Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm stumped

I'm trying to be frugal (read "cheap").

I'm trying to be creative.

Hasn't anyone ever told you not to spill bleach on your clothing? It stains.


I'm in the process of sewing a skirt, and I wanted some white denim. Rather than paying $9.00/yard for three yards of fabric ($27.00 for a skirt? Unthinkable!), I had the idea to bleach ordinary denim and turn it white.

Correction; I wanted to bleach denim pieces that I cut out of old jeans. Now you know I'm cheap. *grin*

I washed those pieces TWO TIMES today, in the washing machine with bleach, and they haven't turned one shade lighter! The first time I used about 3/4 cup of bleach, but when I opened the washer door to see damp blue denim, I got determined, and the second time I think I poured about 1/2 a quart of bleach in there.

Still no change.

Now I'm stumped. What should I do - leave the pieces to soak in bleach, instead of washing them in it?

Maybe I should just accidentally spill some bleach on the denim.

Spring, Spring, Spring!

These are the pictures I was complaining about losing the other day. They were taken on one of the first nice days of the year. Can't you smell the pollen and feel the sunshine and dew on your bare feet?

Heather's pansies waiting to be planted. She's the "flower pot" girl in the family, while I take care of the stuff in beds. These beauties are now in pots outside our front door - all except one of the boxes, which went to a family at our church.
Don't you like the brick background in this picture?

I was walking from the garden toward the house, ready to go inside, when I happened to look up.
I just had to run inside for the camera, and that's when I took all these pictures. This was what made me want to; just look at that blue! Can you imagine if you were standing at the base of this almond tree, as I was, a faint breeze kissing your cheeks, pink and white petals littering the ground around your feet, sun pouring down on your lifted face, and this blue, blue, blue sea of blue creating a gigantic dome over your head. The vastness and the deepness of the sky simply blew me away.

Here are my "babies." First lettuce of the season. They are planted in a tub - NOT a pot. :) - in our green house. They have almost doubled in size since this picture was taken.

Oh yes, our greenhouse!!!!! Here it is, completed except for trimming off the extra plastic hanging down on the sides. (But you can ignore that, right?) It is so nice and warm in there on brisk mornings. Behind the greenhouse, you can see the layout of our garden this year.

We are so happy to have all the beds built. Dad has been making a few beds each year for three years, and they are finally all done. Now we can set up a rotation system. We are really looking forward to this gardening season!

Here is the garden from the opposite side (The edge of the greenhouse is at the far left of the picture - or, it would be, if the picture were over a few inches.) Our compost bin is against the shed on the right in the foreground.

I've written the names of the crops we'll be planting in each bed directly on the picture, but you'll probably have to click on it and enlarge it to be able to read the words. So far, we just have potatoes, broccoli, beets, carrots, spinach, and strawberries in the ground - and we've put peas in all the other beds, to fertilize the ground until the weather warms up. Maybe we'll get a pea harvest too!

Has spring moved into any of y'all's areas yet? Any gardening going on?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Review of Said Item

Don't you love it when you find good deals? I sure do. Sometimes those "good deals" are on items or services that I would never buy anyway, so it's not really a deal, just a way to get cheap "stuff" that fills up my bedroom or sewing area. I'm trying to learn not to take advantage of those kinds of deals. *grin*

But when those deals are connected to things I really love or am interested in, then finding them is a wonderful feeling.

Such was the case when I was offered a CD album from Vision Forum in exchange for posting a review of said item on my blog.

Now, just to be upfront with everyone, I ought to say that I don't agree with every single company on every single thing, but there are a handful of companies that, while I don't think they're perfect, I feel comfortable saying I really like them. Vision Forum is one of those companies, and I got very excited over the prospect of reviewing one of their products. The album I chose was one I've gazed at longingly in the Vision Forum catalog:

Remember, a few posts back, I talked about dreams? I had this album in mind when I wrote that post. Some of us have dreams that may never be fulfilled and deep inside we know that, but we dream them anyway.

I've always dreamed of taking a part in the making of a movie. Not just any movie, though; I wanted to be part of something I could be proud of.

I know Christians have varying views about television and movies. My purpose in this post is not to go into all of that. I believe that in areas where God hasn't given us a specific command, we ought to let one another have our own convictions. My own family hasn't watched television in years, and we are pretty picky about which movies we watch, but we do believe the TV can be a very useful machine, when used properly.

I've often imagined what it would be like to help create a movie. I'm not picky - I'd love to be an actress, but I'd also love to run the cameras, be a gofer, arrange the lighting, design the costumes, fix hair, fill a set, or even just watch. So long as I'd be where the action is taking place, doing whatever I'm allowed to do. Whenever we get a new DVD, the first thing I do is check the back to see if a "Behind the Scenes" feature is included. My family jokes about it, saying "We'd better not let Amber get a hold of this if we want to actually watch the feature." They're right - I will happily watch the "Behind the Scenes" first!

So I believe we've established the fact that I'm interested in movie-making. The problem is, for many years I believed I was "bad" for being interested in it, because the only movies being made today, by Hollywood and such, were ones I would never want to be involved with. Can you imagine my delight when I found out that there are Christians out there who want to make movies that uplift and honor the Lord Jesus Christ? Even if I never get involved in the film-making industry, I like knowing that those kinds of movies are being made.

So perhaps you understand now why I wanted to listen to the CD album from The 2009 Christian Film Academy. The Film Academy in 2009 was a gathering of over 500 students who want to make Christ-honoring films, and was taught by some really talented film-makers. The day the album it arrived in the mail, I was ecstatic!

The album was even better than I hoped. It is packed full of practical information, as well as some very thought-provoking lectures on the motives and spiritual drives behind movie-making. The album includes:
  • A two-part lecture on cinematography
  • An analysis of how Christians should depict violence in film
  • A blueprint for how Christian filmmakers can rightly employ the Science Fiction genre
  • A look at the twelve most common mistakes of beginning directors
  • Practical tips on how you can improve a film in ten minutes
  • A panel discussion with feature filmmakers such as Stephen Kendrick of Fireproof
  • “How to Win the $101,000 Best of Festival Award”
  • A special address by actor Dean Jones outlining why Christians should build an independent film movement outside Hollywood
  • A bonus DVD of lecture slides from the event
  • And much more!

I haven't finished every CD yet, but I've already heard enough to know this is a great album. If you, like me, are interested in film-making, I would highly recommend this album. The biggest reason is because it made me re-think my motives in dreaming about movie-making.

After all, if you really wanted to, you could find all sorts of resources out there to help you make better, more high-tec movies, act better, light better, etc. The skills aspect of film-making is certainly covered in this album, but it also delves into the heart of the matter: the motives that drive the film-maker. The desire that should be present in a writer, director, or camera man; to uplift the name of Christ.

That kind of challenge and encouragement is something you won't find everywhere. It's well worth hearing. It made me think about motives and desires in my personal life, even though I don't make movies.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Well, here I am, back again finally.

I'm not sure why I took such a "long" break from blogging this week. I guess I just didn't feel inspired. You know that saying "if you can't think of anything to say...don't say anything"? That applies to writing too, doesn't it?

I have found that the thing I love most about blogging is the connection with my readers. I love it when one of you tells me about your life. I don't like to feel that I'm just sitting here, spewing information out into an already-clogged web world. Relationships mean so much more. You ladies have become my friends. I recognize your names, and each one of you has a different way of writing comments, and a different way of encouraging me. :) I love y'all.

Seeing as how we're all friends, here, I know you'll forgive me for not posting about my projects recently, though the title of this blog would lead a person to believe that I usually talk about the fruit of my hands. *grin*

I'm working on a few sewing projects (using that new dress form!!!!) But there's nothing ready to be photographed yet.

The garden is looking great, and I do have photos of that...but they haven't been loaded onto the computer yet.

And the third project I've been working on is also not yet ready to be revealed. This is an online surprise, so I'll literally get to show it to you when it's completed. I'm excited about that!!!

So....instead of projects, how 'bout if I tell you something I've been learning lately?

His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

This lesson, incidentally, is not one that is learned during times of strength. This has been a rough week for me. I've felt drained in every area; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It was caused not by one major thing, but by many little things piling one on top of the other. And, at the beginning, I was not a willing student.

But His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I always thought that meant physical weakness. After all, Paul was going through physical trials when he wrote that verse. ...But it was really the Holy Spirit that wrote those words, and He's been applying it to my life in new ways this week.

Yes, when I'm physically drained, He supplies strength to do stuff I just can't do. And then I know it was HIM. And He gets glory.

When I'm emotionally drained, He sends peace into my heart, to keep the fragments from falling apart and dissolving into nothing.

When I've been working on intensive tasks for hours, and my mind-power gas tank has gotten dangerously close to "E," He somehow showed me how to let go of the stress. I still don't know how it happened. ...Well....yes I do, actually.

It happened because He is also our strength in spiritual weakness. When this category is fixed, suddenly the whole world is right. I had some un-confessed sin in my life that had been dragging me into the mud spiritually. On Sunday God spoke to my heart and I confessed, repented, and was washed.

Do you know that feeling of being clean - whiter than any soap or bleach on earth can white something? Do you know that strength that comes from without? Do you know the relief of letting go and saying "I'm not perfect"?

You see, when everything in your spiritual life has been going along just fine, it's tempting to try really, really, really hard to be perfect. When "little" sins occur, you ignore them, because you don't want to admit there's a problem. That would spoil your record!!!

But when a few hours ago - or a a few days ago - you just stood before your heavenly Father naked, wounded, bleeding, filthy, with the ugliness of sin smeared over you, ....well, you don't really have much self-righteousness left. In that state, it's easy to say "Lord, you know too well that I'm not perfect." And somehow it makes sense to let Jesus be your righteousness.

He is our strength. Our righteousness. Our relief and strong helper.

Whew! Talk about a cure for stress. His strong arms are unequaled. Tender, but mighty, they soothe away the grief from past sins and give hope for future days.

So....I'm still tired, mentally, emotionally, and physically. But it's not a tiredness of battling guilt, stress, or such. It's a tiredness of having finally finished climbing a tall mountain, and letting out your breath at the top.

Blessed tiredness. Blessed quietness. What assurance in my soul! On the stormy sea He speaks peace to me; How the billows cease to roll!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Why is it, that when you want to find something, and you can't, you get so mad?

Why is it that I get so mad?

Everybody has pet peeves, and one of mine is being unable to find things. ...Things like camera cards that contain pictures I wanted to upload to my blog. Yes, things like that.

While walking around the house looking for something, feeling annoyed, the last thing you want is to have someone ask you a question.

"Can you help me with this?"

"Did you borrow my brush?"

"Do you want to hear me play this?"

"Can I borrow your walkie-talkies?"

"Did you take my book?"

"Do you want to play with me?"

How tempting it is to shout "no!" But, really, does it take any more effort to say it pleasantly?

That question occurred to me this morning. I wanted to shout "no!" but forced myself not to. I'm sure my family could still tell I was upset, but at least I had curtailed my anger to some degree, and therefore got a work out in self-control. I hadn't shouted, when I had wanted to shout.

It's just as easy to say it pleasantly.

Is it? In a way, no - it's not easier to say it rudely, because you are mad, and shouting or griping is easiest. But in a way, yes - it's just as easy to speak nicely as it is to speak crossly.

I tucked that thought away for future reference.

Self-control. It's a fruit of the spirit; therefore, it's something I know my Heavenly Father wants to give me. This isn't a prayer request that I have to suffice with "if it's Your will..." I know He wants to give me self-control. All I must do is ask with faith.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


So I said we make perogies.

We do.


Actually, "real" perogies are little half-moon shapes of dough, filled with any sort of filling, from fruit to meat, boiled in water, and end up looking like this:
But the perogies we make are baked, not boiled, and filled with the one-and-only filling: sausage. :)

They look more like this:
But you have to ignore the white bread part, because we use our own dough, and we don't make it in a nice little loaf and then slice it - instead, we make special perogie buns, and then top it with our sauce-sausage mixture.

Now, to explain why I'm writing about perogies.

One of my readers, a dear friend of mine, caught my little reference to perogies several posts back, and asked me to share the recipe. I just thought I ought to make a disclaimer at the beginning, and say yes, I realize that the recipe I'm about to give you doesn't make a typical perogie. But we like it anyway. :) I warn you; it's entirely written down from memory, simply because it's never been written down. You're about to read a "secret" family recipe, recorded in writing for the first time!

Our Perogies

2 cups warm water
1 TBS brown sugar
2-1/2 tsp dry yeast
a few tsp. ground flax seed (to taste) *optional*
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
4-5 cups white whole wheat flour

These ingredients are for the dough. You'll need to start this several (about 3) hours before you want to eat.

Dissolve sugar in warm water, then stir in yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. If the yeast starts to give off a yeasty smell, and bubbles a little, you have good yeast and can proceed. (If you get neither smell nor bubbles, your yeast has gone bad, and your dough will not rise.) Add in your flax seed and 1 cup of flour. Stir in very well - you want to start activating the gluten in the flour. Next add the butter, and stir well. Add the rest of the flour a cup at a time, stopping when the dough makes a good ball, and you can pick it up without it oozing out between your fingers, but don't add so much flour that it is no longer sticky.

Now knead the dough until it's smooth and elastic. Put in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour in a draft-free place. (I use in the inside of our oven - on OFF, of course!)

When dough has risen, punch down and divide evenly with a knife into 12 or 24 sections, depending on how big you want your servings to be. When I make the perogies into little tarts, I divide the dough into 24 sections, but when we're doing big hot dog-bun type servings, I go with 12. You decide!

If you're making little tarts, grease some muffin tins. If you're going to do the hot dog shape, grease two 9x18 glass casserole dishes. I recommend the hot dog shape, simply because it's MUCH easier and less time consuming. But the tarts are cute and look nice, if you're doing a party or something.

Make the appropriate shapes and set into their pans, leaving space for expansion. For hot dog shapes, just make 12 "logs" and put six in each pan, and for tarts, line each muffin tin with "pie crusts."

Let rise for 30-40 minutes, and bake in a preheated 350* oven for 20-25 minutes. While they are baking, mix 1 large can of pasta sauce and lots of Italian sausage links (chopped into 1/2" pieces) in a sauce pan on the top of the stove, and let heat. Add your favorite spices, if desired, like oregano, sweet basil, garlic powder, or onion powder.

Can you tell this is not a recipe that is written down? Just add what sounds good. :)

When your bread is finished baking, let it cool for about 5 minutes, then slice it open. If you made logs, just cut them open down the middle like a hot dog bun. If you made tarts, you will probably find that they expanded as they baked, and are now baked shut. Just cut out little "plugs" of bread from the middle, and give yourself a well to fill up.

Fill the tarts, or tip the hot dog buns sideways (still in the pans) and fill with the sausage/sauce mixture. Top with lots of shredded mozzarella cheese, and put back in the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt.

That's it! Remove from oven to plates, and eat while hot. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


It's 10:23.

My alarm went off at 5:30 this morning.

I did child-care from 9:15-12:00

I cleaned the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and my bedroom from 1:30-4:30. I gave the kitchen floor a scrubbing on my hands and knees. Boy, did that feel good!

I hosted a Pampered Chef Party, starting at 6:45. My last guest left about 9:15.

That was a ton of fun. Great fellowship. Tasty food. Laughs.






Farewell, world. I shall meet you again in the morning, but for now, nothing exists except my pillow and my quilts.

P.S. On the rare chance that someone out there would like to order something from Pampered Chef, tell me so in the comment section, and I'll see if I can help you out. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dreams II

I could write a book about dreams, I think. I've had so many - and I mean daydreams, not night dreams. (Though I've had a lot of those, too!) When I was little, I was quite the dreamy child - always wanting my life to be like a storybook, and becoming frustrated and depressed when it wasn't. I think some of that still hangs with me. I always want life to be "perfect."

I want to marry the perfect man, be the perfect wife and mother, have the perfect little quaint farmhouse surrounded by a white picket fence, ...in short, I want to have a life off in the country, surrounded by family, and never bothered by the world. Becoming a hermit has its appeals, you know.

But some time ago I became convicted about this dream. It all started by realizing who I am.

I'm a Christian. A daughter of a King. A joint heir with the Son of God.

Whoa. Writing that last part blows me away.

Ahem. Now that I've caught my breath...

...I'm also a soldier. Ephesians chapter 6 wasn't written just to sound poetic. We're in a real battle. I am in a real battle. There are Christians in this world who are risking their lives to be calling themselves children of God. I've seen their pictures. They aren't numbers any more. I know their names. Our church prays for and supports some of them. I've seen their faces.

I'm in a battle.

There are thousands - no, millions - of people in this country who are under God's judgment, and are on their way to hell. I rub shoulders with them when I'm out running errands. I talk with them over counters. I chat with them on the phone. I know some of them well. I have relatives who are on their way to hell; people I love who, if they died right now, would be sent into eternal fire and judgment. They are under the thumb of sin and the devil, and they don't even know it.

I am in a battle.

There are powers in this land who hate Christians, and who are striving to be in control of us. It is quite possible that before I have one gray hair some things I do with my life will be illegal.

I am in a battle.

I used to think that "fighting against sin" only referred to fighting the old nature that still exists within me. Yeah, I need to fight against temptations. ...And I can do that while immersed in my paradise, a storybook world, where I never have to leave my lovely little circle of Christian friends.

Now I'm beginning to think differently. My own sinful self isn't my only enemy.

Have you ever read a story in which the hero had a secret enemy? And did you feel the skin on the back of your neck crawl as you saw that enemy creep behind him and prepare to ruin him? And did you feel the hero's terror as he suddenly realized he had an enemy? His lack of skill with the sword...his fears....his own temptations...those were not his only foes. There was someone outside of him with whom he had to deal!

You know what? I want to live Heaven on earth. I really do. Wouldn't it be lovely? To spend each and everyday in the sunshine - my hands in the soil, or mixing up a new recipe, or creating a new quilt, or cradling a child, or playing an instrument....ah, dreams.

These things aren't wrong. You know that. I know that. They are lovely. They are part of the dominion mandate - we are stewards of the earth, to enjoy it, care for it, and love it. God created us to be creative. Why did He make the sweet wind so sweet? Why are the flowers so vivid? Why is the grass so soft? Why is the sun so bold? Why are the cheeks of children so smooth? Why is the aroma of fried chicken so good? Why are sweet potatoes so delightful with brown sugar and cinnamon on top? Why is there pleasure in handling fabric? Why does the ear naturally love the notes of a guitar?

Are not these things for us? Did not God make us this way, to enjoy things that would cause us to say "God, what a God You are!" Did not Adam and Eve bask in the beauty of Eden? Was it not right that they should? Why shouldn't we enjoy the fingerprints of our Creator?

But this is not Eden! I have to remind myself. Oh how I wish it was! I long for the day when time shall be no more, and we shall nothing to do but enjoy our Creator and His handiwork.

However, I cannot devote my life to these things on earth. Enjoy them, yes. Devote myself to them? No.

No, no, no.

I am in a battle.

In some respects, my life should resemble that of a solider. There is no time to pursue empty things. These pleasures I love so much should sweeten the path, not be the path itself.

How this goes against the grain! I'm not a bold solider. I don't like conflict. Sometimes, the only thing I can do is freeze, and whisper to myself over and over "...Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world..."

You know something? It's true; God is greater. The battle isn't so terrifying when I lift my eyes off the waves and see Jesus. It's not as if He's loosing sleep over the outcome - so why should I?

But the battle still has to be fought. Bravely fought. Fought without worry, but fought, just the same.

Maybe God will station me in a dark foxhole of a place. Or maybe He'll station me in a grand farmhouse with a white picket fence. I don't think the location is what makes you a solider. It's a mindset; a thing deep inside you that says "this world is not my home, I'm just passing through, and I want to take as many with me as I can, and get there with a pure conscience."

So the farmhouse dream with a white picket fence has been yet another dream of mine that has had to be modified. It makes me think of something my Daddy told me once.

"Amber, the Bible says if you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart."

"But Daddy, I don't think God's going to give me what I want. I think He's going to give me something different...something I don't like."

"Then pray this; 'Lord, give me the desires of my heart, or else change them."

Give me the desires of my heart, or else change them.

You know what? He does. If I delight myself in Him, I find myself wanting the very things He decides to give me. He changes the desires of my heart. So guess what? If He decides to not give me the farmhouse, I have a sneaking suspicion that He'll do a work in my heart so that I'll not desire the farmhouse. I won't miss it.

That is, if I'm delighting myself in Him.

So, instead of focusing on what I desire, and worrying about whether my desires will come into God's plan for my life, I've found that if I focus instead on delighting in the Lord, I'll get my desires.

Every time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Because I looked through my blog posts and realized how long it's been since I posted a picture...

...And I decided I'd better post about this jacket, since I've already packed it away with my winter clothes! Today we had a few flurries, but spring is definitely on its way. Every bed in our garden has something in it - all cool-weather plants, of course.

But on to the sewing project.

I bought the fabric - brown corduroy - to make a skirt-jacket set about a year ago. The skirt came together quickly, and I wore it all that winter, but I never made the jacket until a few months ago. I'd never made a jacket before, because I'm not much of a jacket wearer, but I guess I saw a picture somewhere, or someone wearing a jacket, that made me think I'd like to try one.

Here's how it turned out:

To be honest, I'm not sure how often I'll wear this. Even though I cut it out my size, it somehow turned out about two sizes too big. (You can't really see that in the picture.) It's also very warm, and I'm warm-blooded by nature. :) But I like the feminine look to it, as apposed to some jackets, and it does match my skirt. So I'll probably get some use out of it next winter.

I LOVE the lining. Nobody can see it but me, but I like it. The fabric is "okay," but it's the combination of the red, white, and brown colors that I like, as well as the contrast between the cotton and corduroy.

The jacket has over 20 pieces, which I also LOVE. It's like putting a puzzle together. Those complicated patterns are a pain to cut out (yes, I used a pattern to make this), but so much fun to put together! I had a very enjoyable time making this.

So there's my quick sewing post. I'll try to get some more pictures on here sometime soon, as well as finish the post I started yesterday. Oh - and one of you asked for a certain recipe. (You know who you are. :) I'll post that soon, too. Thanks for asking. :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Do you know what I wanted to be when I was little?

Well, okay - one of the things I wanted to be? I've dreamed of being a thousand things.

One thing I wanted to be was a nurse - that ended when I saw a picture in an EMT book of a man with his intestines hanging out - and it was only a drawing!

But most of my longings from when I was little have stayed with me - maturing and changing as I've matured and changed, but staying the same basic longings. I guess I was a practical little girl; I didn't have too many dreams that were impossible. They just needed to be tweaked a little bit.

For instance, I dreamed of being a pioneer - but as I got older I realized covered wagons aren't allowed on major highways. So I had to give up the idea of being a second Laura Ingles. But I still dream of owning a piece of land someday, and helping to clear it with my own two hands, and raising all our own food.

I wanted to be a preacher - then I got old enough to understand that God didn't intend women to lead in churches. But I can still proclaim the gospel to people that I meet.

Guess what I dreamed about most?

Being famous.

It didn't really matter why I was famous; being the owner of a gorgeous singing voice, a dramatic young actress, a brilliant authoress, or a horse whisperer... I just wanted to be famous. I pretended that masses came to me, hanging on my every word, wanting to know all about me.

That desire has stayed with me, clinging to me as my sinful flesh does. Some people are afraid of the spotlight; my burden has been to crave it. Some people would do anything to not be so afraid of speaking in public; my besetting sin has been to love it too much.

I've learned, in my short life, that there needs to be balance in everything. A entire sermon could be preached from Philippians 4:5; "Let your moderation be known unto all men..." Knowing my weakness has kept me on the alert to fight it, but I also need to know when to use it. Perhaps God gave that desire to me as a tool to use for His glory.

Oh, not the "being famous" thing; the desire to be famous is entirely pride, and a curse, not a blessing. But the desire to do things well, the drive to throw myself into things...that can be used to accomplish things that God wants me to do. If only my motives are right.

Hmmm...as usual, I've used up my computer time just beginning the subject on which I intended to write. I didn't intend to sit here and write about dreams being right or wrong - I was going to talk about one in particular that I had - and still have. But that will have to be left for another time. For now, let me encourage you to think about your own dreams.

Do you have dreams? You need dreams. You need that drive. Where there is no vision, the people perish. Don't give up dreams as something childish and unpractical, for they are valuable ways to gain ideas and plans. But do choose your dreams. The world won't tell you this,... but just as you choose whom you love, to an extent you choose what you dream. Don't waste your time dreaming about things that you want to do, but know you must not do, or would be wrong for you to do. Dream the dreams God has for you.

They are bigger than anything you could come up with.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I've been thinking a lot lately about a certain characteristic of God. I'm not sure what to call it, because I don't know all the right theological terms. In my mind, I call it the complete-in-control-ness of God.

When I stop to think about it, I really get overwhelmed.

Some of you may remember me referring to the book "Mountain Rain," a biography of missionary James O. Fraser. I am still reading the book, and am becoming more impressed with every page turn.

It is a well-written book. As a writer, I appreciate and notice that. But the topic of the writing jerks my attention away from the way it is written. Is that not the sign of a good writer, anyway?

This book oozes the "in-control-ness" of our God. I had never heard of James Fraser prior to reading this book, and now I wonder why. His life is amazing. Or, rather, the way he was used is amazing.

He let God use him.

That's it. He labored for several years in tucked-away corners of China, casting seed on dry cracked ground. Nothing happened. The tribal people could have been modern-day Americans for all the way they received the gospel. Whoever said the ignorant savages are hungry for truth and light was just plain mistaken. Satan loves his high places too well to give them up, and mankind loves his sin too well to accept the gospel.

But then James Fraser got a prayer group laboring for him back in England. He wrote each member of the prayer group separately, and they wrote to him. Listen to what he says to them. This blows me away; please read all of it:

"...I really believe that if every particle of prayer put up by the home churches in behalf of the infant churches of the mission field were removed, the latter would be swamped by an incoming flood of the powers of darkness. ...Just as a plant may die for lack of watering, so may a genuine work of God die and rot for lack of prayer.

"One might compare heathenism with a great mountain, threatening to crush the infant church, or a great pool of stagnant water always threatening to quench the flames of Holy Ghost life and power in the native churches, and only kept dammed up by the power of God. God is able to do this much and more, but He will not do it, if all we out here and you at home sit in our easy chairs with our arms folded. Why prayer is so indispensable we cannot just say, but we had better recognize the fact even if we cannot explain it. Do you believe that the church of God would be alive today but for the high-priestly intersession of the Lord Jesus Christ on the throne? I do not.

"...I will not labor the point: you will see from what I am saying that I am not asking you just to give "help" in prayer as a sort of side-line, but I am trying to roll the main responsibility of this prayer warfare on you. I want you to take the BURDEN of these people on your shoulders, I want you to wrestle with God for them. I do not so much want to be a regimental commander in these things as an intelligence officer. I shall feel more and more that a big responsibility rests on me to keep you well informed...

"...Anything must be done rather than let this prayer service be dropped or even allowed to stagnate. We often speak of intercessory work as of being vital importance. I want to prove that this is an actual fact, by giving my best energies to it, as God may lead."

And he did. This man spent hours in prayer, asking God to move among the Lisu people. He went among them, preaching the gospel, then would return to prayer. Out he would go, then return to prayer. Still nothing.

Finally, he went to spent some time in a Chinese city. While he was there, away from the mountains, God did His work.

On Jame's return to the mountains, the people sought out him, asking how to be saved. Family after family, village after village, came to him begging for preaching. He would enter a village where before was only hostility, and find that half the families had already torn down their idol shelves, and "decided to become Christians." They only waited on him to tell them how to do it. God brought them to birth - James Fraser was, as he put it "only the midwife."
I wish I could give each one of you the book to read. The details really explain everything. This historical account sends shivers down my spine. Look at what God can do without help!

That sound terrible, doesn't it? Of all the audacity! Of COURSE God can do things without our help! But do we really act that way?

I don't mean we aren't to witness and testify and work for the Master. That is only rightful obedience. What I mean is that we often forget our place. We often think we must produce the results. We think we must change a person's mind, by arguing, by different approaches, by anything we can use to change their mind. We wear ourselves out doing work we were never assigned!

Another thought that has been impressed on my heart is the willingness James Fraser had to wait for a harvest. During that long time of preparation - years of work - he would have times of discouragement, but always returned to this hope: he had sought the will of God, and prayer confidently that the Lisu people would come to Christ.

God would not disappoint.

Of this James was sure. So he labored on, confident that things were happening under the soil, where he could not see.

Any gardener knows that a plant sprung suddenly up will have no strong root system and will wither away at the first blast of trouble. A plant that spends a long time "doing things" below the soil will be strong and healthy when it sticks its head into the sunlight. Do we think God didn't do this on purpose? Did not the same God make the human heart and the green plant?

Through this book, I have been encouraged to have patience. I laugh at little people who dig up their seeds in an effort to hurry things along. How I should laugh at myself now! Did I think I could hurry God?

Well, these are things that have been going on in my mind. Perhaps they will comfort and inspire your heart as they have mine.

God bless,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Firsts and Bests

One of the best sounds in the world:
Hinges creaking, screen doors slamming.

Some of the best smells in the world:
Open windows, breezes carrying spring indoors.
Warm earth, wet dirt.
Sweaty bodies, kneeling side by side, planting seeds. (This only smells good outdoors.)
Fresh laundry.
Line-dried bed linen.

One of the best feelings in the world:
Being tired out from digging, digging, digging, planting, planting, planting, under a new spring sun...then going into the shade of a large tree and crashing on the blanket spread there. ...Trying to make every square inch of you come in contact with the ground, soaking up the feeling of the world beneath that blanket. ...Thinking "this is what I am." Dirt. Made flesh. From dust we truly are. The 14 elements found in dirt are exactly the same as the 14 elements found in mankind. ...Feeling the sun on one side your face, and cool shade on the other. ...The breeze kissing your hot cheeks, making a loose curl tickle you. ...The soft cotton of the blanket.

One of the things you always make note of:

The season's first sunburn.

Yup. You definitely notice that.

About that dress form...

Do any of you remember me saying that Justin spray-painted the pole on my dress form for me yesterday? It's a cheerful red, to match my sewing area. I love the way it turned out.

We painted it outside, under a tree. The weather was gorgeous yesterday - it's lovely today, too.

I left the form outside for the afternoon, to be sure it dried and aired some before bringing it indoors.

Well, I forgot about it until I was falling asleep last night. "Oh bother. I'm not going out there in the dark and in my pajamas. It just can't rain tonight. Hope the dew doesn't hurt it."

I just fetched my dress form inside a little while ago.

The dew didn't hurt it.

But something else got it.

Apparently the spring robins had target practice.

With my dress form.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Why I haven't posted since Wednesday:

I can't think of anything to write.

There's plenty happening here, but nothing that seems blog-worthy.

Well...I've planted lettuce seeds, ...the beets are sprouting, ...I've found some new recipes, ...and Justin spray-painted my dress form's pole today... but even though those are the kind of things I usually post about, I'm just not in the mood lately. I'd rather do them than write about them.

The snow is gone. The ground all around outside is muddy. The temperature is somewhere around 65 degrees.

I had my first Starbucks coffee today. That's not a drink. It's a dessert!

I talked and shopped with friends for a few hours today. I have my thread finally. I can sew again!

I like shopping now and then. It's fun. And necessary. But there's no place like home.

My younger brother Justin is making the pizza tonight. I taught him how to do it several weeks ago, and this is his first solo attempt. He's done great so far. Take the time to teach'em how to do something, and they take over on the times when you're tired. I love it.

I've become Tiffany's fiddle teacher in the past two weeks. She thinks just because I'm older I know something. Wonderful! If I don't up my practicing time, she'll be playing better than me in three months. We're working on a duet together - our first duet! We squeak out the notes to "Holy, holy, holy." It's a beautiful arrangement, and once we improve, I know it's going to sound splendid. It already sounds special. We stand side by side, angled so we can glance up from the music and look at the other's face in any moment, and we play our hearts out.

I found out long ago that Heather and I "think on the same wave length," as we put it; we don't have to count when we play duets. We just naturally flow together. Something about being sisters, I think. I found out this week Tiffany and I have the same thing. That warms my heart. I think I blinked and missed her growing up. When did it happen?

I've been able to spend some time talking one-on-one with my youngest sister, Lezley, lately. It must be hard being the youngest. You might be spoiled, but you're still the baby. Everybody wants to tell you what to do, but they don't think you're old enough to be a "person" either. At least that's how it must seem sometimes, I would think. I don't know. Lezley hasn't said.

But you know what? Being an older sibling isn't easy either. I have a confession: I'm not a very patient person. It's easy to be patient with little people who aren't your own; they go home to their mother eventually. Siblings who live with you all the time are a little different. They have just as much right - and more - to be treated lovingly, but I get lazy and impatient with them sometimes. It's very wrong and I know it. I've been praying lately for grace that I would learn to love my siblings not just in word but in deed - showing them that I love them, not just telling them. I believe God's begun to answer that prayer for me, and I think Lezley would say that too. We've had some special moments together lately.

It's Friday today. "Family Friday," here at The Fruit of Her Hands. I don't have a jaw-dropping tear-jerking statement to make about families. I can't write out what's in my heart.

I've been able to spend extra time with my family this week. Two snow days were a blessing. Nobody announced that we'd be taking extra time to do stuff together for two days. It just happened.

You would think that being a homeschooling family, we'd be together all the time, but it's not so. You can be worlds apart though your rooms are side by side. Taking time out to have meaningful conversations, ...working on a common project, ...throwing snow at one another,...doing something together just because... these are things that you have to do on purpose.

Love your families, ladies. They won't be here forever. There's something strange about spending time with your family - the more you do it, the more you want to do it. The more you're with them, the more you value them. I guess it's kinda like learning to play an instrument. You can listen to and enjoy music, but when you know the techniques - what's hard to do and what's not - you can tell a good musician when you hear him play. You recognise a genius when you hear him because you know about music now.

When you spend time with your family, you don't just love them...you know WHY you love them.

That's my non-jaw-dropping statement for today: love your family. Take time for them. Do a puzzle together. Throw snow. Sit around the table after dinner and talk until the dirty dishes threaten to rot in the sink. Reminisce about the times you've embarrassed one another. Pray together. Make a food you all love. Watch family home videos, and laugh over the silly things you used to do. Plant something. Plan something. Just stick together and talk.

This world is too busy. Relationships count. Let's remember that!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Amazing Creation

If you keep track of the sidebars on my blog, you know I advertise several Vision Forum Products and keep up with their sales. While we're not on the exact same page in every issue, my family has been blessed by many of Vision Forum's items, and in general we love their stuff.

Being of a frugal mindset, however, and wanting to "do much with little," means that even wonderful things have to be limited in our house. We simply don't have room for every book and DVD we like! (Can't you picture the bookshelves in a dream house?...Miles long....a convenient ladder attached every 10 feet. ...Or better yet, one of those sliding ladders attached to the shelves, to move wherever we want. Whew! Built-in rides for the boys! ...Shelves loaded with every book in every series I love.... I'd get nothing else done. I guess it's good I don't have my dream house.)

But some stuff we just can't resist. Moody Science Classics are one of those things. They're that good. That's why I got excited when I heard of the sale Vision Forum is having on their Moody Science Classics. Excited enough to write a post about it.

We own this set of DVDs, and we love them. They are obviously educational; Mom uses them for science class. They're also entertaining enough to watch "just for fun." Dr. Irwin Moon is the host for almost every DVD, and his style of teaching and narrating is splendid. The series was made fifty years ago. I love seeing the old-fashion computers and 50's style clothing! But from the scientific knowledge these videos transfer, you'd never know they were made 50 years ago.

Get thousands of views into worlds you'll never see with your naked eye! Travel inside a beating human heart, watch crystals form under a microscope, watch a flower open seconds with the power of a high-speed camera, or meet dozens of amoeba swimming in a drop of salt water. Travel to countries you'll never visit in person, and penetrate jungles to watch animals you never knew existed.

Watch all sorts of cool experiments being performed! See bolts of blue electricity shoot with vibrating force from a man's fingertips, see him live for days in a world where everything is upside down...or watch plants and animals going about their amazing everyday lives.

All this and more in one DVD set. The neatest thing is that every DVD focuses on one spiritual question; was the sloth a mistake? No, everything God makes has a purpose. Is it possible for a body to vanish from a sealed tomb? Well, let's study the structure of the atom, and see how a supernatural body wouldn't be hindered by stone. Each DVD ends with Dr. Moon sitting down at his desk with an open Bible and making application to a human life. Fabulous!

All right, I'll try to stop sounding like a commercial. I don't mean to, really - I just think everyone should at least have a chance to watch this series. That's why I'm bringing the sale to your attention. Click on the above banner and take a look! You might just love them as much as we do.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Amber's Biscuits

In blogging my kitchen adventures, I've several times mentioned "my" biscuit recipe. A couple of my readers have asked me to share it, and so I've decided to do so today.

I do hope these biscuits live up to the way I made them sound! I suppose I should give a little background:

Roughly two years ago - about the time I conquered bread-making to the point that I wasn't biting my nails the entire time the loaf was in the oven - I was searching for a new field to challenge me. At the time I was becoming interested in "southern cooking," a topic I have to teach myself, since my parents were both raised in the North though all their children are Virginia-born.

I don't wish to steal from any region of our wonderful country, but the south eastern states are really the ones most people think of when they think of high, flaky, golden biscuits. Corn bread, fried chicken, biscuits...you're just not a southern chef if you can't fix those things. ...Or so the cookbooks from the library told me.

I was interested. Mom fixed biscuits occasionally, but they weren't at all common at our house. With youthful confidence, I decided biscuit-making would be my next conquest.


You know how cookbooks say biscuit-making is really an art, and that it takes years of practice to achieve the results we dream of?

They're right.

After a few attempts, I decided to try for something edible before I worried about flaky, high, and golden. I tried loads of recipes. My poor family.

But after two years or so, I believe I've become about as comfortable with biscuit-making as with bread-making. That doesn't mean I've perfected the art. Read here if you doubt that. *grin*

After trying all those recipes, I decided to toss out the ones that kept flopping, and create my own.

You know what? It worked!

That's the one I'll share with you today. Just be warned, however, that in my experience, biscuits rely more on the method you use to put them together than the recipe itself. It's possible to flop a good recipe by using lousy mixing methods. I'll try my best to describe what I do to get these to come out, but you'll really have to "get it" yourself to consistently turn out biscuits that are edible. :)

(Again, lest you think I'm claiming to know something amazing about biscuit-making, please read this post, "Pride goeth before charred remains.")

Ahem. Now for the recipe.

Amber's Biscuits

3-3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
3 TBS brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1-1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Note: All ingredients except baking soda and sugar should be cold (stick in flour in freezer for ten minutes to chill it if you don't keep your flour in the refrigerator.) If you have buttermilk, use 1-1/2 cup of that instead of the milk and lemon.

Use a large mixing bowl. Combine all dry ingredients well with a fork. (Reserve 1/4 cup of flour, to be used later.) Slice butter into tablespoon-size chunks, touching with your hands as little as possible, to keep the butter cold. Add to bowl, and toss to coat with flour.
Cut the butter into the flour mixture, using a pastry knife (above). The is really a key to getting flaky biscuits. The butter must coat every speck of flour, and it must be done quickly, before the butter softens. I love my pastry knife! (Thanks, Mom!)

Now clear a spot on the table to roll out your dough, and get out the baking sheet you will be using to bake the biscuits on, as well as a rolling pin and a 2" biscuit cutter. Start preheating the oven to 350 degrees. You want everything ready to go, because from the time you combine the wet and dry ingredients, the clock starts ticking. The faster the biscuits get into the oven, the higher they will rise.

Dump 1/4 cup flour onto the place where you'll roll out your dough.

Now pour the milk into your bowl, and immediately add the lemon juice. (Don't worry - I know it sounds like a lot of lemon, but we've never been able to taste it, and it makes the biscuits oh-so fluffy!)

Fold the flour into the milk, using gentle strokes, until all the flour is incorporated. Use as few strokes as possible. The dough will be very sticky. Dump it out onto the 1/4 cup of flour, scraping the bowl to remove all the dough.

Knead the dough gently, pulling up some of the flour into the dough, but leaving a little under it. Make layers of dough as you fold it - this will make flaky layers in your biscuits. Gently roll out the dough to 3/4" thick, sprinkling flour (from that 1/4 cup) where you need it.

Dip your biscuit cutter in flour (this is important) before cutting each biscuit.

This recipe should make 12 biscuits. You'll have to gather up your dough and roll it out again about three times, and you'll have no dough left over at the end. Most books say you can't roll out your dough twice and still get good biscuits, but I've found it is possible. The second and third rollings will rise just a wee bit less, but I cut them a little thicker to make up for that. Remember to make the folded layers with each rolling-out.

Bake on an un-greased cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them until you know how long it take for your particular oven! (experience talking!)

Hope you enjoy these!

Monday, March 2, 2009

You can laugh at me

This is Southern Virginia. Remember how I've sorta been rubbing that in? Not intentionally, but...well, I can't help being thankful for where we live.

In Virginia.

Where it's warm.

Where we can (and do!) plant peas in the garden in February.

Where we have green Christmases, three light dustings of snow in January, two in February, and not a bit more for the rest of the year.

Today is Monday, March 2. Spring is well on its way, in southern Virginia.

Sitting on our kitchen table are two containers with seeds soaking in them; beet seeds and lettuce seeds. I planned to plant them today. We started soaking them Saturday evening.

Sunday, the weather men were calling for snow. The sky did look gray, but we all knew nothing would stick to the ground. It just doesn't - not on the first day of March in southern Virginia.

Sunday afternoon, soon after lunch, it began to snow. Big fat flakes. Fast-falling flakes, too. We were all ecstatic, and enjoyed watching it come down, hitting the ground and disappearing. Of course it didn't stick. My Pennsylvania-raised Daddy told my younger sisters "Eventually, if it keeps coming down like this, that snow will make the ground hard enough, and the snow will start piling up."

Yeah. Sure.

A few hours later, this was the view from our kitchen window:

Please notice the greenhouse. We finally finished it, several weeks ago. Doesn't it look better? And doesn't it look like...SPRING?

Oh yes - and please notice the snow. That's important. *grin* We couldn't believe how fast it piled up!

Then, instead of curling up by the fireplace (which we don't have), we got to go out in the weather and head to church. Excitement! It's been a looooong time since we've ridden in snow.

We live about 12 miles from our church. Most of the drive is on a major highway, speed limit 55-60 mph. I don't think we went over 45 last night, and much of the time we were going 35. We only skidded once, thank the Lord, coming out of our road, and it wasn't a bad slip. Dad is an experienced snow-driver. We all felt quite safe with him, but it was still odd to be driving on ice.

A mile or two from our house, I saw a red car that had run off the road into a ditch. "Look!" It was the first time I'd ever seen a car that has run off the road because of snow or ice. That just never happens where we live - at least not that I've seen. I don't very often ride out when it's snowing.

Then, a while later, we saw another car off-road. Wow! Two sightings in one day!

In those 12 miles to church, we saw SEVEN cars off the road. That's not counting the cars that stopped to help. The roads were indeed pretty bad.

But we made it to church safe and sound, had a good service, and headed home again. The roads were a little better on the return trip - the snow had changed to rain, and already things were getting slushy. We all knew the snow would be gone by morning.


When I woke up this morning, an oddly-bright light was being reflected through our bedroom windows. I could tell from my bed that snow was still on the ground. (Of course, Mom popping her head into our bedroom and telling us happily that it had snowed during the night also gave me a clue.)

Mom said it was "this much!" but until I looked outside I didn't realize just how much that was. TEN inches of snow! On the second day in March!!!!

My three younger siblings have never seen this much snow here. They've visited our northern grandparents, but that's different - it's not home. This white stuff is in our back yard!

We five youngest went out in it this morning, to shovel our driveway clear. After finishing that, we explored our woods.

What beauty! I wish I had pictures to show. The snow weighed down every branch and twig, making them bow to the earth like weeping willows. Each slender width of skinny branch or bamboo stalk balanced a delicate bank of snow - some banks 6 inches high or more. We ate snow from branches that hung right under our chins, like some giant hand offering us powdered sugar on a spoon. We gave ourselves snow-mustaches and laughed.

Deep in our woods lies a tangled bamboo forest. We plowed our way through the snow drifts, trying to reach the bamboo. Evergreen branches blocked our way, laid low across the narrow rough path. Giggling and squealing, we shuffled under the branches on our hands and knees, floundering and tripping on the deep drifts and branches and thorns hidden under the snow.

As we came out from the branches, snow clinging to our hair and eyelashes, we all gasped.

"We're in another world!" Tiffany exclaimed.

And so it appeared. All around us, 25-foot-high heaps of snow covered leaning bamboo stalks. Some stalks waved free, high above. Their snow-dusted leaves stood out sharply against a brilliant blue sky. The tiny clearing we stood in was like the bottom of a frosting-filled bowl. We looked up, up, up, surrounded by fluffiness.

We crawled around in the bamboo forest for quite awhile. I purposely forgot my age, and gave myself up to being a little child again. It was lovely.

Now, it is afternoon, and the snow is beginning to drip. Frozen gutter spouts are now running again. The giant bear outside my bedroom window stands taller than my father, defying the sun. We've heard that we're supposed to get more snow later this week.

Even later this week, the temp. is supposed to be up to 60 degrees.

That's southern Virginia for you. Maybe I'll plant my lettuce later this week.