Thursday, September 26, 2013

DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte

**Updated: linked up on Simple Meals Friday! Check out all the great whole food-based recipes.** 

Ahh, Fall.

Cooling weather, sweaters, crockpot meals and, of course, pumpkin spice lattes!

I live in the Netherlands and have had to do without my beloved Starbucks favorites for most of my time here. A few months ago, our local airport scored a new 'bucks location, but, sadly, parking is way too expensive to justify trips as often as I'd like!

My husband had a trip to the US come up last week, so I had him bring back some pumpkin pie spice and I gave a DIY version of my fall favorite bevvie a try.


Oh my good word, was it delicious! Definitely didn't taste exactly like Starbucks' version, but I actually thought it was better.

I based my recipe on one I saw floating around Facebook a few weeks ago. I couldn't find it today for the life of me (too many parties and Jimmy Fallon posts!), so I decided to wing it and do what I could from memory.

I used:
- A rounded 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
- A dusting of cinnamon
- A little less than 2 Tbsp 100% pure maple syrup
- About 1/3 cup of milk (I didn't steam mine, but you probably could, if you wanted a more "authentic" latte)
- The rest of the mug (maybe a cup?) of a strong-tasting blend of coffee (made with a french press - but you could use any coffee you have, I'm sure)
(reminders: use organic ingredients as often as you can - doing so will help you reduce your exposure to chemical ingredients and fillers - nobody has time for those!!)

I put the spices and syrup in the bottom of the mug, then added milk and the coffee when it was finished brewing.

Very, very good. So much cheaper than the Starbucks version and without any of the chemicals added to the flavoring syrups used in stores.

Enjoy!

Women Living Well: Book Review (can I buy you a copy?)

A month or so ago, I joined the launch team for Courtney Joseph's new book Women Living Well: Finding Joy in God, Your Man, Your Kids and Your Home. As part of the privilege, I got an advance copy of the book to read and review online.



I thought it was nice and I expected the book to contain a few nuggets of info, but wasn't expecting to be blown away by every single page!

Here's a picture of my printed PDF copy:



See each of those tabs on the right side? Those are all "important" notes I don't want to forget - or want to share.

Here's a close-up:



Yep, every single one of those flags represents something I want to share. With my husband, with a friend, with a family member ... and the list goes on!

I read a lot (as in usually 50 - 60 books a year!), but there aren't many books these days that I just can't wait to give away.

This is definitely one of them.

Why?

The book is just so. darn. encouraging!

Some books by Christian writers (especially women, I'm really sad to admit), come off a little well, "preachy." If you're still reading, I'm sure you know the type - when every chapter makes you a little more depressed than the last, before you finally finish and tuck it away on the shelf, feeling like a terrible wife/mom/sister/friend/employee/church-member/Christian-who-just-doesn't-have-it-all-together.

In this book, Courtney presents solid Biblical truths about wifehood/motherhood/keeper-of-the-home-hood and is completely transparent and honest about how hard it is to live up to them. Her encouraging tones comes across more "trusted confidant" than "holier-than-thou preacher."

Don't believe me? Try these quotes on for size:

"Mothering is an intense, around-th-clock job, and solitude is not something that just happens by chance. We have to create it." 
(p. 8)

"'Lord, help ... I just need help.' Tears bubble under the surface. No more words need to be said. The Spirit understands what words cannot express."
(p. 26)

"It's the daily love of listening, forgiving, caring, respecting, and being sensitive to the other person that builds a great marriage. If you get to go out on a date night - that's the cherry on top!" 
(p. 78)

"Parenting is hands-down the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It has been the ultimate sanctifier for me. God has used it to humble me and keep me on my knees." 
(p. 135)

"Rejoice in your uniqueness. Have fun being you! Delight in your individuality!" 
(p. 196) 

The book covers four important areas, vital to all women who want to live well: 
1. Our "walk with the King" (our relationship with God)
2. Marriage (relationships with our spouses)
3. Parenting (relationships with our kids)
4. Home (how we build our nests)

This book has truly made a profound impact on me this year and I just can't wait to start giving it away! 

So, I'll be sponsoring 15 copies of this awesome book! To anyone who wants to read it and share in the journey of creating a well-lived life. I believe that making changes in the areas described in the book, based on Biblical truths, requires community. It's hard to change, isn't it? And the only way to make changes that "stick" is to have support and encouragement along with way. 

To foster that sense of community, support and encouragement, I'm going to start a book study group to really dig deep into the book and extract as much Christ-centered, life-changing and awesome goodness as possible out of it's pages. 

If you're looking for a stronger marriage, more fulfillment in your life following Christ, a more enjoyable parenting experience and a more peaceful home, I hope you'll join me on this journey! 

How exactly is it all going to work?
1. Buy an advance copy between today and September 30 (click here for a link on Amazon - it's an affiliate link - and you're welcome to buy on other sites as well!). Either paperback or digital version is fine, for the purposes of the study! 
2. Click here for details on how to register your purchase and pick up your 10 free ebooks. A companion guide for the book is included in the ebook bundle and we'll use it during our book study. 
3. Click here to register for the book study.
4. Email me a copy of your receipt and your Facebook name (if we're not already connected).
4. Participate in the book study (two Facebook posts per week for the duration of the study - dates listed below) and at the end of the study, I'll reimburse you for the cost of your book. 

When I have a full group (size limited to 15 participants), I'll set up a "secret" Facebook group that we'll use through the duration of the study. 

We'll study two chapters a week and work our way through the companion guide. 

Our study will start October 14 (giving everyone enough time to get their books!) and will conclude on December 20. 

So ... what do you say, friend? 

Are you ready to live well ?!?! :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Saying "Yes" ... to say "No?"

I'm in the final week of the awesome Proverbs 31 Ministries Bible study based on the book "What Happens When Women Say Yes to God" by Lysa Terkeurst. It really has been an amazing study - all about how God moves in our lives when we take the time to say "yes" to Him.

As I sit back and begin to reflect on the study, I'm realizing that the biggest lesson I'm taking from it is a bit of a paradox. 

According to dictionary.com, "paradox"means: 

"...a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory orabsurd but in reality expresses a possible truth."

You see, in the past six week, so many of my "yes" moments have led to me saying "no." 

I answered His call to: 
- initiate the planning process for a conference. In February. Click here to read the backstory on why this was a big deal. 
- continue honoring my husband's blessed career as a marketing executive and therefore start planning an international move. In January.

See the contradiction? 

I said "yes" to initiating the conference, and to my husband, but now I'll have to say "no" to actually attending the conference in person! 

Um, what? 

My head spins as the reality of Scripture settles in as I process through the "no's" that often come from our "yes's." 

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."
Psalm 32:8

So, dear reader, I encourage you - as you answer "yes" to God, be prepared to follow where those "yes's" lead - even if they lead you down the seemingly confusing road to (or through) times to say "no." 

Because even through the "no's," we know that we can rest assured of this truth: 

"'For I know the plans I have for you,'” declares the Lord, “'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lowering My Nets

"While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
2
He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
3
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
4
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
5
Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”
6
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.
7
They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking.
8
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
9

For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him..." 

Luke 5:1-9

Wow, what a story. 

There Simon Peter was, minding his own business (thank you very much!), finishing a hard day's work, and the Son of the Creator of the Universe comes walking up, asking for a lift. 

Can we just stop right there and imagine the scene? 

Peter was tired. He was probably dirty. Showers weren't plentiful in those days. They didn't even exist. He was fed up. He'd just pulled an all-nighter and didn't catch squat. 

But, when he saw Jesus, he recognized something. He caught a glimpse of Heaven's authority. 

He responded. 

Despite his frustration, despite his exhaustion.

He listened.

He lowered his nets. 

He followed Jesus command. 

And Peter, wow was he blessed! To the point that he couldn't even handle the overabundance of fish that probably seemed to just be leaping into his nets. 

As I contemplate this story, during our current Proverbs 31 Ministries Bible study, I can't help but compare my current situation. 

Like Simon Peter:
- I'm tired. I have two precious (by demanding) kiddos, my husband works long hours and travels internationally more often than I'd like, and I've recently been diagnosed with lupus.
- I'm dirty. Well, not really, I did get to take a proper shower this morning (related side note: yay! for babysitters!). But, my attitude sure does feel dirty when I don't get that luxury, which is more often than I'd like to admit.
- I'm fed up. We live in the Netherlands and we're waiting on my husband's company's decision when to move us back to the US. It's hard living in another culture and country. While I wouldn't change the lessons I've learned here, I'm also ready to move back to where everything is familiar and I'm close(r) to family and friends. 

And like Simon Peter, I'm going to:
- Openly accept the Creator of the Universe when he shows up in my life. I'm going to open my eyes, look up from my daily work and recognize when He comes to pay me a visit. An encouraging note from a friend, a letter in the mail from my grandmother. They're all blessings and they're all from Him. 
- Catch glimpses of heaven as He reveals them. The smiles of my kids, my son's acceptance of Christ into his heart (last night - hallelujah!), the wisdom my husband brings into our marriage. 

And mostly, I'm going to keep responding. 

Lowering my nets as I go about my daily work - of keeping up my home, of mothering my children, of leading Bible studies and groups as the Lord leads. 

And I won't miss the abundance of blessings that He brings my way.