Hope & Peace

Hope & Peace
Three years ago our family had the opportunity to do one of the Advent readings in church. To be honest, I have no idea what we read or even which week of Advent it was. What I DO remember is what happened before church. We arrived in time to send our children to Sunday school and youth group, but I didn't feel like being with other people. Ted and I sat in a fog next to Verity's stroller in the gymnasium where the church service would be held the next hour. It had been another rough night, like just about every night was in 2017. Just as our interim pastor and his wife came to where we were seated to greet us, Verity began retching. Her vomiting spells happened about 6-8 times a day. Trisomy 18 kiddos tend to have GI issues, but this was getting out of hand; Verity was losing weight, and at 12 pounds and almost 10 months of age, she didn't have much to lose. 

The unexpected scene took the pastor's wife by surprise: copious amounts of liquid were coming out of Verity's mouth and nose as Ted frantically whipped out the suction machine while I mopped up the mess. (Yes, we traveled with a suction machine in those days. We lived in terror of Verity aspirating because of how frequently she vomited.)

When things were calm again, Gretchen asked if things like that happened often. I burst into tears. I couldn't help it. I was so tired, so weary, and somehow just so angry that people didn't know what our life was really like. I knew it wasn't Gretchen's fault that she didn't know, so I tried to describe life with Verity. She hardly ever slept, which meant we hardly ever slept. I couldn't leave her side for fear she would vomit and choke. The terror we lived with around the clock was ever present. I still remember the compassionate look on the faces of this couple, whose ministry we had sat under for several months by this point but who truly had no idea what our family was going through.

Half an hour later we stood in front of the church lighting a candle and reading words I can't remember. I felt like such a hypocrite, creating a picture of what surely looked from the outside like a perfectly lovely family. Two parents, nine children, the tiniest of whom was living a very precarious life. Little did people know what was happening on the inside: the deadness of my heart, the difficulties of my marriage, the near-destruction of my mental and emotional health. I didn't intend to put on a show; I would have gladly shared our struggles with others. And I think I tried. It's not that people didn't care or didn't ask, but somehow there just wasn't time or energy to sit down and lay it all out. 

Fast forward three years...our church now has a new full-time pastor, and our family was asked to do the reading for the second Sunday of Advent 2020. We relit the first candle, Hope, reminding the congregation (and ourselves) of the hope we have in Christ. Next, we lit the second candle, Peace, testifying to the fact that Christ came to bring God's peace to us.

As I stood holding Verity on my hip while my sons and husband read their passages, I suddenly remembered that exhausting Sunday morning 3 years ago. We have come so far. Not only is Verity doing so much better health-wise, but our family is so much stronger for having gone through some really dark times and seeing the light of Hope and Peace shine in the midst of it all. When Verity squealed during the prayer, I couldn't help but feel the joy surge in my heart. 

Hope. Peace. Joy. And LOVE--so much love. They were there all along, even when we couldn't feel their presence.

If you are experiencing a season of darkness, I pray you find the light of true Hope and Peace.

Father, we thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, and we praise you for the greatness of your love. Help us to know your peace in our lives. When life does not go as planned, may we know and understand that you are with us and we can have peace and rest in your ways. May we also share your peace with others and live our lives more like Christ every day. In His name we pray, amen.


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Run for Recovery = Success!

Run for Recovery = Success!
To those who supported and encouraged the efforts to raise money for a safe house in Italy, THANK YOU! This was the first of what we hope will be an annual fundraising event for the Alba Safe House & Recovery Program, a ministry working in the anti-trafficking arena. Over 100 people participated in some way, whether running, biking, or walking. And, despite the idea surfacing only in August of this year, which means we had less than 2 months to coordinate everything, we have seen God provide an amazing amount of funding! Would you believe the current total (with possibly a bit more coming in) stands at $21,850!!!

We serve an amazing God! I am so grateful to be able to be a small part in what He is doing in Italy. And if you are one of the folks who supported this effort, we are also grateful for YOU!

The Brown Bag Turkey

The Brown Bag Turkey
Thanksgiving is JUST around the corner, with Christmas not far behind! Many times I've shared our turkey preparation method, which we first tried in 2016 after seeing my friend Shauna's video detailing the process. It sounded so easy and...dare I say...failproof! We tried it, and even the family members who really preferred ham were raving. It has been our go-to ever since.

Because I find myself sharing the method (because it really is more of a process than a recipe) over and over, I figured it was time to put it in writing! All credit to my friend Shauna for introducing us to this way of turkey preparation that has taken so much of the stress out of meal planning for a special holiday! The bird is done in just 3 hours no matter how large or small it is, so no more kitchen math!

You will need:
  • A turkey, of course! Any size works with this method--you don't change a single thing! 
  • A brown paper bag (the only ones in our house currently are from Trader Joe's)
  • A roasting pan
  • Olive oil
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • About 3 tablespoons each of onion powder, garlic powder, and salt (we use Celtic sea salt for the health benefits; you can get a 1-pound bag for a reasonable price, or, for a better bang for your buck AND enough salt to last a normal-sized family a year, a 5-pound bag).
  • Black pepper if desired (we usually omit it or just do a few sprinkles)
  • Fresh thyme and/or rosemary (we use Young Living's vitality essential oils, just 1-2 drops each, or maybe 3-4 for a large turkey; if you don't have access to these amazing oils, contact me!)
  • One onion, quartered, for the inside of the turkey (oops, forgot to add that in for the picture, lol)
  • Mix salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, and rosemary with softened (but not melted) butter.
  • Prepare the paper bag by pouring some olive oil in it: let it run down the sides and swish it around so that it's reasonably covered (not saturated). Place the bag in the roasting pan, ready to receive the turkey after you finish with it.
  • After washing the turkey and patting dry, loosen the skin all over it. (Roll up your sleeves because this is a very interactive activity, lol.)  
  • Then, slather that butter mixture allllllll over the bird, on the outside as well as under the skin. Yes, it's messy. Yes, we are basically frying our turkey in butter. YES, it is the most DELICIOUS bird you'll ever eat! 
  • Put the onion quarters inside the turkey...you can do your stuffing if you like. Our family doesn't particularly care to stuff the turkey, so we don't do this, and truthfully, we've skipped the onion at times too and it still tastes amazing.
  • Now slide the bird into the paper bag, which should already be in your roasting pan. (You can put it breast down if you like. We've done both and it turns out well either way, though breast down does keep the white meat juicier.)
  • WASH YOUR HANDS! AND WASH YOUR ARMS! (Don't ask me how we now know to make sure errrrrrrything gets sanitized...) Wash the sink and any surface the bird touched! (We love our Thieves Household Cleaner for its efficacy and lack of harsh, harmful chemicals...again, if you don't have access to this, contact me!)
  • Now that your hands are clean, fold up the open end of the paper bag and staple it shut.
  • Now for oven entry...the oven should be COLD. We do not preheat!
  • Place the roasting pan into the cold oven, making sure the paper bag is not touching anything!!
  • Close the oven door. Set the temperature to 500 degrees and cook for one hour.
  • Turn the temp to 400 degrees. Cook for another hour.
  • Turn the temp to 300 degrees. Cook for one more hour.
  • Your turkey is FINISHED!
When the turkey is finished, you will have some wonderful juices for your gravy. We have prepared our turkey the day of as well as the day before our special meal, depending on our other food plans and oven needs. 

I hope this is helpful and maybe even inspiring! Leave a comment and let us know if you try it!

If you'd like to see a video, my lovely friend Shauna gave me permission to share this peek into her kitchen which is what inspired us in the first place!

*This post contains affiliate links. :-)

CASTing All Our Cares

CASTing All Our Cares
On Saturday the ladies from our church gathered for a mini-retreat. Current situation being what it is, we thought a one-day event would be easier to plan logistically than anything involving an overnight stay. And with the uncertainty of the times, our planning committee decided rather than bring in a speaker, we would spend the day in prayer and worship activities.

It turned out so beautifully! We organized the day's activities around 4 sessions: Confession, Adoration, Supplication, and Thanksgiving, which is a variation of the A.C.T.S. prayer model many of us have learned. The acronym led us to choose "CASTing All Our Cares on Him" as the theme for the day.

While the tone of the national scene threw a bit of a somber note in the background, there was much joy in being able to gather together (staying within current guidelines of course). Table activities provided the opportunity to get to know other ladies better and foster conversations.

Our Confession session began with some beautiful worship songs and Scripture, and then we took about 20-25 minutes to spend time alone with the Lord. I wrote in my prayer journal, using the Bible to shape some of my thoughts. We ended by reading portions of Daniel 9 to offer a national prayer of confession, closing with another song before the first break.

The Adoration portion was fun and interactive, mixing songs with activities that included listing as many attributes of God as we could A to Z and talking about the names of Jesus.

Panera delivered our pre-ordered lunches, so we got to enjoy more fellowship, with a game based on "The Price Is Right" which was silly and fun.

Supplication, or intercession, gave us the time to pray with a partner or two over personal concerns, and then we corporately offered prayers over marriages, families, our schools and community, the USA, the persecuted church, and the world, closing with the song "God of This City."

Closing the day with a session about thanksgiving was perfect! So many beautiful Scriptures and songs.

All in all, it was a wonderfully refreshing time with my sisters in Christ. I was privileged to help plan and lead this event and realized how very much I miss regularly gathering for intercessory prayer. Perhaps that is something that will grow out of this experience, especially since, as I type this, the election results are incredibly close and being contested even though a winner has been projected by some outlets. 

The need for prayer is ongoing. Therefore, we will continue to worship and pray, knowing the Lord is sovereign over all.

Don't Quit Now

Don't Quit Now
The life metaphor was already looming large in my mind. What if we had quit just 100 feet from the top? What if we had allowed the growing difficulty of the trail to defeat our desire to reach the top? What if the lack of our ability to even see the top had discouraged us from pressing onward? What if we hadn't met those folks along the way?
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