Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Swimsuit Season Is Here

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

We need to teach girls that modesty isn't about covering up our bodies because they're bad. Modesty isn't about hiding ourselves; it's about revealing our dignity. We were made beautiful, in (God's) image and likeness, so the question I'd like to leave you with is, 'How will you use your beauty?'”
Jessica Rey
Swimsuit season has arrived. Terrifying! I took my oldest who is five to Target to get a new suit. Even at her age, it was an instant battle.  By battle, I mean, she heard a whole lot of, "I'm sorry, but no honey, you are not getting that suit." She is a little too young for me to really get into a debate with. I finally made the best choice in saying, "Here are five that I will say yes to, pick one."
I want my daughters to be able to have a say in what they wear, but there comes a line that I believe as a Christian, we cannot cross. Our culture pushes sexuality in every outfit and every swimsuit, and in every advertisement. I don't want that to be a pressure for my girls. Summer is scary for me because swimsuits and clothes cover less and less every year. I will be doing a blog series in the future on modesty so I will not go into depth here.
Today I wanted to offer some options to women that are fashionable, fun, feminine, and above all else, modest!
I hope you enjoy these options. The price is higher, but for me, modesty is priceless!
Check out Jessica Rey's presentation of her swimsuit battle here:
You can find her swimsuit line here and I would encourage everyone to support her efforts! (She is even making a line for kids!)


Here is another great option to build your own suit! Hope you enjoy it!
The best way to be an example to our girls is to lead them in following our own suggestions. If you don't want your kids to wear it, maybe we shouldn't wear it either.


The Perfect Calzone Dinner

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tonight we made a family favorite. Asking my five year old to help me make dinner brings out the OCD in me. This is such a fun recipe for her (and one that is a double score when my OCD doesn't have to be brought to the table as well).

This home made dough recipe is so easy!(

2 1/2 - 3 Cups flour
1 packet active yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp in a jar)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup very warm water

(This makes one calzone, if you want two, like we make, you will need to make two.)

In a large bowl, mix: one cup flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar. Add water, oil, and mix. Add the rest of the flour slowly, until dough is soft, smooth, but not sticky. I usually use all three cups. Let sit at least for a half hour before rolling out. No pounding down or more rising needed. I personally do it around noon when I drop my daughter off at school so it's more than ready when she gets back to help!

 This is my oldest's favorite part. We roll out the dough on an ungreased pan. Otherwise you will fill the dough and roll it ending up with a, "Oh crap, now what?" moment. After we roll the dough out as much on the sheet as we can, we cut in the dough making the slits one inch apart (usually, unless I walk away to feed a baby and she gets carried away, no big deal though!) and about 1 1/2 inches long.

We fill the inside with our favorite toppings and sauce.

"Criss cross applesauce!" as she loves to say! I fold the ends up to makes sure the ingredients stay IN.

Bake at 375 for a half an hour or until golden brown on the top. Presto. Dinner. Another fast, easy, and even fun meal to make.
*You can even do this for dessert and add apple pie filling and glaze the top with butter and cinnamon sugar.*

Monday, April 28, 2014

Apple-Oatmeal Cookies

Monday, April 28, 2014

*I stole this recipe from my mom and this is also her photo, but I have permission! :)*
We consider these a family favorite of ours! Take a little time but are totally worth it, depending on how fast they disappear I suppose! Enjoy!

 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old fashioned or quick cooking oats
1 medium apple, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons apple juice (or milk if no apple juice is available) I used apple juice that I canned from our tree.)

Heat oven to 375. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla, scraping sides occasionally, until blended.

In medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gradually beat flour mixture into sugar mixture. Stir in oats and apple. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets.

Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

In medium bowl, beat powdered sugar and apple juice (or milk) until smooth, using wire whisk or fork. Drizzle over cooled cooking on cooling rack. Let stand about 1 hour or until glaze is set.

When Things Get Broken

Monday, April 28, 2014

A few nights ago as I was tucking my two oldest girls into bed, I discovered that the top railing of the bunk bed was broken. I remembered a few days prior having some people over and correcting a few kids for hanging on this piece of bed (including my oldest). Instantly I was angry.

And for a few days after that, I seemed to be walking around finding random broken toys, scratched walls, and messes. I am not exactly positive where they came from, but most of them I was sure were from all of the times we have people in our home. Let me just say, we have a family or some children here at least once a week... minimum.

My heart of comparison kicked in. "No one else's houses have dinks. Everyone else's stuff stays nice. I paid money for that! You cannot just fix that, you have to redo it!" All of this coming and going, all of this babysitting, all of this hosting, and look where it got me!

God slammed his door of conviction on me faster than I can brew a pot of coffee on a Monday morning. Matthew 6:21 came to mind in particular, "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (NLT) I became very concerned about my heart condition directed toward hospitality. Even more concerned about my heart condition being right with God, than a broken railing, or a gouge out of my wall, or missing paint, or crayon on the dresser, or the newly formed stain on the carpet (that I am almost positive I can see George Clooney's face in). I began to wonder where I was really putting my treasure.

I look back on my days of sulking with a humble gratitude. I am thankful the Holy Spirit called me out on my sin. There is something to be said about all the times people have come over and laughed during a summer's night fire, they have sobbed on my couch, they have trusted their children to me, they have shared secrets between these walls, and memories have been created. Small groups come and eat here, family comes and has holiday celebration here. There is also something to be said about cramming so many into such a small space. You literally cannot get a side dish without hugging a family member to reach it (a huge blessing in the time of technology). I cannot see other friends' kids without getting hugged and begging to come back and play! Love has been given, taken, and most importantly, shared here.

What an honor to be able to serve God's beloved children that way. I remember a time when there was a non-believer who came and dropped her son off at our home. She said she would, "Be back soon for him," and never came back (we had to find his extended family members). He didn't have anything, not a diaper bag, no snacks, and not a thing to wear. I assumed that "soon" meant 1-2 hours. Not three days. But it was obvious that a) she didn't care about where her son was, or b) she truly trusted his care here. Maybe it was a bit of both, but in her negligence I learned an important lesson.

Matthew 25:33-40 says:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’"
I feel like somewhere in modern day living, we forget that abandoned children need a home. We forget that as Christians, we need to be caring for each other, saved or unsaved, whether things get broken, and whether it is deserved or undeserved. There has never been a verse that has ever said, "Give to the naked and starving as long as they have a legitimate job and pay taxes." You will not find a verse that says, "Thou shalt order pizza and force thine friends to participate in thou purchase to exactly 50th percent (including tax)!" You simply will not find anything about, "If someone breaks something in your house, drop community there completely and immediately to spare yourself a little extra work."  Jesus tells us to love, and loving is messy, because feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and letting people pop in, is messy. But true hospitality goes beyond our own walls into the community, helping everyone. I believe this is God's way of saying, "So your walls are dinked and the bed is broken, but you have a bed, you have walls, you have an extra baggie of goldfish crackers, share them." We might be the only contact someone has with Jesus and Christians, and we might be the only safe place for people, don't blow it for physical comfort and a brag board for your Pinterest account.
He goes even further to say to a wealthy man, in Matthew 19, Sell EVERYTHING you own and give it all to the poor. This man walks away sad, because he loves his possessions too much. He basically says that he loves his stuff more than he loves God's people. Lord, don't let me be the man that walks away. Let me set my eyes on the things above! Let me be brave enough to ditch anything you ask me to.
Because really, at the end of the day, does that thing matter? Does the George Clooney face in the middle of your carpet honestly steal the joy of the memory of how funny it looked when said person tripped and spilled their beverage? Does the hole in your wall rob the comfort the child fell after they cried, terrified, and you comforted them about it, "being okay, really." Does the invitation, "Pop in any time you need to," take more worth than, "You can't come here, my dishes aren't done yet." I hope not. Luke 12:33 says, "Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it." (NLT)

So, if the standing reads as true as the many signs hanging in our homes today, "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) then we are called, commanded, and suggested to be hospitable, and do it joyfully. No matter what, no matter if your grocery bill goes up, no matter if things get broken, stained, or used. We are called to live together in community even when things get broken, because, "That's okay! Really."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tater Taco Casserole

Sunday, April 27, 2014

This is a family favorite. The photo does not do this casserole justice.
I found this recipe in the Taste of Home Magazine.  The submitter was Ronna Lewis from Plains, Kansas.

I am all about fast, easy, and tasty meals for our family. With a puppy and three young kids under the age of 5, including an infant, it's the only way for me to resist the urge to order Pizza Hut every night. Hope you enjoy this recipe too!

Tater Taco Casserole 
2 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 envelope taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
1 can (11 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (11 oz) condensed fiesta nacho cheese soup, undiluted
1 package frozen Tater Tots

In a skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning  and water. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir in corn and soup.

Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Arrange Tater Tots in a single layer over the top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until potatoes are crispy and golden brown.

That easy! 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Let God Be Your Laundry Basket

Friday, April 25, 2014

As a domestic engineer, the thought of never ending laundry actually ending, seems magical. My on-going theory is, "A Pile A Day, Keeps The Loads Away." I can even see the slogan on a nice sign, hanging in my laundry room. The theory works well, until your dirty laundry piles turn into your clean clothes piles. I am not sure that my husband has gone to work with a crispy, crunchy, perfectly unwrinkled shirt since we have been married. I guess I better get to work on that! No matter what though, the laundry will always continue to come back.

What annoys me the most about doing laundry is getting the fresh, warm clothes from the dryer to the designated, "folding location." You see, I am a professional at getting the laundry basket to the washer. However, bringing the laundry back from the dryer is a whole different story. I get a false sense of security in carrying it back without a basket. I begin to believe that I am something much more than I am.

The ordeal always starts with a loud buzz. In my mind the buzz sounds a lot more like the, "Ding Ding" before a wrestling match starts. I walk back and open the door, allowing myself  a short timespan for a mental assessment of said situation. "Fifty-six million socks, a sheet, some undies, a work shirt... No problem!" With one swift arm swipe, I grab as much as I can. "No big deal," I think to myself. So with another not so swift arm swipe, I grab the rest. Who has time for two trips, right? The problem is, the whole load cannot simply fit in one arm. I am now bent over using both arms, my thighs, my torso, and my double chin to keep it all contained in the newly created heap. "So much for not wrinkling this pile!" I groan as I begin to do a 180 degree waddle to the door.

"I got this!" I mentally pep talk myself up. The "Eye Of The Tiger" begins to play in my head. I begin to do a penguin like waddle as I head to the folding location, clenching my pile as tightly as I can. This location happens to be on the other side of the house. The first few waddles goes well. "So I look like the Hunchback, but I am getting... oh, wait, a sock fell." I shift my body slowly and carefully, adjusting the load to grab the prodigal sock. "Great!" A few more waddles goes by, "Wonderful! Oh, there goes pair of undies!" At this point I have a particular ache in my spine, a good reminder of the fact that I have had three epidurals. I make the effort to re-shift the load in my arms and legs, and with a few labored breaths, grab the undies. Only to lose a towel, "Wait, I didn't assess that in there!" So I reach for the towel... and, "Oh, there goes a work shirt.. and another sock! Or was that the same one? Who cares!"

After multiple times of these re-shifting escapades, a few more steps of this embarrassing waddle, weird grunts and breaths that sound much like someone being kidnapped, and a newly exposed plumber's butt,  I angrily decide I will go back for what I drop. This is where I leave a trail all the way to my ending location. It is at that point where I just throw what is left in my arms onto the bed. Armed with a sour attitude, a newly formed case of scoliosis, and self-consciousness of my double chin, I march off to collect my abandoned trail of socks, rags, and undies. I don't just do this once. I do this trip almost every single time.

As I begin to fold this fiasco, ready to put the white load behind me, I realize this is often are with life. We decide to clean up our act and we dump the "dirty laundry" on God. He can handle our messes. But once we feel like we are cleaned up, we go on living like we have control. Like we can do everything on our own. We can carry the burdens of others, parent our kids, clean our homes, go to work, volunteer in everything presented to us, and pile on other dramas. Now think of the emotional pains we also try to carry. "I can handle it!" we tell ourselves. We begin to waddle through our day to day lives, frustrated, grumbling, exposing all of our crevices, all the while leaving a trail of dropped commitments and projects.

The busier, more pre-occupied with our lives we become, the more our devotional time, gratefulness, and God-honoring behavior lacks. I mean, sure, we can cram this and that into our schedules, we can carry a lot of pain emotionally, but what can we accomplish? What can we learn? When Satan tells us the lie that, "We can do life alone. We don't need help." we begin to fall out of community. We lose our dependence on God, relying on only our own strength. This usually sends us back into our lives picking up abandoned pieces of ourselves. We get short, we stop reaching out, and honestly, how can we live our purpose and glorify God when we are miserable and sore to our daily living?

How can we combat this pattern that I know I am not alone in?

Firstly, let God clean our piles. We cannot be afraid to take our messy feelings and lives before God. Our stress, sin, worry, drama. God can handle all of that and more. Let him clean out our lives and help us shine brighter for him. Isaiah 1:18 says, "Come now, let's settle this," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool." (NLT) Don't be ashamed to come before him with our junk!

 Secondly, we need to stop assessing life before we decide we might need help. "Am I good enough? Will people think I am needy? Should I ask for help? What if they discover I am weak?" Sometimes we need advice or help and we are hesitant to ask for assistance because we are afraid of what someone might think of us if we do. What if they really see our lives? Chances are, every now and again we all need a little help in one way or another. It certainly is humbling, but not as humbling as getting caught in a weak moment, like your nether-crack hanging out waddling down a hallway. Find a godly friend and ask for the help.

Lastly, let God carry you. Period. We do not have to, nor should we always, run to our close friends for assistance. God wants to be the center of our lives, we need to learn to lean on, and rely on God.

Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.
 Psalm 55:22

 I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the lord,
who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Psalm 121:1-3

It does not matter what our problems are or how many we have, God cares for us on such a level that he died for us. He certainly loves us enough to help us carry what weighs us down. In order to accomplish his purpose in our lives, we need our hands free. We need to be fully focused on our task in the big picture and we need to quit walking around with our hands full trying to do it all on our own. God is the giver of rest, the giver of peace, and the giver of hope! He will carry us.

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