Sunday, July 18, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Dinosaurs in the Land of Oz

A few years ago, I watched the final episode of a TV series that I actually hadn't watched very much.  It was wildly popular with young people but I was so uncomfortable when I tried to watch an episode that I didn't bother again.  I was curious what their final show would be about.  

What I saw was alarming and I hoped was not a shadow of what was to come, knowing how many high school age and millennials loved the show.  The primary story line was about two of the young women deciding to get married (this was not too long after it was legalized) and their "battle" with one of the girl's grandmothers.

To make a very long story short, the grandmother was a Christian who had raised one of the girls.  However, although the girl kept begging for her to come to the wedding, she stood firm in her decision not to attend because it went against her Christian principles.

Of course, the grandmother was demonized in the show but what shocked me the most was the speech the granddaughter's girlfriend gave the grandmother.  Telling her how she was full of hate and she could not wait until her entire generation died so the world would be a more loving place.  Cut to a choral dance number with everyone singing What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love.

There had been many subtle putdowns over the years but I had not viewed anything so blatantly anti-Christian on Prime Time television up to that point.  The irony, which I am certain was not seen by the writers or most of the viewers, was that the grandmother always spoke softly and kindly and it was the young people who spewed hateful speech.

The consensus was that everyone after a certain age were nothing more than dinosaurs still walking the earth.

On a lighter subject, during the COVID lock-downs, I heard a person say that they often felt like they were in the Land of Oz and wondered when the tornado hit that sent them there.  For there was little of what the world looked like at the moment that they could recognize as "home".

I knew exactly what they meant, the world had indeed changed almost overnight and this nation was also in the midst of political turmoil, race riots, and even within the churches there were great differences of opinions.

The world had changed overnight and here I was, a dinosaur in the Land of Oz trying to make sense of it!!!

At first, like everyone else, I was unsettled and while not actually afraid... I felt at times that feeling of being untethered.  One often does during seasons of change, when your own world does not look like it did just weeks ago.  However, the more I began to compare the changes in the world with what was written about Bible prophecy, I could once again tether myself to the Word of God.

It used to bother me that it seemed every author of a book about Bible prophecy had a different opinion of what was going to happen.  But then I heard one of the authors in an interview say that no one had all the answers, yet.  We do look through a glass darkly and he thought God allowed that on purpose.  As we drew closer to the return of Christ, the lens through we view eschatology would become clearer and clearer.

It was during the COVID lock-downs that I decided if I were to continue blogging, then I had to write more about my belief that this entire experience was a rather large birth pain that God had allowed.  No matter where the virus came from and if it was let out by accident (and yes, there is something very hinky about that story)... God still has to allow what is happening on this planet.

I knew if I talked about it, some people would stop following the blog altogether and that certainly happened.  I could tell from the amount of Amazon credit I received that a number of people had left that once entered their Amazon shopping through the widget or a link.  The amount of credit earned plummeted.

On one hand, I don't blame people at all for if they came here wanting to chat about books and tea time (which I have dreadfully neglected), then the subject of Biblical events was not what they signed up for.  

However, I prayed a lot about what God wanted me to do, from shutting down the blog completely, continuing to write about what is happening, or going back to just writing about books and such... I needed His answer and I found it as life never did return to normal.  I doubt it ever will, at least not completely back.  Pandora has been let out of the box.

What I felt God reminded me is that I needed to write about the very subjects that I needed to read.  So many churches today do not teach about the return of Christ.  When I was a younger Christian, the subject of Bible prophecy was taught a lot from the pulpit but as the churches changed... so did the subjects being taught.

The world is indeed growing darker and even as one who studied Bible prophecy since 1970-ish, I am alarmed at how quickly everything is changing.   Of course, it has been changing for a long time but it seems overnight that the fruit of those seeds planted have grown large and powerful.  

I remember when one of my kids was a baby, I had to take them out of the Easter service at my in-law's denominational church because they were fussy.  I perused the various tracts and reading material they had for people to take home and was shocked by one of the tracts.  

The entire tract was against Billy Graham's preaching and the concept that a person has to be born again to be a Christian.  No wonder this denomination strayed so far from its' founder.  It helped me understand why my in-laws, who were devoted to their denomination, were so critical of my husband and me for our work in conservative political causes.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn warned America long ago that if it kept up the way it was going, it would stop being a Christian nation and become more Socialist as Russia did long before that.  Francis Schaeffer warned America starting in the 1970s that unless there was a change in the Church, America was doomed to go the way of a post-Christian Europe.

More recently, men like D. James Kennedy gave the same warnings but as with the others, few people believed or heeded their warnings.  Rev. Kennedy often warned that our public schools and universities were becoming more anti-American each year but few believed him at the time.  How was that even possible?

Perhaps the most vocal pastor who warned what the future could hold was David Wilkerson.  He paid dearly for his warnings as he went from being one of the most popular preachers in the nation (especially after Pat Boone played him in The Cross and the Switchblade) to one of those most despised by those in liberal pulpits.  

If there is one good thing that has happened this last year, it is that some of those who have slumbered are waking up to the fact that these men (and there were women who fought valiantly against the tides of humanism) were indeed speaking Truth.

So, I expect that those who will continue reading this blog are people who also feel like dinosaurs in the Land of Oz.  I promise to continue to be as encouraging as possible because I do not trust in emotions or in our various political systems or even (especially) what I read and watch in the media... I am tethered to the Word of God and it is very encouraging!

He tells us that when we are weak, He is strong!  He reminds us that His angels are protecting us and yes, there will come a day when each of us will go Home to be with Him.  We can't choose how or when or why but we know WHO we spend Eternity with.

As I've mentioned before, I have trained my husband (kinda) to say Maranatha instead of complaining about the way the world is today.  Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!  I remind myself that when I start to long for the world as it was in Andy Griffith or Father Knows Best.  Of course, it wasn't perfect but it was culturally more Judeo-Christian.

In the meantime, those of us who are still abiding on the planet have a work to do whether it is praying for our family and friends, introducing our Lord to those who do not know Him as Savior, or to give a cold drink of water in His name.  

Each one of us has a purpose that only we can do for God.  Especially spending time in prayer each day for those we love.  We live in an age where many are being deceived, just as it was predicted in the Bible.  I pray daily that my loved ones have God's Wisdom and His Discernment in all things. 

Image:  Wizard of Oz movie

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Unexpected Emergencies

Well, I guess most emergencies are unexpected by default!  I have had one of two broken teeth extracted already but the week before last, the other broken tooth become infected out of nowhere.  My dentist had decided not to make it a priority because it hadn't given me any trouble. She was also surprised it became infected.

I had a triage appointment this last week and I'm on antibiotics for an extraction mid-week. I have been getting a few small cavities filled, one each month for budget purposes, obviously this tooth became the priority.  By the end of the year, I hope to have all of my dental work updated.

I was asked before why I had the previous tooth extracted instead of a root canal. It was partly because I do not have dental insurance so I have to pay for the procedure but also because my teeth are so fragile that they would continue to break due to complications from Type 1 diabetes.

On Saturday, what started out as a simple change of a well water filter left us without water for a couple of days when my husband had to buy a new canister and the newer model was larger than the previous canister.  This required the plumbing to be changed.  Thankfully, our plumbers make those who have had to turn off their water system a priority on Monday morning.

This was definitely not our first water emergency and we were the most prepared for it than we ever had been before.  As with most things, the more experience you gain, the better you are at handling it the next time it comes around.  Since this was a cartridge size change that was inevitable, I'm glad it happened now instead of during a lock down.

I had gallons of water stored already that had been previously opened and refilled, they were labeled and used for anything other than drinking water. Of course, there were also some gallons of drinking water stored. The gallon containers we used that previously held store bought water will be filled with tap water and labeled for using in bathrooms, to water plants, etc.  

I have already purchased three more new gallons of drinking water to replace those we used this past week and I will purchase more soon.  I like to get the sturdy brands these days since I reuse the containers. They are very inexpensive so it is not the cost, it is more the weight of water that causes me to limit the amount each time.

As far as the pantry, I thought the comment from last week about purchasing food for the Holidays was very wise and I purchased two cans of pumpkin last week.  I have cans already purchased last year that I will use this Fall but these have a Best Used By date of December 22, 2022 and will be good far beyond that date.  

I usually try to keep at least six newly purchased cans of 100% pumpkin on the shelves after the Holidays for making pumpkin bread, pie, etc. the rest of the year.  That is also why I freeze cranberries that I can only purchase during the Holidays.  Orange cranberry quick bread is a favorite no matter what time of the year.

It really isn't too early to start purchasing butter if you have room in your freezer.  It lasts a very long time when frozen.  I still had a turkey in the freezer last fall that I had bought the previous year.  I defrosted it for soup last Fall and it was fine. 

There was a comment asking if one can freeze pasta sauce that is near its' Use By date.  Yes, you can pour it into a freezer bag or into a freezer container and freeze it but you don't have to.  It will be good for quite awhile past the date.  I remember when I was learning a lot about the pantry over twenty years ago, someone had written that your food doesn't suddenly go bad on midnight of the Use By date.  Hmmm... good point.

I would make certain that can or jar gets put on a shelf where you can see it easily as a reminder that it needs to be used before any other recently purchased jar of pasta sauce.  Anything made with an acidic vegetable or fruit does need to be watched more carefully than others, so I always give it the sniff test if it is a year or more past the date and I never open anything that is dented or bulging.

Other non-acidic foods will last long after the date, just give each can the same sniff test before eating it and do not open the can if bulging.  Meat in a can usually has a Use By date that is years out from the purchase date.  So do many vegetables.  I have heard of people opening cans of green beans a few years past the date and they were fine but I don't buy THAT many cans and I make certain to rotate everything.

If you want to put canned goods back without worrying about them, one way is to check the dates on the cans and then put veggies with a Use By date in the same year in a box, fruit with the Use By date in the same year in a box, etc.  That way you can put them back and then see labeled on the box what needs to be taken out at the beginning of each year.

Cans that have a flip top opening need to be used sooner than cans that do not.  Their seal is not as good and some people who did not rotate them have found the cans have broken open on their own.  However, if you rotate by putting the recently purchased cans in the back each time, you should be fine.

If you store canned goods for emergency purposes in a closet or any location that you don't use often, it is important to write on the calendar when to check the dates on those canned goods.  Then you can put them on your kitchen shelves, replacing them with recently purchased canned goods to put back in the closet.  

Always store an extra can opener with any box you don't use regularly, even if it an older can opener that is extra because you bought a new one for the kitchen.  It would be frustrating in an emergency not to be able to open the cans.  Of course, if your main can opener is electric, by all means have one or two non-electric can openers on hand, too.

As for my kitchen pantry, I decided I needed to think out of the box a little more.  I prefer basic foods for my pantry such as baking items, vegetables, fruit, rice and pasta, etc.  But I decided to try a couple items that had been recommended on YouTube.

My first new attempt at a vegetable was the Glory Foods Seasoned Southern Style Country Cabbage.  I bought it at Meijers but I know it is available at other stores.  I bought a can and tried it.  I liked it even though it was kinda' mushy and heavily seasoned with bacon but that is the way my mother cooked her cabbage and her green beans so it was okay.  It was a little salty, which could have come from the bacon, too.

My husband, who is not a huge cabbage fan in the first place, walked in the kitchen and asked what that horrible smell was.  He couldn't stand being in the kitchen at all until it went away.  So, I made a note to self that a couple of cans in the pantry would be a nice change of pace for me but it should be kept for when he was going to be out of doors for awhile.  ;)

My other new attempt last week was to try a couple Hormel Compleats that had been recommended.  They are a true pantry food being shelf stable meals that heat up by microwaving for 60 seconds.  These were items that were in short supply or unavailable during lock downs, which is when I first saw people talking about them.

I decided to try the turkey and dressing as well as the chicken breast with potatoes and gravy.  I opened the turkey and dressing up and vented the top before microwaving for 60 seconds.  I was surprised at how good it tasted.  The seasonings were just right and while the consistency was not like homemade, it was decent.   

A few days later, I tried the chicken breast with mashed potatoes and gravy.  I forgot to vent it but it only popped in the microwave and didn't make a mess, thankfully.  However, I found this one so very salty that it was hard to eat.  Which is too bad because the food itself was good.

That is why it is always good to try something new before stocking up.  I would not stock a lot of cabbage but a couple cans would be good.  I will not buy the Hormel chicken and potatoes dinner again but I will definitely buy the turkey and dressing.  At $1.99 a meal, they offer a good shelf stable pantry item for one or two people households.  I will try a few more of the variations, too.

One of the things I had on hand already during the tooth infection was zero sugar lemon lime soft drinks.  I found the Kroger brand to be very good and even my husband, who does not need sugar free drinks, thought it was good.  I plan to restock it just for hot weather.

I was finally able to find sugar-free Vernors at Meijer.  If you have lived in Michigan, you may be familiar with Vernors Ginger ale.  It has a very strong ginger taste that makes other brands seem weak.  I wasn't able to find any for a long time, even in other Midwestern states.  Now there is a carton put back for tummy troubles!

Hopefully, these are the last of the emergencies we've seen.  Oh, I didn't mention that our riding lawnmower could not be fixed.  Sigh...  Does anyone else look forward to a perfect world?

Mentioned in this Blog Post

Hormel's Compleat Turkey & Dressing meal... here.  (Package of Six, which is about the same as what they cost at Meijers.)

Monday, July 12, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Tea - God understands our need for Beauty

A little over a week ago, I found myself in town when the clock turned 5:00 and the evening rush hour traffic was in full force.  It had been a long day of running errands and I very tired.  I decided, however, to take the long route home.  While it may have taken more time than when I drive through forested areas, this route lets me leave the traffic sooner and I got to drive past the fields that were planted in spring.

With all the craziness in the world today, I have been going out of my way to look for those things which lead me to True North.  Whether seasonal beauty in nature or tweaking the beauty in my home, I am in desperate need of visual beauty and I find Midwestern crops growing in the fields quite lovely.

In this case, I was also curious to see if the corn was indeed "knee high by the 4th of July".  For if it was, then all was well with the agricultural world on my little bit of earth.  I was happy to see that the soybean fields were lush from all the rain and humidity and the corn was indeed... well over knee high.  Just as it has been every good growing season that I can remember.

Of course, I must insert here for the farmers who read this blog that these fields are growing feed corn and it does not mature until the Fall.  I always look forward to seeing feed corn drying in the fields in October, turning that color which crayons would call maize. We do, however, purchase sweet corn each year from a local farmer and that corn is a newer hybrid that is harvested in July.

I normally would have taken the long route home a few times by now but this has been a very hot, humid, and rainy summer so I admit to spending more time looking out of the windows of our house than actually enjoying scenery in the midst of nature.  For that, I live vicariously through my friend, Heather's, Instagram account.  

There were many lessons learned through the COVID experience but one was a reminder of how much I needed a calm sense of beauty in my house.  It is only a short time each year that I can view red geraniums, coleus, lemon thyme, sage, basil, mint, oregano, and other flowers and herbs through the windows or while washing dinner dishes. 

I need to have objects around me that make my heart sing and while many are used regularly, there are those that were invited to the party only because they make me smile as I pass by them.  Like the cow print that hangs in the kitchen which my daughter bought for my birthday.  I love cows.  She told me about receiving an Instagram message on her phone saying that Brenda has sent her a photo of a cow and her first thought was, "The story of my life".  :)

As one grows older, we tend to accumulate more stuff just because we like to hang on to things through the years.  However, like so many people, we decided to do a lot of decluttering during the COVID lock-down and quite a lot was sent to charity for someone else to appreciate.

I still have a lot of stuff but everything is there now because it means something.  I do also still tweak the shelves and decorations and by doing that, will send something to charity for another to enjoy receiving at an inexpensive price.  A few weeks ago, I decided to get rid of a small vintage casserole dish I didn't use (I do use the larger casserole), creating space to display the two sets of vintage Pyrex bowls, purchased as orphan bowls very cheap.

All the bowls get used eventually and they make me smile when I am using them.  My earliest days of dreaming of homemaking was in the 1960s and I remember thinking the kitchens were so beautiful back then.  Both the "modern" 1960s kitchens and the kitchens of older women I visited, which were 1930s-1950s cozy. It's amusing that the once modern 1960s/1970s accessories are considered vintage.

While my kitchen is the most vintage filled room in the house, the other rooms display some collections which were accumulated over the years for pennies on the dollar while thrifting.  I'd rather to go to a thrift store, Goodwill, or the antique mall than to shop at Kohls or Macys.

When I had to go to Sam's Club recently, I stopped at my favorite antique mall to enjoy walking the aisles and to look for two very small cranberry glass goblets that were only a few dollars each.  I had seen them when my daughter was in town but it wasn't until I was later looking at the shelves on the hutch that I realized those two little cranberry goblets would have added a perfect accent of color there.  Thankfully, they were still available and yes... they make my heart sing and for a very small price. 

Now, I fully understand that things cannot replace filling our hearts with God's Word and listening to inspiring music.  They have their own place in our lives and in our homes.  As do very good books and quality entertainment.  I don't walk in peace if I have not spent time in His Word and talked to Him throughout the day (hopefully getting quiet enough to listen).

However, if we spend a lot of time in our homes, then we must look at them no differently than when we plant flowers in our gardens.  We need to think about what fills our hearts with joy that we look at each day.  I always pray before I go to Goodwill, a thrift store, furniture shopping, even shopping for a bouquet of flowers at the grocery store.  I ask God to lead me to that which I will find beautiful and that is within my budget.

He cares so much about our surroundings that one of the important things He told the disciples before leaving was that He was going to prepare a place for them (and them includes us).  Jesus is the contractor for our Heavenly homes!  I'm pretty certain He also cares about where we live now, for God is our Creator and He knows how surroundings can affect us.

The world is changing faster than I ever thought possible in my lifetime.  We must find those aspects of our life that will ground us as the hurricane force winds of adversity surround the nations in general and our little part of the world in particular.  

We must hold on to the True North of God's Word.  I am so thankful for the sound teaching I received as a young Christian where I was introduced to teachers like Francis Schaeffer and Edith, who was my homemaking mentor through her books. My early in-person teachers made certain that I would know whose books held sound Biblical doctrine, even if there were minor denominational differences.

My husband's family remained in the denomination he was raised in and their theology became very different than what it was when he was a child. He often told me how much he noticed the change in the teaching when we would visit his hometown.  He was thankful for the excellent teaching he received while in college and grad school from Campus Crusade for Christ and The Navigators.

I also find it easier to hold on to True North when listening to favorite Christian music although, yes, I do also like other genre. But most of the time our car radio is set to K-Love, unless I notice it is time for Alistair Begg's radio program on Moody Radio.  There is something about good theology with a Scottish accent.  ;)

However, it really does help to have Beauty in the home for we were created to appreciate what is lovely.  We have to give ourselves permission to invite the Beauty to be part of our life, whether it is an art print that makes us smile, a lovely mug for our morning coffee, purchasing a beautiful calendar to enjoy as each new month arrives each year, or simply adding a bouquet of pretty flowers to the grocery cart.

Don't let the enemy of your souls make you feel guilty because you need beauty.  He was once considered God's most beautiful creation, the loveliest of them all... and he will never get that back.  So, I'm kinda' thinking that is why he either perverts our need for beauty by causing us to fall into sin or greed or envy or some other kind of dreadful emotion... or, his minions whisper in our ears that our God given desire for beauty is wrong.

That is why we need to know God's Word, for throughout the sixty-six books of the Bible, God pronounces His love of Beauty throughout the chapters.  His final promise to us in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation is a picture of the Beauty that awaits.  

All of our longing for that which is beautiful will not be truly met until that day when all is made new again.  I am looking forward to it!

Mentioned in this Blog Post

Heather's Instagram Account (thenaturejournaler)... here.  She also has the best art journaling classes!

Note:  Yes, this was published on Monday.  Sigh...

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Traversing the unexpected and thinking of Christmas already

We attended a birthday party for a five year old girl this morning.  How did five years go by since Piper was born?  It doesn't seem possible but the unicorn themed celebration reminded us that indeed... Piper has turned five.  My daughter-in-law puts on such a lovely and magical (Narnia magic, of course) party.

That was going to put me late in writing today but an unexpected plumbing emergency took up even more time.  The plumber has been called and the water is shut off to the house.  At least I had done one load of laundry before leaving for the party this morning.

The one thing I read about this week that I wanted to talk about today is that it would be wise to purchase Christmas gifts ahead of time this year.  A few experts I follow have been talking about the probability of shortages this Holiday season.  Then last week, one of them reported that the lead time between the stores placing their orders wholesale and receiving the shipments used to be about seventeen weeks.  

Now it seems that many buyers are experiencing fifty-two week lead times.  It doesn't take anyone to be a math expert to know that those lead times would take us into next summer.  No one is talking about the "hot new toy" for Christmas 2021, yet.  The discussion is about what will be available... period.

I did my Christmas shopping all year round when my kids were young.  That was to help with budgeting and to find things I knew they would enjoy that were available at other times of the year.  This was before you could find swimwear on Amazon in January.  It was especially fun to look for stocking stuffers when at an amusement park during the summer.

This was also necessary since my son's birthday falls on or around Thanksgiving and my Daughter's birthday is in December.  Year round Christmas shopping took the pressure off of the Holiday season budget.  Of course, if they had their heart set on a specific toy, then we would try to buy that one for them or their grandparents would. Which is how both my mother and a very young Stephanie both owned Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.  ;)

Perhaps families will be encouraged to return to some of the simpler joys of gift giving at Christmas.  I first started giving homemade baked goods and candies to help our budget and then I found out friends and family I gave them to preferred them to other gifts.  I have received homemade gifts from friends that I love and either display or use often.

Honestly, some of my most creative ideas and times of learning have come during seasons of economic distress.  It is human nature that we sometimes need a nudge to get out of our old habits, like going to the Mall during Christmas week in a panic to hunt for gifts.  (I haven't done that since I worked full time but still... been there!)

Sometimes I think people forget how special books can be to receive as Christmas gifts.  Especially beautifully illustrated children's classic books.  There are some lovely editions these days.  I am adding Brambly Hedge books to Piper's collection a little at a time, just as I did for Elisabeth all those years ago.  While usually in stock, there is always that chance one will see those horrible terrible three words one day... Out of Print.

From what I have been reading, I also would not put off purchasing next season's clothing that is needed as soon as it is available.  I have read that there may not be as many options in some stores.  This would be especially true with growing children who have a need for the next size up in essential clothing like a coat or shoes.

Although, I recently enjoyed watching the Parisienne Farmgirl's YouTube video from two or three years ago where she took her teenage daughter shopping for a new wardrobe at the thrift store and how creative they were at putting outfits together.  That is an excellent skill to take into adulthood.  I get most of my clothes while thrifting but I admit that living near Goodwill and thrift stores in affluent communities help a lot.

It is kind of changing the subject but are you missing any stores that went under during COVID, yet?  I really miss Tuesday Morning.  I could find exceptional bargains there on specialty products I would not pay full price for at fancy stores.  So much has changed in only a year and a half!

Mentioned in This Blog Post

Parisienne Farmgirl video... here.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Tea - For Such a Time as This

I have always loved the 4th of July.  The American Revolution is my favorite period of history to study for it truly is the story of a miracle.  No matter what it looks like today, we must remember that God has placed us here for "such a time as this" and we have our own place in history.  For this reason, I am re-sharing a blog post about one of my favorite Biblical heroes.  Happy Independence Day!

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, July 03, 2021

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - There is always more to learn

I probably began my interest in preparedness as a child being raised by parents who went through the Great Depression.  Most of the people I met from that generation definitely had a preparedness mentality.  They knew what it was like to have the economy crash and suffer great shortages with the dust bowl raging in states where crops usually grew.

There was much suffering in those years but I can't imagine what it would be like these days should there be a great economic collapse of that magnitude as well as a dust bowl causing harm to crops.  For even as late as the 1930s and 1940s, if one did not live on a farm, they usually had close friends and relatives who did... or they had enough land in their backyards for a small Victory garden.

Today, according to statistics, a large percentage of people are located in cities. I think it is the same in other countries where so many young people over the past century moved to cities from the farms.  I have noticed from my reading and research, just how much knowledge was lost in these moves.  These days, I wonder how many people could live as one did in the early 1900s.

My interest in preparedness led me to becoming an Admin on a preparedness forum in the 1990s and it was there that I met many like-minded women, mostly (but not all) Christians who felt like God was leading them to learn all they could about being prepared for various situations.  Many of them became (and still are) friends, some that I met in person and others with whom I have planned a tea party in Heaven.

One of my closest friends was a woman who falls under the latter category.  She went to be with the Lord a few years ago and I still miss her wisdom.  She was quite a character and she was a perfect compliment to my more quiet and sedate way of living.  She used to tell me often that she believed God was sending us through "little t" tribulation to learn how to prepare others for the "big T" Tribulation.  

I'm not sure how long people would survive in the "big T" Tribulation but I do think we have been experiencing the birth pains for awhile.  Doesn't it seem they are now coming closer together and the changes in society become bigger each year?  Of course, COVID really changed the entire world.

I am often thankful for the lessons God led us to learn during those years of difficulties and less income.  In many ways, it is more of a way of living than just having skills.  For instance, we have skills we normally would not have learned if we paid to have work done instead of learning how to fix something.

We loved going to various restaurants and trying new foods... well, the kids and I liked to try new foods but Hubby... not so much.  He tended to enjoy his old favorites. However, when we had less income available for restaurants, I learned to copy favorite dishes to serve at home at a fraction of the cost.  I had always liked to cook but I became a very proficient cook and baker, as did my daughter.

There is always something new to learn, whether it is a recipe, learning a way of stocking the pantry, learning to garden and to preserve food... lots of things to learn and with the Internet... lots of ways to learn.  We just have to be discerning.  Just twenty years ago, who would have thought we could learn new stuff while holding a tablet in our hands and watching TV on the tablet?  

[I know I'm digressing but does anyone else think of Star Trek the Next Generation when reading on the Kindle?]

Now, as far as my pantry preparedness is going... this past week, I was writing out my shopping list for our monthly stock up day (how is it the beginning of another month already?) when I decided to check my canned goods to see if there was anything missing or that needed to be replaced.  It is a good thing I did because I hadn't realized I had purchased a couple extra cans of ground beef when I already had a couple put back.

They will definitely get used but I'm glad I had taken the time to see what was on the shelf so I added one can of beef and one can of pork to the grocery list.  I already have a few cans of chicken on the shelf.  Although these have a long shelf life, I am already beginning to rotate them into meal plans now so I best know how to use them.

It was smart of Kroger to sell their canned Essenhaus meats in a display along side their various Essenhaus dried noodles.  For both their canned meats would make excellent chicken and noodles or beef and noodles.  I already had those meals in mind in rotation.

Essenhaus canned meats are processed the same as Keystone meats in the can with only sea salt added.  While I have never pressure canned meat, the consistency is suppose to be the same as the home canned meats.  I'm told they work well to make any recipe that cooked beef, chicken, pork, and ground beef would be used.

So, because of this, I am once again looking through the cans on my pantry shelf and looking to see if I have available what it would take to make a meal, for that is why I have a pantry!  I do have the usual items like dried noodles and other pasta, rice, canned potatoes (which taste best when sauteed in some oil or butter first), and other food like various regular and baked beans.

But I am doing some research on YouTube to see how others use canned meat.  I hear the canned cooked pork makes very good pulled pork sandwiches when something like Sweet Baby Rays barbecue sauce is added, so I bought two bottles of the barbecue sauce when it went on sale for 99 cents.  I expect the beef would be good with the sauce, too.

One of my favorite ways to doctor up ground beef is with Cowboy Casserole and I'm pretty certain the canned ground beef would work with it.  I'll add the link to the recipe below.  In case you can't tell, I only started adding any canned meat like these to the pantry a few months ago so I'm just now taking time to ponder how to best use them.  Prior to this, my go-to canned meat recipes were tuna noodle casserole and salmon patties!

I was asked about the smaller bottles of oil lasting longer.  Most definitely!  For air is one the reasons oil begins to go rancid quicker and air is introduced as soon as you open the seal of the bottle.  We buy the larger size of California Ranch 100% California olive oil now because we know we will go through it before it has a chance to go rancid.  We use it for its' health benefits as well as for making a tasty salad dressing so the larger bottle is less expensive per serving.

The smaller size bottles of the olive oil will be either used in an emergency for salad dressings or it will be rotated with the larger bottles if necessary.  If there is a reason it is difficult to buy California Farms olive oil (such as weather conditions or another shutdown), then I would ration the olive oil use, thus the smaller bottles.

However, we don't purchase really large containers of the canola oil we use for those rare recipes that call for frying (I am aware of the discussion about canola oil not being good for you but I don't use a lot of it).  I hope that answers the question!

Mentioned in this blog post:

My Cowboy Casserole recipe is... here

My Salmon Patties recipe is... here.

My favorite potato salad recipe... here.

Image:  Depression era photo used for ration book information