Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Mustard Trees Blog

 Good morning!

I just wanted to share with you another place that I and some friends of mine have been writing and we would love to have you join us there. We have started a group blog called Mustard Trees. It is written by women (though we did have one guest post by Katie's brother) for the purpose of encouraging other women in their Christian walk.

My friend Katie just wrote a post entitled: Hunky Dory. I really, really appreciated her thoughts on where our safe place should be.  She also has written one called Separated After Birth which shares some stories and lessons learned while she was a missionary in Ukraine. 

Lisa, a friend of mine from out west who also homeschooled her 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls), recently wrote about 4 Things I Learned While Raising My 4 Kids. In all the things we worry about getting right as parents she speaks of some of the things that are truly important. I think you will find it encouraging. Lisa also wrote a good post on Do You Love Your Neighbor As Yourself?

I think you also will enjoy Marette's post on How to Turn the Corners and Not Miss the Curves. She has some good thoughts on living life even in hard times. She says: "Life is all about staying at the cross and loving people. Learning how to handle the corners in life gives us the credibility to tell another one coming behind us, “you can do this- I made the corner. Slow down, keep your eyes on the road and follow the lines and let the Holy Spirit direct your steps.”

Bethany wrote a good post called To Worship Him and another called "The Joy of Christmas" which has a message that is good for far past Christmas time.

Tasha wrote on Embracing God's Truth Over Your Daily To-do List. A needed reminder as we try to plan on our lives. I really enjoyed her thoughts in The Self-Disciplined Woman: Am I Keeping My Word?

I wrote on being Transformed by the Renewing of Our Mind.  That is something I have been meditating on a lot and seeking God's truth on it. It was very helpful for me to write out my thoughts and I hope it is helpful to others as well. I also wrote about Partners in Prayer  sharing how this has been a life changing practice for me. I am so grateful to have people that I can get together with regularly to pray with. 

 I hope you will come on over to Mustard Trees and be encouraged in your walk with Jesus!

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Goal Setting with God

This video is one of my boys interviewing a good friend from church about goal setting. I found it encouraging and thought you all might as well.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Happy New Year! 2023 in Review

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22 & 23

2023 was a good year. Not one that didn't have any challenges or trials but one where we saw God at work over and over again. A year filled with God's Grace - gifts stacked one upon another. God's faithfulness showing up over and over again as we breathe each day, as we have more than enough to eat, as we get to spend time with the many beautiful people in our lives. I just get overwhelmed thinking about how good God has been to us!

Here are some highlights from 2023
In February Megan and I were able to take a quick road trip to Ankeny/DesMoines, Iowa and spend a weekend with our friends James and Jessica (as well as getting to see other friends in the area). They took us on a fun tour of DesMoines and we were blessed by our time of fellowship. 

We had a lot of snow last winter which is a far different story than this winter where at this point we don't even have a complete covering of the ground. We all enjoyed the snow but Aaron definitely got the most skiing in. Last winter he even tried some back country skiing on some fun slopes around here. I had a lot of fun joining him one day and got some great exercise when we decided to cut through the woods to hike back to the car (rather than following a trail) wearing our heavy ski boots. 
Our church hosted a Retreat in March and a bunch of the kids put on a play for it. I got the ball rolling to have a play but was so incredibly blessed by the many that helped out to make it successful. Mara did a great job of totally re-writing a story and making it into a very nice script, others helped with directing and props and the kids worked really hard to do a great job at acting.  The Retreat over all was a blessing and a great time of fellowship.

April found our family going to Ireland to visit some missionaries there and do some exploring. It was a wonderful trip that we will long remember.
The gift of getting to see some more wonders of God's creation, to spend time together as family, to meet more of God's people clear across the ocean, to learn some history in truly fun and exciting ways was just incredible. 
Jonathan filmed a documentary about the Tuttle family going to Ireland while we were there.

The gift of being the Mom in this family of mine is such a blessing. I am so grateful for each one of them and that they desire to serve Jesus Christ.

In May (I am pretty sure) Jonathan moved down to the Twin Cities to try out new things. My nephew Harrison had bought a house and is renting out bedrooms to some other boys from church. Jonathan went to be part of that household. He has enjoyed getting involved at the Woodbury Church of Christ and meeting new people down there. He went down as an assistant manager at Caribou and it looks like he is about to become a general manager. He has been getting back into doing more filming again and He and Thomas work together on a Podcast called "Salt of the Earth".
In June our family was pretty excited to welcome Ewan Peregrine Drake. He is a delightful addition to our family. After 3 or so somewhat challenging months of colic he has grown into a quite happy little boy. Mara and Thomas have their hands full with two very busy little boys but they are doing a great job with them. They are also very active in church, hosting and leading the youth group among other things. Thomas has started preaching fairly often and is part of a group that is being mentored to be elders some day. Mara raised a big garden. Malcolm is a very articulate 2 year old who keeps us laughing much of the time. Thomas was offered a job as a teacher in Cass Lake, MN this fall. He is teaching STEM to 5-7th graders.

In June Aaron left to spend much of the summer (9 weeks, I think) at Flaming Pines Camp. That is a nearly 2 hour drive away, North East of here. It is a Bible camp. Aaron was a camp councilor and that was a good learning and growing experience for him which I think ,for the most part, he enjoyed a lot. He also got pretty well acquainted with another councilor up there named Harper which has caused him to talk on the phone a lot more than he used to and take extra trips this fall.
When Aaron wasn't at camp he worked construction, as an Arborist (I think his favorite job) and now working with machines at the same place his uncle Luke works. He is happy to have a steady inside job this winter but looks forward to working with trees with Andrew (a friend from church) again this next summer. Aaron also continues to learn a lot about Car Mechanics as the older cars/trucks that he likes to get always seem to need work. I think he has learned a ton through the process so that is a blessing. We are incredibly grateful for his good friend Sam Wolkoff who has worked with Aaron on his vehicles hours upon end. 
Megan also spent several weeks at camp either as a worker or a camper.
All of us except Aaron (who was up at camp) headed out to Colorado at the end of July along with other youth from church and attended the Nationwide Youth Round-up. My sisters, Martha and Anna also went and I enjoyed getting to spend time with them. We also camped with a group from Plainview, MN. We had fun spending time with friends, listening to good Bible teaching and worshipping with a couple thousand others on the mountainside.

With both my kids at camp much of the summer I thought I might get lonely but I ended up keeping my house pretty busy without them. We were pretty booked with AirBnB guests this summer and then when SuSan's (a special needs lady from church) apartment building got condemned she lived with me for a month and a half. My mother-in-law also sold her house across the road so that she could move near her youngest son and so she stayed at my house for a few weeks too and my brother-in-law was here for a week as well. I wasn't lonely and I am very grateful. There were some pretty good memories made during those times.

The kids all got to do some fun traveling this summer too. Their dad took each of them on a big trip. Megan went with him to Italy, Aaron to Alaska, Jonathan to Iceland and Mara and Ewan went with him to Maine and other states on the East coast. It is pretty fun that they were able to experience those things.

In late August my Sister-in-law, Holly went to be with Jesus after around a year of battling cancer. We grieve our loss but are so grateful that she doesn't have to be in pain any more. Peter and Holly (and their daughter Jaten) traveled all over the country working on log homes. Peter had last been working in Sisters, OR but they had gone to Boise, ID to try out a new treatment. Holly died while they were there. It was a blessing that their oldest son, Nic,  and Holly's parents were able to be with them for the last couple of months. After Holly died Peter and Jaten decided that they would come back to Bemidji to be by family. My brother-in-law, Travis and I both flew out to be with them and to help Peter drive his two big rigs back. It was a blessing for me to get to spend that time with all of them.

Megan started her senior year of highschool (homeschool) and her Sophomore year of college this fall thanks to a program Minnesota has where Juniors and Seniors can go to college for free. Megan is wanting to graduate with her associates this spring so she took 17 credits this fall and has a lot for the semester coming up as well. She works really hard at her schoolwork and her grades show that. She took a public speaking class this last semester so we had a couple of parties at our house so that she could have an audience to give her speech to. For one of them we had a multi-course dinner party and asked everybody to dress elegantly. It has been some fun times. She also took a film appreciation class so we had a big film showing party as well. Good thing I like having company. It has been fun for Megan that not only did her cousin Jaten move back to Bemidji but her cousin Beatrice also moved to town. Megan has really been enjoying getting to hang out with cousins and friends.

Mid September found us as it usually does up North at Jackpine Retreat. Our whole family (except Nic who lives in California) was there. 

In October my Uncle John and Aunt Donna came to visit. All of our family was able to get together to spend time with them. It can get pretty crowded and noisy when we are all together but it is pretty fun too. I thank God over and over again for Godly parents and all of my siblings, their spouses, and all the grandkids who love and serve the Lord.
Our lives were enriched this fall by this group of kids (plus a couple more that aren't pictured) that came from various countries to go to school for a semester at the University here. They went camping with us in September, many came to our place for Thanksgiving and we enjoyed other times with them as well. I would love to travel the world but really what is most interesting about the world is the beautiful people in it. I really loved getting to know these kids a little bit and learn about their countries and cultures. And if I get to travel the world more they said I am always welcome to visit.

Some others that have added beauty our lives this year....
In the fall of 2022 I started hosting monthly neighborhood potlucks. That has now been going on for over a year. I have loved getting to know my neighbors better. Of course not everyone from the neighborhood comes each month but there is a lovely group that pretty much does and then others come from time to time.

I am still working at Netzer's floral and am blessed by the fun environment with my boss and co-workers there. I also teach 20 plus music students a week, they can sometimes challenge me but they also bless me and I am so thankful for them. I was grateful for another good year of doing wedding flowers with Abbi's Bridal Design. 

On Sunday evenings I lead a Ladies Bible study at a friends house in town. I love the time we get to dig into God's word together. We come from a lot of different religious backgrounds so the discussions can be really fun.

We are incredibly blessed by our church family at the Bemidji Church of Christ as well. I am so grateful that I don't have to try to do life alone or even with just my family. Having a group of believers that truly care about me and encourage me in my walk with Jesus is so wonderful. There are several women in the congregation that I meet with outside of our regular church time to study with and/or pray with and that has truly been life changing for me and my walk with Jesus. 
In December we always like to go on a walk to gather greenery to decorate our home. It was perfect that it snowed that morning. It melted later but we enjoyed the snow for our walk.
Ewan has become some a happy guy. We just love him!

Christmas found all the kids here at home which was wonderful. My parents, Peter and Jaten also joined us for lunch and then on that weekend we were able to spend time with our other in town family as well. 
Last night, New Year's Eve, was our traditional game night party. We had a great turn-out (we ended up with 50 people at our house) and I enjoyed having everybody here. I think most of them had a good time too. :-) God has richly blessed us. I am looking forward to seeing what He has in store for us next year.

I would love to hear about your year and areas you have seen God working.


Saturday, December 2, 2023

Visiting Grand Marais MN- video by Jonathan and Thomas

My son, Jonathan, and son-in-law, Thomas, have been doing a podcast together and they took a trip to Grand Marais to visit and plan and made this vlog. It has some beautiful videography and a few thoughts. I thought you all might enjoy it.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

So Many Things to be Thankful For

 I thought I would share a few pictures from this last month and just a couple of thoughts. The picture above is Malcolm and I when our family went on a walk at the state park on Friday. 
The other walkers: Aaron, Mara (with Ewan on her front), Thomas and Megan)
I didn't get any good pictures from Thanksgiving day but we were blessed with family and friends joining us at our place. 5 international students from the university joined us and that was a blessing. It was fun to introduce them to Thanksgiving as it is an American holiday.

My seatmates. Some pretty fun ones that had lots of requests and questions. :-)

As usual we had plenty of pie.
Mom, Dad and I. 
We have a couple of kitties (that hopefully we can find a home for at least one of them). This one is so incredibly friendly and purrs away even when Malcolm picks him up like this.
A couple of weeks ago we had a Thanksgiving meal at church. That was fun. At it we were challenged to work together as a congregation to come of with 10,000 reasons that we are thankful (praising God). I normally write a list of things that I am thankful for everyday and have done that for 15 years or so. It has truly changed my life to do that. If you struggle with discontent or unhappiness in any way I highly recommend it. This challenge at church has caused me to put a lot more thought and effort into it -more than my normal 10 or so things per day. It has been such a blessing!

  I don't believe that it is just for God's sake that He tells us over and over again to be thankful. It is so incredibly healing for us! Even if it did nothing for us, He deserves all the thanks we can give but I think when we start obeying Him and begin praying with thanksgiving the way He tells us to we will be blessed far beyond what we can imagine.

  God gives us hundreds (thousands? millions?) of gifts every day and many of them we don't even notice. Instead we are busy thinking about our struggles, the hard things we face, the loneliness in our lives. When we start looking for those gifts instead and writing them down it fills you with such a great sense of overwhelming love - realizing just how much God cares for you. Taking the time to write them down can retrain your thinking. Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of your mind" and I think obeying God in giving thanks is part of the way to do that.

   Go beyond just being thankful for family, friends, a home, a job, enough to eat and a vehicle to drive. Start thinking about all the people in your life and then think about what about them makes you thankful for them. Start noticing the beautiful things God puts in your life whether it be a mushroom you chance upon out walking, a frozen puddle that has pretty ice designs, the bark on a tree. Start noticing and get specific in your thankfulness. Give thanks for specific interactions/conversations you are able to have. Notice the sounds around you and give thanks for the ears that can hear and the beauty of music, nature, breathing, etc. Think through the things in your life that have molded you into who you are today. Give thanks - even for those hard things. Once you get started writing down what you are thankful for and truly noticing things you will find it is pretty hard to stop. 

   I would love to hear if you practice this already and if you do what affect it has had on you. If you don't do it would you please, please try? I know you will be blessed.

  Two huge blessings in my life are my Grandsons. I have started watching them once a week while their parents have a date. Ewan is normally breastfed but he gets to drink a bottle while with me. He doesn't seem to mind at all. A couple of weeks ago while Ewan was napping I asked Malcolm what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to paint. So Malcolm and I were having a great time painting away. Then Ewan woke up. We decided that he probably needed a bottle. Malcolm helped me to fix it and wanted to carry it over to the living room. Once there he also wanted to feed Ewan. So I got them set up and then Malcolm tells me " Grandma, you go paint!" He had everything under control and thought I might as well get back to painting. I love these guys so much!

Ewan isn't the only baby at church. We have been blessed with many new ones lately. Juliette was born the end of March and Juniper was born around a month ago and the rest in between. We are so blessed!


Saturday, November 18, 2023

Living Frugally 2023 version

    Anybody that has been a reader of my blog for very long or knows me very well, knows that I am fairly passionate about living frugally. I admit I find it a pretty fun hobby - so possibly most people will find me strange but oh well. :-)

   I think one of the biggest helps for me financially (after simply trusting God that He is going to provide - I will work and do my best and God will take care of the details) is to really get my mind wrapped around the fact to pretty much all of us have money and we MAKE A CHOICE what we do with it. Many are caught in some sort of debt trap and they don't feel like they have any choices, but pretty much everybody does at some time and we make many, many financial choices every single day. So live intentionally, prepare for the hard times (trouble with health, with cars, home repairs, etc) and make a priority to spend on the things that actually matter to you (after taking care of your financial commitments).

  The things that matter to you - that is different for everybody. So the things I save money on totally may not work for you as perhaps your biggest joy in life is going to a coffee shop every single day. In my viewpoint that is a huge waste of money but I also am happier not drinking something ridiculously expensive out of a cup destined for the landfill and drinking something that isn't very good for me either. I will enjoy it on a very rare occasion - as I admit they do taste pretty good (well not the coffee actually - I am not a fan - but I love a good Chai) but not something regularly. It simply would not bring me joy. But I do love to travel. Our family went to Ireland in April, Colorado in July and other smaller trips as well. I also recently bought a ticket to go to Brazil in January, Lord Willing. That brings me joy. I am willing to make all sorts of other financial sacrifices to make that happen and I do that gladly. I also am very passionate about being debt free and so I have been attacking my mortgage and paying off just as much as I can early. That brings me joy (and I know, I'm weird).

  Anyway, I have been talking with a bunch of people that have a little less money to work with just now and so I thought I would share some of the ways that I spend less money. I am going to divide them into categories and I will try to link to more information just as much as possible.


  • I use a vinegar water solution to clean instead of glass cleaner.
  • I mop using just water and sometimes a drop of essential oil.
  • I don't use paper towels or any one use items for cleaning, instead I have a large collection of rags made from old t-shirts and towels.


  • I don't shop very often (less than once a month- at times far less).
  • When I do shop I almost only shop at a consignment store that I bring things to whenever we have things we don't need and then I earn store credit. So usually I shop for free.
  • I say "yes" to hand-me-downs. If we aren't able to use them I can generally take them into the consignment store or pass them on to someone else.
  • I challenge myself to be creative in my clothing combinations every so often and sometimes old clothes can feel very new when you combine them in a fun way.
  • When I do play clothing my goal is to buy quality items that will last well. This is especially important to me in shoes. I generally just buy leather shoes and they can last for years and years. 
  • For tennis/hiking shoes (what I wear most days) I like Keens. They last time I needed a pair I bought some used ones in good condition off of Ebay for a pretty good price.
  • I am really working to have clothes that are truly my style (I like ones in natural fabrics, often feminine, rustic or woodsy) - so no matter what fads come and go I can just stick with ones that I like how they look and feel. 


  • I enjoy having artwork on my walls that was created by family or friends.
  • Much decoration in our home often is foraged from the woods or garden.
  • Houseplants make pretty and healthy decorations. I have rarely bought one but I have a huge collection. That is largely because I work at a flower shop and can bring home ones that aren't looking healthy enough to sell and then work to bring them back to health. That plant doctoring actually consists of watering them occasionally and putting them by a window, nothing to fancy. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. If you have friends that love plants you can often get plant starts from them. That is another great way to have a houseful of plants cheaply.
  • I like to make quilts from fabric scraps.
  • Throw pillows are another thing that has been easy for me to make from things that I had on hand (old bed pillows can supply stuffing).
  • I have found curtains very easy to make and if you look for fabric on sale you can do it pretty cheaply too.
  • I like to have basket for gathering produce from the garden. They also make nice decor. I have found them cheaply at thrift stores or garage sales.


  • This year and last year Megan has been going to college for free with something called PSEO (post secondary education opportunity) that is offered to Juniors and Seniors in Minnesota. She has been able to do it online through a Christian college in St. Paul. Lord willing, she will graduate with her associates degree this coming Spring at the same time she graduates from high school. We will have to pay about $1000 for her to take a couple of Bible classes this next semester as the college requires it for graduation and the state won't pay for that. I have heard of similar programs in some other states. If your child is interested in college this is a great way to do it.
  • When homeschooling we stayed pretty frugal by using a lot of reusable books and using the library extensively. 
  • I try to do "Continuing Education" for my floral business by watching videos on Youtube. There are a lot on there that are well done and helpful. I am guessing this is true of many industries. 


  • We pretty much never go to the movie theater.
  • I have watched some local plays by volunteering to be an usher and then you get to watch for free. We also sometimes pay for tickets at our community theater - that is worth it to me. And community theater is far less than ticket prices I have seen elsewhere and they do a fantastic job.
  • We don't have cable or Netflix (or anything else that I pay for except internet). A lot of what we watch is off YouTube. 
  • For fun we enjoy making music together, playing games, ping-pong, reading, biking, camping and canoeing. 


  • Use what you have in abundance. Are you getting a lot of something from the garden? Where you gifted from somebody else's abundance? Did you find a great deal on something? Especially if it is something that will go bad - build your menu around it. 
  • Don't let food go to waste. Eat up those leftovers the next day for lunch. If it is more than you can eat before it goes bad - freeze some or share it with others if you can.
  • I don't shop very often. I love to see how long we can eat from the pantry. This has been very helpful in keeping our grocery budget low.
  • When you find good deals of something that will last for a while (in the freezer or on the shelf) stock up on it. Try to get enough that it will last until the next good sale. How much to get varies according to how much you eat it, how long it lasts and how good the deal is. A month or so ago a local store had Mac and Cheese boxes four for a dollar. I hadn't seen that sort of deal on that for a long time. I ended up getting 2 boxes of boxes (48 in all). It is a cheap quick meal that the kids like to make once and a while. Today we went to an Amish store in our area and they had jars of natural peanut butter marked at a dollar and then I looked and saw that you could get a flat of 12 for $9. That is a steal of a deal and so I now have 24 jars of peanut butter. It doesn't outdate for over a year and we should use that much in that time. I also found butter cheaper today than I had for a while ($2.99 a lb) so I got 24 pounds.
  • I grow a garden (which I do not spend much money at all on (around $35 a year for seeds and that is pretty much it) and then we eat from the garden just as much as we can in the summer and fall. I also put up as much food as I can.
  • I rarely got out to eat or buy premade food or drink.


  • I make quite a few handmade gifts. Not as many at this season of life as I have done in the past but still quite a few. I pretty much always make them from things we have on hand whether it be from my craft/sewing closet or our kitchen cupboards. I have been blessed to be on the receiving end of many people cleaning out their craft supplies however so I have an abundance to work from. Pictured above is a miniature picnic that Megan and I put together for my niece, Lilly. Below is a wreath I made for my sister Keren.
  • I do sometimes find things at second hand stores or garage sales that are new or basically look new and I will gift them at times. 
  • I wrote a post a while back on saving money on gifts that has more thoughts, ideas and details.
  • Our Christian radio station in town has something called "Shopping on the radio" that offers gift cards to local businesses at a discount. I will sometimes buy those and either just use them as gifts or use them to buy gifts. It also supports the radio station in the process.


  • I make it a habit to drink plenty of water each day. It is tap water (when at home that means well water) so it is free.
  • I do a lymph massage every morning.
  • I drink warm vinegar water every morning. (2 tablespoons raw organic apple cider vinegar in 16 ounces of warm water).
  • I try to do some activity/exercising outside at least 5 days a week.
  • I eat a lot of whole grains, vegetables and unprocessed natural foods. I limit my use of sugar.
  • I rarely have caffeine.
  • I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a day.
  • I don't have a gym membership instead I enjoy working hard, biking, walking, etc that I can do for free.
  • I try to spend time stretching at least 5 times a week.


  • A couple of years ago we switched from having a partially government subsidized health insurance to instead using Samaritan's Ministries which is a Christian Health Care Sharing program. That ended up saving me over $200 a month and my deductible went from $6,000 to $450 which is quite significant. Though none of us have needed to go to the doctor during the time we have been using it (praise God!) and so I can't give you first hand account of how well it actually works I have heard from others that it does work well when you have a need. I know that personally I really, really enjoy getting to send my monthly checks (11 months of the year I send them directly to another believer who has a medical expense) to someone whom I can learn a little about and pray for as well. If you should decide to check them out and join would you please say that Abbi Cobb referred you? That will take a little off my expense for the next month if you do.
  • Really sit down and talk with your insurance agent and make sure that you have the coverage you actually need and want. I was able to get rid of some redundant coverage this year that saved me $34 a month. Not a lot but over time it adds up.


  • I make our own laundry soap
  • I don't use either fabric softener or dryer sheets. (This not only saves me money but has made it so I have less headaches as well - I used to love the smell but after removing most unnatural scents from my life I have less headaches - I never knew that they were associated before.)

Personal Products

  • I only use shampoo about once a week (I do shower daily but I have found it is better for my scalp, hair and pocketbook to shampoo less). I did have to get to that gradually but your body will stop producing so much grease if you don't strip the oils so often.
  • I use a menstrual cup.
  • I buy toilet paper in bulk from a local paper supply company.
  • I make my own deodorant most of the time (and I like it better than what I have bought when I run out of time to make it).
  • I make my own lotion bars


  • I use a tracphone instead of having a plan I have to pay for every month. That has worked pretty well for me. I spend around $150 a year for having a smart phone.

Those are a few of the things that I do to save money. I would love to hear what you do to live frugally!


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