Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: Calm My Anxious Heart

I'm cynical about Christian self-help books. A few authors have kept me from giving up on the genre altogether, but on the whole, the books in Lifeway Christian Bookstores scare me a little. Call me a book snob, but it's hard to find Christian living books that aren't oozing with cheesy comments and cliche quips. See? Told you I was cynical.

Enter Linda Dillow's Calm My Anxious Heart. My sister-in-law and mother-in-law had been talking about it for months on the heels of a Bible study they did and I had actually heard of the book several years back. So, for Christmas, my sister-in-law gave me a copy of the book and I took it as an opportunity to disprove some of my cynicism and work on my anxiety issues.

What I discovered was surprising.

While the book still had a few eye-rolling sentences (sorry--the writer in me can't help it), it was also full of deep, theological ideas that overshadowed them. And what I found most surprising--more surprising than the quality of the words--was the fact that this book wasn't about anxiety at all; it was about contentment. Anxiety is just an outward manifestation of discontentment--a connection I had never really made before. Dillow talks about the "diseased" statements that we ask ourselves, which lead to discontentment: "What if?" (anxiety/discontentment about the future) and "If only"(discontentment about the past). Either way, we're missing the present, missing the NOW.

Perhaps the most meaningful lesson I learned (and am learning) is that contentment is desiring to be where God is. Today, God was in me feeling sick and having a damaged bookshelf delivered to my house. These aren't things I would want or pray for, but it's what was; it's what was His will. My prayer has changed more and more from "Let my life be easy (fill in the blank with however I want to do that)"to "Let me be where you are."

It's been transforming, really, but this lesson of contentment is no easy one. I'm still fighting it, still learning to rest, but it's worth the battle, and when you catch a moment of feeling really, genuinely content, there's nothing like it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ground Beef Gyros

This is one of my favorite recipes, and the best part is that it's ready in 30 minutes or less! Woo hoo!

Yogurt Sauce:
1 carton (8 oz.) plain yogurt
1/3 cup chopped seeded cucumber
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sugar

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt, optional
3/4 teaspoon pepper
4 pita breads, halved, warmed
3 cups shredded lettuce or spinach
1 large tomato, chopped
1 small onion, sliced (we omitted because there was already a lot of onion flavoring in the meal)

In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Cover and refrigerate. In another bowl, combine beef and seasonings; mix well. Shape into four patties. Grill, covered, over medium-hot heat for 10-12 minutes, turning once (you can also cook them in a pan for the same amount of time). Cut patties into thin slices; stuff into pita halves. Add lettuce, tomato, and onion. Serve with yogurt sauce.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Fondue? Yes please.

Several years ago, we began a Valentine's Day tradition of having fondue at home. It was a less stressful, more intimate, slower way to enjoy the day and one another, and this year was no different. Here's the spread:

We started with a warm cheese baked with wine--perfect for dipping breads & veggies.

Next, we moved on to the main course of chicken & steak cooked in oil and served with two homemade dips.

We finished off the evening with chocolate-dipped strawberries, bananas, pretzels, and marshmallows.

Mmmm, mmm. I'm getting hungry all over again just thinking about it! The best part: fondue takes almost no time to prepare since everything is raw. We went from groceries to a meal in 30 minutes. Love it.

Do you have a one-a-year meal?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My sweet birthday

It was supposed to be an uneventful day. Work. Grade some #@% research papers. Go out for frozen yogurt with some friends tonight (Phil's on call). But today--my birthday-- has felt anything but blah, thanks to loving friends and family.

It all began last night when I got home from work. I walked in to a delicious onions-and-garlic smell and saw my sweet hubs standing at the stove. "What is this?" Phil had found one of my favorite recipes (will post later) for beef gyros, gone to the store to buy the ingredients, and had made them for me. Best. Husband. Ever.

But it gets better!

After dinner, he brought out a gift bag. Now, I'm pretty good at figuring out my gifts ahead of time, but I had no idea on this one. To my surprise, he had gone to Express and bought an outfit for me that was both cute and fit (see picture). Wow. I mean, I can't even find pants that fit for myself when I'm shopping, so the fact that he bought me pants that fit is a small miracle. I think I see a date night in the near future...

Today, I started my morning with a mocha frappe from McDonalds. Yes, I've taken up caffeine again. Headaches or not, it's the only way I'm going to make it through grading the research papers. AND, they're half the cost of a Starbucks frappuccino and taste like dessert at 6:50 in the morning. :)

At work, there were numerous renditions of happy birthday sung by off-key teenagers, a surprise batch of cookies brought to 3rd period by a student who shares my birthday, a surprise gift card to Panera from my co-workers, a lunch visit from my friend, Melissa (who brought me a huge slice of cake from Olexa's = delicious!), a surprise appearance by my sister-in-law, Ashley, who came bearing a dozen delicious cupcakes and precious handmade cards from my nephews, 75+ Facebook wishes, a few pieces of REAL mail (!), and more texts and voice mails than I usually receive in an entire week--or maybe two. Whew!

Suffice it to say, this girl feels VERY loved today. Thanks to all who spent any small part of your day making mine a happy one! Oh, and if you need a sugar fix, I have quite the stash now. :)