Monday, July 29, 2013

I Am A Very Bad Fortune Teller.

I am writing this post as I sit in cute little coffee shop in Crozet, VA, right outside of Charlottesville. If you had asked me five years ago where I thought I would be the summer of 2013, I imagine I would have said interning for a bank or law office, or just some internship where I would be wearing high heels, a pencil skirt and a coordinating, but not too matchy-matchy, tailored jacket. I had zero idea what I wanted to do as a career but somehow I just knew it would require full business attire. I thought I would be gearing up for my senior year at Wofford College. I thought I would be president of every club I joined at Wofford. I thought I would be able to "go out" at least four nights a week, like I heard most college students could. Of course I pictured myself happy, confident, and ten times better looking than I was at the time. College was going to be the best four years of my life. That is what everyone says, so it must be true, right??

Fast-forward five years and things have definitely changed, but in much different ways than I could have ever known. Here I am, at the University of Virginia, as a nursing major, gearing up for my “4th year” with another year following that one. This summer I am working as a nursing assistant and a nanny. Majority of the time I wear scrubs and clogs or sneakers. I have joined clubs at UVa, mainly nursing related, but I am much more conservative when dividing up my time, and I probably won’t even try to run for president of any of those clubs. I am happy. I am confident. I look the exact same as high school, with longer hair and a couple added pounds. Would I describe these last three years of college as the best years of my life? Probably not. Would I change any second of those years? Definitely not. So far college has taught me so many things about myself, some things for the better and some for the worst.

What I could have never predicted five years ago was the way my heart flip-flopped, deflated and ultimately changed starting as soon as I graduated high school. Leaving everyone I knew and heading to South Carolina left me vulnerable to situations I had never before encountered and most of all vulnerable to myself. After getting to Wofford, I realized pretty quickly that I did not enjoy waking up hangover and wondering why I acted the way I had the night before.  As much I wanted to fit in with my new friends, I did not want to ruin the relationships I had already started to develop (I “re-found” Jesus the summer before senior year of high school). Going into my spring semester of freshman year I was conflicted and lonely. This became the ultimate time for me to once again reevaluate my life path.

With lots of support from my family and Avery and his family I discovered that my strengths could be consolidated into one career, nursing. Apparently, my loved ones forgot my strength of dressing well ;)  From that point on I put all my energy into getting into a program that would allow me to pursue nursing. A very long year later I finally told my dear Wofford friends of my plans to transfer and received my acceptance into the UVa School of Nursing.

Here I am a year out from that major life transition and I have never felt more confident that this is where I am supposed to be. I have even embraced the new wardrobe demands… my roommate and UVa friends would probably argue that I never had an issue with it, as any day of the week you can find me in shorts and a t-shirt or scrubs by choice.

I think that the point of this very long, rambling post is that life is so ironic and funny and unpredictable. I had to embrace the weird quirks that God gave me and knew would show themselves at some point. Ultimately, I had to learn to rely on Christ to have any kind of confidence in my decisions. I have by no means figured everything out yet, and I am no better at predicting the future than my 17-year-old self, but my newer disposition gives me hope for an even greater next five years. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wisdom Found in Summer Reading

This summer I am thankful that I have had time to do some reading for pleasure. During the school year I feel guilty reading for fun because more cases than not, I am procrastinating on real work and school reading I should be doing.

I just finished reading a book called Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth, which I first heard about because it has also been made into a TV series playing on PBS (originally BBC). Long story short, the book is a memoir of a young nurse who unknowingly goes to live at a convent while she furthers her experience in midwifery in the slums of London, circa 1950. Each chapter is the story of a different interesting patient, or a particular struggle of being a young nurse, or an experience that could only happen while living amongst nuns. 

On one of the very last pages Jennifer, the young nurse and also the author, is talking with one of the nuns. Inquiring as to why this nun had left a home of privilege to become a nun and serve the lowest class people of London, Jennifer asked, "Was it love of people?" Sister Monica Joan, who was known for her quick tongue and what I like to call sassiness, quickly responded,

"Of course not. How can you love ignorant, brutish people who you don't even know? Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or lice and mice? Who can love aching weariness, and carry on working, in spite of it? One cannot love these things. One can only love God, and through His grace come to love His people."

Somehow this "sassy nun" (I imagine that these two words are hardly ever used simultaneously) summed up a thought that I have been trying to articulate in my quiet times for weeks. We, as broken/sinful humans, are nothing and can do nothing if it were not for the grace and mercy of our God. We cannot take credit for anything except having a heart that is open to God's love. Thank you Sister Monica Joan for saying what I could not unscramble in my own head!

Cast from the BBC series
While you may have to be in nursing school, or just not be grossed out about graphic birthing lingo, to appreciate some of the scenarios in the book, I would highly recommend Call the Midwife for anyone looking for a last minute summer read! 


Monday, July 22, 2013

Finished Chair!

I finally finished the project that was taking over my kitchen. The work was tedious but I think that this re-covered chair is now one of my favorites in the house! Here are the many stages of the project spread out over a few days...

The chair that I knew and loved from our childhood rooms:

 My mom re-covered the chair with this fun fabric to fit in 
our nurseries and kids' rooms... I am still sad that the polkadots didn't match the new place! 

Step 1: Taking off ALL the layers
This white layer was directly under the polkadot fabric.

 I was getting sentimental taking off each layer of fabric... with as much time as I put into this project, I imagined Momma doing the same re-covering of the chair for our nurseries and then even my Nana re-covering the original chair. Each layer has its own little history! 

This layer was under the white fabric and would have totally matched
our furniture but I was already in project mode at that point and the new
fabric had already been purchased!

I realized, almost too late, that this green and white fabric was holding in extra padding that my Nana
 had added when she re-covered the original chair with this fabric.
Here is just a glimpse of the bottom-most layer!

Then my roommate Sarah came home, and she "helped!"

Step 2: Pinning and then when you think you have done enough pinning, pin some more

Before using the staple gun to keep the fabric in place, I used hundreds of pins to plot and plan
 how each wrinkle and crease would fall. This was the most tedious part of the whole project!

Step 3: Staple minimally but enough to keep everything secured. I stapled along the sides and all over the bottom of the chair. The sides I had to be conscious of because it is visible, but on the under part of the chair I went a little staple crazy! 
It took a while to get used to using the staple gun so lots of staples
had to be pulled out. These are just some of the staples I had to twist and pull out with my fingers.
*Note to self: Invest in pliers before doing this again
Step 4: Finishing touches

The sides where I had to staple the fabric looked a little sloppy to me so I 
added buttons and pipping to cover any mistakes!

Step 5: Enjoy the finished chair!!

This was really my first crafty thing I had time to do this summer and I love that now I can enjoy my rejuvenated little rocking chair in our kitchen nook!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Peach Pick'n

In between thunderstorms the other day, I went peach picking with my cute friends Annie and Elizabeth! The beautiful scenic drive, fresh air, and the mass amounts of peaches to pick were just what these tired girls needed! Good news is that it is just the beginning of peach season here in Virginia so we will definitely be back for more! 

Weird tree with just the pits still hanging.

Sweet friends! 

Okay, now I need your help... I have lots of peaches and when I have time this weekend I want to make some yummy peach desserts! Any peachy recipes to share?? Pinterest has yet to let me down, if all else fails!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Project in Progress

Thanks to my newest project my kitchen is a disaster, but I am having fun attempting to recover this old family rocking chair!

Bo likes to be in the middle of everything.
Stay tuned to see how the chair turns out and the many before and after pictures! 


Forgiving Myself and Then Forgiving Others

Do you ever have those moments when something triggers a memory that physically revolts you. Usually my body reacts with a shiver, or sometimes I find my posture actually concaving into itself, my face grimacing. The memories that bring about these reactions are usually ones that I feel embarrassed about, something I truly regret, and rarely I have that reaction thinking of something someone else did to me. More cases than not, it is my own wrong doing that invokes such distaste. My past, like every other person's in the planet, is not perfect.

If it is a fact that no one is perfect, why is it so difficult for us to forgive ourselves? Why is it so hard to forgive others?

For me, I think that the difficulty in letting go of the past started as a defense mechanism. I would remind myself of the hurt and frustrations of my past relationships in order to avoid any situation that resembled my past transgressions. Harboring this pain consumed my thoughts and disallowed me to enjoy the happy life I had right in front of me. The anger that I still had towards myself also stunted my ability to forgive other people. Because of this anger, relationships were broken, communications cut off for a very long time, and despite that separation, the despair still existed. The most difficult part of the situation was acting like I wasn’t still battling the demons of my past. The world had kept turning and as much as I knew I should be moving on too, I still reminded myself daily of the bad things I had done, while putting on a smiling face and trying to push forward.

It wasn’t until very recently that the burden of anger/sadness/regret from my past was lifted. What I realized is those situations and fights years ago that seemed to stop the world as I knew it, shaped me and molded me and made me rely on Christ more than I ever had before.  I had to work through my own insecurities to fully embrace 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

What I had been told so many times but not fully comprehended was that I am forgiven! Simple as that! Just as I am forgiven, the friends I held grudges against are also forgiven! Who am I to continue to harbor ill feelings towards other people when I have done absolutely nothing for forgiveness? And yet, having done nothing, I am new and forgiven and I delight in that burden having been lifted! We are all so undeserving, and yet we are fortunate enough to have a Father that loves unconditionally, even when we do not love ourselves. This fact in itself is so amazing that I really still have a hard time comprehending the enormity of it. There is NOTHING we can do that cannot be forgiven!

Do you have any burdens of the past that need to be lifted to the Lord? Do it! Don’t pull a stubborn Lauren and wait a few years just to feel better. Do it RIGHT NOW! I promise it is a much happier and healthier way to live!!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Black Bean Salsa

My family started making this recipe in our house a few years ago and it quickly became a summer staple! It is so easy and feeds the masses, which is perfect for our bustling household! Whenever I make this, I at least double it and enjoy the leftovers for as long as possible.

Serves 3 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes or less


Simply mix all of the following ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.

1 can of black beans—drained and rinsed
1 cup of tomatoes, diced (I sometimes use canned..shhh)
½ cup red onions, slivered
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
2T jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic
2T fresh limejuice
1T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

*Add chopped avocado for another yummy variation



Serving God By Serving Other People

Reiterating what I said yesterday in my bio, I am constantly struggling in my relationship with God and the topics I choose to discuss are some of the most difficult for me to live out. Serving God by serving other people is one of those topics that I wish I could say is easy for me, but my stubbornness seems to interfere sometimes. However, it is so clearly stated that this is something God wants us to do all day, everyday, despite our pride or stubbornness. John 15 is just one example of where Jesus states His desire for us…

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

There is no way around it. We are commanded to love each other as God loved us. The first thing that comes to my mind as ways in which God loves us is sacrifice. He made the ultimate sacrifice of His own son. Who are we to fret about sacrificing our time or energy to love on people? Serving others, as God has intended for us to do, is something to fight for in a society that thrives on living for yourself and living for your own successes. For someone to step outside of the societal norms and do something for another human being without the possibility of worldly rewards makes on lookers take a step back and wonder, “Why did John Smith do that for Joe Shmoe?” This recollection could be totally subconscious, but it ultimately allows people to see that you are living for something much greater than yourself.

There are so many practical ways we can serve other people on a daily basis. Selfless acts can manifest themselves in obeying our parents, spending our weekend helping a friend move, maintaining a good attitude when we are stuck in a long line at the grocery store, or better yet, allowing someone to go ahead of you in line at the grocery store. These are just simple examples, but there are so many more ways in which you can radiate God’s love so that people understand that there is something different about the way we live our life.

While we will never be able to live exactly the way God intended for us to live, continuously placing other people before our selfish needs is something we can consciously choose to do that pleases the Lord.


What are some other practical ways that we can serve God by serving other people?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

First Post Ever!

Hi guys! 

I am assuming that most people who are reading this blog know me in some shape or form but if not, I wanted to introduce myself with a description of what I intend for this blog as well as a tiny bio!

First of all, I am by no means a brilliant writer, nor do I have brilliant ideas that no one has heard of before, but I felt inspired to write a blog because there are certain things that I have strong opinions on, and there is so much stuff out there that I just think is so awesome it needs to be shared! I cannot promise I will post something everyday, or even every week, but at this point I am feeling inspired so I thought I might as well share while I have the time!

Naming this blog turned out to be way more difficult than I had anticipated! Trying to sound creative, witty, and intentional without sounding like I spent a week thinking of a silly title, which I did, had me wracking my brain. With a little (A LOT) of help from my mom, I finalized “On The Half Shell.” The more I thought about “On The Half Shell,” the more I realized it really did work as a title for several reasons. 

Used most often to describe a way in which oysters are prepared and served, this expression brings back many memories of one of my favorite places in the world, Cape Charles, VA. Not far from Virginia Beach, my grandparents moved over to this quiet town when I was probably 10. Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to get to Cape Charles brings on a sense of forced relaxation. I love that cell phone service is spotty because it makes the cell phones disappear for a couple of days. I love that you can ride your bike the circumference of the whole town in less than an hour and wave to everyone you pass on the way. I love that the Chesapeake Bay plays such a huge role for this town because Cape Charles thrives off of the marinas which house everything from tall mast sailboats, to fishing boats, to motorboats, and everything in between. It was in Cape Charles that I first tried a raw oyster, which happened to be on the half shell. That was over ten years ago, and while I still do not enjoy eating raw oysters (I LOVE steamed oysters, though), I am thankful for the memories they bring. 

The other reason the whole oysters on the half shell thing applies to this blog is because what you will be reading is raw. I articulate myself best when I have time to think out exactly what I mean to say and then write it down. There may be topics that I have never discussed before with acquaintances but it will be something I believe and have the desire to share. Do not worry, there will be lots of lighthearted, fun recipes, and probably times where I will simply make fun of myself too! I apologize in advance for any misspelled words, bad grammar, or periods where I just don’t post anything for a while!

Brief and simple facts of my life:

·    I love Jesus and I am constantly struggling to strengthen my relationship with Him.
·      I grew up in the beautiful Virginia Beach!
·      I am the oldest of four girls!

photo by the wonderful Meg Hutchinson
·      My cool dude parents work hard to provide for us and have instilled some intense work ethic/determination into my sisters and me.
·      I’ve been told I am a 35 year old stuck in a 21 year old’s body. (Is this a compliment or a sad truth??)
·      Sometimes I say things too bluntly.
·      I have been dating the same amazing guy since high school!

·      I love children, especially babies!
·      I went to Wofford College, down in South Carolina, for two years!
·      Now I go to the University of Virginia where I study nursing! 
·      I have a cute kitten named Bo and an awesomely chunky family pup named Weezie.

Bo helps with On The Half Shell
·      I am stubborn.
·      I have been blessed with several huge role models, which I will have to elaborate on in future posts, because there is just too much to say!

These basic truths of my life are some of the greatest factors when it comes down to who and what have molded me into the young woman I am today.

If you aren’t turned away by my bad grammar, quick bullet-pointed bio, or cutesy pictures, come back tomorrow! I am diving right in with two posts! The first will be about serving God through serving other people and then on a lighter note, I will be sharing one of my favorite summer recipes!