Friday, December 9, 2011


Sometimes I think this is a mother's motto:

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."
- Colossians 3:1-4

Here's to the hidden season motherhood is for us...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

grace when there's BIG news!

It has been quite a while.

I know, I'm sorry. Forgive me?

See, here's the thing... We had an unexpected but very welcomed bit of news.

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Indeed. Due early June 2012. Very exciting, yes, we know.

But, it has been difficult.  I am by no means complaining. After all, children are a blessing from the Lord and a reward (Psalms 127).  It has been tough though. I started working again a few months ago--part-time, but it's still cutting into the time I spent homemaking and with Aaliya.

While struggling to figure out exactly how to balance everything out, we figure out that we were expecting our second little bundle of joy. Then, comes morning sickness, bad morning sickness.  Part of the struggle was that while pregnant with Aaliya, I suffered with ante-natal depression and I was starting to feel the same way this time around.  I was doing absolutely everything I could to treat it and beat it. Trying to balance that, working, homemaking, and dealing with a very active, very cute toddler (yikes, I have a toddler now!) I have been a little overwhelmed and under the weather-generally.  Sooo, my writing suffered.

I am so very sorry.

The recurring theme through all this however seems to be one thing; Christ has given me and will continue to give me enough grace to last for today. Tomorow is of no importance because today has enough worries of its own. 

He willl provide just what I need, the day I need it.  Not a second too late and not a moment too soon. So, today, it seemed grace abounded.  I was able to finally clean the bedrooms, one of two bathrooms and the kitchen. I did three loads of laundry and am almost fully caught up with it. I was able to get a head start on several Christmas cards, and I cooked (and cleaned after) dinner, as well as take a nice long bath and write a blog. Praise the Lord, His grace abounds.

Our living room, dining room and guest bath are still messy, but there will be enough grace for that another day. I wasn't the most patient Mommy today, but there will be enough grace for that tomorrow.  There are still about 50 things on my to-do list, but God will grant me grace for them another day (or five!).

I pray you'll stick with me as I kinda manuever through these uncharted waters and try to manage in blogging on top of everything else.  Pray for me as I pray for you.  I covet prayers, so I will sow prayers.

Here's to whatever grace He chooses to grant to us tomorrow!

Monday, October 17, 2011

menu plan oct 17-23

Last week was a bad week.  No, really, it was a bad week.  The only good thing is that, well... It was last week. Needless to say, a lot of repeats this week and I won't be eating Brown Bag Burritos for a while!  I didn't get a chance to make *anything* of what I had intended.  This week's already starting off better, so let's see.

Pancake and Sausage Muffins (x2)
Bagels and Cream Cheese (x3)
Cornmeal (x2)

Hot Dogs && Apples (x2)
Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches (x3)
Leftovers (x2)

Soup No, it wasn't from scratch.  It was instant.  I was tired, ok?
Cream Cheese Chicken with Broccoli and Pasta I'm so excited about this recipe! :)
Taco Potatoes with Corn and black bean salad

Rice, Beans && Pollo Guisado and Corn
Baked Potatoes with Fish Fillets and Salad
Taco Salad with Rice, Beans, Shrimp Scampi and Salad

Pita && Hummus (Mmm!), Granola, Apple and Caramel (Yayy Fall!) and Cookies for Mama (only a couple of times as a destressor! haha)

What're you cooking up this week?

*This post is linked with Keeper of the Home's Plan-it-don't-Panic series!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the supermom myth busted!

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I don't know what it is about super-moms that appeal to us so much.  I know, I know, it is quite tempting to have the natural ability to do absolutely everything on our to-do list, raise perfect children and have perfect marriages meanwhile our home looks like it stepped out of a Pottery Barn catalogue.  Yeah, I know.

There's one thing that Supermom misses though.  The beauty of the village and community.  

"It takes a village to raise a child." --African Proverb

I love that African proverb.  I think it's so true.  I personally think it takes a village to do anything worthwhile for the Kingdom, especially related to families. 

We need a village to support us in our journeys through marriage in a divorce-minded culture.
We need a village to support us in our parenting Christ-loving, holiness-minded children of the living God.
We need a village.

And yet, we often don't like to ask for help.  We refuse help even.  We want to give the impression that we can do it all on our own.  But we really can't. There are times in our lives when help is imminent.  Right after the birth of a child; during the first trimester of a pregnancy; when we become ill; when someone we love has become ill, and on and on and on it goes.

We jump at the opportunity of helping others when their time arrives, yet cower back when it's our time and we refuse to admist we really do need the help.  Today, I want to challenge you to accept help when you so need it.  It doesn't mean you (or I) are not Supermoms, it means we're human and we've been specificially designed by our very intelligent and all-knowing God for community and partnership and relationship for one another.

Monday, October 10, 2011

menu plan Oct 10-16

This past week was a great one menu-wise.  We managed to stick with our plan with zero detours. Woop! =) This week is going to be one with a couple new recipes.  This next one coming up has been, by far, the toughest for menu planning.  Publix's deal were okay, nothing spectacular which made for a whole lot harder for menu planning.  Especially since we've run out of a lot of essentials. Hopefully I can get through it as seamlessly as I got through this past week.  But I need to head to the grocery store tomorrow after work, because we didn't get a chance to this past weekend.

I'm having a hard time with lunches.  I'm finding this is probably my biggest challenge, since I need to plan for both Caleb, myself and Aaliya with our varying schedules.  It's gotta be something quick and easy but filling at the same time (and preferably high in protein).  I would love any suggestions ya'll have!

Warm Vanilla Soother/Egg Whites and granola for Aaliya  Gonna give this a try. It's high in protein but I don't have to actually taste (hopefully!) the eggs. Let's pray this is good!
Pancake & Sausage Muffins (x3) I will get a great deal on turkey sausage at Publix this week, so I plan on making a big batch and freezing them!
Cornmeal (x2)
Scrambled Egg Mix and Tortillas Mexican Style! :)

Sandwich (x2)
Brown Bag Burritos
That's all I got. :l

Cream Cheese Chicken with Broccoli I'm so excited to try this crockpot recipe! If it's good, I'll post it up!
Brown Bag Burritos Yepp, they've become a family (especially Mommy!) favorite
Rice with Gandules and Avocado Salad
Taco Potatoes with Corn and Black Bean Salad
Rice with Pinto Beans and Pollo Guisado Crockpot Recipe; it's a slowly cooked spanish-style chicken
Cream of Pumpkin Soup Again, if it's any good, I'll post the recipe!
BBQ at Schepler's Home on Sunday

What are ya'll cooking up this week?

*this post is linked with Keeper of the Home's Plan-It-Don't-Panic series. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

what I love about Sundays

I'm not into country music.

Okay, maybe I am- sort of.

Either way, on our way home today the song that kept playing in my mind and in my heart is Craig Morgan's "What I love about Sundays"
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I've really wanted to create some sort of special traditions for our family on Sundays. I want our children to grow up looking forward to Sundays.  We are incredibly blessed to be a part of an amazing spiritual community that is not just a great support system, but they have truly become a part of our family.  My children call these families "Aunt and Uncle" and they relate to their friends as "cousins."  We have learned to love another and do life together not just in word, but in deed.

We love this. We encourage this. Every Sunday, we head off to our weekly celebration service (that's what we call Church) and then we make plans to go spend time with our Church family.  Whether we head off to a restaurant (it's the only time we allow ourselves to dine-out outside of special occasions) or cook with another family or a little of both, we spend time doing life together, playing, enjoying fellowship and serving one another. The men sometimes go off and play some basketball (because apparently, football tends to get a little too physical) while the ladies enjoy one another over a cup of coffee and great conversation.  The kids get to play with "new" toys and their friends every week.  It's such a beautiful day.

And I want to continue to make it special, weekly. For both, my children and our extended family.  I want Sundays to be the day when all is in order, and rest reigns.  A day where we rest solely on the love and grace of Christ and the wonderful families He's brought into our lives. I'm incredibly committed to this purpose.  Sunday Dinners will be a sacred, glorious time in our family's lives.  I promise!  

I'm taking suggestions. What do you do to make Sundays special?

That's what I love about Sunday
Sing along as the choir sways
Every verse of Amazin' Grace
And then we shake the Preacher's hand
Go home, into your blue jeans
Have some chicken and some baked beans
Pick a back yard football team
Nothin' much of anythingThat's what I love about Sunday

It's 35 cents off a ground round baby, cut that coupon out

That's what I love about Sunday
Cat-napping on the porch swing
You curled up next to me
The smell of jasmine wakes us up
Take a walk down a back road
Tackle box and a cane pole
Carve our names in that white oak
And steal a kiss as the sun fades
That's what I love about Sunday

Oh, new believers gettin' baptized
Momma's hands raised up high
Havin' a Hallelujah good time
A smile on everybody's face
That's what I love about Sunday

Friday, October 7, 2011

the secret to a successful, happy marriage

It's kind of funny, ironic in a God sorta way.  The last week and a half or so, many friends and fellow bloggers have zoned in on the subject of marriage.  Melany wrote an amazing post on loving our husbands a couple days back.  Then today, Mary Jo surprised me by writing on six ways to love your husband (even when you're exhausted) and of course Darlene is writing about marriage all month long over at Time-Warp Wife.

It's so beautiful how the Spirit of God is highlighting this area with so many young and seasoned believers!  The covenant relationship of marriage is supposed to demonstrate to the world the covenant relationship we, as believers, have with the Son of God.  He is likened to a Bridegroom throughout the Old Testament (Is 54:5, Isaiah 61:10, the entire book of Hosea), Gospels (Matthew 22:1-14) and even at the culmination in the book of Revelation (Rev 19:7-9). 

And yet, our fallen, sinful human nature in partnership with darkness has dampened this relationship that is so precious and dear to the heart of God. Caleb and I were talking last night-- one of those deep down, honest, raw, "this-is-how-I-really-feel" talks.  As we both spoke and bore our hearts, the common thread in every word, in every whisper of the heart was humanity; broken humanity.

That's what it kept coming back to.  And with the whisper of our human hearts came the whisper of the Spirit of God.  Suddenly I knew the secret to every successful, happy, seemingly-perfect marriage I've ever known or may think I know. (writer's note: I am not so naive as to think any marriage is perfect, but you and I both know of godly, mature, inspiring marriages that we'd like to emulate) 

The secret to those marriages is simple and yet so very complex; grace.  Not the noun grace, but rather the verb grace.  You know the one who's definition is such:
  • the granting of a favour or the manifestation of goodwill, esp by a superior
  • a sense of propriety and consideration for others
  • mercy; clemency
Yeah. I kinda sighed heavily too. If only I learned to show grace instead of nag, or word-vomit all over him about my day when he comes home.  If only I learned that in all my insecurities and fears, he's not perfect either and he carries a set of imperfections just as well as I do.  I think if I learned to do that, I'd love my husband better and I'd be a whole lot happier.  Who says happily ever after doesn't exist?

What do you think?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

menu planning Oct 3-9

This was quite the successful week with meal planning! :)  I am so very excited about continuing this and I've already seen our meal times (and budget) benefit from pre-planning.  This week I managed to make the Mama's Mac and Cheese recipe I picked up, and can I just say... we will never revert back to instant mac and cheese.  It's super easy and so much fun! I also *finally* made the brown bag burritos and they were a huge success.  We ended up having them twice for dinner (Mama wasn't feeling so good Saturday) and once for lunch.  I also sent some to my friend Rachel who just had her baby boy Noah Orion :) And hopefully they enjoyed them as much as we did.  We still have some leftover so we plan on having them for dinner once this week

I will admit, however, I've slacked on baking and haven't fully made the Amish Bread, but fully intend to make a batch Tuesday morning. :l  I've instead made eggs for Aaliya and skipped breakfast myself (eggs make me barf... no it's not mental, it's furreal).  Just a cup of coffee and an early lunch for me.

It's a super simple week.  Like I mentioned last week, financially, my budget was cut in half, so last week's grocery shopping has to last me until at least Friday. :l

Cornmeal (x2) Lots of it this week.  Budget, budget, budget. 
Amish Bread (x2)
Scrambled Eggs

Turkey and Cheese Sandwiches (x3) Finally running out of bread... :l  Will probably go to the Farmer's Market to pick up some more. Sandwiches really work
Leftovers (x2)
Hot Dogs with Veggies
After Church Birthday Party on Sunday

Rice, Red Beans, Shrimp && Steamed Veggies
Stuffed Chicken Breast w/Sweet Red-Pepper Sauce & Pasta
Chipotle Salad with Mexican Rice
Brown Bag Burritos
Garlic Shrimp Pasta
Sunday Dinner out with friends

Whatever we can rummage. :l

What are you cooking up this week?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

homemaking with little children

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I roll over in bed, awakened by a bubbling one year old ready for the day ahead.  On a good day, I wake up, change her diaper and pop her in her high chair to have breakfast.  While she feeds herself breakfast and starts the day off with either Baby Einstein or Praise Baby, I get myself somewhat prepared for the day; brushing my teeth, changing, etc, etc.

And then it begins.

My day is now full of chasing my little one around, constant redirecting and teaching as well as lots and lots of cuddles and kisses.  It is the most rewarding job I've ever had, yet the most challenging.  This beautiful role I play isn't just rewarding, it's so time consuming I find myself having little time for anything else.

This part my friends is a Catch-22.

I remember the advice people gave me while Aaliya was a newborn.  "Don't expect your home to be clean anymore, you'll no longer have any time to clean."  "Make use of that nesting period!"  And on and on and on it went.

No offense to any of those people, but I really don't know they were very right.  Having a clean home while Aaliya was a newborn was relatively easy.  As an infant, the attention she demanded was minimal compared to the attention she needs now.  When she wasn't mobile, life was pretty much cake and keeping a clean was the icing on top.

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Now, I'm working from sunup to way past sundown and feel like there's always still such a long to-do list for the next day.  Although I'm no time-management pro, I tend to be pretty focused when I'm at home.  And still, the house is just not clean enough, laundry is never done (we have entirely too many clothes), and I just can never get to those dirty toilets and vacuuming that floor.  Occasionally, I try to get motivated to do things like Sarah Mae's 31 Days Challenge and such, but I just can't seem to do more than a couple of days at a time. Between working outside the home, working inside the home and then the few ministry roles I've taken on with the House of Prayer (these are all very minimal roles that I fulfill after the baby's asleep), I just can't commit to the exact same schedule daily.

So, what do we do?

  1. Set goals and work to achieve them, but keep homemaking responsibilities to a minimum during this season.  Loving our husbands and babies is far greater than homemaking.
  2. Take care of yourself;  When mama isn't taken care of, mama can't take care of anyone else.  I don't necessarily agree that Mama should take care of herself first but I do believe that prioritizing ourselves is of the essence.
  3. Keep It Simple, Silly;  At this point in my life, it is simply realistic for me to take on extensive organization projects and to do anything more than basic upkeep cleaning.  Even though in my overachieving mind this isn't ideal, I have to understand the beauty found in Ecclesiastes 3... There is a season for every activity under the sun.  This season is devoted to that active one year old that has stolen my heart, not to purging and focusing solely on my home.
  4. Become an excellent steward with your time; Needless to say, with the litmited time we have for anything other thn child-rearing, this is an excellent time to reevaluate how we spend our time.  Cutting out TV, Facebook and any other time-traps in order to achieve more at home, during our time at home may be the solution.
  5. Kick off laziness!  I am such a lazy person by nature.  Yet I find that when I purpose my mind and heart to kick off every ounce of laziness, I (obviously... hehe) get so much more done.  I find that the pros of being proactive instead of being lazy far outweigh the pros of remaining lazy.  And that keeps me motivated to keep goig.
  6. Find rest in Christ; I have realized that I was depending on that 5:15p time to show up on every clock of our house because I knew that's when Caleb would get home.  I wanted rest, and would often attempt to find it in front of the TV.  It was almost like when he got in through the door, I clocked out of the mother and homemaker role (mostly) and would use the excuse that rest was needed.  Yet I have found that when we actively set our minds and thoughts to Christ, I am well rested throughout the day and I am able to manage our home a lot better.  Now, instead of mindlessly vegging in front of the TV after Aaliya goes to bed, I clean the kitchen and get ourselves ready for the next day.  It's made for an easier clean-up routine and I am very content.
How do you maintain a consistent cleaning routine and parent little ones at the same time?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

the heart behind the ministry at home

editor's note: Once again, it's catch-up day for me in cyberspace, so don't be surprised if I have a couple of posts up today. =) 

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Proverbs 31 and Titus 2:4-7 are two portions of Scripture that are quoted to and by women when it comes to the ministry at home.  I have found that it causes one of two responses; either a woman embraces it full force and makes it her life goal to embody these Spirit-filled descriptions, or a woman disdains it and passes it off to other women stating that Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 is simply "not her ministry."

I can't tell you how many women have spoken to me and have mentioned that Titus 2 is "my ministry" and "my calling."  They go on and on encouraging my heart (and I am so very grateful for that) yet neglect their own in the role and calling of Proverbs 31 and Titus 2.  Beloved wives, mommies and homemakers, Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 aren't just a specific ministry some of us are called to, it is a guide to how He will establish holiness and love in our hearts as women in these roles.  If we've said "I do" to that man we've loved, then we are called to be Proverbs 31 and Titus 2; if we have little ones or elder ones running around or running off to college, then we are called to be Proverbs 31 and Titus 2; if we stay at home, work in a secular place or serve the ministry outside the home, whether it's part-time or full-time then we are called to be Proverbs 31 and Titus 2.

These precious portions in Scriptures (along with many others including 1 Samuel 1-2, Ephesians 6, 1 Peter 3 and Malachi 4) are clearly written out for our benefit, it is an introduction to our identity.  Not because of the works we do, but the condition of our hearts.  It is possesing the heart of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 that causes holiness to grow within us as wives, mothers and women.  It isn't the works and the acts of the Proverbs 31 woman, but rather that her actions demonstrate where her heart and her priorities are.

Matthew 6:21 teaches us that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  The impossible-to-attain-personality of Proverbs 31 had her heart set on the very gifts and blessings Jesus Christ gave to her to steward, shephard and serve while on this earth.  So really, when we serve and prioritize our home with a Titus 2, Proverbs 31 heart we are setting our hearts on eternity, understanding that our home, our husbands and our beautiful children-filled hearths are really the way we establish treasures in heaven.

There is a unique grace for us wives and moms and it is a glorious thing to partake in it.  I am convinced that His grace will transform me into the Proverbs 31 woman with every Titus 2 quality.  It is a glorious ministry and if that is all I've achieved at the end of my life ministerally I will confidently meet the Father knowing I have been a good steward of the talent which He has entrusted to me.

* this post is linked up with Titus2esdays and Women Living Well Wednesdays

a [late] menu plan

It's catch-up day in the Arrazolo household (web-wise at least).  It's no secret life's been slightly crazy and busy these last few weeks.  During my transition to becoming a working mom and homemaker, I think I'm getting a pattern down, but it's leaving less room and time for blogging and such.  I promise I will get back into the swing of things eventually.

I'm loving this menu-planning business.  This week our grocery budget was cut in a little more than half and my first instict (truhfully) was to panic.  However, after an hour of Copeland, FM Static and various worship artists, I was finally able to figure out a menu that would accomodate our budget.  In the past, this would've never worked.  I would have panicked; cried; yelled; and etc etc. Seriously.  I would've made the exact same two meals just because it was all we had.

I can now (proudly) say that through the art of cutting corners (in such fabulous ways!) we are eating well and with somewhat of a variety this week.  One of the ways I discovered cutting corners (besides couponing! woo-hoo) is making things from scratch.  Granted, ya'll may have been doing this for years, but I grew up in an instant sort of family.  This is all new to me.  And may I say, I love it!

This week was a little hectic (what else is new?) because my friend Rachel was in labor Monday and Tuesday and I was in the hospital with her both days.  Monday I ended up making an instant-dish that was quick and easy and Tuesday Caleb sadly fended for himself.  I didn't leave the hospital till about 10p that night.  But what a joy!  I find that having a back-up "instant" dish is a great help for us because in times like this past week when I was beyond exhaustation and it was super late, we still ate a decent meal without a great deal effort.  It's what works for our family. :)  Anyway, without further adeau, here's our week's menu (including what he had yesterday and Monday)
Cornmeal (x3)  It's very affordable, easy and the family loves it
Eggs with Sliced Turkey, Cheese and Salsa
Amish Friendship Bread (x2)
Waffles Today's breakfast

Tuna Sandwiches Yepp, I still have bread. Lots of it
Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches

Chipotle Salad
Vegetable Soup Helloooooo Fall! :)
Tomato Basil Chicken with Garlic Noodles One of hubby's favorite.  He's having a rough day, so I'm gonna surprise him tonight! :)
Brown Bag Burritos
Arroz with Gandules and Salad  Puertorican Signature Dish... yeahhh
Mama's Mac and Cheese w/Crabcakes and Salad
Open Sunday Dinner

Cold Cereal

What are ya'll eating this week?

this post is linked to Keeper of the Home's Plan-It-Don't-Panic Series

Sunday, September 18, 2011

menu plan and an update of week one.

Week two of menu-planning and I've got to say... I'm already loving the money-saving bits and pieces.  I went grocery shopping today and spent $85 and got *everything* we needed. (Woo-Hoo!)  This included more fresh and fruits and veggies than we've had in quite the while and enough meats and snacks to get us through the week. 

Even though I'm excited about this coming week, I didn't exactly follow the full menu plan this past week.  I had to improvise one night (or two) because of a Memorial Service (always a bummer) and then it's been absolutely hectic the past week around these parts (which means a very, very messy house) so a couple of the meals I was oober excited about trying, I didn't.  And honestly, as usual, I think I tried to take on too much at once.  This week, our menu-plan is a little more familiar, a little more modest but a whole lot yummier. :)

I did however try and make the Honey Muffins and the Homemade Corndog Muffins. The corndogs were pretty good.  Aaliya enjoyed them a lot which is always a bonus for Mama! The honey muffins on the other hand... Well, let's just say, I'm pretty positive I missed some kind of ingredient because they were salty as all-get-up. Yeahhh.

Anyway, here is the menu for this coming week.  It should be a pretty calm week, outside of the usual work, prayer room hours and Aaliya's got an appointment to get blood drawn (poor baby!) Thursday.  Okay, so not so calm, but calmer.

- Cornmeal (x2)
- Waffles (x2) (I got a great deal on Van's Organic Waffles this week at Publix, so they'll be great for quick bfasts)
- Scrambled Eggs
- Amish Friendship Bread (x2)

- Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches (x3)
- Tuna Fish Sandwiches (x2)
- Hotdogs and Raw Veggies
- Sunday Lunch with Church Family
(I got a great deal on homemade bread at the Farmer's Market last week, so I bought 3 loaves and froze two of them.  We'll be having sandwiches a lot over the next few weeks. Hehe)

- Crab Enchiladas with Mexican Rice
- Stuffed Chicken Breast with Garlic, Pepper and Tomato Penne-Pasta
- Chili & Cornbread (Hoorahh for Fall!)
- Baked Potatoes with Chicken & Vegetables (Crockpot Dish.  I just cut up potatoes, chicken, and veggies, season to taste and let them sit in the crockpot all day.  Super-easy!)
- Chipotle Salad (My version of it.  I'll write a post about it soon)
- Mashed Potatoes with BBQ Chicken and Salad
- Bean Burritos (We're normally still full from our lunch with Church Family)

- Nuts, Fruits, Granola and Cold Cereal (Hubbers' Fav!)

What are you cooking up in the kitchen this week?

this post is linked up with Keeper of the Home's Plan-It Don't Panic series

Friday, September 16, 2011

transparency and honor: the line is drawn

I sat Tuesday evening listening to a group of young ladies.  Most around the same age as me, some a little younger; most in a completely different phase of life.

I was the only wife and mom sitting in the room.  The purpose of the group was one simple, profound and incredibly terrifying word; transparency.  The group is intended to edify, exhort one another as women of God in the very journeys we walk.  It is a group of godly women coming together and whispering in the other's ears; "You can do this.  You're already doing this."  Our purpose is community, maturity and growth.  That's all we crave; community with one another, maturity in Christ and growth in His Spirit. 

And as I sat there, I decided I would be vulnerable.  It's not my forte, but I'll give it a try.  Then the Spirit gently tugged at my heart.  I knew He was speaking.  And what He was spoke was about as unexpected as the sun refusing to shine.

"The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." --Proverbs 31:11-12

Uhm. Lord?

It suddenly dawned on me that I would be the only married person in the group potentially sharing and expressing transparency in regards to marriage.  And He was reminding me that even in transparency I am to honor and respect my husband.

As women, we have a nasty tendency of gossip that comes all too easily.  Prayer meetings and "venting" sessions with girlfriends become events where gossip and slandering is covered with a spiritual facade, but the Lord our God is not mocked and we will give reckoning for every word spoken.  As a wife, I am commanded to honor and do my husband good all the days of my life. In the name of transparency and healing, we verbally assault our husbands, our families, our friends and any one else we may be offended with, without a second thought to what that may do to their hearts.

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit." --Proverbs 18:21

It isn't about hiding away and not being transparent with our sisters in the Lord.  It isn't about pretending that everything is honky-dory and our marriages are perfect.  It is about watching the words that come out of our mouths and being women that can be trusted.  It's about asking the Lord to pour grace upon our lips so that we may always speak life into our marriages, into our families and children and into any and every other aspect of our journey that we struggle with. 

I desire for my husband to know that although I am incredibly transparent about the glory and the challenges to our marriage, I will always speak words that bring life to him and will never dishonor him, ever. I am hardly a pro, but have been diligently praying about this for several days and feel a strong urge to share the little practicals to what all this entails.

  1. When being transparent, choose your friends wisely:  There will always be someone with an ear to hear.  Especially a girlfriend.  However when sharing things in regards to our marriages, we should be very picky and choosy as to whom we share it with.  It should be just a few Spirit-filled women who will counsel you with the Word of God and not emotional support.  The purpose of transparency isn't venting, it's correction and growth.  Be careful that you do not choose women who will merely tell you what you want to hear, but choose women who live and dwell in His Word that will support your spiritual growth more than your emotions.
  2. When being transparent, choose your words wisely: My general is this; if I wouldn't feel comfortable saying it with Caleb within earshot, I probably shouldn't say it.  I understand that a portion of transparency is to figure things out together by the Counsel of the Word of God, however, if the manner which I'm describing the situation is said in a way that I know would make my husband angry, uncomfortable or etc, I shouldn't say it. 
  3. When being transparent, BE transparent:  Be honest with your mistakes and your downfalls. That's the whole purpose!
What about you?  What are some guidelines and boundaries you've established when being transparent in regards to your marriage?

P.S. We will be taken a short break this week from The Devotional with Littles series. It's been a very busy week and I'm not sure I'll get an opportunity to post again today or tomorrow with our series.  Thanks for your patience! :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

He is the potter, I am the clay; a song of praise admist a sea of thunder

It has been quite a breaking few weeks.  Little Avery is a member of our Church family who has been fighting for his life since the womb.  K. Steffens passed away last Saturday after a devastating fight with cancer.  The Johnson family, one of our dearest friends are moving away about 2,000 miles away. (Leaving us. Here. Alone. So alone... hehe. Hope you're reading this Jess!)

Sometimes it just feels like our world is crumbling.  Too much too soon, so to speak.  Seems like some measure of brokeness meets me no matter which way I turn. 

And at first, I was angry, hurt.  Then, I became complacent and accepting.  Now I feel like rejoicing.  It seems Christ, in His mercy, desires our eternal good more than our earthly good, and although I can't explain to 15 year old Felipe, whose best friend was his father, why he passed, I can rejoice in knowing that Romans 8:28 surrounds him and all of us.  I can't explain to Jenny why her son has to fight for his life (with Christ leading the way) but I can rejoice remembering that He is our deliverer both to life and from death and He has made everything beautiful in its time. 

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." --Romans 8:28 

I often hear the excuse that too many bad things happen in this world for someone to believe or to trust in God.  Oh, but if we could just see the eternal perspective we would rejoice and praise that these events take place for our chastening and our good.  He truly is Sovereign and not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowing and His approval. I can trust that He will bring all things to His good purposes and that He will not fail me.

Glory to God in the Highest! May the Son of God live forevermore and be exalted in this weak and trembling heart!

I encourage you today.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

Praise in the storm.  Dance in the storm.
Acknowledge and embrace Him in the storm.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Me? A menu-plan?

Okay. I have to fess up. I've never been good at menu-planning.  As a free spirit, I find it constricting.  It's true.  I mean what if I just don't want the chicken burritos today?  I don't want to have to eat the chicken burritos.  I refuse. I refuse. I refuse.

What a baby! Sometimes I have the tendency to act like a very misbehaved toddler. :P  Well, not anymore.

One of my goals as a homemaker is to reduce the cost of weekly food as well as provide natural and organic foods as often as possible.  We'd also like to be a little more self-sufficient, but that's for when the Lord blesses us with a house that has a garden-able (is that a word?) backyard.  Living on the third floor of an apartment complex doesn't make good for chicken keeping and gardening... just sayin'.

So, when  I saw Keeper of the Home's new Plan It-Don't Panic series I was inspired to join in on the fun and be effective in stewarding all of our resources.  My goal was to take all the things that comprised of my grocery shopping list (aka the things that were on sale and I had coupons for!) and come-up with a menu that would incorporate all those items.

Caleb and I have also decided to purchase our meats in bulk once a month and visit a local farmer's market for our weekly fruits and veggies.  I'm currently looking into partnering with a chicken farm (helloooo fresh eggs and chicken!) and hopefully get into some kind of co-opish deal.  Pray that I receive wisdom and revelation on how to go about doing this, please!

Personally, I've also decided I want to try (at minimum) one new recipe a week.  I find myself making the exact same things over and over... and over... and over again.  Gotta keep it fresh in the kitchen fo' my man! (Okay, that was cheesy. I may have to go back and delete that statement).  Brace yourself because this week I'm attempting two new recipes AND some freezer cooking.

So, without further adieu, here's my Menu Plan for the week of September 12-19

Cornmeal (x3)
Amish Friendship Bread & Fruit (x2)
Honey Muffins (x2)

Sandwiches (x2)
Corndog Muffins (x2)

Mexican Crab Enchiladas (Mmm! Sooo excited to try these!)
Marinated Chicken Breasts with brown rice & steamed veggies
Pastelon (the one I make is slightly different, but it's close)
Rice & Beans Burritos (freezing a ton of these, hopefully)
Chicken Carbonara
Lime-Baked Tilapia with salad
Rice with Gandules (chick-peas in english?) and ground beef (leftover from making pastelon)
Fruits & Vanilla Wafers

What're you cooking up in the kitchen this week?

P.S. Thanks Mary Jo for letting me "steal" some of the recipes on your blog and for the coconut flour, hehe.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Devotional Time for Littles: The how's to the what

writer's note: This is part three of the Devotional with Littles series. If you've missed it, here's part one and part two.

So one week ago, Caleb and I decided we'd teach Aaliya the concept of praise first and foremost so that she will always accept His Word, whether stern and painful or gracious and joyful, with an attitude of praise. It's a great concept... in theory. But this week, we spent a lot of prayer time trying to figure out exactly how to do this. Aaliya is one and not very still very often, so incorporating a devotional time that would keep her attention was, is and has been, a task of gi-normous proportions (okay, I may have slightly exaggerated). Nevertheless, armed with Jesus in one arm and faith in the other, I've dove in to see what it is He requires of us.

Here is what the Lord has required of us during this season of our lives as our devotional time with Aaliya;
  • Start off with a praise song she can really dance to and enjoys and stick with it! We want our children to know that praising Jesus is enjoyable, fun and worth every bit of our attention and abilities. We also know children crave routine and we desire to create routine even during our devotional time.
  • Read a Psalm (or portion thereof if it's a long one) quickly thereafter. Little Miss has a very short attention span, but by keeping music in the background (lower than when we're praising Him with songs, of course) she stays focused long enough for us to read at least 6 or 7 verses. We've decided to just start at Psalm 1 and make our way through. We're not sure how long this will take, but we know it'll keep us tied over for a while (or until the Lord leads us elsewhere).
  • Choose a verse or two to focus on and pray them over herself and her family. Though Aaliya's vocabulary isn't ready for her to utter tangible prayers, we want to teach her how to pray, and even more, how to pray Scripture over herself and family members. I do most of the praying, but Aaliya sits with Mommy (okay, sometimes wiggles with Mommy) and I say a 20-30 second prayer focusing on those Scriptures so that she can be exposed to praying Scriptures.
  • We finish off by choosing another fun praise song and praising. This time though, we bring out the "big-guns" and we play the djembe, her tambourine and any other "instrument" that will make a joyful noise unto the Lord! She loves it.
Sometimes, depending on how many wiggles Aaliya's got going on, we'll play an additional worship song and I'll read her a story (enter in Noah, David and all that jazz). We get to do this maybe once or twice a week, depending. Eventually, we'll incorporate it into the daily routine, but we're still introducing her to Devotional Time and getting her used to the consistency and routine of it.

What does your devotional routine look like with your kiddies? Babies or young kids, it doesn't matter! I'd like to know. =)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

my not-so-funny "aha!" parenting moment

It was Monday night and we were celebrating Labor Day.  Not sure what exactly we celebrate during the holiday (call me un-patriotic, go ahead), but we were celebrating and spending time with some friends nontheless. 

And then 9:30pm hit.  And I'm not entirely sure what all happened then, but Aaliya went into an all out meltdown.  We don't normally stay out too late past her bedtime, but had decided to do so this one night.  Well, right at 9:30-9:45ish some kind of trigger went off and enter in total and complete meltdown.

The meltdown came complete with back-arching tantrums, high-pitched squeals and a bucket of tears for every offense held against her.  Mommy's humiliation and embarrasement was an added bonus thrown in for the overall cost of just one night out.

I attempted everything in the book I knew to do to calm the little one down.  Shhshhing, holding, bouncing, but in the last twelve and a half months Aaliya has been with us, she's grown exponentially in strength and now even gives Daddy a run for his money when it comes to holding and keeping her tight and still when she doesn't want to be. Basically, our kid man-handles us.

Ugh! How did I become that parent?  The parent you almost feel embarrased for because they can't calm the tantrums down mid-store.  I was mortified and made the executive decision that game night would be cut short on our end.  My dear, dear husband was, I'm sure more mortified of my behavior than the baby's, mumbled his goodbyes and walked us to the car.  Baby securely tucked into the carseat and five seconds later, I find myself biting Caleb's head off sternly expressing my feelings (though I have the very annoying tendency to talk in circles over and over and over again until I finally realize what it is that I'm trying to say, much less give any semblance of a hint to my poor, very confused husband at this point... see, I think I did it again?).

It was a rough, rough night and I essentially cried myself to sleep giving myself the "Worst Mama on the Block" award along with a dozen others now safely tucked away into my "Self-Pity" shelf (hopefully never to be seen again).

Fast forward to Monday afternoon, on my way home.  I was passing through those really unecessary toll booths and I feel the impression of the Holy Spirit upon my heart... "Nicole, as you parent, you cannot parent from a place that regards fear of man."

That was it.  That's all He said.  No details, no specifics.  Just... get over what people will think.

As I meditated this past week on what exactly He meant by it, I realized that everyone will have an opinion on the way the Husband and I choose to bring up our children.  There will always be someone who thinks she's spoiled, someone who thinks we're tyrants from Hitler's regime, someone who thinks we shelters our kids entirely too much and someone who thinks we don't shelter them enough, and then there'll be someone who thinks we're doing a fabulous job with the little bit we got.  There will always be someone, but I need to regard The One

At the end of the day, only grace will carry us through these formative years in our children's lives and only His voice will know the answer to the toughest questions; but the answers may mean that Aaliya will cry consecutively for 40 minutes while she soothes herself to sleep at someone else's house.  It may mean that she screams and cries because she's been disciplined and it may mean that she'll be the child left out because our family doesn't watch that movie or doesn't listen to that song.  But that's ok. 

Because in the end, it's the Audience of the One that really matters in this child-rearing business.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Devotional Time with Littles: What to teach?

writers note: I know I'm a week (or two!) off from this series, but I do want to continue it, as I believe devotional time with our families is very important. If you didn't check out the first part of this series, you may do so here. :)

As I began to think about what exactly I would do with Aaliya during our daily devotional time, I started to think of all the things we would do. You know... crafts, music, an assortment of activities.  But as I sat in front of my computer armed with stickies for notes and my swagbucks search bar ready for action, I realized that the what we would be doing isn't as important as the what we would be learning or talking about.

That's when I sat in front of the computer and felt quite the silly.

I mean, of course Nicole!  As a teacher, how could I ever have put together lesson plans if I never actually know what the content of teaching was?  Bleh.  Well, I blame it on staying home for a year. Hehe.

So, I began my journey as a mama and asked the Lord what He'd like me to teach to my kids.  Typically speaking most parents I know choose to start with the basic Old Testament Stories; Noah, Abraham, David & Goliath then move on to Jesus and His works, etc, etc.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with that method, but Caleb and I desire to raise our children the way Christ has specifically designed for our family and for our children.  If that meant David & Goliath first, well then that would be the perfect way for our family!  But for our family it meant one thing...

"From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established praise, because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease." -- Psalm 8:2

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Yes, I know I've used this Scripture already... a lot.  But it's true.  It's such a beautiful Scripture and such a defense for little ones against the raging enemy.  That was the Scripture that both Caleb and I bore witness to when praying for our children.  We will teach our children to establish praise in their hearts.  We will teach them to dance and sing and be quiet unto the Lord meanwhile exalting everything that He is; His Holiness, His Love, His Beauty, His Grace, His Favor and His Mercy (and that's just the getting started list).  We believe that as we teach this, everything else will slowly follow suit.  Our hopes are that as Aaliya gets older, and we teach the Law and the Gospels to her, her heart will receive the Manna with a song of praise and gladly receive the Truth.

But. How do we do this?  She is after all just one.  Well, we believe that by the reading of the book of Psalms to her daily, her little heart will be tenderized and begin to praise.  We also (of course) desire to model a lifestyle of praise for her to glean from.  But that's all on the next installment of this series. ;)

Thanks for tuning in!

What about ya'll?  What are some of the basics you teach your little ones?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm rambling

I have been MIA from blogging for a little bit.

Yeah, sorry about that.  I've been tending to two babies with ear infections (yuck!), a husband with a drippy nose (aka runny nose) and still learning the balance between work, home, ministry, myself.

Aww, fooey! Yes, I said it... FOOEY!

I've been at witt's end and trying to find my way back.  I've been in a sort of wilderness/transition/not-really-wilderness season if you know what I mean.   Umm, how can I explain it?

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I-am-bei-ng-bro-ken.  Ve-ry-ve-ry-bro-ken.

The last few books I've read I've felt a grace to read.  (I know this was quite a jump, but it's related to the statement I just made.  I promise!)  One was a fiction book by Francine Rivers.  I've talked about it before (but I can't find the post where I did, so just trust me!).  I re-read it and gained so much from it.  I love how the Lord speaks to me through fictional stories. :P  But, this last book I picked up is called The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit by Watchman Nee.  The title alone will rock your world, but it's content even more.

It is so ironic like God to give me the grace to read this book now. 

I believe our family is in the middle of a transition. Don't ask me to what.  Don't ask me what kind.  It's just... that feeling.  In the air.  That suffocates and breaks the will to cause His spirit to come forth. 

Yeah, that one.  The one that cause holiness to seep through every pore in your body. 

It's either that or rebellion. And since my God is a Jealous God, I know the rebellion won't stand much of a chance against Him. 

Anyway, here's a few of my favorite pieces from the thirty-nine pages I've read from this book.  I gotta take this one easy... slowly.  His breaking is mercy but too much too quickly will seemingly destroy me.  So, I will continue to self-preserve by masking my fear of the breaking with the spirituality behind needing to "digest" the truth found in this book. 

Yepp, I think that works.

"How could he (Brother Lawrence) maintain God's presence in the midst of his hectic work (dishwashing)?  The secret is that no outward noise could affect his inward being.  Some people lose God's presence because they are inwardly affected as soon as they hear any noise around them... God is not delivering us from the "plates"; He is delivering us from being influenced by them.  Everything around us can be in turmoil, but within we can remain untouched... Once the outer man is broken, a man does not have to come back to God because he is with God all the time...God has to break the outer man before He can use the inner manHe has to break our love before He can use our love to love the brothers."  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

the trouble with Pinetrest

writer's note: One of my bestest Mommy friends and I had a heart-to-heart last night on security. You know, how we place it on everything but Jesus.  So, we decided to link arms and write about the same thing, but from different perspectives. While I write about material security, she's writing about finding security in our physical beauty.  Hop on over to her blog and check it out!

I have a confession to make.

I have a latest obsession.  It's called Pinetrest.  You've never heard of it? Well click on that link right back there and get to Pinning!

Truthfully it's a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, I've been able to get so many great ideas on frugal decorating that I can make myself (which is awesome!) but on the other hand, I have quick access to pictures of others' homes that make me drool.

I even have a board called dream house.  I'm pathetic, I know... But, here's a peek. ;)

I drool everytime I see these pictures.  And then this ugly seed takes root in my heart... You may have heard of it.  It's called discontenment.  Suddenly I am so aware of how little our family has.  We live in a cramped cozy two bedroom apartment with two daughters, and about four closets full of junk.  Our walls are bare simplistic and our furniture is hand-me-down vintage. 

It's not that I'm not grateful or anything.  No, of course not.  It's just that, well... I know friends that have houses like these, or kitchens like that, or even... (gasp!) a beautiful library like that... How utterly unfair and ridiculous this all is.

So, I start praying.  That God grants to us a bigger house.  Because "God, we need it."  That God gives us a mini-van or some sort of larger vehicle.  Because, "well God, we really really need it."  And so on and so forth.

I have come to the realization and the ugly truth that I am most secure and confident when I've completed a diy home project and it's proudly displayed in whatever room of the house it belongs in.  I am most confident when friends come over and my home doesn't have that messy lived-in look.  In truth, I imagine myself confident with a living room like this...

A playroom like this...

 Or a guest room/chill room like this...

How absolutely pathetic. Throw tomatoes at me.  Boo me... I know, I know, keep it coming.

But like King Solomon declared all throughout Ecclesiastes, "Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity!"  I have to learn to find my security in Christ.  It's safe to say that God will never grant me those things with my heart in the condition it is.  It'll be the destruction of me.  And, it's pretty safe to say that deep inside, I know that none of those things will bring any form of security or confidence.  I find that in Christ alone.

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge..." -- Psalm 18:2

Yet Scripture exhorts us explaining to us that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).  My treasure is wrongfully placed in my home and my heart will break every time something minor goes off road, until I learn to be kingdom-minded.  Until I learn to set my eyes on eternity, on the heavenly just like 2 Corinthians exhorts us to do. 

My security is Christ alone.  He alone is a safe-place and refuge.  He alone is a rock and a fortress.  He alone can keep me safe.  My home may burn down and I may have to leave it behind someday, but if I am secure in His love, then I win. <3