The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

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I just love Christmas! I love all the lights shimmering on our nightly drives through the neighborhood as we return from swim practice!  I love baking and eating cookies during December!  Yum!  I love the enchantment of the first snow fall that really clings to the ground!  I love decorating my house with all the handmade gifts I’ve received over the last 8 years from my kiddos! I love curling up and watching all my favorite holiday movies with a cup of hot chocolate!

hot chocolate

But most of all, I love celebrating the birth of our Saviour! Our Christmas traditions wrap around Him (not Santa) and we tell our kids that his birthday is soooo special that they get presents on it!

But the season can also come with a lot of stress too! One of the biggest stressors for me (even though it should bring the greatest joy!) is gift-giving!
Any parents out there ever feel the urge to spoil their kids when it comes to Christmas? I sure do! I used to spend the whole year picking up toys on sale and then have what looked like Santa’s workshop blossom in my storage room come December! I wondered how in the world did I end up with so much! And then I would stress over the thought, “Holy cow my kids are spoiled!”

stressed mom

So after asking some girlfriends what helps them keep their gift-giving at bay, I came across a couple of awesome ideas!
Tracy, a home school mom, shared with me how her kids got 3 gifts just like Jesus did on the first Christmas. The wise men brought Jesus gold (the gift for royalty or a king); frankincense (the gift for a priest and as a symbol of deity); and myrrh (a gift for one who would die as it was often used as an embalming oil). So transfer that over to modern-day and you get gold (something you want); frankincense (something you need); and myrrh (something to read or educational).  I just loved this idea and we have since implemented it in the Spiewak household!

3 gifts

But I’m so excited over the latest gift giving idea that a friend from my mother’s group just shared with me! It’s called Five-Hands Gifting and it’s a simple inexpensive way to gift but is backed with a whole lot of love from the heart! So here it goes:

The idea is to give 5 gifts: something HANDmade, something secondHAND, something Helping HAND, something HAND me down, and something HAND in Hand.

Handmade gifts can include anything you’ve made for that person! Just browse around on Pinterest and you’ll be inspired with plenty of gift ideas!

Secondhand gifts: Another person’s trash = Your Treasure!  Browse the local thrift stores searching for that unique find for each person!  My sister does this and we always laugh at the things she brings us! Whether it be an old t-shirt that reminds of us of our childhood or an ugly coffee mug that says our name, her gifts bring the best entertainment!  No one has ever complained that they were second-hand either!

Helping hand involves charity work or blessing others in someway.  Volunteering at a soup kitchen together, finding an underprivileged family to sponsor or take dinner to, or simply visiting a nursing home and playing board games with some of the the elderly there, could all be considered a helping hand gift!

Hand me down is giving away something of yours personally! This would be like giving your daughter the bracelet she admires so much!  Or passing along your family’s favorite recipes to your son who just left for college in the fall.

Hand in Hand is last but my favorite! This is the gift of doing something together: going to the movies, going skiing, visiting museums, a local Christmas play or concert!  Or if you’re not one to venture outside in the cold, then a coupon for a massive snowball fight with your kids!  Kids love to see their parent’s act or play in a way that they know is outside their parent’s comfort zone!

Gift giving can be such a joy when you take the cost factor out and put the heart factor in!!  I think that’s why I love the Five Hands Gifting idea so much because it really gets you thinking of what the other person may like but not putting so much emphasis on price!  Christmas should be about the time spent together and the memories made! It should not be about spoiling our kids so they have the latest and greatest gadgets and gaming systems, stressing out over gift-giving or spending way too much, worrying about what exactly to get each person! Simplify your Christmas!! Make time and take time to embrace the true meaning of Christmas: the birthday we can be eternally grateful for!!  And there’s no better or greater gift than Him!

So I pray that this holiday season you find joy in the simple things and that Christ remains at the center of all you choose to do!

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Nothing……It’s What’s For Dinner!! (Part 2)

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Sorry this has come later than I planned, but with the combo of the school year starting and the joy of morning sickness, the recipes have had to wait! But not any more!

Just like the Spiewak children have to abide by my rules, my kitchen has to abide by my rules too! Here they are:

1.  NO processed foods. (Now I do cheat every once in awhile, especially when I’m out of town for a weekend and there’s a sitter with the kids)

2.  Serve/Eat a variety of fruits and veggies with meals. (preferably raw)

3.  There will be no sugar, dyes, white flour, and genetically modified foods served. (This can be tricky at times because it seems like there’s sugar in EVERYTHING these days!)

eat clean

With those rules in place there are several methods I love in my kitchen: Freezer Meals and Crockpot Meals!!

My dear friend Terri Brady (check out her AMAZING blog at terribradyblog.com) introduced me to freezer meals 4 years ago!  And I love her that much more for it!  She recommended the cookbook below and I swear I haven’t eaten a bad recipe from it yet!

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I’ve cooked freezer meals for a whole month only four times in the last 4 years, simply because it is so time consuming (a whole day of cooking).  But the pay off from a whole day of work was worth it every time.  I do this before I have a baby or if I know I have a busy season in my life coming (which is like always right?!?)!

One of my favorite recipes from the freezer cookbook is the Crustless Quiche.  I’ve adapted it to make more for my big family!  This is also the dish I bring to people who are sick from church or have just had a baby.

Crustless Quiche Recipe

1 10oz pkg of frozen chopped spinach

1 10oz pkg frozen chopped broccoli

1 bunch chopped green onions (bottom white part only)

8 large eggs

4 cups grated mild cheddar cheese

1/2 cup crouton crumbs

Thaw broccoli and spinach to remove liquid.  Combine all ingredients except crumbs in a very large mixing bowl.  Divide the mixture evenly among two 10-inch pie plates treated with non-stick spray.  Now you can bake  one now and freeze other (cover with foil and freeze). Put 1/4 cup of crumbs in ziplock baggie and freeze with quiche.  Cook other quiche at 325 degrees for 1 hour then add crumbs and bake another 10 minutes. To prepare frozen quiche simply thaw it and bake the same way!  Goes great with a fruit salad!

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I love my crockpot!!  It’s my favorite kitchen tool!  I love the site flylady.net for their collection of crockpot recipes!  Here’s one of my favorite recipes from them!

Santa Fe Chicken

Combine the following in your crockpot:

1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn
1/2 cup salsa

After stirring, add:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup more salsa

Cook on low for 3 hours. Then add,

1 block of cream cheese

Cook one more hour. Serve over rice with flour tortillas. Yum!

chicken burritto

Here’s another Spiewak family favorite my Mom invented!  I know it may seem weird to have no sauce on it, but trust me its delicious!

Tortilla Pizzas

Pkg of Tortillas

Pkg of mozzarella cheese

Toppings of your choice: black olives, tomatoes, onions, chopped fresh spinach, shredded carrots, any other veggie you may like!

Place 2 tortillas on a baking sheet and cover with mozzarella cheese.  Load them up with veggies! Bake at 375degrees until the cheese is melted and the tortilla edges are a nice golden brown.

totilla pizza

With all the recipes I wanted to share, this post could have easily turned into a 50-page cookbook!  So I narrowed it down to my top 3 easiest and yummiest recipes (kid-approved of course)!  I hope you enjoy planning meals for your families as much as I enjoy planning and serving mine!

In His Love,

Lindsey S.

Nothing……It’s What’s For Dinner!! (Part 1)

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That right there folks pretty much depicted my childhood in a nutshell!  Like clockwork every night at 6 o’clock my Mom would have a piping-hot home made meal for our family of seven to sit down to and enjoy!  She spent her summer and fall gardening and canning to provide healthy wholesome food the whole year long!  She was absolutely amazing and I realize that now more than ever!

Now fast forward 20 years to my kitchen and me feeding my brood of seven!  Picture the same music playing as three of my five kids cry around my feet.  I frantically bend over and start rummaging through my chest freezer praying to God that he miraculously makes a piping-hot nutritious meal appear somewhere under the half a cow we have stored in there!  No luck!  Rats!  Cereal it is!!  My kids are simply thrilled; I’m wondering how in the world my mom did it!

Here’s something I lacked: A PLAN!!  If you want to have success in any area of life you need to have a plan!  Like Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.”

As we come into fall and the school season will soon be in full swing, this two part blog will hopefully be able to help some other mothers like me out there avoid the answer of  “Nothing!” to the question “What’s for dinner?”

This first part is some of the things that help me keep  and stay with my plan!  The second part will include some of my favorite easy recipes and cookbooks.  So get ready to say good-bye to “Nothing!”

1. Take time to plan!  Now I am a total fly by the seat of my pants girl and that’s what got me into trouble.  I thought I didn’t have enough time to plan out my weekly meals because I was so busy.  As the week progressed though, I was spending way more time every day trying to figure out what to put on the table!  So I take Sunday evening and plan my meals for the week.  This includes a grocery list as well so I know what needs to be picked up Monday at the store.

2. Write your plan down!  I bought a cute little magnetic planner at the dollar store that sets on my fridge and I write my meals on it for the week and whatever I might need to add to the grocery list on Sunday.  This gives me, my husband, my kids, or my babysitter an idea of whats for dinner.  No more asking the question of what’s for dinner because it’s posted right there for the world to see!

mealplanner

3. Make having a side dish a breeze!  I could plan a main dish no problem, but what to serve with it was always a hard thing for me to figure out!  And having it be something that pleased all 7 people eating it was nearly impossible!  So that’s when I decided I’d just do a veggie tray!  Since everyone likes different veggies at my house, I simply buy a variety of vegetables, cut them up, put them in a 13X9 glass dish, and Voila!  There’s your easy side dish every night until it’s gone!  No more disappointment during dinner because everyone can simply take what veggies they like!  I also pull this out when the kids want a snack!

veggie tray

4. Prepare the night before!  I usually lay out non perishables, defrost meat, get the baking dishes I need set out the night before.  This helps me have everything ready to go in the afternoon when cooking time comes.

Now I know this may not work for everyone!  And if you already have a plan and a system in place then way to go!!  High five to you!!  If you have any tips that work for you please post in comments!

Part 2…..coming soon!

In His Love,

Lindsey S.

It’s a Big, Big House

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I had met him only once but he made a lasting impression on me! Full of life and all boy, he found the only tiny mud puddle in my front yard and jumped in it with my boys and his older brother! They laughed and ran through that mud pit until it was time to go inside.

fee tin mud puddle

With no change of clothes in the diaper bag for him or his older brother, Joel left my house sporting his underwear! I chuckled about this with my husband later that day after the company had left. Little did I know that this would become the only memory I’d have of little Joel.

I don’t always understand the ways of God, nor am I meant too! Isaiah 55: 8-9 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Joel is one of those cases I don’t understand!

Tuesday July 30th at the tender age of 4, God called little Joel home. My heart broke when I went to the hospital to visit Joel’s parents, Matt and Chrystal, that afternoon. The pain, anguish, and uncertainty filled their faces as they waited to hear the results of a second scan to reveal if Joel had any brain activity after being without oxygen for 45 minutes.

Seeing Joel in that hospital bed brought on a flood of tears! My mind kept picturing one of my own five babes laying there and me having no way to change the circumstances. I tried hard to place myself in Chrystal’s shoes, thinking of something I could possibly say to offer any sort of comfort. No words came, but song did.

“Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name”

The song by Matt Redman is the only thing that cackled through my steady flow of tears. We left the hospital after praying with Matt and Chrystal telling them to keep us posted on any updates.

The update came through a text that night.
joelstext

I cradled each of my five kids that night while they slept, crying and praying over them. I couldn’t imagine the heartache that Chrystal and Matt were going through at that exact moment.

Monday August 5th was Joel’s memorial service. It was there that I was able to gain a sense of peace and comfort in little Joel’s passing.

Our unanswered prayers to bring Joel back the night of July 30th turned out to be answered prayers for several other families that night as they got the call that their child would gain a new life through Joel’s organs. See Our plan B is always Gods plan A! God answered prayers that night even if they weren’t ours. It was His plan all along!

Chrystal, Joel’s mom, has moved me deeply by her example through all of this! She’s inspirited me to love my kids a little deeper, stop and hold them a little longer before I leave anywhere, and know and trust that God has a plan and purpose for my life and my children’s lives! She radiated His grace to those who came out that night to comfort her. With no tears, she spoke in front of friends and family and inspired others to make a difference in this life; to make our lives count, because we don’t know how much time we have! She said something so profound to me, that I hung on her words for days!

“You just don’t know how strong your faith is until God places you in a situation like this.”

I pray that God strengthens my faith so someday I have the courage to shine as brightly as Chrystal did for God’s glory that night!

The most peace came from a song! “Big House” was played at the end of the memorial service. The pastor speaking reminded us to rejoice in the fact that Joel was playing football in Gods big, big yard with a new glorified body. He was in his Father’s house; a big, big house with lots and lots of room! He was eating at a big, big table with lots and lots of food! A boys dream!

Joel is wrapped in His Creator’s arms.  Joel is home! It would be easy to lose heart when thinking that we missed out on a whole lifetime with Joel, but we mustn’t! Our children are lent to us from up above; sometimes for many years, sometimes for just a few! As believers we need to rejoice in the fact that Joel is home, exactly where he was created to be! Also as believers we need to rejoice in the fact that we will see Joel again; and look forward to playing football in that big, big yard with him!

My prayer for everyone reading this is that they too will be in that big, big house with us someday! Do you know Christ? Because He’s your invite into that big, big house!

In His Love,

Lindsey S.

I encourage you to listen to the song “Big House” if you’ve never heard it before!  My personal favorite version is on the album: “Great Worship Songs For Kids Summer”.  I love it when children sing!!

Verses that comforted me during this difficult time:

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  Luke 18:16

And we know that it in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Storing Up Chocolate and Cake

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The fight was over a Barbie horse. Landry had it first, but Merrick was insistent that it was hers and she didn’t want anyone playing with it.

two girls fighting over a doll
“Merrick were you even planning on playing with it today?” I asked.

“No! BUT it’s mine! I got it for my birthday and I don’t want anyone else playing with it!” Merrick cried.

I pulled her to the side and prayed that God give me wisdom to handle this His way!
“Okay Merrick there’s a verse in the bible that talks about giving your things to others and when you do you can store up treasures in heaven!  God wants us to share and have our hearts set on making Him happy, not set on making ourselves happy. And when you do that you’ll have a treasure chest in heaven waiting for you filled with the tresures you’ve stored up when you’ve made the choice to share.” I explained.

“Treasure……like chocolate?” she innocently asked.

“Sure!”

“And it will be healthy?”

“It’s heaven! So of course it will be healthy! And it will be the most delicious chocolate you’ve ever had!”

“And ice cream?”

“Yep”

“And cake?”

“Yes Merrick. Now what do you think you should do with that horse?”

She never said a word, but with a smile on her face went and handed the horse over to her little sister.

Matthew 19:21 says, “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Ever been in a situation where a beggar comes and asks you for money? Giving some interesting story as to why his car is broken down and his wife is in the hospital delivering a baby girl, and his car is 3 miles away, and his cell phone is dead (otherwise he’d show you a picture of his new daughter), AND all he needs is money for “gas”?!?

Yes, this really happened to Holger and I! What do you do? How do you react? To give or not to give?
Holger’s extremely gracious at handling these situations but I find myself grumbling about the beggar long after he’s left.

“Go out and earn some money! How do you get that low in life that you have to stalk people at their cars to beg for cash?” these thoughts run through my head.

But my heart quickly captures my thoughts as I remember Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Now I’m not saying we should have given the beggar our car and Holger’s wallet so we could follow Jesus because we are also called to be good stewards of our money. But the issue is one of the heart. Merrick’s heart and my heart were consumed with “our” things; hers a horse and mine money. Even though all our riches and blessings come from the Lord, there’s still that selfish pride within that tells us otherwise.

God wants us to treat man, created in His image, better then our most precious valuables. This means sharing what you have, what God has given you. God wants to know that your things don’t have a hold on your heart, but that he does! God requires your whole heart; He doesn’t like to share it with this world! God wants to know that you’ll leave all your earthly possessions behind to follow Him!
But he does this with the promise of storing up eternal treasures. Treasures that will never rot! Treasures that moth or rust can never destroy! Treasures that no thief can steal! Treasures like healthy chocolate, cake, and ice cream!

Merrick has gotten much better with sharing and questions when she shares, “Think that put something in my treasure chest?”

So my questions for you are: Where is your heart? Are you willing to give it all to follow Him? What have you stored in your treasure chest lately?

I think Merrick has a treasure chest waiting for her, with a piece of chocolate cake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream!……..calorie free and loaded with antioxidants! =-)

Sounds like heaven to me!!

cake and ice cream
In His Love,
Lindsey S.

A Prince is Born

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I turned the TV on to switch on Netflix and there it was. Hospital doors.  Humming noise coming from a crowd. The clicks of cameras.  A reporter talking about what the Princess will be wearing 26 hours after giving birth.  Will there be a name given? All sorts of excitement surrounding the birth of a prince!
Aww man I hate when I get sucked into things like this!  But I was hooked now and had to watch! royal baby pic

The princess looked radiant of course!  Even though I kept thinking that I wish they’d let the poor girl just come out in sweatpants like all of us normal mothers do after giving birth!  But beside the sweatpants hang up, I also had another hang up!  A reporter claimed that the little Prince was “The world’s most famous baby.”

I don’t remember the exact context it was said in or what reporter claimed it, all I know is that it bothered me.  And the more I thought about it the sadder I got!  Because as famous as little Prince George is, there’s another Prince even more famous.  One whose been talked about for thousands of years and more!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

See the world’s most famous baby is the one born way back when in a manger.  He had a humble beginning with no paparazzi stalking him from behind a sheep.  He was wrapped in rags and laid to rest in a bed of hay, with no Range Rover to whisk him away to a beautiful country estate.  See this Prince was born with a purpose!

This Prince was the son of God coming to earth in the human form.  He was sent to earth by his Father to live a life we couldn’t live and to die a death we deserve!   He was talked about back when Adam and Eve were around.  He was the answer to the fall of the human race!  He always was, always has been, and always will be the world’s most famous baby!  He’s also the reason we celebrate CHRISTmas every December!

“They shall call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'” Matthew 1:23

See this prince is better known as, Jesus Christ, our saviour!

So I’m not saying that little Prince George doesn’t have a purpose because I believe everyone has a purpose.  But I do hope that someday little Prince George comes to know, trust, and follow the one and only true “world’s most famous baby”!

In His Love,

Lindsey S.

The Crazy Cycle

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“Finally!” I think, as I plop down late at night with my Ipad to catch up on reading some blogs.  Running around after four kids during the day and being out with my team at night has worn me physically and emotionally.

“But this is MY time now!”  I say to myself!  I am so cozy in bed and engulfed in my reading that I don’t bother to get up and greet my husband when I hear the garage door open, signaling his arrival.  Several minutes pass and Holger walks into our bedroom with a plate of food and sits down on the bed to talk.  Holger knows me so well and knows I love to know all the details about the events of his day!  So this is a very common thing for him to come home and eat his dinner as he reconnects with me!

But HELLO! Remember this was MY time!  I don’t want to talk.  I want to read.

“I can’t stand the sound of you chewing while I am trying to read.  Can you please go eat in the kitchen?” The words spout out of my mouth without me thinking really.  I am so focused on my reading that I don’t notice the hurt expression come over Holger’s face.  That was our entry onto the Crazy Cycle that night!

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is the author of a couple incredible books “Love & Respect” and “The Language of Love & Respect”, in which he describes this Crazy Cycle that couples get on within their marriage. The cycle can best be described as follows:
WITHOUT LOVE, SHE REACTS WITHOUT RESPECT.
WITHOUT RESPECT, HE REACTS WITHOUT LOVE.
This cycle pretty much triggers and fuels itself until one spouse or the other works on breaking free by offering either unconditional love or unconditional respect.

So going back to the situation at hand, Holger felt disrespected when he came to my bedside to chat and got pushed away. The crazy cycle continued the following morning when I felt unloved by Holger’s actions of being so stand-offish towards me. Thankfully our communication has come a LONG way since the beginning of our marriage and we were able to talk about what happened and get off that crazy ride.

No marriage is perfect and I think the best gift to give your spouse is the gift of continually working on YOURSELF!! May I suggest a great place to start would be reading “Love and Respect”!!

In His Love,

Lindsey S.