Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Musings from a Military Wife

The time is drawing closer when this scene will soon be a reality in my own life.  Husband stepping off the plane with his carry-on, wearing his uniform and walking toward us and once again coming home in its truest sense.  Looking back over this time of deployment I can see failures and successes, but mostly God's providential hand carrying us every step of the way.  It is hard to explain the emptiness that has consumed me at times during this past year.  It is hard to calculate the tears that I have felt, even if I have not cried them.  It is difficult to explain the burden of responsiblity one feels parenting solo, when in reality one is still very much married.  I have had to take the role of both father and mother and at times have felt a miserable failure at both.  But, God has never failed to scoop me up during those times and hold me close.  He promised to be a father to the fatherless...and although, praise the Lord, my children are not genuinely fatherless...for this period in time that have been practically.  I have taken on roles not normally done by me.  Big bug killer, trash carrier, vehicle maintenance person, family worship leader, picture hanger, etc.  Things they would have normally been run by their father for permission, the children have looked to me.  It is not that I cannot make these decisions, or do these tasks.  It is not even that I am bitter because they have fallen to me.  It is just that doing them is just a constant reminder that my best friend is gone.  When your loved one is gone, everything becomes a reminder of the loneliness.  And even in the wonderful homecoming, there is always the adjustment that must come.  Many times, soldiers have seen and experienced things only read about in books.  The anxiety, the jumpy nerves, the difficulty acclimating back into our western culture after living in a war zone, the experience of dodging bullets, constantly being afraid that your vehicle may be the next one blown up by an IED, or that your plane or helicopter might be the next casualty...all of that is real.  A man does not forget easily when faced with these things.  A wife does not let go of the stress of constantly wondering if the next knock on the door with the white van parked outside will be to inform her that her husband was the latest casualty.  It takes time to get back to what was once normal.  And many times, what once was, never does return...but there is a new normal.  A father must be reacquainted with his children.  My husband comes home to a daughter that is closer to womanhood than when he left.  She has grown almost 6 inches during his absence.  Children have new routines and life experiences that he must "catch up" on.  Even small things moved around in a home are new.  Settling in takes time.  But I know the God that carried us through will also be the same God that once again molds us together into a stronger family because of what we have experienced.  He is our strength.  And it is to our Father that we go for shelter.  When you think of our family, please pray for my husband's safe return.  Pray for a gentle transition and pray that God will be glorified through it all!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Making Butter

Well, we finally tried our hand at making butter!  And it was wonderful!  We made ours from raw milk to get all the nutritional benefits out of it.  We do not have a churn, so we placed the cream from the milk into the jar and Joy shook it for about 20 to 30 minutes.

This is what it looked like after about 20 minutes.  Then, we strained it and poured it into a bowl, keeping the leftover liquid for later.  We pressed our butter and got more liquid out and then we had the most rich, delicious unsalted butter.  We chose not to salt ours this time, but next time will probably try it with some sea salt.  You could use this butter to make some wonderful herb butter to spread on fresh biscuits.

And, if you keep the liquid from your buttermaking...that is your buttermilk.  So you can whip up some delicious buttermilk biscuits or pancakes.  We watched a wonderful DVD from Franklin Springs called "The Art of Dairy Making."  We plan to try more of these wonderful dairy recipes.  If you do not have a source of raw milk, then just get heavy cream from the store and try it yourself.  Happy butter making!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don't Ask

Don't ask.  And even if you did, I couldn't possibly tell you the why of this picture!!!  Never a dull moment at this house!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Getting a Foothold on Finances ~ Part 2

In part one of this series, I discussed the why behind our finances and some godly perspectives of giving.  Today I would like to discuss tithing.  If you are a Christian, one of the first areas of proper handling of your finances should be tithing.  The Bible lays out at least 10% of our income.  Now, that should be before taxes are taken out and not on the net income.  Just because our government chooses to take too much of our money every month, does not negate the fact that the Lord requires and more importantly deserves the "first fruits" of everything we bring in.  The fact is, God has given us all things.  Whatever finances that come in are all from His hand and provision.  He only requires a minimal amount from all He has given us.  Now, one thing I would like to say is that 10% should just be the starting point.  If we count our giving to God down to the very penny and then feel we have "checked" the box of our "righteous acts" then we are missing the point altogether.  God deserves to have us give out of gratitude and that should be with an attitude of love and cheerfulness.  "God loves a cheerful giver."  That means praying about areas where God would lead you to give.  That means before you buy that next item that is not a necessity, asking the Lord what He might have you do with that money.  In our western culture we are surrounded by affluence.  Even in these hard economic times, our country is worlds apart from most of the world.  We can get clean water and most of us never know what it is like to go hungry at night.  Most Americans have more than one TV and more than one vehicle.  We have a roof over our heads and clothes in our closets and yet, there are children around the world dying from poverty.  There are a thousand ways to use our finances to advance the love of Christ.  And once you give to your local church, finding ways to give to others would be a way for you to store up treasures in heaven.  Some of the places we give are Voice of the Martyrs (the persecuted church), the Joshua Fund ( helping misplaced Jews and others that have lost their homes in Israel), Compassion International (adopting a child financially with a once a month gift), and there are many others.  Some may say that to talk about tithing when one is in debt is a little misplaced.  After all, how can one tithe when they are already financially strapped?  If it is absolutely impossible to give 10% of your income now, then give what you can.  But, start giving.  Once you do, you will reap the benefits of an obedient heart.  I am not one of these people who go for the "name it and claim it" mentality.  To say that you will get wealth from tithing is just not scriptural.  Remember the widow who gave all she had in the Bible?  The point is not that she became rich monetarily...but that she was rich spiritually.  She gave out of the abundance of her love.  And yes, I do believe God will bless when we do.  It may not be with an influx of money, but it will be something far greater, something that one only experiences when they are obedient to God.  God does not ask us to give because He needs the money.  He owns a cattle on a thousand hills!  God asks us to give for our good.  It causes us to be thankful.  It causes us to shake off some of our selfish attitudes.  It will help us to view money as a tool for the kingdom rather than a means to fulfill our wants.  God's ways are always good.  So, if you don't already, start giving today.  And if you know you do not have a cheerful attitude in it, give anyway.  Pray and ask the Lord to give you a heart transplant in the area of giving and see how He will bless!

Until next time!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Time is Growing Shorter

If any of you have been keeping up with my countdown on my sidebar, you will notice that we are now in the double digits!!!  Yes, we have clicked less than the 100 day mark and are getting closer as each new morning dawns to the time when my dh will be home and our family will once again be reunited.  And, there is even better news than being less than 100 days!  It seems God, in His gracious Providence, may be allowing my husband's deployment to be cut short considerably less than what we had expected.  So, that means all those days left on my countdown are not accurate!  Praise the Lord for that!  I cannot tell you all how many days reasons will not allow me to do so.  Also, the date seems to keep changing on us almost everytime I speak to him...Welcome to the military!  Flexibility is definitely one of the things you are taught when your husband is a military man!  So, I would appreciate your prayers that indeed this wonderful turn of events will come to pass and for his safe return when that time does come.  We still have a little while to go, but I will keep you informed as the time gets closer!  We are so excited anticipating his return.  My winter almost feels like spring!!! 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Getting a Foothold on Finances - Part 1

Finances are an area that most people struggle with at one time or another in their lives.  Sometimes those struggles are not of their own making:  an unexpected health issue, sudden loss of a job, etc.  But, most of the time, if we would follow our trails back to the very beginning of the management of our finances, we can see how failure to pray, plan and prioritize God's way has taken us down a path of financial heartache.  God has taught me so much in the area of finances.  I have certainly not arrived yet either.  There are matters I still struggle with in this area.  But, I am learning more and more that this area of my life is just as much of a heart issue as controlling my temper.  So, we begin our discussion of finances with the matter of the heart. 

What is the why behind our finances?
You know, there is a lot of discussion about getting finances in order...especially when we have just clicked over into 2010.  The beginning of  a New Year marks new beginnings for most of us and we look for areas in our lives that need improving and set goals to meet those specific areas.  That is not a bad thing.  But often, we forget the "Why" behind those decisions.  What is our motivation to get our finances in line?  Well, certainly debt brings stress to ones life.  Constantly knowing that you "owe" something you are having problems with paying off is not a peaceful existence.  There is something totally freeing in knowing that one is totally debt free.  Is that a bad motivation?  Absolutely not.  But, I don't think that should be the main, or the most important motivation.  At one point in my life, it was for me.  Getting out of debt was first and foremost to restore some "peace" in my life.  I cannot deal with the thought of "owing" something.  Anything could happen...job loss, health issues, economy problems (as we are seeing so clearly now) and then I might not be able to make that automobile payment.  Then what?  Bad credit, loss of vehicle?  Yes, it could definitely happen.  But, what about the stain on the reputation of someone who bears the name of Christian?  As a Christian, that should be one of my first concerns?  What does God say about debt?  Whose money is it really anyway?  These are some of the issues I would like to explore in a series I am going to be doing on finances.  If we didn't have any other book, cultural norm, friends to persuade us, and we only had the Bible, how would that curb our spending and our view of what is debt and what is not?

I would like to leave you with something this morning that has revolutionized my way of looking at money.  I have always known "everything is the Lord's", including my money.  But, I suppose that was one of those mantras we hear from preachers and we know it's true, but do we really grasp the significance of that statement.  IF everything is from the Lord, including my money, then it does matter how I spend it...big amounts or small?  And if God cares how I spend my money, how often do I consult Him before I spend it?  And lastly, how often do you hear this, "I am going to get a budget to get of debt so I can .... (fill in the blank)."  It may be a myriad of a house, get a new car, go on that vacation, have more money for my hobby, save for my children's education, have some time for myself now...and the list goes on.  How many times have you ever heard a Christian say, "I am going to do all I can to get out of debt so I can GIVE more to God's causes."  Giving...isn't that one of the main reasons He blesses us?  I know God expects us to plan for the future, but I don't believe He wants His children holding on to every single extra dime to put toward their interests.  What kind of Christianity is that?  God's example of giving is radical...not just the "extra" we may have leftover this month.  So, if you are planning to get out of debt this year, how about praying and planning for all the ways you can give when you do.  God loves a cheerful is your heart toward giving today?  Are you ready to give Him the leftovers, or ready to give Him all?  After all, whose money is it anyway?


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Projected 2010 Reading List

Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies.  I remember consuming books when I was younger and I still enjoy it so very much.  One of my goals for 2010 is to read more books for my own personal enjoyment and edification.  I read constantly to my children, but with five children, the demands of homeschooling, keeping a home, healthy cooking and other responsibilities, my own personal reading time has been almost non-existent.  I know some of that has been due to the fact that my husband has been deployed for nine months now and so there are added responsibilities that take up what little time I may have found previously.  So, while praying and thinking about ways to improve this coming year, book reading was one of those areas.  I always enjoy looking at the blogs of others and seeing a glimpse into what they are reading.  And because of that, I thought I would begin to share on a somewhat more regular basis some of the books I read to my children, with a little review and an idea of the age group they are geared toward.  But, first, I would like to share with you the "projected list" of books I want to read this year.  Now, it will be a great feat if I get this done...or even half done...but what is wrong with dreaming big huh?  As I finish, I will try to share my thoughts on them, or at least some of them, with you.  And I would greatly enjoy hearing some of your favorites as well. 

Quiet Times in Loud Households by Kimberley Eddy

Keeping Our Children's Hearts by Steve and Terri Maxwell  (reading this one again)

Extra Reading 

Feminine Appeal

The Joy of Hospitality

There are actually others, but I don't think I should make this too unrealistic!  Many times books have been the mentors that have been lacking in my life.  There is definitely a shortage of Titus 2 women, so I have gleaned so much from books by them.  I thank God for providing these materials for my sanctification.  These, however, should NEVER take the place of God's Word.  They should only be read and used AFTER spending quality time in the Bible and prayer.   I'd also like to you leave you with a quote,

 "Be as careful of the books you read, as the company you keep, for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter."  Paxton Hood.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Planning for the New Year - Part 2

Once the priorities are prayed over then I like to make some specific goals for different areas in my life. 

Homeschooling:  Now is a good time to evaluate if I am on track to complete my intended goals for school.  Are there any areas I am behind?  What can I do to catch up in that subject?  If I am ahead in areas, how can I use that time to do some enrichment in another area that may have been put on the back burner because of time restraints?  What books do I want to read to the children for the remainder of the school year?  Any places of interest I would like to take the children?

Finances:  Is there any debt that needs to be paid off?  How can those things be accelerated?  Do we need to begin saving for specific items?  This is an area I am constantly reviewing.  God has taught me much in the area of finances, much of which I hope to share with you all.  He is also teaching me much in the area of giving.  I have always known that everything I have is ultimately God's, but that has been more of a sentiment in my head, rather than my heart.  If what I have is all God's, then how I spend that money matters to him.  Do I really need a new decoration, or could that money be better used to go to persecuted Christians around the world?  What about widows and orphans?  One of the greatest joys of getting out of debt is the freedom it gives one to actually give to those needs.  I see so many people using up their monies for multiple vacations and hobbies galore and sports and recreation.  The sentiment is, "This is my money.  I worked for it.  Now, I get to enjoy it."  But, that is NOT how God looks at it.  It is HIS money.  I do not believe God doesn't want us to take vacations, or have hobbies or enjoy ourselves.  But, in our western culture, many people live their lives for the next personal enjoyment.  How it must grieve the heart of God to see His church giving so much of their monies to things that have absolutely no eternal value when there are so many worthy ways to give.  I hope to share more on this subject in days to come.

Organization:  Are there areas in your home that could be better utilized in another way?  How about dejunking to create a more peaceful atmosphere in your home?  Purging books, the pantry, the closets, etc.?  Chore charts?  Scheduling? 

Health:  If you don't exercise, how about starting?  How can you incorporate healthy eating in small steps?  What about getting rid of chemical cleaners in your home and finding alternatives, or making your own?  I am constantly trying to look for ways to make our home and the food I prepare healthier for my family.  This is one of the privileges of being a stay at home Mom.  Most healthy food takes a great time to prepare and if I were working outside the home, it would be much more difficult to accomplish this.  So, embrace the awesome responsibility of providing the best for you family and yourself by making baby steps to healthy living.  I have begun many of these, but still have so many more to work on.  I will be sharing some of these baby steps with you along the way.

I do not believe that planning should intimidate us, but rather give us a base from which to work.  I do not always meet all the goals I set for myself.  Life happens.  Tragedies come, sicknesses visit, God totally redirects me, my priorities may change as the Lord shows me more and more of Himself...but it is a good starting place.  Without some sketch of what I want to see accomplished, it just doesn't get done.  So, my exhortation to you is to start small, but to start.  And don't forget to pray about how God would have you serve this year.  If you are an older about being a Titus 2 mentor to someone struggling?  Be deliberate in family evangelism.  Can you increase your hospitality this year?  Happy praying and planning!  Until next time!