Preserving the Harvest - Drying Tomatoes

Put some parchment paper on the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet. Slice your tomatoes, about a half inch slices. Spread them in one layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt, some fresh ground pepper, and add some basil from the garden. (Basil not necessary, but it sure looks pretty and tastes amazing...)

Set your oven to a low temp...I did these tomatoes at 200 degrees.

200 degrees for "up to" twelve hours. It is the "up to" that will get you, if you aren't careful. This particular day, the humidity was very, very low for my area for this time of year. So this batch of tomatoes only took about three hours! But it can take up to twelve.

All the moisture will dry out, and the tomatoes will shrink and darken. By the time they are done, they will be akin to tomato "chips"...almost crispy. Their flavor is intense, but delicious. You want them to be quite dry, but not burnt. They should peel off the parchment paper pretty easily.

Store these dried tomatoes in a freezer bag, and put them in your freezer. They are great for pizza, for homemade herb breads like foccacia, and soups. They retain their intense flavor and all their vitamins for about six months.

And now, for your viewing delight, I toss in yet another totally unrelated, cute grandson picture:

Be. Still. My. Heart.


Most of you know - I am all about words. I decorate my home and I garnish my inner world with the best of them.

And now...I decorate myself and others with words!

This is my demo - my very first bracelet. Hannah has already claimed it as her own, and she says she'd buy more. I trust her fashion sixth sense. If Hannah loves it, others will too.

I will be designing different widths of bracelets, different words, different colorways, some with embellishment, some not.

This very first demo is a hand sewn bracelet, with antiqued metal closures on the other side (OOPS! I'll get a picture of the pretty clasp, when I put one like this up in my shop. When I finally get my shop up and running, that is.) The "Grace" bracelet is hand embroidered (by me) on burlap (burlap won't fray, because of the special sewing treatment I gave it) , and the embroidered burlap is attached securely to the fabric bracelet. The fabric for this bracelet is in a mustard yellow/teal blue colorway.

More ideas and designs are on the way....even a few collections are in the works - a "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter" collection of four, a Christmas holiday collection, a Good Word collection(based on a Scripture), a French collection, a Romantic collection, perfect for Valentines, and a colorway collection.

I am having such fun designing and creating these. I'll let you know when I have hand- sewn enough of these bracelets (and other things!) to put up a little online shop. I already own the domain I've chosen - I just wish very much that I had the computer skills to design a nice, marketable website...if anyone knows of a web designer who charges reasonable prices, do let me know!

Prodigals, and Mothers Who Love Them

My name is Sheila Atchley, and I am the mother of a wanna-be Prodigal.

I call him a "wanna be", because he isn't quite the full blown Prodigal...he's tried to play the part, and that hurt me deep enough, and hurts me still, God knows. But I've always taught others that a Prodigal isn't a Prodigal until he or she will have nothing more to do with you.

Short of that, short of a severed relationship, what you have is a son or daughter in need of tough and tender love; tender love first, tender love last, with plenty of tough love in between. But without tender love, without a relationship, tough love has no context, because no one is listening. As long as there is an active relationship, you don't have a prodigal, you have someone in need of a lot of grace. Sort of like some other people you know, right?

Now. I believe every word I just said to you. I'd bet my life on the verity of all of it...but now, I want to get heartrendingly real with you. No one can lead or mentor until they are authentic with their pain, as well as their joy.

Nothing will mature or sanctify you (or age you) faster than staying in relationship with a child who hurts you, repeatedly. Well...nothing will mature you faster, if you are sticking and staying, if you are applying the Gospel to your every day life. Of course, you could espouse a pseudo-Gospel, and justify severing relationships to dull your pain.

But you don't grow that way. You don't fill up the sufferings of Christ that way.

Be honest. You aren't "coming out from among them and being separate". You aren't defending God's reputation. You aren't doing the "tough love" thing. You are laying your child in the bushes to die, and walking away.

Because you love her.

Because you think she's going to die spiritually anyway if she continues down the road she is on. And you think that walking away, allowing the distance between the two of you, is better than having to watch her die.

I know. I feel it too. I wrestle with the urge to detach. Because I love him. I love my son.

A woman of ancient times named Hagar felt it. Her son Ishmael was dying, no question about it. It was not a matter of "if he dies", it was a matter of "when". It was only a matter of time.

"When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink."

I cannot even write this without tears. I sob, along with Hagar of old. If writing really is opening up a vein and bleeding on the page, then this page of my blog is a warm pool of bright red. When a child is not walking with God, you never stop feeling the pain of that. My tears will run rivulets, my wound will be fresh until my son is completely revived in his spirit...until he lives as one who has finally drank deeply from the well of salvation.

I know in whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him. Grace will accomplish what the law never could, I am still declaring it, even though sometimes I declare it through tears. This child will live and not die.

The wages of sin is death, that is true.

But the gift of God is eternal life, through Christ Jesus.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that is true. But never...never...never quote Romans 3:23 without 3:24...

... all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

God asked Hagar such piercing questions. In an earlier encounter, it was "Where have you come from? Where are you going?" and now, the question is, "What is the matter?"

Oh, dear friend and fellow mother - God is asking you and I the same thing. "What is the matter?" Or, in other words, "Why are you crying?" It is our job to search our hearts and answer honestly. It is only in the honest answer that we will discover the God Who Sees Us...which is one of the names for God that Hagar personally discovered...through her honest answers.

The honest answer? We aren't doing the "tough love" thing. We think our child is going to die. It seems that way. And so we want to walk away. "Let me not see the child die."

We need our eyes opened to see the well of salvation that has always been there, and is still there, available to our children...and to us.

Let's drink deeply, you and I...and pray that our sons and daughters will begin to cry as bitterly as we have. He will hear their cries and answer them with living water.

My Grandbay-bay is Eight Months Old

...above, you see his seven month picture...and below, his picture from today:

He's been eight months old for some days, now, but his momma has been busy. Today was his eight month picture day, and we could. not. keep. him. still.

Those two up there? They are both my cuties. I love them beyond words.

I am sloppy blessed...or, in King James English, "my cup runneth over."

My Morning at the Farmer's Market

It was a beautiful morning today, so I decided to go to our city's downtown area and visit the farmer's market. At the last minute, Hannah and grandson decided to load up with me and come along.

After about an hour of fresh air and sunshine, Little Britches was done.

Solid gone.

So. Many. People. They stopped on a dime, right in their tracks, to admire his napping cuteness.

Can you even stand it?

Me neither.

Play Hurt

As I sit down in front of this little netbook tonight, I'm thinking about the phrase, "Play Hurt".

My son Isaac is near-legendary for playing his basketball through an injury. He twisted his ankle in a game last year, and played the whole game. He contracted mono last summer, lost about 15 pounds, and couldn't get his strength back. He kept coming down with flu after flu last winter, and still played his heart out, every game. He played a couple of games with a high fever.

Then, he sprained an ankle in a national tournament this past guessed it. He played hurt. And won a game for his team. He recently sprained his other ankle (badly) and has gone back to work (roofing!) before it has had a chance to completely heal. He will be okay - it is good for him to, within reason, learn that life is about "Playing Hurt".

It is particularly true of church life...of life in Christ. Every great man or woman of God has to "play hurt". Church life, as my Preacher said this past Sunday, is not all warm fuzzies. People hurt you. Oh Lawdy-Lawd, do they ever hurt you.

David said, "Let the righteous smite won't kill me." (My paraphrase).

People who whine about being hurt by the church have come to the wrong blog for sympathy. Join the club, my friend.

And play hurt.

You do not have to wait until you are all 'specially healed up and whole to serve God and love His people. You don't have to wait till you feel all better to obey God in the Next Thing, and tend your relationships. You don't have to wait for a feeling to go fix your relationships. You just drag that donkey-butt back to the church you last left, and you forgive and you forge ahead.

This life is war, friend. Spiritual war. The war is out there. I do not care how hurt you have been by your church experience, I am here to tell you, the worst day in His house is better than a thousand good days anywhere else. The devil is out to kill, steal, and destroy...the body of Christ is simply human and fallible.

Please, please lose the notion that the saints are out to get you. There are some mean people, some sorry saints, in every church...but by and large, you are not their first target, you won't be their last, and they don't fall asleep dreaming of ways they can harm you, because you are simply not that important to them, and that is part of the problem. If you were more important to them, they'd be hurting you differently, but they'd still hurt you from time to time.

Let them smite me. When it is all said and done, the proof is exactly this: they will be the ones to leave, and I will still be right here, shot through but still loving The Bride. Me? I play hurt, baby.

I can say this, just now, because I'm in my happy place. No one at all has hurt me lately. No one has left in a wrong way, in fact some have been added...and added back. Church life is good for me, these days.

To get to the good days...the precious have to play through the pain.

Play Hurt. Your team is counting on you.

Dedicated to Matt and Kelly Bailey

"Five good children are an immense luxury, and to deny one's self other luxuries in order to raise them is not self-denial at all, but merely an intelligent choice of investment."

--Edward Sandford Martin, The Luxury of Children (1904)


Yeah. The Baileys are expecting! That would bring the Harvest Baby Total up to....

seven. Not even kidding you. Seven. I dance. I spin. I clap like a child. Children are a reward, and so Harvest and her families must be overflowing with divine favor. This grace-message is proving itself to be extremely pleasing to the Father.