Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh Happy Day-- we're talkin' cookies!
Last time we talked I mentioned that I had just made a new chocolate chip cookie batter, but I hadn't baked off any of the cookies yet.  This new cookie recipe is for Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip Cookies!  The recipe actually comes right off the bag of their bittersweet chocolate chips, which are the ones I used. Any chip would be delicious if dark chocolate isn't your thing.  With classic chocolate chip cookies (how many times in can I type out those 3 yummy words in this post?) being my all-time favorite cookie, I was excited to try out a new recipe for them! I do have our favorite double chocolate sea salt chocolate chip cookie recipe the blog, but why not try a new one for fun every so often??

The verdict is that these cookies are deliciously buttery, thin, and chewy, and they are tasty, but we don't think they're "The Ultimate" by our tastes.  Anyone who prefers a thin chocolate chip cookie will probably love these, though!  They really spread out in the pan when baked, even after the dough was refrigerated for 24 hours.  The second time my husband was the one to bake a few, and he made them smaller in size. They turned out better! I think they baked more evenly so I'll make these smaller next time instead of the oversized ones I usually make. I've got to say that we both agreed they have a delicious flavor, and the cookie dough tastes amazing....  it's perhaps some of the best cookie dough I've had! 

This recipe is definitely good enough to share and would be perfect to take a batch to your next potluck, so I hope you'll give them a go!  Thin, buttery cookies are incredible dunked in a tall, frosted glass of milk...  Just sayin!  Let me know what you think.  Happy Baking!!  :)

Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields about 4 dozen cookies

2 1/4 c. unsifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) real butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
10 oz. Ghiradelli chocolate chips, I used almost 1 cup more than this!
1 c. pecans or walnuts, optional I opted out this time

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Stir flour with baking soda, salt and set side.
  • Beat butter with both sugars at medium speed until creamy; turn mixer to low and add vanilla and eggs one at a time. Mix until smooth.
  • Gradually blend the dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts (if desired).
  • Drop by tablespoons onto parchment lined cookie sheet, or plain ungreased sheet.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes or till golden.  I like to check at 9 minutes, but we like ours on the very chewy side.
  • Important: Enjoy every bite!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April Happenings

Good afternoon, dear Friends!

You know how it's hard to fill your mom, sister, or good friend in all the details of things if you haven't talked to them in a while?  In turn, it usually takes longer to actually make that long phone call to catch up on everything?  Ha....I feel like that here at my blog.  Life is happening in wonderful ways, but as time slips between each post and I'm taking more pictures the thought of sharing all the stories, photos and thoughts from the past day, week, month becomes all the more daunting.  As I write I'm going to incorporate some photos I've taken over the past few weeks to share with you inside my family's world.  With spring break behind us and both kid's birthdays and not to mention Easter, I don't have time to share it all but ... anyways... enough with the rambling! 

Where do I begin?

What a better way to start than the present....

Right now it's a beautifully rainy looking afternoon and the yard and zillion trees we have on our property look gorgeous in their Irish green!

This morning the kids and I spent most of the morning outside as the sun was shining and I wanted them to get some outdoor times before all the rain comes over the weekend.  The kids played and I began some maintenance yard work, which I really enjoy. Once they saw I was in the flower garden pulling weeds they got excited to join me and I was happy for the help!

These pictures here were taken over the course of the last month...

If you don't know, we live on 4 acres of land that borders several acres of woods on one side.  We have a few established flower gardens in our landscape and around our yard, and those are one of the reasons I was so attracted to this home because they are gorgeous!  The yard our house sits on has over 120 trees alone (yes, I've counted!), so when I say yard work, there is always lots to do! Let's just say it's a very good thing I love the outdoors so much.  It's actually a real blessing for us to have large yard to enjoy! 

Sweet girl has the sun in her eyes!  We were enjoying some quilt time in the yard on a hot April day.  This is one of the many ways we've enjoyed our home this spring!
There's Pebble, basking in the sun with us. 
Our cat is the best cat ever!  I've had a few litters in my lifetime, so I should know!

Watering our newly planted hydrangeas! My husband has spruced up our landscape beautifully this year with new plants.  Thank you, Honey!

So this morning the kids wanted to help me out with the yard work, and it almost became like a game to all do together!  They usually enjoy helping my husband and I outside and since they're growing up at 6 and 7 years old they really do help!  So we were picking up limbs out of the yard, pulling weeds in the flower gardens and I even trimmed some new growth branches on trees that we don't want.  We took a walk around our meadow to see the big evergreen that's covered in honeysuckle!  It smells dreamy when the wind catches the flowery scent and carries it across the field. The temperature was perfect today and while as I sit here typing my back is aching from bending over so much on the ground, being outside and doing all those things along side my kids put me in my "happy place". This time of year is just refreshing for my soul!

Friends, I just got finished doing what I love doing most and haven't done for months!
I just got finished whipping up a big batch of dark chocolate Ghiradelli chocolate chip cookies!!!  Oh my word, these are going to be delish!  The batter is resting in the fridge before I bake a few off tonight after supper.  If you've followed me for a while you already know that years ago I discovered from a pastry chef-friend of mine that most cookie recipes taste the ultimate after allowing the dough to be in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 3 days. 

This cookie batter looks and smells so good!  I've never made the Ghiradelli's recipe for chocolate chip cookies, but seeing that that is my favorite kind of cookie to eat, and my favorite kind of chocolate chip, I thought it was high time! 

Let me fill you in on a little guilty pleasure of mine....  Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips, right out of the bag!  They are just so creamy and smooth and larger than the average chip!  In a perfect world --or who am I kidding?--after a long day, they are my go-to treat with a cup of coffee and a good book or movie. 

So this cookie recipe is right on the bag.  I'll let you know how we like them.  If you want to know my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, check this cookie recipe out for my double chocolate sea salt cookies!

This will be the first treat my husband and I have had for quite a while.  We have began a healthier lifestyle that drastically reduces desserts.  We'll never totally cut them out, because a dessert is part of life's little pleasures, and saying "never" is just shooting yourself in the foot when you're talking about a lifestyle change.  We've decided to be very thoughtful about what we eat throughout the day and have the occasional favorite treat...  so needless to say, I am that much more ready to bite into a deliciously warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie!! 

I've got a pork tenderloin cooking down in the slow cooker with BBQ sauce for homemade BBQ sandwiches.  (Heath and I will be enjoying sans bun.) It smells divine in the house right now!  I plan to make some sweet potatoes and green beans to go along side.

Before I go, I have to say that I hope that you all had a beautiful Easter celebrating The Resurrection!

Bubby's eyes were swollen on Easter due to allergies, but aren't they precious!
I just love this sweet eyelet dress.

Easter has become even more meaningful to me since having children.  From the weight of dwelling on our Savior's death on "Good" Friday to the overwhelming joy and praise that comes on reflecting on His resurrection on Sunday always makes me cling tighter to Jesus and the power of the gospel in my own life.  I want them to see us living out that celebration year round... 

It's the story that my life sings!!! 

And I love sharing it with my kids and finding creative ways to do so.  One of our favorite traditions is making yummy resurrection rolls with the kids!  They're an easy way to incorporate the story of the resurrection with children and something they help make and eat! They have come to ask to make these every time spring rolls around!  We still give the kid's Easter baskets, although candy is not what we want it to be all about, it's just so sweet to see their eyes light up at the sight of the basket.

I look forward to putting together a cute Easter basket for them.  For many years Heath and I dreamed about being able to do these family traditions with our own children.  I would walk the candy isle praying the Lord would bless us with a child to love.  I can testify that God has been so faithful to us, and now we have 2 kids!!! 
I hope you're enjoying the last weekend we have in April, before the busy month of May begins.   The month of yard sales beginning, Mother's Day, and when the end of the school year field trips,  award programs and graduations are being held.  Memorial Day will be after that and then we'll be in the Summertime swing! 

We're ending the month of April with a Night of Worship (woohooo!) at our church on Sunday.  I'm excited about that as we're practicing and preparing for the Lord to change lives that night.  That's what He does best!

Have a beautiful weekend and talk to you again soon!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Snow On The Forsythias

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."

Isaiah 55:8-11

I woke up this morning to snow on the forsythias.

A beautiful falling of it as I write!

This, my friends, is our first real snow to see of the season!  March 11th-the day before Daylight Savings-- and we finally are getting a beautiful snow.

I love snow, and I've been hoping for months to wake up to a blanket.  Christmas came and went without so much as cold weather, January...nothing. February (usually our coldest month) was warm!  Week after week would go by without any of the wintry precipitation, so I thought maybe next winter.

Of course, I usually think of snow before the flowers begin to bloom. 

But there is something about this snow this morning that reminds me of the character of God....

God's timing is always perfect. 

He is never late.

Are you praying for something? 

Trusting in the Lord completely or even desperately? 

Crying out to Him in your time of need? 

Just when the bloom is about to burst open and you might think, "That season must be past. It's too late now."  the Lord may surprise you with His sovereign hand and turn things around.  He sees and knows all, and most of the time His answer will come when He will get the most glory and when it's the very best for us.  

That's such a good place to rest in!

Hope against all hope!!!  (Hope in the Lord, only. Not in your own strength.)

I've seen God move in my own life before after some may have given up or think it's too late, it wasn't.... He waited for the perfect time. 

So press in!  Press into seeking Him more than seeking your answer!

So with my dark roast coffee in hand, instrumental music on in the house, fireplace roaring, and this whole Saturday looking more like a beautiful snow globe than I had imagined I'm enjoying every moment.  Yes, I miss the 75 degree days, but this may have been the forced day of "rest" we needed amongst a winter bleak of snow days and before the busyness spring can bring! 

I think I'm about to make some pancakes and hot chocolate for the kids since it's a special day.

It's a snow day and although it's on the golden forsythias, in my heart it's right on time!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Classic Banana Muffins

Last weekend was one of those gloriously relaxed weekends! 

My husband was home and off work the entire Saturday and Sunday ( woowhooo!!!) which happens about one weekend a month.  It's just so nice to spend mornings together.  We could sleep a little later and linger a little longer around our coffee and around the table.  I thought I would take advantage of the small bunch of very ripe bananas I had and made a delicious breakfast treat for my family!  I knew our kids would love some fresh, warm muffins to go along with the eggs I made--(eggs are our kiddo's favorite!). 

This time I loaded the scrambled eggs with some leftover roasted and seasoned potatoes from the night before, sauteed bell peppers, and onion along with salt, pepper, and paprika. If I wanted to splurge I would also add a handful of cheese at the last minute, but instead we doused the eggs with our favorite hot sauce, Cholula. We love this Mexican style hot sauce with eggs for breakfast.  Smoky, a slight heat, and tangy... perfect for flavor without extra calories and fat. 

The deliciously tender and flavorful muffins were the perfect nod to sweetness to balance out the savory eggs. A fresh mug of steamy dark roast coffee made this a breakfast that stuck with us throughout the entire morning! 

I'm sure you've made banana muffins or bread before, and I have made them from a dozen different recipes-- several which are on my blog here-- but these were a classic recipe and simple and easy.  They came out perfectly!  I will certainly make this recipe again, and that's pretty much the qualification of sharing a recipe with you. If we love the food and will want it again, I want to let you all in on it, too!

Now the question for this crazy Kentucky weather-weekend is what am I going to make on the potential snow day we are supposed to randomly get tomorrow!?  Yesterday the high was 75 degrees and tomorrow is going to be in the 30's!  Potato soup, perhaps?? 

What do you all enjoy cooking up on snow days? I would LOVE to get some good ideas!

Classic Banana Muffins

Adapted from: My Mommy Style

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 large ripe bananas (I used 4 medium)
3/4 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. butter melted (I used melted coconut oil. Delicious.)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat muffin pans with non stick baking spray or use paper liners.
  • Sift together the flour, and next 4 ingredients; set aside.
  • Combine bananas, sugar and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Fold in flour mixture, and mix until dry ingredients are combined.  Do not over mix. Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter in each muffin tin.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped.

Note:  I made the addition of cinnamon to this recipe. I really love it in banana muffins. Also I decided for health reasons to substitute butter with coconut oil.  The consistency is very similar and doesn't change the flavor, but it's better for our heart. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Birthday Celebration with *Best Loved* Strawberry Cake Recipe

Happy 6th birthday to our beautiful, fun, creative "gift from God" daughter!!!  Last week we celebrated our baby girl's birthday and what a blessing she is, and I just had to hop back on here to let you all in on her sweet and simple celebration....

Last week was also a very busy week!  I worked a full schedule as secretary at our church along with a couple extra special school activities through the week nights while my husband worked extra long hours the prior weekend and week due to all the sickness the winter tends to bring.  His busyness at work is a blessing, no doubt, but also can leave us feeling like ships passing in the night sometimes.  I know we aren't the only couple to experience this.

I really didn't have much time to prepare for the party at all (and almost completely forgot to about the little party for her at school altogether!) but God helped me make it all happen by His grace. I think there is something about being a mom that really forces you to sort of will yourself to do and accomplish things that sometimes you really have no idea looking back how you pulled it off. How you had the time, energy, or creativity.  How you created all the smiles to warm your kid's heart while on the inside you are just tired.  Nothing is wrong, just weariness.

But that's when I think of my family.  The long-term vision of memories.  The love I want our children to remember and  it's from that place of unselfishness and consideration...  God strengthens me! 

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Phil. 4:13

That's been my struggle lately but thanking the Lord it didn't ruin being able to celebrate one of my favorite people turning 6!  I decided to major on the majors and not worry about what doesn't really matter.  It paid off.

Sweet girl requested a pink cake and got a homemade strawberry cake with strawberry frosting and crowned with fresh strawberries...sweet and girly! It was a treat to make. I don't usually bake cakes, especially layered cakes, unless it's a birthday.  Even though I've been busy, I really wanted to make her cake this year instead buying from our favorite bakery like I did last year.  I'm sure that will happen again, but I was in a baking kind of mood...Maybe it was the warmer weather?  Either way, this cake was a fun one to make for our fun girl! 

Without fail, every year I find our sweet girl at her birthday cake before the party licking the icing. I used to be worried she would mess up the look of it, but it's happened for years, and I think at this point I would be almost disappointed if she didn't do it!  There is something innocent and joyful about taking your finger and running it through frosting that looks too delicious to just look at!  

No inhibitions. That's my girl!

The celebration was intimate with only close family, but those are some of my personal favorite parties that I had growing up! 

I made a big spaghetti supper with our favorite homemade meat sauce full of Italian sausage and good ground beef that slow cooks most of the day!  We ate it with semi-homemade cheesy garlic bread and Italian salad.  We ate dinner on our farm table and the cake and ice cream was consumed at the kitchen table after opening gifts. 

The kitchen was decorated in girly polka dots, butterflies, unicorns, and whimsy! Nothing expensive or elaborate this year, not because she doesn't deserve the best, but sometimes the best looks more simple and homemade.  It certainly allowed mommy to be able to give her best when it was all said and done.

And if these sweet little decorations wouldn't brighten one's day, I don't know what would!  Chocolates sitting around in abundance after Valentines Day made for a great treat to nibble on with coffee as the celebration started. 

And this cake. I'm thinking, why have I never shared this recipe???  It is tried and true and many years old. This has been a family favorite Nana (my husband's grandmother) has made for years, and it dates back to the true cake baking era.  The simpler time when inviting "company" over meant including a cake baked in your own oven, and when time seemed to move a little slower. Well, after eating this several times that Nana made for gathering, Mom and I decided to start making it probably about 10 years ago. 

While it is essentially a foolproof cake, the icing for me always ends up being drippy and wants to make the cake layers slide a bit.  I'm no expert, but I have used wooden skewers to hold it in place while it gets popped into the fridge. There the icing begins to harden back up from all the butter in it, and the cake seems to get even more moist somehow after sitting in the fridge, so I make this cake the day before.

You can't beat the flavor of this tender cake, chock full of strawberries and the strawberry icing that is creamy and divine!  The icing's original recipe only has butter but over the past few years Nana has began to add some cream cheese to it and so have we. It's between a buttercream and cream cheese icing. The only revision I made to her recipe is adding a splash of vanilla extract to both the cake batter and the icing.  It just gives it an extra, something.

I'm genuinely so excited to share this recipe with you!  Hopefully it can become a new tradition for your own family and friends to enjoy.  It's hard to make this cake with out a little spoon licking and a lot of love! Enjoy the process and the fruit of your labor.  I know watching our sweet girl eat it was worth every minute!

Best Loved Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Butter Icing

The Cake:

1 box white cake mix
1 pkg. strawberry jello
4 extra large eggs
3/4 c. canola oil
1/2 c. water
splash (about 1 tsp.) vanilla
1/2 c. frozen (sweetened) strawberries, thawed--comes in a little tub

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour (I use Pam baking spray) 3 - 8 inch round cake pans.
  • Mix ingredients all together very well (using a mixer) and beat on high until well blended and airy.  Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.
  • Allow the cakes to sit for about 10 minutes before gently going around the sides with a knife and then turning the cakes out onto a cooking rack or parchment/wax paper to cool completely.
  • For a layered cake, the cakes must be completely cooled before frosting.  Once cooled put the first cake on the stand and ice  the top completely.  I feel as though it always needs a little more icing between the layers.  Put the next cake layer on and repeat.  Once the third cake is on, I would work quickly as the layers may want to slide. Pour the icing over the top and smooth it all over.  Put the cake in the fridge until it's time to eat.
  • I don't worry about precision here too much with the icing.  This isn't an icing that would be suitable for a pastry bag design, but it's beautiful in it's own way and delicious! I added a bunch of fresh strawberries to around the base of the cake just before presenting to everyone. 

The Icing:

1 stick of real butter, softened
1/2-3/4 block cream cheese
3/4c.frozen (sweetened) strawberries, thawed crushed and lightly strained
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4-5 c. powdered sugar

Beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla together until smooth.  Lower the speed of your mixer and alternately add the crushed strawberries and sugar, ending with the sugar. You may add more of with strawberries or powdered sugar depending on your taste of sweetness and the consistency you desire.

Note: Fresh strawberries do not work well in this cake.  They tend to make the cake fall apart, but these sweetened frozen ones are just perfect! Be sure to thaw the container before beginning to bake this though. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pumpkins, Ponderings, and Apple Crisp

I just had to share a few recent pictures since the last time I shared with you guys I wasn't able to.  A couple weeks ago, we went down to the quaint, little pumpkin patch "down the road", The Penny Pumpkin Patch.  We look forward to picking out pumpkins every year, and since moving back to my hometown this spot has been our place to go!  It's a fun family tradition.

This sweet place is in a tiny community named Penny which is basically in the middle of nowhere, but isn't that the best place for a pumpkin patch to be?!  If you head out of town, it's somewhere between the horse farms, soybean fields, and all the smoking tobacco barns. 

Speaking of, I have to share with you a snippet of my country life.  I have never used tobacco a minute in my life, but we live in in the middle tobacco farm country.  Every fall when the harvested tobacco smokes in the barns, it is simply the quintessential smell of early autumn in the country!  If you open your windows on a brisk late September morning and smell the woodsy campfire type scent wafting in, it's a sign that the new season is at hand. I'm sure it must be funny to think about if you're not familiar with the scent or the country way of life, but for most of the people around here it's a familiar, endearing scent that welcomes fall to Kentucky! 

The love of my life!

Whenever we're at the patch I love seeing our kids run free around the pumpkins, their heart so excited their legs can hardly keep up!  We let them pick out one of their favorite pumpkins to take home.  Our daughter takes her task very seriously, where as our son just likes to mostly run and climb on whatever is around.  (With a very energetic 5 and 6 years old every single errand is an adventure, to say the least!!) I decided on a beautiful deep orange trio of pumpkins that came stacked up and ready to adorn our front porch!

I had to steal a picture of me with my beautiful little girl as she is bursting with excitement to be picking out her 2016 pumpkin! 

Just look at those dark brown eyes you could get lost in... and those eyelashes!  She's a cutie!! 

God knows and see her little heart.  I pray that I'm meeting her needs as a mommy should. Parenting has been one of the biggest leaps of faith from the very start.  It is a day by day, hour by hour reminder that I need daily help from the Lord.  I love our children with all my being, but I imperfectly guide them while trusting God's grace to cover us in the process. 

More than anything, I want to raise adults who love God with their whole being
and love people... out loud! 
Simple goal as it is, ultimately it will be their decision to make.  

My nickel parenting advice? 

Faith. (in God) 

Trust. (In God)

Prayer. (With each breath.)

Love (The best you can.)

Back home we set out the pumpkin bounty on the front and back porch and the mums I bought at the grocery. I admire the little acorns we have by the millions around our porch.  The giant oak trees loom overhead and shower our place with acorns. 

I happen to like things like that. :)

Inside I've began to set a cozy scene with the fire in the fireplace!  Most mornings are chilly enough to turn it on as I sip a quick cup of coffee during the week or my 2-3 cups I linger over on the weekends! I have bits of fall d├ęcor peeking out here and there!  I've since added more from the time this picture was taken, but it's real life here. This mama doesn't have time to stage photos these days, yet I don't want that to keep me from sharing my home with you! 

So, I've had requests for some of the recipes of things I've been making in the kitchen. and I don't want to let my cozy followers down!...

 I'm letting you all in on a delicious and easy recipe I've been making for years and years every fall!  It's a classic apple crisp recipe with dried cranberries and cinnamon. I like to bake crumbles and crisps in the fall months filled with warm and chewy fruit and topped with a crumbly oat topping! This one is a snap to put together. It's a perfect dessert with some cold milk or a decadent breakfast with a steamy cup of coffee!  Fresh out of the oven with some vanilla ice cream for us!

Cinnamon-Apple Berry Crumble

6 cups of sliced and peeled apples (about 6 medium)
1 c. dried cranberries
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 c. oats, quick cook or old fashioned if you want more texture
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Ice cream if you want it extra delicious!

Heat oven to preheat at 375 F.  In a large bowl mix apples, cranberries, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Spoon into an ungreased 11x7 baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients with a fork until crumbly.  Spoon over the fruit mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender, juice bubbles and topping is golden brown!  Serve warm with ice cream!

Note: I'm sure you could make this with fresh cranberries if you add some extra sugar and cook it a little longer.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Back, at Last! A Life Update.

(I apologize that I have no pictures to show, but I'm some trouble getting them to load the past couple of weeks.  I guess my words will just have to paint the pictures vividly enough you can imagine all I'm saying!)

Good morning dear Friends!  I have missed you all!!! 

I've received some very kind and thoughtful emails and comments for some of you concerned for me since it has been since early summer since I've published a blog.  We are all good here!  I just have let time slip away. I've even began several different blogs but either never finished for times sake or had trouble with pictures, but today I decided I must write you and let you all know, we are well!! 

I'm just in a very, very busy season in my life and have more responsibilities than ever.  Because of that, I've had to simplify a few things: realizing I cannot do it all (that's a big one), not looking on my phone and social media nearly as much (I bet a few of you can understand the struggle), and not feeling obligated to write a blog post when I simply don't have the time.  My creative writing has been abuzz in my head with ideas of devotionals, delicious recipes I've made or fun family trips I've wanted to share, but at the end of the day I have been simply out of wind and unfortunately find myself at bedtime with yet not another blog written.  But as much as I never intend to have months between my blog posts, I also write simply from the pleasure of doing so and the connection with you all (I have no income from blogging). I have to give myself more grace than usual in busy seasons and if my blog suffers it's because I'm probably trying to be more present with my family. I am OK with that! God is helping "balance" my life, but I have truly missed talking to you and happy to share a little with you today!

It is autumn!  (I basically skipped summer...yikes) I love all the seasons of the years, but fall is sort of like my happy place --if you will-- out of all the other seasons!  Wonderful holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmastime are just around the corner, the cozy blankets have made there way back in our living room and the sweaters in my drawers.  It's jean and boot wearing weather and my favorite plaid blanket scarf has already been worn once!  It's a blustery fall day outside as I write.  Perfectly chilly and cloudy enough the vivid colors that are beginning to show have a lovely blue-gray sky to set them off.  It's dark enough for the candles to be lit inside!

I have a few of my windows open, and I can hear the slightly crunchy trees blowing in the wind with the occasional thud of hickory nuts and acorns falling to the ground.  We're pretty much surrounded by large, majestic trees on our property so naturally we have a fall landscape all around with colorful leaves, acorns and squirreling scurrying!  We've been seeing deer in our meadow almost every day and it delights our family! There are several sweet young ones that come out with their mama, and our children are delighted to see them!  Our kids are so cute....  When they spot a deer, they'll go outside quietly and hide behind trees and peer around to spy on the deer eating acorns or munching our grass.  That lasts long enough until one of the kids giggles themselves out of their hiding spots and the little deer family runs back into the woods.  It's really adorable to watch!  Their excitement for the small things in life is contagious!

Right now I have beautiful worship music playing that is the set list for our worship team practice tonight.  If you didn't know, my husband and I are very involved with the worship at church, and we love it!  We're are one of the worship leaders there, and he also plays bass guitar. Music has been one of the foundational things in our relationship since day one. Being a part of the worship team is one of the greatest blessings in my life.  I am grateful to serve the Lord in this way, but it's what I've known I've been called to do since I was a teenager!  In January of this year, that calling came to pass as our pastor asked us to be one of the worship leaders! (I could tell you so much surrounding that one thing, alone..)  Tonight I'm singing backup and look forward to what is always a nice interlude mid-week as we come together to practice and focus on the music the Lord has set on our hearts for the upcoming Sunday.

It's commitment to be in ministry, but it is so very worth the time and prayer put into it!  God is stretching me and teaching me as I  learn more and hopefully continue to improve my skill.  I seek God and those who "go before me" for wisdom so that I can lead the team and church in not only beautiful music, but an authentic experience with God!! 

I am humbled by the process. 

I've been singing for God in church since I was 8 years old.  I recognize that He gave me my singing voice (I inherited from Mom) and I told him as a girl that I would always use it to glorify and honor Him alone.  He gives us talents and gifts so we can use them in some capacity for Him! One of my favorite things to do is go with the body of Christ into the presence of the Lord.  Even when I don't "feel" like it, once I start singing those words of adoration to Him, I feel his presence so close to me.  Almighty God the Creator and Healer and Savior of the world is Father and Friend and Counselor. Wow!  We are all called to worship Him....God created us to worship Him and to know Him intimately!  I could go on and on and on about this, but ultimately spending time with God in worship leaves me more joyful and at peace than anything else on earth, and so I love sharing that with my church.  Also, that's why I had to let you in on that part of my life! :) 

This coming weekend my husband and I celebrate our 12 wedding anniversary!  He is my favorite person on the planet and I can't believe it's been 12 years since we walked out of the candlelit church to a ringing bell that would be the beginning of an entire life hand in hand.  I love him so much and being married is the best earthly thing besides my children that has happened to me!!!  We have known each other now for 24 years, sweethearts in grade school and friends thereafter.  When he became my boyfriend our Junior year of high school, we both knew that we knew we were meant for each other as husband and wife. We had what most would call a bold or fierce love so early on to be just 17 years old and to declare marriage in our future, but we meant it with all of our hearts. During all the trials or changes that happened over the following 3 years before our wedding, we never once even thought about breaking up or even taking a break of any kind, if anything we became all the more committed.  We knew that in marriage a break-up wouldn't be an option, so why do it when dating because we would get married anyways, period!!  I remember getting a few chuckles after just after he became my boyfriend and when I told some people that we were getting married one day.  I guess most people who talk like sound immature, but I knew we had a strong love for one another and believed God orchestrated our relationship from the start!

The fierce love we established even before our wedding carried into our marriage, and it's that kind of commitment to one another that has gotten us through the hardest and most difficult times we've ever faced in our lives.  That kind of fierce love isn't comes from the having Jesus Christ in the middle of our relationship.  He IS our fierce LOVE, and He has given us that kind of love in our marriage to brave the storms and uncertainties of life together.  Decade after decade. 

We've experienced trials over the past 10 years or so that I have felt completely at a loss... that have been so terrible or unexpected ... I felt as though Heath and I were in a the real life fiery furnace.  A furnace just like In Daniel 3 when the king threw the three Israelite boys in, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  It was said in the Bible it was heated up "seven times hotter than usual" . They were thrown in for obeying God instead of him.  The miracle of it all is they came out ALIVE and not even a hair singed on their head. This was from a furnace big enough to hold people!  It was because God sent an angel in there for their protection.  It was God that protected them!! That extra hot furnace that the Israelites came out unharmed burned up very guards that threw them in, just from them getting too close to it.

In God's goodness and mercy, since we are His children and have asked God to be the center of our marriage from the beginning, my husband and I too have survived a fiery furnace.  We've come out of what I've considered a furnace of trials that many couples would not have been able to survive on the other side.   Our "secret" is no secret, because I want everyone to know and I will cry it out from the rooftops! 

It's simply, Jesus.  Jesus is the answer!

I love talking about our anniversary because I love Heath! I honestly can say I love him more now than ever, because with God, what the fire leaves after wards is refined and more beautiful than before!  We aren't perfect, our story isn't perfect, but it is our great adventure that we are just 12 chapters in.  It's exciting to think about what will unfold this next year in our family!

I hope that I have left you with some beauty and inspiration here, and more insight into my life.  I really do appreciate every one of my readers and I pray that all is well with you, too! I love receiving emails from you, so if you ever want to talk especially if I'm not writing as much, I would be delighted to get an email from you! (My email address is in the side bar.)

Have a joy filled Autumn day and remember if you have a need go to God with it! He is near and loves you so much!