“But where do I start?” When Trying To Grow Closer To God…


I’ve been there, numerous times, that place where you aren’t really living for God.  You aren’t living a bad life, but you know you aren’t living for God.  Sometimes we think, “but I’m so busy today, I will get to that tomorrow…”  tomorrow  comes and goes and the day after and we have yet to kneel before our Lord and even tell Him a simple thank you for all He’s given you.

Friends, let me tell you, everything in your life that brings you peace, love, and joy comes from the Father.  Do not fool yourself into thinking that you alone are the cause for all that is good in your life.  The devil is quite crafty and good at telling people this lie.  I was really good at believing this!  Pride, ouch, that is one sin that I struggled with daily.  I still do at times.  I have come to realize though that all I have and all that I am is a gift from God.  Without Him I am nothing and I have nothing.

So if it’s been awhile since you’ve spent some time with God how do you find your way back to HIM?

Often we picture God as this mighty judge sitting on a throne waiting to condemn us or so far away that He’s just unreachable.  STOP.  RIGHT.  THERE.  First and foremost let me explain the most vital part of a relationship with God; it is a relationship. This part is vital so I’m repeating it, it is a RELATIONSHIP.  He loves you more than you could ever fathom and what He wants is to have a genuine relationship with you.  In order for that to happen you talk to God like you would your nearest and dearest friend, because He is!  He can handle all your moods, all your stubbornness, all your grief, all your joy, all your frustrations and everything in between.  If you’re angry with Him, tell Him!  If you’re lonely, tell Him!  If you’re so filled with happiness, PRAISE HIM!  He yearns for you to talk to Him, no matter what it’s about.

BUT HOW?!

I recently wrote an article for my church about how my spiritual life has grown so much over this last year and how I helped that happen.  I say helped, because God knocked, and I simply answered the door.  At first with a handshake, but now when He knocks, I rip that door open and lunge into His loving arms for the warmest embrace that envelopes every part of my being.

Here’s what I wrote.  I hope it helps someone, even in some small way.  Please know I am praying for you!  Leave me a note and let me know how I can pray for you or if you’d like me to talk more on this topic.

This past year I’ve been learning what it means to be inspired and transformed by God.  During Lent I had decided to not give things up but to instead take the very first part of my day to be with Our Lord.  It changed me.  St. John Vianney said “We must take great care never to do anything before having said our morning prayers…The devil once declared that if he could have the first moment of the day, he was sure of all the rest.”  

At first it was difficult to focus and keep my mind on things above instead of the tasks laid out before me for the day.  Slowly I started to find little things that would help me grow in my prayer life and holiness.  I journal my prayers to God each day.  This alone is such a blessing, because as the months go on I can go back, re-read it, and tears of joy flow as I see the ways God has answered some of those prayers.  Many times in ways I never could’ve imagined!  

I downloaded the YouVersion app on my phone and use it every morning.  It is a Bible app that also has thousands of devotions to pick from.  Another app I use is Laudate.  It is a wealth of goodness for Catholics.  Each day I read the daily readings from Mass, followed by the reflections and the saint of the day.  It also has hundreds of Catholic prayers and so much more!  

I began listening to podcasts (on iTunes) from Catholic priests to learn more about our beautiful faith.  The beauty of podcasts is I can listen while driving, folding laundry, making dinner, and especially while working in my garden.  Being surrounded by nature, God’s creation, and learning about Him at the same time has brought an abundance of peace to my life in a myriad of ways.  My mind was opened to see how our Church is so rich with history and of Saints that we can learn so much from!  

Learning about the Saints has lead me to pray Novenas (there are apps for this), and I am constantly in awe after seeing my prayers get answered.  The amazing thing about praying to Saints is the reminder that many of them started as very broken sinners, only to be transformed by God and become incredible Saints!  There is hope for us all.  

It is said that pride is what turned Angels into demons and humility that turns men into Saints.  So, I printed off the Litany of Humility but my pride got in the way at first.  I struggled to say this prayer and really mean it.  Thankfully He is patient and merciful, because eventually I surrendered and through this powerful prayer I have grown closer to God.   

A few short weeks ago, after communion, I reached the point of surrender.  I uttered the words “Lord, I give my life to You to do with me as You wish”.  I let go of the fear of the unknown to let God take control of my life.  I pray to Mary for help with this, because it’s a constant, daily, surrendering of myself.  She is the perfect example to all of us what surrender looks like.  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38  Complete surrender and lack of fear for God’s plans in our life-not our own plans-offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him.  Allowing Him to use the resources and gifts He has given us to glorify Him.  

My life has changed and though I am thankful for my past because it has taught me so much, and it is a living testimony to others, I look intently into the future to see what God has in store for me, to serve Him.  

 

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Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Bread


Last week I posted on Instagram a pic of the mounds of zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers from my garden.  I joked how my husband is sick of me making zucchini for dinner after dinner (side note: this bread is loaded with zucchini and he devoured it last night, asking for more because he enjoyed it so much!).  In the post I asked for ideas on how to use up all this abundance and got some incredible ideas!  Below are some of the ideas people wrote.


Here are a few other ways I’ve been cooking them up/preserving them:

  • Zucchini chips in my dehydrator: slice with a medium blade on a mandolin, spritz with lemon juice, spray lightly olive oil, and sprinkle with seasoning of choice (I used Everything Bagel Blend). Dehydrate for about 5 hours at 135°.
  • Chorizo and zucchini frittata! This was incredible!  I made it for dinner one night and ate the rest for breakfast the next few days.
  • Zucchini lasagna! Mine was sans dairy but the family had one loaded with grass-fed cheese.
  • Frozen for smoothies!  Yes, smoothies!  The flavor is so mild you can’t taste it but your smoothie gets a major boost of nutrition without the sugar crash from loads of fruit.  Simply cut into slices, steam, freeze, and stick in a blender when ready to use.
  • Dehydrated for soups, stews, chilis come wintertime when prices for them are though the roof!  I cut into bite size pieces, blanched with citric acid and dehydrated until dried to a crisp. Stuck in a baggie and in the freezer until I need them!
  • Zoodle pasta (spiralized zucchini), sautéed, roasted, and stuffed with meat and cheese.

If you noticed one of my amazing followers suggested chocolate zucchini bread!  I had recently made a loaf of cinnamon zucchini bread so I thought hmm thats a great idea to change it up!  Thus was born this recipe.  I have to rat myself out that the pic I am using isn’t my photo!  I sent the recipe to my bff and she sent me the pics after she made it.  There was no possible way I could make it look more beautiful than she did! So, I am totally stealing her pic and using it.  Because I’m a good friend like that! 


Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Bread

  • Servings: 2 regular loaves or 1 large loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Chocolatey, rich, perfectly moist, not too dense, with a touch of sweetness…this chocolate zucchini bread is also gluten, dairy, soy and refined sugar free!  Whips up quickly and can be frozen for later devouring.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 cups shredded zucchini (do NOT drain the water out)
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil or other mild tasting oil
  • 3 cups gluten free flour blend (I used Namaste flour blend from Costco. I would assume that Cassava flour would sub well! As well as all purpose regular flour if you don’t have to be gluten free)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour (different brands have different absorption rates mine tends to be less absorptive so you may only need 3TB if yours is very absorptive)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs (I like the crunch and nutritional benefits but feel free to use any type of chocolate chips)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Line two loaf pans with parchment paper so the paper drapes over the sides for ease of removing from the pans and cleanup!  You could also use one loaf pan and make a giant loaf but it will take much longer to bake and doesn’t bake as evenly.  
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together both flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and cacao nibs.  Set aside.
  3. Shred the zucchini using the large holes on a grater.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut sugar, zucchini, and avocado oil.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry.  Stir with a spatula until thoroughly combined.  The batter will seem very thick!  Fear not, the water from the zucchini will release as it cooks and create a bread that has just the right amount of moisture and density.
  6. Bake the large loaf for 1 and a half hours or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Bake two regular loaves for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool on a wire rack for ten minutes then lift the bread out and cool completely.

My Hope Warrior Interview From Flare Up Hope


I am so honored and humbled that the beautiful, Jacklyn from Flare Up Hope asked to interview me for her Hope Warriors section of her site.  Here’s the link to the post to read it!

She asked really great questions!  EX: What do you remember most about the day you were diagnosed? Looking back, if you could tell yourself one thing about the diagnosis you were about to receive, what would it be?     What has been the best thing that has happened so far that would not have happened if you did not have your chronic illness?      You’re in the waiting room about to leave after a follow up visit with your doctor. Someone else is in the waiting room and they were just diagnosed with a chronic disease. They catch your eye and then ask you “How do I get through this?” What do you say?   As well as a list of rapid fire questions!

I hope you enjoy reading it!

Hope Warrior- Nicole

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When God Is Silent But The Silence Is Deafening


There has been a resounding theme to the podcasts, devotions, Bible readings, and homilies I’ve been exposed to lately…hearing God in the silence.  Over and over from multiple sources I keep hearing/reading that God speaks to us most clearly in a still, small voice, in the silence.  Here’s the thing, I KNOW THIS!  I have experienced it often and it’s utterly magnificent!  But lately, the silence is deafening.

God has been silent recently and the silence is wearing me down.  I know what to do.  To persevere through it by continuing to pray, spending time with God and receiving the sacraments. But that doesn’t guarantee that God will automatically be vocal again.

Sometimes God is silent to teach us and help us grow spiritually.  It can help magnify things about ourselves that need to change.  If we allow it, we learn to lean into Him even more BECAUSE He is silent.  We learn to place our trust even more in Him.  We learn to wait with patience, a virtue.  We learn humility by realizing that it’s not our own strength that we get by, but God alone.

I have been struggling this last month with being in silence.  I tell myself to listen for God’s voice.  I try to quiet the noises in my head, but then things bubble up that I don’t want to hear.  See, the devil likes to trick us and tell us lies that aren’t true. For a moment I start to believe him.  I pause, recognize it’s him and say a prayer to not believe the lies of the evil one.  But the silence is still too much for me to bear.

I have unanswered prayers that each day seem to grow further away and the heartache of it makes me want to shut it out.  THIS IS PRECISELY THE MOMENT I AM MEANT TO LEAN INTO IT.  Let the pain, the hurt, the confusion of it all just pour out.  Give it all to Jesus, because He understands our pain.  He died on the cross to bear our pained be one with us.   Do you ever have those moments where the flood gates open and the tears flow like a river?  You cry, begging God to answer your prayer.  Lately my prayers have even gone something like this “God, please just tell me if the answer is no!  Just help me to understand so I can let it go!”.  Silence.  Deafening silence.  I wipe my tears and let the pain sit for awhile and feel it.

There is a saying I hear often that I never quite understood until recently…  “Offer it up!” It just never made sense to me.  Until now.  Now I get it.  I have to learn to truly offer up my suffering to become more in union with Jesus’ suffering on the cross.  We all have our  own, different, crosses to bear.  I’m getting there, I’m slowly learning to ‘offer it up’ and unite my suffering with Jesus’.  I can be a slow learner at times.  Thankfully God is patient, especially when I am not.  Sometimes, silence is the best answer to my prayer of “Just tell me if the answer is no!” because it’s hope that maybe, just maybe, the answer is “yes, my child.  Be patient because the answer is yes, but you aren’t ready yet and I am making a way for you.”

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  Romans 12:12

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