Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Our Greatest Surprise

So a thing happened. The story is long and complicated and beautiful and God is obviously present every single step of the way. I wish you could all hear everything, and maybe someday you will. But for now, a baby was born to a woman my husband, a police officer, has met on the job and whom I randomly met on a ride along once when she was newly pregnant. When asked who her support system was who could care for the baby she basically mentioned the only person who she could think of was a compassionate police officer she knew. So they called us. And we showed up. And our community rallied behind us.

So, absolutely unexpectedly and without warning we are excitedly bringing home another child today! We are literally just showing up and loving and caring for a baby who has no one else in the world to love and care for it. 

We believe that though foster care and adoption are not God’s first choice for families (His first plan was the Garden. Wholeness. No pain, orphans, barrenness or heartbreak) that He is the great redeemer. And He can take our most broken moments and pull them together for beauty and good. With that being said we would LOVE your prayers, for us, for our daughters, for this baby, and for the birth parents.

Monday, March 14, 2016

How To Start Your Own Supper Club

About 2 years ago I read the book Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. We gave them out at The Influence Conference and it was so inspiring. In it she writes about some women (6 total) she meets with roughly once a month for a cooking club of sorts. They have been meeting for a few years and she speaks of how they spur each other on and have walked through really good and really hard times together. Around that time I also saw this video about IF:table which basically has the same heartbeat. Women meeting together monthly, focusing on Jesus, and pouring into each other's lives over meals.

In Shauna's book she has this whole little section on the bread and the wine as communion (definitely as communion) but also the bread and wine and remembrance of Jesus at every meal and I love that. I wanted to break bread and drink wine and talk about Jesus with a group of women. And I decided to do just that. So I started my own supper club. And you should, too.

Setting The Boundaries
I've found that when starting any group, not just a supper club, it is best to set some boundaries before asking everyone's opinion. You can hold your plans loosely but it is always easiest to go in and change a few details than to get a bunch of opinions first. I also hate feeling left out major FOMO over here and hate leaving others out even more. I'll tell you one thing, the odds of everyone agreeing on everything are slim to none and I hate the responsibility of choosing one person's preference over the other's, so if the boundaries are pre-set, the people it works for can come and the people it doesn't work for can start their own. 

Choose your women
I'd say for most supper clubs 6-8 is the ideal number although our group had nine. Most recipes make 6-8 portions, most tables can squeeze in 6-8 people, most meals are made up of 6-8 items. Pragmatically, its just the simplest. You can find your 6-8 people any number of ways:

  • ask 6-8 of your closest friends
  • choose 3-4 couples total
  • write a post on social media
  • Email a group of women (bcc) and see who responds
I personally chose to do the last: I emailed every married woman I'd met at my church within my basic age range. I told them what I was thinking and asked them to email me back if they were interested. I thought it was important to BCC everyone because I wanted to be sure the people were committed to the idea of the group and not wanting to do what everyone else was doing Hey, I'm a purist... what can i say? I told everyone that if more than 6-8 of us were interested in doing this, I'd randomly draw names and split us into groups. 9 people committed so it just kind or worked out best that way.


Decide the Deets
You need to decide on the following:
  • A day and time that works best for you. I chose Sundays at 5pm so everyone could get back to their kids for bedtime if needed. We switched the Sunday each month. 
  • Long term commitment- I asked for a 6 month commitment for a few reasons. A of all, it was long enough to show people that this group would be intentional. Because of the nature of the IF:table conversation cards that we'd be using, in order for women to be super authentic with one another, we needed to feel safe in our group. In this format consistency breeds safety and allowed for women to be open knowing this wouldn't be a group changing and people wouldn't be flippant with the knowledge of their inner most thoughts. And secondly, I know that people have their own schedules, husbands, some have children in our homes and/or children on the way. I know we also have women's group and community groups which are super awesome. We've got full schedules and I get that and I know this won't be for everyone. I don't want this to be burdensome for anyone. 6 months was long enough to be intentional and short enough that people felt like they could commit without being locked down for life.
  • Short term commitment- I asked for 2 hours of peoples time (although we often ran over). The 2 hour time frame let us jump right into the discussion and be super intentional about our time together
  • Meal Format- Potluck just plain works, but if you get too loose goosey with things, who KNOWS what you'll be eating. In our group, the person who was hosting in their home  loosely choose the menu and made the main course. They would send out a link to their main course recipe and a list of the other things they needed to make the meal complete. Everyone would sign up for what they'd like to bring. (ie. Main course- Drunken noodle pasta. Please sign up for the following: cheese plate, appetizer, salad, bread, dessert, wine, non- alcoholic drinks) This worked out great for a few reasons. First of all, we could choose different theme nights (Italian, Mexican, Indian, etc). Also, it worked well for everyones different schedule and culinary ability. Some people just want to pick up bread or wine at the store, some people like to bake bread and cakes, some love to cook, some can make a mean cheese plate. This way everyone has a great meal but no one is stretched too far out of their comfort zone.
  • Night Format- We would get together to eat a meal (sans children and husbands- although obvi newborns welcome!) and basically live out Acts 2:46. We'd all make plates and once everyone was sitting we'd jump right into the questions as we ate. We decided to go around the table that way everyone would speak and no one would feel uncomfortable. MOST IMPORTANTLY, I stressed the desire for real and genuine discussions. The prompts from one dinner party were "What makes a truly deep and healthy friendship? Why do we need to be intentional about close relationships that encourage us in Christ? What keeps us from being intentional about deep relationships with other people? How could we bless others out of the overflow of our healthiest relationships?"

Official Supper Club Business 
Once you've decided on your group boundaries, contact your peeps and host the first night. Start you discussion questions and try to be as honest as you can so others can be honest as well. And choose an original and unique hashtag.. it'll be super fun to look back at! My last supper club used #breadandwineclub so don't even think about using that one ;-) and I'll have to come up with a new one for my new club! 

Thats it! These women became some of my nearest and dearest friends. It wasn't cliiquey at all, we all only got together on Bread and Wine Club nights. But when we were together, we were real, honest, encouraging, and it was super fun. I couldn't recommend it more! If you start a supper club I'd love to know about it! Tag me (@heyashleynoelle) in your instagram or comment below! I'm happy to answer any questions anyone has! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Write Scripture On Your Walls

Around 5 years ago I found some really beautiful prints (on etsy?) that I wanted for Reese's room. I purchased one from Naptime Diaries and started following the shipowner Jessi's blog. Over the years we have become good friends and I had the immense pleasure to work with her at The Influence Network

If you've ever been inside my house you have seen one of the Naptime Diaries prints. I literally had them in every room, even the bathroom. In this picture alone I know for sure I am missing three prints, and a lent calendar that are still packed away in a box following our move. 

I don't even know if Jessi remembers this but, shortly after that, my mother hit a rough spot in her doctoral work. She was not yet a believer (she is now!) but she had attended church twice in a row and they had been studying Nehemiah 6:3 She confided in me that even though she didnt really believe, she felt like that verse was God confirming in her that she should continue her doctoral work. I wanted to surprise her, so I told her I sent her something in the mail. After 2 weeks when it hadn't arrived, I emailed Jessi (we were still not friends yet). She assured me this never happens and sent a second copy to my mom. 2 weeks after that and neither copy had arrived yet and so Jessi overnighted a 3rd copy certified mail. My mom called me that day and told me that she had finally received her print. And, embarassingly received ALL THREE copies. She had just assumed that her church had been reaching out to a new comer and sending a really high end print of the scripture they were studying was like a "newcomers" gift. I emailed Jessi and offered to pay for all three copies and the shipping but she just laughed and graciously declines saying she would be praying for my moms salvation and her studies. And last year in July my husband baptized my mother. Later in December I watched her walk across the stage and receive her doctorate. 

So, as you can see, I have a dear dear spot in my heart for Naptime Diaries. And y'all, in a crazy show of faithfulness to the Lords call on their life, @jessaconnolly and @nconnolly and their team are closing the shop down. April 15 is the last day you can order an actual print and following that there will be digital prints available for a short time. After that you will never see these prints again unless you happen to find yourself in my bathroom. 

Seriously and truly, run don't walk to get some beautiful scripture to write on the walls of your home and heart. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Breakfast Casserole

Growing up, my mama wasn't the best cook... but mostly because she didnt have the time. She got her bachelors, Masters, and this week, her Doctorate, all while raising 3 kids on her own and working full time.

She's literally Dr. Grammie at this point. Impressive, I know.

But when it came to dinners growing up, it was mostly London Broil and Hamburger Helper. But, like any southern woman, she had her specialties and they usually revolved around the holidays. One, is her perfect every time fudge. And the other, is Holiday Breakfast Casserole.

The picture? I know. But I never said I was a food blogger. Stick with me, I promise. Its so worth it.

This bad boy is super easy to make and totally perfect for Holiday get together because its mostly make ahead. You put the casserole together the night before and in the morning you just pop it in the morning while everyone opens the presents and its ready when you are. It hits all the major food groups in one pan. Plus my kids grub on it hardcore, so, thats a win!

But I don't just make this for holidays. I'm pretty sure the first time I made it for my husband was when him and his roommates came back from spring break in Mexico. Its perfect for large groups at any time of the year!

The majority of the work is browning the meats and veggies the night ahead. Make sure to let them fully cool before combining with the eggs in the pan so they eggs don't cook. Actually, as I'm typing that, it doesn't seem like it would matter that much in this dish? But still.

Then you just put the ripped up pieces of bread in the casserole dish and overnight the bread soaks up the eggs so you get a really dense egg casserole which is perfect for past-gift-opening-grubbing. Pop it in the oven for 40 mins and you're golden! Enjoy!

Breakfast Casserole
Makes a 9x13 pan worth


1 pound bacon
1 pound spicy ground sausage (we use regular for the kids pan!)
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 half onion, diced
1 red and 1 green peppers, chopped
1 loaf french bread, ripped into small pieces
12 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp dried mustard
Salt & Pepper


Night before:

Brown the sausage. Cook and crumble the bacon. Remove to cool.

In same pan, sauté the onions and peppers about 5 mins. Remove to cool.

In a large bowl or stand up mixer, combine the eggs, milk, mustard, and salt & pepper to taste. Beat the eggs until well mixed. Stir in the cooled sausage, bacon, veggies and 1 cup of the cheese.

Pour mixture into 9x13 pan (sprayed or buttered)

Rip the french loaf up into about 1inch square pieces (no need to be precise) and drop them into the pan. It doesn't have to be perfect!

Top with the rest of the cheese.

Cover and let sit in refrigerator overnight so bread will soak up the egg.

Morning of:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes or until set in the middle. Serve hot!