recipe! sweet potato pie smoothie

For years I’ve declared my utter dislike of sweet potatoes.  I thought I hated the taste and consistency.  As it happens, I love both.  I just wasn’t making them correctly!

A few weeks ago I chopped up some sweet potatoes, coated them in olive oil, chili powder, salt, and pepper, and baked them at 425 for about 40 minutes.  I used them in fried rice for a few days before deciding to experiment with another usage.

A smoothie.  A delicious, creamy smoothie.

First of all, let me clarify: I do not recommend putting olive oil, chili powder, salt, and pepper on something you intend to use in a pie-flavored smoothie.  This was just the way I happened to have my sweet potatoes on hand the first time I tried this smoothie.  I covered up the taste with a bit of brown sugar. You could also use maple syrup.  How yummy would that be?  Or, if you’re thinking ahead like I wasn’t and make plain sweet potatoes, you can skip the sugar.

Anyway, the second time I made it, I did plan ahead and baked the sweet potatoes with a little bit of olive oil.  Perfect, and I didn’t need sugar in the smoothie at all.

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

1 cup almond milk (regular milk or soymilk are just as good)
1/2 cup sweet potatoes, diced and baked
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger
2 tbsp uncooked oats
half of a frozen banana
3-4 ice cubes

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a picture of this smoothie.  It’s pale orange in color, with dots of bright orange sweet potato fibers.  There are also flecks of tan oatmeal and nutty brown sweet potato skins.  (You could peel the sweet potatoes if it suits you better.)

The taste of the smoothie is rich but also very earthy.  The sweet potato is (obviously) sweet, and the banana adds another layer of natural sugar.  I love putting oatmeal in my smoothies because it adds some viscosity, nuttiness, and it makes me feel full for longer.  Really, though, it’s the spices that make this smoothie.  They definitely carry health benefits.  And they taste. so. good.  Never ever skip the spices in this smoothie!  Or in anything!

This smoothie makes a great pre- or post-workout drink to replenish your energy.  Not something to drink everyday if you’re just trying to lose weight — it is high in carbs.  🙂

What’s your favorite smoothie recipe?

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God’s plan is not second-best

“God had something else in mind.”

Have you ever heard those words, spoken in the context of a surprising turn of events?  Have you said them yourself?  What do we really mean when those words come out of our mouths?

  • I can handle this unpleasantry only because I know God is sovereign.
  • If it couldn’t happen my way, I guess I can accept it this way.
  • It’s not how I would have done it, but…

I would like to challenge this way of thinking in my own heart.  I want to call it out as terribly wrong.

Proverbs 16:9 tells us that no matter what we plan, God is the one who directs our steps.  It’s only wise and right to make plans, but we must not hold our plans too tightly.  We all know that.  Most people admit freely that God’s ways are not our own.  We even claim to know that his ways are higher than our ways.  But do we really own that truth?

I feel that far too often, I tend to think that my plans are just amazing, and God plans are plans that I have to bear with a stiff upper lip.  How can I think like this?  I am an exceedingly flawed, finite, selfish human being with an eye to my perceived best interests and temporal happiness.  God is a perfectly loving, perfectly wise, all-knowing and infinite being.  Shouldn’t I be thrilled when I find that my plans have been set aside in favor of God’s different plan?

Everything that happens in my life has been orchestrated by God.  That truth doesn’t decrease in beauty when life doesn’t align with my plans.  In fact, I am beginning to revel in the fact that God saw something around the corner that I simply didn’t see — and in his divine love, he chose to keep set me on a better path.

book review! twelve unlikely heroes

I love people.

I love reading about people, too.  My favorite nonfiction books as a child were always, always biographies.  Now I find that biographies are more than just interesting.  What better way to learn about life than to read about how people live?  That’s why I chose to read Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur.

The premise: John MacArthur describes and discusses the lives of twelve Bible heroes whose lives at some point seem to be heading in a direction that is anything but heroic.  The heroes are Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon and Samson (addressed in the same chapter as a kind of juxtaposition), Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James, and Mark and Onesimus (addressed in the same chapter because of common themes).

My perspective: The balance of informational text and personal application/discussion is great.  Pastor MacArthur is clearly knowledgeable about Bible history and does a great job selecting the most relevant and interesting facts to discuss.  I really loved everything about the book except for one thing: the writing style.  For some reason, I found it very difficult to get through.  I can’t explain it, since, as I said, the balance of the text was great and the material was totally engaging.  I would leave this issue to personal preference.

My recommendation: Something I really appreciate about this book is that it could be read both by a seasoned Christian and by someone relatively new to the faith.  The text never assumed that the reader had a lot of background knowledge, but it also was willing to dig deep into factors most people have never heard of.  My only drawback with this book was the writing style, and that’s completely a personal opinion.  It’s a great read that is both amazingly educational and inspirational.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes, available from Christian Book Distributors.

My favorite chapter was on Joseph — probably because he’s my favorite Bible hero!

Who’s your favorite Bible hero?

why your next hobby should be one you’re no good at

I’m not a particularly adventurous person.  I certainly wouldn’t fall at the extreme stick-to-the-stuff-you-know end of the spectrum…but I do avoid heights and unknown vegetables.  To challenge myself, I recently decided to try my hand at a new hobby: drawing.  So far my efforts have ranged from truly horrifying…

you wouldn't know, but it's violet from the incredibles.
you wouldn’t know, but it’s violet from the incredibles.

to finished products that actually look okay.

esmeralda from the hunchback of notre dame.
esmeralda from the hunchback of notre dame.

Drawing definitely does not come naturally to me, I enjoy it only moderately, and I don’t think it will help me advance my career.  So why do I do it?

  • Trying new things is humbling.  If all you do is what you’re really good at, you have every reason to believe that you’re just the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Trying something new might be a gentle reminder that you aren’t perfect, and it will open your eyes to the gifts that other people have (and you don’t). You might find yourself appreciating others’ talents more, bragging about your own talents less, and having more patience when someone isn’t catching on to a new skill as quickly as you’d like.
  • Trying new things is a test of perseverance.  It’s not very fun to fail or to have poor results from something you’ve poured hours of hard work into.  This is especially true when you don’t have a strong motivation to try again.  I’m not saying you should waste days at a time on a completely purposeless hobby, but there is something to be said for making a real effort when you can’t see the point.
  • You might surprise yourself.  Everyone’s heard a form of this statement in some context, but it still rings true.  Try something and you just might like it more than you thought.  Even better, you might be surprised at how much effort you put in, how well you used your resources, how well you stuck to a goal, or how quickly you acquired a new skill.

Why not try it?  Choose an unfamiliar hobby that will fit into your lifestyle without too much expense or inconvenience.  Set a specific goal and a time limit for how long you will try the hobby before evaluating your progress and whether you want to continue.  Notice how you feel about yourself and about others, and keep track whenever you observe a positive change!

What hobby will you try?

teaching is [not] the worst job ever

Recently I’ve seen a plethora of blog posts, humor articles, infographics, and other bits of media discussing a long-ignored topic: the frustrations and unseen stresses of the teaching field.  I decided that it’s my turn to say my piece.

Teaching is a legitimate, professional career choice.  Teachers are underpaid and largely under-appreciated.  Teachers work much longer hours than most people realize.  And if teachers ceased to exist or just stopped caring, the world as we know it would cease to function.  All that is true.

I just fail to see how we as teachers can claim that our job is more important, better, worse, harder, or easier than another person’s job.  Don’t we remind students that everyone is unique?  That some things are hard for some people and easy for others?  That we all have different things we’re good at?

Careers are not just a matter of difficulty, pay, vacation time, and prestige.  They are so much more complex than that.  Flower arranging might be technically easier than classroom teaching, but that doesn’t mean I could do it well.  Emergency room doctors are much better paid than middle school science teachers, but not every middle school science teacher would be comfortable in the ER.  Comparing careers is unfair and narrow-minded — and most of the time, it doesn’t even make sense.

h9d21

I chose to become a teacher because I wanted to make a difference, I love kids, I love planning lessons, and I know that I can do this job well.  I was willing to accept low pay, long hours, and no prestige.  Nobody twisted my arm, and nobody said it would be easy.  I chose this profession.

And I love it.

How do you feel about teachers who speak up about the negatives of their job?

what are those rings for?

“Are you denaried?”

The question comes from a four-year-old student.  I set down my crayon and smile.  “Hm?”

“Are you denaried?”

I glance around for context clues.  “I’m…not sure.”

“I mean are you denaried to a dad?”

Understanding floods in.  For the second time in a day, a child under the age of six is questioning my marital status.  “No, I’m not married,” I said simply, and I return to coloring in my Bible story worksheet.

“Then what are those rings for?”

I’m almost surprised that the symbolism of a ring means so much in a society that has pushed so many traditional symbols into ambiguity.  Yet time and again, new acquaintances, colleagues, and especially kids ask me, “Are you married?” after they see that I wear a ring on my left ring finger.

Snapshot_20150504

In a public school situation, I keep my answer vague: “No, my ring means that I’m not married yet.”  With peers, I refer to it as a purity ring and usually receive a silent nod or “Oh”.

But with my young students in a Wednesday night Bible study, I decided to give a better answer.

“It means I’m not married yet.  I’m waiting to get married.  When I do get married, my husband will give me a new ring.  We’ll trade.  I’ll give him this one –” I removed it to pantomime the theoretical swap, “– and he will give me a wedding ring.”

What I didn’t tell my inquisitive four-year-old friend was that wearing my purity ring actually has very little to do with marriage.  My purity ring is more than a promise to my dad, or to my future husband.  It’s a a demonstration of my faith in God’s perfect ways.  My purity ring indicates, of course, that I will save myself for my husband and refrain from pre-marital sex. But it also means that I will dress modestly, treat men with respect and restraint, and never love anyone more than I love God.

My purity ring isn’t a placeholder, preparing for the day when a wedding ring might grace my finger.  It’s a symbol of the way I live my life, single or married, to the end of my days.

Do you wear a purity ring?

book review! the screwtape letters

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read an “improving” book every month this year.  By “improving”, I mean a book that will help me to grow in my walk with God in some way.  Some of the books I plan to read are biographies of respect Christians, others are theological books.  This month I read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

Even though my blog title comes from a C. S. Lewis quote, I’ve only read The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and now The Screwtape Letters.  I honestly wasn’t sure whether or not I would like Screwtape.  Well, I did, and here’s why.

The premise: The book is a satirical set of “letters” from a demon (Screwtape) to his nephew, a recently graduated demon.  Screwtape counsels his nephew in the strategies of how to prevent his subject from converting to Christianity — as well as how to deal with a converted Christian.  Ultimately, the letters delineate the pitfalls of proclaiming Christians, the temptations of life, and thoughtful perspectives about how evil works in the world.

My perspective: The Screwtape Letters was a fairly easy read, which made it both enjoyable and a great vehicle of information and ideas.  I felt convicted, enlightened, and challenged.  I don’t know that there were any ground-breaking theological thoughts, but the style of the writing made them come alive in a new way.

My recommendation: I would recommend this book highly to almost any reader.  My one caution would be that since this is a satire, it could be confusing for younger readers or new Christians.  (However, this was my first time reading a satire of this length and I found it fairly clear.)

The Screwtape Letters, available on Amazon.

Enjoy and be challenged by this great literary work!

What books, if any, written by C. S. Lewis have you read and enjoyed?