Monday, December 24, 2018

When Christmas Eve Looks Different than Expected

Growing up, I loved Christmas Eve. We would gather at my grandparent’s house before dinner. Everyone was off work and life seemed to just stop for a bit. We enjoyed a good meal, took time thank Christ for what Christmas was really about, and opened presents from my grandparents. I especially loved that both of my parents were there—no work to think about…just time to sit and relax and be with family.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve now. Four years ago, we moved to Arkansas where my husband serves on staff at a church. Every Christmas Eve, we have a service in a barn. It is really neat to gather in a barn and such a tangible way to share the Christmas story. But, this means A LOT of work and preparation. We bring in a small stage, set up lights, chairs, heaters, tables for hot chocolate and cookies, etc. After the service is over, a lot of time is also devoted to clean up and my husband usually doesn’t get home until after kids are in bed.

Last year, I left the Christmas Eve service with our three children by myself. I remember driving home on the unfamiliar roads and I took a wrong turn.  I was trying to navigate my way back to familiar roads and I just started crying. I felt so silly, but I just wanted to all be together on Christmas Eve and knowing that would not happen as long as we had our Christmas Eve service was upsetting.  I came home to an empty house and began getting the kids something to eat. I was having a full-out pity party because things were not the way I wanted them.

This is life, though, isn’t it? Things change and things are not always the way we envision. As I think back to the night of Christ’s birth, I’m sure things were not as Mary planned. Who would envision giving birth in an unfamiliar setting, let alone in a stable because no rooms are available? But Mary saw past her circumstances because this night was not about her—it was about the baby she was carrying. This child was born to die for us, to carry a burden we could not carry and to give us new life.

What if we looked beyond our circumstances to the greater good? Our Christmas Eve may not be glamorous or what we envisioned. Perhaps you are stuck at home with a sick child or you have to work or you are alone with kids because your spouse has to work.  But it’s a chance to change our perspective to see what God wants to do in our hearts tonight. How can you take what you’ve been given and use it for the greater good? So tonight may not look like it used to look for me on Christmas Eve. But that’s ok. Because tonight we get to celebrate in a barn with others who may not come to church otherwise. We get an opportunity to hear a message and turn our hearts to the real meaning of Christmas. I pray that you can find this same hope as you have your Christmas Eve-: that God would use you to love on your children or to wipe another sick child’s nose or to encourage your husband as he works the night shift. I’m so thankful for Christ’s sacrifice—that He saw past His comfort and chose to come down as a helpless baby to save us.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Hand Sanitizer

The year 1996... Bath and Body Works was huge to a middle school girl then. I still enjoy a good smelling lotion or candle from there. Remember the scents Sun-Ripened Raspberry,  Country Apple and Juniper Breeze? Those were my scents then. I remember when the store came out with a mind-blowing idea: SCENTED hand sanitizer. I mean, could it get any better? It actually cleans your hands, you can fit it in your purse, AND it smells amazing? Who wouldn't want to smell like a fresh, country apple?! My best friend in middle school and I saved up our money and decided to go in together and buy 4 and get the 5th free. So we scrounged up allowance and got to the store and began the smell test. She chose 2 and I chose 2 and then we had to decide on one we both liked to split. We were so excited (and really cool ha!). We got back to my house and found a little container to squeeze the 1/2 of the 5th bottle into. And we guarded that stuff. We would only use the tiniest amount because we wanted it to last and we didn't get it out in front of many people because we knew they'd all want to use it and we had to use our hard-earned allowance on this stuff. Stingy. We were stingy with our hand-sanitizer. The sad part is I remember having to throw out at least a bottle of it because it was getting so old and nasty. All that hoarding and being stingy and it didn't even get used.

Last night I was reminded of this experience and how it relates to our lives. When we get dealt hard things in life, so many times we pull back and don't want to release it to God. Whether it's from shame, fear, insecurity or bitterness, we dig our heels in and won't let go. And the result: we are left bitter and crusty instead of pouring out our lives for the good of others. Like that hand sanitizer that had to be thrown out...

Our hurts in life are the very things God uses to encourage others. So many times I think we feel like we have to be in that perfect place in life for God to use us. We have to get ourselves together first and then we will help others. But God is saying "I want to use you right where you your weakness, because I will be your strength and my strength will shine through your weakness." So whether we are weak right now because of infertility or a divorce or an illness or depression or grieving the loss of a child or friend or just struggling to be a mom to our unruly children...God wants to use us in your weakness right where we are.

In my weariness right now of some recent health issues, I find myself wanting to just shrink away until all is better. But I can feel God saying to me..."I hate what you're going through right now. This was not my intent. It was never my intent to have sin and suffering in this world. But I can bring good out of it IF you will release it to me. Release your grip. Don't waste the hardships you have been dealt. Don't let them be hidden. Pour out your life. Encourage others with your pain." And I realize when I let go and become vulnerable and help someone else, it almost redeems the suffering we are going through. Only our perfect God can cause something GOOD to come out of something that is BAD.

Let's take our hardships and weaknesses and let God use them instead of holding on to them so tightly that they can't be used. 

There's no space that His love can't reach
There's no place where we can't find peace
There's no end to Amazing Grace

"Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cream Cheese Red Pepper Chicken

This was such a simple recipe and the kids loved it!  I try not to eat much, if any, dairy, so it was nice that this only required 1/2 a block of cream cheese! Enjoy!


  • 4-5 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 diced red pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. panko bread crumbs (we used gluten free)

*If you don't have bread crumbs you can make some by crumbling rice crispy cereal and mixing it with some spices you like

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  • Wash chicken breasts and arrange them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. In a mixer, combine the cream cheese, diced pepper, oregano, salt and garlic. Evenly spread this mixture over each piece of chicken.  Sprinkle 1/2 Tbsp. of panko bread crumbs over each chicken breast. 
  • Bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until cooked through.  That's it! 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Muffins (Grain-Free)

When our oldest son began having some health issues over four years ago, I began to research possible causes.  I began reading about gluten and the ways it can wreak havoc on our health.  So, we committed to do a gluten-free diet for three months and see if there was any difference.  The first few weeks we did not see a huge improvement, but by week 6, we started to see one.  By the end of the three months, it was obvious that gluten was causing the problem.

The more I have researched gluten, it has made me want to severely limit it for our entire family and exclusively for our son.
Gluten, the protein found in wheat, has also been modified into “super gluten” from its original form that has been linked to a whole host of health problems. The amount of gluten has actually been doubled in hybridized wheat. Gluten triggers inflammation system-wide which causes weight gain, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and multiple chronic diseases. In the digestive system,  gluten can actually damage the gut lining, triggering full-body inflammation and susceptibility to other bacteria or viruses crossing gut barrier. This syndrome is called “leaky gut” and can be a trigger for a variety of illnesses, especially autoimmune diseases. (Dr. Axe)
It is obvious that gluten can cause some pretty bad reactions.  In the very least, we should all limit our consumption of it. But it can be challenging to find alternatives when it comes to food like muffins, cookies, etc.  In my quest for a gluten free muffin, I wanted something that tasted good but that was also nutritional.  I have been making these, and we love them! Hope your family enjoys them too!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins (Grain and Gluten Free)


1 Cup Almond Flour
6 Tbsp. Arrowroot or Tapioca Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
1 large egg
1/4 cup honey or coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 apple, diced
1/4 cup raisins (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients first.  Mix in wet ingredients.  Gently stir in diced apples and raisins.  Divide into muffin liners (makes 10-12 large muffins).  Bake for 23 minutes or until lightly browned.

Note: I have tried these with blueberries as well, and they're delicious!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Starving Sin

Isn't it amazing how God can use our life experiences to speak to us?  Even the ones that seem so random, He can use to teach or remind us of an important life lesson.  Well, I experienced that recently from a bizarre (and slightly gross) experience.

One of Scott's brothers and his wife has an amazing little gift.  They can seek out houses that look awful, buy them at an incredible deal, and then flip them for profit.  By the time they're done, it doesn't even look like the same house. So, they found a house up for auction in the area and we decided to go with them to check it out.  We should have thought twice when the realtor gave us the code to get into the house.

As soon as we opened the door, the worst stench came out of the house.  It smelled like a house full of dogs and urine.  I won't go into more detail, but just filth.  So, we all walk in and glance at the house and walk right out.  We weren't in there for more than one minute.  As soon as we come out, however, I notice that my husband starts picking stuff off of his legs.  Fleas.  There were fleas on all of us.  Now, anyone who knows me well knows that I. Do. Not. Do. Bugs.  My loving husband quickly came over to me and starting picking them off my pants while I tried not to think about what was happening.

It was quite the experience, and one that I would not like to repeat.  Through this experience, I felt God trying to teach me something about sin.  This is kind of a gross analogy, but bear with me.  The fleas in that house were starving.  They were starving for something to eat. If we had visited that house when the dogs were taking up residence, however, we could have walked in there and not noticed the fleas.

Sin is just like this.  If we approach sin with the mentality that we will only indulge a little bit, we are still feeding sin.  We can pretend that it's not taking up residence in our hearts, but it's still there and still living in our hearts.  When the house had residents living in it, we could have walked in there and not noticed the fleas because they would have been on the animals and they were being fed regularly so they wouldn't have pounced on us. But, it didn't mean the fleas weren't there.  They would just be a little more hidden.

When we try to get rid of sin in our lives, we can't just try to hide it.  We need to starve it.  If we just hide sin by only indulging in it some of the time, we are like a house full of fleas.  They may be a little more hidden but they are there.  A house full of fleas is so wasted and so filthy.  It is the same with a life full of sin.  We need Christ to clean our hearts, to show us the sin in our lives and help us starve that sin to death.

But, we have to be prepared to fight the battle when we begin to starve the sin in our lives.  Just as those fleas were ready to pounce on anything that walked in that house, sin wants to do the same thing to us.  We have to be ready and armed.  We must be armed with the Truth (God's Word) and sometimes we have to enlist the help of others.  Once we starve the sin in our life, though, the result is so worth it.

Just as a house without fleas can be inviting, our hearts without sin can reflect the love of Christ.  We have to completely eliminate the sin in our life by starving it and by not making excuses and indulging in sin some of the time.  Only through the power of Christ living in us is this possible.

"A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil."
Ephesians 6:10-11

"Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.  Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God."
Romans 6:12-14

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Healthy Individual Brownie Cakes

I just love chocolate.  It's my downfall when it comes to healthy eating.  I can say no to fried foods and packaged foods, but I'm going to cheat a little if there's a warm, gooey brownie in front of me.  So, in my attempt to find something healthy to satisfy that craving, I experimented today.  I'm really shocked these turned out so good, and the kids ate one and loved it too.  You'd never know there's NO FLOUR, OIL, OR SUGAR IN IT! A-mazing.

  • 1 Tbsp. Apple Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Peanut Butter or other Nut Butter 
  • 1 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp.-1 Tbsp. Pure Maple Syrup (optional)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Milk of Choice (use 1 Tbsp. if leaving out maple syrup)
  • 1/2 Tbsp.- 1 Tbsp. Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
  • few drops of vanilla
  • Tiny pinch of baking soda
  • Mix all of the following in a small microwavable, single serving bowl.  Small ramekins are the perfect size. Heat in microwave for 1 minute and 25 seconds. Viola!  You're done and you have yourself a yummy treat that's not bad for you but is still delicious!  Can you tell I'm excited about this!?
Note: I tried it with Almond Butter and Peanut Butter and thought it was a little dryer with the Almond Butter, but it was still good!

If you've never used Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips before, give them a try.  They are gluten, nut, soy and dairy free, but they taste wonderful! Buy them on here for a cheaper price (this is for a 6 pack of them).

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Roasted Vegetables (Beets, Potatoes, Carrots, and Apples)

Beets.  They are one of those vegetables that just don't sound too appealing.  Am I the only one? They just look like a lot of work, and I don't know what to do with them. I tried making something with them once, they didn't taste very good, so I kind of just gave up on them.  Until recently.  My aunt made some roasted vegetables when we went to her house for dinner a few weeks ago.  They were great, and beets were part of the medley.  She said that roasting them is the best way because it caramelizes them and gives them a great flavor.  So today, I roasted some beets!  Enjoy!


  • 2-3 Beets, Peeled and chopped small
  • 1 Bag of Baby Carrots, cut into small chunks
  • 3 Large Red Potatoes or 2 Large Sweet Potatoes or combination of both, diced 
  • 2 Apples, diced (I didn't peel them)
  • 2 Tbsp. Oil of Choice (I used Avocado Oil.  Coconut oil or Olive oil would work great too.)
  • Generous sprinkling of a high quality sea salt.  Here is a good choice.


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • After all of the vegetables have been diced, toss in oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place on the baking sheet and bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring half-way.  

The apples give the vegetables a slightly sweet flavor.  Yummy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Natural Beauty Products

It can be frustrating to find beauty products without all of the bad stuff in it.  Many times, it is much more expensive than the stuff you can buy at Walmart and Target and a lot of the time it just doesn't work very well.

But, did you know that companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient that they want?! The U.S. government does not review the safety of products before they are sold!  Toxic ingredients are used in many of the beauty products available today.  These toxic ingredients are endocrine disruptors that can lead to cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other illnesses.  Our skin absorbs 60% of any topical product we use, so that's why it's so important that we are not putting these harmful toxins on our body.

Have you ever used the Environmental Working Group database? You'll want to check out this website if you haven't already.  Their mission is to protect human health and the environment by creating online safety profiles for cosmetics and personal care products. You can search for a brand of make up and it will tell you the ratings (as far as safety goes) for your beauty product.

For example, if you searched for Burt's Bees Baby Nourishing Lotion, you would see a rating of a 5, which is a moderate hazard. You want your rating to be as close to 0 as possible.  I was pretty upset to see that the expensive lotion I was buying and that I thought was healthy for my baby, was actually full of bad things that are toxic for my baby.  I might as well buy the cheapest brand possible.

So, yes, it does take a little extra work to find products that are not toxic. But, I definitely don't want to be putting harmful things into my body.  Here is a list of products that have worked for me, and I hope they'll help you too.

Note: I am not a sales rep for any of these products, but some affiliate links are below.  If you purchase through an affiliate link, your costs will be the same, but I will receive a very small commission.  Thanks for your support!

Body Wash: 
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps -Peppermint
This body wash contains organic certified ingredients and can be used for cleaning the body as well as used to make natural household cleaners.  I like the peppermint oil because it creates a tingly-cool and increases vitality and clarity.
Dr. Bronner's Baby-mild Liquid Soap  (no essential oil scent)

To make it last longer, you can also dilute with water.  We usually add 1/2 water to it and the 32 oz bottles lasts a LONG time!

Tear-free wash for Kids:
Nature's Baby Organics Shampoo & Body Wash
This is a tear-free formula without all the bad stuff.  It has a calming scent from essential oils.

Derma e, Soothing Cleanser 
I like this face wash.  It's gentle and fragrance free.

Heritage Rosewater & Glycerin With Atomizer 
I LOVE this stuff.  See this article to learn more about it.  It's a great price and it can bring benefit to all skin types.

Eye Gel:
derma e Pycnogenol Eye Gel with Green Tea Extract
This eye gel helps diminish the look of undereye puffiness...not that that ever happens to my eyes ;)

Make-up Remover:
Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
I use coconut oil.  I love this brand, and we use it for cooking all the time too! I put some in a small container and just dip a cotton ball in it to remove my make-up each day.

Face Lotion:
Aim 2 Health Face and Neck Cream
For dry spots or when you need something extra moisturizing, I love using this.  The aloe is very soothing.

Elegant Minerals
I found a new make-up that I really like.  It's similar to Bare Minerals, but the prices are a little better. You can also order samples on most of their products for only $1.  I love their clay masks as well.  From their site:
Elegant Minerals Makeup is free of all potentially harmful ingredients found in many commercial brands, such as: preservatives, talc, synthetic chemicals, carmine, parabens, artificial dyes, fragrances, bismuth, cornstarch, and various fillers. We do not use micronized minerals. We are confident you will love our mineral makeup and offer a 30 money-back guarantee.
My favorite non-toxic mascara is actually from Target and it is the Boots No. 7 Brand.  It gets a lower rating of 2 on EWG, although it is not a 0. I like that it costs under $10!

Epsom salt:
Epsoak Epsom Salt 
In thinking about toxins, an epsom salt bath is excellent at removing toxins from the body.  See this article here.  This is, by far, my favorite brand, and it's well worth it to buy the 20 lb. bag, because you'll need to use 1-2 cups per bath.  This has become a treat for me, and I try to take an epsom salt bath several times a week.

Skin Brush:
Yerba Prima Tampico Skin Brush
Read about the importance of skin brushing and how to do it here.

What are your favorite non-toxic beauty products?