Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Hug From God

As a stay-at-home-mom, I am sometimes prone to feeling isolated, lonely, separated from the "real world." When Ben and I decided that I would not work full-time once children came along, I had no idea how emotionally exhausting it would be hanging out with little ones all day. There are so many moments when I could just use a hug, and hear "It's going to be okay."


If you are a parent, you know what I'm talking about. So many different situations arise at every level of your child's development that affect the parents emotionally. I won't even try to make a list of scenarios that I've experienced  personally that have left me feeling helpless, alone, and like I'm the only one going through it. But what I do want to share with you is how God has made himself even more real to me as a result of being a parent and stay-at-home-mom, and how over and over again He wraps His arms around me in a great big hug!

The Bible,which I believe is 100% true and without error, promises us that we can give all of our cares to God because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7) Before I became a mom, I was aware of this truth in scripture, but it has come to mean so much more to me. When my children are testing me with their behavior, and not showing progress; when my son is struggling emotionally; when the two of them seem like they will never get along, and I just want someone to talk to, God is there. He cares. He loves me. Some translations call cares "anxieties." And I don't care who you are or what your lot in life is, I'm sure you have anxieties.  


I can pause anywhere at any time, and tell Him about my worries and troubles. Isn't that just like a big hug from God?!

Do you have any favorite verses that bring you comfort? (There are so many throughout the Bible!)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Goal-Setting for 2015


I have mentioned a few times how I need to write things in order to remember them. Things like appointments & meetings, social commitments, grocery lists and meal plans, marathon training plans, and etc. would dissolve in my brain never to be remembered if I did not write them down! So when I recently read a blog about writing down goals for the new year as a family, I was inspired to do just that. 

The categories that we came up with are "personal," "family," "household," and "travel." I will not be disclosing our entire list to you, in case you had started drooling over an opportunity to get a bit of "dirt" on us! �� However I do want to share a few things on our want-to-accomplish in 2015 list. 

In the personal category for me, I listed:

  • find my joy and contentment in Christ (see yesterday's post)
  • Write (blog and journal) more
  • Read more
  • Less phone; more face

In the family category:

  • Read the Bible with the kids more
  • Pray with Ben more
  • Lottie's letter recognition
  • Rush's handwriting and reading

For the household list:

  • Replace carpet in main living area 
  • De-clutter several cabinets and closets
  • Organize the garage
  • Paint the master bedroom

Travel:

  • Go back to NYC (to celebrate my 30th birthday in February!)
  • Start saving for a 2016 Disney trip

Writing down year-long goals is definitely new for our family. But I can already tell that I feel more ready to tackle, prepare, and plan the carrying out of these things, simply because I wrote them down and discussed them with Ben. 

I'm excited about 2015! I pray that you are too. 

Do you write down goals?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Different Kind of Resolution

A new year; a fresh start; a clean slate. Such hope and potential in these phrases. 

Most new year's resolutions are for keeping up appearances: healthy eating, exercise more, lose "x" pounds, clear the clutter. Those are all good, and I would never tell someone not to set such a goal. But in 2015, I want something that goes deeper.

I feel a longing in my soul to be transformed on the inside. To truly let the joy of The Lord be my strength in every circumstance (Nehemiah 8:10). To fend off the temptation to conform to this world's standards (Romans 12:2), and to strive for contentment (1Timothy 6:6) knowing that in all things, God will be working for my good (Romans 8:28). 

What makes these changes different from the typical New Year's resolution is 1. It is something that I hope to strive for every day for the rest of my life. I don't want to just be content in my current and near-future status; I pray that I will always be able to give thanks in all circumstances! (1 Thessalonians 5:-17) And 2. It's not only in my control. I have a helper, The Holy Spirit, to guide my heart and mind. If I am going to be able to resist the temptations of materialism, discontentment, etc., I need to arm myself with supernatural strength. I can exercise and build my spiritual muscles by studying and memorizing God's Word (The Bible), and by repenting of my sins daily and resting and trusting in The Lord (Isaiah 30:15). 

I hope that you take advantage of the opportunity that a new year brings. Whether your goals are physical, spiritual, organizational, financial- whatever- I pray that you will allow the joy of The Lord to be your source of strength, and that you will be content with what you do have and strive to honor God in it.


Source

I can't wait to see what happens in 2015!

Happy New Year!!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Favorites (11/7/14)

I know... I've been most irregular with posting lately. We've had a lot going on. (I know, who doesn't?!) 

I'm going to post a few favorites from last week along with this week. 

Rush's 5th birthday!
We went to Jump Jam, an indoor tramping park, and had a great time!

Friday was our church fall festival. The weather was TERRIBLE, but the kids still had a great time. 

Saturday, we had a party for Rush, and it SNOWED! We had lots of fun hanging out with family and friends. 

In our small group Bible study on Sunday morning, we discussed the first chapter of our new study A Couple After God's Own Heart. It was based on Adam and Eve and what they did to fail one another in their marriage and how they moved on.


Since last weekend we've had veggie soup with cornbread muffins, chicken enchiladas with brown rice, and baked ziti with steamed broccoli. It has been so freeing already having dinner ready ahead of time!


Exercising!
I had been taking it easy for the last month because I was pregnant and not feeling very well. Then we had our first ultrasound at 8 weeks and discovered that I was experiencing a type of miscarriage called a blighted ovum. I won't go into details, but I did have to have outpatient surgery two weeks ago, and I am finally feeling like myself again this week! I have exercised almost every day! Here is my workout that I did on Wednesday night on our church's indoor track:



During the miscarriage, my sweet mother-in-law got me a gift card to the spa. I am going to use it today, and I'm so excited! I'm getting a one hour facial and spa pedicure!

I'm excited about the weekend, especially Sunday. We are studying Abraham and Sarah in class, and our pastor will be starting a new sermon series on Psalm 107. I'm also looking forward to choir Christmas music practice tomorrow morning.

I hope you make time with God a priority this weekend (and every day)!

Thanks for stopping by and catching up!

What are you learning through the Bible currently?
Just curious: what's your favorite Christmas song? (I can't pick just one!)


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Freezer Meal Recipes

My sister and I have finally "buckled down" and followed through with making freezer meals to swap with each other. She is a wife to a college pastor/teacher/coffee roaster and busy mom of three with not much time to plan and cook dinner for every night of the week. And don't we all struggle to make time for meal planning and grocery shopping AND getting it on the table?! No matter the phase of life we might be in, this is a chore that is hard to do sometimes. So we decided to plan ahead.

We discussed what meals we could make that would freeze well and be generally healthy. We talked about how many meals to make and how many duplicates of each meal we should make. We decided that for us (two families with two young kids plus one infant), 16 meals for each family would be enough to get us through the month by eating leftovers occasionally and possibly making a non-pre-planned meal or two late in the month (it's our first time, so we'll see!). We each made four duplicates of four different meals. I chose spinach and ricotta stuffed shells, chicken pot pie (my own recipe), quiche, and crockpot vegetable beef soup. My sis made chicken enchiladas, chicken and corn chowder, red beans and rice with sausage, and baked ziti. We kept two of each dish that we made and swapped the other two, giving each family two of eight different meals for the month. Score!

Here are my recipes:
Broccoli Pesto Sundried Tomato Quiche
Crockpot Vegetable Beef Soup
Chicken Pot Pie (recipe below)

Southern Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie (Freezer-Friendly)

by April Mills
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 1 hour
Ingredients (6-12 adults)
    For the biscuit topping
    • 1 1/4 cups milk
    • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
    • 3 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    For the filling
    • 1 lb. cooked and shredded chicken breasts
    • 1/2 onion diced
    • 2 cans unsalted mixed vegetables (or small bag frozen), (or fresh chopped and blanched veggies)
    • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
    • salt and pepper
    • Homemade condensed cream of chicken "soup" (recipe below)
    Condensed Cream of Chicken "Soup"
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
    • 1/8 tsp. celery seed (optional)
    • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
    Instructions
    Poach the chicken by bring it to a boil, then simmering for 15-20 minutes.
    While the chicken is simmering, get your creamy "soup" going:
    Add chicken stock to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and flour until the flour is dissolved.
    Slowly pour the milk mixture into the boiling chicken stock, whisking to combine. Whisk in remaining seasonings. Reduce heat to medium, and bring the mixture back to a very low boil, stirring constantly so that the bottom of the pan does not burn. Let the mixture boil for about 3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside until ready to use.
    Once the chicken is cooked through, let cool slightly, then shred to desired texture. (I use my paddle attachment in my stand mixer to shred the chicken- it's amazing!
    If you plan to cook the pie immediately, go ahead and pre-heat your oven to 350°F.
    In a large mixing bowl, stir together the shredded chicken, homemade soup, diced onion, and veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into a 9x13" casserole.
    Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese on top of the chicken mixture. Rinse out the mixing bowl to use for biscuit dough.
    Make the biscuit topping:
    In the mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted butter and milk just until combined.
    Pour the biscuit dough evenly along the center of the chicken mixture and shredded cheese. Use a spatula to spread the dough evenly over the entire pie.
    To freeze for later, wrap thoroughly in foil, and freeze.
    Thaw in refrigerator the night BEFORE you plan to bake the pot pie.
    Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.
    Enjoy!
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    This pot pie is cold-weather comfort food at its finest! I also have an emotional attachment to this meal because my mom used to make a similar recipe when I was growing up. I hope you enjoy it too.

    Check back for more recipes soon!

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

    First "Message Monday" (and Meals)

    Hey y'all! You're probably wondering if I forgot that today is actually Tuesday. I didn't forget, but I mentioned in my last post that I had some ideas for the blog to help me be more regular in posting. One idea is to re-cap what I learned on Sunday in a Monday morning post. Since I was without Internet all afternoon Sunday through yesterday, I decided to just go ahead with it today. I plan to also include some of last week's meals with the Message Monday posts.

    On a side note, I am so relieved to finally have a planner again! I feel so much better putting my dates and tasks in writing. I had an Amy Knapp Family Organizer before, and I tried just using my phone after that. I don't know about you, but I tend to remember things much better if I write them down. I highly recommend these planners!

    On to Sunday!
    In small group Bible study, Ben read a passage from Leviticus where God gave instructions to His people to take a year Sabbath from working their land every seventh year. We talked about why God would give such instructions: it symbolized how he rested on the seventh day when he created the whole earth, and we also discussed how even today, wise farmers will let sections of their land rest every seven years to prevent using up all the nutrients in the soil. We looked back at the verses in Genesis where God gave his command for man to care for and rule over the earth. Ben shared that he learned from a Bible commentary that the original word used implied not just using up the earth, but actually making use of what we're given. In other words, man is not supposed to simply consume the fruits of the earth, but to make all our resources useful and try to preserve them. We had some discussion on environmental activism, and why Christians are sometimes accused of not caring about conservation. We concluded that generally (of course there are exceptions), that stigma is a false perception; that Christians do care, but Christ and His Gospel are our main cause. So... God taught me through that reading of scripture and class discussion that he really does desire for us to see the earth as a gift to be cared for, not taken advantage of. (So what if I cloth diapered my two kids and I recycle?) I was convicted that I can do much more to care for my God's green earth, and that He wants me to. 

    Our pastor has been planning a "prayer experiment" that started yesterday. His sermon was on prayer, and revolved around Luke 11:9-10 which says, "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." 
    Source
    Our church is going to be praying individually and collectively over the next 40 days intensely, without considering any "loopholes" and waiting to see what God's going to do. I am so excited! The thing that spoke to my heart the most in the sermon was the original word that was used for the "asking" and "knocking." It meant shameless asking and shameless knocking! I never thought that I could ask God for something in that way! So we're praying, waiting, and expecting great things from God! I got to share a new song along with our choir yesterday too; it went right along with the prayer theme. It's called "Standing," and it quotes the old hymn "Standing on the Promises" in the bridge. The chorus says "We're gonna see what we're praying for. We believe every single word. Stronger than we've ever been, standing on the promises. We're gonna see the impossible. We release the supernatural. Stronger than we've ever been. We are standing on the promises."

    Ben and I relaxed for the remainder of the Sabbath by backpacking in to the backcountry of the National Park, and camping for the night. We had the whole campsite to ourselves, and we had a great time. It is such a privilege to get to enjoy God's creation right in my back yard!

    Here are some recipes for last week's meals:
    Fish tacos with chipotle cilantro broccoli slaw (recipe coming soon for slaw)



    Friday, August 29, 2014

    I'm Back! {Friday Favorites}

    I've been off the blog for about a month now for several reasons: cabinet renovation, vacation, cabinet renovation, needing a break from social media, and another vacation. Where did the summer go???

    This break has given me some time to think about my blog and why I do it. There are times when I ask myself "Does this even have a purpose?" And I always come back to the same answers: Yes, because it is an outlet for me in this phase of learning in my life; a way to "hash out" my thoughts, record memories, and hopefully encourage others who may be struggling with similar things. I've definitely gotten caught in the trap of comparing myself to other women, especially stay at home moms who blog about faith and fitness. But that's why I want to write! I truly want my readers to sense genuineness  in my posts, to be drawn to know more about the One who holds it all together when it seems like it's falling apart. On a much less serious note, I also LOVE posting about our meals, not because I think I'm great at cooking, but because I enjoy reading other bloggers' meal plans. It keeps me from getting in a food-rut, and cooking is very therapeutic for me. When I make my grocery list after coming up with a meal plan, I feel accomplished and organized. 

    I have had a couple of new ideas for my blog that will hopefully help me stay more regular in writing. So stick around, and maybe something will stand out to you! I'm just so humbled that you have even stopped by! Thank you!

    Friday Favorites from the last month:

    A trip to Nashville with three couples in our small group so the guys could go to a men's conference called The Main Event.

    Lots of outside playtime with these two monkeys! We picked up McD's smoothies for a fun treat this day. 

    Reading some GREAT books right now. This is a page from Creative Correction by Lisa Welchel (yes, that's who played Blair in The Facts of Life). I am learning so much in this book. It is the most practical application of scripture in a young child's life that I have found yet. She even has lists of verses that apply to different issues, and covers just about everything from whining to asking for help before trying alone. I love the line near the top of the pic: "Our goal should be to ensure that our reflection of God draws our children closer to Him-and that it makes them long to touch the real thing. 
    I'm also reading Women Living Well by Courtney Joseph, and I am thoroughly enjoying it as well. 

    New running shoes! I'm training for a half marathon that I volunteered to be a pacer for! I've never been a pacer before, but I'm really excited about it! Search #gsmhalf on Twitter and Instagram if you're interested. 

    Fifth annual trip to Hilton Head Island. I was terrible about pics on this trip. It was a very relaxing vacation. We didn't really go anywhere except for our favorite restaurant for dinner one night, and our favorite breakfast spot one morning. Other than that, we stayed at the pool in the shade or on the beach!

    New recipes! This was prep for lemon chicken and asparagus from Pinch of Yum. {Remember to follow me on Pinterest to find almost all the recipes mentioned here.}

    It's Labor Day weekend! We are planning to camp in our backyard tonight and/or Saturday. Then after church on Sunday, Ben and I are leaving the kids and going backpacking for one night in the National Park. Little-known fact about April: Backpacking is my FAVORITE thing to do- {cue Nacho Libre voice} every day! (Not really every day, but it is my fav activity!)

    I hope you have a great long weekend too! 

    I'd like to know, if you read blogs or are a blogger, have you ever gotten caught in the comparison trap?

    I want to know a little-known fact about you! Please share in the comments!