bread making ~ the prepared pantry

DSC_0094My-oh-my. It’s been awhile since I have added to the ever-growing collection for this series. I have thought about different things to post…but not having a kitchen, then rendering myself incapacitated with a crock-pot, then being gone from home for so long kinda put this series on the back burner.

But, guess what? It’s back! Our poor pantry has been neglected for too, too, too long. And it is back with a terribly long post filled with tons of pictures — because bread-making seems to scare many people. And I am on a mission to show you that it’s not so scary.

When we first started making bread, we were among those who thought it was a terrifying thing to even think about, let alone do. But, being the good homeschooling, frugal, farmstead family we were, Mom went on a mission to scrounge up as many recipes as she could. We had times when the dough went over and we had a big, sticky, doughy mess to clean — and who wants to scrape sticky dough off of a counter? DSCN1230DSCN1231

Why bread for a prepared pantry? Because you should *always* have bread on hand. If you have unexpected company, it is extremely easy to stretch a meal by cutting up some bread for the table. You can make it special by adding jam and butter to the table, or whipping up some honey butter. And, despite this being a post about a pantryIMG_7297, you can wrap bread in parchment paper and stick it in the freezer and it will stay “fresh” for just about forever. We always try to keep some sort of bread in the freezer — loaf bread, muffins, rolls, french bread — and I can’t begin to say how many times we have pulled it out for company =)

So, here is the bread recipe and pictures to explain almost everything. Once my hands were covered in bread dough, I tried my best =) And one more thing — this recipe I am using (and typing out) makes four loaves of bread. In the pictures I am making eight loaves. Because it was a farmers market/craft sale day at out local Tractor Supply Co.

You will need:
~6 cups warm water (NOT HOT!! You will kill the finicky yeast! About 110*)
~5 cups wheat flour
~2/3 cups honey
~2/3 cups oil (I use coconut oil, but whatever you have will work)
~ 4 heaping TBS of yeast

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Pour all of these ingredients into a large bowl and mix until incorporated. Let sit until full of air bubbles. Tip: Measure your oil before the honey — then the honey falls right out of the measuring cup without leaving a sticky residue.

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See the air bubbles from the yeast?

Add 2 TBS of salt and stir.

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pink himalayan salt, of course =)

Slowly add white flour until the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bowl.IMG_7222 Keep adding flour and mixing — eventually you will have to part with the spoon and start using your hands.

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thick and goopy…..

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too thick for a spoon

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flour your hands before plunging them into the sticky abyss :P

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perfiecto!

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Divide dough in half, then each half in half again. So you get four just-about-equal portions of bread dough.

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Four kinda equal dough portions

Now, I always cover the dough with a towel while I finish with the next part. So the dough doesn’t dry out or catch a chill =)

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Grease four pans — I use two pie plates for round loaves, and two regular loaf pans. I used an organic vegetable oil — kinda like Crisco, except better for you. Or at least not so bad =) I’ve tried coconut oil, but it cooks too hot and the bottom burns before the inside and top is done. And butter makes it stick to the pan.

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“Healthier” shortening

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greased pan…because why not? :D

If you are making round loaves, form a ball with the dough, smoothing it on top, and plop it down in the center of the pan. If you are making regular loaves, form a rough log shape and plop it in the pan. Then squish it in there until it is filling the pan. Technical, huh?

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plop and squish it in until it fits and the bottom of the pan is covered

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Round loaves rising

  Let the dough filled pans alone to rise for about thirty minutes, until doubled in size. You will be able to tell when they are ready. It is best to let them rise in a warm place — any chills and the yest might decide to not do it’s job. It’s mighty particular…trust me. I normally let the bread rise in the oven with the light on, not on the counter top. But, we don’t have air conditioning, so it was quite warm enough right where it was.   

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Rising bread dough….

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Ready-to-bake dough. Yes, I cover the rising loaves with a towel or cloth napkin

And, “part of cooking is cleaning up,” as my mother always tells us girls. The absolute best way I ave found to clean sticky bread dough without ruining a sponge with bread dough particles (been there, done that) is to fill the bowl with hot water, swish it around, and dump it OUTSIDE. Bread dough can clog a drain! I’m sure you can find a thirsty plant to pour it on, since bread dough also works as compost. IMG_7280

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Then fill the bowl with water and a little soap, and wash it with your HAND first. Dump that too =) Finally, wash it with the sponge to make sure it is 100% clean. I just used the bowl as a sink to wash everything in, since the one I used was so big =P

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   There ya have it! Enjoy!

 

dear graduate: an open letter

Dear Class of 2017,

My church had their baccalaureate service this past Lord’s Day, and as I watched it all unfold, so many memories came flooding back to me. Memories of schooldays, lessons learned, and knowledge gleaned. Memories of how I’ve occupied my time since my own graduation of three years ago.

I remember how excited I was to be graduating; to be putting into practice all that I had been taught as a young person. I was on the brink of adulthood, life was exciting, and I was on the threshold to so many new experiences of life.

I heard a young girl express that they were excited to graduate, were hoping to graduate early in a few years. I had to laugh, because I remember being excited about being “done” with school — and three years later, I wonder why I felt like that. The same feeling of wanting to be “all grown up” when I was three, and thinking I would never have to deal with whatever was bothering me at the time — naps, vegetables, mayonnaise on my  sandwiches — and now, at twenty, wishing I could turn time back to the good ol’ days of being three and curling up on my mommy or daddy’s lap so they can make it all better. I don’t take naps, I actually — oh horror! — like veggies, and I can make my own sandwiches. But there are other things, bigger things, that I deal with.

There are so many, many things I’ve learned in the intervening years between my graduation and now — and there are so many things the Lord has been faithfully dealing with in my life. There are things that I wish I had been told, and there are things better off learned yourself.

And so, Graduate, I wanted to write you, and share a few of the most important things I have learned, and am learning still.

I guess the most important thing I have learned is that man may plan his ways, but God directs His footsteps. I had big plans for after graduation. You know what? I ended up sick with mononucleosis about two weeks after I graduated. I missed a friends bridal shower; I almost missed her wedding. I almost missed my pastor’s wedding. I really don’t remember much about that year except being tired and sick and exhausted and sleeping, with my heart racing on and on until I was breathless and was light headed just sitting up. I think I pretty much stayed in bed and slept from June ’till August. And I don’t remember even having much energy until September-ish. After that, in 2015, various things happened — weddings, bathroom re-models, babies born. In 2016, my grandmother had back surgery, my grandfather had a quadruple bypass surgery, and in January of this year, my grandmother had an ankle fusion that ended up infected. I can guarantee you, I did NOT plan any of this. But, providentially it was all in the Lord’s hands. He knew the lessons I needed to learn, and He taught them, faithfully. Don’t hold onto your plans — let them go. It is noble and good and right to have goals, but surrender them if the Lord makes it clear that He needs you for a different work.

The second most important thing I have realized is that you never, ever, ever stop learning. Especially if you have been home-educated. Even if you don’t go off to college. I had heard this, as I am sure you have, many times. And I believed it. But to experience it….ah. It’s just different. As a graduate I have so much more time to study. All the things that piqued my interest when I was “tasting” them in formal lessons have been jumping points, off of which I delve into studies unfathomable. Homeopathy, music, natural childbirth, doula certification, nursing, photography, theology….basically whatever I didn’t have time for before. Because I am not responsible for the daily things I was in lessons. I don’t have to do math, grammar, copy work, creative writing, poetry, art, or the myriad of other things. Or maybe I should rephrase that. I do it in a different way. Instead of creative writing, I write on this blog. Or I journal. Or I fill up a notebook with short stories. I help the younger children with math, reading, spelling, whatever they need. I use math in determining the best purchase and the best deal in the store: two small cans, or one large? How much waste versus how much money saved? I’m thinkin’ you’ll be surprised at the lessons carried over from your childhood.

Thirdly, learn how to just live. Make the most of this time you’ve been given on this earth — don’t be afraid to embrace the challenges and tackle them head on. Whether big or little, go for it after much prayer and supplication. If your challenge is planting a garden to feed your family, don’t let work and sweat and hot humid days deter you. Push ahead for the prize of fresh veggies! If your challenge is closing an abortion clinic, go after it with all your heart. Don’t let naysayers discourage you; don’t let the hurdles involved turn you away. If you are headed to college, study hard and make the most of your time, knowing you have been given the unique opportunity to stand strong in the faith, to live out life in such a manner that those around you might very well ridicule you, scoff at you, and laugh at you. In a way, you are on your own — it is up to nobody else but yourself to keep you accountable to God. And the students in your classes, the teachers and professors, the room mates, and everyone you come in contact with and interact with should know — beyond a shadow of a doubt — that you are a follower of Christ Jesus, and realize that there is something different about you.

For the fourth thing, your parents are your guide. Guess what? They have been here before. Yes, we graduates are tempted to toss them aside because we don’t “need” them anymore. And in a sense, it is true. We don’t necessarily need our parents to change our diapers, pick us up when we fall down, or give us a schedule for our days. But we do need them — now more than ever. Trust me on this. Do NOT learn this the hard way. They are our road map, our guide through this tumultuous time between childhood and adulthood. They have been, continue to, and will never stop, teaching us lessons. We need their advice. We need them to stop us when they see a mistake we are about to make, we need them to set boundaries and rules, we need them to check on us and push us harder if we aren’t living up to our full potential in Christ. they aren’t nitpicking at us — they are being faithful stewards of what God has given them to guard — our souls. Even in college, we still need to have a respect for and duty towards our parents. These last few months, as I have been “living” away from home, I have realized in a way I never did that I need my mother and father. Not in a dependent, I-can’t-function-away-from-them sort of way, but it is nice to know they are there. I would imagine this would be particularly true if you are planning on going away to college somewhere, and living states away from our parents — I was only about three minutes from my home. It was a relief to have them hug me after a particularly hard day, to call and have advice given about this or that, to have them take me out for a parent-daughter snack in the middle of a lull in the busyness. To know that I can unburden my heart to either of them and receive the counsel, advice, or admonishment I need to hear. Many of our parents may back away from us, giving us room to grow — go to them and ask for their opinion or advice on whatever, and I am pretty sure they will gladly give it to you. They may not tell you what you need to do, but they will give you sound, godly advice that will help you decide on a way. And, you have the reward of a deeper relationship with your parents than you ever thought possible.

Lastly, never give up, no matter how hard the going gets. No matter that this person or that person has moved away; no matter that you are in a dorm room and nobody else respects your beliefs; no matter that your days are busy and full and you are too tired to even think about the hurdles the next day will bring. Keep on keeping on. Take it one day at at time. Trust me: there will be failures, as those who have already gone before both of us can attest too. There will be heartaches, there will be confusion, there will be days when you want to curl up in mommy or daddy’s lap and beg them to make it all better. But those days will pass away. They will be back — I think it is something we all have to face, seasons of discouragement. But they will make you stronger, more resilient, more prepared for the fight.

Look for the oasis in the trouble — I can guarantee there is always one, no matter how slow in coming. I can remember one particularly hard year — the same year I had mono — when my closest friends all moved away or entered college, when my next-closest friends all seemed to simultaneously turn their back on their Creator, and when I seemed to constantly be struggling with one sin or another. I longed for someone to take time and talk with me and pray with me — I longed to know that I was not alone, because, I assure you, I felt utterly devoid of companionship, even amongst my church family. And I happened to grow closer to Christ, study to know more of Him. And then I actually met a person — now a good friend — who did help me through that time. And we have since shared struggles and heartaches and laughter and worked together and rejoiced together. The moral: Christ knows what you need, so rest content in Him. I needed (and still need to :D) know Christ more, long after Him more, study His Word more than I did. I realized that I didn’t need any friends — I only needed Christ. And that is coming from someone who has long since yearned for a “bosom pal” like Anne Cuthbert had in Diana Berry =)

You see, dear graduate, we are all given a gift. The Lord has set aside a certain number of days for us to walk on this earth, and we have a certain amount of hours we have been lent to make a difference — to show forth God’s glory to everyone we meet. I beg of you — don’t waste this time. It will look different for everyone: we all have a part to fulfill in this world. Before the foundations of this world, God has prepared a way for us to walk in, a way that will bring glory to His name and His Kingdom. We may fight against it, but we will never win. It is best to surrender to the struggle and let Him carry you along. Things will happen that you don’t understand — you don’t necessarily need to. When you do, He will make it all clear.

So I would encourage you — fight hard, stand strong, and know when to surrender. Cling to Jesus, and He will carry you through.

Sincerely,
Your sister in Christ

one, two, three

I am slowly gonna work my way into posting more regularly on Wednesdays again……though it may still be a bit sporadic =) Today I have not one, not two, but three book reviews. Books that I finished a couple months ago and never had the time to physically review. All three were wonderful, and highly recommended.

With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are - By: Dandi Daley Mackall Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, two medical professionals enlist in the service to help the injured soldiers. They meet while working in a hospital and marry right away. When the two are sent to separate front lines, their only method of communication is writing love letters to each other. In a war that seems like it will never end, they are concerned how long will it be before they see each other.

With Love, Wherever You Are was my first book to read by Dandi Daley Mackall. It was wonderful! The writing was great, the words used for picturesque — the whole book painted a wonderful portrait of life as a war nurse and doctor.

This was a beautiful, true story of two young people trying to find their own way in life, and of the Lord’s calling them to Himself when they came to the end of themselves, written by the daughter of the couple in the book.

The scenes when the two were in a courtship were portrayed with a hint of fun and tenderness. The letters between the two were timeless. The separation of the two was written with heartbreaking pathos.

The main story line was about a young doctor and a young nurse from two different states who met in one camp. They were together a short time before he left the camp. But he came back. And they were married. And within a couple days of the marriage they were sent to the front line of their choice — chosen before they knew each other. One liked warmth and one liked cold, so were sent in two different directions. And they exchanged hundreds of letters while they were separated, as fast as the war-time mail would carry it. At every opportunity they would slip off to be with each other, if only for a few hours.

This would be a book I would recommend for older readers — both of them were sent to the front lines of World War II in medical positions. She was a nurse, and as such, there are several heartrending — and true — accounts of recovery for “the boys”; descriptions of family reunions, of mothers and fathers seeing their sons for the first time. There are several emotions expressed that may be complicated for younger readers. He was a doctor, and was sent with the British unit to the front lines in France, where there are some gruesome injuries encountered and treated.

While this was about a “war romance”, the subject of marriage was addressed very little and the majority of the content was focused on the medical aspect of the war and the history surrounding it. I enjoyed the historical aspect of the book because I was able to read about two different parts of the war in the same book — more like “parallel history”. It’s no secret to many of you that I enjoy reading and learning about history in a different way than most, learning what was going on in the history of our world in a certain time frame from all different aspects. For instance, during the war between the states, while the eastern U.S. was focused on fighting, the western territories were focused on getting a functional mail system set up — the pony express. In England, Queen Victoria was ruling…..get the idea? ;-) And WWII happens to be a favourite part of history since there was so much going on over so much of the world at different times, and so much of it has impact on our lives today. Anyways…..

Would I read this book again? Yes. Would I pass this on to someone else to read? Absolutely =)

I recieved a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in return for an honest review.
I was not required to enjoy this book.

The Maggie Bright

The Maggie Bright: A Novel of Dunkirk  -     By: Tracy Groot
England, 1940. Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the Maggie Bright — a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she’s counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden on the board, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler’s darkest schemes and prompt America into action.

Across the Channel, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg has the entire British Army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes may not return. Yet Clare knows the Maggie Bright must answer the call — piloted by an American who has refused to join in the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.

The fate of the war hangs on this rescue. While two men join a desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

This. Book. It was most likely my favourite of all three in this post. It was…..I don’t know. It had all the elements of a good book — humour, sadness, mystery, a mission, and growth in all the characters.

I’ll be honest — I only chose to review The Maggie Bright for two reasons. First, because Tracy Groot wrote the book, and she is quickly becoming a favourite author. I have only read two books of hers, this one and The Sentinels of Andersonville, and both were wonderful works of historical fiction. And second, because it was about an oft-forgotten part of the second World War — the Miracle of Dunkirk. And I’ve already mentioned I *love* WW2 history :D

Tracy Groot has a way of bringing out the humanity on her characters. Nothing seems to be staged, nothing seems to be cliche, nothing seems to be overdone. Emotions are expressed beautifully, all of the characters seem to really, truly feel. By the time you are done reading, you realize that the characters have become your friends and that they have taken you on an emotional journey and taught you a lesson along the way. The style of writing Ms. Groot has is unlike any other that I’ve read. The words she uses are big and wonderful and descriptive. The way she uses punctuation creates an element of authenticity to the story.

There were several elements I enjoyed about the actual story line itself — my favourite was the romance of the two characters that developed slowly. And I am using “romance” in the original intent. From the 1828 dictionary: “A fabulous relation or story of adventures and incidents, designed for the entertainment of readers; a tale of extraordinary adventures….a tale of love or war, subjects interesting the sensibilities of the heart, or the passions of wonder and curiosity.” This was a tale of terrible atrocities done to children in WW2. Not Jewish extermination camps, which is what I originally assumed it was about, but about the experiments done upon the children who were born with down syndrome, cerebral palsy, blind, deaf, etc. sanctioned by Hitler. One man sets out to bring help to these children, secreting some of them away, until he was killed. And so he passes on this information to others, giving them the daunting task of changing America’s minds about the war and bringing to the public the information he has gathered. The young detective who is involved with this has a personal tie to the whole ordeal — his baby sister has down syndrome.

In and amidst this story line, you have a tale of a soldier who is helping an injured lieutenant to Dunkirk. You read about the retreat through the soldiers eyes, of the many deaths of comrades, and of the faith the lieutenant shares with those around him even though he can’t even remember his own name. You see the beaches of Dunkirk with them and cheer on the civilians who have come to help the soldiers. You share the fears of the soldiers as they head back home, seemingly defeated, wondering how everyone will greet them once they arrive.

I mentioned the romance between the two main characters being my favourite part of the story. And it was. This romance was so sweet and subtle, that I was surprised by the end of the book. Instead of being filled with a bunch of gushy love sentiments, the two are busy working feverishly together towards the same goal: that of rescuing the children. Maggie Bright was the boat used to help these children, and it holds the key to everything else about these experiments, so they meet. And they learn to trust each other through working hard together toward one common goal. They get to know each other, not through a sappy courtship, but through a realization that they can work together towards a purpose greater than either of them. And that, my friends, is rare indeed in a story.

This book was wonderful. I would will read it again, very soon. ‘Cause I tend to like to re-visit and re-acquaint myself with my “friends” from my books =) I would lend this book out and pass it on, as the story should be read by everyone. The underlying question of this book is “What can I be doing now? How can I be helping?” I don’t know that this book is just for older readers — there were thematic elements, but nothing worse than, say, Douglas Bond’s War in the Wastelands. Even the part about the children isn’t described in detail, you are led to know what is happening. I would say it depended on the maturity of the person reading it, and the parents wishes.

It was the worst picture she had seen in her life. It was worse than the crying baby in Shanghai.
‘Sometimes we need to see why we fight,’ said the burglar vicar gently.’We need to see what God sees. Then we can understand just a little better His wrath, and His justice, and His love.’
He slipped the photograph from her hand, put it in the folder, slipped the folder from her. She pulled the pillow over her face and wept.
She’d not forget that image, not for the rest of her life.

She cried herself deaf for the child and for Arthur Vance; for Murray whose Rocket Kid could not save this child, and for William, because she finally understood what it felt like to be eviscerated.
She wept that she could not go and die for this boy.
‘I’m utterly useless!’ she screamed into the pillow, and finally came to her defeated senses. A good cry, and she did
not feel better.
‘You are hardly useless,’ said the Burglar Vicar.
‘Oh really? I can’t even sit up.’
‘You can pray.’

‘How do you know it does any good?’
‘It’s better than moping, which does no good at all.”
She supposed it
would be better to pray than to mope. The Shrew said prayer held them to their tasks. She said she saw before her eyes that it worked. ‘Yes, yes — I can pray!’

I recieved a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers in return for an honest review.
I was not required to enjoy this book.

Wings of the Wind

Wings of the Wind, Out from Egypt Series #3    -     By: Connilyn Cossette
Fighting was a the only way Alanah knew how to survive. After the Hebrews killed her family, she disguised herself and went to the battlefield to avenge them. Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior found her wounded and unconscious among the casualties. The more she got to know Tobiah and his people, Alanah’s respect for them grew. That all changed when they found out about her past.

Wings of the Wind is the third book in the Out From Egypt trilogy by Connilyn Cossette. I had been looking forward to this book, and, quite honestly, I was disappointed, even though the book was really good.

Don’t get me wrong — it was good. I enjoyed the book, but there seemed to be such a gap between the second book and the this one — a forty year gap, to be precise. The first two came one right after the other…..this one was years later, after all the original characters were grown. I understood the reason, so both parts of the exodus from Egypt could be written about, both the start and the end. But it left me just a little confused at first. I didn’t really get into the book until about the fifth or sixth chapter…..but that could be just me =)

The story was well written, and I enjoyed the stye of writing by Mrs. Cossette, as always. The redemption in the pages of this book was breathtaking, and the forgiveness offered this erring young lady was touching. I enjoyed reading about how she came to faith in the one true God instead of all the false idols of her people.

I am sad that this series is over, and am hoping Mrs. Cossette writes more in the future.

I recieved a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in return for an honest review.
I was not required to enjoy this book.

*There are affiliate links contained in this post*

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home

Home. A simple four letter word — do you know the meaning of those four letters? For everyone, that simple four letter word will mean different things. Special memories, bittersweet sorrows, hugs and tears and laughter and love.

O give us homes built firm upon the Savior,
Where Christ is Head and Counsellor and Guide;
Where ev’ry child is taught His love and favor
And gives his heart to Christ, the crucified:
How sweet to know that tho his foot-steps waver
His faithful Lord is walking by his side!

Guess what? I am home. Home! Do you know what that means for me? What those four letters hold in my mind?

A father. A mother. Five younger brothers and five younger sisters.

Big round eyes. Sweet, slobbery kisses. Round arms squeezing around my waist, little voices calling my name. Welcoming me home, waving me off as I leave for the day.

O give us homes with godly fathers, mothers,
Who always place their hope and trust in Him;
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers,
Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others,
And love still shines, tho days be dark and grim.

Piano keys under my fingers. Working on music for church, working on a duet with a sister, teaching as we go. Learning new things, teaching new skills.

Preparing lessons and going back over what I had prepared.

Snuggling into bed each night with a sweet five year old sister. Feeling her press close, moving her off of my pillow so I can lay down. The whispers and giggles of those sisters who stay up late and are awake when I get home. Filling them in on my day, and hearing about theirs.

Waking up to a chorus of “good mornings”. Walking into the kitchen to the aroma of a good, hearty, country breakfast, a sermon playing, or a biblically-sound political radio show.

Washing dishes in the completed kitchen, cleaning up after thirteen people. Baking bread for the family.

O give us homes where Christ is Lord and Master,
The Bible read, the precious hymns still sung;
Where pray’r comes first in peace or in disaster,
And praise is natural speech to ev’ry tongue;
Where mountains move before a faith that’s vaster,
And Christ sufficient is for old and young

I’ve yet to cook for all of us. Or do the mega-load of laundry for the day. I haven’t been able to get out in the garden and plant the seedlings with the little ones. I’m still gone all day, up at my grandparents home. I’m home in the morning until 11:00-ish, and I come home about 11:00-ish at night. I still do the housework up there. The cooking. My grandmother can get around, but still can’t stand for long periods.

But I am home — for a whole week I’ve been home! Crazy schedule aside, things are getting a sense of normalcy. Today more so than others — I was able to attend church for the third week, after missing four or five weeks. For the first Sunday since January, I woke up in my own bed, had my whole wardrobe of clothes to choose from (:D), crowded into the already crowded bathroom with everyone else who was getting ready. Loaded onto the “big, yellow bus” with everyone else in my family and headed towards church, with a Piano Guys CD playing full blast for the baby who loves the beat and the sound of the cello.

O Lord, our God, our homes are Thine forever!
We trust to Thee their problems, toil, and care;
Their bonds of love no enemy can sever
If Thou art always Lord and Master there:
Be Thou the center of our least endeavor—
Be Thou our Guest, our hearts and homes to share.

The person who wrote: “‘Mid pleasures and palaces though you may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” wrote truly. There is absolutely no place like home.

(Hymn: A Christian Home by Barbara Hart)

peer culture

So, we have everything together. Home-schooled, large families who are reformed in doctrine with an amazing home church. Perfectly raised, all the same, with so much in common. Right?

Wrong.

We have so much in common as a church, until we get down to the nitty-gritty of the fellowship. Peer culture. The influence peers have upon one another. The next generation of our reformed community of churches seem to be……well….floundering would be a good word.

Yes, floundering. As we hit the age of young adult. As we become responsible for ourselves; for our actions, for our words, our conversations, the use of our time — we seem to be floundering in the deeper tide of “society”.  Struggling to gain a foothold in the world. And, more often than not, I find that we are being pulled out to deeper water, sinking instead of floating, drowning instead of rising to the occasion.

There is a danger to our peer influence — the same danger prevalent everywhere young people gather together. We are going to emulate one another. Vie for the title of “Most Popular”. Cut up and laugh and have fun. Share gossip and stories from the week and frivolous nothings.

No, our peer culture won’t be perfect. We have our differences; we have convictions that are as different as night and day. But the peer culture in our church has at least one thing in common: we were all  raised by parents who profess to be followers of Christ. That alone should bind us together. That alone should cause us to bear with one another, to show Christ-like love to one another. The more time we spend around each other, the more time we spend at church together, the more differences we will discover. That is a good thing — that means we are truly getting to know each other, be comfortable with each other. We will be comfortable asking for prayer, sharing our struggles, crying with someone.

But as we grow older there should be less foolishness and more seriousness. The youth of today are apathetic to the issues around us. They encourage each other in this attitude — devoting these years of our youth to having fun instead of devoting them to our Masters work.

So many young people feel it more important to play with friends than be at church. They feel it better to sleep in or go to a sport game rather than taking a stand against the murder of innocent children in the womb. They make it a priority to work rather than spending time with their family.

I don’t know about you, but I find encouragement from having an invigorating discussion with another young person — or a whole group of young people — even if it is about something we disagree about. I am encouraged when I see young people taking a stand, doing the hard things over the popular, making a hard decision rather than an easy one. I am encouraged when I hear young people starting hard conversations, when I hear young people asking others about prayer needs, discussing theology, a sermon that spoke to them, confessing their faults.

And I also feel a sadness in my spirit when they can’t hold discussions of any importance. When they struggle to tell you what they gleaned from Sunday’s sermons, when they can’t tell you what they are studying personally in the Bible, when they are uncomfortable talking about prayer needs. When the predominate conversation centers around the popular movies, music, and whatever else.

This is a danger to the next generation — our own children. So many of us have parents who have struggled to be where they  are now, struggled against temptations and allurements of this world, struggled to raise us children as they have. They struggled and made the  sacrifice of the only life they knew to instill in us Christian character, oftentimes facing the ridicule and scorn of their own families. And we young people haven’t acted very thankful for what we have been given.

Do you know what our parents have given us? They have given us an opportunity to start where they left off. They have given us an opportunity to start life with a solid theological foundation — many of them were much older than we are now when they realized the importance of this. They have given us certain convictions, which would do much to lead us away from all the common errors youth makes. They are willing to impart wisdom to our lives — valuable, priceless wisdom, as they themselves have been young once. A friend once described it like this: Our parents have climbed up a hill so far, carried us on their shoulders, and have left us where they are. We are to take up where they left off, and keep climbing. So we can go farther than they managed to go.  So we can carry our children even farther up the hill, and they can start at a whole different level than we did.

I have seen two different attitudes among young people and their parents — very distinctly different attitudes. In one attitude, when the child becomes a young person — somewhere between the ages of 16 and 18 — they decide that their parents way of life isn’t good enough; they decide that their families convictions are old-fashioned; they decide they don’t need their parents counsel. They are old enough, mature enough, and smart enough — and so they go their own way by themselves. The second attitude also occurs around this age. But it is one of desiring a parents counsel, and finding it lacking — the parents have raised their children so very long, and they know how to behave and how to live life. So they consider their job done.

Both these attitudes lead to so many different dangers……so very many dangers.

Guys, we need our parents now more than ever. Yes, we are older. Yes, we are maturing. Yes, we do have a responsibility, in a sense, to function on our own. But we need our parents. Even more than when we were babies. We are growing into life. Learning lessons that we need to learn, but our parents can help us through them. Ease the transition between childhood and adulthood. Don’t shut out your parents. Yes, they are older, and yes, they are from a different generation. But they faced the same trials we do — the same temptations to be noticed by the other gender, the same feelings of wanting to be popular.

Please, parents, don’t desert us when we grow older. We need you just as much now as when we were young — perhaps even more so. We need to learn to function on our own, as adults — but we are still learning how to be adults. We need your advice and input into our lives. We need your wisdom, your encouragement, even at times your restraining hand. We need you to give us responsibilities, but we also need your discipline and advice and restrictions.

We young people are only young once. Only once in our lives do we have the freedom to go and do without too many responsibilities. We need to shake off this attitude of apathy and wake up. We are an army of people — a formidable foe if we would only take initiative. There are so very many of us out in the world. So many of us. And yet we lie sleeping. Doing nothing but wasting our time. Engaging in frivolous pastimes without a thought as to what we should be doing.  We were not created to waste time doing nothing — we were created to glorify Christ.

We are not to be discouraged by the lack of initiative we see. We are to be the change. Yes, this is hard. Uncomfortable, especially when those around us don’t help to keep a conversation going, or won’t engage with us, or look at us as if we have suddenly sprouted a third ear on our foreheads when we suggest giving up a Saturday to challenge our cultures stance on any given popular view.

We are not to withdraw ourselves from the peer society. We are to challenge it. Engage in it. Change it.

But we canNOT do it ourselves. We need our parents to take an interest. To sit with us and enter into our conversations. To bring up interesting topics, listening to our views and giving us their input — the input of a wiser, more mature mind. To point out flaws in our logic, to point us to Christ when the conversation gets out of hand.

One of my favourite things to do every Christmas season is to sing Handel’s Messiah. And one song from that should be our theme.

“Arise! Arise! The glory of the Lord is risen upon you!”

May this be our mission — to awake from our lethargy and show the world the glory of the Lord.

times of growth

I am up late, waiting to administer the last of my grandmothers IV antibiotics for the day. So I thought I would share with you a sweet email my 14 year old sister sent me this week.

Everyone at home has made sure to keep me up-to-date with the goings on of everything, and this one such update — one I was thankful for, and one everyone could read. And yes, I am sharing this with her permission =) I am leaving everything the way I received it, only copy and pasting the email.

FLOWER

Hey Brooke, (my sister’s name for me) This is the plum tree’s bloom that is in my garden. Pretty, huh?

I took this picture Sunday and wanted to share it with you.

The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

This verse is very applicable to this bloom! I looked to see if it was still there yesterday and it is NOT, how short life is. But there is a new growth where the bloom was. That’s how I want my life to be, it could be short, but ultimately I hope it puts a new growth on the church of Christ and fellow believers! 

I am so thankful for emails like this one. I have been the recipient of many timely words, mostly from my family, and friends who live afar, and sweet friends at my church.  How sweet to know they are praying for me! What an encouragement! What a help when I feel overwhelmed or discouraged! I cannot begin to tell you how often the Lord has orchestrated for letters or emails to arrived just when I have needed them most.

I pray the Lord will see fit to use me to bring a smile to people’s faces as others have for me. To encourage them through the difficult times and laugh with them through the fun times.

My prayer tonight is that the Lord would be glorified in all of my actions, throughout every “mundane” task I undertake.

Now for the medicine……

Dreams and Desires

We all have dreams. We all have desires. No matter your age, no matter your gender, we all have things we want to accomplish, things we dream about in the depths of our hearts, and things we yearn after with our whole soul.

These dreams and desires run deep into our beings. At times, we must learn to give them up into the hand of the Lord, surrendering everything to Him and trusting in the fact that He is faithful. I know — there are many dreams I have given over to the Lord. Many desires I struggle with, praying for the Lord to make His will known in my life. Many things, small and large, have I given into His hand. Imperfectly have I given many of them; there are times when it seems I want to take them all back within an hour of what I thought was complete surrender to His ways. There are times when it hurts to give up a dream and grasp the Lord’s infinitely better plan for my life. I have times in my past where I have struggled to retain control of my life, not wanting to give the Lord anything that would bring me pain. I have times in the present, in the here-and-now. And I am sure I will have times in the future.

Yet, in the providence of the Lord, a few of my dreams are being fulfilled. Definitely not in the way I expected, most assuredly not in the way I desired, but they are being fulfilled nevertheless. Maybe a more correct statement would be that I am beginning to understand — in a barely-scratching-the-surface kinda way — why the Lord gave me these dreams in the first place, and why I needed to surrender them to His keeping for this time in my life.

I am going to tell you something that may surprise you. Something that may even shock you. A story of shattered dreams, and the image that is starting to emerge from the pieces.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor. I was sick all the time. All. The. Time. Mostly with an earache, and if some type of bug went around, I was going catch it. By the time I was five I  had taken many of the antibiotics known to man (maybe only slightly exaggerated…..maybe :P). When I was six I had tubes put in my ears. When I was seven I caught pneumonia and was in the hospital for a week. And it was at this time I decided I would have a medical profession of some sort.

Being a reader, I read everything I could about healing people. First aid manuals, biographies of great nurses and doctors in history, achievements men and women have made in the medical field. As I grew I read all the family medical books Mom had to decorate our house with. I scanned through thick books filled with illnesses and symptoms — I actually had a sweet friend who is an RN give me a medical book at my graduation, not knowing any of this about me. I knew which college I would be going to when I graduated high school, and I had my whole future planned out. I would be an obstetrician (OB — a baby doctor).

It was about this time we began attending another church — I was thirteen. From this church we borrowed a documentary called “Return of the Daughters” — about how daughters were needed to fulfill God’s plan for the family in the home. We were all very shocked — not one of us had considered such a thing before. NOT go to college? Actually stay home in our families and learn to be a wife and a mother? We finished it and my parents asked what I thought about it.

My first reaction was that I hated the idea. I was going to be a doctor. I was going to make a difference in this world. And I couldn’t do that by being home all the time. In my mistaken theology, the plans I had, and the plans God had for my future, must be the one and the same. And I wasn’t about to give up my dreams for others that seemed so mediocre. Nope. Nada. No can do.

A few weeks later, a dear friend loaned me a book that the Lord used to convict me, and my dreams and desires began to crumble before my very eyes. I put all thought of college, doctoring, and everything else out of my head. Slowly but surely I relinquished my hold on that part of my future. There were tears and frustrations. There were selfish moments, and thoughts of “what if I hadn’t chosen this?” 

And as soon as I gave everything to the Lord — every desire, every aspiration, every dream; as soon as I determined to be open to the leading of Christ no matter where He led me, a pathway that had muddled before began to shine out clearer. He didn’t give me back my dreams, He didn’t give me His stamp of approval, but He placed in my heart a desire to follow His ways no matter what.

His ways are truly higher than tongue can tell or pen can describe. He has blessed me in so many ways that I would have missed if I had rebelled against the plan He had for me. And I have the opportunity to do what I am doing now, at this time in my life only because I was willing to give Him everything.

At one time, seven or eight years ago, I envisioned my life when I was twenty to be lived on a college campus in Virginia studying medicine. Instead I am experiencing firsthand the skills needed to be a good nurse. If I had gone to college I would not be administering antibiotics through a PICC line. I would not be learning how to help people maneuver around who have (temporarily) lost the use of a leg. Learning signs of infection to look for, exercises that can be done in bed, the best way to interact with doctors and nurses, how to help with even the basic necessities of life.

When I gave the Lord my dreams of being an OB on the mission field in some foreign country in exchange for His plan of staying under my father’s protection, I never dreamed I would be allowed to minister to my grandparents in their home. To be given the opportunity to be salt and light to those in the medical field as I interact with them daily. To be so very close to finishing my doula studies and meeting nurses who are willing to answer my questions. Nurses who have been willing to let me get hands-on experience — I never imagined that I would have job offers as a CNA or a PCT at a hospital, either.

When I was convicted to stay at home until I marry, when the Lord convicted me to give Him my dreams of a home and children of my own, to give Him my desire for a husband, I never dreamed I would be running a home at twenty. Planning meals, cooking, cleaning — though imperfect at best as we have been gone all day at the hospital — it has been a time of learning to plan a menu. To actually stick to what was planned and purchased. To cook for two or three people — something I have always wondered how to accomplish.

When I had a desire to heal others, to help them and minister to them, I never dreamt that those “others” would be my very own grandparents. I didn’t know then that the Lord was preparing me to care for a grandfather who had quadruple bypass surgery. That He was putting me in a place where I would be able to stay in my grandparents home assisting as my grandmother recovers from a staph infection and cellulitis. From having one operation to fuse her ankle, and another one a month later to take it all out when the infection reached the bone.

I gave up my desires and dreams and the Lord  placed a longing in my soul, one that desired His will. I still struggle. I wish I could look back and see where I’ve been; look forward to see where I am going, and remember these lessons I’m learning. So those days when I want to hug my dreams to my heart, refusing to relinquish them to the Lord, I can know — beyond a shadow of a doubt — that my God is faithful, and His plans are far greater than my dreams could ever Continue reading →

Mark of the King

I am working on a real update for this blog….which I will (hopefully) post sometime in the near future. Until then, I am waaay overdue at posting this book review. Which book I received back in January, finished in February, and…..that’s as far as I got.  Life took over, and I have been providentially busy — too busy to worry over writing. And for me, that’s busy =)

But, without further ado, here’s the review :D

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After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

The Mark of the King was one of those books I wasn’t too very sure of…..and one of those books I enjoyed reading. It piqued my interest originally because of the midwifery aspect of the book — having nearly completed my doula training and having an interest to move into midwifery one day, I am always up to learning about the historical impact of midwifery on a settlement. Mrs. Jocelyn Green did a wonderful job with that portion of the book, and I truly enjoyed reading it.

The storyline itself, outside of the historical aspect, was not one of my favourites. It seemed…..flat, in my opinion. It didn’t leave me wanting to keep reading….and that is rare with a book. It was a blessing, since I was needing a book to quickly sit down when my grandmother needed my help (explained in my last post), but still. The characters just didn’t seem very relatable to me. But, remember I was also distracted, so I may have enjoyed it better if I had an hour or two to devote to reading it. Thankfully, midwifery seemed to take up the majority of the first two thirds of the book…it was only the last third that seemed to drag.

I also enjoyed the herbal aspect of the book, with Julianne learning how to utilize the native herbs and plants in her midwifery practice and in her work as a nurse.

I would give this book about 3.5 stars. I would read it again for practical, historical purposes, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who didn’t have a love for natural birth or natural remedies. I also wouldn’t recommend this book to younger girls, since the main subject was birth. There weren’t any details that were inappropriate or immodest — midwives barely looked at what they were doing in those days — but there were details given about the birthing process.

*I received this book from the publishers in return for my honest review. I was not required to enjoy it* 

Oh, the Lessons I’ve Learned….

I’d like to share with you some of the things I am learning as I am away from my family for the indefinite future, in the hopes that it will encourage you and possibly learn some things easier than I have.

For those of you who know my family and I, you know that we are close. We are almost never separated from each other, and when we are it is only for a short time out of the day. No, we aren’t the perfect family, but we are a family. A group of people who live together and laugh together and dream together and love each other as best we can with our sinful hearts.

I am with my grandparents. Helping out while my grandmother recovers from an operation, and I have TERRIBLY missed everyone. But God is good, and I am learning immensely….lessons that I most likely would not learn at home. These are written down in no particular order, just as they come to mind….

The routine you have at home matters. Yes, stubborn me can even see this. The way Mom runs our home is orderly and makes sense….and is the way that I default to up here at Grandma’s. Straighten the house before bed. Fold and put away all laundry before bed. Make the bed before you leave the bedroom.

Have a life-purpose bigger than your home. If your purpose in this life is to complete your to-do list and go have fun, then you are in trouble. If the fulfillment in your life comes only in being busy in your home or your church, consider what will happen when you are away from both of those. How will you feel? What will you do?

If the only purpose I have for my days at home is to make it through each task in the hopes that I can “prove” how good and capable I am, what will I do? My purpose must be bigger. I HAVE to realize that my only purpose in this life is to glorify God. To allow Him to use me for His glory and be willing for Him to do that no matter what. If that means I am serving my grandparents, or serving my own home, or serving a friend, or a husband, or my own children.

Have a purpose bigger than marriage. This is a big one, for many of us. Listen up, ladies — marriage is wonderful and beautiful and exciting. But we must realize that it is not the crowning success of our days. This is what I have been learning for years, and especially this last year. Singleness can be just as “good” as marriage. We can’t sit back and repine because we aren’t married by eighteen. Life will go on, and we must fulfill the task the Creator of mankind has for us to do.

If I were married right now, I couldn’t be up with my grandparents now, spending time and creating precious memories with them. I told my sister the other week that I felt such peace not being married right now. I KNOW that it is God’s will for me at this point in my life, and I am content in that. Not that I have given up the desire to be married or to have children of my own one day. I just know without a doubt that it is not Gods plan for me right now.

Think of it this way. If my purpose in life is to praise and serve the Lord, I can do that right now, unmarried. If I am still unmarried when I am twenty-five, does that change anything? NO! My purpose in life is still to glorify God and praise and serve Him. If I am still single at forty, my life purpose is still the same. If I were to marry next year, my number one priority should still be to praise and glorify my Redeemer.

Have a good relationship with your siblings. I can’t stress this enough! Do you realize how important this is? Do you now how special it is to have a five year old sister squeezing you, reluctant to let you go? Or a three year old brother lift up his round little face for a kiss, squeezing your legs with his cute little arms? A brother drawing you beautiful pictures? A sister who comes to plan something with you and you talk for three hours straight? Pictures sent without asking of what everyone else is doing? Talking on the phone whenever, and feeling like you won’t ever run out of things to say? Seeing a cute, chubby baby’s smiling face, being the recipient of big slobery kisses, and sweet giggles and coos?

Guys, I tell you I do NOT deserve such love. Mostly we get along and have fun. But I am not perfect — I fuss at them, I complain to them, I tire of the noise and the wrestling and the messes. They do the same to me. We fight and squabble and have our differences. But I MISS THEM. Terribly. I told one sister the other day — the one I talked with for hours — that if one of us ever marries, the other one will have to make week long visits, planning on talking for days on end, and only doing something constructive the last few days =)

Learn how to cook for three people. ‘Cause three people don’t eat as much as thirteen =9 I am slowly learning. And asking questions. And making notes for my own home one day.

That’s what I have been learning and what the Lord has been dealing with me about. What are you learning?

 

Gossip — Destruction from Within

Gossip is something we encounter everywhere. We have all witnessed it and maybe even we are guilty of being in on it. Being a part of the group that has nothing better to do than waste time in speculation and idle chatter about others’ lives. And you can call it whatever you want and it doesn’t change what it is: gossip, pure and simple.

Yes, gossip is an issue that all of us at one time or another will have to face. It is something that is hurtful to those you are speaking about, and to everyone you speak to. Gossip can ruin lives, without doubt. Look at the Salem witch trials. They were started by a few girls with spare time and loose tongues in an hospitable kitchen. Tales were told, exaggerated, and brought home to parents who then acted in fear. We do not know how many people were murdered over some idle chatter that a few school girls spread around the community. These were people who were innocent of any wrong doing, other than being different than those around them. We see and read about the repercussions of gossip. The Salem Witch Trials made history and we must learn from our past mistakes. Yet, still countless reputations are injured by our wayward tongues.

As a young lady, I can say that a group of girls is prone to gossip. It is a sin we have to watch….

~~~~~~~Read More at Foundations of Reconstruction~~~~~~~