Random Life From Snow to The Heart of Christmas

December is flying by, and Christmas is less than two weeks ago. If you’re like me, there are still many things to accomplish.

Although the holiday season is a joyful, amazing, beautiful time, it can also be one of sadness and heartache due to the loss of a loved one or some other trial. As I looked at the sparkling, white Christmas lights this morning during my Bible time, I thought of friends we know, who are going through that very thing. Please know we care about your pain.

November flew by with work, Operation Christmas Child shoebox preparation and then packing, family times, and some Christmas preparations. We also did our annual family photo (will share that later!), which with almost 30 of us is quite a feat.

Enjoy every moment of this special season celebrating Christ’s birth and His amazing gift to us.


A little snow on Anna’s birthday
Four generations: Mom, Gigi, Anna, Mary, and Calia
Setting up for family pictures
Even though Axton can’t quite walk, he enjoys standing up at the little kitchen, and Kyle is pretty fond of the kitchen too.
We enjoyed some warmer days.
It’s sweet to see the grandkids playing with toys we did when we were little.
Sister times
Ellie does not like the little kids’ trikes and bikes driving in her direction, so she kept an eye on Danny and his delivery “vehicle” during an Operation Christmas Child packing time.
Arnold can be found in some of the most unusual places (like hiding in a bag).
John and Chelsy had us over for dinner one evening. Chelsy prepared a delicious meal, including food Dad and Mom could eat.
On a very mild November afternoon, Christopher’s family tilled up ground for a new garden. They covered it with compost for the winter.
Tortilla helpers Lydia and Ruthie as Abby and Betsy weren’t available
I was so excited as the Lord provided wood for us through a neighbor. We often heat the basement (where my office is) with a cozy fire in the stove, and our wood stash ran low. God provided!
Time with Chelsy and Axton one morning
Anna and Mary decorated Gigi’s house for Christmas
Nathan and Melanie’s family was very excited to fly out of state to visit Melanie’s sister for Thanksgiving. This was Tina and under’s first time to fly!
Anna babysitting Axton and sneaking in some work too.
A game of Jenga going on
Baking Christmas cookies with Calia
Christopher and Anna Marie took their three oldest to a Christmas concert at Kauffman
Anna babysat for Nathan and Melanie to have some time away
We were so blessed to attend the Messiah again this year.
Christopher and family were the innkeepers for a time shift at Walk Through Bethlehem. Notice their “extra” person (Christina). 🙂
Babies were scarce this year for the cast, but Nathan, Melanie, and Deborah volunteered.

Anna and Mary have had it on their hearts to bring some of their friends from Bible club to Walk Through Bethlehem. This year, with some hard work behind the scenes to coordinate things, it all came together. Sunday evening, Anna, Jesse, and Mary took a van full of kids to WTB. As the kids walked through “Bethlehem,” they were in awe and began trying to grasp it all. We’ve grown up in Christian homes, and we know very well the Christmas story–the heart of Christmas–but these sweet kids didn’t. They asked so many questions too: about sin, consequences, the devil, and so much more. It was an incredible evening, and we pray the seeds sown bring forth fruit.

“Arise, shine; for thy light is come,
and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.”
Isaiah 60:1

Thanksgiving Recap

We had a beautiful Thanksgiving, and life has been so fast-paced, it felt nice to linger around the table, talking. Plus, with a day off work, it provided an opportunity for taking down two dead trees and other projects (like some book brainstorming for me). I’m grateful for parents who have encouraged us in being productive during our single years.

I still am planning a Random Life for this week, so watch for that!


A happy group of onlookers
Dad and Mom, who prepared and ate a non-traditional, vegetarian dinner
Dad didn’t eat any turkey
Their special vegan–sugar free pumpkin pie
Thanksgiving is a smaller gathering for us family-wise but still a special group
Time in God’s Word

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the
which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
Colossians 3:15

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Times

Happy Monday! I want to share some pictures of our shoebox packing parties. We loved our time working together. Some of the younger ones packed their boxes with such care. Ruthie was observed giving each little stuffed animal a kiss before placing it in her box. Adorable! Others gave much attention and detail to the items they put into their boxes. A number of the extended family came over in the evenings to help out.

I’m happy to be in the Denver area today volunteering with a friend at the OCC processing warehouse.


Ruthie and Liddy
Even Elizabeth could help
Daniel was the delivery guy–he “drove” the boxes over to where we stacked them.
Anna Marie and Mary
Calia LOVED to pack.
Christopher enjoyed working with the kids.
Anna and Lydia
Ruthie and Abby
Dad and Joshua
Axton enjoying being with everyone when he was having playtime with Grandma (which happened to be during a packing session)
John dropped over, and Lydia showed him how to pack a box
While I was working on my computer, I got some great company. Benji loves Ellie and me. 🙂
I’m so grateful for Anna and Mary’s dedication to these shoeboxes and all their hard work.
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“My little children, let us not love in word, neither
in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
1 John 3:18

Scripture Memory Party

Christopher and Anna Marie hosted a wonderful Scripture memory party on a recent Sunday evening. Christopher had encouraged all the cousins to memorize and come prepared to quote it before the others. Christopher had a reward prepared for those who recited their verses. 

The evening included singing and special treats. It was a wonderful time together. 

Steve and Teri

Drew reciting
Daniel was cute–he closed his eyes while reciting.
The group

“Let those that fear thee turn unto me,
and those that have known thy testimonies.
Let my heart be sound in thy statutes
that I be not ashamed.”
Psalm 119:79-80

Simple Meal Ideas with the Instant Pot and Dry Beans

Navy bean soup

Hello and welcome December! 🙂 I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving. Today, we’re sharing a post from Anna Marie on Instant Pots which we think you’ll find helpful. –Sarah

Since the season for good sale prices on Instant Pots is coming up, I thought this would be a good time to share our experience with you. Perhaps you, like me, have seen “Instant Pot” recipes everywhere and wondered if they actually are worth the hype. I received one as a gift a couple years ago (this is the one I have, and it is Titus2’s Amazon’s Affiliate link, which Titus2 earns from qualifying purchases, see the Privacy Policy).

The Instant Pot is in use almost daily in our home. I like the ability to quickly cook frozen (yes—you don’t have to thaw) chicken breasts or thighs. It’s super handy to be able to make broth from beef bones or chicken carcases in less than three hours. And for making easy-to-peel “hard-boiled” eggs in a jiffy, it’s hard to top. But what I use it for the most is cooking dry beans. They don’t have to be soaked ahead, can be spiced in many different ways, and can be ready within an hour or two. Since they’re packed with healthy fiber, plant protein, and many essential minerals (including folate which is great for pregnancy!), they make for a truly nutritious “fast food”!

8 quart Instant Pot

Here are a few examples of dry beans that we like:

Small red beans or chili beans are delicious in chili or cooked with Mexican spices and served over rice or taco salad.

Spicy red beans over rice

Navy beans or small white beans are perfect for white chicken chili or navy bean soup! To make a delicious quick soup, I saute carrots, celery, and onion in the Instant Pot before adding in the dry beans, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and water or chicken broth. Once cooked, I mash part of the beans (a potato masher works well for this) and it’s ready to serve!

Garbanzo beans/chickpeas are perfect on salads, in soups, or made into hummus. Sometimes after cooking about 4 cups of these in lightly salted water, I will stir in a jar of Tikka Masala simmer sauce from Aldi and some precooked shredded chicken. This is great served over rice.

Pinto beans are a staple for burritos or Mexican side dishes, and I use a hand-held mixer to mash them right in the pot when they’re done cooking. Left whole, we enjoy them on taco salads or added into soups.

Black beans are great in a “Santa Fe Chicken” with cans of diced tomatoes/chilis, corn, spices, and shredded chicken served over rice. If you’re feeling adventurous, black bean brownies are actually pretty tasty and have been enjoyed here!

Lentils cook quickly and don’t need to be presoaked whether you have an Instant Pot or not, but I’m including them here anyway because they appear on our lunch table weekly in Sue Gregg’s Lentil Rice casserole. I like to make it in our Instant Pot because I can put all the ingredients in after breakfast, and set the timer to have it done at lunchtime.

The children love being my “bean sorters!”

As you probably noticed, we frequently enjoy various seasonings in our beans served over rice or another grain. There are so many variations you can do with this and we especially like it with some precooked shredded beef or chicken added (I keep bags of it in the freezer for this purpose). And don’t feel limited to rice as a base; quinoa, millet, or even riced cauliflower all work great, too!

Keeping some containers of cooked beans in the freezer is also very handy to add in to vegetable beef or chicken soups, or for easy main-dish salad toppings.

Cornbread is a popular side dish that we have with our Instant Pot bean dishes and soups. It’s not cooked in the Instant Pot although I’m sure some people probably do cook their cornbread that way. My go-to recipe is Sue Gregg’s blender cornbread which uses whole dry corn. It takes me about 5-10 minutes to get it in the oven and then it bakes for 30 minutes. The recipe is available on her site in a PDF download of sample recipes. Search for the text “sample recipes” on the homepage to find the PDF download link. The recipe is on page 63.


We buy our organic dry beans, dry corn, popcorn, wheat, oats, millet, etc. in bulk from Azure Standard and have been pleased with the quality and prices (disclosure: the Azure link is an affiliate link that is part of their “Share Azure” program. If you order through it I may receive a credit in my account. You could also just go directly to Azure Standard’s site; or, if you have a friend who orders from Azure, ask them if they have a Share Azure link you can use). I’m sure you can probably find these at your local grocery store or health food store as well.

Tikka Masala garbanzo beans and chicken over millet

So, is an Instant Pot a necessity? No. But we’ve found it to be a time saver for the uses I mentioned. We have the 8-quart size and I love having that size (larger meals and/or more leftovers), even though it takes a bit longer to come up to pressure than a smaller one. If you have a smaller family or cook lower volume, the 6-quart would likely be adequate. We have seen both sizes come up on very good sales (for example 8 quart around $60) during the holiday season in the past. And, of course, there are other brands of modern pressure cookers that would function in a very similar fashion.

God bless you as you seek to cook nutritious meals for your family!

Anna Marie

“But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate
of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation”
(1 Thessalonians 5:8).