It’s Christmas time! Already! Can you even believe it? I mean where did 2014 even go?? Now that thanksgiving is over, it’s time for the Elf on the Shelf to make his grand appearance. Yes, my children believe in Santa, elves and all of the Christmas magic. But our Santa loves Jesus, and my children know that Jesus’ birth – God’s greatest gift of Love – is the reason for the season! Our Santa brings each of them three gifts on Christmas Eve night. And they’re OK with that! They know that Jesus received three gifts on His birth day, and they’ve never once complained about only getting three gifts.

Last year, I tried something a little different. In an effort to teach the kids about forgiveness and God’s grace, we had a naughty elf. He would make messes and get himself into trouble (the kids got a big kick out of it), but he knew that no matter what, God loved him. This year, Santa mailed the following letter to the kids, along with a “new” elf, Dash.

Elf on the Shelf welcome letter from Santa.

(I found free Santa stationary on this website.)

“Dear Cole and Jenna,

I know you are excited about the Christmas season. I am too! It is a lot of fun to look at  Christmas lights, sing Christmas songs, set up the Christmas tree and wrap gifts. My elves are working hard to prepare for Christmas day.

Speaking of elves, I have sent one of my dearest friends, Dash, to help you prepare for Christmas. There are some very important things that I want you to remember:

        * It is better to give than to receive. This Christmas, I want you to give to others that do not have as much as you.
        * God loves you so very much. Whether you are nice or naughty, God always loves you!
        * The reason we celebrate Christmas is to rejoice in God’s greatest gift of Love – the birth of his son Jesus.
        * When you have Jesus in your heart, others can see it through your actions of giving and being kind to others.

Dash will help you to learn and remember these very important things. It is our job to show God’s love to others through our gifts, nice words, and being kind to others! Every night Dash will come visit me to tell me how nice you’ve been. Sometimes he can get himself in trouble, so keep an eye on him! I will send special assignments back with him for you to help me complete.  Please take care of my friend, and together, you will learn the true meaning of Christmas.


Santa mailed our Elf on the Shelf

I would really love to instill a selfless attitude in my children, not only during Christmas time, but all year round. And that’s so hard to do when they’re six and seven years old. My oldest said today, “I wish it were Christmas everyday so that we can get PRESENTS!!” I don’t blame them. I get it, I really do. But I want to do the best that I can as a parent to help them have giving hearts at a young age that will develop into servant hood as they grow older.

Some special assignment missions that Santa might send with the elf this month are:

– donating toys to Salvation Army
– buying wish list items for the Mustard Seed Home
– making cards for elderly family members
– gifting neighbors with handmade goodies
– picking out items from the World Vision catalog to give in our family members’ names
  ** in lieu of buying needless gifts for family this year, we’re gifting other families in
      true need in our families’ names!

And I’m excited to start a new tradition of reading Ann Voskamp’s “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas” and making a Jesse Tree starting December 1. I loved her previous books and can’t wait to read this one as a family!

How are you sharing the true meaning of Christmas with your children this year? I’d love to hear!

I’m over on The Creative Mama today sharing how we’re practicing thankfulness in our house as we enter this season of togetherness and thanksgiving. How important it is to teach our children to be thankful, not only during the month of November, but all year round.

What are you thankful for?

DIY Thankful Tree -




October was a beautiful month! God really showed off with His beautiful sunrises and sunsets. With the time change tomorrow, I won’t see anymore sunrises while taking the kids to school Bummer. Here are some of my favorite Instagram highlights. I look forward to seeing His gifts of grace in November!

1- There is a family of birds that will come to the feeder attached to my kitchen window. They are picky and will only eat the sunflower seeds!  2- Sunrise  3- Washing her hands to help make breakfast. She can’t quite reach the sink yet.  4- Moonrise  5- Reminder of the Cross in a cotton field  6- Sunrise and a lonely fisherman. 7- Little ladybug  8- Sunrise  9- Making s’mores by a bonfire  10- Sunset at the top of the Farris wheel at the state fair  11- Foggy sunrise  12- Halloween Bunko costume  13- Sunrise  14- Sunset  15- Heart shaped leaves  16- Amazing view of the stars while laying on the pier of a country pond.  17- Halloween costumes! Race car driver and Ariel  18- Big oak with golden leaves  19- Morning walk  20- witch’s brew  21- pretty face paint

Are you on Instagram? Follow me @jenn.rutledge

October Instagram Highlights



Apple pie is my favorite pie, and according to a recent survey, I’m among the majority of Americans with the same opinion. When I made this recipe for the first time a few weeks ago, my husband said (with a mouthful of pie), “This is a serious pie!” And I don’t even think he’s a huge apple pie fan. He’s one of those in the minority of Americans, and is one of those weird people that doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate together either. I know. Just weird. I’m fine with it though, because that means I get all the Reese’s at Halloween. *wink*

Back to the pie. It’s easy to make and tastes fabulous. It’s the last apple pie recipe you’ll ever need!

Here’s the easy to follow directions.

We’ll start off making the crust. Note that I used a food processor to blend my flour and butter. If you want an arm workout, feel free to use a pastry blender!

Add 2.5 C flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and 1/4 tsp cinnamon and blend for a couple of seconds to mix well.

In a small bowl, put 1/3 C of water with a couple of ice cubes and set aside. Also have some white vinegar handy.

Cut 2 sticks of cold butter.


Turn on the food processor and drop in the butter, one tab at a time. Is it a tab? A slab? A dab?


Once butter is mixed in well, take the ice out of your water bowl, and pour in 1/3 C of the water into the processor, along with 1 Tbl of white vinegar.


Pulse a few more times until dough is mixed well.

Prepare a work surface by sprinkling it with flour and dump your dough out.


Form it together and knead a few times. Then separate the dough into two parts. I wanted one part to be slightly larger so that it could go on the bottom of the pie and cover the sides of the pie plate.


Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Once your dough is chilled through, you’re ready to make the pie.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and thinly slice your apples. You can use any variety of apples, but Red Delicious is not recommended. I used Gala.


In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 C flour, 2/3C sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.

Add the apples to the bowl and mix well.


Take your dough out of the fridge and place your larger dough ball between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll out to fit the bottom and sides of your pie pan.


You don’t have to use plastic wrap, but it will prevent the butter from sticking to your roller pin.
It doesn’t have to be perfect! Remember no one is going to see this part.


Put the apples in the center and press down a little to arrange them. Note that you might have extra apples that don’t fit. You don’t want to overfill the pie. If you have leftover apples, you can eat them while the pie is baking in the oven. They’re too good to throw away!

Fabulous Apple Pie recipe -

Dot the top with 2 Tbl of butter and squeeze a little lemon juice over the top as well.

Roll out your second dough ball and place on top of the pie. Pinch the edges together and cut a few slits in the top. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I’d rather a pie look homemade than perfect like it was made in a factory. Am I right?


Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Check your pie after 45 minutes and loosely cover the top with foil to keep it from getting too brown.

Once your pie is out of the oven, let it cool. You’re just gonna have to be patient for a bit and let the pie filling set. But yes, I know your house smells awesome and it’s hard to wait!

How amazing does this look?

Apple Pie Recipe

Serve it with a big scoop of ice cream and sit back and enjoy the compliments.

The printable recipe is below. Enjoy!


Apple Pie
This is the last apple pie recipe you'll ever need. Easy to make and fabulously delicious!
Write a review
  1. 2 and 1/2 C flour
  2. 1 tsp salt
  3. 1 tsp sugar
  4. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  5. 2 sticks cold butter, cut into slabs
  6. 1/3 C cold water
  7. 1 Tbl vinegar
  1. 5-6 apples (any variety except Red Delicious)
  2. 1/2 C flour
  3. 2/3 C sugar
  4. 1 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  6. 2 Tbl butter, cut into slabs
  7. Lemon juice
For the Crust
  1. Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl or food processor.
  2. Add the butter and cut it into the flour until the mixture resembles course crumbs.
  3. Sprinkle with cold water and vinegar and mix until dough comes together and clears the side of the bowl.
  4. Prepare a work surface with a sprinkle of flour and knead the dough a couple of times.
  5. Separate into two balls, one slightly larger than the other.
  6. Wrap each dough ball with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
For the Filling
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge and let sit at room temperature while you cut your apples.
  3. Peel the apples and thinly slice.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  5. Add the apples and mix well.
Putting the Pie Together
  1. Roll out your larger dough ball between two sheets of plastic wrap. Place it on the bottom and sides of your pie plate.
  2. Add the apple mixture to the center and press down to arrange them. Note that you might have extra apples leftover.
  3. Dot the top of the apples with 2 Tbl of butter and a sprinkle of lemon juice.
  4. Roll out the other dough ball and place on top of the pie.
  5. Pinch the edges together and make a few vent slits in the top.
  6. Bake for 1 hour total. After 45 minutes, loosely cover the top of the pie with foil to keep it from browning too much.
  7. Let the pie cool a bit before serving.
  8. Enjoy!
the Sparrow's Nest

OK, so I was supposed to make that fabulous apple pie…. like 2 weeks ago. But, life happened. I got busy. And last week I was on the go. Every day. All day. My real “job” (if I can call it that) is a photographer. And as any other photographer knows, October is usually the busiest month for us! I’m thankful for being busy, but look forward to getting back to a normal pace.

Last Monday I was at the hospital to document the birth of a baby that had been diagnosed with Trisomy13. There were a lot of unknowns. Would he be stillborn? Would he pass quickly after birth? What physical defects would there be? I was there as part of the NILMDTS organization to document his beautiful birth, no matter how short his life may be. He lived for 3 full days before he passed away. Which means that he was loved on by his family during that whole time. They were able to hold him, love on him, and sing to him. What a blessing! During the day, I kept wondering “Why?” Why this baby? Why this family? Why do any babies or children have to die? And God gave me a peace in my heart. It’s OK to ask questions and wonder. But to put it simply, our human minds are not capable of understanding the fullness of our God. So we won’t find answers to those hard questions here on earth. But one thing is for certain. God loves each and every one of us. Whether you know Him or not, whether you like it or not, He loves you. He loves YOU! And He works ALL things for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) He simply wants us to trust Him as we walk down the road of life. Whatever may come our way, whatever we may face, he just wants us to trust Him. And by trusting Him, He will give us a peace in our heart that cannot be explained otherwise.

I’ve created an image with Proverbs 3:5  that you are free to download and save to your phone. Set it as your lock screen so that you can be reminded every day to put your trust in God. Click here to download. Enjoy!

Trust in the Lord. *Free lock screen download.*

 And I will post that fabulous apple pie recipe this week! You don’t want to miss it!