Wednesday, September 17, 2014

{No Bake} Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

You guys! I opened my Delicious Desserts Pinterest board the other day and tragedy struck.  One of our family's favorite desserts linked to a different dessertThis cannot be.  My mind raced.  I mean, how could this and my hand-held frother die in the same day?  It's like the taste bud happiness gods were against me :)

Obviously all recipes that increase to life satisfaction still need to be on good ol' fashion recipe cards.  This one included.

Since everyone is busy but can always use a tasty, simple recipe in their back pocket, today I bring you a link that will work and not change.  No siree. 

These tiny delicacies are no bake, no egg, no time consuming goodness perfect for school birthday treats, parties, or a simple family movie night.

But, be warned, they won't last long!



Ingredients:
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
6 ounces miniature chocolate chips
chocolate flavored microwaveable almond bark

To make:
* cream the butter and brown sugar together
* blend in vanilla extract and flour until smooth
* mix in miniature chocolate chips
* roll into 1 inch balls and place in fridge
* melt as many almond bark squares as desired (I use 3 per batch)
* remove balls, drizzle chocolate on top, and place back in fridge to set


I typically make my balls slightly smaller than an inch and yield approximately 50 treats.  A lot of delicious in only a tiny amount time.  I like it! And I'm confident you will too :)
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

How to Throw the Best Cupcake Theme Birthday Party in Town

Three words. Oh. My. Cupcakes.

Yep. That's your answer.

This week is a big birthday week in our house. Grace will celebrate her golden ninth and Hannah turns seven. When talking about their theme idea - and this has been a carefully considered discussion since basically the first of the year - they landed on a cupcake theme.



Because they love Oh My Cupcakes, a local Christian based company whose mission is "To shine God's love and make people smile...with cupcakes," I called and was blown away by how awesome they were to work with.

These party kits were just $8 a box. 



Along with a two full size cupcakes, each child was able to pick their own sprinkle, candy, and icing color, making each box custom and special.  Just like the girls.  Grace and Hannah's had candles to add extra spark to their celebration. 

Much to our surprise, the space was decorated for our girls.


 




We loved the warm feel it gave the room and felt so blessed that they went this extra mile to make our girls feel valued.

As if they hadn't done enough, Oh My Cupcakes allowed us to borrow their pin the candle on the cupcake game so I didn't have to make one.  Good thing because I couldn't make one nearly this cute.



I also printed off this free Birthday Bingo download friendly for all ages to play



As a fun transition game to get the girls back to the table for the cupcake fun.

They decorated in style with these very fitting headbands I found on Target clearance,


And they moved their heaping tubes of icing to create cupcakes with their own unique flair.  Once all the cupcakes were finished, the girls went around the table to display their design and share what they named it.  We had everything from the elegant "Winter Wonderland" to our three year old's "Poop."  We Nesdahl's know how to keep things classy :)





It was most definitely a good time had by all.  And, to top off the joy found in sharing time with their besties, Hannah's kindergarten teacher, affectionately known as her "second mom," came to join in the fun.  She's the best. I wouldn't be surprised if Hannah invites her to be in her wedding someday.  Not. Even. Kidding. 
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Monday, August 25, 2014

A Back to School Prayer

As our girls head back to school, my heart brims with emotion.  And so today, I, we, as moms join together in prayer….



Lord God, today we moms lift our hearts up to you
In prayer for the precious little girls
You’ve entrusted to us.
We lift this to you, Jesus.

Comforter God, these new school years are bittersweet
We are grateful for the excitement that comes
In new teachers and times with friends and opportunity to grow
And yet we are sad for the little in our girl that is lost,
Their steps closer to independence.
Lord help us navigate each step of the way.
We lift this up to you, Jesus.

Saving God, we pray our girls’ hearts would be led by You
That in the midst of all the voices and all the fears and all the excitement
You would reign the strongest guide.
We pray that they would be a light
And emulate Your love through kind words and thoughtful action.
We lift this up to you, Jesus.

Teaching God, we pray over their learning, 
That they would...
 

To finish reading this prayer, please visit MODSquad 

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Paint a Meaningful Life {10 Lessons for Every Student Leaving for College}

We circled the bend of the hallway and you spoke with such excitement, ready to close this chapter of high school and open a new one in college. I kept myself cool but I secretly wished for more time with you that day – that day you told me of profound character in just one sentence – because your experience runs so counter to mine. I was the girl who sobbed through the whole last day of high school like it was a world funeral bidding permanent farewell to all I’d grown with and loved. When the final bell rang I looked like a puffer fish with pink eye. It was ugly. Really ugly.

I stepped out on the deck tonight and the sun burnt hot. Orange hues reached wide allowing the sun to pierce spaces that would otherwise be darkness. And I thought of you. Of your future and a monumental move that falls this calendar week.

Because right now the world is your oyster. Grab hold of that, girl.

Some of your most fun days lie ahead. You’ll get to cram a dorm room full of girls to watch ridiculousness like The Wedding Story, wear pajama pants to class like it is daily wear, and set your alarm for 11:59am just so you can say you got up in the morning. Not that I ever did such things :) But some of your most frustrating days lie ahead too. The reality is for your next four years the number one question that people will spit at you is, “What are you studying?” or, phrased differently, “What are you going to be?”

The world will pressure you do define yourself and the natural human tendency is to figure that out. After all, college isn’t a season of bills and chaos a million different directions. People see it as four years intended to enjoy life while preparing for desired future success. Simple right? Hardly. And that is why I want for you to hear this before any feelings of failure start to settle in.

 

There is an energy rush that comes with newfound freedom. Being “old enough” to have your own space is a right of passage worthy of celebrating. But if you close the door after the loft is built and clothes are unpacked into the tiniest of places {they seriously did not involve women in the college closet space discussion, I’m convinced}, and the pictures are in their place, and you find yourself trying to swallow away loneliness that surfaced with the goodbye hug, you’re good to go. Your family is the best cheerleading team you are ever going to have. Call them from time to time. Visit home. Include them in your experience. They will always be there.

Likewise, a hallway full of peers savoring the taste of newfound freedom will be biding to meet you. The childhood rule of being kind to all will be remain important but be selective about who you claim friend. There will be boys drawn to your beauty and girls who will seek your attention because in hanging with a confident you they will feel more confident themselves. Assess their character. Alcohol, unhealthy relationships, and who knows what else will be where it doesn’t belong. Be watchful of your settings. Only one second can lead to a lifetime of regret. Make sure your people share your values so that you have present accountability partners that you can be real with and inspired by.

You will need them. The world will, at times, seem dark and cruel. And, in unexpected places it will also seem beautiful and challenging and empowering. Navigating the blender of emotions will draw you into many a conversations with God about your calling, which is such a huge concept for our finite human brains. A wise unknown author once said, “There’s no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” Indeed the work in figuring life out runs the emotions tired, but it is those growing moments that you will most discover what God has placed in your heart.

Keep your eyes out so that you don’t lose track of the world in the microcosm that is college. Volunteer. Do things that make you happy. Go places that are life-giving because they reflect part of the bigger picture. Do something more than text book pages and school sanctioned events or this vacuum will suck you right into a self-centered life.

Your major is to develop your God-given skills. The purpose of whatever you study shouldn’t be the financial promise or worldy gains the degree can offer you but what you can offer with that degree for God. Choose something that nurtures the gifts He first gave you and He will multiply the outcome. Anything less will yield emptiness no matter what the world claims.

Make sure you study, but don’t magnify your grades to be the sole map of your future. Your academic marks don’t mark you like you think they will. I freaked out over my first A- because my perfect GPA was gone and with it, apparently, I thought my perfect future. Bull honky. There is more to life and more on an employer’s mind than finding a good book nerd who can memorize the facts. Turns out life experiences, passion, and the ability to connect have important leverage. Take that, A-!

And, when you get prepared to walk across the stage, know the degree you get isn’t the boss of your future. Your identity isn’t found in your job title. Nor will your life be static. Experiences will build on one another to guide you and create readiness from one God-inspired move to the best. You aren’t limited by the word next to your name on the graduation program or the fancy piece of paper you get with it. The Lord will layer life and what you do to bring you where you are supposed to go.

And maybe it will be exactly what you dreamt it to be. Or maybe not. “We may throw the dice, but Lord determines how they fall” Proverbs 16:33. Life might not go according to your plan because, in the end, it is God’s plan that prevails. Your dream might not be The Dream, and, if that happens you might be surprised to find out that The Dream suits you better than you ever imagined.  Take it from one who knows.

Through it all, make yourself a student of the Word even if it isn’t in your textbook requirements. This build up your resume to do something worthwhile runs totally contrary to the way of our Lord who time after time in Scripture picked the most seemingly unqualified to fulfill His purposes. You don’t need stature or perfection or even the most licensures and proficiencies. A heart for Christ and obedience will take you further than you can imagine.

Ultimately, life is a constant learning process. You never really graduate. With breath comes purpose and with each new day comes new lessons to be learned and new inspiration from Above. Praise God or life would get pretty darn boring.  Newfangled opportunity will afford a freshness to keep your life intriguing and purposeful.

So, friend, you’ve chosen your room colors and excitedly painted room d├ęcor with bedazzled beauty. Now go and paint a meaningful life. Enjoy this next step! Given who you are, I’m confident you will make a bright splash on the world around you. :) 

And maybe sleep in to 11:59am once….just for me.
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Monday, August 11, 2014

A New Look at the “Perfect” Birth

Welcome to the Share Your Story event: Childbirth – Your Stories
This post was written as part of the Share Your Story event hosted by Kids in the House. Our contributors have shared their stories, struggles, and wisdom about the unforgettable yet unpredictable event that is childbirth.

Recently I held my friend’s newest baby in my arms.  “How did the delivery go?,” I asked while staring at the newborn’s precious little face. And she went into a story of relative ease until baby girl’s shoulder got stuck and a nurse all out straddled her to help rid the dystocia and safely bring her into the world.

We laughed at the perfectly “normal” situations found in a birthing center replicated no place else.

Because I worked in a newborn nursery at the time that our first was due to be born, I knew there was no way to predict the unpredictable.  Hence, my birth plan was: If the delivery goes really fast I will deliver without medication but if not I will get an epidural. That was it.  Flexible was going to be my middle name.

I had no idea what I was in for.

The unpredictability began the second my water broke.  I awoke in the night to back splitting pain.  The contractions wrapped so tight I thought I might never breathe again.  Despite this being a dream come true - we waited several years for thisbaby - I panicked.  Would I really be a good mom?  How was our life going to be different? I in the midst of life-changing pain, I winced, “I don’t know if I’m ready for this.”

When I arrived at the hospital they transferred me to a delivery room, meaning this birth was going to happen.  On the downside, my water broke without having physically progressed much and it was going to be a while before that glorious epidural was even an option.

My husband and I walked. A lot.  I sat in the whirlpool bath. A lot.  I rocked in the chair.  A lot.  I swayed by the wall.  A lot.  I laid over the birth ball.  A lot.  The modest girl in me who still carries all her clothes into her own master bathroom so as to stay private was completely gone.  I wanted to be checked.  I yearned to make progress.  I was exhausted.

Laboring takes work and being patient with the loved ones around you is an added labor of love. While on a walk my husband suggested that he had a dream where he experienced “the worst feeling ever.”  I was clutching the wall in pain.  His being alive is true evidence of grace. J 

Meanwhile, the nurse called the anesthesiologist.  I’d been laboring for ten hours and my contractions were coming faster than I could change positions.  Relief flooded my body and instantly numbed my pain.  Energy was restored through a much needed nap.  My body made more progress than it did in all the preceding hours.  And, lucky for my husband, my niceness came back too. J  He now jokes the epidural saved our marriage.  I sincerely say it is my favorite part of labor outside of seeing our beautiful baby’s face.

But soon my utopian situation crumped.  My labor slowed to the point that I needed pitocin.  Baby’s heart slowed and I spiked a temperature.  I started to push while the brilliant nurses and doctor assisting me watched the monitors and cheered me on.  Thankfully, in the process, baby turned face down.  However, the need for baby to be born NOW escalated.  The intensive care nursery staff was called into the room.  People stood everywhere.  My husband whispered the most loving, encouraging words.  My doctor tried the vacuum and then peered over me to say, “One more push.”

I knew a c-section loomed in the horizon.  I prayed.  I pushed with everything in me.

And a tiny cry filled the room.  My husband announced, “We have a girl!,” and a single tear fell down my cheek.

 
 

I watched my very tall husband take our very tiny baby into his arms and fell in love with him in a whole new way.   We were now three.

In the following years we welcomed two more baby girls.  Neither one of their deliveries was as “eventful” or long as our first, but each was equally as special and we excitedly shared when people asked, “how did the delivery go?” 

What I’ve come to realize over the years is that we never cease to grow tired of birth stories because their unpredictability is what makes them fascinating.  Just like our children, no two are exactly the same. And, the “perfect” delivery is not about the textbook process or the actualized dreamt up birth plan, but rather IS the unique, special story perfectly written for you, for this child.

Hear me when I say your greatest joy will not be found in creating a birth plan, whether or not you choose to use pain medicine, or how you ultimately deliver.  Because, when you become a parent, your heart’s desire is for your child’s best.  And that wish drives you to do whatever necessary in the delivery room to keep your baby safe until you kiss his or her little face.

So, if you are expecting, stay in the present and make decisions there.  It’s not about our plan but The Plan and, when we embrace that, our birth story becomes a positive memory.  No matter how calm or crazy it looks in the delivery room. J
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Please be sure to read the submissions by the other Share Your Story contributors, and visit Kids in the House to find out how you can participate in our next Share Your Story Blogger Event!
  • Two Peas in a Pod: A Double Miracle - Rachael at Three Boys and Mom shares how the blessing of an unexpected twin pregnancy saved a woman's life.
  • Childbirth: the Ache of Love - Sasha at MomLife Now describes how one mom discovered a miraculous beauty she new not existed.
  • Tax Day 2007 - Cheryl at The Pump Station & Nursery looks back on how an easy pregnancy turned out to be a taxing birth experience.
  • Going with the Flow - Bridget at Bridget Bertrand shares how her OB helped to put her on the right course in regards to birth plans, the playlist, and even the recipe to make the day her daughter came into the world.
  • My Not-So Natural Birth Story - Rachel at Mommy Greenest shares a lot of questions with questions with pregnant and new parents through her work, but this time describes what it was like for her, giving birth for the first time - but definitely not the last - time.
  • The (Not So) Perfect Birth Story - Britt at My Life and Kids reflects on how a mom's life-threatening delivery helped mold her into the mother she was meant to be.
  • Giving Birth: When the Unexpected Happens - Elle at This is Mommyhood shares advice for when your baby has an unexpected stay in the NICU.
  • A New Look at the "Perfect" Birth Story - Melissa at Fill My Cup shares how a crazy delivery gave one mom a new perspective on the 'perfect birth.'
  • Induction Induced Feelings of Loss - The Orange Rhino shares how a planned induction brought unplanned feelings of jealousy, sadness, disappointment and loss.
  • Our Beautiful Birth Story - Lindsay at The Fully Caffeinated Mama reflects on how it wasn't the feeling of intense pain caused by the epidural wearing off that she remembers, but rather the beautiful baby on her chest for the first time.
  • Jack's Arrival - Samantha at The Peanuts Gang thought she would have a scheduled c-section, but it turned out that having Jack was QUICK and sooner than expected!
  • Remembering to Breathe - Suzy at Kids in the House explains how with little fanfare, the completely wrong music, and a very distracted doctor, her son Leo was born.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seeing God on the Dark Days

My heart is heavy today for friends who have known deep loss.  It was on this day that sweet Sam went to be with Jesus.  He was a little boy with the biggest smile I've ever seen and the ability to teach all in his presence about the joy of life despite his lack of speech.  "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young," 1 Timothy 4:12 says, "But set an example for the believers."  Teach in his short years of life Sammy surely did, and those of us who were privileged to know him are better for it.

Mixed emotion bears tentacles in my being.  I'm grateful for the dreams this little boy inspired in my own heart.  Surely his legacy has transformed my life, giving me courage in places I will one day share with you.  Yet, I'm sad for the void his loss leaves behind, especially for his family who daily misses those huge smiles.

Loss jars us all at one point or another.  We say goodbye to people.  We say goodbye to dreams.  We say goodbye to the life we envisioned ourselves to lead.  Sunny, humid days suddenly feel dark and heavy.  And this God that promises we will walk through fire but not be burned (Isaiah 43:2) seems quiet and even absent if we don't choose to mentally stake claim in His promised goodness when emotions don't follow.

My trip to Lewis was only to get two wide ruled notebooks to complete the first grade supply list.  After getting the rest of their items my girls were excitedly labeling their things when this need became known and once little kids are on fire with a task you simply can't leave it incomplete.  At least not with my girls.  So, I went to the nearest store because the Tiny Tot was beyond her nap time and breakdown was on the horizon.  I was admittedly in "get in, get out" mode when I saw it



And a teary sheen covered my eyes.  A frog.  A bike.  Hope.  Today.

God showed up in a frog, again.  Fully Relying On God made frogs beloved in Sam's family.  In Sammy's days here and earth and since he has gone to be with Jesus frogs have decorated his family's home and life as reminder of God's presence and love on the good days and the bad.

Slow down, I'm right here in the midst of this loving you tight, God murmurs.

And even on our dark days our eyes can see the light.  Because this God who says we'll have valleys doesn't leave us in the details of dreary hours. 

Slow down, open your eyes, & jump on the back of the tandem bike.  Pedal on even when your soul is ragged worn, my friends,



Because this is only a piece of His glorious unfolding.

XOXO
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Planting, Watering, & the Servant Life {What I Want My Girls to Know about Married Love}


The girls asked me how we would celebrate this anniversary.  Charlie had the day off.  In their minds, the possibilities ran endless.

And I suppose they did.

But I woke up next to a man who values the work of doing life together more than the fleeting joy that comes with throwing money to the wind for temporary smiles.  Remember this, girls, a real man isn’t about temporal highs that catch your emotions but die a quick death.  A man of God will seek to grow roots deep, building the kind of memories that sustain through life.

As the sun peaked, Grace and Hannah opened our door balancing a surprise breakfast in bed on a cookie pan.  Two bowls of cereal, freshly made coffee (complete with creamer), a handmade card, and flower lie on top.  It was the best start to an anniversary we’ve ever experienced.

When we started life together they were but a dream.  Imagining how children would bless us couldn’t hold a candle to the reality of how they would.  Or how they try, test, and exhaust us.  Certainly they’ve made our everyday richer and our love for life together more appreciated.  A busy life that demands effort to keep conversation and focus on our marriage first.

I was just making my way into the kitchen to start lunch when my man whisked me into dance to Ronan Keeting’s “When You Say Nothing at All.”  It was our first dance as Mr. and Mrs.  We danced through that song easily that night on imaginings of life ahead.  Now we danced with reverence, giving thanks to God that through the sickness and health, richer and poorer, and stuff of life we still desire to choose each other every day. 

“I’m going to plant those hydrangeas on the side of the house,” he tells me.

And he begins the work.  Pulling weeds of bushes now dead, moving rock to create a new space.  Hours are invested in “our” project even though my contribution amounts only to shopping for one more and watering what has been newly planted.

Girls, watch your daddy because this is the stuff a forever life is made of.  It is dedication to pulling out what is thistly and thorny and working to create fertile soil.  It is commitment to not leaving life “as is,” but actively seeking new beauty.  It is choosing to be a servant.  {Let the record show I do this in ways other than gardening J}  THAT is love. 

It’s the stuff that gets you from one anniversary picture to the next.
 

So that when you do get gussied up and kiss for the camera per your kids’ request, you can enjoy those special moments with confidence that all the moments will count special.

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