Even if

I screamed at God today. I don’t really know if you are allowed to do that, but I did. For about 20 minutes I stood in my home and screamed at my Holy Father. Out of frustration, heartache, brokenness, and fear. I listened to what you told me and now I am here. I trusted You and now I am hurting. If it was going to end up like this, why couldn’t You just spare me and never allowed it to happen? I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to feel this. TAKE THIS FROM ME! If I’m so hard to handle, why did You make me like this? It’s not His fault. None of it is. But we lash out at those we love the most, don’t we? I’m questioned God a lot lately. Not my believe in Him, not my trust or my loyalty. But His plan. I’ve spent a lot of time questioning His plan and begging for peace with it. Knowing I would listen but not be happy about it. And now I’m just lost and I need for my Father to hold me. I need comfort only He can give. I’ve thrown myself into worship music lately when everything else just gets to be too much. He gave me this song. And it holds true. I am broken, but I know He has me. I know He can form everything to His good and His glory. And my hope is in Him. I’m praying to being singing it is well with my soul sooner rather than later. Praying He moves these mountains.

“They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t”
My hope is You alone

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A new home

Spirit Lead me where my trust is without boarders……

A year ago, I was basically homeless. Literally couch hopping from week to week, were I was staying depending  on if I had Oliver or not. Thankfully, because of some incredible friends, I was never turned away, and always had a bed open for me and my son, even if that bed belonged to a friend’s 3 year old and had avengers sheets.
I was at my wits end. Oliver was unsettled and unhappy, and I was scared to death. I was on my own for the first time in my life and I was failing completely. My life was upside down.

A couple of months before I’d spent most of my time at one of my best friend’s house helping her prepare for the most epic tea party themed birthday. The house next door to hers was vacant and had been for a long while. We’d spend hours painting furniture talking about how amazing it would be if I could live right next door instead of driving 25 mins to come over every day.  I remember the day the house went up for sale, and I was heartbroken. A silly day dream dashed. I knew it was never going to happen, but I enjoyed the thought. Then, one day, in the middle of my couch hopping journey, I got a text- “Come and knock on my door….” with a picture…. of my house…… with a FOR RENT sign out front. I began to weep. I was at work and I was in such disbelief. I began to pray. God and I were working on a very thin string at that point. I was in a deep valley, and while I was trying to trust the plan I knew He had set for me, I was very much in a place of “Prove it.” with Him. “Are you there God? It’s me…. Lauryn. Is this you? Did you do this? Is this for me?” So I set up standards I wanted Him to meet. If you want me to do this then prove it. “If this house is meant to be mine, it will be less than $600 a month. No. If this house is meant to be mine, it will be $550.” So I called. And I spoke to a lady who was currently in Florida. They just bought the house 3 days prior. “How much?” ‘$600…..’ Oh. Not mine God. It’s not mine. *Just ask* “Could you do $550?” ‘Let me talk to my husband.’  20 minutes later I get a phone call. “We can do $550.” ‘Um…. Okay. Oh. Wow. Okay. When can I see it?” A couple of days later I’m meeting a woman I’ve never met at the door directly next to one of my best friends. I’ll never forget walking into the house for the first time. It had so much character but was so empty and in so much need for love. Just like me. It had fire places. 3. I love fire places. It had built ins in the dining room begging to be filled with cookbooks. I was smitten. But guarded. I couldn’t do this. There is no way I could do this. People don’t go out on their own for the very first time and then less than 2 months later get the perfect house. I told her I’d call her on payday.
In the days following I again told God to prove it. If this house was meant to be mine you are going to have to make it happen. Because I can’t on my own. I need my paycheck this week to be over $550. I need it to cover the first month’s rent and me still have money in the bank. My paycheck came…. $556. Oh. Okay. Well…. I can’t cover rent and a deposit. She waves the deposit. I hear you God. I hear you. September 1st rolls around. I’m standing in front of the house yet again. I signed my lease. As I’m standing there, my best friend’s mom drives by…. Then backs up. “What are you doing here?” ‘I live here now…. This is mine.’ I couldn’t process the words coming out of my mouth.
Over the next several weeks I spent many lonely nights sitting with boxes and crying. I didn’t know what to do. For the first time in my life I was completely alone. Slowly, the cookbooks make it on to shelves. Clothes were hung in the closet. I’d sit on my couch every night with candles lit around me, trying to use as little power as possible and I’d lesson plan or make a menu for when Ollie was home. I’d live for the days he came back. I had one goal. To build a home for him. A place he could feel safe and have a space to learn and grow in. On nights he wasn’t there, I sat alone and I ate popcorn for dinner. I was sad, but at the same time, so much at peace. My quirky little house, the one God literally gave me, was becoming home. My home.

A few weeks after moving in, a boy from my youth group when I was a teenager, came back into my life. We started texting back and forth. I told him about my little cottage in Heflin. He laughed because I had no TV so I sat at home at night with my candles reading books. He offered to bring me a TV to borrow. The day he came over to my cottage for the first time, my water had been turned off. The power, I had turned on in my name. The water was already on so I figured I’d just pay the bill when it came. Guess what, adulthood doesn’t work that way. I had no water. After that little lesson once the water was turned back on, well…. It wasn’t hot. Ever. So that boy, came over, and lit my pilot light (what the heck is a pilot light and why is it in my basement???). That boy came over every chance he got. He changed light bulbs, he found water meters, he moved boxes from the middle of my living room floor to the basement. And slowly but surely, I fell in love with that boy who time and time again, came to my rescue, who helped me stumble through learning to adult for the first time in my life. He worked out of town so we saw each other as often as possible but it was never enough. A few months later, he brought 2 little boys with him when he came to visit. 2 little boys who would eventually help me put up my Christmas tree. 2 little boys who would steal my heart.
Over time, that boy left being on the road and came home for good. My home became our home. And it was hard. My little cottage for 2 became a home for 5. We went from seeing each other maybe once every couple of weeks to literally never being apart. It made for a lot of growing pains but it also made for some beautiful memories. We began going back to church. For the first time together in 15 years. Our relationship to God growing stronger and our relationship to each other growing more concrete. The days grew longer and we spent our Summer as a family running from baseball game to baseball practice. The drive weighing on us. We knew as it got closer to the boys going back to school, the drive was going to kill us taking them to school every day. A 30 minute drive each way. Not counting practices. My days in my cottage were coming to an end. August came and the drive is draining us dry. Buck’s new job has been longer days than expected and if he was home he was asleep. My grandmother broke her hip and ended up in rehab. All the transition hit me at once. And I broke. I was ill, I was angry and I didn’t know why. I was lonely and I was frustrated. The world was spinning too fast yet it felt like nothing at all was happening. I found myself in yet another valley.
So I went to God again. I began to journal my prayers. I prayed for a spirit of peace and joy and gentleness. I wept for him to take away my spirit of anxiety and loneliness and abandonment. I begged for the understanding that fighting with me was not the same as fighting for me. And I felt God begin to break me open. To give me clarity. To fill me with a spirit of worship. I began to get excited about finding a new home closer to the boys’ school. Closer to the community I was growing quickly apart of.
Then the day came we began to actively look. I woke up with a great attitude. Then we walked into the first house and my spirit of excitement and hopefulness was quickly replaced with absolute anxiety and sadness. This is not my home. My home is with my fireplaces and my built ins and my cookbooks and my candles and and and and…… I messaged April. I need prayers now. I was doing my best to hold it together in front of Buck and I felt the tears stinging. She sent me affirmations and prayers of peace. Buck and I went and sat down at Waffle House for breakfast to talk about our options. And that’s when I finally couldn’t hold it together anymore. I told him my fears of leaving my home. The one God gave to me. The one I’d started a new life in. The one I rekindled my relationship with God in. The one where our love began. I love my house. It’s become a comfort blanket to me. I wasn’t ready to be shaken up again. This past year had been so hard. So full of change. I wanted to be settled.  And as usual he breathed into my soul the words I needed to hear. “Do you believe in us? This is our stepping stone to bigger things. This is where we will have our first home completely together. We’re so involved in this community it’s time to come home to it. As long as we are together, we can make anywhere home.” And on and on and on he soothed my nervous spirit. I know it’s not a house that makes a home. I know it’s the people. And I have my people. As long as my boys are there, and as long as he is by my side, I will have my home. This afternoon, we signed our lease. It will begin the same day my current lease ends. A full circle. A life time away from the where I was a year ago. I won’t be building a home alone. My family will be together and building something completely new. And it will be beautiful.

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Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

My secret weapon

Oh my darlin, oh my darlin!
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Seriously, these babies really are my weight loss secret weapon. I’ve cut out all sodas (10 weeks strong in kicking the coke habit!), I’ve cut cookies and pasta, and most junk. I’m far from clean eating but I do track everything that goes in my mouth. If I want a snack, if I’m hungry, if I want to emotionally eat, if I just need to put something in my mouth, I grab one of these babies. Seriously. They’re only 35 calories. So basically, yeah, guilt free. I eat at the very least 3 of these a day. I can put away 5 easily in a day if I’m low on my calorie goal or I’m really fighting some craving. A 5 lb bag doesn’t last 3 days in this house. But they are SO good!
When I’m planning my day I make sure I leave plenty of room in my calories for these sweet babies!
My other great love for when I’m wanting something sweet is Animal Crackers. You can have 13 of those cute cookies for only 100 calories. It’s another daily must for me. I will literally give up something in my day to fit in my animal cracker habit!
I also really enjoy the slim fast baked crisps in BBQ. Potato chips were by far the hardest thing for me to move out of my life and these are a huge help. They’re yummy, they’re satisfying, and I love the texture. They’re kind of expensive (I buy the 100 calorie packs) so I don’t indulge in them much, but if I need the salt something awful, I grab a bag.

Slowly but surely I’m finding food that makes me not miss my old habits at all. These work great for me and my weight loss journey. What works for you to kick the cravings and help you stay full?

Outside Play

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Today Oliver didn’t wake up until almost 11. It’s rare but it happens every once in a while. We went to the museum yesterday but he’s been cooped up inside quite a bit this week and we were both getting restless, so today after brunch, we went out into our front yard. It wasn’t terribly cold. My phone said 42 but it didn’t feel that chilly at all. I let him go barefoot to experience all the textures and kept a check on him to see if he was getting chilled, but he never did. Often times I worry what other mom’s think of me. I know I shouldn’t, but I’m sure they talk. I never did hats and we’ve never bundled up. He runs a little warm, but I’ve just never felt the need to constantly keep him covered. So when showing post like this, seeing my child sitting in the grass in January weather barefoot with no hat, I promise you, he was fine. 100% comfortable.

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When I sat him down I sat away from him and I just stayed quiet. I didn’t want to distract him and I wanted him to explore how he felt the need to. Every once in a while I would name something for him, such as ‘Stick’ or ‘Rock’ or “That stick is smooth, but this stick is bumpy.” I didn’t hand him anything or take anything from him. For a while he was content in sitting and playing with a pile of sticks. He would pick one up and feel the weight in his hands. He’d hold it by the end and poke with it. Either me or the ground. He’d swing it above his head, then he’d bring it back down on a rock. He picked them up in both hands, studying the texture of each. He stuck them in his mouth to feel how they felt on his lip and how they felt when he bit them. I feel like I need to interject here and let you know I’m not a mom that is constantly rushing to pull things out of his mouth. Rarely am I ever telling him ‘no no, don’t put that there’ unless it’s a true choking hazard. You wanna eat that stick? Go ahead. Get some fiber. That rock? Lick it. It won’t kill you. Sure, chew on that leaf. Eat some dirt. Why not? Hands can be washed. Faces can be wiped. If it’s not going to hurt them, let them explore. No one would call me a helicopter parent, that’s for sure. lol #worldsokayestmom

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Once he got past the sticks he found larger rocks to stack and play with. He felt their smooth texture and like to put them in piles and drop them behind him. After a bit, Oliver decided to crawl around an explore more of his space. The past couple of weeks I’ve really tried encouraging him to put his toys back in their baskets once we’re done playing in his room for the day. Not only is this a life skill I want to instill later, but it has also encouraged him to begin putting objects into baskets and bins and such. Something he wasn’t doing before at all. So today when he crawled over to were we have some rocks and wood chips and began to put the wood chips and dirt into an empty planter, I was thrilled. This is the beginning stages of sorting and categorizing! It’s so exciting to watch him do it on his own. Again, I stayed back and stayed quiet. He dug up the dirt. He threw the rocks. He pulled up and stood barefoot on the wood and realized it wasn’t comfortable, then problem solved his way back down. It was wonderful. Several time I thought we should go in, but he wasn’t slowing down, so I let him play.. When be began crawling into my lap and getting clingy and fussy, I knew it was time to head in for a nap. We stayed outside nearly 2 hours and he was completely self entertained the whole time, and the whole experience was completely free and needed no guidance or extra supplies. I brought in a few of the larger rocks he was playing with so tomorrow we can wash them off in the sink and he can explore them wet and clean. I’ll keep these in a basket for a few days in his room to play with and see what he does with them.

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Over all today was a wonderful experience for the both of us. My son got to explore his world anyway he wanted to, and I as his mother got to watch his concentration, his problem solving skills, his curiosity. We need to get outside more and today inspired me to do just that. To kick off our shoes and just be in nature.

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Easy Cheesy Chicken Casserole {Freezer Cooking}

I’ll get actual photos up of this later, but I had to get this recipe up and I didn’t think to photograph it as I was making it.

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I haven’t made a freezer meal in months. I actually haven’t made anything in a couple of months. Summer got the best of us and we were always out and usually that involved picking up food or sitting down at a restaurant. Welp, school is back in session and our wallets are stretched thin so back to the kitchen I go!
I was scrolling through facebook the other day and on my newsfeed I came across a recipe for Swiss Chicken. We are huge chicken eaters so I skimmed the recipe, picked out the important parts, and made a mental note to pick up what I needed to make it. I wanted to make enough to have a couple of freezer meals as well. By the time I finally got around to picking things up I couldn’t remember the exact base recipe so I just winged it. We ate it tonight and It. Was. Amazing. Seriously. So good. I wish I’d made bigger portions.

What you’ll need

6-8 frozen chicken breasts
1 large can of cream of chicken (or mushroom if you prefer)
Sour Cream
Sliced swiss cheese (mozerella or colby jack would work just as well, or pepper jack to add some spice)
ranch packet, salt, pepper, parsley, and basil
(Not for Freezer) Crushed Ritz Crackers for the top and half of a stick of butter. (I used the garlic butter ritz and they were great!)

I made this for each of us to have 1 chicken breast per freezer meal, but I wish I’d doubled the amount of chicken. In my rectangular freezer pans I put in 2 chicken breasts and over the top laid a piece of cheese on each. In a separate bowl I mixed my soup with the sour cream and added my ranch, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.

To prepare for the freezer-
in your freezer pan put down your chicken breast, cover with cheese, then spread your soup mixture over it. Pop in your freezer. When you are ready to eat thaw first then add your crushed ritz crackers to cover the top. Pour your melted butter over the the crackers and bake at 375 for 45 mins.

To prepare for the table
In a glass casserole dish lay down your chicken breasts and lay a piece of cheese over each. Cover with your soup mixture then cover the top with the crushed crackers. Pour your melted butter over the top. Cook on 375 for 45 mins.

I love this over rice but it can also be served on it’s own with sides. The sauce is thin so be prepared for it. The sauce is delish though so I practically poured it over my whole plate! Amazing!

Crockpot Shredded Chicken

The easiest way I’ve found to make the chicken for my freezer food bases is to cook it in bulk in the crock pot. It is easy and when I slow cook it for hours it makes the most tender shredded chicken you can imagine. You don’t even have to use a fork, it falls apart in your hands. It also makes a great broth to use in other recipes or to freeze for later!
I buy my chicken breasts in bulk, but I’m toying with the idea of using thighs instead since they’re cheaper and I’m using them in recipes rather than by themselves. I buy them frozen but whatever chicken you have is fine. I use boneless always. I hate pulling stuff off the bone. Again, personal preference.

I fill my crock pot nearly to the top with frozen chicken. Breast, thighs, tenders, whatever suits your fancy. I then fill it to the top with water and add one can of chicken broth just for extra flavor. I add salt, pepper, and garlic and cook on high for about 5 hrs or so. What you get is the most tender shreddable chicken and it’s delicious. You can freeze it just like this or do what I do and use it in your base recipes.
I pull the amount of chicken I need for the recipe I’m working on, shred it into a bowl, add the other ingredients, stir then bag and freeze. Easy peasy!

Pieces of you

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It’s the little bits and pieces of you that I love the most. Your tiny button nose. Your blue eyes that look like lights they’re so bright. Your sweet little lips that poke out when you’re upset or break into the best smile I’ve ever seen.

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I love your hair and lack there of. Your ears that are tall on the top; that have my ear dimple at the bottom.

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Your little fingers that have the strongest grip and your nails that are always dirty underneath though I can’t figure out how. I love the dimples above your lips when you smile. Your weird little toes that I always have to count because it looks like you have extra.

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I love your skinny bird legs and your tiny belly. I love every little inch of you because they make up all of who you are. You are the brightest, smiley, sweetest, pleasant, content boy I’ve ever met. You are so full of joy and you are dramatic to a fault. You are always happy, until you aren’t, in which you scream until you are satisfied.

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Every piece of you is every piece of my heart. I can’t explain the love I have for you. I don’t understand it myself. I don’t know where 3 months have gone so fast, but at the same time I feel like you’ve been in my world forever. You are so a piece of me that life is only natural when you are right beside me. If you aren’t in my arms I feel like a part of me is missing. You are my world. Thank you for every piece of you. Thank you for all that you are. ❤

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