Monday, February 28, 2011

Casting Your Bread Upon the Waters

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.  Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land."  Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

King Solomon was the inspired writer of the words above.  Surely a man who knew so little of poverty and of want must have been inspired to write those words, because they are so full of wisdom.  Brian and I abide by a philosophy that we call "casting your bread upon the waters."  I studied this passage of scripture many years ago when I was teaching a ladies' Bible study group.  I asked the students to picture standing beside a flowing stream and leaning down to place a large loaf of bread into a basket.  Then, I had them imagine placing that basket into the stream and watching it float downstream from them.  As the bread journeys along the stream, it is picked up by a person standing further along the water's edge, who pulls it out and takes it home with them.  If we all placed something into the stream, then when we find ourselves in need,  we'll be taken care of.  This has been revealed over and over again in our lives.  We would give unselfishly, and would receive whatever we needed at the right time.

Previously, I wrote about battling discouragement.  Last week, I really struggled with being discouraged myself.  It crept in early last week, and on Tuesday, I felt truly down.  Monday had been a school holiday (Presidents' Day), and not a particularly bad day.  I substituted Tuesday, and it was one of those days where it just didn't seem like I was needed.  Several teachers had mentioned that it was a slow day, so I didn't take it personally.  However, as the day wore on, I just started to get down.  In any job, there are difficulties.  There are unique aspects of substitute teaching that are enjoyable, and some that are not so enjoyable.  For myself, flexibility doesn't come naturally.  It is something that I have to work at.  I suppose that on Tuesday I was feeling the strong desire for permanence and stability.  I just wanted to feel that sense of knowing where I belong.  At any rate, I prayed.  I asked the Lord to encourage me, and He did.

The next day I subbed in a class for children with severe mental retardation.   Somehow, it was just what I needed.  I enjoyed the challenge of meeting the special needs of the children.  I really enjoyed the structure of the class and the ladies that I worked with.  It was an interesting--and exhausting--day.  Before I realized it, my heart was lifted!  I thanked God for encouraging me. 

How does this tie in with casting bread upon the waters?  Well, as it turned out, a dear Christian friend of mine had recommended me to the lead teacher of the special needs class.  This dear friend, Susan, has been a source of encouragement to me as I have been subbing.  She has subbed in our district for the last few years.  I am so happy to know her, and to have her friendship.  Susan cast out bread, and I received it.  So, I cast some out, as well.  I wrote to the school administrator to mention how great the teachers in the special needs class are.  It takes a lot of creativity and patience to instruct children with significant challenges.  These ladies work hard every day.  So many people are quick to complain, but how many are quick to compliment?  Make it a point to give compliments to others who deserve them.  When we give encouragement, it will come back to you when you need it most.

If you live in Texas, tomorrow will be TAKS testing day for many of our students.  Be sure and encourage the students and teachers who are testing.  With the statewide concern about the budget and with the funding for our schools being so precarious, teachers can use all the encouragement that they can get.  And for those of us desiring to work in education, well, let's just say that it's a time of uncertainty.  In my teacher certification class, I see the anxiety on my fellow classmates' faces.  I try to encourage my new friends as best I can.  I think that the best thing for all of us to do is pray.

Many blessings,


Monday, February 21, 2011

(Pre) Spring Clean-up

One of the great things about living in Texas is that we have long growing seasons here.  Some bemoan the lack of "four seasons", but I like that we can spend so much time in the garden and this translates to a productive harvest.  We have had several nice days in a row, so I took advantage of the weather and did quite a lot of clean-up out back.  We have a nice-sized back yard for the 'burbs. 
As you can see from the photo above, the yard is beginning to show patches of green.  Unfortunately, this is mostly weeds, so we have some work to do on getting the lawn into shape.  I prefer to use organic products, which require more work, and Brian prefers the synthetic fertilizer products.  We'll see what happens this year.  The tree to the right of the trampoline (which needs a new net) is a peach tree.  I have three in my yard, and my yield this past summer was excellent.  I had lots of sweet, softball-sized peaches to share with friends and to make peach ice cream with.  I had several friends ask about making peach preserves, so I think I will try my hand at it this year.  I'll have to get my mom to come over to help.  Brian and I really enjoyed the peaches last year, and we look forward to another good crop.  (I looked up the varieties that grow best in our region of North Texas at Texas A & M's horticultural website, prior to planting and ordered three of the most highly rated varieties.).  You can see that we have a pretty long 'to do' list for our yard.  The glider swing needs new cushions and a new canopy, so I will work on that in a few weeks when I am done with night classes.  I disposed of the old canopy yesterday and had to dispose of the cushions, as well.  Our dog, Blizzard, had taken to dragging the batting from inside the cushion out into the yard.  I had a lot of that to pick up yesterday.

I also took inventory of my blackberry vines:

I planted five vines about three years ago, and four survived.  Last fall, I noticed that the vines did not look healthy.  I think that they fell victim to a virus.  They seem to be coming back ok, but I'll be putting out lots of compost this coming weekend to bolster the soil and fertilize the vines.  The kids adore the blackberries, so I've got to do what I can to get them healthy.  I cut them back pretty hard last fall, when I noticed the problem, and cleaned up the area of diseased leaves and canes.

I intended to build a raised vegetable bed last year, but never got around to it. I think that we'll do that in the next couple of weekends.  The bed close to the blackberries had been my vegetable garden, but I planted a peach tree here and the area doesn't get enough sun to grow herbs and vegetables sufficiently.

While I worked, Jesse and Lily enjoyed their sandbox:
Taking pictures of the yard enables me to assess the needs of the landscape.  Frankly, we didn't do a whole lot to the exterior of the house last year, and you really have to stay on top of things before problems get out of hand. 
Looking at this shot, obviously I can see that we need to stain the deck and area around the hot tub.  The lawn needs work, as I've said before.  Brian wants to add a canvas material to the pergola so that we can use it more in rainy/hot weather.  If I had my d'ruthers, I'd take out the wooden deck and put a stone deck in.  I would like to add some type of curtains to the pergola to give it a more substantial, 'outdoor room' type of look.  The budget dictates what we'll do, though.  For now, first things first.  We've got to get a net around that trampoline!

At the end of the day, I sat down and watched the sunset.  The kids played happily outside, and I was content that I had made a good start.  I looked up at the willow tree and noticed that it is beginning to bud.  Soon, spring will be here.  Most likely, we'll have a few more cold days, and perhaps, a freeze.  For now, I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend some time in the beautiful outdoors.

Many blessings,


Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope that your day has been filled with blessings and joy.  We began our celebration on Saturday night.  Brian and Lily participated in the Daddy-Daughter banquet at church.  I bought Lily a beautiful pink dress and sparkly shoes, and we fixed her hair up in curls. 

Brian bought her a pretty heart-shaped locket to remember the occasion:
Lily was so excited to go to the banquet with her daddy.   
They played games and had a lovely dinner.  Lily took pictures of her friends and the daddies at the party.  They came home with stories to tell and Lily had some lovely pictures to share.

As for me, well, I discovered that Valentine's Day means two different things to guys and girls.  Lily had big plans for her Valentine's celebration.  She made a list and everything!  I had big plans to take the boys out for dinner and a movie while Brian and Lily went out to the banquet.  We headed out to find a restaurant, but the boys just wanted to go to a fast food place.  No, no, that would not do.  I wanted to go to a place and sit down and have a nice meal.  So did everyone else in town!  The boys were hungry and just wanted to eat.  They didn't want to try the interesting-looking Szechuan place.  They said absolutely not to the fried chicken restaurant.  We ended up going to Subway and they got sandwiches.  I have to admit that I was disappointed that we didn't eat someplace nicer, but they were happy.  We had trouble finding a parking spot at the movie theater, and when we finally got up to the ticket window, the movie was sold out!  We headed to another theater, and on the way, Jesse said in a very small voice, "Mom, can we just go home?  I'm tired." 

So, we rented movies and went home.  Jacob was thrilled.  Matthew was disappointed that he didn't get to see the movie we'd planned to see.  Jesse was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.  To my guys, 'going out' was about eating and being entertained.  Where that took place didn't matter.  I was the one who wanted to make our evening out a big deal. 

Tonight, we had a nice dinner at home.  Brian grilled steaks and I made the sides.  The older boys prepared chocolate fondue for dessert, and we had a lot of fun dipping strawberries, pound cake, marshmallows, and raspberries.  Jesse must've eaten about five dipped chocolate chip cookies. We used our fine china and crystal.  We ate the fondue on my pretty dessert plates.  We lit candles and used linen napkins.  I wanted a big celebration, and I got it.  Even the boys enjoyed it.  They really got into the spirit of the occasion and helped Brian and I out a lot.  Jesse got his belly full and went to bed shortly after dinner was over, just after he'd taken a shower.  Poor little guy; he just can't stay up late!  At any rate, Valentine's Day was a success. I hope that yours was, as well.

Many blessings,


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine's Tablescape...Complete!

Welcome back!

The ice and snow have melted--again--here in North Texas, and the kids are back in school--again.  My youngest son, Jesse, is over the flu, and I am back to the (sort of) normal life that I've become accustomed to lately.  I took advantage of being stuck in the house yesterday to complete my Valentine's Day decorations.  I took the advice of some of my new blog friends and added a table runner and candles to my tablescape in the dining room.  I could not find anything to put into my punch bowl that pleased me, so I went searching in my daughter's room and found this:

I like the delicate rosebuds juxtaposed with the crystal of my antique punch bowl.  I wanted to do something red in the punch bowl, but I think the pink brings together the dessert plates and the table runner.

Here's a full view of the table:
And another shot:

I plan to serve my family's Valentine's supper here in this room.  Like most families, we don't often use our formal dining room, but I like to take advantage of special occasions and do something nice for them. 

My husband, Brian, and our daughter, Lily, are going to the Father-Daughter Valentine's banquet at church on Saturday evening.  Brian has been looking forward to this for over five years, since we found out we were having a girl.  If there was ever a man more excited about having a daughter than my husband, I haven't met him.  Actually, after having three sons, we were ALL excited to have a Lily! :)  I'll post pictures of Brian and Lily when the time comes.  I bought her a pretty new dress and we've made plans about how we'll do her hair.  I still need to get "sparkly" new shoes, Lily says.

Thanks for stopping by!

Many blessings,


P.S.  I'm participating in Susan's Tablescape Thursday.  Come on over and see other pretty tablescapes.

Monday, February 7, 2011

After the snow...

Our family survived the winter storm of 2011. We are only slightly worse for wear today.  Jesse is home sick with what appears to be the flu, and Brian is suffering with a hacking cough and congestion, though he made it into work.  Frankly, I had been sick all week that the ice and snow kept us homebound, so I really needed the time off.  I feel much better today.  For those in the north who think that Texans can't handle the ice and snow, well, it's just not true.  We're not equipped to handle the ice and snow, and there's a big difference.  Most of the smaller municipalities in the North Texas area don't have access to sandtrucks or snowplows.  The Dallas Morning News ran an interesting article on the shortcomings of the DFW metroplex in handling the winter storm.  Even the public transit system--both the light rail trains and buses were ill-equipped for the weather.  Those of us in the outlying areas were pretty much stuck close to home.  I noticed that our city had thrown a couple of shovels full of sand on the bus stop near our home.  I'm not sure what that was meant to do, but at least they tried.

The kids enjoyed the novelty of the snow, and we got some good shots of them playing out in the front yard:
Matthew and Blizzard are enjoying the snow.  Blizzard absolutely loved it!

My sweet Jesse Bear, pre-flu.

Jacob is such a good big brother!  He set up a kind of "sled" for the kids to slide down the hill in our neighbor's yard.  He is pulling Lily down the hill, and she loved it!  You can barely see Blizzard in this shot.  He seems to be meant for snow.

Jacob and Matthew had a lot of fun pulling the giant icicles off of the house.  Matthew, of course, pretended they were weapons.  Yikes.

And so did Lily.  Double yikes.

I got lots done during the break, though I did get a little stir crazy.  I cooked and baked and cleaned and did LOTS of laundry.  Makes me tired thinking about it, actually.  I was determined to use the time to de-clutter and also to get caught up on homework.  I managed to do both.  Today, I'll look after my Bear and see if I can get ahead on homework.  What a novel idea!  Ahead!  I got several good suggestions for my Valentine's tablescape, and I made a table runner last night out of some Valentine's fabric I had in my stash.  One lovely lady suggested I put some candles on either side of my punch bowl, and I am going to do that.  I need to get some bright red tapers, but I'll have to do that later.  Can't get the Bear out today.  He kept some Motrin down today, and there has been no vomiting since last night, so he may be over the worst.  Poor little guy, he slept all day yesterday.  His cough sounds terrible.  He probably won't make it to school tomorrow, either.

I'll post pictures of the table as soon as it's finished.  I still can't find those red hearts, so I'll have to come up with something else.

[The latest news is that North Texas is under another winter weather advisory beginning Tuesday and extending through Wednesday.  I guess we'll see whether or not the winter storm of 2011 is over!]

Many blessings,


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ingenuity On an Icy Day

We all found ways to amuse ourselves on this icy day.  I took the opportunity of a few extra days off to catch up on my classwork and to decorate the house for Valentine's Day.  Here's how our older sons spent the day:

That's Jacob pulling Matthew down the street.  Matthew is riding a skateboard with no wheels.  They took them off and Jacob attached them to one of his house shoes.  He calls them his 'heelies'.  Here's a picture:

I'm so glad that the kids were in the gifted and talented program.  I think that worked out real well for us, don't you?  I mean, you just don't see enough of house shoes with wheels. Here's more proof of just how ingenious Brian's children are:

I really can't complain.  They weren't inside all day, even though it was stinkin' cold outside.  I went out to get the mail and that wind cut right through me.  Our dog, Blizzard, is loving this weather, though.  He's an American Eskimo, and everytime the boys go outside to play, he stands at the door and whines.  Brian took him out for a bit today, and he was as frisky as a pup.

As for me, I discovered table scaping last year, and I love to do a Valentine's Day tablescape in the dining room.  I took a picture to post on the blog, though I'm not quite finished with it.  You'll notice that I don't have flatware or napkins at my place settings, and I don't have anything in my punch bowl yet.  I have some shiny red hearts to put in it, but I couldn't find them.  Here's my work in progress:

 I especially love the little Valentine dessert plates.  I got those at Ross last year.  Aren't they cute?
It's not a great picture, but I think the floral ones are really cute.  I like mixing up the patterns a bit.

The china pattern is "Tahoe" by Noritake.  It is our wedding china, and is discontinued.  The chargers are from Wal Mart.  I would like to do something festive above the table, maybe some hearts or tissue paper pom poms hanging from the chandelier?   It needs a tablecloth or runner.  Definitely some color, right?  Any suggestions how to complete my table?

Many blessings,


P.S.  I'm participating in Susan's Tablescape Thursday.  You can visit other tablescapes at Between Naps on the Porch.