This Thanksgiving I Am Thankful For…

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the infinite wisdom of the Abba Father. 

In His infinite wisdom, the Lord said, “no” when we put an offer on a house this past summer. 

I questioned, “Why?” as this has been one of my desires to be a home owner and share my hospitality with others. 

In His infinite wisdom, He knew that I would not have my job I’ve had for almost five years come mid-November.

In His infinite wisdom, He foresaw a car accident where someone would pursue legal action. 

In His infinite wisdom, He knew that having an asset of a home would not be to our benefit. 

In His infinite wisdom, the Lord has not allowed us to conceive while we have been trying for a third baby the past few months.

In His infinite wisdom, He foresaw the accident that would occur on Monday, November 22, 2021. An accident where I fractured my ankle in two places and fibula. An accident that would result in a surgery that will take place on December 1, 2021. 

In His infinite wisdom, the Lord is all knowing. He knows better than me, and His plans are higher than my ways. 

I am thankful for the opportunities in this season to bear fruit in challenging circumstances. I am thankful for a community of friends and family who have surrounded us with prayer and support. What are you thankful for, Mama?

The Blessing of Obedience

On September 21, my husband Derek was in a very bad car accident. Praise God, he and the other person walked away with no major injuries. My Babes was only sore, and it was truly a miracle!

To be honest, my first response was not the best. I was very distressed about our better vehicle being the one that was totaled. That night I kept reaching out in my bed, crying thankful tears that my sweet Babes was still with me! Big picture is the Lord was gracious as He protected my husband and the other man that day.

We had originally planned to leave for our annual trip to Georgia in early October. That trip was postponed while we navigated our vehicle situation.

Insurance forms were filled out. The “Fam Cam” was towed. Insurance gave us an estimate. We countered back and were grateful when they considered the cost of inflation, resulting in a higher settlement than what they first offered. In the midst of all of this, we were helping our kiddos process this big change.

Lillian kept reminding my husband daily to “stay safe” as he would leave for work. Both kiddos would say in a sad voice multiple times a day, “The Fam Cam is GONE!”

In the meantime, a family from church allowed us to use their spare vehicle so we did not have to be a one-car family. This was a unexpected blessing and we are truly grateful.

We needed a new vehicle and were a bit on a time crunch, as we had already rescheduled our postponed vacation to Georgia for a departure date of November 9.

I kept hearing the Lord telling me to, “Be still,” and “Wait.” The devotions my children did even had this verse from Psalms several days in a row, “He says, Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10.

I questioned the Lord, telling Him, “That doesn’t make ANY SENSE! How can I be still and not look for a vehicle that we need?”

So for a month, I waited. I would occasionally look online and get discouraged by the costs and mileage of used cars. When I would question and pray about it, the Lord reminded me of the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar in Genesis 16. Sarah thought she had to help God out and tried going after a good thing instead of waiting for the better thing. I kept hearing the same message, “Be still and WAIT.”

One morning, I pulled out my journal and wrote down what I was asking the Lord for. Specifically, I wanted to pay cash and avoid a car payment, have a larger vehicle as we explore the possibility of expanding our family, have mileage around 50k, tinted windows, and a backup cam.

On the evening of Saturday, October 30th my mother-in-law came over with a list of websites and vehicles she had been diligently looking up. She led us to the site that led us to this amazing 2007 Honda Odyssey with only 51k miles, and around our price range. An extensive CarFax report was available and the van was very well maintained by an older couple. No backup cam, but a sensor in the back that makes a beeping noise when you’re too close. 😉 The dealership was located in Florida City, about an hour and a half away, so we prayed on it and asked the Lord to make it happen if this was what He had for our family.

P.S. My husband’s dream car has always been a Honda Odyssey. 😉

The next day I called the dealership and negotiated a price on the phone prior to making the drive. We had the pleasure of working with a man named Antonio, who was also a believer. He made our experience there a wonderful one!

As we were there, I sensed the Lord telling me, “This is the fruit, the blessing of your obedience in waiting.” The things I prayed for specifically were met, almost to a T.

I was so tempted to rush ahead of the Lord and chase after a good thing, but could have missed out on a better thing.

Have you ever experienced a blessing as a result of obedience, Mama? I’d love to hear from you!

Never Would I Ever

I remember playing the game, “Never have I ever…” back in high school and college. “Never have I ever been to Australia, run a full marathon, eaten…” You fill in the blank.

In my adult life, I’ve often said, “Never would I ever homeschool.” And here I am, into my second year of homeschooling my kiddos. 😉

A little background information on me: my degree is in Elementary Education and I taught at two different Title I public schools for a cumulative of 5 years after graduating college. When I had my first child, we as a family decided I would stay home instead of trading my paycheck in for daycare and doctors visits. I have been teaching for VIPKID for the past 4.5 years since being home.

My son was enrolled in kindergarten at a private school for the 2019-2020 school year. He had a scholarship called Step-Up which covered about 70% of his tuition. My plan was when my youngest, Lillian turned four, I would get a job at a local private school to cover the cost of tuition for both my children.

When the pandemic hit, life changed dramatically for us all.

My son’s school year ended online, and public and private schools were scrambling with how to begin the 2020-2021 school year. Virtual? Mask mandates? Social distancing at lunchtime and recess? Honestly, I was sending my son to school mostly for social purposes. Now that those were being taken away, and that the cost of tuition would still remain the same, we had to reevaluate. (Even 30% was a big committment for us.) We began to make a long list of pros and cons and to pray. Lots and lots of prayers.

Continue with private education or pursue the land of “Never Will I Ever?”

I had this plan that I had been holding tightly to for a long time now. I told this plan to many people over the years. I kept my teacher certificate renewed with the possibility of going back into the classroom one day. The plan as I mentioned earlier was to get a job at a local private school and my kids would attend where I taught.

Here’s the thing with my plans. I like planning. I like filling my family’s social calendar with events. I like setting goals for myself. And there’s nothing wrong with those things.

But, God’s Word says, “The mind of a person plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9

I began to have conversations with other local Mamas that homeschooled, I met with them and picked their brains. I am so thankful for these conversations and the time they took to share their wisdom with me.

One Mama encouraged me to I ask myself “Why am I doing this? What is my purpose in homeschooling?” She also said, “As you are doing your research I would encourage you to pray about what the Lord would have you do. At least that’s what I’ve done and it’s never steered me wrong.”

Godly wisdom.

Another Mama shared that she asks the Lord for a theme or verse to be her family’s focus for the year. An area that the Lord wants to grow them in as a family.

In the midst of all of this, I as an educator kept seeking all kinds of curriculum, homeschool groups, etc. But most of all I desired clarity.

Is this what the Lord had next for our family? Was I willing to step out in to faith and obedience?

As I prayed, I confessed to the Lord that I didn’t want to be a homeschool martyr mom. I didn’t want to talk about homeschooling as a burden, or something the Lord made me do and choose a bad attitude. If the Lord was calling our family to this, I desired to do it joyfully and for it to be a blessing to our family.

I struggled. I wrestled. I prayed. I surrendered. And boy did I cry. Lots of tears.

I asked the Lord for a sign, for confirmation in His Word. In many different seasons of my life the Lord has always been faithful to speak to me through the Scriptures. I wanted something to look back on and cling tightly to, a landmark of sorts at the beginning of this journey.

I woke up on June 17, 2020 to do my quiet time. (I only know this date because I journaled it!) I asked the Lord to speak to me through His Word. A lot of times I do this, but then I rush forward to reading my Bible and don’t take time to pause and listen. This particular morning, I felt strongly to pause. So I did.

When I closed my eyes, I saw a picture of two oxen and a yoke. I heard the Lord say, “My burden is easy and my yoke is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I needed to be reminded that homeschooling was not something I would do on my own strength, but in His strength!

When I opened my Bible study, the scripture was Proverbs 14:4, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but increase comes by the strength of an ox.” You can get more insight on this scripture here.

I was stunned, shocked really when I saw that scripture with oxen after I just was told about oxen. Then as I continued on with my study (which I was about 2/3 of the way through) for the day, the woman who wrote the Bible study mentioned for the first time that she homeschooled.

I had the clarity I’d been seeking.

Now, the point of this story isn’t to say that homeschooling has been all rainbows and unicorns (although Lillian does enjoy both of these). We have had some very hard, intense moments, and even days. We’ve also had dance parties in tutus and knight outfits, and lots of intentional time together as a family.

The purpose is not also to say that I think everyone should homeschool, or that this is what we will do forever and ever. We desire to continue to seek the Lord and ask Him for guidance as we enter each school year, saying “What next?”

The purpose of me sharing the beginning of this journey with you is to ask you, “What do you sense the Lord is calling you to do next? Have you asked Him for confirmation and clarity?”

Mama, The Creator of the Universe desires to speak to you and your heart. He has good plans for you and your family, way better than anything you can plan yourself.

Seek Him, get into His Word, and He will lead and guide your steps.

What about you, Mama? What are you doing now, that you once said, ”Never will I ever…?”

Book Review: Love and A Little White Lie

Hey Mamas! This summer had so many good reads by a lot of my favorite authors! If you haven’t read any of Tammy L. Gray’s books yet, check her out here! Here newest book is about to release in just three days!

I love Tammy’s honesty in the dedication. She thought her time as an author had come to an end, but the Lord gave her a story to write! I can relate as there are many times I’ve felt like giving up, and the Lord gives me the endurance to press on.

Love And A Little White Lie was a beautifully written story with characters that were authentic and relatable.

January journeys through her family dynamics and her past with a rawness that draws the reader in. She struggles with being attracted to two different men and wrestles with being agnostic while working at a church.

I loved seeing the transformation in her heart occur in this story! January’s feistiness and the swoony moments make Tammy L. Gray’s newest release a must read!

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Because sometimes it’s more about loving a person through a hard time than it is about forcing a conversion. God was going to do what He wanted to do. Meanwhile, I was convicted to use every part of this amazing ministry to show you His love.”

Not only does the main character fall in love with a man, but she falls in love with THE MAN, Jesus! That Tammy can preach, along with write a good story!

Thank you to the publishing team for this opportunity to read and review this book honestly!

Have you read any of Tammy L. Gray’s books? Which one is your favorite? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Quinoa Bowls

If you live in Palm Beach County and haven’t tried out the fast casual restaurant Anzo, make it a point to do so soon! Their ingredients are fresh and tasty and their falafel is the BEST I’ve tasted! This recipe is inspired by Anzo, which reopens today, May 25! My kids and I have been counting down the days and encourage you to check them out and support this local business!

Ingredients

For the Quinoa base

1 cup of quinoa uncooked

1-1 1/2 cups of lentils uncooked

For the roasted veggies

1 head is broccoli

1 head of cauliflower

2 sweet potatoes

1 package of Brussels sprouts

Olive oil for pan

Garlic salt for seasoning

For the Tomato Salsa

1 package of grape tomatoes

Cilantro

Purple onion

Lemon

Salt

Toppings (optional)

Store-bought hummus (we use the organic Costco brand)

Sliced avocado

Sunflower seeds

Directions:

1. Put one cup of quinoa and two cups of water into a pot and cover on medium high. Bring to a boil and lower immediately after so it doesn’t boil over. Reducing heat to low, allow to cook until all liquid has been absorbed.

2. In a separate pot, put in lentils and fill pot halfway with water. Cook on medium high for about 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.

3. Drain lentils and combine with quinoa, mixing and adding a little garlic salt.

4. While the lentils and quinoa are cooking, prep your veggies. Preheat oven to 375. Spray two cookie sheets with olive oil.

5. Chop sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts after rinsing thoroughly. For Brussels sprouts, cut off tips and half or quarter them. Toss all Brussels sprout leaves onto pan also as these are crunch yummy. Sprinkle with garlic salt.

6. Roast the veggies for about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through and moving veggies around with a spatula. I like my veggies a little charred, so sometimes leave them in a few minutes longer.

7. While the veggies are roasting, prepare the tomato salsa. Rinse and slice grape tomatoes in half. Dice onion and finely chop cilantro. Mix all together into a bowl with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil. And dash of salt. Taste and season according to your preference.

To assemble the bowls, put the quinoa lentil base at the bottom. Pile on the veggies and tomato salsa. Add avocado, hummus, and sunflower seeds if desired. Enjoy!

This is a great meal to prepare in advance and make in bulk to have for lunches for a few days.

What local businesses are you most looking forward to reopening, Mama?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Stay With Me

Happy Monday, Mamas! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, reading is one of my favorite forms of self-care.

In recent years I’ve discovered that authors have “launch teams” where they select applicants to read their new releases in advance. The responsibilities of the launch team members include writing reviews, and promoting the books on social media prior to release day.

I have the privilege of being on Becky Wade’s launch team for her newest release, Stay With Me. This beauty releases tomorrow, May 5, 2020. You can check out my brief review below.

Gen awakens in a cottage on Sam’s property, with no recollection of how she arrived there. Sam discovers Gen’s secret and from the get-go convinces himself to remain as he has, isolated and alone.

The two characters must work through their past, and attraction to each other causes sparks to fly. Their experiences have shaped them, but can they trust the Lord to guide their future?

This is a must read! Every year, I mark my calendar for Becky Wade’s newest release. And every year, I am so sad when I’ve finished reading her newest book, because they are SO GOOD! Stay With Me is a beautiful story that has the reader searching their heart and staying up past their bedtime!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

You can purchase Stay With Me on amazon, bookbub, Barnes & Noble, christianbooks.com, Books-A-Million, and a few other places I might have forgotten! 😉

This particular book is one of my favorites by Becky. If you haven’t checked out this author, I highly encourage you to!

What books are you reading, Mama?

Bonus: Check out some of my favorite quotes from Stay With Me!

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My Thankful Song: Stirring up Gratitude

In May 2013, my Babes and I returned to the U.S. after an eleven month journey called the World Race.

August 2013, we packed our bags once again and moved from Florida to Georgia where I landed a second grade teaching position and my Babes an internship with Adventures in Missions.

Shortly after moving, we discovered I was pregnant. After having no income for one year. After moving away from our family once again. After moving to a city where traffic was horrendous on my daily drive to and from work.

I struggled daily to find contentment, to find something to be thankful for. The Georgia gray skies were depressing. As my belly grew daily, I found it hard to fit behind the wheel of Whitey Tighty, my afternoon 1997 Corolla on the cool winter mornings. My classroom was the trailer that was farthest away from the school, and more importantly the bathroom. And the day we went to move into our apartment, we discovered they gave it away to someone else.

I felt strongly that I needed to do something to help stir up gratefulness in my own heart. One morning on my drive to work, I created a thankful song. It’s so simple, but any time I would feel the gray skies pressing in, I would sing this silly song. It helped change my focus to the blessings in my life.

After all, the Lord provided a beautiful home for us to live in. After being sad about the distance between my family and I, God provided family and community in a unique way. After all, the Lord had provided the job and a new scenic route to school that didn’t include as much traffic. After all, the Lord provided the blessing of a firstborn son.

A friend of mine who lives in Georgia texted me a few days ago and reminded me of my thankful song. I have sung it through many seasons over the years, and the tune is a little quirky and silly.

I was reminded of the importance of stirring up gratitude in this very unusual season of quarantine. I am sure that this is not what many of us hoped for or anticipated for 2020. Mamas, it’s ok to be honest with God about our disappointments. Surrender them to him and then take a moment to be thankful for your blessings.

Thank you God for a place to live.

Thank you God for the food that you provide.

Thank you God for my job at VIPKID.

Thank you God for my healthy familyyyyyyyyy.

(The last line I usually stretch out quite a bit.)

How are you stirring up gratitude in this season, Mamas?

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:4

 

Chlene’s Italian Salad

Happy Thursday, Mamas! This is day ? of quarantine due to COVID-19. Anybody counting the days? I’ve lost track. I am, however, trying hard to stay on track with keeping myself and my family healthy!

One of my favorite ways to do that is through plant based foods. Today I want to share with you my most favorite salad. It’s my mom’s Italian salad that she’s made for numerous gatherings over my childhood and growing up. You can make it vegan, or can add meat and some feta on top. Your choice!

I’ve been making this once a week for dinner lately, and since I’m in chopping mode, I always prep a salad for the Babes and me the next day for lunch. I hope you enjoy it!

Chlene’s Balsamic dressing

Ingredients 

6 Garlic cloves

1 part balsamic, 2 parts olive oil

Spicy Golden mustard

Fresh lemon

Parm Cheese (optional)

Garlic Salt

Italian Seasoning

Pepper

Large Mason Jar

Directions

Finely chop the garlic cloves and add to the bottom of the jar. Fill the jar about 1/4 of the way with balsamic. Then pour to almost 3/4 of the way with olive oil. Add a few long squeezes of mustard. Squeeze in juice from a 1/4 of a lemon. Add 4-5 big shakes of Parm cheese, 4 big shakes of garlic salt, 3 shakes of Italian seasoning and 3 shakes of pepper. Stir, shake, whatev’s. Pour on salad and enjoy! We use a large mason jar that contains …ounces.

Chlene’s Salad

A large bag or container of spinach (we use the one from Costco).

1 can of white navy beans

1 can of pitted black olives

Purple onion

1 large Tomato 🍅

1 cucumber 🥒

1 container of  mushrooms 🍄

2 Hard boiled eggs 🥚

Avocado 🥑

Feta Cheese 🧀

In a large bowl, full with spinach.

Drain and rinse the beans and olives. Pour on top of spinach.

Chop the remainder of the toppings, and add into salad.

Add some feta cheese (optional), salad dressing, toss, and serve!

Enjoy!

Whats your favorite salad, Mama?

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday, SATURDAY, Easter Sunday

My sister sent me a photo via text message last night. Jesus was having a Zoom meeting at the Last Supper with His disciples and was looking for Judas. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

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Why do people call Good Friday “good?” I’m sure the disciples didn’t think it was a good day. Their best friend, their mentor, their roommate, their fish and bread winner was dead. Even though Jesus warned them multiple times, they didn’t quite get it until the cross was right in front of their faces.

That Friday wasn’t good for them, but it is good news for you and me. Typically a day where services are more somber and a time for reflection. I would venture to say that before we can celebrate Easter, we have to understand what it is and Who it is we are celebrating.

I read an excerpt from “Who Is This Man?” by John Ortberg this morning. He proposes that “Silent Saturday is the time in between despair and joy, this strange in between day.”

As I read on, I couldn’t help but think that this is what we are facing right now in this in between space moment of history. With COVID-19 effecting peoples’ health, economy, and changing our daily lives dramatically, many of us are in this “strange in between” space. In between jobs, in between what used to be and what we hope for, in between a paycheck and wondering how we will provide for our families…

Mamas, Papas, families, you are not alone. The disciples also experienced this Saturday 2,000 years ago. Ortberg questions, “What do you do with Saturday? You can wait. Work with God even when He feels far away. Rest. Ask. Whine. Complain. Trust.” 

It’s ok to be real with God. Abraham was. He questioned how could he possibly become the Father of Nations when he had no children and was old enough to be a great grandfather. Moses was. He questioned God’s choice of a spokesperson for His people, after all, he had a stutter. Mary was. She questioned Gabriel, “How can this be?” when she was told she would give birth to the Messiah when she had never been with a man.

On this Saturday, God is waiting for you to be real with the in between spaces of your heart. Don’t rush from Friday, skip Saturday, and get to Sunday. Press into this moment, this day, and this in between space.

What are you and your family “in between” right now, Mama? I’d love to hear from you! Share in the comments below.

 

*Quotes referenced from “Who Is This Man?” by John Ortberg

Wanting and Choosing Peace

Yesterday morning, around 3:30 am, my husband slid into bed. He’s a night owl, and I usually stir awake when he comes to join me in the wee hours of the morning. He proceeded to tell me how there was a rumor that our nation would be on complete lockdown due to the Coronavirus outbreak. We discussed running to the grocery store first thing when the sun rose to grab some items and stock up.

Yesterday morning was filled with me texting multiple Mama friends to warn them of the possibility. I wanted to share the news with them because would want to know! I have little mouths to feed, and so do they!

Last night as I reflected on my day, I realized that the rumor was just a rumor. But also, I was reminded how some cities have shut down completely. I don’t regret going to the grocery store, but I was saddened by the order in which I chose to set about my day.

Last night as I reflected on my day, I realized…

I want to run to the Lord first thing in the morning, not the grocery store. He is my Source and my Provider. I chose today, to spend time in His Word, reflecting on His promises, and journaling.

I want to bring peace to my Mama friends, not chaos. I chose to apologize to those Mama friends and shared an encouraging devotional I read instead today.

I and my children, along with everyone else, are processing a new normal. I want to adapt well and help my kids adapt well. In order for this to happen, I chose to acknowledge the emotions of disappointment and surrender any anxious thoughts to the Lord.

This is a time unlike any other that I’ve experienced in my lifetime. When the doubts and worries of finances, jobs, food, toilet paper, and the economy creep in, how do you want to respond, Mamas? What do you chose to do?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33