How My Faith Was Ruined

Preach it George!

Preach it George!

What? I’m the only one who breaks into song when almost every word ever reminds me of one? Especially one from the man who also begged us to “wake him up before we go-go.” No? Ok, moving on.

Once upon a time, there was a girl in her early 20s, we’ll call her… crap, nothing rhymes with Alex. It was me, ok?

Anyway, “she” was living her life doing that thing that Christians do, where they live how they want and then feel like bad Christians and then they remember that they go to church, have quiet time more often than not, try to avoid cussing, and watch what they spend their time doing and then feel better about themselves. This is of course until God used Jen Hatmaker and her book “7” and a few other methods to screw everything up for her. THE WORST. (That was only semi-sarcastic, you should still be afraid of standing next to me because lightning.)

Enter a very overwhelmed child of God with her newly found give-a-crap, straddling the fence between wanting things the way they were and marching forward now that I’m becoming more “in the know.” Part of me (the part with crazy eyes) wants to take one of GOB’s “forget-me-nows” from Arrested Development to empty my brain of all of the scary knowledge of the real world behind the curtain of the western church. The other part, the goody-two-shoes of my brain, knows that this is scary and raw and painful and sad, but is saying BRING IT.

Fun game: spot the pop-culture reference. I physically cannot write without one, apparently. There have been several so far.

So this is where I am RIGHT NOW. I’m not past this or on the other side of “figuring it out” or something. KNEE DEEP. It sucks. It’s no fun to see the world through a lens of greed, hostility, and pride. It’s hard to not be able to buy anything without thinking about tightening the binds of forced and unethical labor, or who and what I’m supporting with my dollars for that matter. Guess how much fun it is to become disgusted by habits and practices that CURRENTLY DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE. Not. That’s how much.

Ugh, Change is hard! And yes, I realize this is quickly becoming my mantra. But it is!

One thing I know for certain, and I’m totally stealing this from an awesome writer:

Jesus needs new PR.

Like, bad.

There is a reason that Christians leave a bad taste in people’s mouths and a lot of other religions don’t. Christians are awful a ton of the time. I’m sorry but it’s true. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said to love our neighbors, forgive as we have been forgiven, and not to judge. Did we seriously think that those things were just entries in some sort of churchy suggestion box? This crap is on us, people. Start focussing more on damage control and less on being a hater.

Also, when Jesus said it would be hard for rich people to get to Heaven, sorry but He meant us. We may not feel rich by North American standards, but we SO ARE compared to the rest of the world. When we’re comfortable, we depend little to none on God for stuff like food and shelter and life. We get stuck in the “fill yourself up” phase and then stop, not going and making disciples of all the nations and sharing our GREAT GIFT and caring for the poor and widows and children and ALL THE THINGS.

Believe me when I say that this is where I am. I’m stuck.

It’s no fun and it feels like a swarm of emotions and things I need to be doing differently and I don’t really know where to go from here. But here are a few more things that I do know:

I am called to love people. Not only that, but I am called to love them AS MYSELF. That’s not just like a cute little thing Jesus said that one time. It is for reals, and trust me people, I love myself A LOT. It’s gotta be one-for-one. AS YOURSELF.

Another thing Jesus didn’t do: put an asterisk on the word “people” and then explain that it’s only the people who look, think, and act like us. Everyone. All of them. Even the ones who have hurt us, are criminals, or side with a different political party than we do.

Lastly, I know that caring about this stuff is a decision, not a feeling. It’s hard to always be conscientious about what you buy and how well you care for God’s creation and whether or not your time spent is edifying to Jesus. It’s not something you can either “feel convicted” about or not. (Gotta love Christianese)

These things aren’t really up for debate.

Giving of what God has given us? Puting other’s needs ahead of our own always?  Treating ALL of God’s children with love and respect?

Not “feeling” issues. Not up for debate.

It takes effort and thought to live the way God created us to. It’s so incredibly overwhelming. We live in a world where we are abundantly blessed. Even on our worst days. BLESSED. We have to decide to live the way Jesus wants us to and die to our own wills and plans and desires.

I’m done ignoring all of this stuff. The faith I thought I knew is broken forever, and I have to spend my entire life enacting God’s purpose for it. It’ll take a lot of prayer, research, and sacrifice, but what other choice do I have? To squander my life on things that will pass soooo quickly? No. NO. I have never felt more alive than I do right now. In the midst of the brokenness and confusion, I finally feel like I’m not wasting time and energy just living the way Alex wants to.

I for sure don’t have it figured out and never will. I will never be perfect at this stuff. I will literally die trying, but it’s worth it.

I’m so happy I’ve been broken, and I’m glad the faith I knew is ruined!

How has God broken your faith? And what did He use to do it?

PS: Stay turned for an in-depth look at my “7 Experiment” for further news on how my faith was ruined!

Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe!

So we are now through the first snow week of the 2013-2014 winter season. “Snowtorious BIG” if you will. Like I said earlier, I am one of the few who seemed to enjoy it, and enjoy it I did! I love to cook, and this winter wonderland gave me the opportunity to cook my little heart out. I decided to share one of our snow day recipes from one of my favorite food groups: Asian! (Although I’m sure this is a pretty Americanized version. OH WELL.)

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Lo Mein Noodles!

Pretty Plate!

Pretty Plate!

Technically this is three recipes in one, so I’ll do chicken-sauce-noodles. I originally found the chicken breading recipe on Allrecipes.com. Now, I’m sure this brings my street cred down a bit, but don’t worry, I do lots of improvising in true Alex fashion. In case you didn’t know, my style of cooking is to measure very little. I mostly use recipes as guidelines or inspiration and then do whatever I want. LIKE A BOSS. (This is also why I suck at baking for obvious reasons.) It drives my family and friends crazy, especially when they ask for a recipe from me.
“This just says ‘add garlic.’ How much?”
“Uh, just some.”

You can easily tailor this recipe to serve however many people you need to. Just aim for a chicken breast per person and if you need more breading mix, make more breading mix. Don’t stress over the amount of mix you come up with, you’re going to throw out the leftovers anyway.

Cut your chicken breasts into bite sized chunks.

In a bowl, mix together 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp corn starch, some salt and pepper, and an egg.

Pat your first batch of chicken chunks semi-dry (you want few enough that they can go in a single layer in the pan). You’ll want to leave some moisture, but make sure most of the chicken juice is off.

Coat them in the batter. I’m impatient, so I usually throw the whole batch in the bowl and stir them around till they’re nice and battery. Grab ’em and throw ’em in the pan of oil you’ve been heating, like this:

Sizzle Sizzle

Sizzle Sizzle

Let them sit like this for a couple of minutes before moving them around so that the batter doesn’t fall off. After it looks a little more secure, stir them around to get the other side cooking. When you’ve used a knife to check if they are fully cooked (usually they are after like 5 minutes, but poultry makes me nervous so I still check), use a slotted spatula to remove them from the pan and dump them on a plate you don’t care about with a paper towl over it. Do this in batches until all your chicken is cooked.

Diet Sweet and Sour Chicken, of course

Diet Sweet and Sour Chicken, of course

Sauce!

In a sauce pan or small skillet, mix like 1 1/2 cups water, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and pineapple juice. If you’ve planned ahead, you can get a can of pineapple chunks, use the juice for the sauce, and the chunks to garnish the chicken. I did not plan ahead and just used bottled stuff.

Boil it, then turn it down. Completely mix 1/4 cup corn starch with 1/4 cup COLD water. Throw it in with the sauce and stir together. Bring the heat back up and simmer until thickened how you like it. If it gets too thick, just add more water or pineapple juice.

Now, if you’re naive like I was when I first started cooking, you think that sweet and sour sauce just is the right color. No. It’s clear and nasty-looking. You have to use food coloring. I like my sauce to be on the orange side. Not flaming red. Not pepto pink. Orange. I use red and yellow to achieve the perfect color. I take pride in this process.

Look at that color balance. So orange. So not red or yellow. So not clear and gross looking.

Look at that color balance. So orange. So not red or yellow. So not clear and gross looking.

Every plate needs carbs. My motto. These lo mein noodles are sooo delicious!

First, boil up some noodles. I know you can get the correct noodles at Asian supermarkets, but I usually use spaghetti. They get the job done. I actually used angel hair this time because I had a ton of it.

You’ll want to get them just short of al dente.

Be mine, carbs.

Be mine, carbs.

Drain them, stick them back in the metal pot you used to cook them and stick the whole thing in the fridge if you have enough time, or, like me, the freezer if you’re doing this on the fly. Of course, you’ll want to make these either before hand, or during one of the other stages so they can be chilling while you cook.

NOTE THE ICE CREAM BESIDE THE NOODLES. Theeese are a feeew of my faaaavorite things.

NOTE THE ICE CREAM BESIDE THE NOODLES. Theeese are a feeew of my faaaavorite things.

Now, we’re gonna make a quick stir-fry sauce for these noodles. Again, sorry for the lack of measurements, but you’ll want to play with the amounts to fit your taste.

Most of the sauce of going to be soy sauce. Put a healthy amount of it on a bowl.
Add some (1/4 cupish) teriyaki sauce, garlic, minced ginger, Worcestershire (a few dashes), sherry (1/4 cupish), sriracha (to taste), black pepper, lemon pepper, and onion powder. Give it a stir!

Liquid Awesome

Liquid Awesome

Now, heat (like on medium high) some oil and butter in a skillet or wok. Throw some onion strips in there with some garlic. You can add cabbage or bamboo shoots or whatever floats your boat, but I am a picky eater, so onion and garlic it is. Stir it around until the onion is cooked.

Sorry for the blurriness, This was an action shot.

Sorry for the blurriness, This was an action shot.

Toss the chilled noodles in and stir them around to coat them completely and fry them a little bit before we pour the sauce in. If you need to add more butter, do whacha gotta do. ALSO, I usually break the noodles in half when I cook them, but this night I forgot. When I remembered in this portion of the cooking process, I used my wooden spatula to “chop” them at random.

Just, OMG. Give me a minute.

Just, OMG. Give me a minute.

Next we’ll pour the sauce in as we stir the noodles around so they don’t stick.

Drizzle drizzle

Drizzle drizzle

Pour all over to coat as many noodles as possible. This will result in fewer tired arm muscles later.

ANOTHER ACTION SHOT. I'm so action-y.

ANOTHER ACTION SHOT. I’m so action-y.

Keep stirring and make sure all the noodles are coated. Cook until the liquid is pretty much fully absorbed. Taste and season if you like. You can garnish with green onions, sesame seeds (yum!) or whatever gets you going. 🙂

TA DAAAAA!

Soooooooo good!!! Getcha some.

Soooooooo good!!! Getcha some.

Thanks for reading guys!

Ho Ho Ho

So we got our first snow of the season which can only mean CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE! I seem to be the only person on the planet who is excited about the winter weather what with all the terrors of time off work, hot chocolate (with Baileys), sledding, tv watching, etc.

This is outside of our driveway. Last we measured it was mounded at a foot, but it was actually probably around 6 inches.

This is outside of our driveway. Last we measured it was mounded at a foot, but it was actually probably around 6 inches.

We stayed in yesterday, cooped up and warm. Today we ventured out to my parents’ house. We got stuck, slid around a lot, and had a great time out in the snow with my siblings. Oh! and we watched Home Alone while eating chili, because, well, SNOW.

This is Bryan scraping the ice and snow off my windshield while I take pictures and obsess over this amazing white stuff that God gave me today!

This is Bryan scraping the ice and snow off my windshield while I take pictures and obsess over this amazing white stuff that God gave me today!

Bryan-Sierra-Cameron-Me. We had more fun out there than the 8 year olds in the neighborhood.

Bryan-Sierra-Cameron-Me. We had more fun out there than the 8 year olds in the neighborhood.

ANYWAY, to celebrate, I am posting my Christmas decorations for this year! I need all of y’all to pretend this is as big of a deal as I think it is because not only are decorations out (Thanks in big part to my mama for sacrificing some of her Saturday to come help her first-born offspring with simple decorating. Imma also need you guys to pretend that all the crafts that I ACCOMPLISHED are not so easy untrained monkeys could do them.

Mom helping with decor

Without further ado:

Our big(ish) living room tree (which we are still working on getting a skirt for), our outside tree, and the super awesome girly tree outside our bedroom! (Please note the pink treeskirt).

Our big(ish) living room tree (which we are still working on getting a skirt for), our outside tree, and the super awesome girly tree outside our bedroom! (Please note the pink treeskirt).

Sofa Table!

Sofa Table!

Ok so for the NOEL canvas, I just wrapped a cheap, flat canvas in burlap using a hot glue gun (burns on fingers encouraged, but not necessary). I had cheap block letters that I used to trace onto a piece of scrapbook paper, then I cut the paper and glued onto the blocks with mod podge glue. I turned the letters to the side because I LIKE TO LIVE ON THE WILD SIDE.

For the second one, I took another cheap, flat canvas and painted it with this pretty champagne color that I saw and instantly became obsessed with and let it dry. I then used my finger to rub mod podge glue inside of stencils to form the letters, then dumped a bunch of glitter onto the still-wet glue and shook it off after it dried. I’m telling you people: UNTRAINED MONKEY.

Some tins that my grandmother gave me.

Some tins that my grandmother gave me.

Banister between our kitchen and living room.

Banister between our kitchen and living room.

I put the leftover Christmas ornament balls that were in the sleigh on the sofa table into a candy dish I had out anyway. Fear not, the candy from the dish was saved.

Another one of my craft pride and joys! These glitter mason jars were super fun to make and weren’t too difficult! I rubbed mod podge glue onto the bottoms of the mason jars and rolled them in glitter, allowed them to dry, and then sprayed that awesome champagne paint I talked about earlier over the top. I did this with red, gold (both pictured), green, and silver. You can leave them as they are, but I stuck tealight candles in them so the lights shines through the glitter and it’s really pretty! Fun Fact: I did this one right before the “Ho Ho Ho” glitter canvas and so the glitter in the words is actually just the mixed leftovers from these jars.

Centerpieces!

Centerpieces!

A leaning shelf in my living room.

A leaning shelf in my living room.

This one had 2 DIYs! The “F” (for Fittin, duh!) was a flat canvas with a block “F” glued on and coated with the champagne spray paint. I wish I could make this sound more complicated. I really do.

The vase-thingies were just the cheap glass ones from Walmart that I put electric tape on in different patters and then sprayed with the champagne spray paint before I pulled the tape back off. These two pieces are on here year round, but for Christmas, I stuck some glittery sprigs from Hobby Lobby in there and called it a day. 🙂

Oh! and the JOY Canvas is the exact same as the NOEL one except without the funky caddy-wompas letters because when you turn and “O” to the side it looks exactly the same. The more you know.

Floor lamp shelf in my kitchen. More tins from Mimi and that Santa/Mrs. Claus dancing Figurine plays music and moves!

Floor lamp shelf in my kitchen. More tins from Mimi and that Santa/Mrs. Claus dancing Figurine plays music and moves!

OrnamentHanger

So for this, I took the glass out of a plain wooden frame and covered it with blue acrylic paint. While it was still wet, I sprinkled silver glitter on it (Can you tell that I slightly like sparkly things?). I used fishing line to attach the super glittery ornaments and hunt it all and made had my mom make the bow with mesh ribbon. I felt like I didn’t have enough hot glue gun burns, so I decided to add the rhinestones in the top left corner as well :).

My wreaths! Front Door (made by my awesome mom!)-Bedroom door (hot pink to fit with the girly theme)-and Guest Room door

My wreaths! Front Door (made by my awesome mom!)-Bedroom door (hot pink to fit with the girly theme)-and Guest Room door

PIONEER WOMAN!! Ok so this only slightly counts as a Christmas decoration in that I have her new book on display. But I'm OBSSESSED with her and she and her husband signed my book. So exciting!

PIONEER WOMAN!! Ok so this only slightly counts as a Christmas decoration in that I have her new book on display. But I’m OBSSESSED with her and she and her husband signed my book. So exciting!

So that’s it! So many pictures! It makes me super excited to have all my decorations out, and we’re just not going to think about having to put it all back up in a month.

Now I’m going to enjoy my snow weekend by eating homemade salsa and watching Elementary. Thanks for reading!

Why Bryan and I Deserve Royalty Status

My only sister, the youngest child of our family, my BABY SISTER turned 16 recently. Her birthday was on a Sunday, and because we dare not screw with people’s lives on a Razorback Football home game weekend (Amen), we had a big ol’ party for her the following Friday. So this is the story of why Bryan and I should be “sainted,” “knighted,” “damed,” what have you…ALL THE HONORS APPLY.

This is my cute, spunky, hilarious sister, Sierra. Holding a Ball Python. On my watch. Form a line for babysitting requests.

This is my cute, spunky, hilarious sister, Sierra. Holding a Ball Python. On my watch. Form a line for babysitting requests.

So I pride myself in party planning. I love it love it love it. I get to use my particular skill set of organization, visionary creativity, logic, delegating, and most importantly, the use of planners and office supplies.

I plan or am involved in the planning of most of the events for my family and many for my friends. Sierra and I started talking about this toward the beginning of the summer when I had the brilliant idea that she should have an 80’s “Sixteen Candles” themed party, ya know, since she was turning 16 and all. I soon learned that not only would that theme be lost on most of the attendees, IT WAS LOST ON MY SISTER. (Worry not, we’re in the planning stages of an intervention, you can come if you want.)

Even though you were before my time, I still love you. Be mine 80s angsty teen dramas.

Even though you were before my time, I still love you. Be mine 80s angsty teen dramas.

So she decided that she wanted a video scavenger hunt around Northwest Arkansas, similar to the one we threw for her 14th birthday, which was all the rage among her friends. (I obviously have a very humble opinion about my parties, so this did nothing to boost my ego, of course.)

We (I) decided on a “Mystery/Detective” theme and a color scheme of black, white, and yellow. Little Diva decided she loved that color scheme, but wanted a purple and teal cake. Only moderate twitching occurred as I processed the idea of an out-of-theme cake. Nonetheless, invitations were sent, even if it did take daily texts reminding Sierra that “if her friends didn’t tell her whether or not they were coming, then they would be tied to the roof of the car for lack of room.”
Or something nicer probably.
Yeah, I’m sure it was nicer than that.

I'm soooo sorry that I didn't get more pictures of the party. You'll just have to trust me that it was awesome. I did get a picture of this awesome cake though! (Props to Cindy Kennedy at Kreative Kitchen in Fort Smith!)

I’m soooo sorry that I didn’t get more pictures of the party. You’ll just have to trust me that it was awesome. I did get a picture of this awesome cake though! (Props to Cindy Kennedy at Kreative Kitchen in Fort Smith!)

Here comes the explanation of why Bryan and I deserve royalty status.

We somehow got roped into having this shin-dig at OUR HOUSE. That’s upwards of twenty 14-16 year olds, folks.
In my house.
My rent house.
Running around my rent house and backyard.
What’s better, we fed them soda and cake. Fittins are smart people, y’all.

Somehow, BECAUSE WE HAVE THE BEST FRIENDS (or just really bored ones), we got another couple and my brother and his fiancé join us in the circus parade that is driving around a bunch of teenagers. Also, my parents not only paid for the party, they helped supervise. After 3 kids and one million birthday parties, they probably deserve royalty status too, but this is about me and I’m not great with sharing.

So after multiple nights of crafting (laughable because I am TERRIBLE at crafts) the “Confidential” and “Top Secret” folders for the Scavenger Hunt lists (Because I suck and have no pictures, you just have to use your imagination to fully grasp that my dad and I took manila folders and stenciled out the words on every.single.one.of.them.), the goody bags, the mason jars of yellow candy (harder to find than you think), and all the things, the day arrived. It was a windy day and we were attempting to decorate with balloons, caution tape, and paper lanterns, so it went exactly how you think it did.

The thing about scavenger hunts is that they are not drop-in events. Time is of the essence unless you want to cross approximately three things off the two-page list. Surprisingly enough, the 15-year-olds didn’t comprehend and plan for that. We also had a number of drop outs, most of them somehow managed to be boys.

So let me paint the picture for you: a lot of girls, two boys. On top of that, the male portion of our savior couple, Michael, lost the boy on his team. Michael was growing his beard out for a ZZ Top concert. The thought of a grown, fully bearded man driving around a bunch of High school girls was just a smidge concerning. After some quick re-teaming, I was explaining to rules (loudly) and yelling “GO!!!” as they pushed, ran, shoved, tripped, and leaped to get their supply bag and run to their team cars.

This is Michael and Bryan (my hubby) eating turkey legs at a RenFest. You can see why it might be alarming for a police officer to find this man driving teenage girls around town. Also, his beard was much longer than this by party-time. Yep. Hilariously enough, he is one of the nicest, most genuine guys I've ever met. Stereotyping is for real.

This is Michael and Bryan (my hubby) eating turkey legs at a RenFest. You can see why it might be alarming for a police officer to find this man driving teenage girls around town. Also, his beard was much longer than this by party-time. Yep. Hilariously enough, he is one of the nicest, most genuine guys I’ve ever met. Stereotyping is for real.

At one point during the night, I was eating a Chick-fil-a sandwich while trying to back out of a steep gravel driveway. As I was doing this one handed as to hold onto the sandwich at the same time (priorities, people), the boy on my team made a comment about it. I said “Whatever, I backed this car out LIKE A BOSS.” To which he replied “Um, that song went out in like 2011.”
“That’s just when the song came out, that phrase has been around for a while young one.”
“You only know that because you’re old!!!”
I really had nothing to say to that until he told the rest of the car jokingly that I probably wouldn’t speak to him the rest of the night. I calmly explained that I didn’t care because I knew that 23 was not old, however my husband….
”YOU HAVE A HUSBAND?!?! So wait, you’re like, out of college? Whoa.”
Hmm.

My team (also the birthday girl’s team) came in last place I’m pretty sure, and my exhaustion from the prep for this soiree overcame my compulsion to win for the first time ever.

This is a collage of random pictures that I'm stealing from my sister because I TOOK NO PICTURES. Note the super awesome teenage poses.

This is a collage of random pictures that I’m stealing from my sister because I TOOK NO PICTURES. Note the super awesome teenage poses.

After piling all the young whippersnappers (I can say that because I’m old.) into our living room to watch and laugh at all of their embarrassing videos, they left and I crashed. Bryan’s team won and I still didn’t care. Just so you’re aware of the level of my exhaustion.

And yes I’ll be holding this over Sierra’s head for years to come.

Oh, you don’t want to babysit my kids tonight? Remember that time I had 22 screaming teenagers at my house for you? That’s what I thought.

These look like the faces of teenagers having fun, right?

These look like the faces of teenagers having fun, right?