Sep 30, 2014

Travel Tuesday // San Antonio in the summer

Travel Tuesday is here again!
I am behind on sharing some of my travels this summer. In the coarse of three weeks from mid-June to early July, I went to San Francisco (see posts), San Antonio (Texas), and Cannon Beach (Oregon). It was a blessed balance of rest and adventure, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to take that time off work. 

I was in San Antonio for ten days and got to see lots of new places that I did not see my first trip, while also hanging out with sweet friends I've known for many years, and spending lots of quality time with my handsome Texan. Here are a few of my favorite areas in San Antonio during this trip:

an up-and-coming neighborhood near the banks of the San Antonio River, you'll find delicious restaurants (we loved The Boiler House), Farmer's Market (CrapeLandia's food stand has delish gluten-free crepes!), events, and shopping. The area is perfect for a long walk, exploring the sites and smells of this hip corner. 

Japanese Tea Gardens
What started as a small lilly pond in the early 1900s eventually became a lush garden with a large open-air pagoda, multiple koi ponds, a waterfall, and quiet shaded areas to explore. Located near Brackenridge Park and the San Antonio Zoo, it would be easy to want to spend the whole day in this peaceful area. When G and I went, the gardens were under a huge renovation and many of the koi ponds were drained. Yet, I still thought it was so gorgeous and restful because of the exotic vegetation and architecture. 
[my favorite view of the pagoda and bridge] 

The River Walk
I adore this area! The River Walk is one story below the streets of downtown SA and is an exciting network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River. It is packed with countless restaurants, stores, bars, and souvenir shops, not to mention tons of tourists and sidewalk entertainers. It is easy to get lost in the crowd on weekends, but also so fun to people watch! My favorite restaurants on the River Walk so far are Iron Cactus Mexican Grill & Margarita Bar, The Original Mexican Restaurant (where G paid a quartet Mariachi band to play us a song!), and Saltgrass Steak House. Don't forget to hop onto the River Cruise and enjoy the view floating along the river.

San Antonio Missions
Along with the River Walk, I definitely wanted to see the missions this second time around in San Antonio. Back in January, I visited three of the five missions, and I got to see the other two this time around. They each had their own quirks and personalities, not to mention colorful history. Four of the five (the Alamo is excluded due to its location in downtown SA) are protected within the San Antonio Mission National Historic Park and are accessible by car or the bike rentals available at each mission. They were established by in the 1700s by Catholics to indoctrinate the local indians in exchange of protection within fortified walls. Eventually disease within the close-living occupants reduced the native population in addition to stronger native enemies including the Apache and Comanche tribes (2). 

Mission San José
  1. Mission Concepcion
 [these two photos above were taken on my first trip in January]

  1. Mission San Francisco de la Espada
    [I did not get a good shot of the church and instead we relaxed near the ruins]

    1. Mission San Juan Capistrano 

There's lots to see in San Antonio and I am excited to explore some more of this historic southern city in a few weeks!

Check here for other traveler's stories on A Compass Rose's Travel Tuesday link-up

Sep 27, 2014

ALL OF NATURE DECLARES // queen anne's lace

Queen Anne's lace is a delicate white wildflower that grows without much effort along roadsides, atop hillsides, and in lush meadows. I usually see them while walking or running on nearby trails from early summer to early autumn. "She" is from the same family as a carrot and her root actually smells like a carrot (1), which is why early American settlers called it "wild carrot" (2).

In the 18th century, Queen Anne's lace was found adorning the hair of ladies of the royal courts because of its ornate, lace-like pattern, which is where the name is derived. The peasants and working class used Queen Anne's lace for more practical means, such as a hair rinse for lice and dandruff that was made by steeping the flower. 

It seems a bit comical that a plant can be called both a "wild carrot" while also being used as an accessory for royals. But I suppose it depends who's perspective it is, really. How similar is this to our perspective of ourselves? 1 Peter 2:9 calls Christians a "royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" who were taken from darkness into light. And yet, how many times do I see myself as a "wild carrot", good for nothing other than smelling like something that could be added to a stew? In the guise of humility, I confuse verses and actually believe it is expected for me to see myself as a nobody and insignificant. It is easy to think that Christians should put themselves last and not care for themselves, at least it has been for me. I desire humility but I did not realize I sought it at the expense of my understanding of my worth in the eyes of my Heavenly Father. 

It has always been easy for me to see God as King, Creator, Ruler, Righteous. The church I grew up in really focused on these Biblical representations of God and I am glad for it, because He truly is all of these things. God is big in the sense that He is greater than His creation and rules over nature, natural law, principalities and powers.  But He is more: He is also my Father. He rejoices over me with singing,  delights in me, and is near to me, while still being a Mighty Savior (Zephaniah 3:17). He lavishes His beloved children with good gifts, the best gift being Jesus (James 1:17). He sends the Holy Spirit to guide, instruct, and comfort us (John 14:26). He loves us with an unfailing love (John 3:16, Ps. 46:5-7, Jer.31:3). He knows me more than anyone ever could (Jer. 1:4-5, Ps.139:13-18). He has great plans for me just like a good dad has plans and hopes for his children (Jer. 29:11). 

This personal side of God does not make Him any less big or any less powerful. He is still king while also being my dad. And, that means that I have worth simply because I am a child of the King. This is not because of what I do in my own effort, but because of Whose I am. I am a daughter of a King and that makes me royalty in His eyes. Now before you roll your eyes because you've heard the princess analogy far too often (or at least, I have), I do believe this truth can change your perspective of your worth, or at least, it did for me. You see, once I studied verses about God being a father, and a really good father at that, it became easier to trust Him with all my anxious thoughts. It became more natural to ask Him to guide me. It became common sense to want Him to be king over my heart's desires.  I was not only seeing God as big, I was also growing in my understanding of Him as my Dad. I am blessed with a loving and hard-working dad who serves sacrificially for his nine children, so it comes naturally for me to see God as Father in this sense. It hurts to know the hard truth that hearing of God as a dad does not carry the same positive connotation for other women because of absent, abusive, or unloving dads. God is not that kind of dad and it wrecks our trust in Him if we see Him as that kind of dad. He is a good dad, or better yet, He is a perfect dad. The aforementioned verses were a few verses that have helped me see God as a perfect Father with a perfect love. And as I continue to grow in this understanding, I slowly begin to see myself in light of my position as a daughter of a king. I am not a princess in the Disney sense (though a pet tiger like Jasmine, gorgeous long locks like Rapunzel, an adorable shabby chic cottage in the woods like Snow White, and fancy glass slippers like Cinderella don't sound half bad, if you're asking me). I am more than that. I am a "royal priesthood", chosen and beloved. I have worth because of who my king dad is. And that changes everything.

The next time you see this white bloom on the side of a trail or in a meadow, stop and remember this. Queen's Anne lace in and of itself is nothing special, really. It is useful and practical, but with a nickname like "wild carrot" or being known as a lice-killer, there is nothing regal about it. But once the princesses and other royal women started donning them in their perfectly arranged hair, the flower became special. And we, in and of ourselves, have faults and we may seem like vegetables at times. Yet when we see our position in the "royal court" as being a child of an almighty and all-powerful king who affectionately and unrelentingly loves us, we begin to see we really are royalty, no tiara needed (though I'll take the glass slippers and tiger. Just sayin'!).

1) Flower Essence Society. Plant Study: Queen Anne's lace.
2) Hedstrom-Page, Deborah. Meet Me in the Meadow: Finding God in the Wildflowers. 2005.

Sep 24, 2014

the circle link-up// fall faves

Today I am link-in up with the fab girls of The Circle, and sharing some of my fall favorites!
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

>>discovering new chili, stew, and soup recipes to warm up to on cold nights<<
>>marveling at the beautifully changing leaves of brilliantly bright hues<<
>>pumpkin recipes, especially pumpkin bread<<
>>decorating my home for autumn with pumpkin crafts<<
>>pumpkin patches<<
>>relaxing by a fireplace with a warm cup of tea + a good book<<
>>the pitter-patter of rain on my window + wet leaves on the pavement<<
>>chunky sweaters, skirts with thick tights, and boots<<
>>apple orchards + apple recipes<<

What are your fall faves?

Sep 23, 2014

book reviews // Bittersweet, Explicit Gospel, Desiring God

Back in January when I proposed my 2014 goals, I set a reading goal to help motivate me to start reading more consistently. I had dropped the ball in the previous year because I would be exhausted when I would get home from a long shift at the clinic, but wanted to get back into reading books for pleasure since it gave me quality quiet time. 

My goal was 10 books in 12 months, but by September I am past my goal (yay!) at 13 books! I have now changed my goal to 16 books by the end of 2014.

I had hoped to share more book reviews, but dropped the ball on that one after a few months. Although I enjoyed them, they were time consuming, and again, due to my emotional and physical strain from work in that season, blogging book reviews was not at the top of my priorities, so I had to press the pause button for a while. However, I figured now that I have surpassed my goal and have made a new one, it would be good to slowly share short blurbs of a few books at a time that I enjoyed in 2014. 

I'll start with three of my favorite books in 2014:
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Desiring God by John Piper
Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler 
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
Bittersweet is my introduction to Shauna Niequist's storytelling style (I am currently reading Cold Tangerines by her). I kept reading about her books through the blogging world, so I finally bought a few books by her. Bittersweet is a beautiful narrative full of personal experiences that paint the portrait of life, namely that we have both bitter and sweet moments in life and they are equally important. I'll follow along my painting analogy for a while longer: Imagine a painting of a scene in nature, such as a forest or a turbulent river. The artist needs to add both bright "sweet" colors as well as darker "bitter" colors to reflect shadows. The shadows aren't meaningless even though they may not make sense all the time. Rather, they often bring more beauty to the painting because of the depth they add. Similarly, the hard, painful seasons of life (such as Shauna's heartbreaking miscarriage) should not be skimmed over or ignored. They are painful and confusing, but they are not meaningless or accidental. They often are a pathway to a deeper understanding of God's faithfulness in all seasons of life as well as a great appreciation for the sweet moments that often go unnoticed and unthanked. Don't expect deep theology in this book (check out the next two books in this review for that!), but DO expect to be challenged to look at both the bitter and sweet moments differently in your life. 

Desiring God by John Piper
It took me many months to get through Desiring God because of it's depth. I did not want to skim it and consequently found that I often needed a break to process all of the theology-heavy material. That said, it is a great read, especially if you are interested in digging deeper in Christian doctrine. Piper's main idea is based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But Piper uses the whole book to explain why he chooses to switch the 'and' with a 'by' and why this makes all the difference: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. His term 'Christian Hedonism' is aimed at explaining how we are called to desire and enjoy God in all aspects of life. Christians are not supposed to be in the doldrums, fretting and fearful. Instead, we are to see the gospel as a treasure of great worth (Matthew 13:44) and experience the limitless joy that comes from glorifying God. Piper explores various areas of the Christian life that can be transformed by the idea of Christian Hedonism (joy embedded in glorifying God) including personal finances, living missionally, prayer, studying the Bible, experiencing suffering, and marriage. We are called to joy. This does not mean our lives will be void of pain and suffering. But it does mean that when our end goal is to bring glory to God, joy will be a result. 

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
Whether you grew up in the church or are new to the teachings of Christianity, The Explicit Gospel is an excellent study on the gospel. Chandler expertly digs into the gospel and how it applies to us personally by understanding God and responding through repentance (this personal aspect is what he calls 'the gospel on the ground'). He then explains the 'gospel in the air', which includes doctrines on creation, the fall, and reconciliation. He drives home the understanding that the gospel is the heart of the Bible. His introduction includes a quote that explains this very well: "Everything in Scripture is either preparation for the Gospel, presentation of the Gospel, or participation in the Gospel" (Dave Harvey). The good news is needed in all aspects of life, for it transforms and brings hope. Chandler does an amazing job bringing the gospel in a fresh light while maintaining and upholding what the Bible says about the gospel. Prepare to be challenged and to fall deeper in awe of the gospel. 

Are you reading any good books right now?
Also, find me on goodreads (I am a bit obsessed with that website!)

Sep 20, 2014

blogtember challenge // a day in the life

Today I am hopping onto the Blogtember challenge hosted by the darling Bailey Jean from Brave Love. I have been enjoying my blogging buddy's posts in the last several weeks and have been wanting to join at some point, so I finally am hoping to join in the fun every now and then until it ends. 

Bailey's prompt for today:  "Share a day in the life. Pictures, timelines, stats, however you like"

I am going to share some photos from today. I wouldn't say it is a typical day since it is Saturday and my Saturdays are never identical, but it was definitely a fun day since I had a Sister Day!

My sisters live thirty miles south of where I live and we see each other at least once a week when I visit the family for our Sunday family lunches. But we decided on a last-minute sister sleepover last night. We watched an Irish comedy (Waking Ned Devine), had quiet reading time afterwards, and I let them sleep in this morning while I did my Bible study ("Open Your Bible" series from She Reads Truth).
I then made breakfast for them and we soon set out towards downtown Portland to catch the tail end of the summer's exhibit at the Portland Art Museum showcasing Paris' Tuileries gardens. We have all visited Paris in the last two years, so it was a stroll down memory lane as we saw artwork depicting the Louvre and the Tuileries gardens. It was also great to read some history while we were admiring the masterpieces. We then walked a few blocks down to get lunch at Elephants in the Park, which is in the middle of Director Park, a fun concrete park with ping-pong tables and mutuple chess sets for the public. The girls each had burgers and I had fish tacos (they were amazing!).
We headed back to the museum and explored the impressionism area (my favorite era of art), where I was grinning ear to ear as I saw a few paintings by my three favorite Impressionist artists, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro. (Side note: I was really bummed last summer when I discovered Pissarro's artwork at Musee d'Orsay and assumed Camille was a she. I googled and found that Camille so most definitely not a woman, but a very hair man! HAHA!)

We eventually headed back to my apartment and they headed back home while I drove to my favorite cafe to do some blogging and reading, which is where I currently find myself now :-) So there you have it, a day (though not yet completed) in the life of Elle at Beautiful Hope

Sep 9, 2014

God of the Lonely // guest post for Heart Stirrings

It's field trip day! 
I have gotten to know Natalie Grimm in the last year through her blog, which I have learned so much from. We have also had the opportunity to Skype a few times as well. So I was stoked when she invited me to write a guest post and gave me a lot of freedom to write whatever I wanted with the subject of God's attributes and character. 

God of  _______________

The first thing that came to mind was God of the Lonely since I have personally seen the peace and rest that is available in experiencing God's nearness and personal love during seasons of loneliness. 

So, grab a cup of tea and hop over to Natalie's blog, Heart Stirrings for the guest post!

(Natalie's image; click for link to post)

Sep 4, 2014

Cooking with Elle // Gluten-Free Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

These delicious cookies are perfect for any occasion. I nibbled on a few [ok, ok, maybe more than "a few"] while sipping on tea and reading in my reading nook one day, then packed a few for separate picnics by the river and the beach in the last few weeks. They are simple to make and gluten-free for those who are trying to limit or totally cut out gluten but have a sweet tooth.

Gluten-Free Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

Prep time: 10 min  Total time: 1 hr 30 min  Makes: 18 cookies
1/2 cup  butter (softened; I use grass-fed butter, but any butter will do)
3 tbsp honey (I used organic, but again, any works)
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 cups  almond flour
½ tsp  sea salt 

1.  In a large bowl using a hand mixer or  food processor, mix together  butter & honey.
2.  Add the rosemary, almond flour, and salt. Mix well.
3.  Shape dough into an 8 inch roll and wrap in plastic wrap.  
Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze to use at a later time.
4.  After refrigerated or frozen, preheat oven to 325° F (163° C).
5.  Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and cut into ¼ inch (6 mm) slices.
6.  Place on baking sheets, separated by at least an inch.
7.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
8.  Cool for several minutes before removing from the pan. Enjoy! 
The last photo is not my own. It is from the source of the recipe at Nourished. I ate the cookies too quickly to snap a photo of the finished product. Ooops!

Sep 2, 2014

goodbye august, hello september

August was a busy and eventful month! It was filled with beautiful moments and seemed to fly by! I cannot believe we have entered into September and zooming full-speed ahead towards autumn. I hope to work on some of the goals that have been recycled month after month (like the liver detox and jogging again).

August Goals
+ jog outside twice a week and find new trails and/or roads --> Honestly, I am not sure if I went jogging once all month :( It was far too hot (I cannot jog in hot weather) but I was so busy on my days off :(
+ listen to atleast 1 new Bulletproof Radio podcast or other health-related podcast --> Not yet
+ get to bed by 11:30pm --> I did this roughly half of the month! That's an improvement!
+ read Meet Me in the Meadows and Mere Christianity and three chapters from Desiring God --> Finished Desiring God and making progress on Mere Christianity and Meet Me in the Meadows
liver detox/ juice cleanse --> Not yet! 
+ meet with three friends for coffee/lunch  --> Yes!
+ meet with my "little sister" I mentor --> I saw her a few times at church and texted her, but we have yet to hang out again!
+ enjoy "living in the moment" when my boyfriend visits me for 5 days [rather than worrying about being apart again and stealing joy away from the brief time we get to spend together] --> :)
+ finish the Justice study through She Reads Truth  [it is sooo good!]
+ start a new series [more info coming soon!]
+ 2 new recipes --> paleo crockpot chili ,  paleo banana pancakes, and gluten-free rosemary shortbread cookies  . Both so good!!

September Goals
+ jog and/or gym twice a week
+ Finish reading Meet Me in the Meadows and The Golden Key (by George Macdonald)
+ Get to bed by 11:30pm 50% of the nights
+ Meet with my "little sister" I mentor
+ Dig deep in the new Hosea study from She Reads Truth
+ Catch up on some of my favorite blogs, such as this one and this one
+ liver detox cleanse
+ Write to my Compassion International child
+ Attend a nurse practitioner seminar on mental health
+ 2 new recipes
+ memorize 2 verses from Hosea study

P.S. did I mention that I loved August? Here are a few of my favorite moments:
a wedding, time with my sweet mister exploring my hometown(s), kayaking, starting a new She Reads Truth study (Hosea), meals with friends, family time, picking out flowers for cousins' baptism at a park, picking fresh lavender, paleo crockpot chili, hanging out with my adorable nephew and niece,  beautiful sunsets, and picnics.