Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Countdown - Christmas Morning Edition

Merry Christmas! Wishing you a joy-filled, hope-filled, Christ-worshipping day, today and all year long, as we focus our hearts and minds on the child that was born to be our King, our Saviour, our Redeemer!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Countdown

I know, I know. It is Wednesday. I should be posting a Wow-ful Woman. I'm not. This is a man. You need to know, that I did not own this CD until I met my soon-to-be husband. This song instantly grabbed my heart. It may have felt incredibly autobiographical for Chris and I back in the day. Just sayin'.

And it usually made me cry like a girl. Apparently it still does (*ahem*). Christmas barely feels like Christmas until I hear this song. On the recorded version there is a lovely duet part added half way through, but I really, really, really like this SCC plus guitar version (particularly because then I can sing the duet part as if in a really excellent karaoke moment).

LOVE this song. LOVE.
Yay for Steven Curtis Chapman.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Countdown - Duet Style

Okay, so don't mind the awkward Kathy Lee Gifford interview part at the beginning, but do enjoy the brilliantly talented Harry Connick Jr. with his adorable daughter, Kate. How much fun is this?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Building Family Traditions

Sometime near or on December first, our family gets the house ready for Christmas. It has become known as “Tree Day” and it is one of the highlights of our year.

It isn’t anything fancy, really. We go out and buy a fresh tree. Sometimes, we don’t even all go and pick it out together. Most times, my husband goes out, by himself, and with very little pomp and circumstance, brings home a tree. Nothing remarkable about that.

Then we pull out our ornaments and put them on the tree. Now, some families have an ornament for every year that each child has lived, and special ones from special relatives, and memory ornaments of people who have passed on, and some have the crafty ones the kids made when they were little.

We don’t have those.

We have fairly normal, basic, gold and cream ornaments and some ribbon that we wind around the branches. Nothing remarkable about that.

While we are doing the tree, we are listening to Christmas music and eating ‘Christmas foods’. The foods are typically snacky appetizer types that we graze on while we decorate. Chips. Salsa. Cheese. Crackers. Nothing particularly remarkable about that either.

But you know what? This year, my 9 year old said, “I think I like this day almost better than Christmas morning.”

Now that’s remarkable. Why do you think that is?

Please read the rest of my latest Heart of the Matter article here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays - Christmas Edition

This song was brand new to me last year, and I posted it near Christmas. I do believe it bears re-posting. I still always think I can get through this song dry-eyed, and everytime I'm wrong.

A Baby Changes Everything -- Faith Hill

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Countdown

There are soome Christmas songs that everyone covers because they are just that good. This is one of them. But there is something about this version, sung by the lyricist himself, that makes it my favourite version of it. Ever. Mark Lowry sings his song slower than most. And he sings it like he's really speaking to Mary, and really just as awed as she must have been to find out just who her son truly was.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Foodie Fridays

In case you weren't aware, Christmas is coming. Rapidly. Like, very, very soon. And as we all know, Christmas has 2 challenges: First, to buy the perfect gift for the people on your lists; Second, to not gain 30 pounds. Can I get an "amen"?

So, in the middle of all your eating and baking and feasting, you may want something a little lighter to eat. Yet, it has to be simple, because who has time to fuss over breakfast?

A long time ago, I shared my family's favourite breakfast muffin recipe. Well, today, I am going to share my second favourite breakfast muffin recipe. You can't feel bad about eating a muffin that has no oil and no sugar added. Especially when it is still sweet and cakey and sticky and yummy. Okay, so here goes:

Totally Apple-icious Muffins (okay, that's a lame name, but it works!)

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2-3 apples, not peeled, diced
2 tbsp baking powder
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
pinch of cloves (optional)
pinch of salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
2 cups apple juice

Mix the dry ingredients (and apples) in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. In the well, mix the wet ingredients. Combine all together to moisten, without over-stirring.

Scoop into muffin tins (greased, if need be) and bake at 375F for 17 minutes.

That's it! It makes about 20 muffins (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on how much your flour absorbs the liquid).

If you want to get fancy, add a cup of chopped nuts, or sprinkle the tops with brown sugar before baking. These make very moist, cakey muffins. I really like them. Hope you do too!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Countdown - Country Style

Okay. Throw stones if you want, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only Country music liker out there. Especially a little *ahem* Garth Brooks. I won't lie. My Garth Brooks Christmas cassette is one of my favourites (clearly not favourite enough to justify dropping $9.99 on iTunes, but whatever. Maybe Santa reads my blog and wants to gift me with it this year!)

I really like this version of this song. Just kind makes me all happy and warm on the inside. (And I know you like it too, even if you pretend you don't!) :-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays - Christmas Edition

Here it is: Our next installment of our Christmas Countdown! I really like this woman's voice. Did I ever tell you how I irritated the lady next to me when I saw Sarah McLachlan at the Western Fair? Yes, I know I did. How shameful. Still, she sings so prettily. This is just lovely, yes?

Okay: two for one today. Here is a totally different version of this song that takes me back to Christmases long ago! There is no video, just an album cover photo. I cannot tell you how many years I wore my hair just like that. And I can't tell you how many times I sang the descant in verse two thinking I might actually be a soprano, deep down inside (no. No. NO! really, reallly not a soprano...)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Countdown

This carol speaks to me. Always has. And this version in particular is very stirring. Our choir sang this last year. Any WLA'ers able to still sing along?

This might be my favourite of the Christmas Countdown.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Countdown

You need to just close your eyes now. And possibly have a tissue handy. There is no video to watch; only sublime beauty to hear.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Foodie Fridays

Dear Amy,

My apologies for making you wait so long for this post! 4 weeks ago you asked me if I had a good recipe with any secret ingredients for Minestrone Soup, and I have left you high and dry until now. How have you survived?

I do, indeed, have a favourite Minestrone recipe. It began with a recipe from my already stated favourite cook book "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison. (Have you all bought this yet? You must!) Her Lentil Minestrone was my beginning platform, and I've tweaked it to make it one of my favourite soups.

Now before I give you the recipe, let me tell you a story about minestrone soup. (Bet you didn't know I had a story about minestrone soup. I have a story for almost anything!)

Way back in 1997 when Chris and I lived in Northern California for 6 months, we met a friend who took us to Il Fornaio restaurant in Sacremento. If that wasn't good enough, he actually took us there TWICE! Oh, Bliss! This was an Italian heaven, let me tell you. Now on to the soup part of the story. The first time we went it was November. We went out for my birthday. So nice. I ordered "Seasonal, Vegan Minestrone Soup" as my starter. It was light and tomatoey and full of perfectly diced veggies. with a shaving of parmasean cheese on top....yes.

Then we went again in December just as we were on our way back home. I thought "I must have that perfect soup again before I die" and so I ordered it again. There was not a tomato in sight! It was thicker, heartier, and definitely with potatoes in it. Oh dear me, even better! Who knew? I asked the waiter and he graciously pointed me back to the menu where it said the soup is made with "seasonal vegetables". Of course!

And so my love of minestrone, in all its variations, began with fervor.

Now I have one basic recipe that I do mostly year round, but I do alter the contents slightly during different seasons. And as always, my quantities vary with how many folks I'm serving, and what happens to be in my fridge at the time. Enough preamble: on to the recipe!

Lentil Minestrone

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley (Not that I measure it that closely)
1/4 cup chopped thyme (Or a good shake of the dried stuff)
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 carrots, peeled and diced
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 cup green lentils (or just a big handful, really)
1 cup red lentils (ditto on the handful)
2 bay leaves (optional)
9 cups water, veggie broth, or beef broth
2 cans diced tomatoes (or crushed, for a thicker, more tomato-based soup, or one of each--that's what I usually do)
Good sized Splash of soy sauce (optional, but it gives a depth of flavour, especially if you used water or veggie broth)
Something Green, chopped (you can use fresh or frozen spinach, kale, chard, collards...)
Cabbage, shredded fine (as much as you like: I like lots. My kids? Not so much. Too bad for them! Bwahahaha!)
2-3 cups of small, cooked pasta (macaroni, mini shells, orzo, alphabet noodles...)
(Parmasean shavings to garnish, if desired)

(I know, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but they are just veggies, and you can chop them up and throw them in the pot as you go)

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Saute the onions until lightly browning. Add the garlic, parsley, and cook another 2 minutes, or so. Add the lentils, bay leaves, thyme, and liquid. Bring to a boil. (while I'm waiting for the pot to boil, I start peeling and chopping, and tossing veggies in the pot as they are chopped.) Once it is boiling, turn it down to a simmer and add all the veggies (including cabbage and greens, especially if they are fresh, not frozen.) At this point you may say "wow Barbara, that was not enough liquid. My soup is way too thick!" You can add more broth, you can add another can of tomatoes, or you can add the water you cook the noodles in (see below). Sometimes the lentils seem to soak up more liquid than other times.

Let simmer until the lentils and veggies are cooked (say 30 minutes). Taste and add salt and pepper and soy sauce to taste. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the pasta, with some or all of the cooking water if the soup is too thick still.

That's all! Now, it can keep simmering indefinitely. And I have made this in the crock pot, omitting the olive oil step at the beginning. Just toss it all in the crock pot overnight on low. Then add the pasta just before serving.

If you want to make it a Winter Minestrone, cut back on the canned tomatoes and increase the broth, and add 3 cups peeled, diced potatoes with the other veggies.

And secret tip: Soup always tastes better on day two, so if you want to make it ahead and reheat the next day that's a good plan. Or just really enjoy the leftovers! Also secret tip number 2: If the soup tastes a little bland right away or the next day, but you don't think salt will help, try squeezing the juice of a lemon into the pot. It won't taste really lemony in the soup, but it will make the flavours POP!Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Compassion Bloggers

Our family has a child that we sponsor through Compassion. His name is Juan and he lives in Colombia. It is truly amazing how connected one can feel to a child they will likely never meet just by reading their letters and looking at their pictures.

Juan was in a very serious accident a few years ago, and we have prayed with him and his family as we wait for his recovery. It is a long slow process, especially considering the limitations of finances and access to medical care that Juan's family has.

We praise the Lord for the Compassion Project and the local church that are coming alongside Juan's family to help support them and care for them in very practical ways. We rejoice when Juan says that he loves Jesus and knows that God can heal him, if He chooses. We are so grateful to be even a small part of his life. And we know that we often get too busy and get behind in our letter writing, wondering what difference a note from us might make.

Well, if I ever had any doubt about the difference a sponsor makes in these kids' lives, along comes this video. If you aren't already a subscriber to Shaun Groves' blog, you really should be. If nothing else, seeing his blog will remind you to write to your child. And if you haven't sponsored a child yet, maybe this will be the nudge you need to do it. What a difference a prayer makes. I love this story.
God is so good!

Please follow this link to see this testimony from the family of the girl that Shaun Groves' sponsors.

And then follow this link to learn more about how you can make a difference in a child's life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays - Christmas Edition

Welcome to a month of Wow-ful Christmas Women! Now that it is December, I feel quite free to pour upon thou some fabulous Christmas Wow-fulness.

Our first spectacle is the stunning video full of stunning vocals that caused me to flood my house last Christmas Eve. (what? You don't remember that post? Oh, go back and read it. It's a doozy.)

Enjoy! Celtic Woman -- O Holy Night.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What's in a Name?

If you are anything like me, which I'm sure you are, there are times when you just haven't got a foggy clue what you are doing, and you are pretty sure that no one has ever felt as lost as you, and that no one could ever possibly get the disaster your brain is in. Can I get an "amen"? Anyone? Thank you.

I remember one such time. It was way back in the days of "the Townhouse" which is code for "the days when, yes we were living in the townhouse, but more than that it was in the time of life when we had 4 kids under the age of 4, and I was embroiled in my biggest life battle to date".

Someone had directed me to a blog and forum for moms where I went to find someone who understood me. Someone who'd been there. I tried to submit two questions about my state of confusion and exhaustion on the forum. The first they refused to post as it "encouraged something the moderators didn't endorse". So the second question, I made sure to be broad and unoffensive and something that would stir some helpful conversation.

What I said was something like this: "I'm a very young mom. I stay at home with my kids all the time. I love it and wouldn't have it any other way, but I'm really tired. And sometimes pretty sad. Can anyone relate?" What I received back was a bunch of platitudes and "right answers".

"No, I love it! I'm so blessed to be at home and I never feel tired or grumpy at all!"

"No, the joy of the Lord is *my* strength. I sure never feel sad at home at all!"

"Who could ever feel lonely when Jesus is your present help and comfort?"

And you know what? I knew all that. I knew that was supposed to be my reality, but the reality was that I was still tired: physically, emotionally, spiritually tired. My spiritual life was not stagnant. I was not being disobedient, or ungrateful, or rebellious. I had a wonderful husband with a fabulous marriage, and a supportive church. My little children were good sleepers and fairly obedient, all things considered. Life wasn't bad. I wasn't complaining. I was just a busy, tired woman. And no one understood. Or so I thought. They weren't hearing me. They weren't getting me. They couldn't help me.

One day in my quiet time I sat down hoping to hear a word of encouragement in my daily reading. I felt a strange prompting to read 1 Chronicles 3:8. Really? Really.

I kind of ignored it, but it wouldn't go away, so I finally turned to that spot thinking I was probably imagining things. Sure enough, the verse says this: "Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet". Nope. Not a word from the Lord. Just a list of names.

I tried to move on, back to my scheduled reading for the day, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was to read that passage again. So I did, and the whole chapter looking for something in the context. Nothing. It is just a list of the descendants of David. I was hoping that those 3 names were not the ordained names for my next 3 children!

Still, I felt like I was supposed to "get" something out of that verse. Finally, I thought to look up in a bible dictionary what those names meant.

Here's what those names mean, and what the Lord wanted me to know that day: "The Lord hears, The Lord knows, and The Lord will deliver."

He understood me. He heard my prayers. He knew my heart. And, as my present help in times of trouble, he would deliver me in his time and in his way.

How grateful I was that day for 3 funny sounding names. And how grateful I am still that we have a Lord who sympathizes with our weakness, and who understands our frailty, and who can speak to any specific circumstance in our day through the Word.

What does the Lord mean to speak to you today? What burden do you need Him to carry for you? He is more than able. And more than willing. And that is a very, very good thing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Love Looks Like

You’ve seen the movie: the music swells in the background, the lights darken around the edges with one bright, piercing ray of sun shining in the center of the screen, while a perfectly manicured, make-upped and hair-dooed couple embrace, vowing that *this* is forever.

Or maybe you’ve seen this one: the house is burning to the ground and the stunningly gorgeous, yet humble girl-next-door-type is trapped in the upper floor, having swooned gracefully and fallen in a semi-conscious state to the smoldering ground. With her, seemingly, last breath she calls out the name of the man whom she has, up to this point in the film, scorned, and who, unbeknownst to the citizens of this quaint little town, was a firefighter before he hit the bottle following the death of his first wife, and who, just now, as he realized he was about to lose this woman forever, found the courage to suit up again in the uniform of his former life, swearing off of the Devil’s elixir forever, and climbed into the towering inferno and towards certain death just to see her one.more.time. And as he reaches her in that semi-conscious state, he calls out her name too and lovingly cradles her perfect head in his sculpted arms, and as she flutters her eyes open one last time, she says, “You came back for me” to which he responds “I’ll never leave you again”; then depending on what kind of ending you like in a movie they either die together there in the fire so that their love is never less perfect than it was in that moment, or they leap out of the window into the pillow-like field of forget-me-nots and live happily ever after.


I don't know about you, but this isn't what life in my house looked like this week. To read what love really looked like in my house, click here to read the rest of my latest Heart of the Matter Article.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

You have to love Miss Piggy. And who doesn't think Christopher Reeve is dreamy? A little lighter fare for this spring-like November day. (My 11 year old is doubting the Wow-fulness of today's post. Don't you think Miss Piggy is pretty Wow-ful?)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Honing Hospitality

The tables were set up in the basement and were covered with the longest tablecloth we could find. All of us were there. All 15 of us. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. This was a big deal because it meant that my family had made the trek between two provinces to be at Grandma's house for Christmas. The food was SO good, like always. The chatter around the table was loud and continual. And we all ended the meal significantly more full than we intended. This was good. There was just nothing like my Grandma Mary's turkey, dressing, and gravy.

Nothing like it, except, for my mom's. Her Thanksgivings and Christmases were legendary. Equally long table, at least as many guests, and the flavours and textures just as satifsying as Grandma's. And delicious. And comfortably predictable. My mom would toss the bread crumbs with some of this and some of that, and one more shake of something else until it smelled just like *that*, and I knew that she had reached dressing perfection again for another year. And once, when my grandparents made the inter-provincial trek to our house, my Grandpa gave my mom the best compliment ever: "This is just as good as Mary's". My mom had a couple of tears in her eyes when she told me what Grandpa had said. And now I knew I had two women to match up to. I wanted to cook as well, and host as well, as my Mom and my Grandma. But, boy, was that bar highly raised.

Fast forward to my first year of marriage. There's our one bedroom apartment. There's my squashy little galley kitchen and squashier dining "room" in builder's beige. The table is set just so with all of our pretty wedding gifts and my Mom and Dad are bringing Grandma over to see "Barb and Chris' first home". The budget was pretty slim in those days. What can I serve to these two women who I absolutely adore, and whose opinion of me (and my domestic skills) really, really matters to me? It needs to be something simple, something economical (clearly!), something familiar for Grandma (no Thai or tofu that day), and something that looks fairly foolproof.

I pick the menu. I follow the recipe, and then tweak it so I like it. Main course; side dishes; mom will bring dessert. After ensuring it is all hot at the same time, after making sure there is plenty, after making sure Grandma is comfortable, after making sure we all eat enough, we clear the table, wash the dishes, drink our coffee and have a great visit.

And then.

My Mom and Dad drive Grandma home. As soon as she gets home, Mom calls me. "Honey. I just wanted to tell you what a lovely time we had at your place. You and Chris are doing such a nice job of setting up your home. It was really lovely. But I also want to tell you that Grandma commented on the main course you made. She says she likes how you do it better than how she does it, and could she have your recipe."

I gasp slightly. Before I recover fully, my Mom states the obvious for emphasis, "That's quite the compliment."

Here I was: a young married woman who grew up having dreams of having her own cooking show on TV (really!), and who grew up LOVING the comfy home-life, and appreciating the gift of company, and benefitting from the blessing of hospitality. For me to hear my Grandma ask for my recipe was certainly a great encouragement in the right direction.

Who knew then, mere months into my marriage, that I would be now cooking for 9 people everyday, plus the friends and family that we have the chance to have over on occassion. I thank the Lord for my home, and my family, and for the love of cooking. And for the Mom and Grandma who both set an incredible example, and encouraged me in my pursuit of the same.

It is amazing how one little comment of my Grandma's, likely off the cuff and not intended to be as pivotal as it was, could buoy up my heart and give me such confidence. Sometimes that's all it takes for one moment to direct your story.

The Compassion Blog is inviting you to share your story too. Follow this link to find out all the details. You can also read Shaun Groves' plea for your story, as well as his own story of how a well-time word can change a life. What's your story? Leave a comment below or consider blogging it. If you blog your story please leave a link in the comments here, or on the Compassion Blog, so that we can be encouraged by your tale.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

Now, if you are looking for up-beat, this is not it. If you are looking for some interesting ways of pronouncing vowels, you've got it. However, you also are about to listen to some insanely brilliant harmonies. I like to remember that this is the very first song I ever sang harmonies to with my sister. We never sang it this slow

There's just something about family voices and those tight Blue Grass harmonies. Love it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Open Letter to Some of my Daughters

Dear precious, lovely girls:

I have a couple of things to say to you today. They've been on my heart for a while but have been more like "groans too deep for words" that only the Spirit can interpret until now. Finally I feel like maybe, just maybe, I know what some of these words on the tip of my tongue are, and how to get them out. Maybe.

First, let me say that of all our girls you are most like me. I know you know that. You hear it all the time from me, from the grandparents, from folks at church. Here's what you may not know: for years I've been praying that you would be nothing like me at all.

I know that sounds backwards. Most moms love to hear that their daughters take after them. "Oh, she has your eyes", we love to hear. But some of the ways you are like me are things about myself that I have prayed against and struggled with for years.

I have prayed earnestly that the Lord would make you take after your father more than after me. I've prayed that you would be spared the frustration I've worked through struggling over specific sin issues that linger decade after decade.

What I want is for you to have an easier time than I've had in certain areas of life. I want for you to not have to take so many thoughts captive in your head as these lies creep in, shaking your faith. I want for you to know that you know that you know that you are loved by Jesus. I want for you to experience less temptation, less fear, less guilt, less laziness, less pride. I want for you to be like Christ right now, not after a life-long, sometimes slow process of sanctification.

But here is what I have just realized:

If the Lord didn't bless you with weakness, you would never look to him for strength.
If the Lord didn't bless you with pain, you would never look to him for comfort.
If the Lord didn't bless you with sorrow, you would never look to him for joy.
If the Lord didn't bless you with guilt, you would never look to him for forgiveness.
If the Lord didn't bless you with sickness, you would never look to him for healing.

The things that I have hated about myself have thrown me to my knees in prayer, and have kept my eyes fixed on Christ. That is what I want for you. So if that means the Lord needs to make you like me in order to turn you to Christ, then so be it. I'll be on my knees beside you.

Praying for you daily,
Your Mom

Friday, October 22, 2010

Foodie Fridays

If you put up with me and my love of squash, perhaps you will tolerate a little affection towards the ever humble Sweet Potato. No? Really?

I know, you probably like Sweet Potato fries, and maybe you will tolerate a mashed thing at Thanksgiving, but how else do you eat Sweet Potato?

I have two little thoughts for you. This will be quick!

Number 1: If you make a mashed Sweet Potato casserole, please tell me you put a topping on it. If you don't, you should. This isn't rocket science, so don't think I'm a Domestic Diva over this recipe. Get some Pecan halves and arranged them in artful rows and columns. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar. Drizzle melted butter over all. Done. If you put whipped cream on the table beside it people with think it is dessert. Yum!

Number 2: If arranging pecans is not your style, (and really, who has time to peel, chop, and mash sweet potatoes anyway?), then try this: Remember my post on Fan Potatoes? Well the real name for that technique (unless I'm crazy mistaken) is "Hassleback Potatoes" from a name of a town in Sweden. The theory is that you slice your potato in to a fan shape, stick some garlic slices in the cuts, then roll it in butter, crisp them in a cast iron pan on the stove top, then bake them until you are ready to crawl into the oven beside them just to be close to their inherent deliciousness. My version was much more simple, but equally divine.

Now, try doing it with sweet potatoes. Cut them like a fan, coat them in oil(no garlic today) and then bake until soft in the middle and crisping on top. Then, OH THEN, drizzle the tops generously with real maple syrup, and toss some pecans on top if you have them, and bake another 10 minutes to caramelize.

My kids are not Sweet Potato fans. Correction: they weren't Sweet Potato fans until I made these Hassleback Maple Syrup Sweet Potatoes. Try it. You'll like it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

Some days you are just in the middle of a real sunshiny day and all you can say is "God is so good". Some days you are just in the middle of a real dark, heavy cloud...what do you say then?

God is still good. God is always good. Even when it is hard to see or feel. It is just true. God is good, all the time.

This song is one of my all time favourites. (It is a good one to listen to with out watching the video so that you can picture yourself in the story she sings.)

I have a few people in mind specifically as I listen to this song today. And I'm praying that they would tangibly experience the presence of God today in the middle of their circumstances. Who can you pray this song for today?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Heard At My House

"Hey Mom! I actually just ate ALL my Brussels sprouts...with*out* gagging!"

[Mental Note: We've come a long way from the days when the kids called them "Special Sprouts".}

Friday, October 15, 2010

Foodie Fridays

Oh dear, happy Autumn! How I lovest thou! Thou art so cool and lovely and colourful and gratitudinal and, most importantly, suitable for my prefered wardrobe options.

I do heart the fall. I'm not gonna lie. Is there anything nicer than not having to wear shorts? Is there anything nicer than not having to worry about getting invited to a pool party? Is there anything nicer than not feeling like you are two degrees from meltdown? Sigh. Happy, happy, autumn.

I really like the fall for lots of reasons that are more significant than my silly ones above. The crunch of the leaves under my feet on a good walk; the brisk air that makes me glad I'm wearing a cozy sweater; the need for a blanket and a cup of tea during read-aloud time with the kids: there is nothing like it.

And the food. Oh the glorious food! Don't get me wrong, I really like a good salad and BBQ, but OH for a good pot of soup. Yes! to a big pot of chili bubbling away on the stove. Hurray for using the crockpot because it makes food yummy and not because it is too hot to turn on the oven.

Think about pumpkins and onions and peppers and rutabega and parsnips and carrots....sigh. And squash. Dear, humble squash. Don't you know how great you are? And how varied! Acorn, pepper, spaghetti, butternut....and there are more! But who needs more? These gourds should never be relegated to *only* decoration (although my counter top looks awfully nice right now with 5 of these bad boys artfully arranged on it).

I know, you are thinking you don't like squash. Really? really? I know for those of you who do think you like squash, you are imagining acorn squash heaped with butter and brown sugar (ain't nothin' wrong with that). But I will show you a greater way.

You know I love soup. Now you know I love squash. So guess how much I like today's recipe. Woot! And it is crazy simple. Ready?

Barbara's Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped roughly, seeds discarded (6 cups or 2 pounds-ish) (You can peel it with an actual vegetable peeler or do what I do and just slide a big knife down the length of the squash very close to the surface. Also, look for a thick neck as opposed to a full bottom. The bottom is full of seeds: the neck has the flesh)

Curry Powder to taste
1 Onion, chopped roughly
Water or Chicken Broth (enough to cover the squash in the pot)

Heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Saute the onion and the squash until just starting to brown slightly. Add curry and stir a bit longer (the flavour of curry powder releases in oil better than water so be sure to add the curry first). Then add the water or broth to just cover the squash. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the squash is well-cooked (approx. 25 minutes). Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender, or in a food processor. Salt and Pepper to taste.

That's it! This amount should serve 6-8. I like to double this or more because it is a hit around here, and it does freeze well too. To sweeten the deal for your kids (literally) throw a couple of chopped apples in to the pot too. It is super yummy this way as well! Garnish with a blob of sour cream and chives to be all fancy-fancy.


Please try this. Squash are ridiculously cheap and fresh right now. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

This Sunday I have the joy of leading the music at our church again. It is such a humbling thing to do. There is nothing better than being surrounded by my musician friends using their gifts to worship the Lord and hearing the Body of Christ singing their worship to the Lord too. If you will allow me a (possibly cheesy) word picture, let me try to explain what it is like to be surrounded by worshippers. When I was a young girl I had a friend who had a large weeping willow tree on her yard. We would push through the hanging tendrils and hide in the sanctum sanctorum of the mighty tree. We were completely enveloped in the shelter of the tree, set apart from the rest of the world. And that is how it feels when I get the privilege of being enveloped on all sides by instruments and voices, all of us singing with one heart, set apart for our great God and King. There's nothing like it.

This Sunday, as I said, we have the joy of doing it all again. This time we have a really pared down band. Piano. Bass. Acoustic Guitar. Three voices. I'm looking forward to filling the church with some good harmonies and simple melodies. Every once in a while I have a moment of worry that the sound will be too thin or the voices too sparse to adequately convey to the Lord our GREAT thanks to him. But I think that fear is unfounded. He knows our hearts. And no "bigness" of sound ever could be enough to adequately praise him anyway.

I've said here before that whenever I sing the Hymn "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" I always assume the hymn writer meant that he wished he had 1000 tongues of his own as if that might give him greater ability to sing his great redeemer's praise. Maybe that's not what he meant, but it sure is in my mind's eye.

So this weekend we will praise God in our big smallness. And I can't wait. And if I needed any confirmation that a small team can make a joyful sound there is this video (which granted, has nothing to do with the God-theme of this post, but does have the same band make up.) :-)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happily See-Through

We teach our kids about the omniscience and omnipresence of our God. That is, we let them know that God knows everything, sees everything, is everywhere, and so on. We can't hide from him. He is always by our side. He is always aware of what is going on with us. And this is a comfort.

That's what we tell them.

That's what I believe.

But since we're all about honesty and fuel for thought around here I figure I better 'fess up a bit about something. There is a verse that we have taught our kids which is meant to be a comfort when they are comparing themselves to others: Man looks at outward appearances but the Lord examines the heart.

So don't worry if kids laugh at what you look like, it is what is on the inside that counts. Don't worry if what you tried to do failed on the outside, the Lord knows what good intentions you had in your heart.


I have always quaked with fear about that. I mean, really, isn't it often so much easier to look good on the outside? To fake a happy heart when inside your heart is throwing a selfish hissy fit? (Someone say amen, please. Don't leave me hanging)

I don't want to be a hypocrite. I don't want to be a "white-washed tomb" looking nice on the outside, but actually being cold, hard and dead on the inside. I want to not shake in my boots when I think about the Lord examining my heart.

And here is the good news: I don't have to quake. I don't have to be afraid of what he'll find. Because when I follow Christ, when I acknowledge his lordship over my life, then it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

Charles Spurgeon said: "Rejoice then, believer, in this: thou art accepted "in the beloved." Thou lookest within, and thou sayest, "There is nothing acceptable here!" But look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Thy sins trouble thee; but God has cast thy sins behind his back, and thou art accepted in the Righteous One."

When God the Father, the holy judge, looks in at my heart he no longer sees my sin and my selfishness, but rather sees the righteousness, the goodness, the perfection, of his Son poured out over me and in me and through me.

Transparency has never felt so good.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

Somehow I failed to notice that yesterday was Wednesday. I mean, I know it was but the day evaporated like an apple juice spill on the table that leaves behind a sticky reminder that it had been here but wasn't taken care of very well.

Or something like that.

The point being, another Wednesday came and went with so many repetitive household chores being done. It came and went with the same routine that all Wednesdays hold. It came and went with me cleaning up one mess just so that we were able to make another.

And today will be much the same. We will clean up breakfast and the dining room table so that we can cover the table with school books and pencil shavings. Then we'll clean that up so that we can cover the table with soup spoons and bread crumbs. Then we'll clean that up so that "art" can be made and dinner served and Egyptian Temples built.

In the meantime, I will vacuum the floor so that the clean laundry I unceremoniously dump on the carpet for sorting won't pick up every stray piece of who-knows-what. But then once I clean up all the laundry there will be new lint and dryer sheets to pick up. The re-vacuuming may wait until tomorrow.

Such is life. And I wouldn't have it any other way. There is joy to be found. It sounds simple, but it is really profound. It takes a choice.

I'm choosing joy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Heard At My House - The Birds and the Bees Edition

The sticky subject of when to have "the talk" with our kids has always plagued my mind like a, well, like a plague. Every so often a question will come up and I'll think, "Here we go: Today is the day." Except Chris and my philosophy is only answer the question actually asked, and only give as much information as is necessary to satisfy their momentary curiousity. Thus, the following dialogue between my 4 year old daughter and myself.

Miss T: "Mommy, are we made out of potatoes?"

Me: "Sorry. What?"

Miss T: "Are we made from potatoes?"

Me: "Uh. No."

Miss T: "Are we made from dirt?"

Me: "Well, God made Adam from the dust of the ground, so he was made from dirt and then Eve was made from his rib and was fashioned around it. Remember us talking about that?"

Miss T: "Yes. So are we made from ribs?"

Me: "No. Once there was Adam and Eve, God made all the rest of the people from a Mommy and a Daddy." (*insert nervous breathing wondering how much farther I'll need to go.*) "Then a baby grows in the Mommy's belly and it comes out a cute little baby."

Miss T: "And then it learns to walk and get big, right?"

Me: "Right"

Miss T: "Okay. So we aren't from potatoes."

Me: "Right."

Miss T: "Thanks, Mommy. Good night."

And thus ends another painless conversation. Who can understand the workings of a 4 year old mind?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Accounting, Of Sorts

My husband keeps our books and manages our finances. I love that guy. He has a great analytical, planning mind and it helps us to keep on track and stay on budget. I cannot tell you how helpful that is and how grateful I am to have that kind of structure in our home.

Now, to be sure, he keeps me “in the loop” and takes my input into account with the budgeting: how much do we need for groceries? How much for diapers? How much for curriculum and extra-curricular activities? We discuss our plans and goals for the year and make decisions accordingly. All in all, it is a great system.

And really, the hardest thing he asks me to do is to give him all of my receipts for anything I didn’t spend cash for. Easy breezy, right?


See, sometimes I’m very good at putting them on his desk right away. Come home from store: take receipt out of purse: place on desk. Three simple steps. And really, most of my buying is done with cash anyway so the receipts shouldn’t add up in my wallet at all. However, being human, sometimes they do congregate in my purse, and seemingly multiply, until I have a several of them making a crinkly, noisy stash which adds up to a whole lot of anxiety on my part.

Now if you have spent any time reading my blog, you may have discovered that I have an over-active guilt gland. I can feel guilty about things I’ve done, things I might do, things you think I might have done, and really, on a good day, even about things *you’ve* done. I’m a guilt over-achiever. So as the receipts pile up in my wallet, I start to carry a heavy, self-imposed load of guilt. The longer I wait to finally get them out of my purse, the harder it is to do, and then the more receipts there are, and then the harder it is to do, so the longer I wait, and then the more receipts there are, and the harder it is… What a cycle!

Something else needs to be said here before I continue. The receipts in my wallet are not for crazy things. They are not representing some wild shopping spree at a shoe store, or book store, or fast food restaurant. They are not the proof of frivolous spending. They will show that I have purchased gas, groceries, shampoo, a gift for the birthday girl: all things that are budgeted and accounted for.

Also of note, is the fact that my husband has never made a big deal about this. He is not a grumpy guy who is waiting to make me feel bad for being slow in getting him the receipts. I’m not feeling guilty because I know he is going to be angry. He never is.

The guilt comes from .....

Please read the rest of my latest Heart of The Matter Article here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

Two videos today.

First, ages ago when I started this Wow-ful Women spot I posted one of my all-time favourite songs by, in my uneducated estimation, the best stage voice of all time. Remember this post?

Today we have,again, Ruthie Henshall (don't worry that you didn't know her name. I didn't either. But who could forget her voice?).

Now about that second video: this song comes from Gypsy, the movie version of which I really, really like a lot. So I have the clip from the movie below, and what I love most about it is Natalie Wood. She is just exceptional. There is a scene from the movie that makes me cry just thinking about it, but I can't find a clip of it to show you. It is the scene where Natalie Wood's character gets all dressed up for the stage for the first time and she stands in front of the mirror, unable to recognize herself, and she says, "Mama, I *am* beautiful." Makes we weep like a ridiculous woman everytime. Maybe you have to see it to get it... :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Foodie Fridays

There comes a time in everyone's life when the clock strikes 4:30pm and you need supper on the table in 30 minutes or less. This can be a problem. The temptation is to just grab toast and peanut butter or order in pizza. Or under dire circumstances one might stir up some Kraft Dinner. However, wouldn't you prefer something healthy, delicious, inexpensive and full of homemade, exotic goodness?

I thought so. :-)

Enter Nasi Goreng.

(which sounds remarkably like a theatre cue for a Russian Actor, but I digress...)

Nasi Goreng actually just means "Fried Rice" which doesn't sound too exotic at all. But that is the glory of this dish! You can dress this up or tone it down according to the whims and tastes of your family.

This is an international superstar of a meal. Talk about world traveller! It is the Indonesian National Food, and it is found in Singapore and China and India too! The Dutch will claim it as one of their traditional foods because of their footprint in Indonesia. And they have seasoned it in the vein of all things Netherlands. Indonesia and Malaysia have their own take on the meal, sometimes eating it for breakfast, lunch and supper! It can be spicy or mild, simple or elaborately garnished. We do a happy mix of both. It can also be meaty and hearty, or vegetarian and hearty! It can be laden with veggies. It can be main course or side dish. What's not to love about Nasi Goreng?! :-)

My take on Nasi Goreng comes from my favourite cookbook of all time. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison is by far the most helpful, beautiful, inspiring, encouraging cookbook I've ever owned. And no, you can't borrow it :-) Actually, you could borrow it, but like me, you'll just want to buy it. I first fell in love with it in Barnes and Nobles on 4th Street in Santa Rosa, CA. Man, I poured over that book (with a Decaf Grande Soy No-Whip Mocha in first Starbucks experience as well. Those were good times!). I copied out from the book, Nasi Goreng included, because I couldn't afford the $40 price tag. When we returned home to Canada, and to a steady income, I found it again at Chapters and happily paid the slightly-higher Canadian price. Worth every penny!

The trick to this dish is to have cooked and cooled rice on hand. I have made it with fresh, hot rice and it works too, but the texture is better if you use "yesterday's rice". Why not cook up a double portion of rice the next time you make some and freeze it for just such a day when you need supper RIGHT NOW? You won't regret it!

The real heart of Nasi Goreng, in my mind, is the sauce. The basic premise of how I do Nasi Goreng follows, but you need to know it is widely and frequently subject to variation.

What you need:

Cooked rice (as much as you like. Clearly more if it is a main course meal. Maybe a cup per person is a good place to start.)

Veggies (whatever you have on hand. eg. diced carrots, celery, peas, green beans, snow peas, zucchini, brocolli, cauliflower...I've even used a bag of frozen mixed veggies and it works just as well! Use just one vegetable or a combination. Whatever suits your fancy.)

Diced extra-firm Tofu, ground beef, or diced cooked chicken (or cheat and buy one of those rotisserie chickens at your local grocery store and use the shredded meat).

For the Sauce:

(via the cookbook)
1 small white onion
2 serrano chiles, diced
3-4 tbsp roasted peanut oil
2 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ketchup or tomato sauce

Work all of that into a paste using a food processor or mortar and pestle.

(or, my cheater, easy version)

1/2 cup soy sauce
spoonful of brown sugar
decent squirt of ketchup
as much Sambal Oelek as you can stand! (this is the spicy bit. It is usually found in small jars in the International section of grocery stores. You could also use a good Thai chile paste)

Stir all together. Easy peasy.

How to Do It:

Heat oil in a large frying pan. If you feel like being fancy, toss in some chopped onions and garlic. Otherwise saute the tofu until golden, or ground beef until cooked through. Add the cooked rice and veggies. Stir occassionally until rice begins to brown. (or not if you need supper in a hurry!) Pour sauce over and stir well to coat. Then just keep cooking on medium heat, stirring occassionally, until the sauce is beginning to carmelize, your veggies are softening but still a little crispy (or to your preference), and your family is hovering in the kitchen, desperately trying to sneak a spoonful of the stuff.

Voila. C'est tout! To garnish, (if you are feeling lush) sprinkle with diagonally sliced green onions, or pea shoots, or peanuts, or finely shredded cabbage, or waterchestnuts.... so.unbelievably.good. Your belly, and your budget, will thank you. Let me know if you make it, and how much you loved it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

Hello. She's 7. When I was 7, I thought I could make myself sound like Tina Turner.

In case you are wondering, I was wrong. :-)

This kind of makes me smile.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

Just because...

There are some things that should be SO.GOOD that end up being kind of just alright.

Mind you, I do have a special place in my heart for "The Leader of The Pack". :-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Foodie Fridays

I've been patiently, desperately, hungrily waiting for tomato season so that I could give you this most brilliantly simple and yet STUNNINGLY delicious salad. You could make it with hot-house tomatoes in the winter. And I would encourage you to try. But you'll quickly find that the picked-right-out-of-the-garden tomatoes are just so deadly good that you'll be willing to wait for August and September to eat this salad.

My first taste of this salad was on Chris and my 10th wedding anniversary at a lovely Inn not too far from here. Thankfully the restaurant gave a detailed description of the salad on the menu, and thankfully, I really enjoy trying to replicate restaurant food at home. Hence, I have come very close to getting the salad just right. Yay! This is, unfortunately, one of those recipes without specific amounts listed because you just need to know what's in it and then you can make as much or as little as you like. Trust me, it isn't rocket science! :-)

Without further ado: Tomato and Provolone Salad

What You Need:
Plump, perfect, ripe tomatoes, at least one per person (go for Beefstake or other large, full-flavoured tomatoes. Truthfully, anything fresh off the vine will be good)

Slices of provolone cheese (you can find it already sliced in the deli section, or order it at the counter)

Slices of Genoa Salami (or any other good, not sweet salami. And maybe not a spicy salami either. Something with a good amount of pepper, but not "heat". Does that make sense?)

Pesto (store-bought or homemade...doesn't matter)

Walnut Oil (okay, I know. Really? It is fabulous, but you can certainly use a good olive oil instead)

Black olives (optional)

Fresh basil or parsley (optional)

How to Do it!

Slice tomatoes, salami, and cheese into rounds, trying to make them as close to the same thickness as possible.

Alternate the slices, arranging them in a circle around your place (tomato, salami, cheese, tomato, salami cheese...). For a larger serving, or to make a larger serving platter worth, start near the outside edge of the plate and make overlapping circles/spirals towards the center of the plate.

Thin some pesto with the oil.

Drizzle over salad. Sprinkle with olives and fresh herbs, if using.

Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper if desired.

And then convince yourself that you want to share with the people you love, because truthfully, you may want to eat the whole thing by yourself. :-)

Serve with a good crusty bread to sop up all the dressing and tomato juices off the plate. You could arrange this salad on top of some greens to make it more filling. I'd recommend arugula or spinach as they are more flavourful and sturdy to stand up to the salad.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

"He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out in to a broad place, he rescued me, because he delighted in me."

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave himself up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"

(Ps.18:16-19, Rom.8:31-32)

You Are For Me

Verse 1
So faithful
So constant
So loving and so true
So powerful in all You do
You fill me
You see me
You know my ev'ry move
You love for me to sing to You

Chorus 1
I know that You are for me
I know that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who you are

Verse 2
So patient
So gracious
So merciful and true
So wonderful in all You do
You fill me
You see me
You know my ev'ry move
And You love for me to sing to You Lord

CCLI Song No. 5265457
© 2008 Gateway Create Publishing (Admin. by Integrity's Praise! Music)
Kari Jobe
For use solely with the SongSelect Terms of Use. All rights Reserved.
CCLI License No. 164330

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Telemarketing Fun

My friend, Kristina, just posted a recent encounter with a telemarketer over at her blog and so I felt compelled to share with you my latest experience. Mine is a moral tale: a fable of sorts. Read, and learn.

Me: Hello, this is Barbara.

Telemarketer: [toilet flushing] Hello, my name is...

Me: Not interested. [Hang up, and disinfect ear]

And the moral of this tale:

If a sale you want to make,
And a pee break, need to take,
Please do the last well before the first,
So I don't know, and you don't burst.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Heard At My House

Daughter A, age 9: "I'm glad I'm me. I mean, I probably wouldn't be sad if I was somebody else either, but I'm glad I'm me. I just like it. And this house is the coziest house ever. And I love walking through the house and smelling all of Mom's yummy cooking smells. [extended, contented sigh] I think I'm just pretty happy."

Yes, dear Sunshine. You are just pretty happy. And we are so glad you are you, too. I couldn't imagine life with you!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Foodie Fridays

My husband loves me. But he's not a liar. And he's not a flatterer. So when he compliments me, I believe he means it and not that he is still viewing me through some Newly-wed Rose-coloured glasses.

And he says I make killer soups. He says I should write a cook book about soups. He says I could make money on my soups.

I heart that guy.

If you come to my house for lunch sometime for a 'thing' (you know, a baby dedication, birthday party, Thanksgiving Sunday lunch... a 'thing') you may find that I serve what I call, my "Soup Buffet". There will be 3 pots of soup, assorted breads, assorted garnishes for the soups and lots of clean bowls and spoons so you can try them all! It is really one of my favourite things to cook. Soup is so simple, yet when done well it can be surprisingly complex and exciting and satisfying! (can you tell I haven't had lunch yet...I'm hungry!)

So, today, for the first time, if I'm not mistaken, I will share with you one of my favourite soups! Because even in a heat wave, a pot of soup simmering on the stove is a beautiful thing.

Bits of Bite-Sized Broccoli Soup

2 large heads broccoli, in small florets (peel the stems and chop them up too!)
2 celery stalks with leaves, diced small
4 small carrots, diced small
1 large onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large potatoes, diced small
Half a head of cauliflower, diced small
a handful each of fresh basil, thyme, and oregano (or 1/4 tsp each dried)
Chicken broth, or water (approx. 6 cups)

In large stock pot, heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (or vegetable oil). Saute the carrots, celery, and onion until softening. Add garlic and saute until it smells so good you want to eat it already! :-) (approx. 1-2 minutes: don't let the garlic burn.)

Add broccoli, cauliflower, and potato and herbs. Stir to mix well. Pour in broth and/or water just enough to barely cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Then turn down and let simmer 20 minutes, or until the veggies are soft.

In a food processor or blender, puree approximately half of the soup, then return to the pot. Add salt to taste. If it is too thick, add more broth, or even some milk (or soy milk). If it is too, dip your bread into it :-)

This is just plain yummy. Little kids even seem to like it as the bites of veggies seem to fit well in their mouths and not overwhelm them. This will make a fair number of servings and it freezes pretty well.

Also, sometimes, we grate half a pound of cheese into the pot too... :-)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Impressing God

How long have I sat thinking about this post? How long have I had a weight on my heart about this post? *sigh*

My first stirrings and musings on this matter came some 6 years ago when I read "An Unstoppable Force" by Erwin McManus. The whole book kind of got under my skin. And if I'm being honest, I felt sort of annoyed by the premise and presumption in the book. I don't own a copy of the book, so forgive me as I paraphrase, as best as I can, a recurring theme in his writing that got my goat. He would talk about how praying for our children to be safe was a poor thing to pray for. That our goal for ourselves and our children and our churches should be to live dangerous lives for Christ. God wasn't calling us to lives of safety, but to lives of danger, and risk, and doing big things for God.

Now, I agree that the Word promises that we will have trial. We will have tribulations. There is no denying that saints throughout history, and even to today, are suffering for the dangerous righteousness they are living out. And there is no denying that Christ himself did not choose an easy life of safety during his time on earth.

I agree that we need to live lives that are full of action. James says, "Faith without works is dead" and "Be not merely hearers of the word but doers also". We need to act. Jesus acted. I get that. I know the Parable of the Talents. I know how displeased the Manager was with the worker who merely buried his talents, folding his hands and twiddling his thumbs in safety and ease. And I know how pleased he was with the workers who used and developed and risked the talents for a greater reward. I know these truths.

And don't get me wrong: I know myself well enough to know that at heart I am lazy and selfish, and prone to justify my laziness and selfishness under the guise of "being cautious" or "being reasonable". I am also prone to worry, and so the easy thing for me would be to bubble wrap my children and say it was "just being a good steward of the gifts God has given to me".

And also don't get me wrong: The last thing I want is for the church to be a bunch of complacent, comfortable, casserole-loving, isolated, irrelevant, nice guys.

So I struggle with this. I don't want to live a meaningless life of ease and inactivity. I don't want to displease God by wasting the days he has given to me. And yet I look at the life he has given me and wonder how a mom of 7 is supposed to "go and do some big thing to impress God"? I mean, after all, I'm *just* a stay at home mom.

And then I see a video like this...

...and I don't disagree. I think he's right. On many, many levels, he is absolutely right.


Will someone say that being a mom *is* doing a big thing for God?

Will someone please say that choosing to quit your job, live on one income, and stay home and homeschool is living a scary, crazy, unsafe life for some of us?

Will someone please say that being a mom or a dad who works all day, shining the light of Christ to his or her co-workers, and then coming home and making supper, reading stories, praying with the kids, and selflessly spending even more weary hours shining the light at home, and ushering your children into the kingdom of Christ through faith *is* doing a 'big thing for God'?

Will someone please say that working joyfully day in and day out on the factory assembly line,

and honouring your parents,

and loving the saints,

and serving in the local church,

and tithing,

and living your whole life--every second of every day--as a living sacrifice of worship to Christ is just as much a "big thing for God" as anything else you can dream up?

For some wholehearted Christ-seekers, the call will, in fact, be to pick up and spread the gospel to the far-reaching, life-threatening corners of the globe, and to them I say, "Thank you for going, and thank you for making those sacrifices, and thank you for being faithful. May the Lord bless you for your courage and faithful obedience." Truly.

But for the rest of us wholehearted Christ-seekers, who, for the time at least, are being called to stay home and just shine for Christ here, let me say to you, "Thank you for staying, and thank you for making these sacrifices, and thank you for being faithful. May the Lord bless you for your courage and faithful obedience, too."

We need to remember, *I* need to remember, that God is self-sufficient. He doesn't need me or you to dream up something wonderful to do. He doesn't need our service, he doesn't need our "staying" or our "going". However, He does invite us. And when and where and how he invites us better stir our hearts to specific obedience, no matter how different our invitation looks from that of the person next to us.

"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much." "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand more." (Luke 16:10, Luke 12:48)

Lord, you have entrusted me with much here. Let me be faithful in this before I venture off to do anything else. Help me to hear your voice, and your call on my life so I can obey the things you've called me to do, and not try to respond to someone else's call. Help me to remain content in this big thing you've called me to instead of longingly looking for some other way to "impress" you. Thank you for this call, and for this mission. I pray that you will find me to be a faithful servant. And I do pray that you will embolden your church to do the things that please you, starting with the small acts of obedience and faithfulness right in front of our faces.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

We are in the middle of what seems to me to be an endless number of heatwaves around here. Not that I'm complaining....well. Actually, I might be. I'm not the most heat-tolerant creature. But we do have air conditioning. And I'm using the heat as a great excuse to not run. :-)

Nevertheless, I do not want to be a grumpy Canadian who can only be content with 4 months of Canadian climate! So as such, I will post a song today celebrating one of my favourite singers of all time, and celebrate summer all in one fell swoop.

Summertime by Sarah Vaughn (this is, in my humble opinion, the best version of this song ever done, by anyone, there!) :-)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tomato-Plant Tenacity

We are gardeners. I can say that now, because we actually have a garden in our backyard and we actually work in it. That makes us gardeners. We have a beautifully designed garden with plots that are big enough to hold many plants, but that are small enough to manage. The garden has good drainage, good soil, and lots of sun. It is well-watered and weeded thanks to my first-born who may indeed have a green thumb. All in all, it has the makings of being a productive little bit of land. I can’t say we are good at gardening yet. Only time will tell, and at the time of this writing the jury is still out. There are lots of leaves and flowers, but not much fruit yet. However, it is only early July as I’m typing, so we’ll have to wait for the real harvest time to prove our worth.

But that lovely set of plots is not even the object of my attention and affection today. You see, in our enthusiasm for this new garden (or was it our lack of faith in our ability to keep things alive?) we bought a lot of tomato plants. A lot. Like, 25. They were tiny, and we figured some of them wouldn’t make it (we were right!) and we figured I really did want to can a lot of tomatoes if they all survived. And so we planted many, many tomatoes in the garden proper. But there were two more that just didn’t fit anywhere.

Or so we thought.

My husband stuck two in to our flowerbeds. Good idea. They get a little less sun there but they will be watered, and the thought was that if something died in the real garden we could transplant over one of these out of the flowerbeds. Good plan.

However, the other day, my seven-year old daughter decided to help weed the garden. And she yanked out “this really HUGE weed!” Um….oops. That was the tomato plant. See the flowers on it? See that it is, in fact, growing in a tomato cage? My eldest quickly tried to salvage the thing by replanting it as best as she could and watered it some more, but it looked pretty sickly. Especially disastrous was that this un-rooting happened at the beginning of a crazy heat wave in our neck of the woods. Even the well-established plants were suffering under the taxing heat. Surely this little guy with his roots all broken would never make it.

Please read the rest of my latest Heart Of the Matter Online Article here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Scheduling Summer

If you are like our family, at the time of this writing, there are 69 days until school starts again. If that sounds overwhelming to you, then don’t get me started on how few days there are until Christmas!

Sixty-nine days is all at once a lot and not nearly enough days of rest and rejuvenation. Don’t you find that the kids who have been desperate for holidays all spring are bored and out of things to do by August 13th? And all those wonderful friendships in the neighbourhood that we hoped would blossom and grow over the summer break tend to actually wither and rot by the end of July? Maybe that’s not your reality. Maybe summer break for you is all about peace and domestic bliss and self-initiated chores. If so, you should write a book. I’d buy it.

Don’t get me wrong: summer, like the rest of the year, is generally a really smooth sail in our home. The kids get along with each other really well, and we all enjoy the break from the routine of school-books and assignments (and marking!) However, every summer there comes a moment where it is quite glaringly obvious that we have all, myself included, had too much free, unstructured, un-educational time. The bad habits of the neighbours are wearing off on my kids, mild irritations with each other become a bit less mild, and we are all generally looking for a rudder to our boat. What to do? What to do?

On top of that, haven’t we all sat at the dining room table in September listening to our kids ask, “What’s 8 times 7 again?” and then bemoan the incredible lack of retention children suffer over a summer that is devoid of intellectual stimulation.

In light of all that, I have come up with a list of things I’d like to do with our kids this summer. These are a few of the things that I always mean to work into our fall schedule, but they often get bumped by the “real school” stuff of core subjects and easily gradable topics. Maybe you’ll want to try some of these too. Or maybe you have a list of resources you’d like to share in the comments below.

Please read the rest of my latest Heart of the Matter Online article here. And be sure to browse their site. There is a wealth of wisdom there for moms of all sorts! What a talented bunch of contributors they have!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Foodie Fridays

This week is audience participation time. Don't be frightened. It will be really easy!

I was talking to my eldest girly here about what I should post for Foodie Friday. This being delicious summer time I was thinking about all the fantastic salads and BBQ's awaiting us. Is there any easier way to cook? While my man is grilling up some yummy anything on the BBQ, I put together what is the freshest and ripest from the garden and call it "Salad".

I'm of the school of thought that salad shouldn't be complicated. It hardly needs a recipe. There are very few veggies that go poorly together, so you can't really lose. However, I also am a big fan of putting together just the right flavours and textures to make a brilliant plateful of salady goodness. Soup and salad: my two favourite things in the world to dream up.

So here is my request of you: please leave a comment for all our benefit with your favourite salad recipe or favourite salad ingredients (if you don't have a real recipe per se). Also, for 'bonus points' leave us a comment about your favourite thing on the BBQ. If you can be specific about name brands of products, please do!

I'll start: One of my favourite things on the barbie is Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches. Slice an eggplant in to "not too thick, not too thin" slices lengthwise, brush with olive oil sprinkle with fresh basil and grill on both sides until it is browning, softened and gorgeous. Beside that, grill some sliced, sweet onion rounds. Then make into a glorious sandwich by layering the eggplant, onions, a good mustard and maybe a thin slice of perfect tomato on rye bread. Seriously. Yum.

Salad? I love that broccoli salad. You know the one: broccoli, cauliflower, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, old cheddar, bacon bits, in a light mayo dressing. So.good.

Your turn! Can't wait to read your responses! Yay for Bar-B-Q season!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesday


Kari Jobe -- Healer

You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease

I trust in You
I trust in You

I believe You're my healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You're my portion
I believe You're more than enough for me
Jesus You're all I need

Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my life in Your hands

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Heard At My House: Two for One Edition

Part One:

Chatting with my 7 year old daughter, who is reading the email I'm typing over my shoulder:

E: Wow, Mom. That's a long email.

Me: Yup.

E: And you used lots of smiley faces.

Me: Yup. Guess I'm weird that way.

E: You aren't weird. You're a mom. And you're pretty.

(mental note to self: Buy that kid a pony for Christmas)

Part Two, in which I walk into a conversation between my two oldest girls as they wash the dishes:

J (10 years old): I'm definitely going to get one when I grow up.

Me: What? A husband? (insert laugh track here)

J: Nope. A dog. But I'll get a husband too. Then I won't have to afford the big expense of getting the dog. I'll just ask my husband nicely.

(mental note to self: have a little chit chat with the girls about expectations for marriage...yikes!) :-)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesday

And now I'm smiling...

It has been a long time since ABBA has made an appearance on my wee blog. I just find this particular song to be incredibly smile-producing. Did you know that the Spanish version of this song was actually a bigger hit for them than the English version. And my Grade 9 french class learned this song in French and sang along. I think I probably still have the lyrics somewhere.

Enjoy! I know a few of my friends will be particularly pleased with today's Wow-ful Women Wednesday.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Uphill Both Ways

As Christians, we aren’t supposed to like what has come to be called “the Valley experience”. Am I right? We are supposed to be striving for the mountain-top moments where we shine like a light for Christ, joyful, productive, happy, and showing the world how great our lives are. Right?

Well I agree. There is certainly nothing wrong with loving those parts of life. Certainly nothing wrong with celebrating the Lord’s goodness and providence in those moments where, even if everything is NOT right with the world, we are at least resting, trusting, and glorifying God with our lives, actions and attitudes.

But here is the thing: I think the valley is easier.

“What? No, it isn’t,” you say. “The valley hurts, the valley is dark and sad, and lonely, and sometimes it is the valley of the shadow of death. I don’t want that. I want to say, like Psalm 40, ‘He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.’ That’s what I want: not the valley”.

Please read the rest of my latest article for Heart of the Matter Online.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

I have posted this group before. They have gone through a few different member combinations, but this was always my absolute favourite quartet that they've been (especially the gal who sings verse 2. Love.) These 4 Wow.

And this hymn might need to be sung at my funeral. Just sayin'.

And also, if they ever need a new girl singer...or, like, a babysitter, I'm so there.

Enjoy. This is golden. It just is a "deep calls to deep" moment for me. This is what my soul sighs.

Actually, here they are singing another fantastic hymn. Genius!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Heard At My House

This is just mini, but really cute to me.

Our oldest did a ribbon/flag dance at our homeschool co-op to "Indescribable". Great song. My youngest girl (3) has been trying to do it at home. And she just now was playing with the ribbon and singing the song:

"Mommy, I was doing the song, 'All-containable, All-complainable'. You know that one?"

Ya. I know *something* like that one. :-)

A Needful Word

I have had a "thought" niggling away at me for some time now. Sort of inocuously for a good long time, but fairly potently unhealthy of late. My pride prohibits me from flat out telling you what this ridiculous fear/worry/thought was, but suffice it to say that it was a radical waste of time and energy. Truly an irrational fear.

So this morning, as I've been knowing I need to somehow uproot this thought from the dirt of my mind, I read Psalm 147: 10-11...

"His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."
Now what you need to know, is that that verse speaks in a very specific way to this weed of a thought my brain was tending. If you know me in real life, you could ask me what that is specifically and I might get brave enough to tell you.

But here is what I want to tell you today, and what I hope you will have the faith to experience: The Bible speaks on every subject, touches on every worry, explains every quandry, and answers every question that you may be mulling over. Sometimes in ridiculously clear ways. Sometimes you'll say "well, that's ironic" or "I didn't see that coming" or "has this verse always been here? I've never noticed it before."

Ask the Lord to speak to you through his word. Trust him to do it. You'll be amazed at what the Word actually says about all of today's present concerns. This is not an outdated book. This is a guideline and a help for your immediate circumstance. He will speak to you. Will you listen?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wow-ful Women Wednesdays

The statistics are bad. They say that Christian marriages are as likely to end in divorce as non-Christian marriages. That's not okay. It's not okay that non-Christian families are falling apart. It's not okay that our friends and family are being divided and shattered in this way.

I know of too many couples today who are struggling in their marriages, who want it to work out but can't see the way to restoration, who are looking to the Lord for healing but can't tear down the walls between them and their spouses.

Will you join me today in praying for marriages. Pray that those who are hurting will be humble and gracious enough to love their spouse despite their weaknesses. That they will have the "others-centeredness" to care for each other's needs above their own. That they will look to the inventor of marriage, the Lord himself, to the be the healer and restorer and rebuilder of their family.

And not only for those among us who we know are struggling: pray also for those who are doing well, that they would be even stronger in their faith and their unity, and that there wouldn't be even a crack in the bond that unites them.

Sometimes the wounds are deep, and deliberate, and unfathomably hard to forgive. But sometimes it just starts from a tone, and an offense, and an attitude that is left to fester. Let's nip those kinds of offenses in the bud and let love cover a multitude of sins. And let's pray pray pray for the health of the marriages in our midst. No matter how hard it is to work it out, this is a battle worth fighting.

It's Me -- Sara Groves

Well it came and caught us off our guard
we were just laughin' and feelin' alright
had such a great time just last night
we walked into a minefield undetected
you took a tone and I took offense
anger replacing all common sense

oh run for your life
all tenderness is gone
in the blink of an eye
all good will has withdrawn
and we mark out our paces and
stare out from our faces
but baby you and I are gone gone gone

incomprehensible layers of isolation
now you're the man with a heart of stone
making me pay here by being alone
seemingly justified righteous indignation
now I'm the woman who holds all her pain
looking for somebody else to blame

we hold all the keys to our undoing
cutting me down in small degrees
you know my worst insecurities
I'm making no effort to understand
no one can hurt you like I can
deep down inside the girl's waking up
she's calling out to the boy she loves

it's me
oh baby it's me
how in the world can tenderness be gone
in the blink of an eye

the girl in me she's callin out
oh the girl in me she's callin out
to the boy in you
to the boy in you

baby come back
baby come back to me

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hemmed In

Long weekend, eh? So nice. So good. So restful. So extended in our case, because my husband had a week of holidays prior to the Canadian long weekend and OH was it good to have him here. We were very productive and checked lots of things off our to-do list. That felt good. I also took the very wise advice of a veteran homeschool mom who told me to "take time to laugh and rest and just enjoy the family". That was a good word to have bopping around in my brain. Stopping to laugh is not something at which I excel. I'm much more likely to work and forget to have fun, or to stop working and sit on my behind with a book in front of my face ignoring the world. Either way, not much fun for the kiddos.

So we stopped and played and laughed and sight-saw and worked and loved together. It was good.

And I slept. Slept in in the morning. Napped in the afternoon. Went to bed early. That was lovely too. But really, not so helpful in the long run.

My theory with sleeping is that if only I had 3 days of solid, uninterrupted, blissful sleep that I would be thoroughly caught up on the last 12 years of motherhood-sleep (which we all know is often broken and fleeting) and would be able to conquer the world and stay caught up on my sleep with a mere 8 hours a night.

That, my friends, is a heap-load of hogwash.

Here's what I find on long weekends and summer holidays too. The longer break I get, the longer break I want. Why? Because I am L.A.Z.Y. "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man." (Prov.6:10-11) What kind of poverty can a stay at home mom who brings in no income bring upon her family? Ah. A post for another day. I have a LOT to say about that.

But for now, here is what I want to remind myself of, and to encourage you with.

There is a time for rest and sleep and the free-wheeling days of unstructured holidays. However, do not despise the structure and boundaries of routine. I have to tell you, I LOVE getting back to routine today. And so do my kids. Having a plan and a direction for the many hours of our day helps us all to function better together, it gives us a rhythm in which living in harmony becomes easier. And, here's just the brutal, honest truth, it keeps us all out of trouble!

Don't forget that for your "Lazy Days of Summer" mindset. Free time so often dissolves into not only unproductive time, but actual destructive time.

I will be posting something later this month about what our "school" plans will be for the summer and my rationale for planning some daily stuff.

But for now, on this GORGEOUS Tuesday after a long weekend, please don't begrudge the chance to get back into the routine of work and school and schedule. The Lord uses these things to hem us in, behind and before, to protect us and to guide us. That is a beautiful thing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Foodie Fridays

I'm posting a recipe today that I have never made. Not once. And do you know why? Because my mom is a saint and she makes this for me every so often and brings it over "so you don't have to cook, dear. You're so busy with housework and homeschooling. You can have a break". Like tonight. She's coming tonight, and I can hardly wait! She's bringing a salad, bread, and this yummy casserole. This recipe is one of my favourite things. Total comfort food happiness. My grandma likes to say of it, "Well, this can't hurt you. Nothing bad in it. It's all good stuff." And you need to know, whenever I hear her say that I know she is totally wrong. This stuff will kill you over time. :-) There isn't a fresh, unrefined calorie in this dish. There are 3 fresh veggies listed in the ingredients and two of them are "optional". And I don't even care. We get to eat this so rarely, and we eat so fresh-veggie-non-refined so typically that I don't feel even the slightest pang of guilt for noshing on this every once in awhile.

Do enjoy this, please. Or if you don't want to make it, give the recipe to your mom and make her cook it for you :-)

Chicken Tettrazini by Linda Sadler (from the Crumlin United Church Anniversary Cookbook)

2 c. diced cooked chicken (or turkey)
1 green pepper diced (optional)
1 clove garlic minced (optional)
2 cans of cream of celery soup
1/4 pound Velveeta Cheese
1/4 c. butter
1 onion diced
1 can sliced mushrooms, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. milk
1/2 to 1 pkg. 1/2" egg noodles
1/4 pound mild cheddar cheese

In butter, saute green pepper, garlic and onion. Add chicken, soup, mushrooms, milk, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cook noodles as directed on package. Grate cheddar and Velveeta cheese. Place a layer of chicken mixture in small roaster pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of cheddar cheese. Place a layer of noodles over top of the cheese layer. Sprinkle with 1/2 the Velveeta. Repeat layers. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Serves 8-10 people.

And you need to know, my mom and I have been known to reheat this in the microwave or a frying pan (with a little more butter...*ahem*. I'm feeling the need to go for a run) and still eat a few spoonfuls cold while we are waiting. Decadent!

Enjoy! (I know I will! Hurry up, Supper Time!)