Whatcha Got Shepherd’s Pie

shepherdspieI had a bluesy, stressful few days. The first of those days was potluck night with friends, and all I had to make was a ham-cheese-egg casserole. Easy enough. Last night, I used leftover spaghetti, frozen meatballs, and the last of the delicious meat sauce my Dad made a few weeks ago when he and Mom were visiting.

Today, I was feeling better and ready to give out in my love language: cooking. It relieves my stress and produces something useful, nourishing, and usually, appreciated.

Along with Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate brownies (thank you, Costco) sprinkled with a little sea salt (thank you, Pioneer Woman), this went in my oven. It’s not all traditional, because it was spur-of-the-moment, so I didn’t have everything on hand, and my people don’t really love peas or mushrooms anyway….

Whatcha Got Shepherd’s Pie
– Serves 6ish
1.5 ground beef
3ish strips of bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5 carrots. chopped
1 bag of frozen green beans (traditional: peas)
2 tablespoons flour
2-4  bouillon cubes/beef brother/Worcestershire sauce (make a combo depending on what you have)
red wine/apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (depending on what you have)
mashed potatoes (I used 6 medium whole potatoes, made extra creamy)
1 cup cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  1. Brown the ground beef. Remove beef from pan and reserve some of the drippings for next step.IMG_5201
  2. Cook bacon and carrots for about 10 minutes. Add onion and garlic. Cook until tender. Add flour and stir thoroughly.
  3. Add beef, green beans, and your combination of bouillon and red wine vinegar. This shouldn’t be more than cup of liquid total. Add about a teaspoon each of salt, black pepper, and thyme. Stir thoroughly and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer everything in the pot to a lightly greased casserole dish (I used an 8×8). Cover with mashed potatoes and then cheese
  5. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.

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We’re Too Flexy :)

Two weeks of homeschool  are under our belts.

We are LOVING it.

Is it early days? Sure, not to mention my parents were in town last week, so things were a bit more stay-cation-y than they would have been. We took that as a “deschooling week,” and while there was a worksheet here and there, we also kicked off by enjoying a place we’ve wanted to visit for awhile, Brookgreen Gardens.

We only enjoyed a portion of this beautiful and historical place that’s pretty much in our backyard… a storybook playground, a small kids’ discovery center, and a zoo of local animals. We plan to go back to enjoy the Sculpture Garden soon.


The things I wanted most to change for us by making this decision are changing. More focused attention. Better sleeping (9am is soooo much better than 6am…). Better eating (I’m getting into cooking lunch…). Time to explore. Time together.
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There have been a few surprises. The biggest one was on the first “official” day, when Kaity came downstairs in a dress. Kaity does not wear dresses. Later in the week, when my parents took her shopping, she picked out a new dress and a nightgown. Only thing I can figure is she feels very safe. She doesn’t like to be fussed over for looking pretty (Cool or amazing, yes. Pretty, no). She knows we won’t.

I love the conversations I get to hear them having with each other and with others. I love that they had no electronic devices to play with for the past 4 days and stopped asking after the first day. I love that P.E. has been riding bikes, together with me pulling their baby brother in the bike trailer, and part of their writing has been letters to cousins and friends. (Don’t forget to mail them, Kelly).IMG_4906 IMG_4908

One day this week, Rod asked us to go to lunch together. We headed to our favorite local sports bar, where our manager friend told us his wife had homeschooled their children. Then, over nachos and wings, after we schooled Rod about the origins of Halloween we had learned that morning, we semi-spied on a Red Hat Society lunch taking place in the dining room. Miranda just happened to be wearing a purple dress, so I told her about “When I am old, I shall wear purple…” and asked the girls if we should go crash the Bingo and merriment. The prizes looked really cute.

Before we left, I walked over to their table and told them how much we enjoyed seeing their fun. One of the ladies chased us out the door with an (empty ;) ) purple gift bag for Miranda. Later that day, we read the poem together (our first reading unit so happens to be poetry!)

That’s it, you guys. That’s the kind of natural, “the world is our classroom” experience that is my goal for our learning together.


And this is an almost-nine-year old girl pretending she’s not giddy about that purple gift bag.

Other things we are loving so far:

  • doing reading and spelling on the couch
  • seeing their friends after school just like always… this is a cool holdover from having attended public school for a few years that makes me very happy for them
  • the girls doing their own laundry (Wednesday is laundry day!)
  • the girls are both 3rd graders now! (it was always my goal to get them in the same grade level)
  • As of this morning, I’m all organized :)
  • Most of our curriculum is free
  • We have several field trips with other local homeschoolers scheduled.
  • We are eventually going to embrace the idea of lapbooks. They look so fun; we just have to overcome our “arts & crappy-ness.” We are so not a craft family…

We are flexible people. It’s where we thrive. So when we haven’t done social studies yet and friends want to play, we play. When I have a work project that needs 45 more minutes, they read or color a little extra while I finish. When there wasn’t time before church for reading, they read me poems in the living room afterwards. It is working for us, and I’m glad we took the leap!

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School’s in!

Homeschoolers 2015Just when we think we know what’s up, another new season, with its changes and rhythms and surprises, comes in!

I spent the last three years waiting at the bus stop after school for my girls. It’s where we met some of our great neighbors. It’s where we met KK’s best friend and her wonderful family. It’s the place where my girls begin their hour-long debriefing of their day, every day. And for the last month or so, I watched from the porch as they walked home by themselves.

They are growing so fast, so much.

Today I went to the bus stop for the last time, at least for now. Though we have loved St. James Elementary, it’s time for a different school… one that will be located in our home.

Nothing happened to bring this decision, simply a steady set of observations over the past years about who our kids are, who are family is, what is natural to us, what is best for us.

Plus, we want to sleep in, eat fabulous home-cooked lunches, and travel whenever we want!

I’m nervous and excited about this chapter… I’m so thankful for the trust and support of my husband, the constant encouragement from my vast, widely-spread out homeschooling network of friends, my flexible job, and that God gave us these kids… and the ability to know what’s best for them during any given season!


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elizabeth-ii-quote-grief-is-the-price-we-pay-for-loveThere are moments in life that that are so life-changing, we will never forget them.

I remember the moments of discovery for each of my pregnancies… not just the positive test moments, but the “Hmmm… could it be…?” moments leading to those double lines. Having been diagnosed infertile, the possibility of a pregnancy was always one that made me as wary as it did excited. The moments of confirmed fertility…miraculous YESes in my life are among my favorite memories.

And of course, the moments I first saw and held my babies – there is nothing that compares.

The moments of loss – the stages in which I learned that our baby David was never going to be in our arms – are equally vivid for me. I still remember the moments in which my doctor couldn’t find the baby, then couldn’t find the heartbeat… the moment of realization that her words were equaling “miscarriage”… the moments of manic wavering between hope and despair over a very long weekend… the moments of confirmation, of bleeding, of hoping it was over… the moments of pre-op as I prepared to give birth in a way I never wanted to.

David was born. He was not born alive. He was likely not in a recognizable form. I never saw more than a blurry sac on a screen. I never got a picture. I don’t know if his eyes would have been brown or blue or quite frankly, if he was a he. But he was once alive, and he was born.

Some of the moments in life I felt most alone were the moments preparing for my D&C. On February 26, 2014, I sat in a curtained room alone. It was quiet. A worker who apparently did not read my chart carefully administered a pregnancy test. I didn’t have the wherewithal to say, “Are you freaking kidding me?” or even, “Is that necessary?” I did have the presence of mind to say this to one of the nurses as she prepared my IV:

When you stick me, I am going to start crying. It won’t be because of the needle.

I’d been through a few medical procedures alone before. When my appendix was ruptured in 2003 and we had been trying to get pregnant since our wedding, the IV for my CT scan set me off. They had given me a pregnancy test and I knew if it must have been negative. I was 26 and probably still looked 18 and that poor tech was so confused when my tears started flowing. He thought I was afraid of the needle.

Almost exactly a year later, my cycle of fertility testing ended with a laporoscopic surgery. In my optimistic form, I had people praying like crazy the night before that I would be miraculously pregnant and the surgery wouldn’t be necessary. Once again, a test was administered, no results were verbalized, and when the IV got started. I cried. Those poor nurses thought I was nuts. I told them I wanted to be pregnant and they said, “Honey, that’s why you’re here…” Then they out some happy juice in that tube and that was that.

So, something about the pre-op procedure, being secluded from my partner, and the IV confirming that this is really happening makes me cry.

Fast forward to 2015, the morning of my planned C-section for Jack. I felt like a pro. I was in that same pre-op area for the 3rd time in 3 years (there had been another procedure before my miscarriage). I felt excited and confident. I asked if Rod could be with me, and they allowed him. There were no tears.

My birth story for Jack is still being written, but here is the take-away. Birth is hard, and so are surgeries. I had a pretty routine 3rd-repeat C-section with Jack, and also had a tubal ligation. But having your insides cut up and sewn back together is what it is, and so is birth, and there are many emotions that accompany all those things.

I decided in the hospital after Jack was born that I didn’t want any moms going through any kind of birth to feel voiceless or alone, but in particular, moms experiencing surgeries, fear from past experiences, or loss.

Because I have worked in ministry for most of the past eight years and on a church staff for the last 3.5, I figured, “Eh. I will talk to some people in the hospital and see if I can’t be some kind of maternity chaplain.”

And then, I said that to a birth worker in my community, and her immediate response was, “OH! You should be a bereavement doula!”


How can I be a doula when I have only birthed via C-section?
What the heck is a bereavement doula?
Why in the world would I take a certification course now, after having my 3rd child?

I am not sure I have all the definite answers to those questions yet, but they are evolving, and I will say, I am following a path that seems to have been ordained for me long ago –

  • when I was an adolescent having nightmares about infertility
  • when I was vicariously grieving for acquaintances, friends, strangers, celebrities, and fictional characters grieving from miscarriages and stillbirths and sudden infant death
  • when as soon as, maybe even before, I recovered from my miscarriage, people crossed my path who just needed someone to listen and support and understand
  • when I realized that Myrtle Beach has a fundamental little tribe who supports mamas in all seasons and I have might have something unique to offer

So this is my “announcement.”

StillBirthday UniversityWhat started as a little Facebook page inspired by my wise and wordsmithing daughter will soon be Three Dots Birth Support Services, or something like that.

And through the amazing design of Stillbirthday, by this fall, I will be certified as a doula for births with all outcomes and plan to go on to certify as a chaplain.

As I read through the course material and finished my first exam today, I wonder not how I can handle the workload but how my heart can hold the weight. Every 20 minutes in the United States, a baby is stillborn and a family is devastated. Forty percent of pregnancies in the U.S. end in pregnancy, equaling 600,000 per year. (all stats from Stillbirthday.com)

I had one that completely knocked me out. I cannot imagine multiplying that heartbreak by such staggering numbers.

I can only hope that one at a time, I can help mothers, and with my husband on board, families, get to the other side of those still, fearful, devastating moments of loss.

I want every mama to know that her baby matters.

My story wasn’t over, and neither is theirs, and neither is yours.

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Four years and forever

A few lifetimes ago, in the fall of 2008, Rod and I were parents of four kids – two in high school, two in diapers, we would count.1924028_107157033521_2892837_n

Based on prompting from friends, our environment, and the Holy Spirit, we decided to have another baby. We named it Branson; short for Branson Gospel Music Convention.

During three and a half years of learning something new every day, many wins and losses, meeting all kinds of people (from pianist and cake-maker extraordinaire Dino to the Oak Ridge Boys, from Branson innkeepers who liked us to gospel bloggers who didn’t), working our tails off, and chasing with all our energy the dreams we felt God had given us, we were the proud parents of something that felt groundbreaking: a Spirit-led southern-ish gospel event that sought to unite and encourage artists and minister to the audience.

It felt like the world to us. And then all of a sudden, it was over.

The third convention, renamed “Revival” and moved to a perfect location, was a peak in several ways. We left that week feeling victorious and energized and grateful.

But it also come on the throes of Rod and I moving our family to Myrtle Beach, SC for what we though would be a “Branson every day” kind of experience that never actually came to be. So not long after, those feelings were replaced by fear, confusion, and defeat.

Rod hasn’t “had a concert” per se since that year. Our bus is gone. Currently, the only events we promote are dinners and holidays at our house. Life sure changed quickly.

Even with the ease of Facebook, we lost touch even with some of our closest of friends. While logic and embroidered pillows and memes tell us that “Friends come into your life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime,” without so many people’s voices in my circle, I just felt alone.

And also, forgotten.

When we put our whole selves into obeying God, because we are human, we also have expectations. Part of me expected that once we started down the path of full time ministry/concert promotion/working in the music industry, we would remain there. It gave me a severe case of whiplash and then probably depression when I realized we did not. We were not. And we don’t know if we will go “back.”

But thanks to our loving Father, there are markers. There are monuments. There are reasons to believe that those three and a half years of toil and investment were not in vain.


If you are reading this, you are likely a reason.

– Because some people met their future spouses at Branson GMR.
– Some people made true, lifelong friends.
– Some people made business connections and therefore gained bookings, studio dates, and invitations.
– Some people were ministered to in such a way that the very direction of their lives changed – and the funny part of this is that most of those occurrences didn’t happen on stage, but behind it, in the exhibit hall, or in the parking lot.
– Some people were called into ministry, were set free from addictions, guilt, or oppression, or were healed.

This past week, as we mark 4 years since our last Branson GMR or even since we stepped foot in the town we loved, God has seen fit to remind me very tangibly about our time there and what it meant and what it means.

Every once in awhile, I feel so sad that it’s over. And I wonder if it mattered.

And just like the loving Father He is, God reminds me: it wasn’t about fortune (LOL!), fame (haha!), or anything fleeting. It was about uniting a family for a season and sending them back out…

It means the same things we dreamed about before we ever got to Branson, the same things we talked about in interviews and from the stage and in those hallways, and the same thing we still strive for now:


Connection with other people, encouraging one another in the grace and goodness of Jesus Christ.

Thank you to the people who have remained in our lives, whether for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. Thank you to the ones who share where you are and who you are with, because there are days, without you knowing, that you bless me because I look and say, “They met in Branson.” Thank you for those who encourage the Burton family as we still chase after God in a variety of ways, by raising our babies, working in our local church, opening our home as a safe haven of fellowship, and constantly asking Him, “What is next?”

Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity of a lifetime that, in spite of all odds, existed in Branson from 2009-2011.

May the spotlight continue to shine on that message. Amen.


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