Kid Friendly Muffins & Homemade Cherry Chip Cake

Sweet Potato Blender Muffins

Monday mornings always sneak up on me. I enjoy them for a number of reasons, but I generally hit them unprepared.

This Monday was no exception. I had no snack to send with my kids to daycare. They only go one morning a week, so following the routine and sending a good snack is vital to their willingness to leave us.

I had some leftover sweet potato in my fridge and quickly searched for a sweet potato muffin on Pinterest. One recipe quickly caught my attention from “Super Healthy Kids”.

(I’m guessing it was just that name that caught my attention!)

sweetpotatomuffinThese Flourless Sweet Potato Blender Muffins were SO good! They actually tasted like pumpkin pie filling. I ate a couple right out of the oven, and they were even more amazing hot!

I made two changes:

  1. I used 1/4 cup of maple syrup, so I omitted that other 1/8 cup.
  2. I used peanut butter instead of almond butter (our daycare isn’t currently nut free, and I didn’t have almond butter!).

Check out the extremely easy and healthy recipe here!

Homemade Cherry Chip Cake &

Whipped Vanilla Buttercream 

Now, on a NOT healthy front! It was my husband’s birthday yesterday and I experimented with a delicious new recipe!

He often talks about eating Cherry Chip Cake as a kid, so I thought it would be fun to try a homemade version. I found one here from Completely Delicious Blog.

I made a few substitutions, that I will share with you:

  1. I cut the recipe in half and made one single layer cake. We had cake on the weekend with some family and friends and I knew it would be disastrous if I made a huge cake (for myself, not really for anyone else!)
  2. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 a cup (remember I cut the recipe in half, so I only cut about 1/4 cup out).
  3. I chopped my cherries and didn’t have any juice. It still had a perfect cherry flavour, but I added one drop of red food colouring to give it the light pink look of the boxed Cherry Chip Cake.
  4. I made a quarter of the icing, which was exactly enough to put a layer of icing on top.
  5. I used 18% cream instead of whipping cream because that’s all I had on hand!

You will enjoy her beautiful photos. I was barely able to eat my cake, take a photos and sing Happy Birthday with the kids being the cylcone of excitement that they were!  I had decorated the table and everything, but by the time we got to cake, my 17 month old had pulled it all down! cake

My husband raved about this cake and said it was incredible.

It’s funny how birthdays change with kids. It definitely felt like a whirlwind, but after we put the kids to bed and had some breathing room to reflect on his 28th birthday, we felt so blessed to have our kids with us in our twenties!

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And I am thankful everyday for such an incredible man! Can’t believe I get to be the one who celebrates him!

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Have a Happy Easter!

Strep throat, tonsillitis & having everything I need

Like many of you young families, we’ve been sick off and mostly on since before Christmas. Two rounds of the stomach flu, colds, strep throat, impetigo, teething and tonsillitis.

Parents, let’s be honest, month after month of this gets extremely draining and super discouraging.

During this never ending battle with sickness, the Lord has been taking me deep into Psalm 23.

When I came down with strep throat a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize that it was going to flare up an old issue with my tonsils. I haven’t battled an on going sore throat for years, and suddenly it appears indefinite how long I will be in pain, unable to swallow, etc.

(My doctor is trying to get me an expediated tonsillectomy, which I pray does happen because I’ve battled those bad boys since I was a little girl).

Even though having a chronic sore throat isn’t that serious, it’s weighing on me.

This is where Psalm 23 has been coming in. I was talking to the Lord about how hard life has felt during our “wild winter” and how I wasn’t sure I could hold on until spring. He challenged me to declare this (the purple writing is the verse, anything else is my own):

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
{This part ruins me every time, I have EVERYTHING that I need in Jesus.}

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.
{Thank you Lord that you bring me into seasons of rest and you renew me. Even when I don’t want to stop, you bring me to rest in beautiful places.}

He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
{Lord, may every single struggle I am facing bring you honour and glory.}

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Even when I walk 
through the darkest valley,I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
{God this has felt like such a dark valley. I know it isn’t the darkest, but it has been so hard.  I declare that I will not fear. I feel you so close to me right now and I know that you are going before us, to our right and our left, protecting and comforting us.}

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
{In the midst of all the attack, you provide us with great things, we are never hungry: physically or spiritually. You are always there waiting to hand us more of what we need.}

You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
{Thank you Lord for family and friends who have been able to help with the kids, for little care packages, for a friend sending us money for take out and a babysitter, providing extra help at our new house, and all the many little ways you’ve blessed us through this wild winter.}

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
{Lord I just love that your goodness and unfailing love pursue me, they chase me down all the days of my life. You are so good to us! Your love is so deep, so wide, so strong. I will live for you and with you forever, and that makes me feel so safe and secure.}

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The Colic Couch

A couple of years ago my husband and I were in a thrift store where we saw this like-new condition black futon couch.

It wasn’t stylish or even that terribly comfortable, but we were desperate for some options with our colicky baby. Sleeping in the rocking chair was getting old.

We brought that thing home and felt like we had a new lease on the situation. Even if she screamed and screamed, we could lay on the couch half asleep and say “it’s ok Amayah, it’s ok”.

And maybe, just maybe, she’d even take comfort in sleeping with one of us (well, that never did happen).

It was such an intense period, and there were many, many nights spent on that couch. Our backs hurt and our necks were sore, but at least we were now laying down.

When we moved, the couch went into a closet and suddenly our lady started sleeping better and seemed to kind of “snap out” of whatever was going on.

Almost a year and a half went by without me thinking about that couch, until this past week. The kids have had chest colds, stomach flu, and multiple molars coming in.

I remembered the couch.

Maybe we should bring it out and try to get some sleep when we’re in with Eli, I suggested to Andrew.

I did not expect the flood of memories that hit me when I saw the Colic Couch emerge.

So many awful nights. So many times that I wondered if I’d ever sleep in the same bed as my husband again. So many fights in the middle of the night as we did everything we could to get her to stop screaming.

But that’s all passed now with her. I’m not sure how or when it happened exactly. It just did. Quietly and almost unnoticed, those days have vanished into the past.

Last night we had a pretty brutal night with Eli and the Colic Couch. But nothing compared to those days with baby girl.

I stood looking at the two older kids this morning, remembering their sleepless nights and how quickly those have become just vague memories.

We will get through the round too. And another round if the Lord blesses us with adoption. Even when I think we can’t do it, we can.

Soon enough, these days will vanish into the past.

And then I will personally burn the Colic Couch.

I felt the Lord whisper to my heart this morning not to forget what he has brought us out of and to make sure we continue to speak of the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives.

Thanks Jesus, for getting us through those days and nights. I can’t believe they are over.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Deuteronomy 4:9

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Amayah was helping us set up the couch. No cute nursery, just survival mode, cram the furniture and blackout the windows!

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See, every sleepless night has been worth it for these cuties!

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It’s funny she’s the “big girl” now. Teaching her brother how to bake and do life as a 15 month old.

 

Eleven Dollars For Haiti

When I was about five years old I had a pastor that I loved dearly announce he was leading a church mission’s trip to Haiti.

I can’t remember if they showed pictures in service or told stories of a year prior, but I ached with every part of my little self to go with them.

I wanted to go so desperately. I knew I was too young, but my heart was still broken.

What could I do? The idea came to me that I could organize my Sunday School class to draw pictures and sell them to raise money for the trip.

After the pictures were drawn, I felt full of boldness. I walked right up to people and asked them to purchase a picture for this great cause.

All together we raised somewhere around $11.00.

My heart was bursting. When I handed my pastor the little jar of money, I felt like I had just passed him a cheque for $11,000.

This is a pivotal moment in the story.

This is where most people would probably say “awwww, that is sweet/cute/adorable of you!“.

He didn’t do that.

I remember clear as day how he genuinely thanked me from the bottom of his heart for my efforts and apologized again that he couldn’t take me with him this time, and promised that when I was a little older, I’d be more than welcome on a mission’s trip.

He didn’t make me feel like a cute little kid who contributed, in reality, almost nothing.

Instead, he filled me with confidence that I could live with purpose and make a difference in this world.

This past week I did a timeline of my “God Encounters” for the Eat, Pray, Hustle bible study I’m a part of. Havilah Cunnington had us divide our life into seven year increments.

I was shocked to realize that this memory of fundraising was one of the pivotal moments of my faith journey in that 0-7 age bracket.

When I realized this, I felt an urgency to make sure I did not treat any of my kids ideas for God lightly.

It is so easy to look at kids and gush over their cuteness. I DO THIS ALL THE TIME!

The reality is God is placing BIG dreams in the hearts of LITTLE people. They may not walk it out fully now, but they are been developed to chase after the heart of God!

As parents and leaders in a child’s life we should be the ones to help them look at their “God dreams” and determine how they can become a reality.

I pray that my kids never feel embarrassed or belittled after doing something for God, but instead would say with confidence:

“I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength!” Philippians 4:13

Dream big little one.

The photos: I’ve had the privilege of reconnecting a few times with my dear former pastor over the last six years. While I didn’t get to go on a mission’s trip with him, the Lord allowed my dreams to come true TWICE through serving in Guatemala!

I use my phone for important things.

There are so many great things I use my phone for. I hardly have to pick up a pen or write on a piece of paper.

I can write my grocery list on my convenient Google Keep app, and still have the fulfillment of checking off items. I also can write myself a little note about a blog idea no matter where I am.

I can open up my Google Calendar, add some events to our schedule and even have it sync to my husbands phone.

I love it. It’s so…convenient.

Sometimes it’s so awesome and easy that I notice my eyes are starting to get a little sore from looking at the screen, and I realize that some little people are wandering around my house doing bad things trying to get my attention.

Then there is my oldest. He is so desperate to be grown up. He reminds me of someone.

Oh yeah. Me as a kid.

We had a huge catastrophe the other day because he would not let go of this broken iPod touch we use for white noise in the kid’s bedroom.

I finally had to forcefully take it from him because he was having too much screen time.

The meltdown was of mammoth proportions.

When he was finally calm enough to tell me what was going on he said “I can’t be a man if I don’t have a phone.”

When I probed him further he said “you and dad are always on your phones. It’s what adults do. I can’t be a grown up if you don’t let me have a phone.”

His pain was so deep and so real. 

Caleb longs to be respected as a man, and I get that.

I remember the feeling of not being allowed to wear make up, and believing I wasn’t a woman if I didn’t have this freedom.

This interaction has had me really questioning whether all the apps on my phone are worth the emotional pain to my kids.

The truth is, I’m not always wasting time on it. There are some really good, important things that I’ve been working on.

But all my four year old sees is mom staring at her phone.

I’ve decided that for now, it isn’t worth my son’s angst over whether he is really a man or not and I’m doing what I can to cut my phone usage down and buying a paper planner!

Sometimes we have to take a less convenient path to save someone else from confusion and pain.

I am excited because I actually love writing out my days and I feel much more organized when I am organized on paper and HOPEFULLY it buys us a little more time to deal with the media monster that’s trying to rear it’s head!

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This boy loves hands on activities. If I can keep up with crafts, he will forget about screen time!

Don’t Be A Robot (and other goals for 2016)

On my birthday my lovely family woke me up with breakfast in bed. If you you know me you know that I LOVE breakfast! Especially if I don’t have to make it!

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{I won’t be so vain that I can’t post a no make up photo!}

We started out in bed, but syrup, a one year old and my clean sheets don’t mix too well, and we finished at the kitchen table.

During this birthday breakfast the kids asked me to read a sign that I have in our dining room. It says:

“Be brave, take risks, have courage and seek adventure.”

My 4 year old looked at me and said:

“Well if you don’t like adventure, you’re just a robot!”

That definitely made me laugh! But I thought it was timely wisdom for starting my new year. I don’t want to be a robot. I want to live a full and adventurous life, pursuing what God has for me!

I don’t have my goals fully finalized for 2016 BECAUSE (I’m SO excited about this) Andrew & I have signed up to take Jesse & Crystal Paine’s Makeover Your Year Goal Setting Course.

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I’m sure I will have a few things to change after this course, but for now, here are my goals for 2016!

Personal:

  1. Get 30 minutes of exercise everyday (whether an official workout, or a Sunday afternoon walk).
  2. Complete 8 rounds of the 21 day fix.
  3. Do ONE load of laundry from start to finish six days a week. (I read once: a load a day keeps the chaos away)
  4. Continue Monthly Meal Planning (I usually come in under my grocery budget if I stay disciplined with meal planning!)

Business/Blogging:

  1. Fully finish our investment property renovation in 2016. (We plan to move in April, but you know how all the little things can get left undone if you don’t have a goal to get ’em done!)
  2. Find a consistent blogging routine.
  3. Develop, with Andrew, our “Couples in Ministry” Course/Retreat.

Marriage:

  1. Attend our pastors conference in Toronto KID FREE!

Work:

  1. Finish my licensing program by July 2016.

Spiritual:

  1. Waste less time on my phone.
  2. Write down in my journal what God is speaking to me everyday. (Simplicity is key, I’m focusing just on his voice.)

Parenting:

  1. Wean Eli & have him sleeping through the night by his second birthday in October. momandE.jpg

All right, this is what I’m running towards! What about you?

I hope you will consider taking the Make Over Your Year course with us and create a plan to see your dreams become reality!

 

 

Baby Hope

You know when you have a dream that feels so big, it feels like it can never happen.

That’s where I am at with our adoption dream tonight.

Honestly, I’m not actually “ready” for another baby yet. Sometimes I freak myself out thinking that we actually told God “yes” to this call.

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It wasn’t until Eli was almost one that God reminded me of HIS call to take care of orphans.

Even just typing it out gives me conflicting emotions. It seems so overwhelming but so incredible. The opportunity to really “do for one what we wish we could do for everyone.” 

Caleb asks me about our baby sometimes. Where they will come from, what gender they will be (although Amayah is believing for a sister), what colour their skin, hair or eyes might be?

Each time I kiss Eli’s baby skin I wonder if my next baby will be older or younger then he currently is when they arrive to us.

The unknown can feel so beautifully haunting.

As I often do when I feel discouraged in where God has us on this journey, I looked at some adoption quotes and verses, just to remind myself of of His heart for the babies who are without family.

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When God starts to break you, he does it so deeply and wonderfully. I have never been an animal person, not ever. But suddenly if you put the word “orphan” before any living creature I well up with tears.

That’s so Jesus. 

A similar “breaking” happened when the Lord woke me up and told me we needed to move to Kipling to pastor. I had NEVER wanted to move back to my small town.

But God broke out hearts and we had an intense, burning passion to move and continue the good work.

Suddenly it looked like it wouldn’t work out and I said to God “why would you break my heart for something that wouldn’t come to pass?”

That’s when I felt a deep assurance that he would not deeply break me for something he didn’t need me to act on.

That situation felt so big, but nothing compares to adoption. That was just a picture of what I’m believing for now.

I daily remind myself of the words a wise friend spoke over me:

God cannot be delayed. And God cannot be rushed.

What are you believing for? Declare with me tonight that HIS timing is the PERFECT timing

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That ugly little outie.

I hate my bellybutton. It just makes me sick if I have to look at it. I herniated it during my pregnancy with Caleb (basically it popped out and never went back in).

My OB told me that when I was done having kids I should get it stitched up to prevent anything making it worse in the future.

Yeah, I haven’t done that yet. I’m finally back to a good exercise plan and that would knock me out for weeks. And surgery? Scarier than giving birth.

But my disdain for my belly button has not been a post part issue. No, it’s been as long as I can possible remember.

As a tiny little girl, I looked down at my “outie” and thought it was gross and ugly compared to everyone else cute little “innies”.

Even though it was rarely seen, I was so self conscious about it.

I hated it.

Before I got married I was so afraid that my future husband would think my belly button was ugly (I know…if you’ve had babies this sound like the least of your worries…but remember this was pre-kids!).

The other night I was bathing the kids and I noticed for the first time that each of their belly buttons were completely different. Eli has this adorable innie, Caleb is kind of a sweet little “middle of the road” and Amayah had probably the cutest belly button I had ever seen.

I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I knew I had seen it somewhere before.

As I was telling her she had the most adorable little belly button it hit me! She has MY belly button!

I was so shocked. She has a little outie and it was honestly one of the cutest, prettiest little things.

I started yelling at Andrew “did you know she has MY BELLYBUTTON?? HOW HAVE I NOT NOTICED THIS! AND IT’S CUTE! IT’S ACTUALLY REALLY REALLY CUTE!”.

He seemed a little confused by my enthusiasm.

But guys, it was this crazy moment of seeing something that I thought was ugly on me, as beautiful on her.

And that means that if it was beautiful on her, than even if my thoughts told me otherwise, then it was beautiful on me too.

 

Our uniqueness is not ugly. All it takes is seeing our similarity in someone else to recognize it’s beauty.

I think God is saying to us tonight, it’s just like Him. Our belly button is just like his. We are a lovely, adorable, wonderful reflection of who he is.

And THAT is not ugly.Amayah and mom

So God created human beings  in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

Sunday Meltdown

Sundays are hard. I don’t know what it is about the after church crash for our family that always turns our house squirrelly.

We have a bit of a plan for Sunday afternoons and evenings to help ease the chaos, but it always seems to spiral out of control from over tired, socially drained kids.

My ears are still ringing. I didn’t know a child could scream as loud as I heard Caleb scream tonight. Over a bath toy. Or something. I couldn’t quite understand between the hitting, punching, yelling and crying.

I’m sure our neighbours thought he fell and broke his leg, or worse.

My two and half years old sweetheart dressed like an adorable little Minnie Mouse called me a “stupid mom” today.

She’s not a bad girl, only copying what she’s heard.

Yes, I admit it. Four and a half years into parenting and I still say the word stupid.

These are the days where it can be easy to believe the lie that I am a bad mom.

A friend once told me to look at myself through the lens of how I’m doing on a good day, when I’ve had sleep and when I’m feeling on top of my game.

That has stuck with me because it helps me to remember that I DO love my children deeply, I am good at listening to them, at caring for them, at speaking good words of life over them, at teaching them, at praying for them and at holding them tightly when they feel overwhelmed.

In the midst of making supper tonight I stopped at my cupboard where I had a verse written down from a friend. It said:

The Lord is my strength and shield.
    I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7

I hadn’t noticed those three precious words in the middle: He helps me.

Those words are like the deepest exhale for the soul.

He helps me. 

I’m not walking this journey alone. He helps me. With him, I can do it.

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How is my baby 1 on Wednesday?!

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Love her face here! She is so funny!

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This boy. No one sends me for an emotional roller coaster like him. The firstborn of two firstborns. So strong, so determined!

Tiny Princess

I always imagined having all boys. I think it was from reading Little Women as a child and remembering that the heroine of the story, Jo, was one of five sisters and then had all boys. It seemed just how it was meant to be.

The day the ultrasound tech told us that our second child was a girl, was shocking. Even when I gave birth to her I asked the doctor “is it really a girl!?”

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with her that I realized I was scared to have a daughter. I knew every struggle I had walked through, every discontent with myself, every hurt from a boy in the past, and I felt scared to bring her into the world.

Our first year with her was rough. She cried and screamed a lot. I wondered often if this was just what life was like with a girl.

As time went on she stayed a highly sensitive, over emotional child through age one until her second birthday.

Then this summer things started to change. It was like Amayah had been this closed up flower. Delicate, precious and we knew she was beautiful, but suddenly she started to bloom.

We discovered she is hilarious! She had funny comments to make about life and her brothers.

We found out she is a big time daddy’s girl. We always knew that but once she could verbalize “no mommy, I don’t want you, I just want daddy”, there was no doubt in our minds.

We saw that her seemingly over emotional self was extremely compassionate and caring.

Watching her turn from a baby into a little girl has evoked something in my that I hadn’t expected.

Of course I want my daughter to know she is loved, beautiful, worth respect and unstoppable. 

I had no idea this would make me second guess everything that I do, realizing she is watching me every moment.

So often she gets into my make up, smears it all over her face, put on my jewelry over top her pajamas and comes out with this all important question: am I pretty mommy?

Then like a little girl, I see myself do that with my husband, perhaps with a more carefully phrased question so I don’t seem quite so insecure.

I don’t believe that valuing your appearance was wrong, the Proverbs 31 woman was said to be dressed well and looked good. However, what’s cautioned me is my daughter mimicking me and receiving the wrong message about her value and worth.

Her questions have taken me to a place of asking my heavenly Father some of these same questions. I love when he answers the deep questions in my heart.

I don’t want to mindlessly go along with culture and see her follow suit. If I spend time getting ready, I want her to know why, and for it to not be degrading reason.

I want her to see beauty and excellence balanced with grace and humility. And more than anything an imperfect mom who has been changed by Jesus.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)

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She’s so fun!

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More than anyone else, she LOVES when daddy paints her nails!

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One Year From Now

Last year at this time I was eight months pregnant, almost immobile and extremely frustrated.

I hate feeling crippled by anything, and without much use of my left leg, still with all day sickness and other baby related ailments, I felt trapped in my own body.

It was this beautiful autumn time of year. The leaves were changing colours and I couldn’t even drink a pumpkin spice latte without wanting to throw up (and if you know me, that’s crazy.)

I felt like I was missing out on my favourite season of the year and that my pregnant state was robbing me of all that beauty.

One evening that I would have loved to have been out for a walk I looked at my husband and said “September 2015 is going to be my fall. I will be mobile, I will go for walks, I play in the leaves with the kids and I will drink pumpkin spice everything. The kids should be sleeping decently, and I will be walking out many of my dreams!”

Hard to believe a year has passed since I made that audacious statement. I was feeling aggravated by something the other day and I suddenly remembered what I said.

“September 2015 is doing to be my fall.”

Just remembering those powerful words I released seemed to spark a renewal in me to press on through the hard days.

I was suddenly thankful for my non-pregnant body, although not in the shape I maybe had hoped for yet, is still extremely mobile, and definitely not held back.

Each cup of steaming coffee that hasn’t made me nauseous feels like a new gift.

My nights aren’t what I expected by this point, I’m awake way more than I think I should be, but in general I have the energy I was longing, no, desperate for at this time last year.

It’s funny what just one year can do.

Think about a situation that’s really pulling you down. 

What could it be like in one year? What positive steps could you make today to be in a better place in that area one year from now?

Sometimes one year brings growth, and other times one year brings pain.

September of 2013 was also a fall I would like to forget, stuck in a terrible season of a colicky baby, way harder than anything I have faced since getting married. The year before that I wouldn’t have imagined the hardships that were coming.

I don’t know what another year will bring, or what will be happening in September 2016, but I do know that I want to position myself right now to have the best year possible!

Speak words of life over your situation today, that when the seasons change again you won’t be held down by the things that are stopping you now. Declare health and strength over your body and over your family.

Be encouraged today that one year from now, everything could be different.12047368_10156022065185431_882942097_n

{Two years ago this girlie just screamed all the time. She LOVES going for walks now.}12047732_10156022066755431_459767635_n

{the kiddos and their cake pops, while I drank my first pumpkin spice latte of 2015}

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{This guy is in school two mornings a week now.}

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{My baby. So grateful that he’s safely on the outside of my body. So much love for this bear.}