Friday, December 23, 2016

Deep Pot Chili

A really hearty chili is a must for cold winter days. It can be served up on it's own, with frito chips (my kids love that), or over potatoes. It's a gluten free option that's easy to make and warms the bones after working (or playing) all day in the snow. Let's dig in!

Hearty and Delicious


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 pounds ground sirloin or chuck
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 14 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chile powder
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • Two 28-ounce cans diced Italian tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken, beef stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 19-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 19-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of cinnamon 
  • 3 large jalapeño chiles, seeded and minced (this is only if you want more heat)
  • Coarsely chopped cilantro, for serving
  • Sour cream, for serving 
  • any shredded cheese desired, for serving
  • frito corn chips if desired, for serving


  1. Heat the olive oil in a enameled cast-iron casserole. Add half the ground beef in large chunks and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat until brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Stir and cook until most of the pink is gone, about 3 minutes; keep the meat in large chunks. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meat.

  2.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the casserole. Add the onion, garlic (and jalapenos if wanting more heat) and cook over moderately low heat, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the chili powder and smoked paprika and cook over low heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the paste is glossy and starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the chicken stock and the cooked beef and any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

  3. Add the kidney and white beans, chipotles, oregano and simmer for 30 minutes longer. Season with salt, pepper and a large pinch of cinnamon. Remove from the heat and let stand for at least 20 minutes. Reheat before serving.

  4. Serve the chili in bowls, topped with a generous sprinkling of cilantro (and cheese if desired). Pass the sour cream at the table (and throw in some corn chips if feeling frisky!).

Make Ahead

The chili can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and frozen for up to 2 months

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Paleo 90 Second Mug Bread

Delicious toasted with butter and jam!
Here is a wonderful substitute for when you're craving a sandwich, or toast with your egg or simply toast and jam, without breaking any Paleo rules. This is grain free and if you substitute the butter for coconut oil, it is dairy free as well.

  • ⅓ cup (35 g) almond flour
  • ½ teaspoon (2 g) baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon (1 g) salt
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 2 and ½ tablespoons (37 ml) ghee (or butter if you tolerate it, coconut oil, or olive oil), melted
  1. Grease a mug.
  2. Mix together all the ingredients with a fork.
  3. Pour mixture into mug.
  4. Microwave for 90 seconds on high.
  5. Cool for a few minutes.
  6. Pop out of mug gently and slice.
I have doubled this recipe and found that you double all the ingredients except the egg. Then after the initial 90 seconds, microwave an additional 30 seconds, checking after each interval for doneness.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Paleo Banana Bread In A Mug

Cute little rounds of banana goodness that's good for you too!
Are you craving bread? Are you craving banana bread? Are you on a paleo or gluten free/grain free diet? Well, I have just the thing for you! It's quick, easy and you won't have to hunt for ingredients or break any diet rules. Let's get into it!

  • 1/3C almond flour
  • 1 Tbs coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbs egg whites (or 1 egg)
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil melted
  • 1 whole over-ripe banana
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 pkg of Stevia 

Grease a coffee mug w/coconut oil. Mix and mash together all ingredients w/fork in a bowl. Pour mixture into mug. Microwave 3 min on high. Check it. Cook in 30 second intervals until mostly set. Cover w/plate and turn upside down leaving hot mug over the bread. Cool for 5-10 min then slice and enjoy with a hot cup of bullet coffee!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Chimichurri Sauce: Green Goodness

This is THE sauce that goes amazing on everything savory. I drown my steak in it. Pork, chicken, tortilla chips, toast... you get the idea. I’m obsessed and you will be too!

makes about 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Combine all ingredients, except jalapeno, in food processor and blend until desired consistency. I like mine well blended. Add jalapeno and stir well. Refrigerate for an hour. Then you can season with salt to your liking and begin pouring it over everything like I do. If you want to use it as a marinade, remove 1/2 cup chimichurri to a small bowl, and reserve as sauce. Put meat in a glass, stainless-steel, or ceramic dish. Toss with remaining marinade. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.Remove meat from marinade, pat dry, and grill.Spoon reserved sauce over grilled meat. Prepare to have an addiction to this green goodness! Enjoy!

Make Ahead Quick Oatmeal

I'm trying to move my family to healthier eating slowly. Something I hadn't tackled yet, was cereal. You know. That staple of Saturday mornings and cartoons. Frosted, marshmallows, fruity, chocolatey, etc. There's a lot of bad junk kids don't need in them. From dyes, to heavy metals to outright poisons. We wonder why kids struggle with ADD, hyperactivity, learning disorders and such. A lot of it is diet related. Of course, the FDA is fine with all this because they're in cahoots with Big Pharma that makes the drugs to help "manage" any adverse affects caused by ingesting this garbage. Nice little partnership they have huh? Ask yourself why these various companies need lobbyists in Washington and start researching. You'll be appalled. I'll include links to valuable info at the end of this post.

So! With that little rant aside, lets dive into this great alternative that my kids just gobble right up. There are many variations so it's easy to make any flavor your kids desire. I like having a bunch made up with instructions on a larger bag that I put individual serving bags into so all they have to do is add water and maybe some additional toppings once cooked. This is great for when I have to be gone for a medical trip and can't be home, so mornings are easier on dad. The older two are also getting more self sufficient and this is an easy breakfast for them to make for themselves and even the younger two if need be. Without further ado, lets dive into the recipe!

Make Ahead Quick Oatmeal
Ingredients: (makes 3-4 servings)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not quick!)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (Himalayan is my choice!)
Optional additions
  • 1-2 Tbsps cocoa powder
  • chopped almonds (maybe honey roasted?)
  • dried cranberries, raisins, cherries
  • freeze dried or dehydrated strawberries or bananas?
  • peanut butter (or any other nut butter): creamy, chunky, powder
In a food processor or blender, add oatmeal, cinnamon and salt. Blend until desired consistency. I like a little bite to mine, so I don't blend it down to powder. For little ones just starting on solids, fully blending to flour is probably recommended. Blending partially helps it cook quicker and gives a nice mouth feel.

If making right away, you can then add this and the water to a pot and boil for about 8-10min until desired consistency. Then spoon into bowls and add desired toppings. My kids like it pretty basic. So a little pat of butter, spoonful of brown sugar and sometimes a splash of milk.

To make ahead, you can add the blended ingredients to a ziplock snack sized bag and label "cinnamon". OR you can add more ingredients to make it even more adventurous. Here are some of my mini recipes. Following the above directions (minus cooking) you can make up baggies of these and all you have to do then is add 2 C. water and cook!

Chocolate Oatmeal
to the basic oatmeal recipe above, add:
  • 1-2 Tbsps cocoa powder (adjust to how chocolately you want it)
I add to the blender to make sure it is well distributed, or you can just toss it on top in the bag.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal
to the basic oatmeal recipe above, add:
  • 1-2 Tbsps cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter powder (or add instructions to add nut butter after cooking)
Almond Cranberry Oatmeal
to the basic oatmeal recipe above, add:
  • 1-2 Tbsps chopped or slivered almonds (I use honey roasted!)
  • 2 Tbsps dried cranberries
Add these ingredients to the bag with blended oatmeal. After cooking, you can add a Tbsp or two of white chocolate chips for a fun festive breakfast (Christmas?).

Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal
  • 2 Tbsps freeze dried or oven dried strawberries (diced up is best)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • cream (alternative creams like coconut are also great!)
Add the strawberries to the bag with the blended oatmeal. After cooking, add to your desired flavor level of cream. YUM!

The sky is the limit on all the flavor combos you can create really. What do you think would be a great addition to the recipe? What would you add to the dry mix and what would you add as a topping after cooking? Let me know!

Here are the links to why today's store bought cereals should be banned from our pantries and breakfast tables:
10 Toxic Kid Cereals To Avoid 

Enriched Cereals Full of Metal Filings 
What Is Trisodium Phosphate? Why Is It In Cereal?! 

Monday, November 28, 2016

A New Species of 8 Legged Freaks

I recently saw a post on Facebook, informing folks of a new species of arachnid. I immediately thought of a comic strip wherein a common theme occurred during fall. One character would work feverishly to rake up all the leaves in the yard, while the mischievous one would wait until it was all finished, and jump into the middle, scattering the leaves everywhere. So, with no copyright infringement intended, I had to create the scene where knowledge of this eight legged nightmare was revealed and their reaction to this knowledge. Here is my humble submission...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Buttery Hamantaschen

This recipe comes from blogger Tori Avey who has an amazing blog. I highly suggest you visit and see more wonderful recipes and beautiful pictures!
click here for Tory's Kitchen

Hamantaschen Recipe


  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-5 tsp water (if needed)

You will also need

  • Large mixing bowl, electric mixer, sifter, pastry scraper, rolling pin, 3-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass with 3-inch diameter rim
Servings: About 35 hamantaschen
Kosher Key: Dairy


  1. Slice room temperature butter into small chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add sugar to the bowl. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together for a few minutes till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest to the bowl. Beat again till creamy and well mixed.
  4. Sift flour and salt into the bowl.
  5. Mix with the electric mixer on low speed till a crumbly dough forms.
  6. Begin to knead dough with hands till a smooth dough ball forms. Try not to overwork the dough, only knead till the dough is the right consistency. If the crumbles are too dry to form a smooth dough, add water slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, using your hands to knead the liquid into the dough. Knead and add liquid until the dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch (not sticky), with a consistency that is right for rolling out. It can easily go from the right consistency to too wet/sticky, so add water very slowly. If the dough seems too wet, knead in a little flour till it reaches the right texture.
  7. Form the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours to overnight.
  8. Before you begin to assemble the hamantaschen, choose and make your filling and have it on hand to work with. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly flour a smooth, clean surface. Unwrap the dough disk and place it on the floured surface. The dough will be very firm after chilling.
  9. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. At the beginning, it will be tough to roll out-- you may need to pound it a bit. A heavy rolling pin works best. As you roll, cracks may form on the edges of the dough. Repair any large cracks with your fingers and continue rolling.
  10. When the dough reaches 1/4 inch thickness, scrape the dough up with a pastry scraper, lightly reflour the surface, and flip the dough over. Continue rolling the dough out very thin (less than 1/8 of an inch thick). The thinner you roll the dough, the more delicate and crisp the cookies will turn out-- just make sure that the dough is still thick enough to hold the filling and its shape! If you prefer a thicker, more doughy texture to your cookies (less delicate), keep the dough closer to 1/4 inch thick. Lightly flour the rolling pin occasionally to prevent sticking.
  11. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter (not smaller) or the 3-inch rim of a glass to cut circles out of the dough, cutting as many as you can from the dough.
  12. Gather the scraps and roll them out again. Cut circles. Repeat process again if needed until you've cut as many circles as you can from the dough. You should end up with around 35 circles (unless you've kept your dough on the thicker side, which will result in less cookies).
  13. Place a teaspoon of filling (whichever filling you choose) into the center of each circle.
  • Do not use more than a teaspoon of filling, or you run the risk of your hamantaschen opening and filling spilling out during baking. Cover unused circles with a lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out while you are filling.
  • Assemble the hamantaschen in three steps. First, grasp the left side of the circle and fold it towards the center to make a flap that covers the left third of the circle.

  • Grasp the right side of the circle and fold it towards the center, overlapping the upper part of the left side flap to create a triangular tip at the top of the circle. A small triangle of filling should still be visible in the center.
  • Grasp the bottom part of the circle and fold it upward to create a third flap and complete the triangle. When you fold this flap up, be sure to tuck the left side of this new flap underneath the left side of the triangle, while letting the right side of this new flap overlap the right side
    of the triangle. This way, each side of your triangle has a corner that folds over and a corner that folds under-- it creates a "pinwheel" effect. This method if folding is not only pretty-- it will help to keep the cookies from opening while they bake.
  • Pinch each corner of the triangle gently but firmly to secure the shape. If any cracks have formed at the places where the dough is creased, use the warmth of your fingers to smooth them out.
  • Repeat this process for the remaining circles.
  • When all of your hamantaschen have been filled, place them on a lightly greased baking sheet, evenly spaced.

  • Place them in the oven and let them bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, till the cookies are cooked through and lightly golden.
  • Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Store them in a tightly sealed plastic bag or Tupperware.

  • What Is Purim?

    The Jewish festival of Purim begins at sunset, marking the start of two days of celebration, remembering God's providence in rescuing the Jewish people from the ancient Persian Empire. It has been celebrated each year on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar – which falls on March 23 this year – for over two millenia.

    The festival commemorates God saving the Jewish people from a Persian official named Haman.
    The story is recorded in the book of Esther, named after the Jewish heroine of the story. In the Biblical account, Haman, the royal vizier to the Persian King Ahasuerus, plans to kill all the Jews in the empire. However his plans are thwarted by two Jews – Mordecai and Esther. Mordecai is the cousin and adoptive father of Esther, who has become Queen of Persia.
    Haman's desire to destroy the Jewish people begins when he is insulted by Mordecai refusing to bow to him. He declares that all Jews should be killed, and the King agrees. Meanwhile, Esther – who is married to the King – asks all the Jews to fast for three days.
    Esther then arranges a feast to celebrate the end of the fast, inviting both the King and Haman, finally revealing her identity as a Jew. The King – realizing that Haman now wants to kill his wife – says he should be hanged, and the Jews are saved.
    God used Esther to thwart Haman's conspiracy. She was a simple, orphaned Jewish girl, but was raised up by God to rescue his people from death.
    Isn't Esther the book in the Bible that doesn't mention God's name?
    Well yes, if you're reading in English. The answer is not so simple when the book is read in its original Hebrew, however.
    Though the name of God is not explicitly mentioned, it can be found in the book of Esther five times through the use of acrostics.
    Why acrostics?
    There are two potential reasons – one practical, and one more thematic.
    1. God's name might not have been overtly mentioned because of the context in which in which Esther was written. Tradition holds that Mordecai wrote the book in Persia, where his direct mention of God would have meant he were persecuted. Instead, he disguised his references to the Lord in acrostics.
    2. There are no miracles or obvious examples of God's intervention in the narrative of Esther, yet he is by no means absent from these events. The entire story points to God's sovereignty. The Lord redeems his people through the faith and courage of one strategically placed woman. The lack of direct reference to God or the miraculous teaches that God is present in the seemingly natural, sovereign over all.
    Why is Purim celebrated?
    To commemorate the Jews' victory over Hamman. It is written in Esther "that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor."
    There are three main ways that Jews celebrate Purim.
    Shouting in the Synagogue. During the festival the story of Esther is read out twice. During the reading, when Haman's name appears – 54 times – the congregation starts shouting and using special wooden ratchets to drown out his name. This is practiced around the world, apart from by Spanish and Portuguese Jews (the Western Sephardim), who consider it a breach of decorum.
    Giving food and money away. One of Purim’s primary themes is Jewish unity. Haman tried to kill all Jews, all were all in danger together, so they celebrate together too. Hence, on Purim day they place special emphasis on caring for the less fortunate.
           Give money or food to at least two needy people during the daylight hours of Purim. In case you can’t find any needy people, your synagogue/church will likely be collecting  money for this purpose. At least, place two coins in a charity box earmarked for the  poor. On Purim, we give a donation to whoever asks; we don’t verify his or her bank  balance first.
           As with the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should fulfill this mitzvah.
    Obligatory eating and drinking. Unless you have a good medical reason, every Jew is obliged to eat and drink on Purim. A rabbi named Rava said in the Talmud that one should drink until you can "no longer distinguish between arur Haman (cursed is Haman) and baruch Mordechai (blessed is Mordecai)". The drinking has been taken to different extremes throughout history, some saying it best to drink just a little more than usual and then go to bed, while others say there's no limit.
    Hamantaschen Cookies w/Various Fillings
    Eating Hamantaschen. Although nowadays you can find hamantaschen filled with practically any type of filling (sweet or savory), the classic hamantash was always filled with poppy seeds. Indeed, the very word “haman” can either refer to the wicked Haman or poppy seeds (mohn), and the Yiddish word“tash” means pocket.

    Thus, “hamantaschen” means “poppy-seed-filled pockets.”
    This is in line with the classic explanation given in the Code of Jewish Lawfor eating hamantaschen on Purim:
    Some say that one should eat a food made out of seeds on Purim in memory of the seeds that Daniel and his friends ate in the house of the king of Babylon, as the verse states, “And he gave them seeds.”
    But what in the world does Daniel eating seeds have to do with Purim?
    The Talmud explains that Hatach, Queen Esther’s faithful messenger and one of the lesser-known heroes of the Purim story, is a pseudonym for none other than Daniel.
    Furthermore, as we read in the Purim story, when Esther was in the king’s palace, she kept her identity secret. The Talmud explains that since the food was non-kosher, she survived on various beans and seeds.
    It is in commemoration of both Daniel and Esther that there is a custom to eat beans and seeds on Purim. The way this custom is traditionally observed is by eating pastry pockets, a.k.a. taschen filled with mohn, poppy seeds.
    Esther exposing Haman to the King
    Based on this reason for eating hamantaschen, whenever the classic halachic sources discuss this custom, specific mention is made of the hamantash being filled with poppy seeds.
    In addition to the classic reason for hamantaschen, many other explanations have been offered to explain this custom. Indeed, just about every aspect of this treat is laden with symbolism. Here are some explanations given.

    The Weakening of Haman

    “Tash” in Hebrew means “weaken.” Thus, the hamantash celebrates the weakening of Haman and our wish that God always save by weakening our enemies.

    Hidden Messages

    During the Purim story, many Jews did not believe they were going be completely wiped out. Mordechai convinced them of the seriousness of the threat by sending them numerous letters warning them of the impending doom. Afraid to send the letters by conventional routes lest their enemies intercept them, he sent the letters hidden inside pastries. In commemoration of this, pastries are eaten with a filling.

    Hidden Sweetness

    A well-known insight into the hamantash points to the fact that the filling is hidden inside the dough. In earlier times, Jewish ancestors were accustomed to experiencing open miracles. In a time of exile, openly revealed miracles aren't commonly experienced anymore. Nevertheless, the Purim story shows that this does not mean that we’ve been abandoned. On the contrary, God is ever present. He’s just operating in a behind-the-scenes fashion, just as the filling of the hamantash is hidden within the dough.

    Three Corners

    While there is an old legend that Haman wore a three-cornered hat, and to commemorate his downfall, a three-cornered pastry is eaten, there is a deeper significance as well.
    The Midrash says that when Haman recognized (the merit of) three forefathers, his strength immediately weakened. Because of this, three-cornered pastries are eaten and called “Haman weakeners (tashen).”
    Another reason for corners: The Hebrew word for “corner” in Hebrew is“keren,” which literally means “horn,” and can also denote “ray,” “fortune,” or “pride.” Thus, the sages understand the verse, “And all the kerens of the wicked I shall cut down” as referring to Haman, and “Exalted will be thekeren of the righteous” as referring to Mordechai.
    If you're interested in the Esther story in more detail by an amazing pastor and storyteller. Then please follow this link to Fresh Life Church and watch the series. Trust me, it is well worth it!
    Here is the first video in the series: Velvet and Steel

    My next blog post will be of Hamantaschen cookie recipe (for link, click here).. I wanted to get this post out before Purim, but was simply too busy, so now, I hope my readers will be interested in celebrating this amazing story next year by making Hamantaschen cookies and perhaps considering some of the other traditions of Purim.

    Sunday, March 20, 2016

    Broccoli with Garlic Butter & Cashews

    • 1 1/2 lbs Broccoli
    • 1/3 C Butter
    • 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
    • 3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
    • 2 tsp White Vinegar
    • 1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper
    • 3 minced Garlic Cloves
    • 1/3 C chopped salted Cashews

    Place the broccoli into a large pot with about 1 inch of water in the bottom. Bring to a boil, and cook for 7 minutes, or until tender but still crisp. Drain, and arrange broccoli on a serving platter.

    While the broccoli is cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Mix in the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper and garlic. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Mix in the cashews, and pour the sauce over the broccoli. Enjoy!

    Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Abuse

    Q&A with Pastor Justin Holcomb

    Justin Holcomb is a pastor at Mars Hill Church and executive director of the Resurgence. He is also an adjunct professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and holds two master’s degrees from the Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D from Emory University.
    Justin and his wife, Lindsey, wrote Rid of My Disgrace, a book on gospel hope and healing for sexual assault victims.

    How does the gospel of Jesus offer such a hope and healing for victims of sexual abuse?  
    JH: God’s grace dismantles the beliefs that give disgrace life. Grace recreates what violence destroyed.
    Victims of sexual assault experience many devastating physical, psychological, and emotional effects. The most prevalent responses include denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair. If this is you (or someone you love), you need to understand that the gospel of Jesus applies to each of these.
    Denial — Sexual assault makes you feel alone, unimportant, and unworthy of sympathy. It tempts you to deny and minimize what happened to you to cope with the pain and trauma. It might initially help to create a buffer while you start dealing with the difficult emotions, but eventually denial and minimization will actually increase the pain, because it keeps you from dealing with the psychological destruction and trauma of the assault.
    God does not deny, minimize, or ignore what happened to you. Through Jesus he identifies with you, and he has compassion. He knows your suffering. He does not want you to stay silent or deny, but to feel and express your emotions, to grieve the destruction you experienced. The cross shows that God understands pain and does not judge you for feeling grief. The resurrection shows that God conquered sin—that he is reversing sin’s destruction and restoring peace.
    Because of Jesus, you have the privilege to confidently go to God and receive grace and mercy. Your need and your cries don’t make God shun you. He has compassion on you (Hebrew 4:14-16).
    Identity — Sexual assault attacks your sense of identity and tells you that you are filthy, foolish, defiled, and worthless. It makes you feel that you are nothing.
    The gospel gives you a new identity through the redemptive work of Jesus. Through faith in Christ, you are adopted into God’s family. You are given the most amazing identity: child of God (1 John 3:1–2). God adopted you and accepted you because he loves you. You didn’t do anything to deserve his love. He loved you when you were unlovable.
    The gospel also tells you that through faith in Christ, his righteousness, blamelessness, and holiness is attributed to you (2 Cor. 5:21). If you are in Christ, your identity is deeper than any of your wounds. You can be secure in this new identity because it was achieved for you by God—you are his, and he cannot disown himself.
    Shame — Sexual assault is shameful and burdens you with feelings of nakedness, rejection, and dirtiness. Shame is a painfully confusing experience—it makes you acutely aware of inadequacy, shortcoming, and failure.
    Jesus reveals God’s love for his people by covering their nakedness, identifying with those who are rejected, cleansing their defilement, and conquering their enemy who shames them. God extends his compassion and his mighty, rescuing arm to take away your shame. Jesus both experienced shame and took your shame on himself. Jesus, of all people, did not deserve to be shamed. Yet he took on your shame, so it no longer defines you nor has power over you.
    Because of the cross, we can be fully exposed, because God no longer identifies us by what we have done or by what has been done to us. In Jesus, you are made completely new.
    Guilt — Sexual assault attacks you with guilt that leads to feelings of condemnation, judgment, and self-blame.
    You are not guilty for the sin that was committed against you—and this realization alone can bring great freedom. Yet the reality is that your sense of guilt goes deeper than what was done to you. You know that you have sinned against God and others—both before your assault and in response to what happened to you.
    The shocking message of grace is that Jesus was forsaken for us so we could be forgiven. God turned his wrath away from you and toward Christ on the cross. If you trust in Christ, all your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven. All of them. All threat of punishment, or sense of judgment, is canceled. Through faith in Christ you are loved, accepted, and declared innocent.
    Anger — Sexual assault creates anger at what has been done to you. While anger can be a natural and healthy response to the unquestionable evil of sexual assault, most victims express it poorly or feel they have to suppress it. You have probably been discouraged from expressing your anger, but suppressed anger holds you hostage and leaves you vindictive, addicted, embittered, immoral, and unbelieving.
    God is angrier over the sin committed against you than you are. He is angry because what happened to you was evil and it harmed you. Godly anger is participating in God’s anger against injustice and sin, crying out to him to do what he promised: destroy evil and demolish everything that harms others and defames God’s name.
    Anger expressed to God is the cry of the weak one who trusts the strong One, the hurting person who trusts the One who will make it all better. Because vengeance is God’s, you can be free from the exhaustive cycle of vindictive anger.
    Despair — Sexual assault can fill you with despair. Feeling that you’ve lost something, whether it’s your innocence, youth, health, trust, confidence, or security, can deepen into hopelessness and despair. And then depression can add seemingly inescapable weight to the experience of despair.
    The gospel gives you hope. Biblical hope is sure because God is behind his promise of a future for you. The hope you need right now is grounded in God’s faithfulness in the past and anticipation of it in the future.
    Because of Jesus’ resurrection, all threats against you are tamed if you trust in Christ. Jesus conquered death and evil, so evil done to you is not the end of the story and you can have hope. Because Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended to heaven and is “making all things new.” Your God is strong, and he, not the evil done to you, will have the final say about you. That hope animates the “groanings” within ourselves that everything will someday be renewed. We will be delivered from all sin and misery. Every tear will be wiped away when evil is no more.

    What are a few practical ways that family and friends can help care for their loved ones that have been victimized?
    JH: If you are a loved one, friend, or pastor serving a victim of sexual assault, here are some suggestions on how to best care for that person:
    1. Don’t minimize or deny what happened to the victim.
    2. Listen. Don’t judge or blame the victim for the assault. Research has proven that victims tend to have an easier adjustment after abuse or an assault when they are believed and listened to by others.
    3. Do not to ask probing questions about the assault. Questions like this can cause revictimization. Follow the victim’s lead and listen.
    4. Let the victim know the assault(s) was not his or her fault.
    5. Reassure the victim that he or she is cared for and loved.
    6. Let the victim know that he or she does not have to manage this crisis alone.
    7. Be patient. Remember, it takes time to deal with the crime.
    8. Remember that each sexual assault victim has different needs. What may have been beneficial for one person might not work for another.
    9. Empower the victim. Refrain from telling him or her what should be done and from making decisions on the victim’s behalf. Present the victim with options and help him or her think through them.
    10. Encourage the sexual assault victim to seek medical attention.
    11. Encourage the victim to talk about the assault(s) with an advocate, pastor, mental health professional, law enforcement officer, another victim, or a trusted friend.
    12. Fight on behalf of the victim against the lies and challenge the myths and misconceptions about sexual assault.
    13. Take care of yourself. As a support person, you need to be healthy in your caregiving role.
    14. Learn what to say and what not to say.
    15. Avoid placating statements as an attempt to make the victim feel better.
    16. Take time to notice where the victim is in the healing process and do not rush him or her through it. Help the victim keep moving through it at a pace comfortable to him or her rather than trying to force progression to a different stage immediately.
    17. If you are a husband or a wife who is supporting your spouse through the effects of sexual assault, here are two specific suggestions:
    (a) Encourage him or her to tell a trusted friend or friends. It is a good idea for the victim to have a broad support base, as it can be exhausting if the supporting spouse is the only one involved. You won’t always be available to talk, and at times it can be easier for a victim to talk to someone of the same sex about certain dimensions of an assault.
    (b) Don’t ever press or whine for sex or intimacy.
    18. If you are a parent or guardian who is supporting a child through the effects of sexual assault, here are two specific suggestions:
    (a) Advocate for your child. This means pursuing justice by calling the police and finding a good counselor who knows how to deal with the sexual abuse of children.
    (b) If the assault occurred because of your negligence, apologize to your child and ask your child to forgive you.

    The Value of Female Friendships

    Relationship Research
    The Tending Instinct, by Shelley E. Taylor, unlocks some of the mysteries of "women, men, and the biology of our relationships." The need for community with other women is biological; it is part of our DNA. Taylor's book consolidated a variety of studies covering cultural factors, decades of research, anecdotal references – even the biological ties to the girlfriend concept in the animal kingdom. An unending stream of fascinating facts helped define why we as women are more social, more community focused, collaborative, less competitive and, above all, why we need our girlfriends.
    Consider these findings:
    • Longevity – Married men live longer than single men, yet women who marry have the same life expectancy as those who don't. However, women with strong female social ties (girlfriends) live longer than those without them.
    • Stress – For decades, stress tests focused solely on male participants, believing that all humans would respond in the same manner. When these same stress tests were finally conducted on females it was discovered that women don't have the same, classic 'fight or flight' response to stress that men do. According to the research presented in The Tending Instinct, women under stress have the need to 'tend and befriend.' We want to tend to our young and be with our friends. Time with our friends actually reduces our stress levels.
    • More Stress - A study conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine found that when we're with our girlfriends, our bodies emit the "feel good" hormone oxytocin, helping us reduce everyday stress. By prioritizing our female friendships and spending time with these friends, we take advantage of a very simple, natural way to reduce our stress.
    • Even more stress - Prairie voles, a monogamous rodent, have a similar response to stress. When a male vole is put in a stressful situation, he runs to his female partner. Female voles, when stressed, immediately run to the females they were raised with.
    • Self-esteem - A recent study by Dove indicated that 70% of women feel prettier because of their relationships with female friends. It's no surprise that our self-esteem is highly influenced by our girlfriends; this is important to understand for girls as well as women.
    • The Health Factor – Women without strong social ties risk health issues equivalent to being overweight or a smoker - it's that serious.
    Nurture those friendships and tend to them like you would a garden. Just as a garden can enrich and nourish your family, a quality friendship with another woman can strengthen each woman’s family. I have found personally, a kind of contentedness that falls on me after spending time with a special friend. That feeling carries over when I return to my family and they notice it as well. My husband notes my elevated mood and when the wife/mother is happy, it is far easier for the rest of the family to be at ease. How do those sayings go?
    “Happy wife, Happy life.”
    “When momma ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy!”
    I thank God for the special friendships in my life. They’ve lifted me up and given me another person to fight for. They’ve enriched my life beyond expectation and given unexpected joy that carries me through difficult times. I hope that I give that kind of feeling to the friends I have as well.
    A best friend, is a sister destiny forgot to give you.

    Without communities of women, we often miss opportunities to be involved in our cities, to learn from each other, to empathize with other women and to share the benefits of laughter and a heart-felt hug.
    As women, we sometimes need to be reminded what being a girlfriend means. Too often it takes an illness or loss to hit us with reality, realization, and appreciation of friendship. That reminder can also be as simple as a caring card, a hug or an e-mailed photo. Once in a while we simply need to take the time to think about our friends, stop and live in the moment, and if at all possible, celebrate that moment.
    Hear some bad news? Call a girlfriend. Have something great to celebrate? Share that celebration with a friend. Want to feel prettier, be less stressed, be healthier and happier? Spend some time with your BFFs. My dear girlfriends, recognize your own need for friendships and fill that need with time and memories together.
    Life is better together – with your girlfriends.

    Past Musings You Might Ponder

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