Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

The costumes have been put on and taken off. Doorbells were rung and fun was had. The buckets are were full and so are the tummies. Enjoy!



This Day in History

Four hundred and ninety one years ago today, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the doors of a church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the doctrine and practice of indulgences by the Catholic Church. This act by Luther was the catalyst that began the Protestant Reformation which began as an attempt to reform the Catholic Church. Many were troubled by what they saw as false doctrines and misuse of power within the Church, particularly involving the teaching and sale of indulgences. In addition, the practice of simony (buying and selling church positions) and corruption within the ranks led to a much needed reformation.

Because of the bravery and conviction of men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin the gospel was recovered and made available to the masses. The Five Solas sum up the core beliefs of the early reformers:


Sola Gratia (grace alone)
Sola Fide (faith alone)
Sola Scriptura (scripture alone)
Solus Christus (Christ alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be glory)
I am of the reformed faith. I believe in election and in the complete sovereignty of God. I believe that He works all things for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. I believe in the gospel. I believe.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Souptacular Crockpotalooza

Souptacular08

One of my favorite things about the cooler weather is making hot soups and stews. I can't tell you how many times during the summer I crave a big pot of homemade vegetable soup or stew, but then squelch the idea with "It's too hot for soup".

Well, not anymore. It's time for gumbo, vegetable soup, beef stew, Irish stew, cheese soup, potato soup...well, the list goes on and on. I wanted to share my recipe for chicken and sausage gumbo because it's a crowd pleaser at my house, and because it's one of those meals that I grew up on. It makes an obscene amount of food so it will easily serve 8-10 people and it is awesome leftover.

A big thanks to Boomama for hosting this event, and for giving us all the opportunity to tuck away a few more cool weather recipes.

CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE GUMBO

1 large fryer, cut in pieces
2 large onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 bunch green onion tops
10 oz okra, sliced
1 large can of tomatoes
Salt, pepper, cayenne
1 # sausage, sliced and fried
1/2 cup bacon grease
1/2 cup oil
1 c + flour
About 2 quarts of water

Make a dark roux with oil, bacon grease and flour. Add onions to stop roux from browning and stir until wilted. Salt and pepper chicken pieces and brown in oil. Sauté garlic, bell pepper, and celery in dripping. Add tomatoes, tomato juice, okra and water. Return chicken to pot and add roux. Season to taste. Cook for about an hour. Remove chicken from pot and add sausage and green onion tops. Cook for another 30 minutes. Debone chicken and add to gumbo after about 25 minutes of cooking. Serve over rice.
Click here for more tasty goodness.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Subscribe to Heart of Service

It has come to my attention that there are people who enjoy reading my blog, but are not interested in creating additional online accounts to subscribe to something like Bloglines, etc to keep up with my posts. I decided that I would put a Feedburner link on my sidebar to let people easily subscribe by email to receive notification when I post.

All you have to do is click on the link at the left and then input your email address. You will be sent an email so that you can confirm the subscription, and that's it! You will never receive spam, and an email is only sent when I create a new post.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's That Time of Year

Oh yes it is. It's cold and flu season, my friends and I have the flu. As a result, the quantity of posts will be reduced over the next few days as I try to recover with the aid of Tamiflu and rest. I won't bore you with the details (yet) of my illness, but suffice it to say that I will be spending the majority of my time in a horizontal position with a copious supply of cold drinks and medicine at my fingertips.

Friday, October 24, 2008

You May Not Want to Hear This...

...but it's 62 days until Christmas. That's right.

8.8571426 weeks until Christmas. 1488

hours and counting.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

To Everything There is a Season

My Aunt Gail sent this to me today by email. It's a beautiful reminder that there are so many different seasons in our lives, and each one is orchestrated by God for our good and His glory. Times of war and of peace. Times of joy and mourning. I hope this will be an encouragement to those of you in a difficult season, and a reminder of how quickly life changes to those of you in a season of joy.

No matter where you are, God is in control. He cares for each intimate detail of your life, and will never forsake or leave His children. So whatever season you are experiencing, thank Him for it.

Pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fifty-four Dollars

That's what it cost me to fill the Tahoe with gas yesterday.

If I hadn't been in the middle of a large parking lot with work trucks full of men getting ready for the day, I might have done a little dance of gratitude and joy. But that's not how I roll, so I settled for a big grin and triumphant phone call to Trevor.

Now if we could just see a fall in grocery prices...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Toasting" Marshmallows

I thought that it would be a nice end to a great day if we let the kids toast some marshmallows last night. They helped me build the fire and then waited for it to burn down enough to have coals.


After a few attempts, Nathan was a pro, but Gracie had a decidedly unique method for getting her marshmallows just right.




Step one: Put marshmallow on clothes hanger.

Step two: Wave marshmallow over the fire for approximately .03 nanoseconds.

Step three: Blow on marshmallow to "cool".

Step four: Eat marshmallow.

I have to say that her technique has the advantage of cutting the toasting time by about 99.9%, so she got the lion's share of sugary goodness. After about the 4th time, I had to get the camera and get some video of the entire process. As expected, the video is remarkably short.

video

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dewberry Farm

The weather is cooling, the humidity is dropping and the leaves are changing. Well, maybe not the changing leaves part, but you get the picture. It's fall here in Southeast Texas and even though we won't see anything below 55 before December, we still like to pretend like the seasons are changing.

Our family celebrated autumn by going to Dewberry Farm today. It's a place near Brookshire that promised a corn maze, pumpkin patch and hayrides galore. I wish we could have donned our clothing as though it's October in Maine, but alas, it's Texas and so we dressed accordingly. You know...shorts and t-shirts. To be honest, this is often our Christmas morning attire as well. We always want colder weather, but there is something to be said about being able to play with those toys without getting frostbite.

Anyhoo, we went to the farm and had a great time. The tickets were pretty reasonable, but they nickel and dimed us to death once inside. The kids were having such a great time that we didn't mind, but I doubt we'll do it again next year. It was an hour and a half drive to get there, and we could have done many of the things closer to home.

First we went through the corn maze, which was a lot of fun. Trevor hid and jumped out at the kids, and then Nathan and Grace kept trying to "hide" and scare us. We saw the orange pumpkin patch peeking through the corn, so we made our way out there for a bit. The curiosity of children never ceases to amaze me. There were hundreds of beautiful, orange pumpkins at which to look, and my kids run straight for the first rotten one they see so they can poke sticks in the goopy mess and make disgusted noises.

We finally tore them away from that little side attraction, and were able to take a few pictures of them. I got very few pictures of them looking directly at the camera, because they were too busy having fun to stop for me.

Next, Gracie rode a bike on a racetrack, and Nathan shot the corn cannon. He got nine shots and was trying to hit several targets in the field. He hit the cowboy right in the head on his third shot, and almost hit a bucket that would have won us $25. We then went to the pavilion for a tasteless, overpriced lunch that we were forced to purchase because NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR DRINK ALLOWED. Hmmm....there was no "food" inside either. I had a charred, dry hamburger patty on an oversized, cold bun.

Good times.

We didn't let the lack of nourishment stop us though. Nathan decided to try his hand at the zip line, while I took Gracie to the playground. When she was tired of that, we found Trevor and Nathan and went to the haystack. I personally think this was the most enjoyable attraction at the farm. The kids loved it, and quickly went to work making holes in which to hide. Nathan made a friend, and they were trying to dig out a tunnel, while Gracie was happy taking flying leaps from the top.

Note: Hay gets inside clothing very easily, and it is very scratchy. I took Gracie to the bathroom right before we left, and her pants (and panties) were full of it! I didn't see it in her underwear, and as I tried to help her pull them up she started doing a funny little dance and squealing, "ooh, ooh, ooh!" I had to get her completely out of her clothes to rid them of all those pesky stalks. Thank goodness the bathrooms were clean!

All in all, it was a great day. The kids were exhausted and so were we, but it was worth it. Once we were home and it began to get dark, we started a fire in the fire pit outside and toasted marshmallows. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.


Click to play Dewberry Farm

Update: After reading the comment that Farmer Dewberry left on this post, I felt as though I should clarify a few things. Firstly, my apologies to the owners of Dewberry Farm if what I said threw negative light on their establishment. His comment was kind and when I wrote the post it was strictly from the standpoint of a consumer. I never thought of what it might sound like to the person who owns and operates such a large place.

Secondly, although the things I said were true, there were so many positive things about the trip that I would not want to discourage anyone else who might be thinking of going. For instance, on most of the attractions that required additional payment, it was a one time fee for the entire day. They would mark the kid's armbands and allow them unlimited entry.

The atmosphere was one of good, clean fun and there was even a sign at the entrance to the farm warning visitors that no profanity would be tolerated. It was refreshing to see a place that caters to families. If the farm would like to make improvements to the service, I would recommend allowing patrons to bring in their own coolers, etc for lunch. They have lovely facilities for outdoor eating, and it would have been fun to pack a lunch and have a picnic.

So, if you are looking for a fun way to spend your weekend, check out Dewberry Farms.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Priorities

I had my annual evaluation at work today. It was good to hear that I am exceeding the standards established for my position, and that my supervisors count me as an asset to the department. There were some areas where I received some constructive criticism, and I gladly welcomed the comments because I want to grow in my profession and strive to be better.

But at one point during the interview, I found myself just nodding my head as though I was listening, but really having a completely different conversation in my head. My director was talking about long-term goals as they relate to my career path. She talked about visualizing what I want for myself in the future and giving myself a time frame for achieving those goals.


As she went on about my growth and the possible necessity of changing physical locations to advance my career, I just sat there and thought, "You know nothing about me." So I nodded politely at all the right places, and threw in a few "I understand" and "Of course" for good measure, but my mind was drawn to what I really want.


It's quite simple. To raise my children and take care of my husband. Working outside the home is a reality for me. I do it well, and I take joy in my profession but it is not my life. I don't care if I never get another raise or promotion if it means that I can spend time with my family. The whole reason I changed job locations 6 years ago was for the shorter commute and ease of taking time off when it was needed.

I have no aspirations to be in management, which is the next step for me. If that job fell in my lap at my current location, I would gladly accept the responsibility and pay raise, but it's not something I seek. I don't plan my life around what I want out of my career. I plan my career around my family, and do my best to be spiritually discerning with respect to what God has planned for me.

So as she was speaking, I just laughed at little on the inside (she is my boss after all) at her supposition that I would change jobs, thus putting me further from my family all for the sake of advancing my career. It's just not for me. That doesn't mean it's not right for others, but I feel like I'm just marking time during the day until I can get home. I do my best to glorify God with my work ethic and dedication to my patients, but I'm always looking ahead to my homecoming each night.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

130th Anniversary Picnic

Our church has an annual picnic, and this year we also celebrated our 130th anniversary. There were several moonwalks, a rock climbing wall, horseback riding, a hayride and lots of other activities for kids of all ages. I manned the cotton candy machine for about an hour while Trevor made snow cones.

When they started setting up the rock wall, the line formed immediately. Nathan was near the front, and he was really excited. Gracie ran over to him, and moments later came running back across the lawn, sobbing. I had been talking to someone, and wasn't watching her every move, so I thought she might be hurt. I grabbed her up and between hitched breaths and hiccuping sobs discovered that Nathan told her she couldn't climb the wall.

I figured that she was too small to do it, so we walked back over to find out if she would be able to take a turn. Our friend Curtis was one of the men supervising the wall, and he told me that she would be okay, as long as I stayed under her and within reach. She got in line and we waited. When she was up, they cinched the harness to its smallest size and she was ready to go.

People, I started to rethink the whole people-came-from-monkeys line of thought. Seriously. For all of her klutziness, she was like a spider monkey on that wall! She had a blast, and before I knew it, she was out of my reach, so Curtis got harnessed in and stayed close to her. She climbed about 2/3 of the way up before she lost her balance and came down. All of the adults on the ground were amazed at how brave and fearless she was. I was so proud of my baby girl...she was incredible!

After the rock wall, the kids did some horseback riding, then some moonwalk jumping, then went on a hayride. Between each event, there was much cotton candy eating and snow cone slurping. You know...the stuff dreams are made of when you are 4 and 7! A limitless supply of refined sugar and lots of open space to run it off.

We didn't stay for the potluck, because Grace had not had a nap, and it was starting to show. We said our goodbyes and headed home. It was a wonderful afternoon!

Click to play Church Picnic 2008


Blanket Statement

So here's the deal. I have 120 posts on my Google Reader to read, and the higher that number gets, the less likely I am to read all the posts. For the most part, the blogs I have registered on my Reader are the ones that belong to people who comment on my blog and that I comment on theirs. There are a few on there that I just enjoy reading, and very seldom post comments, but for the most part I try to let people know that I was there with a comment or two.

Hence this post. The longer that list gets, the more daunting the task seems. Not because of the reading, but because of the pressure I put on myself to comment. Formulating something interesting to say without copying what others have already posted. Wanting to be witty and funny without seeming sarcastic and cynical. Uplifting and encouraging without being trite.

Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes it's hard. But I never know when I go to any of my favorite blogs what topics will be broached until I get there. So when I see 120 posts to be read, it's no surprise that I get a little stressed. So I am issuing a blanket statement, and you know who you are.

I have read your last several posts and I have enjoyed reading them. I will be back to read any subsequent posts. I am just excusing myself from commenting (for the most part) until I can get a handle on all the back reading.


That is all. (Except that I love all of you guys dearly!)


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rushing Through the Days

When Trevor is gone, it seems that I rush through my days from one thing to the next.

"Each thing I do I rush through so I can do something else. In such a way do the days pass -a blend of stock car racing and the never ending building of a Gothic cathedral. Through the windows of my speeding car, I see all that I love falling away: books unread, jokes untold, landscapes unvisited."
Stephen Dobyns

The never ending list of things that I can't quite get done. The curtains I promised a friend weeks ago that I would finish. The scrapbook in the closet, sitting in mute reproach. The stack of books that I am dying to read. The layer of dust on the mantle that is just screaming to be wiped away.

Sometimes I find no real joy in the things that I do accomplish, because the list is still there. I'm rushing to finish one thing just to start something else.

Strangely enough, life seems to slow down when he's gone in spite of all the rushing. At the end of the day, I take those few minutes of quiet solitude when the kids are finally asleep and the dishes done, to just sit for a moment or two. I admire the fall decorations on the mantle. I chuckle at the sight of our cat sleeping in contorted positions by the hearth. I breath a sigh of relief that one more day is over and that I have a brief respite from the chaos.

Then it's over and I make lunches for tomorrow, straighten the house before bed, and put one more X on the calendar to indicate that we are one day closer to his return. I live for that big red X. It reminds me of the one person who loves me no matter what. It reminds me of how cherished I am and how much I love him in return. It reminds me of the reason why I have two beautiful children sleeping down the hall, innocently oblivious to my stress and turmoil.

He'll be home tomorrow, and we will be complete.