Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Finding Jesus in the Laundry

I don’t know about you, but one of the most seemingly mundane tasks of my week is laundry. As cliched as it sounds, it really is never-ending.

Here’s my ideal: People in my family wear clothes. Clothes get dirty- sometimes really dirty because we live on a farm. The laundry fairy shows up and viola! Clean clothes. Folded and put away.

But because we live in the real world, that’s not how it happens. You all know as well as I do that in the grand scheme of things, laundry can sometimes get pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do in a day. I used to feel as though it was a chore, drudgery, a nuisance. Something that was to be an annoyance, a hassle, an inconvenience and only completed grudgingly and with an ungrateful heart.

Then Jesus got hold of me, and boy did He change my heart around. He showed me grace in the middle of my distain and mercy in the midst of my chore. And I’ve never been able to look at it the same since.

The soft, quiet whisper of the Spirit reminded me what a joy it can be to serve those with whom I share a home. He prompted me to start small. So I did. Instead of seeing the piles of laundry, He caused me to look at the blessings it held.

It holds the blessings of a sister and a brother who enjoy spending time together- even at the ages of 16 and 15. It holds the blessings of a hard-working man who loves his family and me more than we can possibly understand. It holds the blessings of the day to day rhythm of life that comes from living on a farm. It holds the blessings of joy, peace, love, and laughter.

But mostly, what I learned, is that it holds the blessing of enough. Enough.  It holds the blessings of a single-income, homeschooling family for which God provides enough. It holds the blessings of a family who sits together at the dinner table every night. It holds the blessings of a 16 year old daughter who still holds her daddy’s hand in public. It holds the blessings of a 15 year old son who still hugs his mama. It holds the blessings of a devoted husband who appreciates and values his helpmeet in ways too numerous to mention.

And how, do you ask, does dirty laundry hold these blessings? Simple. The life that is being lived is being lived in the clothes that are piled on the floor or in the hamper. The dirt and the grime that is on the knees of my son’s jeans is a direct result of the life being lived. A tear on the sleeve of my beloved’s shirt came from his determination to work and provide a decent income for his family. A stain of poo on my daughter’s coat came from her desire to provide our animals with a safe, warm place for them to lay their heads at night.

After I started seeing the laundry through the eyes of Jesus, He took me one step further. I now pray over each item of clothing as I fold it. I spend quality time with God in intentional prayer of the members of my family. I will ask Him to give them wisdom, protection, favor, guidance, grace, direction, and many others as they go about their day wearing the clothing I’m folding.

My sense of humor has certainly developed as I’ve prayed over my family while folding their underwear. And I think that might have been the biggest lesson for me overall- that there is joy to be found in the mundane. There is communion to be found in the details. But most importantly, that Jesus cares so much about me and my heart, that He met me in the laundry room.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mock Pork Marbella

This is a modification of a recipe from a couple of different places. The following is my variation of it and my family nearly lick their plates clean.

The key component for this is the pork loin. We use our own pork loin from pigs that were raised by a friend which we then butcher and process ourselves. So, I KNOW the quality of meat it top of the line and healthy.

Spray the bottom of a roasting pan.You can use a cast iron Dutch Oven if you have one- just do the whole process right in the Dutch Oven. If I am doing two loins, or two half-loins, I use my roaster so that I don't use up all the space in my oven.  Rinse and trim (if needed/necessary) the pork loin. I usually leave some of the fat on as that's where the flavor is! 

Sear all the sides of the loin in a frying pan that has been oiled with either bacon grease or coconut oil.  Remove loin to your roasting pan. Pour in 1 cup of balsamic salad dressing- off brand works fine- and bring to a simmer. Scrape all those delicious brown bits of flavor from the bottom of the pan. Pour the liquid back into your measuring cup and add a hefty splash of straight balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Stir well so the sugar dissolves. Add in 1 clove of garlic, minced, 1 T dried basil, 1/2 T dried oregano, and a pinch of salt.

Still following along? Don't quit on me now!

Now, add into your liquid 1/4 cup halved green olives and about 1/2 cup of prunes that have been roughly chopped.

Put the loin in the roasting pan and pour the liquid mix over top. Cover. Bake at 325 deg. until done. I did it one time for 4 hours and it was so moist and buttery, you almost needed to eat it with a spoon!

When it's done, take it out of the pan and set it aside, covered with a foil tent for 10 minutes to let it rest. Meanwhile, make a roux of butter and flour in a sauce pan. I use 2 T butter (no substitutes) and about 3 T flour. Skim off the fat from the drippings and discard. Strain out the olives and the some of the prunes. Set aside. Make a gravy with the liquid and roux. Add back in some of the prunes to the gravy.

To serve: either slice and place on platter with the olives and prunes scattered over top, or leave whole on platter and scatter the olives and prunes over top for presentation.

I serve this with a mashed potatoes and either carrots or broccoli. Round this meal out with some home baked bread, and you've got a winner!

This is equally good with boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breasts, or bone-in chicken thighs. We use the broilers that we raise ourselves or the turkeys our son raises for 4H. I think it makes all the difference in the final product when you use ingredients about which you can feel confident. Don't you?

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Mock Pork Marbella

1 pork loin, approx 3-4 lbs, trimmed as desired
1 cup any brand balsamic salad dressing
1/4 cup (hefty splash) of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T basil
1/2 T oregano
1 clove garlic, minced

Sear meat in bacon grease or coconut oil on all sides. Place into greased roasting pan. Pour in 1 cup balsamic salad dressing into browning pan and bring to a simmer. Scrape up all the little delicious bits of browned meat. Add rest of ingredients and pour over meat. Cover and cook at 325* until tender- 4 hours or so.

Remove. Tent. Make gravy. Serve. Inhale. Enjoy. Collect praises of awesomeness for mad kitchen skillz.

Oh, and clean up. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Homemade Bread

The recipe book refers to this as Very Good Bread. My family and I have to agree.

Once you start making bread, be careful. It's hard to go back to store bought bread once you've made this one. The natives get restless without homemade bread and will stage a coup if batches are produced too far apart. 

6 cups of bread flour* (AP works, but not as well)
2 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour
2 cups of hot water
1 cup of cool water
3/4 cup of oil
2 T fast acting yeast
2 t salt
1/3 cup brown sugar

Put the two flours, salt, yeast, and brown sugar in big bowl. Mix well. Add in the water and oil. Knead until very soft and pliable- about 10-15 minutes.

**If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, the directions go like this: Put flours, salt, sugar, and yeast into mixing bowl. Turn on mixer with bread hook. SLOWLY pour in the water and oil. Keep mixer on low speed for about 5-7 minutes.

Turn out into a large, greased bowl and spray with oil. Cover and let rise until double in size. Punch down, separate into 4 equal piles. Form into loaf shape and put into greased bread pans. Poke holes in top with fork. Let rise again until double in size.

Bake in heated 400* oven 18-22 minutes or until golden brown and hollow when thumped.

My Amish friend takes her butter wrappers and wipes them over her loaves of bread when they come out of the oven but that is purely optional. 

Immediately turn out onto wire racks to cool.

*Bread flour is a high-gluten flour that produces the most tender bread ever. If you can't get your hands on it, don't worry, your bread will still be better than anything from the store!

If you ever have stale, leftover bread, try this recipe for homemade bread crumbs. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Vanilla-Glazed Apple Cookies...Hello, Autumn!

Finally! An autumn recipe that contains not one iota of pumpkin!

This recipe comes from a 1965 Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I have another one that I use frequently from the same era (that I stole from my mom) that starts out by saying, "The way to a man's heart" is by cooking a great meal. I'll let you ponder that while I eat these Vanilla-Glazed Fresh Apple Cookies 

Start with 1/2 cup shortening (remember, kids, the book is from 1965). 
Add in 1 1/3 cups brown sugar and 1 egg. 
Cream those together.

In a separate bowl, sift 2 cups flour, 1 t baking soda, 1/2 salt, 1 t cinnamon,
1/4 t fresh nutmeg, and 1 t ginger (original recipe calls for cloves instead of ginger, but I intensely dislike cloves, so ginger it is).

With mixer running on low, pour in half the flour mixture, 1 cup finely chopped apples (peelings left on, if desired. I leave it on- it's easier that way), 1/4 milk or apple juice, then remaining flour mixture. It should resemble something similar to this:

Drop them by scooper-fulls onto a greased baking sheet 
and bake at 375* for 11-14 minutes, or until done. 

 Remove to wire rack to cool. 
I put mine on the rack with a cookie sheet under them
to catch the crumbs and the overflow of the glaze.

Mix up a quick vanilla glaze of 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 T soft butter, 1/4 t vanilla, 
and 2 1/2 T light cream.

These are actually just as good the next day, if they make it that long, as they are the first day. They store really well as long as you layer them on wax paper.

The kids love these and I have been able to tweak the recipe enough to make them gluten-free (I just use my own gluten-free flour mixture). They can even be dairy free, just use apple juice in the dough and again in the glaze recipe. 

I hope you are able to make up a batch of these soon. You won't be disappointed!

They are so delicious you won't even miss the pumpkin~

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mother Earth News Fair

A few months ago I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and this post came up for the Mother Earth News Fair. I had heard of Mother Earth News and had read their magazines while sitting in the library waiting for the kids' summer reading program to end. And I loved them.

I discovered that Mother Earth News puts on a fair in different parts of the country during the year. The closest one to me was going to be in Pennsylvania in the middle of September. I talked with a friend and we decided to attend. Our daughters decided that we couldn't go by ourselves and have all the fun, so they came with us (as a mama, that made the trip even better).  

First of all, the entrance fee is so reasonable it's crazy- if you place your ticket order early, you can get a 3 day ticket for $25. And kids under 18 are FREE. So, yeah, crazy prices.

I looked around and found a B&B for us to stay in for the weekend- again, crazy reasonable pricing. Plus, breakfast was included. The room was clean, the breakfast was hearty, and the other guests were a riot. We all had a great time together.

We left for our destination early Friday morning and arrived at our B&B around noon. After checking in and depositing our bags, we headed to Seven Springs Resort for the fair.

Let me tell you something: I was blown away. Seriously. The venue, the weather, the scenery. Oh, and let's not forget the actual fair itself! The vendors. The workshops. The education. The people. And I usually am not a real big fan of people. But these 15,000 people were just like me! They were seeking knowledge about living life. About being alive. About doing stuff that matters, not just today, but into the future. About realizing that the status quo isn't all it's cracked up to be. About finding a new way to do an old task. About making a difference. About not settling for something that works just because it appears convenient.

You are probably expecting me to describe these people as older, hippie-ish, tree-hugging, no animal product, women in long, flowing skirts, birkenstocks, and long hair everywhere. Ah, no. Not at all. There were so many families. So many people in my generation. I couldn't believe how many people under the age of 45 were there. It was amazing. And so encouraging!

I took workshops on crop rotation, herbalism, goat cheese making, hops growing...can you say 'diversity?' There were over 200 workshops to choose from! I learned so much over the weekend that I felt as though my brain had turned to mush and was leaking out of my ears.

A few words of advice:
  • Take good notes. Even if you don't think it matters at the time, take them anyway. You won't regret it- you will regret thinking that you can remember everything you heard in the workshop
  • Good walking shoes. Obviously. 
  • More money than you think you'll need. Although, most of the vendors are set up to take credit/debit cards now on their smart phones, cash is king
  • Go with a friend or friends. You can a) divide and conquer and make it to twice as many workshops if you split up and b) have someone to process information with.
  • At least one bag- preferably a backpack- for you to haul stuff in. 
  • Don't feel like you have to have basic knowledge in any given area in order to attend a particular workshop. I found that most of the presenters went from basic to advanced teaching within one hour. It was fascinating. 
  • GO

If this has piqued your interest at all, wonderful. If not, sorry 'bout your luck.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Vacation within a Vacation

I'm sitting on my in-laws' front deck listening to the wind in the trees, the wind chimes tinkle, and the grasshoppers....um, whatever noise a grasshopper makes. And I'm loving it. Not a person, except for family, in sight or earshot. Plain and simple- it's beautiful. And peaceful. And quiet.

But you know what? It smells different than home. The wind sounds different than what it sounds like at home. And I wonder. I wonder if I enjoy home as much as I enjoy my in-laws deck. Do I appreciate the sounds, smells, and views at the home of my heart as much as I do here. If I don't, why not?

I've been giving this some thought. What I've come up with is that, yes, I do appreciate it as much at home as I do on vacation. It does become something that can be taken for granted, but for as much as I love my in-laws deck, I truly, deeply, passionately love the area we call home. I love the lay of land, the variety of trees, the whisper of the breeze, and the scents and sounds of home.

I think that getting away from the everyday normal is a good thing every once in a while. I think that it's necessary for personal, spiritual, mental, and emotional development to see new things, try new foods, meet new people, and acclimate to new areas. I think that there is something to be said for learning the roads in a new town or going to a totally random church. To hear a different language spoken at the grocery store or find a regional ice cream that you love. To go to bed and get up with the sun instead of an alarm clock. To really spend time alone, but not lonely, and get to know better that quiet whisper that prompts your soul.

Vacation is a good thing. Getting away is a good thing. But going home? It's even better....

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I've Been Interrupted.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker has me, well, stuck.

My mind is stuck. My heart is stuck. My thought process is stuck. My actions are stuck. I'm basically hub-deep in my own mire right now. And I've really only digested Chapters 1 and 2. Someone send me a tow line please.

Phase One: Breaking Down, page 7, was my first spin out in the mire. And I started sinking from there: "Why did I spend all my time blessing blessed people who should be on the giving side of the equation by now?" 

I totally do that. Lord, help me.

I read that sentence a week ago and I still seem to ponder it in my heart daily, if not hourly. Why? Is there something to it that I can't see yet? Is there something to it that I don't want to see? I'm going with the latter.

I've come up with some pretty human answers to the question she posed
  • It's easier
  • It's safer

Um...yeah, that's all I got. I told you I was stuck. And herein lies my stuck-ness: How do I change it?  How do I go beyond what the world and the flesh think of as doing good and get into what God wants from me? 

So what I discovered is that this is best and only answered by God Himself. In His Word. By His Word. And His Word says that I am to do for 'the least of these.' Not 'the blessed of these,' not 'the Christian of these,' not' the religious of these', not 'the ones who can give back when I need it of these.'  

The least of these. 

Just who are 'the least of these' anyway? I have a feeling that my list will be long but not exhaustive. And in it will be the ones who my God will be asking me to help. To serve. To bless. And because He wants it, I will do it.

I know that in following Him I will become unstuck. But more than that, I will be.

Care to join me in serving 'the least of these?'