Friday, November 23, 2012


Have you ever been wrecked?

No, not IN a wreck---wrecked.

What does it mean to be wrecked?

As I listened to this audiobook version of Wrecked, I had the privilege of hearing the author, Jeff Goins, himself tell me what it means to be wrecked.

I cannot relay to you with the accuracy and passion of Goins what it means to be wrecked, but what I can say is that I think I live in a state of near-wrecked-ness. (Yes, I made that term up.)

To be wrecked, per Goins, is to be so impacted by the need and helplessness of others less fortunate than yourself that you cannot live without thinking of them and tangibly doing for them, with them, and giving to them. And actually, that is truly just a tiny glimpse of what it means to be wrecked. You should listen to Goins describe it to you as I had the pleasure of doing.

In listening to this book, I found myself identifying with the outer edges of the wrecked state, but not yet having been fully affected---not yet fully wrecked. This is why I say I live in a state of near-wrecked-ness.

Now, just a few minutes ago I just finished watching a movie portraying the real-life "Machine Gun Preacher," Sam Childers. I would definitely say that man was wrecked! He went on one trip to Sudan to help repair huts damaged in the Second Sudanese War. During that trip he was wrecked for the children of Sudan and Uganda who were being abducted by the Joseph Kony's "Lord's Resistance Army." His life and mission since then has been and continues to be to help those children tangibly in any way he can---and he does. He is wrecked.

As far as this audiobook from ChristianAudio goes, I highly recommend it. It was especially beneficial to hear it read by the author, as he was able to instill his own passion and intent into each word he wrote as he read it aloud. One drawback of audiobooks is that I am unable to easily quote from them for you since I typically listen to them during my commutes to and from work (which is actually one of the things I love most about audiobooks). So, it's a bit of give and take, but most definitely a rewarding experience.

Disclaimer: I received this audiobook for free from No other compensation was received. The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

While the gumbo simmers...

Mmmm...can you smell it?!

I can!

Homemade Chicken & Sausage Gumbo simmering away on the stove...mmm!

If your taste buds have never had the pleasure of experiencing the unique, tantalizing flavors of gumbo, then just let me be the one to tell you that you are being unfair to those precious taste buds of yours. What have they ever done to you? They deserve the comfort and blessing of this frugal delicacy.

Are you convinced?

Well, I am, so I guess that's what matters at this point, since I am the one who is sitting in a house that smells of simmering gumbo...and I can't even have any yet!

Yep. You've got that right. No gumbo tonight for this tempted soul. This is for tomorrow's lunch!

Why? What? How can I wait, you ask?

Well, it's really not that hard (said the person who tried to convince me to bungee jump...which I never did).

Okay, really though. You see, here's the thing.

Gumbo, like a fine wine, gets better with time. The flavors come together; the textures develop; the aroma thickens with temptation. It's just all around amazing after it has had time to truly come together.

Kind of like life...

You kind of have to understand the process of making gumbo to understand its comparison to life. Here---I'll help you. Stick with me now.

So---"first you make a roux." 
(That's pronounced "roo"---like Kanga-ROO---for you non-Southern folk that might be joining in here.) Yes, all good Cajun recipes start with this famous line---"first you make a roux."

What is a "roux" and how do you make it and why do you make it first, you might ask?

Well, I could tell you, but I would rather show you. But before I do, I must slightly disagree with the "first you make a roux" part. No, before you make the roux, you MUST have every chopped and/or boiled ingredient ready before you proceed. Once you start with the roux, you must stay with the roux---every inch of you is devoted to the roux---head to toe.

Here's why.

Making a roux consists of *gently* burning flour and fat (oil or butter depending on your recipe). I said GENTLY, which means you are cooking them together to the point that they are brown like chocolate and almost nutty flavored---but NOT SCORCHED---which is where the head-to-toe devotion comes in.

You can't rush a roux! It will either get scorched or, if under-cooked, will cause the gumbo to have the taste of raw flour throughout it.

As a matter of fact, my Facebook post tonight about sums it up. "I must say...making a roux & cooking gumbo cannot be done without a WHOLE LOTTA music & dancing...cause it takes a WHOLE LOTTA standing in one place & stirring. Just sharing some experiential wisdom...for what it's worth."

So, before you start the roux, you chop, chop chop. I used some nifty goggles to help keep the tears away while chopping.

Now, let me jump back to the part where I said making a gumbo is a lot like life.

Life involves some necessary though uncomfortable and tear-inducing chopping and boiling along the way. 

You know what I'm talking about, so I don't think I need to go any farther with that analogy. I am sure some vivid examples are sitting at the forefront of your mind right now.

But, without those painful, hot, tearful experiences, 
the outcome just would not be as satisfying nor as sought after.

Now, fast forward through the prep work, and we're back at the roux.

Remember how I described a good roux? The color of chocolate. Nutty flavored. No, I'm not in any way describing a Reese's peanut butter cup, but I am pointing out that you need to remember how delicious and necessary the appropriate outcome is to endure the next part.

As soon as you put the flour and fat (oil or butter) in the pot and turn on the heat, you MUST stand there and STIR, STIR, STIR. No questions asked! A scorched roux ruins a gumbo! (Ask anyone who attended my wedding and sampled the fare...)

Finally, once you have gotten the roux to the desired gently-burnt-not-scorched state, (NO, you DO NOT get to stop stirring...not yet!) you then add in the chopped Cajun Trinity of vegetables (onions, celery, and bell peppers).

And guess what you do now...KEEP STIRRING! (until the veggies are a bit wilted, per Emeril).

Once they are wilted, you add the sausage (in the recipe I made tonight, at least) and you KEEP STIRRING for just a little longer.

THEN, you can FINALLY pour in the water component (I used the stock from my boiled chicken) and...well...yes, KEEP STIRRING...but only until the water and roux start to blend together well and the mixture starts to come to a boil.

THEN, and ONLY THEN, when the mixture finally starts coming together and boiling, you can STOP STIRRING and let it simmer for a while (about an hour) only stirring occasionally (which will feel like a beach-side vacation after all of the CONSTANT stirring you've been doing).

After the first simmer-time, you then go back and add the chicken (for this recipe, at least) and let it simmer some more...a LOT about TWO HOURS more.

Simma' down now! ;)

And of course at the end, you add the finishing touches of some chopped green onions, parsley, and Gumbo File'.

You don't know what 
Gumbo File' is?!?!?!

Of course not. I knew that. Seriously though, it is a very finely ground powder that is made from the leaves of a sassafras tree. We can thank our local Native American ancestors for it. File' (pronounced "FEE-lay") adds a nice earthy flavor and even a unique texture to dishes it is added to. I saw one description that said it is spicy, but Wikipedia, I must disagree. Maybe it's just my Southern taste buds, but no spice detected here when tasting a File' infused dish.

Well, I really wasn't trying to be all Cajun Pioneer Woman or anything with this post, but it looks like I have accidentally tip-toed into food blogging.

Anyway, my real point of all of this is to say that, life takes some hard, intentional, work that is sometimes hot and painful and is sometimes boring and monotonous (except for the awesome Pandora music mixes playing in the background). But like a good gumbo, that starts with lots of chopping and then a good well-stirred roux, that hard work that is put in all the way through pays off each step of the way, but most of all in the end.

You may be tired, achy, bored, and/or hungry for what you have envisioned that final outcome to be; I know I am. 

But, please, please, please, don't cut any corners or stop paying attention along the way.

It will be worth it very soon. God has unexpected, soul-satisfying blessings and paths for you that He will be bringing your way sooner than you think or can imagine. He's not waiting until "the end" to give you all the satiating riches He has in store for you. He is changing your current desires to match His desires for you so that He can give you the desires of your heart HERE and NOW! And many more are awaiting you and me in eternity, which by the way is not "the end" but merely "the beginning!"

So, don't scorch your gumbo!!! 
and then enjoy the fulfillment of its rich flavors 
and inviting textures at the appointed time. 
Remember, if you have to wait to dig into it, that's not a bad thing. 
It gets better with time.

But as for me and my real gumbo, I'll be enjoying mine tomorrow, thank you very much! 

(By the way, I was inspired to write this post to also help you understand that, if you have wondered where I have been in my writing and reviewing, I am stirring my gumbo. My life is full of interesting, time-consuming, energy-consuming, and mind-consuming ingredients right now, so please know I am here and will be writing as able. But, in the meantime, I am stirring and waiting...while the gumbo simmers...)

How about you?

Is your gumbo raw, scorching, simmering, 
or finally offering you the delectable product 
of all of that hard work and monotony?

Please share!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Jungle Doctor and the Whirlwind

So, how do you like my first ever screen shot from my new iPhone? Okay, I know I'm a little late getting one, but it was finally free with my contract renewal.

A-N-Y-W-A-Y...on to the review

Jungle Doctor and the Whirlwind written by Paul White, narrated by Paul Michael on audiobook, and published by christianaudio - yep, that's the book.

So, what did I think of it?

Well, it's more like what did I not think of it? No, I don't mean that they way it sounds. Here me out.

When I first requested to review this book, I honestly knew very little about it other than the title and what the cover art looked like. I actually thought it was more of a children's book than it turned out to be, which is not a bad thing.

As I began listening to this audiobook during my commutes, I was sucked in almost immediately. Paul Michael does an amazing job narrating this book! He does the various characters' voices so convincingly that I would have thought he was a mix of Australian and Tanzanian, and was both a young and old man...and even a woman - young and old. Sound crazy? Not at all. He is an excellent audiobook narrator.

Beyond the superb audio theatrics, I was also pleasantly drawn in by the captivating storytelling of Paul White (whom I knew nothing about until the intro to this book). He doesn't just excellently and creatively weave an interesting story; he also presents and unfolds some deep, important Biblical truths in ways that make God's Word and ways tangible to the reader/listener.

White uses the comparison of a storm - a whirlwind - to our lives in that if you "sow the wind" you will "reap the whirlwind." (Hosea 8:7) He also uses analogies from nature to relate how sin affects a person from the inside out, by describing how a destructive insect can get inside of an ear of corn and eat away at it without the outside of the ear having any evidence of what the inside has become.

I can in no way recount the stories and analogies in the way Paul White does, but let me just say that he is a master weaver of a captivating story with a meaning and a purpose.

This story does specifically center around a man who is a drug dealer and is pushing and using marijuana, so that is why I said at the beginning that I do not consider it a children's book. I do, however, highly suggest it as a book for adults of all ages including young adults and even teenagers. You may, however, want to screen it first for yourself before letting a pre-teen or maybe even a teen read/listen to it. I may be erring on the side of caution, but I know some people may not prefer for their child of those ages to be exposed to descriptions of people being high and such quite yet. Realistically, most of them probably are exposed to those discussions by those ages, but again, I leave that to your discretion. And besides, you will thoroughly enjoy and be challenged by reading/listening to this book yourself first anyway.

Do you enjoy audiobooks?

Which have been your favorite/least favorite?

What do you like/dislike about them?

Disclaimer: I received this audiobook for free from No other compensation was received. The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.