Christianity Writing

Favorite Quotes

For a long time I had this quote as my signature line in my email account:

“Faith is the bucket of power lowered by the rope of prayer into the well of God’s abundance. What we bring up depends upon what we let down. We have every encouragement to use a big bucket.”~Virginia Whitman

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. John 14:13

Do you have a favorite quote or verse to share? I’d love to read it.

Book Recommendations Canning Cooking and Food

Homemade Salsa and Canning Tips

It’s canning time again! A good friend from church passed along two big bags of tomatoes, so this morning I lugged my canning supplies down from attic storage and like a kid on Christmas morning, I dug into it. Exciting to find extra boxes of canning flats (lids) which means I can swing that many more pints or quarts than I originally thought!

The only disappointment I experience is slight regret that we haven’t been able to replace the dishwasher that quit on me…however long ago that was (last summer?). Dishwashers are so good for disinfecting jars and rings and keeping your jars on the hot side, which is a requirement when filling with hot salsa. But then, I’m always bragging about how much I love the simple, old-fashioned life, so here’s my chance to put my words into practice!

Nothing like canning to heat up a kitchen! Every burner is busy on my stove…one canner full of cold water and clean jars that can heat up together (ta-da: hot jars ready to fill)…one saucepan with lids and rings keeping hot…one kettle with boiling water to dip tomatoes in before their plunge into chilled water (skin just slips off)…and another kettle handy into which I’ll pour the hot water from the canning jars once I’m ready to exchange their H2O for salsa!

I’d be remiss here if I didn’t recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Dehydration. Ever want to make Kiwi Jam? Pickled Okra? Peach Butter? This book is a homemaker’s dream. I’d think every woman should have a copy, not knowing what the future holds for our country. I’m not going Y2K on you, just advocating preparedness.

Never canned before? Find a Farm and Ranch Supply store and browse that aisle. You’ll see many tools of the trade. Besides canners, there are jar lifters (a must), wide-mouthed funnels (another must) and magnetic lid/ring lifters (not so necessary, I use a fork and quick fingers to lift mine from the hot saucepan). If you’d rather, just browse canning tools and supplies online…you’ll get hooked, I promise!

The following salsa recipe was one of my top hits last year, though it doesn’t have the hundreds of comments that the Amish Friendship Bread has to show for its popularity. I thought I’d repost it here today. My dh and I think it tastes a lot like the salsa at Carlos O’ Kelly’s, a popular Mexican restaurant here in the midwest.

Mary’s Mild Salsa–makes 10 pints

22 tomatoes (I put in twice as many if they’re on the small-to-medium side)
4 bell peppers, chopped fine
3 onions, chopped fine
1 cup vinegar
3/4-1 cup jalepeno peppers, chopped fine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
1 cup (12 oz) tomato paste (I omit this)
Cilantro to taste
3 cloves garlic minced

After getting skin off tomatoes (dip in boiling water 20 seconds, then into cold–skin falls off), put 2/3 of them in blender and blend. Chop the rest of them (if you have a good blender you can blend all veggies together, we like it chunky) and put all ingredients into pot, bring to a boil and then simmer for 25 minutes. Use a ladle and funnel to fill hot jars with salsa, leaving 1 inch headspace. Slip a plastic knife or other non-metal straight object along sides of jar to release any bubbles. Wipe jar rim with clean washcloth for a good seal. Apply lid and ring and put jar into canner. It will be fine as you continue filling pints/quarts till canner is full. Water bathe pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20.

Some people like to buy salsa “mix” at Wal Mart. I did this one year, and though the label said “mild” it wasn’t! That was a huge waste of my time and tomatoes, not nearly as good as homemade with all the fresh veggie additions and I was the only one who could handle the “heat”. So be warned.

If you want pictures and another recipe, this site has great pictures.

Well, I’m off…

Just two things:

Don’t forget that the Carnival of Modesty deadline is this Friday, August 3rd! Follow this link to submit and join the fun!

Be on the look-out this week, I have a wonderful author interview to post from friend and fellow homeschooler, Amy Wallace. She graciously shared how she schedules everything in, and her favorite curriculums, all in all it’s a very encouraging and uplifting read! As is her book Ransomed Dreams. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

Christianity Marriage

Marriage: Serving With Gladness

You’ve heard that true happiness is found in serving others? We Christians especially should cultivate this bit of wisdom, following Christ’s example. Because when the focus is on us and our desires, we’re wide open to discontent and heartache, and the resentment that often follows repeated disappointments.

Of course, so much depends on your personality. Sloughing off hurtful things has always come easily to me. I remember telling my childhood friend Myrtle, at age 5, that I was so mad at her I was never going to speak to her again! Less than an hour later I was back at her house making peace. And because of that, I realized at a tender age, that it was never worth it to harbor resentment.

Two Happy People


It’s served me well in marriage. Again, my dh rarely shows his frustration, but the times that he has directed it at me it’s been easier to immediately forgive and dismiss it as him having a bad day, than to bite back and turn the whole evening into a tension-smoldering reactive ground zero.

Here’s an example of how “serving others” has grown and stretched me in my marriage. You see, I realized on our first anniversary that I’d made an awful mistake. Huge. And I beat up on hubby for letting me make such a blunder.

Unbeknownst to me, we were married during the busiest time of year for a cowboy: cattle shipping. For you non-rural types, this is the time of year when all the pasture-fed cattle are rounded up and shipped off on cattle trucks to feedlots or elsewhere. On any given day from mid-July to early August, my cowboy will be up at 3:30 A.M. and put in a long morning/afternoon and then be completely wiped out that evening. This usually happens on our anniversary, and the weeks before and the weeks after. On our first few anniversaries, I saddled up and went with him. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have seen him that day. Not much fun, as you can imagine, spending your anniversary and birthday all alone back at the house.

We’ve tried celebrating our anniversary on August 24th, halfway between his birthday and mine, but we usually forget. And now that we have 3 children, my oldest is the one that gets to saddle up and go with dad, though she did stay home this year and spoiled me with cards, homemade gifts and even made me Pecan Blondies and hot tea and told me to grab a book and enjoy myself.

Due to finances this year, I told dh not to get me anything. We didn’t even exchange cards, but he kissed me good-bye (early!) and wished me a happy birthday. I proceeded to be blessed all day by my three sweet girls, and we made aApple Pie double batch of BBQ meatballs and scalloped potato casserole and an apple pie—all daddy’s favorites. We even had fun using the extra scraps of pie crust to make experimental apricot tarts.

My hubby got home from work, took a quick power nap and headed to his leather shop. He’s got a project and a deadline. Sad to say, it took three radio calls from me to his shop till he could wind things up and come over for our special supper. Everything was dished up and guess what? The phone rang.

I admit to being a little ticked at this point. After all, the food was getting cold! But it was someone calling in response to an ad we’d placed for several goats and border collies, so we girls sat at the table and played the “patience” game with toddler.

Finally he was able to end the call and come eat. And his enjoyment of the meal was gift enough for me. I knew he regretted his schedule keeping him from being with me, and our debts keeping us from splurging. I also know his love language is serving, and he’d taken time the night before to help me on a project of my own that had been waiting for his expertise.

In our first year of marriage, an anniversary spent without him, or without something special marking it would have found me seriously upset. Mostly because we all have a set idea of what husbands and wives are supposed to do on their anniversaries. We want this because it makes us feel cherished and appreciated. It is a good thing to celebrate every year of marriage! But in my situation, I’ve had to learn to look at the whole picture and realize that one day a year to celebrate isn’t near enough. Why hinge everything upon that one special day wishing for what you can’t have when every other day of the year I’m giving thanks for the wonderful man God gave me?

True happiness isn’t dependent on money, things, or big chunks of quality time. It’s in the everyday little things and in keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

1 Peter 4:11, “…whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (NASB)

Psalm 100:2, “Serve the Lord with gladness…”


Christianity Parenting

Praying For Your Child’s Future Spouse

I just finished reading Forever by Karen Kingsbury. Such an awesome author she is, with a way of weaving truth into real life struggles that always has me recommending her books.

While reading Forever, I came across this beautifully worded passage between a mother and daughter, and just had to share it here. The teenage daughter has been openly sharing her frustrations with the opposite sex, and her mother tells her that this means their prayers are being answered.

“Prayers?” Bailey loved these moments when no one else was around and she and her mom could share their hearts so easily.

“Yes.” She reached out and framed Bailey’s face with her hands. “Since you were born we’ve prayed for you. Your father and I. We prayed that God would make you into that one-in-a-million girl who wouldn’t be dragged into something you’d regret. We prayed that love wouldn’t really awaken in you until it was God’s timing. These years are for you and God, so you’ll become who He wants you to be.”

That love wouldn’t really awaken in you until it was God’s timing. Wow. What a great prayer.

I’ve prayed from all my girls’ cradles for their future husbands, hoping they were being raised in godly homes with righteous standards and strong father-figures. But I’ve sorely neglected praying for my daughters’ “dating years”…so reading this was really convicting to me.

I’ll just leave you with a snippet of my mom’s comment to my “Happy Anniversary to Me” post the other day…

“…And when your dh appeared in your life, we knew that God’s faithfulness was at work. I feel so strongly that all your blogging friends should make a commitment to be praying daily and wisely for the mate each child will meet down the road. Your Dad and I pray for each of our grandchildren in that way. That is our main prayer request as we move along through life.”


Blogging Today at Writer…Interrupted

Read below for an excerpt of my post: Barbie…Interrupted, inspired by time spent with my good friend Deborah.

An apple-scented breeze provided a second’s relief from the humidity enveloping the pond. Barbara’s waist-length hair hung heavy and damp, she wished she’d had time to braid it, but Ken’s recent cell call had been insistent. He’d be waiting in the orchard, with news too good to spill over the phone. Or so he’d claimed. Her heart swelled, pounding in her throat. Had he heard from her editor?

She skirted a downed limb and stifled a half-giddy squeal. Being married to your own literary agent had its bonuses. Be still my heart, she cautioned herself, it might not be writing related. She’d reached the orchard, jeans darkened to the knees from morning-wet pasture grasses. Pausing to catch her breath, she studied the crooked trees for a glimpse of him.

I hope you will go over to Writer…Interrupted and finish reading my story. It’s the first fiction I’ve posted on the web, and my first attempt at humor.

So be kind. *wink*

Laughing as I sign off,



Happy Anniversary to Me (Wedding Pictures!)

Today is my 14th wedding anniversary! (And 32nd birthday…)bridegroom1.jpg

So long ago! Before dh’s hair thinned and when mine was gray-free. We were married in my grandparent’s small country Baptist church by my dad. This picture was taken before the afternoon ceremony.

I remember being worried that my intended wouldn’t be able to make it. July of ’93 was the summer of the huge flooding, and our future home, where he was staying, was surrounded by water. He reassured me that he’d take a boat, or ride horseback but he wouldn’t miss out on our wedding day!

Friday while we decorated the church, and all Saturday morning, I couldn’t get the oldie Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups out of my head…

Spring is here
The sky is blue
Birds all sing
As if they knew
Today’s the day
We’ll say I do
And we’ll never be lonely anymore
Because we’re

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re
Gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel and we’re weddingtrain.jpg
Gonna get married
Gee, I really love you and we’re
Gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel of love

Finally two o’clock arrived. It’s not Princess Diana’s, but check out that train… bridegroom2.jpg

Now check out this couple, and chalk the cheesey smile to my poor cheeks hurting sooo bad! Couldn’t stop smiling all day!

The basement of the church was flooded, so we had to change our reception plans at the last mibridemaidofhonor.jpgnute and head over to another church to celebrate.

This is me and my maid of honor and best friend, Teresa, who sometimes comments here…we girls crushed into the front seat of my husband’s truck for the ride to the reception.

Can you tell it was the happiest day of my life?

I just love wedding pics. If it doesn’t infringe on your privacy, if you’re married and have a blog, I’d love to see a wedding picture of you and your honey. Just think of it as a “Happy Birthday to Mary” present. And for my non-blogging friends, I’d take one via email too… 🙂

You know, it could be the most fun meme yet!

Family Home

Fun Ideas for Kid’s Rooms

When I was a kid, a room of my own with a bed sufficed. I began stamping my individuality upon my room in the fifth grade when I appropriated my big sister’s pastel, water-garden comforter (hey, she’d left for college) and asked my mom if we could get curtains to match. Somehow we ended up going with lace curtains. Hot pink ones. Mmm-hm.

Nowadays, even moms on a budget try to spin fantasy bedrooms from fairy-tale nurseries to princess-garden rooms with loft-bed-castles to camp-themed rooms with camouflage curtains and real tents to play in.

I enjoy the kid room makeover sections in the Family Fun magazines. Their website even has several great ideas. I thought I’d share a few here:

  • use an overhead projector to assist you in painting a mural on one wall of your child’s room
  • make a clothesline art display–I like their idea, but personally, I’m picturing wide grosgrain ribbons in contrasting patterns, back to back, swagged and attached to hooks, and then clothes-pinning the artwork directly to the ribbon.
  • I loved the “dirt on display” idea, wish I’d thought to collect some South Dakota dirt to remember our recent camping trip there! (Though it probably would have been against the state park regulations!)
  • What little girl doesn’t dream of fancy draperies framing her bedsides. Check out streamer bed curtains! Cheap and easy!
  • Paint a chalkboard mural on the wall. This is amazing. Did you know chalkboard paint comes in many colors? Wow. My kids would love this.
  • You know how popular “Wallies” are? Make your own using discarded wallpaper books and cutting out the images you so desire. Family Fun shows you how, using Fairy Wallpaper Cutouts.

My girls’ room is still looking good having just been painted a year ago. Sea Foam Green with cream-colored trim and matching Roman shades. I have yet to decide whether to go with a border, or cutouts, or what curtain style we’ll go with. It’s safe to say it won’t be hot pink lace.

Humor me and tell me about the rooms of your little ones. Take me on a tour.

I’m waiting.


The Homemaking Reality

Little girls tend to have big dreams, and my big dreamsPrincess - Cinderella always involved meeting my very own Prince Charming, being a stay at home Cinderella mom, and staring blissfully off into the sunset from the turret outside our castle bedroom after tucking our three princesses in bed for the night.

My homemaking skills at the time of these daydreams were pretty limited to baking cookies and rearranging my room every weekend. I couldn’t wait to grow up, thinking that having my own place would be the ultimate test of my “talents” at interior decorating. *Smile*

I had so much fun that first “marriage-slash-homemaking” year: sewing curtains, wearing out cookbooks, keeping our home spotless and inviting, planning exotic dates…

Three children later, what happened?

The inside of my kitchen cupboards are a mess of chipped and peeling white paint, the only weed-eater our yard recognizes is small, white and furry (i.e. a goat). I have so many ideas to make our property beautiful, but instead of acting on many of them, I’m back to dreaming. If only we had the income and servants of Prince Charming’s household. Oh yeah, and a fairy godmother would be nice.

If only I had the time, energy and fervor I did as a newlywed 18 year old!

So what do I do when the “homemaking doldrums” visit my life? When I look around and see so many things needing me, and don’t know where to start?

  1. I enlist my “princesses” and we each draw “chores” from a bowl. Simple chores, such as: cleaning the bathroom sink, sweeping, mopping, dusting the living room, brushing the cinders from the fireplace…
  2. We turn on the music. (This is a must, it keeps the mice happy)
  3. We rearrange the living room, cleaning as we go.

And somewhere in the middle of deciding where the couch should go and Alan Jackson’s version of “I’ll Fly Away”, Ihaymemirror.jpg catch the vision again.

Just try to keep me out of the kitchen now! I light my Yankee housewarmer and scoot a chair next to the counter for 3 year old. Now, which issue of Taste of Home had that yummy spiced donut recipe, hmm…

And I’m off. Try it sometime. I truly love being at home, but sometimes it takes a special wave of the wand to slough off the feeling that midnight is fast approaching…

Here’s to happily ever after!


Matters of Sunshine and Shade

Yesterday I asked what lifted your inner flower, sunshine or shade. Thinking about certain of my friends whose moods definitely assert their preference, it makes me wonder why should we humans be any different from the flowers? God created both, right?

Let’s say sunshine represents a time in our lives when the “heat is on”. We’re under deadlines, trying to keep up with extra pressures. Do we wilt or do we thrive?

I’m laughing because having a little bit of panic-induced competence is often what I need to open my eyes to my potential. Give me a week with way too much to do and I get on overdrive, usually (not always!) accomplishing much more than I would have any other week.

Take this week. Our church is having VBS in the evenings, and I’m co-director. So I climb out of bed and get cracking on housework, the flowerbeds, organizing projects, fixing meals ahead, etc…all so I won’t be falling behind all week. If it were a normal week, I’d chill out in the A.M., fix a cup of tea and read emails, blog, do something with the girls, not a whole lot would get accomplished except maybe laundry, until afternoon when the clock’s ticking would shift my gears up a notch…well you get the point. Typical lazy summer morning.

Throw some “sunshine” in the mix and the stakes start to rise. Staying ahead becomes a game. (Maybe that’s why I procrastinate.) Anyway, it’s made me aware of how much one person can accomplish when they’re diligent with their time.

My “shady” side is the side that begs for simplicity. The side that is glad when fall arrives, and with it the routine schedules of homeschooling that often let me say “no” to extra activities. It’s a time of focusing on the more important matters of hearth and home, of family and my God-given calling of wife and mother.

I need the sunshine-shade cycle to thrive, much as we Christians need stretching and rejuvenating to grow. Oswald Chambers wrote, “A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it.”

My mom used to have a picture of a pasture strewn with wildflowers. The caption below the field read: “It was as if God scattered color and told it to grow…”

Beautiful thought, isn’t it? He’s scattered us into place according to His sovereign plan. Rain or sunshine, He’s told us to grow.

How’s the growing going?

Farm Life Home

Portaluca and Impatiens

I braved the searing temps this morning to water my flowers, fully expecting them to be wilting in protest, or maybe even completely dried up. Poor things were parched all weekend. Between errand running Saturday morning, and boating/tubing at the lake Saturday afternoon and grilling there that evening, and SS/church Sunday morning and VBS Sunday evening…watering plants wasn’t high on my listMoss Rose of priorities!

Thankfully, the 95 degree temps are welcomed by my hardy Portaluca blossoms, aka Moss Rose…their oranges, yellows and pinks were full flower despite great cracks in the dirt around them. They’re the neatest ground covers…mine are in full sun beneath our corner living room windows, along the part of the walk at the base of the stairs leading to our front door–and as yet unfinished deck.

What makes them so special? In the hottest hours the Portaluca unfurl like twirling Spanish skirts, then wind down all day till evening when the flowers all but disappear, no color visible, except the spiny green of the stems and leaves. Then they greet me afresh the next morning, and I’m dazzled by their resiliance.

Lavandula Angustifolia My Impatiens are really my favorites though. I have such great success with these dainty flowers. They definitely weren’t feeling too grand after their two day drought, but perked up with a good watering. They do love their shade. This little bed is under my kitchen windows, framed behind by Irises, and around by limestone rocks the girls and I hauled one year from the hill behind the house.

Just like flowers, I have friends who function better in sun or shade.

Me, I like both. A rainy day now and then just makes for a good cozy-home-day with hot coffee tea all around and good books, while sun spilling on my hardwood floors makes me want to clean house and fill up the kiddie pool.

How about you? What lifts your inner flower, sunshine or shade?

…both pictures available at…