Monday, March 30, 2015

A Week of Rest and Ponder

I have decided to take this week to rest, ponder and maybe even do some behind-the-scenes work.  I spent last week knocked out by illness which, thankfully, I am finally getting on top of by the grace and healing of God.  Our 2 week spring break intended to rejuvenate and open opportunity to catch-up on all things domestic and intrinsic.... has flopped in more ways than I can count!  So, this week's focus is to get back on-top, complete the healing process and rest in the presence of the Lord as we ponder Holy Week.  I will be back next week and ready to share!  I will keep regular updates on Facebook with the week's scripture and mid-week music so be sure to check it out!

Blessings to you for a delightfully Christ-focused Holy Week and a splendid Resurrection morning. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Second Word on Hospitality

It is time for the promised part 2 to ...a Word on Hospitality.  I figured 2 weeks was long enough of a wait!!  I consider this article, decor` basics for absolute beginners on a budget.  After all, we all start somewhere (and sometimes we need refreshers)!  Bare in mind, I am not an 'expert', I am merely sharing my experiences, things that have blessed my home and visitors over the years.

As I mentioned in Part 1, I didn't set out to deliberately coordinate or invest in home decor` nor did I understand the scope of intentional hospitality.... it just kind of happened.  Sometimes the decor` was (and in some areas of my house still IS) a hodge-podge.  However, always, I wanted to give people a good experience in my home.  It wasn't until I rededicated my life to live for Christ that I really understand the divine implications of hospitality.  I will admit, hospitality isn't natural for everyone.  But at least some (if not all) elements can be learned by anyone with a heart to serve Christ with your home.

#1, coordination of furniture isn't required with my method... nor is a shopping adventure!  Be thrifty, use what you have on hand!  However, if any pictures or ideas I share are inspiring and you have the means.... check out your local Dollar Tree, Thrift Store or garage sale!

#2, coordination of theme is helpful.  While the furniture may not match, what you place on the walls and shelves can help give cohesiveness if IT does.  Some examples from my home...

I prayed over the living room in our new house.  The house and surfaces were much smaller than I had been use to for many years.  The decor` I use to spread between  5 common rooms and 3 hallways I now had to squeeze into half that.  I wanted to display all my favorites but I didn't want my house to feel cluttered or disconnected.  So i prayed and God reminded me of the hospitality aspect He had called me to, the center of which is HOME.  My intimate living room reflects that theme with bird houses, pictures of home type settings I have collected over the years, flowers and vines for the feel of a home style garden and books... because who doesn't like cozying up with books at home!  I keep God's Word and reassurances in prominent places as well because His Word is the greatest Home we can know here on earth.  Baskets for storage complete the ensemble since, to me, baskets are classic reminders of home.  Other details connect this theme together such as statues of vintage ladies and unique sconces I have collected.

My kitchen has, for a very long time revolved around the theme of old country general store/country kitchen.  It has been a theme in progress and there is still so much more I wish to add to my collection.  I refuse to spend full price, though, so I eye-ball garage sales and, when I have pocket change, I might peruse the local thrift store.  For now, I am content.  The picture you see bottom left in the collage above was purchased almost 20 years ago at a discount store and has become the focal point of my theme.  Anything I add to my kitchen passes through the filter of this image.  I have had guests sit in my kitchen for a meal and simply marvel for the entire time at all there is to see and enjoy around them.  It blesses my heart because I love rooms that are a visual feast you just can't get enough of!

Even the bathroom has a theme; beach-side with a childlike twist.  I framed a Mary Inglebert calendar image and embellished the area with shells collected over the years. Special favorites are ones the kids and I found on the shores of the mighty Mississippi when they were younger (a picture of them on that excursion graces the area as well... I used an old 25 cent frame from a garage sale and added some of the shells they found).  The sand castles are my favorite accent (I should have taken a closer picture...).  Both were given to me over the years, one, the pink one, is an oil lamp but I thought it looked better with shells where the lantern would go.  They add the fun, childlike twist to this very traditional bathroom theme.

Rest assured, some rooms or walls in my house have sat empty for long periods as themes came together.  Don't fret.  It isn't worth debt to try and run out and buy what you think would make your home 'fit'.  Use what you have, if you are artistic, make some of what you want... find a theme somehow, somewhere. Consider your interests, tastes and current items on hand.

#3- Don't feel like you have to display everything all the time.  The decor you see in my pictures today is actually my spring/Easter 'collection'!  Each season and major holiday I switch out parts of my decor.   Most of my wall pictures are up year round, though even a few of those (especially in the kitchen) get rotated for more seasonal reflections.  I find that rotating decor keeps it fresh and interesting, especially to myself and my family.  Seasonal rotation also helps beat back the desire to fully re-arrange the house because you just need a change!!!  Maybe you don't have enough for seasonal rotation... no worries.  My point here is for those who perhaps have too much and feel obligated to display it ALL at all times.  I have a stack of rubber made containers in my garage with foliage and trinkets for when the decor` needs freshening.  That's just how I roll!! 

#4- Think outside the box.  I'm not going for JCPenny catalog display, but my family likes to cover with a throw no matter what time of year (we are, after all, in the north!).  I keep our favorite blankets thrown over the arms of the couches simply folded in half and laid there.  I use calendar pictures I like (as seen in the Mary Ingelbert picture in my bathroom) to decorate small empty nooks and books with beautiful covers as tactile display options.  Currently I'm using a small end-table by our front door to hold shoes for those of us that keep them handy (my husband religiously stores his in the bedroom).  I used disposable cups and small canning jars to sort items in a potting tin I have for pencil holder and a craft basket sits on our serving table in the kitchen to hold and sort silverware which saves time when preparing for a meal.  I could make a whole post on out of the box ideas!  Simply put, look at shape and discover purpose rather than reverse!

#5- Let your home be a reflection of your personality.  It will be more comfortable for living in and more genuine to guests.

This is just a brief run-down on some of the things I have found helpful in decor` with hospitality in mind; helping guests to feel cozy, at home and inspired by their surroundings to know your heart and, as per the goal of biblical hospitality, to know God's heart even more!

I pray you find your niche` in home decor` (if you haven't already) to provide a hope and a haven for all who wonder through your door!


**Disclaimer.... I am getting over being sick upon writing this post.  Please forgive my splotchy writing and less-than attractive pictures!!  My heart and hope is that the information at it's base will be helpful!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Depth in Shadows

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
- Matthew 27:46

I remember a warm summer day outside our old library.  We were sitting on the curb waiting for the bus since, at the time, we had no car.  We had just gone into full-time missions work, trusting the lord for our livelihood more than the average.  The kids chattered and looked through picture books.  I listened and watched and waited.  Then, it caught my eye.  Something so ordinary but so profound I remember it clearly to this day.  Across the street rested a century old building, two stories, red brick and dome.  It housed our small town's art collection and in front grew a tall tree, almost as old as it's neighbor.  It cast dark shadows across the corners of the structure.  Shadows betrayed here and there by penetrating rays of sun.  Like a whisper from heaven I saw:  when light bursts in it overtakes dark.  Darkness doesn't run; no, it is completely abolished.  But even more-so, even the hint of light turns dark into shadow, the hope of something brighter laying beyond.  Dark cannot extinguish light, but light can extinguish dark.
I know what you are thinking; I took elementary science.... and I sit in church hearing that same old message.... so had I.  But something more profound was in that moment.

I recalled that moment this week as I sat in church listening to a message out of Matthew 27.  As Christ words are immortalized, no longer claiming "Father", rather in a loud voice he cried out, "My God..... why have you forsaken me?"  It is the message of at least 1/3 of the Psalms.... why have you forsaken me.  God, WHERE ARE YOU?  We feel as though we are in the dark, yet, truth is, we are merely in the shadows with hope of light.

Sitting there in the pue, Bible balanced on my knees, I saw life as colors swimming around me.... the brilliant rainbow moments and the dark, black and deep hues of gray.  So often we look to God as the God of rainbows.... a picture of radiant colors. He is, after all, Light.  But we forget..... the darkness is what gives life dimension.  If you know anything of art, you know how black and the deep dark hues are used in shading and shadowing to give depth.  We think the colors are all we want, however, without these darker hues to accent, only the spectrum of the rainbow would create something more 2-dimensional and less awe-inspiring than we might expect.

Isn't life the same?  I recently explained to my husband, I would not want to live life without the dark moments.  Every dark moment has given the light and color more brilliance.  Only good: how would you appreciate it if you had no contrast?My mother dieing suddenly when I was 28 and pregnant with our 4th child.  Date raped when I was 18.  Abused in my first marriage and divorced.  Walking away from God and living an emotional roller coaster for every year I drifted.  Almost loosing 2 of my 4 children in womb.  Suffering from clinical depression for almost 40 years..... I could go on.  I am certain you have your dark moments too.  But each of these dark moments have made the light so.much.more.brilliant.  

Living without my mom, I learned to lean on God more and people less.  Relationship issues prior to my husband now of 17 years taught me the value of his love and I appreciate his care for me even more.  The emotional roller coaster in my time away from the Lord taught me the beauty of the light in his presence.  Being released from clinical depression and the absolute darkness I would be sucked into humbles me in His light which I bathe in now.

Yesterday I shared a song on Facebook, it is one of many I simply love for it's message of hope and Life Light in the presence of the Lord.  In that moment Christ hung on the cross crying out, the weight of EVERY sin for all of time had been laid on his beaten and torn body.  God had to look away because where God is, sin can not be.  The absence of His presence was overwhelming.  It must have seemed like an abyss.  But Sunday was coming.....

Life may have it's shadows.... and even it's blotched out places.... but light is moving in when we focus on Him.  It isn't why which should plague us, rather, it is what.  What are you showing me, Lord?  What can I learn through this?  What is Your purpose or plan with this?  Even the darkest hours can be redeemed by trusting Him, His strength, His hope, His Light and through our Trust in Him we WILL overcome the darkness with the light from Within.  We will get to give Him the Glory and others will be drawn to His light and Hope too.

As Jesus was beaten and hanging, he was mocked.  And while his mockers meant only to demean him, I love the irony in their (meant to be taunting) statement in verse 43:

He trusts in God 

I pray you let the Light inside You shine to overcome the darkness.  Lean into the Lord.  Praise him in the good times and Praise Him in the bad times.  Pray to Him all the times and give him glory every chance you can.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Getting Through To.... Embracing the Moment

We drove with the windows down, wind whipping our hair to streams around our cheeks and behind our head-rests.  Amazing it is barely mid-March and we needed the breeze.  Two out of three students were home sick and it was a rare treat for my youngest and I to get out for adventure Friday alone... even if this adventure Friday was mostly errand running.  My darling 12 year old then confessed it: You know how I get through the week?  I work to get to Tuesdays volunteering with CEF and going to Youth Group and then I work to get to Sundays going to church.

My mama heart ached.  My sweet youngest who has always had the tender heart has hit the big "P" (puberty) and I miss her easy deep heart smile and simple joy in each moment.  Not that she doesn't smile anymore, just that the sweet young innocence of pre-pubecence has been masked by this transition of life.  Her confession in the wind filled car as we cruised down the highway was an innocent heart rendering of life as seen by a 12 year old.  But in as much as she is like me, I knew I had to share the truth and wisdom I discovered the hard way.

I began to share with her the pre-history of her life when she was but the orb under my maternity shirts and how her grandma died unexpectedly.  A woman riddled with a degenerative disease which delivered a great deal of pain to her young body.  She couldn't live forever but 48 was far under our estimates.  A little more than 2 months later my sweet Brooke entered the world.  My heart ached and broke.  She was to be my last and I knew it, my body couldn't handle more babies, she was a miracle as it was.  My heart couldn't handle more loss.... my mom, my uterus.... I sunk into a deep depression requiring medication. I would paint on a smile for friends and family, teach Sunday School, run women's ministry.  I would hang my hat on living to get through to the moments ahead while the hum-drum of ordinary daily life was deafening to my ears.  I wanted to make it stop.

Then, one day, out of nowhere except the vaults of heaven, hope rained down and God reminded me of who I was (and Whose I was!).  I realized that life isn't about the moments we get through to.... it is about every moment right now.  Mom couldn't live those moments anymore and I felt I HAD to live them on her behalf and to the Glory of God to bring honor to her memory and His amazing Grace.

Things began to change in my household.
  • No longer was cleaning that chore I had to get through to get to what I wanted to do.... cleaning was the privilege of having strength in my body, a home to live in and a husband who supported a stay-at-home-mom.
  • No longer was laundry the monotonous task of dealing with stains and so many clothes for so many bodies, it was the awesome opportunity to be certain my family was well clothed and smelling good (baths too!)
  • No longer was cooking, breakfast-lunch-dinner, the exhaustive necessity we all couldn't live with out, it was the wonderful occasion, multiple times a day, to show my love and care by providing nutritious and good tasting meals which fed not just their bellies but their hearts as well. (I have a mother's day card to prove it!)

Yes, a lot changed once I realized and welcomed the fact that I didn't want to live in that void of working to get through to the next moment anymore.  I wanted to embrace life in each moment and breath God gave me, spending it abundantly and finding joy in the simplest tasks to see him glorified through a positive attitude.

It did more than give life to the idea of making house a home.... it gave each moment its own purpose and made life worth living again.  I shared much of this with my daughter as we drove.  I encouraged her to rise above the transitional mindset and commit to the element of NOW and God's greater purpose and plan for every minute of every day... not just the destination, but the journey in-between.

I pray, if you are a housewife out there wondering what the purpose is in all that monotony.... living to get through to the next big thing... that you might look up and see God in each and every moment between and draw your joy from the journey and his presence in simply being!


Friday, March 13, 2015

The Less-Then Perfect, Perfect Week

It has been an open window week all week long, I think it helps....
I want to hop onto the blog-sphere and tell you, in a weekly homeschool wrap-up, that we had a wonderfully perfect week.  One like we (mostly) had a couple weeks ago.  One where we get up on time, get moving in unison, complete our 4Rs (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, Roots [we are doing English from the Roots up again this year]).  One where we have a happy little lunch together, grab some fresh air and hit our afternoon with gusto accomplishing history study, Health posters, and discussions on science.  Evenings where we gather around books or games and laugh and enjoy.  Yes, those are the lovely weeks.

But, weeks like this week are lovely weeks too.  Up-in-arms, but lovely because they remind me of the value of homeschool.  The ability to find out my oldest daughter might have mono, is seriously sick and unable to focus on her school work.... but she isn't really 'missing' school.  She won't be behind the rest of her class when she is well enough to engage again.  I am reminded of the value of homeschool when I can let my children sleep in to accommodate the quietness needed for a sick child and we can spend our afternoons engaged in a book or a movie for said accommodation.  I am reminded how, when one family member is down, the other family members step up to pitch in an extra hand and show their love and dedication to the family unit as a whole.

This week, we only manged the 3Rs (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic) with two students.  We hinted at the fringes of history diving into our Leonardo book and making open faced geometric figures like Leonardo did with Pacioli.  We learned about Darwin's Dilemma, something my oldest could retain as it merely reinforced her biology study.  She even perked up enough to add information the movie left out.

I bet you thought I was kidding about our old kitchen table and card table chairs!

My youngest daughter took bold steps in cooking and made goulash for dinner one night, I added the salad and fresh baked bread.  She did GREAT, it was delicious.

In her sedentary state, my oldest daughter rekindled the only thing she had mind or energy for: drawing.  It seems to give her small pleasures to see our delight in her sketches she manages between resting.

This week my two youngest students enjoyed their independence as they road bikes in the afternoon, exploring trails though missing the company of their big sister.  This week we rummaged through bins of hand-me-down clothes, dreamed of summer, and prepared for a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit Costume Party and Women's Shelter Fund Raiser with said hand-me downs and the prospects of some sewing.  This week, we read Mary Jones and her Bible and speculated if she might be a long-lost ancestor.... there are alot of Joneses out there though!

This week I was reminded of temporal value verses eternal value and what a family can learn when one of its members is down.  How our united strength and love can cheer even the most ill or weary soul and I was gratefully blessed.

Please pray for her wellness and discernment for the doctor.

My daughter will recover.  We are off to the doctor again today for more tests and likely setting in motion another week like this week.  But that is OK, God has not left us nor forsaken us.  HE is our strength, our Rock, our Fortress and in His sheltering care, every week is perfect in its own way!

I pray you find perfection in His Presence for the perseverance needed in the less then perfect weeks of life!


Linking up today with:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reflecting: The Winters of Life and The Faith Dare

It is such a bittersweet and beautiful thing when you close the final pages of a wonderful book.  Even more so when that book has been a devotion God placed in your path to revive all that was wintery and sleeping inside.

The Faith Dare started as a shrug off.... an 'I don't need that, I have faith' sort of sentiment.  But it beckoned me.  I felt cold inside.  I missed the little town where my faith was labored over and birthed.  I missed the quiet places and beautiful vantage points of the spot I now think of as 'home'.  I missed the close hours with God in the midst of His creation and I longed desperately to have them back.... but I didn't know how or where to start.

Don't get me wrong, my faith has remained strong and moving... but I felt like something was missing.  Remembering all those times in our small town, in our big house, seeing that beautiful lake, breathing in the fresh air and the spirit lifting view... it left a hole no longer having that.  But if God is omnipresent it shouldn't matter if I was in small town Montana or a booming metropolis.... it shouldn't make a bit of difference if I was in a remote desert or a tropical rainforest.  So How.Do.I.Get.It?  How do I get that awe-inspiring, heart-stirring, faith-lifting presence I use to find weekly, if not daily, through the peace which visually washed over me where I once was?

The Faith Dare reminded me.  My 30 days of challenges (though it took me two months!!!) reminded me of the truth in God's Word: I am a sojourner.  I am here to glorify him... not myself.  My heart and thoughts just needed a bit of repositioning.  Author Debbie Alsdorf says it best in her wrap-up chapter when she encourages us to install a new security system: JOY, and to remove the previous system of fear, worry and doubt.  My apprehensions weren't just a need to fast of my self-focused tenancies (I want to be there, I knew more peace when....) but in the re-focus on God I also realized I had to let go of my apprehensions, my fears and worries and doubts in my current situation.  Mrs. Alsdorf goes on to break it down like this:

What is going wrong in your life today?  Look up.
What is your greatest current challenge?  Look up.
What is hurting your feelings? Look up.
What is breaking your heart?  Look up.
What is causing you pain?  Look up.

Your life is no longer your own.  Your life is not random.  It is hidden in Christ.  You are protected, shielded, cared for, provided for... by Christ.  You are covered by his faithfulness and power.  To look up, focus your attention on what is biblically true rather than on what you are feeling.

As I read these closing words, I realized the scope of this Faith Dare journey I had been on.... I saw how each challenge, each session had pulled me out, dusted me off, and warmed me to the spring of life.  I was reminded and renewed in the Hope and focus of Jesus Christ.  I found my vantage points and beauty looking up rather than out or in and the view has truly revived me.

In the moment of stress, pain or doubt...stop.  Choose.... look up!  Look to Him! Choose to believe.  It starts as a choice, when repeated becomes a new habit, and over time becomes an art.

What is "IT"... I couldn't sum it up in a simple sentence or paragraph if I tried because it was every part of this wonderful Dare I choose to take.  It has been reflected on this site for the past two months and I am certain it will continue to light many more posts.  For lack of better words to describe IT, I can only say, you will just have to take the Faith Dare and find out.... be transformed for yourself!!!

I made the choice, and I am going to keep making the choice, to look up!  To let His presence melt the winters of life as I focus on Him and welcome the spring.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
- Colossians 3:1-3

I pray you would know the warmth of spring to melt away the winters of life.... to look up and see the Son who brings true light and warmth and a vantage point beyond description!


Photo Credit: My sweet friend Laurie Ag of Paws up Bakery snapped these amazing shots this winter.  The setting: Flathead Lake and a small town where we lived and served the Lord for more than 12 years.  Used with permission,


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Open Window Day and a Word on Hospitality

It's open window day here in the home.  When I first moved to this city I lamented over the early spring and how I missed the lingering winter of the Flathead (yes, I know, some of you are groaning as you cringe at the sea of white out your window!!)  Truth is, we entered this town as spring was unfolding 2 short years ago and it feels like a blink.  As the wind ruffles my curtains, the breeze blowing fresh through this musty hunkered down house, I am grateful.

Grateful for the sun.
Grateful for the touch of warmth in the spring breeze.
Grateful for lace curtains to scatter the light and make my house feel like a home.
Grateful to be where God has placed me... for the warmth he placed and has grown in my heart.

This cool breeze, open window, sunny, lovely day is made especially bright as I ponder my freshly revived decor.  Something even my husband loves and looks forward to as the seasons transform not just the outside of our house but the inside as well.  I exchange the green garland and snow-covered trinkets of winter for the green of leafy vines, graceful ladies in long-ago gowns holding parasols or small children... splashes of spring.  Even some of the pictures get a switch-out; soft colored gardens now hang where snowy hills were framed on the wall.  My home feels like a livened page from the Secret Garden, inviting all who enter to come and rest and find Life.

In what feels like forever ago, when I was a young bride far from home, I felt the need to make my house a home.  I didn't understand where it would lead, I just knew I wanted to feel cozy in my home and one night, I learned and appreciated the aspect of making others feel cozy as well.

A young man, coworker of my husband, stopped by to exchange vehicles with us for the weekend.  His sports sedan wouldn't work for a moving project he had and our pick-up truck was the perfect fit!  He, like us, was far from home.  Military employed but, unlike us, he was un-wed and living in the base dorms fighting through a college type mentality and unwittingly longing for the comforts of home. 

He entered our modest studio nestled in the corner of an old turn-of-the-century run-down mansion-turned-furnished-apartment building.  He slid onto the cushions of the blue velvet couch next to the tall bay window, our hide-a bed neatly made in the opposite corner.  Was it the warmth of the deep wood, high chair rail, and led-lined glass on the century old built-in buffet (I'm certain our apartment was once the house's large dining room!).  Or was it the neatly positioned hand paintings my great-grandmother lovingly brushed and chose for our wedding gift and sat high on-top of the rails filling the pail egg shell void to the 12 foot ceilings?  Nothing in the room was spectacular, as a matter of fact, the expanse of our carpet was a hodge-podge of 2 foot by 1 foot shag samples that seemed to be a throw back from a decade before!  My home trimmings were modest in light of my young life and only 6 months of marriage.  But everything was neatly in order and lovingly placed.  This young man seemed to allow the cushions of that old couch just swallow him up as his eyes lit, nearly watering, and a smile slid over his sweet face. He nearly breathed, "this feels like home."  I was so touched in that moment.  I had no idea the impact my time and attention in decor could have.

More than 20 years has passed since that night, but the moment is like a snap-shot in my memory which always warms my heart and reminds me of the treasure of making a house a home.  I have grown older, and closer to Christ in that time and have come to understand how home means so much more than something remembered of long ago and far away.  It is an eternal home we can draw others to with the time and care we take to our surroundings.  I don't mean slaving away with Spic and Span or running to Target and bringing home all the latest in decor.... No, I mean, creating a home with what you have.  Making a cozy place where you feel comfortable and relaxed and where others walk in and feel the presence of God and invited to Dwell.

A home is not always perfectly clean, but it does have its own style of order.  You may have small children and feel like you've forgotten what a toyless floor looks like: don't fret!  You may homeschool and have books and maps and books and pencils and books lying everywhere: no worries!  You may have health issues and not able to create much order anymore: just relax. My rule of thumb is this:  Can someone come into my house, walk without getting stuck to the floor, sit without getting crumbs on their butt, visit my kitchen without pondering the risk of salmonella and use the bathroom without fear of strange diseases.  I also shoot to create an environment that smells mostly nice!  And behind the books and toys is a base-line of homey decor and a semblance of order.

Over the years I have collected pictures which (mostly) coordinate, reflect my personality, and speak of home in their own way.  I hang scripture where possible and, this time of year, greenery with vines and the hint of flowers.  St. Patrick's Day is coming so my simple decorations; two angels with shamrock gowns, adorn the focal point of my home surrounded by greenery and accented with a light house which casts my mind to Irish shores!  In a week or two these will be exchanged for the trinkets of Easter and Resurrection Sunday to come.

My furniture doesn't match, the tables and shelves in my living room are mostly mis-matched as well.  My dining room table use to be our craft table and shows the wear of many years under paint and exacto knives.  It never had matching chairs under my ownership of roughly 20 years, the ones we use now were all gifted to us from a card-table collection!! But no one ever notices.  Each time a new guest enters in I see the melting in their eyes, the comfort in their posture as they sit and rest and the whispers as they hug farewells, "I always love coming to your house because it feels like home".  It isn't just the temporal home which invites them in but the eternal home they feel as love and laughter and ease are shared here in my perfectly imperfect cozy and delightful home!

But I can't take credit.  Truth is, I couldn't do this on my own.  It was my heavenly Father's Divine guidance so many years ago and the words spoken through a young man which God used to shape my heart and my life for a piece of His Kingdom here on earth.

I pray you might find and create that peace of heavenly home right where you are with whatever you have.  Share your heart, share your hearth, share your hope!


I am currently planning a part 2 to this article to share more detail and a How-To on simple decor with what you have and how my style (both trial and error) has developed and transformed over the years.  My heart and hope is that others who aren't sure how to make a house a home (and especially those on a budget and needing a low-stress version) can be encouraged to find their own niche in this important element of hospitality.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Balance Check-in: Open Windows Edition

I actually had my windows open in early February!!  Not today though.

It is that time of month again when I report back to the blog world (a sort of accountability protocol) on my 'One Word' progress:  The state of the union is good!

In January I recognized a Balance needed in LIFE as a whole.  Balancing my time to do and be all that God has called me to.  It is a work in progress with many great revelations along the way.... especially the one where I embraced the need to STOP procrastination!! It was like fresh water to parched lips and I keep remembering that wonderful feeling every time I want to procrastinate again!!

In February I had a rude awakening to the need to Balance my diet.  I keep remembering my pain and sickness as I wrote the raw confessions and every time I want to reach for a snack of the wrong proportion or type.... I stop.  I would rather miss my favorite snack (or have less of it) then endure the grueling pain it will cause... and remembering the research which followed, convicting me; diverticulitis is not something to mess with.  Especially to the extent I have it.  I do NOT want to end up a worst case scenario.  I DO want to be healthy and ready to GO when God says GO!

It has been an ongoing but blessed challenge to carry out appropriate eating habits.  I'm even slowly filtering in exercise.  The kids and I have started to set our day off with morning stretches.  The weather has been cold, freezing, cold.... so more rigorous activity has not been as regularly implemented yet.  We are trying to find other ways to fit it in though.  I even started a health unit with them, to pull them on board and equip them with the vital information needed to make good health choices.  Everyone seems to enjoy it! 

Other Balance side notes:

Remembering a Balance of time for myself.... brought on by a weekend full of activity and NO time to rest or do something relaxing right after a weekend of OVER-indulgence in doing nothing!!!  Too much on my slate leaves me un-rested come Monday, weary and lacking stamina for my week.  Too little makes me numb and lethargic and empty. I feel like I could have found something more fulfilling to do. Balance even in leisurely activity!

Emotional Balance allows me to see and accept the peace of Jesus as well.  Something I found when a personal heartache occurred.  A situation out of my control and quite emotional.  I almost couldn't breathe from the pain... until I realized: God offers peace even in the hard times.  I could justifiably continue in a state of heartache or I could just as justifiably embrace hope and peace in the midst of the turmoil.  This beautiful balance of emotion was liberating.  I am still in the midst of this heartache but my constitution is much more peaceful as I embrace the balance of emotion through the storm.

Balance has been such a delightfully, refreshing, beautiful word to walk out so far this year.  Like having the windows open to my soul with a fresh breeze blowing in to chase out the winter! I will continue to be mindful of the balance of time, diet, leisure activity, and emotions.  I even feel compelled to be mindful in the balance of budget as our tax return afforded us some debt relief and we hopefully look forward to all the ways our (even if slight) increase in expendable cash can afford small outreaches and necessities more promptly met.  I pray to check in again next month with more hope-filled testimony of the pursuit of a Balanced lifestyle!

I pray your world is balanced on the peace and guidance of Jesus as you pursue his Glory here on earth in ALL things (even washing the dirty dishes!).



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The mmmmm Factor: Leftovers Made New

I thought it would be more fun to share recipes under the title "The mmmmmm Factor" as in, yummy stuff my family loves too much to keep to myself!  It is a hospitality/Titus2 kind of idea to encourage and inspire easy and cost effective cooking.  No one loves easy, inexpensive, and yummy cooking as much as me.... ok.... I'm sure someone out there does! 

This mmmmm factor is an Irish delete: POTATOES!!!  I want to take a look at the left-over mashed variety....

I quit buying instant potatoes some months ago.  Mostly for the healthier quality of 'fresh' in a red or yellow AND the "real" potatoes are actually more filling and satisfying.  My quick run-down if you have never made home-made mashed potatoes:

Peel and cut potatoes of choice into small cubes about 1-2 potatoes per person (depending on size and appetite!  If you want leftovers for the following recipe, make a bunch).  Place in cook pot and just barely cover with water*, boil until tender enough to mash easily with a fork, drain, and mash with masher (if you don't have a potato masher, a tenderizer will work).  Add a splash of milk (I use almond milk) and beat with mixer.  If you have never made mashed potatoes before, do not fear: as you mix, slowly add milk little by little until your potatoes are the consistency you like.  Don't fret if they are slightly lumpy, it just adds texture!!
*(You can add other flavors such as bullion or herbs to the water while they boil if you want something beyond plain).

So what to do with those leftovers?

I don't have a good name for them... maybe Fried Potato Cakes?  They are a variation of Latkes if you are familiar with them.  My recipe calls for:

Mashed potato (2-4 cups) (instant will NOT work for this recipe... I've tried!)
1 egg
1/3-1/2 cup flour of choice
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
oil of choice (for frying)  I use lard
Mix all ingredients, except oil, in bowl by hand. 
Heat oil in skillet on medium high
Spoon a heaping amount of potato mixture into pan and gently flatten to approx 1/2 inch thick or slightly thinner.  Fry till brown, carefully flip and finish frying.  Drain on towel or rack and salt.  I kept mine warm on a rack on a cookie sheet in the oven set low till we were ready to serve.

Serve.... however you like!  We had ours with fried eggs.  You could also serve with fish or any other dish where you enjoy the taste of potatoes.

I hope this recipe blesses your kitchen, your stomach, and all who get to enjoy your cooking!