Go ahead: Bite off more than you can chew.

Note the slab-slices of summer squash I'm using as bun here.  I'm enormously pleased with this burger-hack.  Most people with whom I share the idea?  Not so much.  But, seriously, you should try it!!  Raw summer squash is super-mild, lightly crunchy, and holds up WAY better than a lettuce wrap.

Note the slab-slices of summer squash I’m using as bun here. I’m enormously pleased with this burger-hack. Most people with whom I share the idea? Not so much. But, seriously, you should try it!! Raw summer squash is super-mild, lightly crunchy, and holds up WAY better than a lettuce wrap.

I am still — STILL!! – working on converting an area approximately 21′ x 45′ from invasive, hard-to-kill Bermuda grass lawn into a vegetable garden.  It has occurred to me, time and again, why raised beds are so popular.  They’re a heckuva lot easier!  However, I’m looking for long-term sustainability as well as decreasing water use, and to those ends, a sunken bed is the way to go in the desert.  I already know that water drains off our property toward the to-be-garden corner.  It takes less water to hydrate sunken beds, water doesn’t evaporate as quickly, and the soil temp stays cooler when the top of the garden bed is at or below ground-level.

But, Lordy! is it ever hard work.

A couple of weeks ago, on my blog Facebook page, I posted:

Crap. I have just discovered that a giant section of our yard (about 15′ x 40′) is actually a stinkin’ CONCRETE SLAB, which was covered by about 4″ layer of dirt mixed with -1/4″ (“quarter minus”) granite gravel, which was topped with another 4″ or so of sod. A section of this takes up about a THIRD of my planned garden, right in the middle. This is going to take a jack hammer or a backhoe to remedy. Can you feel my disappointment? Ugh. Such a setback.

My friend Erin commented:

I love that you say “jackhammer or backhoe” instead of “smaller garden.” That’s the Karen I know and love!

This gave me much pause for thought.

She is totally right:  Downsizing due to difficulty was not an option.  This is mostly because, if I’m going to do this, it’s probably my ONE chance!  At least, it’s my one chance right now.  And, I want to do it right, if I’m going to do it at all — a maxim that was repeated ad nauseum during my childhood.  Secondly, if there is a giant chunk of concrete just below the surface of our yard, it probably shouldn’t just stay there;  it would only cause further difficulty down the line, and eventually need to be removed, anyway.  So, why not remove it now?

Note:  The bad news is, it’s still not removed.  The good news is that it is only a footer — about 18″ wide, a good, solid two feet deep, and about eight feet long.  More good news:  My husband has taken on removal of the concrete footer as his own personal mission.  More bad news:  this mission is subject to myriad other missions, currently being tackled by my husband.

But, back to my “pause for thought”:

It occurs to me that I typically bite off more than I can chew.  As a matter of course, I take on projects that are too big for myself.  I dream and plan into existence opportunities that end up being WAY more complex and time-consuming than I had envisioned.

At first, I started to chastise myself for this.

But, upon further reflection, I’ve decided that I like this God-given part of my personality, and here’s why:

I get loads more accomplished by biting off more than I can chew, than I would if I took life in reasonable mouthfuls.

I find that, as I’m in the throes of panic, feeling overwhelmed at all that’s on my plate, any number of things happen:

  1. I am compelled to study, research, and learn, to fill in the gaps of my knowledge.
  2. I am compelled to the feet of Jesus for His comfort, wisdom, and guidance.
  3. I am compelled to lean on my husband (and in increasing measure, my sons who are young men).
  4. I am compelled to ask the Body of Christ –  my local church — for help.

I don’t think that anyone would see a problem with the first item on my list.  For items #2-4, I must note that this is a good thing for me, as I tend to too much independence.  I believe that God created us to function interdependently, within our families, our communities, our churches…  We need each other.  I contribute my strength and abilities, you contribute yours, and we both end up further down the road, than had we been alone.

I could add a number of other benefits to the list above:

  • Hard work is good for you — body and soul.
  • Being productive is good for everyone around you.
  • Being able to genuinely and completely rest after a job well-done is a glorious feeling.

I’m sure there are more.  Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments, if you’d like!!

So, go ahead:  Bite off more than you can chew.  Sure, you’ll have moments of feeling overwhelmed, moments of panic.  But you’ll do more, go further, and just plain ol’ bear more fruit than if you live a more reasonable life.

Making yogurt, making a garden, and raising a son into the workplace

  • Eurocuisine YM80 — I also purchased an expansion tray and a set of eight more glass jars, but Amazon sent TWO expansion trays and no extra glass jars. Humph.

    I bought a yogurt maker and I must say, the first batch??  NOT a success.  There are lots of conflicting instructions out there for making yogurt.  Next time, I will SCALD the raw milk (not boil it, per the instructions I followed), use already-made plain yogurt as a starter (not acidophilus caps that so many places said you could use), and keep better track of the temperature.  I’ll also just make plain, rather than the honey-sweetened blueberry yogurt I attempted.  The results separated into yogurty curds and whey.  The flavor was good, but the texture was horrible.  We half-froze ours to make it palatable, and that worked all right.  But the next go-round needs to be much more successful!!

  • My oldest son now has a job:  He’s a bagger at Sprouts, a local, natural grocer.  It was really the only job he wanted, and though it took a few months of trying, he got the job!  The day he was hired, he had to read 100+ pages of various employee handbooks (which he truly read, because he is thorough, like his father).  I also took him to open a checking account, which had about 20 pages of various information and things to sign.  As we were leaving the bank, his brow was furrowed, and I could tell he was on information overload.  “So, Ethan, now that you have a job and a checking account, do you feel like an adult?” I asked.  He replied, “Well, if adults regularly feel confused, then, yes, I feel like an adult.”  Ha!  Welcome to adulthood, my son.  We are having him tithe 10%, save 50%, and the rest is his for spending and short-term savings.  He looked at his first paycheck, which was for just one week, and proclaimed that the paper he was holding amounted to more than he had made doing odd jobs in the entire previous year.  I had really wanted him to get a job for his own benefit — for learning how to be responsible with money; for learning how to be part of a team within a work environment; and to just take a step up in transition to adulthood…  But, unexpectedly, I feel very blessed.  He’s not a fully grown adult, but it blesses me, knowing that my husband and I have raised a young man who is an asset to a good company, and to the workforce in general.  It feels very right.
  • IMG_20140516_110157_393 - Copy

    I know. It doesn’t look all that exciting. And you can’t really tell the scope of the project from this pic. But I have gotten to know this little cart and a pair of shovels very well in the last week.

    Last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and today, I have worked HARD in my yard for 2-3+ hours daily. I am trying to transform a section about 21′ x 42′ into my real, true garden. It’s difficult to explain to people unfamiliar with caliche JUST HOW ROCK-HARD our “soil” is. Technically, it’s not soil; it’s dirt. The Bermuda grass — the only kind that will grow in the desert’s heat and lack of water — needs to be removed, so I rented a sod-cutter last Thursday.  Man-oh-man, that was SO punishing. So difficult.  I put it at the deepest setting — 2½” — to dig up as much of the Bermuda as possible.  Now, I am digging and toting the cut dirt/sod to other areas of our yard, making berms around trees. I’m only about 1/3 done with it being cleared. And here, it has mostly been in the mid-90°s. So, add “hot and sweaty” to physically challenging.  I am keeping my eyes on the prize of having a productive, inviting, rewarding garden, some months from now.  Once I finish clearing the area, I still need to soak the dirt, Rototill it, rake out as many Bermuda grass roots as possible, then cover the area with clear plastic to solarize — and thus kill — it.  All of that is BEFORE I get to plant anything.  I also need to put up a fence with a footer, not just to keep out the dogs, but to keep the Bermuda grass from creeping back in.  I’m collecting interesting garden fence ideas on Pinterest.

  • I was going to post about our new dog (a third Staffordshire Bull Terrier)… And about me going low-carb almost-Paleo again.  But my baby Jean is waking!  So, here are a couple more pics:
    Baby Jean giving a hug and a sloppy kiss to Fiala.  I absolutely love the fact that baby Jean grabs both sides of someone's face and smashes her chubby, drooly mouth onto the kiss-recipient.

    Baby Jean giving a hug and a sloppy kiss to Fiala. I absolutely love the fact that baby Jean grabs both sides of someone’s face and smashes her chubby, drooly mouth onto the kiss-recipient.

    This is me, in an absolutely horrid shirt of my husband's (he's never worn it;  it was a gift).  It has long sleeves to protect my sunburn from a couple of days ago when I thought, "Oh, I won't be working THAT long," and worked for two hours with no sunblock.  Anyway, this is how you get yardwork done with a baby:  Work as much as you can while she naps.  Then, have your kids take 30 minute play/watch sessions, punctuated by 15 minute sessions of baby with Mama.  It works.  :)

    This is me, in an absolutely horrid shirt of my husband’s (he’s never worn it; it was a gift). It has long sleeves to protect my sunburn from a couple of days ago when I thought, “Oh, I won’t be working THAT long,” and worked for two hours with no sunblock. Anyway, this is how you get yardwork done with a baby: Work as much as you can while she naps. Then, have your kids take 30 minute play/watch sessions, punctuated by 15 minute sessions of baby with Mama. It works. :)

Imperfect. Still blessed.

Six kids doesn’t feel like a lot.

And our home feels empty when anyone is missing, even just for the afternoon.

I’m not a super-mom; it helps tremendously that my oldest two are so responsible and helpful.

I get all sorts of comments – not usually negative ones – from folks who wonder “how do you do it?” and it must just be the grace of God, because although there are certainly challenges, they feel no more challenging than back when I had only Ethan. In fact, mentally and emotionally, I feel/am much more capable than I was when I was 24 years old and the mother of one child.

I certainly don’t want to whitewash anything and make it sound like EVERYTHING is FABULOUS ALL of the time! It’s not, and I cry just like any other mom, over hurts or disappointments.  My bedroom is a wreck, there are mountains of laundry to be done, I made my 8-year-old cry yesterday by confessing that I didn’t get the plans in order for her birthday party and we’d have to delay it for two weeks… In other words, not perfect.  But, overall, I feel very blessed and very thankful that God has appointed me to be the mother of six. Not many have that opportunity (though I probably have a higher-than-average count of friends who are ‘moms of many’).

But I guess what my revelation has been is this: Things don’t have to be PERFECT for me to feel and be BLESSED.

Imperfect. Downright blemished in places. But still, overwhelmingly and beautifully blessed.

From this morning.  Wesley was holding baby Jean and said, "Take a picture, Mom!" then Audrey and Fiala appeared to be a part of the picture-taking.

From this morning. Wesley was holding baby Jean and said, “Take a picture, Mom!” then Audrey and Fiala appeared to be a part of the picture-taking.

Gardeny things! — “Wilson”, barrel potatoes, and a native desert flower garden

1.  I am happy to have a neighbor with whom I can chat about gardeny things.  Our interests and our knowledge overlap enough to give us things about which to talk, but we have enough difference that we can learn from each other.  Me from him, mostly.  I get flashbacks to Home Improvement, with Tim ever talking with his neighbor, over the fence.  We chatted this afternoon about starts vs. seeds, squash bugs, beet tops vs. rhubarb chard, and asparagus.  It made me happy.

2.

You can buy Red La Soda potatoes from the link; I got mine from Crooked Sky Farms as part of the CSA I host.

It rained on Saturday, the first time since mid-December.  To the southwest of my home, an official weather station recorded about 1 1/3″.  To my northeast, one recorded 1.81″.  So, we likely received somewhere in there.  Between outbursts, I was turning my (sadly neglected) compost.  Just as I returned my pitchfork to the shed, an all-out downpour let loose.  In a metal-roofed shed, that storm was LOUD!!!!!  I had my ears covered, and looked up to see my husband, standing under the eaves, holding baby Jean, who had awoken while I was outside.  I couldn’t believe he was there, holding her!  He was about 15 feet away, yet I couldn’t year a word he was shouting.  He disappeared and then reappeared, sans baby, holding a mostly-broken Hello Kitty umbrella, which he tossed to me.  You know you’re a desert-dweller if the best umbrella in the house (actually, the ONLY umbrella!) is a nominally functional undersized one, owned by your seven-year-old daughter.  After most of the storms had passed, I followed a simple tutorial to plant my first barrel of potatoes.  It seems that folks have varying success with growing potatoes in a barrel, but I figured I had little to lose.  I had purchased a $17.99 half-barrel planter from Costco and used an organic potato (Red La Soda) that had already sprouted eyes — which, I learned this weekend, is referred to as having been “chitted“.  I used homemade compost.  The whole project took me about 15 minutes, and that includes wheeling the compost over to the barrel.  All I have to do is keep adding compost as the plant grows.  Next time, though, I think I’ll add vermiculite to the compost, to make it lighter…

3.  I’m trying to purge my inner Perfectionist Gardener, and just PLANT THINGS.  Of course, planting in the right month, with the right seeds for one’s climate, purchased from the right place, with the right soil and amendments, at the right orientation to receive optimal sunlight — all are good.  However, I am finding that the more I learn about gardening, the LESS bold I am, the less risky.  I rediscovered some old seed packs that I had purchased locally from an organization called Wild Seed which, charmingly and frustratingly, doesn’t have a website.  (You can call them for a catalog, though — (602) 276-3536.)  The packets are years old — four or five, at least.  However, I figured that even if only a few germinate, it would be worth the effort of actually putting them in the ground, rather than have them languish for another couple of years in a drawer.  So, with the ground soft — soggy, even — from Saturday’s rain, I hoed and weeded a bed created by a former owner of this house.  The bed is NOT in the optimal location;  it’s against a south fence, facing north.  It hardly gets any sun, except in the middle of summer.  But, it’s a bed, a garden bed, already created, yet not in use.  I scattered the seeds in a rough drift pattern and raked them in.  We’ll see what happens!  I saved a couple of packets for bare places, given the haphazard planting and the age of the seeds…  One thing I do have going for me:  they’re all native desert flowers — some native to California, but most native to the Sonoran Desert.  By nature — literally — many seeds are dormant for YEARS until there is enough rain at the right time.  I’m hoping to a) put to use seeds I’ve been saving for who-knows-what;  b) beautify an ugly wall;  c) attract butterflies, birds, and honeybees.  Here’s hopin’!!  I planted:

Desert Chia – Salvia columbariae

Summer Poppy – Kallstroemia grandiflora

 

Purple Owl’s Clover — Castilleja exserta

 

Cream Cups — Platystemon californicus (I’m most excited about this one. I’ve seen it only a few times in real life and it is so very lovely.)

 

Desert Verbena — Abronia villosa

 

Purple Desert Sand Verbena — Abronia angustifolia Greene

 

Scarlet Sage — Salvia coccinea Gorgeous flower… I’m not certain it will grow in the Phoenix area, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in (organic!) kimchi

csa-daikon

Audrey and her pet Daikon radish

On Saturday, my seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, picked a Really Big daikon radish from the fields at Crooked Sky Farms during CSA Member Day.

My husband Martin asked me, doubtingly, “What are you going to do with that?”

I replied, “I’m pretty sure you can make kimchi out of daikon.”

Martin gave me one of those looks and said, “I hope you don’t expect me to eat that.”

I think the grand count is now up to six or seven things I’ve made in our nearly-20 years of marriage that he doesn’t like.  Maybe eight.  I think his presupposition that he won’t like radish kimchi is based solely upon reputation, and report of friends who have gone to South Korea on ministry trips.

I found a recipe, and I’m making it right now — waiting for 30 minutes while the cubed radish “sweats”.

I’m really happy with all the ingredients.  Nearly all of them are organic:  the daikon, of course;  the green onion;  the dried red chile;  the sugar — all from Crooked Sky Farms, save the sugar.  I’ve also used sea salt, fresh garlic, and gluten-free soy sauce, simply because I’m out of fish sauce.

Radish kimchi (kkakdugi) veggies!

Radish kimchi (kkakdugi) veggies!

I just realized that I do not have fresh ginger, so my kimchi will be ginger-less.

And that big daikon only made one quart plus about 1½ cups of kimchi.  I’m only fermenting the quart container.  The end result didn’t seem as “wet” as the recipe suggested, so I ended up pouring all the “radish juice” back into the mixture.  From other fermented items I’ve made, the veggies must all be submerged in the liquid, and it took adding it all back in to bring the liquid to the top of the quart jar.

Anyway.

I had the thought, “I wonder if slightly adventurous cooks in Korea get a hold of, say, tomatoes, and determine that they will make ketchup, that ubiquitous and widely eaten American condiment.”  And their spouses look askance and wonder if they have to eat it.

The author of the recipe suggests that kkakdugi pairs well with a simple bone-broth soup.  Sounds good to me;  I have bone broth in the fridge right now!  I wonder which of my family will eat Korean Ox-Bone Soup accompanied by Kkakdugi…  I’ll try to remember to report back.

On a tangential note, there is a lady in the weekly small group Bible study I attend, and one of her daughters is a health-nut.  Nearly every week, my friend will report to me of the inedible culinary disasters her daughter has created in the name of health.  When I make a dish, I simply cannot make it in the name of health alone;  it must actually TASTE GOOD.  What’s the point of cooking your asparagus in coconut oil if no one enjoys the flavor, and it ends up in the trash?  (Personally, I think coconut oil is over-used.  However, that is a tangent to my tangent.)  I’ve only brought snacks twice in the last number of months, and both times, she asked repeatedly, while eating with gusto, “This is gluten free??  It’s healthy??”  To which I usually reply, “Well, it’s not healthy, as it has way more sugar than anyone should be eating.  But, it’s gluten-free and it’s nearly all organic.”  She just can’t believe that homemade goods can be better-for-you AND tasty.  I believe that they should be tasty.  I don’t believe in eating something solely because it’s good for you;  food should be enjoyed.

Leadership, caliche, gardens, hearing from God, and finding Jesus in the Old Testament

This past weekend was amazing, as the last weekend in January for the last 17 years has always been for me.

My church has a leadership retreat every January.

That sounds run-of-the-mill, but it’s not.

We attend about 48 hours of meaty, practical, inspiring teaching sessions and have powerful worship and ministry.  It’s a time when the ministers are ministered to.

Additionally, many leaders and pastors attend from around the world, each who have close ties to my church.  This year, there were folk from Northern Ireland, Zambia, Mexico, and South Korea.  Thus, we call it the Leadership Summit.

I have no words to explain how powerful and amazing and NEEDED this event is.

So, I won’t try.

But…  a couple of things I will say:

  1. I have no great love for the desert.  How I deal with this, in my heart, ebbs and flows.  Sometimes, I do better than others, adjusting to the fact that my husband is a native of Phoenix, our greatly beloved church is here, and my husband’s amazing job is here, as well.  This past year, I struggled a lot, though.  There are a variety of reasons for that, but let’s just leave it there:  I struggled.  I have been sad.  At the Summit, with tears, I realized that I needed to… adjust my heart.  This is where I am.  This is, for my husband and perhaps even for myself, the land of our anointing, in spite of the brown, the hot, the dry, the dusty, the lifeless, burnt desert.  This is where our Father God has us.  It just is.  I don’t know why He has put a yearning in my heart for green, for rain, for humus instead of caliche, while placing me in its opposite.  Yet, He has.  And, I realized that I just had to accept His sovereignty and find my sufficiency in Him.  On Thursday night, I prayed in my heart, “Father, You are my garden.  You are my brook.  You are my green, rolling hills.  You are my rain.”  That was hard, but it was good.  The next night, I was standing there, while the worship team played and sang, just soaking it in with my palms up, receiving.  A young man from Northern Ireland came over and started praying and speaking prophetically over me.  “I see you in the Father’s orchard.  There is fruit there.  A lot of low-hanging fruit.”  He proceeded to encourage me about my life being fruitful.  And then he said, “And the Father is walking with you, in the cool of the evening.”  !!!   Those words are from the description of the time in the Garden of Eden.  I laughed.  I couldn’t help it.  God is so good, and He is so faithful to make sure I REALLY GET IT when He speaks to me.  He is my garden.

    Caliche, or what passes for “soil” in the Sonoran Desert.

  2. I went to the Summit in hopes of hearing from God for… distilling… sorting out… prioritizing… refocusing.  Instead, I felt the Father call me to become “determined to know nothing… except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  I have debated whether or not to post about this on here.  I want to know Jesus in… obscurity.  Just know Him.  Learn more about Him.  Hear His heart.  But, I thought it also might be an encouragement to some reading this:  rather than seeking what Jesus HAS FOR ME, I’m just seeking Jesus.  Everything else for which I look — direction, maturity, a “job” in the Kingdom of God, a future and a hope — is secondary, a byproduct.  So, I committing a certain amount of time, really an extravagant amount of time, daily, to reading Scripture and hearing from God.  I’ve started in Genesis, and am planning to read fairly quickly through the Bible, and be looking for Jesus among the pages.  Yes, I know He doesn’t appear until the book of Matthew.   But, really, everything in even the Old Testament points to Jesus’ appearance here on earth.  I felt God tell me that, in spite of spending time that I, frankly, don’t have, He will continue to provide time.  He’ll provide efficiency, focus, and clarity of thought as I go through my day.  Everything that needs to get done will get done, even as I attempt to delve into the Word of God for several hours daily.

Why this mom of six is hardly blogging.

When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I “only” had three children.  Along the way, it has always been possible to squeeze out a number of blogs per month, often 3-4 per week!  But, starting with baby Jean’s birth in June, these have been been my slowest months ever.  Here’s why:

  1. Time and priorities.  I love writing.  But, I also love reading.  I love keeping up with my friends and family on Facebook.  I have other responsibilities, besides homeschooling my children and running my home — I still lead worship weekly at a homegroup, and I essentially have a part-time job as a host and coordinator for a CSA (weekly, local farm-share).  I just can’t do everything, sadly.  Most days, just doing school, laundry, and making meals about taps me out.  I could drop any one of these things and have time for blogging, but I don’t want to.  So… it’s just a busy season that precludes blogging.  I have very often started drafts and by the time I finish, they’re just no longer relevant or pressing.  So, slowly nibbling away at drafts doesn’t seem to work for me, either.
  2. The current culture of blogging.  When I started blogging, most people hadn’t even heard the term “blog”.  I wrote with the abandon of one who was pretty certain that no one was reading.  In many ways, I was flippant and too-disclosing.  I wasn’t careful at all.  I could just dash off some thoughts without considering possible repercussion.  I’ve become wiser over the years, and have realized that people ARE reading, and therefore, I need to measure my words.  In addition, if I want to make a statement about health, science, Scripture, pretty much anything, the only responsible way to do that is to provide supporting links, which is the blogging form of end notes.  However, gathering and inserting appropriate links is time-consuming.  And THEN, you add Pinterest.  If someone wants to post something on Pinterest, you really need a picture.  So, I either hunt for a pic online with no copyright protection OR I hunt for a pic to upload and insert from my own.  Both of those add snippets of time to an already labor-intensive process.
  3. My mind is blank.  JUST KIDDING.  Actually, there are more things than ever that I want to share…  Inside my brain, my blog is crazy-active!!

Here, though, are a few small things happening around here:

  • We are still slowly remodeling our home and redecorating.  Both my husband and I are frugal, and our tastes overlap, but aren’t identical.  That’s why the process is slow:  if ONE of us didn’t care, we could get things done a lot faster.  But, we both care.   Here’s a shot (not a great one) of our living room.  It’s a mix of new and vintage/Craigslist purchases.  Living Room
  • We finally had to buy our first new piece of baby equipment.  Virtually everything on Jean’s body and which she uses here in our home is a hand-me-down, a gift, or purchased second-hand.  Oh, wait!  I did purchase a jogging stroller for about 1/4 the price of a new one, at a true outlet — a store that handles all the returns and overstock from Costco, Home Depot, and Rite-Aid.  It was new in the box…  So, I guess that counts as a new purchase.  So, purchase #2:  a highchair.  I can’t wait until it arrives;  baby Jean is six months and eating (limited) table food, but up until now, she has just been perched on my lap.  That is becoming increasingly messy.  I searched on Craigslist for the last month, looking for a chair that had some sort of modern appeal (to at least partially fit in with our updated decor), was well-reviewed, wasn’t too bulky, that both my husband and I like, and wasn’t too expensive.  I struck out.  So, this highchair is being shipped, as I type this.   
  • Just last week, I finished my favorite book of the last… year or so.  I have a few current authors that I follow;  I read everything they write.  Those tend to be dependable authors;  I like their craft of storytelling.  However, they’re not necessarily books that, upon closing, I reflect, “That was so very worthwhile.  I am enriched by having read that.”  Not that they’re trash;  they’re just entertainment, and not necessarily profound.  The book I recently finished?  Profound.  I had read quite a few (nonfiction) essays by Wendell Berry, as well as a number of his poems.  But, I hadn’t read any of his fiction.  Following the families in a community in rural Kentucky?  Sounded campy, à la Mitford (which I’ve never read, so, yes, I’m passing judgement based upon incomplete information).  But, my oldest son, a junior, read Fidelity as part of his homeschool curriculum.  When he finished, he handed it to me.  “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I think you’d like it.”  Which made me love him all the more…  And he was right;  I did like it.  I plan on reading more in the series, after I get through the next two books on my list (Leaving Everything Most Loved — I like Jacqueline Winspear’s storytelling.  However, as her works progress, each book seems more like “Zen Buddhist with an agenda, who is telling a mystery story on the side.”  It’s rather annoying.  I’m a Christian and I don’t even like it when CHRISTIAN authors try to proselytize via fiction.  I like it even less when the author’s beliefs don’t parallel mine.  And, An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch.  I found Charles Finch, whose stories are set in Victorian England, when I had exhausted the surprisingly large genre of literary mystery serials set in WWI-era England.)
  • And…  This little sweetie.  How I adore her.  She is perfect, except she doesn’t like to sleep.  Really, she doesn’t like to sleep at all.  You can try your suggestions, but I’ve probably tried them all, short of letting her cry long enough to give up and feel abandoned.  She is a darling baby, an absolute delight to our whole family.  Everyone is smitten, still.  She is beautiful and chubby, cheerful and funny, and loves to snuggle.  So, so perfect.  Except the sleep thing.  I’m tired.   baby Jean, in arms

Trendsetter and other good news

Fiala was the flowergirl in the wedding of some dear friends in November. I made her dress.

My days aren’t always wonderful.  But, today has been smashing and I don’t want to forget it.

First, our mourning has been turned into dancing.  Earlier this week, we discovered that the awful scraping sound emanating from my Land Barge’s engine was its last, dying gasp.  It needed a new engine — to the tune of $3,500 or so.  This morning, someone called to tell us that, essentially, he is going to pay for it.  This “someone” is returning a favor for house plans that my husband designed for him.  I must confess that I have groused somewhat about what I feel is people taking advantage of my husband’s generosity with his home-designing skills, which he frequently does for free, or very nearly so, on the side*.  It seems to me that folks don’t comprehend the time, effort, skill, and flat-out genius that goes behind their remodel, or whatever.  I have strongly suggested that he charge what he’s worth.  He refuses.  I pout and feel self-righteous about at least internally defending my husband.  However, I will never breathe a word of complaint again.  Even enters my mind I will remind myself that GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL and HE WILL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF US and no kindness is wasted in God’s economy.  I will give all future unkindly thoughts** a kick to the curb and not let them enter into the dwelling place of my ponderings.  Seriously.  My mind is changed FOREVER.  My paradigm is permanently shifted.

Secondly, something over the last week or so, of which we didn’t hear until today:

  1. Last week at our dentist’s office, as always, my five year old daughter Fiala was unfailingly kind and encouraging. She told the dental assistant, Shawn, that she looked beautiful, and gave her a hug and a kiss.
  2. Shawn went home, and when asked about her day by her elementary-school-aged son, she said that a little girl made her day, describing the incident with Fi… They talked about the name “Fiala”.
  3. The son’s teacher is pregnant with a little girl and (bravely!) told the students that she would let one of them name the baby. She set up a suggestion box in the back. Shawn’s son wrote down “Fiala”.
  4. The teacher announced yesterday (I think) that her new baby would be named Fiala.
  5. Buh-bam! Darling girl is a trend-setter, spreading her sweet spunkiness and genuine affection, getting babies named after her.

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*He is also paid to design houses in his full-time job.  :)
**At least on this topic.  ;)

Butternut Squash with Apples and Cranberries (GFCF recipe)

I’ll admit it:  In this age of expert home food stylists and Pinterest beauty, I’m hesitant to post new recipes.  I snapped a pic of this with my phone, not my Nikon SLR (I don’t own a Nikon SLR or any other fancy camera).  It’s not gorgeous.  But, it is SO VERY delicious that I had to share.  And, it’s just in time for Thanksgiving.  Hopefully, it will become a wintertime staple in your home, as my family has proclaimed it must be in mine.

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This recipe calls for a 2½ lb butternut squash, but you can use any orange-fleshed winter squash:  baking/pie pumpkin;  Hubbard;  Delicata;  Kabocha; Red Kuri, and others.  Personally, I wouldn’t use acorn squash or spaghetti squash.  But, just about any other variety would do wonderfully.  You can even substitute yam.  You may also use MORE than 2½ lb.  You could use up to four pounds of squash without tampering with any of the other ingredients.

I implore you not to substitute any other ingredients.  This perhaps may seem like an odd mishmash of ingredients, but when it comes together, it’s perfect:  savory, sweet, a bit spicy, warm, bright, FRESH.  However, if you do find any subs that work beautifully, do return and comment here!

Also, recent research has shown that it’s more important than ever to buy organic winter squash!

Winter squash is a vegetable that might be especially important for us to purchase organic. Recent agricultural trials have shown that winter squash can be an effective intercrop for use in remediation of contaminated soils. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including pyrene, fluoranthene, chrysene, benzo(a)anthracene and benzo(a)pyrene are unwanted contaminants. PAHs are among the contaminants that can be effectively pulled up out of the soil by winter squash plants. When winter squash is planted as a food crop (as opposed to a non-food crop that is being planted between food crop seasons to help improve soil quality), the farmer’s goal is definitely not to transfer soil contaminants like PAHs up into the food. But some of that transfer seems likely to happen, given the effectiveness of winter squash in mobilizing contaminants like PAHs from the soil. For this reason, you may want to make a special point of purchasing certified organic winter squash. Soils used for the growing of in certified organic foods are far less likely to containundesirable levels of contaminants like PAHs.  ~from The World’s Healthiest Foods

In other words, squash does an excellent job of decontaminating the soil:  It pulls contaminants from the soil as it grows.  However, where do those contaminants go??  Very likely INTO the food you’re eating.  You can wash the outside of a conventional squash, or peel it.  But, you can’t wash the flesh of the pesticides and other contaminants that the growing plant has pulled from the ground.

Click here for a simplified, printable PDF version of this recipe.

Butternut Squash with Apples and Cranberries
makes 12 servings

  • 12 oz nitrate-free bacon, chopped
  • 3 oz shallots, sliced thinly (about two large cloves)
  • 2½ lb organic butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and diced into ¾” cubes
  • 4 small Granny Smith apples (or other tart apple), cored, peeled, and diced small
  • 1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries (you can use unsweetened just as well)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh sage (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1½ tsp ground allspice
  • zest of one lime
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, cook chopped bacon and sliced shallots, stirring often, until bacon is crisp.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Do not drain.
  3. In a large, heat-proof bowl (such as a glass or ceramic bowl), toss together the diced squash, diced apples, dried cranberries, minced fresh sage, sea salt, allspice, lime zest, and white pepper.
  4. Scrape the bacon, shallots, and rendered bacon fat over the squash mixture and toss to mix well.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish (or two medium-sized ones), and spread evenly.
  6. Cover tightly and bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring once, or until the squash is tender.
  7. Garnish with additional chopped sage (or Italian parsley, cilantro, or other pretty green).
  8. Serve hot.

 

“Here I stand…”***

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My husband Martin holds baby Jean to the sky. We’re at Saddle View Point, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

My husband and I are nearing 19 years of marriage.  I have been reflecting on our history recently.

That is partly because my own parents divorced after they had “celebrated” their own 19th anniversary, and I have had to say, “SHUT UP!!” to the enemy keep my thoughts captive regarding this particular milestone, and have been purposefully dwelling on the successes of our time together as a family.

Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.
Psalm 137:3-5 (NLT)*

It’s a pretty common understanding in the Christian culture that children are a blessing.

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My family: 12-year-old Wesley, 7yo Audrey, 14yo Grant, myself holding baby Jean, almost-five-year-old Fiala, Martin, and 16yo Ethan.

Confession:  For a long, long time, I did not feel that blessing.  I felt overwhelmed, not up to the massive task appointed to me.  I saw my every flaw replicated and magnified in my children.  I felt like I was endlessly disciplining, when I really didn’t WANT to discipline;  I wanted to snuggle on the couch and have everyone love each other, and everyone respect each other, everyone defend each other, everyone exuding kindness and loyalty…

I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore, and though I do see my flaws in my children, I am less horrified these days.  Instead, I see that as the provision of God to accent my need for His holiness and his character, in both myself and my children;  it shows me what I need to work on.  However, I still feel, oftentimes, like that last sentence in the paragraph above.  There is not enough kindness and love in our home.  There is not enough of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  There is not enough of His peace.  His patience is frequently far from manifest in the lives and hearts of every member of our family.

HOWEVER.

I am still starting to get a picture, a revelation, of how much BLESSING I live in.

It is dawning on me from a number of different horizons.

To wit:

  • A mother came up to me after worship on Sunday and told me how she had seen my 14 year old son, Grant, enter right into exuberant worship and praise — nothing rote — and he urged a friend to do the same.
  • I am meeting more women — it’s my age, I guess — who do not have the family they envisioned for themselves, earlier in their lives.  They don’t have as many children, or none at all, or they don’t have a healthy marriage, or none at all…  It’s not that my marriage is flawless, but I do have a good marriage.  And I have six children, which feels… complete for the first time in my motherhood.  It doesn’t feel as if anyone is missing.  I am realizing how easily what I presently have could have never been.
  • I do long for more loyalty and kindness in particular between my children;  every time a child throws a sibling under the bus, so to speak, by tattling, my stomach hurts and my heart aches.  But, there IS a lot of love present in our home.  I am trying to treasure all these things in my heart — to remember the loving, tender moments.
  • People whose perspectives and opinions I trust are increasingly encouraging me, pointing out the good fruit in our home.  A maternal uncle visited this past weekend.  He left a note for my husband and I to read.  Part of it said, “You have accepted the challenge of raising a Christian family at a time in history when our culture, society, and even our government fights you.  Good job.  Keep going.  You are being watched by people you don’t even know, and they do so with a yen for what you have.”**
  • At my step dad’s memorial service last Saturday, many people came up to me to congratulate me on the good behavior of my children, and extended their blessings to our family.
  • Baby Jean seems to have brought a new level of tenderness in our family — especially in my two other girls.  My pastor’s wife keeps noting it to me.  It has opened my eyes to the reality of the Father God blessing our family, specifically through this chubby, sweet-smiling three-month-old infant.
  • Just in general…  People keep encouraging me, especially about my motherhood and my children.  I should keep notes and read on a day when I’m discouraged.  :)

I’ve always kept with the notion that those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise.  Therefore, I often take lightly the compliments of others, regarding my children.  I see the best in my children, but I also see the worst, and I can’t help but often think, “If you only knew...” when someone says something flattering about one of my children.

But, I’ve decided this:  It would be more repugnant to live in the blessing and not realize it.  I think my perfectionist self rather disqualifies my motherhood, disqualifies my children, even, from receiving compliments and blessings.  This makes me sad.  I want to believe it!  I should believe it!  I want to embrace a life of blessing.  I want to ENJOY being blessed!  I think it would score one for the enemy if I really did live a blessed life, but didn’t have the revelation of it.  What a waste that would be!

I’m feeling an increased longing for more of God’s presence in our home.  In short, I’m longing for His blessing, His hand on our lives and in our hearts.  I’ve always wanted this… but it seems like God is bringing me to a place of urgency in prayer and in seeking Him for this, and I have, a number of times in the last month or so, been brought to tears with HOW MUCH I LONG FOR this, long for Him.

So, that’s my new goal:  To enjoy the Father’s blessing, which, indeed, includes my precious children, and to look for and acknowledge His blessing.  I am a blessed woman, indeed, to have six children and a loving husband.  Perfection is a long, long, long, long ways off.  But I am still very blessed, and I want to have an increasing revelation of that, and live in its peace.

———–

*For the curious, our family is not “quiverfull“.
** I was telling my pastor about how I was basking in this blessing from my uncle, and then, I looked over and saw my seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, CHEWING on the note.  CHEWING IT.  She explained, “I’m pretending to be a puppy!”  My pastor said with a laugh, “And then reality set in!”
***There is an old worship song by John Barnett called “In the Blessing.”  Its words are:  “Here I stand/In the blessing of the Father’s love/Washed in blood/Sweet forgiveness for a life undone… Knowing that Your love is all I need/To get by/Knowing that Your hand is over me/All my life/My Father, I love you…”  I couldn’t find a recording of this song — which has often brought me to tears — to add to this post.

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Lovely Audrey holds baby Jean, who doesn’t look too pleased here. But, really, Jean *ADORES* her siblings.

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