From Small Stories To A Grand Masterpiece + Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bars (Vegan & GF)

A teammate had just come over to hang out, veg, chat, watch a mindless show when there it was…the doorbell. I think I literally rolled my eyes at the thought of the surprise visitor, wondering what they needed this time.

I begrudgingly answered and a young Chinese woman nervous, fumbling her words, asked, “Do you know an Ashley Felder?” Yep, no escape. “That’s me! Can I help you?”

I reluctantly invited her in, clearing a path through the toys scattered about. She proceeded to tell the story of how she came to know my name.

She had recently returned from a year of living in the States, where she met a former colleague, and had come to know her Savior. What a year!

She returned to China the day after Christmas. She immediately felt isolated in her new faith. She began wondering how she was going to thrive in a country where, although many Believers, not many are vocal about it. She had just come from a community where she attended fellowship and weekly studies. It was a drastic shift.

Two days after coming home, she heard music in her stairwell. Music for the Father that she recognized! She felt the Father saying, “I haven’t left you.”

The next Sunday, she heard more music. This time, outside. Later, she tracked it to the village fellowship that has a speaker on the outside of the building, blaring praises for everyone to hear. This time, her unbelieving husband said, “See, God hasn’t forgotten you!”

It took her months of walking by my door for her to get up the courage to knock. Now, because of her courage and God’s grace on my slow-changing heart, we study the Word together with other local sisters. God has used her story, along with others, to continue shaping my heart to be like His.

When we first arrived six years ago, I struggled to love the locals because they just annoyed me with all of their opposite ways of thinking and acting! The non-existent lines, hocking lugies anywhere, even inside (and inadvertently teaching my children to do so), pushing and shoving and throwing elbows, grannies fussing and nagging at how I parent, canceling at the last moment because they have a “thing,” and so on.

But with each “small” (in the kingdom, I think they’re all big!) story, He is showing me how desperately He wants to be a part of each of their lives, weaving it all into one, beautiful masterpiece. That cultural differences, although hard to swallow sometimes, are just differences. They don’t cut a person off from His love.

Now, when an unexpected knock comes, I wonder who it is and what story they have to share. I wonder if God will give me an opportunity to shine a light into darkness.



A food processor is ideal to turn the oats into oat flour, but a blender should work, too. Pictured here is small enough, but even finer is better.


If you don’t have the luxury of canned pumpkin and have to roast your own like me, you probably do it in large batches and freeze portions. Be sure to strain out the excess water before using!


The dry, yummy smelling ingredients.


Wet ingredients. Again, if you’re like me, you don’t have applesauce accessible to buy. We make our own with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg, hence the darker color.


Ready to bake! You don’t have to pile on more chocolate chips, but, uh, why not?!


Pumpkin, oat-y, chocolate-y goodness. Perfect for fall…or spring, depending on where you are! :). Want to feel good about this one? Here are the health benefits of pumpkin.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Serves: 16

Time: About 45 minutes

Slightly Adapted from: Ambitious Kitchen

*These are naturally vegan, but can be gluten free if that’s what you need. I’m not GF, so I just used regular oats, but happened to still have some dairy-free, soy-free, everything-free chocolate chips on hand from when I was trying to figure out what was causing my baby’s oozing eczema. I digress. Use what you have, use what you need to!

  • 3 cups oats (gluten free if needed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup (vegan) chocolate chips, plus a few extra for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Spray 8×11 or 9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Make oat flour: Place oatmeal into blender or food processor and blend for 1-2 minutes until oatmeal resembles flour. You may need to stop blender and stir oats a couple of times to ensure that all oats have been blended. (Or, like me if you have a tiny food processor, you can only do 1 cup at a time anyway!)

Measure out just 2 1/2 cups of the oat flour and place in a medium bowl. (3 cups of oats breaks down to about 2 1/2 cups of flour, but measure to be sure.) Whisk in baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices; set aside.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, oil, and applesauce until the consistency is smooth and creamy. Slowly add in oat flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Gently fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle remaining  chocolate chips on top. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Timing will depend on what size pan you use, but definitely check around 15 minutes. Once finished baking, cool 10 minutes on wire rack.


  1. Johnna November 1, 2016

    Any chance the oat bars will taste ok if I don’t blend the oats?

    1. Ashley Felder November 2, 2016

      Hmm, good question! I don’t think it would change the flavor because it’s still oats. But, the texture might be different. May not stick together as well, or may be chewy. Want to test it and report back? I’d love to know!

  2. Elizabeth November 1, 2016

    I love love LOVE this story. It’s so encouraging. Thank you for sharing it!!

    1. Ashley Felder November 2, 2016

      Thanks, Elizabeth! Glad it was encouraging! I love hearing other stories like this, where God just plops people in our life. How fun heaven will be to hear them all!!

    2. Ellie November 3, 2016

      me too! Small and amazing “polished gem” stories like this make us wonder what else the father is doing when we are not aware of it! 🙂

  3. Amy Miller November 7, 2016

    These are so good!! My kids loved them!!!

    1. Ashley Felder November 7, 2016

      Hooray! So glad to hear it!

  4. Amber Taube November 7, 2016

    Praying for a friend daily and encouraged to hear a story like this one!

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