car garage home. And I am rich.

I’ve got more clothes in my closet than I can wear. Heck, I’ve got a whole wardrobe in 3 sizes!! I’ve got more purses than I can carry. I have so much fun jewelry I sometimes forget what I have. I don’t need a thing. If I invited you into my closet, I would be embarrassed. (Anyone wanna join me in a closet confession?)

So the year experiment begins today. This isn’t to say you won’t see me in a mall. You will. Admittedly, one of my favorite things to do is to get my girls and meet my mom at the mall. We like to grab a Starbucks, walk around and browse (usually this is when the “buying things I don’t need” transactions take place), and then we’ll have a late lunch at California Pizza Kitchen (btw, the hummus appetizer and roasted vegetable salad are my favorites!) But I digress again.

I ‘m not gonna get super legalistic about this. I know me. As soon as I tell myself I can’t do something (or eat something), I want it all the more. It’s truly not about keeping the rules. It’s about transformation, downsizing, and getting rid of the excess. I will still buy makeup (not lip gloss, tho! I have 12 tubes). I will still buy things for my girls. I will still buy gifts for my friends. But for myself, I want to enjoy and be OK with what I already own. If a craving hits (and it most likely will), I want to satisfy it on behalf of someone who needs it more than me.

And finally, PLEASE don’t hear this as me being super spiritual. I am so NOT. Trust me! God is working some things out in me that need to be worked out. This is a personal acknowledgement (and repentance in some ways) to the Lord. A step towards true gratitude (likewise, sometimes I wonder if I even know real hunger).  This is a step towards knowing the difference between wants vs. real needs. This is a step towards contentment with what I have, breaking the habit of buying, and pleasing God with every dollar I spend.

Perhaps it’s best summed up best this way:

Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. So for my 42nd year of life, I’m not.

 

 

14 things.

 
I LOVE this. I found it at theresurgence.com. Here’s the link!

But I’ve copied & pasted for you here.

14 things YOU can do….

To bring awareness to the injustices of human trafficking and sexual assault and help equip Christian leaders and churches in making a difference, we wanted to provide 14 things you can do today to fight human trafficking and help victims. Whatever you do, shine a light on these dark injustices and be a voice on behalf of those who cannot be heard.

1. BE INFORMED
Being informed is the pavement you walk on. Get informed and be aware of the prevalence of the sex trade in your hometown, state, country, and world. You can find a comprehensive reading list on human trafficking on Resurgence.

2. BE PREPARED
Did you know that one in four women and one in six men are or will be victims of sexual assault? Prepare yourself to recognize the signs and lovingly help those who are victims.

3. SHARE THE GOSPEL
Share the gospel with victims: Hope and healing are found solely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you’re not sure how to do this, we highly recommend reading Justin Holcomb’s Rid of My Disgrace.

4. REPORT IT
If you believe you have witnessed human trafficking, or have been a victim, you can report a tip over the phone or online to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).

5. SPREAD THE WORD
Inform your family and friends about the pervasiveness of human trafficking. Bring awareness through your social media. Unfortunately, the upcoming Super Bowl is a time you can highlight the prevalence of human trafficking. Whatever you do, shine a light on these dark injustices and be a voice on behalf of those who cannot be heard.

6. JOIN OR START A SCHOOL CLUB
Multiply your efforts by joining with others on your campus. Together you can create a larger platform to help create awareness and make a difference in your community.

7. LEAN ON OTHERS
Don’t feel like you have to know all of the answers. There are a ton of resources available online. You can create awareness by simply inviting people over to watch a video, listen to an audio message, or just read the articles and discuss them afterward.

8. BE A CAREFUL CONSUMER
Did you know that you might be inadvertently supporting human trafficking with what you buy? Learn to be a careful consumer by learning more about your favorite brands and how they relate to human trafficking.

9. SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS
There are a number of great organizations that are currently fighting human trafficking and providing hope and healing for victims. {Carmen’s note here: Of course, Abolition International is very close to my heart!!}

10. GET INVOLVED
You can get involved through your church or a local anti-human trafficking group.

11. FUNDRAISE
Raise financial support for organizations by hosting a fundraiser. Consider having a garage or yard sale, or a sell some things online. Whatever you earn, donate it to one of the anti-human trafficking organizations listed above.

{Carmen’s note here: If you’d like to support TEAM FREEDOM, click here!!
We’l be lacing up in 21 days to run 13.1 miles!}

12. CONTACT YOUR LOCAL AND STATE REPRESENTATIVES
With a call from your phone, a letter sent through the snail mail, or email, you can simply contact your state and congressional representatives to express your concern about human trafficking. During this time you can even ask them if they have any plans to help combat it.

13. WRITE AN OP-ED FOR YOUR SCHOOL OR LOCAL PAPER
If you like to write, you can write an op-ed for you school or local paper to bring awareness to human trafficking.

14. ENCOURAGE YOUR CHURCH
Is your church currently taking action? If not, schedule some time with the leaders of your church to help bring awareness to human trafficking and lead them to action. If this is the case and you have a desire to make a difference, perhaps you are being called by God to spearhead these efforts? It’s something to pray about—at the very least.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! This injustice has become very close to my heart! And I truly believe together, we can make a difference. I believe God will multiply our efforts! I want us to “not merely say that we love each other, let’s show the truth by our actions!” -1 John 3:18.

And lastly, I’m sincerely asking you to pray for me (the battle that is in my head!) and for Team Freedom.

Thank you!
carmen

let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. -John 3:18

let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. -1 John 3:18

Pete’s BBQ Nachos

Pete's BBQ Nachos

Pete’s BBQ Nachos

Hands down. THE best nachos. EVER!

10 oz. Gruyere Cheese (shredded)
10 oz. Shredded Cheese (Monterey Jack and Cheddar mix)
1 sm. can of sliced black olives
¼ red onion, sliced very thin
2 chicken breasts cooked and chopped or shredded (you can also use a cooked rotisserie chicken from your grocery store)
1 bottle Bulls Eye BBQ sauce (or any brand that you prefer)
Sour Cream (to serve)
One large bag of round Tostitos

-Shred gruyere cheese

-Slice onion (very thin)

-Cook and chop or shred chicken

-Mix chicken pieces with about 4 or 5 ounces of BBQ sauce

-On a ½ sheet pan, grease lightly

-Spread a layer of tortilla chips (about ½ of the bag)

Top with each ingredient in this order (use only half the quantity of each because you will be adding a second layer):

1. Shredded/chopped BBQ chicken

2. Gruyere cheese

3. Monterey Cheddar cheese

4. Onion slices

5. Black olives

6. Drizzle with BBQ sauce

Then put another layer of chips on top of first layer and repeat the steps (1 to 6) above:

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes in 350 degree oven

Serve with sour cream and BBQ sour cream.

BBQ sour cream: Combine six ounces of sour cream with about 3 to 4 ounces of BBQ sauce, mix.

sweet & savory potatoes

 

Here’s the recipe for the sweet potatoes I was telling you about on the show. They are SO good! Seriously. My whole family loves them. (of course, you have to like sweet potatoes!)

4 sweet potatoes
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cinammon
Sea Salt (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
2 tsp. coconut oil (olive oil would work too)

Cut sweet potatoes into cubes and set aside in large bowl with a lid. In separate bowl, combine onion powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, sea salt and black pepper. Melt coconut oil (or use olive oil). Pour over sweet potatoes. Sprinkle spice mixture. Put the lid on the bowl, and shake it, shake it, shake it baby!

Pour nicely coated potatoes on a baking pan, and cook for 30-35 minutes at 375. (no need to grease pan!)

ENJOY!!

Inspiration.

 

I’ve needed a little inspiration to get training for my half marathon at the end of February. This gave it to me.

Favorite Thing #3: Cross Bracelets

 

These are my favorite bracelets right now! My friend Charlie from Rusty Crickett’s introduced me to ‘em! As you can see they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors! I have the turquoise and I wear it with everything. I went back and got the red with the turquoise the other night. My girlfriend, Kellie, has the gold one with clear stones. It’s adorable!! They’re very inexpensive so they make great gifts for the women in your bible study, home groups, or for your besties, etc.  And I’m telling ya ….you will LOVE them. And they’re great for stacking, too. Guys, this is a great “lil something extra” for your wife/girlfriend/mom/sister/niece. If you have any questions, you can call Charlie 941.745.3131. She has the cutest things, and the BEST ideas. And btw, I don’t get paid to say this. Promise! I just love her boutique. She has all price ranges, for all budgets, and they wrap everything up and make the presentation as fun as the gift. They’re 1st class all the way.

I’m gonna give away 3 bracelets at 10 a.m. this morning (December 5). Register by entering your name and email address in the comment section of this post. Name and email. That’s it! Hitch will randomly choose 3 winners, and we’ll post their names after 10 a.m. Yay!!

Merry Christmas!

cross bracelets with rhinestones

 

I have the turquoise & the red w/ turquoise. LOVE.

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