A Letter to a Friend

Dear Friend,

This is what I think of when I think of your story.

I think of Satan and God sitting at a bar. Satan is talking about how proud he is to have tricked you into prostitution. He even says he has turned your mind inside out so that you will never love God again. He is pleased with himself, not just because he has used you for evil intentions, but because he can see the pain on God’s face. Seeing God in pain is a way for Satan to feel big, much like how the bully in the schoolyard picks on the smaller kids. He is just compensating for his cowardice. He is trying to find ways to make the small, shriveled and pathetic being he is seem larger. And he must be looking at himself in a mirror holding a magnifying glass, because I think Satan sees himself as a giant. But he’s really just a nasty little bug standing in front of some projector that converts his image on a screen to make him appear terrifying, like the Wizard of Oz. His only power derives from the people who fall under his curse and carry out his stupid, nasty little ways. And I’m not really talking about everyone who has certainly messed up and hurt and been hurt. I’m talking about the murderers with malice in their hearts, the sexual abusers and the soldiers who use children as shields in open fire (to be more specific).

But Satan will never understand God, because if he understood Him, he would have to acknowledge how much greater and superior God is to him. God is not sitting there at the bar with his head in his hands in absolute pain because Satan is winning. He is in pain because you are losing. You are putting wounds on your heart and putting scars in your mind, and these wounds and these scars will confuse you and bring you so . . . much . . . pain. And God is in pain because you are in pain and because you have rejected him. Most people know unrequited love kills the appetite and makes the sky seem gray. Imagine your true love, the one you know you are meant to be with, does not return your love. Instead, she turns to something that eats her loveliness and spits it into a napkin. Satan never wanted you like a lover. He only wanted to use you in a way that would hurt the only one he is consumed with—God. Even in his rebellion, Satan’s actions still prove God is the most powerful, which is why Satan will always try and find a way to undermine God’s power. To do this, he goes for the heart.

Lucky for you, God is not discouraged. He may be grieving and living the nightmare with you, but he knows you are still his daughter. He has spoken the words “I forgive you” during every misstep you have taken. He repeats it, over and over. Maybe you’ll hear this time and believe him. He has already created an elaborate plan to rescue you, and the first and most important measure starts with your heart. He must win your heart. No matter how impressive and creative his strategy is for winning you back, he knows it all comes down to your acceptance. He must hope for your acceptance like a woman who accepts a marriage proposal. God has awesome power, but he has no power to make you love him, so when you finally do say “yes” to him, and he can be with his true love, imagine how a God who has control of the universe must feel when he receives the one thing he cannot take for himself? What a wonderful way to make the gift of our hearts matter so much to him, because the truth is, he must hold himself back and restrain himself from the one thing that matters most. How strange it is to my mind, but my heart knows God doesn’t just love us. He is in love with us. Thank you, Jesus.

Time has passed, and God has pulled you from the miry pit and placed you on a rock. You are still in shock from the transition from your old life to the new one, and the little bug named Satan laughs with his voice that sounds like Mickey Mouse on helium. He says to God at the bar, “Look, she’s not really yours. Look at the mistakes she’s still making.” The bug sits and pats himself on the antennae. However, this time, God knows the mistakes you are still bound to make. He knows the guilt you still carry on your shoulders. But he also knows you are not the same anymore. You are his, striving to be with him as you heal, stretch and grow in your recovery. The wounds on your heart are beginning to heal, and the scars in your mind are beginning to fade. It might be a couple years, but the little bug who still thinks he has won the game because he has succeeded in degrading you does not have the same measure of grace or understanding like God. If Satan did understand the truth behind grace and forgiveness, he would probably explode. He is only a tiny bug after all.

Now you are coming to the part where God takes the horror and turns it into something beautiful. Women will look at your face and see compassion, and there will be a beauty you have that helps others to recognize their own. You are still recovering from the trauma and learning to cope in your new freedom, but the little bug named Satan is gradually shrinking, and God’s love is overpowering.

You have traveled to the darkest corners of despair and have seen what very few and God have seen. Your experience and your eyes will never be the same again. Everything you feel will be magnified, for your sorrow has expanded you and deepened you. Satan, the little bug, will rejoice in his ill-conceived victories. One day he will be disappointed when he faces reality. God has a plan, and he is shaping you and using every part of you to fulfill that plan.

Yours truly,


Photo Via.

Posted in Being a Woman, Relationships, Self Esteem, Social Justice | 4 Comments

Lentil Salad with Prosciutto, Tomato and Basil

This is a re-post from Noelle Ritter’s (OTW contributor) personal food blog!

At it again with the lentils.  This time it’s in a salad!  Cool, fresh, textured and tangy.   You won’t be disappointed.  Nor will your BBQ guests this summer.

This recipe comes from a William Sonoma cookbook.  I took the liberty in adding tomatoes.  I thought it needed just a little more color and the dual acid content (tomato plus the red wine vinegar) keeps things lively on your palate!

It’s always an option to leave out the prosciutto and keep it vegetarian.  I liked both versions myself, but the prosciutto makes it a little fancier.

Lentil Salad with Prosciutto, Tomato and Basil

1 1/4 cup french green lentils

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tbls extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbls minced red onion

4 tbls chopped basil, plus more for garish

1/4 pound thin prosciutto slices cut into strips

1/3 pound fresh mozzarella cheese cut into chunks as desired

1/2 cup chopped tomato, seeds removed.

Click here to see the full post from Portland Palates Website!

Posted in Food & Drink, Recipes | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

1. Theater-worthy! See it!
2. Definitely rent it.
3. Stream it on Netflix, if you must.
4. Don’t even bother.

Despite having some less than stellar reviews, I really wanted to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Maybe it was the trailer that impressed me, but I was pretty committed. My husband saw it without me while I was visiting my BFF in Boston recently (with the promise he’d see it again with me upon my return), and, although he had his qualms with it, he said it was worth seeing, so we went.

It’s rated PG-13 for a reason. Not sex. Not language. Thankfully. But definitely adult content, including a couple things that grossed me out. I mean, come on. The story goes that the magical evil queen hunts people’s hearts. That’s gross. Please don’t mistake this for a Disney movie and take your young child to see it.

If you can see it in the theater, do it. Why? Because of the visuals. This film is stunningly beautiful and genuinely visually creative. I mean, there are some films out there that really strive toward visually interesting concepts, but this one seemed less contrived and more appealing than anything I’ve seen in a long time. I kept finding myself thinking: now that is seriously cool. The only hang up was that sometimes the visuals didn’t really have any recognizable purpose, but it seemed forgivable because it was just that cool.

I enjoyed the movie from start to finish, truly. It was a unique take on the fairy tale of Snow White, and I appreciated that. But, other than some of the visuals, in the end I walked away and forgot about it almost the second I walked out of the theater. As I realized it, I thought about how when I think a movie is genuinely good, it sticks with me. I think about it. I don’t want it to end. I talk about the characters later on. I look forward to the sequel.

As we drove home my husband helped me process. We agreed that we had very little attachment to any of the characters. In the end, we didn’t really care who Snow White’s true love was, or even that she won the fight (even though we always root for good to win). The strongest character was the evil queen, whose team you can’t be on by principle, so we felt kind of stuck.

The telling of the story relied heavily on the viewer’s previous knowledge of and love for the original story, which, given the fame of the story, is acceptable. But if you didn’t know and love it, the apple, the dwarves, and the little critters would seem really random and thrown in there to make it feel more magical. I loved all of those elements, but I already have a history with them.

Let’s talk about the acting, because I love acting, and it can make or break a movie. This movie was full of recognizable faces, which can often mean great performances. And for the most part, it did. There were lots of great actors found in the dwarves, and I really liked them, although their roles were far less significant than in the story we’re most familiar with. Best actor for this movie (to me) goes, without question, to Charlize Theron. She played the evil queen, Ravenna, and she was masterful at being evil, powerful, and stunning without being overtly sensual or sexual. She also emoted her humanity well, which I found unique to this kind of character. I don’t know. Maybe she was my favorite evil queen. Really well done.

Kristen Stewart. Sigh. How does she keep getting trapped in these stories where she has to choose between two men who are equally in love with her? Poor thing. 😉 If the message about being the “fairest of them all” is truly about inner beauty, then okay, great moral of the story. But I really thought Snow White was supposed to be more outwardly beautiful than the very beautiful evil queen. Am I wrong? Did I misinterpret that entirely? If not, I think they definitely cast the wrong gal for Bella – I mean – Snow White.

What does Kristen Stewart do well? Lots of things. She played a believable fighter, I thought. She brought intensity, conviction, and determination to every scene. I’m pretty sure she had tears in her eyes in over half of the movie. That’s very intense. The only problem was, that was all there was. There was little to no variation in her emotion the whole movie. It’s possible she may have even had the same expression on her face throughout the whole thing. At first I was impressed by her strengths. By the end, I realized her entire performance, while emotionally believable, was one note, and I couldn’t connect to her character at all.

For all my gripes (do I always say this in my reviews?), I did think it was certainly worth seeing. I’ve already analyzed everything wrong with it for you, so now you don’t have to. =) Go enjoy the visual creativity. It was worth it for me.

 Photo Credit

Posted in Culture & Media, Movies | 6 Comments

Baggage Claim

My husband and I got married at the tender ages of twenty-three and nineteen.  While in hindsight this seems somewhat idiotic considering our maturity levels, it nevertheless seemed like a grand idea at the time.  We both came from homes with divorced parents, and entered our new covenantal relationship with a fierce dedication to stick it out no matter what. I remember my young husband saying on a number of occasions, “Divorce is not in my vocabulary.”  Meanwhile, the word nerd inside of me was snickering, because if it wasn’t in his vocabulary, he wouldn’t be saying it.  Right?  Right?  But I digress.

So, we launched ourselves into this great unknown called marriage, full of idealism, an almost militant dedication to success, and pretty much nothing else.  Well, I take that back.  We had something else, and though we were unaware of it at the time, it was essentially the master puppeteer driving our fledgling new marriage into the ground . . . and fast.

My husband’s parents divorced when he was ten years old.  Prior to that, he observed his parents’ relationship as highly volatile: frequent arguing, yelling, name calling and threats. It seemed both clear and logical to him that arguing, yelling, name calling and threats lead to divorce.

My own parents divorced in my late teens.  I observed my parents’ relationship as quiet and distant; no heated arguments or yelling, certainly no name calling or disrespect, but also no life, no laughter, no affection.  It seemed both clear and logical to me that without confronting and discussing issues, the marriage dies, and leads to divorce.

What do you imagine happened when a young man, who was convinced that confrontation leads to divorce, married a young woman, who was convinced that avoiding confrontation leads to divorce?  A vicious cycle was born; me attempting to corner and confront a man who was committed to staying quiet and not being confronted. Six months in, I desperately wanted a divorce, and what I did not know at the time was that if I had asked for one, he would have given it to me.  We were both utterly miserable.

The end.

Just kidding.

By the grace of our loving God, and through godly counsel, humility, and time, we were able to break free of that terrible cycle, and learn new and healthy ways to communicate, negotiate, and speak our minds.  I am deeply thankful for that process of truth and healing, especially as I sit here just having celebrated my 18th anniversary with a man who is my life partner in every way.  But that journey of healing is actually not the point of this article.  I share this particular part of our story as an example of how treacherous it can be when we operate out of our past, rather than our present.

Tony and I were full of what we considered to be zeal and righteous passion to beat the odds and ’til death do us part.  What we now realize is, we had taken our observations, judgments, conclusions and pain from watching our parents’ marriages fall apart, and somewhere deep inside made a vow that we would never do it THAT WAY. We were desperately trying to right the wrongs of our parents’ relationships, rather than building something new and unique between us, which would present its own blessings and challenges.

Fear can be an incredibly motivating thing.  My fear of divorce led me to behave as if I were actually in my parents marriage.  It did the same for Tony.  We unknowingly chose to do battle with ghosts, and nearly missed each other completely.

Think of it this way . . . my mom had an undiagnosed hyperactive thyroid issue for many years.  As a girl I saw the symptoms of that imbalance; fatigue, lethargy, and feeling vaguely unwell.  So imagine that when I became an adult, I knew I did NOT want hyperactive thyroid, and I started taking the treatment drugs. Not only had I never been diagnosed with a thyroid issue, but I was somehow believing that this medication would treat whatever WAS ailing me, not to mention risking the dangerous effects of taking an unneeded drug!

Since parenting is my passion and specialty, I’ve become fairly adept at recognizing this phenomenon in families.  As an outsider, it is far easier to recognize when a parent is trying to remedy a painful situation from their past by allowing it into the driver’s seat in their present dealings with their kids.  But the truth is we have to parent out of our present REALITY.  Our children are unique individuals who are likely having a very different life experience than we had as kids.  We must approach them ready to address and lovingly respond to their needs.  It is remarkable how many unnecessary problems we can create by operating out of our past, and in our attempt to fix it, overcorrect and overreact.

The long and the short of it is this: we cannot fix the brokenness of our family of origin in the family we are presently raising.  It is ineffective at best, and destructive at worst.  We can only receive healing from our past as the Lord gently replaces the pain and the lies with his mercy and truth.  Our children will experience their own challenges in life, receive their own wounds, for it cannot be escaped on this planet. But let’s not pass ours on to them as well.

There is a scripture that has become increasingly meaningful to me over time, and its application grows more and more personal.  “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, AS FITS THE OCCASION, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Photo Credit 1

Photos Credit 2

Posted in Family, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships | 5 Comments

Napa Valley in Review and Wines You Will Keep Drinking After You Leave

Last summer my husband and I had the privilege of taking a short trip to Napa Valley for our 5th wedding anniversary. We were spending the whole summer in L.A., and since we had previously been exclusive east-coasters we wanted to take advantage of the close proximity. Napa is one of those places like Hawaii that people talk up in their descriptions of it, so I had a bunch of expectations I was skeptical about.

Expectation 1: Great Weather
As soon as we arrived and stepped out of the car, I couldn’t believe how incredible the air felt on my skin. It was literally the perfect temperature. Now, no place could possibly be that perfect all the time (maybe Napa was just showing off for our first visit), but the weather did stay amazing for our whole trip. At this point I was beginning to see how the grapes, with their baby soft skins, loved growing in this environment, because my baby soft cheeks loved it.

Expectation 2: Great Food
The food in Napa was beyond compare. In a 3-day, 2-night trip, I managed to eat the best pizza I’ve ever had and the best sandwich I’ve ever had. We did not eat at one place that was even average. Everything was fresh and cooked in some gourmet style. Every establishment is aware of the wine culture and has suggestions of wine pairings, or what food to choose if you’re in a particular mood for a certain wine. I’m such a wine lover that this was fantastic.

Expectation 3: Great Wine
I have been a fan of California wines ever since the day I turned 21. My dad, who used to serve as the official wine selector for a high-end restaurant, always told me that California, overall, just gets it right. As a region it’s pretty hard to beat, so I knew that the wine would be great. What we actually experienced was beyond what I could have imagined. I felt a little intimidated at first when I saw that first massive wine list at a restaurant. I quickly discovered that everyone is so helpful to people who know they love California wine, but don’t know exactly WHAT they love. As we did a few tastings we started to understand what to look for. We started to know what to ask at new places after only a day or two!

Now at this point you’re probably sold on going to Napa. (If you’re not then you might want to re-examine your priorities!) However, Napa is huge. There are so many wineries and attractions that it is impossible to do them all. I would love to share a few things we did that you might find as great places to start. Even if you can’t manage a trip any time soon, you can still drink the great wines we found!

Where to Stay
We stayed at a resort called Silverado. We used Priceline to get a very reasonable nightly rate. We drove up and couldn’t believe how cheap we managed to stay at such a beautiful estate. I suggest going the online discount route when staying in Napa. There are many adorable bed and breakfasts, but they can often be at a more fixed/expensive rate. This particular place was very private, quiet, and we had a great experience with very helpful staff.

Our trip was short, so we didn’t have time to do a large amount of planned things. I felt that the one thing we did do made the best use of our time. We rode something called the Wine Train which takes you on a journey down the “busy” side of Napa Valley. The tracks go straight through some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen. There are many different packages, but I’ll explain the one we chose. Before boarding, they serve everyone a tasting of 3-4 wines. Once on board they began by serving everyone a gourmet lunch. After lunch we stopped off at the famed winery, Grgich Hills. Mike Grgich was the winemaker of the 1973 Chateu Montelena award-winning Chardonnay that put California wines on the map. We even got to meet Mike as he loves to mingle with his visitors. Even if you don’t take the wine train you MUST go to Grgich Hills. This wine was the best I have ever tasted, and hearing their unique process of organic, bio-dynamic farming was absolutely fascinating. Once we re-boarded the train, they served dessert and coffee which ended an absolutely perfect outing. The train is a great way to see a lot of the valley all in one shot.
$134 per person

Wineries to Visit
The great thing about Napa is that there is always a winery open and ready to give you a tasting. Just driving around together brought some of the best memories of our trip. Besides Grgich Hills, I’ll share two that we found in our driving journeys.

Black Stallion was a wine we bought one night, so when we happened upon their property we had to go in and taste the rest. Their grounds were most impressive, and their gift shop extensive. This felt like the most modern styled winery we went to, and all their wines were terrific.

Clos du Val was probably the best experience we had the entire trip. We met the tasting master, Jim, who not only gave us a massive discount, let us try extra wines, and gave us free stuff, but he made us feel like part of the family. This place also had the best rose wine I tried the entire trip. We are currently celebrating our 6th anniversary, and I picked up a bottle of their merlot here in Boston to celebrate.
Average Tasting Cost: $15 per person

Any of these wines you will not be disappointed by. Whether you can swing a trip to Napa, or just feel like splurging on a bottle of Napa Estate wine, I hope these tips can prove useful to you.


Posted in Food & Drink, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments