Sunday, December 30, 2012

Word for 2013

Here we are, just two days away from closing 2012's door and stepping through the threshold to 2013. 

For the past few years I have chosen a word to focus on throughout the year...

2011 - be still (here)
2012 - intentional (here and here)

and for 2013.....PRAY.

This year I am certain that God has a lot to teach me about how to pray continually, the purpose of prayer, and the importance of interceding on behalf of others.  I want to be intimately connected to the heart of God and I know that prayer is an essential ingredient.  I have been anticipating beginning this journey for awhile and I am very excited, to say the least, for 2013! 

To begin, I have these books on my bookshelf waiting to be read...

Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels
Prayer by Philip Yancey
Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets
A Passion for Prayer by Vonette Bright
The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian
Praying God's Word by Beth Moore
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

I have also installed the "Prayer Notebook - Christian Prayer Journal" app on my phone.  This will be a great reminder to pray for people's specific needs at certain times each day. 

And finally, I love what Andy Stanley says,

When you pray...

-declare God's greatness
-surrender your will
-acknowledge your dependence for provision, pardon, and protection


*Do you have a favorite book on prayer that you could recommend?
*Any other insights you have on prayer?

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Another Stocking

This time last year I was busy finishing the final stitches on Addison's stocking.  As I mentioned in this post, my Grandma began making these beautiful needlepoint stockings back in 1973.  Starting a brand new stocking for our new baby boy brought so much excitement as I imagined how proud my Grandma would have been.  Seeing her great-grandson and another stocking would have meant so much to her.  What a joy it is to continue this tradition and to remember what an amazing woman my Grandma was!

A HUGE thank you to my mom for getting the stocking started and doing all of the hard work!  Now I just have to go back and fill in the easy as it is, my both-hands-free moments are few and far between these days.  I doubt it will be finished by Christmas, but I am going to try!

And the sweet little boy this stocking belongs to.  Oh, how he melts my heart...

Counting gifts...

810. A new stocking representing a precious new life that has been entrusted to our family.
811. Honoring my Grandma and remembering her legacy.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

November and December dinners

It has almost been a year since we began planning and trying new, heart-healthy dinner recipes!  Hard to believe!  Starting in 2013, I will continue to update the "Dinner Recipes" tab with new recipes we've tried and loved, but I won't be doinag a monthly post anymore.

Here is the list of recipes we tried in November and will try this month.  Enjoy!

Mexican Chicken Lime Soup - Add 1 can of no-salt added corn and chopped zucchini
Spicy Black Bean Burgers
Pork Tenderloin with Pan Sauce
Zesty BBQ Chicken (crockpot)
Italian Chicken
Spicy Avocado Chicken Enchiladas
Sweet Potato Veggie Burger
Skinny Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Intentional in the Unexpected

In January 2012, I chose "intentional" as my word to focus on this year.  I knew being intentional would be important as I transitioned to a mother of two from a mother of one in July.  I also wanted to be intentional about finding healthy dinner recipes to support My Hero as he overcame his high cholesterol.  I planned to learn more about photography, create weekly learning experiences for my daughter, and schedule monthly date nights.  I have been intentional in all of these areas throughout the year and I have grown and learned so much.  Yet, I was not prepared for the change in my husband's job and how that forced me to learn how to be even more intentional with our finances.  I wasn't anticipating a friend going through a very difficult time and again, learning how to be intentional with my love and support for her.  At the beginning of the year I never imagined my sister and brother-in-law would be moving halfway around the globe for two years and that our communication would have to become intentional rather than just as natural as breathing.  It never once crossed my mind that I'd have to be intentional about gently and boldly leading my daughter to heal and trust dogs again after an incident that could potentially scar her emotionally and physically for the rest of her life.

I wasn't prepared, but God was preparing me.  These verses have been a comfort to me this week....

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." -Proverbs 16:9

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." -Proverbs 19:21

Despite the unexpected pain (and opportunities for growth) I am experiencing, God was not surprised.  Not only was he not surprised, He was preparing me (without me even knowing it) for the struggles ahead.  He taught me to be intentional in areas I hadn't expected.  God's purposes always prevail and His plans are good and perfect.  Jeremiah 29:11 describes His plans as ones that will "prosper you and not harm you.....give you hope and a future."  I've struggled with that a good deal this can His plan be prosperous, perfect, and full of hope when so much hurt and pain are involved?  In those moments, I have leaned into the truths from the Bible presented in One Thousand Gifts, and I have continued to count my gifts, even especially amidst the confusion and pain.  The hard eucharisteo.  And I remember that God sees the big picture.  I only see a few small pieces of the puzzle.  But now I'm seeing how a few of those pieces fit together snuggly, securely, and perfectly.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.   ...You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.  This will be for the Lord's renown..."  -Isaiah 55:8-9, 12-13

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Letting go....and letting God

Letting go of my plans.....letting God reveal His perfect plan (much different than what I had envisioned), trusting His ways, and following step by step after Him.

Letting go of a sparkling, clean house.....letting God create beauty from the mess for the clutter is made from two creative, happy children.

Letting go of the desire to look like someone else.....letting God wrap His arms around me and whisper in my ear, "I made you perfectly the way you are.  You are the works of My hands and I am pleased with what I have made.  Love Me by embracing all that you are because of My creativity and grace."

Letting go of the fact that, as a Mama of two, it just isn't possible for me to always have quiet, uninterrupted time first thing in the morning anymore.....letting God teach me how to seek after Him each and every moment of the day, starting with a prayer of praise and dependence before I step out of bed.

Letting go of feeling joyful based purely upon emotions.....letting God, because of His gift of Jesus and his covenant promises, become my unending, never-faltering source of joy.

Letting go of measuring my success as a mother based upon the obedience of my children.....letting God lead and teach my mothering to place the highest value on the condition of my children's hearts.

Letting go of feeling entitled to financial abundance.....letting God gently remind me of my sin and that I only deserve death.  However, in His grace, He freely gives so much to me and monetary gains are not that important in light of eternity.  But oh, how blessed we are!

Letting go of feeling productive simply because I checked off a long list on my to-do list.....letting God remind me that my greatest accomplishments in a 24-hour period are spending time with Him, investing in my marriage, loving and spending time with my two blessings, and serving my friends and the community.

Letting go of me.....letting God be my everything.

Monday, October 8, 2012

October meals (and a few pictures!)

Before I share a few new dinner recipes we are going to try this month, here are some recent pictures of my little loves!


Now onto the recipes!

We are welcoming October and fall with some cozy, warm recipes!  Enjoy!

White Chipotle Chicken Chili

Crockpot Hearty Turkey Chili
recipe courtesy of a Weight Watchers email

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 lb ground turkey
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. paprika
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 Tbs. crushed cherry peppers
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fat free chicken broth
1 1/2 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 cups kidney beans
1 green bell pepper

Combine all ingredients in a crock-pot and cook for 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low.  Serve with cheese, chips, and fat-free sour cream.


Crockpot Chicken Fajitas
recipe courtesy of a Weight Watchers email

7 boned and skinned chicken breast halves, cut in strips
2 onions, sliced
2 green bell peppers, cut in strips
2 red bell peppers, cut in strips
2 jalapeno chili peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
28 ounces tomatoes, canned
1/4 cup water
8 flour tortillas

Combine all ingredients except tortillas in a crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Serve wrapped in tortillas with salsa.


Crockpot Chicken Taco Chili
recipe courtesy of Gina's Weight Watchers Recipes

1 onion, chopped
1 16-oz can black beans
1 8-oz can kidney beans
10-oz package frozen corn kernels
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes with chilies
1 packet taco seasoning (use homemade taco seasoning)
1 Tbs. cumin
24-ozs (3) boneless skinless chicken breasts
chili peppers, chopped (optional)
chopped fresh cilantro

Combine beans, onion, chili peppers, corn, tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, and taco seasoning in a slow cooker.  Place chicken on top and cover.  Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.  Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred.  Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in sauce.  Top with fresh cilantro. 


Pesto Tortellini Soup
 recipe courtesy of food blogger Jane Maynard

1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs butter
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 pkg (9-oz) frozen tortellini
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1/4 cup prepared pesto
Parmesan cheese, for topping

In a 4-quart sauce pan, saute onion, garlic, and butter until onions are translucent.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook 1-2 minutes less than the package directions.  Add the frozen vegetables and simmer soup until vegetables are heated through.  Stir in pesto and serve.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese. 

Okay, just one more!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The good days, the not-so-good-days

The easy days,
the stressful, I-only-have-two-hands-but-need-ten days

The days full of smiles and laughter,
and those of whining and tears

The good nap days,
The sleepless days

The cheerfully obedient days,
The strong-willed, defiant days

The fun days,
The boring days

The sunny outdoor days,
The rainy, indoor days

The clean house moments,
The crumbs, overflowing laundry baskets, and my-house-looks-like-Toys-R-Us-days

The "yes" days,
The "NO!" days

The days we leave the house minutes before scheduled,
The days we leave the house minutes after scheduled

The days of adventure while exploring something new,
The quiet days spent learning within the walls of our home

The forgiving days,
The asking for forgiveness days

And every day in between....
Allowing God to teach me how to extend grace and love because He IS Grace and Love.


833. Overflowing with thankfulness for our two blessings, the privilege of being home with them each day, and for God's example of grace and love.

Monday, September 17, 2012


The house is dark except for the soft yellow glow of the "5:17" displayed on the oven clock.  The house is still.  The house is quiet.  My jammied 10 week old son is cuddled as close as a mother and infant can be as he fills his rounded belly with warmth and life.  Listening to his gentle, content rhythm casts the perfect backdrop for me to be still.  Be still.  Pray.  Be still.

Do I feel the hunger, emptiness, and desire for my Savior like a babe's entire body yearning for nourishment?

Do I rest in Him as a satisfied, just-fed little one - calm, quiet, fulfilled?


May I only find my satisfaction and fulfillment in You.  In the rare quiet moments and the constant busy ones, I pray that You would remind and teach me how to be still.  Even though I am always on-the- go meeting everyone's needs, I pray that the posture of my heart would be one that invites You in, listens to Your voice, responds accordingly, and rests in You. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

September Meals

We are trying a few new recipes this month!  I realized after I planned our menu that most of the recipes call for avocado.  Oh well!  We love a good avocado!  Also, I've update the "Dinner Recipes" tab.  Enjoy!

Chicken Pitas with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Baked Ranch Chicken Strips
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Avocado and Tomato
Avocado Chicken Parmigiana 
Avocado Spinach Grilled Cheese

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heart Hold

"Mommy, can I hold Levi?"

"Sure Sweetie," I replied as I placed him on her lap like usual.

"No Mommy, can I hold him on my heart?"

I am not sure how much more love, joy, and gratitude this Mama's heart can hold....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Easy Healthy Granola Bars

I had been on the hunt for a healthy granola bar recipe for awhile.  Recently I came across The Sneaky Chef's "Grab 'n' Go Crispy Granola Bars" recipe.  I made the bars once and we all loved them (including my picky 2 year old)!

I knew I could make them even healthier.  For instance, the recipe calls for 1/2 cup canola oil.  I made them again using 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce.  They tasted even better and the consistency was less crumbly and more chewy once baked!  Next time I plan to make them without the oil altogether and replace it with 1/2 cup of applesauce.  I also made a few other slight changes....enjoy!!

Easy Healthy Granola Bars
(recipe adapted from The Sneaky Chef's "Grab 'n' Go Crispy Granola Bars" recipe)

2/3 cup rolled oats, ground in a food processor to about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds, ground in a food processor to about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup whole ground flaxseed meal
1 cup crispy brown rice cereal (I found Erewhon's Cocoa Crispy Brown Rice cereal in the natural foods section of the grocery store)
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a 13-by-9 inch baking pan completely with parchment paper and butter or spray the paper.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, almonds, wheat germ, flax, cereal, dry milk, cinnamon, and salt.  Mix in the canola oil, applesauce, honey, vanilla, and chocolate chips (and/or dried fruit).  Mix well, then pour into the prepared baking pan.  Press down with palm of hand, evenly distributing the mixture into the corners of the dish and bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Check occasionally to prevent burning.

Remove from the oven and using the parchment paper to help you, lift the giant bar out of the pan.  Place on a flat surface and while still warm, cut into small bars.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.  (I like to put them in the refrigerator and eat them cold!)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lessons from a Black Pup

I headed out for an early morning walk this past week with my sweet 4-week old little boy.  Addison was still sound asleep so My Hero stayed home and waited for her to wake up.  The extreme heat has kept us indoors most days, but this particular cloudy morning greeted me with an unexpected cool breeze.  Perfect walking weather.  Unlike my usual walks with my daughter who talks so much she hardly takes a breath, Levi didn't utter a peep and I was able to think and pray as we strolled around the neighborhood.  The only sounds I heard were the morning songs of the birds, the rolling stroller wheels, and an occasional woof in the distance.  If possible I would start every morning exactly this way.

We rounded a corner about 5 minutes into our walk, and I noticed a black, shaggy dog on the sidewalk up ahead.  As a child I prided myself on knowing dog breeds, but this pup's breeds were unrecognizable and he was your classic mutt...jet black, medium-sized, and as happy as could be.  We got closer to him.  He wagged his tail and trotted joyfully over to us.  I said a brief "good morning" as I continued on my way.  A few steps later I noticed that he started to follow us.  A few steps more and he still followed us.  I thought that he would turn around before he got too far away from home.  Not so.  I kept walking and he kept following, and following, and following.  At this point I started to get a little worried that he'd be lost, but he had a collar and tags on so I knew he could easily be found and returned home.  We continued on our way and he kept up the pace.  Occasionally he'd catch a scent and wander into a yard, but he would come running once he realized that I was a little ways ahead.  I passed another woman taking a walk and she asked if he was mine.  "No," I replied.  But I thought, "It sure does look like it!"

The cool breeze, my peacefully awake baby, and my new furry companion spurred my thoughts to dive deeper.  I first thought about our dog, Ellie.  If I took her on a walk in the neighborhood off-leash, without a doubt she'd be gone as soon as she spotted a cat, another dog, squirrel, etc.  I would like to think she'd turn around at some point, but probably not until she got hungry.  "Why," I thought, "does this black mutt who has never met me before proudly walk beside me for 45 minutes while I know Ellie wouldn't stay by my side for more than a minute?"  I've fed, loved, and taken great care of Ellie for 4'd think she wouldn't want me out of her sight!

Then my mind rested on Jesus.  When he called his disciples, they left their families to follow Him even though He was a stranger.  Without reservation, joyfully, and expectantly they began to follow Jesus.  This reminded me of the black dog.  Not knowing me, he eagerly began following me.  Ellie, on the other hand, knows me intimately just as a believer knows Christ.  Yet at the first distraction she would be gone.

How often do Christians get distracted and leave Jesus behind, chasing only momentary pleasures?

Sadly, the truth is often.  He loves us so dearly and wants what is best for us....why would we stray from Him for a second?

I thought about my own life.  What am I chasing that draws me away from Him?

My answer is usually an attitude of the heart versus a tangible object.  I act as though I can do everything on my own.  I let worry replace peace and joy.  I feel jealous, am quick to become angry, and lose my patience. 

Thankfully, God never walks away.  He never leaves me.  He loves us too much.  He waits patiently for me and embraces my return with grace and mercy.  Grace and mercy.  I wish I knew 100% that I'd treat Ellie that way if she returned home after wandering off.

These verses came to mind...

Jeremiah 29:12-14 - "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you."

Luke 15:3-7 - "Then Jesus told them this parable:  'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

Luke 15:20-24 - "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."

Joshua 1:9b -  "...the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”


Counting this early morning gift...

754. Unexpectedly learning more about Christ and how I should follow him closely each step of the way.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Multitude on Mondays: Finding Joy in the Journey

When thankfulness flows freely from your heart and lips, let your gratitude draw you closer to Me.  I want you to learn the art of giving thanks in all circumstances.  See how many times you can thank Me daily; this will awaken your awareness to a multitude of blessings.  It will also cushion the impact of trials when they come against you.  Practice My Presence by practicing the discipline of thankfulness." 

-Jesus Calling by Sarah Young


Thanking and glorifying Him today and everyday as I draw closer to His Presence.....


719. Levi's oh-so-soft and new skin...especially the bottom of his feet, his kissable cheeks, and his shoulders.

720. His hair that seems to be blonde just like his sister's!  I love the "peach-fuzz" look after a bath.

721.  The smell of Johnson's baby wash on my freshly bathed newborn

722. His eyelashes that keep getting longer and fuller

723. Baby boy whimpers, grunts, and squeaks

724. The way his tiny self melts into my arms - a cuddly baby is an answer to prayer!

725. His complete contetment as he nurses

726. A tiny little hand that wraps around my finger

727. Watching his chest rise and fall with each breath

728. His sweet, content, easy-going personality -another answer to prayer!

729.  Wearing him in the Moby wrap and feeling almost pregnant again (minus the hip pain and heartburn!)

730. The classic "O" face, among many others

731. Post nursing lip creases

732. Cookie Monster diapers were Addison's favorite. Now she always finds the Cookie diapers for her baby brother.  So sweet!

733. Addison asking to hold Levi.  As I gently place him on the pillow on her lap and support him, she kisses him, hugs him, talks sweetly to him, rubs his belly, and then looks at me and says, "You can go do your Bible study now."  haha  She is smitten with him and apparently wants to soak in his sweetness all to herself.  I don't blame her!  One day the two of them can play and play together.  How I pray that they will have a life-long bond and be the best of friends!

734. Newborn-sized diapers and clothes getting snug.  He is healthy and growing!

735. The first hint of arm and leg rolls appearing

736.  Being reminded that the "joy is in the journey" as I get sad about him already growing (thank you for your comment, Deborah).

737. The occassional times Addison says "baby butter" instead of "baby brother."

738. The green stepstool.  It follows us from room to room all day so she can be involved in whatever I'm doing.  Most often this little stool takes up residence in Levi's room.

A common "post-Cookie-diaper-search" sight!

739.  Bright, awake eyes following his Mama

740. Sleeping smiles

741. The tender strength of My Hero as he gently holds and talks to our son and then effortlessly transitions to the silly, active Daddy that our 2 year old adores.

742.  Fitting into my normal clothes again!

743. A joyful big sister

744. A 2-year old's grumpy mood....a perfect opportunity to extend patience because "Love is patient."

745. Fully embracing the independent, defiant 2 year-old stage as I love my daughter and God uses these difficult moments to teach and grow me. 

746. Ann's wisdom...

"Patient people dare to gratefully accept people where they are. Grateful for who they are now, appreciative of works of art not yet finished, but still deeply loved."

Patient people dare to receive the present always as a present — grace.

Patient people dare to live only in the present. Because they know that is where God is.
Lack gratitude — then lack patience — then, ultimately, lack love. To be love-full, I’ll first need to be grateful."

747. Hearing My Hero and Addison repeat this truth several times each day...

Daddy: "Daddy loves Addison..."
Addison: "No matter what."

748. Motherhood making me feel inadequate and like I am not enough.  Being reminded that I never will be enough, but God is way more than enough for me and for the precious little ones He has entrusted to us.  (Thank you Alicia!)

749. Laundry - a constant reminder that my family of 4 is full of life and a tangible way for me to serve them

750. Anticipating and celebrating the miracle of new life with several friends!

751. Levi sleeping on my chest - his and my favorite way for him to be held

752. My prioritiy today being all Things Unseen.

753. Continually learning to give thanks in every situation and at all times