Monday, July 26, 2010

Blessings Revealed

The morning started bright and early. Had to take the kids to the dentist for a 9am appointment, just a check-up, nothing major. We left a little early because I needed to get gas before we went. I should have gotten it the night before, but I was just too tired from moving furniture all day.

Anyway... we had plans to go to Target after the dentist so we could pick out a new bathroom set for the kids bathroom. We went in and looked but they didn't have the set we were hoping for. So... we thought we'd try the one closer to the house. On the way out we decided to get something quick to eat in the snack bar since we hadn't eaten all day.

On the way out to the car I noticed that our tire looked a little low. The closer I got I realized it wasn't just low, it was flat. I noticed a screw sticking out of the edge of my tire. Bummer! I guess it had plenty of time to go flat while we were eating. I consider that the first blessing of the day.

Had we not gone to Target... I would have jumped right on the freeway. Then... if they would have had what I was looking for I would have done the same... jumped on the freeway to go home. Sitting there eating a quick meal gave the tire time to go flat. I was stuck in the parking lot of Target rather than being stranded on the freeway with my kids. I consider that a blessing.

And that's not all...

My two youngest kids are 10 and 6 years old. This was maybe the second time in their lives that we have had a flat tire. Other than that... being stranded in a parking lot or on the side of the road is foreign to them. I was amazed when it hit me. How blessed we are to have a nice, good running car. How could I not appreciate that?

Let me give you my top clunker stories...

1. This one's kinda funny... to me. When I was in the 2nd grade, we lived in California. The grocery store was only a couple of blocks away. We had this little red Hornet. I don't know if they even exist anymore. Anyway... we were at the store one day and as we were climbing into the car to leave... my mom's door FALLS OFF. My mom had to drive home with one hand holding the car door on. How she did that I'll never know. I'm sure it was pretty heavy. My mom may have been tiny... but she could move anything she had too. Still does. How sad... it makes me laugh every time I think about it.

2. Then in my teenage years. We had a Volkswagen Beetle that had ignition problems. To solve that... we had an ignition switch installed under the back seat of the car. We had to keep a long stick in the car at all times because if we drove alone there was no way of starting the car.

3. I owned a Gremlin... yes, I'll admit that. The back window was a hatch back kinda thing. It had these two 'arms' that would hold the window open or 'up' so I could put groceries in the back. One day one of the 'arms' came loose, the window came down... but the 'arm' wasn't down all the way... so the window was smashed into tiny little pieces. And lots of them. So riding in car seats in the windy back seat wasn't fun for my little ones. Especially since we didn't have air or heat.

4. I had a little blue car that I had bought for only $200. I don't know what I expected from it and I don't remember what was wrong with it. My only and probably last memory of it was pushing it out of a busy intersection when I was 8 months pregnant.

5. Well, then I moved up in the world. I bought a car for $600. Boy, was I impressed. But not for long. This car would completely die... I mean EVERYTHING would quit... with no warning at all. I'd be driving along and then... nothing. It was kind of like the movies when the UFO's come around and kill all the electronics and stuff. Everyone told me it was the alternator, the starter, the belts, and so on. Finally found out it was an oil leak... dripping on the alternator making it stop. Cost $120 to replace a $6 part. Shortly after, it had a radiator leak. I put 'stop leak' in to seal it... bad advice... killed the engine. Yep.

6. Ok... so you know I had a pity party after the last one. I was now taking a bus to work. I had to leave 2 hours early to get to work on time. I got off at 2:20am and the residential buses didn't run until 6am. Not fun! God saved me on at least two occasions from people who offered me a ride home so I didn't have to wait for the bus. I got myself into situations that I should have never been in.

Because of this, a good friend, well meaning, bought me a car at an auction. This one was only $500. Sadly, it only lasted a day. On the way home from work, at 3am, in the middle of the desert, in the bad part of town... it died. I had to run home in the dark. I don't think I've ever run so fast. The car? I sold it to a junkyard along with #5 after I was told the engine was blown.

Countless car troubles... yet, more reasons to count my blessings.

Today we have a good running car. We have the luxury of air conditioning and heating. All of my kids fit in the car at the same time. It doesn't overheat. It doesn't leak. And it's not ugly. Could I be any more blessed?

Thanks for reading,
Mary Ann :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Always There For Me

The question of the week for the Women of Faith BlogHop is:

"During difficult times in life, who has supported you, or who have you supported?"

Pretty easy... I think I can answer either way with one answer. My mom. She is the one who has supported me. And now, later in life, I can support her.

I think it's a pretty great thing. God has blessed me with a mother that would never leave me. Even during the times when she had every right to. She has been there through all of the good and even more of the bad. The disappointments and let downs. Of course, I did get the lectures and the long versions of her opinions... but they were well deserved. It's a wonder she survived. Thankfully... she knew the Lord and it was her constant prayers that kept me safe and led me to Him.

Now that I'm older I see myself supporting her more than ever. When I was younger I would be quick to criticize and place blame. Then... I became a mom. What a difference motherhood has made. Now I know! Now I understand! More than ever I can appreciate the sacrifices she made for me over the years. And believe me, there were many! My mother went way beyond what is expected to hang on to her child who was going astray. And I'm so thankful that she did.

She has prayed for me all of my life... and now I will do the same for her.

God is so good!

Thanks for reading,
Mary Ann :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Letting Go And Letting God

It's one of those phrases that we see all the time as a christian. "Let Go, and Let God." I see it on plaques, key chains, stickers... countless items at the christian bookstore. Sounds logical. If only it were that easy.

Letting go is one of the hardest things I've had to do. Yes, I know it's God's job to change people. Yes, I know I don't have the power to change anyone. And yes, I know God has only called me to plant a seed, be a light, and lead the way to Jesus. But sometimes I feel as if I could 'help God out.'

I tell myself... "If I could just say the right words..." or "Maybe if they hear this person's story..." or "What if I could get them to read this book?" Or sometimes I'll be sitting in church hearing a great sermon and think "Man, why can't he/she be here to hear this? I know it would save them." Have you ever felt that way?

At times I'd find myself very angry with someone I'm trying to encourage. I couldn't understand why, but after much prayer... God has shown me that it was I who was trying to save them... or change them. I was well meaning. But I wasn't leading them to Jesus... I was trying to do the work myself. Then I'd be angry with them when they didn't respond.

Inviting God to come and work in someones life IS the way to change their life. I have no power of my own to change anyone. I can't save anyone. I can't heal anyone. I can't mend a broken relationship. And I certainly can't change a heart. But I know the ONE who can! And I will surely petition Him on their behalf.

Letting go can be a difficult. Especially when it's a loved one and even more so if it's your child. You want to save them. Keep them from the bad choices, the wrong decisions. You don't want them to suffer. You want to step in and spare them any pain. Keep them close... so they don't stray from God, because you think "if I let go... God might forget!"

I remember a time many years ago... I was in my car driving to work. I had been worried about my son. The decisions he was making. The friends he was choosing. "God, don't you see the direction he's headed in?" As soon as I spoke those words... even before I got them all out, I felt God telling me that He brought ME through my past, and He can keep my son and bring him through this as well. I just had to TRUST that He loved my son even more than I ever could.

What we really need to do is let God be God. We need to step out of His way and let Him do the work. Trust Him. Plant the seed and move on. You don't see a farmer drop a seed in the ground and then stand and hover over it... urging it to grow the way he wants it to. No, he plants the seed... and leaves the growing to God.

So that's what I've learned to do. To put it all in God's hands. Is it always that simple for me? No. Do I put everyone in His hands as quickly as I should? No. But I'm learning. I'm sure I'll be learning until the day He takes me home. But what I do know... His way is so much better than my own. I will continue to trust. I will continue to obey. And I will continue to pray.

God has called me to pray. THAT is how we can change lives!

Thanks for reading!
Mary Ann :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Make-Your-Own Laundry Soap

I've been making my own laundry soap for about a year now. It saves me a TON of money and is very easy to make. One recipe lasts my family about 3 months. We have 7 people in our house and we do a lot of laundry. It also saves on fabric softener sheets. We haven't cut them out entirely... but I don't use them for towels or sheets anymore. Everything comes out soft. I only use them with clothes to cut down on static cling... my pet peeve.

This recipe comes straight from The Duggar Family website. If you love watching the show... you'll love their site as well. And if you don't watch... you may find some useful information just the same. They have quite a few recipes along with the laundry soap recipe. Haven't tried them all yet... but looking forward to it.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap
Front or top load machine- best value

4 Cups - hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

-Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.

-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

*Arm & Hammer "Super Washing Soda" - in some stores or may be purchased online here (at Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent - It must be sodium carbonate!!

I use a 5-gallon food bucket to mix it in, and then I pour it into bottles the next day using 1/2 soap mixture and 1/2 water. My family drinks a lot of green tea so I've saved 10 of the gallon jugs it comes in and that's what I use to store it. They are really sturdy bottles and will last a long time. They are small enough to carry... yet large enough that I don't have to keep refilling. But... since I have 10, I don't refill anymore. I'm sure you'll find what works best for you.

Please... don't forget to check out The Duggar Family website.

Happy laundering!
Mary Ann :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Morning Waffles

Saturdays are usually known for breakfast at my house...bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy... you name it. We can have it. Mmmm... I'm getting hungry again! With the busy schedules that everyone keeps, I just don't have the time for making breakfast every morning like I used to, so Saturday just became our family tradition. Sunday mornings... I do well just to get everyone to church on time, so cooking isn't even a thought. And even though it's summer... it's hard to get up early every day like we do when school is in. Guess that's why they're called the 'lazy days of summer.' Seemed like a fair trade... fend for yourselves during the week and I'll reward you on the weekend.

So even though it's no longer a big to-do every Saturday, I do like to be prepared. The house is pretty quiet these days but you never know when someone will say 'Hey, what's for breakfast?' So.... I wanted to share my favorite waffle mix with you.

This is a bulk recipe. I have a large family PLUS I just don't want to get everything out and measure every time I want to make waffles. This is much more convenient. I went to the bakery at our local Sam's Club and asked if they had any empty 'icing' buckets that I could have. They gave me several, with lids, and this is how I store my bulk mixes. Works great! I label the outside with an index card so I know right away what's inside, and I also tape a card to the lid that has the recipe for the bulk mix and for the waffles themselves. Makes cooking breakfast so much easier.

My Favorite Waffle Mix

20 c. flour (5 lbs.)
20 T. sugar (1c. + 4T.)
10 T. Baking Powder (2/3 c.)
5 t. salt

Mix all ingredients together using a wire whisk and store in an airtight container.

My Favorite Waffles

4 1/2 c. mix
3 c. milk
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 stick butter, melted (optional)

Measure dry mix into a bowl. Mix all other ingredients together and add to dry mix all at once. Stir with wire whisk just until well blended. Don't over mix.

I have a Belgian waffle maker the makes 4 waffles at a time. I cook these for about 6 minutes. You will probably have to adjust the time according to your own waffle maker. But usually 4-6 minutes will be fine.

This recipe was adapted from the book How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman... one of my favorites. I loved the recipe for waffles so much that I turned it into a bulk mix. These freeze very well so I often make extra just to keep in the freezer for the week ahead. Just microwave them to defrost and crisp them up in the toaster if you like.

Happy Cooking!
Mary Ann :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My late 4th of July post.

What a great time we had for the 4th of July weekend. My hubby had family visiting from out-of-town.... his brother and his brother's mother-in-law. (His wife passed away last year.) We also had my dad and one of my brothers over along with most of my kids and my best friend. We had a BBQ... chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers (I guess I should say 'turkey' burgers), potato salad, corn on the cob and baked beans. Yum!

Food, family and fun. They just go together. I prepared for the BBQ most of the morning and cooked while everyone visited. Usually the girls end up in the kitchen while the men entertain themselves... and sometimes even the kids. Everyone having fun and enjoying the company.

For the kids... it's a little like Christmas. They are so excited and ready to burst from anticipation... they just can't wait to light all the fireworks. Baby Boy comes in the kitchen multiple times to tell me how great this one will be or to ask 'Can we light this one now... you can't really see it in the dark?'  Is this where they got the phrase "Christmas in July"?  I wonder...

When darkness finally arrives, we head on out to the end of the driveway. We get our bucket filled with water to douse the used sparklers and other fireworks. We have our trash bag and our broom. We have a lighter, a camera that I don't use because we're too busy lighting fireworks. A couple of camping stools to sit on.... and we're all set.

I think it's funny that every year the kids ask for the bigger fireworks. Mostly because they know I won't buy them. We usually pick out all the smaller 'inexpensive' ones. The way I see it.... I buy the small ones, the kids get to light them - safely, of course - they have a thrill and we get the benefit of watching all of the neighbors' more expensive fireworks. Well... why should we ALL spend a lot of money... right? You can only watch so many at one time. Works for me!

It really was a great show this year. We drove down to the end of our street which happens to be at the edge of the desert/mountain. Most of the neighbors who buy fireworks gather there. And since they're going to light them anyway... well, you know. We watch. It was a great show! Fireworks right above our heads!

Then we all go home... amazed at how it got so late, so fast... and we say our goodbyes. Baby Girl is exhausted as she lays across the bottom step and declares that she can't make it up the stairs. Sleep awaits us all as a welcome end to a wonderful day spent with family.

Can't wait to do it again!

Mary Ann :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Embracing Your Second Calling" by Dale Hanson Bourke

I have been reading "Embracing Your Second Calling" by Dale Hanson Bourke. It's a book about "finding the passion and purpose for the rest of your life." When the kids are grown, what is a woman to do? Does life as we know it end? Certainly not! This book will help you to stop living in the past, stop trying to be who you once were, and press on toward the future that God has waiting for you.

I found this book to be very inspiring. It really made me think about my future... not that I haven't been thinking about it anyway. The author shared from her own experiences along with using the Biblical example of the life of Naomi. It made it very personal for me. Not at all 'preachy'. More of a sharing between friends or acquaintances. Also includes some study tools in each chapter - which I initially thought were not useful - but as I read along, I found that I actually enjoyed reading them.

I did enjoy reading this book. I found it very helpful just to know that other women (and men) have some of the same experiences. I would recommend this book to other women (and men) who are faced with the question of "What now?".  God isn't finished with us!

Thanks for reading!
Mary Ann :)

*Thomas Nelson has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.-Thanks Thomas Nelson! :)


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