Is it ok to love yourself?

Shame, guilt, anger, regret, self-hatred fill the spaces of our heart and mind on a daily basis. These thoughts rob the joy and life that is available to us through Jesus Christ.

What's Joe Eating?

Spicy Black Bean and Quinoa Soup

Sneaking in the Veggies!

Blackbean and Veggie Nachos

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Unstuffed" Peppers

"Unstuffed" Peppers

Stuffed peppers are one of my favorite meals but I never feel like I get the peppers cooked to the perfect I decided to make "unstuffed peppers".  The verdict: easy and delicious! Cutting up the peppers and cooking everything together packed every bite with flavor.  

Not only is this recipe packed with flavor but it is also full of nutrients.  Peppers are loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin A and you will get a double dose of protein with the quinoa and ground beef. 

1 Pound Ground Beef
3 Bell Peppers ( I used 1 red, 1 orange, 1 yellow)
1 Medium Onion - diced
1 Cup Quinoa (rinse well)
2 Cups Water
3 Tbsp Taco Seasoning
1 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
1 Tsp Ground Fennel 
2 Tbsp of Butter or Olive oil
Salt to taste

Homemade Taco Seasoning
2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tsp garlic powder
1/2 Tsp onion powder
1/2 Tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 Tsp dried oregano
1 Tsp paprika
3 Tsp cumin
2 Tsp sea salt
2 Tsp black pepper


  1. Place rinsed quinoa and water in a medium pot, bring to a boil, reduce, and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes until water has been absorbed
  2. Dice bell peppers and onions
  3. Melt the butter in a large pan.  Add the onions and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another 5 minutes or until the peppers are tender but still slightly crisp
  4. Cook ground beef until fully browned.  Add 3 Tbsp of taco seasoning, 1 Tsp of ground fennel, 1 Tsp of crushed red pepper and  1/4 cup of water. Cook until  the water is absorbed.
  5. Mix together the cooked quinoa, cooked pepper mixture and the ground beef
  6. Plate and serve with a side of avocado.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sweet Surprises

When Joe and I found out about Zoe's condition we began praying and hoping we would get to hold her while she was still living. God blessed us with 2 hours. She never cried or made any noise but her heart was beating, she tried to open her eyes and Joe felt her fingers moving as he held her close to his chest. These small signs of life brought such joy to us. The nurses were fabulous and allowed us to keep Zoe with us for close to 24 hours. I treasured every minute and thanked God for answering our prayers

 But I must admit that there have been a few times over the last eight weeks where I have said that one day was just not long enough. One day was not enough to hold her, to get to know her and to love on her. I have pictures of her on my phone, on my walls at home and on my desk at work. I still can't get enough of seeing her sweet little face. I take every chance I can to share about her with those who will listen.

 One of the thoughts that made me sad over the last few weeks was realizing that I only have one story to share about Zoe. It is a beautiful story of a gift God blessed Joe and I with for a very short time. But I thought about how other parents will have story after story to share about what their child does or says and so on. It brought tears to my eyes as I thought about how I only have one day to share about. I started thinking about how a time will come when I won't get to share her story as often. I thought about how I don't want Zoe to ever be forgotten.

 But God is good. I have received several sweet surprises that have reminded me that no matter how short Zoe's story is that she will never be forgotten and her life touched many.

Surprise #1: While talking with a friend at church I looked over and saw Andrew's guitar case. To my surprise Zoe's picture was taped right in the middle. I stood there so amazed and touched that he would put my baby girl on his case.

Surprise #2: After meeting with a friend I received a text message letting me know that when she got home she went into her daughters room and  found a picture of Zoe on her daughter's desk. Her text lifted my spirits and made me smile.

Surprise #3: Joe and I spent Thanksgiving  with my family in Indianapolis and one of the first things Gemma did was show us her little baby doll. She told us that she made a little bracelet for her baby just like the one Zoe had. She also told us that her baby was just about the same size as Zoe. I held back the tears as I listened to her sweet little voice talking about my little girl. My sister Amy told me that whenever Carter walks by the picture of Zoe he waves and says, "Hi Zoe".  Hearing these stories about Zoe made our first holiday without Zoe a little easier. She will always be a part of our family and will never be forgotten even by the youngest.

Surprise #4: I have been praying God would just open up Heaven and let me peek inside. I've been asking him to let me have a dream so I could see Zoe one more time.  Without my mom knowing this request she told me she had a dream of Zoe. She said my grandpa was holding her and dancing with her while my grandma sat nearby watching. She said Zoe was still a little baby but she no longer needed a hat. I still long to have my dream of Zoe but just hearing my mom talk about her dream was a bit of glory.

Surprise #5: Kyrie sent me this letter that she wrote to Zoe.

Dear Zoe,
            I remember when I first heard about you. Your mom told me that she was pregnant and I jumped up and down with excitement. It was news that I had been anticipating for a long time and it brought me such joy and hope in a time when those two elements were hard to find. I was very excited for your parents because I knew how much they wanted you, but I was even more excited because I could not wait to meet you. Zoe, your parents are incredible people. They have taught me more about selflessness, perseverance, and hope than anyone else in my life. Your parents have singlehandedly shown me a glimpse of what God’s unconditional love looks like, and it is beautiful. Zoe, your mom is a beautiful woman of God. She has always been there to listen to me talk about literally anything and offer her wisdom and grace whenever I need it. She has shown me what a woman devoted to the Lord should look like, and I strive to be like her. She inspires me to cling to Jesus no matter the circumstance, and no matter the cost. She cares for people so deeply, and continues to do so even when she’s almost burnt out and I can see the lines of sorrow and exhaustion on her face. I know she would have raised you and guided you in wisdom and grace, and she would have listened to anything you had to say. Your pain would have been her pain, and your joy would have been her joy. She would have celebrated your every victory, no matter how small, and she would have encouraged you any time you stumbled or fell. Zoe, your dad is the best earthly father that God could have ever given you. He would have made it his mission to show you the unrelenting, unselfish, unconditional love that God intended for a father to show his children every single day. He would have done everything in his power to protect you from harm and keep you safe. He also would have scared off every boy that tried to pursue you, which I’m sure would have kept him busy because of how beautiful you are. He means well, I promise.
You taught your parents how to love more deeply than they have ever known they were capable of, Zoe Faith. They’re going to be such good parents to your younger sibling, or siblings because of what they learned through loving you. I’m glad you’re with Jesus now, sweetheart. I praise God that you went from a world with people who love you so much, to a home with our Lord who loves you even more. I wish I could have met you and watch you grow into a beautiful woman. I wish I could have had the chance to walk with you through your struggles, like your mom walked through my struggles with me. I was excited to be apart of your life and I’m sad that I won’t have that opportunity, but I cannot wait to meet you in heaven and see how you’ve learned to dance with Jesus. Maybe you can teach me some of your moves.
            Zoe Faith, your precious little life has taught me so much, and inspired me in ways that I never expected. Thank you for that. Rest in peace little one, and enjoy wave after wave of the endless flood of God’s love for you.

Love you kiddo.



Sweet Surprises are around every corner and I'm thankful for them, they have carried me through some sad moments. God continues to use little surprises like these to remind me that He is faithful, loving and good. These sweet surprises have also shown me how blessed I am to have such a wonderful community of family and friends.

Joe and I made  Zoe a Christmas tree and took it to her grave site. We struggled not to burst into tears at Hobby Lobby as we walked around looking for little ornaments but the time we spent together making the tree proved to be very healing and encouraging. I can only imagine what Zoe's first Christmas celebration will involve.  Partying with Jesus and so many others!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Zoe Faith....Love Daddy

 Joe posted his letter to Zoe on his blog too but I just loved what he wrote to her and wanted it to be included on my blog.  I can't read it without tears filling my eyes.  I was so proud of the tender love and thoughtfulness Joe had towards Zoe.  He is an amazing Dad!

Zoe Faith,

 The most important thing I want you to know is that you are loved and wanted. I might have said that I wanted a boy, but I take all of that back now. Holding you, kissing you, looking at your beautiful little face completely changed my world. You are the most precious gift I could have ever received. Spending a lifetime with you would have been too short, but I am thankful for the time I did have to spend with you.

 When your mom first showed me the pregnancy test, I didn't believe it. The second line was just so faint that I thought we were reading it wrong. But the second test said the same thing…but I still didn’t want to get my hopes up. Then we went to the doctors and they confirmed it…but it still didn’t sink in. I don’t think that I really started to get excited until we went to the first ultrasound. I didn’t know what I was looking at, but there was definitely something alive and moving around inside of Jen. I heard your little heartbeat and I fell in love.

 I will never forget the day that we learned you had anencephaly. We went to the ultrasound so excited. I had convinced your mom that we didn’t need to know if you were a boy or a girl…that it would be more fun to just be surprised. The nice lady doing the ultrasound let us hear your heart…that was always one of my favorite times because it meant that you were still doing ok. Then she showed us your feet and legs, heart and hands. We were so excited to see you. You were moving all around making it sort of hard for the tech to get your picture, but we didn’t care because we got to see you.

But then the doctor came in and that’s when we found out that you weren’t doing as good as we thought. We found out that your brainstem wasn’t forming correctly and that your skull wasn’t formed. We were devastated. You were our child who we loved and had wanted for so long, but from the way the doctor explained it to us, you were probably going to die in your momma’s womb at any moment. They wanted us to stop your pregnancy right then…but we couldn’t even think of doing that. We loved you and we wanted so badly to meet you and to hold you in our arms.

And so we went home…I don’t know how we made it because I was crying the whole way. I didn’t know how many tears I could cry until that night. We loved you so much and we hadn’t even met you. We cried because of all the things we wouldn’t get to experience with you. I cried because I wasn’t going to be able to snuggle with you as you fell asleep. I cried because I wasn’t going to get to swing you around in the air. I cried because I wasn’t going to get to tie your little shoes. I cried because I wasn’t going to get to teach you to ride a bike or push you on a swing. I cried for all the memories we wouldn’t have with you on this earth.

But your mom had a wonderful idea and that was to take you to experience some of those adventures while you were still with us inside of your mommy. And so we went on a bike ride. We went to the zoo. We flew kites, we read you stories, we roasted marshmallows and had gluten-free s’mores. We even got to go to the ocean together.

I tried to give you a kiss every morning…I’m sorry for the times I forgot. I loved sitting on the couch next to your mother with my hand on her belly feeling you kick. Once you even kicked right where I was kissing. I believe that you knew I was there, you definitely knew when we got home because you would start to do summersaults inside your mom’s womb. There was that time when your mom fell asleep and it was just you and me and you kicked me so many times. I loved to feel you move, because it meant you were still there and that was our prayer, that you would be born and that we would get to meet you on this earth…and God answered that prayer.

It was just this last Thursday. Just another normal day. We went to the gym, got home and I was just eating my breakfast. We were supposed to leave for work in 15 minutes, but I guess you had a different idea. You mom calmly called me and told me that she thought we were going to the hospital. I really didn’t know what to do, but we got you there and man oh man, you were ready to come out and meet us.

I’ve never been so excited and scared in my whole life. I kept praying that you would make it and God answered that prayer. You exploded out into the world and there you were with us, our beautiful Zoe Faith. So beautiful, so small and so fragile. That was the best and worst day of my life. The best because I got to meet you, hold you and tell you how much I loved you. Worst because I had to say goodbye to you. I held you for so long. I felt you moving against my chest, I saw you trying to open your eyes and I will forever cherish every moment that we spent together. But you were not made for this world and you peacefully left this world. I was holding you in my arms and I didn’t want to ever let you go. But I had to.

Zoe, as much as I miss you and will continue to miss you I know you are somewhere where you are experiencing more love than me and your mom could ever have given you. I know that you are with Jesus and He is taking such good care of you. I know that you are in a place where your body and mind are whole, where you can experience everything you were created to experience and I know one day I will get to hold you. Once day I will get to tie your shoe, one day I will get to snuggle you to sleep, teach you to ride a bike and play with you. Right now we are apart and that hurts me so badly, but you are in such a better place, a place where you will never have to experience sin, loss and death again. You will never have to experience the ugly things that happen on this earth. You will only experience the perfection and love that you were created for. You are with a Father that will never fail you like I would have, you are with a family that will never let you down and one day, your mom and I will be with you there. Until that day, Zoe, know that you are loved, wanted and missed.

Father, I know that Zoe is experiencing your perfect love. Hold her tight against your chest, whisper in hear ears how much you love her and tell her how much her earthly parents love her. Keep her close to you. I know you will take such good care of her…better care than I ever could have. Thank you for the time that you did let us have with her…she is so special. We will miss her so much. But thank you for entrusting her to us for the time we did have. We love you and trust you Father.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dear Zoe....Love Mommy

We had a beautiful memorial service for Zoe. We treasured the opportunity to let everyone meet our sweet Zoe and we both agreed that there was something so special about letting everyone see her preciousness. . She looked like the cutest baby doll. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do but at the same time it brought so much healing.   Joe and I both wrote a letter to Zoe and read them at the service. 

Dear Zoe Faith,

There are so many adventures I had hoped to have with you and so many stories I longed to share together. Our time together here on this earth was far too short but I want you to know that your life touched me, changed me, encouraged me, healed me and enabled me to dream again.

Zoe you are so loved. The day I learned of you I began praying this prayer, “Dear God please let this little baby you are blessing me with know love from the very beginning, let him or her know your perfect love, let Joe’s love and my love be felt even now as he or she grows within”.  I would have loved more time with you so I could have showered you with my love but I find hope and peace knowing that God heard my prayer and let you enter His Perfect Love already.  I can only imagine what you must be experiencing, being in the presence of your Heavenly Father.  I have had images of you and Jesus dancing in the sunflowers. He is holding you up in the air and the sun is shining so brightly upon you.  Can’t wait to join you in the dance.

Zoe your daddy is an amazing man. His love for me is so incredible.  I fell in love with him so quickly because he treated me like a princess and I know you would have felt like his little princess all the days of your life.  Your daddy is so fun and knows how to make everyone smile.  He is the one who taught me to play again, to have fun and relax.  My absolute favorite time of each day over the last eight months was when he would bend down, lift up my shirt, say “Zoe, Zoe… I love you” and give you multiple kisses.   Watching him hold you, give you a bath and dressing you when you were born ranks up there in my favorite moments.  He was so tender with you and made me so proud. I can’t wait for the two of you to play together when we are all reunited. 

Zoe I had the unique privilege of growing up in a family where love abounded. There was never a moment in my life when I did not feel loved.  Your grandparents are the most generous, loving, servant-hearted people I have ever met and they tenderly care for me even to this day.  I so wish you could have gotten to experience their love on this earth, it would have been a little taste of heaven on earth because their love is just that pure.  My three sisters are the best sisters any girl could ask for and I know they had hoped to watch you grow up just like all the other adorable kiddos God has blessed our family with.  Our family is filled with Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins galore and love flows freely amongst us all. I hope you are able to feel all of the love that we all have for you.

Lastly Zoe I want you to know that Jesus is my best friend and Savior.  There was a time when I was a teenager and life got hard and I grew so sad.  I didn't know what to do with the feelings inside and sadly I thought death was my only answer.  All hope had been lost but my family did not give up and they all met together with the doctors to let me know I was dying. On that day I looked out the window and say a single flower and I realized that I didn't want to die but I wanted someone to show me how to live again. So I listened and went to treatment.  I grew a little stronger with each passing day.  My parents let me go to college and during the second week I met a girl who took me to a Christian group on campus.  I was amazed by how joyful and happy all the people were.  They had something my heart longed for.  The next day a lady name Ana Arias called me and asked if I had time to meet with her.  I agreed and that is when she told me God created me with a purpose and that he sent Jesus his only Son to live the perfect life and then die on the cross for my sins and that he then rose again so that I could have eternal life and have a relationship with God.  That news changed my life forever.  Since that day I have known the deep abiding love of God that I know you are now experiencing.  Please tell him thank you for me and give him a big for me.  He saved my life and made it possible for me to be your mom.  He showed me how to live life and love it.

Zoe I will love you forever, I will cherish every minute we shared and I will never get enough of looking at the pictures I have of you.  You are beautiful beyond description.  You have the sweetest little nose and lips.  Your little hands are perfect and I couldn't get enough of holding them. I loved holding you and I will forever hold you in my heart.  Thank you for giving me the privilege of being your mommy.

Hugs and Kisses,

Your Mommy

Mommy's Little Girl

Can't Get Enough Of This Sweetie Pie

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Arrival of Zoe Faith Stolz

It was exactly a week ago that I wrote my last blog post "How do you say goodbye when you never really wanted to?" At that time we thought we had three more weeks of adventures with Zoe.

October 16th started out as a usual day with an early morning trip to the gym. When we got home I packed our lunches, showered and got ready for the day.  I actually felt so good that morning that I was planning a grocery trip for after work and several other errands. But what started as a usual day turned into an extraordinary day when my water broke at 7:00 am.  Joe packed a bag as fast as he could and we arrived at the hospital at 8:15 am . Zoe was born at 10:47 am, weighing 2lbs 11oz.  I could hardly believe how quickly she came into this world. With tears in our eyes we embraced Zoe in our arms not knowing if she was alive. But after a few minutes we noticed her trying to open her right eye so we asked the nurse to check and see if her heart was beating. Holding our breath we waited for her response.  We were all smiles when she let us know Zoe had a faint heartbeat. Her little heart kept beating for about 2 1/2 hours.

We kept her with us for close to 24 hours and I cherished every single minute with her. Joe and I gave her a bath, dressed her and snuggled with her.  I loved holding her perfect little hands. I loved her little nose, lips and cheeks. I loved watching Joe tenderly care for her. Giving her little kisses was pure delight. I could not get enough of her preciousness. Seeing others hold her and enjoying her beauty made me smile. We took as many pictures as possible.  I tried to memorize everything about her so that I will always be able to just close my eyes and see her whenever I need to.

The morning came too quickly and the moment of having to say goodbye was excruciating. Nothing could prepare me for having to leave my newborn baby in the hands of someone I just met.  Joe and I cried and cried as the nurse walked away with our beautiful Zoe. In less than 24 hours of arriving at the hospital I was being pushed in a wheel chair empty handed to our car. I cried myself to sleep that night thinking about how Zoe's body was all alone at the funeral home. I wanted to spend one more night with her in my arms.

Zoe's beauty was far deeper than what could be seen with our eyes.  Her life allowed me to experience trust like never before, to enjoy motherhood, to dream again, to grow more in love with God, Joe and others. I marvel at how her little life touched so many people. So many people prayed. So many people encouraged us. So many people were brought together in love, faith and hope.  That is beauty that will endure forever.

Today we said our final goodbye...a goodbye I never really wanted to say.  It was the hardest goodbye.  But I'm thankful to know it is not the end of our precious family.  Zoe Faith will forever live with us because nothing can separate the love of a daughter and her parents.  She will be waiting for us in Heaven and will have so much to show us when we get there.  Until then I will love her, I will celebrate her, I will visit her, I will talk about her, I will show her picture to others and I will enjoy being her mommy.

Thank you to everyone for all the prayers, encouragement, support and love you have shown us!

Monday, October 13, 2014

How do you say goodbye when you never really wanted to?

I cried through the whole song....I can't remember more than the one line "How do you say goodbye when you never really wanted to."  It was my sister's senior year of high school and  they closed their last choir show with this song. I wasn't the only one in tears. Goodbyes are never easy and some prove to be harder than others. I have tried hard to avoid goodbyes and the goodbyes I have had to face have been messy, tear-filled, headache inducing experiences.

Over the last few months I've spent most of my days living in the present, enjoying our adventures with Zoe and savoring every kick and move she makes.  Just today she kicked a nice big kick while I was at work. I stopped what I was doing, put both of my hands on my belly, closed my eyes and took in the whole experience. I love these kind of moments. But at the same time this week I've found myself thinking about how we are going to have to say goodbye far sooner than we ever planned. We know we need to pack a bag for the hospital but we keep putting it off as it just hurts to think about our time with Zoe coming to a close. We love her so much and no words will ever describe how much her time with us has touched us. She has given us opportunities to spend fun times as a family, to experience a love that is deeper than we knew possible, to grow in trust, to celebrate through sorrow, to be parents and so much more. I look at her picture every day and can't get over how cute she is.  In just three short weeks we will get to hold her in our arms.  Every day we pray God gives us just a few short minutes with her and of course I tell him I would welcome even more time.

As hard as this goodbye will be I will cling to truth that it will only be for a short time and that one day we will all be together again. I will let the many memories we have made together carry me through the hard days.  Because truly there have been more smiles than tears and more joys than sorrows while this little beauty has been growing day by day in my tummy.

So with three weeks until Zoe's due date we will go on a few more adventures together.  Two weekends ago we had hoped to go on a outdoor adventure but the weather was super chilly and rainy so instead we had a fire in the fireplace, made smores and watched a Disney movie together. I had been craving a smore and one of my favorite childhood memories was all our family camping trips. So even though we didn't get to take Zoe camping we got to introduce her to a small part of what makes for a good camping trip... a fire, smores and time spent with those you love.

Daddy getting the fire started

Ready to roast our marshmellows

Zoe and Mommy are seconds away from delighting in a perfect smore

This weekend was a special treat as we spent it with some family.  Kristen, Drew and Kimmy drove up to spend the weekend with us.  We ate, we took pictures, we ate some more, we played games and we ate some more!  But most of all we had fun together.  I'm super thankful that Kristen asked if she could come up and take pictures of the three of us because I would have skipped maternity photos and would have missed out. I love all the pictures she captured of us.