Monday, August 28, 2017

Quote to Consider:

Success is not helping our kids be what they want to be. Success is helping our kids be what God wants them to be.

-Rob Rienow
God's Grand Vision for the Home

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Witness (Not Whining)

So, the following post could sound a lot like whining, but I am not writing it to complain.  I am writing it as a testimony.  God provides!

I'm a bit late in posting about it, as the story starts about a year ago, but here it is....

     Having a new baby always costs money.  Even before the hospital bills hit, there's the expenditures of MORE diapers, more water bills, and eating out because a sleepless mama can't bear the thought of planning meals.
     Paul's truck went in for some warranty work last February.  Initially this was a blessing, because the (FREE!) rental they supplied got better than twice the gas mileage Paul's truck did.  And then.....  A tie rod broke on Paul's truck when they were aligning it post-repair. We ended up with a $1000 mechanic bill, which kicked off the most financially stressful period of our entire marriage. 
     In addition to the baby hospital bills, we also ended up with bills from the emergency room (Gideon), another surgery (me), and procedures for treatment of my severe varicose veins. 
     Then we found out our roof needed replaced following a hail storm, and insurance was only going to pay half. Our washing machine and mower also broke down. And then I blew a tire on the van, so ended up having to buy two new tires.  In the midst of all this, our normal yearly taxes and insurance were due. 
But God supplied all our needs! About the time that all savings accounts reached empty, Paul and I had a discussion.  I felt like our finances were out of control.  But I was also being convicted because we weren't giving God his portion.  We were giving every month, but I had not been giving the FULL tithe that we had decided on a couple years ago.  (Of course, I justified it with "but I give my time" and "we give in other ways.")  Paul and I talked about it, and decided we needed to give God all of His part.  
     So.  In faith, I wrote a check.  It's faith, to write a check for a couple hundred dollars, when you know you have several thousand dollars in bills coming due within the next couple months, and that we didn't have enough in savings to cover them.
      The same day I put the check in the offering, Paul was offered a part time job helping a man with roofing, which paid for gas and groceries those few months. We had to learn humility in admitting we couldn't afford certain things, and in taking assistance through free food that was offered us. It was tight, but we made it, and continued to give our full tithe the rest of the year.  We still had Christmas!  And the children got a chance to see the blessing of passing along blessings that have been given us when we were able to help a needy woman.
     "My God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory."  (Philippians 4:19)  We all know there's so much more that he supplies, things of eternal value, but this is one instance of him providing for our physical needs - because He's such a great God!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rhodes Report 2016

I typed this up, but never got it sent out.  As always, January finances were in upheaval.  It's always the super-tight month after Christmas expenditures and before receiving Paul's holiday overtime and tax return.  February was super-busy and I didn't have time to address the envelopes.  Then came March, and I'd forgotten about it.  So when April hit, I asked, "What's the point?"  
But for you loyal readers, here it is......

     As a new year dawns, we can look back over 2016 and see just how blessed we are. We are promised that "God will meet all [our] needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19), and we can see that He has faithfully done that.
     We opened 2016 looking forward to the arrival of our 5th baby. Elsa Anne was born March 15. Now, at 10 months old, her personality is beginning to shine. She is a very happy baby, who loves smiling and waving. She is noticeably smaller than our other 4 were at the same age, but no less adventurous. She has crawling figured out, and has recently discovered the stairs. She is timidly attempting letting go of her support as she stands, but doesn't seem to be in a hurry to conquer that skill. Her siblings adore her, and are all very helpful in entertaining and watching out for her.
     Gideon turned 3 in December, and is a little Mr. Smarty Pants. He's got the world figured out, and fears nothing. Surprisingly, his "adventurousness" is not what earned him our family's first trip to the emergency room. In June, he fell getting out of the van and got 3 stitches in his forehead. But even in this, he was Mr. Smooth, charming the nurses and doctor, while kicked back on the gurney with his hands behind his head. Gideon has a very large vocabulary, and his expressions are hilarious. He knows most of his shapes and colors, and he loves building with his big Legos and playing with farm toys and trains.
     Zadie turned 4 in April. She is a very tall girl, with most mistaking her for a 6 or 7 year old. We started pre school with her on the fall, and she loves the writing and coloring, but sees no use for trying to remember the names of letters and numbers. Miss Zadie is a sass, and all her dad can do is shake his head when she is telling him how the world works, complete with finger-wagging and head nods. She loves drawing, coloring, and writing her name, along with playing with her doll house and ponies. We discovered "girl Legos" this year, and she spends hours creating and interacting with them.
     Jacob turned 7 in October and is in 2nd grade. He is very quick with picking things up in his schoolwork, although his attention to detail could use some work. Jacob shadows his big brother constantly, and as a result sometimes isn't sure about what he likes to do on his own. He enjoys farm toys, Legos, dinosaurs, mowing and raking in the yard, and exploring outside. He really enjoys helping Pa-Pa on the farm.  He got a beginner’s compound bow for his birthday and has enjoyed target shooting with it.  His patience will pay off in that area.
     Nathan turned 9 in September. He learns tasks very quickly, and is very careful and trustworthy with being allowed to do things that most kids his age can't do. This year, he learned how to run Grandpa's small chain saw, how to operate the riding mower, and how to drive Paul's truck. Nathan is in 4th grade on some subjects. He says reading is his favorite subject, which is a HUGE change from when we started school a year ago, and he could barely read. His brain works differently, which is apparent by the way he randomly writes with his left hand - without even noticing. So we still are working on the fact that some things aren't interchangeable, like the order of letters or numbers. But he does well at school and we are pleased at his progress.  He bought a BB gun at the end of summer, and enjoys target shooting.  He’s very responsible with this “real” gun and keeps it carefully stored.  However, his arsenal of play guns are all over the yard and house and are constantly being smuggled in the van.  (A parent at Awana told me they appreciate his patrol each week!)  Besides camouflage, guns, and army – Nathan enjoys Legos, farm toys, and helping Paul work on wood building projects.
     Home school is going well. It's a challenge with a small, mobile baby, who can't decide if she wants to be in my arms pulling things off the desk, or on the floor putting things in her mouth. Attitudes are better this year, but we still have days of absolutely maddening lolly-gagging. Nathan is to the age of knowing what's expected and getting it done on his own, which is VERY helpful, since Elsa's sleeping and nursing whimsies basically dictate my entire day.
     Paul and I are to the point of being old and boring, and that's just fine. Paul finished his 17th year at the glass plant. He is still very involved with the Encounter ministry, and has been visiting the youth detention center with our associate Pastor a couple times a month. Obviously, cooking and looking after this crew takes a lot of my time, but I have been able to be involved in putting on some special events the church has hosted. Paul and i celebrated 12 years of marriage in March. Being married to your true best friend is so nice. 
     We are involved in the Awana program at church. I teach Cubbies (preschool) with Zadie, Jacob has finished his second book in Sparks, and Nathan is learning how to study the Bible in T&T. 
     In December, most of the family were involved in our church's Bethlehem presentation. Elsa portrayed Baby Jesus (our 4th child to play the part), with Paul &  I as Mary and Joseph, Nathan was a shepherd, Zadie was an angel, and Jacob was a general cast member. We really enjoy presenting the Christmas Story to the community. This year, over 1,400 passed through in 3 nights.
     In January, Paul took his truck to the dealer for an inspection, and they discovered the frame was nearly rusted through. Apparently Toyota has a lifetime warranty on this. The downside is that it took them several months to completely replace the frame and several other components involved. The upside is that parts and labor were free, and Paul was given a free rental for those 5 months. He took the rental in for an oil change, and the only replacement they had was a Dodge Challenger. Driving a shiny black muscle car sure was tough for Paul to do....
     We didn't get much done on the house this year, but Paul did manage to finish up the basement bathroom early last year. It's quite nice to have 2 full bathrooms, plus the bonus back bath. Paul does such great work.
     Obviously, no vacations happened. Even though we planned to take some short overnight trips, the reality was that camping with a baby and 2 year old was going to be entirely too stressful. So Paul and the kids did some backyard camping, and fishing trips to the neighbor's pond, which they all thoroughly enjoyed.
     Seeing how God has provided and blessed us makes us excited for what He has planned on 2017. "He who began a good with in you week be faithful to complete it." We anticipate and want to be open to doing His work and fulfilling His calling.
     We hope this letter finds you blessed and well. Give us a call any time you're in the area. Visitors are the pinnacle of excitement around here!
     From our home to yours,
          Paul & Rachel
          Nathan, Jacob, Zadie, Gideon, and Elsa

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bedroom Makeover, Continued

Do you remember when we moved the bed into the closet?
  Well, that was three years ago. Basically, nothing in our room has changed.
We filled the shelves with junk. (All of the "grown up" - can't say "adult" - DVDs, CDs, and Xbox games got moved in and away from children.) I got a new bed spread a year ago. I added a few second-hand pillows that I was tired of the kids taking outside.
Let's see...... What did I say I was going to do "soon" in that post? Hmmm...... Refinish a dresser. (It's still sitting in the shop.) And add some art over the bed.
Well, after 3 years, I can finally say that I've gotten the art for over the bed. And I love it!
I was in Hobby Lobby last weekend picking up some stuff for our Awana Grand Prix. I walked by the wall plaque and it caught my eye. It is the verse we put on our wedding invitations and programs. (So true for our feelings for each other - then and now!) I made a note to mention it to Paul, but didn't get it.
I looked it up online a few days later, and saw it was on sale for half price. So it was only $15! I wanted to pick up a shelf, to give the wall the feel of a headboard, since we don't have one. This one was 40% off, so I paid $30 for it. (Which some would say was too much given the level of distressing it's received.) But the colors matched our quilt, and I loved the rustic look.
The items on the shelf are all from "shopping the house." I'm constantly moving things around.
I've found out takes me quite some time to get used to the feel and function of a room before I know how I want to decorate it. (It's taken me 10 years to figure out "my" decor style.) Then it comes down to time and money, both of which I'm usually short of.
But sometimes, it's worth the wait. I am so pleased with how this project turned out! (Even if trying to level that shelf had me wanting to scream!)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Zadie Marie: A Salvation Story

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
-III John 1:4

Both of our older boys prayed to accept Jesus as their Savior when they were quite young. They were 4 and 3 1/2 years old. But that has been 4 years ago, since Jacob made the decision! So it seems like this announcement is a long time coming.
Last Sunday, Zadie made the decision to trust Christ as her Savior!
This event has brought me so much joy and relief. Even though we read the Bible with our kids nightly, Zadie has shown very little interest in spiritual matters. Even over the last year, since she's been in Cubbies at Awana, we have tried to have intentional conversations with her about sin and why Jesus had to die, and she would usually change the subject. If I could engage her into conversation, the conversation would end in her refusing to admit she had ever sinned. The few times she would admit sin (usually after being caught in a lie), when we would go over the conversation about sin and Christ, she would say she didn't want to pray for forgiveness. It was becoming obvious that she knew all the pieces, but it was willful refusal to open up to God. Others would encourage me that she was still young (she's almost 5), but the hardening of her little heart was still concerning. And i was questioning myself whether we were being diligent enough in discipleship and training. Obviously I don't have as much time now to talk and teach one on one like I did with Nathan and Jacob, now that we have 5 kids.
Last Sunday, our Bible study met and since it was our first meeting since the holidays, we didn't have a study set. Someone asked, "What should we read?" And Paul jokingly said, "Jonah!" This is the answer our children always choose when given a choice of what Bible study to read in the children's Bible, so we had a good laugh. But we did study Jonah, and had good conversations about it.
When we came home and were putting the children to bed, Paul took Zadie upstairs to read the Bible in her bed. (On late nights, we'll read the children's story Bible to Zadie and Gideon alone, rather than reading as a family in the living room.) Paul asked Zadie what she wanted to read, and of course the answer was, "Jonah!"
In light of the good conversations we'd had at Bible study, Paul talked to her about why the people of Ninevah were in trouble with God, and that led to a conversation about sin, and on to talking about the fact that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins so we can go to Heaven.
I wasn't upstairs, but I could hear that they were having a conversation. After a while, Paul came to the to of the stairs, and said, "Rachel, could you come up here?" My heart filled with hope.
I went to her room, and Paul filled me in on what they'd talked about. He asked Zadie if she wanted to pray with Mommy about Jesus talking her sins away. She said yes!
I could sense a different spirit about her. Usually she had a kind of flippant attitude when you try to be serious with her. But she was very quiet and contrite as she lay there on her bed. I knelt by her bedside and asked her some more questions. She answered all of them with assurance. Then I asked her if she wanted to pray. She nodded.
I guided her in a simple prayer to confess that she had sinned, and asking Jesus to forgive her and thanking Him for dying to pay for the bad things she'd done. When we were finished, she had a big smile on her face, and i felt like my heart was about to burst with happiness!
The next morning I asked her what she had done, and she quickly and confidently answered, "I asked Jesus to take all my bad sins away so I can go to Heaven!" I feel certain she understood and fully accepted what had happened the night before.
Paul and I noticed an almost immediate change in her, which I believe I'd evidence of the Holy Spirit now living within her. She accidentally hurt Gideon. I had her apologize, which she did, but then several minutes later, she came to him and asked him if he would forgive her. She told me when she was outside, she was singing "new songs" about Jesus dying on the cross. Instead of playing with dolls or other toys, she say quietly and listened attentively when we read the Bible the next night (and every night since). She has told most of her friends about what she did.
It is such a joy to know that one more of our children will be joining us in eternity! And the fact that i got to be with her when she made that decision makes my joy complete!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Recipe

Are the holidays your favorite time of year, for all the yummy cinnamon-infused drinks we get to enjoy?
Why limit it to the holidays?
Did you know you can make your own pumpkin spice coffee at home?
I don't know the recipe for a large pot, but in my single-cup machine (no, it's not a Keurig... I'm not that much of an addict), you simply add 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice with the grounds, then once it's brewed, load on the cream and sugar. Or even better, sweetened condensed milk!
A friend also suggested adding a dab of vanilla extract to the grounds..... Mmmm.....
All the deliciousness, at a fraction of the cost. And I'm sure much healthier than the artificial flavors and preservatives in store-bought creamers and fast food/convenience store concoctions.

Friday, January 6, 2017


Maybe it should be "Mock Guac"? (It's so easy, I don't feel like it deserves the designation of "real" guacamole!)
Regardless, this recipe could be a game changer.
I have an unnatural love affair with avocados. Beyond guacamole, I will eat avocados with salt and pepper and a spoon.
But add tortilla chips and.......
I'm going to need a moment.
Last night when trying to decide what to fix for supper, we realized we had all the fixin's for nachos. Tortilla chips and nachos from New Year's Eve, shredded lettuce and tomatoes from New Years at Grandma's.
Then as we were setting everything on the table I realized - I have avocados! (At $1+ EACH, I rarely indulge, but they had been on sale for 88¢.). But it was time to eat - no time for veggie chopping. But nachos without guacamole?? Sacrilege.
The thought came: They make spice packets for guacamole. Can't I do that?
Just going with what I had, I grabbed minced onion, red pepper flakes, then added salt and pepper.
Nailed it.
Maybe not quite as delicious as finely chopped onions and cilantro, but when you're just in it for the avocados, this super-simple recipe is all you need.

Super Simple Guacamole
4 avocados, peeled and mashed
1 tsp dried minced onions
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Mash everything together in a small bowl. Give it a hefty shake-over of salt and pepper, adding more to suit your taste.
If you have the time to let it set, the flavors come out more, and the onions soften. I didn't notice crunchy bits, but I was also eating them with tortilla chips.