5 Ways I Crush Schedules in Medical School

The dorsal fin shot up behind me in the crystal waters off the California coast, cruising toward my surfboard at an ominous rate…. Well I haven’t actually been surfing off the coast of Cali, but sometimes I think my heart feels like an inevitable shark attack when I am behind and overwhelmed. Miss one assignment, don’t have supplies for packing a lunch, forgot to call mom this week, didn’t print something for the latest church project, the list of things that can overwhelm me is rather, overwhelming.

Shark Dorsal Fin
Dorsal Fins might stimulate a little more panic than being behind, but still…

Below are 5 ways I, by grace alone, try to stay somewhat on top of my game so I can be a doctor someday. Treating people sounds much nicer than existing as an overwhelmed rando. Tell me what you like from the list and what helps you!

5 Ways To Crush A Schedule Infographic

Meal Plan:
This one is an easy addition to your week if you don’t already prep your food. It takes 15 minutes or less, allows you to choose healthy foods before you are tired and only want to binge eat frozen pizza, and the mother load of all bonuses – you only have to make 1 trip to the store a week. Time is our most precious commodity and going to the grocery store regularly is not how I like to spend mine. I usually allow for a little flexibility in the plan for unexpected left overs or spontaneity (free lunch at school anyone?) And yes, Pinterest boards are awesome for this.

Daily Crush Lists
So I could call it a To-Do list but it is soooo much more motivating to call it a To-Crush list. It can be as short or long as you need it to be – the goal is simply to crush into completeness everything contained in it. Mine changes every day in length and content; typically the most important things go on top. Some days it goes in my journal, some days it goes on a Post -it note, some days it’s in my phone. The central concept is to get your requirements down where you can refer back to them and enjoy crossing them off when you finish. The crossing off part is fun – don’t skip it! It helps with memory gaps, time management, and provides a sense of accomplishment. Juggling different roles can be a headache, but having what you need for each party you are working with makes the achievement process much more streamlined.

Family Calendar
Most of us have a calendar and I have used one for years. Med school’s quick sand environment was wreaking havoc with syncing Tyler’s and my schedules though. Solution? Shared google calendar. By making a shared gmail we can sync calendars together for events and still have our separate gmail calendars too. For instance, if he has a lunch meeting this Tuesday an and I have a surprise party for his birthday that night, I can see the lunch meeting in one color on the google page and the surprise party (that he can’t see) in a different color. So. much. better.

Social Schedule
Momma always said if you didn’t put it on the calendar it wasn’t going to happen. And this sad little statement is true. So schedule date night, time to call your mom, and the time when you just want to have a cup of coffee and not be disturbed. If you don’t set out to make time for everything it will get shoved to the side. Want to hang our with friends before an exam? Catch up with that one friend that you each keep promising to see? Schedule it!

Prioritize Sleep
This one actually doesn’t have to do with scheduling. Most of us forget that if we short-change ourselves on rest we do not “get ahead”. Trying to cut corners on our bodies’ needs does not make us more efficient people. It makes us poor performing zombies with bad hair days.
In college I was always told I would get way less sleep in medical school – I knew this wasn’t the case because I wasn’t going to pass medical school on less sleep. God has given me so much time in a day and I have to make the best of it. There are plenty of other things that can be cut back before the need to cut sleep even arises too (hello social media, un-efficient study, and poor time management). Your brain needs sleep to stay healthy. Twenty years of sleep deprivation will have your brain on its knees begging for dementia. Don’t do it. Cut your brain some slack and sleep the poor organ.

*disclaimer here before a parent gets hold of me, I realize sleep deprivation happens as a parent sometimes (or most of the time) but tiny hoomans are way less in your control than most other schedule variables*

Schedules are crazy, life is crazy, and we have so many God-given opportunities to accomplish things. Our accomplishments can’t come from a disorganized life that always runs at top speed though. There is a time for everything when we bother making time for it. Scheduling helps us crush our schedules so we don’t have to crush our dreams. 🙂

You’re in Med School, And Had Time For A Blog?

You will spend 30-40 hours a week studying. You will give up on seeing your family as they take a back seat to your career aspirations. You will choose between anything you ever cherished and instead dwell in dark closets investigating the infinite galaxies of pathology power points. You may only smile when you get a good grade on a test. You will lose any compassion you used to have for patients as you plumb the depths of human depravity and greed in the healthcare system. You will sleep less than necessary for a human being and be absolutely miserable forever.

Med School feels like this dark cave sometimes.

Yeesh, that’s harsh… and not exactly what having my dream coming true of getting into med school looked like. For many students that is the grim reality of medical school though. It’s dark, painful, and in the end questionably rewarding. Physician burn out is a thing and it starts for most at the genesis of the medical education journey.

Burned out physician? Sacrifice my family? Abandon my faith? No thank you! There is no satisfaction in achievement if you have sacrificed everything to acquire an unfulfilling goal. There isn’t even the possibility of doing something for God’s glory if you have abandoned every notion of what it means to honor Him while in pursuit of yourself.

Life can be more though. More than burnout, more than exhaustion, more than self-service.

It can also be very messy, and chaotic, and beautiful because God provides grace for our challenges. My grace comes through finding meaningful things to do outside of medical school.

Being married to an awesome man who does medical school with me but also life outside of medical school has been a tremendous encouragement. Living on 3 acres gives us plenty of room to experiment with mushroom foraging, gardening, and our two dogs Willow and Espresso. Working with our church’s youth group keeps us accountable for regular attendance and is an awesome breath of fresh air to our souls as we work with the people of God and invest in young people. It doesn’t get any better!

Or maybe it does! We learn to make cheese together, started blogs to develop another professional skill-set to use when we (Lord willing) have our own practice, we go camping together, we spend time with our families on weekends we don’t have tests, and drinking lots of coffee. And we do study because we want to save lives in the future. Our goal is to be physicians, and business owners, community members, a family, and to chase many other dreams. But, our identity remains in Christ – NOT in just where we are in life. That’s the real secret to fulfillment and joy.

Beautiful sunrise though icy whorls on my living room window this morning. Incredibly beautiful reminder that God has a lot of things to see outside of school.

Life can be difficult, but we also have tremendous blessings and opportunities to enjoy the journey regardless of our occupation. Some jobs are hard and relatively joyless while others are exciting, but we all have the choice to glorify God with our life and find fulfillment in our work. Blogging was just another creative outlet for me to avoid the ordinary and make life more fulfilling. Yes, it takes away from studying and a tight schedule but hey, that’s okay. No dark caves for me all the time. Hopefully not for you either! I’m so glad you’ve tagged along for the crazy ride – more adventures to come soon. <3

How do you keep life meaningful and in pursuit of His glory?

I Can Do All Things, Can You?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The familiar verse shows up a lot in our lives. Football helmets of our favorite players, pillows on our Grandmother’s couch, picturesque inspiration quotes on our own Pinterest boards, etc. And yet, it seems many times we miss the meaning of this verse altogether. Ever feel like it has been held over your head? You just need more faith and you can do anything right? Because with Christ ALL things are possible….

Dustin Benge recently tweeted the following:

And I have to agree with Dustin’s assesment. (if you follow me on twitter @CoffeeGratitude you’ll notice I retweeted it – no shame) Christ has to be our focus and not ourselves when we read scripture. The ugly disease of self-centeredness is a hard one to evade with society’s crushing ideals of the self-god. Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him, to put others first, and to live a life of joyous service to the gospel – not to parade our own ideals and goals above all other things. The context of Phillipians 4 is one of gratitude and contentment during tremendous suffering as Paul is setting forth an example of his life to the church at Philippi.

Ok, ok so we know that verse really shouldn’t be what we look at on Monday to deal with our first world problems of a coffee shortage in the lounge. And maybe even when we have been squished by a bad exam, relationship drama, challenge at work or other responsibility, this isn’t exactly our go-to verse. However, I did have to stop and think about the obvious question, where do we look for encouragement for our non-faith related trials? Are they non-faith related trials?

The problems we face are rarely like those of Paul, but they are still problems and challenges. We do need God’s grace and strength to navigate our day to day issues. We don’t actually have the capacity to overcome things without Him.

Other examples that come to mind concerning finding hope and strength in the Bible for our challenges are the Psalmist David and God’s presentations of Himself in the Old Testament. Over and over David acknowledges his sin and insufficiency next to the greatness of His God. He cries out in humility and asks for the protection of his Strong Tower. He doesn’t cower about going to war as a “well God isn’t allowing me to do literally anything through Him so I’m going to sit and do nothing” – he rushes to be a champion because he recognizes it honored God for him to be diligent in his efforts and he had comfort in his Protector.  Throughout the OT we see examples of the names of God as one who gives us peace, healing, banner over us, and many other names designed to give us comfort and strength.

Crying out to our God is one way He delights in giving us strength in our souls. He delights in giving His children strength – just not giving in to their sinful whims.

The point is well made through scripture that all the credit goes to Him, all our success goes to Him, we work for His glory, and just because we want to do something doesn’t mean He is going to hand us a good outcome. He promises to work out things for our good. Let’s be honest, sometimes we need to fall flat on our backs and that’s good for us.  It is good for us to remember our own insufficiencies. Difficulties even help deliver much needed epiphanies. We easily forget our priority is to be seeking God’s kingdom and plan while aligning ourselves with His desires.  Alignment with His character is necessary before the “all these things will be added to you” part comes true. When we desire what He desires, we are fulfilled.

Where is God in those tough situations? Right there with us, sustaining us, and helping us to fail and fall because we wouldn’t be humbled any other way. He doesn’t abandon us. He also doesn’t stoop for us to believe He is our magic genie in a bottle for our trivial wants.

Is there no application of Philippians for us then? Not at all, we can rest in the grace of our sovereign God that He will allow us to endure whatever He sends our way; and if we have goals in life or dreams, we are not promised success directly, but rather a knowledge of our eternal security in Him. Philippians stands as tremendous comfort during trial – just not an excuse to inflate ourselves and promote our own agendas.

So basically anything with breath in it is of little account when compared to our God. We cannot put our trust and hope in ourselves – just in Him.

So pull your life in line with God’s word and Christ’s character. Pursue excellence in your work and dreams. Trust that you will fail, and probably often. Realize life does not have you as its epicenter. And hope in your heavenly future. <3

New Year, New Thoughts

Oh Christmas food, Oh Christmas food, my waistline will not miss you…
The holiday season is such a special time to treasure family and the precious gift of God incarnate but after 3 weeks of heavy food and excessive social activities I am ready to thank God for His many gifts in other ways. Taking time to have new thoughts about old times and the new year is something I especially treasure after all the holiday chaos. Resolutions aren’t something that make the list of New Year’s thoughts however, because they tend to fizzle so quickly. Planning to improve things is different than resolutions because you make time to examine your heart and mind about problems and strengths present, and then specifically work to accomplish spiritual and mental growth in those areas as opposed to just listing things you want to be better at. Resolutions are merely good intentions whereas planning is specific and tangible. Give it a whirl and see how it works for you!

A Bible and journal are my truest friends and greatest allies in life’s journey

Here are a few of my favorite avenues for thinking through the old year:

  1. Remembering God’s faithfulness in the hard times
  2. Seeing God’s goodness in the easy times
  3. Evaluating weaknesses of the past year, spiritually, physically, and in relationships with others
  4. Evaluating strengths of the past year in those same areas
  5. Thinking through how life has changed and processing a year of events
True wisdom is something God has put on my heart to pursue this upcoming year

And favorite ways for looking into the new year:

  1. Planning how to improve spiritual growth and fellowship with the body of Christ and in our home – like going through a Spiritual Health Check
  2. Looking for more ways to be grateful for the abundance of blessings
  3. Planning ways to be better steward of resources (like health and time)
  4. Anticipating challenges the new year will present and preparing accordingly ( board exam anyone?)
  5. Setting the precedent for a year that focuses on glorifying God and triumphing by grace over things in my control instead of the burned-out and frustrated attitude I usually have going in to Christmas break.

A journal, piece of scratch paper, or word doc is an easy way to track your thoughts too. Choosing to take some of the topics for Family discussion is an easy way to encourage your loved ones to evaluate their own lives too. I hope you and your family have many things to celebrate from this last year and have many more blessings in the upcoming one.

2019 is coming in with a bang!

Everyone always has different ways they like to celebrate another year on this crazy planet and to anticipate a new year. What are your’s? 🙂

Christmas Decorating Party – You Need One Too!

Warm chocolate chip cookies, milk in a frosty glass, classic holiday music, and a tub of Christmas decorations. Sounds like a party!
Since being married 3 years ago, we have had an annual Christmas decorating party where we dig out the red tub, string up lights, and write out our Christmas cards.  We dance in the kitchen to the Christmas music I’ve dug out for the first time in the season while wishing we hadn’t eaten so many cookies and there are candles everywhere. Today I thought I would share a few traditions we have made together for our Christmas decorating party to make the holidays more meaningful and mindful. Enjoy!

Red glitter cards to share the love of God this season are a staple

The Food
This year we made chocolate chip cookies, most years there is at least hot cocoa involved too. I was smart and only baked half of the dough that was made up, but we still managed to polish off the entire plate that was made (Hey, don’t judge I’m headed to work out today). Taking time to make the cookie dough from scratch and smelling them while they turn golden brown are my favorite parts of holiday baking.

The Cards
We take time every year to write cards to family and friends. We love getting to put holiday wishes, a note that we’re praying for them, or letting them know how much we have appreciated having them in our lives this past year. Having a specific time set aside to get these done is helpful, and knocking the list out together makes it a cinch. It’s the thoughts in the cards that count and not what you paid for them, so I’ll share my little secret that I also always buy my cards on after-Christmas sales and store them in the red tub for next year.

Candlelight makes everything more festive!

The Music
We listen to the Pandora station for Trans Siberian Orchestra with all of their classical renditions of carols and songs. We both like the older classic songs and instrumental versions for our wild party. A little Lindsey Stirling in the mix makes for a pretty dreamy atmosphere. Check out the station shown in the picture  by clicking here.

Trans Siberian Orchestra and Lindsey Stirling are our favorite Christmas artists

Limiting the decorations
This one sounds a little weird for having a party. Trust me though, it’s much more fun. The house rule is it all has to fit back into the 20 gallon red tub at the end of the December. (We don’t presently have a Christmas tree – if we get one in the future it would be an exception.) No one wants to have to make numerous trips to the storage room and lug endless boxes from the attic. If you have ever been to a garage sale or thrift store you know the people I am talking about who have an extreme excess of Christmas decor. Tyler and I both said we never wanted that for our family. Being beautiful doesn’t have to mean being extravagant. Try it out! How can you streamline your decor? You might even find you are happier with less clutter during this holiday season.

Taking a moment in the middle of the busy season to spend an evening with family and decorate our home has grown to be a tradition we both look forward to immensely each year.

What Pre-Christmas traditions do you have? 🙂 Would love to hear in the comments.

Oblivion is Bliss – Oklahoma Kids and Child Abuse

Oblivion is bliss. Wait I thought the saying was “ignorance is bliss”? Well it might be, but today I’m talking about the kindergartner sitting in their classroom filled with bright colors and happy faces who is totally zoned out. Little Tommy is zoned out to the point he doesn’t hear the teacher calling his name or see Little Sophia reaching over to share her markers. He doesn’t feel anything. He chose to not feel anything because it was better than feeling the welt on his head where daddy threw a beer can at him that morning and remembering the yelling fight between his parents. Being oblivious was better than feeling the gnawing pain in his stomach because he wasn’t given dinner or breakfast because mommy was “busy”.

But Little Tommy is a rare happenstance right? Only drug addicts or alcoholics abuse their kids right? Unfortunately no, abuse happens in many families. Today in lecture we talked about some of the psychiatric disorder kids suffer from after suffering abuse. I was a little taken back myself. Oklahoma ranks #8 in the nation for abused children. In 2015 there were 31 deaths due to abuse and just over 55,000 investigations of reported abuse. These numbers are huge! And they have so many far reaching implications for everyone in the family, community, and state. These kiddos don’t grow up to be better versions of their parents, in fact there were over 9,000 arrests of kids under the age of 18 in the state in 2016. If they make it to adulthood without being criminals, they are much more likely to struggle with developing meaningful relationships (teen pregnancy anyone?), depression, heart disease, and a host of other problems occurring from extreme chronic stress and trauma. It shouldn’t surprise us that Oklahoma is #2 in the nation for heart disease; many of these cases stem from people suffering immensely in their childhoods. These statistics should break our hearts and cause us to question, where did we go so wrong?

Words hurt just like objects and can destroy a mind and body

Neglect was listed as the largest category of abuse in recent studies in Oklahoma with the largest category being kids 3 and under. Choosing not to feed kids, keep them appropriately dressed, not showing affection, and other forms of neglect are sooo preventable! Why is this an issue? The answer may surprise you. There is so little of the Gospel and the hope the gospel provides. No hope means more drug and alcohol abuse so kids get forgotten. No truth means we have no reason to care for others besides ourselves. No gospel means we don’t understand love and what it means to be affectionate to our kids. No accountability means we forget to develop patience with the little buggars when they are on our nerves and don’t put their needs above ours. Oklahoma needs an ocean of truth and hope that only the gospel of Christ will provide.

What You Can Do
For starts, go home and hug your kids. Tell them you love them. Teach them the gospel. Show them by example how to share the gospel with others. Then choose to step out of oblivion yourself, interact with your community, advocate for kids who are suffering, encourage parents who are struggling, be the parent you know your kids need.
If you struggle with addiction, intimate partner violence, or just with anger towards your kids, know that it is okay to not be perfect. Kids don’t need perfect, they need a parent who recognizes when to get help. Counselors aren’t just for crazy people, medications can be helpful, and being honest with those around you can inspire others to seek help too. Choose to be different and let’s make Oklahoma different. If you’re up for the challenge you can prayerfully consider adopting a kiddo who has a challenging home situation and help them join the 2400+ Oklahoma kids adopted every year. There are so many ways we can all seek improvement. Seek out how God can use you to make a difference.

Hope comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Be more than a statistic, be a parent.

Below are additional resources and statistics:

How to Report Child Abuse 

American Society for The Positive Care of Children

Oklahoma Plan for Childhood Abuse Prevention


Holiday Health Check. How Are You Spiritually?

Wait! Stop Winter! You’re running over fall. Be nice and wait your turn! Goodness, 4 inches of snow and a week of frigid temperatures does not look like a typical early Oklahoma November. Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday but it is being run over by Christmas with this weather. I just can’t keep a Thanksgiving mindset when I run to the store and they’re playing Christmas carols while it’s snowing outside! But I am trying to be grateful, the snow is pretty and God controls the weather too. Anyway, Thanksgiving is still coming and Christmas right behind it, providing the perfect season for a little soul searching. How is your spiritual health?

Our backyard, this view was gorgeous that morning

Priorities: How are you prioritizing God in your life? Are you investing in your daily spiritual walk? Maybe think about picking up a new podcast this week. Below are links to two, the first is a 5 minute once weekly podcast and the second is a longer podcast. I absolutely love the 5 Minutes in Church History one, it’s time efficient, thorough, and entertaining. The second one is totally worth your time with sound, deep, biblical teaching that will keep you grounded in your faith.

5 Minutes in Church History – Stephen Nichols

Grace to You Podcast – John McArthur

How about time in Scripture? You don’t have to wait till New Years to try to pick up a new habit of daily reading or to renew your former habit. We miss out on so many blessings when we don’t have His words on our heart daily. Engaging an accountability partner is a great idea to help each other out too.

Attitude. This one is a hard one for me. Remembering to be a thankful person who trusts God for what’s next can be a challenge; but if we trust Him to redeem us by His love and grace we have to trust Him with the rest of our lives too. We can’t be complaining, gossiping, irritable, people. We are called to be joyful, encouraging, patient followers of Christ. Does your attitude reflect your newness of life?

Compassion. Holidays are easy times to think of others but right here on the edge of the holiday season and following the season to the rest of the year, we have the privilege of  being the heart and hands of Christ to a church and world filled with hurting people. Visit a home-bound member of your church. Volunteer around your community. Watch the kids of a young couple at your church free of charge because they just need a break. Send a card to a person who recently experienced crippling loss. Buy coffee for a young person (not too young lol) and ask them about life. Experience the joys of having an overflowing heart when you choose to love the people around you.

Faith. Can you defend yours? What exactly do you believe? If you came across a high school friend on the street could you share your testimony with them? These are tough questions and the answers require a lot of diligent study, thought, effort, and prayer. It’s the 21st century, Christianity is still under constant bombardment from all sides. As a soldier of Christ we have to put on the full armor of God and be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks.

Many Christians today are considered “nominal” meaning they show up on Sundays and Wednesdays (sometimes), live to check boxes that earn them points toward heaven, only live pure lives in church service, or overbook their lives so that church and the things of God are just an afterthought. Are you a nominal Christian? Or are you a passionate follower of Christ, your Savior,  who takes joy in pursuing righteousness, and live a life that beams the light of truth to those around you?  Take this spiritual health check seriously and let’s be accurate reflections of the church we are called to be. 🙂
If you have a family the infographic below has some fun ideas:

What are ways you stay accountable for your spiritual health? 🙂

Other Tips:

  • This is not an exhaustive list
  • This is not a “to-do” list
  • This can be a fun exercise, especially with a spouse, friend, or family

Outdoor Prescription

Just breathe. Suck air in. Hold it. Let it out. Repeat. Over and over the phrases came. Jagged breaths slowly came and went but the vice grip on the ribs wasn’t changing.  After 8 grueling weeks of neuroanatomy, the test was over; the comprehensive exam with lab practical was over. No more dead brain pieces, no more obscure pathways, no more long nights of getting home just in time to crawl into bed over mountains of undone laundry. All over. But, breathing was still not normal! My body was having none of “normal” after putting up with that mess for 8 weeks. Even after a relaxed evening immediately following the test and 12 hours of sleep, breathing was still hard. It was going to take more than just an evening off to recoup. Thankfully we had planned a cool weather camping trip, an outdoor prescription if you will, to decompress for the next evening. After mandatory classes Tuesday afternoon we scooted out to a lake an hour away, had an incredibly evening  and even made it back to campus in time for our 9 AM class Wednesday. Gorgeous weather and fall foliage paved the way to the secluded campground and now that we are back in full swing for psychiatry,  our mind, bodies, and souls are prepared for it.

Tree by the lake

Vibrant foliage

Serenity restores the mind and body
In case you couldn’t tell from the photos, the landscape was phenomenal. Sunlight waters of a lake at sunset, fall fruits, vibrant foliage, and perfectly crisped air will work wonders for a tired mind and body. The hubby and I disagree a little on whether sleeping on the cold hard ground is therapeutic, but my ribs were very grateful for a change of scenery. The extra beautiful part is there is absolutely no reason to stay up late. The sun went to bed and shortly after so did I! No computer screens, no diseased brain photos, just a breeze in the leaves and a distant train.

Gorgeous sunset

Persimmons! Beautiful fall fruit. Plan to bake something with a few of the ripe ones we found.

Singing worship songs invigorates the soul
Curled up in a blanket sitting in front of a warm fire on a crisp night and opening our souls in worship under the cathedral dome of a starry sky was one of the best parts of the whole trip. Deep peace and  souls restored in faith were the end result.  Neither of us play guitar or sing exceptionally well, so maybe it was good we were the only ones at the campground, but hey, the Psalmist says “make a joyful noise” so we’re covered.

Fall berries we found while hiking

Simple food warms the heart
Early Wednesday morning I woke at dawn to see a crackling fire and my favorite person in the world. If that wasn’t a sufficiently good start to a morning, there shortly after was an iron skillet toasting apples, oats, and almonds with cinnamon and vanilla.  it smelled like heaven and tasted like fall. Humble ingredients, simple preparation, and an ideal way to start the day with a warm and grateful heart.

Apple skillet that smelled like Heaven and tasted like fall

Best camping partner

What’s your favorite outdoor prescription? 🙂

Mental Break to Forage Mushrooms

It just wasn’t happening. The air was crisp. It had just rained a few days earlier. It had been a grueling week. And the studying was just a no-go on Saturday. It was time for a mental break.  So I went mushroom foraging with the hubby instead and was much happier for it. 🙂

Richly colored foliage – my favorite season

I happily took my mental break outside during my favorite season pursuing one of my favorite hobbies with my favorite person. (To be very clear for the curious minds out there, these are NOT psychadellics that we were hunting.)

The first species we came across was one I had not seen before and it looks like a corral growing out of the ground. It was the neatest looking thing! Just look at the picture! Someone took a sample of the Great Barrier Reef and planted it in my backyard woods and it grew!

Baby Corral Mushroom

Yes, I look ridiculously excited. No, I am not wearing makeup. Yes, this is a huge specimen.

After researching we were amused to find it is in fact a corral mushroom (Ramaria formosa). Roasted in the oven with a little garlic oil on top it made for quite the addition to dinner. We additionally found some Wood Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) mushrooms. If you have ever had Hot and Sour soup at a Chinese restaurant and noticed the thin dark strips that have a mushroom-y texture you have had wood ears. They are delicious in soups and stir fry. I packed them along for lunch at school today to add to my ramen because I am out of time for gourmet cooking as this ridiculous neuro final approaches.

First part of the harvest. Corral mushrooms with Wood Ears

Later in the day we also went to a nearby lake and found some Ringless Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria tabescens). Those are on the menu to have tonight with caramelized onion dip. I absolutely love the clumping formation they have!

Ringless Honey Mushrooms – So beautiful!

My husband has decided I will not be a crazy cat lady when I am old – it will be the crazy shroom lady. But seriously, there are so many different kinds! Next time you take a walk just notice how many different kinds of fungi you come across. They are all so different and spectacular. It reminds me every time to thank God for his incredible creation. Only a God with infinite creative power would make nature’s garbage clean up service beautiful and dynamic. Mushrooms literally exist to help decompose wood so we can grow new trees and plants and yet they come in myriads of morphologies, textures, colors, sizes, and flavors.

Mushroom hunting dates are the best.

Be passionate about details in life, it’s so much more satisfying. That’s all I can say when it comes to mushrooms anyway.

Check out the links on the species names above for more details on what we found, and this post on a different experience with foraged mushrooms.

Not edible, but super cool.

Have a favorite memory of mushroom hunting as a kid of do you forage now? 🙂

Church, Family for the Soul

Family. A group of people tied by blood or friendship in un-explainable ways. A group of people committed to loving each other, supporting each other, helping each other, and serving each other. Most of the time somewhat dysfunctional and yet an entity we all treasure. This time of year we end up thinking a lot about our families as the holidays approach  and the leaves turn. I think that is part of what makes the season so special.

Purple flowers lined the edge of the yard

But blood is not the only thing that makes a family. A family is so much more than that. Anyone who belongs to a church with a tight knit community knows precisely what I am talking about. A church is family for your soul. Today I wanted to share an experience with church family as I watched them surround a member in need with arms of love and compassion. It was absolutely beautiful.  I have omitted names out of respect for the family but have shown pictures from around their beautiful home. And yes, the toad is adorable.

This past summer was when the news came. His cancer had come back. Melanoma, his dark nemesis was there again and this time for his life. It affected everyone in our small congregation deeply. He wasn’t very old but had rich legacy of a loving wife of over 40 years and a large family filled with kids and grand-kids.

Toad we found while cleaning up the place. Isn’t he cute!

Shortly before he passed he wanted to make sure his wife was well cared for, and they decided to move closer to town. The church family immediately responded with overwhelming support to help  the move. There were donuts, laughs, hugs, and lots of packing tape rolls involved. Consensus said the chocolate glazed donuts were the best that day. It was some of the deepest fellowship the church had experienced. There just aren’t words for some things.

After his passing, there arose a need to finish cleaning up their yard before preparing the house to sell. Again the church rallied around the family and brought an arsenal of weed eaters, mowers, and willing hands. The pastor was out there (he is in his 70s) the youth were out there, and church members of all ages in between were there. There for her, there for the family, there to be family. It was awesome! And inspiring! So much joy everywhere and willingness to work.

Picturesque view from the edge of their house

There may or may not have been pizza and hay bale rolling afterwards…

So often in today’s busy world we miss out on the incredible experiences of being the hands and feet of the body of Christ that serves one another. So often we forget to take care of the widows in our churches. But every so often, grace abounds and we get a few things right and function as the family God intended for believers. Those moments are priceless, and it was a tremendous honor and privilege to be a part of this family’s story as it unfolded. His wife and immediate family have a hard road ahead filled with grief and a sense of loss, yet they can also celebrate with their church family surrounding them that he graduated from the pain and suffering he had here to a perfect existence in the presence of God.

How do you experience family and participate in being family in your church or community?