Loving Your Neighbors During the Holidays (Pumpkin Bread Recipe)

Loving Your Neighbors During the Holidays (Pumpkin Bread Recipe)

Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.

I have a tough time loving my neighbors.


For me, this is just not something that comes naturally.  I can say hello and make a bit of small talk here and there, but beyond that I mostly try to ignore my neighbors.  That sounds so mean!  However, I think it’s something that’s true for most of us.  We are comfortable to a certain degree with the strangers that surround our own personal space. But beyond a quick hello or wave, I think most people prefer to tuck away and not be sociable.

To me, it feels funny to be expected to make friends with complete strangers.  After all, my friends are people I’ve CHOSEN.  Neighbors are not chosen.  I choose to surround myself with like-minded people.  Because I like to be comfortable in expressing myself with the people I spend time with, I choose them accordingly.  I also like to surround myself with friends who have similar parenting styles.  Someone I trust my children to.  None of these qualities are things I get to choose in my neighbors.


light of the world

A Light for Christ Cannot Be Hidden

I do, however, recognize that I cannot possibly shine my light for Christ if I’ve kept it hidden away behind the door to my house. And so each year I try to do something nice for my neighbors.  That sounds pretty lame now that I’m writing it out.  Once a year?  Is that all I can muster?  Perhaps I will have to find other opportunities throughout the year to bless my neighbors. For now, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my children and I bake pumpkin bread for our neighbors.

The recipe I want to share with you today is from my dear friend Megs.  There is probably someone who needs to be credited with this recipe, but she’s the one who first made it for me so she’ll get the credit here!  This recipe turns out incredibly delicious, so keep that in mind when you’re baking!  You’ll want to be sure and leave some for your family as well.

Pumpkin Bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

5 eggs
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 (3oz) packages of instant vanilla pudding
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs well.  Add oil and pumpkin and beat until smooth.  Next, combine all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and stir to mix.  Gradually beat into pumpkin mixture, scraping the bowl between additions.  Pour batter into two well-greased 5×9 loaf pans.  Each pan should be a little over half-full.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife can be inserted and removed cleanly.  Let stand 10 minutes to cool.  Remove from pan and serve!

Mini-Loaf Option for More to Share

When I make this for the neighbors, I use a mini loaf pan that holds 12 mini loaves.  I grease the pan generously and fill about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes.  After my mini loaves cool completely, I wrap them in plastic wrap and tie a pretty bow around the loaves.  I try to include a message of well wishes from our family and we hand deliver them to the neighbors.

How does your family like to shine the light of Jesus?

What are some ways that you love your neighbors?

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

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Stress-Free Shopping Tips: Why We Don’t Buy Gifts at Christmas Time

Stress-Free Shopping Tips: Why We Don’t Buy Gifts at Christmas Time

Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.

Here’s the scenario:  

It’s the end of November and you’re just coming out of your turkey coma.  Assuming you didn’t launch into crazy shopping mode on Black Friday, you may be considering the perks of Cyber Monday.  I mean, it’s all online right?  All you have to do is log on and shop to your heart’s desire. No laying a finger on a germ-riddled shopping cart!  You don’t have to battle the crowds. And you’re going to get crazy discounts right??  I mean, yeah, your niece doesn’t particularly need another pair of headphones, but LOOK AT THE PRICE!  Before you know it, you’re distracted.  You’ve gone from the headphones to refrigerators and now you’re looking at boots in your own size…  STOP!  Let’s take a timeout here.  Put down your device and hear me out, please, because there is a better way.

Am I telling you that you should never shop Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

Nope.  If you have a good plan, a solid list, and an incredible amount of self-control and patience, you go for it sister! I am here to encourage you, not to ask you to do something totally crazy!

Here’s what I won’t be asking: I WON’T be encouraging you to withhold gifts from those you love.  I WON’T be telling you that celebrating Christmas with gifts is wrong.  I WON’T be encouraging you to do some crazy strict thing that very few people can achieve.

I WILL be discussing easy and effective ways to shop for your loved ones throughout the year so you don’t have to do that familiar Christmastime scramble.  You know, the one where you end up running to several stores looking for that perfect gift at the last minute.  The one where you are growing increasingly anxious at the time ticking away before celebration time arrives as are the 400 other people trying to squeeze into the mall parking lot.

Tips for Stress-Free Shopping

Blah.  Just writing about the Christmas shopping craziness makes me tense.  There’s no need for your gift-giving occasions to leave you scrambling, frustrated, and frazzled.  Here are a few things to think about when you’re getting started with your stress-free year-round shopping:

  • Let go of the notion that you MUST get the best deal out there.  Let your bank account dictate the best deal for you.  What’s a fair price for the gift you’re looking for?  Is your budget able to accommodate that?
  • Stick to the basics.  For our purposes, my husband and I generally buy all of our children’s gifts throughout the year.  That means that we have to stay away from fads and seasonal items and stick with basic things that our children love through different ages and stages.
  • Technology is your friend, so don’t forget to use it!  If you’re walking through the store and spot an item marked down, hop on your smart phone if you have one and check out competitor’s prices.  Chances are if it’s on sale at one store, it could be somewhere else too.  That’s an easy way to make sure you’re getting a great deal.
  • Pay attention to peak sale times.  My husband and I love to stroll through different stores when we’re out together without our kids (which is a rare occasion indeed).  One thing that we’ve noticed through the years is that we find excellent sales when we’re “window shopping” on our anniversary date.  That’s mid-July.  Why is Walmart clearancing out toys in mid-July?  I have no idea, but it’s worth noting if you’re going to be year-round shopping.  After Christmas sales are generally good as well as sales in the fall when summer type toys go on sale.

Advantages to Shopping Year-Round

By shopping year round I get to gauge my children’s consistent interests and buy things that they will appreciate well into the next Christmas.  For us that generally looks like Legos, art supplies, books, building sets, and clothes.  As a nation blessed beyond abundance, I feel responsible for keeping my children grounded.  Let’s face it, kids love the latest and greatest thing.  We do not have traditional television in our home, so my children rarely see commercials, but when they do, you’d think that these children have never received a gift in their life.  Suddenly a stuffed animal that turns into a pillow AND holds your pajamas inside is THE MOST AMAZING THING EVERRRRR.  Never mind that they have no need for something like that, or that they never touch the 5 billion stuffed animals they already have.  Luke 12:15 says this:

And he said to them, “Take care and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  

I want to ensure that my family remembers these words, especially during the Christmas season.  Along with the relaxation I gain during the holidays by shopping this way, I also gain a sense of financial stability.  There’s no saving for months in order to make Christmas “happen.”  There’s no going into debt in order to find the latest craze and pay more than normal for it at the last minute.  I waste less money on impulse buys when I know I have more time to look.  I also waste less money on junk.

This all stems from our desire to be good stewards of the money we have been blessed with.

For me, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that I have a well-stocked closet with gifts for any occasions.  There’s no post-Thanksgiving scramble for this girl.  I can ride on into December knowing that other than a few things here and there, I’m set for Christmas and can set my focus on Christ our Savior.

How do you handle holiday shopping? 

What ways do you ensure that your family is focusing on things greater than earthly possessions?


Opening The Christmas Box

Opening The Christmas Box

Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.

I love this time of year.

The cooler weather, the music, the giving spirit that seem present in so many ways; it’s beautiful.  I also love the traditions that my family and my husband’s family have passed on through the generations.  As we began forming our own family traditions, I stumbled upon a new idea that I hadn’t heard before.  I wish I could credit a particular source, however I’ve seen it and read about it from several places. So I’m not sure who to give credit to!  I should note that I’m not the creator of this idea, but we do tweak it to make it just right for our family.

We call it the Christmas Box.

Each year in November or early December I begin working on our Christmas Box.  My goal is to fill our Christmas Box with things that will create beautiful memories for our family.  I usually include:

  • Homemade “tickets” to our local holiday light show.  It’s one of our favorite things to do each year.
  • Mugs for hot chocolate and one of our favorite Christmas movies.
  • A special treat for each person.  For the kids it’s as simple as a candy cane or piece of chocolate.  For my husband and I, I’ve been known to buy a candy bar or throw in a Starbucks gift card.
  • Glow wands for the kids to use during the drive and long wait for the light show. 
  • A new pair of pajamas for each person.  This one is subject to interpretation.  Let’s face it, my husband and I only need so many pairs of pajama pants! So some years I just fold up some old ones and throw them in the box.  However, our kids still need a new pair each year, so it’s a nice way to throw in that extra gift.
  • At least one good Christmas book that tells the story of Christ’s birth.  We also use our Bible to reinforce where the true story of Christ comes from.

Our Family’s Traditions

For our family, we choose a day that works for us since we spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our families out of town.  I try to pick a Saturday.. That way, everyone is well-rested and we can get an early-ish start on our celebration.  We generally have a sit-down dinner a little bit early and then we open our Christmas Box.  The kids are always so thrilled to see each thing inside.  Everyone changes into their new pj’s and we begin sorting through the goodies in the box.

Our kiddos are still pretty young, so we don’t plan much for after the light show.  Generally the line is long and everyone is ready for bed shortly after we get home. After we get home, we open gifts and then put the kids in bed.  That means that we have to get to everything else in the box before we leave.  That can be a little tricky when I get overzealous and fill it to the brim!  However, there have been times where we’ve opted to save something for the following day.  I try to choose a short Christmas movie and we watch it before we leave or even save it until the next day.

Using the Christmas Box to Focus on Jesus

This new tradition is something I look forward to every year and I hope that it’s something that my children look forward to as well.  I’m excited to see how it changes as they grow older.  I love that I can use the things I put in this box to reinforce the birth of our Savior.  With Christmas becoming more commercialized every year, it can really be a struggle to keep our children focused on our Savior.  Even for those that don’t use Christmas to celebrate the birth of Christ, most parents don’t want children whining, begging, or demanding certain gifts for two months every year.

I think it’s important to help point our children’s hearts toward Christ-like behaviors.  I struggle with getting my children to focus on giving to others rather than focusing on their own desires.  The Christmas Box helps me reinforce the importance of family time and togetherness, rather than just gifts and the individual.

How do you help point your children toward Christ or Christ-like behaviors at Christmas?

What traditions, old or new, do you enjoy with your family during the holidays?

Bring on the Holidays…and the Friction

Bring on the Holidays…and the Friction

Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.

All people are different.

For example, I am an introverted extrovert.  Now, I know that doesn’t make much sense, but essentially for me it means that I like to be by myself, except when I don’t.  I like to be with people, and I especially like to be included in things that are fun.  Now my husband, on the other hand, is what I like to think of as an introverted introvert, meaning that he likes to be around people the bare minimum of acceptable or appropriate time.  He recognizes that he must deal with people and be around people at work and other places; however, if socializing is not required, why do it?

Holidays Friction

You might see how this could create a certain amount of friction in our home. I use the word friction very lightly.  For us, it’s not really an issue because we’ve found a middle ground that works most of the time.

However, holidays seem to be the time when these differences can really creep in and cause a disturbance in the home.  Take two people with different personalities, backgrounds, and traditions and put them in the same home during holiday time and I can guarantee there will be some discussing that goes on.


The October Challenge

For us, nothing has proven more difficult than agreeing on festivities for the month of October.  Call it what you will–Halloween, All Hallows Eve, The Day of the Devil–this day has proven to be a difficult one for our family to find any middle ground.  My husband feels very strongly that we should be locked in our home with the lights off, watching movies and pretending that the rest of the world doesn’t exist during this day.  For me, I see it as an amazing opportunity to have some serious fun with my kids!

We’ve been at this parenting thing for just over six years, and October 31st requires extensive discussion every single year.  Don’t get me wrong, discussion is great.  It means that both parties are open to voicing and hearing the other person’s opinion.  However, it also means that there is obviously not a clearly defined answer to the question “What are we going to do this year for Halloween?

Finding Balance

Our wonderful church hosts a neat little get-together where the kids can (but aren’t required to) dress up and they get to play carnival games and eat popcorn and get candy and they love it.  And I love it.  And my husband tolerates it.  No scary costumes are allowed and there are no scary elements.  Other churches around town host other activities as well.  But this always seems to bring up the discussion in our house about whether people in the church should really be participating in this “holiday” at all.  That’s a long winding road that I am not going to traverse in this blog.  However, it is just another point that comes up each year when we are trying to decide what to do!

But this again brings me to another point: finding a balance which can exist in the home among two different people with different minds, hearts, souls, and backgrounds.  Each year we discuss extensively what’s on our hearts regarding this day.  Each year we battle with ourselves and sometimes one another.  Each year we find agreement and some middle, (or his side, or her side) ground that we rest on.  And each year we live to see another year as a family.

God Intends Us to Love

So often small and simple conflicts seem to wedge themselves further between us and our loved ones.  And for what?  Sometimes it’s our own pride that gets in the way.  Sometimes it’s the sting of the other person’s words.  Sometimes it’s just plain and simple bitterness.  But whatever it is that is driving a wedge between spouses, children and families, it’s not of God.  One of the most popular verses from the bible can be applied here.


love is patient

How those words can sting when we are not practicing them!  Love does not insist on its own way.  For me I have to really dwell on this verse when there are times of friction between my husband and I.  There will always be things to discuss.  There are always opportunities for disagreements, whether it be about holiday celebrations or bigger issues in life.  The thing I have to remember is that God intends for us to love.

Do you ever find that you and your spouse have one particular thing that you can’t seem to agree on?  How have you worked through it?

What scriptures inspire you to love those God has placed in your life?

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Black Friday:  It’s Not Insane, It’s Tradition

Black Friday: It’s Not Insane, It’s Tradition

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Latest posts by Toni D (see all)
Our first T-shirts (front side)

Our first T-shirts (front side)

Back side of T-shirt.

Back side of T-shirt.

BLACK FRIDAY!   Those two words either bring fear or joy to your heart.  You are either one of them or one of them.  Everyone has a strong opinion on it one way or the other.   There is no in-between.

I love Black Friday!  Some of you may think I’m crazy.   I may be, but I love it.  There is just something about getting out early and braving the weather and the lines to get that incredible deal.  I am a bargain shopper!  I also love the rush of getting in the crowds and trying to get that last box of Legos for $10.00 or that new digital camera for $50.00.  Several years ago, I got up at 3:00 a.m. to drive 30 miles to stand in line to get a dual portable DVD player for our van.  (Yes, I know I’m showing my age because nobody buys those things anymore.)  Three in the morning is nothing now.  We get going at midnight!

Well, we actually get started before midnight.   This exciting event now takes place at my sister-in-law’s house.  Thanksgiving is spent there in Tulsa, almost three hours away from where we live.  We awaken early Thanksgiving morning and travel to their house.  As all of our families have grown, it has been wonderful to have to add so many tables.  I know that is the true meaning of this holiday: to be thankful for what God has given us and to be with loved ones–but we all love Black Friday!

After our incredible meal, the “girls” all sit around the table with the newspaper.  This is a sight to behold.  I am not going to give away all of our secrets, but I will share an overview of what transpires.  Needless to say, we are very organized.  We start with the first ad, circle what we want with bright markers and initial it, then pass it around the table.  When everyone has finished, we go through and put them in order of store opening times.  Then we check for duplicate items and find the best prices and make our list.  We then make sure we have our shirts ready or make our new ones.  Yes, we print up matching shirts for all of us!  We don’t make new ones every year.  We’ve even had strangers stop us and even take pictures with us in our shirts.

Most recent T-shirts

Most recent T-shirts

Back side of T-shirt

Back side of T-shirt

We try to take a nap!  This does not always happen–most of the time it doesn’t.  Okay, that may be wishful thinking.  But, we do try to get things ready.  There have always been four of us.  This consists of my sister-in-law, niece, niece’s husband, and me.  The niece’s husband is a 300+ pound former college football linebacker (you should see him in a bright pink shirt) so he is there for “protection” – and comedy relief.  The last couple of years, we have started adding to our group.  My sister-in-law’s granddaughter (She is not my great-niece because I am not that old.  Only old people are “great” whatevers.) was allowed to go because she had turned sixteen.  And now my daughter is counting down the years until she can go.

We all have our respective jobs!  I am the “Bargain Hunter”.  I search out the the items that we did not find quickly.  I also pick up things for a friend who hates Black Friday shopping but wants some of the bargains.  She even calls to check in with me to see how things are going.  I will admit that Black Friday shopping is much easier with the invention of the cell phone.  I often wonder what the increase in usage of cell phones is on that day.

We have a great time!  We go from store to store.   We also make several pit stops.  I do not know if you have a Quik Trip where you live (I don’t), but I believe that it is the best place while Black Friday shopping.  They have giant drinks, the best hot snacks (regular or breakfast), and of course clean restrooms (women’s and men’s, and women do go to the men’s when no one is around).  I also get very “punchy” when I get tired.  Around two or three in the morning, I start laughing at everything.  This is where the nephew-in-law comes in.  He starts with all the dumb jokes to see how much he can get me laughing.  My favorite is still, “Two men walked into a bar; the third one ducked.”  Think about that one.  I also learned about YouTube from him.  My favorite is “Dumb Ways To Die”.  Apparently,  this is an actual public service announcement from Australia.  That makes it even funnier.

Sometimes we take a nap in the car!  This we actually do.  If there is a store that only one person needs something from, two go in and the rest of us take our nap.  Somehow, we make it through the night and finish up by no later than 10:00 a.m.  We then go home, take a nap, then go out for pizza.  This is as good as Thanksgiving dinner.  We go to a buffet.  Yes, Thanksgiving dinner one day followed by pizza buffet the next day!

I missed this event last year.  Our van broke down one hour from our house.  By the time we got towed back home it was late.  Our other vehicle had bad tires so it could not make the trip.  My son’s car only seated four and we are a family of five.  We were stuck at home with nothing but the desserts.  Have you ever cooked a Thanksgiving dinner in two hours?  I did, and it was actually good and completely gluten-free (my husband has a true gluten allergy).

I did take my kids shopping around 9:00 a.m. when my friend called to see how it was going.  Of course,  I got a lecture of why I did not call and tell her we were broke down and didn’t make it to Tulsa.  They would have towed us home and we could have come over for dinner, etc.  I had several of those offers and that overwhelmed me.  My niece even called and said that it was not as much fun without me.  My sister-in-law told me that they even discussed meeting me in Oklahoma City to do our shopping.   Our nephew offered to come and try to fix our van.  For Christmas,  my niece gave me one of the gifts that we would always go to the mall for.  She had picked up an extra one for me.  We were truly missed!  Of course, we did learn a lesson: when you miss Thanksgiving, they plot against you.  That is another story for another post.  I will get even with at least our nephew.

Our traditions have evolved over the years, but last year reminded me just how great my family and friends are.  We get out in all the craziness, but we enjoy being together and being there for each other.  I would not trade that part of our family for anything.

Do you have a Black Friday story to share?

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?


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