Monthly Archives: January 2013

Spiced Vanilla Chai

I mentioned on Facebook last week that my afternoon cup of chai is one of my favorite parts of my day.  Especially during the cool months of winter, a cup of hot chai just hits the spot!

I was first exposed to chai when I lived in India. The word chai is usually used to describe a spiced tea mix and is the drink of choice in India.  One of our favorite memories of living in India is riding on the trains and waiting for the chai man to come into the train yelling, "Chai! Chai! Chai!"  He would have a huge urn of hot masala chai and a collection of terra-cotta like cups that for 5 rupees (about 10 cents at the time) he would serve you.  When you were done with your cup of deliciousness, you could throw your little pottery cup out the window and watch it break along the railroad tracks. So fun and much better than the paper and plastic also littering the tracks!

Living in the States, chai wasn't something that I got to enjoy very much.  I have seen it for sale in the store but I have never found one that tasted good. Starbucks — a real treat for our family — was really my only option when it came to finding a good tasting cup of hot and spicy chai.  Well, until a few months ago.  A friend of mine mentioned that she was making chai and so I decided to give it a go.  I searched around online for a recipe that would be similar the creamy, perfectly-spiced variety I love. I found a number of them and after trying and tweaking, I have found a recipe that I love. It's easy, makes a huge batch, and is the perfect blend of cream and spice. I introduced one of our neighbors to chai last week and his comment was, "This drink just changed my life."  I can't promise a life changing experience, but I can say that I am in love. It's the perfect companion for sitting and chatting, baking, or any other time you crave a hot drink. Enjoy!

Enjoying a cup of chai as I bake



1 cup nonfat dry milk powder

1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer

1 cup French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer

2 1/2 cups white sugar

1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1. Place all ingredients into a food processor or large blender (I use my Ninja).  Blend into a fine powder.  Store in an airtight container. 2. To make a cup of chai, add two or three tablespoons of mix (to taste) to 8 ounces of hot water or milk (I like the creaminess of milk!   It's that easy!  I love that this recipe makes a LOT of mix (about six cups).  I have a cup most days and mine lasted me over a month. I've just made another batch and am ready for my afternoon cup of chai.    

My Life’s Work

Thank you for indulging me as I have attempted to catch you up on the last seven months.  It was very therapeutic for me to go back through photos and see what the last seven months have meant in the life of our family. The time since June has been so hard in some ways and so amazing in other ways. Stuggles are never enjoyable in the process, but there is such beauty in looking behind and seeing the fruit that trials have brought. God has taught me so much about my own weakness and His strength, about my pride and His love, about my dreams and His plans, about my hurts and His healing, about my motivations and His keen eye, and about my sin and His forgiveness. My time of sickness led to a time of quietness and that quietness was exactly what I needed in order to hear God speak.

At church on Sunday the guest speaker spun a familiar idea into new words. I love it when someone can take an idea or phrase and speak new life into it. Scripture is living and active and yet at times, I let the words run right off of me instead of through me. When the imagery is changed, however, it forces me to stop. In stopping, the words start to penetrate my heart.  There is beauty and freshness in looking at things in a new light.

The speaker was preaching on what he called "Practical Atheism in the life of a Christian." His point was that many believers claim a renewed life and yet the evidence of their actions and choices shows that they are living like an atheist.  An atheist doesn't believe in God and therefore God's Word doesn't affect his or her life in any way. The speaker had many scriptural examples of the signs that point to this lifestyle as well as the results that such living brings.  Many of them were cause for deep self-examination, but one stood out to me more than the others.

One of the results, he said, of practical atheism in the life of the Christian is that when the time comes to enter heaven, the life's work of the practical atheist will be left at the doorstep, though he/she will enter heaven. The practical atheist spends her time doing things that are completely and totally earth-centered: there is no eternal value in them. While the idea of "focusing on things above" (Colossians 3:2) is far from new to me and books such as Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions, and Eternity have been life-changing for me, this particular image in my mind — of  me standing at the gates of heaven having to leave behind everything I have put my time, heart, and energy into — struck me in a profound way. I imagined my own sadness as well as the countless before and after me who hung their heads before the Almighty, realizing that all of the things they had poured themselves into during their stay on earth were worthless beyond the gates of eternity.

Again, this isn't completely new for me. I long ago gave up any notion that houses, cars, bank accounts, clothing, and personal status are worthy of any great attention. However, something about the way the words were spoken and the imagery it conjured up in my mind sparked something deep within my soul. They have given me a renewed determination to spend my days and hours on things that have eternal value and not to waste those same days and hours on things that will end up in a huge pile of  "Sorry, that can't come in with you" junk. I get frustrated at airports when a bottle of water or shampoo gets confiscated at security.  I think, "What a waste!" Given the intensity of emotions I feel as I stand barefooted at a security checkpoint, I can only imagine the weight of sorrow that would be on me if everything I spent my earthly years on was denied access into eternity with me!

Each of us have a choice to make every day.  How will spend our moments?  Our moments turn into hours and our hours into days and our days into years. We must ask ourselves,

"Where is my time going?" "What is getting the bulk of my attention?"   "Where does my money go?" "What value will this have tomorrow, next week, next month, or in ten years?"

And just as important,

"Is there something else that I could be spending my time/money/energy/emotions on that will have more eternal significance?"

This isn't to say that I don't think God wants us to enjoy life.  On the contrary, I believe that the abundant life that Christ offers will only be realized when we allow Him to change our hearts (and as a result, our priorities and desires). I think someone can run for the glory of God.  I think someone can bake and bless others eternally. I am convinced that someone can create art that points to the amazing Creator.  We can write as a means of using words to build up and encourage others. But, I also think that we can run for vain and arrogant reasons.  We can bake with the intention of impressing others.  We can create art with a twisted lust for the praise of man.  We can write words in the hopes of others recognizing our wit, intelligence, or creativity. It isn't necessarily the activities of our day that are in question, but rather, the true motive behind them. We may fool others into believing our motives are pure, but Scripture tells us over and over again that God tests our hearts and He is privilege to our deepest and most sincere desires and motives.

So, right now, I am mulling all of this over.  I am looking at the moments and choices of my life and days and letting God shine light on my heart motives. More than anything, I want to arrive at the gates of heaven and rather than be told to throw my life's work into a pile that has to be left behind, I want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Your work has preceded you. Go on in and see the eternal result of your time and choices. It's beautiful."

So with each meal I prepare for my family, each load of laundry I wash and fold, each photo I take, each word I type, and with each snuggle I give, I am praying that God would use my choices and my days as part of His eternal plan. If I bake, let it be to bless others.  If I rest, let it be so that I can have the energy to serve. If I read, let it be to gain wisdom. If I eat, let it be to nourish and strengthen my body. If I create, let it be to shine forth God's beauty and creativity. If I discipline my children, let it be to lead them closer to the Lord. If I celebrate, let it be for God's goodness and faithfulness through the years. And if I write, let it be to edify others.  I want my life's work to matter.

This Was December

*In an effort to give an update on the last seven months, I am posting monthly reviews for June-December 2013. Feel free to catch the others here: JuneJulyAugust, September, October, and November.  

What November lacked in photos, December more than makes up for it. I was feeling so much better — physically, yes, but also emotionally and mentally.  The pregnancy fog that plagued me for so long started to lift and I was starting to feel like myself again.  The things I normally enjoy (like taking photos) was fun again. Plus, with three Christmas celebrations, a 17 day trip, and lots of firsts (like sledding!) there was a lot to photograph!

The month started off strong. Since we were going to be leaving on a trip to Michigan later in the month, we wanted to be sure that we took time to celebrate Christmas as a family first.  So, we got right to work decorating, wrapping, and preparing for our December 8th family Christmas.

Days leading up to our family Christmas were filled with baking, preparing, school, and getting ready for our trip.

Alaina is so good about helping Katie with her school work!

A special dessert one night. Pinterest makes holiday baking so much more fun!

Our "Christmas" morning started off as usual: stockings, pictures in Christmas jammies (opened the night before), and breakfast together. Thai sticky rice (in red and green!) is always the request! Then we moved on to gifts! All the present opening wore us out (as evidenced by Miss Bethany pretending to nap with her new blankie and pillow pet), so we cleaned up and rested.  Then, I took the kids out for a bit so I could get some photos of them.  It had been a long time since I took them out specifically for photos. Caleb was sick and we were losing light fast, but we were still able to get a few good ones.

The next day, I made everyone get dressed again to try for a few family pictures.  It was a complete failure, but at least we got some laughs out of.  Not one picture that I love, but a lot that make me giggle! And yes, I am completely embarrassed to show the ones of me in the them.  I hate them all.  But hey, this is real life and this is sometimes what we get.  In case you are wondering, I set my camera on a tripod and I use a remote timer that I set to take a photo every three seconds.

I take that back...I love these two 🙂 Daddy to the rescue to save a screaming baby.  She loves him so much!

Mixed in with packing and getting ready for our trip to Michigan, the next week was filled with some leisure.  Walks with the kids, baking, and just soaking in the beauty of God's creation. Almost nothing brings me so close to the Lord than stopping in awe and wonder at His beautiful creation. His creativity — even in the smallest details — leaves me awestruck.


These cookies, Jason said, "Are like a bit of holiday delight in your mouth!"  I laughed so hard!

I made lots of yummy chai mix with fresh ground spices.  Mmmm...

On the 15th of December, we drove to Michigan to spend the holidays with family.  On the 17th (in addition to celebrating 13 years of marriage!), we celebrated Christmas with Jason's parents and brother.  One of the first orders of business for the day was for Caleb to wow us with his magic show.  He had been practicing for a few weeks and he did a great job!

My favorite part of the day was getting to spend it with our sweet Lucy!  She isn't able to live with us at the missionary home so she has been living with Jason's parents.  I can't wait to have her back with us again!

On the morning of the 21st, the kids got to experience for the first time what they were most excited about: SNOW! Michigan got a light dusting and long before the sun was up, our kids were out enjoying it!

Bethany woke up later and took her turn exploring the white stuff.

On December 23rd, we made the seven hour trek to Madison, Wisconsin, to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my side of the family.  It was a fun time to be all together and my younger sister and her husband were great (and gracious!) hosts. Christmas morning was a bit insane, but even Santa found some time to snooze.

On the way back to Michigan, we had the pleasure of spending a few hours with former coworkers from Indonesia. What a blessing it was to get together! Once we got back to Michigan, the kids were thrilled to see a good amount of snow.  They LOVED playing and sledding on the piles dumped in Wisconsin and so they were thrilled for a few more chances to enjoy it before heading back to North Carolina. And I was thrilled with the local salvation army that helped us get all five kids outfitted for under $30! No use spending lots of money on things we probably won't ever be able to use again!

The final event of our trip was something that we had been meaning to do all month and just hadn't had the chance to do yet: make gingerbread houses.  It isn't something we had ever done before, so when I saw these kits at Hobby Lobby on Black Friday, I thought they would be a great first-time experience for us.  The kids had so much fun (and made a huge mess of Jason's parent's kitchen!)

And one final photo of 2012...saying goodbye to grandma and grandpa (and Lucy :().  Looking forward to a GREAT 2013! And that was December!

This Was November

*In an effort to give an update on the last seven months, I am posting monthly reviews for June-December 2013. Feel free to catch the others here: JuneJulyAugust, SeptemberOctober, and December.  

There aren't many photos from November.  Basically, it was just a hard month.  Although I was feeling better physically, emotionally I was a wreck.  Part of was hormones and part of it was just life. After a few hard weeks of trying to work various scenarios out, we found out that due to visa problems, we would not be able to return to Indonesia in January as planned.  Although there were some really great aspects of staying in the States for another six months, it was a blow to everything we had planned until that point.  So many decisions had been made based on the plan to return in January and here we were, just weeks before we thought we would be moving out of the missionary home and getting ready to fly back, and we all of a sudden had another 6-8 months to do something with.  Usually, I don't mind change.  In fact, I actually thrive on it.  This time, however, it was different.  It took me a long while to come to terms with staying. I'm two months farther down the road at this point and so although I miss Indonesia and part of me is sad that I am not there right now like I thought I would be, I am thrilled to be here in the States.  There are many things that we are looking forward to in the coming months! And when we do return to Indonesia (sometime in the summer), we will be more than ready!

The day after we found out we weren't going back, we got some good news....our ultrasound. Not only did we learn we are — Lord willing — having a healthy baby, we learned that we would once again even out the score to have 3 boys and 3 girls.  The kids were THRILLED to find out about a new baby brother! I went to the doctor without the kids, but when I got home I made some of their favorite cake batter truffles and I told them I would put either blue or pink inside.

Not much went on the rest of the month.  We did have a nice Thanksgiving celebration (a few days early) with Jason's parents and at the end of the month we had fun watching the kids in their handbell performance.  All semester they had been attending a music class for homeschoolers (on the property where we are staying) and this was there final performance. That was November!

This Was October

*In an effort to give an update on the last seven months, I am posting monthly reviews for June-December 2013. Feel free to check out the others here:  JuneJulyAugust, September, November, and December.

With school, work, gorgeous fall weather, and lots of visitors, October was a busy month for us.  A good month, but busy. At the beginning of the month, there was a forecast for a gorgeous 80 degree weekend.  Knowing we were going to have guests for the next three weeks, we decided it was "now or never" to head to the beach for a weekend of camping, hanging out at the ocean, and visiting one of the NC Aquariums.  It was an amazing weekend and just what we needed!

Petting sharks was definitely the highlight of Caleb's trip!

The next weekend, our dear, sweet friends the Ransom's came for a visit.  I didn't take a lot of photos, but we had a great time of catching up, heart-to-heart talks, and craziness as all nine kids ran around the house!  On the morning they left, we visited a farm where Jason sometimes helps out with the milking. They had lots of new baby calves.

Fall is so beautiful here in North Carolina!  While the colors aren't as brilliant as they are in Michigan, the length of the season more than makes up for it.  Rather than the colors lasting two weeks or so, we got to enjoy the beauty of Autumn for 6-8 weeks. It was stunning.  Add in the warm temperatures and I am a fan!

There was even some fun leaf sledding!

Bethany decided that the top of the car needed to be washed!

At the end of the month, after my sister and her kids left, we headed back to the NC Zoo for a special event called Boo at the Zoo.  The kids had a great time and I loved getting out my camera and documenting what might be our only autumn for a very long time!

You'll notice a bandage on Alaina's finger.  That would be from ER trip #4 of our time in the States.  Her finger got shut in a closet door and it was broken and almost completely severed. Thankfully, since the nail stayed intact, the orthopedic surgeon recommended that we not do surgery at this point.  He said to give it a year to see of the nail and the nail bed stay together. The nail is acting as a splint for the broken bone and over the next twelve months we should be able to see if the tissues in the tip of the finger will grow together again.

Katie was obsessed with trying to read the zoo map and tell us which way to go!

Being the good Asian kids that they are, the kids climbed right on top of this jeep. It was like it was the most natural thing in the world to think that the best place to ride is the top!

Jason and all the kids decided to see if they could all fit into an ostrich egg.  They succeeded!

 The last big event for October was Halloween!  While we aren't big into the holiday, I wanted to make sure my kids had at least one chance in their childhood to go trick-or-treating. A bit of scrambling, a few costume loans, and a bit of creativity and they were ready!

Alaina was quite proud of her very realistic bandage over her eye.  Two days before, she had been spinning around in the kitchen and banged her head into the wall.  "Thanks" to all the other emergencies of the summer, I knew that while the cut didn't look good, it didn't necessitate a trip to the ER.  Instead I just sent Jason to the store for liquid bandage.

While Jason and the big kids went our trick-or-treating with a friend from work, I distracted Bethany from the departing siblings with a bath.  It worked and then we spend a nice quiet evening at home. What a way to end a busy month!

This Was September

*In an effort to give an update on the last seven months, I am posting monthly reviews for June-December 2013. Feel free to check out JUNE, JULY, AUGUST, and FAMILY PHOTOS, October, November, and December As I mentioned in my August post, by the time Jason and the kids got back from their trip to Michigan, I was twelve weeks along and feeling much better.  I have never felt better at twelve weeks so I was extremely thankful.  I was still really tired and I was sick by about four in the afternoon, but overall, I was doing much better.  And with Jason starting work and me being at home all day with five kids plus all the homeschooling and housework, feeling even slightly better was a huge blessing!

One of my favorite parts of September was waking up and enjoying my Bible time by this window.  With steaming coffee in hand, I would watch the sun rise over the trees and I would soak in the only words that can change me.

School continued on as normal.  Here Alaina is making a poster about the classification of animals.

Before Jason and the kids' trip to Michigan, we purchased a very large tent.  Jason was quite brave to attempt camping with five kids all by himself.  They had a great time, though, and here you can see them reliving the experience as they set up the tent in our yard as we grilled out.

We are pretty choosy about how we spend our money.  However, after looking into things, we decided to purchase a yearly membership to the North Carolina zoo.  Due to their family pricing structure, just two trips to the zoo in a year would cost us more than an entire-year membership.  Plus, we now have access to many other zoos and aquariums for 50-100% off.

One of the best part of the zoo was a children's play area.  What I loved about it was that there really wasn't much set up.  Rather, there were just lots of things for the kids to play and imagine with: branches, buckets, sticks, rocks, strings, and more.  Our kids had a blast playing in there and we spent longer there than we did anywhere else in the park.  They built shelters, forts, a rope swing, and more.  It made me sad to see lots of families pass by and the kids begging to go in and play and the parents responding that there wasn't anything to see or do in there.  I beg to differ!

A bit later in the month, we drove about an hour to Raleigh's annual BugFest, put on by the Museum of Natural Sciences.  There were tons of exhibits and displays.  We barely scratched the surface in our 3-4 hours there.  One of the highlights was the Cafe Insecta, where there were all sorts of bug dishes being served up free of charge.  I was pretty sick that day so I didn't indulge, but much to my surprise, Alaina, Caleb, Katie, and Jason all gave it a try.  It might have had something to do with the dollar that I offered them if they could eat a whole piece of something 😉

After the insect cafe, we continued to walk around and explore.  One of their favorite stops was at a game station.  They loved racing by rolling the "dung" of the dung beetle!

Other than those few events, the month was pretty low-key.  I was still on the mend physically and Jason was busy with work.  We did enjoy a few nights grilling at the park and then a wonderful visit from my mom.

That was September!    

This Was August

*In an effort to give an update on the last seven months, I am posting monthly reviews for June-December 2013. Feel free to catch JuneJulySeptemberOctoberNovember, and December

The measly number of photos I have for August should give you some indication of how very sick I was. Pregnancy and I have never really gotten along, and this one has been no exception. Thankfully, in the midst of being so very sick, there were a few things to be thankful for.  The first is that we were in the States and so I was able to get medication to help with the nausea and vomiting. At eight weeks I started on two different medications and within 24 hours, I stopped throwing up.  I was still ridiculously tired and I was still nauseous all day long, but at least I was able to keep food down. That was a major blessing.  The second major help during this hard time was that Jason wasn't working. We knew he would have to start working at some point, but thankfully we were in a position where he could take some time off and we could get by.  He was off all of August and the first week of September. At the end of August, Jason and the kids took a ten-day trip to Michigan and I stayed back in North Carolina.  By the time they returned, I was twelve weeks along and doing much better.  I was still very tired and sick at night, but there was a major improvement overall.  When Jason started work, I felt ready and able to do school with the kids and manage five little ones at home.

First day of fourth grade for Alaina

Bethany wanted to get in on the first day of school photos

Ice cream and popsicles were a regular part of our 95 degree August!

Dad helping with homeschool

The little girls enjoying each other

Four-wheeling at the house of new friends

Fort building by Caleb!