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The Bubs and The Babbling...

I had some photos of the bubs that I wanted to share, but then I also found myself rambling... a lot. So enjoy the cuteness and then if you want to hear what was bouncing around in my brain this morning it is here too...

And now for the rambling...

For the second day in a row I have woken up before my alarm, and before I even knew I was awake my brain was buzzing with excitement. Yesterday's excitement was about the first day of the Good Morning Girls Colossians Bible study, and that continued throughout the day as I saw each of my group members spending time in the Word! Today, I am still processing the incredible committee meeting I attended at church last night. Big things are happening at our church right now, and I can't help but marvel at how amazing God is! It is exciting for me, both as a member and as a mother, because we are working to provide for the coming generations at St. John's and I now have a little boy who is counted among those who will benefit. I have been thinking so much about my faith journey after hearing the testimony of an amazing couple last night, and I am just so blessed by how God is working in my life.

Of course every big change comes with growing pains. Right now we are feeling that with Aiden. I have gone from being home and with him always, to having meetings and times at home (like Godparents) when I can't give him my full attention. His reaction to this has been to cling to me whenever possible. Have you ever tried to do yoga with a toddler wrapped around you? Not exactly ideal. While I don't quite fit the mold of attachment parenting, it has described my parenting philosophy better than any other. So now I am trying to figure out how all of this works together. I am also realizing how important it is for me to truly learn to slow down and listen to God. I learned what happens when I don't do that last week. I know that there are things in my life right now that I am being called to do outside the home. So, I also know that God has a plan for how I can accomplish this while still giving Matt and Aiden everything they need. I just need to keep listening, and figure out what that plan is!

Today will be a day of preparing for our meeting with the parents of our teens on Wed. I have baking to do, handouts to print, icebreakers to plan. One thing I won't be doing is stressing about having everyone packed in our little home. We decided to go ahead and hold the meeting at church, and I have to say that this was a huge relief. Matt and I live very simply. Our apartment is big, but it is an apartment. Our furniture is a collection of items from here and there... none of which was purchased new, and most of which is well worn. Our decor is not terribly stylish, and to be honest I have done very little decorating since we moved in here. All of this is fine with us. It is how we choose to live. Yet I found myself worrying about what the parents would think. It is so easy to not try to live up to everyone else's standards until you are getting ready to entertain a large group of strangers! I will say that last night when I listened to a couple at church talk about how they are putting off buying new cars, repainting and redecorating, taking big trips... all to focus on financially supporting our current project I felt reassured. I know that there are more important things than nice houses, new cars, and stylish furniture... I just need that reminder now and then!

So, anyways, this is where I am as I prepare for today. I am excited, encouraged, and feeling incredibly blessed. Life is not without trials and struggles, but the joy I have far outweighs all of it. God is good!

3 Favorite (Delicious and Nutritious!) Muffin Recipes

I have been working on these recipes for quite some time to make them both nutritious and delicious. Here are the three current versions of the recipes, all in one place! Enjoy!

Zucchini Carrot Apple Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or 3/4 c. wheat 3/4 c. white)
3/4 cup milled flax seed
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cups shredded carrot
1 cup shredded zucchini
2 cups shredded apple
1 cup raisins (or craisins)
1 cup chopped walnuts (or sunflower seeds)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease muffin pan or line with paper muffin liners.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, flax seed, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the milk, eggs, vanilla and oil; mix until just blended. Stir in the zucchini, carrots, apples, raisins and nuts. Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.
3. Bake at 350 F (175 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 18 muffins

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 medium overripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or 3/4 c. white and 3/4 c. wheat)
1/2 c. milled golden flax seed
1 c. mini chocolate chips

Cream butter and brown sugar. Blend in peanut butter.
Add eggs, vanilla, and bananas. Blend until smooth.
Stir in dry ingredients.
Fill each muffin cup with 1/4 c. batter.
Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes.
Makes 18 muffins.

Pumpkin Bran Muffins

17.7 oz (about 6 cups) All Bran Bran Buds
2 c. old fashioned oats
2 c. boliing water
1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. oil
3/4 c. plain pumpkin or applesauce
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 lg can pumpkin pie filling
1 tsp salt
4 c. unsweetened almond milk
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 T. vanilla
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. milled flax seed
5tsp. baking soda
1 c. raisins

In a large bowl, put 2 cups of the bran buds, 2 cups oatmeal, and boiling water. Cool. Add sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin and spices. Mix well with mixer. Add remaining ingredients and mix by hand until all ingredients are mixed well. Fill muffin cups or tins almost full (about 1/4 c. in each). Bake at 325 until tops bounce back, about 20-25 minutes. **This is a giant recipe and makes 5 dozen muffins! They freeze well, though**

Life in the Fast Lane...

This morning all I can do is laugh at myself. Yesterday was kind of a train wreck. We went to MOPS in the morning, and A hated it. He was a total mess when I picked him up, and ended up being more or less glued to me for the remainder of the day. Now, he is a pretty independent boy these days, so I have to say that by 9 PM when he came BACK to my bed (after an hour of bouncing in his crib) because he was upset and wouldn't sleep I was on the verge of the mommy crazies. I thought about how I tell Matt I wish A would cuddle more. This, however, was too much. I had flashbacks of those newborn days when all I wanted was to NOT be touched for a while.

While I was endlessly cuddling the boy, I found myself thinking. A lot. Thinking about so many things... questioning so many things. Yet the one thing that I kept thinking over and over was that I had once again taken life to the extremes. If you don't know my story, I struggled with postpartum depression and some fairly severe social anxiety disorder after Aiden was born. It has only been in the past 6 months or so that I have started to feel "normal" again. It was even more recent than that when I stopped dreading social situations. I am finally getting back into the swing of things where the nervousness before meeting new people is nothing more than what anyone feels.

I have spent my whole life, prior to becoming a mother, as a very social person. I have always been a joiner, a do-er. So, these past two years were incredibly hard. Yet they were also incredibly important. They gave me a chance to really learn about myself, and to draw closer to the Lord. I learned to listen when He told me "no" and I learned to say no myself. I guess that is why I was so disappointed in myself yesterday when I really stopped to think about the past week.

I was so excited when I felt God leading me to once again step outside my home and start serving Him in new ways. I was so excited when I could attend meetings and events without fear, and I was starting to feel like I was a part of a community again. I remember thinking a few times that our upcoming schedule sounded a little busy, but I was so focused on the lack of social anxiety that I let that consume me. It is like when a wound heals, and you occasionally poke it to make sure it doesn't hurt anymore. I have realized that this is what I was doing.

So, last night, as I was laying with my boy thinking about the week, I realized that I had taken a green light from God and raced ahead without watching for any other signs along the way. I missed the yield sign of my messy house, zoomed through the yellow light of my poor diet and lack of exercise, even ignored the flashing red light of a stress cold. I had overcommited, and in the process started to crowd God out.

Now I don't have all the answers this morning. I don't know what my schedule will look like even next week at this point. All I know for sure is that I learned a big lesson yesterday. I know that it is way to easy to lose all progress made in a heartbeat, and that if I don't slow down a much bigger crash is ahead. So, I will be spending this weekend doing just that. Slowing down. I may disappoint some people, but I know that I need to have a serious talk with God and figure some things out. I am so thankful for a God full of mercy and grace who is patient with me as I learn, and re-learn, what it means to walk with Him!

Another Milemarker on an Incredible Journey

For weeks now, Matt and I have been anxiously awaiting today. Today we will meet the 12 high school freshmen whom we will mentor, love, pray for, and guide through the next four years. Each week these young people will come into our home, and we will have the opportunity to share the love of Christ with them, while helping them figure out what it means to walk with Him as they become adults. Wow... what a big opportunity. Wow... what a big responsibility.

However, now that the day has arrived, I find that God is drawing my attention to something else this morning. I have been so focused on preparing for the event, that I hadn't taken the time to realize the significance of this in my own life. So, as I sat down for quiet time this morning, I found myself looking back through my journal entries from the start of this year, and I realized that today marks something equally important for me. Today I am seeing the fruit of an incredible journey with God this year.

When I started the year I was struggling. I was lonely, discouraged, lost. I remember feeling so overwhelmed because I knew I needed to make a change, but had no idea where to start. I asked my dear friend Kathryn to be my accountability partner, and she suggested a book for me. I know that God's hand was in this, and His will was so much bigger than I even knew. He used this one tiny step as the starting point for an incredible journey.

I studied simplicity, and with the encouragement of another dear friend I attended a women's Bible study at church. It was here that God took that first little step, and nudged me further along His path. My group at women's Bible study encouraged me to visit with our pastors about my thoughts on family ministry, and that was when I really started to feel the hand of God working. Yet I still struggled.

I struggled to figure out how all of this was to work with my current season of life... that of a toddler mama. God definitely worked in my heart for a long time on this, and I learned to say no to opportunities I thought I wanted because they weren't right. I struggled to learn what it means to be a wife and mother, and that my first and most important mission field is under my own roof. It was hard for me to accept the fact that I couldn't do it all. I remember specifically questioning the decision to turn down a request to work with the Junior High youth ministry at church. Saying no went against my instincts, and yet I felt peace with the decision. I realized that I was learning an important lesson abut discernment.

I spent months studying Proverbs 31, and during this time God changed my heart dramatically. It took a lot of work, but He managed to teach me the difference between the world's standard of excellence and His own. Slowly, He has helped me to see the value of my daily work... yes, even cleaning and laundry. I have so much yet to learn about this, but I reached a point when I felt like God was kind of giving me His stamp of approval to pursue interests outside the home. I remember over and over being reminded that my family was where I was meant to serve, but then it was like a door opened, and I was invited to venture out.

Going through that door, and volunteering to be Godparents leaders was a huge step for us. We loved our time as youth leaders in Missouri, but as I sat in our meeting with Pastor and listened to my amazing husband talk about how our life had changed over the years, I realized we had come so far since then. We now enter into youth ministry not just as young adults ourselves, but as parents. We see things a little differently. Not necessarily better, but differently. I can see how everything we have gone through has brought us to this point, and I am so excited to see where God takes us with these kids. I could go on and on (you know me...) but I suppose it is time to take this excitement and get ready for the day. All the while singing a little Sunday school song in my head...

God is so good, He's so good to me...

Okay, so maybe I am not done rambling quite yet. I also found myself thinking about the women God has placed in my life to help me along this journey and I wanted to thank a few of them real quick. I mentioned Kathryn, who held me accountable as I established my daily quiet time, and Amber, who encouraged me to seek opportunities for fellowship (and was also one of my greatest sounding boards for the struggle of finding God's plan during this season of motherhood). There was also Kim who taught me so much about discernment (probably without realizing it), Adriel who inspires me to look outside my own little bubble into a world filled with opportunity to share the love of Christ, Kim who inspires me often with her words and wisdom as a mama who survived the toddler years and is raising amazing teens, Casey who has helped me find direction and purpose as a mama, Ashley who encouraged me to do what was right for me and my family instead of feeling obligated to please others, and so many others... I am so lucky to have found this incredible group of women, and I love all of you!

Stop! Slow down! I am not ready!

When did my baby become this big boy? The one who runs ahead of mama without fear, who insists he is big enough for the tallest slides, who surprises me every day with new words... This big boy who doesn't need me to pray for him anymore, and instead needs me to pray with him. When did my little one who needed me for everything start doing things for himself? Opening the refrigerator to get a snack, trying to put on his own shoes, changing his sleep schedule even when it doesn't fit my plan.

I know that I should be proud of him. I should see this things as fruits of my labor, and indications that I am doing my job as mama. He is confident and smart, independent and determined. He wants to learn everything he can, and looks to me to teach him. Yet, there is this part of me... some days it is a big part, some days I can control it... this part of me that wants to keep him a baby. Who wants to yell "Stop! Slow down! I am not ready!" Because it is true.. I am not ready. But ready or not, here he comes. This little man who has stolen my heart and will forever run around with a piece of it that I can't get back... not that I would want to.

I find myself constantly hovering between tears and joy these days. There is no more beautiful sound to me that Aiden's voice saying prayers to our Heavenly Father, but it also tugs at my very core. Because I know that ultimately Aiden is God's child and I have been given the amazing opportunity to raise him... but that means I can't keep him all for myself. I can't slow him down, or keep him my baby. I can only lean on God to soothe my mama heart as His will is done in the life of this sweet boy.

Motherhood has taken my relationship with my Heavenly Father to places I never dreamed of before. I find myself overwhelmed at the lessons I am learning, and the ways I am growing. It has been both the most challenging and most rewarding time of my life, and I am so thankful for this precious gift. I just wish it didn't have to go so fast...

Living and Active: Getting Started

I mentioned this Living and Active challenge over on my blog facebook page, and I am excited to join in for an extra boost in my spiritual and fitness journey. The first post is up, and wow are they providing some excellent resources, including great workout printables and videos. Be sure to check it out!

The past couple of weeks have been hard for me, so this is probably coming at a good time. I have struggled with my new routine, as well as nutrition, and it has been a bit of a valley in the journey for sure. I had a moment last week, though, when I realized that if this was easy then everyone would succeed without so much effort. The whole reason I am in this place is that the easy thing to do is quit. I refuse to quit this time, though. I am definitely proud of myself for my progress so far. I am coming up on 5 months since I started, and I feel so much better! I think about where I was 5 months ago, and it really is such a change... I need to look back like that more often I think. It is easy to lose sight of how far I have come because I am always so focused on where I want to be.

My struggles with the current program I am doing, The New Rules of Lifting for Women, come from needing my husband home to spot me for heavy lifting. I am definitely a morning person, and I miss being able to have an early workout. While lifting heavy is doing amazing things for my body already, it requires a lot of dedication and planning. I am pretty limited in what I can do even on my non-lifting days because I am usually so sore and need to make energy for weight sessions a priority. I am learning to deal with this, though, and as my body adapts to the routine I am able to start doing more cardio. This weekend I had an awesome workout on Saturday! However, I know that the girls who are ahead of me say that it only gets harder so I am trying to stay focused on my overall goals.

My nutrition struggles come from me being an impatient perfectionist... how do you like that for honesty? Haha. Right now we are going through a tight spot financially, and it is harder to make great choices on a smaller budget. I know that even on my "off weeks" I am leaps and bounds beyond the days of fast food and diet soda all the time. We have eliminated artificial sweeteners, and that change has stuck even when money is tight. Of course this choice also makes my sugars high because of the lack of "diet" yogurts and snack foods. I know it is all about balance, and that little steps now will lead to the changes I want to see. I just need to be patient and dedicated, and trust the process.

So anyhow, this is where I begin this particular challenge. I love the scripture component, and look forward to building my motivation and dedication as I remember that my body is a temple, and I want it to be a healthy place for God to dwell so I am not limited in my ability to serve Him. I also look forward to being inspired and encouraged by some new bloggy friends. I could not have come this far in my journey without my online support from both blog and myfitnesspal friends. I look forward to seeing big things happen through this challenge, and am so thankful for Peak313 Fitness bringing it together!

For those visiting for the first time from the challenge:

Hi! My name is Branson and I am a stay-at-home mama to one little boy who is my main source of motivation and encouragement to get healthy. He is 2 and already in the habit of handing me exercise dvds and telling me to "walk". He love to do yoga with me from time to time, and has the most perfect form on reverse crunches during the 30-Day Shred, lol. My current workout routine consists of lifting heavy 3 days each week, with cardio on my off days. I try to get one full day of rest each week, but don't always succeed. I have been lifting heavy for 3 weeks, and definitely feel the benefits already. Plus, I admit I feel pretty awesome when I am doing barbell squats and deadlifts. I am an active member of my church home, and also love my morning quiet time. I lead a Good Morning Girls group. However, I keep saying I need to do better at memorizing scripture so that part of this challenge is perfect for me! Feel free to introduce yourself in the comments with a link to your blog... I love finding new friends to share this journey with!

Motherhood in the Trenches

Today is one of those days when I am overwhelmed at the perfect way God provides for my spiritual and emotional growth. When there is so much to work on, it is easy to fall behind in certain areas of life... like my attitude. I am trying so hard to get healthy, be a good mom, serve God, make new friends, etc. Yet in the midst of all these good efforts, an old foe crept in... a bad attitude. It started with a funk, grew to the grumps, and by this morning as I sat down for quiet time and the only thing I could pray for was an attitude adjustment.

It is easy for me to overwhelm myself. I want to be everything to everyone, and I tend to try to do it all on my own. Not only does this not really work, but it always ends with me being less than lovely to be around. Okay, I turn into a major crankster. And my poor husband gets the brunt of it. How that man puts up with me I will never know, but that is another topic...

So anyways, I sat down this morning and opened a tiny little book, titled "Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches" that packs a bigger punch than books ten times its size. Every time I open it, I am amazed at how God knew exactly what I needed at this very time in my life... a big fat attitude adjustment. One that was delivered in a little brown amazon box from a friend who had no idea I was so desperately struggling. Mainly because I had no idea I was so desperately struggling. Because these things don't happen overnight. They are the result of too many days and weeks of ignoring tiny nudges and little signs. Unfortunately, I often do this until the only option God has left is to knock me over the head in a way I can't ignore.

So, I sit here this morning, humbled by the realization that in the midst of so many good efforts I have yet again failed at something so important... accepting grace and direction from my Heavenly Father. I once again got wrapped up in my own agenda, and stopped really listening to His. The things I have been focusing on are all worthy goals, but I am being reminded that I don't need to try so hard, and I definitely don't need to do it alone. God wants me to be healthy, a good mother, a servant, a friend, etc... BUT He doesn't require anything from me but a heart that loves Him and accepts His mercy and grace. Everything else will follow when I take the time to align my expectations with His. I wonder if I will ever truly learn this lesson well enough that I stop running off on my own path?

So, today I once again start fresh. There is nothing more beautiful than this truth. God provides us with unending blank slates... and I have definitely used my fair share over time. I need to take a deep breath and look at things one step at a time, turning all of my efforts over to the Lord and allowing Him to direct my paths. I hear the whisper now that I have been forced to stop and listen... "Slow down, let Me help... My grace is sufficient for you, and I have a plan..." Thanks be to God!
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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:11-13

Wordless Wednesday

These photos are from late July, but I found them on my computer and thought I would share them anyhow!

Linking Up With:
Live and Love...Out Loud

Another Case of the Randoms...

I am beginning to wonder if I will ever really get back to blogging. I often think about blogging, I just can't ever seem to find time to do it. Then when I make time... like right now... I have no inspiration. *sigh*

So, how about some randomness? You know... since I am sitting here already I might as well type something before I move on to pinterest...
  • I emailed the parents of our teens today... I feel like the past month has gone by sooo slooowww! We finally get to meet our teens (hopefully all 12 of them!) next week! Tomorrow Matt will meet some of them when they go to a Christian concert together. Our church helped sponsor the event, so we had to postpone starting Godparents to take the kids to the concert instead. I am sure they will have a great time, but I am just not thinking Aiden would enjoy it so we will just send Daddy.
  • It never ceases to amaze me how I feel younger than I am. When I am emailing these parents I feel like I am so much younger, when in reality a couple of them are close to my age! The parents get to come to our home for a meeting at the end of this month, and let's not even talk about how nervous I am. Kids I can handle... adults intimidate me, lol. BUT...
  • I went to MOPS registration last week and it went just fine. I am super excited about the first meeting, and felt slightly less shy by the end of registration. I definitely feel like there is a light at the end of the postpartum social anxiety weirdness... and praise God because I was starting to feel like I had completely lost my ability to make new friends!
  • I am in week 3 of the weight lifting program I am doing, and I can now officially say that I hate step-ups. Other than that I am loving the program though. My biggest challenge right now is the cardio withdrawal. On days I don't lift I still don't have the energy to really get into intense workouts. I have debated modifying the schedule, but decided I am going to stick with this for now. I want to see what this heavy lifting can do for me. I am already feeling so much stronger!
  • We went to Mom's for the Husker game on Saturday... man I love football season!!! Although our lovely fall weather seems to have retreated again. It was so hot all weekend. Matt had 3 days off and we stayed inside for most of it because that period of fall weather turned me into a wimp. Haha.
  • I neeeeed to start taking more pics of Aiden with my camera instead of my phone. I just miss having a big girl camera SO MUCH that it makes me cranky to even use the p&s right now. Every time the season starts changing I miss my camera. Thank goodness for instagram or there might not be any pics of the bubs from this period!
That is about all the random I have right now. I really miss writing something other than bullet points. I keep hoping my brain will eventually slow down and think in full paragraphs again! Maybe someday... how about I close with some instagram pics?

P.S. - I plan on joining in this challenge, so that should mean a real blog post once a week from me, even if it just a great, healthy recipe and progress update! :)