Just Remember in the Winter

“Just remember in the winter, far beneath the winter snows, lies the seed that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” -Amanda McBroom

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“Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.” ― Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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“However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow’.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”  – Abraham Lincoln  

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“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

I’m just taking a moment to rejoice over the roses of last summer. I never got around to posting the pictures when the flowers were in bloom. But oh, seeing these now, I can almost smell the roses.

And my dear peonies!

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It almost feels like a stroll through the garden.

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Thanks for visiting!

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A Sugar Snow!

It’s April 3 and the thick snow is falling on us like a heavy, wet blanket. Is this a sugar snow? Mr. Masters isn’t here yet, and the first bucket feels empty. Will there be any sap today?


My oldest, she runs on to another tapped tree and excitedly reports that the bucket there is really, really heavy. Heavy with sap!

Mr. Masters and a few more friends arrive, ready to help.


He says the sap is running and it’s time to collect it!


The crew of kids, they all hear him say “sugar” and quickly grab buckets. They follow him closely into the woods.



Well, most follow him closely.


At each tapped tree, Mr. Masters removes the bucket lid, and we peer inside to marvel at all the sap. The 5-gallon bucket at this big tree filled up in just 24 hours!


Next Mr. Masters carefully exchanges the filled bucket with an empty one and moves on to the next tapped tree.


The crew takes turns pouring sap into the buckets.



Everyone tastes a bit of the sweet sap. My youngest sips it right out of the tree. And this cute little guy, he gets a taste from his daddy’s finger.


With full buckets in tow, we hike back through the snowy woods to the parking lot, where Mr. Masters pours all of the sap into a huge tank in the back of his suburban.


Then we go back into the woods and do it all over again. And again. And again. Altogether, we collect 50 gallons of sap in a little more than an hour.


Then Mr. Masters goes on to other wooded spots where he has tapped trees. In all he collects 100 gallons today. Miraculous!


3 Marvelous Books about Maple Sugaring


With all the maple sugaring excitement around here the last few weeks, I just have to share our favorite books on that sweet subject.

miraclesonmaplehill2014The first is Virginia Sorensen’s 1957 Newbery Award winner: Miracles on Maple Hill. This a charming story about a young girl named Marley and her family’s adventures as they stay at a country home on Maple Hill in Pennsylvania. As it begins, Marley’s father has recently returned from war and is not at all himself. The heartwarming story abounds with characters who seem so genuine. The themes of healing and spring and miracles all intertwine beautifully and are reminiscent of The Secret Garden. This is a fantastic read for middle to upper elementary students, especially as a family read-aloud.

sugarbushspring2014Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall is a gorgeous picture book with a captivating story of the entire sugaring process — from tapping the trees to sealing up the full jars of syrup. Did I mention the illustrations by Jim Daly are absolutely gorgeous? I just wanted to climb right into the pictures and help with all the work, too. This is a perfect read-aloud for all ages.

sugarsnowSugar Snow (one of the “My First Little House Books” series) is a wonderfully illustrated picture book using the text adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. As a rule, I’m completely opposed to adaptations of classics, but this series is a rare exception. Illustrator Doris Ettlinger beautifully captures the excitement of maple sugaring in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. I’ve been to the replica of the Ingalls’ cabin at the actual home site near Pepin, Wisconsin, and I must note that Ettlinger portrays that very accurately. All ages will enjoy the simple yet delightful book — and the whole series for that matter.

Happy reading!











Maple Miracles, Part 2

Mr. Masters said the sap was running today! So we just had to go check out the sugar maple trees and see it firsthand, even if it was late in the evening.

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It’s only been a week and a half, but so much snow has melted since our first maple sugaring adventure. The woods feel like a different place already.

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Tonight we moved much faster from tree to tree, and Michael didn’t even wear his snow boots.

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Some of the buckets had no sap, but some had a bit of sap. Maybe Mr. Masters had already emptied and collected some of the sap earlier today.

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As we left, the setting sun glowed across the frozen lake. And we were glowing a bit, too. Tomorrow’s forecast includes 3 to 6 inches of fresh snow. A sugar snow!

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“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” -Romans 1:20

Maple Miracles

It’s March, and even without their colorful leaves, the maples still look majestic.




Mr. Masters is tapping the sugar maples this morning, and he invites us to grab a bucket and come along to help with this first step in the maple sugaring process.



It’s my first time on snowshoes, and the snow in the woods is still so deep I sink down knee-deep. I feel like Big Foot. Hiking through the woods is going to be harder than we imagined.


We reach the first tree, and Mr. Masters drills the hole and then taps it, connecting the hose to a 5-gallon bucket.


The sap isn’t running yet.


But with tomorrow’s high of 41 degrees, we are all hopeful it will be running soon.


The time to tap more trees is now, and tapping more trees means Mr. Masters needs help drilling and tapping and fetching buckets.









It’s a beautiful, warm day, and the maple miracles are coming soon.



So on and on we march through the deep, deep snow — waiting with great hope for all the goodness that is to come.


“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

-Psalm 27:13-14

10 People Who Inspired Me in 2010

 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24 NIV

About a year ago, I shared in this post how friends of ours had spurred me on toward love and good deeds. As I reflect on 2010 and continue to thank God for their friendship and encouragement, I thought it’d be fun to share some other sources of encouragement and inspiration that might just inspire and encourage you, too.

1. My husband, Michael, always inspires me, and for so many reasons. In August I blogged about 15 reasons why I love Michael. I should also note that in the first three months of 2010 Michael lost 65 lbs., and he has kept them off! Yay! But of more significance than his weight loss are his spiritual gains in 2010. He has clearly grown closer to the Lord  — through prayer, Bible study, and Scripture memory — and that truly inspires me! What a blessing to have a strong spiritual leader in our household.

2. Our pastor, Steve Anderson, is a wonderful, encouraging pastor, as well as leader of the small group in which my husband and I participate. In November while he was serving as a short-term missionary in Nicaragua, I blogged here about how thankful I am for Pastor Steve and his lovely wife Sharon. They are truly wonderful people who bless us each week. When he returned from Nicaragua, Pastor Steve told us an amazing story about handing out baseballs and Beanie Babies to the children there. God performed a miracle that day! You can listen to him tell the story if you click here. It starts at 19 minutes into his sermon “Whose Stuff is All This Anyway?” By the way, you can find out more about short-term missions and adopt-a-pastor opportunities in Nicaragua by visiting Repairers of Broken Walls.

3. Andreas Custer is the Student Ministries Director at our church. He’s a great guy, and while our family doesn’t yet have any students in his ministry, his contagious passion for the Lord and inspiring manner spills over and touches our family regularly. After visiting Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields this fall, Pastor Andi preached this really dynamite sermon about fixing our eyes on Jesus in the same way soldiers fix their eyes on their battle flag. The key Scripture passage he used was Philippians 3:7-21, and he explains that those who have their eyes set on earthly things, in contrast, are enemies of the cross.

4. Karen Wistrom at Family from Afar is a working mom with four children, two biological and two adopted, and is a child sponsorship coordinator for Children’s HopeChest. Besides raising money for all sorts of orphan-care projects, she traveled to Ethiopia this fall — for the third year in a row — to minister to orphans at Kind Hearts, where our sweet Dawit is. Thanks to Karen, we were able to put together this little care package for Dawit in August, and then a couple of months later Karen sent us pictures of Dawit receiving it. Yay, Karen! 

5. Samantha at Little Goody 2 Shoes is an 11-year-old who is selling bottle cap necklaces to raise money to buy shoes for orphans in Ethiopia. We bought a few of them that say Kind Hearts, and they are so adorable! To date, Samantha sold 314 necklaces and raised enough money to buy 103 pairs of new, custom-made shoes for orphans at Kind Hearts and two other orphanages in Ethiopia. Way to go, Samantha!

6. My own daughter, Linnea, at the ripe old age of 7, decided to donate 11 inches of her hair to Locks of Love in February. She was so brave and so passionate about giving to a little girl in need. That was a lot of hair!  

7. Author Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience is a farmer’s wife, homeschool mother of six, and an amazingly gifted writer. She faithfully uses her gift for God’s glory. I am so eager to read her latest book, 1,000 Gifts, which will be released Jan. 25.

8. Writer Holley Gerth at Heart to Heart with Holley is another writer whose words transcend into the spiritually inspiring realm. She also faithfully uses this gift to point others toward God.

9. My beautiful and sunshiny friend Alice, who recently moved to our little town, totally inspires me to be a better mom and to more intentionally play with my kids, especially while they are still willing to play with me! Alice is outgoing, full of life, and truly a fantastic cook and baker. All those traits come in handy as a stay-at-home mom to three handsome and energetic boys, all under the age of 5! While the girls and I were over for a visit last week, Alice gave us all flashlights, turned off the lights, and asked us to hunt for stuffed animals that had been hidden around her kitchen and living room. This “jungle-safari” version of hide-and-seek was great fun! Thanks for being so wonderful, Alice!

10. And last, but certainly not least, is Jodi, another beautiful friend of mine who inspires me to be a better mom and not neglect my creative side.  Jodi is a tea-drinking homeschool mom of five children, ranging in age from 1 to 13. She also teaches art, jazz, and tap dance lessons. My daughter is in one of Jodi’s art classes and adores every moment of it. If I were to write a biography about Jodi, I’d entitle it Everybody Loves Jodi. She is creative, encouraging, sweeter than pie, and everybody loves her! Last I checked she wasn’t sporting a red cape, but she is truly a super woman, empowered by God. 

Now I’m shutting my laptop and heading off to play Little People with my 5-year-old, so it’s your turn to share.

Who has inspired you in 2010? Do tell!

A Glorious Peace!

Merry Christmas!

The remarkably polished Minnesota Orchestra was performing “Evening Prayer” from Hansel and Gretel when some questionable subjects slowly crept into sight. The first one appeared on stage and then two more, and then another two began slinking mysteriously down each aisle of Orchestra Hall.

Only a moment earlier the conductor had cheerfully announced that we were in for a fantastic treat: puppets from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis.

These larger-than-life puppets – some towering near 12-feet tall – masqueraded as angels. However, two of these so-called angels had deer heads, and two had squirrel heads. In their dream pantomime, they quietly kept watch over Hansel and Gretel as the children peacefully slept all alone, deep in the dangerous forest.

For our very sensitive 5-year-old Laurel, seeing these enormous puppet angels dwelling among us was certainly no fantastic treat. Rather than peace, they brought trouble. At first sight of them, Laurel shrieked in utter terror, hid under her coat, and then sobbed uncontrollably for the rest of the performance. Her daddy sat beside her, attempting to quiet and comfort her, but feeling trapped and helpless.

Fear Not!

The puppet angels truly terrified Laurel. And they did look exceptionally sinister.  They not only broke the rules by having animal heads and sneaking in unexpectedly from the back of the hall, but also they failed to announce what all Biblical angels know is the first order of business when appearing to humans. You already know the line: “Do not be afraid!” or “Fear not!”

Real-live angels must be quite terrifying, too. Remember the shepherds – those burly tough guys who weren’t afraid to take on any lions or bears that threatened their sheep? Even they were terrified by the angel that appeared to them and by the glory of the Lord shining around them that night when our Savior arrived.

The first angel the shepherds saw had a mission of utmost significance: to proclaim good news of great joy. Peace on earth! The Savior of the world had just been born!

One must be calm to be able to listen to such a meaningful message. That’s why the angel had to calm the shepherds with his words, “Do not be afraid.”

The spoken word is such a powerful thing – and even more so when it’s the Word of God. Clearly these words calmed the shepherds, as they soon heard the angel’s message of peace and then found the baby Jesus.

Imagine the rush of wings as a whole crowd of angels then came into sight, all praising God together and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

Find Peace

That said, Christmastime should be peaceful, right? Yet isn’t it hard to find peace when so many distractions masquerade as necessary to our Christmas celebration? Like giant puppets, distractions can trouble us and sometimes even make us want to hide under our coats.

But we have an ever-present heavenly Father – One who is always able to quiet us and comfort us in times of trouble. He is mighty to save!

We genuinely find peace when we, like the shepherds, fix our eyes on Jesus, gaze upon His divine excellence, and behold the glory of the Lord. His glory is shining all around us, too, when we look for it and let it transform us.

In the song “Everything Glorious,” David Crowder sings, “My eyes are small but they have seen the beauty of enormous things… From glory to glory, You [Jesus] are glorious. You make everything glorious, and I am Yours. What does that make me?”

We pray you embrace true peace this Christmas and throughout the new year, and we pray you join us in fixing our eyes upon Jesus and allowing Him to transform us. May our small eyes see the beauty of enormous things in 2011!

From glory to glory, He is glorious!

No Ho-Ho-Ho

This is probably going to really offend some folks, but I have a confession to make. I’m not a fan of Santa Claus. 

I know. I know. Please don’t get me wrong; I like the true story of Saint Nicholas. But the whole jolly ole’ man in a red suit, North Pole toy factory, elf thing, I just don’t care for it much. And it’s not because I didn’t grow up with Santa. My parents did Santa. It was a serious tradition in our house. They even jingled bells on Christmas Eve to convince my brother and me it was time for bed because Santa was landing on the roof!  

I remember believing in the magical ideas and feeling very excited about Santa as a small child, so much so that I didn’t understand the true, miraculous Christmas story. I sang “Away in a Manger” with my Kindergarten class at school, and I had no idea who or what I was singing about. Sad, isn’t it?

But that is just why I don’t like Santa. The Santa tradition can completely distract us from the true meaning of Christmas — Jesus’s miraculous birth. Plus, Santa himself takes on some creepy characteristics, sneaking into homes, watching to see whether you’re naughty or nice, judging you on your behavior, and encouraging greediness. (My kids don’t need any help with that!)

This piece on Santa Claus, written by Noel Piper, articulates my thoughts almost exactly, plus some aspects of Santa I’d never before considered.


What do you think? Are you a die-hard Santa fan? Or do you think he’s a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas?

Believing in Miracles

A friend of mine asked me today how I respond to stories about God miraculously healing someone. She asked this knowing that I am a believer and knowing that my mother died of cancer when I was 17. Do I feel like my prayers for her healing went unanswered? Do I feel jealous? Do I feel disappointed? Do I question whether God wanted to heal her?

My short answer was that I used to feel that way, but now I rarely do. I think the more I learn about who God is, the less I question why my mother had no sudden healing on this earth. My temptation to feel jealous of other’s healing miracles still surfaces sometimes, but that’s when I must focus instead on the truth in God’s word. He is sovereign. He is all-knowing. He numbers our days. And He has purposes for suffering, divine purposes.

I have more thoughts on healing and miracles that I’d like to share, so perhaps this post will have a Part 2.