The Mom With the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. My kids love to help me by taking turns dumping the ingredients and stirring and mixing. When the vanilla comes we all love to inhale that mesmerizing smell. I don’t know how many times I have had to convince the kids that it doesn’t taste good by itself. Some lessons are learned the hard way. Then the grand finale of the chocolate chips which I always add a little less than a full bag. I like chocolate chips but somehow this seems to be the right amount in my opinion. After all the cookies are in the oven everyone dukes it out for who gets to lick the remaining dough. Since there are four of them I usually manage to give the bowl to the oldest, the beaters to the middle two and a spoon of dough to the little one.

I have a certain texture and consistency of a cookie that I love. I don’t like it when they spread out and lose their shape. I don’t like too crispy or bready or dry, or crumbly. I like a sweet golden cookie that has a slight crisp along the edges but a chewy soft inside. The problem was that while I knew what I liked I never knew how to achieve it consistently. For whatever reason it took about 20 years for me to figure out a recipe that seemed to nail it every time. I’ve tried a lot of different recipes including ones from Pinterest. Most of the time I just went with whatever is on the back of the chocolate chip bag. Finally one day when the cookies were just right I saved the bag with the recipe on it. It was a generic brand semi-sweet chocolate chips from Meijer which I don’t go to very often. Granted I could have copied the recipe or taken a picture or something but instead I just kept the empty bag in the pantry. Even if I bought a different brand of chips I always used that recipe. Then one day out of curiosity I started comparing the recipe that I had with other recipes I had pinned or gotten off of chocolate chip bags. I wanted to know the secret. Was there more or less of something? Different cooking time? As I researched I found differences between each recipe but I stumbled on one recipe that was the exact same and when I saw what it was I was shaking my head. It was Nestle Tollhouse! I know this might seem obvious but if you are a fan of the show Friends you might see the irony in this.

There is an episode in season 7 where Monica is desperately trying to figure out Pheobe’s grandmothers chocolate chip cookie recipe. Pheobe won’t share the family secret so Monica makes dozens and dozens of cookies trying to duplicate Pheobe’s secret so that someday she can fulfill her dream of being the mom who makes the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. Eventually Pheobe divulges that the recipe came from her great great grandmother Nesle Toulouse (which she says with a French accent).

That’s when Monica realizes that the recipe was from Nestle Tollhouse and was on the back of the chocolate chip bag the whole time!

I had a complete flashback to that episode when I saw that my favorite recipe was technically Nestle Toll House.  I should have known that it was the world’s best cookie recipe! Why didn’t I just believe the Friends episode that I saw when I was 17?

Anyway, I thought it was too funny not to share and in honor of my discovery, here is a copy of the official Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • A little less than 2 cups of chocolate chips (that’s my modification the Nestle recipe is just 2 cups)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

ENJOY!

 

By | February 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Worship Retreat

I have been out of town all week due to a Worship Leaders retreat that I went to with J.

We got to meet and worship with some of our favorite worship leaders who have written songs sang by thousands of congregations around the world.

 

It was a really neat experience but it was also cool just to be around other people from a diverse range of churches that all have the same passion and calling as us.

The theme for the retreat this year was “Loved and Not Alone”. We definitely left feeling loved and that we had a network, or better yet a family of other worship leaders from around the country. It was really special.

I was so grateful to be able to accompany J on this retreat.

Because the retreat was for worship leaders and their spouses it made the dynamics interesting. For a lot of the couples there, this included a husband and wife that co-lead together. In some cases the wife is a worship leader and the husband was not musical at. For me, my husband is a worship leader and I am not, so I went to the small group for worship leader’s wives.

We met to talk about what God was speaking to us and to pray for one another. One woman in the group talked about being a tag along. Another mentioned how she brought a stack of books to read because she didn’t think she would be participating much. This ended up not being the case. We weren’t just on the sidelines watching our spouses. We were applauded. We were invited to step out and be prayed over. We, as worship leader spouses, were seen as part of the team. I can’t even describe how good this made me feel. I’ve been on stage with J doing everything from playing the conga drums, to singing, and most recently signing but for the most part I am in the background. I am at home taking care of the kids, fixing meals, and being a sounding board. One of the other worship pastor’s wives described it as being a “worship widow” meaning we get the kids ready on our own. We go to church alone, sit alone, stay at home alone while he is up early doing sound checks or out late for rehearsals. It can be lonely. I remember when J was working around the clock doing construction on the new church auditorium and getting the sound system installed. Our neighbor reached out to me out of concern. They are an older couple and they noticed how J’s car was gone really late at night and that he was rarely home. Yes, they were being noisy but I am sure it looked suspicious and they were watching out for me. I assured them that he was in fact working at the church and not bar hopping or something else and that he had plenty of alibis. We all chuckled about it.

I have a writer friend from the blog Airman to Mom who writes a lot about being a military spouse. She is a veteran who is now at home mom. She knows both sides from the angle of serving in the airforce and being the spouse. Amanda has written some really insightful articles about spouses in the military and how they make great sacrifices too. As a pastor’s wife I relate a lot to her perspective as a military wife. I realize that whether your spouse is a nurse, CEO, or trucker there are crazy hours and late nights and stress on the family but I think the thing that resonated with me about the military spouse is that they are serving. Having a spouse working for a church or nonprofit can bring a whole complicated mix of emotions and guilt. Am I helping or holding you back from this greater purpose? Are we serving together? Am I seen?

For the record, our church has always made me feel equally valued since day one. In fact they are the reason I was able to go with J on this trip. After this week I can feel like I can answer some of those internal questions with even greater clarity. I know we are on the right track as a team! It was also a good reminder to me to encourage those spouses whose husbands (or wives) are in leadership as they serve behind the scenes at home or from the sidelines. It’s important to let them know that they matter and that they are loved and not alone.

 

By | February 2nd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My Voice

“Mommy, if we lived in the 1940s, would you not let me play with brown skin kids?”

What!? I stopped matching socks and gave my eight-year-old daughter a very confused or maybe even disgusted look before I realized she had been learning about racial segregation at school for MLK day last week. So I took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. Some of our dearest friends are people of colors and backgrounds different than ours. I have read books and had discussions with the kids about racism. Still, this was never an easy topic to address. I told her that I would like to believe in my heart that yes, I would have allowed her to play with black children if she were born in the ’40s. I also told her that unfortunately what she learned was true and that black people and white people were supposed to stay separate back then and black people were looked down upon and treated wrongly. It was all sinful and very sad, I explained.

Her question lingered in my mind. I even talked to my mom about it. If I were a mother in the 1940s would my children have the same friends they have now? Probably not. Would I have been an activist or would I have believed the lies that dehumanized African Americans and led the majority of Americans to believe that they were entitled to more rights? Would I have thought it was wrong but chosen to keep quiet and stay on the sidelines? I really don’t want to think so, but how do I know for sure which side of history I would’ve been on?

I think about that now with abortion. Rights for the unborn is something I am very passionate about. I worry, pray and in some ways fight for it year round and not just when something pops up in the news.

I was listening to a podcast years ago and it was a pastor teaching from the Old Testament and as he describes some of the barbaric lawlessness of that era he said,

Before you are quick to judge or think we have changed so much since then consider the thousands of babies killed every day through abortion. That’s our civilized country.

I got somewhat defensive as I thought to myself,

Well, not me! I am very pro-life. It is a black and white issue for me. I won’t be thrown under the bus for the sins of our nation. Even if I weren’t a Christian I would be pro-life. I would never be able to abort my own child.

Then I felt a conviction like a sharp grip on my heart. I remember as clear as day I felt the Lord say, “Apart from me you have no idea what you are capable of.” It’s been almost a decade since this happened and I remember it like it was yesterday and it’s stuck with me ever since. It gave me chills and I began to weep. My life motto is a quote by John Bradford “There but for the grace of God go I” meaning every good thing that I have or that I am is all because of the mercy of God.

I am still very much pro-life though. I am heartbroken about the news in New York. I do have friends who are outspoken pro-choice, or reproductive health, or however you want to say abortion rights advocates. I also have friends and family members who have had abortions. So it’s hard for me to talk about abortion like it is the holocaust because I don’t want to make anyone feel like I think they are evil or that I think I am righteous. However, I have to be a voice for the voiceless. It’s not the only time in my life that I have taken on this role. I have four children so when they were in my womb I was their advocate. They were living humans inside of me and they relied on me to protect them and care for them.

When I hear women say “It’s my body and I get to have control!” I think about the birth of Elle (who was born on the way to the hospital). I didn’t want her to come out in the van! I could have shouted IT’S MY BODY AND I GET TO HAVE CONTROL! But the fact was it was my body that was a vessel and I had no control. It wasn’t like I could cross my legs like a had a full bladder. I had no say in the matter (which is crazy because as a woman in the 21st century you would think I should get to maintain MY rights on whether or not I got to have the baby in the van). It was her time to come into this world and she had her own rights! She asserted herself at 37 weeks and no declarations on my end were going to stop her.

 

I see a little pro-life feminist in the making.

Speaking of which, this is about women and babies. I can be pro-life and agree that this is a women’s issue. I am a woman. Also, around half of the unborn are females as well. We are fighting for all females to have EQUAL rights. Of course in my story about Elle my baby was full term and healthy, but most abortions occur early on in the pregnancy before the baby is fully developed. To quote ex-abortion activist Frederica Mathewes-Green:

“When people say the unborn is “not a person” they mean that it has not yet grown or gained abilities that arrive later in life. But there’s no agreement about which abilities should be determinative. Pro-choice people don’t even agree with each other. Obviously, laws cannot be based on such subjective criteria. If it’s a case where the question is “can I kill this?” the answer must be based on objective medical and scientific data.” There is a lot more to her point and it is all in the National Review in an excellent article called “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense” 

It’s a very heated debate in our country and I know that there are a million other points. I am not going to change the world with a blog post. All I know is that while I can’t guarantee what kind of mother I would have been if I lived in the 1940s, I do have a choice for how I live now. I want my great great grandchildren to know that even in this dark hour when the laws allowed abortion and the crowds cheered in praise of this act of dehumanizing children in the womb, I took an unwavering stand for LIFE. 

By | January 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Aging Challenge

If you’ve been on Facebook at all in the last week you’ve surely seen the aging challenge. If the caption was copy/pasted it would say:

The “How Hard Did Aging Hit You,” Challenge. Take your 1st profile pic and your current profile pic and brace yourself.

Then the participant would post two photos usually with a ten-year or more gap. This is a cute little activity and I have loved seeing how all my friend’s lives have changed and how they all look great then and now. If I am really being vulnerable though I would admit that I have recently really struggled with the fact that I am aging and I hate it.  Then I hate that I hate it.

Recently I had a high school friend leave a comment one of my pics with the cliche “You haven’t changed a bit”. To which I left a lengthy reply refuting her claim and adding that regardless of how much I have aged I am trying to embrace the journey and be a role model to my daughters. Note to self: if your response to a compliment is too long to be a tweet then you are probably defensive and need to reel it in a bit.

I’ve gone through every insecurity about looks and body image that there is with the most recent culprit being wrinkles. I’ve been aware that my body and skin were changing but it was never that big of a deal until one day I looked in the mirror and BAM! All I could see was my facial expressions that were permanent. Before the laugh lines were visible when I laughed and the frown lines when I frowned but now they were just there no matter what face I made. This didn’t happen suddenly, but I did notice it suddenly and then I couldn’t unsee it. Not only that, it was all I saw and it started consuming my thoughts. That’s how I knew this was a spiritual issue. I know that when dark obsessive thoughts start circulating it’s not about the circumstance. This insecurity fell into that category. I prayed about it and opened up to my best friend, but I still felt like I need more help in tackling this issue. Some of you might think being 36 and worrying about wrinkles isn’t a big deal. Just wait until you are in your 50s you might say, and you’re right. Except this wasn’t about wrinkles. This was about the enemy trying to distract me from my purpose by giving me a false identity. I felt so trapped because I am not a superficial person. I know in my heart what matters but there was a season where I felt like I couldn’t beat this thing. I looked into Christian books on the topic and came across a book called “Enough: Silencing the Lies That Steal Your Confidence” by Sharon Jaynes.

 

I decided to read it and WOW. It was exactly what I needed. A lot of it was stuff I probably knew already but I needed a refresher.

The key throughout the book was following three steps when dealing with lies that are from satan.

1. Recognize the lie

2. Reject the lie

3. Replace the lie.

This has been so instrumental in getting freedom in this area. Another thing she talks about when doing this practice is saying “In Jesus Name” at the end of your thoughts. It’s pretty obvious when you do that if what you are saying is truth or a lie. For example, ‘I am worthless in Jesus name’ doesn’t connect at all! However, ‘I am a conqueror in Jesus name’ totally does! Saying ‘I want to give up in Jesus name’ is a negative, but ‘greater is he living in me than he that is in the world in Jesus name’ is empowering! I really loved this little tactic, although on a funny side note, I did find one loophole when I thought Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford botox and added in Jesus name at the end. It made me laugh out loud. At least working through these lies over the past month gave me enough sense to know that botox is not my problem or solution.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, but there is a difference in using beauty products because you care about how you look versus using them because you hate how you look. I have heard it described as the difference between painting something you imagined on canvas compared to plastering a hole in a wall and painting over it to get your deposit back. What a great analogy for women interested in clothes, hair, and makeup. Are you doing it because it’s fun way to express yourself or because you feel pressure from society?

My husband has been a wonderful encouragement to me. He’s not into fake. When I have brought up the topic of any kind of false lashes or tans he rolls his eyes and says he doesn’t like that stuff. I told him that he must want me to go full blown hippy on him and he said “Hippie wife, happy life. Isn’t that what they say?”. Well, no. Whatever, close enough.

Almost as popular as the aging challenge on Facebook is the Marie Kondo challenge on Netflix. I read her book a while back and I have watched a couple of episodes. Kondo is a tidying guru that goes into people’s homes to help them organize and simplify their lives. She has them talk to the house and thank it for being a good home. She does the same thing with clothes. It’s pretty weird even to me. However, what if we did that with our bodies? What if I thanked my face for expressing my heart? What if I thanked my hair for covering my head, or if I thanked my stretched out body for carrying and nourishing my four children. It sounds kind of hippie, but you know what they say

 

 

Hippie Wife, happy life.

By | January 16th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Walmart FREE Grocery Pickup

Since I wrote 10 reasons you should try Walmart’s Online Grocery Pickup two years ago I have gotten several questions about how I get them to use reusable bags. Then about a month ago this comment came in

“I love this service (I’m a mom in grad school) but I hate all the plastic bags!!! One time I ordered 24 items and they used 23 bags!

Please share your tip on reusable bags!

Do they bring them out to you in reusable bags? Do you exchange them? Please share! Lol”

That’s when I decided I needed to get to the bottom of it! I decided to call the Walmart pickup line directly and ask. They said anyone can call in or tell their personal shopper and they can add the note to the account. I asked if this was the same nationally and they said yes. While I wish they just had an option online to check whether you want plastic or reusable bags, for now that’s the deal. When my groceries come out they never come in plastic bags unless it’s a substitute or a package of meat.

Speaking of substitutes, did you know that if Walmart can’t find the item you are looking for they replace it with an upgrade at no cost to you. For example if they don’t have any generic bread they will give you the brand name. They always let you know what they substitute and you have to approve it. It’s always an awesome deal though. At Christmas time I ordered a tub of sprinkles but since they didn’t have it they gave me five containers of specialty Christmas sprinkles and they were so cute. I loved them so much and I got them at a huge discount since it was a substitute. For Ezie’s Minion cake I wanted a small bag of tootsie rolls and ended up with a bag of 400! I have had the same thing happen with M&Ms and tortillas. I feel like a hit the jackpot every time I score a nice free upgrade like this. Also, I often get special prizes and free sample. No joke!

 

One time I won an 18 pound Butterball Turkey!

 

Another time I got this Christmas movie package with a Polar Express DVD.

This year at Christmas I got a small goodie bag with coupons and candy. I’ve gotten treat bags at Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, back to school, and more. It’s not uncommon at all.

I recently got two free audiobooks and a free movie rental. These special surprises make me smile and so do the personal shoppers. Some of them know me by name and vice versa. One time I showed up in the evening and had ordered a lot of extra groceries because my in-laws were coming to town. They weren’t nosey, but when I explained the reason for the gigantic evening order they laughed because they were wondering why I had a sudden change up in my routine and my grocery order! They know me so well.

This is not a sponsored post alhtough I do have a chance to get $10 off my next order and you can too if you refer a friend. Actually that’s how I started this whole thing in the first place was through a friend’s referal link.

Use my code to get $10 off for you and $10 off for me (and a great big thank you from me)! Here is the link. 

http://r.wmt.co/lx7nl

Oh, and if you are still not convinced, here is one more thing

 

By | January 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Watching Home Alone as a Mother

The Holidays are officially over. We stretched them out for as long as we possibly could, but on Monday the kids go back to school. Last night as we sat around the noisy rambunctious dinner table we talked about how great this Christmas season was and then we toasted our glasses with the obligatory “clink” that they do in Despicable Me. One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is watching tons of movies. I am not even a movie watcher. It has been years since I went to a movie theater without the kids and if someone asks me what my favorite movie is I fumble for words. That all changes at Christmas time when I have all the time in the world to watch the funniest, cheesiest, most heartwarming flicks out there. My movie snack of choice is a big bowl of popcorn and Peanut M&M’s.

The candy mixins are a must! In fact, I put a bag of popcorn in each of the kids’ stockings along with a box of their favorite candy which ranges from Skittles to gummy worms. We watched Elf, Rudolph, Santa Clause 1-3 and we liked Olaf’s Frozen adventure so much we watched it twice.

I even enjoy the Hallmark Christmas movies. Yes, they are the same thing over and over. That’s what I love about it. I can give my brain a break and escape to a Christmas Tree farm in the Smokies, or Alaska, or Vermont. Speaking of Vermont J and I watched White Christmas TWICE in the past month. He will probably be embarrassed that I am even acknowledging this but he is the best Christmas movie partner, even the chick flicks.

Last night for our final Christmas movie (until next Christmas), we watched Home Alone for the first time with the kids. It was a little mature for the younger kids. It kept their attention and all, but I am pretty conservative and there is some language and scary parts. It’s funny how much your perspective changes as a mother. I loved Home Alone as a kid. I just laughed and laughed. This time I talked through the first half and it went something like this-

Now, remember you don’t need to repeat everything you hear in movies.

Do you think that was a very nice thing to say? No. No, it wasn’t.

We should never talk that way to each other.

Is that a good choice or a bad choice? Right, that is a very bad choice.

Oh my, that was another bad choice. This whole family is making some very bad choices right now!

What should you do if you are ever lost or somewhere by yourself? Yes, that’s right. Do not do what he is doing.

Do NOT try that in real life you will break your neck!

 

It was funny though and we had a good time. At the end we showed them the commercial that Macauley Caulkin is in now. It was great because we have a Google home so they thought it was awesome.

I try not to let the kids “talk” to Google too much because it can get out of hand, but sometimes it knows just the thing to say. Elle got a shirt for Christmas with unicorns on it and it says “I believe in magic”. This sparked a big debate between all four children.

The girls said they believe in magic, but in classic Z fashion he crushed their imaginations with some facts about the reality of illusionists. Ezie, who looks up to his brother, crossed his arms and firmly agreed. This conversation went on for a while and SJ started to get very upset and was even shouting. She stormed over to Google and said “Google! IS MAGIC REAL?” His reply was “It’s more fun to believe.” and that seemed to appease everyone. Good answer Google. Well played.

Today we take down the Christmas decorations and it does make me a little sad, but we’ve had fun. SJ got her first journal for Christmas this year from her grandma. With permission from SJ (who is only 8 and isn’t concerned about privacy yet) here is an excerpt from her first journal entry which sums it up well.

 

 

Topic: Sedona’s Christmas Wish

Date: Dec. 30, 2018

I love to run super fast in my life. I really wish to have a Stick Bot and a Grumbly. My wish came to life, but on Sunday I got two Stick Bot and Tuesday the very last present was a Grumbly. I was so joy. I had joy everywhere in my heart.

The End.

By | January 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Top Three Goals for 2019

Today I decided to look back at my old blog posts with New Years resolutions/goals and see how often I actually accomplished them. It turned out I succeeded slightly more than half of the things I set out to accomplish. That’s pretty okay. It’s enough for me to keep making lists at the beginning of the year. Who am I kidding? I could probably fail 100% of the time and still make goals every January. I am a list addict through and through.

As I looked back at my lists though some of them made me proud because I DID donate my hair to Locks of Love in 2013 and in 2014 I managed to start reading more, a positive habit that I have continued ever since! Some of the unmet goals made me cringe like when I said I was going to start eating vegetables and take vitamins everyday or my plan to go on a cruise in 2015 (I got pregnant and had a baby instead).

I had to laugh out loud at the multiple attempts at more date nights. In 2016 I wrote “Every year I resolve to do one date a month with my husband. I say this every. single. year. and it’s never happened. Yet here we are married 15 years and going strong so I guess I can’t worry about it too much. Anyway, all that to say I think 10 is realistic.” Except it wasn’t. The thing is, our lives had been so crazy since having kids especially when you factor in co-sleeping and breastfeeding. It was really challenging to break away from my babies. We could never afford a sitter and we don’t have parents close by.

The good news is there have been some recent changes that have made our number of outings significantly higher.1. My dad retired and my parents moved to northern Kentucky so even though it’s another state it’s only 45 minutes away. 2. I am no longer breastfeeding. This means that not only can we get out more frequently we can actually do overnights!!! I can hear the hallelujah choir singing. It’s been 10 years since that was a possibility (not that it never happened in 10 years but it was rare).

I am pretty sure we will be able to reach the goal of one date a month this year, but I am not even putting it on the official list. That’s just a random side note.

As far as the list for 2019 I have narrowed it down to three things in order to stay focused.

1. Clean out the garage and sell $100 worth of stuff.

Our garage is packed full of clutter! I want to get rid of a bunch of stuff and organize it, but in order to make it a measurable goal I put the $100 thing in there which I will accomplish via craigslist or Facebook. It’s also like a little incentive.

2.  Learn more sign language.

I mentioned that I have learned quite a bit this year and I want to keep it coming. My main focus is numbers (past ten), finger spelling, and days and months.

3. Write a Book

This one makes me want to throw up a little bit, only because it’s a new year’s dream that I failed to fulfill in 2017. I am working on two books, and my memoir probably won’t happen for a couple more years. The one I plan to self publish this year is a surprise. I’ll keep you posted.

Not sure I’ll complete them, but I can try because

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Shoot for the moon even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.

A champion is defined not by their wins but how they recover when they fail.

Let’s see… what other inspirational quotes can I think of to get me off the hook. Just kidding.

Happy new year everybody. 

 

 

By | January 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

All Things 2018

Romans 8:28

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

When I look back on all that happened in 2018 I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I want to write a reflective blog post, but where do I begin? What happened in 2018 is so significant to us that I am literally writing a book about the past 7 years. With that being said I don’t think I need to go into all of the details, but let’s look back at some of the highlights.

First of all, in January J left his computer programming job which he loved and had gone back to school for and he became a full-time staff member at our church. I wrote all about this milestone in “Our 2017 Miracle

I recently stumbled upon this photo is from 2011.

It was our last Christmas in Texas right before we moved and these missionaries that we really respect and admire were in town. They were saying a prayer over Jeremy who was about to leave to follow some vague calling.

The other side of the story is our pastors here in Ohio also lived and ministered in that same small town in Texas! In 2011 the Lord called them to start a church in Ohio. We never knew them. We may have crossed paths because they had even been to the coffee shop that we helped start, but we definitely never met or knew that each other existed.

Now here we are seven years after both of our families felt called to leave Texas and follow some divine appointment.

And these two kids right here (the pastor’s son is on the right and SJ on the left) were both born in Waxahachie Texas 5 months apart! Now they both are pastors kids in Milford Ohio!? What are the odds?

I don’t want to lead you to believe that stepping back into ministry has been this dream come true and now our lives are complete. It’s been a really intense roller coaster ride. As soon as J came on staff we moved from our church building to a school. When the school shut down for the summer we got the boot. That’s when we started meeting in a tent! That was a real test of faith let me tell you. I am a 1980s-Pentecostal-tent-revival hippie girl so I wasn’t phased one bit personally.

However, when you are in ministry you carry the weight of the congregation’s well being kind of like you do your own children. If your family is sick or hurting you feel it too. It was tough.

J was working around the clock along with plenty of other people doing construction and trying desperately to get us into the new building. I don’t even want to think about how challenging that was so let’s talk about how in the middle of all that we were gifted a trip to Chicago to see U2 in concert!

It felt like bad time timing because there was so much going on but I’m gonna preach for second here- IT WAS PERFECT TIMING BECAUSE THERE WAS SO MUCH GOING ON. J and I had tickets and were forced to go be alone together and take a break and have the time of our lives.

We needed that! Every married couple needs to be forced into doing something like that every once in a well. The timing probably isn’t going to be perfect but get over it. The world will still function without you balancing it all. I know running off with your spouse isn’t always an option (believe me I know) but sometimes it is an options and we are the ones standing in our own way. Okay, I’m done with my exhortation, but I know someone needs to hear that.

The most significant milestone of 2018 came right after Chicago and that was when SJ graduated from Ohio Valley Voices. I can’t even type that without tearing up. My deaf daughter can talk.

Instead of crying through another emotional post about how miraculous this is I will just give a few links about SJ’s growth from 2018.

SJ’s last year at OVV

A look back at 6 Years of learning to hear and speak

The Graduation

My Little Christmas Star

Our two littlest kiddos had their own milestones. Ezie has started going to Kindergarten and is at the same school as his older siblings  and Elle is 100% potty trained praise the Lord.

In August of 2018 we were finally able to meet as a church in our new building. Also at the beginning of the school year Mandy Harvey the deaf singer came to our church and I found myself in a whole new role as ASL worship interpreter and sign language coordinator. Ever since that Sunday in August we have had regular attendees at our church who are deaf and I could tell you one miraculous testimony after the other of how God has orchestrated everything. My ASL is still very rusty but now that I have friends who are deaf and sign I have been able to become so much more comfortable with sign language. The relationships I have formed and the things that I have learned are one of my
most unexpected but favorite parts of 2018!

Last but not least J and I celebrated 18 years of marriage which was extra special because I got married at 18 and so I have officially been married over half of my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s my best friend and we were meant to be.

So that’s 2018. A lot happened and I will never forget it.

By | December 31st, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My Little Christmas Star

Every Christmas I am reminded of how far SJ has come. Her first three Christmases she couldn’t speak or really even hear. For her fourth Christmas, she was at Ohio Valley Voices learning to talk. Every year the school has a Winter Program and it is a great opportunity for these deaf children to show off what they have learned. The first year SJ had started saying a couple of words, but at almost four years old she could still barely talk. Here is a video of her saying and signing daddy, mommy, Deemah (because her friend Deemah was next to her and she spotted Deemah’s mom in the crowd).

 Here is an excerpt that I had written about that Christmas in 2013.

” The next day at the school’s Christmas party Santa gave her a present. SJ unwrapped it to find a simple paperback book called “The Littlest Christmas Star”.

I smiled and was happy for her, but when I read it aloud I realized it was so much more than just a story. It was about a boy that wanted to have a big part in his Christmas play at school, but all of the major roles were taken. His part was to dress up like the Bethlehem star and he only had one little line which was “follow me”. At the end of book it talks about the bright light shining down on him. The crowd cheered and he knew then that even though he may have had a small part, he was a BIG star. I would say that book was more than just a gift from Santa to SJ, I think it was also a gift from my heavenly Father to me. Seeing SJ in the winter program could have been a reminder for me of how far behind she is compared to the other kids in her class. She can’t speak as well as her friends and she couldn’t quite muster out the words they had practiced for weeks, but still, that night as she stood up there and spoke into the microphone she was my shining star.”

The following year she was able to say “Santa, I want a Minnie Mouse for Christmas. I love you mommy, daddy, Zion, and Ezra”.

She had a long way to go in terms of vocabulary and intelligibility but she had come so far! Every Christmas she was up on stage at her school and each time her words were more and more clear. Last year she had her final performance at Ohio Valley Voices Winter Program. What a delight it was to watch her sing a small solo of Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer.

This year was bittersweet. It was her first Christmas (since she was three) that she was not in the Ohio Valley Voices Winter Program, however that doesn’t mean she didn’t get her time to shine. Not only did she help me greet the congregation at church on Sunday and Monday,

but she also had a couple of lines in the video that the church showed of the kids’ reciting Luke Chapter two. She had two different lines but here is a clip of her saying “An angel of the Lord appeared to them”

It’s such a simple line, but I was reminded in that moment what a miracle it is that she can say that! It’s something I don’t take for granted.

She recently brought this paper home from school.

It doesn’t look like much. It’s just a worksheet for the students to write and draw how they imagine they would respond to the sights and sounds of the North Pole. As I read about what SJ imagined hearing I was reminded again of the gift of hearing.

These were all special moments for sure, but the icing on the Christmas cake was when I got a letter from SJ’s teacher reporting that she was at grade level academically and she had no issues or concerns at all. This meant we did not have to meet for a parent teacher conference because she is doing so well. What a praise report.

 

I can’t believe how grown up she is. Her 9th birthday is right around the corner. Before SJ was diagnosed I never really considered hearing a gift, but know I do and it’s one that we get to unwrap year after year as SJ continues to shine!

By | December 30th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Duck and Fruit Cake

Christmas was full of firsts this year. We didn’t travel because now that J is on staff at the church we have big-time commitments for the Christmas services. We had our usual two services on Sunday followed by a Christmas Eve service on Monday. 

This was our first Christmas at our church and it was special. After the journey we have been on (living like nomads for 6 years) it helps make Ohio feel that much more like home.

 

But let’s back up! It’s been almost a month since we decorated our tree and put some lights outside.

This was also a first at this house because of usually being out of town.

We are hoping to add on to the decor every year and making a tradition out of it. Like our breakfast with Santa tradition. One of my favorite things to do this time of year is go to Breakfast with Santa at Heritage Fellowship. I have always had the honor of photographing children with Santa as a part of a fundraiser for Palmyr’s Playhouse. Here are some pics of my kids from the event.

Another tradition is Christmas goodies!

We made such a messin the kitchen but we made memories too Also, I tried fruit cake for the first time as part of a sermon illustration.

AND I had DUCK for the first time. After the candlelight service, my parents took the kids to see lights at Coney Island. J and I were going to eat out but after calling four different restaurants to find out they were closed for Christmas Eve we knew we could count on Chinese. When I asked the server what the most popular dish was I decided to try it. This dish happened to be duck fried rice.

 

Moving right along, we celebrated Christmas with my side of the family the day before Christmas Eve.

One of the highlights of the evening was when Ezie’s cousin gave him a wooden action figure that he had made by hand.

We also had Christmas morning with just the 6 of us and a Christmas celebration with J’s parents who came in from Texas.


There were plenty of parties and presents, lots of sugar and lights but at the end of the day, I know that we could strip all of that stuff away and still have the best Christmas. We have Christ at the center and we have each other. That’s what makes any of this any fun at all.

 

By | December 29th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments