Monday, December 17, 2012

Our All-Purpose, Gluten Free Flour Recipe

This is the flour blend we use for most everything here. It's been highly effective in recipes that call for regular flour, substituted cup for cup. Most gluten free recipes will tell you how much xanthan gum or gluten substitute you need to add, but if you decide to adapt your own recipes, do not forget the xanthan gum; I've wasted a good deal of lovely ingredients making baked goods with the consistency of either sand or rubber frisbees, by leaving out this ingredient.

Gluten Free Flour Mixture

1 24 oz bag Bob’s Red Mill white rice flour (I like the fine consistency of this brand)

2/3 c. tapioca starch

1 1/3 c. potato starch

Combine all in a large jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake well. If the recipe hasn’t already been adapted for gluten free ingredients, you will need to add ½ t. xanthan gum per cup of flour.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Preparations and White Chip Coconut Cookies

 ***This seemed to post before I was done writing it - if you viewed it earlier, please take note of changes to the recipe***

        Planning ahead has never been my strong suit, and with a surgery in the weeks before Christmas, I seem to be a bit more behind than usual. We did several hours worth of online shopping Saturday morning, and I’ve never been quite so grateful for supersaver shipping, and a pass from going to a mall. We have long striven to keep Christmas simple, sticking to two gifts per child and donations in their names, but someone had to shop for them all the same. Perhaps it’s last week’s heartwrenching tragedy, but I have more of an urge than ever to stick close to home and hunker down with the people I love. The rower and I did venture to a fair trade gift shop, and to a coffee house where I drank tea that kept me up into the wee hours of the morning, but it was worth it.

          We’re giving ourselves grace to move more slowly, put up a small tree next weekend, and take it easy with decorations. I’ll give myself permission to keep school simple and incorporate Christmas preparations. In addition to our morning hymn, praise and devotional time, we’ll focus a bit on the OAntiphons – you may recognize them from the hymn O Come, O come Emmanuel.   Some Catholic friends, whose home is rich in liturgy and faith, shared this link and concept with us. Here’s a wee bit – do check out the link to learn more:

          “The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.
       ...According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.

          I’ve also been trying out this novel concept (don’t laugh) of baking ahead of time for the holidays, instead of in a mad, two-day frenzy that leaves me incapable of enjoying any of it, once Thanksgiving or Christmas or said holiday has arrived. It actually worked at Thanksgiving (who knew?) so we’ll give it a go this week too, freezing things as we go. I hope to share recipes for those also trying to do GF holiday baking – and to spare you the pain of trying to adapt a recipe off of the back of a chip bag, only to realize, after two trays of cookies have baked, that you’ve left out the xanthan gum. Ugh. You’re welcome. You might note that in most instances, I've adapted recipes to contain less sugar - up to half - than what was originally called for. If you like your baked goods sweeter, take note. We usually don't get complaints, and in fact, receive many requests for recipes, so I think you can get by without all that extra sugar. The recipe below contains plenty even with adjustments!

          Up today: the Wrestler’s favorite, White Chip Coconut Cookies. I double this recipe, and bake half chipless to make a few trays dairy free, and then add the chips (still two cups for a double recipe, since I've used half the dough) to the remaining dough.


Trusting in Him,

White Chip Coconut Cookies
1 2/3 c gluten free flour
1 t. xanthan gum
¾ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
2/4 c. Spectrum Shortening (or margarine or butter if you’re ok with dairy)
½ c. packed brown sugar
¼ c granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 c. flaked coconut
¾ c. chopped walnuts (optional)
***2 c. Nestle Toll House White Morsels*** Optional, omit if you need dairy free, these DO contain dairy
          Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine shortening, sugars, and vanilla in large bowl and beat until creamy. Beat in egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture, and once incorporated, add the coconut and nuts (optional) and mix well. If dairy is not an issue, add the chips and mix well. Drop by rounded heaping teaspoonsful onto ungreased baking sheetsx, and bake 8-11 minutes, or until lightly browned but still soft. Remove to wire rack to cool. HINT – line cookie sheets with parchment paper, and slide each piece off onto the cooling rack after baking, with cookies intact. This makes clean-up so much easier and cookies bake more evenly.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gluten Free Apple Bars - Yum!

         As soon as we returned home from the hospital after the Wrestler’s recent surgery, I had to bake. Seriously, not an hour had passed after we’d gotten home, before I was making a crustless, dairy and gluten free pumpkin pie (a great recipe, and so easy). Perhaps it was being away from home, perhaps baking is my stress release, or perhaps it was my dietary boredom after eating the simple foods I’d packed myself for a few days away. Likely all three are true.

          The next day I tried adapting the Apple "Brownie” recipe (no chocolate involved) that my mom made frequently when we were kids. With changes to reduce the sugar and oil, and to make the recipe gluten free, it turned out wonderfully. The wrestler peeled apples from his wheelchair, while I mixed the ingredients, and everyone helped eat. Judging from the nearly empty 9x13 pan, the recipe is a keeper. Next, cranberry bread…

 Apple Bars
1 c. sugar
1 ½ c. rice flour
½ c. millet flour
2/3 c. potato starch
1/3 c. tapioca starch
1 ½ t. xanthan gum
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. nutmeg
½ t. salt
1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
2/3 c. canola oil
½ t. vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 c. chopped, peeled apples

          Combine all dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, oil, vanilla and applesauce, and mix well. Add wet ingredients to the dry mixture, and mix well. Batter will be extremely thick; be careful not to over-mix. Fold in chopped apples. Using clean hands, pat into a greased 9x 13” pan. Bake 45-55 minutes at 325, or until the top is firm and browned, and it is cooked through.
Try to cool a bit before you eat them. If you can.

Trusting in Him,


Thursday, December 13, 2012

On Surgery and Stories

          I should be writing something deep about our experience at Shriners Hospital this week, where the Wrestler had surgery on his femur. I wish I had photos to show you, of my brave boy, and the interesting people we met. Instead, I come to the keyboard with bits and pieces of stories, of people whose whole books I’d love to read, if they’d written them.

          There was the Amish couple, at the hospital with a son who’d suffered a terrible barn accident, which had caused lots of internal damage and a residual hip issue. I spent a long time in the tiny kitchen on the surgical unit, where the man, who looked much like an old friend of mine with a beard (no moustache), Amish haircut and suspenders, slowwwwly spun the story of his son’s injuries while he and his black-clad, white bonneted wife helped themselves to their snack of cheese, ham and ice cream. I could tell of the adorable 5-year-old Chinese adoptee recovering from cleft surgery, and the brief conversation his mother and I had while we waited for the Wrestler’s surgery to be done.

         At Ronald McDonald House, where we spent the first night and Husband stayed the night after surgery (I volunteered for overnight hospital duty; he got the two-hour drive home), there was a teen-aged boy who wore a cap that looked like a skull, and listened to music so loud we could hear it coming out of his ear buds. He held doors for us, saying in a Spanish accent, “we’re all family here,” and helped translate for the other residents, all Spanish speakers.

         Two of those residents were a woman and child from the Dominican Republic, who've spent the past year at the Ronald McDonald House, so that the little girl can get surgery and prosthetics. She came to see us in the Wrestler’s hospital room after surgery, and we talked in pantomime for a bit before she sat her little girl in the Wrestler’s bedside chair, and left her there with us for a while. The child’s tiny hands held a little Cinderella doll, and she looked at my phone photos, shaking her glossy curls and saying Beeuuuteeeful!” after each picture of our cat or dog. Through gestures and fingers, we ascertained that she has 8 cats at home.

          In the hospital recovery room, we met a local couple, and we waited together for our children to wake up from anesthesia. Their child was young, her hand wrapped and bandaged, and the couple was young, worried and sincere. We told them we knew how scary this is and how well we knew toddler would do, so quickly, and they seemed a little relieved. There was the nurse in that room, pregnant with her fifth child but considering adopting after that, and another nurse whose daughter had Celiac. There was a pharmacist, elegant with short silver hair and dangling earrings, with whom we discussed the challenges of raising teens, and the cleaning woman who told us she had been in fostercare, and wanted to give her toddler son opportunities she never had. She’s taught him English and Spanish and is working on Italian and sign language, she told us.

          Then there was the Wrestler. He is our quiet one, calm and capable and unflappable, who doesn’t like to fail, to admit defeat or upset. He can be the class clown, distracting others with a funny face, or trying to give a brother a wedgie during history, of all things. He is hard to know sometimes despite the fact that we spend all day together, and yet on this trip, I learned more about him and am further in awe of this young person I am blessed to parent. I realized, as we watched Home Alone together at the Ronald McDonald House the night before surgery, how much he just loves to laugh, and how much he enjoys it when I laugh with him. I don’t do that enough. I realized, as he woke in that recovery room and asked, voice raspy, “May I please have a drink of water,” how very, very polite he is even half sedated.

          I realize again, as he uncomplainingly recovers from an undoubtedly painful surgery that leaves him with a weak spot of bone on his femur (until it heals) and a sizable incision, how very brave he is. I knew this, when as a newly arrived three-year-old, I took him to the doctor for shots. Seeing the tray of needles, that tiny boy pushed up his sleeve and offered the nurse his arm. Today, two days after surgery, he wheeled about in his borrowed wheelchair, peeling apples for apple bars and insisting on doing his schoolwork even though I’d given him a pass to rest for the day. Now, mid-afternoon, he’s let himself sleep on the sunny library futon, a cozy and well-deserved nap.

          I had gone on this surgery trip hoping to minister, and connect with the people I knew we’d meet, and on reflection, I realized that what I’d done most was listen to stories. Stories in broken English, in Spanish I couldn’t understand, stories unspoken, stories hurried and stories slow and dramatic and told for the telling, from so many diverse people. I would love to read the book of each of their lives and am thankful for a glimpse at the pages and the chance to connect for even a few minutes. I am thankful for my brave young man, and the incredible gift we have of seeing him through surgeries, to hear his please and thank-yous in the middle of the night, to be the hand he grasped as he woke from anesthesia. Might you pray with us for his continued recovery? Thanks for sharing a bit of our story. I’d love to hear a bit of yours.

Giving thanks and
Trusting in Him,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On What Makes a Cook's Kitchen, and Moroccan Chicken

          I’ve been reading posts on a kitchen forum as we plan some changes in our little workhorse of a kitchen, and a recent thread posed the question, “What makes a cook’s kitchen?” There are gorgeous kitchen’s on the forum – rooms as large as the footprint of my whole house, with multiple refrigerators and freezers and cooktops and big, beautiful professional ranges – and oh, the marble countertops. It’s taken some reconciling with reality to figure out what changes will optimize workspace and function in our own space, on our own budget, and sometimes it’s easy to lose the big picture when gazing at those lovely rooms.

          But that question, and the ensuing thread, did something magical for me. It brought to mind the kitchen of the woman who taught me to cook, many, many years ago. Ditha was Lithuanian, and a professional chef who taught cooking. When I was a young teen, she hired me and two neighborhood girls from our small village to come to her home, and cook dinner for her and her husband each afternoon while they were at work. For two weeks, she trained us, and after that, we'd come in alone or in twos, usually barefoot, and let ourselves in through the back door. The recipes and ingredients would be laid out, and we'd cook the dinner, wash the dishes, set the table in the little breakfast room, and leave dinner warm in the oven or on the stove.

          Her kitchen was small by today's standards, but very functional, with "real" cooking tools everywhere. There were wire baskets of eggs, fruits and vegetables hanging from the ceiling, and the butter was always left out of the fridge. The sunny breakfast room had a special baking station, with a wooden top, Kitchenaid stand mixer, and sections of the countertop that lifted up to reveal flour and sugar bins beneath. My mother was a wonderful cook who made good use of ground beef and macaroni to feed our hungry family and the frequent visitors, but Ditha introduced me to ingredients I’d never seen before. I met my first boneless chicken breast at Ditha's house (and learned how to debone them myself), and used lovely ingredients like vanilla sugar from Germany. I sampled generously and know that she must have learned to adjust her quantities to account for that.

          I credit my love of cooking to Ditha, and when I stand in my own small kitchen and chop, or mix bread dough with my own stand mixer – white and industrial, like hers -  I'm so thankful for the gift she passed on to me. She had a stroke when I was a young mother, and I was able to see her one last time, show her my young children, and thank her. She couldn't speak, but a tear rolled down her cheek. As I think about her and her kitchen, and what she taught me, I realize how much of it is incorporated into the way we live and cook here. My two youngest – Littlest and the Musician - are my most avid cooks, and I love to watch them stir, chop and taste as they cook alongside me or alone. When I know a dish “needs” a little something, given a taste, these two are the ones who will suggest a spice or flavor I might add.

          I realized, in my reminiscences; what I’ve known all along. What makes a cook’s kitchen isn’t the custom-built cabinetry or the restaurant style range, but the tools, the food, and the people who make and share it. I get such great joy out of sharing Ditha’s gift with my children, and seeing them love real, good food. Would it make your heart sing to have boys come home from youth group and clamor for the beans and greens you’d cooked for your own late supper, and thought to save for your lunch? It did mine, and I gave them the leftovers, smiling. I like to think a little of Ditha and her kitchen lives on here.

          Earlier this week, we had the privilege of cooking dinner for a friend who barely survived a ruptured and undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy (thanking God for her life, and praying for her continued recovery). We chose Littlest’s favorite, Moroccan Chicken and Chickpeas. There are lots of spices, but they’re fun to add, especially when you have a helper, and it smells SO good while it cooks. We hope you like it too.

Trusting in Him,


Moroccan Chicken and Chickpeas
3-5 T Olive Oil
4 Chicken Breasts, boneless, cut into small pieces (I cut them into strips and each strip into two or three sections)
1 Large onion, chopped
4-5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 T Cumin (add more to taste – I usually add at least 1 t. more)
1 T Tumeric
1 t. Paprika
3/4 t. Cinnamon
¼ t. Black pepper
1/8-1/4 t. Cayenne Pepper
1/4 t. ginger
A dash each Allspice, Nutmeg and Ground Cloves
1 T Gluten free flour (your choice)
3-4 C. Chicken Stock (I love Kitchen Basics)
2 T. Honey
2 T Tomato Paste
2 Cans Chickpeas, drained and rinsed

          Heat oil in large saucepan or dutch oven. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add spices and garlic, and cook for another few minutes, stirring constantly. Add chicken and stir well to coat with the onions and spices, and cook until the chicken is slightly browned and cooked through. Add the honey and 3 cups of chicken stock, stir, and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and tomato paste, and cook for another 15 minutes, adding chicken stock if it’s too thick. Now, take the T of GF flour and put it in a small dish, and add a few Ts of chicken stock, and stir into a thin paste. Add this to the pot, stirring well, and cook another 5 minutes or so, until thickened slightly. You want a nice sauce for your rice, and can add stock if it’s too thick, or cook down a bit if it’s too thin.
          Add salt and pepper to taste (don’t be afraid to salt generously; I don’t normally like a lot of salt, but ½-1 t of salt really brings out the flavor of this dish). Serve over hot rice.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Praise

          We gathered together, the bunch of us, for the first time in several years, but like we used to, on the Thanksgivings that came before. My parents, Aunt and Uncle in from Virginia, a cousin and her daughter, another cousin and her music-making husband. I wish I’d taken pictures, but by the time I remembered, the day was nearly done, and my batteries needed replacing. Who can ever find batteries when you need them on an average day, much less Thanksgiving?

          There was so much eating and even though we’d tried to cook lighter, there was too much in the end. No-one minded. There was a walk after dinner, and catching up, a flock of geese flying overhead as we walked off the turkey in the crisp fall air. After, there was dessert in the kitchen, sitting and standing and laughing and talking, and then the boys took out their guitars.
     Cousin M, who plays on a worship team, led the little group, and shared music notes with the guys later.
     What a blessing, on Thanksgiving evening, to be led in worship to our King in our living room.

          I’ve been quiet here in this little space, but needed to pop in to say I am grateful, so very, very grateful, for all the richness we’ve been blessed with. For family and friends, near and far; warmth of home; plenty of food; job; sons, big and small, who love much, work hard together, and teach me every day. For oldest, home for a few days, cooking alongside me on Thanksgiving morning and playing with his little brothers; for daughter, who laughs, checks outfits and shares life with me. For parents nearby, whose lives are intertwined with ours. For kind husband with servant’s heart, and most of all, for Jesus, who did for us what we could never do for ourselves – made us right before God so that we can enjoy Him forever. To God be the glory.

Giving Thanks, and
Trusting in Him,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To a young birthmother

To a young birthmother:
          Thank you so much for allowing me to come see you in the hospital last week. Your wee one is just beautiful. I know you will cherish forever those hours and days you spent with her in your arms, and I count it great privilege to have been allowed a bit of time to hold her in mine. I was so moved to meet her adoptive father and grandmother, and to see the great love both awaiting her, and being sent along with her. It felt like a very holy moment, like sacred ground.
          I’m sure this was the hardest thing you have ever done, and your bravery moves me. Seeing you walk out this hard choice these past nine months has been powerful. I know this has not been easy, being in your community, being so young and perhaps feeling judged, but I want you to know, you are a hero. You made a difficult choice, an unpopular choice, perhaps, to put your life on hold to give this little one a chance to have one. You knew you had the support of your parents, and they are heroes too, for standing with and beside you throughout. Seeing your courage and sacrifice has given me a new appreciation for our children’s birthparents. Having birthed long-awaited babies, I can imagine the depths of your sacrifice and how very difficult this parting must be.
 I’m imagining these next days and months will be painful and there will be adjustments, and maybe relief too. Please know you are prayed for, you are precious, you are loved. On behalf of adoptive parents everywhere, thank you, friend.
Giving thanks for this beautiful young woman and new little life, and
Trusting in Him,

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts for Planning the School Year

      I spent the weekend away at a Charlotte Mason education retreat, a weekend of beauty and liturgy and much to ponder as I plan the coming school year. I am generally, at this time of year, pouring over curriculum catalogs and weighing the benefits of one program over another, but this year I am stopped in my tracks by thoughts that go so much deeper than curriculum.  I stumbled today upon a quote seemingly tandem to those percolating in my thoughts, and thought it worth sharing.

"Train with this thought continually before your eyes -
that the soul of your child is the first thing to be considered.
Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes;
but if you love them, think often of their souls.
No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests.
No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die....
This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind
in all you do for your children.
In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme,
and arrangement that concerns them,
do not leave out that mighty question,
"How will this affect their souls?"
~ JC Ryle

     During the retreat, I was much affected by a prayer shared by the presenters, and plan to print it out large, to keep in my sight and conciousness.

     "O God make the door of this school wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter's lower. God, make the door of this school a gateway to thine eternal kingdom." - Origin unknown


Trusting in Him,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hello from Summerville

          How quickly this summer is flying by, and how seldom I've written here! Has everyone else found their summers moving more quickly than the school year? I believe I've tried to squeeze in every appointment I didn't want to schedule during the school year, and we're trying to enjoy every drop of sunshine and summer goodness. We've had fun swimming almost daily at the pond, watching the New York City Ballet perform Romeo and Juliet, and visiting with friends. We've had a broken leg...

...scared you, didn't I? It was easily fixed by Husband, who can seriously fix most anything. We've enjoyed the annual Fourth of July parade in the small village in which I grew up,

The candy- throwers along with my dad and his Morgan - pretty cool, right?

Uncle M, Aunt J and Pa's TR3, along with some cute passengers

We've taken walks or bike rides after dinner most nights,


And enjoyed picnicking by the river, and ice cream in the park.

          God is good, and we are blessed with such sweetness on these beautiful summer days and nights. Looking to the weeks ahead, I hope to carve out more time to slow down, and as Pollyanna said, "to just be."  William Davies puts it well:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Wishing you much summer fun with those you love, and time to stand and stare.

Trusting in Him,

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Age-Long Minute

“Hold us quiet through the age-long minute
While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill;
Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, are in it?
Can the heart faint, that waiteth on Thy will?"
Amy Carmichael

          My prayers are peopled with friends in that age-long minute right now. There are those recovering from life-threatening health issues, facing fear and even despair at a changed future – and some helplessly watching their child in that spot; some waiting for test results and hearing frightening words and predictions for themselves or their child; and there is the mother watching her child trade safety and goodness for a life on the streets and a quick fix.

          I know the age-long minute well; I know the lying awake, staring into blackness, heart pounding, spirit crying out in terror. I know jumping at every phone call or siren, waiting for results or for that thing which I fear to come to pass.

          And that – fear – is at the core of the age long minute; the terror that the thing we most fear may come, and we dwell on it, chew on it, and though we hate it, we savor it and taste every bitter swallow. A friend reaches out with wise words when I find myself in that place, and reminds me to think only on that which I know to be TRUE.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

          And so, each time, I weeded through thoughts. Many times, situations seemed bleak, but paring down, there was what I knew to be true. Symptoms? Yes. Someone making bad choices? Yes. A lifetime of suffering? That was predicting the worst. A future destroyed? Again, fear running away, taking hope and joy captive. I learned as I went – and am still learning – to take the truth, accept it, and do what I can when there is something to be done. And then the rest – those things most feared – they must be left at the nail-scarred feet of the only One wise and strong enough to handle them, turned over and given with hands now open to clutch the hem of His robe.

          And even in the darkest times, there were things that were right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, and thinking on them and giving thanks brought peace, pushed away fears, made a subtle shift and allowed God’s light to shine in. I know this is the medicine most needed, even when the first swallow is hard to take.

          Do not fear, for I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
Isaiah 43:2

          In that age-long minute, clutching tight to Jesus in the boat with us, He gives good gifts. My mother, a cancer survivor, reflects that she would not trade the cancer if it meant trading the peace she felt during that time; it was that precious. I have grown and changed through those minutes and would not go back to being the unscarred, self-confident 30-year-old I once was. I pray for ease, but I know that I hear His voice most when I am hard-pressed and I press in.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9; 16-18

          “Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, are in it?” In the boat, in that minute, we are not alone. I pray to remember, and am thankful for those who remind me.

Trusting in Him,


Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Clean-up Game, and Many Thanks

      Recently, we enjoyed visiting with good friends - an evening of nine kids running around, fellowship and fun. At the end of the visit, the room was strewn with matchbox cars and trains (not an unusual state, actually). Tom, the dad, taught us the "game" he'd been using with his kids to make cleaning up quick and fun. We've since tried it twice after busy mornings, when the house was strewn with not just toys, but books, curriculum, and clothes (where do they come from - especially the socks???). It gets the job done so beautifully that I had to share!

       Here's how it went. I set the timer for two minutes, and each child had to scurry about as quickly as possible, picking things up, putting them where they belonged, and keeping count of the number of items they'd cleaned. I had to be very clear that the items were to be put in their proper places - not on the hearth or coffee tables or counters - in order to count. At the end of two minutes, each child gave me their total, and the child who'd put away the most items was now excused from the game. The timer was set for another two minutes, and at the end of that time, the next child with the winning total was excused. Another two minutes of cleaning followed, and the last guy left had the timer set for just one more minute, to finish the job. I kept myself busy during this time too, and it was amazing to see, at the end of 7 minutes, just how much we'd gotten done!

      It was so much nicer to do our afternoon reading in a clean living room - could it have attracted the hummingbird spotted outside the bay window as we read, or the sparrows scolding there a bit later? Perhaps not, but still, the game is a keeper.

      I'm off to bake for a picnic. How blessed we are to have the kinds of freedoms we do, to enjoy this Memorial Day weekend and worship as we see fit. My thoughts and prayers are with those mourning loved ones who've made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and with those who are serving now.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13

Thank you doesn't seem like enough.

Trusting in Him,

Friday, May 25, 2012

On Amy Carmichael and Thorns

          For the past few weeks, the kids have been immersed in the story of Amy Carmichael, Rescuer of Precious Gems, and they were sad to read the last chapter yesterday. Their daily narrations piqued my interest in her story yet again, and I pulled out my copy of Amy Carmichael, God’s Missionary, a slim but meaty little volume she wrote in 1939 while ministering in India, to set a standard for missionaries. It was as challenging then as it is now.

          For our calling, by its very nature, calls us apart from everything else; it has for its object nothing less than this: the knowing of Christ, the living of Christ, among those who do not know Him. The love of our God must shine through us unhindered if we would live to Him here. Surely, whatever makes for holiness of life, for the clearing of the glass through which the light shines, this is for us and nothing else.”
                                     Amy Carmichael, God’s Missionary

          And I know I am not a missionary like Katie or Summer, some of today's versions of Carmichael, and yet I think, here in my home, educating young ones and guiding young adults, this is my own little mission field. In any case, I know what is needed for this job and this life, and it is more of Him, and less of me.

          “The love of our God must shine through us unhindered if we would live to Him here. Surely, whatever makes for holiness of life, for the clearing of the glass through which the light shines, this is for us and nothing else.”

          What hinders, keeps that love of God from shining through – what clouds the glass?  Surely, distractions and worries cloud my thoughts and fill my mind, and out come snappish answers and curt responses. Seeking escape from concerns, I become mindlessly busy. Can any light shine through the spiritual dullness that ensues?

          “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”   Matthew 13:22

          The cares of this world choke out the word…. and then these choking cares – worries or things I care about more than God or those around me -  keep His love from shining through. We have this precious gift, this word, and I wonder how often I fill up with it, only to have it choked, midday, with thorns of fear, confusion, or mind-numbing distraction.

          I’d never consider going to the filling station to fill my car’s tank with that costly, precious gas, and then go home to fill the tank with sugar. I’d surely not travel far after that. And yet I fill up with this word, and so quickly let it become choked out.

        Amy finishes the first chapter of her little book with St. Paul’s life as an example of giving ones-self wholly to their calling.

          “He stood forth in the midst of his shipmates and said, ‘God, whose I am, and whom I serve,…’  Can we imagine him frittering away his time in aimless trifles, matters which had not as their end the salvation of the people on board or how own preparation for the battle before him? Could our attitude of life on board ship be always described as that single sentence: ‘God, whose I am, and who I serve.”

          Convicting. Challenging. Praying today for thorns to be weeded out and cast aside, and for His wonderful light to shine through.  

Trusting in Him,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Another Birthday and Fudge Frosting

        On the heels of Mothers' Day, we had another celebration here - Littlest's 9th birthday! He's been counting down the days for months, and the day finally came. My father has a tradition of taking each child out for breakfast on their birthday, and somehow this slipped my mind (and his!). On Monday morning, at 5 of 8, I asked Littlest what he'd like for breakfast, and he replied that he figured Pa would be there soon to get him. I called my father quickly, and he and Littlest made arrangements, in which Littlest assured him he didn't have to rush, but could come over at 8:55.

Later that evening, at Littlest's request, we had chocolate cake with strawberry jam in the middle, and a rich, boiled fudge frosting on top.

(Fudge Frosting - Stir together and melt 2 C sugar, 1/2 c cocoa, 1/2 c Spectrum shortening, 1/2 c Silk coconut milk - boil 2 minutes, cool, stir in 2 t vanilla. If you cool it quickly in an icewater bath the way I did - not recommended - it'll be a thick paste you will have to press onto the cake. Try cooling slowly and pouring over cake for a glossy finish...)

       There were lots of rowdy family members,   

and singing and gifts,

and a boy who went to bed happy, counting down the 365 days until he can do it all again. And yes, I did realize at the end of the night that he'd had a sticker on his forehead throughout the evening.

It has been such fun to watch this little one blossom and grow these 6 years he has been with us - a privilege and a wonderful gift. He has a sweet, gentle nature, a way with animals, a sense of direction I've never seen on a child this age, and a fun sense of humor. He's a great baking companion, budding chef and thoughtful boy who loves to share. Littlest, you are wonderful, and we love you. This may be the last year we can call you Littlest...

A wonderful surprise in my inbox - a photo from a special friend in Korea, of Littlest at 2

Thanking God for another year with our guy, and
Trusting in Him,

Friday, May 11, 2012

Narration ideas and the Rower's Debut

            In our homeschool, we use narrations rather than comprehension questions and quizzes. Narration is deceptively simple; it requires the child to tell back, after a single reading, what they recall of a story or lesson. A younger child begins with short passages, like Aesop’s Fables, and gives narrations orally. I write down some of these narrations, and sometimes, I’ll ask the child to copy it into his composition book, perhaps illustrating what he’s written. At about the age of ten, the child begins to write more of his narrations – a few per week – while still giving an oral narration for each thing he’s read, whether for history, science, or literature. This means I listen to a plethora of narrations each day, but it’s been fascinating to see what they’ve learned.

            As of late, the Rower, 14, has grown tired of giving straight narrations of Moby Dick (what a long book!); he wanted a challenge. I found a fantastic list of narration ideas at Simply Charlotte Mason, and he jumped at the chance to try something different. He shocked me by choosing to write a ballad, and his enthusiasm is inspiring me to mix up the narrations a little bit and try more of the ideas with the other kids – perhaps some might work in your school. Here, in the Rower’s blogging debut, is his ballad.

The First Lowering

Hark hear the watchman crying out,
As the morning rooster crows.
Hark hear the watchman crying out,
Shouting out from his high post
Hear the clock of action toll,
Singing out its rising notes
“Hasten, hasten!” it extols,
“Each man quickly to the boats!”
“Hasten, hasten!” it extols,
And a war cry wells up in each throat.

In the fray of action,
The time for thought has come and gone.
Instinct, the minds now ruling faction,
Urges now the hunters on.
They rush forth with steely lance,
Like great plunging razor talons
”I’ll not rest,” say they in fierce trance,
“Till I or foe have fallen.”
And so the hunters chase, and chase,
Until they have found their prey.
As the leopard prowls the jungle,
So they sail in ocean spray.
”Heave ho, my hearties,”
Starbuck now doth urge,
“Break your back, my rowing party,
And I’ll not let our paths diverge.”

So the intrepid hunters these,
Have come to the beast they would have die.
The harpooner knight sets his lance free,
He lets his harpoon fly,
And when it hits the beast,
And pierces his great side,
There is a mighty wave unleashed,
Stronger than a full moon’s tide.
Crew and captain are cast from boat,
Into the churning waters,
Into the water they’re all thrown,
Into the churning waters.

Our heroes float by capsized boat,
Wishing to heaven for
Something that seems beyond all hope;
To be rejoined
With the vessel they were on before.
Alas, they had been left for dead,
For a gale had struck the sea.
But there is no great need for fret,
As you soon shall see;
The main ship had kept its first course,
And by some course of luck,
It made its way to the very place,
Where whale and boat had struck.
And so the warriors
But unhurt,
To hunt another day.

Wishing you a beautiful day, and

Trusting in Him,

****note**** I've had a few comments sent to my inbox that are unavailable when I try to read them online. If you've written and I haven't seen your comment, so sorry! I do love the chance to "meet" visitors here and value your comments!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Thank you, Rainbow Kids

     Ever feel you owe a debt of gratitude to someone? That's how I feel about Rainbow Kids. Years ago, when we first began to discuss adoption, I had a strong sense that our next child would not be the healthy, white newborn so coveted by couples hoping to adopt (and this implies no judgement - we just knew those babies would find families, and we felt called in another direction). We had three children who happened to have been born healthy, but we knew they could have been born with any variety of issues or disabilities, and they'd still have been our beloved children. Somehow, I knew our child would be waiting due to a medical issue, and once we learned how much harder it is for a little boy, particularly with any health issues, to find a family, we knew our next child would be a boy. But where on earth would he be, and how would we find him?

      Our local agency only placed healthy infants, but our social worker referred us to Children's Home Society and Family Services of Minnesota, where the Korean waiting child coordinator directed us to the Rainbow Kids photolisting. There, we were stunned to see hundreds of children listed, from countries throughout the world, with issues as mild as missing fingers and as severe as serious heart issues. All beautiful, all precious in His sight, all deserving of families.

     There, we found our beautiful Musician, and fell in love with his sweet face even before we understood his special need or had a homestudy completed. How excited we were when we could finally be matched, and while we waited for his homecoming, we fell in love with the Wrestler, also on Rainbow Kids. Later, our Littlest would be listed there as well.

     Martha Osborne, the founder of Rainbow Kids, has an incredible heart for orphan care and adoption, and she's put together a beautiful video highlighting some of the amazing Rainbow Kids who are home with their forever families now. Take a moment to watch and be blessed. Then check out the adoption stories,  and ask yourself: "Is there a Rainbow Kid waiting for me?"

Giving thanks, and
Trusting in Him,

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pure Yumminess - a GFDF Chocolate Cake

            We had a lovely birthday celebration with Nanny (my mom) and are back into the swing of school – but what fun it was to have a day of birthday school with my helper! So much baking and writing and drawing!

We thought you might enjoy trying the cake that got rave reviews that night. The original recipe is from Elizabeth Barbone’s Easy Gluten Free Baking (a GREAT book – everything in it turns out so well!), but I’ve adapted it to make it gluten, dairy and corn free by changing the liquids, and substituting for the corn starch and baking powder (did you know baking powder contains corn? I've adjusted the ingredients here, but if you'd like to make your own corn-free baking powder, simply mix 1 t cream of tartar with 1/2 t baking soda).

 Before baking, I take out a bit of this batter to make myself a few cupcakes before I pour the rest into the pan. I frost the family's cake, while I enjoy my babycakes with strawberries. If you can find a corn-free powdered sugar, the frosting could be made corn-free as well.

 Classic Chocolate Cake (gluten, dairy and corn free)
1 ¾ cups gluten free flour mixture
1 cup unsweetened GF cocoa powder
1 t. cream of tartar
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 ½ t xanthan gum
2 c granulated sugar

2 large eggs
1 cup non-dairy milk (I like Silk coconut milk)
½ c canola oil
2 t GF, CF vanilla
1 c very hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan, or line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Scrape down bowl, and add hot water and mix until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake. For a 9x13 pan, the cake should bake about 45 minutes; for cupcakes, 18-20. I very, very, slightly underbaked mine – a toothpick was almost clean after being inserted into the center – and the cake seemed a little moist on top after it cooled. However, it resulted in the most lovely, moist cake, and people asked repeatedly whether it was really gluten free.

Chocolate Frosting (dairy and gluten free, but not corn free)
3 T Spectrum Shortening (pure pressed palm oil)
1 lb confectioners sugar
3 T cocoa powder
3T non-dairy milk, plus more as needed
1 T GF vanilla

Blend the shortening, sugar and cocoa powder until it’s well mixed. Add the liquid and vanilla, and blend well. Add more liquid, a T at a time, continuing to blend well, until the frosting reaches spreading consistency.

 Happy Eating!

Trusting in Him,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Birthday, Nanny!

         Today’s a really special day here. We’re cooking and baking and snapping green beans and drawing and writing, because Nobility is coming to dinner. Actually, my parents are coming to celebrate my mother’s birthday with us, and it’s fun to have a night to honor this wonderful lady who has blessed me throughout my life in so very many ways.

          Years and years ago, it was my mother who introduced me to great books, spreading before me a rich feast of literature. I remember curling up beside her while she read The Wind in the Willows, the Little House books, Charlotte’s Web and countless other favorites.

          It was my mother who introduced me to other cultures, taking me to the Festival of Nations, and sparking a deep interest in how other people live. While she was never big on camping, it was my mom who helped spark a love of nature, with picnics and park outings, lots of time outdoors (and little TV), and a tolerance for the many animals she allowed to dwell with us.

          She indulged my fashion sense with incredible clothes she sewed for me through the years. We were a team: as I got older, I’d pore through Vogue magazines, design wild and wonderful outfits, and find patterns and fabrics to bring them to life. She’d cut and sew for hours – I think she had the harder end of the deal! She taught me to love warm strawberry jam, just off the stove, and homemade bread, fresh from the oven.

          My mother gave me a blueprint for how to deal with the sometimes hazardous activities of boys. Frequently, one of my three brothers or another injured himself, and would holler, “MOM!” She’d call back, “Is it bleeding?”

          If the answer was yes, her next question was, “Does it need stitches?” If the answer was no, we were to carry on.

          The most important thing my mother gave me, though, was an example of deep and abiding faith and lessons in how to live it out. On the wall of our eat-in kitchen was a huge paper sign, a foot tall and perhaps four feet long, advising, “Let Go and Let God.” She meant it, and has always worked hard to follow that advice. She blessed me by seeing that I was involved in Bible studies and youth groups, even though the church we belonged to at the time didn’t offer those things.

          In terms of living her faith, one thing is huge in my mind. At Christmas time, she sought out families in need to bless each year. When I think back on the gifts she chose for each member of the family, the Christmas tree, the clothes, I’m amazed that she and my Dad did this on his teacher’s salary, while still providing wonderfully for all of us. The most powerful part of this, though, was bringing the gifts to the family, one of whom we visited for many years in a row.

          This family made such an impact on my life, when we were supposed to be the ones helping them: there was a single mom and her son, Carl, who had spina bifida and walked with metal crutches, and wore the old-fashioned heavy metal and leather braces used back then. His grandmother also lived with them, and she and his mom were both battling chronic illnesses. Despite this, they had the most cheerful, loving presence, and greeted us each year with packages of homemade cookies to take home with us. It might not have been easy to let others help them, but they were so gracious, and the effect of this was profound.

         She also taught me lessons in forgiveness, and I still have a small heart ornament she gave me after one of our many arguments when I was a teenager. She handed it to me with an apology, and that small thing meant so much that I've cherished the ornament ever since. I’m so grateful to my mom for her faithfulness, and for teaching me many lessons that shaped my future. She hasn’t stopped. She blesses our family regularly with the special relationship she has with each of our children, with her listening and ministering spirit, with her gifts of service and the shopping trips and lunch dates she blesses our kids with. She’s a blessing to many, but we are so very lucky to have her as our very own mother and “Nanny.” This is long, but fitting, so I'm including it all:

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31: 10-31
            How blessed am I, to have a mom like that? We love you, Mom. Happy Birthday!
Giving thanks, and

Trusting in Him,