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Open Hands

We have a phrase in our house…”We live open handed.” We say this phrase to remind ourselves that we desire as a family to live generously. We don’t want a life of white knuckles holding onto our stuff, selfish and greedy. When our kids are in the midst of fighting over their toys, we always remind them…”Open hands. The Laird’s live with open hands.” Our children have heard the phrase so much that we can simply look at them, open our hands and they know exactly what we are communicating. And it is not just a phrase for teaching our kids, my husband and I have to remind ourselves of this very phrase as well for there are days we don’t want to give up our things, time, and money. This phrase might be simple, but it is such a great reminder for our family to be willing and ready to release anything the Lord asks of us.

This phrase had always been singular focused on the opportunity to give and release, but one day God shifted it to be more. A few weeks ago I was sitting across from my oldest son, Liam, at lunch. I cannot recall the very conversation, but as we talked I was about to remind him of how and why we live open handed. As I was about to give my familiar speech, I felt the Lord tell me this…”Jennifer, you don’t live open handed to only give, but I want you to live open handed to receive.” As soon as I heard this I was quickly telling Liam. I explained to him that there was more to just living open handed to give, but the Lord wants us to live open handed ready to receive.

How could I have missed that? Open handed is way more than giving, but I think it is naturally how we think sometimes as Christians. We think we honor God only when we are giving something up. We become some focused on living a life of sacrifice that we can easily lose sight that our God is a giving God who desires for us to receive. Sacrifice and giving is definitely a part of our Christian lives, but I believe God wants us also to see how much we honor Him as we receive as well.

God desires for us to receive wisdom, blessings, revelation, love and much more. He wants us to receive from our friends and family when they offer help. He wants us to receive rest when we have lived in a week of being non-stop on the go. He wants us to receive the complement and encouraging word from our friend and spouse. And the ultimate gift He would have us receive is salvation. See God released His son and gave the ultimate sacrifice for us to receive grace, righteousness, and an abundant life. Who would not want to receive such a beautiful gift?

James 1:5 “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

White knuckles can keep us from not only living in a posture of generosity, but also a life where we miss out on the opportunity to receive. For me giving is usually what comes easier than receiving. I am guilty of staying focused on releasing and missing out on opportunities to receive. Therefore, I know this word was not just a word for my family or for you, but it was directed to me as well. Living open handed is two-fold…to live a life that is ready to release and receive. Our phrase may be the same, but it has a bit more to it now and I am so grateful it does….”Open hands. The Laird’s live with open hands.”

Open Hands

 


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Simple Slow Cooker Recipe: Salsa Verde Chicken

Before I create my grocery list for the upcoming week, I usually do a few things…look to see what is already in the fridge and pantry, check our schedules for the week and think through what we had to eat for dinner the week before. A couple of weeks ago I realized I would need a few slow cooker meals due to our upcoming week having a few busy days and nights. After browsing some of my favorite foodie sites, I came across the most simple recipe. I know I might have mentioned a recipe I’ve posted before as easy and simple, but this recipe is on it’s own level of easy.

Before I share the details of this great find, guess how many ingredients you need for this dish?

FOUR! Yes, it is only four ingredients and they require no prep work. All you have to do is put the ingredients in the slow cooker, place lid on, set timer, and walk away. It’s crazy not only how easy it is, but how great it taste. My husband could not believe how great it was and he is not a big fan of chicken for dinner. This salsa verde chicken recipe is as follows.

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups of salsa verde
  • 1 bottle of beer (we use Modelo)
  • 2 tsp of cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place chicken in the slow cooker
  2. Top with salsa verde, beer and cumin
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your liking
  4. Turn the chicken so that both sides are covered with beer and salsa
  5. Cover and cook 3-4 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low
  6. Chicken is ready when it easily shreds with fork

Once the chicken is ready there are many ways to serve it…tacos, nachos, rice bowl, etc. We recently used the chicken for stuffed poblano peppers and they were delicious. We have also just placed the chicken in a bowl and topped with cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. No matter how you serve it, it will be a great lunch or dinner. 

So thanks to GIMME SOME OVEN I have discovered a go to recipe when my day does not have time for prepping food. It is a go to when I have a few friends coming over and I would rather spend time with them than be in the kitchen most of the time. And sometimes it is simply my go to because I crave it. LOL. I hope your family enjoys this easy, simple and yummy dish as much as our family and friends do. 


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Quick and Easy Valentine’s Day Treats

There is something so traditional about having something sweet given for Valentine’s Day and how special to have something homemade to share. What is great about both of these recipes is that they can be made within 15 to 30 minutes and the prep work is extremely simple. If you eat Whole30 or paleo then you probably have all the ingredients listed below already in your pantry.

The first recipe, Thumbprint Cookies, is from Elana’s Pantry. Putting these ingredients together took less than 5 minutes and they bake within 8 to 10 minutes. We used strawberry jam, but you can use any jam you have on hand.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup jam

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a food processor combine almond flour, salt and baking soda
  3. Pulse in coconut oil and honey until dough forms
  4. Scoop batter 1 tablespoon at a time onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet
  5. Press your thumb into the center of each cookie to make an indentation
  6. Place ½ teaspoon of jam in the center of each cookie
  7. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes until golden brown
  8. Let cool on the baking sheets and serve

The second recipe is from Inspired Edible’s Miniature Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. I have modified it using almond butter and cookie butter a few times. You can use whatever “butter” you prefer as I am sure all options will be delicious. You can also serve these in red mini cupcake liners or cute Valentine’s Day ones to celebrate this weekend. And if you want to really bring them to another level, try adding orange extract and top with a sliver of an orange peel.  (Note: These can melt in your hand and if they do; don’t worry because they are totally worth it.)

Ingredients

  • 200 grams 75% cocoa chocolate (two large bars)
  • 1/4 cup (or so) of almond butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds

Directions

  1. Melt chocolate using a double broiler on low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, place 12 miniature muffin cup liners into muffin cups.
  3. Once chocolate has melted, pour first layer of chocolate, about one tsp, into each cup.
  4. Allow chocolate to solidify in fridge for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Remove muffin tray from fridge and place about 1 tsp of almond butter in a ball-like shape over each layer of chocolate such that it does not cover the full surface of the chocolate. This will allow the second layer of chocolate to fill in along the sides of the cup for closure.
  6. Pour the second layer of chocolate over almond butter using about 1 + 1/2 tsp of chocolate.
  7. Top each cup with a few chopped pieces of almonds as desired.
  8. Return cups to fridge or freezer to solidify before enjoying.
  9. If you have any left store either in the freezer or fridge. I prefer the freezer.


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Looking Back

Last week I began thinking about 2015…What were my goals? What did I set out to accomplish? What were all the things I planned to do? (I know this was probably not the ideal time to take a first look at this being a week away from 2016, but better late than never.) I searched Evernote, journals, and notes on my phone until I found my 2015 goals. As I began reading them, I realized that I had not nearly accomplished all I had set out to do. I felt a little depressed as I looked at the list and thought of all I had not done. There I was with all my un-accomplishments staring me in the face. As I buried my head in regret, I asked myself a quick question, “What had I done with 2015?” This simple question that was being asked in regret, instead lifted my head as I realized all that 2015 carried. It might not have been a year where I checked off goals completed, but it was a year that was filled with purpose. Sure I wish I would have been better at looking at my goals throughout the year and I definitely wished I would have sent more cards to friends and family and read a few more books, but just because these things were not completed does not mean the year was a fail. This year was full of purpose…

  • Liam started Kindergarten and our homeschool journey officially began;
  • Jason and I celebrated our ten year anniversary in Israel;
  • Friends and family moved to the DFW area;
  • We received impactful words of encouragement from our church, family and friends;
  • We no longer have diapers in the house (this should definitely be celebrated!);
  • We had great traveling adventures with family and friends;
  • We watched friends and family step out in faith to accomplish the dreams in their heart;
  • We watched our two boys grow in their personality and character;
  • We walked through some “valley” moments and we came out stronger;
  • We had a few updates to our house;
  • We played and rested; and
  • So much more.

So yes this year might not have been all it was set out to be according to my plans, but it was indeed a year that had purpose. Saying all this, I want to encourage you not to be so hard on yourself for missing a few check marks on your goal list or to do sheet. In reflection of 2015, think of all that was accomplished. I firmly believe there was something good that occurred and even some great that 2015 carried. Give yourself grace to enter into 2016 free of guilt or regret instead of being focused on what wasn’t completed. This is what I am choosing. I am choosing to focus on all that was done and all that is left to do with excitement, joy and grace. Will I walk into 2016 with more goals and another to do list? Most definitely, but I will not become so focused on completing them that I lose sight of everything else that is happening around and through me. I want to step into 2016 being aware of each day and all that it holds.

Cheers to 2016!!! Let this be a year full of joy, love and grace!!!


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Albasha…

If you just read the title and became really excited, you are probably from Baton Rouge, LA. Albasha, a Greek and Lebanese restaurant, is a favorite among many locals. From the gyro, chicken shawarma, fried cheese, hummus and dressings, Albasha’s food is definitely a must if you are in the area.

Living in Baton Rouge, we ate Albasha at least twice a week, but now we have this dilemma…we live in the Dallas, TX and there is not an Albasha nor anything that we have found near us that compares. So when I discovered a recipe that taste extremely similar to one of the dressings they serve, I was pretty excited. And what kind of person would I be if I kept this amazing find to myself. Therefore, today I would love to share with you a whipped feta dipping sauce.

Whipped Feta Dipping Sauce: (adapted from We are not Martha, but we can try?)

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Feta
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 t mint
  • 1 T lime
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Greek dried seasonings (I use Chef’s Greek Seasonings)
  • Salt and pepper per taste

Directions

Blend and serve. (I add some almond milk to help make the dip smoother.)

It is that easy! It can be used as a dressing or dip for meatballs or veggies. I usually serve it with jalapeño lime chicken meatballs, which are exceptionally yummy. They are one of my husband’s favorites as well as many of our friends. So if you are from Baton Rouge, have moved like our family, and need a little taste of Albasha, then make this recipe tonight. If you aren’t from Baton Rouge and need to understand the reason we miss this restaurant, then make this recipe tonight. I believe you will enjoy it as much as we do.


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Along for the Ride

Hi there! I hope you had an amazing and adventure-filled summer. I know we did. Three months that I thought would be slow flew by us rather quickly. Even though it was fast, it was fun. Between out-of-town guests, soccer, vacation, and church, it was full, but we had a blast. Now that we are getting back to our schedule, blogging time has reappeared. Today I am excited to share a quick thought with you.
The other day as I was getting in the car, I had this thought as I drove away. I was heading to a place I knew about, but my children did not. Many times my boys, especially my oldest, need to know the plan. He daily asks, “Mom, what’s the plan?” or “So here is the plan, Mom”. If I do not have a plan for the day, he is usually able to create one pretty quickly. Well in this moment, we were leaving the store and I had this thought to surprise them with the next stop. I assume they thought we were simply heading home, but little did they know I would be taking them to get some frozen yogurt.
In my drive to the “unknown” place, I began thinking about how much I like to know the steps for my life and especially like to know the destination places. However, most of the time the steps and places I am led to are not the places I assumed I was going. Many times God just wants to take you and I along for a ride like I was taking my children that day. He wants us to sit back and trust him to bring us to the right destination. Like an excited parent who is driving to a place to surprise their children, God gets excited to surprise us with our next place. I can only imagine the joy God gets as He orders our steps to bring us into our next season. I can only imagine the great wisdom and discernment He implements to drive us to our next place.
When I arrived in front of the frozen yogurt store, my boys were stunned. They were so excited that their initial response was speechlessness. They could not believe where I had brought them, but as soon as they walked through the door they were running to try all the flavors offered. Is that how I respond when I arrive to a surprise destination that God has brought me to? Sometimes, but there are definitely times when I do not respond with excitement. I am speechless out of fear, confusion, or anger. That day I felt God tell me to trust Him more. Trust Him in His perfectness to bring me to the place He desires. He wants me to be okay with not knowing all the details and He wants me to arrive with the same excitement as my boys. God wants us to walk up to the next place He takes us, open the door and walk in with full confidence that this is where He wants us. I pray that we all can grow stronger in trusting our God to have full control of our lives, including our steps and destinations. I believe the closer we stay by Him in our journey, the more we will see His goodness and perfect plan for each of our lives.
psalm 32 8


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This is the Season

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that seemed to become a recurring conversation you have with multiple people? This recently happened to me as I was talking to a friend. What we discussed then came up in conversations I had with multiple friends. Because of this, I really began thinking more and more about the topic and would like to share my thoughts with you.

As I sat with my friend, we began discussing different seasons of life, particularly times when your gifts or passions are laid aside. We are currently both stay-at-home moms that have passions and gifts on us, but it seems that motherhood gets the most, if not all of us. As I sat listening and discussing this reality with my friend, my mind began racing with questions…

“Is putting your gifts and passions on hold a reality? Does it have to be this way?”

“Is there anyway to continue in your passions and gifts no matter your season?”

“People claim that we can do it all, but is this just a claim and a not a real possibility?”

With each additional conversation regarding this topic, my thoughts and questions increased. Then one day as I was driving, I had this revelation moment. My mind was held by an image of a woman sitting on the bench during a soccer game. (I will use this sport, since it is the sport I currently play. Go Double Shots!) The woman on the bench was not called to play in the game, but if called in, she was ready. She had been exercising and practicing as if she was to be the MVP of the game. She was prepared for the moment she would be called in. It was here when I had my “ah-ha” moment. I felt like I had gained answers to some of my lingering questions.

Putting our passions and gifts aside because of our current season may seem like the only option sometimes, especially when we feel like we are just sitting the bench. We can have many reasons why we put our gift “on the shelf” per say; whether it is taking care of kids, no current opportunities, financial issues, or simply time. But as I thought about the soccer analogy, I have come to believe we can exercise our gifts and passions no matter the season or circumstance.  It may not be the picture perfect way we thought our gifts and passions would be lived out, but if we do not exercise them in all seasons, how will we be prepared when our ideal opportunity comes.

If you are gifted to teach, find ways to teach. It might be teaching your children, having a small group of friends over, or tutoring at your local library.

If you are gifted to sing, find ways to sing. The platform may not be there yet, but your family can hear you, the local choir would love to have you, or the mirror in your house is waiting for you.

If you are passionate about missions, find ways to serve. It may not be Africa, but your neighbor is waiting on you, your kids school needs you, or a local nonprofit is waiting for your help.

I am learning that God does not give us gifts to be placed on the shelf to collect dust. He desires us to use our gifts no matter the season. He wants us to exercise them so we are prepared when He calls us out. He wants them to be stretched so they can grow and be strengthened. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2, “…be prepared in season and out of season..” Paul wanted to make sure Timothy was ready.

be ready

Are you ready? Do you have gifts and passions that need to be taken off the shelf and utilized? For me, I used to exercise my gifts daily as I worked full-time, attended mission trips, served at church, and served my family. When I became a stay-at-home mom, many of my gifts and passions seemed to be pushed to the side. I began to make excuses for the reasons this was happening. Thankfully God showed me ways to exercise my gifts in my current reality. He has stretched me to teach by home schooling. He has helped me connect with others through blogging and joining different groups and teams. He has opened my eyes to so many creative ways to stay utilizing my gifts and passions. I am hoping that you are now stirred. You are dusting off your gifts and passions and determining ways to exercise them because there will be a season where you are called off the bench. Are you ready?