New Year Resolution Recipes

**Originally published with The Christian Online Magazine, January 2012**

 

The holidays are over and we’ve all probably had a few too many slices of pie, sugar cookies, cups of pumpkin spice lattes, and sweet and sticky candy canes. So, to lighten things up I’ve decided to share a couple of my favorite whole-foods recipes. These ingredients are healthy, natural (meaning they grow from the ground, not in an industrial plant), and delicious. They are easy to manipulate around the foods you like so you can personalize each one to your individual tastes.

Both of these salads keep well in the refrigerator, and make satisfying snacks or meals. They are great on the go, or at home, and relatively easy to make. I’ve also made both of these items for church events with excellent feedback. (As the resident vegetarian, I usually volunteer to make gluten free/vegan dishes to offer at events where most of the foods are sugar and carb laden.) The best part is no one can ever tell they are “healthy”! Go ahead, give it a try and see for yourself.

•Fruit “Salad”

One fresh pineapple

One pint of strawberries

Five clementines (they look like miniature oranges)

Two small containers of berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries…etc.)

The juice of one pomegranate

This “salad” is super fresh, easy, and delicious. Simply prepare the fruit (washing) and chop it up to the desirable size and toss it in a bowl. The juices from the pineapple, clementines, and berries will mix well together, and no other “sweetener” is needed. (However, for some fruit salads honey or agave nectar makes a great healthy sweetener.)

To juice the pomegranate: put the pomegranate seeds in a sandwich sized plastic bag, seal tightly. Gently roll over the seeds with a rolling pin to retrieve pomegranate juices. Cut a tiny hole in the corner of the sandwich bag to drain the juice into the fruit salad. Adds an extra special punch of flavor!

This fresh fruit cocktail stays good in the fridge (if it lasts that long) for several days and makes an excellent, vitamin rich, energy boosting breakfast or after-dinner desert.

•Veggie-Pasta Salad

One box of veggie pasta (I use Eating Right™ brand made with vegetable puree)

OR

One box of quinoa pasta (gluten free option)

OR Mix half-box veggie pasta with half-box quinoa pasta (this is how I make mine)

Four stalks of celery

One bell pepper (any color you choose)

One large cucumber

One large tomato

½ medium onion (I use red onions, but any onion you like will work fine)

Dressing:

One cup vegan (or regular if you like) Italian dressing **

¼ cup vegan mayo (or regular if you prefer)

One tablespoon Dijon mustard

One tablespoon dill weed

½ teaspoon sea salt (or regular works fine)

Freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Cook pasta as package directions indicate, meanwhile, in a large bowl mix the dressing ingredients together with a whisk.

While pasta cooks, chop veggies into desired size, and add to the dressing, mix together.

Once pasta is finished, rinse under cool water until pasta is cooled off; then add pasta to veggies/dressing mix. Stir well and it is ready to go! This pasta salad is so fresh and delicious, and keeps well for several days in the fridge. My husband likes to eat it with chicken for dinner, but it can be eaten on its own as a meal or a snack.

**Home-made Italian Dressing

One cup of vinegar (any type is fine: wine vinegar, rice vinegar, etc…)

1 1/3 cup of olive oil

Two tablespoons of water

½ tablespoon garlic powder

½ tablespoon onion powder

½ tablespoon agave nectar (regular sugar can be used, or honey)

One tablespoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried basil (fresh is even better!)

½ tablespoon dried parsley (fresh is even better!)

One tablespoon salt

Pour all ingredients into glass jar or bottle and shake well. I like to use old pickle jars or even Tupperware if that is all I have laying around. I can’t say for sure how long this keeps in the fridge because it has never gone more than a week in my house before being used!

(For more home-made, money saving ideas visit http://www.pennilessparenting.com)

*Are you on Facebook? I would love to connect and find out how these recipes worked for you. Click here to visit my Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/aaruprebecca or here for twitter: www.twitter.com/undivided_heart

© Rebecca Aarup

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Promises of Hope for Difficult Times by Jane Kirkpatrick

Jane Kirkpatrick is a New York Times bestselling author having written nineteen novels and four non-fiction titles. In her latest book, Promises of Hope for Difficult Times, Jane Kirkpatrick draws on her experience as a mental health care professional and personal caregiver to offer 140 inspiring devotions for the weary heart seeking restful encouragement.

Promises of Hope offers a variety of pleasant devotions clearly inspired by the author’s personal experiences with death, illness, life changes, and aging.  Each devotion is short and sweet, with a verse included for reflection. Off the top of my head I could think of several people in my life who may enjoy such a devotional.

On the downside, I had a difficult time applying the concepts to my own life, as a woman not yet thirty. Most of the author’s experiences are written, it seems, for the person approaching the later years of life. I certainly believe any middle-aged woman or older could relate well and appreciate the devotions. Despite the generational gap, I found a few spiritual takeaways applicable to my own place in life and would definitely recommend this devotional to family and friends experiencing the specific challenges addressed in this book.

“How we carry our load makes such a difference in how long we can endure the burden…Allowing others to see our burden is not a sign of weakness but of courage.” (pg. 138)

Promises of Hope for Difficult Times by Jane Kirkpatrick will be available for purchase on February 1, 2013. You can learn more about Jane’s ministry by visiting her website at http://www.jkbooks.com/

**I received Promises of Hope for Difficult Times by Jane Kirkpatrick from NetGalley for review purposes only. I was not required to give a positive review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.**

When Darkness Prevails (Or at least tries to…)

“How could I have let this happen again?” Oh the irony of failure. In that moment, gazing at my cut up wrist while experiencing a tremendous load of excruciating personal pain I realized that even in this I had failed. Isn’t it amazing how Satan traps the thinking? The darkness is always easier to analyze once the light has returned.

I know it was spiritual oppression, the same haunts burdening me my whole life had returned. I thought I had been “free” forever of such troubles, but the reality hit—the depression, anxiety, and temptation to escape the hurt will probably always linger to a certain extent. The Enemy knows how to push my buttons–not to give him too much credit–but he’s pretty good at it.

Writing about this less than 24 hours later is risky, I recognize I’m opening myself up to a world of further rejection, but I know there is someone out there who understands my pain and this, my friend, is for you.

Sobbing on the couch the emotional torture continued. “What have I done wrong this time? Why am I not good enough for them? Why must I fail at everything? I’m not loved, I’m not accepted, and I never will be. I’m destined to be a lonely outcast.” The record played over and over and while most days hitting the “off” button is a no-brainer, this day was different.

I didn’t really want to talk to anyone. But I knew if I didn’t reach out I may do something worse. Maybe I would get it “right” next time. Sometimes being well studied in the Bible makes it even harder to push through such oppression. An extra measure of guilt rushes in, “I know better, I shouldn’t be feeling this way, this is wrong…etc.” Satan pounces on the opportunity to condemn the already condemned spirit.

I texted my mentor, who was at that moment the only person I felt I could trust. Though we had only known each other a short time I knew she would not judge me, condemn me, tell me I was crazy, or say she couldn’t relate to me.   She called me and said three words. Though it wasn’t an instant fix, it was exactly what I needed to hear from another human being.

“You are loved.”

I felt nothing close to being loved that morning–I felt rejected personally as a human being. I needed that jolt of reality from another Christian. “You are worth something. I don’t reject you. I love you. I appreciate you.”

So this post is not to tell you I have figured everything out, I’ve been cured forever, or that I know the secret answer for every suicidal or spiritually oppressive thought. I know the word of God is always the first answer, but beyond that, when the feelings overwhelm, having someone you can turn to– whom you can trust implicitly–is the next best option.

If you have such a friend, thank them for their presence and support in your life. If you don’t have someone in your life whom you can be 100% open with, pray that God would bring one to you. I prayed for such a person for several months, and God answered only weeks before my spiritual “relapse”. He knew what I needed, He saw what was coming, and He indeed made “a way to escape” that I could bear the pain (1 Cor. 10:13).

This post is also for the people who hide their pain from their Christian friends in fear of condemnation, judgment, rejection, or abandonment. We need community, we need relationship, and we need Christians who don’t shy away from the spiritual lepers like me.  I’m not perfect, I struggle too. I refuse to hide it. One of my biggest pet peeves within “church” is the lack of transparency. We need to be able to walk in to church and say “No, I’m not okay.” Or even, “I want to die.” And know that we will be supported, comforted, and helped. I’m not the only one out there. Or maybe I am? Either way, God has sparked a new desire within me—perhaps a new focus. I hope to help and encourage others as I’ve always tried to do, but even more so, inspire others to live transparently. Trust me; there is someone out there who could be helped by you if you’d only be real about your struggles.

Let’s join together and stop pretending we’re walking on clouds all of the time. This is life, it’s real. No one is on cloud nine 100% of the time—even if they are a Christian. Ask God if there is someone in your life who simply needs to be told they are loved, appreciated and wanted as a human being. You never know how God could use that to lift someone out of a pit of despair.

Tools of the Trade–Mirrors or Hammers?

On the heels of an amazingly extravagant weekend celebrating my daughter’s 5th birthday came blowing in the whirlwind of rejection. Don’t get me wrong—our weekend in Disneyland and California was fantastic; wonderful memories were created and I’m sure my daughter will remember it for the rest of her life–as will I. But the joy was tainted by a letter of “rejection” received just a few moments ago. And while I knew this was a possibility, and it’s not the first “rejection” I’ve received, it stings nonetheless.

Satan uses one rejection to bring up memories of others—people rejection, publisher rejection, performance rejection…etc. Feelings of rejection began early in my childhood. I was a heavy kid with bad acne so the attention I got was not the kind I wanted. I learned how to be a people pleaser very early so I could receive at least some positive reinforcement. Everyone likes to be happy, right? So I went out of my way to help the people around me be happy. It’s what I wished someone would have done for me.

All weekend long I had been thinking about a recent “people-rejection” situation in my life. I prayed over it continually and asked God to help me move past it. Just as I was getting “over it” I received a letter of rejection from a publishing company. Another gut blow.

Satan uses people and circumstances in our lives to assault us with a common “theme”. The theme assaulting me throughout my life is “you are rejected” and “you are not loved”. Even though I do my best to “live peaceably with all men”, trying  to recognize and acknowledge my faults, apologizing, trying to make amends, and continuing to encourage others, I find I am still misunderstood more often than not. My intentions are questioned and my motives are doubted. Through all of this is the same message, “you’re not good enough and nothing you do or say ever will be good enough”.  Over the years these feelings catapulted me into severe depression, physical self-abuse, and even attempted suicides.

I have since learned to ask God to show me how to deal with these feelings biblically (What can I learn? How can I allow God to change me through this situation?). I also ask God to prevent me from being used as an instrument of negativity in someone else’s life, because we are all being assaulted with a message from our Enemy. I do not want to be used by Satan to deliver a message to someone that they are not good enough, loved or appreciated, or whatever the message may be. I realize that many times I have been this “tool” and I continually ask God to open my eyes and eliminate these occurrences from my life.

Perhaps God is calling you to the same area of self-examination. You see an individual  or think of them and immediately have unpleasant thoughts. Maybe you think they’re out to get you, out to hurt you, or that they’ve rejected you. If you feel this way you may be dealing with un-forgiveness. Ask God to help you deal with these people as He would have; treating them as you wish they would treat you (Matthew 5-7).

And if you are battling rejection either relationally or circumstantially, ask God to help you deal with those feelings biblically. It may be tempting to retaliate against such people—wanting them to feel the way they make you feel by ignoring them, sending hate mail, “unfriending” them from social media and the like, but there is a reason God has allowed it and you will never grow spiritually in that area if you pretend like it isn’t a problem. When we fail to see people (or circumstances) through the eyes of Jesus, we will likely face similar situations again and again until we learn to deal with them appropriately. God never gives up on us or teaching us His ways, and I am thankful for that even if it hurts!

Whatever you are feeling today, whatever messages your Enemy has tried to send you or use you to send others, God wants to help you recognize and combat them with His word of truth. If no one else ever understands or accepts you, God does. He will never leave you, forsake you, reject you, misunderstand you, or ignore you.

So, the next time you’re tempted to react a certain way, ask God if you’re being His tool, or a tool of the Enemy in that situation or person’s life. What messages are you delivering with your words and actions? I recently read something and it’s a good thought to end on:

“If my life was the only source of God someone was introduced to, what conclusions would that person make of God’s character based on my reflection of Him?”

In other words, is my God a God who rejects, withholds love, criticizes, assumes the worst, and condemns, or is my God a God who forgives unconditionally, displays compassion, and gives grace? Am I a hammer or a mirror?

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” Psalm 116:5

“In the same way, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

 

Happy Accidents–A Lesson from Bob Ross

While most kids my age were watching the Simpsons and the Rugrats, as a young child I marveled at the skill of Bob Ross, a Christian painter who had a “how-to” painting program on PBS. I can’t imagine kids these days sitting around watching that type of show, but it was something I found inspiring.

He would take these globs of paint and turn them into glorious masterpieces of art. My favorites were always the oceans. The way he painted the waves, the shades of blue-green, the way he made the painting appear to glimmer—it was magnificent.

But more than all of those things I remember something he said while teaching the viewer how to paint. He said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” Sometimes he would purposely throw a stray mark in the midst of the beautiful picture only to prove his point. Skillfully working around it, blending it, and adding new colors he made it appear as though it was done on purpose.

Yesterday was a “Bob Ross” moment for me. A few weeks ago my digital camera took its last picture. Since then I had been using my phone to take pictures, but the quality was not the same. Knowing we were about to take a trip to Disneyland (we’re leaving tomorrow!) I was concerned about cataloguing the memories in my usual way—photos. My husband reminded me that we had an HD video camera which could also take pictures. So, I decided to figure out how it works and see if the pictures would be “acceptable”.

I took my daughter to AWANA and it happened to be a beautifully scenic evening with storm clouds glowing in the setting sun. I used the opportunity to snap some photos and quickly realized the quality of this HD camera was far superior to what I thought I had in my now broken digital camera. And then that phrase popped into my mind from nearly two decades ago, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

In that moment I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God. What I understood to be an inconvenience was actually a blessing. If my digital camera had not broken a few weeks prior, I would not have had the foresight to try the HD camera, and would have missed out on a glorious photo shoot—a divine photo shoot. Few things please the photographer in me more than an awesome sunset or scenic sky picture and those of my friends on Facebook will attest to that fact. But I have never had the privilege of capturing God’s beauty as I did last night. I have no words to express it. Every time I look at those photos I am in awe of my Savior. He planned that moment and in His great generosity He encompassed me with extraordinary feelings of wonder and worship.

Truly God plans all of our lives in such a way. There are no mistakes—even when we deliberately stray the canvas of our lives with ugly strokes of paint. The Master Painter simply takes His paintbrush and makes our mess beautiful. Beauty from ashes; this is the story of the redeemed. This is my story, my painting, and I am so grateful He takes the brush and continues to daily paint my picture with His infinite wisdom and care.

Lord Jesus, on my knees I confess my doubt, worry, anxiety, and disappointment—my unbelief. Help my unbelief and increase my faith ever more!

Many are the Plans…

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans…

I’ve waited patiently for three years (ok, not so patiently) to enroll in Bible college. I’ve wanted to transform myself from the uneducated hack to the educated hack. It’s taken this long for the finances and timing to be just right. Finally I was able to enroll at Liberty University in a two-year program to receive a diploma in Biblical studies; I also decided to take a hermeneutics elective. Once the transaction was completed, confirmation in hand, I was overwhelmed with excitement.

Then the door-bell rang.

Oh right, the home-school curriculum for my daughter arrived.

As I pulled out the books, manuals, instructions, and lesson plans I was overwhelmed. “Many are the plans” sang ominously through my head. Indeed. I was planning on spending the day finishing my other year-long course in journalism. I had one lesson left and was super-pumped to complete it. Searching through the instructions, guides, manuals and products-to-buy lists included in the box of curriculum materials, I realized it would take at least 3-5 days to sort through it and develop an organized lesson plan. Whoever thinks home-schooling is easy, or lazy, or whatever, they are sadly mistaken. It’s like being a “real” teacher minus the pay (when done appropriately).

Many are the plans…

On top of home-schooling and being a student myself, I was reminded of all the things I still had “to do”. The list was endless.

A 45,000 word manuscript to finish before Novemeber’s conference; 6 books to read and review in the next month; articles to write for two different websites (besides this blog); a backyard landscaping project; church ministries and other activities…my head was spinning. Oh, and I almost forgot, there is approximately 500lbs of dog poop (a rough estimate) in the yard calling out to me, “Scoop! Scoop!”

So so so many are the plans…

But—it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. I can make all the plans I want, I can sign up for every ministry, activity, conference or course but it is only through God that my plans prosper. If indeed they are HIS plans. Otherwise, I don’t have a prayer.

So, this morning I found myself taking a step back. Instead of attacking my “to-do” list, I listened to Psalm 118-119 on audio, read from Isaiah, and spent some quiet time with God asking Him what HIS plans were.

My new plan consisted of listening to the Holy Spirit as he guided each step of the day. I pray the Lord’s purpose prevail in each moment of each day of my life for His glory and my freedom.

Lord, I want your plans and purposes for my life. Thank you for providing wonderful opportunities, answering prayer, and giving me the desires of my heart. Keep my eyes focused on you every minute of every day. Let your plans alone prevail over my life.

A Little Inspiration from Isaiah

“Don’t fear anything except the Lord of the armies of Heaven! If you

fear Him, you need fear nothing else.”

Isaiah 8:13

 

“See, God has come to save me! I will trust and not be afraid, for the

Lord is my strength and song; He is my salvation. Oh the JOY of

drinking deeply from the Fountain of Salvation!”

Isaiah 12:2-3

“But the Lord of Hosts is exalted above all, for He alone is holy, just,

and good.”

Isaiah 5:16