Love Matters Most

It is a snow covered world here in rural Ohio. Our kind neighbors have been plowing our snow for us and large piles tower by our doorstep. Yesterday morning we were leaving the house and I put shoes, not boots, on my four year old son as we prepared to leave the house and attend a meeting.

As we walked out the door I was preoccupied with the two year old and didn’t see my four year old head straight for a snow drift. By the time I realized what he was doing he was up to his knees in snow. I told him to get out of the snow bank but he was having fun and not obeying, so, still holding the two year old, I grabbed his arm, pulled him out roughly and said some angry words. He headed for his carseat and I walked around the car to strap the two year old in with the thought crystal clear in my head: “I am such a terrible mother. I should never have had children.”

Later in the day I read a blog titled “dear mom who sometimes feels like she is a terrible mom.” This is part of a larger series of “dear mom” letters from a blog titled finding joy. It is a good article and a recommended read, but I didn’t find any comfort there except in the fact I’m not alone in these feelings. These days I tend to be more of a realist. Maybe I’m not a great mother. Maybe I shouldn’t have had children. But I am now a mother. And I do have children. This is the reality I must live with.

Later in the day I cleared my kitchen floor from all that had accumulated there these last weeks and made a home cooked meal. We all sat down at the table, and when my two year old yelled out “Jesus! pray!” her four year old brother said, for the first time in his life, “I’ll pray!” He offered up a sweet, quiet prayer of thanks for our food and his toys and his sister (who wanted to be included too). And in that moment I realized loosing my temper does not mean that I should not be a mother. My little boy chose to pray regardless of my failures that day. Regardless of how much or little I’ve taught him on the topic of prayer. Regardless of whether I fail him or not.

I will always struggle. I will loose my temper again and again. I will ask for forgiveness again and again. But over and above and beyond any failure is my love for my children. When my child is out of the snow drift and shivering in the backseat because the now melting snow has overwhelmed his legs and socks he knows his mother will show him love. He knows I will make sure he is warm and cared for. There is no doubt of my love in his eyes.  And that is what matters most.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Home Hair Cuts

For the past three years I’ve been learning to cut my son and husbands hair by trial and error. I’ve had some successes and some hilarious failures.

Today I found this You Tube video and am so excited! This video (HERE) is a men’s hair cutting class demonstration; a clipper haircut and eyebrow trim. The video is just over 30 minutes long and is very detailed. I’m excited to watch this a few times and put into practice some new techniques for my fellows.

What I can’t quite figure out is…how do I corral all that falling hair? I feel like I am covered in hair after I give these cuts, especially in the wintertime when we can’t go outside for haircuts. Maybe there is a You Tube video that addresses hair cleanup too. :)

A Mommies Devotional

(I wrote this for my friend’s (third baby) baby shower and thought it might be encouraging to someone else too. I was encouraged to think through these this and get into my Bible even if in the end a lot of the Bible didn’t get into this devotional! :P)

A woman was writing on her blog about the last several years of refining fire in her life…that is, motherhood… and I thought, “oh, isn’t that the truth!” Refining fire, motherhood, yup!  But then I got to thinking about worship sessions where we sing the song “refiner’s fire” – the condensed lyrics are:

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy

Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
Ready to do Your will

We want to be cleansed from our sin and set apart for the Lord. We want to be holy. We want to be as precious as gold.

But when I sing that song I’m thinking of something exciting…the mission field, the hard hearts of my un-churched friends, my neighbors. Something new, something exciting, and something that makes a difference today. Yea!

What I’m not thinking of is another poopy diaper, my toddler wailing because he wanted yogurt, NOT applesauce or the baby waking me up all through the night. I’m certainly not thinking of yet another day at home with my children, dinner to plan, laundry to do or the pile of dishes that’s never quite finished.

And yet, if we’re seeking a life that will be transformed into the image of Christ, it is exactly our life as mothers that will achieve our transformation. God is blessing you with another child who will enrich your life with moments of great joy…and moments of great frustration…and pretty much every emotion in between. And as you seek to raise that child in the Lord the Lord will be refining you. I was reading a devotional that said, “as your child clings to your legs you will be clinging to the Lord’s legs” and thought that was a great picture of how mothering works. From that same devotional (Blessed is the Mother who Clings” by Mary E. Hamrick) I thought she did a great job illustrating how as we follow the Lord and are refined by him our children come along and learn from us. She says,

“Blessed is the child whose mom’s delight is in the law of the Lord”, for the child will learn to enjoy reading and studying God’s Word.

“Blessed is the child whose mom puts her trust in the Lord”, for the child will learn that the Lord is trustworthy and faithful.

“Blessed is the child whose mom’s sins are forgiven”, for he will learn about God’s grace and mercy. 

“Blessed is the child whose mom’s steps are ordered by the Lord”, for the child will learn to yield their life and direction to the Lord’s guidance. 

“Blessed is the child whose mom perseveres”, for the child will learn to press on through tough situations and lessons, never giving up.

As you add another life to your family there will be beautiful moments and hard moments both, but my encouragement to you, when you are in the trenches of daily life with three children, is that God is working in your life – in each circumstance, each diaper, each smiling child and each child that is driving you crazy. God is using it all to transform you into the image of His Son.

Your children truly will grow up and be blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) to have you as their mother because you are blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) to have God as your Refiner.

Pinterest Project: Lemon Rosemary Crockpot Chicken (& Broth!)

So I’ve decided to post “Pinterest Projects” – something I’ve cooked, baked, created or otherwise been inspired by from a pin on Pinterest. Goodness knows I spend enough time there looking! I’m hoping to make this a weekly event but as I’m just starting to blog again we’ll see. I can’t guarantee they’ll all turn out well, just that I’ll be honest. :D

This weeks project is a recipe for Lemon Rosemary Crockpot Chicken. The link to the pin is here. The recipe is found at the blog A Lighter Journey and doesn’t need expanded on. At the store this week I got a whole chicken and celery. There were lemons in my fridge and rosemary growing in a pot on the porch. By the way – fresh herbs are soooo much better than dried. How did I miss that fact all these years? Our herb garden will expand next year for sure!

Here’s the chicken buried in the crockpot under a mound of yummy toppings.

Because my chicken wasn’t frozen I planned to cook it for 3 or 4 hours as she suggests. Instead, after it had been cooking 3 hours, I realized it was 8:00 pm and I was tired. So I turned the crockpot on low and let it go all night. When I got up in the morning I removed the chicken pieces with tongs but left the liquid that had developed along with all the additions. When the chicken cooled a bit and I removed the meat from the bones.

This is the chicken I separated out when it was done cooking.

The pieces/parts remaining after the meat is gone went back into crockpot. I added some water, bay leaves, some pepper and a little garlic, put the lid back on, kept it on low and left it till the late afternoon.

Here the pieces/parts are added back in to the liquid in the crockpot. This is before I added a bit more water.

In the late afternoon I turned the crockpot off and took the actual cooking pot out. Once it cooled just a bit I strained out the big pieces using my colander over a mixing bowl, then filled my sink with ice water and moved the broth in the mixing bowl to the sink to try and cool it a little more before moving it to the fridge. Once it cooled enough that I didn’t think my fridge would get too warm I put the bowl of broth in the fridge with the lid on and left it there until the next day when the fat had solidified on the surface. Then I skimmed the fat off (and tossed it…cause I don’t yet make soups or sauces that would use it).

The fat has been half skimmed out of the bowl and the muffin tins are waiting to be filled.

To freeze the stock I use ice cube trays, muffin tins and quart freezer bags for the rest. But that said, I sure can’t figure out a great way to get those frozen cubes out easy! Any suggestions?

The first two trays of chicken stock in the freezer. They’ll be separated and bagged into freezer bags once frozen.

Do you have a Pinterest Project that you’ve done? Did it turn out like you hoped? Will you keep the pin? Feel free to leave a comment and include a blog link if you have one. :)

(shared at Homemaker By Choice‘s Homemaking Link-Up)

Meal Planning Fun!

I’ve been searching for an online menu planner and price tracker and finally decided on Say Mmm. I started entering all the recipes but decided that since I already have them in a binder I’m rather wasting my time when all I’m really after is shopping list planning. I don’t want to have to print the recipe each time, and I don’t want to have to run back and forth to the computer either!

So what to do? First, I’m entering the recipe title and ingredient list into Say Mmm. That way I can make meal plans and shopping lists more quickly and easily. Second, while I’m entering recipes I’m sorting through my recipe binder. I started a new binder for the recipes that have not yet attained to the high status of our “keepers” list. The new binder also gives me a place to store new recipes I want to try without having a cluttered pile hanging around.

Prepping all the ingredients before I start cooking…”Mise en Place” in action!

In the end my original recipe binder should match what is in Say Mmm. Once everything is entered I can then put together meal plans…so much easier than deciding each week what to fix for each meal. For instance, I can add a meal that is set as “cheese meatloaf, escalloped corn, and harvard beets” and then choose that meal in my weeks plan.

Eventually I can upgrade and track my shopping costs, and add more than 100 recipes. Once I am using the program regularly I’ll feel the $3/month is more justified. No sense spending money when I haven’t yet proved I’ll use the program regularly (no matter how excited I am now).

(update: I wrote this in February but am publishing it in July…the system has been working pretty good. I upgraded and really like having all my loved recipes in one place – both in my binder and on Say Mmm. I’m still working on getting meal plans together and working out some of the bugs but my meal planning has gone much better since I started this.  I find their system a bit bulky but still the best from what’s out there to choose from. Hoping they upgrade their pricing system soon.

I also wrote down what is in all the aisles at our local grocery store so that when I write my lists by hand I can sort them exactly how the store is laid out. I dislike searching for things!)

 

Thinking About My Past Life

I was standing at our deep freezer yesterday several months ago repackaging my discounted meat finds and thinking about my past life. Past life you say? Yes…that life I lived 15-20 years ago. The life I had in high school and the first part of my 20’s. I think we all have a past life. For pre-teens it is childhood. For teenagers it is the pre-teen & childhood years. And after high school it’s pretty much whatever season of life you look back on and reminisce (for better or worse) about.

Now why, you may ask, did freezing meat trigger a long and thoughtful reminiscing session? Well I’ll tell you. I was standing in my kitchen, which at most times is a lovely and inviting space. The counters are usually clear of dishes and wiped down, the pots and pans are all put away and nicely displayed. The food is in the fridge and all is as it should be. Not so that day! I had the fruits and veggies from my shopping trip four days prior (!) still sitting in the grocery bags on the floor. Every inch of counter space was covered in dirty dishes, some actively growing new mold. The pots and pans shelving unit was an unorganized and overflowing disaster. And I’m standing there freezing meats so that I can fit the produce in the fridge…the meats I should have frozen four days ago.

Messy stove area.

And what got me about it all was that it was ok. No, it’s wasn’t ok to have such a disastrous mess on my hands. But I was ok emotionally with the mess. At this point in life I can look at the mess and see it as a project to complete, a task to accomplish and get working on accomplishing it. Not so in my past life.

In my past life I would have looked at the mess and seen it as yet another proof that I was a wretched person who didn’t deserve anything anything in life, including life. I would have never gotten started cleaning it until I knew I could clean the entire mess, rearrange the pots & pans shelf, put all the groceries away and probably clean the fridge out in the process. But unless you have no other responsibilities that’s a pretty unattainable goal…thus circling back to the idea that my life is not of any value. I would say to myself, “You are so worthless! You can’t even keep your kitchen clean. Why are you even alive. You can’t do anything right, why do you even try.” And on and on and on. And the sad thing was I believed it. And those thoughts touched every single piece of my life. I was paralyzed from making decisions because I knew I’d just fail at them. I tried controlling as much as I could in my life because maybe those things could prove I had some value. But trying to control things is like trying to hold on to sand…not going to happen.

So standing at my freezer, kitchen a mess, produce on the floor, pots and pans scattered, I thought about all this. And I breathed a prayer of thanks that my life is not that life anymore. I am still tempted to think that way. If I’m really tired and hungry it sometimes comes out. But overall I know the truth and believe it with all my being. My messy kitchen (messy house, failure as a gardener, etc…) does not mean that I am a failure at life. It means there is still room for growth – and that’s ok. I can stand in my kitchen and break the tasks into smaller achievable chunks and then get to work on the first task. I can think about how next time I can do something different to not let it get so out of hand. I can be thankful I have a home to live in, food to eat and dishes to wash. I can live a normal life and not fight myself at every turn. I can desire to live.

I used to think my past life was unique. Certainly I must be the only one who knew they should never have been born because they were obviously such a failure at everything they touched (and I chuckle as I write that, even feeling the scar of those years). But it wasn’t unique. It’s actually a pretty common thread I’ve heard since the Lord helped me find healing. It’s something a lot of people keep inside. I don’t think I ever spoke such negative words outloud except when complimented. The compliment could never be accepted and I would try to argue against it.  And I know now that is SUCH an annoying response! But I didn’t know that then. I believed the compliment was a lie said to make me feel better about being worthless. Crazy, huh!

The words of Psalm 139 were a piece of my truth journey. Here is part of the Psalm…

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.

Our lives are spent balancing who we were in the past with who we hope to be. I love the quote that says “Far from what I once was but not yet what I’m going to be.” So now my messy kitchen just means the kitchen is a mess, nothing more and nothing less. I can hope that in the future I learn the secret of keeping it clean and will work toward that. In the meantime I smile and breathe a prayer of thanks for the life I have today.

The stove is cleared!

Our Little Seeds

Sooo, I’m learning how to use WordPress still…hence the interesting arrangement of this post!

I wanted to show off pictures of my seed trays!

I am quite excited to have started some plants from seed and I have two trays that are still alive!

Now they are all bigger. My hubby doesn’t think they’ll be big enough to transplant in a few weeks but I’m not looking that far out. I’m just happy they are still alive. It’s a first!

The middle picture is what they looked like before I thinned them out. I do believe I have “leggy” tomatoes but I don’t know yet if that means they will not make it to the garden.

In my seed trays I have three varieties of tomato, two varieties of pepper, basil and lavender. But the lavender didn’t grow. Not sure why exactly.

Yep, that’s the post. Just wanted to show off my living seeds! I’ve tried growing seeds before and they never made it this far. Hubby tells me watering them helps…

Marriage Thoughts

No matter how long or short you’ve been married it is always good to focus from time to time on how you are doing as a spouse. So many marriages are hurting and struggling and it breaks my heart to see people I care about in pain. I’ve come across several marriage articles lately and am glad to read others experiences and think about my own.

Real Marriage, a sermon series from Mars Hill (thanks Rachel!)

Guarding Your Marriage @ Simple Homeschool

The Top Ten Reasons for Divorce @ Whole Intentions

Wisdom, Blessings and Applesauce @ The Calm After the Storm

Choice Secrets of Successful, Long Marriages @ Deep Roots at Home

Adjusting to our New Life with Two

Well, it’s been a month since baby girl was born. The recovery has been great and we are adjusting to life with two children now. I think we find it very novel to say we are going somewhere with “the kids.” I know I giggle a bit each time…kids!

In the last month I’ve also discovered Pinterest (along with much of North America it seems). Because Pinterest can store most of what I post here I’ll be doing a bit more journaling here about our garden and home. That is when no children (like the small one crying next to me) need to be on my lap!

Off to feed the baby!