Friday, January 29, 2010

Cream of Carrot Soup

Perfect on a chilly day, like we're having here! If the thought of "liquid carrots" puts you off, let me just say that my brothers expected to hate this, but they actually asked for seconds...and thirds. It's GOOD. Really creamy. Mom got the recipe from my younger sister's "American Girl's Pastimes" Samantha cookbook. You just never know!

(You might want to double, or triple, the recipe. It says it serves 6 as is.)


1 lb. Carrots
2 cups chicken broth
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup half-and-half

Directions: (I've "updated" these, since I don't think most of my readers need to be told things like "have an adult help you peel the carrots. :)

Peel and rinse the carrots, then cut them into 1/2" slices. Put slices carrots into 2-quart sauce pan. Add chicken broth, and cook over medium heat. When broth begins to boil, turn heat down to medium low. Cover saucepan and cook for 20 minutes, or until carrots are very soft and break apart when pierced with a fork.

Place a colander in a large bowl, and pour contents of sauce pan into colander, catching the broth in the bowl below. Save the broth. Put the drained carrots back in the pan, and mash them until they are very smooth. (A food processor does this job very nicely, too!) Set pan aside.

In a larger saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly. Add the mashed carrots, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to mix them together. Slowly stir in broth. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the half-and-half. Heat the soup slowly, stirring constantly. Do not let the soup boil. When heated thoroughly, ladle into bowls. Serve with crackers, if desired.

A few Amber pointers: Using a food processor instead of a fork to mash the carrots results in much creamier soup. Also, I don't like the crackers in my soup. We had this for lunch today, and I was so excited when Mom said she was making it. It is fabulous!

Monday, January 25, 2010

If you loved "The Bethlehem Star," you'll love this too!

It's time for another video recommendation! This one I found by purposely searching for it; I remember watching something very similar to this when I was very little, and when I was reading through Exodus earlier this month, I wanted to find the video again.

I didn't find the exact video I was looking for, but this one is close. Be forewarned; I find the narrator's voice monotonous, but if you can get past that and listen to the facts she states, it's AMAZING. Remember finding out all that cool stuff, if you watched "The Bethlehem Star"? (Which I highly recommend, by the way.) Get ready to get excited again. Some of the stuff on this video is speculation, but the vast majority of it is pictures and videos of real locations in the middle east; things you will see for yourself.

Wanna hear about (and see!) chariot wheels found under the Red Sea?

How 'bout a mountain in Arabia that has a top that is burnt black...with no modern explanation?

Or would you like to see the remnants of an ancient altar at the foot of that altar whose origin the nomads don't know, and an altar that has pictures of calves graved in the rocks of which it's built?

Or would you like to see a huge rock in the wilderness of Arabia; a rock that is split in two, with water erosion marks coming out from that crack?

Are you curious yet?

Take the time to watch this first clip. (Just so you know, it gets better the farther along you get. It isn't until you get nearly to the end of this first clip that things start rolling.) Part 2 can be found here, and you'll see links to the rest of the parts from there.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Just some questions for you.

Because I like to hear from you!

~ Does anyone out there besides me cringe at the thought of breakfast in bed?

~ Do you sing loud when you're alone in the car?

~ Don't you just love waking up with a long, relaxed sigh, and feeling so incredibly cozy, as opposed to waking up with a jerk at the sound of the alarm, and rolling over to blindly find the snooze?

~ Would you rather cook or bake?

~ Does having other people in the kitchen with you when you're working annoy you or not?

~ Are you ready for spring?

~ Does anyone besides me look for the spell check button on the upper left-hand corner of a sheet of paper when you're writing with a pen and you mess up?

~ Did you have a song stuck in your head today?

~ Did you pause long enough to look at and enjoy something beautiful today?

~ Did you look anyone in the eyes today for more than a second?

~ Wanna smile? Go ahead. You've probably let your face fall into that settled, stare-at-the-screen, mopey, dead look. It's okay. Mine looks about the same way right now. But let's take a deep breath and lighten up our faces together. Ready? SMILE!!!!

~ Did you spin around just for fun any time this week?

~ Who is your favorite author?

~ What color is your hairbrush?

~ Got a favorite mountain?

Pick a question....or two or three or four!...and make me smile. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

I love words.

I've been thinking today how easy it is to be dragged here and there by what we read.

I love to read what other people have to say. I'm a natural reader - I don't remember learning how to read, and I was reading 9th grade books in 3rd grade. I just plain love words! I consider that a blessing, but one that comes with its own set of challenges.

...Because, (surprise, surprise!) not everything we read is correct. Or necessary. Or edifying.

Besides being a reader, there's another trait I have. (Boy, this post is starting to sound over-loaded with the word "I!" Sorry!) I'm not sure what to call it....I guess I could call it "lead-able." I've got my own set of convictions, and my family says I love to debate, but I'm also pretty easy to influence. Very easy, I'm afraid. (Yes, I love to debate, but I can switch sides right in the middle of the argument.)

For example, I love to read what my brothers might call "health-nut" blogs, books, and articles. Nutrition fascinates me, and I love to read all the theories out there and how each person implements those theories in their kitchen. Cooking with only organic, fresh foods? Count me in! Eating healthy fats? Sounds right. Make your own bread, pasta, and crackers? What fun! Avoid all process foods? I'll jump on that bandwagon.

...And just about every other bandwagon. And it's not just food, either. I plunge into my latest fad with gusto and do-or-die effort, whether it's making my own shampoo and hair gel because I want to avoid chemicals in my hair, or jumping rope everyday because it's the "proven" secret way to tone the entire body, or writing a series on my blog because somebody else did it and it was great, or planting a certain herb because it's good for gourmet cooking (never mind that I don't do any of that).

...All because I read about somebody else doing it, and I thought it sounded great.

You've had the same thing happen to you, right? Maybe you went to a conference, and came home full of ideas and zeal. Something about listening to the speakers inspired you.

Now just imagine you get "inspired" every time you read something. Anything.

Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it. Yet that's the way I am. ....And I read a lot.

Most of the time I don't worry about this too much. I just enjoy the ride, and afford a lot of amusement to my family along the way as they watch my flops and falls. I enjoy the learning process. The failures are part of the fun...ahem....I mean part of the process.

But the problem comes when I find writers with conflicting opinions. Oh, boy, is that frustrating!!! I read a website one day, and come alive with ideas. I read a book the next day, and change my mind. This new guy has it right. Then I read a blog the day after that, and decided that both previous writers were wrong, and this person is right. (This gets really annoying when the topic is doctrine-oriented.)

What's a girl to do?

I'm not sure. But I do know that it's interesting that most of the time we adopt the viewpoints of what we read much of. We seem to take on the opinions of the writers we admire.

Does anyone see a sermon here? :) :) :)

It's rather reassuring to know that if I spend a lot of time reading what my Heavenly Father has written, I will be absorbing His viewpoint, and picking up His opinion on things. It is a comforting thought, when I'm discouraged about my spiritual progress, or lack thereof.

It's like the little boy whose father told him to take a basket, fill it with water from the stream, and bring it to him. The little boy eagerly ran to do as he was asked, but by the time his little legs had brought the basket from the stream to his father, all the water had leaked out.

"It's empty, Father!"

"Well, go fill it again, Son, and bring it to me."

But the same thing happened again. The boy filled the basket full to the brim, and ran as fast as he could, but again the basket was empty by the time he reached his father.

"Go fill it again, Son."

This happened three times. On the fourth try, the boy stood panting in front of his father with an empty basket, and shook his head.

"I can't do it, Father. This is pointless. The basket won't hold water."

"Yes," the father said, looking down at his son, "but look at how clean the basket is now."

In just that same way, I may not think that what I read everyday in the Bible has changed my life in a dramatic way, but each day as God's Word flows through me, it is cleansing me, and changing me.

Thank God for words, but most of all for HIS Words!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Secret is Out!

I'll admit it; there's been something going on in our lives that I haven't told you about.

I've wanted to tell you about it. ...But it wasn't really the right time.

I have a friend - a really good friend - who loves the Lord with all her heart. He has shown His love for her, too; He's directed her steps throughout her life, and blessed her with a beautiful smile, a generous heart, and a wonderful plan for her life. He's led her through trials that have perfected her character, and influenced everyone around her.

This friend and I have grown up together, and I love spending time with her. It's her name that's on my lips when someone asks me who my "best friend" is.

But girls don't stay little girls. That part of our lives is left behind now. We've gone through childhood together, into young adulthood, and are so excited to see the Lord directing our steps as we grow older.

And I've done a lot of watching lately. Our dear Heavenly Father has been transforming this friend of mine into a precious young woman, and He has been showing her what His plan for her life is.

In short, He's brought into her life the man she will work alongside 'til death parts them.

The journey has been fascinating to watch. God's hand has been so clear, so loving, so exciting. The young man is the perfect match for my friend, and they make a complete team together. They have both grown in faith, in love, in kindness, and everything else good.

I've been on my own journey too - only mine has been more internal than external. I've truly realized that there is a human relationship higher than all other human relationships, and that it mirrors the love Christ has for His bride. I've realized that I have to grow up whether I want to or not, and I've learned that Christ wants me to face the future and meet it head on, joyfully, full of energy, and full of faith.

You know what? He's faithful. He gives you the grace to meet new things, new changes. He gives you joy when you weren't expecting to feel joyful. He amazes you.

And so I'm allowed, by the grace of our wonderful, precious, Lord, to make an announcement with a heart full of joy, and with a face that looks toward the future with faith and loads of excitement:


Heather and Eugene are the dearest couple you could ever hope to meet. Their courtship has been a rippling stream of joy - a few pebbles in the way, but no waterfalls. They have trusted the Lord and sought His guidance at every turn, and He has rewarded them.

The pictures I've posted above were all taken during Heather and Eugene's courtship this year. (They started courting near the end of the summer.) I don't have their engagement photos on my computer yet, but they look great. :)

Eugene fits into our family better than any custom-made brother-in-law or son-in-law we could have designed. We are excited about him truly becoming part of the family, but, honestly, he's been a part of the family for months now. :) :) :) We love him!

We all first met when he joined our gospel bluegrass group, The King's Strings as a banjo and dobro player, ....and what better introduction could he have had? He and the musicians in our family spent a lot of time together playing music and passing out tracts at the flea market this summer.....and the rest is history.

Needless to say, this news in our family has taken up a lot of our thoughts, and so now you know one major reason I haven't been posting as much the past couple of months. We are busy now, planning a spring wedding, but I hope to be on The Fruit of Her Hands more frequently, Lord willing.

It's been a joy to write this post because I know you dear ladies will rejoice with me. God bless you all!

P.S. I love you, Heather, and I'm so happy for you!!!!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A lie we believe

Determining to be happy is so very important.

Deciding to have joy in the face of whatever life throws at us is easier said than done, but if we don't make a conscious decision to move in the right direction, we may find ourselves waiting around for a "reason" to be happy...which may never show up.

Some people never realize that emotions are produced from chemicals, and real joy is a separate thing from the chemical reaction we associate with it. Humans - particularly women - experience "chemical mixings" to the fullest. Breathes there a woman who can say she's never had the experience of being dramatically happy and exhilarated one minute, then plunged into despair and sadness the next?

Granted, we can blame changing emotions on changing circumstances; "I was happy because my day was going so well, but then my younger brother stepped on my MP3 player, and of course I got angry!"

But hold on a minute - if we're honest, I think we'll admit that we also experience those lovely chemical mixings when no outward circumstances gives us a reason. It takes almost nothing to get us to swing from happiness to cloudiness on some days. "Chemical joy" (as I call it) is very, very, very fragile.

That's why I've learned not to be overly excited when I experience it. I know the least little thing can make my contentment and good humor fly away, when it's based on chemical joy. The mere fact that my emotions are based on chemicals makes them fragile and temporary. I can enjoy them while they're there - God gave them to me, after all! - but I have learned I should not exalt myself in them. They aren't given to me for that. They don't prove my character.

So does real joy exist? Oh yes, a thousand times over!!! It doesn't stem from the belly but from the heart. And it isn't high and dizzy, but deep and peaceful. It has foundations of fact. That's what makes it real; it's built on things that don't change. It is possible for real joy to leave, but it doesn't jump around like chemical joy does; there's always a reason for its absence, and always a logical way to go about finding it again.

I started this post planning to write on a totally different topic, but I'm glad my fingers and mind found their way into this topic instead. I need the reminder. Sometimes I get so happy when chemical joy finds its way into my heart that I am content to have just that. I don't bother to seek out the Source of real joy....which, incidentally, is a WHO, not a WHAT. :)

Because, you see, real joy is a gift from God, yet it's also earned. Chemical joy is nice because you don't do anything unpleasant to get it; it just pops in from nowhere...and disappears the same way. But real joy can require many unpleasant things to get it.

I must humble myself in order to have real joy. God resists the proud; He doesn't give gifts to them, and real joy is a gift.

I must take my eyes off other things and focus them on Jesus. As the Source of real joy, my attention must be fixed solely on Him if I want to receive it. This can sometimes mean giving up the chemical joy that those "things" give me.

I don't mean to say that "chemical joy" is wicked, or that you can't have chemical joy and real joy at the same time. God gave us emotions! We are stuck with them, so we might as well enjoy them in every clean and pure avenue that we can. The only problem is, our sinful nature has so corrupted our chemical emotions that often times the only things that stimulate our chemical emotions are wicked things. Then we have a problem!

The nice thing is, the closer we get the the Savior, the less effect our sinful nature will have on our chemical emotions. (Though it never loses its influence entirely, I'm afraid!) That means that we can learn to take "chemical" pleasure in things that also bring us real pleasure. It means that instead of getting excited only about ice cream, movies, and new clothes, we will find ourselves truly chemically excited about time spent in prayer, listening to the gospel being preached, time spent in God's Word, and godly fellowship with the saints.

But, you see, chemicals are always flighty, so we cannot depend on them alone. We must also have that deep abiding joy and excitement in Christ that will remain on the days our enjoyable emotions have flown our the window and our ugly ones are fighting to have rein in us.

Because our emotions should NOT control the way we act.

There is a terrible lie I once believed. It's been told to our entire world, and we've swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. We have been taught that we must follow our dreams, fulfill our emotional desires, and do whatever it takes to have chemical satisfaction.

How did it come to this?

On the surface, that lie sounds right, and good. "Follow your dreams" ...that's been said so often, and posted so many places, that one would almost think it was a Bible verse. But it isn't. Nowhere did God tell us in His word that just because we really, really, really want to do something means we should devote our lives to doing it.

Guess what? I really, really, really, want to be an actress, movie director, camera woman, producer, or something like that. I love drama. I'm not attracted to the sinful lifestyle of so many Hollywood actresses, but the profession and work itself holds a great appeal to me, and I've always wanted to be in it. Christian film making is fascinating to me. I want to get involved.

I once believed that just because I had that dream, I must fulfill it. Then it dawned on me to question this belief.

Why must I do something just because I want to do it?

That seemed revolutionary to me.

We're brainwashed into thinking that if we don't fulfill a deep desire, we are going to be miserable for the rest of our lives. Something about the concept of a "dream" makes us think of our dreams as almost holy, impossible to be tampered with, and above question.

But what if our dreams conflict with the will of God for our lives? (Like it does in my case. I'm pretty sure He has other things for me to do, and I can't take the energy and time He gave me for those things, and pour it into Christian film making when He hasn't called me to do it.)

OH NOOOOOOoooooo! (Insert wailing here)

It is possible, you know. Our dreams may have been put into us by God Himself, and He may plan to use those dreams for great things....but it's also just as possible that our dreams stem from fleshly desires, and are in direct conflict with the direction He wants us to go.

The only way to find out which our dreams are, is to ask Him.

But what if He says "NO"?!?!?!?!? Our lives will be ruined! We'll spend the rest of our days existing as a miserable unfulfilled person, who has lost her only chance for happiness and fulfillment.

You've been reading too many novels or seeing too many movies. :) :) :) :)

Why is it we can't cope with the idea of giving up our own plans? I think it's because we look at it as exchanging something precious to us for something we don't care for as much; the will of God. If we treasured and valued the plan of God for our lives as much as we should, we'd give up anything to have it - despite how backwards that sounds to our world.

But very often we don't even think about putting ourselves through temporary pain in order to obtain an eternal pleasure. We are taught everything opposite that. We are taught to give up everything for our dreams, not everything for Christ.

We should have dreams. We should have big desires. We should beg God to use us (and make us clean enough to be used), in a big way. But let's not just assume that because we have a dream it's what God's plan for our life consists of. Life is too important to make assumptions like that.