A Trip ... of sorts.

5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
7 They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem. (Psalm 84)

At the beginning of January, I was reading my daily Bible reading. Psalm 84 happened to be the daily "assignment" from the book of Psalms. Little did I expect God to speak to me with such magnitude.

You see, this year is going to be a year of change for me. For my husband. For my children. And normally, I don't like change. I like schedules. I like predictable days. I enjoy planning. I keep a calendar on my fridge in order to always know what is coming up. I hound my husband for his work calendar months in advance. But this year ... Eli is starting seminary. After graduating from college in 2003 (with no formal schooling since then), he is returning to the student life, albeit a different one that he previously experienced as a single male!

I'm so grateful that God has given us this opportunity. This guidance. The support within our families and church to take a step of faith. But now the changes. He has to study. He has to drive three plus hours one weekend a month this semester to attend the class. We have to pay for classes. We have to anticipate a few more years of study before graduation. It's exciting! But it's change.

Will he be able to maintain his current "commuting" job while studying and taking classes? I don't know. Can we truly make it through a whole master's program debt-free? I hope so. How will this change affect our evenings together as a family? I can't predict that. How am I to find my God-given helpmate role within all this? I'm scared I won't!

But then God spoke. He gave me Psalm 84:5-7. The only way I will have joy this year is to ultimately find my strength in Him. I must set my heart on the "pilgrimage" this year brings with Him as my focus. I believe this year will be a pilgrimage of sorts for me ... with valleys and mountains. Tough times and wonderful times. But if I can truly walk through this time of changes with my heart set on Him, then He will refresh me and bring the rains of His presence when I am dry.

My prayer is that I am stronger by the end. Not stronger within myself because I "made it through", but stronger in my faith in my Maker. Willing to take the risks that faith in Him requires. Not just willing, but excited and joyful. And I find that I am! I'm ready to see where the pilgrimage may lead.


Twenty Ten

For the very first blog entry of my life I was hoping to have something very insightful and valuable to share, but unfortunately I do not. I can say that 2010 has started off being a year of personal and spiritual growth. The end of 2009 was a roller coaster with a mix of trials and joys. Right now life seems to be cruising along on autopilot, which I am now realizing can be a scary place because you never know what is just beyond the horizon.

I am adopting the following scripture as a motto for 2010: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes 5: 16-18)

Switching gears...for all of the chocolate lovers, here is a recipe for Triple Chocolate Cake/Cupcakes that is super easy and only requires 5 ingredients:

1 chocolate cake mix
1 box chocolate pudding (3 oz)
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup milk
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, remove from pan and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar. (Alternative: bake as cupcakes at 350 degrees for 18 minutes).


Homemade Butter

Warning: Once you try homemade, it's really hard to go back to store bought.

I do the Kindergarten version (in a jar) of making butter around here.  I don't have a churn and think that using a mixer just isn't as fun, and I need the arm workout.  It's also a great way to bring the family together to accomplish something with immediate, or almost immediate results.

1. 1 clean glass jar (though I have heard of people using plastic containers, just make sure the lid has a tight seal.)
2. 1 pint heavy whipping cream
3. Flavoring - you can add salt, sugar, herbs, spices or honey-I wouldn't add the honey until after the butter is made. (I also wouldn't add all these ingredients at one time - gross.)
3. Arm muscles and about 20 minutes

Pour heavy whipping cream into your pint and screw the lid on tightly!  Then begin to shake...and shake...and shake till your arms want to fall off.  The cream will go through several stages, I don't have a picture of all of them, but here are a couple.

Stage 1: sloshy...shake it up!
Stage 2: creamy - it puts a thick coating on the inside of the glass - keep on shakin'.
Stage 3: whipped cream - really hard to shake at this point, but keep going - You can do it!

Stage 4: PLOP and juice?

This is the exciting part, when the butter starts to separate from the buttermilk - you're almost there! Shake until the butter is one blob in the middle then drain.

Now you have butter and buttermilk (great in pancakes or biscuits)!  To remove the rest of the buttermilk rinse under cold water and mush it around a little bit.  The less buttermilk in your butter the longer it will keep.  However homemade butter doesn't keep very long in the fridge, you can freeze it though and it will last for about a month. I couldn't tell you exactly how long it lasts in the fridge because we've never had any longer than a few days - it's that good!


Homeade Oatmeal Packets

We are always looking for a quick breakfast around here. Especially one that the kids can make themselves. We enjoy the little instant oatmeal packets that you get at the store, so I decided to give these a try. I don't know if they are much better for you, but you can control what goes into them and make them as healthy or unhealthy as you like. Personally I think plain oatmeal tastes like soggy cardboard, so mine have sugar in them. I also doubled a few packets for my husband's man sized appetite. We'll see in the morning how they taste.

I waited to long to post this. They turned out great. We made Apple Cinnamon Pecan, Blueberries 'n' Cream, S'mores and Cinnamon Brown Sugar.  The kids don't like things to be too hot. So instead of adding boiling water to the oatmeal, I covered the oatmeal with about a 1/3 of a cup of warm water and then microwaved it for about 30 seconds. They were so tasty and filling!!  Now we can save the bags and refill them for next week.

*Addendum:  After trying this a few times.  I have decided that I am too lazy to make all the different kinds and place them in little baggies.  So now I just make one big batch of brown sugar and spice following this recipe:

Cinnamon Spice Oatmeal:
2 1/2 cups oats
1 1/4 c. ground oats
/1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/4 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. all spice

In the mornings we scoop out 1/4 cup for the kids or 1/2 cup for us, add any additional fruits or berries, add enough water to cover, and then microwave for 30-60 seconds.  You have to let it sit a little while to thicken, but it's so fast, easy and delicious every time.


Every Day Bread

This is my favorite every day bread right now. I love how light and fluffy it turns out, even though it's made with 100% whole wheat. I actually mix other things in with mine from time to time, but the recipe is all wheat. I do add the wheat gluten and usually have to add more flour than she does. I haven't found all the optional ingedients that she suggests, but still have three beautiful loaves every time. I used to be very intimidated by breadmaking (okay I still am sometimes) but this bread has won my heart with it's simplicity. Plus it fills the house with that, oh so amazing, bread baking smell. Enjoy!


Before We Begin

I didn't start out domesticated, or even wanting to be. I was, what you call, "independent". I was voted, by my friends in high school, to be the last one of us to get married, and to never have children. Well, unbeknownst to me, I had already met my husband. We were not high school sweethearts, we were "just friends". Four years later, we were "just married". I never saw it coming, but I'm so glad that it did. A couple years after that we started having children, and haven't really stopped since. Now getting married and having children has somewhat tempered my formerly fiery personality, but it didn't instantly domesticate me. I'm not sure when that happened. It just did. I woke up one day with an apron tied around my waist, a baby in one arm and a broom in the other...and I'm loving it! Okay, not always, but I'm on my way.