Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Easy, Inexpensive Baby Breakfasts

Here are some inexpensive ways I have been able to get Isaac's fruits and vegetables in since he really doesn't seem to like the texture of fruits right now. I really hope that changes. 

On the left is one can crushed pineapple in its own juice, one container of pineapple Greek yogurt, and about 1/2 cup oatmeal all blended up. Two dollars for about six pouches of baby breakfasts. That would add up to $12-$15. 

On the right is 1 cup fresh blueberries, 1 cup fresh kale, 1 banana, 1 cup milk, and 1/2 cup oatmeal all blended up. Again, $12-$15 dollars worth for less than a dollar. (A sweet lady from church gave me the blueberries right off the bush.) :-)

This is one large can pears, 1/2 cup oatmeal, and 1 cup fresh spinach leaves blended up in the blender. (It tastes like candy!) This cost under $2 for about 8 pouches worth which could be from $15-$20! This would be great with yogurt, but I forgot to buy some. 

This literally takes seconds to blend and put into containers, and I stick these in the freezer and let thaw overnight for breakfast. 

So inexpensive and easy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ten Years Later: Dating Anniversary

Today is our dating anniversary! What a ten
warsyears it has been. (Autocorrect 1: Mallory 0. But how befitting, huh? Hehe) We are so different now, yet we are still so much the same. I was just 18, and he was 23. It's hard to believe that the year I graduated was ten years ago. I was in college at UA, and Heath had just gotten a job at the middle school. He actually found out he had gotten the job the day of our first date: today.

This was August right after we started dating. Pine Grove was doing family pictures, so they coaxed me into getting in there, too. Hehe

This was right after Heath got his truck in September...one month before my wreck. 

This looks like Christmas.

We went to the mountains with the church that December. Little did we know we would be climbing the mountain behind us a bazillion times. We were so different back then. I think I was still an Alabama fan, too! Hehe

Check out Snuggles, my sweet dog I got when I was in the sixth grade. I remember getting her while I was in the play at Looney's. She passed away three months before we got married six years ago. I miss her. She would sleep on the porch under my window.

Here's to 100 more...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Isaac: Months Thirteen and Fourteen

I can't believe two months have passed since Isaac's birthday. School will start back before we know it! Oh goodness. I'll think about that tomorrow. 

This baby loves, eats, breathes, sleeps tractors, wagons, wheels, and drums. 
He had the best time with the teens when they came over for teen devo last month. 
Love his big, toothy grin!

We got Isaac's one-year pictures done at the end of June. They turned out so well! Yay! No meltdowns! We all got a bath! I didn't wear two different shoes! Hehe. Mom life...you've got to love it.

Fourth of July was so much fun. We had awesome weather. We ran four miles on the Fourth together. Four is about all I can get out of him these days. 
Here's a throwback to last year's Fourth...
Don't mess with the U.S.!

He got his first haircut Saturday. He did such a good job. I was so proud of him. He didn't cry or fuss at all.

His new hobby. 
After. He looks grown up! :-/
Isaac turns into a little Italian when he gets mad or frustrated. He talks with his hands and starts spouting off in his own little language. It's hard not to laugh. It's so sweet. 
He might as well be three in this picture! He is getting too big. 
Corn on the cobb is his new thing. 
Tanner, Isaac's buddy, gave him these glasses. Cool dude!
Isaac and Matthew playing with the tractor at church...

He is taking steps now, but he can't push around his tractor on his feet. Hehe. He has 12 teeth! Time is flying by!

Count It All Joy Part 4: Commitment--The Race to the Finish

Proverbs 16:3 - Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Welcome back for the fourth and final installment in my Count It All Joy series on finding joy and contentment through Christ.  We have read up on comparisonforgiveness, and faith—all things that contribute to finding pure joy in life. If you’re like me, you’ve discovered that Hershey’s chocolate, new shoes, or a bubble bath can only get you so far in the grand spectrum of happiness. Although those things are wonderful, finding true happiness is a choice that we have to work at, and it’s something that doesn’t always come easy. It takes commitment, and that’s something that we all tend to struggle with from time to time. Thankfully, God has given us several stories in his Word of committed people that we can use as references in our own lives. He’s also given us tools for us to use along the way.

First, if you read the related readings along with me from last week, you read two stories you’re probably already familiar with. In Mark, we find Jesus calming the storms after his disciples wake him from his sleep. Verses 39-40 say, “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?”  How many times have we fallen into a situation where we are scared senseless and end up walking away unscathed, questioning ourselves the same way the Lord questioned his disciples? I know there have been countless times where I’ve had to tell myself, “You should’ve known the Lord was going to bring you through this! Why did you worry like you did? Why did you doubt?” Verse 41 says, “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” They were in complete and utter shock of the Lord’s power. Even though we shouldn’t be shocked that the Lord can accomplish wondrous things, we should still be in complete awe of his power. Like we talked about last week: The Lord knows everything. He’s not taken aback by anything. We never know what he’s going to do next in our lives. We have to have faith and expect those blessings and miraculous works from Him. We have to be committed in our faith…committed to our belief that God loves us and wants to bless us. Matthew 21:22 says, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” God’s going to take care of us in His time and in His special way. We simply have to trust Him and His ways even though they’re too mysterious for us to even begin to contemplate.

The next story we read over in Genesis chapter 22 is about Abraham’s choice. When the Lord tells him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, I’m sure he was beyond every pain and mental torture a man could possibly endure. But the Lord, who Abraham trusted above all else, told him to do something, so he was going to do it. He had faith that no matter what happened, goodness would come out of the situation even though it made no sense whatsoever at the time. See, the Lord tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son, but the Lord promises earlier in Genesis chapter 17 that Abraham will be a “father of many nations” and that he will be “exceedingly fruitful” (v. 5-6). Can you imagine? I’m sure Abraham was past being confused. He and his wife, Sarah, were both reaching close to one hundred years of age; therefore, how could his seed grow when his only son was about to die? Faith. It had to be faith! Just before the act is performed, the Lord stops Abraham, saying in verse 12, “…for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” The Lord blesses Abraham for his faith and commitment in verses 16 and 17.
And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 
Think about it. This is the covenant God made with Abraham. This is his family. This is his legacy. This is his everything, yet Abraham follows through. He delivers. And when he does, God delivers him. This story is inspiring in that it teaches us commitment and perseverance. Even though Abraham was in incredible mental turmoil, he believed and trusted in the Lord. We should conduct ourselves in this same manner. When God tells us to do something, we should follow through even though it might be one of the hardest things we have ever done. When we get into a situation where our faith and commitment are being tested, we should think of Abraham and the test he had to endure.  I can just about bet that whatever we’re facing isn’t a fraction of how bad off Abraham was when he was asked to sacrifice his only son. Take that for humble pie! Abraham’s commitment is just as much a part of his enduring legacy as the many generations he fathered.

For starters, what is commitment? Commitment is a continuous decision. It’s not a one-time ordeal that comes with an escape route, and it doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, either. It’s in our faith, marriages, our families, our children, our churches, and anything else in which we have promised ourselves to perform and give our time. Take a look at your life, and just think of all the commitments you have. It can get quite overwhelming! Like joy, commitment is a choice we make every day. We wake up and decide to follow through with our promises, and if you haven’t realized it yet, commitment is hard! Sometimes it’s just easier to throw in the towel, and sadly, this is something that’s happening too often in our day and time, especially in our homes and churches. The older I getthe more I realize the importance of putting myself aside and staying committed to the future: our children. Do we want our children seeing us doing what we want to do just because it’s pleasing to us? Do they need to see us giving up when the going gets rough, or do we want our children seeing us doing the right thing even though it’s hard? It’s all about our legacy! Commitment to our Lord and living a joyful life in Christ is the only way we can set a godly example for the generations to come.

The Lord’s commitment to our salvation is the ultimate example of commitment. 
He gave his son to cleanse us from our sins! (John 3:16) Another great illustration of the Lord's commitment is found in each and every time the Lord chastised the Israelites when they lost their way. (Hebrews 8: 9-13) He loved them and wanted their true devotion. He was committed to them just as he is committed to us!

If we keep these examples of commitment close to our hearts, all of our commitments will be founded in truth, love, and honor. With this example thriving in our marriages and homes, think about the world of good that will emanate from our lives! Having God as the foundation of everything we commit ourselves to is absolutely necessary if we want to have joyful, successful, prospering lives that embody the Lord’s truth.

When I think about true commitment, aside from Abraham and Job, Ruth comes to mind. After her father-in-law and husband die, Ruth has every opportunity to go back to her family as her sister-in-law, Orpah, chooses to do. In Ruth chapter one, Naomi says, “…Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me […] Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband” (v. 8, 12). After Orpah leaves, Ruth says,
Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. (v 16-17)
Not only was Ruth committed to the Lord, she was committed to Naomi because she loved and respected her, and she was entirely committed to the Lord’s promise of protection. What lay ahead would be frightening and difficult. Poverty can’t be easy, but the Lord eventually unites Ruth and Boaz, leaving both Ruth and Naomi with protection and family. God had big plans for Ruth! I’m sure Ruth didn’t see much promise while she was gleaning ears of corn, but she was steadfast and reliant on God. God took care of things in the mysterious way that He always does. Ruth was motivated by her faith and her love. We must be like Ruth and know that God is God, and He will provide. Committed people like Ruth are who we should aspire to be like.

First and foremost, to establish effective commitments, we must build a firm foundation, concentrating on our motivation, the faith it takes to stay firm and focused, the obedience required of us, and the blessings we will reap at the end of the race.
1. Motivation. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8 True commitment requires continuous reevaluation of the motivating factors in our lives. What are our goals founded on? What is our true focus? Who are we working for? If any other answer comes before the Lord, we need to reprioritize our lives. This is something I’ve been dealing with in a huge way here lately. If everything I’m doing isn’t grounded in the Lord, and if I’m not doing each and every single thing to glorify Him and not myself, I need to step back and rethink things. Just when I think I’ve refocused my priorities and lined my goals up according to Him, He shows me a little nugget of truth, further proving that He’s not through with me yet; He’s still working on me. The closer I get to Him, the more I find that I still have so much more to learn. I used to hear people say this, but I never understood what they meant until now. Like Ruth, our motivation should be grounded in faith, love, and humility.
2  Faith. "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9 In order to keep our commitments, we must plant them in faith, and we must be faithful. Being faithful is the manifestation and fruit of our faith. It’s what witnesses to people and solidifies our testimonies. We must be committed to our faith so we can be faithful to our commitments. Have you ever watched a movie where someone does something horrible, but he will say, “But I’m a good person!” This is the difference in talking the talk and walking the walk. We can say we are faithful, that we are good Christians, that we go to church and participate in the goings-on of the church, that we witness to the community around us, that we help the needy, that we fully trust and rely on God to get us through, but if our actions can’t prove that, are we furthering the kingdom of God? Are we bringing others closer to Christ? Are we strengthening our relationship with God? No, no, and no. We must be like Ruth and Abraham; we must be unwavering and consistent. Think of how this witnesses to people. People thrive off of consistency because we live in such an unpredictable, inconsistent world. Hebrews 10:3 says, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” We must be faithful so we can reach our full potential, witness to others, and worship God in some of the hardest ways possible: keeping our commitments and remaining faithful.

3. Obedience. "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." Psalms 40:8

To truly make our commitments concrete, we have to be obedient to God. Commitment and obedience encourage and foster growth. Have you ever heard of growing pains? I used to wake up hurting during the night when I was little, and my parents would say I was experiencing “growing pains.” Growth isn’t easy, and it oftentimes hurts. We can experience growing pains in the spiritual sense, too. The more our convictions manifest themselves and grow stronger, the more it hurts. Although obedience brings freedom and truth, growing closer to God and obeying Him when he tells us to do something isn’t easy at first, and if we ever get to the point where we think God is “easy” and worshipping God is “easy” and finding time for God is “easy” and doing what God wants is “easy,” we’re not being honest with ourselves! In our world…in this day and time…with the devil and temptation fighting us at each and every turn…obedience is NOT always easy. Unfortunately, with life’s hectic demands looming over us, doing the right thing and spending adequate time reading the Bible and praying are often the last things we put on our daily to-do lists. Living a Christian life is hard, and the closer we get to God, the more the devil is going to come at us. Have you ever noticed that? True closeness to the Lord is a life of setting aside ourselves and forgetting the earthly things that we used to put first in our lives. This is what makes obedience easy. Finally, doing what God wants out of us is not something we can glorify flippantly; we must honor God’s requests with honor and respect, giving them the appropriate time to grow and develop in our hearts before we act irrationally out of our own fleshly desires. (Note to self!) When the Lord asks us to do something, we should consider it an honor and privilege, not a daunting task we dread or something we set aside to focus on later. We have to stay focused and persevere to the end to reap the blessings that will surely come. Zechariah 3:7 "Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by." God will give us the necessary tools to accomplish whatever it is that He’s wanting from us. God’s requests from us are sacred; they should be treated as such. If we are unwavering and honorable, God will bless us; there’s no doubt that He will!
 . Blessings.  “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!” Psalms 31:19 When Abraham obeyed the Lord, God blessed him. When Ruth remained committed to Naomi and the Lord’s promise of provision, the Lord blessed her. Likewise, when we obey the Lord, God will bless us! He promises us this. As we discussed in the last post on faith, whatever valley we go through, God will be there for us, giving us the necessary tools in which to overcome those obstacles. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Everything God’s children go through will result in some kind of good (Romans 8:28) even though we might not be able to see the silver lining at that point in time. We must be committed to the initial steps of commitment before we get involved in something. Are we motivated in the right direction? Are we remaining steadfast and faithful when the Lord is asking us to obey Him and put ourselves aside? Sunday morning our pastor said, “God can’t direct someone who isn’t moving.” If we’re not moving, we’re either falling behind and losing focus, or we’re standing still, slowly but surely slipping into a stagnant state. God doesn’t want us to be stagnant. What happens to stagnant water? The water grows murky, parasites start inhabiting it, the water grows lukewarm…it’s certainly not something we would want to drink or swim in. Now think about our lives in that context. Do we want to be something God can use and enjoy, or do we want to be stagnant, never reaping those blessings he promises us? Our commitments and our promises are fruits of our relationship with God, and our commitment to him is the most important one to uphold.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1
Commitment is a race to the finish, but some people never start. They’re afraid of the hardships along the way…the obstacles they might face…the test of endurance…the possibility of failure, so they never take that first step. Some people, however, jump the gun, thinking they know they’re way around enough to take on the course without a guide. They think they know how to maintain their speed and performance throughout the long haul, yet they hit the wall before the finish line is even in sight. On the other hand, some people take that first step, but they continue to turn back because they’re afraid. They’ll take two steps forward only to take three backward when the going gets tough. They’re unsure of themselves. They question too much. They’re in the middle of the start and the finish, and they don’t know which side to identify with the most, so they remain stuck in the middle, continuously trying to decide whether to turn back or press on. Then, you have those who pursue the race until they cross the finish line. They’re slow and steady throughout the race, always monitoring their performance, making sure they have the tools necessary to finish with honor, strength, and most importantly, dignity. They keep their eyes on the prize the entire time, never looking back, never wavering when they feel tired or confused. They press on and fight until the end, holding their heads high although they may be crawling through the finish line.
Which racing group do we want to be in? Which level of commitment do we want to maintain in our lives? Do we want to finish our lives one day with dignity and strength, valor and integrity, or do we want to slip and slide along the way, always turning back and watching the world, doubting ourselves and our relationship with the Lord?
Lord, help us this week to finish our races with dignity and integrity. Help us to realize that our lives are races that people are watching. The world might want to see us slip and fall behind or stop altogether, but with you as our pacer and our guide, we will be able to finish strong. Your Word proves that we can. Help us keep our ultimate commitment in you. Help us to continuously monitor our relationship and level of commitment, for without a strong tie to you, everything else in our lives will suffer. Help us not to jump into things without thinking simply because it seems right at the time. Help us to avoid the world and the commitments that are glazed over with an appearance of godly promise but are truly rebellion, heartache, and pain. Help us not to fall into a pattern of doubt and questioning that keeps us from growing. Help us remain obedient, faithful, and motivated to do the amazing things you have planned for us so we can get the ultimate blessing at the finish lines of our lives.

Journaling: What is your position in the race of life? Are you satisfied with your place? Let’s write about our desire to finish strong so we can be a light for the world.

I hope you enjoyed this series on finding joy and contentment in Christ. It has been an incredible month studying and learning more about the beautiful plans God has for our lives. I hope and pray that you got something from this study and that you will be able to apply it to your lives, always remembering that God has a plan and that He will never leave you or forsake you—even when that truth is almost impossible to accept. Take care, and have a blessed week!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trip to the Smoky Mountains July 2014

 Last week before the Fourth, we spent a few days in Pigeon Forge, TN. Heath used the trip as an opportunity to go up LeConte again (He's getting very close to 40 trips.) with some people from church whereas I got to take it easy and rest. Heath, Jeff, Hollison, and Zack all hiked up the trail while Jamie, Isaac, and I stayed at the condo. We shopped a little at the Tanger outlets and read a bunch. We ordered Domino's and just took it easy. Isaac played his little heart out. We rode some little rides and ate at Aubrey's on the way home. It was so much fun. This was Isaac's first vacation and his longest car ride. We were armed with our DVD player, Thomas movies, tractors, snacks, and toys, so we were prepared. He did such a good job the entire trip. He's our little trooper. I'm so glad we had a safe trip.
Isaac loved the extra special attention from Hollison.

As you can see, getting his picture taken was very tricky. He was so intrigued by his new environment.
The condo was really nice!

The group before they headed up. It was Hollison's first trip up, and she did great. She's the cutest little hiker!

Isaac loved the pool, but the chlorine didn't love him. :(

We rode the cute little train Jamie took us to. Isaac loved it.

Our condo overlooked Dollywood, so we got to see the fireworks each night we were there. It was awesome. Isaac didn't know what to think. Heath and the group on LeConte saw them, too, but it took 58 seconds for them to hear the sound from the top. Crazy!

Hey, there!

You found me!

We rode the big Ferris wheel in Pigeon Forge. I'll have to admit: I was a little scared.


Heath ziplined for the first time. I think he liked it.