Camping Traditions

Our family is gearing up for a brief camping excursion.  We will not be far from home because of the broilers (meat chickens) and puppies that require a little bit more attention that we can comfortably request of our friends and neighbors, but we are looking forward to our getaway nonetheless.

I don’t remember taking a whole lot of out-of-state vacations when I was a kid, but we sure did do a lot of camping.  I looked forward to camping because there were fewer rules, more water play opportunities, fewer chores and more snacks.  Even though our little family doesn’t camp now as much as I did growing up, I think my kids look forward to going for the exact same reasons.

Over the years, we’ve acquired a few camping traditions, like packing our bikes, breaking out the ladder ball and loading up the fishing gear (even though we rarely catch much of anything).  We’ve also established several food-oriented traditions, like pancakes for breakfast and burgers for supper cooked over the fire.  The kids look forward to walking tacos, which is pretty much the only time I buy those ridiculously-expensive individually-packaged bags of chips.  For some reason, those little packages turn taco salad into a special occasion for our crew.  We occasionally make walking tacos at home, but not with the little snack bags; I’m too cheap!

We camp in a tent, so we don’t have any microwaves or stovetops to prepare our meals.  I do confess to occasionally taking a slow cooker when I know we won’t be arriving to the campground until almost suppertime anyway.  It sure takes the stress out of getting everything set up if I know I’ve got a mess of green beans, potatoes and sausage plugged into the campsite hookup.  My brother told me that slow cookers are not acceptable while camping.  I’m a rebel.

I hope that our kids remember these little camping trips with fondness when they grow up.  I hope they have fun stories to share with their kids and somehow sense how much their daddy and I enjoyed these times with them.  I hope they strive to establish their own family traditions–as simple as they may be–that their children can eagerly anticipate and recount to their own families.

I also hope that, after two nights of sleeping on the ground, I can come home to a garden that needs watered and weeds that need pulled.

 

Now is the Time

A friend contacted me today about a dilemma she is facing regarding a decision she is needing to make about her children.  She briefly explained her options and asked if I had any wisdom to give her.

I was kind of “got”.  Nothing really jumped out at me.  I mean, I’ve never been in her shoes before, and I didn’t really have any personal experience to share.  Her issue is also not one in which there is a true right or wrong answer.  Her options are good ones.  Solid ones.  But which one is best?  And who am I to say?

I logged offline without giving her an answer, and I went about my day.  I mulled over her request while I was in the shower and I thought about her again while I was cleaning the bathroom.  I considered what I should say to her when I was driving home from a neighbor’s, and I reflected on her situation while I was folding clothes.

One thing kept coming to me for her–the same thing that God has been placing on my heart for my own life over the past couple of months:

Now is the time! Whatever legacy you want to leave, now is the time to intentionally use each day to leave it.

I have been hearing this over and over in my own life lately.  I have been given a renewed sense of urgency in my job as a momma, and I feel like God is telling me to set a few of life’s extras aside. I am not pursuing the things that I was pursuing a year ago–not because they’re bad things, but because they’re not the right things for me in this moment. I have two teenagers and a twelve-year-old at home. We are dealing with new things–new attitudes, new responsibilities, new behaviors, new opportunities, new hormones, for crying out loud! I need to re-group for this final battle against the enemy before my baby birds leave the nest.

Yes, this brings tears in my eyes.

So, even though my friend and I are dealing with different things, I feel as though we are dealing with the same things.

The life of a believer is a constant battle to set aside what is good for what is best.  This is a never-ending struggle against the current of culture.  It’s exhausting to stay vigilant in the midst of distractions, and discouragement often threatens to pull us under in moments of seeming defeat.  Sometimes, the best we can do is to just plant our feet and stand firm, letting one good thing after another rush by us as we gather energy to grab hold of what is still coming around the bend–the best thing.

I wish I always knew when the best thing was coming–or even what it will look like. Oftentimes I don’t.  And, the louder/busier/crazier my life is, the more difficult it is for me to be quiet enough to hear my options.  When I feel like I am meeting myself coming and going, that’s when I know that I am missing what is best.  When there is no down time in my day and no white space on my calendar, I know that I am shoving in too many “good” things and overlooking what is even better.  And, when my morning lacks even twenty minutes for drinking in the Truth of God’s Word in time with Him, I know that I am way off base.

So, I say that now is the time.  Now is the time to love the Lord with all my soul, to wear His commands on my heart and to impress them on my children–to talk about those commands when we’re sitting at home and when we’re walking along the road, when we’re lying down and when we get up.  Now is the time to tie them as symbols on our hands and to bind them on our foreheads, writing them on the door frames of our houses and on our gates.

Now is the time.

Homemade

So the story has been told that I, at the tender age of four or five years, was nosing around in my babysitter’s kitchen while she was preparing lunch.

“What are you making?” I asked, as she poured the contents of a blue box into a pot of boiling water.

“Macaroni and cheese,” she replied.

“Oh,” I harrumphed, “my mom makes her macaroni and cheese from scratch.”

Endearing, huh?

On the flip side, once I was school-age and had experienced the soft goodness of packaged bread, I also apparently begged my mother to buy bread from the store instead of putting me through the misery of enduring yet another of her homemade loaves of bread.

What was wrong with me?!

Stories of my childhood are often humbling, and I kind of wish the people that knew me back then would stop telling them.  Alas, I think their enjoyment of my discomfort is too great for them to lay aside that perceived “responsibility” any time soon.  I’m certain that many of you can empathize with me on this.

I think about these stories, though, and I must say that they give me a greater understanding of human nature.  My own children have looked down their freckled noses at many of the foods I have so lovingly prepared for them.  When they were younger, they were even known to make snide-sounding remarks to their beloved grandmother about her store-bought eggs or grocery-store bacon.  I am not convinced that my children meant to sound superior in reference to our farm-raised foods, but they certainly may have sounded like it.  The fact is that most of us are pretty comfortable with what is familiar.

As I teach classes across the state on feeding our families wholesome meals within our means, I often cross paths with women who feel so completely defeated when it comes to the most basic of kitchen tasks.  They feel that there is some sort of nebulous standard that they must meet, and they are frustrated when that goal cannot be attained.  Oftentimes, they had a mother or grandmother that set the bar pretty high when it came to meal preparation, but did not encourage or even allow their daughters or granddaughters to take part in these disciplines.  As these daughters and granddaughters became managers of their own homes, they did not allow themselves much of a learning curve.  They expected to be able to put fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy on the table just like Grandma, but failed to take into account the number of decades Grandma had invested in honing her skills.

And, to make matters worse, these women often had young husbands who did not have the maturity to keep their mouths closed against the critical thoughts that entered their handsome heads in regard to these first culinary attempts.  A few ill-timed and inconsiderate remarks can easily shut down any woman’s drive to do just about anything for years and years to come—and I do mean anything!

Even more tragic is the number of mothers-in-law who, forgetting that they were once young brides who struggled with inadequacies about something, exploit their new daughters-in-law’s insecurities by assuring their boys that they can “come home” whenever they want a home-cooked meal.  Young women take these comments to heart, and long-term damage is easily done.

There is a lot of debate about what the term homemade means.  Does it mean starting from scratch?  Does it mean made within the four walls of the building in which we live?  My question is, does it really matter?  What if the term homemade has more to do with where each of us is at the time?  For instance, when I was a young mom with three kids ages four and under, homemade was a hot meal prepared in my kitchen.  I might have used canned cream soups, frozen peas and packaged noodles with store-bought bread on the side, but I considered the meal homemade.  As the opportunity to grow our own food has increased and my cooking skills have expanded, homemade is still a hot meal prepared in my kitchen.  Now, it may very well include a chicken from our farm, green beans we have put up ourselves and breads and sauces from scratch.  Both meals were made for my family with the goal of providing wholesome foods within our means.  Both meals were made with love and shared around the table with the goal of building relationships.

I wonder, would my twenty-something self be intimidated by the cooking style of my forty-something self?  I suppose she could be, but, if I had the opportunity to talk to that young woman today, I would do my level best to build her up.  I would remind her that every season bears its gifts and its challenges.  I would encourage her with the fact that the only measuring stick we use should be God’s.  He doesn’t care as much about what we cook for our husbands as He does about how we honor our husbands.  God doesn’t care as much about what we spend on our groceries as He does about how we glorify Him with His good gifts.  He doesn’t care so much about how we feed our children as He does about how we teach them His love.

Homemade is about more than a loaf of bread or macaroni and cheese.  It isn’t something relegated to our kitchens or to the gifts we give.  It isn’t a badge to be worn for our personal edification or to impress the people around us.  Homemade is a focus on making a home.  It is the intentional investing of yourself in the people you love for the purpose of making them feel like they have a safe place in you.  That’s what a home should be:  a safe place that leaves a legacy of love and peace in our hearts.

Trista Hill makes her home in Mooreland with her husband, Dave, and their children, Rachel, Gracie and Isaac.  She is also an author and speaker who focuses on empowering women to live from their abundance to leave the legacy God is calling them to leave.  For more information on class opportunities, booking information or to get a copy of her book, Eat Cheap!, you can find Trista at www.livingfrommyabundance.wordpress.com or on Facebook at Eat Cheap! with Trista Hill.

This article was originally written for HER magazine.

Journey of Abundance, Day 30

fallcreekMy seven-year-old (ish) nephew was a having a blast.  He was on a field trip to a nearby air force base with one of his best buddies.  Not only was that in and of itself pretty wonderful, but Dad was in charge this time.  Mom was great and he appreciated her and all, but she just didn’t do things like Dad did.  Today was going to be awesome.

After a quick brown bag lunch in the van, my nephew and his little pal raced off through the parking lot, ahead of Dad, toward the museum.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and man!  Had my nephew’s legs grown or something?  He was moving fast!  He was maybe even the fastest kid in his class.  Life was good.

Fortunately, the car was not moving fast.  And, the driver was paying attention.

Screeeeeeech!

Catastrophe avoided.  Boy deflated.

As almost every parent does as least once, this little guy’s dad helplessly watched an accident almost happen with his heart in his throat.  My young nephew, face red, head hanging and tears forming, made a beeline for his father and reached for the security that could be found in his daddy’s hand. After a few moments, the dad asked his young son, “Well, what did you learn?”

Silence.

This was the father’s fourth child, so he knew to be patient and not try to push the thoughts that were forming in the boy’s head.  After several moments, the anguished boy replied, “Nothing!  I didn’t learn anything!  I already knew not to do that!”

I love this story, because I think it could have been written about me.  How many times have I done something foolish…with the full knowledge that I should have left well enough alone?  If experience is the best teacher, shouldn’t I excel at not making lousy decisions?

For the past 29 days, we have been on a Journey of Abundance with the hope that we stop looking at what we don’t have to offer and start focusing on the remarkable resources we do.  We have acknowledged that we are all leaving a legacy of some sort and that we might as well be intentional about what kind of legacy we leave.  We have a wealth of good gifts that we can give to those around us–some as easy as sharing a smile, making eye contact, writing a thank-you note or holding open a door for someone else.

Some of what we’ve explored is maybe a little bit more difficult for us–learning to bite our tongue, unplugging from our cell phone, praying for someone who rubs us the wrong way, recognizing and breaking patterns of manipulation.

I warned you that some of this wouldn’t be easy.

Have we learned anything?  Maybe we have and maybe we haven’t.  The more important question is, “Are we ready to make better choices?”

My mom recently loaned me a book about Ben Carson, the gifted neurosurgeon.  I haven’t gotten very far into it, but a letter from Carson’s mother caught my eye on the first page.  Mrs. Carson shared a poem that she used to read to her boys to help them understand that they were largely responsible for their own quality of life.  While Mrs. Carson was primarily talking about worldly success, I think this poem can also apply to leaving a successful legacy to those around us.  Here it is…

“Yourself to Blame” by Mayme White Miller

If things go bad for you–
And make you a bit ashamed,
Often you will find out that
You have yourself to blame…

Swiftly we ran to mischief
And then the bad luck came.
Why do we fault others?
We have ourselves to blame…

Whatever happens to us,
Here are the words to say,
“Had it not been for so-and-so
Things wouldn’t have gone that way.”

And if you are short of friends,
I’ll tell you what to do–
Make an examination,
You’ll find that fault’s in you…

You’re the captain of your ship,
So agree with the same–
If you travel downward,
You have yourself to blame.

Challenge:  Live abundantly, leaving the legacy you have been called to leave!

Journey of Abundance, Day 29

ErinsWinterSunset“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.”  –Psalm 34:7

This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture.  I have an overactive imagination (and have since my earliest remembrance), and I love word pictures.  Just as I used to easily imagine woodland sprites living under the mushroom tops of fungal fairy rings or pictured sinister, nameless creatures lurking in the shadows of my basement, I can easily picture Almighty God and His armies of glorious angels encamped around me.  The difference is that the sprites and monsters of my childhood were figments of my imagination, while the armies of God are real-life spiritual warriors, commanded by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Yes, I truly believe that.

I have pictured these mighty beings, ready to offer their protection, on virtually every part of the property we own.  This brings me great comfort as I struggle against so much opposition to being a godly wife and mother.  It seems that our culture is dead set against what God has called the family to be, and I need the intervention of God’s warriors on my family’s behalf.

The Bible talks a lot about these angels.  Never are they described as namby-pamby cherubs strumming harps and shooting arrows with heart-shaped points.  Nor are they described as feminine beauties with halos and wings or heavenly bodies of the dearly departed.  These angel armies are comprised of magnificent warriors who are 100% committed to doing the will of God.  They are the same armies that Elisha saw when the King of Aram plotted to take his life (II Kings 6) and the same armies that lit up the skies with the announcement of Jesus’s birth (Luke 2).  These armies have power.

Many of us struggle with an overwhelming sense of powerlessness in various facets of our lives.  We feel powerless in our marriages.  In our parenting.  In our vocations.  In our extended family relationships.  We feel powerless when it comes to our addictions.  Or our finances.  Or even in areas regarding our health.

The fact of the matter is that we do not have to accept this sense of powerlessness as our own.  When we seek God and turn away from sin, He is willing and able to give us claim to some of His perfect power.  The verse mentions above that those who fear God–as in respect Him, live in awe of Him and in accordance to His commands–experience a deliverance at the hands of His mighty angels.

What area of your life needs deliverance?  Are you ready to yield your own comfort, pride, self-centeredness or fear to the Power of Heaven?  Do you even really know what that means?  At this very moment, are you conflicted by what you think you know to be true and the Hope that this message brings?  Are you ready to try something new?

The Old Testament talks about a man named Gideon.  Gideon was being called by God to do something waaaaaayy out of his comfort zone.  It was so far out of his comfort zone that Gideon tested God’s will by asking for a sign.  God showed favor to Gideon by performing the miracle Gideon requested.  Gideon was encouraged, but still not willing to go all in.  He asked God for another sign, the exact opposite of what he had asked before.  God, in His remarkable patience, yielded to Gideon’s request and provided the miracle Gideon requested.  You can read all about this incident in the sixth chapter of the Book of Judges.

Here’s the thing:  We have to be careful that we do not try to lead God around by a ring in His nose.  He is no trick pony.  However, He is a just and merciful God, and He will meet us where we are.  And, He knows where we are better than we know ourselves.  He will not be deceived.

Tap into the power of Almighty God.  Benefit from the protection of His angelic armies.  Dive into the divine resource of His Word and derive hope from His promises.  Regardless of the broken promises you have experienced and more than anything else in your life, God can be trusted.

Challenge:  Tell God today if you are ready to be delivered by His angelic armies.  Tell Him if you are ready to do things His way, and then ask Him to surround you with the people who will be true to His character.  Ask Him to protect you from unwise counsel and to give you the strength to honor Him in the midst of opposition.  I will be praying for you.

 

Journey of Abundance, Day 28

reflectivecreek“Yeah, I pretty much praise God every time I fill up the tank these days.”

My husband has been thrilled with the lower gas prices lately, and I love that he automatically expresses his appreciation to God instead of attributing the lower costs to anything else.  It may seem silly to some, but I believe that God loves to hear us give praise in everything–whether big or small.  I also believe that praising God always includes giving thanks…but giving thanks does not always include praising God.

We were about a mile away from pulling into our driveway this evening after an out-of-town Thanksgiving get-together at my mom’s when we realized that we were locked out of our house.  We had locked all of the doors yesterday before we left, making sure I had the house key in my purse before pulling the last door closed.  Guess what.  I had accidentally left my purse at my mom’s house.  My oldest daughter, who had stayed behind with her siblings for their annual “Decorating for Christmas” tradition with Grammy, called to let us know when we were about 40 minutes away from my mom’s.

“It’s okay,” I said.  “I don’t need anything in it until I see you on Monday.”

Wrong.

When we pulled up to the house, Dave grabbed a box of approximately 37 keys that he used for assorted rental units, etc. and began going through them.  I skedaddled to the barn to feed the cows, gather the eggs and shut in the chickens.  Once I finished the chores and closed the barn door behind me, I was delighted to see lights on in the house.  Victory!

Yes, I praised God.

I praised Him for not only providing the means to enter our home, but I praised Him for a husband that had the maturity to not say what he might have been thinking about his wife who had left her purse with the house key behind.  I was thankful, and I recognized that God was the Great Benefactor and that I was not just a lucky beneficiary of some random circumstance.  Would we have figured out something else if there had been no house key?  Sure.  Would I still have praised God if we’d had to come in through a broken window?  I hope so.

There are blue million reasons to praise God every single day.  When we are focused on ourselves, they are sometimes difficult to see, but they are no less present.  Lord, help me always to see Your hand in my many reasons to praise.

Challenge:  Praise God for 5 specific gifts in your life.  If you’re not sure how to begin, just try, “Lord, I want to praise You for…”.

Journey of Abundance, Day 27

creek2I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “tolerance” lately.  It seems to me that the definition I learned in grade school for this word and today’s working definition are very different.

According to the dictionaries of my youth (and earlier), tolerance means the willingness to accept people whose race, religion, opinions or habits are different from one’s own; the ability to put up with or to endure.  It basically meant that I was taught to respect people in spite of their differences, understanding that every individual has value–even if they have a different color of skin or if I think they’re a couple bricks short of a full load in their particular views.

Now it seems that tolerance means to accept a person and their views–and to go out of my way to cater to them.  Tolerance has come to mean an unconditional acceptance in some circles.

How did that happen?

Wait.  Don’t answer that.

We the people are a vastly varied assortment of crazy.  We all have our own ideas, ways of doing things, beliefs, passions and preferences.  This is called free choice.  We were created that way, and if God doesn’t hold this gift of free choice against us, why should we hold it against one another?  We are all bound to disagree on something, and we are all bound to have common ground on something else.  That’s the nature of humanity.  Unfortunately, we spend so much time waging war about our differences that we fail to thank God for our common ground.

Over the years, I’ve noticed something interesting about the American family.  This probably doesn’t happen in every family, but I think it happens in most.  A difference of opinion occurs somewhere within the family.  Feelings get hurt and a relationship suffers.  A line is drawn in the sand, grudges are held and walls go up.  Family members also join in by choosing sides.  Everybody is affected.  Then, someone in the family dies, and everyone comes together for the celebration of a life lived.  Hugs are swapped, tears are shed, grace is extended.  Common ground is remembered.

Sometimes there is long-term healing in these situations, but often the differences begin to once again outweigh the similarities.  Relationships are once again battle grounds.  People forget that tolerance is equal to respect.  We don’t have to agree on everything with another individual in order to value something about that individual.

I hate cilantro.  It tastes like soap to me.  The first time I tasted cilantro in salsa at a restaurant, I told the server that I thought someone had spilled dish detergent in it before serving.  It was that bad.  To this day, I cannot eat fresh cilantro without feeling like I should be able to blow bubbles afterward.  I have friends and family who love cilantro.  What tastes like soap to me tastes like summery freshness to them.  Do I agree with their assessment of this horrible herb?  No!  Can I respect them as people?  Yes!  (Usually.)  Do I want to share a bowl of cilantro salsa with them?  Not really.  But, if it’s important to the health of our relationship, I will tolerate the salsa in order to honor the friend.  If I just cannot bring myself to do that, for whatever reason, then I will suggest that we go out for Italian.

When I put the person above the disagreement, I can always find common ground.  There is value in every person; I don’t care what they believe.

As I raise children, I’m sticking with the old definition of tolerance.  Yes, I’ll tell them how some folks are interested in changing the word’s meaning, but I’ll explain to them that we all have free choice.  We don’t have to look like one another or agree with one another to work with one another and value one another.

Challenge:  Whether it’s on Facebook, at the store, at work or in your own home today, search for common ground.  Be a respecter of people instead of a keeper of differences.