Thursday, December 30, 2010

Feasting


 Looking over the last year, the Lord has taught me about gentleness,
 priorities, trading anxiety for quiet peace.
I can see a thread woven through each month. 
All the lessons learned have a common source,
that of submitting more of myself to my Heavenly Father. 
He has drawn me into a deeper submission. 
It is a total surrendering of self.

The effect has been a richer,
more vibrant and joyous walk with the Lord.
It is as if I have been feasting,
relishing, yet more and more, the goodness of the Lord. 
This feasting has made me stronger.  
It has deepened my faith, and brought out in me
a gentleness I did not know existed,
a measure of quietness that I previously could not seem to obtain.
There is now new meaning to the verse in Philippians 1:21...

"For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

The real American Idol is SELF.
You have seen it, read it, heard it-
"It's all about ME"
But living for self,
putting ME on the throne,
where God should be,
does not make one happy, fulfilled or strong.
That is the great lie of the world.

The more I can get ME out of the way, the more God is able to shine through.
I have found that I do not need his help to make me patient...
What I need is God in me,
then His patience will flow through me like a cup spilling over.
If I empty myself of my will, my expectations, my wants and dreams,
there is more room for God. 
Only then can one become godly.
Then what people will see is Christ, not ME.
"Me" is selfish, irritable, willful, not so pretty, and the one I fight against the most, trying to live a holy life.
I gladly surrender "ME."
In exchange I receive the peacefulness I have always longed for,
a joy and feeling of being blessed that is hard to describe.
To surrender is to feast.
To feast is to be blessed to overflowing.
This has been my lesson this year. This I am still learning.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Squanto


 Inspired by the story of Squanto, 
Ben came up with this costume and has been busy at play for days. 
He was a bit put out that he couldn't find any feathers 
to wear in his hair, though.
I was impressed and greatly entertained by his exuberant dancing.

Ben  has always enjoyed dress up and imaginative play. 
 It is a portion of a boys life that doesn't last long,
aahh, but the memories of the cuteness of it
will remain long in my heart.





Monday, December 27, 2010

For Rednecks Only


 Our son John is a woodsman. 
There is nothing he likes better than tromping around in the deep woods, 
whether looking for antler sheds in the spring,
scoping out the big game 
or foraging mushrooms in the summer,
hunting in the fall, or trapping in the winter. 
 He started bow hunting critters like ground squirrels and rabbits 
when he was 10, and trapping when he was 12. 

In our neck of the woods, there is plentiful game. 
Beavers are a nuisance, chopping down apple trees in folks' yards. 
Bobcats, like this nice one he got on the trap line today, are prolific, 
and the hide will fetch a very nice price at the fur traders.
Last week, John discovered Pine Marten tracks 
 near a creek behind the home of some of our friends. 
So, he made a set and sure enough,
caught this cute little weasel-like critter who very well may have been 
the varmint feasting on our friend's chickens last fall.




As our culture progesses rampantly toward the Romanesque,
I am glad there are still a few places tucked away here and there
where life can still exist in a pure, old fashioned,
home grown (albeit redneck) manner. 
This makes me ever so grateful that the Lord has seen fit to plant us
in just such a place,
where our boys can grow into men
much the same way their grandfathers and great grandfathers did.

 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day Journal 2


Today it was 17 degrees when we got up. 
The young boys are stacking wood on the porch that their big brother split. 
The baby is sleeping next to the fireplace. 
Daddy is working in the church office.  
Anna is preparing to start a new study with the young ladies in our church, "Before You Meet Prince Charming." 
I am eating chocolate.


I am thinking about the many friends we just sent Christmas cards to,
the family we will not get to see on Christmas this year, 
and Christmas's past.


God is teaching me about being gentle when the boys are going bonkers,
and how easy the house falls to shambles when mama is unorganized.



I am thankful for a sun-shiney day,
giving us plenty of power through our solar panels,
my husband who has been in charge of laundry these past three weeks
-bless his heart!
 A warm house on a chilly day,
the slobbery kisses of an (almost) two year old,
  neighbors who come and plow your driveway when 
your snowplow won't start,
chocolate,
my family,
and a savior for all mankind,
willing to come as a baby in a lowly stable.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kangaroo Care

Today, Olivia is three weeks old. 
She is struggling a bit with her weight and staying up to temperature. 
Our method of treatment for these difficulties is Kangaroo Care. 


Kangaroo Care is a method of skin to skin contact used to encourage parent/infant bonding,
especially for premature babies. 
It is the practice of holding an infant dressed only in a diaper
next to a mother’s bare skin. 

Humans were created for relationship.

Just the grasp of teensy fingers around a finger seems proof of that.
Therefore, idea of skin to skin makes a lot of sense.

The research to promote the concept of Kangaroo Care 
shows that babies have a biological need for skin to skin contact,
and most amazingly,
a mother’s body responds to that need. 
In his study, Dr. Bergman concluded that a baby’s stress hormones,
blood pressure,
oxygenation, temperature
and heart rate stabilize with skin to skin contact.
  The most startling fact he found is that a mother’s chest temperature 
changes to meet her baby’s needs,
rising if a baby is cold
and decreasing if the infant becomes too warm.
What an awesome Creator we have!

To do skin to skin therapy efficiently,
Brian bought me a MOBY wrap. 
It is essentially a long cloth with a bit of stretch 
that one can use to swaddle a baby onto your body, 
leaving hands free for activity. 
A MOBY wrap is a very comfortable way to carry a baby as well. 
It takes a while to get the hang of wearing your baby in the wrap,
and even longer to adapt to nursing in it, 
but I am sticking with it in hopes that it will help Olivia to flourish. 

  Wearing a cardigan over the wrap 
allowed me to be up and around the house modestly. 
Even though the wrap is very supportive,
I still want to hold a hand under the baby. 
Perhaps in time I will get accustomed to it
and feel secure enough to let both hands go.



On my first skin to skin day,
Our sweet little new baby climbed to a normal temperature in a little over an hour. 
She fed well, slept well, and seemed to love the whole idea.
Like she was made for it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Candle for the Angels

 This fourth Sunday of advent we light the candle of the angels.

Our little blonde girlie was an angel in the 
Christmas play this morning, the young brothers were the wise men and King Herod. 
 It was fabuously amusing with a solid gospel message.
Unfortuantley, the camera battery went dead right as it all began,
so the memories will remain in our hearts as one of the best plays ever.

It all got me to thinking about angels, 
not the cute as a bug type in the Christmas play, 
the the real, majestic beings who are
 worshippers, 
messangers, 
wariors.

This afternoon was spent making one of our Christmas breads
to have for tea this evening. 
I have no name for this bread, but we make it every year. 
I start with a batch of cinnamon roll dough,
rolled out into a big rectangle, just as we would for cinnamon rolls, 
all the while thinking about angels.



Then I spread on a cream cheese mixture down the center of the dough only,
2, 8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla
mixed well.


Then slice the sides of the dough into 1-2 inch strips, and braid it.



Next, I tuck candied cherries and dried apricots into the braid.
It then rises for 30 minutes. 
After Brushing the bread with milk,
it will bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.


Lastly, I drizzle a light powdered sugar glaze over the warm bread, and serve.
MMmmm.  I do enjoy fresh bread!

Our children were rejoicing over the Christmas Bread, too.
 But the real rejoicing should take place in our hearts,
as we follow the angels example to lead a life of worship,
giving glory to God with every fiber of our being.

Life in Christ should be like that,
kind of an unending Hallelujah Chorus. 
(I cry every time I hear that song)
The joy expressed, 
the glory given to God,
the beauty of the melody and harmonies all blend
to make it one of the best songs of all time, in my mind.

Tonight,
 tea, bread, and stories have been thoroughly enjoyed 
and the children are tucked in bed,
a new winter storm warning is in effect,
Brian and I have planned our upcoming week's activities,
my bed is calling to me,
but I am pondering the possibilities
of having a hallelujah chorus kind of week.
Sounds angelic.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Wintertime Walk With Big Sister

 "May I PLEEEase go on a walk with you, Rose?"









"I'm tired now, Rose, I want to rest."




And so big sister took her home, 
where mama tucked the chilly little blonde under comforters and quilts 
next to the wood stove,
and there she succumbed to long winter's nap. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day Journal 1

 
 Today we are watching the snow falling silently and steadily,
covering the ground once again.



Reading “One Wintry Night” 
while nestled in the deep cushions of the couch.
 


Eating popcorn, apples and oranges, 
sipping Preacher’s Passion Tea.
 


Thankful for a warm and cozy home,
 My family,
And the many blessings God has bestowed upon us,
Especially His great love.


Thinking that because of His great love,
we, therefore ought to live more patiently,
kindly,
thoughtfully,
less selfishly,
and more like we are deeply grateful, 
to the point of overflowing, spilling forth His love, joy, and forgiveness,
abiding in contented peace that only comes from 
dwelling in Him, 
and on Him.

This is the essence of Advent.
Dwell in him this season.


What's for Lunch


When it comes to lunch at our house, the thought is something simple to get us through till dinner, our big meal of the day.  As I considered our dinner menu plans, and learned that it is by far the most expensive meal in our day, I was no longer able to rationalize leftovers for lunch.  This would mean that lunch would be just as expensive as dinner, and I needed to get our lunches under our dinner costs of $5.00/meal in order to be able to purchase some snack items, and have a little leeway for company and special meals.  I will confess up front that our family does not eat enough vegetables, something I hope to remedy by raising our own garden again.  That said, Here is what I came up with for our fall/winter lunch menu:
Quinoa- (pronounced keen-wah) is called the golden grain of the Incas.  It is a high protein grain perfect for gluten free diets.  It is simple to prepare, similar to cooking rice, and can be flavored in a variety of ways.  Don't let the cost scare you @ $3.00/lb.... one pound feeds our family of 11.  Below is uncooked Quinoa.  It puffs up greatly when cooked.



Rice- just a bowl of rice.  Basmati, long grain brown, or white, I fix this on days when we have had an egg breakfast, likewise, I will  make a lunch of chili on a day when we had a cereal for breakfast alternating grains and proteins.

Canned Chili- 3 cans and some tortilla chips for around $3.00 per meal.

Peanut Butter and Jelly- a hit with the little ones, they like to smear jelly on everything.  I also keep a few cans of tuna around for the un-pb&j types.

Pasta- pasta cooked in chicken broth with a little Parmesan on top, simple, the children would eat it every day.  I am a little more picky.  :-)


Soup- especially on a bad weather day, nothing beats a bowl of soup.  Vegetable  beef is our standard.  In this situation for lunch, I use the open- cans- of- veggies- and- dump- it- all- in method, with beef stock and an onion, which makes a quick soup that is comforting and good.

This is all such plain fare I can hardly believe anyone would want to read about it, but there it is. We like to have a simple lunch and an afternoon snack.  For snacks we keep fresh fruit, baked items, and a giant bag of pretzels from Costco available.

 Now, after lunch, it is nap time for the little ones, and just to make you smile, here is our wee one napping.



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shepherds Candle of Love


We listen, eyes wide open, as daddy reads the Advent story.
We hear and understand what he is teaching us tonight 
through the words of his sermon from a year ago. 
Shepherds.
  Love.
A genuine Response. 

Amazing that God would bring word of the coming of The Messiah
to bunch of scruffy, unwashed shepherds.
Ordinary folk.
Like you and I.
  Yet it was these he chose, and these who responded in faith, 
with joy went forth and proclaimed to the World the good news.



How has looking on the face of Jesus changed your life? 
Have you, like the shepherd, responded with faith and joy?  


He tells us this story:

When a traveler in the early days of the west came to the Mississippi,
he discovered there was no bridge.
Fortunately it was winter
and the great river was sheeted over with ice.
But the traveler was afraid to trust himself to it, 
not knowing how thick it was.
Finally with infinite caution, 
he crept on his hands and knees and managed to get halfway over.
And then he heard—yes, he heard singing from behind.
Cautiously he turned, and there, out of the dusk,
came another traveler,
driving a four-horse load of coal over the ice,
singing as he went!

Don’t let fear or lack of understanding keep you away from trusting
fully in Christ or in having joy in your current circumstance. 
He loves you. 
He came for you.
  He is here with you.  
And one day He will return for you. 
Enjoy the comfort and security of knowing these things… 
and here you will find strength for each new day.

These are the thoughts that lead us to loving our Lord more each year. 
Yet, at the celebration of his birthday, 
we find our culture consumed in “All I want for Christmas is,” 
instead of “what can I give Him on this day.” 
  Shouldn't it be something sacrificial?
Love is that way-
sacrificial. 
 
Matthew 25:40 
“Verily I say unto you,
inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, 
my brethren, you have done it unto me.”



Instead of buying each other presents, 
we are sending the money we would have spent on ourselves 
and sending it to a needy child somewhere in the world. 
He/she will receive two goats to help their family with food 
and perhaps give them a sustainable income with the milk, cheese 
and meat these two goats will provide. 
There are many options of what a family can purchase 
for one of “the least of these.” 

The children voted, and are delighted with the idea, 
although Bethany was a bit confused and thought WE were getting goats.

It is amazing to me that our loving gift to Jesus 
will yet simplify the season even more. 
No gifts to hunt down, no presents to wrap.
And though I enjoy giving my children gifts,
this is one thing we can give them that they will not likely ever forget.
It is a priceless memory.
I do not think we will miss the material gifts this year.
We will share smiles around the table instead,
recalling that somewhere 
there is a very happy family 
whose needy children are fawning over their new goats.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Beans and frugal cooking

Feeding a large family on a budget can be challenging.  Sharing ideas and strategies with others is a very helpful way for us all to make ends meet in economically challenging times.

When our oldest was a senior, doing a consumer math project, we estimated the cost of all our usual meals; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We found that dinner is the most expensive meal of the day and that having dinner leftovers for lunch the next day made lunches more expensive.  So, we stopped doing this and started having cheaper lunch options and saved leftovers for dinner, or the beginnings of dinner, for the next night.  We also found that, even a more "expensive" grain that may cost as much as $3/lb, could make an inexpensive lunch.  As was the case with Quinoa (Keen-wha) which expands greatly when cooked.  We have found that a pound will feed our family. How good is a meal for 11 that only costs $3?

In order to stay within our grocery budget a meal needs to cost less than $5.  An occasional $6 or $7 meal would be acceptable, especially if breakfasts are much less.  Once we got that established I went on the rampage to find the least expensive "good-for-us" foods and recipes available to create our monthly menu.

By the way, having a menu is the easiest way to make your groceries go further.  We have a weekly menu, which I have written about before, but will repeat here.  Mondays are beans, Tuesdays we have chicken, Wednesdays is soup and bread, Thursdays-hamburger, Friday - Pasta, Saturday - Pizza, Sunday - venison roast.  I have three or four favorite ways of cooking each thing, except pizza, which is always the same, so at the end of the month we have had 4 bean dinners, 4 chicken dinners, etc.


Many people tell me they don’t like beans. I didn't either... until I had no choice.  We began by adding a can of black or red beans to our hamburger dishes to make them go further, then a can added to a soup or casserole, and finally were able to eat and enjoy chili, red beans and rice, 3 bean casserole, meatless tacos, or BBQ beans.  Using dried beans is less expensive than canned, but we use both, depending on time and convenience versus quantity needed.  Today when I say we are having "Dirt Cheap Tacos" everyone cheers. It has become a family favorite and is likely the cheapest dinner we make.  You can find the recipe here:  At Work Again

3 Bean and our cornbread also get “MMMMM” when announced.
1 c. copped onion
30 oz (cooked or canned & drained) kidney beans
30 oz (cooked or canned & drained) black beans
30 oz. (cooked or canned & drained) other beans
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ tsp mustard
1 c ketchup
½ c vinegar
1/12-2 c brown sugar
Put everything in a pot and cook over medium low heat 1 hour.

Corn Bread
2/3 c butter
1 c sugar
3 eggs
1 2/3 c milk
2 1/3 c flour
1 c corn meal
4 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
In mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar, add in eggs and milk.  Mix well.  Add all dry ingredients and mix.  Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Bake @ 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Poke all over with a fork.  Melt together ½ c butter and 1/3 c. honey, pour over cornbread. Serve.

BBQ beans

I do not have amounts, just go by taste.
Large amount of cooked and drained black beans.
Pour over any original style BBQ sauce, add brown sugar to taste.
I have added left over ham bits to this, or a sliced buffet ham for a potluck type meal.

Red Beans and Rice

16 oz dry kidney beans, cooked and drained, or 32 oz canned beans, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tsp salt, less for canned beans
2-3 tbsp ham broth or left over ham bits
2 bay leaves

Cook on medium heat 20 minutes.  Serve over prepared rice (about 4 c. dry)  with sour cream and grated cheddar cheese if desired.  Use leftovers for dirt cheap tacos.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Feeling Blessed

We are blessed by my mom,
known to the grandchildren as “nanny“,
visit for a few days.
It is a delight for us all. 
Thoughtfully, she brought with her a box of goodies for the children,
not to be snatched, grabbed, and tossed, 
but to take out one item a day and enjoy.

Tonight, with all the big people gone to Bible Study except myself and nanny,
we brought out a story on CD, the color books,and made popcorn.  
With rocking chairs pulled up close to the fire,
keeping our wee bundle warm,
children sprawled all through the living room, 
we listened in cozy silence.



Toddlers always need an extra measure of attention 
and nurturing to keep them secure when
a new babe is brought into the family. 
Gabe is taking to Olivia well. 
He speaks of her as “my baby,” and loves to stroke her minky soft hair.
 He has been sick all the last week with canker sores in his mouth,
poor little guy. 
He is learning that he sometimes needs to share mama’s lap with Olivia,
 but if she is sleeping, mama will gladly put her down
and give preference to  him. Such a sweet little boy!
I never tire of watching him play.



Bethany has suddenly picked up her doll 
and been busy dressing and redressing it,
wrapping it in blankets, then undressing and dressing it again.  
She would love to hold Olivia more, but Joe usually beats her to it.

 Bethany and Ben have been playing "kittens", 
where they are the mama and daddy cats,
with multiple baby (stuffed animals) kittens to care for. 
This keeps them occupied for hours,
as they first must build a suitable nest, 
and then protect their kittens from predators-
such as Joe and Jim.

Rose, Joe and Jim are on a Bible Quiz team. 
This year they are memorizing the book of John. 
They have a quiz match this Sunday, so are studying hard. 

Anna spent the week with a toothache, a sinus infection, and a birthday.
 She still managed to do most of the cooking and cleaning,
bless her heart.



John and Brian have been working on the snowplow 
and insulating little gaps and cracks throughout the house,
when they are not at their jobs. 
It melts my heart to hear them visiting in the early morning
before anyone else is up and about,
or to see them working side by side in the afternoon. 
Always a willing servant,
John has recently been seen cooking, doing dishes,
and even changing a diaper. 
But then, his daddy is a good example of a servant leader,
and can be seen daily doing those things.  

Ah, I am so very thankful for my wonderful family.  
Each evening, I look around the table and feel so very blessed. 
We are not perfect, 
but we enjoy each other, laugh together, 
forgive one another, learn together, 
and live, what I think, 
is a beautiful life. 
My heart is full and overflowing.
  God is good,
his mercy is unfailing,
his blessings, too numerous to count.