Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - For Such a Time

But who knows but that you have come into the Kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther: 4:14)

When I was in my 30s, I was passionate about working where I could be a positive influence to the anti-Christian aspects of the culture.  I became involved in a political party and in organizations such as Concerned Women For America.

During that time, I wrote and taught a Bible Study about the book of Esther.  It has always been a favorite book of the Bible but in that season of life, it was as if I could see Esther (Hadassah) through new eyes, both spiritually and as it related to where I was at the time.

What had somehow escaped me before was this... Esther had been through a lot of hardship before getting to the palace.  She grew up in captivity in Babylon, even though she had to be quite young both of her parents had died already so she was brought up by an older cousin named Mordecai, and then to make matters worse... she was forced into the palace harem to take part in a contest to choose the next queen.

We look back at the story from more than a couple millennia and we know the outcome... Esther did not know what was going to happen.  If not chosen to be the queen, her future would have been simply as part of his harem.  Gone was the chance of having a husband of her own choosing.

However, we know that God was preparing Esther all along for her place in His-story.  For one thing, we can assume Esther was absolutely gorgeous.  We also can take from the account that she must have had a pleasant personality because she had great favor with those around her.

Her disappointments and trials in life had not brought on a bitter spirit within.  People were drawn to Esther.  There was something special about her.  She was not only chosen to be Queen, Esther was born to be Queen.

The story reads like a work of fiction but we know from Hebrew writings that it was true, which was why the Book of Esther was included in the Bible, and Jews today continue to celebrate the story with the Feast of Purim.   

It is the true story of God placing the right person at the right time in the absolute right place to save the lineage of the Messiah.

The story of Esther teaches us that... should we be willing to act in obedience... God will use us when He needs us to be His hands, and His eyes, and His spokesperson.  We will become His person of the hour, in the place (or places) where he has positioned us throughout the years.

Most of the research I read about Esther counted her as a hero of the Faith, one who overcame great reluctance to bravely save her people.  However, there was one article that wanted to discourage our admiration for Esther, saying she was not heroic because she at first said no to her uncle's request and pointing out that because there had been no mention of God in the early texts of the Book, neither Esther nor Mordecai were God fearing people.

I read through that man's lengthy article and thought he very much missed the point about the story of Esther.  We cannot assume Esther and Mordecai were (or were not) people of Faith just because the text does not mention God. For the story is not about Esther's walk with God but rather God's plan for His people.

The Book of Esther should remind all of us that God does indeed work in mysterious ways and that they are so often far beyond what our mortal minds can understand.  Why would He not just get rid of those who hated the Jews instead of positioning a beautiful young woman into power to be able to save her people when needed?

I think it is because Esther is not only a story for that time but He intended it to be a story for all Time.  For as troubled as our world seems now, every generation has had its' own share of instability and grief.

If anything, it reminds us... you and me... that God will use us whenever and wherever He has positioned and prepared us.  It is to be a reminder that where we live on this planet... and our purpose while walking on it... may have been designed by God (and I believe they are) but what we do with our lives is completely up to us.

If you still have breath, then you still have a purpose.  

While you may not be saving the Kingdom, you are definitely affecting the Kingdom... one way or another. You may not stand before Kings with your words but it could be your words that save one who is hopeless from leaving this world before their time.

You may not feed all the hungry but you can make a meal for the young mom who is sick.  Your visits to a lonely elderly friend with a pretty flower and something good to eat just may be an answer to their prayer.

Your offer to babysit a young couple with preschoolers so they can get away alone for a few hours may be just what is needed to prevent the seeds of divorce someday.  You have within you the answer to a prayer, perhaps unspoken but essential to the life of another.

We live in a society where the big stuff makes the news but all the little acts of Kindness in God's name goes unnoticed.  Your calling from God at this time of life may very well be one of little acts of kindness.

I have a few people in my life that without them, I would be a different person.  I would go as far as to say that my faith would have long ago been shaken.  However, each of these people have been just what I have needed through the years and I am certain no one around them knows of their kindness, their generosity, and their giving of a cold cup of water in His name.

In a way, we are all like Esther for if God has truly allowed what we have gone through in our lives, and where He has positioned us to live, then He has also given us a purpose.  Not only then but now.

Forget the "doing of great things for God", those that would make headlines.  Waiting to do the big stuff prevents us from doing what is right in front of us to be Christ to another.  You may indeed be called upon someday to do something for God that will make headlines.  Most of what we do will only be known to the One who asked us to do it.

I have a feeling that when we stand before God and He has that chat with us about our works (or lack of them), we will be surprised at how important the little stuff was.

My friends, we truly were brought into the Kingdom for such a time as this.  Our being here at the beginning of the 21st Century is not an accident.  That is pretty amazing stuff to ponder.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Protecting the Pantry from Rodents

It is hot, very hot where I live today.  We have been hovering on or near record highs all "spring". At least since the near record lows and snow left.  I walked out to the newspaper "mailbox" to get the morning paper and it felt as one were walking through a cloud of moisture.

I was hoping to work in the garage but that won't happen until it cools down.  Earlier this week, the woman who cleaned my front porch spent a couple hours taking bleach water to the shelves in the garage that were affected by mouse infestation (which was most of them) and then teaching me how and where mice can infiltrate a garage or home.

I am very sensitive to bleach, I don't even use it in my laundry.  Even though I wasn't in the garage during the bleaching process, my eyes were watering in the Study.  However, it was necessary.

I knew food left out can attract rodents, including pet food in bags.  I actually heard one or more mice eating in the large bag of kibble one time. We also had some bags of beans sitting in a box and they had eaten most of them before we realized it.  They also ate through everything that came in a box that was not in Rubbermaid or a food grade plastic pail.

So I had already protected any such food items.  However, we also had to get rid of all cardboard, cloth, etc. that had been stored in the garage because they can use it for nesting.  I had already thrown away the bag that held my gift bags and small wrapping paper because they had eaten through it.  It is no longer stored in the garage.  (Thankfully, most of our Christmas items where that was located are stored in Rubbermaid style containers.)

We had also already thrown away a lot of canned food because once they urinate on the top of the cans, it rusts quickly and you cannot use it.  At least it was easy to tell where the mice had been.

We even had to throw away a small bookshelf because it was permeated with the aroma of rodents and that will attract them back to the garage.  (Which is why she had to use bleach water on our shelves.) She showed me where they had created a couple holes in the walls of the garage, which is probably how they got in even though I had checked for spaces near the floor.

If you are shivering right now... welcome to the club.  We started out with just a few field mice in the garage and quickly had dozens.  

She worked a couple hours to get the shelves ready for me and since then I had to start washing everything that was on the shelves (including my entire collection of used and vintage canning jars).  I had planned to do more of that this weekend but the humidity in the garage is oppressive.

We received a rebate on the dryer we purchased and part of it went to stocking up on mouse "traps".  The kind that are sticky so the mice walk on them and cannot get off.  Half of them are now in the garage and she suggested putting a few in the house.

Although one of the benefits of always having at least one cat is that I have never seen a mouse actually in the house.  They had no idea that Victoria would have just stared at them.  Florentine, on the other hand, is the kind of kitty that would play with them and then chow down.  (Ugh.)

Another thing she told me (she is a professional cleaner by the way), is that they do not like open spaces so to try to have has few places for them to hide as possible. Which, I'm hoping... will cure my husband of his hoarding of rags, cardboard boxes, etc. in the garage.

I already had some Rubbermaid containers that I had used off and on for things like boxes of pasta and bags of rice.  It would be a good idea to put extra canned foods in them, too, even those items that mice cannot eat through but they can still destroy.  However, she also said that mice will rarely bother shelves that people use all the time. 

I have always used a garage or basement as extra pantry storage space and I've never had anything like this happen before.  However, if it is going to happen, it was good that it did so when we didn't absolutely have to depend on that food for an emergency.

It will take awhile before everything gets absolutely clean again but we have come a long way.  Now I think about the consequences of anything I store in the garage.  All items are too expensive to have to throw away.  Not to mention the creepy factor of knowing there are rodents in the garage.

Image:  Brambly Hedge (I now prefer mice only with cute overalls and pinafores.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Unbridled Faith, a review

This is a beautiful hardback devotional for those who love horses and the God who created them.  The subtitle, 100 Devotions from the Horse Farm, gives a little hint at what to expect within the pages.

At first I enjoyed just looking through the pages at the lovely photographs.  However, as I read through the devotional, I found them to be stories that are well told and all leading the reader to a deeper knowledge of how God has worked in the author's life.

The author is Cara Whitney and the Introduction is by her husband, Dan Whitney (aka: Larry the Cable Guy).  He shares his wife's testimony and how they both came to walk with Christ.  

I highly recommend this beautiful devotional.  It will be a blessing even to those of us who never come close to a horse in our day-to-day lives.  However, for the horse lover in your life, this would make the perfect gift.

Unbridled Faith 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 are Associate links.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Running to the Rock

I go to the rock for my salvation
I go to the stone that the builders rejected
I run to the mountain and the mountain stands by me
When the Earth all around me is sinking sand
On Christ, the solid rock I stand
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend
I go to the rock*

Many were shocked this week by the suicides of two famous people, both of whom were at the top of their respective careers.  Since then, there have been many blog posts, newspaper articles, and television updates providing the phone numbers for depression hot lines.

To be certain, they are an essential part of our society.  People who are thinking of suicide need to have someone to talk to, a number to call, a life line provided.  However, after the phone is hung up, the seeker of help is often as depressed as before. The answer is sought in medication or in meditation or alcohol or drugs.

I have never suffered from clinical depression, although I have been married to someone who does for decades.  Instead, I have suffered from the depression that comes from the outside, when one's entire world is falling apart and the enemy of our souls is telling one that there is no hope.

I know what it is like to wake up in the morning after one has begged God to take them during the night.  When it takes more courage to live than to die. When life was too hard to continue... or so it seemed at the time.

What makes my story different than those who have succeeded in taking their lives that did not know Him is this... I had Someone to run to, to cling to, and to provide even a glimmer of hope.  I may have felt as terrible as many who take their lives at the time but the Holy Spirit within gave me the strength to go through the circumstances until there was indeed a light shining in the darkness, the joy that comes in the morning.

Having said that, I wish it was always that easy.  For I have known of followers of Christ who have committed suicide.  It would be easy to spout off something silly like that person was not really saved, or they had rejected Christ, or some other glib saying.  No... I truly believe they still knew Him.

The Word of God teaches us that we are a spirit and we live in a body while here in this world.  It also tells us we have a mind that houses our thoughts, our ideas, our feelings, and the way we look at life.  Our mind is the filter through which we view the world and if that filter is not working correctly, heartbreak can be the result.

A famous instance of this is Rick and Kay Warren, whose son had suffered mental illness since childhood.  He committed suicide just one day after he had been with his parents and gave no indication something was wrong.  I found it appalling to read what some people wrote about the suicide, with accusations as diverse as blaming Warren's theology to assuming their son was never saved in the first place.

Those of us who have known a person with an illness in their brain thoroughly understood what the Warrens were going through.  It is no less spiritual to have an illness that affects one's thinking processes than it is for one to develop a cancer in another part of the body.

That is not to say that it is easy living with someone with such an illness.  In the book Different, written by Sally and Nathan Clarkson, they talk about what it was like growing up with such symptoms from the standpoint of both the mother and the one trying to cope with them.  I have recommended Different more than any other book Sally wrote.

It may have helped Kate and Anthony to have a phone number to call but I doubt it.  Both had been known to suffer from depression for a long time. Both had family and friends they could talk to if needed.  It was Bourdain's best friend, fellow celebrity chef Eric Ripert, that found him after he didn't show up for breakfast before taping his show that day.

I was struck while reading the article about Bourdain that the final days he had been experiencing sounded like Heaven on Earth to me.  Delicious food in exactly the kind of restaurant I would enjoy and in a place that all foodies would desire to visit.  It sounded... perfect.

However, I have learned through my own life that when one expects Heaven here in this world, they will be deeply disappointed.  We may experience instances of great joy and profound beauty.  If we are fortunate we taste of the delicious meal and see the lovely landscape... but they only last for a short time.  Our days are fleeting.

This is not Heaven and if we try to find it here then there can only be continuous disappointment in living.  Remember the Peggy Lee song, Is That All There Is?.  The chorus goes: "Is that all there is? Is that all there is?  If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing. Let's break out the booze and have a ball. If that's all there is."

Have you ever had those thoughts, asking God if "that is all there is" to life?  I think if one has lived long enough, then it is possible. I wonder if that was the mindset of the two who ended their life this week?  We may never know for certain but we do know it seemed from the outside that they had everything the world could give.

For those of us who walk with Christ with somewhat healthy minds... for the Fall brought perfection to an end... we can find hope in that Rock of our Salvation.  When the hurricane force winds of adversity arrive... and they do to every life... we have an anchor.  If we believe the Bible is true... we have grace here and the promise of Heaven as our goal.

What can we learn from the events of this past week?  As Christians we need to stay close to the Lord and have people around us we can talk to when things get bad.  We also need to ask for wisdom and discernment towards those that God has placed in our circle of influence.  You may be the one person in the life of another who recognizes depression in them.

As for me, it is a reminder that the things of this world cannot satisfy no matter their glitz and glitter.  Heaven is real and it is promised in His word and paid for by His blood on the cross.  Anything that resembles it in this world is simply an illusion that cannot satisfy our true longings. 


Mentioned in this Blog Post
Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.
Song lyrics*:  I Go to the Rock, writer Dottie Rambo

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - A Recommendation and a Link

If the weather continues as it has for over a month now, we are in for a summer of record breaking heat.  As one who would probably be quite content living in parts of Alaska (those without the bears), I am not at all happy about the weather.  Since there is nothing I can do to change it, I've been concentrating instead on creating some make ahead meals that are either quick or can be made ahead and warmed up.

This past week, I experimented with homemade sausage "McMuffins".  They were so-so but I will definitely try again.  We both agreed the Thomas English Muffins were not the best for this recipe. 

As mentioned before, I stocked the freezer pantry with frozen white rice/veggie mix, frozen brown rice, and various frozen vegetables. (I already had some frozen fruit.)  I saw a cook online make a quick fried rice dish using the frozen brown rice and I'm going to try that soon.  I want to try an orzo pasta salad soon.  Orzo is one of my "always have in the pantry" pastas.

Before I get to the recommendations and blog post link, I wanted to say something about Sweet Annie from last week's Pantry Post.  I was going to add a warning and completely forgot until I was reminded by a Comment (I think it was Kristi).  If you suffer from severe hay fever allergies, then Sweet Annie is not for you as it is in that family.

I have mild hay fever and it doesn't bother me, even when it is dried.  One year when I bought a Sweet Annie wreath at our favorite historical reenactment, I was going to hang it close to the kitchen table where we lived at the time and decided that would not be a wise idea or my husband would sneeze throughout meals.  Although that may have been amusing as he wondered why my cooking suddenly made him sneeze... the devil made me write that.

I have had two cookbooks on my desk for a couple of weeks now.  Both reflect my fondness for Southern cooking and I have found great ideas and recipes in both books.  Both books contain basic, homemade recipes of food a lot of us grew up on... even if we didn't live in the South.

I think I talked about the Southern Living Heirloom Recipe Cookbook once before.  I found my all time favorite lemon bar recipe from that book.  It is fun to read, especially if you are no longer a spring chicken.  For it provides favorite recipes from various years that were featured in Southern Living magazine, including long ago classics.

Some of the recipes have the original recipe (Mama's Way) and a revised recipe (Your Way).  The latter often being either healthier, quicker, or both.  The photos are gorgeous, as one would expect from anything associated with Southern Living.

A recent Amazon purchase was the What Can I Bring cookbook.  I often stop by Barnes & Noble either before or after my eye exam each month since my doctor's office is in that part of town.  Before is better since I can actually see before getting injections in my eyes... but I will take B&N when I can go even with temporarily blurry eyesight.

I have been picking up and perusing through that book when I stop by for months now.  It is my kind of cookbook with excellent recipes, lots of fun prose to read, and beautiful photos.  In this book, most recipes are meant for when you have to take a dish to a potluck, a new mom, a road trip, someone who is ill, etc.

I finally had a month where I did not need to use my Amazon credit for birthday gifts so I ordered What Can I Bring and I haven't been sorry.  It has a lot of pantry friendly recipes.  Not to mention, it is one of those cookbooks that is fun to read.  The author is a caterer and a regular food contributor on the Today Show.

The link I'm recommending is to a site many of you probably visit already but for those who don't, I thought Rhonda's latest Down to Earth stockpiling post was excellent.  I was planning on writing another such post and she says it better than I could!  We just have to remember that it is winter there.  ;)

Once again, thank you if you enter your Amazon shopping through a link or the Widget on the sidebar.  I have pretty much zero book budget for cash purchases (sometimes I enjoy buying a new magazine at B&N) but with credit, I can add to my obsession book collections once in awhile.  Not to mention birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and household necessities like Charlie's Soap.  Thank you!

Southern Living Heirloom Recipe Cookbook... here.
What Can I Bring cookbook... here.
Down to Earth blog... here.

Last week's Pantry Post... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate Links.
Image:  Cookbook & Apples

Thursday, June 07, 2018

My Original Scrapbook Journals

I thought today I would show you pages from my first two scrapbook "journals".  The first was simply a scrapbook of favorite magazine photos and short paragraph articles.

I used to call this scrapbook my Happy Place for when I was down, I could (and still do) look through it and feel joy.  It didn't take any time at all to keep this up, I just cut favorite magazine images and taped them to the scrapbook pages.

The second scrapbook journal was more of a journal and less a scrapbook.  It was the first one I used a sketch book to assemble instead of a scrapbook. In it, I wrote recipes, made lists of things to do, and it contained my garden journal for the first years of the raised bed gardens. 

Both are to give you ideas and to share that to have a good scrapbook journal, it does not have to be embellished.  Although these last few years, it has been fun to do so.  It gives me an excuse to collect washi tape.  ;)

First to answer a couple questions from last week's Comments:

I found that glue and paste did not work well for the scrapbook or scrapbook journals because after awhile, some of the paste stopped working.  I use double sided tape, both regular double sided tape from the office supply store and double sided tape made for paper art.  Double sided tape actually made for paper art now comes in many shapes and sizes and makes adhering to paper very easy.

The fonts that look like they were typed on an old typewriter were on my husband's old computer, I think in Microsoft Office Word.  I haven't checked if they are on the newer computer but I will soon.

I have seen junk journals on one of the programs on Create TV.  They looked like they would be fun and creative.  One episode showed various kinds of junk journals, including one that was put together from items on vacation.

So here are photos of the first two scrapbooks, as I wrote you will see that the first scrapbook was not used as a journal and the second was used as a journal but not meant to be very artistic.  Sorry for the glare, it is cloudy outside so I had to take photos under the florescent light in the kitchen.