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Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

In the midst of trial and struggles, I must say, I do not have the answers…

Uncertainty and Fear creep up on so many I love…..

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

And yet, my heart rest in Him

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

For He is never-changing

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find


Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

When I am at a loss for words

When my thoughts are numb

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

For His peace is real, and His grace is sufficient….

Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name
Jesus, I’ll worship Your holy name
I’ll worship Your holy name

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Menu planning can be overwhelming if you have never done it.  Now that I plan one month ahead, we spend a lot less time and money!  Start with your family’s favorites and plug them in first.  Then add a couple new recipes and even a themed night.  A theme could be “Slow Cooker Night”, Italian Night, Mexican, etc.   Here is our menu for February.  I do not always follow this to a “T”, but I do know that I have everything in the house for each meal.  Items with an * are items that are currently in the freezer ready to reheat and eat! 

1~Herbed Pork tenderloin* with red skin potatoes* and broccoli*

2~Flank Steak* and Couscous 

3~Meatloaf* and  Twice baked red skins*

4~ BBQ ribs* 

5~Pizza 

6~Savory Chicken bundles (LAUGHS)

7~Baked Potato Bar

8~Nachos

9~Pancakes and sausage

10~Italian Chicken subs

11~ Santa Fe Chicken pot pie

12~Pizza

13~ Moroccan Beef

14~Valentines Dinner Shrimp cocktail, steak and potatoes

15~ PortobelloImage Cranberry Brisket

16~Beef Roast

17~Baked potato bar (LAUGHS)

18~ Chicken Teriyaki

19~French toast and sausage

20~Pizza

21~ Blue Cheese, walnut and mushroom stuffed chicken

22~ Swiss Steak

23~ Ham and cheesy potatoes

24~ Freezer meal 

25~Freezer meal

26~ Freezer meal

27~ Drippy Italian beef sandwiches

28~ Enchiladas

 

I hope this inspires you to plan a menu and save time and money for your family as well.  Have a truly blessed meal time together!

 

 

I have looked far and wide for a really good blueberry muffin recipe.  I have had many flops and many “just ok” muffins and I have come to the conclusion that there just isn’t one blueberry muffin recipe that I want to be my one and only.  I just cannot commit to one variation of this blueberry loveliness.  Today…I will share with you what will be my go-to, please the masses muffin with blueberry goodness.  The kids all loved them.  Nobody said they were too tart, to squashy, too dense, or too messy.  (Yes, we have had a lot of flops when it comes to muffins here!)  I did appreciate the fact that they stay together so well, yet are nice and fluffy. After combining a few different recipes and throwing out several…here it is

Blueberry Muffins

In one bowl combine: 

4C flour

1 1/3C brown sugar

2T baking powder

1 t baking soda

1T pumpkin pie spice (I will often use this when cinnamon or other spices are called for, love it)

3C fresh blueberries (or frozen)

In another bowl mix together: ( with whisk attachment)

4 eggs

2C buttermilk

2 sticks melted butter

1/2 t almond extract

1t vanilla extract

combine dry and wet ingredients, scoop into muffin tins and bake @375 for 15 min.

Enjoy~Image

 

 

Our home is full of the aroma of coffee and fresh blueberry muffins.

Children are crafting another tent out of the old trampoline out in the cold sun-lit yard.

The books of the old testament hang on the dining room wall.

We are almost out of jam, and need desperately to make more for ourselves and the neighbors.

We had many great conversations about God, creation, Love and why we should not judge others today.

The house is quiet and peaceful at 4pm.

Everyone has their reasons for choosing the schooling method for their children they like best.  Days like today are why we made our choice.  Slower pace, more peace, great conversations.  IMG_0525

I have been challenged….to see Joy in daily life.  I have a dear friend, one I have never met in person, though I read her thoughts as she post them daily.  Her name is Ann.  This October she has challenged us to 31 days to Crazy Joy. Crazy Joy…that sounds lovely does it not?  It also sounds like something Satan would have no part of.  You see he would love  to steal my Joy.   Daily…the Joy thief.  Now you may be thinking “Nicole, I’m sure it is easy to choose Joy when life is perfect.  New baby, newly homeschooling, husband who adores you, what could possibly not be joyful”  Okay, honest moment here….this isn’t easy.  Homeschooling is a blast most of the time and then bam…..someone decides they hate the assignment they were just given.  Dirty looks are shot across the room in my direction at the same time two, or three, or five other children are asking questions.  

“Can I have an apple?”

“Will we be alive still when Christ returns?”

“Can you put my lego man’s head back on?”

“How much longer until we are done today?”

It is in these moments that Joy can escape.  But I say no more!  I will intentionally Choose Joy.  See Joy. Recognize Joy.  Be thankful for Joy.  Praise God for Joy….out loud!   So here we go…

Day 1~3 Gifts Orange

~The Beautiful Fall decorations that fill our home.  I love the warmth of fall colors, and our house is filled with them this time of year.

~The Orange curly locks of sweaty tasseled  hair from that boy….that sweet baby boy that loves me so.

~The orange glow that beams through the windows as I look out from the kitchen window.  God’s masterpiece…just for me!

Day 2~3 Gifts Falling

~Leaves falling with every breeze and blow of the wind.  Beautiful, huge, colorful leaves.

~My love, falling in love with him more and more each day…

~The radiant love of God falling down on us daily…

Day 3-~A Gift Caught-Let go- Mid Way

~I caught a glimpse of hope in my 1st grader.Not only did he obey, follow through and stay focused….he also enjoyed his math lesson for the 1st time this year.

~I let go of the thought that my basement will ever look “done, complete, finished”  It will always be a work in progress and that’s okay.

~I recognize the blessing of my oldest daughter growing into a savvy, thoughtful young lady who desires God’s perfect plan for her life.

Day4~Gifts reaped

~A full jar of homemade salsa was enjoyed with dinner..made from the few tomatoes we reaped this year from our garden.

~Children remembering their memory verses that we worked so hard to learn.

~Laundry caught up….Lots of sowing to reap that benefit….but a true blessing none the less…

Day 5~ Gifts returned

~Kisses and hugs returned from so many little ones at the end of a long day.

~Thank You’s from the mouths I have fed

So many things to be Thankful for….I look forward to continuing this journey this month.  Choosing Joy, and to be grateful for the many Gifts we receive from our loving heavenly Father…. 

We did it! We ordered a quarter of a cow!  Zoe believes that this cow will live in our backyard, no matter how may times I explain to her that this cow will not be a cute little pet (though I do think she would be adorable walking her pet on a leash around the yard, with little cow girl boots and braids) In Zoeland she still has plans for her cow.  I too have plans for her cow.  Wonderful meals and loveliness!

Recently we were given a few pounds of ground beef from a friend who raises their own cattle.  After tasting and seeing the difference in the meat, I am just not sure I can ever go back to the normal ground beef that they sell in the store.  So, that pushed me over the edge of thinking some day we should but meat in the next step above bulk…just buy the whole thing!

I now have to make sure we have enough room for this purchase.  SO, I went through and did a freezer inventory and made my menu off of what we have in the freezer.  We have about a month before the cow arrives, so here is the list.  I will only have to buy breads and fresh produce to complete these meals.  I am excited to see what this will do for our food budget this month!

April Menu

1-Grilled Pork loin with green beans

2-Pecan Baked french toast

3-Pizza

4-BBQ Ribs with mashed potatoes

5-Easter Dinner: Ginger Peach glazed ham, loaded mashed potatoes, PW green bean casserole, Spring salad, dessert

6-Baked ravioli with meat sauce

7-Chicken Gyros

8-Grilled steak and steamed veggies

9-Chicken and dumplings

10-Ham and cheese stuffed shells

11-General Tso’s chicken

12- Marlboro Man’s fav sandwich

13- Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimp

14- Burgers on the grill with baked beans

15- Steph’s Chicken with Cheesy Potatoes

16- Beach BBQ

17-Beef and Bean Burritos

18-Steak and rice Pilaf

19-PW Sloppy Joes

20- Raging Garlic Stir fry

21- Baked french Toast

There you have it……nothing too fancy this month, but looking forward to stocking up our pantry with the money we will save by eating out of the freezer and getting the freezer ready.  I plan on using the PW’s pantry stock up list as a guide to stock our pantry…I will let you know how that goes!

Blessings

~Nicole

“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will”

Not the easiest…

Not the funnest…

Not the most normal..

The safest…

Oh our Eli, sweet, joy-full, fun loving Eli.  He is such a joy these days.  He smiles and belly laughs,  he runs and climbs, and he gets his chubby little hands on anything in sight.  We are so loving this phase of his development, yet at times we recognize he is a force to be reckoned with.  Such as this morning.  That little fella is so fast, just as soon as I shooed him off the top of the dining room table, he made his way to the nightstand where he grabbed his daddy’s glasses and broke them in one quick swoop.

We often ask Eli to do things that everything is his little being revolts against.  Yet, we ask him to do these things because we know the outcome, we know it is what is best for him now, and in his future.

Sometimes he chooses to listen, and sometimes he chooses to shake his head, and with a grin from ear to ear giggle no, no, no!

Then there are times when he chooses to just go ahead and do what he already decided he would do anyway..as fast as he can so that we just might not stop him.

I often feel like God is asking me to do things that seam a bit off course for what I may have planned.  Some things are small little adjustments to the way we think or the way we do life.  Some things He asks us to do are obvious to us that we should follow through. Some are things that make others shake there heads at us and ask if we have lost our minds.

I am reminded once again of a verse that was given to us as by a missionary couple in our dining room many years ago,

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Did you catch that?  He goes BEFORE us!  To prepare and make way for us!  And at the same time He will be with us!  Through the journey!  I just love this verse, we as a family have stood on it several times in the past few years.  And now once again, when I find that My Lord is asking me to change some things, and to take a journey with him…..He reminds me once again.

He knows what is best for us now, and what will be best for His plans in our future.

So, if you see me making some choices that maybe go against the grain…or you wonder if I have completely lost my mind….know that I am just trying to listen to and obey my Dear Heavenly Father, who knows what is best, knows the ramifications for all involved.  (unlike Eli, who has no idea that he even broke his Dad’s glasses, let alone the mess that makes of our day!)

“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will”

Christmas.  Cookie baking, tree trimming, fancy-meal preparing, joy giving, and merry-making.  Christmas.  I do love Christmas, but I must admit…it has not always been such a joy to celebrate.  In our first few years of marriage we struggled to keep up with it all.  The parties, the traditions, and the expectations.  I had it in my mind that everything had to be just perfect, otherwise no one would have any fun.  I also felt as though I had to keep up every tradition that my family, and even other families held….even if we did not enjoy the tradition at all.

Oh, it has been a battle…..to simplify.  We are a family of purpose, and because of that we needed to celebrate with purpose, not just celebrate the way “it has always been done”.  So, with careful consideration, we have eliminated many things that just added stress and pressure to our family.  I am not going to tell you how you should celebrate, but I will give you a little insight to how we came to the conclusion of Simplicity in our Christmas celebration.

Now we have finally established some traditions that we absolutely love!

Parties-I like casual, sweet, often last minute thrown-together parties ( I find the longer they are planned the more I feel I need to prepare and fret over every detail).  I love to cook, so a delicious Portobello-Cranberry Brisket with mashed potatoes and a lovely Christmas salad are fun to prepare for Christmas Eve.  But not every party needs an elaborate spread, and if for some reason the meal does not turn out it is never worth loosing my temper over.  It is just dinner..we always have crackers, cheese and summer sausage on hand during the Holidays to quickly remedy a new recipe-gone bad!  Think about it, the last party that you were at and the host lost her cool, you wanted to run to the nearest exit…awkward…no fun!

We also have simplified the amount of parties we attend.  Just because we are invited, does not mean we should overload our family schedule.

Our family also loves to invite others to join our family for the festivities.  There have been a few years that we have invited folks who lived states away from relatives.  They are so grateful to be able to celebrate with others when they are missing those who are far away.

Gifts- We try to give 3….yup 3. Christ was given 3 by the Magi….so 3 it is for our kiddos too.  Some years this has worked out great, others we end up with more…but I love that our kids don’t expect piles and piles of loot on Christmas morning.  They usually receive one complete outfit and 2 other gifts. Their gifts are fun, well thought out and personalized just for them.  I know some may be thinking….only 3 gifts.  We have never heard a complaint though…not from our kids.

Santa- Ok, here it is!  We don’t do Santa.  I have had several thoughts over the years on why I am opposed to doing Santa for our kids.  From the whole “how do you tell your kids to believe in Santa, then tell them to believe in God…oh but later tell them Santa is not real..but God is..oh and the Easter bunny”..ugh.  To the fact that we as parents have worked hard to provide these gifts for our children, we have pinched pennies, took time to shop, and wrapped them neatly for them.  I would rather our kiddos value that we gave them a gift and not some guy in a red suit….but that’s just me 😉   ( Please note that I do not pass judgement on others who do Santa for their kiddos..I am not a “Santa-hater” I think this is a personal choice for each family to make…like whether to decorate in red and green, or silver and blue…whatever is your thing)

We make cookie dough to freeze as gifts…this is something that many people have come to expect from our family and they look forward to it come December.  I love finding new yummy kinds of cookies to try and naming them after the kiddos who love them most.  We have Levi Mac’s Cowboy Cookies, and Jaiden Leigh’s White Chocolate butterscotch Cookies just to name a couple.

We play games and watch Christmas movies all day on Christmas Day.  I do hope that our children look back on this day and have fond memories of snuggling under the blankets and watching a marathon of “The Santa Clause” movies.

One of our favorite traditions is a new one to our family.  Early on Christmas morning..I mean real early, like 6:30 early, we have a Julotta service at our church.  The entire morning is just breathtaking. From the walk over to the church in the crisp morning air, to the candlelight filling the sanctuary as we sing Silent Night….Just stunning.  I love that our focus is sparked so early in the morning to point us to the cross.  The whole reason for Christmas at all.

I pray the Christ will be your gift this Christmas Season…and your savior for all the days to come.

~Blessings

I have thought long and hard about this post…and I have put it off.  So sorry if this comes to your homes a little late this year, but I thought with Christmas right around the corner, and some of my dear friends ready to scream with insanity.. it was time to just bite the bullet and post it already…

Pressure…. expectations…..

We all feel them at times, whether they are said out loud, or things that we place on ourselves.

My house will never be clean enough..

My children will never be polite enough..

I will never be skinny enough..

I will never be organized enough..

smart enough, fast enough…..I could go on all day…

There are just people in our lives that we will never please.

This fall, I was at a retreat when I was given a lovely nugget of advice that has rocked my thought process.  It was as if I had never even thought I had such a choice.  The speaker simply said..

“There will always be people in your life that you will never be able to please, so what on earth are you to do?”

then she said it..

“Listen to yourself”….then accept what you have said, and move on.

“You said it..You will never please them..so stop trying, thinking that somehow you will eventually be able to change their heart toward you”

Really….I have that choice!  It was like I had never even realized that it was ok to not strive to please every whim of an expectation that was thrown my way!

I can, however change my heart.  To keep my heart focused on what matters.

God is the author of our lives.  He is the one we should be striving to please.  He orders our days.

You see, God has asked me to live out a very specific purpose.  It will not look like any other wife, mom, or friend.  So it is unfair for me or anyone else to place expectations on me to do things that God has not asked me to do.

Next time you feel those thought creepy up on you, making you want to strive for perfection in every area of your life, remember God’s calling on your life.  What has He asked you to do?  How has He asked you to do it?  And for what purpose are you to do such things?

Seek to please God….

So your house will be a home..

So your children will be children…

So your life will be evidence of God’s goodness and grace…

So it may not be perfect…and that’s perfectly fine.

We have found ourselves doing many firsts this week.  For the first time ever I did a google search for “How to tell your children about a miscarriage”.

Last week I received some cute Prego clothes back from a friend I had lent them out to and they were still piled in our room, so for the first time ever I packed maternity clothes away in tears.  You see there is usually a bitter-sweet joy in packing these seemingly frumpy clothes away when you reach the point of wearing “regular clothing” once again.  And oh, that cute black sweater that was for our Christmas photo…..that was hard.

For the first time catching a glimpse of a newly flattened tummy as I passed a mirror caused me to pause.  Kinda like when you get a new haircut and aren’t quite used to how you look yet….but this also brought tears.  You see this being our 8th child, there was already a tiny bump in place by week 9.

For the first time my 2 year old saw her mommy in tears.  She does not understand why, but she immediately sobs and says in her raspy little voice “mommy, you make Trins cry”.

There was one thing that sticks out in my mind that we have done before.  We once again went before The Lord and completely submitted the life of our child to Him.  Knowing that whatever He chose was His good and perfect will for us.  Knowing that whatever He chose He could use to bring Him glory through our story and our lives.  We have prayed that prayer before, however this time God answered differently.

All this to say, we lost a child this week that we have yet to meet.  Our hearts are broken.

But God,

( Now I just want to pause here and point out that this is a phrase used hundreds of times in the bible as a turning point,   this is the point in which we know something good is yet to come. )

But God knows. God sees.   God hears our calls to him.  God  is good, all the time.  God loves.  God is our refuge, strength and peace.  God is our comfort, our shelter and our healer.

We may never know all the reasons as to why we are in the midst of this trial, but we know that in James it says,”  2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

We know that God is at work, we know He will ease our pain, we know that He will use all of our children for His Glory.

He is holding us up when we feel our knees buckle.

He is good.

I will leave you with the lyrics of a song that we hold dear.  Matt has been playing it on his guitar and singing the sweet worshipful words in our home this week.

Praise You In The Storm, by Casting Crowns

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Blessings to you all, and we thank you in advance for lifting our family up in prayers during this difficult time.