Our God is a God who Provides

For those of you who may not know, I am back in the States! I wanted to share with all of you some of God’s provision for me on my trip back. 

Because of the high cost of return tickets, Jason and I made the decision for me to attempt to fly back home on the military version of stand by which is called Space Available. The way that Space Available works is unfortunately not in my favor. Once you sign up, your name is called based on category and the time that you sign up. Jason and I signed up as soon as possible, but of course we could do nothing about my category. I am a category 5 (out of 6 categories), meaning that I am a dependent who is not stationed permanently at OSAN Air Base. We had spoken to the employees at the terminal a few days prior to the flight, and they told us that in the past 3 months they had not gotten past a category 3. My chances of getting on a Space Available flight were slim, and even if I tried for several weeks there would be no guarantee that I would get a seat.

None-the-less, I packed up my bags and we drove to the terminal the morning of the first flight. Neither one of us had high hopes that I would get out that day, but we both continued to pray that God’s will would be done. We were really hoping that his will did not include us having to pay full price to buy my ticket home. 

I sat in the terminal and watched as one by one names were called and people got up to go get their ticket for Space Available. I was almost the last one in the lobby when lo and behold I heard my name called. It was a total miracle from God. This flight had the most seats available that they had had in months, over 40 seats. The price for my ticket? $29.00. 

This ticket got me all the way to Seattle, and once I landed I now faced the challenge of getting back home to Charlotte. Even as I stood in line at customs and wondered how much the ticket would cost to get me home, God was already at work to provide for me.

As it turns out, a close family relative who works for a popular airline was able to get me a stand by ticket into Charlotte for a mere fraction of the cost! Everywhere I turned, God was providing for me and my husband. I have nothing but praise on my lips for him and the ways that he continues to prove his faithfulness. 

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Waiting Actively

When I was little, whenever I and my parents would have to stand in line somewhere or whenever I had to wait for my mother to finish talking before I could speak, my parents would always tell me to be patient. I learned that, “patience is a virtue,” and, “Good things come to those who wait.” But what does that actually mean? What does it mean to be patient?

I have thought about this a lot this summer since we have travelled a lot. Traveling, in case you didn’t realize, requires a lot of waiting. Half of our travel time is not actually spent on a plane, but sitting in a terminal, waiting in the ticket line, waiting in line for security, waiting in line for immigration, sitting on the plane waiting for it to take off…. the list goes on and on. And of course there are situations in life that require much more serious kinds of waiting. Everyday someone is waiting to hear back from the doctor about a diagnosis, waiting to hear from God about which college to go to or which job to take, waiting for a phone call from a loved one, waiting, waiting, waiting. I find myself constantly in a state of limbo and most of the time there is nothing I can do to speed up the process.

I believe that there are several options you have when it comes to waiting. One option is to complain. It takes up time, and if you can get someone else to join in it might make you feel a little better for the time. Complaining isn’t just verbal, either. You can complain with an expression, and you can complain in your thoughts. But the truth is that complaining doesn’t help. It makes you grumpy, and it makes the wait feel even longer. And if the outcome isn’t one that you hope for, it leaves you bitter. Another option is to do nothing, or to do something useless. You stand in line and stare off into space hoping that if you daydream long enough the line will move forward. Or you stare down at your phone refreshing your Facebook newsfeed even though nothing new is coming up. If your are dealing with something more serious than waiting in a line, it might mean that you are non-responsive to those around you or that you crawl under your covers and hide from the world. This option doesn’t seem all that bad on the surface, but it isn’t helpful either. This is still a form of feeling sorry for yourself, whether or not you are willing to admit it. Finally, you can choose to wait actively. This means that you take every opportunity you have to be an encouragement to others and to use the time you have for the glory of God. Who can you chit chat with in the check out line to make it go faster? How can you use this moment to teach your children a lesson? How can you be a light for Christ in your darkest moment when the world says that you should be running away? How do your reactions to your time of waiting encourage those around you?

Now I realize that there are some people out there dealing with really heavy things. There are times when you may not feel like getting out of bed, and it’s a good day if you can do that much. I am not telling you to suck it up and be happy. If you are dealing with something serious, me telling you to be a light for Jesus probably feels like I’m pouring lemon juice on a cut. Jesus did not call us to suck it up and be happy. BUT he did call us to trust in him, and lean not on our own understanding.

Psalm 62:5-8 says this: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God;he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Waiting actively means to rest. Does that sound like an oxymoron? It means that you are not worried about the future, and you are not stressed or agitated over having to be still for awhile. It means that you trust that God has everything under control, and you bless his name as you wait to see what he has in store. You continue to do what you can do in this moment to encourage others and to lead your family.

I know this post isn’t a fix all for all problems, but I hope that it is an encouragement and a challenge to you today.

Debrief after Thailand

Thailand, what to say. I didn’t exactly fall head over heals love, but it is a place that grows on you after awhile. When we first arrived, Jason and I were constantly afraid of being pick pocketed. You see signs everywhere warning you about protecting your belongings, and we had read plenty of horror stories online before coming! We were worried about the infamous “lady boys,” the taxi rip offs, the Grand Palace schemes, and being robbed in our hotel room. We were worried about not being able to get around the city, about our bank accounts being locked out, and about getting in trouble for doing something culturally wrong. Pretty much the entire first day there was spent constantly reminding each other about what we needed to look out for! We were the epitome of the conscious and safe tourist. Which also meant that we trusted no one, and we assumed that everyone who looked at us had the intention of harming us.
The second day was quite different. On our second day, we took a trip into the rural parts of Bangkok on a Canal Trip. Ahh the canal trip. Here we did not have to wade through large crowds, merely a peaceful river with the ocasional Thai on a small river boat selling fruit or a bowl of soup.

This is my favorite face in Thailand:
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Certainly, I don’t know much about this woman. Nothing that would lead me to trust her anymore than anyone that we saw in the crowds of Bangkok. I know that she sold us a wonderfully delicious bowl of soup, and I know that she smiled at me when I took her picture. I know that she has an adorable little boy who ran out to meet her at the pier (Butt naked by the way… I will not include pictures of him, in case you were wondering). I know that she had a spirit house built in front of her own, which means that she is a Buddhist. With such little information about her, how can I love her more than all the other faces I saw in the course of a week?

The reason is that for me, she represents all the other faces in Thailand. This woman means that even though there may be darkness in Thailand, there is still hope. If there is one thing that I learned from my week there, it is that there is so much work that needs to be done in Thailand. There are so many lost people, hoping to find peace by making the right sacrifice, meditating in the right way and for the right amount of time, doing good things, and thinking good thoughts. They believe that they are capable of eventually freeing their minds from suffering by concentrating on constantly and thinking what is good. And I’m not sure why, but when I saw this woman smiling her precious goofy grin on a hot Thursday afternoon, it reminded me that Jesus is capable of bringing the peace that they desire. The difference is that his peace cannot be earned, it can only be accepted. If only this beautiful woman could know how easy it is to be filled with peace.

Well. Now still have no idea what we actually did on the trip, but I’m sure I’ll manage to get another blog out soon enough with some more details. For now, lift a prayer to God and thank him for the free gift of grace that saves us and pray for those in this world who have yet to receive it.

A Lovely Lesson from Much Afraid

While on our vacation to Thailand, I have decided to revisit one of my favorite books, Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. For those of you who are not familiar with the title, it is an allegory about a young woman named Much Afraid who represents a new Christian. She is led through a very difficult physical path by a Shepherd who has promised to lead her to “the High Places.” In the book, Much Afraid is not always directly accompanied by the Shepherd, but is often led by a guide whom the Shepherd appoints to her. The Shepherd promises Much Afraid that although he must leave her to go to the High Places and place her in the care of others, he will always return to her the moment she calls to him in need.

There are often times within the story that Much Afraid comes upon a situation where I as the reader know the answer but she does not. She will make the wrong decision or have momentary doubts about what the Shepherd had promised her. In those moments, I often find myself thinking, “Silly Much Afraid! You have such little faith.” But just then, Much Afraid will lift her voice and call to the Shepherd to come to her need. Unlike me, the Shepherd is not annoyed at her lack of faith or irritated that she called him away from the High Places. He fills her with love and encouraging words, and sends her on her way refreshed and renewed.

As I think about this, I marvel at what a wonderful Shepherd we have as our Father. He does not be one irritated when we doubt his promises or fall prey to a temptation. Instead, he rejoices when we call on him in our moment of weakness saying, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief,” (Mk. 9:24). He does not come to us saying, “I wish you would stop calling on me whenever you get into a bind, it’s getting old,” but instead tells us that he is always here to help remind us of what he has promised to us. We must follow him into the dessert or high up the mountain through treacherous rocks because we know that it all has a purpose. Out of each trial that we face and each doubt that we have comes stronger faith. Each time we call upon The Lord he will renew our strength. As we come to trust in this, our trials become more about relying and focussing on the joy of Christ and less about enduring suffering. The joy of The Lord is our strength! Though sorrow may last through the night, his joy always comes in the morning. (Lam. 3:24-26)

If you are struggling now with a physical, spiritual, or emotional trial, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Hinds Feet on High Places. It will not make your trial go away, but if you allow it to speak to you, I know you will find your strength renewed with the promises of God.

Menu’s, Meals, and Monies for Newbies

One of my main responsibilities in the Hart household is planning our meals and grocery shopping. I thought I’d share with you my methods and maybe they will be something that you can use in your own kitchen!

1. Give yourself a budget

I shop every two weeks and I usually spend about 125-150$ for 2 people. It is on the higher end if it’s a week where I am replenishing our toilet paper and paper towel supply. Once you figure out what works for you, stick to it.

2. Figure out what meals you will make from now until you go grocery shopping again. 

This part has been kind of trial and error for me as a fairly new wife. Sometimes the meals I make are a total bust, and sometimes they are amazing! If you want some husband approved recipes, here is a list of several that Jason has loved!

Beef Stroganoff (ground beef, 1 sm. container sour cream, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, mushrooms and onions if desired. Serve over shell noodles)

Chicken Stroganoff 

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

Creamy Pesto Shrimp

Chicken Quesadillas

Beef Stew (meat, potatoes, onions, peas, carrots, tomatos, mushrooms in a crockpot for 4 -6 hours). 

Tilapia Fish Tacos (I usually only follow the recipe for the tilapia. For the toppings I use mango, tomato, & sour cream)

Meatless Chili (1 can of: kidneys, black, pinto, & great northern beans. 1 can of corn, 1 can of diced tomatoes, sprinkle of chili powder, basil, and cumin – crockpot or stove)

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu 

Foil Crockpot Tilapia 

Crockpot Black Bean Enchiladas

Shrimp Scampi

Kung Pao Chicken (This is a basic recipe. We like cashews instead of peanuts, and I add baby corn & bamboo shoots.)

Homemade Pizza

Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Tip 1: Don’t plan meals for a specific day because your plans may change. You’ll be disappointed if you’ve planned to make a certain meal and suddenly your other half wants to eat out. Instead, just make a list of all the meals you have planned out and cross them off each time you make one. This way you can make whatever you feel like having and you know you’ll have the ingredients for that meal in the kitchen.

Tip 2: Rollover any meals you didn’t eat on your last trip to this week and eat them first.

Tip 3: Always think about what you already have on hand when planning a meal, and also what you don’t have. If a meal calls for four or five different spices that you don’t have, you’ll end up spending a lot of money on spices if you want to make that specific meal. 

3. Make up a grocery list based on your meals

When I first started out, I used this printable grocery list to help me out with my shopping in the store. If you’d rather write out your grocery list, the same principles apply. Try to separate your groceries based on where they are in the store. This way you can go from one section of the store to another without having to backtrack. 

Go through your menu for the week one meal at a time and write down or highlight on your printable grocery list the things that you need for that meal. For instance, if I’m making shrimp scampi I need 1/2 pound of shrimp, white wine, parsley, garlic, and butter.

Tip 1: Think about the items you already have in stock. In this case I have garlic, butter, parsley, and cooking wine on hand so all I need is the shrimp! 

Tip 2: Remember to add the amount of items you need if you have more than one meal that calls for it. 

4. Finally, add the essentials to your list.
Milk, eggs, and bread don’t really need to be planned for but we use them all the time. Don’t go to all the trouble meal-planning and forget the simple things!  

5. When Shopping…

  • Limit yourself on impulse buys! I try to give myself one “fun” buy like a dessert for the week. 
  • Compare prices between brands! Don’t just buy the first one you see.
  • On the other hand, don’t always buy the cheapest priced item. If dairy products, bread, or meats are marked down it’s usually because they are about to expire. Unless you plan to use them right away, it will save you money in the long run to buy the regularly priced item.

Hopefully this is helpful to anyone who is new at cooking/shopping!