Our garden is full of weeds at the moment. White fluffy dandelion clocks fill the fields around us, so the fight to keep the grass green, rather than speckled yellow is a futile one. Last week I paid the children a penny per dandelion to pick them. This week I have decided to try a different tack, we are going to try and eat our weeds!

Dandelions are not our only challenge, nettles also grow here in abundance. The chickens and pigs eat most things, but not the nettles! Clumps of these stingers are dotted around the grounds, proudly declaring their ‘inedible by animals’ status.

I have been reading up about these 2 foraging delights, trying to find out more about what God has provided for us here on our land. I was delighted to read about their multiple health benefits, especially the immune boosting properties of dandelions.

The challenge now was how to convince the family to eat them. Our children vary in how fussy they are, from ‘brown food is preferrable’, to ‘don’t put it in the bin, I’ll eat it!’ I had no doubts that someone would eat what we make, but it would be great to convince them all.

I found a recipe for Dandelion flower cookies, https://www.splendidtable.org/story/2007/05/12/dandelion-flower-cookies and so we decided to have a go.

So what did everyone think? The younger children all gave them a thumbs up, and even came back for seconds. My sceptical older children were not keen and their reactions were not altogether polite!

I might make them again, but I think I might try dandelion petals in a muffin next time.

I was clearly on a roll and decided that next I had to try out a nettle recipe. With rubber gloves in hand we picked a few nettles and came in to prepare them. I found a recipe for nettle crisps, which sounded the most child friendly recipe I could think of. You basically wash them, coat them in oil, sprinkle on salt and bake for 20 minutes at 150 c.

I enthusiastically pulled my crispy looking leaves out of the oven and presented them to my less enthusiastic looking family. I tried them, to show them how delicious they were, and I really did like them, but the children were not convinced. Not one of them liked them 🙁. They said they were furry in your mouth and some simply said they were gross! I happily finished the lot. I definitely didn’t feel stung by them, although my mouth did feel a little tingly afterwards, I’m not entirely sure that was supposed to happen?

We had a lovely time foraging, but I think our children need to stop being so picky if we are going to enjoy God’s free bounty growing here. I think I might need to go back to the drawing board for my next foraging outing. Any suggestions?

Yesterday Phil and Jonathan collected a lathe from a friend at church. Jonathan had been looking to buy one, to add to his workshop, but he had closely missed out on one on eBay and so we continued to pray for one. Then our friend discovered Jonathan wanted one and he happily sold us his, as he had hardly used it.

Immediately upon its arrival, Jonathan set to work. He had decided to, rather ambitiously, make a bowl, as his first project. He worked yesterday evening and all afternoon today and this evening his hard work was complete and he ran in beaming with his finished product.

As he described the process of creating it, the inspiration for my blog post came to me. You see, the bowl was originally one of the branches off our tree. We recently had a tree surgeon over to remove some of the lower branches, so that we had space for our extension, which will start in a couple of weeks. The tree surgeon left many pieces of wood for Jonathan, to make wooden items with, as well as piles of logs for us to season, to use in our log burner.

Seeing the bowl reminded me of the Bible verse, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ Ephesians 2:10. This bowl was Jonathan’s ‘masterpiece’, but it reminded me of God creating us as his masterpiece. Jonathan took a dead piece of wood and started to work on it, he had to take off the rough exterior, to reveal the beautiful wood underneath. When we first come to Christ there begins a process of removing our ‘rough exterior’, our old way of living. He also showed me the heart of the wood in the dip of the bowl. This struck me as a reminder that God has put his heart in each of us, but we need shaping to reveal the beauty of God’s heart in us.

The wood contained some beautiful knots, which Jonathan had to work on more carefully than the rest of the bowl. Each knot was delicate and required care and attention to bring out their beauty without damaging them. How many ‘knots’ do we have in our lives? ‘Knots’ made from our challenges, our pain, our suffering. These ‘knots’ are worked on by God, our Master Craftsman. He treats us so gently when we have a ‘knot’ in our lives and yet he uses each ‘knot’ to make us more beautiful, more Christlike. Each bowl made from wood is unique, some with more knots than others, but all beautiful. We too are made into something beautiful when we give our lives into the hands of the Master Craftsman.

Finally, I placed the fruit in the bowl and God used this to give me one last reminder. His work in us is for a purpose, we are created to do ‘good things’. A bowl is not much use unless you put something in it and we too are created for God’s purposes. The fruit was also a helpful picture of the Holy Spirit working in us. It is the fruit of the Spirit in us which enables us to do the good work God has given us to do.

Isn’t it amazing how God takes someone who was once dead (in his/her sins) and by putting his heart in them and by the fruit of his Holy Spirit, he creates someone beautiful and reveals to them their created purpose.

‘God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.’ Ephesians 4-5

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After glorious sunshine this lunchtime, this afternoon brought several hours of terrestrial rain and hail. Our drainage system struggled to hold onto the water and the courtyard became increasingly flooded.

At 7pm Phil came in from an evening work meeting. I had hoped for a pair of hands cleaning up the kitchen, but a rather larger problem was needing his attention outside. As he’d left the office in the hayloft, he had been greeted by a newly forming lake in our courtyard. He immediately donned his wellies, waterproof gloves and heavy duty gloves and grabbing the extendable plunger went forth in battle against the elements.

He quickly realised that he would need to get his whole arm down the drain. He found a wire crate to settle upon, to prevent his entire body getting soaked and equally from preventing any excess water from finding its way to the drain. He soon discovered that this particular drain was not the only problem and thus sought out the source of the blockage. After gazing down our septic tank and 2 other drains, he discovered where the blockage appeared to be. Then came out his trusty extendable plunger, which he worked with for over an hour, to finally release the water which was backing up quite significantly.

This is not an uncommon type of task around this place. With bigger properties you get bigger problems! Old houses, animals and barns bring along many caretaker jobs. I always feel blessed to have a handy husband who is not afraid to get dirty.

Once the job was done he came in for a much needed shower and we had a slightly later than planned ‘at home date night’, with garlic chicken and sweet potato fries, yum!

What’s my day been like? Much less messy, and actually quite productive. I recently realised that my children did not know all the Ten Commandments, and I thought it was one of those things I should have taught them. So I came up with a plan to help them remember.

First we listened to this song https://youtu.be/OSXviJco41k over and over, whilst dancing away, in a slightly Greek wedding way! Once we had the song firmly stuck in our heads, Elizabeth found some pictures on the internet for us to colour, cut out and rearrange in the right order.

Once they had the Commandments memorised they had 1 Haribo and after cutting and sticking they got another 2. We will continue to practice them for the rest of the week and keep singing the song. Tonight I will go to sleep with the song dancing round my head, I wonder what my dreams will entail?!

This summer we will have been married 20 years. That feels a pretty significant milestone and one which has given me cause to reflect on all that makes our marriage such a happy one. I am convinced that grace is key to our joy filled marriage and helps us to see the best in one another.

Let me share with you a couple of examples from our marriage of when grace has been shown to one another, instead of grumbling and complaining.

I am not in any way shape or form an early bird. Mornings for me start reluctantly, and are best started late, or at the very least, slowly. Conversations with me before 8am are likely to be short, incoherent and not always filled with grace! Phil on the other hand is great in a morning, jolly and fully functional upon waking. I always admire his ability to move, when my body feels immobilised by the call of sleep and a warm snuggly duvet. Now the grace part, in this scenario, comes entirely from Phil. He knows the challenges I have with early starts and he graciously leaves me to slumber, often giving the other early risers some breakfast, to buy me a few more minutes rest. Every day I am grateful for this gift.

For over a decade, in the early days of parenting, I woke early with little ones, who seemed to believe that sleep was for the weak, whilst Phil left early to commute up to London. Those were often challenging days, and there were not a few tears shed on days when I just felt so tired due to waking at 5 am with a newborn, only to get them back to sleep just before the toddler woke for the day.

Thankfully Phil has been working from home for about 7 years and is invariably the first one up each day. He is so gracious though, because he never complains, he just happily accepts that I am a happier wife if I wake up later. If he were to hassle me to get up, I would reluctantly move, but he loves me too much to ask that of me, unless there is a particular reason.

In turn I offer Phil grace in the evenings. By six o’clock Phil’s patience is dwindling and I know he will need a break, especially as the noise level in our house crescendos somewhere around teatime. Rather than asking him to push on through, I try and take some of the pressure off, by taking on the bulk of the bedtime routine.

I’m no saint though, and I don’t always feel gracious because irritation and impatience are part of our humanity, but by looking to God instead of at the situation, he pours his love and grace into me and enables me to be kind instead of sharp.

Grace is an everyday feature in our busy lives and gives us the ability to see the situation from a different angle. For example, each day I stack the dishwasher and then Phil comes in and looks at my deeply flawed stacked dishwasher, he often graciously walks away, closing his eyes to my absolute failings in terms of fitting in the maximum number of items in the most appropriate places! Sometimes he just can’t resist restacking it though. I watch as the dishwasher, which I stacked in a hurry, but to the best of my ability, with Katie trying to get in the dishwasher and sit on the dishwasher door, is unloaded and then reloaded with meticulous precision. My pride at that point can feel wounded, because I tried and he is undoing all my work, or I can show grace and thank Phil for helping me to clean up the kitchen. My prideful response would begin to build a wall between us but my gracious response would build a bridge.

Grace starts with prayer. First we accept our need of grace from God. It is his grace, his free gift of eternal life, for us who are lost, broken and undeserving, which enables us to be gracious to those around us.

What do you think makes a happy marriage? I’d love to hear your responses in the comments.

We never imagined we would ever be parents of nine children. We thought maybe two or three, but God touched our hearts and asked us to trust him. Here is a little glimpse into how the last 18 years has looked.