Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coupons and Home Economy

My coupon binder

I attended a Coupon Workshop four months ago. Before that class I had only used coupons in a haphazard manner and never seemed to save much money. I do pray regularly that God will help me stretch our one income budget so that our finances honor Him. We have more than we need, we're comfortable, but not one of our budget categories has a lot of wiggle room. I read of people who can save $1000 a month by cooking at home. We'd have to stop eating all together to save that much in a month. So when I pray that God would help me find ways to save money, I'm dealing in small amounts, five, ten or 20 dollars a month. Couponing seemed like a way to save what for us is a significant amount.

Four months in, how have I done? I'm pleased. We've spent less on groceries every month since I started. I'm almost under budget, and now we have a small stockpile. I've discovered it is possible to get our favorite brand of deodorant for free. But don't worry, this won't become a couponing blog- other people already do that well. Try Coupon Divas and Money Saving Mom, although they're both more involved than anything we do here.

I have given some thought to true and false economy, a home economy that balances my family's need to save money with our need to guard our time. Here are some preliminary thoughts:

True economy: A system that saves our family $200-300 a month.
False economy: Eating exclusively junk food, because it's cheaper.
True economy: Meal planning around store ads; what's on sale?
False economy: Driving 30 minutes to save on groceries (we only have Walmart in town but driving to another grocery store costs $9 plus time).
True economy: Stopping by a store when I know I'll be driving past and stocking up on what is on sale.
False economy: Running to ten different stores to save money. I limit myself to 3 (when I'm in the neighborhood), and that's firm.
True economy: Cutting Sunday coupons with my kids. Even the five year old is capable, with supervision.
False economy: Spending ten minutes printing out a $1 coupon.

So here's our menu for the week - chicken breasts were on sale:

1. Ethiopian (lentils and veggies)
2. Hot turkey sandwiches for lunch, dinner out and birthday cake
3. Enchiladas Verdes
4. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes (beef in the freezer)
5. Pizza (always homemade)
6. Chicken salad sandwiches (chicken cooked on enchilada night, with basil from the garden. Joy!)
7. Eggs and homemade cinnamon rolls (eggs were cheap two weeks ago)

We have chicken for next week too. We'll eat Teriyaki chicken sandwiches, pasta with chicken and chicken tacos. You'll notice I don't assign days of the week to my menu planning. That's because I'm not a serious list lady, I like wiggle room. I like to be in the mood for meatloaf while it bakes in the oven.

Am I in favor of coupons, shopping sales and meal planning? Yes, absolutely. But shopping, even saving, is and ought to be, a very small part of our lives as moms. We have a lot of worthwhile work and people with whom to spend our time. If you're anything like me, you know how easy it is to get distracted from the best and the best isn't preceded by a dollar sign. This is how, this week, I'm trying to honor God with both my time and my money.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Open Your Mouth Wide

I, the LORD, am your God,
Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
Psalm 81:10

God jealously desires to satisfy my heart. No other gods, He commands, only Me. He is my Deliverer, the One who brought me up from Egypt. I am to enlarge my desire for Him (Matthew Henry's phrase). Open wide.

Will I take little or much of Christ?

He gives much, but will I receive it? He promises to fill my mouth. There is no limit, no measure of the goodness with which He offers to fill me.

But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat;
And with honey from the rock,
I would satisfy you.
Psalm 81:16

Friday, May 27, 2011

Homemaker's Challenge: Week 3

The new bathroom curtains were stitched this week, the smudged paint scraped off the window, the rods hammered in, the windows washed and curtains hung. It took me rather a long time to get this far. When I bought the fabric I thought I was pressed for time and money and made a hasty decision in Hobby Lobby. When I realized I could have waited and looked longer, I was unhappy with this fabric.  The fabric sat in the bag for weeks, untouched.

I'm making an honest effort at 31 Days To Clean, and added these curtains to my "Six Other Things List." Although they took up an entire afternoon, a "One Other Thing" day. I was so pleased to be done I wondered why I can't always be a person who follows through on my ideas. This ties right into Day 16 and the question of "what is my block?"  The biggest two reasons I can come up with are laziness (I'd rather read a book) and a bad attitude (I don't like this fabric anyway).  

The other reason I don't get everything done is that I can't follow every vain imagination of my heart. I don't have time. I've prayed for a couple of years that God would help me to number my days and present before Him a heart of wisdom. Then I hit an ordinary day, one in which I'm exhausted by the hum-drum, and I ask Him, "Is this what a numbered day looks like?" Yes. Wisdom applies itself to the important first, though it is not exciting or creative. This season at home requires me to set aside most of my creative ideals and some of my ideals concerning cleanliness, to sacrifice them for something better: human hearts.

Sorry - this is very hard to photograph.

Bryan surprised us and took us away for two nights.  We had such a good time, it was well worth setting aside everything else on my to-do list. We rented canoes and floated on the river. A calm and placid river, nearly fool proof; Bryan and I were almost dry when we were finished. We saw hundreds of turtles, birds, a snake, and best of all, baby turtles the size of half dollars. We picnicked on a sandbar. Four hours of peace and calm, a little hard work, and enthused kids. This evening we were home again, sitting on the back steps, eating popcorn and apples for dinner after a little too much "foreign" food. We'll get back to the housework tomorrow. It has been waiting for us.

Homemakers Challenge - 31 Days to Clean

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Conversation with the Chef: Strawberry Jam

We made strawberry freezer jam yesterday, two batches.  Measuring out the sugar, seeing it heaped in the bowl and grainy in the berries, convinces me to eat the jam sparingly. But I love, love, love the fresh flavor of freezer jam compared to cooked jams. When I eat it I'm always reminded of my grandma's kitchen and her jam made with berries from her own backyard. I won't give up strawberry freezer jam. Spread on toast it tastes like June in December.

Do you set your jam outside on the lawn (I use that term very loosely) to admire your work? No? Neither do we. The storm last night knocked out our power and the house was dark as a tomb today.  The sun was our only light, our only way to take a decent photo. The power outage also affects the freezer, the jam and all the other food we have stored. I'm a little worried about a deep freeze thaw. We have no idea how long the power will be out, so I'm trying not to borrow trouble from another day.

My grandma's recipe for strawberry shortcake, an old fashioned biscuit-like cake, is another summer favorite. Another flavor that brings up sweet childhood memories. We will certainly be enjoying that before strawberry season is over. Strawberry season could be five months long and it would be fine with me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tee Time

     Kara's been busy. She's been asking for a set of plastic golf clubs from the store, and I have been insistent that she's too old and wouldn't have fun with them. So a roll of duct tape and a few sticks were all she needed to make her own set of golf clubs. They're not exactly functional, when using golf clubs of this sort getting the ball off the tee is difficult.  But then, it 's always been difficult for me with real clubs. When Kara had her clubs finished she wondered if I would help her sew a golf bag. Rather, she came and told me she had the sewing machine all set up and would I just thread the needle for her. I asked if, maybe, she'd like a little help designing a golf bag. I set aside my plans for the morning, and gave my daughter that time. We used fabric that's been sitting around for 14 years. I've been tempted to clean out those fabric boxes, but see, now I'm glad I didn't. She ironed and stitched, with mom hovering nearby. She knew the bag needed three pockets and a strap. Her sense of scale was off, her original measurements being close to the size of a 33 gallon trash bag. When we were done, she was off for a little tee time in the backyard.
     Now she seems to be keeping her eyes open for a country club that will let her play. We laugh. At lunch Ally was teasing her because Kara rarely plays with her toys. "I play with my golf clubs," she hotly defended herself. I know she won't play with them in the WPGA, she might not play with them next week. Phil Mickelson won't be calling to learn the secret of the clubs. This is something better. This is a girl making an idea come to life. This is creativity and ingenuity. This is real life learning, sewing skills, in a high interest context. There's not a better use of my time, even if the end product doesn't look like much to the untrained eye.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Geographica: The United States

     Here it is, a geography quiz for the younger crowd.  We had Kara, age seven, look at a place mat map of the United States while she answered the questions.

Quiz: The United States
1.  Which state borders the Gulf of Mexico: Minnesota, South Dakota or Louisiana?
2.  What state is west of Colorado?
3.  Which state borders three of the Great Lakes: Michigan, Montana, or Oklahoma?
4.  What state is made up of only islands?
5.  Which state borders Mexico: Maine, Texas or Washington?


1.  Louisiana
2.  Utah
3.  Michigan
4.  Hawaii
5.  Texas

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spiritual Redwoods and Other Trees

     J.I. Packer in A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life compares the Puritan pastors to redwoods, giants among men. Their vision of Christ and living for Him being so lofty we are dwarfed, we stand among the ferns on the soft woody floor, we crane our necks and see dark green boughs against the blue sky, and imagine their tops' in the wind and the fog, standing through the centuries.  In a word, he argues, we need to learn from the Puritans maturity, a maturity gained through spiritual and physical struggle and suffering.  In contrast he describes North American Protestantism as,
"...man centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent and sentimental, as it blatantly is,... 3,000 miles wide and half an inch deep." (p. 22)
      I am afraid this describes me, but did he have to choose the word "blatantly?"  I do love to fool myself into thinking I'm doing somewhat better than that.  However, I do know the kind of conversations I often have with God, the ones in which I do all the whining, and I don't display hardy character, "undaunted and unsinkable, rising above discouragement and fears...."  My hardiness is, in fact, a bit of a laughing matter around here.
     But in spite of being blatantly self-centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent (is it the Starbucks ice cream in the freezer?) and sentimental, I am encouraged tonight. I am encouraged by 2 Peter 2:4-9, which I came across in my Bible reading for such a day as this. Peter is describing God's sure judgment of false teachers and the destruction of the ungodly, but reminds us: God rescues and preserves the righteous. If, this is a big if, God saved righteous Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah,
"then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptations, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,"
     God is mighty enough to rescue me from the temptations of my culture of comfort and of compromise.  God knows how to rescue me from my own heart. I will not ever tower like a redwood, but I will try with all my might to watch for God, who plants the seed, sends the rains and sunshine, and gives the growth, whether I reach to five or 50 feet. 

"The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."
Isaiah 61:3

Friday, May 20, 2011

Today's Challenge

      I confess I'm not keeping up with the Homemaker's Challenge.  The challenges are too involved for me to complete in the afternoon when we've finished school.  They take too long leaving scant time for cooking and the load of laundry that must be washed and folded, then the hard part, making sure all four children put their share away.  But I am not giving up.  I am doing the do-able.  I am picking and choosing, prioritizing and and being very, very realistic as I'm planning my days, as I'm making my list of Six Other Things (or five or four).  I see the value in the list, the benefit of being pushed a little beyond what I am used to accomplishing in a day.  Here was my list for today:
1.  Wash the living room floor.
2.  Make two pots of Vegetable Chowder, one for my family and one to share.
3.  Wash the dining room floor.
4.  Make a double batch of bread, one for us, one to share.
5.  Write out a birthday card for my niece (wouldn't it be nice if it wasn't late?) - still need to do this!
     This was an ambitious list, but I intentionally planned to include my children.  A month ago we washed the living room floor and I discovered that in twenty minutes we could pick up toys, sweep, swiffer, move out all the furniture, and damp "mop" the floor, if all five of us worked together.  I use vinegar and water to clean the wood so it's safe even for the five year old.  We had to fly to finish in twenty minutes, but with a timer set the kids were motivated.  The room was clean when we were done, maybe not as clean as if I had done it myself, but a lot cleaner than it was before.  I was amazed at the multiplication of my time.
     So I planned to do it again today.  We did the living room and dining room all together.  We made soup all together.  The five year old measured out frozen veggies.  The seven year old made a bouquet garni (she's the one, out of all my family, who knows every herb in the bed!), the ten year old with the splint hunted veggies in the fridge and stirred the pots.  Ally and I chopped and diced.  All our tasks took us one hour.  My lesson?  I need to plan ways to include them more often.  They multiply my time and in turn I'm training them for life.
     While I shaped the bread loaves the girls and I had a chat about our reasons for keeping house.  I'm not a formal lesson writer -ever- so this was it.  I love to hear them speak my heart and apply their own Bible verses to the principles.  Ally mentioned doing it all out of love, for husband and children, and I added, "do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but through love serve one another." (I'm not even going to look up the references for you, we did this as we worked.  Grab your concordance if you need to.)  Kara, a pragmatist, added that if your husband is going to work, you need to do your share not just sit around, you need to be diligent.  "The precious possession of a man is diligence."  Ally considers a love of order a reward that spreads it's effects to other areas, we feel at peace in our homes and have time for hospitality.  She also speculated that if we discipline ourselves to clean the house, we might be more diligent to discipline ourselves to read our Bible.  I shared a common mommy-war I've heard waged, over how important house cleaning is, and to some it doesn't seem important at all.  I told my girls it's not important compared to the Biggies - the Lord, my husband and children.  I don't want to be wiping and mopping and folding so long I don't have a minute to spare. However, a clean home is a lot more important than many of the ways we actually do spend our time: Facebook, blogs, TV, novels, phone calls, the list goes on....God meant it when He told us not to spend our time as gossips and busybodies, whether we go house to house or website to website. There's work to be done, and a reward for our labors. My reward today is a slice of bread with butter, warm from the oven. Eager hands reach for their reward as well, then clamor for more.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Quiet Spirit

Your adornment must not be merely external...
but let it be the hidden person of the heart,
with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is precious in the sight of God.
I Peter 3:4

     I'm naturally a quiet person.  I am reserved, I don't have a lot to say, sometimes even to my husband.  I love silence, though it often seems in short supply here.  Being by nature quiet isn't what God considers precious.  God looks at my heart and even if you think I have mastered the "quiet spirit," God knows my true state of being.  I have one daughter who is just like me.  She's sweet and soft spoken, always listening and watching, willing to go unnoticed by others.  Then I have another daughter who talks.  She started talking earlier than all my other babies.  She was singing little songs at 18 months.  She reads aloud, not silently.  She talks to herself in the bathroom.  She talks in her sleep.  Her words come fast and furious, sometimes so slurred together her family can't understand her.  She is full, full up to the top, of life and joy.  She too can have a "gentle and quiet spirit," without changing the personality God blessed her with.  In the margin of my Bible beside this verse I've written in the reference to Isaiah 32:17,

The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
and the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence

     God gives me His righteousness in Christ and the effect of His righteousness in my heart is quietness.  Is my heart raging and murmuring against God and my husband?  Is my heart wrestling against my life?  Is my heart bitter in disappointment?  Or am I gentle and quiet, is my heart still, at rest in Christ, though my day seems all wrong?  You see, it's not about how many words I speak, it's about a quiet spirit.  A changed heart isn't something I can muster up on my own, it's God's work and when He sees His own handiwork in me, He calls it precious.  He calls me precious in His sight.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Geographica: European Bodies of Water

     Today has been lovely, quiet, sunny, easy dinner tonight, and I've been working away on my list.  On the flip side I started resenting the list, resenting having to work hard.  What does that say about me?  Lazy, I guess.  Things are getting done, but don't worry I still have plenty to do.  A whole lifetime of work. 
     Ally has prepared one more hard geography quiz for today.  For next week I've given her a challenge to write a geography quiz geared toward our favorite seven year old, with questions to answer while looking at a map.  So if you have a favorite seven year old check back next Monday and we'll see how Ally does.  Our seven year old cheered, because normally she can't answer any questions, and it is fun to know some answers.

Europe:  Bodies of Water
1.  What sea is north of the Frisian Islands, west of Jutland, south west of the Norwegian city of Stavanger and east of the Islands of Great Britain?  (Bria's hint:  See my post on Berwick upon Tweed)
2.  What gulf is between Sweden and Finland: the Gulf of Finland, the Gulf of Bothnia, or the Gulf of Riga?
3.  The English Channel, the Bay of Biscay, and the Gulf of Lion all touch France. Which of these is part of the Mediterranean Sea?
4.  The Tyrrhenian Sea is north of Sicily and east of Corsica and Sardinia; the Tyrrhenian Sea is southwest of what country?
5.  The Sea of Azov borders Russia and what other country:  Turkey, Finland, Germany or the Ukraine?


1.   The North Sea
2.  Gulf of Bothnia
3.  Gulf of Lion
4.  Italy
5.  Ukraine (part of the Black Sea)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tonight's Plan

     I can feel summer.  I find myself wanting to just set aside the math books and call it good enough for this year.  Not yet, we'll hang on a couple weeks longer.  When I feel like abandoning my good judgment and responsible parenting choices, I have to find some way to keep going.  One way I do that is by thinking about next year.  This seems counter-intuitive, that planning next year's learning helps us finish this year's books, but it always works for me.  Today I used a few quiet minutes on the park bench to start analyzing what worked well, and not so well, this year.  With that carefully thought out assessment I hope to make changes to address those character issues and time management skills, which seem to be the two chief areas of concern.
     Tonight this is short.  Ally didn't finish the geography quiz (time management), and I am itching to be over at HSLDA, listening to "High School Writing Demystified."  I'm hoping for the inspiration to finish this year's books and some encouragement for the daunting task of leading Ally through high school level work.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A City of Refuge

     In Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19 God commands His people to build six cities of refuge.  The cities belonged to the Levites and were to be spread through the land so that every one in Israel would be within a half days' journey, lest the road be too long to run to safety.  There were to be highways built to the cities.  Men who killed their neighbor accidentally, say their ax head flew off while they were chopping wood, could flee to these cities and have a place of safety until they could present their case to the judges.  Close behind the accidental murderer would be the blood avenger, the grieving family member, who would be justified in putting the murderer to death if he should catch him.  Six cities of refuge, and if my eyes aren't glazed over in boredom, I see the gospel.
     I see myself fleeing to safety, as Matthew Henry would say, convinced of my sin and in terror because of it.  The gate is near, for the word is near me, in my mouth and in my heart, and Christ is the Word (Romans 10:8).  The blood avenger is close behind shouting out the wrath of God and the curse of the Law.  Though the blood avenger is right, is justified, though I deserve wrath and the curse, the gate to the city is open.  For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) because Christ became a curse for me (Galatians 3:13).  I fly to the feet of the elders of the city, to plead my case before God.  There at the right hand of the Father is Christ, seated on a throne of grace.  From that throne of grace flow mercy and help in time of need (Hebrews 5:16).  I am daily in need, and there is gospel goodness in the city of refuge.

Hear my cry, O God;
Give heed to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You
when my heart is faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a refuge for me,
A tower of strength against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.

Psalm 61:1-4

Friday, May 13, 2011

Homemaker's Challenge

     Proof positive:  I cleaned out my pantry.  I stressed just thinking about it, and wanted to quit after one shelf - a good start, right?  I persevered.  I filled up my trash can with half used craft kits and dried out paint from the kids' craft shelf.  I reminded myself over and over that if all the same junk goes back in, it won't be long until the pantry looks just the same as usual.  Last night I got on the computer to load all my pictures and couldn't get on my blog.  As I was downloading them I noticed, down in the bottom right corner of the top photo, the wadded up, purple tablecloth we use for crafts.   Hmmm...much as I would love to blame the Curse, the culprit is the seven year old who had been painting a solar system poster.  And she's a blessing, a rich blessing.
     I've been struggling a bit with the "Six Most Important Things" list.  After all these years of homeschooling, and all the failed schedules I've tried, I've learned there are a few basic things that must happen every day to keep us afloat.  So I've made a mental list, and used it until these have become habits rather than tasks to check off a piece of paper:
1.  Read my Bible
2.  Homeschool the kids
3.  Wash a load of laundry
4.  Make dinner
5.  Do one house cleaning chore
      See my problem?  I already have five things, really the most important things I need to accomplish each day.  If I add a shopping trip, or doctor's visit (we were there this week for a fractured wrist), or a sport practice, I have six.  These are non-negotiable.  Okay, I can skip laundry and cleaning, but not for long.  I can't say, "Sorry honey, we didn't get to school today, but you'll be at the top of my list tomorrow."  And I think it's redundant to write these out each day.
     Instead I'm trying to have a "Six Other Things List."  They're all things I need to accomplish.  Many of them are tasks I've been putting off for months, because there's no time limit.  My husband is wondering how long we'll have a towel hanging in the upstairs bathroom window.  Soon, soon, I'll put "sew bathroom curtain" on my list.  He'll be pleased.  I would say surprised, but I bought the fabric a month ago and he's been waiting.  These are important things.  Here is my list from today:
1.  mop kitchen floor
2.  type ham recipe
3.  type Cilantro Ranch Dressing recipe (these were jotted down on scratch paper, sitting on the kitchen counter for...um...a while.  I'm also working on my dump spot.)
4.  wash table linens
5.  wash living room curtains
6.  sunny?  wash comforter (but it rained, so I was off the hook)
     I finished the first four.  I also finished four tasks on Thursday.   So I am thinking six may be more than I really have time to complete, after all the important jobs of the day are scheduled.  Maybe five?  I'm wondering how other moms have dealt with this, looking forward to reading some links.  I ran it by my husband (always a good idea) and he is highly in favor of lists.  He uses a list at work every day, which I never knew, but like I have not for the tasks that are no-brainers.  He uses a list to keep himself moving in a forward direction.  So although I was tempted to quit, I'm not a list person, with his encouragement I'll keep tweaking my list and make it work.  Tweaking and working and God gives more grace, more grace.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Bible Bee

     Today I want to make a little plug for the Bible Bee.  Our kids have participated in it for the last two years and are already eagerly awaiting the arrival of the memory verse cards for this summer.  The core of the competition is simply in reciting verses, word perfect, before judges at a local Bee in August.  They allow contestants to memorize verses from different Bible translations.  My chief concern when we first heard about it was that our family verses would be NASB and the Bible Bee would be NIV and I feared this would only confuse our kids.  But they're able to memorize in the version we use every day at home.  There is also a Study Manual.  My thought on this is that even if you disagree with it theologically, your kids can still memorize verses, you can't disagree with the Bible!  Our family daily works on memory verse passages throughout the year but there is something about a competition that encourages kids to work just a little harder.  In our home we asked our kids commit to study for a minimum of 15 minutes per day, but two went far beyond that, working on their verses for an hour or two a day.  We've never won a local Bee, which shows some families or children take it very seriously, but our kids voluntarily signed up again this year and are counting down the days until the Bible Bee box arrives in the mail.  This is what Bryan and I desire for our kids, a standard so high it's not easily met, even with hard work.  We want to train our kids to strive for excellence.  The time to register is short.  I'm really posting about this too late, but if you have kids between ages 7 and 18, I highly recommend it.  Last year I literally had tears streaming down my cheeks as we watched the National Finals live on the internet.  Watching those children recite verse after verse with word perfect accuracy and knowing the power of God's Word to captivate their hearts made me cry over and over again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Geographica: Bodies of Water

     Did you have a good Mother's Day?  We had such a sweet day.  Bryan bought me a new coffee maker.  Arden, five, wrote out a card, carefully lettered "DOD," which seems to be how he was spelling MOM until his sister caught him and helped him get it right.  Kara, owner of the Odd Jobs business, included in her card a "super-prize," two free odd jobs.  You know I'll take advantage of that gift.  Our own dear Geo Quiz Girl wrote me a sweet note and bought me a plant for the garden.  We had a rousing round of croquet, and we ate, naturally.  Never forget the food.  It is so sweet to see how they love.

Quiz:  Bodies of Water
Europe:  What sea sits in between Greece and Turkey and has more than 2000 islands in it?  The southern border of this sea is the island of Crete, belonging to Greece.
Asia:  The Celebes Sea is north of Indonesia and east of Borneo.  What country borders the Celebes Sea to the north: India, Russia, Thailand or the Philippines?
Africa:  What strait is between Mozambique and Madagascar: the Zanzibar Channel, the Strait of Madagascar, the Mozambique Channel, or the Strait of Zimbabwe?
Australia:  The Joseph Bonaparte Gulf is north of what two Australian states: South Australia and Northern Territory, Victoria and Queensland, or Western Australia and Northern Territory?
South America:  The Gulf of San Matias is just north of the Valdes Peninsula.  The Valdes Peninsula is the lowest point on South America and is part of what country?


Europe:  Aegean Sea
Asia:  The Philippines
Africa:  The Mozambique Channel
Australia:  Western Australia and Northern Territory
South America:  Argentina

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Being dead to the world means that every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ's love and an occasion of boasting in the cross.  When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.  
John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ

    Today was certainly a day of blessing.  A day of sunshine.  A day of five year old humor.  A day of soccer.  A day of sitting with a book on the back porch.  A day of abundant food.  A day with my dad.  A day when our table was full all the way around with family and a friend.  A day of encouraging words.  A day I can only celebrate because of Christ crucified for me, and I will celebrate Him.  I will look back down that "beam of blessing" and see Jesus.  I pray that for you too.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mary and Martha: Home Life

     Day 5 of the Homemaker's Challenge and after Tuesday's debacle (here) I am almost caught up on the Mary and Martha challenges.  Washing the windows in the kitchen was easy, just glass shelves to wipe and decorations to wash and dust.  I took my time and worked carefully.  The windows were dusty, but not awful because cleaning them is part of the kids' regular chore rotation.  That's not to say the chores are done on schedule, but they're not entirely neglected either.  While I worked I had time to think and time to think is a blessing not to be overlooked.
     Last night I tried to write out my priorities and came up short of five.  God, husband, children, home, those were all easy.  But the fifth?  I got stuck and couldn't think of one single other area that I devote significant energy to, but I could think of many things I devote some energy to.  I looked to Titus 2 for an idea, but found that other than loving my husband and children and keeping my home, Paul recommends being sensible, pure and kind.  I'm not sure how to prioritize kindness, it falls in another category.  So I left my list one short, four priorities.
   Then I asked Bryan what I do around the house that makes him feel most loved - Day 3's Mary challenge.  You see I'm making up for lost ground and doing this while my dad is visiting, so my days are jumbled but my efforts sincere.  Bryan loves my cooking, or rather, he loves eating what I've cooked.  He thinks I'm a great cook and he loves the variety - because I'm always trying new recipes.  I knew that already; he tells me all the time.  I know I'm appreciated as the chef.  I love that feeding your family well truly is a life-giving activity.  The second item on Bryan's list is picked up, uncluttered rooms.  He wants to be able to sit on the couch and not have chaos swirling around him in the living room.  There can be dust bunnies under the couch, just, please, not one thousand Legos on the floor.  Bryan wants to sit down for dinner and not have a pencil rolling around under his feet, dropped eight hours ago during math and forgotten on the dining room floor.  I have some work to do on this one!  Now I know where to focus my energies, what he really wants to see, or not see, when he walks in the door.
     As I was Martha in the kitchen this morning I did a little Mary thinking.  On our kitchen counter by the back door we have a dump spot.  A serious dump spot and you know what?  Three quarters of those items belong to my children and only need to be carried all the way to a shelf or closet and put away.  Remember my four priorities?  If I want a clean (or 75% clean) counter, I need to train my children.  By training my children, I please my husband, both because he has more obedient children and because the one thing he most wants when he walks in the door is done.  If in one day I've cleaned my house, trained my children, and blessed my husband, I've pleased God.  I have been busy about the very things He tells me to do.  All four priorities are inter-connected, and I figured it out while I cleaned the windows.
     Now I am off to cook dinner, fajitas tonight, and I'll make an extra effort to have the clutter cleared.  Life for the body, life for the spirit, love poured out.

Homemakers Challenge - 31 Days to Clean

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Threshold of God's House

For I am the least of the apostles;
and not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God.
I Corinthians 15:9

     I know well this feeling of being least, of being unfit for this calling as disciple, wife and mother.  After a day like Tuesday, in the stillness of the dark, in the quiet under the sheets I was so very disappointed in myself.  Not because of unaccomplished tasks, let's be very clear about that.  My heart that day boiled over ugliness and sin and I felt like the least among the Body of Christ.  I felt like the child whose heart God cannot change.  I felt like one who would always be small in the Kingdom, little beside the saints.  This is no false humility, this is discouragement and hot tears and reaching for the Bible to find one verse,

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God,
than dwell in tents of wickedness.
Psalm 84:10

     I could hear the tune from the Psalter in my head as I started in verse 1.  A Psalm of swelling adoration of the LORD of Hosts and tender reassurance lilting in the verses.  My heart was in verse 10, I may never amount to anything in the kingdom of God, I may not be mighty or have the ear of God, but I would rather stand at the threshold of His house than anywhere else.  I will stand, toes at the edge, heart yearning for Him and if I never amount to anything else that's good enough for me.  Then I turned to John.  Christ speaks to His own, to those longing to be satisfied by Him and promises,

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me,
and the one who comes to Me
I will certainly not cast out.
John 6:37

     I turned out my light determined to love and obey, even if I am the least of His children.  I turned out My light confident in Christ who has invited me to come and will not cast me out, He won't lose even me.  We are agreed, we two, we both hold on.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What We Were Doing on Wednesday

     On the way to the airport this afternoon Ally, Kara and I stopped at Target.  The nearest Target is an hour away, so it is never cost or time effective to go there just to shop, but I always stop when I'm on the way to anywhere.  We shopped.  But our joy at finding dish soap on clearance, and having a coupon for the same item, was brought to a sudden halt when Kara locked the keys in the car.
     There we were an hour from home, and half an hour from the airport, and my dad was landing in half an hour.  The back window was cracked open, but just not enough for little Kara to slip her arm through and unlock the door.  We made our call to AAA (and many years we pay for that membership by using the locksmith service), and Miss AAA estimated the locksmith would be there in one hour.  One hour.
     We sat in despair under a convenient shade tree.  Kara dried her tears.  I did some deep breathing.  Ally's brain was churning.  After a while she says, "I think if we had a back scratcher I could open the door."  And so we wandered back in Target, looking for some thing like a back scratcher.  We came out with a pasta spoon.  Ally, the queen of patience, endurance and fortitude, unlocked the door and saved the day.
     That's the Drotar girls for you, we make a mean spaghetti sauce and use a pasta spoon to open locked car doors.  We are nothing if not resourceful.
     Meanwhile back at the ranch, which you would recognize as our third of an acre in town, Bryan had a fun adventure of his own.  Weeks ago he had asked me to watch for a good deal on diapers we could buy and donate to the Crisis Pregnancy Center.  I dutifully cut my coupons and watched the sale ads and one night I stood in Walgreens wondering what size diapers to buy.  I concluded that it really didn't matter and grabbed size 2.
     Three bags of size 2 diapers sat in our house for a couple weeks.  Until today when Bryan carried the diapers into the Crisis Pregnancy Center.  As he walked through the door the volunteer said, "Oh, size 2.  We were wondering what we were going to do.  We were all out, we had newborn and size 1, but not size 2.  And we had been praying."  Doesn't it just make you smile, to know what God was going to do?
     Bryan and I were not the righteous ones, with prayers that availed much.  We were going about our days, making plans and believing we chose those Huggies at random off the shelf and size didn't matter.  Wednesday was a day that suited us to drive over to the CPC and deliver them.  God's not random and Wednesday suited Him even more than it did us.  We were, as Bryan said, the unwitting doof, or to put it more kindly, a tool in the Master's hand.  Only a tool.  And the Master always knows what He is going to do.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paper Jam

     I shelled out my five dollars for Sarah Mae's e-book, 31 Days to Clean.  I'm not Miss Messy, but I'm not that neat either and figure I can always use some encouragement.  We can all use some encouragement, can't we?  To further spur myself on, I decided to join the Homemaker's Challenge and commit myself to this in May.
     Today is Day 2, "Created to Give Life."  I spent my morning hurriedly cleaning house before my Dad arrives for a week long visit.  The whole enterprise is full of irony.  He doesn't do much cleaning before our visits, but I clean even the corners of my bedroom before he comes and I doubt he notices.  I reason the corners need it anyway and press on.  By noon I'm tense and snappy.  By five I'm serving hot dogs for dinner, which just doesn't happen often here.  And at 6:30?  We're late for soccer.
     Today is Day 2 and I hadn't yet printed out the PDF file of the book.  I'm behind and we've only just begun.  I hit print and run to get dinner started.  Well...and I hate to even write this...this is my undoing.  Our printer never likes big print jobs, like me, the printer gets overwhelmed.  The printer likes baby steps, five pages at a time.  Not seventy-three.  The paper jams, the printer's beeping, dinner's getting late (and it's hot dogs), then I'm angry with Ally, an innocent by-stander.  I suppose I hoped the poor girl could make everything better, though I'd already enlisted her help in putting sheets on beds and making Mother's Day cards (for my own mother!).  I'm flustered and angry and praying a rather ungodly prayer that went like this, "God I cannot glorify you in this."
     Bryan came home at eight o'clock and asked about my day.  "There's a paper jam in the printer," I whine.  He gets up, to work just a little bit more, and reminds me that if a paper jam is my only problem, life is good.  Kara and Arden certainly thought life was good when two pieces of paper came out of the printer pre-folded in fan folds.  And so at 8:30 on Day 2, I am hurriedly cleaning out part of my fridge, promising myself I'll read the chapter later, but determined to meet at least part of the challenge.
     As Day 2 closes I am neither Mary nor Martha.  I'm not Martha because the work isn't done.  And I'm certainly no Mary.  I meet small obstacles and have a tongue that speaks death instead of life.  My heart is not still and quiet at the Savior's feet to listen to Him either in His word or in my circumstances.  I am anxious and worried about many things.  Tonight I give thanks for grace and after today I need it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Geographica: American Rivers

     Monday again, and still it rains.  It rains and rains.  The rivers will be swollen, over-flowing their banks.   We're under a flash flood warning in our county.

American Rivers(North and South)

1. The Mackenzie river flows from the Great Slave Lake in Canada, to which sea in the Arctic Ocean; in the general direction of North West?

2. The Saskatchewan River flows from the Rocky Mountains into Lake Winnipegois in Manitoba; the Saskatchewan River flows in what direction: North,South, East, or West?

3. Santa Fe,New Mexico lies on what river; the Canadian,the Rio Grande, the Colorado, or the Gila river?

4. The Motagua River flows into the Gulf of Honduras, south of Belize; the Motagua River is in what country: El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, or Nicaragua?
5. The Salado del Norte River joins the Parana River, before the Parana River flows into the Rio de la Plata on the Atlantic Ocean; the rivers join in what county: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, or Peru?


1. Beaufort Sea
2. East
3. The Rio Grande
4. Guatemala
5. Argentina