Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello, beautiful friends. I'm so thankful for you!

It's a blessed Thanksgiving day here. My heart overflows with gratitude. Mass with P. and my family, precious time cooking with P. and setting up the Christmas tree. On our way to my parents for celebrating with dinner and time together.

At Mass, Father T. reminded us that we can't stop at enjoying the day with family or celebrating with food and football even though those things are certainly blessings. (eh, football...that's negotiable.) This is a day for thanking the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17). Our Father in heaven who loves us so deeply and lavishes upon us His grace and mercy every day.

My holidays haven't always been picture-perfect like today feels. For five years in a row, I went through some type of breakup, including a broken engagement. I know what it's like to feel keenly the emotions of loneliness, disappointment, grief on a day like today. In the midst of my joy and thankfulness this year, my heart hurts for those struggling today. Those without food, without family, grieving the death of a family member, going solo to the get-together, those who do not know Jesus and His love for them. So I pray a special prayer for you today, that you will feel the presence of God with you. That you receive His outpouring of love, strength, comfort, and sufficient grace. And hope.

He has given us good things. And He has good things in store (Sirach 2:9)! He prepares our paths with love and care, and He walks each step beside us.

Let us give thanks together for this day, this moment, and the simplest of blessings contained in them.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Little Bit O' Homesteading {my successful attempt at baking pumpkins and squash}

We had a Thanksgiving potluck at work last week and as most of the meal dishes already had cooks signed up for them, I decided to snazzy up our coffee in the morning by bringing Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Scones.

But alas! The day I was to make them, I opened up the cupboard, dug through the, uh, perfectly organized cans of course...but no pumpkin was to be found. What's a girl to do? Call her sister, of course...who had no canned pumpkin either!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. She suggested sacrificing my Fall decorations. The prairie woman within was awakened.

So I solemnly took my cute little pie pumpkin near the candle and potpourri and brought it to the kitchen, adding a butternut squash for company.

Want to try your hand at making real pumpkin puree and butternut squash? Follow along...

Here are my cute little guys.

First, slice off the tops and bottoms.

Cut each in half so you can then see the seeds to scoop out.

For the butternut squash, you will want to cut the sides off like you would a pineapple.

Scoop out the seeds and pulpy stuff of each. Remember to save your pumpkin seeds for roasting!

I chopped the butternut squash in chunks but the pumpkin I left in fourths, with the outer skin on.

I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. No oil on them or the pumpkin will not make a good puree.
This is how it looked when I removed it from the oven.

As you can tell, I will never be a food blogger. First, because my pictures are sadly inadequate. Secondly, because I forgot to take a picture at the very end!! I packaged the butternut squash chunks in a freezer bag and froze them until I decide to make a soup or pasta recipe with them. The pumpkin I mashed in a bowl until it resembled puree (a food processor would do the job really well if you have one!).

And there you have it. My fairly successful attempt at homemade pumpkin puree (with some tips on butternut squash just for fun, too).

Many thanks to the real Pioneer Woman for helpful hints along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving week, friends! Did you know I'm thankful for you?!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When It's Hard to Find the Strength to Go to Him

Yesterday morning, I was reflecting on John chapter 11, specifically verses 17-37. The story of Lazarus' death and when Jesus goes to raise him from the dead. But I wasn't thinking about Lazarus. Or even Jesus.

I was thinking about the sisters.

Their grief and the way they dealt with it. Their friendship with Jesus and how their brother's death affected it.

When their brother was ill, they called upon Jesus because of their faith in Him.

"So the sisters sent word to him, saying, 'Master, the one you love is ill.'"

He stayed two days longer in His current town before traveling to their rescue. Because He knew--He had another plan, one that would bring greater glory to God and greater faith and trust in Him.

In the meantime, Lazarus died. And sometimes the unexpected happens in our own lives, when we've cried out to God time and time again to save us from an outcome, heartache, pain. But it happens anyway. I don't know about you, but I've wrestled with this at times. The question "Why?" Eight months ago, I sat alone in the back of the church during Sunday Mass, overwhelmed by my grief but soaking in the Scripture readings. John 11 was being read and this tiny hidden verse hit me as it had never done before. Because I related to Mary:

"When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home."

Even though I still believe in Him, still trust Him with my mind...I just don't have the strength or the words to pray. I sit there but my heart struggles. Is that okay? If I had greater faith, would I be Martha, going out to meet Jesus, boldly and actively continuing on knowing He will make all things right? Instead, sometimes I can't find the strength to go to Him. I sit at home.

But this is the God we serve, dear friends. The One who doesn't hold our weakness against us, but instead pursues us in our grieving. He seeks us out to heal us, even when we don't have the strength to go out and meet Him. He will come to you. He will call your name.

"When [Martha] had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, 'The teacher is here and is asking for you.'"

So let Him find you as you are. Fall at His feet and tell Him all your fears and doubts. He knows already anyway.

"When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'"

Your tears matter to God.

"When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said 'Where have you laid him?' They said to Him, 'Sir, come and see.'

"And Jesus wept."

Even though He knew He was about to perform a miracle, Jesus cried. Our God...wept.

He didn't hold it against Mary that in her grieving she didn't go out to meet Him. He came to her. He cried with her. And then He brought good from bad, beauty from ashes, victory over death.

I texted a girlfriend these verses yesterday because of a heavy cross she is carrying right now. She replied with "God is so good" because she had been meditating on a verse from this very chapter for the past few days!

It stirred me to share my thoughts with you. Because maybe God wants you to know this. That He's not holding it against you if you're struggling in prayer or growth because of pain or suffering in your life. He's meeting you where you are. He's coming to you, sweet friend. Take whatever steps you can to meet Him but He will close the gap. Fall at His feet. He has a beautiful plan for you but for now, He is simply holding you in His arms.

I'm praying for you.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

N.A.S.--How Do You Pray at Home?

I'm linking up with the N.A.S. girls this week! I loved their topic:

How do you pray at home? Do you have a special place in your house? How do you make that area special? Comfy chair? Prayer cards? What suggestions do you have to make a home altar? If you don't do this, in what ways can you begin?

Prayer is one of my favorite topics! Not because I'm particularly good at it, but because I want to be! I think it's one of the greatest gifts to us from God-- how amazing is it that He not only brought us into being but that He wants to continually commune with us. This infinite, powerful God allows us to talk to Him any time!!

My main prayer time would be in the morning. I love to start my day with prayer. I used to pray in the car on the way to work, but a few years ago I challenged myself during Advent to get up 30-40 minutes earlier and pray at home by the light of a candle with a cup of tea. It pretty much changed my{prayer} life. I've done it ever since! (with an occasional miss here and there after a late night or on a rushed morning-- you know, always keeping it real!)

Even though prayer is simply raising our minds and hearts to God, I do find that atmosphere and outer circumstances can be more or less conducive to that. I love to have a cup of tea or coffee and curl up under a blanket...the same way I would be less distracted catching up with a girlfriend than if we were in the middle of a loud, crazy party. We're more likely to connect with God if we take the time to remove distractions, calm our minds and hearts, and prepare to focus on quality time with Him. 

I do actually have a "prayer spot" but I generally just use it for morning prayers, although sometimes I retreat to it after a crazy or stressful or emotional day. It's a corner of my couch in the guest room, where the end table has a basket of devotional, printed prayers, and books on my favorite saints. Several of my religious pictures hang in that room and help me focus as well. 

My favorite aids to prayer are the rosary, the Litany of Humility (Laura P., it gets less intimidating as you pray it, seriously! Sometimes I find myself actually desiring those things, haha!), the Mass readings for the day, and a list of intentions from my women's group. I also honestly just love spontaneous prayer. It helps me feel connected to God when I just talk to Him from my heart or pause and reflect on His truths and promises about His love and care for me individually. 

Despite my love of prayer, I definitely get distracted or allow other things to take priority! My goal for improvement would be to be more intentional during my prayer (and not get habitual or monotonous) as well as to challenge myself to lengthen the time I set aside to pray in the morning and evening (too often I find myself cutting off 5-10 minutes here and there, waiting until I'm too tired, and so on). 

I just went to a spiritual retreat a few weeks ago and purchased this book on prayer by one of the speakers, beautiful and Spirit-led Sister Ann Shields of Renewal Ministries:

I look forward to being challenged and inspired to go ever deeper with the Lord.

Looking forward to reading all of your thoughts, too, ladies!

Check out the other posts on prayer at Jen's blog!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quick Takes Friday! [vol. 18]


Yay!!! For two reasons. It's Friday (can I get another yay??). And secondly, because I'm actually posting quick takes! I feel like I'm always missing the fun for some reason or another. These are going to be Really Quick Takes though because I'm awfully sleepy.


Thank you so much for your beautiful comments on my engagement post. Your love, friendship, and support mean such a great deal to me! I really mean that. I saw this quote the other day and thought it really fits my life: "I may have found my man, but I still need my girls!" 


P. and I decided to do an act of service together each month until the wedding. Tonight we visited nursing home residents together. It was so beautiful and powerful. I bought fresh flowers and Rice Krispie treats (I know, I know-- I should have homemade something, but I let go of perfection and knew they'd still appreciate these sweet snacks!). We both were impacted by the hidden lives we encountered, by the slow pace as we waited for residents to walk with us or respond slowly to a question. I forget how fast we live in our daily lives. Slow me down, Lord, so that I live each moment aware of Your presence.


It snowed today. Crazy white stuff. I'm not ready for it!!!! (This from the girl who loves holidays!) 


I am excited about Thanksgiving, though. New recipes to try. New traditions to start. Do you have any favorite recipes or traditions? I love the idea of having a Thanksgiving tablecloth where you write what you are thankful for each year right on the cloth. Would that be distracting and clutter-y or memorable and beautiful?


And I can't talk about Thanksgiving without Christmas thoughts slipping in...I am ridiculously happy about a book coming in the mail for Advent: Scott Hahn's new book Joy to the World. He's one of my favorite Catholic writers with his Scripture knowledge that's as deep as his sincere, seeking heart. I'm so looking forward to digging into the historical/Biblical truths of the reason for the season. 


Last but not least: I can't get enough of these three. Had dinner with my parents last night at their new house then swung by my sister's house for some sister-talk and some cuddling with the littles. Melt my heart. Their smiles are the best. (I know the picture quality isn't the best-- Instagram is so much more forgiving with my lack of photography skills!)

I tell them it's time for Instagram and the giggles start!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.

This fairy tale has had its share of fire-breathing dragons, damsels in distress, and tangled forests.

And to be honest? It probably will continue to.

But that's okay...“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” 

Our tale?

Once upon a time we met in Summer 2011 at a church picnic. He fell head over heels. I was dating someone else.
The photographer claims she knew it was coming...

I joined as a chaperone for the mission trip in Spring 2012, no longer in a relationship.
Now I fall head over heels for this incredible spiritual leader.
Who also has all the charm of, well, you know, Prince Charming.
So we work together,
We laugh together.

We serve together.

But life gets messy. Really messy sometimes.

We wonder if God is really calling us to play on the same team.
 We ask for a little help from our friends...

A lot of time, tears, grace, and growth. Dragons being beaten. Dark forests being traveled. 

And then one day...


He proposes. I say yes. 

And we live happily ever after.
Well, kind of. Because the goal of marriage isn't to be happy...
It's to be holy.
And to get to Heaven, where we'll be eternally happy.
So we're on this journey together with the hope of a happily ever after.
The end.

Just kidding. It's only the beginning. And I'm beyond grateful to be walking this path with this man whom I admire, respect, and love so deeply. What a gift. What an incredible joy and blessing from above. Thank YOU for your faithful friendship as a reader, for staying with me through the storms and sunshine. Please continue to do so, for I treasure you and love sharing life with you. Pray for us and know that I pray for you.

Life is beautiful. 

"Every person's life is a fairy tale written by God's fingers." -Hans Christian Andersen

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The American Catholic Almanac: A Book Review

You know I'm a one-day-at-a-time, live-in-the-moment kind of girl. So bite-size, daily devotionals and quote calendars and the like are just my thing.

I'm also somewhat of a closet history buff.

Enter The American Catholic Almanac. It's perfect. You'll know why when I tell you the subtitle: "A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States." I know. You want to read it already and I haven't even finished this review!

It's so great, guys. One page a day about a little known American Catholic. Such a variety of amazing stories of people from all walks of life! I'm convinced our history books are government propaganda these days. Seriously-- these people are amazing and they're never even mentioned in public school history classes! 

This book is absolutely fascinating. It would be great for families to read around the breakfast table (maybe after the Saint of the Day?), but it's pertinent to anyone whether you're single or married, adult or child. Definitely gets five stars from me. 

Oh, and since we just flipped the calendar and it's time to start thinking of these would make such a neat, unique Christmas gift!!

[I received this book from Blogging for Books at no cost in exchange for a review. These are my honest and original thoughts concerning the book.]

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"The Lord your God will fight for you; you have only to be still."

-Exodus 14:14

What battles are you facing today? Where is God asking you to slow down and be still and trust Him? I'm praying for you, friends!