Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Living more with less part 1

Though this book was published in 1980, many of the observations and applications are still relevant. I have written a little series of posts to share what I learned from reading this treasure trove!

"Certainly your influence is small. But whether you conserve or waste, it is real. Many people using or not using things affects things in a big way. Gathering up the fragments of our waste--recycling, conserving, sharing--is a logical and authentic beginning. Such actions are the firstfruits of the harvest of justice. They are the promise of more to come."

The book suggests 5 standards for more with less living: do justice, learn from the world community, nurture people, cherish the natural order, and nonconform freely. Further explanation of these standards can be found on this informative site.

Treats

I just had to share one more photo of my son playing in the leaf pile.

Thanks to these fabulous fellow bloggers for the recent treats they've sent my way. You make blogging as fun as playing in a giant pile of leaves!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Grammie's visit

Giving five to Grammie. What a cute pumpkin!
Checking out pheasant feathers up close--Dad brought home 3 birds from opening day!
Wahoo for piles of leaves!
Checking out goats at the petting zoo.
Thanks for coming, Mom/Grammie! We had a wonderful time!

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's that time again

Updated: comments now closed--thanks for entering!

We had so much fun last time, that Shannon's doing it again! It's fall, y'all!

I am giving away ANOTHER copy of this book (an advanced reader copy) courtesy of Tyndale! Wahoo!

Just leave a comment to enter. I need to able to contact you via your blog or an e-mail address, so please make sure I have that info. Will ship to U.S. or Canada. Comments open until noon CST on Friday, November 2.

Click here for a chance to win more free stuff!

A wife's prayer

I have been so thankful for a resource I picked up when my husband and I attended a Family Life marriage conference a couple years ago. I knew I wanted to pray for Eric, but wasn't sure how to best do that. When I saw laminated cards that read "lifting my husband in prayer," I purchased copies for myself and my sister.

On the front of the card are 10 specific biblical ways to pray for your husband. This is usually the side I focus on. But recently, I felt that praying for my husband meant praying for myself as his wife.

Here's a selection of the wife's prayer from the back of the card (and excerpted from this book):

"Make me my husband's helpmate, companion, champion, friend and support. Help me to create a peaceful, restful, safe place for him to come home to."

That is my prayer, Lord!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Relentless

Oh. My. Word.

After debating for months about whether or not to read this, I finally picked it up on Sunday. I devoured all 371 pages in less than 3 days--not a minor feat.

I had heard so much--too much, really--about the book. Nearly everyone said the same thing: "It is really disturbing but so worthwhile." I definitely agree with this statement. I was an English major, so I have read many books in my day. But I had never read one like this. I felt like I was on edge the whole time--my heart was often pounding, and a couple of scenes gave me chills. The story is relentless.

While The Kite Runner is fiction, we must acknowledge that injustice is a reality for far too many. Sometimes it's easy to be so engrossed in our own lives, our own worlds, that we forget about the suffering of others--especially people we've never met, in places we've never been to, in cultures we know little about. But like Amir in the story, I think we must also look inside ourselves and admit that the choices we make have consequences. (We should live as "children of light": Ephesians 4:22-32)

I am glad I decided to read the book, though I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. I know the movie version is coming out soon, and I think I will opt not to see it. For more on the book, click here to read a review by my blogging friend Leah.

*I have been flying through my book list. Prior to Fall into Reading, I was reading about a book a month--now I've already completed 5 of my 6. Wahoo!

Another plentiful harvest

Our final garden harvest of the year yielded 1 tomato, a solitary green bean!, 2 potatoes and 20 green peppers! We picked about 100 red and green peppers over the season--amazing production from four $1 plants! We have huge bags of chopped peppers in our freezer and hope to not have to buy any before next summer.

A friend whose family has an orchard blessed us with dozens of apples this week, which I'm storing in this cool wooden crate.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

10-20-30

I've been tagged by Spaghettipie for this fun meme and need to respond to this question: What were you doing ten, twenty and thirty years ago?

Ten years ago, I was a freshman in college. (The same college where my husband and I now live and serve.) I was planning to major in elementary education (later switched to secondary English education) and had a roommate named Hayley. (Click on the link for a photo) I was 750 miles from home and more homesick than I'd anticipated. My work-study position was cleaning the hallways and bathrooms in our woman's dorm--a humbling but profitable experience. In addition to classes, work and hanging out with friends, I was an editor on the yearbook staff.

Twenty years ago, I was in the third grade. My teacher's name was Mrs. Cann, and I had just started attending a new elementary school in Colorado Springs. I was a voracious reader and loved playing games. This photo was taken by my grandma on a trip to the mountains with my great-uncle, John, and my sister. (Gotta love those matching Hawaiian print caps!)
Thirty years ago, I wasn't even a blink in my parents' eye. (Thus, no photo!)

There you have it. I'm tagging Abbey, Susan and Kat!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The mystery box

One of my husband's responsibilities on our college campus is overseeing discipline. Of course, this is often the most difficult piece of his job. But occasionally, there are real breakthrough moments in students' lives, and at other times, humor comes into play, as it did in this little anecdote.

The other day when Eric showed up to work, there was a large cardboard box sitting outside his office. The box was addressed to him, and indicated that it was from two students who had recently been fined for breaking a campus policy. When Eric went to pick up the package, he was quite startled to find it much heavier than he had guessed. He and a colleague lugged it to the campus post office to see how much it weighed, and it was over 60 pounds!

Eric recalled that one of the students had asked if they could pay the fine in cash. When Eric told them that would be fine (ha ha!), they cleverly decided to pay in pennies! The box contained 10,000 coins, which Eric thought was quite funny. We just never know what students will come up with!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Always room for improvement

Although I haven't posted about it recently, I think about environmental stewardship almost every day. It's very important to me to continue striving in this area.

Areas in which I want to see our culture improve in being better stewards of creation:
  • Turning off porch/outdoor lights in the middle of the day; actually, it drives me nuts anytime a light is left on in an empty room (other than being gone for just a few minutes).
  • Wasting less water--when brushing teeth, washing dishes, or taking unnecessarily long showers. (I worked at a camp for several summers and quick showers--less than 5 minutes--are my routine).
  • Not throwing food away. Since we frequently eat at the campus cafeteria, I am often appalled by the heaping trays that enter the dishroom. I try to only take what I can eat, and to eat whatever's on my plate.
  • More effort in recycling. When I see aluminum cans or plastic soda bottles in trash cans (or worse, in the street), I cringe. I have been known to bring them home for recycling. It's difficult for me to understand apathy towards this valuable process.

Areas in which I personally want to improve in being a better steward of creation:

  • Re-using paper. I like the crisp look of blank white paper, and admit I do not like to print recipes or even rough copies on used pages.
  • Reducing disposables. We do a fair amount of hosting/entertaining, and it's often easier to use paper plates and napkins. I want to make a more concerted effort to lessen our consumption of these items.
  • Adding layers (blanket, a sweater) as a first step before turning up the heat. I don't like being cold, but even a degree can make a difference in the savings of energy (and money)!
  • Buying more staples in bulk (frequently used items that have a long shelf life). I recently purchased huge bags of rice, flour and sugar. Because we have ample storage space, this works for us. It's nice to know these items won't be on my list anytime soon, and that it's a small way to reduce all that packaging!

I have so far to go in this area, and desire this post to be a challenge (to myself as well as others), not a rant/complaining session. I would love to hear what some of your green wishes and goals are--please share!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The art of giving care

I first learned about this book here, and when I mentioned wanting to read it to my sister, Monica, she told me she owned it and I could borrow her copy. It sat in my stack for months, never making it to the top of the pile. I'm so glad I waited to read it, though--because when I finally picked it up, it was at a time when I really needed to hear the message. I felt compelled to underline a statement on the very first page of the very first chapter, and knew then that I should order Monica a replacement so I could keep the copy I'd just begun.

This book is an inspiration to caregivers of all kinds, but was very affirming to me as a mother, particularly one who stays home full-time. Ashworth says that we need to value "faithfulness in the ordinary, daily needs of life." She writes about boundaries and identity struggles, and she encourages, challenges, and leads by example.

A couple of noteworthy quotes:

"Seeking the good of another person fills our lives with purpose and meaning."

"We can never be all things to all people at all times, but we can be intentional about caring for the relationships that surround us in the present. People will come and go from our lives, and our caregiving responsibilites will shift with the years. Our own needs and our ability to meet the needs of others will change, but our ultimate calling to care remains."

One of the practical ideas Ashworth offers is to write an account of what she does each day. She says, "It helps me understand the calling God has given me so that I can be more faithful to it even when others don't understand." Do any of you write down the activities of your day--whether before or after? Has anyone else read this book? I highly recommend it!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pray-per-post

I usually write my blog entries a day or more in advance so I can post them first thing in the morning. I like having my drafts ready to go, but sometimes I second-guess my word choice or topic. Because I don't know most of you personally, and because tone and understanding can be easy to misinterpret, I often worry that I should have stated something more clearly or in a different way. Sometimes, I revise my writing; other times, I decide to leave it as written.

It occurred to me, that as prayer should accompany our daily activities, blogging is no exception. I can pray for each post, asking and trusting that God will use it to encourage, challenge or inform. I can also pray that He would make me sensitive to His leading if something I've written needs to be altered. And then I can let it go . . .

Thank You, Lord, for grace and for the ways You instruct me--imperfect vessel that I am!

Free offer

If you use Kodak's website to upload your digital photos, they're running a fun special offer for the next few weeks: 5 free personalized photo cards! Since I was ordering a batch of photos anyway, I was already paying shipping and thus the cards were truly free (valued up to $17.45!)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Before and after

Last year, after becoming pregnant, clothing items gradually rotated in and out of my closet. Pants that became uncomfortably snug made their way into a different closet so that I would not be reminded that they were no longer a current option. This process continued until everything left in my closet was specifically labeled "maternity."

A few months after my son was born, I dared to venture into that wardrobe of "before." (Oh, I've missed those jeans and those fabulous black pants! Etc.) However, trying things on for the first time postpartum was a very mournful experience. I realized some items may be forever relegated to "before." But as time passed, all those clothes with the stretchy waistbands crept out of my closet, and former clothes slowly but surely returned.

A few days ago, I retrieved a favorite pair of pants from the 2nd closet and tried them on for the umpteenth time because I have refused to let them go without a fight! (Not a diet, mind you--just hope.) And can I tell you they fit?! It was a very exciting occasion!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Abundant living

Tracy recently shared with me about an e-newsletter she thought I would be interested in. As I clicked around the Counting the Cost site, I really resonated with the ideas behind their ministry. On the "about" page, founder Nancy Twigg shares the following reflection:

So what is abundant living? In John 10:10, Jesus said He came that his followers might have life, and have it abundantly. I believe this abundant life Jesus referred to encompasses many things:

  • Responsible spending and financial peace of mind
  • Good stewardship of our money, time, talent, and environment
  • Shunning materialism and embracing richness in relationships
  • A simplified, Christ-like lifestyle with an emphasis on spiritual growth and service
  • Full appreciation and enjoyment of each of the many blessings we have been given

As I read through this list, I thought, "This sounds just like what I want my blog--and my LIFE--to be about." Thank you, Tracy! I'm excited to keep reading and learning from these likeminded resources--the Twiggs also have sites on creative frugality and simple celebrations .

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thinking outside the toy box

My sister recently asked for suggestions on managing and storing toys. In a related request, I would love to hear your ideas for "found object" toys. I'm a little nervous about being my toddler's "activities director" during the coming winter (This is IOWA, people, and it gets COLD here), and would appreciate your suggestions. We have a pretty small collection of toys at this point (our son is 10 months old) and would like to limit the amount of manufactured toys in our home.

Some kitchen items we've introduced for my son to play with: large pot lid, wooden spoon, plastic spatula, set of measuring spoons and a colander. What else would you recommend that I can just pull out of the cabinet?

Do you have any ideas for simple homemade toys? (Example: I recently made a little shaker by pouring uncooked rice into a plastic lid and taping it closed.)

I'm sure there are scads of books and websites on this subject, but it would be great to hear what's worked in your experience! Thanks for your help.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Benefit suppers

In our small rural town, benefit meals are a frequent community event. Waffles, pizza and chili become a means of rallying around individual families who are experiencing tough situations and burdensome medical expenses.

Last night we attended a local soup supper to lend support for a young couple we'd never met who recently lost their infant son. Friends and family dished out hot chili, soup, cinnamon rolls and fruit pie to the hundreds of attendees who packed into the college cafeteria. Photos and memoribilia from the baby's short life were laid on a table, and baskets invited donations.

It was such a beautiful picture of what I think it means to live in community. I do not recall attending or even hearing about any such meal while living in Colorado, and last night's supper made me curious if these benefit dinners take place in other areas, especially other small towns. Have you ever heard of, or attended, such a meal? I'd love to hear your stories!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tradition!

I received a wonderful Christmas gift last year from my sister-in-law, Kristin: a book called Treasuring God in Our Traditions, written by Noel Piper, wife of John. The chapters are filled with inspiring ideas for establishing what she calls "everyday" and "especially" traditions that are focused on Christian faith. The book includes lots of examples and stories from the Pipers', poems by John, and even some of their family's favorite recipes.

In one of my favorite quotes, Noel writes, "May our decorations, gifts and festivities--or lack of them--never block our view of Him but always point us toward Him."

After enjoying this book so much, I passed it on to Monica, and hope to read it again sometime this fall. With the holidays quickly approaching, and "everydays" all around us, this is an excellent book to add to your gift lists.

Birthday update

Wow--you blew me away with all your sweet comments on the post about my husband's birthday! Rest assured, I was not saying 35 is old--I was saying I thought so when I was only 8! Eric appreciated all your kind words and wishes, and he was a star, as he ended up giving me much on his special day while I was ill. He has really picked up the slack around our home this week and I am very grateful!

For Eric's birthday dinner, I made a Thai coconut chicken dish, homemade applesauce (he loves it!) and his favorite cake. Joy calls it Chocolate Caramel Crunch Cake, which is more user-friendly than the name I learned it by. Let's just say that on the back of the Betty Crocker box, it's called "Better Than Almost Anything Cake."

A few years ago we decided to give each other experiential gifts for our birthdays. This year, I set up a game night for a group of his guy friends, and provided root beer and snacks. Then in a few weeks, we'll have a date to Olive Garden and a hockey game.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just chillin'

Tuesday morning, I woke up shivering uncontrollably, and for the past two days, my body temp has ricocheted from freezing to roasting. Between fever, headaches, and sore throat, I've been pretty much out of commission. It is so hard for me to be forced to slow down by sickness or exhaustion, but that's what the last couple of days have been.

At other times when I've been sick, my mom has reminded me of the words of Psalm 23: He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.
I have a doctor appointment later this morning and hope to ease back into activity at some point today. I look forward to catching up on blogs, reading, correspondence, and even chores! (Like I said, it's hard for me to just lay around.) Hope to see you soon!

Judy is the winner of the book giveaway! Judy, if you read this before I have a chance to e-mail you, please send me your mailing address and book selection.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Special day

Today is my husband's 35th birthday. I remember when my dad turned 35 that several people said he was now "middle aged," and it sounded so old back then. (I was eight.) But you're not old, Eric! Have a wonderful day--I love you!

*As a sidenote, Shannon recently wrote a funny post about turning 35--check it out here!

Monday, October 8, 2007

So many books, so little time

Oh, no. The reading challenge has just begun, and I said I would commit to the 6 books on my list before adding any others. But the first two were so good that I somehow ended up at the library requesting their sequels/companion books!

I don't know why I didn't jump on the Mitford bandwagon before now, but I am so glad Kathleen Marie sent me a copy of At Home in Mitford. It was such a joy to read the first book in this series that A Light in the Window has somehow found its way into my stack!

My husband and I just finished reading Shepherding a Child's Heart over the weekend. Although many of the principles do not apply yet as we're parenting a newbie toddler, this book provides a compelling biblical perspective on discipline and communication. Having been encouraged to read a similar book by Trina, Kristin, and Jody, that title has also been requested via interlibrary loan. Plus, in reading others' book lists, I've written down several titles on my list of what to read. Aack! So many books, so little time!

And speaking of books, since I received At Home in Mitford as part of the Pay it Forward Book Exchange, it's my turn to give a book away. Just leave a comment saying you'd like to be entered in the random drawing. The winner will have a choice between 2 titles: Going Over East: Reflections of a Woman Rancher and Herbs for Health and Happiness. U.S. shipping only. Comments open until 10/10 at noon CST.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Link-a-doos

Wanted to share the following links with you--have a wonderful weekend!
  • Great tips from Abbey on clicking for a good cause--raising money for breast cancer research! It only costs you a minute to "donate!"
  • Want to win a copy of Amy Grant's new autobiography, Mosaic? Click here to enter.

  • Need a good laugh? Watch this little video of "Mom's Overture"--common parent phrases compiled into one hilarious song!

  • Thanks to Lisa for pointing me to yet another delicious pumpkin muffin recipe!

  • I've been wondering about a homemade alternative to commercial non-stick cooking spray, and Amy's shared one worth trying.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Melon and gourd

The other day while my son was napping, our dog started barking really loudly. I hadn't heard a knock, but I went to the front door, and a student was sitting on our porch. I asked if I could help him and he said,"It's Melon and Gourd week." Aha!

Every year, for a week in October, one of the men's dorms carries on this tradition. Like hot potato, you do not want to be caught with the melon (a canteloupe) or the gourd--ever. It makes for some pretty funny moments of chasing and paranoia. There are certain areas that are off-limits for being tagged, of course--and door handles are one; hence the student on our doorstep.

It is funny to see (young) men running like the wind to get to class or the cafeteria. The game ends tomorrow morning, and whoever is holding the melon and the gourd (two different people) at 10:00 has to take a bite out of it. The melon and gourd are looking quiet pathetic after hours of handling, and sometimes they're even sporting some duct tape after being dropped--yuk!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Florida in a box

We had hoped to be in Florida this week with the rest of my family, but alas, it did not work out this time to take the trip.

Knowing my disappointment, my sweet grandma decided to send Florida to me by putting together a themed care package. Inside the box, we found sand toys and an ocean book for my son; citrus tea and recipes; palm tree flip flops and party napkins; and the most creative idea: a plastic box filled with sand and seashells.

What a thoughtful and well-timed gift! We so appreciate the gesture--thank you, Grandma!

Works for You Wednesday!

It's a special edition hosted by Rocks in My Dryer--this week, instead of sharing a tip, we're supposed to ask for one! So, here's what I need help with:
  • Awhile back, I solicited recommendations for mops. I received several suggestions, but the advice was varied enough that I wasn't sure how to proceed. Our mop handle broke just last week, and I've been making do, but I would love to get some more suggestions. Criteria: easy to use but effective, relatively inexpensive, and preferably environmentally friendly (non-disposable).

  • Another request for product feedback: portable DVD players. For Christmas, my in-laws have generously offered to give one to my son for our long (12-hour) car trips to the grandparents'. But I have no clue what to look for--do you have one that you're happy with, or a model you think we should avoid?

Thank you for your help! Want to offer advice to others? Click here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Made from scratch

I just updated this post as I made a different version over the weekend; also, don't miss this week's Make it from Scratch carnival highlighting recipes and ideas sent in from all over the world!

Meeting Nicole

After introducing you to this book and giving away 6 copies courtesy of Tyndale, I got to meet the author last week! My friend and I went to a local book signing, and it was so fun to chat with Nicole and snap this photo:
I also made this recipe that Nicole recently posted on her blog, and it is delicious! If you like apples and caramel (and who doesn't?!), you should definitely give it a try. Note: the instructions indicate a half-hour baking time, but I found it took almost twice that long in my oven.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Living beyond myself

Over the weekend, I had my third monthly retreat. In some ways, it seemed like I had just had one, but the calendar clearly showed that another month had passed. I think my attitude showed it was time for me to get away as well.

Do you sometimes feel like your sin is right in front of your face, that your attitude is "off" and your words and actions are not what you aspire them to be? (see Romans 7:15) That was last week for me. Saturday morning I woke up tired and lacking in patience. Holing up in a quiet place with my Bible, journal and a couple of books was just what I needed--once again.

This book continues to challenge me. Even though I've already gone through it twice, I continue to underline new passages. In chapter three, readers are encouraged to truly consider what their desires are. I wrote in my journal that I didn't want to think about my desires, as that has been a key problem I've identified lately: that I have been too me-focused. But then I realized that is a desire--to seek to be more selfless, more patient, more nurturing. These times of reflection have been so helpful in getting me back on track!

I love the phrase of my post title, which is the name of a Beth Moore study on the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5). It's a desire I want to live out better--to seek to live beyond myself, to serve God and the people He puts in my path.