Matched!

Well, it’s official.  We have been MATCHED!!!

And, it’s my favorite story of all time. That is, until baby GIRL makes her grand appearance.

The news of our match, was incredible news in and of itself, but it was delivered in the most special, and memorable way possible. Let me tell you…

So, rewind about 3 weeks.  Kevin and I had officially started being “presented” to birthmoms, and were actively waiting to be matched.  SUCH a hard wait.  SO hard to trust that God is in control when you are waiting.  But, at the same time, that’s the ONLY thing you CAN take comfort in. Knowing that God knows.  And that He wastes NOTHING.

 The first time we heard a birthmom selected another family, it hurt.  And, I knew that it would.  It feels so very personal.  It makes you wonder why. And then you proceed to question if this is where God wants you to be. Maybe you’ve heard wrong.  You then acknowledge you’re being dramatic, and then start the process all over again.

So, for about 2 1/2 weeks, I was constantly feeling a roller coaster of emotions.  I know that isn’t very long, but it felt like forever.  I was also neurotically carrying my phone around, and checking it.  Waiting for news.  But hoping it would only be good news that we would hear.

On April 17th, we received another case to consider.  A baby girl due in August.  The day before our 6th wedding anniversary to be exact.  I sat at my desk at work, and got teary eyed.  I figured it was because I was feeling all the feelings on this journey.  We said yes. We were also presenting to a few other families.  And waiting.

The week went on, and before I knew it, it was time to head out for the Choose Joy Conference.  It’s funny, last year I went begrudgingly, and this year I couldn’t wait!  Kevin was going to stay at home, and I drove down with my friend Jess.  Not only was I excited for the conference, but also for a little vacation and quality girl-time.  It was just what I needed.

We made it down to Southern California, and for the first time in the past few weeks, and probably longer, if I’m honest, I was PRESENT.  I wasn’t thinking about presenting, or waiting for phone calls.  I was in the moment.  And it was refreshing.

The conference started on Friday {4.24.15}. Our friend Julie was a speaker, and took Jess and I to the luncheon beforehand.  It was great to connect with people in a smaller setting. And, our adoption consultant Courtney was there too.  So, I got to give her a big hug and chat with her.  While we were chatting, her husband came up and asked her what time he was supposed to pick “that guy” up from the airport.  She promptly told him to ask someone else.  You’ll find out why later…

The rest of the afternoon quickly passed thanks to some perusing at Home Goods, and a trip to Starbucks to refuel.  And, at 5 PM, the conference began.

Jess led me to seats in the back, which at first was confusing, but, they actually were great seats. So I didn’t ask any questions.

Emmy got up on stage and told her story, and why she has been compelled to host this conference, for the 3rd year in a row now.  The tears had already started to flow at this point.

And then, Emmy brought Courtney up on stage to “tell a story.” Which was not unusual, as Courtney and her husband were the keynote speakers for the event. She went on to say that one of the couples that they were working with, had been matched and didn’t know it yet. And that they were there, at the conference.

My hands started sweating, and I felt this rush, like all of the blood had drained out of my body from my head down to my feet. I sat there, staring intently at Courtney.  Probably looking like a crazy person. I was rapidly searching for EVERY SINGLE REASON why it wasn’t us.  Because I didn’t want to be disappointed. So, immediately I clung to the word “couple,” and thought, it can’t be us, because Kevin isn’t even here. Obviously.

And then, I felt balloons brushing up against my back.  I turned around and that’s when I saw Kevin standing there. With a bunch of PINK balloons. You see, unbeknownst to me, Emmy and Courtney (and the other wonderful Choose Joy Crew) arranged to have Kevin flown in.  “That guy” Courtney’s husband was referring to WAS Kevin.

And then I saw my sister.  And my brother and sister in law.  And I started crying.  I remember seeing them all nodding in assurance that this was real. Because it felt like a dream.

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Photo by Sara Lucero Photography

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Photo by Sara Lucero Photography

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Photo by Sara Lucero Photography

Kevin knelt down next to my seat and as he hugged me, he whispered that we had been matched.  The birthmom due with a baby GIRL in AUGUST chose US. I was in shock. It didn’t feel real.

The moment that I stopped worrying about our adoption plan, was the very moment that it was revealed.

I felt so much joy, and so much peace in those moments.

And, as if that was the ONLY surprise (no big deal, right? hah), we were called up on stage along with Jess.  Jess proceeded to talk about the church’s responsibility of walking alongside its congregation during times such as these.  And to not be afraid to ask of your church.  I wish I could remember more, but again, SHOCK.  She then proceeded to present us with a framed print that had been signed by our church family, and a check for $5400 that had been raised by our church.  Which we had ZERO clue about. This had been the plan all along, before they even knew we were going to be matched. AMAZING.

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Photo by Sara Lucero Photography

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Photo by Sara Lucero Photography

To have been given this INCREDIBLE, LIFE CHANGING news in this way was so beautiful. For Courtney to be able to deliver such good news in person, rather than over the phone, and for Emmy to be such a big part of it, was awesome. To have Jess, Kevin, my sister, and brother and sister in law there, was incredibly special. This was BEYOND anything I could have ever imagined. To be in a room surrounded by people, who you share a camaraderie with, who GET IT, was also special. I can’t really adequately put it into words. It makes me tearful just thinking about it.  And to think, I thought I would be all alone in my office at work when I got a call. Ha. Ha. While our engagement was a huge surprise, this one takes the cake.  I had ZERO CLUE the whole time. Which, made it all the more special.

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Photo by Sara Lucero Photography

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Photo by Sara Lucero Photography

Emmy, Courtney, and the whole Choose Joy Crew, THANK YOU. Thank you for every single moment of this. I can’t even.

Sara, THANK YOU for capturing these special moments so beautifully. They will soon be covering the walls of our home.

Hope Church, THANK YOU. We were, and still are, blown away by your love for us, and our baby, even before we knew of her.

Very simply put, our hearts are overflowing.

This WHOLE journey to date, has been unlike any other I’ve ever been on.  EVER.  I prefer to fly under the radar, mostly. I am a do-er, and I don’t like to ask for help.  I also like things to go as planned.  Like family planning, ahem. Yet, this whole journey has been ANYTHING but that.  God has pulled us out into the light, for HIS glory, and not ours.  To encourage us, and others. To show HIS goodness.  No, I do not think that God made us walk this road, but I DO know that He has turned something so ugly and painful, into something so beautiful.  As only He could.

It has been the most incredible thing, to see  this story continue to unfold. God has given us so much peace. So much confirmation. So much Hope.

We cannot wait to meet our DAUGHTER this summer. I would walk this road again, just to get to her. Our hearts have been filled with so much love for baby girl, and her birthmom.

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This verse. It holds a much deeper meaning to me these days.  SO MUCH MORE.

If you had told me that private adoption was the way that we would be starting our family, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I may have laughed at you on the inside.  Because private adoption seemed impossible.  And hello, foster care. That was the direction WE were planning. But God knew. He has been doing a MIGHTY WORK in our hearts and lives.  Even when our hearts felt despair and uncertainty, God was there the whole time, whispering “keep going” because He knew that there was, and IS wonderful joy ahead.  He has been placing people in our path over time, and weaving the details together so intricately. Because He is the God of details.  Every single one of them. He is truly the BEST story writer because He loves us, and cares for us deeply.

I can’t wait to how the rest of our story unfolds.

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Baby GIRL H, we love you so and can’t wait to meet you.

Pen Drop. {And a few other updates}

While my blog has been collecting dust, we have been hustling.

For Baby H that is.

If you’ve heard that there is a lot of paperwork when it comes to adoption, it is true. Very, very true.  Even for you paperwork loving people out there.

And it makes sense.

Bringing a baby into your home SHOULD be a big deal.

So. Much. Paperwork.

So much waiting for paperwork.

So much learning to wait well.  “Learning” being emphasized.

But, I am oh SO HAPPY to say that our paperwork {for now} is done!

Pen. Drop.

Our homestudy has officially been completed, and sent off to our agency with the rest of the paperwork that we have been hoarding.

Which means…

We are ready to be “presented” to birth parents once our agency has received our packet!

WHATTTTT.

We are still processing all of that.

Feeling all of the feelings.

Because thing just got very real, and in the best way.

Before we run out and buy a carseat and a crib, we are going to breathe for a minute.

Or maybe a second.

Because no matter how much we check off our list, we are always thinking about Baby H.

With the initial paperwork checked off, we can now focus more of our attention on fundraising.

Speaking of fundraising… we are HALFWAY people.

HALFWAY.

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To be honest, there was a part of me that felt that this was impossible.

That there was no way we could raise such a huge amount of money.

But once again, God has shown that He KNOWS better and DOES better than anything we could imagine or do.

People have been giving generously, purchasing prints, and most recently, buying items from our instagram auction, which brought in $2400!! Those 4 numbers tipped us to our halfway point.

YAHOO!

Still wanting to participate in our fundraising efforts?

Well, I have good news! We still have a couple of active fundraisers, and more on the horizon.

We are still selling prints through Big Cartel, which will continue to be ongoing.  We have added some new prints thanks to JoysHopeKatygirl Designs and CuppaKim.

 Rumor has it, some of them are prints that Katygirl Designs retired from her shop.

AND! Starting on March 25th, Brickyard Buffalo will be featuring some of our prints for a few days. And for a whopping $4.50/print.

Moving right along here. I’m excited about this next fundraiser.

Do you love the Giants?  Or maybe the Nationals?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, then this fundraiser is for you!

The ever so wonderful Steve and Lindy have graciously donated 4 Club Level tickets, and a parking pass to a Giants vs. Washington Nationals game on 8/16 {valued at $363} to be raffled off.

If you remember, the Giants battled the Nationals last year in the post season.  It’s sure to be another great match up this year.  I’ll be rooting for the Giants, of course.

Here are the deets:

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A couple extra things-

1. Raffle ticket purchase deadline is 5.8.15.

2. Email me if you have any questions! – ashleyhelenius@gmail.com.

Well, that’s all I have for now, but there will be more to come :).

You guys have been so so so kind during this season.  God has given us the most incredible village, and we are so incredibly thankful for it!

#BringHomeBabyH

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Well, the cat’s out of the bag friends, we are ADOPTING! I cannot adequately express just how happy we are to finally be in this place.  We have so much peace.  Finally.

You see, starting a family was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to happen right away, just as we had planned.  People accidentally get pregnant all the time, so planning our family should be a cakewalk.  Right?

Wrong.

I can’t help but think how naive we were.  But who could blame us?  For some, that IS what happens.  And for those people, I am THRILLED.  Truly.  I would never wish fertility struggles on anyone.  Ever.

These past 2 years have been so very difficult.  So emotionally draining.

But.

BUT GOD.

God has been gracious.  And revealed so much to us.  That the desires He has placed in our hearts for a family are not for waste.  They are not to make us miserable. But to reveal more of Himself to us. What I’ve been most challenged and encouraged by, is that God has been fulfilling those desires in ways that I had not planned.  Ways that I would have not chosen.  Ways that I had not even imagined. And ways that I could not carry out on my own.

Adoption being one of the latest.

Rewind about 9 months.  Oh the irony.  We had finally acknowledged that adoption would be the way in which we started our family. Kevin and I have always had a heart for foster care, and adoption through that system.  With so much excitement, we attended orientation and jumped into the process of becoming a licensed foster care family in our county .

Friends and family asked us if we had considered private adoptions, but we shrugged and said no, that that was not the road for us.  For lots of reasons.  But, let’s be honest.  Private adoption is EXPENSIVE.  Red flag alert right there.  Foster care adoptions are FREE. Perhaps for that reason alone, foster care was less scary.

About a month later, on a whim, I went to an event called Choose Joy, put together by Emmy.  It was THE BEST.  My weary heart needed it SO BADLY.  To be surrounded by women who were in the same boat I was.  Who were facing the same scary “what if” thought of never having children, you were so sure you would have.  To be surrounded by women who had never been able to have their own children, and have come out on the other side.  That could say it was going to be ok, in fact better than ok.  To remind me that God had a plan for our family.

One of the speakers likened this journey to mountain climbing.  She told us that sometimes God moves those mountains (He does indeed!).  But sometimes, He makes us mountain climbers, and equips us with the tools we need to conquer it.  I left feeling ready to CLIMB THIS MOUNTAIN.

Because of Choose Joy, I became connected to so many incredible women in the adoption community.  Warriors, truly.  Emmy being one of them. They debunked the myth that adoption wasn’t doable because of finances.

My heart still said no to private adoption for the months following, because we wanted to do foster care.  We felt God put that on our hearts, and that’s where we needed wanted to stay.

And then, slowly, I started feeling God saying “not right now,” in regards to foster care.  And, in case I didn’t want to listen to that, others encouraged us to consider private adoption.  That they thought of us when they saw posts about adoption.  That we shouldn’t shut that door because of money.

Talk about convicted.

We still struggled a lot. Feeling like we were abandoning babies that needed homes.  Feeling like we would be “buying” a baby. Feeling that private adoption was impossible.  Again, God used people He had placed in our lives to show us that this was not true.  To remind us that foster care would come, later.  That those babies would have homes. That those babies whose parents CHOOSE adoption privately NEED HOMES.  Because whether we choose to adopt or not, these babies EXIST.

“33% of Americans consider adoption. 79% of those are concerned about the costs, the biggest deterrent. Less than 2% adopt.” 

And here we are.  Right in the middle of what feels like eight thousand documents to complete. Fingerprints, physicals, references.  A whole new mountain to climb.  We will be working with an agency called Faithful Adoption Consultants.  I met them through the Choose Joy Event, of course. And they are wonderful. We will be adopting a baby from somewhere in the US.

While we don’t know how long it will take for us to be matched, we know that we need help raising funds! Our goal is to raise approximately $45,000.  I know.  It’s a lot. But that’s our “number.”  If it were up to us,  we would have picked a number much smaller, and less scary. Please know that this number is an estimate based on average adoption costs.  We do not know that our adoption will cost this exact amount, as each adoption is different, but we anticipate that the cost will be somewhere close to that.  Once we are matched, we will know more about the exact cost.  And, as soon as we have that number, we will keep you all updated and will update our fundraising goal accordingly.  I assure you, we will be saving every penny we can in preparation, but simply put, we need help.

It’s a humbling experience to be in a place where you have to ask the village for help.  I like being the helper.  Hello, social worker here.  But this time, God is telling me that I’m the one that needs help.  Insert every uncomfortable emoji here.  That this is bigger than Kevin and me.  We are confident that God will provide.  But also know that a bag full of money will not be falling from the sky. Although if it did, we wouldn’t complain ;).

So.

Please PRAY for US. We need LOTS of it.

Please PRAY for the sweet BIRTH FAMILY that will one day choose us to be a part of their story.

Please LOVE on us and ENCOURAGE us.

Please be REAL with us.  If you have questions, we’d love to chat!

Please FUNDRAISE with us.

Because you guys are amazing, we have already raised $4,165!

If you feel so inclined, here are a couple ways that you can participate in our fundraising efforts now.

1. Donate through our GoFundMe Site:

http://www.gofundme.com/bringhomebabyh

2. Buy a shirt:

https://www.bonfirefunds.com/bring-home-baby-h

We have until January 27th to sell at least 50 shirts, but we hope to exceed that number.  As of today, 40 have already been purchased!

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3. SPREAD THE WORD, AND STAY TUNED!   See my instagram account (@asherluv) to find out how you can win a $25 giftcard to Amazon or Starbucks for sharing our shirt fundraiser info on the ‘gram. There will be other fundraisers in the upcoming months as well, including a couple of auctions.  So, if you have any items you would like to donate, or know someone that would, let us know!

It takes a village, truly, and we are so thankful to call you ours.

We love you so, Baby H, and cannot wait to meet you!

#MUGSWAP14

Oh hey there.  Dusting off my blog to recap #mugswap14! Hopefully I’ll be back more regularly after this.  I know, I keep saying that.  There is a lot to catch up on, and process.  Although, as I sit here typing, I’m thinking it may be a small miracle if I even finish this post. So yeah.

For the past 4 years now, Kim has hosted a MugSwap through her blog.  It took me a year to get with the program (I blame being social media challenged, for missing the first one).  I have met some pretty wonderful women through the past swaps I’ve participated in!  And when I say “have met,” I mean I’ve become friends with via instagram.  My husband does not understand this and thinks it is slightly weird. But! I have a feeling if you’re reading this, you understand 😉

This year, the swap EXPLODED with entries.  I literally signed up using my phone first thing in the morning because I knew if I waited any longer, I would miss out.  Sorry swapper (I don’t think that’s even a word?), that’s why I wrote a measly one line about my style.  Iphone problems.

Not only did Kim’s swap bless those who were able to give and receive mugs, but she was able to raise funds for an adoptive family.   SO SO awesome.  Adoption is expensive, you guys.  It is such a great reminder that for every plan placed in our hearts that seems impossible, or too big, GOD IS BIGGER.   And that “the village” is real, even if connected through the internet. I have been learning SO much about this over the past year.   God has been stretching my previously held perception of what  family “looks” like.   Let me tell you (I will, just not now).

I sent a mug to Natalie.  Much like last year, I took zero pictures of what I sent.  Noticing a theme here?  So, here is a picture of her cute little self holding the mug I chose for her:

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Natalie noted that she loved Anthropologie (who doesn’t), so why reinvent the wheel, right?  I swooped up her cute little mug from anthro, along with a couple other goodies.  I mean, any excuse to shop at anthro is good enough for me.

This year, I received a mug from Emmy, who is the SWEETEST.  Not only because she sent an incredible box full of goodness, but because she has the most beautiful heart for adoptions and those struggling with infertility.  God is using her in mighty ways in those communities.

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I laughed to myself when I realized that my mug was from Emmy.  You see, Emmy was no stranger to me, as I had reluctantly attended an event called “Choose Joy,” that she put together this past May.  It was an event that I didn’t want to go to, because I didn’t want to admit that I had a need or personal connection to the topic.  It’s called denial, and it was very real and present in my life.  I was in denial that I was in denial, if I’m being honest.  But, thankfully God kept pulling on my heart, and used people in my life, to nudge me in the right direction.   The event blessed my socks off, and encouraged me so.  It also connected me to a whole community of women that I didn’t know existed but NEEDED to know, as we had been walking the seemingly lonely road of infertility (I still don’t like this word).   It was a HUGE reminder that we are NOT alone, and that God DOES have a plan for our family, even if it is radically different than what we had planned.  More on that in another post.

Emmy, thank you for blessing me this year in so many ways! I have so much love for you, truly.

Kim, I have so much love for you too, lady!  Thank you for being a vessel and hosting something as “simple” as a mugswap, that created a space for God to encourage His children.  I think you can consider this year’s swap a success.  I can’t wait until next year’s!

Good grief.

I think I’ve had writers block for the past few months.  Life has been happening.  Quite intensely, it seems.  I was so hopeful that come January 2014, life was going to stabilize.  That symbolically I would feel settled and have a fresh start.  A whole new year that was untainted.  But it hast just continued to be full of change.

This season has been rough.

 Honestly, the last time I remember having a season as difficult and unsettling as this, was 5 or so years ago.  No, life was never easy-peasy in those in between years, but there were periods in life where the growing pains felt too difficult to bear.  Times that felt depressing to me.  Confusing and frustrating.  But in those times, God challenged me the most.  And I remember clinging to Him for all I was worth, desperately.

I know God is doing something.  I just don’t know what, quite yet.

I had every intention of (finally) finishing a post about our trip to New Zealand that I’ve been working on since October.  But I couldn’t.  Not just yet.  God put this post on my heart to write first.

Last month, my sweet Nana went to be with Jesus.

She was my last living grandparent.  And the one to whom I was the closest.

I am so thankful that she knew the Lord and that she was instrumental in making sure that I knew Him too.

While knowing she is in heaven is the ultimate comfort, I still miss her.

So many memories. So much love.  So many things that will be missed but not forgotten.

Like…

Her sweet smile…

The way she sang songs to herself quietly in her sweet voice.  She always seemed to have a song on her mind…

The times she would play highest numbers with me, over, and over again at the dining room table…

Her love for baking…

Picking out tea cups from her collection and having tea…

Listening to her police scanner whenever she heard sirens in the area…

Watching Lawrence Welk on PBS. All. The. Time…

The freckle on her cheek that was shaped like a heart…

Her subtle but noticeable kiwi accent that still lingered…

She was cute.  And sassy.  And everything wonderful.

Nana’s house was always a safe place for my sister and me.

And, in a way, she was more than a grandparent to me and my sister.  There were dark periods in my life growing up that were much brighter because of her.  Both she and my Aunt stepped in and filled big shoes when our parents weren’t able.

She LOVED us.

She taught us how to bake.  How to knit.

How to be a family.

Both she and my Aunt were always the constant.

That’s God’s grace.

I’m getting teary eyed as I type.  I’ve still been shoving my feelings down deep for the sake of moving forward.  But I’m working on it.  Healing takes time. And this is a new kind of healing for me.

One of the wise women from my church told me that no matter how much time passes, there will still be moments that I’m reminded of people that I have lost.  Passing through aisles in the store.  Smells.  Places.  They’ll remind me of Nana.  And I’ll miss her.

My heart needed to hear that.

I know that heaven is infinitely better than earth without a doubt.  But, I still miss her being here. And that’s ok.  That’s human.

Grief is hard.

When friends asked how I was doing, I remember telling them so simply, that I didn’t know how to grieve.  No matter how many families I have counseled about grief, it still feels so surreal to be dealing with it firsthand. Taking time off of work was a struggle.  In fact, my coworker literally said “don’t come in, you’re crazy,” when I tried to go in for a morning meeting the day after she passed.

I’m thankful I listened.  And I’m thankful she called me crazy.  Because I was.

I spent the days enjoying my family.  Remembering Nana.  Processing that she was really physically gone.  Helping plan her memorial.  Going to Half Moon Bay and eating at one of her favorite places.  Staying in my pajamas longer than I care to admit.  I also ate way too many donuts.

Even when I returned to work, my mind was in a fog.  And concentrating, well forget that.  I couldn’t compartmentalize the grief.  It was just there, all over everything.

God was gracious, and my patient caseloads were manageable and my coworkers were more than supportive.  They are wonderful people who I am thankful to know and share life with.

Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten back to my “normal” work self, or at least closer to it.  With a slightly different lense on end of life issues.  And a deeper level of respect for hospice nurses/agencies and the work that they do.

Nana spent the last week of her life at home on hospice.  I was thankful that because we knew how imminent death was for her, we were able to spend extra time with her and serve her.  It was really special.  I can’t stress that enough, or thank God enough for those last moments with her.

Caring for anyone is difficult, but if you ever have the chance to care for your loved ones and you are able, whether it’s respite, part time or full time, do it.  I’m thankful my Aunt made the choice to care for my Nana full time.  Thankful that my other Aunts were supportive of her decision and flew in from Washington and New Zealand consistently to offer relief.  And that my Aunt respected her wishes to remain at home.  It was not easy for her, and her sacrifices were great, but I know she wouldn’t have taken it back.  She knew that is where God wanted her.

The day before Nana died, she told me she heard a church choir singing “Joy to the World,” that she was shocked I couldn’t hear.   She was so specific about what the choir sounded like.   So sure I should be able to hear it too, since it was “so loud.”  But honestly, the only thing I could hear was the 49ers football game that was on.  Pretty much the furthest thing from a church choir.  While I can’t say what you see or hear when you are on the brink of death, I can’t help but think that that was a glimpse into heaven.  That God was calling her home.  That song will forever mean more to me.  Forever.

Hospice nurses are wonderful.  I’m thankful for them too.  They knew just what to say at just the right time.  It was good to hang up my social work hat and just be a granddaughter.

We are still figuring out what our family looks like without Nana.  We are going to be just fine.  We’re still family.  Things just look a little bit different.

Oh Nana, you were a good one.

And, for old times sake, since this is just a see you later, 

“Good night, good night until we meet again
Adios, au revoir, auf wiedersehen ’til then
And though it’s always sweet sorrow to part
You know you’ll always remain in my heart.”

{The Lawrence Welk Show}

xo

All Things Pumpkin

You guys, fall is upon us.

It is arguably my most favorite time of year.

And one of my favorite things about fall, is pumpkin.

ALL THINGS PUMPKIN.

Especially sweet things.

Like soy pumpkin spice lattes with 1 less pump of syrup from Starbucks.

I am embarassed to admit how many of those I may have already consumed this season.

I know, I have a problem, seeing as it is only mid November.

But it sure is a yummy problem.

Back to my point.

My friend Megan posted a recipe for homemade pumpkin spice coffee creamer on her blog.

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It spoke to my pumpkin-loving soul.

And my wallet.

So, I pinned it to make it official for the sake of the PinterTest kitchen.

 Here is what you will need:

1 cup cream —> half and half
1 cup milk —> original almond milk
4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

 Now.  I have to admit.  I am rather impatient when it comes to waiting for things to “simmer.”  In fact, I am certain that I did not wait long enough before adding all of the other ingredients.  So, my bad.  I was also liberal with the cinnamon.  Too liberal.  

I also stored it in a nalgene bottle.  So there’s that.

BUT.  Can I just say, that this is the best Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer of all time?

Yes I can.

It is DELICIOUS.

Extra cinnamon and all.

Next time I will be a bit more careful with the cinnamon.  And more patient with the simmering.

But, I am happy to say that there will be  a next time.

Not  wanting the rest of the pumpkin puree to go to waste, I started looking for new recipes.

I happened to stumble upon this recipe for pumpkin muffins.

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Since I already had the rest of the ingredients, I figured it was worth a shot.  And let me tell you, it was.

I used allspice instead of ground cloves.  And I found a happy medium of baking them for 18 minutes rather than 20-25, because our oven is extra hot.

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Yes, I made this recipe twice, already.

And I shared, I promise.

And I don’t feel guilty eating these muffins for breakfast.

They definitely have a “healthy” taste to them, which I like.  If you want them to be more of a dessert than a breakfast, a cream cheese frosting on top would be a perfect addition.

I am happy to report that this month’s PinterTest kitchen has been an absolute success.

Linking up here:

Change is…

…Good for me.  Said in the voice of bacon loving Curtis.  If you don’t know who I am referring to, please go watch this video.  Thank you Wife Swap.  It’s the only way I can imagine this phrase without wanting to pull my hair out.  Change is just plain stressful and I don’t welcome it when it comes unexpectedly.  I’m a planner, remember?  September, well, was a whirlwind.  I think the only constant during that month was change.  What’s funny is that for a whole month, I was looking forward to September.  To all of the great things I was going to do.  You see, August 30 was my last day at my previous employer.  I was able to take the whole month of September off to do, well, all things good.  Having come out of a time where I described life as “hijacked,” I was desperate for a break.  For a breath of fresh air.

We had a vacation planned for the last 2 weeks of the month that we planned months ago.  I expected to spend the first 2 weeks of the month sleeping in and spending quality time with family and friends.  And most importantly recharging before starting my new job.  Well, how quickly my plans changed.  The 2 weeks before our trip, was truthfully one of the most stressful times of my life.  Like lose my mind, breakdown stressful.  Friends, finding a new place to live and moving in a short period of time is NOT recommended.  Having a broken down car during said time, is also NOT recommended. Anything that could have gone wrong, seemed to.  So, I did what any woman would do during high stress.  I cut my hair off.  Because, honestly, that was the ONLY thing I felt I could control.  I don’t think I’ve said, “We will be OK,” more in my life.  Constantly reminding myself that change IS in fact good.

But.  BUT.  In the midst of the serious chaos, God was STILL faithful.  Even though I doubted.  Those moments and days of panic weren’t the end of the story.  They were just the beginning.  You see, when we found out we had to move,  I began searching every site you could imagine to find something, anything.  The one promising lead I found didn’t allow pets, which was super disappointing.  However, the realtor said she’d mention it to the landlord and get back to me.  I didn’t hear anything for a few days so assumed that wasn’t going to be an option.  More panic set in, considering we realistically needed to move the following weekend, before our vacation.  We carried on with life and went out of town for a friends wedding and I literally could not sleep the night before.  I remember praying myself to sleep and telling God how scared I was.  Scared because I absolutely had no answers.  Other than to hide under the covers until it was figured out and we were magically  moved.  If I could have chosen to sleep through the first few weeks of September, I may have done that.  The next morning we got a call from the realtor telling me the landlord agreed to make an exception if she could meet our dog first.  Needless to say, the meet and greet was a success and the rest, well is history.  A month ago, I would have never imagined I’d be sitting where I am now writing this post. It is the perfect place for us at this time in our lives.

The point of this post is not a “woe is me” post, but simply one to share what God is doing in my life.  HOW He is present in my life.  My hope is that you would see His presence in your life too, even in the chaos.  Whether we acknowledge Him or not, He is the constant.  He cares about the details, ALL of them.

I am thankful for God’s <sometimes small> voice speaking to us and nudging us forward, even though we didn’t know how we were going to do it all.   He surrounded us with people who were more than supportive and so generous with their time and resources.  I mean, how incredible was it that I had those 2 weeks off to handle what felt like crisis after crisis.  I don’t know what we would have done if we had both been at work full time.

I’m still working through my feelings towards the events of the past month.  There are A LOT of them.  Despite how I feel towards my circumstances, I will continue to thank God for taking care of us.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  Hebrews 10:23

Here’s a snapshot of the highlights of my September…

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 I can’t wait to tell you all about our New Zealand adventures. Kevin took 1000+ pictures.  And made a 15 minute slideshow when we got home.  So there’s that.  I promise to write a post, or two, or three before November.

But more importantly, we SURVIVED September you guys.