Friday, April 9, 2021

Simply Strawberry Shortcake Trifle



As I mentioned, I have been living a very full family and ministry life for the last several years! It’s by the grace of God alone, because it’s a life I’ve always wanted and yet I have found myself very short on time for myself (hello motherhood!) and to write which is in part why I’ve been off this platform for so long. With three busy children and homeschooling mama as a new title, we are a “full time family”. Add a bustling home and property to care for on the daily to make anybody slow their cooking game. I’ve primarily simplified my cooking and baking to things that are absolutely delicious yet super simple to make! I have a rotation of favorites I pull from and incorporate some new recipes from time to time. I rarely have time for a 25 step recipe with little hands helping or when there are sibling squabbles to keep at bay and add the bit of mommy brain I developed since bringing home my last little one—anybody else? 

So I decided instead of my not sharing recipes because I’m not making extraordinary things, I should absolutely share my go-to simple food! I’m reminded there are probably other people wanting and needing delicious easy home cooked food to feed their loved ones, like me! 

If you can relate, you will LOVE this easy, classic recipe of strawberry shortcake for a crowd! If you have several to serve or need a dish to take to your next summer gathering, this could be your new favorite!

I’ve been making this for a few years now and it’s always loved!! Turn strawberry shortcake into something easy without preparing a dozen individual plates.  Best thing— you can make it ahead of time! I promise the flavors will be even better as they marry together for a few hours before eating. It takes the guess work out of your dessert so you can focus on grilling the burgers or making the best baked beans ever—recipe will be coming soon the blog! 

Over the years I’ve made slight variations on this. I’ve made it with store bought lemon pound cake, angel food cake, yellow butter cake that I’ve baked from a box or you can always used broken up homemade short cakes if you wanted to be completely from scratch. I’ve made it using blueberries and strawberries with the lemon pound cake for a lemon berry trifle, which was amazing!  

They all have the same three general components: cake, (homemade) whipped cream, and berries. 

This time I used my favorite store bought cake from Kroger, the sour cream bundt cake, which is like pound cake, that you can find in their bakery. It is perfect for this recipe and it soaks up the strawberry juices without making the cake too soggy. I used macerated strawberries and a scratch made vanilla whipped cream using vanilla bean paste, a fave!

I made a large strawberry shortcake trifle one for our family’s Easter celebration at my In-Loves’ house, and it was completely eaten!! I couldn’t believe it, because it was a big one. I had enough leftover ingredients to make this one for our family of 5 this week, so I got an heirloom cut glass bowl which was just beautiful! I think Heath’s Granny would approve!





Strawberry Shortcake Trifle


2 lbs. Strawberries

1/3 c.-1/2 c. Granulated Sugar (depending on how ripe your berries are)

Pound cake or Angel Food Cake
 (You probably won’t use it all for a regular sized trifle dish.)

1 pint. Heavy Whipping Cream

1/4 c. Granulated Sugar

2 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste or Extract



First wash and cut your strawberries and place in a medium sized bowl. Stir in sugar and allow the berries to sit for at about an hour. If it hasn’t rendering enough juice, use a potato masher or fork and crush them a bit. 

Cut your cake into about 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.

To make the whipped cream:
Put your very cold whipping cream in a large bowl and get out your mixer, or pour into the bowl for your stand mixer using a wire whisk, which is what I usually use. Begin on medium speed and add vanilla and sugar while it’s mixing. Once it reaches soft peaks, crank up to high and watch carefully as you don’t want to make butter! Stop mixing once you have a stiff peak that will hold up well.

Assemble your trifle:
Using a trifle bowl or other deep clear bowl, place a little bit (about 1/4 cup) of berries and juice on the bottom. We do this so none of the cake is dry—like you would start with a touch of sauce on the bottom when making lasagna.

Layer about 1/3 of your cake cubes on next. Be sure you bring it over to the sides so it’s pretty. 

Add a layer of strawberries, again, bringing out to the sides.

Layer about 1/3 of the whipped cream, again, bringing out to the sides. You get my drift! ;)

Repeat those layers again and until you get to the last of the cake. 

Spread out the rest of the cream in the middle to make it look pretty and add the remainder of juicy strawberries the top. 

Cover and refrigerate for about 2-4 hours before serving! 



Scoop out with a large serving spoon. 
I recommend with a glass of cold milk or fresh coffee to enjoy it with.. but either way, it will be devoured!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Hello Again!!!


Hello Strangers! Anybody still out there?? ;-) 

I find myself back here after nearly three years have passed!!! I honestly thought I may never have another moment to spare for writing, but over the last few months my heart keeps yearning to be back in this space in some capacity.  

I haven't read or followed a blog in years. My leisure time online has been on Instagram as a busy mom who feels like I don't have much time to read a beautiful blog and enjoy it's contents--much less write one-- so I've chosen IG to be able to jump on for like 3-5 minutes at a time. But I've missed this!

Above is the latest snapshot picture of my family taken just a few days ago on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) at one of our favorite restaurants in the area, Patti's 1800's Settlement. We just enjoyed a delicious dinner with my family, and posed by their water wheel. As you can see, the children have grown like little weeds!

Our baby, Rosemary Grace, whom I last wrote about on here is all of three years old now! 

 



She's truly as beautiful and even more precious in real life as she appears! This girl was born with a heart of gold that overflows with affection and love!  We bonded instantly after we adopted her at birth!  There was actually no transition period with her, and I held her for the first 6 months of her life just being in awe of the miracle she is. She is currently at a very mischievous stage which has kept me on my toes, on my knees (in prayer), and in the rocking chair as she is a cuddly koala who loves to hear her mama sing! And at the sink continually washing her off from her messes...(girlie loves sneaking chocolate and getting it everywhere!)

My older kids, Jayden and Kylie are 11 and 10 years old! Babies don't keep, as they say, and they have become amazing big siblings to their little sister that Kylie basically prayed into our family! Kylie was always the little sister and now she is very much the big sister who is a great help to me.

Some big changes over the last three years include moving houses.  We are finally in the one we plan on staying in for a long while -- 

-- Hallelujah! --

-- thankfully as this is our ninth home since being married for almost 17 years. There was a time we were moving on average about every 20 months or so, and we were very ready to get rooted and established. We absolutely love our home and neighborhood and we believe the Lord gave us this home, which is another story in itself.

We are now a homeschooling family!  That is something I never in a million years thought I would be saying, even just a couple years ago. We made this huge decision not because of the virus, but the virus made it a great year to begin. This was a call from the Lord!  We knew He called our family to this, which is the best reason we should do anything! The Lord had been leading my husband and I down the path of discussing and praying over homeschooling a few months before it was confirmed in our hearts, this is what our family needs right now!  This is a very personal decision and we are seeing some fruit come out of it. It hasn't been "easy," although most things that are growing good fruit don't come easy.

I say we are homeschooling "right now," because we pray every year about what we should do regarding school. I won't get into details now, but it has been a unique blessing in many ways that I didn't foresee a few years ago, and it's been one of the biggest challenges of my motherhood journey as well. As long as God gives me the grace to do it, I can and will with success; although many days I feel like it's by His grace alone! To begin homeschooling, all the while training a 2/3 year old, has been a learning curve for us all. I do hope some fruits of the spirit are being sown and watered in the process. In fact, I know they are!!

I don't have time to catch up entirely, but I wanted to come and share, and just see where this goes! 

My heart is for Jesus now more than ever, and to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone I can  so, as always, my posts will be laced with scripture and testimonies of the Lord! 

I'll share on family, motherhood, gardening and of course recipes and food abounding, for that's how this blog began in 2009! I would love to talk a bit here and there more about specifics on topics such as marriage, adoption, homemaking, and what it looks like to walk with Jesus in the midst of trials. (Who doesn't need that after the year the world has experienced in 2020/21??)

I know blogs are a dime a dozen, and there are many, many more that will look more professional and beautiful and eloquent, and I so appreciate them! Here, you will continue to see bits and pieces of the simple but abundant life the Lord has given me, what He is doing in my life, what I'm learning, what He is speaking to me about and what I'm cooking in the midst of it all!  

This will be a bit more of an intimate space than my social media accounts. I feel sometimes my words overflow there, so I've decided to move the majority of my thoughts and recipes of length into this space, like a home for myself online! I've made some sweet friends around the world from here!

If you love Jesus or you want to know even a bit more about Him or if you just love some grounded conversation-- I invite you into my Cozy Little Kitchen once again. 

Don't forget your hot tea or coffee or cozy cocoa because I can promise you I'm not writing without a warm sipper in hand!

So good to chat with you again!!! xo







Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Healing



Sometimes I feel so compelled to say something-- to write-- when something big is overflowing from my heart!  There's so much joy that oozes out of seeing our children these days, and the new squishy face that stole our hearts, but the past couple weeks we've been at a bit of a crossroads of joy and sorrow.  My emotions have been in highs and lows, and it's not just the exhaustion of a baby.  As a woman I know that's not uncommon, especially for me (just ask my husband!), but it's been different lately.  

On July 31, we quietly grieved in remembrance of our daughter, Bailey Faith, who I miscarried and birthed at the hospital 9 years ago. Some years we bawl like babies together, recollecting what we've endured...or I will eat junk food and chocolate to the high heavens.  At this point, Heath and I just give each other long hugs as we just know how the other feels and send sweet text notes of love.  It will never be easy to pass that date on the calendar, and that's okay.   It means that we had a real daughter that we conceived together, and that we really loved her.  It was a traumatic event in our life to lose her, one of the most traumatic things I've endured!  My only birth story is one that was dreadful instead joyful. If I can be real with you. I couldn't have survived it without Jesus being with me, crying with me and interceding to the Father on our behalf while I was being induced and waiting to birth our lifeless little baby.  I will always say that I really felt Him carry me through that awful time, and He gave me the peace I needed desperately to sustain my emotional and mental health. The support of my family, with my parents and grandparents being with us, was enormous!  We didn't have to go through it alone, not in the hospital and not at the burial.  But Heath...he was my rock at that time!  He was the best husband I could pray for, and excels in adversity, but I didn't know how much he went through beside me the entire hospital stay. While I was sedated part of the time, he saw it all.  He saw Bailey.  He remembered it all.  While I was in and out of it, he was there.  Yes, like a training marine, he was going through the rigors of what I think of as boot camp for the professional which is medical school.  Even though he worked on a cadaver by day it was nothing compared to seeing our tiny, red baby, the one we prayed years for on a table with their spirit with Jesus. There are details I'm not sure I'll ever share, on here anyway, that haunts me sometimes if I allow my thoughts to really "go there".

What I do know is that Heath, I and the Lord have endured and walked through a whole lot together!!  We've climbed some mountains that looked impassable, but God said I will create a path with each step you take.  My words will create the ground beneath your feet. Keep walking.




That's how the Lord works -- sometimes in mysterious ways -- you hear it a lot, but it's true.  His ways are higher, so we can't understand or comprehend most of the time the plan that He's laying out before us.  The one where our family is started "for such a time as this".  Only He knew when this would be and for what reason. In the meantime, we sorted through every single possible and probable emotion one could face on planet earth. 

The journey for us really began after losing Bailey Faith.  The journey that would mark mine and Heath's lives as truly knowing and loving God with eyes wide open.  It's as if over the decade of infertility and miracle and loss and adoption, the Lord was saying to Heath and I ---

Why do you really follow Me?  

Do you really believe Me at My word?

Do you really trust Me as your Father?

Do you know that I love you, no strings attached?

Are you willing to love Me no matter what I give to you, or take away?

Will You allow yourself to trust Me completely if I let you free fall?

That time in my life, the time when I was healing from the loss of Bailey 3 years earlier, He told me to free-fall into His love! That was very important for me to learn to do that. He specifically used the term free-fall.  He let me see it in a way that I could understand: My Papa used to throw my 3 year old self high in the air and catch me without me ever wondering if I would fall.  I loved Papa so much ,and knew he loved me so much, that I knew I would always land back in his big hands.  

That's how my Heavenly Father wanted me to be with him, with my life.  He wanted me to put myself out there and live like I knew that I knew whatever may come that I would land in His big hands.  I mean absolutely whatever may come my way.  I literally laid out every scary scenario in my head and told the Lord.  

What if I never had children and never became a mom on earth? What if I lost another child?  What if I lost another loved one?  What if we have a failed adoption?  What if people knew I struggled with anxiety and depression? On and on.....

Leslie, I want you to live without these fears holding you back. I want you to free-fall trust Me and take Me at My Word! Step out in obedience and trust Me.

Knowing if He called me as the song says "out into the water" as my Father, I could trust Him. To walk in a new found freedom!  It wasn't careless, but as freedom always does, it took the chains of fear and utter anxiety off that had wrapped itself around my life after losing Bailey, and it allowed me to live again!  It was a process that at last needed me to make up my mind to not give fear a foothold anymore in my life!  I had scriptures plastered in the room I was in most, the kitchen, and I read His promises to me multiple times a day.  Replacing fear with Truth.  Over time I began to hear clearly from God and I stepped into that!  

It was that freedom that helped me share my testimony and speak for the first time in my life at a women's conference.  It was how Heath and I plunged head first into a huge "Yes!!!" to God by adopting two toddlers as our entry into parenthood! I never wanted to ever do domestic adoption because I didn't think my heart to could take the pain if it didn't work out.  But I was free falling and trusting God's call over my fear! This is why Kylie's middle name is Hope, and Rosemary's is Grace, and Bailey's was Faith. Our children continue to serve as a legacy of what God can create out of our pain. I always pray that they walk out their own lives with faith and hope, and in the grace of God!  The nature of our Father God is in their very name!




Our full story is a journey that would probably take hundreds of pages to fully write out.  In the process of learning to love the Lord will ALL my heart, All my mind, All my soul, All my strength over a course of about 6 years was intense and beautiful.  He used the rock bottom places, the places you wouldn't expect to come back from, to be the place where He remakes us into His image.  The place we could run and never look back, or we can reach out to Him hands surrendered and heart broken, and willing to love Him whatever the future may bring.  The Lord has used our journey thus far in what I call the Refiner's fire to forge Hope that doesn't disappoint in my spirit.  The outcome looks like a stronger and greater marriage, and a patchwork quilt family birthed from a barren womb.  It looks like children's lives redeemed and their hearts set in security. 

All the hurt and trial and mistakes and petitioning in prayer; and all the steadfastness, faithfulness and redemption from a sovereign God -- all that God used to bind up the broken places in our family. In every one of us.  

It's because God pulled me out of the miry pit, and set my feet upon a rock, that I have moments like I did this morning -- of utter JOY uncontainable for my children!!!  I love them so much it hurts. A tangible love that makes me hold my baby so close, and kiss her with a million kisses and cuddles.  It makes my feet jump up and down in worship when I'm the only one in the building who thinks they could burst by standing still!   I'm not perfect, of course, I have bad days and even bad weeks.  I can get overwhelmed and discouraged.  But there's something about the peace in the Lord that's in my marriage and in my heart that bubbles out and that reminds me what I came out of.  My myriad of feelings aren't wrong, but they show that I'm alive, and I love passionately, and put myself out there and love again.



  

This morning I woke up and hopped in the shower very first thing.  When I was in the shower I shuddered realizing Rosemary never woke up last night like she always does between 4:30-6:00 to eat.  I couldn't get out of the shower fast enough to check if she was okay -- if she was still breathing.  In those frantic moments that I was trying to wash out my conditioner, I told God I will love Him no matter what happens.  See, He understands that sometimes there are residual effects from trauma that are triggers, even PTSD.  Instead of feeling convicted after checking on my breathing, sleeping baby this morning, I didn't feel guilty at all for worrying about her.  I felt grace extended from the Father!  I felt a love so deep, even more so after a loss so deep. These emotions are complicated at the least.  

-- God can handle complicated! --

I'll say it again, God can handle our complicated, if we would let Him.  He is there for you!

He reassured me that He loves Rosemary more than I do, and I find myself resting in His unfailing love more than ever before.  His love is the sanity and the hope that I have to live freely!!! 

I decided to let you in on my life a bit more, so that I may talk to the one person who is reading that deals with complicated emotions.. I want to say to you -- God can handle those!  You need to give those thoughts and emotions to Him, and allow Him be the first to know your thoughts. Ask for the truth of God's word to replace fear.  Don't feel condemned or discouraged if you have experienced trauma and you're learning to do life afterwards. You are not alone!  So many other Christians quietly deal with hurt and are seeking healing.  But take the most comfort in that if you are a believer, you are never ever alone with Holy Spirit inside of you! He is closer than our skin!  He empowers me and calms me and redirects crazy emotions to healthy ones. 

He can handle you! 

He can alleviate the worst of anxiety and fear.  He can handle your questions.  He can handle hard and messy!  He did it with Abraham and Joseph and Moses and King David and Job and Hannah, (just to name a few) and me. He can with you.

I am so grateful for my family and for our marriage even more now!  I am so very thankful for the relationship I have that runs deep and true with the Lord!  He has put my feet upon a rock and put a new song in my mouth! He put a song in my heart that sometimes I can't hold in, so I write. 

Thank you, Lord, for redemption being our story as sons and daughter of the Living God! 






I wanted to take a moment between writing on our adoption story to write something that I believe somebody needs to read today.  It's this testimony of healing and joy after pain and loss.  Like everything I write on here, this is the nutshell version; but I do understand extensive surgery --if you will-- by The Great Physician to heal my hurting faith and my hurting heart. He is gentle and gracious, and wants you to know that He wants you to run to Him and surrender.  The plan He has for you is far greater than you can ever know!

If you need to reach out for prayer, I will pray with you!  Find someone to talk to you who will come along side you on your redemption road.



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Our Adoption Story Part 2-- Blessing and Breakthrough



It's now the 2nd week of October, our kids are on fall break and we have just put our house on the market.  It was the time to see if our investment of time and money, sweat and a lot of love, that we have put into the house was worth it all. As I talked about in part one of our journey, we were tired from everything going on in our life but our home looked more beautiful than it ever had! Our "dream" house was dreamier than ever, and my heart silently ached when we put the for sale sign in the yard; yet I knew we were doing the right thing.  My faith was being stretched with our adoption and house being for sale.  I wanted answers as to how it all would work out, but we moved forward trusting God would work it out.

We had a very exciting week ahead of us!  Heath and I were about to get away on our very first vacation, just the two of us, since years before having children! We had planned on going on a final trip in the summer 2013, but to our delight ended up bringing home our kids much sooner than expected so our vacation was put on hold.  So much has happened in the past few years, and we needed a restful, fun trip together like never before!  It was an anniversary trip for us, but we decided to name this trip our Babymoon since we hoped that we would have a new baby sometime in the next year!  We had this getaway planned out and booked for months, and it was going to be a dream trip for us. We were flying to San Francisco to spend the better part of a week on the beautiful, dramatic coastline of central California in Monterey and Carmel!!  I have wanted to go to Carmel ever since I was a little girl, when I saw the original Parent Trap movie. Do you remember that classic movie starring Haley Mills? It was one of my favorites growing up.  Carmel is where the character Susan lived, and her dad owned a gorgeous ranch up on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They rode horses to the beach and she lived a life between mountains, ocean and their ranch. Since seeing that film I've been beckoned to see what beauty lay there in real life.  I knew one day I wanted to go there for myself, and I was about to this very week!

That very week had another exciting prospect.  On Monday, an expectant mother was to be given our profile book!  It was the first "situation" or "expectant mother" we wanted our profile book to go to.  She was looking for a couple who couldn't have children themselves and married at least 7 years, and we fit the bill.  I prayed over it and was drawn to this woman and her situation, so we had signed up a few weeks before for the agency to show our profile book to her and the day had finally arrived!  Although it was exciting we didn't have high expectations.  There were 10 profile books given to this expectant mother, so that means we would be one of 10 couples lives that she would be sifting though deciding which home she wanted to lovingly place her baby in.  It has to be huge deal on her part,I can't imagine. So with her receiving 10 total profile books, we wanted to be realistic, especially after what we had just been told...

The previous week I asked the adoption agency director if we would be notified even if we were not chosen.  Instead of just answering the question, she curtly replied that we shouldn't expect to be chosen or "match" with this one or for a while, because we already had children. She said it won't be as fast as it was adopting the last time.  We had kids already and that changes everything.

Ummm.  Ok.

That harsh reality felt like a punch in the gut to hopeful parents, but we knew it was true.  Most expectant mothers or birth parents are looking for a home without children already there, and I can understand that. You see, in our first adoption, God completely surprised us by being chosen the very first time we showed our profile book!  We realize how miraculous that seems when many people wait through several showing and several months to be matched.  I know God has a plan that looks different for each couple, but it was really amazing that we showed our profile book only once!  It wasn't a seamless adoption the first time around but we did match super fast.

So the Monday came and went and we heard nothing from the agency, but we were pleasantly distracted by starting our Babymoon that very day. I was Frodo leaving the shire, going on an adventure!  We caught a long, beautiful flight across country just the two of us flying into what seemed like an eternal sunset that evening.




I felt so  alive doing something adventurous with my husband after many years!  We landed in San Francisco pretty much in the middle of the night for this mama and immediately knew we weren't in Kansas anymore, but we loved it all the more.  After some run-around catching transportation to the car rental place and picking up a beautiful car, we ended our night at a hotel we booked close to the airport and fell asleep around 2:30am (central) and drifted off to dreamland.

Did I miss our kids....YES!  Did I fight a bit of mom guilt for enjoying it so much... YES.  The first 2 nights were hard for some reason.  I think it's because we've never had so much distance between us and our children. But after I talked to Grammy and heard how much fun they were having, I decided to fully relax and enjoy 110%, so that's what we did! I really believe the Lord was giving us this time away as a gift for our marriage.







The next day we wanted to see San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge because we've never been there before, so we took a morning train into the city. There was a great little coffee and crepe place right across the street from the train station where we got off.








We enjoyed a lovely coffee and shared a delicious crepe on the patio where there was no humidity and where the skyscrapers surrounded out.  It was wonderful!  It was new!  It was what I wanted to experience!  We then took a bus directly through the city and at one point was by far the minority as we went through Little Italy and Chinatown. Many of the streets we passed looks filthy, many people who got on the bus were wearing masks because of the fires outside the city.  So many people were by themselves on these buses and trains and there were a varying number of languages spoke.  Our bus was shadowed by sky scrapers block after block after block.

Everything was different but it was all a wonder to behold!  We were experiencing so much culture our first day in California!




San Francisco was different than most cities we've been to in the way that most of them have a small section of downtown sky scrapers.  The downtown/sky scrapers here went on forever! It reminded me of my 8th grade trip to NYC so many years ago. The bus filled to what I would consider past the max capacity until most everybody unloaded again somewhere in Chinatown.  We continued as it took us up and down the famous hills that the city is made of and we snapped several pictures before finally arriving to our destination, at Ghiradelli Square!






 It felt like a slice of romance when we got off there and had the view of the bridge as we overlooked the water.  I was in love with this man who flew us across the country to adventure together and reconnect! It's hard to sum it all up our time there, but the highlights were a fantastic clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl for me and fish n chips for him, at a restaurant by the water.  Followed by a nice walk and ending with a couple cones of Ghiradelli ice cream and a new silk scarf at a local boutique.














After walking a few blocks we took a trolley cable car (!) back to the train station.  Getting around the city was not what I would call easy-breezy for us, but we took it all in stride and eventually got back to our car in San Bruno.  The day could not have been better!  It was rush hour (yikes) and we were headed down to Monterey where we were staying the rest of the trip.  Oh my word, my butterflies of excitement continued as we drove our stylish car across the city and out to beautiful California countryside with our favorite music going, sun roof open and our fullest of hearts!  The palm trees changed to evergreen trees and then to magnificent Monterey Cypress during our 2 hour drive.  (The Monterey Cypress tree only lives in this very place and they are stunning!)







We stayed at a beautiful seaside Inn right overlooking Monterey Bay just down from Cannery Row.




 Each morning we awoke to the sound of sea lions that congregated on the rocks and waves crashing on the shore.  The sun came up over the mountains in the distance.






We enjoyed breakfast and coffee delivered to our room, so thoughtfully!  Our little ritual was putting on the soft robes provided--because it was cool--and setting on our balcony to watch the sunrise over the mountains. We fell in love all over again with each other as we sipped coffee and listened to the sounds of the sea. This was truly vacation! 




We went to Carmel and took the (famous) 17 mile drive with the windows down!  This had to be one of the highlights of my life! We stopped at several of the look out places and sat on the benches and took pictures as we were trying to take it all in.  There was a beach that we parked at and I got out and I actually felt like this must be what Heaven is like.








The wild, untamed beauty of creation with my Love was almost too much...I was trying to keep my tears of joy at bay!  The deep blue water making great white waves crashing on the dramatic rocks.... The salty breeze on our faces...  Heath and I feel like we are a million miles away from real Kentucky life and we were more relaxed than we've been since our honeymoon, 13 years before.








We went into Carmel by the Sea and loved driving around the interesting, prestigous neighborhoods that were established a century ago.  Not only was the architecture of each home amazing, so many of the houses had multi-million dollar views of the Pacific.  The town has a European flair to it making the streets like something out of a movie!




We found our favorite--by far-- restaurant, called La Bicyclette.  We had a real French-Italian experience there with the most delicious (and expensive) lunch we've had in our whole lives!  From the gorgeous roasted vegetable salad to the wood fired napoleon pizza to the dark espresso and decadent chocolate dessert, it was pure perfection! 










The walls were a cozy, chalk board-esque color and the dark original wood trim highlighted all the right things in the old building. It had soaring ceilings and grand windows and original wood floors.  The atmosphere was straight out of something from a romantic movie with the breeze coming in the open doors and candles glowing on each table.





 People were meeting up with hugs, families and friends gathered, and impeccably dressed people dined. It's a place where you don't rush for lunch but savor the moment of who you are with. It felt a bit out of our element yet it was right where we were supposed to be!  We people watched and ate and admired and savored each bite like it was our last.  We fell in love with food and culture all over again at that bistro, and I hope one day we will be back there.  It's one of those places you wish you could fly across country just for the experience!

Each day in California we woke up slowly to the seaside sunrise. It was easy to get up when a new adventure just waiting to be discovered together and when this is the view.



We found a coffee shop that became our favorite place, called Bright Coffee.  It had a quintessential California vibe and they made some of the best coffee in which they served out of handmade artisan mugs they also sold in the shop there.  The shop is called Lilify.  Heath surprised me with a leather banded bracelet I wanted, and we bought a couple Christmas gifts there, as well!








If you notice, we're definitely foodies when we go out of town, and this trip was becoming a food lover's paradise!  We had delicious seafood and steak one night when we celebrated our anniversary by dressing up and getting dinner at the Chart House.  I'm still drooling over the food and amazed at the creativity they plated it with.  Heath told them it was our anniversary when he made the reservation, so they sat us at the perfect table to have a full view of the water.  Before it got dark we were watching all the adorable sea otters playing together out there!











We had a picturesque drive through the countryside between the mountains where we saw where huge farms of lettuce and strawberries and other produce that are shipped to groceries around the states.  So much of our produce is grown in California that the area is referred to the "salad" of America!  There were vineyards after beautiful vineyards.  It looked like we were in Italy!  We drove through a redwood forest on the way back to San Francisco and that alone could be another post! It was another bucket list dream of mine to see the redwoods.  Like I said, the beauty and the vastness of God's creation was overwhelming me in the best way in California!





This trip was more than I ever dreamed and a far cry from our every day life. but please remember friends, that Heath and I do not live in such a way that takes us jet setting and renting luxury cars on a regular basis!  I don't share these pictures to flaunt what we did but to show you how awesome after waiting so long for such a trip we did get to take one of our dream getaways together!  We truly don't take it for granted, not a single meal or day we were there.  We live with our lives revolving around our kids and family and ministry but for this week it was about the two of us and it was wonderful to focus solely on the love of my life. We've been through the good, the bad, and the ugly and we will still always choose each other.  I can't imagine this trip, this life with anybody else. My forever Love.





It was Saturday, our last full day in Monterey.  We walked and saw and tasted and experienced the area, but as good as it all was, the Lord in all His goodness and faithfulness saved the best for last!

We awoke to another pretty morning and I hopped in the shower.  (This bathroom, by the way, was much nicer than our master at home so taking showers felt all the more luxurious!) I could hear Heath on the phone in the other room, which was odd since he hasn't talked on the phone at all on this trip, but I suspected that maybe it was a unique situation with a patient or something like that.  When I stepped out of the shower Heath came up to me bright eyed.

He said he had just gotten off the phone with our adoption specialist (social worker)!

Huh.  Really?!!  I thought.  That's interesting...

She said that the expectant mother who was given our profile book the Monday before, the one who was given 10 profile books, the first expectant mama we even showed our profile book to.... she wanted to meet us and us alone!  She was choosing us!  We were about to be matched...on the first try, again!!!

We found out she was having a baby girl who was due Valentines Day!!!!

What in the world!?? ( I thought she had already chosen since we heard nothing all week. )

Do dreams really come true???

We were both astonished and began crying in each other's arms!  Then I jumped up and down praising God in the bathroom in Monterey California.  I could feel the presence of God with us there as He answered our prayer!

You know how so many people have gone on trips and come back to later find out they became pregnant on that trip?  A friend of mine opened my eyes to the fact that's essentially what happened with us--we were on our romantic getaway and we "concieved" an adopted baby there, if you will.  Maybe only you who struggle with infertility out there can understand how truly sweet of the Lord it was to orchestrate our match this way!  He knew how special it would be for us to get the call while on our dream vacation together, and He made entire experience of finding out more beautifully than we could've imagined.

That morning we were honestly brimming with joy unspeakable and hearts of gratitude!  Our Redeemer lives!  I wanted to shout it from the rooftops!  We were carrying a delightful secret that I felt pregnant because we were expecting a baby.  It wasn't a done deal and it never is in adoption, until the finalization is complete, but we trusted God and I can honestly say I didn't have fear this time weighing me down.

We went to our Bright Coffee for a latte, and as we were walking out Heath received a text.  I asked him to take my picture in the front of the coffee shop with my coffee in hand (like we do when we go fun places), and as he was about to say "3" he said nonchalant, "we just got a full price offer on our house and another buyer is putting in an offer, too."

WHAT?!?!  Is this what you would call the floodgates of God's favor opening!!???

"Click" goes the camera.  He captured a blissful me standing there in shock and amazement.

Just 10 days after listing our house, on the same day we matched, as we are on our dream vacation together, we learned that we are about to sell our house and for more than we imagined.  He allowed us to match the first time, again. So do you see what I mean when I say the Lord orchestrated it all and things were better than if we had tried planning it all ourselves!!?  When we said "yes" to the call of adopting this time around we weren't sure how we would pay for it all, but we knew God would provide somehow. We put our faith into action when He gave us the wisdom to put our house on the market--which was a sacrifice for me--but only was to gain something much greater, a child.  We sold our house at the same time we matched, and we had means to pay for this adoption without any fundraising at all!!!  Only God.

If you're reading my story and wonder if God will open His floodgates in your life, know that is exactly what He wants to do!  He says that He came to give us life and life more abundantly. That all His promises are "yes and amen"  and that all things work together for good to those who love Christ and those who are called according to His purpose!  He is our Redeemer.  The one who died on the cross to save our soul and who also call us to step out in faith, believing before seeing.

Daughters and sons of God, you may be in a valley now or in the waiting room.  You may feel like you're being tested or maybe your faith is new and small like a mustard seed.  Maybe you are losing hope of whatever it is you are believing God for.  It may be breakthrough in finances, in an addiction in your life or a loved one's life, the salvation of a loved one, your child may be facing a discouraging diagnosis.  You may be in the trenches of parenting toddlers or teenagers, or like me you may be a woman struggling with infertility who has waited to see what her family was going to look like.  After exhausting infertility treatments, I knew that in order for me to have children a miracle would have to take place.  My faith was a mustard seed faith (but that's big enough for God to move mountains with!).  In fact, I have been in many of those very places and I have an encouraging word for you.

Put your trust in God!  Get back up another day but not in your own strength, in His!  You can not will things to happen, that will only wear you out!  Bring your burden to the Lord, rest in Him and trust Him to move in your situation.  Cry out to God, talk to Him.  Worship Him.  The Lord is making a way for you, although it may not be exactly how you envisioned. It took me years to release the grip of my plan on what our family should look like and trust in God even though I didn't know what the outcome would be. I would've been completely overjoyed and thrilled with even one child, but He had plans for us to have more!  He is sovereign and sees from the beginning to the end, but I promise it will be what is best. Keep trusting God!

We flew back home to Kentucky the next day, and we were soooo ready to see our children!  We were brimming on the inside and our mind reeling with it all having just accepted an offer on our house just above the asking price and now growing our second daughter in my heart who was due Valentines.  We came back home with our cup overflowing for each other and for the Lord.

It was indeed more than a romantic getaway for us.  It the time when God showed us His glory!




Stand on The Word of God!
These scriptures are a good place to begin and have gotten me through many hard days.  Remember when you pray the Word of God, it will never come back void!  The Lord loves you so much!!! 


Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of Your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday.  (That means it's assured!)  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.
Psalm 37:3-7


Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  
Hebrews 4:16

For the vision awaits it's appointed time, it hastens to the end--it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:3

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9

And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory, in Jesus Christ.
Phillipians 3:19

For nothing will be impossible with God.
Luke 1:38

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.
Luke 1:45