When it rains, it pours. Get in the habit of fighting stress spiritually. Really. Otherwise, it’s always going to be a downhill battle. Get in the habit of greeting every test with scripture. I have several on the tip of my tongue, at the wise counsel of my parents’ years ago. In terms of spiritual warfare, David Jeremiah once said the Bible is an arsenal of weapons, verses are swords to be used in times of trial. What, after all, did Jesus do when Satan tempted him in the wilderness? He responded by quoting scripture to the evil one. 

My favorite is “Rejoice in everything.”  (Philippians 4:4) I mean, this one will have me smiling in the midst of some really bad stuff, because of its hilarity in my situation if nothing else. 

  • Rejoice at the prospect of rinsing the third pair of grossly filled training pants that my toddler has produced in the last 24 hrs?
  • Rejoice that my husband sold his best rifle with its scope and bipod just in time to pay the $500 deductible on my latest attack on our vehicle? (I went 11 years of marriage not even having a speeding ticket and in the last 2 years I’ve been at fault for 2 minor and 1 major repair jobs to our Suburban). 

In past years, my mantra “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6) kept me sane through our 5 years of self-employment, where we didn’t even have the luxury of living paycheck to paycheck…more like project to project as we tried to live off of income that needed to go back into a brand new enterprise. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6) was another one I thought of often during those lean years. I’m still working on the contentment, but I’ve gained a lot of ground! And I’m so good at not being anxious now, that I’ve moved on to trying to find reason to rejoice—no matter what. 

When times get tough, Christians need to be prepared. Have 5 or more promises or directives from scripture and be really familiar with them. This simple strategy is a powerful way to draw on God’s strength when you’re at your weakest.  Little things here and there don’t get me down, big things by themselves just kick me into faith-mode, but the little things piling up…that’s where I struggle. Yet God says to “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials.” (James 1:2) Consider it joy. Rejoice always. 

We’ve been on a roller-coaster health trip the past two weeks. Sleep hasn’t been good. Money’s been tight. Dh has been selling things dear to him. Yesterday he had me advertise our registered paint mare that we bought in our newlywed days…great bloodlines, great kid horse—exactly the kind you don’t want to sell. But alfalfa and prairie hay are triple what they cost last year, thanks to the drought. We’re horse poor with our little herd. Property taxes are due, and our state is a killer for taxes. Christmas is around the corner. My dishwasher bit the dust. Last night I backed into a guard rail hard enough to cause hundreds of dollars of damage to our vehicle. That was the last straw and I didn’t even realize it till I was telling my parents about it. All of the sudden, here I am crying because my husband is selling things to help us pay our debt, and I cause him more debt. Of course, he’s an angel to me, glad no one was hurt, etc.  

Rejoice! These are only the momentary afflictions of my human life here on earth. I have a Savior, a future and a hope. My husband and children are saved. We have a wonderful Bible-teaching church. I am surrounded by the best of family, with only one out of state “branch”. Me and mine are in great health considering. We have a home. We have vehicles.  I like hand-washing dishes in winter!

Can you ‘rejoice in everything’ with me?

What better gift to give our Savior this Christmas, than the sacrifice of praise?

Cooking and Food Family Ties

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

generalstoreYesterday the girls and I spent from 8:30 AM-5:30 PM making graham cracker gingerbread houses. We do this each year with homeschooling friends…one of our favorite Christmas traditions!

This is a craft that can be as detailed and intricate as you want it to be. Using graham crackers instead of gingerbread takes a lot of the headache out of the process, making it very “mom” friendly!

northpolebiblechurchOver the years I’ve made these fun little houses in many sizes and themes. If you want a fun and easy version go here or here. For this version, you can use as few as 3 full graham crackers per child. Here’s another cute site with several to look at.

For a more impressive version, you’d have to get Traditional Christmas Cooking, Crafts & Gifts by Cy DeCosse. There’s a several page spread in there with diagrams to help you make a fancy town…

We start by combining our efforts with another family or two. We decide which candies each family will buy, and then we pool all of them together for the maximum effect!

Here are some of our favorites:

  • miniature candy canes (for stair rails up into churches or for “props” to hold up a 1/4 graham cracker door overhang)
  • normal sized candy canes (these are cute stuck in snow icing with a gumdrop stuck to the curved end–ta-da: a lamp-post!)
  • wafer cookies–the rectangular kind (we make benches out of them–to put under the lamp-posts. Use sugar cubes for the bench “feet”. You can also use wafers to make shutters for your windows, or to line the roof of store-front type buildings such as the General Store in the the book I linked above)
  • Gumdrops (flattened and cut to fit, these make great window panes. Cut them in different shapes/sizes and make stained glass windows for your town’s church)
  • Sugar cones (steeple for the church, or frost with green icing and decorate for Christmas trees)
  • Red and Green M&M’s
  • Red hot cinnamon candies
  • Peppermint hard candies (great stepping stones to your bench)
  • Hershey Kisses
  • Cereals: Grape nuts for gravel pathways, Shredded Wheat for hay bales, Chex for shutters
  • Pretzels–straight ones for porch railings, miniature rounded ones for fences around the yard, simply stick them in snow frosting
  • Marshmallows–use toothpicks to make snowmen out of these, or cut them into small pieces and pile in the yard for snowballs
  • Red and Green sugar, or candy sprinkles to shake on snowy rooftops

You get the idea…

MsgingerbreadhouseEach family also needs to bring cardboard bases to be covered with tin foil. We like to use Cinnamon Graham Crackers because the darker cracker looks more authentic for buildings. Plan on one box per house, if you’re tackling a large one.

For icing, you can buy meringue powder at any cake decorating store or in that section at Wal-Mart and follow the instructions inside for Royal Icing. Or, an easier and quicker way, is to use white Almond Bark. Melt it in the microwave and pipe it, or spread it with a knife to “caulk” your house seams together.

Yesterday we made the house w/yard, the church and the general store pictured above. On Saturday we’ll be taking them to our local rest home for their visual enjoyment!

And yes, I’ll try to find a pic of last years to post here sometime soon!

Family Ties Home Schooling

Aromatic Dough Ornaments

This is a family friendly Christmas craft, and the results are so beautiful you’ll be making them for your tree, and making gift sets for all your friends and family! Yes, they turn out a beautiful, dark glossy brown and there’s no shelf life for these items. We’ve had ours for a good four years now–still lookin’ and smellin’ good!aromaticdoughtree.jpg

Aromatic Dough Ornaments (not for eating!)

  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup salt
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon
  • 1 TB ground cloves
  • 1TB ground allspice
  • ¾ tsp powdered alum
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  1. Combine flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves and alum in a medium mixing bowl. Add water. Mix well to form dough. Shape into a ball. Knead on lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes or till the dough is smooth.(If too stiff, sprinkle with additional water; if too moist add flour) Spray baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray, set aside. Heat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Roll dough to ¼ inch thickness on lightly floured surface, working with small portions of dough at a time. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. I think larger cookie cutters are best for these ornaments (eg, 3″x4″ or so). We have Christmas trees, hearts, gingerbread people, and music notes on our tree!
  3. Embellish cutouts, if desired, with red hots or cloves. We didn’t, I love their simplicity and smooth brownness!
  4. Use a drinking straw to poke a hole through the top for hanging.
  5. Place cutouts on prepared baking sheet, and bake for 2 hours till tops are dry and feel firm to the touch. (Your house will smell sooo good!)
  6. Remove ornaments to a rack and set aside for 24 hours or more to complete drying. For glossier appearance, lightly spray cutouts with vegetable spray.
  7. Insert ribbon or raffia through straw holes, knot ends together.

heartdough.jpgAnother adorable use for these ornaments is as a window swag. Instead of poking holes through the top of the ornaments, poke them through the sides and string red or natural colored raffia through the holes. My favorite combination is gingerbread men and hearts with the natural colored raffia…hanging across the middle section of your window.

Every Christmas tree needs at least a dozen of these ornaments….don’t you think?

P.S. originally this post had a picture of a dough ornament from my friend Jill, but a few months ago I moved all my blog content from a wordpress free blog to this website and not all the pictures survived the move. I’ve since added pictures of my own, having long lost Jill’s. 🙁

Cooking and Food Family Ties Home Schooling

Cowboy Cookie Mix

This is a tasty cookie mix–and the layers in a quart jar are visually tempting…from your basic flour, white and brown sugars to quick oats, pecans (optional) and chocolate chips.

We’ve done it before at homeschool Christmas gift making parties, and plan to do it again this year. Go to the Frugal Homemaker’s website for recipe specifics, and also for printable instruction labels to add to your jar! While there have fun browsing her many “gift mix” recipes (not just cookies, but soups also!). My 9 year old is currently putting together “Snow Balls Mix”, using a nifty tin as her container. 

If you use a glass quart canning jar, embellish it with a Christmasy fabric topper, and tie with raffia.

Ta-da, Merry Christmas and Happy Budgeting!

Christianity Parenting

Answered Prayer

The Christmas Program was tonight. Remember my six year old, and her growing paranoia about being in the spotlight?

She did great! Her lines were the laugh of the night (purposely), unless you count my toddler prematurely leaving her place as an angel and taking numerous center-stage “bows” before the audience. (No shyness there…yet).

Thank you for your prayers, this was a wonderful opportunity for growth in my six year old. She pushed through her fear for the most part in the last few practices (clenching and reclenching her hands in her skirts, forcing her lines out), and tonight it was hard to tell she’d ever had any problems.

God is good, all the time!