For The New Girl In All of Us

“Are you sure you want to go?” I asked my daughter again. “You don’t have to go.”

She nodded confidently but the catch in her voice told me otherwise, “Will you go with me?”

It was three days before my oldest child headed to junior high school and if that’s not big enough in our little world, it was a new school in a new town and she didn’t know a soul. When we read  about the Back to School Band Pool Party at her orientation, we thought it would be a great place to meet new friends before the big day.

So she gathered towel and tote and I pulled up the van to the Natatorium and the little-girl-look on her worried face was enough to send me back to the security of home. Instead I watched her take a deep breath and open the door and take the first step into the unknown. Her hope outweighed her fear.

She sat her things down and got in line  for the diving board. I sat in the bleachers and wrung my hands. I watched a big group of laughing girls walk past her without a second glance. She dove in and I prayed. I looked around for other lone moms of possible new girls and tried to work it from that angle.

She swam over to a smaller group and stood there nervously at the edge. I silently begged just one girl to acknowledge my beautiful daughter.  She finally made eye contact, gave a half wave and I watched her mouth a shy, “hi.” The girls didn’t even look up and then they swam away.

She turned away, shoulders slumped. And I remembered how it felt to be on the edge.

[Click to continue this gut-wrenching story over at (in)Courage and read what my little girl taught me…]

WFMW: Easy and Delicious Meals

When my hubby was diagnosed with Diabetes in 2010, we traveled down some scary food roads. I don’t ever want to hear the word vegan again. I shudder at the meat substitutes I’ve tried. In the last 6 months, we’ve finally settled on low carb, high protein family meals and he’s kicking Diabetes in the butt with diet and exercise.
I returned to *Emeals since they offer low carb menus (plus a ton more). Emeals: For around $1.25 per week, I download a grocery list from the local store of  my choice. The grocery list corresponds with the type of menu I’ve chosen. I love this because the menu planning is based on the current sale ads at my local store. So, I’m preparing healthy meals at the best price.
I cannot tell you how efficient my meal shopping and preparation is now! Plus I’ve cut my grocery bill and I’m also feeling very fancy because I’m preparing meals like Cranberry Chicken with Apple and Cranberry Salad and Gourmet burgers with homemade, yummy low-fat onion rings on the side!
I still don’t love cooking, but for the first time in eons, I haven’t wandered up and down the grocery aisles, only to get home and discover that I’m missing 4 out of the 5 ingredients I need for dinner.
Emeals works for me!
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Decorating Cookies: A Family Review

The UPS man handed me a package and before he could tip his brown hat, I was holding Bridget’s new book, Decorating Cookies.

I opened it and my heart flip-flopped. It’s stunning and yummy and I was overwhelmed with emotion (and hunger). I love watching dreams come true. I also love cookies. It’s a complicated bag of emotions.

Ten minutes later, my “old” next door neighbor was at my door with her signature pink box of cookies for our Mercy House volunteers. (And suddenly, we have a peak in volunteer interest). I hugged her tight.

I introduced y’all to Bridget back in February of 2009. It’s an awesome story.

So, about decorating cookies. I have become an expert at eating cookies (and hiding them from my children), but I’ve never once tried to make them. If I had a baking blog, it would be called I AM NOT A BAKER. Subtle, I know.

But when I took this picture, I knew I had to try.

And let me tell you, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more intimated. My family was encouraging, but I think they had pretty low expectations. I mean, seriously, who could blame them. We’ve eaten Bridget’s “mistakes” for years AND WE COULDN’T FIND THE MISTAKES. So, yeah, the pressure, it was heavy.

So, I got the supplies and ingredients and read her very detailed, clear instructions written for people like me (but also written to the gifted bakers out there).

I could’ve just served the dough. SO yummy! I was surprised at how simple and easy the recipe was. I did forget the egg and added it in last (I bet Bridget is dying reading that!) And while I’m confessing, I learned the difference between wax and parchment paper. You can read more insightful commentary at I AM NOT A BAKER.

I loved the part in her book about cookie decorating with kids. Wait until you’ve got everything ready before you call them in. My daughter helped me more, but my younger two were all about licking the beaters once they cut out a few.

We decided to go with pumpkin cookies because most real ones are mismatched, lumpy and unique. Seemed fitting.

While the cookies baked (loved all the helpful how-to’s on keeping cut-out cookie shapes and dipping cutter in flour), I called in the big guns to help me mix up the colored icing. It calls for meringue powder. I’m an adult now.

I just love the way a man looks in the kitchen. Delicious.

Tinting Royal Icing is fun and hard work. But starting a maternity home in a developing nation might be less intimidating then icing the cookies. My hand shook and my writing was wobbly. At one point my husband said, “Let me try” in that tone that said “I will show you how to do this.”

He looked up from his work and said, “I really respect Bridget.”

After outlining the cookies, we flooded them. That’s how the professionals talk.

And then this happened:

I can never refer to myself as a professional again.

Moving on.

We ended up with a lumpy, bumpy pumpkin patch.

It was a super fun experience and the best thing about it?


Once they dried, we ate them. The respect level in this house went way up. My kids fought over the last one! (Well, I hid the last one, but you probably already knew that!)

Not so bad for a first try, eh?

So, *go buy this beautiful book (seriously you will not believe the picture tutorials) and make some family memories! It will make an awesome Christmas gift! It’s only $10! 

*Amazon affiliate


What Really Happens When We Dream Big

At least once a week, I want to quit.

One unexpected phone call, a big question I can’t answer, one more crisis and I just want to walk away from this great big beautiful burden because I don’t think I can take another breath.

Last week, I was drowning in understanding IRS laws, accounting questions, growing pains that come with seeking direction for the future and morestuffthanIcouldhandle. I cried more than I prayed and I felt sorry for myself. I left in the middle of it all and went to the grocery store and bought a pumpkin for my front porch. How spiritual is that?

I hope you respect me more for being honest and not less for being weak.

There are no plans for the 30+ hours I spend every week for Mercy House to ever be more than volunteer work. I don’t say that as a martyr. I just don’t know how to do this any other way. And yet the work, the dream, it grows bigger and more consuming every day. And I wonder how to keep going…how to make it to tomorrow…how to glorify God in my messy heart.

I am prone to wander, God, I feel it. Selfishness, it’s always there under the surface.

And at the same time, I love this house and these girls and this God-size dream so much that I cannot imagine quitting. Ever. Not even one day. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to sometimes. God-stuff is hard work, mainly because I’m being rewritten in the process.

Do you want to know what I’m really learning in all of this? This isn’t so much about me helping others and “helping God,” it’s about Him using The Helping to change every single part of me. It’s a digging deep, gut-wrenching, are you really going to trust me, Kristen, when you don’t have it all figured out question?

So I compartmentalize.  I stir dinner, I watch my son play flag football, I write grants for Mercy House, I plan a trip over Christmas for my family, I drive my daughter to flute lessons, I manage a non-profit and I write as an outlet. I try to be a good wife, mother and friend and I mainly try not to drown. My life isn’t glamorous and it is messier than you think.

And I remind myself every time I feel the urge to run away that I’m not supposed to know what to do.  I’m no more qualified today than I was when I trembled in my initial yes. I just need Him more today than I did yesterday.

I look at how this dream has reshaped my family, my children, our future. It’s breathtaking. And so I keep breathing.

And even though I wake up and go to sleep scared to death, I’m beginning to understand when we pursue His big dream for our lives, we are changed in the process. It’s a painful good I wouldn’t trade for all the selfishness in the world.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” -Albert Einstein