Monday, July 6, 2015

// This Desert Place //

/Embracing the Wilderness Journey/


Imagine the desert. Hot, vast, dry, endless. Shortly after a miraculous journey out of Egypt where Israel experienced the hand of our Father and witnessed many signs and wonders, they were headed to the beautiful promised land that G-d had prepared for them. But the people, they lost focus and vision just as we all tend to do and despite the miracles that they experienced, they started complaining. Again. The mana. The heat. The water supply. They complained about it all. G-d's faithfulness introduced a detour into: this desert place. A time of b'midbar/ reestablishing order. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years; a season where G-d steadily refined their lives and hearts, slowly realigning them to Himself. He gave them Torah, the blueprint of how to live all because of his Chesed//love//covenant faithfulness for His chosen people: Israel. In their wilderness journey, the Father was preparing them for the incredible blessing of the promised land.


Just as the Israelites needed to be ready for their journey to the Promised Land, we too need to be ready for our journey back to the garden - our Promised Land in the Messiah. 
{The desert: A place specially intended to change perspective...when you have nothing, you realize how much you had. When you have nothing of this world or dreams are buried, you realize that still you have all that you need in YHWH. You give thanks. You begin to see again how active and faithful the Father is in life when things are good AND when things are hard}

This place of reestablishing order? This desert place? That is where I'm at. This place that from a human perspective feels so lonely, uncertain and sometimes hopeless? It's where He has me. Because He knew that it was this wilderness journey that I needed in order to realize that I'm not alone. To see the holy in the midst of pain. To experience the gift of the wilderness journey. It has caused me to reach deeper than ever before to find shalom in the Father. A place where I find unquenchable thirst for truth and holiness. The loneliness? The sorrow? Heart desires that are being taken away during the wilderness journey? It isn't easy - the heat of the desert is there and real. Tears flow just like water did from the rock that Moshe' struck. But in this refining fire, the Father promises:

"Don't be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I am calling you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through water, I will be with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you will not be scorched - the flame will not burn you." -Isaiah 43:1-2
Indeed the desert experience is not one of comfort, but one of growth. 

A time to make priorities straight, a time to recognize the True purpose of life, a time to grow in ways that I never imagined. A time to study and cling to G-d's covenant that He gave so long ago at Mount Sinai.

During the wandering are we opening our hearts and listening?

"The Torah of Adonai is perfect, restoring the inner person. The instruction of Adonai is sure, making wise the thoughtless. The precepts of Adonai are right, rejoicing the heart. The mitzvah of Adonai is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Adonai is clean, enduring forever. The rulings of Adonai are true, they are righteous altogether, more desirable than gold, than much fine gold, also sweeter than honey or drippings from the honeycomb." Psalm 19:8-11.


This desert place, the Father offers to you also. Will you embrace the wilderness journey?

"Even if you fail to conquer darkness entirely, even if you are still rolling in the mud with the enemy - you can still find G-d in the struggle itself. After all, He is not only light, He is darkness as well."
-Rebbe Schneerson

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

| Chedvah | Joy |

There are days in life that are sunny side up. You know, the ones where it's easy to choose simchah (joy|happiness|mirth) because life is smooth sailing, finances, relationships and jobs are going to plan and you feel as if you are living the dream and reaping the "desires of your heart". A hundred b'racha (blessings) each day are so easily offered up to the Father and indeed, choosing that joy is simple because in our human eyes, life is tov (good).  

But also in life, there are days full of loneliness, heartbreak, difficulty, transition, change and sadness. Challenges that rise up, causing the rubber to meet the road and this is where the real testing of our faith comes in. Can we run the race with endurance? Can we see that even in the storms of life, it is also tov? That in the difficulty rises an even greater opportunity for blessing and giving thanks? 

"Regard it all as joy, my brothers, when you face various kinds of temptations; for you know that the testing of your trust produces perseverance." James 1:2&3

 Some days we have to seek harder, look further and reach higher for Shalom (peace) and for Chedvah (joy). Joy is a choice; some days it comes easily while other days it needs to be worked for.

In the Jewish culture, it is custom derived from the Talmud to say 100 Blessings (b'racha) a day. It is a way of remembering the source of all goodness and cultivates a mindset of thankfulness. Speaking a b'racha establishes a person's proper perspective. It declares that YHWH is the King of the universe. He is blessed. He is praised. He is tov.

||Choosing joy is giving thanks||

Speaking life and blessing is choosing joy. It is actively deciding to focus on what we do have instead of what we don't. It is finding good in the mundane or even the loneliness and difficulty and elevating our perspective to recognize and see all the good in the world. It is acknowledging all of the daily gifts that are so easily taken for granted but indeed are miracles and wonders given each day. A new day of life, the ability to hear, speak, walk.
"I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man that had no feet" - Author Unknown
Saying these 100 blessings a day, it cultivates ground for joy, it fosters a place for shalom and it transforms our eyes from seeing life as mundane and common place to a Spiritual perspective. A platform of hope. Choosing joy and being positive despite our circumstances is aligning our perspective to the Father's.

"In everything give thanks, for this is what G-d wants from you who are united with Messiah Yeshua." 1 Thessalonians 5:18
"Yah is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." Exodus 15:2
"I will extol the L-rd at all times, his praise will continually be in my mouth." Psalm 34:1

Choose joy!

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu!
Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

When will my life begin? -- a lesson from Tangled


"Stuck in the same place I've always been
I just keep wanderin' and wanderin' and
wanderin' and wanderin' 
when will my life begin?"
-Tangled

I have heard the myth of "my life hasn't started yet" often since I graduated high school and entered the new phase of questions life.



You graduate high school and "just like that", the consistency is gone. No more of the steady continuation of doing the next chapter in a math or science book. Until advanced education courses start (or whatever path that G-d is leading you down) you inevitably begin to ask "what's next?" "what is purpose?" "and what is purpose-filled?" "when will my life begin"? You cry out to G-d asking Him to Show you the path of Life (Ps. 16:11) and questions rise far quicker than conclusions are reached!

This post-graduation truth quest, though internally challenging at times, is an incredible blessing. The temptation is there to ask "when will my life begin"? And start to subconsciously insert "maybe when I get this job" or "maybe when I get married" etc. but the truth is that our life began at conception. It doesn't start with the new good job, marriage, a college degree, a dream house etc. (although all those things can be blessings and good). Our life began at conception!

Embrace the searching, knowing that it produces growth. But don't let it cause you to waste the moments that you're living now. Enjoy them, use them, fill them with meaning and purpose. Prepare for the tasks that the Heavenly Father has laid on your heart and as Proverbs says, get wisdom.

Use the season of questions to search deeper into what you believe - talk with parents, get together with mentors and most importantly, search the Word of G-d. Remember that each day is a blessing from the Father to serve and glorify Him, to use the talents and opportunities that He has given us for Him. To make even the most mundane of tasks a living sacrifice to Him...(do all things to the glory of the Father). Your task might be small - but if you do it with joy as unto the L-rd, then you have done well, faithful servant.

Ultimately, let the questions lead you to the foot of the cross. Realizing that without our Heavenly Father we are nothing but with Him we have purpose in life! Our life began at conception and our spiritual life with acceptance and belief that He is our guide and Savior on this beautiful life journey, where He guides us with His commandments, precepts and the Holy Spirit.

With G-d we don't keep wandering, because our life has begun. In Him, our purpose is fulfilled, our questions answered, our hope found. What a privilege and joy to walk day by day in His guidance and always in His grace.


"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go." -Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Embracing a New Perspective for the Coming Season

A cool breeze flowed through the kitchen window as I washed dishes at the sink. I could see the trees, their leaves changing to warm, cozy colors of red, yellow and brown. Preparations for the coming winter were well under way; piles of wood being chopped and stacked, garden tilled under, chimney cleaned and just one more batch of applesauce in the canner to add to the rows of preserved summer bounty.



Taking a deep breath, my mind thought over a list -- partially crossed off, yet still long with what needs doing before the snow flies. Pulling my sweater tight, I thought for a brief moment, how lovely it would be to skip the cold winter and head right into Spring again...with all the warm weather, goat kids, budding trees and a newly planted garden that it brings. Not that I'm against winter and snow - I do love the snow and of course a good pair of carhartts. But why, I wondered, the cold for so long?

No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, that the Lord refreshed my perspective to be able to see His wisdom in blessing us with the cold winter months, realizing that it is a season of rest for the ground and for the farmers. A short window of time where we can pull up a chair by the fire to enjoy a good book and a family gathered around the table working on puzzles.


I began to see a bigger picture of embracing each season. Spring for it's new life, Summer for the growing season, Fall for preservation and harvest and Winter for rest. Each play a vital role in the circle of life. God has graciously arranged the seasons to change -- that we won't grow weary in His creation. but instead never cease to marvel at His glory and nature.

That moment at the kitchen sink, I determined to embrace the coming season of rest -- viewing it as a time of refreshment instead of waste. And through the lens of thankfulness I learned to embrace each season to it's fullest.

Here's to a restful winter, full of puzzles, hot chocolate and family time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

{ My Mini Farm-Girls in Training }

{forgive me as I take a moment to boast about my little sis's...#proudbigsister}

My little sisters love doing barn chores with me. Morning or night, these little farm-girls-in-training sit on the side of a stanchion, legs dangling, while I milk and we chat...they learn how to milk the goats too (and amuse themselves by squirting the dog with milk)...they ask questions like there is no tomorrow and soak up the answers. They can tell you why we routinely dip with iodine before and after milking, and their little eyes watch the goat herd closely for any signs of illness that they learn about. 
They know it needs to be caught and cared for right away! 


Those little sweetie pies thrilled my heart tonight as they joined me in the barn and started working. Without my asking, they just showed initiative and did! At 6 and 4 years old, they saw a need and they met it. Those girls picked up a broom and some pitch forks, and not only did they make a tremendous difference in the barn yard mess, they giggled, laughed, talked and had fun as they swept and cleaned up. 


Their eyes danced with delight as they asked if they "made my day"? 
....actually, honey, you girls made my week. 

One of the many things that my parents have done just right is that they've trained each kiddo at an early age to work hard and persevere. 
That's not to say that we don't deal with laziness or a host of other issues - we do! 
But I am grateful...very, very grateful for the time that my Mom spent with us, showing us how to wash a floor well. Bless her heart, she looks back now and feels bad that every Monday Josh and I grabbed our wash buckets and rags, and scrubbed...and I'll tell you what, at seven years old we found every hidden pencil, penny and crayon. It taught us to be thorough as we hunted for those items. 
As simple as it may seem, that lesson has remained with both of us.

Now I watch three of my little sisters as they learn how to be good workers. This summer they had a great time picking peas each day, and have the current responsibility of raising our layer pullets. I proudly watched (concealed by a barn beam) as Natalie grabbed a paper towel and went the extra mile to clean the waterer for her chick project. 


One great joy of being an older sister, is to watch them discover how fun it is to be responsible. To exceed expectations, and learn. All of my siblings love to learn. And when I have the privilege of sharing what my Momma taught me...it's an extra blessing. 

Thank you Mom and Dad, for teaching and training your children in all of the above. It is my prayer to some day pass along the same virtues to the next generation. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Snapshots from the Farm

This Spring has witnessed some delightful farm progress as Caleb helped me fix our pasture so that the does could have daily grazing access. I'm so grateful for his help and that the animals can enjoy the outdoors; possibly as much as I enjoy seeing them out in the pasture! 

My only wish was that my favorite doe, Tenn, could have lived 1 week longer to fully enjoy the beautiful outdoors herself. 
{my morning "hello" for the past 4 years ~ neither she or her twins made it after an extremely traumatic birth}

 {fencing}

{Tori and fellow herd-mates loving the fresh grass}

{Tahala on the right; another favorite!}

{incredible weather}

 {loving the new territory}

{a view from the pasture}

Even though there have been some very difficult losses encountered, a walk around the farm gave me plenty to be grateful for. The new goat pasture, good rain this year, progeny from Tenn, our garden planted early... I'll miss feeding my doe her favorite snack of tortilla chips, and scratching her chin each morning...that was a special memory of growing up with the responsibility of animals. But there is still more to learn, and determination over-flows as I look forward to improving the genetic line that remains. 

In everything give thanks. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dinner for a Chilly Day

Recently upon talking with a friend on health and cooking verses sweets and baking, I was again inspired to work on finding delicious dinner recipes for the family. Since it is still chilly weather in our area, soup continues to be a meal staple and I turned to this recipe with some alterations to make a delicious and hearty dinner:

Beef and Barley Soup

Photo Credit
2T. Olive Oil
3 Onions, minced
1/4c. Tomato Paste
1T. Fresh Thyme, minced or 3/4t. dried
1/2c. Beef or Chicken Stock
1 (28oz) can Crushed Tomatoes
4c. Beef Broth (can substitute Chicken)
4 Carrots, chopped
1c. Mushrooms
2c. Spinach, chopped
1/3c. Soy Sauce
1/2c. Barley
2 pounds Beef steak, trimmed

Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, tomato paste, and thyme and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of Beef stock and transfer to slow cooker. 

I made a rue to add some creaminess and thickness (it made a huge difference in the soup - I would highly suggest it). Start by browning about 1/4c. Butter in a sauce pan, whisk in 1/4c. Flour and slowly stir in about 2 cups of milk or broth - you may need a little more. Once smooth and creamy, add to the crockpot.

Stir tomatoes, beef broth, carrots, mushrooms, soy sauce and barley into slow cooker. Season beef with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 on high. 

Transfer beef to cutting board and shred into bite size pieces. Add spinach to slow cooker along with the meat. 

Taste before serving to see if you need any additional seasonings. If you need more broth in your soup, just add water. 

Enjoy~

*I doubled this recipe for our family of 10.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oh, to be Five again...

Swinging. 


That one word brings back a host of memories. Not only was swinging a favorite pastime from when I was younger, it might have been where my momma discovered that her good little girl had a touch of the naughty side as well. Oops.

Now I give my three youngest sisters under-dogs on the swing set...watching them play happily brings back many memories.


Right now they just enjoy our little life on the farm. They named the three chicks that hatched Alma, Maud and Ethel. So sweet.


 They dress up in their "hoop skirts" and set up a Civil War Camp with old cast iron pots and lots of sticks.
All three of them have wonderful imaginations that get put to work in their creative play and they learn a lot. Mom especially, reads them all kinds of books - she did that for Josh and me too. We sat in the living room every day and colored or did a craft while mom read. For a while, one of our favorite story books was "Roxaboxen" - we set up a cardboard box village in our basement, made gardens around the houses and a graveyard - just like the story.  Memories like that make me wish I was five again...

The girls find much joy in every little detail of life...that is something that I don't ever want to out-grow.


They remind me not to rush life, but to enjoy every moment of the day.

There's not a tree next to our current swing set, so I can't try and touch the maple leaves with my toes like I used to...but last night, I swung high on our swing set with many memories of what the Lord has blessed me with and I am so grateful.



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Company Dinner Rolls

Add these "healthy" Company Dinner Rolls to a delicious dinner of homemade soup...yum!



Ingredients:

2 1/2c. Warmed Water (115 degrees F.)
1c. Cracked Seven Grain
1 1/2 T. SAF Instant Yeast
1/4c. Butter, softened
4T. Vital Gluten (optional)
4T. Dry Milk Powder
1/4c. Honey
1 Egg
2t. Salt
5-6c. {Freshly ground} Whole Wheat Flour

Combine warmed water, cracked seven grain and yeast. Sponge (let sit) for 15-30 minutes.

Add egg, butter, honey, dry milk powder, salt and vital gluten to the mixture on low speed.

Gradually add enough additional whole wheat flour until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Avoid adding too much flour, as that will make the roll too tough.

Knead the dough until the gluten is fully developed (5-8 minutes).

Raise dough for 30 minutes. Punch down dough and shape into rolls, by oiling your hands and shaping 1/4 cup-fulls of dough into balls. Place closely together but not touching onto greased baking sheets.

Allow the rolls to raise until doubled in size, at least one hour.

Bake @ 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Yields 30-36 rolls.

Monday, February 20, 2012

She Extends her Hand to Bless

Last year during the early Summer, I was blessed to fellowship over lunch with a very sweet acquaintance.

As we shared what the Lord was teaching us, and later discussed new sewing projects for the rest of the year, I excitedly shared that Mom was expecting my 8th sibling...along the lines of sewing, mom and I had planned to make up cloth diapers and some baby slings. And of course, I was also excited about the fact that I wouldn't have to try out for Beauty and the Beast, a rather large giant of mine (fear) because I'd be at home helping Mom and holding an adorable little baby instead (a much better alternative!).

Over those few hours, we had a lot of encouraging conversations and I came away refreshed from talking with another young lady who loves the Lord and also has a vision for homemaking.

A few short weeks later, there was a knock on the door, and I was surprised to see Laura, arms loaded with delicious loaves of homemade bread, jam and a baby gift. She and her Mom had a heart to bless our family and wanted to bring some baked goods each month throughout my Mom's pregnancy...unknown to her, my little sibling had already entered into the gates of Heaven. It was an awkward situation, yet Laura was so sweet.

Just a month later, Laura called, and asked if she could please continue to bring baked goods, as it was something that they would really like to do. So each month, Laura has taken time out of her busy schedule and lovingly made and delivered delicious goodies.


My family and I have been blessed by not only her delicious gifts, but most of all Laura's beautiful example of a young lady who saw a way that she could bless us, and faithfully did so. Thank you, Laura!

"She extends her hand to the "poor", yes, she reaches out her hands to the "needy"."
Proverbs 31:20

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Her First Pie!

When organizing our over-flowing box of recipe cards, I came across a recipe for an easy and yummy Cranberry Pie. A simple yet delicious success, it is a great recipe for every aspiring chef.

 Requests being made frequently to help in the kitchen, Laura came running when she heard that I needed help...

and she made her very first pie!

Cranberry Pie
8oz. Cream Cheese, softened 
{made fresh from our abundance of real milk}
1c. Powdered Sugar
16oz. Jellied or Whole-berry Cranberry Sauce
8oz. Whipped Topping 
{made fresh from our abundance of real milk}
2 Graham Cracker Crusts {8"} Pie Shells

First she beat the cream cheese and sugar together and performed a taste test {I never need to ask her to do that!}. Then the little peanut opened the Cranberry sauce and stirred into the cream cheese and sugar mixture. {Taste test again}. I taught her how to {gently} fold in whipped topping and then we spooned the filling into the crusts {taught her a little math here: you have to split the filling in half to make two pies}. After tasting one last time, she put the lids on and we brought them to the freezer ~ until serving. 


What a happy little homemaker she is - and feels so successful, too.
Good job, Laura!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Joy in Homemaking

The opportunities that we have as homemakers-in-training are abounding everywhere we look. 
Whether a daily task such as laundry folding, a weekly culinary duty such as baking bread, a bi-weekly errand to the grocery store or a seemingly "mundane" job (like scrubbing the household toilets), we have every opportunity imaginable to exercise and practice skills while we are yet "in training".

But there is more to being a homemaker, than the jobs which we can do. It has to do with our hearts. And it is our choice. Will we perform our homemaker duties with joy and delight in each task (which includes scrubbing the crummiest of toilets), or will we choose to frown upon these daily opportunities? Will we choose a servants heart or will we try to minimize the effect of being a blessing?

We can make a whole house sparkle from top to bottom but if our heart isn't full of love from Christ, then that perfect house means nothing. We can make a delicious supper for our family, or run an errand for Mom, but if our hearts are grumbling then our act that could have been a blessing, means nothing.



We can garden, can, clean, sew, take care of babies, run errands, meet every agricultural farm need, whip out loads of laundry in lightning speed, and make a mean pot of soup BUT if our heart is not thankful to the Lord for the blessing of being a homemaker in training, if we are not grateful and full of joy at our Proverbs 31 calling, then what a waste of the opportunity that the Lord gives us as women! 

The choice is yours - do you find joy in being a homemaker?

Monday, December 26, 2011

{From our Farm}



So many memories from 2011 - many wonderful times and a handful of difficult trials; all drawing me closer to my Heavenly King. What a year! Thank you Lord for each day, each trial, each memory, each refining fire.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies


2/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter softened
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
2 cups flour
Raspberry Jam (seedless)

Glaze:
1 cup powder sugar
1-1/2 tsp Almond Extract
2 or 3 tsp water

Heat oven to 350.  In a large bowl combine sugar, butter and almond extract.  Beat on medium speed scraping bowl often until creamy (1 to 2 minutes)  Add flour and mix in, being careful to not over-stir.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  With thumb, make indent in center of each cookie.  Fill each with about 1/4 tsp of jam.  Bake for 12 to 16 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.  Let stand 1 minute and remove from cookie sheet; cool completely. 


In small bowl, stir powder sugar and almond extract.  Gradually add enough water for a thin glaze.  Drizzle glaze over each cooled cookie. 

Double the recipe and share with friends and neighbors!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Swimming Upstream

There was never a defining moment for me when I "made the decision" to be a homemaker. The fact was always simple in my mind: that God gave me the deep desire to be a wife and mother...and somewhere along the years I decided that my own dear Momma was the one who would teach me best how to be a Godly wife and homemaker, not an institution.



I did not anticipate the many questions from well meaning friends, family and even strangers to whom my conviction, if you will, didn't make sense. Never did I imagine the difficulty in trying to explain what I hope for! Suddenly my cheeks burned red in embarrassment as I found myself telling many accomplished business women that "I want to be a wife and mother".  Why was it suddenly just. plain. hard.?  Because the world continually whispers in our ear that we need to go to college, have a thriving career, fancy car, money in the bank, vacations galore, or you name it to be "successful".  

If you are a young lady who feels led by the Lord to be a keeper at home, stand firm! Please, do not be discouraged.

Dear Ladies, treasure the precious gift that God gave each and every one of you. That of femininity and grace: the beautiful role of wife and motherhood. Never be ashamed of the sacred calling which no amount of money can purchase, no college can prepare for, no vacations will shape. 


Cherish the days and years of preparation as you learn to be a Godly homemaker! Be showered with patience while attempting to explain to well-meaning questioners your future, and the joy that you have found in this upstream vision. As you stand in the river with a strong current pushing against you, may you be blessed with a radiant and contagious joy for the incredible position as a wife and homemaker that you will one day fill {Lord willing}.