Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Thoughts & Prayers

Gratitude is foundational to every genuine relationship with God.

Without gratitude to God, how could we possibly please Him in anything we do? Over and over and over again, we are told to give thanks – for what He's done, for what He's doing, and for what He will do in the future.

It is appropriate to give thanks every day--not only on Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, today seems a particularly apt occasion to make a list! And I like making lists, I go.

(And by the way, the items on this list are not listed in any particular order, though some are definitely more important than others.) That being said, I am thankful for….

1. The Father, Son, & Holy Spirit

Thank you, God, for who You are and for choosing to initiate a relationship with us. Thank you for the redemptive work You planned and accomplished through each Person of the Trinity. Thank You for Your love, which we do not deserve, for Your mercy, which we could never earn, and for the promise of eternal life with You, which is too wonderful to imagine! Thank You, Father, that you sent Your Son and poured out Your wrath on Him instead of on us; thank you, Jesus, that You willingly bore the Father's wrath, paid the penalty for our sins, purchased us with Your blood, and won for us a life of perfect righteousness that is legally attributed to our account; thank you, Spirit, for Your work of regeneration and sanctification in our lives, and for being our Comforter here on earth.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” - Ps. 73:25

Triquetra (Trinity Knot)

2. My sweet and loving husband

Hard to believe we've already been married over two years now. It's better when we're together, darlin'. I'm so thankful that you're my husband and the father of my son. I love you, Andrew!

3. My beautiful, adorable, affectionate son

How could anyone not cherish that face? I can't imagine my life without this sweet little boy. What an incredible gift from God! I love you, Dean!

4. My family

Definitely thankful for my family. It's wonderful to live so close to the Herr clan; I just wish the Richey clan could join us over here too. :) (I would post pictures of everyone but I forgot to ask permission earlier, so I'll refrain this time.)

5. A good place to live
Here we live safely, comfortably, and privately, with great landlords, a large yard (and creek!) for Dean to play in, a garden, room for chickens, and a country view (complete with Amish buggies clip-clopping past every so often) – so many blessings rolled into one!

6. A house full of books

So many good stories to explore, so many conversations to much comfort and excitement, so many mind-stretchings and personal challenges. I love these books, the authors who wrote them, and the incredible treasures they hold. (And I can't wait to share them with Dean as he grows older!)

7. Computer

I really am thankful for the computer! It lets me write letters, talk “face-to-face” with distant family members and friends, keep a blog, watch movies and listen to music at home, and find out just about anything I need to know via Internet. It's a magical place.

8. Creaturely comforts

To put it another way, undeserved luxuries I enjoy everyday, little luxuries I take for granted. Like a second car (with heated seats!). Or a hot cup of tea and a handful of chocolate-covered nuts. Or an hour of undisturbed quiet while I read Dorothy Sayers or James Herriot or Jane Austen. In a world filled with hatred, death, and strife, where ISIS is beheading Christians left and right, refugees are fleeing for their lives, and we are called to be lights in a very, very dark place, it seems almost insane that most Americans enjoy these kinds of luxuries everyday without thinking twice about it. What we view as “normal” is not normal in many other parts of the world.

God, thank you for the little gifts you permit me to enjoy everyday. Please keep my heart from idolatry; never let me love these things more than I love You or the people around me. Jesus, be the center of my heart, my life, and my purpose. Thank you for these gifts, but thank you most of all for yourself.

9. Freedom to worship God in safety

Who knows what the future will bring? We may not always have the religious freedoms that we have now. But I am thankful for present freedoms, that I can pray, read my Bible, attend church, and openly talk about God without getting thrown in jail or being executed by an organization like ISIS. So many persecuted Christians around the world can't say the same.

10. My identity in Christ

As I was reading John 1 this past week to prepare for Bible study, I was struck by the emphasis on identity – Christ's identity, John the Baptist's identity, and our own identity. In this chapter alone, Jesus is identified as the Word, God incarnate, the Light that “shines in the darkness,” the Creator of the universe, the Son of the Father, the Lamb of God “who takes away the sin of the world,” and even the “I AM” (though not explicitly stated, John's statement that Jesus existed before John—who was actually older—is reminiscent of Jesus' claim to have existed before Abraham: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

John is identified as a witness – a witness of the “light,” of Christ: “He was not that light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:8). Later on, John tells the Pharisees, “I am not the Christ” (v. 20) nor the Prophet (v. 21) nor Elijah (v.25), but rather “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said” (v. 23). When pressed, John keeps the attention off of himself, and continues talking about Christ: “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (26-27).

It's interesting that John is identified not really in terms of who he is, but who Christ is. John is the witness of the Light. His job, his identity, is not to “fully develop his own potential,” so to speak, but to point to Christ. In this chapter he is always deflecting the attention away from himself, and that's appropriate. A huge part of his identity is wrapped up in who he is not. He is not the Christ. Rather, he is the finger pointing us to Christ. As he says in chapter 3, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v.30).

And our identity, I think, it partially wrapped up with John the Baptist's. We are not the one Isaiah prophesied about, but like John, we are witnesses of the Light. Like John, our attention needs to be on Christ and not on ourselves. Our job is not to create the best lives for ourselves here on earth, or to develop our full potential, but to be the fingers pointing to Christ, the lights in dark places that share with others the greater Light that is Christ.

John has more to say about our identity, however. As believers, we have become the children of God (12). That's an amazing statement! Because of the redemptive work accomplished by the Trinity, we have been transformed from being the enemies of God to being the children of God. He has given us amazing rights and privileges (e.g., reigning with Christ in the final state, living in God's presence forever). He has also brought us into a tender, loving, and affectionate relationship with himself. And He initiated this. We are who we are because of who God is and what he has done for us. In short, our identity is determined by our relationship to God. If you've ever felt the need to “discover yourself,” or develop your full potential, then refocus on making Christ the center. When you find Christ, you will find true self.

I am grateful for my identity in Christ!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

Happy Thanksgiving! See you soon. 

from BestDesignOptions

~ Crista

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gardens, Chickens, and Some Happy Dean-Moments

Dean and I have been enjoying the fresh country air with our chickens these past few days. While Dean roams around the coop, chucks dried corn at the chickens through the wire, and sprinkles corn around the garden or into his egg basket, I watch him bumbling around the garden like an adorable bumblebee on legs in his puffy orange coat. Every now and then he takes a tumble and goes down on his hands and knees. One time he sits on his bum, gains a little too much momentum, and rolls down on his back with a surprised face staring up at the sky. I set him on his feet again and he bumbles off. A minute later he gives a wounded cry and turns to me for comfort, holding up his finger for inspection. I'm pretty sure a chicken thought it was a worm.

Dean's been having a lot of fun lately, and not just with the chickens. Who knew purple pens were so purple? Or that couch cushions made such great drawing boards? Or that eggs were so wonderfully messy when rubbed into the carpet? Or that the compost bucket under the sink made such a great hiding spot for one's toys?

I love this kid so much. <3 
And fortunately, he's a great cleaner-upper. OK – not his toys so much. But he insisted on helping me with the ink stains (he enjoyed pressing them with a wet paper towel). And he loves to put away the dishes (he can just barely tip the silverware into the drawer—Daddy lifts him up to put the plates and glasses away, which is extra fun). Anything we do, he wants to do, even if it means doing chores he'll probably hate to do when he's a little older. :P

 Some other Dean-moments for you:

Daddy gives Dean a ride. :)

Dean builds a little tower. <3

Dean helps Daddy eat his breakfast.

Chugging down Daddy's orange juice...

Dean and Daddy reading together.

In other news, Andrew got some work done on the chicken area:

The garden and chicken area.

This is not what the finished yard will look like, but it's the general idea. We'll eventually spread the straw around the chicken yard and use a tarp to protect the chickens from the wind (when they're inside the coop).

It's hard to see, but there's a segment of wire stretched across the top of the chicken coop. It's not the original device Andrew planned to make, but hopefully it'll work. It's definitely easier.

From the other side of the coop. There's a space to go in and collect eggs, etc.

Happy baby :)

In other news.....

It's late November, frost has come and gone several times, and I'm starting to realize that my garden's full potential will not be realized anytime soon.

The beets have tops but no beets.

The cucumbers keeled over a long time ago.

The chives never showed up.

The broccoli is growing beautiful leaves and no broccoli.

The fennel has some splendid leaves and no bulbs.

The carrots are scrawny. 

The spinach. You can barely see it because of the ground cover, but it's there!

The rest of the garden. Not exactly comparable to the gardens at Monticello. But, in my defense, I did originally plant the broccoli in a straight line! The next day, it rained like crazy and rearranged everything.

On the upside:

Spinach doesn't get any fresher than this. And it is GOOD STUFF.

Nor does kale. And when you pick it small, it's a lot more tender than the grocery-store version.

Beet tops are edible. Good in salads.

Cucumbers are dispensable. (Sigh.)

Chives can be grown indoors. (Which is the new plan this winter.)

Broccoli...hmm. Erm...

Fennel leaves are also edible – great in salads!

Scrawny carrots are still edible if a little pathetic (let's not talk about that).

What I've learned:

It's very important to THIN THE PLANT if the seed packet tells you to THIN THE PLANT.

Never mind the excuses, “It'll probably be okay” (it won't) or “the beets might be a bit on the small side, but they'll still grow” (they won't).

So basically, laziness is counterproductive, and instructions really are meant to be obeyed. (What a strange idea!)

If you don't do the work that's required, you won't get the results you want. It's as simple as that.

But also – God is gracious even to lazy and disobedient green-thumbed gardeners like me. Even though I didn't do the work properly, I can still enjoy some of the produce from my fall garden – the spinach, kale, beet tops and fennel leaves, maybe even a carrot or two (maybe).

I don't feel discouraged, overall. I made some significant mistakes, and lost a good bit of produce, but I also know what I did wrong--and that gives me the chance to correct it next year.

Does anyone here like to garden? In terms of gardening, what has been your greatest success and your greatest mistake?

See you soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Few Scattered Updates, Plus Pictures & a Poem :)

So I do have a few scattered updates for this past week. We bought some straw from a farm down the road to cover the garden with this winter. One step closer to having a warm and cozy home for the chickens before Christmas! Also, Andrew designed a device for the top of the chicken coop, to keep the chickens from flying to the top and then escaping over the fence. He was going to work on it yesterday but it didn't work out. He may be able to make it on Thursday or next Monday—hoping to post pictures when it's all done. :)

Other updates...hmm. I am now reading Dorothy Sayers's Lord Peter Views the Body, which is an excellent collection of short mystery stories. If you haven't read anything by Dorothy Sayers, or if you haven't read any of her mysteries, Lord Peter Views the Body would be a great introduction to her Peter Wimsey series. Once you get started, I promise you, you won't want to stop reading!

In other news, Dad sent me some of the pictures from my Mom's phone, so I can share a few more “Dean-moments” with you. :) Here they are:

Dean with Ella

Dean with Papa

Dean with Gramma Richey at the botanical gardens


Some pictures from earlier this summer. Dean is helping Daddy wash the car (or, more accurately, the pavement...)

Dean helping Daddy bring up the laundry!

Sleepyhead :)

Dean in his new cap, which his Daddy is very proud of :)

Dean with his doggie, which Papa and Gramma bought for him in Illinois. It's definitely his favorite toy now :)

Caught him reading!

Dean helping Daddy put the dishes away - he loves to do everything we do :)

And finally, I wrote a poem this week about a little boy, his quilt, and an egg. (*ahem*) Not exactly great literature, but it's cute, and I had fun writing it. (I have to thank Miss March for the inspiration – she made a humorous comment on my last post that gave me the idea.)

I intended to post it here, I'm wondering. I've always wanted to write books for children and have them published, ever since I was a child myself. So, on a whim, I might send it off and see what somebody else makes of it. Probably nothing; publishing is notoriously difficult, and just because I like my poem, that doesn't make it publishable! So I'm not expecting anything to come of it. But I think I'll try, anyway, and update you all on my progress (e.g. let you know when I get the rejection slip). I'll hold off posting the poem until after that's taken care of, since most publishers probably won't look at a manuscript that's already been “published,” even if only on a blog.

But, I'll post the first few lines:

Holding tight his quilted blankie, 
Baby blows in Daddy's hankie--

watches Mommy gather eggs 

and follows her on chubby legs.

If you want to read the whole thing, send me an email ( :)

That's all for now, I reckon. See you soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Chickens Threaten To Stop Egg Production if Happy Homesteaders Do Not Provide Warm Quilts for Winter

Sorry about that. Just felt like writing a goofy headline. :P

I felt like quite a homesteader the other day. For lunch, I had a kale and spinach salad grown in our backyard garden, complete with chopped-up boiled egg contributed by our very own backyard chickens. SUCCESS! That means we're REAL homesteaders now, right?


Happy Homesteader Kissing First Egg Produced By Chickens.

About those chickens...ahem. We really want to free-range them, but they keep frustrating our plans to give them the happiest life possible before we eat them in another year or so. (!) At one point, Andrew had a moveable fencing system in place that really seemed to work well. Every couple days he would move the sections of wire fencing to give the chickens fresh “pasture” outside of their coop. They loved it! Buuuut, they finally figured out what wings are for, and decided the grass was greener on the other side of the wire. And now we can't make them stay put. So now, they get to stay inside their coop all day unless we have time to stay outside with them and make sure they don't transgress certain boundaries.

Not what we originally envisioned!

Dean has always been fascinated by the chickens. :)

Dean inspects the chicken coop.

We have seven chickens altogether: Henry VIII and his six wives, Miss Minchin, Becky, Josie Pye, Nellie Olson, Mortola, and Mrs. Chick

This is the free-range set-up we had for the chickens this summer.

Once the weather gets cold, the plan is to enclose the garden with wire fencing, pile it up with straw to protect the chickens from frostbite, and let the chickens roam there all winter to fertilize the ground for a spring garden. Good plan, I think, except those darn chickens still have wings.

We could always clip their wings.

Whiiiiiiich I don't know how to do.

Does it hurt a chicken to clip its wings? Do you have to have specialized equipment or something? (OK—I seriously doubt it.) How do you clip a chicken's wings?

There's always Google, I suppose.

So we're not real homesteaders quite yet…

The other idea is the keep the coop in the middle of the enclosure so the chickens won't get on top and fly over the fence from there (which is what they've been doing). They can't fly very far, so if there is enough space between the coop and the wire, they might not be able to make it over the top. And I don't think they can fly to the top of the fence – it's too light to make a stable perch. We've never seen them perch on the wire.

Maybe that's the answer.

Or we could just booby-trap the top of the coop with something...

We'll have to come up with a solution before the cold weather really hits, though, so I imagine I'll be posting about this again sometime soon. Any ideas? Any chicken experts out there who could offer some advice? (I know there's at least one...)


Gracefully changing subjects… quilting!

So, here's what I learned making my first quilt a couple weeks ago:

1. Cutting up strips of fabric on an ancient, buckled sewing mat leads to inaccurate measurements
2. Old sewing mats provide an excellent excuse for one's own inaccurate measurements
3. Inaccurate measurements lead to embarrassing mistakes, such as squares not lining up properly, “invisible” stitches flaunting themselves, and so on
4. If you measure accurately, everything is a lot easier (at least theoretically – can't say I know this by experience)

Have you noticed a trend yet?

5. Designing your own quilt is REALLY FUN and REALLY DIFFICULT
6. Even when you arrange all the patterns and colors into perfect geometric shapes, someone will still think the arrangement off-balance
7. If you know what you want the quilt to look like beforehand, don't pick random fabrics from a) your mom's closet and b) the fabric store
8. If you do a&b, you will have to give up your original idea
9. If you give up your original idea, you may come up with something better…
10. ...that ends up being not-so-better

Actually, I like the baby quilt I ended up making. Not what I originally envisioned, and my first idea was better, but it's still kind of fun to just work with what you have and make it work.

The quilt was still in progress at this point, obviously. I can't find a picture of the finished quilt!

11. Even if you don't really know what you're doing, quilting is really fun (especially if you have an awesome mom who can tell you how to do the next step, and the next, and the next, etc.).
12. Beauty has power to inspire you to create

In Illinois, we visited a wonderful fabric store called Jackman's. They had several quilts and other projects on display inside, some of which I would love to replicate someday. I'm not fond of cutesy-country quilts, but these quilts were beautiful, so beautiful. One quilt in particular caught my eye:

I would love to make this quilt in time for Christmas next year – I may make that a New Year's resolution. We'll see! :)

Out of curiosity, any quilters or crafters out there? Are you working on any projects? Are there any projects you would like to work on?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Road Trip

Last month, our family took a 14-hr drive to visit my parents in Illinois. Bit of a long drive getting there, but we had a great time with Papa & Grandma and Aunt E & Uncle J.

Dean, especially, had a blast. So many new things to chew on, suck on, throw, break, lose, hide, drop, eat, pull apart, hit his head on—the kid had a party every day! Not to mention new places to visit, like the park (with slides and stairs to climb on), the zoo (his first visit), the botanical gardens (“Ooooh! Let me pick it!”), and a different church (“What a great place to test my lungs! I love the acoustics in here!”).

He also invented a few of his own games – like Dodge the Kiss and another one I'm still thinking up a name for. Every time Papa tried to get Dean to say “Papa,” he would say “Daddy!” instead—with much gusto, and many a mischievous chuckle. He knows the word “Papa,” and he knows who “Papa” is, but he loves to tease. He kept the game up all week, never slipped up once, and was mighty proud of his little prank. He had a good old time.

Ella, my parents' sweet, mild-mannered Labrador, was another big attraction. She and Dean played outside (and inside) a lot, stealing balls from each other, jumping on each other (Dean did most of that), and vying for crumbs whenever someone unwisely chose to eat a cookie or a cracker (or anything, really) in public view.

And in other news, Dean learned to say “doggie” and charmed us all with his puppy barks and howls. He's such a fun little guy to have around. <3

Anyway, he had a blast. I took a bunch of pictures with my mom's phone, and since my son is so irresistibly adorable, I know you'll want to see a few. :) :) :) So here they are!

Dean with Ella

"Mom! What's she doing?"

Dean doesn't understand the concept of belly-rubs yet...

Dean and Ella were constant pals!

Dean ate just about an entire box of raspberries on his own...

"Is there any more?"

Dean's first Haagen Dazs ice cream bar :)

At the botanical gardens...

At Grant's Park, Missouri. We had had a long day walking around and Dean was one tired little boy by this point. :)

I have to include a couple landscape pictures too, because some of the places we visited we just stunning. So here you go:

This picture and the following pictures were taken at the Missouri Botanical Garden. 

This area with the pond and statue was dedicated to George Washington Carver. 

As I began uploading the pictures, I realized that there are a ton of other pictures - including some super cute ones of Dean - that I didn't have time to copy off my mom's phone. I'll get a hold of them somehow and post them later, I guess.

Anyway, I had a really good visit with my parents, too, and I was able to spend a lot of time with my mom. When we were weren't talking and drinking lattes together, we were taking Dean on walks, playing with him in the back yard, drooling over beautifully-photographed craft books (I drooled, anyway), rummaging through my mom's old fabrics, designing a baby quilt, purchasing fabrics for said baby quilt, and finally sewing the thing together!

I have never made a quilt before, or really done any sewing projects at all, so that was a new and exciting experience for me. I was too scared to give it a shot as a teen (stupid of me) even though my mom wanted to teach me—I lacked confidence in a lot of areas and ended up avoiding doing many things I really wanted to do. (Bad idea. Don't follow that example—I have a lot of regrets.)

Anyway, I've wanted to learn more “artsy” skills for a while now—things like crocheting, embroidery, and quilting. Now that I've actually made a quilt, I feel a little more confident and a lot more excited about actually doing it. I have several quilting projects in mind I'd like to finish this coming year, which I will share with you in my next post—complete with pictures.

See you then. :)