Welcome to Living from My Abundance

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We all have an abundance of something, and sometimes we see our own abundance better through the eyes of someone else. We were put on this earth to share, to love, to give and to grow. Let’s live from our abundance together. And leave the legacy we are called to leave. Keep reading for tips, ramblings, recipes and more.

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Freedom Flow

A friend reminded me of a verse this morning, and it really hit the spot for my heart today.  I told her I would meditate on it while I was going about my business in the garden.

The verse is Acts 2:17, which says, “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams’.”

As I was pulling weeds, mulching plants and smashing squash bugs today, there were two things that were continually brought to my mind regarding this promise.  The first one is that God is so good.  He has already given us what we need–often well before we even know that we need it.  This, my friends, is grace.  The older I get, the more meaningful grace is to me, because, as I know God better, my understanding of how weak I am in comparison to His strength is increased.  I am just so very…small…and yet He provides everything I need and so very much more.  Lord, please open our eyes so that we can see Your good gifts; help us not take them for granted.

The second thing that was repeatedly brought to my attention as I pondered this verse is the phrase “pour out my Spirit”.  This doesn’t sound stingy, folks.  God is not trickling, dribbling, finger-splashing His Spirit on us.  He is pouring it out.  It’s running down our faces, soaking into our pores, cascading down our shoulders.  It’s puddling at our feet, people!  God is standing over us, completely drenching us with the Power of His Holy Spirit.

Wow.

So, brothers and sisters, we have a choice.  What do we do with this spiritual waterfall–this shower of power?  Do we take cover under some place safe, some place familiar, some place where we have more control and watch from a distance?  Or, maybe we put up an umbrella to keep us dry, saving us from a socially awkward soaking.  Perhaps we just ignore it, refusing to acknowledge that it’s even for us.  After all, we know we’re saved.  What more could He possibly want to give us?

Or do we cup our hands and drink deeply of this opportunity that we cannot understand?  Do we stand out in the downpour of a Power we cannot fathom and let it soak into our souls, changing us, washing us, leading us into deeper water with God Almighty?

There is something terrifying about that kind of raw power.  It’s bigger than we can comprehend, and yet it is ours–not for our own gain, but for His.  We must become lesser so that He may become greater.  This pouring out erodes the human-ness in us, rounding us out with the greatness of our God.  It washes away the grit from our hearts and helps us to see things with the eyes of Christ.  It gives us discernment.  Wisdom.  Clarity of purpose and sweet counsel.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  Lord, thank You for giving us what we need to be free in You.

Cutting Back

I spent most of my morning weed-eating my garden.

Ack.

Between dysfunctional tillers, time away from our farm and lots and lots of rain, the weeds are quickly taking over.  With all of the rain we’ve gotten in the past 48 hours (more than 3″), the garden was too wet for me to even get our push mower in between the rows.  So, I figured weed-eating would be a good alternative.  I guess there’s a first time for everything.

I think I was able to save most of our crops, aside from our kale and Swiss chard.  Fortunately, there is time to re-plant them and still enjoy a harvest.  One of our plantings of beets is a little iffy; let’s hope they rebound, because they’re one of our favorites.

Before yet another pop-up thunderstorm sent me scurrying to the house, I also worked at pruning our tomato plants.  Each year, we try to remove every downward limb on every plant to allow more sunlight into the center of the vine.  This also makes harvesting easier on both us and the fruit.  It’s always a bummer to have to practically juice a tomato just to get it of where it’s been wedged between interior branches.  Pruning is frustrating to me because, if we wait long enough, I end up pruning branches that have little yellow blossoms or even tiny green tomatoes already started.  It seems like such a waste to throw them out!  The truth is, though, that eliminating these little starts actually increases the harvest.  The tomatoes are likely to be bigger and of a better quality than they would be if we left all of those downward branches to bear.  Plus, a lot of the fruit would just be more difficult to harvest.

Jesus spoke a lot about garden stuff.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  Sometimes there are things growing in our lives that need to be cut back.  When we allow Him to “prune” some of the activities/habits/behaviors that drain us of valuable energy, He will often give us a higher yield of quality “fruit”.  The Bible says that the fruits of His Spirit are things like love, joy, peace, patience and self-control.  There’s not a person I know who couldn’t use more of some of those things at one time or another.

As I was weeding and pruning today, I was reminded that I have been planted, by God, to yield a good harvest.  It’s one He has prepared for me, and He is equipping me for that yield daily.  When I spend time with Him, He is planting His truths in my heart, plucking harmful lies from my mind and pruning the unnecessary out of my life.  These lessons He teaches me aren’t always comfortable (some are downright painful!), and sometimes (okay, many times) I must let go of something that is good before I am able to gain something that is better.  This process is one of the conundrums of the Christian faith.  The Bible calls it dying to ourselves.  It comes with the understanding that Christ can shine brighter when we step out of His way.

Lord, please help me to step out of Your way.  I see so many things that can be done in and through my life, but I acknowledge that I certainly don’t see everything…and I may not always see the best thing.  I submit myself to You again today.  Grow in me something so beautiful that the world will know that only You could have possibly grown it.

 

Beyond High School

As I’ve shared already, our first child has officially graduated from Country Haven Homeschool.  We are super proud of her, and we know that God has a beautiful plan and purpose for her life.  We pray that, while she enters this new phase of her life, that she enters it with eyes wide open and fixed on Christ.

From the time our children were little, we have told them that we will support whatever they want to do and whoever they want to be as long as they honor the Lord.  (At age 5, our son wanted to be a “wrestler who loves Jesus”.  Since then, he seems to have changed his mind.)  We know that college isn’t for everyone.  While I don’t regret getting a bachelor’s degree, I could certainly do what I’m doing now without one.  And my husband, who has a master’s degree, didn’t even go to college until he was in his late 20s.

We have never made college an expectation for our children.  And, to be honest, if they’re not sure what they want to do, we’d just as soon they earn money instead of spend money.  College expenses come too dear to just experiment.  Not only that, but there seems to be a false sense of security in many who earn their degrees.  Lots of 20-somethings leave college with the expectation that their dream job with dream salary are entitled to them…and they’re not.  In spite of sending out oodles of career-oriented resumes, my husband’s first jobs out of Grad School?  Landscaping high-end homes and waiting tables at a steak house chain.  As you can imagine, these were not what we were expecting…but he committed to them while we waited for something in his field.  I’m thankful my husband has never been too proud to work.

College debt is a scary thing.  Due to scholarships, help from my mom, working 40 hours a week and a fantastic Financial Aid department, I graduated without college debt.  My husband was not so fortunate.  The debt seemed like a lot at the time, but it was nothing compared to today’s price tag.  He also worked full-time throughout his six years of secondary education.

We’ve always told our kids that they will be responsible for their own college costs.  This is something my mom taught me.  Her experience was that, generally speaking, the greater a person’s investment, the higher their commitment.  She’s right.  She helped me when she could, but she told me to not count on her.  This made all that she gave me seem more like a gift than a right.  I still appreciate the sacrifices she made for me to go away to school.

To help our kids, we are trying to teach them good stewardship now.  We want them to know how to work hard and to be reliable.  We do our best to provide them with opportunities to earn money now so that they can stash it for later.  No matter what God calls them to do, the money they earn and save now will make those big life decisions easier later.  They have worked hard for much of what they have, and I pray that they use it wisely.

The bottom line is that we have attempted to instill in our children the fact that we love them no matter what.  Whether they decide to go into a skilled trade, work at a local library, become a pediatric nurse or stay home with their children, we know that they can be used by God to make a difference in this world for Him.  And that, more than anything, is what we’re called to do.

13 Years of Homeschool Lessons

 

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It’s been almost three weeks since my oldest daughter graduated from high school.  It still seems a little bit surreal, but I have the photos to prove it.

When she was born 18 years ago, I had no intention of homeschooling her.  It wasn’t that I was against home education; I was mostly just ignorant about it.  My limited experience with homeschool was mostly what everybody else said:  They’re unsocialized and they’re weird.  I didn’t really care, because it didn’t pertain to me one bit.

Four years later, as we considered our Kindergarten options, we were uncomfortable with the public school option.  My husband was a counselor and sometimes worked in the schools.  There were times he had to make tough professional decisions, and we never wanted our kids to pay the consequences for any fallout that resulted.  We did a little research and discovered that Kindergarten was not mandatory in our state.  Cool.  We bought some time.

During her Kindergarten year, a few homeschool families began to make a more prominent entrance into our lives.  I learned that their children were not at all what I considered unsocialized.  As a matter of fact, these kids–regardless of their ages–would look me in the eye and talk to me about any number of subjects.  They also weren’t any weirder than the rest of us.  I was intrigued.

I also discovered that I really enjoyed my time with my kids.  By this time, I had three, and I relished time with them.  They were fun and funny and smart and silly and loving and out-and-out lovable.  They liked learning new things and meeting new people, and I liked sharing in their experiences.  Dave and I decided that we would homeschool until it stopped working for us.

It hasn’t stopped working.

With one kiddo fully graduated and two more in the wings, I have become more reflective.  I have been thinking back, more and more, over our unintentional journey (that has required more intentionality from me that almost anything else) and assessing what I’ve learned.  I’m not sure who has learned more during this journey–my kids or myself.

Here are 15 things that 13 years of homeschooling have taught me:

  1. I am a weak, fallible, completely imperfect mom who is equipped by a strong, gracious, perfect God to do whatever He calls me to do–regardless of how unprepared and under-qualified I feel.  His grace can cover over my mistakes.
  2. We are all teachers.  We teach the people around us every day of our lives.  We might as well be intentional about what we teach.
  3. Almost all vacation destinations are much more enjoyable when public school is in session.
  4. One of the greatest unexpected blessings of home education is the inter-generational and multi-age relationships that take place when there’s no strict grade classification.
  5. As parents, our job is not to prepare our children for college, but to prepare them for life.  (Oh, this one was a tough mindset to break for me!)
  6. Random people who think it is their responsibility to take me (or my children) to task for our educational decisions are, without a doubt, more aggravating than vending machines that rob me of my quarters.
  7. Having our kids home with us has allowed us the opportunity to teach them life skills that I think would’ve been hard to make time to teach if they were gone 8-9 hours a day.  Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, laundry, repair work, small business, animal care, growing & preserving food–or whatever–I feel fairly confident that our kids will have a solid start in much of what it takes to successfully navigate adulthood.  They’ve walked with us as we’ve tried so many new things; we hope we’ve set the example to not be stymied by fear or complacency.
  8. Sometimes, we can be equally productive in pajamas.
  9. The opportunity to spend my days with my children has been one of the greatest gifts God could give me.  People have often commented on the “sacrifices” we have made as a one-income family.  The truth is that we all make sacrifices in this life.  It’s important to be sure that we’re sacrificing according to our priorities.
  10. What is “normal” and what is “acceptable” are often not the same thing.
  11. Yeah…geometry.  Algebra.  Calculus.  Chemisty.  They really are evil.
  12. Going against the flow is not always a negative.
  13. Contrary to popular opinion, colleges do accept (and often actively recruit) homeschooled students.
  14. No matter how amazing the teacher or how state-of-the-art the school or how incredibly well-rounded the education, no public or government system can provide what a parent can for a child–unconditional love.
  15. In spite of my previous experience, history is not boring at all.

Unknown Rules

With my hubby home from work today, I feel sort of “off-duty”.  I don’t really know why that is, because I’ve been busy, busy, busy–especially in the kitchen–but I do kind of feel like I’m off the clock a bit.  There is some sort of shift that happens in this momma’s head when I’m not the only parent on the premises.

So, I’ve kind of listened more today than I usually do.  I’ve let Dave set the schedule for our crew and pretty much gone about my own business of cooking ahead for a busier-than-usual week.  I enjoy listening to him interact with our kids.  For one thing, he really likes them, and that warms my heart.  For another thing, they interact with him differently than they do with me, which gives me a new perspective.  As a parent of three teenagers, I need all of the perspective I can get.

Anyway, one of the conversations I heard today went something like this:

Dave (to teenager):  Are you listening to me?  I’m going to use a word you rarely hear me use, and I want to make sure it sinks in.

Teenager:  Yeah, Dad.  I’m listening.

Dave:  Never–and I do mean never–pull out your dresser drawer and use it as a laundry basket to take your clothes to the basement.  Never.  Do you hear me?

Teenager:  (Loud sigh as though Dave just asked for an ounce of blood from his eyeball.)  Yes, Dad.

Ahhh…it feels good to have such a solid partner in this parenting journey!

The above conversation got me to thinking about other things that we’ve said to our children–rules that we should have made, had it ever occurred to us to do so.  Here are some of my favorites:

If you have mud on your feet, wash them before putting on your socks and shoes.

Do not go into the chicken yard with bare feet.  Ever.

No matter how clean you think it is, do not set the dog’s food bowl on the counter.

Do not wipe boogers on your bedroom wall.  Or on any wall for that matter.

No matter what evil she has done you, do not call your sister “Queen of Hell”.

If you drop a glass jar and it breaks, sweep up the glass before going out to do the barn chores.

Do not pitch the eggs into the woods, no matter how much you dislike collecting them.

If the toilet looks like it might be clogged, do not keep trying to flush it.

Do not ask random people what they’re going to get you for your birthday.

And, last but certainly not least:

If you can’t find a cleaning rag, do not cut one from your sister’s bed skirt.

Though I’m more than happy to wait until the time is right, I am really, really, really looking forward to grandparenting.

(Evil laughter…)

 

 

 

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Several weeks ago, it came to my attention that my children had never had a tuna-noodle casserole.  I don’t know that I’d ever made one, and I don’t remember that my mom did, but I had certainly eaten them at friends’ houses when I was little.  It seems as though they were even part of school menus in my early years of public education.

I remember that tuna noodle casseroles definitely made it on the menu of my babysitter, Jana.  I don’t know how old I was when she kept me–maybe three or four years of age–but I remember that she would sometimes begin her supper preparation before my mom came to pick me up.  I would watch her make a tuna noodle casserole for her family, even volunteering to help crunch up the potato chips for the topping.  She would set the casserole on the table to await its turn in the oven…and I would watch for my opportunity.  Potato chips were a rare treat in my house, so as soon as Jana’s back was turned, I pinched some of those salty crumbs clean off the top of that unbaked casserole!  Can you imagine my nerve?!  I never gave a single thought to how disappointed her daughter, Nikki, would be to not have crunchy potato chips on the top of her portion of tuna noodle casserole!

I was a sneaky kid.  (And I loved junk food.)

Anywho, when my younger two children expressed an interest in trying out this Midwestern comfort food, I searched out a recipe.  While I made some changes to suit our family’s preferences (and my on-hand ingredients), this recipe is based on one that I found in one of my favorite freezer cooking cookbooks, “You’ve Got it Made” by Diane Phillips.  It’s a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to stock their freezer without stocking up on the usual high-sodium, preservative-laden canned soups and convenience foods.   

The recipe received 5 thumbs up at my table, even from the thumb that belongs to the daughter who does not like tuna.  Hope you enjoy it as well!

Oh, and Jana, if you ever read this, please accept my sincere apology.

6 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
a stalk or two of celery, chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 c. milk
4 dashes hot sauce (you will not taste the spiciness, but it does add flavor)
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 6-oz. cans tuna, well-drained and flaked
2 c. frozen peas
1 c. crushed potato chips (or more, if you have a sneaky chip thief in your house)
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Melt 4 T. of the butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and celery, sauteeing until they begin to soften.

Sprinkle flour over veggies and stir until flour disappears.  Cook veggies 2 minutes, then gradually add broth and milk, scraping up any bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add the hot sauce, salt & pepper.

Coat a 9″ baking pan with butter or cooking spray.  Spread thin layer of sauce over bottom of dish.  Combine noodles with 1 1/2 c. of sauce in large bowl, stirring until well-mixed.  Stir in tuna and peas until evenly distributed.

Transfer noodle mixture to prepared pan; cover with remaining sauce.  Combine crushed potato chips and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over casserole.  Drizzle remaining 2 T. melted butter over top of chips.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to a month.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

NOTE:  If frozen, thaw completely before baking.

Counting Garden Blessings

I spent about 6 hours in my gardens yesterday.  The only part of my entire being that wanted to be there was this tiny ultra-responsible part of me that knew that I’d be glad I did.

Between the extreme weediness of certain patches, the lack of rain for the week, the broken state of our heavy-duty tiller and the unusually hot temperatures, yesterday’s chore list was a battle.  In addition to those things, my husband is building a new dog kennel/enclosure.  It’s much bigger than our old one and will be a tremendous help when various dogs go in heat and need to be separated or when we’re away from home for prolonged periods of time.  The problem is that this limits his time helping in the garden when he gets home from work. Then, my oldest daughter decided to grow up and get a real job, so she’s not around much right now either.  The bottom line is that we’re short-staffed.

Someone recently shared with me her struggle to get excited about getting her garden in this year.  She was frustrated with herself for not being as committed as she has been in the past.  As she was verbally chiding herself, she said something like, “It’s just been a struggle for me.  I wish I could love it like you do; I can tell that you really love it!”

I get what she was saying, because I have sooooo been there.  The fact of the matter is that I love the idea of raising the vast majority of what we eat, and I love the opportunity to share it with others, but I don’t always, in truth, love the reality of it.  I want to love it all, but, the fact is, on days like yesterday (and, quite possibly today), I don’t love it.  I just do it, knowing that the “loving it” part will likely show back up later.

As I s-l-o-w-l-y worked my small, only-working tiller between the rows of our largest corn planting, I found myself looking for garden blessings to count.  Here’s some of what I came up with

1.  Our property is a beautiful place to do chores.  Seriously.  There are very few other places I’d rather work like an under-paid dog.

2.  My tiny Mantis tiller is still hanging in there with me.  She may be slow, but she’s steady.

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Dave bought me this little Mantis tiller about 10 years ago, and she’s still going strong. (Thankfully!)

3.  My younger two kids were plugging away with good attitudes yesterday.  They weren’t thrilled with spending their entire morning working outside, but they managed themselves well and were a huge help.

4.  The potatoes were beautifully and capably mulched by my sweet daughter.

5.  The cool-ish morning temperatures made our labors much more bearable.

6.  So far, thanks to regular squashings, we seem to be staying on top of the asparagus beetles and cabbage worms.  (Blech.)

7.  Unlike some jobs, I could actually see that I was making progress.  On some days, I just need that kind of reassurance.

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Even though it took longer than I wanted it to take, progress was being made.

8.  Growing our own food is truly a privilege.

9.  Our bodies are strong and healthy (and getting stronger, thanks to regular exercise, good food and never-ending, strength-building farm opportunities).

10.  I have not yet seen a single Colorado Potato Beetle.

Once lunchtime came around, the kids and I clocked out for a long afternoon siesta.  I must say that, once I got inside and took a shower, I was really glad that ultra-responsible part of me won out, but…

…I really don’t want to go back out there today.