Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"But, Lord, I don't like it!"

My intention for this blog was that it would be a place for me to journal my experiences, feelings, and emotions. Once I began to write, I realized that this "open book" might be a little too much, and so I pulled back. After all, I'm a woman, so the feelings and emotions part may be a little overwhelming, right? :) After some thought, I have decided to not worry so much about what others might think, and follow through with my original intentions. So, here it goes.
During the last couple of years, God has been teaching me some powerful lessons. Without getting too personal, I will just summarize some of my struggles and describe how He has allowed me to see a picture of myself and His grace.
Many of you can sympathize with this aspect of my personality, whether it is caused by birth order, the way one was raised, or some other unchangeable circumstance under which one was placed. I am what Kevin Lehman describes as a "discouraged perfectionist". More about that later.
One of the characteristics of a perfectionist is a critical eye. I do not label a critical eye as a negative tendency because, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, attention to detail is a powerfully positive tool. Unfortunately, too many of us have not always operated in complete surrender to the Spirit, and our critical eye has become a source of a disparaging, condescending disposition, a faultfinding temperament, and a "my-way-or-the-highway" attitude. We all know people who exhibit these characteristics, but rarely are we able to see them in ourselves.
In my experience, a strong personality, coupled with a critical eye and lack of spiritual maturity, is a recipe for inner frustration and lack of peace. It is a place I never again wish to visit.
If you have not struggled in this area, you may not understand why someone else would. If you have received freedom from such bondage, you understand the tremendous pressure that has been relieved from your being, and you are enjoying the emancipation that follows. If you are currently operating under a judgemental nature and spirit, with little regard for God's work and leadership in the lives of others, you may underestimate (or even fail to understand) the depths of deception to which Satan has taken you.
Through the process of time that God has allowed me to see a clear portrait of myself, He has also graciously enabled me to accept that some things are simply part of my personality and He is constantly teaching me to channel those negative tendencies into positive attributes. It is a daily choice I must make, and it gets easier each day.
Back to the "discouraged perfectionist". Those who know me well probably laugh when they think of "perfectionist" as a description of "Stephanie". For a long time I didn't understand many things about my own makeup. I rarely have a tidy-enough house, I procrastinate, I am notoriously two minutes late for everything, and my kids sometimes have unkempt hair, long fingernails, and a runny nose. This barely scratches the surface of my imperfections, but it's a start. How that all fit with the typical firstborn/perfectionist philosophy, I hadn't the slightest idea!
When Dr. Lehman's "The First Born Advantage" hit bookshelves, I couldn't wait to read it, because it marketed itself with some of the answers to many questions that I had. I wasn't disappointed...Dr. Lehman introduced me to the "discouraged perfectionist" (whose description I clearly fit), and I have since been able to give attention to some of the areas of my life that were troubling me, and throw under the bus some of the things Satan had been using to discourage or distract me. Typically, my mind has operated in a very black and white (nothing to do with race) manner. I like definite lines. Grey areas are nerve wracking to me. Give me boundaries, lists, written goals, etc......yes, I'm very firstborn! How difficult it was for me to realize that God did not make everyone like He made the typical firstborn (or functional firstborn)! He created each of us differently, with personalities that would serve us well in our particular area of ministry or vocation. He expects different things of different individuals. These differences are visible in our decision making, our reactions, our personal motivation, and yes, our level of spiritual growth (especially as seen with the human eye).
So much of my discontent had roots in the idea that God expected out of everyone else exactly what He expected out of me (wow...isn't this a pretty common occurrence!), and that especially if I felt someone was making a ridiculous decision or even violating a Biblical principle, I could rightly pass judgement upon their choices, whether verbally to others (in a "Godly" manner, of course), or just simply in my own heart. How easy it is to rationalize these small, yet sinful manifestations in our lives!
It is very clear to me that since His revelation of these issues in my life, God has placed specific tests in my way. Some I have passed, some I have failed miserably. This is where the "But, Lord, I don't like it!" comes in. I know He is challenging me, making sure that I am conforming to His likeness, and it isn't always the most pleasant of experiences.
It is amazing to me that within the last year I have faced more personal criticism, to my knowledge, than in any other year. God knows I hate negative criticism, and I have grown to hate it more because it is the enemy of my own soul.
The most recent round came to my attention early on a recent Sunday morning with a phone call from a pastor's wife who is my friend, and thought it wise to let me know what the rumor mill was spreading about me and my family. Quite honestly, I was surprised that little 'ole me would even be interesting enough for a conversation, but I guess with a little embellishment, I made a good story...lol. I was kind of sad, not that I really care about what they said...my life is pretty much an open book and I live to please God and His Word as it applies to my life, but my sadness was more toward those involved. Knowing that a critical eye can so easily lead to a critical spirit, and then on into conversations that aren't even truthful, I wish I could somehow convey to young Christians the danger of traveling that path. I'm thankful that God allowed me, sooner than later, to realize my natural tendencies and begin to put a blinder on that critical eye before it progressed to its natural end.
Maybe you can relate to parts or all of this post. I would encourage you to immediately begin asking God to show you a picture of your heart as He sees it. Remove yourself from situations and people that heighten tendencies toward this behavior. Strive to see others as God sees all of us...through eyes of mercy, grace, and unbelievable love!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mmmmmm...Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas

Here is a Kraft recipe that I recently tried. It ended up tasting pretty good, so I thought I would pass it along. If you're a busy mom like me (who only has a kitchen cause it came with the house), then you like simple recipes, too! :)

8-6 in. flour tortillas
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 sm. onion, chopped
1 lb. cooked boneless skinless ck. breasts, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced (I don't use garlic cloves, so I substitute)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded cheddar and monterey jack cheese, divided
1 cup chunky salsa, divided

Heat oven to 350. Heat large skillet sprayed with cooking spray on med. heat. Add onions and garlic; cook and stir 2 min. Add chicken, 1/4 cup salsa, cream cheese, cilantro, and cumin, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup cheese; mix well.

Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place seam-side down in 13x9 in. dish (sprayed with cooking spray); top with remaining salsa and cheddar cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

**I basically doubled this recipe, and then only filled enough shells to feed us for one meal. The rest I put in a container for later use. I is delicious left over, as well. The mix would also be good as a heavy dip with tortilla chips. Next time I make it, I will use more cilantro, and maybe ramp up the other stuff a bit for more of a distinct flavor. The cream cheese tends to soften the cilantro and cumin a bit. Also, throwing toppings like shredded lettuce, black olives, etc. on top after baking can add to the flavor.

Fanastic Veggie Bake Recipe!

Many of you have asked me for this recipe, and I thought I had posted it earlier, so I apologize! Greg suggested that I make business cards with this recipe and put them next to the dish when I bring it to potluck dinners, etc., and that may be an idea! :) Anyway, here it is:

Vegetable Bake (Pampered Chef)

3-16 oz. bags California Blend (I prefer Aldi because the broccoli is all florets, no stems)

1 cup mayonaise

1 tsp. pepper (use more to taste)

8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

1-14.5 oz. can cream of mushroom soup

1 clove garlic (more or less to taste)

Spread California Blend into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, then spread evenly over veggies. Bake @ 350 for 45 minutes, or until the veggies are like you like them (more tender or more firm). Add French's Fried Onions, and bake another 5 minutes or until golden. Let set for 5 minutes or so before serving.


**I make this alot because it is basically foolproof. If baking time can be adjusted by letting the veggies thaw before baking. If they are frozen solid, it may take more than an hour to reach desired tenderness.