Hot Dogs and Cake and a Pear

I’ve been eating my feelings…no truer words than those right there.  Toss in living in a new area with delicious food and well…you get the idea.  Kim is turning into a pear due to those hot dog and chocolate cake moments.  (And butter croissant vanilla bread pudding, and banana bread french toast…you get the picture.)

I first thought..hmm…wonder if I can find an all female work-out place like I used in Bentonville, “Body by Kelly.”  Not one close. Next.  Hmm…wonder if I can maybe just going a gym and do the trainer route….well….at 85.00 a session and the gym fee and then me having to have the “Umph” to get up and get in the car and go….Next.  So, a few days ago, while at lunch with a new friend, she mentioned Daily Burn.  Curiosity peaked.  Research done.  Free trial started.

Today is day two.  So far, I must say…I like it.  I like the simplicity of the nutrition information/guides, I like the way the program is broken up into several levels and I especially like the price!  Having been out of the workout mode for a good while now due to constant Menieres episodes, I opted to really start with the basic…the True Beginner.  I know my back and range of motion need to wake up and this will help prevent me from quitting out of discouragement or because I hurt myself.  Y’all, I truly believe ANYONE could start with this program.

So, as I continue, I will blog occasionally about where we are at….what program I am on…and well….if my pear becomes a little less “pear like.”  I’m adding some hand weights to the program just to increase the level on my upper body…but other than that…I’m doing exactly as told.  You are given modification examples and encouraged to just keep moving…and even given tidbits to help you know if you are doing the exercise correctly.

Stay tuned!

And we search….Different church, same Jesus

I accidentally purchased regular sharp cheddar cheese sticks instead of my normal “reduced-fat.”  My, regular fat cheese is so delicious.  Squirrel…sorry folks…only one cup of coffee in and my brain is still dreaming of white sandy beaches and warmer weather….

Moving is hard.  Change is hard.  Visiting churches and trying to discern where God wants you to be….incredibly difficult.  I have already written about our visit to Wheaton Bible Church.  Today is about our two visits to Harvest Bible Chapel in Naperville…..and a little backstory on why we didn’t stick to our “visit until God tells us to stop” thought process.

HBC

When the move was first being discussed, I was very quick to begin research on churches via the internet.  Sermons watched, worship teams watched, doctrine and statement of beliefs carefully examined, ministries and focus put under a microscope.  That lead us to a list of well….few.  On that list from the beginning was Harvest Bible.  Why did this one make the cut so quickly?  Having just completed James McDonald’s study “Authentic”, I knew that as a church plant of the main campus, Harvest would very likely be in line with those teachings and style.  So, a few of Pastor Ron Zappia’s sermons were watched and then that led to the watching of some of the Harvest Worship videos you can easily find online.  Nondenominational has always been a church we “southern Baptists” avoided due to the “mash-up” of doctrines and well…just things we weren’t comfortable with…but Harvest Bible doctrine lined up with what we hold to be Biblical truths.  Nothing in it was anything we didn’t believe or hold as what God has clearly said for the church to be.

Yet, our first church to visit was Wheaton Bible.  Wheaton Bible is awesome.  It’s large…maybe larger than what we want as our church home….maybe we will still end up there…but given how vested we were in Harvest Bible before moving here, we knew we had to visit….to see for ourselves.  One of those things that if we didn’t, we would likely always look back and wonder if we missed an opportunity.  So, our first visit came a couple weeks ago….I believe on one of the first Siberian Express days…seriously…we should get major brownie points for braving this stuff.

First impression-it doesn’t look like a church from the outside.  This girl is struggling with that…even today.  Yet, I keep wondering if that isn’t one of the very things Christ isn’t trying to use as a teachable moment for me…what the church truly is.  Teaching me it’s not the look of the building, what we sit in…none of that.  And then, leaving my dresses and heels in the closet on Sunday morning….this isn’t just a Harvest thing..it was a WBC thing too.  Church is casual.  Everyone looks nice…which I truly believe we should all do on Sunday-be our best for Him.  Even though our best..well….it’s pitiful…but to Him…we are enough, just as we are. Then again, maybe casual does break down walls…barriers.  We are told to not be a stumbling block…and what if in all our “dressed to the nines” we have prevented someone from entering those doors…that person feeling they could never be a part or fit in.

Now..to the good stuff.  Instantly upon walking in, we were greeted firmly, warmly…..not just that token welcome…I mean you really felt welcome.  Then, one of the pastors comes up to say hello and realizes he had not seen us there before.  Personal attention….intentional actions.  This just continued the entire morning.  For Lee, seeing men be so intentional….go so far out of the norm to make sure he felt welcome…was huge.  Worship is contemporary…..but genuine. Video announcements are very well done as are all the graphics.  The church has done an outstanding job of defining who it is and what their “branding” is.  It’s about the Great Commission.  It’s about that personal relationship with Christ.  It’s not about knowing about Him…it’s about knowing Him.  Folks, those are two distinct things….even the lost and those that profess to be atheist can know about Him..but only a born-again Christian knows Him.

Truth

The Pastor is a teaching pastor and this church does “series” and I appreciate that greatly.  Excellent communicator and while I am confident he could unleash every theological term and factoid out there, his style keeps the message real and not one where you wonder if you are going to have to bring your Bible Study software and laptop to the next sermon.  I can see where this is a vital approach to the mission of reaching new Christians and fulfilling the Great Commission.  It’s not a watered down message, just one that a layman can truly grasp.  I’ve noticed in two visits if a reference is made to a passage elsewhere in the Bible, the Pastor goes there…makes sure that no assumption is made that you know what he is referencing.

So, we visited again.  Same warmth extended and a couple “nice to see you again” comments.  Same impression as our first visit.  To learn more about the mission, the doctrine, etc…we signed up for the membership information class.  (Ok….disclaimer here…I find it so odd how you apply for membership up this way.  Membership classes are required everywhere.)  Anyways….I find it odd, but it’s actually kinda cool to really see where a church stands on Biblical truths…what they expect of you as member…and what you can expect of them as your church body.  Learning about their leadership structure…the things that make them tick as a church body.  Learning where they are on social issues and how those are approached from the pulpit.  Learning what matters most to them as a church….and that’s Jesus.  Everything comes back to Jesus, the Great Commission and that personal relationship-knowing Him…not just about Him.

I love the fact you can take classes on how to truly be a disciple of Christ and classes to help you find your spiritual gifts that help you be a servant to the church, the church body and to Christ.  Being a Christian is hard and anything the church can do to help make the road a tad less complicated to navigate…we should.

We have requested to be put into a small group.  Just the next natural step in seeing if this is our church.  I’ll venture to their women’s study the first week of March.  The Pastor’s wife spoke some Sunday and well…you just can’t help but like her.  I loved how they did baby dedications….so personal, so intentional (there’s that word again).

Average weekend attendance is around 1750.  My head can grasp that number.  I miss choir.  I miss pews.  I miss what I know….but again….I know that He is trying to use these events as teachable moments.  Remove me from my comfort zone….because I have been very comfortable.

Different church…..different look….same Jesus.

Food and Chicago…

Adventures in Chicago continue…and the suburbs.  Never, in a million years, did I think I would say 32 degrees felt warm…but I did on Saturday!  Everyone had a little extra “pep” in their step…walked a little slower to get into buildings and seemed a bit hopeful that the Siberian Express might soon be departing.  (It came back the next day, but there’s hope.) I suppose I should backtrack to last weekend for our outing review.  (The church review will follow the food/outing reviews.)  Does that mean food comes before Jesus? No, but as a Southern Baptist…food and Jesus do seem to go hand in hand. After church last Sunday, we were feeling a tad adventurous.  We had really wanted to attend the Chicago Car Show and thought we could grab lunch downtown and then head over.  I cannot tell you how many people told us to make sure we visit Eataly.  So, to Eataly we went.  Two stories, 63,000 square feet.  You walk in and your are in the “fresh produce” type market to the left, kitchenware’s ahead and then to the right…nothing but desserts and delicious coffees.  To be honest, this place had me at “Nutella.”  No, really….a Nutella bar.  Toss in Italian roasted coffee…and I could have just stayed downstairs and justified that a banana and Nutella crepe was a healthy meal option. (Although, I had to walk past the candy that was $49.50 per pound. It looked lovely though.)  Upstairs we go.  One word….overwhelmed.  This is the Super Bowl of Italian foods and eateries.  Stand-up eateries, bar top eateries, sit-down eateries….any type of Italian food you could want…it’s there.  If you are into wine, that section looked very impressive.  I don’t know what I am looking at in that area, but it looked legit to this uneducated eye.  After aimlessly wandering around….no seriously…you just can’t take it all in.  The fresh meats, the fresh seafoods, the hard meats, the cheeses, the pastas, and oils and on and on…we finally settled on the sit down area with pasta/pizza.

Eataly

Eataly

We had such a lovely waitress! She was fun, informative and you could tell she loved working at Eataly. Our little table for two overlooked the Magnificent Mile Nordstrom’s…so you know this girl was loving it! Italian and a view of one of my favorite stores…super day! When it comes to Italian food, my Lee is well…rather reserved. The basics..nothing more. So he quickly settled on a pizza with hard salami. (Pepperoni isn’t a pizza option.) I, on the other hand, LOVE Italian food. I had too many choices! I finally settled on a lovely fresh pasta with braised short ribs. While waiting for our food, we had a quality Italian bread with wonderful Olive Oil to dip it into. Good olive oil doesn’t require a bunch of pesto or basil if it’s quality…the flavor is there. Wonderful. Then our food came…….Lee’s pizza had freshly cut Mozzarella on it. Looked wonderful. Then there was my Tagliatelle al Ragu di Manzo. Delicious. Perfectly al dente, perfectly sweet with just the right balance of seasonings and olive oil. So delicious. I could have licked the dish.  After walking around the upstairs a bit more, we headed downstairs to grab something sweet!  You know where I went….is that even a question???  I was full from lunch, so a Hazelnut cookie with a Nutella center was the order for the day.  So perfectly crispy with an ample amount of Nutella in the middle.  What’s not to love there??? From there, we thought..ok..car show.  We get into the car and head that way….well..we are Chicago rookies…we had NO idea what a HUGE deal this car show is/was.  Just the line on the off ramp would have taken at least thirty minutes…so…it was snowing and just turning into a yucky day so we opted to just come on back to Wheaton and save the car show for next year.  Next year as in …. take the train and go in that way! A week passed and then the beautiful Saturday came with a high of 32!!!!!  It was delightful!  Having tried the pizza at the rival a couple weeks back, we thought it would be a great night to try Lou’s.  Walked in about 4:50 with no wait…twenty minutes later…the place was packed.  I ordered the deep dish with the Buttercrust and Lee ordered a thin.  Ok..here’s our little verdict.  For thin…go to Giordano’s.  Thick…Lou’s.   Salad…go to Giordano’s.  I guess that means we are Giordano’s fans.  People here are very opinionated over their pie…and I guess we are in that group now. The best part of our night was after pizza….Le Chocolat du Bouchard in downtown Naperville.  Seriously, some yummy hot chocolate and the best carrot cake I have ever eaten.  We opted for the toasted marshmallow hot chocolate.  So creamy, so yummy….what’s not to love with a cup of chocolate mixed with WHOLE milk (gotta have the whole milk), marshmallow fluff and served at the perfect temp and topped with a toasted marshmallow?  Toss in a piece of carrot cake for the ages….more stuff than cake and the perfect balance of cream cheese icing……seriously…think the next outing we will just start here. (PS, the carrot on top of the cake has the added detail of “dirt” to make it appear it’s sprouting out of the cake.  Details make food enjoyable and fun!)  On the other side is the candy and there are truffles for days and so many yummy treats….including freshly made macaroons.  Ya’ll these things are hard to make and I plan to get back this week to sample one.

Pie, Chocolate and Carrot Cake

Pie, Chocolate and Carrot Cake

I seriously need a trainer…..all this yummy food is well….I need a trainer or self-control.  Given the later is  not likely to occur with food…let’s stick with the trainer. I think the church review will be another blog….now I’m wanting something sweet and there’s a small sliver of leftover carrot cake in the refrigerator.

Snow Days

I miss snow days with kiddos.  I miss the excitement as they watched for their school name to scroll across the screen with the word “Closed” beside it.  Snow days as an adult…..mostly just an annoyance.  All the things that must be done, still have to be done…and without kiddos to play with…..it’s pretty hard to declare “a snow day.”

I say all this to those out in Facebook land certain another snow day with the kiddos might send your sanity into orbit.  Stop.  Slow down.  Tomorrow..well…tomorrow’s stuff will be there.  Trust me when I tell you..one day very soon…you will miss snow days…all the sibling fighting, the wet clothes, the numb nose from being outside too long…all of it.  You will miss it.  Before you can blink, they will not want to sled with you, but with their friends….then blink again and their snow days are spent with the college friends miles away…blink again….and that season is fully over and snow days are just another day of the week…you don’t even watch the closings as the scroll across the screen.

Kiddos are ours for really such a short time….you really do miss every single moment once it’s over.

Pie, Pie, Pie….and Salmon

I just recently came back from a trip down to the Nashville, Franklin, Columbia, TN area.  Had to see the baby boy perform!  Well, baby to me at least! I arrived to sixty degree weather…and I just wanted to dance in the streets!  I was determined not to wear a coat during my visit and I made that happen all but the last night there…and even then it was just a fleece!  If you have read much of this blog, you know most of my trips revolve around food.  I just love food.  This one was no different.  So, instead of boring you with the details of my trip, I will let today’s blog be a review of three yummy treats/meals I had on this last visit!

A tourist establishment in Franklin, but more of a local place in Columbia, Puckett’s in Columbia was a Sunday stop.  Ya’ll, the fried chicken was so yummy!  Almost had a hint of a lemon pepper base in the batter maybe.  Perfectly crunchy, moist…and paired with the turnip greens…so delicious.  Toss in homemade, like your great-grandmother used to make, peach cobbler…and well…I may have waddled out to the car.  Now that I’ve eaten at both locations, I give a two thumbs up to the Columbia location.  I just find the Franklin location to be very touristy and honestly, not as yummy. (Yes, it was as tasty as it looks….no..we weren’t drinking…just the holder for various items on the table.)

All I can think of now is how much I want this...

All I can think of now is how much I want this…

Next up is the diner in Columbia called “Bucky’s.”  It’s an unassuming place that does what it does and doesn’t try to pretend to be anything but a local diner.  You can order off a menu, but they have a daily lunch selection(s) already prepared that they plate for you.  We had to wait until Tuesday to go….why?  See…growing up, my Mom made a few things that well….I still love to this day…even if I don’t ever make them.  One of those things was/is salmon patties.  (Let me add very quickly that I don’t care for salmon at all…just in the fried goodness of a salmon patty.)  Salmon patties are not to be eaten without some homemade Mac-Cheese made with Velvetta…I’m certain it’s a law…and Bucky’s did not miss that pairing requirement.  Toss in some slow cooked white beans and homemade yeast rolls and you have all the makings of a full belly….and much higher cholesterol.  It was fun to see how the workers knew my Dad already and made a point to make him feel special. Go in…say hello and get one of the daily specials!  You will think your Mammy is in the kitchen!

Pie Sensations

And then….there was pie.  Oh my. In this cute little shop on the Columbia square is Pie Sensations.  Named one of the top ten pie places in America by Paula Deen..well…you know it’s going to be good…but amazing…oh my goodness.  So wonderful.  The staff is so kind.  Just makes ya want to stay all day and eat pie after pie.  My Dad tackled the Coconut Cream, my Sis the Chocolate Silk and I opted for the Peanut Butter Silk.  The BEST Peanut Butter Pie I have ever eaten.  Then, there was this intoxicating smell as we were eating….seems “Whoopie Cakes” were finishing up.  Well, ya know this girl had to have anything that smelled that delicious!  So, by the time we were done with our pie, they were ready!  Four packed perfectly to take to my son as a treat.  Take the best part of a cupcake, add frosting..and voila.  Heaven.  I am so in love with this place and their product, they will be the supplier of all desserts for my son’s Junior Recital reception in April.  You must go….now.

Here's the Whoopie Cake!

Here’s the Whoopie Cake!

Oh and here's the best Peanut Butter Pie!

Oh and here’s the best Peanut Butter Pie!

So, that’s my food review of the few days in the Nashvegas area.  Now, I am simply hungry again for all of the above……wonder if they deliver?

A Church. A Church Home. The Search.

It began yesterday.  The part of the relocation I have worried about the most.  (I know..worry….)  Finding a new church.  A new church home.  I secretly have prayed that we would visit one church and have that lightbulb moment where God clearly says-this is the one.  Reality and the experiences of others that have relocated away from the Southern Baptist beltway is that it will likely not be a one visit and done event.  So, I thought I would chronicle this journey knowing at a point in the near future, the journey’s tale will end with “We have a church home!”

To begin, what are we looking for?  As evangelical Christians that do not agree with the Calvinist approach of predestination, that automatically crosses several off the list.  Then we are left with what is important to us outside of doctrine and the statement of beliefs?

Size.  10,000 plus members isn’t something that we find appealing.  Maybe that’s where God will send us, but it’s not on our “let’s go there” list.  I’m not sure what a “perfect size” is…but I do know I want to be able to tell someone that I missed them on Sunday because I noticed they weren’t there.

Women Ministry.  Ya’ll.  Women need fellowship with other believers.  We need that friendship, that accountability, that “routine”…we need to be able to journey with where God is leading us, where He has us…together….we are God’s creation that needs “pods.”

Men’s Ministry.  This is an area my spouse has wanted for a while.  An organized men’s ministry where men gather weekly in study to encourage and support one another.  To bring up leaders, to mentor future leaders, to strengthen those who are more seasoned in life.

Sunday School or something that resembles it.  I’m not opposed to home groups, but I do find that there’s something to be said for that body coming together every Sunday.  It, to me, gives a greater sense of unity…..one church.  (In truth, we are all one church. One body of believers, but that sense of community/one church is what I am referring to here.)

Music.  We love music.  We love hymns. We love the new stuff.  We love a worship ministry that isn’t a production/performance.  We must have authentic worship.

Some of you may gasp at this one, so I apologize.  No women in the pulpit on Sunday.  I love Beth Moore. I love Christine Caine. I love all the women of faith out there teaching God’s truth!  Love, love, love.  Yet, this gal, is just Southern Baptist enough to want men in the pulpit on Sunday.  I, as a woman, want that leadership. I want that Biblical plan for leadership in the church.  We also want that man to be one called by the congregation because of faithful prayer for God to show them who He has called.  Not an office.

Strong youth, children’s ministry.  While that shipped has sailed for us, we know that a strong children’s and youth ministry speaks volumes to the health of a church and to the mission of that church.

Mission oriented.  We can’t just sit and be comfortable as Christians.  We must serve.  Serve locally.  Serve our own.  Serve others.  We must be “doers.”

Teaching pastor.

So, that’s kinda the hit list after Doctrine and the Statement of Beliefs.  Those are at the very top.  Those don’t line up with God’s truth and our beliefs of God’s truth…a visit won’t take place.

This leads us to our first visit.  Wheaton Bible Church.

Wheaton Bible Church has a membership of around 4000.  When the campus grew and had to build, they went out west and are now basically on the West Chicago line.  Still not too far from us…no further than our Arkansas home church.  We were determined to visit yesterday and we braved the Chicago Linus Blizzard to do so.  Thought process was Jesus would take the wheel if necessary!

The campus is large…but not “oh my goodness” it’s a Mega Church large.  We were greeted with brave souls out directing us to parking and with everything covered in white and us being unfamiliar with the lot-grateful.  From there, you enter the main entrance and there were greeters!  Front and center is a large welcome desk for visitors and others seeking information.  We didn’t have to seek out folks for knowledge-it was presented in BOLD letters for us.  To the left is a coffee/snack bar.  Proceeds go to missions/charity projects.  You could see lots of folks using that service to have a time of fellowship with others.  To the right I noticed what was a large room that was hosting the Spanish language service.  (Or I believe that’s what it was.)  This church has a huge mission for the Hispanic community.  We didn’t venture too far down either side of the hallways, but I am guessing the children’s ministry was pretty close by as I saw parents with kiddos making the trek.  We walked into the sanctuary and were again greeted by ushers with programs.

First impressions.  Sanctuary is about twice the size of the sanctuary we have sat in for a very long time in Arkansas.  Stadium seating, but that’s pretty much the norm in new churches now, so pews…well….a comfy seat is a comfy seat.  I personally  loved looking forward and seeing wood and a cross hanging.  Gave me that feeling of traditional mixed with “current.”  We attended one of the two contemporary services and in the program could see the program for the traditional that was held earlier that morning.  I love that this church is able to do both.  Those hymns we all grew up with have such a special place in the church and shouldn’t be forgotten and some folks needs the traditions of old……and it’s not a bad thing…..just like it’s not a bad thing for us to be “current” in our worship/service styles…as long as God’s word remains true and we don’t compromise on that truth.

WBC Interior

The head pastor was out, so we had an associate pastor.  His voice was so calming.  Worship was good….it wasn’t a performance and that’s on our list of “we don’t want a performance.”  Communion/Lord’s Supper is done monthly and I so appreciated the words told to the congregation regarding the meaning of why we do what we do there and the mention of it’s a special remembrance for believers…and if you aren’t yet a believer to pass the plate.  God’s truth.

They are on a series on David.  We just happen to visit on the first of two sermons on David’s muck.  Ya’ll…David had some muck and his sins came with consequences that led to rape, murder, civil war…death of thousands.  The sermon was God’s truth.  Nothing more, nothing less.  God’s grace covers all…yes it does…but the consequences remain.  God can use all of our muck for His glory.  His love for us and His grace…we cannot even fathom the largeness of it…just like we can’t fathom the depths of our sin nature.

We were both happy to not have been in a feel good or prosperity gospel church.  This sermon, this church.  That’s not them.

So, this visit did cross off a lot of our “wishes” and we will visit again and the next visit take in one of the classes afterwards.  We have no idea if this is the church God wants for us, but we will continue to visit and continue to listen to God telling us whether to keep visiting or let’s try another one.  Who knows…we may try more and then come back to our first visit.

Church is relationships.  Relationship with Christ and fellow believers.  Church is about serving.  It’s not about being a seat warmer.  God has plenty of those….He wants more doers.  We want to be doers.  We want a church that plugs in its members to be doers.  We want God’s truth being spoken every single Sunday.

So, we search-even in the Blizzard Linus.  (Wasn’t Linus that quiet kid that always carried a blanket???)

The campus of WBC.

The campus of WBC.