Friday, February 29, 2008

February Reading List

Anna's Books:

Completed This Month:
  • Desiring God by John Piper - Elijah purchased and recommended these Piper books to me, and I've enjoyed reading a chapter a day for theology. This one was a challenge to live each day with a hunger and desire for God. Although the term "Christian Hedonism" put me off for a while, I've come to understand it, and been reminded that our chief end should be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever - or to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, as Piper writes.
  • Rees Howells Intercessor by Norman Grubb - After finishing The Story of the Constitution, a textbook I was doing for history, I decided to read biographies for the subject of history. The life of Rees Howells was amazing, as well as challenging. He gave up so much and trusted God in all things, following Him even when the ways He led seemed strange. He was a powerful prayer warrior, and the ways He influenced history through intercession (especially during World War II) were amazing to read about.
  • Cashing It In by Ethan Pope - After this book sat for quite a while in my to-read pile, I decided to read a chapter a day for home education. I guess you could say it's a course in economics for me. =) Anyways, it was interesting to read how the world is shifting to using less cash, and this book gives practical ways for "getting ready for a world without money".
  • The Heavenly Man ~ the remarkable true story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway - The experiences of this man sold out for God throughout China's persecution of Christians is amazing and sobering. It challenges us to ponder whether we'd have the same level of commitment that the Chinese Christians of today have. At 16 Yun and his family came to know Jesus after He healed Yun's father. Immediately, he was on fire for God, praying and fasting for a Bible. God provided him a Bible in an amazing way, and Yun memorized huge portions and books at a time, then began preaching to others hungry for the truth - all at the age of 17! His life and the beatings, persecutions, and blessings he experienced are amazing. This man's life will challenge and inspire you in your faith.
  • The Bema by Tim Stevenson - "A story about the judgment seat of Christ", this novel follows the life of one lukewarm Christian businessman. He goes to sleep one night, and has a dream about Christ's return and his experiences at Christ's judgment seat. Saddened by the way he's not lived for God wholeheartedly, the dream/vision wakes him up to his spiritual state and he begins living for God, even when it's hard. This story challenges us to live for The Day, rather than merely for today.
  • Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart by John Ensor - Geared towards older teens and young adults, this book revealed the lies and current state our generation is in matters of love, and gave a great alternative to what we should do in matters of the heart.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - A beloved book friend that I thoroughly enjoyed reading again. After ordering a play of Little Women, I wanted to see how it measured up to the book. It delighted and encouraged me yet again and I found some wonderful quotes as well.
  • Psalm 91: God's Shield of Protection by Peggy Joyce Ruth - This book really broke down each part of Psalm 91, revealing the promises God has for us if we honor and believe Him. The testimonies in the back of people who claimed and lived Psalm 91 were very inspiring! There were especially a lot of stories of soldiers who had people at home praying for them, or who said Psalm 91 as a troop every day - and never lost a single man in their squadron.
  • Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper - This book was a challenge to live all of life with the Gospel in mind; to really try to make a difference in the world instead of simply getting by and being caught up in your own affairs. My prayer after reading this book is to be able to say at the end of my life, "I've not wasted it."
Currently Reading:
  • Daniel Deronda by George Elliot - Miriam Rebekah loaned me this book, and although I've only just started it (and it's quite long!) I think I shall enjoy reading this classic book.
  • R.G. LeTourneau: Mover of Men and Mountains, an autobiography - This is another biography I'll be reading for history. The life of faith of this man looks very interesting and inspiring, and I'll enjoy learning about the man who started the college my brother attends!
  • When I Don't Desire God by John Piper - The follow-up to Desiring God.
Miriam's Books:

Completed This Month:
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - Definitely enjoyed reading this again!
  • The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott - A sweet story that was Alcott's first novel at age 17. It's not exactly an in-depth book, but if you like the author, I do recommend it.
  • Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss - This was also a second reading (I'm sure there will be many!). It's written as a girl's journal and begins with her 16th birthday and ends a little before her death. It's her spiritual journey as well as her life story. I definitely recommend this book.
  • Seventh Day by Brock and Bodie Thoene - I have enjoyed reading this series. Having borrowed them all from Anna, I've been anticipating this one. Part of the A.D. Chronicles, the series chronicles the life of Jesus and those who might have had close contact with him.

    Currently Reading:

  • Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper - Very convicting book. I'm learning quite a bit through reading this.
  • Aborted Women: Silent No More by David C. Reardon - Though I've just started this book, I can tell it's going to be hard to read. Hard to read because it's going to have so much honesty about the subject of abortion in it. It's a terrible thing and I've always had trouble reading stuff about it. But I'm going to finish this one.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Teaching Joys

The above picture certainly helps represent what I've been busy with lately. Preparation for a dance presentation has to be done months ahead, so preparing for the upcoming May end-of-the-year presentations of The King's Praise Ballet began before classes even started in January. Thankfully, most of the dancers (all but the 5 new students) had their dresses from the Christmas presentation, but there were still spring accessories to find and make! I had a fun time finding the pretty hair pieces with beautiful colors, sparkly rhinestones, or delicate rosebuds. The colored skirt overlays for Ballet II are fun and fluttery! The colors - vibrant red, deep purple, royal blue, pretty pink, and aqua green - in the satin I used to make the sashes out of seemed to sing! It took quite a while to make all 39 sashes, so I'm glad to have them done! You'd think sashes wouldn't be hard to make, but between cutting them all out, sewing seams, turning right side out, and ironing out puckers, time really adds up! I still have 5 slips to sew, but then all of the costuming side of things will be done.

Then there's the choreographing and teaching. My head has been swirling as I try to come up with creative and different ways to stage 10 dances. Each class is doing a mostly ballet and a ballet with a flag dance, and it's been fun and hard at the same time to choreograph each different song. Then there's the teaching of the dances, trying to help the girls dance what I've felt in my heart and seen in my head. There's the classes to plan each week, choosing music and moves to focus on week-by-week. The King's Praise Ballet involves more then just the almost 5 hours spent teaching classes each week!

I've learned a lot on the business side of things, for which I am grateful. I've learned ways to keep track of money, the art of trying to arrange everyone, how to write clear instructions and updates, and so much more. Daddy was kind enough to help me figure out how to file taxes and social security for the year - and I learned firsthand how much you have to pay when you're self-employed!

All-in-all, I've been very blessed by these almost two years of teaching ballet. If you had told me just a few years ago if I'd be doing things on this scale, I would have been shocked. But, little by little, God grew and expanded my feeble efforts, and has given me the grace and strength for each step of the journey. The King's Praise Ballet isn't my "job" - it's a part of me. Yes, it has its stressful times and the organization is not a breeze! But the joy of seeing "my" girls discover the art of praising God with ballet has been so worth it all. The little gifts or pictures they give me are so thoughtful, and to hear their exclamations of joy and how much they like ballet thrills my heart.

The task isn't over. We're in full swing of classes and learning for the spring, and on March 1st, my oldest class will, Lord willing, have the chance to present the first song they've learned, He Reigns. There's still choreographing to finish up and planning to do for the spring presentation, schedules to organize, a location with a big stage to secure, etc. It certainly continues to be a big portion on what my time gets spent on. Through it all, God proves Himself faithful, and I'm humbled and honored to be His instrument.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

God's Beauty in the Sunsets

As I was driving home from dance last night, I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing God paint another one of His sunsets. They don't last long - here a moment and gone the next - yet the brilliant colors and intricate patterns give us a glimpse into God's amazing creativity. I thoroughly enjoy witnessing these spectacular events, for to me they're often rare. It's one thing our quiet little valley prevents; all the trees make it impossible to see the sky-canvass for such masterpieces.

This particular sky wasn't the most unique I've seen, yet the colors still thrilled my soul. It started with a display in my rear view mirror; streaks of purple, blue, and pink blended together in a soft pastel palette. Stealing glimpses into it was pleasant as the colors melded together in a soothing way before too quickly fading away. The next beauty was placed in front of me, where it looked as God left just one wide stroke of the prettiest pink painted across the sky. Set against the blue of the sky, my eyes had a feast as I got to savor my favorite color. Too soon I had driven beyond it, and it seemed as though the sunset had already ended. Winding down the familiar roads toward home, however, I caught another display out of the corner of my eye. As the road bent, it came into clearer view. This time vibrant and deep pinks and blues were twisting together and swirling throughout the sky. It seemed to be the very embodiment of joy, leaving my spirit uplifted as the dark hurried in.

My purpose in this poetic ramble? To remind you of the awesomeness of God and to urge you to never fail to see the beauty around you. Don't loose it by getting preoccupied or stressed on a busy day - look for and savor the loveliness! It will never fail to encourage you, whatever you're doing. It's there all around us; in the sky, whether alive with color, crystal clear, or full of fluffy cotton clouds. It's in the cheerful daffodils blooming in the yard and in the sweet faces of little boys and girls. Look for it, savor the small things God gave us, and search for His fingerprint wherever you go. You won't be disappointed. Don't miss it!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sibling Spotlight: Joel James

About two years older than myself, Joel is probably the sibling I am closest to. To describe him would take words that I don't think I have. He is funny, goofy, all-out, and absolutely all guy.
Joel is also very creative. His ingenious creativity has always amazed me. He can take all sorts of odds and ends make something so neat! Making pretend eyeglasses from wire, building buggies out of lawnmower frames, and very good woodcrafting are just a few of the neat and amazing things he can do.

Joel never fails to make me laugh. If it's playing a piano duet or washing dishes together, we usually ended up laughing our heads off (and covered in suds!). He and I always had an ongoing game of trying to scare the daylights out of the other. It was easier to make me jump, so I loved it when I could make Joel yell. :)
I remember one instance when lights had been turned out for the night and I was in bed. All of the sudden, something hit the door and started banging loudly...yep, he got me.

From working in the same schoolbooks and playing piano duets, to playing "knights and castles" and work, Joel and I did many things together. One of my favorite things to do was enter the imaginary world with Joel. In my opinion, I've never played with anyone better at it. He made it real.
Joel is extremely talented. He plays piano beautifully and is excellent at the trumpet. He can play almost any instrument he picks up and sings quite well.

Joel is a volunteer firefighter and lives up the road at our local firestation. He works for the local Water Works office which is, happily for him, right beside the firestation. He is doing very well at his job and enjoys it.

Joel is also an obsessed pyrotechnic. Ever since he could work a lighter, he loved lighting firecrackers, bottlerockets, and any kind of firework he could get his hands on. As he got older, it became a more serious fascination. At seventeen, he worked with a man who shoots a major firework show at the Fourth of July and Christmas in a close-by city. Since he was underaged, Dad learned how to shoot shows, as well. Now Joel and Daddy have shot professional firework shows at the Fourth of July, Christmas and even baseball games. Joel is now almost twenty and can do it by himself. He loves it! He started a New Year's Eve show in our community and it has been a great success the two times that it has been done so far.

We like to tease Joel about being a fireman and shooting fireworks. He may have to put out one of his own fires one of these days (just joking, he's quite safe!). =)

Ever since Joel moved out, I have missed him so much! He's no longer at the end of the table, making faces and causing me to choke back laughter. There's no more spontaneous sitting down at the piano and playing "Heart and Soul" (again). =) I can't look outside and see him walking up and down the driveway playing taps on his trumpet.

Joel, I miss you and love you! You're a wonderful brother and you are making a great uncle. Kids always have and always will love you! You're just too cool and funny!

The Pop Culture Creed "Give Us Something To Live For."

Almost ten years ago, my brother Seth wrote an essay for a writing contest and won first place. Though I only found about it recently, I asked to read it. It was very well written and while reading it, I was saddened by the fact that it was so true. It is written from the point of view of the ones who have been deceived by what the world has to offer. Rather a different perspective.

The Pop Culture Creed "Give Us Something To Live For".
by S. D. Hart
I (or we, as it were) promise to not have any convictions of our own, but instead adopt the beliefs of the almighty majority. We all march to the same cadence; the voices of our songs tell us to live for the moment, to hope for nothing more in life beyond relationships based on our corrupted idea of love. We are told that if you're mature enough free sex is fun. But no one said that we would face destructive consequences for our promiscuity. One of our singers has said if it makes you happy it can't be that bad, but if it makes you happy then why are you so sad? It is a question we can't answer. Our movies tell us to glory in violence and illicit sex as good entertainment. The advertisers tell us to buy, buy, buy. It'll make you cool and fashionable,
besides, everyone has this. They have told us that lust is really just hormones and that pornography is art and the gays were just born that way. So, quickly we become a society without individuality. We are told to accept anything, to have an open yet cynical mind - this is our confusion. We are taught to discredit age, after all history is boring compared to sports. We learn that all religions lead to God so all are equal, all except for the weak right-wing fundamentalists who are brave enough to call themselves Christians. We pride ourselves on our
pluralistic mind set. But in striving to accept all ways of thinking and all beliefs we have nothing in which to set our own hearts. We move as one body from fad to fad, always restless and never satisfied. We hide the shallowness of our empty hearts by creating a complex web of trivial knowledge. Many cannot cope with this pointless life and so they self-destruct. Others decide to jump out of the line and march to a different drum than ours. They are brave; however many cannot take the pressure we put on them to return and be acceptable like us. But there are those who will not break and they walk with great freedom through the Mall their heads held high, wearing their independence from this prison of doubt proudly. We shun them in the presence of
our friends in order to cover our all consuming insecurity. But in private we covet friendships with them, thinking that perhaps we also may one day take a stand as they have. But they are all too few and we need something greater to change us all and give us a reason to live. The MEDIA says there is no god but money and fame. And we have seen no different. It would be great if there was a God (male or female we don't care) that really cared about ME and knew ME and would show ME a purpose for this life. Until then, we don our Tommy jeans and POLO shirts, turn up Hootie' and follow the crowd to the club. But God, if you're really real, I know there must be a better way. So please tell us, please tell ME somehow of life above this.

Alabama Tornado

Yesterday afternoon, a tornado ripped through two cities that are very close to where we live. It's so weird to see pictures of places we drive past every week, so devestated. Our place is fine - we just got some rain (the wind I felt yesterday certainly was preparing for a big storm!) and our power went out for about 4 hours. However, so many others lost their homes or businesses, and the clean-up will take some time, I'm sure. To see some pictures that my sister Miriam took (she was at her church when the tornado went through!) go here.

Please be in prayer for all of the hurting people today! It's so unreal when something like this hits so close to home!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Barefoot Walk in February

The day was windy and overcast; the weather unseasonably warm and inviting. The outdoors beckoned, calling me to forsake the dull inside life and get out into God's beautiful creation. Pulling off my socks and slippers, I joyously set out for a short walk, drinking deep of the fresh air. Yes, I'm truly a barefoot country lass at heart! No, I'm not that outdoorsy most of the time, but sometimes there's just nothing better then a walk in the solitude of the woods. Never mind the rocks and pinecones littering the dirt road - my feet are tough and enjoy the feeling of dirt between my toes!

I set out across the yard, tiptoeing over pricklies, and went up our driveway, aptly named Sandhill Road. The birds twittered and hopped through the brush as the breeze rustled the trees. Climbing the "big orange hill", I stepped into the clearing and gazed down the rolling hills kept clear for the power lines. It felt like it would soon storm as the wind whipped through, shaking the tall pine trees and making my skirt billow. I stood still for a moment, savoring the feeling as the wind drove through, so hard it felt as though I could jump and fly with it. Turning back towards home, I descended into the quiet valley, feeling the stillness for a brief moment - until the breeze again rippled through.

I so enjoy our place in the valley. The quiet solitude and beautiful surroundings - yes, this is my home. Writing outside on the swing, working inside with a beautiful tableau just outside the window - it's the little things I take for granted. The fluctuating weather may be sometimes annoying, but the warm Alabama days that appear throughout the winter give a gleam of joy and an opportunity to again walk outside in bare feet...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

We hope you have a wonderful day filled with God's love and the love of family and friends!

What are your Valentine's Day traditions? Each year, we have a family party where we put cards and candy on each other's plates. It's a nice way to remember to express love and thankfulness for each other and to get some yummy treats! =) A new tradition of mine is to wear my red rose dress - a perfect dress for Valentine's Day!

What are your plans for today?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Quotes from Little Women

On a I-don't-know-how-many-times re-read of Little Women, I'm again being delighted by the story and inspired by the wealth of wisdom a fictional story can contain. Marmee is such a wonderful character, and a role model of what I'd like to someday be as a mother. I thought I'd share 3 of her admonitions to her girls, for they really stood out and encouraged me.

"If I don't seem to need help, it is because I have a better friend, even than Father, to comfort and sustain me. my child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning and may be many, but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of life-long peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrow, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.

"Learn to know and value the praise which is worth having, and to excite the admiration of excellent people by being modest as well as pretty, Meg."

"Holding a hand of each and watching the two young faces wistfully, Mrs. March said, in her serious yet cheery way - 'I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience. It is natural to think of it, Meg, right to hope and wait for is, and wise to prepare for it, so that when the happy time comes, you may feel ready for the duties and worthy of the joy. My dear girls, I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world - marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing - and, when well used, a noble thing - but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor man's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, then queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."

Friday, February 08, 2008

Sibling Snapshots: Playing Together

Anyone who has siblings, children, niblings, or babysits, knows that sometimes it's hard to keep children occupied. It often falls to the older siblings or aunts/uncles to entertain the younger children in a home. Sometimes there are things you'd rather do then play with children, but the time you spend with them can really influence them in a powerful way - even if you're just doing simple things.

I looked through my scrapbook and found pictures of things my siblings and I did together - I've got so many good memories of the times we had together! I hope that you enjoy the pictures, and get ideas of things you can do with the young ones in your life.

Since I already did a whole post on games, I won't post anymore pictures of them! =) Playing them can be a wonderful way to enjoy doing things together as a family. From simple games of "Go Fish" to long games of "Monopoly", there's plenty to choose from to appeal to each child's ages and interests.

If you have sisters, they probably never get tired of playing dolls. I'll be the first to admit: I often grew very tired of playing dolls with Jubilee. In fact, I remember sneaking off a few times to play dolls by myself so she wouldn't ruin my story (shocking, I know!) ! However, playing with dolls is a way a little girl learns to be a mommy, and they always love it if big sisters play along. There's innumerable things to do with them. A favorite of mine was to take our little dolls camping outside. We'd lay down old sheets, make tents out of blankets, pack bundles of cloths for each doll, and have fun playing in the warm, spring air. Other times we'd make matching cloths for our dolls; Miriam would give us scraps of fabric, and by cutting two arm holes and wrapping the cloth around with a rubberband, you had an instant dress! Other times we'd mommy our baby-dolls or make up adventures for our big-girl dolls.

Another thing to do with sisters is to play dress-up! I don't know if a girl is ever too old for dress-up. =) Finding pretty things to wear and pretending to be a princess thrills any little girl's heart!

Girls, don't hesitate to play "boyish" things with brothers, either! Lydia, Elijah, and I often played cars together - though we gave each car a personality to make it more fun. We made towns for them out of styrofoam and designated cars to be children, police, or "bad guys". Elijah didn't have brothers his age, so I'd often play army men with him - and enjoy it almost as much as he did!

Don't just stay inside either - go out in God's beautiful creation! When we were younger, we'd romp outside all year long, climbing trees, making trails, building forts, or playing ball. By raking leaves together, you can accomplish something worthwhile then have fun jumping in the big piles! Going on hikes or bike rides works off extra energy while you pretend to explore.

Something we always enjoyed was building things. Legos was probably our favorite tool, though blocks, tinker toys, and marble works certainly had their place! Sometimes we'd divide the legos, giving each person the same things to the littlest block then seeing what different things we could make out of our portion. One time Miriam worked with us to make a huge town out of every single lego we owned! It took a while, but was a lot of fun!

Music has and probably always will be a part of our family. We all play something, and often play together for family or group celebrations. Even when we were too young to play a real instrument, we had fake instruments so that we could all play trumpets together!

Another great thing to do with youngsters is to let them help you cook. I know, it goes a lot slower when you have a pair of little hands trying to help. However, they enjoy it immensely, and while occupying them, you get something made for a meal or snack! One of James and Sara's favorite things to do when they come is to cook with Aunt Anna. We'll each find a special apron and bake away!

There's definitely tons more to do: making paperdolls, coloring, going on a scavenger hunt, etc. Whatever it is, be creative, and have fun with the little ones in your life. They grow up so quickly!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Winter Skirt

Although I'm busy with sewing for dance and others, I did find time recently to make a new winter skirt. I found an old pattern at my Grandparent's house (I doubt it's in print anymore!) that was actually for a long skirt - you can't find many like that anymore, sadly enough. Anyway, I made this skirt once before out of jean-like material, and after enjoying it so much, I decided to make another one. I used some heavy fabric we'd found lying around, and it really works well for a warmer, winter skirt. Ankle-length is one of my favorite skirt lengths, especially in winter. I enjoyed lessons and shopping in this skirt today, and look forward to wearing it many more times!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Doing Hard Things: Campaigning

This year marks the first I've really done much in helping to campaign for a politician. It's not exactly my favorite thing to do (to put it mildly!) - in fact, it's one of those "hard things" for me. However, inspired by the Rebelutionaries I've known and read about, this time, with my family's help, I was able to do a little.

As you can see, Mike Huckabee is our family's candidate of choice. Although I'm not yet old enough to vote in the primaries (I will by the time November rolls around!) I can still help out and encourage others to vote.

The first thing I did was to make some signs for us to hold. Since I enjoy artsy things, this was really enjoyable to do. I wrote with pencil and colored over with markers while listening to CDs. They're not perfect signs, but they definitely work and catch the eye!

On Saturday, we were able to attend a Huckabee rally when he came to Montgomery. When the coordinators saw our homemade signs, they immediately pushed Jubilee and I to the front. I'm not one that really cares too much about that sort of thing, but we did get a very nice view, and we held our signs high even though our arms began to ache. It was inspiring to see Mike Huckabee right in front of us and get to hear him in person. While there, a homeschooling family who was traveling and working with Huckabee's campaign gave me a huge stack of brochures with the plea to get them out to as many people as possible.

I wasn't really looking to hand out literature, but since we were given 50-60 papers, I knew that we shouldn't waste them. So, yesterday Dad and I walked (in the first really warm (hot!) day recently) door to door in a close neighborhood, ringing doorbells, asking people to consider voting for Huckabee, and leaving flyers where no one answered. I do not like talking to people I don't know, but I found out that people are actually very nice when you ring their doorbells, and very willing to take what you give them. Daddy did do most of the talking however, which was nice. :) We were able to distribute all but 15 of the papers before we had to stop for lunch and so I could go teach dance; it took around 1 1/2 hours, as the neighborhood nearest us is very spread out. But, it was fun to walk with Dad and get some good exercise!

Then this morning Jubilee and I stood at the intersection near the place to vote for us from 7:15-8:15 a.m. holding signs. Again, it was pleasant to see how nice people were. We got many honks, waves and smiles (only 2 unfavorable ones!) and as we were the only people standing out, we hopefully influenced at least a few people. Dad and Jubi may stand out later today as I'm at dance before we go to band.

All-in-all, we didn't do all that much. We weren't a part of an organized campaign, and we didn't work all day for a week. However, we did what we could in the time that we had, and hopefully made at least a little difference.

If you're in a Super Tuesday state and eligible to vote, make sure that you get out and vote today! And, consider Huckabee! =)

Note: I do not want to get in a big debate in the comments section about the candidates. Feel free to state who you support, but please don't get in an argument over why you do. Thanks! :-)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Bread Recipes

Maria Pauline asked what my favorite bread recipes were, so I thought I'd share them with you all.

The first one I'll share is the recipe for bread that I use most often. I make this about once-a-week, and when it's fresh it usually goes pretty quickly! What's left over we use for sandwiches and toast. Mrs. Hart shared this recipe with me a while ago, and it's worked wonderfully since then!

1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
5 tsp. instant yeast
2 TBSP wheat gluten (optional, but improves texture)
6 to 7 1/4 cups flour (I use mostly fresh-ground wheat flour, with some unbleached white to make a good consistency)
1 TBSP salt

Combine first 5 ingredients. Add yeast, gluten, and 5 cups of flour. Add the salt, then continue to mix adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time.

Knead until you think it's ready (dough will be pretty smooth and elastic and just feel right). Let rise until double (around 1 hour). After rising, form into loaves or other shapes (rolls, bread braids, etc.).

Place in a greased loaf pan. Let rise until at least double in size. (I heat the oven to 150* then turn in off, placing the pans inside the nice warm space. The loaves rise nicely, taking about 30 minutes). Bake loaves at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Makes about 3 large sized loaves.

You can add different things to this bread to make it taste even yummier! Sometimes I'll put in leftover oatmeal from breakfast, or a few TBSP of a 7-grain cereal mix. It also works well for making cinnamon raisin bread by rolling it flat, spreading it with melted butter, sprinkling on sugar, cinnamon, and raisins, and rolling up jelly-roll style then placing in a loaf pan.

Although sometimes I make rolls out of the above recipe, I also enjoy finding and trying out other roll recipes. To me, bread/rolls/biscuits are one of the yummiest parts of the meal. I don't always make some to go along with different meals, but when I can I enjoy making them.

One of my favorites I found a while ago on A Heart of Praise's Blog. When I tried Herb Dinner Rolls, they were an instant favorite in my family. I've made them quite a few times since, and everyone who tries them really enjoys them. So, I definitely suggest you click the link and try them out!

Another roll I tried recently was Pumpkin Dinner Rolls from Tammy's Recipes. I've only made them once so far, but the first time they were delicious! I had to only make half of a batch, because there's not many of us at home anymore, and we still had quite a lot leftover. Or, you could make a whole batch, and freeze the leftovers for a quick roll for subsequent meals. By the way, Tammy's Recipes is great place to find recipes. I've found quite a few just today that I can't wait to try!

Before I go, I thought I'd share a very quick pizza dough recipe I found in our Set for Life cookbook. I used to make pizza dough using a recipe you had to knead twice and let rise twice. It wasn't too hard, but you had to plan quick enough ahead to get the dough rising. This one you only have to let rise for 5 minutes, and we've found that it tastes the same as the other recipe. Plus, it's easier to make, so I'm all for it! =)

Favorite Pizza
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (may substitute some white if prefer)
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup comfortably hot water
2 TBSP oil

Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add water and oil; mix well. Add remaining flour as needed to make a soft dough. Knead 5 minutes; let dough rest 5 minutes. Use a pizza roller to roll dough about 1/4-inch thick on a lightly greased heavy pizza pan or baking sheet. To prevent soggy crust (which I do!), prebake at 500* for 3-4 minutes, just until puffed but not brown. After prebaking, spread dough with sauce and add desired toppings (we usually use cheddar and mozzarella cheese, cooked turkey bacon or ground beef, and onions and green peppers for those who like them). Bake in a 500* oven for 10-12 minutes for a large pizza or 5-7 minutes for a medium or small pizza.

This makes one large pizza, but usually I double the recipe and make two. That way if other people are over we have plenty, and leftover pizza is always good! Last week I made pizza pockets using the dough, and they turned out really yummy! Just roll small portions of dough flat, spread with sauce and toppings, then fold ends in envelope style. Bake until lightly browned.

*Note* All of these recipes are to me, pretty easy. However, I have been making bread for quite some time now, and if you're just beginning, the recipes may seem hard at first. After making it for a while though, you'll start working quicker and they won't seem as hard!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Chores and Music

I just spent a delightful time sweeping and washing the kitchen floor while listening to a CD of Mozart's Flute Concertos. Wait - did I say delightful time cleaning? I sure did! =)

On Fridays I try to get weekly cleaning done - kind of a freshening up at the end of the week. Today I wasn't really looking forward to it, but eventually forced myself to do it. However, once I started, I enjoyed the vigor of shaking rugs in the crisp clean air, then cleaning the house while listening to sweet and soothing music. It was a nice energizing time spent that produced enjoyable results in a clean house!

Chores don't have to be drudgery; if you decide to enjoy them and do them with a cheerful heart, they can actually be fun! Yes, I am speaking to myself at the same time - after all, there are plenty of times when I do chores grudgingly. However, one thing I've found that helps chores get done quickly with joy is to listen to music while cleaning. Some days it's lovely classical music, as it was today. Other days it's upbeat praise music I can sing along to or the local Christian radio station. Whatever it is, just turning something on can make a lasting and wonderful change in my mood!

Oh - and wearing a pretty apron while cleaning helps one feel lovely and ready to work!

What helps you feel cheerful and energized while doing chores?

Zelophehad's Daughters

My name is Tirzah, daughter of Zelophehad. All of my life we've been wandering in the desert, traveling from place to place and seeing the older generation slowly die off. On pleasant evenings by the fire, my father would tell me of the miracles the LORD performed for His people - how He sent plagues against the Egyptians who'd enslaved His people, and how He'd led them out from bondage. Papa told of the way the LORD had parted the Red Sea, how He'd fed the Israelites with quail and manna which He still provides) and quenched their thirst by making water flow from a rock! Then he'd tell of the way the Israelites had disobeyed, refusing to enter the promised land because they were afraid of the inhabitants. Papa always got sad at this point, as he'd tell of the people's rebellion, and the subsequent curse that not one of the people who'd seen God's miraculous signs in Egypt would be able to enter the promised land. My father had been a good man, but eventually he too died in this desert.

My family is a wonderful one, but I have no brothers, only four sisters. Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and I have worked hard together, supporting each other through all of the difficult times. It's now been forty years since that awful day of rebellion, and word has it that soon we'll be headed to the promised land! While listening to all the talk about who will inherit what land, we realized that with no sons to carry on our father's name, he could very easily disappear from all history!

With a love for our father and his memory in our hearts, we tremulously approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, leaders and whole assembly. Taking a deep breath, we began. "Our father died in the desert. He was not among Korah's followers who banded together against the LORD, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father's name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father's relatives."

We didn't get an answer right away, for Moses had to bring our case before the LORD. When Moses announced God's decision, we were overjoyed! We were to have property and an inheritance among our relatives! Now we look forward to entering Cannan with new hope. Our father's name will continue, and we'll be provided for.
The above is an imaginative narrative taken out of Numbers 27:1-11. In our continued study of The Women of the Bible, we now come to the daughters of Zelophehad: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They were women left alone among the Israelites, with no father or brother to take care of them. However, they remained strong and appealed to the LORD, and He provided for them.

So, what can we learn from their story? We can learn the power of a proper appeal. Zelophehad's daughters could have taken on a "poor me" attitude, being left alone with no promise of provision. Instead, however, they went before their leaders with a proper appeal that their father's name not be forgotten and that they receive his inheritance. And what was God's response? "What Zelophehad's daughters are saying is right..." (Numbers 27:7a) The women's request led to God a law to provide for the families of men who had died without a male heir. This law probably led to many other families receiving help and an inheritance because of these women's boldness.

This isn't the last we hear of Zelophehad's daughters. In Numbers 36, we learn the rest of their story. After many other laws and the plans for the tribal property in the promised land was given to the people, the family heads of the clan the women belonged to went to Moses with a question. In short, they were concerned that the inheritance of Zelophehad would disappear from their tribal lands and be joined to the property of whoever the daughters married. Keeping the property of a tribe together was very important, so God had another command concerning Zelophehad's daughters: they could marry anyone they pleased, as long as they married within the tribal clan of their father.

Did the women pout and cry when they got such a command that put limitations on who they could marry? Not at all! As Numbers 36:10-12 says, "So Zelophehad's daughters did as the LORD commanded Moses. Zelophehad's daughters - Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah and Noah - married their cousins on their father's side. They married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in their father's clan and tribe."

What can we learn from these unique women? Next time you see something that seems unfair, don't lash out and try to assert your rights. Instead, make a proper appeal to the authorities, then abide by whatever decision they give. Respect your authorities and, providing it is right in God's sight, cheerfully do what they require of you.

Read about Zelophehad's daughters in Numbers 27:1-11 and 36:1-12