December 31, 2010

Ice Cream Cake

My mother's birthday is Christmas Day.  My whole growing up life, we always celebrated her birthday with an ice cream cake from Carvel and it was always mandatory that Mom's birthday was a BIRTHDAY celebration.  Not an add-on to Christmas.  She got actual birthday cards, not Christmas b-day ones.  Her gifts were wrapped in regular birthday paper, etc.
My parents always come and celebrate Christmas day with us here at our home, so it now falls to me to prepare for the birthday part of the day.  This year I decided to make an ice cream cake from scratch - since I learned to make ice cream this year I thought it would be fun.
Here is the progression in photos.
Oreo cookies run through the food processor and mixed with butter to form
the bottom crust layer in a spring-form pan.
First batch of ice cream *cookies & cream
into the pan and then into the freezer
Chocolate syrup layer
Chocolate Chip Layer
Ready to celebrate!
Ready to dig in!

December 12, 2010

Compassion at Christmas

A few weeks ago we received a call I hoped would not come.  Though I had read on the Compassion International blog about how things are handled when a child leaves the program, I never thought we'd experience it ourselves.  I was saddened to be wrong, especially so as we'd only been sponsoring Blanca (in Guatemala) for a few months.  The staff at Compassion was very kind and told us what they knew about the reasons for Blanca's leaving the program. We also received a nice closing letter from the communication director of the center in Guatemala.  We were so glad to know that Blanca had accepted Christ as her Savior during her involvement in the program and we will continue to pray for God's hand on her life.

Having lost Blanca, the kids & I talked about the need & desire to choose another child as soon as we could.  I had told the staff on the phone that we would log into the website and choose another child ourselves instead of having them choose one for us.  
J and B decided to find a boy that had a birthday near to B's if possible.  So that was the focus of the search, though the kids were also insistent that we only search the children who had been waiting 6 months or longer for a sponsor.  They both think that it is important to find a child who has been waiting... hoping and praying for a sponsor.  To allow a waiting child to know they were chosen... for that child to know they are worthy of someone's love & prayers... especially in time for Christmas.  What a gift to be able to give!  That God has smiled on us to allow us such a privilege...truly humbling and awesome.
So we prayed and we searched and read profiles and found him.
 Fernando (Nando) from Indonesia.  He is 11 and his birthday is just about 2 weeks before B's.  Perfect!  Such a serious face, though I can just imagine that his eyes sparkle when he smiles.  We are praying that God will allow us to build a long relationship with Nando, as we are also building with Fred in Kenya. 
We just received our sponsor packet and can now send a family photo to Nando so he will be able to see us and begin to connect.  I've written to him once already through the Compassion website.  It's an awesome resource they offer to be able to write online and have it go directly to the country office to then be translated and sent out to the project locations for the sponsored child to receive.  It's a quicker process, though I still also write longhand and send paper letters as well.  
These boys are part of my heart now.  God has allowed us the amazing opportunity to make a real difference from a world away.  A chance to connect personally through letters and for a small amount each month... to impact their lives with food, education & opportunity.  Such a gift...for us!
Perhaps you might consider giving (and receiving) such a gift? There are also other ways to help!  You can go to the Compassion Catalog and choose a gift that will make a difference in the life of a child & family for as little as $10.  
There are many programs that offer the chance to give such gifts during the holidays.  Samaritan's Purse and World Vision both have similar programs and are an amazing way to be the hands and feet of Jesus at this time of year.

Blessings on the journey~

December 1, 2010

Why is it blue?

I hope you can really see that color.... yes, it is blue.  The home-made white bread is blue.  Why?  You may be asking.  Why would someone do such a thing to a lovely loaf of home-made bread?
Because I can!
Actually it is because of my darling husband whom God has blessed abundantly with such an off-beat sense of humor. 
Now for anyone still reading, I shall explain a bit more.
Our youngest child is, shall we say...ahem... rather particular when it comes to food.  I had made 2 loaves of bread over the weekend and used 1/3rd whole wheat flour along with the regular white.  The bread is good, soft, and very yummy.  But alas, B is not so very fond of whole wheat being involved in his regular old white bread. So enter dear old Dad with the suggestion to me that I should see what B's reaction would be if I colored the bread something really unusual.
So I did.
J was in on the joke and could hardly contain her giggles as we sliced into the still hot loaf for our usual first pieces warm from the oven.  From the outside you can barely see the blue tint.  But cut wide open and the blue shows!
We all enjoyed a laugh and a slice of hot bread.  Simple things... God brings them and we enjoy them and praise Him for the gifts.

May you enjoy the blessings of laughter today along the journey

November 27, 2010

Beautiful journey

My amazing husband took this photo during a hike of Mt. Monadnock.  God paints such glorious scenes here in New Hampshire.  
This type of photo always makes me ponder how God alone knows which way we should travel and He takes such pains at times to give us beauty along the journey so that we may bear the difficult roads as well as the smooth paths.
May you find beauty in your journey today and always know that you do not travel alone.
Blessings on the journey,

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I have so many things to be thankful for - each and every day - far too many to just to be remembered on one day in November.  The Lord of all creation has blessed me beyond measure and each day I try to remember to offer my praise to Him who has given me eternal life and every good thing in this earthly one.

November 11, 2010

Sniper training

During J's piano lesson recently, B walked the neighborhood loop with me and we talked about his dreams for the future.  He's pretty consistent for a boy of 11 when he talks about what he'd like to be when he grows up.  A policeman, an MP (military policeman), Army soldier, a Marine.
All of which I heartily support - he's my son - I want him to be happy and aspire to greatness while humbly serving the Lord in all he does.
He talked at length about becoming a Marine and needing to gain some muscles on his 11-year-old frame to reach that goal.  When I asked what type of job he might want within the Marines, he suggested he might like to be a sniper and reminded me of his accomplishment this past week with his Daisy air-rifle (aka BB-gun).

He may have some talent here.

November 4, 2010

Something fun

Yesterday over at The Frugal Girl it was the regular Wednesday baking post and it looked like such fun that I had to try it out today.
So I made up a batch of white bread dough in my bread machine while also making up a batch of King Arthur's Whole Wheat bread recipe with my big Kitchen-Aid mixer.
I let them rise and then with the input from J, made up the two loaves and set them to rise & bake while she whipped up a batch of one-bowl brownies for us all to enjoy.
My kitchen smelled wonderful all afternoon!
This was the result of my efforts - and it met with hearty approval from both B & J as well as our neighbor's 5-year-old son that was here for the afternoon.  Warm bread with butter makes a lovely snack on a rainy afternoon.

October 21, 2010

Trying to walk

Photo credit Ann Voskamp
Sometimes trying to walk is hard...

As a follower of Christ I'm supposed to walk the walk... the one I talk about so easily.  The one espoused by countless books and blog posts.  The one that is ... hard.

We are called to live in community, to build relationships, to reach out and connect in real life.  And I sit alone in the kitchen, typing on the keyboard while words and pictures fill the screen.  How is that a connection?  How has all this technology made things better for the relationships?

I almost cried talking to Steve last night about how my heart aches for 'realness' in life.  How I feel so cut off - yet don't know how to connect.  Everyone is too busy.  Everything is digital and sound bites and 'tweets'.  I long to slow down, disconnect and really LIVE.  And yet I sit here, typing away.... 

A friend is hurting... and I went to her home and hugged her and spoke with her for a few minutes.  And it was REAL.  My heart beat faster as I could feel her heartache in her words and see the mama-pain in her eyes... and I could pray in earnest... lifting her before the throne of grace... bearing one another's burdens.

How do I live this?  How do I walk? 
Only by the grace of God and in His strength. 
        I can do everything through him who gives me strength. ~ Philippians 4:13
My feet would completely slip out from under me otherwise.
       Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. ~ Proverbs 4:26

Blessings on the journey~

October 18, 2010

Something simple

Sometimes it is the most unlikely things that make me happy.  Like this....

A new storm door on the back of our house.  Now it won't be so drafty when I ride my bike in the basement this winter.

October 4, 2010

October! Already?

Wow!  I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised... October comes right after September every year.  I just can't seem to shake the feeling that time is accelerating as my children get older.  I don't feel that much older - well, most days anyway. And I am most fully aware that it is all just an illusion.  That time doesn't really move any faster or slower, it is just my perception that changes.
So here we are.  October.  Which means we are fully into our school year, fall has begun, the Deerfield Fair has come & gone again, and I have baked at least one apple pie so far.

We took a Friday off a few weeks ago and went to Nubble Light in Maine and enjoyed a fun day doing nothing much.  I love days like that and cannot even begin to express how completely blessed I feel that we CAN do such things.
Yes, they really are almost as tall as me already!                        
All photo credit to Steve (my most amazing husband)

Today is a rainy Monday.  We have schoolwork to accomplish, and some random laundry & housework as always. Tonight I have the opportunity to begin another Bible Study with the wonderful ladies from our church.  Life is really good and I am very thankful.

Blessings on the journey~

September 23, 2010

Normal life challenges

Life is full of challenges, some large, some small.  Sometimes things are just annoying, other times they can be paralyzing and frustrating.  I think a great deal of how we face challenges comes from where we are in our faith walk.  If we can really and truly say "Nothing happens that hasn't been sifted through God's fingers and I trust Him.  It'll all work out somehow even if it is really hard."
Those are tough words to say and believe...deep down... believe and cling to... even in a dark shadow place of life.  I have seen and read about people clinging tight in the face of truly horrifying things.  I think God is having us practice with the baby steps of normal life challenges.  I'm thankful to practice so that in the event we have to face a really dark road, we can walk it confident of the goodness of the Shepherd who walks alongside us.

We've dealt with our first bout of illness here at GBA.  B was diagnosed yesterday with strep throat and has successfully completed his first day of antibiotics.  I can say honestly that I am most grateful that God allowed someone to discover amoxicillin.  B came downstairs this morning with a smile.  A first since Tuesday.  Now he will just finish the meds and should be back to normal quickly.
We've also been dealing with some car issues for A this week.  He had gone to get an inspection sticker last week and $700 later he was trying to leave the garage to go to class when his transmission went. *sigh*  I suppose it was all good that it happened where it did - he was safe - no accident occurred because of the problem, etc.  But we had to have it towed (thank goodness for AAA membership), and it's been up in Manchester for almost a week now.  If all goes well and the Lord blesses he'll have the car back tomorrow after a hefty price tag.  Thankfully, again, we are in a position to loan him the amount he needs to cover the repairs and he'll be repaying us over the next few months.
Early this week I had to face a series of uncomfortable medical appointments for some questionable issues.  I was fine and clinging tight... right up until the night before the appointments.  Then... I cried.  I was scared.  The 'what-ifs' invaded my mind in the darkness of the night.  But God is good.  Steve held me and comforted me and reminded me that my faith doesn't change when I am scared.  I had my appointments and so far, it all seems fine.  I won't have final answers for a few weeks, but am confident that God is absolutely in control and that it's all going to work out okay.

Practice is hard.
But I am thankful that He loves me enough to let me practice.
Learning to trust God in the realities of life instead of just the fluffy words of Sunday morning is essential.  Following Jesus isn't supposed to be all rainbows and butterflies.  In John 16:33, Jesus said,  "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
These words bring me great comfort.  I will have trouble, but the One I follow has already overcome it all.  That doesn't mean this life will be easy by any means, but it does mean that I don't walk alone.  I can have His peace.
And once again, I am thankful.

Blessings on the journey~

September 12, 2010

Our newest addition

We knew it would happen... we've been talking about it and praying about it for a while now.
J has been especially anxious.  She really wanted to find someone special, someone just about her age...a girl who had been waiting a while.... waiting to be chosen.
Today the Compassion bloggers all are traveling home from Guatemala.  We've read the posts, seen the photos & videos.
We've followed the journey. 
Along the way we've learned a lot. 
About Guatemala, about the bloggers, about Compassion International and why they do it all in Jesus' name.

On this journey God has stretched our hearts, softened them a bit more, cracked them wide open and seen the tears spill down all over the keyboard.
So today we did again what we did earlier this year... when another fabulous group had said 'yes' to Jesus and went to Africa while we watched from here in NH.
We grouped around the monitor and searched the pages of children from Guatemala in need of a sponsor. Searching for that special girl... the one J has been praying for... just about her age... waiting too long... and we chose her.

Isn't she beautiful?  Her name is Blanca Maria... she lives in the mountains of Coban, Guatemala and her birthday is just 7 days before J's.  She has been chosen ...or maybe it's us that was chosen...because Jesus chose us.
Is there someone that will chose you?  Let your heart be here and change a life... it will change yours.
Blessings on the journey~

September 7, 2010

Will you help?

Back in the spring I stumbled upon a blog post that was about a trip to Kenya. It was a trip organized by Compassion International to take a group of bloggers to a country to see first hand what they do in those places, to help all those children. The idea is a marvelous one! Bloggers reach TONS of people. OK... those bloggers that people actually read and follow can do that... me... well... maybe someday. :-)
Anyway - this trip was amazing to follow.
I started reading a bunch of different blogger's accounts of the same day on the trip... and God started pulling on my heart.
I was nudged, I was poked, I was pulled.
My heart cracked and I cried.
I had the kids read some posts and they were tugged on as well.  I sent links to Steve and he said, "Do what you think is right." and then when he came home after work he asked "Are we sponsoring all of Africa yet?" with a smile that melted my heart more.
So we looked at photos, and more photos, and still more photos. We read bios, we talked about each one ... and my heart was broken at so much need.  Then... we saw his photo... read his name & bio, kids and I talked... and we chose him.  Fred.  Our little Compassion child... a child that we are growing to love and care about very much.  We have been thrilled to get letters from Fred, he's very young still so the Compassion team members help him write to us.  We pray for him daily.  God is letting us make a difference in the life of one small boy in Kenya... and prayerfully... we'll be able to sponsor more children in the future.
This week there is another trip... this time to Guatemala with a different group of bloggers.  I can't wait to see what God will do!
Compassion Bloggers: Guatemala 2010

I know not many people read my blog... but in case you happen to have stumbled across this post somewhere along your journey... please consider helping a child far away find hope. YOU can be the hands/feet of Jesus to a child somewhere in the world! How COOL is THAT?!?! God will LET YOU HELP! He will LET you... yes YOU... be part of His plans!
It totally knocks my socks off that God ... Creator of the universe and Savior of the world... lets ME help with something in His plans. ME... me who falls short, screws up and burns cookies and has a messy house most days....
God lets me be part of Fred's life from a zillion miles away.
He'll let you find a child to help too. Take a look.... let your heart be soft... change a life and let your life be changed too.

Blessings on the journey~

September 4, 2010

Common sense

I don't agree lock-step with everything that Douglas Wilson writes, but I do find the vast majority to be helpful, insightful and bibilical - which is very good, given he is a Pastor and all. :-)
This was a remarkably good common sense bit of writing:
Jesus, Reason, Soap

August 30, 2010

Come along side

Today I had the opportunity to live something that I've read about on other blogs relating to teens & almost teens.
J spent this morning with a wonderful lady from our church, working as a mother's helper.  She's done this several times over the summer, but today she also had a full schedule of school work to accomplish.  She worked all morning, came home, had lunch and finally got to start on her schoolwork at about 1pm.
She and B worked on their Latin review - there is a major test on Friday.  She worked on a History lesson, also knowing there is a quiz on Friday this week.  Then there was some science reading and answering some questions before working on an experiment and writing up a lab report.  Then pulling out her schedule and taking some other books off the shelf she became over-whelmed and started to cry.
I hugged her as she sobbed on my shoulder,
"There is too much work!  I can't do it!"  She sniffed, as her tears soaked my shoulder.
I took a deep breath and hugged her again.
Gently I said, "You can.  I know you can.  Wash your face and bring your book out with me to the swing."

So she washed up, took the math book & her notebook and we went out to the deck and sat on the swing.
We sat together, she worked problems and we talked.  She did the entire section - all correctly - as we sat together.  Then she worked on her literature assignment, reading me passages and talking with me about the humor of G.K. Chesterton.
Then... she was done - all assignments finished.  No more tears.
We did it together,her working along, talking, sharing some laughs... that is one of the beautiful things we enjoy being here together for school. 
I am so thankful that God has called us to this journey of home schooling.  The blessings can't be measured on a test (though they test well and get good grades).  The relationship.  The learning that hard things can be accomplished.  That it is a lot of work, but they CAN.  It's amazing to watch them as they grow and learn.
I am so very blessed.  Our life isn't perfect, not every day is stellar, some can even be pretty dreadful at times...but in the end.... it's all good.  We are building LIFE and focusing on the things that last for eternity.  Loving each other.  Learning together.  Living these golden moments that God has gifted to us.
Blessings on the journey~

August 27, 2010

A very good start

We have finished our first full week of school here and it was a very good beginning.  Both J & B have worked very diligently and accomplished everything I had planned for them - all with good attitudes and without working till late in the day. 
J actually told me on Thursday that she loves all her curriculum this year and thanked me for choosing so well for her.  Now I know those feelings may change as the year progresses - but for now... I'll take it ... with much thanks to God for His mercies and blessings.
I've even managed to get in some sewing this week (3 pairs of pjs and a small flannel baby quilt) and kept up with laundry, most of the housework, baked some bread and mostly followed my meal plans.  All in all it was a wonderful week. 
Steve surprised me and took the day off today. He came to J's last horse riding lesson of the summer and got to see some of what she's learned this year.  We topped it off by an afternoon outing to our favorite ice cream spot in town - all 5 of us!
Now I have 2 loaves of bread rising on the stove and will start on some home-made pizza dough in a bit for dinner.  This weekend has nothing planned but being home together.  I love my life. :-)
Blessings on the journey ~

August 10, 2010

Gearing up and slowing down

Now isn't that just a clever post title? I love when people have clever titles that make me want to read what they've written, so I thought I'd attempt a turn of phrase. happy
Anyway... the reason for the title is that is pretty much exactly where I am right now.  After talking with Steve, I decided that we won't begin schooling again until the 23rd.  It's been on again, off again with some schooling this summer - which in itself is different for us.  The weather has been incredibly warm and humid this summer and it seems that we've been hiding from the weather a lot this year.  Last summer we were staying out of the rain most of the summer.  I suppose that just goes to prove that God likes to mix it up.
I'm going to spend the next few weeks trying to get my house in order - quite literally - and spending time just being 'still'.  (Psalm 46:10)   I've felt for quite a while that God is trying to to tell me or show me something important for the 'next thing' here.  I haven't the faintest idea what it may be, but I also have felt lately that there is just too much NOISE in my life for me to be able to hear Him effectively.  I know He is a patient God, He knows I really DO want to hear and listen and be obedient.  So I'm going to try to be intentional in my listening.  Focus on my immediate priorities of family, home, school prep.... and listening.
Now before anyone thinks that I'm a nutcase and hear voices in my head that are going to tell me something crazy.... don't worry!  That is NOT what I mean when I say that I'm waiting to hear from God.  While I know that there are people who claim to hear an audible voice from heaven - I am not in that camp.  I think ... and God knows me best... He would know that I'd be doubtful of audible voices.  I can be a skeptic of many things.  I think it is pretty amazing how God knows exactly how to communicate with each of us in a way we can hear if we are paying attention.
For me, generally, God speaks to me through repetition.  Maybe I'm slow to catch on and He knows I need to see/hear things a few times (or a LOT of times) over to really get it. happy  I have been doing more reading this summer and have finished one Bible study and am part way through another.  Have had the opportunity to talk with more people than normal for me - and Steve is very patient as I mull/process things out loud to him and elicit his input and opinions.  God will bring up a theme, a phrase, even specific verses...over and over and over again, in many different places and through people too.  It's pretty amazing when the light-bulb finally comes on for me to see what He is putting before me.  I don't always understand where it is going, but I can really feel in my heart that there is something that I'm supposed to pay attention to or focus on or just be ready for the next thing now that I've gotten the first part. 
So... that is the slowing down part that really needs to happen. I desperately don't want to miss whatever the next thing is and I'm convinced that my own 'busy-ness' can be a hindrance to hearing God in my life. 
And the gearing up?  Well, that relates to my home and the kids and school prep.  We are still working toward the simplifying and being to busy is not conducive to that.  Like Steve says - stuff has to LEAVE the house to make it less cluttered. So that is a goal.  And the kids need some close time - not hovering/smothering... just time to 'be' and enjoy and learn together.  We need to work together on some individual goals for each of them for the coming year.  I need to get a bit more planning set up for the beginning of the fall, hunting down books, etc.  It's all good. 
It seems funny that in this culture of more/hurry/rush, I find the most joy in the stop/stay/less of my life.  God loves me.  Steve loves me.  My kids love me.  I really have all I need and more.  I am so very blessed and need to be mindful of it all.
Blessings on the journey~

August 8, 2010

Goodbye Grammie

My grandmother went home to be with the Lord yesterday. 
Louise Grace (Valley) Frost (1926-2010) was a daughter, a wife, a mother, a nurse, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.  She taught many, loved many and finished well.  I'm sure the angels had a warm welcome for her as she crossed the final bridge on the journey into the arms of her Savior Jesus. 


August 5, 2010

The Rain Falls

It is raining... no... it is pouring outside and I am thankful for the rain on parched ground. 
And tears fall here too, from the heart of a daughter who hurts for her mother's sorrow.

My mother just called me from Maine, sobbing her heart as she has said goodbye to my grandmother.
My grandmother has Alzheimer's disease and is standing on Heaven's doorstep waiting to meet Jesus.
She has lived for the last few years in a wonderful care facility up in Maine and now is - according to the staff - just about ready to go home.
I rejoice for my grandmother and my heart aches for my mother. 
She wants to rejoice at the home-going and feel God's peace, yet family conflict between siblings and generations is tearing her heart.  I'm praying for God to grant her solace, to hold her tightly in His eternal loving arms and comfort her.  To ease the generation of pain from years of sibling/family hurts and harsh words and grief.
I pray too, for my children.  For them to love one another always.  To follow Christ fully and embrace His commands to love one another and honor one another above themselves.  I pray that I can be the support my mother needs here and offer God's words to her and help her walk this thorny path with my prayers for God's grace and mercy.
And I pray... for those people who are hurting my mother's heart.  Those people who should be a comfort and aren't.  Who profess Christ in name and yet... *sigh*

We live falling so short every day.  I fail...over and again to shine Christ's love to others on this journey. 

Oh God forgive me, by your amazing grace and mercy, set my feet again on your right path.  Grant me wisdom and words and actions that show Jesus' true love in my life. Amen.

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.~ 1 John 3:18

Blessings on the journey~

July 28, 2010

Making Progress

We came back from our vacation with a re-newed sense of needing to simplify our lives.  We had managed to live for a week in a much smaller house with much less stuff and it had been good.  Really good.

It turns out that purging accumulated clutter, clothing and just...well... stuff, takes time.  It is a process and not something that just happens in a quick pass.  The biggest challenge for Steve & I is that we don't want to just throw away things that are perfectly good and useful to someone.  So we (read me), are searching for places to donate things, trying to sell some things, and finding people who can use what we are trying to reduce in our lives.  We have been very blessed - to the excess in some cases - and I don't want to waste those blessings.

My new rule for things to be kept in the house is that they must be useful, loved, bring us joy and have a permanent home - and by that I mean have a place they belong as 'put away'.  I have cleared off the top of the piano and the mantle in the living room and have 2 boxes of 'stuff' to find new homes for soon.  I have purged 2 bookcases or school curriculum that I am trying to sell.  And have begun working on the two younger kids bedrooms.

We've lived in our home for more than 14 years now.  That is a LOT of accumulated stuff to wade through.  But we are making progress and it feels good.  I am thankful for all our blessings and even more thankful that God is nudging us to a more mindful and purposeful way of living so that we can focus on what is truly important for His glory through our lives.

Blessings on the journey~

July 20, 2010

A July Sky

These are some photos I took after a storm blew through on a July evening.  The light outside was amazing and drew me out into the twilight with a camera.  Not generally my sort of thing - that is Steve's department usually - but I tried and they are pretty neat.