Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent Fun 2016

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."  Oh how I LOVE Christmastime.  #1, my Lord and Savior's birth is celebrated with gusto for an entire month!!!  #2, the hope and love for a full season pours out from even the most unexpected places springing life which lights a path well into a new year.  #3 gift giving, I LOVE giving gifts for any reason or occasion and Christmas is my favorite.

Even now that all my children know who is eating the cookies and stuffing those socks, they (and I) relish the timeless tradition of waiting for Santa.  My Parable in Modern Form article touches on my heart in this matter.  Part of this tradition includes a count-down to Christmas, something I shared in depth about last year in the article here.  I prepared a new advent calendar for this year and thought of you, my faithful reader, in the event you might like to join me!  You can click on the image below to download and print.

There is a second page with directions included in the download.  Last year we colored the bells yellow as we did one activity a day.  We did not follow the list top-to-bottom, rather, we picked an activity we had the ability to do on each day.  We used stickers placed in each square of the calendar to count-down to Christmas. This advent calendar balances the holiday fun as a family with holiday fun in serving and thinking of others; something my family has come to look forward to most during advent each year!

Also in the article from last year, referenced above, is a link to a Bible advent I developed on our old ministry website.  Walk through scripture as you count down to the celebration of Jesus' birth!

I pray your Christmas season is full of Christ and hope and joy that comes in knowing a baby in a manger paved a path that we all might meet Him in heaven one day!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Forgiveness and a Path to Gratitude

There it was.  This GREAT BIG opportunity, a choice, to give grace or condemnation after a HUGE disappointment.  Not to mention, it was on the heals of a month filled with opportunities to express deep-heart forgiveness for others in our circle in moments when demands and expectations could have legitimately been made.  The crooked form sitting before me, afraid to look at me, expecting what was always expected and received from others in the form of ridicule and berating... my heart broke and gushed and the cross never felt so close as it did at that moment.


What I thought would be difficult to give, simply flowed out.  How could I not give it and spread it abundantly.  No wrong was so wrong that I couldn't.


The hardest simplest thing to do in our lives is to forgive, especially issued to the worst in a situation. Among the biggest most powerful concepts, right up there with love and grace.

As I look ahead, after a month of roller-coaster heartache and unbelievable travesty,  I can't help but see the tie between gratitude and forgiveness.  Like the blinding brightness of light when one has sat in dark, is the paramount of gratitude once forgiveness has been gifted and graced.

God through Paul commands:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
- Ephesians 4:32

Jesus himself provides a staunch warning which should make even the most devout, shutter and take stock:
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours. 
Matthew 6:14-15

How do we do this thing called forgiveness?  Don't we have every right to be hurt, to feel betrayed, to want to hold on and expect reconciliation or recompense?

Sure, but, didn't Jesus also?  He was lied to and about, he was betrayed, he was mistreated and deceived, he was beaten and tortured for crimes he did not commit and, ultimately, he died a gruesome and tortuous death he did not deserve.  His only response? 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 
- Luke 23:34a 


So, what exactly has any one person done to me that I just can't forgive?  Um...... yeah, I can't think of a thing which deserves my time, energy, or heart to harbor.  Suddenly, forgiveness and grace become much easier.

I love how God puts it through Paul:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 
- Colossians 3:13-15

After forgiveness we get dressed!  We put on love and we let peace of Christ RULE and then?  Be thankful.

We may not be thankful that we were hurt or betrayed or let down or... pick your verb.  However, we can have gratitude in lessons learned, gratitude things weren't worse (they can always be worse), gratitude Christ teaches us grace and forgiveness, gratitude that we are just sojourners and this is not our home, gratitude that suffering and hurt will not last forever.  If you have put on love and LET the peace of Christ rule in your heart, you will find gratitude for something!

I pray, no matter what you are walking out today or may be walking out ahead, you will find deep-heart forgiveness for any and all actions which may have taken stabs at your heart and that in the practice of forgiveness, you find deep gratitude you can live in and walk out.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Dear Weary Christian

Dear Weary Christian,

Life is tough.

I know prosperity gospel preachers will tell you if you do "this" or act "that" way, God will bless you and it will all be great.

But that is just.not.true.

Look at Paul.  Sold out, turned around and laid out for Christ.  Yet, he was nearly stoned to death, beaten, persecuted, chased away, imprisoned and ultimately (it is presumed) executed.  He consistently referenced a "thorn", he had a hard time seeing, he spoke hard truths and lived with great abandon.  Many Christians quote Paul's words in Philippians 4:13 as a battle cry before they charge in to their own high hopes and desires from this life...

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. 

I despise that.

I have come to loathe the random quoting of this passage as Christians claim a share in glory and a right to do their will because "Christ will give them strength".  The greater truth is one verse before...

I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need.
- Philippians 4:12

Paul isn't saying, in verse 13, that he can do ALL things as he determines.  No, he is reflecting that through all of his ups and downs, it was Christ who strengthens and sustains.

Oh, dear, weary Christian, what a beaten path we walk.  One where persecution still runs rampant.  One where family turns on family.  One where darkness seems to close all around and the air grows thin.

But reach out, weary Christian,  reach out and feel.... you are not alone.  Many walk this path with you... or have gone before you on this beaten ground.  Christ is next to you... often carrying you... and your brothers and sisters in the faith are all about you.  When the darkness clears, you will see.  Weary Christian, you are not alone.  Jesus knew...

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  
John 15:18-19

These heavy burdens and dark places are a part of our walk in Jesus' footsteps.  He beat down that path before we ever did.  He knows our hearts and our worries and our troubles. Many times the hard truth is, He doesn't plan to remove them from us... instead, he uses them, uses the broken, fallen, state of this messy world to GROW us. 

I heard it said recently that you can't be brave without being afraid.  A hard, simple truth.  I have also observed over the years how you can't know how truly bright Light is, until you have experienced absolute dark.

Oh, dear, weary Christian.  My heart aches for your dark places right now.  I know, because of all the dark places I have walked, yes, I know.  But I would walk through those dark places again and again and again for all the powerful and wonderful things God has shown me and grown me in through them.  I believe with all my heart God will do this for you too.  Draw strength and comfort from Christ...

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 
- John 16:33

Be reminded and empowered by God's Word through Paul...

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
- Romans 5:3-5

...and don't give up.

Keep your eyes on the Cross and keep marching ahead.  No matter how dark the night gets, light will come and you, dear, weary Christian, you will claim VICTORY over the enemy and joy as the result of obedience.

I pray for you today, weary Christian, if this is you, be strong, have courage, believe Christ and not the mesh-up of the world (and even a few "well meaning" Christians) around.  And if this is not you right now, dear Christian, I trust it has been at some point.  I pray you will reach out to someone in your life right now who this is for, someone who needs to know this path has been beaten and the light will be magnificently bright when the darkness fades.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Checking In: Summer's Docking

The boat of summer is coming to dock.  We have a homeschool kick-off activity tomorrow with other area homeschoolers, a soft-set (set up supplies and look over schedule) Friday... and then the fun begins Monday as our regular school year kicks into full gear.

Summer has drifted by.  I can't say it was marked by anything absolutely extraordinary, rather, a bunch of ordinary things which simply drifted the time by.  Of course, if you live life as I do, seeing each simple task as an opportunity for a wonderful adventure... ordinary never really is just that.

It feels like so many yet so few summers ago since that picture above was taken.  Drifting on Middle Thompson Lake in beautiful northwest Montana.  Seeing those mountains and clear crisp waters still tug at my heart.  I don't think I will ever stop missing the place which marked almost 15 years of my adult life... 15 years of having and raising babies... 15 summers and falls and school years starting. 

Yet as I look at those 15 years, I am now able to look fondly on the new years and counting here in the hub of south-central Montana.  Peering at the foothills which roll South into Wyoming, the mountains which hedge us from the west and the cliffs to the north which still whisper of Native Americans roaming about centuries before Lewis and Clark made their infamous journey through this region.

I look around my new home and it feels like we have always been here, in this newish region steeped with history.  It is hard to believe we will be celebrating our 1 year anniversary as home-owners next Friday!  1 year but a life-time.  1 summer, so much change.

A month after Ashley's fun-packed graduation and company disbanded, God used a wonderful frustrating situation at work to open her eyes to the NOW of His call to experience college.  Thankfully, we had started the enrollment process last year when she was going to try dual enroll (but had to set aside with the move and work and finishing Senior year).  There is NO way she could have started this fall had Providence not taken place summer 2015! 

So, I have my second college student.  She will be living on campus part-time to save the short commute and wear-and-tear on our car.  It is a small Christian College where she will manage Core Requirements and possibly work on a Biblical Studies degree before transferring to University to complete a degree in English-Writing.  That is the long term plan but with her various challenges (ADHD, Temporal Seizures, Mild Panic) we are simply taking it one-semester-at-a-time.

As I help her plan, pre-pack, and prepare I also still watch Brenden leaving for work at 20+ hours a week.  Brooke gets lonely when he is gone (I think they were suppose to be twins but she took 2.5 extra years to get here!!!)  I've never seen two better best friends and have been trying to help fill that hole in Brooke's heart when her brother is gone.  It was really rough when he went to camp for an entire week at the beginning of August!!!  Her and I played Sorry with Lego Mini-figures so she could get her fix (she usually only plays Legos when Brenden is in on the fun!).  When he returned we played Go To the Head of the Class with said Legos!!

As a matter of fact, when we aren't taking fashion pictures of her (she is still planning a fashion blog for young girls) we have played ALOT of games this summer.  I think, next to going to the beach and lingering in a healthy garden; playing games is another favorite summer pass-time!

I did have a week of quiet when she had her turn at camp.  It is quite possible I will have nearly a month of NO kiddos in my house next summer as she entertains the idea of being a camp counselor next year.  Her and Brenden are also talking about doing Archery camp along with counseling and their own regular camps!!!  I have until spring before I need to think on that too much.  Who knows, maybe I will join them to minister to the youth via kitchen help!
She looks so spunky, you wouldn't know she was majorly car sick when we arrived after a 2 hour drive through the foothills!  This momma was super blessed when I picked her up: she won "honor camper" which is not a common thing for a first year camper.  Honor camper is awarded to the the camper who honored God with their attitude and behavior and encouraged other campers throughout the week.  Brenden's camp didn't have honor campers but they did have a 4 day trip down the Missouri River in canoes and he almost ended up washed down-river while trying to rescue straying canoes to shore!  I praised God when I heard that He took care of my dear boy.

We are still eating healthier and hubby has really shined in his efforts to stay on track.  I am amazed and wish I was doing half as good as he is!!

Honestly, though, the biggest investment of time this summer has been on lesson planning.  I have learned over the years how valuable a well planned curriculum can be.  I like to color outside the lines so, even the curriculum I have which comes with lesson plans, I tend to tweak them!  It was all fairly easy, though time consuming, until I got to American History which I had to coordinate between an 11th grader and an 8/9th grader. The more adept Charlotte Mason expert could probably maneuver those plans with ease.... but I am only a partial Charlotte Mason-er and I really really like serious plans once high school approaches.  This year we are using A-beka History for Brooke and Pace History for Brenden.  They will join on certain projects while still maintaining their individual studies.  Timing will be interesting. We would like to share movies and books on topics like the Revolution, Civil War, Slavery, Westward Expansion and so on.

The seriousness of my lesson plans was increased when Brooke announced at the end of last school year that she was interested in maybe graduating a year early and trying some high school curriculum as an 8th grader.  She will be taking High School Algebra, English Composition, Art Appreciation and French.  I am excited for her... yet part of me twinges at realizing how completely over elementary is and how completely on us my last High Schooler is.

All-in-all I have enjoyed this summer, even if most of the adventures didn't go much beyond our property line.  I have learned I still need better balance in my blogging and, realistically, I am not a pro.  Rather, I am a wife, mom, woman of God simply trying to manage each day as best I can... and, unfortunately, blogging doesn't always make it into the schedule... but people do.  The people around me as they grow and go... the new ones who drift in and the old ones who must drift out.  People are why we are here.  To shine the light and love of God to.... but people in this bloggy sphere are important too.  Shining the light and love of God from is important as well.

With that... thank you for visiting today and reading this long and dribbling synopsis of our scattered and hum-drum summer!  I will be back, I'm not leaving the bloggy sphere anytime soon!  I do hope to revive Menu Monday at some point.... OH, that was the other oddity this summer.  A computer and then a phone update put my electronics out of sinc and now I have the most difficult time getting pictures uploaded!!  It was actually what brought Menu Monday to a halt some weeks ago.  I think things are permanently broke which means I can't always get my pictures uploaded without hubbies help.  And let's be honest: blog articles are more interesting with snazzy photos!

So, until next time... and hopefully with a fresher batch of photos... I pray your summer drifts into dock on joyful memories and peaceful hopes for a crisp Autumn!



Monday, July 18, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of July18th

This past week was productively busy.  I am getting the Menu up a bit late on account of having trouble getting pictures uploaded... and then I took a 5 hour (round trip) drive today to deliver Brooke to Bible Camp for the week.  I'll share the pictures from our little trip next week when I get those uploaded... here are the other ones we managed to pull together last night:

It may not look like much but there use to be carpet on these floors! Our missionary guest ended up leaving early on Wednesday so when Thursday rolled around, I had extra time on my hands!  It was Brenden and Ashley's day off from work and I was just going to roll the carpet out (it stunk from previous owners... no idea why... and our un-trainable cat).  The padding was so old it crumbled in spots as I rolled it up.  I was going to just do it myself and leave the tack strip for later but the kids asked me to let them help and we made a day of it!

Towards the end of the day of prying up tack strip, sweeping, hand scrubbing, popping out padding staples, mopping, and cutting up and disposing of the carpet and padding... Brenden told me he was having a lot of fun!!  Ashley heartily agreed.  I felt completely blessed.

We also moved our rabbit outside; hutch to come since Ashley and Brooke want to begin breading Loppy Eared bunnies... we just need a chance to go purchase the hutch!  And our un-trainable cat made the transition outside as well.  Believe it or not, these two are 'friends'!  My work inside is much less since I don't need to daily wash things the cat has cut-loose on, our house smells better, but I am actually more beat because, with rain moving in and out of the area, I have to watch the weather and tarp his crate and the rabbit's cage every time storms are rolling in!  His kitty house is forthcoming... but probably not until fall.  I also need to keep an eye on the heat and be sure to ice their water when the mercury climbs.  I consider it my mini-farm!

Brooke has been wanting some hot curlers.  I scored a great set at a garage sale Friday.  After practicing Saturday she was ready to set and go for church on Sunday!  My sweet young lady!

Food to share from this past week:

I call this "Hamburger Salad".  I felt like I needed something lighter for dinner on a night when we had burgers so this was my solution without cooking a different meal!  Everyone else loaded up their buns while I dressed up my salad!

To send our Summer Missionary guest with some fun breakfast, I switched up Wednesday morning's breakfast to make cinnamon rolls.  I took detailed pictures of the process to share the recipe at a later date (unless someone wants it sooner!!)

Another breakfast meal pic... save your money from going to McDonald's, these sausage and egg biscuits are cheap, easy, healthier and delicious!  Another recipe soon to come.

This week

As previously mentioned, today I drove Brooke to Camp.  I am planning an easy dinner tonight since I still need to finish juggling a rental car back in place (our car wouldn't make the trip).  I plan to spend my week really digging into lesson planning.  I am just about done fielding the basics to be ready for the in-depth stage.  Dinner can be both a burden and a reprieve from this process... not to mention there will only be 4 of us eating this week... and not all at the same time (kids' work schedules).  I'm planning my 'eat hot and ready' meals for the nights Brenden has off and my 'easy to re-heat' meals for the days he works.

Also this week is Thursday's Bible study and HOT weather so I plan to serve fruit as a dessert, not to mention I had a doctor's appointment this past week and the doctor has challenged me to loose weight for the sake of health issues developing.  Sugary heavy desserts are out... unless I have guests to eat them for me!

Friday I go for the all-so-fun mammogram.  I have never had one and, at 42 and with a family history of breast cancer, I figure it is long overdue.  I'm a bit nervous... if you think of it, please pray for me.

Saturday we pick Brooke up from camp and stay for the awards ceremony so our return home will be a bit later in the day.  I'm planning a super quick and easy meal that night.

Menu for this week...

- cereal/oatmeal
- eggs
- fruit

hubby: Rice and Chicken or Rice and Summer Sausage
me and kids: leftovers, salads


Burger and Chips
I will probably have my cheese burger salad as a healthier alternative!


Chicken Stir-Fry

Pork Steak, Baked Potato, and Green Salad

Fish Patties, Steamed Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce, and Sauteed Green Beans

The green bean recipe was inspired by a side dish from a restaurant in our old stomping ground, Lakeside.  It uses fresh or frozen green beans, sliced garlic cloves and Italian dressing.  Put a few tablespoons of the dressing in a pan and heat on Medium High, lightly saute the garlic then add green beans, stirring often.  It is so packed full of flavor and compliments the fresh taste and snap of a good green bean well!

BBQ Chicken, Oven Roasted Potato Wedges, Salad Slaw
I will bake extra Potatoes on Wednesday and refrigerate.  This day I will take them out and slice into wedges.  Then I will mix some olive oil with a dash of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and mix the potato wedges in.  Then I will take the potatoes out of the oil mixture and place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 until lightly brown.  10-20 minutes.

Hot Dogs and Left-over White Chili
The last time I made White Chili I froze the extra.  I will lay it out Friday night or Saturday morning and reheat when I get home from retrieving Brooke.

What are you doing and cooking this week?


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Scheduling vs. Living in the Margins

She looked into my tired eyes, her own were weary and discouraged, "Is our entire summer vacation going to be like this?"  I was carrying bedtime essentials and exiting the customary goodnight hug we usually share... at 13, Brooke is the only one left to still hug and share evening farewells with me (the others apparently think they are too old!).  Her concern echoed my own and I knew the changed I had been sensing as needed, was now imperative.

I asked her what her idea of a good summer vacation day/week would look like.  I know I can get wrapped up in my own great ideas... but young people often carry their own.  Her concern was, after everyone did their normal morning routine and her siblings headed to work (noon/1pm) afternoons were becoming consumed with house or yard work.  Halfway through the scattered busy-ness of our days without the others, Ashley would come home for "lunch" and then we barely had an hour before my husband was pulling in... then the evening with all of it's verities.

We both felt like our summer was running us... and exhausting us as a result. 

She longed for balance, time to breathe, relax and have fun.  She acknowledged chores as a necessity, but we both didn't want to feel like we were always doing or cleaning... like there were no margins or time for anything except what had to be done.

When I made it to bed that night and prepared to pray with my husband, we discussed the concern.  I lamented how, at this rate, I would need a vacation from my summer vacation!  It seemed we were more busy in the summer than in the school year... and I really wanted to be good and ready for our school year, not run down and tired from the summer.  The concern made it's way to our prayers... as all concerns should!

Then, a few days later, hubby was encouraging me in a writing project.  I told him I didn't have time.  He seemed shocked I should be lacking time... summer vacation, stay-at-home wife.... "why... how could you not have time?" was his concerned question.  I reminded him of the schedule conflict I was working on figuring out, he offered to help, to go over it with me and help me find pockets.  I felt blessed for his care.  But I declined, planning to pray and pour over it on the weekend.

So where was all my time going????

What happened to summers of writing projects, reading good books, and soaking up some sun while having fun with my kids?

On Saturday I set to work.  I poured over my schedule and my bucket list of summer dreams written down in June with high hopes and great expectations.  I grabbed my art basket and fresh blank copies of daily schedules and summer bucket list sheets, pulled out colored pencils and markers and then began to piece the old ones apart in order to re-create the new.

The problem became clear.

Believe it or not, my depression sensitive times of year are NOT winter with it's shorter, cloud-filled days.... rather, ,my depressions sensitive times are the endless days of summer!!  Reason being: I am a task-oriented person who does not do well outside the rigid school-year schedule.  My solution this year?  Over-scheduling!  I had planned every minute of every day, afraid to leave blank spots on my schedule.  I even themed each day to an activity Brooke and I thought would be fun to do... 3 weeks later almost none have been done!

I also recognized the uphill challenge, for the first time, of having THREE family members working outside the home now, leaving just me and Brooke home all day... my needier child (she is a youngest after all).  I felt like, if I didn't keep both of us scheduled up, boredom would be overwhelming for her.

I started the refining process by combining my daily "themes" and summer bucket list.  I made this sheet using an awesome jar stamp I found on discount at Michaels back in May.  The title was drawn with felt pens.  I made multiple copies back when I drew it up in June and have touched each version up with colored pencils and markers.

As I reviewed my brain dumped on the bucket list I filled in a few weeks ago, I saw various categories standing out.  The final ones became more articulated and made it to my final copy pictured above:

Artsy - art and craft ideas I want to make time for or try new
Breathe - moments I don't want to miss in the midst of my summer break
Adventure - fun summer do-dads to try outside the home (I will be a home-body without the incentive!)
Working It - projects I want to start or simply get more work done on while I have the extra time
Hanging out - inside the house rainy-day or in-between times

As you can see in the picture, once my final draft was done, I hung it on the cork board over my desk.  With this in hand and the hope of more margins in my day to do stuff I dove into my schedule.

I started with the basics: waking up!  Seriously.  I am a firm believer that every strong marriage sees a wife spending time with her husband in the morning before he leaves for work.  Hubby arises at 5am to get coffee, news online, and do a Bible study.  We convene at 6:30 to have breakfast together.  I have found that being AWAKE and not just waking up is most helpful.  During the school year I would get up at 5 but have gotten out of the habit with summer.  I found my own Bible Study was suffering and, as I plan each week for the study I am teaching Thursday evenings, I don't feel like I have enough prep time OR private time with the Lord.  So back up I go at 5am.  I am looking forward to it.

Without boring you with the rest of the intimate details of my day, I can sum up by explaining that I noticed the NEEDS in each day and their respective times like lunch with hubby (he usually comes home) and clean up before the end of the work day as well as Bible Studies and other outside-the-house excursions.  I even noted on the schedule as far as dinner time and bed time. Once I was done scheduling the needs I saw all the empty squares/hours left.  Before, I had filled these with miscellaneous hopes of what we could busy ourselves doing in those times.  But this time, I resisted the temptation to schedule those as well and, since I couldn't stand the empty spots, I grabbed my yellow colored pencil and shaded them all in.

Stepping back I became excited.  Suddenly my summer didn't seem so over-run... I even had room for quality personal Bible study time AND time to work on the study I am teaching.  I determined the yellow places would all be decided on, on a weekly and daily basis, determined by weather and circumstances.  Yes, some of those yellow spaces, some weeks, will be yard work or extra chores as needed (we do still have chore time but it is better spaced each day), but most of them... are open.  A time to check on my "Preserve" list, or simply ask Brooke what she is in the mood for, and see what sort of summer adventures can be had!

On my weekly planner I'm calling it "yellow time" and as I add things to my weeklies, I am shading them with a yellow colored pencil and indicating if it is for a.m. or p.m. open slots.  I feel like it is a way to give myself permission to NOT do for doing sake, rather, to enjoy the time we have this summer before school starts again. 

I showed Brooke the finished product and she really liked it.  We both are excited for this new week and new schedule to start.

I pray this can help you as well... whether it is scheduling summer break time or regular day-to-day time... always leave margins for life to happen, always make time with God #1, and always give yourself permission to enjoy even the quiet times as they come.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of July 11th

Well, last week I was ambitious enough to get a Menu Monday post up on the 4th of July... but then I forgot to link-up to the parties!  Oh well, hopefully you saw the post, there were some new and awesome recipes included!  You can click here if you missed it.

I am super excited because today I come to you from here:

Back in February I made a sacrifice for the sake of marital peace and a roomy dining room.  It's a long story but, sufficit to say, I gave my desk to my son and my computer has been traveling with no particular home... most often sitting in the "off" mode on a shelf.  Recent activity and discussion with hubby revealed a desperate need for a stationary desk location/work space.  I found this one at Goodwill for a steal and we rearranged the "library" area (essentially a large empty pass-through room we keep our book shelves in) and I have an official work-space!!  I feel super-blessed since giving up my old previous space earlier this year was so hard.  Our sacrifices don't always see tangible rewards, often the reward is in knowing we are living more pleasing to God.  So getting back more than what I gave up is truly a wonderful blessing.

All this to say, my bloggy appearances and link-ups should be on the increase now that my computer can always be out and on!  I have revamped our schedule as well which should also provide more regular online time.  More on that in a post going up tomorrow!

This past week we also got the mulch down on our latent garden I mentioned last week.  We were also blessed with some FREE hanging and ornamental plants.  It was exciting to dress up some of our favorite areas...
 Large hanging plant by the guest cottage/garage where I have tomatoes growing as well.

 One of my favorite places to sit this summer while doing my Bible study or just journaling in the morning.  This ornamental livens up the space.

Food to share from this past week:
I tried a new recipe I sort of threw together myself, inspired by a Pinterest post I saw.  Mexican rice and beef.

The family liked it but did suggest tortillas to compliment it better so
when I served the leftovers for lunch the next day, I made some home-made tortillas to accompany.  It was delicious! 
Our 4th of July BBQ ribs.  They don't look like much but they were sooooooo moist!  I let them rest in the fridge all day in a sealed container filled with my BBQ sauce recipe I mentioned last week.  Then I roasted them in the oven at 350 for 1.5 hours on a baking sheet with baked potatoes, then cranked it up to about 425 for the last 15 minutes to get that bit of burn on.  They were amazing in flavor and texture!

Roasted chicken and fresh bread.  You can tell we eat a lot of salad in the summer!  Oh, and I drink iced tea with most of my meals, in case the content seemed questionable... I know the color is confusing!!

This week
I officially changed my twice-a-week Bible study to only meeting on Thursday evenings.  Fearing disappointment from the young woman I am mentoring is what kept me from doing this sooner... thankfully, she actually readily agreed!  This frees up my time some for better prep and we are moving to a post-dinner meeting so I will just serve dessert. 

Now my summer weeks are: Tuesday afternoon observing as Ashley leads middle school girls James study, we are still gone until dinner time so quick fix or slow cooker meals are most  helpful... and Thursday evenings right after dinner Bible study.  No youth group with summer break going on.  This week I also have a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning so, with all the running around Tuesday, my slow cooker will be my best friend!  I have a few of them so dinner and dessert that day will employ two of them because....

.... also this week we have one of the CEF summer missionaries staying with us. Meals need to stretch and I will be scheduling a specific breakfast to be sure our guest is properly fed.  I also plan to make some cookies and other snacks to fill in the gaps.

Menu for this week...

Breakfast: Pancakes and Scrambled Eggs
Dinner: Fish Sandwiches and Mini-Fries
     Bake Peanut Butter Cookies
Breakfast: Cereal and Fruit
Dinner: Hobo Stew and Biscuits
     Slow Cooker Bread Pudding

Breakfast: (leftover) Biscuits and Eggs
Dinner: Spaghetti and Cheesy Bread-sticks
     Make No Bake Cookies

Breakfast: Banana Muffins
Dinner: Pork Fried Rice and Spring Rolls
     Bake  Lemon Brownies

Breakfast: Cheesy Eggs and Sausage
Dinner: Burgers and Jo-Jos
     Home-made Slushy

Breakfast: Popovers
Dinner: Pizza

What are you doing and cooking this week?


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Joshua and a Willingness to Serve

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to post our monthly word from Nathan Keeney (bio below) last month.  Graduation sort of took over our lives for a few weeks (you can see Nathan in some of the pictures I shared with my Graduation post!)!  I will catch you up on his word from June later, but for now, it is July!!!  (wow)  And time again for his monthly post...

Willingness to Serve

You have a servant's heart.

Now go stack chairs.

Sometimes being willing to serve God is as simple as cleaning up after a small gathering or as big as going or doing something that you might not want to do.  We are suppose to serve God no matter what.

Joshua served God very well.  He followed what God told him to do.  Not only Joshua but his family as well.  So even if God calls us to something difficult and we find it hard to serve Him, we can stand firm in remembering He will bless us with His presence and His strength to follow through on His call.

Maybe God wants us to work in a soup kitchen or volunteer at church for something.  Maybe it's opening up your home to people who need a place to stay or it could be just listening to someone going through a hard time.

So, are you willing to serve?


Nathan Keeney is a homeschool graduate living in eastern Montana.  With a heart to serve the Lord, he is spending his summer as a Christian Youth in Action club leader and youth counselor. In the fall he heads to Bible College where he plans to hone in on his calling in youth ministries. 


You can look forward to more of Nathan's Bible character reflections and teachings right here on Faith and Home the first Wednesday of each month.

Scripture references from ESV Bible. Visit Bible Gateway for more resources in Bible Study and spiritual growth.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of July 4th

4th of July Edition!!
 She thought of this all on her own!  I love her creativity.

I almost didn't put a menu post up this week since it is the 4th and I figure everyone state-side is doing BBQs and visiting friends and family today!  However, there is always the rest of the week to check in on what's cooking!

One exciting note from this past week is that the rest of our garden finally finished going in.  I know we probably looked foolish putting tomatoes and hot peppers in the ground on July 2nd, however, with all the graduation and back going out and what-not, this was the soonest it could happen.  Since we have lived in this town, we have found every year to have long warm summer days (a benefit in the more northern latitudes) and an extended warmth in fall, usually not fearing frost until sometime in October.  Hopefully this will provide plenty of time for a bountiful crop!

We still need to put the mulch down but we ran out of steam.  We don't have a rotor-tiller so all ground breaking and loosening was done by hands and backs (grateful for hubby and son to lend theirs to the task!)  Sorry I don't have a better "before" picture, apparently the only front-of-house pictures are from when we purchased it last fall... and taken from the sidewalk at that!

Food to share from this past week:
I didn't take as many photos this week.  The biggest, however, would be Ashley's big 18th!  Her cake was sort of young and fun.  Another ice-cream cake.  She chose chocolate peanut butter cup with peanut m&m garnish.  I forgot to buy candles so I did one of each kind from the leftovers of other birthdays!!  I kept messing up the making process as well, however, she loved it, it was fun!

New Recipes 
My husband was starting to complain about my old Pillsbury cookbook recipe for BBQ sauce.  I've used it for years but even I have to admit, it seemed more catsup-y then BBQ.  My hubby is an ole Masterpiece man so I had to try something.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and then began to modify.  He LOVED it!  Here is the adjusted final recipe:

BBQ Sauce
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or regular vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 5 tablespoons dried bbq rub*
*As mentioned in June 20th's Menu post, we were blessed with some rub through one of my husband's co-workers.  This sauce would be fine without the rub... but the rub was what seemed to draw all the flavor together and really kick it up a notch.
I used it straight after mixing but you could boil it to mesh the flavors, cool and then store in the refrigerator.  I plan to make a large batch one day soon and can it, we loved it that much!

This week
Tuesday we will have our middle school girls Bible Study at the DQ. I cancelled Tuesday night's adult study at least for this week, and possibly for the summer.  We will still be meeting Thursday nights though and dinner will either include guests or require us to eat early.  Doctor's appointments Tuesday will also keep us on our toes and good meals energizing our evenings so we can be working on thinning out the bushes on our property line so we can be in code and avoid a fine!  (The down-side to owning a corner lot!)

Menu for this week...

- cereal/oatmeal
- eggs

hubby: fried summer sausage and rice, chicken salad
me and kids: leftovers, mac n cheese, sandwiches


BBQ Pork Ribs, Baked Potato, Salad, White Cheddar Rolls and Flag Cake for dessert:
It's an old recipe I think I saw in Woman's Day years ago.  It has become my signature 4th of July dish.  Modified through the years I now do a sort of poke-cake underneath.  My recipe:

1 box Lemon flavored cake mix cooked in baking dish according to package instructions.
Use wooden skewer or chop stick and poke random holes in cake
Prepare 2 small or 1 larger package of strawberry jello mix according to basic instructions (don't refrigerate)
Pour jello over cake, it will soak right in.
Refrigerate cake for 4 hours or over night
"frost" with one small container cool whip
arrange blueberries and quartered strawberries in flag design
keep chilled until ready to serve or place on party table!


Fish Burgers on Homemade Buns with Side Salad

Mexi Beef and Rice Casserole
This is a new recipe I am trying... I will let you know how it goes!


Oven Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potato, Greens
Our grill isn't working right now.  Thankfully we have air conditioning!  Not sure if we will do green beans or a salad with this.  I made too many mashed potatoes last night so I spread them in a pie tin, covered and froze.  I will pull them out on Thursday and pop them in the oven with the chicken making this dinner an easy low-mess meal which is great with company coming!

Burgers and Home-made Crinkle Chips

Fried Tacos

What are you doing and cooking this week?