Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Change of seasons


After a summer of wicked heat and humidity, I think Fall has finally arrived.  I expect some would say wicked is a little over-the-top but I'm pretty certain many fellow sufferers are shaking their head in agreement.

I have never been a Summer person, with this odd combination of very dark hair and very fair skin, I could get a sunburn walking from the car to the beach, much less spending hours sitting on the sand baking in full sun.  While I may feel a bit of nostalgia at the aroma of Coppertone in a tube... it is probably the summer friendships I knew as a teenager and not the actual season I'm remembering.  No, the heat of Summer was never welcome.

So... I have to admit to a bit of stomping my feet and holding my breath in my dissatisfaction with the unseasonably hot September.  I haven't even had a sip of my beloved pumpkin spice latte.  Somehow it didn't seem appropriate in the smothering humidity.

However, as happens each year, the seasons are changing and the cool air we longed for has arrived.  The flannel housecoat has come out from the back of the closet, pumpkin bread is baked, and a throw was needed as I stretched out on the sofa with Becoming Mrs. Lewis and the Autumn issue of Victoria at my side.

It is no secret that I love that season which... in my vocabulary... begins with Fall and ends in full Autumn splendor.  For the falling of the leaves has been happening far before the temperatures indicated a change of season.  Those leaves remaining on the trees have yet to shed their green outer garments to display the glorious color they have been hiding from our view.

I desperately need Fall this year.  I need to have nature envelope me with the feeling of a chilly breeze and the aroma of leaves turning to mulch on the ground below my feet.  I need wood smoke and pullover sweaters and hot apple cider.

Mostly I need God.  The Father.  The Son.  The Holy Spirit.

As I write, only one eye sees clearly.  I fight my own personal little war against this fallen world by reading books and perusing magazines and reading recipe cards... all through the blurry vision.  I don't let it stop my everyday life any more than it has to and this lack of clear vision merely slows me down.

It makes me think of the message of the Bible when God tells us we see through a glass darkly.  My view of Him is written in His Word but experienced through the fuzzy focus of this present day world.  I must keep walking the direction He has laid out before me, even if the path is far from the clarity I desire.

In the meantime, until that day when we will see all things clearly, I appreciate the gifts He gives that encourages us as we walk the journey.  The Beauty that is around us this time of year. The echoes of Eden we see and hear if we have our eyes on their Creator.  No matter how fuzzy our vision.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Becoming Mrs. Lewis... here.  (Full review October 2nd.)

Image:  Nostalgic-Mini by Clement Micarelli

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - More than three days


It is cold here today, which would be very welcome if the heat index had not been nearly 100 degrees on Thursday.  One feels every muscle ache as they grow older and Mother Nature plays such tricks.  Living in the Midwest, you would think I would be used to such weather extremes by now.  ;)

Other than the falling-off-the-cliff temperatures, I am beyond ready for the coolness of true Autumn.  I was born to hygge.  (Can I make that a verb?)  Bring on the cold weather cooking and baking!

The title of today's post actually is not about cooler temperatures but being prepared for whatever nature may bring.  While watching scenes from Wilmington, NC this week and trying to imagine what it would be like to have a city that size completely cut off from roads coming in or going out... it reminded me of Katrina.

I don't know if you read very much of the Emergency Preparedness information put out from the government before Hurricane Katrina.  I did as an Administrator on a preparedness forum.  The government's suggestion was for each household to have three days worth of food and water on hand.  Their assumption was that by three days, the government would be there to rescue you.

Then Hurricane Katrina happened.  Every expectation of government assistance was shattered as we watched people dying before our eyes on national TV.  Not because of a war but right here... in a major city... on our own soil.

Though the Category 5 hurricane became a Category 3 when it hit landfall, the winds and the water rushing in to totally unprepared parts of the city was shocking. Over 1200 people died because of Katrina with most water deaths caused by the breach of the levee system.

However, they had been warned.  Experts had predicted that New Orleans could easily be flooded from a hurricane for a very long time.  I haven't studied everything that happened and why it happened as there was a lot of finger pointing and name calling and the Truth is somewhere in all of the arguing.  After the fact. 

Not to mention the shooting and looting and the breakdown of polite society.  It happened as we watched through the lens of the TV news. It was the Wild West in the Gulf before the military was brought in and along with it the order that comes with a military takeover.  At least when the General in charge is a good man and the military is on our side.

The biggest change after Katrina that I saw directly (I am certain there is a lot that happened behind the scenes) was the Emergency Preparedness information provided by the government.  They now suggested at least one week's worth of food and water in each household.  Some of the publications suggested up to three weeks instead of three days.  I don't remember reading as much about a government rescue after that hurricane, either.

So what does a hurricane have to do with someone who lives a couple hours outside of Chicago? What does the roads being cut off from food trucks going in and out of Wilmington have to do with most of us?  It is this... such events were in the realm of possibility but they still shock us when we see them happening.

There were a lot of lessons learned from what happened in Katrina and the residents of areas suffering from disasters since then have been the recipients of the wisdom and the advanced preparation. 

For individual households, I think the biggest lessons learned from Katrina are... 1) disaster situations can happen without warning, 2) we can become a victim of a natural disaster even when we least expect it, and 3) three days of preparation supplies are not nearly enough to keep us from being a victim.

Watching what has been going on in North Carolina has reminded me that I have put off purchasing some extra water way too long.  Should the power go out due to any storm, so does my ability to draw water from our well.  Fresh water is essential for people and pets. 

I prefer the gallon sizes (approximately) of water for general use, sometimes I can find containers that hold approximately two gallons.  Any bigger than that and I have trouble carrying them.  I also have a couple cases of regular individual bottles of water to use but in a long term water emergency, they do not provide large amounts of water but they do supply a lot of trash to be picked up later. We have had not one but two water emergencies since living here.

For being able to filter water available from rivers, creeks, etc., I highly recommend the Big Berkey.  That is what we have used for nearly twenty years.  We invested in one when we had the available funds and we haven't been sorry since then.  They are especially good if you have access to water that just needs to be purified.

I'm doing some more pondering that I will write about soon but if there is one thing I hope you do, if you haven't already... add bottled water to your grocery list.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Big Berkey water purifying system... here.  (It is also linked to on the Amazon Widget for a few more weeks.)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Seeking peace in the age of Instagram


Recently I tapped the Instagram app on the Amazon Fire and felt that knot in my stomach I had been getting lately when I saw a person I follow had posted another Story available to watch.  Now, why would I follow someone who has this affect?

Well, she has a way with words that is beautiful and many of my "friends" also follow her.  So, of course, I needed to view what she had to say throughout each week.  Except... I don't.  For she was robbing my much sought after peace.

Which is ironic for she writes a lot about being spiritual and seeking peace and being kind to people and caring about those whom the world undervalues and racial reconciliation and showing love to people... but there is a catch.  She has more and more included snarky comments about those who do not agree with her politics and worldview.  That would be people like me.

What I realized this week was that snarky is just as arrogant and uncaring when clothed in poetic prose as it is on a Twitter feed of a few characters.  I don't even follow Twitter but I hear about it enough to know I do not belong there... not while seeking peace.

So why am I, in the one social media location I consider my Happy Place, following someone on purpose who maligns my beliefs and uses beautiful prose to fuel antagonism from others towards people like me?  That question was one I asked myself as I decided to follow no more.

Now, I'm not saying that I follow only people who agree with me on everything.  There are people that I know are completely different in their beliefs than I am.  However, they do not use poetry and prose to jab away at people who have conservative values.  Especially under the guise of being spiritual.

I love to listen to the teaching of Ravi Zacharias and I try to watch one of the showings of his teaching each week on TV.  Sometimes they just have the title of his name and other stations may title them, "Let My People Think".  Which is what they do... they make me think.

Recently he was in a Q & A session when he was asked about the morality of this age.  His statement was that as bad as it is today, there were times when it was worse such as in Ancient Rome.  However... and this was a big however... technology puts it in an entirely different perspective today.

There were a few reasons for this and I can only remember a couple that resonated with me at the time.  First, people can now have access to sin and evil in the palm of their hands all day every day.  Up until very recently, if someone wanted to look at certain photos or view certain acts, they had to get up and go somewhere.  Now it can be in front of their eyes immediately.

The second point he made was that at no time in history were people connected immediately as they are today.  Where as people had to get together in person to talk, they now have access to not a few but thousands of people at any one time in the palm of their hand.  Which intensifies the ability to see, hear, cause, and do evil.

Even when not using technology to do evil, it can certainly remove our peace.  Most often, we let it do so by our own choices.  It can not only take us towards thoughts we would have steered clear of before, technology can also distract us from that which is good... that which brings peace.

Ravi Zacharias stated that he had been asked to speak to the people at a Google conference.  He told the story about hearing a statement that while we have plenty of smart phones around, we have no wise phones.  He doubted the people at Google appreciated the statement, however true it is.

I view the technology which made social media available as a very good thing.  It enables me to keep in touch with family a thousand miles away.  It has provided blessed friendships with people I have never met.  I can watch a movie on a screen being held in my hands and download a book I want to read in a matter of seconds.

That was the stuff of Science Fiction not all that long ago.

Technology can do a lot but we must always remember that the choices remain ours.  If there is something in that technology that is robbing us of peace, then it is time to step back and reflect what that something is... as we remember no one is forcing us to read, follow, "like", look at, or listen to what that technology enables us to do 24/7.

I first learned this lesson during the past election in the States.  It certainly opened my eyes to how some people I have "known" online for years really felt about conservatives in general and Bible believing Christians specifically.  I can't tell you how many people I un-followed, un-liked, and even took off the blog list on the sidebar due to mean spirited and inappropriate words.

But I got lackadaisical again.  I read and watched in a trance-like state as I looked and clicked and swiped left for more... and wondered why I had lost my peace.  This past week, I awoke from the trance.  I saw how ridiculous it was to bring people into my home via social media... on purpose!... who maligned deeply held beliefs.  No matter how pretty they wrote.

I wonder if God sighs?  If so, He must have as His thoughts toward me had something to do with "she finally gets it".

Image:  From Facebook so I don't know whom to credit for the photo... for whom?... who?... I need an English Teacher app.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - What each storms teaches us



I originally wrote this post just after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf.  I was searching through all my prep and pantry posts when I saw this post again.  While it was not the one I was looking for, it speaks to the thoughts I had as we saw hundreds of people lined up at stores once again.  As with Harvey, it looks like the unprecedented amount of rain is going to be the big story once this storm is also history.

Written just a year ago...
I watched the eclipse as it made its' way from Northwest to Southeast on the Weather Channel.  From time to time, they left their eclipse coverage for weather updates and mentioned a little about Harvey.  They weren't too concerned about it but like a physician when one is experiencing unusual symptoms, they decide to "keep an eye on it".

Here it is less than a week later and the same channel is giving live coverage to a Category 4 storm as it brings destructive wind and rain to Texas.  I have a dear friend who lives in Corpus Christi and I was quite relieved to receive a message from her last night that they had evacuated but there was a chance they would have no home when they returned.  (Note:  They arrived home to find little damage!)

Harvey is reminding us today of how and why we should be prepared ahead of any disaster.  Of course, we prepare just a little differently according to where we live.  I don't need to put as much thought into a bug out bag as someone who deals with hurricanes has to do.  However, I learned that we needed one when the house was hit by lightening and the only thing I grabbed was my purse and Victoria!  (That was also when I learned to keep the kitty carrier where I could find it easily.)

We are again learning of the need to have water stocked as that seems to be an overriding need in all emergencies.  We learned when a pipe broke and we were suddenly without water for two weeks (there is that suddenly again) that we needed both larger containers of water and individual water bottles when none was available.  It also didn't take long to become very good at getting the most out of each drop of precious water.

Winter storms have taught me to fill up every container I have ahead of time with water, in addition to any we have stocked on shelves.  Since we have a well and the well pump runs on electricity, when the power goes out so does our water supply.  I fill pitchers full of filtered water to drink (keeping bottled water to use only if we must) and the dish pan gets filled with hot, sudsy water on one side of the sink with another dish pan full of clean water on the other side for rinsing.  Other containers are filled with water and left in the bathtub for flushing the toilet (our tub is old and doesn't hold water itself).

I've learned to, when any storm is expected, get all my laundry caught up and the dishes washed ahead of time.  I set disposable plates, bowls, drinking cups, and silverware on the kitchen counter to be ready.  The less dishes to wash, the further the water lasts if the power goes out.  I did all of this when the plumbers were here for two days putting in a new well pump.  It was good that I didn't have to use everything but it was all ready.

Once again, we saw photos online of empty grocery shelves.  I know there are many of us who have to stock a little at a time but by writing down our priorities, we can have enough to get by easily until most disasters are over.   It is essential to have at least a few days worth of food that does not need to be cooked.  Even a large city like Houston is telling their citizens not to use their water for anything without boiling it first today.  That is with the power out for many people.

Although we should always stock what we actually eat all the time, I've suggested before just walking down the aisles of your grocery store once in awhile, checking for items that would not need to be cooked.  For instance, we don't always think of canned fruit as an emergency item but it just needs to be opened and it provides liquid. 

When we know a storm is approaching, we need to top off the gas tank in our vehicle AND top off our food and other supplies as soon as that storm is mentioned.  That should insure you less lines and more of what you need being available.  Not only bread and milk but disposal diapers and baby wipes!  (Although I always tried to have one backup box at least when I had babies in the house.)

This is the time to check batteries for flashlights, lanterns, NOAA weather radios, etc.  My weather radio needs to be charged so I plug it in to charge once in awhile.  It does have a solar option if necessary in a disaster situation but it is very easy just to plug it in while there is power.

When a Watch comes... make sure every form of communication you have is plugged in and recharging!  Also, have an emergency communication plan ahead of time with family and friends.With both of my kids now living in different cities, I feel relieved when I know all is well with them.  Not to mention friends in hurricane zones!

When there is enough of a warning, it is the time to check with your pharmacy to see if  you can get essential medications.  Because of insurance restrictions, it isn't always possible but it's worth a try in an emergency situation to see if you can get a partial prescription refill.

Most disasters are not like a hurricane where the radar these days lets us know a few days ahead of time there will be a need for preparations.  Many are SUDDEN!  We need to have basic supplies on hand, at least a skeleton of a bug out bag prepared, either copies of important documents in the bug out bag and/or our documents in a container that can be quickly grabbed in an emergency, pet carriers in places where they are easy to grab (or like me, you will be holding a cat with back claws fighting you as firetrucks pull up!), and a way to communicate if at all possible.

We always think that emergency situations will not happen to us.  It was sunny outside when our house was hit by lightening.  I had no idea at all that within seconds, a lightening bolt would hit.  We in the Midwest have tornado watches but we have had twisters close by with no weather watch at all.  My friends in earthquake territory have no warnings of the upcoming shaking.

There is an old adage in the emergency preparedness community that I've found very true.  People seem to think if they do not prepare for an emergency then it will never happen to them.  We know that is not true.

So while we pray for the people dealing with Hurricane Harvey and help them all we can, let's learn what we can from each disaster.  Praying all my blog friends in the path of Harvey are safe!

Image:  Michael Gracyzk and Frank Bajak, Associated Press

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Spirit-Filled Life Bible: Jack Hayford, Editor - a review


A number of years ago, I purchased the First Edition of this Bible for my reference shelves.  It had been difficult to find a Study Bible from a Charismatic perspective that I was comfortable with.  Especially as a former Presbyterian.  To be honest, it had been impossible.

Then the Spirit-Filled Life Bible was published with Hayford as the editor.  I knew this was what I was waiting for.  I had read Jack Hayford's books and listened to his messages for years, long after I had decided my theology didn't line up with some other teachers at the time.

I made the mistake of leaving that Bible out on a table, only to have my husband pick it up and enthuse about it.  Needless to say, I never got it back to use as reference.  It became his go-to Bible for many years, only to be replaced by the Second Edition as a gift from his daughter when the first Bible was falling apart.  Even then it took awhile to make the switch as he copied years worth of notes to the new Bible.

So I was very interested to have a chance to look through this Third Edition.  I was pleased that it still is set up with the usual Bible verse references at the bottom of each page.  Also included are the sections I got so much out of as a reference Bible, which are titled: Truth in Action, Kingdom Dynamics, Praying the Word, and my husband's favorite inserts called Word Wealth (word studies from the Greek and Hebrew).

The Bible I was sent to review is genuine leather and has a feel about it that only real leather can give you.  However, it is also available in a Leathersoft Burgundy, Leathersoft Brown, and hardback.  As with most study Bibles, the font is small but not tiny so unless you are a reader that needs large print, you should be able to read it.

If you are of a Charismatic persuasion (especially if you are a former Presbyterian), I highly recommend this Third Edition of what is known in our house as "The Hayford Edition Bible".  You may not agree with the theology of every contributor but I have found most to be very sound in the many years we have owned a copy.

The NKJV Spirit-Filled Life Bible, edited by Jack Hayford, was provided by the Publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own. 

Specific information can be found... here.  (This links takes you to the genuine leather version, if you scroll down there are links to the hardback and leathersoft versions.)

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

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Life at the speed of time

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

This past week, I was taking a break from the gotta-do's of the day, relaxing in the overstuffed 1980's hunter green chair in the Study.  I had been reading through the second letter (in the canon of Scripture) that Paul sent to his son in the ministry, Timothy, and listening to music.

Ahhhh... but not just any music.  I was reliving the late 1990s when both of the kids lived at home and contemporary Christian music could often be heard, usually coming from a cassette player.  Well, it was the 90s.  I tell you, tears formed when Point of Grace began singing The Great Divide as I remembered when my daughter and her good friend would often sing this song (beautifully) as a duet.

I tried to remember the name of her friend but as hard as I tried, her name would not come to that place in my brain that remembers even good friends... but I have never been good with  names.  I still think of her when I decide to take the scenic route home from town and I turn left at the house her family once owned.

It is often mind boggling when I consider how fast the years have passed.  I've written before about being in my early twenties and reading a book by Edith Schaeffer, in which she talked about being sixty years old (as she pondered how quickly the years had gone by in her life).

In the above photo, I had just turned twenty and my brand new husband was twenty-seven.  We were on our honeymoon and I am pretty sure this was taken at Biltmore House, in North Carolina.  This was around the time I read Edith's book, written when she turned sixty.  At the time, I thought how old that sounded and then it seemed like I blinked and I had already turned sixty.

I don't know about you but sometimes I find the speed of life frightening.  Oh, not in a scary movie kind of way but in that sense that so much of what you wanted to accomplish is no longer possible.  One day you realize you can no longer do the same things you did so easily before.  Like sitting on the floor with your legs crossed Indian style (I do not know the politically correct word for this now) and being able to get up easily.  I no longer can do either.  ;(

That is why I now have Psalm 90:12 written on the chalkboard by my desk.  It reminds me to live life on purpose, to ponder each day and not let weeks pass without accomplishing at least something... like spending time in prayer for the country. 

That is when we gain a heart of wisdom.  When we stop, reflect, read His Word, talk to Him, listen to Him, surround ourselves with good books and devotionals that lead our thinking back to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For it is only in doing so that we can walk that journey He began for us on the day of our birth.  Actually, the Word says that He knew us before that... He knit us together in our mother's womb.

Sometimes I think we hear these verses so much that they no longer mean anything.  As in that beautiful artwork hanging in the living room that becomes almost invisible to us because we walk past it multiple times a day.  We only really notice it when we stop... think... look... reflect on its' beauty.

There is absolutely nothing we can do to stop this planet from rotating around the sun in such a way that we have only twenty-four hours in a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks in a year... with an extra day thrown in every four years.  Nothing.  Nada. 

However, God understands that our life is but a wisp and a vapor.  That is why He tells us to number our days... give them a consideration... do that which is set before us each day given our circumstances.  He no longer expects us to accomplish what we could when we were twenty.

This is a Truth I must constantly remind myself... that God does not require us to do more than that for which He has equipped us.  He equips and qualifies those He calls... at the right time.  You have this promise for what He calls you to do each season of life.

To be honest, I do not want to be twenty again... or thirty... or any past decade.  I have the grace for today and that is enough.  Yes, there are certain times of life that I miss, especially when there were four of us at home.  But that was then and this is now.

Perhaps the real secret of living each day is in the understanding that while our physical bodies will someday wear out... we have an Eternal life before us.  We are but pilgrims passing through now, having been given a directive to be an influence of our real Kingdom as we walk this journey.  We are not Home, yet.  "Keeping an eye on the prize before us" as we live one day at a time.  That is really all He asks...