Sick Days

Today is the first day in twenty-three days that no one in my family has run a fever or exhibited some new symptom of illness.

Hallelujah!

We are not normally a sick group, but February has been hard on us.  Lingering colds, influenza, stomach yuck.  It’s been a long month.  Due to influenza, my son ran a 102-103 degree fever for seven days.  As soon as the fevers went away, his viral-related asthma kicked in.  For days, he was not able to talk without an ensuing coughing fit.  This morning, for the first time in over a week, I heard him laugh his true, unfaltering laugh.  The cough eventually followed, but there was enough of a delay that he was able to finish his laugh.  I am so thankful.

Over the past few weeks, those of us who are feeling okay have divided up the chores of those who are not.  This has been a fluid thing–one in which we all rotate doing what must be done and try to overlook what can be ignored.  Every day, after the animals have been fed and the breakfast things have been put away, we disinfect the house.  We wash blankets and hand towels and sheets that have lined the couches.  We sanitize light switches and doorknobs and handles and faucets.  I don’t know that it has helped, but I need to do something.

We have canceled plans, mandated rest, drank water, popped pills, choked down apple cider vinegar, smeared vapor rub, mandated more rest, administered essential oils, guzzled vats of bone broth, taken mega-milligrams of Vitamin C and mandated more rest.

We have watched documentaries on a variety of animals, Nellie Bly and The Dust Bowl.  We have listened to most of the Chronicles of Narnia on CD.  We have watched musicals, westerns, fairy tales, action films and episodes of Little House on the Prairie.  We have watched more television in these four weeks than we have in the past six months.

Oh, wait.  One of my children just came and showed me a developing rash.

So much for no new symptoms.

As much of a hassle as this month has been for me, and as disappointing at it has been for us to miss out on so many highly-anticipated engagements, I am thankful.  I am thankful that this has been one cruddy, inconvenient month and not a series of life-threatening crises.  I’m thankful that these illnesses are light and momentary–that we have the modern conveniences to make them bearable–even moderately pleasant.  I am thankful for hot running water and fresh citrus fruits and indoor laundry facilities and television and easy, inexpensive access to fever-reducing medications.

One time, just before my son turned four, we noticed a squishy spot on his skull.  It was a delayed result from a fall he’d had a couple of days earlier.  After a long day of tests, scans and waiting at a local hospital, we were told to take him to a well-known children’s hospital about an hour away.  We were able to drive him ourselves, and we arrived at about 11:30 that night.  The staff was ready for us, so we followed the nurse through the darkened waiting room to get to the exam room.  As worried as I was about my now-sleeping son, I was overcome with gratitude that night.  As we quietly walked past child after chronically ill child, a lump formed in my throat.  These little ones with their bald heads, wheelchairs, IVs and oxygen tanks were regulars.  I could see it in the lines on their parents’ faces and in the resignation in the children’s eyes.  My son, with his one-time head injury was the doctor’s priority when these little ones were fighting for their lives on a day-by-day basis.  For some strange reason, I felt guilty about that.  To be honest, I sometimes still do.

Life is truly a matter of perspective.  Sometimes, I let the fatigue and frustration creep in and steal my optimism and start to eat away at my joy.  Sometimes, I feel like giving up and just giving in to whatever mood is on the horizon.  Then I remember to give thanks.  Oftentimes, gratitude makes the difference between joy and despair in our lives.

Our feelings will almost always follow our focus. 

Enough

008Do you ever feel like you are just not enough?  Not interesting enough or attractive enough?  Maybe not liked enough or capable enough or maybe you feel like you aren’t even fill-in-the-blank enough?

Bottom line is…you feel like you aren’t worth enough.

Enough for what?  For his attention or her approval?  Their respect or that promotion?  Her appreciation?  His time?  Their stamp of approval on your very existence?

Let me share with you a little secret:  They don’t get to decide.

You do.

You get to decide whether you want to buy the lie or cash in on the Truth.  No other opinion should matter.  This is what you have been promised.  The sacrifice has already been made.  The verdict is in.  Look it up if you don’t believe me.

God says you are…

…His child and co-heir in eternity (Romans 8:16).

…His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

…His dwelling place (Psalm 46:4).

…a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).

…blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).

…an overcomer (Revelation 12:10-11).

…the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

…more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37).

…chosen and precious (I Peter 2:4).

…royal and holy (I Peter 2:4).

…full of treasure (II Corinthians 4:7).

…free (II Corinthians 3:17).

…His (II Corinthians 1:21-22).

It’s time to make a choice.  Wallow in the lies or bask in His Truth.  Cower like a captive or fly in His freedom.

You are enough.

 

Garage Sale Slam

Many moons ago, when my oldest daughter was in Kindergarten, I took her, along with her two younger siblings, garage saling.  It was a beautiful day, and it was a joy to be out and about.  I don’t remember looking for anything in particular; however, I soon hit the jackpot.

I came across a sale that had a ton of early childhood education materials.  I was stoked!  As I looked through the workbooks, visual aids and resource magazines, I began chit-chatting with the woman having the sale.  She was a retired first grade teacher, and she and I had a lot in common.  She was excited to find someone who was also passionate about teaching, and she gave me lots of helpful suggestions as I looked through her stash.  Since the time for the sale was coming to a close, she offered to make me a fantastic deal on enough stuff to fill a couple of banana boxes.  I was excited!  I had set aside enough curricula and helps to take my kiddos well into their primary years.

As she gave me the total and agreed to take a check, she asked where I taught.  I told her that I taught at home.  An awkward silence ensued.  Her house phone rang, and she ran in to answer it.  I made out the check per her instructions.

When she came back, she had her teacher face on.  She stood directly in front of me, squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and told me that she had reconsidered her generous offer (and apparently most of her friendliness) and she was no longer willing to sell me those lovely boxes of resources for the agreed-upon price.

Another awkward silence.

I don’t remember my exact response, but I do remember my mouth hanging open for a bit.  The friendliness, excitement, camaraderie…all of them were gone.  I felt like the kid who’d been sent to the corner.  I gathered up my kids (who had been soooooo good, too!) and loaded them into the van, tore up the check and wondered what in the world just happened.  I left the sale with nothing.

Did that lady hate me?  I don’t think so.  I think she maybe hated what I stood for.  She may have felt judged or personally affronted by what I’d chosen for my family.  I don’t know for sure.  Here’s the thing:  As an American, she had every right to refuse to sell me her stuff.  She had every right to refuse to offer me a better price than she’d listed.  She had the right to do what she did…but did that make her choice right?

I guess it depends on what her personal goals were.  If her goal was to make a negative statement in regard to home education, she succeeded.  If her goal was to show love and tolerance to her fellow man, she failed.  If her goal was to discourage a young stay-at-home mom, she succeeded.  If her goal was to get rid of the stuff in her driveway, she failed (miserably).

You see, we can act within our rights and still not do the right thing.  We can opt out of showing love, making peace or sharing joy in order to prove our point–well within our rights–and still not make this world one bit better than it was when we got out of bed that morning.  We each have the choice to make a difference.  We can choose love, forgiveness and respect, or we can choose intolerance and prejudice and ugliness.  We don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle, political opinion, statement of faith or child-rearing decisions in order to make a positive impact in this world.  We just need to accept people where they are, maintain healthy boundaries when necessary and do what is right.

I have occasionally thought about that woman.  I wouldn’t recognize her now, and I don’t even remember exactly where she lived.  I have wondered, though, if she would make the same choice again.  Did she feel good about her decision when she went to bed that night?  It doesn’t really matter, but I’ve wondered.  I know the regrets of making a bad choice and not being able to make it right.  We’ve all done that.  This is why it’s so important to do good things while we have the opportunity–to keep our goals in mind.  Love goes every direction.  To home schoolers and to public school teachers.  To bakers and to gays.  To dancers and to presidents.  To Republicans, to Democrats and even to Libertarians.  If the old adage is true that we reap what we sow, maybe it’s time to assess the harvest and see if we’re ready to grow something different.

Yes Appreciation Day

I’m thinking about having a Yes Appreciation Day.  In all actuality, our particular household might need more than one day—maybe as many as a dozen.  Yes, an even dozen.

I feel like I’m being relatively reasonable, mostly accommodating and even somewhat selfless.  All to no avail.  They just want more.  They always. Want. More.

I know I’m not alone in this plight.  I see the slumping shoulders and the resigned-to-martyrdom looks in your eyes.  I hear the whining, nagging and pitiful woundedness in your voices.  We must not resort to such petty behavior!  We must simply band together in a united effort to increase awareness and to prohibit further entitled behavior.

Which brings me to my point:  Yes Appreciation Day.

This will be a day in which there are no yesses.  They will hear no, no, no all day long.  From morning ‘til night, “no” will resound!

“No, I will not provide breakfast this morning.”

“Out of shampoo?  No, I will not buy you more.”

“No, I will not overlook the eyeroll you just gave me.”

“No, no television today.”

“No, you may not use my wheelbarrow to get the four 50-lb. bags of feed out to the barn.  Bundle up!  It’s cold!”

“No, I will not go over dividing decimals with you for the fifth time this month.”

“Sorry, no computer time.”

“No, I will not drive you to work today.”

“Ummm…no, I will not share my chocolate-hazelnut biscotti with you.”

“No, I will not replace the pants you’ve outgrown.  Besides, we may have flooding.”

“Nope.  You may not borrow any of my books today.  Even the one you were reading yesterday that left off at that really good part.”

“You want to run a load of laundry?  Sorry.  No one but me is using any appliances today.”

“You need tape?  White-out?  Scissors?  A stapler?  The printer?  Toothpicks?  Paper towels?  Lotion?  A fork?  Running water?  Sorry…but…no.”

My theory is that if enough of these Yes Appreciation Days are strung together firmly and without any waffling whatsoever, a return to the routine of thoughtful yesses will be much more highly valued.

Wouldn’t that be fun?!

Who am I kidding?

I know that parenting isn’t about fun.  I also know that it isn’t about being liked or disliked.  It isn’t always about yesses and nos, and it isn’t always about teaching someone a lesson.  Sometimes, the person who most needs to learn the lesson is me.

I feel like there’s a lesson I need to learn in this.  What am I taking for granted?  What example am I setting?  When am I keeping score, and what is my goal?  Are my expectations reasonable?  Is there a deeper need that I’m missing, or is this a character flaw that needs exposed…in them or in me?  I don’t always know.

I wish I knew the answers as soon as I needed them.  I wish I didn’t make so many mistakes.  I wish I didn’t hold so tightly to some things, and I wish I hadn’t let others go.

The fact of the matter is that wishing will get me nowhere.

Lord, please give me the wisdom I need to raise these children according to Your plan.  They are so bright!  So amazing!  So helpful and talented and creative and generous!  They are so capable—so completely captivating to my heart.  And they’re human.  Just like their parents, these precious children are incredibly human.  There are times when I’m tired.  And hurt.  And uncertain and insecure.  There are times when I think I will surely burst a blood vessel if I am asked that same question one more time…or if I hear a ridiculous argument erupt again…or if I have to address the fact that the dog’s water bowl is still empty.  Please help me to respond with wisdom and in love.  Not to lash out.  Not to berate.  Not to give up and just ignore bad behavior.  Help me to choose my battles wisely and with eternity in mind. 

And, Lord, like I’ve prayed hundreds of times over the past 16 ½ years, thank You for letting Your grace cover over my mistakes. 

Fresh Cranberry Scones

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I really enjoy fresh cranberries, but they’re tough to find outside of the holiday season.  I will often buy a bag or two for the freezer when they’re available.  These scones are a refreshing treat—and especially tasty with a hot cup of tea.

2 ½ c. flour
½ c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ t. ground cloves (or the zest of one lemon)
¼ c. cold butter, grated
1 c. whipping cream
¾ c. fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 t. milk
2 T. sugar

Combine first 5 ingredients.

Add butter, mixing until crumbly.

Add whipping cream and cranberries, stirring just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto lightly-floured surface; knead 5 or 6 times—basically until mixture holds together well and can be shaped into 8” circle.

Cut disc into 8 wedges and place on lightly-greased baking sheet.  Prick wedges 3-4 times each with fork.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 425 for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

These are especially good warm.  They freeze well when wrapped tightly.

 

My Favorite Things

I was recently invited to be the guest speaker at a ladies’ tea party.  The event was a community outreach, and the theme was “My Favorite Things”.  Various women in the church hosted a table then invited other women to fill the seats around that table.  Each table was decorated by the host, and guests voted for their favorite table display.  A light luncheon was served along with a variety of hot teas and a hot chocolate bar.  Music was provided by a local group and I was to speak on my favorite things.

I love the idea of this luncheon, because it is so personal for those who are invited.  Each woman is specifically asked to be there as the guest of someone with whom they already have a connection.  The planning committee was warm and gracious, and the atmosphere was relaxed and fun.

In preparation to speak, it was good for me to ponder upon my favorite things.  There is so much of life that I enjoy, but I found it beneficial for me to really meditate on those things that can be considered my favorites.  Because I was asked to keep my presentation between 20 and 30 minutes, I left a lot of things out.  Like my extended family, my pets, getting mail and Alaska.  I had to draw the line somewhere.

Here’s what I came up with:

My husband, Dave.  We celebrated 21 years this month.  He is patient, forgiving and hard-working.  Even though we had some significant trouble early in our marriage, we mostly live at peace now—especially when I resist the temptation to micro-manage him.

My kids.  As of this month, I have three teenagers in my house.  They are fun and funny (and sometimes frustrating).  It is exciting to see them grow in their giftings while learning to manage (or not) their weaknesses.  I see a lot of myself in them…and I see a lot of what I wish I’d done differently.

Our home.  We call it Country Haven, and it is my safe place in the middle of nowhere.  We have big gardens, a few animals, a young orchard, a big front porch and a warm woodstove.  At any given time, there are a dozen (at least) projects in the works, but we keep plugging away.  It is mostly a place of peace—one of the gifts Dave and I most wanted to give to our children.

Food.  I have loved baking since I was a little girl.  I learned to enjoy cooking as a necessity.  Most recently, I have come to appreciate growing and raising our own food as a means to an end.  And then there’s eating.  I have been highly genetically engineered to love to eat.  It’s a family tradition.

Managing my resources.  This may sound strange to some, but it’s true.  I kind of look at my family as my employer.  I manage our resources here at home in order to generate income for our family.  Sometimes the income generated is money for our homeschooling needs; more often the income fuels our bodies with healthy foods.  We work to live within our means, which isn’t always easy, but it sure makes life simpler.  I did not used to love this aspect of adulthood, but I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I now do.  I see it as an answer to prayer.

Naps.  I loved my kids’ naps when they were little, and I love my own power naps now.  Most people are more pleasant when well-rested; I’ve learned that my family prefers me to be pleasant.

Teaching, writing and sharing.  I have done some really dumb things in my life.  Like, seriously dumb things.  I have also done a lot of things that just didn’t work–as well as a lot of things which have.  I like sharing about all of these.  I enjoy encouraging others to focus on their own personal abundance of resources—their talents, abilities, time and money.  I believe that our culture prefers to encourage us to play the victim card, and I believe that recognizing the power of personal choice and responsibility can free a person to be who God has created them to be.  Whether it’s a class on cooking, canning, gardening, saving money, home management or parenting, I like sharing what has worked for me.

Change in seasons.  Each season holds wonder for me, and I embrace each one for what it offers.  Dave threatens to move south when he retires.  I’ll miss him.

Time with friends.  Whether it’s a cup of something hot to drink, long walks, dinner out, chit-chats, laughter, commiseration, heart-to-hearts or even the occasional hand smacks, I treasure my time with friends.  Though I prefer to do the smacking through the leading of the Holy Spirit, sometimes God uses a friend to smack my hand in regard to a particular issue.  This is not always comfortable, but it is necessary for personal growth.  I had my hand smacked over coffee with a friend a couple of weeks ago, and I wrote her a thank-you note.  I want to grow in my faith.  I want to be a better wife and mother and friend.  This is easier to do when I’m willing to take a good, hard look at what I’m doing (or not doing) and measure it against what God has said in His Word.  Sometimes, I find that I’m at peace with my choices; sometimes I find that I need to change something.  I am thankful for friends that speak the truth in love and for the maturity that allows me to weigh their words against the words of Jesus.

Though there are lots of good things in my life, things are not perfect.  I have real struggles with things like broken relationships, addictions, regrets, tight budgets, insecurities and misunderstandings.  Sometimes, I don’t feel appreciated, understood, valued or even loved.  In these times, I struggle with the temptation to focus on the yuck.  Part of me wants to lash out, part of me wants to pull in, part of me wants to somehow even the score.   Sometimes, I just want to check out of the situation altogether and quit trying.

Then I remember Jesus.

I remember the healing He brought to my marriage 18 years ago when we were one signature way from divorce and humbly re-committed our relationship to Him.

I remember the joy He has brought to my life through parenting.

I remember the cycle of abusive, angry behavior He is working on breaking with me.

I remember the times I just didn’t think that I could take one more day of the rejection, the disapproval, the regret.

I remember the times He has looked so deeply into my ugliness, seeing the utter blackness of my darkest thoughts and most hidden moments, and loved me in spite of them.

I remember the obedience of a young couple, the birth of their perfect baby, the patient determination of a carpenter’s son, the cruelty of the cross and glory of the resurrection.

Loving and being loved by Jesus are my most favorite things.

SunsetOverHaven

Grandma Milburn’s Peanut Brittle

Peanut brittle is one of my husband’s favorite Christmastime treats, so I make it almost every year.  It’s a little bit of a hassle, but it’s not hard.  This is my grandma’s recipe, but I’ve added some details for those of you who are not used to making candy.

2 c. sugar
1 c. corn syrup
1/2 c. water
1 t. salt
1 T. butter (the real stuff)
1-2 c. raw Spanish peanuts (I usually only use one cup.)
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla

In non-stick stockpot, cook sugar, water, corn syrup, butter and salt, stirring often, to 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Add peanuts and cook to 275, stirring often.

Add vanilla and cook to 300, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and add soda.  The mixture will foam up once the soda is added; stir good and fast until well-mixed!  This is easily scorched at this point, so make sure you remove from heat and stir, stir, stir!!

Pour onto parchment paper or buttered cookies sheets (2 or 3 standard cookie sheets will be needed if you go that route.)  Repeatedly spread hot mass with spreader or spatula until it starts to cool and darkens in color.

Allow to harden and break into pieces.  Stores very well in airtight containers.

NOTE:  It’s a good idea to have ingredients already measured so that they can be dumped in at appropriate temperatures while you can continue stirring.