Sunday, April 20, 2014

Playing the Piano and the Atonement

Ether 12:27 - And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I love this talk by Brad Wilcox. Through a simple analogy he helps me understand the atonement and how to use that priceless gift each day to become better.

"Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with Mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19); “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask, maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.
But don’t you realize how hard it is to practice? I’m just not very good at the piano. I hit a lot of wrong notes. It takes me forever to get it right.” Now wait. Isn’t that all part of the learning process? When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?
There should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).
 Happy Easter! I am so grateful for Christ's atonement so that I can improve, repent, and have hope in becoming who I am meant to be.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Orange Strawberry Almond Salad

This is my new favorite salad and salad dressing. It is so great for a light Spring/Summer meal and is really good with grilled chicken. I am making this for a yummy side to our Easter dinner along with some Bunny Buns....YUM!

Orange Strawberry Almond Salad
  • 1 package spring mix salad
  • 1 head Romain lettuce chopped
  • 1 can mandarin oranges
  • 1 pint strawberries sliced
  • 1 cup sliced candied almonds
 To make candied almonds, put almonds and 2 Tbsp sugar in pan. Heat on high constantly stirring until sugar liquifies and almonds get toasty. Spread out on wax paper to cool.

  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice (2 oranges)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 package dry Italian dressing mix
Combine and pour over salad just before serving.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Shepherd's Pie

This recipe is turning into a family favorite at our home. In a pinch you can simplify it and use instant potatoes and canned beef - I have used both and it turns out great!

Shepherd's Pie
  • Mashed potatoes (I use about 10 medium potatoes peeled and cubed. Once soft, I mash them with milk, 2 Tbsp of sour cream, salt and pepper....or use instant)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, shredded beef, or canned beef
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (or just pees and carrots) - cooked
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • shredded cheddar
 Make mashed potatoes. While the potatoes are boiling, brown ground beef. In a separate pan, make a gravy by melting the butter on medium heat, whisk in flour to make a paste and slowly whisk in beef broth and Worcestershire. Stir until smooth. Add veggies and beef to the gravy and stir. In a 9x13 pan, put meat and veggie mixture on bottom. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Sprinkle potatoes with paprika and cheese on the very top. Bake at 350 of 20 minutes then broil for about 3-5 minutes until cheese is nice and crispy.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Wearin' O' The Green

What are you wearing today? I bet you can't top what Travis picked out :

A green sweatshirt with green shorts
Accessorize with a tie and snow hat

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Crockpot Refried Beans

These are so much tastier than the canned refried beans and SUPER EASY! I love making these because it makes enough for two dinners for my family of 7. The day that I make them I will freeze 1/2 of it for another dinner. They are great to eat plain with some rice, or rolled up in a tortilla with cheese, or on tostadas, or added to this chicken taco soup to make it more creamy. It's a great recipe!

Crockpot Refried Beans
  • 3 cups of dry pinto beans (washed and rinsed)
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 Tbsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion (don't chop it up, just throw it in)
  • 1/2 cup butter
Put beans into large crockpot and fill crockpot 3/4 full of water. Add bouillon, garlic salt, and onion. Cook on high for about 8 hours until beans are soft. Throw away the onion. Strain the beans, saving the juice in a separate bowl. Add butter to the beans and some of the reserved liquid. Use a hand blender to mash beans. Add liquid and blend to obtain desired consistency.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Cupid's Cafe

Happy Valentine's Day!
I love to celebrate with food and express my love through food...probably because I love food a little too much... Every Valentine's day, I try to make something festive for our Cupid's Cafe breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Here are some ideas:

Heart-shaped French Toast
I Love You With All My Heart Dinner...everything is shaped like hearts

Valentine notes in lunch box - "It's O-FISH-al, you are the best kid ever!", "You are the APPLE of my eye", "Hope your day is Marvelous & Magnificent"
Make one sandwich on wheat and one on white bread, use a cookie cutter to cut out heart of each sandwich, then put wheat heart in white bread and white heart in wheat bread

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Come-Back Kid

Oh, how I am glad that 2013 is behind me because it was sure a challenging one! I feel like it was the year of getting my feet planted firmly on the ground only to have them knocked out from under me. But I got back up each time.
The year started off with me trying to get my baby weight off. I started running again and worked my way up to 6 miles. On one of those routine runs, I felt an intense cramp in my right hip. I tried to walk it off and start running again but is was impossible. By the time I hobbled home I could hardly lift my leg. After weeks of being misdiagnosed and being in pain, I finally found out that I had a stress fracture in the femoral neck of my hip. The doctor told me that I could not put any weight on that leg until it healed. I laughed in his face. WHAT!!!???? How was I supposed to care for my family, especially my 1 year old in a split level home? The estimated 4-6 weeks of being on crutches turned into 9. It was one of the hardest and most frustrating things that I have gone through...but it strengthened me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I learned how to depend on others for the simplest things like carrying my baby down the stairs, grocery shopping, and cleaning. I was humbled by the love and support that I received. I learned to appreciate my body and independence. I learned to be patient as I was waiting for that dang bone to heal. I also learned that crutches are great for other giving my kids a little nudge, reaching those hard to get things on the top shelf, and even defending a soccer goal.

Well, after those LONG 9 weeks, I SLOWLY started to strengthen my leg and get back to my original goal of losing weight. I worked hard, lost most of my baby weight, and felt stronger than I have in years. During this time I was also going through extensive testing to see if I was healthy enough to donate a kidney to my dad who was in kidney failure. In December I got the news that I would be part of a 6 person kidney paired exchange. I worked even harder to be the healthiest that I could to have a better recovery and to donate the best kidney that I could to my recipient. On December 18th I had the opportunity to donate my kidney. It was major surgery and I required a lot of help during my 6 week recovery, but it was totally worth every moment of pain and discomfort because I was able to help my dad and my recipient to have a better quality of life. I guess that I needed a reminder of what the Lord wants me to learn...patience, how to accept help from others, appreciation of my body, and a greater love of the ultimate gift of life from our Savior.

So, I find myself again at the bottom of a long upward climb. But I am going to get up, brush myself off and start again. Just call me the "Come-Back-Kid".