There's Mail From Mom!

Wouldn't it be nice to have a letter from mom in the mailbox each time you checked it? Here's a place to check your mailbox for a heart-to-heart talk with mom...

Thursday, December 9, 2010



I truly believe the song line that says "It's the most wonderful time of the year..".  I love the season of Christmas.  I begin celebrating before Thanksgiving but I keep it a secret because my husband doesn't want to hear a peep about Christmas till after Thanksgiving!
  This year I told the children that between the fact that I wasn't even sure where our Christmas decorations were and that we were going to be gone part of the Christmas season we were only going to get out the tree and decorate it and nothing else.
  Well, Gary and the kids brought down the boxes from the attic and as we went through them it was, "Oh, we've got got get out the nativity set, Mom." and "Aren't you going to put the snow village out." and "You know every year you decorate the cabinet." and "Whose going to kill any mice we might get during Christmas if the nutcrackers aren't out?"  Being the very-sentimental woman that I am the next thing you know I had everything out except one box of snowmen I couldn't find!  So much for not getting anything out but the Christmas tree items.  I have to admit when I sit at night and look at it all I'm very glad I didn't listen to myself!
  And what is my personal favorite?  Well, I love the nutcrackers.  Asher loved them when he was little and one at a time they showed up as gifts for him from his grandparents.  The only one that doesn't belong to him is the mouse king.  He showed up on the last day of the pocket calendar as a grand finale a couple years ago. 
  We love the story of the nutcracker and our cartoon version is just about my favorite Christmas movie.  Every year if we get a mouse in the house during the Christmas season it shows up dead at the feet of our nutcrackers--but the nutcrackers are not my favorite Christmas decoration.
  I love the pocket calendar.  It began when the older children were little.  I made a homely little pocket calendar with 25 pockets and each day a little surprise or promise note showed up in the pocket.  It was put there by Ralph our resident Christmas elf.  He has been known to fix toys, hide treats and generally be a true fun friend to have in the house for the month of December.  Alicia was certain when she was little that she saw him moving through  the branches of our Christmas tree.  I really think she still is a firm believer in Ralph! :)  But the pocket calendar isn't my favorite Christmas decoration!
  I also love my Hoosier cabinet decorations.  It started with just a few and grew till the whole cabinet top was filled with Christmas each year.  One year I thought it was a little too much and decided I wasn't going to do the cabinet any more.  Alicia was already married but let me know that it wouldn't be Christmas without the cabinet being decorated-so it still is.  However, the cabinet is not my personal favorite.
   I love the snow village.  It is made up of little houses that are mostly from thrift stores and Big Lots and Dollar General stores.  We have more than one church with little carolers in front of them.  (The ones at the nicer church look a little uppity to me in their choir robes!)  We have a banker stepping out of the bank looking at his watch.  (We call him Jimmy. :)  We have a barn and it front of it are men working on cutting wood and blacksmithing.  We have a toy store, a post office, and a fire house.  We love them all and call it Nealville.  However, the snow village is not my favorite decoration.
   I love all my cozy kitchen decorations.  I have a swag with antique ornaments attached with homespun, lots of cute little snowmen, little children that sit in my kitchen window decorated in red and green, and lots of snowmen but these aren't my favorite Christmas decorations.

  My very, very favorite decoration is our nativity set.  It is composed of cheap, not-so-cheap and Fontanini.  Mary and Joseph have a home made from foam core and Bethlehem's barn is a book given to me when our older children were very little.  However, I love it because it is the theme of the month for me.
  It begins with Nazareth which is in my living room right now behind my chair.  During the move the floor disappeared so this year their home is extremely shabby, but they don't care.  One day a Roman soldier shows up to their little home and leaves a notice from Caesar on their door--they must go to be taxed.  So they put a bedroll on their donkey and begin the long trek across the living room to Bethlehem. (Which is in the kitchen this year.)

  Bethlehem is on the dry sink in the kitchen and is made up of a stable, a large star (that doesn't light up till Christmas Eve), a shop keeper, soldiers, some residents, a palm tree and animals.  The manger is empty and stays that way till Christmas Eve.  Nearby is a hilly area with shepherds watching their sheep by their campfires. 

  I love it when they all end up gathered around the newborn Jesus and the star is shining above it all.  How perfect.  The wise men even show up to worship even though I am fully aware their timing is off when compared to the Bible.  But we can't keep the nativity set out long enough to let them do it accurately!

   So far this Christmas season we've had all our hearts could desire and more.  It has snowed and given us a picture postcard yard for one day, I've been able to bake and play in the kitchen, I've been enjoying creating little gifts for my loved ones, have been able to smock a beautiful new dress for my latest grandchild who is coming to join us December 15th and have even stayed on track in working ahead in school so we're not behind when we come home from our trip!  Thank You Lord for all Your blessings and help!

   And just to think--this is just the beginning of this wonderful season!  I am looking forward to the many things we still have to do.   We're taking my mother-in-law to see the lights in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg and visit Hammers Dept. Store, we're going to be making a trip as a family to see my Idaho grandbabies and our newest little granddaughter, I still have lots of ideas floating around in my head that I hope I have time to carry out, cookies and candies to make, wonderful once-a-year food to cook and Christmas books to read and movies to view. 
  Above all, it's a time to thank the Lord for coming to earth in human form that He might save us from our sins!  Thank You, thank You, thank You!
  I pray that you're having a wonderful holiday season and savoring every sight, smell, future memory, and every moment with your loved ones.  May God bless each one of you and grant you a Christ-filled, joyous holiday season.

With love,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving is almost here...

  I love the entire holiday season and my husband loves the holiday that is coming up next week-Thanksgiving.   Because he loves it so I love to make Thanksgiving extra special for him.  This Thanksgiving we're going to have our oldest daughter Niki, her husband Brian and their two little ones with us, my dad and  Lela and her daughter Esther and Uncle Mike (Shockley) with us.  I'll love every moment of it.  (Though I wish I could blink and have every child and grandchild gathered into my kitchen.)
   We have the old faithful recipes that we cannot imagine a holiday dinner without---Turkey and dressing, Swiss Medley, Sweet Potato Casserole, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Cheeseball and crackers, hot rolls, pecan pie and some kind of cheesecake for dessert. (This year is a toss up trying to decide between Pumpkin Praline and Reese Cup Cheesecake.) 
  I also like to try something new each year.  This year I'm trying two new recipes.  My pecan pie is going to be a chocolate pecan pie.  Esther brought me some really, really nice Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips and I decided to use one bag for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas.  So they're going to find their way into a chocolate pecan pie.  Then I found a recipe for some Cranberry Crumb Bars that sounds wonderful and very Thanksgiving-ish so I'm trying them.  Have to make lots of desserts so I can share!
  So how about an old recipe and a new recipe?  For the old I'm going to give you the Sweet Potato Casserole.  I'm sure many of you have had it since it's a Southern recipe, but till I moved south I had only had the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top and I took just enough to be polite.  But when I tasted this one I was hooked, begged for the recipe shamelessly and made everyone that came to my house try it if it was on the table.  I've had more than one person that swore they hated sweet potatoes decide they hated sweet potatoes and loved this casserole and had one person tell me that if it wasn't bad manners they'd lick the pan when it was gone!  So here's my sweet potato casserole recipe given to me back in 1987!

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup margarine
Mix well.  Pour into shallow buttered casserole. (I use a 9x13 pan.)
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/3 cup margarine
  Blend flour and sugar well and sprinkle on top.  Mix nuts and butter and sprinkle on top.
  (I mix all of the ingredients into one bowl instead of doing it separately like the recipe says.)  Bake at 350
degrees for 30 minutes.
I usually make this the day ahead and store it in the fridge so all I have to do is pop it in the oven.  I usually set it out in the morning and let it get to room temperature.  If not you have to give it a little extra baking time!

Now for my new recipe this year:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup cold margarine
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 T. corn starch
1 T. brown sugar
1 can (16 oz.) whole berry cranberry sauce
1/3 cup flour
2 T. brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter or margarine
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (I'm going to use pecans.)
  In bowl, combine flour and powdered sugar, cut in the butter until crumbly..  Press in a 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until light brown.  Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees.
   In bowl, beat cream cheese till smooth.  Add milk and lemon juice; mix well. Pour over crust.
   In bowl, combine corn starch and brown sugar.  Stir in cranberry sauce till combined.  Spoon over cream cheese layer.
   For topping, combine flour and brown sugar.  Cut in butter.  Fold in nuts.  Sprinkle over filling.
  Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes till topping is golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.  Cover and chill for 3 hours before cutting.  Yield: 12-15 servings. 
  I think they sound (and they looked) yummy!  If my 55 year old brain can retain this thought, I'll try to post pictures of both of these after Thanksgiving! 
  I am so thankful for the Lord's tender care of me all these years, I'm thankful for the wonderful, wonderful marriage He's given me, the children He gave us and then the bonus children He gave us, for giving me faith to believe Him and to trust His word, for the new truths He gives me every day in His word.
  I've been thinking of other things this last couple weeks...I've thought so much of my children and all they've taught me, for the blessing of seeing my grown children in church and serving the Lord with all their hearts, for the blessing of seeing my grandchildren receive Christ as their Saviour, I've thought of my brother and sisters and how precious they are to me and what wonderful memories I have of my life with them, of my nieces and nephews and just little snippets of memories have come floating back, (like MaryBeth staying with me after my foot surgery to help me), I've thought of so many people that have been used of the Lord to refresh Gary and I spiritually at just the right time, of my parents and my in-laws, of friends who have remained faithful to us through the years and the list could go on and on and on....
  I read aloud to our children at breakfast this week Abraham Lincoln's proclamation   concerning Thanksgiving.  In it he makes sure the people know it is God who they had to thank for their blessings and God who they should fear for His judgment on our nation (the Civil War) for their unfaithfulness to Him. He recommended thanksgiving and repentance as a nation.  My, can you imagine what would happen today if a president made a proclamation like that? 
  It made me want to search my own heart for any idols or any lack of fear and reverence for a very real Almighty God. 
  As we enter Thanksgiving week, I pray that we all will recount our blessings before God and give Him thanks and that we all will search our hearts and ask Him to grant us repentance where we lack giving Him credit and thanks where they are due.  May each and every one of you have a wonderful Christ-honoring Thankgiving Day!
With love,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Fall Season in the Interim of Our Lives...

  Well, here we are living in a "between" home during the holidays.  My husband is between pastorates and so we're living in a rented home.  It's absolutely perfect for us and I thank the Lord every day for giving us such a wonderful home to live in during this interim of our lives. 
  We have always lived in a parsonage and so we've never owned a home.  In our early days of ministry that bothered me a little but as I grew in years and in my spiritual life I began to see it as a blessing in our lives.  Then the Lord gave me a wonderful verse about being a "parsonage dweller".
" And they lodged round about the house of God, because the charge was upon them, and the opening thereof every morning pertained to them. " (I Chron. 9:27)
  Since the Lord gave me that verse I have been very content with my home wherever the Lord might put me.  At this point He has us in a holding pattern in our lives until He gives us new and clear direction.  Needless to say this has altered our life and that includes the holiday period of our lives.
  I'm a true traditionalist.  I love things to be the same so my children and family look back and can say, "Do you remember how mom (Grandma, Aunt Tami, or whatever name fits) always made this or did this during the holidays?
  I also know that flexibility is good too.  This year I couldn't have found all my fall decorations if I tried so I decided to use nature and whatever else the Lord sent my way.  I won a little engraved pumpkin and a candle as prizes at the Wings Conference and the kids and I gathered acorns and pinecones from our yard.   I have a beautiful fireplace mantel and I wanted to decorate it for fall and little by little it was filled with beautiful fall decor. 
  Since I took this picture the Lord even added a beautiful fall vine with berries and leaves and a sign that says "Give Thanks".  My husband and children have all mentioned how pretty the mantel looks.  Thank You Lord!
   This time of year I feel an excitement building up in me.  It's time for the holidays.  I can't resist getting the cookbooks out and while we sit in the living room watching a movie I'm marking the ones I want to try to make.  This year for Thanksgiving I decided we'd have to have the pumpkin cake I made at Jennibeth's house when we spent Thanksgiving with them.
  It was after Thanksgiving and she and I were wanting to make a dessert but we'd about emptied the pantry out for Thanksgiving.  We went scavengering and found a can of pumpkin.  I'd gone through some of her cookbooks and found a recipe that called for just flour, sugar, eggs, pumpkin and spices so that was the choice.  It called for cream cheese frosting and we didn't have cream cheese so I made cooked caramel (I call it penuche but nobody knows what that is) frosting on it.  Oh, my goodness!  It was SO good and became a Thanksgiving keeper at the Neals!
    Here's the recipe:
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin
2 cups flour, sifted
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. cinnamon
   Combine sugar and oil.  Add eggs separately, beating well to combine.  Add flour, soda, salt and cinnamon to sugar mixture.  Blend thoroughly.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes in pans which have been greased and floured.  Makes three (3) 9" round layers.

Now for the frosting.
(For this cake I use a double recipe.  You can double it if you want, but you'll need a strong arm or a helper in the beating stage! :)

1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter or margarine in saucepan.  Stir in brown sugar.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir over low heat for 2 minutes.  Stir in milk; heat to boiling.  Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
Gradually stir in powdered sugar.  Place pan of frosting in bowl of ice and water; beat until its of spreading consistency.  If frosting becomes too stiff just heat slightly stirring constantly.

  This is a wonderful three layer cake!  The one in the picture has an extra batch of icing on it.  (I do one batch for the layers and 1 1/2 batches for the outside because our family likes lots of the icing! )
  I have a little recipe holder with all my very favorite holiday recipes in it.  Our Christmas punch recipe, cheeseball recipes, spinach dip, sausage bites, baked macaroni and cheese, Swiss medley (a wonderful full-of-cheese side  dish with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, mushroom soup, sour cream and Durkees onions), sweet potato casserole that a died-in-the-wool sweet potato hater will love, all my specialty cheesecake recipes, peanut butter pie, every truffle and fudge recipe you can imagine and the list goes on and on and on in it.  My head is already dancing with new ideas to try this year.  Can't wait to see what the Lord has in store.  I have a new cake ball truffle recipe I wanted to try and someone already brought me some dark chocolate chips they found on clearance.  They're tucked back to become truffles!
  Because of my love of cooking I like to use fall/holiday baking as an excuse to stop by the neighbors with a pie pan full of goodies and a chance to talk to them.  We have a couple near us with failing health and I so want the Lord to use us in their lives.  I love it when you knock on a neighbor's door and you can see genuine happiness in their eyes when they open the door and see you standing there.  It's also an opportunity to teach our children to help others around us. 
  John asked me the other day when I was going to be taking the neighbors some goodies and I told him probably this week.  He said, "Can we take some to the neighbors with the new kittens, because maybe they'll let me see them when we go!"  That struck my funny bone!
  We're going to have Brian and Niki with Halle and Evan for Thanksgiving this year and I'm so excited about that.  I like a FULL dining room table.  The more I have at the table the happier I am!  Niki and I are already talking about what we want to have.  She's planning on bringing a new pie recipe she found and I'm planning on--well, I can't make up my mind!  Too many good things to choose from!
  I also am working on Christmas projects this year.  The main one that I'm working on is making little nurse's costumes for the little girls in my life.  When Niki and Alicia were little my mom made them a nurse's apron and then I made them little hats out of paper.  Every time someone got sick at our house we made the couch up into a hospital bed, stuck the humidifier next to the couch (sometimes complete with tent) and the girls became nurses.
  Mike Shockley says his first memory of my girls was coming into the house to visit us and one of the boys was sick.  He said he remember Niki and Alicia running around in their little nurses costumes and bringing them their needs on a cookie sheet with a tea towel over it.  (All meals were served in the hospital bed when you were sick.)  They loved being nurses! 
  So maybe it's memory lane for me but I wanted to make the granddaughters their own nurses costume.  My pattern is a really old one but it's so cute.  On the cover the little girl has a white turtleneck on and white tights so she looks like the old-fashioned nurse of my childhood that's dressed in all white.  I have Halle's all done but getting the waist and hat fit to her perfect size.  They're quick to sew and take very little fabric.  That's good for the budget!


So tonight I'm listening to Old Fashioned Christian Radio, and thinking about the wonderful blessings of a sweet Christian home, good food, the wonder of fall sunsets, leaves crunching under your feet, having the blessing of grown children, grandchildren and children still around me to fellowship with each and every day, the joy of being a woman, wife, mother and grandmother and so many, many other blessings.  How can we begin to thank the Lord for his daily benefits! 
  I pray you're having a wonderful fall season and that your walk with the Lord is real and personal.  May God bless you all!

With love,



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stretching the Budget Dollars....

   It seems everyone is feeling the crunch financially these days.  We have always lived on a reasonably tight budget simply because we have made a choice to live debt-free.  However, right now my husband is between pastorates and only working a part time job and so we've had to tighten up the belt several notches.
  Let me say right here how thankful I am for parents who raised me with a different set of values than most people live by.  We learned early in life that eternal values were those that were the most important.  We also learned that relationships (beginning with our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour) were far more important than anything tangible in our lives.   The older I get the more grateful I am for these important truths that were ingrained into my heart and life.  It allows me to see that those things with eternal values are what really, really matters.
   I also am thankful for learning that some of the most enjoyable things in life are free!  I love watching children play, I love sitting and watching the rain come down while I sit on my porch and drink coffee.  My mom taught me to enjoy watching people.  I can have a wonderful time sitting in a vehicle waiting on my husband and mentally sketching people or guessing their names, occupations or guessing their personality type.  I love bathing babies, telling stories, listening to stories or simply reading a book.  I love nature.  I love....and the list could go on and on with things that cost nothing!
  So with all that said, life still goes on.  We have to wash clothes, buy groceries, clothe our families, and pay the bills!  When the belt does needed tightened what are some ways we can help our families to make it with the least amount of pain?
   One of the major expenses is food so I want to talk about that first.  Years ago I heard a radio program where they talked about how much food is wasted in America.  I was astounded by the statistics.  The current amount of food that is wasted in America is estimated to be 100 billion pounds of food per year.  Is is estimated that 14% of the food Americans purchase is wasted.  The average American family throws out $590 worth of food each year.  This is just food in the homes and doesn't include grocery store waste or restaurant waste.  I stood in my living room after hearing that program and prayed to the Lord telling Him that if He would send us food that was going to be wasted we would use it.  He has never failed to answer that prayer to this day.  Much of our food is from what others planned on throwing away or from a grocery store like UGO that deals with what is about to go out of date or is the overflow of other stores.
  So, first make it a matter of prayer. 
  Second, cook from scratch.  When you buy anything precooked or premade you are wasting money.  It only takes minutes to put together food from scratch.  I read a book once and she gave price comparisons of pre-made food and food from scratch in price and time.  I assure you people who don't cook from scratch are spending a lot of money and not gaining much in time.
  Third, make more casseroles, soups and foods that have meat in them but the entree isn't made entirely of meat.  When we have been the tightest financially I have doubled the non-meat part of a casserole and reduced the meat part.  My family didn't notice.
This includes soups, etc.  You can even make one non-meat meal per week and save.  Meat is one of the major expenses in the food budget and we in the Western world eat too much meat.  You can make baked beans with hot dogs in them along with corn bread and a green veggie and voila!-- a meal.  You can make chicken and noodles, au gratin potatoes with ham pieces in them, pinto beans, green beans with potatoes and sliced link sausage, pot pies, stir fry and Chicken A La King,  and make a little meat go a long, long way.  Need recipes?   Find your basic recipe and then learn to stretch it!
  I have even made some really good dinners just scavengering my fridge and mixing them together and ending up with a good meal from leftovers in the fridge.  I call them "Desperation Dinners".  Twice I've been asked for my recipe and told the person "I couldn't give it to you if I tried". 
  Fourth, reduce waste in your own kitchen.  If you have a few vegetables left and don't think they'll get eaten throw them into a quart jar and freeze them.  Later you can put them in your homemade vegetable soup.  Learn to eat up your leftovers.  Take bread heels and leftover rolls and put them in a freezer bag.  Use them later for overnight breakfast casserole or the stuffing for Thanksgiving Day.  I even have a really good crockpot recipe for chicken and stuffing where those old bread scraps come in mighty handy.  Some of the recipes that have been glorified today by Food Network are really recipes that came from our grandmothers depression days.  My mother said Bread Pudding and Rice Pudding were both recipes to use up the leftover day old bread and leftover rice. 
  If you haven't canned or frozen food before you might want to learn in case someone gives you their extra bumper crop of zucchini or even corn.  I've actually canned an entire freezer of food someone gave me.  Their freezer had broken down and the food had thawed.  They planned to throw it away.  I canned fish and beef both from that freezer load of food!
  Reuse your storage bags (unless meat was stored in them) by giving them a scrub in hot dish water and drying them over glasses on your counter.  Give up paper plates and paper towels for a while.  I promise it won't kill you.  You can memorize scripture or pray while you wash the extra dishes.  No one will bother you as you do it!
  Fifth,  learn who has the best prices.  I keep a small notebook in my purse where I keep the prices of things we commonly  buy.  WalMart used to have a corner on the market in many areas.  I now buy more things at Kroger as they have become cheaper than WalMart on many, many items.  We buy much of our milk at Save-A-Lot because the first gallon is much cheaper there.  We make a weekly trip to UGO and find prices on canned goods that can't be beat.  I check the ads each week.  We buy only Scott toilet paper when it's on sale at KMart or Dollar General Store. (Try it one time and compare how long it lasts next to any other brand and you'll be sold.)   I now make my own laundry detergent at such a savings that I couldn't begin to compare it with the cheapest laundry detergent out there!
  If I have to I can feed our family for a week on a very, very small amount of money.  I'm thankful for the help the Lord has given me in doing this.
Next, ask yourself where the leak is in your budget.  How many times do you go to town each week?  How much are you spending on eating out or entertainment?  Have a family night at home and get out those old-fashioned board games and make homemade pizza versus expensive delivered or freezer section pizza.  Just making the pizza can be half of the fun! 
  We have never owned more than one vehicle as a family.  (unless my children owned one--I'm talking about one for hubby and one for me.)  This has saved us an enormous amount of money.  Just the license, insurance, maintenance, gas cost, etc. is a large chunk of change.  Some people can't even imagine this but I've asked my husband to make sure there isn't an extra car out there to tempt me to run around when I'm supposed to be at home!  I've never felt cheated--I've got too much to do here anyway!
   Now to clothing.  Years ago I was very embarrassed by my clothing and my shoes.  My husband was in the early years of ministry and we had four children under the age of five.  Most of our budget paid the bills and when I had clothing money it went on the children's needs.  Then I learned to give my wardrobe to the Lord and let Him supply it.  Didn't He say to seek Him and His righteousness first and all these things would be added to us? (Matt. 6)  Well, it works!
  I can't begin to tell all the wonderful treats He has given me.  If He can clothe the grass of the field and make beautiful flowers He can take care of me!  The other day I was looking at my wardrobe and realizing that much of it had been given to me in what others would call rag bags.  I also had found wonderful deals on some of my favorite clothes. 
  Now I'm not what you'd call "into" clothes.  My husband actually picks out more of my clothes than I do or insists I buy them when I want to go to JoAnn's fabric and buy another piece of fabric to make a grandchild something new however, I'm not ashamed of what the Lord has given me.
  I am a seamstress but in the last few years I've found you can get as much into sewing adult clothing as buying it on sale or finding a gently used piece at a thrift store.  With that said, I believe you should learn to sew.  Basics if nothing else so you can "refashion" something you found at Goodwill. 
  Learn to shop thrift stores, learn to look at an article of clothing and ask if just a small alteration would make it something you'd love.  Learn to shop at the end of the season in the store--you usually have plenty of season left when they're trying to get rid of them.  Learn to shop in stores like Ross where you can get brand name clothing for a fraction of the full price.  Learn what to invest in financially and what to only buy the cheap line.
   I love having lined skirts (pencil skirts) for dress up.  I have paid more for them because a good lined skirt will last years and years.  If something is more of a fad and is going to be out of style shortly I would be looking at a cheap department store for what I'm wanting.
  We live in a town with probably six to seven thrift stores.  I recently found Cierra three camisole tops to wear under her long sleeved tops for 50 cents each!  They look brand new but they were considered summer. 
  There are many wonderful blogs on refashioning clothes and I know from experience some of the best pieces of fabric I got to use on children's clothings were from larger ready made outfits given to us.  Cierra's first dress I made her was darling.  It was from a piece of leftover fabric with a built in slip made from an old bedsheet! 
   One of my favorite tips I've used for years was to take my old hose that had one leg with a runner and save it.  I tie a knot in the leg that has the runner and put it in my underclothing drawer.  Then when the next pair gets a runner in just one leg I take out both pair and cut off the bad leg leaving the panty part on both pair of hose.  I put them together (it has two pair of panties to it) and I have a new pair of hose.  Make your hose last twice as long!
   These are just a few of the things I've learned through the years but they've sure come in handy when times were tough.  Something interesting is that our children never have really known when we were having a tough time.  Now we've had a few times they knew because of what was on the table. 
 On the whole, however,  they didn't know that when we were pretending we were living in the Great Depression and I was hanging all my clothes on clothes lines in the basement and we used oil lamps I really was pinching my household pennies till they cried with the pain!  We made the most wonderful memories and saved money all at the same time.
    My grandma wasted nothing.  She washed her plastic wrap and reused it.  She saved every tiny piece of thread from sewing and put it on a spool for mending.  She counted how many times the toilet was flushed and knew how much water was being used.  She used a timer with every long distance phone call.  I asked her why she was so careful with all she had and she said, "I lived through the depression with small children to care for."
  I remember my Grandmother Mettler talking to Niki about the Great Depression when Niki had to write a report about it.  She made the comment that the entire time she never saw money exchange hands.  She said you learned to trade your goods and services for what you needed.  She also said that people became very creative during hard times.  She would talk of the beautiful little toys her mother-in-law made for the children from cardboard, pieces of scrap wood and even corn cobs!  She said that going through tough times together would make your relationship stronger when you got through them and that you would look back to those times as some of the best times in your life.  A-men Grandma.   With the right attitude and some Yankee ingenuity (even if your a Southerner:)
it can be a time when you learn to appreciate what you have and make some sweet memories. 
  Have any tips?  I'd love to hear them!  Tough times don't have to be sad times!  I pray you'll turn to your Heavenly Father and ask for wisdom and help and then use what He's given you as a wise steward.  Let's all bring Him glory in whatever state we are in!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Let's Talk About Stress...

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:  and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Dear Daughters,
  Stress is a very real part of all of our lives.  For some reason it seems that more and more people are breaking beneath the load---Christians included.  My heart goes out for the many young women I talk to that are overwhelmed and burdened with their load. 
  You see, I know first-hand what it means to "break" under the load.  I was a happy, fulfilled wife and mother.  I was a pastor's wife with a church that was growing, people getting saved and many wonderful things happening in our lives when I broke under the load I was carrying.  It took about 12 years of leaning on my Beloved in the darkness before my healing was complete.  My post-depression verse is "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?"  (Song of Solomon 8:5a)
  So, what is my advice to young wives and mothers busy trying to serve the Lord and be active for the Lord when they think they're about to snap?  Listen closely dears, and I pray that you'll either not become as wounded as I did or that if you are already broken the Lord will use me as an instrument for His healing in your life.

1.) Don't confuse work with worship.
   Before my husband took his first pastorate he was an assistant pastor.  We were very active in our local church, we had four small children (ages 5-10) and we were living on a meager salary of $125 per week.  I was absolutely full of joy and delighted in the Lord and my Christian life and walk each day.  This was at a time when if you had looked at our life you would have wondered how!  We literally had to pray in our gas money, food money and bill money every week. 
  My walk with the Lord was so very, very sweet.  He was my Best Friend, my Confidante, and had my utter dependence.  I spent time in the word of God daily just enjoying it and letting it feed me.
  When my husband took the pastorate everything was much better for us financially.  We actually had plenty of money to pay bills and buy the children clothing.  I can remember being brought to tears because I had enough of the "essential" clothing for myself for the first time in years.
  With the pastorate came all kinds of new duties for me.  It seemed everything I asked about that wasn't being done my answer was "the pastor's wife does that".   I was the church secretary, Jr. Church teacher, did all the bulletin boards, coordinated all church activities, did the missions board along with many other duties I hadn't had before. Looking back it would have been better left undone that my trying to do it all but I didn't.  I was afraid it would look bad. 
   I had been homeschooling our youngest but now I was schooling all four.   My husband's duties had grown so I had more to do for him.  I had lots of company on a regular basis and bunked them and fed them!
   Although I didn't realize it at the time I became a Martha instead of a Mary.  I had lots of busy "church activities" in my life that were visible to all but it took something precious from me to be so busy at work for the Lord--my Mary life.
  Did I read my Bible and pray? Yes, but it wasn't the same.  It wasn't that sitting at His feet and soaking up His presence, praying as I laundered, praying as I did dishes, memorizing His word as I did dishes, spending time just talking to Him.  Instead it was hurried and became almost a rote listing of my prayer requests.  More and more I was apologizing to Him for not spending as much time with Him as I should be spending and found myself just counting the chapters that I'd read to make sure I was on track with my "daily Bible reading".
  At the same time I was fighting some major spiritual battles and seeing some wonderful victories.  However, fighting spiritual battles draws from you and I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with things that were stressful that never had been that traumatic to me. 
  Then there came the day that I crashed emotionally.  No one around me but my husband knew about it at first but as time went on and I became worse and worse my children found out and then my family.  I withdrew more and more as my emotional state worsened.  My illness did some major damage to our home, our children and my husband's pastorate.  I no longer was even able to carefully "watch" over the spiritual welfare of my family.  My only prayer was "Help me."
   We still live with some of the aftereffects today as a family.  I ask the Lord to use it for His glory however He chooses and that is one of the reasons I'm writing this.  WHATEVER you do, don't trade being busy serving the Lord as your worship of the Lord.  Should we be busy for the Lord? --yes, yes, yes! but that takes us to the next point.
  Spending time with the Lord is something we choose--Jesus Himself said to Martha, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:  But one thing is needful:  and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."  Give the Lord His time--worship Him daily.

2.  Live by design and by priority.
  Do you know why I write this blog?  I have become (not that I always like this) an older woman.  Titus calls it an aged woman. (See Titus 2:1-5)  I am told to teach the younger women certain things in the word of God.  That's why I take the time to do it.  I see young women with different levels of frustration and my heart yearns to get them to the point where they can find joy in what they're doing.  Life doesn't give us a second round and if many of our frustrations are easily resolved then I want to see them resolved for young women.
   Do you know why God made you as a woman?  Do you know your Biblical role?  Do you know what God wants you to give your attention to and what He designed for you not to give your attention to?
Let's just look at Titus 2:4.  First young women are to be sober.  That's being serious about what we need to be serious about.  Your spiritual well-being is serious.  Second to love their husbands, then to love their children, then to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good obedient to their own husbands.  Why?  That the word of God be not blasphemed.
  Now out of that list can you find things that require your personal attention that would consume time?  Husbands?  Children?  A home?
  Could we make a priority list here?
    First, give the Lord the proper attention.  Talk to Him, spend time with Him, confide in Him first, pour every trial, tear and trouble into His ear and then TRUST Him to supply your every need.  Your spiritual needs, your emotional needs and your physical needs.  Don't tell another soul till you've confided in Him and asked Him to help you stand perfect and complete in all His will in the situation.  Then trust Him to do it in you and for you.
  Second, give your husband the attention he needs.  Now much of this overlaps.  Husbands need their clothes laundered and their meals cooked and a nice clean home to live in but most of all your husband needs you to give him your love, loyalty and to run his home and raise his children in a way that honors his wishes for a home.  We know what our husband wants (spoken and unspoken) and we should yield our will to his will.  Each and every desire he has that is not a sin we should be doing our best to give him. 
   There were several activities my husband felt were unnecessary but I was afraid what people would think if I didn't do them and I ignored what he wanted.  Although I've asked him to forgive me I still live with the fruit of not honoring his wishes.
  Also, let your husband carry out his God-given role and you carry out yours.  You are not loving your husband when you take on the role of bread-winner.  If we're to trust the Lord with all and all then we must trust the Lord to lead our lives and meet our needs through our  mate.  God says that the man is to provide for his family and if he doesn't he is worse than an infidel.  Don't think you're loving him by going out and getting a job in the world so you can pay the bills.  You're not his mother--you're his sweetheart.  You're not the other man in the house--you're the one he is to cherish and care for.  Let him.
  Today's young woman seems to be getting her role model from the world and the media.  They are a facade.  They put the woman in the man's world carrying out the man's role and make her look very successful at it.  That is not true.  Sit at a counseling table for any time at all and you'll find women are miserable trying to be men.  God has a design and when we don't carry out things according to His design they break!  Love your husband enough to let him be the man and you concentrate on being the woman--according to the Bible not the world.  Make the Proverbs 31 women your number one role model.   I've worked at it for 36 years and I still am falling short!  It's a big order but a beautiful one!
   Third, your children need your attention.  You only have one time to raise them.  Children need much care and that means they consume much of our time.  A child "left to himself" (to send away, let loose, cast away, dismiss, give over) bringeth his mother to shame.  Who have I sent my child to instead of taking personal responsibility for my child's rearing, teaching and training?  The public school, tv, computer, cell phone, friends, a babysitter or daycare?  They don't just need food and clothing and some "quality" time.  They need us.  They need Deuteronomy 6 rearing.  We need to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord as we sit, walk and stand. 
    Fourth, our homes.  The home is the domain of the woman.  Study your Bible carefully about the woman.  Her ministry is through the home--not outside of the home.  That's where she cares for her husband so he can go out and pastor, evangelize, or teach.  That's where she raises his children carefully so they are an honor to him.  That's where she cooks for preachers, puts people up as they serve the Lord, sews little clothing to give to others, and the list (from the Bible) goes on and on.  The home is the wonderful little piece of heaven God has given us to serve Him in as a woman.
  When a woman goes outside of the home she is no longer following God's design for her and she'll get in trouble.  I remember two different women that joined our church when I was a teen and they were always at church doing something.  One lady wanted to run a van route, she went on visitation all the time, she went to every meeting at every church in the area.  The other one was at the Christian school or at the church volunteering to do every extra piece of secretarial work or other work that she could find.
  My mother was unimpressed.  She said they were doing it to avoid their work God had given them at home.  She would say, "Tami, always remember your mission field is at your feet.   They're neglecting their husbands, children and homes in the name of serving God and God isn't honored with that."  Before I was married both women were divorced and out of church.
  Don't take my word for it.  Do a Bible study and see where God has women ministering.  If women are out of the home see what God says about them.  If they are out of the home and in a spiritual position see what condition the nation was in spiritually at the time and see if God liked it.  God made the man for the position of going out into the world and holding positions of leadership and authority and we're his helpmeet.  We are to see to it that he can do his job efficiently and with our encouragement and help!
  Count phone calls, internet time, and other "gates" out of your home as time out of the home.  Remember God's warning about younger widows who have married and cast off their first faith?  "And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not."  (I tim. 5:13)  The word learn  means "to learn by use and practice, to be in the habit of" and the word idle means lazy, shunning from the labour which one ought to perform".  If you're doing all the Bible tells you to do as a woman you won't have time for wandering from house to house (even by phone or internet) speaking things which you shouldn't be speaking.
  What a beautiful place the Lord has given us to work.  What a wonderful and varied life's work He has given us.  Domestic skills (and the word "keepers" in Titus 2 means "working at home, caring for the home, the watch or keeper of the house, keeping at home and taking care of household affairs, a domestic")  are some of the most wonderful skills to learn.  Entire websites and blogs are dedicated to our lives--crafting, cooking, sewing, interior design, childcare, cleaning, and the list goes on and on and on. God put the love for the domestic things in a woman--feed that instinctive love He has given you.  I love my chosen career.  I love being able to use the home the Lord has given us to minister to those He has given me to care for and attend to. 
  So dear ones, if you are careful (to be anxious, to be troubled with cares, to seek to promote one's interest, to be annoyed in spirit), or troubled (disturbed, to be troubled in mind, disquieted) then I pray that you will come to the Lord and yield yourself completely to Him.  If you've never yielded yourself to Him for salvation then that is the first and most important step of your life.  He alone can wash away every sin, put His precious blood on you, enter your life and heart and save you from the destruction of being a sinner against God by saving your soul. 
  If you are saved then yield your all to Him and let Him have full control of your life.  Agree to give up your plans, dreams, ideas, hopes, and possessions and put them in His care.  Start a walk of sweet fellowship and  friendship and choose to sit at His feet daily. 
  Remember there is no grace for anything you're doing that He hasn't chosen.  You're on your own and let me assure you that the arm of flesh will fail you.  Whatever God orders/prescribes for you He enables you to do and gives you grace and strength when your flesh fails you.  "My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."  Psalms 73:26)
  I pray that this has given you new hope and new strength and perhaps for someone very stressed and worn out emotionally it will get you back to a pathway of joy and healing.
With love,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fall Cookin"...

  The air has a different feel to it.  When I step on the porch in the morning the air is cooler and it is stirring differently in the trees.  The light through the trees that comes into my bedroom is a different shade of green--it's signalling the change of a season.  I'm so ready for the brisk days and nights and for opening the windows again and letting the cool air come through our home.
   At breakfast about two weeks ago I asked the kids what they thought of when they thought of fall meals.  They mentioned Cheesy Potato Soup, Chili, Corn Chowder (the potato soup or the chowder are served in bread bowls sometimes), Beef Stew,Taco Soup, Pot pie, Goulash with piping hot corn bread on the side, deer tenderloin fried and then  baked with warm brown gravy around it, Rotel, and other hearty comfort foods. 
  I start wanting to make my favorite desserts made with apples, pumpkins and oatmeal.  I think of desserts with caramel flavor and lots of cinnamon.  Mmmmm....out come the cookbooks and I pull out my Maple Nut Twist breakfast bread, Pumpkin Roll, Little Debbie Oatmeal Cakes (homebaked), German Apple Cake, Apple Crisp, Apple Dumplings, Monster Cookies, Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake, Pecan Pie, Spice Cake with Cooked Caramel Frosting and Pumpkin Doughnut Drops. 
  Last year I made a delicious pumpkin cake out of Jennibeth's cookbook "Dining with Pioneers Volume II". 
We had celebrated Thanksgiving together and had just about emptied out the pantry and we were looking for something to make with what was left.  She said she had a can of pumpkin left so I dug through the cookbooks and found this recipe.  It mentioned cream cheese frosting but we didn't have cream cheese so I made the cooked caramel frosting and we put it on it.  (I did a double batch since it was a three layer cake.)
It was SOOOO good!
  So in celebration of the beginning of fall I'm going to put the recipe on here for Pumpkin Cake with Cooked Caramel Frosting.  Enjoy!  I'm planning on making it in the next couple weeks and will try to add a picture here then.
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. cinnamon
  Combine sugar and oil.  Add eggs separately, beating well to combine.  Add flour, soda, salt and cinnnamon to sugar mixture.  Blend thoroughly.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes in pans that have been greased and floured.   Makes three (3) 9" round layers.

Cooked Caramel Frosting (or Easy Penuche Frosting)
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar
  Melt butter or margarine.  Stir in brown sugar.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir over low heat for two minutes.  Stir in milk, heat to boiling.  Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
  Gradually, stir in powdered sugar.  Place pan of frosting in bowl of ice and water; beat until it's of spreading consistency.  If frosting becomes too stiff, heat slightly, stirring constantly.
*Remember-I double this for this cake.
   What's your favorite fall recipe?  Is there something you just have to have before the season is over?  We love food traditions at our house and these are some that we cannot imagine not having at the table this time of the year.  I hope you're enjoying the beautiful weather, the changes and the plans of the season!  Isn't God good to give us wonderful changes and such a beautiful creation?  Enjoy, enjoy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Just Had To Try This...

The original shirt!
Last week when I went to get some clothes out of my closet  and one of my husband's shirts was hanging there in front of my clothes.  I couldn't figure out what he wanted me to do with it so I left it there to ask him about it when he got home from work.
  When I asked him he said that he was going to throw it away because the collar was worn out.  He just forgot to do it!  Instantly I had visions of a little dress tutorial I'd seen on  She had made several little dresses that were out of men's shirts and even had a tutorial on how to do it!  It was my opportunity to make something for Halle! (Since the other girls had got twirly skirts and culottes this summer.)
  So I copied off what I thought was essential (since my memory isn't what it used to be!) and began my journey on Monday.  Now Monday was also the first day of school for us so not a lot got done on the dress.  Basically, I got the collar and sleeves cut off! 

  My next step was to find a basic a-line dress to use as a rough pattern to cut the dress out.  I called Niki and got Halle's size, found a pattern and spent the evening getting everything ready for day # 2--cut the dress out and do some sewing...
  I am not a decisive person so it took me a while to get my courage up to cut it out.  I "measured twice and cut once", thought it looked really good, so I made myself a pattern to use in the future with my little special instructions written all over it.

I had looked all over the internet for different people's attempts at "refashioning" or "repurposing" a man's shirt into a little girl's dress and had seen one with these beautiful little Euro ruffles down the front.  That took care of the rest of Tuesday's spare minutes.  I was playing with ruffles for the front of the dress.  After all, if we're going to go on a "design and create" tangent let's go all the way with it and have some fun!

Then I decided we needed another fabric in with the shirt fabric--enter new ruffles to go between the ones out of the shirt fabric.  And then I decided it should probably go on the edge of the sleeves and the tail of the hem.   Somewhere years ago I read a second color of design should always be added by odd numbers.  (put it in one,three or five places but not in two or four.)

On to the next stage...
Since Niki had sent me Halle's measurements I was now ready to add elastic to the neckline and to the sleeves.  That was Wednesday.  My husband made the comment that he didn't know how a quick little thing like making a man's shirt into a dress could be taking all week.  Of course it can--when half the time you're designing and playing and then you sew for 10 minutes between helping with school work!  And we had to have our exercise time, game night (Pictionary), and just plain being silly together!

  Today I was determined to bring my fun to an end--after all, someone has got to stop and do some cleaning around here this week!  So here's the grand finale.  I'm very pleased with it and look forward to having a picture of Halle modeling her Grandpa Gary's shirt turned into the cutest little shirt dress!  So here it is!

  A big thank you to Dana for putting such a wonderful and easily understood tutorial on her blog.  It was a slightly bigger project than I excpected (due to my wanting to stick little ideas of my own here and there) but I loved the cost-$0.00!  Now that makes me want to go to the nearest thrift store and find my next project!
  If anyone else does something like this I'd sure like to hear about it and find out where you learned about it and what you did!



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oxford's Holy Club

The past three weeks or so I've been going through boxes that we were keeping under our house in a storm room.  We found out about six weeks ago that everything in that room was molding!  Not good, since it held the Christmas tree, my fall decorations, all my wreaths and the list goes on. 
The box that upset me the most was my keepsake box.  It's been safely kept in the shed for 13 1/2 years but now it had some mold in it so I've been going through it a little each day.  (It's a big box and mostly letters and papers.)
  I have laughed, cried, and shook my head at much of what I've read.  I've asked myself why I kept every little card given to me. I have laughed at Niki's early, early days of poetry, Alicia's nighttime notes she left her daddy and I and the boys birthday party decorations and special artwork and notes.  I've been surprised to see how much Nathan wrote to people and talked about his schoolwork!  I've enjoyed notes and letters talking about Nevin's love of costumes and playing Civil War, cowboy and frontiersman. 
  I've found letters from friends and church members from long ago that have made me happy and sad.  I've read many letters from my mother and from friends and realized we really don't change much over time.  Those that complained about everything early in their lives are still complaining when I talk to them, those that kept a good attitude and trust in the Lord are mostly still doing it.  I can see my children's strengths and weaknesses.  I've seen all my strengths and weaknesses and laughed ruefully that I'm still fighting many of my early besetting sins--however, I am walking in victory in most of them!  Time (and learning to "put on" the Lord Jesus Christ are wonderful lessons to learn) is a helpful thing in our lives.
  Today I want to quote a paper that I had copied that had been a great help to me when I was a young mother and had just surrendered all to the Lord.  It is convicting but good!  I quote:
   The members of the Holy Club in Oxford in John Wesley's day examined themselves every Sunday on the love of God and the simplicity of their faith; on Monday, they examined themselves on their love toward their fellowmen and submitted themselves to twenty-seven quiestions; and so on throughout the week.  Here are some of the questions:
1.  Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am a better woman than I really am.  In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2.  Am I honest in all my acts or words or do I exaggerate?
3.  Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told me in confidence?
4.  Can I be trusted?

5.  Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
6.  Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
7.  Did the Bible live in me today?
8.  Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
9.  Am I enjoying prayer?
10. When did I last speak to someone else with the object of trying to win that person for Christ?
11. Am I making contacts with other people and using them for the Master's glory?

12. Do I pray about the money I spend?
13. Do I get to bed in time and get up in time?
14. Do I disobey God in anything?
15. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
16. Am I defeated in any part of my life, jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Am I proud?
19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
20. Is there anybody whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard?  If so, what am I doing about this?
21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?

22. Is Christ real to me?

Whew...I don't know about you, but a few of those stung!  I am adding them to my current event book of things that must be deal with.  Thank You Lord for reminding me of those things that I need to change.
Applying these truths to our lives will definitely help bring revival in our lives. 
Let's each pick the one we need to work on the most and begin to take steps immediately to remove or add to our life what the Holy Spirit desires to enable us to obey in!



Friday, August 20, 2010

Back to "Home" School!

I'm 55 years old and have the pleasure of having grandchildren (17 to be exact with #18 coming right about Christmas time) and also still having "at home" children. Asher graduated last year which was sweet, wonderful and sad all at once!
However, I've still got Cierra (who is a 9th grader this year) and John (a 5th grader) so my days of homeschooling are still here for me. It has been a wonderful adventure that I wouldn't trade for the best private school available in town.
When we began homeschooling it was pretty much unheard of. Our local librarian introduced me to Raymond Moore's books telling me that she thought it fit my philosophy of mothering. I brought the children into the library at least twice a week on our daily walks and my children LOVED library books! (They loved books in general, but our personal library was rather small at the time!)
I soaked in what I read and took it to heart. Niki was already forcing me to teach with "What letter is that?" "What does it say?" She was reading well at four years of age, but in all truth I had to explain (when people exclaimed what a wonderful teacher I was to my four year old) that she pretty much taught herself by asking questions and applying my answers. It certainly wasn't any kind of planned schooling!
That's part of what turned the lightbulb on in my head. I taught my children almost every skill they had (good and bad:). I potty trained them, I taught them manners, hygiene and right from wrong. I had taught them how to talk and I had read to them so much that they had a huge library in their heads already! So, why did I think I couldn't teach them school?
(I've had more than one mother in my life tell me they couldn't possibly teach their children at home and then go to college and get an education and guess what they are now? Yes, you guessed it! They're a teacher! Teaching 20 or so of someone else's children.)
True to my personality I got on the bandwagon in a big way. I began researching, contacting others who had schooled their own children and finding out everything I could about this new thing called "homeschooling". My husband, who was a Christian school teacher and principal, wasn't quite so enthusiastic.
We had made the decision when the Lord gave us children that if we had to sell the furniture out from under us we would not do two things in our marriage. I would not go to work outside of the home and our children would get a Christian education--not one from "Caesar".
Although Gary thought it was a good idea he also felt it would appear like we had a double standard in our life if he worked in a Christian school and then homeschooled his own children. He also felt it would appear we were disloyal to our pastor's decision to have a Christian school at our church. (Because he was on staff.) I didn't agree but I knew the Bible taught me to obey my husband so I simply began to pray about it.
The year that Nathan was to go to Christian school I felt heartbroken. It would just be little Nevin and I at home and my husband and children were going to be at the Christian school.
Many people had suggested I come to work at the Christian school and I began playing with the idea that someone had planted in my mind that the church was simply an "extension" of the home.
The year Nathan was to go to first grade there wasn't a teacher available as our teacher's mother had developed cancer and she had made the decision to be with her mother. I cannot tell you how excited I was that anyone with a K-5 child needed to make other arrangements! Nathan had his first year of school at home! Nevin sat on the floor and listened and learned as he played with his matchbox cars.
The next year Nathan went to school with his sisters and his dad and I taught Nevin K-5 at home. So much fun!
But the new school year was coming and then I was going to be in an empty house--no hubby and no children. All of them at the church. I began dwelling again on just going to work at the Christian school and thinking of it as an extension to our home. I approached my husband and got an emphatic no! That decision had been made and it was not negotiable! Back to praying.
In my times when I am the very closest to the Lord my praying is simply talking to Him and pouring out my heart just like I was talking to a friend I could trust with my deepest secrets. So many times in our conversations He shows me where the problem I'm telling him about has me as part of the solution. (Or should I say that I am part of why there's a problem!) I had a lot of things to learn.
That year my husband accepted a pastorate in Tennessee and when we moved there we were free to homeschool all four of our children. Wow! The first year of homeschooling all four was a year of lessons! Although I loved every minute of it I quickly realized that if I had tried starting with all four I might have ended up being a homeschool dropout! I had no idea how much time was involved in four compared to one! The Lord gently worked me from one to two and then to four! Praise the Lord for a husband who operated by principles and obeyed them. Praise the Lord I truly believed in obeying my husband and trusting the Lord to work it out if it was truly His will.
When we first began homeschooling all four of our children I asked the Lord to give me a homeschool "core curriculum" passage from the Bible. He gave me II Peter 1:5-8. I realized that first we needed to diligently teach our children that the Bible was the final authority for our lives and they needed to place their faith in Christ and His Word. Then we needed to diligently work to develop godly character in their lives (virtue), and after those two things we needed to add the knowledge (facts) , temperance (self-control), patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity. It's the best curriculum plan I've seen out there and I lay it beside every curriculum I find and many of them fail on the first item! (faith)
Now we're to the year 2010 and I'm a homeschool veteran. I'll be 62 years old when John graduates from high school. I wouldn't have any other life. I always catch myself in August getting that little thrill back of the new school year about to start.
Do I have days I wish I could pack them in the van, drop them off at the nearest school and tell them I'll be back in two days or two weeks or maybe even two months? You better believe it! My motivation is to please and obey my Father and nothing else and that's what gets me through the days (and sometimes weeks!) that are overwhelming with their duties.
On the whole however the Lord has made our homeschool journey a wonderful trip. I still go through old papers and old photo albums and get tears in my eyes. I still love looking at the new year with its new books (or computer program) and feeling a little thrill of what the adventure of our new year will be.
I pray that you have seriously looked at your home, your family, your children and seen the priority that God gives to our giving our children an education that is Christ-centered and that in the end will give Him glory. We're spending our life on what we treasure and I can't think of anything better to invest in than sitting, walking, standing and teaching our children! (Deuteronomy 6)



P.S.- Dr. Raymond Moore recommended that you make a philosophy of education plan and put it into words to read and re-read on a regular basis to keep yourself focused and on course. Here's ours. We haven't changed our minds (or hearts) about it since it was written in 1982 or "83.
"As Bible-believing Christians we believe and accept for our life standards the perfect Word of God. God's Word is the final authority for our lives.
Based on this, we believe God's Word teaches us that we are responsible for the provision and care of our children. We believe that we are accountable to God for the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical care of our children. (I Tim. 5:8)
We also believe that God commands us to teach and to train our children. God's Word qualifies us to be their teachers and we believe what He calls upon us to do, He also equips us to do. (Deut. 4:9, Deut. 6:1,2,6,7, Deut. 11:18,19, Exra 8:21, Ps. 78:1-7, Prov. 4:3-5, Prov. 22:6, Eph. 6:1-4, I Thess. 2:11,12)
We believe the Bible offers a plan of education in II Peter 1:5-8. It is our personal goal to lead each child into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, (salvation by faith), and to build onto that godly character, (virtue), and then add to that pertinent facts, (knowledge). We believe knowledge without character or Christ will produce a child that is a detriment to society.
Our homeschool is set up with the father as the final word and the decision maker and with Christ as his authority. (Eph. 6:22-33) The mother carries out his wishes and has the role of teacher. (Prov. 6:20, Prov. 31:1) The children have the responsibility to listen to and obey instruction. (Eph. 6:1-3, Prov. 6:20, Prov. 4:1-4)
We carry out our teaching according to Christ's example in Acts 1:1--do and teach. What we require and instruct we also teach by example.
It is our goal to produce children who know Christ as their personal Saviour, who live their live by character and principle and who are well-trained in basic academic skills.
Psalms 127:1-5 and Psalms 144:12 express our heart's desire for our home and children. we desire children to go out as arrows into a dark world and to make a difference.

Mr. and Mrs. Gary Neal

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In Memory of My Father-In-Law...

My first real memory of Charles was at my husband's 16th birthday party. I only remember that he was very nice to me--I was too nervous about meeting Gary's parents to remember much else!
Little did I know that in the next 36 years I'd spend more time with this man than with my own father! (Because of my father being a missionary and living in another state.) He became a very real and wonderful part of my life.
I could divide our lives with Charles into "before salvation" and "after salvation". They were like night and day. Although he was a wonderful father-in-law and a fine man before his salvation, after he was saved he became so precious to me as my second dad.
I remember Gary inviting him over for me to cook him a "real southern meal" during the early years of our marriage. (Remember, I'm from the north originally!) I was a nervous wreck. He seemed very happy with my pinto beans, fried potatoes, and corn bread. He did let me know the beans could have cooked a little longer! :)
He was delighted with each grandchild's birth and always came to see me after they were born. He loved his grandchildren and was very, very proud of them.
When Charles was 50 years old he gave us the greatest gift a man can give his family--he trusted Christ as his Savior in July of that year. What a change!
After his salvation, he and AllaDean spent Sundays with us till he moved to Tennessee. He retired two weeks after his salvation and moved to his home state. What memories our children (and Gary and I too) have of visiting him at his cabin he was building! Niki has posted a picture (on Facebook) of the kids riding on the lawnmower with their grandpa on one of those visits.
We made a trip down there to make sure he found a good church so he would get grounded and grow. We watched with joy as he threw away the old life and grew by leaps and bounds in his new-found faith. Our children would spend at least a week or two each summer with Grandpa Charles and Grandma AllaDean. Each time we came to get them they had learned something new. He and AllaDean invested their lives into our children.
Then Gary took the pastorate at the church where Charles was attending! For 8 1/2 years their lives and our lives were intertwined almost daily. What a blessing they were in our church. What a blessing they were as grandparents to our growing brood! What sweet memories we have of our days together at that pastorate.
During that time God blessed our home with Asher Obadiah. Charles hadn't been able to spend the time with our older children like he had wanted and he saw Asher as God's little extra blessing from heaven.
From the day of Asher's birth he and Asher bonded. (Grandma AllaDean was just as close a bond!) We've never been quite sure if Asher was ours or if he was half ours and half theirs! :)
Asher was his Grandpa Charles' shadow. If Grandpa was cleaning the fellowship hall he had a toddler behind him "helping". Many a time Asher's grandpa rocked him to sleep while we finished our duties at the church.
Then came the sad day our pastorate ended and we had to say good-bye to the days of daily interaction. Grandpa Charles didn't let that end his wonderful relationship with our children.
He and AllaDean moved to Jamestown and built another cabin and our children have sweet memories of campovers at Grandpa's during their college days.
When the Lord gave us Cierra and John he welcomed them with open arms and was the same wonderful Grandpa he had been with the other five children. More children meant more joy to Charles--he loved having his home full of them!
He still kept an active involvement in our lives and continued living a consistent Christian life. I've only met one other person that I thought witnessed to each and every person the Lord gave them an opportunity. That other Christian is my own dad.
Grandpa was at each and every important event in our lives and the lives of our children. He was a faithful visitor when anyone was sick. When I was so sick two years ago one of the few memories I have of the first night was Charles standing at my bedside and patting my arm.
What a role model he has been for our children (and for me). What faithfulness and love he has always had for family. What a burden he has had for those who don't know the Lord or aren't where they should be with the Lord.
One of my favorite memories of Charles was pulling into their drive and seeing him sitting on the porch waiting for us. When we left he always followed us out and didn't leave the porch till we were out of sight. I'll never pull away from their house without seeing him in my mind's eye waving as we left. I wish I had a picture of it, but I've got a mental snapshop that will never leave.
Oh, dear "second" dad I'm going to miss you so. Thank you so much for loving me, being patient with me, teaching me, and being a part of my life. You'll be missed each day that we have left on this earth till we meet you in heaven.
I love his note he left in his Bible, "I'll be waiting in glory for those of you who love our Lord Jesus Christ." Till then Charles, I love you!

Your "first" daughter,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where Has This Been All My Life?

Yesterday I clicked on a link for a website called Just a Pinch Recipe Club at While looking through their recipes I found a recipe for Muffin Tin Eggs. It had the most wonderful idea for making eggs given by a lady named Jane Louise. She said she got the recipe from an Amish woman.
You simply take your muffin tins and spray them with cooking spray and then put a little butter (or margarine) in the bottom of each tin. You break an egg in them and pepper and then bake them in a 400 degree oven that has been preheated for 10 minutes.
This seemed absolutely wonderful! Her picture showed these perfectly rounded eggs on an English muffin with meat and cheese. She said you can bake them a little longer to use the eggs for egg salad and that she spices things up by adding goodies to them before baking them. (like bacon bits, salsa, or shredded cheese.
Well, I decided today was the day to give this idea a try. I could just see how convenient these would be on a day with a houseful of company to make them into egg sandwiches, etc. I mean--wow- you could do 24 eggs in 10 minutes!
So, my visiting grandchildren and my own children got to be my guinea pigs. I stuck them in the oven and while they were baking I warmed some deli ham lunchmeat and toasted the thins.
When the thins came out of the toaster I popped an egg on them, put three slices of deli ham on them and a piece of Velveeta cheese. They were an absolute success. Sorry to say I didn't take pictures of them but they looked as good as they were!
The kids liked their McMommy's sandwiches along with a pretty sherbert dish full of fruit for breakfast. I liked how simple it all was! I found myself asking "Where has this idea been all my life?" and caught myself dreaming about how it would work in cutting the time down and making a larger round of egg (for the thins since they're bigger than an English muffin) if I used my large muffin tins....hmmmm....that's for another breakfast!
Anyway, thought I'd pass this wonderful breakfast idea along. Enjoy!


p.s. She doesn't say anything about giving the eggs a stir to mix the white and the yolk but I thought the kids would like it better that way so I did. Here's the link to this wonderful website. You also can explore Jane Louise's recipes--she's my kind of cook!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Tip (or two) for mommies...

This morning as I was making my bed I was thinking about (and missing) the days of having a toddler on the other side of the bed "helping" me. Then I got to thinking about those early motherhood days and some of the comments or helps I got that really changed things for me as a young mother.
One of those "lightbulb" moments was on a day when I was tired of disciplining again and again over getting the kids to do what I told them.
You know, "Come here and pick this up." "Go get in the bathtub." "It's time to eat lunch." "Time for bed." and the list goes on. and on. and on....
One day I was listening to James Dobson and he was talking about taking some of the stress out of parenting and he talked about how so many times we give a command and we don't give our children time to "switch gears".
He asked how we would like it if we were deep into a project and someone came in and made us immediately stop and go do something. Well, I instantly could think of being in the middle of a sewing project and my husband making me stop that instant to go do something else. I wouldn't like it!
He then told how when it involves something that isn't an emegerncy. You know, like "Get out of the house, it's on fire!" that we should give them some time to switch gears. If they are having a wonderful time playing something you should start maybe 15 minutes before and say something like, "In 15 minutes it will be time for bed." Then in 5 minutes give them the 10 minute warning, then in 5 minutes give them the 5 minute warning and have them begin to pick things up and then it's time to go do what it wanted.
I implemented that and it helped so much! I wasn't fighting irritation and they were so much more compliant. To this day I use that. Just tonight I began letting John know his computer time was running out 20 minutes before it did. No hassle when his time was up!
I learned little by little as a young mother that several of my problems I was creating myself! I thank the Lord for sending the right person with the right message at the right time!
I hope that you're enjoying the precious short time that you have little ones. You look back on it and realize how wonderful a time it was. Children don't require fancy or expensive items to have a good time. They love having you at their side and can turn a tin can into a toy. (or a sink full of bubbles, or paper and scissors.)
With this said, let me give a couple links that I found that John, Cierra and I are going to try out! These are not "christian" links so I can't say rather everything on them is good, but I love, love, love it when I get one more idea for the "little-to-no-cost" craft file!

With love,

1) The first is paper flowers. My how I remember making these with my grandmother. We had tissue paper flowers in every vase she owned! So many of the beautiful crafts I see made by Martha Stewart and other websites are things that I made with my grandmother or mother, they've just used things that cost more money on them. However, our kids don't care! Cierra and I are going to make the beautiful pink flower covered wreath to hang over her bed as a home ec project!

2.) The second is teaching little hands to use motor skills. My grandmother had a box of lace up cards for us to play with. She used cards but you can use even poster board that you glue a coloring book picture on or you can sketch a picture yourself (like my mother did). It was on a rectangle and then the picture was put on it and holes were punched evenly around it.
Next, you had a blunt needle and some yarn put in it. You simply went in and out of the holes. So fun! I remember my grandmother keeping me happy with a needle and thread and having me go through her button box sorting colors and then threading them together! No wonder I wanted her button collection when she died. Sweet memories!
This lady is awesome with her ideas! She shows here how to use Dollar Store shelf liner that you sketch a picture on and then let the kiddos sew on it. Take a look. While you're there take a look at her music wall--oh, how I would have loved it! and many other cute ideas for kids!

3) And how about paper? My mother taught me how to make a doll house from an old catalog. We took a piece of typing paper and then I cut out my favorite couch, chair, lamps, etc. from the catalog. Then I layered them with my own design. That was my living room! We did it with each room of the house and then bound them (with a hole punch and yarn) into a book! I played with them by the hour.
She also took poster board and made me a house with upstairs and downstairs. She drew (my mother was a very good artist.) each room and my oven door opened (cut out with a piece of cardboard glued behind it.) my beds had slits and the cardboard people went to bed and got between the covers.) and my little people were made for me in their nightgowns (for bedtime), I had a dad with a suit (for going to work), I had a baby that slid into its high chair, and a mom in her dress and apron for stirring the little pot that sat on my stove! I was such a blessed child!
I remember sitting with the little store she made me in a closet and singing my heart out to the song, "Thank You Lord for saving my soul...." as I played with my little cardboard store and watched my mother working in our kitchen.
Here's a place where you can make beautiful colored necklaces out of paper. We've made them out of gift wrap, magazines and leftover church bulletins. Kids love making them!
The How About Orange blog shows how to make beautiful bows for packages out of magazine pages, how to make paper medallions, how to make paper lanterns, and beautiful 3-D paper ornaments. Most of them even your 3 year old can manage!
4. Carboard boxes. My mother could turn a cereal box into a darling couch for an 11-inch doll. She made a cocoa box into a kitchen sink for my doll! She turned a wood block into a tiny radio!
Cardboard boxes are so, so fun! We've turned refrigerator boxes into boats, forts, and houses. The ideas are endless. You can make castles out of cardboard boxes, you can make huge blocks out of cardboard boxes. Little ones love stacking them! Go to fifthwizardy's blog and see some of the cute ideas she has for cardboard boxes!
John and I are working on turning a coffee can into a mailbox (complete with flag) for his treehouse. We're also trying to find crafts and experiments for this month. So, may I encourage you not just to look at these ideas--pick one and get the supplies and cover your table with newspapers and do it. Schedule a time and let nothing else take over that time-you've got a date with the kids!
Got any websites you love and use? Got other ideas or tips on crafts with kids? I'd love to hear about them!