celebrating women’s history month: Gladys Aylward


Today’s celebrates woman in history is Gladys Aylward, missionary and defender of the women and children in China.

Gladys Aylward was born in London in February of 1902 to a working class family. She entered the work force at age 14 as a parlor maid, otherwise know as a house servant, and her responsibilities included doing heavy chores, long hours, and low pay. Gladys had been going to church off and on in her life and was familiar with the Gospel message but had no personal relationship with God. One night a stranger confronted her and asked about her spiritual need which convinced her to go see the pastor. She talked with the pastor’s wife and trusted Christ alone for her salvation.

Gladys’ life was overwhelmingly changed after she was converted. She dreamed of going to another country and sharing about Jesus as a missionary which led her to the China Inland Mission. She enrolled in the training but failed. So she worked at other jobs and saved money.

One day, Gladys heard of a 73 year old missionary, Mrs. Larson, who needed a young assistant to help her in China. So with all the money she had saved, she bought a train ticket on the Trans-Siberian railway. Finally on October 15th, 1932, Gladys said goodbye to her friends and family and set out for China. She traveled across England and Europe without any troubles but eastern Russia was a dangerous war zone. When she wasn’t allowed to go any farther on the train, she got off and walked in the snow to the nearest station. Her passport was stolen from her and she was forced to take a boat to Japan and then to China where from she rode a train, a bus, and a mule to get to the city of Yangchen. She only could have gotten there by the grace of God!

With not much of a welcoming party, Gladys started missionary work at an inn for muleteers owned by Mrs. Larson.  The inn provided shelter for the mules and a place for the muleteers to eat and sleep and Gladys worked alongside Yang, the cook. While the muleteers would eat, Mrs. Larson and Gladys would tell them Bible stories but because Gladys was a foreigner she was not easily trusted.

Gladys slowly but surely learned the language but only 8 months after she arrived, Mrs. Larson became sick and died and Gladys was left with no way of getting any income. A few weeks later, the Mandarin of Yangchen came and asked Gladys to become the official foot inspector, a job that required that Gladys visit all the surrounding communities and tell people that binding girl’s feet was illegal and that they must unbind them. The Mandarin told her he needed someone with big unbound feet and Gladys accepted, knowing it would give her even more opportunities to spread the Gospel!

bound foot

So Gladys began visiting and revisiting houses to check on the girls and people started to get to know her. Two years after she went to China the Mandarin asked Gladys to stop a riot in the prison. The men were killing each other  but Gladys commanded them to stop and tell her what was wrong. They were tired of being cooped up and needed food and work. From then on Gladys was known as “Ai-weh-deh” which means “virtuous one.”

Once Gladys saw a beggar on the road with a very sick child beside her so she bought this child for nine pence and then adopted her, naming her Ninepence! One day, Ninepence brought home a little boy, assuring Gladys that she would eat less if only they could keep him. And so they did, naming him Less, and her family grew!  In 1936, Gladys became a Chinese citizen and continued to dress like the people around her.

In 1938, the war began between Japan and China, which later resulted in WWII. Japan invaded China, dropping bombs on Yengchen. All the people escaped into the mountains as the Japanese came into the city. TheNationalist army drove them out and the people settled back into regular life until more bombs were dropped on Yangchen and the whole thing would start over again. Because was working as a spy for the Chinese, there a ransom on her head.

Gladys had about 100 orphans that she felt needed to go to a safer city. Gladys , along with 100 children, hiked for 12 days toward the city of Sian to an orphanage. On the 12th day she was at the Yellow River with no way to get across. She and the children prayed and sang to God. A Chinese officer on patrol heard them and took them across. Finally safe in Sian, Gladys collapsed with typhoid and delirium.

Once Gladys got better she resumed ministering to lepers and prisoners, and soon started a church. Gladys was still very weak and ill and never quite regained her strength. In 1949, after nearly 20 years in China, she finally went home to England where she received lots of publicity and even dined with Queen Elizabeth. She stayed in London for 10 years because China had closed its doors. But she wasn’t comfortable in England so she went to Hong Kong and Formosa and opened orphanages and ministered to people there until her death in China in 1970. She was 68.

Gladys was a very faithful missionary and although experienced lots of troubles, she kept her faith and hope in God. In the world’s eyes, she may not have done very much, but she helped many “small” people and did without so that many could know the richness that comes from a relationship with jesus Christ. The world would be a better place if there were more people like the “insignificant, uneducated, and ordinary” Gladys Aylward.

(adapted from an article from a now-defunct website, author unknown.)

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mongolian beef on the prairie style


I am not a proficient chef of ethic foods made with authentic recipes but I love to experiment with American adaptations which always turn out to be delicious. This version of Mongolian Beef is no exception!  I serve ours topped with crunchy Chinese noodles because we are not very cosmopolitan out here on the prairie and because we think all oriental food should come with a side of crunchy noodles!


Mongolian Beef Prairie Style

2-3 pound beef roast of your choosing. The cheaper cuts work great as long as you plan ahead and allow plenty of cooking time.

1/2 half cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup oil

1/2 Tbs. powdered ginger

1 Tbs. minced garlic

1/2 cup corn starch

1 cup water

1 1/2 to 2 pounds broccoli, fresh or frozen, gently steamed and seasoned with salt and pepper

brown rice, tossed with butter and salt to taste

Place roast in heavy pan and roast in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Whisk together next 7 ingredients until smooth and poor over meat. Return to oven and cook for 2 more hours, until sauce is bubbly and meat is tender.  Remove from oven and slice or shred. Return to oven and turn oven down to low, stirring to cover all the meat. Prepare broccoli, drain, add to beef mixture. Serve over rice, top with crunchies!

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celebrating women’s history month: Florence Nightengale



Today’s celebration of Women’s History Month features Florence Nightingale, Italian nurse and standard bearer for modern nursing practices. Her influence worldwide in the area of health care is a testimony to God’s grace in her life.

Florence was born in Florence, Italy on May 12, 1820. Although Italian born, she grew up in London, England where her education included the study of Greek, Latin, German, French and Italian. Her father taught her history and philosophy while her governess schooled her in music and drawing. As part of an upper class family, Nightingale and her sister were expected to grow up as proper ladies who would “devote themselves to their family, husband, society, entertainment and cultural pursuits” (Bullough, 1993).

But Florence was driven by a different dream. She believed that her attraction to nursing was God’s will, or “a calling,” and because of that she made many personal sacrifices to pursue her professional life with intensity.

Her family disapproved of her decision to take up the nursing profession, which was seen in her day as a vocation for lower classes, one carried out under harsh conditions in dirty hospital environments. The family’s disappointment did not deter her from her goal, and at the age of 33, having studied nursing for nine years, Florence began caring for the sick.

In 1853, she was asked to work at the Harley Street Nursing Home. There, she made improvements that included better organization and training for the staff, and she implemented a system that piped hot water to every floor. She also created a lift to bring patients their meals (Falkus, 1980).

The Crimean War began and the British army was unprepared to accommodate British battle injuries and casualties in Crimea. This led to disasters such as cholera, lack of supplies, and inadequate sanitation. British Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert asked Nightingale to take nurses and help the hospital in Scoter, Turkey. On October 21, 1854 she set out for the hospital with the 38 nurses she had trained.

Entering the hospital, Florence was appalled and horrified by what she saw. Wounded soldiers lay on straw mats that lined the room like coffins waiting for burial. The floor was covered with dirt and blood. There were no hospital gowns: the men still wore their uniforms. As Nightingale passed them, each soldier tried to act stern and tough, but their boyish faces betrayed unmistakable pain. Those who were able to conquer their convulsions lay still, as if dead.

The first change Florence made was scrubbing all the injured men’s clothes. Then, she spent her own money buying bandages, operating tables and other basic necessities for the hospital. Her nurses cleaned the whole hospital so there were no more germs and this helped to stop contamination and spread of disease. She is a hero because she changed the hospital and saved lives with her determination and hard work.

Florence Nightingale also changed the profession of nursing forever. Nursing was once an occupation with little respect: people didn’t think you needed any special training or skills to do it, and most nurses were poor and uneducated. It was very unusual for Florence, who came from the upper class, to work in a hospital. The hospital conditions were more sanitary after she reorganized everything. Funds and donations flooded into hospitals and the patients received better care. Hospitals around the world were changed forever, and caring for the sick became an honorable profession.

The state of the hospital in Turkey was horrendous but even more challenging was the hostile attitude the nurses received from the doctors. Many did not even allow nurses inside the wards! It wasn’t until the Battle of Inkerman, during which the British suffered many casualties and the hospitals became overcrowded that the doctors were forced to ask for help.

Florence sent reports back to London about ways to improve conditions and assumed care of the patients at night, moving about each floor comforting patients with a lamp in hand. This intimate relationship with her patients earned her the affectionate title of “Lady with the Lamp.”

Through selfless devotion and sheer determination, Florence Nightingale transformed the profession of nursing forever. She gave dignity and honor to what continues to be a female-dominated profession and revolutionized hospital conditions, making them more organized and above all, sanitary. Largely because of her efforts, funds and donations flood into hospitals, allowing patients around the world to receive better care.

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.” 

~ The Florence Nightingale Oath

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homeschool mom idolatry


One of the greatest temptations for homeschoolers is to make the family an idol that takes center place in all that we do. We have already chosen to sacrifice many things to the homeschooling lifestyle and have committed ourselves to discipling as well as educating our children. And while this is a high calling, one worthy of our time and energy, Jesus warns us that even our precious children are never to replace our relationship with Him. Homeschooling success should be the result of a lively and growing relationship with God rather than an end in and of itself, and we should continually examine our lives to be certain that this is true.

When we first began homeschooling, I can remember the Lord impressing on me one particular verse as a warning to rid my life of those things that would tempt me to be drawn away from both my commitment to Him and to a truly God-centered education for my children. 2 Corinthians 10:5 calls us to “destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

Over the years, I have struggled with many things that were imaginations and high places, lofty ideas and notions that I had that became more important to me than anything else, dreams and hopes and plans that were not necessarily evil or sinful or wrong but nonetheless things that were not part of God’s plan for my life. Sometimes they involved hopes for my children; sometimes they were plans for me and my life. Eventually and one by one, through God’s grace, He showed me how trusting in His sovereign plan for me and casting down anything that threatened to exalt itself above the Lord and obedience to Him was idolatry.

I pray that you will consider those dreams within your own hearts and measure them against this same standard!

from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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celebrating women’s history month: Rosa Parks



Today we are celebrating Rosa Parks. Known as the mother of the modern civil rights movement, her story is one of inspiration and encouragement for all those who face oppression and discrimination today. It is also a testimony to God’s grace in the life of one person who sought to make a difference within the culture she was given.

Born Rosa McCauley in Tuskegee, Ala., on Feb. 4, 1913, the daughter of a carpenter and a teacher, Rosa attended rural schools until she was 11 and then attended Miss White’s School for Girls in Montgomery where she was trained in the skills necessary to be a domestic. Later she dropped out of high school to care for an ailing grandmother and did not graduate until she was 21.

In the early 1950s, Rosa Parks found work as a tailor’s assistant at a department store, Montgomery Fair. She also had a part-time job as a seamstress for Virginia and Clifford Durr, a liberal white couple; they encouraged Rosa Parks in her civil rights work.

The segregated seating policies on public buses had long been a source of resentment within the black community in Montgomery and in other cities throughout the Deep South. African Americans were required to pay their fares at the front of the bus and then to get off and then come back on through the back door. The white bus drivers, who had been given police powers, frequently harassed blacks, sometimes driving away before African American passengers were able to get back on the bus. During peak hours, the drivers pushed back the boundary markers that segregated the bus, crowding those in the “colored section” to provide more whites with seats.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks took her seat in the front of the “colored section” of a Montgomery bus. The driver asked Rosa Parks and three other black riders to relinquish their seats to whites, but Rosa Parks refused even when the other three gave up their seats. The driver called the police, and Rosa Parks was arrested. She was released later that night on a $100 bond.

On Sunday, Dec. 4, the announcements were made from the pulpits of black churches and in the black newspaper, The Montgomery Advertiser, that the city buses would be boycotted. Some road in carpools, other took taxis owned by black drivers who only charged the bus fare. However, 40,000 black commuters walked, some over 20 miles to their jobs. The boycott lasted 381 days and during that time blacks were harassed and physically abused. But their tactics worked and segregation of public transportation was brought to an end. Rosa Parks, commenting on the day she rode the bus, said “I didn’t get on the bus to get arrested. I got on the bus to go home.”

There is another side to this story, however, according to Doug Patton, whose columns can be found at The Conservative Voice. Rosa Parks’ faith in Christ was the driving force behind her actions.

“It is unfortunate that few in this generation who honor Rosa Parks know about the spiritual dimension of her long life, because it was Christ who was the guiding light of her years on this earth.

“As a child,” she wrote in 1994, “I learned from the Bible to trust in God and not be afraid. I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face.”

Once, knowing that her presence would overshadow a lesser known author at a joint book signing, Mrs. Parks requested that her colleague switch seats with her so that the public would talk to him first. That kind of humility cannot be conjured from a human heart devoid of God’s influence.

When civil rights icon Rosa Parks died at age 92, she passed into history as a woman who stood up for what she believed in and refused to back down at a pivotal point in our country’s evolution toward racial equality. Her one act of defiance was a catalyst that sparked a movement and brought about unprecedented changes in our nation.

Upon her passing, her body lay in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol for the public to pay their respects, an honor normally reserved for presidents and Supreme Court justices. Before she could even be laid to rest, a bill had been introduced in both houses of Congress to erect a monument to her in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Every politician and news commentator spoke of her with a reverence akin to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope John Paul II.

Ironically, hardly a word was said about the true impetus behind her actions on December 1, 1955.

Yes, she was exhausted that day. Yes, she chose not to give up her seat, knowing fully well that she might be arrested. But by her own admission, she would never have had the courage to remain seated had it not been for her unwavering faith in God.

This is more than just an historical footnote, and it is not just a case of tangential nitpicking. She understood that her faith and her God were greater than the white man who wanted her to move to the back of the bus, greater than the Montgomery police, the mayor, Jim Crow, the whole structure of institutional racism and oppression….Rosa Parks has passed into history. More important, she would have told you, her spirit has passed into eternity with Jesus Christ. “

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celebrating women’s history month: Betty Greene

betty greene

Boldly Going Where No Woman Had Gone Before ~ the inspiring story of Betty Greene

(based on the June 2009 podcast of the same name found in the podcast archives.)

Today is laundry day. Assorted and sorted piles of clothing, towels, and sheets line up across the basement floor and my large, heavy duty Maytags hum and spin, knowing they are the only thing keeping me from crossing that fine line between sanity and total craziness. Upstairs in the kitchen, a load of dishes sits stacked on the kitchen counter, waiting their turn through the dishwasher as the earlier load of the day is still rinsing.   Leggos and a miniature monster truck rally that meander across the hallway floor prove the grandchildren visited today and, if there is any doubt, as I walk precariously through the dining room, the familiar crunk of an unswept floor meets my bare feet.

I begin to think about the day ahead. We are trying to finish up our Civil War study, grandma has a doctor’s appointment and dad is gone out of town on business so I know I will have to be up by 4:00 am tomorrow to do the paper route. Beginning to feel overwhelmed, I glance up to see the sun hitting my favorite picture which hangs over the piano. The print is called The Landing of the Pilgrims and it has been a daily source of inspiration for me for many years. The colors are lovely, dark grays, and intense ocean greens. Surrounded by men and unloaded cargo, the focus of the photo is a noble looking woman stepping off a ship and onto shore. She is a pilgrim woman. She came to America to celebrate her liberty in Christ. She also came so her children, her family might be able to worship freely and not be corrupted by the ways of the world.

I love to look at this picture because when I do, I remember that no matter how hard my day was yesterday and no matter how difficult it might be today, I know that God has used many women in the past to advance the Gospel of Grace. He has promised that He will never leave or forsake me. He has promised that His ways are not our ways and that His plans for me are for good and not for evil. He has promised that His word will not return void, that if I acknowledge Him, He will direct my path. And he has given me the stories of many women from the past whose paths have been much more difficult and precarious, to uplift me on the days I feel beaten down and discouraged.

I am so thankful that I learned the blessing of hearing and reading biographies of the heroes and heroines of the faith during those first few years I was homeschooling. Looking back, I believe that it was a crucial part of my “walking with the wise” as is admonished in Proverbs if we want to avoid coming to spiritual destruction.

My children and I used to look forward to listening every Friday afternoon to the Pacific Garden Mission broadcast on Moody Radio, as people shared their salvation testimonies. We made a ritual of it, brewing and drinking hot tea with milk and sugar and bringing art supplies or sewing projects to the living room as we tuned in. We never left that program without being both inspired and moved.

I also made a practice of reading from a biography every day during lunch and we traveled around the world with the Goforths, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Alward, Judson Taylor, Eric Little, Adonirum Judson, and dozens more. Out of those travels, I was blessed repeatedly by the lives of godly women who were used to further the Kingdom of Christ in miraculous and humbling ways. Over the years, through listening to these stories, my faith was nurtured and grown because I saw how God chose to use so many, many women within the body of Christ, gifting them for very special purposes, placing on their hearts the souls of future generations of believers, to the ends of the world.

During this month of March, I would like to share with you the stories of some of my favorite women of faith who were given incredible callings by the Lord. Some of them are actual mothers, others of them are spiritual mothers, and some of them are both. Each of them have lives that are worth emulating and I also have come to realize that they have lessons for us as homeschooling moms, both for our own spiritual growth and for the growth of our children. I know you won’t want to miss a single story as we celebrate Women’s History Month!

This week, I would like to introduce to you Betty Greene, a woman who boldly went where no woman had gone before!

Betty was born in 1920 in Washington State to Christian parents. She was blessed with older brothers and with a twin brother who was her best friend. When Betty was only 8 years old, she had the privilege of seeing Charles Lindbergh in his famous airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, and she knew from then on that she wanted to fly a plane. When she was in the 6th grade, she and her twin brother had a teacher who had come from Germany. Betty loved it when this teacher read to the class about World War 1 and how German and English pilots in their flimsy biplanes had engaged in dogfights. She daydreamed that one day she, too, would be soaring high above the ground in a plane, loop-de-looping and doing acrobatics in mid-air. She closely followed the accomplishments of aviators who were in the news, especially Amelia Earhart who became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She read the accounts of Richard Byrd and Bernt Balchen who became the first two people to fly to the South Pole. Then, on her 16th birthday, her dad arranged for her to take her first airplane ride. Flying was so much more than Betty had imagined it to be and she was hooked. That same day, she received money from her uncle for her birthday and soon used it to take flying lessons. Within two weeks, she was flying solo!

As her 17th birthday approached, her parents strongly encouraged her to study nursing, believing it was a suitable career for a young woman since it was considered useful and socially acceptable. So in the fall of 1937, Betty enrolled in the University of Washington. Betty was able to get good grades, but she hated her courses! She studied anatomy and physiology. She spent hours dissecting dead bodies and examining blood samples for infectious diseases. Then in her second year, she began caring for patients at a local hospital, emptying bedpans and checking on patients. But the truth was, Betty hated nursing. What she really wanted to do was to fly!

At this time, war was brewing in Europe and her brother and his wife left to become missionaries in China. Betty began to feel restless with her life, believing that she was being called to work for the Lord in some particular way, but she was uncertain what that might be. Betty decided that she would speak to Mrs. Bowman, a godly older woman in her church. Over coffee, Betty poured out her frustrations to the 70 year old woman who said to her “Betty, I always think God plants His desires in our hearts so we will act on them. What is it you love to do the most?”

She hesitated for a moment and then said “I like to fly, but I know that on my income it is a frivolous waste of money to pay for lessons. I also love working with the youth in my church. Mrs. Bowman then said “Do you think God might have given you both of these interests for a reason? Perhaps you should think of combining them and using flying for some Christian missions work.” Flying and missionary work! It would be a dream come true. “Why hadn’t she thought of it herself?” Betty wondered. As she left Mrs. Bowman’s home, she prayed, “God, I have never heard of anyone who used flying to help spread the gospel message, but if you want me to fly for you, show me how to make it happen.”

Within several weeks, Betty heard of a civilian pilot training course and she applied, being accepted as one of three women in a class of 40. Her parents, who knew she had tried very hard to become a nurse, wholeheartedly encouraged her dream. She passed the course with honors and received a license to pilot both regular and float planes. Since there were no openings for employment in flying at that time, she finished her college degree in sociology, with special studies in world cultures and waited on the Lord to show her how He would use the calling He had placed on her heart.

Then, just as she was graduating in 1942, she heard about a group of women who were going to be used in military training in order to release the male pilots to fly combat missions and she soon joined the Women’s Flying Training Detachment.  Besides further training in flying aircraft, Betty rigorously studied advanced mathematics, physics, and engineering. She also spent hours every week in physical fitness training.

At her graduation, she and the other two women received their Silver Wings and she was sent to North Carolina, along with her roommate, Ann Baumgartner, who became the first woman to ever fly a jet plane! Once Betty arrived at Camp Davis, she was assigned three jobs that were designed to give the army pilots an opportunity to practice fighting enemy aircraft! The first part of her job required her to fly her plane along routes that were specially coded while radar operators on the ground could track her so her location could be found at any given moment. The second part of her job was flying over the base at night so the men could practice their searchlight techniques and get the feel for how to spotlight enemy aircraft flying overhead under cover of darkness. But the last part of her job was the most incredible! Betty’s plane pulled a large fabric target behind while the men on the ground who were training to use anti-aircraft guns would practice their aim by shooting at the target with live ammunition!

In 1944, Betty was assigned to Wright Field in Dayton Ohio to be involved in aeronautical research. At the time, the highest Betty had every flown herself was 19,000 feet and anything over 25,000 was considered extremely dangerous. She quickly learned that the research she was to participate in involved flying to 40,000 feet , testing equipment to be used by men for high altitude, low opening parachute jumps. The Allies were preparing for a massive invasion of France, hoping to defeat the German forces, and they needed every tactical advantage they could find.

About this time, Betty had submitted an article for a missionary publication entitled HIS magazine. In it, she talked about her desire to combine flying with missionary work. To her delight and surprise, she received a letter from a man who told her that he and two friends had been meeting together for over a year to pray for and plan an organization that would use military trained pilots to help support missionaries when the war was over. Betty could hardly believe what she was reading. This was exactly what the Lord was placing on her own heart! Miraculously, two weeks later Betty was transferred and assigned to Washington D. C., the same assignment of these men who shared her vision!

Betty spent several more years working with military support, flying missions throughout the world, and becoming the first woman to fly over the Andes Mountains. And when she was on the ground, she spent her time building support for the vision the Lord had given her, that of a flight support organization that eventually became known as Missionary Aviation Fellowship.

MAF’s first flight was made in 1946 when Betty Greene flew missionaries in a Waco biplane into a remote part of Mexico. Within a few years, several countries had regular flights for missionaries and supplies, including Ecuador where MAF pilot Nate Saint and 4 other missionaries were murdered by the Auca Indians. Today, MAF operates 140 aircraft in 31 countries with around 1000 staff worldwide. Every three minutes an MAF plane takes off somewhere in the world to serve isolated people. They also serve as support in medical emergencies and as relief flights during times of natural disasters.

I am still amazed when I think about how God planted, in the heart of a young girl, the seeds of a ministry He intended to grow into such a mighty force throughout the entire world for the Gospel of Christ. I believe the Lord still works in these very ways through the lives of children. I would encourage you to listen as your children share their dreams with you. Perhaps God is preparing your sons and daughters to be used in the same mighty way as He used Betty Greene!

I also know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if the Lord can lift Betty Greene’s aircraft safely above the tallest mountain peaks, He can safely lift you and me today above that pile of laundry!

Be sure to share the podcast based on this article!


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celebrating women’s history month: The Harvey Girls

It is March 1 and today begins an entire month of celebrating women here at thatmom.com! I have chosen women from history as well as some contemporary women whom I greatly admire.  I will be sharing mini- biographies as well as links to podcasts and books for further study so grab a cup of coffee and join me for a whole month of women’s history!!!  

harvey 1

Kicking off an entire month of celebrating women, we are beginning with not one but an entire regiment of women, over 100,000 of them, as a matter of fact. Today we are celebrating The Harvey Girls, the women who settled the western United States through humble acts of service and kindness to the weary train travelers on the Santa Fe Railroad, women who brought civilization to a pagan, godless environment that was, prior to their arrival, inhabited primarily by men and loose women.

During the mid to late 1800’s, rail travel to the Southwest and Great Plains was a common, though uncomfortable, way of life for those who wanted to be part of the Great Westward Expansion. The transcontinental railway was completed in 1869, thus opening the doors of opportunity to many who had previously been unable to travel west.

British entrepreneur and restaurateur Fred Harvey set out to accommodate the dining needs of these train travelers by establishing the first chain restaurants called Harvey Houses. Having traveled by train only to find the purchased meals contained rancid food that caused severe illness to travelers, Harvey brought the fine dining of Europe to both the exhausted train traveler and the hungry cowboy.

Eventually located in train stations from Chicago to California, the Harvey Houses were destined to failure until Fred Harvey placed ads in city newspapers looking for young women who would be willing to work as waitresses. Initially, Harvey had employed men as waiters but they often spent their time drinking, gambling and picking fights, even during working hours. Harvey realized that the secret to taming the wild west would be not only linen tablecloths and fine china but gentile women whose very presence would influence both the restaurant atmosphere and the general environment of the small towns popping up everywhere west of the Mississippi.

So Harvey began hiring young ladies who could meet his requirements. Fred Harvey wanted no “saloon” women; Fred Harvey was looking for virtuous, wholesome, high-minded young ladies who would be willing to work hard and live in chaperoned dormitories. Not only were their uniforms to be clean, starched, and perfectly fitted, but the duties of a Harvey Girl were clearly defined and slackers would soon be heading home with one way tickets.

The entire dining experience at a Harvey House was a pleasant one. Ten minutes before the arrival of a train, a wire would be sent to the Harvey House, alerting the staff. Tall pitchers of ice water were placed at each table along with fresh salads. Steaks were grilled and pies were cut into the standard servings of 4 slices per pie! Fresh coffee was made and any unused portion left at the end of one train stop was thrown out. Second servings were always available for no additional charge. And all of this was done by the hands of lovely young women who were there to serve others!

In exchange for their hard work, the Harvey Girls made a good salary and were given free lodging, train travel where ever they wanted to go, all their uniforms, a laundry service, and all their meals. Many of them sent home every penny they made to help support their parents and siblings. Others worked as Harvey Girls and saved money to put themselves through college.

Stepping off the train platform in Dodge City, the Harvey Girls might encounter the stench of 200,000 rotting buffalo hides piled in a city street. At other stops there were threats of Indian uprisings or the unbearable heat of the dessert. These young ladies were not only sturdy and determined, but because they had to meet the stringent requirements for wearing the Harvey uniform, were young ladies who had a vision for service and, perhaps, a greater vision for their part in setting up households in those small towns.

Many Harvey Girls were courted by and married ranchers and cowboys. As they joined the communities, they also were instrumental in seeing that schools were established. Because many of them were Christians, churches were soon built in small towns, circuit riding preachers came, and the Gospel was procalimed in areas previously unreached! These women brought a sense of propriety to their neighborhoods and to this day many towns and cities have Harvey Girls as “founding mothers” in their town histories.

During World War II, the Harvey restaurants were turned into way stations for troop trains and the Harvey Girls often served 4 meals a day, 100’s of men at each meal. The Harvey Girls had no small part in the war effort; during 1943 alone, more than 1 million meals were served each month to servicemen in Harvey Houses across the U.S.

Though riding trains, for the most part, was replaced by car and air travel, thus bringing an end to the Harvey House chain, the mark of these incredible women will forever be written on the landscape of the old west.


For more reading about The Harvey Girls, I would recommend the book The Harvey Girls, Women Who Opened the West by Lesley Poling-Kempes.

For recipes for modern day Harvey Girls, check out my adaptations of some of their menu specialties!

“Fred Harvey realized that the secret to taming the wild, wild west would be not only linen tablecloths and fine china, but genteel women whose very presence would influence both the restaurant atmosphere and the general environment of the small towns popping up everywhere west of the Mississippi.”  Listen here for this amazing podcast entitled “The Women Who Tamed the Wild, Wild West….Those Amazing Harvey Girls.”



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perfect love casts out all fear

clay and odette1

“Love thinks no evil; love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” If we are living a life of love we will not dwell on those things that are wrong and that cause injury or injustice to be done to others. How we occupy our minds will certainly color our outlook on all of life. Instead of finding delight and joy in those things that are false or in defrauding others, true love rejoices in those things that are good and holy and righteous.

One of the biggest influences on homeschooling families, I believe, has been the penchant to arouse fear in us in order to get us to participate in some movement or to purchase some product or service. The continual setting of hearts and minds on those destructive things that we perceive to be threats to our families has proven to be quite effective to the point where e-mail updates from homeschooling organizations or blog articles about some cultural debacle will create a panic in the homeschooling community, and cause needless energy to be spent on worrying or making support group phone calls! Making a quick assessment of our culture and how debase it has become, especially in the last few decades, it is understandable for mothers and fathers to set their minds on the evils all around us. But God has commanded us to not entertain these thoughts or to be fearful. He tells us that concentrating on loving Him first and our neighbors as ourselves is the substance of perfect love and that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). If we are truly obeying His commands to love, we have no reason to fear what man can do to us.

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chicken fajita rice bowls


Mexican food is a favorite in our house and I especially love this rice bowl deliciousness!  It is the perfect comfort food for this cold weather and goes together quickly on busy days. This recipe freezes and reheats well and is even yummier for lunch the next day!

Seasoned Chicken

In crockpot, place 2-3 pounds of chicken breasts, frozen or thawed. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with minced garlic and 1 to 2  TBS taco seasoning.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Shred with fork.

Black Beans

Place 1/4 cup olive oil in skillet. Over medium heat, fry 2 large thinly sliced onions, 1 TBS. minced garlic, and 1 large green pepper cut into strips until soft. As they cook, sprinkle with 1 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. oregano, and 1 TBS. taco seasoning. When golden, add three can drained black beans and cook on medium for 8-10 minutes, until flavors blend well.

Brown or White Rice

Prepare and set aside 6 cups.

Set out on counter and have each person layer in bowls or can be rolled up in tortillas. Offer favorite toppings like tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa, and avocados.



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drawing a bigger circle


I have been contemplating many things of late. Everyone seems to have his or her list of what is required to measure up to this or that standard. I find myself weary…weary of the lists, weary of wondering if I have performed to someone else’s satisfaction, weary of pondering whether or not someone else has measured up to my standards.

I thought of this poem…I think recalling my grandma and her gracious spirit prompted the memory.

They drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win –
We drew a circle that took them in.

Edwin Markham

Oh Lord, it is so very hard sometimes. Help me not to take offense when I am shut out. More importantly, help me draw my circle bigger.

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