Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Recipe: SAVORY ROASTED SWEET POTATO PLUS

Delicious recipe mash-up! We all loved the flavors of this roasted one-tray wonder. Two thumbs up from all of the kids!



Savory Roasted Sweet Potato Plus 
(bonus: one tray meal)
(double bonus: Whole30 approved!)
adapted from this recipe
my recipe makes an extra large panfull, enough for two dinners for our family

Make the spice mixture:
*2 tsp sage
*2 tsp onion powder or minced onion
*2 tsp cinnamon
*1 tsp thyme
*1 tsp rosemary
*1 tsp pepper (more or less to taste)
* 1/2 tsp allspice or cloves
* 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Layer the following on a large roasting pan:
* 5 large sweet potatoes, washed and sliced thin
* 24 oz bag of fresh Brussel sprouts, cut in half
* 12-24 oz sausage, cut into small pieces (I used Kielbasa)

Douse with olive oil and sprinkle with 3/4 of the spice mixture. Stir together (using my hands is my preferred method).

Roast at 400 degrees for around 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the following:
*4 apples, chopped into bite size pieces
*generous handfuls of craisins and chopped pecans, more or less to taste
*~2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
*the rest of the spice mixture

Once the sweet potatoes are soft, put the apple mixture on top of the potato mixture and roast for 8-10 more minutes.

And then enjoy!
Let me know what you think if you make it!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Recipe: SLOW COOKER WHOLE30 CHILI

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Whole30 Meat & Onion Slow Cooker Chili
adapted from this recipe

I actually made this twice during our month of Whole30; we liked it that much. Don’t skimp on the onions—trust me!—they are what make it so delicious. This recipe makes an almost overflowing crockpot.



Fill the crock-pot with the following:
~5 lbs ground beef and/or ground turkey, pre-cooked (fill the crockpot half full)
2 massive onions (Costco size) or 4 reg onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
heaping spoonful of minced garlic
56 oz diced tomatoes
~32 oz tomato sauce
add additional water or tomato juice to desired thickness
optional: add chopped spinach or kale in the last 20-30 min of cooking for a veggie boost

Spice mixture:
6-8 T chili powder
2 T paprika
6 t cumin
4 t parsley flakes
2 t oregano
2 t pepper
salt to taste

YUM!



Here are a few more Whole30 favorite recipes:

(Can you tell I love slow cooker recipes? It's just the easiest way for me to make dinner with 5 little ones....throw it in the crockpot in the morning and it's ready by dinnertime!)


Monday, November 27, 2017

TAKE A STEP

Six years ago, Bryce and I started on a journey. We randomly picked a foster agency and not even a Christian one at that . . . I think we just saw a billboard? I can't even remember that far back . . . let's just say there wasn't a lot of research involved. We just jumped in. We took licensing classes while pregnant with our first bio son. Our first short-term respite placement came maybe about a year later. But our first, and current, long-term placements didn't come until three years later and after another bio son.

The foster-to-adopt process is a long and winding journey (as are most adoption journeys). We are five and a half years into this. Thirty months ago our little man came. And we still don't know what the outcome will be.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have friends who just adopted a little man after only three months with him. Such a quick and beautiful journey to a son adopted into a forever family!


All that to say: if you've ever felt the nudge in your heart (Holy Spirit nudges quite possibly?) to foster (or foster-to-adopt or adopt or Safe Families host), then start making it happen today. In a way, tomorrow is too late. A child needs you today. You never know how long it may take to get through all of the training and the licensing, how long for your story to finally connect with theirs.

Our oldest foster daughter? She was born around the time we started working on our foster license. That just blows my mind. Four years later, her little life landed in our living room. At just the right time.

There is never a great time to jump in. Your schedule is not going to clear enough. You're not going to be perfectly financially ready. Your bio children won't seem up to the challenge like you hope they will be. Your house might not be as big as you wish it could be. But, we're talking about children here. They don't need your life to be all perfectly ready (and God doesn't need that either in order to use you). They just want a family, a safe place to call home. A child can't wait for you to get your life arranged just right or wait for you to think about it for a couple of months or years. Homes & families are needed today.

I read this the other day: "The life he lives, he lives to God" (Romans 6:10). This daily life you're living, that God gave to you: are you actually, literally living it to God? What might a life lived to God look like? Maybe it looks like just a little step.

I bet by the time you get through all that foster training and then waiting for the state to license you and then waiting for a placement, you'll be ready to go. And I bet God will have just the right child(ren) waiting for you.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

YOU STAND ALONE

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the book of Joshua, chapter five

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua went up to Him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
"Neither," He replied, "but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." [most scholars believe this is an appearing of the pre-incarnate Christ--He accepts Joshua's worship]
Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked Him, "What message does my Lord have for His servant?"
The Commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.


Some days, my heart wants to wonder and pray: "God, are You for us or for the biological parents? Are You against or for the judge and this system and these courts? Who exactly are You orchestrating for?"  This story of Joshua convicts and astounds me.

When I ask God whose "side" He is on, I imagine He might respond, "Neither. But as the One Who is in control and Sovereign, I have now come. "

"Neither."
You. Stand. Alone. 

I think, in a way, He is neither for us nor against them ("them" meaning everything that feels like is in the way of our adoption). It's not either/or . . . us/them. It's so much more complex than that (a God-of-the-universe-level complex). For Joshua, being the leader of God's covenant people, it was maybe surprising that the Commander of the LORD's army wasn't "for" them and "against" the people of Jericho. He was just The Commander and He had come: He was above all of it.

God stands alone.
His ways are higher and His thoughts are higher and His plans are higher.



"It was not for Joshua to claim God's allegiance for his cause no matter how right and holy it might be. Rather, the need was for Joshua to acknowledge God's claim over Joshua for God's purposes. We tend to approach our battles and causes backwards; we turn things all around and try to marshal God to support us rather than to submit and follow Him." (quote found here)

My next response and question should be as Joshua's: fall facedown and ask, "What message do You have for me then?"

God, the Supreme Commander, might reply, "This is holy ground. Take off your shoes in reverence and worship."
My posture is best as one of worship, not strategy-making or sides-taking. Worship takes me to a place where I am rightly-related to the Sovereign & Holy God, the One Who is not partial to my story or to their story . . . only the story of He Himself, for His Name and for His glory.


So these days, I'm not praying to "win" in the end;
I'm praying for the grace to worship well in the in-between and no matter the outcome.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

GOOD READS #2

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The browser on my phone gets filled up with various article links. So here's a random assortment of good/helpful/challenging reading.

Why Not to Check Your Phone in the Morning
Hmmmm. Ouch x100.  That compulsion to check just might be because of "boredom avoidance . . . responsibility avoidance . . . hardship avoidance."

13 Awkward (But Useful) Ways To Help Your Grieving Friend
"I can't begin to name all of the things [people did for us], but there are a few rock star grief goodies that stand out. Helpful things people gave, said or did that were extra useful, even if I didn't realize it at the time. . . . Their words and gifts helped in ways beyond the comfort of feeling loved. They were often ordinary and usually practical. And they were things I'd usually never considered before."

Ransom for Israel
This entire blog is full of beautiful stories of foster care and adoption and grace....all from an ordinary woman who never planned to care about the orphan, must less have any children! Many of these stories just made me cry and commit again to care well for the children Jesus has given us.

Life Saving Tips for the Mother of a Big Family
Oh my! So good, people! I need to learn a thing or two from this mom. Favorite tips: 1) Paper plates are life savers, 2) Self congratulation is key to mental health, 3) I don't minister to laundry, 4) Don't let go first, 5) Food and touch.....oh, how can I only pick a few?? All of the tips are so good!


Pumpkin Apple Breakfast Bake (Paleo, Whole30)
This blog would be remiss without a good recipe included. I followed the recipe for the most part, except for adding raisins (for more sweetness) and I didn't have nuts on hand (tasted just fine without them). Yum! Perfect warm out of the oven with a cup of coffee. And I didn't have to feel bad for getting a second helping!

Love Her More, Love Her Less
"A double rule of love that shocks;
A doctrine in a paradox:
If you now aim your wife to bless,
Then love her more and love her less."

That Sounds Fun Podcast: Beth McCord + the Enneagram
Yes, I've joined the Enneagram train just a little bit. This episode (which I've listened to 3 times already) gives a brief outline of each Type. Also coach Beth McCord gives a well-rounded approach to how the Enneagram can be used as a tool to help live in light of the Gospel. Good stuff!

Easy Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
Two recipes? I saved the best for last. If you've been at a gathering with me in the past few months, then I've probably brought these bars. So yum (as my kids would say)!

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For more good reading:
Here's my first GOOD READS post from last year.

Monday, September 25, 2017

TREE HOUSE // NEXT ON THE LIST

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We've heard it a few times: "So, are you about done with the house now?" And then Bryce and I either laugh a lot or cry a little....kidding, sort of.   Friends, this Tree House Project is on the 5 to 10 year plan! Literally. We'll be chipping away for many years to come.


Here's just an overview of what is to come (hopefully, Lord-willing and cash-flow-supported). Red font means it's in process or already done and blue font means it's probably next on the list!

Main floor of the house
  • downstairs trim--in process
  • dining room board & batten wall treatment
  • kitchen: wine rack, toe kick under the cabinets, drawer front under the microwave--already done, sliding barn door
  • front door rebuilt with new door and sidelights (it's currently rotting away)
  • built-in corner computer desk in the library
  • build out the fireplace hearth
  • laundry room storage & functionality: mudroom-esque organization, built-ins by the washer/dryer, etc.
  • all new interior doors (10) and closet doors (10)

Honest picture here, folks. Current state of our master closets. Also shown: the last 5 boxes we have yet to unpack.....which we can unpack once the closets are fitted out properly. They're painted already--just need to build the hanging and storage systems. (By "we," I mean Bryce, of course.)


Basement and upstairs
  • master closet organization system
  • insulate attic
  • kids bathroom redo--tile shower walls, tile floor, new sinks & vanity top, etc.
  • master bathroom gut & remodel (add another sink? move walls & plumbing? it could be a big project...)
  • clean out the basement (currently a project/attic catch-all)
  • finish basement with two music studio rooms, a guest bedroom, storage room, and living area (this includes everything: walls, flooring, paint the ceiling, electrical, etc.)
  • new sliding door and window in the basement

There will eventually be a big grassy field back behind the driveway, all the way to the barely-visible barn. Bryce has cleared many trees and brush already. If we squint real hard, we can imagine it!


Evidence of cleared trees. There's still so many dead ones yet to clear. The yard is going to look so different over the next few years.


Outside
  • clean up the garage--in process
  • get a 4-wheeler--done
  • clean out the pole barn--in process
  • clear the brush field to make a yard between the house and the barn--in process
  • build a chicken coop--in process
  • new garage door and opener system--ordered (we can park in the garage this winter!)
  • install a gravel drive to the barn--ordered
  • build a garden (next summer hopefully)
  • new insulation, siding, and windows for the entire house (we're saving to do this one in the next year or two...#majorproject)
  • get chickens and maybe goats at some point

Thirteen years of neglect means that the flower beds looks like this. I'm so overwhelmed on where to start that I haven't even tried to tackle it this year. Maybe next spring . . .


And the outside list continues:
  • add flooring in the attic above the garage
  • build mini-barn
  • landscape around the house
  • grade and re-seed the yard
  • refinish the deck
  • add a window to the living room
  • build a front porch
  • rebuild the chimney
  • build a treehouse (#priorities)
  • and so much more.....create a pasture for the animals, build a fire-pit area, etc. etc. etc.

So now you can see why it's hard to give an answer to "so what's next?"  Hmmmm.....there's only a million things on the list! But this journey has been fun. And we're going to continue to enjoy the process of making our Tree House a home.


Monday, September 11, 2017

TREE HOUSE // Pantry & Kitchen Shelves

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In the 6-month-in review, there were glimpses of the pantry and the kitchen shelves. Here's a little more detail on those projects.

First, a way-before shot of the pantry! This was back before we realized the kitchen needed to be gutted. The original plan was just to keep the basic layout, repaint the cabinets, etc. But gutting eventually became necessary, and so Bryce ended up adding the cubbies into the pantry to bump the pantry forward to be even with the in-set fridge. 


And this This photo is just after all of the drywall was hung but not yet finished.


Bryce built out the pantry side cubbies and added shelves.


Next we filled nail holes, caulked, primed and painted--which was a tedious project. I love the end result of a completely painted space, but sometimes it feels like you'll never finish when you're in the middle of it.


Here's a before & after of the pantry door. I found this door on Craigslist--it's an old, solid wood door from an apartment building in Lebanon, Indiana. It looked pretty beat up but, after Bryce sanded and a coat of my new favorite friend: "dark roast" gel stain, the door is looking much better. (It's the same stain we used on the mantle.)


And here's the pantry today!
Cubbies for cookbooks and canned goods to the right and a broom closet to the left. There is an outlet in the lower opening so we can keep our hand vacuum plugged in (the blue light below). Our trashcan fits right in the opening.









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And here are the kitchen shelves. This was Bryce's drawing of our vision for the final product.


Bryce built the shelves and here is a photo of my staining process in the basement. I used a gray-wash stain and then did 2 coats of a clear sealer. Bryce hung the shelves with black brackets and inset under-cabinet lighting on all of the lower shelves.


And here's the final product!
(Of course, the staging has changed even since I took the pictures....it's a revolving door of fun for me to move things around on the shelves.)






Read more Tree House posts HERE.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

OH HE IS GENEROUS

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Thank you, thank you for the wonderful response to my last blog post: Would You Answer the Phone? Sometimes we just have something deep in our soul that must be shared and it flies out of our fingers and we hit "publish" in a hurry and then it amazingly resonates with a whole lot of people. So, thank you for sharing the post. Thank you for not being afraid to read something hard and to let your heart be tugged on a bit (or a lot). 


Perhaps that last post made you start wondering about your part in the sad state of things . . . but I know very well (believe me!) the what-ifs and not-fairs that clamor loudly, often times drowning out the whisper of Jesus' call.

Just being honest: sometimes I do feel like life is unfair to me. "Woe is me...I have such a hard life with five preschoolers." And, honestly, sometimes resentment rises up. It feels like everything would be so much easier if Bryce and I hadn't taken this path. I could enjoy the older boys more....I could have another baby....I could visit my parents more....Bryce and I could get away....let's be honest (and this is probably the deepest reason), I would have more time for me. Behaviors frustrate me. Sometimes I feel little love or compassion or sympathy. But then I hate myself for feeling this way and frustration and anger overflows.

Then this story from Jesus jumps right into my soul with deep conviction:

the parable of the workers of the vineyard
the master gives some who work all day a denarius for their wage.
and then he gives others who came late in the day the same wage.
the workers who put in more hours started to grumble.

But the master answered one of them, 
"Friend, I am not being unfair to you. 
Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?
Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?
Or are you envious because I am generous?"
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
Matthew 20 (some paraphrase from me)

I sense Jesus saying to me:
I am not being "unfair" to you. Stop grumbling. Stop thinking only about your own life. Didn't you agree to love and to follow Me on My terms? For the sake of the Gospel? And now when I am giving you the opportunity to love these children, you resent them and refuse to surrender.

Don't I have the right to do what I want with My Own resources (i.e. you)? Don't I have the right to take care of My daughters and son, "disrupting" your little family in the process? Or are you envious because I am generous with them? Do you resent Me for asking this story of you on behalf of these children? STOP.

Don't you remember that My Kingdom is an upside-down one? Those who are first will be last, the least will be first. The orphan will be called "son & daughter" and will be given a family, a complete inheritance. This is my hope for them. I love them as much as I love your biological boys. And I have brought them to your family to be loved and cherished. Your task is to surrender and to be content. Content just to walk in amazement of and joy in My generosity. To allow Me to enable you to do it even though it is not natural--this is supernatural, Gospel, Kingdom, redemptive work.

Will you join God in His work?
Will you let Him give you courage?
Will you let Him be generous through you? 
Oh, He is a wonderfully generous God!

Friday, August 25, 2017

WOULD YOU ANSWER THE PHONE?

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It's been haunting us.

On Wednesday Bryce and I went on a lovely date night to the village at West Clay--a belated 8-year-anniversary dinner. We exclaimed over all of the lovely, new (huge!) houses surrounding the quaint little storefront restaurant. Enjoyed our dinner of burgers (for both) and fries (for him) and salad (for me). Chatted and listened to the live music near our table on the sidewalk eating area. It was a beautiful evening.

........but earlier that day, we sat at our kitchen table with a worker from our foster agency. She was on call the night before, and received urgent requests from the Department of Child Services (DCS) from 1am - 5am about twenty-three children sitting in the office who needed a place to sleep. 23 children. 23 scared and lonely children. Sleeping in an office cubicle. Because there are literally no available/willing foster homes to take them in the greater central Indiana area.

Oh, our hearts broke.
We asked again if we could take more children, but our home is "maxed out" according to the State.

As we drove back home through the beautiful neighborhood, it haunted us. How many bedrooms did those huge houses have? Five? Six? And yet they can't find a place to sleep children who are a mere 25 minute drive away. What is wrong with the world that such dichotomies exist? (Answer: Everything. Everything is wrong with the world. Everything is wrong with a world where children are sleeping in cubicles.)




I try to keep this blog about our personal journey (but not too personal, to protect the stories of our children). My main goal is to present the Gospel and the need, and then let the Holy Spirit do the convicting. But, maybe sometimes my words need to be stronger? Maybe I need to be more honest with you about the overwhelming need in your/our city?

Bryce and I are just heartbroken. For these children who have to sleep on the floor. For the care centers in Indianapolis that are overflowing and literally can't take one more child right now. For the agencies who are maxed out and desperate for more foster families. Where is the Church in Indianapolis? Where is our church? In our congregation of 500+, why are there only 3 foster families? So many Bible-believing families with empty beds. (A brief online search brought up 700+ churches in the greater Indianapolis area!)

Yes, it's true: not every family is "called" to foster and there are many ways to serve. But friends!!! There are children who need a place to sleep! Surely there are more families who can/should step in, do something hard, and care for a child--the least of these, the ones the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to. Use that spare bedroom (or two or three).




Let the reality haunt you. Let it sink in. Let it convict. Let Him call you to action.

Bryce and I dream of the day when the Church is overflowing with available foster families.
DCS will always have someone to call.
A child will never spend the night in a cubicle....
but instead will immediately be welcomed by a family who loves Jesus.
Will you do it?
Picture a child sleeping on the floor two nights ago.
Would you answer the phone if DCS called you?

Follow-up post HERE. For when the what-ifs come calling instead...

Monday, August 21, 2017

TREE HOUSE // LISTING PICS VS TODAY

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 Listing picture views >>>>> August 2017 views

Disclaimers: these are not the same exact views, I didn't perfectly stage the house (#reallifewithfivekids) and we don't have a fancy wide-angle camera lens. But you'll at least be able to get a sense of some of the changes we've made.


FRONT VIEW



ENTRYWAY
(looking from the living room toward the library)




LIVING ROOM



DINING ROOM





KITCHEN 
(looking toward the eat-in area and laundry room)




KITCHEN EAT-IN



KITCHEN
(looking back toward the dining room)



KITCHEN & EAT-IN



LIBRARY




LIBRARY
(another angle)



Which changed-view is your favorite? For me, it would have to be a tie between the entryway opened up and then the one looking down the kitchen toward the eat-in area. What a difference opening four doorways (and closing one) can make!