Thursday, June 16, 2016

Question: Children's Bedroom Storage

Ahh...June.

That mix of cool mornings and sultry afternoons. Hours spent around a campfire with nothing more to do than turn your marshmallow and hold the baby. Other hours spent bent over in the pea patch or furiously working on all the projects that get pushed back during school. Evenings at Bible school, mornings picking strawberries, Saturdays cleaning out the basement, Sunday afternoons finding a new bike trail. Mealtimes when the biggest question is how to combine fresh asparagus, broccoli, strawberries, and rhubarb all in one meal.

I love June.

Because of a computer glitch (that will hopefully be fixed soon) I can't share any photos of the past weeks. How can I write about my garden or the newest recipe I tried (this morning it was sourdough crepes with fresh strawberries and yogurt) without photos?

So I'll just ask a question.

One of my recently projects has been painting. Many rooms in our house are begging for a fresh coat of paint. Last summer I was too weary with pregnancy to care but this summer my sister has helped me for a couple days and we have both children's bedrooms repainted. I love the fresh clean appearance, especially since pulling nearly everything out of the room means that it also gets deep-cleaned.

But now I'm looking for advice. Our bedrooms are small and with four girls in one bedroom we are going to need to use our space wisely. Right now the baby is sleeping in the pack-and-play in the toy room waiting for the two-year-old to get out of the crib, who is waiting for a bed to move into. Their room contains a full-sized bed, a crib, a dresser, bookshelf, and small closet.

We considered putting two sets of bunk beds in the room but then hatched the idea of getting full-over-full bunk bed. I've seen sets with drawers underneath with would greatly increase the storage.

What ideas do you have for efficiently using space in a children's room? Are full-over-full bunks a good option?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What Do I Do?

Confusing Roles and Identity

In my teens, Elisabeth Elliot's books had a huge impact on my life. I admired her ability to articulate God's truth both in written and spoken words. The opportunities I had to hear her speak in person and chat briefly with Elisabeth are cherished memories.

Several years ago I wondered what had become of Elisabeth. A quick google search revealed that she was in the late stages of Alzheimer's (which has since took her life.) I thought of the tall woman with carefully combed gray hair who could keep an audience of  young people spell-bound with her stories. I tried to reconcile that memory with the picture I saw of a stooped woman with vacant eyes.

Was Elisabeth Elliot the missionary, prolific writer, and insightful speaker of the past or this new person with no ability to speak a word or recognize a friend? 

Considering this question I realized that how I identify myself today may be impossible tomorrow.

Am I okay with that fact? Is my identity secure in the things that we found in God's Word in an earlier post on Who Am I? Or will I fall apart if my life changes? (And change will come.) 

What do you do? It's a common question, an easy conversation starter when meeting a stranger. We enjoy knowing how a new acquaintance fills their days. What are their hobbies? What fills their to-do lists?

I have many possible answers to those questions. At the present I can describe myself as a wife, homeschool mom, gardener, writer, and bread baker.

But what if my life changes and I can no longer identify myself by these words? My husband could decide to move to the city with no place to garden. I may become gluten intolerant and no longer be able to bake bread. Dementia could steal my mind and the ability to shape words into sentences. My husband may die and leave me widowed. My children will certainly grow up and, though I'll always be their mom, someday they may be caring for me.

Wife, writer, homeschool mom, gardener, and bread baker are things that I do, the roles God has given me, my avenue of ministry, the way I choose to spend my hours. But these roles are not my identity. If my identity is determined by the things that I do, losing those roles means I lose my identity.

Why is it important to have a correct view of roles and identity? 

If I don't have a proper identity, I will have wrong motives for service. 

I will seek fulfillment through the things I do. 

I will either become proud with my success or battle guilt when I fail. 

I will be upset when others don't appreciate my service. 

I will compare what I do to what others do. 

My identity will hinge on others' response.

When my identity is misplaced, my focus is self-centered. It is all about me. 

Even worse, if my idea of approval is based on what I do, I may begin to think that my salvation is based on my works. If I become ill or elderly and am incapable of doing as much, I might think I don't deserve God's love.

How do I find my identity if not in what I do? As we said in a past post, my identity must be based on what is true according to God's Word.

When the Bible speaks on what I should do it says,

I am a witness for Christ. (Acts 1:8)

I must bear one another's burdens. (Galatians 6:2)

I am an “ambassador for Christ” with “the ministry of reconciliation.” (11 Corinthians 5:17-20)

I serve others by love. (Galatians 5:13)

I am a branch attached to the True Vine and am chosen to bear fruit. (John 15:5,16)

I am the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-14)

Whew. God describes a high identity for His followers. Yet all of those truths can be fulfilled in many different roles. You may be married or single, love art or science, enjoy bread baking or nursing. Whatever circumstance we can, with God's help, live out His changeless calling for His daughters as found in His Word.

What helps you distinguish between your identity and your roles? How do you adapt to the changes in life while still staying true to your identity and calling as God's daughter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Off the Shelf

Here are a few of the books found on our couch or by our bed recently.

(This post contains affiliate links which means if you click through to Amazon from these links and make any purchase, I will get a tiny referral fee at no extra cost to you.)

Family Read Alouds



Storm Warriors by Elisa Carbone

Nathan dreams of becoming a surfman, rescuing sailors from storms on Outer Banks, NC. I picked up this book because we visited the Pea Island Life-Saving station on vacation several years ago. A historical fiction about the only life-saving station with black staff in the late 1800's, this was a story that all our children enjoyed. 



Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Next we traveled to an island on the other side of the US. Island of the Blue Dolphins is based on the true story of Karana who lived alone on a Pacific island off the California shore for eighteen years. Celebrates the beauty of the ocean and island.



And the Word Came With Power: How God Met and Changed a People Forever by Joanne Shetler

It didn't realize until typing this that this book's setting is on an island as well. And the Word Came With Power is my top favorite missionary story and I have been looking forward to sharing this story from the Philippines with my children. It did not disappoint. We were all enthralled by the story of a dedicated young woman, a mountain people enslaved to the spirits, and how the Word of God transformed them both.

Gina's Reads

Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Burton Mains

I was both encouraged and convicted as Karen shares a vision of reaching out to others with love to build the church of Christ through hospitality.  Open Heart, Open Home is an older book that has stood the test of time but I think it is even more needed in our Pinterest world where we so quickly become discouraged because of the inadequacies of our home compared to others. Every homemaker should read this one.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Several years ago I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I loved learning more about habits and how they affect our lives. In Better Than Before, Gretchen takes the topic of habits a step farther. She examines why some habits are easy to build and others not, why we can do something for a long time and abruptly stop, and why some habits are easier for some people than others. I love her insight on personalities; it helped me understand why some things work for some people and not for me. This book does not have a Christian perspective and I don't agree with everything. But though I borrowed Better Than Before from the library I'm considering purchasing my own copy - which, for a tightwad like me, is the highest honor a book can receive.



The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

This is the story of the nine young men that won the rowing race in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It was the perfect book to take along on our vacation. This is my favorite kind of non-fiction. The story itself is exciting enough that I couldn't put it down. The characters are inspiring, pulling themselves up from poverty and heart-breaking abandonment to succeed against almost impossible odds. I learned about the Great Depression, Seattle, competitive rowing, the Olympics, and Nazi propaganda - while having fun!



At the library I accidently picked up a version of The Boys in the Boat that was adapted for younger readers. I hate abridged books so I returned to the library for the full version but I offered the children's version to my oldest two. They often complain that true stories are boring but I heard no complaints about this one. Plus it was fun to be able to discuss the story with them since we were both reading our own copies of the same story.

What is on your summer read list?

Friday, June 3, 2016

8 Favorite Rhubarb Recipes

I think rhubarb is either something you love or you don't. I am in the first category. Whether it is because of the tart flavor or simply because it is one of the first fresh produce in the spring, I look forward to my favorite rhubarb recipes.

Rhubarb is simple to grow. It is a perennial plant, which means you plant it once and it comes up every year thereafter. I don't know of any pests and it even has an attractive appearance. One rhubarb plant gives us a dessert every week for weeks in the spring and early summer.

If you have a prolific rhubarb plant in the corner of your garden (or flower bed) here is eight links to my favorite recipes to use your abundance.



Rhubarb Bars



Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake - one of Flo's cakes



Rhubarb Sauce - a family classic



Strawberry-Rhubarb Hand Pies




Rhubarb Cheesecake Squares



Rhubarb Coffee Cake - another favorite (and can be used with other fruit as well)



Rhubarb Crumble Pie



Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

I'd like to try some rhubarb jam - anyone have a good recipe to share?

What is your favorite way to enjoy rhubarb?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Who Am I?

An Identity in Crisis

A year ago I wrote about our belief about who God is. Today I want to discuss what we believe about ourselves.

If each of us pinned a label to ourselves what would our signs say? What are the words that we use to describe ourselves? How do we define our identity?

Would my sign read “I'm worthless,” “No one loves me,” “I'm just a failure,” or “I'm ugly”?

Recently I was telling my husband about my school days. “Some girls were popular. Some girls were pretty. Some were smart. Others were athletic. And then there was me. And I didn't excel at anything.”

When Ed suggested I was exaggerating, I insisted “It is really true. I was totally uncool and my only friends were other girls at the bottom of the class social ladder.”

But was it true? Or is it just what I believed to be true about myself? Could I have believed a lie? 

Too often I allow life circumstances and others' reactions toward me, whether real or imagined, to define who I am. 

And it can be a problem that continues long past sixth grade.

As a believer in Christ where should I find my identity? 

My identity must be based on the truth from God and His Word.

One of the words I love in the New Testament is “beloved.” Get a Bible concordance and see how many times we are called “beloved.” I counted at least 36 times. And the meaning of beloved is “dearly loved,” the opposite of worthless and rejected.

For another example, check out Isaiah 43:7 or Revelations 4:11 and read that we were created for His glory. Whatever my view of my appearance, God says that His creation of me was designed to bring Him glory. Do I dare describe myself as “ugly”?

Here is some more descriptive words from the Word of Truth.

I am forgiven. (1 John 1:9)

I am loved. (Jeremiah 31:3)

I am adopted. (Romans 8:15-16)

I am valued and bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

I am saved. (Romans 10: 9, 13)

I am a new creature in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I am wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

I am “more than conqueror through Him.” (Romans 8:37)

Search the Bible and imbed its truth in your mind. As a reminder, print a word of truth such as “Beloved” or “Forgiven” on a card, add a Scripture verse, and hang it in your bedroom where you will see it daily. 

Stop letting other people or your own imagination define you who are. Thank God for the truth of your identity according to His Word.

I'd love to hear what truth you have found in God's Word about who you are in Christ.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bookmarks: Sea Creatures Picture Books

Will your summer include a trip to the seaside? Maybe you can see some of God's amazing sea creatures up close. But even if you are a landlubber like me, you can still learn much about octopuses, lobsters, hermit crabs, and other sea creatures through the pages of these picture books.

Please note that some of these books did not glorify God as Creator (i.e. millions of years).

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Lobster Boat by Brenda Z. Guiberson
A boy joins his uncle to check his lobster traps. Muted illustrations describe lobster fishing while teaching about the lobster life cycle.


Crab Moon by Ruth Horowitz
Lovely paintings share a boy's adventure with his mother watching horseshoe crabs come to the beach to lay their eggs. Includes information about horseshoe crabs – which are not crabs at all but sea creatures more closely related to spiders.


Unlike most crabs, the hermit crab does not grow his own shell but must find an abandoned snail shell. This simple story with lovely illustrations tells of one hermit crab's search for the right home.


A lovely tale sharing the life story of a land hermit crab. From a tiny floating creature to a wandering crab in search of a home to an adult returning to the water to lay her eggs—we learn more about these fascinating creatures in this book from the Smithsonian Institution Oceanic Collection.


Gentle Giant Octopus by Karen Wallace
Detailed paintings tell the story of the amazing octopus as she jets through the water and hangs her eggs.


About Mollusks by Cathryn Sill
With short sentences and detailed watercolors, this book gives easy-to-understand information about the amazing mollusk family. Squid, snails, ocutupuses, chitons, and whelks are only a few of the creatures featured. The back of the book gives more information on each page for an older child who is still curious.


Seashells,Crabs, and Sea Stars by Christiane Kump Tibbitts
This book combines great illustrations and fascinating details with beach projects such as a shell wind chime. I like that instead of trying to describe an entire family of sea creatures, they focus on one kind. For example, this book explains why early Spanish explorers thought the coon oyster climbed the mangrove trees. Amazing glimpse of God's variety in creation.


With photos and simple explanations, Markle peels back the mystery of the giant squid.


Star of the Sea by Janet Halfmann
Follow a starfish through its day and learn of the remarkable skills God gave to him to avoid danger. A simple story with good illustrations and more detailed information at the end of the book.


Pagoo by Holling  S. Holling

This is longer than the other picture books listed here, but this older book is well worth searching for. The short chapters tell the story of Pagoo, a tiny hermit crab, and his adventures in the tide pool world. Many sea creatures are described with fascinating detail and Holling's detailed drawings add immense value to the book.

What are books are you and your children reading?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sourdough Chocolate Cake



Sourdough and chocolate? I wasn't so sure either. But my sister-in-law shared the recipe for this moist, light cake. I can't pretend it is healthy just because it has sourdough but it is fun way to use up some extra starter.

I sometimes use whole wheat flour instead of white which makes the cake heavier but my family still eats it.




Sourdough Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup starter
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Mix starter, milk, and flour together. Sit mixture in room temperature for 1 to 3 hours. Then add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a well-greased bundt pan or two 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (less time for round pans). Cool for ten minutes before removing from pan. Dust with confectioners sugar if desired.

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