14 April-2757

A Broken Hallelujah

Some days Jesus feels {so near} and precious.  The way He cares for us is tangible and surrounds us with a presence that nothing can compare to.  It happens often when we walk through pain and it happens when life is a beach with sand and space and the sun warm on our backs.

Other days we need Him so much.  We search for Him, seek Him, cry out to Him….and the sound is hollow like a tiny echo in a dark cavern.  We know He is present, but we don’t feel Him.  We know He cares, but we can’t seem to feel that, either.  Ever have days like that?

Today I did.  I know just yesterday I wrote about feeling a little better.  I thought I had finally found a key to regaining energy, then boom–rotten day with utter fatigue.  No matter if I’d try to describe it, I would come back later and realize it sounded nowhere as hard as what it felt.

It was discouraging to be here again.  The difficulty of this journey has been the never-ending dips.  It’s up and away…then down again, over and over again.

Today I could not walk out of the darkness that surrounded me.  Some days it takes faith to believe that God is good . We don’t believe because we feel His goodness, but because we have seen His faithfulness in the past.  We remember the alters of praise and His goodness, His mercy, His favor.  We trust.

Speak Truth to Yourself (This is worth the time it takes to read.)

14 April-2757

Sacrifice of Praise

Through Him then, let us continually
offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, 
that is, the fruit of lips
that give thanks to His name.
Hebrews 13:15

Today I felt the need to trust God’s goodness even when I didn’t feel it, the need to offer praise when I only wanted to lament.   There wasn’t music in my soul, but there was~

Music to play on my worship playlist

Empty hands to hold out to the Father

Friends to help me pray

Memories of God’s repeated faithfulness

A Goodness I can trust

Rest in His care

You know, sometimes when we’re struggling alone it can feel so isolating and sometimes, strangely, it can almost makes us feel special–like shouldn’t other people cater to me a little here?  (Ug!)

While chatting with one of my friends I found out she was finding herself in a hard place, too.  Together we reached for Jesus.  It was so good for me to remember I’m not alone in this.

Many people are facing difficulty in all kinds of form.  My situation isn’t a high alert, special situation.  This is a time to humbly bow , to accept the trials in life and in brokenness to glorify the Giver of Life.  Because He is GOD and He is Good.

With my love and my sadness
I come before You Lord
My heart's in a thousand pieces
Maybe even more

Yet I trust in this moment
You're with me somehow
And You've always been faithful
So Lord even now

When all that I can sing
Is a broken hallelujah
When my only offering
Is shattered praise

Still a song of adoration
Will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You
And give You thanks

Even when my only praise
Is a broken hallelujah

Oh Father, You have given
Much more than I deserve
And I have felt Your hand of blessing
On me at every turn

How could I doubt Your goodness
Your wisdom, Your grace
Oh Lord hear my heart
In this painful place

When all that I can sing
Is a broken hallelujah
When my only offering
Is shattered praise

Still a song of adoration
Will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You
And give You thanks

Even when my only praise
Is a broken hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah -Mandisa
Atlanta children Photography -2242
14 April-2773

A Few Good Things

14 April-2391

0 spring

:: Bear has lived with us for several months.  Finally Zachary painted Bear’s name on a sign giving him official ownership.

Here’s an advantage of living in a city: free pet services.  Pets for Life had a day where they offered free vaccinations.  We didn’t find out about it, but our neighbor took her dogs and signed them and Bear up to be neutered for free.

People from the organization drove to our house to pick up Bear then brought him back the next day after the operation.  You can’t ask for better service.  They also gave us info for a free dog training class.

We’ve been going to the classes once a week and learning so much!  I haven’t gotten to the point of enjoying Bear, but he is more tolerable. Yeah…I’m not exactly a dog person. I agreed to owning one because…well, pure mother love and all that. =)

Zachary has wanted a dog soooooo much for so long and loves Bear a lot.  The younger two boys can finally be around Bear a little since he’s learning at the classes not to jump.  The training really is amazing and I HIGHLY recommend it.

0 spring 11

:: I was tested for food allergies and found out I have whey, yogurt, egg white and egg yolk, and yeast intolerances.  I’ve cut the foods out of my diet for five days now.  I also just started fish oil to help with mineral absorption.  A few days in I saw a big improvement.  I have had three days in a row of waking up with energy which is tremendously exciting.

Monday morning I woke up, cooked baked oatmeal, and sliced fruit for the boys.  They weren’t downstairs, yet; so I put a table cloth on the table, set it and lit a candle.  It was SO exciting to me.  These are the little things I love doing to make the ordinary more special for my family and the things I almost never have energy to do.

The last few months have been hard with very little energy.  I so badly want to cook breakfast for them.  I know it’s healthier, they don’t get hungry until lunch, and their behavior and concentration are better, too, after eating a good breakfast.  Instead of me cooking breakfast, Zachary has been pouring cereal for all the boys.

It made me feel so good to be able to make them a good breakfast, and even make it look nice.  I had to take a picture to celebrate. =)

0 spring12

:: This unoccupied land across the street from our house is perfect for adventures.  It’s pretty awesome that we live in a city, but have this spot of nature so close. It’s not like the country where they could roam free to their hearts’ content. I always need to be with them or watching from the window for safety reasons.

On Monday the boys collected their backpacks–which are really sleeping bag covers, their binoculars, microscope, a string, a canteen of water, sunglasses, a hair brush, a screwdriver and took off exploring.  We love our city life and the opportunities we have here, but also find it important to understand and love nature. I love to see them learning through play–touching, collecting, and building camaraderie.

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14 March-2364

He + She


Without a doubt my favorite times are when Steve and I get to be together–with our family, in a crowd, and when, especially when, it’s just us.

Imagine how excited we were when we opened an envelope at Christmas that held a voucher for a night’s stay at an Inn in Chatanooga!!  Not only that, it came with babysitting included. Obviously we have some very thoughtful and generous friends.

We looked forward to this little escape for a looooong time, and finally took off for our get away in March.  We headed out Sunday after church and lunch and were nearly half way to Chattanooga when the van started clanking and clunking as older vehicles sometimes do.  It got worse and worse until Steve couldn’t drive more than 40 mph.  After spending an hour at an auto parts store, Steve got one problem fixed but the bigger issue was still there.

Long story short–after completely losing power and sitting next to the interstate for a long while, we finally got a wrecker out and a ride home.  The mechanic we use is a man Steve has gotten to know through street feedings. He was sooo kind and drove us home.

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Five hours after we started out, we headed out again.  The best part about the fiasco is that even though it was disappointing to lose our day of relaxing in Chattanooga and to ride around with fumes from the first vehicle and no air conditioning  in the next, we were able to keep from getting annoyed at each other. =)

On to the good part.

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I always love seeing the mountains again!

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What a beautiful, welcome sight at the end of long afternoon!

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14 March-2283

We had such a nice stay here.  They served an amaaaaazing breakfast–eggs, biscuits and sausage gravy, bacon, piles of fresh berries, chocolate pastries, cinnamon rolls, fresh orange juice and delicious coffee.  Mmmm, so good!


14 March-2290

Chattanooga is a really nice city. There is plenty to do, but it is still small enough that you can easily find your way around.  There is a river running through the city and a beautiful, walking bridge that was built in the 1800′s.


14 March-2308


They have a great bicycle system where you can rent bikes for the day.  There are bicycle stations throughout the city and you can leave and get bicycles on your own time.  So great.  I wish Atlanta would adopt this idea.   It’s green, it’s fun, and it’s a great way to get exercise and to interact with people from the city.

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We were able to leave our vehicle parked at the Inn all day and ride or walk through the beautiful city.  I was feeling great, and that whole day was pretty much bliss.


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We rode bikes, walked for awhile, sat on a bench and talked  a long while about how we were doing, our ideas for ministry, and I’m sure there was talk about history and logistics too since I was siting on a historic bridge next to a history lover .

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The weather was perfect. The sun warm. The breezes cool.

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Talking, biking, walking, resting, dreaming, people watching, loving. Sunshine, smiles, and good food.  Put these on repeat for a whole day and that sums up the wonderfulness.

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We meandered through this inspiring restored warehouse just before leaving–such a gorgeous shopping mall.

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Life gets busy and heavy sometimes. Time together away from responsibility is perfect for helping  us refocus, for refreshment, for a new energy for our marriage, our family, our ministry…just all of life.

I’m so thankful for this gift.

Atlanta children Photography -2202

Ooey-Gooey Gluten Free, Egg Free Brownies (with sugar free, lactose free variations)

Okay, so WHAT kind of brownie is this???

It’s delicious, I’m telling you, and easy to make.

A couple months ago I decided it was time to get serious about going white sugar and white flour free, so I stopped cold turkey.  It was not an easy week! A few days in I haaaaad to have something sweet.  I found a brownie in a mug recipe–an unhealthy version.  I looked up gluten free brownie recipes, too, and after some experimenting came up with this recipe.

I’ll write out the recipe in the combination I like best then add variations as well. My style of cooking is unpredictable.  I didn’t truly understand why recipes would note “optional” next to some ingredients until a friend told me she decided to skip eggs in a pecan pie. Okay, so some ingredients are essential, but still I see most ingredients as optional.  (This may also be why I am more successful at cooking than baking.)  I see recipes as suggestions and can hardly force myself to follow them precisely.

For those of you who like exact measurements, I tried very hard to come up with a recipe you could follow.  I hope you like it!

1.) Start brewing coffee.

2.) 1 T. butter, melt over low heat–preferably in cast iron, but any pan will do  Dairy free alternative: coconut oil

3.) 1/2 handful(?) pecans, toast in the butter

Atlanta children Photography -2212

4.) 1 T. brown sugar, (increase to 1 1/2 if this isn’t sweet enough) add to butter and pecans I know, I know.  Brown sugar is only a tiny bit less evil than white sugar, but the brown sugar adds a caramel flavor.  Unbeatable flavor.  Sugar free alternative: substitute honey or stevia

I have an electric stove so at this point I turn off heat.  If you cook on a gas stove you may want to keep warming the brownie on low heat. These don’t actually need to bake, so mostly you need to keep them warm.

5.) Add the following ingredients

3 T. almond meal

2 T. coconut flour

2 T. water

1 T. cocoa powder

sprinkle of salt (1/4 t., maybe?)

If you do not need this to be gluten free and want to use more common ingredients, use 5 T. whole wheat flour instead of the almond meal and coconut flour.

Atlanta children Photography -2216

6.) Stir brownie mixture.  If you’re not watching sugar, toss in a few chocolate chips to add to the goodness. (Dairy free alternative: dairy free chocolate chips)

healthy stove top brownie
In the middle of stirring. Keep stirring until you don’t see any of the coconut flour


7.) Remove from heat. Add 1/2 t. vanilla

8.) Serve in a dish and enjoy with that coffee you were brewing.

This is a PERFECT snack to make for yourself after you’ve tucked the little ones in for a nap. :)

Atlanta children Photography -2195

Another variation: Add a flax egg

Oh, another variation is to add blackberries after adding nuts.  Let them stew for just a little before adding the sweetner.  Skip the cocoa and add a pinch of cinnamon instead. 

If you skip the nuts you will need to add a little less water or then increase the coconut flour just a little.

For those of you who like me are new to using almond meal and coconut flour: almond meal adds bulk, but does not absorb liquid the way flour does.  Coconut flour absorbs liquids a little more quickly than flour. When I first tried this recipe with only almond meal the consistency was more like brownie batter.  The coconut flour helps the ingredients to cling together.


Here are the standards I like for food to meet when I’m cooking:

Healthy, tasty, economical, easy, attractive

This recipe scores well except for being economical.  I like that it is a dessert with protein and healthy fats.

How do they compare in taste to a normal delicious, gooey brownie?  So….if the two pans were side by side I would guess most people would prefer the unhealthy version.  Sugar always steals the show.  If you like the crusty corners of brownies, you will miss them.  For people who love the center brownies, these will be great.  The texture is a little different, too. That being said, I do not miss regular brownies at all because I love these so much.

If you make these I’d love to hear whether you liked them, and what adjustments you made to the recipe. You know I’m cool with making adjustments to recipes. =)


14 Feb-1229

Real Life at Our House

Lately it seems I’ve happened across so many thoughts along the lines of~

Let’s be real, and

Stop making your life sound perfect.

I’m not sure what to do with this.  Because I’m

ALL AbOuT being real.

I like friendships that are real. I want to be the kind of person

who doesn’t put up fronts and makes it feel safe for other

people to be real.  When I read about the

prettyifying of life I take a moment to check if I have

been doing that–making things sound

better than they are.

I don’t know.

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I certainly don’t mean to be doing that,

but it seems that lots of women think that

lots of women are glamorizing their lives.

While I try to focus on the positives, I wouldn’t want people

to hang out with me and think, “Wow, totally different world

than what she portrays.”

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It’s not something I should spend a lot of time

stewing over, I have learned,

because it can drive me crazy.  So I breathe a prayer that God

will help me be honest–not to pour out all the junk

and not try to make myself and my life look

so much better than what it is.

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It got me to thinking about real life.  What is real life here?

Facebook blurbs and Instagram photos fascinate me in that they give a picture of our life, but they are like one second glimpses.  Looking over my Instagram feed I feel this sense of home because it so depicts our life.  At the same time SO many details are left out because, hey, this is the world wide web and also, hey, I don’t have time to record every bit of our lives. An online presence may not be a complete picture, but it’s still a true picture.

Sometimes we have a moment of pure sweetness. My heart is so full, and I Instagram it. Ten minutes later everyone is fussing at everyone and I wish I could go hide in my closet. (And no, I don’t take a picture of the chaos before smoothing things over) It seems that a lot of life happens like that.  Bliss and mess tumbling over one another. Here are a few one second glimpses into what’s real today.

14 Feb-1265

Real is…

…GORGEOUS weather here in Atlanta.  Spring is here for real. To stay. I am happy beyond happy about that.

(…Oh, right, so this post has been something I’ve worked on over a few days, and now the weather is freezing cold at nights and the breaker keeps flipping which cuts off the HVAC and in turn keeps the house struggling to stay warm.)

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Zachary took this and the next eight pictures. If you want to get a picture of what your life really looks like, hand the camera to your child. Ordinary things are definitely worth photographing to them.

…procrastinating ridiculously putting together receipts and records for taxes.

…weariness at still fighting reactions to supplements one by one.

14 Feb-1322

…cheering new words, dry 2T shorts, staying upright on roller blades, reading through another book, a neatly folded stack of wash cloths, remembering to say thank you (“Sank you” to be correct) without being told.

…making a quick trip north for Steve’s grandfather’s funeral. Realizing again what a gift it is to have a godly heritage.

14 Feb-1311

…the richness of being with family on that trip and meeting my new nieces and seeing the boys playing with their cousins and even getting in on a big snow.

…waking up and catching my breath because I forgot the South is so GREEN already.

…waking up and catching my breath because I forgot our neighborhood looks so messy.

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today…taking a walk and feeling amazing.


…collapsing for the rest of the evening because the walk exhausted me.

….listening to my neighbor for over an hour while she told me about walking out of an abusive situation.  Being so proud of her.

…listening to my neighbor for over an hour while lying on the couch because I was too light headed to be up (and kind of wishing I could just rest)

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…laughing at the boys. 

…forgetting to write what they said and so forgetting what they said.

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Maybe this series of pictures is a little of what blogging brings up in us sometimes. We zoom in on a detail–

[[His hand! I can't get enough of the cuteness. I could eat him up!]]

C Smucker Photography l Atlanta l 14 Feb-0521

and sometimes people just want us to take a few steps back,

so they can see the whole picture.  Yes, he is utterly precious.

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I have precious, too.  But at my house when there is precious it’s often also surrounded by not so precious.  Is it the same at your house?

C Smucker Photography l Atlanta l 14 Feb-0514

An Atlanta family's story: learning to love God and others


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