Wednesday, March 28, 2012

oh, the things that come with spring

Spring has come early in the Tennessee Valley.  Much, much earlier than usual.  I acquired my first sunburn of the year nearly two and half weeks ago.  Considering that it is only March, I really didn't think preventive measures were quite necessary.  Apparently, I was wrong.

Around our house, as soon as the weather starts warming up (upper 40s and 50s) things really start hopping.  I suppose you could call it "outdoors spring cleaning and/or projects".  There are trees to be taken down, hauled off, chopped for firewood, and stacked, brush to be cleared away, repairs to be made, bushes to be rescued from the winter weeds, grass to be planted, roses to be pruned, mowing/edge trimming to be done, a garden to be plowed and planted, and this year we added a brand new project:

We now have a back yard fence!  It looks so nice!  I was so happy that Daddy decided to do it this year.   It's so nice to go out and have a back yard instead of an open field.  The ladies of the house have been dreaming over plant catalogues for years and now we have a contained area to put them in!  I'm so excited!

Now that the fence is up, the outdoor projects, with the exception of the garden, seem to be winding down and so I have been thinking about the indoor spring cleaning...  Not the most fun thing in the world, but it must be done, right ladies? 

But as we tackle the window cleaning, curtain washing, intensive dusting, shaking out, throwing out, and re-organizing, I am keeping one thing on my mind that makes it all seem a little less gruelling:

A nice reward for spring cleaning, wouldn't you say? ;)

Monday, March 26, 2012

kindle vs. the real deal

If you read the title of this post you have probably already guessed which side that I have taken in this argument.  Don't worry, I have no intentions of being a snob or belittling the wonderful world of technology and those who revel in it, I simply wish to explain my stance on the subject. 

Every time I have been forced to participate in this argument, I have found that the results are very similar to those that come about after a heated discussion about the film The Princess Bride:  You either love it or you hate it and not even a stampede of wild elephants will cause you to change your mind.  Don't laugh, you know it's true!!! 

While, I have never had a reason to actually dislike a Kindle or any other e-reader (I had never even held one in my hands until this weekend), I have always had a rather strong opinion on the subject.  However, this opinion has nothing to do with the Kindle itself.  I just have reasons why I personally don't want one.

I have trouble reading off a screen. 

It's true.  It doesn't matter if it's on a 60 inch plasma screen, it gives me a headache if I stay at it for a certain period of time.  Even with my new glasses, I just can't seem to stay at it for very long.  In addition to the headaches, I also can't seem to comprehend what I'm reading.  I see words and my eyes scan the screen, but I have to work very hard to focus so the words actually register.  Because of this, it takes me ten times longer to read off a screen rather than paper because I have to read and re-read and re-read small paragraphs until I finally "get it".  I even have to write my blog posts in short intervals.

There is just something special about holding a book in my hands.

Ever since I was a little girl, books have been some of my best friends.  If you could see my bedroom you would see that I am constantly surrounded by many, many friends.  I even take them places with me (which is why I carry such large bags).  Each one hold special memories for me and each has impacted me in a different and equally special way.

The other day, I took down my well worn copy of A Little Princess.  Just running my hand over the cover made my heart smile.  That small little book holds so many precious memories.  I remember sitting in Mama's lap as she read it to me, eagerly waiting for her to turn the pages and find out what would happen next.  As I got older, I remember carrying it a little basket down to the big oak tree by the barn.  I would sit there, beneath the constant downpour of acorns, and read for hours.   Suddenly, I became Sara Crewe, forced to live in the cold attic, mistreated and hungry.  Hot indignation would rise in my chest as Miss Minchin (whose first name just happened to be Amanda...) unjustly punished and humiliated Sara before the other girls.  But then, it was always replaced by a peaceful triumph as Sara repaid evil with good.  Just looking at the cover of this beloved book causes all of these memories and feelings to come rushing back.  Somehow, looking at a chunk of black or white plastic just doesn't have the same effect...

Some of my books have pages that have been stained with tears and some have flowers pressed in the pages.  There are some whose pages are brown and crackly around the edges.  This is because they had the misfortune of being in the direct path of one of my many coffee spills.  Sometimes I come across a book that has pages falling out of it or one that has lost it's cover.  It doesn't matter.  I love them despite their defects.

Why?  Because they are my friends.  They have sparked thoughts and emotions in my heart and I can hold them in my hands and treasure them as long as I live.  One day they will be in the hands of my children and grandchildren and in a way, they will be holding a piece of me.

On the other hand, an e-reader will one day be useless.  Like my papaw's eight track player or those giant "mobile phones" that mom used to carry.  Sure, they're still tucked away in the garage, but do they work or serve any purpose whatsoever?  Aside from making us kids laugh at their "Dark Age" technology, no.

I love the smell of books.

You know, that musty, earthy, book-y smell that smacks you in the face whenever you walk into a library.  I love it.  The smell of an e-reader when it gets overheated just isn't the same...

I love looking at books.

Isn't that just beautiful?

One of the arguments I've heard in favor of the Kindle is that "you can take a thousand books on a trip with you". 

My automatic response is, "Why in the world would you want or even need a thousand books on a trip?  No flight or road trip is that long.  Besides, you would need an approximately ten year vacation to get through them all.  That is, of course, assuming that you are an expert speed reader".

All sarcasm aside, I do think that it's cool to be able to carry around a library.  If you ever needed to look something up, it's right there at your fingertips.  Or if you were having a conversation with someone and wanted to quote a passage from a book, you could simply pull it up and read it rather than trying to remember it.  But personally, I'd rather take three or four books with me and come home to a beautiful library like the one in the picture above.  Of course, I don't have an in-home library as of yet, but one day...

I understand that many people absolutely love their Kindles and other e-readers and I respect that.  I also realize that in some instances, they can be very useful.  For all I know, I may even have one sometime in the future (the very distant, unforeseeable future).  But for now, my personal preference is printed, hard/paper backed, fragrant, taking up space that I don't have, real books.

Friday, March 23, 2012

fresh beginnings

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

on being home

If anyone ever tells you that staying at home is easy, they clearly have no idea what they are talking about.  While the decision itself may come easily to some, actually going through with it is another matter entirely.

It will never cease to amaze me the amount of derogatory comments people manage to come up with that are directed toward the home and the women who keep them.  It is almost as if the world believes that these women are somehow addled in the brain and therefore incapable of pulling themselves away from their homes and into a more "intelligent" existence.

On multiple occasions, I have attempted to engage in somewhat difficult, intellectual conversations only to have the other participants laughingly tell me to go back to the kitchen and bake them some cookies.  While I do enjoy working in the kitchen and many other chores that staying at home requires of me, I resent the fact that this is looked upon as a sign that I have no intellect nor purpose in the "real world".  Home is where God has put me and I do not believe it was so that I could languish into household drudge (whatever that is).

In choosing to stay at home, there are a lot of things that we are forced to deal with on a daily basis.  For me, the hardest has been the opinion of others.  I have always been what my mother calls, "a people pleaser".  As a child, I aquired the ability to transform myself into the person that other people wanted me to be, and when I just couldn't seem to measure up to someone's expectations, I was crushed.  By God's grace, I have learned to overcome this as I have gotten older, but it is still hard.  It's hard being looked at as strange.  It's hard to stay confident when you are doing something that you feel that God has called you to do even though it seems that no one else is doing it.

There are days when I want to give up.  I get tired of swimming upstream in a sea of cultural norms.  Sometimes it takes very little to provoke these feelings.  Perhaps someone jokingly said something that really hurt me or maybe it was just that certain look of disapproval.  Over a period of time, these things begin to wear on your spirit. 

As a young woman approaching twenty-one who is not, by the world's standards, trying to get ahead in life, is still living with her family and has no desire to do otherwise, I, and others like me, make an easy target for ridicule.  This can be hard to take.  Especially difficult to deal with are the assumptions that people make when they are confronted by such a strange and somewhat controversial life-style.  Here are a few that seem to come up most often:

1.  Because I am not in school or out earning a living in a 9 to 5 job, I must be lying about the house, indulging myself in acute laziness and suffering from intense boredom.

Not to be rude, but I find this incredibly funny.  If you call helping cook and clean up after three meals a day, keeping a two-story house "company clean", trying to stay on top of the bread-making so that we don't run out, helping to build fences, maintain a large garden, keep the majority of our property mowed, reading through a ginormous list of books on worldview and theology, drafting sewing patterns, giving piano lessons, and everything else that I do being lazy, then yes, I have a problem.  Unfortunately, I am too busy to notice.  As for boredom, again, I simply haven't the time.

2.  Because I don't have a real job, I am simply taking advantage of my parent's generosity.

While my parents are extremely generous, this is not the case at all.  My piano lessons and sewing provide me with a small income and I am so very thankful that business seems to be improving lately.  Also, when fair season starts in May, I will be receiving an additional income as one of my dad's employees.   This enables me to buy my own gas, my own clothes, and anything else that I may need or want and therefore help the family economy.  Sometimes funds do get a little tight, but I have learned that if I can't afford something, odds are I don't need it.

Earning money this way gives me the opportunity to spend more time with my family, which is why I chose to stay at home in the first place.

3.  I have no ambition.

This depends on your definition of ambition.  If you mean that I have no desire to climb the ladder of "success" and attain a certain level of human honor and praise, then you would be right.  I define ambition in a different way.  My ambition is to be a godly woman, to give glory to my Creator and to revel in the little kingdom that He has given me.  As is stated so well in the answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, man's sole purpose is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31) and to enjoy Him forever (Ps. 73:25-26).  This stands in stark contrast to our culture which tells us that our purpose and identity comes from bettering ourselves and attaining power so that others will give us glory. 

4.  I find education unimportant and irrelevant.

By no means!  Education is very important, but so is the material you study and the method by which you receive it.  I spent two years in a university, and at the risk of sounding harsh and judgemental, I found the experience less than intellectually stimulating.  I learned more about how to party, live like the world and waste my parent's money than I learned how to think and aquire knowlege and understanding.  I have found that I have learned more in my two years at home through extensive reading, personal study, and discussions with others than I learned in my two years of being "educated".

Please understand that I am not condemning a college education.  I do not believe that it is a sin for a Christian to go to school to get a secular degree.  I know that for some people, a college degree is part of God's plan for their lives.  However, we must be very careful what kind of education we are getting.  We are instructed to guard our hearts and minds and this becomes extremely difficult when we are constantly exposed to a secular worldview.  It is also important to realize that just because an institution claims to be Christian, does not mean that you won't find secular and anti-Christian teaching in the classroom.  I understand that this is a difficult thing to come to terms with, but sadly, it is true.

5.  I have a problem with anyone who disagrees with my lifestyle.

This is the furthest thing from the truth.  This is like saying that I would dislike someone for preferring apple pie over cherry.  God has a plan for each of our lives that is unique.  He doesn't just take out a cookie cutter and allot to so many this way of living and to so many that way of living.  He has given each of us a unique calling and a unique life to correspond with that calling.  For some, it is impossible to remain at home.  Some require a college education in order to fulfill the calling God has given them.  There are those who are called to minister in the workplace and others who are called to minister in the public schools.  No calling is better, more important, or more godly than another. 

My calling is to be a homemaker.  It took me a long time to come to terms with this.  In fact, I initially came down this road kicking and screaming all the way.  I had my own ideas about what my calling should be and was already traveling down my preferred path, ignoring all of the signs that were telling me to turn around and go the other way. 

The only thing that I can say about taking your own path over God's is that it is absolutely miserable.  Those several years of fighting for my right to plan my own life were easily the worst ones that I can remember.  In addition to the fact that I was an emotional basket case, everything I did seemed to fall apart.  Nothing was working for me and I couldn't understand why.

I can't say that it all changed the moment I handed the reins over to God, because it didn't happen in a moment.  It was more like a year and a half.  Yeah, I'm a slow learner.  It took me that long to completely surrender to His plan for my life.  I had to learn that I couldn't live both.  I couldn't follow God's will for my life and still hang on to a few of my own ideas.  It just doesn't work that way.

Today, I can honestly say that I am content with where God has me.  Not that it's easy.  Like I said before, there are days when I just want to throw my hands in the air and cry, "Why me????", but I know that He knows what He's doing.  The Bible never said that God's way would be easy.  Christ never said, "Follow me and everyone will love you for it".  We are simply commanded to follow Him and trust Him with complete control our lives.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

on the town

I love downtown Chattanooga.  It certainly isn't called the Scenic City for nothing.

Unfortunately, I don't get down there very often and every time I do I manage to get lost.  Okay, maybe lost is a harsh word.  I simply tend to get slightly bewildered when trying to determine which road will take me in the general direction of my desired destination.  There is a difference.

A few days ago, my friend Jen and I drove down and spent the afternoon traipsing about.  We had a lovely picnic in Coolidge Park and spent most of the afternoon wandering around taking pictures.

Isn't she just lovely?

 This was taken in quite possibly the coolest alley ever.  I never thought I'd refer to a fire escape as beautiful, but this one really was!

A picture of the photographer. :)

**sigh** What did I do to deserve such gorgeous friends????

The brick piano on the north shore.  I just had to stick
this one in here because I thought it was cool!

I can't wait to go back!  There are so many picture perfect possibilities!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

reading habits

Old habits die hard.

Oh, how true this is!

Despite my efforts to bring a bit of order and organization into my methods of reading, over the past few weeks I have managed to revert back to my old, unorganized ways.  Not that there is anything wrong with it, it's just less...well, organized.

In theory, taking a new book off the shelf, reading it from cover to cover before selecting the next title, is the most ideal way to journey through the world of literature.  Right?  Of course it is!  So, I select a title, take it off the shelf, settle into my favorite corner of the couch and by the end of chapter 3 my eyes begin wandering towards my shelf of unread books...

Ok, I'm ADD.  I admit it.  I am happier with a great stack of books to shuffle through rather than to have one lone title sitting on the corner of my night table.

My current stack.  :)

Oh well.  I suppose that this is one area of my life that shall remain unorganized.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

having fun :)

Today is my brother-in-law's birthday.  Actually, he seems more like my brother than an in-law because he's been hanging around since I was about 3 years old.  He just kinda latched on and never went away!

Anyway, we all got together and had a big party yesterday to celebrate his thirty-something-th birthday. ;)  We all had a great time!

 I just thought this was too cute!

 When I got home and started going through the pictures we took, I was horrified to find that this was the only one we managed to get of the birthday boy (right).  Oops!  Sorry, Jacob!

 Soup's on!  Literally...on the table. was good!

 This makes me smile. :)


 I thought I'd throw in a picture of me just to prove that I was there!

 Papa, getting a kiss from Princess Mollie.

Ok, so I may not have gotten any pictures of Jacob yesterday, here's a recent one.

Happy Birthday, Jacob!  We're so glad you're a part of the family!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

a living hope

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

(1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

a new favorite

We've been trying out a lot of new recipes around here lately.  It's always nice to revamp the weekly menu with some new regulars.

Today's recipe was roasted vegetables.  Oh my, it was good!!!  I think that it's going to be appearing on our table quite often from now on!

Roasted Vegetables

1 small butternut squash, cubed
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed (any potatoes)
1 red onion, quartered
1 TB chopped fresh thyme
2 TB chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper  to taste


1.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
2.  In a large bowl or pot, combine the squash, red bell peppers, sweet potato, and Yukon Gold potatoes.  Separate the red   onion quarters into pieces, and add them to the mixture.
3.  In a small bowl stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Toss with vegetables until they are coated.  Spread evenly on a large roasting pan.
4.  Roast for 35-40 minutes stirring every 10 minutes until vegetables are cooked through and browned.

Trust me, this stuff is delicious!  It's meant to be a side dish, but personally, I could make a meal out of it by itself. 

One thing that surprised us was how sweet it was.  Even with the butternut squash (which tastes a lot like a melon), sweet potatoes, sweet red peppers, sweet red onions, we were not expecting it to be quite as sweet as it turned.  It's a good kind of sweet though.  Not too much but just enough to be amazing! We all agreed that it would go great with steaks.

If you're looking for something new as a side dish, this is definitely a must try!

Monday, March 5, 2012

a couple more...

What can I say?  I'm in the mood to paint.

This is one that I finally finished.  It's copied from a photo I took a couple years ago when we visited Washington D.C.  It's my favorite picture from the whole trip.

For some reason, I became a ranting perfectionist over this one and after about 6 hours of intense work I put it aside.  I was annoyed that it wasn't turning out to my taste so I kind of forgot about it. 

Then one day, I picked up a couple a fan brushes at the store and decided to try and finish it.  The brushes make all the difference!  Next to filberts, fan brushes are my new favorite!

This next one I whipped up this afternoon.  I started out having no idea what I was going to do.  I get that way sometimes.  No ideas, but I just want to paint.  Here's what I came up with.

Believe it or not, this is my first attempt at a landscape.  Well, truthfully, it's not the first attempt.  However, the original took place when I was about twelve and was immediately buried in my closet for reasons that I will not go in to for the sake of my vanity.  Let's just say, that it is not worthy to be called a landscape and therefore does not count. :)

Most people, when they find out that I paint, they automatically think landscapes.  I guess most people do paint a lot of landscapes.  Not this girl.  Quite frankly, they terrify me.  I only attempted this one because I didn't know what else to do.  It's not as easy as Bob Ross makes it look, trust me!  It may be for some people, but I'm just not that great at figuring out lighting and shading.  If I am working from an existing picture, that's one thing, but doing something off the top of my head is another.  Hopefully, I'll get better with practice.

But, for a first try, I like it.  Especially considering that I whizzed through it.  I could have done better if I'd slowed down, but patience is not one of my better qualities...

One thing I did learn: Don't spend forever on a backdrop if you're only going to cover it up with a ginormous tree!


March certainly came in with a bang.  Or a roar.  Thunder and lighting accompanied by round after round of tornadoes swept through our area on Friday.

It's been barely a year since the last devastating tornado storm, and some of last year's victims were struck again. 

Thankfully, the damage doesn't seem to be quite as widespread as last year, but it is still devastating in the areas that were hit hard.

I can't remember ever having tornadoes around here.  Growing up, there were storms that had the potential to create a tornado, but I don't remember one ever actually touching down.  So, two massive tornado storms coming through just barely a year apart is quite bizarre and scary.

After the devastating blow this area took last year, I think everyone was a bit petrified when the warnings started coming in on Friday morning.  I actually had no idea.  We were out shopping all morning.  As soon as we got home and walked through the back door the weather radio went off and within about twenty minutes a tornado went through the part of town that we had just been in an hour earlier.

Several more passed through throughout the day.  Each time we would all run and huddle in the small bathroom under the staircase.  I never would have thought that four full grown people and a dog could fit in there, but we did!  Of course, I did have someone's knee in my face at one point, but we fit!

The last one was the worst.  It was about 8 pm.  We were glued to the TV and suddenly we could hear things picking up outside.  While we wedged ourselves back into the bathroom, Daddy peeked outside.  Even though it was dark, he could see a big black cloud coming right for us. 

I don't think I've ever been quite that scared before.  The wind was screaming, the lightning cracked every second and a half, and it sounded like the whole sky was falling on the house. 

After a few minutes, it was gone. 

We stepped out on the porch into a strange silence.  There was ice everywhere.  If the sky is made up of 1-1 1/2 inch pieces of hail than it did indeed fall on our house!  I've never seen hail that big in my life!

Thankfully, everyone in our family made it through unharmed.  Some had minor damages, but we're all safe and that's all that matters.

I don't have pictures, like I had last year.  Honestly, I didn't really feel like going around snapping pictures like a nosy tourist while people were trying to dig their lives out of the rubble.  Besides, the pictures are all the same.  Different houses and different landscapes, but the same devastation.

I ask you to keep the many victims of these storms in your prayers as they pick up the pieces.  Many have lost their homes and some lost their loved ones and they all need your prayers.