Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Storybook Advent

When our children were younger, we found a book we all loved. Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide was the first book in our journey during the advent season. Jotham is a young child so it made the story kids could relate to the story well.

Each day or night part of the story is read. I remember the kids not wanting us to stop reading when it was the end of the section. Each section stops just when the suspense builds and we just wanted to know what happens to poor ole' Jotham next.

Other children are in Jotham's story which makes the next two books like coming back to an old friend. Bartholomew's Passage was used the next year followed by Tabitha's Travels.

For three years I can honestly say we had the best advent ever! In fact, it spoiled us in trying to find another advent book. We've never been able to find one like this.

In the back of the books you'll find years, and dates when Advent begins. Simply start on that date and you'll be done the morning of Christmas.
I will warn you, it has a few trials in it that I re-worded or skipped since our youngest was pretty young and our middle child was prone to nightmares. The author recommends his books for children over seven. But, you know your own child(ren).

You can use it with or without an advent wreath and candles. I would recommend the candles even if it is only lit when reading the stories. It just gives the kids something extra to remember about the experience.

Have fun and I hope you check out these fabulous books for yourself!

Do you have a favorite advent book or tradition? Please share in the comments...I'd love to hear what others are doing!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

7 Days of Thanks || Day 7

Phew! 7 days of thanks. Some days I really had to think about it...isn't that sad? We have so much to be thankful many. I'm thankful for those who inspire me. I'm thankful for words that inspire me.
The joy of God is experienced as I love, trust and obey God-no matter the circumstances and as I allow him to do in thought and through me whatever he wishes, thanking him that in every pain there is pleasure, in every suffering there is satisfaction, in every aching there is comfort, and in every sense of loss there is the surety of the saviours presence, and in every tear there is the glistening eye of God.
 The above quote came from a friend of mine. I'm not sure who wrote the quote but I'm assuming it came from a devotional. ?? My friend's daughter has been suffering with a lot of health problems for years. Pain. Lots and lots of pain. Digestive issues. The list probably goes on. But, if you just looked at her smiling face, you'd never suspect the pain she is in. Surgery number 8 (I believe) is coming up after the first of the year. Her daughter is overseas in missions at the moment. They were hopeful she'd be able to stay in missions for about a year, but her body had other plans. So the plan at the moment is surgery here then going back to finish her mission work. I'm thankful for her faith. I'm thankful I can lift her up in prayer.

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
 Isn't that just one of the greatest Bible verses of all time? Be still [chill out dude!] and know [believe like you've never, ever believed before...know in your head and your heart] that I am God [I'm here for you babe! I've suffered, died, love, forgive and just want to hold you! Let go of everything and just let Me guide and walk with you, cry with you and just Be.] The [ ] are my take of that verse.

The verse is also a song w/many verses. When my mom was in the hospital and later died, the verse of the song "I am the Lord that healeth thee." I knew the healing was either going to be here on earth or in Heaven. She is in Heaven, restored. But want a comfort that song was on constant repeat in my head.

I've been a little overwhelmed with something lately. Something I really don't have control over and just wonder how in the world it's going to happen. Today I rediscovered 'Be still and know that I am God'. So, I'm gonna 'chill out dude' and let God orchestrate this God-size hurdle. With Him 'here for me', I'm sure we can clear that hurdle and keep running!

Share in the comments who inspires you and/or what words inspire you.

If you are in the USA, happy Thanksgiving on Thursday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

7 Days of Thanks || Day 6

Appliances. Yep, I'm thankful for appliance.

I know this sounds petty and materialistic, but hey, I'm thankful for the modern conveniences!

You know that line, "You don't know what you have until it is gone"? Well, up until last Friday, I took my clothes dryer for granted. I'm sure my dryer felt like I do some, work, work and not one ounce of appreciation. I'm sorry, dryer. I promise to give you a little pat or maybe even hug your door every now and then after the parts come and hubs fixes you.

Until those parts are delivered to my doorstep, I'm washing here at home and then taking the wet, heavy, wet, and did I say heavy, laundry over to my dad's to use his dryer. Now that I think about it, I may even kiss the dryer!!

And, this isn't the first appliance to decide enough was enough and stop working. Oh, no. We've have our share of "fun" times around here. The stories I could tell.

Whenever I hear people say they'd love to live in the times of the wagon trains heading west, I just want to slap them silly. Yes, I realize I'm sounding materialistic. But, can you imagine all the work we'd need to do? Okay, now I'm sounding lazy. Think about it though. No washer and dryer. Just one long day at the wash board scrubbing and scrubbing. Want to cook up something quick because you've been at the wash board all day? Good luck with that....the stove isn't hot enough yet because you forgot to put in an extra log! And, what about a hair dryer?! Come on girls!

Well, the wash is done and now I need to lug the heavy, wet, heavy load to my dad's. Seriously thankful for my dad!

Monday, November 21, 2011

7 Days of Thanks || Day 5

Friends. I'm so thankful for friends.

I know it may sound cliche' but I don't care.

Friends encourage, stand by, comfort, cheer, laugh with, and understand.

Friends get it when you call them crying. They get it when you aren't feeling well. They accept you with all of your "stuff" and still love you anyway.

Friends come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Some older, some younger and some....just a kid at heart!

Friends can come and go in a season or be life-long. So life-long that she starts to introduce you as a sister. I love that sister-friend! And, all my other sister-friends!

While you are thinking of it, go call your friends and let them know how thankful you are that they are in your life. I hosted an in-home party for my niece recently. My niece started the party by asking that everyone say something encouraging about me. What?! At first I was a little apprehensive. But as more and more shared, I got a little weepy. It was such a neat experience to hear what people thought was encouraging about me. Me! The one who feels like she is so needy in friendships. I still think about what was said.

And, to all my friends...I love you!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

7 Days of Thanks || Day 4

Music. I am thankful for the gift of music.

Music is personal. Not everyone likes the same style. Some like jazz...but not me. Some like country...but not me, unless it doesn't have that twang. Some like the old crooning....but, again, not me (sorry, sister Jean, I really did try to like him...just.couldn' But, that is okay. I'm fine with it...unless I'm forced to listen to those genres over a long period of time. Then, you may find me in the fetal position in a corner!

Music one enjoys is calming. It soothes the soul after a long, hard day. It takes one places. For me, nothing beats a choir to make me sit back and smile. Or a Christian band singing praises to our King.

Right now, I'm diggin' JJ Heller. Love her voice and her songs. A couple of favorites at the moment are 'Your Hand' and 'Boat Song'.

Gotta love 'Cannons', 'One Thing Remains', and so many more I can't name them all.

What are your favorite songs at the moment? Don't worry, I won't judge!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

7 Days of Thanks || Day 3

Eyes to see. Ears to hear. Taste buds for tasting.

I am particularly fond of the senses. What would life be like with out them?

My grandma lost her sense of smell which in turn somehow affected her sense of taste. Bummer! Last night I made supper...insert applause here... Our two oldest children were not home from work by the time the rest of us had eaten and cleaned up. Our oldest came home first. The first thing she said was, "Boy that smells good!" Our middle child came home about half an hour later. The first thing out of her mouth after she inhaled deeply, "Wow, that smells really good. What is it?"

When I see a sunset, I really feel sad for those who have lost their eye sight. When I hear a baby laughing, which is the most wonderful sound in the world in my humble opinion, I am thankful I can hear the sound that makes me smile.

I've read when one sense disappears, other senses are heightened. It would be difficult to loose one of the precious senses. But, isn't it amazing how another sense is kicked into high gear to make up for the loss?

I am thankful for my senses; smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch. Thank you, God, for that special gift that gives us such joy. You have made the body into a wonderful masterpiece...thanks!

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
Psalm 34:8

Friday, November 18, 2011

7 Days of Thanks || Day 2

I am thankful for a loving, faithful, merciful, grace-filled God. He is someone who I can run to, turn to, cry out to, talk to, rest under His wing and so much more.

I'm thankful I had the opportunity to grow up in a home with parents, grandparents, and family members who didn't just talk the talk. They showed me the hope of believing in our one and only God. For this living-out-loud-faith, I'm forever grateful.

There may be those reading this who roll their eyes, laugh, or say I had it easy. In a way, I did. However, there were struggles. Being laughed at or made fun of as a kid, loosing what little self-confidence this shy girl had, loosing a beloved uncle, and then a cousin soon after are just some of the life changing struggles I was dealt. I questioned God. Oh boy did I question. But I held onto God throughout.

If you are struggling, cry out to God. He is there....all the time. All.the.time.

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

7 Days of Thanks || Day 1

Learn how to make this sign

To those who have gone through a tough, unfair, bumpy-road time and still show faith and grace, I thank you.

There are many who have experienced life altering experiences and even death sentences when a doctor says there is nothing more to do. First reactions might be disbelief, anger, and/or grief. But those who have a belief in a loving God, quickly hold onto the hope and knowledge that this earth is their temporal home.

I have witnessed many who have had great trials this year and it gives me hope. Yes, there are tears and even 'why' moments. Those moments make them human, not weakness. I see their faith, and hope as they cling to God during the most awful times.

Recently, I read a book in which the author went through some bad times. How could she be thankful? Most of us have heard or read the Bible verse, "16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5 There it is. Verse 18. "Give thanks in all circumstances"

Oh, I've dreaded that verse in the past. Oh sure. Give thanks when someone looses a child or spouse (or both). But, the author's husband told her when she struggled with this verse, "It doesn't say give thanks for all circumstances. It says give thanks in all circumstances."

How could I miss that little word? I need to give thanks in not for. I'm not thankful for that accident almost a year ago. But I can be thankful as I go through grief. Thankful for the faith I see in those closest to the death of loved ones. Thankful a life was spared even though two were lost. Thankful to see the family rally around one another.

Thankful. What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Can't We All....

...just get along?!

Have you heard that saying before?

We had a friend many years ago who enjoyed saying, "Why can't we all get along?!" In fact, he said it quite often. So often it became a joke.

Today, I thought of that saying. It came to me after reading an article. The article had to do with homeschooling and parenting. The problem I had with the article, you ask? Well, thanks for asking!

The article, although well thought through and articulated, lumped a group of people together; homeschoolers. Stereotyped is the strong word which comes to mind. There were points I whole heartily agreed. However, it isn't just homeschoolers who have these issues. There are plenty, and I mean plenty, of those who are NOT homeschoolers who have the exact same issues.

I came away from the article disappointed, discouraged and a little enraged. The author of the article was a former homeschooling parent. It was his point of view from where he was sitting and looking at others. It would have been a much better article if he would have left the bias he felt about failing as a homeschool dad out of it! If he would have done that, an excellent article it would have been.

Maybe I'm feeling this way because of what happened with two of my children this afternoon. We needed a few groceries and dog food. Our twenty year old licensed-managing cosmetologist had the day off. She volunteered to drive to town for me. Her freshmen brother volunteered to go with her and help her with the shopping. I was pleased since I hate shopping. And, even more pleased they were doing something together...happily!

Something happened at one of the local stores. A cashier wondered why they were not in school. Our twenty year old told the cashier she graduated a long time ago. The cashier then looked at our son and he replied he is homeschooled. Usually that is enough. In fact, I haven't been asked that question in a very long time. There are many in our area who homeschool. There are many in the nation. Sadly, that wasn't good enough for this cashier.

She continued to belittle by telling them they look like they should be in school. And continued her own private investigation. Now, our twenty year old is petite. She actually cannot stand it when someone thinks she is younger than she is. I keep telling her when she is older, she'll love it. But, for now, it is an insult. They both felt insulted by this rude woman who apparently thought it was her duty to look out for truant children (which mine were NOT!).

What did I do? I called the manager...I very nicely told him our problem. He asked what the cashier looked like and pretty soon he was supplying her hair color. He knew exactly who we were talking about. He apologized. I told him would continue to shop for dog food at this store but didn't appreciate how our children were treated. It was insulting and didn't look well for his store to have an employee treating customers like they were guilty of something.

My point of this long post? Don't judge. Don't lump everyone together (stereotype) when you have no idea what another person's life is like.  Don't think you know it one does. Treat others how you'd want to be treated. Have a problem, talk with that person in love...if you need a few days to cool off, do will come out instead of frustration. Love people you don't like (I'm saying this one for me...oh, boy am I). Know God and believe in His love.

And, guess what. I have to work on ALL of those points above. All of them. Let's be kind to one another, okay?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Christmas Singing Review

If you are looking for a nice, quick read, I would suggest The Christmas Singing by Cindy Woodsmall. With the Christmas season quickly approaching, it is nice to have a short book (189 pages) that is packed with content to read.

To be honest, I tend to stay away from "Amish" books. I'm Mennonite and I've found a lot of authors do not distinguish the differences between Mennonite, Old Order Mennonite, Amish, etc. Author Cindy Woodsmall's pages were refreshing to me as she distinguished the differences. I cannot tell you how many people intertwine Mennonite and Amish when there are huge differences. (Amish broke off of the Mennonites...not the other way around as some think...but that is a difference story for another day.)

The Christmas Song's story is well done. Although I have never read any of the author's other books, I am assuming at least the main characters, and, probably more, are from other books. The beginning was a little slow for me as the author gave a back story so I'd know the history between Mattie and Gideon. I understand the need for the back story so I patiently waded through the first few chapters. I really became hooked as soon as the story started to take off about five chapters in.

The story picks up three years after a nasty break up between Mattie and Gideon. Mattie and Gideon find themselves in the same town again after a fire destroys Mattie's business. Mattie has to move back to the same town Gideon now lives. They are continually thrown together even though Mattie's hurt is evident to all around. Can they both get past the hurt caused three years ago? Will lies told back then ever be forgiven?

The Christmas Song is a story of twists and turns, lies, betrayal, forgiveness, and love. I recommend this short story during any season of the year.

This book was sent to me by the publisher, Waterbrook/Multnomah, for review. I am not required to give favorable review.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

International Meal | Recipe

Oh, the place we go. Canada, France and the good ole USA. A multitude of miles to cover, but, we did it!

Last night our international meal consisted of Canadian Cheese Soup, warm French bread and apple pie.

If you googled Canadian Cheese Soup, you'd find a different recipe than what I have below. I added a few works for us. I hope I don't start an international war over this!

Canadian Cheese Soup

½ c butter
1 c carrots, diced
½ c celery, diced
1 sm onion, diced
3-4 red potatoes (depending on the size), diced
6 T flour OR 3 T cornstarch
3 c chicken broth
3 c half-n-half or milk (whatever you have)
2# Velveeta cheese, cut into small cubes OR 2# shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 c smoked turkey OR turkey bacon.

 Melt butter in large pot or Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the carrots, onions, celery & potatoes and sauté until tender. Add flour (or cornstarch) and stir until blended into butter. Cook until mixture begins to turn a light color (light roux). Increase heat to med-high and add the chicken broth a little at a time. Continue to cook & stir with whisk (a balloon whisk works best to keep all the veggies out of it) until a thick base is formed. Add half-n-half (or milk) being careful not to let it boil. Add meat; stir. Add cheese, stirring until cubes (or shredded cheese) are melted. If too thick, add more half-n-half or milk.

Serve w/warm bread.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Home Sweet Porch....???

So, we have this porch. An enclosed porch.

We have no garage. Just a small shed with a dirt floor.

Where do you think 'stuff' that would normally end up in storage in a garage ends up? Yup, the porch and/or basement (shudder...I'm not even going to think about that mess right now!)

I'm on Pinterest. You know, that addictive thing called Pinterest. Wowzers. I need to monitor myself on that site for I can get lost for hours.

I'm telling myself I'm mainly using Pinterest to bookmark things so a) my favorite list isn't so long and b) I'd really love to re-do the porch and "I shall save all the good ideas there in one place!".

I'm great at excuses, people! By the way, did you know that chocolate is really a vegetable? Where does chocolate come from? Beans. There. I rest my case! But, I digress....

My porch is a disaster. And, guess what. It is where everyone enters my home. There are shoes (b/c we like to free our poor toesy-woesy as soon as we get home), there are sporting things like balls, bats, Frisbees, etc, etc, etc. There are things we don't know quite what to do they sit. On.the.porch. Sigh.

A few years ago we moved an old couch onto the porch. I know. A couch on a porch. I know what you are thinking but it works for us. A place to sit to put on those shoes, a place to curl up or lie down with a book. There is a small adjustable table with a lamp....umm, there used to be a plant but I, well....ummm, killed it with my awesome black thumb. Sigh. My grandpa's rocking chair is out there as well since our babies have all grown up and are too big to rock (tear). And, don't get me started on what it looks like in the winter! (de-icer for the sidewalk, snow shovel(s), snow pants, wet gloves, scarves.....sigh)

But I'd LOVE a gorgie-pooh porch! I think I'm dreaming but I'd love a nice of clutter! But, it has to be done as inexpensively as possible. Well, I made a few steps in that direction.

I started going through all the sports equipment. Fail. Apparently someone in this house *cough, cough, son, cough** isn't quite ready to get rid of the balls that don't hold air anymore. What?! Anyway, I cleaned off an organizing shelf unit we have out there and put two empty vases (one yellow, one black) on it to go with the black star I have on the wall above it. It made me happy to walk in see those. I know, I'm weird. Well, that lasted a week. THEN helmets started piling up on top of the unit....all around my vases. Last I knew, my vases didn't really want the helmets as company! Sigh.

Do you see my poor vases? Look for the yellow one behind the red helmet.
The black vase is in-between the red helmet and baseball mitt.
There! Can you see them?! Sigh.
And, many helmets does ONE boy need?!

Today, I finally took my $2 Goodwill purchase and hung it on the wall on the porch. I originally purchased it to convert it into a chalkboard. I even bought the chalkboard paint. Then I figured out it would be easier just to cover the picture in wrapping paper and then use dry erase markers to write on the glass. Yup, I'm also lazy! And, best of all? When I find either wrapping paper or material I really would like on the picture I can just change it out. Yea for easy!

I know the writing isn't the neatest in the world and I'll need to work on that but here it is hanging on the porch!

Pardon the glare. Obviously I need curtains as well.

Isn't it sort of cute?! I figured I'd change it up with sayings and verses.

Small steps. Right?! ☺