God, Nature, and Anna Comstock

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Ps. 145:5

Nature, second to the incredible truths of Scripture, has an ability to point our hearts to worship in awe of God Our Maker. Nothing points to God as incredibly as what He has made. Whether it is the human body He has made in HIs image, or the roaring sea rolling over crabs scurrying across the beach, the more awe we hold for nature, the more likely our hearts will be sent into childish and heartfelt awe of our Creator.

For those of us who believe in God as the creator of all things, nature is part of our theology. It is crucial we not the creational work of God mindlessly.

I am a busy person and understand it is easy to not walk this earth slowly enough to even savor the sunrise. But, as this created universe is a direct key to adoring my Father more, I have been convicted time and time again of my haste to live in it and not truly see with awe the world I am living in. But am deeply committed that my children also develop a deep appreciation for God’s creation. Every science we study is a direct finger pointing to God, saying “Wow!”

Scientists have been on earth studying what God has made for thousands of years, and as time has passed, science has only shown us how mush more there is to learn! We don’t know the half of the expanse of the universe. We don’t understand the workings of time. We cannot wrap our minds around eternity. There are animals and fish we have yet to discover. We have not even broached past the thin crust of our own planet!

As I teach my children about God, His creation gives great ease in pointing their little hearts to be amazement and awe of Him.

I love the emphasis placed upon nature through the Charlotte Mason Method of education that we use for home-schooling our children. We begun our nature education by spending time enjoying nature. Charlotte Mason recommends children play outdoors a minimum of two hours a day, regardless of weather. Although, whether does matter a bit to me, I do encourage my children to get outdoors at every given opportunity and never discourage them from going out to play.

We didn’t begin studying nature by going on nature walks and identifying birds and plants. We began learning to love nature by rolling in the grass, climbing trees, building mud pies, watching birds and squirrels at our feeder, following an ant to her tribe, and catching butterflies in nets.

Once an enjoyment of nature was established, we moved on slowly to drawing, photographing, and coloring nature. Honestly, with an enjoyment for creation established, the more detailed attention into what was already enjoyed is a natural step. My children started a nature sketchbook before they could write. Each term we focus on studying one aspect of nature. We have studied birds, agriculture, insects, reptiles, and this term we are working on freshwater fish.

That is where Comstock’s book: Handbook of Nature comes in. Anna Comstock, has been our guide as we learn about this amazing world and the creatures God has made. She is a renowned anthropologist from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Her studies on nature are not only well versed, but she doesn’t wax too eloquent for children. Her notes on each animal or plant are brief, but specific.

I am not certain she is a Christian, but Anna Comstock makes note of God in her writing as many authors in the early days of our country did. So, I am confident my children are getting a perspective on nature that acknowledges God as the Creator.

I love the entertaining and easy reading through Comstock’s Handbook of the Study of Nature. We read about the brook trout a few weeks ago and in her notes on his eating habits she writes: “Woe to the unfortunate insect that falls upon the surface of the water in his vicinity…”

At the end of each nature lesson, Anna Comstock directs us in specific observations, questions and thoughts that give us room to see the created item through with eyes of detail and thought, giving us sketching or essay starts. My children have absorbed so much about nature from simply processing what they have learned through drawing or oral essays-eventually written essays.

As we continue out journey of the study of God’s creation, I am find my own heart falling into worship as we learn about this amazing world, the incredible design in this fallen universe, that I can easily echo with my children and the Psalmist:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him? Ps. 8:3-4

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures. Ps. 104:24

Letters to My Children

“This is my Sunday closet,” she said, showing him shelves filled with picture-books, paint-boxes, architectural blocks, little diaries, and materials for letter-writing. “I want my boys to love Sunday, to find it a peaceful, pleasant day, when they can rest from common study and play, yet enjoy quiet pleasures, and learn, in simple ways, lessons more important than any taught in school. Do you understand me?” she asked, watching Nat’s attentive face.

“You mean to be good?” he said, after hesitating a minute.

“Yes; to be good, and to love to be good. It is hard work sometimes, I know very well; but we all help one another, and so we get on. This is one of the ways in which I try to help my boys,” and she took down a thick book, which seemed half-full of writing, and opened at a page on which there was one word at the top.

“Why, that’s my name!” cried Nat, looking both surprised and interested.

“Yes; I have a page for each boy. I keep a little account of how he gets on through the week, and Sunday night I show him the record. If it is bad I am sorry and disappointed, if it is good I am glad and proud; but, whichever it is, the boys know I want to help them, and they try to do their best for love of me and Father Bhaer.”

“I should think they would,” said Nat, catching a glimpse of Tommy’s name opposite his own, and wondering what was written under it.

Mrs. Bhaer saw his eye on the words, and shook her head, saying, as she turned a leaf

“No, I don’t show my records to any but the one to whom each belongs. I call this my conscience book; and only you and I will ever know what is to be written on the page below your name. Whether you will be pleased or ashamed to read it next Sunday depends on yourself. I think it will be a good report; at any rate, I shall try to make things easy for you in this new place, and shall be quite contented if you keep our few rules, live happily with the boys, and learn something.”

“I’ll try ma’am;” and Nat’s thin face flushed up with the earnestness of his desire to make Mrs. Bhaer “glad and proud,” not “sorry and disappointed.” “It must be a great deal of trouble to write about so many,” he added, as she shut her book with an encouraging pat on the shoulder. (Little Men: Louisa May Alcott, Ch. 3)

What Mrs. Bhaer did for her boys in that chapter has been an inspiration to me since before my children’s birth. I love the attention to character development, but also the discipline of Mrs. Bhaer to write about each boy on a daily basis.

When Jim and I were expecting our first child, Jim’s mother gave us a small folder with notes of her thought’s, doctor visits, and birthing experience of Jim. It was incredible to read through and recount her experience as we brought another generation into the world.

I was inspired and have put my spin on this since before my children were born. I began to write them letter. I tried to be faithful monthly, but it has become more of a yearly endeavor at this point.

I wrote my children about details concerning their life before birth, the birthing experience, and their development as babies. I continued to write them letters as they have grown. I am hoping in time, it will be a wonderful experience for each child to read about long forgotten moments of his or her life. Perhaps those letters will also help my children deepen their understanding of my love for them and my prayers and desires to see each one of them grow up to walk with God.

Unlike Jo Bhaer, I am not writing to them about their weekly sins, but I am writing to each child to tell them about themselves. It is fun, but also a rather tedious upkeep. In time, I do feel it will be of value and a worthwhile endeavor.

So much can be forgotten, lost in the moment. Pictures are lovely, but they do not capture the personhood of someone like words. I am grateful for this early inspirational idea for my children and encourage other young mothers to also take the time to today write to letters for their children’s tomorrow.

Five Favorite Kitchen Appliances

Someone recently asked me what my favorite kitchen appliance was and for some reason, I drew a blank. I have a lot of favorites, but my kitchen is small, so I keep my appliances to the essential, multitasking ones. Which one do I like the best? hmmm…

I narrowed my choice down to five. I understand that different appliances would be chosen by different folks, but these are certainly ones that I use heavily, if not daily.

1.Top of my list: An emulsifying blender. I use this daily. I usually make a foamy Oolong and Macha tea blend for breakfast. If I choose an occasional cup of coffee instead, I can easily turn a cup into bulletproof coffee with the stick blender. This little machine also makes mayonnaise, lemon butter, hollandaise easily. It is great to cream a pot of soup on the stovetop too. If gravy gets lumps…walla…the blender will smooth it out! Dishwasher safe and easy to clean compared to the stand up blender and food processor. Yes-love it.

2. I choose my Keurig coffee maker second because it is an item I use several times a day. It can heat a cup of water in less than a minute for my morning tea, and makes a cup of coffee just as quick. If I am having a larger group over, I do use my teapot on the stove for water, but for small gatherings is is nice to have an easy way for guest to have tea of coffee. No one feels they are putting me to any trouble when I just push a button. I like that the Keurig is simple enough for my three year-old to make me a cup of coffee too!

3. My soda stream is another favorite kitchen appliance. My husband bought it for me one year with our income tax return. I am a huge fan of carbonation and find just a jug of carbonated H2O is far easier to enjoy than plain water. Just writing about it, makes me need to go get a tall glass of bubbly water! Be right back…. 

 a minute later and hydrated…. Yes, love the soda stream. I go through a canister a month which is about $15 a can once my empty can is returned. I think that is a lot cheaper and environmentally friendly than buying a steady stream of bottles and cans of pre-flavored and carbonated water. I tons make healthy drinks for myself and the children with this machine I mix natural extracts, stevia, and even natural food colorings to make incredible healthy drinks. My favorite is to make sparkling lemon/lime with fresh squeezed lemons and limes and stevia. Yes, I am a Soda Stream enthusiast. 

4.  I will go with my food processor for fourth. I lived without one of these until rather recently when my husband gave me one for Christmas a few years back. I now wonder why I didn’t have one much earlier than then.

Since I am careful with our grocery budget, that means everything I buy comes unprepared…blocks of cheese…whole veggies…unwashed…un-chopped…unprepped food is what I bring home from the grocery store. I can shred all my cheese in five minutes with the cheese shredder on this gadget. I can make zucchini noodles and freeze them. I can slice carrots, cucumber, and dice onions in seconds. For my sauerkraut marathon, a food processor is indispensable as I shred head after head of cabbage. I also use the food processor to make my own hand lotions and creams. Recently I have made batch after batch of salsa! Dump all the ingredients in and run and done!

5. This Kitchen Aid stand mixer was my Christmas gift from my husband our first year of marriage. At the time, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting. Once I learned to make my own whole wheat bread…well…let’s just say, I don’t mix anything by hand and I don’t knead bread by hand. Judge me if you will, but this machine does an incredible job with all those things. In fact, I am convinced that it is key in making the best chocolate chip cookies. And the time is saves me kneading bread….I just wouldn’t have time to make bread without it. I calculated that from start to finish of mixing and kneading three loaves…twelve minutes with my Kitchen Aid doing all the work. 

My five favorite appliances! I was amused to see how many my husband had given me. I don’t be-grudge getting appliances as gifts ever, considering the amount of time they have given me to be with my family and do other things. And well, I am a home-making nerd tools for the kitchen home are very much my niche.

Some Lessons From Grandma

I have been praying for my grandma a lot this past week as she has been wrestling with a bit of bronchitis. As a result, I have been reminded of so many ways she has impacted my life.

My Grandmother has a body that has lived ninety-six years. Her mind on the other hand is as young and energetic as a twenty-three-year-old.

She has lived through the Great Depression, World War I, and everything in-between now, and 1925. She is an incredible woman, with stamina that would take any woman to ninety-six!

My grandmother is a jack-of-all trades, and if she doesn’t know how to do something, she will find out how. She is a researcher, remember, thinker, and as curious as Albert Einstein.

The first impact that comes to mind would be music. Music is my grandmother’s great passion. I started taking piano lessons from her when I was five. She was a perfectionist. I was not. She felt all music should be played exactly as it was written. I liked to make up other parts in a piece (generally because I was too lazy to figure out the right notes in a cord). Grandma knew that though. She gave me finger drills and scales each lesson. She felt the fingering had to be spot on. I had no trouble crossing my ring finger over my index finger as needed. Grandma had her work cut out for her.

I wish I could say I came around to a more precise method of piano playing, but alas, to this day, my sight reading is week and my fingers want to play whatever my brain invents. And very sadly, I still have poor fingering and timing.

But Grandma’s efforts were not a loss. From her, I gained a deep appreciation for music and am determined to pass that on to my children as a life skill. In fact, music is deeply valued by all Grandma’s children and grandchildren as a result of her fervor and encouragement for it.

Education is something else my Grandmother deeply valued. Her father was the principle of the local public school. He held a Master’s Degree in the 1900’s. My grandmother also got a collage degree. For  woman in the 1940’s a college degree was a rare feat. All Grandma’s children and grandchildren also attended college, most of us with graduate degrees.

Education was priceless to Grandma and that value has been passed down from generation to generation. To this day, I am already preparing my children’s hearts to gain an education beyond high school. I truly believe in the value of having a tool or two in one’s belt. Education is a huge life asset even if one never uses the exact skill set he or she attended college to get. College acts like a springboard to greater opportunities. Much more is learned by receiving a college education than a paper degree too. It is rare anyone with a degree ever regrets getting one, but I have heard many regrets from those who did or could not take that path.

Just yesterday, my mother told me of little children in Africa walking miles to school. They sometimes encounter dangers on the way, and often go without food. In our culture of mostly free, easy schooling, it is inevitable that children grow up bemoaning their learning and not thinking of education as a privilege. The whole book of Proverbs speaks of the value of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Education is a great treasure and I know my Grandma sees it as that.

Grandma’s love for education does not stop with formal schooling, she has taught me to never be satisfied with what I know. To her, life is one big education. Grandma is incredibly curious. She wants to know everything about everything. Even at ninety-six she has an i-pad and likes to look up, this, and that. Her life is full of rabbit trails of knowledge.

As a child this made her a favorite person in my life. She was always interested in what I had to say, what I made, and anything that interested me. Everything is so interesting to her. I find my heart pricked if my mind is too occupied to soak in my children’s Lego builds or hear them tell of their dream from the night.

Just like my Grandma, I like to take learning detours with my children. At Grandma’s house we would see a bird at her feeder, even a familiar one like a cardinal, and she would go get her bird book and read us all about it. Later that week, she would drop by an article from the National Geographic. If we see something interesting, we stop and learn more about it. Learning was a constant in her world.

Grandma’s fascination with nature still brings my distracted heart back to earth. Nature is often far too neglected in our busy world. The Charlotte Mason method of education I have chosen focuses a lot on noticing nature in children’s younger years. From admiring little beetles under logs to taking long frolics in the meadow. Nature is truly a gift we have on earth to enjoy. All of my children have various fascinations with aspects of God’s creation. It is such a simple way to point each one to their Creator. Just look what an amazing animal God made! Look how the beautiful a tree is when it is dying! Our God has power over this thunder storm. We love nature, because it points our hearts to the creator.

My grandmother bought all of our children subscriptions to various National Geographic publications for years. She send my children articles on bugs, butterflies, and weather. She will give us old calendars with beautiful photographs of animals and birds. It is funny to see how her passion is being passed on to each generation.

Grandma savors everything and doesn’t hurry herself through life. I do not think I will ever have the skill of noticing details like my Grandmother does, but I think of her often in our world of glossing over generalizations. It is tempting to be fast, to skip over things, to see an image as a whole, and miss the whole point because the point of things is often seen in the details that we miss.

In our rush through life, there stands my Grandma, back by exhibit one, reading through all the information, gazing intently at the art and noticing every color. We rush through our meals and gobble up dessert. But there is Grandma, still sitting at the table, enjoying each morsel of her first helping. We hurry out on a walk, and loose Grandma. She is back at the first mile looking up in the trees with her binoculars.

We rush through life so quickly, I am afraid we will never get quite as much out of it as my grandmother who savors, notices, and is content to let the time pass without hurrying. Much could be learned by my soul if I  slow down taste the food I eat and listen to the people I am with.

Grandma knows how to be frugal. Living through the depression and a World War must have made a huge impact on my Grandmother. To this day she saves everything. She keeps the wax paper our of cereal boxes. Plastics bags are washed and reused. A paper napkin is used for more than just one meal. Handkerchiefs are still her preference to tissues. Grandma is careful not to be wasteful to the point her attics contain piles of brown paper bags, newspapers, empty milk boxes, and egg cartons. There may be a use for it someday.

Frugality is a lost art. This past year, some of us experienced the slight taste of valuing what we would normally waste, as paper products and some food items were scarce. It was short lived and we have returned back to our comforts, but for a time, we might have held a few things more carefully than we generally do. I admit to being a busy, rather wasteful person. Compared to my Grandmother, I ought to be ashamed. I am so busy, taking the time to wash a Ziploc bag crosses my mind, then leaves. I also do not like the clutter of various stored objects being set aside for later use. But as time goes on, I am seeing it as poor stewardship and a huge lack of gratitude. I need to find a good balance of frugality of time and resources and I know I could do better with both.

My grandmother is an incredible person the more I think about it. We all leave legacies to generations after us. The core life values my Grandma has instilled in her legacy are incredible, and have shaped our thinking, decisions, and paths for generations to come. I am grateful to still have a living Grandmother, and grateful for the valuable role she has played in my life!

St. Patrick’s Day Means Sauerkraut Time


1 head of cabbage-washed, shredded

Good salt (like sea-salt or pink salt)

Tools: Flat pans and something to squish with (I use a rolling pin with the rollers taken off) 2 Quart Mason Jars (Washed and sterilized-I use the dishwasher, then rinse them out with vinegar just before stuffing)

  1. Place the shredded cabbage in a large flat pan on a stable surface
  2. Sprinkle salt over the top of the cabbage. I use about 2t-1T per head, depending on the size of the cabbage. (It helps wilt the cabbage and provides more flavor to the finished kraut)
  3. With the end of a blunt object, press the cabbage HARD, twisting and turning. (This is a great upper arm workout ladies!)
  4. When the cabbage turns from green to translucent and there is about an inch of water in the bottom of the pan, the hard work is done.
  5. Stuff the jars to about 2″ full, pressing in hard to make sure water covers the cabbage in the jar about 1″.
  6. Sometimes I will leave my rolling pin in the top of the jar to further press down the cabbage.
  7. Place the jars in a small pan (In case they overflow, sometimes they do that is a good thing), and cover the batch with a light towel.
  8. Let nature work. Amazing, friendly bacteria will begin populating the cabbage, tuning it into the most tasty, sour, bite of bacteria on any hot-dog.
  9. Every day, these jars need to be checked to make sure water continues to cover the cabbage. If the cabbage meets air, it will spoil and ruin all that hard work. I have neglected to squeeze my cabbage long enough and that has happened! SO sad!
  10. I start tasting on day two. Once the cabbage tastes as sharp as I desire, I lid it and pop it in the fridge. Done!
  11. I make large batches and freeze the kraut. I do not recommend canning sauerkraut. Once it is canned, all the good little friends inside are dead, so it is no more than pickled cabbage. It can be heated slightly and still maintain much good bacteria, but high temps are not good. It will last years in the back of the fridge, so no need to worry about eating it fast once it is made.

When do I make sauerkraut? It is about that time. Every year around the beginning of March, grocery stores lower the price of cabbage dramatically. Yes, cabbage is super cheap year round, but before St. Patrick’s Day, I have been able to get an entire head for about .35. I buy about six…eight, if I am feeling industrious.

Does everyone in my house like sauerkraut? I love sauerkraut and don’t enjoy a hot-dog without it. But it was not always the case. When my mother had it, none of us kids would touch it. She got creative and put it in chocolate cake! That cake was requested by us on many occasions. I think sweets were so rare in my growing up home that if we asked for sauerkraut cake we were at least likely to get cake. Now, I have truly come to enjoy it’s tart nature and hope my children will at some point. DO far one of my children is on board with me. So I enjoy a side of sauerkraut with kielbasa, liver, and hot-dogs with her. Maybe cake would help the rest of them like it too!

Why is Sauerkraut Healthy? Sauerkraut is a fermented vegetable, meaning that it allows friendly bacteria, whose names I will not bore you with, to grow. Good sauerkraut can host a number of bacteria, similar to sourdough, yogurt, or vinegar. Friendly bacteria is important in our innards and we eat far too little. I believe in eating a large variety of fermented foods in order to get the largest variety of little friends in my innards. Not every fermented food produces the same bacteria or even enough bacteria.

Why Do I Make Sauerkraut instead of buy it? I choose to make my own sauerkraut rather than buy it because the processing in most store bought sauerkraut kills all bacteria, especially canning. I also love the depth of flavor that I can get by making my own.

Becoming Blind, In Order to See

man sunglasses people woman

I was ten. We were pulling away from our church parking lot. My mother was in tears. She was in a hard moment in her life. I remember her tearful frustration that there was no help offered by church friends. “Is it because we appear to be doing well?” She asked, not wanting an answer. The fact was clear to me that Mom was not doing well. But that was not the kind of well she meant.

My dad was a computer engineer in the 80’s. We were doing well compared to most folks in our small county church who’s income was probably half of my Dad’s.

Our home was a godly home. Back then, we might have been considered to be ultra-conservative sense we didn’t own a television and we home-schooled. We were about the only ones in our church holding to such standards and our family appeared to be a very godly one.

My mother was in-particular a very godly women, rising early and spending hours in prayer and Bible study before the household stirred. We were taught Scriptures, learned how to pray, were faithful to church and in the ministries of the church. Most folks at church probably were not that disciplined. So, spiritually, we were doing well if compared.

My parent’s marriage was in tact and they were both proactive at keeping it that way. Our home was whole. Again, compared to most folk at our small church, that was doing pretty good.

We were all healthy kids. There were no birth problems. We ate healthy. We spent hours playing outside. My parents were also very fit and healthy. For many of our church family, that was not the case due to poor eating, age, and other conditions.

So by all physical standards, were doing well. And because our circumstances looked good to others, why would anyone need to ask my mother how she was doing? Of course she was fine.

Sadly, our family’s success blinded our church family to the fact that we might have needs. My parents left that church when I was about 12. Although we attended a church until all the children in the family had graduated from college. My parents never latched on to church again.

Today, I wonder if part of the cause of my parent’s lack of finding a church family might be traced back to their years of lack of connection to a body of believers who saw their circumstances and not their souls.

Time has taught me that NO ONE is OK. We all have hurts, struggles, hard days. We all need to be inspired and encouraged to grow in our faith. We all need the prayers of others.

Questions for pondering:

Ministry is stifled so often by seeing the physical and not soul of a person.

How many needs are missed? How many souls are lost? How many people are in bondage to repetitive sins in their lives because they simply do not have another soul in their life who cares?

Am I not guilty of seeing the circumastances of a person before their soul?

How often a person’s circumstance blinds me from seeing the cries of her heart?

Do I fail to build connections with certain believers because they intimidate me?

Or because I think we have nothing in common?

Do I tend to travel circles with those I am most comfortable being with?

Do I attempt to connect with people who are very different from myself in age, status, politics, health, culture, or depth of faith?

As I ponder, my heart aches as I think of my Father. He may be yet a lot soul. I have no certainty of his salvation at this point. Would things be different in his soul if he had not been seen as “having it together” in his earlier days? I am left to wonder.

Those in need are not just the obviously destitute. We truly must blind ourselves to the physical circumstances and appearances of others in order to hear them, care about them, and minister to the needs of their souls. It isn’t a natural occurrence either, but must be purposed.

When I started my home with my husband, the Lord put it into my heart to minister without blindness to the souls whatever soul the Lord put on my heart. All are broken. That is how my Savior sees them. So that is how I must see them as well.

I have given aid to dear folks on the street to the happy families of means and found the more invested I became in those lives, the more similar they all were. Putting blinders on to the physical has allowed me to see that all souls are full of needs, sins, and troubles.

One does not have to be well versed in Scripture, wealthy, or qualified in any way to reach out in kindness to someone. I do not have to be a pastor’s wife to send a note of encouragement and some cookies to a pastor’s wife. I do not have to be wealthy to take a meal to a family who could easily afford to order in. I do no have to be a working mom, or even smart, to ask a businesswoman in our church how her week is going. I do not have to have a happy home to bless a family with flowers for their new baby. I do not have to be perfectly well, or even young to reach out with regular conversations to encourage a newly married young woman.

How many neglected heart’s are out there, untouched because we cannot see past a person’s good circumstances and into the soul. We truly blind ourselves to circumstances and look deeper into each dear soul with whom we are connected.