Expectations.

It’s a new school year! I won’t say back to school is my favorite time of year, but I do enjoy it. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate. The C I made on that paper last year doesn’t even matter anymore 😊 It’s a new beginning; another chance to grow and create new habits.

As I enter this second and final year of graduate school I’m beyond excited. I mean…I know it’s going to be hectic with 6 classes, a thesis to write, and assistantship hours. But i’m excited because God has been renewing my mind and giving me the sweetest reminders of His faithfulness. One being the rugs and decorations!

With the start of this new school year came a new apartment and of course I was super pumped to decorate. If it isn’t apparent by the design of my blog, my favorite color is pink; and if I had things my way I would paint the walls in my apartment pink, but since that’s not really an option I settled for decorations with accents of pink.

There’s a point to this story, I promise! Just stay with me. 

I found this gorgeous shower curtain online with white, pink, and grey shimmery stripes. I absolutely needed it in my life so I bought it! Of course I also needed rugs to match but white rugs were out of the question and I immediately wrote off blush pink rugs because I didn’t think I would be able to find them at the store (and I was trying to get them that day). To make a long story short, I found the blush pink rugs!

I also went to the store with a very broad idea of what I wanted the decor for my room to look like. Scriptures and inspirational quotes…that’s it. Finding words would be easy, but in designs that would match my bedding set….not garunteed. However, I found more than I was looking for. Sure they were scriptures and inspirational quotes, but it was everything that God has been whispering to me all summer in a visible/tangible form. As if He’s like, “you’re going to need these reminders everyday!” It was so happy that day.

Sitting here typing this blog, I can wholeheartedly say I love my new room so much and it happened outside what I what I initially dreamed up. I would’ve just rocked with the gray rugs and whatever inspirational quotes I could find to be honest.  To this person reading this like, “girl what, you just got lucky!” Sure this room thing could have all been coincidence or luck…maybe. But even in this small situation i’m reminded that God will always exceed your expectations. He is able to do more than you ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He doesn’t desire to give you some mediocre gray life. He wants to give you blush pink…His absolute best!!! (that might be relative…but you get what i’m saying!)

In this situation i’m reminded that I shouldn’t limit God by diminishing what I want just because it doesn’t seem attainable. I can think of several situations that i’ve went into with low expectations, but God wanted to do so much more.

In the grand scheme of things I’ve never been one to lower my expectations, but in a year of dissapointment after dissapointment it’s like my faith took a hit. I stopped thinking above and beyond and started thinking, “okay what makes the most sense at this point?” There’s really no trust in God in that. I’ll admit I put Him in a box by lowering my expectations, but He is a limitless God who cannot be contained.

I’m making my way through the old testament now; and chapter after chapter in the first two books I see a reflection of God doing more than was expected.

Genesis. Sarah laughed. She didn’t think she could get pregnant at her age, but God made it possible.

Exodus. The didn’t expect God to come through for them and relieve them from their circumstances. The promised land seemed unattainable, but He did it.

God is faithful. He is above and beyond the average. His way is perfect and He always comes through.

No matter what season you’re in right now, I pray the person reading this will find hope in knowing that God can and will exceed your expectations.

Much Love,

VF

Trying New Things: Eat Banza!

Pasta is definitely my go to on those stressful school nights. Sometimes all I literally have time to do is boil a pot of pasta and throw in some veggies. You can certainly make this dish with your regular old penne, but as of lately my Muellers has been replaced with Banza! I love Banza pasta because it packs 14g of protein into 2 oz. That’s about the 1/2 cup you’ll use to make this recipe! Love it!

If you you don’t know what Banza is, it’s pasta made out of CHICKPEAS! I know that sounds crazy…and if you’re not a chickpea person you may be kind of skeptical, but it tastes like normal pasta to me! Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Red Pepper and Eggplant Banza

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup uncooked Banza pasta
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced eggplant
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup fresh kale
  • 3 tbsp. chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

1.Fill a sauce pan with water, add salt, and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions.

2. Wash the eggplant, red bell pepper, and kale.

3. Cut kale into small 2-inch peices. Dice eggpplant and red bell pepper. Set vegetables aside.

4. Heat oil on medium heat in a non-stick skillet. Add garlic and warm until fragrant.

5. Next add diced eggplant and salt the skillet with red bell peppers. Sauté until the flesh of eggplant becomes somewhat translucent. (Note: At this step you may need to add more oil if the pan becomes dry).

6. Turn down heat and add garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and nutritional yeast. Stir until incorporated.

7. At this point the Banza should be ready! Remove from heat, strain and set aside.

8. Add 3 tbsp. of chicken broth to the skillet with the vegetables. Turn heat back up to medium and add kale. Cover and steam until kale is a vibrant green color. (Note: Be careful not to overcook as it will continue to cook once pasta is added).

9. Next, add the pasta into the skillet of vegetables and stir until incorporated. (Note: Try folding the pasta into the vegetables to prevent smashing).

10. Garnish with parmesan (optional).

11. Serve immediately.

Sweet & Spicy Summer Oatmeal + Whole Grain Chat

Who doesn’t love mango? It’s my absolute favorite fruit ever! I paired it with pineapple and a little something spicy for a quick breakfast! You can’t see much of the oats in this picture but trust me, they’re there! This may seem like the craziest combination but I promise it’s really good! It’s also a good source of whole grains and thus fiber!

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Sweet and Spicy Summer Oatmeal

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 packets of instant oatmeal or 1/4 cup cooked oats
  • 1/2 fresh mango, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced
  • 2 tbsp. hot honey (I like this brand!)
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. almond butter

Directions

1. Prepare oatmeal in a bowl. (Side Note: Follow package instructions OR prepare steel cut oats with 1 part oats to 4 parts liquid OR rolled oats with 1 part oats to 2 parts liquid. I typically use 1/4 cup of oats to 1 cup coconut milk.)

2. While oatmeal is cooking, cut pineapples and mangoes.

3. Layer fruit on top of prepared oats. (Side Note: You may leave a space in the center for almond butter or you can just drizzle on top. Whatever you prefer. I like adding my almond butter to the center of hot oatmeal because it melts into a smoother consistency.)

3. Drizzle the top with hot honey and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.

Steel vs. Rolled
Rolled Oats vs. Steel Cut Oats

Now on to fiber! What is fiber? Fiber is the portion of a plant that can’t be digested by our bodies. Now don’t be alarmed. The fact that our bodies can’t digest this plant material is good! This helps push things through our digestive tract and keeps our system running smoothly.  Fiber also helps regulate blood sugar levels. So for example, if we look at a cup of 100% apple juice vs. a whole apple. The sugars in the fruit juice would absorb more quickly then the sugars would from a whole apple (note: I do not discourage drinking 100% fruit juice, both have a healthy place in the diet)! But back to this…the fiber slows down the rate of sugar absorption in the stomach. This has many benefits which I won’t go into today but just know fiber is good!! While you can certainly get fiber from many fruits and vegetables (the pineapple in this recipe…yes!), i’ve chosen to focus on whole grains as a source of fiber for this post. This recipe is full of fiber from the oatmeal. Fun fact: Oatmeal is a whole grain!

What is a whole grain? A whole grain undergoes minimal processing, permitting it to still have it’s outer layer in tact. The outer layer or “bran” is where the fiber is. Again, this is the portion not easily diested by our bodies! A “refined grain” or a grain that undergoes processing to remove the bran is striped of the fiber and B vitamins found in that layer. Common refined grains include: white rice and wheat unless specified as whole!

Check out the picture below to see the structure of a whole grain up close! The diagram describes the 3 layers. Want to know more? Leave a question or comment.

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Tips:

  • When at the grocery store try to look for the words “whole” or “whole grain” in front of the first few ingredients listed.
  • If using packaged oatmeal, buy the unsweetened kind and add your own sweeteners to control sugar content. I think the fruit and honey drizzle are the perfect amount of sweetness so you may not need to add more to the oats.
  • Prepare a large amount of steel cut oats in advance to save time on breakfast throughout the week. I found that steel cut oats reheat alot better than rolled oats with just a touch of milk added.
  • Try to add fiber to your breakfast every morning, it will help keep you feeling fuller longer!

I hope you will enjoy this recipe! Please leave any questions, comments, or requests below!

Happy Healthy Eating,

Virtuous Foodie

Vibrant Summer Salad

When making salads I absolutely love using vibrant colored vegetables and/or fruits. Not only is it pretty, but all those different color plants are packed with various nutrients! Checkout this easy salad that I made for a family get together this summer!

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Vibrant Summer Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 – 10 oz. bag spring mix salad
  • 1 – 10 oz. bag hearts of romaine
  • 1  cup mini sweet pepper rings
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion sliced
  • 1 tsp. himilayan pink sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper

Directions

1. Wash the surface of cucumber and red onion. Peel and slice both as desired.

2. Open the two bags of salad mix and place in a large bowl.

3. Add sliced onion, cucumber, and sweet pepper rings to the bowl.

4. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and himilayan pink sea salt to taste.

5. Bring to a family gathering as a side dish or add protein such as shrimp or grilled chicken to enjoy as a main dish.

Surviving vs. Thriving

“It was just a mental shift, a readjustment in my way of thinking…I got to thinking about the bigger picture, if I’m going to sit around and say I am ‘just surviving’ everyday well guess what, when a big wave comes along suddenly I won’t be surviving, i’ll be drowning.” – Joanna Gaines

When I read this the first time it resonated with me so much!!! I would have a similar response when somone would ask “how are things?” I would ALWAYS say ‘I’m making it….surviving…just ready to be done!’ (with school). It honestly became my least favorite question.I was choosing to highlight the negatives instead of being positive; so much so that it became the driving tone of my day to day.

In the slight break that I took from the blog and social media, God has been speaking to me so much! Or rather, I slowed down and tuned out the noise to hear Him. There was a clarity about it once I disconnected for a moment. One thing He showed me during the break is this….

You have a choice to make everyday. You can choose joy and peace or you can wallow in your irritation, pain, or anger. You don’t have to just survive, I want you to thrive everyday despite your circumstances.

I kept getting this message over and over again but unfortunately I was failing the tests that came along with it so I kept on getting it…still to this day. It’s a choice. I can choose to be kind and compassionate or I can choose to resist, complain, and be annoyed. I can choose to be faithful in the small things or run from an opportunity to grow and serve Jesus. I can choose to survive or I can choose to thrive.

I’m reminded in Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Story (Must Read!) that God is present in the moments of discomfort and those moment where we’re just trying to “survive” to help us grow or work through us in a way that could not occur on the “easy route”. But He doesn’t want us to just show up surviving and wishing the days away. He created us to thrive. There’s always a bigger picture. So now I ask myself several times a day, “Is my attitude one of surviving or thriving?” It’s still a growing process for me; but I recognize that saving my joy and hoping for better days ahead is not an attitude of thriving. Waiting for some thing, someone, or a final destination to feel fulfilled is not thriving. Thriving is ultimately a state of mind that’s detatched from the idea that you need more to live your best life. You can be content and recognize the beauty of the season that you are in. There is something to be gained in every season and joy if we would choose it. Cheers to thriving!

Life Update: I cut my hair! After heat styling during my 2nd year of transitioning, I want to transition again to give my true natural curl pattern a chance! Sure my hair was surviving in it’s pressed out state…but I want to see it thrive! 😉

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Hope everyone is well!!

Much Love,

VF

2,453 Miles…4 Reminders I Needed

 

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Hello friends! It’s been a while since my last post. June has been the craziest month!! Grad school things have completely taken over my summer. With training for my intervention, presenting about my intervention, and carrying out the intervention it’s been nothing but go, go, go since June 1st. But I am back with somewhat of a fresh perspective. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to California, 2,453 miles from home. It’s by far the greatest distance I’ve traveled, and probably by far my favorite place that I’ve traveled too. People always say they come back inspired after traveling to new places… (or at least the people I know!) and I think I get it. The feeling like there are no limits and a brand-new understanding of the world around you. I’ve traveled very minimally before…to Chicago, Texas, North Carolina, Florida…and apparently Wisconsin; but never to the west coast. I don’t know how to describe it…but it was great! I appreciated the weather…that was probably my favorite part.

I walked away from my California trip with 4 reminders…4 reminders that I needed and principles that I hope to carry with me

1. Take the Risk, Look Crazy

While I was in California…matter of fact…before I even got to California there was one thing on my list of things to do. There were others of course, but one of the main things I wanted to do was get my picture at the Rose Bowl Stadium…in my Georgia jersey. The stadium was a whole hour from the hotel, but I wanted that picture man. So, I got my picture…Georgia jersey and all. I got dressed at the hotel, obviously; so if you can just imagine me walking through the hotel lobby with an oversized jersey, red and black, and Minnie ears on…yea. Probably not what the other guests or the concierge expected to see that day and I’m sure it didn’t make much sense to them, but it made perfect sense to me. I’m going to Pasadena! If you’re completely lost as to why I wanted to go to the Rose Bowl Stadium and take it picture it’s because my team was there a few months earlier playing for the Natty (Go Dawgs…75 days!!!)…and I’m a crazy, obnoxious Georgia fan so I wanted my picture!! Anyways, when we finally got to the stadium and it was kind of empty…with the exception of the guy watering roses and a few other tourists who were there for like five minutes. Let me tell you, that guy watering roses probably watche me do 30 jumps and 10 other poses to get my picture…LOL. I’m sure he was thinking something along the lines of what is this girl doing? I’m sure it didn’t make much sense to him at all; but again, it made perfect sense to me. I bet I looked so silly to the people at the hotel and to the guy watering roses, but I got what I came there for. I’m reminded of times in my life before where I was afraid of looking silly and not taking the risk to get something I truly wanted. Even with this blog, I’m sure I look so silly to people and they don’t understand at all what I’m doing; but it makes perfect sense to me. This is something I truly enjoy doing. Aside from this blog, and just thinking about all my goals and dreams…am I willing to look silly for it and take the risk? I never know when I’ll go back to California, likewise I never know when another opportunity will present itself in the pursuit of my dreams.

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The aforementioned picture!

2. Behind the Scenes is a lot Different

If I could just find a place in Georgia with California’s weather, I’d be set for life! However, I will tell you that the LA area is not at all what I thought it would be. TV definitely hyped it up and made it look more glamorous than it actually was. The tour guide kept warning us saying, “I know it’s not the cleanest place…” in reference to Hollywood Boulevard. In my head I’m just thinking, “Girl what are you talking about…it can’t be that bad.” Now it wasn’t as bad as she was making it seem…but it wasn’t like what you see on TV. There was a lot going on. It was not vibrant, and spacious, and ritzy like Basketball Wives LA makes it seem haha. I most certainly could have been in the wrong part of LA, but either way it was much different from the image I had in my head. Such is life, with what I see on social media and just media in general. I blogged a little about this here, but I often get so mesmerized by what so and so does when I have no idea what their reality looks like. The grass was not as green as I expected it to be in LA, but all TV would have me wanting to move there. Social media is the same. We always see the good and think, “that’s exactly where I want to be!” but in reality, we’d be doing really good to enjoy the things we already have. For the record, I think Atlanta is so much better than LA. Sorry LA people.

3. Be the Only One

At the conference (the real reason I went to California), I was the only foods and nutrition person. I was completely surrounded by plant people. I know nothing about plants other than the fruits and vegetables we eat are plants. So, I definitely felt out of place. They were using so many garden terms and plant names. Ya girl was so confused! I actually had hesitations about going to the conference at all. Before I left someone said the sweetest thing to me, “You have to remember you are the nutrition expert.” It really stuck with me. It wasn’t a terrible experience. At the end of the day I could give them a new perspective…about foods and nutrition. I’m reminded to always venture out to meet new people. Don’t just surround yourself with those who have the same views and values as you. You’ll never learn anything about life that way.

4. God Equips You for Every Good Work

The most amazing thing that happened on this trip was God! If you follow me on my other social media accounts, then you already heard this story. BUT….I have a terrible fear of public speaking. It so bad and you’d think I would have gotten over it given all the speaking I have to do in grad school. We have presentations in almost every class, in front of the department, and not to mention I had to give lectures as a TA. Even so, the fear was still there. Except this time I was led to Disneyland to speak. It was a super incredible opportunity…. like who’s going to turn down California and Disney? Not I! So I ended up speaking in a rather large room behind a podium with a large screen…and not that many people. I was still nervous with only a few people, but the important part of this story is the period of time leading up to that moment. I was a wreck!! My nerves were shot. Before public speaking, my mind gets so psyched out that I actually start to make myself sick. That morning, I literally (no exaggeration) felt like I was going to throw up. My stomach was pretty empty since I didn’t eat much the night before…so nothing actually came up, but I hate that feeling. Sorry if that’s TMI, but I wanted to give you an idea of the level of distress. Not only was my stomach in nots, but I also wanted to cry that morning. I stood in front of the mirror trying to give myself pep talks, but the tears were flowing (no exaggeration). There was no running from this though…I had to face it. So, I said my prayers…put on my music…put on a dress…some lipstick and headed to the venue. I ate two bites of a banana that morning. Food is honestly the farthest thing from my mind when the nerves kick in. So not only was I mentally psyched, physically ill because of it…but my blood sugar was probably way low. By the grace of God…I did that presentation.

But this time talking in front of people was different…I was nervous at first, yes…but the words just started to flow. Not at all like how I practiced…but much better. The people in the room said I did a great job. And usually I don’t believe people when they tell me that after a speaking, but this time I think it actually went well. In the days and even moments before I took the podium God repeatedly whispered to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…I will give you the words to say. I didn’t bring you here for you to fail.” God is so faithful!! That day was probably the best I have ever spoken in front of people. This California trip was the reassurance I needed that God is always with me! I’m reminded of Hebrews 13:21…He has truly equipped me for everything good for doing His Will. I’m excited to see where God leads me next and all that He has to show me.

 

I hope these 4 things have resonated with you in some way. Please comment, share, and like.

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Much Love,

VF

Alignment

The human body is an incredible thing. I didn’t really appreciate it as much when they made me memorize all the muscles in my left leg in anatomy three years ago; but in hindsight I appreciate it now. I’ll admit I’ve forgotten most of those muscle names, but the human body still fascinates me. Anyone else ever think about how our body functions; why there are the exact same number of bones in every adult spinal column? The way our bodies function, the complexities of it all…Someone had to create us. I refuse to believe that we came to be from a big explosion. No, we were intricately designed. Every bone and every muscle has a purpose and a place; and there are people who devote their careers to fully understanding this sort of thing. My chiropractor is one of them.

I started going to a chiropractor a while ago because I was feeling really off balance. I know it sounds crazy haha, but I honestly felt like something was literally out of place. I learned a lot that first visit; about nerves, the spine, bones, and things. The nerd in me was so excited and I honestly considered a career change for a second haha! However, one thing that resonated with me the most was the fact that the chiropractor said something along the lines of, “I’m just simply treating the body to function (i.e. making sure bones are properly aligned) the way God designed you.” He further explained that bones, particularly in the spine are sometimes not aligned the way they should be. Our everyday moving around can cause a shift. Now I’m paraphrasing here, but he said when bones become misaligned this can affect our nerves and thus various parts of our body and overall health. The way he explained it made SO much sense and I probably didn’t do the man and his practice any justice with my little synopsis; but I can tell you that I did feel different after multiple visits. The chiropractor realigned some vertebrae in my spine, pushed a few bones back in place here and there and bam good as new! Fun fact! For 22 years of my life, the left side of my body was longer than the right! Again, I know it all sounds crazy, but the human body is an amazing thing.

After my adjustments I was sore for a few days. It honestly did feel like my spine had gone through some shifting. My posture was different. Every symptom he associated with an out of place vertebrae I no longer experienced it. Some may say it was placebo or whatever, and maybe. But I can tell you I haven’t been to the chiropractor in months; and believe it or not the old symptoms are back and probably worse. So, in my opinion, I believe the things the doctor was saying.

BUT, I didn’t get on here to talk to you about bones and the spine exactly. I was reading Adamant by Lisa Bevere (amazing book!!) and I came across the following quote and scripture that made me think of that visit.

“The Bible is clear that a shift happens when we change our posture.”

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

This is my second time getting that verse this week. Literally had a moment of, “Okay God!! I get it!” The sentence from Adamant implies that the shift happens after we change our posture. Yes, this is true to an extent, but I also think a shift must occur before we can change our posture. So back to the spine example, if you have bones out of place, which was the case in my situation, it can cause an imbalance leading to spinal curvature. No matter how hard I tried to sit up straight, that imbalance was always causing my spine to curve forward. My posture was not changing. After adjustments and shifting some vertebrae in consecutive visits. I noticed an actual change in my posture and my spine was no longer curved forward.

So, to reiterate, I believe a shift must occur before the posture change. In reference to the scripture, God is calling for a shift in our hearts to turn away from our sins. If one thing is out of place, say we’re holding on to anger or jealousy, it affects the whole posture. To change our posture, we must start at the root of the problem and shift those things; everything that Christ died for, that we no longer have to be bound to. The shift starts internally; by humbling ourselves, praying, and seeking His face. We cannot influence external change without making sure everything is properly aligned within. The shift within will lead to a posture change and in turn an ultimate shift of how we carry ourselves in everyday life, how we respond to others, how we influence our brothers and sisters, and even how we influence non-believers.

In essence, I’m sure this is exactly what Lisa Bevere meant, but it made a lot of sense for me to break it down this way to myself. I find the whole spine thing super interesting if you couldn’t tell and I just need a mental image to fully grasp things sometimes.

Let’s also say we are out of place in our purpose. Each of us have a very specific purpose and role in the body of Christ. God intricately made each of us, with all of our complexities, to be used by Him. Sometimes we lose our alignment with Christ, but it’s never too late to get back in place. Although the change isn’t noticeable immediately, our position has a lasting impact that is noticable in the long run.

 Physical alignment, spiritual alignment…it’s all important! I hope whoever is reading this will be inspired even if it’s just to learn more about the human body.

Aligned

Much Love,

VF