Sunday, August 11, 2013


My friend, Heather, and I are at different stages of parenting.  I have four children in the tween to teenager stage and she has three ranging from elementary to high school. Because I have a blended family, I only have my children at home part of the week. Therefore, I have the opportunity for some uninterrupted conversation.  Heather, on the other hand, does not have that unfortunate benefit and there is little time, especially in the summer, for a casual conversation without distraction.

I love to spend time with Heather.  She is typically the girlfriend to whom I turn to share my happiest news as well as my most difficult decisions.  I would love it if Heather could shut her door, ignore all of the things going on in her life, and give me her undivided attention for at least 15 minutes every day, but that is not possible or practical for her during this time of her life.  I love her so much though, and I value the conversation that we have so highly, that I am happy to take what I can get!  

Occasionally, Heather does step away from regular life to spend time with just me!  That time is absolutely precious to me!  Often, we have so much to say that we kind of talk in circles, but it is still very special!  Those rare times remind me that, though we are in a busy season of our lives, making a date to spend uninterrupted time together keeps our friendship strong.

I understand the season of life where Heather resides right now because I have been there too.  Though it prevents her from giving me her full attention, I treasure the relationship enough to appreciate whatever she has to give.  I believe God feels the same about His relationship with me.  He would love for me to step away from life and spend long periods of time, meditating on His word and pouring out my heart to Him, but I think He is also happy with the broken, interrupted conversations that I have with Him as I go through my very busy life.  I am sure that God truly treasures it when that I set aside special time for just Him, but I think He also loves that He is The One that I run to with ALL of my happy news and difficult decisions, even when they are muttered on the fly or groaned along the way.

We often feel guilty for the lack of time we spend in prayer.  I know that God would prefer for us to spend our energy actually talking to Him whenever and wherever we can than beating ourselves up for the time that we can't!  Setting aside special for our Lord is important, but He loves us and I know that He is happy with whatever we are able to offer.  After all, He has eternity set aside to spend with us.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Wise or Contentious (a Charge to my soon-to-be-married friend)

Wise or Contentious

Proverbs 14:1
Every wise woman builds up her household,
but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.

Proverbs 25:24
It is better to live in a corner of the roof Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

Kate, we are here today to help celebrate the very near wedding of you and Carl.  We are stocking your pantry today, and I know that you and Carl are dreaming of building a home together.  Whether you live in an apartment, a house, a trailer, or even a cardboard box, I know that, at this point, all you care about is living together in your home.  The last thought on your mind is of Carl living on the corner of your roof, and I'm quite sure you don't have any intention of being contentious!  But whether we like to admit it or not, all of us have been contentious at one time or another. 

What does it mean to be contentious?

Causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.
Involving heated argument.
quarrelsome - controversial - moot - litigious

I have to confess, I have definitely had my times of being a contentious woman! If you are thinking to yourself, "I don't think I am contentious," I'll give you some examples in the style of my husband's favorite comedian.

If your husband has ever said, "I wear the pants in the family, my wife just tells me which ones to wear!"  You might be a contentious woman!

If your husband has moved his recliner and TV to the garage, you might be a contentious woman!

If you keep asking the same question over and over until you get the "right" answer, you might be a contentious woman!

All joking aside, whether we mean to or not, there is so much pressure from the world and from our selfish nature to demand our way, protect our rights, and feel that we deserve better.  But All of those motives will only lead us to tearing our houses down.

On the flip side, we are to intentionally be wise women, building up our houses.  Romans 12 gives us guidelines on dealing with relationships, particularly difficult ones.  Lets face it, sometimes our marriages can be the most difficult relationship in our lives!

Paul spends the first 8 verses of Romans 12 reminding us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices and not to conform to the world.  Then, he follows up with strong words as he tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought!  Isn't that what being a contentious woman is all about?  How can we possibly be building our house when we think we are better or know more than our husbands.  

What's even worse than thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, is actually treating others as though we are better!

Paul teaches exactly the opposite in the next four verses as he tells us what love really looks like.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Here are the cornerstones for building a Godly home, or if your walls are beginning to crumble, these are the instructions for getting your husband to come in off of the roof and back into that house with a loving wife!

Lets be wise women!  Lets cling to what is good! Lets be humble before God and before those who share our homes.  Lets not be contentious, but instead, be more interested in being in relationship than we are in being right!

Kate, I charge you to be a wise woman, to build up your house, to respect your husband, and to bring him good and not harm, all the days of your life!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Honeymoon Is Not Over

Jerry and have been married for six years and one special thing we do each year is take a "honeymoon week" for ourselves.  We have the whole week without the kids!  Sometimes we go away and sometimes we stay home and do projects around the house.  We went to Alaska on our original honeymoon.  One year, we borrowed a motorcycle and rode about 1500 miles!  Last year, we had free  airline tickes and we used them to go on a mission trip to Costa Rica.  This year is a stay at home honeymoon.

We have a couple of projects planned for this week.  One of them is to turn a claw foot tub, that I have been toting around for years, into a water feature in our yard.  We have a friend that builds ponds and he gave us some advice about how to make it work.  We have been collecting bits of things from friends and neighbors so the project isn't costing very much.  I bought an old rusty pitcher from the salvage yard for a dollar and that will create the fountain!  We are reusing copper pipes from the bathroom we tore out downstairs and bits of PVC from our neighbor who has a garage full.  Our friend Tom the pond guy, had some leftover pea gravel from a project he was working on.  We have plenty of  rocks and screen laying around, and Jerry has a collection of pumps!

I am always fascinated at how my husband can take all of these scraps and things and turn them into whatever my imagination can dream up!  I am learning however, that what may seem like a simple job is often complicated and time consuming!  (Remind me to tell you about the pantry!)  I am an impatient person and I am having to learn to sit still and be quiet!  Some people that know me are saying, "Well, it's about time!"

I have to say that I really love our honeymoon trips when we get to go away!  It is harder to keep this time for ourselves when we are here at home.  There wasn't money this year to go away though, and it is still refreshing to not have the responsibility of kids and work.  We love sleeping in, eating whenever we feel like it, and being able to jump in the car and go whenever the mood strikes us!

Carter was inquiring about our honeymoon week the other day and I told him how important I think it is for parents to have time together without their kids.  "When you get married and have kids," I told him, "we will watch the kids for a week every year so that you can have that time with your wife!"  

"What if I live far away?" he asked.

"Then we will come to you," I replied.  We will do that for all four of you.

"What if we all want to go away at one time?" Carter inquired?

"Then we will keep all of the grand kids together!"  Oh boy!  For now, I am glad it is just us for a week.  I'll start missing them them in a couple of days though!

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth- for your love is more delightful than wine.  
Take me away with you—let us hurry!  Let the king bring me into his chambers.
Song of Songs 1:2,4

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Life at the Custer House

I really got people stirred up the last two days when I posted two questions on Facebook: 1. Where is the cheapest milk, and 2. How can I stay in my $350/month food budget?  The responses on the milk question were very educational, but the responses on the budget question surprised me!  Apparently, I am already spending quite a bit less on groceries than the average family.  Several people questioned how staying in that budget was even possible!  I thought I would take a moment to explain our family dynamics as they relate to meal planning.

We are a family of six, but since we are a blended family I don't feed all of us all of the time.  The kids are with us half a week and every other weekend, so I fix meals for six approximately fifteen days and meals for two the other fifteen days of the month.  My kids range in age from (almost) eleven to sixteen and they all eat like adults.  They are never allowed to just browse the pantry for food.  For both budget and health reasons, I monitor all food choices.

My family is unique in several other ways.  We raise some of our own meat and hunt for the rest.  We rarely buy meat with the exception of lunch meat and occasional hot dogs or brats.  My husband and all four children hunt and, along with some venison that is given to us, we put up nine to twelve deer each year.  We also raise chickens, rabbits, turkeys, and quail for meat.  (We do not currently have turkey or quail, but we have in the past.). My husband processes all of our meat in our kitchen so there is very little cost.  We have three additional freezers to hold all of that meat.  We will also have pork this year since we are raising pigs at a friends house!  (Can't wait for the bacon!)

We do have a garden, and though we are not experts at gardening, we have had some success at growing and preserving some fruits and vegetables.  This year I have made lots of pickles and sweet relish, frozen grated zucchini, and frozen chopped green peppers.  I am really hoping to make and can spaghetti sauce, but I will have to rely on other people to give me the tomatoes because ours have not done well.

My mother-in-law helps out as well.  We don't see her often, but when we do she supplies me with some basic things like toilet paper and paper towels, brownie mix, chocolate chips. cereal, peanut butter, and whatever else she has collected while coupon shopping.  She usually brings me a van load of stuff a couple of times a year.

My family does not use a lot of processed or snack foods unless they are given to us.  I do buy chips for lunches since my kids pack each day.  I either get the individual bags or they measure out a serving size with the food scale.  I also buy granola bars and pudding for easy snacks.  They usually make a sandwich and pack a fruit or vegetable as well.  My kids have been packing their own lunches since the youngest was in kindergarten, but we supervise the packing.

Breakfast in our house is typically eggs (since we have fresh eggs) or oatmeal.  I buy the whole oats and they mix stuff in with it.  Cereal is usually only available after Grandma visits, though I have bought some recently.  Sometimes one of the kids will make pancakes and we freeze the extras for quick breakfasts.

Suppers are mainly planned around the meats I have in the freezer.  I make a lot of casseroles and use my crockpots frequently!  We eat salads often (sometimes with fresh lettuce from the garden) and I use my bread maker to make bread.  We keep it simple but there is always plenty - my kids have big appetites!  The hardest part has become working around their sports schedules!  I am searching for some meals to go ideas!

I don't buy organic foods.  I usually buy store brands.  I don't clip coupons, and I don't shop sales.  I stick to basics and make what I can from scratch.  A large part of my food budget goes to staple items: bread, milk, cheese, flour, sugar, etc.  I do include non-food items in my food budget as well, and I really have to stretch!  The one thing that is not included is animal feed.  We have a separate budget to feed the dogs, cats, goats, chickens, rabbits, etc.

I think my major goal is to do better planning.  Since there is NO additional money in the budget right now, I will need to start researching sales and using some coupons.  My $350 will need to stretch to cover my month even though food prices are going up!  If I use my resources wisely, I think it can be done.  Hey, it might even be a fun challenge!

27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:27

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thinking of Granny

As I was chopping my green peppers from the garden today, I thought of my Granny.  I remember the little bags of frozen chopped green peppers she kept.  Whenever I would stop by, she would fix a bag of things to send with me and she always tucked in a few of those little bags.  I knew they came from Grandaddy's garden and it made me feel good to be using something he grew.  Grandaddy's garden was a big deal to him and we appreciated the fresh food as well.  All of the vegetables were yummy, but the Lima beans were saved for special occasions.  Now, after growing them, I understand that there is so little yield from so many plants and it makes sense that they were treasured!  

My friend Jan gave us some tomatoes today, since ours are not doing well.  They are lined up on the window sill to ripen just like they were at Granny and Grandaddy's.  I love to grow yellow squash just so I can make squash, potatoes, and onions, just like Granny's.  The smells, the tastes, even the sight of the veggies bring back a flood of memories of being in her kitchen.  

It wasn't just my maternal grandparents that gardened.  My dad's parents had a huge garden as well - maybe even bigger!  I can remember the sight of the garden, up on a little hill in the backyard.  I can remember my step-grandfather, Tom, bringing fresh veggies into the kitchen and placing them on the table.  Once, when I stayed with Granny and Tom for a week in the summer, we had salad with fresh tomatoes and crumbled bleu cheese for lunch each day.  I remember feeling so grown up!  

Having my own garden and putting up the harvest makes me feel closer to my roots.  Many things about the way Jerry and I do life remind me of the way my grandparents did things.  It is a way of living that helps me feel wholesome, healthy, peaceful, and right.  Maybe it's because I feel more a part of God's creation.  Maybe it's because it reminds me of a slower pace.  Maybe it's just because it helps me remember.

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Costa Rica 7

July 28, 2012

We were up early this morning, the first time waking to an alarm since we have been here. Everything was pretty much done last night to prepare for leaving, so there was just the last minute packing to do. Funny thing, Sarah was looking around for things we might be forgetting and she found the missing hard drive among the boxes of energy bars we had stacked in the kitchen. We thought it had been stolen from Connie's luggage! Ruth was relieved to have it!

Ruth had left her car with us last night so we could haul our luggage to the river. The plan was that Carlos would take us to Puerta Viejo by boat (a 2 hour trip). Ruth would deliver Sarah to La Gata and then meet us in Puerta Viejo where she would leave her car for repairs. She would then board a van with a driver, along with Connie, Kerry, Jerry and I to head to San Jose (another couple of hours). Well, that WAS the plan!

When we arrived at Ruth's this morning, the river was way up! It had been high the other day when we took our trip to the farm, but the water was now covering at least twenty more steps on the landing! Ruth was concerned that she would be unable to make it from La Gata to Puerta Viejo, so she sent Sarah on her own with the car and rode along with us on the boat. We loaded all of the luggage on board and set out on a very fast river! Last time we were going down river, but this time we were headed against the current.

There were downed trees and all sorts of debris in the water. The strength of the river was amazing. If the engine stopped, we were immediately pulled in the opposite direction and it took the full strength of the motor and several seconds before we could regain our direction. Several times Carlos stopped because of the debris, but several other times it was for something more exciting! Twice we saw monkeys and once we stopped to look at a tree with several iguanas in it! Carlos is amazing! He was maneuvering this 30 foot boat through a very fast, high, dirty river and somehow he still managed to find monkeys and iguanas in the jungle along the river. Then he held the boat still (in rushing water) so we could take pictures!

Because of the height of the river, we were able to see sights along the river bank that we would not normally see. There were many people out on the banks watching the water rise. They must keep a constant watch so they can untie their boats, move their livestock, or worse.

We finally reached Puerta Viejo and our driver was there waiting for us. We said goodbye to Carlos, who would wait there for Ruth, and headed towards the airport. We saw a couple of mudslides on the mountain, but thankfully it was passable! We stopped at the airport to pick up Josue, a student that Ruth tutors. He is receiving a laptop from the next group coming in. Our driver was taking us to Xandari where Jerry and I will stay for the next couple of days, but she wanted us to meet Josue. He is a very nice young man, we were surprised at how well he spoke English!

We said our goodbyes and they returned to the airport for Connie and Kerry to fly out and to pick up the next group. It was sad to leave them and the luxury of Xandari was making me uncomfortable after the ruggedness we just left. I am grateful that Ruth encouraged us to enjoy ourselves!

We were checked in early and shown to our villa in no time. I immediately took a long, hot shower! It was wonderful! The shower is open and separated from the walled garden only by a piece of glass. All of the tile work is beautiful and there are tropical plants everywhere. The resort is owned by a couple of artists and everything is colorful and well designed. There is original art everywhere you look!

Lunch at Xandari is quite different from our home cooked meals at Ruth's. It was yummy, but I think I prefer Concepcion's cooking! We started off with nachos, and Jerry had ham and vegetable pizza with fresh tomatoes, onions, zucchini, mushrooms. I ate a portabello mushroom sandwich with pesto and feta cheese on pesto bread with a side salad. It was all delicious, but more than we could eat! We took boxes boxes back to the room to finish for lunch tomorrow. We are pleasantly surprised by the meal prices and the view from the balcony in the dining room is stunning. We sit outdoors overlooking the lush landscape of the mountainside and the city of San Jose.

After lunch we took a nap, walked around the property, and sat in the jacuzzi for awhile. We met a young couple from Canada and chatted a bit. We spent some time in the lounge watching TV and checking the Internet. It was nice not to be on a concrete slab at the school, and I definitely did not miss the fire ants! Overall, we are very pleased with Xandari! I still miss Arbolitos, but it is very nice to be able to flush the toilet paper!

Dinner tonight was just as good. Jerry had Salmon Fettucini and I had a Pasta Primavera. We ate and caught up reading Sarah's blog, while we enjoyed the night lights of San Jose.

We are turning in early tonight. The rain I have come to love is tapping on the roof and it promises to be a good night of sleep!

July 29, 2012
8:00 pm

What a different day! We started off by sleeping until 9:00! After waking from an incredible night of sleep, we went breakfast where we had delicious, homemade whole wheat toast with local fruit jams and slices of Costa Rican cheeses. It was raining, but the view was still incredible!

After breakfast we relaxed a little in our rooms until the rain ended and then we set out to hike the nature trails on the property. There are 5 waterfalls that were discovered when the owners were having trails cleared through the jungle along the river. The fourth fall is 70 feet high and quite breathtaking! The entire hike was breathtaking in more ways than one! I thought it was just because I was out of shape, but I was relieved when Chris and Robin, the younger couple we met here from Canada, admitted that it was a tough hike for them as well! In all, it took us about 2 hours to get back, but I enjoyed it greatly. It wasn't quite the same as our 15 minutes in the jungle with Carlos, but it was still the jungle. The fact that there were manmade steps and cleared areas to walk didn't take away from the incredible plants, trees, butterflies, etc that we saw.

I think the one thing that will never translate through my pictures is the scale of the jungle. There is every size imaginable represented, from tiny little frogs and miniature plants, to giant butterflies and leaves big enough to be an umbrella or even a roof for a small hut. There are things to look at under every small stone and trees so tall that they seem to reach the sky! Everything is alive and there is life springing up from everywhere. Plants grow on other plants and even on the rocks. Trees don't seem to mind whether their roots are in the ground or hanging off the side of a cliff. The air is so moist that everything simply lives!

This property is a beautiful mix of vibrant nature, exotic plants, and manmade artistic touches. The attention to detail is extravagant and I have so enjoyed the color and pattern everywhere I look! The people here are also wonderfully friendly and there are few guests, so the resort almost feels private!

After our hike, Jerry and I took a dip in the pool and then sat in the jacuzzi for awhile. We chatted about our trip and our dreams of returning to Costa Rica. We will be spending a lot of time in prayer, listening to what God has in mind for us and this country! We finished our lunch from yesterday in our room and then headed to the main building for a little TV and Internet time. We also took a tour of the largest villa in case we return with the kids one day.

Jerry and I had massages scheduled for this afternoon before dinner. It was Jerry's first massage ever and we had them done side by side. It was so relaxing and well worth the extra cost, but quite a splurge for us!

Dinner was yummy tonight, but I can definitely tell that my appetite has decreased! I had tomato corn chowder and a salad, but I probably would have been fine with the soup. Jerry reminds me that I had a Funky Monkey (expresso, ice cream, bananas, and whipped cream!!!) this afternoon, and that may have filled me up a little! Jerry had nachos again and the pasta dish that I enjoyed yesterday.

We are packed up tonight as our 4:30am wake up call will come early. The kitchen has packed us a breakfast of muffins, fruit, and yogurt, and they will drive us to the airport. We are in for a long day tomorrow with a four hour layover in Newark, though Connie has warned us that customs is a long nightmare!

I hear the rain that has begun to fall. It is just in time to sing me to sleep! Goodnight Costa Rica and so long!

July 30, 2010
10:30 pm

We are home! The dogs were so excited to see us! It felt really good to walk through our yard and check everything out (in the dark!). We are so tired and it is not raining, but the crickets and the frogs are singing to me so I suppose I will sleep well! I am going to miss Costa Rica! I am already thinking of how I when I can return.

Mom and Dad picked us up from the Richmond airport. We had a short flight there from Newark after a very long layover! The flight from Costa Rica was very long (5 hours)! All were uneventful including the customs and security.

We woke up today at 4:30am Costa Rica time and this is the latest we have been up in weeks! I will write more tomorrow!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Costa Rica 6

July 27, 2012

It is hard to believe that this was the last day in Arbolitos! I am sad because I don't know if I will ever return, but I am really looking forward to getting home! I feel like we accomplished what we came to do (Jerry did more than expected!).

Jerry and Carlos finished hanging the ceiling this morning. They reminded us of monkeys swinging from the rafters. I had prayed for their safety today and all went well except Jerry fell off the ladder once. Thankfully he was fine except for a scrape on his arm!

We packed bags of candy for treats for the children and helped Sarah prepare for her class. Connie did a lot of book recording for the Rama. We all cleaned the guest house to prepare for the next group. It is amazing how different the house looks after all the work we did this week!

Lunch today was a great time of chatting and enjoying each others company. We had ground meat with summer squash, rice and beans, plantains, pineapple, and breadfruit. Concepcion showed me how to make the corn tortas I have enjoyed so much! She had me grind the fresh corn before lunch, and after we ate, she showed me how she fries the corn mixture on a banana leaf! Her recipe is freshly ground corn, ground farmers cheese, 3 tablespoons sugar, a dash of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder. It is so yummy!

After lunch, we finished our cleaning, took showers, and rested for the afternoon. It was really nice to have the afternoon to relax. Jerry and I walked up to the school a little before dinner to check the Internet. I was so excited to have an email from Tracy with pictures of my animals! We have newly hatched chicks and the puppies are so cute! It really made my day!

Jerry was also able to fix Sarah's camera this afternoon. I had been praying for her to be able to use it since she is staying another week. It turned out to be a little piece of plastic stuck in the SD card slot. What a blessing! Ruth shared at dinner that Franklin was able to get a lot to build a house on near Puerta Viejo. Another blessing!

Dinner was bittersweet. I always enjoy the meal, but it was a little sad to know that it was our last together as a group. Carlos was unable to join us since he was at a meeting about milking cows. We had many of the same things tonight, including those yummy corn tortas!

We are all turning in early tonight since we have to be on the boat by 6:30 in the morning! Goodnight Arbolitos!