NOTICE

At the time of publication, all recipes were free of the allergens listed as being free of in the title (i.e. soy-free, milk-free, etc.), and all other information shared was accurate to the best of my knowledge.
Though I strive to update outdated information quickly and work diligently to make sure you have the most accurate information possible at all times, it is your duty to double check labels EVERY TIME to ensure that the ingredients you use are SAFE FOR YOU.
DO NOT RELY SOLELY ON THIS INFORMATION AS INGREDIENTS AND INFORMATION DO CHANGE.
Your doctor or allergist should also be your first go-to for information on how to handle your medical needs. That being said, if you DO notice an error, please send me an email letting me know (tell me what page or recipe the error is on, what the error is, etc.), and I will correct the error ASAP.
Thank you so much!

Please Be Advised:
I make sure all of my recipes use foods that are free of the allergens they say they are free of. You will need to do the same. For help with this, please see the appropriate "Alternative Names" page for the allergen(s) you need the recipe free of.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Weekly Weigh In: Week 17, October 14, 2019

I have decided that this feature will now run indefinitely, and will replace the My Quarterly Report feature.  It will go live every Monday, and it will be a weigh in that will share how I'm doing health-wise, and it will give me more accountability with my health.


Here is my seventeenth weigh in:

1. The Selfie: The selfie is me as of today, October 14, 2019.  

2. Weight: My weight stayed the same again.  I'm definitely not going to complain about that, but hopefully I'll have a weight loss to share next week.

3. Health News: I was only able to average over 7,500 steps per day again last week.  I am glad I was able to do just over the minimum, but I'd like to do more.  I should be able to reach my 6,000 daily step goal minimum this week, too, but it is unlikely that I will be able to do more.

Despite how helpful the cherry juice is, my insomnia is back.  It is no where near what it has been in the past, however.  Also, I can definitely confirm that insomnia and my migraines are linked.  I have been dealing with a migraine for a few days now.  Thankfully, ibuprofen and some black tea have kept the pain away, and it has been more minor in terms of migraines for me in general.  I've basically had the brain fog that lingers on even when the pain is gone, but no nausea, vision issues, etc.  

The flavored, no calorie, carbonated water is definitely not as helpful as the non-flavored, but it is still helping a little with the water retention.  I will take any help I can get, though!  Still no bad side effects that I can tell, so there's that.  I will probably be adding both this and the cherry juice to my "med" list soon.

Other than the migraine/insomnia, I'm doing pretty good! :)  I think once the weather stops fluctuating so wildly I'll do much better.  We'll see.

4. Diet News:  Oh my!  Epic fail this last week.  It is amazing that I didn't gain any weight.  I feel like my appetite came back with a vengeance, and I made some awful choices.  I'm going to really work on that this week.  I am sure my dietary choices haven't helped the insomnia or migraines.  You'd think I'd learn a bit quicker...  *sigh*  Here's hoping I get this week's eating choices right!

Intermittent fasting is still helping.  I'm sure it is why I didn't gain weight.  It is pretty much habit now, so that's great!  I am probably going to add this to my food "do"s and "don't"s list soon.

5. Other News: Yep, another busy week this week.  Missions Conference, Driver's Ed (part 2), school, doctor's appointments...Yes, I think I'll need a vacation when this week is over! LOL :) All in all, it should be a great week, and I'm really looking forward to the conference.

If you think about it, please be in prayer for some special unspokens.  I have a lot on my heart and mind that I cannot share publicly, but those things do require prayer.  Thank you!


How are you doing?  Do you have anything you want to weigh in with?  Any health progress or goals you want to share?  If so, please leave a comment below (with a link to your post, if you have one and wish to leave it), and I'll respond ASAP.

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pecan Muffins (Wheat, Fish and Milk-Free, Can Be Nut, Soy and Egg-Free)


I like to cook seasonally when I can, and nothing says "autumn" to me like pumpkin.  My favorite combination for autumn is pumpkin and pecan.  This recipe incorporates both of those while also being free from wheat, fish and milk (if all your ingredients are), and can be nut, soy and egg-free, too (see variations).  I find the flavor reminds me a bit of pumpkin pie, and the pecans add a nice, buttery richness and crunch.  If you love pumpkin, you'll want to give these muffins a try!

Note: The gluten-free flour I recommend does not technically contain soy, but it does contain xantham gum (see "Soy-Free" under variations for more details) which can cause issues for people with soy sensitivities or allergies.  Also, not all gluten-free bread crumbs are soy-free.  For these reasons, I will not claim that this recipe is soy-free.  I will share a soy-free alternative in variations, though.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

4 Cups gluten-free gluten-free flour
(We normally use and highly recommend Namaste Gluten-Free Perfect Flour Blend.)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons to 8 teaspoons gluten-free pumpkin pie spice
(We normally use and highly recommend McCormick brand.)

1 Cup chopped pecan pieces

1 Cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Cup white sugar
(We always use and highly recommend white cane sugar.)

1 Cup brown sugar
(We always use and highly recommend brown cane sugar.)

1/2 Tablespoon to 2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

pecan halves for decorating (optional)

  1.  Preheat oven to 325oF.
      
  2. Line muffin tins (30 to 36 count) with liners.
      
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and pecan pieces and set aside.  (Note: Most spices are gluten-free by default, but you'll want to double check to make sure that your pumpkin pie spice is.  Also, the amount of pumpkin pie spice you use is based on personal preference.  We prefer the 8 teaspoons, but if you find that too much spice for your liking, use the 2 Tablespoons or even go down to 1 1/2 Tablespoons, if you wish.)
      
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, sugar and vanilla until well-blended.  (Note: The amount of vanilla you use is based on personal preference.  We prefer the 2 teaspoons.)
      
  5. Add the eggs and pumpkin to the sugar mixture and mix until well-blended.
      
  6. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until well-blended. (Note: You do not want to over-mix this.  I generally mix it until all the flour is moistened, and then stop.  It is ok if there is some bits of flour visible, but you don't want large streaks of flour.)
      
  7. Evenly distribute the batter between the lined muffin cups and then top each muffin with a pecan half, if desired.  (Note: I find that 30 muffins is perfect for this recipe, but if you want to make the muffins slightly smaller, you could definitely stretch this out to 36 muffins.  Also, if you want the muffins to have a smoother appearance, then smooth out the batter before baking.  I am ok with a more rustic look, so I didn't do that with mine, so it definitely is not necessary.)
      
  8. Bake muffins for about 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into a center muffin comes out clean.
      
  9. Cool muffins in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes before transferring the muffins directly to the wire racks to finish cooling.
Makes 30 to 36 muffins that can be enjoyed hot, warm or cold with equal deliciousness.


Variations (Please keep individual allergen and dietary needs in mind when using variations.  Thank you!):
  • Soy-Free: Namaste Gluten-Free Perfect Flour Blend does not claim to contain soy, but it does contain xanthan gum, which can cause issues with people who have soy sensitivities and allergies.  For this reason, I will not claim that this recipe is soy-free.  You can use a soy-free flour (if you can have wheat/gluten) or soy-free, gluten-free cup-for-cup of your choice.  Keep in mind that if your gluten-free flour doesn't contain guar gum or xanthan gum, you may need to add between 1 to 4 teaspoons of ground flax seed, guar gum or xanthan gum to help with textural issues, too.  You'll have to make sure all your ingredients are soy-free, too.
      
  • Other Nut or Nut-Free: You can sub walnuts or pumpkin seeds for the pecans or you can leave the pecans out entirely if you can't have nuts.
      
  • Egg-Free: Use an egg replacer in place of the eggs.  For ideas on what to use in place of the eggs, check out my ingredient substitutions page.  The flax seed "egg", pumpkin or applesauce replacement would be a good fit with these muffins.
      
  • Mix-In Ideas: If you like chocolate chips with pumpkin, you can add a Cup in (Enjoy Life is a great allergy-friendly chocolate).  If you like cranberry with pumpkin, you can add a Cup of dried cranberries (such as Craisins) in.  You could use either or both of these, and even use one of the nut substitutions above.  Pick your fancy!
      
  • Loaves vs. Muffins:  If you are more a fan of loaves vs. muffins, you can turn this recipe into loaves.  Just grease two 9x5 loaf pans, evenly distribute the batter between the two pans, top with pecan halves for decoration (like a line down the middle length-wise) if desired, and bake for 6o t0 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.  You will need to rest the bread loaves in the pans for 5 minutes before attempting to remove them from the pans, and then remove them from the pans and cool the loaves on wire racks before enjoying.

Looks yummy, right?
    

It's autumnal deliciousness at its finest!  Mmmm!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Weekly Weigh In: Week 16, October 7, 2019

I have decided that this feature will now run indefinitely, and will replace the My Quarterly Report feature.  It will go live every Monday, and it will be a weigh in that will share how I'm doing health-wise, and it will give me more accountability with my health.


Here is my sixteenth weigh in:

1. The Selfie: The selfie is me as of today, October 7, 2019.  

2. Weight: My weight stayed the same.  I'll take it (because it is better than a weight gain), but am hopeful that next week I'll have a weight loss to share.

3. Health News: I was able to average over 8,500 steps per day again last week.  I am thrilled!  I am not sure I'll be able to get that this week, but I am going to do my best, and I should be able to reach my 6,000 daily step goal minimum.

Tart cherry juice is definitely helpful.  It has improved my sleep pattern, and had basically no insomnia for the majority of the week last week.  I am dealing with a more minor case of insomnia right now, but am hopeful it will pass soon.

The carbonated water is helping with the water retention a little bit.  I couldn't find that non-flavored this last time at the store, so I bought some flavored that was no calorie, no sweetener (basically carbonated water and flavoring) to try.  I am not sure if it will work as well, but we'll see.  I am finding that I do have to drink the full recommended serving size to see any benefit at all with it, but there doesn't seem to be any awful side effects thus far.  Pray it stays that way!

Well, the issues I was having due to the herbal water pill are definitely done.  I also definitely did have an issue with that new laundry soap, and am mostly recovered from that (until I end up wearing an item I thought I re-washed and didn't).  I still have some other issues that are probably just related to getting older :), but those are sorting themselves out bit by bit.  

I appreciate your prayers for all my weirdness. :D  The last 2 years feel like my health and body have morphed into something new.  Things I could once eat I cannot anymore, things I could once wear/use (i.e. make-up or soap) I cannot anymore, etc.  My 40s are not going well! LOL :)  Maybe it will be like March - "In like a lion, out like a lamb."  Here's hoping! :D

4. Diet News:  Hmmm... I'd say that I did pretty good with my diet for the most part.  The biggest issue has been that I have just not been hungry very often, so I have been forcing myself to eat just to keep from becoming mad and sassy (AKA hangry).  Unfortunately, sometimes that has meant eating things that aren't the best for me because those were the only things that tempted me to eat.  I am going to work on eating the things that work best for me instead of what is tempting this week (assuming this lack of hunger continues or even if my appetite comes back).  Wish me luck!

I was more consistent with the intermittent fasting times this week, and I think that is also helping my sleep patterns.  I also have realized that sugar and anything caffeine containing cannot be consumed by me after like 3pm without it causing sleep issues for me.  I am also finding that eating or drinking anything other than water after 6pm (I did that once this last week), gives me heartburn when I lay down to sleep, so I'm going to make the rule that food  and liquids other than water after 6pm just cannot happen for me no matter when I started eating for the day.

5. Other News: The busy train has not slowed one bit, and may even have ramped up, believe it or not.  Not sure when it will slow down, but maybe by January.  We'll see. :D  Maybe I'll get some moments to catch my breath between now and then.  Also, if you think about it, I have some unspoken things that I could realize use some prayer for if you wouldn't mind being a prayer partner with me.  Thanks!


How are you doing?  Do you have anything you want to weigh in with?  Any health progress or goals you want to share?  If so, please leave a comment below (with a link to your post, if you have one and wish to leave it), and I'll respond ASAP.

Have a great week!

Monday, September 30, 2019

Weekly Weigh In: Week 15, September 30, 2019

I have decided that this feature will now run indefinitely, and will replace the My Quarterly Report feature.  It will go live every Monday, and it will be a weigh in that will share how I'm doing health-wise, and it will give me more accountability with my health.


Here is my fifteenth weigh in:

1. The Selfie: The selfie is me as of today, September 30, 2019.  

2. Weight: My weight went up a pound.  I'm not happy about it, but I'll keep working on it.  I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to understanding exactly what causes me to gain or lose, so that's helpful.  Hopefully, I will have a weight loss to share next week.  Wish me luck!

3. Health News: I was able to average over 8,500 steps per day last week.  I am thrilled!  I am hoping to do around that this week, but I'm not sure if that will all pan out or not.  I should at least be able to do the 6,000 daily step minimum, though.

The tart cherry juice helped the restless legs, but the insomnia is slower in changing and I've been on 3 days straight of said insomnia (I sleep restlessly for about 2 hours, am up for an hour or more, and repeat until it is time to get up, so I am not getting any truly restorative sleep).  I am finding the insomnia is linked to my migraines (I had a migraine last night and am dealing with it a little bit today, too).  Insomnia normally precedes the migraine, but sometimes it sticks around during and after.  I am hopeful that the migraine and the insomnia will be better tonight.

I am trying some sparkling water (non-flavored, so essentially just carbonated water) for water retention.  It was something I stumbled on quite by accident.  I tried some at a local restaurant, and I noticed that my water retention was reduced a bit afterwards.  I decided to buy some sparkling water and try deliberately drinking it daily to see if it will help with the water retention.  I am not drinking very much (in fact, I am mixing it with my tart cherry juice for now for a version of a REALLY tart cherry soda) - maybe 1/2 to 1 Cup daily, and I think I will have to play with the amounts, but I am thinking it is helping a little.  I will let you know how this goes.

Well, the issues I was having due to the herbal water pill seem to be pretty much over now.  I am still dealing with some things, but they may actually be due to a possible reaction to a new laundry soap I tried.  I'm in the process of figuring all that out.  It's been a long month!  Hopefully, I will be back to 100% soon. :)

4. Diet News:  Another total fail week for me diet-wise, hence the weight gain.  I am going to strive to be a lot more aware this week.  I am finding when I am stressed, super busy or not feeling 100%, I tend to let the diet go which makes everything else worse.  I just cannot do that.  I hope to have this better figured out next week.

The intermittent fasting was not as consistent as I needed it to be this last week, which I do believe played into the weight gain, too.  I plan on trying to get that timing down better.  I am aiming for 10am to 6pm to be my eating time overall.  That seems to work best for me.  On a positive note, I have noticed that I am not as hungry in general and eating more when I'm truly hungry with the intermittent fasting.

5. Other News: Oh, my... This week is going to be even busier than last week.  It's only Monday, and I'm already tired!  Please pray that this insomnia breaks (and that the migraine completely breaks - the pain is being held at bay with ibuprofen, but I'm still dealing with the other side effects such as it is taking me FOREVER to form proper sentences today - oh, the typos! :D ) and that I'm able to rest and get the mega list of things done that I need to for this week without losing my sanity.  Thanks so much!


How are you doing?  Do you have anything you want to weigh in with?  Any health progress or goals you want to share?  If so, please leave a comment below (with a link to your post, if you have one and wish to leave it), and I'll respond ASAP.

Have a great week!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Family Favorites - September 2019: Gluten-Free Lasagna (Wheat, Soy, Fish, Nut and Egg-Free, Can Be Milk-Free)


I decided to keep posting a family favorite recipe from the blog (with any adaptions that we use regularly, if applicable) on the fourth Friday or Saturday of every month this year.  This recipe will be one that we make quite often and that we all enjoy greatly.  This post is the ninth Family Favorites recipe of 2019.

If you have a recipe on your blog that you consider a family favorite that you'd like to share, please comment below with a link to the recipe, and I'll make sure to pop on over and visit your site to check it out (and leave a comment), and hopefully some of my other readers will, too.

This month's Family Favorite recipe is Gluten-Free Lasagna.  This is essentially my Simple Lasagna recipe made gluten-free with a few other hints and tips added in.

Lasagna is definitely a huge family favorite in this house.  It's the dish that I need to quite literally make 2 pans of to have leftovers (Did I mention I have 2 teenage boys and a 9 year old daughter?).  This recipe is so extremely simple, too, and easy to customize.  It is also wheat, soy, fish, nut and egg-free (if all your ingredients are), and can also be milk-free (see variations).  Win-win!





Simple Lasagna

 12 to 16 gluten-free lasagna noodles (depending on the size of your pan)

(We use Tinkyada brand noodles whenever possible.)

1 lb. ground chuck or venison
(We almost always use ground chuck.)

salt (optional)
 (We always use this.)

ground black pepper (optional)
(We always use this.)

1 jar (23.75 oz. size) of your favorite soy-free, gluten-free spaghetti sauce
(We use whatever soy-free, gluten-free brand is on sale, but our favorite type to use is a marinara type.)

12 to 16 gluten-free lasagna noodles (depending on the size of your pan)
(We use Tinkyada brand noodles whenever possible.)

4 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese

parsley flakes (optional)
(We nearly always use this.)


oregano (optional)
(We nearly always use this.)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350oF.

2. Fill a large pot with hot water, and add the pasta and let the pasta sit in the hot water until you are ready to layer the lasagna. (Note: The water does not need to be boiling, but it does need to be hot, and your noodles need to be completely submerged in the water.  You can choose to skip this step, but the noodles may not end up as soft as you'd like them to.  I do NOT recommend cooking the noodles fully in boiling water, however, because they definitely get too soft if the noodles are cooked through before baking.)

3. Season the meat with salt and pepper, if desired, and brown it in a large skillet until cooked through.

4. Drain meat, return to skillet, add the spaghetti sauce and mix well.

5. Strain the pasta and set aside.

7. Place some of the meat sauce (about 1/5 of it) on the bottom of either a 13x9 or 11x8 pan (greasing the pan is not necessary, but you can if you wish).

8. Next, place a layer of pasta noodles (3 to 4 noodles side-by-side; whatever it takes to fill up the pan width-wise), then a layer of sauce, and lastly a layer of cheese (about 1 Cup) in the pan.

9. Continue layering in the same fashion for 4 layers, ending with the rest of the cheese. (Note: If you want to cut back on the amount of cheese or sauce, that's fine. Personal preference should always win here. :) )

10. Top the lasagna with a sprinkling of parsley flakes and oregano, if desired, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until lasagna is bubbly and cheese is browned.

Makes 12 to 24 servings, depending on how big you cut the pieces.

Variations (Please keep individual allergen needs in mind when using variations!):

  • Make Ahead: This lasagna can be made ahead and either frozen or refrigerated until time to make it. If making it from frozen, though, please note that the cooking time will increase by at least 1/2 an hour.
      
  • Milk-Free: Use a dairy-free cheese in place of the mozzarella.  Daiya makes an excellent dairy-free cheese!  You will also need to make sure your sauce is dairy-free.
      
  • Different Cheeses: You can use any combo of cheese you like - mozzarella, cojack, Gouda, Monterrey Jack, Parmesan, etc.  I don't recommend a soft cheese, however, as it would greatly effect the texture of the dish.  If you want to add ricotta or cottage cheese to the layers, you can do that as well.  You can either add the ricotta/cottage cheese to every layer or every other layer - whatever you desire.
      
  • Meatless: You can leave the meat out or use mushrooms in place of the meat, if desired.
     
  • Different Meats: You can add in mushrooms, use ground sausage in place of or in addition to the meat, or even use cooked and shredded chicken.  The options are endless!  You can even add in pepperoni and/or other pizza toppings to give your lasagna a more pizza flavor.  The choice is yours!




I hope you will give this recipe a try soon and that it becomes a family favorite for you, too!




Monday, September 23, 2019

Weekly Weigh In: Week 14, September 23, 2019

I have decided that this feature will now run indefinitely, and will replace the My Quarterly Report feature.  It will go live every Monday, and it will be a weigh in that will share how I'm doing health-wise, and it will give me more accountability with my health.


Here is my fourteenth weigh in:

1. The Selfie: The selfie is me as of today, September 23, 2019.  

2. Weight: My weight stayed the same again.  I am hoping to have some weight loss soon, but I'll take no weight gain.  We shall see what this next week holds.

3. Health News: I was just able to average over 7,000 steps per day last week.  I am hoping to do at least that well this week, but that may not happen due to bad weather.  I will give it my best shot, though!

Insomnia and restless legs have cropped up a little here and there.  I have tried drinking some tart cherry juice for it, and it does help, but I forgot to drink some yesterday and regretted it greatly!  I am going to definitely drink some tart cherry juice daily this week and see how much difference I notice.  If it is noticeable (and I believe it will be based on how much it helped the few times I drank it last week), I will add it to my Food "Do"s List.

Much to my chagrin, I am still dealing with issues that began with the herbal water pill.  There may be something or some things else going on as well, but the herbal water pill definitely played a part in all of it.  It has not been fun, y'all!  I am hopeful that I will be 100% again soon.  I appreciate your prayers.  Thanks so much!

4. Diet News:  Well, last week was a total fail in so many ways as far as wise choices.  I would do great most of the day and then bomb later.  I will admit it - I did a lot of stress eating due to the health issues I've been dealing with.  That didn't help anything, and it is never worth it to stress eat.  You'd think I'd have learned that lesson well enough by now not to repeat it, but I guess I'm stubborn. :)  I will say this - the older I get, the more I realize that eating that chocolate (one of the types I can't eat or eating too much of the types I can) or other food that doesn't play nice with my system, no matter how yummy at the moment, is not worth the consequences later because the consequences are so much more violent than they used to be!  Wisdom definitely comes with age! :D

The intermittent fasting is still going well, and probably the only reason I don't have a weight gain to share today.  I definitely plan to stick with it.

5. Other News: Busy in spades!  That phrase describes this week well...or perhaps the next 2...maybe 3 or more, actually.  I may be able to breathe come November...maybe. :D  I'm glad to be busy, but when I'm not feeling 100%, it is definitely a bit more taxing.  Anyway, at least I'm not bored!

Oh, and my wonderful hubby got me a Samsung Galaxy Fit!  It is really cool!  I can monitor my sleep patterns, keep track of my steps better, check my heart rate and more!  I love it!  If you're looking for a relative inexpensive fitness tracker, check it out!  I can say I highly recommend it.  {No, Samsung is not paying me to say this - they don't even know I am posting this and probably don't even know I have a Galaxy Fit.  My opinion is completely that - my opinion, and I can't be bought, anyway. :D }


How are you doing?  Do you have anything you want to weigh in with?  Any health progress or goals you want to share?  If so, please leave a comment below (with a link to your post, if you have one and wish to leave it), and I'll respond ASAP.

Have a great week!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Recent Reflections - September 2019: My Oldest Is A Senior In High School...



This is the ninth Recent Reflections post of 2019.  Recent Reflections goes live the third Friday or Saturday of each month.  Each Recent Reflections post covers something that I'm reflecting on.  If you'd like to share a post with a similar theme, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your post, and I'll hop on over and leave a comment (and maybe some other readers will, too).

This month, I will be reflecting on my oldest being a senior in high school.

Then...
First Day of Kindergarten, 2007


and
Now...
First Day of Senior Year, 2019


I can hardly believe the my little man is no longer a little man, but a full-grown man!  In a few weeks he'll be 17, and in a about 8 months he'll be graduating high school!  That just blows my mind.  Wasn't it just yesterday that I was writing that he was turning 10?  How on earth did we get here?  Time moves the quickest when you want it to move the slowest.

Now, readers, the rest of this post is an open letter to my son, so forgive me if it gets sappy. :)

My dearest Stephen, 

Son, let me get real here...  

First, I love you more than you'll ever understand until you have your own children (Lord willing) one day.  Never, ever forget that.  You can never do anything that will make me not love you, so let me (and your dad) be the first one you go to when life gets hard or when you think you've done something unforgivable.  I promise the love will still be there, and we will work on the rest.  May you never have to face that day (and I pray you won't), but I just want to put it out there that I will always be here for you, no matter what.  That doesn't mean there won't be consequences for wrong choices - there always are - but we will be by your side to help you through it and pray that that time will be the last time we have to do so.  If not, we'll just keep loving you and praying for you like always.  And as a side note, let's try not to use this option, shall we, son? :)  I know we'd both prefer to not have to deal with this kind of hurt, so let's just keep doing right things, ok?  Ok. :D

Secondly, I am amazed every day at the man you are maturing into.  I am not looking forward to the day you move out, be it to college or to a job or whatever the reason, but I know that you will do well no matter what God has in store for you as long as you continue to put Him first.  I am excited for this next phase in your life...even if it will be bittersweet.  

Thirdly, keep your eyes on God!  He will never steer you wrong.  The days will get hard - expect it.  There will be days when you wonder if He is still there or listening to your prayers.  I promise - He is.  He is teaching you something, He is guiding, He is waiting for you to yield or learn, He is leading you down a path that is necessary for you to become who you are meant to be, or any other number of things, but He is also wanting to hold you up through the hard times.  God is not desirous to hurt you, but hurt is in this world because sin is.  You will face pain because we all do...but you don't have to face it alone.  God is there, and we (your dad and I, along with your extended family and church family) will be there to help you through.  So, those days when you feel alone, get in your Bible, keep praying, call your parents for prayer support, stay in church and counsel with your pastor.  All those things will help encourage you on the darkest days that I pray you have very few of.

Fourth, I am so proud of you!  You give of your time and yourself without thought of how it will benefit you because it is the right thing to do, you play with your siblings and (normally) let them have equal say in what you all do, you do the job you say you are going to do and then some, you love to discuss things with us, and you show that you love instead of just saying it.  On top of that, I can very clearly see that you love the Lord and desire to do His will.  You may not know exactly what your next step will be after high school yet, but we'll figure that out.  Just keep asking God to guide you, listen to the advice from those who love the Lord and want His perfect will for your life, and I know you'll do amazing things for Him and in your life!

I love you, my not-so-little man!
-Mom


I truly hope this post has been a blessing to your heart, or at the least made you stop and think a little.  What has God done in your life lately to bless you?  What are you reflecting on?

Have a wonderful weekend!