What Makes Contentment Possible in the Fire?

Picture this. You’re living life as a refugee, completely under the authority of a self-worshiping totalitarian dictator. He’s completely certain he deserves all the honor and worship all of his subjects can muster and…

you’re completely certain he doesn’t.

You and a few of your fellow captives in this totalitarian regime blatantly refuse to even put yourselves in a posture where it would appear that you will give any glory to this despot. He knows. And he’s not happy.

Does this story sound familiar?

Enter the guards, stage left, who will escort you to a ridiculously hot furnace and… you guessed it… toss you in to certain doom.

You’re with me now, right? The Hebrew dudes with the crazy names — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — were tossed into a fire for refusing to worship the Babylonian King.

And we all know the part we get really excited about — the part where the king looks in and sees four guys walking around in the furnace, instead of just three, and “one of them looks like the Son of God.” We read this, or we hear the story, and we take joy and comfort in the fact that we know, love and serve a God that comes to us in places of utter despair, the God that joins us in the furnace, the God that comes near no matter the trial.

And yes!! Yes! That is good, good news — absolutely worth celebrating!

But it is not the end of the story.  {Read the story here if you’d like to enjoy it more fully!}

Do you know what happens next? Nebuchadnezzar does this complete 180 and suddenly you hear these words coming out of the mouth of the guy that seemed like an insane totalitarian despot just moments ago:

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”

One minute those guys are trusting, willing to die, perhaps praying God will save the day and they will not be thrown in the furnace. Moments later, they’ve endured the trial and an entire empire — one of the largest empires known to have ever existed on our planet — is about to hear the story of the One True God who can deliver His people from furnaces and deserves the worship of all of mankind.

Let’s step away from this amazing story for just a moment to ask a question. Why did God create us? Surely He is perfectly wise and good and holy and all-knowing and all-powerful and all-present — so what was the big idea when it came to creating some people in His own image?

Over the centuries theologians have pondered this question and basically come to just a couple of simple conclusions. With no intention of oversimplifying the gloriously complex and amazing possibilities of a Creator who infinitely exceeds our capabilities for understanding, the conclusions we’ve drawn are these two:

Man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (As the Westminster Catechism puts it.) Others might say we were created to enjoy His grace and extend His glory. (David Platt, Radical)

What if that is the case? And what does it mean for us to find our way through this world full of joys and storms and sunsets and fiery furnaces — clinging to a belief that we are not only here to enjoy the Grace, but also to extend the Glory?

One of my favorite verses a dear college roommate introduced me to was this one:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” {2 Peter 3:9}

How does it feel when you’re clinging to God, hoping He will make something possible, or heal something or open some door or fulfill something that truly seems like a promise straight out of His Word and into your heart — and it just doesn’t happen?

Kind of like the Lord is slack, right? Like when Mary saw Jesus after her brother Lazarus died and she just lays it all out there honest and upset, “If you had been here, he would not have died.” She knows God’s power and she says — I counted on You to show up. I called for You to show up. You knew this was going to happen. Not awesome.

Do you remember what Jesus said when He heard Lazarus was sick — just a few verses before all this shook out? “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” {see John 11} The Scripture goes on to explain: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.”

He loved them — and so He stayed away two more days. And we look at that and it’s easy — without knowing the whole story to say, “Slack. That just seems kinda slack.”

But when the story unfolds? It is so incredibly glorious. How much more joy do you think Mary and Martha experienced in life with their brother every day for the rest of their lives after those four days without him? And how much joy would they have had in being part of the story of one of the most miraculous experiences to happen to all of mankind? Through this, they enjoyed the Grace and extended the Glory.

Crazy amazing stuff. In the modern version of this story, everyone is tweeting #LazarusRises and taking selfies at his house and by the tomb where he lay dead for four days. Mary starts a blog and has billions of followers as she testifies continuously about the glorious goodness of Jesus who showed up — in His perfect timing.

Now here’s where all this ties together with a nice little bow that could be hard to tie for some of us: Contentment can only happen when we trust that there is more to life than just enjoying God’s grace and goodness. There has to be the part where we are a part of extending His glory.

Because if we think God’s only job is to make us happy? We will not be happy.

But what if we believe that He is not slack concerning His promises? That He works and wills and moves in mysterious ways because He is not willing for anyone to die without Him, He is longing for everyone to find Him and join the joy of enjoying His grace and extending His glory?

That means your pain and mine, our fiery furnaces and uphill battles and incredible struggles — can have a purpose so far beyond our capacity for understanding that we will just have to put up our hands and say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!”

“I have tasted His goodness and I know that even if I never taste it again this side of heaven, still — I am confident that He is good and unfathomably wise and deserving of glory.”

It’s that one word we talked about last week, that sums up all of contentment: Trust.

Dr. Seuss might say:
I can be content here, or there,
I can be content anywhere.
I can live on trust and prayer
God is on the throne up there.

I can be content in June,
up a tree or on the moon.
Mine is not a story of doom,
God is on the throne up there.

In the fire’s burning glare
Through the waters lacking air,
Threatened in a Lion’s layer,
God is on the throne up there.

I can be content, it’s true!
I can be and so can you!
Trust, it’s what we have to do:
God is on the throne up there.

This is the hope we have, friends, that we are part of a double-purposed story.

We can trust He will allow us to enjoy His grace. We can trust we will have the privilege of being part of extending the glory. Whether it’s the baby peeing on the bathroom floor or the Doctor’s Report that makes it seem like the world just starting crashing in around you — know that there is always more to the story than what you see.

It can still be good. And it can still be glorious.



More encouragement for the journey of enjoying the Grace and extending the Glory… {Recent Favorites}

Radical by David Platt

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors

Come Be My Light (the writings of Mother Teresa)

The Good Words :: This One Word Makes Contentment Possible

Passing by the local playground down by the River last week, I noticed an unusual sight. In our sleepy wee town, the playground might have a half dozen cars at any given time, and typically only has an overflow when people are putting their boats in at the ramp across the road, but on this particular afternoon cars were packed in every space, and additional cars were circling the parking lot, just waiting to snag a much-coveted spot to park.

What was all the raucous about? Well, for the better part of a couple of days last week, the winds were reminiscent of a place I lived years ago in South Africa. The locals say “The wind was born in Gordon’s Bay.” The days of “Gordon’s Bay winds” resulted in an unusual phenomenon in our neck of the woods. The water in the river blew out towards the sound, leaving a mucky riverbed bare for all to see. Long buried driftwood scattered the landscape, and even remnants of a ship sunk in the 1860s were said to have been identified.

And all those cars clamoring in the parking lot? They wanted a chance to look out across the mucky riverbed, and maybe snag a few photos to share on social media.

Looking out at that dry(ish) ground and wondering if the water had blown out far enough to cross to the other side, I immediately began pondering the parting of the Red Sea, when God had a steady wind blowing all night that created a path right through the midst of the sea to allow the Israelites to cross to the other side.

I was reading the story again last week — how the Israelites cried out to the Lord to deliver them and He heard their cries and called Moses to return to Egypt and deliver His people. While all this deliverance was taking place, it was easy to very quickly get frustrated with the Israelites, reading their story and thinking about how they handled the situations they encountered.

Moses speaks to Pharaoh and Pharaoh increases the burdens they need to shoulder, the “bricks with no straw” situation. The plagues begin and God begins to differentiate between His people and the Egyptians — the Egyptians’ livestock are diseased while the Israelites’ are spared. Darkness covers Egypt, except in the dwellings of the Israelites. The Egyptians lose their firstborn sons while the Israelites are spared.

Finally Pharaoh agrees to let God’s people go, and with heaps of parting gifts from their Egyptian neighbors, the Israelites set out on a long walk to freedom.

They arrive at the Red Sea and, looking back, realize Pharaoh has had a change of heart (again) and has decided to chase them down. What’s their response?

“So were there not enough graves in Egypt? Is that why you’ve taken us here — to die in the wilderness?”

Fear shouts louder than faith — and the people who have JUST seen miracles are scared to death.

This part might be familiar — they wait by the Red Sea all night, the wind blows the waters back, and (a little bit more impressive than our situation) they walk through the sea with walls of water on either side and a furious Egyptian army chasing after them.

God delivers them, the Egyptians are swept away when Red Sea Boulevard closes up, and there they are — delivered from slavery, free — a people able to steer their own destiny.

But before the Egyptian chariots have settled on the sea floor, the Israelites — who by the way have just sung all these delightful songs and danced and given thanks to the Lord for their deliverance — now begin to complain again, because they’ve been traveling for three days and they have no water to drink.

And you know — I kind of get it. Needing water is totally valid. But it doesn’t say anybody prayed for water. It doesn’t say anybody turned to the Lord and asked for it. It just says they arrived at some water that was bitter and complained against Moses:

“How’s anybody supposed to drink anything around here?”

Moses cries out to God, God shows him how to make the bitter waters sweet and … you’d think from this point they’d live happily ever after, right?

But fast forward some fifteen verses into the next chapter and…

“The whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron. […] ‘Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of mean and when we ate bread to the full!'”

Again — food is a totally valid need — but it never says anyone prayed or cried out to the Lord. It just keeps using one verb to talk about the Israelites are doing: complained.

We could go on and on but I think you’re picking up on the pattern I’m putting down: fear gets the better of the Israelites, and instead of leaning into faith, they complain.

And goodness gracious, let’s be honest. Am I kinda sorta sometimes the same way? Have I seen His hand make molehills out of mountains — but do I still fall short and get scared and lose hope?

This is the difference between their attitude toward the God who delivered them and Paul’s. Remember those verses about contentment?

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
{Phil. 4:11-13}

The big difference between Paul’s faith and the Israelites who left Egypt can be summed up in one word. Are you ready for it?


It is so easy to get scared. When it seems like provision isn’t coming. When it seems like the worst possible outcome is the one that is going to happen — or maybe even has already happened.

But what if we trust that God can use anything — anything — for our good and His glory?

Next week will mark the five year anniversary of me losing my Dad. At the time of his death, it absolutely seemed like the worst possible outcome — the thing that we were praying so fervently for didn’t happen. The miracle we begged God for never became a reality.

But somehow, in the days and weeks and months and years that followed, I have seen God’s hand in it. I experienced the presence of God in that time of grief like I never have before. I drew near to God and discovered more and more of His deep and rich and full-to-overflowing love for me. That week in the hospital and the very difficult experiences that followed it were perhaps the most difficult moments I’ve navigated in my life so far — but on the other side of that, I saw God’s glory. I saw His hand when over a hundred thousand dollars of medical bills were paid for. When my new baby girl helped me overcome the sorrow and see that life could still go on, and life could still be beautiful.

His hand is near in a million little ways — but only he who sees takes off his shoes.

And this is the question we will all have to answer, when the wind blows hard and the river is gone and the problems and difficulties of a challenging season of life seem laid bare: Can we trust God here in this place? Do we think He is big enough to handle this? Can He provide manna, even in this desert?

A heart that trusts is a heart that says “Yes, Lord, even this. Even this can work out for my good and Your glory. I will wait, I will find peace because I will find You. I trust You.

Contentment is worth fighting for, friends. Join me in trusting an unknown future to a God who knows, sees and cares enough to part the waters just for you.



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The Good Word for March :: Your Invitation to Contentment

“They say money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy jet skis… And have you ever seen an unhappy person on a jet ski?”

A decade ago the Hubs and I cracked up at a comedian making this observation. I can’t remember the comedian or the context, but I remember repeatedly joking about it with the Hubs, and maybe just ever so slightly pondering the possible truth in the statement.

Months later, we found ourselves sitting upstairs in our apartment, overlooking the harbor of Gordon’s Bay and enjoying a deep conversation and an afternoon coffee. This was our tradition when we had just the one kiddo and he was down for his afternoon snooze.

Our peaceful afternoon was interrupted by a family in one of the large homes adjacent to our apartment building on the harbor. This was a “second home” for these folks, occasionally making the trip from Johannesburg down to Cape Town for a relaxing weekend near the sea, however their relaxing weekend by the sea seemed anything but.

An argument broke out about the fact that the husband had gone to great efforts to get the jet ski into the water, and now no one was interested in riding it. While the missionary couple watching from the balcony would’ve loved to volunteer to take on the hardship of driving their jet ski around the bay for an afternoon, we decided to continue to quietly sip our coffee and hope things settled down quickly.

When they did settle down we had to laugh, remembering the words of that comedian we’d heard before — no, even money that can buy jet skis can’t buy happiness.

If you’ve been following along around this writing corner of the woods lately, you know I’ve been focusing in on just one simple word, one simple concept, and unpacking it slowly week by week, to see how it can apply to our lives, and how we can honor God in the process.

And this month’s word comes with a new set of verses that I think are very worth taking to heart — and although it is three verses this month, I think you’ll already find one of them very familiar and therefore should not consider memorizing them a particularly daunting task, should you choose to undertake it:

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. {Phil. 4:11-13}

We often pull that last verse out and want it to serve as a spiritual trump card for life, most especially in the sports world — like Evander Holyfield walking into a boxing match against Mike Tyson with Philippians 4:13 inscribed on his robe and shorts — we like the idea that God can enable us to win the battles we want to fight and do the things we want to do. But with an extra sort of spiritual genie in our back pocket to give us an edge.

But what is Paul referring to when he speaks about finding strength in Christ? It’s less about climbing mountains and more about living at peace right here on the ground. Right? It’s less about knocking out competition and more about finding a sense of peace whether we’re lifted on the shoulders, or knocked out and lying on the mat.

Paul looks to Christ to find contentment — so that whatever life brings his way, he is able to trust, to survive, and even thrive because Christ is his sustainer, and makes contentment possible in any circumstance.

We’ll unpack the concept of contentment this month, but I want to start with a simple question for you to ponder.

Close your eyes and ask yourself: Are you content?

Do you immediately want to open your eyes to see what’s around you? Does it help to look at the walls of your home? Pictures that remind you of your favorite people? Furnishings that remind you of comfort? Maybe you want to look at your pantry or your fridge and see that you have plenty?

What if the thing our souls need to know most is that contentment has nothing to do with anything on that list?

What if God’s invitation to contentment is for you, right now, whether you feel abased or your life feels abundant? 

I believe that it is. And that’s the conversation we’ll jump into this month. I’m very excited!

And once again, my beautiful friend Margaret has made a beautiful printable for you to hang and enjoy that will help you remember contentment this month!! {Happy squeal!} Click here to download it. And here’s a smaller version if you need a lower-res file. I’m thinking of you precious friends who pay for data!!

I hope you’ll scroll back up and read Paul’s words through a few more times today, and throughout this month. (They’re the most important part.) And I hope you’ll join me in accepting the invitation to find contentment right where you are this month!

P.S. Facebook will not show you all my posts!! I’d love for you to subscribe so you’ll never miss a post… and invite a friend to join you in accepting the contentment invitation! You and your peeps can subscribe right here to receive every post in your inbox for free!

The God Who Is Kinder Than Necessary

There are two things that seem to get under the skin of the average human being like nothing else:

Bad stuff happening to “good people” and
Good stuff happening to “bad people”

Whether you’re flipping through the pages of the trials of Job or flipping through a magazine published last month, you’re likely to find a story that seems to fall into one of those two categories, and it can be downright frustrating.

If we’re mostly honest, we perhaps mostly feel that we’re the good people that bad things shouldn’t happen to. And even if we’re not particularly sure how we feel about ourselves, we at least have preferences toward certain people — we feel so sorry when death knocks on the door of “that really sweet family” or cancer looms in the background for that person who’s always serving everybody else.

At the same time, without delving into ideas about Original Sin and human fallibility, I think we know deep down (if we’re honest) none of us are really “good people” but we probably still feel like “better people” than [insert some other group] people.

So we don’t like it when bad things happen to people that seem to be mostly alright.

Especially when it’s us.

But what else can we see if we really start looking? Are there gifts we completely forget when the big and glaring bad start looming around the corner?

The truth is, there is always His glorious goodness: if we step back and take off our shoes we begin to see it. Even when we fall short and mess up and say we won’t and then do, or say we will and then don’t, He is there.

He is there and He is holding all things together.

He is there, allowing and enabling every breath we take.

He could cut off the air supply of every wicked soul on the face of this planet.

One word from his mouth could’ve put any of the guys responsible for these mass murders into the grave before they’d fired a single round.

Do any of us honestly deserve to keep breathing? Isn’t every breath a gift we forget to say thank you for?

Although we may not understand the whys behind the good stuff happening to bad people or the bad stuff happening to good people, we have to acknowledge the truth that the Creator of the Universe is clearly (based on our fallible human judgment) kinder than necessary.

So what does that mean for us? How do we face evil? How do we handle hurt? What do we do with the seemingly unfair badness and —  maybe worse — the seemingly unfair goodness of God?

We have to conclude that if that God of the universe is kind to even those we feel “don’t deserve it” (including us, thank you, precious Jesus) — we also have to be kind, even to the people who are spiteful, hurtful and hateful. Didn’t Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek? To pray for those who persecute us?

Sounds like a hard thing to put into practice. But.

I think I might’ve identified a secret method for acting with big kindness in the face of big meanness:

Small kindness in the face of everything.

Last week we shared some big news with our small people, that we’ll very likely be moving house in a couple of months. While the ins and outs of this God-breathed story are a wonderful treat I’ll save for another day, suffice it to say that our excitement was not paralleled in the heart of our eldest, who is not sure he wants to let go of our current domicile.

While I think we expected some sadness and maybe some tears, I was blown away by just how upset our eldest was when we first shared the news. He was never unkind or disrespectful toward us, but he was very honest with his emotions, expressing his disappointment at leaving our home, leaving behind all the precious memories of this place, even leaving the place he had once known as “Gpa’s house.” He eventually decided to climb up to his top bunk in his bedroom and cry for a good while.

As I pondered the situation and thought about his heartache, part of me leaned toward the “He’ll get over it” way of thinking, complemented nicely by ideas about “tough love” — but another part of me felt there was a better way to handle this, and wanted to turn to Jesus to figure out just what that was.

A few minutes later, I found myself right up there on that top bunk with that crying boy, crying with him. I expressed my own sadness about leaving “Gpa’s house” and my own fears about the change in situation. I shared some of the things I was excited about and was looking forward to, and talked about some of the very great possibilities that this change could bring about.

By the end of the conversation, it felt like we’d experienced a major shift: it wasn’t Hero Hubs and me, laying down the plans and telling the kids “this is the deal, like it or not.” Suddenly, it felt like we were on the same team, facing this change together, trusting the God who works everything together for good to do exactly that.

I wouldn’t say I’d failed as a parent if I let that kid cry on the top bunk alone. But I will say what seemed like a small act of kindness for me proved itself a big bridge between my heart and the heart of the child who will probably need a little extra love and a little extra kindness throughout this transition.

These moments aren’t just training ground for some big, distant, looming kindness test where we will be challenged to forgive or look past or extend when we want to withdraw. The moments we are given each day are truly the battleground where the war for who we are going to serve take place.

I puzzled for a while this morning, hard-hearted Pharaoh in Egypt, the Lord hardening his heart and bringing on destruction before glory. And I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the why’s of that hardening… but I hear the word whisper back:

As for you child, you go out in the world “And be kind to one another, and tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Kindness is for every day. Kindness is for every situation. Kindness is one of the ways we say yes to God, and tell Him that He can sit on the throne of our hearts, instead of our own judgments.

Tomorrow we will jump into a new word, and a new focus for the month of March. I hope you’ll join me in asking how contentment can be a game-changer for our lives and our souls. I’m VERY excited, and hope you are too!

I’ve failed a bunch at kindness this month, but I’ve also learned and grown and had some victories. I am praying the same for you! Keep pressing in with a tender heart toward the world around you. Don’t be afraid to be kind, friends. God is near.


P.S. I can’t thank you enough for your feedback this month — I read every email and LOOOOOVE hearing that these words are an encouragement to you. Thank you for your incredible kindness toward me!

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The Good Words :: Kindness Has a Thousand Flavors

“Years ago I began to pray over all those God brought into our home a prayer I had often
whispered to Him in regard to my daughters: ‘Father, give me Your eyes for them.
Give me your eyes for this man, this woman, this child. Show me how You see each one.‘”

Katie Davis Majors — the Katie of Kisses from Katie who moved to Uganda at 18, adopted thirteen daughters and founded a ministry in an extremely impoverished community — wrote those words in her new book, Daring to Hope. Her bravery inspires me, her heart inspires me, and she is certainly a living, breathing example of kindness.

The beauty of Katie’s story, as she continually shares it, is that she walks with Jesus, listens to His voice, and does her best to do what He says. And maybe that is kindness broken down into its simplest form?

Asking God to help us how He sees each person. To give us His eyes for them.

If I remember those thoughts — oh heavens how might it change my communication with my children?

How might it change my attitude toward strangers and friends and neighbors alike?

If under my breath, I whispered, “Father, give me your eyes for them.”

While I might initially look at incorporating a word like kindness into my life more fully and think it means big things — the truth it is really about doing the next small thing, like Mother Teresa said — doing the small thing with the great love. And the smaller the thing, the greater the love.

Our country is grieving this week, frustrated and sad and hurting — because one kid who maybe didn’t find the world a particularly kind place decided to drive to his old school and open fire with a semi-automatic weapon.

Do you ever wonder what it was? Was there one big thing — or were there a hundred small things — that made the difference between “I’m okay” and “I’ll show them?” Could kindness have been the thing that made the difference? And why did he tell one kid to get out of there before things got messy? Where did that kindness come from?

We will probably never know what made the difference, what set him over the edge, what set his course in the direction he chose to take it.

But could we change this — could we prevent this from happening again — if we chose kindness as a rule? If we asked for God’s eyes for one another and treated each other accordingly?

How do we become a kinder, gentler society?

I can only think of one way to start — as Michael Jackson so eloquently put it, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror… I’m asking him to change his ways.”

We cannot overestimate the importance that our small acts of kindness can have for those around us.

There’s an old proverb that says:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of a horse the rider was lost; for want of a rider the message was lost; for want of the message the battle was lost; for want of the battle the war was lost; for want of the war the kingdom was lost; and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” 

We will never fully know what our small acts of kindness could mean to the world around us, the world of difference they could make for the person who receives them. But we have every reason to assume that even the smallest acts have the possibility of meaning the biggest things.

There are more ways to be kind than we can count… a thousand tiny opportunities to be generous with our souls every day. Ask for the eyes to see. Kindness has a thousand flavors and our world needs every one of them.

Keep smiling and keep loving and keep giving and keep letting me know how it’s going – I have loved hearing from some of you about your acts of kindness. This! The world needs this right now!

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. {Ephesians 4:32}


P.S. I highly recommend putting BOTH of those books from Katie on your reading list! 😉 View them on Amazon:

Kisses from Katie    :::        Daring to Hope

In case you missed it: I shared a bit about my experience with the Instant Pot and my ten favorite things to do with it on the blog this week!

My Instant Pot Top Ten :: Favorite Recipes and Recommendations

It’s been just less than a year since the Instant Pot made her first appearance on my kitchen counter. I don’t tend to be a “joiner” and was a little skeptical when the Hubs first suggested this new thing he’d read about (on one of those tech blogs he tends to read) might be a super addition to my kitchen lineup, and could maybe replace some other gadgets in the process. It may have stayed in the box for a little bit while I warmed up to the idea, but once it came out, I realized it was totally worth the space it was going to take up inside my hutch when it wasn’t cooking amazing meals for our family.

I’ve had several friends ask recently about some of my favorite Instant Pot recipes, so I decided to create a quick post to be able to quickly and easily share some of the things I’ve learned in the process. A few things I think it is helpful to know starting out:

  1. While the Instant Pot is super fast, the cooking time isn’t just “9 minutes” or “12 minutes” or whatever you see on the recipe. That nine minute countdown will only start once the pot comes up to pressure. This will sometimes mean it’s worth it to go ahead and defrost that meat in the microwave before you brown it on the Sauté setting and start pressure cooking. How long it takes for the pot to come up to pressure will depend on the temperature of your ingredients to start with, and whether you’re working with fresh or frozen stuff, and how much liquid is involved in the recipe.
  2. There are certain cuts of meat that will benefit from being cooked in the Instant Pot and others that won’t. Google is your friend in this regard. Read recipes. Think about what you’re working with. Know that throwing in a really nice cut of beef may not be ideal, whereas ground turkey might be a good one. More suggestions about that below.
  3. Instant Pot can replace the slow cooker if you are worried about it taking up tons of space in the kitchen. It is a powerhouse with a lot of functions — so I really do recommend considering it, knowing it might take the place of something else, if you’re worried about where you’re gonna put the big ol’ thing when you’re not using it.
  4. Did you know I like to play with food? Even better, the IP does its job and I go play outside with the kids…

After about a year of trial and error, here are some of my Instant Pot favorites with links to the awesome recipe bloggers who’ve been making my life easier from the day I finally felt brave enough to open the box. {The recipe titles are linked to the recipes!}

  1. Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili ::

    This is a fast and healthy recipe and I am consistently amazed by how much my family loves it! Something with chickpeas and bell peppers and nobody’s complaining — win! The texture of ground turkey isn’t really my favorite — I sometimes find it a bit chewy?! — but the IP gives it such a melt-in-your-mouth sort of texture, and my kiddos who aren’t fans of sweet potatoes (tragic) still love this recipe. We lay on the shredded cheese and avocado for them and LOVE putting the leftovers away knowing they will not go to waste! Honestly, any chili I’ve tried in the Instant Pot has come out beautifully.

  2. Chicken Tikka Masala ::

    We are big curry fans around here and I LOVE how I can use pretty much any chicken I have on hand — fresh or frozen, boneless or bone-in, and it will be fall-apart wonderful by the time the Instant Pot is done with it. I often throw in bone-in, skin-on chicken for this recipe, and when I pull it out to cut it into chunks, it is crazy easy to discard the skin and bones because the meat is absolutely falling apart. This plus rice getting done in the rice cooker means I can crank this meal out, go for a walk with the kids and come back to a yummy dinner. I should probably insert some sort of disclaimer about not leaving your Instant Pot unattended. So… keep that in mind.

  3. Greek Yogurt ::

    Yes, Greek Yogurt! We eat a lot of yogurt at the Collie house — it is the Hubs’ staple breakfast every morning — and I decided to brave the yogurt making adventure to see what it was like. It is definitely more effort than grabbing a tub at the store, but the results of making yogurt in the IP give you a completely different experience. It really is creamy and wonderful. This recipe will give you a step by step for making yogurt. And then a strainer like this one will allow you to sit that yummy yogurt in the fridge for a few hours, and strain out the whey (which can be used in other recipes) and what remains will be that thick, lovely Greek yogurt that you are hoping for!

  4. Any beans you please ::

    Something I’ve also enjoyed doing is cooking beans in the Instant Pot. Using fresh beans instead of canned ones has environmental benefits, health benefits, and money-saving benefits. And the IP can get beans done for you in next to no time — with or without the soaking. Once again, Google is your friend! You can find so many great ideas, and if you’re precooking them, you can freeze your beans in one cup containers and then (whoaaaa) throw them in with the rest of your recipe still frozen, and they will come out great.

  5. Chicken Soup ::

    This is my new favorite chicken soup. With all the gunk going around (which I’ve unfortunately picked up) chicken soup has been high on my feel-better-recipes list, and I have been very pleased with just about every recipe I’ve tried. But this one from Against All Grain (I’m not following a Paleo or Whole30 diet, I just liked this recipe!) is really, really great. I should probably mention I forgot to put butternut squash on the shopping list and skipped it altogether. Otherwise… yum.

  6. Risotto ::

    (Yay!!!) Risotto is one of those dishes that complement a meal so nicely that it is sometimes worth the effort of that crazy long stirring marathon to me… but only sometimes. When I discovered I could do risotto in the Instant Pot, I was thrilled. You still start out with a sauté and get those grains a little toasted and start the absorbing process, but then you switch to pressure cooking and the IP takes it from there with magnificent results!

  7. Southwest Style Chili ::

    This one is a ground beef chili and will give you the opportunity to try a chili with fresh beans that you’ve just soaked the night before! So don’t forget to soak! I typically increase the spices here because we like spicy food and the kids can dollop on the sour cream to cool theirs off! I think you’re going to be amazed at how those crunchy beans turn to magically delicious in no time.

  8. Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Cilantro Lime Quinoa ::

    I feel like I don’t even need to say anything about this one… doesn’t the name speak for itself? Yum. This is another time where I throw quinoa in the rice cooker and feel like dinner is happening without me. I buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the Mexican food section of the grocery store. They are crazy spicy so just one or two with a little of the sauce should give you all the flavor you need here. (I also have chipotle seasoning around as an option.) I use the whole can in this Dr. Pepper Pork Pioneer Woman recipe I love — but I think pork shoulder (also known as “pork butt”) is one of those meats that benefits from “low and slow” and I’m not planning to try it in the IP any time soon. And when you use a whole can of chipotles, your kids might not eat the food — unless you have a kid like my little Tiger Tank, who must’ve been a fire-breathing dragon in a previous life or something. Spuh-icy.

  9. Chicken Cacciatore ::

    I love how I feel like I can dice veggies and hide just about anything in a recipe like this. Shredded carrots, minced celery… you can pack the veggies in here. I think this recipe will benefit from you removing the skin or using a boneless, skinless chicken just so it’s a bit less oily, but it has tons of flavor and was a crowd pleaser at our house!

  10. Adapt and Overcome :: Slow-Cooker Thai Green Curry ::

    The great thing about learning the Instant Pot is that once you start trying out recipes and experimenting with it, you begin to figure out what works well and you can start adapting things you already love to do, to make them work for you here. For example, this Thai Green Curry is one of my favorite recipes in the crock-pot, but I don’t always feel like making dinner before 10 am. In this scenario, I can (based on experience with other chicken recipes) throw everything together in the Instant Pot, except for the bell pepper and green beans. After it cooks for about ten minutes, I can pressure release, stir in those peppers and green beans and let it sauté while the sauce thickens and the peppers and green beans will be just right after just a few minutes!

If you’re thinking about purchasing an Instant Pot, I really don’t think you’ll regret it. One of the best things about it — which I have failed to mention up to this point — is forgetting to defrost the meat is now a non-issue for so many recipes. The chicken soup above, and many recipes like it, will just suggest that you add seven to ten minutes to the recipe time to account for that frozen meat you’ve chunked in there. And it will still fall of the bone at the end of that time. I can’t tell you how pleased I’ve been with the falling-off-the-bone meat that has made life easier for us parents still cutting up food for small children. And they love the texture! You can also defrost one of those big old blocks of meat to get it ready for a recipe where you want to brown it with onions and garlic and then turn it into an awesome chili… spaghetti bolognaise… really there’s just no stopping you now!!

So… those are my favorites so far, and I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear some of yours. Have you tried the Instant Pot yet? Will you please leave your favorite recipe in the comments if you have? I’d love to add some more fun to the repertoire around here!


Heads up! This post was not sponsored by Instant Pot… or anybody else! But some posts on my site (like this one) contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

The One Where I Figure Out How Hard Kindness Is :: The Good Words {Kindness, Part Two}

Know what’s harder than getting a big pig into the bathtub? Being kinder than necessary when you’re trying to be.

We’re about a week in to a month of aiming at Kindness and this Good Word is a harder word than I thought. It whispers in the back of my mind when that one kid interrupts for the third time after being corrected for interrupting three times and my tone changes from polite to Grinch in 0.7 seconds. It is there when I have conversations about plans and decisions and I find myself steering toward the outcome that I want most instead of the outcome that is just plain best all-around.

And as I raise my voice without thinking twice for the third time on the first morning back to homeschooling after a week off — well that word Kindness I wrote on my hand while talking with Jesus that morning seems to kinda laugh at me, in a smirking sort of way.

A few months ago when I started thinking about kindness, I thought about all that lovey-dovey Random Acts of Kindness for Strangers stuff… such fun stuff, such easy stuff. Cotton candy and rainbows and unicorns stuff. But I almost laughed aloud when we were piled up onto a bed saying prayers one night and the following thought hit me between the eyes:

“If I am going to focus on kindness, I am going to have to be kind to these people, too. The people closest to me. And I am suddenly realizing that is probably the hardest part.”

The truth is, being kind to strangers has no strings attached. No background. And when it’s done anonymously or even in a way that the person might see you but not know who you are, well then it’s like there is no kind of future expectation of similar treatment. You get all the feelz of being kind… without the side effects of thinking “I am going to have to continue this course of action, even when it’s inconvenient and maybe even downright uncomfortable.”

Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

So here’s what “This Kindness Thing” has brought me back to: the Gospel.

There is a big mountain for me to climb — Mt. St. Kindness — and I sure do like the idea of being the Little Engine That Could, chugging my way along to the top, proudly standing in front of Jesus with an armful of “Look how kind I’ve been! You’re totally proud, right?”

But trying it in my own strength, for even a day, helps me realize I am truly, deeply, fully The Little Engine that Couldn’t, Can’t and Never Will.

What does this mean? I have a mountain to climb that I can’t climb? A desire to be kind with no ability to do the stuff?

Enter the Hero who comes down the mountain to the Little Engine, the Hero who walks alongside the Little Engine, the Hero who exchanges His heaven for our bottom-of-the-mountain mess.

Jesus came because I couldn’t go. Jesus came down the mountain because I can’t climb up on my own.

So where do we go from here?

We lean in. We lean on. We pray and we ask God to keep on changing us. Keep on taking our selfish hearts of stone and turning them into hearts of flesh. We pray that the Holy Spirit will whisper, maybe even before my tone changes from polite to Grinch — to say “I can show you a better way, if you let Me.”

I have a weekend to ponder all this over, the patterns, the hopes, the procedures and the plans — and Monday jump into a new week, perhaps with a new enthusiasm for kindness.

This is the amazing paradox of it all: The beginning of becoming what I want to be for Jesus is the acute awareness that I absolutely cannot. It is completely impossible for ‘kinder than necessary’ to become a part of me — without the indwelling of the God who comes down the mountain and says

“With man, this is impossible. With God, all things are possible.”

So we will keep reading, thinking and learning these words this week:

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” {Eph. 4:32}

And we will keep leaning into the God that makes this truly possible.


P.S. How’s the kindness going for you? I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email or share on social media with #thegoodwordswithlove

The Good Words :: Kindness, Part One

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” {Ephesians 4:32, NKJV}

Those are the words for this month. And they might be a little more challenging than they seem on the surface. Sometimes being kind is not the nice, fun, or easy thing to do — and will we rise to the challenge?

In her recent hit novel-turned-movie Wonder, R.J. Palacio tells the story of a young boy with very significant facial deformities and health challenges. From the perspective of several characters and the boy himself, you experience both the kindness and the harshness of the world we live in, and you walk away inspired to be on the team that wants to make kindness a way of life. (I haven’t seen the movie yet, but loved the book and highly recommend it!)

Palacio quotes J.M. Barrie (or one of her characters does) in a speech he makes to the class completing their fifth grade year, and asks this simple question:

“Shall we make a new rule of life… always to try to be a little kinder than necessary?”

I had to put the book down and write those words down immediately. And then I had to sit quietly and soak in that thought for a moment: What would our world look like if we tried to always be a little kinder than necessary? 

What would it look like to always go the extra mile?

To turn the other cheek metaphorically – and physically when necessary – on a regular basis?

Could simple acts, the tenderhearted, forgiving ones, be the difference someone else needs? The thing that stops the guy from walking into the store to buy the gun?

Could the smile you offer in the grocery store give a stranger the boost of hope they needed to believe they could keep going?

The challenge I’d love to invite you to rise to this February is a simple one: Look for ways to be kinder than necessary.

Look for ways to go above and beyond. To keep that one precious heart of yours tender towards the people around you — the ones you know and the ones you don’t. If you aren’t already a journal-keeper, why not take this opportunity to write down those moments where you’ve reached toward kinder-than-necessary? Think about how you felt on the other side of the experience — and if you know what it meant to the person receiving the kindness, write that down, too!

Need some ideas to get you started? How about paying for the coffee of the person behind you? Or doing something especially kind for the person at work that frustrates the heck out of you and everybody else? Be generous. Be a listener. Be the one who washes the dishes this time, the one who takes out the trash.

Mother Teresa said, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love….The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”

Now get out there and do the small things with the big love, friends! Think Ephesians 4:32. Think Kinder than necessary. Think Kindness.

I’m completely sure you will find the more you give, the more you feel fulfilled… and I can’t wait to hear how it goes!


“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” {Ephesians 4:32, NKJV}

I would love to hear how Kindness changes the world around you! Share on social media — #thegoodwordswithlove and tag @carolinecollie

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Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!