Unequaled

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When I write, I struggle with fearing that what I write about has been written about before. Therefore meaning it won’t matter. I tend to think that I have to write about a new, thrilling, inspiring concept that will change the world. Something that people haven’t heard about or thought of before.

For instance I am passionate about  positive body image regardless what size you are. And everywhere I look people are talking about it. Blogs and motivational talks on this subject are everywhere! So I find myself asking, why should I talk about this? There’s SO MANY people already talking about it.

But I’m beginning to realize that it doesn’t matter how many people are talking about it. Because here’s the deal: how many times have you read about something again and again and then one day you read the very same thing, written a little differently by a different person and something just goes: Click!

And you think, “where has this been all my life!?” And then you realize it’s been there all along, you just needed to read it a little bit differently. Or you realize: ohh, THAT’S what it means.

So here’s what’s finally beginning to soak into my brain: Someone out there needs to hear or read what I have to say. Not because I’m some brilliant, wise, person who has every answer. But because, just maybe something will finally “click” for them and they understand it for the first time.

I find it absolutely fascinating that not one single human being has the exact same DNA. It blows my mind that the millions and millions of people on the planet right at this moment, each one has their own unique DNA. There is not one other person out there that is exactly like me, nor like you. Nor will there ever be!

So how I write and how I say things… There is not one other person on earth that writes like me, even if they write about the very same thing. And YOU. You who are reading this, you’ve thought about opening your mouth about something you are passionate about, but you stopped. Because you feel like you have nothing new to say.

Friend, someone needs to hear your voice. So what, if your subject has been talked about for thousands of years. People have been talking about God for thousands upon thousands of years and we are not done yet. And we could talk about that subject for thousands more and still not be done. Because God is endless and we will never be done discovering all that He is. That’s why we have eternity to look forward to.

So tell your story, sing your song, create your art, make your poetry, write your book… Whatever is. Do it! You are the ONLY original YOU. Unequaled. Unique. And someone is waiting on you.

 

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Farmers Market

Going to the local farmer’s market feeds my soul almost as much as going to church. Sometimes more. You find some of the most whole souled people on earth there. I sometimes think the whole souledness comes from working in close connection with nature itself and working hard with their hands. IMG_3470

It seems the sun is always shining and the day is always perfection, even if it’s raining. You find many different cultures here, despite the fact many people think Rolla is the middle of nowhere.

For instance, there’s the lady who sells homemade Brazilian cheese bread. She’s always the first person I buy from. She talks with a non Midwest accent and I wonder if she is Brazilian too? I can’t tell, but whatever accent it is, it’s as lovely as the bread she sells. She has a beautiful smile.

Then there’s a sweet, soft spoken German lady who sells a peach pastry that literally melts in your mouth. And German breads that are the last word in breads.

There’s Ms Yvonne, the honey lady. My boys love her. She has pure snow white hair framing a most beautiful face. She is even sweeter than the honey she sells. Her husband, Mr. Jim, is a big man with big hands. He towers over her in size, she towers over him in spirit. Ms Yvonne makes me think of royalty or a genteel lady, despite the evidence in her work worn hands to otherwise. She’s a farmers wife in the middle of nowhere Missouri. She intrigues me. I don’t know about you, but I can tell when people have unusual stories. I sense the Beekeeper’s wife has an unusual story…

The donut booth is my sons’ favorite booth. Homemade baked donuts. They are heavenly. My sons’ think this is the only reason we come to the farmers market.

There’s a couple selling bacon jelly. Huh? Bacon jelly!? Yes, that’s what I said. Then I had a sample. Word to the wise, don’t sample it. You will end up buying it. Same with the goat cheese stand. I had a sample and I’ve been going back to buy more ever since. It is wonderful with the Brazilian cheese bread!

There’s the lady selling iced coffee and because her booth neighbor needed a potty break, she’s as enthusiastically selling those wares, as she sells her own.

There are many people browsing through the market, some have dogs on leashes. We talk with the owner of a giant German Shepherd. The Shepherd is as laid back as I’ve ever known a dog of that breed to be. My boys love on her and they are usually timid around big dogs. The owner informs me that they are looking for a breeder for her. I hear the owner repeat it to a few other people as well.

We move on a few booths down, then there’s a guy with another German Shepherd. This one is on a tight leash by the owner. He looks like he needs it. “EXCUSE ME!”  The iced coffee lady comes running after him. “Excuse me sir! Is your dog a male?”

“Yes maam.”

“A lady came through here a minute ago and she’s looking for a breeder for her German Shepherd!” I chuckle to myself at the bewilderment on the young man’s face. Poor guy thought he was only coming to the farmers market. I don’t think finding a girl friend for his dog was on his to do list today.

There are vendors with home raised meats, veggies, eggs, fruits, gleaming jellies, sinful fudge, crafts, quilts, jewelry, and more baked goods than you can shake a stick at. I stop to buy some yellow tomatoes from a lady whose voice sounds like she has had too many Marlboros. We discuss our mutual love of yellow tomatoes. I tell her that I planted some, but the squirrels got most of them before I did.

“Oh honey, we had those pesky buggers too! They ended up in my stew pot!” She laughs triumphantly. I should’ve had her come out to my place and get herself some more stew meat….

There is a little restaurant bus that sells authentic homemade tamales. I haven’t tried them yet for myself, but I’ve heard they are excellent. One of these days I’ll test them myself.

This is my local farmers market. Colorful.  Blood, sweat, tears, joy, laughter, pride, community. Heck, they will even help you find a breeder for your dog! IMG_3469

Salt of the earth. Farmers market folks.

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Yelling. One of my biggest, ugliest, daily struggles as a mom. Yelling (in anger) at my kids. I have fought this battle with every ounce of my being for years and yet, I still haven’t overcome it.

And I can’t tell you how much I hate it. I loathe seeing the flickers of fear in my boys’ eyes when my voice raises. And the reciporcating anger that comes back at me from them in return. Because fear. Of me, their mom. Just writing this tears me up. And if you are reading this and you feel anger rising in you, at me for what I just admitted is one of my biggest battles. I get it. You have every right to be upset at me.

But I have a feeling, the majority of you parents who read this, especially moms, are feeling that heaviness and nodding and saying,  “yeah sister, me too.” That battle has been a bitter one for you as well.

I have made some forward progress with this ugliness. But not enough. Not nearly enough. When life is going reasonably well, I can keep myself quite well in check. But when it gets messy and my emotions are ragged… Then bam. Three steps back for every step forward.

The other evening was one of those days. I was very tired. Struggling with a small amount of depression. Nothing too major, but enough to nag at me. I found myself yelling at my boys every time I turned around. And the harder I tried to not yell, the more I yelled. I was so frustrated with myself!

And I’m not sure how it happened but sometime in that evening, God brought to my heart that my self-talk had suddenly gotten awful, just over the past few days. I have been on a journey in the last few years of learning how to talk kinder to myself. I am still very much on this journey and some days I feel like I’ve just begun.

So alright, what does bad self-talk have to do with yelling at my kids? Well it took me a little bit to put the pieces together, but once it clicked…. Friend, it was mega “lightbulb!” (in Gru voice) moment for me.

I was laying in my bed, still feeling discouraged at my mom failures of losing my temper with my boys. Scrolling through Instagram, I came across this post from Christa Black Gifford. “When I feel safe with myself, everyone around me feels safe.”

I read it again: “When I feel safe with myself, everyone around me feels safe.”  And then. Just like that, it hit me like a pile of bricks.

I had been subconsciously yelling at myself very viciously, for several days. And it spilled over into yelling at my boys. And then I yelled at myself some more for yelling at them and the cycle just  got more vicious.

I apologize for using the word YELLING so much in this blog. You may be exhausted by it by the time I’m through here.

But you guys!!!! Fellow mamas especially! Check what’s going on inside you. What mantras are we listening to in our heads?? Could it really be as simple as this? When we are kind to ourselves, then we are able to be kind to others. Especially those we love the most.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve just magically stopped yelling at my boys. I haven’t. But it’s become easier to exercise self control. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I have a feeling God has some beautiful things for me to learn in this.

But I can tell you where to start in using kind self-talk…. Ask the One who made you what He thinks of you…. He is crazier about you than you ever dreamed. Seriously. Ask Him. Write it down. Repeat it to yourself daily. Then when you catch the negative mantra starting up, you shoot it right down with the TRUTH of what the Creator of the Universe says about you.

And do yourself a favor and follow Christa Black Gifford on social media. No, I’m not paid to promote her, I just like to share good stuff with my friends.

Be kind to yourself. You are worth it. Your children are worth it.

Much love,

Ann L.

 

The Projects Chronicles

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Over Christmas I dragged home from Indiana to Missouri, an old blue and white enamel table top, from my mother inlaws house. It had been sitting on her porch gathering rust and dust and she generously bequeathed it to me when I was expressing to her my love of all things antique and farmhouse. (Much to my delight and my husbands dismay.) It came home with us and then sat on MY porch and gathered more dust and rust for a few more months.

I knew what I wanted to make with it. Or I should say what I wanted my husband to make with it. I really wanted an island for my kitchen. Cupboard and counter space are both in very short supply and I kept longing for just a little more space.

Finally I found an old $10 dresser at a yard sale that looked like it could possibly serve the purpose! I hauled it home, it landed on my porch and there it sat. Why? Several reasons, (er excuses).

I’m a bit of a procrastinator. And I also struggle with in-decision. I wasn’t sure how to tackle it and I couldn’t make up my mind on the paint colors! I knew I wanted to try milk paint, thanks to my friend Kathy who creates beautiful furniture by re-painting with milk paint. So I scoured this website (http://www.sweetpickinsfurniture.com/shop/) for weeks before finally settling on a yellow and blue.

The dresser had cracked/peeling veneer. With the help of Google, a steam iron, lots of skinned knuckles and elbow grease, I finally had it off and ready to go. And thus began my milk paint venture.

 

After about a million questions to Kathy, (thanks for still being my friend, girl! That’s a true ride or die, y’all.) a little advice from my husband, another million interruptions from my kiddos, it was finally done. And let me tell you, I was SHOCKED at how beautiful it turned out. (Although I still go back and forth on whether I truly love the color.) My husband even told me it’s better than anything he has re-done! I had him repeat it to make sure I wasn’t hearing things. In hindsight, I probably should have whipped out my phone and shot video. Because no one believes anything these days unless you have SMART PHONE PROOF.

Y’all. I’m hanging on to that compliment for a LONG time. Probably forever. Because that man is a PRO wood worker. He makes gorgeous stuff from wood, just out of his head, while I barely know how to paint and power tools scare the crap out of me. Plus if you know my husband, you know he’s a man of few words and doesn’t hand out compliments like candy.

So why was I so shocked at my success? Well honestly I didn’t have much faith in myself. I know my weakness of procrastination. I have a track record of starting things and not finishing them. Or not starting things at all. And quite frankly, I’m no Pinterest mom. It all looks fun and games to DIY all the stuff… Until you realize how much time (and MONEY!) it takes. Part of me kept waiting on myself to give it up and add it to my list of partially finished projects. Like I said, I didn’t have much faith in myself! Finishing it and the way it turned out so gorgeously boosted my self-confidence in the most unlikely way.

I am so STINKIN PROUD of myself.

But I’m going to admit. I have an insane urge now, to re-paint every single piece of furniture in the house. Somebody slap me. (Actually, no don’t. I am liable to slap back.) But I might need an intervention.

There is something incredibly satisfying and addicting in watching an old, “worthless” piece of furniture come into a brand new life under your hands. Re-creating it into a whole different look and even purpose. But nonetheless giving it VALUE.

And therein lies our ability to connect to the very heart of God. The very first thing He did was to CREATE. And He hasn’t stopped since.

In creating and re-creating, it allows me to experience Creator God. His absolute delight in what He created in the beginning. And how He takes broken, worn, humanity, and re-creates. Sanding, painting, strengthening, re-purposing. We become completely  under the skilled hands. And now there is value where there seemed to be none. And let me tell you: He is SO STINKIN PROUD of His work.

And now excuse me. All the furniture isn’t gonna re-paint itself.

Much love

Ann L.

Side note here: I ended up not using it as an island, due to how it would have interrupted traffic flow and maneuverability in the kitchen. In my next (hopefully bigger!) kitchen it will likely be used as an island.

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Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day. It’s a day that makes many people think of flowers: roses, lilacs, peonies… you name it. If you don’t know your mama’s favorite flower, you had better get to know it, because it could easily become a life or death matter for you. The woman who gave life to you is also capable of taking it from you. Just saying.

I saw a saying the other day: “You’re the reason she pees every time she laughs, buy the woman some flowers!” That’s a really good marketing technique, I must say! (And true.)

It’s day to honor the sacred beauty, powerful calling, unconditional love, and boundless sacrifice that is called Motherhood. The very word, “Motherhood” makes me pause and makes my soul feel like it should bow in reverent response of the holy sacredness of the word and all it connotes.

Yet at the same moment, I know the messiness, the bitter sweetness, even sadness and deep pain that Mother’s Day can bring. Or for that matter even the word, Motherhood, can trigger mixed emotions for many of us.

I think of several women near and dear to my heart, who have borne babies who never took a breath in this world. Others who have suffered the trauma of miscarriage. Yet more, whose deepest longing is the beautiful privilege of childbearing, but for whatever reason, are denied of it. It’s pain that I can’t quite wrap my mind around. It’s a pain known alone to those who walk through it. But know this, if this is you: I see you and I care. My heart hurts for you.

I am not familiar with that pain. But there is another one that I am familiar with. For the longest time, Mother’s Day was a blank slate. A day that I really didn’t know what to do with.

My mother died when I was a baby. Aside from a few weeks after I was born, I never knew her. By the time I was old enough to remember, I had a new mother. My earliest childhood memories are of being told that “Mom” was not my “real Mom.” My “real mom” had died when I was a baby.

I remember not having any feelings about it and not knowing HOW I should feel about it. But having a deep, deep longing to KNOW what she looked like. Because of the culture I was born in, there were no photographs to show me what she looked like. I was told to look in the mirror. Because apparently I was the spitting image of my mother. But looking in the mirror, only showed me, ME.

My growing up years remained mostly the same. Rather numb, because how was I SUPPOSED to feel about someone I had never known. Yet a deep, aching, empty void, of something that was supposed to be there, but wasn’t. When I was getting ready for my wedding, was the first time that I missed her. I needed her! I needed a mother’s help navigating the crazy stress and emotions of planning a wedding.

The birth of my first child was the next time that I was again made deeply aware of my need for a mother. I wanted her there by my side for this passage into Motherhood.

Motherhood was my redemption in so many ways. The birth of my first child was the birth of me. And yet it was like plunging off the deep end. I had NO idea how to be a mom. I knew well enough how to care for a baby. That’s a given with six younger siblings and being in an anti-birth control culture. Aside from that I really didn’t know, except I desperately didn’t want to raise my children the way I was raised. Motherhood was the unraveling of me and the making whole of me all in one. And still is.

And so, as Mother’s Days have come and gone in the last years, it’s no longer as blank of a slate. I am thankful for my mother. For giving me life. For her spirit that lives on in me. I truly don’t know much of what she was like. Except that she had to have been incredibly strong to fight cancer and carry and birth a child at the same time. (She lost her battle for her life but at the same time, WON, by giving birth to a new life. And gaining eternal life in heaven.) She had a great sense of humor and a strong faith. And I do see her face sometimes when I look in the mirror.

I wonder about her. If she was still here, would we be friends? I don’t kid myself about that part, because I left the Amish culture. Something that could have had the power to destroy a mother/daughter relationship if we had one. Would she love my children? Her grandchildren? Would I be able to call her about questions of motherhood and life? I don’t know. It’s one of the great unanswered questions of this life for me.

And also on Mother’s Day, I pause and am incredibly thankful for the women who have been pieces of a mother to me over the years.

From the very beginning: My Aunt Mary who took that tiny baby and poured all the love and nurturing she had into her. Loved her and raised her as her own. And when she had to give her back to the “new mom” it all but tore her heart out. But it turned out ok, Aunt Mary, didn’t it? Despite the brokenness. Beauty came out of the ashes. A lot of it due to you. Thank you.

My Grandma, she was always there. My rock.

My oldest sisters. You mothered me more than you know.

Anna Marie, Katie, Ruby, beautiful women I worked with. You didn’t know it, but the love you gave me went straight to the place in my heart that needed mother love.

Shirley, Gwen, Cate, Deborah N. Penny, who have loved on me and my children in a way that has healed me. Shirley, give my mama a hug for me, will you?

Misty, who I have watched mother with grace and wisdom. You have taught me more than you will ever know.

Jenn, who was there for the birth of my first child. I can never put into words how grateful I am that you were there. Having a you there was a beautiful, beautiful gift. Thank you.

To all of you…. Thank you for impacting me in profound ways and giving me pieces of a mother’s love. God truly does place the lonely in families.

Happy Mother’s Day. May you be as blessed with Mother love as I am. And if you have a good Mother, treasure her.

Don’t forget the flowers!

Ann L.

Walking the Walk

imageAbortion. That word is going to cause some to hurry on past this post. It’s probably one of the most controversial words in our society today. It evokes strong emotions. Some don’t want to touch the subject with a ten foot pole. Others can’t wait to jump into a hot debate on rights. Whether it’s rights of the woman or rights of the baby.

Im usually one who doesn’t voluntarily bring up the subject. Especially to write about. I much prefer nice, easy, even humorous conversations. But here I go, jumping in feet first and who knows, I may end up in a manure pile. Well, sometimes you gotta write what you gotta write.

Here’s the thing friends, I’m not going to write about the evils of abortion. I’m not trying to address the world and try to convince them it’s wrong. Today I’m addressing a different group of people: my fellow pro-life Christians.

You see awhile ago I had the pleasure of attending a Life Walk. It’s a yearly fund raiser for a local pregnancy crisis center. This center offers alternative options to abortion. They offer medical services, counseling, etc, all free of charge and they don’t get paid for any service they provide. They are a wonderful, caring facility for those who’ve made unfortunate decisions and find themselves faced with life altering decisions.

This walk was to raise awareness and funds for the center. And something happened to my heart that day. When I arrived, I expected a pretty big crowd. I had attended some of these walks before and they had, had pretty decent turnouts.

But not so much this year. It was a rather sparse crowd that gathered and I was rather surprised. At the beginning of the walk, we heard a few words from the center directors. I recall one speaker got very emotional as she described how some of previous months had been extremely hard financially for the center.

They went on to thank all the financial contributors. And again I was shocked. The church I attended at the time had donated more money than any other church in the area. What was upsetting is that this church is a small church. And quite frankly I didn’t think we had raised a huge amount. (I knew the number) I felt like something was seriously wrong here. If that number was the biggest number that they got… Well that meant they sure didn’t raise the amount of money they should have.

Over the next few days, I couldn’t get it out of mind. There is something so WRONG with this picture. You see, every day my newsfeed is filled with articles and posts screaming out about the evils of abortion, posted by pro-life people, mostly Christians. And I came to the realization: many want to offer their opinions on how wrong it is, but few want to get out from behind the screens and do something about it.

Ouch.

Then I ran some numbers. I live in the Mid-West. The small, rural area is quite conservative. In the small town of Warrensburg, approximate population, 19,000, there are around 30 churches. From what I could tell on google anyway. I suspect there are more.

But let’s go with 30 churches in Warrensburg for starters. And let’s go really, really modest with numbers and say each of those 30 churches have 20 regular members. That makes for 600 church goers out of 19,000. Now I know that number is ridiculously low. But let’s just go with it. And not to mention, there are more than likely quite a few more who consider themselves Christian/pro-life, but either don’t go to church or not regularly.

Now let’s say each regular member of these 20 churches donates only one dollar a month towards a pro-life cause. That would be $7200 a year. Just from those 600 people. And like I said, LOW BALL numbers. The number of people who consider themselves Christians/pro-life more likely make up about half the population of the town. Just my guess. I don’t know.

I’m not a highly educated person. I have an 8th grade education and GED. That’s the level of my education. I’m not a math genius like my engineer husband. But I really don’t think it’s rocket science, people. (Obviously not, if I can figure it out.) And perhaps I’m thinking too simplistic here… But this is the conclusion I came to. If every self proclaimed pro-life person and professing Christian would give $1 a month. One. Dollar. A. Month. Abortion would all but cease to exist here in America. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But a person can dream and I love to dream.

Here is something I would love for you to ponder before you hit the post button on another passionate pro-life message or rant.

1. Am I willing to put my money where my mouth is? Am I willing to invest in LIFE?

2. Am I just as passionate about the life of the mother of the baby as I am about the life of the baby? I believe many times, in our rush to save the innocent, we abort the not-so-innocent. Aren’t we all not so innocent?

3. Am I just as passionate about saving the life of the baby after its out of the womb, as I am while it’s still in the womb?

You might say, “but it’s not MY problem. I didn’t make the wrong choices .”

I beg to differ. The moment you take the responsibility to post your opinions, you’ve picked up the problem. Now, are you going to pick up a solution? And for the love of God friends. Don’t pick up stones. Jesus didn’t. The only stone He ever picked up was the one He shoved out of the way in His victorious defeat of death, as He stepped into LIFE.

And let me say, I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. Social media makes it so easy FEEL righteous without DOING righteous. So can I ask you? Would you like to walk with me in love and BE the change, not just preach the change? I believe it would be a beautiful, world changing, thing.

If you read to the bottom of this touchy subject, thank you. I would love your thoughts, but keep respect, honor, and kindness at the foremost. Most of all, if you want to give a big Amen to this, or it hit a chord with you, I would be ever so honored if you hit the share button. 💜 Thank you.

With love, Ann L.

 

 

Delight

img_9539-2Delight. Isn’t that such a pretty word? I delight in the very word itself. It’s just full of light, life, joy, & childlike enthusiasm.

I enjoy BEING delighted. I enjoy taking delight in many things. One of the things I find myself delighting in the most is the beauty of nature. And I’m not just talking about spectacular mountain or ocean views. Although they do delight me to no end.

I also love finding the little, simple beauties in nature as well. Such as dew drops on a spider web, a bird song, the intoxicating smell of spring, a tiny sea shell, icicles dripping from a roof… All of these things nestle themselves into my senses and breathe life into my very soul. And I linger over and treasure them like precious jewels.img_9532

Right now it’s January here in southeastern Missouri. There’s been very little snow and while we had some ice last weekend, that had vanished within a day. So that means the landscape around here is pretty blah. Gray and brown, brown and gray. It can get depressing. Yet I find myself delighting in the rolling hills, curving back roads, and little ponds nestled in the valleys.

To someone else, this could be the most depressing, drab, place. They might not be able to see what I see. But the thing is, here’s what I see: I see spring and summer coming along and turning all this drabness into absolute loveliness. When the brown hills and gray trees will be twenty different shades of greens and the little ponds, a deep blue. I see what it’s going to be.

This morning when I got out of bed, the sun was just starting to lighten the sky. I looked out my kitchen window as I was getting coffee and saw the most delightful misty morning sunrise.16215744_10211622645583203_822249435_n

So I grabbed my camera and went out on my porch, (in my bathrobe) and tried to snap a few pictures. Which of course don’t do justice. You just can’t capture these things. The mists were rising from the valleys, the morning was 45 degrees, holding all the promises of spring, the birds were twittering all around, and the glorious sun that hadn’t shown its face for days was coming up. So I didn’t care how ridiculous I looked in my bathrobe standing there on my porch at 7 am. I soaked it all in and tucked away the promise of spring for the cold days that are sure to still come.16237095_10211622643863160_1215622985_n

I went back inside to have my morning coffee time with Jesus. I sat there for a few minutes and thanked my Father for the wonderful gift of the misty morning. Then He said something to me, something that broke off some old religious thinking and replaced it with a profound truth. (Profound to me anyway)

He said to me: I love the way you delight in the beauty of nature. The way you find the beauty in the little things. And in that you are delighting yourself in Me.

Ohhhh…. “Delight yourself in the LORD, And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.” (‭PSALM‬ ‭37‬:‭4‬ AMP)

See I had always thought that meant digging into Scriptures, delighting in them. Working hard at it! Making sure I’m doing everything right. And yes it does in part. But when I delight in His creation, I am also delighting in the Creator. When I delight in my husband, children, friends, beauty… I’m also delighting in Him. Never to put them above Him, but to delight in these gifts He’s given me, as my child delights in the gifts from me. I believe it brings pleasure to His heart to see us notice and delight in the gifts He put here for us to enjoy. Like any good, good Father would.

And I also think it hurts Him when we don’t notice the beauty and good gifts that He has put right in front of us to enjoy. As parents we have probably all been there at Christmas or at birthdays and our child is wanting everyone else gifts but their own. I believe God feels the same way when we don’t open our eyes to notice what He does for us and the gifts He gives.

One of my goals in this new year of 2017 is to be more intentional to look for God in the little things and to keep my eyes open for what He’s doing for me and to delight myself in it and in Him. Because He’s here, all around me, in the very air I breathe, in the very beat of my heart, in the laughter of my babies, and in the promises of spring. May you be able to see Him too.img_9537

Amish Coffee

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Genuine Amish Coffee Maker 

As some of my followers know, I was born and raised Amish and left the culture when I was 21.

I have lived in the lap of modern conveniences for the last 10+ years now and I am quite spoiled and I really take these luxuries for granted… Until I spend a week on my Amish in-laws’ farm.

Most of my immediate family, like me, no longer live in the Amish culture. Even my parents are now “Beachy Mennonite.” Which basically means they look a lot like Amish still, but have the modern conveniences, such as electricity & cars.

So when we go visit my family, we rarely experience the Amish lifestyle firsthand. But not so much with my husband’s family. His parents are semi retired farmers, faithful Amish congregants in Northern IN. And we spent the past week there on our Christmas vacation.

It’s pretty amazing how simple every day things can become a daunting task in a world with no electricity. Such as brewing coffee…

Every morning I stumble into my kitchen and push the button on my coffee maker and five minutes later I have my hands wrapped around a wonderful hot cup of steaming, liquid,motivation. My little bit of daily heaven.

Well the first morning on the farm I woke up with a sinking realization: Crap! No push a button and have coffee in a minute deal at this place. I let out a little moan of desperation.

I stumbled into the kitchen, rummaged through the cupboard and came across this “packet coffee.” Kinda like tea bags, but coffee instead. Great! I only need hot water and I’m good to go. Got the tea kettle whistling, poured water over that baby, let it steep, and viola! Coffee… Which was so weak it might as well have been hot water, which was followed by a killer headache later that day. (I may or may not have a slight coffee addiction problem.)

My mother inlaw, (bless her heart!) took pity on my caffeine deprived state and dug out the “Amish Coffee Maker.” The next morning when I woke up, she had some of the best coffee waiting for me! Thank you Jesus! Then she showed me how to make it myself should she not be around when I wake up.

Easy peasy I thought. I can handle this. Water, coffee grounds, cook it. How hard can it be? I was about to find out.

The next morning I dragged myself into the kitchen and the first thing I did was locate the coffee maker. It ended up being a treasure hunt… I searched and searched, fumbling around in the shadowy kitchen, dimly lit by the solitary gas lamp on the far wall. (Because heaven knows! Brightly lit kitchens are a sin!) My bleary eyes peered through all the cupboards. Occasionally I flicked on the flashlight on my smart phone, shining it into the dark corners of the kitchen. At last! I located it in pile of clean dishes still on the counter from the night before.

I grasped it like you might grasp a life line and headed for the faucet. Turning it on I stared in disbelief, not one single drop of water came out of that darn faucet. It only gave a little gurgle like it was laughing at my desperation.

I knew immediately what the problem was. The water had run out and now the generator (out in the barn) that powered the water pump needed to be started. I knew my inlaws were in the barn, starting morning chores and I knew they’d be starting the generator at any time.

I crumpled onto a pitiful heap on the couch and waited with bated breath to hear the roar of the motor. Agonizing minutes ticked by. FINALLY! I heard it. Now for coffee. I hurried to the sink and watched as the faucet reluctantly spat the water out at me until the pot was full.

Next the coffee. I pulled it out of the cupboard and with it came a open seasoning/salt shaker, that seasoned me and everything in reach with a liberal sprinkling. Salted caramel coffee anyone?

At last I had it prepped and on the stove. Friends I’m convinced nothing takes longer to bring to a boil than an Amish Coffee Maker. While I was waiting for it to boil, my youngest woke up and wanted oatmeal. While I was cooking his oatmeal, the coffee chose that moment to “perk,” and it perked right up out of that coffee pot, completely dousing the gas burner it was on.

And that my friends, Is how you make Amish coffee. At least I didn’t have a caffeine headache that day.

And I had the thought go through my head: I just got my butt kicked by a non-technological coffee maker. I felt incredibly smart.

The Naked Eye

Before today, I had heard of the phrase, “the naked eye,” but I really never paid too much attention to it. That was until this morning, I had a rather “eye opening” experience in regards to that matter. An experience that brought a whole new meaning to that phrase.

I love being a stay at home mom. Part of that is due to the fact that I don’t have to wear make up every day. I greatly enjoy getting pretty and wearing make up. I equally enjoy getting pretty and NOT wearing make up. I wear make up 2-3 times a week, sometimes only once a week. I love it that way. Best of both worlds. I wear the very basic make up; eyeliner, mascara, a little liquid foundation for my the dark circles under my eyes (thanks kids) and I’m out the door.

What does all this have to do with the naked eye? Well, you see this little instrument?

1461697683-elf-eyelash-curler

If the first thought that came to your mind was: instrument for torture. You are partially correct. It is called an eyelash curler. But don’t kid yourself, I’m more and more convinced that these were invented in some dark torture chamber. My little ones even look at me a little askance whenever they see me use it. Like, Mom? Are you trying to take your eye out?

Just in case you have never seen these nifty little things in action, here is an illustration:eyelashcurler

You clamp your eyelashes into it’s jaws and bear down on the handles until your eyelashes have the desired curled affect. The price of beauty my friends. You can see why my boys would get the idea that I’m trying gauge my eyeballs out.

So it really is not a good idea to be absent-minded while using this torture device. But absent-minded was exactly what happened this morning. Why was I absent-minded? Hmm, let me see, maybe it was because I was trying to apply make-up; at the same time trying to get my oldest to stop beating up on the youngest. While my mind was scrambling to what I could get done before I left for a lunch meeting, to remembering that I still had to cook lunch for my husband before I left to EAT lunch… This, my friends is exactly why I wear minimal make up.

So I was leaning in towards the mirror with the curler firmly clamped on my eyelashes and then it happened. It’s one of those things where you really can’t quite figure out how it happened, but it just did. Somehow my hand slipped sideways, but I managed to keep it clamped together. (Gotta get that curl, whatever the cost!) And the next thing I know, I am staring in utter disbelief at the torture instrument in my hand and I’m feeling a strange, burning sensation on my eyelid.

Y’all. I YANKED out half of my eyelashes on my right eye. One clean smooth yank. Didn’t even hurt at first. I would make a good dentist. I have heard of people singeing off their eyelashes by getting too close to a flame. But I have never heard of anyone YANKING them out. img_9937

This. This is 30+ years of eyelash growth. I am still in disbelief. And also mourning. Is it going to take 30 years to grow these babies back?? Am I going to have to get some fake eyelashes.

Or I could just go without mascara until they grow back. I have light eyelashes, so unless I’m wearing mascara or there’s really good light, it’s really not that noticeable. Or as my baby sister suggested: I could wear an eyepatch… My sisters, by the way, were completely heartless and thought it was hysterical. Until I convinced them that I passed out from the pain. Then they were very sorry for laughing. (I did not actually pass out. But what does that matter. Imagine! Laughing at such a tragedy as this. Ahem.)

So, until I figure out what is the best course of action, I will be doing the best I can with my “naked eye.” img_9938

P.s.  I do believe, henceforth my eyelashes will have to remain uncurled. I have paid my dues on the price of beauty, thank you very much.

Apple Dumpling Memories

img_9849So here I go, blogging about food again… But this time there’s no recipe. (Sorry. Maybe some other time.) Just a warning for you, most likely many of my blogs will be food related, but not all will have recipes. A lot of times inspiration to write hits me while I’m cooking or baking. Some of my happiest moments have been while gathered around a table with family and friends. And when you grow up an Amish woman, thoughts of cooking, baking, growing, canning, and freezing food occupy your brain pretty much full time.

Lucky for me, I happen to love cooking and baking. And even though I’ve left the culture, making food has stayed an integral part of who I am. A social event is planned: first thing I think about: making food. Someone has a baby: take them food. Someone is sick: take them food. Life takes food. And someone to make food. Food brings people together. I am a firm believer that most things are made better with… wait for it… FOOD. Ha! But really.

A friend of mine dropped off some locally grown apples the other day and I have been itching to bake something with them. Today, I unexpectedly found myself at home alone, well kinda alone. The baby was napping and my husband and oldest son were out. I had this whole list of things blow through my mind of what I could do, all by myself, in a peaceful, quiet house, with no interruptions! Every mom knows what gold that is. And I found myself almost in a tizzy trying to decide what to do first.

I came very close to just taking a nap and forgetting about the to-do list. But those apples kept beckoning me to rendezvous’ with them in the kitchen. I was torn between apple pie and apple dumplings. The apple dumplings won. And I’m talking homemade crust and all. Best decision ever. The house smelled like heaven. And the dumplings tasted like heaven.

img_9835And thinking of heaven always makes me think of my grandma. As I peeled the apples, I saw again her hands, hard working, capable hands, peeling apples. She could peel an entire apple with the peel coming off in one long, perfect spiral. Never breaking until she was done. How I admired that little feat of hers! And to this day, I still have not mastered it.

I would often slip over to see her in the evenings and she would be sitting in her chair reading or writing. I would beg her to peel an apple for me and she would eventually sigh and tell me to go to the pantry and get an apple. I would watch in fascination as she peeled, then often ask her to play a game of “Memory.” Sometimes she shooed me off, but more often than not, she would play with me.

As I rolled out the crust, I heard again the thump, creeaak, thump, creeaak, of her rolling pin as she rolled out the dough for pie or dumplings. She was a master at pies. Her fingers flew deftly as crimped them. She whistled a lot as she worked, or hummed. Sometimes she sang in her creaky, breaky voice. But mostly she whistled. img_8089-3-copy

I wanted to be like my grandma. One of my earliest memories is of walking behind her, imitating the way she walked. She had an almost limping gait that I, in my childish innocence, admired. I wanted a “kapp” (amish woman’s head covering) like hers. I think she made me one to play with at one point! I wanted to whistle like her, talk like her. Heck, I even wanted false teeth like her.

And I wanted to be with her all the time. Every chance I’d get, I would slip away to be with her. I must have pestered the poor woman to death at times, especially since there were 9 other siblings (yes 9) of mine that I think liked to do the same thing. Yet I remember very seldom being shooed off. If I was sent away, it was usually because she knew I was supposed to be doing something else.

She passed away over three years ago. I still miss her. I miss her laugh. I miss hugging her neck. I miss sitting on the porch swing beside her in the evening and watch the fireflies wink. I miss her loving on my babies.

It’s beginning to dawn on me now after all these years, I have indeed become a lot like my grandma. I have inherited her sense of humor, her love of people, her knack for having some of the funniest dreams at night, her tenacity and stubbornness, her incredibly soft heart, and most of all her love of creating wonderful dishes and loving on those around her with food.

And in that, I will always have her with me.