Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The least, the lost, and the highly unlikely


I remember the moment it hit me how unhappy my life was after my father died when I was a child.  I was talking to a woman I worked with, the mother of two acquaintances from my high school, and she was sharing how she missed having her girls at home because they loved spending time together in the kitchen as they made dinner or baked treats.

I realized that I had never had such an experience with my mother before that time.  Never.  I don't think I remembered very many good times at home after my father's death.  It threw us into always being short of money, moving off and on when the rent was increased, and then eventually to my mother making an unwise choice to marry a man just for financial security (which it never gave her).

I had eight siblings, seven from my mom's previous marriage (she was widowed quite young) and one brother from my father's first marriage.  However, I was pretty much raised as the only child I was and didn't feel a part of the extended family.  After my dad died and my mom remarried, I was almost always alone.

Don't get me wrong, my actual siblings could be quite loving but I never lived at home with any of them after age four or five, even the youngest of my mom's original seven children, to really know them.  Not as they knew each other.  I was closest to my youngest and oldest sisters but there were usually miles between us.  My mother and I remained very close in spite of the circumstances.

I was such a mess on the inside, I felt so lost, even if it didn't show up much on the outside.  I didn't belong in my family, I felt abandoned by my mother at the time, I hated being at home with a crazy stepfather, and I had already been hospitalized once with "nerves" as they called such things back then.

I felt, although I didn't know the story at the time, much like David may have felt when it was assumed one of the brothers had to be the one destined to be anointed King and even his father had to be reminded that he had "one more son" out in the fields, tending the sheep.

Then a God ordained event happened as a teenager, when an acquaintance invited me to a revival at her Wesleyan church.  I later found out from her that they had been told to ask the least likely people they thought would ever become a Christian to the revival.  She asked one of my best friends and me.

You see, what that acquaintance had no way of knowing was that God had been tugging at my heart since I was a toddler.  I remember thinking of God all the time as a small child.  It was as if He were there beside me even in a family who didn't know Him. 

By the time I was invited to a revival meeting, even with God tugging at me from my toddler years, I was just at the cusp of making bad choices.  Some of my close friends had started drinking and dating different guys.  As I looked back, no wonder the person who asked me to the revival assumed I would have no interest in the things of God.

I have mentioned before that I came to Christ during the Jesus Movement and I have heard many such stories of God reaching out in various ways to those highly unlikely to become Christians.  For this was the revival where God called to Himself those outside the normal religious family... those of us not raised in a church... those of us who appeared not to care about God at all... those of us who either had already or were on the cusp of choosing the world and not Him.

I was among the least, the lost, and the highly unlikely.  

Even my birth would have been unlikely in the world's eyes.  I am sure my mother never thought she would have another child again after being widowed with seven children.  My father had not made very much contact with his son from a previous marriage, due to a very contentious divorce.  Another child was not on his bucket list, I am certain.  Although both of my parents were happy when I was born.

Once I accepted Him as Savior, He started working in my life in such a way that I look back now decades later and I stand amazed at His faithfulness.  I also can understand a little more about why He allowed so much of what I went through.  Not entirely.  Never so on this side of Heaven.  But just enough to see His Truth.

For my friends, God uses even those very hard times and seasons and events of our lives for the purpose in which he made us.  It is our decision what we do with our lives and the decisions we make... whether to accept His offer to save us and make us and mold us and create a work of Beauty where once there were ashes.

It is the seeds sown in those early years that grew to become the message I have today.  It is the events and circumstances of those early years that molded my life in such a way that I could not only endure later trials... I could flourish in them.

For I came to realize that the hurt endured in the early years was the genesis of my deep faith as an adult.  Only one who has endured the darkness can fully appreciate the Light.  The woman in the Bible who has been saved from much was the woman who sat at His feet and poured over them an expensive fragrance because she knew from where she had come.

Oh, my friend... everything you have endured in life can be the seeds of present and future faith and hope and yes... praise.  If we do not decide to live in the despair and never forgive and let God show us that His Plan was for our good and His Glory... then everything He has designed us for in this world can be woven together into a beautiful tapestry called our life.

The good, the bad, the  ugly, the light threads blended with the dark threads... all woven together and then ordained into something perfect and precious because He not only touched it... He designed the pattern which was the warp and woof threads of our completed tapestry.

We talk about the need for accepting Jesus as our Savior and admitting we have been sinners and must have the provision of what He purchased for us on the cross to legally be absolved of our sins.  We have heard the sermons.  But do we believe it?

Do we fully realize that what the Word says is true?  That He has washed us and made us a new person in Christ?  It is when we fully accept that we are that new person, that actual new creation from the person we were before that moment... that the Beauty is woven into the tapestry of our life.

I have been little, I have been lost, and I was most definitely the most unlikely person to attend that revival service.  But that is exactly the kind of person He loves to use the most.   That is why we lay our crowns at His feet. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - The Unexpected

Photographer: David Goldman/Associated Press

I tuned in to The Weather Channel off and on during and after Hurricane Michael and like many of you, was shocked at what was happening.  Where did this hurricane come from?  There was at least a week of buildup for Hurricane Florence but Michael, which made landfall as a high level category 4 hurricane (just one mph less than a 5 one meteorologist reported)... kind of blindsided everyone.

Except some people did see the possibility.  A weather researcher who was interviewed on CBN said he and other hurricane researchers saw the possibility of a major late season hurricane making landfall somewhere in that part of the Gulf.  They had documented the possibility.

The weather researcher said the problem was that the national media was looking somewhere else, at politics and the battles in Washington, and completely missed everything leading up to Michael.  The symptoms were there, the signals were all there... but they were not reported via the news sources most people watch for their news.

Actually, the hurricanes are reminders of two different needs for preparations.  One provided a fairly long time period to prepare (and even then when a large population is buying supplies at the same time, it didn't take long to run out of items) while the other came in leaving most people no time to prepare.

One of the truths that good survival websites will tell you is that you must learn to depend on yourself for survival.  Well, I would add God but you get the point.  You need to find trusted sources to find out what is going on in the world that you need to know.  Although I doubt any person was created for the 24/7 news coming in through even trusted media.

Then you must see it as your responsibility to be able to survive situations.  I have seen... and experienced... situations over and over where God was leading me to stock the pantry a little more or to make a purchase when I had the funds available and I ended up needing everything at a later date.

Even when the government information suggested three days worth of food and water, I knew that couldn't be right.  If nothing else, I have been through winter storms that prevented food trucks getting into town for a week.  I know many people that I trust today who are still hearing that "still small voice" to keep a very deep pantry of food, nonfood, and essential items.  To the extent each person is possible to do so given storage space and budgets.

When I was watching the devastation of the area where the hurricane made landfall, where everything was destroyed, it was a reminder of the necessity to have some items ready to grab and go.  I've written about that a lot in the past.  However, one thing I heard so many people heartbroken over was losing their photos.

I recall information given on a survival blog years ago that I thought was excellent.  The writer recommended having copies made of important photos (such as wedding photos) and sending them to a dependable friend or family member in another part of the country.  That way you would have hard copies made already.

These days, professional photographers often provide a CD of the photos taken that could be kept in the same place as your important papers.  A thumb drive (aka: USB flash drive) that is updated with the photos on your computer can be kept in such a place.  One woman that was interviewed before the hurricane said she put her smaller photo albums in her dishwasher.  After Katrina, it was found that the dishwasher did not take in water during the hurricane.  That is worth a try.

If nothing else, Michael showed us of the importance of keeping important items and documents in a place where you can grab them and go quickly.  (Another item to have in such a place is a list of those things which cannot be kept there so you remember where they are kept to grab them in a hurry.)

Insurance companies recommend taking photos of your house, the rooms in your house, the furniture, etc. and keeping those hard copies in a safe place.  Our house was hit by lightening when the sun was shining so one never knows (yes, lightening travels many miles as we found out).

Make certain you keep a hard copy list of all the important phone numbers in this same place as well as placing your address book in the container.  Most of us use our cell phones to call and rarely call an actual phone number, just the name!  I know my son's cell phone number because it is similar to ours but I couldn't tell you my daughter's area code.  Your insurance agent's phone number and the phone number of their national headquarters should be kept with the most important numbers.

There are so many other things to think about ahead of time but by thinking them through before they are needed, we are less likely to forget something important (like medications!).  God willing, most of us will never suffer a catastrophic natural disaster but being prepared just in case will make our lives much easier once the calm has returned.

Did you read about the Christian pilot who felt God was telling him to take off before he was scheduled?  This is fascinating... here.

If you are looking for a book that is easy to read but provides a lot of information about preparing for emergencies, I recommend Survival Mom. It is written in a way that is easy to read and practical.  I own the book on the Kindle but I think a "hold in your hands" version would be better if you want to come back to it often as a reference book.  Info... here.

By the way, I was given a gift of the Kindle Paperwhite by a dear friend when my eye troubles became complicated. I have a second generation Kindle but I had heard so many good things about the Paperwhilte and they are all true.  It holds a large percentage of my Kindle books (and there is plenty of storage room left), it is compact and has a great cover (sold separately), and a LIGHT to read at night so as not to disturb others. 

I will be writing more about it at another time but it is the perfect size for slipping into your purse in an emergency to make sure you have reading material.  ;)  More information... here.

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

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Searching For Beauty and Peace in the Crazy

Autumn, 2009

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 
Ephesians 6:12

I am learning this Fall that I need to look for the Beauty since the late season heat (the heat index was around 90 yesterday) and the rain have not been conducive to the leaves turning pretty colors.  However... if I look for it then there is Beauty to be found.

That is what I have been learning in many ways this October... and September... and perhaps all of this past year.  Mainly this Fall, though.  My heart aches as I turn on the TV and see the circus that is the hearings for the new Supreme Court judge.  I just cannot believe what happened and how far it is from what is suppose to take place in these hearings.

I have to admit, it made me afraid for awhile.  If this is what is going to happen to a man who is beyond credentialed to be a Supreme Court Judge... all because he is a pro-life Catholic... then what does it mean for Bible believing Christians overall?  What does the future look like for our children and grandchildren?

This is someone who has been vetted numerous times by the FBI already and who was confirmed by the Senate for the position he has been holding already in the second highest court of the land.  This was not some Johnny Come Lately who left no paper trail previously.

All because he is a devout Catholic, which makes him most likely going to vote pro-life.

My friends... I had to seek Beauty.  I had to seek Peace these past couple of weeks.  I purposely looked for it in nature.  I obviously looked for it in the Psalms.  I read the first chapters of Romans and all of 2nd Timothy for Truth.  They both talk about crazy times and seasons.

I could not avoid the news because it was on every single station it seemed.  They were on the local news when I sought out the weather forecast.  Those hearings.  So I had to purposely find balance.

I don't care if you are a Republican or a Democrat or a Socialist or a Communist (well, I might care about that in the long run).  Living in a University town, I have had friends of all kinds.  I don't ask for paperwork before making a friend to see how you voted in the last election.  I have had a friend for decades who is a Bernie supporter.

It doesn't matter if you are a Christian or an Orthodox Jew or a Muslim or an Atheist or a Buddhist or a Hindu or any other kind of religion.  Honestly, while my closest friends tend to be Christians (birds of a feather and all that)... other long time friends are Jewish and a few who would say they are nothing at all.

My son's best friends for many years (and still friends today) include homeschooled Christians, Hindu young people from India, Jewish young men who voted for Bernie, many who were uncomfortable about any kind of religion, and those still searching.

What made me practically ill watching what happened with these hearings was that the Rules of Law were completely thrown out.  People were allowed to get away with what is actually against the law when they stormed the hearings and they had to be stopped over and over because of the noise. Why were they allowed to do this not once but over and over? 

It is, if not against the law than highly unethical, for members of Congress to encourage people to get in the face of those who disagree with them and to continue with other intimidation tactics.  Some of these people have encouraged the assassination of our President... and got away with it.  Members of Congress!

Other aspects of the hearings, if not actually against the law, would have been unheard of in years gone past.  I remember looking at my husband at one time and asking him if the "squeaky wheel" will now be the one who gets their way in Washington?

Is our Republic going to be held captive by the people who can shout the loudest and throw out the most obscenities?  Is this our future?  I don't know.  The crazy situation probably has only temporarily calmed down.  Until the next Supreme Court Judge retires?  Until the mid-term elections?  I honestly don't know.

What I do know is this...  I am increasing my prayer life.  I am praying more for our Leaders.  I am praying more for my family.  I am praying more for courageous men and women of God to be raised into possessions of leadership. I am... praying!

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood.

Maybe it is good for those of us in the West who have lived in generally quiet political situations to be shaken up once in awhile.  The Jesus Movement revival and the Charismatic Renewal that started in the Catholic church were birthed during the season of great unrest in the 1960s, with the "race wars" in the cities and the protests against the Vietnam War. 

So join me as I look for the Beautiful and the Peaceful and pray for a Great Awakening.  For honestly, there is only one Person who can solve today's problems and it has nothing to do with what side of the aisle you prefer.

I'm sure He has seen it all already and nothing surprises the Lord.  He may remind us that this is part of the seasons and times before His return... but He still tells us to pray... and be salt and light in our own little sphere of influence.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Ramblings about my monthly shopping day


As I mentioned before, last week was my monthly stock-up for groceries.  I must do this to make sure that budgeted funds go to groceries and they do not get used for something else during the month.  It takes some planning and list making but it is worth the small amount of preparations.

It is also a good excuse (and sometimes I need inspiration) to clean out the frig and reorganize shelves to prepare for bringing home the results of my "getting my food from afar" (aka: Meijers, Kroger, and Aldis).  I found out the hard way that if this is not done before the shopping trips, then old stuff in the veggie drawer can turn to mold because it is covered by new veggies... who then can also turn yukkie.

The one place I didn't prepare ahead of time last week was the "pantry" in the kitchen.  The lovely one with the chippy yellow paint on the outside and equally chippy red paint on the inside.  I probably should have taken a photo after putting away the food and such that belongs in that cabinet for it was topsy turvy ready to fall out the next time I opened the door.  Then again, I am glad there are no photos.

I am always worn out at the end of stock up day so along with the healthy stuff, I make certain there is a frozen pizza or something else available that requires minimum preparations for dinner that night.  Which is also why the putting away of the food and such is easier when I've prepared for it.

The yellow pantry was organized and cleaned up after a good night's sleep and the items needing to be slipped into gallon size Ziploc bags in the freezer were also taken care of the next day.  Otherwise, everything was ready for putting away groceries when I arrived home.

I slip individual packages of meat into the gallon size Ziploc bags to protect them in the freezer.  Also, items like fruit such as cranberries that have holes in the bags as well as the Irish butter are inserted into them... in separate bags, of course. These gallon size bags are reused  numerous times as they stay in the freezer.  If they are getting beat up over time, then I leave the package of meat in them to defrost on a plate in the refrigerator and throw them away after that.

This month I didn't buy very much meat because I needed the grocery budget to go elsewhere.  However, I will use the meat in the freezer left from previous months to fill in for meals this month.  I even have a turkey in the deep freeze that is going to become soup later in October.

I try to buy most meat on sale except the four organic grass fed packages of ground beef I buy at Aldis (which is never on sale it seems so I have to limit the amount) and the large package of tilapia I buy at Aldis. The turkey that will be defrosted was purchased around Easter on sale and the last ham purchased at the same time on sale will be used next month.

I used one of my paychecks from the seasonal part-time job I had many years ago to buy a deep freeze and it has been well worth the money.  Actually, a chest style deep freeze doesn't cost all that much although they do take more work to keep organized.

I hope these "off the top of my head" ramblings make sense.  Oh, I have a link for you, too.  I have subscribed to the Simple Bites blog for numerous years. It is one of the few "food blogs" I still subscribe to these days.  Aimee is Canadian so this week she is sharing yummy ideas for their Thanksgiving meal this weekend.  It has good advice for Americans to use next month.  (Can you believe Thanksgiving is next month already?)

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Simple Bites blog... here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis, a review


I can blame this book for needing an extra cup of coffee this morning as I was awake past midnight reading it.  I could not go to sleep until I had finished the story. This is one of the most remarkable novels I have ever read.

I was interested in the novel because of my interest in all things C. S. Lewis.  I knew something about Joy and their relationship through the movie Shadowlands (understanding that it is a Hollywood version of their relationship) and Lewis' book A Grief Observed.  Even then, I wasn't sure what to expect.

First I will say that Patti Callahan has a way with words that draws us into the story as if we are really hearing Joy's thoughts and words first hand.  She begins by taking us into Joy's life with her alcoholic and manipulative husband and their relationship as a family and as writers.

We then journey with her to England to do research and her meeting with C. S. Lewis, with whom she has been corresponding.  We are with her as she becomes close to Lewis and his brother.  We follow along with her struggles and her fears as she comes to realize her marriage will officially end in divorce. 

Along the way, we come to experience the beauty of London and Oxford, as well as what it is like to live in England so soon after the war.  We walk with Joy as she allows this beauty to heal her soul as well as her body.  For the author takes us into Joy's spiritual journey along the way and her unlikely path from a Jewish Atheist Communist to becoming a true believer in Christ.

We end up with Joy and her sons moving to England and her relationship with Lewis, his brother, and his friends.  We feel her struggle as she loves Lewis but is not sure it can ever be anything more than deep friendship.  Then we are there for the rest of the story.  Which I will leave for you to enjoy for one should never tell the ending, even if it is well known in history.

I highly recommend Becoming Mrs. Lewis.  It already has a place on my "All Time Favorite Books" list.  You do not have to be a fan of Lewis and England to enjoy it but if you are... this will become a favorite book for you, too.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis was provided by the publisher 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, September 30, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Myth of All or Nothing


This past week found my kitchen counter a mess with potting soil needing swept off and a couple teeny tiny bugs brushed into the sink to meet their maker after jumping off the mother ship.  It was re-potting time at my house as the plants on the porch made their way inside before a very cold night was expected.

I don't decorate my porch nearly as much as I once did but I like the idea of hanging flower baskets on the two shepherd's rods in the front and some greenery to view as one walks onto the porch. The flowers are left outside until the frost takes them but I bring the plants inside to give them a chance of further life.  Some of them do well and others do not... but I always give it a try.

The cooler weather was also inspiration for bringing the Rubbermaid container in from the garage to add a few Autumnal objects here and there.  Once again, just tucking them in and around the objects that were already displayed.  Not the major seasonal decorating I once accomplished.

But that is okay... even though it took me awhile to accept that Truth.

I am not a perfectionist (we have enough of those in the family) but I do have a personality flaw that I've dealt with since childhood.  Much like Dorcas Lane in Larkrise to Candleford, it is my "one weakness"... always said with a bit of a wink.  I have long been an all or nothing person.

I know, one of my favorite quotes is Edith Schaeffer's "If you expect perfection or nothing, you will always end up with nothing".  I guess I always associated it with being a perfectionist but in reality it is much more about needing all or nothing.  My one weakness...

God has a way of allowing circumstances throughout life that chisel away at the marble of our weaknesses.  The Master Artist used a few chisels on me but developing a chronic illness was the big one, that which has probably been used most often in chipping away the "all or nothing" part of my character.

I think I first noticed it the most when we were homeschooling.  I would begin each school year with big plans and a stack of new books and my planner filled out with great expectation.  Then I would wake up feeling cruddy and hardly able to make breakfast, much less "do school" for an entire day.

There were times I thought of giving up but instead God provided wisdom.  I would have preferred healing and an injection of fresh energy but He saw it differently.  I would learn to do what I could given what I had to work with.  So we homeschooled quite imperfectly.

When I felt well enough, we did a whole lot more and when I felt intense weakness... we read more or Christopher spent more time on the computer or we watched numerous shows on The History Channel or The Discovery Channel.  We kept learning but in a different way than originally planned.

We were able to get through a lot more book learning than I had anticipated but in a different way from what had been written in my planner.  But it all worked out for good. So much better than if my ADHD son had continued failing in the public schools.  It turned out that he was pretty darn smart, unlike what his first grade teacher said about him.

He not only graduated from homeschooling but with a Computer Science degree from a major university.  Today he sits as a member of the Alumni Board for his school at the university.  Homeschooling done less than perfectly had excellent results.

As an aside... what about my daughter?  Well, she was born twelve years before him and graduated a year early from an academic high school.  She was brilliant and the poster child of the kind of student who excels in the classroom.  All I did was provide good books along the way.  She will tell you today that after five children, she is not brilliant.  ;)

I have had to learn this lesson in every area of life.  I can no longer cook numerous gourmet meals as I loved to do when I was younger but I can cook very good meals a few times a week.  I once thought of getting rid of my top of the line cookware and then realized that was the "all or nothing" part of me reasoning falsely that I deserve the good stuff only if I'm at the top of my game.

I can no longer spend a day in the kitchen baking as I once did but I keep everything I need handy so when I wake up feeling better than usual, I have what the recipe requires to whip up a favorite baked goody.  It is far better to bake when I can than get rid of my collection of baking pans and give up entirely.

I used to decorate everything that didn't move for Christmas.  Our two kitties that lived well into their elderly years learned to keep their distance the day after Thanksgiving or they would have ended up with red ribbons and perhaps a bell around their neck.  Neither would have been amused.

My husband noticed a couple years ago that it is far easier to put away the Rubbermaid style Christmas boxes on shelves than it had been.  That is because I have sent to charity a lot of stuff, those that I knew neither of the kids would want.  The things that I have kept are those items that I love and I continue to add an item or two each year to incorporate a different style of decorating I now prefer.

I wish I could say that change was easy but it was another hard lesson He taught me about "all or nothing".  I felt His wisdom, too, that just because I kept those items I love does not mean I have to display everything each Christmas.  There are some decorations that must be displayed or it isn't Christmas in our home but there are items that may or may not come out each Christmas.

I had come to realize that I dreaded decorating for Christmas because it took so much energy to set it all up and to take it all down.  The "all or nothing" cast a shadow over something I love to do... make the home festive for the Holidays.  So when I realized just because I owned something, didn't mean I had to display it each year... I began to relax and not feel guilty that part of my collections stayed in their storage boxes.

That was okay.  There were no Christmas police looking over my shoulder telling me to either get rid of it or use it.  That was a lie of the enemy and one of his worst lies is... "it is all or nothing".  I had sent to charity a lot which I liked but that I could easily live without... what is left is what I love, even if I do not use the item/s each year.

So the porch doesn't look quite as pretty as it once did in the warmer months but it looks much better than if I did nothing.  I don't decorate the porch at Christmas like I once did but there are two or three items and a wreath on the front door.  When you walk in my house at Christmas, it still provides the atmosphere I desire but in a much simpler manner.

The baking I give as gifts are simpler to make and the cards I create or not very elaborate.  I send cards to far fewer people than I once did and there have been years that none were sent at all. I do what I can, when I can, and I try not to compare myself to another person who may have good health.  God deals with each of us differently.

I have to stay at home a lot more than I would have liked but that is okay, God has provided a home that I love.  I can't read small print these days and I can no longer hike like I once did and my children do not live as close as I would like... but that is fine.

The enemy of our souls would say in accepting the limitations that come with illness, financial setbacks, space and time, etc., we are giving in and not fighting the good fight of faith.  That is not true.  It is as much a myth... and I would say a lie from the father of lies... as saying everything we do has to be all or nothing.

I expect God will continue to teach us Truth until that day we go to live with Him.  But that is good... He must love us a lot to keep making us into His work of Beauty.  In the meantime, I am enjoying the few Autumnal items I have displayed and I plan to purchase one or two pretty pots of Mums this week.

I will make another two loaves of pumpkin bread and if I feel well enough, perhaps our favorite pumpkin cookie recipe.  If not... just the pumpkin bread with a hot cup of coffee for breakfast will be more than good enough.