Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thoughts

You know, I had a beautiful realization today.

Nothing dramatic. Nothing I didn't "know" before. But it was one of those things that hits you smack in the heart in a way it never has before.

God.

Loves.

Me.

There is so much in my heart that I want to write, but just won't; this is between me and my Heavenly Bridegroom. He is beautiful, and he is wonderful. He is gentle, and forgiving. He doesn't just pardon my offenses and tolerate my existence; He actually pursues me! He wants me with Him. He delights in me.

I know it doesn't make sense, and I don't care.

It used to bother me, ya know. I wanted to rationalize it all out, and make some sort of logic out of it. I wanted to do something - be something - that would merit His love, because then it would make logical sense. Even after becoming a Christian I wanted to do that - not to earn salvation, but just to satisfy my own sense of logic. There had to be a reason for Him to love His child, right?

But a change has slowly come over me. I don't know how long it's been going on, and I don't know when it started. All I know is a noticed it today.

I suddenly realized that I don't care. I love Him because He first loved me, and I'm not gonna worry about where that first love came from. It doesn't have to make sense. Just knowing that it's a fact is enough.

Do you know how freeing this is. Really? Truly? Think about it a minute. It sounds small on the screen, but it's totally life-changing in reality. I guess it just means I realized that God is God and Amber is Amber.

I almost didn't write about this. It's so special. But I want you to think about it, too. Think about this God who made us. Think about this Jesus.

Isn't He good, to love us so? I love Him for it. He is the most wonderful Being ever. He makes my heart flutter. He makes me weep with joy and awe. My pulse quickens when I hear His voice. My heart aches to see His face with my physical eyes. I want His hands to touch mine. I want to see those ugly wounds that are beautiful because they were His own choice. He whispers to my heart, even now, and I'd climb the highest mountain to get nearer to that voice. But I don't have to - 'cause it's not about what I do. He speaks when He pleases, and His timing is always perfect.

O Jesus - I love you so!!!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Swag Bucks: it works!


Search & Win


When I heard about swag bucks, my first thought was "if it sounds too good to be true...."

Y'all can finish that phrase, can't you? Haven't we all been bitten by something that sounds too good to be true ....and is?

But when I thought about this for awhile, this program made sense. Swag bucks is basically a search engine (branched off of google, I believe) that is actually profitable to use. I suppose they make their money off of advertisements, and they must make a bunch, because they give stuff away to people who use their search engine!

If you use the swag bucks toolbar thingy to search the web, every so often (turns out to be around every 8-12 searches for me.) A sign pops up saying "You won 1 swag buck!" or "You won 5 swag bucks!" or "You won 10 swag bucks!" (That's only happened once to me!) You click "return to search" and go on about your business. But the points (or "swag bucks") keep piling up.

When you get a nice tidy pile, you can trade them in for things in the swag bucks online store. Now, please be warned: there's quite a lot of weird stuff in there. I'm don't really care to own most of the things they sell. ....But there's a section of gift cards. And of course I want to encourage them to sell more goody stuff like that, right? :)

I've just earned my first prizes from swag bucks - two amazon gift cards, for 45 points each. I am having so much fun browsing Amazon.com, with "free" money in my pocket, so to speak! I mean, really - earn free books and stuff just for browsing the web like I already do? That's cool!

Why not check it out? Click the above picture, or the link on my side bar. Now, you know I like to be honest and upfront with you: I earn points every time someone who signs up through my website earns points. :) There - I told you. But, really, what kind of friend would I be if I didn't let you in on a way to get free books? *grin*

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Different Kind of Fruit

Again, I confess you have not heard from me much lately. What can I say? Life is life!

I've been at the sewing machine for nearly two days straight. Honest.

Because my sewing area is temporarily unusable, I've been doing my work at the kitchen table, and Mom could assure you that the only time my stuff isn't spread out over everything is when she tells me to pick it up so she can set the table for a meal. Then, after we eat, out comes the sewing machine again.

I have finally finished a sewing order that I've been working on for several weeks. It will feel so good to hand that off to the customer and check it off my "To Sew" list! I also randomly decided to give Tiffany a crash-course in sewing without a pattern, so we spent about 7 hours putting an outfit together for her. She needed some new clothes anyway, and I used fabric we already had, so why not? It isn't often one of my sisters sews with me - I'd forgotten that it's quite fun to sew with a partner!

I've also cleaned the bathroom, designed a book cover, washed laundry, picked lettuce, made bread, started another batch of bread, started beans soaking, and washed dishes in the past two days, along with other random things. I am sorry for neglecting you, here at The Fruit of Her Hands, but I must admit it's lovely to actually have some fruit of my hands!

Today I want to show you pictures of a different kind of fruit.

You know, sometimes we can stereotype ourselves or others too much. Women who choose to be homemakers - 'specially for reasons relating to our faith - are often stereotyped, and we complain about it; don't we? :) But we ought to be careful that we don't do it to ourselves.

We get this idea in our heads that, because we're stay-at-home women (though do we ever really stay at home all the time?), every one of us must be the perfect cook, have an immaculate house, wear aprons, and like all things old-fashioned.

Do you know what? There are some godly women who have committed to furthering their husband's vision by being a homemaker...and they really don't like retro. They prefer the city to the country, and they wouldn't be caught dead in an apron.

You know what else? Being godly doesn't equal locking ourselves into constantly cooking and cleaning. I love cooking, and its easy for me to spend a lot of time doing it, but I should never let someone talk me into thinking I should never do anything else "because my mind isn't suited to higher things."

Have you heard that? Have you ever been told that you're only suited for menial tasks - just because you've chosen to spend a great deal of time doing that?

It's a lie. Yes, women were designed to be helpmeets for men. Yes, that often means cooking and cleaning. But it also means having good minds! It means being everything God created us to be. It means using our talents - even if they don't fit into the perceived mold.

This is freedom. It means you can use a saw and hammer and still be a lady. It means you can study higher math and love it. It means you can learn about topics the men in your life love, so you can encourage and be there beside them. Anything can be done if it's done with the right heart attitude.

I say all that to say I've recently discovered a new hobby - and it's not cooking, baking, sewing, or gardening. Can you believe it? I bet you thought I never did anything else! *grin* From all my above ranting, you may think it's something outlandish, but it's actually quite common - I just climbed up on the soapbox because it was something I was thinking about.

So here's some other "fruit" I've had lately:

Doesn't look like much, does it? Yeah - my family didn't think so either. I had a beautiful idea in mind, but wasn't sure how it would come out, so I kept quiet and kept working. Would you believe it took me an hour (if I remember correctly) to get this very basic sketch the way I wanted it?



Here the background is completed. It took me three hours, I think. I sketch every so often, but this was my first try doing serious mixing with paints. I was having fun coming up with so many different colors out of just red, blue, yellow, white, and black. In the upper left corner you can see the photo I was trying to copy.

Close up. The bushes turned out too blue, but I was just getting the hang of mixing colors, so I left it. (It's a little greener in real life.) I did like the way the brushstrokes looked. (You can't see that very well in these photos.)



Here's the first horse (and shadows) completed. It took me about an hour to do each horse - and I didn't do them all at once. This project stretched out over a couple weeks. I think the most I did was three horses at one time. I mixed up a separate batch of paint for each horse, so that each one's coloring would look a little different. I didn't want a bunch of identical brown blobs with legs.




And here's the finished painting. Oh wow - I just realized I never signed it. Oh well - I'll have to go back and do that. But, anyway, here is what it looks like now. Even though there are many mistakes in it, I'm pleased with my first painting attempt, and want to do more paintings in the future.
I want to mat and frame this eventually. I'm looking for a verse to put under it - any ideas?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Check it out!

I just wrote a post over at another blog about the time we had on Saturday night. The King's Strings was asked to play at a missions conference. We had fun, were blessed SO much, - and also were all together for the first time! Read more about it (and hear us play!) here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tired but Happy

Whew!

We just got home minutes ago from a mission conference that The King's Strings were asked to play at. My family knows the Pastor at this local church, and so we were sure we'd be in for a wonderful time. We were not disappointed.

The preaching was excellent, the missionaries were ready to go, and the power of God moved among us.

There was an outdoor supper before the preaching started, and The King's Strings provided the dinner music. I'll have to write more about that later - for now; shower, and then to bed!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making Strawberry Jam

I know y'all haven't heard much from me in the past few days. I'm sorry about that but, to tell the truth, I haven't had much time to even think about my absence here. I've been happy when I got time to sit - and since it takes even more energy to think than it does to sit, thinking really wasn't on the to-do list! (I'm joking, of course.)

Not that being busy is bad - it's life. I love the times during spring and summer when I feel like I'm outdoors all day every day. It sure beats cabin fever!

I've been sunburned twice in the past two weeks, and May isn't even over yet! Some years I can go all summer without a burn, so if this is a sign of things to come "our light little Amber will be a brownie by the end of summer," as Mom says.

My brother Curtis and I have been asked to work at a farm a handful of days every month through the summer - that is where the sunburns have been coming from. The lady who owns the farm opens it up to field trips, and our job is to help with some of the different activities. I help the children plant flower seeds, while Curtis gives pony rides. (I like to help with the pony rides when I can. Much more fun! :)

But I've also been in the garden quite a bit - another good place to get sun! Our tomatoes have gotten tall enough to tie to their stakes, and the peas are blossoming like crazy. I expect to be freezing them anytime now - after we eat our fill of fresh ones, of course.

I looked back through some of my records, and realized that last year on May 23rd I was freezing strawberries and making strawberry jam. This year I'm ahead of myself, for that's what I've been doing the past two days, and that is one reason I haven't touched this blog. Twenty-four pounds of strawberries takes awhile to put up!

I wish it were FORTY-four pounds of berries, since they are my favorite berry....but I don't think I'd have the energy to deal with them. I'm just glad I finished twenty-four pounds! Mom, Heather, and my three youngest siblings did all the picking yesterday morning while Curtis and I were working at the farm, and I volunteered to do all the preserving when we got home.

Going from the hot sun all morning to the hot kitchen all afternoon, and then mid-week church service at night, is a great way to fall asleep fast at night. Yesterday was packed with activity! Today hasn't been exactly slow, either. *grin* But all the berries are finished! I made about 6 quarts of jam and froze the rest of the berries whole. I wish I had pictures, but....you know...too busy to find the camera. I tried 3 different recipes, and I guess we'll see which one will set the best.

Strawberries are almost always the first crop we preserve. This year we grew some strawberries in our garden, but we only picked about 15 so far, so I'm glad we have other places to go picking. Broccoli, lettuce, and spinach has come in from our garden as well, but none of that has been enough to preserve. Now that we've actually frozen some food I feel like summer has begun!

Okay - strawberries are done. That leaves:

~ Blueberries (go picking in June? Or do those come in during July?)
~ Beets (Canned)
~ Carrots (Frozen - if we don't eat them all fresh)
~ Potatoes (No need to touch these - just dig them up and put them in crates!)
~ Peas (Coming soon!)
~ Tomatoes (Lots of sauce!!!)
~ Corn (I can almost promise you that none of this is making it to the freezer!)
~ Cucumbers (pickles!)
~ Squash and Zucchini (I think we're dehydrating it this year, except maybe freezing some shredded zucchini.)
~ Beans (Canned)


Nope - I don't think there's any danger of my becoming bored this spring and summer.

Thank you, Lord, for such bountiful, beautiful, blessings!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Two Heads are Better than One

We have finally started harvesting something besides lettuce and spinach from our garden. Today we split 6 strawberries between the 8 of us... SO sweet they are! One bite was simply not enough - but it will have to be until more ripen. We hope to go berry picking at an actual strawberry farm this week and get enough to preserve. That will be fun!

We also picked our first broccoli today. We probably could have let it go a bit longer, but we were so eager to pick it! We've never had such big heads, and we all agree that the fermented compost tea we've been feeding the garden gets the credit for such lovely yields:

Mom and I showing off the two broccoli heads Dad harvested today.

If you'd like to see more pictures, check my Dad's blog.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Goodies from a Booksale

We were vendors at an annual homeschool used curriculum sale today. (We were shoppers, too!) The turn-out was much lower than previous years, but we had fun. I found some great bargains, too! My finds:

~ One book on government
~ One textbook on a subject that interests me
~ Two lovely wooden organization trays!!!!

Total?

$1.50!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Aren't used book sales the best?

We sold a lot too, for the amount of people that were there. I love being a saleslady. When I was younger I used to just shyly sit behind the table and give prices if I was asked, but one time I decided to pretend I was a lively chatter-box salesperson and see what would happen.

I spoke up to a gentleman I knew and told him all about the children's slide he was looking at. I told him how much his children would love it, and how lovely it was. Inside I was nervous, but I believe I acted the part well enough that I fooled him into thinking I really was that outgoing. He didn't buy the slide, but he laughed and told me I was a good saleslady.

Now I stand behind the table and chat with everyone who goes by. I don't have to make a sale every time - just make them feel welcomed and get them to laugh. It's so much fun!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Birthday

My sister Lezley isn't the only person in our family with a May birthday. Mine comes three days after hers.

I'm just winding down after a lovely day, and I've been going over the zillions of pictures we took today, and re-living all the happy moments. It's really been a wonderfully blessed 24 hours and, instead of a wordy post, I think I'll just share the pictures which - if each picture is truly worth a thousand words - will quite suffice for a description of my day today.

We went on a picnic lunch and a leisurely hike for most of the afternoon. This place you see is part of the Appalachian Trail, and one of my favorite spots on earth - one at which I've spent many birthdays. Since it's the middle of the week, we had the gigantic park nearly all to ourselves. What beauty surrounded us!


I guess you're never too old for a party or cake and gifts. :) Everyone was so kind, and it was just one of those years when everything I was given was "exactly what I needed!" I have such a generous family, and they have splendid tastes. :) (Yes, in that bottom left-hand picture I am holding a pocket knife on my lap. I love it!! Tiffany and Justin knew I've gotten tired of borrowing the boys' knives when I'm working in the garden or opening packages. I told you they have good taste! Practical, and something I like. Perfect!)

Heather gave me a gorgeous outfit, and wanted to get pictures of me in it. I was more than happy to model for her - I love the new clothes! The skirt is one of the "swishy" kinds that make even a grown up girl want to twirl, and both the shirt and skirt fit perfectly and are so comfortable. Tiffany and Heather were the photographers for these pictures.


Lord, you gave me a wonderful day today, and I thank You for it. I find it a bit scary to think that another year is behind me and I have no promise of the coming one. What have I done for you this past year? What have I been for you this past year? Have I changed in good ways? Have I grown in you? What do you have in my future? I'm glad only You know. Thank you for being sovereign. Thank you for guiding my footsteps and forgiving my sinfulness and mistakes. Help me, Father, to seek Your face this year, and find all my delight in You. Let me fall more and more in love with You, and let Your presence be the light of my life. Let my hands serve others. Let my mind be filled with heavenly wisdom. Let my heart love others. Let my heart be completely Yours. This is my request.

In Jesus name I ask it,
Amen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Lezley

I'm back!

We had such a great trip up to visit Grandma and Grandpa for Mother's Day. It meant riding in the van over 20 hours in only 3 days, which my body did not like, but I do love traveling - seeing all the new sights and people. Being with our grandparents was special too. Sunday went by so fast, but we still made memories; singing with Grandpa as we dried the dinner dishes, talking around the table, taking family pictures, and playing our instruments for the church (they always draft us for service when we come - even though they didn't know we were coming this time!).

We made other memories too - like shivering in the hotel rooms each night while we waited for the heaters to warm the rooms. We stayed in a little country hotel that was basic but serviceable, and we sure were thankful for rooms and beds instead of tents and sleeping bags (our normal form of shelter when traveling)! Monday morning, when we woke up to go home, the van had a thick layer of frost over the windows, and we all thought the air smelled like it does when there's snow way up high. ...'Course...it might have been our southern imaginations. :) We sure were glad to leave the 30-something degree weather in exchange for the 50's we found here!

Monday was also Lezley's birthday. She's my youngest sister, and of course when the youngest member of the family starts to get old it makes everybody think "wow! where did the time go?"

I wish you knew my sister Lezley. She's such a bundle of personality! She was a great sport about traveling on her birthday. We had store-bought pizza and cake when we got home that evening, and all during the trip we sang "happy birthday" whenever we had an excuse to do so.

My birthday gift to Lezley was a date. This afternoon I fulfilled that promised date, and we went shopping together - just the two of us. That's the first time we've done that, and it was fun for both of us.

I bought her two new outfits. We went up and down the aisles of Good Will selecting everything that caught her eye, and then we went to the dressing rooms and I let her twirl in front of the mirror and preen a bit, while we discussed in very grown-up tones the virtues and faults of each article of clothing, and whether or not it was a good choice.

I don't mean that I was talking to her in that voice grown up people can easily take on when they're trying to make a child feel grown up. I was in earnest, and so was she. We're sisters after all - we can't really fool one another like that! We both had lots of fun, and it was a good chance to teach a little bit about modesty, price comparison, quality, and looking ahead when making a purchase. Lezley's a great little shopper.

Then we visited the pet store - but only after Lezley promised not to tease for a puppy or any other such thing she knew she couldn't get. She kept her word like a lady and we had such a time exploring the large shop. I hadn't been in the aquarium section before, and was amazed at the selection. With the dim lights and endless rows of lighted fish tanks, each filled with neon-colored specimens, I felt like we were in a beautiful underwater museum.

Half-way through our visit, Lezley somehow managed to get the fish to react to her hands, which she would wave a certain way to get them all in one group near one side of the tank. Then she'd suddenly and quickly put her face close to the glass, and whoosh! all the fish would go flying away. She laughed so hard! I had to practically drag her away from those poor fish. It was quite a sight to see 40 or 50 tiny little fish coming into one big bulging group of orange or yellow, then explode to the far corners of the tank.

The reptile section was fascinating too - though the long boa constrictors just don't have that beauty appeal that fish do. :) And when we walked through the puppy section I felt a lump in my stomach that told me it was a good thing I had warned Lezley against teasing for one - how can an older sister throw a fit for those adorable little things when she's just given a lecture on that topic?

We made it through puppies, birds, snakes, lizards, gerbils, hamsters, ferrets, mice, and turtles safe and sound, without any stowaways, and left the store with a toy for our hamster and a bone for our dog. We made it home almost exactly the time Mom had asked us to return.

As we were driving home, Lezley repeatedly told me "thank you, thank you, thank you!" for the outing, and at each stoplight had me lean over so she could hug me. Such is my sister.

I'm sad to think you're not so little any more, Lezzy, but I'm happy about the young lady you're becoming. Love the Lord earnestly, and don't lose your vibrant enthusiasm for life - ever! Keep your laugh, too. It's so ticklish.

I love you!

video
This is Lezley after her "Bug Hunt" on Friday. She sure loves critters! I wish I had a video of her laugh to let you watch. It's so....well, it comes from the bottom of her toes! Here she is being very "teacherish," so...no laugh.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Picture

Mother's Day.

It wasn't too long ago I wrote a post about rejoicing our mother's heart. As I wrote it, I was thinking ahead to mother's day and wondering why we don't take the time to show special love to our mothers all through the year. I think those of us who are stay-at-home daughters are specially blessed, to have the chance to be at our mothers' sides so much and to learn from them. We also have the extra time to show them love in a practical way, by helping to bear burdens and offering encouragement.

But every child - and we are always a child when it comes to our mother - has the time to show love if they will make the time.

I could use this post to say all sorts of fancy, poetic thing that are appropriate to the day. I could try to sound like the inside of a flowery card. But everybody says things like that this day. Instead, I want to single out one thing to tell you about my mother. Just one thing today.

As you read this - if my computer has done a good job - it is Sunday, May 10th, but I'm writing it on Friday, May 8th. Today we are all extremely busy, preparing for our trip up north. Voices ring from all corners of the house, and a dozen "To Do" lists can be found on any empty counter or table.

I spent my morning in the kitchen. My youngest sister, Lezley, who didn't have much to do compared to the rest of us, hung around telling me about the bug hunt she was preparing for. She asked to borrow my gardening gloves and I granted permission, but I don't know if I ever made eye contact with her through the whole conversation, so busy I was flying from stove to table and back again.

A short while later she marched through the kitchen again, armed with gloves, and a bug-catching kit from the dollar store. "Mommy and I are going bug-hunting!" she exclaimed.

They were. I left the table and went to the window to watch. The camera was sitting near by, and I snapped a picture through the window just as Justin joined them to inspect their newest find.

To me, this picture is more than just three people staring at a bug.

It is my mother taking time out of her busy, busy, busy day to show love to her child.

It is my mother's heart of a teacher that beats inside her, as she names the creature they have found.

It is my mother's humbleness shining through as she plays along with Lezley's imagination and follows her around the yard.

It is my mother's spirit rejoicing that her children are around her, and that they are eager to learn. She does not feel it a sacrifice to be out there, is not longing to be back finishing her To Do list. She is glad to be doing what she is doing - snatching opportunity like precious gold.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Busy and loving it.

Whew! What a day this has been and I'm sure will continue to be!

We are making a sudden trip up to western New York to surprise our grandparents for mother's day. Mom says it's her mother's day gift. We haven't been up to visit Grandma and Grandpa since last Easter, so we're all quite excited. That, plus the fact that this is a surprise visit, has us all running on adrenaline around here. Folks keep bumping into one another in the hallway and doorways, and I've given up asking "what's that?" every time there's a strange noise, like suitcases falling or ice chests being dumped.

I've been a little busy myself - and loving every minute of it. I spent yesterday packing so I could be free to bake today. I was in the kitchen all morning. We like to make most of our food that we eat on trips - it's cheaper and tastier - and making enough food for 3 days all in one morning is quite the challenge!

I made two pies - one apple, and one peach - for Sunday dinner. Sadly, I didn't have time to make the fillings from scratch, but the crust is my favorite recipe! This is the peach pie:

Here's Banana Bread for a breakfast. I'll have to tell you the story behind these loaves sometime. I had a recipe in front of me, but kept experimenting and throwing new ingredients in, and leaving some out...I ended up with a new recipe. It looks and smells great! ...Thankfully. :) I made dinner rolls for Sunday, too, but didn't get a picture of them. Justin chopped lots of carrots for snacks, and Mom has spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen.
Oh yes - in making all that banana bread, I had 6 banana peels left over. I ripped them into strips, stuck them in the food processor, and - whizz! - got this:
It's great fertilizer for rose bushes - they love it. I spread it on the ground around Mom's budding plant. It blends right in with the dirt, and the nutrients will soak into the ground slowly next time it rains.

Tonight my family is hosting a sort of fellowship game night at our church, (we planned this before we knew we'd be traveling tomorrow!) and we have to leave for that in exactly one hour. I'm sure we'll get back right around bed time, and after that, it's up and on the road sometime after 4:00am!

I have lots to do, so I'm off for now. I'm going to do an experiment while we're on this trip - I've never tried writing posts ahead of time and setting them to publish on certain days, but I'm gonna give it a whirl. ...So you may hear from me in the next couple days, or you may not. We'll see!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What must it have been like?

I stunk.

Who would have thought that I would ever come to this - this messy, dirty, disgusting job? The haughty Gentile who had sent me to work in the fields had only weeks before been fawning on my every word, smiling at just the right times, and giving every impression of being delighted by this nobleman's son.

Nobleman's son. Huh. No longer. Father had no doubt performed the expected funeral months ago. Had he wept at all? Did he feel any sense of loss, or had he been as glad to see me go as I was to leave? Was it a relief to him, to conclude the funeral and be regarded as no longer having two sons but one?

And after wishing death upon my father, blatantly telling him how I hated him, then leaving with one third of his possessions, there was no doubt in my mind that everyone in the village knew the reason for the funeral. It was expected. No Jew could stay in the family after leaving the faith - and such an exit I had made!

Being without family had been of no concern to me for months. Gold makes up for many things - for awhile. What parties I had hosted! The glorious house on the hill...I looked at the distance hills that housed the elite rich of the city. One of those had once been mine. In those decorated chambers I had entertained nearly all of the elite of the city - and many not-so-elite but still-very-beautiful women. The thought brought a blush to my cheeks - the first in many months.

I was brought back to reality by the feeling of mud around my ankles and the way the rope handle of my bucket dug into my palm. Cold rain drops pelted my face every few seconds, as the sky debated whether or not to rain.

The animals around my feet cared not for the rain. They swarmed to the feeding trough and waited for me to dump the contents of the bucket. As I did so, I realized I was making an effort to reach over and between these animals without touching them - an unconscious habit of years, certainly, because of late I had felt no guilt in not only touching but also eating these beasts that I had been taught from childhood to avoid.

The brown carob bean hulls that were rapidly disappearing from the feeding trough tempted my stomach though I knew such husks were indigestible to humans. I sank to my knees between two of those ugly beasts, their cold and fat wet skin brushing against my own filthy and scrawny flesh. It had been two days since I tasted food - my new master was as stingy with nourishment as he was liberal with work. With the lack of food and money that had come upon the area, it was the exceptionally kind master who would feed his servants more than absolutely necessary.

"Kind master."

"What have I become?" My stomach tied knots and the moisture on my forehead did little to relieve my faintness. Sickness of heart tried me even more. "Even the day servants who work for my father eat well. Here I am, his own flesh and blood, wanting...this."

It had been so long since I spoke the name, "father." Maybe I had not said it in all the months I had been in this city. As the word slipped over my tongue, I could almost taste it - like figs that have ripened to perfection. I realize what I lacked. What I had lost. What I was.

Tears poured down my face. "I am not worthy to be called my father's son!" I could not speak the cry of my heart. Though I dreaded it, I also longed more than anything at that moment to be back in his house, under his rule, in his arms.

To go back was to face a village full of hateful men and women who knew the truth about me. I would be expected to crawl to kiss my father's shoes. After several weeks - if he would speak to me - I'd be allowed to take up some sort of a semblance of life again. But always stared at. Always frowned upon. I could hear the voices "Look! There goes that worthless son of our good friend. Puh! The dog!"

Go back? Had I actually thought the words? Go back?

To what? What was there for me? If I wanted scorn and rejections, I could find that here. What was it I wanted?

I knew what I wanted. More than the deepest hunger of my belly, I longed for my father. To be near him. Oh how long it had been since I had heard his voice!

Suddenly, nothing else mattered. "I will go and beg him to take me as a hired servant. I will eat, at least, and be near the sound of his voice. Oh, if he will only take me!" I resolved to throw myself at his feet - kiss them, if he would let me - and beg him with all the strength left in me to hire me. Even a cursed life near him was better than this lonesome agony far away.

I staggered to my unsteady feet and headed toward the nearby road.

The rain clouds above drifted off to bless some other land with their life-giving water.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The old man strode slowly from his large house toward the barn, with the dignified walk worthy of a nobleman. Though he carried himself well, and his weathered face showed wisdom and goodness, his eyes were sad. His servants that stood in various places, behind him in the doorway of the house, or at work with animals nearby, watched him knowingly. His eyes ever turned toward the road, as they had every day for months, as if hoping to see something that wasn't there. Always the road was empty.

But not this day. Not this morning. This morning there was something there. A lone figure, staggering toward the farm.

Without a backward glance, the nobleman pulled up his long robes and ran - an old dignified nobleman running! Sure that he had taken leave of his senses, half a dozen servants sprinted after him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Every step I took hurt my feet, and with every step my heart hung lower. What would he say? I knew I was nearing the farm, but I could not look up. Not yet. Oh, what would he say? Would he lower himself to say anything at all? How long would it be before he would allow me to speak to him?

Footsteps - running footsteps - on the road ahead of me caused me to look up.

"No. It isn't possible."

It was possible. He was running to me! I had never seen him run. Overcome with emotion, at the thought of seeing him at long last, I crumpled in the dirt road.

His shadow fell across me, shielding the back of my head from the hot sun. In an instant he was down beside me, his old but powerful arms around my shoulders, his mouth planting kisses on my neck. I felt hot tears on my neck as well.

He was crying.

I began to weep, and struggled to speak. "Father...Father...I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son..."

He was paying no attention to my words. He only folded me closer. "My son! My son!" He sobbed. "You are home! You are alive again." He rocked back and forth as we sat in the road. I had the strange feeling that he was giddy with joy.

Joy? Over me?

The servants arrived, shocked into silence at the scene before them.

"Go - " Father turned to them, speaking through his tears "Fetch the robe - my best one - and my signet ring, and slaughter the fatted calf. He is home! We will celebrate!"

"Father," I stammered, even as they ran to do his bidding. "My sins -"

"Hush." He laid a calloused hand over my mouth gently. "You are my son. And you are home."

Realizing what he was offering me - pouring on me - I suddenly could not contain my joy.

I was home.




I couldn't help writing down this scene that fills my mind. Have you been a son far from home? Have you felt the sting of sin? Have you felt the wonder of the Father's loving embrace? You can't have one without the other. Have you heard Him weep over you?

The wonder of it all overwhelms me.

A Walk Through the Garden

God has blessed us with downpour after downpour this week. Today was the first time I could be out in the sunshine, and it was so good to feel the warmth of the sun on my face! ...Even if the air still is humid.

Of course I went straight to the garden. I've been making short trips out in the fog or drizzle to see how the plants are doing, and have been amazed at the way they're shooting up in such a short time, but seeing them in the sunshine they look all the more taller.

How good God is, to bless us with land to work! Today is a national day of prayer, and though this day causes me to ponder much, and though I grieve for the way my country has for te most part forsaken the Lord, I can still go out in the bird-filled quiet and peace of my backyard and see beauty made by His hand. It reminds me that there is still a God on the throne, and that He is completely sovereign. Life will go on, no matter what each day brings forth. Not only that, but life will be continued to be filled with good, because He is working out His sovereign will.

Anyway...let me show you some of the fruit of our hands;



My herb garden. Such little things, my basil plants are right now! Chives are in the upper right corner, and oregano off to the left. I have two kinds of oregano - the darker green is Greek, and the lighter green Italian. This year is my first time growing Italian, and I love it. Such a scent! Rosemary is growing above the oregano, and on the far left asparagus goes to seed amongst elephant garlic leaves.


Here is my favorite bed - isn't it beautiful? This is how all garden beds should look; orderly and in rows. :) Broccoli, carrots, and beets grow here. I wish I had something in the picture for scale, to show you how big everything is, but just know that this bed is 12 feet long, and 4 feet wide....so those broccoli plants you're looking at are nearly 2 feet wide.


Here is a tomato plant, with nourishing clover growing beneath it. All our tomatoes were grown from seed this year.


Here are the bean plants, newest addition to the garden, but doggedly growing fast! Don't they even look energetic?


And last but not least - "my" lettuce. We've been eating from this bucket for weeks now, thanks to the greenhouse it started in. This variety is called Buttercrunch.

I'd love to chat more, but the sunshine calls, and I think I shall go for a walk with my sweet older sister!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thoughts

We've been getting the rain we needed so much...buckets and buckets. But right now the sun is out. Raindrops sparkle on wet grass. The sky is a wet clear blue.

I've been turning off my computer more, and getting more accomplished around the house. Sewing projects are taking shape under my hands.

I'm young. My life is before me. The options alone make one rich.

I'm old. Time is running out - so much to do in such a short time!

I'm content, sitting here.

I'm not content. There's so many other things I could be doing.

I love my life now - the way it is. The way I'm surrounded by family, the way I can do what I love. The way I have a garden, a kitchen, a sewing machine at my fingertips.

I want the future. I want to do.... ....whatever God has planned for my future.

No, I don't. I want to dig in my heels, and savor the moment.

Life.

What a web of contrasts!

But it's good.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Our Beans Are Up, and An Announcement

Yes sir, our beans popped their round frisky selves out of the ground several days ago, each bright green head struggling to toss off her shriveled brown bonnet. I love the suddenness of bean seedlings. One afternoon the soil is brown and bare - the next morning tiny green bumps are everywhere.

The garden sure is coming along well. We have something in every bed now, and we've been eating lettuce and spinach for weeks. The potatoes are easily a foot and a half high, the broccoli looks to be forming heads any day now, and we just ate our first sweet basil and oregano yesterday. (Fresh herbs on pizza is totally off the taste scale!) I could go on to tell about the tomatoes, corn, beets, carrots, garlic, cucumbers, squash, and such, but I don't want to make those of you north of me too jealous.

If you are, like me, love dirt between your fingers, the smell of tomato plants in your nose, the touch of breeze on your face, and the all around charm of gardening, I think you'll be interested in a bit of news I have for you.

If you in any way have enjoyed getting to know me through The Fruit of Her Hands, and have wondered what the rest of my family is like, you might also want to hear this bit of news.

The announcement will also be of interest to you if you like frugality, and are always looking for ways to save money. Or if you like free resources. Or if you're interested in homeschooling.

All this can found at one place: Growing It Organically. From children to plants, if you want to raise it naturally, check this place out!



Please be aware that the site is fairly new, and much info is still to be added. But several blog entries are there, and check out the cool header on that site - see the man on the right? That's my Daddy!

That's right - I and my sister are no loner the only folks of our family in Blog Land. My Dad has entered the blogging world! I'm so excited to announce his blog to you. We've always told him that he knows so much about so many different things - particularity gardening - that he ought to write a book, or start a website, or teach a class, or some such thing. Sharing knowledge is so much in his blood that if he's talking you can be pretty sure he's teaching something. I love living under his roof!

Sharing knowledge - that's what Growing It Organically is all about. Its focus is primarily gardening but, Dad being who he is, side topics are unlimited.

Please, jump over to Growing It Organically and take a look. I think you'll be glad you did. And let us know what you think - that's the cool thing about seeing a site when it's brand new and you know the owners; you can make suggestions and tell us what sort of info you'd like to see on a site like that. Feel free to ask any gardening question you like - my Dad thrives on questions! Or just leave a comment to let him know you stopped by - it'll please him immensely, I know.

Hope to see you there.
Amber