Six Days

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We are just 6 days from uncharted territory. We surrendered our lives to Jesus as teenagers, and have lived in surrender ever since.

Scott and I have been serving in full-time ministry since he graduated from college 8 years ago. Every day of the last 8 years I have been “youth pastor’s wife” or “ministry wife”. (Yes, I know ministry is wherever you are and whatever you are doing.)

Sunday is our last day on staff at CCC. Any time God has called us away from a church, He has always opened a door just in time for us to go from one to the next. That has not been the case this round.

This is completely new. I feel like a huge chunk of my identity is being stripped away from me. It’s painful and feels a little scary. It could be months or years before God decides to open another door.

This whole ministry journey has been a roller coaster. It is painful. People say hurtful things. People gossip. You live your life in a fishbowl and any tiny slip up in your life can be blown out of proportion. You can be betrayed by someone that you thought loved you.

On the flip side, people also love on you and pray for you when you are hurting. When your entire family is sick and you feel like you can’t do it anymore, people bring food to your home. You get to see people come to know Christ. You see people declare that they are going to give up their drug addiction. We have seen teenagers go from Jr. High personalities to mature young adults sold out for Jesus. You see lives completely changed and transformed- and THAT is why we continue doing ministry! It is an honor to be used by God in this way.

We are in a painful season of this journey. We are being put through the fire for refinement. How I react is an example to my children as to how you go through trials in your life. I have to show them that God will carry us through. I also can show them that emotions are ok. It is okay to cry when you are hurting. What we do with our emotions is what matters.

I listened to this song yesterday and sobbed.

“As I walk this great unknown
questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that you are near
Trust your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy”

Scott has started applying for local jobs outside of ministry and my heart hurts for him.

We are trying to figure out the logistics of being able to find jobs to pay bills while also still being able to candidate at churches whenever opportunities arise; all with one car. We are doing exactly what God wants us doing at this time; even if it is not at all what we want.

We trust God through everything, but that does not mean that it won’t be painful or hard. God never promised us an easy life, He only said that we would never be forsaken.

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

 

 

 

Seventh Generation and Earth Month

Since becoming a mother, I have done my research on what chemicals that I bring into my home; from food to cleaning products.

Did you know that the air INSIDE of your home is 2-5X more polluted than the air outside of your home! That’s scary to think about; especially in the winter when you are shut inside of your home for so long. Since this is Earth Month (Earth Day is the 22nd!) I thought it was a great time to share about my favorite brand–

Seventh Generation

Their brand is environmentally responsible and is true to their word.

diapers // wipes // diaper cream // laundry detergent // bathroom cleaner // dishwasher soap // dish soap

You can download an app called Think Dirty if you have a smart phone. It allows you to scan products in the grocery store and find out what they rate. 10 is incredibly toxic, so the lower the number the better. I am so thankful for this app because it allowed me to discover just how bad some of the so-called clean brands really are. Seventh Generation has passed the test!

I joined Seventh Generation’s Generation Good and have enjoyed getting tips on cleaning up my home even more; along with learning more about the importance of doing so. I enjoy being part of a community that has some of the same concerns and passions as I do.

Their diapers are made from sustainably sourced materials, which I think is great. We cloth diaper most of the time, but do use disposables at night, when we are out and about, and when we travel. Their diapers used to just be brown, but they have recently added these fun prints. (You can learn more about WHY here.) Their wipes are so thick and get the job done; every mother’s dream! Plus, they don’t irritate my extremely sensitive daughter’s skin. Win-win!

Their cleaning products actually WORK! For a long time, I was left disappointed by how poorly natural products performed. Then, I tried Seventh Generation and was hooked.

Seventh Generation products are easy to find in stores, but they are also available on Amazon, which I love. If you have prime, you can subscribe and save even more. They don’t even know I exist, aside from being a part of generation good, so this is not paid. I genuinely love the brand and their products. Everything I have linked to is something that I have tried and loved. I would never recommend a product that I don’t absolutely love! 

Have you ever tried Seventh Generation products? If not, what are you waiting for?

 

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Date Night- what?!

Oh, date night. I love you.

Date night was the best. My mother-in-law watched the girls for Scott and I so that we could go out to dinner together. We went to a local place where the atmosphere is super cool, the food is so good, and you leave feeling completely stuffed.

Scott got a gigantic catfish sandwich that was really good, and I got a huge open-faced green chile burger. I was born in New Mexico.. my blood type may be green chile. (J/K it’s coffee) They make everything fresh; even their french fries. We were completely stuffed but still ordered a warm chocolate espresso brownie with vanilla ice cream on top.

We walked around downtown for a little while to offset everything we ate before heading home. The weather was beautiful. It was glorious. No one stole my food. I did share my food with Scott because I wanted to try his, too. But, nobody was throwing food at me. No one threw a fit. We didn’t have to scarf our food down to finish before someone had a meltdown. Parents, you know what I’m talking about!

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I also was reminded just how much I love this man that I get to do life with. We still have fun together. We still love each other. We are still Scott and Ashley, husband and wife, apart from just mom and dad. It was nice to take off our parental hats for the evening and just be us.

I am so thankful for my mom-in-law for giving us this opportunity, and for SO many other things. We get to do it again this Friday so that we can go watch some of our high school kids in their musical. Their musical just so happens to be HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL. I am geeking out and want to sit in the front row so that I can sing and dance along. I will control myself.. I think..

The girls and I are making peasant bread today with plans of making this depression era bread later in the week. It is supposed to be rainy/stormy all week, so what better way to pass the time than make loads of bread? haha!

Happy Monday, friends!! I hope that you had a wonderful weekend!!

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Happy Spring

Oooorrrrr Summer..

It is currently 84 degrees and the temperature keeps climbing.

We are soaking up as much sunscreen covered sunshine as we can. Everyone is covered in dirt and enjoying quiet time now.

We went to visit Scott’s parents yesterday so that Scott could help set some things up for them. The girls love their dog, Sierra. She is such a sweet girl. Harper wasn’t too sure what to think of her at first, but was hugging her by the time we were leaving. haha! 

Papa even took the girls for a ride on his golf cart, which is always a favorite activity of theirs. I love that his purple golf cart has traveled all across the country with them. lol

We also made a trip down to Whole Foods. I had some coupons for a free product that is only sold at Whole Foods in our area. We also stocked up on some sale produce. I love looking in my fridge and seeing all of this goodness. This is probably the best part of Spring/Summer.. sunshine and fresh fruits!!! 

I really cannot wait to plant a garden of my own. In our area, the end of March/early April are the best times to plant; or so I have read. I have some seeds that I will plant, and have a flat of veggies/herbs that I am going to do some container gardening with. We will see if I have a green thumb. I sure hope so!

I am loving all of the spring colors that have been popping up in the stores. I can’t believe that Easter is less than a month away. We are getting all geared up at church for the egg hunt and our incredible Easter service. I just love this time of year.

 

I hope that you are having a wonderful first day of Spring; and that you are at least getting a glimpse of warmer temperatures wherever you are.

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To My Valentine

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Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day that we forget to really see each other. We are drowning in laundry, dishes, meals, errands, schedules.. you name it.. Last night, I stopped and really looked at you and my heart skipped a beat. You still take my breath away after all of these years. I can’t believe that God has given you to me.

We have spent the past (almost) fourteen years together. We have seen each other through the hard years of high school. The even harder years of college. We had a beautiful wedding. We have brought three beautiful girls into the world. We have mourned the loss of a child that we never got to meet. We have been through the loss of jobs; wondering how we will ever be able to afford the groceries we need to feed our family or make ends meet. We have been on trips to many beautiful states. We have celebrated together. We have cried together. We have fought together. We have eaten a lot of ice cream together.

You have supported me through it all. You have been a shoulder to cry on when hard diagnosis came, when difficult news came, and when life just got too hard. You pull me out of darkness that I let myself get sucked into. You don’t ever give up on me. You make me laugh. You remind me that life isn’t always fair, but God is always good. You dream beside me. You take care of me.

I am so deeply and incredibly thankful for you. I am blessed and honored to be your wife.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

Gluten Free/Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies?! I love them. I also love oatmeal raisin cookies. Just kidding. I hate raisins. I love oatmeal, however, so I decided to marry the two and see how it went. YUM!

Here is the recipe:

2 1/2 C All Purpose GF flour (I used this brand– this recipe is adapted from the back of the package)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
16 TBSP Vegan Butter (I used earth balance sticks)
1/2 C white sugar
1 C packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla (make sure its GF)
2 flax eggs (I use this brand– 1 TBSP flax + 3 TBSP water= 1 egg)
2 cups GF/DF chocolate chips (This is the only brand I have found.)
1 cup GF oats

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While your oven preheats, cream your butter, sugars, and vanilla. Once creamy, beat in your flax eggs. Slowly add in your dry ingredients (except for chocolate chips and oatmeal). Once this is incorporated well, add in your chocolate chips and oats. Mix until everything is completely incorporated.

Drop your cookies 1 TBSP at a time (Get one of these and you will not regret it!). Bake for approx. 12 minutes until the edges start to brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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This cookies could definitely be made without the oats if you are not an oatmeal fan, I just really like the texture. You can also use regular butter and 2 eggs, but they obviously would not be vegan.

I already am eating way too many of these cookies, and all three of my girls are big fans! Let me know if you make these!

I love incorporating baking into our homeschool day. Our kitchen gets extra messy with three little bakers, but I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

My brother-in-law lives in another country. He said that the women there do not let their children cook with them because it is too messy. I was a little shocked by that, because I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen, but I am finding that it is more common.

How is it in your house? Do you prefer to do it all yourself? Do you have a crazy messy kitchen?

5 Sustainable Baby/Toddler Options

My passion for sustainability started at a strange time. After Scott and I first got married, I was taking Interior Design classes at Missouri State University. (HIGHLY recommend them, if that is your passion.) I remember a professor saying that part of being a designer was being responsibility. Re-using furniture and decor whenever possible; or repurposing it. Another thing she mentioned was starting off using things that were made to last. It really struck a chord with me, and I was hooked.

For some reason, you tend to get laughed out of town for being a “tree hugger”. As a Christian, did God not call us to be good stewards? Wouldn’t that include this beautiful earth that he created for us to care for and enjoy? (Here is a good list to help answer that.)

If we make wise decisions from the beginning, we will waste so much less money and resources.

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Pura Insulated Bottle– These bottles are so great!! They are made from stainless steel, so you don’t have to worry about the chemicals in plastic. It does have a hefty price tag, but you can replace the nipple with a soft sippy tip, a straw, and a flip top. It lasts FOREVER and grows with your child. If you have multiples, or just want some extra padding, you can purchase silicone sleeves to customize your bottle/cup some more.

Re-Play Recyled– This brand has EVERYTHING! Sippy cups, plates, bowls, flatware, you name it. There is even more than I realized! I have these snack containers and love them. It’s nice to stack a snack for each girl when we all go out, or just have individual snacks during the rare one on one outing. You can read more about their company here.

Cloth Diapers– Cloth diapering is not only earth friendly, but SO budget friendly. I was really intimidated by the idea of cloth diapering, but now I wish I had done it sooner. Don’t let it be intimidating. I love my bum-genius diapers the most, but I also have Alva baby and really like them also. (Babies R Us usually has coupons for Bum Genius.) You can check out my pinterest board if you need some information to help you get started, because it can certainly be overwhelming in the beginning. (My younger sister even made her own wipes, so you can even go as far as that!)

Green Toys– I love this brand! Everything is so cute and well-made. The toys are made from 100% recycled plastic, which is awesome. (Image source) You can see more about how they make their products here.

Refillable Baby Food Pouches– These are amazing! I own a different brand, but the zipper is extremely difficult to zip. These have really good reviews, plus there are lots of others out there. I loved making my own baby food. I knew exactly what was going into it, it was a huge money saver, and I could make a wider variety for my babies to try. I still fill these pouches with applesauce for outings, and they come in very handy when a stomach bug has invaded your home and no one has the strength to sit up.

Another great tip is to buy quality. I have said this before, so I may sound like a broken record. Buy items that will last. Check re-sale shops and B/S/T pages on Facebook and you can find quality items at a much lower price. You don’t HAVE TO pay full price. Check for deals! Amazon sometimes has products that have been opened before for significantly cheaper, even though they are still in perfect condition. That is how we got our high chair for such a steal!!

I have loved this journey of finding sustainability; especially as a family of five. If we can reduce our footprint, even by a fraction, then I will be pleased.

What are some things that I could add to this list?

Awake

Happy 2017!!

I don’t have any fun New Year’s pictures to share. I took an Ambien and was in bed by 9. Party animal. Scott did wake me up for our traditional smooch after midnight, but I was out again right away.

Sunday, we woke up to head to our pancake breakfast at church. When we arrived at the church, the colors of the sunrise were still present. It was so beautiful. The pond was smooth and at rest. The reflection was amazing. It was really breath taking. It was such a reminder to slow down and praise the Lord for all that He does.

I have been asking God to reveal my “theme” word to me for this new year. I was starting to wonder if I would ever figure it out. Finally..

AWAKE. 

Maybe that sounds strange. Do you ever just coast through your days? You are there, but not really there. Not fully enjoying the small moments, or even the big ones. So often, I am just waiting until the next thing and missing out on so much. I want to live life fully awake! There are so many wonderful things in this life if we just look around and see them.

My husband deserves a wife who is living life fully awake. My children deserve a mother who is 100% committed and there. The last couple of years have truly taken a toll on me- physically, mentally, and emotionally. Through many trials and more diagnosis’ than I can count, I feel like I have “checked out” in a lot of ways. I am just trying to make it through until bed time most days.

I refuse to live life that way anymore.

There are so many blessings in life. My kids are healthy and happy. I have an incredible husband who is so far above anything that I deserve. God loves me in spite of who I am. He has provided above what we could imagine or deserve.

Aside from having the theme of “awake” this year, I will be making some lifestyle changes. I realize that there are people with SIGNIFICANTLY worse ailments than I have, so please do not think that I throw a pity party for myself or am trying to be ultra dramatic. I know it could be so much worse. However, my health issues have caused me to feel completely depleted of all energy. The past several days that Scott has had off, I have literally spent over 12 hours in bed each night and still get up feeling terrible. I know that my crummy diet has contributed significantly to that.

I will be giving up gluten and dairy for good. A lifestyle change, NOT a diet. I know that being GF is trendy (Why? I have no idea!!) but I know that cutting gluten out of my diet is absolutely necessary for me. I am thinking about giving up coffee for a month to see if I feel any different. (Bring on the Matcha Lattes)

In summary (snort) I will be living 2017 fully awake potentially without coffee. HAHA!!

Do you have any resolutions or goals this year? Or, do you have a theme that you are going to live by?  I would love to pray with and for you to attain your goals!

 

 

An Assortment of Wintery-Things

*Groan* It is Monday already. I am pooped. We had meetings, dance class, Christmas parties, rehearsals, and recitals this past week/weekend. I’ve also been fighting off a miserable cold (along with the rest of my girls). Blah! Colds are dumb.

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It was a fun full week. Chloe did such a great job at her dance recital!!! She tends to get really shy when she has to be in front of people. To be completely honest, I was really worried about her getting stage fright. But, she rocked it!!! During rehearsal she looked overwhelmed for the first few moves and then found her groove. Show time was no problem at all for her. I am so proud, and sat in my seat fighting back tears. I was a backstage mom, so the above picture is the only one I have of her. I don’t know that I will ever volunteer to be a backstage mom again, but we will see. haha!

We actually got some snow here the night of the rehearsal. I don’t think that we even got an inch, but it came down really thick and windy while we were driving. It got below freezing, and I wanted to hide under many blankets inside.

If any of you girl moms are in need of a winter coat this time of year, Old Navy has these for $12.94 right now. For you boy moms, these are the cheapest I see. (Toddler girls/Toddler boys) I discovered a huge hole in Addi’s winter coat, and discovered that a hole was forming in Chloe’s in the same spot. I guess the moral of the story is don’t ever buy Gymboree coats because they fall apart easily. They did wear them all last year, so it’s not a complete loss.

I am really enjoying winter in Oklahoma so far. The temperature has been well above freezing, and the sun actually shines. I usually get in a MAJOR winter funk every year. So far, I am not feeling that one bit. It is so great to not feel clouded by depression. I can put on a coat and hat and usually feel pretty good outside. Though, most days I haven’t even needed the coat. Allllllllllll the praise hands!

Another huge praise is that we have a GARAGE. Scott worked his tail off on Friday and Saturday to get the rest of our boxes put in the attic or emptied out so that we could park in there before the cold set in. He was able to pull the van in before the “heavy” snow started. That man works so hard and does so much. I am so incredibly thankful for him.

Yesterday, he had to take our entire toilet apart. The handle to our diaper sprayer fell into the bowl as it got flushed and down it went. It got stuck and was clogging the toilet. He told me that I should start a blog series “Adventures with my Husband”. He was able to get something shoved in the pipe and pushed it up juuuust enough for me to cram my hand as far as I could get it and grab it. Who knew there would be such a celebration over things like that. Married life, folks. It’s never dull.

Hopefully the rest of our “holiday week” will involve less toilets. Do you have anything fun planned? I haven’t really planned anything this week other than Chloe dancing at an assisted living facility and our Christmas Eve service at church. I think that sounds like the perfect week.

P.S. I am hosting an intro to essential oils class over on Facebook today, so if you are at all interested in learning about them please join.

One Year Later

I find Facebook memories to be enjoyable. It is amazing to see what God has done over the past year (or 10) in my life. Monday marked one year since we found out that Scott was losing his job. (Today also marks 5 years since a day full of testing newborn Addison for Cystic Fibrosis. Thank God for negative results!) He came home on his lunch break and told me that the church could no longer afford to keep him on staff. We had until the end of February with him receiving a paycheck, and then it was just darkness. At least, that is how it felt. A week later, we found out that he only had until the end of January.

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Our hearts were shattered. We had spent the last 4 1/2 years growing to love our church family. We had ministered to these teens for years. We saw them through their awkward and obnoxious Jr. High years. There were times I wanted to strangle them, and they know this. haha! They also know how deeply I loved and cared about them, even in their obnoxiousness. Now, these once awkward Jr. High boys and girls had become incredible young men and women. They still are.

We went through the next couple of weeks unable to tell our church family. We didn’t want their Christmas to be ruined by this news. Not that we are that special, but it is hard when your youth pastor and family are leaving. I know from experience. Somehow, rumor got out and hearts were broken right before the holidays.

One year ago, we were making plans to move in with family  if God didn’t open a door in time. It seemed impossible that a door could open in time. I knew God could, but honestly, I didn’t believe He would. I was hurt and confused. Why do things like that happen? We had surrendered our whole lives to serve God in full-time ministry. It is a sacrifice. It is painful and hard. It is also incredibly rewarding and such an honor.

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One year ago, I had NO idea what today would hold. Where would we be in a year? Would we have a home? Would we still be serving in ministry? Goodness, it was such a dark time. It sent me into a bit of a tailspin questioning WHY.

If you had told me what our future was going to hold, I never would have believed you.

Here I sit in our beautiful home that God just plopped into our laps, not in my old teen years bedroom.

We serve in an INCREDIBLE church with some INCREDIBLE teenagers who fiercely love Jesus and want to reach the world. Seriously, THEY inspire ME. Plus, I get to serve in the children’s department and love it.

We have made some great friends that I know will be around for a lifetime.

We are living in a beautiful state in an amazing family-oriented town; able to walk out the door and feel safe.

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God has completely blown my mind with all that He has done in the last year in our lives. I am not the same, and I would never want to be. Sure, we miss many people from Michigan terribly. They became family to us. Distance doesn’t cause a family to fall apart though. I am grateful for social media that allows us to keep in contact; and snail mail for those sweet ladies who don’t even e-mail.  I am thankful that there are roads that connect us when the chance arises. I am thankful for our new family. They are so amazing and such a blessing to us.

I am so thankful to be where I am doing what we are doing. I feel an incredible sense of gratitude. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would ever be here, but I am so, so thankful.