Christianity Family

Gail’s Death

I checked the Shoemaker Update Blog this morning, and discovered that our sweet friend of many years died at 2 A.M. today.

I’ve blogged about Gail at least three times here at Home-steeped Hope. Twice asking for prayer for her and her husband of thirty years, and their six children. And one other time, about her influence on me.

After nine months of battling brain cancer, Gail is now with her Father in heaven…pain free, able to sing and move without the aid of a wheelchair. No doubt hearing Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful daughter.”

I couldn’t sleep when my husband and I went to bed around midnight last night. I lay there with goosebumps and tears in my eyes, feeling an incredible sense of awe and picturing Gail’s entrance into Heaven. Perhaps somewhere in the lyrics of the Acappella song I shared yesterday, lay the seeds of my imaginings, for at this point, I only knew that her Heaven-time was nearing. Little did I know that she was only hours from riding that chariot, meeting Jesus, and sitting at the welcome table.

Please pray for her family as they are encompassed by all the practical things that must happen when a loved one dies. How blessed we all are, to have known and loved Gail.

My seven year old has been learning portions of John 14 for Awana. What a great passage, reminding us that Jesus has prepared a place for all of us who love Him. And that His peace accompanies loss.

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

And finally a quote to sum up how bittersweet times like these are:

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~Carol Sobieski

Thank you, Gail, for your servant’s heart, and for your love for Him, so evident to all who knew you.

Cooking and Food Health

Have you heard about Stevia?

Stevia is an awesome natural non-caloric sugar substitute available at your local health food store. And it packs 200-300 times the sweetness of sugar, so you don’t need as much. And you can use it in all your baking!

My next question is, have you heard of the dangers and side effects of Splenda? I recommend you read an article titled: Sugar Substitutes and the Potential Dangers of Splenda. The author, though very careful to remain objective, likens Splenda to pesticides. Scary.

Here’s some more info on stevia from the article. Incidentally, stevia has been used successfully in Japan for more than twenty years now.

“We’ve known about stevia in the US since 1918, but pressure from the sugar import trade blocked its use as a commodity. Today stevia is slowly gaining steam as a sugar substitute, despite similar hurdles. The FDA has approved its use as a food supplement, but not as a food additive due to a lack of studies. Stevia can be used for anything you might use sugar in, including baking. It is naturally low in carbohydrates. You can buy stevia at most health food stores and over the web. There will always be those who have a sensitivity to a substance, but based on reports from other countries it appears to have little to no side effects. For women who want to move through their cravings for sugar without artificial chemicals, stevia is a great option.”

For people on no-sugar diets, or for diabetics, or for anyone who wants to be more health-conscious–this is valuable information!

So, have you heard about stevia? If so, please tell us what you think…

For more info and The Stevia Cookbook, visit this stevia website!


A Song for My Funeral

One of our family’s favorite CDs is Live From Paris by Acappella. We can’t help singing along with these amazing guys whose only instruments are their voices. And when I hear this one, my emotions get me every time…my husband and I both want it played at our funerals! What a song of celebration it is!

Holy City

–Acappella lyrics

You know that I’m gonna view that holy city
Oh, I’m gonna view that holy city one of these days, Hallelujah!
I’m gonna view that holy city
I’m gonna view that holy city one of these days, one of these days

You know that I’m gonna meet my loving Jesus
Oh, I’m gonna meet my loving Jesus one of these days, Hallelujah!
I’m gonna meet my loving Jesus
I’m gonna view that holy city, (and I will) meet my loving Jesus one of these days, one of these days

You know that I’m gonna sit at the welcome table
Oh, I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, Hallelujah!
I’m gonna sit at the welcome table
I’m gonna view that holy city, (and I will) meet my loving Jesus, (we’re gonna) sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days

You know that I’m gonna feast on milk and honey
Oh, I’m gonna feast on milk and honey one of these days, Hallelujah!
I’m gonna feast on milk and honey
I’m gonna view that holy city, (and I will) meet my loving Jesus, (we’re gonna) sit at the welcome table, (and we will) feast on milk and honey one of these days, one of these days

You know that I’m…
One of these days… I’m
Way up there with my Lord
Hey… I… won’t be tired no more

You know that I’m gonna sing and never get tired
Oh, I’m gonna sing and never get tired one of these days, Hallelujah!
I’m gonna sing and never get tired
I’m gonna view that holy city, (and I will) meet my loving Jesus, (we’re gonna) sit at the welcome table, (and we will) feast on milk and honey, (keep singing) sing and never get tired one of these days, one of these days

You know that I’m gonna view that holy city
Oh, I’m gonna view that holy city one of these days, Hallelujah!
I’m gonna view that holy city
I’m gonna view that holy city, (and I will) sing and never get tired, (we’re gonna) sing and never get tired, (and we will) sing and never get tired, (oh, we’re gonna) sing and never get tired one of these days, one of these days


Bet you didn’t realize I had a bit of “southern gospel” in me, did you? Listen, you’ve got to hear this, follow this link for a special experience! (Just scroll beneath the CD and click on the song title and be BLESSED!!!)

Book Recommendations Christianity

Separate Campfires

I recently read Tamera Alexander’s Revealed, a historical fiction and the second in her Fountain Creek Chronicles series. What a great series, btw.

This one is about a reformed prostitute, Annabelle Grayson, who by marriage was rescued from the lifestyle, only to lose her new husband early on in their marriage. Long story short: she needs a driver/trail guide to take her west to her deceased husband’s ranch and the man volunteering for the job is her husband’s estranged brother. He also happens to be a self-righteous Christian who can’t see past her sordid past to the new creature in Christ that she’s become.

I cried in the book when I came to their first night on the trail. Annabelle trys valiantly to start a fire to fix their evening meal, but she’s never gotten the hang of striking a spark with flint. On her 70th or so strike, she finally succeeds only to glance behind at her brother-in-law (who incidentally wasn’t offering to help her–he can’t stand her) to see that he’s already got a huge fire blazing on the other side of the wagon, and has already bedded down for the night.

For someone who already felt “unworthy” because of her past…can you imagine the defeat, the sorrow, the hopelessness?

After this scene, Tamera Alexander wrote:

“For too long she’d been untouchable, like the leper she’d read about the other night, the one Jesus so willingly placed His hands on when all others shunned him and ran the other way. Then one morning, Kathryn Jennings had appeared in her life and that sense of isolation had begun to ebb. Kathryn had touched her life first. Followed by [other Christians]…” (my paraphrasing)

Never underestimate the power of Christ in you to change someone’s life. There are so many lost people out there being swallowed up by emptiness, haunted by the lies of the evil one. Feeling they could never live up to or be good enough for God’s “standards”.

And no wonder, with us, God’s people, being too busy *in* the church to ever look out around the church for these hurting ones. We may be the only lights in their darkness yet we miss opportunity after opportunity, lost in complacency or our own troubles…how our self-absorbedness must grieve our Heavenly Father.

Take a moment and ask God who in your life needs the kindling you can offer…and while you’re at it, don’t discount the unlovely people He may bring to mind.

I don’t want to let poverty or wealth (my own or someone else’s), beauty or ugliness (again, my own or someone else’s), abrasive people or needy ones–any of these things, come between me and God’s plan for growth in our lives.

Being willing is the first step. Wanting more of Him and less of me, is the second step. Praying for Him to open the eyes of our hearts and make us extra-sensitive to the needs of those around us is a good third.

Then it’s all about stepping out in faith, even if it means leaving our campfires in favor of helping others build theirs.

Christianity Home Schooling

Moments in a Fishing Booth

Two of my dearest homeschooling friends hosted a Fall Party this weekend. Perfect weather for it, too. We had outdoor games such as a “caramel apple walk”, treasure hunts, egg-and-spoon relays and a picnic-bonfire with a guitar-led sing-along time.

At the outset, I found myself with another mom, slightly older than me and a complete stranger, behind the scenes in the fishing booth. And as we hooked candy to clothespins and tugged away at fishing lines, we chatted about life, our faith, and homeschooling. Sharing from our hearts. Complete strangers with strong common denominators.

Afterwards, at home, I told my husband about it–through tears. Now I’m not easily given to tears. Perhaps they came more easily because I was losing my voice and in the beginning stages of a bad cold. Or perhaps it was our hugely busy week or my 2 A.M. bedtime the previous night. Mostly I think it culminated from weeks of feeling discouraged about the many flopping hats I’m attempting to wear in this life.

It really hit home to me the other day in the grocery line, when the friendly cashier asked me if I was still homeschooling. I told her I was and we talked about how busy life was, and that it never slows down. Then I said something in kind of a flippant manner:

“Homeschooling takes so much of me I have no time for other hobbies.”

I may have said it flippantly, but I’ve been really down about the lack of writing time since school started. I fear that my novels will still be waiting in their files when this computer crashes, and if they somehow survive on my flash drive it will be years before I get back to them. Part of me is okay with that. Part of me is viewing homeschooling as a sacrifice, which doesn’t feel good at all. Because really, what are mere books–which may never get published–compared to the lives and futures of my children?

I’ve held a lot of these feelings in because everyone in this world makes sacrifices. And I’ve got the most wonderful job in the universe…sometimes I wish the payscale was better…but that’s why my moments in the fishing booth were such a reward to my soul.

There are people who look down on families that choose to home educate. They’re always touting the perks of public education, they’re making good money with their two incomes and able to not only “keep up with the Joneses” but leave the “Joneses” in the white-out of their private jet streams.

I’ve been surrounded by these kinds of people lately, and buying into the lies of discontentment. Not seeing the wealth I have within arms reach. My children! My few little acres of promise here in the country. My freedom to love God, and to teach my babies to love Him (and enabling them to learn everything else they need to know). My hard-working husband who wants me here alongside him at the helm of our little world. Our amazing marriage. My parents and sisters who are my biggest cheerleaders in this homeschooling journey. Loving in-laws. My friends, new and old.

Homeschooling is hard! It takes hours of planning, especially now that I’ve got a 4th grader to keep up with (!)…it means saying “no” to many things I’d love to be doing. But it also means maxing out on family-love, and discovering awesome truths about this life together. It’s a team experience, where one looks out for all, and all look out for one. That kind of genuine love is a by-product of this lifestyle.

Not saying it can’t happen outside of homeschooling, not at all. My husband is proof that it can, as are many others. But it’s a truth of which I needed reminded.

And I was reminded. Behind the humble cardboard partition of a homemade fishing booth, which incidentally, was plastered with botanical pictures and scientific facts.

All in all, a very educational and enlightening experience.


Pumpkin Seeds Roasting…

It felt so good staying home tonight, gutting pumpkins with hubby and doctoring up the seeds with the girlies. Acappella singing “This Little Light of Mine” in the background and chicken stir-fry sizzling in the skillet.

My theory on Halloween is that it’s not worth losing friends over. Every year I’ve struggled with not wanting my girls to feel like they’re “missing out”, and you know what? They aren’t. Halloween is a big deal to my in-laws. We used to participate, dressing the girls up as princesses, ballerinas, ladybugs… and my middle daughter dressed as “Mary Had A Little Lamb” for about three years in a row. (Hey, it was a fantastic costume hand-sewn by yours truly! And middle’s a puny lil thing, youngest is growing into middle’s shirts and jammies, etc)

Clarification: When I say “participate”, I mean we’d go to Grandma’s with frosted pumpkin cookies for everyone and show off our cutenesses and then make a couple more special stops, dropping off more cookies as we made our short trip back home.

Last year we went to a church-sponsored Fall Festival. That felt even more like “Halloween” than dressing up and making the family rounds. Not for us. So my youngest had no idea what Halloween was about. We had dental appointments in town today, and of course, ran into some adults dressed…weirdly. She has now had an education about October 31st.

My oldest tried to prepare youngest for some cousins stopping by that would be dressed as witches. Oldest said very seriously, “they’ll be dressed like little old ladies in black, sweetie”…hee hee. Sigh.

I realize my viewpoints on dressing children as witches is antiquated and borderline offensive to most who see it as harmless. I *try* to give the benefit of the doubt, but knowing that the Wiccan religion is alive and well, and that there are actual colleges of witchcraft, well, seeing little ones treat it lightly kind of makes me sad. I know they’re only doing it in fun. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and Exodus 22:18 show us God’s view of witchcraft. Why emulate something He condemns, even in fun?

So back to tonight. We bought candy at the Christian book store…strawberry cremes with scripture verses printed on the packaging, and we stamped crosses and verses on white treat bags before filling them with a variety of candies. When you live out in the country as we do, you don’t get many trick or treaters, and the ones you do get are usually family.

We had two! They brought us treats as well, which was the best of them! In case my oldest sister is reading this, thanks for the dirt cups…the worms were a real hit with 3 year old! After supper, she was happily digging in and said, matter-of-factly, “Is this out of Aunt K’s garden?”

And for the record, the pumpkin seeds we roasted were nasty. Definitely not as yummy as last years. Not sure what I messed up…

But all in all, still a very nice evening!