Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Not a Tame Lion


I am owned by two cats.  For as Garfield once said, "No one owns a cat".  There is a lot of truth to that statement.

Indoor Kitty (aka: Florentine) was adopted from a kitty rescue place about a month after Victoria suddenly died.  She had been abused and was afraid of everything for months.  She only came out from under the bed to eat and use the kitty facilities that first week.

Outdoor Kitty (aka: Mouse) was found wandering and was rescued by my neighbor, who works at a veterinarian's clinic.  She had Mouse fixed and given her vaccines so she could wear a collar and not be picked up by Animal Control.  Although I think they only come out to the country if called for a specific reason.

These cats have a lot in common.  Florentine now thinks she owns the place and Mouse moved from my neighbor's porch to mine.  Both are given kibble, although Florentine also gets a serving of Sheba each day.  Both are provided water.  Florentine sleeps pretty much wherever she wants in the house.  Mouse sleeps pretty much wherever she wants on the porch.

Their obvious difference is that Florentine is a house cat and Mouse is... not.  Florentine is trained as much as you can train a cat.  If we are not giving her the food or attention she wants, we receive a gentle love nibble meant to make us aware of her presence.  Like a toddler, she does not always get what she wants.  She is also about as safe as an almost trained cat can be... at least most of the time.

Mouse is not.  Safe that is.  She is wild and as free as the wind.  She comes and goes as she wishes between her original porch, our porch, and various other porches close by that are part of her domain.  Although at least for now, our porch is her primary home.

I have to sit on the edge of the bench to see if Mouse wants attention. Apparently I am her favorite human right now so she sometimes sighs and jumps up on the wicker table next to the porch bench and lets me gently pet her.  Mostly in the morning and when it is not humid.  I have learned not to touch her when it is hot and humid.  I fully understand her feelings regarding humidity.

While Florentine will give a gentle love nibble if she wants our attention, Mouse gives a more forceful love nibble if she does... not!  God forbid you are petting her and hit a soft spot!  That is the only time she truly sunk her teeth into my hand.  I think while we have Florentine almost trained... Mouse has us trained.  No, she is still a wild cat.

One morning this week, while sitting on the bench trying to discern what mood Mouse was in that day... for when she is in a good mood, she is a lovely kitty... I thought of the scene in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when Mr. Beaver tells the children...
Mr. Beaver said, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you…  He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
At that moment, I thought of how many of the parables of Jesus had to do with the items the people listening to him were acquainted with in their everyday life. They understood planting seed, fishing in the sea, sea salt, olive oil, lamps, shepherds, and everything he talks about to those around him.

Mouse reminded me of the description of Aslan... who taught me more about Jesus.  She has an affection for us but she is not tame like Florentine.  No, I cannot put Mouse in a behavioral box.  She cannot be kept in a house with four walls, she is too wild for that. 

As I sat there petting Mouse on the head, for she was in a mood to be admired, I thought of how we attempt to put God in a box as if He were tame.  We try to recreate God in our image, not the other way around.  We expect from God human traits and He is not human.  He is Love, yes... but He is also Holy. 

There have been times when I have tried to explain to God why I really really need something in my life.  Whether it be a thing, a healing, a miracle, or simply a cup of coffee (yes, I talk to Him about coffee and pizzas and chocolate).  Sometimes there really is a miraculous provision of a true need like a healing and one that is only a deep desire... like a pizza.

However, most of the time my whining and pleading works no more than when I am talking to Mouse.  Not that Mouse is a god but you get my point.  If God indeed became everything I wanted him to become then He would not be truly God.  He would be a manipulation of man and that, my friends, He is not.

I'm certain I could ponder this even more but why make something so simple more complicated?  Aslan is not a tame lion.  But he is good.  So is God.  When we do not understand what He is doing, we must remember that He is working all things (eventually) to our good and His glory.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis... here.

I also love this hardback edition of The Chronicles of Narnia... here.
(Beware that the paperback version offered is actually a boxed set and not one volume like the hardback.)

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - That never happened before

I had a long blog post written about Laine's Letters with a link to the website where she archived everything.  It worked for me all week but when I shared it here, I only found a "domain for sale" page.

I tried numerous times for the right page to come up again but it didn't.  I have no idea what happened but I will research it and see if I can get it again.  That was a first!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Westward Journey, a review


I am pleased to introduce you to another first time author, Anastasia Tarkington.  Her book, Westward Journey: The Trail is a Dangerous Place, is about young Colleen Northam and how she takes on the responsibility of leading the cattle to market when her father is injured.

To do so, she must disguise herself as a young man to those she has hired to help her on the trail.  There is danger along the way, the need for perseverance, and even a promise of romance.  I found the story believable.

Westward Journey combines a faith based story with a heroine teenagers especially would enjoy.  I appreciate how, within the story, we see character traits shown that are important for young people to know and understand.

I highly recommend this book, not only for teens but for any reader wanting a good story that does not take a long time to read.

Westward Journey was provided by the author for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be found... here.

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

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Tea - What this season of life has taught me


The forest around me is about as lush and thick as it ever gets in Summer.  Everywhere one looks, we are surrounded by various shades of green.   However, there are signs here and there that the end of this season is almost upon us.

Leaves are dropping from tree limbs, most likely dry from the lack of rain after too much rain earlier in the season.  The sound of the cicadas provides an odd sort of music when I am trying to get to sleep.  The black walnut tree is heavy with green orbs about ready to fall on the ground... and my roof.  Soon the squirrels will become... squirrely.

The older I get, the more I am always ready for the end of Summer and the arrival of Fall.  I don't do heat very well and it has been hot and humid.  The kind of humidity that can be felt even when the air conditioning is cooling the air inside the house. We have been graced with a few cool-ish mornings recently.  A wink of what is to come.

I was sitting on the porch bench on one of those cool mornings this week, before the rising temperatures would remind me it is August.  So often I just want to drink in the beauty of the surrounding trees and the morning birdsong.  It is my favorite time of day in hot weather.

But this time I was thinking about the end of Summer and how the trees are almost ready for another cycle of nature... the fading of the green, the showing off of color that had been hidden all Summer, the drying and dropping of the leaves to return to the soil and provide nutrients to begin all over again come Spring.  One could begin humming The Circle of Life about this time... and I am sorry if the tune stays with you all day now that I've mentioned it.  It does have a way of doing that.

I was thinking how I wish I knew then what I know now... then being the decades that came before my sixties.  I truly understand that wisdom... and a certain amount of peace... has come only because of what I went through then.  But it would have made going through it much easier if I realized that at the time.

There were times in my life that I was disappointed with God.  I think all of us go through that, which is why Philip Yancey's book, Disappointment With God, became such a best seller.   It is something we all feel at times if we are honest.  God can handle our disappointment and it only becomes a problem if we let it lead to bitterness.

I have long understood that He much prefers our honesty over our pouting and when we ask truly wanting to hear from Him... well, He has always found a way to answer my hard questions.  Sometimes there have been actual answers.  Other times He uses the Word to assure me there is an answer but it may come in Eternity.  Most of the time, I hear that still small Voice saying... trust me.

I think one of the most important answers I have received over the years is the realization that my disappointment is not so much with God but with what I was taught about God.  For instance, for a few years early in our marriage, we attended a couple churches that taught the newly popular "health and wealth" message.

Let's just say I am glad I had very good theological instruction before those years for I still struggle at times to get that out of my mind.  What I realize now is that this teaching is very much works oriented and it is no different than the Pharisees demanding the new Christians follow the Law.  

When our first baby died, it was highly suggested that it was because my faith was not strong enough so he was born too early.  They taught if one is sick or suffering in any way, then there is sin in their life.  It always came down to God deciding our destiny because of our works and not the Work of Christ on the Cross.

Now, I fully understand that sometimes we suffer because of our actions.  For instance, we now know smoking can cause lung cancer so if we smoked, that can cause the illness. It is just a Truth in this fallen world that smoking leads to cancer cells.  It doesn't even mean that anyone who smokes is a bad person.  It certainly doesn't mean that just because one suffers in any way, they are walking in sin.

Fortunately, I had been grounded in the writings of men and women of sound doctrine before attending these churches.  I still remember the Sunday we were leaving church and I turned to my husband and told him that I did not want to go back to that teaching.  He stayed for awhile because the teaching of possible healing meant so much to him but eventually we changed churches to one with sound doctrine.  Not perfect.  But good.

But the one time in my life I almost gave up on God altogether came as a result of that teaching still being strong in my mind.  The entire "name it and claim it" teaching is, if one is honest, quite legalistic.  For it is full of rules which, if not followed precisely as taught, means God cannot and will not work in your life.

I also found in the churches that teach this, the leadership especially tended to be very judgmental toward the flock when you dare to leave the teaching.  Let's just say that I would have had a good case for slander against church leadership and it was something I came to realize happened more than one would think.

It took a long time to find my way back to trusting God again.  I came to realize... He helped me come to realize... that my disappointment was not with who God really is.  My disappointment was with what some Christian teachers made me think God was.

I wish I could say such things never happened again.  No... they did.  A few times, actually, through the decades.  But as I gained more trust in who God really is, what the Word really says about Him... I also came to realize that often my gripe was not with God so much as... dare I say it... Christians.  Not all of them, not even all that many of them, but it tends to be those who are the most negative toward us that we remember you know.

I asked a person I trusted one time why he thought I felt so shocked when I found Christians in the church saying and doing mean things against others.  He thought it was because we don't expect it in the church environment.  I think he was right for I didn't feel the same cutting shock wave going through me when a coworker said something mean.  Annoyed?  Yes.  Shocked.  Not so much.

I will admit that another lesson learned through all of this is to always be willing to "let it go".  He does not want us to hold anything against another person.  He makes it clear that we are to forgive others if we want our prayers heard.

We can't be Velcro Christians when it comes to hurts done to us, holding on to every little thing.  No... we have to Let. It. Go.  Release people and forgive them that hurt us.  Forgiving them does not mean what they said or did was right, it just helps release us from their affects on our life.

All of this to say that as the decades have gone by and God has taught me one layer of Truth upon another layer of Truth upon yet another layer of Truth, in His Word and in giving me wisdom by good teaching of sound doctrine... I long ago realized it was not God who was disappointing me.

If we take the whole counsel of the Word and not cherry pick certain Bible verses sometimes taught out of context, then we know that the Word says we will suffer but He provides a way of rescue.  Most of the time we eventually walk through a trial.  Some people were healed.  Some people were not and went on to Heaven.  Some people were rescued.  Some people were sawed asunder and martyred.

In our finiteness, it is impossible for us to ever understand what God is always doing.  There are now certain times of suffering that I can look back and see God at work in it.  It is like a Eureka moment and I understand.  More so are the times that I still don't understand and that is when I have to trust Him.

That is the one phrase I hear over and over in that still small Voice when I pray.  Do you trust Me?  Do I trust His character?  Do I trust how He has brought us through before?  Even when I cannot understand what is going on at the moment?  YES!

Never perfectly, of course.  I still struggle with anxiety off and on.  Especially when I wake up in the middle of the night.  But I have a deep faith that in the end, when I have completed my journey and stand before Him, I will know it was all worth it.  He was there all the time, even when I did not understand.

I am thankful for the great teachers I had as a young Christian.  I shudder to think what my relationship with God would be now if I still thought everything depended on whether I had perfect faith or not, if everything depended on my good confession.  I think I would have given up on God long ago.  I am eternally grateful He did not give up on me.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Disappointment With God... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.
Image:  Artist Svetlana Berdnik

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Always something new to learn


I learned more about doing without water yesterday, without ever intending to at the start of the adventure.  Our well filter was months overdue from being changed so finally yesterday was the day to get it over with.

It is not my husband's favorite chore but it is made (supposedly) easier since the pipes were rerouted to the garage instead of the crawl space.  This was the first time he changed the filter at its' current location in the garage.

As I always do before changing the filter, I filled my two Rubbermaid pitchers with filtered water and filled the stainless steel pitcher I use to both water plants and serve water on the deck with filtered water.  That pretty much emptied the filtered water available (it filters through the reverse osmosis device under the sink).

I didn't have time to wash the breakfast and lunch dishes but I set them soaking in hot sudsy water and filled one of my dishpans with hot water that I could use to rinse the dishes.  All was ready, or so I thought.

The first realization that I wasn't as ready as I thought came when my husband used the hot water I had planned for rinsing dishes to clean the inside of the container that had held the dirty filter.  Blech.  Can't use that water.  He also used two of the pitchers of water to get it rinsed and clean.

The second realization came when he could not get the outer casing back on without it leaking just a little.  Back off went the water in the house.  Let's try it again.  Turn the water on to the house.  Still leaking too much.  Turn off the water to the house.  At this time, he had to leave for an appointment and after that one, he had another appointment to get our van repaired.

I removed the dishes from the now room temperature water and set them carefully in the right hand sink where they seemed to reproduce on their own.  I kept the now icky water in the left hand sink, though.  After all... it is water.  I used it for slightly dirty plates, just to soak enough that I could then shift them to the right hand sink.  I did empty that water before going to bed.

I will save you the rest of the story except to say by the time he arrived home, neither of us wanted to deal with the filter again so we waited until this morning.  I was pleasantly surprised (okay, really really happy) that he awakened early this morning with the realization that the filter casing may just need to be tweaked more to get it to stop leaking... it worked... I awoke to indoor plumbing again.

What did I learn in yet another water emergency?

1)  We use a lot more water than we think we do (I learn that every time).

2)  The next time we change the well filter, do the dishes before we begin.  Don't assume the water will be turned back on in an hour.

3)  The next time we change the well filter, have the sink full of hot sudsy water to clean the filter case before we begin.  Ditto with hot, clean water for rinsing.

4)  Hide my pitchers of filtered water from anyone else in the house.

5)  My Rubbermaid pitchers are worth their weight in gold even if they are plastic. It is easy to store them until needed in the back of my bottom cabinet where I cannot reach them but the household help has long enough arms to find them when needed.  Ditto my two molded plastic dishpans, except I store them on a shelf in the garage where I can reach them.

6)  Having individual plastic bottles of water stored is actually a good thing, in addition to the larger gallon and half gallon sizes.

I am quite happy that there is a new filter now for water coming in from the well.  Honestly, every time that well filter is changed and I see how horrible it looks, I am glad there is additional filtering with the reverse osmosis contraption under the sink for drinking and cooking water.

On a happier note, I found some great clearance items in the last ten days or so.  I'm finding that seasonal changes make for great clearance opportunities for stores like Meijers (as it does earlier for places like Michaels).

I always check the clearance shelves and the week they started displaying the Fall Mrs. Meijer scents, I happened to be walking by the clearance table near the back of the store when they had just put the Spring/Summer Mrs. Meyer scents on clearance for $1.00 each.  I bought two Lilac dish soaps and two Lilac hand soap dispensers.  For sales like these, you have to be there at the right time.

I have purchased very good quality candles on the clearance table in past years.  I stock up usually for about $2.50 each.  I didn't buy any Spring scents this year, even for that small of a price.  Sometimes you have enough, you know.  You don't save money when you buy something you don't need (ask me how I know, or maybe not).

I was shopping for just a few grocery items (Friday?) when I found bottles of spices and herbs on clearance, mostly for about $1.50 a bottle.  I only bought those I knew I would use and a bottle of whole cloves (thinking of Christmas projects with them).  Great price!!!

My grocery store recently changed around complete aisles so I'm pretty sure there were so many spice bottles on clearance just because of space limitations.  I noticed a lot of other similar items on the clearance shelves... like various kinds of salt and spice blends.

I then passed the area where they have clearance items that are refrigerated and found free range brown eggs for .39 cents a dozen (bought three dozen) and a favorite yogurt on clearance.  Both eggs and yogurt are good far beyond their Use By dates.

After the Holidays last year, I found cream cheese being sold for a dollar each in that display and stocked up at that time (I think the Use By date was June).  I don't know why the Use By date is always so far out on cream cheese.

Moral of that story... I may go awhile without finding good clearance items but by always checking, I do find great prices more often than if I don't.  I know many blog friends are great at knowing just when to begin checking for seasonal clearances.  Part of the fun is the hunt for bargains.

I only have one interesting how-to link for you today but I will do more research.

How to Make a Rain Barrel... here.  (Especially good for providing sources of water for outdoor plants, veggies, etc.)

I loved this blog post by Annabel of The Bluebirds are Nesting... here.  There is a reason she is one of my favorite bloggers.

Image:  Vintage photo

Thursday, August 08, 2019

A Wonderful New Christmas Book!


When my friend, Heather LeFebvre, told me she was writing a Christmas book, I knew it would be good.  When I found out the illustrator was her mother, artist Laura Winslow, I couldn't wait to read it.  I follow Laura on Instagram (Heather, too, of course).

This is a jewel of a book, one to bring out every Holiday season.  There is so much history about Christmas that I didn't know plus she provides discussion questions and a project (or a list of projects) that corresponds with each chapter.  This visually beautiful book would make a fun study leading up to Christmas or just an enjoyable read aloud for the family.

Some of the chapters include:
  • An Ordinary Day in Bethlehem (Christ's Birth)
  • A Date for Christ's Nativity (Early Church)
  • St. Francis and the Live Nativity (Early Church)
  • Luther's Protestant Christmas (Reformers and Puritans)
  • Christmas and America (Reformers and Puritans)
  • Christmas Reinvented (Victorians to Modern Day)
  • From St. Nicholas to Santa Claus (Victorians to Modern Day)
  • ... and many more!

I enjoyed reading all of the book but especially "Christmas and America", since I have a special place in my heart for Colonial Williamsburg.  The suggested projects at the end of this chapter include "24 Ways to Celebrate a Williamsburg Christmas". 

Written from a faith perspective, beautifully put together and illustrated, this is a book to enjoy and give as a gift this Christmas.

I was provided a copy of The History of Christmas, 2000 Years of Faith, Fable, and Festivity to review but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found... here.

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