Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December 26th, 2009
Grandma's House in Southwest Minnesota!
The drive was beautiful, if a little perilous!

December 26th is also Grandma's birthday!
Grandma and the cousins...being a little silly for the camera.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A little Swedish heritage

Potatis Korv (Potato Bologna), Lussekatter (Saffron Rolls or St. Lucia Buns), and Bruna Bonor (Brown Beans) grace our dinner table, along with corn-pudding, sweet potatoes, cream peas, mashed potatoes, and ham!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Day in the Morning

The sights.

The smells - Cardamom, Saffron

The memories - Ribbon Candy

The tastes - Sweet Cookies, Sour Grapefruit, Warm and Creamy Rice Pudding, Tender Saffron Rolls

And the strains of Handel's Messiah reminding us of the Savior.

The Night Before Christmas

Music is one of the things our family enjoys together...especially this time of year with all the unique and beautiful music.

This year, our trio was expanded to a quintet since Charlie joined us with his oboe and Ben with his violin.

Christmas is no longer a time to get things in our family.  But we can't bear not to give good things to each other, so we still open presents Christmas Eve.  None of us can wait for everyone else to open their gifts.  There have been secrets circulating through the house for weeks and the best part for me is the surprise on the receiver's face when they see the way you have worked to bless them. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"I feel like we are a Bakery!"...

...One of the Lenz ladies sometime in the week before Christmas

The Lenz Family Bakery and Restaurant has been busy the last few weeks.  Although they are not all pictured, this is a list of the goods we made on the bakery end.

Candy Cane Cookies

Spritz Cookies

Russian Tea Cakes

Old-Fashioned Date Cookies (Great-Grandma's Recipe and Mama's favorite)

Star Cookies (Daddy's favorite)

Gingerbread Cookies

"Face" Cookies

Butterscotch Bars

Traditional Swedish Saffron Rolls (Great-Grandma's Recipe and Everyone's favorite!)

Click here to read more about making these!

Swedish Cardamom Braid



"Tyranny Eve"

Tomorrow, the day that the world celebrates as Christmas Eve, has been uniquely positioned to become “Tyranny Eve”. Liberal lawmakers have scheduled two monumental votes on bills which, if carried into law, will propel us deeper toward statist socialism than many of us ever believed possible. And this is just the beginning.
While most citizens across America will be enjoying cozy pajamas and crackling fires, we call upon “Sons of Liberty” to recognize this crucial moment –to eschew comfort and STAND! Not just against socialistic health care and unlimited government spending, but for our children and their freedom.

Several months ago, town hall meetings across America pulsed with the outrage of concerned citizens who said “enough is enough” with the government’s attempts to encroach on our freedom by taking greater control over the private sector. Now, on the eve of an historic vote on health care legislation in the Senate, that spirit has waned as the passage of this behemoth bill that will deprive us of liberties and bankrupt our children’s future is considered inevitable.

Now is not the time for apathy. Now is the time to stand.

Join concerned citizens across America tomorrow morning as we gather on the footsteps of the capitol building in Washington D.C. to stand for freedom and against tyranny.

Why are we gathering while others have gone “home for the holidays”? Because we believe that American patriots should not be lulled into easy peace while such a galactic blow to American Liberty is being dealt. The festive cheer of the season cannot mask the ugly reality that is being advanced on “Tyranny Eve” by legislators drunk, not with spiked eggnog, but with the sense of unchecked power that is run amok.

We are not gathering merely to protest these bills. We are gathering to oppose the idea that it is the governments place to solve our problems. We say with the founding father of America that it is not. The solution is in our homes, our businesses, and our churches across America. We affirm our constitution’s bill of rights which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Join us as we peacefully stand together to defy tyranny and proclaim our allegiance to the God who our constitutional republic was founded upon.

Stand with us as we proclaim to lawmakers in Washington DC that statist power grabs are not the solution. They are the problem.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Luke 2

The Lenz and Carpenter Families
Luke 2

In those days, Ceasar Augustus issued a decree that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was made when Cyrenious was governor of Syria) and all went to be taxed, everyone to his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Gallilee, out of the ciyt of Nasereth into Judea, into the city of David which is called Bethlahem (because he was of the house and lineage of David; To be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, becuase there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country, shepherds, abiding in the feilds, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lrod shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.  But the angel said unto them "Fear not; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be sign unto you.  Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men."  And it came to pass as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said, one to another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known unto us. 
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  When they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child, and all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Saffron Rolls

This authentic Swedish recipe was passed down to us from our great-grandmother, Bertha Anderson whose mother emigrated from Sweden to America as a twenty-nine year old young lady in 1882.  Saffron Rolls are also often referred to as St. Lucia Buns.  They most remarkable for their brilliant color and distinctive flavor, being flavored with both saffron and cardamom.  We make them every year a few weeks before Christmas for our family and relatives. Last year we started making them for others as well when they ordered them ahead of time.  I don't think I exaggerate at all when I say that it would border on sacrilegious in some circles to eat them any other time of year than the few weeks around Christmas and St. Lucia's Day.
Saffron is one of the most rare and costly spices in the world.  It is in fact the stammen of the Saffron Crocus dried.  To extract the mellow-sweet perfume and flavor, and vivid golden color for two batches of the delectable buns, we soak about $75 dollars worth of the precious strands in water and sqeeze every drop of the flavor out.  This year we found a rarity in one of the plastic dish the saffron is packed in...a crocus petal!

Because there is no forgivness for mistakes with such precious spices, we are very careful about the preparing of the dough.

Grandma Bertha could find the correct temperature of the water with her finger, and Aubrey has learned to do the same.  I am still learning that skill, but it gets easier every time I try it.  There is no way to describe it.  The correct temperature is neither hot nor cold, but it is warmer than luke-warm and cooler than warm...105 degrees!

There is always that great moment when you add the saffron with excitement...and fear and trembling.
Then of course there is the cardamom...that exotic, spicy, effervescent fragrance that tingles in your nostrils.  It is so strong, some people use the whole seeds as breath mints!  I was shopping in Bath and Body recently and enjoying the whiffs I was getting from their aroma-therapy candles when I suddenly found one that shouted "Christmas" to me in every breath.  I thought for a minute it must be evergreen or something, but it wasn't in the Christmas area of the store.  "Where have I smelled that before?" Then I looked at the label...Cardamom and Lemongrass.  Well that explained it.  Cardamom and Saffron are two scents that spell Christmas to me...hard to describe, but unmistakable once you know them.  In explaining to other people, I often say that Cardamom is the primary flavor in most Chai teas, which it is, but that doesn't do much for them either since it is overwhelmed with a smattering of other spices.  Needless to say I didn't leave Bath and Body without that candle!

Back to the rolls.

Safely on the other side of mixing, we start the long and delicate process of adding the necessary flour and kneeding by hand.

These buns rise for two hours both before and after you form them, but they only bake for around 15-20 minutes.  We stand over the oven whatching and waiting during that time.

The final coat of butter to give them that shiny finish!
Everyone has their traditions...passed down through the generations.  The tradition in and of itself may not be remarkable, but it reminds the next generation of the things their fathers held dear.  Saffron Rolls are that way for us.  We talk often about maintaining the principle that tradition serves the generations, rather than the generations serving the tradition.
Our great-great-grandmother emigrated from Sweden as an indentured servant to a wealthy family in Omaha Nebraska.  Our grandma said that Anna Katarina, or Kate,  as she liked to be called, never wanted to talk about the voyage from Sweden because the conditions on the ship were humiliating.  She met her husband, a farmer and widower with eight children, at a Baptist tent meeting in Omaha.  Kate had three children of her own before her husband died in a wagon accident, leaving her with eleven children and a farm.  We have the Swedish Bible Kate brought with her on the ship from Sweden, filled with marked passages.  Although her life was filled alternatly with hardship and joys, her faith was built on God's faithfulness.  The youngest of those eleven children was our Great-grandmother, Bertha, born in 1894.
Great-Grandma Bertha had special memories of Christmas.  As a child on Christmas day, she would run from window to window keeping peepholes in the frost open with her breath.  Having all those big brothers and sisters was like having so many parents. They prepared the Christmas tree every Christmas Eve in the parlor of the farm house.  Bertha had to recite the Christmas story from memory in Swedish before they would throw open the doors to reveal the tree!  And of course there were the Saffron Rolls.  Bertha lived to be 101 years old and passed the tradition of the Saffron Rolls, and the story of our family, to her daughter and her grandaughter, Karen, our mother! 
The amazing story of God's provision amidst blessing and hardship is the story behind the Saffron Rolls.  Saffron Rolls alone can give us nothing.  But they serve as a reminder of the faithfulness of God to work in our lives for our good and His glory through the generations of those that serve Him.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The NCFIC Sufficiency of Scripture Conference

The Lenz ladies admiring our lovely hotel while Daddy attends a luncheon...first day of the conference!

The fun elevators.  :)

There were around 2600 people at the conference!

Our family was encouraged, exhorted, and motivated in so many ways.  Some of our favorite speakers were Paul Washer, Doug Phillips, Kevin Swanson, Geoff Botkin, Voddie Baucham, Scott Brown, and Joe Morcraft among many excellent men.

We tried taking a survey to find out which speaker our family appreciated most, but there were too many perspectives.  We found we have more favorites than family members.  :)  The speakers spoke about everything in the context of the sufficiency of scripture for our lives, from the gospel of Jesus Christ to the laws of nations, culture and aesthetics, the meeting of the local church, family life, ministry, and so much more.  As usual we came home feeling that we just finished drinking from fire-hose...and so blessed!

We were also excited to be at the Cinncinati Premier of the new creation film, The Mysterious Islands and to meet and listen to many of the cast and filmakers!

Four of the six arrows at the premier. :)

A tired and thankful crew ready to leave for home!

On they way home, Daddy took us out to eat at the Cracker Barrel in Wisconson...amazingly, the same one we visited on the last trip we made to Ohio in July!

To read more about the conference, visit
NCFIC blog
and Doug Phillip's Blog

Glad to be home to the cold and snow and warm fires and fresh cookies, hospitality, secrets filtering through the house... and above all, remembering the birth of our great Savior!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow

Bright and early Thanksgiving morning, the tables are prepared for the guests.

A work in progress nearly done!

Our dear girl preparing food in the kitchen.

One of the finished place settings.

The delicious brownie bites Aubrey made, dipped in chocolate and garnished with candy corn!

 Some of the cooks and dish-washers...there were more, but they escaped the camera.  :)

The menu was alarming to look at if you were attempting it alone, but together, the army of Lenz's and guests produced a prodigious feast.

Lively conversation flowed freely and I think that by the end of the day nearly everyone's face was ready to crack.

The small but formidable young man on the right was largely to blame for this.  Ryan, the youngest and most animated personage present, kept us all in stitches the greater part of the day. At one point, he tramped into the kitchen armed with gloves held on high and instructions from Aunt Debi to announce solemnly to his Mama, “I’m wedy to ‘ash dises.”

The men adjourned to the basement for the greater part of the prep time so as not to hinder in the delicate task of arranging the food so that it was both hot and on the table in good time.

The climax of Thanksgiving is that moment when the noise is hushed as the last dish safely lands in its place on the laden table.  The cooks sigh in relief as the last task is accomplished, and everyone sighs in expectation.  In this moment we freely come in humble gratitude before our Father in heaven to thank Him for inumerable blessings.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about Christmas, but the way she writes is applicable and unforgettable.  I always think of this whenever we come to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner: “Almonzo bowed his head and shut his eyes tight while Father said the blessing. It was a long blessing because this was Christmas Day. But at last, Almonzo could open his eyes. He sat and silently looked at that table…He looked at the fat roast goose, the drumsticks sticking up, and the edges of dressing curling out…He looked at the big bowl of cranberry jelly, and at the fluffy mountain of mashed potatoes with melting butter trickling down it. He looked … at the golden baked squash, and the pale fried parsnips…He swallowed hard and tried not to look any more. He couldn’t help seeing the fried apples-‘n’onions, and the candied carrots. He couldn’t help gazing at the triangles of pie, waiting by his plate; the spicy pumpkin pie, the melting cream pie, the rich dark mince oozing from between the mince pie’s flaky crusts. He squeezed his hands together between his knees. He had to sit silent and wait, but he felt aching and hollow inside. All the grown-ups at the head of the table must be served first. … At last Almonzo’s plate was filled. The first taste made a pleasant feeling inside him, and it grew and grew, while he ate and ate…”

Of course Thanksgiving would be incomplete without target practice.  The men had our valley ringing with shots for about half an hour.
Thank you to everyone for a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I believe we can truly sing:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Gost