Friday, August 9, 2019

Parmesan Baked Chicken

This is a hit with my family, so I wanted to share!

6-8 Skinless chicken breasts or thighs
(or 2 broiler-fryer chickens, 2 1/2 lbs. each, cut into pieces)
We prefer just using breasts and thighs.

1 c. flour
2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 t. paprika
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 T. milk
1 3/8 c. grated parmesan cheese
5/8 c. dry garlic bread crumbs (use more if needed)
2 T. butter
2 T. shortening (or oil)
1/4 c. butter, melted

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Do not use chicken wings. Coat chicken with a mixture of flour, salt, pepper and paprika.
Combine eggs and milk; dip chicken into egg mixture.
Roll in mixture of cheese and bread crumbs.
Place chicken bone side down in pan. Drizzle with 1/4 cup melted butter.
Bake one hour. Cool. Makes 6-8 servings.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Marriage and The Mystery of God's Design

Marriage and The Mystery of God's Design
(Scripture taken from the KJV and the NKJV)

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 19:14 A prudent wife is from the Lord.

To understand marriage and the comparison of Christ's love for the church we must start at the beginning. To understand true, loving, biblical submission; not only the wife's submission to her husband, but also a husband's submission to God, we look no where else but God's own Word and His thoughts and design from the beginning.

We see in Genesis 1:27 that God created man in his own image. He put Adam in the Garden and gave him the job of dressing it and keeping it. We read further down in chapter 2 and see in vs 18 that God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet (helper) for him."

Adam was not complete without a wife, or his helper. To understand the Biblical context of the word "helper" let's look further at what the Hebrew word means.
Help is a word frequently used in reference to the Lord in the Psalms (10:14, 22:11, 28:7). Thus, it is not a degrading position for the woman. The word basically means to aid or supply that which the individual cannot provide for himself. The New Testament uses the sense of a "physician" (Matt 15:25). It conveys the idea of aiding someone in need, such as the oppressed.
Meet derives from the Hebrew word meaning "opposite". (Meaning it is according to the opposite of him".) The wife complements or corresponds to him. She is to be equal and adequate for man. She is also made in the image of God.

The Church is often referred to as The Bride of Christ. We see an analogy of this in the book of Revelation. In both the OT (Hosea 2:19,20) and the NT (Eph. 5:23,32) God's people are viewed as the Lord's betrothed bride or wife.

I recently read a wonderful imagery of marriage....Adam was incomplete and lonely without a partner. So, God created Eve. The rib was taken from near Adam's heart- which is a symbol of love, and from under his arm- a symbol of protection.

We can compare this to what some have twisted into an angry domineering position, which is contrary to God's plan. God did not take the woman from his (Adam's) foot so she could be stomped on, nor from his knee, so he could domineer over her in an unloving nature.

Marriage is so important to God that is was the first of three divine institutions and was patterned to illustrate Christ's love for the church.

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.

Proverbs 14:1 The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands. 

Ephesians 5:23-25 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it... Just as Jesus is responsible for the well-being of the body of the Church, so the husband is responsible to protect his wife.

The Greek word "love" is agapao, which describes a willing- sacrificial giving on the husband's part for the benefit of his wife, without thought of return. Just as Christ gave himself for the church, so there is to be no sacrifice- not even the laying down of his life- that a husband should not be willing to make for his wife.

We find no permission for the husband to abuse his wife physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually in Scripture. To do so would be in direct opposition to what God originally ordained.

Here are a few passages explaining the intimacy in marriage according to God's plan. 1 Corinthians 7:3 states, "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence (affection) and likewise also the wife unto the husband." Notice the word- affection. A Husband has no Biblical grounds to demand sexual relations with his wife if she is not in consent.

We should also note that in verse 5 it reads, "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

Some other good verses on the importance of sexual intimacy are below:

1 Corinthians 6:13... Now the body is not for fornication but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body...know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? for TWO saith he, shall be one flesh... Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that commiteth fornication sinneth against his own body.

Christian husbands are to demonstrate toward their wives the same unselfish spirit as Christian citizens. He should be intimately aware of his wife's needs, her strengths and weaknesses, and her goals and desires. He should try to know as much about her as possible in order to respond in the best way he can to her; giving her honor.

Christians are ultimately to act like the Lord Jesus daily, in our interaction with others. Our marriages should reflect the unconditional love that Christ has for the Church. After all, He gave Himself for it.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Enchilada Torte (A Family Favorite)

My family loves this Mexican dish, so I'm passing it on to you:

Enchilada Torte

1 pound ground beef
7 flour tortillas (10 inches)
1 jar (8oz) taco sauce
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1 can (16 oz.) refried beans
1 can (2 1/2 oz.) sliced ripe olives, drained
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies
1 cup sour cream
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 can (8 oz.) enchilada sauce
Shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, optional

In a skillet, brown ground beef until no longer pink; drain fat. Place one tortilla in a 12 inch round casserole or on a large baking sheet or pizza pan.
Layer half each of taco sauce, beef, onion and cheddar cheese on the tortilla.
Top second tortilla and press gently; layer half of the refried beans, olives, and chilies.
Top with third tortilla and layer half each of sour cream, green pepper and Monterey Jack cheese.
Top with fourth tortilla and top with remaining taco sauce, beef, onion and cheddar cheese.
On the fifth tortilla, layer remaining beans, olives and chilies.
On the sixth tortilla, layer remaining sour cream, green pepper and Monterey Jack cheese.
Top with last tortilla; spread with enchilada sauce. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Let stand a few minutes before cutting into wedges.
Sprinkle with additional Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses if desired.
Yield: 10-12 servings.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Make A Bouquet

This is a small, short story that my mother wrote many years ago and it was published in a small booklet by Silent Word Ministries...

-Make A Bouquet- 
We've all heard the expression, "If life throws lemons at you, make lemonade" or "If life gives you scraps, make a quilt." Well, I do not have a green thumb like my mother. She could plant a fence post and it would sprout. Her yard looks like a park. It is beautiful. When I plant flowers something always happens to them. This year the birds ate my petunias. I then planted marigolds. They just sit there and will not grow. I had one flower bed that was beginning to grow. One morning three kittens had a fun time. The gladiouluses were broken off. Some were just about to bloom. One little blue flower was completely flattened. I tried to mend what was left. The flowers finally bloomed.

Two days ago, we had what my mother would call a cloudburst. The rain pounded down and the wind blew hard. The storm lasted about an hour. When it was over, I looked at my flowers. The cosmoses were almost on the ground. I used sticks to help them stand up. Some of the flowers had to be thrown away. Then I thought, "Why throw them away? Why not make a bouquet!" Now there is a beautiful arrangement of flowers in my kitchen. Life is somewhat like my flowers. Sometimes life is not easy. We are going along in life fine, and then there is a cloudburst and storm. When this happens pick up the pieces and make a bouquet.

When storms destroy your flower bed-Make a bouquet!

Friday, April 19, 2019

A Town Where Everbody Knows Your Name

Have you ever wished that you had a place you could go and when you walked in the door, everybody knew your name and, as the ole song goes, "was always glad you came"? Somehow, I stumbled upon such a place at the age of 19. I grew up just 40 minutes west of this place and had never stopped in, but when I did, it left an impression.

I try to frequent the place at least 3 times a month. I spend many Saturdays eating a really delicious hamburger surrounded by my parents, my son and a couple of the local farmers of the community. Every now and then, if my husband is in the area during lunch, he joins us. Everybody knows everyone. If they don't know your name, then they recognize your face and give a big smile while waving.

It's a quiet little town tucked in the foothills of Middle Tennessee that has managed to stay quaint yet bring in thousands of visitors yearly. It has a curious little name, with a ring to it. The town is called Bell Buckle.

It is often mispronounced and misread. Often times people want to add a 't' making it sound like 'Belt' Buckle. Once you get the name in your head, it sticks. Locals know it. Tennesseans have a general knowledge of the place. People from out of state have usually never heard of it, unless they've been there. If you've been there, you never forget it.

Bell Buckle sits between several other railroad towns. Towns named Christiana, Wartrace and Normandy. Each town is historical and holds a special place in the hearts of those who were raised around here.

Somehow Bell Buckle has managed to stand out as a very unique spot. A town as unique as its name. Founded in the early 19th Century, it was about 1852 when a Nashville to Chattanooga railroad came through. But, not until the mid 1960's was effort began to maintain its historical significance. By 1976 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Enough of the brief history. Why do people flock to Bell Buckle? What is it that draws them to events titled, "R.C. Cola and Moon Pie Festival" and why do others come in droves to the October Webb School Arts and Crafts Fair?

I suppose it's the same for me as it is with others. What draws me there? Simplicity. Who wouldn't want to be greeted with the smile of someone who actually knows your name and how you like your cup of coffee?

Recently, my favorite Bell Buckle Coffee Shop owners, Benny and Vicky, retired. I was in the shop last fall when Vicky pulled me aside. She wanted to talk privately. I didn't quite know what to expect. She then informed me that she was tired and weary and wanted to start spending quality time at home and with her grandchildren. I was saddened. I knew later that night I'd probably get a little teary eyed once I was alone and would start missing them. I knew deep down that Vicky was tired and could use a much needed rest.

Vicky would show me pictures of her chickens and her little dogs. She loved her farm animals. She talked of getting baby goats. Vicky reminded me of  Paula Deen. Hair and everything. That southern accent didn't hurt coffee sales any either. She was charming. Her grandchildren would often help in the shop when things were slow. I remember the little granddaughter taking my cash and giving me change while she stood on a stool looking over the cash register. Vicky would send home left over cookies and bowls of home-made soup with me.

Vicky and I talked of simpler times. She is twenty years older than myself, but we sure could share some quality time together. She once told me of her growing up years. I thought I was raised simple. Vicky didn't even have running water in her house! She ran off and got married at the age of 18 and they've been married ever since. Cutest couple you've ever seen.

They were good people and I dearly loved them. Benny stayed around for about a month to train the newbies. Benny made people smile. He was so good natured. I don't know of a soul that doesn't like Benny. I've never heard a foul word said about him. Gracious. Kind. Generous. Genuine. He was good for Bell Buckle. They both were. I've come to know the new owners now. I enjoy chatting with them. But it's not quite the same.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Phillips, as everyone knew him, passed away. He ran the town ice cream shop. His wife is known for her delicious fudge and home-made pies. People will walk in the door at near closing time asking for pie or fudge and will be told they are too late. Her goodies sell out pretty early in the day. She can often be seen sitting quietly behind the counter, with some form of needle work in her hands. She's a gentle lady. A good example. Kind hearted, Godly and wise.

Then there's Barbara. Barbara and Benny went to high school together. Barbara is a hoot! She runs a little store filled with "fair trade" items called "Farm Girls". Home-made everything. Many things from other counties. Barbara is as good natured as they come. She always greets me with a big hug and asks how I'm doing. She really means it. She makes me smile just by being present. She stays busy with a local farm, a business in another city and now she's raising her nephew. She's a strong woman.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a book signing at the coffee shop by- none other than- John Wayne's grandson. I didn't get to shake his hand, but I asked permission to take his picture and bought his book. Big guy. From a distance he looks almost identical to "The Duke" himself. Picture Wayne in The Shootist or Big Jake. That's him. I was honored. How in the world did Bell Buckle manage to pull that one off? I'll never know. But I'm thankful I had the chance to meet him.

Bell Buckle is home to the Tennessee Poet Laureate, Maggie B. Vaughn. She has written 18 books and lives within walking distance from the coffee shop. Just the other day she invited my mother and I to drop in and see her anytime. She even told us where the spare key was hidden if she didn't hear us knock.

You really shouldn't leave Bell Buckle until you've eaten at the Bell Buckle Café. I'm obviously not the only person that enjoys it. As you sit and wait on your food, you can scan the walls and see autographed pictures of a variety of Country Music singers. I'm not sure when they find the time to sneak in a good meal, but they've been there. If you enjoy eating at The Cracker Barrel, then you'll enjoy The Café. Same kind of country atmosphere.

The Cafe hosts live music on Saturdays. Pickin' and grinnin' kind of music. The locals often listen on WLIJ 1580 AM. I'm also told that you can listen via internet through Live365. For those who enjoy down- home guitar and banjo music, I would think giving that a listen would be quite enjoyable.

The town boasts some of the most beautiful preserved Victorian homes around. Since the whole area of downtown Bell Buckle is a meager 0.58 square miles, you can stroll a couple of blocks in a few minutes and take in all of that southern charm before your hand dipped ice cream has a chance to melt.

Recently, one of my son's favorite stores closed down. They were called Alley 13. One of those stores with collectables from the 50's through the 80's. A store that when you walk in, you immediately saw something that took you back to your childhood. The owners often said they heard a lot of, "I used to have that".  I was guilty of saying it. People in their 70's even enjoyed that store. I wish it could have lasted. It added so much character to the town.

I'm so thankful that in the hustle and bustle of modern day society, there are still small towns like this left.  Bell Buckle is definitely a place to take your whole family. I've never heard anyone complain about visiting the place. But, I've seen a lot of wide smiles and happy children visit and then come back for more.

Feel free to google anything concerning the tiny town of Bell Buckle, TN. Or better yet, stop by and visit sometime. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Gift of Nostalgia

I did something today that I haven't done in years. I fried some Spam. Sounds simple enough. It's not very healthy, which is probably why I never buy it. But I bought some on a whim yesterday. My son had mentioned it a few days ago and I thought, "why not"?  He was amused that it tasted really good on a hamburger bun and was happy to tell me that.

I don't know if it's the fresh, green grass of spring or the much awaited sunshine that makes me nostalgic this time of year. But I also did something else today that I haven't done in years. I listened to some old John Denver songs that I remember playing for hours-on-end as a teenager. Songs about wheat fields and dandelions, soft summer breezes and grandma's feather bed.

What is it about growing older that makes you want to revisit your child-hood memories? I'm stuck at the age now where the youth of this generation call me ma'am and the older generation says I'm just a baby. Most blog readers would fall into my generation or younger. My parents didn't even know what the word "blog" meant when I told them I was venturing out and doing some simple writings. Then again, if I refer to something from the 80's, I get that look of bewilderment from my son, who thinks the 80's are equal to anything from the 1930's generation. I believe I'm getting stuck in the "middle age" phase of life.

Anybody that was born in the mid 60's and on into the 70's was riding the coattails of a successful American experiment. Our grandparents and great-grandparents had known pretty rough years. Our parents had enjoyed a generation of affluence compared to their forerunners. We heard stories of once-a-week baths, soda shop fountains, '57 Chevys, first dates at the drive-in, hoola hoops and poodle skirts.

We survived the years of loading up the family station wagon with 5 in the back seat and 3 or 4 in the very back; no one in seat belts. We were lucky enough to remember drinking from glass soda bottles and we still find it a luxury when we stumble upon one today. T.V. remotes came along sometime in  grade school and we were elated that we didn't have to get up and walk across the room to turn the channel.

We remember when Walmart hadn't taken over the middle man. We can recollect strolling the town square with our grandparents in search of a new dress, slacks and school shoes; passing the old men in rocking chairs who wore fedora hats, played checkers and smoked pipes. Our prime time television consisted of Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, Maverick and CHIPS. Paul Harvey was still bidding us "Good day" at lunch hour, radio- news broadcasts.

We were firmly reprimanded if we didn't say "thank you."  "Yes ma'am", "no sir", "you're welcome" and "please" were our first words. We remember the days of standing in line at the school water fountain, never giving a second thought to the first 15 kids that were putting their mouth all over the spigot; then wondering why 3 days later there was a flu epidemic that shut down studies for a week.

We remember the days when James Taylor had hair, old women quilted for relaxation and catching lightning bugs was an after supper activity. Going to bed with dirty feet was a Friday night accomplishment because it meant you could skip your Friday night bath, sleep in and watch Saturday morning cartoons.

We knew from experience that you never told an adult you were bored or you would find yourself doing some form of monotonous labor for the rest of the day.

Marty Stouffer was making monthly Wild America videos and if you got up early enough on a Sunday morning before church, you could catch an episode while eating your cereal and drinking Tang.

Many people were blessed to spend their Sunday afternoons at their grandparents house. Mine lived over 5 hours away, so I only have a few memories of being there after church. We usually just stayed home and ate the biggest meal of the week. Sundays often meant your Dad would find his recliner, and drift off while your Mom would spend the next hour and a half clearing the table, washing dishes and sweeping up the floor. That time might be cut in half if she had a dishwasher. We did not. Your mother would then find a corner somewhere to try to relax before you and your siblings started badgering her for a snack. As we grew older, it was our job to be the "dish washer" on Sunday afternoons. Somehow my brother always got out of that task.

Here in the south, Shoney's and Ponderosa were the biggest and most frequented restaurants within a 30 mile radius. Hence the reason we stayed at home on most Sunday afternoons. No Dad of mine was going to fight the "Sunday afternoon lunch crowd". Come to think of it, we rarely went out to eat growing up except for a birthday or graduation celebration.

For some reason, my parents decided that shopping in bulk once a month was better for our family of five. I was always envious of my friends who could take a ride into town with their mom on a Thursday afternoon to pick up a few items for supper. Our groceries had since been sitting in the freezer for 23 days and the few items left were being over-taken by ice build up. Defrosting the freezer was an arduous task; wet, drippy and it took hours to do.

Electrolux was a vacuum cleaner; not one of these whimpy, upright 10 pounders that most of us own nowadays. Using an Electrolux felt like you were dragging the weight of the world around while vacuuming. They required their own 4x4 foot closet with measly room for anything else, except a couple of your parent's sweaters and coats which smelled of moth balls.

Bath tubs were huge, deep and long. They were made of cast iron and covered with porcelain. They came in several popular colors of the day: brown, avocado green, mustard yellow, blue and sometimes pink. They usually matched the commode and sink. Most people had a couple missing tiles in their bathrooms. No one ever knew where the tiles had gone. You got used to it. At least 3 small children could take a bath at the same time. You always made sure to splash just the right amount of water on the floor. Too much might mean a spanking. You never got out and stood too close to the wall heater. Doing so could result in a lifetime "waffle" pattern scar on your backside.

We remember the sound of coffee in the percolator, the smell of bacon frying; Grandpa's red and black checked thermos sitting next to his black, metal lunch box. The way he would sit in his recliner saying he was "just resting his eyes".  To this day, if I smell a certain brand of cigarette I'm immediately taken back to my childhood. My Papaw smoked a lot. It was just what old men did. He once farmed tobacco. My mom used to roll his cigarettes for him. She talks of how bad it hurt to step on a tobacco stub out in the field while frolicking barefooted. I always wonder why she just didn't put a pair of shoes on. Children question a lot, but rarely speak of what's turning in their heads.

Mothers kept "baby books" and "first hair cut" clippings. They bronzed your first pair of high top baby boots. To this day most mothers of that era still have one of your first hand-knitted sweaters that they insist you pass on to your new born; although it's severely out of style and you hate to hurt their feelings.

All homes had at least one sofa that seemed to take up an entire wall, but could sit 9 of the grandkids perfectly for the yearly polaroid photo. I still remember how many minutes I would see stars after enduring those photo sessions. Secretly, you wanted to be the one shaking the picture; but for some reason that was an adult job only. Children's finger prints were not welcome. Your Mother had already spent part of her week wiping those prints off the walls.

It seemed we all had that one Uncle that had gone off to boot-camp, and fought in Korea or Vietnam. He was the one with the questionable tattoo. The kind of tattoo that made little girls giggle whenever they saw it, but made the ladies blush. The kind that most Grandmas would prefer tucked under a long sleeve. That one Uncle could talk about eating monkeys when they were starving or getting his wedding ring caught in the propeller of a boat while on his tour of duty, nearly drowning him. Some stories were left untold. The adults knew why. The kids knew not to hang around when the adults were talking in low-hushed tones. We didn't want to anyway. Adults were boring.

Most of us remember long, summer days spent playing in the backyard. Periodically throughout the day, you'd hear a mom yelling to keep out of her flower bed. We didn't see why it mattered, because to us, adults never even seemed to go outside long enough to take time to look at those stupid flowers. When they did venture into the outdoors, they were usually just sitting in a chair or porch swing, looking off in the distance somewhere; lost in thought. We didn't realize that they were exhausted from a day's work, often times spent for 12 hours outdoors either farming or ranching. Life usually just revolved around our imaginations. Adults didn't have imaginations.

Time has a way of always moving forward. I suppose we have all turned into that interesting "Aunt"  or "Uncle" to somebody. Many kids we went to school with already enjoy grandchildren. Many are raising their grandchildren; hoping that a sliver of wisdom that we were taught will be passed on to them. Hoping that we can instill a strong sense of honor, respect and goodness in our culture.

I think nostalgia can be a good thing. It's healthy to take the time to remember the good things in life. Our culture is fast become something that I'm not comfortable with. I know myself well enough now to know that I'll keep fighting it inwardly, while trying to give others room for their progress. I'll always cherish some of these simple childhood memories. As I grow older, they will be what continues to give me a sense of joy. Raising my own son is creating newer memories. He will, in turn, look back on these days with soft wonder and wish for simpler times. It's the simple things that matter most. They are what we hold dear to our hearts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Getting Back to the Basics

In 2006, my husband had just been transferred to another county for his job as a Game Warden. It was the beginning of our new journey into a simpler lifestyle. I must admit that we've always had a love for the old fashioned ways of life. I have even told people I felt like I was born in the wrong century. My husband is the same way, but as the main provider of our family, his focus is on his job. For me at age of 30, with just a year of being married and my first child on the way, I didn't have much time to daydream about quieter living. There was a house to sell, a new one to buy, bills to pay, work to do, let alone surviving your first trimester of pregnancy with all the pressures going on around.

We looked at a lot of different places for sale. We wanted somewhere in the country with a little bit of land. I had always wanted a hobby farm. Several of the places we looked at would have been perfect for us, but something always came up to deter a sale. During one of our house hunting days we were told to meet our realtor at a property by 9am. I knew it was in the heart of Mennonite country. "Black Bumper Mennonite" country to be exact. No chrome for these people. I had never really had any contact with a Mennonite person. Occasionally I would see them in town, dropping off their canned goods at local businesses, or shopping the local Walmart. I basically just gave them their space.

I was a bit nervous about meeting Mennonites, not to mention entering their own living quarters and toying with the idea of buying their home of 15 years. By this time in my life, I had settled into the 8-5 routine that most of us fall into. There wasn't much simplicity in my life at the age of 30. Long gone were the daydreams of quiet, farm living. I had become a bit "citified" in fact. I rarely even went outside after work. I had given into the American dream. It wasn't very dreamy.

When we pulled up to the house, one of the young boys was plowing the front garden with a tractor. The garden literally took up the entire front yard. Even more interesting was the message spray painted on the road, "Rabbits For Sale" with an arrow pointing towards the house. The property was joined to the farm next door by a small gate with a wooden trellis over it. The neighboring place just happened to be the owners' father's home. The neighbors to the left were Mennonites as well. This place had simple character, and whether or not we bought it; I was quite curious to finally get inside the home and see things for myself.

I pictured the women sitting around in a quilting circle, talking quietly amongst themselves. They were not. In fact, the lady of the house was doing something most of us women do daily. She was folding clothes at the kitchen table. I sheepishly told her that I had expected them to be doing needlework. She stated in a very matter-of-fact tone that she didn't have much free time for such luxuries. The demands of raising a family and keeping house were enough to keep her busy.

A black, Kitchen Queen cook stove sat in one corner of the small living room. There were a few, simple, hand -made shelves with books sitting on them. I noticed a sewing machine tucked in a closet space. I could tell that it had been used often; quite possible that it would be used later that day.

Everything was a bit drab with the exception of their choice of wall paint. One room may have been Ford blue and the other a light lilac. Mint green seemed to be their favorite. I think the kitchen was even painted that color. I was a bit confused. My only knowledge of Mennonites was of the color black. Just lots of black. It was refreshing to know that they could enjoy a splash of color inside their homes.

There was no television or radio in sight. There were four bedrooms, two on the ground floor and two upstairs, two baths, a plain kitchen and a half basement which housed canned meats, vegetables and fruits. There was no city water and the house was cooled by a simple whole- house attic fan. The only form of heat came from the cook stove. In retrospect, I look back and could kick myself for the improvements we made before we moved in.

My husband was in love with the 30x40 ft. shop, which at the time was all open and looked enormous. You can imagine what went on in his head when he saw it. I liked the barn. That little stirring of anticipation slowly crept back inside my heart. I felt a bit excited about the prospects of raising baby goats, sheep and having chickens and fresh eggs. My eyes were drawn to a patch outside the barn where an herb garden was a bit over-taken with weeds, but still had a quaint beauty about it.

Doris, the lady of the house, had me sit down and brought me a glass of fresh iced tea. A neighbor girl sat quietly in the kitchen helping her with odd tasks. I later learned that this is a common practice among the Plain People. They teach the younger women the duties of caring for a home, children and husbands. Since most of the teens only attend school up to the 8th grade, there is ample time from the age of 14 until marriage to learn these valued skills. Skills that in today's society, are lost to the fast paced, career- oriented lifestyle of modern day America.

We talked quietly about simple things; how dry the summer had been, how to cook deer meat properly, what sort of tea was good. We talked about our lives, our ages, the ages of her children and when my baby was due. A barrier was softly being broken. I felt a bond of friendship beginning with these people, whether they accepted me in my "English" clothing and jewelry or not. My heart was softened.

In all honesty, since it had been so long since the days of simple dreaming had struck me, I was still hesitant about purchasing the place, despite what my emotions were telling me. This place had a surreal affect on us. I was drawn to it, but after years of living in the 20th century, I had become lazy. Not only lazy in my actions, but also in my thinking. But, after visiting this home, the desire to live more simply had been stirred once again. I remember waking up early the next morning at our own home and cooking my husband a huge breakfast, because I was sure that's what all good Mennonite women did every single morning. I later learned that I was wrong. Cold cereal, as some refer to it, is a very common choice for breakfast among the Plain People; especially those with small children.

Looking back, the simple task of buying a home built by the Plain People was a starting over point for me. My overall desire to live deliberately was sparked. I look back to that day and remember "waking up".

About a month lapsed and after a lot of thinking and mulling it over, it wasn't long before we were signing papers on this simple home and farm. Did the quaint and simple lifestyle of the Mennonites influence my emotions during the buying phase? Of course. But it worked. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Did I begin to wear plain dresses of a certain color? Colors of brown, gray, black and navy blue? Did I pull my hair up and tuck it into a firm bun hidden under a prayer kap? No, I didn't. My goal was not to become a Mennonite or any other Plain living person. But as I once read in an Amish lifestyle book, you don't have to be Amish to live like the Amish. You don't have to be Mennonite to want to add their values and faith into your life.

From the outside, 13 years later, my home still has a very simple appeal. Not long after we moved in, I had my husband order shutters for the front windows. They really did make the house look more inviting. He also had new cabinets installed, new flooring and several other upgrades. One of the changes I wish we could un-do is removing that beautiful cook stove that once sat in the living room. But, I'm saving that for the day when he builds me my cabin in the woods. Still waiting.

I'm a tree lover and the day we first looked at the property, there weren't many in the yard. I later learned that flowers, shrubs and trees come second to growing vegetables and canning. "You can't eat flowers." If I've heard that once, I've heard it a thousand times. Since gardening is such a huge ordeal with the Plain People, shrubs and trees rarely get planted. But since I'm a tree lover, we've planted many over the years. My husband planted several for me on certain occasions. We've also transplanted several from volunteers.

I've added several small flower gardens which take up places in corners, making mowing a bit easier. My mother and mother-in-law have passed down perennials that are hearty to our hot, southern climate. In the course of time, by experimenting and just getting out and digging, I have come to love working in flowers and dirt.

Our first couple of years on our hobby farm were fun. We raised some sheep, a horse and chickens. We even raised hogs, which we slaughtered for meat. I grew a huge garden when my son was a toddler. I don't know where I found the time. I remember each night, when I would go out to weed and hoe, my Mennonite friend would walk up to the fence and carry on conversations until dusk. I would wonder why she didn't realize that I needed to get the weeding finished before dark. I look back and miss our chats. Time has moved on and we don't visit like we used to.

The Mennonite neighbors that lived across the road have moved away now, too. Her name was Katie and she could make the most delicious strawberry pie you've ever put in your mouth; doughnuts too. That girl has some cooking skills. She also has some writing skills on top of it. She can put a college graduate to shame with her creativity. Katie only went to the 8th grade but she applies herself daily with reading and writing hand-written letters to her huge family and friends.

Katie once brought me over a large amount of peaches that she had ordered. She had been canning. She said I should can some. If I remember correctly, she had canned 100 quarts of them. I remember thinking that I'd never eaten a whole can of peaches in my life, let alone 100 quarts of them. The Plain People eat peaches at their meals. I've had meals with several Plain families and it never fails; they always have a bowl of peaches on the table.

I canned the peaches. How could I tell her no? I canned a lot when I first moved here. The process in itself brings a sense of fulfillment and peace. I enjoyed the time I spent in my hot kitchen.

I also embraced the lost art of hanging clothes on the line. One of Katie's sisters once talked about how she would hang clothes out barefooted with snow on the ground. Well, if that girl could do it, in the snow- barefooted on top of it- then so could I! I loved it. My mother had always hung her clothes out. There's nothing more relaxing than being out in the sunshine, listening to the birds and hanging clothes out.

We've killed our own chickens, plucked them and cooked them all in one day. Nothing like it. It can be a bloody experience. Therapy may be necessary afterwards, but it's worth it. We've seen the birth of baby sheep and goats. I've buried a few in the process also. It's all a part of the lifestyle. You get emotionally attached, yes. That's also part of it. It's life.

In all honesty, over the past 13 years, I've become the person I always wanted to be deep down. I may have drifted away from it during my 20's, but thankfully, I came back to my true self. I'm constantly wishing for a simpler way of life. Striving for less, when dealing with the clutter of life is a constant battle. This life is a good one. We've been blessed. My son shares our dream of living simple. He would love to live off grid in a cabin in the mountains some day. That's my boy!

It's all a work in progress. Can you live completely off the land? Probably not. People have tried and failed. People have starved in the process. People have been forced to move back into a town and rely on grocery stores. It's not an easy life. There's got to be a balance. Striving for that happy balance is a daily goal. To have something to dream about and look forward to keeps us all alive inside. It's a good life.