An attempt to declare the Glory of God for what He has chosen to do with our lives. A legacy to leave to my children in the telling of it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Hot Chocolate Morning

It's a hot chocolate morning. The air is nippy enough to need extra quilts on the beds now, and when I couldn't stand it any longer this morning, I hiked down the basement steps and started the wood stove. Cole even shortened his daily run and only made it to the end of the driveway, cat and dog trailing behind him, commenting when he came in that it was too cold to go any further. Had I been quick enough I would have snapped a picture of the sunrise beaming behind him on his way back up, but the recliner felt too good to move that fast. He sat down at the dining room table with his cup and plunged back into his school work, hoping to finish early so he could be free for the afternoon.

Even hot chocolate hurts. Somehow, it's easier to pour only four cups now, but never without that familiar dull ache that begins around my heart and threatens to overflow in tears. That ache is lighter this morning after being on my knees before God. Today, I was able to remember the promises and look forward to eternity; the bearing of my cross seeming to have some purpose.

My mind refuses to rest, but words have been sparse lately. I tell myself that I will sit down and force them out, but then so often only find myself staring at a blank computer screen. I long for the flow again.

I have been pondering eternity, salvation, suffering, relationships, soap, the great outdoors, and how to live without investing my life here but rather for an inheritance in heaven. I haven't quite figured it all out. I've been wondering if Trent has gotten over the awe of being in heaven yet. As I continue to praise God daily that he is there, it dawned on me that he is there. If my praise has continued for nineteen months, what must his be like?

An amazing conversation happened around our kitchen island the other day when the kids and I were trapped with nowhere to escape because we where elbow deep in pumpkin guts. We started talking about what it might have been like for Trent that afternoon as he went down that slope and saw his first glimpse of Jesus. I nearly held my breath as I heard the work that God has been doing in these little souls that surround me; work that I was unaware of. We live our lives side by side, so close and busy together, but so often we neglect to talk about what matters.

I honestly can't imagine what it would be like to see Jesus. Even the thought brings tears and overwhelms me. I feel the insignificance of being allowed in His presence. I feel the slightest sense of His holiness as I think of it. I feel my sin and my need for a Savior.

God did an amazing work by using Trent's death to save my brother in law. For these many months it has been a great joy amidst the sorrow to see his life dramatically transformed. A couple of weeks ago we had the joy of witnessing my sister's whole family being baptized together. Talking a few days after the baptism, Brenda shared the remorse that it took Trent's death to have their eyes opened. I felt the impact like never before of what salvation really cost. Somebody did die, sin was that serious. Jesus died.

Rob read us the story of the crucifixion from the book of Mark at our family devotions last night. I could hardly stand to hear the words. My finite brain can't make suffering equal eternal glory, but Scripture tells us it's so. If anything, perseverance is going to be what gets me. Only by the grace of God do the days marked off on a seemingly never ending calendar make sense without my son. I used to be so content in this world: goats, food, sunshine, WalMart. Now only what is done for Christ matters. For this pain I try to remember to praise God, too: for nothing satisfying other than Him, for living eternally minded rather than for here.

This concept has been popping up everywhere: suffering equaling eternal glory. James baffles me when he says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) He tells us in the next verse to ask God for wisdom. So I asked.

“Is suffering worth it?” My Bible notes inquire about the age old question to myself again and again.

God's answer to me on that sunny morning nearly a month ago came from 2 Thessalonians 1:11 and 1 Timothy 1:12-18. Sweet promises made personal.

“Suffering causes {me} to be counted worthy of God's calling- it is only endured by God's power- ultimately so that Jesus will be glorified in me, and me in Him according to the grace of God. Scripture says that God appointed {me} to His service. He gives strength. He considered {me} faithful, even though I am a sinner, the greatest of all sinners as Paul says, all by the grace of God that is poured out abundantly. I need to PERSEVERE because through suffering God is revealing His mercy and His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. All for the honor and glory of God for ever and ever. Fight the good fight.”

Jesus' glory on this earth was the cross. He told us that as His followers we would be given crosses to carry. Heavy, splintered, bloody crosses. Burdens and yokes that would be impossible to endure aside from His grace. A constant reminder that this is not our home, a reminder of our longing for an eternal home. Somehow those crosses work to crush us, the sinful flesh part of us, and allow Jesus alone to shine through. The weight of those crosses seems to be what shatters anything in us that has no godly value and reveals our allegiance to our God, or His to us. They reveal more than we want them to, and make us go deep.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)

Suffering, a crown, eternal glory, and a Savior worth trusting. Somehow it makes sense, even when I can't seem to make it make sense.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

School Lunches

In an attempt to become organized and make our lives easier with the new busy home school schedule, I created a two week revolving lunch menu. Based on our four day school week, a menu was planned of items that could either be froze ahead or easily prepared by the older kids if I am busy teaching the younger ones. Most of the meals can stand alone if need be, or a simple vegetable or fruit could be added to round it out. We have a designated school shelf that is stocked with the ingredients needed to make the meals that aren't in the freezer. The other benefit of this plan is that there should even be plenty of left-overs for Rob to take to work the next day. For one afternoon of working in the kitchen we have a whole month of school meals prepared without wondering "what's for lunch today?"

Week 1:

Make your own pizza
Tator Tot Hotdish
Spaghetti Hotdish

Week 2:

Hot Dogs and Macaroni
Chicken and Broccoli Hotdish
Egg/Sausage/Hashbrown Bake

*Make your own pizza
Monday's are usually easier days for us, because everybody is excited to start a new week of school, which means that {hopefully} a couple of kiddos will be done with their work early in a race to make the pizza dough. The school shelf is stocked with our favorite pizza toppings, and there is pepperoni in the freezer.

*Tator Tot Hotdish
Rather than the typical hamburger and tomato hotdish, this one uses sausage, cheese and sourcream. A family favorite here.

1# ground sausage, browned
1/2 tub of sour cream
1 bag Tator Tots
Shredded Cheddar cheese

Layer in a 9x13 pan as listed, bake covered at 375* for 30 minutes, uncover and bake another 15 minutes or until the cheese is browned.

Most of our kids can whip up a batch of Grandma Lee's pancakes by themselves and have them ready for me to fry. The school shelf is stocked with extra flour, baking powder, and syrup (plus frozen strawberries are in the freezer) and eggs are usually in abundance around here.

2 Eggs
2 cups of Milk
1/2 cup Sugar
2 cups of Flour
4 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder

*Spaghetti Hotdish
1/2 box of Spaghetti noodles, boiled until soft
1# browned hamburger
1 jar Spahetti sauce
Shredded cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella cheese
Black Olives, sliced

Layer all ingredients in a 9x13 pan as listed, bake covered at 375* for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until cheese is browned.

*Chicken and Broccoli Hotdish
1/2 package frozen Broccoli
2 cups cooked, cut chicken
1 can sliced water chestnuts
12 pcs. of American cheese slices
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can of milk
1 package Dried Onions
Serve with White Rice

Layer chicken, broccoli, and water chestnuts in 9x13 pan. Layer cheese on top evenly. Mix mayonnaise, cream of mushroom soup, and milk- pour over the top. Bake covered at 350* for 30 minutes, uncover and sprinkle with dried onions. Bake an additional 15 minutes. Serve with white rice.

*Egg Bake

There are many versions of this egg bake. It can be changed up everytime you make it to use whatever you have on hand. This time I made it with sausage and extra eggs, but you could also use ham or bacon, and even add spinach, black olives, salsa, peppers, onions, etc. I have never tried freezing it before, so it will be a good experiment to use up eggs.

12 eggs
1 pound of browned sausage
1/2 pkg. of frozen hashbrowns
1/2 tub of sourcream
1/2 cups of milk
Shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients, pour in a 9x13 pan. Bake at 375* for 45 minutes, or until eggs are set.


2 Quarts of tomatoes (home grown are best:)
2 pounds browned hamburger, seasoned with chili powder and garlic
2 cans kidney beans
1 can chili beans
1 chopped onion
chopped celery
chili seasoning to taste

Mix all ingredients and simmer for several hours. It's always better the next day. Serve with crackers, or sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. To freeze my chili I did not cook it down, just browned the hamburger and mixed it all together then let it cool and put it in gallon freezer bags.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Farm Catch-All

Today was pig loading day. More evidence that Summer really is winding down as we head into Fall. Our seven pigs that we purchased in April were a month bigger than we had hoped to raise them, but it only means more bacon for us and a few other families who help support our farming endeavors. We will all look forward to home grown pork in our freezers. Again, we prayed before the locker plant truck arrived, and again, the driver left smiling rather than cursing. They didn't walk single file into the trailer with no prodding like previous years, but there wasn't a fight either.
The garden is dwindling down for the season, and soon it will be retired to rest for the winter. We are already enjoying the harvest of canned pickles which we were desperately short of the last couple of seasons. The freezer has a nice supply of corn and green beans, besides all the veggies we ate throughout the summer. A few tomatoes are still clinging to the vines, but another picking should clean them out. Soon the pumpkins will be baked and frozen for all those yummy pumpkin bars and breads this winter. The goofy crossbred squash, and the zucchini that we couldn't come up with one more recipe for, is being enjoyed by the rabbits and the chickens.
The abundance of rogue sunflowers are being fed to the goats. Breeding season is upon us already, and we are beginning to dream of spotted doelings in February to make up for our buckling year this spring. Our last little buck is scheduled to be picked up and brought to his new home {Lord willing} by another happy Craigslist customer. This will be the first year in a long time that we don't have major projects to finish before the snow flies, and probably the first year that I am too tired in every way to even dream up extra projects... except possibly that screen porch that is still waiting for a roof...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Now, now, now, now, now

Now, I am all for homeschooling. I've been doing it for umpteen years and have taught a few kids how to read and write plus count past their toes. But I must confess, that big yellow school bus gets very tempting at times. Like this week ... as we are braving the class room to dig through curriculum books to prepare for a new scholastic year. Everyone was all excited last week when we were just talking about the pencil sales and structured schedules and filling the snack tote for busy days. But when the work begins and they have to actually start using those new pencils the tune seems to change.

I had three nearly in tears already yesterday. You know it's going to be a doozey of a year when one certain child is surprised that you take away their calculator for a third grade math placement test. I keep trying to encourage them that the death of their brother is a good excuse for having missed out on a few math concepts, and who really needs to know what "x" is anyway? Just how important is algebra? Their God knowledge is astounding, right up there with faith and trust in the Almighty. I am trying to keep it all in perspective.

I have decided to try a new writing program this year for everybody. It's called Writing Strands. It is a multi-age curriculum, with eight varying levels that give a home schooling mother hope that her offspring just may master story telling before they graduate. There happen to be a couple kiddos in our home who don't embrace the written word like their mother does, but after reading through the first lesson plan for the third to seventh grade level I think this program just might work for us. Lesson 1 is very simple: write a two word sentence:

{After giving the example of a two word sentence "Bill ran" the instructions tell the student:}

You're going to write a two word sentence. Write it on other paper.

Did you write a two-word sentence? If your two-word sentence starts with Bill and ends with ran, write one on a different paper using different words. If you didn't start with Bill and end with ran, don't write another sentence.

Wait! Read that paragraph again. You must do exactly what it says. If you're in any doubt about what it means, tap yourself lightly on the nose - and read it again.

{Room to write another sentence.}

If you wrote "Bill ran," read the paragraph again. If you wrote a two-word sentence that starts with a person or a place or a thing and ends with an action word, you might have written a good sentence.

Tell your parent that you're at the end of day one. Did you do it? DO IT!

I think Mr. Dave Marks has taught a child or two how to write before. Starting with a two word sentence begins a year long journey into character development, point of view, and paragraph control with a few laughs and hopefully less stress and nagging than we've had in previous attempts.

Ready or not, homeschool year 2012-2013 is about ready to begin.