Monday, October 28, 2013

God's Perfect Timing

As I have written about before, I had a miscarriage in January of 2012, an event that affected me so deeply and so fully that it changed who I am.  Since then, as friends have loved me, listened to me, shared their stories with me, and prayed with me, I know I have healed.  But miscarriage is one of those events that I am not sure someone can ever completely heal from.  For months following the loss of our baby, I was on a mission to become pregnant again.  It consumed my brain and I couldn't make it stop.  I studied ovulation charts, read books, stalked pregnancy web sites, consulted with friends and family members, spent a ridiculous amount of money on ovulation prediction kits, and pretty much drove my husband crazy with incessant planning. My husband was a good sport about my, "we have 12 hours to get pregnant" announcements month after month, only making sarcastic comments roughly half of the time. Seriously, this man should get an award for his love and patience, especially since during part of this baby craze, he had a drainage tube in his side for some kidney stone issues he was having and he still didn't tell me to give it a rest.  He was mostly patient and understanding and I am continually thankful that God chose this man to be my husband.

During all of this planning and research, I started to become convicted about the whole thing.  As I prayed, I was continually met with God asking me, "Do you want this baby more than you want Me?" and "Don't you trust Me?".  At first, I pushed those questions away because surely I loved the Lord above all and trusted Him fully, I didn't even need to think about it.  But then, I started examining how I spent my time. Did I really think about this non-existent baby more than I thought about the real and living God?  Was I spending more time perusing natural fertility web sites than I was studying the Word of God?  It terrified me to come face to face with this truth.  God is definitely first in my life, but the fact that this concern was even in my mind gave me a new outlook on having another baby.

Finally, I had had enough.  I could no longer calculate the best day to get pregnant.  I couldn't handle the pitying look the cashier at the Dollar Tree gave me as I purchased yet five more ovulation kits.  That two week wait to find out if I was pregnant was just too dreadful for me to endure. I certainly couldn't tolerate the possibility of this baby becoming an idol.  As much as I wanted another baby, I prayed for God to change my heart if this wasn't His will for my life.  I also prayed that He would give me a desire for Him that was greater than anything else in my life.

A dear friend gave my family the opportunity to have an affordable beach vacation, which happened to be the week that our baby would have turned a year old.  I was relieved for the distraction from our every day life and glad to be able to get away with my other three little blessings from Jesus to have a fun week.  But as the anniversary of my would-have-been due date came, I found myself feeling a bit sad.  It seemed the beach was filled with one-year-old babies and pregnant women!  I couldn't help but think about how much fun it would be to have a sunblock and sand covered toddler with us, chasing seagulls, spilling juice boxes, finding lady bugs and eating dirt.  I again longed for that baby I didn't get to meet.  I also thought it was strange that I was so grieved by this day that I began to physically feel pregnancy symptoms.  Unwilling to let my emotions and now physical ailments ruin our fun, I ignored all of this and continued on with our vacation.
Watching the waves on Lake Michigan.

We got home and unpacked in the evening on August 29th, a year after the day our baby would have been due and I still felt not-quite-right.  I still had a pregnancy test in the bathroom and decided to take it just in case this nausea wasn't all in my head.  It was positive.  I was in shock.  I wanted to be excited.  I wanted to love this baby and think about who he or she would be.  In reality though, this was not at all how I imagined I  would feel when I finally did become pregnant.  I wanted reassurance that this baby would be healthy and a guarantee that I would be holding this little baby in the spring.

Doug and I decided to wait to tell our kids until after we heard the baby's heartbeat.  When I miscarried, there was never a heartbeat, so this seemed like a good milestone.  At nine weeks, I had an appointment with a nurse and I lost it.  I told her about my miscarriage and how unenthusiastic I was about being pregnant.  She had experienced a miscarriage as well and understood, so she squeezed me in for an ultrasound.  I got to see little hands and a little heartbeat, so I did feel much better knowing there was a live baby in there!  We told our other kids later that evening and they were excited about having a new baby.  My daughter had just turned four and is obsessed with babies, so this news was the best ever for her.  She even asked me if this baby can be her own child when it grows up.  I am not sure what that means exactly, but I know this little baby is loved already!  She tells everyone from the nurse who gave her a flu shot to the cashier at the grocery store that there is a baby in her Momma's tummy.
Ellery making footprints in the sand with her baby doll, Logan.

I am excited to meet the baby God has made for our family.  This baby is the one He chose for us, not the one I planned and orchestrated.  Isaiah 55:8 says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."  It can be so hard to "give up" sometimes when I want something so much that I felt like I need to help God in order to make it happen.  That wisdom He gave me when I was faced with those hard questions wasn't easy to accept. But thankfully, God has made a way for me to have another baby, but in the way that He planned from the start.

"My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken."  Psalm 62:1-2

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Knowing You, Jesus

I have a homeschooling schedule that I try to follow each day as I teach my three blessings.  By "schedule," I mean that there are subjects and lessons that I aim to complete with my kids each day any time during our waking hours.  We do a good job of completing assignments for the most part and I have learned not to get frazzled if things don't go as planned.  Sometimes my kids learn far more during the orderless days than they do when I meticulously plan.  This week, my sweet daughter called me into the living room, declaring it was time to worship the Lord.  I am pretty sure this girl will be a worship leader or pastor some day, as she is always setting up church and forcing us to sit and listen to her preach and pray and sing.  On this particular day, she had the radio on and was twirling around, eyes closed, arms in the air, singing, "Knowing You, Jesus."  How could I not join in this time of praise and worship?  She is an enormous interruption much of the day, but times like these I am glad she interrupted. Who needs to know how to convert decimals to fractions anyway? ;)

I am fortunate to have a few moments alone with God throughout every day.  This time might not be at the beginning of the day or when I would have planned it, but somehow I always find myself with chunks of time when things are going smoothly enough for me to sit alone with the Lord.  You might think that a homeschooling mother must be so busy that it's unimaginable, but I have found that this is far from the truth.  Sure, I could place unrealistic demands on myself and my children and fill our time so full of curriculum that none of us could breathe, but why?  There are times when my daughter is occupied with her doll house people and my older kids are completing their hour of independent reading or when Max and Ruby are entertaining my daughter while my sons finish their math assignments, when I find myself able to read my Bible or pray for longer than thirty seconds.  I haven't always made this time for prayer and studying the Word part of my life.  In my twenties, I strove to be the perfect wife, the ideal mother, the invaluable neighbor, the productive employee, the supportive friend.  All of that striving didn't produce perfection and instead left me feeling empty, discontented and exhausted. I was still lacking something, but it wasn't clear to me what that something was.

I know much of this need for perfection came from being the wife of a man who was lost in an addiction to prescription drugs, whose continual health issues left him in a constant cycle of abusing drugs to cope with the chaos inside his heart.  My twenty-something self needed to feel like everything was okay, that I was in control of something, though my life was out of control, unpredictable and unhappy.  I had to prove to my children that we were going to have a happy family and a happy childhood, regardless of our circumstances.  I had to prove to myself that I would not give up on my marriage, just because it was hard, just because I was miserable.  During that time, though, I didn't make room for Jesus.  I believed that Jesus died for my sins, I believed that I was going to Heaven, but I didn't cling to Jesus with all of my heart.  I had no idea what I was missing and how different my life could be, if only I would surrender completely.

Sometime in my mid-twenties, I finally found what it was I had been searching for to fill this emptiness in my heart: Jesus.  Jesus, for real. To know about Jesus and to know Jesus personally are two entirely different things.  Up until this point, I was unaware there was a difference.  I thought that as long as I had "heard the good news," I would avoid going to hell.  What I hadn't realized was that I couldn't just hear this news and push it to the back of my mind, continuing to harbor bitterness toward my husband and his addiction and continuing to live my life independently, apart from the will of God.  This knowledge of an all-powerful, loving, merciful God hadn't consumed me and given me the hunger for more.  I had felt the same way about this information that I did knowing my address or knowing that my kids preferred their PB&J cut into triangles instead of squares.  I knew the information, but it didn't change me.  I thought that I could know God was God, but that I could live for creating a perfect life instead of living for Him.

A decade after I first heard about Jesus, I understood what it meant to follow Him, to live for Him and to be loved by Him.  I was no longer enslaved by my feelings of inadequacy and the constant struggle to make life better, more rewarding, and happier somehow.  I no longer felt that it was necessary to pick up the pieces after my husband had produced yet another path of destruction for himself.  I could finally see that his addiction was his problem and his responsibility.  I was free from that massive burden of making perfection my true god.

Now, almost two decades after I first heard about Jesus, I am in awe of just how incredible our God truly is.  I still want to be a good neighbor, a supportive friend, a God-honoring wife and mother, but that want isn't what I live for and it is something that I know isn't possible on my own.  I try to do everything God sets before me with the desire to honor Him.  As I think about how different the circumstances in my life are compared to what they were even ten years ago, I cannot help but praise the Lord for what he's done.

John 14:6 says, "Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Baby Hats Galore!

Since opening my Etsy shop, I have made all kinds of different things to sell: sweaters, slippers, blankets, wash cloths, toys, and bibs.  The item I sell the most of, however, is baby hats.  I have added all kinds of baby hats to my shop over the past few months and they've been selling like crazy!  I have more ideas in my head, but less time available than I need to complete them.  For now, I'll just stick to making LOTS of the hats I have already designed. :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Parenting From Proverbs

Most years, our neighbors pick a Saturday and have a neighborhood-wide garage sale.  This year, however, just a few of us had the time and stuff to have a sale, so we met at my house and had one, big sale.  My children wanted to have a lemonade/baked goods stand at the end of the driveway during our sale to earn money for an upcoming vacation.  I am a bit grossed out by children pouring beverages (I have observed too many hands digging in the dirt and fingers in noses), so I agreed to bake some cookies, Rice Krispies treats and mini loaves of bread for my kids to sell, along with some bottled water. 

My middle son and I tend to disagree on most things.  I have prayed about this, yet nothing changes.  I try diligently not to argue with this twelve-year-old blessing from Jesus and have accepted that he and I have different perspectives.  My prayer now is for his future wife, my future daughter-in-law.  I pray that she is living a life that is preparing her for his strong personality.  Anyway, he was not happy that there would be no lemonade at this lemonade stand.  I had to pick up a few things at Meijer and he asked to ride along.  I was suspicious, as he is not fond of shopping.  When we arrived, he asked if he could use his own money to buy Country Time Lemonade and cups to sell lemonade the following day.  I was at the point of my day where I didn't really care whose boogers ended up in whose cup of lemonade, so I agreed.

The lemonade mix was on sale for $2 and the cups were $1.46.  He waited in the checkout lane behind me and when I was finished with my purchase, the cashier rang up his two items.  I was standing nearby, but close enough to hear her tell Brodie his total was $1.55.  He handed her the money and met me where I was standing.  I looked at him and asked him how his transaction went.  He said that the things he bought must have been on sale because it didn't cost as much as he thought it would. 

I was tired and cranky after my day of getting merchandise in order for a yard sale, taking care of three kids and our house, and baking and baking and baking.  I just wanted to go home, make dinner, bathe my daughter, get our bedtime business finished and go to sleep!  As exhausted as I was, I couldn't ignore this teaching moment that the Lord had placed in front of me.  I could think of a hundred places in Scripture that told me I had to teach my son something despite my mentally and emotionally drained state.

I told Brodie that something seemed wrong and we needed to look at his receipt to be sure that the cashier charged him for both of the items he bought.  Sure enough, only the cups were listed on his receipt.  I asked him what we should do about it and he shrugged his shoulders, as a twelve-year-old would.  I gave him some words to use to explain to the Customer Service cashier what had happened and stood back while he remedied this situation.  She was shocked that he was so honest, collected his money for the lemonade, and gave him a store coupon for $2 off of his next purchase.  We didn't know he would get that coupon, intending for him to pay for the lemonade without the expectation of a reward and I really wanted him to know that even if it costs us, we still do what is right.  But I guess it was a good reinforcement to show him that it pays to be honest.

There are many books written on the topic of parenting and while many of these books can be useful, I am ever-thankful that the best parenting instruction comes directly from the Lord.  Proverbs 12:22 says: "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful."  How amazing and wonderful that a twelve-year-old boy can bring DELIGHT to the Almighty God!  As a mother, my greatest prayer for my children is that they will desire God and choose Him above all.  I want to raise children who will be godly men and women, who will be living testimonies of the power of our risen King.  How fortunate I was that day in Meijer for that unexpected moment that will shape my son's heart in preparation for the man he will become.

In the end, Meijer still lost $2 in the form of a coupon, only it was lost in a way that honored God, delighted Him even.  It would have been easy to avoid all of the hassle involved in paying for the lemonade.  It would also have taught my son that it is okay to profit from the mistake of another person and that it pays to be dishonest.  Instead, ten minutes of my already long day, taught him that it is important to be honest, truthful, and a good witness for Christ at all times, not just when we "feel like it." 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Recipe for the Easiest, Yummiest Pasta Salad Ever

Summer just wouldn't be summer without this pasta salad!  My husband and kids (and nieces and nephews!) love this pasta salad.  I've been making it for as long as I can remember, probably because it is super-easy to make and when I first got married the most I could cook was cinnamon toast. :) 

Plus, I despise mayonnaise.  Finding summer side dishes without mayonnaise was a challenge a decade ago, before the days of Pinterest, so I was beyond excited to find this recipe at the time.  I still make it at least a couple of times each month and my kids have yet to grow sick of it. 

In the summertime, this pasta salad accompanies grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken kabobs, or even PB&J sandwiches.  There is really no "wrong" way to make it, but my kids' favorite combination is: pasta, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and Meijer brand Reduced-Fat Italian salad dressing. If you have a garden and you plan

Easiest, Yummiest Pasta Salad Ever

16 ounce box of pasta (our favorite is Rotini)

1 16 ounce bottle of Italian salad dressing

Chopped vegetables of your choice:  cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, green onions, olives

Directions:  Cook and drain pasta according to package directions.  Place in a large bowl and cool. Add the entire bottle of salad dressing and mix well.  Add vegetables.  Chill completely before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Date With My Husband at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission

My husband and I aren't a "date night" kind of couple.  Occasionally we get crazy and go to Meijer for groceries after dinner, leaving all three children home to entertain themselves.  Most of our dates include standing in our kitchen at 9pm, eating store-brand Triscuits and coming up with solutions to each others' life problems.  It works for us.  Plus, I like to wear pajamas and be in bed by 10pm. 

Kalamazoo Gospel MissionOne of my husband's burdens is that he feels called to serve people in our community who are broken, homeless, addicted, and in need of a Savior.  Sometimes he hesitates and needs a push to get started on things.  I'm a little bit bossy an encouraging wife and if he shares something like this with me, I will find a way to help him.  He had mentioned helping out at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission and through Facebook, I heard about a Lunch and Learn meeting that they hold once a month or so.  We missed the first one I knew about because Doug was in the hospital with a tube through his back into his kidney.  This month, however, there are no tubes attached to anyone, so I signed us up.  Lunch without children = a date at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.

The day arrived and it was a warm yet rainy walk from our car to the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.  We passed several women who were ignoring their fussing children, while avoiding eye contact as we walked by.  It was obvious to me that these kids were entirely exhausted and bored.  I have seen this same behavior in my own children, the difference being that I am able to tuck my babies into their own bed or hand them a jar of Play-Doh or even start a Dora the Explorer DVD.  These mothers, being homeless, didn't have those options.  And so they stood, waiting for the hour to arrive when they could enter the Gospel Mission for lunch and a moment out of the rain.  We later learned that the residents of the Gospel Mission get to eat first, followed by the general public, including these emotionless mothers of distraught children.

As we entered the building, we were greeted by a kind, approachable woman named Tammy, who led us into the Lunch and Learn meeting.  She reminded me instantly of a dear friend of mine from church.  I often wonder if God makes certain people familiar so that we are drawn to them and comfortable engaging with them.  In the meeting were pastors from local churches and another representative of the Gospel Mission named Nancy.  It was a smaller group than I expected and we quickly realized that it is typically pastors and community leaders who attend these meetings rather than individuals.  We were just two people there because of Jesus.  I'm sure we weren't the first couple without ties to an organization to attend, but it was clear that it was rare.  Thankfully, we felt comfortable in this setting and everyone there was warm and welcoming.  Plus, we are very much used to standing out from the rest of the world.  Being a family who doesn't do things the way most families do we just have that something that attracts attention and questions.  Rarely do we "fit in", yet we've learned to be comfortable with that.

As the meeting continued, we were presented with lots and lots of information about the services provided by the Gospel Mission.  The love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit were evident throughout this presentation.  Nancy and Tammy spoke about the people who come to the Gospel Mission and how these people walk in alone, but are able to walk out with a relationship with God.  We were given a tour of the building and met people who were once residents in the shelter, who were now employees whose lives have been transformed and redeemed by Jesus.  There were men eating lunch, wearing backpacks with all of their possessions inside.  There were mothers holding tiny babies and others helping older kids with their homework.  There was evidence of an enormous problem in this community, but also of the hope that can be found in Christ alone.

As we left, we passed more people smoking cigarettes, combing unwashed hair and organizing their small piles of belongings. They were depressed, displaced and wandering, not knowing where to go or what to do with this day.  Their lack of motivation and ambition is exhausting to me. They are not necessarily bad people, as our community is so quick to label them.  Some of them seem oblivious to the fact that there is more to life than drifting up and down sidewalks, carrying plastic grocery bags of stuff they've accumulated.  Others appeared vulnerable and miserable, knowing that there is a different way to spend their time, but lacking the knowledge and ability to change.  My prayer is that these people will utilize the services provided by the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, that their brokenness will lead them to this place where they can learn about Christ.  They are literally footsteps away from the entrance to this building, but their hearts are miles away.

Doug and I didn't see the latest movie release or enjoy dinner at a fancy restaurant, yet our Lunch and Learn date was time well-spent together.  We even had grown-up conversation in the car without children asking questions, telling stories and sharing their opinions, which is rare.  It was time that strengthened our relationships with Christ and with each other.  A successful date, to say the least. 

There is currently a campaign to raise money to build a new facility, as the current Gospel Mission is crumbling in some areas.  There are also opportunities to serve as a volunteer at the Gospel Mission or to donate just about anything you can think of and things you wouldn't think of!  Visit their web site to find out more:  And the next Lunch and Learn is in early May, if you're looking for a memorable "date afternoon." 

A Wonderful Web Site: www.TakeThemAMeal.Com

 Take Them A Meal

A few years ago, when Doug had surgery, a dear friend from church offered to arrange to have dinners delivered to our house for a week or so after he came home.  I was six months pregnant with my daughter at the time.  My boys were still attending a public elementary school.  Life was busy and taking care of a recuperating husband just added to that mile-long list of things I had to accomplish every day.  Having dinner delivered in the evenings made my day a little bit easier.

Months later, this same dear friend was stepping out of her role as the Meal Coordinator for our church.  She told me that she'd been praying about who to ask and she wanted to know if I would like to lead this ministry.  Knowing what a blessing it had been for my family months earlier, I was delighted to be able to do this for other families in our church.

I was given a list of names and phone numbers of people, mostly women, in our church who had agreed to prepare meals for families in our congregation who were hospitalized, had just given birth, had just lost a loved one, or who were going through a difficult time in their lives. Now, I am not a phone person whatsoever.  I only talk on the phone when it is absolutely necessary.  I prefer email or face-to-face conversations.  My husband and I don't even have cell phones. (We do have TracFones to communicate with our children when they are home alone and we're at the hospital or out and about.)  I wanted to lead this ministry and I knew that God would be honored by it, but I didn't enjoy calling people to ask them to make and deliver a meal to someone.  It just seemed very time-consuming to call person after person until I could reach someone who was available to take on this task.  I tried to come up with a more efficient way to fulfill this role as Meals Ministry Coordinator, but was unsuccessful and continued to use telephone calls to complete this task.

When a friend shared Take Them A Meal with me, I was thrilled! This web site enabled me to create a meal schedule for a family, including which days meals are needed.  I simply enter the details and send a single email that is received by all of the Meals Ministry volunteers.  This allows the volunteers to sign up and share what they are bringing so that the family receiving meals doesn't wind up with 12 pans of Lasagna.  I am able to provide details about what the family does and doesn't like to eat, any food allergies, what time they eat dinner, and how many people are in the family.  These details are helpful for the volunteers and keeps everything organized. 

The web site also sends out an automatic email to each volunteer the day before their meal is needed, reminding them that they have signed up and also what it is they signed up to bring.  Since it stores the email addresses of everyone I've sent emails to in the past, it takes just a few minutes for me to create a meal schedule for someone. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where We Dwell

Years ago, my husband and I stopped trying to determine what God's "reason" was for allowing Doug to have so many health problems.  It is miserable.  It's exhausting.  It's inconvenient.  It's expensive.  It's annoying.  It's painful.  It is altogether a burdensome journey.  I'm convinced, however, that if we focus only on the negative things about having chronic health problems, we would crumble.  It's just that devastating.  The great and wonderful things that come with all of these hospitalizations and surgeries can be just as overwhelming though.  These are the things we try to dwell upon.  We're not always victorious when it comes to this, but we try.

If Doug hadn't had so many surgeries, we would never have seen the way that God surrounds us with people who love us.  Each and every time he has had a hospital stay, friends, family members, neighbors, even nurses, pharmacists and soccer coaches have offered to watch kids, make dinner, do laundry, or even grocery shop for me. Allowing others to help me is something I struggle with, so I rarely accept these offers, but just knowing that there is an army of willing helpers is such a source of comfort when I am sitting in a surgery waiting room or next to a hospital bed, awaiting test results.  An email from friends letting me know that they're delivering dinner to my children while Doug's surgery unexpectedly drags on for hours or arriving at the hospital at 9am to find dear friends in the waiting room, ready to pray with us are such a wonderful gifts.

Our family relationships are strengthened during these times.  I adore how my children help each other so completely during Doug's hospital stays and illnesses.  They watch out for one another, entertain each other and rarely argue.  They tell me stories of games they've made up while I was gone, Youtube videos they've re-enacted, or ways they've helped out around the house.  They're learning how to adapt to changes and still get their household duties finished, complete their schoolwork, and even fill in the gaps for Doug and I when we're busy or at the hospital.  Skills they will need in adulthood are being perfected at their young ages.  My oldest son can put a casserole in the oven for he and his siblings, remember that Friday is trash day, and he has even learned to plunge the toilet!  These small things are big things when my mind is full and scrambled with other details.

One of my most-favorite Psalms is Psalm 91.  Psalm 91 begins, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust."  Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."  More times than I can remember, I have sat in waiting rooms with my Bible open to this Psalm, thinking about how remarkable it is that God would be covering me with his feathers!  

This Psalm continues on, "Because he loves me, says the LORD, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." What comfort this is to my heart!  I may spend the entire drive home from the hospital crying and praying and pulling myself together before arriving home to be smothered in hugs and kisses from my children.  Being worn out from spending hours upon hours at a hospital makes me an emotional mess at times. Coming home to a box of tea, some chocolates, and some wonderful shower gel and lotion, left by a sweet friend is such a much-needed reminder of not only the love of my friends, but also the love of our Creator.  He provides for ALL of our needs and lifts me up, using His people.

This Psalm and witnessing how completely God's promise has shown itself in my own life are strong reminders to me that the Lord does not promise to keep us from trouble.  Instead, he promises to be with us in those times.  I have thought about how dreadful it must be to live a life without Christ as the center.  Unpleasant circumstances will come to everyone; it's not "if", but "when."  I am grateful that God chose me.  Even when I'm in a situation that I'd rather not be a part of, I am able to dwell in the shelter of the Most High and will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's Been 'Snow' Much Fun in February

This winter has not been a very snowy one until recently.  In the last few weeks, we've had tons of snow!  My kids have been loving it, except for the shoveling of the driveway.  I think they secretly even enjoy that part as well, since it is something my husband would typically do and they love doing "manly" jobs.

Every day, I look outside, never knowing what I'll find.  It could be a snow man in a disco-dancing pose, a snow man with angel wings and a tennis racket halo, kids pulling each other in sleds, toddlers and dogs making snow angels together, or a giant heart, stomped out in footprints in my front yard.  They're creative and don't mind the cold.  I prefer to watch them from the window and prepare hot cocoa and graham crackers to warm them up.

 Our Golden Retriever, Maggie, loves the snow too.  She insists on rolling in it EVERY time she goes outside to potty, so that when she comes inside, her fur is caked with snow.  One of my least-favorite parts of winter is stepping in those melted snow puddles she leaves on the kitchen floor.  The boys love to wrestle with this huge dog when they're bundled in snow clothes.  My younger son pretends she is a wild dog and he has to escape her death-grip.  My daughter likes roll around with her and claims that Maggie is making snow angels with her.  My oldest likes throwing snowballs, which confuses her because she can never find them to bring back to him. 

As I was catching up on Pinterest one day, I came across a pin for snow ice cream.  My kids were having a bored moment, so I suggested we try it.  It was easy to make and tasted a lot like soft-serve ice cream.  It did have a hint of "snow" flavor to it though.  Not bad, but not as delicious as we had hoped for. 

Here is the Robinson Family version of snow ice cream (the recipe we used made sloppy ice cream, so we edited it a bit to make it firmer):

1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
A lot of clean snow (10-12 cups)

Whisk together the milk, sugar, and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the snow until it becomes the texture of soft serve ice cream.  Enjoy!

My daughter wanted to save some for my husband, who was in the hospital at the time, so we put a Tupperware container of it in the freezer.  Three days later, it was a block of yellowish stickiness.  I wouldn't recommend freezing it for later!  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who's Hearing the Gospel In Room 224?

During Doug's last hospital visit, the kids and I visited him after lunch one day.  The nurse came in to check on Doug and asked if our kids had a snow day that day, since they were at the hospital during "school hours."  When I told her we home school, she was full of questions.  She had been thinking of homeschooling her son because he was being bullied at his public school.  We began talking about our reasons for homeschooling and how God nudged us down that path.  Instantly, I could tell she was offended by my faith and my reasons for homeschooling.

A few sentences later, she revealed that she grew up attending a Catholic school and had read the Bible, but she had abandoned her faith years ago.  I began to encourage her to change her heart, when she got a page from another nurse and had to leave, but she assured me she'd be right back.  After she stepped out, my husband said that he'd already tried to talk to her and she shut him down and she was going to feel "attacked."  

Doug and I exchanged a few sort-of-not-nice words with one another about obedience to God and our faith.  Our boys, who had said nothing until then, chimed in with their observations.  They began talking about how you could "feel" the Holy Spirit when we were talking to this nurse.  They compared it to a movie and kept wondering what we were going to say next. They are at an age where they are intrigued by wars, battles, and the fights between good and evil, making this conversation between the nurse and I extremely interesting to them. If nothing else, I was glad that my three children were experiencing firsthand how not everyone will be receptive to us as Christians and not everyone will choose Jesus.  I think my husband had the same thoughts.

When the nurse returned, my husband, who moments earlier said my words sounded attacking and harsh, pretty much threw a spiritual brick at her head.  She explained how she's a "spiritual" person and is raising her kids to have good morals and values and is a nurse because it's what God wants her to do.  Before I could say anything, Doug blurts out, "Well, that's good and all, but you need Jesus Christ" and proceeded to explain how God sent his son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  This is where I'd like to say that she accepted Jesus right then and there and her life will be forever changed.  Instead, she said she didn't have time to talk about this anymore and had to tend to another patient.

This experience was not new to neither Doug nor I, but to my children this was baffling.  Why didn't she want to hear more, to know more about Jesus?  They couldn't understand, after hearing about God's love for someone, how that person could not immediately be affected.  The Bible talks about child-like faith and I love that I have three examples of this in front of me nearly all of the time.  What a great reminder! There are times when I share my faith with someone when I wonder exactly who it is I am witnessing to.  At the time, I thought it was the nurse.  Looking back, it was really my children.  It would have been wonderful for them to see this heart-broken woman turn to Christ.  But they learned more in that half-hour of overhearing our conversation than I had taught them all morning using our highly-rated homeschooling curriculum!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Kidney Stones and Caterpillars

A couple of Wednesdays ago, my husband woke me up at 3am, telling me he had a kidney stone and needed to go to the Emergency Room.  I'd been asleep for approximately four hours.  In an effort to get just two or more hours of sleep, I plugged in a heating pad and gave him some Ibuprofen.  Doug gets kidney stones frequently, thanks to his Crohn's Disease, so this was not a new thing for us.  Usually, he is able to pass them on his own, but occasionally, he has to have surgery to remove them.  Five minutes later, he insisted this was not helping and was not going to help and he needed to get to the hospital.

Still in denial, I got in the shower and started getting ready for the day.  I knew an ER visit would take hours with testing, scans, etc. and I was hoping that with a little time, the kidney stone would make it's way out.  As I was stepping out of the shower, Doug came in the bathroom puking.  Fun times.  If you've never gotten dressed and dried your hair with someone hurling their guts out three feet from you, you're missing out!

We arrived at the emergency room and were ushered into a room where an IV was started, blood tests and CT scans were ordered, and Doug's pain and nausea were alleviated, sort of.  The CT scan revealed not just one stone, but a massive stone blocking the ureter, along with several other large stones close behind it.  His entire left kidney was approximately 1/3 full of kidney stones.  His urologist decided that the best way to remove these stones was by a Percotaneous Nephrostomy.  It would involve two surgeries: the first one to insert a tube through his back into his kidney and the second to use that tube to remove the stones.  The first surgery was scheduled for Thursday and the second would be scheduled as soon as a special team of radiologists and doctors was in place.  Apparently it is a tricky, surgery that takes three or more hours to complete.  He was admitted to the hospital for what we thought was an overnight stay.

Throughout that night, an infection was causing Doug to have a fever of 103 degrees.  It was a scary time of high doses of antibiotics and lots of prayer, but two days later, the fever finally came down.  The surgery to put the nephrostomy tube in his back was complete and as soon as he was rid of the infection, he would be allowed to come home before the second surgery two weeks later.  Thankfully, that happened on Monday, so now we just wait for phase two.

While all of this was happening, I had some custom orders placed.  One of these orders was for a baby cocoon that looked like the caterpillar from the Eric Carle book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I have seen these adorable cocoons, but didn't have a pattern for one.  My mind was kept busy with figuring out how to make this thick, warm, wonderful cocoon and little matching hat.  I love it so much that I want to make more, so I created a listing for one in my Etsy shop:   I am always grateful for these projects, so that my times spent in hospital waiting rooms seems productive.  My husband felt how soft and cozy the cocoon was and wondered if I could make one for him.  It may have been the Dilaudid talking, but it might not be such a bad idea!  If you visit my husband in the hospital after his second surgery next week and he's wrapped in a cocoon, you'll know what I was doing in the waiting room while he was being operated on.  But more than likely, I will just stick to knitting hats or a set of golf club covers!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Adventures in Yogurt-Making

Since leaving my full-time job when my daughter was born three years ago, I am constantly looking for ways to make things or do things inexpensively. In the last year or so, Pinterest has been my go-to way of finding recipes or instructions for these experiments. I still Google specific things I am looking for, but many times Pinterest has inspired me to do things I never would have thought possible.

Yogurt-making was never something I intended to do on a weekly basis, but thanks to Pinterest, I make a batch of yogurt nearly every week. I use my crock pot, making it super-easy to transform milk into yogurt. There are no strange ingredients to buy in order to get started. I've talked to people who use their oven and coolers, but I'm not that ambitious, so this crock pot method is perfect for me! Here is a link to the web site that I use:

I was reluctant to try making yogurt because I had heard that homemade yogurt is thinner than commercially-made yogurt.  I love Chobani Greek Yogurt, which is extra-thick and creamy, so the thought of runny yogurt just wasn't appealing to me.  At $1.25 per cup, however, it is a bit costly when both my daughter and I are eating it on a daily basis.  I can usually buy a gallon of milk for $2.50.  I am able to make a half-gallon (~10 servings) of yogurt each week, costing just $1.25...the same as one 6 ounce serving of Chobani.                                                                                    

At first, I was discouraged with the consistency of the homemade yogurt, but have since discovered that adding slightly more "starter" (plain yogurt) during this process makes it much thicker, almost as thick as Chobani.  I don't measure anymore, but I add ~3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup.  I don't add fruit to my yogurt until we're ready to eat it.  In fact, we usually eat it plain, as it has a much milder flavor than traditional plain yogurt.  We also like it sprinkled with granola or my daughter sometimes likes mini chocolate chips or M&Ms in hers.

This is how I make Homemade Yogurt, adapted from the instructions using the blog I referred to above:
8 cups (half-gallon) of 2% Milk

1/2 cup live/active culture plain yogurt (I used Dannon Natural Plain Yogurt)


Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add a half gallon of milk. Cover and heat on low for 2 1/2 hours.

Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.

Let it sit for 8 hours.

Chill in a plastic container(s) in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Christmas Blog Post in January :)

Every day, I am amazed at how God provides for my family.  Seriously.  Every time our family needs anything, we pray continuously and wait and God always shows us His providence.  My husband and I reflect often on how truly, abundantly blessed we are. When our family needs something, somehow God makes it happen. 

I try not to be a Scrooge, but I really have a strong desire to "simplify" Christmas.  We worship Jesus and celebrate His birth all year long, not just on December 25th.  My husband and I have had many arguments discussions about the necessity of giving our kids elaborate gifts and can't seem to agree on this issue.  In November, my children began talking about Christmas and which gifts they would like to receive.  As I listened, the gifts grew in price--my daughter wanted a Toy Story Woody doll, my youngest son wanted a really cool baseball bat and some throwing knives (I know, my thoughts exactly!), and my oldest son wanted a Taylor acoustic guitar.

In case you are unaware, Taylor acoustic guitars START at $600.  I immediately told him to choose something else because it isn't happening. Our son helps our children's librarian at our local library run a guitar club for kids and they give free guitar lessons to around twenty kids every Thursday and Friday.  He is a responsible, obedient, godly young man who loves the Lord, works hard at homeschooling and helps out around the house like no other teenage boy I've ever met and he loves playing the guitar.  We went to Guitar Center and let him play a bunch of different guitars and our good friend and worship leader brought over some guitars for him to play.  The joy on this little boy's face while playing these guitars was priceless. He even offered to put $100 towards this gift.  But spending this much on a single Christmas gift just didn't make sense for our family. 

My family jokes that if they need something, that I am usually able to knit them whatever it is or find a way to make it using Pinterest.  A few days later, we agreed that we would pray about this and see what God would do.  That's when the Etsy orders started rolling in. I was knitting non-stop and couldn't keep up!  I shipped birds nests and golf club covers and slippers and bunny rattles and hats all over the United States in December.  My sister got orders from some people locally and I knitted more slippers and more hats and gloves and stuffed animals.  A dear friend asked me if I would like to cater a brunch for her mom's group. More friends bought hats and birds nests.  A random check for $20 came in the mail because I'd purchased a certain kind of toilet cleaner (weird, right!?). I love that, in a way, I was able to knit my son a guitar!

During this time, other non-monetary bonuses kept popping up.  I "bought" Amazon gift cards with my Swagbucks balance.  If you haven't signed up for Swagbucks yet, please feel free to use my link:  I used them to buy the really cool baseball bat and the throwing knives (these may end up being a temporary gift that is confiscated until he's a bit older!).  I even had enough left over to buy a Polly Pocket helicopter, two books, and a guitar tuner.   Then, Meijer had an mPerks offer for $30 off of my next general merchandise purchase.  Woody from Toy Story costs $39.99, so just $9.99 after the mPerks!  At this point, I am astounded that I've only spent roughly ten dollars of our "real" money on my children's Christmas gifts and gotten them everything they wanted.  I bought them a few other things as well, but I didn't spend anywhere near the amount I anticipated.