Galatians Bible Study: 3 Week Plan

I have so enjoyed our “Women Digging In” class with Katie Gerdt at Heritage Bible Church these past two months. We’ve dug into II Corinthians, and it’s been awesome–both refreshing and rebuking!

We have 3 weeks off before the next Life Application Electives begin, so I’m planning on using her 4 questions to go thru the book of Galatians between now and then…2 chapters per week. Who’s with me?

Here are the 4 questions:
1. Where is my heart?
Take time to set your cares and concerns before your loving Father,
and then put them aside and prepare your heart to listen to Him.
2. What’s going on?
Read through the passage (either whole chapter, or few verses at a time) and try to summarize the facts of what is happening.
3. What do I see about God?
What is the Holy Spirit telling you about God or revealing about Christ? How can you obey what you are reading? Who can you tell this week about what you have learned?
4. Do I have any further questions about the passage?

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Meditation Passage: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV).

Schedule:
August 1-7: Galatians 1-2
August 8-14: Galatians 3-4
August 15-21: Galatians 5-6

Book Review: Bread & Wine, A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes

511z58htsll-_sx340_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table, with Recipes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Bread & Wine is, by far, one of the best books I’ve read in the last several years! Shauna shares raw, real life stories mixed with a collection of her favorite recipes. I have literally laughed out loud and bawled my eyes out reading this! I feel like the author is sitting across from me, sharing a cup of coffee and opening up the window to her true self, and it feels like we’ve been friends for a lifetime even though I just met her in these pages. It’s as if you’re reading an intimate journal of an everywoman’s soul, and she says, “Come. Sit. Eat.”

In the author’s note on page 10, she writes the following:

“My prayer is that you’ll read these pages first curled up on your couch or in bed or in the bathtub, and then after that you’ll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it, and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy.

“And more than anything, I pray that when you put this book down, you’ll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.”

Shauna begins with an explanation of what being a “bread-and-wine person” means: “By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater–mystery and tradition and symbol. … The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and the earth, the divine and the daily” (p. 11).

I am very much a “food” person. I love to cook, to share meals, to host friends and family and strangers, to talk about food and hospitality and life and God. So this book was perfect. The recipes are simple and offer a wide variety of personalization. I could not put this book down! Not only was it beautifully crafted, it was inspirational to get back to sharing food and faith with friends and family.

She talks about her cooking club, a group of friends that met together frequently, cooked together, did life together, laughed together, cried together, prayed together. Even when life and jobs scattered them across the country, they found ways to come back together, and it always involved food and faith and friendship in some combination.

I love that they would meet for dinner regularly, kids included. After supper, they’d put all the kids down for bed in pack n plays and sleeping bags, or whatever; and then the adults would come back downstairs to share what God was teaching them and pray with one another. Then when they needed to leave, they carried their sleeping children to their cars and took them home, but they stayed long enough for their souls to be fed and not just their bellies. And when there was a death or a new baby, a sick parent or another loss, they would bring food to one another, almost instinctively. This is the way I want to live my life; the way we try to live our lives.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

“Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don’t know what to say, when there are no words to say. And food is what we offer in celebration–at weddings, at anniversaries, at happy events of every kind. It’s the thing that connects us, that bears our traditions, our sense of home and family, our deepest memories, and on a practical level, our ability to live and breath each day. Food matters.

“At the very beginning, and all through the Bible, all through the stories about God and his people, there are stories about food, about all of life changing with the bite of an apple, about trading an inheritance for a bowl of stew, about waking up to find the land littered with bread, God’s way of caring for his people; about a wedding where water turned to wine, Jesus’ first miracle; about the very first Last Supper, the humble bread and wine becoming, for all time, indelibly linked to the very body of Christ, the center point for thousands of years of tradition and belief. It matters. It mattered then, and it matters now, possibly even more so, because it’s reclaiming some of the things we may have lost along the way” (p. 14).

“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere–on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach” (p. 17).

“I believe every person should be able to make the simple foods that nourish them, that feel familiar and comforting, that tell the story of who they are. Each one of us should be able to nourish ourselves in the most basic way and to create meals and traditions around the table that tell the story of who we are to the people we care about. And the only way to get there is to start where you are.

“If you don’t cook, begin by inviting people over. Order pizza and serve it with a green salad and a bottled salad dressing. Get comfortable with people in your home, with the meds and the chaos. Focus on making people comfortable, on creating a space protected from the rush and chaos of daily life, a space full of laughter and safety and soul…and little by little, build a sense of muscle of memory, a body of knowledge, a set of patters for how your home and your heart open and expand when the people you love are gathered around your table” (p. 40).

“Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather” (p. 51).

“One of the best part of my childhood was traveling with my dad” (p. 93). “…he taught me that where we are, we eat what they eat, and we eat what they give us, all the time. We taste the place when we eat what our hosts eat. As we traveled, food became a language of understanding, even more so than museums or history lessons” (p. 94). “…I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak…. I want them to know that ‘our way’ isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood–they love to play, to discover, to learn. … I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bit of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious” (p. 98).

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd. …So that’s what we do. We throw open the front door and invite people into our home, despite its size, despite its imperfections. We practice hospitality, creating a soft and safe place for people to connect and rest” (p. 106-7).

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment. Part of that, then, is honoring the way God made our bodies, and feeding them in the ways they need to be fed.

“I do draw a line between food restrictions for health reasons and plain old picky eating. I bend over backward for the first–I make sure to have a meal that includes a filling and beautiful option for people who can’t eat one or another part of the whole meal….

“What I don’t do, though, is knock myself out for picky eaters. Part of eating at someone’s table is learning about the tastes and textures and flavors of their home, and part of eating at someone’s table is understanding that homes are not restaurants and your host is not a short-order cook….

“So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand” (p. 114-5).

“[Y]ou can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide” (p. 195).

“The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and towns” (p. 208).

“When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ” (p.250).

“Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. ‘Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,’ Jesus says, ‘remember me.’ Communion is connection, remembrance. …the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us” (p. 251).

“And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day–no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done” (p. 252).

“Most of the time, I eat like someone’s about to steal my plate, like I can’t be bothered to chew or taste or feel, but I’m coming to see that the table is about food, and it’s also about time. It’s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented person, phone in one hand and to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age, and pick up a knife and a fork. The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.

“…if you can satiate a person’s hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There’s an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of the one’s stomach, that is, necessarily, tied to the heart.

“I want you to gobble life up in huge bites, tasting everything, trying every new flavor, remembering every smell and texture like it’s the best thing you’ve ever had. I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it” (p. 257-8).

See why I couldn’t put it down?! And it comes with recipes at the end of almost every chapter, a 4-week book club discussion guide (along with suggested menu for each book club night), and all kinds of entertaining tips. It’s beautiful and relatable, sharable and practical. Pick up a copy, read it, re-read it, share it, try the recipes, but most importantly, open your home and your table to the people God brings across your path, and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

It Cooks While I Sleep…

 I’ve always loved cooking…but I have a secret to admit: I have never been great with the crockpot! I know, I know. It’s supposed to be the simplest way to cook ever, but I seem to fail with this method. I either cook it too long or add too much liquid or it doesn’t get all the way done…. It’s a curse!

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And I am in a season of life where there isn’t much time for meal prep between when I get home from work and when Kyle goes down for bed…and we both need to eat sometime in there. And then there’s the part about kids waking up in the middle of the night…especially (it seems) when you’re already at your tiredest. So, I’m taking the plunge and attempting to cook with the crockpot! I even started a Pinterest board just for crockpot recipe ideas: Crockpot Meals (aka Working Mama Nom-Noms!).

Thankfully, I’ve stumbled across a few keepers (which I’ve modified or merged a couple of recipes together).

The Roast: 5 red potatoes (quartered), 1 small bag baby carrots, 1 onion (peeled and cut into 8), 3 cloves garlic (peeled and minced), 1 box beef broth over veggies, salt-pepper-cornstarch rubbed on the 2 pound roast and seared for 1-2 minutes on each side, then topped with fresh rosemary, basil, parsley, and sage, 1-2 Tbsp. each of honey, soy sauce, and worchestershire sauce. 10 hr. on low.

The roast I made for a friend who’s had sick kids and been discouraged recently, and I literally prayed over the crockpot! (Maybe that’s the real secret.) The recipient commented: “Well my plain ol roast will never taste the same. Delicious!” Great. Now I want pot roast.:/

Peaches ‘n’ Cream Steel Cut Oats: 1 small bag frozen peaches, 1/4-1/2 c. brown sugar,
Pinch salt, 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 c. steel cut oats, 4 c. whole milk.
Do not stir; cook on low for 8-9 hr. in slow cooker. Top with coconut butter or cream and a drizzle of maple syrup or fresh berries.

Breakfast Casserole: 1/2 bag frozen hashbrowns (so 15 oz.), 8 oz. block pepper jack cheese (shredded), 8 oz. breakfast sausage (cooked and crumbled). Sprayed crockpot with oil, then mixed the above ingredients in crockpot. This basically filled my small/med crockpot…but…Then I whisked the following together and dumped it over the top and it filled in all the nooks and crannies…12 eggs, 1 c. milk, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, fresh basil, rosemary, and sage (torn by hand and tossed in). Covered on low for 8 hrs.

Both breakfast dishes were super simple (though they made 3x the amount we need, but at least there’s leftovers). And Kyle loved it all too! They all turned out good enough to repeat! And I am very thankful!

What are your favorite crockpot recipes?

Saturday Family Time

What a beautiful Saturday morning! Warm weather, gentle breeze, blue skies! We got up early and went to Tandem Creperie in downtown Travelers Rest to meet up with my cousin Anna from Boston and a friend Allison, along with the babies. So good to catch up! And the coffee and crepes are always a delicious start to the day!

Then we walked around various little shops in TR till Bryan had to go to work. Kyle fell asleep in the stroller on our walk, so I decided to keep walking the Swamp Rabbit Trail. He woke up about an hour later and this was my view: cute little fingers and toes, toddler trail mix (cheerios, goldfish, and puffs), and a sippy cup of milk and strawberry-banana smoothie–held on by a “SippyPal” strap (amazing invention!).

Came home, ate a little lunch, read “The Little Blue Engine That Could” and played with trains, dinosaurs and soccer balls (#boymom) till Kyle went down for his nap. Thankfully, he’s napping well today, so I got a chance to sweep and straighten up the house…and blog a little. peanuts-movie-sweeps_pbNext up is dinner with Anna and my sister’s family–grilled cheese sandwiches and the Pioneer Woman’s “Best Ever Tomato Soup” (I can’t stop making this soup!). And I picked up a copy of “The Peanuts Movie” to watch with the kids (throwback to Kyle’s bday party a few weeks ago).

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

The Enemy of Discontentment

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Source: quitewomen.tumblr.com

Do you ever battle discouragement or discontentment? It’s a completely normal battle in our fallen human nature, and it’s not fun, but it’s a battle that must be fought. And it’s a battle we can’t fight alone. Thankfully, we have a great God who is the only true source of courage and contentment. The past couple of weeks I’ve been battling this more than I might like to admit. Thankfully, God has been driving me back to His Word for the courage to fight the discontent (and provided sunshine and chances to chat with friends that have brightened recent days as well).

One day last week, I was reading in the Psalms and was reminded of Psalm 61.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint [overwhelmed]. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy (Psalm 61:1-3).

I let that be my prayer throughout the afternoon and evening. And the next morning, a friend prayed Psalm 19:14.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

It was as if God was answering my heart’s cry and showing me that He is my Rock. I said, “Lead me to the rock.” And He responded, “I am your Rock.”

Then, a still, small voice gently rebuked me and asked, “Is discontentment a meditation that is ‘acceptable’ to Jesus?” The answer was a resounding, achy, “No.” In fact, it smacks in the face of my great God and His continual provision and good, gift-giving nature. And the ultimate reality of discontentment with any aspect of our lives–whether it be looks, weight, stage of life, family, work, friends (or a lack of friends), ministry opportunities, home repairs, you name it–is discontent with what God says is “good” for us at this very moment. As the Author and personification of “good,” why is it that we think He can be anything but good? It’s because “good” is subjective instead of objective–it is subject to our point of view instead of objectively in the Person and Work of Christ.

It doesn’t matter how “good” things look from the outside. The ugly face of discontentment can raise its head up even when things appear “put together.”  You can have the nicest house and the most beautiful family, great jobs, plenty of resources, and yet still feel empty. The devil is a sneaky lion, prowling and preying on our hearts if we don’t actively fight to resist him.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

And so, we must fight. Much of this fighting is internal–it’s choosing to trust Christ, to claim His joy, to walk in His Spirit, to humble ourselves, to forgive and ask for forgiveness, to love those around us, and to praise our Savior, even when we don’t understand. We don’t have to have all the answers. We may think we want a crystal ball to see the future, but when God showed one of His prophets, Jeremiah, the future, he went into deep mourning for his people–there was a reason they called him “the weeping prophet.” God knows we don’t need to see it all up front–quite frankly, it would probably scare us if we knew all His plans. But we can rest that He does have a plan and that He’s preparing us for that plan–and sometimes that means testing us with discouraging situations, knowing that we will need to run back to His everlasting arms of hope .

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

My prayer is that Psalm 30:11-12 will be my reality–and yours, if and when you find yourself battling discontentment as well.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11-12).

(Obviously, there are physical/hormonal, emotional/psychological, and environmental reasons for discouragement as well that may be completely outside of your control. If you find yourself often discouraged and believe the source to be one of those reasons, seek appropriate help from doctors and professional counselors, as well as the spiritual encouragement and emotional support from your friends, family, and church.)

Recipe: Winter Harvest Soup

This soup was invented based on two criteria: 1. I had the ingredients on hand that needed to be used before going bad, and 2. I needed something that would give Kyle (age 1) vegetables in a soft form. Thus, Winter Harvest Soup. The grownups enjoyed the recipe as is–a heartier, chunky soup; and I pureed the rest for Kyle–or those who prefer a smoother, creamy soup. He LOVED it!

Feel free to adjust the types of vegetables used in this soup (though root vegetables do seem to work best). If you’re not a sweet potato fan, try Yukon golds. If you have acorn squash instead of butternut, go for it! And if you’ve never seen a parsnip–well, first, try to find a parsnip because they’re delicious!–but if you can’t, try a turnip or rutabaga or just more carrots. This made a large pot of soup, so if you have fewer vegetables, just use half of the other ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower (chopped)
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (halved)
  • 1 butternut squash (halved and seeded)
  • 1 bag baby carrots (chopped)
  • 4 parsnips (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. marjoram (if you don’t have marjoram, basil would work)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. chicken (or vegetable) bouillon
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. prepared basil paste
  • 2-3 c. coconut milk (or cow’s milk, if preferred)

Instructions:

  1. Prep the winter vegetables. Using two large baking sheets, spread out vegetables in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Roast at 400°F for 40 minutes.
  2. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool slightly. Peel and chop squash and sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces.
  3. Toss all vegetables in large stockpot; fill with water to not quite cover vegetables. 
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (or until vegetables are completely soft). 
  5. Serve hot. 

Suggestion: serve with crackers, croutons, or garlic bread and a simple salad. 

Unshakable Moms–Just Be Held

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Last week, I came across this Reading Plan on YouVersion.com. It was a huge blessing to me. And it’s good for those who aren’t moms too…if you know a mom…or you’re struggling with insecurities, this is a great 6 day reading plan. I challenge you to read the whole chapter of Scripture instead of just the couple of verses on the daily reading to get fuller context and deepen your time in the Word.

Some of my favorite quotes from the devotionals:

“So often, I set my feet upon my circumstances. It’s easy to do, because we naturally make agreements with what we can touch and see. …But we’re not called to live by human nature. We are called to walk by the Spirit, and in order to do that we have to stand on a sure foundation. One that’s been tested and approved. One we know won’t ever be shaken by the quaking and shifting of life. If we stand on what we can see with human eyes, we will constantly shift with an ever changing world. That’s not a life anchored in Jesus. …He is the security we are called to build our lives upon.”

“If you want to be an unshakable, joyful, kingdom building mom, you need only follow Jesus. He is the expert, and He’s already carried the burden upon His shoulders. Breathe deeply of His grace today and walk confidently knowing He is building something incredible in you.”

“Sometimes life feels like those precious toddler masterpieces that hang (or once hung) on your refrigerator; a myriad of colorful scribbles. It’s pretty, but it’s hard to make out what it’s supposed to be. It’s wild and tenacious and a little overwhelming. Even the best and most fruitful seasons can catch you off guard. …It is so comforting and so hopeful to know that no matter the season, one thing will always remain True. One thing will never change. Jesus is the Trustworthy Rock you can lean on. …When all you see are scribbles on a page, He sees the finished masterpiece. Don’t lean on your own finite understanding. Trust His infinite wisdom. Lean on His Everlasting Love.”

“We’ve been talking about building an unshakable foundation. One that can stand the test of time, that is built firmly on the word of God. But are you safeguarding for when the storms come? Because it’s inevitable, the storms of life will come. It’s easy to say you’re unshakable when all is well, but we know that storms are coming or maybe you’re in one now. …Are you ready to stand fearless in your storm? Stand firm in the beautiful truth that Christ has already conquered them all!”

I was challenged to dig deeper into the Word now, building my foundation in Christ and His Word, so that as life gets messy and shaky, intense and insecure–as it inevitably will in this fallen world–that foundation will be able to be unshakable.

I heard this song on the radio several times over the last week, while I was reading this study, and it seemed to fit perfectly:

“Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns (emphasis added to key phrases that stuck out to me)

“Hold it all together;
Everybody needs you strong;
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on.

And when you’re tired of fighting,
Chained by your control,
There’s freedom in surrender;
Lay it down and let it go.

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away,
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held,
Just be held, just be held.

If your eyes are on the storm,
You’ll wonder if I love you still;
But if your eyes are on the cross,
You’ll know I always have and I always will.

And not a tear is wasted.
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes.
Your life is in My hands.

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away,
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place.
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held,
Just be held, just be held.

Lift your hands, lift your eyes.
In the storm is where you’ll find Me.
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart.
I’ll hold your heart.
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go.

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away,
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place.
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held (stop holding on and just be held),
Just be held, just be held, just be held, just be held.”

To be unshakable, we must be willing to release control and surrender our lives to the Sovereign Jesus. Easier said than done, I know. But He’s in control anyway, and striving to control the details of life is ultimately futile. And there is rest and peace and joy and freedom in leaving everything–big and small–in the hands of our good and gracious Father. May you find that freedom in His unshakable foundation today.

Top 10 New Mom Resources

There is SO much information out there for new parents. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. I was fortunate to come across some really great resources. Here’s my list–which is mostly about eating and sleeping:

  1. Recipes for Babies and Toddlers: 365 Quick and Healthy Dishes by Bridget Wardley and Judy More. (I have the 2004 edition that I found at TJ Maxx. Below is 2006, but the inside is nearly identical from what I can tell. The biggest differences is that the newer edition includes recipes for children beyond the toddler stage. My favorite part is the meal plan by age at the back.)

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2. “Feeding Guide for the First Year” by John Hopkins Medicine Health Library. (This one has charts for each month and was hugely helpful! Just remember that every child is different.Also note that the “ounces” recommendation is for bottle-fed babies; number of nursings is for breast-fed babies. Don’t let yourself stress about how many ounces if you’re breastfeeding. If they’re happy, eating, soiling diapers, and sleeping, they’re probably pretty healthy, even if they’re not at the exact month on the timeline.)

3. “Lists and Schedules” under “Baby Basics” on Cloudmom.com. (I especially found the Baby Feeding and Sleeping Schedule for Breastfeeding a 4 to 6-month old helpful. But she has videos on everything from basics on breastfeeding to bottle feeding to first baby foods, baby care, baby books and gear, traveling with baby, baby sleep basics, breastfeeding tips, etc. Truly a wealth of information from a very knowledgeable, completely judgment-free mama.)

4. “What to Eat and What to Avoid While Breastfeeding” from Healthfulmama.com. (Great chart for us visual learners! See below.)

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As far as the “Fennel tea” and “Honey (raw)” goes, a friend gave me “Mother’s Milk Tea” by Traditional Medicinals, and it really grew on me–someone who is NOT a huge fennel or licorice fan–and it worked! I found a 6-box pack on Amazon for a really great price and added it to my Amazon registry to get an extra 10% off.

5. “Five Things to Avoid When Sleep Training Your Baby” on Parents.com. (Sleep traps and cheat sheet for how much sleep is needed per age.)

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6. “Pumping Essentials” and “Pumping to 1 Year: Tips & a Cost Analysis from a Working Mom Who Did It” from ThePhotographersWife.com. (I was so nervous about the whole pumping thing with going back to work at 8 weeks, but this site really helped walk through the details. And at 4 months, Kyle switched himself to only eating 4x per day–breakfast, lunch, supper, and bedtime–so I only have to pump during lunch at work.)

7. IdealistMom.com was a huge help with going back to work after maternity leave! My favorite posts were “7 Tips for Postpartum Fashion,” “9 Secrets for a Successful Return to Work after Maternity Leave,” and “How to Keep Breastfeeding after Going Back at Work.”

8. “6 Natural Ways to Treat Infant Gas” from TheStir.CafeMom.com. (The biggest tips for us were the feeding positions and massage.)

9. “Pumping Schedule from NB – 12 MO” from NaptimeTales.com. (Very practical advice and low stress methods.)

10. “6 Tips for the First Month of Breastfeeding That You May Never Have Heard” by BreastfeedingPlace.com. (I also still vividly remember bawling my eyes out that first week home out of exhaustion and frustration, not being able to reach a nurse or lactation consultant because of a random snowstorm, and my husband having to call my sister-in-law to ask my questions then put her on speakerphone to calm me down and tell me I was doing a great job and to try leaning back or lying down so the baby had to slow down and not eat quite so fast. Blessings on her!!)

I am so thankful that I got to become a new mom at the same time as some of my best friends. And I’m thankful for my friends who were experienced parents when I became a new mom. It’s nice to be able to text a friend and say, “Please pray for me today. I’m really struggling with this mommy-hood thing” and know that they are already praying…and that you’re not alone (they either are or have struggled with similar things).

I didn’t have a ton of time to research like I wanted to, and I honestly believe God brought these blogs and books across my path on purpose. I skimmed through On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ecko and Robert Bucknam. I found it largely repetitive and a little too rigid for me, but the one thing that I did take away from it was the pattern: Eat, Play, Sleep, Repeat. And that worked really well for us (slept 6 hours by 6 weeks, 9 hours by 11 weeks, 10-12 hours by 14 weeks).

One caution: resist the urge to over-analyze or over-research things that moms have been doing by instinct for centuries. Do the best you can, ask your doctor and friends for advice, and know that God loves your baby more than even you do! And He loves you too, mama!

What were your top resources for those first 12 months of being a parent?

A Snoopy 1st Birthday Party!

It’s hard to believe our little guy is already 1! We have had so much fun being his mommy and daddy! He loves to eat and laugh and play. His favorite word is “Daddy” with a close second of “Uh-oh.” And he just started shaking his head to say “no” and saying “Yeh” for yes. It’s fun to see his preferences come through.

For his first birthday, I gave Bryan 3 or 4 different themes I had narrowed it down to, and he picked Snoopy. It was so much fun putting this together for Kyle! And we’re so thankful to be able to celebrate this birthday in our new home! (Also thankful my folks could make it in for the party and help us by staying up late to hang curtains, pictures, and put final touches on decorations!)

I found Snoopy invitations here. And we got the “Peanuts Greatest Hits” CD by the Vince Guaraldi Trio that we played on loop throughout the party.

Since we just moved in one month ago and got new appliances, we had large boxes to use. So we decorated a Snoopy doghouse and Lucy’s Psychiatric Stand. The kids LOVED playing in these!

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The Menu:IMG_4126Bryan did made-to-order grilled cheese sandwiches (we had half a dozen types of cheese to choose from), and who doesn’t love grilled cheese with tomato soup or pumpkin chorizo soup?! I found some awesome little paper trays and styrofoam bowls at Joyce Equipment Store and Restaurant Supply (great place for anyone who likes to host parties!). And we decorated with The Peanuts figurines collection!
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Then there were the cakes made by our good friend Barb Illsley! She’s amazing!

IMG_4121photo 2Opening Gifts:IMG_4136 IMG_4141Finally, we sent each of our kid guests home with a little goody bag of play doh, snoopy stickers, and The Peanuts fruit snacks in personalized bags. We certainly won’t do this every year, but we definitely wanted to do something extra special for Kyle’s first birthday. And this was!IMG_4125

Happy Birthday, Little Man! We love you very much!

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Pumpkin Pasta Party

 This past Saturday, we had several young families over for a Pumpkin Pasta Party! We set up tables for the kids (and their grownups) to decorate pumpkins–complete with paints and brushes, stickers, etc. (and carving knives available upon request). It was so much fun to have a pumpkin for every person!  In the gazebo, we had a large Crockpot full of Pumpkin Chorizo Soup with oyster crackers and cilantro, a fresh romaine salad with sliced beets, black olives and goat cheese, crackers and a cheeseball with pomegranate, and an antipasta tray. We had chilled Golden Apple Punch and hot Maple Pumpkin Lattes (pretty good, except for the last couple of cups where the pumpkin had settled). And for dessert, there were Pumpkin Pecan Muffins with cream cheese frosting. 

 There were a lot of children, so we chose to have no schedule and just let it be a relaxing time to mingle and fellowship. We started around 3:30 in the afternoon with all the munchies; then around 6:30, we rolled out fresh pasta and taught everyone how to make tortellinis. We had cheese, spinach, and pumpkin fillings and pumpkin alfredo and tomato basil sauces to choose from.  

 Finally, we pulled out the old wood stove and roasted marshmallows. It was so much fun to celebrate fall with friends and family, good weather and great food! Kyle had so much fun that he wiped out right in the middle of the kitchen with 25 people making noise all around him. He was so sweet all day and God was so gracious to give him good nap times so we could get everything pulled together for the party! Hoping we can make this an annual event!  
We had so much fun hosting this Pumpkin Pasta Party. It was a little different theme than I’ve seen before, but it really worked! Have you thrown a fall party? What’s your favorite fall party idea?