Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

And may the force be with you!

Dear Trevor: A Letter To My Son As He Turns Five Years Old

Dear Son and Spreader of a Million Smiles,

Yesterday you turned five years old.  We had a whirlwind weekend ringing in your 5th year with the Star Wars party you requested, and dressing up Jedi style for Halloween fun.  It was motion and laughter,  parties and celebration!  But now, for a moment, I finally sit.

As the rain hits the windows on this dark and quiet Monday morning, I can't help but think back to what I was doing five years ago today.  How I was entering the exhausting but exciting world of being a mom to both an infant and an 18 month old.  How I dressed you in a newborn Halloween onesie and we had a hospital visit from a slightly confused little cow who would become an amazing big sister.  How I was nursing you and holding you in my arms and falling love.

How we began to navigate through all the newness and the three of us would spend our days together, managing somehow to get everyone dressed and fed and clean.  How those hours at home with two littles ones gradually grew from surviving to thriving.  How the exhaustion eventually blended into the background and seeing the world through the eyes of two littles loves brought my world into more vibrant color and sharper focus than I knew possible.  How God further revealed His love for me through the love I have for you and your sister.

Here come the tears.  I always cry a bit around your birthdays!  Not in front of you and Madi, of course.  There is too much birthday fun to be had for that!  No, just in my quiet moments, when I realize that the sand is indeed falling fast.  When you and Madi were both so little the days often seemed long.  Now they go by so quickly.  Seasons roll right into the next and days turn into years.  I try so hard to be present, to be in the moment with you and Madi and Daddy, to turn those moments into memories.  To celebrate life together, and to teach you about God and the purpose of life.  I pray over you, for you, with you.  I take a thousand pictures so I can memorize life as we know it because I realize how quickly the seasons fade; and I daily try with intention to make your childhood safe, structured, happy, warm, secure, fun.  I don't always do the best job.  Sometimes I get worn out and impatient and frustrated.  But I want you to know I try with purpose because of how much I love you.

Trevor, on your fifth birthday I also want you to know that you are an absolute joy and delight to my heart.  There is not a day that goes by that you don't do or say something that makes me laugh!  You are just plain funny!  You have a contagious zest for life, an inner confidence that allows you to enjoy life and openly share love with others, an energy that makes me want to be like you.  At five, you talk to are always making conversation with random people as we push the cart through the grocery store or wait in the checkout line.  Nearly every night you thank God for your family by name, and often call us in for a "group hug" or give us a toast of some sort at the table.  People are very important to you.  And in turn, you have become very important to a lot of people.

You are a prayer warrior, remembering to intercede for those in need.  I love that caring spirit and the way you are willing to help others.  You are also bright and social, and so enjoying your first experience in Pre-K!  I look forward to hearing the cute things your teachers tell me about what you said or did in class.  I think you definitely liven up the classroom!  And I am thankful for how much you are enjoying school, and the amazing teachers God blessed you with.

I am also thankful that you only go to school three hours a day.  That way you can still be my shopping buddy, lunch pal, and we still have some time for just us at home.  One of your favorite things is when I surprise you and bring your lunch in your Star Wars lunchbox and we eat with Madi in the school cafeteria!  Next year I will have to come visit you in the cafeteria then leave...but for now we still walk back out to our old minivan holding hands, heading home together.  I am thankful for that.

I get a kick out of watching you play and interact when you are at home - you have a hundred sound effects and a thousand expressions.  Whatever you get into, you get into...right now it is Star Wars, and you are constantly building empires, having battles with lightsabers, defeating the enemy, and imagining a galaxy that was long ago and far away.  I love your energy and imagination!  You also love any opportunity that you get to play on the Wii, and always impress us with your skills.

Speaking of being impressed, that's a word you've been using a lot lately.  You have been telling us all that you are "impressed" by us when we do something good.  You have always been and still are such a little encourager!  Just last Friday when I was putting together the favors for your party you came up, put your little arms around me, and exclaimed, "Oh, I love it, you did a great job on these!  Great job, Momma!"  You are constantly telling us things we did a "great job" on or giving genuine compliments and it is so motivating!  I sometimes wonder in those moments what God has in store for you.

I do know this.  Whatever He has for you, however He plans on using your energy, charisma, personality, and talents, I pray for this...that you will love Him first, and do everything you do for His glory.  I pray you will be a mighty man of God.  I thank God for the gift of being your mom.  And I write this and more so that you will always have full confidence in what you are to my heart, and that we can remember what life was like when you were five and Mommy's bright-eyed little Jedi.  You are and will forever be a "bwessing" to me.

With Love, Purpose, and Promise,


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mums and God Moments

Friday I was having one of those mornings.  You know the type.  We had a rough start getting out the door to school and even though the day was beautifully cool and sunny, the morning left my heart feeling a little glum and focused on the stresses of life.  I did my Bible study, and the theme of the day was God Moments.  I read of how Jesus appeared to the women at the tomb, the men on the road to Emmaus, the disciples in a locked room; how His appearances startled them; how He showed up when they least expected it.

I was doing some things around the house and trying to shake off that burdensome feeling when I thought I heard a knock at the door.  I opened it to see a friend walking back to her car.  I had run into her on Thursday for the first time in awhile.  We were both having lunch with our kids at school, and ended up having a few moments to catch up.  It was nice.  Well, it had been that friend Tabitha who knocked at my door.  She had left this on my doorstep.

The blooms were so bright and cheerful, and as I looked at them I felt God saying to me, "Cheer up, Jennifer!  Yes, in this world you're going to have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world!"  The words of John 16:33 flooded my soul.  Little by little the morning's rough start faded away, the day got better, and we ended up having an absolutely wonderful evening! And after the Bible study I had just done, I couldn't help but think that the special delivery from this friend was a God Moment.  He was speaking to me how and when I least expected it, but when I needed it.  He always seems to do that.  This time He just did it through mums and the thoughtfulness of a friend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries and Apple Butter

After one of our beach days this summer, we ended up catching a casual bite to eat at a place called Cha Cha Coconuts on the way home.  One of the yummiest things I had that night was their sweet potato fries, which they served with a spicy mustard and apple butter.

My mom sometimes gives me odds and ends from her pantry and freezer.  I am always thankful for the stock, and she is glad to know things won't go to waste.  Recently she had given me a partially used bag of all natural frozen sweet potato fries.  On Saturday I was hungry for lunch and all of a sudden I thought of that restaurant this summer and those yummy fries.  I had some apple butter in the fridge so I pulled out the rest of those frozen fries, threw them on a cookie sheet, let them bake at 400 stirring them a couple of times, and then dipped them in apple butter once they were hot and crispy.

It was something nice for a change, a simple and tasty fall lunch!

Fun restaurant food at the right price and comfort of home!

Elephant Tracks

One day last week Trev came home from school talking about how he had made "dinosaur tracks" with Play-Doh as part of their letter "D" study.  Well, making dinosaur tracks sounded fun and I was curious...and he volunteered to teach me how to do it!  We just had to use an elephant because our dinosaur was MIA.  

Trev showed me how to flatten the dough, press the animal's feet in, and pull them out to leave footprints!  Look...elephant tracks!!

We broke open some unopened canisters of Play-Doh and he even let me be the first to squish it, because for some reason I really like doing that!  It just feels so good, sort of like when I dig my knife into a fresh jar of peanut butter.   Ahhh.  Look at the fresh, perfect hunk of Play-Doh, don't you just want to squish that down and make a mess?

Trev demonstrated again how to make the tracks, this time with a gorilla.

Sweet little hands at work.

Gorilla tracks!

Mommy's purple tracks!!

More fresh Play-Doh waiting to be flattened by Mommy.

We were having the best time making tracks, and pretty soon Trev had made a light-saber to fight the bad guys...

And we got busy cooking...

And then Trev made this, which he actually asked me to take a picture of to put on my computer and show my friends.  Precious boy.  And now I have kept my promise to do so.

If you have a little one at home and you are looking for something to do, dig out the Play-Doh to make some animal tracks, and see what else you come up with along the way!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


It's a theme my heart often goes back to.  

It's a topic I often find myself pondering or writing about.

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I once again recalled that quote as I watched my daughter snuggled up next the window on a cool afternoon, reading her very first chapter of Little House In The Big Woods.

Last weekend I was blessed to attend the Women of Faith conference for the 8th year in a row.  I am always spiritually enriched by this weekend, and I also look forward to bringing home new Bible study materials each year.  This year one of the books in the study trio was titled Choosing Simplicity: Embracing the Benefits of a Simpler Life.  I have been working on some of the lessons this week and have been drinking in the wisdom in this study along with my morning coffee.  

The first lesson talked about Gideon's army.  How God narrowed his enormous army down to a mere 300 men.  And how God worked through that simplicity, and showed Himself great.

The second lesson talked about David.  How when he faced Goliath, the coat of armor was just too big and cumbersome, so he simply took that sling and those 5 stones.  And how God once again was shown mighty and strong to defeat the enemy through a small boy with simple ammunition.  

The third lesson talked about the simplicity of the greatest commandment.  When asked what it was, Jesus summed it up in such basic terms - love God, love people.  It sounds so simple, but it is so profound and all-encompassing.  

The fourth lesson talked about relying on daily bread, something I have written about before.  And the fifth lesson talked about God moments; how He sometimes appears and speaks to us in the simplest moments, when we least expect.

I have a faraway friend named Janet.  For a season we both lived in Maryland; now I am in Florida and she is actually in England!  But we keep in touch and recently sent me this post written by a missionary in Indonesia.  She said she knew I would love it, which I did; and I had to stop for a moment and think of the wonders of the internet.  How neat that the hearts and souls of women literally around the world can connect via facebook, blogs, and other avenues!  It's astounding, really.  But that post and this Bible study I have been doing inspired me to put this together.

I made it entirely from items I had.  A leftover jar that earlier in the week held spaghetti sauce; a scrap of burlap; a scrapbooking sticker; some Scrabble tiles.  It reminded me of autumns I spent in Maryland and Virginia.   The changing colors of leaves have to be some of the greatest simple pleasures I have ever known.  And this little jar also reminds me of the simplicity I strive for.

Because I'm starting to believe that simplicity is a mindset.  A Biblical mindset, really.  It's being content with what you have; living with a grateful heart of thanksgiving; seeing each day, each breath as a gift from God and embracing it; not getting entangled in worry but casting your cares upon Him; enjoying every gift from above and the things God gives us to richly enjoy; living abundantly and freely; not storing up treasure here, but rather in Heaven; realizing this is just a temporary home, and living with purpose with eternity in mind.

I really think simplicity is not necessarily about what you have or don't have, or how you decorate, or what your schedule looks like, or what you do or don't do.  It's how you think.  It's when your heart is settled.  It's when your soul is uncluttered by the insanity of this world, and content in Christ alone.

I am beginning to understand that is what simplicity looks like.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tag, You're It!

Remember those tags I mentioned that my mom wanted me to make for her?  I have been meaning to show you what she did with them because it is such a simple and cute idea!

I used plain, inexpensive white tags, distressed them with chalk ink, then labeled them with alphabet stamps.  

I gave them to my mom and she then used twine to tie them on items in her kitchen.  I love what she did with this tiered basket stand...bags of treats are also tied with twine and ready to share!

And her canisters of flour and sugar now have a personal, cozy touch!

And in case you were wondering, those are two homemade-by-Mom tomato pies.  Oh my, my, my!  She used this recipe from one of my blogs past!

These tags were such a simple little project that added just the right touch to her fall kitchen!

Linking up to this party with fun ideas for inspiration...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Moments I Want To Remember

Sunday afternoon we received an invitation...

Two imaginative minds had put together a place called "Games-R-Us."  This fantasyland had a movie theatre featuring the Lion King and Phantom of the Opera...

Some friends were already in the theatre, and had been treated to homemade popcorn...

My husband and I each received a little baggie of tokens...

That we could use to play various games like throw the ball into the door of the army helicopter...

Race the cars...

And blast the bad guy!

It was creative, homemade fun at its finest and I was aware it would be one of those little moments of their childhood days that I will want to remember!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Made My Own Pumpkin Spice Latte!! (And Other Pumpkin Tales From My Kitchen)

Ever have a friend that knows you, really knows you?  I am blessed to have Laurie.  She and I have been close friends for a decade now, and even though we are separated by many miles we still keep in touch regularly.  She is a giver, and often sends the most fun little packages my way.  The other day she sent me this...

I could not believe it!  I had browsed through that magazine the other day at the store.  I was drooling over the recipes and wanted it so badly, but didn't think I should spend the money on a splurge so I put it down.  Then a few days later it came in a package from Maryland, thanks to my friend who had no idea I had been looking at it but knew I would enjoy and use it!  Laurie also knows how much I love (repeat, love) Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  The other day she sent this Betty Crocker link my way with a recipe for one.  I tried it and it was surprisingly good! 

 The link will take you to the actual recipe, but here's the gist - heat 1 cup milk, 1 TBSP pumpkin, 1 TBSP sugar, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and 1/2 TBSP vanilla on stove; make a small cup of coffee in a large mug (I used the middle button on my Keurig) and stir the pumpkin spice milk mixture in.  Top with whipped cream (don't skip this part, you will want the sweetness) and sprinkle with cinnamon.  I used my new Imagine mug from the Women of Faith conference which was a surprise gift from another friend.  The latte was hot and tasty!

Since my love affair with pumpkin only seems to grow stronger every day and the large can of pumpkin was now open, I decided to go ahead and bake some of our favorite Autumn Spice Pumpkin Bread.  This recipe is divine!

I got it from this Fall, Family, & Friends cookbook and it is definitely a family favorite!  You mix 2 cups canned pumpkin, 1 cup oil, and 2/3 cup water; add 4 eggs one at a time, beating well after each; then add 3 1/2 cups flour, 2 1/2 cups sugar, 2 t. baking soda, 1 1/2 t. salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and 1 tsp allspice (the recipe calls for 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp nutmeg but I use the others to add a little more savor).  Mix gently and completely.  Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake for one hour at 350.  

I enjoyed my homemade latte and bread so much that today I decided to enjoy them some more! I whisked my milk and pumpkin mixture and heated it until it was nice and warm...

...mixed it with the coffee, topped it with whipped cream and cinnamon, then spread apple butter on some of my homemade pumpkin bread.  It has been a gray day here and this was a comforting, perfect little lunch!

So on this rainy night I celebrate dear friends, pumpkin, coffee, cinnamon, and other simplicities that add warmth and spice to life!