Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Finishing Well

"I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages" 
Charles Spurgeon (1834 - 1892)
 
It seems we can no longer turn on the TV without hearing of another famous person who has fallen from grace. When one thinks about the families destroyed, all of the education and training it took to get to that level of their careers, now crashing around them due to choices made over many years.

As the headlines piled up, they had me thinking of a book I read long ago.  It was about the subject of "finishing well".  The book was intended for those in middle age as they looked back at where they had been and where they were going in their faith.

The thesis of the book was based on surveys taken in the Church of how many people who begin with Christ (who profess salvation and belief) actually end their life walking with Him.  At the time it was about fifty percent that remained "in the faith" to one extent or another.

If I remember, it did take into account those who fell in their walk and were redeemed... for restoration is what the Gospel is all about.  These were people who apparently left the faith for good.  Most of their decisions did not happen suddenly but slowly over time as they chose to follow another path than their original salvation (obviously there were many different reasons and choices with various people).

Only half... half of those who started out actually finished walking with the Lord.

There are many reasons I know that people fall away... or walk away... from the faith.  For many it is simply disappointment with God.  The life they thought they were going to get did not happen.  I saw this in the life of friends who were deeply into the "health and wealth" gospel.  Instead of finishing strong, they fell into depression because the expectations of material wealth and success created by their theology had not been met. 

I've seen more people fall away from the Lord due to success than failure.  It would seem that the more we can depend on ourselves, our bank account, and our success... the less we need Jesus.  He becomes a shadow instead of a Savior.  I respect those who are rich in the things of this world and continue to be faithful to Him.

By the time I reached middle age, I had come to realize the older people I knew who walked with the deepest faith had also suffered much in their lives.  Honestly, I saw it enough that I came to wonder if God allowed the trials in our life not only to mold us and shape us but to force us to make a decision for Him. 

Do we cleave or do we leave?

For instance, there was a lovely elderly woman our family knew when Christopher was a baby who was the sweetest Christian.  She always had a smile and never complained about a thing.  I had known her a couple years before I was told that her husband had been an alcoholic and she had suffered greatly because of it as she raised her children (who now had grandchildren of their own).

The church we attended together had many people who were related to each other and quite a few of those families could name her as a matriarch.  How amazing that those who grew up in probable dysfunction still walked with the Lord... as did their children and grandchildren.  What a testimony to their mother's faithfulness.

On the other hand, I knew a middle aged woman when I was in my 20s who lived with great bitterness over a wrong (I can't recall what it was) that had been done to her many years earlier.  Her entire persona was one of resentment and unforgiveness... to the point that she found it difficult to see the good things in her life, including her first grandchild.  It seemed as if a shadow followed her into a room instead of joy.

Both women taught me a lesson.  Our unhappy friend taught me to hold lose anything done or said against me. It is not worth collecting grudges for as we hold on to them, they make it difficult for joy to get through to our soul.  The Bible has a lot to say about unforgiveness and it rarely ends in one reaching their elderly years in peace.

I'd much rather be like my sweet elderly friend who not only survived a difficult marriage but flourished in her walk with the Lord.  I expect all of those hard days that became an equally hard life were spent holding on to the Lord for all she was worth just to make it through another day.

There is a difference in my thinking between now and when I read that book, probably twenty years ago.  I no longer take finishing well for granted as I did when I was younger.  Life has a way of battering and bruising one and I have come to realize that not only are God's mercies new every morning... so is my decision to trust Him.

For most of us, we do not have to be concerned about power, fame, or fortune dragging us off the narrow path.  Instead it is the day in and day out, same old trials and temptations, which have the possibility of wearing us down... and it is when we are weary that we are most prone to listen to the lies of the enemy.

So I'm thinking I agree very much with the quote by Spurgeon under the photo above.  As hard as life can be at times, I am thankful that I have enough uncertainty to keep me running back and clinging for dear life to the One Who Created Me.  If I am clinging to Him through life, then I know that path is leading me Home.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Sirens Blazing


I cannot imagine what it was like to be in Hawaii when the sirens started up recently.  Especially when it took over thirty minutes for the officials to let the people know it was a false alarm.  It had to be a terrifying experience.

It got me to wondering, "What if the sirens went off in my town?".  I understand that the possibility of a warhead landing in my town would be minimal and probably only by accident.  However, the sirens would go off over the entire country if a missile was on the way anywhere... or the radar indicated a missile.

We also know that sirens can go off to alert citizens of danger other than nuclear warfare.  For instance, we used to have a chemical plant in our area and if an accident happened at the plant, the civil defense sirens would be sounded for people to stay inside.  If you live near a nuclear power plant, I understand the sirens would go off if there was an accident at the plant.

I don't worry at all about nuclear war, mainly because as I've mentioned before... I prepare for what I know I would survive and being that I depend on insulin to live... well, you get it.  So why fret? 

However, growing up in the cold war era, we were constantly hearing about the possibility of war with Russia.  I probably got a little too ho hum about such a possibility, although the 1980s TV movie The Day After scared the bajeebies out of me.  In that movie, there is only thirty minutes to prepare before a missile lands in Kansas.

We know that it doesn't take an emergency in our own area to empty grocery shelves right away.  Katrina showed us that when grocery shelves were either empty or sparse many states away.  Where I live, even the anticipation of a winter storm a couple days away can empty shelves of milk, bread, and other essentials.

So my first thought about such an emergency is if I could survive without leaving my home for awhile as might be necessary in a real emergency.  Do I have basic food, medicine, water, etc. in the house?  It honestly doesn't take that much time, money, or even space if purchases were made when there is time to think through what essentials would be necessary... as opposed to running to the store at the last minute and throwing things into the grocery cart.

This makes sense for any possible situation whether the extreme of the country targeted by a missile, a dirty bomb in a nearby city, an outbreak of a virus keeping everyone inside until the risk is over, or even the entire family coming down with the flu. 

The other obvious thought I had was how to communicate with loved ones.  I know my son's cell phone number because it is one digit different than mine (we bought our original phones together when he was a teenager and we moved to the country).  However, I only know my daughter's as Speed Dial #3.  I do need to write down the important phone numbers, something I have had on my To Do list for way too long.

Our situation is different now with both people in the home being here most of the time.  However, would you know what to do if you have kids at school?  What is the school's emergency plan?  Most schools these days go on lock down and keep kids there in the midst of an emergency.  Would you be allowed to pick them up? 

Would your children know what to do in an emergency? Who to call?  Whose house to go to should their parents not be there? From everything I have researched, I have found most kids actually enjoy having an emergency preparedness practice day and it does help lessen fears.  They are much more fearful if parents and grandparents are afraid of the "what ifs" and show fear in front of the kids.

I remember when I was a child, coming home from school and the house was empty... and locked.  My dad was suppose to be there but there was no one.  I didn't know that my dad had a heart attack and was dying in the ER.  My mother would suddenly realize what time it was and had our next door neighbor come to find me siting on the porch.  Hmmmm... maybe that was the beginning event of my being a prepper?

The truth is, bad things happen to good people.  Sometimes the cold war seems so much safer than the world today.  We knew that the Russian people didn't want a war anymore than we did.  Today we have the constant threat of terrorism and there are many more countries with nukes now.  Places like North Korea whose leader seems determined to send a missile to the U.S.

If nothing else this week, put some thought into two areas... do you have enough food and water to stay inside for awhile and would your family know what to do in case of an emergency? 

I think you will find that being prepared at even a basic level helps alleviate fear.  I will include the link to the Deyo's info page below.  It contains links to a lot of free information, especially about nuclear and terrorist threats.

Of course, it is through trusting God that we really conquer fear.  I believe that He will not allow any nuclear event to happen outside of His ultimate plan for the planet.  There will be a time He does allow "all Hell to break lose" but until then, we are in the palm of His hand.

Our essential preparations are spiritual.  Trusting in the Lord for eternal salvation is of the utmost importance.  All the "what ifs" in the world could happen and what are the terrorists going to threaten me with... Heaven?

Please forgive typos and another "off the cuff" blog post.  There was no time on Friday to draft today's post so ummm... this is the draft!

LINKS
The Day After can be watched free on YouTube... here.  Should you be so inclined as to watch it.  There was such a concern for how people would react that counseling sessions were set up if needed the day after the movie! 

The Day After DVD is available third party on Amazon... here. (Affiliate link)

Stan and Holly Deyo has an abundance of free information about possible threats and preparedness... here.  Be sure to scroll down the page for all the information links.

Holly's book (my favorite preparedness book) Dare to Prepare is available at Amazon... here.  (Affiliate Link)

Dare to Prepare is available directly from the Deyo's website... here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Until We Find Home, a review


I do not review a lot of fiction books but this one intrigued me with the promise of WWII, the Lake District of England, favorite children's books, C. S. Lewis, and a young American showing up with French Jewish refugee children to her aunt's home in England.  A mixture of intrigue, rejection, and coming to know restoration.

I admit that when I first started reading it, I didn't like Claire very much.  Then I found out later that is exactly what the author, Cathy Gohlke, intended.   The reader walks out the process of Claire's growth as a person and later as a believer in Christ.  This is not a story of shallow faith but instead the difficult process of restoration that comes only in Christ.

The author also weaves in the stories of other characters going through their own pain and grief, dealing with their own rejections and fears, and the process of finding peace and even joy in the midst of a world at war. 

I can't say anything more without giving up the plot but I can encourage anyone who loves a good story to read this book.  It is the kind of book one can lose themselves in and to me that is a good story.  Just remember, as you read the beginning of the book, you will come to love Claire later.

Until We Find Home was provided by Tyndale publishers for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - My 10 Favorite Books of 2017


I keep a reading journal throughout the year, which is a good thing if one wants to remember what they read.  The past year was different than my usual reading because of eyesight issues the last half of the year.  Which is why I read very little fiction last year even though I have a stack of books to be read.

Yes, my eyes are better although my right eye is still not back to normal.  The world is a little fuzzy when looking just through that eye.  However, I'm better and I'm still getting monthly injections of medicine in each eye.

So... here are my favorite books read last year in no particular order (and only choosing from first time read books).  It includes two fiction books and two books by Sally Clarkson.  I didn't include them because I was on the launch team for both, they were just that good.


The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
There was a lot of buzz about this novel from people whose taste I admire so I decided it was a "must read".  How could I not love a novel about people who love books and a magical little village?

The only issue with the book that I had was the ending.  It left us not quite clear about what Prudencia Prim was actually going to do.  However, it doesn't ruin the book for me and it does leave one hoping for a sequel.  Soon.



As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson
This last book by Eugene Peterson was a surprise Top 10 book from last year.  I knew I wanted to review it because I find much of his writing interesting.  What I didn't plan on was keeping it on my shelf to come back to and read chapters over.

The book contains his favorite sermons he preached over a very long pastoral career.  It may sound boring but if you love good writing like I do, there is nothing boring about it.  Peterson was called "the pastor's pastor" but I'd say he could teach a layperson a whole lot of Truth.  As with all theologians, you may not agree with everything written but you will find enough to desire a stronger walk with God.


The Turquoise Table by Kristen Schell
This was another surprise Top 10 book for normally a book about a hospitality ministry would be interesting but not make the list.  This book is different not only because the concept is brilliant and would be easy for many to incorporate in their lives but it is full of stories from people who have used their own turquoise table.

There is a Turquoise Table community online and I still receive emails even though I live in the country where such a ministry would not work in the same way.  However, she does offer options for those who need to tweak the concept for their own circumstances.


At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
I followed Tsh's family in their travels around the world so I knew I would be interested in reading the book.  I just wasn't sure how much I would enjoy it because I am not the traveling sort of person.  Even before developing a chronic illness, I dreaded upcoming trips even though I loved the experience once I was home and it was tucked away in my memories.

Having said that, I absolutely loved this book.  It is written in such a way that you can easily read one chapter, set it aside, and come back to it later.  Tsh is a good writer so you feel as if  you are experiencing their travels along with them.  As I read the book, I kept thinking of those I know who would also love it... which is a sign of a good read.


Unseen by Sara Hagerty
I have read a lot of Christian Living books to review that have disappointed me but I chose this one because it also had a lot of buzz among readers.  It not only did not disappoint but I found myself shaking my head and agreeing with so much of Sara's story for I also have been in both paid and unpaid positions where I felt God was really using my talents and then found myself... home and unseen.

The subtitle of this book is "The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed" and Sara's writing about God seeing us in "the secret places" can be a life changer to anyone who feels their best days are behind them.  This is one book I wish I could put in the hands of every Christian who desires to "do great things for God".  Really good. 


Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors
I didn't think it possible I could enjoy the new book by Katie as much as I did Kisses For Katie, the story of a teenage Katie Davis who goes to Uganda for a short term mission trip and ends up starting a ministry and adopting a bunch of girls.

However, I enjoyed this book just as much or more for we find out what has happened in the years since that book.  Both the good days and bad days, the joy and the pain, and how she met her husband.

There are many reasons for reading this book.  It reminds us that God uses average people to accomplish a great deal when they submit to His will for their life.  The stories will help build your faith and honestly... if nothing else it is an interesting read that is real life.


They Came For Freedom by Jay Milbrandt
I agreed to review this book when I read that it was about the real story of the Pilgrims.  I love to read American history, especially from the early settlers through the American Revolution.

The author answers questions I have long had about the pilgrims, including why they are so associated with the founding of the country when in fact there were other people here already.  We find out what happened in Europe leading up to the pilgrims leaving for America and what happened to them in further generations.

This book is my favorite kind of history book and the style I used when we were homeschooling.  It reads like a novel but has plenty of material to back up what is written.  


Different by Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson
This book by Sally and her son, Nathan (her "different" child), should be required reading for anyone who has a "different" child, whether they are mildly ADHD or have a significant mental illness that affects every part of their life.

One thing I loved about this book is that their experiences are told from a mom's perspective as well as the child's perspective.  We homeschooled our son because he was ADHD and had challenges in the public school.  Sally's book shares how being "different" is both difficult and a blessing.  (Many severely ADHD kids are often gifted and above average in intelligence.)

Sally covers many aspects from the more common condition of ADHD to children dealing with more significant forms of mental illness.  I know of so many families who would benefit from this book.  It truly is important to read to know you are not alone.


The Life Giving Table by Sally Clarkson
This is the book I've been hoping Sally would write since I first started reading her books in the 1990s (we were both much younger, then).  She continues to be one of my favorite writers.

Sally shares how they incorporated hospitality in their family and ministry, most of which takes place around the table.  From tea time to their annual Christmas Eve shepherd's dinner, from dinner time conversations to special occasions, this book is fun to read and full of valuable information... and recipes.

It is the kind of book that is enjoyable to read but will also find a place on the shelf as a reference book to come back to over and over.


Devonshire Scream by Laura Childs 
I love Laura Childs' Tea Shop Mysteries so much that when a hurricane was once heading for Charleston, South Carolina... I found myself praying for the safety of Theodosia and her staff before I remembered they were not real!  Although they are very real to her readers.

In this story, Theodosia is catering a special event when a thief crashes in (literally) and the fiance of her friend's niece is killed... this is in the first few pages.  The rest of the book is full of Theodosia and her staff trying to solve the mystery in between working in her tea room.

I read every book that comes out but I thought the previous two weren't quite as good as her earlier books.  However, Devonshire Scream was so good!  I enjoy this series so much that I have some of them on my bookshelf and reread them every year or two... even knowing "who done it".

If you are new to the Tea Shop Mysteries, her first three books in the series are available in one edition called Tea For Three.  I will include the link to that book below, too.  It is an excellent introduction to the series.


Books Mentioned in this Blog Post:
The Awakening of Miss Prim... here.
As Kingfishers Catch Fire... here
The Turquoise Table... here.
At Home in the World... here.
Unseen... here.
Daring to Hope... here.
They Came For Freedom... here.
Different... here.
The Life Giving Table... here.
Devonshire Scream... hereTea for Three... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate Links

Image:  Artist, Duncan Grant

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - How I put together dinners


I was asked how I plan meals given our circumstances of two special diets, one small budget, and the cook with a chronic illness.  Well, it wasn't easy and it took a few years to get a meal plan that works most of the time.  Especially when I was only cooking for the two of us.

Although I don't go along with the cooking for two philosophy most of the time.  If I am cooking a dish that can be used as leftovers the next day, that is what I will do.  I can't see taking the time to cook something for just two people and one meal when in that same time period in the kitchen... I can cook for two meals.

I plan meals around the main protein each week, although with multiple planned leftovers it is actually more of an eight to ten day period.  This came about over time when I realized the way I purchased meat had a lot to do with the menu plan.  Especially when I had to start cooking with organic ground beef.

We eat seasonally and in the winter I depend on frozen vegetables to supplement the root veggies.  When I can get fresh veggies and fruit in season at a good price, then I go for fresh.  I buy meat at the beginning of the month and I do stock the freezer when I can.

In my menu plan, I also assume there will be times I am not feeling well enough to cook.  By having planned leftovers, it cuts down on the cheese/fruit/bread meals.  Not that they are bad, especially in season!  I could live on good cheese, good bread, and seasonal fruit. 

We purchase a few items that my husband can easily warm up on nights I'm not feeling well and we have no leftovers.  He likes Amy's Soups for this purpose.  I don't use a lot of processed foods but I do usually have a few boxes of Annie's organic mac and cheese for last minute meals.

So a typical cold weather menu for seven to ten days is this:

A whole chicken:
I roast the chicken and the planned leftover is chicken soup of various kinds.  We have roasted chicken and then chicken soup all year.

Ground beef:
In cold weather it is often chili with planned leftovers or a casserole with planned leftovers.  In hotter weather it may be goulash with planned leftovers.

Fish:
Usually frozen tilapia so I can defrost just what I will use that evening, sometimes salmon patties.  No planned leftovers.

Breakfast for Dinner:
I often make a vegetarian crustless quiche that I serve with Aldi Mild Organic Salsa on the side.  When I have MSG free sausage defrosted, I make sausage, eggs, and potatoes fried with onions and peppers.  Once in awhile (it is definitely a rather unhealthy treat), I make sausage gravy over biscuits.  I actually like biscuits from the pop up tin, that is what my mom made so it is what I was used to eating.

2nd Chicken or Beef:
I look for either deboned or split chicken breasts on shopping day and purchase what is the best price.  Sometimes I will buy chicken thighs on sale for a specific recipe although they are not my husband's favorite.  They are cooked in various ways and usually with planned leftovers.

If chuck roast is on sale, I may buy it so I can make oven stew (which lasts two meals at least) or veggie beef soup.  Especially if I have tucked a package of beef bones in the freezer and do not get me started at how ridiculously expensive beef bones are these days!

Having planned leftovers helps the budget and my energy.  For instance, at the beginning of the month, I usually buy only four packages of organic ground beef at Aldi so the price makes it necessary to stretch each pound of beef.

For instance, I serve chili the first day with shredded cheese and corn chips (sour cream added for me) and sometimes I freeze some of the chili to use at another time since it freezes well.  I leave enough overnight so the next day I can serve baked potatoes with chili on top (one of my husband's favorite meals).

As you know, I love cookbooks and when I feel well enough, I love to spend time in the kitchen.  So I have recipes marked in favorite cookbooks to make when I have the energy.  That is when having items in the pantry (freezer included) helps to make an unplanned meal.

I hope that helps.  It is not set in stone but it does work, especially in cold weather.  For instance, last week I made chili with the ground beef and this week I am making Holiday Spaghetti (a favorite casserole that has planned leftovers).  I may go back to chili the following week. 

If I didn't have some kind of plan, fixing dinners would be very frustrating... and eating out is usually not an option.

Image: Vintage - Actress Mary Deegan making dinner for her children.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hello Mornings, a review


I know I promised a review of Kat Lee's book last week but I've been buried beneath a box of tissues and a large jar of Vick's Salve.  Except for the cough drops on the table, I'm much better.

I must say that my delay in reviewing Kat's book has nothing to do with how much I liked it.  The subtitle of this book is "How to Build a Grace-Filled Life-Giving Morning Routine" and this is a rare instance where the promise offered on the cover of the book is completely fulfilled within the pages.

Kat begins by sharing her story, then builds up to explaining why slowly changing how we do our morning routines will make a significant difference to our lives, and ends with a large section of practical ways to meet the goals of getting closer to the Lord and walking with Him.

Part One:  Why Mornings?
One: Setting the Stage
Two: Do Our Mornings Matter?
Three: Are You Ready?
Four: Laying the Foundation for Your Morning Routine

Part Two: Your Morning Routine Blueprint
Five: God Time
Six: Plan Time
Seven: Move Time

Part Three: Your Morning Routine Toolkit
Eight: How to Build Habits
Nine: The Power of Preparation
Ten: Community and Accountability
Eleven: Call to Action

I highly recommend this book, not only to people wanting to change their morning routines but for anyone who has a goal they want to reach.  This is one book I'd say get the paperback version and not the Kindle for you will want to go back and mark up parts of it over and over.

Hello Mornings was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

Disclaimer: Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.