Saturday, February 25, 2012

Snow Fun

We are enjoying the mildest winter ever.
One cold day has been followed by a week of temps in the 50's or even 60's.
It's late February yet it feels like winter hasn't even arrived yet.
We were only casually watching the weather forecast on Sunday when we heard that snow may be heading our way. You can imagine our delight when we saw 5 inches on the ground Monday morning!

Yet, the temps were already rising once again and the kids were able to build snowmen in warm weather.

The rest of us weren't at the farm because of a farming conference in Pennsylvania.
What a huge blessing it was to come home and see pictures of all the fun the guys had while we were away.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"
Psalm 133:1

Weekend Doughnuts

Our children, Elliott and Oliver especially, are absolutely crazy about doughnuts.
It's very rare that we ever buy them but when we do, my oh my, they just love them!
A recent copy of Hobby Farm Home had an article on doughnut-making and Oliver looked it over and said how easy it would be for me to make homemade yeast doughnuts.
The magazine sat in the basket for quite some time before I felt energetic enough to give it a try but this weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity.
The first hour devoted to the project was spent the night before simply making the dough.
On Saturday morning, what I thought would be another half hour investment in the doughnut-making venture, turned into an additional 3 hours.
Frying, making fillings, and icings....whew! I thought they'd never be done.
About the time everyone came in from morning milking, the doughnuts were finally ready. Timmy asked how I planned on storing them to keep them fresh until they were all eaten.
As it turns out, we didn't need to worry about finding a way to keep them fresh
till they were all eaten!
This picture is to help me never forget that homemade yeast doughnuts, from start to
"big clean-up finish", take 4 hours.
I told the kids I hoped they enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sheridan!

Could it really be five whole years since the Lord blessed us with this incredible gift of a precious Sheridan Anna Claire?! Oh how we love that little girl and are so very thankful that God sent her to our family!

We made the traditional ice cream cake a little different this year and added a cake layer.
Oliver did a great job making some delicious coffee ice cream like Sheridan requested.
The presents are always the funnest part of the birthday!
Happy birthday, sweet Sheridan. We will never be able to thank God enough for allowing us to enjoy you here on earth. We love you so much!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thanks to our Barnabas Friend

One of the unexpected blessings Timmy and I have enjoyed with our kids is a shared love of Christian music between the generations.
We have Sullivan's namesake to thank for that gift: Steve Riley.
Until we met Steve, Timmy and I never knew the vast ocean of encouragement that could shape our lives through Christian music.
Steve had probably met many like us in his past.
We had heard that if it wasn't a hymn written many years ago, it couldn't be Christian.
This left us and all of our peers to dine on whatever the world had to offer in the form of music. A daily diet of the world's philosophies left us spiritually anemic as teens and eventually
a young married couple.
Steve's unspoken ministry was that of encouraging his brothers and sisters in the Lord by introducing them to Christian music that would serve to deepen their walk with Christ.
Steve would make sampler music tapes that he would entitle "Barnabas 1986" "...87", etc. and give them to musically spiritual-deficient friends like us.
It was on those sampler cassettes that we first heard "Steven Curtis Chapman", "Phillips, Craig, & Dean", and countless others who would sing words that convicted, challenged, and spurred us on to a deeper, more committed walk with Christ.
The lyrics were God-filled messages that penetrated every crevice of our once
world-saturated days.
Suddenly, God was everywhere and was sending His words to us through song.
What a great source of encouragement Christian music became in our lives.
From a trial we would face while serving as house parents at the children's home where we first met Steve,
to seeking guidance before attending a heated homeowner's association meeting,
to driving to the hospital for the birth of a baby,
the music has delivered God's messages to us just when we needed them most.

Because of the way the music has ministered to us, Timmy has prioritized taking all of us to concerts whenever our favorite musician-ministers are in town.

We enjoyed seeing Casting Crowns for the first time.
We've enjoyed worshiping with Steve Green, Third Day, Steven Curtis Chapman, Phillips, Craig, & Dean, Chris Tomlin, Tenth Avenue North, Matthew West, Sonic Flood, and others as we've traveled all over the place to be part of the praise and worship services.Surely, some of my most precious family memories have been made as I watched my children worship the Lord in song.
Sheridan is dreaming that she's actually seeing in person the group whose song she has her own made-up music video for: Casting Crowns singing "Courageous"

Our family will always be grateful for Steve's influence in our lives.
Sullivan Riley will serve as our forever reminder.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

This was the first year that Sheridan got excited about Valentine's Day.
She made a Valentine card especially for our farm delivery driver, who has always been so kind to her.
She worked hard cutting out of construction paper a big heart to glue on a smaller heart on which she lovingly scribbled indecipherable messages to Mr. Hendrick.
She prepared her card the night before so it would be ready when he arrived early on
Valentine's Day.
Sheridan had barely woken and come downstairs when I told her she would need to hurry if she wanted to deliver her card before Mr. Hendrick left.
As fast as she could, she grabbed her special card, threw on her coat and because it was raining, she tucked the Valentine safely next to her heart and held it between the snaps of her jacket.
I watched as she ran fast and then faster in the rain,
fearing he'd leave before she got to him.
Minutes later she returned, out of breath, but obviously relieved that she was successful in delivering her Valentine.
As the older boys came in later from milking, they said that she not only delivered the card earlier but also asked Mr. Hendrick if he would be her Valentine.
Characteristic of Mr. Hendrick, he returned from his deliveries with candy especially for his Valentine admirer.

Meanwhile, a rival for Sheridan's attention delivered a Valentine card of his own.
She was so excited to receive a big card from her daddy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Visit with Meredith and Maggie

Meredith was able to come for a visit while Stephen was in training. We planned the younger boys' baptism and barn dance around her arrival so she could be here to celebrate with us.

Everyone loves having baby Margaret around.

Meredith and Margaret visiting the cows during evening milking.

Meredith and I had both been asked to speak at a Valentine's Day banquet for teenage girls, which took place the day after the barn dance.
What a beautiful moment in time it was as I listened to Meredith share a testimony of God's faithfulness in her life while I, in the back of the room to avoid being a distraction, held the very evidence of God's goodness to my daughter - one precious, jibber-jabbering baby Margaret.
Meredith timed her visit so that she could be with us for our annual
Alexander Super Bowl party complete with an assortment of all our favorite goodies.
We enjoyed a meal at Cracker Barrel, a tradition in-the-making, on our way to take Meredith and Maggie back to the airport.
We love the time we get to spend with Meredith and Margaret and
look forward to the next time we see them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Greased Pig Catching Contest

The Barn Dance

We had so much fun gathering with friends and family at the barn dance.
The festivities began with a greased-pig-catching contest.

Oliver was our arena worker and announced the age groups competing in each round.
Get ready, get set...

These girls weren't the least bit afraid to try to catch a greasy pig.

We turned a grain bin into a "corn pit" (similar to a large sand box) for the kids to enjoy.

Some moms and dads watching their kids play in the corn pit.

Sammie, our farm dog, loves events like this where she can make lots of new friends.Tim, Elliott, and Oliver smoked a hog for all of us to enjoy.

Our friends brought side dishes to go along with the pork.
People ate in the house, on the porch, in the barn loft, or anywhere they could find a seat.
My deco critics (Tim and the older boys) have always teased me for collecting old chairs and tables from thrift stores for my "picnic area" as I call it.
I was surely vindicated on this day when people took turns eating here because seating was so limited throughout the farm.
Since then I've purchased, with justifiable indignation, two more chairs for my picnic area and I hope to add many more to my collection before our next event.
After the meal, the dance began.
There is something beautiful about watching a group of people, both young and old, friends and strangers, laughing and having fun together.

I love this picture of a friend's little girl. Isn't she a precious?

After the dance, we enjoyed a concert with "Paid In Full." This band includes talented young men and their dads. As I listened to the beautiful praise songs, I was inspired to see these devoted fathers join their sons in what is actually their sons' ministry.
I have much admiration for these families where the dads are so dedicated to the encouragement and support of their young adult sons.We had a very talented guest who captured some great scenes around the farm.

It was such a fun day to spend with our friends and family. We are so grateful for the wonderful people God has put in our lives over the years.
They are an indescribable source of encouragement to us.