Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - There but by the grace of God


Imagine yourself sitting in a rocker next to a wood burning stove, a shawl closely wrapped around your shoulders to protect you from the cold in the room.  Looking out the window, snow is falling and the world appears cold and bleak. A cast iron pot sits on the wood burning stove, simmering away as you rock and pray and ponder.

This post is much like the stew in that pot.  It has been simmering for awhile, coming together as I ponder the events of the world and what it means to me and mine and those around me.  I hope the simmering away of thoughts through the months will have have brought together words... cohesive and easy to understand... not to be misinterpreted in meaning.

It all began when the TV screen fed me the scenes of racial riots last year.  White cops.  Black kids.  Living.  Dead.  Distrust.  Fear.  Hatred boiling in the cities.

I must admit watching the goings on at the time and thinking it was being overblown.  I mean really, I know there are bad cops but I can't see where the white cop shot the black kid without provocation.  It doesn't look that way from my perspective.

And after all, it is obvious that a lot of the hatred is being poked in the coals of racial fire by men who unfortunately go by the title of Reverend.  Not the good Reverend.  Not the King of Reverends.  Not the man who led a peaceful movement that changed our country.

He had a dream, a call, a commitment to peaceful change.  Nothing like Reverend King, Jr... no, others who have made a career of provocation instead of peace.

Something happened as I watched from my cozy chair in this rural countryside.  God spoke to me.  Clearer than I have ever heard Him before.  What did He say that changed my thinking and the way I saw the world around me?

There but for the Grace of God...

It's an old fashioned saying one doesn't hear much these days.  I don't know if many Millennials have ever heard it before.  But the past generation used it, those who fought two world wars.  There but for the Grace of God... go I.

Do I know what it is like to be young and black and male and unemployed?  Have I ever had a white person cross the street because I was near on a dark night?  No.  I have lived in the Detroit area where the tension between whites and blacks is so thick, you can cut it with the proverbial knife.  But I am white.  I have never walked that path.  How can I judge what another feels or thinks or fears?

I started thinking about more opportunities to try to understand than just the race wars.  I totally believe alternative lifestyles are against what the Bible tells us is lawful and certainly I do not condone them anointed within the Holy God-ordained Sanctity of Marriage.

But what about the person?  Long before communities were set up in San Francisco and Hollywood proclaimed such lifestyles as mainstream... there were men and women who desperately tried to change.  Even those today who buy into the media produced lies that such is normal... know within them that they are different.  Not all, of course... but those I have known and cared for.

What about the young woman walking out of the abortion clinic... empty.  The war veteran homeless under the bridge drinking away the memories of bombs and guts and gore?  The college girl who has given herself to too many trying to fit in and belong... suicidal after photos appear on social media.

Who will look past the sin into the eyes of the sinner?  Jesus...

We Evangelicals have at times been afraid of Grace.  After all, if we show too much Grace then we run the chance of falling into Cheap Grace, so we offer... no Grace.

I know how you feel.  I, too, have read the words from famous religious leaders who have crossed the line into the Oprah camp.  Love conquers all, you know.  God is love.  He does not care what you do as long as you love one another.  True?  No.

God is not only love but He is holy.  As many have written, the Book does not contain the Ten Suggestions.  But the same God who destroyed Sodom with fire from heaven chose Rahab to be a part of His human lineage.

Watering down God's grace to include that which He abhors does more than create a lie... it destroys the very essence of that grace... cast a shadow over the miracle that is grace... the Love that is grace!

For God does not tell us He will look the other way in our sin and let us slip into the back door of Heaven. 

Grace explodes sin into nothingness!  When we bring our sin to Him... and we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God you know... we ask His forgiveness and accept Christ as the sacrificial Lamb to cover those sins... they are gone in His sight.

Poof!  Vanished!  As far as the East is from the West gone!  The slate is wiped clean!  Pure as the white snow falling from above. 

The blood that Jesus shed on the cross cleanses the adulterer and the homosexual and the woman who had the abortion and the slave owner and the great grandchild of the slave and... you and me... He makes our sins to be white as snow.

Not cheap grace.  Not turning our eyes away and saying it is not sin grace.  Real grace that explodes from Heaven.  

There but by the grace of God go I.  Me, a sinner saved by grace.  I may have not walked the same path as you or the homosexual relative/friend or the white cop so quick to shoot or the black young man who robbed a store or the woman in streets of Cairo wearing the veil or the woman caught in adultery waiting for the first stone to be cast against her... but I have walked a far from perfect journey in His eyes.

Since that day, that moment when He spoke in that still soft Voice.  I've watched the news differently.  I've looked at life differently.

I have prayed that the sinners of the world, you and me and all of us, come to know Him fully as the One who came to this Earth... the God who created it confined to the womb of the young virgin... lived a sinless life to die a terrible death on that piece of wood... to offer Himself the blameless Lamb of God.

For you.  For me.  For them.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Eating on a tight budget

Homemade shortbread
I think the question I am most often asked is how I manage to cook on a very tight budget.  Hmmmm... practice?  ;)  But I guess that is not an answer that would help too many people so I will be a little more specific.

The Pantry
First I would have to say is the whole concept of keeping a good pantry (with the freezer and refrigerator part of the pantry).  If one shops the stores for the pantry and then shops the pantry when preparing a meal first, you can save a lot of money.

For instance, I know some of the essentials items I cook with go on sale regularly.  So whenever possible, I stock up when the items are on sale even if I don't immediately need them.  The more you can shop this way, especially for basic ingredients, the less you spend on groceries.

Of course, it does mean spending time thinking of your menus and your recipes and some amount of time keeping the pantry organized.  But the time vs. money investment is huge.  It is said that most of us make the same fifteen or so recipes over and over again (seasonally).

I find that to be true in my kitchen so the food in those recipes become my core group of pantry items for meal preparations.  I also look for good "pantry recipes" when perusing cookbooks and food blogs. 

I have a lot of grocery stores within a close distance and I am aware of what stores are best for various sales. For instance, Aldi's is the cheapest overall, Kroger has the best sales, Meijer is great at putting things on Manager's Clearance and one of the local chains has the best prices for putting meat on clearance close to the "Sell By" date.

Those of us who use our pantries in such a way also know when to purchase seasonally on sale.  For instance, I buy Philadelphia cream cheese whenever it is on a 10 for $10 sale at Krogers and that is normally before a big Holiday.  If I can't purchase it at that price, I then look for the store brand sales.  We love the cheesecake I make in the 9 x 13 dish but it takes five packages of cream cheese, made affordable only when I can buy it on sale.

Turkey goes on sale before Thanksgiving, items to bake with go on sale before Christmas, ham goes on sale before Easter, barbecue foods and everything that goes along with them go on sale before the 4th of July, etc.

When we learn to pay attention to where we shop, when we shop, and how we shop... we can eat better for much less.  I'm always learning and I've been doing this for a long time.  Just this past year I realized I can purchase spices in bulk from my health food store at a fraction of the price they are sold elsewhere (since I no longer belong to a food co-op).

Depression and WWII Era Food
I'm not sure that is the best title for these ponderings but it fits... kind of.  I'm always interested in the way past generations of women (and men) fed their families.  Yes, I know... many of the books actually written about recipes from the Great Depression contain those I don't think my family would eat... unless they really are starving... and even then I'm not certain.

But those tend to be the more bizarre and outrageous recipes.  My family members who went through the Depression had stories much more in the way of growing their own food, learning to make recipes without hard to find ingredients, and learning to stretch what they did have.

I always think of the food eaten in Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter when they were down to eating old potatoes and thought pancakes everyday would have been wonderful.  Not that most of us would deal with that kind of food stretching but the point is, people have been stretching their meals with pantry basics for a very long time.

I have learned to stock my pantry with basics that stretch the meals at low cost.  For instance, when I purchase meat it needs to stretch as far as possible.  I will brown a pound of meat for chili and before adding the spices, I take half of it out and let it cool.  Then that half either goes in the freezer or the refrigerator for another meal.  The meat is in the chili for seasoning and it now contains a lot more beans than the original recipe (which is good for us, too!).

I purchase whole chickens that get baked and then made into soup, chicken thighs on sale to be braised and used instead of more expensive beef, a small ham is used for a few meals and then the real treasure is used in bean soup... the ham bone!

It is very interesting, at least to me, to read novels from the periods in history where people had to cook the best they could from what they had, it stays with a person all their life.  I think of chefs like Jacques Pepin and Lydia Bastianich, both of whom lived through WWII Europe.  If you have watched either of them on TV, they use everything and both comment from time to time about never wasting food.

Ethnic and Seasonal Recipes
Another great resource I have found helpful for stretching food dollars is by looking at how other cultures eat.  I mean, really... can it get much cheaper and healthier than a bean burrito?  How about a simple Italian pasta dish of spaghetti, garlic, and olive oil?  There are the root veggies of Eastern Europe, and the hummus of the Middle East, and the French love of good bread.

I own a few ethnic cookbooks but this is one area where my library excels.  There are rows of interesting ethnic cookbooks, most of which are about inexpensive and seasonal cooking.  Part of the enjoyment of the Pantry Lifestyle is to find new ways to save money but eat delicious food.

I will say here that experimenting with new-to-me spices has helped a lot.  Sumac.  Garam Masala. Chinese Five Spice.  Even spice mixes such as Toni Chachere's yummy Creole seasoning (one of the first non-Midwestern food spices I tried) will perk up simple food.

Another area the ethnic cookbooks excel in... reminding us that when we eat seasonally and what is available in abundance is not only healthy, it saves us money.

DIY
Yes, DIY in the kitchen!  Perhaps the best way I have stretched my food budget is to simply... do it myself.  And if I can do it... so can just about anyone.

Now, there are some things I will pay to have premade.  For instance, it is always frozen puff pastry for this cook.  I don't even want to attempt making my own puff pastry.  I also purchase items like good quality Amish style dried noodles.  Wanton wraps or taco shells?  I know people make their own all the time but I do have an issue with fatigue so sometimes it is wise to purchase already made. But these are all items that tend to be inexpensive.

For the most part, I have learned to make many of the items my family enjoys that are expensive purchased already made.  The photo above is from Christmas, when I made shortbread for gifts.

Have you priced shortbread at a bakery?  At the supermarket?  My goodness!  It is the easiest thing in the world to make and it cost a fortune at the store.  It is not expensive to make at home, especially if you stock up on butter and freeze it when it is on sale.

I am always amazed (and by now I shouldn't be) when I walk down certain aisles of the grocery store and see what they are charging for items.  Now, like I said, there are some things I don't make and I can see paying extra for them.  Like a really good croissant (I have no desire to make a real French croissant).  I will pay for someone else's time and skills.  But most cooking and baking is quite easy to learn and far less expensive to do yourself.

The price of potato salad is ridiculous at the grocery store (although Meijer's discounts it close to the Sell By date and I will buy it, then).  Potato salad, macaroni salad (one of my mom's go-to frugal recipes), tuna salad, etc... all easy to make at home.  I can make enough potato salad to feed a 4th of July party crowd for what the store is asking for one medium size container.  Not to mention mine taste better.  No really, it does.  You can find the Heloise potato salad recipe... here.

Even with such a tight budget, there are times when I do pay the price of having someone else do the baking or the cooking... but that is when such a treat is an inexpensive mental vacation that I need to keep sane (although my children may think it is too late for that).

That latte at Starbucks, the coffee and scone at Panera, breakfast at Cracker Barrel... yes, I could have coffee at home and I make a darn good scone and as far as breakfast... I can scramble eggs.  But even if you are on a tight budget... no, especially if you are on a tight budget... you need a little spoiling here and there.

Whether it is paid for by a gift card from your friends and family or because you saved enough by being a frugal shopper... when you do pay for others to make it for you, thoroughly enjoy the mini vacation without guilt whatsoever.  It makes your heart sing and helps you go on in the every day living... or at least it helps me.

So to bring this to a completion because honestly, we could chat about this subject until the cows come home (did I hear a moo outside the window?), I do the best I can with what I have to work with.  I do make stocking the pantry a priority when I can work it in the budget.

I have learned a lot of recipes and techniques from others who have cooked on a tight budget before me. I am using far less meat than I once did in my meals.  I continue to learn all I can about cooking and baking using good quality, seasonal, inexpensive foods that come together to make a delicious meal.

And as always... attitude is everything.  If you no longer have a big food budget, then look at it as an opportunity to cook the way those who came before us did for centuries.  And don't forget to ask the Blessing over all He has provided.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pure Food cookbook, a review


I include meat free dinners at least half of the time in our weekly menus, not only for our health but to stretch the food budget.  So I was very interested in this cookbook.  The subtitle is Eat Clean With Seasonal, Plant-Based Recipes and the way it is set up (with recipes by what is in season each month) won me over immediately.

The author, Veronica Bosgraaf, is the founder of the Pure Bar, organic nut bars and fruit snacks.  But I find this book is written from her perspective of a wife and mom who loves to cook and put healthy meals on the table for her family. 

Unlike "nutritionist written" vegetarian or vegan cookbooks I have read, most of these recipes are the kind I could put on my own table without my family wondering what I was up to.  Honestly, I think even the meat and potato fed husbands would enjoy some of these dishes.

To name a few:
  • Winter Root Vegetables with Honey Sauce (I am trying this one soon!)
  • Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions
  • Chocolate Rice Pudding
  • Scalloped Potatoes with Onion, Garlic, Peppers Savory, and Dill
  • Vegan Orange Cream Pops
  • Egg Noodles with Wild Mushrooms and Spring Greens
  • Rhubarb Breakfast Crisp
  • Cheddar Artichoke Dip
  • Hummus, Tomato, and Caper Bruschetta
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque
  • Eggplant Love Lasagna
  • Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes
Have I made you hungry, yet?  Those recipes are but a smattering of the many included in the book and since they are provided within the month you would most likely find them (at least where I live)... very easy to incorporate into your menu.

I also like the feel of this cookbook.  It is softbound and just the right size that makes the font large enough to read easily but not so big it takes up the entire kitchen counter (at least in my small-ish kitchen).  There are photos of some of the dishes in the center of the book.  I highly recommend it.

This book was provided by Blogging For Books for the purpose of review but the opinion is my own.

For further information on Amazon.com, click here.*

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate Links.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My World this Week

Tweaking the top of the buffet for Spring
Is it cold or what?  At least here in the Midwest of the USA.  Which reminds me, I got a bit of a chuckle from one of our Australian friends commenting on a Michigan reader (I think that was the state where she lives) who was amazed at their fresh figs.

I live in that part of the middle of the country and I must say, I have never seen a fresh fig outside of a grocery store, either.  The reason?  They would down right freeze their giblets in our winters!  So where do they grow?  California I know but there has to be other warm states where they are grown.  I see the California fig commercials for them once in awhile.

Michigan is famous for growing some of the best fruit and veggies in the country.  As for my specific part of the world... we grow corn.  And soybeans.  And deer.

So what is going on in my world during this Arctic blast?  Other than being thankful the van starts and no pipes froze?  Well, this...

Reading

The bottom book, the one where the top of it is peeking out... it is what I am reading and cooking from for review.  More about it (hopefully) on Friday.

I'm reading N. D. Wilson's Death By Living on the Kindle, purchased when it was on sale and after seeing it quoted quite often by many writers I respect.  It is a wonderful read.  Better known for his works of fiction for young people, he uses the same style in his nonfiction... which offers some really good theological thinking in a topsy turvey roller coaster perhaps one needs Dramamine while reading kind of way.

More info on it is... here. This book is one I can read through and them come back to over and over.  Read it if you want to be inspired.  But be prepared for the loopity loops.  Which you will understand if you have read his fiction I am told.

Watching

I admit to becoming obsessed with Murdoch Mysteries, which is called The Artful Detective here in the States.  It is shown on the Ovation Channel for those receiving cable or satellite TV.

I must warn just a little that it is a Canadian TV show.  Which makes it almost British... or similar to British TV rules.  And for those of us who absolutely adore BBC shows, you will know they are more lax on some things than we are in the gold ole USA in prime time (not at all otherwise!).

One episode had nude backsides showing (Murdock AuNatural... or something to that affect).  But they are known to limit the amount of blood and gore on their TV shows, so their murder victims certainly look less gross than CSI.

The actors performances are wonderful.  I adore Murdock but want to slap his feminist lady friend at times (who becomes his wife in the new season, which is new here but old news in Canada).  But then I have to stop and think what it would have been like to be a woman in turn of the century (last century obviously) Canada or the United States.  Then I give her some slack.  Mostly.  Kind of.

Creating

I bought a package of blank bookmarks for about $1.99 at the store and I've been playing with them and washi tape ever since.  Here are a few I made last week.

I should have taken a photo of the animal print card and bookmark I made for my granddaughter's birthday.  I always forget to take photos of cards, especially.  Perhaps that will be my next project to show... next week?  Specifics on most of the washi tape is offered below.  The polka dot tape is available just about anywhere they sell washi tape, that may have been purchased at Walmart where they have a tiny selection.


I thought I'd also share the way I have learned to keep paper washi tape from tearing... and true, original washi tape is a masking tape product.  I have learned to press one little section of it on a table and then slowly roll it toward me.  I cut it just a tad bit longer than I plan to use, carefully holding on to the end I am cutting off.

That has worked very well to prevent wonky washi tape.  Which is very frustrating and almost makes you give up... almost.  Hopefully my solution will help another washi tape fanatic crafter?

Washi Tape

So many readers asked about the washi tape I was using, I thought I'd add links to those I purchased from Amazon with credit (for which I thank you, I bought Art stuff instead of books the last couple of months!).  I ordered the washi tape I'm sharing photos of today as I can't find anything like them where I live. 

I absolutely adore this Japanese washi tape.  I purchased the smaller pack... here.  It is also available in a larger pack, as shown on the bottom photo above... here.  It is one of those rare tapes that has a white background and the colors show up beautifully.  It would make lovely birthday cards.

This is the most amazingly beautiful washi tape.  It is all food and garden related.  Plus it is that wider tape I've come to enjoy using.  More info on it is found... here.  It also has a whiter than usual background, which make the photos show up nicely.  My eyesight is not good enough to read the prose... sigh.  But that does not make it less lovely.

This wide washi tape has the appearance of vintage bird books.  Amazing.  If you follow the link and then click on one of the photos on the Amazon page, it shows how someone used this tape on the front of a book!  You can view it... here.

One of the bookmarks had two of the above washi tapes on it, too.  I've already shown you a photo of the container this comes in but the above photo from the Amazon page details more specifics.  Other than their Christmas version, this has been my most used washi tape so far.  Further info... here.


Decorating By Tweaking
I love the Friendly Village coffee server I found for $7.00 at the antique mall a year or two ago.  Cheap because it has a chip you can't see on the lid!  It is very Spring like...
The mixer is B.A.C.K. on the kitchen counter so I had to move stuff around.
The antique drawer is also back, holding stuff.  That's the inexpensive canola oil in the glass bottle to the left.

Her Fluffiness
I found this one when scanning some old photos and I had to show it again.  She will take a nap just about anywhere.  There are objects in this area now so she can no longer nap there.  But don't worry.  She has plenty of other places.

Our former kitties, Sasha and Storm, had only a couple of places they slept and usually on the back of the family room sofa. As for this one?  Who knows where we will find her.

NoteAll links to Amazon.com are Associate links.  Which means... if you make a purchase after clicking on a link - or- if you enter Amazon.com through the widget on the sidebar (even if you do not purchase what you clicked on), then I receive a tiny fraction of what you purchase.  It costs neither of us anything (well, for me it costs the time and effort to put in the links but it is worth it!).  It all adds up so no purchase is too small and I so appreciate the big stuff!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NIV Proclamation Bible, a review


This Bible is not what I expected as it does not have indepth Study notes.  So if you are looking for a Bible to help you along in your understanding of specific scriptures or word studies, this one is not for you.

It is a good hardback NIV Bible for everyday use.  The font is clear and just the right size for easy reading.  There is good cross referencing, a brief description of each Book of the Bible, and an excellent concordance.  Everything you need for a basic Bible is here.

But it is not what I expect from a "Study Bible".

There are essays and articles in the front of the Bible from various theologians.  These would be especially helpful to pastors and Bible teachers.  They are titled:
  1. A Bible Overview
  2. The Historical Reliability of the Bible
  3. Finding the "Melodic Line" of a Book
  4. From Text to Doctrine: The Bible and Theology
  5. From Text to Life: Applying the Old Testament
  6. From Text to Life: Applying the New Testament
  7. From Text to Sermon: Preaching the Bible
  8. From Text to Study: Small Groups and One-to-Ones
  9. Biblical Interpretation: A Short History
If you are looking for a Study Bible with indepth word studies, charts, indepth maps, etc. then this Bible is not for you.  However, I would say it does have a place in some reference shelves for the included essays.

This Bible was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be located on Amazon.com... here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Focusing on your gifting

Cozy days inside, out of the cold and snow.
A few years ago, I received an e-mail from my friend Sally (Clarkson).  The e-mail was requesting prayer and input on a new ministry she was considering... and it made me smile.  Not for the ministry itself.  No... it was because of the other two recipients.  Both of whom were successfully published Christian authors and speakers.  One of them a New York Times bestselling author.  Oh, my...

Do you ever compare yourself to others?  Come on... be honest.  We all do.  Those of us who are bloggers see where another blogger... one who started out just like us... has now written her second successful book.  How about the food bloggers who carefully prepare, snap photos of food, and offer excellent advice... but feel a little jealous of the other food bloggers who have received cookbook deals.

There are the Sunday School teachers who diligently prepare and teach every Sunday for years upon years who watch Beth Moore on TV and think, "I could do that".  How about the many talented chefs who have never been offered a show on TV?

Have you ever coveted another person's gift?  I do when I hear a beautiful singer for I cannot carry a tune whatsoever.  I don't have many memories of my father since he died when I was a child.  But I do remember him offering me a quarter (or was it a nickel?)... not to sing.

Well, part of this whole focusing thing for 2015 has been God teaching me about focusing on what gifts He has given me, being more accepting of what path He has me walking in this journey of life, and truly appreciating the gift He gives another.

I don't remember not being able to write.  That is a clue, you know.  Your gift is found in 1) your passions... what you do that makes your heart sing, and 2) what you enjoyed doing in childhood, and 3) sometimes in what you must do or you will go a little crazy... more so than you family already think you are.

You probably know your gift(s) already but accepting them and how God wants to use them can be a lifetime struggle.  

For some whom He wants to use in a more public manner, it may require getting over a fear of speaking in public places... or flying... or being away from home.  However, I think for most of God's children, it is more the acceptance of using their gifts in the background.  Writing for just a few.  Making Art to hang in the living room of our own home or to give as gifts to friends.  Baking the best cookies known to mankind for the neighborhood children.

For you see, the Giver of Gifts wants to use us where we are needed.  Few who minister for Him will write books that become New York Times bestsellers.  Most pastors will spend their entire lives shepherding a flock of less than a hundred people each and every week.  Some of the best cooks in the country make dinner each night for their family and some fortunate friends.

I once started to write a book, bringing to it the years of research and experience about what we would now call "prepping".  I wanted to teach people how to stock a pantry and why that was important.  I tried and tried and tried... but could not bring it all together.  I prayed one frustrating prayer after another.

And you know what His answer would always be?  "... Just write."  What do you mean, "just write"?  How does one "just write"?  Well, to make a very long story short (for there is neither time nor space to share again how Coffee Tea Books & Me came about) but once I started blogging I found out what He meant.

Just write... for that is how my mind thinks and how my fingers work on the keyboard and the way I communicate best.  Not in book form.  Not in chapters.  But in writing to people just one day at a time... whatever I'm pondering that day or that week.

I tell people who ask about blogging to just begin.  Don't worry if anyone is reading.  When I started blogging, I only knew about ten people for certain were reading and they were either friends or family.  Write the best you can!  That's what archives are for.

He is still teaching me, you know.  My newest Scrapbook Journal is different than my previous such journals.  They were fine for where I was then.  But this one is more about having fun creating Art with different mediums than using it as a day to day (or week to week) journal.

I longed for years to garden and we finally built the raised bed garden when we moved to the country.  My garden will never win any awards and last year I had to let it go in the last month or so due to a perfect storm of circumstances.  But I plan to plant and hopefully harvest this year.  Something.  Tomatoes.  Lettuce.  Green Beans.  Enjoying the perennial herbs.  Just enough for perhaps a few weeks of garden goodness if that.

But doing something... far from perfect... or even what I'd long for it to be.  But doing...

Is there a passion in your life, a deep desire to do something but you fear starting small?  You don't like that whole learning curve process?  You fear you are not good enough? Or perhaps... you ask yourself why bother when it does not add to the family income?

Do you love photography?  Do you love writing?  Do you love dabbling with paints or modeling clay or sketching?  Did you create your own jewelry as a teenager or take over your mother's kitchen to make organic skin creams?

Have you always wanted to learn to bake bread or make soup or prepare real Indian curry or that Scandinavian bread your great grandmother was famous for baking?  How about canning or pickling or some other form of preserving food?

Does a photo of a proper tea time on the Internet make you swoon but you have never  hosted your own small tea party for friends?

What is there in the deepest part of your being, calling to you to try.  Perhaps something entirely new?  Perhaps starting again a passion you stopped long ago.

Look at your bookshelves (which would take all day for some of us)... what do they say about you?  What nonfiction books make their way to your home?  What fiction writers attract you most?

God has given you a gift and more likely many gifts.  He never ever (ever) leaves one of His children without a gifting.  Otherwise... why are we here?  We are here, my friends, to use the gifts He has given us on the journey He has us on... pray about it, ponder it.  He will gladly show you if you don't know already.

But I think you do.  I think you know the gift He has given you.  All of them?  At least one of them.  Or two.

About that e-mail I received a few years ago?  Well, that ministry Sally was considering became Mom Heart ministries... and what did I have to offer that two nationally world renown authors and speakers did not?  What could I share with my exceptionally talented friend?  My own experience.  My own journey.  Perhaps the fact we are about the same age and the other women were much younger. 

You are the only person in the history of the world who has your unique set of gifting and experiences and family and friends and possibilities.  No other person can be used by God like He can use you.  Think of it... and be careful not to compare yourself to other people in the Kingdom that He uses differently.

You cannot create your Art and use your gifts with full joy if you are comparing yourself to another with similar gifting.  You are unique and so are they.  

As for me, I just write.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle -- Good Links

This past week, I learned where my pantry is weak.  Very weak.  Downright deficient.

As I lay as still as possible with intense pain, brought down by back spasms.  They were likely caused by a combination of lifting a somewhat heavy object and the affects of days upon days upon days of frigid weather. 

The genesis of which was brought about by a childhood fall down a flight of cement stairs and reinforced at around age twenty with yet another fall down a flight of stairs.

Apparently grace in motion is not a gift I was given at birth... but I digress.

I had no backup at all for when the chief cook and bottle washer is down and out, unable to move (much less not getting in a night's sleep for four days due to the pain).  The spasms have lessened and the pain not as bad if I move slowly.  But when I recover, the first thing I am going to do regarding the pantry is preparing some make ahead freezer meals!

So while I have no personal experiences or wisdom to write about this week, I will share some favorite recent blog reads having to do (in some way or another) with living a pantry lifestyle.

The first link happens to explain what I call living a pantry lifestyle (as opposed to preparing for TEOTWAWKI) better than I have ever read before.  I enjoy reading Ben Hewitt's blog even if I am not a homesteader.  Read his words... here.

The second blog post (from the folks at Ready Nutrition) is similar in a different way.  If that does not confuse you, mosey on over here where they write about how "prepping" can save you money even if there never is a TEOTWAWKI episode in your life.  Which, by the way, can be a job loss and not WWIII.

A Working Pantry (here) is a new-to-me blog but absolutely wonderful.  I think I followed a link to it from The Bluebirds are Nesting (here).

The last link is actually to a recipe I saw this week.  I plan to try it when I can move around easier.  It is a good pantry recipe if it works.  If you try it, let us know!  It is called Magic Custard Cake and the recipe is... here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Patriots Redcoats & Spies, a review


I love to read about the time period of the American Revolution.  This story by a father and son team, Robert J. Skead and Robert A. Skead, did not let me down at all.

It is one of those YA books in which adults will find a good read on a rainy (or snowy) afternoon.  It is good when authors write in such a way that they are not "writing down" to kids an adolescents.

In this book, the twin sons of Patriot Lamberton Clark must carry an important document to General George Washington when their father is shot and unable to make the dangerous journey himself.  Until this time, they had no idea their father was a member of the famous Culper Spy Ring.

The book is about their adventures and obstacles along the way.  It offers not only a good story but a glimpse into what life was like for the people who were living in the midst of a Revolution.

While boys, girls, parents, and grandparents will enjoy this book... it is especially good for young boys!  I always love to find stories of valor and bravery for boys to read.  Especially if they are believable.

This is a sturdy hardback book, the first in what appears to be a new series.  A very enjoyable story!

More information can be found at Amazon.com... here.*

This book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review but the opinion is my own.

*All links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Choosing your legacy

For I am confident of this very thing,
that He who began a good work in you
will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 NASB

"But if you refuse to serve the LORD,
then choose today whom you will serve...
But as for me and my family,
we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:15 NLV

Turning sixty really rattled me.  Sometimes I still have to stop and think... sixty?  Really?  It did the same thing to my mother.  I remember on her 60th birthday, she told me she still felt like a teenager on the inside.  I can relate.

Long before my last birthday, I started thinking about the concept of "finishing well" and leaving a legacy.  Now, I am not talking about living a perfect life.  The only person who succeeded in doing that was crucified around 2,000 years ago.

I look back at some things I said and decisions I made in the past and wonder what I was thinking?  I have learned we have to give our younger selves a lot of grace!  There is a lot to be said for the wisdom of hindsight.

I have read so often of people who began well, at least claiming to follow Christ.  They said they had accepted Christ as Savior, asked Him to be the Lord of their life... and I have no reason to doubt it true. 

But somewhere along the way, they lost what it was all about.  Him.  Not them.

For instance, recently I saw that a ministry was offering a print by a well known Christian artist who died a few years ago.  I have two of his books and they are among my favorite books about creativity.  So I was quite stunned when I found out, upon his death, that he had been divorced (or his wife was seeking a divorce) due to his affairs.

He died as a result of mixing alcohol and Valium, in the home he shared with his girlfriend. Drinking killed him.  Just like his dad before him, drinking became his downfall.  You would think he would have remembered that when he took his first drink.  I suppose he thought he could get away with a little drink here, another there... no harm.

We have all heard accounts of famous Christians who have made wrong decisions that took their life into areas in which I doubt they planned to journey.  Pastors and priests who plunged into sexual sin.  Elders who skimmed money from the Sunday morning offering.  Christian singers and musicians and authors and evangelists and TV personalities.

Some legacies... I would say most of them... are tarnished by our own doing.  Then there are those for whom others attempt to bring them down.  Perhaps in my radius of knowledge, no one has made more of an effort to bring down the respect of his parent's ministry as Francis and Edith Schaeffer's son.

Scathing books written about his parents by a man slightly older than I am, quite bitter about his childhood and adolescence.   Yes, he was neglected due to the demands of his parents ministry by the time he was born.  But we all have flawed parents.  Not to mention, they were quite honest about their imperfections in their books, especially Edith.

We choose to forgive or we let bitterness set in and become the pawn of the evil one.  For just as all good gifts come from above... all bitterness and hatred spewing out of our soul is influenced by the father of lies and deceit.

We all have flaws.  Every human since Adam has an area of their life where the enemy of their soul can find a crack in which to enter... should we let him get away with it.  And it usually begins with an innocent thought, a reminder, a glimpse of something we don't have that we want and another has it... a memory of hard times brought about by something our parents or siblings or friends did... stomping our feet and pouting at counting every penny when the guy next door who lobbies for abortion gets to travel the world and enjoy fine dining.

Which is why I so often remind my husband that our attitude can be the best gift we bring to the Lord and lay at His feet.  I don't understand... but I trust.  When I get tired and discouraged and want to give up, I will turn to You, Lord... not the bottle, not the lures of one who offers sweet words to entice, not photos on the screen or chapters in a lurid book, not the second piece of chocolate cake or the entire bag of potato chips, nothing else.

Nothing life entices us with... not a thing which brings momentary pleasure but has eternal consequences... compares to the promises of Eternity.  Everyone is responsible for their own decisions, their own actions, their own response.

My friends, we are in the middle of a great cosmic war between God and Lucifer for the souls of men.  Our Father equips us with everything we need to battle!  We are men and women of valor!  We are the victors!

If... we keep our eyes on Him and not on the things of this world.  That is not easy to do.  I would say it is impossible without the Spirit of God living within.  Our Teacher, our Comforter, our Friend... our Strength.

I want my legacy to be that with all the stuff life threw at me, I stayed the course. I finished the fight. I stumbled but did not give up. I kept my eyes on the goal.

Not perfectly.  Never ever perfectly.

But with the asking of forgiveness and redemption when I stumbled... picking myself up (in His strength, not mine), brushing myself off, and running ever so weakly at times toward the finish line.

It doesn't matter if you are six or sixty,  ten or one hundred ten... none of us know where that finish line exists in our lifetime.  So we always have that goal in mind.  "Well done, good and faithful servant".

Out of breath.  Battle scarred. Limping along.  But we made it.  And before us there He is, arms outstretched, the King of Kings... the Lord of Lords... our Bridegroom... the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!

The stuff of this life?  How could I ever have cared.

Image:  Building Memories by J. Sorenson