Sunday, December 15, 2013

Incomparable

Our Sunday School lesson today really got to my heart.  When I began my study process for it,  (I teach one of the ladies' classes which on a side note are a super awesome group!) I was honestly kind of dreading it as the current sessions are from Isaiah which happens to be one of the books of the Bible not all that high on my favorites list. But when I began the reading part which came from chapter 40 I was blown away by how much of it was written exactly for me, right now, in this week in 2013, in the cold mid western winter which happens to be my least favorite season. (grumpy Grinch!)
I had one of those weeks.  Not only on top of my already crazy hectic schedule of homeschooling and my reflexology clients, did I make many trips back and forth to the hospital with my sweet mom in love (a new term I have fallen very much in like with - I am Alta Miller's daughter in love) but various ones of my children decided it was the perfect week to get their lungs full of that nasty cough which is ugliest whenever one tries to lay down to sleep something one really needs when dealing with stress.  After 1 full night and most of another spent in the ER and at the hospital trying to wrap my brain around all the details of Alta's issues I was so looking forward to/planning on catching up on rest which is usually a realistic goal since my baby is now 3.  That "plan" did not work out so well and my whole first night "home" was spent trying to keep my 4 year old's cough from completely gagging her which in essence took about 3/4 of the night so no catching up there.  At one point in the pitch black as our child continued to sound as if she was coughing up her lung,   I rested my bone weary head on my hands and informed  my hubby that I don't think God is hearing my prayers. I began to focus on and question everything that wasn't in perfect order in my life and man let me tell you I can come up with quite the grumpy list...."Why did God make me wait so long to have these beautiful babies?-- practically EVERYONE knows that the case load is to heavy with the combination of young ones and elderly parents"   "Why would God take some one like the 15 year old that was killed in our area recently and leave the my ailing MIL whose quality of life has dramatically been altered and who is longing to go on to her Elmer?"  "and why of all things couldn't God keep my children healthy in a time when I really need them to be.  I mean we try and take care of our health, we don't eat gobs of junk food AND we take vitamins."   You get my drift....
Here is where Isaiah 40 comes in.   Verse 6 in the NLT says  People are like grass that dies away.  Their beauty fades as quickly as the beauty of the flowers in the field.  Then come verses 7 & 8 which say
The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people.  The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.
So in other words, I am like a fading flower.  My self centered focus is but a fleeting breath in the broader spectrum of God's big picture.  And yet HE is forever! His word stands when all around us is falling apart.
I read on and came to my very favorite verses in the whole chapter, verse 11 - He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.  He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. (Yup that's me!)
The chapter goes on the very next verse to emphasize the incomparable qualities of God.  Who else has held the oceans in his hand?  Who has measured the heavens with his fingers?....all the nations of the world are nothing in comparison to him. They are but a drop in the bucket, dust on the scales....in his eyes they are less then nothing--mere emptiness and froth.  To whom then, can we compare God?...He is the one who spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them....
Then comes the end verses we all know well.  Verse 29 - He gives power to those who are tired and worn out (that would be me this week) He offers strength to the weak.  Even the youths (I am pushing 40 here!) will become exhausted and young men will give up.  But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like Eagles (Have you seen an eagle lately?  Their wingspan is huge!) They will run and not grow weary (even when sleep deprivation takes over and becomes all consuming...JUST.give.ME.my.bed.leave.me.alone.AND.no.one.gets.HURT) They will walk and not faint...
Not only has this chapter given me a fresh perspective right when I needed it most it has brought just another reminder of how blessed I really am in being the daughter of the creator of the universe who is so much bigger and able then I can comprehend!  As for the hearing my prayers part, verse 27 says this - How can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?  How can you say God refuses to hear your case? ...the Lord is the everlasting God, (yup HE is still God even when at the end of my already crazy hectic week my 4 year old shows up with pneumonia)  the Creator of the earth....He never grows faint or weary (even when one of his specks of dust is constantly complaining about how awful her beautiful pretty much perfect life is!)
So as I set off on a fresh new week my prayer is that my pouty list stays short (or non existent) and that I fully lean on my incomparable, amazing, all powerful Father who just happens to be creator of the universe!

On another more chipper note, we attempted to take family pictures this week.  The results were not all that fabulous but hey we preserved the memories of having the kidos in their pretty Christmas duds.

                             
My man & I 

our 4 precious gifts 
(I still have to pinch myself some days when it dawns on me that my long years of infertility really are over!)

not frame worthy perhaps but you "get the picture"  ;)


Blogging was a new venture for me this year and I am enjoying it much tho I am sporadic at it. Thanks to you my readers for reading my stuff as I attempt to share my heart.  I love writing. It is therapy and I always have said I would write if not a soul read it.  However if I can share something that is encouraging or uplifting to you on your journey that, in the words of my favorite Duck Dynasty, makes me Happy, Happy, Happy!  Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Housework vs. Hospitality

I am people person.  Yes sometimes I need peace and total quiet but those who really know me best know I thrive on relationship and being around/with people.  I love having guests and enjoy being spontaneous.  However my life has changed quite drastically over the past 8 years.  I have never been that spotless housekeeper who washes her walls, wood work and windows religiously every spring and fall but during our 8 years of married life and keeping my own house prior to babies the way I kept house was dramatically different from the home we live in now. Stuff stayed put and mostly clean and in order.  While I am thankful in deep ways for the 4 beautiful ones who leave wet dirty underware in the clean towel cupboard and color to big a spot of their favorite color front and center on the living room wall (sorry bout that Phil & Bert) or leave cracker crumbs under the couch,  it HAS drastically changed the way we invite guests into our humble abode.  One time recently I was brave enough to invite last minute guests for Sunday lunch.  While part of the group was gracious about the sticky marks on the chairs, one dear soul, with disdain written across her face, came and got my dish cloth to clean the salt and pepper shakers.  I know she was probably trying to help but it was so very humiliating not to mention embarrassing.  Needless to say, I was slightly paranoid about the rest of the meal and extra nervous about how the kids behaved.  We survived and often as I think back to the event I pondered what God might be trying to teach me and how He actually looks at this whole cleanliness thing.  As I looked thru the Bible for the cleanliness is next to Godliness verse, which by the way isn't there, I came across the story of Martha and her sister Mary.  Jesus comes to visit and Mary leaves the fuss and bustle and goes to sit at his feet (Hello--RELATIONSHIP!) while dear precious Martha keeps hurrying around with housekeeping details.  Finally she goes to bug Jesus about that Mary not helping her. Jesus turns to her and says "Mary as chosen the good portion"...
 As I browsed further, the headings of cleanliness took me mostly to verses about being clean and pure spiritually.  How freeing!  Yes I believe God is a God of order and He asks us to be wise stewards of what He shares with us.  Hospitality is however commanded various times in scripture such as 1 Peter 4:9 where it says, "Show hospitality one to another with out grumbling"  How simple is that?  I freely admit that I am the worst at grumbling about getting ready for guests. I grumble at my children in the process and get down right irritable at hubby if his ambition doesn't match my own and honestly sometimes that is why spontaneous guests is sometimes actually better.  How can I as a busy mother chose the "good portion" over the ever enslaving housework which by the way will always be here?  I really wonder sometimes if our busyness in this era of gadgets that are supposed to simplify our lives is one of the reasons we see so much loneliness and depression in the world around us and even in the church?  How about we change our thought process around about what's important and invite each other over even if we just serve popcorn and juice and step on cookie crumbs that have been left in strategic piles under the table?  (Or not serve any food as most of us are trying to lose weight anyhow)  God was truly genius in creating communities of people which He put together to form meaningful and challenging relationships and I am sure He is mortified that we are to consumed with cleanliness to take advantage of this beautiful gift. 




So come on over, I'll roll out the paper plates (oops just used the last of those for lunch) napkins and my hazy cups (which are not all sparkly due to a dishwasher detergent error) and we'll look around at our abundant blessings while we munch apples from my large stash and maybe even a leftover pumpkin bar or two.

**DISCLAIMER:  just in case you're wondering, my spontaneous-do-it-quickly nature is the reason there are white lines on this page...I.can.not.make.them.go.away but I am hitting publish anyway ;)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Waiting

Waiting (perhaps I should say patience) is not my greatest attribute. My habit is to swoop in, assess, and fix the "problem" in the fastest, easiest way possible.  God doesn't always agree with my plan and that sends me into a tail spin where I usually end up eating lots of chocolate, grumping at my family, shopping or writing. Which one is the safest I haven't quite figured out tho I am sure figuring out the grumpy one usually only worsens my already dour mood and sure doesn't serve my family well. 
This week has been one of those seasons of waiting.  I had cleared my calendar and was happily anticipating all the fun stuff I was going to accomplish when bam! I got picked for waiting....I have to admit my first impulse was to rush out and try to fill my calendar to so I didn't have to "feel"  the waiting to the deepest extent. Though I did add a few activities I have also spent some time pondering which is one of the reasons I believe God calls us into the game of waiting. In the business of life pondering doesn't always take place but for me, pondering usually brings me to prayer and who can argue with the power of prayer?! 
So I am praying and waiting some more and though it isn't an activity I would pick I know I am probably growing even if I wish God could pick other less exhausting ways to accomplish making me what HE wants me to be.
2 things keep bringing me comfort;  a verse my mama has all over her house on her eagle motif ~ "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength"...and one of my all time favorite songs from the movie Fireproof.
  

Waiting and pondering isn't all bad.  I have found a few extra moments to enjoy life and truly see the beauty God has gifted us with. He is so good to pour out sweet amazing peace on his grumpy child even in seasons of waiting.  








Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Of Cars and Colors

This past Sunday Pastor Leon preached an awesome message on prayer that has kept my mind rolling this week.  Not only the conditions for true prayer ~ a clean and pure heart ~ but simply realizing that God does answer some of the prayers that seem silly or  fulfills the desires of our heart that we may not have even specifically prayed about. It is so important to store those special answers away in a "faith chest" in our heart of hearts to remind us of God and His faithfulness when times of struggle and not understanding Him face us.
I was reminded of the way God specifically answers prayers in many ways already this week and thought some of them were to good not to share.
Lowell has been needing another truck as his is getting pretty rusty and because of its age is requiring more and more work.  He has been browsing trucks on Ebay for probably close to a year and finally found one that is pretty much exactly what he wanted.  Not only is it 4 door, it has big mirrors perfect for pulling the camper, and it has a bigger motor (mundane details to me right?!) But the clincher to me was the color.  Lowell has always liked white and guess what color the "new" truck is?! WHITE!  Now I am not saying he sat there and specifically told God about each of these details but he did mention them frequently to me so (I like to think) God having over heard them worked it all out and even threw in a great price as part of the deal.

I don't have a good picture of the truck yet but I was having fun with the camera and its night settings ;)


With the neat answers to prayer I have been conscious of this week I had to think back to one of my first distinct memories where I grasped the fact that God simply likes to bless us with the desires of our hearts.  I was 18 and in the market for my first car.  I happened to be in love with the color burgandy and remember specifically kneeling by my bed and earnestly asking God to help me find the right car. At the end of the prayer I remember almost feeling embarrassed as I added this line "and God, if you wouldn't mind, could you possibly have the car be burgandy?"  I lay down and went to sleep with a sense of excitement and just knew God was going to take care of it all.  I don't remember how long it took but one day we found THE car in the local paper and I excitedly made the call.  Not only was it perfect, it was from someone I knew in a round about way who happened to be local youth pastors and who understood my great excitement when at the end of the conversation I hesitantly asked what color it was.  The man paused and said "well it's kind of reddish, burgandy I would call it"  That sealed the deal and the car was mine indeed.

My faithful first and very burgandy car!


In the old testament after the children of Israel won a war with the dreaded Philistines Samuel took a giant rock and set it out for all to see and called it the Rock Ebenezer meaning the rock of help, because they had prayed earnestly to God for his help and He had indeed rescued them in a very difficult time.
It is my hope that my children will grow to come to faith in this amazing God and that they will always know and acknowledge how capable He is of answering the prayers of our hearts, even the ones that are beyond the necessary and that our family's Rock Ebenezers will remain strong reminders for future generations of Millers.
God is so good to honor the small details of our lives! I don't always understand his way of answering or his timing and why simple things like the colors of a car are honored while those around us struggle with big mountains like chemo and cancer and 2nd open heart surgeries but I know He is good and has the best interest of all of us close to HIS heart. 



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Super Delicious (& Healthy) Honey Applesauce Bars

I came across an absolutely amazing-to-good-to-keep-to-myself recipe today.  I was on a search for a way to utilize my freshly ground whole wheat and also use honey as I am completely out of sugar right now.
Years ago my mom gave me the cookbook, Cooking with Wisdom, which I have to admit I rarely use as it is almost to "healthy" oriented for my personal tastes (I love chocolate--carob doesn't cut it!)


However the recipe for Applesauce cookies stuck out to me as one that might be ok, did some revisions, added frosting and WOWZA!  It was a huge hit with the kidos and blew my diet for the day too!

Here is the recipe:

  • 1c honey
  • 1/2 c butter
  • Blend well then add:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c unsweetened applesauce
  • Sift together and add:
  • 2 1/2 c freshly ground whole wheat (I used soft white wheat berries that are excellent for pastries)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t bkg soda
  • 1/2 t bkg pwd
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Mix well and pour into jelly roll pan (12 x 15) and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • cool and frost with:
  • 1 - 8 oz cream cheese ( I used Nancy's organics with probiotics)
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 2-3 c pwd sugar (dependent on how thick you like your frosting)


Yum Yum and more Yum! 
Grab a glass of milk (which ever you prefer-some of mine had almond and some had regular ole cow's milk) & ENJOY!



Monday, September 2, 2013

A Tribute to my Siblings


When my parents first married, the doctor told my mother she would not be able to get pregnant.  Much to their delight, the doctor was wrong and I was born 1 month after their first anniversary.
Two years later my sister Janice was born and then came our only brother, Steven and finally my baby sister Rhoda who made her appearance when I was just a month shy of my 12th birthday.

Yup, I'll probably get in big trouble for this one ;)


Janice and I were inseparable doing pretty much everything together.  We shared a room and pretty much everything else till I went off to Rosedale Bible College after I graduated from High school.
Most all of my memories have some connection to something I did with her from music we snuck around and listened to, to being on the basketball team, to favorite foods we shared (she can make a mean Mississippi Mud cake).  We sang together, me singing alto or lead and playing my guitar and her harmonizing with her beautiful high tenor. Of course we had our fights like all siblings do, especially since we were close in age.  (One not so lucky Raggedy Andy lost his leg in one of those spats).

She probably wasn't more then 7 when I remember her declaring she was going to grow up and live in the city which she indeed did.  She is a successful woman in the corporate world.  I couldn't be prouder of who she has become.  She is the official family peacemaker and keeps us all grounded with her wit and wisdom.

I wasn't to sure about Steven when he joined our family soon after my 5th birthday.  Up until that point, Janice and I each had 1 parent "to ourselves" and I was firmly planted in my role of daddy's girl. 
 Soon tho legos and lincoln logs and all things boy became a pleasant part of daily life and I grew quite fond of that little brother. 

who can resist such a cutie?

I wasn't to happy about his love of squirrel hunting and the fact that we had to at least taste the gravy mom prepared with his prize catch however it was obviously part of preparation for being a hunter's wife.  
He got us in trouble too with his precious "Sheila pickles", mom's homemade dills which Janice and I despised and didn't have to eat till we decided to pepper the jar with specks of tolit paper in hopes of making them un-edible.  He tattled and that night Janice & I ate pickles (ugggh!)
We are very different, Steven & I, but he is balance and grounding, bringing common sense to our very estrogen dominated family.  He taught himself to play guitar and has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard.  As adults now, I am honored to also have him as a friend.


Rhoda was a pleasant surprise and welcome addition to our family.  She came along 6 years after Steven and it was such fun to have a baby in the house.  I left home when she was 4 so I missed a lot of her growing up.  Strangely my oldest, Kali  is much as I remember Rhoda.  And like mothers for generations past I am constantly slipping up and calling Kali by Rhoda's name.

no mistaking this is my family...I have actually had the fleeting thought "this is Kali" 

  Being so far apart in age had us on different pages until she got married and we shared the fun of pregnancy together.  Our babies were born 5 weeks apart.  Talk about bonding.

 Yes, I was large as a whale and she trim, fit and glowing.  

She is a vivacious, talented, full of life and is a great  mama to my 2 precious nephews.She also happens to be one of my dearest friends.  

This spring when  mom was ill, our bond as siblings grew deeper and more concrete then I imagined possible.  Certain of them may kill me for posting about them on a public blog but hey they are my family and one of the biggest blessings in my life.  What's not to share about that?!

My brother's old convertible


Steven's beautiful, amazing photographer, girlfriend, Evonda recently captured some very special shots of the 4 of us together. 

Trying to get the brother to smile is nearly impossible

Goofwad!

Goofwad 2!

Are we done yet?



The old adage is true, We can pick our friends but God gifts us with family.  
I happen to have given birth to 4 children who in many ways remind me of my siblings and I. I have the same 3 girls and 1 boy.  I have the ornery ones and the grounded ones, the sweet ones and the bossy.  I hope they are as blessed as I am in their sibling relationships and their bonds will only deepen as the years pass. After all siblings are one of the little things that make daily life more special! 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Old Sauce"


Our garden is brimming with beautiful tomatoes, sadly something my current food plan does not include.  I have been finding other yummies to add to sandwiches and salads but decided I was going to take the lazy quick route and just do my canning all in chunk tomatoes which I reasoned could be opened and made into quick pizza sauce as needed thus avoiding all the bulk cooking, actually canning the stuff AND would help ease the reminder that tomatoes are on my no-no list.  Well my plan backfired big time when I made up some of that quick sauce the other night for  family pizza night.  My 6 year old suspiciously eyed the stuff and asked "Isn't this your old sauce?" and from that point managed to spoil the rest of the meal with constant remarks about how yuck it was and how he wanted the "old sauce".  Finally in exasperation I turned to my husband who was cheerfully but not very speedily eating his piece of pizza and asked him if it was as awful as son made it out to be (remember I can't even taste it).  He paused (wise man ;) and then kindly said, "well it IS kind of bland". Big lesson for mama--apparently to have the edible "old sauce" one must simmer it--DUH!
So today was dubbed tomato day.  My entire deck table was full of large tomatoes.  I dutifully gathered my ingredients and set out to cook up some love for my son who has apparently become quite the foodie with very precise tastes!

Sink full!

lots of yummy including the last of my frozen peppers as we are eating the fresh to fast to save up for this!


lots of hubby's famous Candy onions

basil & oregano

and of course, my trusty Vitamix!

I simply cut the tops and bad spots off and whir away--less waste and less time!

I let it set for a bit then skim the foam off the top--easy peasey!

Somehow I missed this old wives fable tip--simply running cold water in your sink while peeling/chopping onions makes so you don't cry while working with even the stoutest onions!  Who knew?  It really worked tho I felt kind of silly wasting all that water.

trusty buddy again..chopping onions this time!  I do that with my peppers too.  God is so creative with color!

My helper whose reward will be "old sauce"

My big girl getting the cans ready for recycle

Sauce...

and more sauce!  Spagetti anyone?

I have to keep a tally sheet to remember how many pitchers of juice I put in the pot!

And now for the recipe:

  • 2 qts tomatoes blended in Vitamix
  • 3 onions
  • 4 peppers
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 c tomato paste
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t basil
I simply blend the tomatoes, then puree the onions, peppers and garlic in the Vitamix and add to the tomatoes.  Add spices, oils (can use all butter or all olive oil) and paste.  Simmer until desired thickness-about 2 hours.  ENJOY!


After 40 + quarts we had to sample it at supper time and it got the official passing grade from my dear son who emphatically said "Mom this is soooo good!  It IS your old sauce."
Yup that makes it all worth it ~ It's the little things
















Monday, August 12, 2013

Aunt Dini

When I married into the Miller family, I was blessed to gain a precious gem of an aunt, Odena.  Single, spunky and very independent, "Dini" as she was dubbed by the older grandchildren is the only sibling of Lowell's dad and always lavishly spoiled Lowell and his 2 brothers, Merlin & Keith and seemingly decided to carry on that tradition with their wives and great nieces and nephews.  Her spoiling usually includes food whether it's her famous Christmas caramels, smarties in her purse, making freezer pickles for Lowell & mustard pickles for Keith or keeping the milk house supplied with a large pan of cookies or bars.  (And did I mention she still helps with the milking?)   She is also big on birthdays and always gives cards that are more then just birthday cards from a box.  I have often been touched at how mine usually always says "to my niece".  
Before I really got to know her, I thought her to be gruff and a bit rough around the edges but my how my opinion of her has changed.  She is kind, has a huge heart and would give the shirt off her back to help someone!  Over the last years as my children have gotten older and mostly potty trained,  she began coming over to babysit when I needed someone.  She gets downright huffy with me if I don't ask her to come each week and keeps track of exactly how long it has been since she was here.  Plus the children love her to pieces and can't wait to see her again.  She pretty much lets them get away with murder but hey, she is the most reliable, available 83 year old I have ever met and she takes good care of my precious ones.
Today she showed up with cabbage from her garden, 2 big stout heads ( sauer kraut coming up~yum!).  The children were bringing in abundant harvest from the garden and something was mentioned about the fact that we were doing apples today.  Right away spoke up and informed me she would be staying to help me.  I stammered around, secretly relieved but feeling overwhelmed at her leaving her work to come do mine.  She insisted.  So she stayed.  Not only are my 2 bushels of apples done, I have 17 pints of her old recipe (garlic sweet dill) pickles all finished and waiting to come out of the canner. 





Going home with her cane and her basket

I never cease to be amazed at how God sends us just what we need right when we need it.  Today He sent a dear cabbage-bearing-Dini to make my load lighter and my day just a bit brighter!   I am so blessed!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Vitamix Applesauce

Here I am about to do another shameless commercial for a most favorite kitchen appliance of all time ~ my Vitamix!
My family was not typical Mennonite in the eating applesauce department until....I discovered the smooth  delicious applesauce quickly produced in my trusty Vitamix!
 My Grandpa Wagler was the one who introduced our family to the Vitamix many years ago.  My sister Rhoda and I used to love throwing a bit of this and a little of that in and seeing what kind of delicious smoothies we could concoct (not one we produced ever tasted like before)   A few years ago my parents upgraded and I was the lucky keeper of their old one which happened to be kind of stuck in one speed but hey, beggars can't be choosers and I loved that machine.  So quick a way to have freshly ground flax seeds or yummy smoothies which are actually totally smooth!  Then for one of my recent birthdays my parents got me one of my very own in my most favorite color ~ red!  I have done so many things with it that are pure deliciousness and my kids actually love most all of the things we make.  It sure helps to have a huge cookbook that came with it that has recipes in it for anything from juice to ice coffees to alfredo sauce and of course my favorite smoothies. I have had many friends try to save money and buy the cheaper blenders but often come around and buy the real deal saying they wish they had gone there in the first place.
Anyhow back to my applesauce.  I was doing some research about the healthiest way to keep whole food the most nutritious and came across many articles stating that freezing was better then canning (I always canned my sauce)  and how boiling our food basically boils out the nutrients.  I experimented a bit and figured out that simply cutting the apples in half, leaving the skins in tact and removing the seeds and stems worked perfectly for preserving nutrition.


I then take the apples and add just enough water on the bottom of my pan to make sure they don't scorch and have something to produce a little steam but not saturate them with water and cook them till the apples are just hot making sure not to get them to boiling temperature.


Here is where my Vitamix comes in!  I simply fill the pitcher with the hot apples, follow the general directions for speed and in less then a minute have a pitcher full of warm yummyness!


I love experimenting with different kinds of apples.  This week we were blessed with 3 bushels of Yellow Transparent which are a more tart apple.  I added about 3 or 4 cups of raw evaporated cane sugar to my whole big bowl full (I think it is a 32 or 40 cup bowl) and my kidos couldn't stop eating it.  I love using Red and Yellow Delicious as I don't have to use any sugar then and we love the smooth sweetness present in the apples themselves.  It's also fun to use a combination of different apples.  The possibilities are endless!


I have served it many times when we have had guests and they almost always comment on how silky and smooth the consistency is.  We are also now keeping up with the Mennonite applesauce trends and filling our tummies with healthful goodness in the process.  





Thursday, August 1, 2013

Love and Marriage

I am happily married (most of the time).  There are those days when I wonder what in the world I was thinking marrying this thru and thru Iowan who lived in the same house, attended the same church, shopped in the same town and had the same friends his whole entire life.  My life on the other hand was lived on a much, shall we say, broader scope.  LOL!  I can't count on 2 hands how many houses I have lived in but with my personality that was just fine--I mean who wouldn't love the adventure of having a new room and more new friends every few years?
If you would have told me 20 years ago how much work went into the institution of marriage I would have looked at you with my star gazer glasses on and said "O but when you find your soul mate.." and "who ever fights?  about money of all things?"   Yeah I was young and thought I knew all about it...
 I really can't imagine life with out my soul mate who IS the man of my dreams.  I can't tell you how long I prayed he would ask me out and then FINALLY he did!  After a whirlwind courtship we set off together with a whole truckload of ideals and a teeny tiny amount of "know how".  We spent time in a third world country, faced infertility, experienced humiliating loss, endured a painful ugly period of separation and somewhere along the way gave birth to 4 precious miracles who have changed our selfish lifestyles profoundly.  We are far from perfect (I often get in trouble for somehow portraying that?) but we have a history and by the grace of God will continue weaving our own legacy for our our children.  There are still lots of things I wish I could change about him but hey it's a 2 way street and I know I am not perfect! We are total opposites and both of us are firstborns (scary really!) but hey our life is never dull that's for sure!  And while our romance may not be scripted like the movies (yeah we always end up at Walmart and/or Hyvee on our rare date nights) it's perfect for me and a special blessing and gift from the Creator of love and marriage Himself!
The reality of the work that goes into every great marriage is enough to scare the most lovely, very brave souls away from taking the plunge and sadly is being played out in the decline of marriage even in the church today. A beautiful young friend recently made the comment to me that she doesn't desire to burden herself with marriage as every marriage she sees around her is failing and miserable.  How sad and how often true? Marriage IS hard and we as the church are not making it any easier.  What would happen if instead of gossiping about every detail of something suddenly made public like a divorce or separation, we took those moments and lifted the couple in the spot light to God's throne?  What if we tried to imagine life in their shoes and it scared us enough to keep our mouths shut and our knees worn?  As I ramble away here my heart is heavy for those around me who are in the depths of distress and despair in their marriages.  Being honest about pain is hard and opens us up to other people and their reactions and judgements of our circumstances. What would happen if we put aside judgement and were more open with each other and could step along side each other saying "we struggle too"?
Because our personal history includes marriage issues that became public I feel the pain of others in sad marriages in deeper ways then I ever imagined.  God has a way of making good things, learning and wisdom come out of our deepest pain.  I do believe he is calling those of us who are married to mirror his love to each other through our marriages thus affecting the negative viewpoints of marriage in general and establishing a more caring environment in our church families and our world around us where those who are hurting can be honest with out receiving judgement! After all marriage is a gift to be nurtured, treasured and enjoyed to the fullest!

                                                          My Love & I

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Heritage of Reading

I come from a long line of folks who love to read.  Many of the my Mama's family, the Waglers have libraries full of every sort of book.  Many of them probably come from auctions or the Goodwill store or are gifts and some were handed down from the generation before. My mom has a small room built especially for her books.  It is packed full to overflowing just like the library shelves in my Uncle Jesse and Uncle Titus's house and many of the other uncles and aunts too I am sure.
As a youngster I used to love the long awaited summer trips out to the far land of Iowa visiting family and living life Amish, something my sister Janice and I sincerely planned to do when we were FINALLY  8 & 10.  (Glad we got deterred from that one, that's a story for another day)   But, probably one of the biggest highlights of the trip was spending hours in Grandpa's bookstore, Brookside Books, a messy little metal building that had books stashed in every possible space.  Since my parents were shunned, their money was not accepted so we always made out like book bandits with the stash we went home with each summer visit tho I am sure us being the grandchildren they only saw once every 2 years or so made a small difference in that arrangement also.  Once Grandpa actually did let my sister pay ten cents for one of the whole sets of Janette Oke books.  Many of the books I treasure are from those days and still sit on prominent places in my bookshelf.  Some of them Grandma actually wrote our names in.  Those are the extra special ones!
I don't remember my Dad's family, the Marners being readers like mama's but Dad definitely stepped up to bat on the reading thing.  As long as I can remember Sunday afternoons were spent with us kids sprawled out all over the living room and Dad sitting there reading to us until he nodded off.  We never wanted him to quit and always begged him to continue.  I don't have any idea how many times we read the Laura Ingles' "Little House on the Prairie" series or the Mother Westwind  animal series about Jimmy Skunk and his friends or many of the other goldie oldies I have big plans to read with my own children.  Somewhere along the line we read Wilson Rawls' "Summer of the Monkeys" which is still one of my favorites today.  Mom often read to us too.  I can still hear the exact way her tones changed as she read Farmer Brown..."said Farmer Brown, Tra la, Tra le.  Today's my birthday, lucky me..."
Those are the days I long for, when books magically transported us away to Avonlea and down into the hollar with Jayberry spying for monkeys or staying warm in the cold sod house with Laura and Mary.  Technology has changed how children are raised now.  Books are often considered boring and set on shelves collecting dust.  Tvs, Ipads and cell phones have robbed us of precious moments bonding while reading stories together.  I am guilty.  How sad!
My children do have books,  many books! My hubby didn't always understand why I have the unquenchable thirst to buy every old book I see or why the children would need another book for every birthday or holiday or why one would need to fill 5 bookshelves with books of all things, but he is learning. Now he even says someday he will build me a room for my books.  I am looking forward to that.  Meanwhile I stash books everywhere in hopes that my children will get a sweet taste of the world outside our box experienced simply by picking up a book and gazing at the pages.  I am trying to be more intentional about putting aside what I am doing and reading to them when they ask.  Some days when I inwardly groan and moan about how many times I already read the same old story over and over like small children happen to prefer and all I really want to do is just move along to another subject and read something else, it's then I remember how many memories are forming in their minds and how maybe someday they will look back and remember my exact tone when I read them the Hungry Caterpillar or Green Eggs and Ham and hopefully the legacy I leave will carry on with the gift I have experienced ~ a heritage of stories, reading and a lifetime of love.  I'm telling you..It's the little things.

video
The other evening Abby was getting tired and was begging for her favorite story which currently is "the Hungry Caterpillar".  She finally took matters into her own hands and began "reading" by herself.  My apologies to those of you who watched this already, but hey it's too cute to not share with the world right?!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Diet & Exercise

Two of my least favorite words are DIET & EXERCISE.  Here again, it's simply a mind set boiling down to choices I make.  I can chose!  My recent upgrade in the healthier living department has produced plenty of challenges.  I adore bread, pasta and mostly heavily carb loaded meals.  They make me happy or so I thought till I started living with terrible pain in the form of Trigeminal Neuralgia and being diagnosed as basically borderline diabetic.  Not saying bread and yummy carbs made me ill ~ most likely it boils down to my lack of self control in eating balanced meals and an extreme lack of exercise tho I do run after 4 little ones all day long which I really think should count for something?! Right?
When I met Dr. Jason Bradley, my current doc who is walking me thru the process of these life style changes I had no idea what all he was going to put me thru.  Not only did he say I need to take a break from grains, he said I have to watch calories (something I have NEVER done) and exercise.  UGGGH!! He took lots of tests (including 8 whole tubes of blood) and figured out what was good for my body and what was not.  Right off the top he eliminated corn, peas, peanuts, pork and garlic, that last one just about put me over the edge - I eat (well ate) garlic in everything.  Some of the foods I will probably never eat again (the first 4 are on my severe list).  I do have a huge list of foods I can eat in abundance, most fruits, lots of veggies, beef, turkey, fish etc. and hey I can eat cocoa!  So life is good!  One of my first responses was despair at the items I couldn't eat but somewhere along the way I decided to rule the list instead of letting the list rule me.  In other words, find ways to deliciousness despite my limitations.
One of my favorite concoctions is my daily lunchtime smoothie which has high greens content and is super yummy.  I am blessed to have a Vitamix which makes the best smoothies EVER hands down!  Plus it is filling and comes in at about 100 calories more or less.
Here is the recipe:


  • 2-3  c baby spinach (depends how "green" you are ;) 
  • 1/2 c frozen whole strawberries
  • 1/2 c frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/3 c frozen blackberries
  • 1/4 c pomegranite seeds
  • 1 c water

My trusty Vitamix and my yummy lunch!


Secondly Dr. Bradley gave me a fabulous 4 minute exercise program to follow, Tabatas.  Haven't heard of them?  I hadn't either. Basically you exercise in 20 second time segments then rest 10 seconds, doing that for a total of 8 cycles, making a grand total of 4 minutes of our precious time but having the same effect, if done correctly, as a 20-30 run!  I can do that.  There is not a lot written on line about Tabatas the way he explained them to me, but, his program is working.  I did find a fabulous timer on line that I pinned and use in my sessions. I usually do a combination of jumping jacks, running in place and half pushups and trust me, the 4 minute part is fab but I usually feel like I am going to die at the end but man is it adrenalin rush to actually realize that not only can I cross an item of my should do list but I feel great afterwards too once the heart rate slows down ;)  
 The particular timer that I use is this one :   http://tabatatimer.com/ 
You can get it as an app for your phone but since my phone isn't that smart I just exercise by my computer.
On down this particular link on the right hand side is an encouraging paragraph about choosing exercise and how doing something is better then doing nothing!
Lastly Dr. Bradley introduced me to http://www.loseit.com/.  It is a free fabulous way to track eating and exercise, charting weight loss and helping you set goals.  Check it out!  
My conclusion is that my attitude and how well I use the tools God has blessed me with will make the biggest impact on my viewpoint of my two "favorite" words.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Morning Traditions

Like I previously stated I love food.  Breakfast is one of my most anticipated meals of the day just a step ahead of dinner and supper.  I lay awake at night dreaming of what I will create in a few hours.  Sunday mornings are a favorite breakfast for us all!  With all the hectic that goes along with getting 4 little ones ready for church, figuring out lunch plans and making sure I am presentable, I decided a long time ago I needed a regular habitual breakfast to ensure the morning moves along according to schedule.  A lot of tweaking later we have a must have favorite that the kidos beg for during the week but know with the exception of special days like birthdays this will only grace our table on Sunday ~ Baked Oatmeal!  We love ours loaded with chocolate chips (yeah, probably not the healthiest but at least most of the rest of the recipe is very healthy not to mention delish! and chocolate is a bean right?! ) I actually love to sprinkle mine with any variety of fresh fruit- blueberries, strawberries, bananas.  Here is the recipe.

Mama's Baked Oatmeal
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 c oil (I prefer coconut or olive oil)
  • 1c milk (have tried pretty much every kind and it is all good!-cows, goats, almond, rice, coconut)
  • 1 c honey (I love using half maple syrup)
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 t bkg pwd
  • 1 T ground flax
  • 3  1/2 c oatmeal
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • toppings can be eaten on top or baked into
Bake at 350 for 20-30 min or until nicely browned and set.
Serve hot with cold milk and toppings


All ready to bake ~ Yum coming up!



I wish one could post smells



Now as I already stated personal health issues have put my eating habits on a different path.  I have started a program with my doctor where I am grain and dairy free at least for now.  I can not tell you how much better I already feel! But that's a story for another day.  I am learning about Paleo eating and how it isn't totally as weird/gross as I had pictured.  Yes I love grains, especially my own freshly ground wheat but for now I am a student of learning about how I can create delicious in the realm of things currently in my food plan.  I was craving waffles.  My doctor challenged me to come up with my own nut flour based ones. My first thought was CAPITAL yuck!,  that he hadn't a clue what he was talking about,  but figured it was worth a try.  After combing the internet for recipe ideas,  I took a few I thought sounded decent and put them together and wowza I actually have something great to look forward to my self!  I posted one of my versions on Facebook earlier this week. Here is my latest version--mama's new Sunday morning tradition!

My Favorite
Almond Flour Waffles
  • 1c almond meal
  • 1/2 t bkg. pwd
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 T ground flax
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 1/8 - 1/4 c coconut or almond milk
Mix all ingredients together except the eggs whites.  Beat whites till stiff then add.  Add enough of the milk to make a nice consistency.  Bake in hot waffle iron making sure to grease before each one.  These seem to bake quicker then regular ones so watch them carefully making sure not to over do.


This morning I had 1/2 a banana and maple syrup from my favorite Midwestern farm, Glenna Farms on top of my yummy


Another plus is stepping on the scale for my weigh in and being able to celebrate officially losing 10 lbs!

I'm telling you...It's the little things.