Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pumpkin Chip Cookies, THM style

I've been following the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan for a while now. I have lost about 40 pounds, and have been encouraging my husband to join in. He has dabbled around the edges, but today, he decided to give it a go. I wanted to make him something to celebrate, so I tweaked an old recipe of mine to make his favorite cookies on plan.

This is a great fall recipe because of the delicious pumpkin flavor!

Here's the recipe:
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup erythritol/stevia blend
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3 cups baking blend (I use Briana's recipe found here.)
1 12 oz. package on plan chocolate chips

Cream butter, eggs, sweetener, and vanilla. Add pumpkin. Stir in dry ingredients. Drop onto cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes. Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother’s Day Thoughts

pink geranium

Mother’s Day gift from our church

Over the past year, I’ve been thinking about this day. Last year, Jason asked me if I would be willing to share some thoughts for Mother’s Day and I told him that I couldn’t, that it would be too painful. This year, in many ways, it is even more painful. You know about the pain that our family has just recently been through as we lost another child. My heart has been broken once again, and once again, my arms are empty on Mother’s Day, but as I thought about Mother’s Day, God spoke to me about taking some time to honor the ladies around me who have come to mean so much to me.

Men, I realize that this is largely focused toward the ladies, but I just want to take a moment to remind you of the sacrifices that the mothers in your life make. Whether it is the woman who gave you birth, the woman who gave birth to your children, or your sisters and others around you who have mother’s hearts, they are worthy of your gratitude, admiration, and honor.

Let them know that you appreciate them today!

I’d like to share a passage that pastors all around the United States are likely reading today, Proverbs 31:10 - 31. It shows us God’s ideal for women and gives us women something to aspire to daily. Ladies, I’d like to challenge you. As we read, evaluate yourself. How are you doing in these areas? Let the Word of God speak truth to your heart.

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Wow! What a challenge that passage is to us, ladies. Are we that industrious, that trustworthy, that Christ-like? Do we run our homes smoothly? Are our words wise and kind? Are we good stewards? Are we worthy of our husband and children’s praise? If we aren’t is it our daily goal to be more like that virtuous woman? I pray that it is.

Today I’d like to take some time to honor the mothers in our midst. I realize that it doesn’t take giving birth to have a mother’s heart. However, there is a special honor that comes from giving birth and bringing a child into this world, and we want to honor those of you who have done that. You have given birth, that in itself is worthy of commendation. The physical pain that you went through is just a token of the tremendous love you feel for your children and the sacrifices you make for them. Remember those “little” years? The messes, the interrupted quiet time, the diapers, the boo-boos, and the tears of frustration after yet another outfit ruined because of spit-up, food stains, or muddy handprints. Those years, although filled with hard moments, were the years where you shaped your child’s future. During those impressionable years, you taught your children how to act, how to react, and how to love others and love Jesus. You nurtured them. You loved them. I think Hannah of the Bible must have especially cherished those little years. As she prepared to give her son away for God’s service, I can only imagine how she made a choice to make memories she could hold forever. Samuel was God’s faithfulness to her in human form. Every single moment she had with him was a gift. May you mothers of little ones realize that your child is a precious gift and that those “little” days you have with them now are fleeting and special. We honor you for your tears, your sleepless nights, and your patience. We pray that God will give you strength and courage. We pray that he will encourage you and give you joy in the sweet moments you are experiencing.

Then came those teenage years! You showed your love in a different way now. Sometimes, it was by being the “bad” parent in your teen’s eyes, who wouldn’t let your child do what “everyone else” was doing. Sometimes you showed your love by stepping back and letting your independent youngster learn the hard way when it would have been easier to just “tell them a thing or two.” Whatever the case, you sacrificed for them, you taught them important life lessons, you worried about them, and you loved them. Some of you are in the midst of that now. You are choosing to follow Proverbs 29:15 which says, The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. It may seem that the reproof is endless, but you are consistently teaching your children to be Christ-like. Do you think Samson’s mother faced moments like you do? Moments when she worried about his choice of a wife, worried about how lightly he seemed to take his faith, worried about the choices he made? We honor you for your sacrifices. We honor you for your dedication to raising your teens to be adults who are responsible, honest, and hard-working. We honor you for teaching them to love Christ and seek His will for their lives. We pray that God will bless your efforts and give you encouragement on those days when it seems like they just won’t ever mature. We pray that you will be a godly example to those teens so that they look for a wife who follows your example of godliness or they become that wife who loves her husband and her children as you do.

Some of you are in another stage of life. You are now mothering from a distance as your children begin lives of their own. You worry from afar, spend hours in prayer, and give advice when it is welcome. Your children are learning what it means to be parents themselves, and now with that experience, hopefully they appreciate your sacrifices even more. You may have had the joy of welcoming and spoiling grandchildren. I think of Timothy’s grandmother, Lois who passed her faith down, first to her daughter, and then to her grandson. What a privilege you have! What a responsibility! Your grandchildren look up to you, and you can show them to Heaven. You can be Jesus to them! We honor you. You honor you for your wisdom, your example, and your guidance. We honor you for your love for those little grandkids and your guidance in their lives. We pray for you as at times you have to watch them make choices you don’t agree with. We pray for you as you carry a burden for the ones who have gone astray. We pray for you as you teach your grandchildren about faith and family.

Did you know that Anna Jarvis, the lady who founded Mother’s Day was never a mother? She was a loving aunt and devoted daughter who lobbied congress to make the day a holiday because of a suggestion her mother had made before her death. Anna had many nieces and nephews and loved them dearly. There are some here this morning, who never had the privilege of giving birth. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a mother’s heart. They have reached out to those around them and nurtured and protected. They may be a mentor, a favorite babysitter, a loved aunt, a step-mom or grandma, a foster or an adoptive mom. Whatever the case, we want to honor your mother’s hearts. GOD CARES ABOUT CHILDLESS WOMEN. He shares their stories in His word. They have a part in His plan. YOU have a part in his plan. God cares about you and loves you! We honor you for fulfilling God’s plan for your life, even in the hard times. We honor you for giving those tired mamas a break, for lightening their load, for lending a listening ear. We pray for you during those moments when you feel alone or as though you don’t have a place to belong. We pray for you as you try to understand why God’s plan for your life seems so different to His plan for those around you.

There may even be those here who know the pain of giving birth, but also know the greater pain of losing that child, whether through death, or through giving that child up to someone else’s care. We realize that whether you experienced the joy of parenthood for moments, weeks or for years, YOU ARE A MOTHER. The pain that you go through is not lost to God’s attention. God knows. He cares. When Mary was grieving the loss of her Son as He died on the cross, God had a plan. Christ made sure that someone would take care of her, help her through the pain. He wants to do that for you as well. Let God wrap His arms around you. Give your pain to Him. He understands. We honor you and grieve with you. We pray that God will comfort you and give you peace. We pray that when your arms feel empty, your heart will be full of God’s love and faithfulness.

In closing, I’d like to share an article that I found a few years ago as I sat at home on a Mother’s Day Sunday morning. It was shortly after we were to have a foster placement. The placement fell through and I was mourning. Mourning the loss of what could have been and mourning my empty arms. That Sunday, I was physically sick because of the emotional pain I was going through, and a friend of mine shared this with me. It comes from Amy Young who writes a blog called Messy Middle.

The wide spectrum of mothering

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children - we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children - we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent - we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be – we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

By Amy Young (

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. May your Mother’s day be special as you celebrate the love of the mothers in your life! Feel free to share my thoughts with a friend who would appreciate them.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Greater Joy

2015-05-08 13.45.15

My school keys, my PE whistle, a note from a parent, and some grading that needed to be done. They lay on my desk before me as painful reminders of what I’d be giving up.

My Heart’s desire since my memories began was to teach.

After living that dream for eight years of development, enjoyment, and precious memories, now the possibility had arisen that my dreams were going to be sacrificed.

Through circumstances not of my own choosing, the doors of the local church my husband was pastoring would soon be closed to us. To my husband’s excitement however, God was opening new doors. In a conference with several open churches, my husband was now the only available pastor. That meant we had calls from multiple churches for trial sermons. The only problem was that none of the churches were local. 

Although we didn’t know God’s will for our lives yet, it appeared as though we were being led in a new direction.

Boxes had been sitting in our living room. Packing them seemed to me to symbolize packing away my life, my dreams, my goals. They were empty. It was painful to think of once again packing away memories and hopes. My heart hurt each time I walked past and noticed the empty boxes.

Now I sat at my desk thinking about the future. Hot tears poured from my eyes and coursed down my cheeks as I sat and surrendered. I surrendered my ambitions, my aspirations of career advancement, and my lack of control. “Yes,” was my cry. Where God was going to lead us, I had no clue. I still don’t. But what sweet peace there is in that full consecration to God’s will.

I had surrendered with my head and my words weeks ago, but my heart was not so easy.

You see, when you are living your dream, sometimes it’s hard to fathom that God could have a MORE blissful, more fulfilling future for you. When you’ve poured your heart into that dream job, into those precious souls you’ve reached, it’s hard to be torn away, even if there are so many others who need your touch. It’s kind of like a child whose parent tells them to put away their toys and get in the car. The child was perfectly happy with those toys. However when they submit to their parents will, they are overjoyed to find that their destination is the zoo.

A greater joy awaited them when they followed their parent’s plan.

What if they had refused to give up the toys they were holding onto? What if I refuse to let my sweet Savior guide me? Would I be happy? Perhaps for a time.

Would I miss out on that greater joy?

Right now, I don’t know what God’s plan is. I don’t know if He is going to lead us away from this place, or if He will show us that His will for us is to stay put. Whatever the case, my will is to follow His will. I’m content to rest in the knowledge that God has a better plan than my human plans. What a consolation and peace that brings!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have boxes to pack.

I don’t know where we’ll be going or what we’ll be doing, but I must prepare for God to take us to our next stopping point on our journey to our final destination, Heaven.

I’ll keep you posted as our journey continues.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears God Made You Special


I LOVE the new Living Lights Berenstain Bears books. They teach lessons about living life for God. God Made You Special is no exception. In typical charming style, Mike Berenstain teaches children an important lesson about uniqueness. When Sister and Brother have a visit from a cub who is different in the way he plays, thinks, and acts, Mama bear uses that as an opportunity to teach them about the value God places on every life.

With its beautiful illustrations of Bear family life, this book engaged my daughter immediately. As we read, she asked questions and related the book to her life. Later, she loved to “re-read” it to herself and say, “Everyone is special, even me.” I love the positive lesson the book teaches.

***** I received this book in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts expressed are my own and there was no monetary compensation.

The Happy Moments

Before I get into the main body of this post, please let me apologize. I had planned on sharing this earlier, but our family has faced some drastic changes over the last few weeks. Our sweet little six-year old was ripped away from us due to “the system” and my heart has been grieving. It’s kind of hard to post about the happy moments in the midst of that. Thanks for understanding.

What are some of your happiest parenting moments? Are they the moment a child finally “gets” it, the moment they accomplish something great, the moment they learn something new, the moment they finally use a habit you’ve been trying to establish, the moment you see a new maturity about them? I think every parent has happy moments, and foster parents are no different. However, foster parents may experience these moments in very different ways.

To illustrate, let me share some of my happiest parenting moments with you.

I think there is a thrill in every parent’s heart when they hear their child call them Mom or Dad for the first time. For bio parents, it is often in the form of their little baby saying “ma-ma” or “da-da.” When children come into our care, we tell them that they may call us what they choose. Most initially call us by our first names, or just don’t use any name to address us. But as the placement goes on and they begin to feel that they belong, most of them reach a point where they decide to call us Mom and Dad. What joy that brings to our hearts! Sometimes it just means that they want to please us. (Many foster children live as people pleasers because they fear being themselves because of of inner turmoil.) Sometimes it is so that they don’t feel different around other kids. Other times, we can tell that it is because they feel like they belong. Those times are victories! They mean that we’ve done something right.

There are other words that bring happiness to our lives as well. The first time a foster child calls our house “home” or claims us as their parents or uses other words that shows they belong make our hearts beat a little faster.

What accomplishments in your child’s life make you happy? I think there are some that are the same for every parent such as good grades, performances, etc. When our most recent placement came to our home, she had MAJOR issues. She was classified as intensive. In foster parenting lingo, that meant she would take extra time, extra effort, and extra love. We were up for the challenge. She had been in a special needs preschool. She had daily temper tantrums. (Not just little meltdowns. These were kicking, screaming, hitting, punching, throwing things kind of tantrums.) Parenting her was hard. We knew consistency was imperative and we did our best. It seemed that the time-outs were getting us nowhere, but we plugged on. Every church service, I’d have to take her out for time-outs. But I still remember very clearly the first night she sat through a service! Let me tell you, I wanted to shout for joy! She was growing and maturing! What a milestone! flowers with saying

Another happy moment on our journey is sharing the gospel with children for the first time. Most of the Christian bio parents we know share the stories of Jesus with their children from such a young age, that they don’t remember when they began. With our little ones, it’s different. No matter how long they are in our home, we make a point to tell them about Jesus and His sacrifice and love for them. Their reactions are interesting. One child asked, “Did Jesus live when there were dinosaurs?” Another wanted to know why she hadn’t been told before. Others have heard, but have questions. What joy it brings to our hearts as we share the message with them. I was brought to tears after we took our little girl to a Christmas musical at the school where I teach. It progressed from Christ’s birth to His death, and as He was being mocked, whipped, and scorned, she was in tears, asking Jason, “Daddy, why are they hurting them? Why did He have to die?” What a solemn moment in our parenting as we explained to her Christ’s extreme love for her. Many foster children don’t know how to fathom that kind of love.

Just as with bio parents, our hearts are thrilled when our little ones give their lives to Jesus. Of our longer-term placements, all of them but one have made a commitment to Christ. What joy it brings to our hearts to know that whether we can be with them in the future or not, they now have a Friend who is a father to the fatherless. I think that is the happiest moment of all.


I feel as though this post is unfinished, and may come back to it later, but for now, it says what I feel like saying. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are your parenting happy moments?

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