To Read on the Journey

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Very Crafty Slumber Party

To celebrate she wanted to combine two of her favorite things~ crafting and friends.

Years ago I had a mama friend who allowed her kids to plan and execute their own birthday parties.  I was a major control freak, who thought she was nuts!  

These days I'm just a minor control freak, and now I think that mama was a genius. Party planning is exhausting Y'all. If the kids want to do it, let'em! 

Everything~ the decorations, crafts, food and games for this crafty slumber party was Josie's doing... well, everything, but the balloons. I wanted them, she didn't. I told her parties neeeeed balloons. I'm old school like that. 

Aren't her custom-made, crafty, decorations darling!?! 

These turquoise fringed streamers were cut from plastic tablecloths.  

I think it's clever  how she paired them with book page bunting, then accented using these sweet book page roses (She and Em worked together to make the bunting and flowers)   
I was most impressed by how Josie thoughtfully planned every craft, and gave a lot of consideration to what would be enjoyable, easy, and economical.  

These strips of whimsical fabric and elastic were transformed into braided headbands. 

White Dollar Store mugs and Sharpie pens became personalized hot beverage cups.   

$1 Composition books became tailor-made journals by simply decoupaging them with clippings from magazines and a Dollar Store dictionary and bible. 

For the last project, Josie found pillow cases in packs of 2 for $5, which were remade using 80's Glam Sharpies and puffy-paint into a sweet spot for her pals to lay their pretty heads.
 Who knew three strips of fabric and a bit of elastic (which I stitched on over the course of the party) could look so darling.

These mugs are easy-peasy to make.
Simply draw your design on the mug, then bake the mug in an oven set at 325 for 20 minutes (hand wash only). 

Oh my goodness, aren't these girls clever!?!
All their mugs are so charming...I wonder if they'd notice if they went missing??

Since the girls were on a crafting roll, for dinner we kept their crafting juices flowing and had them construct their own nachos. 

Chloe, you need more olives.

After dinner the girls decoupaged their journals.

When Emilie was very little she referred to my journal as a "journey." *love*  
She is going to gather her favorite words and quotes to fill up the "journey" she created. 

"Journey" crafting was followed up by more food crafting- dessert! 

Ice Cream Sundays in chocolate bowls.

 In the history of teenage girls these are the BEST EVER! 

In my day (seriously, just dated myself by saying that) teen slumber parties consisted of comparing trendy clothes, gossiping, boy talk, watching hours and hours of Night Tracks (music videos before there was MTV), and freezing the training bra of the unlucky girl that dozed off first. We all wanted to be perceived as much older and cooler than we were.  Thankfully, these sweet girls don't care one iota about any of that!   They craft, giggle, play Mafia, giggle, sing karaoke and choreograph dances to accompany their songs on the spot, giggle some more, then play more mafia. They're not in a hurry to grow up. They simply enjoying being thirteen, together.  They make me wish I'd been born 30 years later so I could've been friends with them. I love them. I want the world to be filled with more teenage girls like them. 

I have long prayed for my children and for the friends that would enter their lives. I've hoped their friendships would be a blessing to them, and that they would likewise be a blessing to their friends. 

When I think of their friends
 the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson's words come to mind~
  "I didn't find my friends, the good God gave them to me."

I'm so grateful that our good God picked these lovely young ladies out for my sweet Josefine.   

After a bit of slumbering the girls kick started the day with some waffle crafting
(by the way, that's homemade caramel sauce~ made by the coolest daddy ever).

Which was followed by the last craft of the party, pillowcase embellishing. Did you notice that the case on the bottom left says "Hello Beauty-Full?" I love it, I love it, I love it!

After they completed their own cases they graffitied each others with encouraging words.

 Told you, they're "the best teenage girls EVER!"
Two things you should know before I wrap this up~
That mama who let her kids plan their own parties, well her daughter grew up and planned and executed every detail of her own backyard wedding. It was beauty full! 
I'm expecting the same from Josie 10+ years from now. :)  

Finally, you should also know that Josie's Very Crafty Slumber Party was a week ago and the decorations are still up... 
serving as a bit of proof that these days I'm only a minor control freak. ;)

 Live in Peace,

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Josefiney Tortellini

You're thirteen today.  Thirteen.  I'm officially the mother of three teenagers!  Want to know something?  I like having teenagers. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I like the whole growing up and potentially leaving me forever thing!  I don't like that one bit.  But teenagers- teenagers I like.

I especially like YOU!

I like how thoughtful you are. You consider others before yourself and are always jumping at the chance to serve and care for others, especially your family!

You have the gift of hospitality.  I watch you engage in conversation with people of all ages, and delight in how intentional you are to create an environment that causes others to feel included.

I admire how you don't over think things and are okay to just go with the flow; you don't sweat the small or big stuff.   When life throws you a bit of a curve ball you respond, "It's okay. I'm not dead. I'm still alive. And even if I were dead I know where I'm going." You don't know it, but I'm learning from you how healthy it is to respond to things that life throws at me that way too.
You're purposeful with your time. You're always crafting, baking, learning, organizing, reading, playing- you're always finding something enjoyable to do and enjoying everything you find.

I love that you're not too old or too cool to play with your American Girl dolls. It has made this mama grin from ear to ear seeing your room be transformed into an AG winter formal, clothing store, prom, Christmas party, and most recently a birthday bash.  I can already see that you are going to throw the best parties when you're older. Consider this an RSVP of YES that I'll be at every one of them!

Your friendship with Emilie is my most favorite relationship in the history of forever. I've never seen two sisters who cherish each other the way you two do.  You bless each other with your thoughts, words, and actions toward each other. You have no idea what a gift this is to me!

On the other hand, your relationship with Noah is the strangest in the history of forever. ;) Your love-language with each other is to be playfully affectionate and all-out goofy (wrestling and roughhousing). What did Emilie say last week? Oh yeah, "It was nice of God to give Noah a little brother in Josie."  It really was. 

"Josie's so nice."  I've lost count of how many times one of us has said that? You say nice things. You do nice things. You think nice things. You ARE nice. Especially to me. Thinking about how incredibly kind you are makes me remember that time a few months ago when I was getting ready to go somewhere and it was one of those days when I just felt eh!  You came in to where I was, and in a serious tone said, "You're insecure. Don't know what for. You're turning heads when you walk through the door. You don't need make-up to cover up, being the way that you are is enough. Everyone else in the room can see it. Everyone else but you." It took me a minute to figure out you were quoting One Direction. It took me less than a minute to know you meant every word and wanted me to see myself the way you see me too.

Jo, You are fuunnnny without even trying! The One Direction thing is proof.

I like when you sing. Your voice is beauty. You open your mouth and let the LORD out. You let Him out and He fills this house- He fills me. You cause me to remember how much I love to sing and worship too.

You're beauty inside and out is striking! You are extraordinarily BEAUTY-FULL in every way, Josie. I'm especially taken by how you look so much like Jesus. You inspire me to want to look like all I see of Him in you. 

I can't even tell you how much I like, no.. love, no... SUPER LOVE, how you study and treasure God's word.  It TICKLES MY SOUL when you start looking up the meaning of words or names or different versions to understand the text better.  God referred to David as "a man after His own heart," and you, Josefine are a girl after His own heart! And I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT, I LOOOOOVE IT!

Thank you for messaging each of us bible verses everyday (and not just us, but a handful of your friends too). My deepest desire for you, Noah and Em is that you love the word AND live the word. And Josefiney Tortellini, that this is important to you too, and that you're intentional to give us a bit of God's word to tuck in our hearts~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine!

I like that you are a foodie and enjoy cooking and baking. We'd all starve if you didn't feed us (when your dad, Noah and Emilie read this, they'll for sure shake their heads in agreement). Also, please make more of those egg-roll wrappers with apple-pie filling! They were delicious! 

Finally, I like that you promise profusely that you will never ever ever ever leave me, and that you reassure me numerous times throughout each day with hugs, kisses, and vows of "I'll always stay with you, Mommy."  You're dad and I are 100% on-board with letting you and your future family have the house, and think your idea of us converting the family room into our in-law suite is brilliant (your dad is already sketching up the plans).

Jos, this is your thirteenth birthday blessing, but I, I AM THE ONE WHO IS SO BLESSED- Blessed that God thought you up and generously added you to my life.  I adore every single thing about you! I even adore that you're a teenager.

Happy birthday!
I love you a "scubajuauian elephants,"

Monday, February 2, 2015

Groundhog Day, 2015

A few years ago I decided to wave the white flag on sending out Christmas letters and started sending out Groundhog Day letters instead

Speaking of Groundhog Day, word on the Punxsutawney Phil street is that we're going to be experiencing 6 more weeks of winter!  I know those of you back east aren't the least bit thrilled about Ol' Phil's shadow forecast, but to those of us here in Cali that's good news. ;) 
 Groundhog Day, 2015~ 
(photo & letter) 

Over the last year the phrase “and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine” has become a sort of anthem for me.  Like many I can become so consumed with “Keeping up with the Joneses” (yep, even the Joneses do it) that I lose sight of ALL I do have.  The words “and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine” have caused me to pause and delight in what IS MINE that I can’t afford. And let me tell you there's A LOT!  

Every morning Michael kisses me, tells me again, “I’m so glad that you’re my wife.” ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

Listening to Noah play his guitar. ~and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine. 

The way Emilie and Josie play, create, and enjoy each other. They're the sweetest sisters ever. ~and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine. 

It seems like my high schoolers are ALWAYS doing school work. I miss them. So one day Josie and I showed up at school and kidnapped them!  We stole them away from their responsibilities and took a snow day (besides snow is rare thing nowadays with this CA drought). Having them all to ourselves, to sled, make snowmen, snow angels, laugh, and just be. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.    

I was invited by someone I didn’t know to be the speaker at a women’s retreat. Before I accepted the gig I flat-out told God, “I can’t do this. But You can.”  Over the course of a few months God helped me prepare four messages for the weekend long event. And then HE SPOKE. THROUGH ME. what it means to be anchored in Christ. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

Emilie, who is my biggest cheerleader, joined me at that retreat.  At one point I put her on the spot and asked her to share who Jesus is to her. Listening to Emilie TELL about her Savior, and how He loves her wider and longer and higher and deeper than she can grasp or imagine. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

Waking up to discover Michael and Noah sitting beside each other on the couch, reading their bibles. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

A couple weeks after the kids return from camp at YSSC we receive letters from their counselors, which give us a peak into the camp experience, while also expressing each counselors wholehearted delight in each of our children. Their words BLESS my kids (and me). ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

While camping at Sunset Beach Noah asked me to trek up a small hill to an overlook to view the sun setting over the ocean. He and I had been butting heads for a while, and he’d promised me a good hug if I went. I needed it. I also love how he towers over me when he holds me in his strong arms. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

Emilie. This girl gives 110% to everything she does: school, friendship, God, creativity, and especially grace. She always views things through grace lenses. Particularly me. ~and I can't afford it, but it's mine.

When Josie prays. This girl speaks so intentionally to God. She also enjoys studying the bible, and regularly texts bible verses to each of us. She gently points us to the truth she treasures. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

The five of us kayaking alongside seals, otters, and jellyfish (after our timid Josie stopped screaming). They were so incredibly close! ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.    

Listening to Michael, Noah, and Emilie share about their backpacking adventure. Hearing about the vastness of beauty they experienced in creation AND in each other. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

Our house full of teens for Friday Friend Nights: playing games, eating tons of food, watching a movie projected on an old white sheet. I love that my kids want their friends here. AND THEIR FRIENDS- these kids make me (almost) wish I could go back to high school just to hang out with them! ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

Michael had the thrilling opportunity to photograph a 24 hour, Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls experience in the Gila National Forest, NM. My guy works hard, does so much for our family. I'm grateful my good man had this “wild” adventure. ~ and I can’t afford it, but ti’s mine.  

Josie singing a solo to Pharrell Williams' song “Happy” alongside 200 plus choir members. Watching her exude confidence, while listening to her beauty-full voice fill a room. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine.

Laundry, talking, dishes, laughing, taxiing, working, singing, praying, cooking, planting, schooling, playing, cleaning, crying, writing, reading, disagreeing, cuddling, dreaming, forgiving, running, creating, growing… just everyday together. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine. 

Finally getting it through my thick skull what the good things of God are! I thought God’s good things were riches and honor and health.  But they’re not.  His good things are peace and joy and His presence in our lives and the promise we’ll be with Him one day. And recognizing that I HAVE ALL of God’s good things. ~ and I can’t afford it, but it’s mine!

Praying for you to know and live in ALL of God’s good things, 

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I'm having trouble settling on one title for this post- Quiche Me, Labor of Love and Proof That There's a God are all good contenders.


All three of us were exhausted when we gathered in the kitchen to prepare the Meal Train dishes I'd signed up for early last week.   

Michael had been going since 4:45 a.m., had worked 8 hrs at his full-time job, followed by another 1.5 hrs taking senior photos. When he arrived at home I greeted him at the door with a kiss, followed by a, "remember you said you could make the French Toast dish Tuesday night???"   

Josie and I had been running around all day too. We left our driveway at 7:37 a.m. and pulled back in at 4:11 p.m.  During that 8 + hours I'd dropped Noah and Emilie off late for an early meeting at school, taxi'd Josie down the hill to two classes, made stops at Target, Panera, Costco, Sprouts, Save Mart, Marshalls, Old Navy, World Market, and Trader Joe's. Josie and I also visited a sweet friend who'd just had surgery, then barely made it back up the hill in time to retrieve our highschoolers after school.   Needless to say, when we arrived at home we were wiped! 

Where was I? Oh yeah, the Meal Train.  So we emptied shopping bags, made a quick dinner (Lindsey's Yumm Bowls. Only we were missing some of the ingredients, so we ended up eating what we called "Umm bowls"), then got to work on our promised meal. 

When I sign up to take a meal to a family, I often bring a filling breakfast instead of a dinner.  I recall having received so many dinners that we could hardly eat them all.  And breakfast IS "the most important delicious meal of the day!" 

Michael got to work on a delicious French Toast dish, while Josie prepared a homemade pie crust for the hearty ham and veggie quiche fillings I was dicing. 

At one point while we were each slicing, mixing, and dicing I began to whistle. Josie commented that Emilie's whistle sounds like mine. Who knew a whistle could be inherited? ;)  We all had a good giggle, and I thought about how sweet it was that though we were all so exhausted, this labor of love, had become an enjoyable time together. 

I wish I'd taken a photo of the quiches (we made two) before they went in the oven.In the history of quiche there were never two that were more beautiful. In fact, Michael, Josie, and I had named ours "Quiche Me," because we couldn't wait to get our lips on it! 

Josie and I had some things to do, so we left Michael to preheat the oven, and keep on eye an the Quiche Me's while they baked. 

And then...
2.5 hours later a shriek, "the quiche!!"  
Followed by the three of us jumping to our feet, and running for the oven, while already knowing the outcome...
the Quiche Me's were charred.  

Michael had forgotten to set the timer. 

This is when the real labor of love began... also folks, this is where the title "Proof That There's a God," comes into play. 

So there we were standing over the burnt meal we were suppose to deliver the next day, feeling all kinds of disappointed, when miracle #1 happened- I didn't yell.  I typically fly off the handle and lay into my husband. Yep! I'll yell a million times and in a dozen ways, "HOW COULD YOU NOT SET THE TIMER!?!" 

Instead, I heard AND listened to God's Spirit talking me down; imploring me to choose self-control.   

Then miracle #2 occurred- You see usually while I'm yelling, I'll kick it up a thousand notches and attack my husband's character with "you never..." and "you always..." and "I always have to..." blah blah blah. 

But the Holy Spirit nudged me to "give it grace, Denise.... Denise, give. it. grace." And with His help, I responded to that too! ("give it grace" is something the LORD has been for years nudging me to recite and receive myself).

And then as if miracles #1 and #2 weren't enough, a third miracle took place- I didn't freakout about the loss of food, funds, and time invested. 

We've struggled so financially in the past that wasted food is hard for me. But I heard the Spirit reminding me to lean into Peace; to not let the loss of a few bucks take my God given Peace (security and sanity) from me. 
My first impulse is yelling, attacking, freaking out! If you don't believe me then go right ahead and ask my husband and children. They have seen my many dark sides- poor things (they've seen a few bright sides too- phew!). They KNOW it takes a miracle of GOD ALMIGHTY to change this mama.   

And this, this is proof that there is a God people- evidence that He exists, and lives in people, and shapes and makes them into what they could never ever ever be on their own!   
In John 14:15-17, Jesus says this- 

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to HELP YOU and BE WITH YOU forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

A few verses later John 14: 26-27 says this- 
..the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."

I know this, I'd make a charred mess out of things without Jesus' Spirit coaching me to labor through my typical nasty responses and instead press into self-control, grace, and peace. 
In the end we had a good laugh over the scorched Quiche Me. Michael delivered the French Toast dish, and some last minute egg muffins to go with it. He got to cuddle a new little guy, and I'm sure the kitchen fiasco was forgotten then.

Ironically, while typing this I received another Meal Train invite (for a single mother who was recently hit by a drunk driver. Please pray for that family. If you're local and would like to help this family email me at I'm thinking I'll keep it safe, and order Pizza this time around ;) 
 Live in Peace,




Monday, January 12, 2015

Our Christmas 2014

This blog is a scrapbook that highlights the happenings around here. Like flipping through the pages of a photo album, from time to time one of us will be seated here in front of the computer scanning Victory Rd.'s posts.
It's for those moments that I am thankful for the hours I've poured over posts, because I know that this little space in blogville is ultimately a gift I am giving my family.

With that in mind, indulge me as I "scrapbook" Christmas of 2014. 


During dinner our Christmas eve,  I asked my three what their favorite family Christmas traditions are. It's no secret that I am "sentimentally ill," and this holiday season I was battling the "I only have two Christmases left with Noah" blues. Seriously people I blinked, and two Christmases!   Michael attempted to comfort me daily by reassuring me that Noah isn't leaving us, and we have more Christmases with him than we think.  But the point is he could -sniff sniff.  And I'm not ready. (Also, this is a heads-up that next Christmas I will be down to one Christmas with Noah, AND only two remaining with Emilie. Please send chocolate (meds for sentimental illness). The good kind. And a lot of it). 

It was because of this I wanted to be certain my family's treasured moments weren't overlooked. 

Noah's said his favorite is me at the end of the hallway with the video camera Christmas morning, ready to capture my three heading to the tree for their stockings (Awww, and I thought this annoyed him. This kid knows how to tug on his sentimentally ill mama's heart strings). I asked if I should still record this when he is 40 and charging down the hall with his own family? He said yes (I'm going to hold him to it. Mark your calendars to visit Victory Rd. in 24 years to see the footage)!

Sentimentally ill mama's are the kind who get matching pj bottoms for her fellas. 

Emilie cherishes reading the Bible together. We read the story of Jesus' birth from the gospel of Matthew on Christmas eve, and from Luke on Christmas morning. We read about His dysfunctional family, and about God becoming human and taking on the humblest, sweetest form- a baby. We read how he was given the name Jesus- which means Savior. We're thankful because we need a Savior. We read how He came to be "God with us."  We're thankful, because we need that too. 

Josie's was simple- "Family.  I just like being with my family" (eh em...this is why you should never leave us, Noah).

Listening to my kids' share their favorite Christmas traditions caused me to consider what tradition was dearest to my heart

It is  unwrapping Jesus.

We have a tradition in our home that began with Noah's 1st birthday, where we speak words of blessing into the birthday boy or girl, expressing who they've been, as well as highlighting best-loved moments shared over the year- we unwrap the gift they are.  And on Christmas day, the celebration of Jesus' birth, we do the same with Him. 

This year after video footage was captured of kids opening their stockings, the gospel from Luke was read, and our little family gathered around the table for a delicious Christmas breakfast of french-toast bake and omelets,we nestled closely together around the flickering lights of the Christmas tree, and the pile of mysterious gifts, and one by one unwrapped all "God with us" has been in 2014.

Michael: He has been Consistency. I read my Bible and see that He does not change. I'm learning that His fatherly direction, discipline, and love are things I can rely on.

Noah & Emilie's answers were the same: Jesus has helped me be myself, to be content with who I am, and the unique ways He wants to make Himself known through me.

Josie: Jesus has given me a voice to praise Him.  He has caused me to use it in a variety of ways; singing, sharing scripture, through serving others, and by being intentional in my relationships.

Me: He has revealed His favor.  I have seen that He is for me and not against me, and that He "withholds no good thing" from me. He has given me peace (soundness of mind) in this area where I have so struggled in the past.

After we unwrapped the gifts Jesus has been to us, we prayed and thanked God for His generosity to each of us. Then we tore through the packages under the tree.

The gift wrapping bar is set very low in our house. Every year I forget gift-tags, and write names on 
the bottom of gifts with a Sharpie (apparently my kids have learned this too). Pinterest can't get credit for this crafty idea. Nope, I came up with it all on my own ;)

Bing Crosby crackling on Noah's new record player was ideal for Christmas morning, but was short lived, and given the boot by an AC/DC album he received from a family friend. 
The past few years my kids have dipped into their own $ to purchase gifts for each other. These are the first gifts they want to tear into. The way these three adore each other- and I can't afford it, but it's mine.

Causing Emilie to ugly-cry was a highlight this Christmas (sentimentally ill people enjoy causing others to  feel mushy too)! Over a year ago she lost her cherished "immeasurable" necklace, and after we were finished opening  gifts I "realized" there was one more.  I don't know whose expressions I love more in these photos- hers, or those of her sibs, who knew the gift she was receiving would bring her much joy! 

 My children gave me a new bible. This page inspires me to live in AND live out all the other pages. 

Our 2014 Christmas gifts are things we'll certainly cherish and enjoy, but each of us knows that none of these gifts can cause our souls to feel their worth like Jesus does.  

"God with us" is the gift we receive everyday.  

And though this mama wishes the years wouldn't pass so swiftly, I do look forward to Christmas 2015 (and even 2039- when Noah is 40), and to the many Christmases we'll share together, unwrapping all "God with us" will illuminate Himself to be to us and through us in the years to come.

 Live in Peace,