a little kitchen make-over and devil’s food cupcakes

A few weeks ago we needed to replace our refrigerator so Clay suggested we might want to give the kitchen a coat of paint while it was pulled out from the wall.  Of course that led to a major dejunking of the entire kitchen, sewing new curtains, and redecorating the counters. It turned out to be a really fun and amazingly inexpensive project!

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My color inspiration was this vintage canister set from our beloved South Eden Antique Mall…..

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and this sweet apron circa 1950s.

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I also wanted to frame these vintage photos of my birthmother working in her kitchen at Bradley University.

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I replaced my crocks with vintage enamelware I was using other places around the house.

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I turned the lower half of the bookshelves into a small pantry area for additional storage using curtains.

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Green plants and my flea market hen make the sink area a cheery place.

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My grandma sampler and framed recipe cards handwritten by my mom still need to be hung.

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But a delicious batch of devil’s food cupcakes were baked and served from the new kitchen redecoration! Here’s the recipe:

Devil’s Food Cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup hot water

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) salted butter

2 1/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

 

Dissolve cocoa powder in hot water and set aside.  Melt butter over low heat and stir in sugar until well-mixed. Place in mixer bowl and stir to cool. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture. Add vanilla and mix all. Mix together flour, soda, and powder and add to mixer bowl along with sour cream. Mix until well creamed and smooth. Fill cupcake cups about 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until centers are set.  Cool and frost with buttercream frosting. (Mine are topped with sprinkles and sliced strawberries.) Makes about 36 cupcakes.

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Marriage: Getting There ~ courtship, dating, betrothal ~ Part Three

 

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Today I am sharing a story with you from back in the day when we had only three elementary school age children of our own and were pretty idealistic about church life.

Go ahead, snicker.

And, we were exactly the right choice to be involved in church as….wait for it….youth leaders.  But, as much as we enjoyed the high schoolers who faithfully came to our Sunday school class and who exuberantly participated in youth activities like cool concerts and trips to Christian colleges, according to our church, we made two HUGE blunders. In fact, because of these two decisions, we were asked to no longer work with high schoolers nor were we allowed to teach their Sunday school class.  Parents were up in arms and the curriculum we had been using, published in 1982 by Navpress, I might add, quickly flew off the library shelves as nearly every church member lined up to read what we had had the audacity to present to the youth of First Baptist Church!

But before I tell you what we did that landed us in the crosshairs of the missionary society flash mob, let me back up to my own days of high school Sunday school class.

Our teacher was Freida, the pastor’s wife. Oh how I loved this woman! A true Bible student, Frieda had a very definite agenda for us: to love Jesus and make wise choices, especially when it came to dating and marriage. Interestingly, there were 2 or 3 of us girls who came regularly with our parents and then there were another 4 or 5 guys who were there about 90% of the time, most of them from unchurched homes. The peculiar thing was that they were all star athletes who had spent Friday and Saturday nights playing football and basketball and dating popular girls, probably scoring big both inside and outside the playing arena. None of them professed to be Christians, none of them were interested in dating any of us Sunday school girls since they barely acknowledged our existence at school. To this day I am puzzled as to why they were even there, but I am sure Freida’s lessons were meant to drive home to the girls that these guys were unbelievers, therefore they were to be off limits to us as boyfriends.

One story I remember her telling several times was one about her college friends, Rita and Jean.  All three were committed, mature Christians and each of them met and married their husbands right after their senior year in college. But while Frieda and Rita each married Christian men, both who eventually became pastors, Jean, in spite of protests from her friends, chose to marry an unbeliever. Rita, she told us, had struggled through many bad situations because of the unbiblical choices her husband had made and had, on more than one occasion, told her best friends that she wished she had listened to their warnings. Frieda encouraged us to remember that we needed to not only not marry an unbeliever, but also to not even consider dating one. The girls in our class soaked this in, but it really left me confused.

You see, on Sunday nights, I went with my best friend to her youth group at a much more doctrinally conservative church where everyone practiced missionary dating. All around the room were girls and guys from the church who brought their unsaved boyfriends and girlfriends along, hoping and praying that they would get saved before they walked down the aisle. No one seemed to think this was a problem and I never once heard the youth leader or pastor teach otherwise. And it wasn’t unusual to hear of the romances from previous generations that followed the same pattern. Thankfully, by the time I was responsible for teaching high schoolers myself, I was a growing and maturing believer who not only understood and believed that missionary dating was wrong from a very practical standpoint, I also respected the authority of Scripture that forbids a Christian to marry a nonchristian.

Which brings me to our conflict as Sunday school teachers.

As we got to know the young people in our class and listened to their ideas, one issue that kept coming up was the topic of dating, so we were exited when we heard a discussion of this topic on Moody radio along with a recommendation for the book Choices: Finding God’s Way in Dating, Sex and Singleness and Marriage. We were given permission by the Christian Education board to teach through it and everything was fine until we taught the principle of believers only dating and marrying other believers. The outrage on the part of some parents and other church members shocked us. (Remember, I described us as idealistic at that time!) The pastor refused to support us or the book, the CE board tried to remain neutral, people clamored to read copies of the book on the shelf in the church library, and the contingency of missionary society ladies who were married to unbelievers drew their swords, angry that we could teach such a thing! In retrospect, it was a sad, sad commentary on the state of that body and really the church at large.

In more recent years, I am seeing even more of an acceptance of missionary dating, even among homeschoolers and for any number of reasons. Pastors are hesitant to preach about this from their pulpits and those who have been badly burned within the patriarchy movement, in their zeal to run away from the extremes of betrothal and courtship, have swung the other direction and say “Whatever! We rejoice in our Christian liberty.” Some even go so far to say, as I have heard more than one homeschooling mom exclaim, “Well, I would rather have my daughter marry a kind and gentle unbeliever than an abusive Christian man.” Where is the logic in that statement? And even one very conservative and long suffering Christian widow I once knew declared, “I tried being married to a Christian man the first time and I was miserable. This time I will marry an unbeliever.”

The principle of Christians dating and marrying only other Christians is one that should be a nonnegotiable in our homes. It is the standard we must teach when we rise up, when we sit down, when we travel along the way, and we must do so intentionally. One young man I know whose Christian friend started to date a nonbeliever expressed his concerns by asking “What would your mother say?”  That must be the standard.

Oh, by the way, I almost forgot. The other topic we taught that got us kicked out for our youth group responsibilities is that abortion is sin and takes the life of an unborn child made in the image of God.  We showed the film Whatever Happened to the Human Race, having invited parents to come along. They came and we were ousted.

I am curious to hear your thoughts. How do you ingrain the importance of this biblical truth in the lives of your children? What happens when adult Christian children do not obey this command of Scripture? How should we respond?

 

Just to note: Choices is an excellent book for discussing this topic. I think the earlier version misses the mark when discussing complementarianism. I am curious to see how the updated version compares and if the Rineharts still hold to those perspectives, as many Navpress publications do not do so today.

 

 

 

 

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why the nanny doesn’t understand what’s most important

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Earlier this week, I happened to read two seemingly unrelated articles, back to back, that caused me to lose sleep overnight! Even a couple days later, I could not get past what I read.

The first one that repeatedly appeared in my Facebook feed was written by a British “nanny” who had a thing or two, actually five, to say about the way children are being raised today.  Let me encourage you to read it and ponder the attitude that comes through, loud and clear, in her words. I was less than impressed and my initial reaction was to see it as another one of those articles that appears from time to time where some curmudgeon laments the good old days when children were seen and not heard and the strap is a parent’s best friend. Though perhaps the suggested discipline isn’t as harsh as that, I believe the heart of the message is really the same: a graceless, parents-first mentality,  and it troubled me greatly.

The second article is about why millennials are not remaining in the church or the Christian faith. Rejecting the importance of “hip” pastors or “relevant” worship services, the study’s conclusion is that the number one factor found in those who remain faithful believers through their adult years is that they are mentored by someone older and more spiritually mature! (If you haven’t yet read The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling, I encourage you to order a copy today, as central to its message are the basic principles for becoming life-long friends and mentors to our own children, to God’s glory and to our great joy!)

I see these two articles as key to grasping what is most important in parenting, what is most important in homeschooling.

Children learn best when parents demonstrate biblical truth by how they treat others, especially their children.  It begins with not assuming an adversarial relationship, instead seeing them as our brothers and sisters in Christ. As we one another our little ones, we will look for ways to serve them, far beyond those necessary things we do for them required of moms. This often means setting aside our personal rights and desires in order to accommodate the various struggles and woes of childhood as our children pass through various stages. It means understanding them, their age of development, their particular strengths and weaknesses. It means showing them by example how to have self-control, to love and forgive each other, to be patient and kind. It means eliciting empathy from them as we dole it out to them in full measure. When we are mindful of our attitudes as well as our actions, we lay the groundwork for mentoring when they are adults.

I have mentioned before that the greatest and most influential mentor in my own life was my grandmother. I can only remember a single time when she scolded me; my cousin and I flooded her kitchen by overflowing the sink so we could go swimming! I’ll never forget how horrified she was at our behavior as she grabbed the broom and began sweeping water out the back door! Even then, she didn’t threaten me or shame me and belittle my existence. Other times when I misbehaved, she took me in her arms and hugged me and told me a better way and let me know how happy she was to know I could do it right the next time! It was my grandmother’s grace to me that made me want to obey.

Similarly, years later when we left a rigid, legalistic religious environment, I responded the same way to hearing the pastor preach on God’s grace and the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on the cross. Rather than hurling me headlong into licentiousness, it made me fall in love with Jesus every day and I wanted to obey Him.

If our goal is leading our children to Christ and enjoying a mature, one anothering relationship with them that lasts a lifetime, it must begin with a pure heart attitude toward them. It is in seeing them as  “better than ourselves” and communicating this to them in all we say and do that will draw them to us and set the stage for a lifetime of mentoring.

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homemade ice cream extravaganza

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We have been enjoying so much fresh produce lately that I thought a nice treat would be to make homemade ice cream! I have the Cuisinart 2 Quart Ice Cream Maker and love how quickly you can prepare and freeze ice  cream without all the mess or time required with the old-fashioned type of ice cream freezers.  (Right now Amazon has this model marked down to $69.00 from $166.00! If you have Amazon Prime, the shipping is free and will be at your house in one to two days!)) Though we have made homemade ice cream for years,  my goal is to try making 31 flavors by the time we have cold weather. Here are recipes for the first four we have tried. I will be experimenting with some of my own ideas and will be back to share those….if they are as tasty as they are in my dreams!

 

Blackberry Ice Cream

1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and any leaves removed

2/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup whole milk

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

pinch of salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Place in pre-chilled ice cream maker bowl and churn until it reaches the soft serve stage. Place in covered container (I like to chill mine first in freezer) and place in freezer several hours until firm. 

Strawberry Ice Cream

Follow same directions as above, using  fresh strawberries.

 

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Heath Bar Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk

2 cups half and half

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup sugar

4 egg yolks

pinch of salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped Heath Bar candies

In sauce pan, heat, milk, egg yolks, sugar, and salt, whisking until simmering. Lower heat and cook 5 more minutes, as mixture thickens, stirring the whole time. Strain into bowl and add chips, stirring until melted. Add all the rest of the ingredients except candy and whiz in blender until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge or freezer until well-chilled. Churn in ice cream freezer until soft serve stage. Mix in the candy the last 5 minutes. (I chop candy ahead of time and store in freezer, too.)Place in covered container in freezer until well set.

 

Butterfinger Ice Cream

6 cups half and half

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup peanut butter

1 cup chopped Butterfinger Bar candies

Heat half and half, peanut butter, and sugar on medium heat until sugar is dissolved and peanut butter is melted and incorporated. Place in fridge or freezer until well-chilled. Churn in ice cream mixer until soft serve stage.  Place in covered container in freezer until hard.

 

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Marriage: Getting There ~ courtship, dating, betrothal ~ Part Two

 

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All that was left of the homemade butter pecan ice cream in my chilled bowl at the Ariston! 

 

This is Part Two in the series on dating and courtship. You can find part one here. Let me encourage you to read through the comment section. There are always thoughtful and gracious discussions and I so appreciate the wisdom shared here!  Also, this is certainly not exhaustive and there are still several more parts coming in this series!

 

Why and How Parents Need to Be Involved

A while back, we had a late Sunday afternoon lunch at a small Illinois diner along the famed Route 66. Owned by the same family since it was first opened in 1924, the Ariston represents all that is charming about restaurants that have long-established standards and expectations for a great dining experience. Chilled salad plates and ice cream bowls, linen tablecloths and napkins, fresh flowers on each table, and smiling waiters in crisp white shirts and black ties took us back to the finer times our parents and grandparents often talked about. It reminded me that some things are timeless.

God’s design for the family is also timeless. He places moms and dads and brothers and sisters in relationships with each other and as He calls them individually to faith in Christ, those relationships as brothers and sisters in Christ continue to grow. While it is true that there may be situations where these relationships become strained and even broken, we should not assume that it is normal or healthy for them to be adversarial; God’s standard is that they be ones of mutual encouragement.  It is from this position we have to approach the changes that occur between parents and their children as it applies to the leaving and cleaving Scripture describes when children marry. I cannot stress enough how important it is that we begin planning for this time in our early days of parenting.

We also have to recognize that this path comes with steep ditches on either side. One of them results in parenting that is controlling and manipulative. The other finds parents abdicating responsibility and letting their children down just when they are the most needed. The goal is to find that proper place on the path and to walk it with faith and integrity.

Establish the standards for marriage in your own home. From their earliest days, little ones should witness what a God-honoring marriage involves. The home should reflect the goodness of marriage and disagreements and even heated debates between mom and dad should be resolved quickly, both mom and dad submitting to one another and loving one another. Children need to see how conflicts are righteously dealt with and what genuine confession, repentance, and forgiveness look like.

Demonstrate to your children your dependence on the Lord in marriage. Children need to see their parents praying for their own marriage, praying for their children, and especially for a child’s future spouse. I can remember, night after night, sitting beside my children when I tucked them in, praying out loud for the little girls or little boy who would one day marry our sons and daughter. Decades later we rejoiced on their wedding days that the Lord had answered those prayers, far beyond what we ever dreamed of.

Children need to know that parents trust the Lord and desire to obey His commands in marriage. They need to know that moral purity and integrity in our own lives are important. They need to see us taking steps to safeguard and protect our own marriages. Children will understand the importance of an undefiled marriage bed when they witness how important it is to you. This includes living out a pro-life and pro-child perspective.

Children need to know we aren’t marriage hypocrites. This is where our finest parenting is put to the test. As we watch people make unwise and even unbiblical choices in pursuing marriage, it is so easy to make compromises in order to keep the peace. Our children need to understand that being kind and gracious is not equal to agreeing with and encouraging all the choices of others. Many years ago we were invited to a wedding between a couple where the woman had been married twice before and there had not been a true biblical divorce. We chose to quietly not attend and explained to our children our convictions.  It gave us the opportunity to open Scripture and examine God’s standards for marriage.

They need to see us seeking counsel from our own parents and those who have been Christians for many years and who exhibit wisdom in their personal lives.  Many times in our nearly 40 years of marriage, we asked our own parents for advice or counsel on many things. Whether it was decisions about employment or large purchases like a car or a house, we knew it would be beneficial to see what they thought. (I wish we had earned this lesson much earlier on!) And it is important to differentiate between asking permission and asking for input!

What if children and parents do not have a good relationship? Here are some questions to help you evaluate reasons for any struggles you have with your children.

Is there mutual trust?

Do you feel safe with each other?

Have you offended them in any way?

Is there open communication?

How have you contributed to the problem?

Do you realize that your children are unique individuals with their own gifts and talents and that God’s goals for their lives may be quite different than your dreams for them?

How can you correct any difficulties between you and your children?

Have you repented of any sins against your adult children?

Have they genuinely forgiven you?

 

Coming in Part Three: Dating Choices and Lessons Learned From Our First Experience with Angry Church Mobs

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Marriage: Getting There ~ courtship, dating, betrothal ~ Part One

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You know its June when every Sunday’s scroll through your Facebook feed produces beautiful wedding photos from the day before! Glowing brides, proud parents, adorable flower girls, Pinterest-perfect receptions, its all there in Instagram loveliness.

When Julie Newmar sang “They say when you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life” back in 1954, everyone assumed it meant being a lifelong bride to the same groom. But, “as long as we both shall live” is now “as long as we both shall love” and even the lesser cynics among us refer to the “starter marriage” in everyday conversation.

Christian parents of teens and young adults wonder how their children will ever commit to marriages for a lifetime when it is so rare even within the church. In fact, I believe the body of Christ has lost much of our credibility to take a stand against homosexual arrangements because of our unwillingness to hold a truly God-honoring marriage to a high standard. It wasn’t that long ago when a young mom told me that her desire for me to mentor her was based on the fact that I “had been married to the same man for a really long time.” She knew that was hard to come by, even in her expressly conservative evangelical and Bible-teaching church. I cringed as she spoke.

But I am not talking simply about the willy-nilly approach that has been taken toward any unbibical divorce and remarriage in the church. (Long-time readers here know I differentiate between genuine biblical and unbiblical standards for this.) I am also talking about things like the unwillingness for church leaders to intercede for women who are being abused by husbands, refusal for churches to practice church discipline when there is obvious unbiblical divorce, and serial adulterers whose behaviors everyone is supposed to “forgive and forget.” It’s a mess out there. Is it any wonder parents often enter into this arena with either blinders on or swords drawn?

I recognize this is one of those topics that is really touchy but also really important. So today I am launching a discussion on preparing children, older youth, young adults, and parents for marriage. What should we consider is important along this path? What should be a conviction, what should be a preference? What should we teach our children? How much involvement should a parent have in the process? Are there non-optional standards for believers? Where is the Bible clear and where is there room for making individual choices? What can the body of Christ do differently to prepare people for marriage? What can it do to build up both individual marriages and the institution itself?

This will be a multi-part series so it will be easier to follow some of the topics and not be too overwhelming! And for now, I still have comment moderation enabled. As always, I look forward to the input of my readers. We have a variety of ages and a variety of experience in getting and being married and raising children so I think we can have great discussion! I am looking forward to it.

 

The Necessary Parent

When we attended Bill Gothard’s IBLP Basic Seminar back in the mid-80s, one of the topics he covered was dating. This was before he had moved into his courtship teachings and even before anyone we knew of had started discussing things like courtship and betrothal. In fact, courtship, to us, was how our grandparents and sometimes even our parents would refer to meeting, getting to know, and preparing to marry each other. In fact, they didn’t often refer to relationships with the opposite sex outside of the goal of being married one day.

Our grandparents on both sides had been in “til-death-to-us-part” marriages and each of our parents were close to celebrating golden wedding anniversaries. We made the same commitment and we knew that, as parents, we wanted to encourage our own children to do the same. But we also knew we had not always chosen wisely along the way and hoped to see our children avoid some of the bumps in the road we had encountered.

Isn’t it interesting that often parents will do this with children when it comes to making career or educational choices, involvement in extracurricular activities, and financial decisions but it is hands off when it comes to dating and marriage?

So we began listening to the many voices of instruction and took away one really important truth that, I believe, is central to the whole discussion of dating, courtship, marriage, and our children.

Parents need to be involved.

In The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home, a central theme I discussed is the importance of relationship building beginning before birth so that mentoring our children through the big decisions of life will be a natural, organic process. Too often we believe that once children reach a certain age, we are supposed to sit on the sidelines and watch them makes choices, for good or for bad, without giving them any input. This is folly. Scripture commands us to practice the one anothers of Scripture with our brothers and sisters in Christ, beginning with our precious children! As they become adults, we approach them just as we do other believers, admonishing, exhorting, bearing their burdens, forgiving, etc., all aspects of the dating, courting, and marriage years.

So I am beginning with the premise that parents are and should be involved and with that, will continue on to Part Two!

 

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the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat

 

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“For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain,  but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.”  ~ 1 Thessalonians 2: 1-2

 

“Paul’s past experiences had prepared him well to minister to the Thessalonian church. He had traveled from Philippi where, even though a Roman citizen, he had been stripped naked, publicly beaten, humiliated, and thrown into the darkest chambers of the local prison where he was kept in stocks. As he arrived in Thessalonica, the wounds on his back were still fresh and his scars, both on the inside and out, were tender. Yet Paul was ready and willing to take on this next season of his missionary work, in part because he had experienced the power of God at work even in the face of adversity.

Remembering how the Philippian jailer had come to Christ for salvation as a result of God bearing witness through something as simple as an earthquake, he recognized that the boldness needed to present the Gospel and make disciples did not come from within himself but from God. In fact, he immediately declared this truth as he reminded the Thessalonians of his past trials. Paul struggled with both outward persecutions and inward doubts as he came to those the Lord gave him to mentor; yet he recognized that his faith in God was his only sure hope.

As we take on the task of mentoring our children, we, like Paul, must realize that ministry often means pain and suffering, heartache and opposition. Too often we are criticized by family members, ostracized by our neighbors and mocked by fellow believers. Even our children are often resistant to us, balking at learning the basic subjects and many times even the Gospel message itself. Combined with the stress of everyday life as a homemaker and teacher, we can easily become discouraged when we see little to no fruit for our efforts.

The Greek word Paul chooses to use for “opposition” is interesting. “Agon” literally means “putting forth intense exertion in the face of conflict” and was typically used in the context of a sporting event where opponents fought to the death. We get our word “agony” from this word, hence the popular phrase from ABC’s Wide World of Sports: “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.” How often do we fall into bed at night, knowing all too well the agony of defeat?

Paul reminded his beloved Thessalonians that he was willing to do spiritual battle on their behalf, assuring them that being a Christian is not easy. He was transparent with them as he shared his past experiences and painted no picture of a perfect Christian life. Just imagine Paul showing his scars to the wide-eyed believers, making sure they understood what embracing Christ could look like up close and personal!

This is the model Scripture places before us.”

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

 

 

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household strength

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“Many years ago I sat in a church service and watched as a homeschooling father corralled his lineup of sweet boys in the pew across the aisle from me. The spunky one who was about three caught my eye and I winked at him, eliciting a shy grin. Not realizing I was tempting this small boy to “sin,” the father saw our exchange and inflicted a long, tight pinch to the child’s inner thigh and gave him a contorted facial expression we both knew meant “You are in trouble now!” The little one’s lower lip trembled as the man’s grip of skin between his fingers held fast for what seemed like an eternity, and tears flowed down the small pink cheeks. He sat perfectly still and faced forward through the rest of the service and, regrettably, so did I.

After that experience, I often watched this family, sometimes getting a bird’s eye view from the front of the sanctuary where I sat on the piano bench. Not once did I see the dad smile at his children or put his arm around them in a loving manner. “Worship” for this man was rigid and controlled and demanded perfection from the oldest to the youngest in his household. I have often wondered what happened to the children in this home as they grew older. Obviously this father was in charge but most likely his home was one of spiritual weakness. We are instructed that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and the absence of that joy zaps believers of any real strength in their personal lives and in their relationships with others.” ~ from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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you’re never too old to need your dad

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One of my favorite pictures of my parents and my grandma.

 

My house is quiet. The guys have gone to get Clay a new charcoal grill for Father’s Day and I am baking a carrot-craisin-pecan cake to celebrate tomorrow. Along with burgers, our favorite baked beans, a couple striped polo shirts and a Three Stooges DVD he doesn’t already own, it looks like Clay’s day is shaping up nicely.

I have been thinking about my own dad all day; I can’t believe he has been gone more than 20 years. I remember seeing him for the last time in the hospital as we thought he was recovering from a stroke; he was leafing through the Burpee Seed Catalog and jotting down gardening plans in the small lined notebook by his bed.  He looked small and old and just plain tired of living. I remember thinking that I didn’t think I could go on when he died, that I didn’t want to be without my dad. I couldn’t bear to think about it. And now, both he and my mom are gone and I am still here and God is still good.

My dad was not a great man in the way people usually think of greatness but he was a great dad. A carpenter by trade, my earliest memories are of staying up late at night, watching him as he built cabinets in our garage, his ever-patient face smiling and nodding as I chatted nonstop. I cannot smell sawdust without being taken back to those nights, falling asleep in the lawn chair to the sound of the saw and hammer, being carried into the house and tucked into bed by his scratchy but gentle hands.

My dad loved gardening, dogs, poetry, and me; he was the kindest person I have ever known. I can only remember being spanked by him one time, though I am sure I was a pretty naughty little girl. My mom once told me that when the adoption agency called to say I had been born, he fretted because he hadn’t finished the terrace and worried it wouldn’t be done by the time I could ride a tricycle.  One of my best memories is of the rings he would make for me from old earrings soldered to twisted wire. Oh, how elegant I felt and how easily charmed by me he was!

My dad was a deacon in the church for many years and there wasn’t a widow who hadn’t seen him walk in her door with his toolbox or paintbrush. He took me to Sunday school and church and always let me drink the leftover grape juice from communion. He walked me down the aisle and loved Clay almost as much as I did. And when the grandchildren came along, he walked a bit taller and smiled all the time.

Certainly, of all the gifts God has ever given to me, my dad was one of the best. Heaven is a bit sweeter and beckons to me a bit more because he is there.

 

 

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