Saying “no” to Weariness

We all need rest. Rest is a biblical concept. We are approaching our two week fall break for school, and I thought it would just be the children who needed a reprieve from school, but it turns out that I feel I have benefited the most from our little respite.

cute cat sleeping on cozy bed with book at home
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Rest is a powerful source of energy and renewal for our bodies and souls. As I have raised our four little souls, I have learned from experience the power of giving others time to rest and taking time to rest myself.

Most mothers easily recognize the signs of a tired child. Children rub their eyes, cry, seem easily agitated, and become altogether impossible to manage when they are tired. Little people have bodies that are constantly changing, growing and learning. With such busyness as a child possesses, much more essential is his or her need for rest.

Every mother easily recognized the signs of weariness in her children. A grumpy, exasperated, unmanageable, child can often be transformed through the power of a nap. Sometimes a child simply has too much stimulation like a long trips from home, being around lots of people, stepping out of his or her routine, or illness and simply needs a bit of quiet time, even if a nap doesn’t happen.

Just as ignoring the need for my own children’s rest has brought no peace to me or my child, so ignoring the symptoms of my own need for rest only allows my soul to build in its turmoil.

How often we can see the exhaustion in our children but fail to recognize the signs in our own lives. Or if we know we need a rest, we refuse to take that needed time to give ourselves space.

I would really like to explore the topic of rest. What it looks like when we don’t take time to rest, why we don’t allow ourselves to rest, what rest looks like, are important to discuss, but so is our need for applying what we know about our need for rest and building that space into our days.

Recognizing the need for rest:

I so often ignore the signs that my body needs a rest from something or from the daily grind of life.

  1. Being irritable or easily agitated are the first clues that I need rest. I haven’t changed much since my toddler days. If I am grumpy, a nap can do wonders for my attitude. If I am finding my emotions difficult to control, I need to recognize that I very well may need to stop and take a break from something or get a nap in my day.
  2. No Joy in the things that once brought joy. Some people may see lack of joy as depression. But lack of joy can be complete and utter exhaustion as well. So many care-givers, mothers, elderly folks, and those with ongoing illness need more rest in their particular season of life than they might have needed in the past. People who are in grief can also need extra rest. As can people who are in a life crisis. I have seen complete exhaustion swallow up many a merry heart.
  3. Physically tired and lack of energy. This is the obvious sign of tiredness that we all recognize. We simply feel tired. We know we are tired. Our head hurts, our body doesn’t want to move. We have trouble getting out out words.

Why we Don’t rest:

Ok, so we can recognize when we are tired. Many of us do not see a way to give ourselves a needed respite.

  1. Pride is often at the root of our ignoring of rest. We think we can power through and that we are strong enough to keep pressing on. We think if we take the time to rest, the world will come tumbling down around us. (Yes we are THAT important.) We think that we will fall behind if we take a break and what will other people say or think of us then?
  2. There is really no time to rest. This is an actual crisis. I am not going to try to find rest in days that have none. Or give hope to people who have no time to rest. Full-time care-givers and parents with babies, people pacing the floors with grief and turmoil in their souls, or those who have inescapable physical conditions that prevent sleep…like menopause. Sometimes rest simply cannot be had despite our best efforts to carve it into our lives. I cannot offer options where there are none, but I will say, Matthew 11:28 was written for those with greatly troubled hearts and in need of rest (all of us) as Jesus tells us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Resting in Christ is our primary source of true rest whether we can take the time physically or not.

What rest looks like:

Restful activities bring the soul space to think. What gives me rest is different than what might bring my neighbor next door rest. I enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend, writing out my thoughts, a walk in the woods, a book by the fire, a canvas and paints, and sometimes quiet music and sleep. Rest is a wholesome activity that re-centers my heart and soul on its God given purpose. For another person rest means climbing a mountain and going camping, or running a marathon, cleaning windows, or spending a weekend alone.

Rest is worship. The activities I engage in during rest are not busy helps my heart focus on truth, God’s purpose for me, and worship. This is a very important thing to note. Anything that distracts me from spending my rest on reflection and focusing on Christ are not providing my soul with true rest. Spending time reading Scripture ought to be a large part of our restful moments. Sleep can also be a benefit, if I find I am tired and my weary body is preventing my soul from being able to rest.

I am going to take a moment to explain this a little more. Our minds are so full of input. It comes from things we watch and hear. Input is often by our own choice, but sometimes it is unasked. In any case, adding to that input with anything but what turns our hearts to Christ, is not providing our souls with true rest. If I binge watch Netflix during my time of rest, I have not rested. I have added to by already busy and overwhelmed mind more things to consider. Rest comes from Christ as we read in Matthew 11:28. Quiet is very helpful for us to help our souls find stillness in Christ. But, an edifying conversation with a friend can be of use. So can just being alone with the Lord and our thoughts while we are busy with our hands can be a good use of our rest. Journaling and writing can also help organize our thoughts. I have a friend who would randomly take a day off work to “do laundry.” What she meant by that, was that she would take a day off to sort her thoughts and bring them into the light of truth. Such thinking is essential. Rest is really giving ourselves time to self-counsel. Bringing our false thoughts to light and and reminding ourselves of truth won’t happen unless we take time to do it.

How to rest:

Plan the Time: One thing I have also learned, is that rest will not happen naturally…on its own. If I am given free time, it is used for fellowship, housework, phone calls, doctor appointments, and anything else that needs doing while I have the time. I do not believe that is unusual.

So, rest must be scheduled into our lives, just like everything else. And that time of rest must be guarded like a doctor appointment or visit to Grandpa’s for Christmas.

Daily Rest: When my children were small, I gave them a quiet time. When they turned five, they could graduate from that time, but until then, sleep or not, each child spent and hour and a half alone each afternoon. Children really need their own space, just like we adults do. Little one do not see their need for it, but I noticed my children were so much more calm, at peace, and easy to be with if they were given a regular space to play quietly alone each day. I had some children that always fell asleep and others who needed less sleep, but they all needed that personal space each day. I also found that time alone was essential for me too. Sometimes that quiet time it meant a nap for me. There were other times, I invited another lady (without young children) over for tea and we could visit in peace (something that never happens for most young moms), I also found time to read Scripture and pray or journal during those much needed moments of silence. I no longer have rest time each day, but I rise early. That is the space I have to create during this season of life to rest.

Seasonal Rest: We are just finishing our two weeks of fall break from school and I am finding that the break was much needed. I am remembering what it is like to just be “mom” to take non-school adventures with my children and to arrange play-dates with friends. I am remembering why we are home-schooling and the preciousness of my children. I am having time to write, read, and study Scripture. I feel refocused for our next term of school and am ready to jump back in with renewed focus and vigor. Sometimes taking a rest means an arranged break from an ongoing situation, like a job, a routine, or a ministry. These breaks are not “quitting.” They are patterned with every intention of re-focusing and getting back into it. These breaks are also not breaks from what God requires of us. We don’t take breaks from faithfully gathering with other believers and church, we don’t take breaks from loving others, we don’t take breaks from Bible reading and prayer (sadly, this is often the case during what we Americans call “vacation.”) we don’t take breaks from our marriage, we don’t take breaks from being wife, mom, or daughter. We only take breaks from the extra-obligations we are called to do.

Healing Rest: This is a very special kind of rest that follows life-changes, loss, trauma, or even a rest recommended by someone like a husband who sees the need of it in his wife. We tend to power through so often that we do not allow ourselves to Biblically process what has happened in our lives. We need to give ourselves time to grieve, time to adjust, time to think about changes in our lives in a Biblical way. If we do not, it is far too easy for lies from our heart or the world around us to take a foothold in our pain and cause us to loose faith. We need to give ourselves time to read the Bible, talk with a friend, see a counselor, journal, create music, walk and let our hearts naturally unwind and settle into Biblical truth.

May we all peruse the true rest as our Savior gently bids us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt. 11:28-30.

Why Every Homemaker Should Have a Trade

person using a sewing machine

I love being a stay-at-home Mom, home-maker, home-school teacher, and have the flexibility to minister to those in church and in the neighborhood.

As one can imagine, the current escalation of the price of food and gas in particular has really put a crimp in our budget. But this is not the first time we have experienced stained finances. When we were fist married and as our children were really little, we lived paycheck to paycheck and found ourselves in a good bit of debt when a large, unexpected expense, like a new baby, popped into our lives.

It has been a blessing to my husband that I have had skills, that I can use to help our lives financially stabilize. As newlyweds, I worked outside the home in a sewing shop. Then, I got a job in an alterations shop and home-schooled four teen girls for a few years. After our children were born, I was able to transition to staying at home with my little ones and take in sewing or teach sewing lessons from home.

Having a skill I could use from the home, not only saved us money personally as I could do our own mending and alterations, as well as transition fabric and sheets into clothing and window treatments, but I could increase our income for needed seasons.

I find our lives once again in need of a little more income. Without leaving the home, I have a skill I can teach to others in my home, or, thanks to the internet, teach online! I cannot say enough for the woman who has at least one skill she can use to earn money.

I have no quarrel with a woman who works outside the home, full or part time, but for me, I value being home and it is my place of ministry. I strive to keep myself centered around the home and all I do is to the benefit of the home.

As we read about lady wisdom in Proverbs 31, work outside the home is very much a part of a wise woman’s life. In fact, the book of Proverbs is peppered with the value of gaining education and working hard. If there is more we can do, we have every liberty to do so.

My career is home-making. I take it very seriously and professionally. Whatever it takes for me to continue being home, I will pursue. Home is my calling and primary ministry. As I have described in Ministering through the Senses of the Home and Sharing Meals with Others, as well as many other posts in the past, I truly see the home as an amazing tool for the gospel and ministering to believers. I want to wield it faithfully, and am unable to do that if my pursuits are elsewhere.

With all of that noted, I am finding that having a skill or two I can use in the home and earn a little income from has been invaluable. I strongly encourage everyone, not just girls to learn a trade and refine a skill that one enjoys and that can be taught and used for income if ever needed.

For me, education and sewing have been very useful skills. This summer, I am opening my home to teach sewing lessons. The income will bless our family, but the skills I am passing on will be invaluable to others as well.

Thousands of other skills exist, photography, cake decorating, graphic design, ceramics, artistic painting, cosmetology, music, special needs tutoring, creative writing…well, in all honesty, with the invention of internet, almost anything can be done from the home!

That is great news for us home-makers who find our hearts desire is rooted in the ministry of the home. The point is that we take the time to learn and polish a skill we love doing. For it can be put into good use for such times as this.

Motivating Children to Cook and Bake

Busy mother’s know how easy it is to do everything themselves and keep out the “help.” How many mother’s use their dinnertime prep to allow their children to sit in front of the television?

I think everyone should know how to cook. Cooking is a life skill that is essential to thriving. By learning to cook a healthy, balanced meal, a person can keep his or her body nourished. If one is prone to buy prepared food or restaurant food, cooking will save money as well. Many also find cooking to be a creative outlet and relieve the stresses of life.

Cooking is also an important for ministering tool. Food blesses people in a way little else can. When I was an undergrad taking a cooking an meal management class, a young man was in my class. He did not know a thing about cooking, but wanted to learn so he could help our his wife someday. I loved that sacrificial perspective. And think more people who find themselves uneasy in the kitchen, need to humble themselves and learn how to be more comfortable in the kitchen simply to enhance ministry opportunities.

I believe everyone is able to learn to cook. Cooking does not have to be of gourmet caliber. I am afraid the television has ruined our standards of what makes a fine meal. If one can learn to create a delicious plate of vegetables and meat, cooking has happened. In fact, simple meals are preferred by most of the population. People find such comfort it an unintimidating bowl of chicken and rice.

Baking is a little more complicated in my opinion because it involves a bit more chemistry than cooking, but baking is usually the preference of children’s kitchen activities. Children love to mix flours and powders. They love to sample the interesting ingredients. Children especially love to get messy, gooey, and sticky as they touch dough and powders.

So, as a busy mother, how am I inspiring my children to enjoy cooking and baking?

  1. Cultivate habits of keeping children close while working in the kitchen. Children need to know they have a place beside mother in the kitchen. They learn that as infants strapped to their mother’s chest while she works. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen while they hang on mother’s pant leg while she scurries to make supper. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen as they pull up a stool and stir ingredients into a bowl. The kitchen becomes connected to warmth, comfort, and home very quickly to a child who spends his or her time beside mother there, day after day.
  2. Allow time to include children in meal prep and baking. Kitchen work will move at a slower pace if children are involved. I confess it is not convenient to have children underfoot while I work in the kitchen, but the point in having children was not for convenience. If I allow a little extra time by starting dinner early or give myself grace to eat a little later, I can include the little dears into the cooking experience.
  3. Learn to cherish the messes made by little “helping” hands. If I embrace the blessing of flour on the floor, sticky fingers being licked, eggshells in the cookies, and splatters around the pot I find joy in my heart instead of frustration as I work alongside my little ones in the kitchen. It is all a matter of what I choose to see as beautiful in that moment.
  4. Let them enjoy have choices of what they bake and cook. All of my children have favorite foods. If I am making one of those particular things, I will often ask if they want to help me. For Thanksgiving, each child gets to make his or her favorite pie. For Christmas, I let the children choose a couple cookies to help me bake for our neighbors. As I am menu planning for the week or the month, I will often ask the children for meal ideas and they can help me cook the meals they choose.
  5. Be around to guide, but don’t micromanage. As my children get older, they are more and more independent in the kitchen. My older children can make lunch on days I have no time…scrambled eggs, noodles, sandwiches, and toast are a few easy lunch items they put together. I will never forget the blessing it was one morning a couple months ago to wake up to the smell of eggs toast, and hot coffee made independently, and unprompted by my three girls! Micromanaging my kitchen would make my children feel as though they have no place there. So, I am careful to say “yes” as often as possible to their kitchen endeavors. I wan them to feel that it is their kitchen too!
  6. Show cleanup is part of cooking. Cleanup is usually the least fun portion of cooking for both adults and children. I like to teach my children to clean as they go. It really helps not have a mountain of work after the food has been cooked. When they are very young, I help them out. I do not want the cleanup to discourage them from working in the kitchen. But as a child is more capable, I insist the cleanup be done by her. I so not want to cultivate habits of leaving messes for others, in the kitchen or anywhere else.
  7. Utilize, don’t stifle a child’s natural curiosity in the kitchen. Children have a natural interest in tastes, smells, and textures of what is found in the kitchen. I am not saying I want my children burying their hands in my container of flour, but I do my best to allow them to use their senses while they cook. To enjoy and learn, it is essential that they know the ingredients they are using, so yes, there is a lot of tasting, smelling, and touching going on as we cook!
  8. Create a kitchen environment for each child’s best experience. I enjoy listening to classical harp music while cooking, but I have a daughter who prefers stories, and a son who prefers toddler songs. I allow the child helping me to have his or her pick of listening material or conversation with mom while cooking or baking. I think it helps each child take ownership of the kitchen and have a sense of belonging while he or she works.
  9. Keep the cooking to one child at a time. I have mistakenly included too many children at once in my cooking work. Then I cannot remember if the baking powder was added in, or if both scoops of sugar were included… It messes things up a bit. Our kitchen is also a small one and there isn’t room for many people in it at once. We often take turns in our house, just to keep the food turning out alright. One child can help with vegetables for dinner and another prep meat for roasting. It can be divided up easily and in shifts. Oh the joy each child takes when “their” dish is enjoyed at dinner.
  10. Purpose to teach children to make age-appropriate dishes. When a child is at a certain maturity, he or she can be taught to use knives, turn on the stove, put cookies into the oven, and such. Only a mother will know when each of her children is ready to move on to the next step.

Power of Affection in the Home

happy affectionate family

I stopped her as she crossed my path in the hallway, gave her a big hug, and “mommy loves you.” She stated “I love you too Mommy.” And then she skipped off on her way.

I have seen children skipping many times in my life. But the significance of a skipping child has recently riddled my thoughts. A skipping child is a happy child. A skipping child is a loved child. A skipping child has peace within.

How often a tender word, a simple hug, has brought on skipping feet. As my children have grown, the skipping has become less and less common, but I know the inner warmth felt by a moment of being seen and shown love lingers, because it is the same feeling I understand when my husband stops me in my path for a moment of affection.

Although most of us adults have completely outgrown the inspiration to skip in expression of our feelings, the feelings do not slip us by. When given consistent and faithful affirmation of being loved and noticed in our busy day, it balances our step in a very good way.

All that said to point out the value of taking a pause to show a moments affection to those in our lives throughout each day.

Consistent affection builds stability of the long term love we know others have for us. It confirms to me that , “yes” I am loved. “Yes” I am seen. We adults need it. Children need it. And children need to see it in their parent’s relationship as well. Relationship security and trust is built brick by brick through our faithful, daily treatment of each other.

How often I have been told to seize the moment as my children’s childhood slips through my fingers. Seizing the moment is a classic and admirable phrase, but backing up a bit more, moments cannot be seized without purpose and planning. We purpose to maintain health by building healthy eating habits over a period of time. We purpose to have a great harvest by spending a little time every day in the garden, watering, pruning, and pulling weeds. We cannot seize anything without a purpose to do so. Habits and plans must be formed for us to accomplish any goal.

  1. Build habits of affection into your life. Do not pass a loved one in the hall, especially a spouse, and let him by without a kiss. Greet each child in the morning with a snuggle, hug, or kiss. Take a moment longer on a busy morning to snuggle with your spouse in bed. Take a nap with a child on occasion. Read books to children while holding them, not while they are beside or across from you. Always kiss your children goodnight. Plenty more tips could be added and catered to each family, but I will stop at that.
  2. Prioritize the giving of affection. Do not ever withhold affection. If a child asks for a hug or leans into me in the middle of my work. I always pause (unless it is dangerous that they cannot be near me), and give that child a moment of my time. I do not ever push a child away or ever tell them I cannot hold them. If I must keep the child at a distance from me for safety reasons, I quickly snatch them up as soon as the dangerous work is done. I have had a little one sit and wait a good ten minutes for a hug from mommy. That shows you how valuable affection is for the soul.
  3. Keep the channels of affection open. So often little children do naughty things that make mommy or daddy cross. It is crucial that after a just punishment has been served that the child be embraced, forgiven, told he or she is loved, and the relationship restored completely. I feel very strongly about quick punishment and quick reconciliation. God does not withhold himself from us once punishment and forgiveness are given. I feel it is very wrong for me as a parent to withhold an affectionate relationship with my child as well.
  4. Learn to accept affection. I am a busy person, sometimes it is difficult for me to  value the importance of receiving affection from others when it is given to me. I might have my arms full of folded laundry and on a mission to deposit the load in the closet when my husband stops me for a bit of a snuggle. I want to finish my work before fully accepting the moment, but have learned that it is not only very important to give my husband the moment, but also that it is important for my own heart as well. I need to take in the love being offered to me and treasure it, far more than I need to be putting laundry on the shelf.
  5. Make plans for the sharing of time with others. I am currently taking my oldest daughter out every Saturday for a Bible study and coffee. She loves this time with her mommy. My husband will often plan take one of the chidlren out alone to go shopping, get lunch, or watch a movie. Even when my husband and I will get a sitter and go out alone together, that moment cannot be seized if it isn’t planned. We put affection on our calendar. We set aside time for it. We make arrangements for special times with those we love.

I understand that everyone is not inclined to show affection and love in the same ways, but as we each know what shows love to someone in our God given circle, we should certainly figure out ways that would show another person how loved they are to us. The outpouring of affection would be sporadic at best if we relied upon our emotions or given time. If affection is to truly portray the depth of love we feel for someone, then it must b purposed, planned, and given room to exist on a consistent basis. Affection is truly a beautiful way that we can show our deep love for each other on a daily basis and we are wise to lean into it as a sweet tool of showing love to those in our home.

Cook One Day for the Month Experiment

As a result of needful mental and physical therapy for one of my daughter’s the start of the year, my school days increased in time by a couple hours. As a result, January dinners consisted of late meals, rotisserie chickens, occasional food delivery and semi-toxic packaged foods. It was expensive, unhealthy, and untimely, and I knew something had to change in the progressing months ahead.

Years ago, my mother got into once-a-month-cooking. We bought all our groceries, except produce and milk, for the entire month and planned a rough menu for the month. I remember helping my mom cook and freeze all that food. The idea of having all the meals prepped for each day sounded lovely….just pop it in the oven and bake. So, I began planning for the first round in February.

Honestly, I am still undecided on whether once a month cooking is going to be a long term effort or not. I just cooked up our monthly meals for March and so as I am heading into our second month of prepped food, I jotted down some thoughts on the subject so far.

Health: Stepping away from quick, store-bought meals is certainly a step in the healthy direction. As I prep the monthly menu, I am also able to incorporate a better balance and plan meals that use whole, real foods and pair easily with any veggies I have on the side. I can also prep meals to freeze that do no contain sugar or unhealthy carbs. So, I do feel there is an aspect about freezer cooking that gets the healthy planning and prep done and ready to go.

Quality: A drawback of freezer cooking is the loss of fresh. I can still roast a side of broccoli to go with the lemon pepper chicken or toss a salad to go with the Alfredo, so it isn’t that we do not eat anything fresh. However all the main dishes which are protein based are frozen. And there is no getting around the fact that once anything has been frozen its quality, flavor and nutrients do go down. So, I am mindful that there is a loss in the quality of the food I cook from the freezer.

On the flip-side, I do a lot of meat marinating. It was so successful last month, I doubled the marinades. Meat that has been marinated for a day is incredible, and the marinade helps break down the toughness of the meat. I rarely think long enough ahead to thaw chicken, marinate it, and then cooking it up. But, marinating fresh chicken and freezing it gets all that work done and the meat is ready to grill, fry, or bake. We noticed the long term marination in the freezer turns out excellent meat once cooked up.

Time: An absolute time saver, but not without a transition in how the time is spent. After cooking all the food for a month, my weekly grocery trip is cut down to grabbing a few gallons of milk and some produce. So, my shop time is definably less than if I went out weekly.

What takes the most time is planning the menu, I look at store sales the first of the month, figure what recipes I will make, then add needed items to my grocery list. I print out a list of all the recipes and ingredients I have purchased for a quick daily reference. The grocery shopping trip is a good morning too as I hop from store to store to gather the ingredients needed.

The longest day is the cooking day. Last month it took me an entire day to make all the food, but I did include lasagna and sweet and sour chicken on that month’s list which is a huge money and time bomb. This month, I was able to get all the prep done by noon. So, the type of meal I choose seems to make a big difference in the prep and cook time.

Expense: Here is where I am loosing. Since I only purchase meats on sale, I would buy chicken breasts at .99lb instead of 1.39. When I cook one time for the month, I must use the sales that are going the week leading up to my cook day. After that, I must ignore all other sales for the month because I simply have no money left in our grocery budget. So, either I restrict my menu to whatever is on sale, or I buy items that are not on sale to make the recipes I want. In order to make this work for me, I have been doing a little of both. So, the toll on the grocery budget is showing.

Stress: I must say, the trying to figure out what to cook and then making dinner late in the evening after a long day is stressful. It doesn’t help that the children tend to hang around and groan of their hungry tummies in the process. However, menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking for a month is also a bit of a stress. The first weekend I attempted this monthly cooking experiment was very stress riddled, but I had a lot of unknowns going into it. The second time around was a huge improvement. So, I think long run, having a day set aside to cook is far easier on a busy momma than cramming dinner making into the end of a long day.

I did notice however, that our family did not eat all of the meals I prepped for last month, so some of those meals I am rolling over into this month. So, in a few more months, I may not notice the injury to the grocery budget as I continue to roll over meals.

Hospitality: I love having ready meals in the freezer! It makes me feel free to invite folks over without wondering what to make for them. We have plenty of options ready to go. I also can take a meal over to anyone in need at any time. It is set and ready for me to bake for them or for them to pop in their own oven. Having meals in the freezer is a huge asset to any home-maker, much more if there is a whole month of food in in the freezer.

Will I continue monthly cooking? For a while, yes. I am curious how our grocery budget will accommodate this new method of cooking, so if I find it unaffordable, I may alter my menu planning. But for now, it is a profitable experiment.

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.

How to Make a Meal Bowl

I make a warm bowl of veggies and protein for about 90% of my breakfast or lunch meals. Honestly, each bowl is different and yet, every one I have made is delicious!

I often eat a hot bowl of food because it is easy for me to add a large quantity and variety of vegetables to my protein. It is also a lot faster to eat a bowl of cooked food than a salad. For a woman on the go lie me, time is important. Besides, if I am going to cook up a protein like eggs or meat, why not throw on veggies and cook them all together?

It occurred to me that there are basic principles I apply each time I make a bowl lunch and that information may be helpful to others who are trying to pack nutrients into their daily eating routine.

Basically, a meal bowl is a form of cooked salad, so if a person can make a salad with ingredients from the fridge, there is little thought in cooking up those ingredients with a few seasonings.

I do not plan what I am going to eat in each bowl I build. I open my fridge and decide what to do in the moment.

1. Choose a protein. It can be leftover cooked chicken or beef, eggs, uncooked meat, fish-raw or cooked, canned meat like tuna or sardines. Protein can also be found in nuts, cheese, peanuts, seeds, beans, or quinoa.

2. Once the protein is decided, pull out veggies that need to be used or will work well with that particular protein. I always keep a huge container of spinach in my fridge. It works with everything and is very nutrient rich. Okra, zucchini, cucumber, and tomatoes are also some of my favorite veggies to keep on hand. I also always keep garlic and onions, celery and carrots. I love peppers, but find they are not as versatile as many of the other vegetables due to their strong flavor. A lot of veggies are used in a bowl. I can pack 2-3 times the veggies in a bowl compared to fresh cut vegetables. For instance 3 handfuls of spinach melts down to half a cup of cooked spinach; a whole onion cooks down to a mild 1/4 cup of flavor. I can eat an entire cubed cucumber if it is sauted, vs. a few pieces chopped on a salad. So cut up entire vegetables for this dish.

3. Pick a fat to cook. The kind of fat should coincide with the flavor profile you feel like creating. For instance, if I am going to make an Asian bowl, I would choose sesame oil. For Italian or Greek…a strong olive oil would be appropriate. For beginners…a couple tablespoons of butter is easiest to blend and butter simply makes everything taste good!

4. The final step is to choose the seasonings. Garlic always ends up in my bowls, either in its fresh chopped state or dried and powdered. Again, choose seasonings that will create the flavor profile you are craving. For again, ginger, soy sauce, and garlic are great. For Mexican, cumin and red pepper with a bit of oregano work well. For an Italian flair use oregano, basil, parsley, and thyme with lots of garlic. For starters, garlic is sufficient. I like to toast fresh garlic in my butter to give it a nice crunch.

5. After the oil is heated cook up the protein if needed. If your protein is pre-cooked it can be tossed in just after the veggies are cooked. Nuts and seeds can be toasted at this point if desired. Once the proteins and nuts are cooked, they can be removed.

6. Cook up the vegetables in the same pan. More oil or butter can be added if it is needed. The vegetables should be cooked one layer at a time, starting with the vegetables that are the most firm like carrots and progressively added to the tenderest vegetables. Leafy vegetables like spinach should be tossed in last and cooked very briefly.

7. Dump the veggies and proteins together in a bowl and either layer them or mix them together. At this point any uncooked ingredients can be added like fresh avocado, fresh tomato, shredded Parmesan, olives, or toasted sesame seeds.

8. Vegetable bowls can also be layered with steamed brown rice or quinoa for a punch of a healthy grain. For breakfast, I will mix up my vegetable bowl and throw a fried egg on top. Easy and nutritious.

9. Don’t forget to add salt. I simply sprinkle it on after the food is cooked and before I plate it.

10. Have fun being creative and enjoy the healthy hot bowls of food you can churn out of your kitchen.

Check out some bowl recipes for inspiration too!

Scrambled Egg and Zuccini Bowl

The Ministry of Touch in the Home

Photo by Linnea Herner on Pexels.com

Touch connects us to our surroundings. Touch is what makes everything real. Thomas, a disciple of Jesus refused to believe that Jesus was truly alive until he saw and touched his Master. “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe'” John 20:25. So many things we hear about are far less real to us until we see and touch them. Touch is how we experience reality. We humans are strongly connected to the physical world through our sense of touch.

Have you ever sat on your foot and realized you have cut off the circulation to it? Although you can see it, it is very difficult to orient where your foot is in the world. Yes, it is still attached to your leg, but it feels unfamiliar and awkward. It nearly impossible to even to take a step until the nerves in the foot have recovered. It is times like those that we realize how important our sense of touch is! Without feeling, we cannot even connect to the floor.

Some people struggle more than others with where they are in relation to the world. And some people struggle more at different times in their lives.

People who struggle with connection to the world are many and it is good for us who minister with our homes to be aware of people who might be in extra need of tenderness as they are in our home.

Older folk are weaker in body and have slower reflexes, balance, and a nervous system that is often concentrated on bodily pain. For many older folks, connecting to surroundings is crucial to keep from stumbling. They also live in a sense of feeling misunderstood, and disconnected with others as their mental and physical states slows down. It is needful for us to have things for older folks to grab onto..handrails on steps, a bar by the toilet and in the shower (especially if we have long term or frequent elderly folks staying in our home). For short term older visitors, such accommodations may not be necessary, but we should be conscious of placement during seating. I have found a chair with two arms is often easier for an older person to get out of, rather than a plush sofa. So, we could kindly direct our frail guests to the safer furniture in the room if they should prefer it. When my aging parents come to visit, my Daddy often prefers sitting on the floor to a sofa, it is less painful on his back and easier to get up from. Sometimes, elderly folk need a firm mattress because they cannot get out of a bed where they sink in too far. It is good just to be mindful of the things our weaker friends and family may find helpful to grab or rest.

Other people who may struggle with bodily awareness in this world is anyone who struggles with a physical or mental condition. Nerves can simply be wired inside the body in a way that causes weakness, numbness, discomfort, dizziness, uncoordinated, and mental strain. Various nerve re-wires can occur in multitudes of ways, sometimes before birth, from an injury, disease, hormonal imbalances, medications, or even high amounts of stress. We should be sensitive toward those in our home who might need a little extra physical connection, or a little less physical connection. This isn’t always easy to know with new friends, but it is something we should learn about others quickly so we can adequately minister to their souls in our home as best as we are able.

All children struggle exponentially more than most adults with their connection to the world because a child is not only continually growing, but still developing bodily awareness. No wonder a child will stumble and fall countless times a day. As a keeper of the home, showing grace over accidents is invaluable. Milk spills, bowls break, and ankles twist when a person’s height increases an inch over a month’s time. It is also crucial that I reach out to these little souls who are still developing a spiritual awareness and wrap my arms around them. They need snuggles, kisses, and hugs to thrive in their lives and to feel not only my love poured out on them, but learn to connect better to God as they experience the unconditional, sacrificial love of another real human being holding them tight.

As a wife, making a point to reach out to my husband in touch is crucial. As a married couple, we are sharing the most amazing connection a human can have with another. We are one person. It is hard for either of us to feel like one beating heart, if our hands never hold each others hand. We married folk need to be physically close…we pass each other in the hall and connect with a kiss.  I have incredible power to minister and bless the soul of my husband by simply stroking his hair. He can calm my troubles soul with a long, understanding hug. Physical touch has a powerful way of binding souls together, and love language or not, touch is absolutely essential in marriage.

The sense of touch is essential to all humans. I believe people who did not grow up in a nurturing home, truly struggle all their lives with relationships. Relationships and people are not real because through childhood a person had little to no hands on connection with a person who loves them…no snuggles, no hugs and kisses, no pats on the back or brushing away of tears. No wonder relationships seem unreal… disconnected. Those who live alone may go for weeks, even months without ever connecting with another human through touch. I was told by a dear friend who ministers in nursing homes, that the elderly are particularly left untouched, and a hug means more to them than life itself. Those of us mothers who are surrounded by young children in constant need of affection can easily take for granted the connection we have to other people.

As part of developing a nurturing environment in the home for soul to find rest and joy in God, I find touch is crucial. Contact with other humans is not the only aspect of touch that should be considered. I noted a few ways I like to consider the affects the sense of touch might have in our home as I continually seek to use the home as a tool to minister to the soul and bring souls into a place of worship and deeper understanding of their loving Father.

Human Touch is probably the most important form of touch in our home. Why does a child in distress run to his Mama? Yes, a verbal consolation may take place, but what is really needed is a spot on Mama’s lap and Mama’s arms wrapped around his sobbing body. He needs touch to help heal his sad heart feel better, and he knows it. We don’t really try hard to connect with our children with snuggles, hugs, and kisses. It has always come very naturally for both myself and my husband. Honestly, I can’t stop kissing those sweet chubby cheeks! But I do notice that if I am having a busy day, I am less prone to try to reach out to my children’s emotional needs through a cuddle. It is hard for any mother to jump into affection when her mind is busy checking lists. So, I am certainly working on being aware of my children’s needs even when stress is high in our home.

A hug, a pat on the shoulder does so much to bring comfort to souls. A touch says, “I acknowledge you are real and what you are going through is real.” A touch says, “I see you.” A touch says, “I am here, I am a human with you.” A touch says, “you are not alone.” The power of human contact has been studied extensively. It is incredible the affect it has on the development of a new-born. Touching people brings people together in a way that nothing else can do. People need to connect with each other through the physical world of touch. Touch allows us Christians to open gentle pathways with other humans from this real physical world of senses, to the real world of eternity that cannot even be imagined.

When we have guests over we make a point to connect with them, a handshake for the guys and a shoulder hug for us women is a typical greeting in our culture. It welcomes our friends and makes them felt “seen” as well as provides that connection to them in our home. Without it, they might feel a little lost. There have been times I have missed that moment in our greeting and felt a discomfort as our guests try to feel out where there place is in our home. When there are large groups or several families gathering, it is easy to let greetings slide as people come and go and I get caught up in the kitchen or another conversation. This is an area I am still working on, but certainly I am trying to purpose to greet each guest…even each child (Little Who’s Are People Too) as they come in the doors of our home.
Creature affections are probably the next best thing to human affection. We have a sweet outdoor cat. I know many folks find their spirits are greatly soothed by simply petting a cat. A puppy will probably be in our future. Part of the reason for a dog in our home would be for touch. A good dog will invite touch and acknowledges others by showing unbiased affection through the sense of touch. Animals are great at soothing our souls and providing companionship and someone to talk to for those who live alone. Yes, they can be maintenance, but very often, it is worth the time and expense for the way a creature can be a blessing in the home. I have couple friends who have had a serious head injury. As a result, their doctor prescribed a pet to help relieve stress and help them recover. The main reason a doctor prescribes a therapy animal is touch. By coming into contact with another living creature, stress is relived and nerves are soothed. Touch is very grounding.

Heat and Cold should be set comfortably. I find as I grow older, my body temperature changes. Babies and elderly folks tend to need the house a little warmer than the average individual. When we have guests with very young or of grey hair, I make sure to add extra blankets to the bed, or at least point our guests to where they can get one. Keeping the house comfortable, not too hot or cold is helpful as we converse with others, it is one less distraction we and those we converse with have as we fellowship.

Warmth can also be a very sweet feature in the cold of winter. The warmth of a fireplace or a soft robe or blanket. Helping our friends and family members snuggle and find rest in tje warmth of the home can bring some treasured chats over cups of warm cocoa.

Cold, of course is welcomed in the heat of summer. Iced lemonade, a soft breeze through an open window, or ice-cream in a cone…I find offsetting the season with colder treats somehow brings balance.

Earth and nature are very important to touch. I love to see my children run barefoot through the grass. It seems so natural…real. There are studies on the subject of connection to the earth with our bodies. One of my favorite author’s, Charlotte Mason, notes that it is important for children to run and play outdoors as much as possible. Besides blossoming their imagination and love for learning, being outdoors helps children to develop coordination, strong bones and muscles, and learn where they are in relation to the world, simply by placing their feet on the ground for hours a day. . . or up a tree… Grounding brings confidence, peace, and ease. We need to touch earth, plant something, walk in bare-feet, picnic on the grass… I find touch essential to my soul. I personally need to take the time to connect with the rest of the creation God made. I need to take time to feel the wind blow across my face, the warm sun hit my back, the wet morning grass lick my feet, and mud ooze between my toes. A homemaker can garden, plant things, play with children in bar feet, picnic, and make time for enjoying the feel of all God made and sharing that with others. We grownups need to rejoice in the earth God made, just as much as a child does. It makes my heart fill with awe as though God Himself is reaching out and touching me through His Creation. 

Touch is the gospel. Touch is humanity. Touch is God coming to us in a human form. Touch is God healing our souls.

The Ministry of Scents of the Home

I have always been rather sensitive about smells. When I was pregnant, those sensitivities would escalate to the point I wanted to crawl out of my skin to even take out the trash. Once when I was pregnant, we had dead possum under our porch. The horrible smell leached into our basement and then into the entire house. I found it unbearable to the point I packed up the children and left the house for the day. When my sweet husband came home and saw my distress, he removed the porch floorboards and shoveled out the rotting possum. Then he poured bleach over the entire area. Without the consuming horrid smell, my heart was again at peace.

Smell has a greater affect on our hearts than we realize. Potent, stifling smells can be very stressful and make us want to run as far away as we can. Warm, welcoming smells of stewing applesauce and fresh bread, vanilla and spices, or even a clean, crisp lemon scent can set a tone that makes our hearts be at peace and want to stay a while.

Within the home, creating inviting scents and working to keep unpleasant odors under control is therefore essential in preparing a platform for ministry to happen within our walls. The sense of smell, is therefore a wonderful tool I can use in my pursuit of creating a home environment the welcomes spiritual growth and joy in God.

Pay attention to the smells of the home. So often we become accustomed to smells within our walls, that other people might find foreign or uncomfortable. As much as I enjoy fish, I am careful to chose the nights I will cook it. If I am expecting company after dinner, fish will not be on the menu. Although it does not have an odor I find appalling, for many people, the smell of fish is extremely potent and unpleasant.

Animals that live in the home can also make a home smell. It is important to keep indoor dwelling creatures clean and the places they hang out washed and freshened regularly. We do not have an indoor cat, but have kept ours indoors during certain stages of his life so I know that if there is a cat in the house, the kitty littler should be in a room that is tucked away from the rest of the living space…a laundry room, sun-room, or closet where a door can be shut on the ever present odor.

There various are smells that are built into the walls of our home and therefore a constant that we must work to mask or continually re-eliminate. We lived in an old farmhouse for a few years and it always had a very musty smell. In the room above the wet basement, was a den with wood paneling on every wall. I found rubbing that wood paneling down with a mixture of cinnamon oil and coconut oil made the house smell fabulous for weeks.

Carpets and walls may hold in smell from ourselves or even previous dwellers. while fresh paint often takes care of the walls, carpets can be far more difficult to deodorize. Despite the wide market of products on the market, the smell will keep coming back. I recently invested in a carpet cleaner for our current home and it has made a big difference in freshening up the carpets on occasion. Baking soda sprinkled on the carpet and left overnight can be helpful. But powdered products are awfully hard on the vacuum cleaner, so they shouldn’t be used except in extreme cases. For me, just keeping a regular carpet cleaning is the best move. I have sprinkled peppermint or lavender oil on the car carpets and car-seats from time to time. That doesn’t eliminate bad orders, but can cover them up in a natural and pleasant way.

If at all possible use natural scents in the home. This is an area that is still in progress for me. I love to burn candles, but finding candles that are safe to breath hasn’t always been a priority because of the cost and accessibility. But after having a guest with sensitivities to a candle I burned, I will at least do my best to burn a naturally scented candle when we have visitors.

I already clean with natural products as I discussed in the post, Household Cleaning on the Cheap, Practical, and Natural. Cleaning products are certainly a vital area we homemakers need to watch. Many products we use daily and  weekly, are not only toxic to breathe, but can cause severe allergic reactions to some people. I want a home that has air as safe to breathe as I can am able to create.

Chemical scents are often loaded into laundry as well. Guests with allergies would be unable to stay with us if I wasn’t careful about the products I use in laundry. My husband is also one of those who is sensitive to laundry softeners. So, if I must include softener in my laundry, I am careful to get one that is natural and hypoallergenic…yes…and unscented. But laundry doesn’t have to be boring. A few drops of lavender oil on a rag can brighten up the smell of hot clean clothes tossing in the dryer. I also LOVE a laundry line. Read about that more in my Laundry on the Line post. Nothing has a more amazing scent than line dried sheets and clothing!

I am very opinionated on the subject of plug-ins and sprays that are made to make a room smell good. They can be incredibly overpowering and in fact even though they might not stink like a dead possum, they make many folks…like me…gag. I find the artificial smells overpowering and believe many others do as well. Instead a diffuser with a favorite blend of essential oils, a few spices in a pot of simmering water (or mini crock pot), a naturally scented vanilla candle, fresh flowers, potted plants, or even a batch of freshly baked bread can make a home smell incredible without concern of causing anyone discomfort.

Cleanliness is vital to maintaining a home without bad odors. One of the most effective ways to keep a home smelling pleasant is simply to keep it clean. Some of the most notorious bad smells in the home are poopy diapers, kitty litter, and un-emptied trash cans.

My children collect trash throughout every room in the house on a daily basis. I empty those baskets in the kitchen trash, and take it out to the trash bins outside. Baby diapers get wrapped tightly in a special bag to lock in the smells, or they get put in a diaper bin. Kitty litter should be changed daily to prevent it from any odor. I already discussed carpets, but carpets and wood can absorb smells.

Wood is like skin, when it is warm and humid it opens up and releases all those lovely or less lovely smells. Wood floors and paneling can be cleaned with a gentle soap and water (I favor Murphy’s oil). Then the wood can be nourished with a simple blend of a cheap oil like sunflower oil and a few drops of an essential oil. I like to rub oil into the wood just after it has been cleaned with warm water.

Dust has a smell. Have you ever turned on a heater the first brisk day of fall and smelled the dust getting hot? Well, imagine a layer of dust on blinds, furniture, or framework. Being faithful at wiping off the dust can be very helpful in keeping a room smelling fresh.

Appliances can hold odors as well…dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines need to be cleaned as well. Appliances should all work without producing any bad odors. For tips on how I clean, check out how I use baking soda and vinegar in my home in My Household Friend: Baking Soda and The Role of White Vinegar in My Home. And just a thought…if you have a vacuum cleaner that has a dusty smell even after it has been emptied, it is time to ditch it and get a new vacuum. A vacuum cleaner should function without any smell.

Fresh air is a wonderful way to keep a home smelling good. Open the windows in the spring and fall can really help air out the house and keep fresh air rotating. The smell of fresh air naturally soothes my mind and a the smells of flowers, soil, and trees give my heart thoughts of God’s goodness.

Prepare for bad smells. The bathroom is a place where bad smells occur. It is a great idea to keep a plan on hand to mask unpleasantries to noses. A bathroom spray or a match are very effective and should be kept available for guests as well as ourselves to use as needed. When we have guests, keeping a candle burning in the bathroom is an easy way to remove the potential of embarrassing smells. If possible one should also make sure there is a way for air to circulate within a bathroom by keeping a vent or window open a crack at all times.

Bad odors can also occur in the kitchen. Even kept clean, a fridge can breed odor. A box of baking soda is a helpful odor absorbing product to keep in freezers and refrigerators. I simply punch a few holes in the top of my baking soda box and put the whole box in the back of the refrigerator and freezer. The kitchen trash should be emptied daily. Our trash is emptied more like 2-3 times a day. Burnt foods should be disposed of outdoors as quickly as possible. If you are planning to do a project inside the house that will involve paints or chemicals, plan those projects on warmer days if possible so windows can be opened for ventilation.

The sense of smell enhances all of our other senses. Because of smell, food has taste, flowers have freshness, and a walk in the woods is so refreshing. Smell is like salt to our sense of sight, hearing, touch, and taste…perhaps it could be lived without, but life is far better with a sense of smell! As a homemaker, I certainly try to put smell to good use to enhance the overall flavor of my home into a place that nurtures our souls and opens pathways for our heart to rejoice in our Creator.

The Ministry of Taste in the Home

Food thought a very temporal and tangible substance has incredible spiritual implications and is essential to the life of the body, and theretofore the life of the soul within the body. The sense of taste, is therefore an essential ministry we homemakers need to study for use in our home.

Foods served in each home very much reflect the culture and lifestyle of that home. As the post, Ministering Through Physical Senses in the Home describes, there is no right or wrong on the matter, we each will make foods we serve based upon our upbringing, who we married, allergies, time constraints, nutritional needs and eating habits, as well as our level of joy and comfort in cooking.

In biblical times eating was not only treasured during fellowship with others, but various foods and feasts held specific symbolism. Our constant need for physical nourishment is symbolic of our need for constant spiritual nourishment. Taste can open up incredible pathways for our spirits to be nourished.

Food provides opportunities for fellowship and spiritual conversations with our own family as well as with friends and un-churched folks. How often our own family has lingered around a dinner table as we discuss a topic of our faith. Or in small group, food is an avenue that allows us to ponder our faith and lives together as we share a snack together after Bible study. Food slows us down and gives us a reason to linger a moment with others. Even a simple cup of tea is all that is needed to pause in life, to be still, alone or shared with others.

I try to keep a balance of eating habits in our home. Taste has so many intricate affects and meets various needs from celebration, to nutrition, and to prayer. All should be included thoughtfully through the patterns of home-making.

On a daily basis, I serve the best food I can afford that will enrich the bodies of my family. Wholesome food helps us think clearly and have energy to serve others. I find if I am not eating balanced meals and snacks, my mental clarity and physical stamina plummet. I go into more depth about how my faith affects impacts healthy eating habits in the post:  Pursuing Health for God’s Glory. Someone once told me that it is those who are sick who eat the healthiest diets. It is because the sick are the ones who are who realize the value nutrients bring their bodies because the sick hunger for healing so their souls can engage in life without the restrictions their body presents. One should not wait until our bodies malfunction before beginning healthy eating practices. Each day is the time to nourish our body, so we can be as physically fit as possible for us. Yes, that level of health will vary from person to person depending on the body God has given us and its age. Regardless, it is our responsibility to maintain properly, just like our car, our house, and our children. We must care for our bodies the best we know how to do. Food should be eaten with others in mind, not for our temporary selfish comfort.

I make it a priority in our home to share the tastes of our home with others. When I share the tastes of our home, I am essentially sharing the goodness God has poured upon us, with others. I LOVE doing that! I like to keep casseroles, bread, and soups in my freezer at all times. It is so easy to grab a few items and deliver them to whomever the Lord lays on my heart at any given moment. If I have nothing adequate prepared, I have a small list of “go to” comfort dishes to take to folks. We once had a sweet neighbor, and I enjoyed setting aside a portion of the food I made to tun over to her. I also love having others in our home to share food around our table and fellowship! My point is that we must find ways we can share the tastes of our home with others. So often we wait too long for opportunistic to pop up instead of making our own opportunities. Sharing food with others can be done on a weekly basis without too much effort. We can run some cookies to our neighbors, take a jar of home-made soup to a sick family we know, invite folks over for a meal, run a surprise dinner over to the single working mom across the street…with food in our hands, we can intrude into others lives with ease. For those who want to learn more about how to minister with food, I do include more practical tips about sharing food in the post: Sharing Meals With Others.

I like to use food as a tool of showing God’s goodness to hurting hearts. Food can provide a level of comfort. Eating food for the comfort it brings is not entirely evil. There are seasons in our lives where we draw comfort from silence, music, a walk in nature, or a cuddle with a furry creature by the fire. God has made an incredible world full of little things that bring us joy. Now, God is certainly the source of eternal, lasting comfort. Truths from Scripture will provide our souls with the kind of comfort that heals our wounds. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” II Corinthians 1:3-4. Food can be an incredible tool that can help us reflect on God, His goodness, and blessing. Sometimes a meal from the past brings comfort as we are reminded of sweet memories and blessings the Lord has given us in the years before. Sometimes a meal taken to a hurting soul provides comfort as that meal is eaten with thoughts of not facing trials alone and God’s sustaining grace through each moment. Food shared with hurting souls can be such a beautiful picture of the table prepared for us by our Loving Shepherd. If I know my husband has had a rough day at work, I will often choose to cook something comforting, a favorite casserole or meat and potatoes dish, I can ease the stress of his day by preparing a meal that will bring rest to his soul. Food, like no other sense, can aid in helping souls see the many blessings in their lives and praise God for His goodness. 

Food can serve as a means of celebration. A dear friend of mine once pulled me aside as I struggled over the enormous amounts of sugar being fed to my children during Christmas. She kindly reminded me that throughout the history of Israel, various feasts were encouraged to help the people remember the faithfulness of God. The Passover is one such feast and every item in the Passover meal is symbolic for s And as Christians, we should embrace seasons of feasting with grace, not guilt. Certain foods are customary in our home for specific holidays. As a home-maker, I can use those foods in ways that will help my children remember the holiday and remember the goodness of God as we make and enjoy Christmas cookies, pumpkin pie, and cinnamon rolls. Those are not every-day foods, but ones reserved for a day of worship and joy in our God. It is not enjoyed in vain. Now, there are traditions others in our family hold to certain feasting days, we are not all the same, and we can change some of our traditions into healthier versions if we so desire. Now, feasting does not mean gluttony. I will note here that gluttony and feasting are different. Feasting is a heart enjoying in gratitude for God’s blessing. Gluttony is over-indulging in food with a thankless, mindless greed. Gluttony is always a sin, and has nothing to do with how much a person weighs, but about the greedy heart of the thankless eater.

The absence of food is also important when we homemakers set aside time to fast. I am a firm believer in the art of fasting and prayer. I have seen the Lord work amazing things when I have set aside my physical hungers in my desperation to see the Lord work. My heart in prayer with even more fervency than on a full stomach. As my body feels the pangs of hunger the hunger fills my prayers. For those who have not taken a time to fast, it is well worth the effort. Yes, it takes discipline, but it is amazing to me how the physical cravings can be flipped into spiritual cries from my soul. I have a friend who would set aside Sunday’s to fast and pray. Another who fasts every Wednesday for his children. One day doesn’t make me hungry enough to bring my soul into fervent prayer. I often prefer to do a week to three week increment. It isn’t always going completely without food either, sometimes limiting myself to bone broth or a simple vegetable soup once a day keeps me hungry, but also gives me enough energy to keep up with my children for that time. Recently, Esther has come to mind and her request to Mordecai that he and all Israel fast and pray with her before she went to see the king. “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16. The people of Nineveh also fasted and prayed fervently as described in Jonah 3:5-8. Desperate people will fast and pray. Are we not desperate? Fasting is not practiced by many Christians. It is almost as though we are awkward even talking about it. Many people don’t even know what it means to fast. Most of us simply don’t make time for it in our lives. We fear the discomfort we will have from fasting more than the spiritual discomfort we experience. Fasting should not be something we are self-conscious about as Christians. It should be a way of life. But as Jesus reminds us, we are not to tote it about pridefully either. It is not a badge of honor, it is a humbling, serious, prayerful experience we should make plans to embrace in our lives.

Regular meal times are invaluable. In our own home, I guard mealtimes. We have a dining room, which I love. That is where we sit down every evening together to eat dinner. I try to keep meals “on the go” to a bare minimum and plan our schedules around dinner-time. It is a time our family can re-group, fellowship with each others, and well…learn how to love others by practicing good manners. Our sit down dinners vary in formality depending upon the meal and time I have in the day to prepare dinner. But we always sit together. My husband’s evening work hours are always different depending upon meetings and sometimes traffic. So, we do have a later dinner hour than most. On rare occasions I will feed the children early, but in general we wait until he is home so we can enjoy dinner together. The family dinner table is not something required in Scripture. It is very much a personal endeavor as a home-maker to connect the lives of everyone inside the home for one short period in the day. It also enables me to make sure balanced eating habits are maintained. I believe it is an important time for my children to share their day with their busy Daddy too. Maintaining dinnertime is a way I have found that, whether they know it or not, ministers to the souls of my husband and children.

I love being able to use tastes to minister to not only my own soul, but everyone I can! Food is truly a versatile toll of ministry like no other. I do believe how I use taste in the home is an evolving process, and will continue to grow and change through the years as  I continue to taste the goodness from the table of my heavenly Father!

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Ps. 34:8