Cranberry Orange Coconut Cookies

Want to prepare some more healthy treats for the holidays or your upcoming cookie exchange? Or how about preparing some tasty treats for your neighbors this Christmas?

Today we are joining Domestic by Design in sharing a few favorite holiday treats that have been adapted to make them more healthy and nutritious! Check out the fun Real Food Cookie Exchange Carnival and share your favorite recipes! Since cookies are a special treat at our house, we mainly stick with unbleached white flour (or half and half with sprouted wheat), as it gives more tasty, fluffy results. But you can certainly use whole wheat flour if desired. Other than that, I like to use coconut oil and natural sweeteners to give them a more nutritious nature. Here is one of our new favorites!

These cranberry cookies are fabulous! They are soft, rich and flavorful with a splash of red color to make them a perfect holiday treat.

Cranberry Orange Coconut Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter or coconut oil, softened (half butter & half coconut oil works best!)
  • 1 1/2 cups rapadura/sucanat (you can certainly cut back to about 1 cup if using orange juice concentrate or dried cranberries)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice or orange juice concentrate
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour or whole wheat flour (increase baking soda to 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped cranberries, fresh or dried (fresh is preferred)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter/coconut oil, sweetener, orange peel, orange juice, and vanilla until smooth and light.

2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture, stir to mix, then beat on low speed until dough comes together, about 1-2 minutes. You may have to add 1 more Tablespoon water or orange juice to get it to come together. Mix in cranberries and coconut flakes.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on an greased baking sheets.

4. Bake in a 350° degrees until cookie edges just begin to brown, 12-15 minutes (shorter baking time will yield a chewier cookie; longer baking time will yield a crispier cookie). If baking two sheets at once in one oven, switch their positions halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then use a wide spatula to transfer to racks to cool completely.

Yield: 3-4 dozen.

Some of our other favorite holiday treats, that would work beautifully on a cookie platter for your neighbors:

Healthy Homemade Fudge
Healthy Peanut Brittle

Gingersnap Cookies

Happy holiday baking!

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Loving Our Children With the Written Word

There I sat amidst a pile of cards that I had received over the years from my parents, siblings, and close friends. I was packing up my closet and came upon this treasured envelope of keep sakes. I had kept these cards for a reason. There were welcome home cards from my siblings, valentine’s cards from my brothers, encouragement cards from my Aunt and best friend and now sister-in-law. The earliest was from my 13th birthday. Each year my mom and dad had wrote me a birthday letter. This was not just any ordinary card. It expressed in detailed form all that they loved and admired about me and my growth in godliness. I began reading through each one. Tears started rolling down my eyes.

“I’m so proud of you.”
“I love to see how you are growing in virtue.”
“Thank you for being so reliable. We count on you. You are a huge help to our family.”

And on and on..

Such sweet encouragement that I am so loved. Reading them on this day, over 12 years since their signed date, and they still impact me. They still challenge me onwards in the upward call of following Christ Jesus.

Dear friends, never underestimate the power of love and expressing it through written form. Verbal is valuable. But written form is a keepsake.

I sat there balling and thanking the Lord for His love for me. With so many years passed, and yet my heart is lifted up. Fresh love and overwhelming thankfulness fill my heart. God has truly been good to me.

My little girl comes up to me and tries to comfort mommy with her sweet words, “It’s okay, Mommy.” And she gently rubs my arm and face. I look her in the eyes and realize with fresh inspiration how much I love this sweet gift of life. I grab her in my arms and hold her close. We exchange numerous kisses. “I love you, sweetie. Mommy’s okay. She’s just so happy. She’s so happy to have such a special girl.”

Take a moment and write a note. Write a gift of grace to another. You never know the long term impact your encouraging words can have. Write to your children. Even if they are too young to read. Journal each year on their birthday all that you admire, appreciate, and treasured memories from the previous year. These will be such a gift to your children when they are grown and gone.

These are treasured moments. Every moment is a gift. Live in light of it!

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 13:3

How ca you practically seek to love and encourage those around you today?

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November at Our Home

I want to take a moment and thank all of you who have so graciously offered your thoughts and encouragement in response to my recent survey. It has been a huge privilege to read through all your ideas! I am eagerly anticipating all that the Lord has in store for this blog in the new year.

November has brought some peace and simplicity to our lives after a month of traveling in October. We have been able to get back into our routine in keeping our home peaceful. One thing I started doing this month, was simply getting all our laundry and housecleaning done in one day – Monday of each week. What I love about this routine is although it is a busy day, I don’t have to think about cleaning or laundry for the rest of the week. I can instead focus on my little ones, making yummy meals, and such. Getting those not so desirable tasks done first thing helps launch me into a good week. It may not work for everyone, but if you set your mind to it, it really was more workable than I thought. I can clean my house in two hours – bathrooms, dust, vacuum, and wipe down kitchen and floors. Set that timer and get to work! ;)

Another goal this month was to cultivate some more special times with the kiddos. I get too easily distracted with homemaking or technology. One way that we have done that is to start attending our local library store time once a week. This gives us occasion to get out, enjoy the benefits of reading aloud, and also participate in a cute craft project. Since I am not a crafty momma, this has helped meet that need that my daughter loves. All for free! The kids love it…especially when we do it with another friend. I try to limit my outings to twice a week, so as to cut down on gas and save my energy. One morning out for library story time, and one morning out for errands.

We also started reading the Jesus Storybook Bible (I love this book!) while the kids are eating breakfast at the table. We keep our devotional book at the table so it is ready to go each morning. And in the last month, we have nearly finished the whole book. And then we’ll start again! We use this time to read, work on our memory verses, and pray together. It has been so fun, and they are contained in their seats, so I can keep their focus well. It has been so sweet to plant seeds of the gospel in their precious hearts. And my daughter will not let me forget…every morning she states, “can we read the story?” If I can accomplish nothing else in my day, this quality time is of greatest Kingdom building importance.

Another recent release that looks awesome for family devotions is  Long Story Short: 10 Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God. I cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

We’re Moving!

We actually placed an offer on a cute house, and will be moving here before the year’s end, Lord willing. It happened really fast. We looked at it on Sunday, placed an offer down on Monday, and she signed on our offer on Wednesday. The Lord totally opened the doors. And the beauty of it is that we will be so close to our church community, Aaron’s work, and in a house that is perfect for hospitality. I am eager to be able to have a little more room to love on people through our home. And the kids will have a yard to run around in! After being in a condo for the past 4.5 years, this is a huge blessing! So I am thrown into the world of packing amidst the holidays. We are super excited…this has been our dream for a year now. We didn’t sell our condo, as the market has been dead, but the Lord has opened the doors for us to find a good renter to cover our expenses.

Any tips on how to simplify the moving process that you’d like to pass on to me? I’ve never really moved in my life. I was born and raised in one house and then moved my simple bedroom belongings when I got married. So this is the first real deal! ;)

Holidays

We had a sweet Thanksgiving holiday with both sides of our family, enjoyed the local Macy’s parade, found a lovely $10 Christmas tree, and are simply enjoying a wonderful holiday season. I love Christmas! I love being able to step back and refocus at the end of the year around the goodness and beauty of our Savior’s coming. I love doing our Advent celebration with our Jesse Tree (check out the new free updated Jesse Tree devotional), and cultivating new family traditions. I love buying and making gifts (vanilla extract, chapstick, peanut brittle, canned goods, photo books, etc) for our family and extended family. I love being able to bless my husband with surprises. Now if I can just reign that in so I don’t overspend. ;)

1000 Gifts

As promised, I am monthly listing out many of my blessings as recorded in my gratitude journal. This exercise has been so helpful for me, and I recommend it to anyone, especially if you battle with depression and anxiety, like myself. I am up to 180 gifts listed in the last 30 days. I’m on my way to listing 1000 gifts that God has given me. Every time I am tempted towards depression, I stop, and continue on my list. It is so helpful in restoring my joy.

#27 – To start the week off well with a clean house and laundry tucked away
#28 – A date night out with my love
#31 – A good night’s sleep
#32 – Playing a card game with my Karis and laughing together
#37 – Warm soup on a cold night
#42 – Bringing a meal to a friend
#43 – Sourdough bubbling up
#52 – Cold wash cloths on a feverish body
#59 – Dancing with my little ones as we worship Jesus
#68 – A freezer full of food for the winter
#70 – A head massage
#77- The fun of bringing trikes indoors
#78 – Titus inventing a drum from a blender
#86 – Little hands sneaking raisins from the cupboard
#88 – A cozy bearskin rug
#98 – Being feminine
#99 – 15 people in a cozy condo with every bowl and plate in use
#104 – Free access to the throne of grace amidst every minimal activity – in my closet, car, or at my sink.
#106 – Cheesecake ice cream – “my one weakness!” – (A line from Lark Rise to Candleford - a sweet clean family movie series we started watching recently)

The more I start to record these little gifts, the more He is opening my eyes to see!

By the way, the Lord also lead me to write out my personal testimony this month. I have added it to the About tab above. I pray this would encourage you all as you learn of my own personal struggles and finding victory in Christ.

November Reading

Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Kirkpatrick has been a beautiful challenging reading on understanding who I am in Christ. I have found it very encouraging in learning how to apply the gospel to every day life. It is so easy to go through our daily life without even considering the gospel’s implication and how it can grant us victory over sin and transformation. Learn your true identity and how to live it out.

1000 Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp has been a truly life-changing read. This woman is an amazing writer! She pierces to the heart in dealing with ingratitude, and how to transform your life into a joy and grace filled daily experience. Her challenge to record 1000 gifts of the little things that God has done for you, has been helping to grant me victory in attack of anxiety, depression, and discontentment. It is truly a call to the full and blessed life through cultivating thanksgiving.

May you all have a blessed holiday season!

Thank you to our new sponsor for December: Graham Gardens - a wealth of natural body products, soaps, lotions, and cremes for your family.

Our family photos pictured here were taken by my lovely sister, Christa Taylor Photography. If you are local, I can highly recommend her!

Comments { 74 }

Frugal & Natural Christmas Decor

Photo by Michele of frugalgranola.com

This post is written by contributing writer, Michele Augur.

Decorating with found items is both frugal and beautiful! As we bring in items found on walks, our family savors the scents and colors of the season.

I honestly don’t spend a lot of time decorating (and I’m certainly not trained in floral design!), but it is a joy to bless my family and friends with a festive and comfortable atmosphere.

I created the wreath in the photo above, using tree boughs and holly sprigs from the woods around our home. (If you live in the city, ask a neighbor if you can snip some branches from their overgrown holly or juniper bushes!) Carry small pruning shears with you on walks, or just gather fallen items from the ground.

I re-purposed an old wreath frame and floral foam from a dusty old silk flower wreath. (You can often find these at thrift stores or garage sales, or purchase them on sale from craft stores.) I accented with a few of the silk/paper flowers. I also enjoy decorating with dried rosebuds, seed pods, and hydrangeas from summer gardens.

To attach the greenery to the wreath, I used a combination of floral pins (reused from the old wreath) and green floral wire. Some of the branches were also just securely pushed into the floral foam. Mine has a bit of a  “rustic” look, but if you prefer a more classic look, you can trim the branches with pruning shears.

For my thick wreath, floral foam was tied to the wreath frame. (But you could omit the foam, and just tie items directly to the metal wreath frame.) If you don’t have floral wire, you can also attach flowers and holly sprigs with a hot glue gun. I followed Melissa’s advice, and purchased removable hooks to attach a wreath to our glass front door window.

During the past few months, my daughter has enjoyed collecting leaves and other found items to make garlands for our home along with me. For the leaves, she would poke a hole with a toothpick, and then thread them onto string. (This made a simple Thanksgiving decoration.)

You can also add in dehydrated slices of oranges or apples to your garlands. As we approach Christmas, you can create similar garlands out of pine cones or holly, as well.

Photo by Michele of frugalgranola.com

I keep decorating simple by filling bowls, baskets, and cake stands (from thrift stores) with greenery, paper/dried flowers, and fresh fruit. Instead of trying to make formal bouquets, this is a way for little ones to contribute their favorite found items! (We had a bowl of beautiful fall leaves sitting by our front door this past month to greet visitors.)

You can also place some greenery, mossy branches, or holly springs in a vase or pitcher, if desired. (And even use it as a Jesse Tree for Advent!) Just use what you have on hand.

A picture from Lindsay's Christmas table - ornaments in a punch bowl

A bowl of bright red apples is easily replenished with seasonal grocery purchases, and decorated with a holly branch. Some red vintage glass ornaments fill a cake stand, and are accented by simple white candles. Look around your home for glass or wooden bowls or baskets that you could use for the season!

How do you decorate naturally for Christmas?

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Striving for a Peaceful, Organized Christmas

Photo Credit

Guest post by Kristi McKenney from Courageous Homekeeping.

As hard as it is to believe, Christmas is just around  the corner.  Are you ready?

Christmas is my very favorite time of year.  I love the decorating, the snow…or at least the hope of snow, the lights, the family traditions, the presents, the cookies and the baking.  Not to mention, the celebration of the birth of our Savior!  I love everything about Christmas.

Except the stress.

Sometimes it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed out around Christmastime.  There are so many demands.  For our time, our commitments and our money.

What are the areas where we feel stress this time of year, and how can we minimize that awful stress?

Money

Ooh, that’s a big one isn’t it?  There is always more money that could be spent around Christmas.  Bigger presents, better decorations, more food, more clothing…the list could go on.  Money stress can be a huge deterrent to full enjoyment of the holiday season.  How do you combat it?

Simple.  Make a budget.  And stick to it.  Make a list of people that you will be buying gifts for.  Decide together with your spouse how much you’re comfortable spending on each gift. Make sure to consider  parties, hostess gifts, food preparation, gift wrapping, and all the extra expenses you will be incurring this month.  Agree on limits and stick to them. Start small when your children are young so they don’t grow up with large expectations.

Note from Lindsay: Our Christmas budget is $500 ($250 for personal family gifts, $150 for extended family gifts, $100 for tree, hospitality, and outside holiday entertainment), and this is one we start saving in January. Makes the holidays less stressful for your future reference.

Activities and Commitments

One of the most enjoyable things about the Christmas season is all the activities!  So many volunteer opportunities, parties, family gatherings, etc.  But sometimes there is SO much activity and SO much to do that it feels more like obligation than a joyful opportunity.  How do you make it through without feeling like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck by December 26th?

Sit down with your spouse and make a list of values that are important to you to during the Christmas season. Use the holiday evaluation questions to help guide you in this process. Do you want to make a point to volunteer?  Do you want to have ample time with the family?  How are you going to keep Christ as the focus?  Schedule the things you value on your calendar first as your priorities.  With all the other activities and commitments, decide if they support your values or take away from them.  If they take away from the values you want to keep during the season, don’t be afraid to say no. Limit your Christmas activities to 2-3 for the month and schedule them in now. Any more than this can certainly be overwhelming. Keep it simple and these activities will be so much more enjoyable as a result.

Preparation

After figuring out your money situation, your activities and commitments, it’s time to make some preparation lists.  Think about that company Christmas party.  Are you going to need a new dress?  New shoes?  Are your kids going to need clothing?  Are you going to need to bring a gift?  Are you going to need to bring food?  Thinking about all those things ahead of time will enable you to get things done on your own time.  It will save stress and probably money when you don’t have to run to the store, last minute, to buy one ingredient for a dish you have to make for the next day.

Discontentment

Discontentment is not directly related to the Christmas season, but boy can Christmas bring it out!  We are constantly comparing ourselves to others!

Whenever you have that nasty feeling of discontentment come up, ask yourself if there’s anything about the situation that you can change.  If it’s easily something that is within your control to change than do so!

However, if and when you find yourself in a situation where you’re feeling discontent and there is nothing in the situation you can change, remember this very important thing.  There are two very powerful thing you ALWAYS have control over… your attitude and your focus.

When I am feeling discontent about something, usually it is because I have decided that I don’t measure up in some way.  When I am feeling like that, who or what am I focused on?  Me.  I’m not thin enough, I’m not as pretty, my cooking isn’t as good, my house isn’t as decorated.  Do you see a theme?  Me.  I make it all about me.

And it’s not.

It’s about Jesus.  It’s about memories.  It’s about family.  It’s about love.

So…how are you celebrating Christmas this year?

So, how can you grow in cultivating peace in your home?

Kristi McKenney is a busy and happy wife of 12 years and mother to 5 kids, ages 10, 7 and 4 year old triplets!  She has found contentment in her God-given role, and most of her days are spent under piles of laundry, cleaning, chasing kids, baking cookies and cooking dinner.  You can find Kristi writing full time about God, marriage and family over at www.courageoushomekeeping.com.

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Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole

This is my favorite side dish for our holiday celebrations! It is simple, nutritious, and always receives rave reviews! Yes, it is certainly a bit of dessert with dinner. Yum! It’s even better prepared a day in advance, giving it more time to mesh the flavors.

  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 apples – peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 cup sucanat/rapadura
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter or coconut oil (coconut oil adds wonderful flavor to this dish!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions

  1. Peel and slice sweet potatoes and apples into 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Melt the coconut oil/butter and add sweetener, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. Place the slices of apples and sweet potatoes throughout a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish. Drizzle with coconut oil and spice combination. Gently combine. Sprinkle with pecans, if desired.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 minutes, or until lightly browned and soft.

Yield: 10-12 servings.

This post is a contribution for the Whole Foods for the Holidays: Side Dishes Carnival!

May you all have a very blessed Thanksgiving!

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Let Nothing Stand Between You

Photo credit: rickkennedy

This post is written by contributing writer, Kat.

The Story

Several years ago, I went to the grocery store with my first baby.

She was sitting in a cart that had been sterilized to surgical specifications by my vast supply of wipes and cleaners. She played with a toy that would stimulate her intellect and while shopping, I spoke and interacted with her, ad nauseum, as every new, over achieving mom does.

When I reached the cereal aisle, I found, much to my wanna-be Type A chagrin, that they had rearranged the cereals. As I searched for the items on my list, I took a couple steps to the right, away from the cart. And my baby girl.

Unknown to me, a large, impatient man came up behind me. Apparently, incapable of waiting his turn, he put his hands on my cart, where my baby was innocently sleeping. He stepped between me and my girl and began moving her AWAY from me, so he could squeeze in and get his box of cereal.

Cue new mama syndrome.

I REALLY didn’t care if he was a big, baldheaded, tatooed biker man who could squash me with his pinky.

Dude was in T-r-o-u-b-l-e.

I pulled my baby back, looked up (way up) at him and said, “You do NOT want to do that.” Then, more politely, “Let me go ahead and get out of your way.”

I was furious. I had no fear. Do NOT get between this mama and her baby.

Goofy story. Important point.

Sometimes it’s ok to be angry.

Our issues, our junk, our baggage all drive a wedge between us and our children. Between us and God.

When we see our children in danger or afraid, we transform. We have no fear, no limits. We feel invincible and ready to crush anything that gets in our way. The love within us empowers us to fight what is in front of us. Without hesitation.

Part of our job as mothers is to train our children; to build their character. But the other part of our job is to train ourselves; to build our character. We must intentionally name, face, and take down those things in us that would pull us away from a life lived radically for God. We must tear down the idols.

Because there’s also good chance that our junk will be our kids junk. Our issues unresolved will trickle down into our children’s lives and hold them back from fully pursuing Him.

That makes me furious. Passionate.

So if I have to get up at 5:30am to fall at the feet of Jesus and let Him scrape off my rough edges, if I need to take the Light of His Word into my deepest darkest places, if I need to surrender my dreams for His, if I need to ask Him to use the hammer and chisel on my heart… bring it.

I will let nothing – not my past, not my failures, not my insecurity, not my pride, not my fears, not my ambition, not my condemnation, not my guilt – I will let nothing come between me and Him; between me and them. Between Him and them.

They are worth it. He is worth it.

What in your life that needs to go? Name it and take it down.

Comments { 41 }

Homemade Natural Chapstick

I frequently experience dry and chapped lips and often use chapstick as a means of solving the dryness and providing me with moisture and comfort to my lips. Today, I want to share with you a simple tutorial on how to make your own chapstick with 3 completely natural ingredients. They happen to be my favorite: shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax. These ingredients help moisturize, sooth, heal, and restore dry lips naturally. They grow in creation and team up together for a very effective lip balm! The balance in the ingredients gives it a very moisturizing and non-greasy affect. It blends into your lip in a matter of a few seconds and does not leave a glistening oil appearance. This recipe is so easy, it would make great Christmas stocking stuffers. And the beauty of it is that this simple recipe also makes a fabulous hard lotion bar – perfect for dry and cracked skin. You can easily make a smaller or larger quantity as desired. Any extra can be made into a hard lotion bar by pouring into ice cube trays.

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons beeswax (about 1 oz)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 Tablespoons shea butter
12 lip balm containers
dropper

Directions:

1. Melt beeswax in a small pan or crockpot over low heat. Add coconut oil and shea butter until all ingredients a melted. Add a few drops essential oil if desired. I did not use any essential oil and it is smells wonderfully like honey!
2. Using a small medicinal dropper, pour the melted liquid into your lip balm containers. Add a few extra drops to the top after filling each container as the ingredients will shrink as they cool.
3. Cool completely to harden. Cover with cap and decorate or label as desired.

Enjoy nice cool and refreshing natural lips!

I purchased all the ingredients, including dropper and lip balm containers from Mountain Rose Herbs.

This video is offered courtesy of Made On Hard Lotion bars, where you can purchase these lovely lip balms already prepared for you!

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One Thousand Gifts: Learning to See and Name Every One

Photo Credit

One of my goals this year was to become a radically thankful woman. I know in my heart that thankfulness is key to true joy in this life. I know that I could truly experience the fullness of life when my heart chose to purposefully focus on the good. I know my life could bring honor and praise to my Creator, and attract a watching world around me, when I was thankful and did not take for granted the precious gift of this life. This is my quest.

And yet so often, I falter in depression. I stumble into focusing on my little daily troubles – the ever growing laundry pile, the messy toys thrown here and there, and the financial struggles of staying within our budget. I loss sight of the good…I loss sight of the beauty all around me.

Since meeting Ann Voskamp at the Relevant Conference this last month, I have been challenged again and again by her life and witness. Her mission has been to list out one thousand gifts – watching, recording, and naming all the sweet little gifts that God bestows each and every day that we so often pass by without a second thought. She has desired to see and savor every moment. It is a list of one thousand gifts. Not what she wants. But what she has.

“I don’t need more time to breath so that I may experience more locales, possess more, accomplish more. Because wonder really could be here – for the seeing eye.”

I have witnessed her passion and I can see the way it has changed her life. By focusing on every little gift, through the thick and thin, she radiates such true joy that speaks clearly through her speaking and writing. I am eager to follow in her example. She has now surpassed one thousand and is into the second thousand, but she continues to write, and observe each and every day, what sweetness the daily grace that God supplies. Observing every time God whispers “I love you” in the here and now.

I started my very own gratitude journal earlier this year, but have strayed. This month I am starting anew. I have my little notebook. I keep it with me throughout the day. I jot down little gifts here and there. And my life is already beginning to be transformed. Praise is what I was made for!

“The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be – unbelievably – possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.”

My goal is to record 1000 gifts over a period of 6 months – which equals out to recording 5 gifts per day. I know as I get going, and I pray God transforms my eyes to see the beauty all around me, that I will quickly surpass this goal as I get enraptured by these gifts. I am joining the Gratitude Community and will be sharing my gifts via twitter and collectively here every month during my monthly family journal. Will you join me?

Ann shares in her amazing book, One Thousand Gifts, (coming in January) that the last thing Jesus did before facing His death was sitting down, breaking bread, and giving thanks (Luke 22:19). In the Greek, it is eucharisteo. It means thanksgiving. At its root it means grace and its derivative is joy. This deep joy is found only at the eucharisteo – the table of thanksgiving. We start our week at the table of thanksgiving and communion at church. We take bread every day. These are moments and opportunities that Jesus intended for us to give thanks. The act of eucharisteo – thanksgiving- always proceeds the miracle (John 11:41). It is the central symbol of Christianity. True wellness and completeness is promised to the one who gives thanks (Luke 17:17-19).

We will enter into the full life when we habitually practice and learn the art of giving thanks. It is a hunt – a journey – a discipline. But this is where true contentment is found.

“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live..He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.” - Albert Schweitzer

And thus I begin…

#1 – The sweet moments in the early morning reading the Word with my husband
#2 – The delight of cuddling in his strong arms
#4 – A warm house that shelters from the storms outside
#6 – The sweet joys of smothering my little ones with kisses
#8 – Talking until I fade into oblivion
#10 – The glorious ability to read and enter so many different worlds
#16 – Meeting new people and new friendships sprouting
#18 – Two freezers full of food
#25 – The first “please” that comes from my little boy’s mouth learning his manners
#26 – The precious “I love you, Mommy” initiated by my girl

I started on November 1st and have already surpassed 100 gifts. There is so much to be thankful for when we slow down, stop, and simply observe. It is beautiful!

The quotes above are all taken from Ann’s book, One Thousand Gifts, a book that I highly recommend, one that is transforming my life. I was blessed to receive a digital copy as an attendee at the Relevant Conference. It is set to be released in January 2011, so add it to your wish list!

Comments { 31 }

Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

With the holidays just around the corner, we cannot miss out on a large pot of mashed potatoes! They are truly delicious when topped with gravy or simply eaten on their own. Mashed potatoes are a huge hit for our family, and we serve them with roast chicken, beef burgundy, and many other meat dishes. I find most mashed potatoes to be dry and flavorless…but not when prepared with these simple ingredients! Don’t skimp on the butter – it makes a world of difference!

8 large yukon gold potatoes (yukon gold make the most golden delicious mashed potatoes)
1 cup potato water (reserved from cooking liquid – can be replaced with chicken broth or cream for even more flavor!)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (can use cream cheese or sour cream, as desired)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup butter (or 5-6 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper

Directions:

1. Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in a large pot and fill with water just until the potatoes are covered. Cover and bring to a boil. When boiling, remove lid and allow to cook for about 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are easy to prick with a fork due to softness and falling apart. Allow to cool slightly.
2. Carefully drain the majority of the water, reserving approximately 1 cup. Place all the potatoes and reserved 1 cup of the potato water in a mixer. Turn the mixer on and blend until all the potatoes are nicely mashed.
3. Add mayonnaise, minced garlic, butter and salt. Continue to mix until thoroughly combined. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Add more liquids if necessary to make a creamy consistency.

Keep warm till ready to serve! Yum!

Yield: 6 servings.

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