Monday, December 30, 2019

Peace: My Goal for 2020

Little Women, Chapter 38

Are you the type of person to make a New Year resolution? I am. I love to spend the last couple days of the year contemplating my plans for the upcoming one: sorting through my "to be read" shelf to decide what books I will prioritize next, dreaming about how I can avoid the same old mistakes in this new year, coming up with that one word that will define the next 12 months of my life. Yep, I'm an optimist and I'm a word girl.

All this was much easier to do when all of my children were little and I was completely in charge of every schedule. Now that I've got two adults and three more teens behind those, (and four more littles behind those)! I've often got to work around their schedules of work, lessons, ministry, volunteer work, social life, and more. My word for the year of "intentional" or "just say no" or whatever gets lost in the busyness of accommodating other people's schedules.

Being sick the last few months taught me a lot of really valuable lessons. One thing I learned was how to find peace when life doesn't go the way I want it to. It could have been SO much worse, but I did miss a lot of special times with my family this past season. As I watched many of our usual Fall and early Winter traditions pass by with me too sick to make them happen, I had to choose between being resentful or being at peace. I had to find peace in not putting up all my usual Christmas decorations, in not making out my Christmas cards this year, in skipping our annual bonfire and hayride, in missing the night our family goes to look at lights on the town square.

I had to be very careful about ordering my days because I had just a bit of energy each day to spend on the most important things. In order to keep my home and family peaceful, I chose to focus on basic housecleaning, meal prep, and schooling. This meant stepping down from worship team and missing most church services, skipping time out with friends and staying off social media sometimes, dropping negative people from Facebook so I wouldn't dwell on stressful things, and generally turning my mind and heart inward to home to make sure I was providing the best atmosphere here.

All that is what I want this new year to be (without the sickness part, of course). I want to make the best choices that will keep my home peaceful. Some of the changes I made during that down time will remain permanent. As I enter 2020, I enter the decade that will bring the biggest changes to my life yet. Lord willing, by 2030, I will have eight adults and a graduate. I will be 50 years old. I will probably be a grandmother.

These next 10 years can be super crazy and super hard---or they can be positive times of peaceful change. Much of that depends on me and the atmosphere I create in my home. I'm not afraid to say no to good things in order to do the best things. I'm not afraid to upset someone with a choice they don't understand. Peace at all costs! Ha! That will be my motto for 2020. What I learned during that down time was that peace can be had in all circumstances, if I am intentional about listening to the Prince of Peace and His daily direction for my ministry at home.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

My Vintage Christmas 2019: Pink Saturday

Hello! Happy Pink Saturday! I've got all my shopping done and today I'm making goodies and writing out cards. I thought I'd take a few minutes to show you some of my fun vintage vignettes for Pink Saturday. 

Each of my girls have special collections of decorations that we add to each year. Once they're grown with homes of their own, they'll be able to take them with them. This is Avalon's bell collection. The blue beaded bell is the one she got this year. My grandmother made it long before either one of us was born, I believe, and I've been saving it for her.

I love kitschy mid-century stuff like this. I made the pink Christmas trees and there are a few other more modern things interspersed; but, for the most part, this is all 50s and 60s. Love!

Here's the other half of that vintage vignette. I'm not loving this hutch I've got them on but I'm kind of in a furniture transition upstairs so I'm just making the best of it!

Here's another fun one featuring several Gurley candles. I've got a bit of an obsession with them. Ha!

I found these sweet choir boys at an estate sale when I went to visit my mom a couple years ago in Oregon. They remind me of the choir boys at Bath Abbey in England.

This year was Kynthia's and Brenna's first year to begin their collection. Kynthia decided she wanted things with the word "Joy" on them, since that is her middle name. I found this cute display at Hobby Lobby.

I have a pink tree in my library and this is one of my favorite ornaments. It's an ol' granny doing some kind of handiwork project. In other words...it's me. Ha! 

Finally, this sweet little book ornament was a gift to me when I was in middle school. My mom sent it to me in a Christmas package and it's always been one of my most special ornaments!

I hope everyone is enjoying some festive Christmas fun! Be sure to visit Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for more Pink Saturday goodness!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Psalm 68 and the Long Winter's Nap

"Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our Salvation!" 
Psalm 68:19 KJV

"Blessed be Adonai! Every day he bears our burden, does God our salvation." 
Psalm 68:19 CJB*

This verse is translated differently, depending on the version of the Bible you read; but whether He is loading us with benefits or bearing our burdens, one things is certain: God is continuously taking care of us. 

As I enter into this year's December, I find that God is introducing a way in which he wants me to approach this season. The theme of "reflection" has been the topic of several articles and memes lately. One quote I read yesterday is this: 

"Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection." -- Winston Churchill

I've spent a lot of time at home this season as I've dealt with multiple rounds of debilitating sickness. I've had a lot of time to rest--well, as much as a mother of nine can reasonably expect to have. However, I'm very much feeling a draw to spend time in quiet reflection...thinking on the things of Philippians 4:8, meditating on my God who fills me with blessings and lifts off my burdens. 

In the winter, animals hibernate, insects diapause, plants go dormant. What do humans do? We continue to hustle and bustle and stress and mess and make ourselves silly, old, and frowny!

This season, I'm choosing a sabbath---a sabbatical---a long winter's nap. I'm choosing to surround myself with things that bring peace and to separate myself, as much as it depends on me, from the things that bring stress.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." 
Romans 12:2 NKJV

To be effective ministers, mentors, and moms, we must have this time of meditating on the Word and on the Lord and letting Him renew our strength, peace, and sense of purpose. We must give Him our burdens and allow Him to "load us with benefits." I read that and think of a reloadable gift card loaded up with beneficial cash or credit. What do we do with that card? At the appointed time, when we venture out, we spend it. The Christian who desires to minister doesn't need to be afraid that taking "time off" will cause the ministry to lose ground---whether it be something at home like homeschooling, or something outside the home like women's ministry or a weekly group study. It's actually the opposite. As we spend time being renewed and rejuvenated, we find that God is loading us up with lots of good things that can be spent on others at the appointed time.

May this season be a time of rest and reflection for you and those you minister to!

*The CJB is the Complete Jewish Study Bible, a valuable and fun cross-reference I've recently discovered.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Frost Flowers for The Homemaking Party

Welcome to The Homemaking Party! We've been below freezing the last couple days. This morning, Jamie and I took a little walk and I took some photos of frost flowers.

Frost flowers are a cool phenomenon we didn't have in Oregon---probably because the ground froze hard really fast once the cold weather came.

Frost flowers bloom when cracks form in the stem of a plant and its sap seeps out, making pretty frozen ribbons. The ground must not be frozen though, even though the temperature is at freezing. It's actually a pretty cool thing that probably doesn't occur in very many places.

The best way to find frost flowers in the Ozarks is to look for what looks like toilet paper strung around the base of plants. You'll have to get real close before realizing it's actually a beautiful frost flower!

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you're having a great week!

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

A Pumpkin Farm and a Fall Party

Hi Friends! Thanks for stopping by The Homemaking Party! Just wanted to share some of the fun we've had over the last couple weeks. The 23rd was my birthday and Jamie surprised me by taking the day off and taking us all to a local farm to pick out pumpkins!

While I was there, I grabbed some apples and have been busy making applesauce! I'll have about 40 quarts of applesauce and about 15 quarts of pumpkin puree once I'm through processing all I purchased!

Jamie even got in the canning mood and make some jars of pickled asparagus---his first time canning!

The night of November 1st, we had a Fall party. The kids decorated and carved happy scenes on their pumpkins.

Here's Brenna (our youngest) proudly displaying the owl sister helped her carve. After pumpkin carving time, we had snacks and watched the old movie, The Parent Trap with Hayley Mills.

Oh, I don't want to leave out my homemade cider! This was my first year making it straight from the apples and it was AWESOME!!

Thanks for stopping by---hope you're having a great week!

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Ephesians 1, New Believers, and the Kanye Effect

"Man says to God, 'Prove it and I'll believe it'. God says to man, 'Believe it and I'll prove it.'"

In the first book of Ephesians, Paul is addressing brand new Christians and is explaining some pretty basic things.

"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the world of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Eph. 1:13)

It is clear that these are people who believed in something they didn't quite understand. Paul's letter is Christianity 101--coming after the people had chosen to follow Christ. In verse 17, Paul prays they'd understand "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of (Christ)." In verse 18, he prays "the eyes of (their) understanding may be enlightened", that they'd know "the hope of His calling" and realize all they'd gained through "the riches of His glory". He goes on to pray they'd understand how God's great power works through believers.

All these and more are truths a "seasoned" Christian lives by---we know this stuff. Well, we think we do. Truly, even the oldest and wisest among us can't fully understand all the ways of God. However, these Ephesians were brand new believers. They'd put their faith in Christ and were now figuring out what this Christianity thing was all about.

I'm reminded how careful we must be with one another as we all walk the individual faith roads God's got us on. Many times, seasoned Christians can be harsh with new believers---even doubting their conversion---because they've not yet figured out the "social graces" of Christianity in the 21st century. (Dear God, may I always have the privilege of living on the fringe of society and being just a little stranger than the others...ha!)

I sometimes wonder if these older-in-the-faith Christians aren't just a little envious of the new believer with all their passion for Christ and willingness to follow at all costs. Sometimes seasoned Christians mellow down into a comfy chair and spend their days looking a the world over the top of their spectacles.

Paul's letter to Ephesus may have been directed to new believers, but we can all benefit from the reminder chapter one gives us about the basics of our faith and our responsibility to new believers.

Let us be like Paul and give thanks for them, as well as pray for them. (v. 16)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Taking It Easy---Guilt Free!

I found my first persimmon on my birthday last week. Cainan cut it open and we found a spoon shape in the pit!

For quite some time, I've been really intentional about trying to be home more and do the things of homemaking. It wasn't so difficult back in the days of having just young kids at home; but now we're at a place where we've got more teens than not and they have all kinds of things they want to be involved in. Whomever worries about "unsocialized" homeschoolers does NOT get it. Ha! They need to be worried more about OVERLY socialized homeschoolers and their poor mothers!

Lately I've been dealing with some health issues that are forcing me to be very choosy with my time. I've only got enough stamina and emotional energy for a few things each day so I've been very intentional about focusing on the things of home. When I must be out for a day, I spend the next day relaxing at home. Saturday night, my husband and I chaperoned 10 teenagers to a dance two hours away and didn't return until 1:00 am. I spent Sunday mainly in my chair with a book, but I did make a very nice beef stew and biscuits lunch with peach cobbler for dessert.

Monday morning we needed to start back to school after a two week break. I spent the morning putting together the kids' assignment sheets, photocopying and printing literally hundreds of pages for some prep work that needed doing, and grading a big stack of math and English assignments. By the lunch hour, I was feeling very weak and tired so I asked my son to make me a hot sandwich and took a break in a comfortable place.

Not too long ago, I would have felt guilty taking so much "time off"---and there's no way I would have actually told you all about it. Ha! But, God is using this season to teach me about the importance of rest. The more I'm at home, the more I want to be home---and this is truly where I'm called to be!

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Should I Really Long for the Simple, Old-Fashioned Life?

There's so much talk lately about simplifying, going back to basics, living the "old fashioned" life. I think most of us homemakers long for longer days and deeper rests. Everything is rushed. In fact, just last night I had settled into bed and was working on a crossword puzzle (latest fascination---hadn't done one for years) and found that I was flying through it and writing sloppy. I stopped and asked myself why I was hurrying. There was no reason to rush. This is a silly example, but I do it with many things. Why do I rush through a book I'm reading when I could be taking the time to slowly savor it? Why do I hurry my kids through a meal so we can clean up? We're not going anywhere. I long for a time of life that seems slower paced and more intentional.

I tell myself my life would be easier if I lived in a farm house in Kansas with no one around for miles. If we could trade in our car payment for a horse and wagon, if my daughters would be content in aproned dresses, if my boys would run barefoot and catch fish all day. What I'm finding, is that when I strive so hard to go "back to how it used to be", I find that I can only maintain some of that for a short time. The truth is, I live in the 21st century with 21st century conveniences and some of them are unavoidable. Some of them you'd have to pry from my cold, dead hands. Ha!

People compare my family to all the "ideal" families out there: the Ingalls', the Waltons, the Duggars. They say we remind them of whatever cheesy, cozy TV show or book they remember from childhood and they say they wish they could have the life we have. Sometimes I'd like to say that we actually have a whole lot of messy crazy going on behind the scenes, but we really don't. God has given us a peaceful life and I'm thankful. However, I know many women who really do have it rough but have found ways to live peacefully and simply and spread joy in the midst of it. Those women are my heroes.

I believe the trick to living simply and "old fashioned" is to live on old fashioned principles. Scripture tells us to ask for the old paths:

"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16

These are the things that were set into place from the beginning of Creation.

We can look to Scripture to see how God designed our lives as women to be. Titus 2 tells the older women to teach the youngers in these ways. According to this passage, women are to love their husbands and children, to be discreet, chaste, good, homemakers, obedient to their own husbands, as well as reverent in behavior, not slanderers, and more. Titus 2:1-5 gives us a clear picture of the behaviors that will lead to the peaceful lives we're looking for.

With this in mind, we can apply these principles to our modern day lives. Rather than trading my washing machine in for a scrub board and bucket, I should be seeing my laundry chores as a ministry to my family and I should do them with joy and peace. Rather than being annoyed that this family has to eat again, I should be thinking of ways I can creatively use the bounty God has given us and challenge myself to make nourishing meals. Do I really need to drop Facebook and Instagram to live a simple, old fashioned life? Maybe. Or, maybe I just need to hide the posts from downer "friends" and use it as a platform for ministry instead. Social media is the number one way I am able to live out the Titus 2 mandate when it comes to ministering to women besides my own daughters. I am so busy at home right now, but God has used my blog and social media accounts to help me make mentoring relationships.

I think I'm beginning to see how I can make this old fashioned life work in the 21st century. The answer for me is to be home and take joy in being home.

Linking with these fantastic blog hops:

Silver Pennies
Happiness is Homemade 

Snickerdoodle Sunday

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

10 Ways with 10 Pounds of Chicken

Welcome to The Homemaking Party! Now that we're on to Fall, I'm thinking of all the cozy recipes I want to make this season! I tend to cook more frugally during the cooler weather months, as I can bake my bread and fix my soups without roasting to death in the Arkansas heat and humidity!

Last night, I had a hankering for chicken and gravy on mashed potatoes. This is a super frugal and filling meal idea inspired by my mom---a woman who can put together a tasty meal with literally anything in her kitchen. Using a homemade gravy, I can feed this to my family of 11 (including five teenagers!) for about $6.00 (with leftovers!)

One frugal cooking tip I've learned is that I don't usually have to use the exact cut of meat a recipe calls for. When I shop for meat, I usually look for the most bang for my buck---cutting up a full chuck roast for stew meat, using ground breakfast sausage for pizzas, etc. I've found that the best chicken option in my area is this 10 lb. bag of thigh and leg quarters that I can buy at Walmart for less than $5. After deboning, this yields about 9 cups of chicken---plenty for several meals! With a little extra work, I'm saving a lot of money by cooking, deboning, and freezing this meat every month. Plus, I have more than enough chicken stock for soups, gravies, and more, when I save the cooking liquid.

I start by pouring the bag of chicken into a large stock pot. (I'm pretty sure this one is 14 quarts.) I like to hold the bag over the pot and cut the bottom. This is the least messiest way I've found to handle this juicy mess! I fill the pot with water to cover about four inches over the chicken. Then I put the lid on and let it boil on the stove for at least 60 minutes.

After about 45 minutes, I poke the chicken thighs in a couple places with a long fork and let them continue cooking. When they run clear after poking, I know they're done. I remove each piece with a long fork and lay them in a pan to begin cooling. I use a slotted spoon to remove any large skin, fat, or chicken pieces floating in the water, and then ladle the broth into freezer containers. I let the containers sit on the counter for awhile to cool before putting the lids on and putting them away in the freezer for later meals.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, I begin deboning it. This really isn't as long a process as it might seem. I set the pan of cooked chicken to the left, put a pan in the middle for the bones and skin, and put a bowl on the right for the chicken. I often turn on an encouraging video or Bible recording to listen to while I do tasks like these to make them not seem so time consuming.

At this point, I would normally use some of the broth to make a gravy like this: homemade chicken gravy. I'd recommend at least a half cup of gravy per one cup of chicken. Weirdly, I was out of salt---who runs out of salt?? Ha! Even more weirdly, I happened to have two jars of turkey gravy in my cupboard. I don't really even remember why I bought them, but I was thankful because gravy without salt is...gross.

I measured out into a bowl the amount of chicken I thought my family would eat and poured the jarred gravy on top. Then I took a little broth in each and swished it around to get the last dregs of gravy and poured that in the bowl too. I stirred it all up and set it aside to top the mashed potatoes.

While the chicken was cooking, I had Lynzie peel about five pounds of potatoes. That's how much it takes to feed this crowd, usually. When we have leftover mashed potatoes, Lynzie forms them into patties, dips them in flour, and fries them in oil, salting and peppering both sides. This is another yummy recipe she learned from my mom and it's one of her favorite breakfast ideas.

After the potatoes were mashed, we had a delicious and filling dinner, followed by a Bible study prepared by Daddy. What a great night!

I actually mixed all nine cups of chicken with gravy last night so we had a whole pan of leftovers for tonight's dinner. Jamie and I planned to order a special Mexican dinner for ourselves, so I picked up another jar of gravy to mix in and the kids ate it on bread tonight as open-face hot sandwiches. However, like I said above, nine cups of chicken is enough for several recipes. Here are some other recipe ideas that use any kind of chicken:

Chicken Garden Salad -- Toss with seasoning and top a fresh vegetable salad

Chicken Salad Sandwiches -- Mix with mayonnaise and diced celery for a quick sandwich option.

Fiesta Burritos -- I like making these a couple days after I've served tacos because we often have leftover toppings in small quantities. Fill a tortilla with chicken, beans, cheese, or other favorite toppings and warm in the oven a few minutes. Then add tomatoes, lettuce, olives, salsa, sour cream, and more for a filling lunch idea.

Dumpling Soup -- Save the cooking broth in the fridge for this one! Pour 8-10 cups of broth into a pot and salt as desired. Begin warming the broth while you mix up a dumpling batter. Mix 2 c. flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 c. milk or water. Once the broth is boiling, drop the batter by spoonfuls into the boiling broth. It will only take a few minutes to cook the dumplings. If you want to add meat or vegetables like potatoes, carrots, or an onion, do so before dropping the dumplings in.

Chicken Pot Pie -- Mix chicken with gravy and frozen mixed vegetables. Pour into a dish and cover with biscuit batter. You can use a pre-made mix like Bisquick, refrigerated biscuits in a roll, or make a homemade batter like this one at Harvest Lane Cottage. You can add a little extra milk to make it runnier and easier to pour on your chicken mixture.

Or use the chicken in any of these recipes from my archives:

Chicken Ranch Omelet

Simple Chicken Alfredo

Thanks so much for stopping by The Homemaking Party! Hope you're having a lovely week so far!
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Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Tea Party with My Girls and a Pretty Flower Craft

Earlier this year, Jamie and I took a 21st anniversary trip to England. It was so fun to show him around some of my favorite places. We visited Bath and Winchester---which you all know are old favorites of mine; and Salisbury, which was new to us both. Along the way, I picked up a few fun things to enjoy in a summertime tea party with my girls. God has blessed us with five fabulous daughters---I'm so thankful! 

I'd been saving this pretty jar of Sarahbeth's Orange Apricot Marmalade since receiving it from a dear family friend in the Spring. My name is Sarah Elizabeth so this was a special gift in a couple of ways. I'd also saved out three pretty tea cup and saucer sets from some things my Mom gave me and passed them down to my three youngest girls who'd not yet received their own set from me. This one with the pretty wild blossoms went to Brenna, my six year old.

Our party gave me the chance to use some gifts I'd received over the year, like this hot air balloon teapot and wildflower pot from Jamie. My mom gave me the flowered dish, and Jamie picked up this delicious summer tea blend from Gillards in Bath. It smells just like a strawberry Starburst---ha!

I made several  yummy tea treats like this Victoria Sponge and some small scones and sandwiches. Jamie had bought me a tin of shortbread cookies at Marks and Spencer in Winchester so I served them from the top of the tier. I also took the opportunity to use some of the vintage cutlery my great grandmother saved for me and shared some of my memories of her with the girls during our chat time. 

I also made my signature Cucumber Flowers---a family favorite! 

After we snacked and chatted, I shared a little flower craft with the girls. 

After cutting tissue paper squares, I showed them out to wrap them around the end of a pencil to form a flower bud.

We drew branches on a sheet of cardstock paper and glued the buds to the branches.

I made a special memory branch and had each of the girls write their names on it. Now it's hanging in my library. I love it!

The season is changing and summer will probably be gone by this time next week. (Oh Lord, please!! Ha!) I'm happy we made some fun memories over the season!

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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Slowing Down a Little...Finally!

Hello friends! Welcome to The Homemaking Party! It's roasty, toasty, hot and humid in NW Arkansas today but I'm hanging out in our well air conditioned library tonight and feelin' fine! Ha! Life is finally slowing down a bit for me and I feel like I want to stay close to home and do homey things. We are starting school July 9, since we've been off since April, and I'm just feeling really excited to be back in our comfortable routine of home life. I traveled to Oregon in April and England in May (I know, still no photos up...sorry!) and then there's been summer camps and missions trips and...whew!

These three guys are in Honduras this week, ministering at an orphanage and at a school. From the pictures I'm seeing come over Facebook and IG, they're having a great time and really enjoying those sweet Honduran kids!

Lynzie has been house sitting for the youth pastors who took the kids to Honduras and Selah stayed with a friend last night so it was just me and the four littles this morning. We decided to have a little adventure. We went to Walmart to buy lunch (my kids think Lunchables are gold since I buy them so rarely!) and then made a library stop.

After library time, we headed for the park. They rode bikes, took walks (hikes!), played baseball, and laid around panting from the heat. We had an early picnic lunch and then went home for a long nap!

My kids love an opportunity to use a lunch box...one of those cool things like riding on a school bus that public schoolers get to do. Ha! Here Brenna is dreaming about what's inside her box. We were out so early but I wouldn't let them eat until 11. Next time we'll pack breakfast instead!

Our Rose of Sharon bush is in full bloom and hosting all kinds of neat insects and birds. We mainly have these orange not-actually-ladybugs, hummingbirds, zillions of bees, and several kinds of butterflies. Our road is so quiet so I love to stand out on the porch and just listen to the bush buzzing. It's at least nine feet tall and at least that wide and just full of probably a hundred or more different creatures at a time. I think I'll make it the focus of a nature study when we start back to school.

Well friends, hope all is well in your worlds! Thanks for stopping by The Homemaking Party!

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