Friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord are such blessings, aren't they? They can enrich our lives and encourage so much, and also simply add fun and enjoyment to life. For us over the last week or so, we have enjoyed special times with quite a few friends who came to visit.
First were friends who traveled out to see us, parked their camper in our driveway, and stayed for a couple of days. We had a wonderful time with them! And it was so encouraging and refreshing to talk with them about the Lord, various scriptural topics, and more.
Our time together was filled with things such as a much enjoyed evening playing music and singing hymns, sitting around their barbecue grill talking while they grilled lunch for all of us (they also grilled a delicious dinner for us, too!), more talking ( and laughter :), having them come out to the farmers market and experience that, and when Leah and I were at the riding center, they all stopped by there as well.
We were thankful to be able to enjoy this time with them!
One of the days while they were here, we had more visitors! Do you remember dear Will from the therapeutic riding center? Will's Mom, Molly, has become a good friend of ours, and we also love her sweet children . . . they are very special little friends!
I just re-discovered this photo . . . someone had sent it to me last year, and I had completely forgotten that it was on my phone. Will has made so much more progress since then!
Anyway, they all came out for a bit to see the baby goats, and needless to say, our time with them was much enjoyed by all!
The kids with the kids :)
It was so fun watching the children and seeing how much they enjoyed the animals! (chickens and dogs included.) Petting them, giving the goat kids hugs, and Will even gave one of the kids a kiss. :)
Suzi was convinced she needed a baby goat at home. :)
Will and I also had a lot of fun playing 'chase' and throwing balls back and forth . . . .
Run Will! We were having a race back to the goat pen. :)
We finished our time together with first eating cookies; then me surrounded by Will, Layla and Suzi as we 'played' away on the piano while Leah played on the floor with Sadie and talked with Molly; and finally picking some flowers before saying 'goodbye' until the next time we get together . . . which will hopefully be soon for a fun time at a state park!
(photos courtesy of Molly :)
Monday found us yet again with more company . . . we spent the afternoon and evening together talking, enjoying the baby goats, and then they took us out for dinner. Unfortunately, our evening ended a little earlier than planned as there were unexpected storms on the way, and we still needed to get home and take care of all the animals.
It was quite welcome in a way, though, as our area was very much in need of rain! We watched the darkening sky, listened to the rumbles of thunder, and hoped that it would indeed rain! And it did. Finally! It started raining that evening and rained all the way through the night and well into the next day. A good, soaking rain. What a blessing from the Lord! Already the plants are looking greener and the flowers brighter.
With all of this . . . having company was definitely a highlight of the last little while. :) So thankful for the friends that God has blessed us with!
As the last bit of the season of spring slips away, the days continue to be full with many projects being worked on and also times with friends and family. So this post will be kind of a conglomeration of a bunch of things! :)
~ Gardening ~
The vegetable garden has been doing so well this year! Largely due to Mom's dedicated efforts, but there also are fewer pests and diseases this year which is a blessing. We are enjoying many fresh salads from the garden which has been really nice . . .
Lettuce and Spinach
Potato hilling was an activity one day a few weeks ago, and Mom, Leah and I moved a lot of dirt that day! The end result was this . . . .
The plants have grown a lot since then . . . .
Here's hoping we have a great potato harvest! If the plants produce as well as they did last year, we'll have more than enough potatoes to last us through to next spring and then plenty to give away, too.
One day when Mom was shopping for flower plants for our place, I had noticed the rose bushes were on sale. I have wanted an old-fashioned rose bush for so long and decided now was the time! After getting home, a little spot to the left of the steps up to our barn was transformed into this . . . .
First I hauled in compost, spaded it all, lined the new bed with rocks, planted the rose bush plus some Vincas that Mom had gotten, and then covered the dirt in mulch. The bush has been blooming well for its current small size, and I love it's pink flowers!
Some of Mom's flowers went into this hanging basket . . . .
Hanging baskets seem so homey :)
Another recent gardening project of mine was completely redoing the shade garden in front of our house. I wasn't exactly planning it to be to that extent, but when I was resetting the rocks around the edge, I realized that the dirt there was nearly rock hard and had so much clay. No wonder the plants in it never did very well!
A section of the garden before I began
I worked in sections, first digging out 3-6 inches of the very hard clay and rocks, then hauling in about 6 inches of rich compost . . . .
One advantage of livestock . . . such good compost :)
I am not sure how many wheelbarrow loads of each were hauled, but it was a lot! Little by little the garden was transformed and the plants were set back into their new bed.
I just need to get a little more hardwood mulch to spread across the remainder of a small section on the top, and then it's done! The plants are looking better already and should fill out in the next few years.
This little fellow seems to be enjoying the new garden . . . .
~ Friends ~
The last few weeks we have enjoyed some special times with friends, and here is a glimpse . . . .
One Sunday afternoon, we went back to the state park with some friends, and had such a fun time!
Under the natural bridge . . . it was so cool and pleasant under there. We did disturb a bat which added to the excitement . . . we shined a light into one of the holes in the rock, and saw something . . . before long, out swooped a chattering bat right in our faces!
The peaceful creek with much less water in it than the last time we were there.
One of our little friends and I down in the cave which was a lot of fun. Here I was helping him step from rock to rock so as not to get his feet wet.
Dad and Mom
An evening this past weekend, we had company over for a hot dog roast which was enjoyable! We had just gotten a new fire-pit and although the temperature was in the 90's, we had to try it out. :)
The table with the food . . . hotdogs to roast, baked beans, and yes, fresh salad from the garden :) Then we enjoyed smores afterwards.
So nice to have a firepit now!
~ Sewing ~
Some mending and clothing altering has been happening lately . . . .
A project in progress
~ Niobrara Farms Bath and Body ~
And business work continues as well. The last few weeks I have had a lot of soap to make (plus other products) so that helps keep me busy. This is a new soap that is curing . . . .
Cedarwood . . . and it smells just like its name . . . like fresh cut cedar.
Another day was spent trying to get my website securely protected with SSL (which switches the site to "https" and gives the little 'lock box'.) I am so not a computer person! Google is definitely my friend when it comes to things like this. :) After a lot of searching, trying things, failed attempts, more research and more tries, I finally got it all working!
This week looks to be another full one including things like little friends and their mom coming out to see the baby goats, the therapeutic riding center starting up again for the summer, garden work, a visit to the nursing home, and much more.
And I cannot close a post about some of what is filling my days, without sharing at least a taste of what the Lord is doing in my heart and life . . . day by day, He is continuing to grow me in Him, teaching me more of how He desires me to walk in obedience to Him, opening my eyes to opportunities to share about Him and to prayerfully encourage others, helping me turn my focus outward toward others instead of inward, and also, simply ministering to my own heart.
I know this may sound redundant, but He is so faithful. Sometimes I cannot understand my own heart . . . it can be so weak sometimes . . . yet His strength is always there. A solid rock whom I can always lean on, and there is so very much comfort in knowing I can trust Him fully in everything. The Scripture is very true "for when I am weak, then I am strong" for His strength and power is "perfected in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10.)
O, to never not lean on that strength! It can sometimes be easy (at least I find it so) to drift away from that strength, sometimes without even realizing it, and then to struggle . . . with doubt, fear, sadness, or whatever else it is that we are dealing with. Yet God is near to us and right there all along wanting us to cast our burdens, our anxieties, whatever it is, upon Him . . . and to trust.
That's really what our lives in Him come down to isn't it? Trust.
Trust . . . when we may not understand
Trust . . . when we do not know what the future holds
Trust . . . when we experience loss (such as what friends of mine, and relatives of friends, are currently going through)
Trust . . . when we look at what is happening in the world around us
Trust . . . when physical illness is debilitating (as a brother and sister in the Lord who I recently met are experiencing)
Trust . . . with whatever comes that makes us struggle to trust
There are many Scriptures that have really blessed my heart the last few weeks (and months), and I'd like to share some of them. While not directly related to trust, they speak of our relationship with God and His desires for us and heart towards us.
With whatever you are going through or are dealing with in your heart and life right now, I hope they will be an encouragement and help to you . . . .
" . . . that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorifiedin you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.)
What powerful verses these are! I keep reading through them and meditating on the depths of what these words mean. And these aren't just empty words! They are God's Word to us . . . it is His desire for us.
"It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:14.)
Isn't that such an encouraging truth? If we are His children, saved through His gospel, believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we will indeed gain His glory. Sometimes it can be easy to become focused on this earthly life . . . its pains and heartaches, its trials, its unfulfilled dreams, its busyness, even its joys. And we lose sight of something so much more glorious! Eternity. Eternity with God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in glorified bodies and living in heaven where there is no need for the sun as Jesus Himself is the light. No pain, no sorrow, no tears, and no sin.
O to live with eternity on our hearts! Truly having our hearts and minds set "on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2.)
"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word" (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.)
These verses just thrill and comfort my heart. They are ones that I recently memorized and quote often to myself. God has indeed "loved us" and given us this "eternal comfort" and "good hope" by His amazing grace. And He will indeed strengthen and comfort our hearts. And for what purpose? In "every good work and word." For His service, for sharing His gospel with a needy world, for loving and edifying brothers and sisters in the Lord, for His glory . . . and also, for our good.
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD. Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD."
". . . the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:3.)
When out for a walk praying to the Lord the other day about so much that was on my heart, a Psalm came to mind that we had learned in song years ago . . .
"I love the LORD, because He hears
my voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
yes, our God is compassionate.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have rescued my soul from death,
my eyes from tears ,
my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
What shall I render to the LORD
for all His benefits toward me?
I shall lift up the cup of salvation
and call upon the name of the LORD.
To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and call upon the name of the LORD."
Psalm 116:1-2, 5-9, 12-13, 17
"Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!" (2 Thessalonians 3:16.)
During my cooking weeks, I have been having fun experimenting with new recipes! Here's one of the new main dishes, the recipe of which had been in my recipe binder for awhile, but had yet to be tried . . . until recently. :)
First a few slices of bacon were fried, and then the ground beef (which was already browned), vegetables, and herbs/spices were simmered in the bacon grease and beef broth until the vegetables were tender . . . .
Ground beef, carrots, onion, celery, mushrooms, bacon, and seasonings
Meanwhile, potatoes were boiling in preparation for being turned into mashed potatoes . . . .
The potatoes with added cheese
And the finished product . . . .
Mashed Potato Beef Casserole (the recipe called for 1 tsp. tarragon which we don't have so I substituted with basil, rosemary, and thyme - you can see my alterations in the recipe below.)
-2 bacon strips, diced
-1 pound ground beef
-1 large onion, finely chopped
-1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
-1 large carrot, finely chopped
-1 celery rib, finely chopped
-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-1 cup beef broth
-1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
-3/4 to 1 tsp. dried basil
-1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
-1/8 tsp. thyme
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-dash of salt
-3 cups hot mashed potatoes (mashed with milk, salt, and pepper)
-3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp; drain, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings. Set bacon aside. Cook beef in drippings over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Toss onion, mushrooms, carrot and celery in flour; add to skillet with the broth, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add bacon; transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Combine potatoes and 1/2 cup of cheese; spread over beef mixture. Sprinkle with paprika and remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. Broil 4 in. from the heat for 5 minutes or until bubbly. Enjoy!
For awhile now, I have been wanting a large chalkboard for using on Saturdays at the farmers market, and a week or so ago, inspiration hit! We had an old, marked-up whiteboard (with an unfinished wood frame) that wasn't being used anymore . . . why not turn it into a chalkboard?
During one of our errand running times in town last week, Leah and I stopped at a local craft store, and I got a can of spray chalkboard paint and then some chalk.
That same afternoon, this quick project was begun . . . .
First, I taped around the wood edges of the board with wide masking tape. Then spray painted three coats of the chalkboard paint onto the whiteboard, letting it dry between coats . . . .
Step 1 - Done! It was fun to remove all the masking tape and see how it looked :)
The next day, I stained the wood frame with Red Mahogany stain. This stain is my current favorite, and the same one I used on my rocking chair. (And I think I might use it, or something similar to it, on my bookshelf, too.)
Before beginning to stain, in order to protect the chalkboard, I covered it in grocery sacks, sliding them under the crack between the wood frame and the chalkboard . . . .
Stain setting for about five minutes before having the excess rubbed off (and now you know one of our favorite grocery stores :)
It's finished! And just waiting to dry.
Once it was dry and the chalkboard paint had set long enough, too (it needed a minimum of 24 hours), then I rubbed the whole board down with chalk and wiped it off.
So the finished chalkboard looks like this . . . .
I was so pleased with how it turned out! And on Saturday, it was used for the first time at the farmers market!
(I need some practice with my chalkboard penmanship :)
With needing a new website for my business, I was busy, busy, busy the past month or so building one, and . . . it is finished!
Different than last time, I went a route that requires more work on my end, but has a significant cost savings. It helped already having built the other website, and I also started with an already designed theme, but there was still some learning along the way. It was easier, though, than I had anticipated (even figuring out how to work through FTP), and I am really pleased with how it all came together!
While it is still a work in progress (including a lot of work to do with SEO [Search Engine Optimization]), the site is 'live', and you're welcome to visit!
I've also added some new products including gift sets like this one . . . .
There are new products in progress, too, such as more gift sets, lip balms, and bath salts. It has been fun developing all of these, and I am looking forward to when they are done and added to my store!