3 Pumpkin Breakfast Recipes

The holiday season means that we have some slower mornings around the house with time that we can actually prepare and enjoy breakfast together. We are all fans of pumpkin, and I wanted to share three fairly easy recipes that we love. I found all of these on the internet, but have adapted them as I’ve made them a few times.

IMG_1346Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin
  • 1 loaf French bread cut into 1-inch cubes

for topping, mash together:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter

Whisk together eggs, vanilla, 1-3/4 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and pumpkin. Add in bread cubes and mix until all are “wet”. Put in greased 13×9 baking dish. Sprinkle with the topping mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. *Any loaf of bread works, but I prefer the French.

Easy Pumpkin Pancakes

  • 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger

Can substitute 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon and ginger. These pancakes are great topped with maple syrup and/or cream cheese.

FullSizeRender (12)Pumpkin Muffins  (about 1 dozen)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 can  pumpkin (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup canola oil (or substitute part apple sauce and part oil)
  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or substitute part whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • optional add-ins: Any combination of 3/4 cup dried cranberries, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, or chopped pecans.

Beat together eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil (and/or apple sauce). Combine the dry ingredients and gradually add to the pumpkin mixture. Fold in ad-ins. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

As you can see, this muffin recipe has lots of options for different add-ins and substitutions to make them healthier. I tend to use a different combination each time I make them. I have also made in mini-loaf pans or as mini muffins.

 

 

 

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Island Life: Thanksgiving

 

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Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I’m taking a look back at some of my most memorable ones. We celebrated two Thanksgivings on the island of St. Vincent. Thanksgiving  is usually celebrated with family and food. We had both, but it looked quite different on these years than we were used to. It was only the five of us around the table, just like it had been every day for a whole bunch of days in a row. Thanksgiving, being an American holiday, obviously wasn’t celebrated in St.Vincent, so we were on our own here. But we did everything we could to make this day meaningful.

Sam and Abby made lots of printable crafts that my aunt was wonderful enough to send me. This made sure our table was decorated with place mats, colored turkeys and leaves of thankfulness. My mom even included a small plastic pumpkin decoration in one of the boxes she mailed us. And as far as food, we actually found Jenny O Frozen turkey breast cutlets at the grocery store. We paid an exorbitant price for it, and it ended up being really gross.  So it wasn’t the food or the extended family that made these Thanksgivings meaningful, like all the others I’d celebrated before that. But things are special because you make them that way, so that’s what we did. The kids were excited and anticipating this meal because they understood that it represented family, expressions of gratitude and was part of our culture and tradition.

When I look at these faces in the photo, I smile. I especially love the look on Abby’s face. This reminder of how happy they were means a lot to me. How excited they were about our flimsy little Thanksgiving, and how thankful we all were. I need to remember that, because it’s easy for me to think sometimes instead about what I was missing on these days. How I spent the morning thinking of my own family back home, and pictured my daddy carving the smoked turkey with the electric knife while my Meme was making the lemon pies.  How we Skyped with family on the phone that day and I put on a happy face about our Thanksgiving, but I later had a good cry by myself.

But what  I want to remember is that these holidays that were bittersweet to me were much less so to my children. These smiles were real, and the joy my children had in these days was real. God was so there with us, and the gifts he gave us for obeying him are still unfolding in our lives. He was so faithful to us. We found joy in the smallest things, and we found joy in the time of celebration and being together. The days represented in this picture are the days that bonded my family of five like nothing else could have.

 

Say Yes to Regret

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NO REGRETS. I think I know what it is supposed to mean, but it bothers me the message that this simple slogan is sending.

When someone says “No Regrets”, I think that for the most part they just mean that they believe and embrace the fact that everything in their life, both good and bad, has been used to get them to where they are. I understand and agree with that sentiment. But to boil that down to “no regrets” is really doing us all a disservice.

I say yes regrets. I sure do have some. To start with, I regret that when I was five years old, I told my gymnastics instructor it was my birthday. I thought I was being clever, and I was going to follow that up by telling him it was really my half birthday, but he had the class singing to me before I could do so. I felt so horribly guilty.  Another early regret…that short haircut I got at age 12. (Since braces and puberty weren’t making me awkward enough.) Silliness aside, most of the things I really regret are the times that my words or actions have hurt others. I regret times when my words cut my husband deeply, or I was not attentive to things going on with him. You won’t see me posting anything like “Married for 15 years to the love of my life. Wouldn’t change a thing.” I would definitely change some things I’ve done and unsay some words.

If you really didn’t have regrets, what would be your motivation to be a better person? How could you set new goals for yourself? Part of recognizing areas you’d like to grow in is seeing your weakness. And how do those weaknesses play out? As actions that you very likely regret. I am an introvert. Meeting people is hard for me, and spending time with people I don’t know well is hard. It’s so much work that frankly, sometimes I’m just too exhausted to do it. But there are times when I have not made the effort that I hurt others. My attitude has come off as disinterested in them or unfriendly. It grieves me that I’ve given others that impression, and that regret motivates me to make changes in my life where I can be true to my own personality but still make room for others in this way.

I wonder if my children seeing the words “no regrets” will take that slogan to mean moral relativism. “I’m so glad about all the good  AND bad stuff I’ve ever done. What’s the point in trying to do only good? It was all used to get me to where I am, so I should just do whatever I want.” I want, for myself and for my children, a higher standard. I want them to recognize their mistakes and sometimes feel regret, and a desire to make different decisions next time. Regrets have helped me identify the areas in my life that I can work on next. Regrets guide my prayer life and make way for growth. If you say you don’t have any, maybe you should reconsider.

Christians: 7 Questions to ask before reposting or sharing online

Posting and sharing things on social media is quick and easy. So easy in fact that it is greatly overused. Every single thing you share on the internet matters and is a reflection of you.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when you write your own posts or share posts of others. If you consider yourself a Christian, meaning you use the word Christian to describe yourself to the world, please read and consider these things for yourself.

  1. Is it true? Do you know where this information came from? Do a little research online to see if it can be backed up. And at the least, if you feel obligated to repost, consider prefacing it with a statement that says you are not sure it’s a fact and aren’t meaning to present it as 100 % such.
  2. Will this glorify God? Or is there anything in what I am posting that would not glorify him? Would it grieve his heart because of the way it is presented? If so, don’t post.
  3. Is this how I want to be defined? You have an online image. Depending on if you interact with the same people in “real life”, your online image may be 100% their image of you, or it may only be a partial. But your online image is derived from what you post or share. If you share only stuff about your kids and their activities, you are seen mainly as a proud mom. That’s not necessarily a “bad thing” at all, but it’s not your whole story. If you share only about politics, you are seen as a political activist. These things may be only a small portion of who you are, but this will be your image. It may be fine with you to be defined in this way online. But if it’s not, then  keep in mind and don’t share a high proportion of things that would reflect such an image. If you want your online image to reflect who you really are, consider posting a variety of things that reflect you, or the things that are most important to your heart.
  4. You don’t have to post or share everything you believe in. Sorry, that wasn’t actually a question. There are lots of things I don’t post that I believe and support. Because sometimes a topic is “hot enough” that I know I’ll upset others, and it’s not the time or place. If you read something online that you agree with, your automatic response might be to repost it. The fact that you like it and agree with it is often not wrong at all. The fact that you share it may do more damage to non-Christians than good.
  5. Are you, as a Christian, known by your love? By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We are to be known by our love. Not our convictions, and not what we are against. This doesn’t mean there is no place for conviction and standing up for the truth. It simply means the main thing about us Christians that sets us apart is supposed to be love. Do the things you post make you known for your love?
  6. Are your posts drawing people to Jesus? Maybe you are posting things you believe other Christians will like, but that’s not gonna do one thing to save the lost. Is what you are saying appealing to your non-Christian friends, or making them want to talk to you about the Lord? Will someone who sees the stands you are taking and the way you are taking them choose you to come talk to when God draws their heart into conversation with him? Please don’t close these doors.
  7. Do you need more time to think? The seconds it takes to share something may not be a long enough process for your mind and heart to consider the ramifications. Maybe you should commit to wait an hour, during which time you’d be able to pray a little and think through how you want to say it or what you want to say.

I call myself a Christian also, and as a group, we are all affected by the choices of each other. When you take a  stand, you are speaking for me also. You are drawing others to Jesus or you are pushing them away. Pray and check your heart. Thank God for your strong convictions, and ask him to show you how and when is the time to express those. And may we be known by our love.

Texting God One-liners

I am pretty big on communication.  Not necessarily a big talker that likes a lot of words, but someone who craves good and effective communication. When I was a senior in high school, I even won the title of Tyler Area Best Communicator. I still like to occasionally refer to myself with Nathan as the Tyler Area Best Communicator, mostly because I actually beat him out for that award, and there are so few times in my life where this happens that I must occasionally bring them up to keep his ego in check.

Bad communication in relationships is such a killer. For Nathan and me in our current season of marriage and kid raising, limited time together makes it hard to maintain communication. Time where we are in the same room feels rare. Time where we are able to really talk, apart from other people or kids, almost doesn’t happen. So that’s brought us to texting. I do love texting, and it’s a great way to maintain a connection when you’re apart.  It’s unobtrusive, but then it’s also disjointed. It often revolves around one-liners rather than an ongoing conversation. It’s random bursts, to be answered whenever. Check out my example. Nathan was out of town. I knew he was very busy leading a workshop and I didn’t know when he could talk. So I dropped him a text so he could respond whenever.

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Hmm. Something told me we weren’t exactly on the same page. Sometimes our communication resorts to throwing out thoughts of what we need or what we are focused on, rather than responding to what the other person is saying. Nathan did it here, but I do it, and you probably do too. In my marriage, this type of communication seems to happen the most when Nathan is out of town, or when our schedules are so full that we aren’t spending much time together.

I started thinking about my communication with God. I was sad to realize it’s often similar. Generally, there is a little chunk of time in the morning where God and I have a really nice interactive conversation. I do a fair amount of listening as well as pouring out my heart. It’s focused, uninterrupted time for us to talk. But then a lot of the day isn’t like that. A lot of the day is more like those texts between Nathan and me. It’s me spouting off something I need or want.  I just “text” God a one-liner and then I’m done for a while. No waiting for response or opening up a dialogue with him.  I don’t check in during the day with God too much without an agenda of my own. I don’t make time to have two-way communication with him, where I listen and respond to his words to me.  And then I wonder why we aren’t closer, or why I don’t feel on the same page with him.  If I want my relationship with my husband to be good and to grow, I have to continually spend time engaged in focused, ongoing conversation. I have to make time for that, because it doesn’t just happen on its own. Neither does my time with God. The one-liners don’t cut it. When my relationship is built and functioning solely on those, it’s in “survival” and maintenance mode and it’s not good. It’s not a fun place to be.

So this week I”m thinking about how I can make sure that those most important to me (specifically, God and Nathan) know that they are important by my communication. Can I put aside what I think I need or want to simply be a good listener? Am I willing to engage in the conversation when I’m busy or it’s not convenient? What would it take to make our communication better?

We Have Strayed So Far Away

My youngest child has always known what she wants. That she wants to sing and play the guitar,and exactly what she wants to sing and play. Some of her song selections makes perfect sense to me, and will be the typical up-beat and popular songs sung by a female artist that any nine-year-old girl might want to emulate. But sometimes there’s a song that’s different. Probably three years ago, Lydia told me that she loved the song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns. This is an amazing song, but it’s nothing like some of her typical picks and was a surprise to me. About a year ago when she started playing guitar, she brought up that she wanted to learn to play this song. Last week, she chose to play and sing it for an audience at church for the first time. Here are the lyrics, if you’re not familiar with the song or haven’t paid attention in a while:

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided 

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours 

Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who’s writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they’re the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet 

This song has resurfaced at a point in my life where I’m more passionate about its cause than ever. The message of this song has been heavy on my heart for the last couple of months. Watching Lydia belt out a song like this with conviction has done a number on me.  To know that she chose this message as her own, that God put this song in her heart years ago, gives me some encouragement for the future that I desperately need right now. Some days, and especially this week, I feel like I’ve given up on us Christian adults. Like our hearts just aren’t gonna be broken for the things that break the heart of Jesus. The battles that so many Christians are choosing to fight and the way in which they fight them has me heartbroken. Actually, it has me struggling with anger myself. So now I’m a part of the problem too, because I’m angry at other Christians for the way they are showing anger to the world.  And with deep discouragement and sorrow, I wonder if we’re too far gone and we Christians, collectively, are just not gonna “get it”.

And then I hear my 9 year old “getting it”. And realize that even at age 6, God was planting these convictions in her heart. And I think maybe, just maybe, this girl will be a part of the change. Maybe my best chances of “turning the tide” will be growing these little people that can convince the world through their hearts and actions of things that my generation of Christians has basically failed at. Maybe you can grow your little people in this way too, and their generation of Christians can finally be known by their love.  And it is through this train of thought that I have hope again.

Island Life: Paralyzed by the Kitchen

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At age 25, after four years of marriage, Nathan and I packed up our 2 and 3 year old and moved to a small island in the West Indies. It was definitely the hardest and best thing we have ever done. Living there was a game-changer for our family. I’ve waited for more than 10 years to tell you much about it, but now I’m ready.
We spent our first few days on the island doing some team training with our supervisor and his wife and another couple that would be going to a nearby island. And then we left on our own for our new home, a village town about an hour and a half away from the city. Our new life was a big adjustment. In our new place, we had no phone, internet, vehicle, washing machine, hot water, clean water, or air conditioning. Some of that changed over time, but not all of it.  A day or two later before leaving the island, our four colleagues (and dear friends) came to our village home to see us one more time before they flew out. I guess upon looking around our house, my friends Lisa and Nancy noticed that I had a problem with the kitchen.
You see, the house we were renting wasn’t empty. It was furnished, and it was also full of leftover stuff. It was owned by a man that basically lived by himself, and he was storing tools and outdoor-type items in the kitchen cabinets. Bug spray. Motor oil. And….wait for it…there were roaches. Lots and lots of roaches. And then, there were some really dirty dishes in the top cabinets, and also more roaches. Did I mention roaches already?
I had a very few kitchen items that I’d brought from the US, but the kitchen was so dirty and so full of junk that there was nowhere to put those items. And I had no clue where to put the items that belonged to the man. So, for the first two days, I’d done nothing in the kitchen. I really didn’t go in there. We had eaten bread and peanut butter with no plates. We really hadn’t figured out yet where to get food locally and were just basically eating the stuff we’d brought on the trip. We were all drinking from one water bottle that had a built in filter. The kitchen–I could not.  This was an overwhelming time for me. A time when obeying God was very hard, and everything about our new life was hard to take in all at once. I was completely paralyzed.
My friends realized that we could not live like this and I’m sure could tell that I had no plan at that point. Those two ladies got in my yucky new kitchen and got busy. They cleared out a main section of the top shelves and found a place to stash the items that had belonged to the man. They wiped out those cabinets and cleaned surfaces to make them usable. Seriously, I was so paralyzed that I didn’t help them. I didn’t even go into the kitchen to watch, because it was too much. They also brought food from the grocery store in town. They didn’t clean that entire kitchen, because that would have taken a week. But they gave me the start I needed, and a clean section to work with until I could handle more.They made a way for me to function somewhat in this new life.
Can you think of a time when you’ve been paralyzed? Sometimes amidst grief, major changes or just the overwhelmingness of life, you can become paralyzed. The steps forward in a particular area feel like they are impossible to take. But guess what? Sometimes God sends someone to take them for you. What these friends did for me on that day will stick with me forever. At the time, I was in such a state that I barely knew what was happening. They pulled me from a place where I could not move myself. And it was a beautiful gift to me that meant so much more than just that moment. The paralysis in the kitchen was probably the first of many life-changing lessons that I learned on the island. I’m planning to tell you more about that soon.