Tag Archives: Ann Voskamp

When your emotions are running wild and you can’t just be still and know

14 Jan

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I’ve read enough Ann Voskamp posts lately for her writing style to seep into my thought processes. If you, too, are a Voskamp lady aficionada, may I lead with noting that imitation is the highest form of flattery…

You know those late nights when you’re all foggy brained and aching for sleep, but your mind is still operating on its last dregs of caffeine? It’s dragging you through your own dirt, that unpleasant catalog of your every mistake, missed opportunity, and insecurity. It’s replaying conversations that happened a year ago, or just today. Did I say the right thing? Too many things? Or did I avoid the important things? It’s pricking you with regret over how you frittered last weekend away, continue to repeat the same sin, or failed at a friendship. It’s trying to solve what can’t be solved: I’m not good enough. How can I make myself good enough? Or how can I justify myself, and decide I’m good enough?

Nothing is well with your soul when anxiety hijacks your brain, sending it fluttering into obsessive self-guilt. Anxiety is nothing less than the devil telling you a half-truth, that you’re not good enough. The devil wants to leave you there, to either throw up your hands in apathy that leads to self-destruction, or to rationalize that through working harder, denying self more, or living more radically you will be good enough.

quote_god plan for lifeThe devil delights in this half-truth because he knows how easily we forget to push past it to the only truth that can combat our deepest self-hatred and grief over spotted pasts and grievous sins: Jesus is more than good enough. He is the only good, the only means by which we become “good enough.” So go on, look inside yourself. Sit with all that making a muck of it and missing the mark and straight-up turning your back on God. Just don’t stop there. Don’t let the anxiety spiral into a god that cannot be pleased. Move past it, to look outside yourself, to the one who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). Who says those wounds don’t include self-inflicted ones? Who says they don’t include the kind of backsliding that makes your mind recite a blasphemous mantra: you are hopeless, you are hopeless, until you decide it must be true?

Anxiety is not the be all end all. The debilitating self-questioning does not have the final say, because while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). When you’ve finished surveying your inner rot, survey the cross. Be dazzled by what the prince of glory did for you that you could not do for yourself. Be so drenched in God’s abundant grace that your guilt and inner angst are drowned out. Take hold of the promise that is ever-present and ever-true: neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Being still and knowing that God, not I, is in control presents an ongoing challenge. I wrestle with leaving unresolved matters in God’s hands, with leaving my messiness in the potter’s hands. In my struggle, I’ve found that habits, good or bad, influence my ability to trust God and be known by Him. It’s a stretch to say that my lunch-eating habits shape my Christian walk, but I’m going for it. The following is a very simple recipe for a Mediterranean-inspired salad, which I do eat four days a week!

QUASI-MEDITERRANEAN SALAD

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 servings):

1 bag baby carrots

2 heads Romaine lettuce

4 cups mixed greens

1/2 red onion, diced

2 Roma tomatoes

1 English cucumber, halved and sliced

1/4 cup Feta cheese

6 oz. grilled chicken breast strips (I buy these ones at ALDI)

2 Tbs. Tzatziki sauce (Costco variety is ideal!)

2 Tbs. light balsamic vinaigrette dressing (like this one from ALDI)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Boil baby carrots until tender. Drain and let cool. Distribute into four small plastic containers.
  2. Meanwhile, combine both lettuce varieties, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and Feta cheese. Distribute salad mixture into two large plastic containers.
  3. Using kitchen scale, weigh out 3 oz. of chicken strips into two small plastic containers.
  4. Place 1 Tbs. tsatziki sauce and 1 Tbs. balsamic vinaigrette into a small plastic container. Repeat with second container.
  5. Pack 2 lunches with salad, chicken, dressing, and carrots. When ready to eat, first warm the carrots in microwave, then combine all ingredients and enjoy!

CALORIES: 250 (per serving)

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Why should we keep writing?

4 May

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I’ve set a personal goal to complete Clifton Fadiman’s Lifetime Reading List. My pace is more the slow crawl of a starfish after pigging out on mollusks than the steady trudge of a horse. Even if I read all 176 books, which span across most genres, history, and the world, I’ve only scratched great literature’ surface. There’s still John Steinbeck and Rudyard Kipling, Willa Cather and Sigred Undset, Carson McCullers and W.E.B. Du Bois. Not to mention Trollope’s forty-three other novels, or almost any meaty, historical biography. Talk about FOMO! Sometimes, too, I’d like to dig into a compactly compelling Graham Greene novel or indulge in some Harold McGee-type food nerd reads.

An overwhelming volume of outstanding books, essays, poems, and articles exist already. An unconquerable amount. Yet we continue writing, churning out news pieces and novels and biographies and blog posts. Why do we feel compelled to keep scribbling? Are we actually producing new thoughts and ideas, or just transposing an old song into a new key? History does repeat itself, and nothing we do or write will ever be entirely original. Yet, I believe we feel almost burdened with telling our own stories. We want to represent our own sentence within the broader pen strokes of mankind’s tale. We want to link our time to past and future ones. National Review writer Jonah Goldberg touched upon this idea in a recent newsletter: “Man is a story-telling animal, and stories are what give us meaning, direction, and passion.”

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In a world that is becoming evermore cluttered with words, it’s easy to feel like our own don’t matter much, like we’re just re-mowing the grass in a well-manicured lawn. But I think this mindset undervalues the everyday impact we have on each other. Hearing from someone we love, or admire, is quite different from reading something similar in a George Eliot novel or a Shakespeare sonnet. This applies both to all my fellow bloggers in what we write, and also to everyone who interacts with fellow humans. If what you write matters to one other person, it matters. The same applies to what you do. So while I deeply value and revere the great classics, I also deeply value writers of our time, some better known than others. Ann Voskamp is a constant, beautifully-expressed source of encouragment; Tim Challies keeps me grounded; Jill Carattini outputs informative yet soul-stirring blogs; and Jim Geraghty is my main news source.

We can’t know where we are going without a sense of where we came from. We desperately need, then, to read books that have stood the test of time. We also can’t get to where we are going without probing through and making sense of where we are now, which is why we need to supplement our reading with bloggers and writers of our own time. Risky behavior for a purist, I know. While I plan to prioritize my current Fadiman-list read, Herodotus’ The Histories, I’m also planning to steer away from the ancient Greeks here and there to tap into the here and now. So read on, reader; write on, writer. Every word counts.

If Pinterest counts as a culturally relevant source of the here and now, yours truly has got her finger on the pulse. My most recent recipe find, in the pursuit of any and all slow cooker novelties, is a Vietnamese Bahn Mi Rice bowl, except I made it into a salad. Perfect for low-cal lunchtime feasting!

BANH MI SALAD BOWL

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INGREDIENTS (makes 3 servings):

CHICKEN:

11 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast

3 Tbs. soy sauce

1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1/ tsp. pepper

1 Tbs. minced garlic

1 jalapeño, sliced

PICKLED VEGETABLES:

1 cup shredded carrots

8-10 radishes, sliced

2 Tbs. white granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

6 Tbs. white vinegar

SALAD:

1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Chicken: Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker. Combine garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and jalapeño. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low setting 5-6 hours or until chicken appears cooked through. Once cooked, shred chicken and reserve sauce.

Pickled Vegetables: Meanwhile, combine sugar, salt, and vinegar. Add in shredded carrots and radish slices. Let sit at least 30 min, then drain or else let remain in juices (I chose the latter option). Keep refrigerated.

Assembly: Before eating (or when packing your lunch), layer 1/3 purple cabbage, 1/3 pickled vegetables, and 1/3 cilantro in bowl or plastic container. Heat and top salad with chicken.

CALORIES (per serving): 200

(Adapated from: skinnytaste)

Salad is better enjoyed with addition of a sesame vinaigrette, such as Kraft’s lite Asian toasted sesame dressing (add 45 calories/2 Tbs.)