Rest for the Weary: Finding a Sabbath Routine that WORKS!

I see you, weary friend.  I see that the world has gotten you down. Actually, I AM you. Or, just like you. Does this sound familiar?

Dinner was a mess. You have agreed to too many activities. There’s still a pile of laundry looming by the washer and dirty dishes in the sink. Your e-mail inbox is screaming to be checked. There’s a stack of bills, and as soon as those are paid, a whole new stack arrives.

I see you as you hurriedly shuffle through the grocery store, grabbing bread because you ran out. I see you, but we’re too busy to notice each other. 


I’m just like you. I’m busy and weary too.

When I read a suggestion about taking a regular weekly rest, I loved the idea. I would lay in a hammock and read books on a Sunday afternoon. I would pray. I would catch up on that Bible reading plan I abandoned back on Monday.

But when I read further and discovered that this day of rest had a name, Sabbath, I felt a heavy weight being added to my shoulders.

On top of everything else, a holy day?

Is it not enough that I taught Sunday school and volunteered on Wednesdays? Is it not enough that I schlupp my grouchy kid to church on Sunday and attend a Bible study?

I’m doing everything. How am I ever going to find time for a holy day in my week?
So, I resisted. I ignored the suggestion, burning in spirit-form in the back of my brain. But a few weeks later, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Despite myself, I went back and studied this Sabbath thing a little more.


Let me explain a sample schedule for you.

Spend Monday through Wednesday doing the laundry. I can do that. 

Meal plan and go to the grocery store on Thursday. On Friday, vacuum. I can handle those.

Do those last second chores like mowing and errands on Saturday morning and afternoon, sometimes rushing because you know that the rest is coming and that it is worth it. Set out clothes for church on Sunday. Make sure that there is easy food options for the next day.

And then, the final prep. (Eek! My favorite part!) Go into your kitchen on a Saturday evening, before it gets dark. Pick out a favorite meal–it can be special, but it doesn’t have to be–and make it for your family.

Mm. Yes.  Be the blessing.


Set out your best dishes and light a couple of candles. Call some people that are dearest to your heart to the table.

Enjoy a meal together. Savor it, because you know that THIS is the greatest part of the week. Pray together. Discuss a section of scripture, maybe, or just talk about how God was great this last week. Be open and vulnerable and real. Amen.

Since you have already prepared for Sunday morning, there’s less of a rush. It’s not going to be perfect, but there’s a whisper peace in the midst of it.

Languish in the rest of the day. Sunday. Easy meals are ready in the fridge for whoever wants something, and chores are ignored. Togetherness is celebrated.

And suddenly, Monday isn’t something to be dreaded, because you’re prepared for anything that comes your way. And if your week turns out uglier than you anticipated, you think of the rest waiting for you on Saturday, and it’s suddenly bearable again.

Sabbath takes practice. It is a practice


And, sometimes it goes all wrong.

Sometimes everyone has fevers that week, and nobody does laundry so some essentials get thrown in. Sometimes you don’t get the main ingredient from the store, and your family enjoys a sabbath dinner of canned refried beans with spoons. 

Yep.

Or, sometimes you try really hard to this meal perfect just to burn yourself on a 400 degree pan and spend the entire dinner with your hand in a bowl of water. 

True story.

Or, if you’re like me, a parent of littles, you pray a quick sing-songey prayer at dinner and spend the meal avoiding someone smearing mushed carrots into your hair, and save the majority of serious talk for after bedtime. (If you’re still awake…)

It’s not about being perfect. IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING PERFECT. There is grace in the practice.

It’s about the rest. And the recognition of good in your life. And the time together. And the honoring of God.

It’s about the savoring. There is grace in the practice.

Sometimes there’s a soccer tournament on Sunday or a birthday party Saturday night, and you get to decide if these things are restful. There is grace in the practice.
Be intentional with your time. Dare to rest. Sabbath.

Please, let me know how it goes.

Weekend Links

It’s the weekend! Enjoy!

When You Are Stuck In A Dinner Rut (Cookbook Review and BONUS Recipe!)

I have been stuck in a dinner rut recently.

It’s been bad.

Like, frozen pizza bad. (Which is soooo not my style.)


It didn’t help that the weather in Kansas went from warm pleasant spring to WINTER. Snow, ice, the whole tamale. Again. It was so hard to get motivated to cook new recipes when all I wanted was familiar comfort.

Then, when a warm, rainy spring day finally returned, I still reached for a familiar favorite: Summer Vegetable Ravioli Salad. I wanted to enjoy the lighter flavors that come with warmer weather but wasn’t willing to stretch far from my comfy regime.

I had just finished the recipe, but a TORNADO WARNING popped up unexpectedly.

If you’re not familiar, a tornado warning means go to your basement now because there’s literally a tornado swirling around in the sky and heading your direction. In this situation, if we have time, I head to my parent’s basement, about a mile away, because our current house is built on a slab foundation.

(If we don’t have time, two different neighbors with basements in our cul-de-sac have offered to shelter us. Or, we could get into an interior closet. We have lots of options.)

Anyway, to recap, I had just finished cooking a favorite recipe on a rainy spring day when I got word that a tornado had been spotted one town away and was heading my direction.

I grabbed the diaper bag, threw on shoes, and headed to the car while my husband strapped our son into his car seat. But then I had an idea. Why not bring dinner? I had made more than enough to share, and it was just sitting there completely ready in the pot getting cold.

So I hopped back inside toward the kitchen, but my feet were now wet. As soon as I touched the kitchen tile, whoop!

I fell.

Now, I’m lying on the floor. My first thought: oooouuuccch, I think I sprained my ankle. My second thought: thank God nobody saw me do that. My third thought: I am so glad I wasn’t holding dinner while I fell, because I’m still looking forward to eating that!

I grab dinner and hobble out the door as fast as I could (because remember, TORNADO!).

But, yeah, I totally sprained my ankle. A couple of days of ice followed by a doctor’s appointment, x-rays and the following instructions: rest, wear this little brace, and “no sports.”

So, aside from one memorable meal, the dinner rut continued.

THIS BOOK SAVED ME FROM MY DINNER RUT! (Affiliate link)

I had requested it at my local library weeks ago, and while I was laid up with hurt ankle and hurt pride. It was so inspiring! As soon as I was feeling up to going on a grocery run, I wrote out a meal plan, including three new-to-us recipes, and went shopping! 

And this recipe, Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Smoked Paprika, is an instant hit with my family. It’s going into my permanent rotation!

It reminded me of another favorite recipe of mine: Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta from CookingLight. But, as much as I LOVE that recipe, I never have enough time to make it on a week night. Believe me, I’ve tried!

Ingredients

  • 3 c chopped butternut squash (use frozen to save time!)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped (again, use frozen to save time, if you want!)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme (or leaves from 4 or 5 fresh thyme springs)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 lb any pasta
  • 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • fresh ricotta for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. in a baking dish lined with foil, toss together squash, onions, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper, and paprika. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and browning around the edges.
  3. While the squash is in the oven, prepare the pasta per package directions, reserving 1/4 c of pasta water before draining.
  4. Return the drained pasta to the pot and toss with the squash.
  5. Add the Parmesan with half of the reserved pasta water to thin and evenly distribute the cheese. (Note: I have to admit, I was a doubter on this step. A sauce made with starchy water and cheese? Noooope. BUT, I stuck with it, and it turns out just fine in the end!!)
  6. Serve immediately, topped with ricotta and more Parmesan.



Bible Stories for the Easter Basket

It seems like there might be no escaping commercialized Easter. The chocolate bunnies and plastic eggs appeared February 15. They will remain on display looking completely yummy until Easter morning.

The marketing, which is targeted at children, has already caught the eye of my one year-old.

As a Christian parent, it makes me 100% uncomfortable.

How did celebrating Jesus turn into this tangled web of bunnies, eggs, and chocolate?

How did celebrating Jesus turn into this tangled web of bunnies, eggs, and chocolate?

I’m still new to this parenting thing, so this is really the first Easter for us. We are attempting to navigate this while still being intentional about celebrating Jesus is so confusing.

As much as I feel conflicted that an illogical egg laying magical rabbit might detract from the real meaning of Easter, if you take away the egg hunts and the gifts, you’re left with dressing uncomfortably, attending an especially crowded Easter service, and eating a side of my grandma’s asparagus and egg casserole with lunch. Nothing about that seems remotely exciting or kid friendly.

(Plus, egg hunts are fun!)

An Easter egg hunt is of course happening. But the Easter basket full of gifts? I’m not so sure about that.

Long before our son was born, we agreed on a gift giving motto for our family: one thing we want, one thing we need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read.

Books are our go to gift for each other.

We absolutely do not need any more toys or sweets at this house. So I got to thinking… what if the gift that was sitting out on Easter morning pointed back to the real reason we’re celebrating?

…what if the gift that was sitting out on Easter morning pointed back to the real reason we’re celebrating?

What about Bible stories?

My son LOVES books! We have many kids books at our house, and we regularly visit the children’s section local public library.

He and I probably read somewhere between 15-30 board books in any given day. I’m encouraging this as much as possible. Anytime he brings me a book, I drop what I’m doing for a few minutes and read that book with him. We both really enjoy this time together.

Not many books we have read share about the love of God in a way that my son understands. Our public library can’t really support us in this area. So, the Bible stories at our house were either gifts or books that I purposely sought out.

Easter is a good excuse to invest in a couple new reads about the most important story of all: the story of how much God loves us!

Easter is a good excuse to invest in a couple new reads about the most important story of all: the story of how much God loves us!

Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

Frankly, a lot of Bible based board books take on way too much. Why do so many of them attempt to summarize the entire Bible? In our house, we normally only get through a couple of pages before losing interest.

And, many books that focus on a single story are a struggle to get through. Why so wordy? At this age, we will talk about pictures for a couple of pages before moving on.

Even so, these are books that we have sincerely enjoyed.

The Lift the Flap Bible is so interactive! We really enjoy the Noah page and the Jonah page. It’s great for kids who love to manipulate books themselves! This is the only book in our current board book collection that even attempts to introduce very young readers to the Easter story.

This book does a pretty good job of gently introducing young kids to the Easter story, and it includes flaps for the empty tomb and has a page about Jesus appearing and making breakfast for his disciples.

Read the description: Tracey Moroney’s masterpiece Lift the Flap Bible, now with a refreshed cover, brings 14 beloved Bible stories to life with beautiful illustrations and 40 flaps. The perfect introduction to timeless stories from the old and new testaments the Lift-the-Flap Bible combines breathtaking illustrations with delightful text. With flaps to open on every page (and surprises to find underneath), children join in the thrill of discovery as they take part in each of the stories from the Old and New Testaments. Through the pages of this stunning Bible, the greatest story ever told is traced and the wonderful news that God loves us is brought home to the heart of every child. (via Amazon)

A free copy of The Shepherd and the Sheep was sent to me for free by the publishing company, and it was very well timed with my son’s new obsession with the “baa baa baa sheep” from his farm set! The simple flaps on the right side of the page are easy for him to navigate, and we always enjoy a giggle over the story.

Read the description: Part of a trio of interactive lift-the-flap books, The Shepherd and the Sheep tells a sweet story of the Great Shepherd searching for his one lost sheep. The reader searches for the sheep in several places―all related to stories in the Bible―by unfolding the flap to reveal a hidden image. (via Amazon)

The Little Golden Bible Storybook (Padded Board Book) makes me nostalgic for my own childhood. We currently pick and choose pages to read in this book, but I look forward to discussing them more in a couple of years. Each Bible story is short and sweet, and the pictures are very colorful. This book doesn’t talk much about Easter specifically, but it does have a page about the Last Supper and communion.

Read the description: The simple retellings and bright illustrations of these best-known Bible stories make sharing the Good Word a warm and enriching experience for parents and very young children. (via Amazon)

A new addition to our book collection, God Made You Nose to Toes, has been a big hit. It doesn’t talk specifically about the Easter story, but it does teach kids parts of the body using fun animals and talks about how we are made by God.

Read the description: Help little ones understand that God created each part of their bodies so they can enjoy life and everything in it. In this delightful padded cover board book by well-known author and family therapist Leslie Parrott, children can follow along with Toucan––with a great big nose––as he helps them learn God loves each one of them completely. (via Amazon)

A nod to our beloved “Brown Bear” book (illustrated by Eric Carle) and by the same author, Noah, Noah, What Do You See? is a cute telling of many famous Bible stories.

Read the description: From the bestselling authors of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Chicka Chicka, 1, 2, 3 with colorful art from Melissa Iwai and the signature rhyming style of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, parents and children alike will love the classic storytelling of Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson. (via Amazon)

Really Woolly Easter Blessings might just be my Easter basket purchase this year (because “baa baa baa” sheep!). It has excellent Amazon reviews.

Read the description: “Winter’s nap is over, and new life is all around! Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. And the Really Woolly characters are discovering God’s goodness all around them. Curl up with your little one, and join the fun while learning about the hope of Easter and springtime! Adorable rhymes, sweet Bible verses, and prayer starters will make reading time a special moment for you and your child—to connect with each other and with God.” (via Amazon)

My other Easter choice: Jesus Calling for Little Ones by Sara Young and Antonia Woodward.

Description from Amazon: “From bestselling author Sarah Young, Jesus Calling for Little Ones reassures toddlers and preschoolers of Jesus’ never-ending love. Devotions are written as if Jesus is speaking directly to your child’s heart—showing that Jesus knows us from our head to our toes and is always taking care of us. Along with adorable illustrations and a durable format, this is sure to be a treasure for your precious little ones.”

Books for Elementary Aged Children

The Beginner’s Bible for Toddlers has more than 160 pages, so it’s really more appropriate for older pre-schoolers. But that little handle and the flap that comes on the hardback version? ABSOLUTELY PRECIOUS. Kids take a book so much more seriously when it comes with a little velcro lock. Obviously this book is special.

Read the description: The Beginner’s Bible®, the bestselling Bible storybook of our time, now in a special edition just for toddlers. Toddlers will love this special edition of The Beginner’s Bible® created especially for tiny hands to carry with them wherever they go. The toddlers edition features a smaller size, a go-anywhere handle, and an easy Velcro closure. Toddlers will come to know and love the key stories and characters of the Bible with this best-loved Bible storybook. Now updated with vibrant new art, text, and over 25 stories, The Beginner’s Bible® is the perfect starting point for children. Toddlers will enjoy the fun illustrations of Noah helping the elephant onto the ark, Jonah praying inside the fish, and more, as they discover The Beginner’s Bible® for Toddlers just like millions of children before! (via Amazon)

Now the makers of the Beginner’s Bible also made smaller paperback books that focus in on individual stories. The Beginner’s Bible The Very First Easter is an affordable choice for an Easter basket with familiar drawings that kids will love!

Read the description: The Very First Easter introduces preschoolers to one of the most wonderful stories of all time, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Using the popular and vibrant artwork from The Beginner’s Bible, children will learn the events leading up to Jesus’ death and his miraculous resurrection. By the end of the story, children will understand why we celebrate this special day and what Jesus did for them. This low-cost picture book is great for outreach events and distributing at Easter celebrations. (via Amazon)

Aw, there’s nothing more precious than Little Golden Books, am I right? Up until recently, my grandma had a full collection of Little Golden Books displayed in her living room for little visitors, but she handed them all out to family. I was fortunate enough to receive a few Bible stories in her gift to me (pictured above).

The Story of Jesus (Little Golden Book) is not in my personal collection, but I remember reading it at my grandma’s when I was younger! It also has excellent reviews on Amazon. If you’re looking for an Easter story on a limited budget, this is a great choice!

Read the description: A gentle look at Jesus’ birth, childhood, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection. Written in a simple, warm style that will captivate and inspire, and colorfully illustrated with seven new pages of artwork, it’s a perfect introduction to Jesus for very young children. (via Amazon)

As you can see from my photo above, we own several Arch Books including Daniel and the Lions and Get Up, Lazarus! – Arch Books in English and Spanish. I really like them, and I’m glad to see that they offer several books dedicated to telling the Easter story. Firstly, The Week That Led to Easter – Arch Books.

Read the description: This book retells the events of Palm Sunday through Easter day (Matthew 21:1-28:10; Mark 11:1-16-8; Luke 19:29-24:12; John 12:12-20:10). The Arch(R) Book series tells popular Bible stories through fun-to-read rhymes and bright illustrations. This well-loved series captures the attention of children, telling scripturally sound stories that are enjoyable and easy to remember. This product is part of the Accelerated Reader(TM) program and carries a point value of .5. (via Amazon)

He’s Risen! He’s Alive – Arch Books description from Amazon: This book retells the story of Christs Resurrection (Matthew 27:32-28:10). The Arch(R) Book series tells popular Bible stories through fun-to-read rhymes and bright illustrations. This well-loved series captures the attention of children, telling scripturally sound stories that are enjoyable and easy to remember. This product is part of the Accelerated Reader(TM) program and carries a point value of .5.

According to reviewers, the images in The Day Jesus Died are not scary, but they are big and bold, and the book includes more details than most picture books about Easter. Buyers indicate that this book is hard to find in stores, so Amazon might be your best option. It has very good reviews!

Read the description: “The Story of the Empty Tomb” tells the well-known Bible story through easy-to-read rhymes and bright illustrations. Children, ages five to nine, will enjoy these spiritually sound stories that are easy to remember. (via Amazon)

One reviewer says: The Resurrection, written by Cynda Strong, is the story of Jesus from the time he was an adult up to the resurrection. It includes his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, Judas’ betrayal, the Last Supper, his “trial” before Pilate, and the Crucifixion. There’s no mention of his praying in the Garden of Gethsemane or of Peter’s denial of Christ. Bible verses from both the books of Isaiah and Matthew are given as reference for the text. The illustrations, by Helen Cann, are true-to-life and expressive. (via Amazon)

The Action Bible is a big hit with the pre-teen and teenage crowd in the middle school youth group I volunteer with. This book would be most appropriate for older kids. Or kids at heart, because if I woke up on Easter and found this in my basket, I would not be upset!

Read the description: Here’s the most complete picture Bible ever! And it features a captivating, up-to-date artwork style—making it the perfect Bible for today’s visually focused culture. The Action Bible presents 215 fast-paced narratives in chronological order, making it easier to follow the Bible’s historical flow—and reinforcing the build-up to its thrilling climax. The stories in The Action Bible communicate clearly and forcefully to contemporary readers. This compelling blend of clear writing plus dramatic images offers an appeal that crosses all age boundaries. Brazilian artist Sergio Cariello has created attention-holding illustrations marked by rich coloring, dramatic shading and lighting, bold and energetic designs, and emotionally charged figures. Let this epic rendition draw you into all the excitement of the world’s most awesome story. (via Amazon)

Family Devotional Books

There is no better time than the present to start talking daily about Jesus with your kids! Why not use this Easter as an excuse to invest in some family devotional books that your kids will love?

This was given to us as a part of our baby shower over a year ago, and I so excited that we’re finally ready to start reading this together every day! The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Read the description: The Moonbeam Award Gold Medal Winner in the religion category, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David—every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle. A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation—and at the center of their Story too. (via Amazon)

As someone who believes in the importance of doing life around the table as a family, this devotion book caught my eye a long time ago. It isn’t yet age appropriate for us, but I’m looking forward to going through it together someday! One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters: 365 Opportunities to Grow Closer to God as a Family

Read the description: Getting the kids to turn off the TV and video games is challenge enough―let alone gathering as a family to read and discuss the Bible! One Year of Dinner Table Devotions & Discussion Starters helps families start where they are already gathered together on a daily basis―around the dinner table. As the meal comes to a close, family members can take turns turning to the dinner-table devotion for that day, designed to be done together as a family in 10 to 15 minutes. The result is a meaningful daily discussion in which every family member can participate, drawing the whole family closer to God . . . and each other. (via Amazon)

For any fans of the Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence devotion book, you will enjoy sharing Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids with your family.

Read the description: “Devotions written as if Jesus is speaking directly to a child’s heart. Based on her original Jesus Calling, this version has been adapted in a language and fashion that kids and tweens can relate to their everyday lives. After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down what she believed He was saying to her through Scripture. Others were blessed as she shared her writings, until people all over the world were using her devotionals.  They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.  It is Sarah’s fervent prayer that our Savior may bless readers, and now young readers, with His presence and His peace in ever deeper measure.” (via Amazon)

We absolutely do not need any more toys or sweets at this house. So I got to thinking… what if the gift that was sitting out on Easter morning pointed back to the real reason we’re celebrating? Why not Bible stories?
Do you have any Bible story books that are popular at your house? Tell me in the comments below!hh

Weekend Links 

I spent the week in a blur of writing and mommy sleeplessness. It has been a hard, but sweet, week. 

I’m looking forward to doing some spring cleaning tomorrow! Hoping for tangible results!

Here is a list of some thoughtful web goodies to kick off your weekend!

  1. Ellen gave an entire high school class a scholarship for college. It’s like Scott’s Tots only much more satisfying!
  2. 20 adorable comics by Liz Climo who draws for The Simpsons.
  3. 8 Kids Give Us The Dish On Their Dream Breakfast. Teddy Grahms and milk, anyone? (I would eat that…)
  4. 11 Oscar-Worthy Puns That Deserve An Award. It’s baaaaaad but I couldn’t help but chuckle.
  5. On the same note, Why Typography Matters–Especially At The Oscars.
  6. Exploring the first cover of The Hobbit. That’s what my copy looks like!
  7. 10 Ways To Beast Your Monday.
  8.  Take the Emotional Agility quiz!
  9. Your Love For Me: a poem.
  10. 5 Steps To Living More Creatively.
  11. Raising Kids Who Love Jesus. Yes! Love this!
  12. Another poem: Showers of Peace

Weekend Links

The weekend is looking like it will be spent indoors and under cozy blankets! It was warm enough to play in the water table in the back yard on Wednesday, and it’s currently snowing outside. Oh Kansas. Sometimes it seems like we get all 4 seasons in a week!

Here are your cozy weekend links!

  1. Are you ready for Pancake Day 2017 (also known as Fat Tuesday)? You can find everything you need to know, including recipes, here.
  2. This comic: The Pursuit of Idleness. I identify with this so much!
  3. Tis the season of the Girl Scout cookie. Those girls are marketing geniuses! Watch Mike Rowe read a hilariously honest e-mail written by a Girl Scout. So funny!
  4. #stego because “[t]he poverty that’s most easily forgotten but most deeply felt is the poverty of friendship.” We need this stego thing. Stego — it’s shorthand for: I’ll be your safe place.
  5. Some Art of Simple marriage talk: 10 ways to keep saying yes after 20 years.
  6. Dear Dreamer: The world needs you now.
  7. “We parted full—satisfied at having met each other’s hunger across mugs of tea and simple food.” How to feed each other’s hunger.

Weekend Links

How is it Friday already? I think I’m in full denial about how quickly time passes. (My baby turns one next week. Sniff, wipe tear, smile.)

Here’s the best and brightest things I’ve found on the internet to brighten up your Friday. And, if you’re like me, hopefully this will help you feel a little braver in facing the upcoming week.

But seriously, how is it Friday already?!

  1. I made these Peanut Butter Valentine’s Cookies with my little almost-one-year-old (sob!) Valentine on Tuesday. Ok, he mostly watched. And forced me to hold him the entire time… ever try to pack brown sugar one handed? Not easy. And, we gave up after baking our first round and threw out half the dough. Nevertheless, I think our cookies turned out pretty great.
  2. This list of 17 books that Mindy Kailing has recommended on Instagram made me love her even more.  Is that possible?? You probably remember Mindy Kailing from The Office or The Mindy Project. No matter what, you can’t help but admire her simply because she’s out there doing her thing. Despite adversity. Get it. For the record, I would join a “What Mindy Read” book club…
  3. My sweet cousin, a WAHM for a Christian missions organization with two kids in diapers, had me doubled over belly laughing while reading her Real Life Valentine’s Day reflection. Her tags say it all: #relationshipgoals, Loving The Mess, Makin Memories, So Much Poop, Tuesdays, Valor. (She and I are each one half of one smart lady. Yep.)
  4. I have to admit that it took me several attempts before I found enough time to finish reading this: 6 Reasons You Seriously Have to Slow Down. Ouch.
  5. The Adventures of Mom Girl. With coffee in hand. Mom Girl is my spirit animal. (Wait, what are the rules on spirit animals again?  Is that allowed?)
  6. Why it’s important to read with your kids, and how to make it stick from the Washington Post. “One of the most important things parents can do, beyond keeping kids healthy and safe, is to read with them.” So important, especially for parents of older children who are already independent readers, this article says.
  7. How to Waste Your Life and Call It Beautiful, because “when we’re running hard toward our hoped-for life, we miss the sacred gifts of the right-now life.” I’ve given up a years worth of paychecks and wasted my education and potential by answering the call of who needs me most right now. It’s still a daily messy battle where I often feel wasted and am reminded of that often, yet it’s 100% worth it and so important.

How I Pray For My Son’s Future Valentine

On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, my husband and I woke up with our sweet little almost-one-year-old son snuggled between us in our bed. He had been invited in sometime in the very early morning, a little set of sleepy blue eyes blinking awake.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Adam quietly reminded me.

It was a cold, clear morning here in Kansas, and Adam began his morning routine. As sun streamed in through the window, I paused just a moment to snuggle that little body a little closer and breathe in over his strawberry blond hair.

“I will gladly be your Valentine for as long as you need me to.”


Even though my son is little, I find myself thinking about her already: his future Valentine. My so-called nemesis. The woman who, decades from now, will win his heart. And, in doing so, will take him away from me. His mother. His mommy.

Will she exist? My heart says yes. How do I know? I don’t.

But boy, do I ever pray for her, that little girl somewhere in the world. A parallel little life that might someday change ours.

I wonder if she was rocked to sleep last night.

I wonder if she loves whales and roosters and fish and doggies as much as my boy.

I wonder if someone reads with her every day. I wonder if she asked to read The Bunny Rabbit Show book eight hundred times this week like my boy.

I don’t know the future. I don’t know about my son’s someday preferences, his life choices. That doesn’t stop me or even give me pause.

Because, someday my son might not need his mom to be his Valentine anymore.

And I want his someday girl to be as close to God’s heart as possible.

So, I bring God’s ear low, and I pray for her. In Jesus Christ’s name, I pray to a loving God who holds the future and still listens.

And this is how I pray.

1. I pray that she is healthy and strong.

I pray for her development, her coordination, her learning, her nourishment.

2. I pray for her parents.

I pray for wisdom in parenting. I pray for their marriage and that they will love each other deeply. I pray that they will model love and loyalty to their little girl.

3. I pray for her church and community.

I pray that she has people in her life that also are praying for her often. I pray for her church, that they will encourage her to look to Christ. I pray for the church leadership whose job it is to shepherd this family.

4. I pray that Adam and I will know her someday and love her like she’s our own from the moment we meet her.

I pray that someday I can tell her that I’ve prayed for her entire life.

It’s not because she has to be perfect or even about purity. It’s solely because if my heart thinks that there is someone out there who can someday love my little boy as much as I do, I want that person wrapped up in prayer. I want to start caring for her now.

Even so, son, I will gladly be your Valentine for as long as you need me. There is no rush. Xoxoxo

Why I Tossed My Nonstick Pans

I have replaced the nonstick Teflon pots and pans in my kitchen with stainless steel and cast iron, and I couldn’t be happier. Moving away from nonstick was an easy decision for me. Now, we eat more iron in our diet and have the heavenly bonus of being able to put some pots IN THE DISHWASHER. Hallelujah. I’m amazed at how often people rave about nonstick cookware, because I’m really not impressed. Let me tell you why.

I have replaced the nonstick Teflon pots and pans in my kitchen with stainless steel and cast iron, and I couldn’t be happier.

Moving away from nonstick was an easy decision for me. Now, we eat more iron in our diet and have the heavenly bonus of being able to put some pots IN THE DISHWASHER. Hallelujah.

I’m amazed at how often people rave about nonstick cookware, because I’m really not impressed. Let me tell you why.

1. There are continuing concerns about health and safety, especially at the molecular level.

Nonstick cookware is safe and approved for use by the FDA with one big qualification: do not cook over low temperatures. Funny rule to have for pots and pans, actually.

Teflon, the plastic-like coating on the pan that makes it nonstick, becomes unsafe when used at too high of temperatures of 500 degrees or higher. At these high temperatures, the coating begins to break down at the molecular level (meaning you can’t necessarily see it happening). If the pans overheat, they emit fumes which will cause you to have temporary flu-like symptoms or even kill a pet bird.

Now 500 degrees may sound high, but this is actually fairly easy to do on accident. Good Housekeeping ran an experiment with several brands of nonstick cookware on different types of common household stove tops and found that empty pans over a high heat can easily be over 500 degrees. This included pans filled with food, especially meats, it seems. These easily reached temperatures over 600 degrees.

A lesser concern but still worth mentioning is that surface of nonstick cookware is easily damaged by cooking utensils or by banging against other pans in storage. This means that little pieces of the Teflon coating are mixed into your food. It’s potentially no big deal, and probably just passes through your system without lingering effects. But, I’m not comfortable with the idea of my family consuming that.

Nonstick products have improved in quality over the last decade as the process of making Teflon improves, but there are still a lot of unknown outcomes to exposing our bodies to the chemicals associated with the Teflon manufacturing process. There is an ongoing conversation in the news questioning their safety with new reports every day.

What’s scary is that there’s actually traces of these chemicals–PFOA, PTFE, PFAS–are probably already in our bloodstream right now! However, Nonstick surfaces are not the only place where these chemicals are found (it’s found in microwave popcorn, takeout containers, even in tap water). So, without really knowing where else we are exposed to these chemicals or what the long term effects are, it’s hard to say anything definitive. Do nonstick pans cause testicular cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pre-eclampsia, ulcerative colitis, weakened immunity, liver inflammation, or obesity? It’s hard to say, but enough evidence exists to state that it’s certainly linked. (Remember though, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. My college stats professor would be proud that I remember that!)

I am not a professional pots and pans toxin tester; I can’t test these theories myself. Although there is enough chatter to raise red flags for me, I am not entirely 100% convinced by safety reasons alone. This brings me to my next point.

2. These pans wear out too quickly.

I remember opening my monthly subscription to Cooking Light magazine one morning in our first little apartment, not even a year after I got married. A blurb by one of their chefs recommended that even high end nonstick pans need to be replaced after two years. Two years? I couldn’t believe it! So I pulled out that pot set we had been gifted at our wedding shower, which was not even a year old, and looked at it closely. Despite using the appropriate utensils, it was already damaged!

While non-stick pans may begin showing signs of significant wear as early as just a couple of years after purchase, but I REALLY was not impressed when another Cooking Light Chef, Robin Bashinsky, boasted that his high end and well cared for nonstick set lasted 10 years. Only 10 years?! Consider the fact that my cast iron skillet (which cost less than a high end nonstick skillet), if well cared for, could still be used by my grandchildren 100 years from now, 10 years for a top of the line nonstick set is really not impressive.

So what do I use instead?


Let’s talk about cast iron!

I was gifted a 12.5 inch cast iron skillet for my birthday, and I am in love! (Affiliate link: FS Kitchen Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Pan, 12.5-Inch) It is easy to care for, and this pan naturally adds iron to our diet. I have been borderline anemic several times, especially when I was pregnant, and my son has been threatened with iron supplements too. Neither of us have needed to suffer from the discomfort of taking iron supplements after our cast iron purchase.

Cast iron can be a little intimidating if you aren’t familiar with it. I had imagined owning cast iron pans to mean spending a weekend coating a whole bunch of pots with lard and then roasting them over a hearth fire like a scene from the beginning half of Cinderella. Where do you even get lard?! I wouldn’t know.


Cast iron does needs to be seasoned occasionally, but that just means that it needs to be brushed with a thin layer of oil (I’ve had good results with olive oil) and baked at 350 for about an hour (45 minutes upside down, 15 right side up). But if you care for it by avoiding dish soap whenever possible and dry it completely after every use, you don’t have to reseason very often.

This seasoning is what makes the pan nonstick. A very thin layer of baked on oil separates the food from the iron. It’s a breeze to clean, and I store it in the oven to keep moisture out.

Also, my stainless steel pans are great!

I’ve owned a Cuisinart stainless steel set for a couple of years (Affiliate link: Cuisinart 77-10 Chef’s Classic Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set), and I’ve been very happy with it. Stainless steel is heavier with a thicker base than nonstick pans, which are often made with aluminum instead. On my first use, I noticed that stainless steel cooked more evenly. It also took a little more time to preheat, but once it was preheated, the pan contents cooked very quickly.

Tips for You

If you, at this point, are seriously considering moving away from your non-stick pans, there may be a way to use your existing warranty to get an upgrade. Check out this site for tips!

I didn’t immediately make any change. I replaced my pans over the course of a couple of years. And, confession, I still have a few nonstick pieces in my kitchen: a muffin pan, a griddle, a George Foremen grill. But, these pieces I only use occasionally in moderation, and I think that’s ok with me. For now.

Why not just start with investing in a better skillet today? A quality cast iron skillet is affordable on any budget. Years from now, your body (and wallet) will thank you for investing in better and better-for-you kitchen tools!

 



I have replaced the nonstick Teflon pots and pans in my kitchen with stainless steel and cast iron, and I couldn't be happier. Moving away from nonstick was an easy decision for me. Now, we eat more iron in our diet and have the heavenly bonus of being able to put some pots IN THE DISHWASHER. Hallelujah. I'm amazed at how often people rave about nonstick cookware, because I'm really not impressed. Let me tell you why.

Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It’s my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!

Cookies were one of the first things I was allowed to bake in the kitchen all on my own. 

(My mother was just reminiscing the other day about a batch of cookies some friends and I made in late elementary school. The amounts of sugar and salt called for in the recipe were switched.)

I imagine that for some people baking cookies is a way to express love, and maybe I am like that. Often I select a cookie recipe because I have a specific person in mind who I think would enjoy it.

But the act off baking is for me. Baking cookies is how I  mark special days on the calendar and prepare for holidays.  A little ritual to embrace whatever needs celebrating in life and make thh day a little bit sweeter.

It doesn’t really feel like a special day until the house smells like vanilla, sugar, and butter, does it?


I push the resulting cookies into the hands of the people I love, but the act of baking is mostly selfish becasuse I lose myself in it.

I just love that smell. Once I take off my rings and get over the initial ick factor, digging my hands into dough to form balls makes me feel more youthful and alive. I relax into the rhythm of spacing rolls of dough and trading out for the cookie sheet as soon as the timer goes off. 

Somewhere between the nerdy science of baking and the creative outlet of flavor is my happy place.

But, as much as I appreciate all the little joys found in baking cookies, I hold them in moderation. They are reserved for special days and holidays. There is too much of a good thing.

While often I bake certain cookie dough recipes with other people in mind, these cookies are all about me. Sweet and salty combos are my favorite!  I do share, of course, but the act of baking and the final product is all Brohgan. Thankfully, other people are willing to enjoy the things I like with me!

I first tried a chocolate, toffee, pretzel cookie at a favorite deli lunch counter located on my town’s main downtown street. I sniffed out these cookies through their plastic packaging before I saw them! I ate the cookie before my meal (of course!), and I was already googling chocolate toffee pretzel cookie recipes on my phone before I finished my lunch.
I found the PERFECT recipe! It tasted exactly like the cookies from the deli. As a fan of sweet and salty snacks, it quickly became my favorite cookie recipe. I even looked it up online before a Christmas cookie exchange this last December and took honorable mention in a contest out of about 40 cookies!

BUT THE RECIPE DISAPPEARED! It was nowhere to be found on their internet! The blog that originally published it allowed the url to expire, and extensive searching led nowhere.

I had no choice to recreate the recipe, and I am so excited to share it with you!

Lesson learned: if you like a recipe on the internet enough to make it more than once, write it down!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-oz.) packages semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 (8-oz.) package of Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Baking Bits (or substitute 2 full sized toffee chocolate full size candy bars, crushed)
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed pretzel sticks
  • Parchment paper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Add eggs and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, beating until blended.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Beat in chocolate chips, heath bar pieces, and crushed pretzel sticks just until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment Dpaper-lined baking sheets.
  3. Bake at 350° for 10 to 14 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. After taking the pan out of the oven, immediately move cookies to wire racks to cool.

These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It's my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!