November 23, 2014

Pecan Cranberry Kale Salad

Every time I make kale salad for family dinners with the people from my church I always get asked multiple times for the recipe. Kale is one of those things that people want to figure out how eat because it is so healthy, but it has to be prepared well if it is going to be tasty.

I first was introduced to this kind of salad by my aunt when I was visiting her in California last summer. I modified my aunt's recipe to something that would pair well with our recent Thanksgiving themed meal. This is what was left.

The sign that something was a"hit" is an empty bowl when the feeding frenzy is over.

Pecan Cranberry Kale Salad

1 big bunch kale (or 1 big bag pre-washed pre-cut kale)
1 small onion
1/2 - 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 - 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

3/4 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

This makes a huge salad, so make sure you have enough people to help you eat it or cut the ingredient amounts in half. Because kale is such a hearty green you can make this ahead of time and even leave it in the fridge over night. It makes it even yummier. 

1. Slice onion in thin half circles. Put oil and onion in a small pot on medium-high. Once oil and onion mixture is hot bring temperature down to medium-low or low. Cook this mixture for about 20 minutes while you prepare the rest. This heats the oil and infuses it with flavor and also softens and sweetens the onion.

2. If your kale is not already washed and cut, then rip kale leaves into bite size pieces and discard stems (they are bitter and tough to eat). Then wash and dry your kale, putting it into a big mixing/salad bowl (like I told you, this recipe makes a lot).

3. Put pecans in a skillet on the stove top on medium-high heat to toast them. Stir them occasionally until they look and smell toasty. (this step is optional, but makes the pecans extra yummy)

4. Once oil and onions have been hanging out for about 20 mins, take them off the heat. Add salt (start with 1 tsp and add more if needed as you dress the salad), and balsamic vinegar. This is your dressing.

5. Pour half of dressing, while it is still warm, over the kale. Mix it in with your hands (this helps to soften the toughness). Pour the rest of the dressing over the kale and keep mixing. If your bunch of kale was smaller you might want to leave off some of the dressing.

6. Sprinkle the pecans and cranberries on the top of the kale. Serve and watch it disappear.

June 29, 2014

A Little Goes a Long Ways

It was an ordinary day at work, but precious moments usually come in simple packages...

If you haven't heard, I am going to Italy and Greece at the very beginning of August with Word Outreach Center. I haven't been out of the US for more than a year and I am really excited just to leave again. It is also thrilling to me to be able to experience a different continent and culture than South Asia. I am looking forward to seeing the differences and similarities in those who believe and follow Christ Jesus in Italy compared to those in India. There is also an anticipation of God radically changing my perspective once again, aligning it closer to him and his heart with this new experience. 

God's heart from before the beginning of time has been for family and for relationship. Over the past two years the Lord has been growing my heart for Godly family. This desire to help families has definitely been furthered by my experience helping Lindy last year in India, and is currently being fostered as I am providing child-care for another single mom here in the US who has two precious boys adopted from China.

In Naples, Italy we will be assisting with a family camp that is being run by an organization called Christ is the Answer. Then we will be going to a little town called Quaglietta in Italy to help with a youth camp. After that we will going to Athens, Greece to visit a ministry that is focused on loving refugees from Iran and Iraq, both Muslim countries closed to the gospel. Many of these refugees are coming to know and follow Jesus! This is the location that I am most excited to visit. I am thrilled to meet former Muslims who are now devoted to Jesus Christ. Getting to reach out and love on Muslim refugees is also something I am really looking forward to. 

This trip to Europe, though it is not something that I have done before, is developing into something just up my alley, as we will be pouring into families, teens, and people displaced from their birth countries. I am filled with more and more anticipation for what God is going to do with our short time there.

A few weeks ago I was staring to get a little stressed about this trip. If I was going to India, the trip would be cheaper and people would be more willing to give (at least that is what I feel). I am sure there are people who are thinking "why Italy?" and "is she just going on vacation?" Don't worry, I have been assured that there will be plenty of insects in Quaglietta and there might even be "squatty-potties." So if a missions trip has to include these two things to actually be legit, then this one is covered.

I have been saving some funds on my own for this trip, but I still need quite a bit to be donated. When I started stressing about this I was reminded of a precious moment of provision:

It was a normal morning at work: arrive at 8, help get boys breakfast, keep them busy, take them to the pool, and keep them from killing each other until their mom is finished working (these boys are really good, but that doesn't stop the "brother-dynamic"). I think this morning I was trying to get the little one to clean up his toys or put his shoes on. I felt the seven-year-old come behind me a shove something in my pocket. I was distracted with helping the two-year-old follow through with obedience, and didn't immediately check out what had been stuffed in my pocket. Later I pulled out a $5 bill, and asked the seven-year-old "what is this for?" He told me it is for my trip to California. :) I asked him if he meant Italy, and he said "oh yeah, Italy." Same thing, right?

This sweet gesture of generosity blew me away on multiple levels. First of all this seven-year-old had been getting a little obsessed with his money; dumping out his piggie-bank and counting it all the time, then bragging when he got more. Both his mother and I talked to him about different people who have been ruined by their greed. Apparently he took what we had to say and took an active step to change his tune from greed to generosity. It is always a precious thing when kids really get what you are trying to teach them... magical moments. Secondly this quiet generosity reminded me and continues to remind me that the Lord provides, especially through tiny gifts from unexpected places.

I have been really challenged to trust that the Lord knows my needs (even better than I do) and that he is actively moving to provide for them. Listening to a podcast from Bethel Church I was blown away by something Bill Johnson said, "once we have experienced supernatural provision, we have lost the right to begin any thought process with what we don't have." I have seen the Lord provide in so so SO many ways, for myself and tons of other people. If I begin my thoughts with "I don't have enough of..." then I am not trusting the Lord and that he has all my needs covered. I am going to choose to change my tune from worry and whining to gratefulness and joy, then watch the Lord do what he does best...come through in miraculous ways.

If you want to donate to this trip, follow this link: 

May 18, 2014

Good Things

The Lord has been highlighting his goodness... underlining and emboldening it. 

Everyone goes through hard seasons and seasons of fullness. In those hard times it can be so hard to see the goodness of The Lord hidden among all the thorns and rocks. It is present, but we can't feel it. In those full seasons of relative ease, it is so common to forget that the goodness around us exists and is from The Lord. It is present, but we take it for-granted and don't value it. 
I have been reading Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. (I know. I was pretty late to jump on that band wagon.) If you haven't read the book Ann talks about being given the challenge to list one thousand things she is thankful for. Through the process of this challenge she discovered how thankfulness can infuse our lives with fresh breath and vibrence. She stumbled on the fact that we are made to be close to God and as we acknowledge his presence through gratefulness for the goodness that he has already placed in our lives the simple goodness refracted and magnified to glorious abundance. It is our duty (not obligation) and our joy to live in thankfulness. 

Here is a quote that really struck me:
"I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives."
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I want to see the wounds of the world and the wounds in my heart be healed. Thankfulness is a key to that. I have seen and felt healing in my own heart as I have begun to follow Ann down this path of gratefulness. Thankfulness is like the rock that God told Moses to strike in the dessert. Though it might not seem logical in our human understanding, thanksgiving is where the living waters of joy and healing come flowing from. 
It has been my irrational fear that somehow I will reach the end of God, or at least use up my allotted portion of him. I fear that I will run out of things to discover about him, that I will reach the end of his love, the end of his patience, the end of his grace. I have caught myself worrying about if I will be able to find a thousand things to thank him for. 

In the same journal that acts as my log of gratitude, the other day I penned this question the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear "Where does my goodness end? When will it run dry? Where am I not? Which place lacks my presence, my sacredness?" I was blown to pieces and held tightly to Jesus' chest. I cannot escape God and his goodness even if I tried. 

If you are running from God, you cannot out run him. If you are needing his grace, you cannot use it up. If you are surviving only because of his love, it is everlasting and unending. He is good. If we see it, he is good. If we can only see tragedy, he is good. If we can't see anything, he is good. He is good, and that is never going to change. 

Join me in a pattern of thanksgiving and discover the vast beauty he weaves into our lives. Glory in his goodness. Revel in him revealed. Whack that boulder in the dessert and watch as his living waters flow freely. 

Pour Life

Hanging out with kids can make you laugh like crazy and can expose you to kid cooties.

This Friday I came home with a nasty cold/sinus infection/plague... oh what fun! Because of this I have been cooped up in my room in my pajamas, with tea and my computer for almost 48 hrs. I am going a little stir crazy and started a dance party with the cats. They didn't appreciate my efforts so I thought I would focus my energy into something more creative and restful like writing (also when you have a sinus infection it throws off your equilibrium and dancing can become dangerous to everyone involved even cats). 

Ruminating on what one wants from life is always a good exercise. When you think about what you want out of life it gets you to invest more in life, because life is truly what you make of it. In my ruminations and writings I noticed that I kept using the phrase "pour life," in ways such as "I want to be in a community that pours life into me" and "I want to pour life into children/women/families who desperately need it." This phrase kept coming up so much that I wanted to distill what I meant by it, so I pulled out my handy-dandy iPhone ESV bible app and searched for "life."

Psalm 16:11 
"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forever more." 

Ecclesiastes 7:20
"For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart."

Mathew 7:14 
"For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." 

Mark 8:35
"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."

Philippians 2:16-18
"holding fast to the word of life so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me." 

Colossians 3:3
"For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." 

2 Peter 1:3-6
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness."

Revelations 21:6
"To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment."

Basically what "pour life" means is to live a life of sacrificial love like Jesus'. As this pouring out happens a pouring in happens as well. Like a stream that flows, the waters keep coming and keep going. Refreshing and resting at the very same time. And again the precious grace and goodness of The Father leads me back to his love and lap, to build a deeper dependence on his arm to sustain me. 

I love the verse from Ecclesiastes. I want to be so occupied with the joy of the Lord that I lose track of my days in how lavishly I am living them. As the world is awakening to the warmth of Spring, I feel my heart awakening and sprouting joy. Soon Summer will be here with fruit, and Autumn with harvest, and Winter again for the deepening of roots. But as these seasons come over and over again, I want to find myself "hidden with Christ in God," tucked away in his identity, covered and fulfilled.  

February 2, 2014

Cups of Joy

It is so much easier to identify the negative things. How many of us look at our reflections in the mirror only to see the blemishes, the wrinkles, and the lack? I always see pimples on my own face when no one else can spot them. We can so easily be critical and disparaging of our own lives especially in this world of social media, photoshop, and pintrest perfection. I want to see this change in my life. Joy and thankfulness should always be on my lips. 

Recently I was thinking about habits. I don't see myself as a person of habit. I like trying new things, going new places, and I actively and subconsciously resist being predictable. I never drink quite the same drink at Starbucks every time, and rarely order the same thing at a restaurant twice.  

I was thinking about my habits or lack there of because I want to endeavor to make thankfulness active and habitual in my life. One thing that I cannot seem to get through a day without, especially these cold dark winter days, is a hot beverage... actually multiple hot beverages throughout the day. The precious thing about a cup of coffee or tea is the time it takes to make and then drink it. It is a beautiful thing to boil water and then watch as it magically turns into a warming nurturing elixir. It soothes the soul to sit even for a moment and just enjoy the heat of porcelain on your hand and liquid on your tongue. The steam rising to raise your spirits. 

Confession time: I admit I have a habit... hot beverages. 

My gratefulness should be as constant at these mugs of magic. So I am to connect my current habit to the creation of a grateful habit. Join me if you would like, as I take a moment at each cup during the day and let some joy and thankfulness spill over. Essentially this will look like: every time I have a hot beverage I will remember something new to be grateful over. Cups of joy

I am looking forward to finding fullness in a life of thankfulness. Though darkness sometimes seems to stifle my soul, it cannot last, will not last. These cups of joy are my little way of piercing the clouds around me with rays of light as I remember His love, grace, and goodness daily. 

P.S. You can follow me on Instagram @sarahcatherinenoel and #cupsofjoy 

Longing for the Spring of His Kingdom

The cold branches of winter seem to be grasping at my heart, with all their sad stories, frigid days, and hopeless nights.

Over the past few months, maybe few years, my life has intercepted with so many stories that bring tears to my eyes that I feel like the sadness on my face has become permanent.

Stories of
rape (God, so much rape)
broken families
abused children
stubborn despair-causing bureaucracy
terminal illness
gripping worry
car accidents
sudden death of beloved pets
lies (so many lies)
abandoned children
limbs amputated
failed relationships
trafficked women, men, children,

lives broken, hearts bruised, hope gone.

Lord, where is your Kingdom coming? Where!?! Cause I don't see it.

The cold winter closes in on my heart. I forget what the trees look like adorned with buds and leaves. The grey sky above becomes a constant, if not in reality then in my countenance.

Can anyone, can anything stop the changing of the seasons? Spring has to come. It just has to.

Hold on heart until it does.

Through the tears and sadness I have to cling to the truth that I will see His goodness in the land of the living and that one day, though it seems far off, one day He will make all things right

How do I make it through the winter of this world to the spring of His kingdom?



Remembering who our God is and how redemption is His particular specialty.

"For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning to Me and resting in Me you shall be saved; in quietness and in trusting confidence shall be your strength..." (Isaiah 30:15, Amplified) 
Stumbling across this scripture for the hundredth time the Lord whispers to my heart, "Return to me. Rest in me. Quiet yourself and trust confidently in me and I will make things right. I will because I AM."  

All these stories, sad sad stories... some of them have already begun to sprout life... some are heading into a darker season before they can hope for light. But I have to remind myself that all life comes from seeds that first have to die. Death is not the end. Sometimes it is the beginning.

This is not the end
This is not the end of this
We will open our eyes wide, wider

This is not our last
This is not our last breath
We will open our mouths wide, wider

And you know you’ll be alright
Oh and you know you’ll be alright

This is not the end
This is not the end of us
We will shine like the stars bright, brighter

 Lyrics to "This is Not the End" by Gungor