Sunday Best or Brokeness?

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As I scrolled through social media today I couldn’t help but notice all the beautiful photos of the children and families in their fashionable Easter Sunday best. Gorgeous! The portraits will no doubt flood our Facebook feeds all day, come Sunday. A fabulous array of perfectly matching colors will parade into church sanctuaries world-wide in just a few short days. Starched shirts, fancy shoes, flowing dresses, handsome bow ties, and quite possibly even an Easter bonnet or two. It will be a sight to see. I’ve been thinking about what to wear for weeks now. Truly I’ve been staring in my own version of “What Not To Wear.”

“Nope, not that. I wore that last year.”

“Uh-uh (shaking head) that’s black. You cant wear black on Easter.”

“Never. They will kick me out for good if I just wear pants. I’m a girl for Pete’s sake and girls wear dressses on Easter Sunday, right?”

“Oh, I’ll go and get a new Easter dress! That will be fabulous! Everyone gets a new Easter outfit! Grrrrr, but then I’ll have to get new matching shoes.”

“I love hats. I want to bring back the Easter bonnet, and even better, the fabulous headpieces like Rose wore on Titanic! Yes! Ahhhhh, but I wear an alb on Sunday mornings and I can’t wear a hat with my alb. Filddlesticks.”

I’m exasperated, and still not 100% certain of what I should wear, and I can only imagine if you have a family and an entourage of little people to dress. The “What Not To Wear: Sunday” episode must surely be never ending.

So what will you wear on Easter Sunday? Do you know?

In general, I believe that most people are going to break out their Sunday best for this special occasion, and why shouldn’t they? Doesn’t Jesus deserve our best?

ABSOLUTELY, HE DOES!

Jesus, our Savior, deserves our absolute best, but after experiencing our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services the past two days, I am starting to question why we spend so much time contemplating what to wear on Easter Sunday and the future Sunday’s beyond?

What if instead we ran breathless into our churches, not dressed in our best, but rather what if we came tattered and torn, dirty and broken, empty and lost knowing that in the presence of Jesus IS the only place we should be? What if we were honest about our raggedness and disappointments, our anger and our sin-filled hearts?

I wonder how many people might just be staying away this Easter Sunday because they feel they have to pull it all together and be “red-carpet” ready for this joyful Eastertide?

Surely, Jesus deserves our best, and by golly dress up for Easter if you want, but know with certainty that our Lord and Savior, Jesus comes for us when we are at our worst. And the WORST thing you could do is stay away on Sundays.

Romans 5:6-11 “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Listen, if you are trying to discern  between your Sunday best or your brokenness, I beg you to just come cracked!

COME TO WORSHIP THIS EASTER SUNDAY weak and ragged with nothing left to give! Come crawling and bawling if you have to because together, we will gather at the foot of the empty cross to worship our Savior, who took upon Himself the filth of our sinful hearts. He was betrayed, denied, left alone, beaten, flogged, tortured, nailed to the cross, died and rose again, all for YOU, and He will pick up that dirty mess of you, dust you off, wipe your tears, mend your broken pieces, hold you close, call you by name, and send you back into the world better than you came.

So, leave the “Sunday best” to our Savior, this Easter Sunday and instead…

Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine! ‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side. If we’re honest. If we’re honest. (Franscesca Battistelli)

If We’re Honest (by Francesca Battistelli)

 

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What Can I Do?

As I was watching the “Today’s Show” this morning I came upon a segment called “Honoring Stacy Loudice.” This story pulled at my heart strings and humbled me beyond words.

Please take a moment to watch this video.

Wow, just wow! Are you humbled? I was. Stacy didn’t know Susanne. Susanne was just a new member at her church. They weren’t friends. Stacy simply learned that Susanne was in need, and did something about it.

Watching this video, I was literally stopped in my tracks. Yes, I work at a church. I plan events and service opportunities all the time, and I participate in them too. It’s what I do for my profession, but sadly, I can probably count on one hand, the times that I “personally” took time time to ask someone “what can I do?”  That “someone” being someone who just recently visited our church, or whom I saw or learned was in need. I am embarrassed to say I haven’t done enough. When God compels us, we should act upon it, right?  We, as Christian people, shouldn’t have to wait until we have a “church function” to do good things for others?

We need not wait until someone tells us to do good. Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing when our people come together and support a special mission project. It is awesome, and very much needed!  But, as Susanne reminded,”God’s love isn’t just something you feel, it is something you act upon.” I need to find more opportunities to act upon God’s love, individually. Not because there is a “church sponsored function” or I am “supposed” to go and/or provide, but because I am personally so transformed by God’s amazing love, grace and mercy, that I will literally burst open if I don’t act upon it.

Imagine what our community would be like if all of us took time to act upon God’s amazing, unconditional love, personally, and not wait for someone else to make a plan to do so?

When was the last time you took time out of your busy schedule to say to a new member or visitor from your church, or even a complete stranger outside of your church walls, “What can I do?”  We all must do better.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one (Jesus) died for all, and therefore all died. And he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!(2 Corinthians 5:14-17)

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My Heart Weeps :(

I am sitting here on my couch, in almost a fog, but it a “Spirit-filled” fog!!!! Praise the Lord!

My mind and heart continues to be in Worship…Oh what a privilege to be in God’s presence, worshiping Him above all things and hearing His amazing, life-changing Word this morning!! I am so thankful for my Mom and Dad who brought me to church, gave me a Bible, took me to confirmation and Bible Classes and encouraged me to learn more about my Savior, Jesus, a pastor who brought me to youth events that told me about Jesus love, and the need for DCE’s in the church. Camp Luther, Wisconsin and its amazing counselors and Junior Counselors who had a love for Jesus so powerful and so contagious that is changed my whole life (and I still dream about taking a sabbatical and being a counselor there for a whole summer – yes even at 38 years old) and the leader of our DCE program at Concordia University, St. Paul who taught me about servant-hood, and the joy of leading people in the Word and teaching them the Hope we have only in Jesus. ALL of those things, I did FREELY without ever a worry in my heart that I would ever be persecuted for my faith. I never had to fear. The words of our speaker from this morning “What will you do with this gift? (ie: The Word of God)” are ringing through me ears and weaving through my heart. What a powerful message that is sitting with me hours later. I am praying for our persecuted church all over the world, but I am especially praying for the people in our own United States of America, the Golden Triangle and my small town in Texas where WE ARE FREE to worship and study God’s Word, yet we so often let other things come first. What am I kidding, we let EVERYTHING come before our God. :( I’m also a guilty party here. God’s Word is changing lives and people are risking their lives just to hear God’s Word and have a relationship with Him, yet, we don’t care. We are satisfied going about our busy lives and putting Jesus, our best friend, our Savior, our Creator, in the back seat…wait, no, in the in trash hoping He will go far away and stop knocking on our doors and bothering our busy lives. We shove Him aside without batting an eye. We are soooooooooo busy. It hurts my heart. And again, I am talking to myself here. My heart weeps.

If you were not actually able to be with us this morning at Holy Cross, I am actually beyond sorry that you weren’t. I am sincerely sad that you and yours weren’t here this morning, (and I know that is really bold to say), but its because I am really, really sad that you weren’t able to hear what I heard. The message, the experience, was THAT incredibly life-changing and there will never be another exact moment like it. I know there are others that felt the same.

I want to know Jesus. I want to know Jesus more intimately than anyone I’ve every known, and I desire to recognize His every Word. I also have a mission to tell you about this greatest gift, God’s Word, that we are FREE to read, cherish and live out every day without fear. We need to be in God’s Word, in God’s house, in devotions together as a family, in prayer talking to God who hears our every word and promise to answer. People are dying to hear God’s Word, and yet we ourselves are truly dying because we don’t.

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YOU are in my prayers today, ladies and gentlemen! I’m praying that you would know the incredible love of our Savior, Jesus, which we know from The Bible – HIS LIFE-CHANGING Word! Know you are loved! Thank you, Jesus!

Let’s Not See the Incompatibilities, but Rather, the Possibilities!

Some days, I long to be a little girl again (I’m the one smiling in the middle), to go back to that time when I had no worries, no stress, and my little brown teddy bear that sang “Jesus Loves Me” was all I needed to rest my eyelids at night.

Those were the days: to be a child!!!!

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Fast forward thirty years, and our lives are filled to overflowing with everything BUT God these days. We get so distracted by life, and work and school and select soccer games and the carpool lane and the drive through at McDonalds and Starbucks, that we forget we are truly God’s children and He is our true Father.

Ah, “to be a child,” I just said, but isn’t that what we are today? That has never changed. We don’t have to go back in time to be a child. 1 John 3:1 concludes, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
So, what does that mean?

SEE what great love! We saw it when we should have been listening in church; we couldn’t focus, yet Jesus had mercy. SEE what great love! The evil thoughts we had of that one person who did us wrong, but our Lord provided grace, in the midst of that horrific thought. Ultimately, we saw it on the cross, the cross of Calvary where Jesus took our sin, and died in our place. SEE what great love! Yes, I see the great love the Father has lavished on us! We are his children!  It brings tears to my eyes!

We ALL are his children, and that means that not a single one of us is better than another.

That means that we have the responsibility to love one another.

Lord, forgive us for the bazillion times we don’t.

1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”

My, my, how often we look down upon someone who is different than us? Different thoughts, different politics, different clothes, different dialect, different skin color, different shape, different, different, different! So we ignore them, or pass them by, or stick our nose up, or disrespect. But, all are His children! Aren’t we? Yes, indeed.

“Our Savior… wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Not everyone will want t be  a part of God’s family if we treat them like dirt or worse yet, “crap.”  My prayer is that we would humble ourselves and love one another; that we would be like that little child who doesn’t see the incompatibilities, but rather the possibilities of having another great friend!


If you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to get to know a child of God who is need through Compassion International, I encourage you to take time and  go to the following website. Take a look at the thousands of children of God who are in need of a friend like you and be a sponsor today!

Loneliness Stinketh!!

I vividly remember moving to Texas for the first time sixteen years ago.  My Dad and I drove pretty much non-stop from Wisconsin, all the way to the great state Texas. I first stepped foot on Texas soil, in Texarkana, Texas!  It was exhilarating, and a day to behold.  God was sending me out of the Mid-West, across numerous state lines, almost to the country of Mexico, to a city in which I knew no one.  I could have never prepared myself for the loneliness that was going to enter my heart that day.  It was the beginning of countless and lengthy separations from the ones I loved, and each parting leaving a deeper hole in my heart and cementing loneliness in my soul.  Sixteen years later, that painful ache still manages to creep in each and every time I take that last peek around my shoulder, as my family drives away from the airport. Too many times, my salty tears washed away their vision long before they ever drove away.

Yes, indeed, loneliness stinketh!

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(Saying goodbye to my niece and my mom at the airport.)

Are you beyond busy and find that you never even get to engage in an important conversation with your family?

Are you checked out from life?

Are you so absorbed with your career you have no social life to speak of?

Are you a stay at home parent who has yet, in ten years, to converse with someone older than one in elementary school?

Are you and your spouse seeming to live on separate planets?

Are you single?

Are you a widow or widower?

Well, then you already know the agony of aloneness.  It hurts. It lingers.  It paralyzes. It controls. It stills our hope.

Imagine, then, the loneliness and hopelessness, of a young child in India, who has been taken from his or her home and bought or sold into child trafficking.  “According to UNICEF, child trafficking is defined as “any person under 18 who is recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received for the purpose of exploitation, either within or outside a country” (wikipedia).  This is horrifying, God-less! Ladies and gentlemen, it is truly not good for us to be alone, and thank Heavens, we were not meant to be alone.

God absolutely, positively, created us to be in a community!

Genesis 2:18

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9:12

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

My heart truly aches for people who are lonely.  I grievously hate seeing living souls broken.  My heart cries because I have Compassion for them. I began this blog explaining the ache that enters my heart when I am separated from my family. It is painful, but, I have honestly never experienced the kind of loneliness an aspiring thirty something feels, who decides that he is so invaluable he choose to end his life, or the kind of loneliness that a young child would experience who was sold into child trafficking.  Thankfully, I am not in that category.  By the grace of God, upon moving to Texas, I  became a part of an amazing family: my church family.  These men, women and children didn’t know anything about me.  I was from a completely different culture. I dressed differently. I talked peculiarly. I was just not like them.  And God-forbid I didn’t use the words “ma’am or sir.” Yet, somehow this loving community embraced me.  They loved me with a gracious and forgiving love from the very beginning and showered me with affection.  I am so blessed to be a part of a Christian community, in which  God created us to be.

Sadly, millions do not have this privilege.  Millions and millions of people in America and beyond are paralyzed by loneliness.  They do not have a loving Christian community to impact their life.  But, you can change that today.  Romans 12:16 says,

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:16

Often children living in poverty feel alone and isolated.  But, thanks be to God, when a child is sponsored through Compassion International, the loneliness and isolation fades. Not only do you create a way for a child get further away from the trap of child trafficking, but you also provide the privilege of placing them in a loving Christian church family!

I know that many of you are skeptical of organizations similar to Compassion, but I am here today, nearly seven years after sponsoring my first child and researching Compassion as a Child Advocate, to express that being a child sponsor is life-changing and Compassion International is a fabulous, trustworthy organization!!! Sponsoring a child is a way that we can do what God has commanded us to do in the Great Commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

Beyond the command, did you hear that promise?  God said,  “Lo, I am with you always to the very end of the age!”  Amazing how The Almighty reminds us that He is in control and that He will provide for us!  I know this from personal experience, yet…

 Satan battles with me daily in an effort to tear my trust away from God.

Yet another reason that a loving, Christian community is so essential.

I now sponsor three beautiful girls from Africa.  Three years ago I moved into my dream house, a townhouse, double the rent. Three months after moving in to my apartment my car engine literally blew up, and I had to buy another “new to me car.”  Last year, I decided to start saving money for a trip to Rwanda, so my twin sister and I could meet two of my sponsored children, one of whom is also an identical twin.  On occasion I like to end the ache of missing my family and visit them, which means I have to fly across the country to see them.  And while I budget obsessively, I still worry how God will provide?  Fortunately, when that worry comes to roost, God counters, and always declares, “watch me!”  That I am, Lord Jesus!  My eyes are fixed upon You, the author and perfecter of my faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  Man, how I long to have a perfect faith!  To perfectly trust God, and to no longer worry! Can you imagine how peaceful that would be? Amazing!

Like me, you surely have questions…

How will you be able to sponsor a child for the first time or anytime for that matter?

How can you be a part of making disciples of all nations when you are saturated with worry?

“Lo, I am with you always to the very end of the age,” God promised!

Matthew 28:20

Sponsoring a child for $38 dollars a month may simply not be the best fit for you and your family.  However, there are many other ways you can support children and families in need through Compassion International.

God will provide a way!

Please prayerfully consider ending the loneliness of even one.

Check out the following link to learn more!

http://www.compassion.com/default.htm

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My Love Affair With Food…

I am in love with food, and my love affair with food has got to stop!

I eat food when I am happy.

I eat food when I am sad.

I eat food when I am lonely.

I eat food when I am at parties with hundreds of people.

I eat food, all the time, for every single emotion I experience.

Ninety percent of my pins on Pinterest have to do with food.

It is embarrassing, but that is the honest truth.  For thirty-seven years I have come to food to fill my needs, yet all it does is leave me empty.  Seriously, empty.  Fortunately or unfortunately, my love affair with food has got to stop.  I have been nursing a knee injury for weeks.

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All exercise, including training for two dualathons has ceased.  I have been benched again.  However, I believe it is a true intervention.  You see, I am obsessed with food so much, in fact, that I pretty much worship it.  I think about it all the time, and I have never been willing to adjust my eating habits to lose pounds.  Never!  Oh yes, I did the 21-day Standard Process Cleanse about six months ago, but as soon as the 21 days were over, I went straight back to my old habits and gained almost double what I lost.

I  reward myself with food, so when I work out like the “Warrior Princess” I am, then my trophy of choice is food.  Casa Ole’s chicken flameado and a house margarita (or two)!  Papa John’s the Works  Pizza, baby, with extra garlic sauce!  Chocolate chip cookie dough, and don’t even think that I wait to bake them. No, ma’am, all I need is a spoon and the mixing bowl. Pure happiness (or is it?)!

Just to fill you in, I have been consuming a minimum of 2500-3000 calories every day. I know this  because I use my Fitness Pal App religiously and count my calories. I’m obsessed with counting calories, and there has been no greater joy than to log in all the food I ate that day, and upon adding my workouts, see the calories instantly disappear. It was and still is exhilarating!!!  But foolish me, could never understand why I still wasn’t losing any weight.  I was dumbfounded. Angry.  Pissed! Why?  Why can I work out so much, and so hard, yet see no results?  Well, I had a little “heart to heart” with myself the other day, and  I discovered that I have been eating way too many calories. Shocker!!!  If I was satisfied with my weight, which I am not, as I am close to morbidly obese in the medical books, 2500 calories a day with exercise would help me “maintain” my weight. But I am no where near healthy.  I am 187 pounds and 5 foot 2 inches tall.  I must lose weight and after doing some research, I believe following a 1500 calorie diet is essential to my success.

What? What?

I know what you are thinking.  That’s like practically starving one’s self!!!  Believe me, I thought the exact same thing. To be honest, I don’t think I have ever JUST consumed 1500 calories in a day. Well, maybe when I was puking my guts out with the stomach bug, but even then I was somehow always able to eat food.  Like, for real.  My calorie count never even came close to 1500 calories while exercising like a freakin’ beast.

So last week after sitting idle, literally, and maintaining my 2500-3000 calorie meal plan WITHOUT exercising, I had a wake up call. A three pound weight gain in one week.  While I am not proficient at math, I honestly suck, I knew that three pounds a week, times four weeks, is twelve pounds in a month, and well, you get the picture.  No bueno!  I began to envision my 5 foot 2, thirty something self at 300 pounds or more.  My head began reeling and I felt nauseous.

The severity of my love affair with food smacked me straight in the face. I now have two options. I can continue eating the way I have always eaten, and consume obnoxious amounts of calories to feed my emotions, while still not being completely satisfied, or I can do an about face and do something completely fresh and new.  One thing is certain, I cannot begin exercising until I see a doctor and if I change nothing, nothing will change, except of course, for my weight, which will soar.

Fresh and new is what I have decided to do, and it scares the crap out of me. Seriously!  The “Warrior Princess,” she’s a beast!  She can do that stupid crab walk and bear crawl, and run the bridge and do flutter kicks and walking lunges, and triathlons and even those ridiculous frog leaps across the gym floor, which once took me a whole hour to finish, but tell me I can’t eat pizza and “the beast” goes bananas.

But I have to change today, and I have Chris Powell from Extreme Weight Loss to thank for that.

“It is so incredible to see just how much people can change in just 90 days.  Millions of Americans are just sitting around and they don’t realize that in 90 short days they can change their life forever. I mean, you at home?  What is it that you have always wanted? And do you know that you can just be 90 days away from a happier, healthier life?” – Chris Powell (Extreme Weight Loss)

Chris Powell was talking to me…TO ME!  As I sat staring at the television, Chris’s words changed me in the most  profound way! “What is it that you have always wanted? And do you know that you can just be 90 days away from a happier, healthier life” (Powell, Chris; Extreme Weight Loss)?

No, I did not realize that I could be just 90 days away from a happier, healthier life.  His words penetrated my heart! I honestly did NOT know, nor believe that.  Change has always seemed to take years and years and even decades in my family.  But I actually love change. I want change.  But in 90 days, I do not want to be the heaviest I have ever been.  Yet, it is the other question, that is most difficult to stomach.  “What is it that you have always wanted”  (Powell, Chris; Extreme Weight Loss)?  I have never allowed myself to answer that question.   Sadly, my deep lack of self-confidence and my constant feeling of worthlessness has taught me to believe that I don’t deserve anything good.  Frankly even fitting in a size ten pair of jeans is off limits, or at least it has been.  It’s kind of a curse, and as I struggle with my weight loss and my love affair with food, I am beginning to understand that until THAT mindset changes, my weight will literally never come off.  I certainly have a pretty big mountain to climb, but before I can use my legs again, I have have to get control of my food addiction.

I truly want to believe that in 90 days I will be happier and healthier than I have ever been!  I can’t even imagine what that would look like and feel like.  But thankfully, the journey has already begun.  Last week, after hours of pondering Chris Powell’s questions, I Googled his television show and soon discovered the FREE Vemma Bode App!

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The program,  is based on a 1500 calorie diet plan that focuses on Carb Cycling.

A carb cycle is a 7-day period where one alternates between two low-carb days and one high-carb day for six days, followed by one guilt-free day on the seventh day. The varied consumption of carbohydrates helps change how your body uses nutrients and supports your weight management goals. (www.vemma.com)

I say, if one cannot cycle, then why not try “carb cycling.”  Ba dum bum, cymbal crash!

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The Vemma Bode App has incredibly good recipes with menus that include food that I genuinely like to eat.  No tasteless tofu (FYI: my sister in law makes fabulous tofu, I just don’t) or crazy quinoa for me, though the plan allows for you to choose the protein, veggies and fats that you wish to eat each day, and if you are a vegan or vegetarian you can choose those options or simply choose your own meal.  It just so happens that I need the boundaries that this program offers and am choosing to follow the plan they provide (minus the shakes).  It also includes a “Guilt Free Day” which they encourage you to “reward yourself by indulging in foods you crave… but be careful not to go overboard” (www.vemma.com) and asks you to eat five times a day (every three hours), rather than just three times a day.  It’s truly a food addict’s dream! I mean, it is as if the creators of this program actually had me in mind when they created it! Incredible!

My first “official” weigh in day is in two days, though my anal retentive self has already participated in daily weigh ins, recording a 2 1/2 pound weight loss.  I am seriously lovin’ this!!!

So, did you know that in ninety days I will be living a happier healthier life?  Well you do now, and you can be a part of that journey by holding me accountable or better yet, start the program yourself .  Ninety days is a long time.  I am super excited, right now, but I have a tendency to let that excitement fade and go back to my comfort zone.  I cannot do that, anymore.  Won’t you join me?  Your prayers would be appreciated!

 

More Adventures In My 37th Year of Life!

So, if you aren’t in the know, I decided last April to participate in  37 Adventures for My 37th Year of Life!  It has been a fabulous journey thus far, and the adventures continue…

#24 – Have Some Fun at The Mall of America/Nickelodeon Universe®IMG_2639IMG_2656

So, I fly in to St. Paul/Minneapolis often when I go to visit family, but rarely do I make an effort to go and visit the mall just for fun. So, that was exactly my plan on my latest trip home. My family and I spent the day at Nickelodeon Universe® which is an indoor theme park that features seven acres of unique attractions and entertainment. We were definitely entertained.  My oldest niece, who is seven, wasn’t scared at all, and rode on every ride with us.  Her favorite was this “skateboard” ride otherwise known as Avatar Airbender. I liked the FAIRLY ODD COASTER, Ghost Blasters, and  Pepsi Orange Streak, the best! I love rides!  The only thing I wish I had done was get a photo with Sponge Bob.  I chickened out –  LOL!

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#25 – Go to a Restaurant I Have Never Been To: Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company

So, I have always wanted to go to Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company and finally made it happen. My family and I were pleased with the food, service and atmosphere, and we had a grand time!  I especially loved the Forest Gump Trivia Time with the waitstaff!

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#27 – Eat at the The Nook

The Nook is one of the recommendations made by Food Network Star, Guy Ferrari.  In fact this restaurant has, according to Guy, the #3 Best Burger of all time: Guys Big Bite!  This burger was worth the extra-special trip!!!!  It is a pepperjack, stuffed burger with bacon  topped with roast beef and cheddar.  I am salivating just thinking about it. The cheese was just oozing out! While my other family members weren’t “that” impressed (FYI: they didn’t have this exact burger), I was blown away!!!!  You must go and try THIS burger!  An extra bonus to this trip, was that The Nook is very near my Alma Mater!  How cool is that!July 2014 396

#28 – Eat Tofu

Confession:  I ate tofu and I liked it! Yes, indeed, I loved this tofu!   To the average Joe, tofu, is not something one craves, but since my first encounter with Spicy Baked Marinated Tofu with Vibrant Cabbage Stir Fry, I can’t stop thinking about it. My dad and I regularly talk about this unfathomably fantastic recipe! Kudos to my sister-in-law who is the best cook in all the world and made us this dish!! Seriously! As a family of carnivores, we usually cannot fathom a meal without meat. In fact, we were trying to figure out what we would do “if” we didn’t like it, but no one needed to do that because it was SENSATONAL! Now, we cannot fathom a week without this dish.  YUMMY!tofu

#29 – Learn to make my own salad dressing

I am trying to be more healthy these days, so ranch or Caesar dressing just doesn’t cut it anymore.  My faves have too many calories and too much fat and sugar.  So, I decided to take a crack at making my own salad dressing.  After many, many, MANY failed attempts, I have finally found the best dressing recipe (for me).

1/4 cup of white vinegar

3 TBL water

2 TBL Wildtree Italian Salad Dressing mix

1/2 cup of natural grapeseed oil

If you are curious about this recipe, you can purchase the product or others like it from the following link: http://www.mywildtree.com/shop/catalog.aspx – My friend Stephanie will gladly help you and their products are fabulous!!

#30 – (impromptu) Girls Night at the  Dueling Piano Bar in Houston

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If you know me at all, I don’t do impromptu well.  But on a whim, I got dolled up and drove to Houston to meet two of my girlfriends for a Girls Night Out!! It was truly one of my most exciting, personal, just for fun, nights I have ever experienced!  The Dueling Piano bar is the bombdiggity!  I could have stayed there all night long and I hope to return again soon!!!  It was so pleasing! From my requests one of the pianists said, “do you like oldies?”  Why yes I do, how did you guess?!  Could it have been that my list included “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Teenager in Love,” “Sittin’ On Top of the Bay,” “Hello, Mary Lou,” “Elvira,” etc.

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