Musings from the Threshold

Category Archives: simple


We have been looking at a family business possibility over the past couple of months that would require a major time-investment from me.  As we pondered and prayed, I realized that to be gone from home more than fourty hours a week, doing school and business elsewhere, would require a whole new level of discipline and intentionality from me.  I started formulating practical plans for different areas of our life that would allow for maintaining a calm family atmosphere and spiritual focus, a tidy and welcoming home, an effective educational experience for our children, and warm, home-cooked meals on a consistent basis.

Last Tuesday, we got a “sorry, but we are not able to give you a business loan at this time” call.  A couple hours after the initial tears and prayers of frustration, I was blindsided by this thought (and it was a good thing I was already prone for a nap)…

What if I lived as intentionally day-by-day **without** this new business as I was planning to be in order to make it work?  What changes would we see in our family relationships, our schooling, our ability to reach out to others?



And yes.

Yes to learning to be more disciplined and intentional with my time, regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen with this business possibility.  Yes to implementing plans that will allow us to use our time more efficiently and work together as a family.  Yes to truly seeking to receive and give grace in the daily moments.

We don’t know for sure that the business opportunity is a solid “no.”  We continue to pray, as do others, that if this is what the Lord has for us, that He will make the path clear.  We are talking with another bank, and we are working toward improving some of the factors that prompted the “no” from the initial bank.  We are trusting the Lord to move us forward in the direction He would have us go.

And in the meantime, I am working on implementing some of my grand ideas for intentional living.

One of my first big projects has been adapting my friend Winter’s 5 Week Menu idea.  I will share more on this later, but I am truly excited about it.  I have a 5 week menu for cool weather planned out, and am working on getting detailed grocery lists made up for each week, all the recipes gathered together and in page protectors, and other tricks to make meals streamlined and simple.

I am hoping to share some of this journey of intentionality with you, so stay tuned!

Space Perspective – A New Family Adventure

In the next month or so, our family of ten will be moving from this house –

to this house –

We will be moving into a space that Jonathan estimates to be about a third of the space we now inhabit. This is neither an accident nor a disaster, but an intentional choice made with much prayer and thought.

We love our current home. We love the house, the property, the community… it has been more of a blessing than I could recount to live here for the last year. If you look through my pictures over the last year, you get a glimpse of how much we love it here. And I will be honest and admit that the thought of leaving is far from easy.

However, this gorgeous abode runs between 32.5 and 42.5% of our monthly income (our rent is somewhat variable according to how much work we do for our terrific homeowners). That is just way too much for us to be spending on housing, and we have been looking and praying about something different for a while now.

In early-mid March, we looked at three different houses. After much prayer, we made an offer on the mobile above and sat back to see what the Lord would do. Because we have a bankruptcy with a foreclosure on our record, a traditional loan was not an option for us, and we were unsure whether the family would accept our land contract offer (though we had sweetened the deal as much as we could and included a down payment that was almost a third of the asking price). We got word a few days later that they had accepted our offer.

Our closing date is set for April 27th, and we will be moving somewhat gradually through (at least) the first half of May. Our new home is a smidge shy of 1100 sq. feet and sits on an acre and a half. The payment will be about 21% of our monthly income (house payment + taxes and insurance; 4 year term with a goal of having the whole thing paid off in two).

The property is closer to town and in a decidedly more populated area (a disadvantage in our books), but we are glad to have a field across the dirt road from us to the north and only one house between us and more fields on the west. We’ll be less than four miles from Kansas Bible Camp, which is something about which we’re pretty excited. We have plenty of room for a garden, and actually have already started working on that with permission from the current owner.

The big challenge/opportunity with this move is going to be an adjustment in our space perspective. The American idea of how much living space is needed per person is pretty crazy, but it is extremely difficult to get away from that mindset.

I have been longing for years for our family to craft a more simple life together, to weed out the extras that weigh us down and to choose a less encumbered lifestyle. Part of that simpler life is financial freedom, which is one of the biggest reasons we are making this move. Another part of that simpler life is “stuff” freedom, and we will, by sheer necessity, be making great strides in that area as well.

From Merriam Webster
Definition of PARE
transitive verb
1: to trim off an outside, excess, or irregular part of (pare apples) (paring his nails)
2: to diminish or reduce by or as if by paring (pare expenses) (the novel was pared down to 200 pages)

I hope to blog regulary through this process of paring down our “stuff” and simplifying our life. I’d love it if you’d join me as I do!

Apple day

We’ve been busy today taking care of various projects around the house. It’s the first weekday the Blessings have had off school since mid-September, and they’ve been a big help.

We worked on getting the venison we were given earlier this week in the freezer at last. We were given one rear haunch and two front haunches, mostly clean. Jonathan boned and cleaned it up some more, then we roasted it. The boys and I got a good bit of it trimmed and pulled/shredded this morning, and when I realized I was wearing out with quite a bit of meat left and other projects still to do, we went ahead and got it all in the freezer… some ready to pull and some still in need of trimming. Whew.

The Blessings put the winter squash we gathered last night onto a shelf in the basement, and did some cleaning around the house in preparation for the arrival of our apples. Because today is apple pickup! I headed out at lunchtime to pick up the six bushels we’d ordered, and threw in an extra 1/4 bushel of a type we hadn’t tried before while I was there. We will get serious about putting them up next week, as we have chiropractic appointments this afternoon and a busy day tomorrow. I’m so excited about canned apples, applesauce, and applebutter, and I think we’ll try dehydrating some as well. Any favorite recipes you’d like to share??

We listened to the Statler brothers through a good bit of the day as we worked (that 30 years 3 CD collection lasts through a lot of projects!). Love the Statlers! My friends the Youngs introduced me to them when I was in high school, and I was thrilled that I got the bonus of marrying into a family that appreciated them as well.

I love to listen to the Statlers sing How Great Thou Art. I got all thrilled and throat-catchy today thinking on
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
and there proclaim (for eternity!!), my God, how great Thou art!

So, here’s a treat for you (you’ll have to follow the links because WP is not letting me embed them, for some reason)…
The Statlers singing How Great Thou Art in 1971 on a Johnny Cash special
And a more recent version (looks like it’s from The Statler Brothers Show)

October 27, 2011

The garden is almost done for the year. Last week we gathered a large harvest before the first freeze of the year.

The Blessings and I also spent about an hour covering tomato and pepper plants with sheets before that first freeze to try to protect them and give them a bit more time to mature the fruit they’ve been working so hard to produce since the intense heat cooled. What you see on that plate was the extent of our tomato harvest to the date of the picture, less three tomatoes. Impressive for the almost 50 tomato plants we planted in the spring, eh? Hot hot summer makes gardening interesting, anyway!

The long skinny peppers are Holy Moles (holey moleys). This is the second year we’ve grown them. They are prolific producers with varying degrees of heat. The first year, they were quite mild, while this year they packed a bit of a punch. I found this out after I’d taken them to fellowship lunch along with miscellaneus bell/banana peppers and assured everyone that I had only brought sweet peppers. Or not…
I canned five pints of Holy Moles (sliced) and a couple pints of banana peppers (a portion of this batch), but I haven’t gotten a picture of their loveliness yet.

Tonight after we got home from town, we did another pre-frost harvest, as it’s supposed to get down to 31. Here’s what Jonathan and the older Blessings gathered while I got Andrew ready for bed:

The tomatoes made a bit of progress in the mild week+ after the first freeze; hopefully these will ripen nicely inside.
The pitiful watermelons didn’t have time to mature, yet this is the best success we’ve had yet with watermelons. Maybe next year we’ll grow some that we, instead of the chickens, eat.

A couple of the little butternuts broke off at the stem and were cooked tonight… gorgeous, aren’t they?

Christmas Pictures

Mostly a for-the-grandparents post, with cute pictures and brief concluding thoughts…

Christmas Day Pictures

Handmade sibling gifts – It was a blessing to be a part of the making of these gifts of love!

From their parents – handmade lapdesks and thrifty books

Gifts from and to a dear friend, who would like a quiet corner of the internet, but who was a very special part of our Christmas day. We love you, girl!

Gifts from G’pa and G’ma Smith

Christmas Dinner and Games. Fun times!

A few days later, we had Second Christmas when a box arrived from Papa and Mama Byrd

Books for the Blessings

Journals for the Blessings (and a bus for Stephen)

Assorted goodies for J&L and Andrew

We’re thankful to our parents for honoring our desire for a simplified Christmas this year. We love you all and are so thankful for your support over the years. We have the best folks around!

Thoughts on country living and sustainability

During July, we put in a good bit of drive time in rural Missouri, driving back and forth to camp. One thing that stood out to Jonathan and I is that there are many people who live in rural areas just for the scenery, for the space, or for the feel of country living. And to be honest, ten years ago, when we were longing to move out of our little Kansas town of 1,100 people to a place in the country (yes, that was right before God moved us to a town house in South County StL), those were the reasons for our longing. So I’m not judgemental about folks who live in the country just for the space, but these days when I see multitudes of homes in rural areas with no evidence of efforts at self-sufficiency, it concerns me.

When I was growing up, we spent every summer going from Bible camp to Bible camp. Papa spoke, Mama often cooked, and Eric and I had a ball. It was an absolutely wonderful way to grow up and I am more thankful than I can express for those summers of learning, growing, making friends, serving, and having a fabulous time. (Thanks, Papa and Mama!)

There were activities that would not fit into our travelling summers. One was gardening. We had friends with gardens, and I viewed them as nifty but rather unattainable accomplishments. When I realized that a dear friend of mine loved the process of gardening, even when we were in high school/college, I thought she was a bit nuts. Another thing that our travelling and suburban location precluded was the care of “producing” animals. So, while I’ve always loved the country and have wanted for years to live “out-of-town,” I had no reference point for (and hence, no dreams of) sustainability/self-sufficiency.

Several years ago, we got to know a couple who had made some very deliberate choices toward a simple life. I think that their lifestyle is what began to open my mind to the benefits of living simply and becoming producers of some of the basics in life.

Likely as a result of our interactions with these friends, I began to read more about simple living and self-sufficiency, and one writer in particular made an impact on my thinking. Unfortunately, I don’t recall his name or website, which was full of practical tips for sustainable living, but one principle he shared has stuck with me and impacted our pursuits. He encouraged folks to make small do-able steps toward becoming more self-sufficient, because the tendency is to jump in with both feet… and then burn out. Instead of burning out, he said to find something small that you know you can handle, then build on it. That bit of advice has served us well.

Over the last five years, we’ve made quite a few baby steps and learned a great deal, as you’ve “witnessed” if you’ve been reading my blog for a while. Moving to our current location allowed for several larger steps that would have been too overwhelming without the preceding baby steps – a large (to us) heirloom garden, a variety of fowl, etc.

We want to continue to learn through experience about self-sufficient practices for a variety of reasons. We desire to:
~ Be better stewards of what God has given
~ Work together as a family more (cost of living down, more time as a family)
~ Live a less hectic lifestyle
~ More directly see the fruits of our labour; teach our children to enjoy the fruits of their labour
~ Gain a greater understanding of God’s creation and His plan in creation
~ Develop in ourselves and our children a clearer picture of personal responsibility
~ Have the ability to be a benefit to others instead of a drain, especially in time of crisis
~ Be prepared – The sky *is* falling

I’m not going to go into that last point much, but we do believe that things are going to get ugly here in the U.S. before long. If that thought is shocking to you, you need to do some reading (let me know if you want some suggestions). If it turns out that we’re wrong, we will have only benefitted (see above) from the pursuit of simplicity, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. We pray that those around us will benefit as well.

I do not intend in any way to sound like we have sustainable living figured out! We have a long way to go and much to learn. Sometimes I feel like we are such “newbies” to this, and compared to some, we are. But when I look at where we were five years ago, I’m thankful we began to take baby steps.

Whether you live in the city or out in the country, we’d like to encourage you to find some do-able step that you can take toward providing for some of your needs “on site.” Many cities allow backyard hens; square foot or container gardening is a workable option even in small spaces, etc. Consider what baby steps you can take!

So, what do you think?

P.S. – Mid September is the beginning of garlic-planting season. We’re planning to try it for the first time. Want to join us?

Hand Washing

Though I want to be a good steward, I’ll be frank and state that I am not overly concerned about “saving the earth.” After all, it’s all going to burn one day and be replaced.

The interesting thing I’ve found about some “earth friendly” thinking is that it relates closely to “people friendly.” The anti-bacterial soap ingredient that gets into lakes and kills fish? It’s the same thing that makes me more likely to get sick by promoting bacterial resistance; the same substance, classified as a pesticide, that can make its way into breastmilk for my precious babies!

So while “being gentle to the earth” isn’t one of my main goals, being gentle to my family’s bodies is. And I’ve found those two goals overlap more often than I used to think they might.

All that is an introduction to this post on Hand Washing at Simple Organic. Very informative and practical. Anti-bacterial soap is bad for you, dear ones, and this gives a great explaination of why, with links to additional resources. It also answers the “what do I do instead?” question.

Corn Adventures and The Simple Life

Months ago, I read an article by Debi Pearl on the No Greater Joy website about different uses for corn. It fascinated me – though we are far from being self-sufficient or old-fashioned in our way of life, anything related to the simple life appeals to me. We would love to become more simple in our way of living, and thanks to the wise advice in the Cumberland Books catalog, we are working on making Baby Steps in that direction.

Anyway… we received our NGJ magazine last week and I was thrilled to see that they had reprinted Corny, Ten Different Ways. I showed it to Jonathan and he thought it looked pretty neat as well.

So last night, the guys come home from work with a 50# bag of Deer Corn (which J had researched and found was the same thing as the feed corn Debi refers to in her article). Woohoo!

Here’s what we’ve done so far:
**We have hominy in the works. We cooked the corn in the ashes last night for quite a while, but it’s not quite done, so it’s back on the stove this afternoon. I’m going to wait for Jonathan to get home to do anything with it, because he’s really enjoyed our experimenting.
**We roasted corn last night to “grind” for corn meal (to use for corn meal mush and corn bread, two things we really like but have never made from meal we ground ourselves).
**We tried “grinding” the roasted corn in the Cuisinart last night, which sent me into the giggles – using the Cuisinart to aid our “old fashioned, simple life” experiments, lol. It was evident that we really do need to be on the lookout for that handgrinder Debi Pearl refers to, but I went ahead and put some of the “ground” corn into the crockpot to cook overnight into corn meal mush. Again, what to me is a humorous blend of old and new.
**The corn meal mush this morning was yummy but rather chunky, due to the incomplete grinding. I also could have used more water in the crock pot. But a successful breakfast, nonetheless.

Here are some of our goals for this year, as regards the simple life:
**Find a hand grinder for corn (this can be used for other grains, too, of course).
**Get our feet wet with Square Foot Gardening. The Blessings are each going to get a few squares, and Jonathan and I will probably have a 3×3.
Chickens! We need to start small, but we’d really like to have chickens, for eggs especially, but also for meat.

And now it’s time for a nap!