Special Guest: Karen Rhoades

Karen B&WAutumn is a very special time of year for me. A different feeling and attitude comes over me and makes me want to reminisce and be thankful by counting my blessings. It’s a pleasant feeling, not at all melancholic. I love to gaze at the leaves as they lazily drift off the trees, in their burnished gold, orange, and green colors. The days are a buttery sunshine, and even though the air is cooler, there is something magical about it all. Even on the rainy, blustery days, it just seems right to light a candle and breathe in the fragrance of a freshly baked dessert, be it oatmeal cookies or banana bars. And after all the cool, refreshing summer iced teas and lemonades, it is wonderful to drink the warming, comforting beverages of fall—pumpkin spice hot tea, Earl Gray, warm apple cider, cappuccino, or hot chocolate. It’s as though the weather is giving me permission to sit curled up in a chair wrapped in a cozy blanket and read a good book, journal, plan menus, or work on a craft. It’s a lovely time of preparing my soul for winter, a time of harvesting the good things in life, so I can hold them close during the winter.

Autumn leads my soul cheerfully to Thanksgiving, a time spent with family. I enjoy this holiday because it requires nothing more than being where loved ones are—no need to bring gifts (although a hot dish or dessert wouldn’t be turned down). It teaches me to appreciate some of the small gifts God gives—the few last days of going outside without a coat, that singular aroma in the air of dying leaves that urges me to look upward for a last glimpse of them on the trees, the opportunity to finish last minute outdoor tasks.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us this season to enjoy, to reap, to be introspective, to be grateful to you for supplying all our needs and even some of our wants. Thank you for your mercy and compassion that is new every morning. Truly, your faithfulness is GREAT! May all that you are urge our souls to be faithful to you. Let our lives bring joy and fruitfulness to you and shine forth your love to all we meet.

“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see;
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866-1960

Karen Rhoades is a wife, homemaker, and copyeditor.

©Copyright 2014 Karen Rhoades

The Healing Power of Gratitude

Kim Funkhouser B&WAs I ran some errands this morning I realized, it’s that time of year again. The surplus Halloween candy is sporting reduced prices while Christmas lights are hanging in displays. I have heard some say, “Where is Thanksgiving?” Indeed, where is Thanksgiving in this world of greed? I have often felt myself slipping down the slope of ingratitude. I hear messages from many sources, “You owe me something” or “I deserve this!” This disease of ingratitude appears to be contagious. Is there a cure? Oh, Yes! Yes, there is!! It is called: GIVE THANKS!!

Today, I give thanks for the glory of God and for His word that admonishes us to give thanks in all things (John 5:18). I have to be honest here and just say that I haven’t always understood this concept, but I’m finding it to be the key of unlocking a world I have yet to fully explore.

I have picked up a book written by Corrie ten Boom. In her book, The Hiding Place, she described a scene from their lives during the Holocaust at Ravensbruck, a women’s concentration camp in Germany during WWII. They had just been moved from a temporary tent barrack to a block barrack number 28. Corrie, in the midst of horrid smells, sights, and fleas, wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!” Betsie replied, “We can, He has already given us the answer!” and together they recited the verses they had read earlier that day. I Thessalonians 5:14-18 admonishes us to “…encourage the disheartened, help the weak…rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” They offered up thanksgiving, even for the fleas.*

Nothing inspires me more than people who are able to put their trust in God for the unknown and express gratitude in the midst of personal trials, physical sufferings and heartaches.

Truly, we may never know what the future holds. Tomorrow may hold a stress- induced heart attack which happened to me on June 7, 2011. Celebrating my 44th birthday just four days prior to this event, I did not have a heart attack on my “to do” list for the coming year. But it came and it changed my life. I’m thankful to be here to say, “I am a survivor.” I’m not only a survivor in the physical sense, but like Corrie ten Boom, I am a survivor on the emotional and spiritual journey on which this event has placed me. Establishing a heart of gratitude in all things has brought a depth to my relationships and life that otherwise had a tendency to be cluttered with wants, needs and unrealistic expectations.

Today, I can walk by those aisles of discounted candy and enjoy the beauty of the lights that brings the promise of the celebration of the true “Light” of Christmas. My heart also revels in the hope and the healing Thanksgiving brings. The Thanksgiving season is not one to be forgotten or overlooked. It is to be celebrated everyday! Let us give thanks and be well.

* Weeks later the ten Boom sisters would learn that these fleas were actually a source of protection from the prison guards. They often wondered why they had so much freedom to do as they pleased in their barrack and the answer was that the guards would not set foot in a barrack infested with fleas!

Kimberly Funkhouser is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and heart-attack survivor.

©Copyright 2014 Kimberly Funkhouser

Excuse Me, Have We Met?

The other day I was walking through the backyard finishing up some last-minute, outdoor projects before the winter weather arrives. When we purchased our home last year, we inherited about a half-acre of land that includes three, very large trees, and a few smaller ones – so you can imagine the amount of leaves scattered across the lawn. Raking equals losing battle.

While I was attempting to rake, I couldn’t help but notice the different shapes, sizes, and colors of leaves that had gathered on our property and I began to wonder about their lifespan; how much or how little rain they received, and how much the wind and weather had molded them into what they had now become. It also reminded me of old acquaintances and relationships that have crossed my life.

Several years ago I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years. We began talking, but the conversation was odd and a bit uncomfortable. This person was reminiscing about the past and while the discussion was broad, it soon narrowed to some times and places I would simply rather forget.

I found myself confused about the entire interaction and questioning why that person would want to focus on failures and flaws of the past instead of the growth and goodness of the here and now. It was as if I had met them for the first time and they knew a little bit about me, but not a lot. I wanted to look at them and say, “Excuse me, have we met?”

Why did I feel this way? Why did the conversation seem so weird? Why did this person insist on bringing up so many bad memories? Didn’t they know time had moved on and things had changed?

After thinking it through for some time, it became apparent what was missing – context and perspective! You see, this person hadn’t seen me in a long while and no, they really didn’t know me.

They weren’t there to watch as I graduated from college or as I stood at the front of the church awaiting my bride to walk down the aisle. They weren’t there to watch as I took my first job or as I held the hands of numerous dying patients and their families. They weren’t there to watch me navigate circumstances of life, as I learned new and wise lessons and gained new perspectives that grew and matured me into the person I’ve become.

As I’ve mulled this over for the past few days, it serves as an important lesson for me – to allow individuals the opportunity to change, grow and mature and to view them in the context of the “here and now” and not the past. If I don’t, I may miss out on truly knowing some bright, brilliant, and colorful individuals who are purposed to do extraordinary and incredible things!

©Copyright 2014 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

Ludlow, Vermont

Ludlow Vermont B&WI stepped outside the door of our Timber Inn Motel room and inhaled deeply. It was a spectacular October morning – the air was crisp and cold, the ground was slightly frosted, and the sunlight danced across the colorful leaves and spots of snow that covered the nearby Okemo Mountain. An autumn trip to the great northeast couldn’t have been planned any better.

We had never heard of Ludlow, Vermont or the Timber Inn Motel and “accidentally” stumbled upon them while planning a fall excursion to the greater New England states several years ago. For all intents and purposes, it was originally a means to an end – merely a nightly stopover for an opportunity to visit the nearby President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth, followed by a trip to Wilson Castle, located just north of Rutland. But as we ventured into town, looking for a place to find some breakfast, we realized we had stumbled onto something more meaningful.

Ludlow is located in Windsor County, Vermont and is snuggled at the foot of the Okemo Mountain. The village of Ludlow is a quiet and unassuming collection of shops, cafes, galleries, and inns, while the greater Okemo Valley wraps it in long country roads, hiking trails, fishing spots, golf courses, and the Okemo Mountain resorts. While our schedule constraints prohibited us from digging deeper into the delightful culture of this community, we did manage to get a “taste” at a local eatery.

The Hatchery is your typical small-town “mom and pop” establishment. The food has a tasty, home-cooked flavor and the prices are reasonable. The atmosphere is warm and inviting – a place where everyone could literally “know your name” if you stayed long enough. There’s a real sense of community and friendliness. Not only do you walk away full in body, but full in spirit to journey yet another day.

The Timber Inn is a small, rustic, delightful motel and was a welcoming place to lay our weary heads after a long afternoon drive. We arrived after dark, so you can imagine our pleasant surprise when we awoke to the spectacular views of autumn and Okemo. If you’re planning a busy vacation and won’t be spending a lot of time in a room, the Timber Inn may just be the place for you. A family-owned business, the Timber Inn offers a cordial reception and outstanding personal attention.

The Hatchery’s blueberry pancakes covered in original Vermont maple syrup and the “stopover” at the Timber Inn has put this exceptional spot on our “return” list. We think you’ll like it too!

Happy Travels!

©Copyright 2014 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

Baked Apple French Toast

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and while we look forward to spending time with friends and family, food preparation can consume much of our day, especially if guests are staying overnight or even for a few days. Not to worry though, because we’ve found an early-morning breakfast delight that will save you time and awaken your guests with the sweet smell of an autumn holiday.

KC’s Baked Apple French Toast
Serving Size – 4 to 6

1 can (21 ounces) apple pie filling
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 slices day-old French bread (1/2 inch thick)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Spoon pie filling into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. In a bowl, beat eggs, milk and vanilla. Dip bread slices in egg mixture for 1 minute. Arrange 2 rows of bread on top of pie filling, overlapping slices slightly. Brush bread with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve fruit side up.

KC’s Beverage Selection
Serving Size – 1

1 mug of steaming hot tea or coffee of your choice or
1 – 4 ounce glass of milk

Happy Eating!

©Copyright 2014 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

The Great Pumpkin

Perhaps there is no greater symbol of harvest festivities and autumn holidays than that of the great pumpkin. First introduced as a highly nutritional food and medicinal source to the early-American settlers by their Native American neighbors, the use of the pumpkin quickly evolved to everything from early renditions of pumpkin “pie” (custard) to pumpkin beer, templates for haircuts (thus some New Englanders were known as “pumpkinheads”), and Jack-o-lanterns.

While there are four basic species of pumpkins, there are dozens of variations and each of them serve a specific purpose in food preparation, carving, and/or display. Traditionally, we are all familiar with the typical, Connecticut Field or Howden pumpkins that are often used for carving and decoration and these are what we utilize here at our home to brighten our fall celebration.

There are many ways you can use a pumpkin to bring a natural feel to your autumn décor. If you have children, then carving or painting your pumpkins may be the choice for you (as always, when carving, be sure to provide the appropriate adult supervision) as it provides an enjoyable way for you to teach and engage your child about early American history and pumpkins in general. You may even opt to decorate a pumpkin to give away as a gift to a friend or a teacher.

Incorporating an un-carved pumpkin into a natural setting can also be a great and simple way to bring the flair of autumn to your home. Using pumpkins among fall table settings, on the fireplace mantle, or among a few bales of hay, colorful leaves, some smaller gourds, flowers (such as yellow, orange, or maroon mums), dried corn stalks, and of course, a scarecrow, are just a few creative ways to make this time of year a festive occasion.

Happy Autumn!

©Copyright 2014 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

Autumn Newsletter 2014

Autumn is in full form here on the plains of southwest Ohio and the colorful fall foliage, harvest celebrations, holidays, and the playing of football all serve as reminders that change is indeed in the offing. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – this is my favorite time of year!

There’s just something about the feel of the chilled air, the sight of colorful trees and vegetation, the sound of dried leaves rustling across the lawn, the aroma of delicious pumpkin and spices wafting from the kitchen, and the taste of a warm mug of apple cider that sooths and slows the rushed and hurried mind, soul, and body. It’s an opportunity to renew perspectives and to fortify the spirit in preparation for the cold and bitter days ahead.

As we observe this season of blessing and thanksgiving, I invite you to visit the feature pages and articles of the website – personal blogs, home segments, menu ideas, favorite travel destinations, and guest postings – all designed for your enjoyment and to celebrate all things autumn!

Happy Fall,