Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Listening for Love

As he patiently waited for me to finish up my post yesterday morning, he couldn't wait to begin our game that he had set up.

We've gotten into a fun pattern in the mornings. After my 2nd grader heads out the door with Daddy, my little boy and I have just enough time to get a quick game in before leaving for Preschool. Memory is his favorite, and I almost beat him yesterday...and I was really trying.

It's funny how things like playing games with children can bring to mind the most simple of truths. We spend so much time trying to find out the profound answers to life, when in actuality, they can very many times be standing right beside us, with a hand resting on our leg.

We found this in his bag from school just the other day.

Such a simple list of gratitude...so necessary for my heart.

I find such comfort in knowing that Christ came as a little child. That he was willing to be a little boy, in need of a mother's lap. A boy of a carpenter, who learned from faithful Joseph. A brother to a few. A friend to many, and teacher to all...one with God, and yet, that He was willing to become a little child, to show His love for you and I.

As you think on the little child of Christ this season, may we take lessons from the little ones in our own lives this Christmas. Might we stop long enough to hear their hearts, and be challenged by their faith. May their simple gratitude charge us to speak out of ours even more boldly. Might we slow down enough to see who they really are, who they've been created to be. For, I believe love still speaks the loudest many times when we stop to listen to them.

Linking up with Tuesdays Unwrapped today. I'm looking forward to celebrating with you there.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ready and Waiting.

The holiday music has started, the Christmas trees have started going up, and the neighborhoods are starting to light up the streets. The only thing is, I don't feel ready to celebrate Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited that the season is already here, it just has a way of sneaking up on me.

We went to pick up our Christmas tree yesterday, and we realized that we didn't have our stand anywhere. So instead of being already set up in our living room, it's waiting on the back porch. It's just a little thing, but it felt like it was more representative than just a missing tree stand. You might remember how we moved into this house, just about a year ago, and our life has seemed like a whirlwind since. With my hubby in grad school, and then, running my business, not to mention normal family life, it's wild to see time slip through your hands. I feel myself being passed from one season to the next without much thoughtful participation on my part. Without fully entering the season with celebration.

Call this a confession, or maybe it's more of a proclamation, but either way, what I want more than anything this holiday season, is to be fully present. Present to my family, my friends...present to the mystery and miracle of what my God did for me. For us. All of us.

Love has come down, and I for one, don't want to miss what that means this season. May we celebrate what the season is truly about this year, and resist the temptation to be swept away with pretty decorations and busy shopping.

This week, my hope is to write a few posts that will help you enter this season with rest and renewal, being able to celebrate His coming in a new way. O, Come, let us adore.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving...

Ok, so is it just me, or are there way too many favorite foods to try to cram into one meal on a Thursday in November?

Last week, when I asked my kids what what they were wanting to see on our Thanksgiving table, I started to feel a little overwhelmed. Their favorite Thanksgiving meal is a little different than my family's menu plan, and even though I have tried to cram it all in in the past, I think I'm past that point. For the amount of work that's involved, but also because there's just too much food when we try to cram it all into one meal. Why stuff so much in to one day?

Thus the development for another holiday meal plan at our abode. This year, we're going to have some of our favorites (mainly my kids favs) and then tomorrow, we'll take our traditional sides and desserts to our families feasts.

Here's our plan...feel free to start your own new tradition! I'd love to hear what your Thanksgiving Eve line up would be!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Twice as Good

I put my Mom's shirt on today. Partly because it's one of those that looks so fallish that it has to be worn at least once a year during this time of year. And, partly because there's some part of me that longs to be close to those who know me at this time of year.

I made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins today, as my children played in the backyard with a sweet friend who came over for a playdate. It was such a warm fall day, that I could have the window open to hear as they laughed and played. I baked, and they played...and there seemed to be a sort of celebration in the air.

While I was pouring batter into the pan, Pandora faithfully played my Sara Groves station, as it does most days, and this song came on. (video to follow for email readers)

Every time, no matter how many times I've heard this song, this line makes me tear up...with my good news, you're dancing on the table.

Ever since Emily wrote about paying attention to what makes you cry, I have been. And, this sentence puzzles me. Why would such a seemingly simple phrase touch such a place in my heart.

I think the answer comes in watching my daughter and a best friend jumping on our trampoline in delight, or taking muffins to dear friends, laughing with my sister about life, or thanking a teacher for their gift to my child. I find joy in celebration. Life in sharing the burden together. Knowing I have friends who would stand up on a table and cheer for me...or sit there and cry with me, when I make a mess in my own life. Life is not always easy to celebrate, but with the gifts of friends around us, we are able to join each other as we walk this path, in celebration. And I am so grateful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Remember the Veggies...

I've been kind of quiet ever since 31 days. Partly because I feel like I said everything in the world that I could ever say about celebrating. But, partly because of birthdays and drama. Either way, all of a sudden, I realized Thanksgiving is this week, and I've barely chatted about it here!

As I looked for Thanksgiving recipes the other night, my husband standing over my shoulder asked, "Why is it always turkey?" Which is actually a great question. I love having turkey for Thanksgiving, and look forward to the traditional meal every year. However, for those of you who would rather not have the same old thing every year (or for you vegetarians like my hubby), I came across these fun ideas for more meatless dishes to have at your Thanksgiving.

I can't tell if I like the recipes or the pictures better, but either way Martha Stewart knows her stuff.

There aren't as many pretty pictures here, but there are a ton of vegan and vegetarian dishes to peruse.

And, here's a great article about how to accomodate both vegetarian and vegan guests without having to recreate your entire dinner.

Sometimes it gets intimidating to think in "vegetarian" terms when it comes to meal planning...especially if you're like me, who feels like it's a foreign word. But, the more I've lived with the meat "constraints", the less I feel like it's a complication.

In the spirit of helping you celebrate this week, please check out my tips from last year's Thanksgiving 101... there's a whole week of tips on celebrating one of my favorite holidays!

Giving thanks for you this week!

Guilty Pleasures

Not sure if you're on Pintrest or not, but it's probably my favorite new hobby. That and Words with Friends. Yes, today is guilty pleasure day...didn't you know? Where am I going with these random confessions? Come and follow me on pinterest! It's such a great way to be able to see what your style is, give ideas to others, and share pics that you love.

(picture from style love board)

If you're already on, come find me so I can see all your awesome ideas. But, if you're reading this going, "What is she talking about?" come on and join the fun. You won't be sorry. My favorite way to describe what it is, is by saying, "Remember how we used to find pictures in magazines, and cut them out and put them in folders or notebooks? It's like doing that online, without all the paper cuts."

(picture from holiday fun board)

It's really easy once you get the hang of it, and will be great for holidays coming up...great gift ideas, recipes, style, and on and on. Can't wait to see you there!

Monday, November 14, 2011


With costume pieces flying around and presents being wildly unwrapped, we successfully managed to have a fabulous carnival for the birthday boy, and celebrate three great performances with our little star. I say "we managed", but really, I had nothing to do with it.

As I arranged the pumpkins on the back table for the {Paint Your Own Pumpkin!} activity, I caught myself almost taking for granted how the day had turned out to be such a glorious fall day. It was warm and sunny, and not a hint of chill. Back when I decided to start planning this party, I remember thinking to myself so confidently, how November is still a really nice time of year here. Being confident that the weather wouldn't interfere with our plan to have an outdoor carnival. But, really, I was forgetting the many pasts November 12ths that were full of cold wind, rain, and even snow. I begin to think of my ideal as my expectation, rather than being suprised with appreciation.

I think sometimes we are so eager to see things our own way that we forget to thank the giver of all good gifts. We become focused on what we have, and almost expect to have things go our way. Then, when it doesn't go our way, we become bent out of shape, like how could it not go our way?!

As I continued to place things outside and prepare for our party, I realized how much of a gift the day was. As I watched little ones playing games and saw parents chatting and enjoying a minute of friendship amongst crazy preschool days, I found myself so grateful for the gift of celebration.

That as much as I had wanted a fun party for my little boy, my Father had even greater plans of celebration in store for us. And even if it had rained, sleeted, or snowed, I wonder what gifts we would have found inside our home, waiting to unwrap. I wonder if I had been so willing to give Him praise even when my plans got "messed" up?

My challenge to you over the next few weeks, as Thanksgiving approaches, is that you would find the goodness in your day. That you would see even trials as gifts, and that somehow you could celebrate the time you have been given. That we would be grateful, today.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On Your Birthday...

Sweet Asher,

After working most of the weekend, I decided to spend yesterday morning trying to straighten out our crazy house. Rearranging furniture and cleaning here and there, until you came home from preschool. Immediately you commented on how great it looked, but then, you couldn't wait to tear apart the sofas and take all the pillows you could find to build a fort.

I refrained myself from stopping you, though (unfortunately) it was my first instinct. Rather, as I saw your excitement about the fort, I realized in that moment, it was more important to build the fort than to have my house straight. It was more of a gift for both of us, to let the messy take up residence for a bit so that we could simply play.

It could very well be, that in just a few short years you won't care so much about the forts I make. You might not even ask me to make them...mine aren't usually the best anyway...but you would never guess by how enthusiastic you were about it. You complimented me on how I was stretching out the blankets, and were so encouraging when I would give an idea of how to structure your secret abode.

It seems that the light of God's love has already taken up such a home in you, that it shines out to all you are around. I love how kind you are to others. How willing you are to share even your most treasured possessions. How you ask if the man on the corner with the sign has enough food to eat, and if we have any we could share. I love that you are already the man that you will become one day. And, more than anything, I love that I get to see that happen.

Ash, you are such a blessing to our family in ways that I can't even explain or understand. You have only lived with us for five years, and yet, your fullness of life seems to expand to a lifetime of joy. You are the most precious son I could ever have, and I am so grateful to be able to be called your Mama.

I love you always.


Monday, November 7, 2011

The Discovery

(this week, I'll be following my friend's example and writing a few letters to my little ones in celebration of who they are.)

Sweet River,

I woke you before sunrise and whispered, "Today's the day you're on TV!" As your sleepy eyes began to open, you became excited at the thought. We quickly pulled on your tights and leotard, and hurried out the door into the darkness.

It's been such a fun few weeks of preparation, and this is the final week before the show. As you have counted down the days, now you only have a few to go.

A few years ago, we weren't sure what your "thing" would be. You would have thought with all the theatrics in our home, we would have known right away. But, we didn't.

We tried soccer, but you quickly let us know that you, " didn't really like running that much". I can't say I blame you.

We've tried dance, and as much as I wanted it to be your thing it still seemed like something was missing for you.

We've always thought your voice was beautiful, but it wasn't until other people started stopping us in halls to ask if you were on a stage somewhere, or in voice lessons, that we realized your gifting was not just a normal 7 year old voice. As you started singing out more boldly with that big beautiful voice, we finally knew what it was.

You conquered fear and auditioned, we knew that even though it was difficult, it would only give you more confidence. Then, when you were called back, we couldn't believe that you had been narrowed down to a specific part! When you were cast in the role you were hoping for, it turned into a grand celebration.

I wish I could tell you that it will always be that easy. But the truth is, I know first hand that it won't be. I walked this path, and I know how painful it can be to not see your name up on that list. Or to see it on the list in the spot you wished it wasn't. There will be many tears along this path...I'm sure. But, as GiGi and Grandma Beth told me, when you really love doing something, than you have to choose to press on, through the disappointment, through the pain. It doesn't matter if other people think you're the best at it, or if they always see how special you are. Regardless of what others think, without living out of your gifts, you miss part of who God has made you to be. You choose to operate out of your gifts, not because it's always easy, but because it's who you are.

As you began rehearsals a few weeks ago, you realized more and more how perfect it was for you. You even said to me in excitement after one of the first practices, "Mom! It has singing and acting AND dancing! But, singing's my favorite!"

I'm so proud of you, River Elizabeth. You are a blessing to so many, and your beautiful smile couldn't have beamed any brighter under your pink fluffy hat this morning. I'm so excited to have discovered this part of who you are.



p.s. Here's the story from this morning...see if you can spot your little pink-ballerina-munchkin self on the right!

Friday, November 4, 2011

i heart (veggie) soup

I never intended on taking a bloggy hiatus, but alas it was needed. It's been so fun doing 31 Days to an Artful Event, but I was ready to take a little break.

Last year, I posted every day of November, and it was such a fun way to celebrate last fall. I've been craving soup lately, so it seemed appropriate to leave you with a few great recipes for the weekend. Especially with how crazy our nights seem lately, soup is the perfect recipe to double or triple, and then just freeze the extra batches for a rainy day...or snowy...or windy...you get the picture.

All of these soups can be made vegetarian by just leaving out the meat, and they are still fabulous. Perfect for my family...a hearty meal, that's quick and easy...and everyone loves!


One of my favorite things to eat in the fall is soup. Especially on Sundays. This year, I decided that every week I would make a different pot of soup or stew, as a small way (and cheap way) to enjoy the cooler weather.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hearty Vegetable Soup

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tsp. ground cumin
2-3 tsp. italian spices
1 tsp. salt
1-2 tbsp. sugar
4 baking potatoes (diced)
2 carrots (sliced)
frozen peas, lima beans, corn (or whatever veggies you like)
46 oz. tomato juice
1 can beef broth
2 cups water

Heat olive oil over medium heat in your soup pot. Sauté your onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and spices. Cook until fragrant (couple minutes). Add rest of ingredients. Bring to boil, and then turn down to simmer on low for at least 45 min. (I have been known to let cook on low for several hours, and it just gets better!) Serve this with grilled cheese for a great meal!


(Many times I make this vegetarian friendly, and leave out the beef...still very yummy!)

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion (chopped)
2 cans kidney beans (drained)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato soup
1 pkt. chili seasoning
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt

Fry your ground beef and onion together until beef is browned (10 min. on med heat). Drain excess grease. Add in diced tomatoes, kidney beans, chili packet, tomato soup, salt, and sugar. Let simmer for 1 1/2 hrs. stirring often. Garnish with cheddar cheese and sour cream and serve over rice. Delicious on a cold winter day!

Quick Potato Chowder

2 stalks celery (diced)
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
*2 cups refrigerated diced potatoes with onions
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
4 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper

*can use fresh potatoes and onions also. just add the sauté the onion with the celery, and cook your potatoes in boiling water until soft.

In a saucepan cook celery in hot butter over med heat until tender. Stir in flour until combined. Stir in broth; bring to boil, stirring constantly. Add potatoes; return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 15 min. or until tender. Slightly mash potatoes. Stir in milk, half and half, and bacon. Heat through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Stew
4 tsp. olive oil
1 med. onion (chopped)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can diced tomatoes
*1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. frozen corn (10 oz.)

(*to make a more mild stew you can substitute a can of regular diced tomatoes)

In large saucepan heat oil over med. heat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic and cumin, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant (another minute or so). Add beans, tomatoes, water, and salt to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer, until slightly thickened, about 20 min. Add corn to stew and allow to heat through. Garnish with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. Serve with heated tortillas or quesadillas.

Chicken Taco Soup
(probably my favorite and many times i leave out the chicken to have a vegetarian option for my hubs...it's still delicious!)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (16 ounce) can kidney or chili beans
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans (I sometimes do 2 cans of black and no chili)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer OR chicken broth (I usually just do the broth, and it's wonderful)
  • 2 (10 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
  • 1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning
  • 3 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
  • crushed tortilla chips (optional)

  • 1. Place the onion, chili beans, black beans, corn, tomato sauce, beer, and diced tomatoes in a slow cooker. Add taco seasoning, and stir to blend. Lay chicken breasts on top of the mixture, pressing down slightly until just covered by the other ingredients. Set slow cooker for low heat, cover, and cook for 5 hours.

  • 2. Remove chicken breasts from the soup, and allow to cool long enough to be handled. Stir the shredded chicken back into the soup, and continue cooking for 2 hours. Serve topped with shredded Cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and crushed tortilla chips, if desired.
*ok, because i'm not a huge rule follower, i deviate from the shredding chicken step on this recipe, and just wait til the end, and then stir it around while it falls apart. it's delicious. i'm getting hungry.

Super cute blog Armommy has a great post about her menu a few weeks ago. I loved all her great recipes, not to mention how she displayed them for us!