Wednesday, December 15, 2010


It always gets me excited to see my children eagerly awaiting something, so excited they are ready to burst with happiness and joy and a mixture of something I can’t put into words. It’s one of the reasons I love homeschooling — that it is I, and not some other adult, who has the amazing privilege of not only seeing that anticipation, but who also has the opportunity to build upon it, watching it bud and blossom into accomplishment.

I thought of this because the weather man (er, woman…) made an announcement today that got my children excited…There is snow in the forecast for the weekend! We talked about whether or not there will be enough precipitation so that it will actually snow a lot and whether or not it will be cold enough that the snow will actually lay, since we’ve seen snowflakes this season at least several times. Besides being a great science lesson about the seasons or about how snow is made (and only God can make snow, no matter what the ski resort thinks!), the prediction has given my children something to look forward to with anticipation…to turn over in their minds and to ponder and consider and apply their knowledge, such as it is.

This time of year there is so much busy-ness that I enjoy the chance to slow down and reflect. I think that for myself and for my children the anticipation of Christmas gifts, snow, Santa, family visits, sweets and treats, and the magical appearance the world takes on as it is decorated by man and by nature gives us much to look forward to. We know that something extraordinary is about to happen.

I think spiritually, too, I look forward in anticipation…I celebrate the amazing miracle of the virgin birth, the willing obedience of a little Hebrew girl who unselfishly stepped into faith and became part of God’s redemption plan for mankind, and the awesome and unfathomable reality of Emmanuel — God with us…The lyrics “Fragile fingers sent to heal us, tender brow prepared for thorn…Tiny heart whose blood will save us…” come to life for me as I consider the inexplicable gift of a loving and merciful Heavenly Father, whose love for us was so great that He sent His only Son, to be wounded and pierced and rejected so that we could live. I look forward to celebrating all of that with a sense of awe, wonder and anticipation!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hearts of Thanksgiving

Well, over the month of November, in order to make the theme of "Thanksgiving" really come alive for each of my children, we lingered at the table after the supper dishes were cleared and then went around the table, each expressing what we were thankful for. I think that this really cultivated in me, especially, a heart of thanksgiving for the many blessings God has provided. To that end, I have started a Heart of Thanksgiving blessing journal, where each day I take time to reflect on the blessings that have come my way. Sometimes in the hectic pace of living, in the daily battle with the world and the flesh, it is so easy to lose sight of those little things -- a child's cherished smile, the thoughtful kiss of a husband, the answered prayer, the unexpected phone call or letter...But in using my little journal, I've come to really see how the Lord is so very gracious and good to me, despite me, and how He really is a good and loving Father who wants me to notice all those things He does for me...Much like I appreciate when my children notice all that I have done for them in the name of not merely duty or obligation, but out of unconditional and unending love. It has been a wonderful and joyful thing for me to give those moments of reflection to the Lord in praise with a heart of thanksgiving for all He has done and all He has yet to do! Enjoy a very blessed and merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Eat From the Pantry Challenge to Give....

When I originally started this challenge, the year was fresh and the slate was clean, and I had high hopes for a better start to 2010 than the last few years have brought our family. I thought that I might use the money we saved to surprise my husband with some extra money to pay off our mortgage at the end of the year, but with the recent tragedy in Haiti God has laid it on my heart to give some extra toward those suffering. My home church is having a special offering this weekend that will go directly to Missionary partners we have sent to help in this time of dire need and sorrowful crisis. To that end, I am going to pray and seek the Lord in what amount, exactly, He would have us give. I think that it is important to look at those citizens in Haiti as brothers and sisters in Christ. It saddens me to even need to state something that should be so obvious to those of us who walk with Him, but there are so many people with a terrible worldview who do not embrace those who are suffering and reach out to them in His Name. I pray that those who survived the terrors of the earthquake are able to find peace in the days to come, help where they most need it and a spiritual cleansing possible only through the blood of Christ. Please take a moment today and pray for your brothers and sisters in Haiti.

God's blessings,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eat from the Pantry Challenge...continued!

I got a little behind with my updates. In fact, I am a little under the weather today, and have spent the majority of my day trying to rest and generally feel a little better. So far, I still have a headache, but I am praying that I can be joyful when my husband comes home.

On Monday, I confess I went to the grocery store. Mainly because we needed a few things like milk and fresh produce. I ended up not spending any money out of pocket, because we'd received a gift certificate for Christmas. The nice thing about that was that I also managed to come in under budget and still have a few dollars left to spend on the gift certificate!

I can't remember where I left off with the pantry meals -- I think the last one I recorded was before date night with my husband. So in general, we've polished off the clementines and some oranges and bananas for snacks, the kiddies ate cereal and instant oatmeal we had for breakfasts while I stuck to the old-fashioned oatmeal with slivered almonds, agave nectar and some kind of fruit if we had it. For lunches, we have used up leftovers and, on days where there were no leftovers to be had, ate ramen noodle soup or pb&j.

Dinners were a little more challenging. One night we had ground turkey with sauteed veggies over whole wheat pasta. I also made meat loaf, mashed potatoes and green beans and apple sauce (from a jar though, not homemade this time, since I was down to one apple -- didn't think it would stretch to feed all 8 of us!). The night my husband went hunting, 5 of the 6 kiddies went to sleepovers so Sammy and I used coupons and ate at Burger King. This was a very RARE treat, because we generally as a rule do not do fast food, but he was excited and the meal was very, very cheap with the coupon! Then last night I made something akin to chicken parmesean over linguine, but I'd forgotten to bread the chicken! So it was close, and a meal everyone enjoyed despite that small slip-up! Tonight we have a roast on that will now not languish in the freezer, complete with onions, potatoes and carrots (all of which I had!). Oh -- and somewhere in there I made three loaves of homemade whole wheat bread with homemade honey butter, and doctored up a loaf of store-bought Italian bread, splitting it and brushing with garlic butter and broiling to come up with a fresh garlic bread. We will probably finish up the whole wheat bread tonight, which will mean I need to make more of some type of bread tomorrow. It's getting to be so nice not to have to buy bread at the store anymore.

On top of this, we've used fresh fruits, cheeses (from Christmas!) or leftover ice cream to snack on for desserts.

Not too bad. We are so very blessed. I am especially thinking of that today as I am praying for those in Haiti who have been lost or who lost loved ones or who are just trying to help put things back together again. God's mercies are so good, and I am praying that this tragedy will draw people closer to Him, and that we who are not directly affected will be thankful for our blessings and mindful of those dear fellow humans who have and may currently be suffering.

God bless you and draw you ever closer!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Some quick thoughts

I have been very committed to trying the "Eat from the Pantry Challenge" and have been devoting a regular time every day to writing about it. In doing so, I wonder if I am neglecting other thoughts and topics that might be more meaningful -- both for me and for any of my readers. I find that I can get so off-track when I am left unaccountable, and maybe that is why I've felt compelled to post about my progress. However, I started to wonder if maybe I need to be accountable in other things as well. So I am taking the rest of the evening to pray and reflect on some of the goals I have for 2010. In doing so I am hoping to re-think the direction I'm going in to a certain extent, because I want to accomplish so much more than I have in the past. I am hoping, dear readers, that you will bear with me while I struggle with my thoughts, and that you won't think it too chaotic of me if I change my pattern and pace. For now, I will probably keep my focus on my pantry challenge, but I might add other posts for other areas. Because I am considering expanding my thoughts, I will try to start organizing my posts a little better in the future. Thank you all so much for being so loving and patient, and inspiring and challenging, and for keeping me accountable!


Pantry Challenge Day 5

Well all, there really is no great update for today, because today was Date Night!!!

We did eat breakfast and lunch at home though. For breakfast the kiddies finished off the rice with milk, cinnamon and sugar, and I had oatmeal with agave nectar and almond slivers (but no strawberries because I ran out!). For lunch, I made up three packets of ramen noodle soup and added about 1/4 cup of alphabet noodles we buy in bulk, plus about 1/4 of a package of frozen veggies. This kind of extends the soup for us. The kiddies had navel oranges for a snack, and I had a clementine, and then later for an after school snack there were leftover Christmas cookies we are working our way through.

Now to explain about the date night. First of all, my husband and I received money from grandparents for Christmas, and one thing I purchased that I thought might enrich our marriage was an entertainment guide for 2010 for our area. I thought that it would be a nice way to save money while indulging in a regular date night to enhance our marriage. Anyway...

My six children attend a Bible Club down the road. The family that runs it as their ministry are very generous with their dedication to the program. They not only pick up and drop off all the children that attend (ages 5 and up!), they also provide a meal in addition to the Bible study and song time. Our family has been so very blessed by the sweet and constant outreach that this family provides. One of the extra benefits is that once in a while Les and I will decide to have a date night out. This gives us some much-needed time to talk about family goals and such. We did that tonight.

It was so nice to sit across from my husband and talk about some of the things we hoped to accomplish in our family for 2010 without the constant interruption of little ones -- or bigger ones -- and the ever-present vying for attention that can sometimes sabotage a marital relationship if the parents are not committed to making their marriage a priority. It's not that the children are not important, but we have always believed in making our marriage the first priority and the children second. After all, some day they will move on in whatever direction God calls them. We wanted to always keep a strong friendship and partnership and love for one another so that when the empty nest occurs we still have love and appreciation for each other and still have fun.

So. Although today did find me using food stores for breakfast, lunch and snacks, I blessedly did not have to cook a meal tonight! And even though we spent a little money, it was a nice and enjoyable evening! God bless all of you! More updates on our challenge tomorrow!


Hi everyone! I absolutely love the bags that Megan has offered at

Please check them out if you have time. She is so very creative!!!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Pantry Challenge Day 4

Well, folks, I'm still participating in the Eat from the Pantry challenge. My 9 yo daughter asked today what a pantry was, and I explained that it is kind of a place where we store food. Then she wanted examples, so I went on to tell her that all of our stored food was kind of in a pantry. That led me to start thinking about exactly how we do store our food, and I was amazed to find that we have a lot of different places where we keep our food stores -- we have 2 freezers in the basement, a shelf for canned goods in the basement, several bins with miscellaneous snacks and cereals I'd stocked up on before, cans stacked in pyramids (or towers, depending on what my 5 yo decides) next to one of my hutches, a jelly cupboard full of, well, jellies and even some homemade pickles and store-bought staples like peanut butter and olive oil, and the bookshelves and other niches in the kitchen that happen to be stacked with food. God is just so very gracious!! That was a lot more than I'd thought. In fact, I even have a plastic bag (like from the supermarket) hanging from the curtain tie bar that contains two bags of potato chips we didn't end up opening on New Year's Eve.

So I do have a lot of food in the house, somewhere. The question then becomes How do I know what I have? and How can I find what I need when I want it? So my goal, after eating up our stores of food this month, will be to re-organize what I have and where I put it. I am trying to be more thoughtful about it and will post my ideas when I come up with a workable plan. For now, though, here was today's menu:

For breakfast the kiddies had leftover white rice (from supper last night) heated with milk, sugar and cinnamon. I had oatmeal with agave nectar, strawberries and slivered almonds. It was filling for me and should keep my glucose levels pretty stable. For lunch all the kiddies had ramen noodle soup. I had to take a friend to the doctor, and he ended up getting admitted to the hospital, so his wife asked if I could stop at Burger King, where she had coupons and we ate lunch together. In situations like that I don't want to be ungenuine in my concern or snobbish about her thoughtfulness, so even though I had to veer off my diet for a meal, I didn't feel the least bit guilty about it. While en route to the hospital, I called my 14 yo daughter and had her go down and see what kind of meat was in the freezer. I had some ham in there that was pre-sliced and bagged into different meal servings (ie, steaks, cubed, etc.). She brought up two baggies of ham that was sliced in steaks, and I used some yellow- and green- split peas I had, along with carrots, celery, onion, garlic and a leek, plus a little salt and pepper, to make a split pea soup. Because I personally do not eat pork products, I cooked the ham separate and added it to each serving bowl. This made the meat actually stretch a little further, and I didn't have to flavor my own serving of soup with the ham (though I have to admit it smelled really yummy!). For bed snacks the kiddies had ice cream. I snacked on a peeled and sliced cucumber off and on all day (small slices!) and was pretty satisfied. I also drank a LOT of water today, which is really nice because with the heater on this time of year I often feel my skin wanting to dry up.

I hope you are all enjoying God's faithful provision. God bless you and keep you!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Pantry Challenge Day 3

Hi everyone! I hope that you are all doing well and have been blessed by the pantry challenge if you're participating.

I was listening to a sermon on the radio today about giving and thought that it would be nice to take some of the money that we save and consider it for helping others, whether that be donating it to a local charity, adding it to our regular giving or missions giving at church or finding someone who is in need and lending a helping hand in a practical and tangible way. We kind of did that around Christmas time, when we stretched some money out of our Christmas budget to be a blessing to a loved one. Someone knocked on our door and gave us a gift certificate to a local store in the exact same amount. God really loves it when we try to reach others, and even if we had not gotten anything back at all, we felt so good to be a blessing! He knows the attitude of our hearts. I love the passage in 2 Corinthians 9, which talks about this. Paul is talking to the church at Corinth about sowing, and reaping from what has been sowed, stating:
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." ~2 Corinthians 9:7-8

I think the Lord is really working on my heart in this for 2010. It's not that I haven't considered giving before -- I have given, and I do give when I can. Giving, to me, is more than just sending in a check. Sometimes it's giving time, or talents, or even something as simple as taking a neighbor to a doctor appointment. Or making a phone call or writing a letter or stopping in to visit. Or leaving coupons (that have not expired) on a shelf next to an item for someone who might truly need them. But I really want to be more purposeful in my giving this year, to reach out in a more practical way. And I'm not sure quite yet what that might mean, but I am trying to be still enough to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in this.

I am starting to see that saving money this month can bless more than just my husband and family. And so I am determined to stick with the pantry challenge as much as I can, and maybe take it even through February. But we'll have to see how that works out, because I am not so unrealistic as to think that I've stocked up quite that much food, and as I wrote previously, I do want to make things that are nutritious where I can, which means fresh produce and dairy.

Today we all woke up late. This actually translates to: Will and Emma, my only children in public school, missed the bus -- which also meant that they missed breakfast. And that I had to rush to get them there. We walked into the building right after they finished the announcements and the Pledge of Allegiance, so we were not terribly late. But we all had fruit on the way. Lunch was leftovers from last night's supper. Which was good because I don't have them lingering in the back of the fridge like some homeschool science experiment gone wrong!

For supper tonight I made rice, with enough extra for other meals like breakfasts this week, and thawed and cooked what I consider a taco-flavored ground beef. Basically it was rice topped with the meat mixture. And I had so much more ground beef thawed than I thought that I ended up cooking it all together then separating enough for another day's meal. I froze the extra meat, put the extra cooked rice in the fridge and was pretty satisfied with how the meal turned out. Most everyone wanted seconds too, and I had just enough after removing the planned leftovers -- because if you leave it til after the meal, there's not enough left 90% of the time (last night was a rareity).

The kiddies enjoyed ice cream cups for a bedtime snack, and Les ate the last piece of Hershey pie that was in the freezer. So now those temptations are gone for the moment. Now I need to find a nice late night snack/dessert that will work to satisfy my cravings but not add on pounds or make my blood sugar skyrocket. That will probably take a while and maybe a bit of experimenting, but for tonight I just had water and while it wasn't as satisfying in a taste sense, it was nice to know that I did not eat something I probably should not have. I am trying to keep an honest food journal, so I don't want to overdo it.

Anyway, putting together meals using what I already have has been good so far. I am hoping to develop a pantry list this weekend and then come up with a skeleton menu using the items we have, but for now I'm just winging it day by day, and praying that He will really help me to stick to my plans. I am so glad He is faithful! Hope you all enjoy a good night's rest and wake up feeling refreshed!


Monday, January 04, 2010

Pantry Challenge Day 2

Today I was ambitious when I got up, but then I did Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred and changed my mind about some things....It's not that I changed my mind about the whole pantry challenge, but I think I need to re-work my cooking plans just a little. So, here's what I came up with today:

For breakfast I had homemade oatmeal with strawberries, almonds and a little agave nectar. The kiddies finished up some cereal that we opened not that long ago, which is good because sometimes the milk sours if no one gets to it. Not the case this time, thankfully! For a mid-morning snack to help learn to eat more healthfully and use up some of the produce I purchased, I had two clementines. The kiddies had pan cookies I made the other day that survived the hubby, and bananas and oranges somewhere in there too.

When it was time for lunch we'd gotten quite a bit of homeschooling done, which pleased me immensely. It was a good start to the new year, and I'm hopeful we don't lose any of the momentum we had. It's so easy to get a good start on something but then get caught up or busy or distracted or...well, a number of things. I am really praying each day that the Lord will help us to plow forward, even if it's in little baby steps. That's sooo much better than remaining stagnent in my opinion. So for lunch I made a pizza with dough I'd had in the freezer, pepperoni and cheese we had left from the holiday and sauce I'd used in something a few days ago and had just enough left over. When the other two kiddies got home from public school, everyone was allowed to have a piece of chocolate and a cookie just to get rid of it and not let it go to waste! I ended up making a lot of cookies, toffee and fudge (the real kind from scratch, with no marshmallow at all), so we have snacks through the end of the week at least!

I was not really sure what I wanted to do about dinner. I had asked one of the kiddies to bring some ground beef up from the freezer yesterday, but he forgot...and I forgot to double-check this morning. So. It was dinner time and I didn't know what to do. What I ended up with was a concoction of pasta sauce that I made by sauteeing a Vidalia onion (I never use any other kind!), red pepper and one yellow squash in olive oil with salt, pepper, a pinch of oregano and a dash of sugar. When that got nice and soft, I added a few grape tomatoes that I quartered, along with some finely chopped spinach, and a can of crushed tomatoes (my secret shortcut in most cases). I served this delicious and nutritious sauce over pasta I had in the cupboard. It was a nice way to sneak in veggies, although I can't complain that my children are picky very often. But still, they didn't even realize how many veggies were in the sauce. As a treat, instead of water (which we drink with almost every meal and all day every day), I let the kiddies finish up the soda we'd gotten to make punch on New Year's, and it was just enough for a little cup each. We finished off the homemade bread from yesterday too (which is my cue to make more tomorrow!), and for bed snacks the kiddies each had a pan cookie.

Hopefully tomorrow we're having homemade bread, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans or a side salad, but I'll let you know how that turns out! In the alternative a friend just sent me a recipe for a soup that is similar to a cheeseburger-type soup, and I can't wait to try that. I think, though, that I am out of one of the ingredients and so it might have to wait til next month. We'll see!

I hope God is richly blessing you in this new year and that you are following His lead in your life! God bless!!!!


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pantry Challenge Day 1

I had a great day today! First of all, four of the kiddies slept over a friend's house, so I made eggs and toast for Les before he went on no-heat service calls (and was subsequently gone all day long...), and hard-boiled eggs for the other two kiddies and myself, accompanied by oranges, for breakfast. For lunch we had some tomato soup, solely due to the cold. For supper I was going to put together chicken and dumplings, but I had baked two loaves of bread so we were low on flour. Instead, I used what I had to concoct a chicken, leek and veggie soup. This went great with the hot and crusty bread -- which I served with homemade honey butter spread (using up some of the butter I had stocked up on for Christmas baking). To top off this meal, I made chocolate chip pan cookies. Les loves these, and since he'd worked so hard both yesterday and today, I thought it was a nice way to show my love and appreciation.

I did go to the grocery store, but I only went to purchase dish soap and laundry soap because we were in dire need of both -- funny, I must've forgotten to stock up during December because I usually have back-ups in abundance! So I did pay a little more than I would normally, but Les was in need of work clothes since he worked through the weekend, and that just couldn't wait til our usual trip to Walmart for things like paper towels, toiletries and such. I did add three other cleaning items to my trip that we probably could have waited on, but I wanted to get a good start on cleaning this week. I spent just under $20 and was pretty frustrated that I hadn't had a chance to look for a sale or coupons. However, I know that I am low on those specific items so I can keep an eye out for sales in the next few weeks. The nice thing is that we can hold off on our Walmart trip -- maybe even til next month if all goes well and the kiddies don't waste what toiletries we have by purposeful spills or the like. So yay!!!

I am really praying about being more purposeful in my planning, and in my spending, and in taking time in general to show my family how much I love them. I know that the Lord has been calling me to prepare a little more too. So this pantry challenge is helping me to think a little creatively about how I can fulfill several goals. One thing I especially want to do in this is to rely more on His grace and wisdom - and less on my own self. Sometimes I worry so much about doing everything "just so", and in this I think I can learn to improvise a little and to trust that He can meet the needs of our family in various ways. Meanwhile, I am praying to be a blessing to others. Today I had the opportunity to drive a car-less neighbor to the hospital for a sleep study. While sometimes this does not seem like much to me, or even maybe to others, it gives me a chance to do "something" just where I am. As a busy homeschooling mother, sometimes I feel like I don't do enough. But I am praying that He will lead me to do that "something", even if it seems small and insignificant to me.

Anyway, we'll see how things go tomorrow. I am really looking forward to emptying the freezer so nothing is wasted, and getting it cleaned and defrosted in time for next month, where I will attempt a Once a Month (or maybe slightly modified) cooking plan! So stay tuned....

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Eat from the Pantry Challenge

Well, I have several goals in mind that I set for myself this year...Of course there are the usual goals for Bible study, reading lists, homeschooling, etc. But this year I really and truly want to be a blessing to my husband.

I am in charge of a certain amount of money every month, out of which I usually pay the electric bill, the cable/internet, the cell phones (now our only phones!) and the groceries, in addition to kiddie activities. Well, just saving it seemed like a nice idea, and I am sure that I am going to work on that. But I was so impressed by Crystal's ability to put her trust in the Lord and actually achieve her family's financial goal (see her post at that I determined I wanted to work on being that kind of blessing for my husband and family too. I think the best way I can do this is to save money and present my husband with a sizeable (if not all) portion of the money to pay off our Home Equity Line of Credit we got when we were a little more naive about our finances. This is going to be a pretty lofty goal for me, as I grew up in a home where "entitlement" was practiced, if not named, and I have always had a hard time with money because of that. However, I think that being able to pull this off will be such a wonderful surprise for my husband (so shhhhhh!).

So to start working toward this goal, I'm going to attempt to participate in the Eat from the Pantry challenge ( Our family ran low on some paper and cleaning products, so we'll need to run to the store for things like toothpaste, dish soap and laundry detergent. But I am going to try to use sales and coupons for those things, or make what I can from scratch with what I have on hand. Then we will limit our other purchases to milk, eggs and maybe some fresh fruits and veggies for the remainder of the month. Not that we always eat from a box or anything, but we have quite a bunch of stuff in the cupboard and in the freezer that should be eaten anyway, and poor and lazy planning often causes me to stop at the store for "one more thing" to make a meal, when a substitute or some creativity would have saved us money too. And -- this will also give me a chance to empty the cupboards of some of the things my kiddies love that might not be the healthiest and re-stock in the future with fresh foods.

I am really very excited and can't wait to see how the menu comes together for the rest of the month! I hope some of you will share your ideas for meals using what you have on hand! And in preparation for future meals, I am looking into Once a Month Cooking too, so if you have any recipes that are tried and true, please share those too! My family of 8 eats just about anything -- I am the pickiest and since I am the chef that usually doesn't work out too bad!! I will let you know how much money I squeeze into a savings account at the end of the month!