Sunday, January 19, 2014

Healthy, Happy, Homemaker

This month's topic for our local homeschool support group was Healthy, Happy, Homemaker.  The idea was to share something that you've learned over the years that you practice within your home to contribute to the health and happiness of yourself and/or family, or something that contributes positively to your role as a homemaker.  I really enjoyed the topic this month and loved learning from the other ladies in the group.

I am so thankful to have a connection to such a wonderfully supportive group of families.  Great things come about when good people group together for the greater good.  I am always richly blessed when I gather with this group in any combination, and I surely take away more than I contribute.

One of the new things we've been doing is taking turns giving the devotion at the monthly meeting.  This month was just the second time we've done it this way, and I missed the last meeting to spend the evening with my hubby for his birthday.  So, I had no reference point as to how these things are to go.  It's all new, and it's all good.  I was asked to give the devotional this month.  Aside from tripping all over myself during my opening prayer--What was with that anyway?--it really was a good experience for me.  I struggle with being the center of attention and can be quite uncomfortable with "all eyes on me", but I know it is good to put myself out there and stretch myself a little bit.  Besides, God doesn't call us to do only those things that which we are comfortable with now, does he?  I chose to look at my prayer "fumble" as an example to others that God hears all prayer, even those that are not beautifully rhythmic and elegantly spoken.  (But, I sure do feel better when my words come out like a song as opposed to sounding like someone choking on a piece of dry cornbread.)


I decided to focus my devotional on what I do to take care of myself and nurture the happiness within me.  I did learn from my granddaughter that I am not perceived as happy.  Ouch!  Guess I need to work on that.  This momma has A LOT on her shoulders and tends to be quite serious most of the time.  Trust me.  Inside I am happy.  When you get to the core, I feel content and settled.  I do get thrown off course quite a lot, but I get right back on track.  I don't waste time in the muck and mire.  I pick myself up, dust my knees off, and go back to the good work of living my life to the best of my ability with the help of my God and the love of my family and friends.  So thankful!

So, here goes.  My devotional reworked for written format on The Zoo Crew:

There are so many directions this topic could go, Happy, Healthy Homemaker, but it kept  boiling down to one thing for me; happiness.

As home educating homemakers we are a unique group of individuals, and even among us happiness can mean so many different things.  Just like our homeschools, there are as many different definitions as there are of us.  Happiness may mean something totally different to me than it does to you.  Have you thought about what it is that makes you happy recently?  Is it part of your consciousness on a regular basis, or are you just going through the motions? 

As mothers, wives, home educators, and homemakers we are accustomed to giving a lot of ourselves.  We know what it means to give until it hurts, and even then some.  I would venture to say that we on occasion give more than we actually have to give.  We wear ourselves out, and we forget that everything we do stems on us being happy and healthy.  What are your priorities?  Do you rank the care and keeping of yourself among them?  I would like to share with you some things I do to take care of me so that I can take care of my family and strive to be the Daughter of the King that God would have me be.  Trust me.  I fall short each and every day.  The newest lesson I have learned is to cut myself slack, a lot of slack.  Of course, some days are better than others, but on the days that are less than stellar I ask forgiveness, and I forgive myself, which is not necessarily an easy thing to learn to do, and I move on.  Each day, each moment, is a new opportunity to start again.

God’s timing is perfect, and he places things in our paths just at the right time.  No one ever said that being a follower of Christ would make our lives easy.  In fact we are taught the exact opposite.  So, I am here to tell you tough times will come.  Burdens heavier than we ever knew we could survive will be placed on our shoulders.  But, the load is lightest when we share it.  Firstly, we must spend time with our Creator each and every day.  Everything boils down to relationship, and as Christian wives and mothers we MUST nurture our relationship with God.  The more time we spend in His Word the lighter our burden.  Does that mean the trials and the difficulties and the heart break and the challenges will go away?  I can attest that it absolutely does not.  What it does mean is that Christ can work in our hearts and our minds, and in so doing he shares our load.  Have you ever tried to move or carry a heavy piece of furniture on your own?  I have, and it does not always turn out so well.  It can even end in disaster.  What about moving a piece of furniture with someone that is not so experienced?  I have been in that position as well, and the load can seem even heavier than it actually is.  However, when a nice, strong, experienced person lends a hand the load becomes so much lighter and easier to bear.  That is what God does for us.  He shares the load, and suddenly it becomes bearable.  If we spend regular time in prayer and study of The Word our load does become lighter.  We are carrying the very same thing, but we get help from the strongest handy man there is, our Father.

I have learned that it is very important to care for myself so that I can care for my family (Kind of like the oxygen mask on the plane.  What good are you to someone else if you cannot breathe?), and it is okay for me to do things that nurture my soul.  It is okay for me to take time out for myself.  My family will survive without my direct attention for a time, and actually everyone will be better for it.  They will do much more than survive.  In the long run they will thrive; we will all thrive together. 

Is your cup full, or is dust gathering in the bottom of your glass?  Maybe it is time for you to think about what makes you happy.  What feeds your soul?  What area of yourself has been neglected and could use a little tender care?  If it has been so long that you cannot think of anything or figure out where to start, and I have been there more than once, might I suggest journaling as a method of connecting with Christ as well as connecting with yourself.  When I journal I focus on gratitude, and I make it a point to write three pages.  It may seem daunting at first, but in order to journal one must write, right?  First, I list five things I am thankful for, and it can be as simple as ‘daisies’ or ‘prayer’.  It does not have to be elaborate.  It can be, but it is not necessary.  Then, just start writing.  You’re not trying to write a best seller.  You are just putting pen to paper, and it is for your eyes only.  You can write a prayer, write about your day, vent, or just ramble about whatever.  It really does not matter.  What matters most is that you write.  It is very therapeutic.

Another thing that is helpful in the care and keeping of ourselves is to have a plan.  It does not have to be elaborate, but life does go much better for our home if we have some sort of plan for our day.  When I was a younger mom raising our oldest bunch I wasted a lot of time fretting about the care and keeping of my house.  Now, I focus on the care and keeping of my home.  What is the difference?  A house is just walls and rooms that contain things.  A home contains people, a family; in our case a very active, very messy homeschooling family.  I don’t know exactly how your homeschool functions, but I know ours is active.  Creativity is everywhere.  Each and every meal is prepared at home, and we don’t have a dishwasher.  It gets messy, and again that is okay.  So today’s plan included washing, drying, and putting away the dishes, but it was so sunny outside, or the toddler needed more one on one attention than normal, or that ever pleasant monthly visitor showed up, and energy was on short supply, and (((GASP))) the dishes did not get done.  Again, it’s okay. 

Who is the much loved first cousin of planning?  Why flexibility of course!  Flexibility is essential in the sanity of each and every homeschooling homemaker.  Life happens.  If you ask me my favorite thing about homeschooling I will tell you, “Its flexibility.”  The key to flexibility is in allowing it to exist in your plan in the first place.  Flexibility is freeing if you embrace it and cut yourself some slack.  I have a sign hanging up by my desk that I think is a good reminder for us all.  It says:

“The Proverbs 31 Woman…

          …isn’t so much a lesson on getting up early, sewing clothes, 
          buying a field, or achieving perfection.

          The heart of the matter is that she was dedicated to walking 
          in virtue.  She cared deeply for her husband and children.  
          She put the needs of her family before her desires.

          She was a woman of noble character who walked by faith.

          My guess is, she wasn’t perfect—none of us are.  
          But she was ready and willing to be perfected by God.”

                                                            ~ Darlene Schacht

By beginning each day with prayer and the study of The Word we are opening our hearts to God and allowing him to perfect us.  Everything is baby steps.  If you get up tomorrow and get caught up in the day and realize half way through dinner that you never spent time in quiet study, do it before bed, or try again tomorrow.  The important thing is that we remember to go to Him, that we keep our feet firmly planted in The Word.

Much like love, happiness is a choice.  If we choose joy on a regular basis, genetics or not, old habits or not, big mistakes or small, eventually we will learn to reside in joy, and our hearts will be so full that happiness will pour out into all areas of our lives.  No matter the challenges we face, when we are grounded in The Word and focused on things above we can always reside in happiness.  That’s not to say we never get angry, grieve, or have momentary lapses in judgment.  What it does mean is that we don’t wallow there.  We return to the throne, we dust ourselves off, and we start again.  We make the conscious choice over and over to actually BE happy.

The bible tells us in Romans 5 to “rejoice in our suffering”.  The old saying, “In every cloud there is a silver lining”, comes to mind.  There is always, without fail, good amidst the bad.  Christ DOES use all things to his glory.  Our suffering as well as our joy will not be without purpose.  Even suffering is a blessing as it does produce fruit.  Romans 5 goes on to explain that, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”.  In Romans 8:26-28 we learn that, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

**I will share my list of resources later this week.  God bless, and choose happiness!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stuffed Peppers

Food has always been a huge part of our lives.  I come from a long line of farmers, and my mom cooked like we lived on one when I was a kid.  A lot of my more fond memories from growing up center around food.  The beautiful pear trees that grew on my grandparents farm for over 100 years yielded a tremendous bumper crop every other year.  My grandparents, and anyone that wanted to lend a hand, put up hundreds of quarts of pears most summers.  Everyone awaited the bushels of pears each year, and I know I asked my fair share of, "Is this the year for pears?".  To this day nothing tastes quite like a fresh, ripe Bartlett Pear.  I look forward to the fruit trees maturing that we have planted on our property.  Maybe one day our grandchildren will have similar memories to share.

Recipes are a big part of our personal history.  Food nourishes us, sustains our lives.  It connects us on a deeper level.  We connect in a special way over the gathering, preparing, and sharing of food.  It fosters relationship.  I love to share my recipes with others, and I especially love to cook for others.  I think it's in my blood.  Someone cooking for me is a rare treat.  Someone cooking for me in my own kitchen; well, that's unheard of.

The summer we celebrated my grandfather's 80th birthday my cousin and his beautiful girlfriend stayed at our home.  The day she cooked us dinner will forever be etched in my mind.  It was such a kind gesture!  She even complimented me on the organization of my kitchen AND did the dishes after.  Talk about feeling special.  It was so sweet!  And, guess what?  She actually sold me on stuffed peppers.  I hated them growing up.  Sorry, mom!  To this day I do not care for cooked green peppers, but I LOVE these cooked green peppers.  So does my family.  Now, if that isn't saying something right there!  A recipe that my whole family will eat and enjoy?  SOLD!

This is my version of her recipe.  Honestly, I make it a little different each time.  I tend to use what I have, and you can too.  It's the formula that's most important.  Green Peppers + Rice + Ground Meat (or Sauteed Veggies if you're not into meat) + Spaghetti Sauce + Cheese = Super Delicious Dinner

Now, if you're super crunchy, and you can your own pasta sauce, use it.  If you're like me, and you use the best you can afford at the time of the jarred selection at the store, use that.  Personally, I always try to purchase the best quality of products with the shortest list of ingredients that fits in my budget.  I don't use the same brand of rice or pasta sauce each time.  I don't even use the same type or amount of meat each time.  The original recipe calls for ground turkey.  I have used ground beef, ground chicken, and even left over ground beef seasoned for tacos.  All yielded equally yummy results.  I would even use ground lamb, venison, or buffalo in this recipe.  Whatever floats your boat.  If you don't eat meat, just leave it out or add your own mix of sauteed veggies or your favorite meat analog product.  There is no right or wrong way to make a recipe, and I don't think I ever follow one completely.  That's why I prefer to cook and not bake.  Cooking is much more flexible!

So, here goes:


1 pound ground beef, chicken, or turkey
2 boxes boxed rice mix (I prefer Near East Long Grain and Wild Rice)
1 jar Spaghetti Sauce (I prefer Bertolli)
6 medium to large Green Peppers, cut in half from top to bottom with stems, seeds, and veins removed.
1-8 ounce package shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese (if something else is your favorite or more handy, try it!)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Fill a Dutch Oven 3/4 full with water, and bring to slow boil.

3.  Place three or four pepper halves into boiling water.  Allow to blanch for just a minute or so.  You just want to bring out the color in the pepper, not cook it through.  (This step is the secret of why these are so amazing.  Don't skip it!)

4.  Turn peppers onto a kitchen towel and allow water to drain out.

5.  Brown ground meat, and drain fat if necessary.  Add rice mix and cook per package directions.

6.  While rice and meat mixture is cooking place blanched peppers cut side up in two baking pans.

7.  When rice mixture is cooked, stir in spaghetti sauce.

8.  Generously fill each pepper half with rice mixture.

9.  Generously top each filled pepper with shredded cheese.

10.  Loosely cover filled and topped pepper with foil.

11.  Bake for 30 minutes.

12.  Remove foil, and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted as desired.

Our original feast was served with garlic bread and salad.  We've been avoiding wheat products around here, so we have it with a cooked veggie and salad.

Should you have any left over filling, I do on occasion, just put it in a container and refrigerate or freeze.  It's good to heat and eat just the way it is, or you can add it to soups, or save it for the next time you make stuffed peppers.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

It's Okay

Ever just get so caught up in life that any real downtime just seems like the eye of the storm?  Well, yeah, that's pretty much where I've been the last year or so.  The phrase, "Hold on tight. It's going to be a bumpy ride.", perfectly sums up my entire life, I think.  Initially I was going to say it described the past year, but it does not take too close of an examination to determine that it pretty much encompasses my entire existence.  There has been plenty more craziness than there has been  so called normal time, and I've always held out for 'normal', whatever that might be.

Now that I am older and wiser grayer I know that there really is no such thing as normal, and even the idea of it really isn't something to strive for.  The ticket to a peaceful existence isn't striving for something, likely unattainable, rather it is total acceptance of your current existence.  That is the real ticket for making the unattainable attainable, if you determine that you'd still like to reach for it.

The exceptional intensity of the past year has taught me a few lessons.  The most important of them being that it's okay.  Really, it is.  Even when things seem unbearable, and the load feels way too heavy, it's okay.  When you messed up for the umpteenth time and yelled at your child, it's okay.  When things have been so hectic that it takes you two weeks to catch up on laundry and dishes, it's okay.  When your eyes have bags under them so big they need a baggage carrier, well, it's okay.

This, too, shall pass.

Seasons come, and seasons go.  So do the troubles and trials of our life.  Something has to fill the gaps, and those are the times we breathe; the times we let our hair down and catch up on our sleep.  The times between the chaos last longer for some of us than others, but if we pay attention and grow wiser, along with growing grayer, we learn to linger in the down times.  The calm waters somehow become more beautiful and more cherished as we gray since we have spent more time in the stormy seas.

The key to my sanity?  Constant prayer.  Period.

Oh, there are other things that hold importance; morning devotions, good friends, a loving extended family, and community involvement.  However, none of these valued aspects of my life even hold a candle to an active prayer life.  There is peace in prayer.  It is our direct connection with our Creator.  Prayer links
us to God and gives us access to the power in His Word.  The more time we spend in prayer the stronger we become.  The stronger we become the more we are able to carry the weight hoisted on our shoulders, and the sweeter the rest when we are gifted a reprieve.

"Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. 
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, 
patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 
You too, be patient and stand firm, 
because the Lord’s coming is near. 
Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, 
or you will be judged. 
The Judge is standing at the door!   
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, 
take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 
As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. 
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. 
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." 

~ Ecclesiastes 7:7-11


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