Saturday, July 31, 2010

Clothing a Large Family

Here, on Saturdays, I am addressing the practical side of raising a large family.  We will share how we manage our home with 8 and soon to be 9 children.  These are things I wish I would have known when I was struggling to adjust to large quantity everything, or, at about child # 5. This week, I am sharing how we clothe our family on a small budget.
I often get asked, “How on earth do you  provide for your 8 children?”  
The answer is simple, we rarely buy anything new.
  Most of our clothing and housewares come from thrift shopping or yard sales. 
We happily give and receive presents that were bought second hand,
and most importantly, we have a system.

I have learned that it is less expensive to buy clothing when you find it,
not when you need it. 
If I see a nice piece of clothing for under .99 cents, I will likely buy it. 
This month, I bought Bethany two dresses in a size 8.  She is wearing a 5 now. 
They were beautiful dresses.  One I paid $1.99, the other was .99.

I don't just buy randomly.
I have Rubbermaid totes for every size newborn to adult sm, boy and girl, 
as well as boy shoes and girl shoes, coats, snow suits, 
gloves and hats, rubber boots and snow boots. 
Every box is nearly full.  When the seasons change, we go shopping in the Rubbermaid boxes.
 The critical component to my system is that every box has been inventoried,
with the inventory list kept in my daily organizer, which I call “my brain.” 
So I know that I have nearly no clothes for Bethany in size 10, but am getting a good assortment in 7/8.  I also know that I do not have snow boots in a size 5 or 7.

We live so far out in the country, that I don’t get to a lot of yard sales, may be two or three a year.
I do have my favorite thrift stores which I go hunting in once a month with my clothing budget. 
We spend an average of $100 per person, per year on clothes.
Below are some things for the wee one I bought for .75 cents each.


I always pray over my shopping list when we go to town. 
This month, my husband really needed jeans.  He is tall, so it is rare to find something in his size.  When I checked the men’s section for the needed items, 
there was not one pair of jeans in nice shape, but two!
  God had blessed.  We went on to find 5 dress shirts, also on his list, for .99 a piece. 
On our way to town we discussed getting his wing tips re- soled.  He has had them since college.  But, there in the shoe section was a nice pair of leather wing tips in his size for .99, 
the special marked down tag of the day.

Buying off season is usually the way to get the cheapest  clothes. 
I buy whatever I can find in my price range regardless of season or size,
as long as it fills a need on the inventory list. 
I am looking for the good deals, so I check all the racks in the sizes I have needs in. 
This does take time.  I spend all day at it, usually with my husband, who enjoys watching me hunt, and is delighted with our frugal approach.

My goal is to not accumulate more clothes than we need,
and keep my family in nice looking, well made classic clothes. 
For example, the particulars I aim for with the boys for winter are 10 long sleeve shirts, 
two Sunday best pants, two nice jeans,  3 warm pj’s, one good sweater, 2 pairs wool socks,
a 3 in 1 coat, snow pants, snow boots, slippers, and a play/chore coat.

Since we do sew, I also keep an eye out for usable fabric that we might sew up to fill a need.
I just snatched up 2 yards of girly fleece at a yard sale for .75 cents, 
with the intentions of creating a snug nightgown for Bethany next year.
(she has plenty of good warm jammies this year).  

By purchasing our clothing  this way, I spend far less than the average family,
but end up just as well dressed, and have fun enjoying the hunt to boot. 
My responsibility, as manager of the home, I feel, is to be a good steward of what God has given us, endeavoring to “look well to the ways of my household” by doing my best to meet the needs of our family without being excessive in my shopping or overspending my budget.
The children are very aware of how God provides good clothing for them
at low prices or even  free. 

We all thank the Lord together for the way that he blesses us each shopping trip. 
We know he cares about the little things I our lives,
because we trust Him and give credit to Him for all our provisions.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Living Like Grandma

When I was growing up, visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house were treasured times. 
They were great people. 
Humble, Unselfish, Caring, Genuine.
  I have come to realize that the things I remember about my Grandma are qualities that
have been lightly tossed aside in our culture today. 
Not lost yet, as we are still here to remember,
the way Grandma lived is very near to the ideal of attaining simplicity in life today.
Taking a stroll down memory lane has been well worth it for me this week,
as I talked with my husband of the way it was then. 


Over the thirty years of my life that they were living, I do not recall anything in their home changing. 
There was no lust for newer, better furnishings, or different d├ęcor. 
They had what they needed and lived with it contentedly. 
They lived simply.


 I remember grandma taking care of her flowers every morning, clad in her broad brimmed hat,
delighting in the gentle beauty of each flower.
Her mother, too, had beautiful flowers that she cared for. 
These were important to them both. 
Maybe not the flowers themselves, but the act of cultivating beauty. 
A lovely habitual routine that has stuck with me as a virtue worth undertaking.

  Grandma was not a flashy or center of attention type person,
but she insisted upon taking time for the really important things:
like making peanut butter milkshakes and root beer floats. 
The cooking of grandpa’s favorites everyday,
yet, never heard complaining of being tired of frying bacon for breakfast again. 
She just matter of factly served him. 
Neighbors were chatted with almost daily. 
She cared for community people when they were sick and dying. 
Grandma was concerned with others.

Grandma and Grandpa were extremely generous, even though they did not have much.
For example, Grandma’s “good” dishes were Corelle.
They were plain, ordinary folk, well thought of and trusted by friends and neighbors.
  I always took pride in introducing myself as Clyde and Gladys’ granddaughter.

Even Grandma’s cooking reflected a plainness and ease we have lost:  
Baked chicken with potatoes and carrots,
or pork chops with mashed potatoes and green beans.
Ham and baked beans with cornbread. 
Simple meals, simple ingredients.
  I do not think she ever made a lasagna, or tacos, 
but her table was always laden with good wholesome food that everybody delighted in.

Growing up in the depression must have given her a sense of gratefulness for what she did have.
Hers was a generation that knew how to happily live with less, and put others first.
                                                      Somehow we have lost that.
Even our idea of living with less is four times as much as Grandma had.


Our fast paced, must-have society is growing unappealing for many women today.
  I hear pleas for quiet, rest, peace, simplicity, and I thought it was just me,
but  no, I now see it is a wide sweeping epidemic. 
The days of aspiring to be a super mom, in a frenzied and chaotic life has quickly grown old….
Perhaps because we were created to abide, not to just do. 
Likely because things never satisfy the longings of the soul. 
And surely because our heavenly Father  made us for real relationship, which takes time,
lingering time. 
The kind of relationship where, in quantity of time, we find quality.

    I remember Grandma’s house as being a restful place.
Maybe that is because there was nothing to do. 
Few toys, fewer entertainments, just people. 
People waiting to be loved and valued,
just like the little ones running around at my feet,
and the bigger ones leaning over me, wanting to be near.

Leaner times may be coming, people fear.
We may of necessity need to live with less. 
I don’t know, but I do believe that living more like Grandma wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just Another Beautiful Day

Thump, thump, thump.  The wee one growing within awoke me to the near daylight of a harvest moon. 
My complaining stomach kept me awake. 
Apparently, the two had mutually agreed that I needed to eat something.
At 2:30 in the morning.
 I waddled my way down the stairs, easily finding the snacks I had stored away for just such an occasion.
The bright moonlight was astoundingly beautiful,
casting shadows across the landscape just outside the window. 
I marveled as I crept around the house, window to window gazing at the night.
Back upstairs, romanced by the moon, I tiptoed near the bedside for a glimpse of  Gabe hogging my pillow.  But he, too, was awake, and could see me plainly in the moonlight. 
He grinned and giggled somewhat sleepily.
  I laughed as this sweet little body wriggled up close to nestle with me like two spoons. 
I lay awake for what seemed like a long long time, just thanking the Lord for Gabe,
for my husband sleeping through all the ruckus,
for John who was at work, and on down the list.

  This life, so beautiful, so abundant, serene, full of such blessing.... I am ever so grateful. 
On these thoughts I drifted back to sleep, tummy and wee one contented for the time. 

In the morning, the revere continued, an overwhelmed feeling of such grace.

"I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord:  the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
  O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. 
I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 
O taste and see that the Lord is good: 
blessed is the man that trusts in him. 
O fear the Lord, ye saints:  for there is no want to them that fear him.  
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: 
but they that seek the Lord shall not want for any good thing." 
Psalm 34:1-4, 8-10

 "O love the Lord, ye his saints, for the Lord preserves the faithful, and plentifully rewards the proud doer. 
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord."  
Psalm 31:23,24

"Because thy loving kindness is better than life my lips shall praise thee."
Psalm 63:3


"Teach me thy way O Lord; I will walk in thy truth;  unite my heart to fear thy name. 
I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart:  and I will glorify thy name for evermore. 
For great is thy mercy toward me." 
Psalm 86: 11,12

 My heart is so full of gratitude when I think of where I would be without the Lord, his work in my life.
It is he that has saved me and made this beautiful life possible,
so I give thanks for my wonderful, delightful family, my precious children, a superb husband,
and an amazing home, all because of his goodness and mercy in my life.  
There is nothing here that I deserve, it is just his kindness,
and it humbles me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

He Speaks to Me

This is my father’s World
And to my listening ears
All nature sings and round me rings
The beauty of the spheres
This is my Father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees
Of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

This is my Father’s world
The birds their carols raise
The morning light
The lily white,
Declare their maker’s praise
This is my father’s world
He shines in all that’s fair
In the rustling grass I hear him pass
He speaks to me everywhere


If my ears are listening, and my eyes are open, and I have quieted my heart,
I will see that He is speaking to me everywhere.

In the tender plant leaning earnestly toward the Light. Psalm 63:8

In the wilting flower baskets, who need twice as much water in intense heat. Psalm 146:6 


In the song of a bird that reminds me to give thanks for the joy of music.  Psalm 100:1,2

Even the simple everyday acts become holy moments of worship:
Bandaging a nasty owie, I am reminded that I come by the blood, not by my righteousness.  Is. 53:5

Smiling over the baby as he drifts off to sleep as I sing to him impresses upon me the Truth that God is smiling  and singing over me, the child he loves.  Zeph. 3:17

Watching the children run out the door with open arms yelling “Daddy, daddy!” upon his arrival conjures up images of my worship time with Abba, Father this morning.  Do I show such adoration and devotion? Psalm 71:23

He speaks to me…everywhere.
His Word.
His Creation.
His People. 

If my eyes are open, and my ears are open, and my heart is open,
I will witness His wonderful, intimate presence all around me,
speaking to me, teaching me, nurturing me.
  My loving heavenly Father, patiently parenting his little girl.

Perhaps you are yearning for His presence, but coming up empty.
  Could it be that you, too, need to unclutter your life a bit, turn down the noise of the world,
and slow down your pace until you can unwind enough to HEAR? 
I invite you to say NO to some good opportunities this week.
Instead, schedule in a big block of NOTHING in your date book, and don’t let anything touch it. 
During that time, you can begin to unwind. 
Light some relaxing candles, go outside, or wherever is peaceful for you, and  just sit.
  No music, no TV, no video, only the natural sounds of you and your family. 
Look, enjoy, mentally thank God for all the blessings in your life.  Running water, breath, the moment. 
After a time, you may begin to earnestly pray.  Don’t forget to stick around long enough to 
listen to God’s response.

I have enjoyed this time of NOTHING so much, I do it everyday. 
Usually in the morning, children running all around me, sitting next to me, or on me.
  It doesn’t matter, they are part of God’s creation, and often the
little things they do are the very images God uses to teach me that day. 
Only then, with my heart properly settled, can I get well watered by the Scriptures,
turn on my favorite sweet music, and worship while we go about our morning. 
Once my heart is quiet, 
I feel more teachable…
wide open to learn and experience my great and mighty God at work in my life,
speaking to me.

“Be still,
And know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:10

holy experience

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ABC's of Character

Joseph and I were basking in the morning sunshine on the front porch.
  I was happily contemplating my day, thinking of phonics with Ben and Bethany. 
Joseph said something about godly character,
which mingled with phonics,
gave thought to playing a game of ABC’s of Godly character a young man should be developing . 
We had a lot of fun with it, and will likely continue the idea on,
making a verse study out of each character trait.
A is for Affectionate
B is for Brave
C is for courageous
D is for Dutiful
E is for Encouraging
F is for Friendly
G is for Generous
H is for Honest, although Heroic was a close second
I is for Industrious
J is for Justice
K is for Kind
L is for  Leader
M is for Masculine
N is for Nice
O is for Obedient
P is for Patient
Q is for Querist, we had to look in the dictionary for                      this one.  It means asking or inquiring.
R is for Respectful
S is for Self controlled
T is for Trustworthy
U is for Unselfish, we were stumped here,
                 but daddy came to the rescue.
V is for Valiant
W is for Wise
X and Y were duds
Z is for Zealous

Joseph is 11, beginning to become a young man. 
Every day, we are challenging him to deliberately practice godly character.
  In our Proverbs study, character comes up often, helping shape his values. 
My husband feels compelled to begin a one on one study with his boys when they are 10. 
  Together, in a quiet place, they read through and discuss "Created for Work,"  by Bob Schultz.
Currently Daddy and Joe are in "Boyhood and Beyond," also by Bob Schultz.
  Mama was amazed at the spiritual growth spurt our older son surged through 
when Daddy started these one on one times with him.
  Praises be, I have witnessed the same reaction in Joe.

Playing the ABC game has many facets;
at our women’s retreat one year, we compiled the names of God  by alphabetical order. 
Many times in my Time Alone With God, I think through character traits of my heavenly Father
in an alphabetical sense. 
Not just for children, ABC’s can help us reason through a theme for study,
contemplation or fun, maybe all three.
  If you have any more ideas on this line, please leave us a comment.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Loving Your Laundry

Raising a large family has made our life so much more abundantly full of joy, laughter,
and what my husband has wisely and truly named ”character building opportunities.” 
  I am a much more patient and organized person than I was with four children. 
The challenges of a large family have forced me to grow in areas where I am weak. 
I believe that this is one way in which the verse, “children are a blessing”  comes to life.  
Part of the blessing of children is that the more you have, the more overwhelming life gets,
causing us to abide in Jesus all the more.
  At some point, a mama of many wakes up in the morning and the first thing that comes to mind is,
“O God HELP ME!”
 To get so beyond ourselves that we are ever conscience of the reality that there is
 no way on earth
 we can do the job in our own strength,
 we simply must have Divine assistance,
That is a good thing.

Raising a large family takes more than spiritual fortitude, 
one has to have practical solutions to the problems faced when you have 40 plus pairs of shoes in the entry way, need to travel with several small children, 
and try to clothe and feed a big family on a budget.
Here, on Saturdays, we will share some of the practical and creative ways we have learned to keep our big family organized.

The Laundry Swamp
I have read of  households where the mama invented peace and rest from the clothes and laundry swamp that often occurs in children’s rooms by moving the clothing to the laundry room. 
When planning our log home, we knew we would need a lot of space in our laundry,
so we built it 12x12, with garage type shelving. 
At the time, we did not plan on keeping clothes in the room, we just wanted storage,
but once we moved, and the boys room became an overwhelming and continual problem, 
my dear husband took me shopping, and to my great delight, bought us 15 Sterelite baskets
in which I could organize the 3 younger boys clothing. 
Each boy has a labeled basket for socks and underwear, shorts, pants, shirts, and pj’s. 
Their Sunday clothes hang in the closet in their room. 
Now their room stays neat, since all that remains in there are the beds and their personal trunks.
  If, by chance, the 5 year old, say, leaves his clothes on the floor instead of putting them in the dirty clothes basket, it is easy to spot and have him fix it.  Putting their clothes away couldn’t be easier.
I never imagined how wonderful this system could be. 
It is daily a delight to walk into the laundry room and breathe a happy contented sigh at the sight of the neat and tidy shelves.  It may sound silly,
but it really is the simple things that matter most.
  I am so pleased with the results that I just had to share. 
The only thing I would change is to have done this sooner.

The second facet to keeping the laundry swamp under control
is to have baskets for dirty clothes to automatically be sorted into, whites, colors, towels, jeans. 
And then, proceed to do a complete cycle of laundry, or two or three, a day.
  It takes less than 5 minutes to load the washer,
less than 5 minutes to change from washer to dryer,
and less than 5 minutes to fold a load of laundry. 
All in all, it should only require you 15- 20 minutes to take care of 1 load of laundry.
  That is not a huge task.
  It does become huge when you are not diligent and have 15 loads of laundry to do before something molds at the bottom of the pile.  
Finding some way to take pleasure in this renowned undesirable task could be the difference for you, and your children.  A mama’s attitude about household tasks transfers directly to her children.
  If you can look forward to the sweet feeling of having all the clothes put away,
or praying for each person as you fold their clothes and put them away,
or thanking the Lord for washing machines
instead of laboring over a washtub hand scrubbing like mothers of the past,
or praising God for washing you and making you clean by His saving grace. 
          Just like the Little Engine that Could, I exhort myself, ”it’s only 5 minutes, it only takes 5 minutes,”
as I chug my way up the stairs to the laundry that awaits me. 
Once I have a system and a ritual, my laundry becomes a holy experience that satisfies,
even when the toddler is “helping” me by taking the laundry out of the washer 
and depositing it in the dirty clothes basket. 
His cheerful look, so proud to be contributing, can’t help but make me smile.
  And don’t I do the same thing to the heavenly Father?
  I can just hear Him saying, “O sweetheart, I wish you wouldn’t do that!”

Mother of Many Morning Prayer
(the prayer of St. Patrick)

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven…
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye  to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down…

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the LORD of creation.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Look What the Lord Has Done

 If you think the car looks bad, you should have seen he elk.
Our son, who was driving, did not have a single scratch on him.
Bless the Lord.
The psalmist says that the Lord daily loads us with benefits.
The fact that John was unhurt is surely one HUGE benefit! 
Sure, the car is totaled, but the Lord protected our son,
when he obviously should have been hurt severely. 

 Several years ago my husband was reading the book of Joshua,
and was struck by the idea of remembering 
 what the Lord has done
by setting up stones of remeberance to testify to the children,
and their children 
of God's handwriting on our life.

"And take up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder..that this may be a sign to you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, what do these stones signify? Then you will answer them, that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over the Jordan...That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty:  that you would fear the LORD your God forever."  Joshua 1:6,7,24

We began a tradition of writing amazing Providences and answers to prayer upon rocks, 
which we have kept in a large bowl in our house ever since. 
Each rock has a title and a date. 
"BAD ELK!" 4/3/10
is the title for John's rock remembering how God protected him in the wreck.
Our children know story after story of incredible things that have happened even before they were born. From time to time we retell the stories, such as New Years Day.


 The first rock we put in our bowl was titled after John and his birth.  
He was born emergency Csection, not breathing, with no heartbeat.
Quickly defibrillated and "bagged," life flowed once again through his little body.
Bless the LORD.
18 years later, we celebrate that our once dead son's life has been spared yet again. 
These are the blessings we don't ever want to take for granted, forget, or live like they never happened.
God is good, all the time.
May you take time today to remember, thank, and live in His goodness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jesus, I am Resting

 I  have been contemplating what it means to rest in Jesus,
and this sweet old hymn came to mind over and over. 

                                        Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art;
                                             I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.
                                  Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, and Thy beauty fills my soul,
                                      For by Thy transforming power, Thou hast made me whole.

                                      What does this look like in the day of a mom of many,
with likely no length of time to sit at the feet of Jesus in undisturbed solitude?  
By taking every thought captive,
making the most of every moment,
I can concentrate on my Lord and Savior in the midst of household tasks, children or distress.
The Lord promises He will gently lead those with young,
if we but look for Him and walk with Him each step of the way. 

Hanging clothes on the line, I can thank the Lord for each child as I hang their clothes,
praying for them regarding their day. 
Thanking Him for washing me and making me clean.

                                  Changing a diaper I can thank the Lord for his cleansing work in my life
and pray that He will do the same work in the baby’s soul.
   I can recall what or where I would be without His cleansing forgiveness in my life.

                             Even wiping a snotty nose can become a moment to praise the Lord
for taking the everyday icky out of my life, 
and remind me not to resist Him like the baby resists my simple act of help to him.

                                               I am resting in Jesus when He is my vision.

  His character traits, His names before me through out my day,
 remind me and help me turn my eyes on him. 


 O how great Thy loving kindness, vaster broader than the sea!
O how marvelous Thy goodness, lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved, know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise, and have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love so pure so changeless, satisfies my heart;
Satisfies the deepest longings, meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:  Thine is love indeed!

                                      Rest is not just a physical state, it is more a focus and trust.
Counting blessings several times a day, 
small prayers as I notice each gift He has bestowed on me today,
resting is also a state of mind.

                              I think of my dear friend Tracy at The Legend of Thousand Hills Farm.
Her circumstances are less than quiet and peaceful, 
yet she exhibits a serene tranquility even though her home recently burned to the ground
while she and her husband were at the hospital with their very ill newborn who has a serious heart defect.  Baby Jethro will have his second major heart surgery this week. 
It is risky.  But Tracy trusts in the Lord with all her heart. 
She is not anxious, but peaceful. 

She knows every day with Jethro is a blessing. 
Whatever happens, Tracy understands and comprehends that God has her best interest in mind and 
she can trust Him with the outcome.
                                                                 She is resting in Him.


 Ever lift Thy face upon me as I work and wait for Thee;
Resting neath Thy smile Lord Jesus, Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory, sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting, fill me with Thy grace.

                              I think resting is a lack of anxiety because we are so focused on Jesus,
who He is and what He has done,
that our current circumstances do not affect our peace.
  Revisit the thought that He loves you.
He is smiling at me, singing over you.
He is delighted, simply because you are His child. 
Remember Who He is, and what He has done.
Keep Jesus right before your eyes.  

                                  “I have set the Lord always before me, because He is at my right hand,
I shall not be moved (anxious).
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices,
my flesh shall also rest in hope.” 
Psalm 16:8,9

Dear one,
let go of the worries and stress
and rest in the One who loves you deeply, 
and wants what is best for you.
  He is the trustworthy Friend.
We are not the answer.  He is the Answer. 
He is the Fixer, the Mender of Souls
and the Bridegroom who calls people unto Himself. 
The One who offers peace and rest, if we just turn our eyes and heart on Him.

                                 “Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art,
                                          I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.”  

holy experience

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pruning Flower Baskets and Souls

 My husband bought me the most beautiful hanging flower baskets for Mother’s day.  
They grace our porch with astonishing beauty, lovely fragrance, and abundant flowers,
but they need tended every day.
  About once a week I give them a haircut, as grandma Gladys used to say when she trimmed her flowers.  This haircut, or pruning, needed to be done for several days before I actually got to it. 
By that time, I had to spend about an hour on each basket.

 Very carefully, I lifted the vining trailers to prune dead plant underneath.  
I used scissors to cut back  each and every wilted flower. 
This , grandma taught me, would help the plant to continue to flower nicely all summer. 
There were so many spent blossoms that the process took much longer than I had anticipated. 
If only I had tended the plants earlier, each pruning would not take so long and be so tedious.

When I went to bed that night, I had a niggling feeling of something not being right. 
A slight discontentedness that was agitating me. 

I just couldn’t put my finger on the source of the irritant.  So, I prayed and sat quietly, waiting.
  Just as I was nodding off to lala land, I hear a whisper in my mind….
”You need a thorough pruning, it has been too long.” 
Sleep claimed my fatigued body for the night, but when I awoke, there was that thought right away,
like the tapping of the woodpecker in the tree outside my window.
“OK Lord, what is it?  I feel like something isn’t right, and I am ready to deal with it.”


Quietly and gently, I knew and understood that I had been critical and disrespectful of others,
maybe not out loud, but certainly inside. 
Like a smear of grease across my chest,
my attitude was creating a harshness in my soul that was starting to effect my behavior.


Dead branches. 
I had garbage I needed to take out. 
Branches that needed to be cut away. 
The blessed thing is that the Lord faithfully forgives and renews 
every time we come before him with a repentant heart. 
Like my flower baskets, the pruning was good for my soul. 
The death in me had been cut away, causing me to be refreshed, renewed, 
and the foul smell of a bad attitude no longer lingered ,
but a fresh scent filled my heart and caused me to sing.


 The baskets emerged looking better than ever,
vibrant, full of lovely flowers with a beautiful aroma for others to enjoy. 
And they will as long as they have a good daily watering with careful frequent pruning.


I reached out for my Bible and settled in for a good watering.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer Simplicity pt 2

 Nothing says summer to me quite like leisurely sitting on the porch 
sipping a cool glass of homemade lemonade. 
In summer, our porch is our outdoor house. 
One side is the living room, chairs, side table, baby swing, flower baskets, and dogs basking in the heat.  The other spacious side is our dining room, with bbq, table and benches.  
When the summer sun warms us too much,
we retreat into the shockingly cool house.
Our log home keeps a very cool temperature, I often don my sweater.

 These hot afternoons, when children tend to get tired from heat,
boredom is a tempting inclination, but, the ever intent homeschooling 
mama recognizes an apt opportunity to educate. 
This I do daily, by requiring 30 minutes of reading or, a nap. 
Summer reading is an uplifting and soothing activity. 
I willingly admit that I bribe, no, reward sounds better,
yes, reward the children for completing each chapter book they read. 
I have also been known to begin to read a book aloud, and then put it down, unattended and lonely,
in a sneaky manipulative move to lure a hesitant reader. 
Seeing the child tentatively pick up the book and begin to peruse the pages, 
eventually getting completely lost in reading, 
sets my heart to singing.


 Classical music softly graces the house as we tie on our aprons for a day of baking to last us the week, or wash up the morning dishes.  
We clean on Saturdays, so if it isn’t Saturday, only the minimum necessary amount of cleaning gets done. Without school work to accomplish, 
each day has so much more time and margin to enjoy activities 
we just can’t seem to have time for during the school seasons.  
Sewing, baking with the younger ones, making herbal salves together, 
making a craft together to give for a Christmas gift or enter in the county fair next month, 
or playing with kittens on the porch are all just extra helpings of pleasure for a summer day.

This too, is the ideal time for me to teach the little ones to read. 
My daily load of work is lighter, we mostly spend the day outdoors rambling about at play,
yet the little ones desire that one on one hands on attention just as always. 
Reading together through my favorite phonics book,
‘Pathway Phonics”
in the kitchen filled with morning sunlight,
their eager little eyes and grubby fingers following along
create  mutual moments of bliss that doesn’t seem at all like school work, but more enchanting.  Inspired, they hop off to practice writing their letters at the table. 
Gabriel, 19 months, wants to be big and a part of everything,
so in the highchair he must climb,
grunting and urging me to give him paper and a pencil too.


 The boys are occupied building a log cabin of their own,
creating new weapons of destruction from scrap wood, 
inventing dangerous scenarios in which they must battle. 
Over heated from their industry, disheveled,
they come bursting forth into the lodge looking for the lemonade they suspect is there, 
and crash land at the table to draw or color the hero they were just imagining
with all his various weapons. 
They consult the Encyclopedia of Weaponry. 
Soon they are upstairs building Lego ships and battle crafts. 
I love summer.


Pampering my swollen ankles,
I prop my feet up for a few moments of quiet contemplation, 
which may get interrupted by a variety of small ones wanting a book read,
a shoe tied or just some lap time with mama. 
I count my blessings.
  Just to sit and relax with a little one pinching your nose and saying “beep”  is a joy to my soul. 
Each moment is one to delight in, if I so choose. 
We can do anything we want, after all it is called summer Vacation. 


It really isn’t all play though, the lawn (or weeds in our case) must be mowed . 
Our boys start mowing when they are 8.  They begin weed eating at 10. 
Also about 10, they can chop wood with the splitting ax, or a hatchet for kindling,
making kindling bundles for winter. 
The younger boys (8 and under) collect the cut weeds in the wheel barrow,
help water plants, stack the split wood, feed and water the animals,
do all the vacuuming in the house, put the dishes away, clear the table, clean out the van, 
help mama by teaching the baby how to play in the dirt,
and all sorts of helpful little jobs in the house.

Still, we keep housework to a bare minimum, and cooking less involved.  
If there is a project to be done, I aim at a few hours per day
instead of the work -till- you- drop mentality I have held in the not so long ago past. 
It amazes me sometimes that with that attitude my children still like me. 
We joked about me being the slave driver.  Now, I shudder at the thought. 
I don’t even remember what was so important to get done,
just the ever present drive to be productive.  As if productivity was next to Godliness. 
Thankfully, I have realized my mistake
and taken great measures to carve out a balanced, loving, serene lifestyle
that will become cherished memories in years to come. 
Together delighting in each other, enjoying the youth of our children, taking long walks,
with barefoot children scampering around us,
just as homespun  as a bucket of cream, 
these summer days transcend all others I remember. 
There have been so many wonderful moments, I will never be able to scrapbook them all,
and it is just July!

 Simple Summer Italian Chicken

Cook 6 cups, or so, of chicken in saucepan with a ½ onion chopped, and as much garlic as you like.
 Salt and pepper to taste.
Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.
Add a can of diced tomatoes with juice,
 two handfuls of fettuccini, and cover with water.
 Cover pan with lid and cook on medium until pasta is done.
  Removing lid, add in 1 cup, or more, of sour cream
 and 1 cube of butter,
 stir together to mix.

This is a huge family favorite, an easy one dish meal to fix.
 If you are having company, just add more pasta, and a lot of French bread.


 “A porch is an outside extension of the love that is found inside."

Front Porch Lemonade

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 quarts water

Stir thoroughly, chill, or serve over ice.

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