Spreading Some Manure Around

Well, that’s gross, but yes.

Over the past year or so my fledgling enjoyment of taking pictures has conspired with my fledgling enjoyment of cooking and baking to produce a mom who can go through the 10 lb. flour bag in no time at all, with a grimy camera and lots of seemingly useless pics clogging up my computer to prove it.

I’d like to put those pics to use and spread the manure of thankfulness and joy around. Gratitude is such a powerful fertilizer. It’s hard to grow bitterness in a garden of grateful. We ought to be thankful for our food, even though we’ve twisted up our relationship with food pretty much since the beginning. And we keep on getting ourselves in knots over it, hoping it will save us, cure us, satisfy us, and right all the wrongs.

It won’t do that. But it can point us to what will satisfy. If a perfect pot roast on a cool fall eve satisfies and delights for a few hours, could it be that there’s something like that warm comfort.. forever? Food also shows us our creaturely nature. We need it or we die. We are as dependent as the baby that I nurse every few hours. So I’m being fed by our Father daily.

Food shows us the deeper food. It points to the Food of Jesus, the Bread, the Word.

With this in mind, I’m cheerfully spreading the manure of merriment with pics of food and recipes. My hope is that they’ll kindle a robust hearty thankfulness for food ad the God who gives it and encourage a wholesome attitude toward it. One that isn’t gluttonous or ascetic or idolatrous. So with that lengthy preface behind me, here’s a taste of what we’ve been thankful for lately.


Crusty Bread. I’ve mentioned this bread before and seriously couldn’t imagine a more delightful and easy bread to make. If you’ve never made bread (as I hadn’t just a year or so ago), start here. End here. It’s a winner.

fresh peaches
fresh peaches
buttermilk mixture
buttermilk mixture
caramel sauce
caramel sauce
finished product
finished product

Peach Buttermilk Bread Pudding with Homemade Caramel Sauce. Yes, it’s as good as you hope. Especially with a dollop of ice cream. We were out of bread, so I made a couple loaves of the crusty bread above and used one for this bread pudding. Way too much fun.

serious helpers
serious helpers

I’d be majorly remiss if I didn’t mention the important part helpers play in food gratitude and bonding and serving and general excitement and joy. Sometimes I’m stingy with helpers–saving all the best jobs for myself (who doesn’t love cracking an egg and whisking away?!). But I’m slowly learning that it not only robs them of joy, but me as well. Sharing happy work multiplies happiness (and messes). I’m letting the happiness overrule the messes, some of the time anyway.

mini-loaves zuke bread
choco zuke banana bread

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Banana Bread.  A friend brought over a zucchini the size of Rhode Island for us as she was going out of town and 8 loaves of this zucchini bread later I wish we had another one! I modified the recipe I linked to by adding a banana that was going bad and using a little less zucchini.

pumpkin streusel bread
pumpkin streusel bread

Pumpkin Bread. In college, the DC (dining center) would serve pumpkin bread in the fall. Massive, hot loaves, sliced an inch and a half thick that were inhaled by whoever could get to the front of the line. I remember being pushed and squeezed as everyone eagerly crowded in to get some. I’m sure elbows were thrown. I set out to make something comparable and judging by the kids crowding and snitching, we’re on the right track. I added a streusel on top for kicks. It’s not in the recipe I linked to, but is just melted butter, sugar of any kind, and flour. You can’t lose.

mozzarella cheese sticks
mozzarella cheese sticks

Mozzarella Cheese Sticks. The MN State Fair is a big deal ’round here. We missed it with Titus being born. So I was hankering for the infamous cheese curds and this is what resulted. They actually are nothing like cheese curds. They’re like Italian mozzarella sticks. I cut up string cheese in half, then dipped in egg, then panko mixture (bread crumbs, olive oil, herbs, salt, pepper), then was going to fry them up when I realized I didn’t have enough oil. So I baked them for about 5 min and quickly pulled them out so they didn’t melt all over. They managed to hold together and my son and I gobbled them up. Not cheese curds, but still good.

peasant bread
peasant bread
pleasant bread
pleasant bread

Peasant Bread. Which I would like to rename to Pleasant Bread. Or Pleasant Peasant Bread. If you decide to keep on going with the bread making, this is a great second bread to learn. Very simple and easy and it bakes the same day, no overnight rising. Which could be a plus or a minus depending on your needs and schedule. Also, it bakes in pyrex bowls, which is great! This bread should be eaten the day it’s made. It’s wonderful that way. Subsequent days we use it for toast.


fall mix, candy corn pumpkin
fall mix, candy corn pumpkin

Last but not least, fall mix. Which is simply equal parts peanuts, candy corn and m&m’s, mixed up and set out for everyone to enjoy.

That’s all the manure I’ve got to spread at the blog today. Still have a few piles to go here at home.

“And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15b



A Tribute to Our Home and to the God Who Gave It to Us

For 7 years and 7 months we’ve called this place our home.

This place where I sit now, where I watch my kids laughing on the couch, snuggled neck deep in goofiness and a blanket. This is a good place.

It is this good place that we will say goodbye to in a short month and half. Places matter to me. They matter because you build your life in them. You bring babies home to them. You share countless meals with friends under their roof. Homes become more than material, they become a reflection of the people that live in them, the people that share them, the people that write on their walls.

Which is why heaven will be so marvelous. It will be a home perfected by Jesus and His Righteous people. A place where we can put down roots that never get pulled up. It will be a glorious place with walls and streets and everything that makes a home a home–most importantly, the people, the Person.

Can you say thank you to a material thing? Sure, but it’s pointless. Can wood or stone hear you to receive the praise? But you can say thank you for a material thing–thank you for the rooms, the wood, the brick, the concrete that holds it together. Thank you for the ceilings and walls, the oven and fridge, the lights and windows. And the thanks all belong to God. He’s the Giver.

So, here is my tribute to our home, my thankfulness to God, which I boast in, because of all He’s done, because of the story He’s told of His glory here, in this place.

For the open doors that welcomed three new babies and kept us all warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The doors that opened for family and friends and neighbors, even when the doorbell was broken, I give thanks.

For the rooms that held sleeping babes grown to children. For the number of bedrooms that forced them to share, so that they have never known differently and wouldn’t change it if they could. For the storage space turned “cabana room” under the stairs that has seen every kind of play and a hundred kids’ movies. For the family room and dining room where the Word has been opened and our hearts have opened as well–opened to you, Lord, and to one another, in weeping and rejoicing, opened in songs, I give thanks.

For the kitchen, the place where I learned to enjoy cooking (at least some of the time) and to try new things and to delight in the children who are wanting to help. For the hours and hours of school work done here. For the oven and stove that worked, whether clean or not, and prepared hot food for many in Jesus’ name. For the sink and dishwasher that washes every night–one new mercy that meets me in the morning, I give thanks.

For the lights that kept us glowing in the dark months and the windows that kept us sane, with a view to bigger things. On days when I thought I wouldn’t make it, this gift of a home has always let the light in and the Lord has snatched me out of darkness to the true Light of His Word and Jesus who is to be found there. For the windows and the light, I give thanks.


For my journey with orchids here, that has been analogous to my own story. For the orchids that have died under my care, that remind me of all the dying I’ve done here–the deaths purposed by my Caretaker–deaths of selfishness and pride and envy and all kinds of ugliness. Deaths that will continue wherever I go. And for the one orchid that has lived here, blossoming, going dormant, and blossoming again, I am reminded that I’ve lived here, too. That in Christ, this has been a place of flourishing and seasons. Life that will continue wherever I go. For the death and the life, I give thanks.


God has called us away from this good place to another place, a place where we are excited to go, a place where, Lord willing, we will tell this story again and deeper. May you do it Lord, may you make a home out of mere brick and stones and wood–may your story be told on its walls and in its rooms. May you refine us and own it all. For this new adventure, I give thanks.


Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful. (Psalm 111:1-4, ESV)

Manna, Funnel Cakes, and Thankfulness

We had funnel cakes on Good Friday.

They made me think of manna. Then I thought of the state fair and how much I enjoy the taste of funnel cakes and all the other foods to be had there and I wondered what manna tasted like. “Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” Exodus 16:31


Psalm 78 describes manna as the “grain of heaven” and in Numbers we’re told that they would grind it up and make cakes out of it.

And I thought of the mass complaining/justifying/scorning/indulging that goes along with something as silly as fair food. Manna would never pass muster among today’s diet gurus, it would take its place among the naughty fair food. A single grain? Made into a cake? With sugar on top? No way, no how. It didn’t pass muster for the Israelites either. They were so over this “grain from heaven.”

“Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Numbers 11:4-6, ESV)


The Egyptian diet–now there’s a diet conscientious Christians of the 21st century could get behind: fish for free, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic! Sounds like something from the food network in Greece! Let me at those omega 3 fats! And I’m guessing it all came with non-GMO labels to boot.

The Israelites grumbled so much that God finally gave them some meat to eat. Finally some protein. But it didn’t work out quite how they’d hoped. “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?” (Numbers 11:18-20, ESV)

When I think of the forceful health movements out there today–the ones that reject a large portion of the food sold at the nearest supermarket as “poison”, I think of the Israelites scorning the manna. Here, in our supermarket, is a place filled to the brim with the answered prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread..” and it isn’t good enough. Here are our “vats bursting with wine..” and we just want to lament over the nutrition label. Gratitude is about as far from our lips as it was the Israelites. Instead we relish our scorn and discontentedness and superiority over all the ignorant ones actually buying the funnel cake mix from aisle 7.


Now I can hear someone objecting saying, “Well, any food that came straight from heaven would have been nutritionally perfect, so there’s no way I would have rejected that. It would have miraculously had every component necessary for healthful eating, because God is perfect.” I wouldn’t argue with that necessarily, although I don’t think it’s a given.

And here’s something I know for sure, straight from Jesus’ mouth, “Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they died.” Wait, what? They ate a nutritionally perfect food from heaven and still died? Yep. Well, I’m sure they didn’t die from cancer at least. It was probably just from natural old age. Some maybe, but not all. A whole bunch of them died from God’s wrath being kindled against their ungratefulness and he sent a plague and they died.

The point of all this is not a new diet fad. I’m not advocating a diet of manna-like food over and above any other food. I’m not telling you to eat a funnel cake. (Although they are wonderful and my heart rejoiced at the good God who provided it!)

My point is a caution against complaining and ungratefulness. I’ve heard Christians talk about how the food of decades gone by was so much better for us than the food we have available to us now. How the food we have is bad for us–the food other generations had is what we need to get back to. I myself have wondered if this is could be true and fretted ungratefully at the thought. It sounds so much like the Israelites wishing to go back to Egypt and the food of Egypt. God has provided us food. Today. In greater quantities and qualities than many of the past centuries.  Yet, we spend our time grumbling under the guise of responsible eating, posting articles on how horrible and poisonous our food is, how evil the people who’ve provided it are, and lamenting for a by-gone era.

The Right Food has become a savior. The paleo diet is what will now save us from disease. And let’s not forget that just 20 years ago it was the no-fat diet that was going to save us. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, thyroid problems, migraines, infertility are all just a result of our poisonous food. Our sin against God has little to do with it. Sometimes I get the feeling that for the die-hard health-foodies, Sin= bad food. Bad food is sin. It is the cause of all our problems. Oh, and all the behavior and learning problems your kid is having? That’s because of the sin-food you’ve been feeding him since he was in the womb. There’s a recipe for either crushing guilt on the one hand or insufferable self-congratulations on the other.

The cure for sickness is some sort of “pre-fall” diet. Yet, we will all die. Even more, this attitude is slap in the face to the real Savior. “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 4:23 ESV) How do we overcome disease? By dying and being raised with him on the last day. How do we endure behavioral problems and fatigue and the stomach flu, again? By his death for our death, His life for our life. We live in the already-not-yet kingdom. All things will be made new and the heart where His Spirit reigns is patient heart, eagerly awaiting this conquering and overcoming newness, not demanding disease-free living now.

I have been preached to and evangelized for the cause of healthful, disease-free eating by Christian women as frequently as I’ve been encouraged and admonished in the Lord. This should not be so.

Listen to the Real Savior:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:48-51, ESV)

“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:26-29, ESV)

The antidote to ungrateful, savior-seeking health obsessions is Jesus, the living bread that has come down from heaven. My encouragement to my own heart and hopefully to yours, is this: The LORD has numbered our days. They are written in his book. We cannot, by our striving, add one healthful day to our lives or our children’s lives. Instead we must “believe in him whom he has sent.”

You might think this attitude fatalistic and irresponsible, as though I’m taking all human responsibility out of the equation. Yet, the Lord holds us responsible for our sin. I understand what sin is by looking to the Word, not listening to what the culture tells me is good and bad about food. Not giving thanks to God for His gifts? Definitely a sin. Eating with thanksgiving, whether it’s a funnel cake or gluten-free-flax seed muffin? Not a sin, rather, a requirement.

The kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink. We may place perfectly healthy food in our mouth and then out of that same mouth spew hateful talk to our children, our husband, our God. We may spend hours sweating at the gym so that we can be as healthy as can be, then let the poison of sin reign and rule as we secretly view porn or watch smutty TV. This, my friends, is NOT healthy living.

And I ask this: what delights God more? A grateful heart enjoying a funnel cake every single night or a superior, self-justified, heart strictly adhering to man-made rules. And maybe you’re in the category of the grateful and happy, no-axe-to-grind, yet-strictly-following-a-paticular-diet-kind-of-heart. And to that I say, Amen. Praise God!

Let’s agree to this diet-lovers and free-wheelers like myself: let’s give thanks to God for all his good gifts. Even for funnel cakes. Let’s praise him that there is food on the table–whether it’s GMO or not. Let’s honor Him for answering our prayers and giving us this day our daily bread. Let’s tell the world about this lavish and generous God who showers us with The Living Bread from heaven– His Son, Jesus.

P.S. As I was writing this I came across two great articles on this topic: here and here.

Developing All My Second Bests

G.K. Chesterton says in his Emancipation of Domesticity, that a woman who has made the home her domain, “may develop all her second bests.”

I just love that. It is a happy happy thing.

I’m not the best at anything. I’m not a professional anything. I’m not being falsely modest, nor am I saying that I’m terrible at everything. I’m simply saying my duties are broad and therefore, it’s hard to get narrow in the way professionals do. I’m a stay-home mom who loves to write, take pictures, knit, and does none of them all too well. I mother, teach, cook, clean, train, love–and as much as I’d like to be a contestant on The Taste, they’d probably be appalled by my Minnesota Taco.

I laugh when I think of holding up what I do next to what someone I admire does. Every now and then I write something that feels insightful (to me) about parenting or some such thing, only to read a book on parenting that says everything I could have wanted to say and with all the grace and humor I so rarely am able to say it with! Thank you Rachel Jankovic!

And yet, I’m undeterred in my 4 year (thus far) blogging adventure. Wonderful blogs and incredible parenting books haven’t pushed me to quit. Why? Because being the best isn’t what matters. Using my gifts does though.

Writing is a way for me to take a step in the right direction. It’s a step of faith. It’s taking a seed and planting it–it’s not looking at the seed someone else planted and the subsequent mighty oak or blossoming cherry and thinking, “I don’t imagine I’ll ever be something that great, so I guess I’ll just hold on to this seed.” I don’t need to be great! God is great! And He intends for me to be spent in the strength He supplies. He’ll take care of the outcomes.

God is a God of small beginnings. He’s not disappointed at all my second bests, he’s enabling them! Indeed, Chesterton says that, “there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not “give her best,” but gives her all.”

So, I give my all in my writing, although I may never have time to make it my best (which would be significantly worse than many other’s trash bin of edits!), and I give my all in cooking (though I learn by hook or by crook in puddleglum fashion), and in parenting (a sticky mountain of dishes and laundry washed daily with grace, and sometimes soap), in homeschooling (though there will always be million good things that we can’t do), in taking pictures (I know nothing and can never promise results), in knitting and crocheting (my ornament creations were ridiculous and so-noted), in cleaning and organizing (chuckle, I do try!), in music (because not everyone can be great, we need someone to make the sopranos feel good) and in a million other things where I’m putting myself out there, knowing full well that life isn’t the kind of competition that you have to come in first in order to count.

I count because I’m numbered among the counted–it’s all Him. So bring on the freedom of second bests. I’ve been called to serve in one hundred interesting and mundane ways through this life of domesticity and mothering. I get to engage them all, by God’s grace, whether I shine or squeak by.

The world is full of talented people, by God’s design and kindness. He’s given me a portion to work with–I’m not going to sit on it because it isn’t as big as the next person’s. Some people out there have a whole mountain of raw material to work with and they’re making mud pies with the manure. Others have attempted to fertilize 1000 acres of corn with their small round manure hill of abilities. And if my small beginning should have a small middle and a small ending, He’s the God of that too.

My last name means, “small round hill,” or “small round man,” –the translation’s a bit tricky, being of English origin naturally. All I know is I’m going to give my all with the small round hill o’ Dodds that I’ve got.

Hobbits are surprising little things, after all.