Friday, September 28, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Grasp

It may be because I have been in 1 Peter 2:1-12 this week but the first picture that came to mind at the word grasp was a baby reaching out and grabbing a finger and grasping it. Holding it tight. Not letting go. I remember the wonder I had as a young child at a baby's ability to hold on tight when I would help out in the nursery at church. "Can you see this? She is so strong!! She won't let go!!"

What do I grasp for? So many things. Too often all the wrong things...comfort, ease, quiet, pleasure- me, me, me.

How I long to grasp for the things that God wants me to grasp... God's Word, His will, Christ-likeness. "As newborn babies desire the sincere milk of the Word so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord."

This morning while reflecting on how to apply the truths, commands, and promises of 1 Peter 2:1-12 I wrote: "I need to put aside my fleshly lusts that wage war inside of me (v11): malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander (v1). Lord, I can't do this on my own - I'm thankful that You are building me up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood (v5) through Your Word (v2). May I always hunger after it like a baby hungers after milk. May I wake up like a baby starving to be fed from Your Word! Thank You for choosing me as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (v9), thank You for making me a people, for giving me mercy (v10) but all of this isn't about me. It's about Your bigger purpose - so that I may proclaim Your excellency - You who have called me "out of darkness into His marvelous light" (v9)! As a result of being immersed in Your Word and allowing it to conform me You will overflow in me so that my behavior "among the Gentiles" will be so excellent that, even when they try to find a reason to slander me they will see my good deeds and glorify God in the day of visitation (v12). I love that quote in "point to ponder" - "True evangelism is the overflow of Him in me." Oh God, please overflow in me today!"

I want to grasp God like that baby in the nursery grasped my finger... and not let go so that others may know Him.

 Linking up with Gypsy Mama today for Five Minute Friday. Join me?

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's Working Wednesday: Homemade Kettle Korn

Do you love Kettle Korn? Yummy, sweet, salty goodness that you can only get once a year at a fair or festival after paying an arm and a leg. Or, maybe you can have it more often than that and without all that cost...

We love popcorn. Glenn and I both grew up in families in which popcorn was Sunday night's supper so that is a tradition that we've continued in our own family. In the early years of our marriage we had an air popper then a Stir Crazy popcorn popper until it broke and we went back to the air popper. When we were living with Brian and Kristina back in those crazy months in the summer of 2008 Kristina taught me the best way to make popcorn - in a regular pot. I remember Linda Zona making it that way for us when we would stop in for a visit but I really didn't know how she did it.

It's super easy but it does take some trial and error based on your pot of choice and your stove. All you do it throw some oil in a pot along with 3 popcorn kernels. Put the lid on the pot, put the pot on the burner and listen for the popping. When the three kernels have popped pour the rest of the unpopped popcorn in the pot (I'd start with about a 1/2 cup, you can adjust after you see how that does) and put it back on the heat shaking occasionally until the popping stops. Pour it into a bowl and put whatever toppings you want on it - yummy!

We usually eat a few bowls of regular popcorn and when everyone has almost had enough I go into the kitchen and make a batch of Kettle Korn "for dessert." I often bring Kettle Korn with me to parties or serve it when people come over and I am always asked for the recipe so... here it is:
Homemade Kettle Korn!
Kettle Korn
1/2C popcorn kernels (or more or less depending on your pot size)
1/4C sugar (or more or less depending on how sweet you like it - I usually don't fill my 1/4C all the way)
salt to taste

1. Put 3 un-popped kernels and some oil in your pot (I don't measure this. Maybe 2T ??)
2. Cover and heat it at med-high shaking a few times until the kernels pop
3. Put the rest of the popcorn kernels in the pot and pour the sugar over them and put the lid back on.
4. Shake regularly until it stops popping. (The shaking in making Kettle Korn is more critical than the shaking when making regular popcorn because you don't want the sugar to burn!)
5. Pour out into a bowl, sprinkle with salt then wait a little bit before digging in because that sugar on the popcorn is HOT!
6. Enjoy your Kettle Korn for WAY CHEAPER than at the fair.

1/2 C popcorn and the "secret ingredient" - 1/4C sugar!
I popped a pot of kettle korn shortly before posting so I could have a picture. My kids were super excited. (Insert cute picture of kids eating it that I totally forgot to take!) Kettle Korn doesn't happen everyday but popcorn does happen quite regularly around here. It is a semi-healthy, pretty cheap snack to feed the starving masses of kids that hang out around my house on a regular basis.

WARNING: Once you start making this you won't be able to stop. I've heard this from many people I've given this recipe too!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Five Minute Friday (belated): Wide

When I first saw the word "Wide" I thought of that old song that we used to sing as kids "Deep and Wide" but as I thought of that song I really can't figure out what it is about. Hmmm. Any ideas out there??

Then I thought of Stuart Townsend's song, "How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure...." Oh, bummer. Great song, but"vast" is a synonym but it is not the same as wide.

I guess what wide really makes me think lately is how wide our country is. We applied to a couple of programs out on the other coast of this country. It is going to take a LONG time to get there for interviews if we drive!

Thinking of how wide our country is made me think of "as far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our sins from us" (Psalm 103:12). That fact is SO EXCITING to me!! You can measure "North" and "South." Our friends who just moved to Nepal went over the North Pole. They didn't go East or West (and, as a result, both lost a bet). As they traveled north eventually they ended up traveling south. When you start heading west there is no end to the heading of west. You may pass that place where you started ten million times but you are always headed west. I am so glad that my sins are removed as far as the east is from the west - now, that is wide!!

That's my 5 minutes on "Wide." I'm linking up with the Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday a little late. Join me?

Five Minute Friday

Monday, September 17, 2012

What am I going to do?

I often struggle with what am I going to do. Glenn is in training to be a doctor so I know what he is going to do but I don't know what I am going to do. I'm not a doctor or a nurse or anything special. I have no special skills or training. We aren't even to residency yet but in our application we had to talk about our plans for after residency and when that topic comes up I often wonder what I can offer where ever we end up long term (if we ever end up somewhere long term). If we end up living various places short term for the rest of our lives what kind of contribution can I make in those places?

As we've been going through the application process and I have struggled at the unknown of how I can be of use God has brought a few things into my life that have caused me to think a little differently about the future that God has in store for us. Here are a few of them in no particular order.

* Passport Through Darkness. I've recently been reading this book that I got for free on Kindle a couple of months ago. Reading it has brought me to tears more times than I can count. The horrors recounted in this book and how God can use someone who is just willing to be used have made a profound impact on me. The idea of doing anything like she has done scares me to death but if it is something that God asks me to do, with His help, I am willing.

* Dave and Hannah. Our dear friends from Houghton are, at this very moment, in a plane with their two children (who we've been praying for all day!) on the way to Nepal for a 2 year commitment with Samaritan's Purse post residency program. They moved to Rochester for Dave to start residency as we moved from Rochester for Glenn to start medical school. It has been neat to be 4 steps behind them and to watch them grow and learn, walk down the path that we will soon be walking. I have learned a lot from them and have loved hearing them process things and am looking forward to continuing to do so as they spend this time overseas.

* MCCROPDERS. We were introduced to these people yesterday afternoon during a CMDA student teleconference. They are a group of young doctors and their families that are currently in language school in France, preparing to go to work at a teaching hospital in Burundi. It was so awesome to listen to how God brought them all together as a team and how God has directed them. Glenn and I were so excited to hear their story and have started praying that God would bring together a team of people for us to work with like that. It will be neat following their blog to see what they learn along the way as well as they are all 6 steps or so ahead of us.

 * Cream Cheese Festival. OK, this may be a silly one but God did use it in my life. I think that going to the Cream Cheese Festival is a requirement of being an RMED student here in Lowville. That being said Glenn and I took a walk with the kids up to check it out on Saturday morning. I enjoy walking around things like that to just people watch, look at everything, not buy anything. It doesn't thrill Glenn so, after walking around for a while, we walked home with him so he could study and work on his application. I decided to try to help give him a quiet place to study by taking the kids back to the festival to check out some of the events (we were too late to get a piece of the giant cheesecake but the kids won $60 for 2nd place in the milk tray relay!). We mostly played around near and watched the kids' events. A couple of volunteers left so I pitched in a little to help out. At the end of the festival we helped with clean up by folding chairs and tables and putting them where they needed to go as well as cleaning up at various other messes around town. (Hannah's great with a broom and we learned that those wires on hay bales kind of hurt.) The girls and I had so much fun helping out with the clean up! Seeing how much what we did to help was appreciated helped me to realize all I need to be is willing and available and I can be used.

* Lowville. I think that our time here in Lowville in general and the great people that I have met here have been a huge influence on my life as well. I love this small town atmosphere. There are many people here who know that we are only going to be here through January (everyone is warned of that when they first meet us) yet they have stepped out of their ways to invite us to things and to welcomed us to be a part of their lives and their families. For that I am so grateful! Living here has been so much fun because of several families who have opened their arms and lives to us.  I am challenged to do the same with others no matter how long or short of a time period they may be in our lives.

* 1 Peter Study. I've been doing a study on the book of 1 Peter with several of the ladies doing the Hello Mornings Challenge and it has been so great taking a closer look at this letter written to "elect exiles" who are "scattered (sowed) abroad" and "reside as aliens." I am an alien. Aliens are weird, not normal, definitely "not from around here." I have felt like an alien many times. I have been scattered various places, so far in my life it's been mostly around New York but we'll soon to venture from here, Lord willing, so I loved a quote I saw in my Bible study book: "God scatters His children that His grace might reach the ends of the earth." Oh, how I long for the reason that I am scattered to be that His grace can reach farther! This morning we moved on to 1:13-25 and I was challenged with the idea that I need to prepare my mind for action (my mind is such a battle ground!) and fix my hope completely on the grace of Jesus.

 So, though I don't know exactly how God is going to use us in the future, I do know some key things that we do need to do, both now and for the rest of our lives:
1. Be available and willing to serve and do what needs done even if it's hard or gross or scary
2. Learn from those who are on the path just ahead of us as well as those who have walked this path long before us.
3. Pray for team mates
4. Open my home and my heart to people
5. Surrender completely to God and be obedient to Him.
6. Prepare my mind for action and fix my hope completely on the grace of Jesus.

All day today a song by Hillsong that we sang last night at church has been running through my head:
I confess my hope
In the light of Your salvation
Where I lose myself
I will find You're all I need

Sing my soul
Of the Saviour's love
Sing my soul
Unto God alone

I will meet You here
In the life we call surrender
Let the world I know
Be the glory of Your grace

Sing my soul
Of the Saviour's love
Sing my soul
Unto God alone

You alone are God
You alone are God
We declare the glory of Your name

Reign in all the earth
Reign in all the earth Jesus
 We don't know what our future holds but we are so thankful that we do know Who holds our future. Ultimately, it is not about me and what I can contribute. It's all about Him. I want all of my life to be about bringing glory and honor and praise to Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Application Submitted.... AHHHH

As of less than an hour ago our application to residency programs was submitted. I say "our" as if we were couple matching and we are both going to be starting a residency program next summer. Ultimately we are couple matching. They pick Glenn but they get all 6 of us and we are all going to be continuing our training for what God has in store for us through our years where ever we land next.

We have spent countless hours praying, researching, editing and re-editing various parts of the application but tonight we gathered our 4 great kids around us, held hands and stood in a circle and committed the application to God trusting Him with the results of all of our work up until this point, the circle ended up being a big group hug before everyone was done praying. I am so thankful for the great kids that God has entrusted to us and their faith and trust in our Sovereign God. They are willing and excited to go where ever God has in store for us next. I am thankful that God is in control and that He has the best place for us.

As we researched some more today we added a couple of programs to our list and took a couple of programs off of our list. Not exactly sure how our interview trail is going to go. Just for fun I mapped all the places that we are applying to and, if we can interview and drive the most optimal route (with a "quick" detour to visit Glenn's sister because we've never been to her city before), we will put about 8500 miles on our van and be in the van 140 hours driving alone. Sounds like an adventure - anyone want to join us?? We've joked today, as if we don't make a big enough impact as it is with our crew, shouldn't we buy this to take on our road trip?

So now, with his application submitted, we wait for interview offers. And pray. A few future dates for those who are curious and want to pray with us:
Interview season: October - January
Match Date (when we find out where we are going for residency): March 15, 2013
Graduation Date: May 19, 2013
Residency Starts: end of June 2013

Caleb emailed me a link to this song tonight. He thinks it should be our theme song:

I'm so thankful that the Author of our lives has His eye on us and that He has a part for us to play in this great adventure. Looking forward to finding out what our next roles are :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Focus

"Two women looked through prison bars
One saw mud, the other stars." *

It is amazing the difference what you focus on makes. You always find what you are looking for. If you are looking for all the things that are wrong in your life you will be sure to find lots of them. If, on the other hand, you are purposefully looking for the good things in your life you will be sure to find them too.

Trials are things that we all go through. They are (as I was reminded this week in 1 Peter 1:6) necessary. If I focus on how difficult my trial and how difficult my life is I get bogged down and depressed. If, instead, I turn my eyes above and take God at His Word that He is going to use these trials like losing my parents, moving 17 times in 13 years, and the smaller trials I face every day for my good which ultimately means making me more like Jesus (Rom. 8:28-29), I can use my trials to give praise, glory and honor to God. 

I have learned that I can not always control my circumstances but I can control what I focus on. As a result I can be joyful regardless of my circumstances. It is a choice. A choice I must make every moment of every day.

 * I first read this quote in Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow, one of my favorite books of all time.

Linking up for 5 Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo. Join me?
Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's Working Wednesday: Color Coded Kids

What's Working Wednesday is my weekly post to showcase something that is working for me or my family at the moment. It may not work for us forever and it may or may not work for you.

It all started with a cup. This one in fact:

When we first started using these vintage Tupperware cups that we'd picked up at a yard sale, almost every night at supper Lydia would request the green cup. I would often tell her, "You can't always have the green cup. You need to share it and let others have a chance." One night my husband turned to me and asked, "Why can't she always have the green cup? I had my own colored cup when I was a kid."

That kind of stopped me in my tracks. I'd never thought of having each kid have their own particular color of cup. We asked the other kids if they wanted to use a particular cup. Caleb said his favorite color was red so he got the red cup. Hannah said that she liked blue so she got the blue cup. Abigail became yellow by default. There is a disadvantage to being the baby and having decisions made for you before you are really able to communicate ;)

It has been really handy having color coded cups. Two big things are: you can always tell who didn't clear their spot at the table and it's one less thing to fight about.

Over the years the kids' favorite colors have changed but their assigned colors have not. I try, when I can, to buy things for the kids in their colors so we can tell who's stuff is who's at a glance without investigating. They don't really get a choice. Red, blue, green and yellow are pretty common colors but not everything comes in them so we have had to make some adjustments. For example, some things just don't come in yellow (poor Abigail). Also, often, instead of red things often come in pink (Caleb is not a fan!!).  Last year, when buying binders, there were no yellow or red binders in the kind that I wanted to get for the kids' notebooks so Caleb got an orange one and Abigail got the pink and everyone was happy.

Having color coded kids helps make changing our chore chart easy too because you just move down the paper clip or binder clip on the chart every week and everyone know what their job is.

I am so thankful for these 25 cent vintage Tupperware cups that have helped to make organization in my life a little bit easier.

 Note: Another thing helps me keep track of my kids is the fact that they each have a different first initial. It is so much easier to label something with just a G, S, C, H, L, or A then to have to write out everyone's whole names. (That is part of the reason Abigail broke our alphabetical order in the naming of our children. We liked the name Sarah but S was my letter. I think Abigail fits her.)

What do you do to help keep your kids' stuff organized?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Flashback: Christmas Letter 2004

Today I've been going through paper. Paper is one of my biggest struggles. I found something fun that I want to put here so I could always know where it was. It is my favorite Christmas letter of all times. (Of course, I haven't written many but it is still my favorite.) I often use my blog as a record keeping place. Probably not it's intended use but... I hope someone appreciates my little trip down memory lane. I figured out how to use the scanner on my relatively new printer. I don't know how to insert a pdf so here it is in image form. If only I knew where all theses pictures of these three cute tiny little kids were. Maybe someday I will find them and insert them in this post ;)

Without further ado.... Christmas Letter 2004
Hope you enjoyed a little flashback into what life was like for us 8 years ago. I know that I did.  Some of the fonts aren't very readable on this scanned copy. It's easier to read on the pdf so if you want to actually be able to read all of this you can read it in pdf form. Hmmm. Now I want to go listen to Christmas music ;)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Graceful

I have never been a graceful person. I trip over my own feet on a regular basis. I am not a ballerina so I guess that being graceful as I move really isn't all that important.

I do want to be a grace-full person though. A person full of grace.

Whenever I think of the word "grace" I automatically think:

That is how I have always remembered the difference between grace and mercy. Grace - unmerited favor - getting what I don't deserve. The biggest is Jesus' blood that covers my sin. Mercy - not getting what I do deserve. Most importantly not getting eternal separation from God.

There has been a lot of talk recently in things that I have read about grace. Giving yourself and others grace when you and they mess up. Living out the gospel.

I am so thankful for God's grace. I've been doing a study with my Hello Mornings group on 1 Peter and I've been reminded that "grace and peace... in fullest measure" (1:2) can only be found in Jesus. Peter writes his whole letter about the grace of God and then challenges us to "Stand firm in it!" (5:12). That is what I want to do.

And... of course... the word for the week made me think of a song. This week it is Andrew Peterson's Chasing Song. Here are part of the lyrics:
Now and then these feet just take to wandering
Now and then I prop them up at home
Sometimes I think about the consequences
Sometimes I don't

Well, I realize that falling down ain't graceful

But I thank the Lord that falling's full of grace
Sometimes I take my eyes off Jesus
And you know that's all it takes

Well I wish that I could say that at the close of every day

I was happy with the way that I'm behaving

'Cause Job, he chased an answer

The wise men chased the Child
Jacob chased her 14 years and he
Captured Rachel's smile
Moses chased the Promised Land
Joseph chased a dream
David, he chased God's own heart
All I ever seem to chase is me
How I need to chase God's own heart because only as I spend time with Him will I become graceful like He is.

Today I'm linking up with Inspired to Action for Hello Mornings and The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday. Two for one in one 5 minute post :)


Five Minute Friday

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Got Tomatoes?? A Recipe for You - West African Peanut Chicken

Today after school I went out and looked at our "garden." Our garden consists of 2 Topsy-Turvies and a bunch of random containers with tomatoes, bell peppers, and cayenne peppers as well as a window box that used to have lettuce in it (it all went to seed), a couple of containers with basil, and a container that used to have cilantro in it but it all died. Oh, and our citrus tree that looks a bit different from when we first got it. (This all reminds me... I really need to take pictures of our garden before it all dies since it looks a lot different than when we first planted it.)

Today's garden pickings - yum!

That was not what I was intending to write about.... what I was intending to write about is: if you have extra tomatoes you're looking to use up do I have a recipe for you - West African Peanut Chicken! We had it tonight (for probably the 2nd time ever - it needs to happen more often - it is SO delicious!!) and this is all that we had left:
It's delicious, even if it doesn't look that great!
I found the recipe when reading Family Feasts for $75 a Week that I checked out from the library. It has some great thrifty recipes many of which can be found at the author's website.

West African Peanut Chicken

1/2 cup peanut oil (or any cooking oil)
2# chicken in bite sized pieces (I actually only used 1 chicken breast but then again we treat meat like a condiment around here.)
3-4 onions, minced or pureed in food processor
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups pureed tomatoes (or 3 c. tomato sauce and 1 c. water) (I pureed tomatoes just picked from my garden in my blender = delicious!!)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup water
1t cayenne pepper or red pepper
1/2t black pepper
1/2t salt
Heat oil in a deep pot or very large heavy skillet. Add the chicken and fry on both sides until it is nicely browned. If your pan isn’t quite as wide as mine, you might do better frying half the chicken at a time, to keep the pieces separate and to let them get nicely brown. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Fry the onions and garlic in the same pot. When onion is soft and starting to brown, stir in tomatoes and water. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Return chicken to pot. Stir in peanut butter. it will look clumpy for a minute but will mix in nicely once it heats up. Add red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste. Simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
Serve with rice.

The last time we made this recipe we used canned tomatoes from the grocery store which worked but fresh tomatoes make this delicious! Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

What's Working Wednesday: Helpful Math Websites

What's Working Wednesday is my weekly post to showcase something that is working for me or my family at the moment. It may not work for us forever and it may or may not work for you.

School started recently so I have school on my mind.  I wanted to share a couple of helpful websites that I use to supplement our normal math curriculum. My kids set a timer and work on these websites for 20 minutes everyday. I'm sure that I would have my kids use these sites even if I didn't homeschool.

1. Xtra Math
Xtra Math is a fun, free website to help your kids master their math facts. It's way better than flash cards! Signing your kids up is easy. There are even video tutorials if you need help. Some things I like about it:
* It's quick. After the quiz for the day and a couple of "race the teacher" sessions have been completed (less than 10 minutes) the page says, "You're Done!" and the only option is to click "Sign Out." I like the clear beginning and ending. We all know when they've completed all the practice they need for the day.
* The focus is mastery. Students aren't quizzed on their subtraction facts until they can answer all of their addition facts in less than 3 seconds. Once addition, then subtraction are mastered students move on to master multiplication, then division.
* Detailed Reports. It is easy, on the reports page, to see at a glance how your kids are doing and which math facts they are struggling with. Reports are emailed to the parent or teacher every Monday morning so you can see how they are doing even if you haven't been on the website that week to check it out. The reports may be a little confusing at first. Check the "Help" section to help you interpret them. You are also emailed a reminder email if your child has missed a few days - a helpful thing for me.
A sample report from the recesses of my email.
2. Khan Academy
If you haven't checked it out Khan Academy I highly recommend you do. It is an amazing website where you can "Learn almost anything for free"! We have been using it for over a year, mostly for math practice. Again the goal is mastery but you get to pick which areas you work on. I, personally, have really enjoyed this site because I have always loved math. I am working my way through the math practice sections myself and, in the process, am re-learning a lot of difficult math concepts I used to know and learning some things I never did learn. It is great because if there is a math concept that you don't understand there is a video to explain how to do it and step by step hints to help you along. The videos come in handy when I can't explain a math concept to my kids myself (I am sure it will be even more helpful in the future as their math gets tougher!)

I am a "Coach" for each of my kids on Khan Academy so I can see what math concepts they have been working on. The "Coach" section gives a good overview of how your students have been using their time and helps to see at a glance what concepts they need help with.There are many schools that are using Khan Academy in their classrooms. I haven't explored it too much but there are various Teacher Resources to help you implement it in your classroom.

We haven't watched many of them but there are a ton of videos on all kinds of subjects including: math, science, computer science, finance and economics, humanities, test prep, as well as various talks and interviews. If there is a subject that you want to learn more about this just might be the place start.

These two websites have been helpful to me. Do you have any other math websites you recommend for use with your kids?