jam mama (part 2)

Ten years ago almost to this very day I wrote a post on my blog which was untitled but included the words…..JAM MAMA……

“You should have seen small Grace
diving into the warm cup of jam
that I set out on the table,
with a loaf of soft white bread from the bakery.
She tore of big chunks of bread
and dipped the majority of it down
into the bright red jam. . . .
there is just nothing like that warm, strawberry taste
. . . .it’s heavenly.

She called me ‘jam-mama’.”
July 12, 2008

Ten years have come and gone……

Grace is 18 now and was at work (as a cashier downtown at the grocery store) yesterday when I walked up the road to “see if there were any raspberries left”.  I determined to really look and really pick every single good enough berry I could find.  This involved lots of bending over and looking underneath the tangle of vines and briars and taking my merry ol’ sweet time.

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I eventually came home with 6 cups.

Incidentally, these berries grow on the side of the road, free for the foraging!  I already have a gallon of them frozen in our chest freezer in the pantry.  Once they ripen, we have to go back every couple of days to pick some more until they are finally all done.  They are productive!

We have a small patch of wild raspberries over by the chicken coop, too, which the chickens love to jump up and eat off the cane.  Then they lay us the most lovely eggs out of appreciation.

The black-cap raspberries grow on the bank by our drive way and under the dead pine tree at the bottom of the yard by the pond.

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I always pick clean but you never know what little creatures may have taken a ride home with the berries.  So I dumped them out to look through them.

I put them in a pan and simmered them until they released all their juice.  I strained out the seeds, measured the juice (2 cups) and added them back to the pan with the same amount of sugar (2 cups).  Brought to a rolling boil for 3 minutes and then beaten with the mixer for another 3 minutes.  Done!  So easy, so satisfying.

I was given the recipe by my very own jam mama, Cindy.

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Jacob said the jelly would taste good on “that cake you made the other day” and Ethan suggested some other baked good and I said “How about homemade biscuits?” And he said YES PLEASE.

I made a double batch of biscuits and we all ate them up right away with the homemade jelly on top.

Everywhere I looked there were children grabbing  another and another biscuit, slathering it with butter and jelly, and walking away with it………

This morning my feet are sticking to the carpet and the floor.

interesting

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Jacob and I went to Brimfield yesterday.

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I brought home fiestaware.

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Not only are my dishes useful but they are also decorative.  They add all the color to the otherwise neutral kitchen.

Things not to be used are on the top shelves.  Everything else is used daily.

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In the morning I used my claret mug.  He made the coffee while I made waffles, scrambled eggs, and sausage for our children.  Saturday mornings.

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The girls and I were downtown.

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We had a picnic across the street from the coffee shop in town.

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The flowers are so lovely there.

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I met a Kindred Spirit in the thrift store book room.

There were two stacks of Scrapbooks made by her, full of everything I also like: heartfelt articles, poetry, comic strips, news, cards, pictures.

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I chose some to bring home (8).  I will show you some of the things in them on another day.

They are amazing.  The lady’s name was Jean and she made the scrapbooks in the early 1960s.  She was a teacher.  Someone loved her named Bill.  I’m currently typing these words on my bed surrounded by the things she found interesting enough to cut and glue into books……..

It’s sad that they ended up in a thrift store, wasn’t there any family who could have kept them?  I left over half of them there on the shelf…..but at least there are some home with me and I will have the coziest time looking through them.  I love them.

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Gracie in the book room.

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Well, lastly we went into the Dollar General.  I hated the way my hanging basket looked after a rough season of being watered faithfully and then left to dry out nearly to death, over and over.  So I thought of a solution; and Rich remarked, “Nice, Shan!  It looks like a wig on a very old lady!”

 

feeling plump and happy already!

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I like to sit on the side of (our wrap around) porch.  There is a wooden bench here and as I look through the railings into the flower garden I can see things.  Further into the distance, but not too far, there is the road and the woods.  This morning the sky is so blue peeking through the leaves of the treetops, which are dancing gently.  My finger tips are cold this morning as I type.  It’s 72 in the sun and less than that where I am sitting.  I’m snacking on cashews and mint tea.  I’m thinking about home……

Yesterday as I was listening to the radio on the way to Costco, I heard a happy little news report about a nursing home in which the staff is attempting to make the residents feel more at home in the decorations, design of the building, and special lighting.  They want the residents to feel at home.  So interesting.

I named this blog “Good to be Home” because in my opinion, home is the dearest place on earth and in Heaven.  As you may be aware, we can sometimes feel homesick even in the most coziest of homes, and that is because we aren’t made just for earth, we are ultimately made for Heaven.

“The believer not only is well assured by faith that there is another and a happy life after this is ended, but he has good hope, through grace, of heaven as a dwelling-place, a resting-place, a hiding-place. In our Father’s house there are many mansions, whose Builder and Maker is God. The happiness of the future state is what God has prepared for those that love him: everlasting habitations…….”  ~Matthew Henry

Despite the hope and assurance that a better home (oh joy!) is coming, I believe it is important to “feather our nests” so to speak, in the here and now, as we live out our days.

My son Ethan is away at college now, and the very first thing we did when we took him there was to get his dorm room all set up.  It felt so good to make his bed, hang up his clothes, find a place for all of his things.  He had pictures and special belongings from home to keep with him and decorate with.  His roommate did the same, putting a big American flag up on the wall and choosing nice bedding and pillows.  They have a little refrigerator in their room for cold drinks.

Even if you are a college student you should still consider making your place homelike for yourself.  A small vase (jar/tin can) with something fresh from nature: a humble, small branch, tall pretty grasses, or a flower picked from those nice landscaped gardens would be sweet.  A “flameless” candle, a pretty throw pillow, a string of lights, all these things could be done at little cost to the pocketbook but to much benefit of the soul.  A special blanket and a stack of familiar books is nice, or an organic room spray for a fresh scent, a framed photo of your dog or sister or (mom)…..

I’ve considered making my big SUV more home-like!   I keep a blanket in it and hang an air freshener on the rearview mirror.  As a personal touch, the kids love to add stickers to the windows and doors and also scribble on them with pens (I’m being truthful but sarcastic now).

What about travel?  For me, these are the things required to be cozy (and at home) in a hotel: books, pens, notebook, iPhone and charger, and socks.  Poptarts are nice, too.  🙂

At my real home, I simply must have a cat or four, as well.

Oh yes, food!!  Food is a HUGE part of home life, isn’t it?  Food makes every event just that much more special.  Seth and Caleb have a football scrimmage this evening and I didn’t want to go until I realized that I could take a bag of some special snacks; homemade granola bars, cut up fruit, some hot tea in a thermos.  I have several Susan Branch cookbooks and I read a recipe, an actual RECIPE yesterday for a special garlic flavored popcorn…maybe I’ll try that, I mean it has to be good if she included it in her cookbook?

Maybe this is why some people ALWAYS take lunch to work from home.  It’s just cozier, all yours, special, made for YOU…….make lunchtime (any mealtime!) a special time, a nice break for yourself in the midst of a busy day.

Yesterday my kids watched a favorite TV show while munching crackers and cheese.  It’s so cute, the way they always have to eat the same snack during this particular show.  If you watch it, you will see why.  (highly recommended).

I love to visit my mom at work because she has made her whole office look cozy!  She has plants, lots of pictures of her family, framed maps (she loves maps!), and blue glass in the windows (it looks so pretty with the sun shining through them).  Her personality shines.

Sometimes I visit Rich at work (he has his own office) but I’ve seen the cubicles there…..and each one is such a reflection of the person who uses it!

Why do we put so much effort into creating these places for ourselves?  I have to believe it satisfies something in our souls that God put there.  A place that says “you are home, be at peace, you are secure, you can rest now.”  What a gift.

Not only that, but to do things like baking or decorating requires slowing down and being thoughtful, both of which are becoming harder and harder to do, but essential to well-being.  It’s much easier, when we are frantically busy, to grab drive-thru meals (I do it, too!!) which are not very nutritious or nurturing, to say the least.  What soul-satisfying moments we miss (both in the preparing AND the eating) when we don’t cook or bake our own foods.

To make a house a home takes time, mindfulness, and hours upon hours in the kitchen.  

It’s a job, yes, but like any job it can be done spiritually, with thankfulness that we are blessed and fortunate to even have nice homes and plenteous food!

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From my bench on the porch I had a hummingbird come to visit the zinnias.  Even a hummingbird has a nest to make, and to put babies in.

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With wings so fast that they hum.

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And a place to tuck their feet so they are completely out of sight (and out of the way for better aerodynamics!)

They are very fast fliers.

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It’s strange I know, but flying birds and their tucked-away feet just make me smile.

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I like the way the photos look with the railings blurred away but still there, like a frame.

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It wasn’t all hummingbirds.

*******

Time for another road trip!

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I took this photo last Sunday with my phone….we were coming home after taking Ethan to college and then spending a few days in Lake George, NY.  That big green thing in the back is a blow up Gumby — a prize from playing a game at Great Escape amusement park.

It’s these five who will be going with us to NY for a family reunion TOMORROW and to visit our friends Janice and James and their kids.  This will be the third weekend in a row we are away.  Jacob and Michael will be home taking care of the house and pets while we are gone and Ethan of course will be at school.

I’m baking later for football snacks AND road trip snacks.  (any favorite recipes to share?)

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The other day I was blogging in bed with these creatures at my feet.  (three cats, and Parker the dog who still smells a little skunky even after 2 baths).

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On a different “other day” I left to take Grace school shopping and Jacob called me on my cell phone because he had passed me as he was going home.  He had a starbucks coffee for me as a surprise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so I turned around to meet him at the gas station and he handed it to me through the window with a smile.  I’m still crying about it.

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This is so random…..I went to the library to put books in the free box and liked this display so took a photo of it.  I want to study these birds now!  And I want some to come live in my chimney!  Do you know this bird?  Have you ever seen them?

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And this (again at the public library) was fun.  Someone painted bricks to look like books– to use as bookends.  I loved how the Holy Bible was one of them!!  I’ve read all these (brick books) except The Notebook.  I refuse to read anything by Nicholas Sparks. (just one of my quirks–I hear he is a very good author–so maybe someday).

Happy Friday!  Happy Labor Day weekend!

 

******

PS, something funny: the whole time I was writing this I was also texting my brother and planing on a gathering at Mom and Dad’s on Sunday evening.  He immediately thought “FOOD” and in no time at all he arranged the entire menu and told me that mama was making cookies.  “I’m feeling plump and happy already” he texted.  As we should be.

 

Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places…  Isaiah 32:18

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Psalm 23:5

 

a skunk tale

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(9 years ago)

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God
no matter what the conflict.

ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, home again.  And I worked like a machine yesterday getting this house on the pathway to order and cleanliness so I’m going luxuriate in a morning of blogging (a ridiculous word of which my definition would be: play with pictures, put my thoughts in order, type, enjoy the sound of the keys clacking whilst three cats sleep on the bed at my feet and the cool morning sun shines through the curtains).

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My children have beautiful souls.

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I took these photos on Thursday, right before we left to take Ethan to college (three hours away).  Jacob wasn’t able to go with us and had to say goodbye to his faithful sidekick of eighteen years.  They are brothers in every sense of the word.

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And look who was at his boys’ feet.  Another faithful friend.

Speaking of which, when we were gone the dog Parker fulfilled a lifelong dream; he killed an animal.  We all know this was a dream of his because he has had to make do by busily “killing” the children’s stuffed animals all these years.

This summer, not only have I had to spend time with the smells of six boys, but also a stinkier than normal skunk.  This skunk sprayed Parker about a month ago and Parker has vowed revenge ever since.

Well, the skunk would periodically wake us all up out of a sound sleep in the very early morning hours.  The smell, like the gray of the morning, was everywhere and very depressing.  We cursed the skunk.  Little did we know, Parker had a secret plan (secret, only because he cannot talk).  If he could talk he would say, “No worries, family, I have a plan.”

And it came to pass, while Rich and I were away with five of our children and crying over leaving a sixth at school, that we were notified by the seventh that “Parker destroyed the skunk.”

We were elated and I was determined to bring our good dog home a treat.

UNFORTUNATELY……..

Even though three healthy and strong young men (Jacob, Michael P. and Ethan S.) knew of this “destroyed” skunk, they all decided to IGNORE it and LEAVE it to fester right by my house…..and as a result, as we pulled into the driveway Sunday evening, our happiness to be home again was shattered as the smell of skunk PLUS rot filled our beings.

How to make a man rage: put him in charge of cleaning up old destroyed skunks.

Rich doesn’t yell at me very often but he did on Sunday night.  I was in the garden picking all the ripe tomatoes while he took care of the skunk by making his way to our trashcan with it in a shovel.  “Don’t put that in the garbage!” I said.  No response.  “Don’t put it in the garbage!”  Fast walking toward garbage can.  I hold my breath.  What will he do with it???  He puts it in the garbage.  “Rich!  Don’t put it in the garbage!”

WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO WITH IT THEN????? He yelled, ferociously.

“You have to bury it in the woods!!  That trash can will never be the same again if you leave it in there for two days!!!”

So he pushed the can over with all his might (to remove the skunk?) and did what I told him to do.

We didn’t exchange words for the rest of the evening.

 

My point being…….the entire house was nasty.  The smell of skunk had permeated everything.  The only thing to do was clean, clean, clean.  I had to get rid of the smell.

So, on Monday, not only did I take Caleb to the dentist and go grocery shopping, I also:

hosed down the walkway outside, twice.
washed all the bedding in my room (the window had been open).
washed the couch off with leather cleaner wipes.
Grace washed the stinking dog.
We spent the entire day putting him outside.
He spent the entire day finding a way back inside.
I took all my sewing stuff out of my room and packed it away (which had nothing to do with the skunk…but the smell drove me to do things I hadn’t planned on doing, I was out of my mind).
I hired maids to come on Friday to clean and encouraged Jacob to contribute to the cost.
I made the children clean their rooms with threats.
I put clean sheets and bedding on Ethan’s bed.
I did 1,000 loads of laundry.
I spent hours in the kitchen, making tomato sauce, and a nice dinner (good smells to replace the bad one)
Grace cleaned the bathroom with Pine-Sol “Something smells like A1 sauce” said a small child.  (I rejoiced! He didn’t say skunk!)
Every single garbage can was emptied from every room.
We opened every window and turned on every fan for the entire day.

By the end of yesterday I was tired to the bone.  Rich and I had made up via texting and we went on a date to Rita’s while Seth and Caleb were at football practice.

All in all, the skunk situation did wonders in channelling my busy mind into thinking of other things besides the fact that my family seems to be shrinking and I made enough meatloaf to feed a small army when I only had 6 mouths to feed (three of which don’t even like meatloaf).

I am reluctantly thankful for the skunk.

*****

Grace is now a senior in High School so here we go again with the heart pulling and tugging.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  It’s just….so true…that life goes by fast, there is no stopping the merry-go-round.  Sometimes it makes one nauseous.  But most of the time it’s fun.

She left yesterday afternoon to go with her boyfriend’s family to drop him off at basic training.  He is going into the Coast Guard.  She looked so cute as she waited that I did a mini photo-shoot with her on the porch.

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I love you, Grace!

And I love all my friends who visit me here.
Happy Tuesday!

Yesterday is ashes, tomorrow wood. Only today does the fire
burn brightly. Live Today!
– Old Eskimo Proverb

 

happy here

corners of our home

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I remembered my old gentle books.  They were scattered throughout the house, neglected, so I searched all the bookcases we have in our home, and found most of them.  I’m still missing several (gasp), no doubt under someone’s bed or tucked away in a forgotten spot.

I still remember the first time I pulled Anne of Avonlea out of a bookcase in the elementary school library.   After enjoying Anne, I happily went on to read every one of Montgomery’s other novels.  I discovered newer publications of her short stories and gobbled those up as well.  Then, as an adult, I found her posthumous journals and read a biography written by Mary Henley Rubio as soon as it came out.  The journals and biography were fascinating but depressing for me, as her mental state was quite fragile, but this mind of hers was a beautiful gift regardless of her struggles, as out of it came stories that remain beloved by so many even after all these years.

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During the same years that I read LM Montomery’s books, I found and read Cynthia Voigt with the same passion.  I loved reading all of Voigt’s novels and shared them with my mom and my book-loving friends and then my daughter, who loves them, too.  I read On Fortune’s Wheel over and over through the years…..the Dicey books and the Kingdom books will always be mine.

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On my bedside table……..

I am reading The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton.  Although I just started it, I can already tell it is a most excellent book that will remain in our home library.

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While I was waiting for the boys in the dentist office the other day I picked up a current copy of People magazine and came across an article about the woman who wrote The Life Changing Habit of Tidying Up which I have purposely avoided even looking at because it has been everywhere lately.  Surprisingly, I read the article with fascination!  No wonder the book is a best seller….the author is intriguing and unique to say the least.  I read just one of her many suggestions, this one about folding clothes into little bundles and standing them up in drawers, and just look at what happened in Sarah’s room (only)!!!!

(I ordered the book).

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Rich gave me this perfume for Valentines’s Day.  It’s my new favorite!

(and by “gave me” I mean, I bought it for myself on Valentine’s Day while he was coaching Seth’s wrestling meet)

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This is how we keep track of our receipts…with an old vintage invoice spike that I found thrifting.  This is the only way to do it, IMO.

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I keep track of daily life by writing everything (appointments, birthdays, Rich’s business trips, the kids sports games and school concerts, etc) down on the calendar in our room.  By the end of the year I don’t want to throw them away because it’s such a condensed but detailed view of our family life.

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I’ve had this plant for years now and to have it rebloom is such a satisfaction.  It’s saying in the language of flowers, “I’m happy here.”

 

the scary vegetable peeler

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No lie every time I peel things with this nasty peeler I cut myself!  The injuries are not usually this bad though.  Truth be told, today’s injury wasn’t quite this bad, either.  (I used David’s fake blood to make the picture more dramatic.)  However, it is true that every time I use the peeler I peel not only a potato but also a knuckle or a finger or a fingernail.  Today I slam-dunked the thing into the trash and good riddance!

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In other news, today Sarah took me to Kindergarten with her!

when I taste your goodness, I shall not want

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines;
though the labor of the olive may fail,
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock be cut off from the fold,
and there be no herd in the stalls–
yet I will rejoice in my Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
Habakkuk 3:17-18

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:4-6

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you.  I do not give it as the world does.  Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

“But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

“….Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

“Tell everyone who is discouraged, Be strong and don’t be afraid!  God is coming to your rescue.”  Isaiah 35:4

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet!  Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”  Mark 4:39  (He does this to the storms in our souls, too)

Unless the Lord has judged our fears to be a great evil, He would not so often have forbidden them, or have prepared such a heavenly quietus for them.  Charles Spurgeon

“Permit me to say there is nothing in the Bible to make any man fear who puts his trust in Jesus.  Nothing in the Bible did I say?  There is nothing in heaven, nothing on earth, nothing in hell, that need make you fear who trust in Jesus.”  Spurgeon

“The Lord may be very close to thee, dear child, when thou canst not see Him, perhaps closer than ever he was when thou couldst see Him.  The presence of God is not to be measured by the realization of it.”  Spurgeon

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, the weapons we fight with have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  2 Corinthians 10:4-5

******

You see, dear friends, I have a daily struggle with anxiety and have very unwisely held on to fears and allowed them to grow.  I have allowed exhaustion to grow, too, until life itself seemed too much to bear.  And indeed, it was too much to bear.  How very thankful I am for Mother, who called me during her work day to simply listen to me cry and cry and talk it all out, and the wisdom she spoke to me.   “You’re exhausted.  You need to rest.  Don’t do anything during your free times but rest.  And then when quiet time is over, get up and bake something for your family.”

I am ashamed of my weakness when I think of many others in the past and present that have a life much more difficult than mine.  But the truth is, God is almost certainly going to gently allow EACH ONE OF US to sink to our lowest, our breaking point, to show us the comfort and delights to be found in Himself.  No matter what your life situation, there will be times of difficulty, and if you are a believer and a lover of Jesus, it is during those times when you will find yourself on your knees and know that your faith is not in vain.  It is a true faith, a simple childlike faith, in a God so big and loving that it truly does bring a peace that passes all understanding.

I pray my most desperate prayers in the bathroom.  I lock the door and turn on the ventilation fan so no one can hear me, and I kneel down by the bathtub and pray.  I tell Jesus exactly what is making me fearful or anxious.  I tell Him that I cannot control the anxiety and that I need Him to take over and do the work inside of me.  I tell Him of the verses I know that command me not to worry and that I trust Him.  How grateful I am when I pray it all out and find my spirit restored once again.  It truly does work, and not because of anything I have done, but because of Christ and His provision.

It’s been AMAZING.

AMAZING.

In between the prayer times, life has been relatively peaceful again…..true, the children are all getting sick over and over….but, ONLY BECAUSE I’m learning to let go and get through it the best I can without freaking out inside!!!  Life is not an emergency.

I’m trying to be more like my cat.

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Grace and Jenna taking tickets at the play we went to a few weeks ago.

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David

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Jacob and David, I think they were playing smashy road….Dave is using my phone.

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“This home is a shelter for those we hold dear, wishing peace to all who enter here.”

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David followed a youtube instructional video last night and made gummy candy out of jello.

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Here it is before he cut it.

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Sarah’s library book which was not intended for the highly observant child (the kittens were slightly different throughout the book but supposed to be the same three and she kept asking me who was who.)

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I colored her hair slightly with hair chalk, as per her request.  There is a small green streak on the left and a small purple streak on the right.

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Seth showed me his tricks while waiting for the bus.  He was kicking the football and then trying to catch it with one hand.   Hilarious

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Thank you for the beautiful plants, Amy!!!!

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If you’re anxious about anything today, find a quiet time to pray and let your burdens go to His capable hands.  Jesus is more than conqueror of all our fears and no one understands what men and women go through like He does.  We all have such unique and challenging lives, but in Him we can live them peacefully and calmly, with thanksgiving.  He will take those worries and destroy them!

And gosh darn it, slow down and get your rest.

Eat properly, too.

Drink water.

Get some sunshine.

Onward and upward.

You are loved.