Monday, June 30, 2008

Seeking the non-toxic

Side note: I started writing this post and then realized it would work as a Kitchen Tip, so went to Tammy's Recipes to see if she had here meme up yet. It has been a while since I have been there, and was looking through her posts, and realized that last week she mentioned moving more to glass jars instead of plastic, so I guess this would have been more timely last week, but I wasn't thinking about it then, and I was gone most of the week.
So, now will have to do . . .

What's in my food? One important step in living a more healthy lifestyle involved (involves) removing toxins from our kitchen, house, and habits. I have worked to reduce my use of known toxins and replace them with more natural, safe alternatives. We use more glass jars to store left overs, glass and stoneware for baking, and avoid non-stick surfaces.

I have started investigating more about the plastics that we do still use, and I realized I have a lot of work to do yet. My cousin's wife posted a while back about getting a new Nalgene bottle to have one made of safer plastic (BPA free), and it got me to thinking.

What's on my shelves? With a little looking around, I found some great information and summaries on the studies and findings on various plastics that I use to store my food. I came across this blog posting that talks about the different plastics and gives some links to common products and their associated risks. I didn't realize that plastic wrap is on the dangerous list. I don't use it often, but will try to use it even less now, although Saran brand carries less of a risk.

What's in my grocery bag? Another site gives a great breakdown of each number category, what dangers you might find in that type of plastic, and what products often make use of that type of plastic. I sometimes fall into thinking frugal, and not healthful. When I get cheese from the deli I'm glad I don't have to repackage into a container at home. I hadn't thought about the chemicals present in that little baggie before. After reading more about the dangers of plastic, I want to start moving more of my food into safe containers (glass jars, #1 or #2 plastics) when I get home from the store rather than leaving them in the #3 wraps they may come in.

All this news on the toxins, both known and suspected, in the many plastics in use today makes me wonder about the growing health issues in society. I wonder how much plastic has played a role in these cases. I know far health concerns arise from the obesity issues that face our nation, but I would not be surprised if some link was found between the rampant plastic use in our disposable nation and various childhood conditions. One article said that, "In 95 percent of people tested, bisphenol A [BPA - found in various plastics] is detected at levels that could be harmful, the scientists said."

Makes you stop and think before you refill that water bottle while trying to do something good for the environment. Instead of paper or plastic, we need to be more concerned about "plastic or glass?"

Make mine glass, please.

For more great kitchen tips, check out Tammy's blog.

Too much excitement

This coming week I will start leading worship for the kindergarten through second grade kids at my church. They post the songs with motions on the web so we can come prepared to lead well. I opened up the first song and started to sing and sign along with it when my three year old came up to me and said, "Mom, there's smoke coming out of it." It?

Ahem . . . not words to brush off, definitely. I follow him into the kitchen where he and his older brother had each gotten a piece of left over pizza out of the fridge. Apparently Nathan decided to take it into his own hands to heat his up in the microwave! Fortunately, he must have realized when the smoke started coming out that he should turn it off and come get me (instead of leaving it go for the 13 minutes still on the cook time when I came in . . .) After I ascertained that the contents were not actually on fire, I unplugged the microwave and ran it outside to finish smoking.

We had a clear talk about not using the microwave, "Always ask Mommy, or Blake, or Daddy to cook in the microwave for you. You never use the microwave by yourself. " His response -- "Okay, but Daddy's not home." (Does that somehow negate your other two options, that are both home?) Oh well. No serious harm done. The microwave needed a good cleaning anyway, and the plastic plate that now has a hole on the bottom was near the end of its life anyway. And, I figured while my house stunk like smoke I may as well turn on the self cleaning oven and get that done, too.

About this time, my husband popped back in for a bit to help me get the pool started. We got a new simple set pool (you blow up the ring and then fill with water) for Christmas and the kids have eagerly awaited the warm weather to set it up. The kids love to play in it as it fills, so they jumped in their suits to "help." After a little splashing around, my two little ones decided to take a break from the pool and play on the porch a little bit, while I cleaned out the microwave which still needed some airing out. I look up to find them covered in ash and burnt wood residue from the fire pit. Nathan was gleefully picking up the pieces left from our last fire and throwing them around. I honestly thought I was in a time warp back to when he was 18 months old. At that time, when Brooke was three, they were always scaring up trouble together, but I have enjoyed some relative calm for a while now. I guess he thought my life must be getting boring. Fortunately, the hoses were out for filling the pool, so we hosed them off and swept the porch (which probably needed it anyway). No real harm done.

Once again, I could have easily gotten frustrated at the "disruptions" to my day, but I know God's plan is for me to continue to train these kids. It is a long job. Doing it well today doesn't mean tomorrow will be any better, but I need to not lose heart because there is such joy in the prize, and in the day to day if I look for it. The progress in their little lives is sometimes small and comes in baby steps, but it is plainly there. We can't grow weary in these high demand preschool days, because they need us to continue to remain consistent and help them mature through it. And, my oven, porch and microwave are a lot cleaner than they would have been otherwise, and we still had a great time playing around in the pool together. Definitely not what I planned for today, but a great time anyway. Oh, and I figured it is about time to start potty training . . . should be exciting!

Verse of the week -- Galatians 6:9

Sometimes I grow weary.

Weary from lack of results, repeated failures, and, well . . . self pity.

Sometimes I just get tired.

Tired of redirecting, disciplining, teaching, instructing, modeling, having patience. Tired of the physical work of motherhood – dishes, laundry, cleaning, meal planning and preparation, bookkeeping, and general home management.

And yet, encouragement to continue on, to stay the course comes clearly in the book of Galatians. In its simplicity verse nine of chapter six says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” It reminds us to keep our focus on our goal. Not on the doing good, but rather on the eternal reward to come, the reaping at the end of this life. Jesus Christ set this example for us on the cross. He kept His eyes on the joy and endured the pain. My typical day will never come close to the day He had when He died, and my focus can keep me joyful and energized despite my circumstances.

This morning on my walk I looked around. I gazed up into the sky, so vast, so incomprehensibly huge. I glanced to the wide horizons that stretched to surrounding tree lines and spanned acres of farm land. Even all that I could see was only a portion of this world which is only a portion of the universe which is only a portion of God’s influence and Being. Two truths that struck me:

~God, as awesome as He is, still cares what happens and is intimately involved in my little world

~What happens in my little world needs to be kept in perspective of His awesomeness.

All that I do should be done in service to Him, which never grows wearisome. If my day is filled with simply caring for children, homeschooling, and housework, it will get tiring, old, boring, and I will grow weary. However, if my day is filled with service to God that plays out in the every day care of my family, that can bring joy and renewed strength for each day.

Here’s some more of the chapter (with some of my ponderings in the midst):

3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself (That combats those days when I pat myself on the back for a ‘good’ day. If it’s all about Him, even my something is nothing without God). 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. (How many times a day do I tell my kids to worry about themselves not their brother/sister? We’re responsible to use the time and talents God gave us, not as compared to others). 5 For every man shall bear his own burden. 6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Every opportunity needs to be capitalized on, never growing weary, or thinking we are doing ‘enough,’ but always seeking to glorify God in all that we do).

I know I will still lose my focus, I will still grow weary on some days, I will still be human. Yet, in those moments, to step back, remember the love that the Great and Holy God of the universe has for me even in that moment of weakness, I can find the strength to continue on, to faint not, to continue in well doing toward those in my little circle of influence. Just as Christ on the cross, I can keep His joy in my line of vision.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

~Galatians 6:9~

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Politics and Religion, or just plain religion

I walk a different path than most. The road less traveled as Robert Frost said. One that appears to some as foolish or senseless. At the end of this pathway, thanks to none of my own works, I will enjoy an eternity in the presence of God based on His deep promises and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Many say they walk this path, adopt the name “Christian,” believe they will arrive in heaven, and yet look at my faith as extreme.

Today as I checked into CNN for my news, I came across an article on James Dobson’s views on Barack Obama, and I could not keep quiet, despite the limited time I have this week. I read not only the article, I read many of the disparaging comments, and then went to Focus on the Family's website and listened to the broadcast and some of the Obama clips.

After listening and reading the many disgusted comments left on the CNN article I realized again that many will not understand the path that I walk, even those that think they accompany me on the same road. They may call it a harsh religion, bigoted, narrow-minded. Yet, a true critic must take a closer look. Apart from the Holy Spirit it still will look the same I suppose.


A religion whose God of all gods and Lord of all lords offered Himself as the guiltless, atoning sacrifice to make a way where there was none? He took on Himself what I deserved. He didn't die on the cross simply because people killed Him, He died out of choice, to fulfill the plan laid out in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit.


Extended, open arms to all who come with repentant hearts, as we stand where the ground is level, at the foot of the cross. All those condemned as sinners are welcomed regardless of any background, choices, personalities, family connections, or perceived short comings.


When we know only one way has been laid, and that way at the cost of a Life, why cheapen the cost or hide the way so others pass in ignorance?

The critics of Dobson hold nothing back. They label him a ‘radical cleric,’ no better at interpreting the Bible than a dog, leading a pack of ‘freaks,’ and narrow-minded. I suppose I take this personally because they really toss these terms at all evangelical, Bible believing Christians, with his comments on the bull's eye right now.

Yes, Biblical Christianity appears narrow, biased, and at times harsh to our eyes. I still take the Bible in its entirety as God's Word. Every chapter, every verse, every line. Obama's words, and the laughter that followed, come across to me as mocking the Bible (or at least the passages that he sees as irrelevant or inaccurate) and I take that personally. He may attempt to appeal to people of 'faith' (faith in themselves? in humanity? in a better world?), but he won't get my vote. He challenges people to read their Bible, and that is about the best advice I have heard from him. I don't know who will win this election, and I don't carry a lot of optimism either way, but the more I hear from Obama, the more leery of his rhetoric I become.

I walk a different path, a largely misunderstood one. A path many claim to walk, but truly know little about.

I place my hope in Christ alone and pray that my life may draw others to follow my King on this "foolish," narrow path. The way may seem perilous, but the end is sure. Eventually we will all know the truth in living color and I want to help as many face that day with confidence as possible.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Frugal Friday -- family fun outdoors

With gas what it is, and our summer vacation already enjoyed (by the way, Washington DC can be a rather frugal destination since the vast majority of the sites have free admission, or prepaid by our taxes, depending on how you want to look at it), we have spent a lot of family fun time at home this summer.

Some of our fun has really been work, or maybe school, but the kids have really enjoyed getting dirty right alongside me in our garden and planting flowers around our house. I used my 'stimulus check' to buy a gift card for the super-grocery store that we typically shop at and the card came with a bonus 10 percent to spend on general merchandise. So, I spent some of that on plants for our yard: blueberries, lilies, perennials, etc.

The kids have all really gotten into planting and researched how to make cherry trees (that site is a bit detailed and technical in spots, but quite helpful) grow, what soils different plants need, and when and where they will thrive the most. As far as the cherry trees, we learned we live in an excellent climate for them, so we'll see if anything comes of all the research and work. Right now the seeds are 'stratifying' in our fridge.

Many people dish out loads of money on gardening, but I have found that other gardeners are very generous with their overgrowth. I have received onions (scallion type), raspberries, and Jerusalem artichoke from others and have passed along the same. Free, fun for the kids, and nutritious, it doesn't get much better than that.

Aside from gardening, we have also had a lot of fun in the water

This may not be the safest set up, but we run our garden hose to the top of the slide and slide down onto the tarp (in this case, the cover from our old pool). Homemade water slide. The older kids (11, 8, 6) slide down and in between slides the little ones (4 and 3) splash around the puddles at the bottom.

Wonderful, home grown fun.

For more frugal, family fun, check out either one of Crystal's blogs.

Tackling the impossible

Maybe we are the only ones, but I doubt it. Helping children to learn to keep their rooms clean on their own is a nearly monumental task in our household. As babies and toddlers I maintained their clean rooms while they helped, as they moved into young childhood they gradually took more responsibility for the cleaning, and somewhere along the way, a serious lapse in cleaning occurred such that we have never permanently recovered from.

We have tried flip charts and check charts, reward stickers and money, punishments and restrictions, timers and schedules. The good news -- almost all of them worked! For a time . . .

Then, we decided that they simply had too much stuff for any child to keep clean. Our oldest, a boy, does fairly well maintaining responsibility for his belongings regardless of what plan we have in place at the time. Our girls, however, share a room and struggle unbelievably in keeping it orderly. So, we pulled out the boxes and bags and put away A LOT of stuff. That helped, for a little while. We removed almost all the toys from their room and kept them elsewhere. That also helped, for a while. What next?

Turning to Scripture (no, there's nothing about messy rooms specifically in the Bible), we read Luke 16: 10
, 11 which says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"

Principles derived:

- They must first show faithfulness with a little before we trust them with much
- This topic carries eternal weight since how we handle our worldly wealth will show our trustworthiness with true riches

Obviously, no one is losing their salvation over an unkempt room, but they must learn to grasp responsibility even in the smallest areas. So, we continue to search for a solution.

Here is what we have finally found that has kept this room looking like this for over a week (yes, seven whole consecutive days in a row! --totally redundant, I know, but I am so excited):

We moved out all of their clothes. Although other items added to the clutter, the clothing was the biggie for them. Can't decide what outfit to wear? Just pull out those shirts and stack them on dresser for now. Can't find your pajamas from last night? Don't bother looking behind the dresser or under the bed, just pull out more! Spilled sauce on your shirt? Quick, throw it on the floor and grab a new one.

All of their clothes got packed up in storage bins and moved to the master bedroom (just a convenient place, and also where we fold laundry). Then, they picked select clothes to keep in their room. They each chose 7 outfits including socks and undies (enough for the week) and 2 sets of PJ's. This is drastic, but it has worked so well, and has so many perks.

This has helped them keep track of their pajamas, because they don't have a drawer full to choose from every night. They think about their clothes when they take them off, because they don't have anything else to worry about in their room. Since the bins stay right where we fold the laundry, that goes much more quickly as well. The couple times they did need to change midday we would replenish with a new outfit from their bin. Mornings go so much more smoothly because rather than having their overflowing drawers to sift through, they have just a few outfits that they picked out and love.

Now they can have fun in their room and even have room to play with their little brother in there. Of course, whenever the camera is out they have to get in just one more shot. :-)

I'm sure others have some great ideas as well. This has worked for us so far and I wanted to share in case others are facing the same dilemma.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Our trip to DC

A bit belated, but I have finally taken the time to go through the myriad of pictures from our trip and show a bit of what we saw. I already shared a bit about our trip there and back and some of the lessons that stood out in my mind, but on to the bulk of the trip . . .

The capitol building

Washington DC contains building packed with history. Every brick, every gallery, every building, every street has a story to tell. We reveled in the amazing magnitude of each building. Grand arches and pillars, huge domes and ornate ceilings, innumerable artifacts and records of our history.

The main bulk of what we spent our time on fell into the two miles between the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial. You don't realize just how humongous the building are until you are right there. They are incredible.

Paige at the base of the Washington Monument

Everything was done on a grand scale, although they were separating from Great Britain, they were still so used to their way of doing things that you see European influence everywhere throughout the mall area. The Washington Monument towers 600 feet into the air, and showed that even early Americans sometimes set their sights too high. About a quarter of the way up the brick color changes because the original effort ran out of money and when the government decided to finish the job, the same stone color was not available. That seems a lesson in itself.

Of course the Smithsonian museum is a must see. Not just one museum, the Smithsonian combines 19 museums, 9 research centers, and a zoo. We visited just two, and that had plenty to keep us busy for a very full day. We enjoyed the Museum of Natural History with numerous fossils and animals on exhibit. Of course, I always try to have clear conversations with my kids about Creation when in a place like that. I want others to overhear as well and maybe pause and think about the 'fact' of evolution that is presented. All fossils fit well into a creation, catastrophic flood model. I would love to get to the Creation Museum in Kentucky some time.

The kids loved meeting the Wright Brothers also and getting a first hand glimpse at their real plane (with a new cloth cover, of course). We had just listened to a Story Hour tape about their experiences so this had even more meaning for them.

The Museum of American History was closed for remodeling so we did not get to see that, but did enjoy the other museums that we did visit.

One day we hung out with the Washingtons at their home in Mount Vernon.

Just walking around the estate, it was clear why George Washington loved the location. For those that have never been, or not recently anyway, Mount Vernon was incredible. We could have easily spent the entire day there. So much of the grounds and buildings have been restored to their original splendor. There are also two buildings (air conditioned!) that offer visitors an amazing, in depth look at Washington and the Revolutionary War time period. For some reason I had not realized that the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776, came so long before true independence at the close of the Revolutionary War and another 6 years passed before the first president came to power. Sometimes we blur historical events together and yet nearly 13 years passed between the writing of the Declaration and the swearing in of George Washington.

Mount Vernon also shares much of what happened in those early years of establishing the United States. I enjoyed reliving that time period and seeing so many of the places that hosted these happenings. Totally unimportant, but for some reason interesting nonetheless, they have a set of Washington's dentures on display as well and show the process of making them in those days. His pursed lips in the portrait on our dollar bill? Probably a result of the new dentures he had just received. No wonder older paintings rarely show people's teeth.

Vacation time gave us a closer glimpse into each of our children's lives in a different environment than we usually find ourselves in.

Nathan loved the rocks. Anytime we found ourselves on a gravel pathway, he was on the ground picking up handfuls. We discovered how much Paige loves fountains, and we visited many of them in those few days.

We realized anew Faith's attention to detail. Especially in the Natural History Museum she wanted to see every little thing and find out what it was, why it was there, and what it meant. We spent a long time looking at the detail in many exhibits there.

And, Brooke just loves getting her picture taken. Blake, in the background shows one of his loves, humorous photography. He got some good ones in on our trip.

Of course, our kids might tell you this was their favorite part of our vacation:
All in all, an amazing time. I really enjoyed seeing downtown DC and getting a closer look at our nation's history. The highlight for me was spending time with family and the opportunity to learn more about each other and Washington was a great back drop for doing so.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fresh start

Sometimes a break can be a good thing. After school ended a couple weeks ago we had a week of vacation and then a week of prep time for the summer months. We had a great time traveling as a family and then a good week of getting things caught up and together for our summer school responsibilities. Now, we are ready to settle into work again for a few weeks.

Last night we welcomed our students that will stay with us Sunday through Friday for the next three weeks. With that welcome, we have reached 103 boys that have lived in our home in the past 9 years. Recently we pulled out all the sign in sheets from the past nine years and realized that we had ministered to 99 boys. This summer session put us over the hundred mark as we have four boys staying with us that we have not had in our cottage before.

We do not know now what impact these weeks (or months or years in some cases) with these students will have. We pray that our faith lived out visibly before them as they stay in our home leaves a lasting imprint on their lives. We pray that even those who seem opposed to our beliefs will reconsider at some point in their lives. I would love to see each of them in eternity, but I'm sure I will have to settle for far less than that. We pray for their safety, their futures, their choices. They are not our own children, and yet we have given a part of ourselves to them, and played a small role in the people they will become. If they become 'good' people I will be glad, but the ultimate goal is their ultimate destination. I pray we make an eternal difference in their lives.

For nine years God has led us into this line of 'work' and we have enjoyed much of it. Now, as we face two, three-week sessions of summer school, we face them with the knowledge that they will be our last. We turned in our resignation as houseparents a couple weeks ago and this fall as students return to school, we will have just our five in our home.

I look forward to the opportunities for doing more with my own kids and family, to having a freer schedule, especially on Sunday nights. However, much will be missed. We love what we do. I love looking back over the year and seeing how much each student has grown. Watching them speak on their graduation day about their future plans and know that we played a part in that individual's life. It has not always been easy by any means and sometimes the rewards are foggy, but we have definitely enjoyed our time in this role.

Now, it is time to move on. I don't know what this coming school year will hold. It will be vastly different than our lives for the past nine years. We walk forward changed, different, imprinted by their lives as well.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Verse of the week -- Deuteronomy 6:5

Life is like a bag of chocolates . . .

Too many people find their philosophy for living wherever they can, wherever inspiration hits them. While on vacation, we had a little bag of chocolates that we enjoyed now and then. Each wrapper had a saying printed on the inside, and as I read them, I realized that a lot of people probably buy into the ‘promises’ flaunted in these little packages.

I actually found many of these sayings somewhat offensive. Here is just a sampling:

When two hearts race, both win

Watch reruns, they replay your memories

There’s a time for compromise . . . it’s called later

Temptation is fun . . . giving in is even better

Of course, the outside of the package sums it up, “My moment, my Dove – indulge.” To borrow a bit from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box, er, bag of chocolates.” Here in this seemingly innocent bag of chocolate I found a summation of so much of what is wrong with our society. Living for the moment, for selfish gain, personal indulgence. Rather than some profound truth, I found profound error in this bag of chocolates, surprise, surprise.

While mulling these somewhat repulsive, fortune cookie type writings, I heard Pastor James MacDonald on Walk in the Word and his focus for the day: Selfishness is the opposite of joy. That’s what I needed to hear. The depth of that truth said more than any of those shallow wrappers could teach me. How often do I live for myself and end up unhappy? How often do I grumble about some personal injustice instead of seeking more ways to serve others? How often do I defend my “rights” at an eternal cost?

True joy, peace, thrills, everything good comes only in God and a right relationship with Him. Not living for myself, or some temporary indulgence, but living for Him with all my heart, soul, mind, strength, passions, energy, emotion, focus, and motive. How often do I give just some or most of my strength, soul and mind? He deserves it all and surrendering it ALL to Him will have a dramatic impact on each day of my life and generations to follow.

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

~Deuteronomy 6:5~

Thursday, June 12, 2008

To and from

A little more of our vacation, starting with the trip there and the trip home from DC. On our way out we stopped in Canton, Ohio, which is home to . . .

Anyone know? I'm sure some of you do
- The NFL Hall of Fame:

The boys went (my husband, Blake and Nathan), and apparently the commissioner requires all rookies to visit the hall and get a lesson on the history of the league. So, Charles and the boys got to hang out with some real NFL players and listen to hall of famer Ozzie Newsome give them all the tour and pep talk. Very cool. If you are ever in the area around this time of year, there are often rookies visiting. You can check their website for dates and team listings. They were there the same day as the rookies from the Bills, the Browns and the Patriots.

Early June is a great time to travel, if you are able to. Many students still have classes to finish up and the summer construction season has barely begun. We enjoyed fairly moderate weather on our trip although we did pass through a couple horrendous storms. God protected us through it all without major incident, and with fairly good travel times as well. After four days in DC we decided that we had a little extra time, so we added a stop 'on the way' home. We ran up to Niagara Falls and enjoyed the breathtaking views there.

A little weary from traveling, but enjoying the view nonetheless.

Again, the park was mostly empty and we had no lines to wait in anywhere. We took the Maid of the Mist boat ride and the kids were pretty impressed.

Gotta love the blue ponchos. :-)

The park itself is beautiful also with some wildlife and wonderful flowers and walkways. We spent a few hours there before getting in the car and heading for home (well, after 11 hours of driving, and another night in a hotel).

Pictures do not do the falls justice.

More to come, the final edition . . . Washington DC itself.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Learning from the past

I have been home for a few days, and finally feel like I have a few minutes to blog, and have about 20 pages worth of stuff to say, but don't worry, I jotted my ideas down, and will try to write out a little at a time. I don't have time to type 20 pages, and I'm sure you don't have time to read 20 pages. I started to work through my pictures from vacation, and discovered we had taken 600 pictures! Oh the joy of digital cameras. :-)

Well, needless to say, I will not put up all 600, and they really boil down to about a couple dozen things or so that each of our kids wanted their individual picture taken in front of. So, as I pick out the best pics, I will put them up.

If you haven't been recently, I would definitely recommend a trip to our nation's capital. Walking around and viewing the many monuments, memorials, and buildings, I felt the weight of history on my shoulders. Realizing anew the significance of all that our founding fathers accomplished in bringing about the United States, all that they stood for and built this country on. I truly believe that in order to make sense of our present and build a vision for the future, we must study the foundation laid in the past.

One of my favorite parts of Washington DC: peppered throughout the buildings and monuments you find hundreds of thought provoking quotes. This one, from the outside of the National Archives building remains one of my favorites:

I think vigilance is sorely lacking in our country today, and I think we see that also in the liberties that we have had to give up.

If businessmen remain vigilant in the oversight and integrity of their companies, government doesn't need to regulate them.

If churches and individuals are vigilant to care for the poor, the government doesn't need to tax extra to meet those needs.

If families are vigilant to care for each other, hold each other accountable, and offer support to one another, the government doesn't need to enter our homes to keep the peace.

If we are vigilant to keep others safe and hold a high standard of behavior we don't need government breathing down our neck everywhere we go.

Vigilance is not selfish. It is not looking out for "#1," but rather remaining attentive, always an eye out for danger, ever aware. It seems we have lost that sense of vigilance, and along with it, some of our liberties as well.

Time and again as I walked through the streets and buildings I felt pride in being an American, and yet at the same time, a bit of sorrow at what we have lost along the way. The revival must begin in our hearts and homes, and then spread like wildfire across this land. We have such a rich history to learn from, that has already given us a framework to build upon.

Of course, many clearly desired, and some do still today, to follow the teachings of Scripture and built this nation around it. As Alexis De'Tocqueville said (you remember this, right, Rachel?), "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." That pretty well sums it up.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Food for Life

Over the last few years the diet in our household has changed considerably. We have worked to incorporate more and more fresh fruits and vegetables into the menu, looked for nutrient dense foods that are also highly digestible, and continue to eliminate preservatives and other additives from our daily food choices. As with everything, our motivation is to honor God. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we should offer them daily as living sacrifices to Him. What we eat and how we treat our bodies is just another form of worship.

In this journey toward better health I have found that a garden makes this easier, more convenient, and more affordable. Just this week I picked some of the first greens from our garden this year.

I made this beautiful and yummy salad:

And added a handful of beet greens and lettuce leaves to my traditional Sunday morning smoothie:
Can you even see all that hiding in there?

Within hours of being pulled from the earth these vegetables were nourishing our bodies. Here is one of many informative articles that I found on the benefits of eating food straight from the ground. My sister studied in Spain for a few months and found that people there visited the market at least once a day, buying and eating very freshly picked produce. That doesn't fit our urbanized society, but the nutrition benefits in fresh picked, prepared and eaten food is incomparable. Eating food close to the source is a challenge I enjoy seeking out.

Even if you don't have room for a garden it is easy to plant a row of lettuce and everyday pick some leaves for a fresh salad. I also like that when I grow it on my own I know that no chemicals have touched its leaves. Even 25 percent of organic produce has some chemicals used on it (as compared to 75 percent of conventional), so the only way I know what I am getting is to grow it at home.

Aside from what we grow, I work to keep the house stocked with lots of healthy choices. The kids love chopped fruit that they make their own skewer for a snack. We even work in a math lesson here with patterning. Cantaloupe, grape, watermelon, cherry . . .

Nutrition for us, and most, is a journey and a continual pathway of decisions and small changes to eat better today than we did yesterday. To live is Christ, and this is a small way that our family can stay healthy to have as many years as possible to serve Him before we get to the 'die is gain' part.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Verse of the week -- Philippians 4:11-13

A familiar passage came to mind today. Philippians 4 starting in verse 11 says, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

I have learned (and continue to learn) to be content . . .

- whether in the hot, sticky heat or the freezing cold snow-day

- whether in times of marital bliss, or the times of challenging growth

- whether in light bulb moments or necessary repetition of basics

- whether in days of controlled chaos, or days of sweet flowing order

- whether in meals of hormone free steak or dried beans and rice

- whether in new minivans or hand-me-down station wagons

- whether in bugs and lizards or in climate controlled quarters

- whether in open schedules with lots of discretionary time or with demands placed on each moment

- whether in dreams come true or hopes delayed

- whether in child birth or loss

- whether in triumphs of my strengths or the overwhelming of my weaknesses

- whether the children obey or need continued instruction

- whether the bank account expands or diminishes

The secret to finding contentment in each situation is Christ alone, alive in me. In His strength I can do all He has called me to and through. I have not arrived when it comes to contentment by any means, but each day I find strength in Him to make that choice, to choose contentment, to live for Him on the mountain top and in the valley. Whether others see my circumstance as a success or failure is irrelevant. Contentment should carry me through as I rely on Him who strengthens me.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

~Philippians 4:11-13~

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Home again

Something about pulling in the road to our house after an extended leave . . .

anticipating our own beds, blankets and pillows

picking up the pile of mail and searching for personal letters in the midst of all the junk mail

seeing neighbors and friends that we had left behind

traveling once again that familiar path towards home.

We just returned from an 8 day vacation to Washington DC and Niagara Falls (that was not originally in the plan). After 40 hours of driving, 8 days and 7 nights of sharing everything (beds, rooms, water bottles, socks, etc.), hours of walking and exploring new sites, learning about ourselves, our country and each other, and growing closer together through shared experiences, we are once again home.

I wrote a few posts before leaving to be published while I was gone. Hopefully that helped fill the void while I was away from home and computer. I have so much to share from the trip, other thoughts, and exciting upcoming activities in our household, but for the next day or two, I just need to catch up on everything that needs to be settled back into, and enjoy the comfortable feeling of home.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

How does your garden grow?

For a third year we have planted a garden, learned so much each year. The first year we could not believe how much grew despite our ignorance, and I continue to marvel at God's creative plan that each plant would reproduce after its kind. We share this rather large plot with three other families. Sharing works well because we each have our favorites, and different schedules, but working toward a common goal.

Already this year we have picked baby spinach leaves. My two year old kept coming back for more. They are incredible!

Won't this lettuce make a beautiful salad? I can't wait, just another week or two . . .

More mixed greens. They are loving this cool spring we continue to enjoy here.

And, a unique plant, the Jerusalem artichoke (the big ones in the middle -- ignore the multitude of weeds around). These come back each year and can be harvested all winter. I got a couple starters from my mom this year and will have to work to contain them in the corner of the garden, but they provide an interesting vegetable kind of like jicama if eaten raw, and similar to potatoes, with a little crispness, when cooked.

This time of year is always a bit of 'where's-waldo' looking for wanted growth in the midst of all the weeds, but it gets better and is worth the effort. You don't get more nutrient dense than straight from the non-chemically treated garden.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Another school year gone by

A quick shot from our end of the school your military drill and ceremony. The boys always look so spiffy in their dress blues. Our school isn't a military school, per se, but there is a military component to our program and they have a drill practice each week to help them work together and prepare for this annual competition.

All kids seem to thrive with clear expectations and structure. With maturity comes additional responsibilities and freedom, but that all must be earned. Working in this more structured environment has helped us in our own parenting to make sure our expectations, are clear, high, and still attainable.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Verse of the week -- I John 4:18

Fear sometimes controls our thoughts, holds us back from God's great love for us. Love and fear cannot coexist. We should clothe ourselves in humility, gentleness, self control, and faith, but not fear.

Fear can precipitate failure, limitations, depression, worry, and timidity. When we rest in God's great love for us we recognize that in His great power, we can live without fear. I John 4:18 tells us that fear involves punishment. We don't live with punishment though, because Christ willingly took our punishment.

When we realize that our place is secure in God's love we also realize that fear has no place there. We may still give into it at times because our fallen nature answers its persistent knocking, but God continues to perfect us, and draw us out of that fear.

I love that I serve a God that knows me, knows my needs, my weaknesses, my faults, and loves me anyway, seeing me as worth working on despite all of that. Understanding the depth of His love will take me until eternity, but I do know it is always deeper than what I need, and always strong enough to surrender my fears to. His love is that perfect love.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

~I John 4:18~