Sunday, April 6, 2014

Backyard Sugaring!

This year we tapped our maple trees for syrup! Last spring we learned how easy it was and that we had an abundance of maples so, being the doers that we are, we did it this spring! Let me tell you, its easy, its fun, and its delicious.

Here is the basic how to of this process.

The freeze thaw cycles that we enjoy in our area from February through March cause pressure changes within the trees which cause the sap to be pushed out when you drill and spile the tree. This doesn't hurt the tree and after the sap stops flowing the tree heals right up.

1. First determine if you have maples. Ask a friend, do a google search, but make sure. Both sugar maples and regular maples can be tapped for syrup. If you don't have sugars you need to boil down the sap a bit more, but it still makes sweet nutritious syrup.

A captive audience
2. We ordered plastic spiles and tubes from Amazon.com and bought a few food grade 5 gallon buckets from Lowes to collect the sap. We started by drilling into the trees, then hammering in the spiles. We connected the tubes to empty milk jugs at first but they filled too quickly so we upgraded to the buckets.
Don't worry Peeta, I'll get the water for you!









3. The sap spoils in warm weather so after about a week we started boiling it off. This should probably be done outside but with four littles we did it inside, 5 gallons at a time. It took about 7 hours, using just one pot and adding to it over the course of a day. It was really easy. I went about our day and school, but added more sap every time the pot got half way boiled down. We cracked a few windows and just considered the added humidity as good for the skin.





Boiling down
4. We don't can in our house. We're just not the kind of people I would trust to get or keep anything sterile. So we cleaned some mason jars and filled them, waited for it too cool before we capped and keep them in the fridge. I have had no problem keeping maple syrup open in the fridge for months.





5. Finally, we enjoyed the sweetness of our very own, home grown, all organic, maple syrup. I've grown corn, tomatoes, flowers, and pumpkins but there is something really specially about holding a jar of my very own syrup.



5 gallons of sap for this much syrup
If you have maple trees I totally suggest giving this a try next spring. Our children loved every part of it, especially the tasting parts.


For more information check out http://tapmytrees.com/. I'm not affiliated with them in anyway but they had good information beyond the basics.


Professional Encourager

My husband is the most important person on this Earth to me and I view my role as his wife to be my most important calling. I serve God by serving him. One of the biggest parts of my job is to encourage him. My husband is an incredible man. He's gifted, brilliant, really. He can play the organ, sing with perfect pitch, cook a curry, and shoot straighter than most marksmen. But this world is rough, it beats down the best of us. So today, after a rough weekend, I knelt down in my kitchen with my children and prayed a desperate prayer. "Lord, fill me up with you, Lord light a fire in me, fill me with you. I am empty of myself, fill my children, fill my husband with your Spirit, Jesus."

After that the Lord spoke to me a few words of encouragement for my husband, myself, and probably someone else out there.

When we have no power over something, rather than focusing on it over and over, we need to focus on who God is. And who is He?? He is the one who flung the stars into the sky. He is the one who knows me. He is where my help comes from.

When the problems of the world grow too heavy, and frankly, they're always heavy, I will choose to focus on God. I will lift my eyes to Jesus. The maker of Heaven and Earth. I can fill my thoughts and words with worship and scripture. This is how we keep the mind of Christ. This is how we know peace. We fill our thinking and our words with the greatness of the love he has bestowed upon us freely. We fill our thinking with His power. He is worthy of our every thought, in good times and in bad. 


I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Psalm 121

Saturday, March 22, 2014

All Things Beautiful


I'm writing this post to encourage anyone who has experienced the jagged hurt of sexual assault or abuse. 

There is healing in Jesus. 



There are a few things in the world that are so ugly and horrible they seem unredeemable. Sexual assault has to top that list. Pain, hurt, shame, brokenness, ugliness, sin, vile, penetrating hurt.

Yesterday, for the first time since the incident I saw the man who caused so much pain in my life. I was at a conference when I saw him. I did double take, my stomach dropped, my hands started to shake. I pulled my husband away and immediately said, "thats the guy. The guy who did that to me."

We walked back to our table and right there, in front of friends we barely knew, Michael laid hands on me and prayed. He prayed one of those absolutely necessary in the moment heaven shaking prayers and God met me. He washed me again with his Spirit and I was given clarity and peace. My feelings towards this man weren't anger or rage, but worry that he would hurt someone else, probably has. I felt for those women.

We left for lunch and when I came back I knew I needed to tell my new friends why I was upset. I felt the creepings of shame. The creepings of being a wounded victim, someone who should be ashamed and hide. I know that is not who I am, and I spoke the truth aloud to myself and my friends.

I told them, "At 17 years old I was sexually assaulted and the man who did it is over there. Thats why I was acting strange. But I am not ashamed. I did not ask for what happened to me and I will not own this shame today."

Their faces dropped. And then with perfect God timing one of them asked me, "what was it that helped you to heal after something like that?"

"I went through gestalt therapy, I went on a week long heroines journey, I tried a lot of things and nothing brought healing... I was made whole when I realized how much Jesus had forgiven me, and because of that I can forgive too. I prayed for God to help me forgive him, and myself, forgiving myself was actually harder. But Jesus has given so much to me freely, and He made me whole. I am not ashamed, I am not broken, He made me whole through forgiveness." And in that moment I knew more than ever that it was true. One of my friends looked so upset that she was going to cry. I actually held her. She said, "I should be comforting you! I just feel things for people so deeply." And as I let go of her embrace I told her again, Jesus has made me whole, He is so good.

And then, we all prayed, YES, we prayed, for God to protect women from being hurt by him. The other friend used Jesus' name, And then I prayed, for God to redeem this man, to change his heart and save him.

It seems impossible, but God has made even this beautiful in His time. I stood, radiant with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus was glorified by sharing the truth of what He does. He saves, He transforms, He binds up the broken, He makes us whole. He makes beauty from the ashes. AMEN and amen.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Someone Else's Star

I shouldn't feel this way. How many times do we tell ourselves that when uncomfortable emotions keep coming up? I shouldn't be sad about this, its unreasonable! Everyone else won't understand, and really these are stupid feelings.

What then what do we do with those emotions that we decide we shouldn't have? I guess we try stuffing them somewhere. But that doesn't work. Issues and emotions are slippery things, they seep into other areas and accidentally pour out when we're not expecting them.

Its obviously best to talk about the things that make us upset, but sometimes, like in my case, you feel like you have no one to talk with it about. Certainly, we have many friends online, but its not the same when you can't sob snotty tears into their shoulder. Most of the time I share my heart with my husband, who I love and cherish but my husband has been working a lot. A lot actually doesn't even come close to explaining it. He's been working for weeks with breaks only to sleep and occasionally eat. I knew that the hard work would come, I know that taking over the world is a daunting task, and I support it! But it has left me feeling alone in a time when I needed fellowship.

There was a little girl in an orphanage in China who I fell in love with. Her English name is Stella and last year I randomly chose her photo from a listing to sponsor and pray for her. I didn't choose her because she was beautiful, or I had any certain affection for her. I just picked her. Maybe because I like the name Stella. As time went on we got monthly updates about her development and photos. My heart started to fall in love. I asked my husband many times, "if she's not adopted when we turn 30 we need to come for her! I want to rescue Stella and make her my daughter." This was the cry of my heart and my prayers for almost a year.

At the start of this year I began talking friends who work at adoption agencies and seeing if I could get access to the shared list so I could find out if she was available and what her special needs were, could we really support her in our family? My heart was jumping far ahead of my present circumstance. But I know that fundraising and paperwork can take a year. It made sense to start working now.
New Day Foster Home


In His mercy, after only a week of seriously pursuing this child, I learned that another family had chosen her, was coming to rescue her; the little girl that I have never met but somehow love so much. Sure, I was supposed to be happy, but I wasn't. I'm not. That night I cried almost to the point of throwing up. My husband was working, it was mission critical stuff, so he would periodically come in and hold me, then I would send him off to work more.

I just need to cry. 

But in the weeks since then, I haven't cried much, but I want to. I am now, as I tell you, Internet.

And, even as I cry, the voice in my head says, "this is stupid, Jennifer. She was never yours. You're not even called to adopt." I can't explain why I'm so sad. I can't say that it makes sense, or that I should be feeling this way, but I do. I AM SAD. And I really want to sit and cry for a long time.

I spent hours, days of my life, imagining Lucie and Stella as "twins." Two little girls, one who's name means Light and the other Star. How perfect, I thought. But she was never mine. And she won't be. She is someone else's star.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Five Year Old's Response to Coke Ad

Unless you live under a rock you've probably seen the "controversial" Coca Cola commercial featuring America the Beautiful sung in many languages. I do kind of live under a rock and only saw the ad this morning when a friend posted this article that highlights the amazingly angry response viewers had. After watching it I showed my children, who live in a rural small town, without a television set, and asked what they thought. Here is the response of my five year old twins, to a song about America being sung in languages other than English:

What do you think of this commercial?

E: I like it.

K: I like their singing.

Did you notice that they sang about America in different languages?

K: Yes.

E: I didn't notice too much.

How do you feel about them singing in their own language?

E: Its nice. Some people speak different languages. I think its really cool.

K: Yeah, all languages are really neat.

Why do you think all of those people were not speaking English?

E: Maybe something bad happened in their old country, thats why they came here. And now they love America too.

How do you think God feels about all different people coming to America?

K: I think He feels happy, and I think its nice that they come to America. America is an amazing place.

Why do you think other people didn't like the singing in other languages?

K: Maybe because they don't love Jesus, maybe because they don't love anyone but themselves and their [own] friends. Which I don't like, because I don't think thats nice of them.

E: Because maybe they don't like other languages, maybe they only like their own. They should like other languages. They can't just care about themselves.


I'm not despairing at the hate of many because many more of my generation are raising bright, loving children, who view all of God's people as the same. Human beings, who are only made more beautiful by their unique differences, and all lovingly made by their Creator for fellowship with Him.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Remembering

Recently our baby Goosey was seen by a neurologist because she wasn't walking yet and her head circumference is small in proportion to her body size.

Everyone is worried.

Worried that Lucie has a very serious problem with the growth of her brain, worried that her development is going to cease or who knows what. I am doing my best not to worry. I am not a cliche but I am taking this to Jesus, my healer. And when I feel tempted to worry I chose to remember...

I remember when Michael suffered the most terrible allergies I've ever seen. I remember when the allergist told him he was allergic to everything and prescribed a ton of meds that made his nose bleed. I remember how he couldn't even eat dinner outside at restaurants without coughing and sneezing. I remember how Michael prayed and asked God to heal his allergies. I remember how Michael asked God to heal him so that he could enjoy the outside world that God had created.

I remember how our God healed him! I remember how my mother in law almost crashed her car into a curb when Michael told her that he no longer had allergies because Jesus had taken that from him. My God heals!

When I start to think what all this could mean for Lucie I remember when I was experiencing terrible pain in my abdomen. Pain so bad I would fall down unable to walk. I went to see a gynecologist and I remember her telling me that she felt a growth in my uterus. I prayed, I asked everyone I knew to pray for Jesus to heal me and remove this growth.

I remember going for the pubic ultrasound and the tech telling me that there was NOTHING to see! I remember her telling me that that there wasn't even any fluid as if a cyst had broken. I was healthy! 

Just a year ago I was having weird visual problems. I was seeing a black spot in my vision. I remember the doctor telling me that it was attached to my retina and that if it pulls off I could go blind and that I needed to see a specialist before the week was out. My parents were worried, I certainly didn't want to go blind. I prayed, and I prayed. And a guy at a coffee shop who didn't know me, but did know Michael, prayed for Jesus to heal my eye. He just came up to me because he was prompted by the Holy Spirit to do so. I remember feeling the Spirit of God upon me in the coffee shop and I remember coming home and telling Michael, "I'm healed!! Jesus JUST healed me!"

I remember the look on my dad's face when the eye specialist said to me, "your eye is perfectly healthy. There is nothing wrong with it at all. Its a picture of health." I remember praising Jesus in that doctors office and thanking God. 

So when I think about Lucie, I will remember. God is our loving Father, All Mighty Healer, Redeemer, Savior, Master, and King. I will remember who my God is, and I will pray and seek His face and trust in Him. Please join with us in praying for the Lord Jesus Christ to heal our daughter and cause her brain to grow as it should. And remember who our Lord is.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. -
Psalm 103:2-5

Monday, June 24, 2013

Wildcrafting with Kids

My little girls just turned five years old. They are growing up! And with their new maturity they're more interested than ever in knowing what I know and helping out in big ways. The other afternoon I was working in the garden and my daughter came up to me with a bunch of weeds in her hands asking if she could pretend it was lettuce. The weed she had picked was plantain, my favorite backyard herb! I climbed out of the garden and did an impromptu lesson on how to identify it and what it was good for. They of course remembered that plantain is the herb mommy chews up and spits on them when they get bug bites! Gross, yes, but much better than getting an infected spider bite or a swelling hornets sting.

Herbs are medicine in a way that few give them credit for. Plantain has compounds in it that actually draw the poison out of the bite and reduce swelling. Don't ask me how or why, I just know that it does. Last night my husband had a massive bite on his forearm so I chewed some plantain and held it on his arm with a gauze pad. After a few minutes the itching stopped and the swelling was reduced.

Now... all that chewing and spitting is pretty gross right? So, this summer I hope to be more prepared for bug bites! I'm dehydrating the plantain right now and am going to infuse olive oil with it. Then I'll make it into a salve. All of this is really easy, you just have to make a little time for it.

You can dry the herb by laying it out on screens or you can pop it in a dehydrator on the lowest heat setting. Around 90 degrees. Drying the herb before infusing the oil will help keep the oil fresh longer by reducing water content.

Once your herbs are dry, and you'll need a lot, so teach your babies how to wildcraft and go pick some, you can put them in a mason jar, fill it at least 3/4 full and over with the oil of your choice. (You can also purchase plantain from The Bulk Herb Store)

Grab your crock pot and fold a tea towel on the bottom, place the jar of oil and herbs on the towel and fill up nearly to the rim of the jar with water.

Turn your crock pot on to low, making sure the water never boils, and let it go for about 3 days.

Check it, turn it off for a time if you think it'd getting to hot. This process will draw the healing properties out of the herbs into the oil.

Strain it all out and pour it into a double boiler or just a metal bowl on top of a pot of gently boiling water.

You will need to add beeswax to make the oil into a salve. I just eyeball it... but I think the ratio is about 1 ounce of beeswax for 1/2 cup of oil. You can always add more wax by melting it down again if it doesn't set up as hard as you'd like.

Pour into a mini mason jar, or a metal tin and apply to all bug bites and scrapes as necessary!

Not sure that I need to say this but for the record I am not a doctor, or medical professional of any kind, though I am called Witch Doctor by those who love me.