Thursday, December 6, 2012

His tools: Busting Up Bessie

Often the very things a woman resists and resents are God's special tools to fashion her into the image of His Son.    ~Creative Counterpart, Linda Dillow

Ever do something so idiotic that you feel like Bill Engvall should stamp a stupid sign on your head?

Monday, I wasn't feeling so great (hormonal!), but decided to get out of the house and pick up some crafts for a homeschool project. The kids and I loaded into the van and were on our way. As we idled at a stop light, I turned to Merikalyn and groaned, "Ugh! I forgot my phone!"

"Mom, you always think you forgot your phone! I bet it's in your purse!" 

I was pretty sure I had left it, but she's right- I'm always thinking I forgot it, and there it usually is... right in the pocket of my purse.  I reached down to pick up my purse to hand it to my daughter, glancing up briefly to see that traffic had begun to move and there was a big gap in front of me.  I pushed on the gas, shifting my eyes to Merika, and BAM! I hit the back of a really nice Lincoln SUV.

Turns out traffic had eased to a stop, and I had not noticed because, well, I was distracted.  My groaning about forgetting my phone (which yes, I had actually forgotten this time!) turned into groaning about a wreck that was clearly my fault.

Thankfully, I wrecked into a nice woman (and thankfully she was okay!).  Thankfully the kids were fine (Evie slept through it. When I asked Keagan if he was okay, he told me was not. After a series of questions, I found out his ailment was that he was hungry.) Thankfully the police man who showed up at the scene only issued me a warning (and was pretty nice as well).  Thankfully her SUV wasn't completely smashed up, and it looks like only one panel on the back of the vehicle will need to be replaced. (I feel horrible about inconveniencing her! She takes care of her mother as well, so I know she needs her vehicle to be able to load in her mother's wheelchair and such!)  Thankfully my van, although pretty busted up in the front, was able to make it home despite the horrible clicking sound. (Poor Bessie.)

I was really beating myself up.  I'm always telling my children to pay attention (hadn't I given them that talk several times that day?), and here I go slamming into the back of someone because I wasn't paying attention.  Not only that, we had recently depleted our savings, that cushion we worked hard to build, and now we'll have to put money towards fixing what I did to the van!  PLUS, I'll be stuck at home until the van gets repaired because it's the only vehicle that fits us all.


Then I felt a reminder creep up in me.  God's not surprised that I wrecked the van.  It might have thrown a wrench in my plans for the week, but it certainly didn't do the same for His.

Okay, Father. I sighed. I'm going to be at home all week, unable to distract myself with trips to the store on a whim, or "treat" us with Chick-fil-a. I know that You have something planned for this time. I'm going to consider this present situation in the light of Your eternal purpose and trust You. I'm going to trust that You allowed me to be distracted and bust up my van (because You could have saved me from myself in that situation; You have before!) because there's a lesson in it for me.  I believe you want to use this time to draw me closer to You.  I believe you want to use this time to teach me many things, and I choose to be open. I also believe that this moment is about more than just me, so open my eyes to see what You want me to see.

I was reminded of the quote I shared at the beginning of this post.  I can choose lament over this whole ordeal, or I can praise God.  I can resent it, resist it, complain and grumble, or I can thank Him for forcing me into a position where I cannot get caught up in the busyness of running errands, visiting friends, and spending money (a result of running errands and visiting with friends).  It's not that any of those things are bad, but I have felt the Lord really calling me to focus on Him, and I know that I am (1) a procrastinator and (2) easily distracted.  He didn't take out all my distractions or demolish my ability to procrastinate, but He handicapped my easiest and most-used escape.

Sometimes the Lord tries various methods to grab us by the hand and say, "Hey, we need to talk." I don't know about you, but whenever I hear something that sounds like, "Hey, we need to talk," I get all squirmy inside. Most of us have experienced "We need to talk," moments with people that have left us feeling guilty, defeated, angry, hurt, and a multitude of other crummy emotions. We feel beat up and dumped on.

I forget that God isn't like that.  He isn't waiting to beat me over the head.  He really just wants to talk. He wants me to climb into His lap like my daughters do with their daddy.  He wants me to lean up against Him and lay all my troubles down.  He wants me to be quieted so He can tell of His love for me, draw me in, and calm my busy, aching, emotional, hyper-active heart.

Of course, often times the Lord does point out my flaws which can cause me to withdraw.  Why? Because in my experience, when people (humans) point out flaws, it's usually not with a spirit of love.  I forget that the Lord brings my darkness to light because He loves me and doesn't want anything hindering me from being in His Presence. His reasoning behind it all is for RECONCILIATION, not to beat me up, shame me, or guilt me into changing. 

Have you ever been in a situation where someone has laid out all they think is wrong with you?  It's not a good feeling.  They might be right or they might be wrong... or the truth of it all may lie somewhere between the two, but because their approach is not really in love (even if they might say it is), your instinct is to shut down and get out.  People, because we are sinful, tend to point out problems and tell you exactly what you need to do to fix it. So, then we feel guilty because we are broken, and guiltier because we struggle to do the things they say we need to do.

The Lord never gives us a list of things we need to do.  This is a really hard concept for me, because I'm a list person (well, I like lists, but I usually get frustrated because I can't get everything checked off of it). Jesus scolds the Pharisees for their lists because they're so busy trying to check it off (and force other people to follow it) that they miss Christ.  It seems easier to follow a list than to follow Christ.  Why is that?

Because it requires complete surrender.  It means releasing our controlling grip. (Which, have you noticed? You actually don't have as much control over things as you'd like to assume!)

I realize that as long as I'm busy, distracted, and trying to check things off my list, I'm not surrendered.  That doesn't mean that a surrendered life won't look busy on the outside at times, it just means that MY busy isn't GOD's busy.

One of the things the Lord has really been impressing upon me is that He desires that the finished product to be His work, not mine.  He longs for me to trust Him.  My trust stems from my understanding that I am unable to live the righteous life on my own power.  From that comes the confidence that, if I surrender in obedience, He will fulfill His promise and His Spirit will mold me into the Image He desires.  Therefore, I'm not following a list of "How to Live the Christian Life", but rather, I am following Christ. 

I have told Him that's what I want- I want to be fully surrendered.  I want Him to be in control. I want the "me" worked out of me. I want to be pruned by Him.  Even though I want those things, my flesh wants to run. My flesh wants to stay busy checking off that list. My flesh wants to be distracted. And, I admit, I often give in to the flesh because it seems easier.  After all, it's been the default of my life for so long!

I am thankful, though, that the Lord does things to get my attention, to stop me in my tracks, and to turn me back to Him.  I am grateful that He still calls me into His arms, calms me, and shows me His love, even when I have refused His call before. I am thankful for the tools He uses to direct me back to Him, even if that means busting up Bessie. ;)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Quick & Easy Homemade Crackers

I've been trying to cut processed foods out of our diet, and therefore out of our pantry, for about a month now. There are some things that I never thought about making myself but I've been breaking out of that mold lately.  One of those things is crackers.

Oh me, oh my y'all. Crackers are so, so, so easy to make.  Easy. Super easy.  Really easy. And so much better than those store-bought kind.  Store-bought crackers are either too dry (and cardboard tasting) or too greasy.  These are delicious and easy to customize.

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole white wheat flour)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
salt for sprinkling (optional)

Directions :
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
 In a bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Add the vegetable oil and water, and mix until just blended. On a lightly flo-ured surface, roll out the dough as thin as you can- 1/8 of an inch or thinner. Spray a cookie sheet lightly with olive oil spray, place the dough on the pan, and mark squares out with a knife. Prick each cracker with a fork several times, and sprinkle with salt (optional). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in a preheated oven or until crisp. Baking time will vary depending on how thin your crackers are. Allow to cool, then separate crackers.

Tips:  Mark out squares pretty firmly, but do not separate the crackers.  Also, prick firmly (all the way through) as well. If you don't do this, crackers will puff really high.

I think this recipe would also work well as pita bread or even mini-pizza crusts.  Bake for 8-10 minutes instead.

{This is what was left after lunch- half of the recipe.}

Change it up:
-Add some cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup or honey to make a sweeter cracker.
-Add some chopped herbs or special seasonings (garlic, onion powder, etc).
-Add in ground flax for some extra nutrition.

The possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It Is Well...

... with my soul! (That's one of my favorite hymns. Love the story behind it!)
I wish I had time (and brains) to write a real entry- an entry pouring out what's going on in my life, giving you a peek into my soul.  Let's face it. Pictures will give you a peek into my life, but not into my soul... and there is a lot going on in my soul.  I have really never felt more in love with my Lord and Savior than I do now.  I am learning so much because I have simply asked.  Guess what! God does what He says! There have been so many areas where I felt like I was lacking.  I knew I was lacking.  I need Him to fix me so badly, and no one else can do the job. Lord knows I can't.

It's been the plea, the cry, of my heart that I could know Him better, and He is granting my wishes.  I have found there is no one better to go to than my God to confess my troubles, flaws, and shamefulness.  And I have found that He cares deeply about the details of my life.  Every. Single. Detail.

I asked that He give me a heart that is loving and a passion for prayer, and He almost immediately granted my prayer in such an amazing way.  Also, there was this book that I really wanted to borrow from Nanci, but she had already packed it away (since they are moving), so I was bummed. (It never occurred to me to just purchase it. I rarely borrow books- I normally just buy one for myself, but for some reason that didn't even enter my mind.)  Then, Sunday, a friend bought a bunch of boxes stuffed with books to our fellowship gathering and, lo and behold, there it was.  Not only was it an answer to my prayer for the book, but the book itself was also an answer to my prayer about prayer!

God is not some impersonal being in the sky.  If someone honestly seeks Him and desires to know Him, He reveals Himself and answers their requests in such amazing ways.  I wish I had time (and the wording) to explain all that He has made plain and clear to me this last week.  God is so, so good.  I feel like doing cartwheels, y'all.  I'm not saying that everything in life has been perfect, but God has shown me how and why I can and should be praising Him even in the icky, sticky parts of life (like Brandon losing his keys this morning).  He is weaving all threads of my day together.  He has allowed the events of my life, and nothing is a surprise to Him. I can thank Him for those things that would normally cause complaint because I know that His hand is on it, there is a reason for it, and He is using all things for my good.  He is using the events of my life to refine me, to make me better, to work out the imperfections.  I've had a major attitude adjustment this week which has enabled me to love people that I was having a hard time loving... and I'm really grateful for that.  God showed me that I was not being very loving, and then I told Him I wanted to have His love overflow from me, and He granted me that.  That's just how awesome He is.

I think I've become one of those people who just wants to hug and pray for everyone.  I used to hate those kind of people, ha! (I also often find myself saying, "Praise the Lord!" I have to laugh because I used to roll my eyes at those "religious weirdos" who always seemed to have a reason to say, "Praise Jesus!" But there are just so many reasons to do so!!)

Anyway, picture time!

I cannot believe my Jubilee is two months old.  Her eyes are still a bright, bold blue.  She smiles and jabbers a lot, and she's beginning to chub- up.  I had to move her into size two disposables.  We've been on the go so much that using cloth diapers hasn't seemed all that reasonable (plus, I have enough laundry as it is, which is hard to get done when you're out and about a lot). I do still use them... enough to do one load of diapers a week, which keeps me from feeling guilty about spending all that money on such an awesome cloth diaper stash.  (She did get a lot of use out of her newborn diapers, and she's pretty much outgrown most of them.)

He's teaching her about snakes :) Biggest sister, littlest sister

The kids are really great with her.  Nolyn loves to read to her, and Merika likes to sing songs to her.  Brandon has this magical daddy touch (and voice).  When she's super upset (and has been fed and changed), he will soothe her to sleep by singing to her.  I cannot tell you how many conversations Brandon and I have had in song.  That's right, we converse in song to one another while he tries to soothe her.  It's quite funny! (The kids sure get a laugh out of it!)
That's Evie on the left and Molly Jo on the right, in case you couldn't tell.  Both of them are wearing their homebirth t-shirts.  (Evangeline's says "A midwife helped me out.")  Every now and then, Molly Jo reminds me of Evie, but for the most part, their features are pretty different.  My mom swears that Molly Jo looks just like I did as a baby.  *Shrug*  Doesn't matter to me! I somehow landed five cute kids, no matter who they look like.  (And, to answer a couple questions, we call her by all her names here- Molly, Molly Jo, Jubilee, Jub'ee...  Also, we do not know whether her organs are flipped or not. It is not urgent that we know right now, as long as we are aware that they might be flipped.)

Love! We are really excited about the grass fed beef steak we are about to devour.

 Brandon and I are doing fantastic.  He switched back to working regular hours this week, so while I miss our time together in the mornings and afternoons, I am glad to be back to our regular routine.  I know he is too. He is growing so much spiritually as well, and I've really enjoyed talking over what God is teaching, how we are growing, etc with one another.  Sometimes we call each other just to share a verse or thought that really excited us.  I am truly a blessed woman to have such an amazing husband.  It's hard to believe we nearly divorced a little over 6 years ago. We are totally different people now! My mom is always bringing up how proud she is of us... how proud she is of our marriage, of our parenting, etc.  She saw us at our messiest, and I know it makes her so happy to see all of her children finally become MATURE and stop acting like childish fools. (Right mom?)


  #cantina #lupetortilla #lunch

We went into Houston to go to the Central Market grocery store and decided to take my mom out to lunch while we were there. Lupe Tortilla's is one of my favorite Mexican Restaurants.  So yum!  Evie enjoyed coloring her tomatoes.....

All the wonderful things awaiting us.. Which one to pick??? First world dilemmas
Maybe I need to make some of these this week. #yum Doesn't this make your mouth water?! #dessert #tinyfood #houston #centralmarket

So many pretty desserts!  I really loved their produce aisles as well because of all the bright hues. I really wish I would have snapped a shot of the rows of root vegetables. The array of colors was amazing!  While all the lovely desserts did catch my eye, our grocery cart was full of mostly fruits and vegetables. (I've been on a real greens kick and bought a lot of cabbage, spinach, and various other greens to "stew" in my cast iron skillet.) We did allow for one splurge though....


Brandon had Monday off, so we made this big day of it, which meant we got caught in the nasty Houston traffic on the way home. I ended up dropping him off at Terry and Nanci's since the men's meeting was at their house and the fellas were going to have supper together.  Then the kids and I headed home, unpacked groceries, and opted for a simple supper of cereal.  I was so tired, but it was only 7pm, so I had to brew myself some coffee to stay awake! I wanted to finish my From Prison to Praise book, plus I needed to catch up on my bible study!  Jubilee was exhausted, so I nursed her right when we got home, and she conked right out.

Me, on the other hand...

I was still up when Brandon got home from his men's meeting... which ended far earlier than it usually does. (He almost never makes it home before midnight!)  I had my women's bible study this morning which was awesome. I just LOVE how God is using our Beth Moore study to expand on what He's already teaching me through his Word and what my husband has shared with me (and it went along GREAT with the Prison to Praise book!).  He really knows how to orchestrate the details of my life.

We've really received a lot of parenting-praise lately.  A visitor came to our fellowship meeting Sunday and made several remarks to Brandon throughout the evening.  He was especially impressed with how well Evangeline listens and obeys.  God's grace, I say.  I know the kids aren't perfect, and of course they do embarrassing, parent-humbling things after I do a little bragging on them, but they really are great kids. I'm really thankful for Nanci and Terry because their parenting tips have been so helpful! I sometimes call Nanci in a mini-panic asking her how to deal with certain situations, and she's always full of godly wisdom.  I am really blessed to have them as friends.  I am SO indescribably thankful that the Lord put them in our lives. He knew how much we needed them!

She's even cute when she cries! Nothing says, Hi I'm lactating! quite like this.

I think I'm officially one of those annoyingly ever-optimistic people.  Everything makes me laugh and smile, and I am almost always humming or singing.  God is just THAT good.  I mean, my baby was screaming her head off, and I was trying to comfort her, she wouldn't nurse, and I was just smiling thinking, "This is great!" and I wasn't even being sarcastic.  (Then I had to laugh at the big boob-juice spot on my shirt!)  I mean, she's adorable even when she's screaming... not that I want her to scream, ha!

I made this awesomely delicious dinner tonight- Cooked spinach with sausage and garlic, homemade mac and cheese (NOT the kind with Velveeta), fruit salad (mango and apples), and these super yummy carrot fries.  Yeah, carrot fries. They were totally nomnomgood. (Quarter large carrots lengthwise, spray with olive oil spray, season with salt and whatever else you like- I used Tony Chachere's- and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.)

I sprinkled a bit of parm on them too. I didn't bake them in this dish, btw.  I just didn't want to put a huge pan on the table, so I moved them to this serving dish.

I was trying to juggle a screaming baby while grating cheese and doing a bunch of other things and turned to find Evie dumping out Tony Chachere's seasoning ALL OVER HER PLATE. That was ALL the Tony's I had left... we use it A LOT...sooooo, I'm going to have to make an emergency run tomorrow, ha!

Silly girl.  Good thing we were almost out anyway.  Little stinker!

And there you have it, my not-so-wordless wednesday!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Photo Friday- highlights

Here are a couple of my favorite Instagrams from the last week or two:

I love watching my husband interact with our children. He may seem grizzly, but he's a total teddy bear.

It's really hard to believe it's been two months since she was born. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that. How can it be that it feels like she was just born yesterday, yet it also seems like she's been here forever?

Fixing my girl's hair brings me back to the days my own mama would do my hair!

My boys are so funny! Nolyn was doing his silly dance while we played Mother May I.

Is this not a stunning photo of Merikalyn?

She loves putting her pennies in the bank! She has no idea what money is about, but she knows it sure is fun to plink them into her piggy!

We had the pleasure of having lunch with my Dad and Granny when they were on the way out of town (headed for San Antonio to celebrate my cousin's graduation!).  They were kind enough to hold Jubilee while I scarfed down my burger (I love Fuddrucker's!).  You can tell they really didn't want to hold her, but felt obligated. *wink wink*

I'm pretty sure her eyes are going to stay blue!

Yep, that about sums it up.

Say it with me, "Awwwwwwwwwww...."

Evangeline conked out on our bedroom floor. She looks like she's still in action, though! This is one of my favorite, favorite photos of the week.

Super squishable cheeks, y'all!

And last, but not least, tiny baby feet with cute little shoes!

It's time to {tea} party!

 I had promised Merika that, as her (9th) birthday party, we would go to the local tea room with some of her girl pals.  We did that yesterday and followed it with some yummy "froyo" at Menchie's.

We all got "prettied up", including me.  I haven't worn a dress in forever, but I donned one for today's festivities.  I grew up wearing only skirts and dresses, but now wearing a dress just feels... awkward.  I wear skirts now and then, but dresses just aren't a reasonable thing for me to wear since I'm nursing, so the dress has to have easy boob access (and most of them don't) since I can't just lift up my whole dress in a public place to breastfeed. I mean, I'm all for nursing in public, but that'd probably be taking it a little too far, right?  It's one thing to flash a little breast while nursing (although I almost always use a cover in public), but a whole 'nother to flash your undies.

Tea date this morning! I haven't worn a dress in a while, y'all! This also serves as my 2 month postpartum photo. Don't pass out, but I am actually wearing.... heels.  The things I do for my daughter. #teaparty

I also had on heels, which made my hubby all excited, but I ended up tossing them aside just before we left for a cute pair of flip flops. I often wonder how I managed to wear them suckers. Heels are completely impractical and insane.  After having Evie, I decided heels were stupid torture devices women impose on themselves, and the half-hour I had them served as a reminder!

My gals and I are ready to {tea} party!! All prettied up for Merika's tea party (a belated birthday party)

The girlies looked super cute in their matching dresses (my mom bought them from the Children's Place, but I often find matching outfits for infants, toddlers, and girls on Zulily.  And, of course, Evie had to wear her "tea" hat. I love these faces! Ah! They are so awesome!

My friend Rebecca and I sat at one table, and the girlies sat behind us.  (I was waiting for Rebecca and her daughter Hava to show up when I took this.)

Analisa and Merikalyn

Oh-my-gosh-y'all, how sweetly southern is she with that pinky?

Like I said, we went to Menchie's afterwards and, yum!  I should mention Rebecca and I are total goof balls... which is why I love hanging out with her. She's pregnant with her SIXTH child, FYI. This will be her FIFTH boy. Havilah is her only girl! (That's Hava sticking out her tongue in the background.)

(That's Nanci's daughter, Emily, on the right. She's a giant eleven-year-old. She's taller than I am!)

BAHAHAHA. Yep, we're dorky, but you know you love us anyway.

I love Emily!!!

And, lastly, CAN YOU BELIEVE MY BABY IS TWO MONTHS OLD (yesterday)???

*Sigh*  I love her.

I feel pretty content with our family size, and really, right now, the thought of another child kind of makes me panic a little.... but I usually feel that way the first months after giving birth.  I just can't imagine having another baby really soon (remember, Evangeline was nine months old when we conceived Jubilee), but I do know that if God did give us another wee one, we would be super excited.  I mean, I hyperventilated a little when I found out we were pregnant with Jubilee, but of course, now I'm thrilled to have her, so it would be the same if we had another baby.  I always look back and think, "MAN! What if we were have stopped with two.. or three... or.."  I'm really grateful for each and every child God has so graciously given to us.

Last night I was snuggling my kiddos before bed, and I realized my oldest son's cheeks are still super baby-soft and kissable... and they aren't going to be that way for much longer.  I had to smother him in kisses, and he had to pretend it was annoying, but I know he loved it.

Kids are awesome, aren't they?