Dugouts and Diapers

Jessica Starr Nichols

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When Your Purpose is Foggy

Have you ever wondered, “What is my purpose?” I know that I was created to glorify God, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about being impactful, changing lives. When I was teaching and coaching, I felt like I impacted lives every single day. Even when I worked in healthcare, I felt like I at least helped to change lives by making people better. Ever since God chose to have me be a stay-at-home wife and mother, I have struggled to find my purpose. Sometimes I even feel alone, and I love to be around people and talk to people. This question has been at the forefront of my mind for the last couple of months, especially. It was two weeks ago that God showed me that I am never alone and just how purposeful my life really is. I was running the trail at a park here in town, and I began to cry because I felt so alone, and as I was surrounded by the trees, flowers, grass, dirt, and sunshine, God reminded me that He was right there with me amongst His creation. I’m never alone, and that’s such a comfort!





Those that know me well, know that I thoroughly enjoy working in the yard, tending to plants, and growing my own vegetables. God had a sense of humor when it came to me asking Him to show me how in the world I was impacting lives by being a stay-at-home wife and mom. A man from our church that is old enough to be my grandfather knows that I find joy in working with plants so he has asked me a few times to help him dig some holes, pull weeds, spray fertilizer, and tasks such as that on the church grounds. He is a Master Gardener, and I always learn so much when I work with him. I never go into helping him expecting anything except the knowledge I gain when I depart his company, but every time I have helped him, he gives me a tree or a bush which he has grown from seeds for me to take home and care for. I’m impacting his life, someone I view as a little older and much wiser, by simply helping him with tasks that we both enjoy. Every plant he gives me is God’s way of reminding me that I impacted this man’s life and to give me one more thing to take care of at home. Hahaha. He and I planted all of the trees, bushes, and flowers pictured above, and this morning, as I was helping him spray and dispose of some weeds, I took pictures of the fruits of our labor. ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!


I get to wake these boys up every morning, fix their breakfast, pack Banks’ lunch, take them and pick them up from wherever they are, check Banks’ homework, help him study, fix them supper, be at every school play or ballgame, volunteer at Banks’ school, etc….. These are not things I ever found joy in until God chose to redirect my path. I impact the lives of my children everyday. Although I received much joy in impacting the lives of other people’s children when I taught school and coached, my own babies were being left out. I’m certainly not a perfect mother, but I know I do an awesome job, which is evident in the character of my children, and I’m so thankful that God knew better than me as to what path my life needed to follow.


Oh this man right here!!!! I can only pray that I impact his life half as much as he impacts mine! When my life was so consumed with a daily schedule, I didn’t see what I needed to do for him. I love having his coffee and breakfast ready every morning, doing his laundry every week, laying out his clothes every night for the next day, cooking him meals, cleaning our house every week because he likes a clean home, and just talking to him and spending time with him. God showed me that I impact my husband’s life everyday as well. I absolutely cannot wait to grow old with this man!


So when you have those days when you can’t seem to figure out your purpose, ask Him to remind you or show you. The plan I had for my life was far different than the one He had mapped out for me, and I’m so incredibly thankful that He knows better than me. I’m so thankful His “hope and future” for my life was totally different than what I had planned. All I would have done is made a big mess with it, but He’s created a masterpiece!



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Healthy Football Snacks

If you are from the South, you know that football is more than just a game. It is what your weekends are scheduled around from September-November. Some of the things that make football season so great are the passion, fellowship with friends and family, and the FOOD. While the pizza, boiled peanuts, dips, and chips are absolutely delicious, there are some healthier alternatives. I’m going to share three amazing recipes that are packed with protein, low carb, and delicious.

Oven Baked Cauliflower with Hot Wing Sauce

This is a recipe that my mom gave me, and it is now a family favorite! Begin by preheating your oven to 350. Wash the entire head of cauliflower, then tear off the florets and put them in a large mixing bowl. Pour one cup of Frank’s Hot Wing Sauce, it’s the best, over the cauliflower and use a spatula to fold the sauce into the cauliflower until each floret is evenly coated. Pour the mixture onto a large baking sheet and use the same spatula to spread the florets out evenly on the pan. Bake the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes and enjoy. I promise this will be a hit!

Romaine Lettuce Taco Wraps

This recipe is one that I make all the time. It is perfect for those jam-packed days, because it literally takes ten minutes! You want to begin by browning 1lb organic ground beef, or you can chop and sautée an organic chicken breast if you don’t eat red meat. Sprinkle 1Tbsp of homemade taco seasoning on your meat of choice. While the meat is cooking, tear off the organic romaine lettuce leaves and rinse them. Lay them on a paper towel to dry. When the meat is cooked thoroughly, dip out a portion of it onto each lettuce leaf and top with shredded cheese and salsa. You will never use tortilla shells again!


Corn and Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

This recipe is one that you will memorize and make over and over again. I buy the bag of organic sweet peppers from Publix, because they are less labor intensive when it comes to cleaning out the seeds. Begin by trimming the top off of the pepper and cutting them in half, length-wise. Place them side by side on a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, combine one can of organic black beans, drained, one can of organic corn, drained, and one clove of freshly minced garlic. Fill the peppers with 1tsp of the black bean and corn mixture and top with shredded cheese. Bake the stuffed peppers in the oven for 15-20 minutes. You can serve condiments such as: salsa, sour cream, diced onions, and chives on the side. I promise you won’t be able to eat just one of these bad boys!


I hope you all will make these snacks for your next party and enjoy the time of fellowship with friends and family.


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Super Easy Energy Balls

Do you skip breakfast, or do you stop at the convenient store and purchase one of those energy drinks, death in a can as I like to call them, because you feel run down? STOP skipping meals and snacks, and for the love of God, stop buying energy drinks!!! Your heart, kidneys, and enamel will thank you! Mix up a batch of these energy balls on the weekend, and you will be set during the week. They are organic, delicious, and EASY! My twelve year old eats two every morning for breakfast along with his Greek yogurt and takes two with him to school to eat before football practice in the afternoons. Weston eats one for his afternoon snack everyday.


1/2 cup oats
1 handful flax seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup almond butter
2 tsp coconut oil (you can substitute peanut butter)
1/4 cup dried fruit

I begin by chopping the almonds a little bit smaller. You could use a food processor for this as well. Combine the oats, flax seeds, almonds, and dried fruit in a medium mixing bowl. Feel free to use the dried fruit of your choice. My boys prefer dried cherries or craisins. Now add the almond butter and coconut oil. The coconut oil simply helps to blend all the ingredients. I have to give a shout out to my local SAMs Club for now carrying coconut oil and more organic products in general! Great job, SAMs! You can also add dark chocolate chips as well, if the fruit isn’t sweet enough for you.

After the ingredients are mixed well, either roll into balls or use a melon baller to scoop out the ingredients if you don’t want to get your hands dirty. Place the balls in a container lined with wax paper. Refrigerate the balls overnight and enjoy!


These are so high in protein, fiber, low in sugar, and only 80 calories per ball. Take care of your body! Quit feeding it junk! These energy balls are an excellent alternative to ANYTHING you could purchase from a convenient store. I hope you all will make these and enjoy them! Have an awesome weekend, and check back on Monday for some healthy, game-day foods.


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Easy, Five Ingredient Black Bean Soup

It has been an extremely busy morning. It was my morning to volunteer at banks’ school, so excuse the late post today. The temperatures are slowly dropping, football is in full-swing, and those cool fall nights are approaching. Nothing is better on a cool night than a pot of delicious soup. This black bean soup is awesome and easy! There are only five ingredients, and it is so packed full of flavor that you will make this recipe over and over again throughout these upcoming cold months.


3 cans of organic black beans with the juice
2 cups of salsa
1/2 cup freshly chopped oregano
2 tsp cumin
1 clove fresh garlic-finely chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and stir the mixture well. Feel free to use homemade salsa, but for this, I used the Publix Greenwise Organic Mild Salsa. One jar is the perfect amount, and that is a great quality organic salsa, plus, I work too hard making my homemade organic salsa to pour two cups of it in a pot of soup. After you have stirred the mixture well, cover the pot with a lid and let simmer over low heat for 30-60 minutes.


It is truly just that easy! Black beans are a great source of protein, so enjoy this “low-carb” dinner. This recipe also works well if you have a large group of friends coming over to watch the game. I hope you all enjoy this recipe and check back in on Wednesday for another great, high-protein, easy energy ball recipe. It’s great for those busy mornings or a mid-afternoon snack. Until Wednesday, smile, be thankful, and happy cooking.

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Got Almond Milk?

Almond milk….the latest trend for those seeking to cut calories, retain the sweet taste associated with whole milk, and not worry about the harmful effects of high temperature pasteurization of cow’s milk. Its vanilla-flavored goodness is soooooooo delicious, but why is it so expensive??? It’s expensive because it’s the newest trend, and it’s good for you. So why not make your own? It’s extremely easy! I began making my own almond milk a few months ago, and I can make two gallons of homemade almond milk for what one half gallon costs at the grocery store. Here’s how!

You want to begin by soaking one cup of almonds in two cups of water. Allow them to soak overnight. The following morning, drain off the water and combine the almonds with eight cups of water in a blender for five minutes. I combine those ingredients in a large mixing bowl and use my immersion blender, simply because I do not have a countertop blender. It does the job.


Next comes the tricky part…..I line a fine, mesh strainer with coffee filters, and I place it over another large mixing bowl. Pour all of your blended mixture over the coffee filters and allow it to filter all the milk into the bowl while the coffee filters catch all of the almond pieces. This process takes at least 5-10 minutes, so I encourage you to load or unload the dishwasher while you’re waiting. Don’t be impatient and don’t try and push the mixture through. The coffee filters will tear, and you will have to start all over again. I’m speaking from experience!


Once the mixture has completed the filtering process, simply pour it into your pitcher of choice, add one heaping tablespoon of raw, unprocessed honey, and stir. At this point, you can also add vanilla extract if you like. I choose not to, because we enjoy it with simply the honey flavor, and pure vanilla extract is expensive! This recipe yields one half gallon of almond milk, and it will keep in your refrigerator for seven days. Ours never lasts that long. My children love it, and I use it to make my husband and myself protein shakes every morning.

I hope you will try this recipe, and I know you will enjoy it. Why not save yourself a little money and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from taking pieces of God’s creation and making some delicious almond milk. Which brings me to the question….did the Israelites in Exodus 33 make their own almond milk? They certainly had all the ingredients awaiting them in the promised land. They grumbled so much, I truly doubt it, but here’s your chance…..make some homemade almond milk and enjoy it!



Homegrown Stevia….the Only Safe Choice

How many of you look forward to that wonderful cup of coffee or tea in the morning? How many of you reach for that packet of artificial sweetener or spoonful of sugar to help make your coffee or tea taste better? STOP! You’re ruining your beverage of choice and contaminating your body. Why not grow your own Stevia??? It’s really easy, and anyone, especially those living in South Alabama, can do it.

I’m not going to preach to you about the dangers of store-bought sugar and sweetners. You can do the research on your own, but just know if you’re purchasing a sweetener, and it is white in color, that’s not natural. It contains some form of bleach to make it that beautiful white color. Let’s face it….people are are far more likely to eat or drink something that is white than green. Stevia in its natural, un-processed form is green, not white. Before I get off of my soapbox on this subject….look at the manufacturer! Why in the world would you add something to your coffee or tea that the Coca Cola Company has manufactured? Certainly it’s not because it’s good for you. Just something to think about. Here is a picture of un-processed ground stevia compared to the stevia you buy at your local grocery store.


To begin growing your own stevia, you do what you would do with any plant. You plant it in the soil and water it. For those of you that are local readers, I purchased my stevia plants from Dothan Nurseries. Their staff was extremely helpful, and they loaded my plants as well as my organic potting soil into my car for me. I purchased three plants, and I planted mine in a large pot, simply because I live in the city and don’t have room for an actual garden. Stevia flourishes here in our hot, humid weather. It is known that stevia becomes sweeter as the temperatures drop, but you will want to harvest it one final time before you get your first frost. Cover your stevia plant during the bitter winter months, because it doesn’t handle the freezing temperatures very well.


To begin making pure, liquid stevia, you will want to trim your stevia plants to the base. Wash all of your stems and leaves in clean water. After you’ve washed the stems and leaves thoroughly, begin tearing the leaves off of the stems and laying them either on an outdoor table, an old window screen, or you can even use a baking sheet. Allow them to dry outside for 6-12 hours depending on how warm the temperature is that day.


Once your stevia leaves are dry, they will be very crunchy. Place them in either a food processor or a coffee grinder. You now want to grind them into a soft powder. Be aware that when you remove the lid to your coffee grinder or food processor, you will be able to taste the sweet powder in the air. That’s really my favorite part, because that’s truly when you see what you’ve done.


Now, you can stop here and simply use powdered stevia, but my husband and I have found that it can be somewhat bitter by the time you reach the bottom of your cup of coffee or tea, whereas the liquid is just right to our taste buds. To make liquid stevia, simply pour 1/4 cup of your powdered stevia into a mason jar, add 1 cup of warm, filtered water. You don’t want the water to be boiling, only warm. Put the lid on the jar and shake it up until the powder is mostly dissolved. Let it sit out on the counter overnight, and the next morning, you can add a little bit to your coffee or tea and refrigerate the excess. Don’t freak out when you see the rich, green color of the liquid stevia. This is normal. This is what natural, unprocessed sweetener should look like! One jar of liquid stevia generally lasts us about two months, and by the time I’m running low, my plants have produced a bountiful harvest once again. Keep in mind that 2-3 teaspoons of powdered or liquid stevia is equivalent to 1 cup of store-bought sugar. We use approximately 1/8-1/4 teaspoon per cup of coffee or tea.


I hope you will give this a try. You don’t have to be a full-time farmer to do this. Stevia doesn’t require a whole lot of attention. So if you have a large pot, soil, and stevia plants, you can do this. God graciously provides the sunshine and the rain. Save money, be productive, and take care of your body. God only gave you this one body….honor Him with what you put in it. It’s taken me 32 years to learn the importance of taking care of my body, and I pray that my children see and know earlier on the importance of a healthy mind and body. So go grow your own stevia and allow this to be the beginning of a healthier you.



6 Months of Time Out

Wow, it has seriously been six months since I last blogged! I have missed it terribly! Life happens, and it gets very busy from time to time, and I have decided that I work harder as a stay at home mom than I ever did when I actually went to a place of employment everyday. Those that think stay at home moms just sit around and watch soap operas in their pj’s all day are completely wrong! Let me catch you up on what has been going on with my starting line up…..


I will start with our team captain, my wonderful husband, Adam. Adam works, a lot, for which I am extremely thankful. He received a promotion after only working for his company only four months. He is now the Director of Production and Catering for a very large company based here in Dothan that serves the entire tri-state area. He absolutely loves his job, and I am so happy for him and proud of him. The Lord has completely blessed not only Adam but also our family and his company through Adam’s obedience to God, determination, and passion to do what is right. Adam has also lost weight and helped encourage me in our determination to have a healthy home. He has lost approximately 60 pounds since January of this year. Here is a before and after of my Smokin Hot Hubby!!!


As far as an update on me in the last six months, I have been BUSY! Since Adam keeps such long hours, I am responsible for everything at the house, both of the children, and in order to feel like some sort of productive member of society, I iron clothes for friends and family on a weekly basis, and I still LOVE working in my yard and tending to my flowers, herbs, and veggies. I, like Adam, have kept up my determination to live a healthy lifestyle. Although I have not lost 60 pounds like my husband, I have lost 41 pounds, 4 dress sizes, and I feel and sleep better, and my energy level is through the roof! It hasn’t been easy, and I dislike going a day without exercising. The greatest thing about losing weight, besides cuter clothes at a size 14 than a 22, is how close I’ve grown to God. I absolutely cannot do it without Him! I would still like to lose at least 60 more pounds, and the great thing is….I know I can do it. Here is my before picture side by side with my current picture.


Banks has, without a doubt, had the busiest, most eventful last six months. He finished the school year with all A’s, and he had the best year of school thus far. He learned so much not only scholastically but also about life and making wise decisions concerning his schedule, sports, humility, and school work. I know changing schools can be a lot on a child, but this was one of the best decisions we ever made as a family. Just in time for sixth grade graduation, Banks’ adoption was official. He is now officially Mathis Banks Nichols! He had asked his teacher to put “Mathis Banks Nichols” on his certificates at the end of the year, and merely two days before awards, the adoption was official! God’s timing is perfect, and I never could have dreamed that what we see as merely a last name change could mean so much to an twelve year old boy! It is so much more than that to him. In the same way The Lord adopts us into the family of God to give us a sense of purpose and belonging as His child, this adoption gave Banks the final feeling of belonging to Adam as his son. We have all been so extremely blessed by the entire adoption journey. Here is a picture of the three of us at the adoption ceremony.


Banks also made the JV football team at his school, so he spent his summer conditioning and working out every morning along with his teammates. He loves football and clings tight to the dream of playing for the Crimson Tide someday! He has been blessed with an awesome gift of athletics and a vast mission field with the potential to reach so many people not only now as a twelve year old but also in his future. I pray everyday that he will never lose sight of who equipped him with this gift of athleticism, and he will always give Him the glory in all of his accomplishments. Here is a picture of Banks and Weston that I took yesterday on the morning of Banks’ first JV football home game, which ended in a tie with a team that has beaten his school the last three years in a row. So, GO RAIDERS!


Sweet Weston is now almost two. That in itself should explain this smiling, thumb-sucking ball of energy. Weston is a good boy, just like his big brother, and he thinks he is also twelve years old and can do anything his bubba can do. He absolutely loves Thomas the Train and like his bubba, loves any sport with a ball. Our church is close to the ballpark where Banks played baseball this spring, and every time we head to church, we hear a little voice from the backseat saying, “ballpark, ballpark, ballpark.” He loves it, and I’m thankful for it! He loves to swim and play in the water. He voluntarily jumps in and blows bubbles. I have no doubt that next summer we will ditch the swimmies all together! Weston is also going to Parent’s Day Out at a local church two mornings every week, which gives me a bit of sanity and alone time. He absolutely loves playing with other children, singing, reading books, and playing outside. Here is a picture of Weston on his first day of Parent’s Day Out.


All in all, we are extremely blessed, busy, and loving this beautiful life that we have been given. Although times get tough, friends come and go, pre-teen hormones are nearly impossible to deal with at times, and two year old tantrums are exhausting, we have the gift of each other, and through it all, our love for one another and our Lord grows stronger everyday.


Now that you are all caught up on what’s been going on in our lives, I cannot wait to give you guys some great recipes, gardening tips, and crafty treasures! Check back in on Monday or subscribe to my blog to stay connected with all the greatness to come!!