December 18, 2013

Prayer for Mending

You're entering into a broken world, wearing sinful flesh. You will need this Jesus, just as I do, today and always. 

from The Book of Common Prayer

O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power
and come among us,
and with great might succor us;
that whereas, through our sins and wickedness we are grievously hindered in running the race that is set before us,your bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory, now and for ever.

Restore us again, O God our Savior.

Risen Christ,
you claim your own among the nations;
mend what is broken in us, loving Savior;
do not forsake us when we fail,
but in your service grant us daring and love;
for your name’s sake.



December 17, 2013

Tears are Timeless

Dear Child of Mine, 

Grown ups cry too.

THERE. I said it.

When I was a kid, I had this vague notion that adults just didn't cry unless they were at a funeral. But that's just not true.

Exhibit A: Your mom is out in the storage room and boxes are falling and she is getting extremely frustrated. In her mounting frustration, she stands up quickly to take a breather and proceeds to smash the top of her head into the low-hanging, angled ceiling. Tears were everywhere. Your Dad heard the dull THUD of the accident and came to her rescue.

I know that the range of emotion expressed by adults is much more varied than when we were children. Not all grown ups cry when they stub their toe or watch a touching film or see their loved one for the first time in months. But I just want you to know that I cry, and while you don't need to be privy to every up and down in your mama's life, I want you to know it's okay if you see me crying. Don't be scared or alarmed. Be comforted, knowing I'm human. My feelings still get hurt. My struggle with selfishness and anger still rears its ugly head. And sometimes I just can't handle the pain (physical or emotional) like you may think a grown up should.

But I'll cry with you, too. And maybe sometime, having that instinctual sensitivity that only children possess, you'll crawl up in my tear-filled lap and hold me.



December 15, 2013

Drinker of Tea.

Dear Child of Mine,

I hope someday we can sit side by side on the couch, cozied up with a few blankets, sipping a cup of our favorite tea and enjoying good conversation. I am a tea lover, and I hope you will be too.

12_15_13 Drinker of Tea

My mom and dad have always been tea drinkers - Dad with his classic black Lipton, with a long steeping time and lots of cream and sugar, and Mom with her herbal teas and a half packet of Splenda.

Loving tea has developed over time. In high school I developed an affinity for Apple Cinnamon Tea when I would share a cuppa and a conversation with my friend, Maria.

College introduced me to the wonders of lightly sweetened Blueberry Tea. My roommate, Brittney, spoiled me with a cup whenever I asked.

Since then, I've expanded my horizons to include an appreciation for most teas. Your dad has a wonderful collection of loose leaf teas; they're so pretty in their mason jars all lined up on the stove. The Orange Chocolate Black tea is one of my favorites. I enjoy French Vanilla or Winter Spice blend, a good Earl Grey, a mug of Lemon or Peppermint if I'm a bit under the weather, perhaps a fruity herbal teas when the mood strikes, and green or chamomile if I'm feeling particularly docile.

Every morning before sunrise, the first thing I do is plug in my 1985 Hot Pot (a $0.50 rummage sale find!) which works like a charm, and pour myself the first cup of the day. 

I love holding the warm mug in my hand (the mug is key to the tea drinking experience). 
I love the steam rising to my cheeks. 

And, I confess, I am a tea-bag-re-user. As long as there's flavor left in those leaves, I'll use the packet again and again. That's my frugal/practical side coming out.

My cinnamon-clove spiced tea as lost its warmth, telling me it's probably time for bed.

Goodnight, sweet one.



December 14, 2013

Cooked Butter is Delicious

Dear Child of Mine, 

One thing you'll learn quickly is your mom likes loves to bake cookies and concoct cakes and create candies. (At least I hope you'll find this out relatively early in your life...but maybe not, because from what I hear raising kids takes a LOT of time. Baking may take a back burner. pun intended.) The oven was on from 10am to 5pm today, as I was busy making sweets for my piano studio Christmas Concert which is coming up Friday.

I already have multiple batches of Homemade Spritz Cookies and Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies in the freezer, but I today I added Chocolate Covered Butter Toffee sprinkled with sea salt to the list.

12_14_13 Toffee

Seriously, child, this candy is like a miracle in your mouth. It's THAT good. Who knew a pound of butter could turn into something so delicious? (I try not to think about the pound of butter become pounds on my hips. I truly believe indulging in your favorite foods is totally part of living fully. We just have to have the self-control to not cross the line into gluttony. But that's another sermon for another day.)

I hope my piano students and their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends will enjoy my sweet little Christmas gifts to them. Their support is continually an encouragement to me and to my business and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to thank them. 

Are you going to have a sweet tooth, I wonder? 

Will you be playing in a piano recital one day? 

Time will tell.

Love you,



December 13, 2013

Prayers in Anguish

Dear Child of Mine, 

I am certain I'll want to shield you from the pain of this world, this temporary dwelling place we are born into which offers us the opportunity to seek God, find him, cleave to him. While we wait for his final Advent, his Kingdom come, we pray.

We pray in the peaceful times, thanking him for rest and reprieve.
We pray in the joyous times, honoring him with our excitement.
We pray in the troubled times, asking for our eyes to be open to his hand at work.
We pray out of anguish, sorrow, pain, regret, anger.

God can handle it. He wants you to give him all of you, wherever you are.

I am aching for our friends, Wayne and Lisa, who are enduring very scary times as they seek a diagnosis for the masses in Wayne's abdomen. I can't believe my friends, such young, vibrant, wonderful followers of Christ, are facing this trial.

Having read Lisa's blog post describing the gut wrenching sobs she can't seem to control, the guttural anguish that hasn't allowed her to see God's peace, I sought Scripture for answers. She is not failing or lacking in faith because of the deep emotions that are welling up in her. Neither will you be failing God, dear child, in times of crisis. Cry out to Jesus.

Psalm 55:1-2, 4-5
Listen to my prayer, O God,
    do not ignore my plea;
hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught...
My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
    horror has overwhelmed me.
Psalm 6:2-4

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 31:7
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
    for you saw my affliction
    and knew the anguish of my soul.


December 12, 2013

The Harmony-Seeking Idealist

Dear Child of Mine,

I can't wait to meet you and discover how unique your personality is, while at the same time find the shadows you share with your dad and me.

I am always intrigued by personality tests. Perhaps this shows a deeper need to know myself and become more aware of my strengths and struggles. Maybe it's because I wonder if and how I am changing over time. Or maybe I am just plain entertained by the results.

Recently, on a recommendation of a few friends, I took a personality test at The results were quite accurate, and for posterity sake I thought I would share them with you. I am hoping this will give you a bit of insight into my life, helping you understand my quirks and my priorities.

12_12_13 Mel in the Mirror
I thought a photo-in-the-mirror was apropos

Harmony-seeking Idealists are characterized by a complex personality and an abundance of thoughts and feelings (an "abundance" is an understatement). They are warm-hearted persons by nature. They are sympathetic and understanding (Kevin calls me his "little empath"). Harmony-seeking Idealists expect a lot of themselves and of others. They have a strong understanding of human nature and are often very good judges of character (why, thank you). 

But they are mostly reserved and confide their thoughts and feelings to very few people they trust. They are deeply hurt by rejection or criticism (all too true.) Harmony-seeking Idealists find conflict situations unpleasant and prefer harmonious relationships. However, if reaching a certain target is very important to them they can assert themselves with a doggedness bordering on obstinacy (who me? obstinate?! never.).

Harmony-seeking Idealists have a lively fantasy, often an almost clairvoyant intuition and are often very creative. Once they have tackled a project, they do everything in their power to achieve their goals. In everyday life, they often prove to be excellent problem solvers. They like to get to the root of things and have a natural curiosity and a thirst for knowledge (I was the kid reading every word on the cereal box). At the same time, they are practically oriented, well organised and in a position to tackle complex situations in a structured and carefully considered manner (me to a T). When they concentrate on something, they do so one hundred percent - they often become so immersed in a task that they forget everything else around them. That is the secret of their often very large professional success (at first I wrote this off, but I suppose my piano studio is considered a "professional success:" jumping from 0 to 29 students in 2 years in a brand new community). 

As partners, harmony-seeking idealists are loyal and reliable; a permanent relationship is very important to them (very important). They seldom fall in love head over heels nor do they like quick affairs. They sometimes find it very difficult to clearly show their affection although their feelings are deep and sincere. In as far as their circle of friends is concerned, their motto is: less is more! As far as new contacts are concerned, they are approachable to only a limited extent; they prefer to put their energy into just a few, close friendships (This is definitely true. I connect well with many people, but my inner circle is small). Their demands on friends and partners are very high (sorry, friends). As they do not like conflicts, they hesitate for some time before raising unsatisfactory issues and, when they do, they make every effort not to hurt anyone as a result (check, check).

CareerAs a Harmony-seeking Idealist you are one of the introverted personality types (I may be talkative and good in front of people, but I seek quiet, not crowds). Therefore you prefer a quiet work environment where you can intensively deal with your responsibilities and are not disturbed by too many people and repeated distractions (uggg, distractions...). You need a lot of time to dwell on your thoughts, to put them into words and let your ideas take shape (a lot of time).

You are grateful for a certain measure of order and structure in order to achieve this, and being able to deal with one project after the other, thus not having a number of responsibilities at one time. You don’t like being overloaded because it is important to you to deal with things thoroughly. Your capability to concentrate is unusually great and very often you become engrossed in something and forget everything around you.

You are one of the feeler types (*cough cough*). This fact is partially the reason that you have a very strong insight into human nature and enjoy dealing with people. You are interested in the people around you and have a real sense for their motivations, needs and abilities. Your talent to see the best in everybody and your keen wish to understand others and somehow contribute to their well-being predestine you to work with people. (This paragraph accurate accounts for my youth ministry passion).

Due to your propensity to be introverted you are not into holding major speeches for large audiences. Your real strength lies in working individually with people like therapists, physicians or priests (true story). In those professions, when advancing others in their personal development or to help them in any other way is the issue, you are unbeatable (unbeatable, eh? Well, thanks).

You are extremely sensitive, and your social competences are developed above average. As a result you have no problems working with people or being a team member. Still, you should watch out to primarily surround yourself with persons who are similarly profound and eclectic. During the working day you abhor thoughtless, superficial, and insensitive colleagues.

There you have it. Your Mama in a nutshell.


December 10, 2013

In Michigan for Thanksgiving 2013

Dear Child of Mine, 

You have a wonderful family - both mine and your dad's - that will absolutely adore you when you make your way into our lives. We were able to spend time with both the Eccles and the Fishes over Thanksgiving (I never knew how to make my last name Fish plural).

Just hours after disembarking our Carnival Cruise your dad and I met my mom (your GRANDMA!) at Olive Garden in Buffalo. We enjoyed a nice meal together and then mom took me back to Ashtabula where I would spend the next two nights before heading with Kevin to Michigan. I had a great time with Mom and Dad, Grams and Chuck, and Gramma Mary. I baked an apple pie and chocolate chip cookies because it's what I love to do (and, if I'm completely honest, the raving compliments they gush onto me, don't hurt.)

Before I knew it, we were back on the road for Southern Michigan! Kevin and I, along with your Uncle Brian and his girlfriend Beth, were busy little bees working alongside Mom E. Just in time for dinner, the rest of the crew began arriving. And what a fun, rowdy, completely new group it was! I had been the only "outsider" in the Eccles/Arvidson family for many years, but now Elise has been married to Matt for 2 years, Marlene is engaged to be married to Daniel in 2014, and Brian is dating a fantastic girl, Beth.
Left to Right: Beth & Brian, Daniel & Marlene, Elise & Matthew, Melanie* & Kevin
*please note the water bottle/cup at Mel's feet. She never goes anywhere without it. It might as well be an appendage. 

The 8 of us had a blast together - the additional significant others really adds an entertaining dimension to our group dynamic. "What's that, new people to get to know? to tease mercilessly? to find topics to debate? to play ridiculous games with? Oh this is going to be good."

And just think, little one, as each of our generation adds children to the mix, the volume will increase, the entertainment ratings will SPIKE, and the love will multiply. Come quickly, child. You're delaying the fun!

The average age around the dinner table was now much lower than ever before! I'm the oldest in our generation, at 28, Beth is 18, and David (Kevin's youngest cousin) is 13. You should have heard the conversations flying around that beautiful Amish-made dining room table. I sat at Dad E's left (as I have for the past 9 years), and he, Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa and I couldn't even carry on a conversation over the volume. (Your dad and your Uncle Brian are both quite loud when then get to telling a good story. It's quite entertaining, really!)


Let's just pause for a moment and admire the spread my mother-in-law put out for all of us. Beautiful heirloom China and a fantastic pot roast dinner (just as delicious as your dad remembers it!) And this was the night before Thanksgiving! AKA Prelude to Thanksgiving as I like to call it.

Matthew and Elise (Arvidson) Schnaars
Daniel Globig and Marlene Arvidson (soon to be Globig)
Larry and Ruth (Ruiz) Arvidson
David Arvidson
Gordon and Linda (Arvidson) Eccles
Kevin and Melanie (Fish) Eccles
Brian Eccles
Mert Arvidson and Wanda (Walton) Arvidson
Thursday, November 28th, we all indulged in a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, took some family portraits, played a rousing rendition of Quelf, watched the Lions beat the Packers, pieced together a puzzle, took turns napping, and shot a few gourds with a 9mm handgun. All in all, exactly what Thanksgiving should be.

Yes, that *IS* your mother shooting a gun.
Yes, she was a pretty good shot, if she does say so herself.

The day AFTER Thanksgiving was significantly more quiet and subdued, aside from this little gem:

Ok, that wasn't the only "rowdy" moment of the day. You can't me quiet during a game of bowling after all. The first round would have made my dad hang his head in shame, but the second game was decent. A few strikes, spares, and *almost* the top score. My darn husband *would* beat me in the last frame. Of course that *may* have had something to do with the fact that I took down ONE pin. (Did you know, dear one, that your Papa Fish and Great Grandpa Nick were extremely talented bowlers? There may or may not be trophies and plaques and Hall of Fames involved.)


The 6 of us, Mom & Dad, Kevin & Mel, Brian & Beth, went to Kohl's around 10am, waited in a crazy long line, ate an awesome lunch at Bone Island Grill, shopped at one of our favorite stores (SAM'S CLUB. woot!), and retired for an evening of Hallmark movies.

We love spending time with family and only wish we weren't quite so far away. In a perfect world, you'll get to see your grandparents and aunts and uncles every week or two, because we'll live just down the street. :) But even if our world isn't perfect we'll be sure to give you lots of time with this great family of yours!


December 9, 2013

Finding Humor in our Conception Struggles

Dear Child of Mine,

I have to be honest with you. While the issue of infertility is very painful, and our desire to have you is very real, sometimes I switch things up and lighten the mood. I'm sure I throw people off by the things I am able to joke about. But I figure laughter really is good for the heart, and I shouldn't take myself (or my problems) too seriously. 

Our friends, Randy and Sheryl, have a quilt on their couch that was made for them years ago (four kids ago) by a lady who described it as a "fertility quilt." (Obviously the quilt worked for them!) This concept has always struck me as funny, but every once and a while when we're visiting together, I really get the giggles about this quilt. When Sheryl asked me if I'd like a blanket, I looked at Kevin and said, "BRING ON THE FERTILITY QUILT!" Yes, we were all laughing!

Then, the other night I gathered in the church library with 5 other church leaders, including your dad, in a meeting to discuss plans for the Christmas Eve services and holiday decorating strategies. I arrived at the meeting 10 minutes late because I had to speed walk (literally) from my piano studio after 4 hours of lessons, and then I would be heading straight from this meeting to my Wednesday night vespers gathering. All good things, but bam, bam, bam, one right after the other.

By the end of the meeting I was getting a little slap happy. (This happens to your mother when she's low on energy, sleep, and/or patience. I figure it's better alternative grumpiness.) After we closed in prayer (as every good church meeting does), I happened to catch a glance of this book on the shelf behind me:

Without thinking, I blurted out for the whole group to hear -
"This book is titled Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, but I TOTALLY thought it said Making Children Without Losing Your Mind."
Everyone erupted in laughter, with expressions of slight shock and a teeny bit of embarrassment thrown in. Had the title of the book really been Making Children Without Losing Your Mind it would have been incredibly appropriate for your dad and I. Oh the satire was just too rich!

I share this story so that you know I'm not always uptight. I'm not always super spiritual. I'm not always thinking critically. Sometimes I'm just plain ridiculous.

I hope you'll appreciate my oddities as much as your dad does (most of the time.)

Your Mama


December 7, 2013

Our First Cruise

Dear Child of Mine,

Your Dad and I love each other very much. For realz. We're currently in the "Act I" stage of our marriage, as the TV show Parenthood would say - the time in our married life before kids (Act II) and long before retirement/empty nesting (Act III). And as much as I want you to join the two of us and complete the circle of love (what's that? a Friends reference? yeah...I do that a lot), I really do cherish the time we have just the two of us. It's only been five years, but I can see the changes we've gone through together, growing up more and more each year. Experiences will do that to you.

Ok, ok, enough of whatever *that* was. On to the cruise!

Last year we took a November vacation to Washington, DC, so when April rolled around I was already getting excited about planning another trip. We had talked about taking a cruise but thought it would be WAY out of our price range. Come to find out, after a lot of number crunching and internet researching and vacation-staging (I LOVE planning), we discovered the cruise was by far the CHEAPEST way to get away for a week.

And so, at 3am on Sunday, November 17th, we loaded up our trusty '98 Honda Civic and drove into New York City, Port 90 on 12th Avenue at 55th Street. We paid the $270 in parking for the week (and just who do you think you are, New York???? yeeesh), and wandered around the city streets to Time Square before checking into the Carnival Cruise. We boarded the 2008 Carnival Splendor and set sail around 6pm


We spent two turbulent days at sea, cruising down the Atlantic Coast. (Can I just say, it was really not a good idea to try running on the treadmill with the waves crashing out the window and the sensation of changing incline? I almost fell off many times and finally resorted to holding on to the handrails at all times.)

The second night on board was the Elegant Dining Night which is why we were all dressed up in that picture up there. ^ Don't we look charming and completely silly?

Once we reached the Southern States, temperatures continued to climb. After a few days, we sank into a beautiful routine - breakfast around 8:30, then sitting on the quiet deck until lunchtime, reading and soaking in the sun. Your poor father has extremely "English skin" (as he says), and burnt quickly on the first time in the rays. I, on the other hand, benefit from my one quarter Italian bloodline and was able to stay in the full sun almost the entire day without burning. (Here's hoping for no skin cancer when I'm 50.)

We did get off of the ship at Port Canaveral (though we didn't get further than the parking garage....), and Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas. The ports of call were rather disappointing, though, as we weren't interested in having to pay to get anywhere and do anything fun. We wandered around the touristy shops which really didn't interest us, and then headed back to enjoy the quiet decks on the cruise ship. Those were the BEST days on board, because all of the loud crazy crowds were on their excursions. Many people may think we're weird for not experiencing more, but the destination wasn't really the point for us--just getting away together, reading, resting, napping, soaking in the warmth. And we accomplished that!


The most involved we ever got on the cruise was during the 4 days of Team Trivia. On our first day at sea, we wandered in to check it out and were quickly flagged down by Mike and Allie (foreground on the left and right). They had formed a team with 2 Australian ladies (sitting to my left) named Mandy and Marie. The 6 of us had a blast together and won the first day's round! We gathered a few extra teammates over the next 3 days of competition and ended up getting 2nd place over all.

My proudest moment was when I correctly defined and pronounced this word: hippomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. "HOW?" you may ask. Well, thanks to your dad, I knew that "sesquippedalio" means "big words" and when I added the "hippo - monstro" meaning "large or gigantic" to the "phobia" suffix, I got "Fear of Large Words." Nailed it!


While we weren't impressed with this particular ship's service or food or decor or entertainment, we achieved our goal of fun and rest together. It was a wonderful time and I can't wait to plan another trip together. Maybe you'll get to come with us sometime. I hear Disney Cruises are the way to go! (We'd better start saving now!)

I hope you'll never question the deep love your daddy and I have for each other and how much we genuinely like spending time together. We'll plan plenty of family trips to be sure, but you shouldn't be surprised if we tuck you in safe and sound with grandparents or good friends while the two of us get away together.

Your Mom

December 6, 2013

Pushing 30

...or at least that's what I've been telling myself for the past many months. I turned 28 on November 19th and this past year is the first time I've ever "felt" my age. There are days I look at the veins on the backs of my legs and think, "How did this happen?" Whenever I brush my teeth, I have to use lukewarm, yes LUKWARM water. I distinctly remember questioning my mother's need to use anything other than ice cold water because of her teeth's sensitivity. And what am I dealing with now? Extremely sensitive teeth. I have never had trouble healing from cuts or bruises, but now it takes MONTHS to completely heal and even then I have very obvious scars like never before.

My poor body just isn't what it used to be. In many ways I am shocked at how quickly things have changed. But most of the time I'm thankful for the growth that comes with experience (and apparently crazy leg veins. I refuse to utter the words, "spider veins.")

399 - edited
Kevin and Melanie Eccles || Cliff, Tara, Catherine, Jacob and Sarah Thom ||
Randy, Sheryl, Ashlyn, Brendan (not pictured), Madison and Jillian LeBaron
This particular "birthday party" evolved from a simple dinner invitation. I wanted to make an early birthday dessert to share and then I asked if I could invite more friends. Before I knew it I had planned my own party. Oh well. Thanks, friends, for not razzing me about it (*cough cough* except for Randy. ;)). It was fun being in a house full of awesome kids who made me their own special birthday cards, eating a delicious pot roast dinner together, indulging in my favorite sweets without the guilt, and laughing hysterically during a rowdy game of Apples to Apples. You people get me.

Even beyond the food and gifts, I was deeply grateful to spend my birthday celebration with some dear friends and their families. I love that age differences no longer keep girls from being best friends. (Thank you both for loving me and listening to me and sharing with me, with no consideration of my age. I respect you, admire you, trust you, and value you.)

423 - edited
Tara, Sheryl, Mel

Dear Child of Mine, 

I hope you can join in the fun soon! (Also, I'm only getting older. You're going to have to peel me off the floor if you wait much longer.) I promise that you're going to be so loved by these people and so many more

Waiting for you, 



December 5, 2013

Advent: A Reminder to Wake Up

Dear Child of Mine, 

After years of following Jesus, I am just now beginning to embrace the seasons of the Christian year, experiencing the life changing lessons contained in the liturgy and the communion of saints. Advent is such beautiful, yet challenging time in life of the Church. It is at this time of year that we are reminded of our need to wake up to the coming of Jesus in our lives.

Along with my dear vespers sisters,* I am using Ruth Haley Barton's Advent Reflections to guide my focus during this season of faith. Her writing and urging, combined with the lectionary Scripture passages have offered the opportunity for self-examination, for refocusing, for shifting my perspective.

We wait in eager expectation of Jesus' birth, his first coming.
Our spirits certainly anticipate, with every-increasing desire, his second coming in glory.
But we ought also to look for the coming of Christ into our daily lives, today.  
12_07_13 Advent Candle
The difficulty is in this time of liminal space (as described by Richard Rohr) in which we are no longer experiencing that which we are comfortable and oh so familiar; yet neither have we seen the resolution of the waiting, the answer, the direction, the everything-is-turning-out-fine moment. We are in the time of holding our breath, left to wait. We can choose to gasp for air, fight for our lives, flee the fearful expectancy. Or we can seek the Lord Jesus Christ in this uncertainty, looking for his movement, listening to his voice. Because even in the waiting, especially in the waiting, there is Jesus.

Dear One, I am waiting with an ever-increasing desire for your arrival. But this morning I prayed this prayer of confession -
Lord Jesus, As hard as this is to admit, I thank you for this long time of advent in my life. This journey of infertility may continue for many more years, I don't know, but the grace, the blessing has come and is coming in the ways I'm learning to seek you. I imagine where my focus would be right now if I had gotten "my way" and it's not likely to be totally on you. Teach me now how to keep company with Jesus, how to kindle communion with Him, that it may be an inextricable part of me in years to come.
I look forward to celebrating Advent with you in the years to come, teaching you about the birth of Jesus, the anxiety of Mary and Joseph, the obedience of the wise men and shepherds. I will walk you through the weeks leading up to the day we celebrate his incarnation, teaching you about the discipline of waiting and leading you to look for Jesus especially in those times when we hold our breath. In my hopeful waiting for you to become a part of my life, I pray I will become more and more connected to Jesus. I desire you deeply, but I want my Christ-seeking to always be at the forefront of pursuits. And I want you to know that about me.

Seeking Him first,

Your Mama

*I join with a small group of women on Wednesday evenings to pray the evening prayer along with our own needs and reflections. One hour of prayer with kindred spirits. 


December 4, 2013

{recipe} Five Layer Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

blog 11_2013

Oh dear, sweet child of mine,

If you are anything like your mother a GIANT Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake will be just perfect for your birthday celebration. I have a sweet tooth to be sure, and one of my favorite indulgences is a homemade chocolate chip cookie. (I've gotten kind of picky though to be honest. I've tried so many chocolate chip cookie recipes it's hard to keep track.)

11_15_2013 Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake - 2

This cake was so much fun to make and it turned out to be a great success! I was so happy to be able to share my 28th birthday cake with good friends - Sheryl & Randy, Cliff & Tara and their 7 children. Don't worry! I took pictures at the party and I'll share them with you soon. But needless to say, there was more than enough cookie cake for everyone!

11_15_2013 Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake - 1

Five Layer Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
recipe posted to my recipe blog - Adorkable Recipes and adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen

4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 cup milk or heavy cream
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

for the frosting
4 cups powdered sugar
7 Tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
2 to 3 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with silicone baking mat. Drop one level cup of cookie dough in the baking sheet and bake about 12 minutes, or until golden brown and the center is almost set. Repeat with the remaining 4 layers. * OR * I would like to try pouring the 1 cup of cookie dough into a 9 inch cake pan and baking that way. Perhaps this would result in perfectly round layers, assuming they would bake correctly.

Allow layers to cool completely before beginning the frosting.

In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine powdered sugar and butter on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 1 Tbsp of milk. Beat until thoroughly creamed, adding additional milk by the Tablespoon if it's not spreadable. Continue beating until it becomes a whipped texture.

Now place the first cookie on your cake plate and frost generously. Top with the 2nd cookie, frost. Repeat with the 3rd and 4th cookie, using the remaining frosting on the 4th layer. Top off with the 5th cookie and you're done!

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a tall glass of milk!

December 3, 2013

My promise to you, squirt.

Hey squirt.

Your mom thought it would be a good idea to write down our thoughts and prayers for you in a blog, so I'm ready to do my part. You may be wondering why I called you squirt. First off, I always called your uncle Brian squirt when he was a kid. I never asked him, but I'm pretty sure he understood that it was my way of saying I liked him and was going to take care of him. I don't think he'll mind sharing the nickname with you. Wear it with pride.

There are a lot of books written about how to parent kids. Apparently it's a pretty complicated deal, and I'm not going to pretend like I know exactly how it should be done. Something tells me that it'd be a bit stupid, and any grand pronouncements I make now are going to be thoroughly ridiculed by future me (and probably future-mom, too). So I'm not going to do that.

What I am going to do is make you a few promises. I promise that we are waiting for you, hoping for you, and talking about you. I promise to enjoy the little things in life as you discover them. I promise to listen when you've done something really cool. I promise to tell you stories of all the cool things I did when I was younger. I promise to celebrate with you when things are awesome, and cry with you when things go wrong. I promise to teach you how to burn ants with a magnifying glass, make loud noises to startle your mom, make a fire burn awesome colors, find cool shapes in the clouds, and chase squirrels (but not across streets!). I promise to do my best to make your life a place where you have fun, feel safe, and know you are loved. I'll even teach you how to play Flaming Tennis Ball Catch (tm).

There are a lot of people who are busy telling everyone that kids should make their own decisions. They say you're smart enough to decide for yourself what is true. They say that if I leave you alone that you'll make wise choices that will make me proud, and they say that I'll be glad I didn't push you too hard.

I love you too much for that.

See, that's the second half of my promise. I promise that I will let you be yourself, but that I'll also help make you someone you'll be proud of when you grow up. I promise to make you eat your vegetables, because they're delicious and healthy. I promise to make you finish everything on your plate before you eat dessert. I promise to make you go to school to learn things even when you don't feel like it.

Religion is something that people don't want me to "force" you into. But again, I love you too much to leave it to chance. I promise to show you that God is too big to ignore, and I hope you will love Him just as much as I do. I promise to share with you how much He (and your mom and dad) love you, and that He died to save you. I promise to help you understand that your mission in life is to follow His example and to love others, protect the innocent, and be generous with what you've been given. I want to make you like Him.

I've always loved teaching, and you're going to be my favorite student. My job is to pass on to you everything I've learned in life, and to help you make the right choices. I love you enough that I'll keep loving you and helping you even when you don't understand or appreciate it.

I can't wait to meet you. I have so much to teach you. I love you.


A New Blog Audience

Dear child for whom I pray,

Do you know the depths of my heart's longing to be your mother?

I have dreamed of you since I myself was a young girl, playing "house" with my dolls, pretending they were my very own baby. A girl of just 2 or 3 years old, I often clung to my dolly, as if there was something hidden away in the corner of my being, calling me to motherhood. Twenty-five years later and that calling feels like a desperate plea.

2013_12_03 - Baby Ashley

To the best of my ability I nurtured my own mother when she was sick on the couch with another one of her debilitating migraines. I bossed around my little sister and tended to her needs even when she'd rather do it on her own. Perhaps it was my firstborn placement in the family, my lineage of being Type A, or even a God-given leadership ability in the seedling stage, but my instincts are to care and provide for others.

Here I am in my 5th year of youth ministry and I know I have many, many children. I love each of them deeply, but someday I hope I can know the love only a mother can have for her own.

For now, I make you, my dear sweet child, the recipient of my blog writing. I want to share with you my favorite recipes, advice for how to be a teenager in this crazy mixed up world, what fun your dad and I have on vacations, and so much more. I pray my letters will be read by you one day, but for now they will serve to soothe my ache and bring joy, laughter, and encouragement to anyone else who happens upon them.