Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stewardship - Part 1

Webster defines a steward as "a person put in charge of a large estate; an administrator, as of finances and property; one responsible for food, drink, etc...; an attendant." God has made us stewards of  everything He made. He put us in charge of this Earth and all that is in it.

One thing God has given each of us is our bodies, and we are called to be good stewards of those bodies. Last week, the kids and I began our newest unit study about stewardship. We are learning ways to be good stewards by keeping our bodies in shape and ready for His service.

So far, we learned the 6 basic nutrients, what each nutrient does, and how to read all the information on a nutrition label to be sure you are eating enough of what you need and not too much of what you don't.

We took a few days to learn about different types of beans and the nutrients found in them, and Britches learned how to make bean soup. Also, the kids gathered around the table and mixed up 9 different beans to make 9 bean soup. They packaged it in pint jars and took them to friends as gifts of good health.

We spent time learning about how healthy nuts are, and we located on our world map where different nuts are grown. 

And today, we talked about different whole grains - wheat, rice (brown and white), oats, corn, quinoa, couscous, and flax. We talked about how any grain can be made into flour and then cooked into whatever foods we want to make and eat. Those with allergies or gluten intolerance can cook foods with rice flour, Mexican's use corn flour for tortillas, and quinoa flour makes delicious noodles!

Then we got online and found a great recipe from Israel called challah. It is a braided bread recipe. The kids pulled out all the ingredients, and each took turns adding things and mixing the dough. When it got too stiff, Little Man and Little Sister decided to go play (plus, Little Sister was beginning to feel bad and wanted to go sit an play alone), and I taught Britches how to knead dough and why we do it. I tell you, that girl is going to take over my job of bread baking before long, because she just LOVES getting her hands messy and making bread. And she did a great job! After we let it rise for a few hours, and while the little ones were napping, Little Man, Britches, and I got around the table and divided the dough between the three of us.



Britches and Little Man each rolled out and braided their own dough. OK well, Little Man did like NONE of it, because he couldn't get his to work right, so Britches and I helped him out. But he did give it a good try, and he was really proud of himself for what he DID do!


These are their finished bread braids before we let them rise.

I only have 2 long pans, so after Britches braided my dough, we shaped it like a circle so it would fit on my other pan.


They each brushed the tops of their bread with egg white to make them shiny when they cooked. Also, Britches sprinkled salt on the top of hers, because she thought it would taste a little like a pretzel. Mine was brushed with egg yolk and sprinkled with sesame seeds.



These are our finished challah loaves. They were every bit as tasty as they look!!


I did have 2 sick little ones today, so school took a LONG time! We worked while they napped, because the rest of the day was spent holding one or both of them. But by the end of the day, they both were a little better and were able to give me a little smile.

In a few days, when the little ones are feeling better, we'll be going on a field trip to our local grocery store. I plan to show them different whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and we'll see where they come from and how they grow. Then, we'll compare some nutrition labels, and see which foods are healthy and which ones are not. 

Our bodies are only one thing God has given us with which to be good stewards. We must keep our bodies healthy by eating right and exercising in order to be fit to do the work which He has called us to do.

This is the first part of our stewardship unit.There are so many other things in which God requires good stewardship, and in a few weeks, you can look for a new post about the next part of our learning.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

These Walls

Back in the year 2002, when my first child was about two and a half, I began homeschooling. No, it was nothing structured and there were very few workbooks involved. But Britches and I would go to the library, with my Little Man in the stroller, and check out all kinds of books about everything we thought looked fun. She was at an age where she was curious about everything, and she had unlimited energy. We made at least one trip a week to our local park, and if we weren't there, we were in our yard learning about everything God made. We had so much fun learning together.

Then, the summer came. Here in the Deep South, when you say "summer," it means hot, humid, can't-breathe-when-you-walk-out-the-front-door kind of weather. It gets so hot that you don't even want to go to your mailbox. So very quickly, trips to the library, or anywhere else for that matter, became few and far between. Add on top of that was the fact that my Little Man was ALWAYS sick (and I mean that LITERALLY), and it made for a very bad situation. The walls began to close in on me! My rather roomy house suddenly became VERY SMALL! I love to be outside with my kids, but we were now stuck inside together for what seemed like forever. So I did the only thing I could think to do at the time. I put the babies in daycare, and I went to work.

I need to add something in here, so that you all understand something very clearly. God CALLED me a long time ago to be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool my kids. By putting them in daycare, what I was really saying was that I didn't like what God wanted me to do anymore. I didn't want to be "stuck" with this calling for the rest of my children's young life. I didn't trust that God could make a hard situation better. And I didn't think God knew what would make me happy, nor did He WANT me to be happy. So I stepped outside of God's plan for my life, and I went my own way. I paid the price for that decision for a LONG time! Back to my story.

Daycare and the job lasted for a grand total of 4 months. Because, just as terrible as the summers are here, the falls are equally wonderful. The first cool breeze of fall came, and I began to long for my children and a chance to take them to the park to play together. But I realized that I couldn't, because I had made a choice to work, and so now I had obligations. A few months went by, and I began to really MISS my children! They went early every day to stay with someone else, and by the time I picked them up, they were tired and cranky, and they had no fun left in them. Things were NOT working out like I had planned. I quit my job, and began keeping my children at home with me again.

Then the winter came. The winters here are about as hard for me as the summers. We don't have snow. We have rain, cold, and mud. The days go something like this: rain, rain, rain, cold, cold, cold, rain, cold, rain, cold, nice day with mud, rain - you get the picture. The walls once again began to close in on me. But I had already made the decision that my kids would not be going back to daycare, so I had to make the best of it. And eventually, it DID get better. And FINALLY, the spring came!!

Twice a year, every year since that time (in the dead of summer and the dead of winter), I have a few weeks where I question if this is still what I should be doing. I question if I am able to stay home with my kids, whether or not I should still be homeschooling them. But I can tell now when I'm feeling the walls closing in on me. I can see the signs more clearly. And it is at these times that I sit down and think about the calling God has given me. I know He has not changed His mind or given me another job to do as yet, so I can know for certain that this is RIGHT where I am supposed to be! So for a few weeks, I sit and pray, usually tearfully, and ask my God to give me the strength to continue with the calling that He has asked of me. And eventually, the spring will come!

These last few weeks have been extra hard for me, because this year, unlike most winters in the Deep South, the cold set in VERY early. Usually winter doesn't really hit until late January or February. But this year, it turned cold (and even snowed) in November. The walls began to close in on me earlier than usual. But for the last week, God has blessed us with a few absolutely BEAUTIFUL days that the kids and I were able to get outside, play, get some fresh air, and enjoy God's creation. And yesterday, we even made a trip to town to the park for playing and a picnic! No matter how bad it gets, there is always a beautiful day right around the corner!

Recently, I read in a book something that a wise woman once said. She said, "Every road has a turn in it; so when you get discouraged, don't stop, because, before long, the road will make a turn in your favor." Today, I encourage you to continue in the calling that God has given you to do. Not everyone has the same calling as I, but everyone who is a follower of Jesus DOES have something that He has asked of you. There are times, in any and every task we do, when we become tired, bored, frustrated, and even question what we are doing and why. God never said our road would be easy! But He did promise to be with us on this journey. The only true happiness you will ever find is right in the middle of the perfect will of God. When you step outside of that, you will never be truly happy. And remember, the spring will ALWAYS come!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010


Every year, when New Year's Day rolls around, I sit down for a few moments of quiet and reflect on the past years accomplishments and failures. It's a time for evaluating where my life is and where I want it to be. And then I think about and plan some things I'd like to see happen in the next year of my life. It's not so much making resolutions, because resolutions are usually left by the wayside within the first week. But it is more of a time to get back my focus.

This year, God has impressed on me a great desire for change. He has put it in my heart and spirit in a way that is unmistakable. The year 2010, for me, is going to be all about change.

The first change I needed to make is in my health. For the last 9 1/2 years, I have poured all my time and energy into my 4 children, and am reaping great rewards from that effort. But it has left me little time or energy for myself. But during my time of reflecting on the year(s) past, it finally sunk in that, if I am not physically in good shape, I am not going to physically be able to take care of my kids in the way that God would have me. I realized that I needed to MAKE time for myself to exercise. So I bought a very nice used treadmill, and started going. For the last 2 weeks, I have been running and power walking in an effort to strengthen my heart and lose my last 15lbs. of weight. If you were to see me, you'd probably tell me that I don't need to lose any weight, because, in truth, I'm not terribly overweight. But for my height, I feel the best and can breathe the best when I am about 15lbs. lighter. So my first change of the year - start running, get a stronger heart, and lose 15lbs.

Once I began running, I turned my attention to the foods I was feeding to myself and my family. Again, if you were to see what we eat, you'd probably say something like, "WOW! You guys eat WAY better than we do!" In truth, I have always limited sweets and cooked at home. We choose fruit with our lunch instead of chips. I serve water instead of sodas. So, by all appearances, we eat pretty well. But if I really wanted to make a change, I needed to really take a HARD look at the different foods I was cooking. I fry my veggies, we eat white bread, I cook with white flour, we eat white rice, and I drink WAY too much coffee. How was I going to make a change in my heart and weight if I was still putting all that junk IN my body?? I took a hard look at everything, and decided on some changes. The next change of this year - cook with whole grains and serve them at each meal, add more fresh fruits and fresh or steamed veggies, and eat more seeds, nuts, and beans. Meat will only be served at one meal each day - probably supper since my sweet hubby man eats that meal at home with us. And if a meal can be made without the use of meat, then I will opt for the meatless version.

As far as my coffee goes, there had to be a change there as well. Anyone who knows much at all about me knows that I LOVE my coffee and I drink it in the form of espresso at least twice a day. But God has been working on me where my coffee drinking is concerned. My day could not begin well if I didn't have a good, strong cup of coffee. And if I didn't get my afternoon coffee, the evening would not go well. And for the rest of the day, I would crave another cup just because. One thing I teach my children is that, if something is so important to you that it is ALL you think about ALL the time, it is TOO important to you and is becoming an idol. If there is anything that consumes your thoughts, you need to get rid of it! I tell my son that very thing where his video gaming is concerned. The television becomes just as much of a problem. So when it gets to a point that he can't think of anything else, we turn it off. Back to my coffee. God speaks very clearly about NOT making idols of anything! And when I thought about it, I realized that idols come in many forms - even in the form of an espresso maker. I don't want anything - especially a simple cup of coffee - to be placed before my God as an idol. Next change for the year - get rid of any idols and addictions in my life. Coffee, or espresso, is not a bad thing - in moderation. And one day, perhaps I'll drink it again. But for now, as long as it is the most important thing to me, it has to go!!

In an effort to make changes in my own life, I began to think about changes that I could make on a greater scale. I started to reflect on the impact that my way of life is having on my planet. It is the only one we'll ever have, after all, and I want to do my part to take care of that which God has entrusted us. I thought of all the processed foods that we consume. It takes energy to run the factories that manufacture these products, trees are cut to make the packaging, and when they are thrown away, the plastic sits in a landfill. So the best, most logical, thought is to buy items with less or no packaging - such as fruits and veggies. But there is a problem with those as well. Most of what we purchase at the grocery store is shipped in from other states and even other countries. It takes an enormous amount of fuel to bring all of these foods to my local grocery store. And while these trucks are driving, they are putting off a great amount of carbon dioxide that we are, in turn, breathing. So I decided on yet another change that I needed to make. Last change of the new year - purchase as many food items as possible from local farmers or my local farmers market. By eating foods in season, I should be able to buy most anything I need from one of those 2 places. Of course, I will still have my own home garden, but I simply do not have room to grow everything! There will be many times, I am sure, when I will still go to the grocery store for foods that can't be bought at a farmers market, such as milk, cheese, and flour. But when possible, I will be spending my money locally to help support a neighbor and get the freshest foods possible.

All of these things are nothing more than the changes I feel I need to make in MY life. But who knows. Maybe you, too, have been looking for ways to better your health or leave a lighter footprint on the earth. Maybe some of the changes I've made will give you some ideas of changes you need to make.

Change is the theme of this new year. I am excited that God has put this desire in me, and I am also anxious to see what it is that He is actually preparing me for. What "change" does He have in store for my family? I really feel that these small changes in me are just building me up for the big change to come. Change. Change.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess