Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So tommorow is 2009

Sounds strange, doesn't it? I've hardly become accustomed to writing 2008. This year has flown some ways. In other ways, it's been long. But mostly it's been fast.

Christmas at our home was lovely. I know I haven't written here since Christmas Eve; and it was on purpose. I certainly have been thinking about y'all...but I just wanted to spend a week pretending that my world - instead of covering the world wide web - consisted of just my family, my church, and our little city. It's nice to be alone at times. It's nice to have fewer pressures.

But, like I said, I've been thinking about y'all; hoping you've had good Christmases, wondering if you are taking computer breaks, like me, and remembering things I wanted to say when I got back on here.

I have several dozen pictures I want to share with you; mostly from Christmas week. I'd like to share some of the gifts I made for others, since they qualify as "fruit of my hands." I'd also like to tell you about the gifts some other folks in my family made.

...One gift in particular sticks in my mind, since it's being completed as I write. Curtis and I - well, actually, just I - decided that our adventures with Mom's wooden gift this summer were not enough. We needed to make Dad a wood gift for Christmas.

Curtis is so patient with me.

I wanted to build Dad a greenhouse.

Did I mention that I thought of this about 2 and a half weeks before Christmas? For those of you who don't work with wood, two and a half busy weeks are not nearly enough time to complete a project like a greenhouse.

Or save up for it.

So we bought what we could afford, and put together what we could. Of course we had to work outside, and of course this was the rainiest December in the history of my life. Come Christmas morning, we told Dad about it, and he went out into the backyard where we had hidden it, to take a look.

Now, after buying what supplies we still needed, we plan to complete the greenhouse this week. (We hope.) I've just come inside from spending a little time helping Curtis out there in the wind. Poor guy. The wind has been biting cold, and I'm guessing somewhere around 20-30 miles/hour. But Curt is doggedly working away. I've handed him nails, held boards in place, and fetched supplies, but he's done most of the work. What a brother.

Dad has been taking pictures of us now and then, when he comes to look at how we're getting on, and I hope to post some of those pictures, too.

~ ~ ~ ~

Well, time got away from me, and I never finished this post this morning. Now it's evening, and we've just come home from midweek prayer meeting.

What a lot I have to update on! I wish I had time to talk about what's going on in my mind about the old year, the new year, the future years....and what God has taught me, is teaching me, and will teach me.

Time is a strange thing. It can drag and fly. It is intangible, yet it holds things. You can never get it back....and never get an advance on it.

...And it is getting away from me again now. Ah, well, I shall hope for more posting time this coming week. Until then, Happy New Year's to y'all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

My rambling post of last night received this comment, regarding the baking I did yesterday:

"...I'm horribly curious -- how did it turn out? I experimented with pumpkin myself the other day... if all else fails, slather it with cream cheese icing. That makes everything wonderful."
~Jenny P.
First of all, Jenny P., welcome to my blog! I decided to answer your comment with a post, rather than another comment, because I might as well tell all my readers what happened to my baking efforts.
I don't know yet if the pie is good; we plan to eat it for supper. But I can tell you what the "experiment" was like!

...Well, it was rather like cake. ...Only not.

First of all, I suppose the whole thing would have been improved if I had baked it longer. The only truly edible part of the thing was a 1" rim around the outside. The center of the cake was...well, just picture a mud-filled swimming pool that has a 1" rim around the outside.
I kept wishing I had baked it longer, but I kept a stiff upper lip, cut the thing, and scooped some of the stuff onto my plate. (My family all insisted I sample it first).

What I needed was a stiff upper tongue.

That's a little extreme. Actually, the cake was quite edible. Just not enjoyable. I think I put way too much lemon juice in the batter. Pumpkin and lemon....don't mix well. Ugh. I don't think even cream cheese frosting would have helped - though I have used that rescue technique before!

There's no lemon juice in the pumpkin pie, and it baked longer, so I'm holding out hope for tonight. My Daddy loves pumpkin pie, so I hope I don't disappoint him!

This afternoon I must bake pumpkin cream-cheese rolls, for our traditional Christmas morning breakfast. But don't worry; I have a recipe!

Since this is most likely my last post until after Christmas, here's what else is going on at our house:

~ This morning Mom, Dad, and I went to a nearby grocery store and passed out little packages to all the employees we could find. We shop there often, and many of the workers know us by sight. The envelopes contained a Christmas card, two different tracts (one of which is very comical, and makes even unbelievers laugh. Don't worry, though: the gospel is still presented earnestly.), and one audio CD with some good gospel sermons recorded on it. Passing those out was fun, and the different responses were interesting. Some asked "who are you?" and other cheerily replied "Merry Christmas!"

I had never been in a store on Christmas Eve before, that I can remember. Now, don't let your jaw hit the keyboard; I just don't relish fighting crowds. I was shocked at the traffic in both the parking lot and the store aisles.

~ I still have all my wrapping to do.

~ ....And I am being called by family members who want to play a I'm off for now. May each and every one of you have a Christmas filled with the closeness of God's presence, and overflowing with love.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In which I sound a little crazy (perhaps it's the thought that Christmas Eve is tomorrow):

To all potential samplers, who knew I was planning to make doughnuts today:

In the process of making pumpkin pie and pumpkin-experiment-that-has-no-name-yet, large messes have been created in the lab, and great amounts of time expended. Doughnut-making has been tentatively pushed to the day after Christmas. However, we wish to thank all our well-wishers for the well-wishing, as well as for all hopeful sniffs and comments along the lines of "yum!"

That pumpkin experiment has yet to be tasted. Actually, both the pie and the experiment are experiments.

I used fresh pumpkin. Baked it, mashed it, added brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. It looked stringy, so I put it in the mixer to be whipped, and went to make a crumb crust out of crushed gingersnaps and melted butter. I did a lot of sampling during that process. :)

Then I melted half a pack of cream cheese and added it to the pumpkin.

Then I started wondering if using a whole pumpkin was a little much for one pie. Oh well; too late to worry about that now!

Then I added two eggs, and a little more sugar...taste-testing the whole time.

Then I filled the crust with the pumpkin mixture, and put it in the oven. Not wanting to spoil the adventure of all this haphazard (ahem, I mean adventurous) baking, I didn't even set the oven timer.

I still had about 1/3 of the pumpkin mix left. I added 1/2 cup milk, ground flax seed, and lemon juice, and added it to 1 and a half cups of flour, plus 2 tsp. of baking powder. I should have stuck with just 1 cup of flour; I had to add more milk to make a nice batter.

As I stirred everything together, I felt very adventuresome and confident. Who knew what the results of this combo would be? I poured it all in a greased cake pan, let it set for four minutes, and popped it into a 350-degree oven looked done. 20 minutes, I think.

Both dishes are now sitting on the counter cooling, waiting to be sampled some time tomorrow. I have no idea what they'll taste like, but I sure am thankful for a mother who will let me go crazy in her kitchen!

The pioneer spirit of adventure hangs heavily over me tonight. Look out, world!

The Secret Ingredient

Can any of you recognize the above food without any hints?

It's flax seed.

This stuff is amazing. And I've only recently discovered that.

Now, true, my mother has kept flax seed around the kitchen for several years, and every now and then it would get thrown in a recipe or sprinkled on top of hot cereal. ...So I've known what flax seed is, but that's not the same as knowing how to use it and what it's good for.

Mom always said "it's good for you," and I didn't quibble about adding some to my oatmeal or pancakes, but I never really added enough to taste it, and I never bothered to find out why it was "good for you."

I never bothered, that is, until one night at some friends' house, when my interest was stirred. The mother of the family served us some delicious homemade pizza, and of course we started discussing recipes. I couldn't figure out what I was tasting in her crust, but I knew it was great. It tasted a little exotic, like something I'd imagined from a fancy European restaurant. Not the standard American meat-cheese-salt-and-pepper flavor, but a spicy-nutty-Italian-herb-something-or-nother. (Okay, so I need to work on the descriptive department of my vocabulary!)

At first I thought it was the flour. No, she said she used home-ground Prairie Gold. That's what we've used. When I gave up, she told me she had added ground flax seed to the dough. She had also brushed olive oil on the crust. I think a combination of those two ingredients was what I was tasting.

So next time I made pizza, I added....yes, you guessed it! Flax seed! And olive oil. I loved the taste. My family seemed to like it too, though some of them didn't notice a difference. Those who did taste it liked it.

So I tried adding flax seed to the next loaf of bread I made. That was good too! It seemed to improve both the texture and the flavor. I was thrilled! I started throwing a 1/4 cup of ground flax seed into everything [bread-wise] I made.

About that time I thought it'd be good to know what magic nutrients I was adding to my recipes. What I found thrilled me even more:

Flax seed is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid. Human beings need two types of fatty acid in their system; omega-3 fatty acid, and omega-6 fatty acid. The ideal ratio of these is 1:2, or two times as much omega-6 as omega-3.

Americans have no problem eating two times as much o
mega-6 as omega-3! The average American fatty acid ratio is more like 1:20 or 1:50. Instead of eating double omega-6, we're eating more like forty times omega-6. Big difference!!!

So by eating flax seed, you're contributing to the omega-3 fatty acids, and helping to balance the ratio in your body. Consuming a small about of flax seeds every single day is a great idea. All the sources I've heard from or read say that you really can't eat too much flax seed. Of course, if your body isn't used to a lot of fiber, you'd better start out with small helpings, or else you'll overload your body. You also need to drink a LOT of water while consuming large quantities of flax seed, because it uses up a lot of water in order to do its stuff inside your body. But, hey, you need to drink more anyway, right?

Omega-3 fatty acids are good for the health of your heart, and flax seed also contains lignans, which may be an antioxidant, but that hasn't been proved yet.

Flax seed also contains a LOT of fiber, and I'm sure you've been told millions of times that fiber is good for you. Think of it like those bristle brushes you use to clean out tight spaces - scrubbing the walls clean and whisking away dirt. Fiber cleans your intestines and also balances blood sugar. Few foods are as high in fiber as flax seed.

Remember when God told Adam and Eve that the fruits and their seeds were given to them for meat? If you ever study the nutrients of seeds, you will find that they contain many nutrients that are excellent cancer preventatives. Flax seed, being a seed, has this property as well.

Flax seed is high in most of the B vitamins, and also has magnesium and manganese.

Talk about loaded!

So that's why it's good for us. But what about how to use it? Besides in bread, that is. :)

First of all, I ought to mention that you must
grind your flax seed if it's going to do you any good. Being a seed, it is encased in God's wonderful container to keep seeds safe through the travels they go on before finding soil and planting themselves. A seed is well protected against many things - including your digestive system. If you eat these seeds whole, they will most likely leave you whole.

Ground flax seed smells lovely, and looks like this:

You can grind a lot of seeds at once, or just the amount you need at the time. Once the oil in the seeds is exposed to air, it will go rancid pretty quickly, so be sure to store any un-used ground seeds in the refrigerator, in a dark container.

A small coffee grinder is perfect for grinding up the seeds. Just a few seconds and you're done.

Then what do you add it to?

Anything that would taste good with a little oily-nutty flavor added to it. Personally, I like to sprinkle it on oatmeal, pancakes (mixed with honey - the perfect spread!), and in peanut butter sandwiches. Today I read two new recipes I'd like to try; cottage cheese with flax seed, and hot flax seed cereal (ground flax seeds used like oatmeal; pour boiling water on them, add peanut butter, cinnamon, a little cocoa powder, and top with milk!).

I've also been told that you can use flax seed as egg substitute. Mix 1 TBS ground flax seed with 3TBS water, stir, and let sit until it starts to gel. Supplements 1 egg.

You see, flax seed has a "gel"-ing property. It will add to the texture of baked goods, just like eggs will.

That means....are you ready for this? I mean really ready?...

Guess what some of our fore-mothers used before hairspray or hair-gel was around?

Uh-huh. Flax seed gel.

P.S. For those of you who have been following The Saga of the Condensed-Cream-of-Turkey-Soup, (Part 1 here, Part 2 here), you might be interested to know that I thawed some turkey broth and made a new batch of that soup last night; this time using a lighter-tasting flour. It wasn't quite white flour, but it wasn't heavy wheat, either. The soup turned out much lighter in color, and tasted much better...except that next time I'll add more onion and garlic powder. It could use some more "kick."

Mom used the soup in chicken-pot-pie. ...And guess what? No comments. I don't think my brothers even noticed a difference! Hurrah!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Come on, Snow!

I'm feeling so cozy right now. I hope this morning's shopping spree with Heather, Tiffany, and Lezley was the last time I set foot in a store this week. Shopping with all my sisters was fun, but it took a lot of patience!

I trust y'all had a blessed Lord's Day. I did. Last night was our Candlelight service, which consists of a lot of special music and a short Christmas message. The King's Strings song went off actually pretty well. I know several members of our group don't like being in front of people, but I enjoy playing for others, if I think we're helping them worship the Lord. ...Most of the time, that is. I do have my share of nervousness!

During the morning services, I had what our Pastor calls an "Ah-hah!" moment. Pastor Rice said something that struck me like a slap in the face. He was talking about prayer;

"We often wiggle out of situations that would cause us to pray."

We do.

Why? Why do we avoid desperate situations. "Oh - but if I'm in that situation, God will be my only hope. I'll have no other hope. If He doesn't answer my prayer, I'll be ruined! It will be finished." We prefer to stay in situations where, if God doesn't answer our prayer, there's still another way out; a last resource, if you will.

But what if you're put in a situation where God is really and truly our only hope? There's no way out if He doesn't work a miracle. There's no answer unless He softens that persons' heart. There's no money unless He gives it. There's absolutely, positively, no way out, unless Jesus reaches down and pulls us up.

And He never fails. He always works things out. Always. You're still alive, right?

But come to think of it, when was the last time you were in a situation where He was your only hope? Most of the time, if He doesn't provide, there's still that little egg nest in the bank. If that person's heart isn't softened, we know someone else we can ask to help. If that trip doesn't happen, there will be other days.

We're good planners, you know. We purposely have our life scheduled so nicely, so perfectly, that there's no room for desperate situations. We need to be safe. Of course we plan everything as safely as possible.

That's the point.

Tell me something; is it an act of faith to plan something, saying "only God can make this work," but keep that extra money in mind, "just in case"?

Is it an act of faith to go out witnessing, praying for God to give you the words to say, yet memorizing that nice-sounding speech, "just in case"?

Why do we work so hard to have these "cushions" to fall back on? Why must we have that extra money? Why must we have that alternate route, in case this trip doesn't work? Why must we have that speech planned, in case God doesn't give us the words to speak when we're trying to witness?


Don't we trust Him?

I'm not saying we shouldn't plan; that's biblical. I'm just suggesting that we're addicted to plans. There's no room left for adventure. There's no way to fall out of the plane backwards, trusting God to spread a landing net below. I mean, honestly, that's really trusting; 'cause once you jump, you can't go back up to the plan to get that spare parachute, just in case God fails to catch you. You must trust. You must pray.

I guess if I start wondering why my prayer life isn't full of earnestness, tears, pleadings, and groanings that cannot be uttered, I ought to start looking at my plans. Do I have too many cushions to fall back on? Am I trying to do God's job?

I can picture it; He watches me trying to do both things; jump out of the plane, and spread the net. Pray my prayers, and answer them.

"Okay; if you think you can."

Then I wonder why 'God doesn't answer.' How ridiculous I can be!

I think that was a very enlightening - and convicting - "Ah-hah" moment.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas is coming!

Dad is off work from now until after Christmas!...

All my presents that are from the store are safely tucked away in my closet (Note: siblings and parents who read this blog, keep out!)...

All my presents that I'm making have been made, hidden in my sewing area, and I don't plan to visit the sewing machine or pick up a hammer until after Christmas. (...However, there can always be exceptions.)...

...What's left to do?

Let the celebration begin!

Whatever shall I do with myself this coming week?

...I suppose there will be lots to do...

...Tomorrow night is the Christmas service at church. (Must practice more for that; The King's Strings are playing "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," and "We Three Kings," combined in one song, bluegrass style. Should be fun!)...

...And of COURSE I must wrap presents. Haven't done a thing yet!...

...And on Tuesday there will be pumpkin-cream-cheese rolls to bake. (Traditional Christmas breakfast!)...

...And perhaps we'll go see that living nativity scene with some friends on Christmas Eve...

...And we always read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve...

...And somehow, most importantly, I must find some quiet time this week to just think.

I want to think more about Mary holding God in her womb. I want to think about God taking on flesh. I want to think about what Jesus did; the eternal (if "eternal" means anything to God) consequences of Jesus becoming part of mankind. I want to think about how even human flesh could not hold in the power of Jesus - how it seeped out at times, like when that woman touched the hem of His garment and was healed. I want to think about how Jesus knew about the cross waaaay before He was born - yet He chose to come anyway. I want to think how He was willing to humble Himself. I want to think about the great gulf He crossed by becoming a man. I want to think about how great a difference there is between us and Him.

And I want to think about the why. I want to think about why He did all that. He loved us. He loved me. O the deep, deep, love of Jesus! Love of every love the best! Love unmeasured, boundless, free. Flowing like a mighty ocean in its fullness over me.

...And He loved Himself.

Does that sound odd? But He did! He came to show how wonderful He is. He came to show His mercy and grace, and great love. If He hadn't come, however would we know how great His goodness really is? Hung on that great ugly cross, Jesus displayed a spectacle that shocked history beyond anything a human had ever done. He showed what God was really like.

He came so we would know Him.

Get the emphasis right in that sentence. It's not "He came so that we would know Him." It's "He came so that we would know Him!"

Let Christmas come!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Someone gave me an early Christmas present on Tuesday.

Imagine a plump 3-foot-long tube of the softest flannel, checked in white and lilac. It feels like a long beanbag - heavy and shifting.

I love it.

It's called a rice bag, because it is filled with rice. I can't stop handling it.

Pop it in the microwave for 3 minutes, and it's toasty. Take it to bed with you? Ahhhh! Warm sheets, warm at its highest. I think my rice bag is going to replace the teddy bear I never had. I've taken it to bed every night.

Everyone should have a rice bag.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I love you, Bro

Curtis is celebrating a birthday today.

Several evenings ago, Curtis, Justin, and I were out for a walk on our quiet little road. The three of us never have trouble finding things to talk about, and that night was no exception. Talking, laughing, and walking, we made our way down the road. Somewhere along the line, when we were feeling a sprightly, we tried what we call "walking in each other's footsteps."

It's actually a little tricky to accomplish. Have you ever tried walking behind someone, keeping your feet just behind theirs? The idea is to put your feet exactly where they put theirs, and the exact instant they lift their feet. If you are just slightly off rhythm, you cause both yourself and the person you are following to stumble.

Doing this with only two people is tricky enough, but three - or even more - people is harder. However, it adds a bit of interest to a walk, and causes a lot of laughter. Curtis led the way, I came behind him, and Justin foot-stepped me.

"It's hard to walk in somebody's footsteps." Justin laughed. "If you mess up, Amber, you're gonna make me mess up too."

How like real life that is. I have people following in my footsteps, and messing up has far-reaching effects.

One person in particular is following very close behind me; my brother Curtis. He is only 17 months younger than me, and I joke about him always breathing down my neck in age. I hardly had time to get used to not being an 13, when Curtis turned 13. And just when I pulled ahead to 15, there he was turning 14. When we were little, he used insist that one day he'd be older than me, but eventually logic developed, and he figured out the sad news. [grin.]

And he is doing it again today; moving up on me, that is. He's turning another year older.

I like to write a post about my siblings on their birthdays. It just seems fitting to say why I love them so much.

I can't remember life without this brother of mine - and obviously he's always known me, too. I'm not sure if it's the fact that we grew up almost constantly together, or just something special God's blessed us with, but we seem to think on the same wavelength.

Sometimes it's uncanny. Curtis is the only person I know who has had the same dreams I have. I remember beginning to tell a dream at the breakfast table once...

"...It was dark and rainy, and Heather decided to take us for a drive," I began.

"It was in a station wagon, wasn't it?" Curtis asked.

"Yes, but - "

"And Mom and Dad were away at a friend's house."

"How did you know?" I asked.

"I've had the exact same dream!"

Like I said, we think along the same wavelength. If I am feeling sad or worried, and trying to hide it, Curtis - out of everyone I know - is the most likely to see through my outer smile. Not only that, but if I'm alone in one part of the house, feeling troubled, he will often come looking for me, as if he could sense that I need someone to tell my troubles to.

And I can tell when he is troubled, too. Curtis is good at hiding his feelings when he wants to. I don't always know what he's thinking, but I know whether it's bad or good. Not because of a face expression, but by something that I can't see - a feeling that hovers in the air.

When Curt and I were little, we spent a lot of time imaging things together. Of course, I played a lot with my older sister Heather, too. With her I played with dolls, and we pretended life-like things; we were mothers, wives, famous singers, missionaries, or fancy ladies at a tea party.

With Curtis, I played less realistic things; pretending our toy animals could talk, making boats out of old wood and pretending to escape from angry sailors, pretending to be dogs or deer, sneaking around in dark bedrooms, pretending to be deep underground... I think I got the best of both worlds; imaginative and realistic. I loved it.

Now that we're older, we no longer play together with toys. In fact, sometimes we mourn to each other that our interests have diverged so much. He doesn't come sew with me, and I don't lift weights with him. He is still in school, and I have free time to devote to things other than school. He is beginning to think of how he will someday provide for a family, while I think more about how I will cook for them. :)

But we still have much in common. We love music. We love good books. We love to dream about our futures. We like animals. We like brave, dashing deeds. We love the Bible.

In fact, a couple of my siblings are so much like me that sometimes I think live through them. I have their adventures as well as my own, and joy when they joy. I cry when they cry. I hurt when they hurt. I grow when they grow.

Curtis is one of those.

But he's no longer a little boy. I am learning to relate to him in a more grown up way, but a way just as dear. We're in a strange sort of stage where we're no longer children, yet we don't feel like adults. And we're going through that stage together.

It's been a great adventure. I look forward to what will happen next.

Happy Birthday, Curt. I love you more than you'll ever know.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Real People

I stayed up late last night.

It wasn't on purpose.

I wasn't reading.

I wasn't on computer.

I didn't even have a light on.

I was laying in the dark, thinking.

What would it have been like to be Mary, the mother of Christ? Mary could have been exactly the age I am now - we don't know. Maybe she was younger than me. Or maybe she was my age. Maybe she liked to sew and garden. Maybe she loved to be outdoors.

...Then I imagined the houses of Mary's time. What kind of house did Mary live in? Was her kitchen like mine? Was the house made of stone? Clay bricks, like mine? I imagine it was cool inside, full of shady relief from the hot Palestinian sun. Or was there a lot of light flooding through the windows? Surely there were woven mats inside the house...clay jars....oil lamps....What was the furniture like? Was it easy to keep house? Was her family well-off, ordinary, or dirt poor?

Where was she when Gabriel came to her? At the village well, lowering a bucket into the cool depths of water? The other women of the village would have been there if it were late in the evening, or early in the morning. Was she in the kitchen, arms dusted with home-ground flour as she kneaded a loaf of bread? Was she kneeling in the damp earth of her back-yard herb garden, fingernails black with sweet-smelling dirt? Was she on the outskirts of the village, helping in her father's barley fields? Was her skirt tucked up, sunshine spilling on her head, face dusty, bare feet sunk into soft ground, when Gabriel found her?

Where was she?

And what did Gabriel look like? Does a mighty angel look like a man? Does he have skin, like us? And if he does, what color is it? Is it a brilliant paper-white, bleached from being constantly in the presence of God's glory? Does he have two legs and two arms like us? Does he have wings? Does he wear a weapon? Does he radiate a pulsing glow from inside? Does his face show human emotion? Was his voice like a might trumpet, or confidential, like two humans having a heart-to-heart talk?

And what did Mary think? What did she think?

I know her first emotion was fear; for Gabriel knew to set her fears at rest; "Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favor with God." This, combined with his first greeting, "Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women," must have been enough to astound her.

She loved Jehovah - I know she did. She wanted to please Him.

I want to please Him. If an angel were to appear unto me and tell me that I was highly favored by the Lord, what joy would leap up in my heart! Can you imagine being told that? It is almost as good as being told "well done, thou good and faithful servant;" the words we all long to hear at the end of our lives. Mary was told that she was pleasing her God!

But then Gabriel spoke words that must have landed like a boulder upon glass. "And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."


What to think about first? Mary was a Jewish girl; she knew Gabriel was referring to the promise of a Messiah. But he wasn't just saying the Messiah would come - like the scribes in the synagogue were constantly saying - he was saying the Messiah was really and truly on His way! That was enough to excite any Jew.

But Gabriel was also saying some pretty potent stuff about Mary's own life. She was supposed to be involved in this somehow. She was going to conceive? Did this angel know what he was saying? She wasn't married - and she wasn't about to sacrifice her virginity just before being married to Joseph.

"How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Was it a gasp or a softly spoken question?

Then he told her; "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall over shadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

The scribes probably hadn't told her this; the Jews in general didn't think of the Messiah as the Son of God; just a mighty man.

The Son of God? Inside of her? The Holy Ghost creating a baby inside of her? Without a man? Was such a thing possible? Happening to her? Surely Mary's mind was running a thousand miles an hour.

But Gabriel went on; "and behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God, nothing shall be impossible."

Remember Abraham and Sarah? Oh, could it be?!?! Was God truly visiting His people once again, like He did in the old days? How many times had she wished that she had been able to see the crossing of the Red Sea, the manna in the wilderness, and the mighty prophets of old, like Elijah and Elisha. She had longed to be in the days when God was moving in a mighty way among the Jews. She had always wanted to see a miracle. And now she had been chosen to be involved in one!

Suddenly belief welled up inside her - and excitement. God had chosen a lowly handmaiden to be a part of something big. He had chosen her! She could hardly believe it. A lowly young girl. Amazing.

But what about Joseph? At the thought of his name, something sank inside her heart. What would Joseph think if she became pregnant? Everyone would think she had been seeing another man. And what about the law? - she could be stoned! Her their hearts would break! Would they believe her if she told them about the angel? Or would they think she had concocted a ridiculous story to cover up her sin? She would be shunned by all the villagers.

What to choose - excitement or dread? Her heart seemed to be twisting inside her chest.

But what about the Messiah? It was the dream of every Jewish girl to be the mother of the Messiah. And this honor had come to her. Not only that - she now knew something even the scribes didn't know; the Messiah was the Son of God. And the Son of God was to be born from her body; shaped inside her womb. In a strange, wild, wonderful way, the Son of God was going to partake of human flesh - her flesh.

Jehovah made the world. How was He to fit inside His own creation? How was He to become an infant? Would He really have her blood flowing in His veins? Nurse from her body? Shivers ran down her spine.

The love of her Joseph - the good will of her parents - the opinion of the villagers - it was nothing compared to what she was being offered. Bowing her head, she whispered, "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." With those words, she surrendered her body. And her heart.

And the angel departed from her.

I once dreamed that I was Mary. It happened many months ago. I dreamed that I was pregnant with the Son of God.

Everyone in my life refused to believe that the baby was from the Holy Ghost. They thought I know. My parents were heart-broken. My siblings were angry and confused. And Joseph....didn't know how to respond.

I began to hate going out in public. I spent a lot of time in prayer, begging God to help me hold up my head. I knew I hadn't sinned, but no one else did. That was so hard.

Then, one day, as I was laying on my bed, wondering what would become of me, and what would happen to the baby when he was born, how I would care for him, and how I would protect him from those who believed he was an illegitimate child, Joseph walked into my room. He sat down beside me, tears flowing, and something in his face made me hope. There was an expression in his eyes that I hadn't seen in sooo long.

"I believe you, Mary."


"The angel came to see me last night."

As my mind slowly comprehended what he meant, my breath came out in a long, jerky sigh. Relief began to wash over me.

And then I woke up.

Yes, I know - my dreams are odd at times. I kept thinking of this dream as I laid awake last night. I wondered if Mary really felt like that. I wondered what her personality was like. I wondered what it was like to hold God in her arms.

There's a lot more to the Christmas story than "a babe was born, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and placed in a manger." God, JEHOVAH,Creator, wrapped Himself in human flesh, and humbled Himself enough to actually enter a human being.

And He had a human father. And human grandparents. And human visitors at that stable.

Those shepherds hadn't spent three weeks rehearsing a Christmas play. They hadn't seen the white-robed angel with the tinfoil wings appear 66 times already. Mary hadn't spent 20 minutes getting her shawl to lay just right, and then sat down on a stool next to the manger.

They were real people, with real lives that extended beyond the night of Christ's birth. The shepherds had to care for those sheep the next morning. Maybe they worried about getting in trouble with their employers for leaving the flock alone for several hours that night. They had probably grown up in the rugged life of a shepherd. They had spent years in the elements, eating basic foods, wrapping themselves in rough woolen garments against the cold, longing for shade when it was hot....doing the everyday things. They had also spent their LIVES waiting for the Messiah. He wasn't just a word on a page; He was the hope of Israel.

Mary, ...Joseph, ...shepherds, ...wise men, ...Herod, ...John the Baptist, ...Elizabeth, ...Zachariah, ...Mary's parents and siblings, ...the villagers, ...the inn keeper, ...the roman soldiers standing guard at the tax collector's booth, ...the scribe recording the lineage of each Jew come to be counted in the census, ...the annoyed old Jewish man sleeping in the top room of the inn, hearing a baby cry at 2:00 in the morning,...the man who sold or rented his house to Joseph and Mary later on, ...the boy who cared for the oxen in the stable the morning after Christ's birth...

...Real people.

It really happened. God came to earth as a human. They called Him Jesus.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Trust and Obey

I really encourage y'all to read this week's Living Simply post at Keeper of the Home. It sure was a blessing to me. It made me ask myself "Did you beg God to help you today? Did you vocalize your need for Him today? Did you remember that you need Him today - this very hour, this very minute?"

I know I need God every day. But sometimes I forget for a minute that I need Him every second. I love to be reminded. What sweetness there is in utter dependence!

Imagine if a baby could feed himself. Imagine if he was fully capable of going to the potato bin, selecting, washing and boiling the potatoes, mashing them, and putting them in a dish, then onto his plate.

He can do all this, yet chooses to sit in that little highchair and let his mommy spoon-feed him.

Ugh. Yuck.

But in real life, he can't. In real life, mommy is the one who can supply what he needs. She can maneuver the spoon into his mouth instead of down the front of his shirt. She does things better than he can.

And so it is sweet to watch him be fed. It is sweet to watch his eyes beg mommy for the next bite. It is sweet to see him get excited and wave those pudgy hands.

It is only sweet because he can't feed himself. He is utterly dependent on mom.

And I am utterly dependent on God very every detail of my life; every breath, every step, every smile, every blog post.

I don't feel pitiful for admitting that. I delight and revel in the fact. Somehow I think I know how it would feel to be in an airplane and jump out backwards, face up towards the sun, arms thrown out ecstatically, trusting a landing net below me.

Trust - and obey. For there's no other way to be happy in Jesus...than to trust and obey.

I know I can't trust if I don't obey. Why should God protect me if I flee out from behind Him, right into the enemy fire? I know He does protect me in that situation sometimes - but why should He? It's not as if He has an obligation to do so, anymore than a judge must pardon a robber who dodged three police cars to get to the bank.

God never promised to make everything work out right for me if I insisted on living in sin. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God. (Romans 8:28) So if I'm disobeying, I can't pull the covers up over my head, squinch my eyes shut tight, and hope that God will somehow make everything come out okay. He might - because He is plenteous in mercy, but He never promised to do that. I can't trust Him to do good to me in that situation, because there is no promise to claim.

But when I'm obeying - then I have a host of promises to claim. What trust there can be then!

If you're asking what this has to do with "Living Simply," then I guess you just don't get it. What could simplify life more than not being in charge?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Attitudes or Acts?

Scenario is familiar: Older sibling (or parent) is annoyed by a younger sibling (or child). The little one just isn't moving fast enough to suit the older one, though they are trying their best.

"Come on, won't you? Does it take forever to brush your hair? We're gonna be late."

This scene is also familiar: Little guy is asked to do something, and moves to comply, but with a frown on his face. Older sister chooses to ignore it, because she is in a hurry, and is content with just the fact that he did what she asked. She chooses not to deal with the scowling face.

I'm gonna share a small portion of scripture that just thrills me. I love how Jesus knew real life. I love how He looked at things;

"But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

Whether of them twain did the will of his father?

They say unto him, The first."

Matthew 21: 28-31

Jesus is concerned with attitudes much more than actions. I love that. It is such a freeing knowledge. When I am trying my best, but failing, He knows. What relief! ...And when I am doing my "duty," but my heart isn't in it, He knows that too. What conviction!

God's focus on the heart of man is one of my favorite things about Him (as if I could really pick a favorite!! Okay - it's just something I really, really, like.)

But do I imitate Him? Remember this:

Matthew 18:23-35
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

So if God does something for me, I ought to in turn do it for others.

Do I look at the motive and hearts of those around me? Do I respond based upon what they intended? If a little sister is trying to help me with laundry, and instead stains a shirt, do I condemn her mistake, or love her for her attitude of helpfulness? If a siblings wants to "bribe" me into showing favor upon something wrong they are doing, do I take the easy road and respond to their smiles, or gently correct the wrong?

The first temptation occurs most often; it is so easy to be harsh with folks whose actions hurt or offend me, but whose hearts are on the right track.

But I want to be like Jesus.

So I'd better learn to look at the heart.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Like I said, you just never know

Tonight Mom served that cream-of-turkey soup in another fashion. Instead of a casserole, she tried a different dish.

Sister Lezley gobbled it down. Brother Curtis scooped some on to his plate, took a few bites, and just couldn't bring himself to finish it.

"But it's the same stuff that was in the casserole last night," I protested.

"Well...last night wasn't really my favorite."

Of course brother Justin had to copy Big Brother. "Wasn't my favorite, either," he said. I said; you just never know.

You Just Never Know

In a family of any size, there are bound to be differences.

'Specially in the realm of food. There are sure to be differing taste buds.

Not only that, but there are likely to be different philosophies. Everybody has a philosophy about eating, ya know. One person is a vegetarian, another eats only organic, another won't eat dairy, another buys their flour from the store, but grows their own veggies, another righteously defends vitamin supplements, and another is more casual about their approach to health foods. Still others eat whatever they like.

I think our family has a fairly balanced approach to the whole food thing; we want to take care of our bodies, as they are temples of the Holy Spirit, but we don't want to grow legalistic, or spend too much money perusing health. We all agree on those things.

Yet within that broad definition, there is room for variation. Some of us are more concerned about health than others. I am fascinated by anatomy, and am very interested in how different foods affect different parts of the body. That's fun and interesting to me. My brothers, on the other hand, are more interested in how the food tastes. They don't care if the butter crunch lettuce has more nutrients than the ice burg; it's a vegetable, and they want to please their taste buds. :)

These differing "philosophies," if you will, are not necessarily wrong. But they do create interesting supper discussions. :) I am learning that having a happy peaceful meal is more important than satisfying my idea of a healthy meal. There is a balance, you know.

I see creating foods that are healthy and taste good as a challenge - and I like a challenge. When I have a turn making a meal, I am always experimenting. My brothers are the hardest to please, and therefore their good opinion is the one I strive the hardest to gain. Most of the time, the vote goes against me. Not in an unpleasant way, but they just tell me nicely that they liked the old recipe better.

Making stock was one of those experiments. I was trying to avoid the stuff in store-bought broth. Using some of the stock, I made condensed cream-of-chicken-(ahem, I mean turkey)-soup. We used to use that quite often in casseroles, but Mom has cut down on that because of the MSG in the soup. I thought it would really please my family if I could come up with good cream-of-chicken-soup that had no MSG, so we could continue making those yummy casseroles.

But you know what? I didn't have much hope. I mean, really, condensed cream-of-chicken-soup is one of those things that just tastes better out of a tin can. And on top of that, I would be using whole wheat flour to thicken the soup, instead of white flour. Italic
I made 1 and 1/2 quarts of the condensed soup. I put it in the refrigerator, and asked Mom to try making something with it so I could assess the response and decide whether to make more.

I'd already tried making this recipe once before. It burned really bad, and I made a casserole with it anyway.


Bad decision.

End of that story.

So I was nervous to see how this next batch would go over.

Mom used the soup in a casserole last night.

I smelled it as I walked in the kitchen, and immediately steeled myself for the response I knew I would get.

"What's IN this?"

"What did you do to this casserole, Mom?"

"What's different?"

We sat down, prayed over the food, and began. I had my apologizes at the front of my mouth, ready to spill out as soon as the comments began.

They didn't come.

I kept glancing down the table at my brothers (and my father).

Curtis was eating eagerly.

Justin looked like he was enjoying it. (And this casserole had BROCCOLI in it!)

Dad said it first; "This is good."

[Insert clattering noise here; Amber's jaw is hitting her plate.]

Amber: "W-w-what?"

Curtis: "Yeah; I like it. Is that stock I'm tasting?"

Justin: "It tastes like bologna." (You must understand that Justin loves bologna.)

Amber: "Curt, did you say you did or didn't like it?"

Curtis: "Did."

Amber: "Did."

[Insert a soft "splat" noise here. Amber's bulging eyes have joined her jaw.]

It all goes to show that, when it comes to boys' tastes buds, you just never know.

What was I worried about?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I just had to add this;

You know that cake I baked this morning? I had to run down to the grocery store on the corner for some ingredients.

Mom let me drive the big red van.

By myself.

Well, okay - my younger brother Curtis was with me, sitting in the front passenger seat. And I had driven the van once before. But still, I thought it was kinda cool.

As we were coming out of our road entrance, a huge semi-truck blinked his turn signal, and I realized that he needed to turn onto our road. (We have a small factory on our road.) The road isn't very wide - it's an old residential street, after all! - and I wasn't sure if our van and that truck could pass one another.

Problem solved; he waited for me to come out and get in the lane where I had been heading. I maneuvered into position just fine, and felt rather good about it, too.

I did notice a strange look on the truck driver's face, however. You see, despite being out of high school and all, I am still mistaken for being a young teen quite often. I had to convince the ladies at the polls this year that I was old enough to vote, for instance. you usually see young teen girls driving big 15-passenger vans? Isn't that reserved for homeschooling moms and dads?

I had to chuckle at the looks I got. Fun. the point of this post:

Often - most of the time, actually - when Mom takes me shopping with her and we've only stopped in for two items, I follow her around the store, wishing she didn't do this;

"Do we need more of this?"
"Oh, this is on sale - I think I'll get some."
"I forgot we need this - good thing I remembered."
"Let's see...there was something else I needed..."
"Should I get that?"

And I'm thinking "Mom, please, can't we just come in, get the two things on your list, and come back out? Just once?"

Guess what I did in the store today?

I listened to myself do exactly what Mom does!!! Oh dear.

I mentioned this to Curtis on the short drive home, and asked if he'd noticed me talking exactly like Mom.

"Yes, but I just thought it was a female thing."

I wasn't sure how to reply. :):):)

Cake and Flowers

I have cake in the oven right now - I'm making more Cinnamon Morning Delight. On request of some of you, (and because I love the recipe myself!) I'm sharing the recipe here. It's rich, but oh so good! Keep an eye on it while it's baking, because you don't want it to over-bake and get dry. You want it nice and moist.

Cinnamon Morning Delight

1 cup butter (soften)
1 cup sugar (white)
4 eggs
2 cups sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup milk
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts

Begin by greasing (well) and flouring a bundt pan. You want it ready to go, because the instant you combine the wet and dry ingredients, the baking powder and baking soda will begin working, and you don't want that to fizzle out while you're greasing the pan.

Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add sour cream and vanilla. Beat well - really well. I put it in our stand mixture and let it go while I combine the next ingredients: In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, powder, and salt. I add a dash of cinnamon, but that's optional.

Begin to preheat the oven to 345 degrees.

By now the egg-sour cream mixture should be very well beaten. Stir in the milk.

In another separate bowl, combine cinnamon, brown sugar, and walnuts. Set aside.

Pour dry ingredients into bowl with eggs, sour cream, butter, etc. Mix just until combined. You don't want to stir the fizz out.

Put 1/3 the batter in the pan, and spread out evenly. Sprinkle 1/2 the walnut mixture over this. Top with remaining batter, and top that with the remaining walnut mixture.

Let sit for 5 minutes - no longer. Then bake at 345 for about 40 minutes. This is only approximate. Let your nose and your eyes tell you when it's done. When finished, let sit in the pan for five minutes, then turn out to cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

So there you have it.

Oh - and guess what is sitting on our kitchen table? A vase of roses. My brother Curtis gave them to me this morning. A dozen white roses. Just because.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE flowers.

Don't I have great brothers?

Monday, December 8, 2008

What happens when.....

You're making biscuits and....

The recipe calls for;

...Milk, and you only have buttermilk....

...Brown sugar, and you only have white....

...Butter, and you only have cream cheese and shortening?

The finished product can actually taste quite good!

I was amazed, but cream cheese is actually a yummy substitute for butter in biscuits. It cuts into the flour much easier, too. The dough is a little stickier, but it works if you're gentle. The recipe also called for some shortening, which I used - I'm not sure if using cream cheese only would have worked or not. Maybe I'll try it someday.

One little sight caused so much thought

Sitting in church yesterday evening, I glanced at the rows ahead of me and saw six young men in my immediate view. Two of them were my brothers. Four were other young men from church.

Even though I was only looking at the back of their heads, I saw something in the way they all sat. The way they held their shoulders. The way the lowered their heads in prayer.

I especially noticed my youngest brother and one of his friends, sitting side by side directly in front of me. They were dressed similarly, and when they are sitting they look the same height. My brother is light complected, with green eyes and light brown hair. His friend has darker hair, and darker eyes...if I remember correctly. But they looked alike at that moment.

I looked at those boys sitting in front of me and saw men. I saw the men of tomorrow. Are not the next ten years tomorrow, as surely as the past ten years are yesterday?

And I wondered why, with the world in such a jumble, I felt secure.

It wasn't the boys in front of me. What are they, amongst all the thousands of youths populating this planet?

It was what those boys were doing.

They were bowing.

You see, the congregation wasn't asking a blessing on the offering, or something like that. It wasn't just a traditional prayer - I would expect them to bow their heads for that. We were about to have the Lord's supper, and those boys were bowing their heads to search their hearts. They were so sober, so intent. They somehow knew this was what one must do before taking part in the Lord's supper. They've seen their fathers bow and examine their own hearts on just such an occasion.

It seemed a little thing, but I wanted to weep as I watched them bow. Thousands of youth on this planet have not discovered that only in weakness is strength, only in yielding is victory, and only in bowing is lifting.

I pray God is doing a work in my brothers' - in all youths' - hearts. If He is doing a work in the hearts of more youths, there is hope for the future. Of course there is hope. Where God is, there is hope, and He is everywhere.

Perhaps that is why I felt secure.

Friday, December 5, 2008


It's Friday!

I know I haven't done a "Family Friday" post in a looong time. I couldn't resist writing one today, though I only have a minute to spend on the computer ('tis the season to be locked away in the sewing room!)

Do you know what is one of the best parts of December?

Secrets in the family.

It's the one time when it's okay to have a bunch of secrets; no one gets hurt feelings by being told that they must be excluded from a whispering session. All you must do is hum "'tis the season..." and they get the message.

Siblings group up against siblings. Brother and sister pool their resources to buy that special large present for someone. Mom and daughter wink at each other at odd moments. Sister sneaks a gift into its hiding place by stowing it under dirty clothes in the laundry basket, and carrying the basket through the house.

Oops. I'd better be careful what I'm writing. My family reads my blog. :)

Anyway...I'm so thankful for the spirit of giving. I'm glad it's so much fun to plan gifts. I'm glad for the suspense of keeping them hidden. I'm glad these gifts make us think of the ONE gift no one could ever surpass.

On Christmas morning, we try to open gifts one at a time, savoring each expression and exclamation. We don't argue about who gets to open their gifts first. ...But we always argue over who gets to give out their gifts first. I love that about my family.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I think the changes on the template are finished for now

Big hat tip to Alethea Jordan for all her help! Please, I'd love to hear what y'all think of the new look. Any suggestions?

If you like it, please leave a comment here for my friend to read. I want her to know I'm not the only one who likes the work she did. :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

To any of you who are watching the crazy changes going on here right now:

Sorry! We're under construction. Hope to have a beauuutiful new template to show y'all soon!

'Tis the season to be in the kitchen!

I spent all yesterday afternoon and this morning in the kitchen.

All by choice. ...and doing two totally different activities yesterday and today, I might add.

Let me tell the story chronologically - that means starting with yesterday. But first:


Chapter 4

1 Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

2 And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.

3 Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.

4 And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

5 So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.

6 And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.

7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

Now for my story.

I've wanted to try making stock for a long time. It sounded a little complicated, but I wanted to try it, nevertheless. I found some very simple-sounding directions online a few weeks ago, and that gave me the motivation to actually do something.

The instructions called for as many chicken or turkey bones as I could come up with.



Oh yes! I used all the leftover turkey bones I could find in the refrigerator. Mom had saved me the "unusable carcass," but I even went through the meat she was saving for dinner, and picked out all the bones. (With permission, of course!)

All that couldn't fit in our big I descended into the basement to find THE POT. The biggest one we own. It is gigantic.

This was in our basement, so I won't tell you what I found inside the pot, but let's just say I scrubbed it well before using. Incidentally... I really dislike washing pots that don't fit in the sink!


In went the bones, in went the celery, and in went the carrots and onion. Cover everything with water. [By the way, I found out that carrots and bones sink, and celery, onions, and meat float.] On with the burner, and presto!

Oh - question: how do you "cover completely with water" meat that floats? I added as much water as I dared, not wanting to come too close to the edge of the pot. That was one full pot.

I let the potful simmer about 24 hours. The house smelled like Thanksgiving! Mmmmm!

Then, yesterday, Mom helped me strain out the veggies and meat and bones. I wanted to use the veggies for something (I hate to throw anything away!) but Mom tried a carrot and said there wasn't any flavor left. I tried one too.

She was right! Weirdest sensation, that - a carrot with no flavor.

Anyway, after removing the stuff, I staggered with the pot to the table and let it cool there. When the fat rose to the top, I skimmed it off.

Then I went jar hunting.

I found five fairly large jars in the basement (quart size, I think), and prepared to fill them. Oh what a lovely golden color the broth was! It smelled good, too. La-da-da....There - my last jar is filled.

The level of broth in the pot had hardly gone down.

It was about then I starting thinking of 2 Kings chapter 4, and wondering where I was going to store all this good stock!

I filled two ice cube trays with stock. They took about four dipper-fulls a piece. Not much help.

I then thought of making condensed cream-of-chicken soup. I doubled the recipe, filling a soup pot on the stove.

I still had about half a pot of stock left.

I picked out two large glass bowls from the cupboard, and - praying as I poured - emptied the broth into them. The last drop just filled the last bowl. Whew!

So now we have a LOT of broth sitting in our refrigerator, while I'm figuring out how to store it long-term.

Okay; that was yesterday. I'll be brief about today.

I made a pumpkin-cream-cheese layered cake for supper's desert, and Cinnamon Morning Delight cake, for breakfast tomorrow. Both were new recipes to me. I'll post them here if I like them well enough. They sure smell and look good!

My baking seemed to turn out really good this morning. Picture-perfect. The cakes turned out of the pans beautifully, leaving hardly a crumb behind.

The disappointing part? No fallen pieces to sample!!!!!

Dear dear. Perhaps I'll have to go back to making cakes that come out of the pan in pieces. I'm so used to no one noticing if I nibble!!! lol.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's December!!!!




Where did this year go?

I know, I know - everyone says that! ...But I really feel that way! Where did the time go?


Christmas time!!

Our family usually takes a break between Thanksgiving and Christmas; we don't decorate for Christmas right after Thanksgiving. Maybe it's a small effort to make the month of December seem longer. :) But this year, I'm eager for Christmas time. I'm throwing myself into planning gifts, planning baking sprees, smelling cinnamon, reading the gospels, looking for snow, locking myself away in my sewing area to work on secrets...

...And I'm also reminiscing a little. This morning, I've been looking over pictures from this year...

I'm glad this one is a memory only!

Touring in Ashville this summer (Heather on the LEFT, me on the RIGHT)
Note: I had this posted for
days as "Heather on the RIGHT, and me on the LEFT." How come y'all who know me in person let me get away with that? :) :) :)

On my birthday in May, with Lezley, my youngest sister

Our menfolk working hard on the kitchen ceiling this summer

The garden!!

On a picnic with Dad in ...August, I think

Memories. :):)

Oh yes - by the way, my sister Heather has taken to writing fairy tales. :) Not really. They're actually quite real. But with a princess and a castle in the story, that makes it a fairy tale, right?

My favorite part is about the liquid feast and the castle workroom - full of carpenters and blacksmiths - that only certain royal guest are allowed to view.

Have I confused you yet? I hope I've gotten you curious enough to visit Heather and read the story. I told her she needs to consider writing children books. Do you agree with me? :)

In any case, the story will let you know what Heather's been up to lately!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I didn't have to wait 'til Thanksgiving.

I got my wish yesterday. (Remember all my moaning in my Tuesday post?) I spent the day yesterday in the kitchen.

It all began around 10:00, and I didn't leave the kitchen permanently until 9:37 last night. What fun!

I was helping Mom by doing Thanksgiving-prep work. Those hours of kitchen work resulted in:

~ One double-size pumpkin pie. (Made in a casserole dish. This recipe is a traditional dish at Thanksgiving, for us. Mom wanted to make two separate regular pies this year, but when I begged to be allowed to make the double-size one, she graciously let me. :))

~ One loaf of bread. (That honey-molasses recipe I wanted to make!)

~ One dozen rolls. (I'm SOOO pleased with how these turned out!)

~ And...are you ready for this?...Thirty-six biscuits. (Sweet potato biscuits, with brown sugar and cinnamon. Yum!) To mix the dough, I used the largest bowl we own, and it was still a tight fit - I got flour everywhere. :) that I write it down, it doesn't seem like much, but it sure took awhile to make those four things.

And guess what else I was creating in that kitchen?

A mess.

In particular, messy dishes.

And you can guess who had dish duty yesterday.

Yup. Me.

That's why I didn't leave the kitchen until 9:37 last night. It took me 15 minutes just to empty the sink of dirty dishes! I'm very thankful Mom decided to make a light lunch, and use paper plates for supper. Thank you, Mother!!!!

Anyway, to make the job more fun [oh - I did mention we do our dishes by hand, didn't I?] I decided to keep track of what I washed - you know, like those memory games where you look at ten items, then cover them up and try to remember what you saw.

After a good night's sleep, here's what I remember:

~ 21 cups
~ 1 dinner plate
~ 10 cereal bowls
~ 4 mixing bowls
~ 2 pots
~ 1 pot insert
~ 2 pot lids
~ 1 glass casserole dish
~ 4 measuring cups
~ 1 small frying pan
~ 3 pitchers
~ 1 blender
~ 3 cookie sheets
~ 2 biscuits cutters
~ 1 bread pan
~ 1 rolling pin
~ 2 spatulas
~ 1 serving spoon
~ 2 or 3 mixing spoons
~ ...and I decided not to count the silverware. [grin]

...So, why am I posting this on Thanksgiving?

Because while I was splashing around in that sudsy water, this poem was playing over and over in my mind:

Thank God for Dirty Dishes
author unknown

Thank God for Dirty Dishes,

They have a tale to tell.

While others are going hungry,

We're eating very well.

With home and health and happiness,

I shouldn't want to fuss.

For by this stack of evidence,

God's very good to us.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I can't begin to name the ways I'm blessed! Thank You, LORD!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I must be "into" short posts lately...

...cause I have a feeling this one will be brief, just like the past few posts.

I just wanted to say that I'm SOOOO in the mood to cook and bake.

In particular, bake bread. I'm so in the mood to make bread.

But it's a little late in the evening to start bread.

Maybe I will anyway.

I made biscuits yesterday - hoped that would help. I think it whetted my appetite. I still want to make bread!

First, I want to make a regular loaf.

Then, I want to make a molasses-honey-bread recipe that I haven't made in ages.

Then I want to try my hand at making burger buns. (Sure could use those tonight!)

Then I want to try flat bread.

Then maybe that Irish-cornbread I made up. (By the way, does anyone know if the Irish ever used corn?)

Then I want to try using different grains; I LOVE using a variety of grains in my breads! I'm just beginning to understand the science in bread making, and watching the different reactions I get by combining different ingredients fascinates me. (Hence the experiment with corn in the Irish bread!)

I love the confidence I feel in the kitchen - thank you, Mom, for putting me there at an early age! You patience astounds me, now that I look back on it. I sure made a mess of your kitchen plenty of times! Not to mention the un-edible creations I produced. :)

Give me unlimited access to ingredients, and I would be thrilled! I would love to try cooking with barley, millet, freshly-milled oats (not quick oats!), hard flour, soft flour, pastry flour, prairie gold flour, King Aurthur flour, bread flour, rice flour....just about any kind of flour! ...Except white. [grin]

That reminds me - one week from now, I plan to do a post on a "secret" ingredient I've just recently discovered the joy of using in anything bread. Stay tuned for that!

So...where was I?

Oh yes - a short blog post. Oh well for that idea. I just get carried away, thinking of all the recipes I would love to try. Isn't God good to me, to plant me in a spot where I can dream this way? I'm so thankful to be part of home life. No moving out into an apartment for me! (Who would eat all the stuff?)

I'm glad Thursday is Thanksgiving. I can't wait to spend all morning in the kitchen!

P.S. Yes, I do know Thanksgiving is about more than food. I'm just thankful for the chance to be in the kitchen!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I admit it: I'm a theif!

I feel like I could burst.

I've been feeling this way a lot lately - and I love it! I'm just so overwhelmed with the beauty, goodness, mercy, ....ect....of God. He is SOOO good to me! And He is SOOOO beautiful!

So when I read this post at Leah's blog, I HAD to join in. I left a comment there...and then got to thinking that I want to hear more. I want to hear other folks talking about what they love about the LORD.

So I'm stealing Leah's idea. (Thanks, Leah!) Please, tell me what you love about God. Overflow my comment section.

This isn't a plug for comments. If you don't leave them, I'll write them myself, because I'm soooo bursting full of admiration for Him!!!!!

But I really want to hear from you too.

Let's write - shall we?

God seems to speak on the same theme to many people at once

For those of you who enjoyed reading this recent post of mine, I want to let you know that there's a great post on that topic over at Jasmine's blog. I'd encourage you to skip over there and read it!

New Life!

I'm so excited; we just got word this morning that a lady in our church gave birth to her little girl.

I know babies are born everyday, but how can I ever get over the miracle of life? There's a new little life on this earth!

And guess what? I've been blessed beyond that; I've been asked to come over to their home and help out around the house this afternoon and tomorrow. I'm so thankful they asked me!!!!! I can't wait to see the little one, and I'm praying that I'll be helpful to this family.

Thoughts during a sermon

I hope y'all had a blessed Sunday. I certainly did. There's nothing like going to church to help a week feel back to normal.

Pastor preached in the morning about prayer.

A few things to think about:

When we're friends with someone, we talk.

If we're typical humans, we talk a lot. [grin]. And about everything under the sun.

But if we fall out of fellowship with someone? If we're mad at them? If our feelings are hurt?

We stop talking. Gone are the phone calls. Gone is the chitchat at home. Gone are the deep conversations.

Oh, we may be - probably are - formally polite; "Hi, how are you?" "Fine, thanks." Anybody can exchange pleasantries. But there is no true communication. You know those deep conversations I'm talking about; the ones you have in a quiet corner after the service is over...or the ones you have in bed with a sister late at night...or the ones you have on the phone when both of you are crying.

So what about prayer?

Ya know, when we are in fellowship with God, we talk with Him. A lot.

Am I the only person who sorta gulps when they hear that? Am I the only one who wonders "what does it mean if I DON'T talk to Him a lot?"

You know what I'm talking about here; not the pleasantries. In prayer, those would be the "bless the food" prayers, the ones you offer at family worship times, or the ones you are expected to offer during the day. The prayer you pray after you've read your standard chapter for the day.

Generally speaking, those are the "how are you?" "fine, thanks," prayers.

That isn't true communication. O, to pray without ceasing! To be constantly talking with my Lord!

Those are the things Pastor brought up during service yesterday morning. And here's something that the Spirit whispered to my heart privately while Pastor was speaking:

"Prayer is the natural breathing of the Christian. If I were the normal Christian, I would be talking to my Father a LOT. ...I don't pray like I should because I don't obey like I should."

If communication lines are broken when we are out of fellowship, and sin is what puts me out of doesn't take a genius to figure out why I don't pray.

Just something to think about.

Excuse me.

Just something to pray about.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Heather's home.

Mom and Dad are back.

They're all napping, or heading that'a way.

The house is quiet.

The house is clean.

There's nothing to clean.

There's nothing to cook.

The younger siblings are all occupied.

I can go back to being just a sister.

In a few hours, I have to make supper.

I still have responsibilities.

I just remembered that I have to bake bread.

But they're home.

And I'm happy.

I'm also tired. :) :)

But I'm happy.

(outside this summer)

Friday, November 21, 2008


Thank y'all for praying!

Heather's surgery went well. Both plates were removed, and now she has no more metal inside to set off airport detectors. :)

Of course she is still in a lot of pain. This is the first surgery she's had that involved both sides of her body at the same time. Early this morning she had to have two pints of blood given to her - that's the first time she's had to receive blood after a surgery. She also isn't eating much at all, which her family completely expected, since we often tease her a little about her weak stomach, but the hospital staff wants her to eat - with good reason, of course. We were hoping that she could head home this afternoon, but now we're not sure she'll be able to do that until tomorrow.

Here at home, things are going well. I've had some great relationship-building times with my siblings today and yesterday. I really mean that. God has reeeeeally blessed me these two days. My siblings have been so wonderful. I am so thankful.

We haven't seen Mom and Dad much - they got home late last night, and left again this morning - but that's just the way things are for the present. Our extended family, church family, and other friends have been calling our house to see how Heather is, and it's been nice to be reminded how many people care.

My siblings and I are actually having quite of bit of fun. Once in awhile, it's interesting to see if you can get along alone, ya know? Of course we miss Dad, Mom, and Heather, but we know it's only temporary, and for the present we are enjoying running the house by ourselves.

Justin, my youngest brother, made lunch for us yesterday (he's quite a good chef!), and I wish I could show you a picture of how marvelous he made the table look. I didn't know he had that much artistic arrangement in him. :)

Tiffany went the extra mile in her chores yesterday, and cleaned the microwave for me. I loved that, since I hate cleaning that thing, but it needed to be cleaned.

School work is being done... on a small scale - Mom was good to me, and slacked the requirements for these two days. Most of my younger siblings' work this week is memory work. (Curtis, my older-younger brother, takes care of his own work.)

I love watching how everyone memorizes with a different method. Justin paces back and forth in a solitary part of the house, quoting his lines to himself over and over until he has them down. Tiffany sits by herself and murmurs the lines quietly, the stares into space and mouths the words. Lezley worked with me; skipping from one end of the living room to the other while she repeated what I read to her.

Oh - and I finally found something to do outside! By the way, thanks for all the input on that post. I really loved reading all the comments.


No, not "real" soccer. It's the way you play it with five people. You make a big pentagon all over the back yard, and kick a ball clockwise from person to person.

Then you add in a second ball. After sending one ball off to the person down the line from you, you have to turn back to receive the second ball from the person above you.

And you try to actually kick the ball in a straight line. :) (My siblings say I can't do that.)

It's fast paced, it's fun, it involves everybody - big and little....and I like it!

We spent a good amount of time outside yesterday. It's one of the first rules of peace; tired children are good children. :)

Today we were only out there 15 minutes; it was cold! We even had flurries this morning!!!! That is unheard of in our part of Virginia - snow before Thanksgiving!

Oh dear - I just remembered I'm suppose to be getting laundry done. I'd better put that load of towels in the dryer and put some clothes in the washer.

Bye for now! And thanks for all the prayer. God is good! God is good!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pray for us

Hey, I'm posting this quick before going to bed, 'cause I know I won't have time tomorrow.

My older sister, Heather, is having hip surgery tomorrow in another city. She'll be having metal plates and screws removed from both hips. (She's had previous surgeries...obviously.)

I'm staying here with my four younger siblings. Mom and Dad will be in the waiting room of the hospital.

Please pray for all of us. I don't have time to list all the requests; successful surgery, witnessing opportunities, a peaceful home, ...but you can think of them on your own.

Thank y'all in advance.

Rejoice! God is good!