Fearless Faith, Uncategorized

Speech//Hillcrest Hope

Hello friends!  Remember a few weeks ago when I was like, “I’m going to do a product review once a week from now on!”…and then I only did that one…and I haven’t gotten around to writing another…?  Yeah…  Sorry about that.  Eventually, I’ll start writing on a consistent basis, I’m sure of it.  And THIS is different than what I typically publish, because THIS is a speech.  I was asked to speak to a group of volunteers and donors of an organization that is very special to me– and, I figured, since it’s already written I might as well publish it.  If you are on the fence about volunteering or donating goods or supporting a non-profit financially, my hope is that this tiny portion of my story will push you closer to saying YES and giving yourself away.  I hope you are all having a fabulous week!!!–the sun is shining…the wind is blowing…Thank you God for this new day!


 

I’m not a speaker. Speaking to a group regardless of size is not something I enjoy.  However, when Rachel asked if I could do this for her…there is absolutely no fear or excuse great enough to keep me from behind this podium.

When I submitted my application, I had just over a year clean from drugs and alcohol.  I had an 18 month old daughter.  I was in a toxic relationship.  And I was trying so hard to get my head out from under water…and I couldn’t.  (Brief caveat: I was a preschool teacher…and I made $10.51 an hour, which is above minimum wage.  But at $10.51 an hour, you also don’t qualify for any public assistance.  No food stamps, no rental assistance, no TANF…) No matter how much I tried to save, no matter how hard I was trying to make decisions that would benefit myself and my daughter, I just couldn’t seem to catch a break.

At the time, I was living with my mom in Excelsior…Hillcrest had been mentioned to me several times and each time I disqualified myself: “I’m not ACTUALLY homeless.  I have a place to stay.”…really what I was saying to myself was, “Someone else deserves it more than I do.”—One day I ended up in the teacher’s lounge where I worked…with a parent of a child who attended this school…and this parent happened to have very great knowledge of Hillcrest.  So I took a deep breath…and asked her about it…and she said, “I think you’d be a great candidate.” And I said, “Well, I’m not REALLY homeless though…” and she just smiled and said, “I think you should apply.”  So I did…  I applied by myself…and during the interview asked if my boyfriend could stay with me (because things were likely not going well when I had filled out the application, but were better by the time I interviewed)…and Rachel told me “NO”…and I’m so glad that she did.

I moved in really close to Christmas…forgive me for not having the exact date, but I remember so clearly getting a knock on the door one of my first nights there… It was my church sponsor…with gifts.  They just came in and set all these gifts on the table, prayed for me, and then they left…and I cried and cried, because I was grateful…and I confused…because I had made so many awful mistakes…and again with that “Someone else deserves it more than I do.” –And, as a non-Christian…not quite an atheist…maybe an agnostic…it began awakening my soul…  Those gifts of towels and a homemade scrap booking kit were so much more than merely towels and a homemade scrap booking kit…

During my stay, I was taught everything—not necessarily because I didn’t know how to do them, but because I didn’t have the confidence in myself to do them without someone’s guidance.  For years, my decisions were poor.  My decisions were NOT good…they got me in trouble…over and over and over again.  So while I was there, I was taught everything…how to clean, how to follow rules and meet expectations, how to shop, how to budget, how to do laundry, how to microwave a hot dog, how to manage time, how to make popcorn, how to pray, how to ask for help…

It was hard.  Staying at Hillcrest was so hard.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever accomplished (and I’ve had three children, so that’s saying something).  …There was a time while I was there that my boyfriend took my car…a time when he took my money…and of course a time when I could no longer deny that he was getting high again……and usually I’d forgive him and continue on in this cycle of chaos…but during one of our case management meetings while discussing this relationship, Rachel asked me if I wanted Journey to think that this is how a father behaves.  She didn’t word it like that…but essentially that’s what she said.  …And something clicked.  I told him I never wanted to see him again…and, to this day, I’ve maybe seen him three times, and I’ve left as soon as he’s entered the room…he has minimal contact with our daughter through letters…and I’ve told him repeatedly that he needs to go through the courts if he wants any sort of visitation…because when I was at Hillcrest, I learned how to set healthy boundaries for myself and my child.

Close to the end of my stay, I was telling my resident managers about how upset I was about being alone (being alone was uncharted territory)…and how I was struggling with not answering the phone when my ex called…and they told me pray for the right person/people to enter my life.  And by this time, I’d learned to pray because it had been demonstrated regularly by my resident managers…prayer was the solution for nearly everything it seemed…and it WORKED and it turned me into a believer. So I prayed.  And I prayed and I prayed and I prayed…and I have no idea for how long it was…it logistically couldn’t have been longer than a few weeks, I met the man that is my husband today.  …He asked me out for coffee and I told him that I couldn’t spend any money…and he said, “I’m not going to ask you out and make you buy your own coffee…” And that was different.  I’d never dated anyone who had offered to buy my coffee.  I had never really DATED at all.  –I was so confused, because he had it all together…WHY would want to date a single mom…in recovery…in transitional living for homeless…… “Someone else deserves him more than I do…”  But I kept praying…and we COMMUNICATED (which is something else I learned here)…we got married in 2014 and today we stilllike each other.

I feel like I’ve been here and there…and I’ve tried to touch on just a few of the highlights of my stay…but I want to reiterate that this program is so, so, so, soooo much more than a shelter…or a temporary solution… Beyond the ability to save during my stay and getting childcare reimbursement and little treats for meeting expectations…this program gave me a life beyond what I would’ve ever imagined.  I learned indirectly and directly about God…about Jesus…about selfless service…about communication…and boundaries and recovery and credit reports and confidence and that I deserved so, so, so much more than I was giving to myself.  Today, I know with all of my soul that I am WORTHY of a place to call my own…I am WORTHY of healthy relationships…I am WORTHY of assistance…and my story is WORTH telling.  Oftentimes, because my story is mine…and I’ve lived it and heard it many, many, many times…my story loses it’s sparkle.  It loses it “WOW”…until I share it with someone who hasn’t heard it before…and all that shock factor and “OH-MY-GOODNESS…GOD-IS-SO-GOOD…” comes flooding back.

Hillcrest changed my life. –Actually, Hillcrest gave me the skills I needed to change my own life.  Completely.  I am a homeowner…a car owner…my credit is LOVELY…I’ve gone on a trip to Haiti to love on orphans and talk about Jesus…I’m the owner of a bachelor’s degree…I have almost 8 years of recovery…I am a stay at home mom and I can be because we SAVE and we PLAN and we don’t go on a bunch of trips because we BUDGET… …When I say that Hillcrest helped to change my life…I mean it.  I can do hard things.  Hillcrest has played a huge role in teaching me that truth.

Really quickly, before I’m finished up here, I just want to say that Rachel, Anne, other employees…people who donate time and talents for community living…and food and goods for the pantry…and church sponsors for the apartments…volunteers at the thrift store and volunteers on the campuses who build and clean and organize and pray— you are all so vital.  As a graduate looking back, without any one of those pieces of the program, something major would have been lacking.  Thank you so much for helping to create the person that I am and the life I have the opportunity to live today.

Happy Homesteading

Easter Brunch: Sweet Blueberry Cream Cheese Biscuits

This year we are celebrating Easter with my family by getting together for brunch.  And we’re spending Easter dinner with my husbands family.  I’m tasked with making a couple items for each meal so I’ve come up with my very own recipe for our first Easter Brunch.

Who doesn’t LOVE brunch? Breakfast food is my favorite.  I literally have a Pinterest Board called – “Breakfast is my favorite“.  I had some frozen blueberries in my freezer that I wanted to do something with so I was exploring some ideas on Pinterest.  Yum… I had never considered making sweet biscuits… so I decided to give it a try.  This recipe was my inspiration: Quick Blueberry Biscuits.  I always have Bisquick on hand and I’ve made a dozen batches or more of cream cheese biscuits.  Cream cheese biscuits essentially use Bisquick and cut about 4 oz of cream cheese into 2 cups of Bisquick. You add just enough milk to stick the dough together. They are super moist and savory. I decided to merge the two recipes and this is the final result:

Sweet Blueberry Cream Cheese Biscuits

Biscuits

  • 2 1/4 cup Bisquick
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup milk

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Stir together Bisquick and sugar
  3. Cut in cream cheese using fork or pastry blender
  4. Mix in milk. A soft sticky dough will form.
  5. Gently fold in berries.
  6. Use large cookie scoop to drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10-13 min (or until slightly golden).
  8. Mix glaze and pour glaze over warm biscuits.

*makes about 12 biscuits

Mom Must-Haves, Uncategorized

Mom Must Have: Daisy May Candle Co.

HELLO!!!  It’s been too long, feathered friends.  Between sick kids, teething kids, snow/ice days, sleep regression, and everything else my writing has definitely taken a back seat.  However, I’m making a goal to do a product rave/review once a week.  It’s not the introspective, raw writing that I typically lean toward, but I think it’ll be something new and fun…and maybe associating writing with something less heavy would be a helpful approach to getting me back into the swing of things.

So.  Onward we go!

(Literally as I wrote that:  Pause…baby’s crying.)

(An hour later…)

Daisy May Candle Co.
(with special guest Pink Zebra)
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Product:  Daisy May Candle Co. (Hand-poured soy wax melts)

Scents Available:  *The ones I’ve tried are in bold italics*
Honeysuckle Jasmine
Clary Sage
Sweet Orange Cream
Eucalyptus + Peppermint
Fresh Lemon
Lavender Cucumber Sage
Antique Sandalwood (with Orange, Frankincense, & Bergamot)
White Birch
Very Vanilla
Clean Cotton
Amber + Vanilla Wax Melts (with Sandalwood, Musk, & Cedarwood)
Black Raspberry + Vanilla
Hydrangea
English Garden
Red Ginger + Saffron
Tea Tree + Lemon
*Note:  I purchased English Garden for Valentine’s Day gifts, but I haven’t personally melted them.  They smelled wonderful in the packaging, though!

Feedback:  When I saw this product during my Facebook scroll, I had to give it a try.  A local business of so many of my favorite things?  Yes, please!  I’ve placed two orders so far…one in January…another in February…and I’ll be ordering again in March.  (Until March 9th, you can use this code to buy 2 get 1 free: B2G1FREE.)  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by not only the strength of the scents, but the duration of the scents.  My house is chock-full of large animals, grown kids, a busy toddler, and an adorable baby– all of that fun makes for interesting smells from time to time.  If I’m honest, I’ve struggled to find a product that smells great and is able to fill our main level for any period of time because of the aforementioned reasons and our vaulted ceilings.  Most products would smell amazing, but only in the kitchen (or wherever the warmer is)…and only for a few hours.  My experience with these has been different.  I typically put two cubes in my Pink Zebra Simmering Light (I’ll say more about product this momentarily) and don’t switch them for at least 48 hours.
My absolute favorite is Very Vanilla.  It is VERY AMAZING.  In fact, I’ve had it melting all this morning, and I can smell it alllllll the way in our bedroom.  (I’ll include a picture of the layout of our house so you can see why it’s exciting that I can smell it up here.)

One of the things that I like most about Very Vanilla is its ability to pair with other scents.  For example, one of my favorite combinations is Very Vanilla and Sweet Orange Cream.  (OMG heavenly.)
My least favorite that I’ve tried so far would be Clean Cotton…and not because it doesn’t smell fabulous…but because I didn’t feel like the scent was strong enough to cover all of the other scents in our home.  It would be a wonderful option for a family that has a warmer in a smaller area, likes lighter scents, or doesn’t have so many other scents to mask.
I’ve also mixed these scents with Pink Zebra Sprinkles…which sounds weird to give a shout out to another product in the middle of another review, but you guys want an honest review…right?  Where Pink Zebra has so many amazing scents, they don’t fill my home the way Daisy May Candle Co. does.  BUT, Daisy May gives the Pink Zebra the extra oomph it needs to smell stronger, longer.  A scoop of Black Cherry Sprinkles and a cube of Very Vanilla from DMCC…or a scoop of Meditation Sprinkles and a cube of Eucalyptus + Peppermint DMCC…it really works together well.
img_1923On the topic of Pink Zebra, I use a Simmering Light ($28 for a basic)…which uses a lower temperature bulb so scents last longer.  I’m sure most melting pots or warmers say something along those lines…but I really do love what I use.  And, honestly, one of the determining factors prior to purchase was that you’re able to purchase different shades ($15-18…there are a few really fancy ones for more) to use on the same base.  My white shade looks fabulous everywhere…but if I want a pop of color, I can just order a new shade without having to order a whole new thing…which is pretty cool.
ANYWAY, back to Daisy May Candle Co– I’ve reached out to the owner several times with questions.  Her response time has always been within the hour…and she’s been so helpful in deciding which scents would work best for my needs.  Plus, she’s full of new ideas and seems to be trying out those ideas often.  For example, she gave me the inside scoop on brand new lotion bars (with essential oils) that are in the works…AND an online craft show that she’s organizing through Etsy with over 30 shops interested in participating in an online craft show that has the feeling of a local craft fair with freebies and drawings and freebies and featured shops and F-R-E-E-B-I-E-S.  It’ll be called Fresh Air Marketplace and will hopefully be ready for action mid-April.  So be sure to keep your eye out on the Daisy May Candle Co. Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, etc. for updates on that.

Alright, I think the only thing I have completely failed to mention so far is the price.  Each scent is $4.99 and comes with 6 cubes per container…however, I’ve not yet paid full price for an order…which is just another reason to follow DMCC on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. for those discount codes.  Also, shipping is FREE (no international orders) and my packages have all arrived within 3 days.

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And there you have it!  My house smells great, despite all the craziness we have in here…and I’m thankful for great products to help me out, because it doesn’t matter how much I clean, there will still be smells.  At least now the smells are fabulous.

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Until next time,
xox,
Dani

To order Daisy May Candle Co products, click here!
To order Pink Zebra products, click here!

Fearless Faith

And through the brokenness, God had a plan for us…

Today is a day of emotion and heartache. I hate that it’s been a month since I last posted… but today I am desperate for the writing therapy and I’m jumping right in.

Two years ago today I lost my dad in a car accident. He was 57 years old. He was leaving our house and headed home after a Friday evening spent with family.  I will forever remember him leaving our house that night. “Remind me tomorrow when you’re out to get the Kreg Jig out for you. Love you. See you tomorrow.”

For months I cried myself to sleep…. cried out to Jesus… buried myself in my bible. I cried in the shower when I felt guilty about making my husband pick up my broken pieces. I cried in the bathroom stall at work as silently as I could.  I cried every time I was in the car driving by myself.  I even remember crying while walking out of a grocery store because the clerk asked me “how are you today?” and it took everything I had in me to put a grin on my face and say “fine”.  It’s a crazy limbo of wanting everyone to know that you are absent because you’ve lost a piece of you and not wanting to talk to anyone because it hurts to talk about it.  I have never been so broken.  I prayed daily… throughout the day… in meetings… while driving… while laying in bed awake all night. I have never been so reliant on God to heal me… to take away the pain… to make me whole again.  Could that ever happen? Would I ever feel normal?

And through the brokenness God had a plan for us…

After the loss of my dad we truly recognized how little time we have on Earth and we were committed to making the best of all the time we had left.  We stopped pushing off goals and decided to make them happen.  We decided there was no reason to wait to have a baby… our lives are too short… let’s just do this.

I was pregnant 3 weeks after our decision to try for a baby.  Wow! Not what we expected.  My doctor said to expect at least 6 months.  Then 8 weeks later I went to my first doctor’s appointment.  My doctor excitedly announced “Oh! There’s two in there”.  That’s right, TWINS.

Our world changed… our prayers changed. And I realized what God was doing for us.

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In all of my pain and brokenness I turned to Jesus.  I remained hopeful that life would someday be good again.  And even though it was easy to ask “why?” it was never easy for me to blame God for the tragedy that turned our lives upside-down.  He took our heartache and blessed us with two… He helped us mend our broken hearts by filling them with more love.

The twins were born 6 days after my dad’s first birthday in heaven. Everyday, I look at our twins and praise God for the love and fullness it has brought to my life.  And while I desperately want my children to have their Pawpaw in their lives, something tells me they’ve already met.

Grief is a strange thing.  It comes in waves.  Sometimes they are little gentle waves that brush upon your toes.  And other times, they are unbearable waves that knock you down and swirl you around in the undertow.  Grief is never something that is “healed”… it is something you bear… sometimes easy… sometimes debilitating. The truth is, I’ve never gone back to feeling “normal” in the way that normal felt at the time of his passing. There’s a new normal… and honestly I carry guilt with me all the time when the new normal feels okay.

But as a stay-at-home mom to Pawpaw’s favorite little twins, I have never felt so fulfilled… so alive in Christ… so grateful for the blessings we have.

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I know this one was heavy. But thanks for being my therapy on an emotional roller coaster day.

Mom Must-Haves

Life hack: Non-Slip Toddler Booties

My 13 month old toddlers will NOT keep socks on. They pull them off by the toes of the socks and just giggle. It’s been so cold here and I hate them having bare toes, especially on our tiled kitchen floor. 


I bought some booties off of Amazon…. because I buy everything on Amazon. At the time that I purchased them the description said they had a non-slip sole. But the striped version that I bought didn’t have the non-slip bottoms. I complained in a review and they’ve since changed the description. I considered sending them back but they’re just too stinking cute. I came across a “life hack” option to use fabric paint on the bottom of toddler socks to add a non-slip texture. A lightbulb went off… the adorable booties can be saved!!! 

I had some 3D fabric paint on hand that I used for our Christmas stockings, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. The fabric paint cake from Hobby Lobby and I paid $1.29 for 1 fl. oz.  

Happy Homesteading

Winter Egg Hunting

Just before it started to get cold, a friend gave me 6 hens.  Her mother was moving out of state and couldn’t take her beloved chickens with her so I agreed to take them.  Weeks passed and I was convinced that they were duds… old hens that were too old to lay, too old to sell, and too old to eat.  I was disappointed because I had approximately 57 egg cartons I was so eager to fill with eggs…. and twins that will go through 4 eggs a day if I let them.  In 3 months, my 6 old birds had yielded 3 eggs total.


A few months later, I got 5 more hens and 2 roosters.  They were 6 weeks old when I got them. We made arrangements to keep them separate from the old birds but still in the same barn. 


Within 2 weeks of having our new chickens, our old birds began laying.  I’ve been getting 3-4 eggs per day… and the best part is I get to go hunting for them each day because I have one or two hens that lay in the most peculiar places – between wall studs, behind boards, and behind feed barrels.  


Here’s what I think made a difference in their egg productivity:

  • Roosters: even though they are young fellas, I think the old gals were inspired by the handsome youngins.
  • Heat Lamps: In the corner of the barn I’ve mounted a heat lamp. They can definitely avoid it, but they’ve made a pile of hay near the heat lamp and have created a cozy place for egg laying.
  • Oyster shell: I was offering oyster shell to my hens from the beginning, but I recently started putting the oyster shell into their crumble food. I don’t mix much in.  I think the recommended ratio is 1 lb oyster shell to 20 lbs of crumble.
  • Scraps: But I really think this is more about me than it is about the food.  They are much more comfortable with me coming in and out of their space when I bring them snacks.  Some of their favorites include veggies or noodles that the kids don’t finish, apples, leftover biscuits and dinner rolls.
  • Space to roam: I used to lock up my birds at night and let them have free range during the day.  Now that the youngins are locked up full time until they get a little bigger, my old birds are free ranging all the time.  The kinda like having the freedom to roost anywhere they want… in fact one of my gals enjoys the barn rafters.

I’m still new at this but based on my flock, happy chickens with the prospect of young love, warm nesting spaces, calcium supplements, tasty snacks, open spaces and high ceilings produce the most eggs.  This spring we hope to put build a chicken coop for them so they can have their own private space and get them out of the horse barn.  But hopefully we can keep them just as happy.  We should have 5 more egg layers by April 1 and we can’t wait to fill up all of our egg cartons!

I can’t wait to share some of my favorites egg recipes with you soon so stay tuned!

Happy Homesteading

Favorite Holiday Recipes

My friend and I have an annual holiday cookie/candy making get together. Sometimes we make the same recipes and often times we try some new things. My friend has a 5 year old and we’ve been doing it for 4 years so we’ve always done kid friendly recipes like chocolate covered pretzels and peanut clusters. 


Here’s what we made this year:

Chocolate covered pretzels – melt almond bark according to instructions on package. Dip pretzels and lay them out on wax paper. Sprinkle with Christmas sprinkles. 

Peanut clusters – melt chocolate flavored almond bark according to instructions on the package. Pour dry roasted peanuts into the almond bark. Use cookie dropper to drop onto wax paper. 

Sugar cookies – these are probably the best I’ve made. I was in a pinch for time and was looking for a recipe that didn’t require the dough to chill. 

Sugar cookie icing – I usually just make my own with a stick of butter, about 2 cups of powdered sugar, a 1/2 tsp of vanilla, and a splash of milk until the texture is right. Usually no more than a couple tablespoons of milk. 

Chocolate chip cookies – we use the standard toll house recipe at our house. 

Peanut butter fudge -this is a deliciously silky fudge and super easy. I’ve made it so many times and never had a failed batch. 

Here’s what is on my list in the near future:

I’m looking forward to having 4 extra hands next December…. although wrangling two year old twins in the kitchen might be more fun than I can take on. Dad has a whole year to build my kitchen helper stands