Angels Around Us

For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully. Luke 4:10

Our family spent the 4th of July holiday at one of our country’s famous landmarks, Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello.  Monticello sits tucked away majestically at the top of a high hill in Charlotesville, Virginia.  This is one of my favorite areas to visit as the scenery is lush, green and stunning and the opportunity to learn about one of our country’s founding fathers is not to be missed.

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As wonderful as our visit was to Monticello, what happened after we left was the real miracle of the day.  We stayed until it closed at 6:00 and then started out on the trip back to Washington DC about 3 hours away.  About 20 mins. in to our trip we decided to stop for dinner, which was when the Mister realized his wallet was missing.  After tearing apart the car and searching high and low, it was nowhere to be found.  He thought maybe he left it on a bench he was sitting on right before we left.  He had taken it out to give Oldest some money for the gift shop and that is the last time he remembered having it.

We realized we needed to quickly head back to Monticello in the hopes that maybe a cleaning crew or someone would still be around.  I tried calling and only reached a voicemail.  It is distressing enough to lose your wallet, but the Mister had some very important ID cards in his wallet which added to the stress. The whole 20 minute drive back to Monticello, I silently prayed that the wallet might be where we left it or a good samaritan found his wallet and turned it in.

We rushed back and to our disappointment discovered the entrance at the bottom of the drive was blocked with orange cones.  Desperate to get the wallet back, the Mister drove around the cones (you didn’t hear it from me!) and we drove up to a large white gate which was closed and locked.  There was a man and a woman standing near the gate looking at us.

The Mister suggested I ask if they worked there although they did not look like they did as they were dressed in casual street clothes.  When I inquired as to whether they worked there, the man said the woman did.  We explained our dilemma and she said we could try calling security to see if they found the wallet during their check of the premises upon closing.  She then proceeded to point out a sign on the gate with a phone number on it.  We would never have noticed the sign with the tiny phone number printed on it if she hadn’t pointed it out to us.

We called the line for the security officer and Praise God, they had his wallet!  Someone had found it and turned it in.  As I was talking to the security officer, out of the corner of my eye I saw the man and the woman linger by the fence for a bit then climb over it and head up the path to Monticello and disappear.  When the security officer opened the gate to have us drive up to get the Mister’s wallet about 3 mins. later they were nowhere to be seen.  With the wallet safely tucked in the Mister’s pocket and thankful hearts, we headed back home.

Later, as I was re-telling the story to my Mom, it struck me as very odd that those two people happened to be standing at the gate right when we pulled up.  The whole place was deserted, not a soul around except that man and woman.  My Mom and I read an awesome series by Karen Kingsbury called “Angels Walking” and it made me stop and wonder if that man and woman might indeed have been angels!  We never would have found that phone number if the woman hadn’t pointed it out and right after they helped us they just climbed over the gate, walked up the path and were gone.

I will never know for sure whether it was just two helpful people or God’s guardian angels sent to assist a family desperate to recover a lost wallet.  Some people might call it a coincidence or “luck”, but I know it was an answered prayer.  So many amazing miracles are all around us every day, we just have to keep our eyes open to look at them.  One thing I do know for sure is that God is always with us, watching over us, caring for us and loving us and I find such comfort in that knowledge.

How about you?  We would love to hear any “angel stories” you might have.

~Blessings,

Jen

Quick and Easy Patriotic Fruit & Pretzels

I had to throw together a quick dessert for a party recently.  I wanted it to be on the healthy side since I knew there would be lots of other sweets at the party.  So I went to where I usually get most of my ideas, Pinterest! I am a bit of a Pinterest addict and I am always so happy when I actually make something from the hundreds of ideas I’ve pinned.  My dessert is a variation of this one I found on Pinterest.  If I made it again, I would try to use strawberries or watermelon for a brighter red color, but the cherries were what looked best at the market so we went with that!

This is a super easy dish to make and it was wildly popular at the party!  You can’t beat fresh, Michigan cherries!  I just washed the fruit, arranged it on a tray with yogurt covered pretzels and it was ready to go!

Fruit and pretzels

So if you find yourself scrambling for an idea for a 4th of July party, give this a try!  Simple, easy, healthy and delicious!  A perfect combination!

Happy 4th of July!   I hope you enjoy some good food, family, fireworks and fun!

~Blessings,

Jen

 

Strawberry Time!

I hope all of the Dads out there enjoyed their special day. We are so blessed to have such awesome Dads in our family from my own Mister to my brother, nephews and brother-in-law!  My own Dad is not here on earth to celebrate with us but he left me with many, many fond memories of a father who was always there for me, spending time with me and loving me unconditionally.  For more on the story of my inspirational Dad click here.

Here in Michigan it is strawberry time!  Since my oldest daughter was little, it has been a tradition to visit the local U-pick strawberry patch and pick strawberries for homemade jam!  I have tried various recipes over the years, but have settled on this no-cook freezer jam.  It is quick, easy and delicious.

There is a low-sugar pectin option, but I have had a hard time finding it in my area, so I opted for the full sugar option this year.

So in a few hours we went from this:

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to this!

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I followed the recipe on the Ball pectin jar and multiplied the recipe by five.  I did this for two batches and made about 20 or so jars of jam.  Here is the recipe I followed:

Homemade Strawberry Jam (Ball Recipe):

1 2/3 cup hulled and crushed strawberries ( I used a potato masher to crush the strawberries doing about 4 cups at a time in a bowl.  You can crush to preference-I like small pieces of strawberries in the jam.)

2/3 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. Ball Real Fruit Instant Pectin

Directions:

1.Stir sugar and pectin in a bowl.

2.Add fruit, stir 3 minutes.

3.Ladle name into clean freezer jars and let stand 30 minutes.  Leave space at the time to allow for expansion during freezing. (I let mine stand overnight and then transferred to the freezer.)

There is nothing like opening a jar of homemade strawberry jam on a cold Michigan winter day and being reminded of the tastes of summer!  This has become a very special family tradition and we even got my brother to join us for this fun outing!  If you have not picked strawberries or made jam, I encourage you to give it a try.  It is a super easy and fun-filled family activity!

Hope you are enjoying this first week of summer!

~Blessings,

Jen

 

A Mother’s Care

Happy Summer! I am officially on summer break this week so hopefully you will see a lot more action on this blog!  Jules and I still continue to battle some health issues, her recent being pneumonia and I am four weeks post-surgery for my foot injury.  We thank you for your patience at the sparse posts but we hope to be back with lots of fun and inspiring ideas to share with you!  Just a teaser-Jules has been working on some pretty inspiring fairy gardens so stay tuned for pictures and directions for an enchanting project!

I’m happy to say the surgery for my foot injury is behind me (for more details on the injury click here).  Hopefully I will be done with the walking boot in a couple of weeks and can move on to physical therapy and be as good as new.  I’m trying to see beyond the temporary inconvenience of this injury and look ahead to days of health and healing but it has been hard to be patient.

I have learned many things through this challenge, one of the biggest being how  important encouraging words and acts of care are to someone under the weather.  I think I knew this on some level but until I actually experienced it first hand, I don’t think I really “got” how important and meaningful it is.  The encouraging e-mails, messages, visits and prayers I received before and after my surgery really helped brighten my day, made me smile and brought me so much comfort.

I realize now how much this means and I want to be better about doing this for others.  It only takes a second to send a message or make a phone call and it can really help to offer hope and cheer to someone who is feeling down.

Were you wondering when I was going to get to the point of the title?  Due to circumstances of the Mister’s work, he couldn’t be with me during my surgery.  My brother and Mom were able to be with me and then my Mom stayed to care for me afterward.  We have mentioned before about my Mom’s health issues, so I think she was feeling pretty good that she was on the caring end of things this time.  I was so thankful for Mom being here and the time we spent together.  There is just nothing like a Mother’s care and I was so comforted by her presence and help following my surgery.  She knew what I needed before I even had to ask.  We spent the days of recouperation talking, watching Hallmark movies and just hanging out.  I thank God daily for my Mom and the time we are able to spend together, as I get older, I realize deeply what a blessing this is. Here she is with Little One.  Thanks Mom for all of your help!

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I apologize for this post being a bit rambly!  I hope these words might inspire you to reach out to someone you know who is going through a health issue.  Even if you can’t be a caregiver like my Mom was to me,  taking the time to send a message, card or pick up the phone to say hi will surely brighten their day.

~Blessings,

Jen

Just Do It Anyway

Hi All,

It has been a while.  Jules and I continue to deal with our own unique health problems which has taken up much of our spare time lately.  We appreciate you not giving up on us!  I have been thinking about this blog post for a while and I have been wanting to write about one of the most inspirational people I know in my life, my Aunt Mary.  Aunt Mary turned 90 last year and you would never know it.  Here she is taking her new birthday present for a spin-yes she cuts her own grass, changes the oil in her car, does more yard work than Jules and I put together just to name a few things.

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She is truly an amazing woman!  She has been on her own for many years after losing the love of her life, my Uncle Henry, when she was quite young.  The fact that she has more energy than most people much younger is impressive, but what I find truly inspiring is how she uses that energy.  She regularly visits many elderly folks in her community and drives a friend who cannot drive to church and takes her grocery shopping.  She also faithfully visited and brought dinner to my Uncle Claude who we recently lost this winter.  I remember talking to her about this at his funeral and she said, “You know, it wasn’t always easy to visit and make conversation with him because he was so quiet, but I did it anyway.”

This really resonated with me because I realize how often I shy away from doing things, or visiting people because it might be hard or slightly uncomfortable.  I know those visits meant the world to my Uncle Claude and I’m sure he appreciated the time she took to just sit with him and chat.  Her spirit of “doing something even if it is hard”, is something I want to imitate in my own life.  Thank you Aunt Mary for being such an inspiration!

How about you?  Do you shy away from doing things that are hard or uncomfortable?  What is something you have wanted to do but avoided?  We would love to hear from you!

~Blessings,

Jen

 

I’m Me

I came across this on Facebook the other day and thought it was worth sharing.

Body image

It really made me stop and take a look at the way I think about myself. And I know that I’m not alone! Why do we always have to be so hard on ourselves? When did just being “who we are” stop being enough?
Truthfully I think it starts somewhere in the teen years. Trying to fit in, to look and act like everyone else. I have found as I’ve got older I care a whole lot less about what anyone thinks. Accepting myself as I am is a lot easier. Because the truth is…I do eat food….sometimes just because I like the way it tastes. Sometimes it feels good to just “let go” and do what you want for a minute. I suppose that is called lack of discipline….let it be known…I don’t have a lot of patience, and I don’t have a lot of discipline….so I guess its good that I can accept me for me. Besides, trying to pretend to be someone you aren’t takes up a lot of energy.
THIS is a lesson we need to teach our children. As a therapist and working with young teens….this is a HUGE problem. The saying used to be, “kids can be mean.” I’m hear to tell you that today is that “kids can be downright cruel and nasty” to each other. And because kids want to “fit in” they bow down to the abuse and start feeling bad about themselves.
It is our jobs, as those adults who have realized that it’s okay to just be “me” to teach them how to do the same thing! I challenge you to encourage anyone you know that is not accepting of themselves to see how worthy and valuable they really are!
Peace,
Julie