Thursday, December 19, 2013

Giving that doesn't cost a dime

A little over two years ago, we made this somewhat non-sensical decision, took a little leap of faith, and I became a stay at home Mom. Our income was cut in half, and we became real resourceful real fast. I can't wait to share with you what the Lord has taught me about my prideful heart and His provision during this time. But that's another post for another day.

For now, I want to share with you a smidge of some of the ways we have been able to give charitably over the last couple of years. When your income is cut in half, but your heart grows exponentially for great organizations that love people well or for other needs in the community … Well, you have to get a little inventive with how you can best serve and bless them.

First, I am a tried and true fan of Kroger. I love that store. My local store always has the kindest employees that go out of their way to help me… and I feel like I really do get great deals there, too! One thing I really love about Kroger is their Community Rewards Program. All you do is login with your Kroger Plus Card, look up your non-profit organization you want to support.. and BAM! They start receiving rewards based on your purchases! I chose a really great Pregnancy Center in the next town over, Tomball Pregnancy Center, to receive the rewards from my shopping.

Another great thing about Kroger is all the sales they run! They have great specials, and I can combine those with coupons found on their app or their website…. and I can save big bucks doing this! I can't even tell you how stupid happy I get when I find a great sale and get my groceries at a great price. Over time, the Lord softened my heart and I was encouraged to give more sacrificially. So instead of keeping those extra pennies I saved to myself, I'd fill in the gaps of my grocery budget. When I save a few dollars on whatever meat happens to be on sale and lower than I budgeted, I might buy a few extra rolls of toilet paper and donate them to our refugee ministry. Other weeks, I might watch sales on diapers or formula to bless a family in our church. At first, I felt a little silly with how little I could give based on what our money would allow. Then, I realized how foolish and prideful those sentiments were. It's not about how much I can give.. but what's at the heart of my giving.

Next, I can't tell you how much I love being an Amazon Prime member. It is A-MUH-ZING! The hubs uses it a whole bunch for church stuff.. and so do I, and it's made Christmas shopping 10x better. But, I also love that a portion of all of our purchases goes toward ending sex-trafficking. At no cost to me, Amazon Smile kicks back some of the profits from our buys to our chosen non-profit org, Love146. "Founded in 2002, Love146 works toward the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation through prevention and aftercare solutions, contributing to a growing abolition movement. Love146 combats child sex slavery and exploitation with the unexpected and restores survivors with excellence."

Now, don't just sit there all kerbobbled and flabbergasted for too long because you didn't know about these avenues of giving sooner! Get to it, register your Shopper Card with Kroger for Community Rewards and choose your favorite non-profit org to receive kickbacks from all your Amazon purchases through Amazon Smile! Or even better, see if your preferred grocer or any other kind of stores offer these same type of "incentives"! 

(**I am in no way being paid or receiving any kind of promotional kick-backs from either Kroger, Amazon or the listed non-profit organizations for this blog post of any activity that happens as a result!)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Karate Kid

She was a hot mess of nerves and excitement, swaying from one end of non-stop chatter to bouts of tensed up silence. With each passing mile that we drove, her sweet little hands grew clammier and clammier. 

Finally. We arrived at our destination. Her heart rate finally calmed after we registered her into the appropriate categories and events. Next came pure excitement.

She watched with growing excitement as her Sensei demonstrated some pretty sweet karate moves down on the main floor. 

Excitement morphed into awe and fascination as another Sensei broke boards with his fists, feet, elbows and his head.

Then, it was finally time for her to strut her stuff and compete. 

She punched as hard as she could. Then, she punched as fast as she could. And for each event she didn't place in.. she got a commemorative participation medal. 

Next, she kicked as hard as she could, and was only awarded with the participation medal again.

But in her last event, she kicked the fastest she has ever kicked. That size 13 foot shot out like a rocket at the metered block. And the anticipation over maybe getting a medal grew as each kid behind her kicked their fastest, too.

 Expecting to receive just another commemorative medal, she walked proudly to the awards table….. and was utterly shocked and dumbfounded to learn she had placed 1st in fastest kick!

Her smile lit up the entire gym as she ran with unbounded joy to show off her prize for kicking the fastest.

Way to go my cute little Karate Kid! You competed with grace, and accepted each medal with glee. While you would have loved to have placed first in each event, you showed wonderful humility and happiness no matter the size of the reward! It made my Mommy-heart so very happy to share this special day with you, to cheer you on, and to celebrate each medal rewarded. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

My son is cleaner than yours. No. Really. He likes hygiene.

I let the water run a little longer than I normally do, relishing in the serenity that it brought. Most nap times include a spot on the couch imprinted with my form. Too tired to do much else, I rest for what I know the second half of our day will bring me. But today, I let the water run over my tired back until it ran cold.

Later that evening, I exclaimed to my husband how it was probably the first time in 10 years that I had taken that long of a shower.

Being a mom of 3 busy-bodies, I keep my showering time to a minimum. To be quite frank, showering is not on the forefront of my mind most days. I've got lunches to pack, mouths to feed, things to sanitize, butts to wipe (sorry, its blunt.. but its the truth), and about 5 million other things running through my mind and hands to be too concerned with having impeccable hygiene. So, showering usually gets squeezed in at the last possible minute before we have to head out somewhere.

One particular day, we were in a rush to get somewhere. I took all normal precautions to insure minimal interruptions during my shower time. Security gate locked at top of stairs: Check. Movie turned on to encourage busy hands to be kept out of things: Check. Shower curtain closed, but door cracked to hear if the natives got restless: Check. Yada yada yada.

I had just worked the lather of my shampoo to a supreme level of awesomeness in my hair when I heard the tinkering of little hands going through something in my bathroom. I peeked ever so slyly around the curtain to see who was doing what.

Josiah, our youngest and only boy, had my toiletry/hygiene drawer open and was rummaging through it. With great care, he loosened the cap to my not-so-cheap moisturizer and proceeded to moisturize his face diligently. Oh, brother!

Choosing not to fight this particular battle, I returned to showering… only to hear more movement in the bathroom. Trying to use my diminishing time effectively, I continued with my shower routine while sneaking glances at the toddler who was grooming himself quite meticulously.

In the span of the next three minutes, my son deodorized himself, brushed his teeth (with my toothbrush mind you), and fixed himself a killer mohawk.

It was all so precious and cute. And then. Dear Lord… Surely he was done by now, right?

As I rinsed the conditioner from my hair, it got real quiet. I smirked to think that my 2 year old SON had gone through an entire hygiene routine, and not made a single mess.

I pulled back the shower curtain and let an audible gasp escape my mouth. Oh, heavens. He was so proud of himself, sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor, painting his toenails with painstaking detail in the prettiest ivory color.

Too bad his Mama frightened him and made him mess it all up with her shocked sudden intake of air!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Joyfully and expectantly waiting

It's the most wonderful time of the year! At last, Christmastime is upon us. I'm high on apple-cider and spiced scents; sugar is constantly coursing through me from intravenously feeding on sweets.

My kids can hardly stand the waiting for all the presents to be unwrapped on Christmas morning.

And somewhere in the mix of all the carols, the books, the movies, and the joy of the season.. we are diligently pointing our children to the real, undying, and unchanging Joy of the season. It is after all the real reason why we celebrate this time of year, it is Jesus' birth. Glory!!

My heart is overwhelmed at the thought of God in the Flesh. Emmanuel. God with us. Hallelujah!

This Christmas season, we are focusing hard on Jesus.

One practical way we encourage our children to focus on Jesus throughout the season is to not encourage belief in the mythical Santa Claus. We definitely watch Santa Claus themed movies, read books about him, and even do some crafts that include him. But we are honest with our kids and let them know that he's just a fun make-believe guy. We also discuss how the story of the modern day Santa Claus came about, through Saint Nicholas. (This post actually goes way more in depth with all of this though.)

While we read fun, secular style Christmas books during the Christmas season, we try to focus more on books whose central theme is the birth of Jesus. Whether the book be a more traditional one, or even a story about a bird who happens upon the stable where Jesus was born and flies to tell all of the other created things of His birth… we try to keep it Jesus-centered.

And for the first time, we are doing an Advent study as a family. We are setting aside time each night.. or every 2 nights, depending on what life throws us each day, to read through the Word and expectantly wait to celebrate Jesus's birth on Christmas morning.

 I have a tendency to get a bit carried away and dive in a bit over my head on things. I decided not to do that with our Advent study though. I didn't want to get carried away with all my plans and hopes, only to feel overwhelmed 1 week into it and give up! This year, we're keeping it pretty simple.

I found a great kid-friendly Advent study through the Verge Network. Basically, we are just reading through the Jesus StoryBook Bible  (which I love), or the "grown up" Bible. We started at the beginning of the Bible, and we're working our way story-by-story, seeing how desperately we needed our Savior to be born.

To make it a little more tangible for the kids, I slapped together some decorations I had laying around the house for an Advent style calendar thing! An old wreath I bought and had planned to use for some craft, but never did anything with. A frame the hubs made for our daughter's birthday party holds the word "Christmas" quite nicely, while some burlap scraps painted with the letters "Merry" adds great texture. Then, I splurged on some Christmas-y scrapbook paper, printed some numbers on 'em, stuck a hook through them, and hung 'em on the garland. (On the back of each piece of paper, I wrote which story accompanies that day. Right now, our garland not-so-accurately shows we have 22 days till Christmas. We gots some catching up to do!)

It is my hope and prayer that through all the motions and all the joy of this Christmas season, and through our time of study each night (or ever 2 nights) our children are filled with a joyful longing to celebrate Jesus's birth. That the joy they feel seeing Christmas lights holds no comparison to the joy of knowing the true Light of The World. (John 8:12) That the happiness they feel over letting Christmas paper fly off of carefully wrapped presents would be only but a glimmer compared to knowing what a true gift Jesus is to us and the salvation only He can bring.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things!

When the dog barks, when the bee stings…. Oh. Oops. Not supposed to be lost in song over here.

What I should be doing is sharing with you some of my FAVORITE organizations and shops!

Over the last couple of years, there has been a stirring in my soul to shop and give more effectively. I don't really have too much beef against large chain stores, as they provide SO MANY jobs and can do lots of good through their large numbers.

But when it comes to gift giving, I try to make each purchase count on multiple levels! Here's a very quick run down on some of my favorite organizations that are doing really great things across the globe!

1. Trades of Hope

There are SO MANY reasons why I love Trades of Hope. It'll be hard to condense it. Ultimately, Trades of Hope is all about empowering women from around the world to work their way out of poverty. Through our purchases of their handmade Fair Trade products, we offer them a future filled with hope! Trades of Hope partners with tons of really great organizations in lots of amazing countries who are on the ground to ensure proper living wages and checks and balances. These groups enable the Artisans to make up to 6 times what is the norm in their country. This ensures that the Artisans are able to clothe, feed, house and educate themselves and their families! While charity is good, it does not solve the problem or break the cycle of poverty. These women want and need the opportunity for sustainable business and incomes to provide for the long haul. The groups that partner with Trades of Hope also offer medical care, education (for the artisans and their children), child care when needed, and clean drinking water!

2. Punjammies

Punjammies is a lot like Trades of Hope in the sense that they both exist to free women from the bondage of the sex slave trade and also to prevent women from being lured into trafficking. A woman is brought into the sewing center, taught the craft, and masters it to provide beautiful workmanship. Each pair of pajamas punjammies offers is named after one of their brave sewers. Punjammies also provides an education, medical care, education and if needed, child care, for their artisans.

3. Lifesong For Orphans

I don't even know where to start here. Lifesong is an orphan care ministry that is just huge in lots of things. They provide grants to adoptive families, support for foster care families, education and meals to orphans in 3rd world countries… I mean they just kind of do everything! They offer great products you can buy for your loved ones, or you can give a donation in someone's name.

4. MercyHouse

The Mercy House exists to RAISE FUNDS TO provide alternative options for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya. The Mercy House will aid them in education, nutrition, housing, prenatal care, Bible study, counseling and job skills for sustainable living. I'm kind of fond of the founder 'cuz she's a Texas gal that loves Jesus, Sweet Tea and people. 

If you're looking to give a gift that truly makes a difference, I'd highly recommend these awesome organizations!

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's the darndest things.

Last week was a supremely chaotic mix of relaxation, turkey, cold weather, lots of family time, and fun. It was also a week interlaced with grief over the passing of my beloved Dad. He's been gone for 7 years now.

Growing up, we my Mom had a very strict rule of no Christmas music or decorations until after Thanksgiving.

I'm a grown up now, an adult living in my own home. I only cringe a little bit thinking what a disappointment I must be to my Mom, playing my Christmas music way before her rule would allow.

Jubilant melodies tickled my ears as I was scrubbing toilets and wiping layers of dust away from the furniture.

I've long let go of my country music roots. But every once in a while, they creep back in and I can't help but enjoy the twang of my yesteryears.

The piano only had to play a few notes over the speakers before I recognized the song. Soon enough, the harmonic twangy voices of Alabama were taking me back to a different time and place.

They sang of a Tender Tennessee Christmas, but all I could picture was a gangly 9-year old me in hand-me-down Rockie jeans, black boots and my best western button up. My brunette hair fixed for a special time out with my sister and the most loving Dad. I should have been daydreaming about snow and Christmas trees and everything that glitzes in the lights. But my mind recalled picture after picture of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and the night my Dad took us to see Alabama there.

I have a lot of great memories of my Dad, who time after time showed his love for us in the most humble ways. I still have a hard time remembering to get my oil changed, or to even glance at my tires. Dad spoiled me in the worst kind of way and always, always, always took care of those things for us girls. I still miss his famously disgusting hamburger noodle casserole dish. Sometimes.

But one of my favorite memories of my Dad is the night he took my sister and I to see Alabama. We had walked around the Rodeo, saw lots of the side-show type things, went through the shopping area, and finally arrived in our seats. After watching the main Rodeo events, it was time for Alabama to play.  It was only after a few songs that I got a pretty bad fever. I decided I was well enough to stick it out for the rest of the show, but I was desperate for a pickle. (Don't ask. There's this weird thing in my family where all of us kids LOVE pickles.) My Dad, being ever so loving, went to the concession stand,  and stood in line only to find out that they don't sell pickles. But the HLSR had multiple kinds of concession stands. So, in my little mind, there could have been a small chance that maybe one of the other concessions stands sold them. My Dad only let out his trademark "sigh" and strict instructions for us to stay put before he went to search for a pickle for me.

He was gone for what seemed like hours, something I still feel slightly guilty about. Never found my pickle, but left me with a pretty great memory to mull over after all these years.

Dad and me on my wedding day. My Dad had a tough exterior, but was a big 'ol softy on the inside. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Husbands need romance, too.

I wrote an encouraging note to a friend on frilly stationary, sealed it an envelope and smiled to think how this might bless her heart in some very small way.

The sandwich, thermos, fruit and goldfish were arranged with care in a sparkly Hello Kitty Lunchbox. Ontop the food lay a carefully scripted note intended for an emergent reader's eyes. I prayed over her lunchtime, that she would know Mom loved her.. that the One who created her loved her even more.. and that she'd be a light for Him in that tiny little seat she'd be sitting on.

Words of affirmation flowed out of my mouth, encouraging two highly energized fair headed children. Whispered I love you's were met with impossibly strong hugs from tiny little limbs.

My phone chimed with a familiar tone, alerting me of a message from a very special, tall and handsome blonde person. The words were simple, unpoetic, and spoke volumes to me. My heart burst with joy at the very small gesture, making me love my husband even more.

And it struck me. He needs these words, too. If I could be so very happy over such simple words at a very random point in time, why wouldn't he be?

My husband has a knack for surprising me with the most mundane but unexplainably awesome gifts. I broke out in a maniacal laugh at finding an ice cold Dr. Pepper and king-size Snickers in my car one day when I went to run errands. Another day, I noticed a CD I had been wanting- too cheap to buy for myself- appear on my iTunes account. And yet another time, there was a simple note waiting for me on the bathroom counter.

When all the crazies had settled in for a time of rest, I knew just what to do. I pulled out my pretty stationary, which may not be appreciated as much from a man's eyes as my friends, and began writing. Words of gratitude for my husband, and words of love poured from my heart and onto the paper. I tearfully placed the card in a place I knew he would find it.

Later that night, my husband found the card. And while he didn't break out in an ugly cry like his female counter-part would have, I knew my card spoke volumes to his heart.

So.. I may be the one who is in most need of lots of romance and might freak out a little bit more over very tiny, unexpected tokens of love, I know that my husband needs a little romancing, too.

I'd encourage you to do the same for yours. It doesn't have to be something that empties your bank account. It doesn't even have to be a thing. Just let your husband know you love him.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

3 Things

I'm not gonna lie. Today has been exceptionally awesome.

Amidst the ruckus and commotion of getting ready for school, my favorite first grader become overly distraught over a knot in her cross necklace. Well, knot is an understatement. It may take the jaws of life to get that thing undone. She was near hysteria claiming that she HAD to wear it to school that day.

I sensed something lurking beneath her shrieks of "you have to fix this, Mom!!" As best I could, I explained that I could not in fact fix it and that it would have to wait.

Her face dropped in defeat. She was so hoping to wear the necklace to school, certain that no one in her school knew about Jesus… and she needed to share with them about who He was and what the cross means. Bless it.

Several hours later, I stood outside in the crisp Autumn air looking for a particularly beautiful preschooler. Her long blonde hair was easy to spot in the flurry of classmates that surrounded to her. I called out to my favorite preschooler and she ran into my arms, exclaiming how she'd missed me today.

The Director of her program made her way to me with questioning eyes. "I just have to ask. When will you be expecting your adopted son to be home?"

I explained to her where our hearts were on the matter and the point of the process we are at.

"You know, she has just been talking and talking about the new brother she will have! I thought you might be bringing him home tomorrow by how excited she is!"

After several minutes of conversation regarding orphan care, adoption, foster care and how we're preparing our children's hearts for a new sibling.. I made my way to the car, and unleashed the ugly cry. Tears of gratitude and thanksgiving over the Lord softening my sweet girl's heart and making it ready for a new sibling were streaming down my face.

I cleaned my face up just in time to share a meal with the two smalls at Chick-fil-a. Once inside and seated, I noticed that the area we were seated in was shared with a class of special needs children. Their excited chatter about nuggets and soft drinks played a sweet symphony while we ate.

One of the managers came to the middle of the area ready to pass out goodies to the kids. Upon receiving his stuffed cow, one boy excitedly proclaimed, " I LOVE YOU!! I LOVE YOU ALL!! I AM SO HAPPY! I LOVE YOU ALL!" His joy was unhindered for a good 15 minutes as he exclaimed his love.

I wanted to hug his neck and tell him that he was totally my people! It's exactly how I feel every time I'm in Chick Fil A, too! God bless sweet tea and nuggets, Amen.

Friday, November 15, 2013

That one time my husband went to Haiti

My awesome husband is traveling to Haiti next summer with a great team from our church.

Our church is partnering with Coreluv International to provide hope and the message of Jesus to lots of precious Haitian kiddo's.

Here's what Coreluv is all about:

There are more than 200,000,000 orphans in the world today and only 250,000 are adopted each year. At this rate, it would take 572 years to adopt each of the world’s current orphans, not including the 1750 children that continue to be orphaned every day. The sad truth is that most orphans will not be adopted and that is what drives Coreluv International to step up and do something. Our dream is to bring hope to orphans, through Jesus Christ, by partnering with communities and orphanages around the world to provide 6 basic needs: clean water, food, education, healthcare, job skills and a loving environment to call home. Coreluv International is now partnering with orphanages and feeding centers in Haiti. We are working there to provide these needs and see hope returned to an impoverished and disaster stricken country. Why do we take orphan care so seriously? Because, unless someone defends them they are defenseless, unless someone speaks for them they will not be heard. James 1:27 says: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows.” We believe this scripture is not a suggestion but a commandment, something the Church MUST do.

We're passionate about Jesus, about loving others, and about ministering to orphans. We'd love for you to join us on this journey by supporting the trip!

We've got a great Tee you can grab for yourself.. and your neighbor… and that guy in the cubicle next to you at work… and your cousin 2 times removed! All the proceeds from the shirt sales go to fund the trip and provide hope to orphans!

We'd be so grateful for you to buy your shirt, HERE!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I'm a sneaky Momma.

I'm a little bit weird.. in a lot of ways. But I tend to get a bit obsessive about my kids nutrition. 

We're not super healthy people, but we don't eat at McDonalds every day either. 

We try to eat whole grains, lots of fresh produce, healthy amounts of proteins, and minimal processed stuff. 

But here lately, I've been having a doozy of a time trying to get all my littles to cram all their fruits and veggies in every day. Today…. today, I bribed them with a cookie. I'm pretty sure that totally cancels out any fruits they had at lunch, and totally negates any amount of nutrients they may have ingested. Just whatever. 

When I'm not bribing them with sweets, I like to sneak in as much nutrition as possible in the slyest ways possible. My absolute favorite fall-back method to do this is smoothies!

Oh you wonderfully delicious, Smoothie! You make fruits and veggies so delectable to the small palates that ingest you.

Because I feel like a smoothie is something you just gotta wing, I don't usually follow a recipe. I'm such a rebel. Besides, I spend too much time following recipes for much more important things. Like cookies. Ahem. 

Don't be jealous of my super fancy smoothie ingredient picture taking skills.
When making smoothies, I try to find several fruits that work well together. Lots of tropical fruits usually come to mind: pineapples, oranges (zest and juice), bananas, all kinds of berries. Then, I layer in a mild tasting vegetable. Spinach is one of my fav's! It blends well, has virtually no taste, yet packs a powerful nutritious punch! Next, I throw in some Greek yogurt. And last, I pour on some Coconut Milk. I usually don't bother with ice for several reasons. First, all my ingredients are already cold. Second, it seems like the ice tends to water down the flavors. And who wants water downed flavor?!?

Don't bother trying to measure anything. Just throw it in and see what works for you!

The end result in a delicious, frothy beverage! And if your kids are like mine, you might have to disguise the green liquid in a non-see-through-lidded cup with a colored straw. At least, until they see that they LOVE it.. and then, they'll think its totally awesome that they're drinking a "Hulk" style drink!

Bottoms up, friends!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tiny Hands

Tiny hands create intrinsic circles on my weary back. My mind whirls with all the tasks that I could be doing, but an impossibly heavy 30-someodd-pound frame keeps me pinned to the soft-carpeted floor.

I’m on the brink of pulling myself from this glorious relaxed state, almost absolutely sure that the laundry is multiplying at an alarming rate in the next room over.

His chipper voice breaks through my inner arguments, “More twains, mommy!!”

And just like that, I’m sure I am supposed to be here right now. I’m sure that I’m not supposed to move a muscle, except to pull myself up to play “more twains.”

There will be many more hours in the day to fold the laundry. There will many more hours in the day to tend the growing pile of dishes. But my hours with a certain little fair-headed mister who desires the company of his Momma and playing trains with her are limited, at best.

There will come a day when those tiny hands will turn into masculine, lean hands. That tiny little frame will grow in stature and tower over me one day. That chipper little voice that beckons me to play will deepen. And there will come a day that my company won’t be of utmost importance to him.

I was thisclose to missing it today; thisclose to missing out on something big, great and magnificent. I’m grateful I didn’t, and only wish I had a shirt that said, “I look like this because playing ‘twains’ was more important than 6 minutes of hot water, soap, conditioner and a hair dryer.” 

Monday, November 11, 2013

On Suffering and Trials

The grief and sorrow comes and goes in waves. Sometimes it’s a gentle lapping. Other times it seems like an overwhelming tidal wave. It beckons me to sink in despair, to shake my fists at the heavens with all my might. In the dark moments when the waves seem to come without ceasing, I am almost tempted to do just that.  When the waves are relentless, my flesh is enticed to give in to the thoughts of hopelessness. But the Spirit that abides in me beckons me to hope.

I am in an ocean of people who are suffering and walking through so many trials. My heart hurts for the mom whose children want nothing to do with her. I have sorrow for the woman who can’t seem to reconcile her broken marriage. I grieve with friends whose babies were taken from them before they could ever experience the joy of holding their precious little ones. My heart is in pain at the thought of friends struggling from inner emotional turmoil. I am heartbroken for friends who are mourning the loss of friendships in their lives.

In my own life, I haven’t been spared from grief and struggle. My husband and I had only been home from our honeymoon for 2 weeks when we learned that my Dad had stage 4 lung cancer. He went home to be with Jesus 2 short months later. Several months later, we buried my 4 year old nephew. And not too long after that, my sweet Granddad passed away. It seemed like the underlying current and theme of our first year of marriage was grief and death.

Several years later, our sweet baby boy had to be hospitalized for a week. I remember crying and crying in the emergency room as they did test after test to figure out what was making him sick. And I remember crying and crying when the fever wouldn’t come down, and just wanting it all to be over. I wanted our suffering to end. I wanted ALL the grief, not just ours, to end. But I also remember the hope that I had, and this uncanny peace that flowed within me.

I knew then- like I know now-, that God is good. Ultimately, supremely.. no matter what my circumstance is.. God is good. He is the author and creator of good. And I knew, that whatever was going on.. my Dad dying, my sweet nephew not growing up in front of our eyes, my own son suffering from a viral infection… God is good. These things were not happening to us, to me, from a malicious God who hated me.  That doesn’t change. His goodness does not stop and He only gives what is good. Even if sometimes it’s wrapped in harsh packing like trials and suffering.

I held onto the hope and promise of what is to come. I knew that God, no matter how crappy things may have gotten around me, was working for my good. In the midst of death and suffering… He was good and was working for my good, too. (Romans 8:28) I knew that I am a co-heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17) This world and my life will surely be filled with suffering and trials. But I have hope for what is to come. (Romans 8:23-25)

It is clinging to these truths that we can suffer well together. And no, I don’t mean we don’t unleash our ugly cry in the midst of grief and suffering. No, I don’t mean there won’t be moments when we truly just don’t even want to get out of bed. By “suffering well”, I don’t mean we have to be these robots who go through the motions like we are completely unphased and not even the slightest bit unnerved by the turmoil that surrounds us.

What I mean by suffer well is this… cling to deep biblical truths in the midst of all the crap that this life has sometimes. When you are eye-deep in grief, cling to the hope that is to come. When your heart is shattered by those you hold so dear and near, know that God is supremely good. We can’t have our crown of glory, without first enduring the cross. (James 1:12)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A perfect kind of afternoon

It was a perfect kind of afternoon in our home. One that doesn't come often enough for me to tire of it. Instead, these afternoons happen just often enough for me to rest in them and cherish them deeply.

The eldest of our fair-headed children was busy at the table prepping for an artwork showdown she planned to have at school the following day. My face, in the most literal sense, looked like the blank emoticon face that you'd type in a text to a friend when you have absolutely no idea what to say. I had no idea how to respond to it. I might could have spoken to her about being gentle and kind, but for the most part I knew their artwork showdown was harmless.. and I had things to tend to.

The smaller ones busied themselves making play-doh masterpieces. My nervous twitch didn't even come out when they started mixing colors. It was a glorious moment of triumph for me.

I busied myself baking a few treats to take to a baby shower for some friends of ours. Our friends received the most precious little girl into their home about 2 weeks ago. We wanted to support them in their adoption journey of this beautiful little thing, to encourage them in it, and to celebrate her being in their home.

Amidst the measuring and pouring of ingredients, my ears were filled with the laughter of three chipper little voices. And I wondered what it might sound like if a fourth little chipper voice chimed in?

As the aroma of baked sweets filled my home, the sorrow crept in slowly and was kept at bay. Please don't get me wrong, I found such joy serving our friends in this way- loving them that evening and celebrating in this new little life that has been entrusted in their care. But my heart longed for a new little face that might fill our home one day.

I imagine it must be what a woman whose womb still sits empty feels like going to yet another baby shower for a friend. Or what another woman might feel as she attends a loved-one's wedding without a husband to call her own.

These are all good things. They are all things that are okay to desire and want... a baby to love on and pour out the Gospel Truth to. A husband to share in life's joys and sorrows; a husband to journey with.

But what I've found good for me to do in these moments is to not sit still. The waiting can be agonizing. We can't know with absolute certainty that the Lord will gift us with these desires of our hearts, even if they are very good things that can be used for His glory. It is so tempting to close the doors, to sit, and to internalize all those feelings that come with the waiting. And while we all need those moments, it can be a dangerous place to live in this constant isolation.

But what if we got over ourselves just a bit? What if I can use my time of waiting to encourage and love others well through it? I'm certainly not letting my dreams go. I'm not losing hope. And I'm definitely not giving up. I'll keep my dreams nestled right close to my heart, as I pour out on my friends who are going through things in their lives, too.

I want to encourage you to do the same. Waiting and longing for something can be so agonizing sometimes. It can be painful. But I encourage you not to lose heart. I want to encourage you not to waste a single minute of the waiting. We can do great things, even in the midst of our waiting, to the glory of God.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Feed my sheep...

I've always been a dreamer of sorts. I look to the horizon.. look to tomorrow.. look to the next thing that's supposed to happen instead of resting in the moment. I tend to get so carried away in all these little fantasies or future happenings to enjoy the here and now.

While the hubs and I were at a conference recently, one of the speakers brought up an amazing passage of scripture. It's a meaty one. One that I could probably pour over for weeks and weeks and rest in all the things that jump out at me.

The book of I Samuel walks us through Samuel's life. We see him rise up to be a prophet of God and a judge over Israel. Through the work of the Lord, Saul is appointed king of Israel. The guy's barely King for a few chapter's worth of I Samuel before reign is declining. So God rejects him, and sends Samuel out to anoint a new King over Israel.

In Chapter 16, we see Samuel start his journey to anoint the new king under the cover of traveling to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. He's scared that Saul will hear of the plans, and will kill him. So, he takes a heifer to sacrifice in the town of Bethlehem. This will kind of be his cover story, in the event that Saul questions where he's going.

The story picks up a bit, and a few verses down, we see Jesse has gathered his sons for the sacrifice Samuel will make. Alas, none of the sons gathered were to be the new king. Samuel asks Jesse if he has any other sons. And yes, he does. The youngest of the boys is tending the sheep.

After the boy was summoned to be with the rest of the men, the Lord spoke to Samuel and instructed him to anoint the boy. The Spirit of the Lord was with David mightily from this day forward, and the Spirit left Saul. Saul actually became so troubled by an evil spirit, he needed a skilled musician to calm him and be well. Who else does he summon to the high court to play the music other than David? David was, according to Scripture, a skilled musician.

And when David, who at this point is anointed to be king, is summoned to the court to play for Saul (still the current, reigning king), where is he found? Still tending the sheep. The man intended to take over the throne, anointed to be king... had returned to his humble, lowly occupation of looking after the flock. David would continue to look after his father's flock for many years before his time of reign came.

There are so many wonderful nuggets we can gather from this passage. But what I gathered is this: look after the sheep. After his anointing, did David's head grow double in size and his ego outgrow his humble job of looking after the sheep? No. David remained in his lowly position of tending the sheep.

I can't be absolutely certain, as I haven't had some high prophet of the Lord come and anoint my head with oil, that I am destined for something outstandingly awesome in my life. Surely not something as awesome as royalty and being in the blood-line of Jesus. But, yeah , I have dreams and hopes of certain things I would love to accomplish. But what happens when these dreams or hopes overshadow my current calling in life? I've completely lost sight of what I'm supposed to be doing in the here and now: tending the sheep.

For me, my sheep are first and foremost the cutest little gaggle of blondies you will ever lay eyes on, this amazingly handsome guy the Lord has gifted me with, and even this little role I serve in amongst our body of believers. So, while I want to hope and dream, and yearn for all these other things that bring glory to God... I want to be faithful, true and steady in the place I'm in now... tending the sheep.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Time Away

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind up in here.

First, we spent last weekend on a mini-vaca with the hub's family. It was a total blast!

We pulled in and our first stop was this really great old-timey candy shoppe that also serves milkshakes and other yummy ice cream dishes.

They also make taffy at this place. I swear I could sit and watch that machine spin that taffy round and round for hours. The guys that make the stuff always throw out free samples to people, which is super fun too! While we there, they made toffee and handed out samples of that, too. Y'all. I wish there were some way to convey the aroma of that blessed stuff being made. Forget all the fake candle smells that try to make you think of toffee... This stuff was the real deal, and I only wish I had somehow bottled it up to save for later. So dern good!

The super fun cousins (and their parents) met us down there the next day. We may or may have not gone for a 2nd sugar high the next day at the same candy place. It's just too fun and too yummy not to hit up!

After we gorged ourselves on candy and burgers, we headed to Pleasure Pier. The bumper cars proved to be the Brantner girls favored ride! And their mother may or may not have encouraged them to ride a ride that got them completely soaked! Yeah, totally thought it was going to be like those rides at Astroworld that say you could get wet.. but you actually just get a tiny sprinkling of water on you. Nope. We were drenched. Head to toe. Between that and the chilly weather, we all brought home fun little viruses as souvenirs! Jade spent the following week getting over the flu. Bella suffered from an ear infection and HFM disease. And Jo, well he was actually pretty healthy considering.

Not sure why, but our kids rarely sleep when we're on vacation. They rose before the sun both days we were there. We did our best to keep them quiet, but by the 2nd day, I couldn't stand being cooped up in the room. I did my best to sneak them out quietly. We made a donut run.. and to get coffee for this caffeine addict. Then, we had a bundled up picnic on the beach watching the sun rise.

It lasted a total of 5 minutes. Between the kids feeling crummy, the cool weather and them inhaling their donut holes, it was a quick adventure.

We were still back in the hotel room by 8, where I apologized to the condo full of late sleepers.

Thanks to my early risers, we were on our way home at a record breaking time. The kids fevers rose throughout the day as my pulse quickened. You see, I don't handle sickness well.. and the hubs and I had plans to leave town in 2 days! Ack!

By the next day, our feisty first grader was pretty lethargic. I whisked them all to the Dr as soon as we could get in. She confirmed my sneaking suspicions for the various illnesses.

And for once, my ability to overreact paid off! The kids had their meds in less than 24 hours of being sick, and by the next day were on the mend! Hallelujah- the kids were feeling like warriors again and our trip was still on!

We rolled into Austin on Tuesday, excited to have a bit of a reprieve from all responsibilities and to have time to soak in the Word together. Also. I was excited about Austin food.

We spent the next 2 days sitting under some pretty awesome teachers, eating lots of great food, and making some new friends.

We also got to check out these guys, Courrier, live. It was a fun, intimate show! They're highly entertaining and they make great music! Our kids have even enjoyed jamming to their stuff in our cars, too.

Then, this happened during one of the breakout sessions. The heart behind the breakout sessions were to have a more intimate setting with a leader and gleam from their wisdom of leading the Church. This particular session happened to be on the patio of a great little coffee place. Yall, I swear I tried my hardest to choke back the hysterical laughter rising from my belly. I have no idea why I find Segway tours so entertaining. But they CRACK ME UP!!

We ended up having to head back pretty early the next morning. Our kiddo's ended up going into a little bit of regression with their illnesses. But we so enjoyed our time learning and retreating!

So, there you have our last couple of weeks. 2 short trips, 2 viruses, 1 infection, 2 colds, 1 clogged tear duct, and lots of good food!

(**This is the part where I say "Carla OUT" and drop the mic like a boss, and walk off the stage. At least in my imagination, cuz that's what I do when I blog. I imagine me saying all this stuff and all these different scenarios.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Crockpots FTW

I love busy weeks, the hustle and bustle of life. But I also love the calm weeks... and the way they soothe my tired eyes after all the hustle and bustle. 

Last week was a week for the record books. And this week, I am soaking in all the unmarked days on our calendar. Glory.

Our forecast shows lots of rain, which I'm hoping will trick my mind into thinking its a blistery cold out... instead of the humid, muggy, and warm it really is.

To celebrate my week of rest, I will be taking full advantage of my crock-pot. What better way could there be to rejoice in the freedom of a scant calendar than with a 1-pot-clean-up dinner time?

First in line, is Skinnytaste's Kid Friendly Chili! Not gonna lie. I'm a wee bit nervous. I've always, ALWAYS used a tried and true Chili Kit to make chili. But, my kids have NEVER liked it. I'm curious to see if they'll appreciate this version more.

Next, I had planned on making a Not-So-Skinny Ranch style pork-chops. But, just discovered that we left the entire package of pork in the hubster's truck over night. So. There goes that.

And last, is Skinnytaste's Picante Chicken and Black Bean soup. I'm pretty excited about this one! It's pretty similar to a chicken taco recipe I make that our entire family gobbles up. So, I'm pretty sure everyone will enjoy this one too!

Come at me with full force, Lazy Week!!! I am ready for you!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Austin Stone Worship

(*Disclaimer, I called in the big guns for this post! My ever-talented, gracious husband weighed in with an experienced voice on this subject matter.)

We love worship music in this home. My husband, being a worship leader, immerses himself in it daily. I immerse myself in it to keep me focused and to sometimes lighten my load throughout the day. I find that when I have music playing, it encourages me to pray more often and leads me into more of a worship-full attitude.

However, we try to be mindful of the types of worship music we play. All worship songs are not created equal. I have sung along with some songs, only to wonder 5 minutes later "What was I just singing?!"  We try to be mindful of the music that fills our minds. So, when we do sing along, our mouths aren't proclaiming un-truths. We want to be sure that the worship music we listen to is theologically sound.

Several years ago, we discovered Austin Stone Worship. The purchases we have made have not been made in vain. Our minds are filled with great music, our hearts are stirred with great affection, and our voices sing along to great Truth!

So, when Austin Stone Worship announced their new live worship record, King of Love, we were STOKED!

I was honored to receive the album and to test-drive it before it hits the world's ears with full-force!

Here I am, being pretty excited, texting a picture to the Hubs!

This past week has been a joy to dive into the music from Austin Stone Worship on the new King of Love record. From the very first track on the record, the music is full of intense guitar riffs backed with heart-pounding drums. Throughout the rest of the album, there is a blessed melding of the melodic voices to the wonderfully mixed instruments. From original tracks to classic hymns, this record is filled with a great mix of high-energy songs accompanied by a mix of slower-paced songs. No matter the pace of the song, they are all Gospel saturated and Christ exalting.  They have spurred my heart into an attitude of worship.

The songs stuck in my head, even when they weren't playing over the speakers. I found myself humming the lyrics and melodies of King of Love all throughout the week. Even better, my husband has full access to SO MANY resources from Austin Stone Worship to encourage him in leading our body of believers through some of the songs. So, now I can listen to the CD in the car, and I can sing along in our own live-worship experience on Sundays.

Bless yourself, or a friend, when this album comes out on October 22! (Available on iTunes or Amazon.) And if you're musically talented, like my husband, check out their website for their AMAZING resources!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dating My Husband

Last week was an extremely busy and a somewhat difficult week in our household. Between the two of us grown-up Brantner's, we had 6 ministry meetings. Oh, and my 2 year old son decided it was a great time for him to be potty-trained. 

While we both love serving in the church and loving the Church, it is a week I hope we don't soon repeat. 

After spending most of the week in my house looking down-right frumpy, I was ready to break down the walls. So, I did what any desperate potty-training mother would do and called for the most fool-proof plan that came to mind. I texted The Grandmothers. Having not only my mom but my wonderful mother-in-law live and work so close to us is such a blessing. Not only that, but they genuinely love us and spending time with us!

The key to texting The Grandmothers is to not come off so desperate... and to totally play The Grandchildren card. My text went a little something like this, "Are either of you in need of a cute-blonde-people fix? I know two especially cute little people who have been dying to see their KK and Grandma!" (**Now, let the record show, that I genuinely love The Grandmothers and would have liked to see them regardless of my desperation. However, dire circumstances call for drastic measures. Hence, the reference to The Grandchildren.) When texting The Grandmothers, you can NEVER over-emphasize their little people's cuteness, sweetness, or all-around awesomeness. They soak that stuff up like a prune-sized sponge in the middle of the Sahara. 

As an added bonus, you can also word the text in such a way that they don't know if you're referring to a lunch date with them or a night away with your husband. This particular text was pure GOLD as it afforded me both! My precious mother-in-law rescued me from the confines of our half-bath for a delicious lunch date with said little blondies. And my Mom was all sorts of confused by the text, that she inadvertently offered up a night of free babysitting! What-what?!?!

So, after a week full of a full calendar and potty-training tension in our home, Matt and I cashed in on that free babysitting like a Groupon burning a hole in our pocket. I love dating my husband. He is such a wonderful gift to me, and I couldn't think of a better way to wind down our hectic week. We went to dinner, and savored every bit of conversation that transposed. What a comfort it is to be able to talk through everything with my best friend, who lovingly encourages me and keeps me accountable!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Puddle Patrol

Nothing strikes fear into a mother's heart quite like potty training! Well, at least, this mother's heart.

Our littlest mister has been intrigued with going "potty" on the potty for a while now. But, I've been stubborn and unwilling to really invest any time into the training. We've all been fine and dandy with diapers, and I wasn't looking forward to living in a bathroom for any amount of time.

So. Here are my tips for Potty Training Like a Pro!

#1. Let your kids let you know when they're ready. I feel like I may have either pushed my girls a bit into potty training, and not really picked up on their clues. Or, I was delusional at how the whole potty training thing goes and wasn't all that patient with them. I knew Josiah was ready when he screamed like a wild banchee at me when I tried putting a diaper on him. (He also may or may not have told me on several occasions when he needed to "go.")

#2. Be prepared. Sure, big boy/girl undies are not disposable. But sometimes they are. It can take a while for a kid to learn to go #2 in the potty. And sometimes its not worth the pro-longed vomiting in cleaning the undies out! Also, the first couple of days are filled with either full-blown puddle style accidents or what I like to call half-accidents. (Half accidents occur when your child starts going in the undies, realizes whats happening and then finishes on the potty!) You can never have too many pairs of underwear for the first few days!

#2a. Be prepared. Make sure you keep not only plenty of undies nearby, but also paper towels and some kind of disinfecting wipes. (Our downstairs primarily consists of hard floor surfaces. If we had carpet, I would have also pictured a few towels and Resolve. If we did have carpet, I would try to spend as much time as possible in the kitchen or a dining area with lots of hard floors. Cleaning up tee-tee out of carpet can be a real pain. Plus there's all the germs and bacteria that can trapped in the carpet. And now we digress into my clean-a-phobia.) The first couple of days, no matter how ready your kid is, are filled with the inevitable accidents. If you've got several children in the household or animals, you don't want them traipsing through the mess. Have your towels and disinfecting wipes handy to clean up the mess speedily before it spreads!

#3. Become a hermit. Potty training requires LOTS of consistency and dedication. Seeing as how I've started a couch-to-5k program about 6 different times without completing any of them, you can see how much dedication and commitment I have to stuff. Potty training, however, is the perfect amount of time for me to be dedicated to something. Be prepared to spend a good 3-4 days at home, lounging in your pajamas looking half homeless. Get those crock-pot meals all on stand-by for that week, and make sure that your household expectations are low. Potty-training is time consuming and it REALLY is so much less stressful when you aren't worrying over the dishes, or laundry, or looking like you don't belong in a mental institution.

#4. Encourage your kiddo to go sit on the potty about every 30 minutes to a hour. You be the judge of how often they need to go. The first few days you will literally live in the bathroom! Make it comfy for you. Bring in a cushioned stool to sit on, a book or a phone to help occupy your time, anything to help you keep your patience. Our boy drinks A LOT! So, he needed to go A LOT! (*Sidenote: My genius of a mother in law encouraged me to have our boy sit backwards on the potty, facing the tank of the toilet. The natural instinct when facing this way is to lean forward. So, he wasn't drenching our bathroom with urine. It was a very practical, helpful tip! He's too little for me to trust standing up. But having him face backward I think will help him when he needs to stand, as he'll already be used to facing that way.) Praise your kiddo everytime they go, and don't be afraid to cheese it up a bit! The more excited you are, the more excited they get. By day 3-4 your kiddo will most likely start telling you when they need to go. This is also the time that I gently reprimand my kids for not going on the potty. I make sure not to be harsh, but to lovingly let them know that they need to go in the potty. I also milk the characters on the underwear for all their worth. "Spiderman is so sad that you went tee-tee on him! Yuck! Let's put tee-tee in the potty!! YAY!"

And there you have it. Go and potty-train like a Pro now! Or, if you're like me... let your toddler tell you when he's ready and be completely baffled when he breezes right through it. But also don't be too surprised when he has an epic accident when you're trying to type a blog post. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Let's Rally Together

If there's one thing my kids do well, it's rallying together. In each other, they find vast amounts of encouragement and love.

Oh, don't get me wrong. They're still stingy little boogers who have a hard time not sharing occasionally. Then, there's the case of feelings. Feelings. Someone hurt someone else's or this person spoke in an unloving tone which made that one go all kinds of batcrazy on the other one.

But, if something is going on, they can always count on each other. It makes my Mommy-heart swell with pride and love to hear their sweet little voices offer words of tenderness and "go-get-um" to each other.

It astounds me how the Holy Spirit works in my heart towards sanctification and how He uses my kids to accomplish that. I find myself no longer taking moments for their face value. While recalling moments of our day, I find myself digging deeper into the situation. How is God trying to speak to me from this today?

When I see my kids offer loving encouragement to one another it encourages me. It teaches me.  When they use not only words, but actions to build one-another up and not tear each other down, it gives me hope to lovingly encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I love how the Word of God has a wealth of informative truth for me to learn about encouraging those around me.

Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

What power there can be in our words! To show those around us not only encouragement, but also grace! Grace, completely undeserved, completely overwhelming, and a completely lavish response to those who hold no favor for it! How good it is for our words to encourage and to lift one another up... even the ones who are most undeserving of the good words!

Proverbs 10: 11-13 " The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. 13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense." 

May the words we use, show the love we have within... may they show wisdom and be a fountain of life!

I encourage you today.. dig deeper... keep your eyes open and your heart softened. May we be ready for the Spirit to work in us, and may we be readily teachable!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

School daze

Today, our highly independent sweetheart, Bella, started Pre-K. The excitement in our home this morning was palpable. I woke several times throughout the night, fearing I would miss my alarm. Dropping your kids off in car-pool line in pajamas and glasses is all kinds of cool, just not on the first day of school.  The excitement even played throughout our girls subconsciousness throughout the night. They were restless in their dreams, eager for morning to come.

Everyone was SO EXCITED for Bella to start school!

It is a rare thing when the ebb and flow of a household getting ready in the morning is completely uninterrupted. Today was one of those rare gifts of a morning. Bella, so eager, got ready in the blink of an eye. And Jade, ever the helpful one, made her own lunch before I even had time to gather the peanut butter and jelly. Our sweet Jojo, completely unfazed by the excitement, slept right through everything.

Precious Bella, just when exactly did you grow up enough to be so ready for Pre-k?

In a near miraculous turn of events, we left the house with a few minutes to spare!

Just enough time for Mommy to snap a few more pics than I normally would have, which is good. And thanks to ios7, I now snap about 5 million pictures each time I open my camera app!

Notice my "Junior Mommy" in the background filling the class Sponsor/teacher in on all things Bella in the background?

Our school district has this pretty amazing program for upper-classmen. Students interested in pursuing a teaching degree, or a career path into early childhood education, are given the opportunity to run a pre-k, with the supervision and guidance of an actual Teacher. The high school students are in the class for 2 periods of their day, and then another set of students are in the class for an additional 2 periods. It's a great environment for Bella to learn in and the student to "teacher" ratio is almost 2 to 1. We are so excited for our girl to interact with a few peers just a few hours a day for a couple of days out of the week! And I'm excited to build relationships with her teachers, classmates and the other parents.

And this little guy is excited to have Mommy all to himself for a few hours! He's also pretty excited to not have to share any toys and to not be bossed around by a couple of over-bearing, while always good-natured, sisters! What fun he and I will have getting to spend just a bit of time each week hanging out!

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Fall, Y'all!

I'm a routine-lover. I don't like surprises. And I could be happy eating the same thing 5 days a week for lunch, if I had to. I'm not too big on change.

Except for the seasons. Oh, how I love the changing of seasons. There is just something so refreshing about changing of temperatures and the changing of colors.

Here in H-town, its rumored that we only get 2 seasons. But, I know for a fact that we actually get all 4. And sometimes, they're all in 1 day! (Our weather is a bit temperamental. Sometimes we need the heat on through the night, and the AC blasting through the day.)

Yesterday, we welcomed Autumn with wide-open and anxious arms. The weather finally dipped below 90, and we excitedly spent the ENTIRE DAY outside marveling in the wonderfulness of 0% humidity and no sweat.  If I had any sense, I would have even indulged in a Pumpkin Spice Latte. However, my absolute giddiness over the weather prevented me from doing anything slightly productive.

Instead, I spent the day taking about 1000 mental pictures much like this one. 

When we finally did come inside, I made a big 'ol pot of beef stew. Sure, by the afternoon it had reached the mid-80's, but this is Houston, folks! The mid-80's in mid-September is almost downright chilly!

And because I just absolutely could NOT wait to try this trick out, I had quite a bit of garlic at my disposal. I chopped a couple of cloves up, and threw them into a pot with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Next, I threw in a couple pounds of beef stew meat. Amidst the stirring and tossing, I sprinkled in some salt, pepper, a dash or two of paprika, a pinch of allspice, and some all-purpose steak seasoning. Once the meat had browned just a bit, I added a couple of hard shots of Worcestershire sauce and a couple cups of water. I also added in small-medium-ish sliced yellow onion and a couple of bay leaves. My theory is, when boiling meat you can't ever have too much seasoning! It only makes the broth that much better!

I let that simmer for good LOOOONG while. And by LOOOONNNGG, I mean I had to restrain myself from sampling the concoction every 5 minutes. The next hour and half were spent trying everything possible to NOT GO INTO the kitchen!

But alas, I finally had to go back in! I added in a couple of chopped up potatoes, carrots and celery. Stirred it all up.. and had to wait AGAIN!

While all those yummy flavors and textures were melding together, I got some cornbread going in the oven.

My family has bought this brand of Corn Muffin mix for as long as I can remember. And it's what I buy for us! (Remember that part about not liking change so much?) I make it exactly like the box says... only, I also add 1/4c sugar to the batter. It is so stupid good, you won't believe it!

By this point, the littles were all in bed. My handsome hunk and I snuggled up on the couch with our beef stew, corn bread and sweet Tea, and settled in to watch Mr. Bohannon forge the railroad on another couple of miles.

What a great way to welcome Fall!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lifesong::: Church Adoption Funds

church 100Adoption Funds. Helping the church financially support couples as they bring home children into their forever families through adoption.

MEETING THE NEEDS // Adoption Funds
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We see Adoption Funds as a "Win-Win-Win" solution: the local church is actively involved on behalf of orphans, the financial roadblock for families is removed, the orphan child is adopted into a permanent Christian family...all with minimal administrative burden for the church.

Using the adoption matching grant and interest-free loan processes already established by Lifesong, churches can easily navigate through the details of adoption funding....all with no cost to the church.

Church Fund Children

ALWAYS WITH YOU // Adoption Fund Story
Cameron and Sarah experienced the love of their church family through their adoption journey. His Kids Our Homes Adoption Fund, at North County Christ the King Church have blessed this family and others as children are brought into forever families. Listen in on their journey...

mouse copySee how your church can benefit from establishing an Adoption Fund by visiting our website.

Read More
Bringing Churches Around Adoptive Families - Dave and Carrie, directors of His Kids - Our Homes (Lynden, WA) share how they have experienced the blessing of having a Lifesong Adoption Fund.  Watch Video

"God Worked to Bring Them Home" - Scott and Kathy bring two more children into their home through adoption with the help from TAMBA adoption fund. Read more

God's Revealing Love - Sam and Maria share how God continued to reveal His love for them and their 7 children, through their local church, North County Christ the King. Watch Video

Adoption Fund Testimonials - Hear what Adoption Fund partners have to say about their experience with Lifesong Adoption Funds.  Watch Video