Happy Thanksgiving!

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Just wanted to post some pretty pictures and wish my readers a Happy Thanksgiving!  We’ve been pretty busy… lots of baking, decorating, and going to the park nearby to see lights each night!  And just dwelling on the gratitude of all our blessings.

I love this time of year.  I actually enjoy the wildness of it all.

Today we had some of my older son’s friends come over – the house was full of boys running around like crazy 😀 playing loud music in our “music station” of our game room, being silly and dancing around the house ❤

I baked cookies and set the boys all up to decorate some to take home when they got picked up.

It was SO. MUCH. FUN. ❤

I don’t think I’m ever happier than when our house is full of people – or kids – especially crazy boys 🙂  Makes my heart warm seeing them have so much fun.

 

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It’s been so beautiful here lately, and with perfect weather – and just cold enough at night to warrant hot chocolate drinks!  😀

Same scene as above, but this is what we’ve been seeing every night we’ve been able to go:

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The Christmas trees are suspended above a lake to look like they’re floating on top of the water.  Just amazing to see in person!  I tried to get a good pic.

So romantic, and so magical ❤

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Like a winter wonderland. 😀

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I love this time of year… focusing on what we’re thankful for, seeing family and friends and lots and lots of cooking and baking!  It’s hard to imagine a happier time ❤

Hope all you readers have a happy Thanksgiving!

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Teaching My Son to Be Thankful When He’s Sad

The day before Thanksgiving, my husband had to work late.  He was set to get off early, but plans change fast for a Police Officer… he never knows what he’ll face, but he always does it bravely, and his faith and courage is like a light to us.

But my son was waiting for him to come home… he expected that his daddy would get off early so that the fun could begin.  Whenever daddy is home, he and our oldest son have the greatest time playing, wrestling, and just plain being silly-heads!

But the time came, and went, and after eating another dinner by ourselves, another bath and bedtime routine by ourselves, another tucking in and praying blessing over my son, while I was praying the blessing over him, he started to cry.  He told me through his tears how much he missed his daddy, and this has become something that happens more often than I want to admit.  My son LOVES his dad… like REALLY loves his dad, and he MISSES him at night to point of going to bed crying!

Being married to my Officer, I have to be prepared to be flexible, because he often has little control over what will dictate when he works or how late he’ll have to stay.  I don’t give him a hard time because I understand the greater purpose and reason behind him staying later than normal.  He’s usually helping someone in dire need, or catching a thief, or tracking down a stolen car, or intervening in a child sexual abuse situation and waiting for CPS to come.  His staying late means he’s being someone else’s hero, but that’s extremely hard for a 5 year old boy who just misses his daddy to understand.

Usually I comfort him and tell him to be strong and that his dad will come home and pray his blessing over him as he sleeps, I promise him he’ll see his dad in the morning.  But this time I had an idea… it was the night before Thanksgiving, and we were focusing on being thankful for everything in our life, so I decided I could help him use this opportunity to thank God for the gifts he DOES have, even wen daddy isn’t there.

He bowed his little head, and we started to pray, him repeating every word I said, together, we spoke thankfulness into his heartbreaking situation:

“Thank you God, that I have a wonderful dad.

Thank you that he loves me so much!

Thank you that he works so hard for us.

Thank you that he helps people who are in need, and deals rightly with evil people in our city.

Thank you that he prays a blessing over me each night as I sleep.

Thank you that he’s off for Thanksgiving this year, and that we’ll have him all day tomorrow all to ourselves!

Amen!”

 

A strange thing happened when we started praying, as he repeated back each sentence in his own prayer with me, I noticed that his tears stopped!  His voice tone changed.  He went from being legitimately heartbroken over missing his dad, to being filled with true, unabashed thankfulness for having such an amazing, wonderful dad!

It was a light bulb moment for me as well.  Oh how our world changes when we move from complaining about our circumstances to being thankful and joyful despite them!

And for you dear reader, I’m not sure what you’re going through right now, what trials you may be facing… but I do know this, praying that prayer with my son was a miracle.  The way it changed his entire outlook, and helped him to not go to bed with tears yet again, was such a blessing to this mommy.

I challenge you, sweet reader, to try to thank God in your tough times, to try to remember the things He’s blessed you with and take back the joy that Satan has stolen from you.

Much love and blessings!

Giving Thanks When its the Last Thing You Want to Do

Happy Thanksgiving sweet reader!  I’m hoping that today is finding you well, and has been a long awaited, wonderful blessing for you.  I’m supposed to make a cherry pie this morning, but wanted to drop in and post a brief note of encouragement to you.

I’m sorry for the absence and delay of the promised next post.

We’ve been having computer issues, and actually had to take our computer in to get it fixed, so tomorrow I will post on the character of Abigail.  The computer place we went to was a trusted company that’s been in our city for years, one that my dad even used to go to when we had computer problems growing up.  Unfortunately, our computer anti-virus software had been over-rided (if that’s the right word), and we had many viruses and malware that was removed by the technician.  It was hard to feel thankful (even though I obviously am) when we got it back yesterday – I feel so vulnerable and exposed, being thankful feels like a distant memory.

But God tells us to,

“Always be joyful.  Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances…” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When things are going all wrong, don’t stop praying.  When your reputation is being maliciously slandered, don’t stop being thankful for it.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the post about Malicious Joy, thanking God for the trials that you go through, especially when you are doing a good work for Him, Redeems those trials.

There are blessings even in the hardships if you continue to look for them.

I was prevented from posting for days because of our computer issues, but in and during that time, God refreshed my spirit and even gave me 6 more ideas to post on that will be coming soon.

Even though I’ve seen posts written criticizing my compassion for other people, or my authenticity with my readers, or my ability to admit fault (which I freely admit my shortcomings to anyone, especially those of you who know me in real life), even though I’m being “cursed,” God is blessing.

Even though I shouldn’t be writing – my computer was so infected it actually completely stopped working – even though I shouldn’t be joyful in light of these circumstances – I am still writing, and with every word, God is lifting my joy and even thankfulness!

Our attitudes often mysteriously align with our actions.  So with my actions, even though I didn’t truly feel like it, I’m choosing to thank God this Thanksgiving.

No matter what trials you’re going through, dear reader, be thankful for what you do have.  Be thankful for any of the gifts in your life, they are all graciously and generously given to us from our loving Father who wants so much to bless us!

 

Happy Thanksgiving, and may you truly find happiness in it today.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

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This is the epic soup of Fall.  The combination of all the ingredients with their surprisingly opposite notes of flavor (onions + maple syrup anyone??), all came together to almost taste like a prelude to a Thanksgiving dinner.  It was like eating a Thanksgiving Soup!

Anyway, I’ve never successfully made this soup before, I think I have tried maybe 2 years ago or so, and failed miserably – somehow it just tasted horrible.  But this recipe I found at our local grocery store (HEB for you Texans) was a new spin on the traditional Butternut Squash Soup.  This soup is drastically different from it’s more widely consumed version; it has maple syrup, brown sugar, and apples – giving it a much deeper flavor and intensity as the regular version sticks with the plain ingredients.

I loved how it gave our family a taste of Thanksgiving to come!  I hope you try it and enjoy it!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup – HEB Recipe

  • 3 pkg. HEB Butternut Squash or 1-Whole Butternut, cleaned and diced discarding peel
  • 2 Apples, cored and diced (Ambrosia Apples are great flavor), or 2 cups Apple sauce (Unsweetened preferred but sweetened works just fine)
  • 8 oz Diced Savory Vegetables (HEB wants you to buy their packages, but I just looked online to see what “diced veggies” could go into this soup normally.  It’s a blend of 1/2 an onion diced, 1 potato diced, along with other optional things like 1 carrot or 1 celery stalk.  It’s up to you what you use really).
  • 6 oz Maple Syrup or 1 cup Brown Sugar (I used 1/2 cup Maple Syrup and 1/2 cup Brown Sugar because I liked the idea of having both in the soup).
  • 1 Tbsp Texas Prime Coarse seasoning (I simply used some parsley & garlic as I didn’t want to buy more seasoning)
  • 1 qt HEB Chicken broth or stock
  • 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream (I used 1 1/2 cups of milk, whisking it in after the soup was pureed)
  • Salt & Black pepper

Preheat oven to 400’F.

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Amazed at the brown sugar and maple syrup combination!

Amazed at the brown sugar and maple syrup combination!

1 Potato diced

1 Potato diced

The beautiful veggie mixture, onions were added afterwards.

The beautiful veggie mixture tossed and coated, onions were added afterwards.

After roasting for 1 hour

After roasting for 1 hour.  Smelled heavenly, like a Thanksgiving Soup!

After puree, the end result!

After puree, the end result!

Combine all squash, diced apples (applesauce) and veggies and place into baking pan.  Drizzle maple syrup and add seasonings.  Toss to coat.  Roast for 45 min to 1 hr.  Allow veggie mixture to cool and add into food processor in batches to create puree. In a stock pot, pour broth, cream and puree and simmer for 10 minutes.

Adjust to your favorite consistency (by adding more water or broth if you have any left over, or the texture of the puree).  My husband loves soup that isn’t completely pureed, so I make sure to leave some of chunks of the veggies in the soup.  It was glorious!

Bon Appetit!

November Joy

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November might possibly be my favorite month of the year.  It’s just so beautiful, the season of Fall is truly underway, and the delights of friends, family, and food await us by the bucket-load!

Happy November to you if you’re reading this!

When I think of November, I always think of our American tradition of Thanksgiving. This is the month of all months, especially for dwelling on how grateful we are for the blessings in our life.

After deciding to do a Thankfulness journal back in August, cataloging my days with the boys like a diary of sorts, and adding in one thing every night that I was grateful for, I’ve decided this is something I will always try to do.  It’s been so wonderful to look back at the days, see what we did, the little hilarious things that happened, or the sad things and how we got through them, but especially to see what I thanked God for before bed each night.  It’s been interesting to wrap up each day, no matter how good or terrible it was, with the blessing of choosing thankfulness for at least ONE thing I was grateful for.  The days ebb and flow, stretching out and long, or passing by faster than I felt I could keep up, but God’s love remained the same.

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I love the seasons, how each year brings a chance of renewal and remembering what God has blessed us with or brought us through, or what He’s doing right now in our trials.  Recently, our Bible study has switched from studying about the wonder of God, to the joy He wants us to experience.  It’s a strange thing to be studying so much about joy when November, for me, has always been about thankfulness.

I didn’t really realize it, but joyfulness comes extremely easily to me… and this is a gift I should be thankful for!  Ever since being accused of not being genuine – being too happy to be real – back when I was maybe 16 or 17, I’ve wondered why my joy, my genuine happiness wasn’t always perceived as a reality.

Our study guide asked us each to rate on a scale of 1-10, how much joy we have in our life, and I rated it easily at a 9 out of 10.

Joy, happiness, cheerfulness are feelings that come easily to me, but I never understood how much of a blessing this was until doing this study.  In fact, I almost felt a little ashamed at my celebrating the joyfulness of life, afraid that I only looked fake.  I never realized how this is something people sometimes have to work at, and sometimes very hard.  The author of the study admitted she believed her capacity for joy in her life had been only at a 3 out of 10 before searching it out in Scriptures.  I guess when someone is at such a low score of joy in their own life, when they see someone who has a higher level of joy, their first thought is that this person can’t be real, that having that kind of experience must be fake.

“Joy is a gift.

You can be more joyful tomorrow than you are today.”

A huge part of being joyful though, is allowing yourself to enjoy the gifts God’s give to all people in life.  It is also understanding yourself enough to know how to search out and go do the things that fill you back up with more joy when you’re running low or going through a difficult time.

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Whatever it is, joy doesn’t seem to be something that is passively waiting for everything to be just right before we can feel it’s pleasure.

JOY INVOLVES A SPECTRUM OF EMOTIONS, ACTIONS, AND RESPONSES THAT INCLUDE GLADNESS, CHEER, HAPPINESS, MERRIMENT, DELIGHTING, DANCING, SHOUTING, EXULTING, REJOICING, LAUGHING, PLAYING, BRIGHTENING, BLESSING, AND BEING BLESSED, TAKING PLEASURE IN, AND BEING WELL-PLEASED.

One of my favorite places to go in the mornings for a walk with the baby.

One of my favorite places to go in the mornings for a walk with the baby.

Make November full of joy for yourself and your family!

Cook up your favorite holiday dishes a little earlier, make some delicious pumpkin pancakes with hot maple syrup for breakfast, go for a walk in nature and really feel the vibrancy of the colors around you.  Curl up in quiet space with a good book and glass of wine, or get up early and wrap up in a blanket on the couch with a hot cup of your favorite coffee.  These are things that never fail to bring me joy.

Promise to do something, to be radiant with God’s love for you, and to allow yourself to search out joy this November, and I wonder if you’ll find yourself also swelling with gratitude in the end.

Leaves, Seeds, Classroom Gardens & Gratitude this Thanksgiving

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This fall has been so wonderful… after a fun-packed October with crazy things to do each weekend, we’ve had a peaceful & pleasantly cold November.  It’s been the perfect month of baking, adventuring, and excitedly anticipating Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We are so excited and have had fun decorating for fall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  I started my son on science project of having a simple “classroom garden,” where he has taken the time to plant seeds and watered and watched them grow.  In October, one of the treats he received at our beautiful Botanical Garden Halloween festival, was a zip-lock bag with wet paper towel and beans.  It was fascinating for us to watch the beans break open and become embryos with little roots.  They are now over a foot tall, and my son has pride in his little garden he’s taken care of.

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My son’s little hand holding his first pulled weed!

His first baby sunflower plant.

His first baby sunflower plant.

Bean growing science experiment for our classroom garden!

Bean growing science experiment for our classroom garden!

It’s so beautiful to watch something grow – it’s a miracle really when you watch so closely… everyday with the beans they were just so radically different.

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As Thanksgiving has drawn nearer and nearer this past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on how grateful I am for all the gifts in our life.  Our life is in no way, perfect, but we are so happy… so content with what we have right now.  I’m at the 35 week pregnancy mark, and so thankful it’s been an easy, low-stress pregnancy.  Every little kick, every rolling motion as he turns over inside me, has me constantly anticipating seeing him and holding him.

It rained this weekend - and our Esperanza became like a crystal gem with the water droplets.

It rained this weekend – and our Esperanza became like a crystal gem with the water droplets.

Looking back over the past three Thanksgivings and noting how different our life has been from 3 or 4 years ago, has also been a beautiful reflection in the positive changes we’ve made in our family.  I think last Thanksgiving was particularly beautiful – we were just so grateful for all the good and the bad that had happened the year before – my husband and I both felt like we were just being blessed over and over again, and were simply there holding our hands out to catch all of God’s blessings He was pouring down on us.

I remember waking up that Thanksgiving morning… we made love that morning before the sun was up – thanking God for each other – it was amazing to wake up so aware of feeling gratitude for each other & for our life.  This year I feel so much the same… the gratitude, again, has just been building up inside of me all of November.

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It rained this past weekend, and my son wanted to go out and play in the puddles & the rain.  I’m not a picky Mommy about stuff like that, I actually want him to experience the carefree mindset of playing in the rain.  It wasn’t cold at all, so I grabbed his brand new (adorable) rain coat, let him wear his crocs since his boots got packed up when we were helping friends move (haha… no good deed goes unpunished!), and got out towels for when he came back in.  He had a blast jumping in the muddy puddles and letting the rain fall on his head from the drains.

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He slugged the ball so hard the bat broke!  It was admittedly a skinny bat... lol, but he got so surprised!

He slugged the ball so hard the bat broke! It was admittedly a skinny bat… lol, but he got so surprised!

The next day was so fresh & bright – really a nice contrast to the rainy dreary grayness of the weekend.

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Thankful doesn’t even begin to cover it….

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I can’t even really put into words the immense joy, peace, and thankfulness I feel.  Today is America’s Thanksgiving holiday, but the overwhelming gratefulness has been growing inside me for a few weeks!

I am not really in a position where you would expect someone to be overly joyful or thankful… I was recently fired from a job, where many of my colleagues asserted I was one of the hardest working and one of the best contributors to their team.  Even though it was deemed I was being terminated “through no fault of my own,” and was able to receive unemployment income, I still watched my associates receive raises as my family lost my precious income that we depended on. 

I’m so immensely thankful for all the lessons I learned through enduring something that had the potential to make me bitter!!  I’m thankful I stood my ground and fought my case, I’m thankful I didn’t do anything to ruin my good reputation or debase my self-dignity.  I learned so many truths and was given so much advice from people who saw what was happening.  I learned how I would deal differently with a situation like that in the future.  While I was enduring that trial, I fully trusted God knew what He was doing.

He did.  He was removing me from a situation that I didn’t need to be in anymore.  He brought me out to a beautiful existence of joy, peace, and happiness!  I’m getting to give myself to my family, my son, and even to others who need help and assistance that I simply didn’t have time for before.  I’ve always been grateful, but this experience taught me to be even more so – not to take anything for granted!  I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced more contentment, my heart is so full its overflowing with love and grace.

I’m thankful for the lessons God’s shown me – the wisdom He’s given me, and how He’s constantly changing me into a better woman.

I’m so thankful for my husband – he is human, but he is so good.  He treats me like his queen, and has sacrificed for years for us as a family working in a job he truly disliked in order to support us faithfully.  I’m thankful that he’s pursuing what he truly wants now, and that I’m able to support him emotionally.

I’m thankful for my son – he makes life worthwhile.  I’m thankful I was able to get pregnant at all… I’m thankful that we both want more children and that we both deeply care about orphans.

I’m just so thankful for life.  It is so precious and everything I have is such a gift.  These gifts are so precious, and again, I am so very thankful.

May God fill you with this same joy and grace. 

May He help you experience ultimate contentment and happiness in doing what He wants you to do in life.

May you find your purpose that only you were destined for, whatever it may be.