Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More Ranch Memories

Here are a few more pictures of the kids and I at the old Ranch.

Lily and I walking towards the dump. That fence is new. Must be protecting the riparian zone from the cattle.

There is Josh at the dump.


More treasures!!!

The old Ranch house I grew up in. The top window is where Jackie and I's room was.

I took this picture for you, Mom. It shows Grandpa Puffball's maple tree. Many trees were gone, that one remains.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Let Go

I ran into this piece yesterday. It is unfortunate that the author is unknown, because it is quite powerful.

I have been wrestling with God lately. Mostly parenting and marriage stuff have been my challenges. I want what I think I want. I don't want to wait. I don't want to persevere. I just want it NOW!!! I was so encouraged after reading this. I hope it encourages you too.
(Jessica took this picture today)

To "Let Go" Takes Love

To let go does not mean to stop caring; it means that I can't live someone else's life for him.

To let go is not to cut myself off; it is to realize I can't control another.

To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another; it is to be responsible for myself in that situation.

To let go means I want what God wants in the situation, not what I think is is best for me or the other person.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to effect their own lives.

To let go is not to be protective; it is to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and to cherish the good in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anyone else's life, but to do my best to become all that I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and to live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and to love more.

To let go is to hug someone, but not hold him so closely he is crushed or smothered.

To let go is give a person or a situation to God, who is the only One who can work everything together for our good and His glory!


I couldn't help but highlight the ones that spoke the most to me today. I want so badly to trust the Lord in ALL things and in every situation. He loves me and He loves my loved ones. Thus far the Lord has helped me and I know He will continue. I just have to live today. I can do this, and so can you!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Lily!

 I haven't done a birthday post in awhile. I have a tradition of writing my children a letter for their birthdays. I want them to know my love for them, my hopes and my prayers for them. The past two years the pain of life kept me from this. I want my traditions back. So here it goes...
 Dearest Lily,

Words cannot express my love for you. You are the baby of our family and I grieve constantly to know that all of your firsts are all of my lasts. I so want you to grow up, but I also want to go back in time and carry you around with me and have you suckle at my breast. The joy and peace of those days are something to be treasured. I have tried to really cherish this last year we have together before you head off to school next year. You are my little sidekick and you make me do things I don't necessarily want to do (like go to a park, go outside and swing with you, have a million tea parties, read lots and lots of books, dance, sing and act silly). I am an old fuddy-duddy, as your father would say. Much too serious. But your silliness makes me laugh when life hurts.

One of your shining milestones during your fourth year of life was asking Jesus into you heart. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. You constantly are trying to wrap your brain around the omnipotence of God. You always ask me whether we are swinging, or in the car, "Is God sitting by me and holding my hand?". Oh, Darling, yes!!! He is sitting there always beside you and holding your hand. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is always with you. I am so thankful that you seem to have such a heart towards spiritual things. You have so many questions. Keep questioning, keep asking, keep praying those sweet little prayers. He hears you and He loves you so much.
 Your are such a funny girl! You are the most expressive of all my children, and I can tell you have a very BIG personality. You aren't shy and you love to dance. You sing EVERYTHING! You dress up in the funniest outfits and you have a great sense of humor, like your father. I will never forget finding you in my bed dressed up like Bat Girl watching your movie.

I love taking your places. You have such good manners and you truly appreciate it when we do special things. I have probably spoiled you (you are my baby), but I pray I haven't spoiled you rotten. I also pray that I have learned to be a better parent to you then I have to your older siblings. The things I stressed out about when they were little do not seem important now. You are reaping the benefits of all my mistakes, failures, and successes. You get a more relaxed mama, who isn't quite as fearful as she once was.

I know you have been wishing to turn five for almost a year, but I'm going to be doing a little grieving. When your oldest brother was born, I remember looking into his eyes when he was laid in my arms and thinking, "one day this kid is going to be five." Now here we are, the youngest of six, 15 YEARS later, and it is your turn to be five.

"The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor him for he is your lord." -Psalm 45:11

Lily, you are beautiful. God thinks so, and your family thinks so. We love you so much and enjoy you. Thank you for being YOU!

"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." Psalm 71:18

I pray that I will continue to live for God by example so that you might know of God's power and that you will eventually teach His ways to your children.

Love your BLESSED Mama,


Monday, March 17, 2014

Getting Back to the Things I Love

Life just gets in the way sometimes. Pain stifles creativity. It feels like it wins. Well, I am coming out of a numb fog, and I want to enjoy some of life's simple pleasures again. A couple of those for me are photography (I am VERY much an amateur), reminiscing simpler times, going for long walks in the countryside and hanging out with my six children. I got do all four of those things yesterday and this post is a result of that.

 We went back to the old ranch I grew up on. The people living there are incredibly gracious and we have an open invitation to come back anytime we want. I love people like that! here are the kids in front of the main hay barn.

 Lots of time spent in this barn. Same hook was on the door. I must have opened it a million times growing up.

 My sister can appreciate this! When we crawled up to the rafters on the side of the barn, I found our old play fort. We had hauled this stove up there probably 33 years ago. Lily and Jessica were beside themselves when they found it. They thought it was so cute!

 It is quite vintage looking, isn't it?

 Josh is just getting so big! 

 Our old swimming hole.

 Looking for snails in the midst of the seaweed in the water trough.

 Here is the old bridge where we used to find old, rotten goose-eggs and throw them at the tree in the creek. Fun times! That is what you do when you don't have T.V.

 Couldn't believe I found this still on the fence post! This was the old coffee can that we hung from the tree and would shoot our .22 at. Someone saved it and put it up on the post. Talk about memories!

 This is the road that my mom affectionately dubbed "Lover's Lane". It leads to the lower barn.

 Jess likes to take the camera and get more artistic angles.

 The old farm equipment we used to climb on is still there. Look how far it has sunk into the ground!

I have another post coming up. Don't want to overwhelm you with too many photos ;)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sharing My Childhood with My Children

 The kids and I were dog-sitting the other day and were kind of feeling the cabin fever creep in. I told everyone to hop in the van. We were going to go for a ride down memory lane. I drove my van to the ranch I grew up on. We parked on the gravel road and jumped out. As we walked up the road, memories just flooded my mind. I told the kids about racing my horse as fast as I could down this road (bareback mind you) and trying to just hang on! We used to play Indiana Jones along the "jungles" of the creek's riparian zone. Now there is a fence along the creek to keep the cows out.
Of course, I had to talk about the dump, too. To the left side of the road was an old dump. As kids, one of our favorite things to was to go to the dump, find every glass bottle and smash them on the biggest rock we could find. I was able to point out the rock, too! The same old stove, box springs and washing machine drum was still sitting there. Crazy!

I told them about the bones of the old cow that used to be scattered under the trees. We used to pick through them and count the vertebrates. I looked over there, there were still some bones there!

Then I saw the big rock we used to climb. I remember my mom taking pictures of my sis and I on that rock. I told the kids to jump up there so I could a picture. I wish I could have got all of them on there. But only three were willing.

I told them about some of the naughty things we did as kids (like spitting on signs as we went by). My seven year old, Jacob, looked up at me and said, "Mom, I wish I had a childhood like yours. Yours was fun!". You are right, son. It was fun. It was free from TV, video games, computers, and phones. We just used our imaginations and played. My kids really can't imagine a world like that. Just like I can't imagine a world that my grandparents grew up in.

I am so thankful that my parents still have a ranch that my kids can grow up going to. We are truly blessed. Even though it is a different ranch, it is still a world away from the town life. Such valuable life lessons are being taught to them.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Taking Time to Play

Sometimes you just have to pause and just have a little fun in life. After church last week, we headed out to my folk's ranch. It was almost 60 degrees out. The kids saw that the creek was running and begged to play in it.
 I was tempted to say "no", due to the fact that we had no extra clothes, or shoes if they fell in and got wet. I decided to just not care. My kids are not going to melt and they are not weenies like their mother. I grabbed my camera and decided to come with them. They set up a "camp" and started finding old metal stuff and began "cooking" some stew. It reminded me exactly of what I used to do growing up on a ranch. We did not have TV, video games, phones or the internet. We just had a huge 3000 acre ranch to run all over and explore! We would play for hours by the creek. Mixing up mud-pies and selling them to pretend costumers, was one such adventure.
 Well, you guess it, the kids got soaked! They were cold. Their teeth were chattering, but they were having so much fun!

Here is Lily capturing some water for her tasty "stew".

We enjoyed each other and the beautiful February day. After being cooped up in the house this winter, it amazes me how much less they fight when they are outside in the open space. Suddenly they are working as a team to build something. They are unified!

I want to do this more often. Take time to play. Take time to enjoy these precious six blessings that God has given me. My oldest son has only a few more years before he flies the coop. Is it possible? I look at my youngest and know it will truly happen in the blink of an eye. Am I too busy to enjoy it? Am I too focused on escaping the chaos that I miss my opportunities to have fun with them. Why must I always be so protective? Serious? Impatient? It is usually because I am focused on what isn't important.

"Please Lord, help me to focus on what you want me to focus on. Let your love, patience and joy come out of me and pour onto my children. Our family has been through a rough time. We have shed many tears. We have been angry and hurt and torn. But you are restoring us to something new. You are pouring out your compassion upon us. We have survived this and now let us not just survive, but thrive, Lord! You have cut off our branches so that we might bear more fruit for You. May it be a great harvest!  In Your precious Son's name, Jesus, Amen."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Victory This Weekend!

I am feeling overwhelmed by what the Lord is doing in our lives. I just got back from speaking at a small church in Eastern Oregon. They invited me to share my testimony and to teach them how to protect their families from pornography. The night before I spoke, I was plagued by nightmares. I woke up feeling depressed and oppressed. I wouldn't really call it fear. It was a burden that I knew I wasn't meant to bear. As I told my sister about it, she immediately laid her hands on me. Together we transferred that burden back to the the One who was meant to bear it. Jesus...The oppression left and I felt no worries in my heart for that coming night.

As I entered the church, I cannot tell you the love that I felt for the people, and the love they felt for me. People I never met were kind and compassionate and grateful that I had come.

During the speech, I felt like it was an out of body experience. I knew it wasn't me. It was the Lord talking through me. In my own flesh, I am weak and timid, fearful of what a more experienced person would think of this ordinary mom, with no counseling degree, or any other degree other than a high school diploma. I didn't think of those things as I spoke boldly to this group on pornography within the church, within marriage, and how it is affecting our children's lives. College degrees don't matter when you have the Degree of Pain.

The best part of the night was the hour we spent in question and answer time. What blessed me was watching the people of God, talk about this difficult and uncomfortable subject. Dialogue was taking place! I left knowing that God had opened a can of worms and that they had a new perspective. I believed that they were going to be DOERS of the Word, not just HEARERS.

One lady spoke up at the end, with tears in her eyes. She said that she knew God was working in our lives. Another said God was being glorified! Oh, He was!!! He is glorified when we are obedient even when it is risky and it hurts.

I saw my sons the next morning and I was able to thank them for letting me share their stories. I don't know many teenage boys that would allow their mother to do something like that. The reason why I have this ministry is because they want to help others as well. I praise God for their willingness. Only the Lord knows how many lives will be affected because of it.

I thank all of the parents out there that have allowed me to share their stories as well. I felt you on that stage with me. All the emails, phone calls and texts that I have received from hurting parents, and wives whose lives were devastated by pornography has fueled me to keep pressing on in this. I hear you, I hurt for you, and I am confident that God is using each one to help others avoid the pitfalls that the enemy has laid for them.

The Lord is good and what He does is good. I cannot stop praising Him for what He has done and what He is going to do.He is turning my mourning into dancing. My tears have sown joy.

 I can only imagine what the future holds...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Importance of God's Word (My Testimony) Part 2

God has used His Word to me through a devastation our family has suffered through for the last two years. On exactly this day, January 23 (two years ago),  our lives would be changed forever.  I was never good at memorizing God’s Word, even though I was very familiar with it. When our devastation occurred, I was pleased that the Word of God poured forth out of my mouth when I was in an almost mental and spiritually-paralyzed state. As I entered my crisis of belief, I had to truly determine as Job did, who God was and is He truly good. I knew that I “could curse God and die,” or I could trust Him and believe that he was good and was for me and my family and fall on my knees and worship Him.

 As I opened my Bible in my grief, I would cry out to Him and wonder why He wasn't answering my prayers. There were nights when the pain was so great that I would fall asleep reading His Word. The enemy would plant fears in me so strong, that I was afraid to let go of the Word. I would sleep with it open beside me, my hand resting upon it. It became more important than food and water. I could barely eat, but God fed me with His Word. He sustained me in my darkest hour. Nothing else could satisfy. When the enemy would plant thoughts of discouragement, distrust and confusion in my mind, God’s Word whispered in my ear. “NO!” “I am the way, the truth and the life. Trust in me! I am your strength and your shield, your very great reward.” His love washed over me minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, month by month and now two years later I can say he is still lovingly carrying me through this.

Something I have learned to do when I am going through a time of confusion is to ask God for a Word for that particular situation or crisis. He almost will always give me a portion of Scripture that I can say quickly in my head if I start to falter and doubt. I pray continually that God will open my eyes to see the wonders of Himself, His love, His sacrifice, His creation, His Words, His forgiveness, His grace, His mercy, His provision, and His healing. He is wonderful and I am so thankful that I can communicate with him throughout each and every day. I know I am not alone, He is near to me. I can tell my God anything! I can rant and rave, which turns into surrender and worship. I am free to express my feelings and emotions without offending Him.

One of my favorite miracles that God blessed us with during this trial, was about four months into our crisis, we found out that our son would need to enter into a therapy that cost around $8,000. We live paycheck to paycheck (like everyone else) and I just couldn't figure out how we were going to pay it. I remember getting into the van and escaping to the store by myself. On my way I was feeling very oppressed. The financial burden was so great I felt it physically weighing me down. I cried out to God and said, “Take this, it is too big! You are going to have to provide for us.” I went to the store, and went into the post office to get the mail. As I sat in my van and started going through the mail, a small card slipped out and landed on my lap. I saw that it was from a fellow blogger who had seen my blog and was praying for our family. I opened the card and a $2,000 check slipped out. I read the card and it said, “A cattle on a thousand hills are His, please use this to help with your son’s counseling fees”.  She and her husband had no idea that we even needed it. I just felt the Lord say, “See I got this, Stacie. I will take care of you.” It was the seed of faith that I needed to get me through that really tough time. Not long after that we found out that another source would pay for the other $6,000. Is God not amazing?

Almost a year and a half ago, the same son was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for children because he was having a terrible time with suicidal and homicidal thoughts. We found out he had been misdiagnosed with ADD when he was actually dealing with a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Although it was a terrifying time, God used it to show us what we were dealing with and get him on a medication that worked for him. The hospital stay ended up being over $23,000. I didn't worry this time. I even got a bill that said, we might have to pay thousands of dollars. I gave it to the Lord, knowing he would take care of us. I rejoiced when I got a statement that said all but $100 had been covered by insurance!

Because of our family’s experience, I have been able to comfort others with the comfort I have received. God has entrusted me with a new ministry that educates and equips Christian parents on how to protect their families from the dangers that come from living in a very technological world. Almost every day, God allows me to share my testimony with someone who is being bruised and battered by their family member’s choices.  I have also been able to speak to several different groups outside of our community. Every time I get a chance to speak, I feel like there is purpose to my pain as I aggressively take back territory that the enemy tried to steal from me.

So here I am, exactly two years later, taking back ground and trusting in a mighty God who is redeeming and restoring my family. Daily His promises are being fulfilled in my life. He can do what He says He can do.  His Word is alive and active in me and I AM believing God!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Importance of God's Word ( My testimony) Part 1

My name is Stacie. I have been married to Steve for 18 and a half years. He is a firefighter/paramedic and has worked at a small department for 21 years. We have six children ages 15, 13, 10, 8, 6, and four. There are four boys and two girls. We homeschooled them for seven years, but have since put them in public school.

 I have been a Christian since I was six. I grew up going to Sunday school and church. I thought I knew the Bible because I knew all the major stories like David and Goliath, Samson, Daniel, and Jesus dying on the cross. Basically, I knew basics.

I didn’t have any desire or need except every once in a while when I was going through a crisis, to pick up God’s Word throughout my teens and early twenties.

I grew up, got married at age 20 and continued to live a very moderate, powerless Christian life. I thought I knew the Word but in reality I knew almost nothing.

I began working as a church secretary, when I became pregnant with my first child at the age of 22. Because I was pretty efficient at my job, I had a lot of time on my hands. I started to read some of the pastor’s magazines that came in the church’s mail. I began to realize that there was a lot about the Bible I had never heard of. I suddenly felt very incompetent. I knew that when my children grew up they would start asking me biblical questions. It terrified me to think that I might not have a clue how to answer them. I remember God and I distinctly having a conversation. It went something like this:

“I want to raise my children the best way possible. I want to be the best mother I can be.”

I felt him saying, “Do you think what you are doing is working or do you want to start doing things MY way?”

 I said, “Your way, Lord. I know my way isn’t working.”  It was my first step of surrender. I was 23 years old.

I didn’t have a clue how to do this Bible thing. A friend invited me to her Bible study and I sat there as she opened up the book of Philippians and went on and on about the history of Paul and the church of Philippi. I sat slack jawed and asked her how in the world she knew all that. I felt totally inadequate, ignorant and stupid, but I kept going and listened and learned so much from her.

After my second child was born, I was invited to a women’s retreat where a missionary woman came and talked with us about how she raised her three children in the jungles of Papua New Guinea . She kept saying over and over how she would turn to God’s word and it would give her strength. I only had two children and I was living a comfortable American life style and I felt like I was drowning.  After the talk, I felt God nudging me to ask the most spiritual person I knew that was in the room (a precious older woman named, Shirley). The woman oozed God! When she opened her mouth, the power of God’s Word came forth. I knew she was different and I knew I wanted to be that kind of a person.  I was honest and told her, “I know it is important to study the Bible, but there is NOTHING in me that wants to open it. It’s a book that is boring and I know all the major stories. What do I do? How do I enjoy reading God’s Word?”

Shirley told me that I needed to pray that God would give me a thirst for His Word. I remember her and several other ladies circling around me and praying that I would receive that thirst. The second I opened up my Bible again, I knew something had changed. I wanted to open it! I wanted to read and receive whatever God had for me. This was the second step of surrender to my Savior.

 I am Miss Over-Achiever, so I read the whole Bible from front to back in five months. Now I had a zillion questions about what I had just read. The Lord led me to get a Life Application Bible that had the little footnotes under the confusing passages.  I read the Bible all the way through again studying all those footnotes with it. I was finally grasping how wonderful God’s Word really was. I was daily being convicted and encouraged and it completely changed my life. This was good because we kept adding children to our family. We finally topped out at six. I needed all of God’s help and wisdom that I could get!

I discovered in-depth Bible studies about 12 years ago. God has only used them to increase my thirst for His Word as each year goes by. I love studying a book or a subject by dissecting it! I find great joy in discovering the connections between the Old Testament and the New!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stacie's Tuscana Soup

2 gallons of Chicken Broth (I make my own) salt to taste

2 packages of MILD Italian sausage (cooked)

One to two large onions, sliced thinly

6-8 small potatoes peeled and sliced

2 cups of chopped kale

4 cups of half and half or straight milk

Combine first four ingredients. Boil till potatoes are tender. Add milk or half and half. Bring to a gentle boil. Add kale. Simmer for for 10 minutes. Serve with focaccia bread by using a bread machine. If you are interested in just a straight bread machine that works for everything, you can click here to see my French Bread recipe.

This is a double batch! It freezes really well too!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Spiritual Roller Coaster Ride

I am going on a journey with God that is insane. I remember distinctly about 8 years ago, I was in the middle of a Bible study called, "Beloved Disciple". I heard God telling me to fasten my seat belt because my life would be a roller coaster journey if I decided to obey and surrender to Him. I had no idea what He had in store for me. I think at that time I was in the middle of having all my babies. Thriving instead of surviving motherhood was my ultimate goal. I was trusting God as Steve and I both felt that we were being led to have a large family. I knew he was going to give me the tools that I needed and I knew by having a large family I was definitely going to face opposition from the world and from my beloved family and friends. What we were doing was NOT normal, but we kept trusting God.

We had a tiny house (975 square feet) and we had just had our fourth child. Our baby slept in a playpen in our living room because there was no room for him in the kid's bedroom. But I knew that we were not supposed to move until we had our debt paid off. As soon as I signed the last check to the credit card company, two days later God gave us this four bedroom, roomy house! I was so glad I waited on Him.

I felt God leading me into homeschooling my children. Again, it was against the norm. I had never even considered it and yet I did it for seven years. They were crazy, wild, fun and hard years. So many goods and so many bads. But I wouldn't take back one of them. God wanted me to experience homeschooling and he gave me a vision for my children so that when he called me out of it, they could stand under the pressure of public school. My mothering was intentional. I always said "character before academics". If that meant we didn't get one lick of school work done that day, that was OK. You could be a successful businessman, but if you have no love or respect for others, you hadn't gained anything. This mentality served my children well when they went into the public school system.

As I sent my children to an institution that I feared practically more than life itself, I kept hearing God whisper in my ear, "you can trust me with your children.". As school shootings increased, my fears would increase. My mind would create all kinds of scenarios and I would not have peace. When they kept getting sick and lice notices were handed to us almost weekly, I kept praying that God would get us through it. So far we have not got lice once! That is a miracle! As the Common Core Standards started being implemented in our school, again I wanted to panic and try to fight it or control it somehow. I have done all I can do (written to my senators, representatives, attended school meetings on it, written to the education department) and all to no avail. I am going to trust God with my children's education. Because I have homeschooled I know that there are a lot of options out there. I can think outside the box and know that my children will be OK when they move into higher education, even if they don't do extremely well in the academics department. When evolution is taught, I tell my children, "Good, don't be afraid of it. You need to know what the world believes. But we can say in our heads, "not true", every time we hear the millions of years lingo." I have taught my children a biblical world view and it has served them well.

Our roller coaster really did a loopty-do when my oldest son made his gigantic mistakes and devastated our family. As we went upside down over and over again, I kept crying out, "I want off this roller coaster, Lord! I am sick, I am tired and I can't keep going!" It wasn't exciting anymore, it was scary and there were too many unknowns. I wasn't shrieking because I was feeling joy, I was screaming because I was in pain. God somehow kept me tightly secured in that seat belt until we got out of the loopty-dos. As we started getting on a more even track, there would be times when we would shoot up a steep hill and then have to come down very fast. But I was learning that God could be trusted. He wasn't going to let that roller coaster fall off it's track.

This last two weeks, we have experienced victories that were unimaginable a two ago. We have had some breakthroughs in our son's situation and in our house situation. Downright miracles! I am waiting patiently for the Lord to work it all out and I know that I have gained a greater patience because God has made me wait. What I once fretted over, I don't fret over anymore. Housing is nothing compared to your hurting children. I would take a housing issue any day than watch helplessly because my child was in emotional pain.

I am alive. I am breathing! As much as I am tempted sometimes to get off this roller coaster called a "Surrendered Christian life", I know I must stay on it because every time we go up that steep terrain or we do a loopty-do, I can praise God and give Him the glory for getting us through it. Christian lives are not meant to be boring. They are meant to be exciting and beautiful.  Our testimonies are our lights that shine before men. They point the way to Jesus. Please share it! We all need to be encouraged.

Has God done something exciting in your life? Please share in the comment section.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Out With the Old and On With the New Year (My Musings)

(Daddy and his littlest girl)
I can't believe we are in a new year already! What in the world happened to last year? It has been pretty silent on this blog, because I have been enjoying having my kids home from school. We have had down days and busy days, but they have been wonderful. I do not take breaks from school for granted. I so enjoy having my children around me, caring for them, hugging them and talking with them.
(Josh is looking sharp at my Grandpa's funeral. He honored Grandpa Fay by wearing his dress coat. Grandpa would have been so pleased)

We have got to see lots of family during the holidays. I am so thankful that all three sets of our parents are within 3 hours driving distance! Also, my brother and his wife and children are just 45 minutes away and my sister is now just two hours away. We are such a close family because of it.

Our children have had the opportunity to be part of our little church's Christmas Story again. I love watching them participate with cheerful attitudes (the first this year) as they play shepherds and angels. Marcus got to be King Herod this year.

(I have been able to watch my brother and SIL's children a few times this past week. They are such sweeties! Our children LOVE to play with their cousins.)
Before school got out, Steve and I so enjoyed watching the children perform in their Christmas program at school. They sang some really fun songs and made us all laugh with their adorable antics!

We were hit earlier this December with some REALLY cold weather. Cold for us, anyway. I think the lowest was -1. Brrrr! I was praying that our heat pump wouldn't quit on us. But it pulled through! Thank you, Lord! We stayed warm and just holed up watching movies, playing games and reading.

Yep, Josh is officially taller than me and Marcus is getting pretty close. They are both trying hard in school. Proud of both of them and the effort they are putting into it. I am not a mom that requires A's and B's, I just want them to put effort into whatever it is they are working at. I try to be a cheerleader that encourages them when they stumble and fall. I use phrases like "What are you going to do about that?" or "Is their anything I can do to help". I am really trying to not micro-manage my children as much as I used to. It seems to be working because everyone is much more relaxed when "Perfection Mom" is not on the rampage!
We are in the thick of basketball season, so starting next weak we will be averaging three games a week, not to mention practices. I used to have such a hard time with this. I was not a sporty person, so I never thought I would make this a priority for our children. But when some of your children seem to excel and enjoy something, it is hard to say no. I just don't want to do it all year. Spring and summer is when I refuse to let them play anything. We all need to rest, recoup and not be running around all the time. I am OK with sports if I know it is just for a season.

(Lily begged for a gingerbread house this year. I bought it for them and let them figure the whole thing out. I love that they are getting older and can figure things out for themselves. That's half the fun, right?!?)
I have had time to read some really good books lately. My favorite one that I couldn't put down is called "Confession of an Imperfect Mom: A Path to Less Guilt and More Grace" by Julie Barnhill. Through this God's Word and the encouragement in this book, God is teaching me to relax more and realize that my children's future isn't all up to what I have done and what I haven't. Man, I am just soooo controlling. I need to give myself more grace. God can work through my mistakes that I have made. What a relief! I am also reading Lynn Austin's new book "Return to Me", which has been excellent so far. Her biblical fiction is amazing. I am learning all about the Israelite's return to Babylon. So many lessons for me!

Even though life is still very hard and stressful, we continue to wait on God's perfect timing in many areas. We are still wanting to move closer to the children's school and our church. We have a buyer for our house, so now we are waiting for a house to go for sale that is within our price range and is big enough for our large family. In His way and His time.
I find myself reflecting that this truly was a year of "Reconstruction".

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mom's Apple Crisp

This apple crisp recipe is great for potlucks or family gatherings! It fills up a 9x13 pan.

Mom's Apple Crisp

8 peeled, sliced apples
1 1/2 cups of sugar (I use sucanat)
6 TBS flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 nutmeg
1 1/2 cups of boiling water.

Put apples in greased 9x13 baking dish. Mix above ingredients and sprinkle over apples. Pour boiling water over apples.

For Topping Mix, combine...

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of packed brown sugar (or sucanat)
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
(my mom likes to add a cup of sliced almonds to the topping mix)

Place Topping Mix on top of apples. Bake at 350 degrees 40-50 minutes or until crispy on top.

I also like to exchange about half of the flour to whole wheat pastry flour. It doesn't change the texture, but it gives you more whole grains.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Digging Deep

I ran across this today and I thought I would share this powerful lesson with you as well.

"We can do nothing to make our own hearts clean and pure. God creates clean hearts from nothing. God does not form clean hearts in us with the existing materials of our righteous acts and self-disciplines. If we had all those things, our human natures would more likely form them into the stuff of self-righteousness and pride rather than purity of heart. God creates pure hearts from nothing in response to our sincerest repentance and desire to be pure before Him."- Beth Moore from her Believing God Bible study

No matter how much I study the Bible and practice my spiritual disciplines, I cannot make my own heart clean. Only the blood of the lamb can do that. I thank God that He did not allow me to stay in my self-righteousness. Since our devastation with our oldest son, God has used it to strip my pride away. I tried to be the perfect parent. I know I self-righteously thought, "Well, if others would just do this, this and this, then they wouldn't be in the pickle they are in with their children." Boy was I wrong! There is not formula. I prayed for my kids, I DEVOURED God's Word. I homeschooled my children to try to protect them from the World's evil influences and yet it didn't matter. My son chose to sin and the consequences of that devastated our family.

Now here we are, 20 months later STILL trying to pick up the pieces. At the beginning of this, I just wanted a plan, a time-line or some indication of when life would get back to "normal". I wanted to be in CONTROL of my life. As we pick up piece by precious piece, I know that God is putting those broken fragments back onto a foundation that is ROCK solid. For I am allowing God to build my family "on the Rock who is higher than I". I don't have to know the plan two days from now, let alone two months, or two years. I just have to go with God's plans for me today. I have to trust that His plans are good even when they hurt.

I choose to look at the blessings in our situation. There are many. Too many to list here. These blessings have been mined through the hardest bedrock. They weren't just lying on the surface, ready to harvest, I had to DIG. But when I got to each blessing, and realized the Work it took to recognize it, I stand amazed at how precious they really are. Beautiful gems that are fit for my King Jesus.

I have been so completely transformed by this experience. There will always be trouble in the world, but Jesus has overcome the world. He is my all in all. He pray He always keeps me humble so I can be a true servant of God.

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