We were going to be a perfect sponsoring family…

I was compensated by World Vision for my time in writing this post. All opinions are my own.

2015 Sesame Street Trip - Zambia

I had grand plans the first time I signed up to sponsor a child in another country. I was going to write letters monthly and send gifts regularly. I was definitely going to pray daily, and maybe even some day our family would go visit our child.

These were all such good ideas.

We’re on sponsored kid number three now, and I can’t tell you what a blessing it has been to know that our small contribution each month offers so much to our overseas children. We definitely pray for these kids. We occasionally send letters. And once or twice (in eight years), we’ve sent gifts.

I used to feel guilty for not doing more. I wanted to be the perfect sponsoring family, you know? But I’ve since learned that our lack of perfection in this area is trumped by the fact that organizations like World Vision are working full time to make sure children’s needs are met. They work on-site for our sponsored children to offer clean water, school supplies and better education, teacher training, improved nutrition, healthcare clinics, and agricultural training. The best part?

They do it all in the name of Jesus.

More about kid sponsorship in a minute, but first…

Our Family did the 6K for Water!!

Remember the Global 6K for Water I told you about? My family and I did this over the weekend. It was amazing! And also…

It was hard. You might say I’m a little bit sore. Ha! But it was so great to know that what we did helps to provide for families who don’t have clean water accessible to them. We loved using walk time with our family to talk more with our kids about life and needs in other countries.

Here’s a little recap of our experience. First, a pre-6K selfie – while looking into the sun! Our oldest couldn’t join us for this because he was finishing his college finals. So he cheered us on from the campus while the rest of us took off and hit it the road!

walk for water 6

This 6K for Water was organized in an effort to raise awareness and money to help families who normally have to walk about 6K every day to get (dirty) water for their families. Therefore, Matt came up with the idea that not only should our family take part in this 6K, we should take buckets and fill them with dirty water at our half-way point. He wanted to give us an idea of what this walk usually feels like to the children walking so far each day to collect water for their family to drink.

walk for water 2

I can’t believe how great of an experience this was. I also can’t believe how difficult it was. Walking 6K (which equals 3.7 miles) is tough enough. Walking it with full, heavy buckets of water? Super challenging.

walk for water 3

The entire way home, carrying our heavy buckets, after we were already hot and tired made us so very mindful of what families go through every single day. This became so much more than just a walk for us. I am so thankful my family did this, as it was absolutely humbling and rewarding.

walk for water 4

So now what?

If you participated in the 6K for Water, you received a bib with information about a potential child you could sponsor. Did you take a peek at that? Take a moment to pray about whether or not this was something you and your family might like to do. It’s profound to think of the impact your sponsorship can have in changing many lives! If you did take part in this 6K for Water, I’d really love to hear how it went for you!

Whether you participated in the 6K or not, I’d like to encourage you to consider sponsoring a child. As our family has proven time and again, you don’t have to be a perfect sponsoring family. You just have to care enough to say “yes!” Your simple monthly contribution offers much to your child and the community he or she is a part of, then you and your family can go above and beyond in any way you choose.

How child sponsorship through World Vision works:

  • Find a child you want to help. Look forward to the first letter from your child within 6-12 weeks.
  • Your gift helps your sponsored child and their entire community! Your donation combines with gifts from all other sponsors who support kids in the same area. This means long-term resources for everyone!
  • Local staff make your donations go the extra mile. Children don’t get direct cash benefits. Better yet, their staff creates a sustainable plan for funds that keeps communities out of poverty even after they’ve moved on to help other communities!

My World Vision digital experience lets you get regular updates, track community progress, and view photos of your child. You can even send them a letter through email!! ( <—- Now we’re talking about something I would actually keep up with better!)

OH, and here’s something extra cool. Every $1 donated equals $1.30 in impact because of grants and product donations!

You can join World Vision in breaking the cycle of poverty through child sponsorship. Please pray about this ministry and check into child sponsorship here.

Did you take part in the 6K for Water? If so, how did it go for you?

Simple Green Chile Chicken

My husband has a prayer lunch with a few other guys every Tuesday at noon. Sometimes he takes his full lunch with him, and some days he takes just a light snack, then eats more when he gets home. One day recently, he had plans to eat light at his prayer lunch, then come home and eat this Simple Green Chile Chicken.

If only I’d told the boys of his plans.

I’d eaten my share of this lunch right after I pulled it out of the oven, but in the hubbub of finishing school assignments throughout the morning, the boys trickled into the table later, little by little. Just a few minutes before Matt was to arrive home, I heard one of the boys say, “Glad Dad already ate since I just had the last of this chicken.”

Oops. Sorry, Matt.

green chile chicken

The good news: This chicken is so good, the whole family will eat it without complaint (and not leave enough for Dad).

The other good news: This recipe is so easy I can actually find time to make it even on a busy school/work morning! Of course, that means it’s quick to make in the evening for dinner too. (Often during soccer season we have our bigger meal at lunchtime – but who am I kidding? We have big meals three times a day.)

Simple Green Chile Chicken

Simple Green Chile Chicken
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 8-ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (any variety)
  • 4-ounces green chilies (no need to drain)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place chicken in a 9x13 inch dish.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients (I do this quickly in my Blendtec), and spread the mixture over the chicken evenly.
  3. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Simple Green Chile Chicken

What you might notice about this recipe is the simplicity of blending all the cheese sauce ingredients together before spreading it over your chicken. This is great for a couple of reasons:

  • Making it this way saves time and effort. (Toss ingredients into a blender, mix, then pour over chicken. Easy!)
  • Blending the peppers into the sauce makes picky eaters enjoy this without complaint.

Note to self: Always double this recipe so there is enough for everyone in my family to eat some. (Why I hadn’t already thought of that I do not know.)

And with that, I will present you with our ever-growing list of Simple Recipes that will provide your family with real food that is super delicious, but will make your kitchen efforts minimal!

More Simple Recipes

Join Simple Meals

Make life even simpler when you sign up to receive our weekly Menu Planning Packets. One tiny price, loads of weekly help. Read about this and sign up here!

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Simple Oven Roasted Rotisserie Chicken

Brace yourselves. Today we’re going to learn to butter up a chicken and rub him down with herbs and spices. This might not be the most precious moment of your day, but I guarantee you will find it to all be worth it after you taste your delicious Oven Roasted Rotisserie Chicken.

simple rotisserie chicken

Now, I’ve buttered many a slice of bread in my day. I would even venture to say I’m pretty good at it. But never before had I buttered a bird – until the first day I made this chicken.

Recipe research told me to “brush on the butter.” But that would require that I melt butter in a saucepan and dirty up a pastry brush. In the name of lazyness simplicity, I just slapped butter on my bird with a butter knife.

Did it work? Meh, good enough. I figure what didn’t get spread on smoothly will just melt and drizzle itself over the skin while baking.

Now, beyond the butter, we’ve got to do a little chicken massage for this recipe too. Don’t freak out about this because your hands will wash up just fine afterward. Sure, rubbing spices over a raw piece of meat in the shape of well, a chicken, will feel strange. But you can do this.

Here’s why the buttering up and the rubbing down are well worth your few minutes awkward chicken moments:

  • You will create a most delicious meal for your family. This chicken is incredibly juicy and flavorful.
  • All the “effort” you put forth to create this chicken will take less than 10 minutes.
  • You’ll save money, because making this chicken at home costs less than buying one pre-made.

So gather up your chickens and let the fun begin.

Simple Oven Roasted Rotisserie Chicken

Simple Oven Roasted Rotisserie Chicken
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3-4 pound chicken
  • 3 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
Instructions
  1. Place chicken in a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. Remove gizzards from the cavity. Discard them or save them to make broth later.
  3. Spread or brush butter over the chicken.
  4. Mix herbs and spices in a bowl, then rub them all over the chicken.
  5. Bake, uncovered, in a 300 degree oven for 2½ hours.

Oh yes. I failed to mention the “reach up into the ‘cavity’ of the chicken and pull out the little bag of gizzards.” I guess I was trying to stop while I was ahead so as to avoid scaring you away from this recipe. But alas, this task cannot be avoided.

I’ve found it’s best to go ahead and say “eeeewwww” while completing this gizzard removal step, because that’s how I feel and it truly is helpful to express oneself verbally during moments of trouble.

So before you butter and rub your chicken, get the gizzard step over with. After that, you will feel empowered to do anything. All hail queen/king chicken preparers. We are all super heroes.

Simple Oven Roasted Rotisserie Chicken

Keep this meal simple by serving this chicken with tossed salad, a steamed veggie, and fresh fruit (like strawberries, pineapple, or cantaloupe).

Make your life simpler by joining Simple Meals. Then you won’t even have to think about what to cook or what to buy because we do the work for you every single week!

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Check out how long this list of Simple Recipes is getting!

42 of My Favorite Mother’s Day Ideas From $0 (Dads and Kids, This is for You!!)

Did I ever tell you about the first birthday my husband and I celebrated together as a married couple? He was used to birthdays being super low key, and I was used to birthdays being ALL ABOUT ME PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

So when I woke up on my birthday and Matt didn’t even mention it, I didn’t know what to do with that. (Yes I did. I cried.)

As the day went on and he still didn’t mention it, I went from sad to mad. At about 3:00 in the afternoon when he finally said something like, “I guess I should run to the store and get your something for your birthday.” I was like, “You’ve had 364 days to get me something for my birthday!!!!!

Low Sugar Chocolate Cake

Cake? There was no cake.

Ahh, fun newlywed memories.

Matt and I have learned a thousand-trillion or more lessons since those days. He is wonderful now about making days special for me, and I’m way more laid back about what I expect and want. So 22 years after my first married birthday, we’ve landed in our holiday happy place. Hopefully you have too.

The Mother’s Day Count-Down is On

I don’t know how you do holidays and special occasions at your house. But I thought you should know that as of today, there are 11 days to get ready for Mother’s Day. If ordering gifts is a thing your people do for you, I’ve done my part in making it easy. If making you food for the day is something they do, I’ve compiled a list.

Moms, look over this fantastic list. (I had help from a friend in putting it together. It is brilliant. My friend is brilliant.) Highlight your favorites, then forward this to all the people in your life who should act on this list.

Gifts for Mom that are Free (or Almost Free)

1. Coupons for extra chores, such as help with spring cleaning, gardening, cleaning out the garage (or basement or attic), washing windows, etc.

2. Love Notes – i.e. List ten reasons why you love and appreciate her.

Why I Love Mom Printable

Swipe and download these FREE “Why I Love Mom” Notes to fill in!

3. Hand-Drawn pictures of you and Mom

4. Pictures of you and Mom together – could be framed if you like.

5. A copy of her favorite book and a coupon for her to have time to read it!!! (Check used bookstores and thrift stores for inexpensive copies of her favs.)

Gifts for Mom that are Under $25

6. Donate to her favorite charity in her name

7. Package up her favorite candles, lotion, coffee, tea, or other guilty pleasure – like chocolate!

mug

8. This Butterfly Suncatcher is so pretty!

9. On the more practical side: here’s a fantastic Stainless Steel Knife Set in a Wooden Block.

10. And another Stainless Steel Knife Set in an Acrylic Stand.

mothers day knives

11. This Wood Picture Photo Frame for Wall Decor is so cute I can’t stand it.

mother day frame

12. Look how pretty this Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser Necklace is!!

13. And even prettier – this Floating Living Memory Locket Pendant Necklace!

mother's day necklace

14. If you have little ones, this Thank you God for Mommy book makes me melt.

thank you mother day

15. What a great idea: a Q&A 5-Year Journal for Moms

16. Or how about Mommy’s 5-Year Memory Book?

17. Or a What I Love About Mom fill-in-the-blank book!

18. I have two of these sets of Pyrex Bowls with Lids and use them approximately 40 times every day.

pyrex bowls 2

More than $25, but worth it…

19. Has she said anything to you about making Homemade Vanilla? Vanilla beans are on the pricey side right now, but Olive Nation gives us a 20% discount and this might be a fun time to get her started on this. Get the details here. 

How To Make Vanilla Extract

20. This Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Set is amazing. She will make you good food in this. 

stainless steel cookware

21. If you really, really want to knock her socks off, get her a BlendTec (and then help her put her socks back on). It will last forever and be invaluable to her.

blendtec

Now let’s talk food

Dear Family Members of All the Mothers: If you do nothing else for Mom this year, feed her. Don’t let her cook. Don’t let her wash the dishes. And don’t even think about saving any dirty dishes for her to do on Monday. I have spoken.

Here are some great food ideas that are easy to make and always a hit. Pick what Mom will love the most!

For Her Sweet Tooth

butterscotch_bars

22. Butterscotch Bars

23. Death by Chocolate

24. Peanut Butter Honey Fudge

For Breakfast in Bed

ham and egg cups1

25. Easy Breakfast Casserole

26. Hot Vanilla Milk

27. Breakfast Pizza

28. Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls

Lunch and Dinner Ideas

shrimp1

29. Salmon Patties

30. Simple Garlic Butter Shrimp

31. Simple Oven Fried Chicken

32. Creamy Bacon Spaghetti

Lightly (but perfectly) Sweetened

chocolate cheesecake parfait

33. Low Sugar Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits (my favorite in the world!)

34. Low Sugar Chocolate Cheesecake Parfaits

35. Low Sugar Chocolate Whipped Cream

36. Low Sugar Chocolate Cake

37. Pineapple Cream Dessert (naturally dairy and gluten free!)

38. Strawberry Shortcake

Coffee and Other Fun Drinks

Stevia Sweetened Chocolate Frappe

39. Chocolate Frappe

40. Coffee Milkshake 

41. Sparkling 100% Juice

The Gift of Time

42. If she doesn’t have this already, get her a Simple Meals subscription. This will save her hours every week!! There’s a $10 off coupon code here.

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If you still need more ideas, I’ve got some listed here.

42 Favorite Mother's Day Ideas from $0

Moms, leave a comment here to share: What is your favorite way to be spoiled on Mother’s Day?

Some of these links are my affiliate links.

The Absolute Worst Time to Make a Grocery List

Ok, Ladies. Today we’re gonna get real. Is it too much information? I don’t think so. I think this is worth discussing candidly. (At least today I’m not mentioning my gas. Be proud.)

So here we go.

The worst time to make a grocery list

One of my claims to fame is that I’m a great multi-tasker. This is especially apparent at my house, I believe, because I live in a household with five men and I am the lone female. So while each of my men-folk are often focusing on, and executing, one task at a time, I’m over in the kitchen knocking out twelve.

I’ve always seen this as a blessing for productivity but lately, not so much.

My brain is tired.

Matt can multi-task too, but he’s also much better at focusing than I am. Sometimes I watch Matt doing his one thing, thinking of only that one thing, not hearing the kids arguing in the background, not noticing the grime under the cabinet, not considering a potential problem with the plans we made for tomorrow, not seeing the stuff on the stairs that needs to be taken up and put away – and I’m like, “Man, I wish I could do that.”

I really do. Sometimes I long for the ability to just be in the moment, instead of thinking of past moments, potential moments, just in case moments, long term moments, and also dinner every night for the rest of our lives.

My brain wears me out sometimes. I want it to sssshhhhh every once in a while. Is this just me? Is your brain as loud as mine?

God wired women and men differently, on purpose, for a purpose. This is a good thing. Figuratively speaking, men’s brains are usually better at “pulling out one drawer at a time, closing it, then pulling out another.” Meanwhile, we women might find ourselves with all of our drawers pulled open at once, with items overflowing and toppling out, sometimes struggling to find where one ends and the other begins.

Both gifts are beneficial. Both have their limitations. Truly God is good in how He makes us different, with strengths and weaknesses that compliment one another.

So, the multitasking…

I’m grateful for the ability to get several things done at once. I’m also grateful to be learning my need for regular rest periods so I can help keep my brain from overloading and exploding all over the living room.

But, still, why can I not shut down my brain every time I want to?! (And here’s where it gets real…)

There are times I’m making a grocery list, or a to-do list, or thinking of a good blog post topic, or perhaps all of the above…

In the bedroom. (What?!) Yes. And let’s just say there are no notebooks or pens around and this is not the time to be making a grocery list. Do you follow what I’m saying?

I thought something was wrong with me. I’d be fine and in the moment, then suddenly my brain would shift to “I need to be sure I don’t forget to pick up cat food.” I decided I belonged in Crazy Town.

I thought I was the only one who did this. After all, this isn’t something I discuss with my friends. Who wants to admit to any other human being that they sometimes choose the worst time in the world to start thinking about laundry detergent (also did I remember to sign my kids’ waver and get it in on time, how should I answer that email, and I wonder if the shoes got put away downstairs).

Crazy. Town.

I have felt bad about this for years.

Then I made my way to Lesson Three in the Boost Your Libido eCourse I told you about recently – and suddenly Sheila was describing my brain as if she had been inside it (love her, be my new BFF, Sheila G.)! I did not know this but apparently, in regard to how a woman’s brain works:

I am normal.

Can you relate to any of this? Have you ever made a grocery list or any other list at the very wrong time?

Women do this naturally. It doesn’t mean something is wrong, and it definitely doesn’t mean that we should give up on special time with our husband (and instead head out to the grocery store).

What I love most about Sheila is that not only did she assure me that the way my brain works is normal, she followed up by giving tips to help my focus stay in the bedroom and off of the cat food. Her tips all make so much sense! I can do this! I am doing them, in fact.

Hallelujah!

So, my fellow multi-tasking friends – if you can relate to anything I just said, know that you are not alone, nor are you crazy.

Best news you’ve heard all day, huh?

I think it’s important to share truths like this with one another, even though it might feel a little bit awkward at first to bring it up. This is even better than talking about my gas, don’t you think?

I highly recommend the Boost Your Libido eCourse, which you can find here.

And while we’re on the topic of marriage, I will point you to a resource I created that has been fantastic for helping me love my husband God’s way: A Surrendered Heart. Get all the details about this Mini eCourse here.

SHbanner

A Surrendered Heart Mini-eCourse
A Surrendered heart is much more than just a book! It’s Bible-based instruction. It’s a workbook so you can make some actionable plans for steps to take to grow in love for your husband. It’s a journal, so you can take the time to reflect, listen, and learn to love your husband more fully through Jesus. And it’s loaded with beautiful Scripture Printables that we can strategically place all throughout our homes so we can constantly be reminded to live through the Spirit as we serve and love our husbands. Join us!
Price: $12.00

What Keeps Me From Going Crazy (This is Working!)

I’d like to think I’m exaggerating when I use the term “going crazy” but I’m not convinced and I doubt my family is either.

Just a few days ago I was screaming at my computer because it wouldn’t send my document to the printer so I was like, “What is wrong with you!? You were working fine two hours ago! Just print already so I can go to bed!”

Can’t you just visualize the sweetness?

My youngest came running and offered, “Is there anything I can do for you, Mom?” Precious, isn’t he? Sure. But then he started playing the piano very loudly right behind me so that I could no longer concentrate on troubleshooting my printer issues. This did wonders for my stress level and it helped even more when Matt chose that exact moment to holler a question about our income taxes from the other room.

Crazy?! Nah. Only a little bit.

lauraontrampoline1sm

This was taken many years ago when I was jumping on the trampoline
with our boys. This shows a different variety of crazy, one that involves a bladder,
and I guess that’s all I need to say about that.

I’ve shared recently about my emotional and spiritual health struggles. God has been so faithful to gently walk me through some dark valleys and to provide peace I never knew existed. Our Creator is mighty, His forgiveness is abundant, and I suppose the fact that I’d always been such a “good girl” means that I’d never really recognized my great need for a Savior until I came face to face with my absolute weaknesses.

So here I am and here He is. It’s really quite beautiful, experiencing his strength shining through my weakness.

Jesus is my drug of choice. The Bible has become what I cling to over all else, because I’ve learned absolutely that SELF is not able to cut it.

life1

There are days I don’t have time to pull away from all my responsibilities to spend any real time with my Bible, and boy do I feel the void. (Not the guilt though – praise God! I spend time with God in the Word now because I want and need to – not because “that’s what good Christians do.” What a refreshing change of mindset.)

bathroom 5 (1)

My perfect choice, if I get to choose, is to sit for over an hour every morning sipping coffee, journaling, praying, listening, and soaking in several chapters of Scripture. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t.

But even if it does happen, what about the other 23 hours in a day? I find it easy to be at peace and full of conviction to live through the Spirit when I’m sitting in the quiet with my Bible – without any people needing me or printers ignoring my requests to please just print the document.

But start throwing all of the day’s stuff at me and I am faced quite humbly with my human side.

My solution? My plan-of-action against falling back on selfish living throughout the day?

What Helps Me Embrace Peace (aka stay away from crazy)

1. Prayer.

Sure, that’s an obvious Christian answer. But it is a fact that it’s not just “an answer” it is the answer. Talking to God throughout the day, whispering “I need you” and “thank you” and “you are so good to me” and “guide me with this” and “please give me the right words” and “I love how you worked that out” and “thank you for providing that for us” and on it goes all day long. It works.

I talk to God a lot. I ask for the Spirit’s guidance. I forget. Then I remember. Then I get wrapped up in my own thoughts and get all wishy-washy. Then I come back to a surrendered place and let go of control. I’m back and forth, living a life full of demands. God is there constantly, faithfully, grace-filled.

2. I’ve been slapping Scripture all over my walls.

By “slapping” I mean “carefully placing” of course, because there are nails and a hammer involved with this process. I’ve been learning that surrounding myself with scripture that is front and center, all around me, is a great way to stay focused on Truth and to remain at peace.

I fell in love with these prints and ordered them, putting the three top ones in my bright living room and the bottom three in our bedroom. They match each room perfectly. I love them so much I can’t stop staring at them. This is perfect though, because staring at scripture all day long, even while doing mundane chores, is a fantastic to keep me focused on Truth which helps to avoid unhealthy thought patterns.

living room pics2

3. I’m selective about how I spend my downtime.

Some evenings we actually have this thing called “free time.” I’ve been playing a lot of Skip-Bo with Malachi or sometimes we’re able to play a game with the whole family. We like slowly working our way through Netflix series, watching an episode all together right before we head up to bed.

I just have to be careful what I watch, as in, shows like CSI and Criminal Minds are out for me. Currently, our family is working through Person of Interest (which actually is a bit violent, but not gory or emotional, so I can laugh with my family about how unrealistic it all is while still having a fun story line).

4. I journal and color.

I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but for me, journaling has been a wonderful way for me to process and pray, and even learn new Truths from God. (By the way, ain’t no one except God gonna ever read my journals. They. Are. Messy.)

I learned a few months ago that coloring is loads of fun, completely relaxing, and even great for meditating. Coloring clears my head and helps me focus on pure thoughts that bring peace. I had no idea coloring could be so great.

So prayer, posting scripture, being selective about what I read and watch, journaling, and coloring – these, along with spending quiet time in the Word – have been keeping me on solid ground.

I’d love to hear what helps you stay grounded each day. What have you found that helps you most to avoid worry and to keep you focused on God’s Truth?

Something you might be interested in:

This Surrendered Heart Mini eCourse has been a tremendous blessing to my heart and to my marriage. I’d love for you to have it! Get the details here.

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It’s 42 pages of scripture-filled lessons, worksheets, journaling pages, and printables – all for the purpose of strengthening your marriage as you surrender your heart to God.

A Surrendered Heart Mini-eCourse
A Surrendered heart is much more than just a book! It’s Bible-based instruction. It’s a workbook so you can make some actionable plans for steps to take to grow in love for your husband. It’s a journal, so you can take the time to reflect, listen, and learn to love your husband more fully through Jesus. And it’s loaded with beautiful Scripture Printables that we can strategically place all throughout our homes so we can constantly be reminded to live through the Spirit as we serve and love our husbands. Join us!
Price: $12.00

That Time My Husband Gave Me Gas

There are some gifts a husband can give to a wife (and vice-versa) that are a win-win all around. Take the time my husband gave me gas. Best. Gift. Ever.

matt and laura3

You all know I’m talking about the time Matt installed my new oven with a gas hook-up, right? Okay, I figured that was obvious. What else could it be? Just in case you’ve forgotten the details though, let me give you a refresher:

Remember how my very old and over-used stove/oven finally gave out last year? Matt tried to fix it again for the many-eth time, sighed, and finally gave up. Then he looked up at me from his precarious half-in-half-out-of-the-oven floor post while holding the recently removed heating element and said, “Well, Babe. You want to go shopping for a new oven?”

Do I?

Flirting with my hunky repairman for a moment I said, “While we’re at it, you wanna know what my dream oven would be?” Of course he wanted to know, in as much detail as possible, no doubt. So I told him, “I want a white double oven – so I can make twice the amount of food in half the time. Just think of it! And also…

“I really want gas.”

Yep, every girl’s dream.

I knew it was a long shot. In fact, I really assumed it was an impossible shot. I mean, how can a girl get gas when her kitchen only has an electric hook-up?

Ah. Well apparently the girl has to know the right repairman. It also helps if the house already has gas hooked up in other areas of the home. These are only a few of the gas facts I have learned since that day.

gas oven

Here she is, the day we brought her home.

My husband went to our basement and found our gas line. And who am I kidding right now? I have no idea what all he did to give me the gift of gas. I just know that he heard my dream and he cared enough to make it happen even though it was not an easy job.

You see now, don’t you, how this is such a win-win?

Every day, multiple times a day, I use my beautiful gas double oven with gas range. And every day, Matt enjoys the tasty bounty that comes out of these ovens and off of the stove-top. I’m happy. He’s happy. He didn’t have to do go to the trouble to give me gas. But he did and we both love it.

From Gas to…This? Well, yeah.

What can I say?

Lately I’ve been considering the many parts of marriage that are a win-win for both of us, gas being toward the top of my list right under companionship, protection, teamwork, being cared for….

And also one of God’s greatest gifts to married couples that sometimes causes us to blush and giggle when the subject comes up. Gas? Well, that too. But I’m actually talking about this: What God provides for married couples in the bedroom truly is a win-win. At least that’s the way He intended it to be.

But what about the times it doesn’t seem like a win? Mmmhmm. I know.

  • Sometimes it may only feel like a win for him.
  • Sometimes it feels like a gift that keeps on keeping us from getting to sleep at a decent hour.
  • Sometimes it feels like something is wrong with me because while I know this really is supposed to be a gift – I don’t understand why it doesn’t always feel like it?!?

That’s the worst part. Not figuring out the bedroom thing perfectly every single time, and assuming something is wrong. Twenty-two years into marriage, while I have mostly loved and enjoyed this great gift, I’ve also gone through many different stages and changes and each new situation has led me to question:

What is wrong with me?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt that way. 

It’s a horrible feeling, particularly as we strive to enjoy a healthy marriage, love our husbands, and yep, even enjoy ourselves.

Truth —> Nothing is wrong with any of us! We are the way God made us. < —- Truth

Sheila Gregoire is a Christian author and speaker on this subject, and I think she is awesome to do so much research and tackle this necessary, sensitive, and fantastic subject with such care and godliness!

The past few months, I have been listening to and reading her work from her website and from her latest eCourse, Boost Your Libido. I have been so refreshed and encouraged to hear all of her words, including, “You are normal. This is the truth about how a woman thinks. Here’s some godly advice. Here’s what the Bible says about this.”

Not to dismiss the beauty of “the gift of the gas” in any way, but Shiela’s eCourse has been the biggest marriage win-win I have discovered as of late.

God really did intend for married sex to be a win-win. I hope you’ve found this to be true. This is truth.

I’m mentioning all this today because it’s fun to talk about my gas, and because Sheila’s Boost Your Libido eCourse is something I think every married woman should have.

Check it out here. Be blessed!

boost your libido

It is a win-win for you and your husband if you check out the Bible-based Boost Your Libido course. My husband has loved what I’ve learned, and he’s learned a few things too! ;)

Check out the Boost Your Libido eCourse here.

Care to share a special gift your spouse has given you? I’m wondering if your husband has ever topped the gift of gas? That’s a tough one to beat. But speaking of gifts —>

A Surrendered Heart

Remember the Surrendered Heart series I wrote a couple years ago?

I have found it incredibly beneficial to work my way through those lessons every few months to be reminded of my need to constantly be surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and in my marriage. So that you, too, can have all of these writings, journal pages, and scripture printables in your hip pocket at all times, we just finished creating this:

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We turned A Surrendered Heart into a Mini eCourse for everyone! This packet includes 42 pages filled with 6 Lessons with Biblical insights and instructions, worksheets, journal pages, and scripture printables. One of my designers made this packet gorgeous; God, of course, made the marriage truths found inside beautiful, powerful, and glorious.

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I’m offering this because healthy marriages don’t just happen. Often, we need guidance, encouragement, and most importantly, we need frequent reminders to surrender ourselves to the Lord and to let go of selfishness. Like everyone else, through the years, I’ve needed help from trustworthy, godly mentors. I want you to have the above mentioned Boost Your Libido eCourse, by Sheila Gregoire, and this Surrendered Heart mini-course too.

Read more about the Surrendered Heart Mini-eCourse here.

A Surrendered Heart Mini-eCourse
A Surrendered heart is much more than just a book! It’s Bible-based instruction. It’s a workbook so you can make some actionable plans for steps to take to grow in love for your husband. It’s a journal, so you can take the time to reflect, listen, and learn to love your husband more fully through Jesus. And it’s loaded with beautiful Scripture Printables that we can strategically place all throughout our homes so we can constantly be reminded to live through the Spirit as we serve and love our husbands. Join us!
Price: $12.00

Simple Build-a-Spanish-Rice-Bowl

Sometimes I think I have picky eaters at my house. Then I realize that my kids eat a huge variety of foods and I should be grateful.

I mean, when I was a little girl, I liked exactly two varieties of fruits and vegetables: green beans (canned) and apples (with the peeling off). Somehow this kept me alive, I made it to college, and learned to eat salads (to avoid the Freshman 15, of course). Later, I got married and found out about a thing called broccoli. Little by little through the years, I’ve tried and liked dozens of fruits and veggies, expanding my repertoire many times over.

Though I still don’t like jicama.

It’s okay though because I often sit in my recliner snacking on raw spinach, which isn’t even weird, not even a little bit, am I right? I can’t figure out why my teenagers tease me about this.

Well anyway, my kids aren’t really picky, I’m realizing, because they like and eat a big variety of fruits and veggies. But still, we all have our preferences. Some of us really like cheese and some of us think it’s fun to snack on spinach.

Because of our wide variety of preferences, sometimes, instead of making a meal that everyone has to eat whether they like it or not, it’s fun to instead set out a big buffet of choices and everyone can build their own plate or bowl.

I love this idea so much that I include a category for this every single week in our Simple Meals plans. Build-Your-Own buffets are a huge time saver and make for a really fun meal too!

Today’s idea is Build a Spanish Rice Bowl.

I used to make Spanish Rice all in one pot, but some people like corn and some don’t. Some like black beans and some don’t. Some want sour cream and some don’t. I have found it easiest to simply set out all the fixin’s and let everyone build their bowl the way they like.

We each pile in our favorites:

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Then stir it up and dive in.

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The bowl above has a lot of greens (bet you can guess which mom that belongs to), no rice (can we even still call it spanish rice?), a whole lotta ground beef and black beans, and a dollop of sour cream.

But this one got piled up with rice, meat, beans, corn, and salsa without the greens and sour cream.

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So it got stirred up to look like this.

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At the end of the meal, everyone was satisfied and happy because their bowl was filled with everything they wanted and nothing they didn’t want. Of course, many participants in this meal filled their bowl more than once, which is also fun because they could either choose to fill it the same way as the first time or create something new the second (or third) time around.

Build a Spanish Rice Bowl

5.0 from 1 reviews
Simple Build-a-Spanish-Rice-Bowl
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef, seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder, and salt
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can sliced olives
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Fresh greens
  • Cooked corn
Instructions
  1. Set out any or all of the ingredients listed above, along with anything else your family might like.
  2. Allow each person to fill their bowl the way they like.

Those are just some of the foods you might want to set out for your Build a Spanish Rice Bowl buffet. I’d love to hear of any add-in ideas your family might like.

Build a Spanish Rice Bowl

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What Happens When a Mom Takes a Step Back

Well, honestly, sometimes when this mama takes a step back (literally), I fall over (actually). I’m just not as spry or coordinated as I used to be, and also sometimes the reason I’m falling is because I have tripped over the groceries my kids didn’t put away after I asked them twice.

Which leads me to a big point of this post.

It is rare that my kids will do exactly as I ask, immediately after I ask. I often have to say things twice or twelve times. They hardly ever come right when I call. Sometimes I say, “Put all your shoes away before you head up for the night” but then I find all the shoes exactly where they shouldn’t be in the morning. We can be sure that if I didn’t tell them to pick up their sweatshirts, all of the hoodies in the world would stay on the floor forever.

One of my kids always forgets to rinse his dishes even though that’s been our practice after every single meal for every single day of his entire life. Getting my kids out of bed in the mornings requires much more than a cute wake-up song, and I often hear about all the parts of life that aren’t fair.

This is what I do all day. I am Mom. I am blessed to be with my kids all day, but the thing is that I AM WITH MY KIDS ALL DAY.

It is my responsibility to educate and train them in everything ranging from geography to kindness to algebra to selflessness. I’m intentional about preparing them to be godly husbands, leaders, servants, employees, people. So every time one of their weaknesses flares or their response to an assignment, chore, brother, friend, or parent is less than ideal – I am on it! I instruct, reprimand, encourage, cry, offer suggestions, pray, and yep, sometimes even yell.

I see their weaknesses; no doubt they see mine.

What I sometimes fail to see is their strengths. Their gifts, talents, leadership abilities, Christ-like hearts, tenderness, humor, care, compassion – those are all there in my kids too, in abundance. But I all too often forget to notice the greatness through all the crusty socks that never made it upstairs to the basket.

It’s when I take a step back that I see the good that’s been there all along. It’s there in spite of me and even a little bit because of me. Mostly it’s there because God is at work in my kids and He wants their good even more than I.

When I step back I see…

  • My oldest, almost 20 now, being loved by so many on the college campus, taking a lead he doesn’t even know he’s taking, just because people are drawn to him. He rocks at videography, already utilizing his skills professionally. When he talks about his special girl, his voice is gentle and sweet. He loves the Lord and continues to learn what it means to live for Him.

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Photo cred goes to the man himself

When I step back I see…

  • My 17-year old being a leader on the basketball court, encouraging his younger teammates, motivating his youth group peers to join him in a service project, teaching younger kids how to play soccer, talking sweetly to an elderly lady. I hear the music he creates and I am blown away that my kid has ability like this. I hear his poetry, the words of which tell me of his talent and of his heart for God.

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When I step back I see…

  • My 15-year old coming out of his shell, making people laugh, talking to me about the sweet girl he likes, getting the door for people coming in behind him, and spoon feeding our disabled friend. I see him cheerfully making trips back and forth from apartment to truck as he helps another disabled friend load heavy furniture. I hear him confidently singing a solo on stage for the first time, fulfilling roles we never could have dreamed he’d be willing to step into. I hear him pray at night, amazed at his growing relationship with God.

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When I step back I see…

  • My 12-year old being the “big kid” that the little kids at church flock to. I see him confidently teasing adults and making them laugh. I see him hugging the man whose wife is dying, making the gentleman smile through his tears. I watch him on stage, acting as if he was born to be in character. I see him excited to finally have a chance to go on a mission trip this summer with his older brothers, and I see him with tears in his eyes as he says, “Mom and Dad, I am ready to be baptized.”

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When I take a step back, I see all of this, and I don’t even have to look hard. This is all there because at their very core, this is who my children are.

In the thick of parenting, instructing, teaching, planning, dreaming, longing, and probably not sleeping quite enough – too often parents are only able see to the tip of the arguments and to the end of the unmade bed. Stepping back, we see the entire picture – the one that is beautifully painted with caring children, strengths that shine through the weaknesses, and a God who is at work to bring out His purposes for these darlings who are dearest to us.

To all who are in very middle of this parenting adventure: Take a step back. What are your children doing well? Where do they shine? In what ways have they grown? Bring it all to mind. Sit there for a while, and bask in the sweetness. It’s peaceful there and it is very real.

It is in this place, the place of stepping back, that we can remember our purpose and joy as parents. We remember that good shines brighter than bad, and that God is powerfully at work in both our children and in us.

Then hopefully, next time we trip over the backpack that got dropped right in the middle of the floor, we can recall to mind the heart of the child that left it there, even as we holler once again for said child to come put the backpack where it goes before we throw it into the fireplace.

What Happens When a Mom Takes a Step Back

Please take a turn! I got to share about each of my sons. Will you please take a minute, step back to see the good in each of your kids, and leave a comment to share that good with us?

5 Top Family-Friendly Recipes

I suppose it’s obvious that if I’m sharing a recipe with you here, it’s because my family loves it. But what I really enjoy is when you try a recipe and send me feedback about how much your family loves it too!

Here are some messages I’ve received recently. I’m sharing them here because everyone needs to know how these recipes save time, money, and are a hit with families! If you haven’t tried these yet, here are a few reasons you should. :)

About Simple Pizza Chicken Bake, Pam said: I made this for our small group last night, and they scraped the pan clean. My husband asked me to make it again. It was a hit! Thank you so much for your fun and easy recipes.

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About Last Minute Creamy Bacon Spaghetti Amber said: I’ve made this 3 times now, and it’s definitely a family favourite! I always double the cream cheese, because… cream cheese. Yum! So good. Thanks for another great recipe!

And Tara said: Laura, I just made this tonight after we spent an extra long time at the park. We ran home and got in the door at 5:30pm, and I had nothing planned for dinner. Thankfully I had bacon and cream cheese, so I threw this together and steamed some broccoli, and served it with a side of applesauce. It was on the table at 6! So easy, and it was a big hit with everyone in the family—including the 3 year old twins that are very picky these days.

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About Simple Chicken Cheeseballs with a Kick with a Kick, Megan said: These were SO GOOD tonight that we all just called them “amaze-balls”. Thank you!

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About Homemade Vanilla Wafers, Jennifer said: This is definitely a keeper!  Hubby kept going on & on about how ‘good these vanilla wafers are!’ He had a hard time not eating them. This comes from someone who likes his white flour, white sugar type cookies. Thanks!!! But thanks from all 6 of my children, too.

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About Simple 3-Cheese Crock Pot Pasta, Tosha said: My 3 year old son made this today! He added spinach because that is his favorite vegetable! I love that even he could do this with a little supervision from mama!

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Have you tried any recipes here recently that you love? I’d love to hear how they worked for you.

Also, it’s been really fun to hear feedback from Simple Meals subscribers. If you get Simple Meals Planning Packets in your inbox every week, share here what you love about them!