Apr 25 2016

Simeon James had a Half Birthday!

Halfway to that first birthday milestone… how can it be?!

I’m head over heels in love with this delicious little bundle.

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2 responses so far

Apr 01 2016

Long-distance and Long-time

Five years ago right now, I found out I was pregnant with my ninth baby, who came on the heels of six consecutive miscarriages.
Five years ago right now, we began the process of building a home out in the country.
Five years ago right now, a friend of mine emailed me a crazy idea.

Boy. That was a busy year.

I now have a four year old Asher to show for that year.
I now have lived in this home, which we had built out in the country, for four years.
I now have participated in sharing a Pregnancy After Loss devotional, our free ebook download, for four years.

So many big things were obviously going on back then, and honestly, they continue to. Sometimes it is hard to see the growth of such blessings. It felt like so much big stuff back then, but when looking through the proper lenses, I can see that God is continuing to do great big things with those very seeds from five years ago. My friend Kristi reminded me this week that it was four years ago that R&R went live. What an exciting day that was for us! And today, she shares a little here about the growing process of our Rainbows & Redemption devotional to give a little special insight to the planting, blooming, and pruning progression.

Later this month, I will get to see Kristi in person for the second time ~ the first time was three years ago. I’ve known her long-distance for 5 1/2 years, as God has taken each of us on similar yet different journeys. We met online when we were both pregnant-after-loss, once: she was pregnant with her little Kyria, I was pregnant with my Peace. Neither of us were having a good time of it at all. We ended up delivering our precious little first trimester babies, three thousand miles apart, that November, in 2009. We have both had more pregnancies since then ~ my Asher and her Caleb were in our bellies while we wrote and edited R&R, so we shared wild roller coasters for months at a time. We have each called one another in moments of panic, straight from our own home bathrooms… because we were either starting to miscarry or had gotten less-than-encouraging blood test results or were worrying our brains to a fritz psycho-analyzing every little twinge and symptom and dream while PAL.

How good it continues to be to know that I am not alone.

We may be separated by basically the entire United States (she is at the SE corner while I am in the NW corner), but we are still there for one another, especially when it comes to specific niche topics. Things like miscarriage and related babyloss topics. Writing, specifically when it comes to words of encouragement. Homeschooling. Rainbow babies.

I hope to continue sharing life, prayers, and writing with Kristi as time goes on ~ my long-distance and long-time friend.  God grows beautiful things from little seeds. Like babies. And friendships. And books. Blessings.

2 responses so far

Mar 27 2016

The Lord is Risen Indeed!

What a beautiful day to honor our Lord,
who won the battle with death
and overcame the tomb with life!

Christ is Risen!!
Alelluia!!

Happy Resurrection Day
from my family to yours!

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One response so far

Mar 26 2016

Twelve Pounds of Sugar

This five month old boy is sweet and delicious.
I can’t get enough of him!

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Proverbs 4:3-5
When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.”

One response so far

Mar 25 2016

Savoring Friendship & Cookies

It was obviously an early day of spring.
Grey clouds and blinding sunshine danced together.
Robins were bouncing happily around outside while it rained.
The fire roared in our living room stove, schoolwork was spread on the table,
the baby was fussing, and the big kids were doing anything but focusing on their books.
I was fighting a headache with Tylenol & caffeine to no avail.

Grasping for a lifeline of sorts, I popped off a quick note to a dear friend,
the kind of friend who is more like a sister than not,
to ask her to pray for me.

She wrote right back.
She thanked me for sharing my needs and expressing my heart.
She gave suggestions that were rooted in love.
She jumped into a gap for me and filled it with prayers, love, compassion, friendship.

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I shared a list of things with her that was making me thankful.
Across a distance of 375 miles, she gave me a virtual hug and a shoulder to lean on.
Together, while apart, we sought the Lord as well as praised Him.

She in her kitchen, surrounded by her little blondies.
Me in mine, surrounded by my wee gingers.

Friendship is acting out God’s love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other’s lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God’s love for them. Friendship is an opportunity to act on God’s behalf in the lives of the people that we’re close to, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can’t always see from where we are.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p49

Then I noticed she sent me something else ~ a link to a recipe.
“If you need something sweet to eat today, here’s a link to a recipe we are making,”
she said, along with three pictures of her children helping her
stir batter, eat batter, and put trays of cookies in the oven.
“I wish we could share hot cookies and ice-cold milk with you this afternoon,” she added.

That’s when I decided it was time to stoke the fire,
strap the baby onto my chest,
put away the schoolbooks,
and take three sticks of butter out of the fridge to warm on the counter.

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“Butter is out to soften!!” I told her,
declaring that we would make the best of it,
and we would join them in the baking efforts of the day…

and we spent the next hour or two occasionally popping messages to one another
on our progress in our own little worlds of flour, sugar, aprons, and children licking their fingers.

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My children and I were able to not only connect with one another and savor our relationship,
but we were talking about these far-away friends & taking pictures to show them,
connecting in creative ways with these friends even when distance separates us.

When joy and grace are shared, it multiplies in ways indescribable.
When friendship is savored, it builds bridges undeniable.

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The short of it is that you really just need to click here and try the recipe out for yourself.
And then, once you have, share the link with a friend.
And share pics of doing the same thing as one another, even if separated by miles.

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It is good to savor friendship.
It is good to find unique ways to share life together with those you love.
Even if it is two mamas with their little ones at their sides, separated by 375 miles,
we can still share life & friendship & motherhood & cookies.
Creativity can be both warm and delicious.
Just like friendship.

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In our own unique way, my children and I
shared hot cookies and ice-cold milk
with the dearest of friends ~
our hearts were encouraged
while souls were fattened
and tongues rejoiced!

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I know of no other recipe for making a good-bye bearable than the promise that the God who goes with us and stays with them will be the bridge connecting us, no matter how far or long the distance.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised By Motherhood, p95~

One response so far

Mar 24 2016

Homemade Yogurt

I don’t remember exactly how long I have been making yogurt… but it’s been a couple of years now I think. We go through so much yogurt in our household each week that this is a really good way for me to save money for my family! Like with bread, this is something healthy & delicious I can make easily & economically from scratch as a way to bless my family. Recently, some dear friends of mine were asking how to make yogurt, and I thought it was a good opportunity to document it in pics and writing, rather than just in a spoken method. :)

Plain Easy Yogurt

Begin with a gallon of milk. I don’t buy organic, raw, or anything special.
I buy straight-up common milk (usually 2%) in a jug at the grocery store. That’s what makes this so economical:
I get 4 quarts of yogurt for about $2.80
~…~…~

To start, dump the entire gallon of milk in a large pot.
Stick a candy thermometer in there to monitor the temperature for you.
With the stove on med-high, heat the milk to roughly 185*F.

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Stir it around occasionally (using the thermometer), but try not to scrape the bottom of the pot
because you will scrape around bits of milk that adhere to the pot during the heating process
which makes the end result of yogurt grainy.
But I do sometimes scoop off the film that forms on top of the milk, and toss it in the sink.
Generally speaking, I make yogurt in the morning while I’m feeding the kids breakfast,
doing Bible with them, and washing dishes; it’s very easy in that way
to simply stay nearby and keep my eye on things.
(But that’s not to say I’ve never lost track and let it boil over all. over. the. stove.)

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I don’t do anything special to prepare my jars.
I figure they have been sterilized well enough in the dishwasher…
so I simply line up my wide-mouth quart jars on the counter
along with screw on plastic lids (although you’ll see in these pics I used a metal rim on one).

You’ll also notice that on this particular day, I was making more than a gallon
so I have six quart jars lined up.
It just means that I adjusted proportions so my milk to yogurt ratio
was still appropriate.

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Once the milk reaches roughly 185*F, turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat.
Now is the part that sometimes makes me impatient. :)
Wait for the milk to cool down to 120*F.
This waiting usually gives me ample time to do other housework,
homeschooling, or kitchen projects… I’ve never timed it though!
~…~…~

Upon reaching 120*F, once again lift the film off the top of the warm milk and toss it.
This is the point where you need yogurt starter: 8oz (a cup) of a previous batch.
When I made my first batch of yogurt, I used a single serving cup
of vanilla Tillamook yogurt.
I just wanted to use one that was as natural as possible
that was clearly labeled as having live active cultures.

Just dump your yogurt started into the warm milk and whisk it around,
without scraping the sides or bottom of the pot
(again, to avoid a grainy end result).

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Now you need to pour the yogurt-milk into the jars.
I have a steady enough arm to couple with a pot that doesn’t drip when I pour from it,
so I do not use any kind of funnel.
But you just figure out what works for you
to get it poured nicely into the jars.
Don’t cry over spilled milk! 😉

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Screw the lids on nice and tight.
You can see here that you don’t have to fill the jars to an exact science.
The one with the metal rim isn’t quite as full as the others.
It did just fine though.

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There is something so thrilling about jars full to the brim
of something delicious.
I feel this way about jam and pickles too.
Glass jars make me so happy!

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This is the fun part. :)
Put your jars in a cooler,
and run water from your tap until it reaches 120*F…

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…and then let the warm water fill the cooler
until it’s at least halfway up the sides of the jars.
It’s okay if it gets on top of the jars, too.
Sometimes I have a pint in there with some of the quarts,
so the water basically goes to the very top of the pint.

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Now while you let those happy little yogurt bugs take dominion
and reproduce in the warm milk,
just leave the cooler closed and left alone for at least 6 hours.
Go about your day!

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After 6 hours or so (I promise, it’s very flexible!),
take the jars out of the cooler,
dry them off,
empty the cooler,
dry it out…

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…and put the jars in the fridge.
By the next morning, it will all be solidified
and beautifully tangy & creamy.

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We eat it plain!
We eat it with a drizzle of honey!
We eat it with a dollop of homemade jam!

~…~…~
Here or there, on a train and in the rain, on a boat and with a goat…
we do so like our homemade yogurt, we would eat it anywhere!
We love it, and hope you do too.

5 responses so far

Mar 23 2016

Photography Challenge, Week Twelve

Week Twelve: Artistic, Transportation

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Each week, I find myself trying various ideas
and trying to be particularly artsy…
but then I find myself back in my “real life mama” rut! :)

So this week’s artistic interpretation of transportation,
is simply a picture of all my babywearing gear.

That’s how my littlest kiddos
are transported around.
And it’s my favorite thing right now.

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One response so far

Mar 23 2016

The New Commandment

This morning over at Olive Tree, I have the privilege of sharing some thoughts on the new commandment Jesus gave His disciples before He was captured.

After Judas left Jesus and the other disciples at the table in the upper room, some of my favorite parts of the Holy Week narrative take place. They are common, familiar, lowly, home-centered—perhaps that is why they prick me especially poignantly, as I am a full time homemaker and homeschooling mama of four small children. I am daily surrounded by the common and the lowly. Morsels of bread, washing off dirt, and commands to love one another are tools of my own trade.

Come visit me there, as we contemplate the enormity of Christ’s commandment, with its new distinguishing factor of imaging our Savior… as we ask questions of ourselves, about taking up crosses and washing dirty feet… as we walk through Holy Week in anticipation of Good Friday, the darkness of Saturday, the brightness of Resurrection Sunday.

One response so far

Mar 21 2016

Palm Sunday Thoughts…

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. We were given little crosses made out of palm fronds at church. The liturgy was different. The vestment colors were different. And as I dealt with a 3 year old who threw up all over her church dress and her carseat… and as I bounced a fussy, overtired little 4 month old… I was happily comforted in the reminders that my Jesus, my King, is Lord over all things ~ both small and great. He came in lowly ways. He ministered in the daily things. He came to save.

My mind repeatedly wandered back to a year ago… six weeks pregnant with Sweet Teen… and the terrible dance of hope & doubt I was enduring…
So today, I am sharing with you something I wrote that day; last year on Palm Sunday. It’s as true today as it was 366 days ago. Hallelujah! Hosanna in the highest!

 

Today was Palm Sunday—a day full of good reminders of our King who reigns, of His lowly entry and faithful rule, of how we as His people can & should cry out to Him, hosanna! Save us now, Lord, we pray! One of my sons in heaven is named Hosanna, and I love the excuse to say his name. When I do, I am crying to the only One who can save to the uttermost. This morning’s church service, as we visited a church we love a couple hours away, began with the choir, pastors, and dozens of children processing through the sanctuary with palms in their hands while we all sang to the Lord of His glory and honor, lauding Him with our praise. We cried out to Him beseeching Him to save us! And since we are on the other side of the story, we know with confidence that He is the Savior! He has saved us! He didtriumphantly bear our sins and conquer death, saving us from the holds of those shackles! Amen!
But we are still in the midst of the story. This morning I felt painfully, acutely aware that the story continues.

I sat there with my family, in the midst still of our own story of asking the Lord to save and preserve and give us life in place of death, begging Him with every little panting breath to cause this baby to live…
In front of us was a family whose daughter suffered a terrible cancer some years ago, and the Lord preserved her precious life, and there she sat with parents and siblings, with health glowing in her cheeks and hair and the saving presence of the Lord spilling from her eyes as she sang…
In front of them sat a family who buried another son this very week—the Lord saved their little boy by ushering him to heaven, and now He saves this family every moment by upholding them even in the midst of horrible grief…

I cried repeatedly.
Suffering everywhere I looked. Sometimes already redeemed. Sometimes not yet.
It is hard to wait for the redemption, and wonder whether we will see it here in this life, or whether we will be yet waiting to see it in the next.

And then Pastor Sumpter preached on hope & joy.
He said, so much of joy is bound up in hope.
How painfully, purely accurate.

I am so afraid to hope and so afraid to be joyful. Even though there is a sliver of me that wants to shout from the rooftops that the Lord has filled my womb—I want to plan and prepare and anticipate and expect an autumn baby—I want to let the kids kiss my tummy and pray aloud all day for the little baby without wincing in my heart of anxiety—I want to talk about baby names for this little person, to embrace this pregnancy rather than moment by moment telling myself not to get attached.

Today we heard an exhortation to ignore the voices in our head that shout realism and logic and probabilities. We ought to rather take joy in hoping, and not to grow weary if we have to keep asking. It is exactly realism, logic probabilities, and my own history that causes me to limit my joy and squelch my hope. But we serve the Lord who delights in giving good gifts, who takes pleasure in acting outside the boundaries which people expect of Him, who came in order to redeem the broken places so that our joy could be full and our hope renewed.

So this week, even as I constantly preach truth to myself not to give in to anxiety just because it certainly doesn’t do any of us any good, I will also be reminding myself day by day to be joyful even when I don’t know the end of the story. Because that is why Christ came. I rejoice in hope—and this hope is not bound up or settled on the things of this world. This hope in which I rejoice is bound up and settled on the glory of God. And because of this, because of God’s glory, we can rejoice fully! Even when suffering comes. Even when endurance is necessary. When character is tried, tested, affirmed. (Romans 2:1-5)

This hope is not foolish. Hope that is grounded in God’s glory will not put us to shame. He died for me. So that I could have hope. So that I could rejoice.

So as I remind myself of these things this week, walking toward Easter as well as taking daily steps further and further into my pregnancy, I will remember the joy and the hope along with the suffering and the grief. It’s the dichotomy of living the Christian life. May He give us the strength and peace to glorify Him this week through all of this.

I want to hope with unabashed, reckless abandon. I want to have incalculable, irrepressible joy.

This is the Lord‘s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and He has made His light to shine upon us.
Psalm 118:23-27

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Mar 16 2016

St. Patty’s Thoughts

If I have any worth,
it is to live my life
for God.
~St. Patrick~

Take a peek here and here for handy information about
the real St. Patrick
while you wear green and eat lamb stew

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