Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thai Chicken Tacos

The fact that I'm posting this recipe is kind of crazy on a couple of levels: first, the fact that I would ever *enjoy* food like this would have seemed impossible if you knew me even as recently as college. I went on a mission trip to Mongolia in 2003, and as part of our short-term missions preparation class, we went to a Chinese buffet. I dreaded the trip. I thought I hated Chinese food. I did discover that Asian food in Asia is vastly different and better than an American Chinese buffet, and to my surprise, I enjoyed the food we ate in Mongolia. Well, I enjoyed the Chinese food we ate there, anyway. The mutton burgers, not so much.

Then there's the craziness that I would ever attempt to cook something like this. Cilantro? What's a shallot? Chili paste? FISH sauce?! When I got married, I was just about as inept in the kitchen as a girl can be. Seriously clueless. And hated it. So really, the fact that I would look at a recipe for Thai chicken tacos, think it looked appealing enough to tear out of a magazine, and then successfully create it is almost on the level of a miracle. By the grace of God, I have come a long, long way in the last seven years.

Steve and I don't eat out very often, but more and more when we do, we're choosing Asian food. It's the one thing I can't really recreate at home. Most other things you'd order at a restaurant, we eat at home and enjoy homemade as well or better. But until now I haven't had much luck at anything Asian except chicken lettuce wraps (we make a mean knockoff of P.F. Chang's famous appetizer).

After the first round of this, Steve declared it the most authentic Asian food I've ever made, on the level of those lettuce wraps we so love. Later in the evening he said our house smelled like The Smiling Elephant (the Thai restaurant in Nashville we discovered in March and love). That was a compliment, for the record :)

Bonus: Almost everything can be done ahead, meaning moms of littles or working women don't have to do anything at the witching hour except saute the chicken for five minutes or so. And it's just as good leftover for lunch the next day.

Thai Chicken Tacos 
 [adapted from Better Homes & Gardens]


1 lime, halved
1 lb. chicken breast, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fish sauce
2 t. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional--I omitted)
1/2-1 tsp. chili paste or hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
2 T oil
flour tortillas
1 recipe Tangy Asian Cabbage Slaw (below)

Juice half of one lime into a bowl. Slice remaining half into wedges and set aside. Add cilantro, shallot, garlic, sauces and spices to the lime juice. Mix in chicken. Cover and refrigerate one hour or overnight.

Cook chicken mixture in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat five minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally. To serve, fill tortillas with chicken and cabbage slaw. Serve with remaining slaw and lime wedges. Serves 4.

Tangy Asian Cabbage Slaw 

1/4 c. orange juice
1 T rice vinegar
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 t. grated fresh ginger, or 1/4-1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. honey
1/2 c. cilantro
1 lb. cabbage and carrots, chopped as fine or as coarse as you prefer (or 1 16-oz pkg cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw)
1/4 c. chopped peanuts (or sunflower seeds, or 1-2 T sesame seeds)
salt to taste

Whisk first six ingredients together to form dressing. Combine cilantro, carrots and cabbage and seeds/peanuts. Mix in dressing. Salt to taste.

Note 2/5/14 - I have been doubling this slaw recipe. The chicken is SO flavorful that we tend to prefer a high ratio of slaw to chicken, meaning we always run out of leftover slaw before the chicken is all gone. I'd recommend at least using half again this much slaw, if not doubling. But my husband is a cabbage-aholic, so your mileage may vary :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Multitude Monday, Take 252

"God owes no man anything. Our very existence has been gifted to us by his grace. While we lament the apparent injustice of pain and suffering, how often do we forget that every good thing in a fallen world is wholly a gift of God's mercy and grace? We think to question God when bridges fall but not to wonder at his grace that every bridge does not. Every fit of laughter, every delectable morsel of food, and every single smile is the result of his mercy and grace; he owes us none of it."
--Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel (p. 30)

Thanking God this week for all that He doesn't owe me but freely gives me, including...

4062. dinner last night with new friends
4063. opportunities to serve others by cooking for them
4064. husband seeing me at my worst and loving me still
4065. Steve's gospel encouragement when I'm having a terrible day
4066. a classic summer farmers' market dinner: BLTs, corn on the cob and fresh blackberries

4067. time spent swimming in our neighbors' pool
4068. Elijah getting so much braver in the water
4069. Jude jumping off the side and saying, "Ah di!" ("I did it!")
4070. a nature cruise on the Cumberland River
4071. a night off to go shopping by myself

4072. compliments on a new shirt
4073. Elijah climbing into our bed in the middle of the night, crying, and snuggling with me
4074. Steve being "mean" and helping me get out of bed when I need to
4075. long periods of daylight around the solstice
4076. speaking to me through Ezekiel

4077. a swimming playdate with friends on a day when we needed to get out
4078. friends helping me out to the car, serving me when the boys and I were all melting down
4079. a difficult but much-needed talk with a dear, dear friend
4080. freedom to cry and be broken with her
4081. her honesty, gentle advice, good questions, vulnerability

4082. the fact that you never have to relive a bad day--no matter how terrible it was, once it's over, it's over.
4083. dinner and conversation with friends we hadn't seen in a long time
4084. Steve helping me in the kitchen even when my poor planning means being up late and leaving a giant mess for the morning
4085. refusing to leave me to myself, chasing after idols
4086. pouring out His wrath on His Son instead of on me

Monday, June 18, 2012

Multitude Monday, Take 251

Thanking God this week for...

4033. cool, mosquito-free time outside
4034. Elijah in a bicycle helmet wielding a bamboo lightsaber, ridding our yard of Storm Troopers
4035. Jude finding his lost shoe when asked (I had NO idea where it was)
4036. bringing me low so I would meet others in total dependence on Him, with nothing in me to offer
4037. accountability from husband and friends

4038. the ability to buy individual songs, not a whole album, and listen to them instantly
4039. the ability to create countless playlists, and add to or change them at any time
4040. music that preaches truth to my heart
4041. exposing my sin
4042. Honest Toddler's hilarious Twitter feed and blog

4043. Steve telling me to go read to Elijah while he did dishes
4044. freedom to be real with friends about my struggles
4045. clean laundry hanging on the line
4046. soap and water for stinky toddler feet
4047. girls' night out at a Mexican restaurant

4048. Grandma being available when Jude was hysterical and desperate to talk on the phone
4049. inspiration for blog posts
4050. a friend's example of humility and repentance
4051. another friend's example of gracious forgiveness
4052. Jude trying to say "watermelon"

4053. Elijah still saying "wallamelon"
4054. the great feeling of having finished exercising and showering
4055. my loving, servant-hearted dad
4056. the wonderful father my boys are blessed to have

4057. Steve's gospel insights

4058.  unity in our church
4059. our edifying process of electing/affirming deacons and elders
4060. our pastors' care for the flock that has been entrusted to them
4061. inviting me to call Him Abba, Father

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Good Things

Our church reads a chapter of Psalms and a chapter of the New Testament each Sunday, and several of the men take turns reading the chapter and sharing a few brief thoughts. Steve is on the rotation, and after his reflection on Psalm 84 today, it occurred to me that I should feature these as guest blog posts. I am so thankful for my husband's ability to see the gospel throughout Scripture and apply it to life with wisdom and thoughtfulness!

[guest post by Steve Kannel]

Upon first glance, there are a number of comforting thoughts in Psalm 84. The end of verse 11, however, isn’t necessarily all that comforting:

“No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

Most of us would say that there are a number of things going on in our lives that we don’t feel to be good. An example for me is that just last week I was stranded in not one, but two of my cars because they broke down on the side of the road. If you have ever had a broken down car, you know it's usually time consuming and expensive to take care of. Certainly not a good thing.

Most of us would also say that we don’t really walk uprightly…hey, that may explain some of the “un-good” stuff that is going on. Maybe God is withholding good things from me because I’m not walking uprightly enough.

See what I mean? Not necessarily comforting.

Yet for those of us in Christ, the upright walking that God requires is not ours, but that of Jesus. Because He walked perfectly, we receive God’s good gifts.

Read it like this: “No good thing does He withhold from those who trust in the perfect walk of His Son.”

OK, so how does that explain the car situation? For me, I think it was a very strong and obvious reminder that the things of this world are not big enough to be my savior, and therefore be worshiped. Yet just saying it wasn’t enough, they had to actually fail me so that I would get the point.

God, in His mercy and goodness, because of his Son’s finished work, seeks to remove false idols from our hearts, that we may worship the true King. And that is a very good thing.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Before and After In Progress

Whether it's home improvement or weight loss, wardrobe overhaul or cleaning project, there's nothing like a great set of before-and-after photos. I love the sense of accomplishment, the clear evidence of hard work paid off, the beauty of a stunning transformation.

Six years ago, Steve and I bought a house built in the 1930s, and we've been tearing it apart ever since. Projects have included knocking out walls, moving a staircase, adding two bedrooms and a bathroom, and now gutting the existing bathroom. You'd think by now we'd have a lot of before-and-afters to proudly display.

Instead what we've got is a bunch of "before and in progress" examples. Case in point: the nursery, which I got to show you in this post shortly before Elijah was born. It's further along now than it was in these photos; the built-in bookcase and dresser are installed and painted, with trim around them; the closet has a curtain; a new door has been made and hung. But nearly five years later, it's still not actually *completed*. The door hasn't been painted; the light is a bare bulb, no fixture; there's no baseboard, and the trim around the built-ins needs to be redone. Not to mention the carpet desperately needs a good steam cleaning.

See, we have this tendency around here to dive into a new project, get it to the point of being usable, and then move on to something else. That would be why the stairs still have rough treads...why the guest room features a mattress and box springs on a carpet remnant...why the upstairs bathroom has no flooring...why the trim we tore off our bedroom windows and closet in July 2006 just got replaced within the last year...and why we decided to demolish our downstairs bathroom instead of working on any of the above :)

And this isn't a dig at my hardworking husband--I haven't mentioned the countless doors and pieces of trim I need to paint...or the number of months I've had paint chips for the bathroom but haven't selected a color, much less painted the walls...or the photos I've haphazardly printed with the intention that someday I'll get a collage wall up in our living room...or the boxes of vintage blue and green glass that I bought, oh, almost a year ago and never bought shelves for...need I go on?

I love our little house. It is nothing if not a "work in progress." And I'm excited about the improvements we're making! But sometimes I just want some AFTER pictures.

It occurred to me recently that my home-improvement-impatience is similar to my life-improvement-impatience. I read all those reassuring verses about how God will complete the work He began in me. Sometimes I can even see how He's changed me--I look back and realize who I was a few years ago, and where I am now, and I'm thankful for the progress. But my heart is still very much a messy construction zone. And I whine: Lord, can we please have some "after" pictures? Can't I conquer this struggle once and for all and proudly display the evidence that I have arrived?

I have a really hard time imagining some future day when our house is "finished" (my guess is that will only happen when we have to get it ready to sell, and even then, we won't have gotten around to all of the improvement projects we know are merely pipe dreams). But I can, and must, cling to the hope that there WILL be a future day when God's work in me is brought to a beautiful and satisfying completion. What I have a hard time coming to grips with is the reality that that won't happen in this life. "After" pictures of my heart aren't coming next week, or in five years, or when I reach age 75, if I would happen to live that long.

I will experience progress in that time, yes. But until I die or until Jesus comes, my heart will be under construction. It will be messy and rough around the edges, not magazine-worthy. So I am asking for grace to cooperate with the remodeling rather than whine about the never-ending work, and to believe that God's way of completing it (unlike the Kannel method of house remodeling) is never haphazard, delayed, or abandoned. He WILL complete the good work He began in me--and when He does, I will be finally set free from pride, so I won't even care about the "after" photos. I'll be too busy worshiping the Savior whose image I reflect.

Endless Revisions
What He Desires, That He Does
The Really Amazing Thing

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Look who I got to see this weekend...


When I found out a few months ago that Ann Voskamp was going to be in Nashville, OF COURSE I was going to be there. Duh. Even better: my beloved mentor came to attend with me...and my amazing husband kept the boys overnight and into the next day so that I had a wonderful getaway with her!

The event, called "Broken: An Evening with Ann Voskamp, Christa Wells, and Nicole Witt," began with music from Christa and Nicole. They led us in singing a couple of songs and then performed several of their own songs. I was only just a little bit familiar with Christa's music, so most of the songs were new to me. I especially appreciated "How Emptiness Sings." Christa explained that it was inspired by an old blog post of Ann's, in which Ann pondered the music a guitar makes:
The curves of a guitar holds emptiness, and in patient arms, emptiness can sing.
I watch how her fingers gracefully play up the long, slender neck. How she cradles the wood. How she embraces the void within it and listens to it.
The black space under the willing strings amplify sounds and a chamber of dark is a holy hollowness holding songs. This is profound. This is grace.
Scripture is the steel threads, holding the world together, and when we let the fingers pluck along these sacred strings, the lines of red letters, Christ plays in one thousand places and even our hollow emptiness is a beauty that reverberates with the refrain of Love.
 When Christa read that, inspiration came:
...Her bow is on the strings,
And the tune resonates in the open space
To show us how emptiness sings:
Glory to God, Glory to God!
In fullness of wisdom,
He writes my story into his song, 
My life for the glory of God.
After the music, Ann came out to speak. Most of what she said was familiar stories and thoughts from her blog and book, but she also showed pictures of and talked a bit about this striking sculpture in Philadelphia called "Freedom." You know it's going to be good when you grab your pen to capture a line from someone's *prayer*: Ann addressed God as "The God who appoints those who disappoint, in order that we may point to You who never disappoint."

As Ann talked about brokenness and how God uses it to bring beauty and show His grace, I scribbled down several more poignant quotes (these are as close as I could get them, but probably not exact):

"Do I really break my joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? ...The way of satan is more effective, more expedient?"

"Thy will be done" is the secret to joy.

To really get "receive," the "I" cannot come first.

"God renovates this fallen world with nails driven through His hands."

The sky breaks and waters the earth. Kernels break and feed our bodies. The earth breaks and seeds sprout up. "Why be afraid of being a broken thing?" "Maybe the love gets in more at the broken places."

"He is using all your brokenness to name you, shape you, give you a face and a form as glorious as His."

"This place is only part of the story--one of the stages of breaking free."

I'm pretty sure I speak for about 99% of the women there when I say we all would have liked to hear more from her--it was just over too soon!

We waited in line for a little while afterward to meet Ann, and instead of having her sign my copy of her book (which I'd lent to a friend and didn't have anyway), I had her sign MY book, since she was the one who inspired my visual journaling! So fun. 

After that lovely evening, I then got to spend the next 16ish hours with Diane. She drove over to go to the event with me, and we decided to get a hotel in Brentwood (a blissful night of uninterrupted sleep! waking up when my body decided it was done sleeping and not at the sounds of crying or an alarm! cranked a/c I did not have to pay the utility bill for! a hot tub! a maid to come in and clean up after me!).

You would think that between staying up until 1:00 AM and then talking nonstop from about 10-2 the following day, we'd have covered every imaginable topic and would be all caught up on everything. Oh, you would be so very wrong. How the hours passed so quickly, I do not know. But I am so thankful for this dear woman and the fact that I can be my realest, most broken self with her, and that she is willing to let me see her broken places. And I am thankful for the ways that both Ann (from a distance) and Diane (knowing and loving me up close) point me to Jesus, the Savior who loves and redeems messy, broken people.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Making a Map

If I hadn't already renamed my blog, I decided last week, I'd name it "Making a Map," after this lovely quote from the book I just finished: 

"The central reality for Christians is the personal, unalterable, persevering commitment that God makes to us. Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God's faithfulness. We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous. Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God's righteousness and less and less attention to our own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God's will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms. It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance."
(Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 128-129)

Oh, how thankful I am for this reality and my growing understanding of it. It's not about me. It doesn't depend on me. And that is good news!

In the end, I think that's what I'm trying to do when I sit down to write here in this space: I'm making a map. I write to deliberately shift my attention from my success or (more often) failures at righteousness to the perfect righteousness of Christ. I write to rein in my moods and motives and subject them to God's truth and ways. In order to steady my steps amid the rise and fall of my enthusiasms, I am making a map of His faithfulness.

New Name, Same Great Taste
Let the Gospel Rule
Who Gets the Last Word?
Learning Perspective from Paul

Monday, June 04, 2012

Multitude Monday, Take 250

Thanking God this week for...

4004. several days of Jude waking to nurse at 5:15, which is pretty much ideal for me
4005. reminders that my choices have consequences, even when I can't immediately see/feel any
4006. Steve's adventurousness in eating
4007. his appreciation for my adventurous cooking
4008. the fact that pushing the double stroller gives my arms a better workout

4009. chubby toddler feet
4010. Steve helping Elijah cut up "wallamelon"
4011. time to write
4012. a perfect day to explore a new greenway--nice and cool, rain held off

4013. another huge pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River

4014. echoes in a tunnel
4015. pink windblown cheeks
4016. remembering to grab my camera
4017. the convenience of a hatchback for on-the-go diaper changing
4018. a phone chat with my adorable newly-married friend

4019. weekly phone conversations with a dear friend who points me to Jesus
4020. deliciously sweet blackberries from the farmers' market
4021. Jude dancing with excitement about the berries, face purple with juice
4022. Elijah: "I'll still snuggle with you when I'm big and tall."
4023. the most authentic-tasting Thai food I've ever made

4024. new books
4025. news that a friend is pregnant
4026. new families at church
4027. 7.95% of my body weight lost, several inches lost, shorts and pants fitting!
4028. Elijah giving the last bite of his cookie to Jude, without prompting

4029. boys loving looking at old photos of our family
4030. an evening walk with my guys
4031. forgiving my massive debt of sin against Him
4032. not only forgiving but reconciling me to Himself, even *knowing* for certain that I will offend Him again!