The Inspiring Home

Susan at High Desert Home is writing a wonderfully thought provoking series, perfect for those of you contemplating the wherefores of  the homeschooling adventure. I found her thoughts affirming, charming, and right on. An Inspiring Home For Learning, the first of ten posts. It just beckons you over, doesn’t it?

Once you get there, follow the links in Susan’s sidebar to read all the entries. She’s over halfway through, and I couldn’t not share it with you all. Let me know what you think.

Calm Before and After, the Storm

Yesterday evening my two youngest and I met hubby’s truck and horse trailer down on the green across the gravel road and down from our front yard. Ten year old daughter and dh had been working at the ranch all day, whilst we three at home had been lazily grogging around after two of our busiest weeks so far this year. In fact, I’d been salivating over the very dream of having time to waste…and when I finally received an afternoon “off”, I slept it away! Couldn’t keep my eyes open…

Hubby unloaded two horses–Legend, a gray gelding, and Baby Lena, a bay. Both gentle, wonderful stock, still saddled and bridled, so our three girls spent the next half hour riding them around and around, giggling and just hurrahing the stillness of early evening.

For two weeks, we’ve had bursting full afternoons and evenings, places to be and meetings to attend, drop in company. Lots of rushing and late, late bedtimes. To simply stand there, arms wrapped around myself, comfy in my old navy sweatshirt and wind pants, mesmerized by my silly offspring’s love of country life–did you hear that pure sigh of contentment? Exactly what my spirit needed.

Off to the north, dark storm clouds built, heading our way. Lightning flashes and rumbles of thunder promised that the horsing around would soon come to an abrupt, possibly wet end. The trees started shaking their limbs at us, the wind grew cool and fierce. Finally, after putting it off as long as we dared, sporadic wet splats of rain chased us to the barn chores and eventually to the house.

We’re probably headed into the flooding, rainy season but I’m thinking I needed a good excuse to stick close to home (we live in a flood plain). I’m not ecstatic about mud, but the fresh cleansing of air, green grass and the filling up of all our favorite water holes sounds like a fair exchange. Awana is over for another year, we have one last square dancing class and then our homeschooling co-op will call it quits for summer break. One more Bible study session left with our small group. Four more Sunday School classes to teach. Don’t get me wrong, I love all these things, but I’m growing weary of trying to fit all the pieces together with homeschooling, etc. Anyway, I’m looking at a relatively quiet couple of weeks before things start filling up again. Graduations, weddings, Vacation Bible School, and camping trips.

By the way, our chicks are growing! Haven’t lost a one, yet. They are hopping flying out of their box, bad little things, and it’s perpetual springtime here with chirping birdies around every corner. We now have two Aldi boxes in the mud room/back porch, and a dishwasher box (Yes–I got a new dishwasher!) in the laundry room with five new baby Araucanas we just picked up this weekend. Yes, that’s three heat lamps, lots of feeders and waterers and plenty of fluffball handling going on at our house! (follow the Araucana link to see why these birds are called the Easter Egg Chickens!)

Well, anyway, I wish you all plenty of calm and no storms. But if they come anyway, just remember that sunshine is sure to follow…

God bless!

Mary

Healing Promises Blog Tour

Healing Promises, book 2 in the Defender’s of Hope Series, is a fantastic romantic suspense by Christian author and homeschooling mom, Amy Wallace. Let me tell you it is TOP among my fiction faves this year! Just for fun, read my initial response to the book (emailed to Amy):

“Amy, this is as good a time as ever to let you know I devoured your book. I honestly am so impressed with your gift for not only a superb story, but one that is SO inspired by God! I loved every word of it, Clint and Sara were so real…I have such a greater appreciation of what people–married couples esp–must go through when facing cancer together. Wow. I especially loved seeing Gracie and (edited out so as not to spoil the Ransomed Dream experience!) continue their relationship to the altar (!!!) and am very anxious to read Hanna’s story! You have all the exciting elements my dear. I’m not gushing to build you up, I’m truly being honest here. I hope you take this as a compliment, you are up there with Karen Kingsbury in my favorites, and she’s always been at the top. I just love how she makes God so real in the lives of tragedy, and here you are doing the same thing. Thank you for following your calling, and keep up the awesome work! Do we have to wait till next April to read the third book??? ;O)”

As you can tell, this is a book I’m HIGHLY recommending you read and promote to all your friends!

Back Cover Copy:

FACING A NEW THREAT. When FBI Agent Clint Rollins tkes  abullet during a standoff, it might just save his life. But not even the ugly things he’s seen during his years working in the Crimes Against Children Unit could prepare him for the overwhelming powerlessness of hospital tests revealing an unexpected diagnosis. If only Sara weren’t retreating into doctor mode…he needs his wife now more than ever.

FROZEN IN FEAR. Sara Rollins is an oncologist with a mission–beating cancer when she can, easing her patients’ suffering at the very least. Now the life of her tall Texan husband is at stake. She never let the odds steal her hope before, but in this case, the question of God’s healing promises is personal. Can she hold on to the truth she claimed to believe?

FAITH UNDER FIRE. As Clint continues to track down a serial kidnapper despite his illness, former investigations haunt his nightmares, pushing him beyond solving the case into risking his life and career. Clint struggles to believe God is still the God of miracles. Especially when he needs not one, but two. Everything in his life is reduced to one all-important questions: Can God be trusted?

Read Ransomed Dreams first! (Visit this link to read my blog review of it)

IMPORTANT! Be sure and read Ransomed Dreams, Amy’s first book in the Defenders of Hope Series. Healing Promises can stand alone, but there are some spoilers in the first chapter that refer back to Ransomed Dreams, so keep that in mind. And you really don’t want to miss out on Ransomed Dreams, it’s a wonderful read! Curious? Go here to read the first chapter!

Or better yet, buy it! Believe me, reading the first chapter alone will guarantee a sleepless night! Might as well have the book on hand so you can keep reading!
Happy Reading!!

Are You Alive For Christ?

What makes you come alive? Think about this.

Last night at our weekly Bible study, this question was asked by the DVD host, John Eldridge…FYI, our small group is watching his series, Wild at Heart. John made the statement, “Don’t ask what the world needs of you–ask what makes you come alive?” The point being, if you are passionate and cognizant about pursuing your calling, you’ll be fulfilled by and effective at whatever God has for you to accomplish.

John addressed the fear factor as well, bringing in Abraham’s faith in leaving everything but his family behind to follow God across country. Most often, following our dreams means facing certain fears, going on total trust and obedience to whatever God asks of us. I was especially sobered by this passage that John read in Revelation 21:7-8:

“He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Notice the first group described in that list? The cowardly. Ouch. I know I’ve been content to swim the placid waters of my “small story” (as John put it) afraid to brave the rapids and waterfalls in my journey to the “big story” God’s inviting me to join…

Also contributing to my thoughts on this… Last week my hubby, girls and I watched a World View Weekend DVD featuring Mark Cahill, titled, Lukewarm No More! Listen to it here, if you want. (You can find the Biblical passage on the importance of being hot or cold, but not lukewarm in Revelation 3:14-22) Mark Cahill, as I shared in my post recommending his book One Heartbeat Away, is extremely burdened for the lost. In this DVD he shares that he knows a family whose children beg their parents to take them street witnessing on their birthdays. Anybody else’s jaw fall off at that one? He also mentioned that he queried the hotel clerk at the hosting quarters of a national conference for youth pastors, asking this person if they’d been working the desk all weekend…to which they answered “yes”…Mark then asked them if any of these youth pastors had shared the plan of salvation with them…and the answer was “no”.

I’ve heard that when polled, most Christians haven’t shared their faith or Christ with others in the last year, much less in the last month.

What concerns me, is how comfortable I am keeping my God-service within my church. How much do I do in my community for Christ? Not a whole lot. Well, that’s going to change.

What makes me alive? Reaching out to women…mothers and wives. I love to bake. I love to write. I love having women and their children over to spend the day. I long to encourage families. How can God use this in me to reach others? I’m thinking old-fashioned neighborliness would be a good place to start. I mean going beyond family and friends here. It’s when you do a kindness for a stranger that God’s love is profoundly felt. By the way, that’s a lesson I’ve recently learned out of my b&sil’s house fire. They knew that their family had their back, but the true impact came via the love and outpouring of townspeople/strangers giving their time, their possessions and their shoulders to cry on.

So what are your thoughts?

Spring Chicks

A loud cheeping and an Aldi’s orange box box have recently taken over my laundry room…this paHome Tweet Homest Saturday, in fact. Twenty of the twenty-five chicks I ordered arrived and boy are they adorable!

See for yourChecking out their new homeself.

Keeping their water clean has been my biggest chore so far. Next time I’ll go with pine chips for bedding over cottonseed hulls…what a mess! Though it is really absorbent stuff. We have three thermometers in the box, one on each end and one under all the bedding…trying to maintain their habitat at 90 degrees Fahrenheit this first week. It’s been fun.

Had a nice surprise today. The girls were all geared up to hit the books hard at the kitchen table when my cousin called wondering if they could come spend the day and have lunch with us. We had a great visit, lots of catching up to do as she just moved back into the area. She brought four of her six children with her, and the weather was GORGEOUS…so we got some sun time in out on the deck while the kiddos played.

Leaving you with a cute bunny pic. Dh found this guy by our barn and brought it to the house to share the joy…never fear…he put it back after we’d loved on it a while!

What spring babies are your favorites? Mine are Holstein calves and wobbly legged colts…

FAQs and Recipe Additions for Amish Friendship Bread

No one has time to browse the 273 comments at my original Amish Friendship Bread post to find answers to their questions, so in an effort to put all my Amish Friendship info into one place, I spent some time yesterday copying and pasting all the best of it into this post. Read on for tantalizingly great recipe additions and helpful feedback, all from the best AFB bakers out there: my readers!

First, answers to the most commonly asked questions. Yes, you can most certainly…

  • use non-fat milk or powdered milk
  • use raw milk, just scald it slightly beforehand to inactivate some of the enzymes (thanks, Sharon!)
  • use water instead of milk (thanks, Sharon!)
  • substitute applesauce for the oil
  • use 2 or 3 eggs per batch, your bread will turn out fine, just a different consistency
  • use one large box of pudding OR two small boxes or no pudding at all, it doesn’t matter
  • use fast-rising yeast–it will not affect the outcome
  • use self-rising flour–it will not affect your outcome
  • use whole wheat flour (thanks, Sharon!)
  • no, you can’t use Splenda. Splenda is not sugar. Yeast won’t recognize it as food. Use sugar for the starter, it’s okay. Like Kombucha, the yeast eats the sugar. (thanks, Sharon!)
  • freeze your starter for up to a year (just note which day you were on when you left off, and pick it up at that same point once thawed)
  • thaw frozen starter at room temp for three hours before carrying on with recipe
  • skip a day of squishing with no problems
  • forget to add ingredients or bake EXACTLY on schedule, a day or two off won’t hurt this recipe
  • bake it in a 9×13″ pan for 35 minutes
  • bake it in a Bundt pan, not sure for this one on baking times so just watch it and use the toothpick test
  • bake it as muffins
  • bake ALL your starter by simply dividing it equally between 4 bowls then add your ingredients. Each bowl should make 1-2 loaves. Give away the baked bread and good-bye starter!

Reader’s favorite recipe additions/combos:

  • White chocolate sugar-free pudding (two small pkgs) with half a bag of white chocolate chips and a cup of dried cranberries
  • Sugar-free cheesecake pudding and butterscotch chips
  • Lemon pudding with poppyseeds, substituting lemon flavoring for vanilla (minus cinnamon-sugar topping)
  • Banana pudding, mashed banana and nuts
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, 1 cup chopped apples, and 1 cup chopped walnuts (2 loaves worth)
  • Chocolate pudding and 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Butterscotch pudding and 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
  • Pistachio with walnut (turns out a lovely green color!)
  • Pistachio with Marachino cherries
  • Cheesecake pudding with cranberry and walnut
  • Dried apricots, cherry craisins, and chopped almonds
  • Grated carrots, sunflower seeds, and additional spices
  • Lemon pudding with either raspberries or white chocolate chips (Lemon w/choc. chips tastes like Vanilla Wafers)
  • Blueberries with Cheesecake pudding
  • Pumpkin-spice–half a cup pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1/4-1/2 cup grated carrots or raisins
  • Savory Amish Friendship Bread – Omit cinnamon and sugar, add about 1 cup cheddar cheese and 3/4 pkg pepperoni, 1/2 flour and 1/2 cornmeal. 1 cup fresh corn. Serve with tomato sauce.
  • Make one with half the sugar and add lots of savory herbs, some ground beef and a taco seasoning mix instead of pudding. Great with spaghetti sauce.

Regular or Belgian Waffle recipe (from Erika)

  • 2 cups Starter
  • about 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. sugar (or less if you prefer less sweet)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Combine starter with enough flour for your preferred consistency. Add oil, eggs. sugar, salt and baking soda to the starter. Mix thoroughly with wooden or plastic spoon. Let the mixture rest for a little bit, maybe 10 minutes. Cook in your waffle iron. Serve with Syrup. Makes six fluffy Belgian waffles.

Website with recipes for cookies, biscuits, pancakes etc, all using Amish Friendship Bread starter

Mary’s original Amish Friendship Bread starter recipe (with all 273 comments)

Mary’s Easier Amish Friendship Bread recipe

Doesn’t it just make you want to get in on the fun? I’m on Day 6, and have BIG plans for my baking day! Please share your tips/recipe faves in comments!

The Horse Dilemma

Last fall we had a horse trader stop by our place and offer us a pittance for two of our horses. He proceeded to tell us how many people are being forced out of the horse business due to the doubling and tripling prices of hay, and the shortage of grains here in the USA. Of course we knew this already, but at the time we weren’t ready to give in and pare down our herd. This guy told us that he has people pull up to his place, unload a trailer full of horses and say, “Just send me whatever you think they’re worth, I can’t afford to keep them.”

This article at cbsnews.com says that people are dropping their horses off on government land and at city parks. And the higher hay prices couldn’t have come at a worse time. When you consider that hundreds of thousands of unwanted American horses were slaughtered every year…prior to April of 2007 when it became illegal in the USA…it’s no wonder that there’s a surplus of people with horses that no one wants, much less can afford to feed.

I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of selling horses for dog food or for human consumption (yes, it’s a delicacy in certain countries), please understand that. Yet there have been times in our married life when we dropped a horse off at a sale not knowing what it would sell for, but not really caring because the horse had proven itself to be a danger to my husband or just a downright mean horse. Plus, you can’t keep them all. Now there is absolutely no money in horses, there’s so many free for the taking. So what used to pay for itself has now become a huge drain on our family budget. I can hardly joke about it anymore, but for a couple years now I’ve maintained that our horses eat better than we do. It’s ridiculous.

Sobering stuff we heard from this horse trader, yet at the time, we couldn’t bear to let the two horses he was interested in go for the couple hundred he was wanting to offer. Hubby has always raised horses…he bought his first one with money earned weeding farm crops at age ten. We’ve had as many as twenty at one time in our married life. We’d keep a couple of colts each summer and sell the rest to pay for pasture rent. Now we’re down to owning two Shetland ponies (for our girls) and six mares and geldings.

Sunday morning my dh loaded up the paint mare* that my father-in-law gave me 14 years ago. He took her and her two year old to a sale, dropped them off and made it back in time for church. We’re just hoping they made enough at the auction to pay the sale barn’s commission. And before you blame him for taking my horses to a sale, let me assure you that I insisted. They are special, but sentimental doesn’t pay the bills. At least the other horses we still have are all great bloodlines, kid-friendly and assets at hubby’s job. My horse was always too high-spirited to trust very far.

If we owned our own pasture, or had a way to raise our own hay crop, things would be different.

A “chicken in every pot” and a “horse in every yard”. Not for the majority in America. Maybe not for long at our place either.

*Topaz, pictured above on a drizzly afternoon last week, picture credit goes to my friend Amy

A Book Recommendation, and Some Thoughts on Evolution

“You may find it hard to believe that God could make everything out of nothing, but the alternative is that nothing turned itself into everything. Which takes more faith to believe?”

I took the above quote out of the highly believable and thought-provoking book I’m currently reading: One Heartbeat Away, Your Journey Into Eternity by Mark Cahill. Though this book is not solely about Evolution, it is about finding answers. Cahill does an excellent job countering arguments for the culture’s most common complaints about God and the Bible. Consider a visit to his website, get a copy of his book(s) and get to reading/witnessing! His enthusiasm and compassion for God and the lost is contagious…

A few more quotes taken from One Heartbeat Away:

“You will never hear of a tornado ripping through a junk yard and leaving a fully formed 747 jet, a Mercedes, and a skyscraper in its wake. Why? Blind chance cannot do that.” p. 23

“If you placed all the pieces of a watch into a shoe box and shook it for ten minutes, do you believe it would shake into a functioning watch? Of course not. What if you shook it for a year?” Would a functioning box then come out of the box? Say you were able to shake it for five billion years; would you then have a functioning watch? There is no possible way for that to happen.

And if it couldn’t happen by chance to something relatively simple like a watch, it most certainly couldn’t happen by chance to our magnificently complex universe.” p. 23

It amazes me what the evolutionary theory proposes about birds for instance. Take this on macroevolution from Wikipedia:

“An example of macro evolution is the appearance of feathers during the evolution of birds from one group of dinosaurs.”

This has always astounded me, the claim that birds evolved from dinosaurs. That reptilian scales evolved into feathers. Are there records of fossil scales that even partially resemble a feather? Not to mention that my girls and I recently revisited information from our science textbook showing that birds have four chambers in their hearts, while reptiles have only three. That’s quite a feat. What are the scientific odds?

If the fossil record is where the major evidence supporting evolution lies, then forget about “one missing link”–there must be thousands of missing links. Shouldn’t there be fossils galore of species in transition on their way to becoming new species? I’m not a scientist, but to my way of thinking, if this earth is billions of years old, then there should be millions of creature fossils that are halfway evolved. Part-bird, part-reptile, etc. Where are they?

Mark Cahill explains God’s design as seen in nature so eloquently,

“Every time we look at something built by man–a house for example–we know it had a builder, someone who assembled it. When we see something that has design, like a watch, we know it had a designer who planned it. When we see artwork, like a painting, we know there is an artist who painted it. When we observe order–say twenty Coke cups lined up in a row–we know there was an ‘orderer’ who set them up that way. When we look around the universe at things not made by man, what do we see? We see creation, design, art, and order. So if everything man-made has a Creator, designer, artist, and orderer behind it, why would we not think that there is a Creator, designer, artist, and orderer behind the universe?” pgs. 15-16

Cahill proceeds to tell of a street conversation he had with a self-proclaimed atheist, in which he asked the man to prove that a nearby skyscraper had a builder.

“The man answered, ‘That’s easy. The building itself is proof that there is a builder.’

He was 100 percent correct. We know that you don’t just gather some concrete, pipes, windows, paint, wires, etc., then turn around and look back to suddenly find a building. A building requires a builder.

I said, ‘Exactly. The building requires a builder.’ I then added, ‘The sun, the moon, the stars, the oceans, the sand, each unique snowflake, the three billion pieces of your DNA that are different from mine, are absolute proof that there had to be a Creator of this universe.'”

A few sentences later he continued,

“Just because you can’t see, touch, taste, smell or hear the builder of a skyscraper doesn’t mean that such a person doesn’t exist. You don’t need any amazing faith to believe there was a builder of a building you can see; you just need to look at the evidence and make an informed decision. And the best piece of evidence is the work that builder left behind.” p. 18

One Heartbeat Away is a resource we all need to own. If you visit Mark Cahill’s website, you’ll see his heart for God even extends to making this resource available for free to those who can’t afford it. That speaks volumes to me about his motivation for the lost. For more about his books and discs–this book is available as an MP3 Audio Book CD as well–visit http://www.markcahill.org.

And remember, Evolution isn’t the basis of this book, it’s just the topic I zeroed in on for this blog post. Mark also covers:

  • New Age issues, among other religious beliefs
  • How historical, archaeological, and scientific evidence supports the Bible
  • Testimonies of people who have seen Heaven and Hell
  • How the Ten Commandments are necessary and for our benefit
  • The expensive cost of sin, and how we are all guilty
  • Why Jesus is the perfect sacrifice that pays for our sin once and for all
  • The how-to’s and importance of repentance, belief, commitment, and evangelism
  • What God says about you as a Christian
  • How to let your light shine for Him

Please pass the word along, and be encouraged!

Printed with permission from Mark Cahill

Beautiful, Busy Spring

Hey all!

I apologize for my neglect of the blog lately. Between family and friends needing us, dh’s schedule and keeping up with paperwork and our home school requirements…it’s been all I can do lately to fall into bed before one A.M.!

For those of you keeping my in-law’s in your prayers–thank you! They are embarking on their new normal after losing everything in the fire. God is really bringing grace to their situation, even as the reality of this loss becomes more apparent.

Spring is beckoning and we’re milking it for all its worth! These warmer mornings have found us walking and biking now that our country roads have dried out from winter snow and rain. I’ve spent extra time helping my 7 year old master her bicycling skills…we have such a hard time with this, as our property is all bumps and hills. So we headed down to the straight flat of the road that runs past our mailbox and a half hour later she’d figured it out! Such exhilaration on all of our parts! (Translated: many happy dances in the middle of the roadway!)

I’ve been cooking and baking twice the normal amount of food here lately. Some for us, and some for others. On Monday, we went through household items and toys and baked cinnamon rolls to take along to the “moving party”. Brother and sister-in-law are now cozily ensconced in their rental home, where they’ll reside until they rebuild or move a home onto their rural property. Tuesday we had errands and appointments in town all morning and home school co-op classes all afternoon. Wednesday I must have been feeling thankful because I roasted a turkey with all the trimmings and ran half of it to town to share the abundance.

Yesterday we had a most enjoyable time here with a homeschooling friend and her son who came bearing gifts for my sister-in-law’s family and ended up staying the day with us. Fun! I even made my pumpkin turkey soup and friend’s 12 year old son had seconds! Then during supper we watched an amazing DVD called, “Mountain of Fire. The Search for the True Mount Sinai”. Our whole family highly recommends it!

Today was Bible study day and lunch with my parents…we had turkey-veggie lasagna, salad and asparagus with brownies for dessert!

Is it any wonder that I have no idea what I’m fixing for supper tonight? Something with turkey? I still have lunch dishes to do, believe it or not!

Hubby is in the midst of pasture burning…something we mid-west folk do each spring to burn off the old growth, making way for green grass. So the hillsides will be black for a couple of weeks now, as everyone is getting this done while the weather holds. He won’t be home till after dark tonight.

I’m planning a couple of showers for sis-in-law…one a Pampered Chef catalog party to replace the things she lost, and the other a family shower to re-gift them with items they might have received for wedding gifts, etc.

Things are busy as we gear up for the end of the school year and plan for the end of Awana, summer vacation, and VBS.

What’s keeping you busy?

Happy Spring! (and Fall to my New Zealand friends!)