Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday!!!!

Happy Birthday Grandma Jo!!!!
We love you!!!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Heart of a Joyful Mom
Article by Jennifer (Steele) Carroll, May 2009

She truly carries the joy of the Lord with her at all times, but when we were young, and because it was always lived out before us as a normal way of life, we never saw it as out of the ordinary. After all, wasn’t this the way it was supposed to be?

The first time I heard it was at college. I am sure we were supposed to be studying, but Rachel, my good friend, and I were casually talking, surrounded by dozens of books, papers, assignments, pieces of sheet music, leftover coffee cup sleeves, one laptop, and a keyboard.

“We were having a family discussion one night around the dinner table,” she was saying, “and someone brought up the question, ‘Who is the happiest person you know?’ The vote was unanimous. Everyone decided it was Cathy Steele.”

The thought surprised me. Not because my mom isn’t a happy person; she is. The thought surprised me because my mom never strived to be the ‘happiest person’, nor would she put on a plastic smile “just because”. She truly carries the joy of the Lord with her at all times, but when we were young, and because it was always lived out before us as a normal way of life, we never saw it as out of the ordinary. After all, wasn’t this the way it was supposed to be? Mom cheered for us. Mom looked at a difficult situation and saw the good in it. Mom laughed. Mom praised our efforts. Mom smiled. Mom was our friend. In our small minds, through all those growing-up years, the idea was quietly, firmly established in our thinking and reinforced countless times that joy was a way of life because of what Jesus Christ had done for us, and that relationships would blossom and flourish when plentifully watered with it.

When people would ask my mom, “Why are you so happy all the time?” she would often reply, “I am just so grateful to be saved! Think of what Christ has done for us!”

My mom didn’t have anything like Created To Be His Help Meet when she got married. It wasn’t printed until decades later. She, from a radically different background, stepped into her role of being a wife and mother by revering and following the Word of God. Through the years, she formulated habits that served as crucial fibers for the fabric of our family. These are just a few of them.

She spoke of Dad respectfully, and joyfully served him. She made a habit of telling us things like, “Daddy just got a raise!” or “Ask Daddy, he knows how” or “No, Daddy told you not to, and Mommy always supports what Daddy says”. She spoke well of him to us and to our friends. She chose to cook meals that she knew he liked. She let him have “down time” when he came home from work, not badgering him with honey-do lists or complaints about how hard her day was. She smiled for him.

When she had to sacrifice herself, her preferences, or her time, she chose joyful selflessness. In our family of eight, there were often things that conflicted with scheduled plans. She was always the first one to offer to stay home with one of us sick kids, drive someone to a football game instead of going to that special dinner with her friends, or take one of us shopping who desperately wanted to go, even when shopping was not her favorite thing to do. One year in particular, she saved all her money from a home business and surprised Dad and the rest of us by spending it on a family vacation to Florida. We were too young to think anything like, “There are so many things she could have bought for herself with that money, but she chose us.” All we knew was that we were excited and happy, because Mom was.

When circumstances were stressful, or money was tight, she responded with joyful creativity and thankfulness for what we did have. I never heard her compare what she had to what someone else had. I never heard her sigh, “If only...” She is an incredibly hard worker, and loves to exercise her gift of resourcefulness. I remember her coming into the house all excited one day because, “The people down the road are building their house, and said we could have their leftover bricks! We can make a sidewalk with those!” You would have thought they were bricks of gold. She was so happy and so thankful about everything; it really got to be contagious, even if none of us had any previous knowledge about laying brick sidewalks. She always praised Dad for being such a good provider for us, and respected the work he did.

When she was hurt, she chose joyful forgiveness. I remember, as a little girl, perceiving when ‘Mommy’ was down or hurt over something. But it never lasted for long! Before you knew it, she was talking as cheerfully as ever, or suggesting something fun to do. We never had to wonder, “What kind of a day is Mommy going to have?” It wasn’t even a question in our minds. We felt peaceful and stable, because Mom was.She did not spend her time entertaining herself, but joyfully invested in our lives.

If you want to know where you will find my Mom, it will be with Dad or one of us. She has constantly poured out her time, energy, love, skills, knowledge, patience, and prayers on our behalf, even when circumstances were extreme. On one occasion, the college house I was living in had a cat take up residence underneath the house and infest the place with fleas. We did what we could, but they kept coming back. We were all exhausted with our recitals, tests, and deadlines coming up, and were at a loss for what to do. Mom found out about it, told us she was coming, and drove over two hours to get there. She treated the carpets and bedspreads, washed all of our laundry, swept and vacuumed everywhere, opened windows to air out the place, put everything back in order, took us to lunch, and drove back home, all in the same day. The fleas didn’t stand a chance!

She freely blessed us to expand our horizons and joyfully let us go, even when it meant more work for her. Through the years, several opportunities came up for me to travel and encourage other girls. The trips lasted anywhere from one week to two months. I am her oldest daughter and felt the responsibility to help around the house. But when the time came for another ministry opportunity, I never once received a guilt-trip discussion about all the work she would have to cover while I was gone, not to mention the continuation of homeschooling for the younger kids. She blessed me and encouraged me to go. She blessed my older brother, Joshua, leaving at the age of only sixteen to go on a mission trip to Hong Kong for two months. Other mothers questioned her “looseness” with the apron strings. But it was unspoken knowledge among all of us siblings that her blessing on our service to the Lord, regardless of where that happened to be, only made us want to serve and bless her more. We knew she was not selfishly possessive of us, and we loved her for it.

She gave us a legacy of joy that is now spilling over into our own marriages. Recently, my sister and I entered the biggest adventure of our lives. We became help meets. We now step in stride with our husbands, laughing, playing, working, learning, observing, growing, and rejoicing with them. God has blessed us tremendously through Mom’s example. We are joyfully fulfilled in our marriages, just like our mom, knowing that it is a privilege to respect and serve our husbands. Now that I am married, I fully realize what a heavenly gift she gave us.

She sent us out with joy.

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace...” Isa. 55:12.

“...her children rise up and call her blessed...” Prov. 31:30.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My vegetable garden is in!

I planted: tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard, kale, eggplant, cucumbers, acorn squash, butternut squash, watermelon, musk melon, buttercrunch lettuce, spinach, bush beans, onions, zucchini, and sugar snap peas.

Herb garden: lemon balm, echinacea (cone flowers), rosemary, thyme, cilantro, basil, chives and garlic chives, oregano, spearmint, peppermint. (below)

I started a shade garden: 8 varieties of hostas, coleus, ostrich ferns, lambs ear, purple lamium, and snow on the mountain so far..

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Master Cleanse

Everybody needs to "change their oil" once in awhile. We are systematic about doing it for our vehicles, but what about our bodies?? What about all the gunk that is collected there?

Enter the Master Cleanse.

The Master Cleanse, also known as the Lemonade Diet, or the Maple Syrup Diet is a program created by Stanley Burroughs Burroughs states that it is a detoxification program that aids in the removal of harmful toxins from within the body, as well as a reducing diet for loss of weight, and a cure for ulcers and "every kind of disease," resulting in "the correction of all disorders."The Master Cleanse is a way to rid the body of toxins and remove the cravings associated with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and eating junk food. "Coffee, tea, and various cola drinks, as habit-forming beverages, also lose their appeal through the marvels of the lemonade diet." The cleanse involves drinking only lemonade made from fresh lemon or lime juice, maple syrup, water and Cayenne pepper. No solid food is eaten for the entire cleanse.

My husband is on day 6 of the Master Cleanse. Day 1 and 2 he felt pretty rough, we are guessing from lack of caffeine (coffee). But he has never once been hungry. We have done other fasts, and thought (*grins*) we were starving to death. So far he has lost several pounds, his dandruff is completely gone, he is starting to taste and smell again, and his shoulder pain (from what we suspect is a partially torn rotator cuff) is almost gone. We are hoping this fixes his sinus issues. He looks and feels GREAT! He plans to continue for 10-14 days..

I really recommend reading the book before starting the cleanse so that you understand the dynamics of the cleansing and healing process.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Living Simply

I am constantly looking for creative ideas on how to live well (and simply) on one income. I am blessed to be able to stay home, raising and home schooling my children.

Titus 2:4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

My husband and I decided together what we really "need". "Needs" and "wants" are different. Do we really need 2 cars, a huge house, and brand name clothes? Learn to be content with what you have!

1Timothy 6:8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

We decided a long time ago that we would never let debt or money ruin our marriage, and sought to find a biblical approach to our marriage and finances.

Proverbs 14:1 Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

In an effort to get completely out of debt, we got rid of our big house (and mortgage payment) and moved into a modest 3 bedroom home in the country. We are within months of paying off our truck. We have vowed to pay cash for everything, and will never again finance a vehicle or anything else. Our 4, soon to be 5 children share 2 bedrooms. They wouldn't have it any other way. :)

I have found many, many ways to stretch each and every paycheck:
To be able to afford our almost entirely organic diet, I buy bulk. I buy very little prepackaged, or convenience foods. Boxed cereal is even a treat. I buy bulk staple items such as cane sugar, beans, rice, honey, oatmeal, and wheat for grinding and making into bread. I buy fresh seasonal fruit locally and freeze or can it for year round use. We plant a large garden, and freeze and can our own vegetables. I buy fresh raw cow milk and make my own yogurt and kefir, as well as butter and cheese. When the neighbor has an over abundance of goat milk, I make goat-cheese (think feta). Sooo good! My husband and boys hunt, so we always have a freezer full of venison and poultry for them to eat.

We save tons of money on medical and dental bills by eating whole foods diet! Prevention really is the best medicine!!!

Proverbs 31:27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

In order to be able to live well on one-income we did have to eliminate some unnecessary costs and activities. My kids enroll in one activity at a time, right now all 3 boys are taking taekwondo, which they chose over baseball and soccer. We also splurge for piano and violin lessons, which we feel is a necessary expenditure. This arrangement works well for us because it allows me to take care of things at home (laundry, healthy meals) and not be driving all over the place, all the time.

I hang my clothes out on a clothes line (this sure cuts down on the electric bill) I love being able to get fresh air and sunshine, and it helps my disposition to step away from the children for a few quiet moments. ;) I will also be using cloth diapers with this baby. I was given a bunch of gently used, very expensive cloth diapers from a friend, I was pretty excited!!! I also use cloth menstrual pads, and homemade cloth nursing pads. I am planning on making cloth napkins very soon.

Lend, borrow and buy used!! There really is no shame in second hand, shopping Craigslist and yard sales. Just don't buy stuff you don't need!!

Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.