Thoughts on Mississippi

Well, my last post here was in August. As in, nearly eleven months ago. John had just been through track select and was settling into the final phase of pilot training. Approximately one million things have happened since then. While the days of pilot training can be incredibly long, the weeks are mysteriously fast. They melt into months at quite the alarming rate so that before you know it, it’s all over. A new chapter begins.

So far, that chapter has been unbelievably hectic and overwhelmingly good. We find ourselves on the brink of many, many life changes. In light of this, it seems all the more necessary to take a step back and reflect. To take a breath. To pause from organizing suitcases and attempt to organize my thoughts about what this year has been and all that lies before us. First up, a few thoughts on Mississippi.

Oh, Mississippi.

I’d be lying if I told you we’ll really miss it. The place, that is.

We don’t love mosquito bites in January. We’re convinced that Mississippi drivers are some of the worst in the country. We don’t particularly care for Southern food. We really miss mountains and large bodies of water. We realized that for most of our lives, we’ve taken for granted access to airports and larger cities with a greater variety of opportunities- theater, music, art, culture, etc. My insect tolerance is pretty remarkable right now.

But the people make a place, and we know that this will be true of any assignment, anywhere. C. S. Lewis said that “friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one…”

Until this past year in Mississippi, we had yet to experience a military community. We’d heard time and again that this community becomes your family. I’ll freely admit that this seemed a bit too mushy to be true- we already have family. We even like our families.

But there is no doubt that we have begun to see the truth in this. We’re so thankful that despite our original intentions in moving to Columbus, we lived on base. It was refreshing to live among people encountering the same challenges and celebrating similar joys. I was encouraged by the common understanding shared among the wives- women who in nearly every way could say “me too”.

I’m thankful for these women who were willing to meet each week for Bible study over a pot (or several) of coffee. I’ll miss the days when we were still together five hours later with no shortage of things to talk about. I’m grateful for honesty and transparency and discussions about identity and value and purpose, about finding our place during a very busy, transient year. I’m grateful for people willing to plant roots and invest, all the while knowing that we’d eventually be sent our separate ways.

I’m thankful for spontaneous day trips to Tuscaloosa for the sake of Target and Starbucks, or outings to Starkville for an afternoon at 929 Coffee Bar or just a change of scenery. We loved shared dinners and evenings of board games. When the heat really arrived, spending free afternoons at the pool with friends was just about perfect.

I’m thankful for Kaia, who has brought such joy into our lives. She has been an especially wonderful companion to me while John is away. We enjoyed many hours at the swamp lake together.

I’m thankful to have had the freedom this past year to support John through a rigorous yet rewarding program. I watched a little boy several days a week- a schedule that allowed me to be out of the house and busy, yet available to adapt to John’s ever changing schedule. It often meant 4 AM breakfasts one week and 10 PM dinners the next… and while far from perfectly, we made the most of it. John worked incredibly hard and put in long hours studying and preparing for flights. Our conversations mostly revolved around future assignments. Somewhere deep down, I’m hopeful we still have the social skills to discuss something other than airplanes!

It was a year of creating home…again. We hung photos and rearranged furniture and tried to garden–mostly unsuccessfully. Mississippi’s heat and humidity were not kind to our vegetables, though our indoor herbs and succulents thrived. We also learned enough woodworking to build a table together.

It was, all in all, a good year. We left Mississippi with such incredible blessings. We have a wonderful dog and good friends. John finished pilot training and earned his wings just as I completed my degree through Moody. We’re welcoming a baby in only a few short weeks. God is good!

Rachel’s Visit

My best friend Rachel made it down for a visit Easter weekend! From her college in Greenville, it’s only an 8 hour trek- a bit more manageable than the trip from Greenville to Los Angeles.
We broke out our grill for the first time that weekend for ribs. 
Rachel and I wandered downtown Columbus, drinking coffee and seeing the sites, including this massive elephant head at a local antique store. Apparently, it lights up and moves. The price tag simply says, “Make an Offer”. Just a little terrifying. 
She got to meet the puppy, of course. Kaia provided most of our entertainment. 

Easter Sunday after church, John studied while we played Scrabble. 
We also spent quite a bit of time on the back porch watching the birds, coffee or tea in hand. What more could I ask for? 

Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Apricot and Sage Stuffing

2013? Seriously?

It’s been a whirlwind month. I got home from South Africa (more on that to come), we had Christmas with our families (also more on that to come) and moved to Mississippi (definitely more on that to come). It’s been raining nonstop for a week, which means we haven’t been too motivated to get much done in the way of unpacking and organizing. Instead, we’ve been playing plenty of board games and I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen.

We had this for dinner the other night and, although it wasn’t the first time I’ve made it, I was struck by how fast it all came together. 30 minutes from gathering the ingredients to sitting down to eat? I’ll take it! As per request, here’s the recipe, adapted from Terry Walter’s Clean Food. You could probably use just about any small squash; the original recipe suggests buttercup. The stuffing is excellent as is, but I’m sure you could swap out ingredients as needed. For example, mirin is sometimes hard to find- it’s a sweet, white cooking wine common in Japanese recipes.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Apricot and Sage Stuffing

2 small acorn squashes
2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing the squash
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
6 shallots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6-8 dried apricots, chopped
2 T chopped fresh sage
2 T chopped fresh parsley, plus whole sprigs for serving (I’ve used cilantro before, too)
1 T mirin
zest of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds (I definitely used more, but we really like almonds)

Preheat oven to 375

Wash the squash and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and rub the skins with olive oil. Place open side down on a parchment lined baking pan. Roast for 25 minutes or until soft throughout. Turn off heat, but leave squash in the oven to stay warm until it’s ready to be served.

In the meantime, combine quinoa in a pot with water or vegetable stock and a pinch of salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed (this should take 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.

In a dutch oven (a.k.a. large pot) over medium heat, saute shallots and celery in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft. Then add the apricots, sage, parsley and mirin and saute for another 3 minutes. Fluff the quinoa and add to this mixture. Add lemon juice, zest and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and saute until heated through. Fill individual squash bowls with stuffing, garnish with toasted almonds and parsley sprigs and serve. Delicious!

thankful: November 26-29

11.16.12
1. Two great hours of Bible study with Carlene.

2. A productive afternoon of school work.

3. Rest. Much needed rest.

11.27.12
1. Tutoring resumed today! So happy to spend time with the kids again!

2. Making upcycled Christmas cards and playing outside to celebrate the end of term.

3. Butternut soup with Amy.

4. Planning for Choose to Wait next week. It’s good to get the ball rolling, however slowly.

5. An unexpected opportunity to talk to John for a few minutes.

11.28.12
1. An absolutely gorgeous day. I’m so much happier, energetic and productive when the sun is shining!

2. Assembly this morning and the chance to share these truths: I have value; you have value; sex has value.

3. The ability to simply laugh when tutoring is canceled yet again because the students are not coming to school.

3. Taco night with guests.

11.29.12
1. Themba’s Camp Zion t-shirt–it put a huge smile on my face.

2. “What to do with your Thanksgiving”, an excellent sermon from Rankin Wilborne at Pacific Crossroads, our church in Los Angeles. You can (and should!) check it out here.

3. That Sunbury’s internet is capable of downloading a podcast, period! Living alone in a quiet house, I’ve been listening to many, many sermons.

4. This soup for dinner. After a smoothie and nuts and fruit all day, tonight called for a get-every-pan-in-the-kitchen-dirty sort of meal. So worth it!

Check out the recipe here at 101cookbooks.com. I’ve never been disappointed by anything on this site. 

5. That God is for me!

thankful: November 23-25

11.13.12

1. I’m thankful for a great assembly this morning where we talked about how God’s Word is the “Maker’s Manual” for our lives.

2. I’m thankful for lots and lots of dirty dishes, which means lots of people here for graduation this weekend.

3. I’m thankful for time in the kitchen with my Aunt Laurel and Carlene. What a blessing it is to travel to the other side of the world and have the opportunity to serve with family.

11.14.12

1. I’m thankful for the chance to be here for ZEBS graduation, which you can read more about here. What an awesome picture of God’s faithfulness in this ministry!

2. Dancing. I don’t dance, but I’m beginning to wish that I did, or think that maybe I should? Worship isn’t about how I feel. It’s not about me at all!

The Bible is full of dancing. There’s something about an outward, physical expression of joy before the Lord. When I watch the amaZioni dance, I witness their love for God.

Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”

3. I’m thankful for the satisfaction of absolute exhaustion.

4. My Uncle Dick’s cookies.

5. Watching the first half of the first Christmas movie of the season with everyone here at Sunbury. The most climactic kiss of White Christmas was interrupted by a power outage, which we all thought was perfect.

6. The power outage also meant an early bedtime, which was much, much needed.

11.25.12

1. An awesome sermon this morning by Paul Esteves at Community Connection. The gospel, the true Christian life is not about rules; it’s about grace lavished upon your life. When you understand this grace, you will leave the old self. We are free; let us not continue to live as though we are enslaved to sin.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” – Colossians 3:5-10

2. Coffee and conversation with Uncle Dick, Aunt Laurel and Kyle at Zara’s, a cute little Greek cafe, after church.

3. Uncle Dick treating everyone to a delicious lunch.

4. Simple roasted vegetables.

5. The Piano Guys. The joy they experience through their music drives me to worship our Creator.

6. The other half of White Christmas. Any excuse to have popcorn again….especially stovetop popcorn.

thankful: 11.8.12

1. The chance to help a child learn to read.
2. A healthy body. I worked out this morning and was quickly reminded of my ungrateful neglect. Ouch.
3. Piano music. I’m so thankful for my husband’s ability- I can’t imagine a life without music!
4. Banana “ice cream”: blend 1 frozen banana with 1/2 cup coconut milk. Add cinnamon and nutmeg or a spoonful of cocoa powder. It’s delicious.

thankful: 11.5.12

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” – C. S. Lewis 


1. The Choose to Wait Curriculum. It’s so, so good. More importantly, I’m thankful for God’s perfect design for marriage, sexuality and family. We’re using the CTW curriculum as a framework for teaching God’s plan for the family at school assemblies each week. Then in December, we’ll present the whole program to the upper grade kids. 

2. Waking up to singing birds. 

3. God is still sovereign, regardless of who wins the election. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. 

4. Hot soup for dreary days.

 I discovered this recipe last week. I may or may not have already made it twice…

Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

– 2 roasted sweet potatoes (peel and roast with a splash of olive oil, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves and a dash of nutmeg. I don’t think I’ve actually measured yet, but it’s been great both times. 
– 2 roasted carrots
– 3 cloves roasted garlic
– 1 1 inch piece of ginger
– 1 can coconut milk
– 1 small apple, peeled and sliced
– 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1/8 tsp. ground cloves or allspice

Blend until smooth, then heat until gently simmering. It’s excellent with cracked pepper. I’m sure it’d also be amazing with crusty, hot bread.  

thankful: 11.4.12

1. Coffee and a walk on the beach with Amy before church.

2. The beauty and power of the ocean. Today was not the first time Amy and I have very nearly been taken out by an unexpected, enormous wave crashing onto the beach. Incidentally, we had just been joking about the last time we were unexpectedly drenched when it happened again. Needless to say, we went to church dripping and laughing!

3. A nice lunch and fellowship after church.

4. The Seghers’ dedication to this ministry. After a full weekend of ZEBS, Greg attended an all-night service and, running on just over 5 hours of sleep since Friday morning, still made it to a church meeting and lunch today.  I don’t know he does it, but I’m thankful that the Lord continues to sustain him.

thankful: 11.3.12

Today I’m thankful for:

1. Warm, sunny days to dry laundry outside.

2. AmaZioni singing before each meal.

3. An afternoon spent studying God’s Word. I’m thankful for the opportunity to gain a solid Bible education through Moody.

4. God’s provision as we search for our next home in Mississippi.

5. Banana-coconut smoothies with cinnamon and nutmeg. Seriously amazing.

Newly Nomads

Well, it’s official. We are nomads.

We emptied our first home together,  turned in our keys, said our goodbyes and drove nearly 4,600 miles across the Northwestern United States. We enjoyed such a variety of unique, beautiful places! That trip probably merits its own post, so I’ll stop now.

Our last few weeks in Los Angeles were very, very full. John defended his dissertation and officially became Dr. Langley- I’m so, so proud of him! We stuffed our faces with friends at Maggiano’s to celebrate.

And…DONE!  

That same day, my sister Kaitie arrived to spend a few days with us. We enjoyed plenty of beach time, a day in Sequoia National Park, a Dodgers game (my first time at professional sporting event in the US!), sushi, and a few other famous California sights, including the John Langley star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (which, in our humble opinion, is probably the only thing worth seeing in Hollywood- not impressed). It was fun to be able to have all of my sisters come visit this summer!


The next week, we managed to get down to San Diego to take advantage of free military admission to Sea World, 
and then spent the next day exploring Legoland. John was in heaven. 

After that, out final week was a rush of spending as much time as possible with friends, a day trip to Catalina, sneaking extra Yogurtland trips, and packing procrastinating. 
We flew out to Catalina Island and enjoyed a day of excellent snorkeling, relaxing on the beach,
and trying not to think about leaving.  
We’re really going to miss these people! 
We managed to put off packing until the very last minute and pulled an all-nighter to organize our home before the movers arrived. We had the challenge of determining exactly what we’d need for the next three months, because everything else won’t be seen again until January. I repacked my suitcases at least 6 times trying to figure out the most efficient way to pack for fall on the road (in 10 different states), summer in Africa, and the dead of winter in Illinois come December. We hate packing. We really, really do. We’ll have to develop a system of moving if we’re going to maintain our sanity for the next decade or two. Part of that system should probably be seriously limiting what we own- more on that to come. 

And then, with an empty apartment and a very full car, we left. The next few months will be quite a transition for us. I will spend about seven weeks in South Africa to fulfill my Moody internship requirement and John will drive alone to Mississippi before heading to Colorado for IFS (initial flight screening) until sometime in December. We’ll meet up again then and spend the holidays with our families.

But perhaps a greater transition than the move itself will be the transition into “real” military life. We’ve been so blessed to have the freedom and flexibility for the past year and a half to grow as a couple and enjoy our surroundings. John will transition from being able to work wherever and whenever (as long as he left with a Ph.D.!) to highly structured 12 hour days and a great deal of studying. It will be the first time that we, as a married couple, really create a new life together- choosing a church, a home, friends. We’re certainly excited, yet unsure of exactly what the future holds.

We think we’ve learned a few lessons in all of this; lessons we hope will spur us on to changes in the coming months:

1. “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”                   – William Morris 

We couldn’t believe how much stuff we have. We’ve been married not even a year and a half and our apartment was small and clean, but we were still amazed by how many boxes the movers packed. I delivered four giant bags to Salvation Army and towards the end of our packing, we found ourselves simply leaving stuff in the alley to be claimed.

Aurelius was right- very little is needed to make a happy life. Perhaps more humbling is that millions across the globe are happy with far less than what we have! We hope to make a few more Salvation Army trips as we unpack and reevaluate our possessions. If an item is not useful or beautiful, we have to reason to hold on to it. We want to live simply, without accumulating closets and basements and attics of items we don’t need or love.

2. Find a church and get connected quickly.

John started attending our last church (Pacific Crossroads) shortly after moving to Los Angeles over three years ago. During that time, he was involved in a Bible Study form another distant church and made some wonderful friends- friends we’ll keep in touch with. But it wasn’t until January this past year that we really made an effort to get connected to the church we attended week after week. We were being spiritually fed by excellent music and solid sermons, but we felt like outsiders because we lacked relationships.

After Christmas, we finally joined a community group and have been asking ourselves ever since why it took us so long. We could’ve enjoyed six more months with the friends we made!

3. Don’t be afraid of planting roots for fear of uprooting.

We will probably forever face the temptation to avoid putting down our roots because we know that our time in any given place is short. It was easy for us to say, “we don’t need to join another community group- we’re only going to be here for a few more months.” It was easy to think we didn’t need to be involved in events through our church because it wouldn’t be our church forever. It’s easy to avoid investing in relationships because you’ll have to say goodbye.

Shallow roots, shallow relationships do not offer the nourishment and encouragement we can gain from truly investing ourselves wherever we are. We love that we have wonderful friends in Los Angeles–how blessed we are to have difficult goodbyes.

4. Wait on the Lord.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Somedays, we feel as though we’re trusting him simply for the very next step. We have no idea what the next stage of our life together will practically look like. We’re not sure where we’ll live or what I’ll will do or how pilot training will be on a day-to-day basis. We have no idea where we’ll attend church or what friends we’ll have or how we’re going to get around. We can’t plan out the next few years because we don’t know where we’ll be. We just don’t know, and we’re learning to be okay with that. We’re thankful for our sovereign God who directs our paths, working all things together for our good. We’re in the best hands.