Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hello, dear friends!

I thought about coming into Webland last week, to wish you a merry Christmas, but I didn't think many of you would be visiting my little corner of the web when there were so many other fun things to do... I didn't. But merry Christmas, anyway! I hope you had a lovely one. I had one so lovely that it almost felt too perfect. I savored every minute.

I have shown up to with you a happy New Year, however. Aren't you proud of me? I also must tell you that I have a new blog series in the works that I plan to launch in January - three of the posts are already written. The reason I'm mentioning this is two-fold; one, to encourage you to stick around and not put me on that list of "blogs-to-never-bother-checking-'cause-they-never-update," and, two, because if I tell you about it, I'll have to publish the posts, and I need the motivation to publish. I'm feeling shy about the topic.

F0r those of you who have blogs, do you ever feel nervous about broaching certain topics, or writing certain posts? Are there some that are so intimidating, you've never written them, though you've composed them in your head?

But I'm getting away from my point. This is New Year's Eve. Almost New Year's Day. What are you doing tonight? Are you staying up until midnight? I usually don't...and I wasn't planning on it tonight...but it looks like I might end up doing it just because I haven't caught up on all my computer work yet.

Let me encourage you to take a moment and look back on this past year, before looking forward at 2011. Take some time to discuss the last twelve months with God, and ask Him what He thinks of how you spent them. Thank Him for His blessings. Remember the lessons He taught you. Rejoice in His goodness.

Here are some questions to get your memory kicked into full gear:

~ What was the most challenging month for you this year?
~ Did you make any new friends?
~ Read any new books?
~ What did you write?
~ Did you start a new hobby/work?
~ What new skills did you learn?
~ Where did you travel?
~ Did you have an opportunity to do something you had always wanted to do?
~ Did you conquer any special sins or temptations this year?
~ How much Scripture did you read this year?
~ How many people did you witness to?
~ What were the darkest hours that God brought you through? How did they challenge you, and mature you?
~ How has your family changed this year?
~ Did you smile enough this year? Laugh enough? Work enough?
~ What did you do to bring beauty into your home?
~ What season did you like best this year?
~ Did you try any new foods this year?
~ Has your prayer life grown this year?

Those are just a few random questions to help you get started thinking. It's always good to look back and see where you've been; it helps you get your heart set correctly on where you should go. Besides, it's fun!

Do you have goals for this new year? Would you mind sharing some?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Yesterday and Today

I had a rotten day yesterday.

You think I got online just to tell you that, don't you? Not really. Yesterday was awful, and I expected today to follow suit.

I decided to expect that just seconds after waking up - right after I bounced out of bed and landed - smack! - on the floor. As I sat on the floor beside my bed, head spinning, stomach feeling queasy, and my entire left leg asleep, I thought to myself "I thought yesterday was over!"

But my stomach improved, my leg woke up, and my head finally got oriented about twenty minutes later.

But I had to leave the house in about 1.5 hours, and I still had to eat breakfast, shower, get a package ready to ship, fix my hair, and spend time in God's Word. I was supposed to be headed to the Crisis Pregnancy Center, where I volunteer once a week. In about 2 hours, I would be talking with women who need hope and help. When I read this morning, I assure you that I was looking for a verse to grab onto, to get me through the day.

I read 1 Chronicles.

Every read 1 Chronicles? The first nine chapters are genealogies. Hardly inspiring, at first glance.

But lo and behold! In chapter 5, I found my verse: "..for they cried unto God in battle, and he was entreated of them; because they put their trust in him."

Now that is not what I got online to tell you, either, but it's not a bad thought, is it? All it takes is trust. And Who is more worthy of our trust than God? He's proved that over and over.

What was I going to tell you?

Oh yes - even with a verse to hold on to, days can get rough. (Even when they're better than the day before.) But deciding to praise God in the midst of difficulties makes a world of difference. I re-discovered today that you can't complain while praising.

Try it.

That's what I wanted to tell you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sewing, fashion, and what I was up to a month ago

This post has been a long time in coming.

a) I've been telling y'all for ages that I'd update you on sewing projects, and,
b) I started this post several nights ago. ...and I almost never take three sittings to write a post.

But here I am, at last. I'm sharing two projects with you; both were completed at least a month ago, and both of them are my favorite "genre" of sewing; alterations.

Project #1 - Striped Shirt
Don't you love thrift stores? I went through my closet the other day, and counted the number of things I've bought or had given to me that were brand spanking new - I think the number was 8-10 items. Everything else is either hand-me-downs, freebies, or (most numerous!) from thrift stores. I love it!

Of course, when you do so much shopping at second-hand places, you have to be careful that you don't lower your standards too much. It's tempting to buy a shirt that you would have loved when it was new...even though it definitely shows signs of wear now. Unless you need paint clothes, or have a ton of extra money to get rid of, try to stick to items that feel and look like they've got miles of wear left in them, and then treat them as if you paid full price for them. Quality counts more than quantity when it comes to clothes, folks.

All that being said, I've picked up many items from Good Will that weren't in "wearing condition." I promised myself I'd hem them, lengthen them, take the seams in, ....whatever it was that was needed. Most of those projects never made it to my closet.

So I've learned that when planning a "Good Will" project, as I term them, I need to stick to these basic guidelines:

1) Item must have good bones. (Fabric feels new, plenty of ease to play around with, etc.)
2) The needed alteration must be a day-long project or less. (No week-long jobs!)
3) If it doesn't meet these two rules, DON'T BUY IT!

Sticking to those rules makes things SO much simpler. Saves me a lot of money, too. And things actually get done this way! Take my first project, for instance.

Here is the shirt as I bought it. ($3.50)
I loved the colors, stripes, 3/4-length sleeves, and yoke.
It fit me well, but the neckline was a little too low.
Not good when I bent over. :)
What to do? I was so sad - such a nice shirt!
Did I have to put it back, just for a measly 1.5"?
I picked up some stiff, wide, black ribbon from WalMart ($2, I think)
I had plenty left over when this project was done.

And here's what I did:
The wide ribbon added just the perfect amount of height to the neckline.
It took FOREVER to iron it into pleats, but it sewed on zippy-fast.
The flower was the inspiration of a moment, and took only a few minutes to make.
It's safety-pinned on, rather than sewn, and I've worn it in my hair with other outfits.
Love it!

What'cha think? I love it when I can make clothes work, that at first I thought were unwearable.

That's how I also feel about my second project:

Project #2 - Ruffle Plaid Vest

I'm going to confess it; I'm interested in fashion. Not obsessed, I hope, but interested; enough to know that plaids and ruffles are both "in" right now. That's fine with me, because I like plaid, and ruffles are very feminine.

Sometimes, however, lovely plaid fabric just doesn't look appealing, because of what it's made into.

This jumper, for instance, didn't match me:
(The picture was taken after I'd already cut it in half.)
It was in a bag of hand-me-down clothes, from a friend, so it was free.
I liked many things about it.
The color. The buttons. The Princess-seam style.
I didn't like the skirt part. Too narrow.
Didn't fit me. Wasn't "me" anyway.
The top part reminded me of a vest.
I hate vests.
...Don't I?

I have no idea where the inspiration came from.
Probably browsing clothes on the web.
But I hate vests.
...Don't I?

I thought I did.
But I like this!

There was enough fabric in the skirt to create the ruffles, with generous scraps - and several buttons - leftover. I never would have called this outfit "me," but once it was on, I liked it a very much!

This las tpicture was taken right before bedintme and as hyour ca =n see by this ytpeing (which I am, not, byt the way, doign on purpose), I it is rather late, and I really ought to go do to bed. Honestly , this paragraph was tpyed without any backspacking to fix erroesrs, and is an example of how thankful I am for backspace buttons wh on nights when I am to o tired to type straight.

Whew! Aren't you glad all my blog posts aren't like that? :) :) :) The above paragraph was written the night I was trying to load all these pictures.

Now you know why it took three sittings to write this post.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Huh. Just writing that word as a title to a post feels awkward. How does one write about humility? Just to open your mouth on the subject seems proud; "I've got it all together, folks!"

Yeah, right. :)

But I had a thought about the topic yesterday, and I thought I'd share it with you.

What is the definition of humility? Is it thinking humbly about yourself? Yes, of course, right? But what does that mean?

Does that mean you are shy? Does it mean you tell yourself that you "can't do anything"? Does it mean you put yourself down, or are constantly comparing yourself to others, to your own disadvantage? Does it mean that always, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances, you never, ever, forget that you are nothing? Does it mean that you weep over your own horribleness, and are broken over your depravity?

I don't think so. And hold on - I'll give you the reasons why.

First off, consider the person who constantly puts herself down in her mind. I've been that person; constantly berating myself for not being good enough, not being kind enough, not being godly enough, talented enough, sweet enough...the accusations stretched out like a holiday "To Do" list. All of this was done in the name of holy zeal - I wanted to be better.

That isn't bad - to want to be better. It's an inborn instinct of human beings. It is that drive that causes us to work for things, and to become things. And it is that drive that finally, in the end, shows us we aren't good enough.

In the Christian, it is often given the name of "the longing to please our Lord." We know we are sinners, yet we also know we've been saved, and, boy, do we want things to be different now! We know God says "be holy, as I am holy," and with everything in us, we want to obey that command. So we strive for excellence.

But it isn't too long before the truth dawns upon us; we're not "good enough." We're not good enough. Time and time again we fail. We may have it all together on the outside, but we know our own thoughts, our temptations, our wayward minds, our selfishness, our laziness...we know we aren't what we ought to be.

Is this where humbleness comes is? The admitting of how low we really are? The loud embracing of this unworthiness, denying all claims to perfection, or even goodness?

Well, sorta. This is where humbleness comes in, but not in that way.

Because, think about it - why does it bother us that we are flawed? Oooo, doesn't it just drive you mad? That stubborn sin streak - why must it persist? You'd better believe I hate it.

And, not too long ago, I hated myself. For having that sin streak. For being the flawed child. For not being what I wanted to be. Oh, I was so mad at myself!

Because I wasn't what I wanted to be.

Did you catch the number of times I used "I" or "me" in the previous three paragraphs? Six times, to be exact. And every sentence was focused on the trials of yours truly.

That's why I believe that attitude, that anger at myself, isn't true humility; it's focused on me. I'm sad because this precious, treasured being of mine isn't as beautiful as I want it to be. I want me to be perfect. Isn't this the sum of pride?

I was so afraid of the other sort of pride - the kind that says "I don't have to worry about my character. I'm already perfect," that I slipped into the pride of the other extreme - frustration at my flaws.

Just for the record, I'm not talking about a healthy hatred of sin. I wasn't mad because it was sin - I was mad because it was in me, and "me" wasn't supposed to have anything wrong with her. See the difference?

So here's what I count as the definition of true humility. My thoughts and heart on the topic had already changed, a few months ago, but I hadn't formulated it into a cohesive thought until yesterday:

Humility: "Knowing the truth and being content in it."

Knowing the truth. Not what I feel, but what God tells me is true. Truth is "are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3) Truth is "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." (Jer. 31:3) Truth is that God will finish that which He starts - including making me perfect one day, when I stand before Him in Heaven. Truth is that He loves me now, as I am, still flawed, but His precious child. Truth is that I need to hate sin because God does, not for selfish reasons. Truth is that He put talents in me that He expects me to use, not deny. Truth is that He made me untalented at other things. Truth is that God loves me. (I just had to say that one more time!:)

Being content in it. I must come to terms with this truth. I must trust God's truth. I must trust that what He decrees is best. But isn't He worthy of my trust? Absolutely! I owe Him everything.

So I can know that I'm not so good at some things, and trust that He doesn't need me to be doing that particularly well - He plans to use the weakness for His glory.

I can know that if I can do something well, He made me to use that. And it would be wrong to deny it. I can be confident, gracious, and quietly content, instead of wrestling with fears of "should I be up here doing this? What will people think of me?"

I can know that I am still loved when I sin, and that I should rejoice loudly in His forgiveness, rather than bewail the fact that I had to accept it. I used to be really afraid of this - I mean, come on - "accept the fact that I sin? Are you crazy, Amber? If you start believing this nonsense about rejoicing in God's forgiveness, you'll lose your fear of sin, and you'll lose your conscience!" Nothing could be farther from the truth. The confidence I have in my Father's love and forgiveness creates such a wellspring of thankfulness and love in me that I cannot bear the thought of sinning against Him.

I don't think I've solved the problem of pride. That, I'm afraid, I will wrestle with until I reach Heaven. But it helps to know that humility isn't a false abasing of myself, a loathing of myself. In fact, it isn't about myself at all. It's a quiet resting in the grace of God, and trusting that He knows what He's doing with me. It's all about Him.

Isn't He wonderful?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Things I'm Thankful For

~ God's love. It's the first thing that comes to mind when I think about what I'm thankful for - which is often. It's absolutely foremost in my mind this year - so much so that I feel like running around, grabbing people by the shoulders and saying, "have you heard? God is love! God loves me!" I've been made aware of His love in a new and bigger way this year, and it's totally indescribably wonderful.

~ Salvation. Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. All offshoots of the above item, but each one a separate world of delights, full of its own implications and joys.

~ Music - I've fallen deeper in love with it this year. :)

~ Parents who are in love with each other. This means more and more to me, the older I get.

~ Daddy. My leader, protector, and teacher. The one who makes me smile when I'm sad.

~ Mom. The kind of friend every girl should have. Faithful, wise, and constant. Unselfish. And a wonderful person to hang out with and do things with - something I've been doubly thankful for since my older sister has moved out of the house. :)

~ Siblings who are my best friends. Brothers who make me proud, and sisters who fill me with joy.

~ My sister's marriage - it's been a beautiful picture of Christ and His bride.

~ My new brother-in-law. My sister has good tastes. :) ...So does he, come to think of it. :)

~ Our location. I love where I live.

~ The beauty of life. Growing things. Animals. Babies.

~ The opportunities God has given me this year. I've gotten to do so many things I'd only dreamed of doing before.

~ My hands. I love working with them.

~ Books. Words. Language.

~ My Bible. God's Word. Seriously, that dear, precious, book....I owe so much to it.

~ Kind friends. I have so many of them, and they are so kind and unselfish and encouraging and loving that they are continually surprising me; "oh, you mean you are that kind? You mean you care that much? Wow."

~ My church. Our Pastor. God's people. Sweet fellowship.

~ Freedom. Liberty. Such a high cost, and such a exquisite prize!

~ My Dad's job. With so many people unemployed, I'm so thankful Dad's been able to continue working. And my brother has a job too, now.

~ My new (own!) bedroom. Never thought I'd get used to it this fast! :)

~ God's patience. Wow, I don't know what I'd be like without this.

~ Smiles. Singing. Laughter.

~ Sunshine.

~ Plants.

~ Food, and the ability to make things in the kitchen.

~ Love.

~ God's direction.

~ The Holy Spirit.

~ The unshakable assurance of knowing that God finishes what He starts.

~ Trials. Really. I started this year with some very deep, dark times, and they have been the springboard to draw me nearer to God. I'm so thankful for them.

What about you? What are you thankful for?

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Salad I Love

So....I love it. I really, really, love it.

Mom likes it.

My brothers tolerate it.

A little sister dislikes it.

How 'bout you? Try it! Pleeeeease?

Amber's Spinach and Peas Salad

~ Lots and lots of fresh, washed spinach. LOTS. As in a heaping salad bowl full.
~ 4 hard-boiled eggs (Please do boil these long enough. If you don't....well, you could always wail, dump them in a skillet, and scramble them, and hope nobody notices the slightly different texture...but hard-boiled is just better. Not that I've had the other experience, of course...)
~ 2 cups frozen peas, thawed, but not cooked
~ 1/2 cup raisins (I LOVE these in my salad, but my family doesn't.)
~ Croutons (Optional. I don't care for them in this particular salad, but others in the family do, so I put them in, hoping to coax reluctant salad-eaters into trying the salad. :)
~ 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese...or more. :)

That's the salad. Toss everything together and rip up the spinach leaves into bite-size pieces. Now mix up the dressing:
~ 3 TBS miracle whip
~ 4 TBS sour cream
~ Spices, to taste (in order of amount):
Garlic Powder (I like a lot)
Onion Powder
~ 2.5 TBS water

Mix thoroughly, and pour over spinach mixture. Toss to coat evenly.
You can serve immediately, or let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so, to let the flavors blend together. Then dish up a plateful, and eat it! Serves....well, anywhere from 6 t0 8 people. It depends on whether you make a meal of it - like I'd love to do, or if you only take a few leaves on your plate, like my brother did. :)

I think it's delicious. How about you?

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm Launching!

That's right - I've got a new project up my sleeve, and I'm finally ready to share it with you.


I've got a new blog!

(You may be thinking "what?! This girl who can't find time to keep up with one blog is starting another? Well, truth be told, this is my tenth blog. {I don't make all my blogs public.} And I truly am starting to get back into the swing of blogging, I think. I also think that the very nature of this blog will make up-keeping easier. You'll see what I mean.)

Now, for more info:

As most of you know, I'm a writer. This new blog, "Doing it Write" is all about encouraging fellow writers to do their best, for the glory of God. I'm looking forward to developing a community of writing friends, and learning from their input.

Doing it Write is still in its beginning stages, and I would love for you to pop over and make it really feel alive, by reading and commenting. If you are a writer, and have a writing blog, please leave me a link to your blog, and maybe I'll add you to my blog roll!

Even if you don't write....stop over anyway. You're such nice readers that I love to have your company anywhere I am in the blog world.

I wish you all a warm, cozy evening, and lots of joy tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I have a new sewing project...sorta

You know that "basic black dress" that every woman is supposed to own?

I've never had one.

It never really truly bothered me, but I always thought it would be a nice addition to my wardrobe. Someday. When I got around to it. After all, I hadn't seen that many black dresses that I fell in love with. They all seemed to stiff. Too full. Too tight. Too formal. Too ...not formal. Too not-me.

Until now.

I really like this dress from Shabby Apple.

Of course, being me, I'm not considering buying it. For one thing, little ol' humble me thinks she can improve the design. I want to add a really cowl neck (I have a new black sweater like that, and just love it! I could practically hide my whole head inside the collar, if I lifted it straight up). And I'd also lengthen the hem line, because I don't spend my whole day nicely perched on a rock like that.

But I love the nearly-invisible empire waist. And I love the comfortable-looking fabric. And I love, love, love, the three-quarters length sleeves.

Of course, I really didn't need another sewing project. I still have to finish my quilt.

And fix my skirt (which I made last winter).

And make that other dress (which I didn't plan on making, but I saw the fabric at WalMart - 5 yds for $5 - and who could resist?).

And that shirt. (Another project complements of WalMart inspiration.)

....And that navy blue formal that I just picked up the fabric for this week. (Somebody should warn WalMart to stop having these 1yd/$1 sales.)

That's not to mention the aprons I'm suppose to sew for our website, and the 10 costumes I've been hired to sew before Easter. Plus the Christmas gifts that I decided to make.

No, I really shouldn't make this black dress. Not yet, anyway.

For once I'm gonna listen to my advice, because I have to; I don't have any proper black fabric. And no money in the budget to go out and buy some.

So I'll do what I normally do in such situations;

"God, You see this project. Do you want me to make it? You know I want to make it. But do I need it? I'm no good at decisions, Lord. I want my wardrobe to please You. Dress Your daughter the way You think best. Knowing that I don't need it, but saying that I think it would be a good basic accessory, a wise investment, and perfectly suitable thing for Your daughter to wear...I ask You to give me the fabric to make it. In Your own timing. Whenever You please. Whenever You want me to take the time to make it. Thanks, Lord. You're so wonderful!"

It's so much more fun than going to WalMart.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A New Recipe

I've come to the conclusion that I'm a very bad blogger. I can't seem to find the time to blog.

Of course, the fact that Blogger hasn't been cooperating with me when I try to log in might have something to do with my aversion to blogging lately. Just maybe.

But I'm here right now, so let's jump right into things.

Guess what's been on my mind lately? Well, a lot of things, but I mean in the realm of "fruit of the hands."


Ah, it's such the time of year for things like that! I can't believe it's November already. Every morning, I want to dress in short sleeves. (I'm in denial, you see.) But by 9:30 or 10:00 I end up pulling on a sweater or changing to long sleeves. I love fall clothes - love, love, love them! But, living in southern Virginia, I don't even think about cold weather until, oh...January or so. It doesn't seem right to get cold before then.

And I've been cold, let me tell you. We had out first frost Sunday morning, and my flowers and sweet basil died. The temperatures are in the upper 30s at night, or even the 20s, occasionally. (Yes, all you northerners are allow to snort and laugh. Just once. I'm telling you - that's COLD!)

But it's a great time of year for being in the kitchen. I love to bake, but lately I've been inspired to do cooking. I want to mix food without a recipe, stir something on the stove top, toss exotic spices together....

Ah, yes.

But baking is fun, too. I want to make pies. I made apple pie on Saturday. I love to make pie crusts! And do artwork on the top layer of my pie crust. This time it was an apple cut-out in the middle.

Oh, and pumpkin cookies! That's really the only food that exists this month; pumpkin. Bake it, mash it, "cookie" it, "pie" it, "cake" it, mix it with cream cheese frosting, mix it with chocolate chips, mix it with raisins.....yum. Have you ever made pumpkin stuff from scratch, with a real pumpkin? It's so easy. If you haven't, you must try it. You'll wonder why you thought it was complicated.

I'm sure you could figure this out yourself, but I'll tell you just because I want to.

Making pumpkin bake-ready:
1 - Slice pumpkin open, remove seeds and that stringy orange stuff. Get as much of it as you can, because it doesn't mash very well at all. Slice into quarters, then eighths, ...keep going until your slices are about 2 inches thick.
2 - Place sliced pumpkin in a glass casserole dish, and add an inch or so of water. Don't cover it. Just add enough so the pumpkin won't get crispy.
3 - Bake at 350 degrees for...oh, I don't know. 20-40 minutes. Somewhere in there. Just until pumpkin is very soft - skin included. But don't let the flesh part start browning.
4 - Let pumpkin cool enough to handle, and then scrap out as much flesh off the skins as you can. Discard skin. Put flesh into a bowl and mash with a potato masher until smooth.

You're done! I told you it was easy. Use as regular canned pumpkin. (Not pumpkin pie mix - you have to add spices for that.) Stay tuned for a really yummy pumpkin recipe.

But cooking has been my interest lately. Aside from pumpkin and pies, that is. I stayed up late one night this week (really late), and the last thing I was doing on my computer was researching how to make the "perfect gravy."

Forgive me, but most homemade gravy isn't so good. It's lumpy, it's bland, it's watery. It's...nothing. I've never made anything good in that realm. But my brothers adore good gravy, so I want to learn to make it for them.

Wanna see what I found? Of course you do.
This site was very inspiring. Great photos. And descriptions.
And this video made me ask Mom if I can make our next Sunday dinner.

I found some other stuff, too, but those two sites were my favorites.

Oh yes - I promised you a pumpkin recipe. This is another "Amber Creation." I've been considering putting a little cookbook together, of dishes I've invented. Would that be a good idea, or not? I trust you guys; give me some feedback; would you want to read such a book? If you read it, would it be to laugh at the tales of how each recipe was birthed, or would you actually use it to cook?

This pumpkin dish isn't totally my own. I got the idea from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, when I was browsing the site, looking for gravy help. But, I promise, I didn't steal anything. I just used it as a starting point. Mine is pumpkin, hers is sweet 'taters. Mine uses less sugar and it's cheaper to make. But hers looks good too, so maybe you'll want to pay her a visit!

Anyway. On to the pumpkin.

Amber's Non-Dessert Pumpkin (so named because my siblings couldn't believe it was actually for the main meal)

2 cups mashed pumpkin
2 eggs
4 TBS butter (because that's what you have. More might have been good.)
1/4 cup milk (was it that much? Maybe only 3 TBS. Not sure. You try it.)
Cinnamon. Lots of Cinnamon.
1 cup Old Fashioned Oats
1/4 cup brown sugar, divided

Yeah, I think that was it.
No - wait - add a dash of allspice.

Directions: Mix pumpkin, eggs, milk, 2 TBS sugar, a heaping shake of cinnamon, and that dash of allspice in a mixing bowl until smooth. (If you want to save dishes, use the same bowl you mashed the pumpkin in.) Pour into a 9x9 glass baking dish, and set aside. In another bowl, put the oats, rest of the brown sugar, more cinnamon, and the butter, chopped into smaller pieces. Cut butter into other ingredients until crumbly and yummy. (Taste to be sure!) It will want to clump a bit, 'specially if your butter is getting warm, but do your best to crumble the stuff on top of the pumpkin batter. Now bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

If you're expecting sweet potatoes, ...don't. If you're expecting pumpkin pie...don't. Expect something totally new and different, and slightly healthy. It's a squash. But yummy. Oh, very yummy. Be sure to mash the pumpkin very smooth, as the texture plays an important part in this dish.

We liked it. Let me know what you think! Happy baking and cooking to you!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Quiet Home

I was thinking today of how much I like the quietness of our home. At the time, I was sitting at my sewing machine, the needle humming away, and although all 6 of my family members (minus my married sister) were there in the house, a stranger would never have known it.

Now, we're not always that quiet. No, indeed! But there is generally an air of quiet in the house that is surprising enough to cause several friends of ours to comment on it.

A quiet home is not necessarily a home where nothing happens. Ours is a very active household; my sewing students come and go, my Dad and brother are departing and returning from their workplace, and Mom or I are frequently running errands. (Our driveway ought to have a revolving door thingy, so we don't have to play rush hour with the cars.)

My younger siblings are studying, going in and out the back door to the great outdoors (often trying to sneak rabbits or chickens inside), playing games (NOT board games) in the basement, using B.B. or air-soft guns in the house (yes, really), raising sawdust and wood chips in the work area as they create a new project...

Mom and I are often tinkering in the kitchen, using noisy appliances, or banging pots and pans. All five of my siblings and I play more than one instrument, and rare is the hour when at least one of us is not practicing, or playing musical CDs.

Like every household, we operate. We move. We talk. We bang stuff around. But still, we have lots of quiet. I want to list a few things I think contribute to a quiet house, but first: why desire a quiet house?

I think the blessing of a quiet home is something we all understand. It's peaceful, and soothing to tired nerves. It's conductive to study, to keeping your mind focused on the task at hand, and creating a welcoming environment. When the household is constantly full of screams and shouting, chatter and loud laughter, little legs running to and fro, objects hitting the floor, etc., it affects your mind, don't you think? It's a lot easier to pray, too, when you can hear yourself think.

So how to have a quiet home? Well, I think it's all based on habits. And, of course, quiet is all relative to the season of life you're in. "Quiet" sounds mighty different when you have 3 toddlers in the house than when you have five young adults in the house. :)

Some habits that have helped us:

~ Cultivate "Quiet" Hobbies
No, I'm not suggesting we all take up embroidery and painting, and never touch a hammer or guitar. But we spend a lot of time doing quiet activities in our house; reading, writing, computer, sewing (in my case), ...And many chores are relatively quiet; sweeping, cleaning the toilet, organizing clutter, dusting, etc. But you can't be quiet forever, and that leads me to my next point:

~ Schedule Your Noise
We have certain hours of the day that are set aside for school. Even though I'm not in school any more, I know my younger siblings are supposed to be studying during those hours. So, I don't practice my fiddle. And I don't play a CD while I'm washing dishes. And I don't carry on long, energetic, enthusiastic conversations with Mom while I'm in the room where they're working. I save my talking for later.

Quiet times are a major practice in developing this habit. When Mom was expecting my younger siblings, all the siblings who were already here had lots of practice with learning to be quiet, because she would frequently need to take naps throughout the day. While she was lying down, she'd turn off the lights in the house (so long as the day was sunny), to remind us to be quiet, and we learned to talk in low voices, play or work quietly, not to start tickling each other, and not to play with dice on hardwood floors.

This is the biggest "tip" I can offer on this subject. It's proven to be very valuable for us. Schedule times for just "quiet." The habits will carry over into other times of day.

~ Do loud stuff outside
Let's face it - we were made to make noise! Especially when you've got young folks around, noise is a great thing! It releases mental energy, or something. :) So go outside, and laugh, and be loud. Just do it at a decent time, so the neighbors won't mind. :)

*(As a side note, I want to mention that I've noticed something about my siblings; they play fairly quietly, even when outdoors. Ever watched "screamers" play? They shriek at everything, setting the dog two houses down to wailing. The whole neighborhood knows when they're out. But for some reason, my little sisters never caught that habit - which is nice! I'm afraid I'm more of a shrieker than they are; just play tag with me sometime!)

~ Cultivate Quiet Voices and Bodies
Some people just don't know they're making noise. It's worth trying to cultivate the discipline of self control in the area of your volume level. I remember trying to help my brother understand the difference between just whispering, and truly being quiet. Whispering doesn't help if you're tromping down the hallway at 5:30 in the morning! But the gentle reminders paid off - he's now pretty quiet when he wants to be. :) Now if we could just get a certain sibling to shut the bathroom door without rattling the doorknob so loudly at 11:30pm. :)

And, when the inevitable sounds happen....

~ Contain the Noise
Ours is not a large house, and it's easy to hear what's going on in other rooms. Sometimes that's fine, but other times, you just don't want to hear that piano lesson played one more time. Shutting doors, plugging in earphones, and turning down the volume helps to keep tempers more cheerful. And, when "sharing noise" can't be helped, learn to either enjoy or ignore! :)

~ One Room, One Floor
As a general rule, only one person in a room talks at a time. Even when you're not sharing in a particular conversation, you respect that person's right to the floor. In general, we don't usually have more than one conversation going on in a room at the same time. If somebody wants to start another discourse, they move to another location. (Example: two little people want to play together, they move to a bedroom. A phone call for you; you move to another room to talk.) The major exception for this is when we have guests; then, nearly all the rooms in our house are filled with happy chatter, from multiple mouths - and we love it! Other exceptions would be at the dinner table (yes, I know, it's not "proper") or when we're playing games. When competition is going on, everybody is talking. :)

I think I've talked enough for now. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you. Really, though, in the realm of "quietness," the most valuable thing you can cultivate is a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great worth. Why don't you share some habits that have helped you form that kind of quietness in your life?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

God is Good ALL the Time

I've been doing a lot of thinking, the past couple days.

Great, you say. Good for the head.

No - really. I've been doing more than the usual share of wondering, asking, and pondering. Don't make jokes. This is serious thinking that I've been doing.

There's so much hurt in the world. Death. Persecution. Broken relationships. Greedy dictators. Depression. Anger. Murder. Loss.

So many innocents wounded. Babies killed. Children scarred in their hearts. Wives grieving. Men broken inside. Families starving to death.

Why, God? Why do you let it be this way? Why must they hurt? My heart aches for them.

Why is my life so....pristinely perfect? It almost scares me. Why was I born in the most wonderful country in the world? Why have I never had to hide under a table, clutching my Bible in my hands, while secret police arrest my parents?

Why do I have an entire family that loves God and loves me? Why do I have parents who love each other? Why do I have enough to eat and clothes to wear? Why do I have a wonderful church, where the gospel is preached? Why do I have my grandparents still with me on this earth? Why have I never dealt with any sort of great physical pain at all?

Why have I been blessed with the opportunities to go so many places, meet so many wonderful - and sometimes famous - people? Why was I put in a family that is so popular? Why have I grown up in this lovely location - so close to the city, yet with a big enough yard to get filthy in, and plant seeds and run around with dogs? Why did I love school? Why did I have all the opportunity for the best education?

Why does everything always work out so well for me? Why has God blessed me this way, and not them?

If I think about it long and hard, I can find hardships in my life. I grew up feeling like an "odd ball," the "conservative homeschooler." I had a hard time making close friends as a youngster. I've never met my grandfather on my Dad's side. I've struggled with depression. I have asthma. I have a sister I dearly love who struggles with a lot of physical problems. There are loads of places I long to visit that I've never set foot in. I miss having my older sister living at home. Overabundance of money has never been a disease I caught.

But those things don't come to mind when I'm analyzing my life. When I'm struggling with them, in the moment, they seem overwhelming... but in the big picture, they disappear. When I'm summing it all up, I forget to add them to the total. I count my life a blessed thing.

And it doesn't seem fair. Not when all those other people are suffering beyond my comprehension.

But, ...then, do I really know these people? I haven't met them, or talked to them.

Maybe....maybe they're just like me.

Maybe the drama and misery and agony isn't like movies and novels and such would have me believe. Maybe the trials rise and fall, and their life goes on, just like mine. Maybe God is as close - closer - to them in their big troubles as He is to me in my little ones. Maybe they wouldn't trade their trials any more than I would trade mine and the lessons I've learned from them. Maybe God really does chasten those He loves.


Of course.

But what about the babies? What about the men and women and children who actually die?

O God, where are my eyes? What am I asking? I see things from such an earthy point of view. Help me remember that this world is not all there is. It exists for Your glory. All of history - and every life in it - is here for Your glory. You write each story. You know each soul. And when they leave this earth, why am I thinking that they are over, that they are gone? They have only moved.

How could I have forgotten that You love them more than I do? That You know them intimately? That You planned each second of their life before they came into existence?

The answer to my worries and fears lies in the character of God. I can trust His goodness and love.

Psalm 73
1Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men...

...16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apple Recipes

It's apple season! And that means lots of apples.

Around here, we usually don't get our bulk purchase of apples until a little later in the season, sometime in October, but this year we were blessed with the opportunity to buy a large amount of apples at a great price just last week. The apples were second-class - meaning they weren't "perfect" enough to be sent to the store, but they were great for preserving! We did have a few bad spots to cut around, but all-in-all it was a great deal! Thank You, Lord, for Your gifts!

We got 3.5 bushels of some sort of yellowish apple - we didn't pick the type, and we're not sure what they were, but they looked and tasted like golden delicious apples. They were nice and sweet, but not too soft.

3.5 bushels may not sound like a lot to some of you, but we've never put up that many apples before, so it seemed like a lot to us. For those of you who need a picture in your minds; imagine a box the size of one of those toilet-paper packages that holds 12 rolls (hey, I'm creative, okay?). Now imagine that box filled to the brim and heaped up to overflowing with luscious apples. That's 1/2 a bushel. We got 7 of those.

We made lots and lots of applesauce (SO easy!), some pie filling, and some apple dumplings the first day. We spent just about all of Tuesday in the kitchen. On Wednesday, it only took the morning to finish the remaining apples; we shredded or sliced them, and froze them for use in recipes later on.

When you're dealing with that many apples, even the piles of skin and cores can look huge:
My younger sisters, Tiffany and Lezely worked hard alongside Mom and I. Tiffany was really good at running the apple peeler/corer (we have the kind that you crank, and it does it all at once.) I think Tiffany peeled and cored almost 3 bushels by herself! Mom worked on the pie filling, and I did the apple dumplings. Lezley was here and there, doing whatever we asked her to do, whether it was washing the apples, loading pans with sliced apples, or helping Tiffany peel apples.

I thought you might like some apple recipes, since it's apple season in many places right now. :)

(I don't have the time to share the pie filling recipe right now, but it's definitely worth making. Store apple pie filling tastes like cinnamon-flavored Vaseline, in my humble opinion.)

Have you ever had homemade applesauce? If you haven't, you're missing out. It puts the store stuff to shame. It's so sweet. So chunky. So warm and hearty, if you eat it out of the pan. :)

It's also the easiest thing in the world to make. I'll give you the recipe. Ready?

#1: Peel, core, and slice a bunch of apples.
#2: Sprinkle them with lemon juice - just a tad, to keep them from going brown.
#3: Place apples in a slow cooker. Fill it up!
#4: Add a few cups of water - 2-4, depending on the size of your cooker.
#5: Cover, and cook on high for a few hours, until the apples are soft.
#6: Mash the apples right in the slow cooker, with the water. Leave some chunks if you like it that way! Add some sugar if you want - I think it's just right without it.
#7: Eat warm if at all possible!

See? I told you it was easy! I like to add cinnamon and peanut butter to my bowl of warm apple sauce. It's all up to you. But do add the cinnamon. It's just the perfect touch!

Speaking of perfect, let me share a scrumptious dessert with you; Apple Dumplings. So yummy! Everybody's heard of apple dumplings, but surprisingly few have ever made them. That's sad, considering how easy they are to make. We had never even eaten apple dumplings until last year, but once we got our first bite, we knew we had to make them again!

Here's how you can make your own:

Apple Dumplings

~ First, make up some pie crust. Use your favorite, tried-and-true recipe. For me, that's Tammy's Foul-proof Pie Crust. It always works. She uses all butter in her recipe, which I love, but for a big batch of dough like this, I substitute shortening for about 1/3 of the butter, just to cut down on the cost. I doubled the recipe, which is about the amount for 6 pie crusts. That gave me 3 dozen dumplings, so your ratio is pretty much 6 dumplings for every one pie you could have made...but I roll my dough pretty thin, so you'll have to see what your exact ratio is for your kitchen.

~ Peel, core, and slice your apples. (It takes about 12 to fill up a 9"X13" pan.) If you have an apple peeler like ours, that's easy. If you do it by hand, don't bother to slice your apple. You want it to stay intact. Our apple peeler slices the apple very thinly as it peels, and it will all stay nicely stacked up for us.

~ Grab a chunk of dough that's slightly larger than a golf ball, and roll it out to be about the size of a saucer - smaller or larger, depending on your apple sizes. I use lots of flour and roll my crust fairly thin. I don't have much trouble with holes or crust sticking to the table....but, then again, I've had lots of practice with crusts. If you make fewer dumplings, with thicker crust, it will be positively yummy that way, too! In fact, I like thicker crust - I'm just too cheap to make it that way. :)

Is this recipe getting too wordy for you?

~ Set your peeled and cored apple right in the middle of the dough. Bring the dough up and around it, wrapping the apple completely in dough. Give it some good pats to seal it in there, check that there are no holes in the bottom of the dough, and set the dumpling in an un-greased glass baking dish.

~ At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze the dumplings (more info on that in a second) or bake them. Before baking, however, you want to make up a sauce to pour over the dumplings. That goes like this: (The amount is for a 9"x13" pan, or 12 dumplings)

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup brown sugar
2-4 TBS of butter
A HEAPING TBS of cinnamon

Combine everything except for the butter and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in butter. Once the butter has melted and been stirred in, pour the sauce over the dumplings.

~ Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until apples are soft and smell wonderful.

~ Eat as-is, or with whipped cream on top. Or, if you are like the family who introduced us to apple dumplings, put one in a bowl, drown with milk, and eat with a spoon!

Although we could easily eat 3 dozen dumplings in a week, we decided to save 2 dozen in the freezer for later use. To do that, simply wrap the dumplings individually in handy wrap, and set in the freezer until solid. Then put them in freezer bags, (still wrapped) and - wala! - you're done!

Here's part of what we made on the first day. The apple dumplings are in the bags. Apple sauce and pie filling are in the jars and plastic containers. This all went in the freezer.
I must run for now, but I wish you all a very happy apple season!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Happy fall everyone!

I'm going to celebrate the occasion by spending the morning baking with my sisters.

I dreamed last night that I was making pumpkin pie. Hmm.

The leaves around here aren't really starting to color very much yet.

My grandparents are coming into town today, for their fall tradition of celebrating my Grandpa's birthday here with us. :) :)

I can't wait for the yearly apple festivals that take place here. The mountian foothills just 30-40 minutes from us, are filled with apple orchards. This year our music group, The King's Strings, has been asked to play at my favorite festival! :)

....Aaaand I'm late on what I'm supposed to be doing this morning. Lots to keep me busy. Gotta run!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I'm sitting here, frustrated by my slow internet speed.

The only two pages working are my blog and "google reader."

Maybe that's a good thing - when 50% of my internet choices are "blog," the chances that I'll pick "blog" rise that much more.

I'm sitting here, wondering why I've been so snappy today. My younger sisters deserve better than that.

This internet is still bugging me. How long can those "loading" circles go 'round and 'round like that?

I'm sitting here craving cinnamon rolls. I've been in the mood for cinnamon rolls for about a week now. I think of them almost every night, wishing we could have them for breakfast tomorrow. But I never think of it when I could make them. (I suppose I could start them at 8:00 at night, or even 10:00 at night....but...)

I'm sitting here thinking about puppies, and bunnies, and cute little things. My two younger sisters just got baby bunnies. My older sister just got a puppy. I want a puppy someday! ...Or maybe a house rabbit. A nice, friendly, big one.

Why are these two pages the only things loading? Is my computer insane?

I'm sitting here wondering about people. What does your favorite food say about you? If your favorite foods are soda, chips, pop tarts, and pizza, what does that mean? If your favorite foods are cheese, pie, fries, and ham, what's that mean? If you love tacos, ice tea, and chicken, what does that mean? What does it mean if I love granola, nuts, raisins, peaches, and chocolate?

What about your dislikes? Am I weird if I can't stand hard candy, soda, and pop tarts? Am I strange if I don't get excited about soups and goulash? What if I LOOOOVE sweet potatoes, broccoli, and eggs? (Separately, of course.)

Enough food talk. You'd think I hadn't had supper yet, but I did. I had a very good supper of shepherd's pie and green beans, with ice cream for dessert. I also had a very nice lunch...which was too short...because we were rushed...but I won't go into that.

Those pages better load soon, before I start typing too much crazy stuff on here.

I'm sitting here sorta-kinda working on a sewing order. THIRTEEN pairs of mens' dress pants, to be altered. Buttons sewn on. Clasps moved. Hems done. All that stuff. I have 4 completely done, 4 ready for machine work, 4 still needing hand-work done, and one in-progress. I don't like this job - I keep putting it off. I'm proud of myself, for working on it today.

Why can't Daddy fix this? Can't daddies fix everything?

I'm sitting here wondering if I should share my latest recipe -

Wait. I wasn't going to talk about food, right?


I'm not hungry - really. I promise. I'm not the slightest bit hungry. Why am I thinking about food so much?

Must be stress. I think of food when I'm stressed. If you see a picture of me, someday, where I look like a small blimp (or even a big blimp), you can assume I got into a very stressful situation and didn't get out of it for several months.

Even minor stress - like computers mal-functioning - is stress.

Wait. Whoever said computers misbehaving is minor stress never met my computer. My laptop is infamous in my house (and I mean infamous) for its strange and slow behavior. It's gotten to the point where everyone cheers when I tell them my computer logged on in under five minutes. I've been known to shout at my computer, cry at it, scream at it, and literally pull my hair because it won't load things fast enough. And, no, we don't have dial-up. And, yes, I consider myself pretty a point.

What do you do when you're stressed? I'm very familiar with stress - we've had many chats. My body reacts very violently to even slight stress; my face breaks out, my eyes get blood-shot, I can't sleep, my muscles won't relax, and I get tension head-aches. I also notice myself eating even when I'm not hungry, refusing to go to bed even when I'm tired, and withdrawing from reality by doing things like reading a book or watching a movie.

Does suffering from stress mean I'm a bad Christian? I've often wondered that. It seems that someone who knows the secret of "casting all their care upon Him," would never be stressed for a moment.

...Of course, if you're in the middle of being stressed, the thought that you're a bad Christian doesn't help much. If anything, it adds to the downward spiral.

But does it mean you're a bad Christian? I've really wanted to know.

I think I know a little bit of the answer, now. It's come from going through a lot of stress, listening to a lot of godly people, and doing a lot of reading in God's Word.

I know almost everybody accepts stress, and we say "everyone has it!" but I'm going to be different and say that I don't think God intended Christians to live a stressful life, any more than He intended us to live a sinful life. Do we have stress? Yes. Do we sin? Yes. But we don't have to live a stressful life any more than we have to life a sinful life.

So, what causes stress?


Gasp! She said it! She called stress a sin! You're not supposed to blame stressed people - you're supposed to have pity on them!

I know. But listen - what causes stress? Impatience. Anger. Worry.

Like right now - I'm sitting here, impatient at my computer. I'm angry that it won't work, and I'm worried it won't work before it's time for bed, and I won't get any of the things I wanted to do done.

If I'm stressed about the mountain of things on my "To Do" list, I'm worried about what will happen if I don't finish it in time. I'm angry at people or circumstances who keep me from getting things done.

Worry. Anger. Aren't those things sins?

Now, I do think we should have pity on stressed people. (Oh boy, do I believe that, when it's me who's stressed!) Lots of stress is caused by worry, and worried people often don't even realize that worry is wrong. But it is.

We have a Father who loves us. He's promised to take care of us. What am I saying? He's ALREADY taken care of us! We know that everything He puts into our lives is for our good and His glory. ...But do we act like we believe that, in the nitty-gritty details of life?

Oh boy.

I am soooooo convicting myself. Why do I have to be blogging this conversation with my conscience?

Long lines at the store are in His plan.
Traffic jams didn't catch Him by surprise.
Unexpected chores were put into our schedules by His hand.
He knows about those responsibilities we said we'd do because we believe God wants us to do them.
Younger sisters asking us for help are often His voice, telling us to serve freely.
Computers that run slow are His hand directing our time.

Yikes. This is hard.

You know why it's hard?

I'm forgetting how much He loves me. Why am I worried about the future when I know Who holds the future? Why am I worried about failing when I know Who will love me anyway? Why am I worried about the time when I know Who plans my schedule?

This is a hard blog post to write. ....Because I know it's true, but I'm not sure I can live it out. I'm still working on this spot in my life. I need to surrender it, but it sure is hard to let go. It's hard not to want my own way.

But His wondrous love keeps coming back to mind. His faithfulness. He's always been worthy of my trust. The thought that He cherishes me just about breaks my heart.

I don't know why I want so much to hold on to stress - such an ugly, painful thing. I don't know why I want to be stressed. To let go and trust sounds so nice and relaxing, but it's so awful hard to do! So unnatural. It's mine, this stress I feel. I want to hold onto it with childish hands and say "no! mine!" I want to scream at my computer. I want to be angry that I can't do what I planned to do with my evening.

But He picked this.

I know He controls the winds and waves - computers are a small thing in His sight. And He could easily make mine behave.

But, for some unexplained reason, my blog page is working, and my "fun" pages aren't.

He picked this.

And He loves me.

He loves me.

He loves.

How can I stress?

Monday, September 13, 2010

A look at reality

You asked for pictures of my new room, and discussions on my latest sewing projects.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of my new room loaded on my computer, and my sewing projects are either awaiting completion, or have been finished and given to clients.

Of course, I could take pictures of my room right now....only I don't feel like doing that today. I woke up with a fever and just don't feel I could give a tour worthy of my lovely little paradise.

I could tell you about my sewing projects, but that's always pretty boring without pictures.

So here's something to look at - maybe laugh at, too. It's a picture my sister, Tiffany, snapped of me a few weeks ago. I saved it because it shows exactly how I work on a lot of my sewing projects. I love to do two things at once.

In fact, this is exactly where I am right now - minus the sewing project. In the above picture, I'm sitting on my bed in my new room. See the quilt? And the pillow? I made I guess I'm showing off some projects after all. :) :)

This is how I usually sit when I'm on the computer; my back to the wall, laptop propped on my lap, and quite often some sort of busy work in my hands. This works great when I'm reading something, or watching something, or listening to something. It doesn't work so well for writing something. I'm still working on figuring out a way to type and sew at the same time. Maybe if I used my mouth.....?


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Um, hello there....I'm Amber

I just want to let you know that I am still alive.

Blogging has not been a priority for me, lately. When I get on the computer, there's just so much I'd rather be doing. And - believe it or not - writing has not been flowing easily for me lately.

I wrote 901 words in my manuscript today, so maybe a turn-around is around the corner for me. I hope so, because theoretically I have lots to blog and write about.

But I thought that maybe you could help me get back into blogging. What do you want to hear about? Sewing - my latest projects? Cooking - new recipes? Fashion - the basics of assembling a new wardrobe for fall? Relationships - what I've been learning lately? Interior design - pictures of the new bedroom I've helped my younger sisters put together? If you let me know, it will help me focus on what to write.

This isn't the greatest post I've ever written. I feel very out of practice.

But it's a start.

So there's hope. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010


You know something I thought about yesterday, that hadn't dawned on me before?

Jesus must have been really joyful.

Think about it. It came to me when I was listening to a message on John 15. There, Jesus tells his disciples that if they abide in Him, their "joy will be full." Then He says that He wants them to abide in Him the same way He abides in the Father. He also mentions that it's HIS joy that will be in us.

All put together, it made me realize that this joy I get whenever I'm close to Jesus is His joy - not just in the sense that He gives it, but that He is the author of it, and it is part of His very essence. Hence, how joyful He must be!

I never really thought about it before. I know Jesus wept on earth. I know He felt pain. But the Bible never says He laughed, or smiled. So I just assumed...Oh, I don't know. I didn't think He was a kill-joy or anything. I certainly thought He smiled and laughed, and was pleasant, and fun to be around...but I didn't think of "joyful" as one of His major characteristics.

But it must have been. It must be, for I can still feel that joy today, thousands of years after He walked the earth. It must be a continuing part of Him - a wonderful part of Him.

That joy I get during close communion with Christ, that spontaneous laughter that bubbles up when I see Him answer a prayer, that excitement I can hardly contain when my eyes are opened to a new truth from His Word...all that joy is His joy,...He feels it too. He started it all.

Can you picture it? Can you picture the joy His disciples felt coming from Him? Can you feel His smile? Can you imagine His laugh? Can you hear the encouragement He would speak, when the disciples were tired?

This is a wonderful thought. It's a wonderful truth. It means that all of the sudden, everything is totally ...wonderful.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I've got an announcement: Somebody's In Love With Me!!!!

I'll bet you're reading really fast, now! Did that post title make you catch your breath?

I intended it to. I want you to capture that feeling that hit your stomach when you heard that somebody is in love with somebody else (if you're anything like me). I want you to hold onto that feeling and remember it while you read this post.

Why did you feel that way? (And, by the way, that statement in the title is true, but I'll get to that in a minute.) Why does love capture our minds and emotions so violently?

I don't know, but, for the moment, just accept that it does. The reason I want you to hold on to that "excited gulp" feeling is because I'm about to tell you of a relationship that I'm in which may not meet your "ideals" of a romantic relationship, and I don't want you to get a disappointed feeling in your chest. Why not? Because I don't have that feeling! I love him immensely, and feel dizzy with emotions, and am supported by the underlying knowledge that this is real, and isn't dependent on my emotions, and isn't going away. When I tell you about this relationship in the next paragraphs, I don't want you to sigh and say "Oh; is that all?" Yes, yes, yes, it IS all!! Oh, I'm so happy! And so in love. So don't sigh. I forbid it! :) :) :)

Okay. Deep breath. (On my part, that is.) ...Where to begin?

Let me start by telling you about how I first starting learning what real love is. I suppose it all began the instant I entered the world; I learned that my parents loved me. I learned a lot about parental love quite rapidly, in fact; they protected me, fed me, clothed me, hugged me, and provided for everything a little baby needs. As I got older, they continued to take care of my physical and mental needs; that ranged from buying me a bunk bed to giving me an education.

Of course, being very young, I couldn't really analyze all this - I just accepted it, and loved them back, a rather selfish, childish way. But I did love them. How could I help loving two people who were so good to me? As I got older, I learned that they did things for my good, and even when they deigned me certain pleasures, I loved them for it. I knew they were doing it because they cared.

But physical and mental needs are only half the needs a human being has. I also have spiritual and emotional needs.

Daddy and Mom knew they couldn't supply my spiritual needs, but they knew the One who could, so they pointed me to Him.

Emotional needs were - and are - partially met by my parents, but they are also met by dozens of people in my life; siblings, friends, teachers, other adults, grandparents, babies I cuddled...the list goes on.

When I entered my mid-teen years, I started to sense another emotional need that I hadn't had before; the longing for a different kind of love. Not parental love. Not sibling love. Not friendship. No, I was longing for the love of...a Lover.

I don't really need to explain that. You know what I mean. Someone who treasures me and protects and provides for me - not as one of many loved daughters, but as his one, his only, his precious, his beloved. Someone who longs to be intimate with me. A soul mate. Someone who thinks I'm beautiful and perfect.

But even then I didn't realize the huge difference between "kinds" of love. How could I? I knew the affections of a father, not a lover. In a vague way, I knew what I longed for, but I didn't know how different it was. I was too young. Too inexperienced.

But let me go back to my "spiritual needs."

I was nine years old, I believe, when God saved me. I remember the time of conviction before salvation; how miserable I was, realizing how dirty I was in His sight! It was awful. And when He saved me, I was so relieved. So thankful. So grateful. I wanted to kiss His feet. I wanted to wash them with my tears, and dry them with my hair.

My Christian life has been, and is, a wonderful time. Not that it has been filled with joy constantly, but it has been wonderful nonetheless, because it's been full of learning. I'm constantly learning new things. And I'm constantly being shown how good God is.

Much of the "joyless" times came from realizing what a sinner I am, and how deeply sin had already rooted in my heart before Christ saved me. It's amazing what nine years of abandonment to sin can do, even in a little girl. I've been blessed to be under the preaching of many godly men, who know it is their duty to preach the truth, not tickle men's ears. I knew from early on in my Christian walk that there is nothing good in me. God did not save me because of my own righteousness. I do not have the strength to do good. He is as different from me as He could possibly be. He's unlike anything I know. He's unique. And I am vile. It's only because He's good that He loved me enough to save me. It's only because of His mercy that I live and breathe and have eternal life secured. Everything I have stems not from anything I earned, but from His grace.

Wow, that's heavy stuff. It's true stuff, but heavy, nonetheless. Did you know that if you hear nothing but this, it can get burdensome? At the time, it was all I listened to. For years. There were other things to be heard, but I ignored them. I think part of it was my own make-up. I am prone to pride, and hence to self-punishment, for not being good enough. I went from being a proud sinner to being a proud saved person. I beat myself up mentally all the time for being so offensive to God. I wanted to be pleasing to Him...because I was proud. (But I didn't admit that last part.)

Now, don't think that I felt like God was a stern judge. I didn't! I was awed that He had forgiven me. I was astounded that He loved me, and answered my prayers, and took care of me. But I wanted to thank Him for all that; I wanted to be the best Christian I could be. I knew I couldn't do it in my own strength. I asked Him all the time to help me, to live through me. I loved Him.

But it wasn't enough. I wanted to love Him more - to fall in love with Him. I heard people talk about that; about "falling in love" with God. I wanted that. It seemed to be the height of spiritual perfection. I knew I loved Him. ....But I also knew I wasn't as close as I could be. I couldn't figure out why. Didn't I know what He was like? Hadn't I seen, over and over again, His goodness and mercy and grace? I had every reason to fall in love with Him! So why hadn't I? I had long, personal talks with Him. I didn't feel like there was a wall of sin between us. I was walking in obedience, as far as I knew. He was personal, real - right there with me. So why didn't I feel "in love"?

About the time I turned 12, I started encountering depression. That time in my life is too detailed and too personal to share here, but it has lasted a long time - followed me, as it were. I've seen more depression that I'd ever wish on anybody. I've known suicidal thoughts, and I've known mental pain worse than any physical pain could ever be.

It all centered around my inadequacies. My failures. I said I hated myself, but the truth was I loved myself. I was in agony because the real me couldn't be the way the mental me wanted to be. I wanted to be good. I wanted the fruit of the spirit to be evident in my life in a more powerful way. I wanted to be able to pray for hours without being distracted. I wanted to have more of a burden for lost souls. I wanted to love God more than I did. I wanted to live a holier life.

Three weeks ago, a woman whom I admire and look up to, sat me down and had a talk with me. We don't know each other well enough for her to have known that I handle direct approaches better than vague ones, but God must have told her, because that's the approach she took.

She told me flat out that she thought God brought her and my life together because she needed to tell me how much God loves me.

Immediately those long-practiced barriers and excuses popped up. "Yes, I know He loves me, but be careful what you say about it! Never forget that you don't deserve it! Be very careful to remind yourself and others that you have nothing good in you, or anything worth loving." I was very near to blocking out the rest of the conversation already. I'd heard too much man-centered gospel, and I shied away from anything that sounded like it was going to lift up man and make him seem like he was doing God any favors by letting himself be saved.

I was quick to assure this lady that I know God loves me. She responded by saying that I didn't know the kind of love He has for me. She said He treasures me, as the apple of His eye. He valued me. He thought I was beautiful, without spot. He saw me as clean in His sight. He loved me the way a husband loves his wife. He is ravished with love for me.

Now, all that got my attention.

Kind of love? Somewhere in the back of my mind, memories were stirring. Those things I learned when I was very little, about different kinds of love. Those longings I started to have when I was younger - and still had - for someone to treasure me as his one.

I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. It couldn't be true. It was too wonderful....too good for me. It couldn't be for me. It seemed blasphemous to say He loved me that way.

You see, I understood the love of a father. I have a wonderful father. And I can comprehend God the Father as just that - a father. A provider. Protector. Someone who loves you even when you're unlovely. Someone who sees you fall, shakes his head over your mistakes, but gives you a helping hand back up. Someone who teaches you, leads you. I understood all that.

But someone who thinks I'm beautiful, and clean? Someone who longs to be intimate with me? A lover?

A lover.

I didn't get that. Not one bit. And I was scared to pieces. This lady and I talked for over an hour, and I was trembling inside the entire time. I wanted to bury my head, pretend I hadn't heard. It seemed so wrong...I wanted to think that someone loved me like that, but I was scared. Scared to say "I believe," and then be humiliated by seeing that it was false. I wanted to run away, deny it. I wanted someone to tell me she was wrong.

But I also wanted someone to tell me she was right.

I practically sped home, and pounced on my parents. "Mom, what do you think?" "Daddy, is she right?" "Is it true?" They both gave me good answers. But I wasn't satisfied. I can't even really remember very clearly what they told me. I wasn't coherent. I was dizzy with wonder.

The next two days were unlike anything I've ever experienced. You must understand that I'm not a single-minded person. I have a very short attention span.

VERY short.

I'm constantly starting new projects, and my thought-life is continually jumping around. I don't stay serious for long, and I don't stay goofy for long. I don't stay sad for long, or happy for long. I'm constantly changing.

But for two days I thought of nothing else. That alone was terrifying and strange to me. I couldn't get my mind off this new thought! "Can it be true? Can it possibly be true?" I could think of nothing else.

For one day, I just walked around wondering, rather vague and almost in shock. The second day, I came to life. Every spare minute I had, I was in the Word of God. I read through Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 John, and the 17th chapter of John - not just once, but over and over again. I searched the Psalms. I searched the prophets. I searched everywhere I could think of. I grabbed a red colored pencil, and highlighted every scrap of hope I could find - anything that hinted of this marvelous love I had begun to hope for.

I was scared. Scared to assume too much. Scared of being wrong. Scared of being proud.

But verses started turning red all over the place. My hand trembled as I colored as fast as I could read.

And finally, as I read John 17 for the ump-tienth time, I got it.

"He loves me."

No, really - He loves me. I'm clean! He died on purpose. He loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it...Christ hath loved us, and given Himself for us...what more could He have given? ...My beloved is mine, and I am His... We are members of His a husband and wife are one...He asked the Father to make us one, like He and the Father are one... God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him...there is no fear in love...there is now no condemnation...a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle...that ye may be rooted in love, and be able to comprehend with all saints, the height, and depth, and breadth, and width...

Oh, Glory - He loves me!

All of the sudden, tears were flowing, and all I could think of was the verse "we love Him because He first loved us."

I loved Him. I loved Him for this boundless love He has for me - a love that supersedes all my sins, and that washes me white as snow, and makes me a fit bride for the King of kings; He considers me fit to be by His side, as a part of the church! Oh, how He loves His church!

And all of the sudden, I knew what it was to be in love.

All this time, I've been asking Him to make me fall in love with Him, when all it took was seeing that He is in love with me.

And I couldn't keep quiet any longer. I had to tell you about it. Because maybe you don't know about it, either.

Now I see love everywhere. Everything I hear makes me think about His love. Everything proves it over and over again. Everything I read, see, or hear seems to be talking about His love.

Want proof? Guess what random forward I got in my inbox just before I began writing this post?

"Believers love Jesus with a deeper affection than they dare to give to any other being. They would sooner lose father and mother than part with Christ. They hold all earthly comforts with a loose hand, but they carry him fast locked in their bosoms. They voluntarily deny themselves for his sake, but they are not to be driven to deny him. It is scant love which the fire of persecution can dry up; the true believer's love is a deeper stream than this. Men have laboured to divide the faithful from their Master, but their attempts have been fruitless in every age. Neither crowns of honour, now frowns of anger, have untied this love-bound knot. This is no every-day attachment which the world's power may at length dissolve. Neither man nor devil have found a key which opens this lock. Never has the craft of Satan been more at fault than when he has exercised it in seeking to rend in sunder this union of two divinely welded hearts. It is written, and nothing can blot out the sentence, "The upright love thee."
The intensity of the love of the upright, however, is not so much to be judged by what it appears as by what the upright long for. It is our daily lament that we cannot love enough. Would that our hearts were capable of holding more, and reaching further. Like Samuel Rutherford, we sigh and cry, "Oh, for as much love as would go round about the earth, and over heaven - yea, the heaven of heavens, and ten thousand worlds that I might let all out upon fair, fair, only fair Christ." Alas! our longest reach is but a span of love, and our affection is but as a drop of a bucket compared with his deserts. Measure our love by our intentions, and it is high indeed; 'tis thus, we trust, our Lord doth judge of it. Oh, that we could give all the love in all hearts in one great mass, a gathering together of all loves to him who is altogether lovely!

- C. H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I spent today writing and sewing. Life is good.

My sewing project went well - it was a dress for my older sister. My writing moved forward a little slower than the sewing, but steadily and better than it has the past few weeks. Have I told you yet what I'm working on? I don't remember if I have. It's a story along the lines of this story bit, but slightly different and much longer - I hope it will become a full-fledged novel! (A good novel.) Maybe I'll share some pieces as I work on it.

As I write, I'm listening to thunder roll. (Yes, I know you're suppose to shut off electrical stuff during a storm. I'm a little nervous...) We're in the middle of a splendid display of God-made fireworks. Tonight it made me think of Mt. Sinai. I wonder what it was like to stand a short distance from the foot of that mountain (not right at the foot - remember why?) and watch the cloud, or lightening, or whatever was going on up there. I wish I could have felt the trembling in the air and among the people when God actually spoke to the nation from atop the mountain. That's one thing that makes the ten commandments special, you know that? God gave all the Levitical instructions, the priestly laws, the temple descriptions, etc., to Moses, up on top of the mountain, and Moses relayed the instructions to the people, but the ten commandments - those God gave right to the people Himself. What an experience!

Do you make use of the law? It's such a valuable tool when you're soul-winning.

But then, I wonder... when was the last time you went soul-winning? I don't mean to sound like I'm shaking my finger at you. God knows (and I'm saying that respectfully) that I am not active enough in that myself. But the fact is, we are commanded to go out and preach the gospel; we're promised blessings if we do, we're told the Lord will be with us, we're assured that the harvest field is white and that the Lord does have His people waiting for us to bring them in, ....all this, and yet we don't DO it! Why not? What hasn't He provided for the job?

But tonight I was thinking about how the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Do you use it that way? Do you use it to show people what a high standard "perfection" is? Do you walk them through the law, and let them see their sin, before you show them their Savior? Do you show them Mt. Sinai before you show them Calvary?

It's important that a person understands his own sinfulness when you're trying to tell him about Jesus. A Savior won't make sense until there is something he needs to be saved from. He needs to see he's a sinner. And not just in a general "all have sinned" sort of way - he needs to know "I am in big trouble, because I lied yesterday, and I have had adulterous thoughts, and I have disobeyed my parents many times, and I have taken God's name in vain, and I am incapable of keeping these ten commandments." You don't have to sound like you're accusing or judging a person to get them to realize their true state before God; just show them the law and explain it to them! They'll do their own convicting - if God's working on their heart.

I can't tell you how many times I have spoken with a person who claims to be saved, but then when I start explaining the law to them, they see themselves as a sinner for the first time, and they shake their head and say "I never saw it that way before!"

Yet they claim to "be saved." They say they "go to church." Why in the world hasn't someone told them all this vital stuff before now? It makes me so sad!

But it makes me excited, too, because now they have heard - and I had the privilege of being the one to tell them!

(Ooo - that was a BIG boom!)

I'll tell you a secret; I have yet to share the gospel without crying. I get so excited, so moved by the dear, old story. Ache so much to have them understand its beauty.

If you've never had the experience of sharing the gospel with someone, you don't know what you're missing. Find out. Tell somebody. If you're shy, find a stranger - somebody you'll never see again....unless they accept Christ. :)

The first few times I tried to witness, I didn't enjoy it the way I do now. I liked it, yes, but I was more miserable than happy after the conversation was over. Had I said everything the right way? What was she thinking of me? Did I forget anything? Was my heart right? Had I prayed enough beforehand? I dreaded and feared the next time I talked with someone about Christ, and yet I wanted to do it again, too, so I would have another chance to "do better."

Things began to change with practice. And as I listened to older believers talk about how they share the gospel. But what really helped was when I stopped thinking of soul-winning as a play. I wasn't an actor, reciting lines. I couldn't say the magic words, and have every person respond the same way each time. And I wasn't talking at anyone, either. I was having a conversation. I was trying to be a teacher, not a lecture. I was trying to show them something, in a gentle, leading way.

It wasn't a routine. It was a purposeful conversation - I knew where I was heading, and I knew what I wanted to say, but I could say it however I wanted to. It needed to sound like me. It needed to be tailored to my listener. It needed to be genuine, spontaneous, and filled with love.

Then I thought I had the hang of this "soul-winning business." I started to enjoy talking with people. I stopped having so much guilt at the end of each conversation.

I didn't know I was missing the most wonderful part.

Love from God.

No, I'm not talking about love from God for other people, although that's important. I'm talking about the love of God for me.

I've really started to discover - in a small but wonderful way - how much He loves me. ME! It's been so recent, and so wonderful, and so amazing......It thrills my heart, and knowing that He can love somebody else that way spurs me on to tell them about it, in a way I can't describe.

Think about it - if you lived in a different culture, and you had the job of going to a young, blushing, girl and telling her that a handsome, wonderful young man was in love with her and was asking her to marry him, through you, wouldn't you have the most wonderful time telling her about it? I mean, wouldn't you just get a kick out of it? Me too!

And knowing that He loves me, in a way that's not dependent upon my performance, that He delights in me, even when I'm not perfect (who are we fooling? I'm never perfect!), that He is there, and is never going makes me feel so safe. I can talk to someone about Him without feeling like I'm "out front," out of my comfort zone, in harm's way, pushed to the front, vulnerable, etc. I'm just wrapped in His loving arms, talking to somebody because He wants me to and I want to. It's

I love it.

You will, too.