Some parents buy the beloved Dr. Seuss book “Oh the Places you will Go” for their child when they graduate high school. My parents didn’t buy the book but they bought me something better…. they bought me a suitcase. I was leaving to go to Cosmetology School that summer so I think at the time I looked at it more as a practical provision for what I was currently in need of. Little did I know that suitcase would travel with me all over the world… through 18 months of Cosmetology School in Indianapolis… through a summer of camp where each week would be a different location….it would get lost in Paris while I was in Romania for 6 days with only the clothes on my back… it would take me home to Alaska many many times for Christmas breaks…. It would go with me on my honeymoon to NYC… and it would be packed with baby and mommy things as we waited for the day we would rush to the hospital to have a baby… it traveled the quick non-stop flight from DFW to RDU that first year of living here as Zoe accompanied me for many weddings back in Raleigh…It’s more like a dear trusted traveling companion to me than just a suitcase.
My parents couldn’t have given me a better gift that year. I always tell people when they ask about our high school years and being home-schooled through them growing up, that probably the best thing my parents did for us is to let us pursue our hearts desire. Now, this wasn’t done by pressure or pushing us… this was done by just giving us the room to spread our wings. I remember having outgrown our church pianist as a piano teacher… I needed someone who could teach me classical and would challenge me with hard things. There was a lady who was known for being the best in town. I wanted her. My parents told me they would pay for lessons if I could get her to take me on as a student. I called. She was booked… a month later I called again. She was still not taking new students. I waited two months and called again. She must have sensed my strong desire and urgency to have her as a teacher because she agreed to take me on. I was so happy. You would think most parents would be on to their kids to practice practice practice… not mine. Honestly, I don’t think they had time to constantly remind their child to do something they were supposed to be doing. In our family.. you just had to do your part in order for the whole family to run properly. So, it usually looked like me begging to walk to church to practice or getting a lift from Dad when he came home for lunch. I remember those lessons like it was yesterday. Do I play well today? not near like I should if I had stayed with it. But I have a love and appreciation for music and piano that was well worth the cost of those lessons.
I could tell stories that would be similar about learning experiences my parents time and time again gave me the freedom to have and experience. I want that for my kids. Now, I probably will push them a little more… maybe… but I always want to keep in mind that I want them to do what they love and have an interest in because if that’s the case they will do it well. (not saying that they won’t have to do hard things that aren’t fun.. but just that when it comes to big things….life direction things…. it’s got to be something they are passionate about)
I loved to travel… I loved to see new places… I loved meeting new people. I think my parents sensed that about me and knew that I was ready for whatever lie ahead outside that little town of Kenai, Alaska….outside of our home on Birch street. So… they bought me a valuable tool… they bought me a suitcase.
It’s been slowly getting banged up and ripped here and there. I knew the end was coming for this trusty friend of mine. I was telling mom about how much I have used that thing and how it’s about to need to retire. She told me, it’s a Land’s End Suitcase. It has a lifetime warranty on it! Best news ever!!! So, I will be sending this guy to mingle with other retired suitcases…. oh the stories they can tell each other. And I will be getting a brand new one. Which is a little sad for me because I love my old one… but it’s exciting at the same time.
Where will this one take me? What will it help me bring to orphanages in Africa? Will it go with Zoe to camp for the first time? Will it ever be filled with receiving blankets again and waiting a hospital run? Will it board a cruise ship or embark to a tropical destination? Whatever the case…. I can’t wait to see all the places it will go. (it just better not go to Paris without me again!)
This is a great recipe that John and I have enjoyed over the years. It is adapted from the Real Simple Magazine recipe for Mexican Chicken Soup. It is definitely one of those meals you can be confident in if you have to prepare a meal for someone or have people over to your home. This is a great recipe to cook in bulk and either share or freeze for later. For instance, Casey was kind enough to do my hair when she wasn’t feeling to well so John cooked this soup for them and made a batch for us as well as enough for another couple. I will say that it is a little time consuming but I will include a simpler way if you are in a hurry.
First start out with 8 carrots, spliced down the middle. (john’s trick to really getting all the flavor out of the carrot)
Then half 2 large yellow onions. Place the chickens, carrots, onion, and salt in a 12-quart pot. Add enough cold water (about 16 cups) to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 1 hour. Skim off any foam that appears.
We did three chickens and put one in each pot… and distributed all the veggies around. (so that meant we had a lot more carrots and onions than just for the called for two chickens)
Transfer the chickens to plates; let cool. Remove and discard the carrots and onion. (we put the carrots in a ziplock and they made great baby food and Casey even added them to the left over soup later for a more classic chicken soup with carrots) Add the rice to the broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the chicken meat, discarding the skin and bones. Add the meat and pepper to the broth and heat for 3 minutes.
I usually ask people if I’m bringing them a meal if they like cilantro, lime and avocado and if they don’t like one of them I put it on the side. My Mom dislikes cilantro so when we made this meal for them I left it out. What we love is that it is one of those meals that you don’t have to give up if you’re on a gluten free diet. Here are some tips we have found that tweak the recipe to make it better (In our opinion).
John really likes limes.
Did I mention John REALLY likes limes?
Ah… cilantro! This MAKES the freshness of the whole soup just that much more fresh!!!!
Avocados…. one perk of living in Texas is inexpensive avocados.The Nichols family goes through some major avocados!!!
And then you’ve got a wonderful feel good healing meal for you and your friends. Casey told me that they ate this for 5 different meals over the next few days. She also mentioned that this is a great meal to make towards the end of the month when grocery money is dwindling and you need meals to really stretch out over a few days.
Mexican Chicken Soup.
Our Special Tried and True Tips:
Double the amount of onions and carrots when you’re making the broth, it can be a little to watery if you don’t add more.
If you LOVE lime like John and I, we started adding lime juice to the broth, but the wedges of lime on the side give a great presentation.
We also add cilantro to the soup near the end of the cooking process.(once again if everybody likes it)
My husband is a “more is better” kinda guy so he wanted me to warn you not to overdo the rice so you don’t end up with Rice Soup.
Go heavy on the avocado and sprinkle a little salt on them to really bring out the flavor
Make it your own!! It is one of those recipes where you don’t have to follow it exactly.
This is a great soup with Mexican flare without the usual spiciness of let’s say a tortilla soup.
Buy a Rotisserie chicken and some organic chicken broth. And that will cut out a good hour and half of your time.
So, Next time instead of just steering clear of those who might be a little under the weather…. Go to them, Bring a stock pot… or 3 and all these wonderful fresh ingredients and take the time to make this soup and visit with them. I promise it will really encourage them and nourish them during this time of the winter colds and allergies!
Hi, I am Mom to this bunch of 9 Nichols kids, and Wow has the last 36 years of marriage and 33 years of parenting been an adventure! Never in my wildest dreams did I envision myself as the mother of NINE children. I remember as a young mother of 3 under the age of 4 feeling like possibly God had blessed me more than I could handle at the time. I may have felt like God hadn’t prepared me well for each turn but looking back it’s very clear that He had…. and He was creating me to be the wife, the mother, the pastor’s wife, and the child of His that He wanted me to be through it all.
The year was 1974 and as far as I knew, I was marrying a “future policeman”. I had thought that through before I said ”yes” to his proposal (Although he will tell you I’m the one who “proposed”….. but that’s another story! ♥ ) I felt that I could handle being a policeman’s wife. After all, I was sort of an introvert and I wouldn’t have to mingle with too many people as a stay at home mom and wife of a policeman. Yes, I thought that suited me very well. And it did.
Until……in 1982 God decided to call my houston police officer husband to the ministry. Okay, maybe I could handle being a missionary, we could go live in a remote area and I could still be the quiet behind the scenes woman that I had come to enjoy being. But God had other plan, it seemed that God had put a burden on my husband’s heart for the local church. I laughed at that notion, because I could not imagine myself as a pastor’s wife. After all, a pastor’s wife was one of those “visible people” in the church, and my quiet but servant hearted family was not all that “visible” in the church I grew up in. for example, we grew up singing in the choir or in “groups” in the church, but no one in my family EVER dreamed of singing a solo-NOT EVER! Nothing to draw attention to oneself. As long as you had others around you, you could convince yourself that no one was looking at you. The thought that I, along with my husband, our marriage and our family, would be a focal point….much less the leading examples in a church scared me to death!
So, in the early 80’s, I walked into our first church, as a “pastor’s wife” and promptly sat on the back row, where I stayed for several months. I gradually worked my way up row by row until I became comfortable with my new supporting role on the 2nd row to my brave preaching husband. Having been raised in a large church, I had taken for granted the gift of worship services that provided beautiful music and songs that spoke truth and prepared hearts to hear God’s word. After about 6 months of having struggling worship services, (It was a very small church) I decided I would take the plunge and sing SOMETHING. So, I sang my first solo (breaking with my family tradition of laying low). My knees were knocking, but I got through it and not only did we start to experience some expression in our worship services, that first leap of faith helped me realize ”I could do all things through Christ Who strengthened me”. Over the years God has used my love for singing to first and foremost keep me dependent upon Him and His strength, but also to build relationships and to minister to others.
Through the years, my husband and I have found ourselves being led to do things a little differently than we had planned in many areas of our lives. After realizing that we would be having more than the 2.5 children that the average family was having, and instead, trusted God to add to our family as He saw fit for us, we decided to “complicate” matters by homeschooling them. Mind you, neither of these decisions were very popular at the time, but we knew God had called us to both of them. I didn’t know what the outcome of either one of these life altering decisions looked like, but we decided to just forge ahead and trust God for the results. Looking back I can see how God put in my heart a desire to homeschool my children when my first two girls were very young… It was a leap of faith even then, but one I’m so glad I made. I couldn’t have envisioned teaching nine children…. and God knew that and prepared me well in advanced for what was to come. It was difficult at times because I hadn’t been raised to keep a home filled 24/7 with a lot of children whose education and discipline and spiritual growth for the most part solely depended on me and my husband. But with God…. yes, ALL things were possible through His strength.
Dean and I were born in Texas, went to Texas schools and all our family lived in Texas. But in 1988 we felt God leading to step outside this huge state and into a new adventure. We put our resume’s out and were a little shocked when a call came…. from Alaska. okay, there is an adventure… and there is an ADVENTURE. This was definitely outside our comfort zone. But it didn’t take long before we realized that Alaska was a great fit for us and our family. However, it was very difficult to say good-bye to all we knew, our relatives, my parents. It was hard enough leaving them ourselves… but imagine having to tell them you’re taking their 4 grandchildren 5000 miles away. (some of you I know have had to do that) But as I have been so faithfully reminded of through the years, God was at work in us and in our loved ones. We fell in love with this even bigger state and all the adventures just living there brings each day. We lived there and loved a church in Kenai dearly for 18 years. It had it’s challenges and we needed God’s grace often in the cold winters of Alaska and also the “winters” that ministry can often have. But oh the delight those endless days of summer brought and the joys of the fruitful seasons of growth in our church body. We were able to see so many lives changed and left there changed ourselves.
Adoption was another area I had never seriously considered, I mean, wasn’t six children enough? It’s wasn’t until a friend of mine challenged me to “think about a little girl in China that desperately needed a family and a home of her own”. We had a home… and I had children who knew how to open their hearts wider and wider as our family added each additional member. God worked in my fearful heart and put in it an intense love and desire for this little girl who was half a world away.
Foster care was another area we probably would have never gotten involved in had not God brought a troubled teen in our church who wanted to live with us. Again, our home seemed to stretch miraculously as if it was just another ordinary day. In taking her in and caring for her during that one year, we were able to get our foster care license. A few years later, two little boys would be placed with us “just for 30 days”, but God knew that they would wrap their little arms around not only our necks but also our hearts and eventually they would become our two strapping teenage sons that we can’t imagine life without!
What do the years ahead hold in store for us? I have NO idea! But, I have come to understand that our lives are so much better and way more rewarding when left in His all powerful, all knowing hands. We just have to trust Him day by day and step by step. One thing I do know for sure is that it will surely be an adventure!
We all got together ( -B&B and Mabel, We missed you guys lots!!! ) for New Years Eve. The spread was awesome. Stories were abundant…. including but not limited to, Josh’s adventures in Academy, Reasons why everyone should go see the movie The Kings Speech, The misadventures & manipulations of Zoe and Jack,The importance of investing money when you’re 18, How to play tricks on your friends who dip, (this is so my dad’s area of specialtyThe upcoming gun show the next morning, The importance of boys watching movies that depict justice and redeeming endings, In the midst of describing what each of our limits were as far as action/violence in movies, I laughed when Sarah’s sister leaned over to Sarah and said, “I’m understanding John so much more right now.” I guess the fact that we grew up with 6 boys and a ex-police officer/sportsman dad in ALASKA… we tend to talk about crazy things like that. Allison, just be glad it wasn’t describing each roadkill we were called to butcher and hang.
When we started talking about New Years Resolutions, we decided to narrow it down to two each. One was going to be something we wanted to strive to do better or to do more of this coming year, and the second was one thing we wanted to learn to do that we don’t already know a lot about. Here’s the list:
Dad - I’d like to with God’s help strive to have more patience and understanding in my communication with people and have more grace and gentleness in my responses… especially at home. And I’d like to learn all about PCP Air Rifles.
Mom - I’d like to strive to exercise more regularly, finish quilts I’ve started and learn to speak Chinese.
Dan - I want to be more intentional about the spiritual development in my marriage and my family, and I’d like to learn how to read the storyline of Scripture. (I’m going to be teaching my students how to do this at school as well) Here are two great bible reading plans to help go about that. http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/readthebible/reading.asp (great for reading the storyline) and http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/readthebible/reading.asp (which is nice if you do your reading at the computer)
Casey - I want to strive to simplify and beautify my life at home, especially in the area of my desk, our room and our daily menu. I want to learn how to use Photoshop Design Suite.
Bradley - Strive: I am striving to prioritize better. I have so much I want to do yet spend very little concentrated time on the things I want to get accomplished the most. I pridefully think that I multitask well but I really waste a lot of time on things that are not important at all. So this year I am striving to put first things TOP priority: my relationship with Christ, with Brittany and Mabel followed by family and friends. I regret to reveal that I have spent very little time really digging into the Word or spending time talking to my Savior. Many times I have put my wife and my daughter ahead of my sweet Savior and my relationship with Christ has suffered. Thankfully, Christ’s mercies are new each morning and for that I am most grateful. I need his mercy, grace and loving-kindness moment by moment. I do not deserve Christ or his love but am blessed to be called one of His very own. That’s amazing grace. Learn: I want to learn how to install hard wood floors and lay ceramic tile!
Brittany - (Strive) I want to be more practical about self-expectations this year. Instead of feeling like a failure because I didn’t scrub the house from top to bottom, fix three complete meals, and go to the gym by the end of the day, I want to be happy that I have kept Mabel from breaking her neck and from swallowing anything dangerous, that I have a husband who loves me no matter what, and that through Christ I am forgiven. (Learn) I would like to learn how to decorate cakes beautifully this year.
John - I want to strive to be more open about what God has for me in the future as far as career plans and life directions. I want to learn to speak spanish because God seems to always be putting me in situations where that need is there.
Sarah - I want to make an effort to practice hospitality more often and more intentionally. I want to learn to make homemade almond milk.
Josh - I want to get better at not procrastinating and putting off things. I want to learn to speak spanish because I know it will greatly help me in law enforcement.
Jeremiah - I want to strive towards excellence in school work and self-discipline in the homework for those classes. And this may surprise you but I want to learn how to sew.
Anna - I want to add running to my work-out routine and I would love to learn to knit.
Jessica - I want to better control my impulsive need to buy clothing… even if it’s on sale. I want to learn to speak Chinese (because my mom and I are planning a trip to Kunming where I was adopted.)
Mikey - I want to save money and I am hoping to gain 15lb muscle mass.
Joel – I want to read more often. I want to take a college class… so that would include a lot of learning!!
Tony - continue working out to bulk up and I’d like to learn to play soccer or piano. (added: he’d also like to learn how to write a blog post for his sister when she asks!!
and just for fun………….
Mabel - This year I want to give my parents their bed back and learn how to sleep by myself in something they call a baby bed.
Zoe - I want to get better at saying F’s instead of P’s, (pood, priend, elepant and butterply are sooo tricky for me!) and learn how to go potty by myself (yes, I was once pottytrained and then I realized that I really love my Dora pull-ups so why ever take them off!)
Jack - I want to get better at sharing with my sister, and learn how to eat with a fork/spoon.
All of us would probably say that we all would want to grow in our faith, read and savor the Scriptures daily, and come to know our Savior in a more intimate way this coming year. I think we all know that there is no way to know what this next year might bring…. could be joys and delights… could be intense sorrow… could be times of struggle, that could be financially, or emotionally or physically, we don’t know. But we do know that our God is is not confined to time and what is to come is okay because our God is already there. He will never allow anything into our life without providing the grace and strength and wisdom to walk through what is to come. So may we look with anticipation at the coming 12 months. May we take more time to love and encourage each other in the day to day. May we fall more in love with the One who is so very much in love with us!
Here is a wonderful article about New Years Resolutions by Paul Tripp: Such a great reminder for today!
we decided to have a small gift exchange (white elephant style) before Christmas since Britt and Bradley and Mabel were able to come down from Austin for a day or two. Mom and Tony went and stayed with Grandmother… so that’s why they aren’t in the photos! It was a blast and everyone had so much fun! Dad really loved his Sephora Gift Card (wrapped cleverly in Rainbow Trout wrapping paper and was heartbroken when it was quickly stolen. The Buffalo Jerky was a hot item and was stolen several times. Sarah landed the most adorable anthroplogie timer that all of us girls wanted but none of us had the heart to steal from her. (I know we need to toughen up if this is going to be something we do every year)
But all in all it wasn’t the $10 gifts that were the best things of the night… it was being together and having the little ones racing after each other and having us be able to give each other a hard time about various things… (that’s one of our family’s love language….endless teasing = we love you a lot!!)
So, enjoy some of the moments we shared that evening.
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I dropped the ball when it came to photos outside my own home this year…..
I remember saying, should I bring my camera as I was leaving to go visit Sarah at Starbucks and then were off to see my parents and the kids. nahhh… we wouldn’t be out long. Well… hours later I had already said 1000 times how much I had wished I brought my camera. So, while those sweet moments on Christmas day I don’t have (but mom does thanks to her loving some video camera action!!) here are some of the moments we did have the camera for when we headed out later to see some Christmas lights!
Merry Christmas From all of us!!! can’t wait to share 2011 with all of you!!
looking back it’s becoming obvious that the best Christmas tradition my family has kept consistently is one of not having any set in stone traditions. Now, as a young mom I am really wanting to have certain traditions in my family and some of those are because they are traditions that my husband grew up loving and looking forward to and so they have become near and dear to my own heart. Whereas other traditions are ones Dan and I are hoping to set in order to shine a greater light on the true meaning and message of Christmas in our home, because I know it’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and lose focus… so those will be just to help keep the direction of our focus on Advent.
However, I remember growing up that the events of Christmas day varied through the years. and at times it can be frustrating because plans can be so uncertain each year. But I want to tell you about two specific Christmases that were unforgettable and very special because my parents didn’t do the norm and they truly made Christmas about what it should be about, Christ, family, and thinking about others.
The first Christmas is the Christmas of 1987, I was 9 . It would be the last Christmas we would spend in Texas for a long time (didn’t know that then) Mom and Dad somehow decided that they were just going keep it simple that year and focus on the experience. So, they loaded up the car with the 4 of us and drove to Dallas and we stayed at this amazing hotel (amazing at least to a 9 year old’s standards!) The elevators had lights lined around it and clear glass overlooking the hotel… I remember vividly because we rode it countless times up and down!!
We had Christmas P.J’s that we put on AFTER we spent time in the pool!!! (pool time at that age in the winter… it WAS Christmas!!) The next morning we ate some bagels and cream cheese mom had packed ( this was before the age of continental breakfast) and opened our stockings which had coloring books about the Christmas story in them. That’s all I remember. It was that simple. But somehow my 9 year old mind has treasured that experience as one of her favorites!!! And all it took was pool time and some coloring books! But we were somewhere different…. as a family… together!! We were loving it!!!!! Home is special but I think my family has taught me through the years that wherever they are…. is home and thus most special! That night, that hotel was just as exciting as Christmas at a familiar place and those beds just as comforting as our own. It’s definitely one of my most favorite Christmases.
* this was taken in front of our hotel room!! We were some happy kids!!
The second Christmas I recall with great affection is the one right before Jessica joined our family. We were a family of 8 and my parents were trying to afford an international adoption. They really needed to save because their little girl needed to come home to us so that she could have Christmases with a family of her own. So, they talked to us and I don’t remember all that was said or done but I remember that not much was spent that year on presents or a lot of food and extras. But on Christmas day we loaded up the van and drove about 45 minutes to one of the BEST Chinese food places on the peninsula, and we ate family style with chopsticks and with every clumsy attempt at a bite we laughed and enjoyed the food but never forgot that we were feasting on a culture’s food because our hearts were focused on someone else that year. Someone who we loved dearly already but who wasn’t able to be with us yet…… but soon.
I can’t tell you a single gift I received the year before that or the year after….. but I remember that Christmas because it was about something greater than just me and my wants and wishes! So, while I love the tradition of making breakfast pizza that my husband and I have come to enjoy on Christmas morning, I hope that through the years we will be open to finding new and memorable ways to use on even the menu on Christmas to point our kids and our own hearts towards others and towards the one who gives us all good things!!
*this was taken right after Jessica came home to us. She is so precious to us and is worth 1000 Christmas Dinners with Chopsticks!