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Summertime in a Jar

Yesterday I worked for eight hours on canning tomatoes into all sorts of yummy summery goodness.  90 lbs of tomatoes went through our kitchen this week.  The lady behind me at the farm asked me what on earth I was going to do with all of those tomatoes.  Summertime is my favorite time of year, and I’m so excited to have made and canned my first batch of summer salsa.  Here is my loose recipe, which I divided up between two large glass cake pans, because I lack a big roasting pan:

16 cups of tomatoes
4 sweet onions quartered
2 large sweet peppers
1 pineapple
1 whole garlic bulb
bunch of fresh oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
4 teaspoons sea salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar

I baked this for about 30-45 mins at 400 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes or so.  I would have preferred fresh cilantro, but didn’t have any on hand, so that is omitted.  Blitz in blender until a salsa texture is achieved.  Refrigerate, or can for the winter!  This made 2 quarts and 5 pints of salsa.  (If I remember correctly)

The tomato sauce is just tomatoes, onions, garlic and sea salt roasted in the same way, then blitzed in the blender to a rough chop/puree.

Summertime Tomatoes

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Sweet Summer

Since school is beginning very soon, I thought now would be a good time to do a quick overview of our summer so far.  It’s been delightful to say the least!  June started out with a half marathon, which I completed with two friends.  It was much harder than anticipated, but I finished and was thankful for the challenge!June 2015 phone photos
July was full of some sickness, but was trumped by the ocean, soccer camp, girls’ camp, wrestling camp, and family time.
July 2015
So far, August has been beautiful.  Our dear friends came to visit us from Ohio.  Ruthie and I go all the way back to age ten.  Lots of front porch talks, a trip to the beach, and seeing our kids play with each other was such a joy.  The garden is bursting with color.  Matthew made the girls’ room a lot more fun by hanging their bed from the ceiling.  It is only accessible via a ladder and monkey bars.  Notice, my oldest daughter has to bend over a bit to look like the same height as her mother.  Matthew is doing marvelously well health-wise.  More on that later.
August 2015
God has been so faithful and good to us.  Summer isn’t over yet, and it’s been grand so far.

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Cleared For Take-Off

Since it’s almost been a month since we went down to North Carolina, I thought it was high time to get my pictures together from our trip.  Oceanus did well driving down there.  We missed one exit, which gave us an extra long and lovely drive.  We even touched into Tennessee, which was unexpected.

A few of the highlights of our time with my brother and his family was of course seeing them, and also touring the airport where he works and serves missionary candidates.  The ministry he helped to found is called Compass Aviation, and its goal is to give training and experience to pilots and mechanics who are wanting to serve on the foreign mission field.  Please, check out their website to learn more and pray about how God can use YOU to get planes flying and pilots and mechanics to their destination.  Here is my amazing brother:
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It was an honor to hang out with my super-cool nephew (who is also a pilot and mechanic).  I watched this young man grow from babyhood on up, and I am thrilled to see him going on strong for the Lord.
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One evening, we all headed to the airport for some plane rides.  Betty had never been, and was the most excited to fly.
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John let Elijah talk over the radio and even let him fly for a bit:
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Funny story: when I was in the plane with Elijah & Betty, my brother did a CRAZY swoop during take-off which made all of us scream SO loudly.  It was fabulous.  Betty loved every second, the thrill-seeker that she is.DSC_7347 2015-05-29 20.14.11
She loved it so much, in fact, that this is what she did for most of the time she wasn’t in the airplane:
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The evening was filled with beauty and joy and an immense amount of fun.
On Saturday, we celebrated Aaron’s graduation from High School.  It was one of the most blessing-filled ceremonies I have ever attended.  My brother and sister-in-law homeschooled him, and did a fine job indeed.  Our whole family was very inspired.
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So proud of you, Aaron!  “You are now cleared for take-off!”
It was hard to drive away from our Southern family, but our memories with them are incredibly sweet.  I am beyond words of thankfulness for the blessing of our family and all its extensions.  At a rest stop on the way home, we stopped to stretch.
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Excited to see where these kids will fly in life.


I Just Want A Yes

One thing which bothers me is when one of my children asks me for  a snack as I’m cooking dinner.  About a week ago, my littlest was doing just that.  As I looked at her and firmly told her, “No,” she sat down on the floor, tucked her head in between her knees and cried dramatically: “But I just want a yes!”  The outburst stopped me in my tracks.  It almost felt like her words were being interpreted from my own heart’s silent prayer to my Heavenly Father.  I just want a yes.

This week was a rough one for me.  That same particular little girl started having a fever and alarmingly swollen lymph nodes, warranting a doctor’s visit and a round of blood-work.  2015-06-01 14.07.46
Thankfully, the blood-work came back normal, but the next day she developed a scary-looking rash on her forehead/scalp area.  To make a long story short, 3 doctor visits later and an incredibly high temp of 105 at one point… she was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease.  Lyme’s is a tick borne disease and nothing to take lightly.2015-06-05 13.03.17-1
This was the point where I began to ask others to pray for us.  It was going on five days of constant fever, and Thursday night she was unable to walk up the stairs or move her leg from standing to sitting.  She hadn’t really complained yet, despite how wretched she felt, so when she started to cry about her leg hurting so badly, I knew she was in a lot of pain.  God promises us tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer. (James 5:16)  I just wanted a yes, but realized God wouldn’t change in any way if He said no.2015-06-05 19.00.04-1
We went to bed Thursday night, the only difference being we were completely surrounded by the prayers of so many.  It was like a thick blanket or wall, surrounding her on all sides throughout the entire night.  It was palpable.  On Friday morning, I woke up to a sweet, smiling face in my bed.  She had climbed up without any pain or problem and said, “Look at my ear!” (which is where the rash had started).  It was completely normal, and there was no rash anywhere.  Her fever was gone completely.  She was smiling.  I’m so thankful He said, “Yes!”
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The night before, I had told the Lord again that she was His.  I am convinced of God’s goodness and faithfulness not because of what He will or will not do in my life, but because of Who He is.  We can not sit on the floor and scream: I just want a yes!  If we interpret what He does based on what we think is good, or what we think He should do, we misinterpret His character.  Our definition of good is limited by time and space and is tainted by our own selfishness.  We can’t see the big picture. Just because I told Betty “no” to having a snack, didn’t equate me as a bad mom.  In fact, I said no because there was something even better just ahead if she would just trust me and wait for it.  God always acts in accordance with His character and not just according to what we think is good.  Having Him take one of my children is something so difficult that I can not even begin to imagine or even dwell on it for one second because of the ache it produces in my heart.  However, I was swiftly reminded this week that everything God has given to us can be taken in an instant.  Yet, no matter what, God does not change in His goodness, His faithfulness, or His nearness.

Jesus said in John 14:27- I leave behind with you- peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world.  You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted.  This verse popped up twice on Thursday.  Once, on a crumpled piece of paper that survived an entire heavy duty whirl in the washing machine.  (When does paper ever survive a wash?)  God knew I needed to hear from Him and be reminded that circumstances don’t change His gift of peace.
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The scariness of the situation didn’t shift the truth of God’s nearness.  I also read this reminder: Never forget the nearness of your Lord...He is right here with me.  Don’t worry over anything whatever. Whenever you pray, tell God every detail of your reeds in thankful prayer, and the peace of God…that peace He knew we so desperately needed, so He left it with us when He went back to Heaven… Which surpasses human understanding… if you’ve experienced it, you know it…  Will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.  This peace doesn’t come and go, but is like a sentry over our hearts and minds: keeping worry out and keeping peace in, so we can rest.

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2 Months, 1 Amazing Guy, 5 Kids, 1 Rabbit, and 22 Bobby-pins

We stood on the edge of the woods, arms around each other and Nadine started to quietly sing: “Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey, hey, hey, good-bye.”  Matthew and I hugged her close and sang along, our mournful song stretching past the trees and into the May evening with respect and emotion.  A pile of stones marks his grave, as this week we said goodbye to our first pet.  Toby was Nadine’s rabbit, and she loved and trained him well.  I will miss watching her train him on the front porch and take him for walks around the block on his little leash.  The words sharpie-d onto his grave-stone say it all:
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On a happier note, our school-year is done. We are schooling all year, which basically means we are taking a short break before starting again!  This allows for longer breaks during Christmas-time and the dreaded February blues.  Today I have an incredibly special place to school-plan.  While Matthew works on a side job, this is my view:
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I do not take this for granted and have spent most of my morning in awe of the fact that there is no one needing me.  In fact, I even managed to go to the bathroom without anyone yelling, “MOM!”  Because as every mother knows, the time when every child all of a sudden urgently needs them, is the moment the bathroom door closes.
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In the past few months of non-writing, there are mounds of funnies jotted into my phone’s notebook, along with lots of pictures.  Our spring has been full of gardening, school, organizing, and purging.  Recently, we’ve been going room-by-room throughout the house and deep-cleaning every nook and cranny.  This is useful for two things: to get rid of what is not needed, and to find lost things.  I don’t know about you, but there are a few items in our home which notoriously get lost throughout the year:  bobby-pins, scissors, pencils, pens, hair-ties, hair-brushes, and socks.  There is a small list of things of more value and meaning which have also gone missing, and this was another reason for the deep-cleaning.  Unfortunately, those things still haven’t been found, but we do have a FULL jar of pencils, pens, and scissors again.  As well as this nice array of 22 bobby-pins confiscated from one room alone:

My  heart is so full of thankfulness for the five amazing gifts God has given to us.  They bless our lives more than words or pictures can express.  But I will try to express it anyway.
Nadine has such a huge heart.  This was shown so clearly this week when she lost Toby.  How she carried him bravely from the accident and stayed with him and didn’t shy away from showing her grief.  She has been babysitting and absolutely loves kids.  Her passion for horses has not been abated, and she loves to spend her free time writing letters to her amazing friends.  She is keeping alive the art of creating home-made envelopes and giving the post office lots of service!  She holds the highest record on “bop-it”, which is like a concentration game: 250.  I think my record is 21.  She sang her first solo and did a beautiful job at their end-of-school play.  She is a strong girl, and loves to arm wrestle.  I love how she cleans up the kitchen at night for me, when I’m feeling like toast.  Her energy is exactly what I need sometimes.
May 2015 phone photos
Elijah is growing up, like boys do.  Our recent trip to the Franklin Institute to see the “Art of the Brick” Lego display was pretty epic.  He and Jack have been building all sorts of things in their spare time, making guns that shoot legos, and vending machines that actually work.  It is beyond me.  He is often my side-kick in the kitchen.  He recently made some chicken curry that was pretty bombdiggity.  He did a great job a couple weeks ago, helping Matthew at our church to teach a lesson about lying.  He has a gift for music and I absolutely love listening to him jam on the guitar.  It is his new passion, and he brings us great joy to hear him play and sing.
May 2015 phone photos1
Jack finished up his year of wrestling, turned 9, and all sorts of other momentous things in April.  At the kids’ end-of-the-year school celebration with their co-op, they performed a musical called, “Rats”.  Jack was one of the rats, and I learned something I never knew about him before: that boy can act!  He was not afraid on the stage, and he actually hammed it up quite a bit.  He is fearless on his bike, which is sometimes not a good thing.  He loves to hold hands, and can give the best shoulder massages.  When I think of Jack, I think of a strong, tame, hug-gable tiger.
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Elsie is a fearless, yet at times, shy girl.  She has the most beautiful singing voice, and the ability to pick up songs on the piano naturally.  She did a great job at the end-of-the-year play as well.  When she has two wheels under her, she becomes very bold.  The other day our family went to the skate park together and she was the only girl in the entire park, fearlessly rollerblading between some crazy fast boys on jumps.  She prefers to be outside, and has the best imagination.  Her end-of-the-year science experiment with flowers and colored water worked out well, and it was fun watch the flowers turn into different colors.  She turned 7, got glasses, and seemed to grow up all in a matter of months.
April 2015
Betty, who is four (which really means “I’m almost five”), tops our charts with hilarity.  She adores school, her yellow crocs, and being a part of everything.  Like when the kids were all playing “Truth or Dare” in the car.  She piped up: “Truth or dare?  Truth is, I dare you to jump out of the window!”  Elijah calmly answered, “Betty, I’m not going to jump out the window.”  She probably crossed her eyes, which is something she does a lot of right now when she’s annoyed.  She recently learned how to ride a bike without training wheels, had her first three-legged race, and a host of other firsts that come with being under the age of five.  She tells stories which go on for many minutes.  The most recent one she told started off like this: “Long ago, when I was three…”  She loves “noodle” cookies (snickerdoodles) and “reading”.  When we were gardening last week she exclaimed, “There’s a lot of bees in this village!” I must have said, “Sweetheart” to her at some point because she looked at me with a dead-pan face (as she always looks when she says things that crack us up) and said, “Sweetheart?!   Why do you always call me sweetheart?”  I was so taken aback, I wasn’t sure how to respond!  April 2015 phone photos4
Another highlight of our spring was saying hello again to my parents who recently just arrived back from Africa.  It was fun house-sitting for them,  but much more fun having them back again.  You can read all about their trip here.

Meeting our international travelers at the airport.  I love hellos!

Meeting our international travelers at the airport. I love hellos!

Matthew has been doing pretty well.  I don’t think I could be more thankful for him than I am right now, although I know tomorrow it will be more, because that’s how love is.  It grows with time.  And though we’re not old, we’re older than we were, and I have time on my side to say without a doubt: It just gets better.
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Grain-Free Vanilla Maple Granola

After being dumped on with snow, I have this craving to turn on the oven.  One of our favorite snacks or breakfast food is grain-free granola.  The smell is homey as it crisps up in the oven.  This does take some forethought, and requires planning ahead.  Here are the steps to making this delicious treat.

A stunning shot as I was driving yesterday.

A stunning shot as I was driving yesterday.

Step One: Soak your nuts!  The outside of a nut is coated in anti-nutrients.  In nature, this outer layer of toxic substance keeps the nuts (and legumes and seeds) from pesky critters, bacteria, fungi, and the like from killing the plant.  Once harvested, this coating allows the nuts to be stored for a very long time without turning rancid or moldy.  The most known anti-nutrient found in grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes is phytic acid.  Phytic acid binds to minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper.  So when you eat something which has not been properly soaked to remove this toxin, these minerals get flushed right out of your body without being absorbed in your gut, which in turn leads to mineral deficiencies.  By soaking, you break down the phytic acid which leads to better absorption and digestion.  Nuts also have enzyme inhibitors.  These are handy in keeping the nuts from sprouting prematurely.  However, they also inhibit our bodies from properly digesting nuts (and seeds and legumes, by the way.)  When you soak nuts, these inhibitors are neutralized and unlock all of the fantastic enzymes to do their job and help our gut by aiding in the digestion process.  I read this excellent article which goes into more detail about the why behind soaking.  Bottom line: don’t skip it!2015-03-07 13.10.05
Step Two: Dehydrate the nuts.  This is best done in a dehydrator for about 8-20 hrs, until nice and crunchy and no longer chewy.  I’ve done this in the oven at the lowest temperature, which is not ideal, as the temperature really shouldn’t go above 150 degrees.  Plus, I rarely don’t need my oven for 24 hours.

Step Three: Make the granola. Pulse the nuts in a food processor or Vitamix, then toss with ingredients.2015-03-07 12.05.27
Step Four: Bake.  Line mixture on parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, stir, and bake for another 10 minutes.
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Step Five: Store and enjoy!
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Grain-Free Vanilla Maple Granola


4 cups of pre-soaked and dehydrated nuts
3 T melted coconut oil
3/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey
1 t sea salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup sunflower/sesame seeds
Get creative with your ingredients!  I’m not exact with anything when it comes to most things culinary, so this recipe is approximate and can be tweaked to your liking.  More/less sweet, more/less nutty, etc.

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Halfway To Seventy

Every time March rolls around, I get very excited.  I love birthdays and am not afraid of them.  I am now officially halfway to seventy:
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Today we got a foot of snow for my birthday.  It was PILES of fun, and I’m thankful Matthew was able to work from home!  This week was full of surprises.  It began with an early birthday cake, made especially by our cousin, who owns The Master’s Baker.  Seeing as though we didn’t even have a wedding cake, this was my first experience at receiving a professional custom-made cake.  Isn’t it gorgeous?
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Since winter is here and all, we decided we would take it by the hand and have fun with it.  My next surprise was a night away with everyone at Bear Creek mountain resort, for our very first family skiing adventure!  2015-03-02 20.20.03-2
The last time I went skiing was on my 19th birthday.  My best friend, Rebecca, was giving me clues on what to do to prepare for this epic surprise she had planned with my sister.  She told me things like, “Make sure you shave your legs,” and “Dress nice!”  When my birthday rolled around, they blindfolded me and brought me downstairs to the kitchen where I was met by Matthew, his brother, and Rebecca’s brothers.  Matthew handed me my “treasure map” to the surprise: a map of the ski place we would be going to that day!  I laughed and said, “Good thing I shaved my legs!” before running  back upstairs to change.  It was a great memory.  That may have been the time I kept skiing backwards and couldn’t figure out how to turn myself back around, which only came in handy when I wanted to wave at people as I passed them.  It also may have been the time I accidentally went down a black diamond, without knowing how to slow down at all.  I do remember flying past Matthew, and truly hoping I would make it down to the bottom in one piece.

Funny how time telescopes when you find yourself in the exact place you have been in the past.  I wasn’t skiing backwards or even down a black diamond.  Yet all of a sudden I felt the same freedom mingled with danger, and I was 19 again.  Except when I fell.  Then the nostalgia went poof like the snow in which I landed, and I was definitely thirty-five.  And I definitely had five people I had birthed from my body, sharing the ever-expanding niches of my heart.  I don’t remember what it is like to be completely separate from those feelings of mother-love.  To do anything apart from my mind, body and soul being so deeply connected with another human being.  I would rather be halfway to seventy and not remember what it’s like to be independent of those feelings, than be nineteen and have no idea what I’m missing.  And as exhausting as motherhood can be, it’s even more exhilarating than that.

My breath caught more times than just when the wind whipped my face.  As I skied next to Elsie while she zipped to the bottom of a hill, red cheeks, one strand of hair constantly falling out of her hat and helmet,  I smiled at her bravery.  She went from being scared to death to go down the hill, to falling, to dusting herself off and saying, “Let’s do it again!”    It caught when I saw Nadine gracefully maneuvering the snowy hills, her tall self looking so beautiful.  She was so helpful with Betty, both on the slopes and the night before, when we had supper together.
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She’s a wonderful big sister.  So is Elsie, who is also not afraid to perform interpretive dance in the middle of a restaurant in pj’s and socks.
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I laughed at Elijah, my crazy, creative boy, who thought to video himself while he skied and then simultaneously wiped out at the bottom.
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I found it hard to breath as I watched Jack plow recklessly and fearlessly down hills and over jumps, creating a puff of snow when he fell.
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He wore his t-shirt around his face for most of the day.
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I found it especially hard to believe my baby bear is growing up enough to have a ski day of her own.  She absolutely loved it when Matthew held her waist all the way down the hill.  I almost cried when her little voice called down to me from the ski lift and she waved her little mitten hand and went higher and farther away from me.  When her daddy was not able to ski with her, this is what she thought about the whole idea:
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Yes, this is her “I’m-happy-and-I-know-it-but-just-not-about-skiing” face.

Our day ended abruptly when I got a call on my phone, just as I had sat down in the lodge with Nadine and Betty and a hot cup of tea.  It was Matthew, and he said Elsie had fallen getting off the ski lift and he wasn’t sure if her arm was broken.  My throat had a lump in it when I saw the snowmobile with a red cross on it make its way to the ski patrol, a tiny bundle on its sled.  I told Nadine to pray and then ran over to meet Matthew.  This darling little thing was getting checked out, and we still weren’t sure about her condition.  After a lollipop, an ice-cream bar, and many attempts by the sweet ski patrol medics to get her to smile, Matthew got the rest of the crew packed up and we left.  I experienced one of the most frightening and harrowing drives through ice and sleet and snow, but made it to the hospital near our house.  Long, happy story short: her arm is not broken!  We are so grateful to God.
March 2015 phone photos
When Matthew and I collapsed into bed, he sighed, “That was the best day ever.”

I would have to agree.  And this time, I didn’t even have to shave my legs.


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