Dove Breast Salad

Dove Breast Salad

This recipe was one that inspired The Wild Game Challenge.  I made it mostly because of the sheer abundance of mystery meat in our freezer.   Open freezer door to get my frozen chicken breasts, and out tumbles the freezer bags of duck, deer, turkey, dove, and (most recently) elk.

I had cautiously made dove a few times before, but – last week I decided to jump back into eating ‘all-natural-zero-processed-whole-foods’… and it just sounded like a good idea to try a new wild game recipe!

I do most of the week-day cooking these days, since Austin works loooong shifts on Mondays-Thursdays.   (He just got switched to mandatory 12-hour shifts…meaning he won’t be home until at least 8:15 p.m. on those work days…sad.)  And although I know Austin could grill or fry up any wild game and have it turn out amazing, I had to do a recipe search to get an idea on where to begin!

There are a lot fewer wild-game recipe blogs (I prefer sites with pictures, so I know if what I’m making turns out right!) than regular whole-foods blogs.   And most wild game recipes that I encountered on my first day of searching suggested processed sauces and flours that I was trying to avoid.

But – I did find a recipe for an interesting Dove Salad.  My photo journey in making the salad from the recipe, adapted from Hunter.Angler.Gardener.Cook  is below.

Dove breasts in a bowl

Dove breasts in a bowl, which have been in our refrigerator for awhile. Once I braved myself enough to reach into the bowl to get a breast, I was greeted by the realization that the breasts were still attached to the breastbone…yippee! So I ripped them off.

The Cast of Characters in this Delicious Production

Roasting Red Peppers

Red Peppers, Pre-Roasted

Dove breasts in beef broth. I questioned this technique (see recipe below) for cooking the dove breasts… but it worked perfectly and left the dove with a good flavor!

I really had no clue how to tell if the breasts were ‘done’. But this is what they looked like at the end inside for me. (One week later, no food poisoning…so I think we are safe.)

All ingredients mixed together!  A salad for now, a salad for later.

Dove Breast Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dove stock, duck stock or beef broth (I used organic beef broth)
  •  Breast meat from 12 to 16 doves (I only had half the amount of doves, no biggie – it was plenty)
  •  1/4 cup high-quality olive oil  (Kroger-brand is as quality as we get around here.)
  •  3 to 4 preserved roasted red peppers, cut into strips (I roasted some in the oven ahead of time.)
  •  3 green onions, sliced thin (I omitted these)
  •  1/3 cup pine nuts (expensive, but worth it… it was my first time using pine nuts in a recipe)
  •  12 to 16 cloves preserved garlic (I just used a few spoonfuls of minced garlic…Mmmm)
  •  Parsley, salt and black pepper to taste

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1.  Bring the stock or broth to a simmer. Drop the dove breasts into the broth and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let this sit for 5 to 15 minutes. The longer the dove breasts sit in the hot broth, the more cooked they will be, but they should not overcook no matter how long you keep them there. (I kept them in at least 15 minutes).   Remove the dove breasts and toss them with olive oil in a bowl.

2.Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over medium-high heat, tossing them frequently to toast all sides. Pay attention to them, as pine nuts burn easily! When they have some browned spots on them, move them into a bowl to cool.  (I also added garlic to the pan with the pine nuts, since I was using minced garlic that hadn’t been roasted.)

3.To make the salad, split up all the ingredients between four plates (or two plates, and two for-later-containers) and drizzle a little of the olive oil from the dove bowl over each salad. Garnish with parsley and grind black pepper over the plates.  Serve at room temperature (I thought this was strange, but it works!).

ENJOY!

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The Husband’s Critique:  Austin was very impressed with the salad, especially the fancy presentation (which is – almost – everything).  He mentioned that the use of parsley as the ONLY green was a little strong.  (I agreed.  Then again, that was my fault… I used it less as a garnish and more like lettuce.  Oops.)  If I were to make it again, which I probably will, I would mix parsley with spinach and/or romaine lettuce.  Or I wonder how roasted broccoli would have tasted with the roasted red peppers?   Anyway, Austin ate up his Dove Salad… and I took my container of leftovers to work the next day.  His sat in the refrigerator.  All weekend.   Untouched until I (gladly) finished it up over the weekend.  I refuse to let a masterpiece go to waste.

The wild game challenge continues…

The Wild Game Challenge

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve blogged about food.  Probably because for a way-too-long-while I was enjoying the post-wedding freedom that came with not worrying about fitting into a tight white wedding dress.

I wouldn’t say I completely lost control… but I really relaxed my eating habits.  Instead of eating 90%+ whole foods (my non-scientific guesstimate percentage from three months ago)…I fizzled to eating probably 40-50% whole foods.  And I felt…just plain yucky.  It’s something that’s hard to describe to someone who has never given up processed foods (let’s face it, most people consider it over-the-top hippie-ish and a little CRAZY), but I could absolutely tell a difference in my energy level, complexion, workout stamina, and even mood stability compared to when I made natural eating a priority.

It’s an inconvenient reality.

Because doFront Covern’t get me wrong, I wish I could just pour a bowl of my favorite processed cereal (a two-way tie between Honey Bunches of Oats and Frosted Mini-Wheats) and enjoy a 2-liter of Diet Mountain Dew (seriously, there were years of my life when I would drink the equivalent of a 2-liter a day in cans – yikes!).  But, with great knowledge comes great responsibility.  And of course I’m thankful to know the myths of modern nutritionism (a must read – In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto) and recognize the limitations of ‘health food science’.  I’m glad to understand that most of what we find in a box at the supermarket is not food as God designed it (and for which He created our bodies to use for nourishment), but instead flavor-packed edible substances created by man, stripped of much of their nutritional value then recreated to be ‘health foods’ by the addition of the latest ‘popular’ vitamins and minerals.  (I’ll get off my soapbox, but seriously, if you care at all about your health, you must read that book.)

Here’s the problem.  I got lazy.  I made excuses.  In fact I was just about to type all the reasons I had for going back to processed foods, when I realized they were all excuses for being lazy about it.   So I confess – I began drinking soft drinks a few times a week (maybe 5 or so cans a week?  Still a drastic improvement from, say, 2009 – but still not a failure to accept), I ate sugar like crazy (I’d rather not say how much), I didn’t just-say-no to boxed snacks, and… while we are being honest… I worked out less too.  Like 2-3 times a week instead of 4-6, with much less intensity than before.

The results?

  • My skin began breaking out like the pre-whole-foods days (not crazy amounts, but annoying enough).
  • I was tired.  And extremely unmotivated.  (Which made it a lot harder to get back on the right track).
  • I gained a few pounds.   (And I was okay with that.  Until I realized how quickly I gained them and realized that continuing this lifestyle would most likely cause me to continually gain weight.  Not okay with that.)
  • Yet, I was hungrier than usual and had an insatiable sweet tooth.
  • And I was a little more anxious, emotional, impatient and – shamefully – argumentative with my spouse (sorry, honey.)

So, recently, I’ve re-educated myself on food.  (For me, education brings motivation.)  And this time, I’m even taking it one crazy step further.

The Challenge

My husband’s response to my suggestion we go all-natural again was (surprisingly) supportive.  Hunter that he is, he loves the idea of living off the land.  (That’s not to say that he doesn’t love his potato chips, frozen pizzas, gummy bears, etc.)  However, he made a good point this past weekend when he told me “you know, if you are so concerned with eating natural foods, you should know that there is no way that those chicken breasts you buy at Kroger are from a natural chicken – just saying”.  Guilty.

Now, I know this was mostly an attempt to give me a hard time.  He laughs because the “meats” tab of my recipe organizer is followed by pages and pages of chicken recipes.  No beef.  No pork.  Just chicken.  Not that I have anything against the other types of meat… but chicken is just so easy!

However, he makes a good point.  Austin has enough experience cleaning his wild game birds (dove, ducks, turkeys, geese, etc) to know the size of natural bird breast-meat.   He tells me – based on the size of most wild turkey breasts – that he has zero confidence that even the ‘all natural’ chicken breasts at the store are true to their label.  Who knows what those chickens have been eating to make them swell up like that.

“Okay, then.”  I said.  “Challenge accepted.  We will live on…wild game.”

He laughs.

“I’m serious.  We will eat only what you have and will hunt.  It will be a fun experiment.  We will save money.  I will try lots of new recipes… and I’ll post them on my blog!”

“So, let’s get this straight.  You want me to go hunting more… and you won’t complain about it???”

“Yes!”  I said.  And I meant it.  Really!

“This feels like a trick.”

To him, it’s too good to be true.

That conversation was last Friday.  I spent hours Sunday after church meal-planning a week of wild-game eating.  I spent about 15 dollars less than usual at the grocery store this week (score!  And that includes buying the organic versions cheese and coffee creamer, and cage-free eggs).   So far, I’ve only made one simple wild-game recipe (Dove Salad, pictured below, recipe coming soon)… but I’ve got elk, deer, and even rabbit on the menu for later this week.  I’ve even found recipes for cooking bone marrow and a few other organs.  (Which – for the sake of organization – I’ve pinned to Pintrist, terrifying my beloved followers, I’m sure.)

Dove Salad

Dove Salad…Mmmmm!

Not gonna lie.  Part of me is super impressed with myself.  (Not long ago, I was the pickiest eater known to man.)  Part of me is afraid of this carnivorous monster within.

But – this is an experiment.   A new hobby.  A challenge.

And I thought I would share it with you.  To inspire, impress, entertain… or maybe just disgust my readers.

Over the next few weeks, be prepared to get the inside scoop on the life of a hunter’s wife.

Week 4 – God’s Story (Part 2)

(Note:  The God’s Story (Parts 1-4) lesson plans are adapted from 7th Grade “LIFT” curriculum, at Southeast Christian Church – Louisville.)

Last week’s lesson (God’s Story – Part One) was well-recieved by our 7th grade Catholic students.  Some students were introduced to reading from the Bible for the very first time!  There’s something powerful – and encouraging – to watch a room of 24 middle schoolers reading and discussing God’s Word.  Even at the end of a long work-day Wednesday (when I’m typically thinking “Ugh, I really don’t want to teach R.E. tonight“), I am energized by the reality that these young people are getting to know their creator.

Although Austin and I still can’t answer some of their big questions (like “What about the dinosaurs?  Why doesn’t the Bible say anything about them?“), each student walked away with the ‘main ideas’ from Genesis One — #1 God is the Power behind CREATION, and #2 God created the world and saw that it was GOOD.  Although Genesis doesn’t answer every possible question about creation (as one student pointed out — How long and boring would that be if the Bible told every single detail! — thanks, buddy!), God does have a message for us about who .

The students enjoyed signing our class’s clay flower-pot, which represents that God created us for a purpose…just like a potter formed the pot for a purpose.

This week’s unit introduces sin… and how sin changed our world in Genesis 3, and how it still affects us today.

Lesson 4 — God’s Story (Part 2)

Hello Again + RE Lesson Plans

Hello again world!   I know what you are thinking.  Who does this blogger think she is, disappearing off the face of the world-wide-web and then coming back like it’s no big thing?

I know.

I’ve been bad.  Married life has surprisingly been busier than I thought.  And I have no more excuses as a bride-to-be to get away with being airheaded and unfocused at work.

However, I have been working.  I’ve been cooking.  I’ve been volunteering.  I’ve been learning new skills like crazy.  (I own a bow now.  Yes, the hunting kind.  Just call me Katniss.)  And I’ve been thinking…Why am I not sharing these things with the blogger-world?

Recently, Austin and I have resumed teaching our 7th grade RE (Religious Education) class at St. Francis Xavier church.  We taught the class last year but – since I was an overwhelmed JCPS teacher with five preps – I’ll be honest in that I didn’t put as much thought into teaching Faith Formation as I should have.  I read with the students out of the textbooks, taught them how to open a Bible, and led some pretty interesting discussions thanks to our class skeptic (there’s one in every crowd).  I played games and provided crafts (lesson learned from the Christmas Ornament Disaster of 2011: glitter, glue, and 7th graders DO NOT MIX).  Overall I tried my best to make RE fun and educational… but I still felt like I fell short to my own standards.

You see, my biggest disappointment with my own Catholic school upbringing is the lack of faith development that existed in the classroom.  We had “Religion Class” a few times a week in grade school.  In high school we had Theology class electives (memories include watching Rudy and Jesus Christ Superstar.)  We prepared for the Catholic sacraments like First Communion and Confirmation… which – in my memory – meant picking out a new dress for the ceremonies.  But I was really never introduced to God the Father, Jesus my Savior, and the Holy Spirit my guide until the later years of high school.  By a (non-Catholic, *gasp!*) ex-boyfriend at that!

I remember feeling a little cheated.  And, for a while, pretty bitter towards the Catholic Church and Catholic Education for not making me see how important and exciting our faith in Christ is.

While I church-hopped to about every Christian denomination from 2004-2010, my mother encouraged me “not to throw the baby out with the bathwater” when it comes to the Catholic Church.  (One of her spiritual gifts is speaking in metaphoric tongues.)  I rolled my eyes, knowing she was at least partially right – there are a LOT of things I love and respect when it comes to the Catholic Church.  But, like any community of human beings, it’s far from perfect.  I suspect no church here on earth is perfect.  In her opinion, dismissing my life-long heritage (being Catholic is a huge percent family tradition) due to a short (medium-to-long) list of frustrations is cowardly.   She’d end the discussion by saying “be the change you wish to see in the Church”.  And then she’d leave the decision up to me.

I found it easier to fit in with an already-established vibrant faith community than to call my own denomination to rival. So I joined Southeast Christian Church (where I was baptized – round 2) and volunteered as a teacher for their 7th grade small-groups.

However, God led me back to the Catholic Church through my husband.  His parish – now our parish – scores pretty high on my satisfaction-scale, honestly.  I’m impressed and encourage by the amount of time and energy invested in Adult and Youth faith formation at St. Francis Xavier.  We’ve had a few different priests in the year and a half I’ve been a member, but I am super excited about our newest appointed priest (who promises he is here to stay for awhile).  I’m looking forward to getting involved in some of the Adult Faith Formation and Women’s groups… and possibly even starting up a Couples group to study the Biblical model of marriage.  I’m excited!

For now, though, it’s back to teaching 7th grade RE.  I’m incorporating ideas from the curriculum used at Southeast Christian Church with the This Is Our Faith Catholic Education Curriculum.   My goal is to lead students to know God through prayer, reading and understanding God’s Word (the Bible), and have a fun time a fellowship with our group.

For the benefit of any other middle school youth group leaders and catechists (Catholic fancy-word for Religion teacher) out there, I’ve decided to post the lesson plans on my blog.

It’s partially a selfish endeavor – in case I teach 7th grade again next year, I’ll have lessons for the whole year!  But it’s mostly selfless.  Teaching faith is hard!  Teaching middle school is hard.  And – no matter how well-written a textbook is – middle school students do NOT retain much of what they read (~20%) or what they hear a teacher say (~10%).  Therefore, being prepared with engaging lessons could be the key to unlocking a few of the mysteries of faith for our next generation.

One final note:  As a former public school teacher, I lived by the law of the profession – Beg.  Borrow.  Steal.  Survive.  I do NOT take credit for most of what is written.  I will do my best to give credit where credit is due and link to original sources when possible.

Follow link to RE Lesson Plans.

Coolest Wedding Present Ever.

A few days ago, my mother in law texted me to say that she accidentally opened one of our wedding presents that was sent to her house.  (Been married 10 days and gifts are still rollin in – Yeah!)  In the midst of all the pre-wedding excitement, I’d forgotten to let her know that I’d given one of my cousins – who was paranoid that the gift would be delivered during our honeymoon and then stolen off our front porch – Austin’s parent’s address as an alternative shipping address.  Oops.

Her only comment was – “You’re gonna love it!”

Anyway, yesterday Austin stopped by their house and picked up the package.  He brought it home and together we unwrapped The.  Coolest.  Wedding present.  Ever.

How stinking cute!?

Thank you Kristin, KR, Shannon, Blake, Evan and Megan!!!  (My cousins – and their spouses – ROCK!)

So, now I’m toying with the idea of changing the blog’s name in general… after all, we are a “we’ now.  Planted together forever (muahaha).

Either way – after my month-long writing sebatical – I have definitely been inspired to step it up.

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Closing words from Paul – who reveals the secret to being truly ‘happy where you’re planted’:

Philippians 4:11-13  (NIV)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Wedding Blur – Part 1

Hello again world!  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve blogged (hey, I warned you this would happen).  I’ve got some pretty good excuses – like finishing planning for my wedding day (because no matter how early you start planning, many things can’t be done until the final weeks before the Big Day), marrying the man of my dreams (who was…is…the most studly groom in the world – see picture below) and literally getting lost (mentally and physically) in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, among other things.

Sorry ladies, he’s mine.

 

Oh, I love this man! Can you tell?

 

But now I’m back.  Relaxing and breathing steadily for the first time in a while!

Life is good.  I am perfectly content.  Hallelujah!  I was desperately hopeful that I would feel this way a few weeks ago – when I morphed into the emotional-train-wreck-bipolar-crazy-stressed-bride that I promised myself (and Austin) I would never become when we got engaged. Those final weeks before the wedding, I was overly sensitive about everything.  I cried almost daily for no apparent reason (well, for just plain silly reasons).  And worst of all, probably due to my emotional instability (let it be known that I am not an attractive crier), Austin and I were just “off” and NOT the lovey-dovey couple that I had imagined we’d be the weeks before the wedding.  Which in turn induced more tears and self pity.  Pathetic cycle really.  BUT – I did my research and found out, believe it or not, the emotional roller coaster I found myself stuck on is in fact “normal” (or at least common) in the days and weeks before such a life-changing event.  I decided to wait it out.

So future brides (and the friends, family, and fiancés that put up with them) – be warned.  And then be comforted…it is ABSOLUTELY worth it in the end.  It’s also an absolute blur, as you’ll see as I do my best to recall the events below.  So – not-yet-married readers – you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again:  TAKE IT ALL IN.  Cliche as it may sound, June 16 2012 was the best day of my life.  I’d do anything to relive it, but I can rest assured that it couldn’t have gone any better — and if I had the chance to do it all again, there’s no way I could match it!

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About 2 days before the wedding – all traces of the yucky feelings went away.  (Praise God!)  After typing out a 2-page agenda for all of the wedding party and family members that described exactly how I envisioned the day going (including a No Gum rule – sorry guys, in hindsight that was a little over-the-top, but thank you!)…I let it all go.  Whatever will be, will be.

On Thursday, I woke up giddy happy.  I worked a pretty worthless half-day at the office.  Austin, who starts a new job this week, put in his last hours at the Water Company (woo hoo!!!) and turned in his work truck (huge weight off his shoulders).  I got spray tanned with Mary Rose.  Austin and I finished some last minute bridal party and parents’ gifts…and before we knew it, the wedding weekend had arrived!

And on Friday morning, my family arrived.  My best friends came in town from various states.  The girls got pedicures and manicures.  The guys played golf.  I checked on the flowers at Lloyd’s Florist.  Then boom – it’s 5:00 already!

Time for the rehearsal!  Austin and I hugged long-lost family and friends.  We flew through the essential parts of the wedding ceremony, a big smile plastered on my face the entire time, so thrilled to see all of my family and friends in the same building – totally not paying attention to Fr. Scott’s directions – and we’re off…

Down (or up?) to Captain’s Quarters for the rehearsal dinner.  Austin and I.  We eat, we drink, we smile, we distribute The Agenda, we are toasted by the most amazing people in the world, we are entertained endlessly by my little brothers, we are (after a lot of technical difficulties) on the big screen TV in a beautiful slideshow created by my sister.  We kiss goodnight and goodbye – the last time before The Dress and The Tux.  And we – my Mom, sister, and I – are off to the car.

…Then I’m back!  I need my car keys from Austin’s pocket.  And one more kiss.

I’m home (Austin and my home) with my mother and sister.  It’s almost midnight!  I had predicted I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all this night, but – after all the excitement, and all the smiling – I am exhausted.

But first – a sweet surprise.   My sister, Kara, brings me a box on behalf of my groom.  Inside is a beautiful bracelet.  (Somebody did not live up to the “we aren’t buying each other wedding presents promise”.  Oh well.)

I cuddle up with my sister for one last Ellsper-women sleepover.  And BAM!

It’s Saturday morning.  6:30 a.m., but the sun is up – and so am I.  I find the sweetest handwritten note from my still-sleeping mother on my kitchen counter (after first applying coffee + contacts).  And it’s 6:40.  I try to do yoga.  Too antsy.  It’s 6:45.  Why does time decide to go slow now?

I check the weather.  Looks good on the iPhone.

I step outside.  Holy humidity!!!

I step back inside.  I hear thunder.

I check the weather again.  Update:  Rain until noon.  Really?

I decide to listen to Mary Rose and refuse to worry about the things I can’t control.  And breathe.

Mom wakes up.  We organize a few things to take to the church.  (Forgetting just a few essentials, we’d find out later.)

Mom gives permission to get sleepy-head Kara up.  I run to the bed and jump on her (well, almost on her).

We shower. We get ready.  I get anxious.  Really anxious.

Off to the church!

Time speeds up.

Hang up dress.  Check out flowers (Wow, they’re pretty!).  Friends arrive.  (Where’s my hairstylist?)  Chatter chatter.  (Gerry’s here!)  Hair done. (Fine, I’ll eat something.)  Make-up done.  (Aww, my girls look so pretty.)  We are totally off schedule.  (I could care less about the schedule.)  Put on the pearls.  Put on the dress.  (Oh no, where are my garters???)  Kara, ask Marcel to pick up garters from the house.  Shoes on.  Look in mirror.  Totally forget about garter situation. (It’s my wedding day!!)  Already smiling.  Cheeks hurt.

Smile more for bridal portraits.  (I just want to see Austin!)

Bridal Portrait

Time to see Austin!

Face out into the parking lot.  He supposed to come up behind me and turn me around.  Still smiling at an empty parking lot.  No wait, there’s Megan walking back from her car.  Wave to Megan.  (Where is that boy!?)  Time slows down again.  Dangit.

I sense he’s behind me.  I feel his hand touch my arm.  He turns me around.

Time speeds up.

Giggle.  Kiss.  Smile.  Kiss.  Pose for photographers.  Kiss.  Smile.  Pose.  Kiss.  Kiss.

kiss kiss kiss

 

Wheew, it’s hot out here.

Grab the bridesmaids.  Take more pictures.   Grab the groomsmen.  Take more pictures.

It’s really hot.  This dress provides zero air circulation… Oh my gosh, Austin looks so cute.  I love him.

Go inside church.  Take pictures with family.  Say goodbye to Austin again.  (Sigh)

 It’s almost time!

Hide in crying room with bridesmaids.  Decide this might be only bathroom opportunity.  Recruit friends to help pee.  Laugh at the awkwardness.  Jaclyn takes picture.  (Photo will not be posted.)  Touch up make-up.  Jaclyn re-pins my pesky bangs (redemption move after toilet photo).

Don’t worry, Lauren, we found the rings.  (The rings were lost?) They were accidentally packed back in your mom’s car.  (Oh.)  Which Marcel took to go find your garters.  (Oh yeah, those silly garters.)  Thanks, Marcel!

Put on blue garter (need something blue!).  Put on camouflage garter (nothing less for Austin).

It’s almost time!

Bridesmaids hug me.  Then leave me.  I’m alone in the crying room… Woah wait, I have to wait here by myself??

Time…

Slows…

Down…

I pace around in circles.  I sip water.  I breathe.  I consider more hydration.  But I stop myself because the bathroom hassle really isn’t worth it.  I wait.

Abby checks on me.  Tells me to peek and see Austin through the blinds of the crying room.  That helps.  Abby leaves.  Alone again.

Kathleen comes in to check on me.  Hugs.  She says to wait just a little longer.  Kathleen leaves.  Alone again.

Waiting.  Waiting.  Peek through blinds again.  Good news, Austin’s still there.

Bridesmaids and groomsmen make their way down the aisle.  Dad comes to get me.

It’s time!! 

 

…to be continued.

Not a Fan

Alright, first off, my apologies to my loyal readers for being an awful blogger over the last few weeks.  As much as I love blogging, and keeping the world entertained by my thrilling life, I’ve been a tad bit preoccupied by the crazy wonderful things in life of which I would usually write about.

For example, in 30 days – yes, just one month – I will be marrying the love of my life and officially becoming his Mrs. B forever.  As you might expect, due to our massive families, we are having quite the party to celebrate our union.  So, please forgive me for choosing to fold wedding programs, fill mason jar wedding favors with goodies, tally RSVPs, try my very best to exercise each day, and obsessive-compulsively check our wedding registry instead of blog as faithfully as I should.  I’m sorry.

But, I do love you enough to give you a recommendation list of worthwhile reads if the blog updates to Happy Where You’re Planted fail to satisfy your itch (as I’m sure they will).

I’ve spent the last couple weekends traveling across Indiana – to share in the wedding celebration of one of my sorority sisters, Mary (a stunning bride!), and to joyfully sit through the 2-hour Purdue graduation ceremony of my sister Kara (B.S., Biomedical Engineering) who took one giant leap for blondes everywhere as she stepped across the stage of Elliott Hall, graduating with distinction from one of the top programs in the country.  Atta girl!

Lucky for me (and the other cars on the road), I got to ride in the passenger seat (and/or backseat) during the lovely 4+ hour car trips both weekends.  And, since I have been blessed with a stable stomach that has never known motion-sickness, I took the opportunity to catch up on some reading.

Life has been a little dull since I finished The Hunger Games trilogy last month.  I have genuinely feared that any fiction novel I read will leave me disappointed and unimpressed, so I haven’t attempted to start any new fiction books yet (recommendations, anyone?).

However, my true love when it comes to reading isn’t the “best-seller novels” section of the bookstore, anyway.  Instead, it is the collection of shelves that – depending on your bookstore – are labeled “self-help” or “women’s interest” or “inspirational”.  I prefer either of the latter.

When I did my most recent spontaneous book shopping at Lifeway Christian Bookstore (I came to find a gift for someone else, and left with three books for myself – typical), I first drifted to the section labeled “Marriage”.  Oh boy, oh boy!   With a ring on my finger, I felt it was acceptable to be searching through the titles, curiously reading the backs of the books with eye-catching titles like “Have a New Husband by Friday” [out of sheer curiosity only, obviously] and “Red Hot Monogamy” [I’m going back for this book later].  To my disappointment (and slight embarrassment), I realized I’ve read literally 50% of the selection in this category, including but not limited to the following titles:

  • The Five Love Languages (classic)
  • The Love Dare (life changing)
  • Love and Respect (absolute truth)
  • His Needs, Her Needs (I believe this is the book that was part of the Religious Ed teaching ultimatum I mentioned last week.)
  • Things I’d Wish I’d Known before We Got Married (great for the newly engaged)
  • For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men (eye-opening!)
  • Boy Meets Girl (from the Author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, great read)

  …and more.

So what was left to purchase from this section?  I bought this book.

Yep, not kidding.  I sure did.  And I made sure to tell the woman and the checkout counter that I was in fact getting married in five weeks.  [Very smoothly, of course.  She stumbled over pronouncing my last name – who doesn’t? – and I jumped at this God-given opportunity to say  “Just a few more weeks with this last name for me!”  Translation: “Please, don’t judge me for buying my first ever sex book!”]

So far, it’s been a good read.  Highly recommended to all my “good girls” and “good girl wannabes” and even “bad girls with a good heart” out there.  It’s about sex the way God intended instead of sex the way our culture has defined it.  I might start frequenting the sex-section of the Christian book store more often.  Once I have the wedding band…

I also bought this book.

Austin rolled his eyes when he saw it (not exactly the same reaction he had to the Good Girl’s Guide).  I haven’t started it yet, and maybe I never will. [Yes, I’m one of those people with a stack of neglected books just waiting to be held and loved and have their words appreciated.]

But you have to come from a divorced family to appreciate a book with this title (obviously).  Because even though this marriage thing might seem like a no-brainer to some people, I’m glad somebody wrote a book for people like me that – as much as they hate to admit it – really aren’t 100% sure they won’t screw it up.  I don’t fear a lot of things, but that probably ranks #1 on my greatest fears list.  Much higher than death, and even higher than losing-my-spouse-to-death-before-my-own-death.   Mess-up-my-marriage is definitely number one.

After picking up these two books from the Marriage section, I was heading to the check-out counter, when a familiar title caught my eye over in the New Releases area.

Not A Fan.

Those outside of the Louisville area, and those inside the Louisville area but outside of the Mega-Church domain, might not understand the impact of those words.  So let me explain.

“Not A Fan” began as sermon series at Southeast Christian Church (aka “Six Flags over Jesus”).  Kyle Idleman, one of the preachers at this church, boldly stepped away from the comfortable “feel good” message that we hear too often in our churches (from the good-hearted pastors that genuinely want more people to come to and stay in church) and –finally- told his congregation what it really means to be a follower of Jesus.  And challenged them to reconsider what they called themselves.

Turns out, it’s not the bumper sticker on your car that makes you a follower.  It’s not the “religious views” section of your Facebook profile.  It’s not how beautifully you can construct a prayer on the spot, or how quickly you can rattle off the Our Father during a Rosary.  It’s not the positive, encouraging radio station you listen to.   It’s not your political party.  It’s not your worship-song ringtone.  It’s not your family tradition or denomination or the private Christian school you attended growing up.

Jesus had a lot of fans, back in his day.  And today, he has a lot of them as well.  But how many of his fans – those who say “yep, I’m a Christian, see my cross necklace?” – really follow him in the way he instructs in the Scriptures?

Jesus’s teachings were hard.  Radical.  But he – the Son of God, our Savior – said to “…follow me”.

It’s the way of life that he calls us to (the “…” before “follow me”) that is the hard part.   It is what separates the fans from followers.  Because, history shows, Jesus doesn’t say “lead a comfortable life and follow me”.   Or “everyone will like you, if you follow me”.  Or “everything I ask you to do will make perfect sense, if you follow me”.   Or “bad things won’t happen to you when you follow me.”

Quite the opposite.

I heard the sermon, which became a movement [ http://www.notafan.com ], online for the first time back in 2009 or 2010… sometime before Austin and I started dating.  The message resonated such truth with me that I bought a “Not a Fan” T-shirt.

Further proof that I am still suffering from “fandom”.

Over the last few years, since I’ve left Southeast Christian Church for our current Catholic Church home [which is about 0.01% the size of Southeast], I’ve kept up with Kyle’s sermons – as well as Dave Stone’s, the other pastor.

The messages are Biblical truth.  They resonate with the Holy Spirit.  They almost always make me laugh at one point.  Yet, they never fail to convict me in areas where I am dangerously comfortable in my sinful habits.  And, they always bring me to Jesus.  Isn’t that what Church is all about?   All that to say that I highly, highly, highly recommend the Southeast Christian Church Podcasts.

I work out to them all the time.  In fact, I got so wrapped up in a sermon last week that I ran 5 miles when I only planned on running 3.  [“The Story Act 3: From Shepherd to King” basically restated my feelings from the blog post I had written the day before titled “How did I get here?”.   And it had me thinking about some pretty interesting possible paths that God might be training me for right now.]

Anyway, if you read one book in the next four weeks as you wait patiently for me to blog about my Redneck Wedding…read Not a Fan.

You won’t regret it.  It’s funny (Kyle has my kind of humor – clean, a little corny – the kind where you are rolling your eyes but smiling at the same time), but it’s also powerful.  It will repaint the picture in your mind of what the Christian life should be.

And – if you aren’t a reader, or have no interest in buying a book – try listening to the sermons.

….

….

….I just spent about 30 minutes searching for the original sermon (which I thought was about a half hour of awesome teaching) online… nowhere to be found.  However, since the release of the Not A Fan Sermon Series, which is being used across the country, there are 10-minute video clips on You Tube that are great as well!  Just look up “Not a Fan” on YouTube and start watching.  Kind of reminds me of Rob Bell’s Nooma videos we used to watch at Bible Study in college.  [Oh, the memories… while you are at it look those up next!!!]

….

….

Here, I found my favorite Rob Bell video from my college years:  Rain

Hopefully that will be enough to keep you entertained!

All my love,

Lauren