Sunday, April 24, 2011

Here is the Church, Here are the People....

Open the Doors .. and see all the people! Close the doors, hear them pray, open the doors and they all go away (I couldn't help adding this little poem)

Ok so lately there have been some developments in Ivan and my life. Well, not so much developments as ideas or questions. Ivan and I have been going to a large church in Houston for the last year now. We also are involved in a Bible study on Sundays, and a small group on Tuesdays. I have also become involved in singing with the contemporary choir there.

Although Ivan and I have enjoyed making friends at the church, we have been feeling like God is possibly leading us somewhere else. We are really unsure where God is leading us at this time, but we are really praying about it. After reading the book Radical, I have really had a desire to do "more". I want to be more involved in my church, more involved in missions, and more involved in actually writing and teaching.

Ivan and I were involved in a big churches (Orlando and Houston), and small churches (Jupiter, FL and DC). It is hard for us to determine which we like better. I have written though some of the benefits of each below, and some of our frustrations.

Things I love about big churches:
1) There is such a wide variety of different studies. This works well  for my schedule. Often times, I find that churches plan "women" events in the middle of the day. Since I work, this typically is very inconvenient for me. Big churches typically have multiple times and classes that work for me.
2) There are multiple services and bible studies.
3) It is easier to get involved in smaller ways. A big church can provide opportunities to join the choir without an audition needed etc. A smaller church may have  a smaller music ministry and less opportunity.
4) There are more resources and ministries in a big church.
5) Often times the quality of the music during worship is better. This is not alway true but I have found it to be common.

Things I love about small churches
1) Easier to get into a ministry and have a bigger impact
2) More opportunities to teach different studies
3) Easier to know the people at the church. Although you will never know "everyone" at the church, you will know more of the people at the church.
4) Easier to get involved with the music ministry in a big way.
5) Ability to actually know your pastor, talk to him, and bring questions to him. There is typically less of a "celebrity" feel with the pastors of smaller churches.

Some of the immediate problems we have had with our church is that we don't know "how" to get involved. I know there are many ministries at the church. I also know I really want to get involved in a big way. I also want to be able to help immediately (not 2-3 years from now). It is really just a matter of the church being too big to know who to talk to about getting involved. Don't get me wrong, I have contacted people at the church about volunteering etc. However, I usually get on email from someone asking a question, I respond, and never hear anything again. Ivan and I are just sort of tired of having such a small impact. We get lost in the crowd.

I know this is such an issue with many Christians... big church vs. small church. We still are unsure of what to do at this time. We are going to continue to go to our current church. We have made friends there and I am involved with the contemporary choir. At this time, we are just deeply in prayer. It may be time for us to move on, or God may keep us where we are. We also are going to try to get more involved in missions. Ivan has been on mission trips in the past. I have never been on one. I don't really want to go on a "traditional" mission trip, but we will see. At this time, it is just so expensive for us.

Anyway, these are current things we are considering. There are some local baptist churches nearby, but we never really have considered ourselves baptists. We really loved our church in DC (although it was very small). It was expository teaching (basically through a book of the bible). It was also very deep (integrating Hebrew/Greek and historical context). We really enjoyed the teaching there. The other thing I loved about this church was that they didn't take a tithe. This is just a particular preference for us and clearly would not keep us from going to a church. However, the church had a box available in the back for tithe. It was a matter of just "trusting God" for their support. I really loved this approach.

Please be in prayer for us as we deal with some difficult decisions and seek after God's will in this area.

After a Long Week...

This last week has definitely been fun and busy. The nice thing is that it felt like a "long" vacation. I got a lot of things done that I have been wanting to get done such as:

1) Re-mulch the front yard- we decided to do red mulch rather than black and I am LOVING it..

2) Finish reading Believing God-Beth Moore
3) Start P90X
4) Get laundry done
5) Write a blog about San Antonio

There were some other smaller things in there that got done, but nothing big.

Here are some of the things on my to do list for the next couple weekends:
1) Re-Caulk the shower
2) Seal the grout (this has been on my to do list for over  year)
3) Give the house a good spring cleaning (this will take a solid weekend as I am some a perfectionist)
4) Start getting some topics ready for the ministry blog
5) Reach out to some people at the church about getting involved more
6) Help Ivan with his career direction etc.
7) Really look into Grad schools for Ivan and me (Ivan for business or engineering, and me for theology)
8) Start reading my new systematic theology book


9) Clean up the office

10) Redesign this blog and the ministry blog

There are a lot of things I still need to do, but I am hoping I can get them all done before my birthday (of course some of them really are not things that "get done"). Next weekend is "out" though since Ivan's grandparents are coming to visit! :) YAY!


I am pretty sad to see my vacation/time at home come to an end. However, I am excited to really get back to work. I feel like after reading Believing God, I have a new outlook on things. I am still highly confused on the direction of my career, but I feel like I know how to approach my current situation. I will write a post soon about the book and just things God has been showing me through the book. I will probably also post it to the ministry site as well.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Time... to EXERCISE!

After our fun little trip to San Antonio (described in this post), I realized I really needed to get back to my weight loss goals. Basically I had reached an all time weight high back in October (148-150). I dropped down to 135 by December. My goal weight is 120.

I had done an "ok: job of maintaining 135 (without exercise). However,  after our vacation, I jumped back up. I basically ate everything in sight during the vacation.

Ivan and I decided that we are finally going to finish the P90x program. So, here are the initial pictures and weights. After every stage, I will take more pictures. :) Please excuse these pictures.. remember they are "before". We also took measurements but I figured I wouldn't share those. Here are Ivan's photos (he refused to smile for the before photos):

 

His Weight: 149

Here are my before pictures. Please excuse my face, Ivan was making me laugh the entire time.


 

 Her Weight: 141

So here we go.....

Getaway.... to San Antonio

So I wanted to blog while I was on this little getaway, but I figured it would be a better idea to wait until we were back home. :) Basically, we decided to take a week vacation this week and "get away". Since Ivan and I really didn't have money to take an extravegant vacation, we needed to do something local. Ivan also had plenty of marriott points, so we decided to take advantage of them. We debated between San Antonio and Austin and finally decided  on San Antonio (hence the name of this post). We left on Saturday and just took our time. Now, since the air conditioner in the Honda was busted (again), we basically drove both ways with the windows rolled down. The way there was actually pretty pleasant as it was 75-80 degrees. Even Harmony was happy in her crate on the back seat. (The way back from San Antonio was a different story)

On the way there we stopped by Buckees. We got some fajitta burritos and some beaver nuggets. It was definitely good food for the road. See some of our pictures below.
 
 
           

After we arrived in San Antonio, we did our first relaxing thing....... took a nap! I can't tell you how long it has been since I have taken a nap in the middle of the day. It was so relaxing. After that, we ventured out to the Riverwalk. Saturday was the last day of the San Antonio "Fiesta" so there were a ton of people there on the streets waiting for the parade. We avoided most of them by walking along the river. There were some cute vendor booths along the sides (because of the Fiesta). I actually found one vendor who was selling Rembrandt silver charms. I purchased a crab (to represent Maryland) and a cake (to represent my cake decorating hobby).


We ate dinner at "The Republic of Texas", a Texas themed restaurant with mediocre food. It was fun to sit right on the water. The ducks were right next to us (sometimes they would even walk under the table). It was definitely an experience.
   


Sunday-The next day.... we got up late... walked around the Riverwalk for awhile and just took some random pictures.




After walking around the riverwalk, we went to the outlets at San Marcos. This place is like king of all outlets. We spent the majority of the day here shopping. However, we only purchased on thing...a Le Crueset cooking dish. I have wanted one of these forever! We found an outlet and this was the last "perfect condition" one on sale (it was the last of its color). It was still pricey but not nearly as much as the original price.


After a long day of outlet shopping, we stopped in Gruene (a historic town) to eat at the Gristmill. We went to the Gristmill before during a camping trip with some friends. The food there is very good, so we couldn't resist.
This is the Gristmill, the inside seating is still somewhat "outside". There are so many windows, doors, and just "other openings". The restaurant is so unique and the food is really good. It is definitely not "healthy food" by ANY MEANS, but it is sooooo good.


Monday- The next day was crazy. The day started out rough. We attempted to go to a breakfast place in the morning. It ended up being a bust as we had to walk through some pretty rough neighborhoods to get there. We finally turned around and went back to the hotel. Then, Ivan picked up some food from a place called "Twin Sisters". This restaurant basically prepared organic breakfast food. He purchased what seemed like a million breakfast tacos that were really good. We then ventured out to see the Alamo.


I don't know if  you can read this, but behind me is "David Crockett" on the wall.

After the Alamo, we took a drive north to a local vineyard. This specific vineyard specializes in the black spanish grape. Ivan and I participated in a wine tasting. We got to taste all of their different wines. It was a very fun activity.



Our next stop was the Japanese tea garden. This was sooooo beautiful. I debated not including all the pictures from this garden in the blog but I just couldn't resist. This garden is going to be inspiration for our backyard. It was just so gorgeous!








After the Alamo, the wine tasting, and the tea garden, we had a quiet relaxing dinner back at the Riverwalk at one of the many Tex Mex places. It was pretty good and surprisingly cheap! Yum!


That night, we went to Morton's to have their chocolate melting cake. Ivan and I were so stuffed after all that food that we just went back to hotel and layed there. The next day, we didn't eat until late afternoon. :)

Tuesday- This day well, was somewhat uneventful. We went shopping around the immediate area and then decided we wanted to head home. Basically we were leaving one day earlier than the plan.

All in all we had a really good time, and we are glad to be home for the remainer of our vacation... just relaxing! :)

Yum Yum Yum....

For those of you following my blog, you know by now that I have been cooking some recipes from Capitol Hill Cooks. I made two recipes lately.... one that wasn't that great, and one that was amazing.

So... I know you are on the edge of your seat because this is soooo exciting :) hah.. ok I know I know.. its not that excited. Anyway, here are the recipes:

1) Spinach Souffle- Senator Jeanne Shaheen

This recipe was interesting. I thought it would be something interesting to try. Sadly, after making it, I still do not like souffle. I have now tried chocolate souffle (from Mortons) and spinach souffle and I just do not like it. There is something about the texture of souffle that just doesn't sit right with me. However, Ivan loved it! He ended up eating the rest of it. I still don't think we will make it again though.


2) Grandma's Cabernet Risotto-Representative Mike Thompson
Ok.... I am such a bad blogger because I forgot to take a picture of this *gasp*! Anyway, it really wasn't the prettiest dish. I am a major fan of risotto. It takes awhile to cook but it is so good. Anyway, so far I have made mushroom risotto twice. It was very good, but I was very excited to try something new. Basically, this dish "looked" weird because the cabernet turned the rice a purple-ish color. It was pretty ackward looking. However... *drumroll please*.... it was amazing!!! This dish I will make again and again and again...Ivan had to hold me back from eating all of it! Ivan (of course) loved it too! This recipe had sundried tomatoes, wine, and parmesan cheese. The tangy taste of the cheese plus the richness of the cabernet just made this recipe divine! We ate it with a NY strip steak. It was one of the best recipes I have made so far from this book.


So.... here comes the "bad" news regarding the cooking. I love to cook, and I love cooking recipes from this book. However, most of the recipes are not what you would call "healthy". Butter and heavy whipping cream are two ingredients that are common throughout. Additionally, there are so many dessert & carb recipes in this book that I really want to make. Anyway, due to a recent weight increase *cough*.... I will be putting a hold on the cooking.  I lost a lot of weight back in November and it stopped after the holiday. I need to get back on track with it. Therefore, if I make any recipes from the book it will only be one a week. The remaining recipes will be boring chicken and veggies (which are not worth blogging about). :)

Stay tuned for two more blogs coming your way :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Post 3: Food for the week

These pictures are some of the recipes that we made over the last two weeks or so. They were all pretty good. All of them (except for one) are from the Capitol Hill Cookbooks. :) So.. here we go.. get ready to have your mouth water...


1) Mexicana Chicken, Senator Christopher Bond (Multiple recipes are from this guy. He submitted like 20 for the book).

I will not make this recipe again. It sounded good with cheese, chicken, chilis, tortillas, mushroom soup etc. However, it was not very good. It lacked flavor. If I was to do it again, I would need to add something to give it more of a kick. Maybe I would double the amount of chilis, or use a different soup.

2) Chicken Fricasse by President Thomas Jefferson.
This recipe was good... it took forever to make, but it was delicious. I was a bit nervous because it called for a lot of sage. However, it really worked out. It actually tasted a lot like the chicken fricasse that Ivan had in France.













3) Baked Brie by no one (this is not from the cookbook but I wanted to make it anyway). I made this before and totally loved it. It is extremely fattening.. but soooo good.


4) Mushroom and Rice Casserole by Senator Christopher Bond
This actually was really good. It was different as it used a beef broth as a base rather than a chicken broth. It definitely was savory. We ate this with some bbq chicken. I would definitely make this one again.


5) Sam's Scrumptious Pie  by Senator Christopher Bond (I told you he had like a million recipes, and I did NOT purposefuly choose all of his). This was GOOD. We still have it and we are slowly eating it. The crust is kind of hard to cut since it is frozen, but once you get through that, the taste is good! I totally would make this again. It really wasn't hard to make either. It is mostly ice cream anyway,... and yes, I used all organic products to make it. Although organic fat is still fat, I figure it is still better than having a bunch of artificial stuff.


Anyway, so there you have it. :) The recipes I made this week. There are quite a few desserts left in this book so I may have to start making some more of those (again more excuses :) ).

Post 2: We visit Family in Orlando

This is the second post of my three post series. As some of you know, a few weeks ago (like 2 weeks ago), we flew out to Orlando to visit Ivan's family. His mom was having a big birthday party and his dad wanted to surprise her...and boy was she surprised!! First, Ivan's dad surprised her with a party at the house. Then, we arrived (a few hours into the party). She was so happy to see Ivan that she cried... it was pretty sweet.

We also got the opportunity to meet some old friends (and I don't mean like old in age..heehee). We spent a lot of time taking pictures and catching up. We also had this AMAZING passion fruit cake ... I would be 500 lbs if I had that around all the time. Here are some of our friends that came to the party (you may recognize Andrew from our wedding).


(Btw... note that that necklace I am wearing is from Salvador (where Ivan was born in Brazil), Renata gave it to me when she came to visit.. I am totally in love with it).

The next day we woke up semi-early and went to Disney. Since Ivan's youngest brother had never been to Magic Kingdom, that is where we went. We definitely have a fun time.
  


Ivan and Samuel drove the speedway.

We had a really fun time at Disney. It was an exhausing but good day. I ate soooo much (it has been a long time since I have eaten that type of food). We have some other pictures from just random moments at dinner or breakfast but those pictures didn't turn out too well... so I am choosing to withhold them from you. Heehee.

Lastly, we HAD HAD HAD to visit Huey Magoo's while in Orlando. It is very unhealthy fried chicken, but there is NO substitute. I tried a chicken finger place in Houston and it was NO WHERE NEAR Huey Magoo's. Their sauce is just amazing... I could eat it with a spoon.. or a chicken finger for that matter!! :)
So here are some pictures that just show my excitement.

Oh YES! the Yummy goodness.... my mouth waters just looking at it. I know they look like normal chicken fingers.. but they are sooooo not!

Here is the inside of Huey Magoo's. It is RIGHT near UCF so it is a popular hang out. We were probably the oldest people there.

Oh yes... I was soooo excited.










Now for the third post.