Monthly Archives: August 2015

What To Do With A Million Green Peppers

Another day, another perk of having this “Farmer’s Wife” title. I knew he was good for something.

This week, he’s been good for green bell peppers. Like…this many bell peppers:IMG_2735If that looks like just a few to you, it’s an optical illusion because that bag was DEEP. We had probably 35 peppers in that bag.

(Morgan says I sometimes exaggerate a little bit…that I round up more often than down. Whatever.)

I wish I could say I used all those beautiful vegetables for a feast of stuffed bell peppers, or for delicious tacos, or for salads and sandwiches and everything in between. But I’ve used one and gave the rest to my coworkers.

I’m a huge fan of bell peppers–probably because I’m a huge fan of all sorts of Mexican food–so here’s a list of some more tried-and-true recipes using farm-fresh (or Kroger-fresh) green bell peppers!

(Let’s just be upfront about these. They are recipes that include bell peppers…if only half of one. But it gives me another chance to share some yummy meals with the blog. Also, unless it’s necessary, I almost always substitute green peppers for other colors because they’re cheaper. Sorry, chefs out there. I know they’re different. But that $0.45 is $0.45.)

Easy Oven Fajitas: Make sure to make the spice mixture as the recipe explains–don’t sub out a packaged mix! It’s so good. I usually make this with rice for me and tortillas for Morg.

Crockpot Chicken Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches: This was one of the first meals I made as a newlywed!!!! So cute. So delicious. So crockpot. So easy.

BBQ Chicken, Bell Pepper, and Pineapple Skewers: Kabobs always intimidated me a bit–until I met these babies. Other than being a bit time-consuming, all you’ve got to do is pile good things onto skewers and lather them up with your favorite BBQ sauce. It caramelizes into a gooey sauce, and the balance of sweet pineapple and savory veggies makes for a perfect summer meal off the grill.

Stuffed Pepper Soup: Stuffed peppers are so UGH (other than the ones listed below). You have to make certain that they sit upright which is just tough with farm-fresh, lopsided peppers. This takes the hassle out of it all and creates an ideal meal for chillier nights.

Lightened Up Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta: Yum.

Mexican Three Bean Salad: We serve this as a side salad or as a dip for tortilla chips. I find that it balances out an oft-heavy Mexican meal. Though that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the white cheese sauce or rice or approximately 400 chips.

French Bread Pizzas: This is one of the recipes where maybe half a bell pepper is utilized. BUT OH MY GOODNESS these are so good and fun. We like making these when we’re having a bunch of people over for dinner–everyone likes pizza (right?!) and this allows some individualization.

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers: My exception to the “stuffed-peppers-are-so-ugh” rule. I’d eat quinoa every meal of every day, so I don’t care what you serve it to me in.

Fajita Chicken Bake: Really good and simple meal. I recommend you do some pre-prep by cutting up all the veggies, and this makes a weeknight meal consist of layering in a casserole dish and letting the oven do all the work!

Mango Chicken Stir Fry: This is one you need to stick with red peppers for. We were given a huge box of mangoes last year and I was doing everything in my power to try out all the recipes I could find. This one was, by far, my favorite. If I’m remembering correctly, I think we even ate it for Easter dinner. Jesus would’ve loved this stir fry, too.

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10 Promises To My Grieving Friend

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My friend experienced a loss deeper than I can fathom this week. It was sudden, heartbreaking, and left us all in the wake of uncertainty and doubt.

I’m a fixer. I don’t grasp the notion of “wait,” and it took everything in me not to pack up my car and drive the 4.5 hours to her mere minutes after hearing the news. I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside this sweet friend the past few years–learning together and growing together–so my smothering/mothering instinct kicked in. Never have I dealt with a friend this close deal with a loss this deep, so I did what any naive idiot would do: I googled “things to do when your friend loses a parent.”

Nothing made sense. I can’t do a single thing. I want to fix, but that’s not my job.

Below are all the things I’ve been repeating incessantly the last few days. The things I want her to know and what I would want someone to remind me of in the midst of tragedy.

  1. I don’t understand, I won’t understand, and I’m not supposed to understand how you are feeling. I hope I never come across as empathetic or “I-understand-how-you’re-feeling.” My feels have literally zero bearing on your feelings. In addition, my (lack of) head knowledge on loss and grief is pathetic. Read and hear my words to you as a desperate longing to walk this ugly, horrifying, and disgusting road right by your side, not as someone who “gets it.”
  2. God is sovereign, even though we don’t know what His sovereignty looks like. This is in our classic Christian-ese language, but it’d be a disservice to the Lord we know so dearly to forget this. A song I love says, “I don’t know what You’re doing, but I know who You are.” In His position as King of the universe, not one minute is outside of what He has planned. This didn’t surprise Him. It reminds us of our position of unknowing and our trust in the All-Knowing.
  3. I’m not going anywhere. I am willing to have tearful, hard conversations with you, and I’m willing to smile with you when you’re ready. I want you to know that I am here at 2 a.m. and at 2 p.m. and this week and next month and forever. I’m not going anywhere.
  4. I solemnly swear to never, ever chant Romans 8:28 to you. You know the one. The “all things work together for good” one. You and I also know that it is true. But Lord help me if I hear a single person say that to you. This–this pain, hurt, and sorrow–is not good. It’s a tragedy, and I promise not to use this verse to sweep it under the rug and pretend it’s not there.
  5. You have every right to say any curse words you want. Enough said. Curse it out, girl. I’ll drop some bad words right there with you, if it makes you feel better.
  6. When the world goes back to normal, your world doesn’t have to. There is no deadline for your grief to subside. Life won’t be “normal,” because someone you loved who made it normal is gone. Grace abounds for you, sweet girl. Take time. Process. Cry a lot. Remember a lot. There’s not an iota of rush in mourning.
  7. You are braver than I ever knew. I thought I knew you inside and out, my friend. You have blown me away with your courage, your steadfastness, and your hope. You are brave. Never forget that.
  8. One thing the Lord promises is that He will keep us. Psalm 121 calls the Lord our “keeper.” He keeps us from harm and evil. I hesitate at that, because what you are in is all harm and all evil. The psalmist is talking about eternity, though. Jesus said that the world will bring us troubles undoubtedly, but He has the victory. In the lowest lows, He will keep you. You are His forever, and He won’t let you go. There is such peace in that.
  9. It’s okay that prayer is hard. God hears you, even when you simply whisper. When we’re in the trenches, He promises to be beside us in the depths. It’s just not in His character to force you to wade through deep waters without wading right there with you. Whisper–if only a single cry for help–and He hears. How wonderful it is to be loved by a Savior who hears our tiniest prayers.
  10. God is still good. Speaking of His character, it never wavers. Hebrews tells us He is the same yesterday that He is today and that He will be forevermore. If you believe nothing else, believe this.

To you, my sweet friend. You are loved and cherished, and you have an army of prayer warriors by your side. I love you.

Temporary Homes

Moving four times in two years is normal, right? That’s what people do? I’m just going to convince myself that it’s totally chill and that I shouldn’t be feeling like a complete and utter crazy woman.

From Blacksburg house to Blacksburg apartment to Roanoke duplex to Fairlawn house to Blacksburg townhouse, you’d think we have this packing up our lives thing down. We know the best moving truck companies, our packing days consist of the routine blaring of Pandora and lots of unhealthy stress eating and me crying constantly, and our families are saints. My dad declared in the last move that he will never move our double-reclining leather couch ever again. Or, if he had to, he’d saw it in half to lift it easier. (If anyone was wondering where I get my blunt honesty from, look no further.)

Our moves have ranged from 2 miles away to 40 miles away. We started in a 900 square foot apartment and dropped down to 800 in our duplex. Our current house is bigger, our next house will be even bigger, and we just keep accumulating stuff. We also are accumulating foster children, so that’s insane. August is a month that we’ve deemed “take-one-day-at-a-time-and-don’t-have-too-many-panic-attacks” month.

I’ve been marinating on these moves the past few days, and boy oh boy we are different people than we were when we first packed up 40 ABC Store liquor boxes two and a half years ago. We’ve gone from giddy newlyweds, to shambly unemployed post-grads, to defeated worriers, and to our present state–anxious and excited future foster parents. What a ride it’s been.

These homes represent stages of life to me. I can close my eyes and picture cooking our first meal as husband and wife together in our little apartment, and memories of tearful nights in our duplex cast a dark shadow on those years. Our current house will be hard to leave–we’ve made the best new friends, have filled our living room to its capacity with people, and have lit up the backyard with summer BBQs and bocce ball games. Hard times and fun times, but all good times.

If four moves can teach us one thing, I want it to be that physical houses are temporary.

I dreamed of moving straight into our perfect home after our wedding. Of filling the walls with pictures and painting hallways and renovating kitchens and building fences. It took just one move to remind me that these places we live are houses. They are four sided boxes of walls. They are teensy tiny apartments. They have a front door and a back door and a whole bunch of windows. Our stuff sits in them, but they are simply buildings.

They are temporary, but what happens inside of them holds eternal significance. 

Hard conversations full of “what-ifs” and “why-nots” and “how-much-longer” happen inside. Snuggles on that dang double-reclining couch as we argue over what show to watch on Netflix happen inside. Doubling the recipe last minute to accommodate spontaneous dinner guests, lighting pumpkin scented candles in September, leaving the bed unmade daily, squeezing in my yoga mat to tiny living spaces, laughing until midnight with better friends than we even knew were possible–all memories that simply happen inside.

Jen Hatmaker said, “Home should be a comfortable, safe place that restores what the world steals.”

These 4-walled buildings inhabit love and life and loss and learning. They serve as a place to house the memories that come with being two 20-somethings in the midst of figuring life out.

When we transplant Jen’s words onto heaven, the house of the Lord…the depth of restoration leaves me breathless. He will restore what the world has stolen.

Temporary houses make us long for our Forever Home. Can you even imagine the day when houses are no more and home is home? We’ll enter those pearly gates without a single ABC Liquor Store box, and we’ll never have to call UHaul again.

Today, I bask in that promise, as I wrap up yet another glass into yet another box.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4


The timeline of homes:

IMG_05411. The FriendZone. 2011-2013. Moved out of this house after the wedding.

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2. “Buckingham Palace.” May 2013-August 2013. Though short lived, this basement apartment had a pool, so it still ranks as our favorite home thus far.

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3. Roanoke. August 2013-December 2014. The excitement in his face was fake. We were so sad to leave Blacksburg that August, but I remember saying, “Let’s go outside and take a happy picture outside of this house. It’ll make us feel excited!” Note: fashion. Crocs and socks.

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4. Our current home in Fairlawn (only known for the Fairlawn Walmart, that we conveniently live directly across the street from). December 2014-August 2015. We live behind the waiters of the local Mexican restaurant and diagonally from a church. It’s weird, but we love it.

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5. Back to Blacksburg. August 2015-whenever we can save enough money to buy a house. You can tell from this picture that we are sick of smiling for “yay-new-house” pictures.

An Update on Fostering

We probably need to ask for a whole bunch of forgiveness on this. You guys are the best and so supportive and ask us all the time how this journey is going, but I rarely talk about it on the blog.

My one excuse is that really, up until the last week or so, our fostering journey has been understandably and predictably slow. We went through training back in May, filled out a stack of paperwork that was about six inches thick, and have spent a lot of time seeking wisdom and encouragement from the people who know us best.

We’re reading a lot and praying a lot and I’ve entered into the phase where I’m crying a lot. Morgan and I are also basking in this time where it’s just us–this is all we’ve known in the nearly 2.5 years we’ve been married, and foster kids means the end of this sweet phase of our lives.

A quick update on where we are in the process:

  • Training: Done. We need to do 10 hours of training in a year, so this is ongoing–but our initial training was completed in May.
  • Paperwork: We were so confident that we were done…but then realized we forgot to make copies of all our important documents. This will be checked off the list at the end of the week! (Or maybe next week. I’m not quite as confident in our getting-this-done as I used to be.)
  • Home studies: The fostering process in our county consists of three home studies: individual interviews, an interview with both of us together, and a house walk-through. We did our individual interviews last week and have our next study planned for the end of the month. The final walk-through will be in the first weeks of September, and then we will be ready to roll (insert me starting to cry and shiver and giggle with excitement and go cross-eyed with anxiety).
  • The actual, physical, getting-ready stuff: Yeah. We haven’t done that. I’ve started to compile a list of items we need to buy, like baby gates and outlet plugs and cabinet locks and more. I have one cute piece of neutral-colored decor. Which is contrary to what was expected of me. I walked through IKEA and actually bought nothing for this child. (That’s a good thing–we want to personalize as much as possible, and, if they’re older, we want them to have a say in how their room looks, just like any other kid.)
  • The big move: Can we just not talk about moving until we physically have to put the couch in the truck and drive the 10 miles down the road? Because let’s be so honest right now: our house looks so comfy and cozy with the sun beaming through the windows and the refrigerator is full of food and our bed has tangled sheets and my clothes are still hanging so organized in my closet. And I have no plans for the packing of all of the things. But, alas, our goal is to move slowly in the next few weeks and be settled in Blacksburg by September 1. (Classic Morgan–up until two days ago, I thought we we had no set move date and were relaxed. And he said, “Oh. Did I not tell you that I told the landlord we’d be out by the end of the month?” Bless.)
  • Our hearts: In the midst of the chaos, we have such a sense of peace over us right now. We can’t wait to welcome whoever into our home, and our hearts are also burdened with prayer for their biological families. We have this sense of anticipation to watch and see what the Lord is going to do, and we have a certainty in hope that it’s going to be so, so good.

What’s next? After the move and the final home study, we are ready to roll. We are guessing we’ll be certified by the end of September at the latest, and we could have a child in our home within a few days or within a few months. It really all depends. The foster care system processes quite a few more placements at the beginning of the school year because teachers start to report signs of neglect to Social Services, so September is a busy month.

(Teachers, have I ever told you how much I respect all that you do? You are the watchmen of these sweet children, and you are brave enough to report the really hard stuff. Thank you for loving these kids. I promise I will shower you with teacher appreciation gifts if we have a school-aged child placed in our home. Expect baked goods. Probably break-n-bake cookies if I had to guess at this point.)

Also, if you’re the praying type, Morgan and I would love love love your prayers. At our home study this past week, we were asked to make a really big decision and consider some different options than we originally had planned. Would you pray for discernment and wisdom? And for the acceptance of whatever God has for us? We’re learning that He likes to throw us off our plans and remind us that His plans are always infinitely more glorious. We love that, but it’s not always super easy to accept and work though.

When we have shareable information, I promise I’ll be better about blogging these updates! My goal: an update every week. Don’t hold me to that too fiercely.

And finally, just as a heads up–we won’t be able to share pictures or names or the background stories of our future foster kids on the internet. It’s not our story to tell, and we’re also legally bound to confidentiality agreements. But you can meet them in real life! When we talk to our social worker, we gush about our community and how our support system is actually unbelievable. Y’all are the best. It takes a village to raise and nurture these kids, and we can’t wait to do it alongside you.

Five Word Vacation Destinations

As summer seems to be flying by, I find myself daydreaming about vacations of yesteryear. We just got back from the beach, and I am already looking forward to our next vacation (Disney Cruise in November!!).

My parents sacrificed things for trips as we were growing up, and I can’t be more thankful for that. We traveled all over the country and the world, and, today, I’m nailing down my 10 favorite vacation spots in no particular order.

To make it interesting, I’ll only use five words or less to describe each of them. Which is quite the feat for a words-person such as myself, so give me a high-five (get the pun?) the next time you see me.


Walt Disney World: most magical place on earth

Outer Banks, North Carolina: quiet beaches, shopping, dunes relaxation

Brussels, Belgium: waffles, chocolate, and history overload

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(I have to break the 5-word rule with this one. This popped up on Timehop the other day, and it left us rolling. I don’t even think this was in Belgium. It was Europe somewhere. This picture caption is pure gold, though.)

Boone, North Carolina: mountain getaway with breathtaking views

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Shepherdstown, West Virginia: small town hippy vibes

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Castaway Cay, Bahamas: Disney’s private island for cruisesIMG_0125

San Antonio, Texas: River Walk, Alamo, Mexican eats

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Charleston, South Carolina: pastel houses line historic streets

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Chicago, Illinois: clean city full of touristy spots

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Copenhagen, Denmark: cobblestone streets and boat-lined waters

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