A Long-Awaited Post, and Pesto Pasta Primavera

Hello friends! Yes, I am aware that it has been well over a year since the last post. What can I say? Life happened. Since it’s been so long, here is a quick update for those of you I don’t talk to that often: 

  • I started volunteering with a local organization working primarily against domestic minor sex trafficking. It’s hard and emotional and I love every minute of it. Did you know the average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 13? And that 2/3 of children are approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of getting on the street? And that the average lifespan is 7 years after entry into the trade? Yeah, it’s a big problem.
  • I’m going to India this summer to help with prevention of – you guessed it – trafficking by teaching marketable skills like the knowledge of English to at-risk girls. I am so excited to go do something I’m so passionate about in a region I’m completely in love with! The trip can’t come soon enough.
  • I’ve gone gluten free as part of the long battle to get and stay healthy.

I think that covers the bulk of what’s happened over the last several months. Now, on to tasty food! I made this recipe up last night for a girls night and it was so amazing that I had to share it with my friends. I’ve made it as healthy as possible by removing gluten and dairy and using lots of colorful veggies.

Pesto Pasta Primavera

  • 6-7 baby zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 c shredded carrots
  • 1/2 c peas
  • 4 baby bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 c onions, diced
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 7 oz. pesto
  • 2 c. dry white wine
  • 1 c Daiya vegan shredded mozzarella (if you don’t care about dairy, use parmesan)
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Italian herb blend
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium pot full of brown rice pasta (about 2 1/2 – 3 c. uncooked)
  • 5 slices prosciutto (optional)

Saute bell peppers, onions carrots, peas, garlic, and spices in olive oil until the onions are translucent, or until all veggies are cooked to desired tenderness. At this point, you should start cooking the pasta in another pot unless it’s already done, reserving the water to use if necessary. Add white wine and prosciutto, if using, to the sauteing veggies and simmer until the wine is reduced by about half. Stir in the pesto and cheese just until the cheese is melted, then remove from heat. Add cooked pasta and toss to coat evenly. If the sauce is too thin, stir in the pasta water a little at a time until the sauce thickens. If the sauce is too thick, add white wine until the pasta reaches the desired thinness. Serve immediately.

 

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So, What’s Your Story?

Last weekend, I went on a retreat with my church’s singles group. It was out in the middle of nowhere near a small lake (where I grew up, we would call it a tank) and the weather was nice, so basically I stayed outside the entire weekend. I got to see several shooting stars (a rarity when you live on the outskirts of a metropolis), sit by a fire, and listen to the rain hit the roof of the back porch as I sipped a cup of herbal tea. It was a good weekend, for sure.
The singles pastor based his retreat talks on Joshua 24, mainly on remembering what God has done for us and where we came from. He talked about how this chapter encourages the Israelites to remember their heritage, their heroes, their hard times, and their high points, and encouraged us to do the same on Saturday morning. He also encouraged us to find one person and ask them about their story, and in turn tell one person about your own story (seriously, I’ve been asking people what their story is upon meeting them long before this retreat, so this was kind of amusing to me). So, I thought I would share the story of how God broke my heart for Asia and adoption with my blog readers.
People always ask me how I became obsessed with Asia and why I want to adopt so many kids from there. I’m going to back way up to elementary school to answer that one. I moved to a small town with my mom when I was in first grade. I don’t know if I was just an odd child or if the other children had already formed their cliques at age 6, but I didn’t fit in and had few friends. I was bullied a lot (like until I graduated high school) and the teachers did nothing about it.
Life went on like this until I went off to college, got called by Jesus, and started making real and lasting friendships. One of these friendships was with another freshman named Daniel. He gave me a book called Revolution in World Missions. I didn’t read it until the summer, but it lit the spark that would eventually ignite into a full fledged passion for south and southeastern Asia.
I didn’t really do much Asia-wise until the summer between my junior and senior years of college. I didn’t realize until I started taking upper level classes that any organization needs marketing in some form or another to stay afloat, and that includes non-profits too. Energized by this new discovery, I applied for a summer internship with Gospel for Asia and was accepted. I spent 5 weeks praying for the countries where GFA works, spending time with people who were passionate about seeing the people of Asia come to know Christ personally, and using my marketing abilities to help get the word out about GFA. You know, there is something magical about praying for a people group; you fall in love with them. Really. It only took a week or two before I was completely and utterly obsessed. I even went back to college and went crazy decorating my dorm with all things Asia. And watching K-dramas. And listening to Bollywood music. And making my own curry. It’s only gotten worse since then.
I can’t really put my finger on what specifically about Asia draws me in. Is it the emphasis on family? The laissez-faire approach to time? The rich history? The delicious food? I don’t even know. Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s just God.
I do think my childhood experiences had a lot to do with my desire to adopt. I really wanted (and still do) kids to know that they were loved and accepted and that they belonged. Even as a child, my desire to make others feel welcome drew the misfits like moths to flame. I think that’s part of the reason why I was drawn to the Karen people during my mission trip to Thailand; they’re not recognized by their own government as citizens, and many have fled the civil war raging in Burma and become refugees, an even more stateless position. I really have a soft spot for them.
This all came together during Passion 2013, where God reignited the passion to adopt from Asia and introduced a new passion: loving those who were rescued out of sex slavery. I watched the story of one young woman in the Philippines who ran away from home and was tricked into the industry at the age of 9, believing she was unlovable and worthless and deserved nothing better in life. As a teen, her brothel was raided by the police and she was taken to a halfway house run by a Christian organization. There, through the sacrificial love of counselors and the healing power of the Gospel, Christ restored her. As I listened to the story of how she ended up on the streets, my heart cried, “I would love you, little one!”
That’s when it clicked: this is what I was made to do. It all fits. The childhood bullying. The inexplicable connection with misfits. The longing to make others feel like they belong. The internship at GFA. The mission trip to Thailand. It’s all connected.
That’s one of my favorite things about God. His plan for his children was formed before we were formed. He guides our steps before we take our first.  He uses everything for good, even bullying. He takes the broken and makes it beautiful. I am so thankful that my little story is a part of His master story that goes all the way back to creation.

Favorite Ways to Cook Various Veggies

I’m a big fan of veggies (so long as they’re cooked), so I try to include at least one side of veggies every meal. It doesn’t always happen, especially when I am feeling sick or need a quick meal, but I eat them as often as I can.
Since I don’t enjoy leafy greens unless they’re mixed in with something, I usually end up eating a root veggie or green beans and squash and such. So I don’t get bored, I’ve come up with some interesting ways to cook my veggies over the years. I thought I would share some of my favorite versions of my favorite veggies so ya’ll can maybe try something new. They’re all easy and have quick prep times, but some require long roasting times. If you’re short on time, boiling is much faster but you lose a lot of the nutrients to the water.

As a reminder, I cook using the tried and true method my grandmother taught me as I watched her in the kitchen as a child: the ever-so-precise eyeball method. So a lot of what I write below is in pinches and spoonfuls and the like. Cooking like this just takes a little practice. If you’re not used to it, just put in a little less than what you think you need, taste, and adjust to your preference. Also, when cooking with olive oil, less is more. You don’t want to end up with oily veggies, so only use enough to barely coat the veggies/bottom of the skillet.

Sautéed Zucchini

Cut the ends off 3 zucchini and quarter lengthwise. Then, cut into chunks. Sauté the zucchini chunks with olive oil, garlic (about a spoonful of minced garlic, or one clove), a three-finger pinch of red pepper flakes,* salt, and pepper until they reach your desired tenderness. Serve immediately.

*I use coarse ground red pepper flakes from an Asian market. Cayenne would work too, I think, but you would need to use less.

Honeyed Carrots

Boil carrots until they reach your desired tenderness. Drain and return to pan, but don’t return the pan to the stove. Drizzle honey and ground nutmeg over cooked carrots and stir. Remember that the heated honey will be runny, so add less than you think you will need to coat the carrots. Serve immediately.

Herb Roasted Carrots

Preheat oven to 350. Toss baby carrots with olive oil, equal parts ground sage and thyme, dried rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until carrots reach desired tenderness.

Roasted Parsnips

Preheat oven to 350. Peel and chop some parsnips. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake 30-45 minutes, until parsnips reach desired tenderness. After removing from the roasting pan, drizzle with honey if desired. Serve immediately.

Roasted Green Beans

Preheat oven to 350. Toss green beans with olive oil and Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle or sage, rosemary, and thyme. Bake 20-30 minutes, until green beans reach desired tenderness. Serve immediately.

Roasted Butternut Squash

Preheat oven to 350. Peel and chop a butternut squash and toss with olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20-30 minutes until squash reaches desired tenderness. Serve immediately.

Corn and Jicama Slaw

Cut about 1/3 medium jicama into small slivers and set aside. Dice 1 medium onion and boil with corn until both are done with salt, pepper, paprika, parsley, and cayenne to taste. Remove from heat and add raw jicama. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Hash

Dice sweet potatoes into small chunks that are a bit bigger than your thumbnail (say, about 3/4″). Add to a pot with diced onions, olive oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper and cook on medium heat until potatoes reach desired tenderness. This should not take long, maybe about 7-10 minutes if your potato chunks are small enough.

Roasted Cauliflower

Preheat oven to 350. Chop 1 head of cauliflower into florets. Alternatively, you can use 1 bag of frozen cauliflower florets. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until cauliflower starts to brown.

On Going Back to Asia and Other Life Goals

This year has been full of firsts for me. First passport, first mission trip, first time overseas, first flight lasting more than 3 hours, first time in the ocean, first time paragliding, first time boogie boarding, first road trip, first big Christian conference. I was thinking about all the new things I’ve done this year and in the years since I graduated college, and it got me wondering what else I want to get accomplished before I turn 30. I’ve seen a lot of 30 Before 30 lists, but never really thought to make one for myself (30 still seems a long way away, you guys). So, without further ado, here is my list of things I want to do before I turn 30:

  1. Return to Thailand
  2. See the Grand Canyon
  3. Learn a new language
  4. Take a Perspectives class
  5. Take a painting class
  6. Start playing the flute again
  7. See the Pacific and Atlantic oceans (not from the window of a plane)
  8. Disciple 6 young women
  9. Run a 5K (if asthma clears up like I hope it will) or walk a 5K in less than an hour
  10. Take an advanced cooking class
  11. Read at least 1 classic book a year
  12. Ride in a hot air balloon
  13. Go hiking
  14. Get some form of ESL certification
  15. See the redwoods in California
  16. Try one new recipe a month
  17. Learn to sew
OK, so it’s not exactly a 30 Before 30 list, but it is definitely a list of feasible goals I can accomplish in the next few years.
Out of all the things I listed, going back to Thailand is the one I most want to see happen. Ever since I got back from my mission trip, I’ve been missing Chiangmai like CRAZY. I ordered red curry and mango boba last month and almost cried, you guys. I’ve had dreams about Thailand and the people I met. Curry is now my official comfort food. It’s bad ya’ll.
I don’t know what it is about Asia and Thailand in particular, but it calls to my soul in a way I’ve never experienced before. I honestly think God has placed a passion in my heart for the people of Asia many years ago, and actually going to Thailand and seeing the great need for Christ firsthand only solidified what I already knew: my heart is irrevocably tied to that part of the world. I don’t know if I will become a missionary or minister to Asian-Americans here in the States, but no matter what happens with my life I know I will always hold a special love in my heart for Chiangmai.

The Last Day

Today we started the morning with a Bible study with the orphanage staff. Everyone on the team shared a short sermon on whatever God laid on their heart. Some talked about loving one another as Christ loves us, some talked of God’s sovereignty, some talked of God’s faithfulness, and some shared their stories and offered encouragement through their experiences.

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After the study, Ricky took the team, Belle, and some of the older kids from the orphanage to eat at a local restaurant. It looked almost like a tree house; the people who built the restaurant used existing trees and the landscape as part of the architecture and even put lots of wood carvings everywhere.

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We really enjoyed spending more one-on-one time with the missionaries and a few children from the orphanage. Plus, the food and location were both wonderful.

We also took a Thai Bible to Kanonit, whom we met on our first day. She wanted to know more about Jesus and set up a time for someone to come do a Bible study with her, so we visited her family again to fulfill her request and pray for her.

Tonight we will help with our last chapel service. We will share the story of Noah and talk about God’s faithfulness.

Our flight back home leaves after chapel. It’s a bittersweet feeling for us; we are excited to come back and see all of our family and friends, but we are also sad to leave those sweet children and our new friends in Chiangmai.

The Lord has done mighty things both in the people we met in Thailand and in ourselves. We look forward to sharing more about what God has done on this trip when we get back.

Fun Day: Elephant Ride, River Rafting, and Night Market

Yesterday we had a fun day to rest and relax. We rode elephants and rafted down a river in the mountains, ate in a Thai restaurant, and explored the night market. Midway through the afternoon, the guys split off from the girls to go with Ron and minister to a group of young men in the Thai military.

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Before we rode the elephants, we went to look at a mother elephant with her newborn baby. She was very friendly, but her baby was still very shy.

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The elephant ride was really fun, but going down those hills was pretty scary!

After the elephant ride, we rode down a river on a long bamboo raft. We sat down (as water splashed up from between the bamboo poles, of course) and enjoyed the scenery as our guide stood at the front and pushed us along with a long bamboo pole. The ride was very relaxing and the foliage on the riverbanks was gorgeous.

After lunch, the group split off. The guys went with Ron to lead a Bible study with about 30 cadets and a few officers in the Thai military while the girls went to see a temple and explore the city.

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The temple was very big and ornate, but spiritually dark. I managed to make it inside but could only stay for a few minutes before I had to leave because I wanted to cry so much. It was an eye opening experience for all of us; so many people worship in that building thinking if they a good enough, the Buddha can save them. It was heartbreaking.

After the temple, us girls had our feet cleaned by those tiny fish that eat dead skin and drove around to see the old city.

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After the guys were done leading their Bible study, we met up at a Thai restaurant on the river for dinner.

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Lizzy got to launch a sky lantern into the air.

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She was pretty excited about it.

After we finished dinner, we all went to the night market to find souvenirs. The streets were filled with stars selling all kinds of different things from tapestries to clothes to handmade crafts to food.

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Today we will lead a Bible study with the older children and staff in the orphanage, help with chores, and get ready to leave.