Friday, July 29, 2011

Difficulties of the Ministry - Intimacy with Christ

Sunset over the Lamar River Valley

I came across this letter by John Newton written to his friend Mr. C in "Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings".  It is so applicable to my life and the lives of so many others that I thought I would post it.  If you are experiencing trials in living for an audience of One, take courage!  May you be blessed by this as I was.

  "I can sympathize with you in your troubles; yet, knowing the nature of our calling, that, by an unalterable appointment, the way to the kingdom lies through many tribulations, I ought to rejoice, rather than otherwise, that to you it is given, not only to believe, but also to suffer. If you escaped these things, whereof all the Lord's children are partakers, might not you question your adoption into his family? How could the power of grace be manifest, either to you, in you, or by you, without afflictions? How could the corruptions and devastations of the heart be checked without a cross? How could you acquire a tenderness and skill in speaking to them that are weary, without a taste of such trials as they also meet with? You could only be a hearsay witness to the truth, power, and sweetness of the precious promises, unless you have been in such a situation as to need them, and to find their suitableness and sufficiency. The Lord has given you a good desire to serve him in the Gospel, and he is now training you for that service. Many things, yea, the most important things, belonging to the Gospel ministry, are not to be learned by books and study, but by painful experience. You must expect a variety of exercises; but two things he has promised you,—that you shall not be tried above what he will enable you to bear, and that all shall work together for your good.
"We read somewhere of a conceited orator, who declaimed upon the management of war in the presence of Hannibal, and of the contempt with which Hannibal treated his performance. He deserved it; for how should a man who had never seen a field of battle be a competent judge of such a subject? Just so, were we to acquire no other knowledge of the Christian warfare than what we could derive from cool and undisturbed study, instead of coming forth as able ministers of the New Testament, and competently acquainted with the ta nohmata, with the devices, the deep-laid counsels and stratagems of Satan, we should prove but mere declaimers. But the Lord will take better care of those whom he loves and designs to honour. He will try, and permit them to be tried, in various ways. He will make them feel much in themselves, that they may know how to feel much for others, according to that beautiful and expressive line, Haud ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco. (Not ignorance of evil things, but suffering teaches me to succor.)

"And as this previous discipline is necessary to enable us to take the field in a public capacity with courage, wisdom, and success, that we may lead and animate others in the fight, it is equally necessary for our own sakes, that we may obtain and preserve the grace of humility, which I perceive with pleasure he has taught you to set a high value upon. Indeed, we cannot value it too highly; for we can be neither comfortable, safe, nor habitually useful, without it. The root of pride lies deep in our fallen nature, and, where the Lord has given natural and acquired abilities, it would grow apace, if he did not mercifully watch over us, and suit his dispensations to keep it down. Therefore I trust he will make you willing to endure hardships, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. May he enable you to behold him with faith holding out the prize, and saying to you, Fear none of those things that thou shalt suffer; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

"We sail upon a turbulent and tumultuous sea; but we are embarked on a good bottom, and in a good cause, and we have an infallible and almighty Pilot, who has the winds and weather at his command, and can silence the storm into a calm with a word whenever he pleases. We may be persecuted, but we shall not be forsaken; we may be cast down, but we cannot be destroyed. Many will thrust sore at us that we may fall, but the Lord will be our stay."

- John Newton
Written January 16, 1775

Found here: http://www.puritansermons.com/newton/Newt_k1.htm

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So Blessed!

I'm 27 today.  Thinking about what God has brought me through and where He has me now, I can only thank Him.  I've been so blessed.  I don't have time to count the blessings He has given me but here are a few:

 My mountain home;

My rugged, godly, loving, leader, etc. etc. husband;

 My sweet, spunky girl;

My fun, cutey-patootey, son;

 The wonder of each day;

 Hand-me-down sunglasses (hehehehe);

My constant, loving and inspiring family;

My ever-widening circle of friends;

And God's grace through it all.

Thanks you to everyone that is part of my life!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chocolate Truffle Frosting

My birthday is tomorrow.  In honor of myself (hehe), I decided to make a chocolate cake for potluck last night.  This ensures that other people would eat part of it and I wouldn't become a glutenous, birthday girl blob.  I used a basic chocolate cake recipe and then made the amazing frosting I had discovered in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook about a year ago.  Seeing the words "truffle" and "frosting" together said "yummy" in my mind.  I'm such a sucker for sugar.  I try to be a health foodie but it's just not who I was made to be.  So here's how to make it (and please excuse my pathetic food photography!).


You will need:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces
1 tsp vanilla
 
Combine the whipping cream and corn syrup in a saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until it begins to simmer.  Remove from heat.

Stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla until completely melted.

This is what it will look like.  Let it get completely cool.  I put it in the fridge to speed things up, but sitting on the counter it takes about 1 1/2 hours.

And so this is what happened: everyone arrived for potluck but they came to our house instead of the church sanctuary because it is all set up for VBS and we didn't want to ruin any of the New York City decorations.  Then I had to quickly beat the frosting with a mixer, which becomes much lighter and fluffier - almost the consistency of whipped cream - then spread it on the cake really fast because I had ten extra people in my house and a whiny toddler hugging my knees and I forgot all about picture taking. Then we ate 3/4 of the cake and I didn't get any pictures because it was that good and we were busy talking about the minor prophets.  But anyway, your supposed to beat it, and then spread it, and it will cool in awesome, fluffy-looking peaks all over the cake!  You can see the fluffy peaks here.

 And it's really yummy even if I didn't take pictures of the whole process.

So enjoy!  Maybe you can make a cake tomorrow to celebrate my birthday in case you needed an excuse ;-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Washin'

I've got to say, I never really realized how utterly disgusting regular laundry detergent was until I began to use cloth diapers.  It leaves a heavy residue of artificial fragrance, brighteners and dyes which becomes very noticeable when you put it on thick cotton diapers.  It produces a build up of ammonia that will smell horrific and suddenly makes my baby's tiny bum look burned by the nasty, blecky, gross, icky residue.  Sorry, I'm getting a little dramatic there.  We used regular detergent once we moved because everything (including detergent, silly me) was packed.  Going back to regular detergent I realized primarily two things 1) that I was far more sensitive to the smell of artificial fragrance - I didn't like it and 2) Brandt's skin became much dryer and even flaky where his clothes brushed him most, like the inside of his legs and arm pits.  Also, my cloth diapers went through about five wash cycles with regular detergent and, boy, did I pay the penalty in STINK.  Besides the noticeable differences, all those nasty detergent chemicals were going into the water system which someone will eventually end up drinking.  So, all this to say, I strongly encourage using natural cleaners.  Here's my little system!


The line up of champions!


I've used all kinds of detergent/soaps: the fragrance free, the additive free, the "natural".  I've made my own with washing soda and soap.  I've even used soap nuts (really interesting).  But I come back to Charlie's every time.  It's natural.  It's scentless.  It leaves no residue.  It's pretty cheap.  It only takes a Tablespoon.  I can be lazy and not make it.  And oh, it gets things sparkling clean!  I love Charlie's Soap.  It's 25% off here.  I wash all my clothes in cold water (except my diapers) and Charlie's dissolves beautifully, unlike many powdered detergents.


Baking soda is so cheap and basic but it's magic!  I can't believe all the uses it has!  In my laundry, I primarily use it for stinky laundry or super dirty loads.  If there has been a potty accident, if my towels are smelling less than fresh, or if we've had a campfire, I toss in a good 1/4 cup of baking soda with my detergent.  It also whitens and brightens if things are looking a tad on the dingy side.  I don't use it regularly because it can be slightly abrasive and I don't want to put added wear on my clothing. 


Vinegar!  Again, so cheap and basic but absolutely the champion in my cleaning arsenal.  I use a vinegar solution for all my household cleaning.  Adding a good glug (a 1/4 cup, maybe?) of vinegar to your rinse will make clothes much softer and fluffier.  I'm usually far to oblivious to notice when the rinse cycle starts, so I will add it with the detergent.  It still does a pretty decent job that way.  Vinegar is antibacterial so I like to do a vinegar rinse cycle with my diapers before the wash cycle.


Tea tree oil is rather expensive so I don't use it regularly.  I will occasionally add 2-3 drops in my diapers and towels if I have been unable to sun dry them for an extended period.  Tea tree oil is an anti-fungal and adds a nice, fresh scent.

THE SUN!!!!!

One of the best things I have found for any laundry is line drying.  It gives a fresh scent, neatly presses your clothes, and it's FREE!  If you use vinegar as a softener, your clothes won't be stiff.  Also, the sun is the best all-natural remover for stains and bacteria. 

*********

This is my washin' system! What do you use?  Any tips?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moose Are Strange

We had literally just driven up to our new home here in Cooke City, when a family of tourists drove into the church parking lot to look for a moose.  Our home overlooks "Moose Meadow" which is full of dense willows, the food of choice for a moose.  It is one of the best places to spot a moose in the Yellowstone region.  So, we've seen a couple moose around here.  We'd probably see more moose if we'd buy a salt block and place it on the post they all come and lick wistfully.  We will, we just haven't gotten around to it yet.

I have some observations on moose and I will share them with you.  First, moose ladies are pretty.  I feel I should call them something more feminine than a "cow" because look at her!  Those eyes are Maybelline material!  Maybe, a moosette?  


But then she turns and - whoa!  What is that NOSE??  It's like she tried to be an elephant and failed!  What's interesting is when they make - you know that horse-like noise? when they blow air out their nostrils? and then their nose shakes all over the place.  Very, very weird.


Uh-oh.  Now she's looking a little feisty.  Moose are notorious for their bad attitude.  Many locals are more wary of a mama moose than they are of a grizzly.  I would never, ever, ever want to tangle with one of these on a cranky streak.  In case you're wondering, if a moose charges you - run like crazy.  If they catch up to you, curl up and protect your head.  I hope you don't ever have to use that information, but the way I see some folks acting around moose...I'm going to spread the word.  But first I'll spread this word:

For goodness sake, don't ever crowd the moose!

"Whatchya sayin' bout my nose, punk?"

But then, then, my friend, take a gander at that thing hanging from her neck.  What is that??  It's technical term is a "bell" (I think) but what purpose does it serve?  I don't know.  It will be one of my questions to ask in heaven. 

"It's just for pretties!"

I might also point out that moose are, shall we say, slightly disproportionate?  They have a hump above their shoulders that makes them look kind of unbalanced.  I've heard that the muscle in that hump helps them in moving through the snow and water on their extremely long legs.  Seeing that hump above the willows,  it can really look like a grizzly at first glance.


This is a boy moose, a "bull", although you can't see his antlers to well.  Right now, they are covered in velvet which is nourishing the cartilage forming into antlers.  These antlers will really impress the ladies, beat up the competition for the ladies, and then fall off this winter into the snow where I will then find them (I hope).  Antlers are grown and shed each year and are usually only seen on the male of the species.  This is different than horns which are a permanent part of the body and are seen in both male and female of the species.  So moose have antlers, not horns. This man-moose is also displaying the super long legs I was talking about.

"I am lookin' goooood."

Baby moose, called "calves", are pretty adorable in the awkward-yet-somehow-graceful way of a baby horse.  Their eyes are so precious.  This little guy loves to romp around our back yard.  Ain't he sweet?


So there you have it.  It's pretty obvious that only a brilliant Creator could have thought up these creatures.  They are quite the specimen in the creative department.  Now you know everything you've ever wanted to know about a moose.  They are like a cantankerous horse with a wonky nose, long legs, a hump, an inexplicable "bell" hanging off their neck, they eat the willows in my yard and the males have antlers (not horns).    It's probably just easier to think of them as a moose


Or...a moosette.  Gracious, have you spoken with Latisse, ma'am?  
They might need another model.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Denial

She says she isn't sleepy when bedtime rolls around.  She says wolves and bears will eat her unless she lies down on Mommy's bed and if Mommy says "no" then Mommy isn't sharing and that's mean.  But she isn't going to sleep, anyway, just read her book.  She'll be on Mommy and Daddy's bed but Daddy will move her later and that's okay because then she will keep Brandt company.  And maybe the door shouldn't be closed all the way, maybe just half way.  Tuck-in time must be done but she really isn't sleepy, she will just lie down and rest for a little while.


 But she isn't going to sleep.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Much-needed Reminder

I read this wonderful post by Rachel Jankovic on the Desiring God website. May you be blessed as I was!!!


Ol' Friends

Yesterday we drove (and drove and drove and...) to Jackson, WY.  It took a while because we had to drive through Yellowstone and the Teton National Parks the whole way through.  It's a crying shame I have to live in such an ugly part of the world.  You should feel sorry for me.

We met up with our friends Nick and Julie along with their cherubic-angle-pixie baby, Hope. 


She alone made the drive totally worth it.


Julie and I were friends in college.  She didn't like me at first (maybe-perhaps having to do with a certain older brother of her's maybe-perhaps liking me a little) but once that ended, she and I realized we were meant to be friends.  We have so many amazing memories together involving ice cream, running, hysterical laughter and some pretty tough trials as well.  

We connected in such a different time of life but God has brought us to similar paths now with husbands and babies.  It was wonderful to see her (and Nick) again after over two years.


 

And it was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Hope!
(Isn't she just delicious???)


I'm glad we got to see the Tetons again, too.  
Especially after our last visit.


God continues to amaze me in so many ways!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strawberry Avocado Smoothie


If you have never thought of using an avocado in your smoothie for extra creaminess, I am here to enlighten you!  I had my first avocado smoothie in Ethiopia and while I wouldn't exactly recommend it straight up blended with sugar like my first one, the texture is way better than the traditional banana, not to mention that the health benefits are fabulous! 

This is what I whipped up today for lunch.  The measurements are approximate since I tend to just throw things in the blender until they look right.  Tweak it all you like!


1/2 medium avocado

10 hulled strawberries

1/4 cup plain yogurt

4 ice cubes

1 Tbs maple syrup


Blend 'til smooth and enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Man-oh

Brandt decided that taking an afternoon nap wasn't on his schedule.  Charissa was asleep and Doug was gone; so instead of wrestling him into a nap, we hung out for a while on the porch.  He is such a busy, adventurous and goofy little guy.  


We've hardly heard one word from him although "Mama" is a mainstay and "Daddy" is heard on occasion.  Sign language happens every once in a while but it usually involves Charissa showing him how, then he grins and looks at me like, "what she said, Mom!"  It usually works.


Yelling into a cup or yelling in general is his preferred form of communication.  He has started to throw the most hysterical temper fits which involve flopping full length on the ground while moaning and screeching.  He'll pick himself off the ground, look to see it he's accomplished anything and then flop down to repeat.  

This usually results in my trying to stifle helpless giggling. 

Don't be like me.


 I say, "Smile Brandt" and this is what he does, the lil' cheeseball.



 I could just eat him up.




Brandt's easy-going personality certainly lends itself to being a far more laid back parent, (despite his tendency to land on his head every 8.7 seconds).  All the change he's gone through in the past few months has hardly phased him and to that I give a hearty "Praise the LORD!"


It's amazing to see the blossoming personality gifted to my little man.

I love being his "Mama".

Bumps, bruises, temper fits and banana kisses all included.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Honoring

This might not come out clearly but I feel I should preface this saying that sometimes I haven't exactly been a willing candidate and I'm not telling this to toot my horn.  While Doug was reading this over I jokingly said he will probably refer me back to this posting on numerous occasions.  BUT, I feel compelled to share this since I have been so blessed through it.  I hope you will be inspired to do the same.  And so with that...

I was blessed to marry a man who happens to be a dreamer.  I think most men are - and I love it.  But I think being married to a dreamer can also be a test of my trust, not in my husband, but fully in the Lord and what He has called me to do as a wife. 

In 2008 my baby girl was born.  We lived 20 minutes from my family and 45 minutes from Doug's family.  There was a panoramic view of 14,000' peaks from my front porch and I had a lovely established patch of asparagus growing in my front yard.  But Doug wanted to move to Oklahoma to start a construction business. 

Now I'll be honest, when I pictured Oklahoma I saw a flat and barren prairie with the "wind sweeping through the plains."  I loved my mountains.  I loved my family.  But I loved my husband more.  And I saw the light in his eyes when he talked about a business of his own. 

So a few days after our parent's one and only grandbaby turned 6 months old, we packed her and all our earthly belongings and moved to a little rental house in Perry, Oklahoma.  I cried.  A lot.  Charissa screamed all night for a whole week and if she did go to sleep, the train a few blocks away woke her up. 

But God was faithful.  He honored my honoring my husband. 

He blessed me with a fantastic group of friends.  He allowed us to purchase our first home on a lovely 5 acre lot.  I got a dog and a cat and a garden.  My baby boy was born in that home - a dream come true.  We had a pond to fish in, a wonderful church family, and a Braum's with the best ice cream ever.  But God was moving in Doug's heart.  He was feeling pulled in the direction of full-time ministry and the opportunity just wasn't in Oklahoma.  He missed the mountains, the wildlife, snow.  I did too, but not to the extent he did.  So he began to apply to jobs.  Everywhere.  For over a year.  It was exhausting.  Time and time again, he wouldn't hear back and if he did it was a "thank you for applying but...".  During it all, I saw his desire and I knew it was the answer to my prayers that God would use him, no matter what he was doing or where he was.  God pulled my heart toward Doug's desires, too.

We put our home up on the market with no idea where we were going permanently.  It sold far quicker than we had imagined.  Our plans changed dramatically.  We packed up, said goodbye to our home and our dear friends.  We gave away our doggy.  We moved back to Colorado, near family, living with family.  Then the job search began again in earnest.  That dreaded job search I was so jaded about.  We expected to be in Colorado for at least a year.

We were there for a month.

When Doug came home glowing about this opportunity in Montana, I smiled politely and listened.  At first I had been excited about new jobs.  That was 2 years ago.  Then I didn't want to hear about them.  But after 2 years of searching, I'd just learned to smile and nod.

And then, he was asked for an interview.  

Now I was excited, don't get me wrong.  This position has so many things we had been looking for, it was almost unreal.  But honestly, I was pretty excited about living in Colorado for a year.  I'm very close to my family.  Seeing my children light up when they saw their "Nana and Papa" brought a little lump in my throat.  I loved it there. 

After our interview, Doug and I were discussing what we would say if, by the grace of God, we were accepted to this position.  Doug looked me in the eye and said, "If you don't want to go, Hannah, I can find a job around here and we can stay in Colorado.  I don't want to take you away from your family."

But it wasn't even a temptation.  Honestly.  I had seen God work all this out - the business closure, the sale of our home, the time here in Colorado, a job with Doug's heart desire.  I wasn't going to say no.  I might *think* I'd be happier staying, but if it meant Doug working another job just to put food on the table when we had an opportunity for him to use his gifts and passions, there was no way I would look him in the eye and tell him "no, I'm happier here."  There was no way.  Because honestly, I knew I wouldn't be happier.  God has called me as a wife.  Nowhere am I better serving God than when I am beside my husband supporting him in his God-given desires.  

God is faithful.  He honored my honoring my husband.

This home, this place, these people simply breathe God's love on me.  I can't tell you how happy I am.  I know there will be struggles, trials and difficulties.  That is only human.  I miss my family, but I'm spending eternity with them.  I know this is a temporary position and we'll be moving again in a couple years.  Sometimes I worry about where we're going and when.

Then I remember just how faithful God is.  It might not be in my timing, it might not be where I "want" to go.  But God is always faithful as He leads through my husband.  He has honored me as I honor the one He has given me.

If you are married, I pray you will see the blessings of putting your spouse's desires first.  If you aren't married, encourage married women in your life to honor their husbands.  Husband bashing is so prevalent in our culture.  The world tells us to voice our desires, to "know who you are" and not be "pushed around" by anyone.  Marriage is so much richer than that.  By honoring God's plan for marriage, we believe who God says He is, and the blessings are eternal.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cozy



I had organized all her toys into three nice bins.
She emptied every single one of her toys out of their bins and into an enormous heap in the middle of her room.  
She nearly caused her father to break his leg when he ran in the room to pick up her brother from his nap.
She said, "Why you scream, Mama?" when I stepped on them later.  Ouch.
She pitched a huge fit when I told her to pick up her toys.

But then I'm looking through my camera 
and see the picture Doug took of her that day.
And it makes the mess worth it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Just the Kids

I know that a certain Nana has recently been experiencing some serious grandbaby withdrawals and I have a feeling she's not alone.  I told the kids about this so they decided to tell you a bit about the past few days.  Enjoy!


Hi.  Dis is Charissa tawking to you.  A foo days ago (Saturday) we hiked up and up and up to dis pwace cawd "Cwazy Cweek".  It was willy, willy pwetty and der were WOTS of fwowers and I picked wots of dem. 


My fav-wit pawt was when I dot to throw wots of sticks into dah water.


Brandt here.  Yeah, Crazy Creek was pretty cool.  I gotta ride on Mama's back in this suh-weet backpack thing.  Everyone thinks I'm just "so cute" in it and all. 


I liked the water and how cold it was when we stood next to it but my favorite part?  We had a picnic, man.  And picnic means FOOD.  I'm all about the food.


Dis is Charissa.  Yestaday?  Daddy had to go and work at dah church in dah morning?  Mama wet us watch a MO-vie while she went and dot weddy for church!  It kept her nice and quiet for twenty minutes and dat was nice 'cause she can be willy noisy.


Yeah, Brandt again.  Later on Sunday we drove for like, ETERNITY (Mom said it was only around 2 hours but I think she meant 2 YEARS) through this place called Yellowstone and we saw buffalo and bears and elk 'n stuff.  We got out and hiked near Lake Yellowstone. 


My favorite part was when we went to this gym at the big resort there for a worship service.  This group of people from a place called Taiwan thought I was the best thing on earth and made me run and laugh and kept picking me up and kissing my cheeks.  That gym had some rocking acoustics, man!


I wuved to see aw dah buffalo and we saw dis bear but I wooked through dis wong "telescope" thingy and it wooked wike a willy little bear so I asked if I could see a big bear.  Mama said dah bear would be wots bigga if it was closer to me.  I called Wake Yewwostone "dah Ocean" and I dot to wun and wun awound.


Taday is cawd dah 4th of Ju-why.  We went and dah Firemen made us yummy food.  I wiked dah cupcakes dah best!


After I ate dah cupcake awe up, I went and played bean bag toss wif Daddy and I was willy good betaws I wearned jus how to do it!  Evwyone else twies to frow dem from so far away, dah siwwy-willys!


I was WILLY good at it!


Brandt again.  Yeah, the 4th and all, I liked it.  I sat on a lady's lap while Mom and Dad ate and she fed me pickles.  They are awesome, man!  Then I ate this cookie and it kept falling on the ground so it got properly seasoned with like, dirt and all which is my favorite way to eat anything.  I was studying Charissa's bean bag strategy pretty carefully so I can cream her next year.


So when we got home?  I walked from the suburban all the way to the house and only fell once!  I'm pretty amazing!


Wehww, dis is Charissa again.  We better go and take our naps so we can go eat hambuwgers and watch dah fireworks.  A man towd Daddy dat they are WILLY WILLY woud out here taws of dah "echos" fwum dah mountains.  I won't be scared betaws I will be awwwwww snuggly as a bug in my bwanket on Mama's wap!  Good-night my wittle muffins!


 Love,
Charissa and Brandt