As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this nearly six-acre tract of land, this farmhouse, this domain—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Those Bookshelves {...and a New Series}

We painted them. We waited for the paint to cure while books were stacked in crazy piles around the perimeter of the dining room.

And then the real work began: I had to choose which books went back on the shelves. 

Does that sound easy? Not if you're a bibliophile. Not if you feel a personal attachment to books. Not if you remember where you acquired them and where you read them. Not if your name is written inside. Not if your child's name is written inside. Not if you used many of them in your twenty-some years of homeschooling and have precious memories attached.

It was hard work. (Thankfully, Kati was willing to help me with this task.)

I handled each and every book, making a decision about each one.

Some were easy decisions. No one has ever read that book and no one is likely to read it. We don't need four herb guides. Where in the world did this one come from? 

Most, however, were not easy. We had to ask ourselves qualifying questions. Will anyone ever read this again? Is it loved? Is it a good reference book? Does it hold sentimental value? Are there other books on the shelf that fulfill the same purpose (i.e. multiple field guides on trees, different age levels)? Would it be more helpful to someone else? Does this one go in a particular child's "keep for my own children" stash? 

We had a gazillion books on Presidents. Another gazillion on the Civil War. Another gazillion on Lewis and Clark. A gazillion poetry books. (There were definite themes in our collections!) So we tried to cull our collections. (Within reason.)

One night, I handed Ron a large stack of history books to see if any of them needed to be returned to the shelf. Later I saw that he had put one book aside. "So you want to keep that one?" I asked.

"No. That's the one I think I can get rid of."

Hard work.

It was also sobering work, as I realized that many books would not be reshelved because we won't be using them again. Bekah, our youngest, will be at high school level this next school year. No one will be reading If You Lived in Colonial Times or Shakespeare For Kids: His Life and Times, 21 Activities. (Say it isn't so!) No one will be poring over Pets in a Jar (truth be told, Bekah did not pick this book up at any age) or Nature Crafts for Kids. It was sobering to make a break with elementary education, knowing that we will not be back.

But then there was another category of books. 

As we sorted through the books of American history, I picked up our copy of The Book of Indians by Holling C. Holling. Yes, it is written for children, but I gripped it tightly as I declared to Kati, "You will have to pry this out of my cold, dead hands." 

Message understood. She placed it in the stack to be shelved.

There were others that fit this category. The funny thing is...Kati usually knew which books were of the "prying" sort. 

And that led me to the realization that these books are the best of the best. These are the ones that we have related to, have read over and over, have been inspired by, have loved. These books are what Charlotte Mason called Living Books, ones that are filled with ideas and literary language and inspiration and noble thoughts.

So I am beginning a new series of posts in which I will share with you some of our best-loved books. There will be no theme other than that. They may be from any subject. They may be fiction or non-fiction. They will be from all reading levels (and/or listening levels). But they will all be books that we have personally read and loved and recommend most highly.

(This series will be geared toward my homeschooling readers, although anyone who has a child in her life may find some treasures to share or to give as gifts.)

* * *

What about you? Are you a bibliophile? Are your shelves overflowing as mine were? (Does one ever have enough bookshelves?) Let's talk books!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sunday Snapshots: Dessert by Owen

Some of you asked about the dessert that Owen was bringing. Well, here it is: a cookie pizza, featuring chocolate and M&Ms! How could that be bad?!

It wasn't. Take my word for it!

(And he is the cutest baker, isn't he?)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Graces

Graces...things that I do not deserve, but that He has seen fit to give to me. These are all joys here on a May Saturday.

~ Going to brunch with some long time friends. Our paths don't cross nearly as often as they did once upon a time. This morning we have set aside some time to connect. We'll probably talk through lunchtime and maybe longer. We may be home for dinner. 

~ Pots of color.  We pushed to get things potted in time for our Mother's Day gathering. A few things were finished up this week, but now we can enjoy them throughout the summer. 

A grandson who asked if he could make dessert for Sunday.   
Eight-year-old Owen loves to bake and looks for opportunities to share his creations, so when he ran over to our van as we were leaving an event this week and asked if he could bring dessert, of course I said yes! (Don't tell him I said this, but he is the cutest baker!)
This is a photo of Owen when Aunt Kati cleaned out her cookbook stash and asked him if he was interested in any. (He was.)

~ Springtime.  And views like this...

~ A kitty on the porch.

~ A clean(ish) house.  We had a busy week with lots of extras. Bonus: We had to get the house presentable for guests which means no cleaning on Saturday! I guess I can talk with my friends through lunchtime...or later.

What are the graces in your world today? 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother's Day Follow-Up

Here at the blog, on Facebook, and in private emails, there was discussion about my Mother's Day musings and the blog post that I linked. I want to reiterate that I am all for honoring motherhood and mothers! I have always wanted to be a mother. I love being a mother. In fact, I consider motherhood my life's work. I am so very thankful that I was given that grace. 

If you know me, you will know that political correctness is not what I am about. (You might even be surprised to know that I am not about political anything, but that's another topic.) What I am about is being gracious to those who have a different calling or a different set of circumstances and trying to see things from their perspective.  

* * *

Now to answer a couple of your questions about our Mother's Day menu...

Have you ever watched the movie version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility? Such a great movie! One of my favorite lines comes after Maryanne is spurned by Willoughby, she is sobbing uncontrollably, and Mrs. Jennings is trying to find something to comfort her.

"Does she care for olives?" she asks. 

At this point, we all laugh hysterically at the absurdity of olives as the answer to the depths of despair!

But my mom does indeed "care for olives" so I decided to make Olive Cheese Bread as an appetizer on Mother's Day. If you care for olives, you will want to look for an opportunity to make this bread! Yum!! 

* * *

I may have made the Olive Cheese Bread for my mom, but the dessert (shameless admission here) I made for me! (The other chocoholics loved it too.)

Pots de Creme is a beautiful, elegant dessert that is surprisingly easy to make! Bekah and I made these on Saturday night (the cream was freshly whipped and added on Sunday afternoon) and decided to put them in the Grandmother teacups as a nod to another mother in our ancestry.

* * *

I hope that you always feel free to contribute to honest, gracious discussion here at Thinking About Home. I know that I welcome your thoughts.

I also welcome your questions and curiosities and will do my best to respond to each one. 

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, 
that you may know how you ought to answer each one. 
Colossians 4:6

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sunday Snapshots: Mother's Day {and Musings}

It seems I am always "a day late and a dollar short" these days (that expression is a nod to my mom who used to say it a lot...maybe because she lived with me?), so here I am sharing our Mother's Day celebration when everyone else has moved on ahead with their May. 

Our Saturday was crazy. Nothing horrible, just a gazillion little glitches and mishaps and delays, and when you're using your day to get everything ready for a gathering... Well, I'll just say what I said on my Facebook page around 1 am: "I ran out of Saturday." Can you relate? 

Between the glitches, I was mulling over the thoughts expressed in ~this~ article. It hurts my heart to think that another woman would be hurt over my insensitivity to her pain. Those who have lost their mothers, those whose relationships with their mothers is strained, women who do not have children. Although I was a mother with three beautiful children, Mother's Day was painful for me the year that I had suffered a pregnancy loss and had delivered a tiny stillborn baby the month before. No, Mother's Day is not always cotton candy sweet. 

And yet...mothering is hard and important work and is worthy of honor. God Himself has commanded us to honor our father and our mother, so that is pretty clear! 

Motherhood is not something that is automatic. It is not a given, nor is it our right.

Motherhood is a gift of grace and what we do with this gift is of eternal importance.   

* * *

On Sunday, we honored the mothers in our lives. After the hubbub that was Saturday, it was such a relaxing afternoon. We hadn't had time to make a playlist of mothers' requests and I forgot the activity that I had planned. I also forgot to organize a "mothers and their children" photo shoot, so all of our pictures are candids and there aren't many of them. None of my mother-in-law, none of my sister, none of me. It was not a day of good recordkeeping, but it was a day of memory-making. A day of talking and laughing and gifts and homemade cards and loving and sharing time together. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Mother's Work

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Little Something Sweet

I have never decided whether these little bites are cookies or candy, but what I can tell you is that you can whip them up in less than 10 minutes (although you'll have to wait a few more minutes for them to chill) and they are gooooood. I found this recipe in Martha Stewart Living years ago and we have been making them ever since. If you like coconut and chocolate (does anyone not love chocolate?), then give them a try. 

~ original recipe in Martha Stewart Living October 2002 ~

1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
3 drops almond extract
3 3/4 ounces* semi-sweet chocolate, melted 

* * *

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spread coconut on parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly toast in oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (And watching carefully to see that it doesn't burn...ask me how I know.)
Remove from oven and allow to cool.

In a bowl, toss toasted coconut, almond extract, and melted chocolate until mixed.
Place about 1 tablespoon of the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press together.

Place sheet of patties in the refrigerator until firm, about 20 minutes.

(Keep refrigerated until serving.)

* I threw caution to the wind and used 4 1-ounce pieces of semi-sweet chocolate; adding that additional 1/4 ounce didn't seem to make a lot of difference. ;)

Do you have a quick little something in your dessert repertoire? 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Gathering the Moments of April

April was a gentler month. There was not the whirlwind that was March, but mostly a pleasant succession of days. 

There were days for special celebrations like Resurrection Day and Bekah's fourteenth birthday and a delightful visit with our loved ones

There were other days that seemed ordinary at a glance, but were filled with blessing for those who were watching. Daffodils, forsythia, and quince bursting with bloom. Time spent working together, sprucing up our home. A new haircut and a first pair of high heels. The gift of new dishes. Successful completion of classes. A new Keepers at Home club. Music. Quiet. Gentle breezes. Spring clothes, sweaters in the evening. A phone chat with a sweet granddaughter. Time spent with all the grands. Green. 

He was in the whirlwind of March...and He was in the gentleness of April. 

I am thankful for His daily grace.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Watching the Lord Lead

In this particular post in my Homeschooling: Finding Joy in the Journey series, I'd like to share a personal story. It is the story of this year, Bekah's 8th grade, and how I have seen God's hand in our little school. 

Of course, I always plan for our school year. Actually, I love to plan! Beginning in the spring (or even sooner) and making final decisions by summer, I read and consider and mull it over and peruse catalogs and discuss it all with Ron until I think that we have a direction for each child for the upcoming year. The most important thing I do is to pray for His guidance. I have done this every one of the twenty-four years that we have homeschooled, and I have found Him faithful to guide.

But after I have done everything that I know to do, He often surprises me by enriching my plans! 

* * *

Here is my story:

This year, Bekah is studying Ancient History. I knew that I would be using The Mystery of History Volume I, mostly because I love how the author follows history chronologically, from a Christian perspective, melding Biblical and secular history into one story (which it truly is).

And here are the things I did not plan:

Our Bible study group is studying the book of Ezekiel. 

We began this study in September and we're currently in Chapter 25. Yes, we work our way slowly and thoroughly through Scripture and we are all learning and gleaning so very much. Studying Ezekiel while learning the historical setting makes the story come alive.

We were able to see a performance of Moses at Sight & Sound Theater. 

When we visited the Rabes in October, they took us to the show! What a thrill to see the story that we read along with the sights and sounds of Ancient Egypt. Perfect field trip!

In January, Kati borrowed An Invitation to Awe from our local library. 

This is a two-CD musical collection by Michael Card, based on the writings of the Old Testament. (This is a remastered version of The Ancient Faith.) Kati put one of the discs in her car and I kept one in our van. In February, we purchased the collection as a gift for Kati. In March, she had to return the borrowed set to the library and I checked it out myself. In April, we purchased the set for ourselves.

Have we really been listening to the same 24 songs since the beginning of January? Absolutely! They are beautiful songs, rich with meaning, taken from Scripture. The words have worked their way into our hearts. From "In the Beginning" (Genesis) and "Lift Up the Suffering Symbol" (Numbers) to "Then They Will Know" (God's message through many of the prophets) and "Malachi," we hear and sing the message of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Bekah found the piano music to An Invitation to Awe.

One evening, she was looking through some old piano books and sheet music for something new to play when --lo and behold!-- she found two books with the accompaniment to many of the songs in the collection. She was so excited!

The amazing thing about this? We didn't even know we had them!

The books were published in 1989 and 1992 and are now out of print. Where ever they came from, they were purchased on sale for $1.00 each, but no one remembers buying them. All I know is that they are a gift for Bekah (and for us) right now. This year. She is playing these beautiful songs and we are listening and singing and meditating on their message. 

* * * 

Does God care about my little school? About the one student in my class? Does he arrange the details of our lives?

I believe that He does!

And Christian homeschooling mom, I believe that He cares about your school and your students too.

As you look ahead to the next school year, pray and make your plans...and then watch for the ways that He will lead! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weekend Snapshots: Five Months

~ This boy is five months old. 

~ It has been five months since our son Ryan and his family moved from Maine to Virginia. 

~ And this past weekend, we enjoyed our fifth visit together in five months. (December, January, February, March...and April makes five!) Such a blessing! 

A few peeks at our weekend...
Tulips Sarah and the children planted in early December

We brought Ryan's childhood stash of Legos for his own family.

The mountains were hazy.

Dogwood tree blooming outside of the restaurant where we celebrated Kati's successful completion of her CNA classes.
(I had forgotten to take my camera inside, so no pictures of said celebration.)

New bikes :)

Papa riding Eve's bike...

...and having way too much fun!

The lovely Sarah

10 years and counting...

As always, I thank the Lord for safe travels, and for this wonderful privilege of being together!

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