Cupcakes and Sunshine: January 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

driven and driving

I've been doing a lot of processing lately. Both inwardly and outwardly. (Thank you friends who  received the outward ramblings of the processing. Thankful for your listening ears and for joyfully processing the good and bad alongside me! Big hugs to you.) I think a lot of driving from place to place has been the birthplace of all this inward processing. Traffic used to make me so anxious, but I've realized I do my best thinking, praying, and listening when I move slowly. I've learned to be thankful for long(ish) commutes to and from work each day.

This week's commute has had me thinking about all kinds of things, but especially about some weaknesses that I once thought were strong points.

Like the fact that I used to be so stinking driven.
So driven about anything and everything.

I couldn't sleep most nights growing up because I had so many ideas and thoughts and fixes and projects. I've always been a big-time dreamer. And I used to be really great at putting action to those dreams too. In elementary school, I used to brainstorm business plans for hours. I constantly had a lemonade stand outside in the driveway, greeting cards I was creating to sell, a wedding I was planning for a make-believe friend through magazines and advertisements I found (pre-pinterest days), a club/organization I was designing to save the world- all before I could even drive.

Any challenge or goal inspired me.

I remember one year, I had a teacher who challenged us to learn all of our multiplication tables and for each set we memorized, we'd earn a topping to add to our plain vanilla ice-cream sundaes. We could come in before class to take our timed multiplication tests over a period of two months to earn each of our toppings for the grand celebration party at the end. I went home that night and memorized them all. Over and over I practiced. I earned all the stickers on my sundae chart in less than a week. My ice-cream had oreos, chocolate syrup, m&ms, caramel, hot fudge, rainbow sprinkles, and whipped cream. Achieving this challenge fueled me. Doing it in record time was the cherry on top.  

One year, I went to Best Buy and purchased Dance Dance Revolution. One of my cousins had purchased it over the summer and had mastered all the advanced levels. I danced-danced for fifteen hours the next day. Non-stop. Straight driven. Until I had mastered and memorized all the levels.

Tryouts for a sports team? SATs and ACTs? Applications for the college I had challenged myself to get into? Each mini challenges and to-do's I could check off my "I achieved that" list. Bring. it. on.

But just this past week, I was in my car. In traffic. I didn't feel rushed. I didn't feel like I had to do something or be somewhere or be something. I didn't feel like I had to achieve. The restful feeling was unusual....and I started beating myself up about it. WHY DO I NO LONGER FEEL DRIVEN? Shouldn't I feel driven? My first thought was- something is wrong with me. Why am I feeling this way? and I began questioning Jesus- What the heck is going on here? WHY AM I NOT FEELING DRIVEN?!

A few days later, I received a hurtful text message. And I felt a familiar fire return in me to just perform. and do. and to achieve. and to perfect. And my first quick impulse inclination was to go to the gym and just run and run. It wasn't a thought of "oh I have to do this to channel my energy healthily and to feel the goodness of exercising" but of "OH I have to do this to prove to myself that I am capable of doing something that makes me feel like I have worth."
I felt like that text attacked my worth.
and brought my "drive" back.

And then BOOM. It hit me.

Home was not a safe place growing up, but an unhealthy environment. Hurtful words and actions fueled my feelings of worthlessness and I felt unwanted and abandoned. I now have come to realize that my drive for perfectionism during this time (& growing up) had come from an unhealthy place of proving that I was worth something to my own self because I was not receiving or accepting truth from anywhere or anyone else.

It wasn't about all the toppings on my achievement sundae. When it came to Dance Dance Revolution, it wasn't about the competition. I didn't even tell my cousin or others that I had too mastered all the levels. It wasn't about being skinny in high school when I cut calories and lost a lot of weight when I definitely didn't need to. Or when someone told me I couldn't run a 5K, and I went home that night and ran 6.2 miles for the first time to prove it to myself I could. It wasn't about perfect 100s on papers. I didn't even tell anyone about this stuff. 

I just had to prove to my own self that I was capable. I had to prove to myself that I had worth. When I thought I was mastering my to-do lists and challenges, I was really mastering my own self-worth through control and perfectionism. This was my drive. My freshman year of college, before I came to know Jesus, I would make to-do lists each day and each week. If I didn't complete the lists, I hated who I was that day. I wasn't enough. I was not successful. And I bet the enemy really enjoyed that too, because when all this was going on, I looked like I had myself pretty put together. Making good grades and exercising and eating "healthy" and working and checking things off and covering up that everything at home was not all cupcakes and sunshine.

This past week commuting, I've realized that I have been at rest in knowing my identity is in Jesus Christ. Not in achieving my to-do list. Not my gym goals. Not in affirmation in knowing I belong. I have nothing to prove. To myself nor others. Because I'm not driven to seek that affirmation from anyone or anything else. And it has felt like freedom. Jesus died on the cross for me- and my freedom is in knowing Him!

My relationship with Jesus began in college after I was invited to a retreat and truth was spoken to me for the first time. A few months later, I was invited to live with a group of girls who continuously poured truth into me. I'll never forget leaving that house each day and someone would yell out, "Hey! DON'T FORGET YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN RUBIES!!" (Proverbs 3:15) or "You are fearfully and wonderfully made!!!"

(^^also, knowing y'all has changed me. Thanks for loving me like Jesus loves others)

A friend yesterday told me that my life looks like complete sunshine. (social media can be deceiving) And in many ways it is!! God is so good and his blessings are abundant! But life is also messy. And I am a hot mess a lot of the time. And as I dig deeper and deeper into the Word and knowing who God is, I've realized the more and more I am broken and need a Savior. I am nothing without Him.

Goals and checklists were my personal measuring sticks. I sought affirmation from these gold stars most of my life because I wasn't receiving affirmation from a healthy place and I was not following Jesus. I now know because of who I am in HIM, I have nothing to prove. I am enough because of my identity in HIM.

Control: Jesus is in control. I do not have to worry about having my needs being covered, the past, the present, or the future. Jesus has got it all covered!

Worth: Last year, I was sitting with a group of tenth grade girls on a weekend retreat and asked them to each go around the circle and say one thing they like about themselves. After a long pause and lots of awkward "I don't know's," not one single girl could do it. They could easily do it for each other. But for themselves? They couldn't see their own worth. And my heart was broken for them! Hey girlies, YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN RUBIES and are Daughters of the King. You are fearfully and wonderfully made!! In His image!

Jesus died on the cross for me (& you). God not only knows where I am, He knows who I am. He knows what I'm going through, why I'm going through it and how I feel about it. He knows me better than I know myself. He cares about me personally. My worth is not controlled by me and my drive. or me and my achievements.  or others. My worth is not dependent on others' views of me! My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven. 

Driven: My drive wasn't being fueled by the Word, but by the world. I had my definition of "driven" all mixed up. I want to direct my drive to those who are hurting and don't know Jesus. Or who need me to be the hands and feet of Jesus. With all the political changes these past few weeks, my heart hurts for my refugee friends I have been able to meet and know each day at work. These are people. People matter. God sent His son to die for people who matter. No matter where they are from or what country they are in. Lord, direct my thoughts, passions, and interests. Make me more like you each and every day!

Friday, January 20, 2017

velvet taco copycat chicken tikka masala tacos

There are two restaurants I can eat at over and over again in Dallas. First and foremost- HG Sply Co.
I think this is my very favorite place to eat... ever! I have only been a couple of times, but it's my goal to try everything on the menu. (& I can do this because the whole menu is gf!! Happy tears!!) Highly considering a second job to fund my HG and Whole Foods addiction. (half-kidding) They are both way too close and convenient for comfort. Last weekend, we brunched at HG, and I really did almost cry at the table I was so happy. If you're in Dallas, put this one on your list asap!

Velvet Taco is the second restaurant I can eat at over and over again. I do not have any good pictures to show for it because all food is gone before the thought of taking pictures of tacos even crosses my mind!

They have really great outdoor seating, it is open almost 24 hours, and their queso is a dream!! So it is a win-win-win. This past time I visited I learned that their Tikka Masala taco is one of their best-selling tacos. I ordered it... and WOW. It. was. incredible.

But I kept thinking...hmmm, I think I can make this too!?!

Tikka Masala is an Indian dish made with chicken and vegetables in a spicy tomato sauce. I got really hooked on Indian food this past summer when our Athen's Earthfare had Indian hotbar Wednesdays. We'd fill up our to-go boxes after working at the church on Wednesdays, head home to our empty house we were packing up, and watch New Girl in pajamas on the floor with our to-go boxes full of Indian food. Ha! (& then we'd follow with a Ben & Jerry's run to Target afterwards) Special days!

So today, I'm bringing you a recipe for Tikka Masala tacos- inspired by Velvet Taco- except you can make and eat them right at home! So you can watch New Girl. in your pajamas. (and if you want to reminisce on college days, then you can eat them on the floor too!)

They are so, so easy. You can make everything homemade if you'd like, but I used a Tikka Masala Simmer sauce packet (Saffron Road) from Whole Foods...

...added some chicken, made some rice, set out all the taco fixings:

and everything was ready in 20 minutes. You really need to make these!! But just because they are inspired by Velvet Taco's, this doesn't mean you should forego visiting there. You need to do that too! Because their queso is a dream!! And I have no idea how they do that.

Velvet Taco Chicken Tikka Masala Tacos

Corn Tortillas
1/2 pound chicken
Tikka Masala sauce

Taco Fixings: 
Greek yogurt
Jasmine Rice
Chick Peas

1. Cook chicken in Tikka Masala sauce and simmer while getting other ingredients together
2. Warm tortillas in garlic oil/butter
3. Assemble tacos by adding rice, chicken Tikka Masala, and chick peas. Top with yogurt and garnish with parsley.

Happy weekend, friends!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wintertime Citrus Sunrise Smoothie with Truvia® Natural Sweetener

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TasteTruvia #CB #CollectiveBias And always, thank you for your support! Life wouldn't be Cupcakes and Sunshine without ya!

Wowow! Am I SO excited to be back in Texas! I've been on the road the past few weeks and it was a very fun time, but I'm looking forward to being back home, hanging with friends, starting some New Year's goals, and getting back to a schedule.

I'm also very much looking forward to getting back to eating healthy foods! With all the holiday and road travel treats (feeling quite BLEHhh), I'm pumped to get back to all the fruits and vegetables and nutritious meals. All the praise hands for this one, friends.

Over the holidays, I spent a lot of time in Florida, where a few family members grow all kinds of different oranges and grapefruit on trees in their very own backyards. In the mornings, we'd wake up and pick fruit right off the tree. (so cool, right?) So I decided to create a Wintertime Citrus Sunrise Smoothie inspired by fresh citrus and with the help of Truvia® Natural Sweetener Spoonable.

Truvia® is by far my favorite sweetener. I use it in my coffee, tea, and in my smoothies too! It is a zero-calorie, stevia-based sweetener and doesn't have that funky bitter taste. You can find it on the baking aisle (I shopped at Kroger!) near the other sweeteners, and you can even try a free sample HERE and grab a coupon HERE. As we all know, I have a major sweet tooth. But life with less sugar is just as sweet.

For this smoothie, you will need some fresh oranges, sliced bananas, a few strawberries, some Greek yogurt, a splash of cranberry juice, and a couple handfuls of crushed ice.

Place all ingredients in a blender and get ready for the very best start to your day!

Wintertime Citrus Sunrise Smoothie Recipe

2 small oranges (peeled)
1 banana
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup ice
2 tsp. Truvia® Natural Spoonable Sweetener

1. Add all ingredients above to blender, and blend 1-2 minutes until everything is smooth. Add a straw and enjoy!!

Hope your new year is off to a great start, friends!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

10 Books I'm Reading in 2017

We are snowed in!

Sort of!

Two inches of snow outside and all of Georgia shuts down. What better day to snuggle in and read a good book then today!?

I've received many suggestions for books to read this year, and I can't wait to start on these! (in between reading for school and studying. hopefully it can be done-ha!) The following are on my list of books to read in 2017:

(sidenote: I don't have many of the following, so if you want to do some tradesies, I can send my books your way and you can send some mine and we can make a book club out of it!?)

1. Present over Perfect (Shauna Niequist):
I read Shauna Niequist's Bread & Wine a couple years back, and absolutely loved it. I think it has to be one of my favorite books ever, so when I heard about Present over Perfect, I knew I had to read it as well. The title is already speaking to me. As a self-proclaimed former perfectionist (& still working on it. eek), I'm most excited about this one.

2. Ragamuffin Gospel (Brennan Manning):
I have heard a couple of professors and friends suggest this one, so I'm excited to read it as well. Amazon says... "Many believers feel stunted in their Christian growth. We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, pull away from God because we subconsciously believe He tallies our defects and hangs His head in disappointment. In this newly repackaged edition—now with full appendix, study questions, and the author’s own epilogue, “Ragamuffin Fifteen Years Later,” Brennan Manning reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. The Father beckons us to Himself with a “furious love” that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the "ragamuffins.'"

This sounds like a good one, friends.

3. My Fringe Hours (Jessica N. Turner)
I think I actually heard about this one while listening to Jess Lively's podcasts a few months back. It's an interactive book that dissects how you spend your extra hours and free time here and there.

4. How's Your Soul? (Judah Smith)
My good friend Krista told me about this one. I haven't read any of Judah Smith's books before, but I've heard only good things. PUMPED for this one. 

5. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)
I am so excited to read lots of C.S. Lewis this year! I've never read any of C.S. Lewis' books before  and I'm really looking forward to changing this in 2017!!

6. The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
(so excited)

8. Through the Eyes of a Lion (Levi Lusko)

Speaking of lions, this book has been on my wishlist a long time. I've heard Levi speak the past couple of years at Passion, and this story tells of his family's pursuit of Christ in one of the most difficult times of their lives. It is hopeful and encouraging.

9. Breaking Busy: Finding Peace and Comfort in a World of Crazy (Alli Worthington)
Amazon suggested this one for me, and I think Amazon may know me a little too well. But I think it sounds great! Finding peace and purpose in a world of crazy?! Yes please! Has anyone read this one?  

10. My Utmost for His Highest: (Oswald Chambers)
I've heard from so many that this is a powerful devotional full of wisdom. Ready for it!

Any good reads you're looking forward to this year? Or have any that I should read?!
Happy, happy Saturday friends! Hope it's a good one.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 word of the year: community

I think 2016 has been the fastest year yet. I blinked and then BOOM. We're here! Looking right at 2017! The end of some seasons, some big life changes, chapter closings, the start of new chapters, and a few adventures sprinkled in here and there. Through it all, God has been faithful. Through my doubts and insecurities, He provides and loves me more than I can imagine.

The New Year is one of my favorite days. Not because of New Year's eve/day itself (this past one was a great one! More on that in a little bit), but because of a fresh start with new goals and a yearly bucketlist of big dreams and travels. 

A few years ago, I had a friend who told me she started praying about a word of the year to keep in mind and I thought it was the greatest idea so I followed suit! Words are my favorite, and mean a lot. 

In 2015, my word was TRUST,
In 2016, my word was REST,
and I've been praying about my 2017 word of the year and have come to the word  

I was off to a rough start in the beginning of my move to Dallas this past year, and I think my lack of finding community in Texas contributed to that. I knew a couple people from Georgia in Dallas, but besides that- I didn't know anyone! I think things continually spiraled down from there when I made "figuring life out in Dallas" a priority over relationships. I spent more time applying for jobs, studying for classes, and stressing about silly things over finding community. I have to be careful about where I prioritize my time because I can easily start believing the lie that I am doing this life on my own. Scripture says some great things on community, and my life has been changed by community. This year, I'm saying YES to community all around!!

I really want to be PRESENT and to find community in the in the specific places the Lord has me this year. I've broken them down to three areas I spend most of my time. 

School: I don't live on campus, which makes getting on campus a little more difficult, but this year I want to say YES to all school activities and gatherings. I want to study on campus and be present on campus. I crave people and relationships and want to know the people I go to school with!

My "Neighborhood": 

Okay, this picture^^ makes me laugh 1. because we didn't really know each other when we took it and now are great friends and 2. because we are all from Georgia, went to UGA, and WERE NEIGHBORS...and didn't know each other until we moved to Texas and started going to the same school... again. We all once lived in the same small neighborhood in Athens, GA within a couple hundred feet of each other- and really had no idea who each other was until we moved 853 miles across the country. 

I live in an apartment off-campus (my "neighborhood"), and really want to meet and know my neighbors this year. Our apartment has many gatherings and dinners, and I haven't been to one of them since moving to Dallas! (?!) This year, I want to meet and know my neighbors. People from all walks of life live in my apartment, and I am really looking forward to getting to know them. You never know- you might end up 850 miles across the US in the same city attending the same school with these neighbors!

Church: I am leading a small group at my church this year, and each of the ladies in our small group has decided to make our small group community a priority in 2017! I'm so excited for this one. 

The ladies in my small groups throughout the past few years have become some of my very best friends, pointed me towards Jesus, have held me accountable, have prayed with me and for me, and have encouraged me. The Lord has changed my life through small group communities! Can't wait to kick off 2017 with our group. 

I did start off the New Year with great company (/community) back on the east side of the US: 

A few of the old roomies got together for some hiking...


...eating, and board games to ring in 2017 in Chattanooga. And it was the very best time!!

I don't think it gets better than jammies and board games into the wee hours of January 1st. 

and also, everything is funny at 3:30am. 

Thankful to do life with these friends! 

We then headed back down to Georgia for Passion 2017. and WOW was it incredible! Worshiping with 55,000 other students and hearing truth from some inspirational leaders who have lived life saying YES to Jesus no matter what- just wow. God is so good, and I'm incredibly thankful to be a part of this community as well.

If this year is anything like the first week, then I'd be surprised if 2017 is not the best year yet!!


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