Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When Writers Don't Write

I found myself in a conversation the other day with a stranger and was asked about myself.

"I'm a writer," I replied.

Wait. What?

I used to write.  I used to define myself as one who sits and plays with words.  I used to feel inspired in the middle of dinner prep.  It used to be a form of worship that I was privileged to enter into.

Why is there a plethora of "used to's" in the previous sentences?  (Would you say I have a plethora of "used to's"?  Get it, get it?  Oh, never mind.)

Dear ones, I am tired.  I am overwhelmed.  My spirit...heart...body are bone-weary.

Please tell me you know what I'm talking about.  For heaven's sake, I've already dangled a preposition and quoted a movie in this post.  A funny movie, to be sure, but still.

Instead of writing I am finding myself piling this week's clean laundry on top of last week's laundry on the couch.  We are now digging through the pile for clean undies because there doesn't seem to be a time to fold it all.  At least it's clean.

That's a comfort.

My days are slipping past, taken up with washing the dishes (again), half-done chores, unmotivated school days, ungraded workbooks in my basket and pots of coffee drunk until I look like I've stuck my finger in a light socket.

And to add insult to injury, right now, my idea of a fun night out is going to Goodwill, but only if it's a half-off sale.

I'm a cheap date.

Here's where I start banging my head on the desk.

Please forgive me.  I know this is just a "season".  I can see into the future and know that I will finally get to take a nap.  It's just kind of sad that it won't be until late July.  I know that the laundry will get folded. Eventually.  I know that the words will come back.

I will again write.  I will again encourage.

I have to.  It's what is on my card:


I obviously have some work to do.

Thanks for bearing with me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Why Snakes Will Never Be Part of our Homeschooling Adventures

There are those who reside on this planet who think that reptiles are amazing...fascinated...and I dare say, beautiful.

I am not one of them.

Even if one of my children happens to want to become a reptile biologist (I'm sure there's a special fancy name for it.  One that I care not to learn.), and they beg me, telling me that it's educational and needful for their future success, I won't have a snake in my house.

I'll pay for them to go to cosmetology or mortuary school.

But I won't have a snake.


Snakes have been the main reason why I have not been over the top thrilled when Paco wants to go camping.  I love being outdoors, I love my children running free and exploring, I love eating campfire food and gathering close to the flames after the sun has gone down.

But the possibility of having to use the outhouse or an (in)convenient bush and then a snake managing somehow to make it in there with me, biting me in places that never see the light of day, just sends me over the edge.

Lord have mercy, I would have made a dismal pioneer woman.  DISMAL.

Of course in all my camping trips, I've never once encountered a snake, ready to feast on my exposed flesh or not.  I've come home and breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that I was safe and sound in my beautiful, modern and snake-free bathroom.

Or so I thought.

And then I read this.

If I wasn't a lady, I could tell you mile-long list of bad words that just went through my mind.

Now, I'm the kind of person who doesn't panic whilst in the middle of a panic-inducing situation.  I pride myself in keeping a cool head and a calm demeanor.

However, if there was a snake coming out of my toilet, all bets are off.

Lord, have mercy.

Pray for me.

(Now, I know that as a homeschool mother, I should disclose that the snake pictured above is a cobra, not native to my part of the world.  However, I don't care what kind of snake it is, cobra or no, venomous or non-venomous, it should not be in my toilet.  There is not one person on Earth who would like to see this staring them down when they lifted the lid.  Not one.)




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Shine and Grow

Two thousand fifteen is now upon us and I have very sore thighs to prove that I've been faithful to my new workout regime.  (seriously, ow.)

With the start of every new year, I like spending some time in thought and prayer, working on what the theme of this year would be.

What?  You've heard of this before, you say?  Other people do this as well?

The next thing you'll tell me is that the skinny jeans I'm wearing are now "in style" and "everyone is wearing them" or something non-sensical like that.

So, yes, I'm not original in this practice.  Seeing as it's a good one, giving me a focus for the year, I'll keep it.  Probably longer than I keep these skinny jeans.

The theme for this year came to me all at once and, frankly, I kind of argued with God about it a bit, which of course, is never a good idea because He always wins.

Always.

I was driving in my gas-guzzling monster-sized SUV through middle-class suburbia a couple of weeks ago, probably wearing the same said skinny jeans, when He whispered two words into my ear.

Great.  Two themes.  (Never let it be said that I'm not an over-achiever.)

However, they are so intertwined with one another that it's impossible to get one with the other.

Shine.

Grow.

Free-nature-wallpaper-79

I can't be the only one who knows the Paul Simon song where he sings to his child, "I'm gonna watch you grow.  I'm gonna watch you shine..."

Really?  My theme is from a Paul Simon song?  Not that the song is bad.  On the contrary.  I love it.  But, still.

Then there's this whole "shine" business.  What does that mean?  I get "grow".  Absolutely, I want to do that every year.

Let's pause for an uncomfortable thought here...

What if growth is (gulp) painful, out of my comfort zone, revealing?  Suddenly, I remember that the God I serve is anything but safe.

But back to shine.

Doesn't that sound, oh I don't know, self-absorbed?  Kind of like, "look at me.  I'm so bright and special."

No matter what my sister, the "poor misunderstood middle child" says, this is not what I want to be working towards...now or ever. **

Then there was another little whisper in my ear.  "But it's ME shining through you."

Oh.  That's a horse of different color.

I have an affinity for light.  All throughout my childhood and even now, I simply did not and do not like darkness.  It is not warm and comforting as it is to others.

I will chase after light any day.  My heart is drawn to it every single time and my feet will inevitably follow.

The simple fact that Jesus refers to Himself as the Light of the World resounds in the depths of my heart.

Suddenly, I get this.

It's not about me.  It never has been.

It's about Him.

Therefore, two thousand fifteen is the year of shining for Him and growing in Him.

There, that's much better.

**Okay, so maybe my sister never said it out loud.  She thought it, though, I'm certain.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent Books for Grown-Ups and Kiddos

Advent means "coming".

I know that we're already into this a few days, but I really wanted to share with y'all.  Advent is one of my favorite times of year and I couldn't let it pass without letting you in on some really great resources.

This season of Advent, we celebrate the first coming of our Lord Jesus and eagerly await the second.

Along with the joy of this season comes the hustle and bustle and the loss of the sacredness of what we yearn to celebrate.

About this time of year, I get an almost physical hunger for God's Word, to connect and dig down deep so that I'm grounded against the crazy ebb and flow of this busy time.

Being the reader that I am, my instinct is to dive into books, so today I'm going to share with you some of the things we're trying as a family, as a couple and just me to make sure we're getting filled up properly.

Hands down our favorite Advent tradition is what our kids affectionately call "The Door Book".  Officially, it is The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman.  (you can check it out here.)  The art work and detail are awe-inspiring and the text is pure Scripture.  We got this book very early on in our family's history, so is near and dear to our hearts.

Advent Book

This year, for the first time, we're doing the Jesse tree tradition.  I've wanted to do this for a while and just hadn't been able to get it together.  We are using two different resources for this family devotion.  The first is Let's Make a Jesse Tree! by Darcy James.  This has patterns to use for the symbols, which you can either sew or make out of paper.  My kids are making the paper ones while I am sewing felt ones so that we have them every year.  I love that this is something they do with their hands while the reading is going on.  This book includes very brief devotions with each pattern, but we're using another resource to do the readings.


The book that we're using for our Advent readings has been on my Amazon wishlist for a couple of years now and I was so excited to get it in the mail.    It's called the Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Lambert Smith.  One of the best things about this book is that it has devotions for kids and adults.  I'll admit, it's been  a little bit difficult for me because it's not the traditional Christmas story, but it goes over the Old Testament teachings about Jesus.  Now that I'm into it, I really like it.


My Hubs and I are reading an Advent devotional after the kids go to bed.  This is the first time we've done this and I love reading it together after the house is quiet.  (Problem is that usually my eyes are starting to slam shut, but I try really hard to make it through because this book is really good.)  We're reading Good News of Great Joy by John Piper.


And just to show that it's not only books that we get into, here's a lovely Nativity scene that I've had pinned from Pinterest for ages and just printed out.  Why did I wait so long?!  This is from made by joel.  

You print it out from your computer.  And it's free.  Seriously.  F-R-E-E.  All of my kids are in love it.  In fact, I've had to go back and print more out so each one could have one.  I even printed out the tiny one so I could keep it in my purse to give my littles something to do with their hands during church.  Score.


That's what our family is trying out this Advent season.  

I'd love to know what you've learned works for you as an individual or as a family.  Could you share?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Where We Talk of the Mystery of Genetics and an Old Stinky Refrigerator

**Warning: This is a post heavy with pictures of moi.  Sorry about that.  It just kind of happened.**

It is not an unusual occurrence for someone to remark how expressive my children's faces are.

"I know!" I gush.  "I can't imagine where they get it from."

Because, well, as amazing as my hubby's smile is (and it really is), he's never been chastised for letting every emotion known to man cross his face in a thirteen second time span.

Me on the other hand?

Well, here's just an everyday, random example...

Over the last month or so, I've noticed that our second, overflow refrigerator just didn't seem to be acting right.  I knew it was on it's last legs and every time I went to open it, my face looked like this:


That's the look where a) you're hoping the refrigerator fairy has come to fix the refrigerator or b) it is just plain starting to stink in there.  Or it's both.

After bringing it to the attention of the aforesaid hubby who possesses the amazing smile, I had to wait until he was convinced it was actually dying.  It took him a while.

That is, until he went outside to get one of his favorite drink and came in disgusted because it was, at best, luke warm.


This is my face when he mentions we might need to get a new outside refrigerator.  I'm so glad he thought of that.


Twenty four hours later, guess who now possesses a new-to-us refrigerator bought off of Craigslist?  Funny how quickly it all happened once his drink was not up to the chilling standard.

Then someone forgot to call the appliance pick-up service to get the old fridge out of the carport.


It was me.  However, I don't like to be reminded.

But then, when I start to think about how an elk skull (long story) hanging on the wall of the carport and a stinky fridge start to make us look to our neighbors, I think that maybe I need to hustle myself.


Good thing there is no HOA here.

After all that, there is a working refrigerator just in time for the holiday events, an old one picked up and our reputation as not-really-rednecks restored in our neighborhood.


This is the face of one happy girl.

Yes, I do wonder where my children have inherited their expressiveness from.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why It's Important To Dress Up Your House a Little

When my hubby and I bought our fixer-upper last year, we knew that the main purpose of this house was for it to be open and inviting, restful and encouraging.

What we didn't know is how seriously the Lord would take us on that.

While we've had no one actually move in with us, it has felt at times that we have a revolving front door and someone always on the calendar.

Which, just for the record, I adore.  (I just wrote a fragment there.  I tend to do it a lot.  Maybe I have a fragment problem.)

It's true.  I adore having people over, eating, laughing, singing, lounging, putting their feet up and resisting the call of their beds to stay just a wee bit longer.

It's so easy to get comfortable when people are at your house.  While this is good and exactly what we're going for most of the time, it's natural to become complacent with the atmosphere of our homes.  My desire is not only for people to feel refreshed, but also like they're honored guests and worth extra fuss, especially before they come over.

By all means, use the time when people are over to sit and rest with them.  In fact, I never clean up the kitchen when anyone but family is over.  I'd rather be sitting and having a good time while they're there because the dishes can certainly wait.

While I'm not a huge fan of creating extra work (i.e. laundry, weed-picking, floor-mopping), I take the opportunity of having people into my home as a way to bring beauty into their lives and offer them respite from a crazy, busy world.


It's amazing what some candles and flowers can do to soften the atmosphere.

I think we can all agree that it's so nice to have those times when friends come over and you hand them a disposable cup with their names written on it with Sharpie.  However, there are those times when your soul and theirs need to be nourished with real glasses sans the Sharpie.

It can be as simple or elaborate as you make it.  I have the personality where I actually like it both ways.

We all have our own personalities, which are reflected in our homes.  You don't have to spend a lot of money (really, I promise you don't) to make it warm and welcoming to others.

While the preparation before may more be time-costly, the efforts that you put into making others breathe more deeply and quietly will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

If you've visited here before, you might be aware of my baking love.

I am in no way a professional, but if you're looking for something more down-home and imperfect, then I'm your gal.

I bake year 'round, but fall and winter baking is always my favorite.  With my sister getting married at the beginning of this month (and at my house, no less), my baking opportunities were severely limited.

Guess what the first thing I did was?  Apple and peach pies.  Yup.  I couldn't help myself.

Today I just had to get my hands in some batter or dough or mixture of some kind, so I pulled out my favorite pumpkin bread recipe and got to work.  I also felt like "Enough of the scented candle already. I should actually bake something with pumpkin in it so my hubby doesn't feel a massive letdown when he walks in from work and all he gets is a nice waxy candle."  Yeah, sorry about that, Babe.

The first thing you need to know about this recipe is that it is for three loaves, which is just right for my large family.  (actually, large is pretty relative.  in our group, we have one of the "smaller" families. true story.)  The second is that this is "Plain Jane" pumpkin bread.  There's no streusel, no icing, blah, blah, blah.  You could totally add these things, but I've never been patient enough to wait to do those things.

I'm sure that if you decide you don't need three loaves (of course, I might question your sanity), you could try to reduce the ingredient amounts (eh. never tried it.) or just freeze the extra loaves (ding, ding, ding!).

That being said, I give you.... Pumpkin Bread.



Ingredients:

3 cups canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups white sugar
6 eggs
4 3/4 cups flour (I used unbleached a.p., but you could probably use whole wheat, too.)
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. nutmeg
1 1/2 t. cloves

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, oil, sugar and eggs.  (You can do this by hand or with a mixer. I just used a spoon and went at it.)  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a separate bowl.  Stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended.  Divide batter evenly between three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (or until it passes the clean knife test.).

(Sorry for the photo where you can barely tell where the bread ends and the counter begins.  I had to snap it quickly before it was all eaten up by five ravenous kids who are like locusts in their uncanny ability to strip a refrigerator/pantry/any available food source bare in record time.  I'm lucky I had a chance to get this photo.)
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