A Life Contrary

living a life out of the ordinary

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

Five Friday Favorites: Experiences



We’ve always been a family that values experiences over things.  We love traveling, seeing new places, and eating at fun restaurants.  Each year for his birthday, we gave our son an experience rather than a gift.  As he got older, he got to choose between a gift or an experience.

I’m not sure what it is about doing something rather than getting something that is so special.  But even in my own childhood, I tend to remember moments more than things.  So with that in mind, I decided to make a Friday list of 5 New Experiences for 2016.  These are either things I’ve already experienced, or I’m looking forward to this year.

1.)  Our Home – Lord willing, 2016 will be the year that we move into the first house we’ve ever owned.  Buying a home was a new experience for sure.  It will be even sweeter once we are able to finish renovations and actually live in the house that we bought.

2.)  Gardening – Along with the new house comes our homestead.  I’m quite lacking a green thumb.  I can’t keep houseplants alive.  However, I really feel strongly about eating well and I love the idea of eating locally, seasonally, and sustainably and it doesn’t get much better than growing your own food.  So now it’s just a matter of, you know, doing it.  Definitely a brand new experience!

3.) Chickens! – Keeping in line with what I’ve already listed, we are also hoping to have our coop & brooder house up and running.  This means that I won’t have to travel to Kentucky for my fresh eggs or pay an arm and a leg for chicken.  Blessedly, my husband knows all about this and all I have to do is cook.

4.) Making my Own Health & Beauty Products – This time last week, we were pretty deep into some snow.  I’ve lived in New England so I know how this normally goes.  But it was quite different to be experiencing it in Middle Tennessee.  One fun thing that came out of it was that a friend & I spent the afternoon making homemade, all-natural toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant.  It was so fun and easy and a great way to spend the afternoon while the kids played out in the snow.

5.)  Asking for Help – Now, this isn’t specifically new to 2016 or even 2015.  However, this is something that I continually struggle with and each time I have to ask for help it’s like a new experience.  I’ve never been one to ask much for help.  It’s been quite a learning curve.  But here I sit, at a friend’s house while they let us stay with them during the tough weather.  Two years ago, this wouldn’t have happened.  I would have done everything I could have to keep from having to ask for help in any way.  It’s amazing how much you can grow once you admit that you aren’t nearly as self-sufficient as you pretend to be.

What are some of your new experiences that are coming up this year?


Bible Journaling: Real or Fad?

Around 10 years ago, I was in the market for a new bible.  I’d had a pocket-sized HCSB, that I loved.  It had a pretty cover, fit in my purse, and it had enough room in the margins for a few notes.  However, I had recently been introduced to the ESV and I really liked that translation.  I tried to find a version in the style and size of my HCSB, but couldn’t.  It wasn’t long before I found the ESV journaling bible.  It was great because it had large, lined margins for notes.

Then this year, I began working at a Christian bookstore.  I noticed that journaling bibles had become a thing.  They were everywhere.  People were coming in in droves to buy them.  Churches were having classes for them.  We even had an event for it.  I also learned that “journaling” in a bible, basically meant drawing and doodling in the margins – not what I’d been doing for the past 8 years.

I flipped through one of the books on journaling and dismissed it instantly as bunk.  There were drawings over the words.  It was no longer a bible but a doodle book.  One of my co-workers who was running the event had brought her personal bible and was showing off her work.  It was good, very pretty (and not over the words), but I still dismissed it as just a fad.  Beautiful, but still a fad.

So, I went home that night, tired and weary with a headache.  All I wanted to do was take a nap before we went to church.  However, there were several things going on, so I decided to just take a few minutes and read over the Scripture that we were studying that night; it was only 2 verses, Colossians 1:1-2.  As I read them, I thought about one of the journaling books I’d looked at.  It gave instructions for journaling.

Step 1 was to read the verse and really think about what it says, looking for key words.  As I read Colossians 1:2, key words jumped out at me.  I saw what it would look like written on a page.  So, I picked up a sketch pad (still not down for doodling in my bible) and began to write the verse out using some of the journaling techniques.  Then I grabbed my colored pencils and began to think on the words and what colors they evoked.

Bible Journaling

It was kind of amazing.  As I sat there and meditated on this verse, thinking about it and drawing it out, I began to feel energized and relaxed.  By the time I was done, my headache was gone and I was excited to go to church and study this verse that was now so vibrant in my mind.

Like with most things, I think there are good and bad aspects.  I know that there are those out there that express themselves artistically.  The journaling pages with images evoked from Scripture are amazing.  They just aren’t for me.  At the end of the day, my bible is for reading and study and I don’t like anything that may mask that.  I also like having my margins for notes and references.

However, journaling Scripture that you are studying has an amazing meditative quality to it.  It is wonderfully therapeutic.  I may not do it regularly or do one of the journaling challenges that are floating arounds, but I love the idea of using it as a devotional or study tool.

What about you?  Where do you land on bible journaling?

Recipe Corner: Banana Pancakes

So, I decided to change things up a bit and try my hand at writing a recipe.  I have always loved food, but I was never much of a cook.  I always liked to bake, probably because it’s mostly just following directions.  However, for several years now, I have been cultivating my skills as a cook.  It started simply with a few “make it homemade” meals where you take store bought meals and put a new flair on them.

Then I graduated and began using real recipes.  Still mostly with pre-made ingredients, but still I could reasonably call a home-cooked meal.  After that came “from scratch.”  I worked hard to try to cook with as few processed ingredients and make as much from scratch as I could.  It turned out that it wasn’t that hard.  And so now, I feel like a full-fledged “pinch of this, pinch of that” kind of cook.

Most of the time I will still begin with a recipe from somewhere;  I try to make it the first time just as the recipe indicates, but after that I throw in my own flair, sometimes making something completely new.  I have gotten into the routine of printing my recipes so that I can make notes on them so that if something turns out really good, I can replicate it.

Pancake 2

So, here’s the story of these pancakes:  I was a total Aunt Jemima/Mrs. Butterworth’s type of pancake mix maker.  Just Add Water were the magic words.  I loved pancakes and my boys loved pancakes, too.  It fast became a Saturday tradition.  Unfortunately one Saturday, I ran out of mix.  Not wanting to disappoint my boys, I searched Pinterest really quickly to find a pancake recipe using things I already had.  Needless to say, after having pancakes made from scratch, my boys never wanted a mix again.  (For the story on the syrup, just insert the word syrup for pancake mix in the above story – I need to do better with my grocery shopping obviously).

And now here is the recipe as I make it today:

 Stacey's Pancakes
My recipe is adapted from this one found at Like Mother, Like Daughter

And just in case, like me, you’ve found yourself with an entire large stack of pancakes and no syrup in sight, here’s a fun, simple recipe made with just a few items that you also likely have on hand…

Quick Brown Sugar Syrup:

1 cup filtered water

1 cup brown sugar (you can use light or dark)

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp vanilla

½ tsp coconut oil

Pour all ingredients into a medium sized sauce pan.  Heat on medium heat, stirring to make sure sugar is completely dissolved.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes before pouring into a glass container.  Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 1 week.  Mixture may separate when cooled, just heat and stir to reconstitute.

This syrup is great to dip apples or over ice cream, too.

Five Friday Favorites: Boundaries


Boundaries are difficult.  There are volumes written about boundaries.  It is spoken about frequently .  Boundaries are also very necessary.  Sometimes they can make us feel fenced in and almost claustrophobic.  Other times, they are stretched so thin, that we may wonder if they are even there at all.  I think that they key for boundaries is to make sure that you are fencing the right things in and keeping the right things out.

Here are some of the boundaries that I’ve had to set up in my life.

  1. Family.  Perhaps this is on everyone’s list?  I know that my extended family loves me and I know that they want what’s best for me.  However, not every way in which they show it is the healthiest.  I have to make sure that I have set up the proper boundaries around my immediate family and that I’m not allowing the “care” that my extended family shows to breach that.  It shows my husband respect and allows us to do what is truly best for us.
  1. My spouse.  I have to be very intentional with this one and keep proper perspective.  With just the three of us, it is easy for familiarity to creep in.  We are a close, tight-knit family and I am so very thankful for that.  But I have to remember to show that just because we are all close, we are not all on equal footing.  This is especially tough with having a teen in the house.
  1. Friends/Ministry.  I had to learn early on that just because something is good to do doesn’t mean that you should do it.  I am a reformed people pleaser.  I hate to say no or disappoint anyone.  I want to serve and help and love.  However, I had to learn that sometimes saying no is the better option and will actually help and love more than saying yes would have.
  1. Self-care. I just learned a little more about this one and shared how vital it is.  You have to ensure that you are taking care of your whole self as much as possible before you can begin to serve others. Proper mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual care is key.   Even the flight attendants tell you to secure your own mask before helping someone else with theirs.
  1. God. This one is unique.  Because rather than creating boundaries that keep something in or something else out, I’m learning to tear down the boundaries that I put around my God.  Rather than boxing Him in and thinking that He can only help with this, or that He’s only interested in that, I’m figuring out that He wants to be there for ALL of it.  I don’t have to put boundaries around Him or keep Him from things or out of things.  Rather, when I allow Him into everything, no matter how big or small, it automatically makes that thing better, sweeter, lovelier.

What are some of your boundaries?  Or how are you learning to employ them better?

This post is part of a linkup with mrsdisciple.com.  Go here to check out even more on boundaries.

Making the Most of your Margins

Last week was insane.  I wasn’t quite sure why, but it was.  People were crazy.  My family was crazy.  I started to feel a little crazy myself.

I only work part time which under normal circumstances means that I work 4-5 hours a day, 4 days a week.  Last week I worked 5 days and worked between 5-6 hours each day.  Encountering all the crazy people.  By Saturday (my first day off), I was beat.  Physically and mentally.

I came to realized that with those few extra hours at work, everything had been thrown off, just a bit, but it was an important bit.  I wasn’t able to grocery shop for the whole week (poor planning on my part), so I was more apt to run and buy a couple things after work.  This pushed getting home even later.

Once I got home, I had to do the normal tasks:  straighten up, do the dishes, cook dinner.  Yet, after working and running errands, I didn’t really feel like it.  Things piled up and we’d eat soup or sandwiches.  Nothing too strenuous.  I’d spend a little bit of time with Chas, and then NGD and I would watch an episode of Fringe (I was too tired by this point to watch more).  Then bed and repeat.

Add in the norm, (church, homeschooling, returning library books, etc.) and a couple of extra things in the week (going to a farm to learn the ropes on getting the milk for my milk group, NGD going to bible study with a friend, going over to our friends’ for Survivor night), and the week was just so full, it was busting at the seams.

I know that for most, this is the norm.  Most people are in a constant state of motion, running from one thing to the next.  Rushing one child to sports practice, picking another up from piano lessons, and then trying to make time for their spouse, all while trying to stay on top of work, chores, bills, and basic necessities.  And it’s hard.

That’s one of the reasons that NGD & I work so diligently to plan ahead and intentionally try to create margins in our days and weeks.  Planning and prep really are the golden key.  I’m a visual person, so I invested in a calendar so I can see those margins.  It creates a calmness and peace to know that they are there and that I can take advantage of them without guilt.

Because without those margins this week, I wasn’t just affected by the craziness of others, I was part of it.  Saturday morning, I told my husband that I had realized that I had made little to no time that week to read, or write, or color.  I had journaled a bit on Wednesday, and even though it was really only about 10 minutes, it had calmed a raging headache and got me through the rest of the evening.

Women usually get a bad rap on this.  We tend not to practice self-care.  We spend so much time taking care of others that we minimize our own needs.  We think that this will strengthen us, yet it actually does the opposite.  When we take the time to take care of ourselves, we realize how much better we can take care of others.  It doesn’t have to be a spa day every week; it can just be a few hours doing something that recharges us.

Some of the ways that I recharge are by knitting, drawing, creating in some way, reading a book, researching holistic topics, watching a movie (by myself), or having a conversation with my husband/best friend about what’s going on with me.  There are many different things that will work.  It’s just about finding the right way for you and actually making the time to do it.  It is amazing what the results will show.

So, how do you recharge or practice self-care?

On Being a Grownup

I’m not sure when it happened.  And to be honest, on some days, I wonder if it actually has happened.  But then I get a bill , my son needs fed, or I have to go to work and then I realize that, Yes, I am actually a grown up human being.

Yet, there are a several good things about being a grown up.  For instance, last night we were invited over to our friends’ house.  They are a lovely couple roughly the same age as us with two beautiful children.  We try to get together at least once a month, sometimes more.  R makes a beautiful meal, or we order Papa Murphy’s with some strange concoction that he assures us tastes great, and it usually does.

Then, L makes dessert and coffee, their littles go to bed, and we watch Survivor (or a movie, if it’s not on).  We giggle like children and the inane babble, poor gameplay, and random tomfoolery.  We guess what’s going to happen next and armchair quarterback.  We make jokes and laugh so hard that R has to pause the TV.  Several seasons of this tradition and there are still jokes that are made on a regular basis.  Perhaps we aren’t as grown-up as we think.

We have another couple, just a few years younger than us, that we get together with, too.  It runs about the same.  We go over. A makes a delicious meal. We do laundry.  The littles go to bed.  Then NGD and M start with the theological debates or random discussions and before you know it, its 3am, I’m contemplating the Doctrines of Grace, and Chas is asking if we can go home so he can go to bed.  (I may have forgotten to mention that M is our pastor now)

Just before Christmas, we got together with new friends.  Well, somewhat new.  NGD and AC had been friends for a while and I knew his wife, but we’d never really hung out before.  She made a great meal and we spent the entire night (all their littles and Chas were absent) laughing, sharing, and figuring out the mysteries of the universe.  It was a great night and I really hope that we’re able to do it again soon.

I never thought that I’d be the type of adult who has other adult friends that you get together with on a regular basis.  My parents never really had friends when I was growing up.  They worked too much (now that they are retired, they are ALWAYS out with their friends).  Not to mention being in the military doesn’t exactly lend itself well to that sort of thing.

However, here I am.  I have friends.  I have community.  I have people that I can call if the truck breaks down or if I need a place to do laundry.  I am an adult and I kind of like it.

Five Friday Favorites: Adjectives



Five Adjectives for You

Well, I have to say that this is a little difficult for me.  I was at a Women’s Conference several years ago and we had to write out five characteristics that we loved about ourselves.  I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to think of things and I still only came up with three, which included such gems as, I have great hearing.

So, to think of five adjectives is quite difficult, especially when I’m trying to be positive.  However, here goes:

  1. Wry – using or expressing dry, especially mocking humor.

This adjective is a double-edged sword.  For the most part, I really enjoy dry wit.  British shows crack me up and I’ve generally always played the straight man.  Unfortunately, it does take a turn from time to time and I do tend toward the mocking, sarcastic, and mocking avenues.  I’ve done much better in recent years and have taken the necessary steps to keep the sarcasm and cynicism in check.

  1. Anxious – experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Another adjective I struggle with.  Anxiety is like an old friend that rears her ugly head a lot more often than I would like.  Blessedly, she’s been keeping her distance.  Unfortunately, she’s still on the periphery lying in wait.

  1. Studious – spending a lot of time studying or reading.

Whereas I’m sure that this one can be seen in the negative, all I can think is the positive.  I love books.  I work in a bookstore.  I love to read and to learn new things.  It’s a passion.  It’s one of the reasons that I make my reading lists.  Reading in particular is very special to me because you get to enter different worlds, ones that I would never otherwise get to see.  Also, as a wife and mother and homesteader, being an autodidact is almost a job requirement.

  1. Holisticcharacterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

I desperately want to be whole.  I strive for it.  Had I not already chosen ‘joy’ for my word this year, I could have easily chosen whole.  I truly believe that the only way to true healing is by looking at the whole instead of the parts.  To be truly whole, I must have healing in the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

  1. Fluffy – of, like, or covered with fluff.

I am really trying with the positive, but I just can’t help it.  The best way to describe my body-type is definitely ‘fluffy.’  And by calling it fluff rather than other adjectives makes it sound much happier.  It evokes better thoughts, clouds, whip cream, stuffed animals, etc.

How Being a Christian is Like an Alternate Reality

Recently, NGD and I have been watching Fringe.  We have a soft spot for great Sci Fi TV shows (Doctor Who is still #1!).  One of the main ideas of the show (Spoilers if, like us, you haven’t watched this show in the last 2 years since it was canceled), was the premise of an alternate universe.  It was concurrent with ours with some minor and major changes, like zeppelins (because all sci fi alternate realities have zeppelins), a higher rate of scientific discovery, and Eric Stolz as Marty McFly.  At first, I didn’t really like this story (and I still have a few reservations).

We’ve also begun a new church.  This past Wednesday night, we had an introductory lesson from our pastor.  In it, he gave a mission statement stating that our purpose was for the edification of the church to learn to think Biblically.  He spent a great deal of time teaching about the need to learn to think biblically and putting off the old man while putting on the new (Eph. 4:22-24).

As I began to think on this, thinking biblically and putting off the old man and putting on the new, it occurred to me that being a Christian is kind of like living in an alternate reality.  As we move through this world as Christians, we should view everything through the lens of Jesus and His word.  Everything is still the same, but it’s different, too.  We’re the same, but we’re also different.

It’s true that at the time of salvation, we are changed, an inward change, and that we are sealed.  However, we continue that process of sanctification and learning to think biblically as we continue to mature as Christians.  We continue to grow into this alternate, or contrary, world of becoming Christ-like.  We begin to see the upside down Kingdom that Jesus himself established during His time on earth.

Sometimes, it may seem like we are the only ones that are living or behaving this way.  Sometimes, it feels like we are so far out of sync with the world in which we live that we really are in an alternate universe.  This is one of the many reasons that having a community of believers is so important.

We also need to remember that we’re never alone.  And that our sanctified selves and the alternate reality in which we live, that is what is true.  That is what is right.  This earthly place in which we live isn’t our home.  It isn’t where we are to be comfortable.  Just as the earlier passage from Ephesians said, “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” (Eph. 4:23), we have to think on Romans 12:2:  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We have to renew our minds and continue in sanctification and thinking biblically.  That is where we will gain the needed perspective to see what is true and what is of this world.

Resolutions vs. Goals

So, I think that most of us think of new beginnings at the start of a new year.  Some of us make solid, concrete resolutions and some just think about a few things that it might be good to change.  I, myself, have had a bit of a love/hate relationship with resolutions.  Part of it is because of the connotations that come along with actually writing out a list of behaviors we want to add in or give up.  I mean, it is kind of lame.

And yet, I still tend to do it.  I’ve gone so far as to make “new school year” resolutions.  I like the idea of change for the better and I tend to pursue it more than I actually follow through.  A few years ago, I really got on board and I made a great list of things that I wanted to do in the new year, we can call them resolutions, though I’m not entirely sure how resolved I really was at the time.

So great was this list that I still refer back to it.  I still look at the items on that list and try to make my poor, menial, and gradual steps toward those changes.  I do see some progress in my life.  Some of those changes have happened in ways that I could not have imagined and some are right on course.  I think of that list as more of life resolutions rather than just for a year.

With that in mind, I decided this year that I would make a small list of resolutions that would put me closer to those on my original list.  Then I boiled it down even further and came up with 3 items that I really wanted to focus on, 3 attainable items.  And rather than calling them resolutions, I am calling them goals.


2016 Goals

Since my word this year is joy, I want to make that a main focus and really try to work on my joy.  I want it to be a lens of sorts that I see other things through.  As a part of that, I want to blog more.  Writing has been part of me for my entire life.  As an adult, I’ve ebbed and flowed on how much I actually make the time to write.  Last year, I blogged more than I had ever before.  I actually made the effort to post at least once a month.  I want to build on that this year and hopefully get back to the joy of writing.

I also really want to focus on health (mine and my family).  We are growing ever more crunchy and I love it.  I want to continue to learn and really become proactive with our family’s health.  As such, I have already joined a group and have received my first gallon of raw milk and ordered my essential oil starter kit!  As a bit of a subheading to this, I want to start running again.  I’ve never been a runner, but I’ve always wanted to be.  I did a 5K a while back and I really enjoyed it and the training.  I felt better mentally and physically and loved the accomplishments I made along the way.

I hope to share progress on these regularly and use that for accountability.  I’m really hard on myself and have a tendency to give up whenever I fail.  Hopefully, putting it “out there” will help me to do better in sticking with it and meeting each of these goals in 2016 and beyond.

Homesteading Update: January

I haven’t updated since October.  And there’s a very good reason for that… there’s not much to update.  Due to several things, not much has been done.  NGD started work on the well house, a much needed project, but then then rains began and the hole that he dug for the foundation has become our own little pond.  Now the water has been drained and the rains have stopped but it’s too cold for the concrete to cure.

So, on to the next:  the fireplace/study.  This is the next area we hope to focus on.  As a matter of fact, NGD and Chas have gone right now to get the stones and mortar, etc. to begin work on this.  This is after a week of research, two failed attempts, and a broken pickup.  Sigh.  No one said it would be easy.  Even writing about this is hard.

I sometimes get discouraged.  Okay, I often get discouraged.  I have come to realize many things during this project.  One of which is contentment.  I’m learning to deal with living in close quarters.  I’m learning a new repertoire of recipes and things that are easily prepared in a camper kitchen with minimal resources.  I’m trying to find contentment instead of just railing about every little convenience because who does that help?

Once again, I am reminded that this is a LONG-TERM project and trying to grow out of my impatient, instant gratification ways.  As it sits right now, we have 11 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days on the countdown clock.  That’s a considerable amount of time and a lot can happen.  NGD assures me that we are still on pace and that this is still an achievable goal.  I try to make myself remember that when all I see is a house with no floors or walls and little to no progress.

So, with all the negative out of the way, here’s what’s on the horizon.  Hopefully, the fireplace will be done by the end of January and then we’ll start on the study (walls, floors, supports, etc.) beginning in February.  This is one step closer to being able to move in and actually live in the house.  We also may put a pause on the house and work a little on the chicken coop/brooder house due to timing and the fact that I can’t wait to have fresh eggs/chicken.  Baby steps, slow-going, and victory in inches are still my mantra.

*Btw, ‘sitrep’ is a military term (and possibly used elsewhere) from situation report.

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