Sunday, October 25, 2015


It's been almost a year (10 months) since I wrote a post on this blog, so I doubt very much anyone is still keeping up with me, but I wanted to drop a line here anyway, because I go back through my blog every once in awhile, to see what I was thinking during such-and-such a year.

And I certainly do shake my head over some of the things I've written in the past. How dramatic I can be at times! How wordy. How arrogant. How ecstatic. How depressed. How excited over little things. How hopeful.

Yes, life has its ups and downs. And yes, we grow and change as life passes. Someday I'll look back at my now-self, and shake my head over some of the things I'm doing and thinking. But I'll also grin, tongue-in-cheek, as I recall the way my nephew has me wrapped around his finger, or how ridiculous I get on Saturday mornings when I'm excitedly telling customers at the Farmer's Market that they NEED a pumpkin cream cheese muffin to make their morning happy.

I'm sure I will smile when I remember my trips to Honduras this year (that's where I am in the above photo) and, as sure as I'm alive, my heart will thump then as it thumps now when I think of that place. It will squeeze up tight and ache to be there, because I miss my "second home" as soon as the plane leaves the runway and heads towards the clouds.

I'll thank God for a very strange summer, that had me learning in a new way what it means to ask God to provide for my daily bread, and also what it means to have Him direct my steps day-by-day when I can't see my feet. I'll sigh when I think of how I called myself "Job" - not because I suffered anywhere near like that man did, but because everyone around me agreed that God Himself was not just allowing trouble to come into my life, but seemed to be actually going out of His way to point it in my direction and, unlike Job, I flunked the test and got really mad at God for "picking on me." But after I sigh I'll get down on my knees and thank God for forgiveness and for giving me new eyes.

This morning I sat in church and listened to a Sunday School lesson that reminded me I need to spend time every day quieting my heart to reflect on what God is doing, and who He is, and how much I love Him, and how much He loves me. And I mean just sitting and thinking - not reading, not doing another job while I'm thinking, but just sitting and talking to Him about how we're doing. It's especially important  in this season of my life that I remember to do that, because lately life has become a really big swirl of activity. 

This year God confirmed something He's been hinting at for a long time in my life:

I'm meant to do missions.

I don't know how to say that, exactly. "Called to be a missionary," sounds pretentious, considering how much respect I have for missionaries. But "It's what I'm meant to do," focuses too much on me, and, "It's what makes me happy," sounds like a really selfish reason to do anything.

But here's what I do know: "missions" is to lovingly invest in the lives of others, at the expense of other things you could be doing, for the sole purpose of making them worshipers of Christ.

And I don't have anything else I want to do.

We live in a world chock-full of options. My generation ....we have the world at our fingertips. We can pursue almost anything! And God has been so good to me, with opportunities I can't even begin to count. I spent last year with the goal of trying as many new things as I possibly could - things I was afraid of, or had never dared to do.

The more I tried, the more this thought was cemented in my mind: I don't want to do anything else. My very soul comes on fire when I am actively involved in sharing the gospel with people, loving people, sharing with them, and crying out to the Lord for them. And things that I hold dear - things I would never consider doing without - I throw away without a second's thought when an opportunity to share the gospel presents itself. My priorities have arranged themselves without talking to me about it - the things I thought were important were somehow nudged a little lower on the list, and this one thing has become a consuming desire with a strength that, to be honest, scares me to death.

You see why I must make more time to be quiet before the Lord - this consuming desire can become a runaway train, and I must know what it is that is taking possession of my heart. I must know Who He is.

I don't know yet how God is going to direct me. I don't believe "missions" is completely expressed in the idea of "sell everything you own and move to another country". If that's all it were, an atheist business man could do that. Missions is a heart attitude. It's a goal. It's a way of life. It's wherever you are.

So it's very simple, as a new friend told me a few months ago: "If God's called you to missions, then mission." 

 And that's my current adventure. It's including everything from forming a close relationship with an unsaved college student, to getting involved in local prison ministry, to starting a children's Bible club at a local after-school care, to volunteering in a mission board office, to planning a mission trip to the other side of the world, and another to Honduras.

In the middle of all of that, just like Paul made tents, I'm balancing three part-time jobs. I love each of them, and each of them give me more opportunities to witness, but, wow, do I feel stretched for time! (Everyday stuff, like laundry and dishes and baking have become precious treasures that are often hard to achieve!)  

Anyway, that's where I am right now - happy, very content, but in the middle of a big learning process, as I figure out how to best spend my time, and try, in the middle of the craziness, to remember that DOING is nothing, if I'm not BEING, and that starts by spending a ton of time with my best Friend.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Texting God

Don't you sometimes wish that God had a email address or cell phone?

I've been wishing that, lately. I pick up my phone, bursting with the desire to type out something special that just happened to me, and I scroll through names in my head, deciding who to share the moment with, and the brutal honesty hits me that the one name I really want to send this text to doesn't exist on my phone.

There are certain things in my life that fill me with overwhelming thankfulness, and excite me to the skies, but it's mostly private stuff - little "inside jokes" that only God knows, or prayer requests answered that only He heard. I can't just blast my facebook feed with the details, or text my closest friends every five minutes. But I know He wouldn't mind a text every 2 seconds.

I do pray, and that is such a blessed privilege! I love knowing that He hears me, and only the two of us know about the conversation. That's what best friends do - they have private little chats, that warm their hearts and stay quietly special.

But I can't email or text Him.

I mean, I could write out a text, or email, and He'd for sure see it ....but then what would I do with it? I have a prayer journal, and I LOVE using it, but I type faster than I write, and lately I've been wishing I could dash off dozens of messages and send them somewhere where they'd be safe. I'm a writer to the core.

Besides being that, I guess I'm just a product of this modern age. Too technical, I suppose. Very nonspiritual, to wish I could do such a thing as text God

But don't judge me too quickly.

Maybe it all just means I miss Him....and think about Him constantly. Maybe it just means I can't wait until we see each other face to face. Maybe it means He's my best friend, and I can't help wanting to write Him.

Maybe it means I've finally stopped grabbing for an idealistic concept of how things "should" be with me and God, and realized that I have a relationship. I have Someone Who is in love with me and (it feels good to admit it) Whom I'm in love with in return.

Who cares if you're not "supposed" to think about texting God? The fact is, I do.

What about you? Do you secretly have some crazy wish that is born out of a sincere desire to be closer to the One you love?

P.S. I haven't forgotten that I need to share the second half of the Jess Dress story. It will be up eventually! :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Jess Dress, Part 1

I am blogging again, and it hasn't been months since my last post! Yay - cue the applause. 

The time has come to share a special story. 

I want to share a little bit about the project I mentioned in my last post - a "first" in my design experience; Making a Wedding Dress. 

In my last post, I said in passing that my friend and I both nearly had nervous breakdowns while doing it, which is true, but I don't want you to think it was a bad experience or that I regret doing it. Not in the least. 

In just a few days, it will be one year since finishing this dress. I want you to imagine some major project in your life - some effort that stole your sleep and dominated your thoughts for months. Have you been a part of building a house? Carrying a child? Taking a really hard class? Pick something from your life, and remember how it impacted you. You were forever changed by the experience. Certain things now trigger memories. Certain lessons were learned that you will never forget. The length of time involved, the tremendous effort required, and the difficulty of your task have combined together to brand the memories in your mind. You will never forget.

That's this dress and me. I've made lots of dresses, and had many projects in my life. This one will always stand out as special. 

I could write a book, but I will just touch on a few highlights, to share the story with you in a way that I hope you find interesting without being boring, and inspiring without being depressing. 

...Because I really like this story. It reminds me that with God nothing is impossible. 

I'll begin by introducing you to my friend, Sarabeth. We met several years ago, and from the first conversation our hearts were knit together by many mutual interests, and since then our friendship has blossomed into something I deeply treasure.  

Sarabeth is also a seamstress, and last May she and I were both in similar situations - trying to build our baby sewing businesses into something more sustainable. We both love design but, as anyone in the fashion world will tell you, design isn't where the money is, when you're low on the totem pole. Only big names get big bucks. The rest of us hem and sew on buttons to make ends meet, and sketch design ideas at night. 
So when one of Sarabeth's friends came to her having seen photos of her work on Instagram, and asked her "could you make my wedding dress - and a second dress for the reception?", the opportunity seemed to good to be true. Sarabeth did me the honor of asking me to co-design with her, and in hindsight we both agree we couldn't have made it without the other. It truly was a team effort, and we were glad to find out that we could work so well together without harming our friendship!

As we went further into the project, we realized what a fun opportunity this was, because the bride, while still holding to some traditions, really wanted a unique and unforgettable dress, which gave us a lot of freedom as designers to think outside of the box. She gave us an idea of what she wanted; full, ruffled-packed skirt, long train, off-white/almost-gold color, sparkle, drama, fitted bodice, lace sleeves.....

We went to work.  

I still remember being sprawled out on the carpeted floor at Sarabeth's apartment, with the beanbag chair on one side, the laptop on the floor, and papers scattered all over the coffee table. We both had a pencil in our hand, and - believe it or not - we worked on the same sheets of paper at the same time. To this day we're not positive who drew what. I know Sarabeth outlined the figure (with an ease that told me this was going to be fun). I know I drew the ruffles on the skirt. Other than that, it's a bit of a blur.

Sarabeth may not have guessed this, but when we sat down I was absolutely terrified that we would have a terrible argument and end up hating each other. I do NOT share my workspace well with anyone (ask any friend who has cooked in the same kitchen as me!), so when I realized we had to complete two drawings that BOTH of us agreed on and had participated in, I was really tense. I didn't think it would work. But it did! Before the night was over, we were bending over the same sheet of paper, pencils in hand, adding lines and saying to each other, "That's exactly what I was picturing!"

We came up with several designs.
This one got tossed pretty early.
 A personal favorite of mine.
 Something closer to what we saw in the photos the bride shared with us of dresses she liked:
Sarabeth, as our official secretary, sent the sketches off to the bride-to-be, and several days later (on my birthday in May, as a matter of fact) from my sewing room in Virginia to a room several states away, we had a Skype date with the bride-to-be, and I finally got to meet our client.

She was pleasant and excited, and we were excited as well, but also nervous. Nothing had been settled for sure yet, and this was where we had to be professional and convince this lovely woman that we could give her a dress that would make her special day even better. We knew we were young in business, and - might as well admit it - we'd never tackled anything this big before. But we knew that we had the necessary skills, and we were hoping and praying we'd get a chance to prove it.

The meeting ended with everybody feeling pretty good. We got the go-ahead! None of the pictures were just perfect, however, and we sent a revamped design a few days later:
(Not quite perfect, but very close to what the finished designed ended up as) 
As well as a sketch of the reception dress - a knee-length spin-off from the grandness of the wedding dress:

After we knew the look we were going for, we needed the concrete materials to make it come to life. We scoured the Internet for fabric and I constantly messaged Sarabeth with photos of fabric, beads, and ribbon. Sarabeth prefers to buy in person, so she hadn't shopped for supplies online as much before, but I knew several "hot spots" and she had the brilliant idea of searching etsy, where we found several fabulous items. Our message count grew exponentially as we compared notes, and occasionally sought feedback from our client when we got the choices narrowed down to two or three options.

I don't think most people even think about this step in design work, but it's extremely important. We've all seen that dress that screams, "homemade!" from across the room, because of the fabric it was made from. The overlooked step of material selection is close to my heart, because I care about underdogs. It literally takes hours and hours - in this case weeks - to find just the right supplies, but it is so worth it!

Once our list was complete, it was my job to compile what we found in such a way that our client could easily imagine the finished result, and give us the final go-ahead to being making purchases and constructing our pattern. This meant making design boards. 

This is a job I am in love with, so this step became my baby, and I enjoyed it. The finished boards may look simple, but they represent dozens of hours of work, and Sarabeth and I were both happy with them.

The reason you see multiple choices of fabric for the main wedding dress is because it is the most important fabric selection of the entire project, and we would not risk making that selection long distance. The client needed to see the fabric in person - and so did we. So we ordered samples, and the bride traveled to us for a measurement session and also to finalize the last design details - including fabric selection.

She was so patient through all the measurements and discussion, and as we bid her and her maid-of-honor goodbye, we knew that all the preliminary work was done. We were as prepared as we would ever be. The only thing left to do was begin.

To be continued.

Monday, November 3, 2014



It's me, blog.

Yeah, I know I haven't written in almost a year and a half. You'll forgive me, won't you? I'm talking to you, blog, because I don't know if anyone else besides me ever visits you.    ...Not that I have done much visiting either, in many months.

It's been a crazy year and a half. I have learned so much about myself - and about life. That's why I'm writing again, as a matter of fact; because I've learned so much. It's all sorta spilling out of my heart, and I need somewhere to share it.

Did you know that you don't stop "growing up" once you hit your twenties? Really. I used to think my major developmental time would be in my teens, and then once I hit my twenties I would be a settled, mature, stable person, without stretching and growing times. Definitely without growing pains.


Now that I'm half-way through my twenties, I'm beginning to think that this is the richest, most difficult, most educational, most exhilarating, most frustrating, most rewarding time of my life. I feel so incredibly blessed despite all the challenges. I have cried many, many tears, and had many sighs and groans, yet I don't regret any of the battles. That's the difference between these adventures and those of my teens. Back then I thought the world was falling apart and I was going to die. Now, it may sound strange, but just being alive, to be able to feel, and be able to fight, to be able to fall on my face, or soar and conquer - either one is a privilege. I'm ALIVE. And I'm on the winning team. That is enough.

I'm sitting here wanting to burst into tears. Maybe it's because I'm sitting here having a conversation with you, like an old friend. Maybe it's because I'm listening to Christmas music in November. Maybe it's because memories from the past two years are flooding over me, and I feel like a veteran looking back at a war and I'm a bit shell-shocked.

Nobody told me life would be this challenging. Nobody told me that things wouldn't go as I planned.

Nobody told me that my heart could hold this much happiness and not burst.

Nobody told me that I could be so stretched and still not break.

What has happened in the last two years? I can't fill you in on everything. It would take too long. Nothing would seem so significant in writing, anyway. But that's the tough part of life, isn't it? The little day-to-day battles. Let's just say I've spent the last little while doing a lot of "being still and knowing that He is God."

What has happened while we've been apart? Well....

- I've said goodbye to several friends, and made many new ones.

- I've come out of my shell that I used to crawl into like a turtle, claiming that my years of battling depression had scarred me and that I couldn't face certain things. My motto this year has been "try as many new things as you can!" It's been thrilling. I feel alive, and I've opened rooms in my brain I didn't know existed. I've found out crazy, funny little things about myself, like that I like coffee, and I thrive on interaction with people, and I love to listen to music, and I don't like strawberry ice cream.

- God has made it possible for me to purchase my own car, (debt-free!) with all the freedom and responsibility that involves. 

- I've made a wedding dress with a friend. We both nearly had a nervous-breakdown doing it, but created memories that are going to stay with us for a lifetime.

- I've started working for other people as well as continuing to be self-employed at my own business (two of them, actually),  and I've discovered I enjoy both worlds. I've grown as a business woman, I think, learning how to be professional with my clients.

- I've become an adopted "big sis" to two girls from a non-Christian broken home, and my heart has been captured. 

- I've known for a long time how to say "no" to myself, but I'm starting to know how to say "no" to other people. Valuable skill!

- I've learned that living on 5 hours of sleep a night actually will slowly kill you, and that 9 hours of sleep is a gift from Heaven. :)  And I discovered what adults have always known - a good sleep routine can make or break your day.

- I've lived in another country for 3 weeks, and absolutely adored it.

- I've begun to learn a new language.

- I've gained a sister-in-law!

Lessons I've learned:

- God's Word is more valuable than I ever thought it was, and time to read it should not be taken for granted, but rather pursued like a lifeline.
- Real, true, strong Christian friends are a blessing that you can't put a price tag on.
- Siblings are to be cherished every moment, because they grown up way too fast.
- Parents do WAY more than they get credit for.
- Being content is a lot more important than looking perfect.

I hope to be back soon, friend, and share more of my life with you. I'm still sewing, cooking, and doing other labors with my hands, but I think this blog name should be changed a little bit - instead of just being about the fruit of my hands, I would be really happy if it could be about the fruit of my life.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Top 10 Favorite Food/Health Myths

Many of you know that health and nutrition are two of my favorite hobbies. I'm not a certified nutritionist or anything, but I've been researching food and nutrients since my highschool years, purely as a form of entertainment and fascination.

As I've learned new things, and rethought a lot of what I thought I knew before, I've complied a mental list of myths in the health world. Some of them are mainly amusing to me, while others make me passionately - and loudly - driven to correct whoever believes the myth. Here are the top ten, (in no particular order), for your viewing pleasure.

 1. Nuttella is healthy.
    I didn't even know this was touted as truth until recently. The first time I heard someone say it, I wanted to laugh hysterically. Seriously?!?! Who believes this? Turn the jar around and read the sugar and fat content, folks.

2. Whole grains are good for you.
    While not exactly a myth, this one has to be taken with a grain of salt (pun intended). Whole grains can be good for you, but they can also be harmful, if consumed in the wrong way. For example, there IS such a thing as a "wheat belly"; extra padding around the waist, directly related to the over-consumption of grain. Most Americans eat a diet much too high in carbohydrates, and eating grains (especially refined grains, but whole grains as well) can add to that problem. Whole grains can also be extremely hard to digest - one of my main concerns with them. Many of the nutrients they contain cannot be absorbed by the human body unless the phytic acid in the grain is broken down first. That can be done be presoaking, using sourdough, or using sprouted grain. ....But that topic is too vast to get into here. Suffice it to say that grains - EVEN whole grains - should be used in moderation, and are not the cure-all they are touted as being; especially when our modern strains of grain are so damaged by genetic engineering. ...But I really should stop. Whole grains ARE better than refined, but even whole grains should be prepared properly before consumption.

3. If I eat salad, I'm consuming less calories, and therefore my meal is healthier.
   I have two problems with this; #1, who said calories had anything to do with the HEALTH of the substance? and #2; Have you ever looked at the ingredients on your salad dressing?

4. All dairy is bad for you.
I've heard so many of my friends guilt-trip themselves for eating cheese! But God promised the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey, and God always gives good gifts to His children, so milk can't be inherently bad for you. (Don't you love using the Bible to solve questions in all areas of life?) Now, I do have a huge problem with the hormones added to store-bought milk, and the processing it goes through before it gets to the shelves, but the milk itself isn't the problem. I try to limit my consumption of store-bought dairy, especially items with full fat, since that's where most of the processing affects the milk, but I don't bother with artificially low-fat items (except milk itself), and I eat plenty of sour cream and kefir. :) ....As far as cheese goes, different types of cheese are better for different types of people with various health issues, so do some research to see if it affects your current state of health. But, like I said, my problem with dairy isn't dairy; it's the processing. Pure, creamy fresh milk is a good gift from God! :) ....unless you're counting calories. :)

5. Peanut butter is good for you.
   Really? This is a favorite "protein source" for many people. I love my peanut butter as much as anybody; it ranks right up there with chocolate (sorta), but I have reservations about calling it a health food. First of all, one TBS of protein only contains about 3.5 grams of protein. That's something, but not too extravagant or amazing. Meat or an egg would do just as well - probably better. Secondly, most peanut better is extremely high in fat, and contains quite a bit of sugar. For me, consuming all that fat in order to get a little protein is rather counter-productive. The bigger issue comes if you're talking about a brand of peanut butter that is made with hydrogenated fats - and many, if not most, fit that bill. So, all in all, I choose to eat (and I do eat it!) peanut butter that is made with NON-hydrogenated fats, little to no sugar, and I'm honest about the fact that I'm splurging when I eat it. :)

6. Fries are a vegetable. Coffee is a bean. Chocolate is a bean. Onion rings are a vegetable.
   These just make me laugh, and I think that's what they were intended to do. :) :) :)

7. Chocolate is terrible for you.
   Excuse me; sugar is terrible for you (and THAT is what can cause acne, incidentally). Bad fats are awful for you. Overdose of caffeine is bad for you. Real chocolate, made with healthy fats and little to no sugar? WONDERFUL for you. :) :) :)

8. Eating good stuff balances out the bad.
   Sorry; doesn't work like that. Try eating some poison while your stomach is full of carrots and lettuce. It'll still kill ya.

9. If you eat healthy, you will be healthy.
   Only God controls your health. Eating well is your responsibility as a steward of the body God has given you, but it doesn't guarantee you a thing. Besides, there are so many other factors involved, like exposure to toxins in the environment, stress (which lowers the immune system), and yes, occasionally even genetics.

10. Healthy food tastes terrible.
    Sigh. I'm still trying to convince a brother that this one isn't true. God is the giver of life, and He made food designed to not only nourish the human body, but to bring us pleasure. Healthy food can taste nasty, but it's not supposed to. REAL food is supposed to taste delicious. Honest.

What myths - food related or otherwise - are some of your pet peeves?  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cure for Stress

"Sing unto the LORD a new song! Sing unto the Lord all the earth! For He is great, and greatly to be praised."

Do you ever feel the urge to be joyful, the longing to throw away all your cares, and just be like a heroine in a story who hopes against all hope, to believe that everything will turn out all right, to sing in the rain, to smile through tears....

...but life slaps you in the face? The culture around you tells you to be realistic. The people around you might think you are strange if you lived like that. You need to be a mature adult, who sees things like they are. The idea of throwing away all your worries, hoping against hope, and not worrying seems..... wrong, somehow. Disloyal. Immature. If you don't worry, who will take care of things? How will things be accomplished? What if you miss something? Don't try to be a Pollyanna, they say. Things don't work like that in real life.

But guess what? The Bible tells me to cast all my cares on the One who cares for me, and He really will take care of things. The Bible tells me to be anxious for nothing. The Bible tells me to let my requests be made known unto God, and His peace will keep my heart and mind. The Bible tells me that God is Sovereign, and that He loves me, and that all things work together for good for those who love Him. The Bible tells me to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS....and it tells me that again. The Bible tells me that perfect love casts out fear.

Haven't you always wanted to be that kind of "fairy-tale" girl, who is carefree, and lovely in her trust? Doesn't your heart yearn to let go, and be a child again? Aren't you tired of being what the world calls an "adult," sagging beneath the stress of life?

I am. I'm sick and tired of it. I'm a Christian. That means that the Holy Spirit lives in my heart, and He has an amazing joy. An infectious joy. A contagious, strong, bubbling joy. I can feel it. I sense it; it lights up my heart the way a mother's smile lights a whole room. But it's His, not mine. I'm afraid of that joy. I'm afraid to let go of my stress and worry. The Spirit is whispering to me - has been, for a long time - "It's okay. Let go - I'll take care of things! Laugh with me! Smile! The Lord is King!" And I keep shaking my head, burying my face in the other side of my heart, and saying, "N-n-no. I can't. What would folks think? It's childish. I'll look naive."

But He is oh so patient. He hasn't given up. He smiles the wider, pleading gently; "Please. Believe me. I can't stand to see you so mournful and tired and tight...not when so much belongs to you. Don't you know the Son is your shepherd? Don't you know how strong the Father is?"

I tiptoe closer....peeking at this joy He offers. It is so refreshing and peaceful, like a grassy plot alongside a bubbling creek on a spring day. But no - it must be too good to be true. I retreat into the corner, trembling, crying, wishing it was true, hating life for being so real.

This has been the story of my life for years.

I hate the bondage. I hate that I know what my problem is, and yet haven't been able to give it up. But God is working. He hasn't saved me to leave me just the way He found me. That's one of my favorite things about being His child; He saved me to change me. He promises that He'll finish what He starts. He tells me that I'm a conquerer through Him.

So you know what? I had a bit of victory today. There was a moment when I wanted to cling to worry, and I let it go. It was only one battle, one moment, one conquered temptation.

But it was a start. I smiled....and it felt wonderful. I praised the Lord for being strong, for being smarter than me. For being in control. And I told Him I wasn't worried about how things would turn out, because I trusted Him.

I felt like a child.

And it was wonderful.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Running in Circles?

I'm sure hardly anybody reads my blog anymore, but it's 10:44 at night, I can't sleep, and I want to write.

A lot has been going on in my life lately.....and nothing has been going on. Last night I had a mini panic attack from schedule over-load.....and five nights ago I had a pity party for myself because I don't "do anything."

It's one of those bouncing-between-extremes times of life. I seem to have those regularly. Do you? I'm full of contrasts and hundreds of (seemingly) all-consuming desires.

I'm reminded of an incident that happened while I was walking my puppy not too long ago:

We're going along, minding our own business. Reya finds a scent she likes.

Oh look, on the right side of the road - CAT!

Oh look - on the left side of the road; SQUIRREL!

Oh look; walking up the sidewalk to the nearby house - PERSON!

Oh look - coming up behind us: CAR!


She spun around in circles, ears cocked, legs tense, muscles bunched in readiness to spring....and chased none of the above. It's called having too many things to chase. :)

That's exactly me in my life right now;

I've launched my own sewing business.  (Meant to introduce this with greater fanfare, but oh well.) I spend hours designing, sewing, pouring over photos for ideas, humming to the tune of my sewing machine, dreaming up new ways to fold and play with fabric, matching colors, discussing ideas with like-minded sewing friends. I LOVE the sensory delight that overtakes my brain when I shift into creativity mode. 

Oh look; SEW!

Last night, I dissolved in tears because of a tension that has been building in me for weeks; I want to write. And I don't have time to write. I feel like a burning passion inside of me is suffocating, banging on the insides of my ribcage, begging to be noticed and fed, and I keep stuffing it back down and telling it to be quiet. I know God made me to write. It's part of who I am. But I haven't done any serious writing work in a loooong time. It. Hurts. Really. Pain.

Oh look: WRITE!!!!

I just spent about an hour browsing recipes on the web....when I didn't even intend to spend that kind of time doing it. I found a new recipe blog that I love. I lay awake at night planning new recipes. I bounce up and down when I get to spend time in the kitchen. I love my apron. I laugh when a recipe turns out right. When I'm stressed, I itch to be in the kitchen baking. It's my idea of art, de-stressing, having fun, and educational occupation all rolled into one. If I could make a living inventing recipes, I would. I'm going to love that part of being a wife someday. :) :) :)

Oh look; BAKE!!!!!!!

My sewing room is a disaster. It needs organization, and it needs beautifying. I look at pictures of interior design, read books, and lay awake dreaming. I love interior design. I thought about pursuing that as a home business (no pun intended. :) I love to make spaces full of life and love and peace. I want to do that in our home.

Oh look; DECORATE!!!

I love being with my sisters. The younger two are still in school. Every time I walk by them when they are studying, and hear them discussing what they are learning, I want to stop, sit down, join in, contribute to the conversation, share a new book, teach a new fact, glean from their young minds, and just have fun being back in the world of school. :)

Oh look; TEACH!!!!

I feel the urge to not let my brain lie dormant just because "I'm not in formal school." I have pulled out my Spanish books and am doing some serious study. I'm rusty and it's hard going, but I love the feeling of actually studying again. I also want to study nutrition more and perhaps go back and really conquer algebra.

Oh look; STUDY!!!!!

Should I continue? I think you get the idea. I'm like my little dog, spinning in circles. And this doesn't even begin to factor in things like relationships with friends and family, and the way that adds dynamics to one's life.

The one balance point in my life -the one breath of my day when I know what I want, and where I'm happiest - is that time in the morning when I'm reading my Bible. Right now I'm in Acts. I love the boldness of the early church. I'm drawn in by the drama of the story, and fascinated to know that this is real history.

Sometimes I complain, in my head, to God, about being created with so many interests. When all my friends were trying to decide what to do after finishing high school, I was sitting there trying to figure out what NOT to do. It's exhausting to be running in circles. I don't always like it.

But, deep down, I love exactly how God made me. I know He did it on purpose. He wants me to live an abundant life.....

....but it's not really about all those things I get joy out of. Gardening, photography, reading.....none of my hobbies and "passions" really calm me down and make me cry with joy.

It's Him. That's what I was created to do; enjoy HIM. That time during my day when I'm reading about Him, and talking to Him, and enjoying His presence is THE MOST important thing I do all day. THAT is what I was created to do. Sometimes I get confused, and think that all these passions and talents are "what He made me to do." Nope. That's not what I was made to do. Those are side benefits, for His glory and to bless me with fun, but that's NOT what I was "made to do." I was made to enjoy Him.

So I don't need to feel guilty about slowing down. ....I don't need to stress about making sure I'm doing every single thing that "I want" to do. ...Or that I feel I should do, just because I can.

Calm down, Amber. Breathe. Enjoy Him. And that's enough.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;

O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

It's now 12:44. ......Like I said.....I tend to run in circles and get distracted. :) :) :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Best Investments

This morning I read in my Bible about the master who went on a far journey and left 10 of his servants with a pound a piece, then later returned to see how they made use of them.

I'm sure you're familiar with the parable.  For those of you who aren't, "pounds" were a currency back then, and Jesus was telling the story to His disciples to make a point. This "master," who gave out the pounds and then came back had basically told his servants to invest the money on his behalf, and to keep at it until he returned to collect.

Simple tale.

The first servant gained 10 pounds from his initial one pound. Pretty good investing, if you ask me! He was rewarded by being put in charge of ten cities; faithful in little, faithful in much. The second servant had gained 5 pounds. Still not bad.

The last servant had not only NOT invested the money given to him, but he had a few choice words to say to his master. In an excuse, to explain why he'd simply hidden the money in a napkin and done nothing else, the servant said; "I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedest not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow."

He seemed to think that explained everything. The master was angry with him, and told him he should have at least lent it to the bank and gotten interest. Then the master took away the one pound, and gave it to the wiser servant. So the last servant was left with nothing; not even the pound he so carefully preserved in a napkin.

I've heard this story many, many times. Most of the time, it is used to illustrate the matter of "talents." When God makes a person, and saves them, He gives them abilities. Some of them are natural, that the person is born with, and some of them are spiritual gifts, that are dropped in when the person is born again. A natural gift would be something like the ability to play an instrument or understand computers really well. A spiritual gift would be something like having a special capacity for mercy, or being able to preach.

God gives us these abilities and tells us to invest them; we are to use them and develop them, and serve Him with them. If we don't do this, we are like the last servant, who kept his money hidden away. The master was not pleased with him.

I think many of us have heard that many times. But the last few times I have read this story, a new thought has entered my mind.

You see, I never could figure out what that last servant meant by what he said to his master. I thought it was an odd excuse to make. I used to shrug it off; what difference did it make what the servant said? The point was that he hadn't used his talents for their intended purpose. I did think it was a little odd that, since the master is supposed to represent God, the servant called him austere - selfish and cruel, basically. And the master agreed with him! But I just supposed that part just didn't apply to God.

Lately I've begun to understand. Let me rewrite the scene in my own words.

Master: "Well, Servant, how have you used what I gave you? Did you invest it like I expected you to? Have you caused my assets to grow?"
Servant: (clutching the money, still wrapped up, to his chest) "No. See - here; I kept it safe, right here. I wasn't about to do the work of investing it; checking the stocks, taking inventory, doing paperwork. I knew you would come back to claim it all. I knew you'd take it all away from me. You're a cruel, selfish man! Why should I do all that work, just so you can come and snatch it away from me?!"
Master: "But it is mine. That money is mine. The growth of it would have been mine as well. It is your duty to return it to me. Why didn't you at least put it in the bank and let it gain interest?"
Servant: (Grasping the napkin even tighter) "MINE!"

I seem to see a bit of myself in this servant. Often I want to hold on to my talents, and use them only when I profit from it. It's all well and good to say I'm serving God, but do I really hold my fist loosely closed? Am I willing to let Him have all the interest; and the principle, too? Do I hang back from serving, because I know that He is going to claim the profit? Any time I do, I am JUST LIKE this foolish servant.

That's something to think about.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Because all of the sudden I feel like blogging

I know better than to turn down that urge to blog - I get it so seldom these days. My mind is filled with other things and, though I feel sorry for my forsaken readers, I enjoy the freedom of not being required to blog.

I started blogging because I wanted to be one of those big money-making bloggers.


And "HA!" again. :) That's never happening. And I'm perfectly fine with that. This way, I don't have to worry about blogging at least three times a week and having a fantastic camera. I can blog whenever I want to, and I know all (most of?) my readers by name. (Hello, lurkers - want to join that group?Hint hint.)

So, anyway....I felt like blogging tonight.

I wanted to make a random list of "things you may not know about me." At the onset, that seems a selfish type of blog post, but we all know, deep inside, that we like knowing personal things about other people. We all have a bit of a snoop in us. :)


Random Things You May Not Know About Me

(Warning; if you read this, you must agree to share at least ONE unusual fact about yourself with me!)

- I love to read lying flat on my back on my bed, backwards, with my feet propped on the headboard.
- I don't like caramel very much.
- I LOVE to paint. (Um...yes, I guess I like painting rooms too. But I meant canvases.)
- I've never broken a bone.
- I've lived in the same house all my life.
- I love chocolate!  I forgot. This is a list of UNKNOWN things, right?
- I eat my pizza backwards. (I start at the crust and go to the tip.)
- I've never been in water deeper than I am tall.
-  I am scared of heights, but I LOVE speed. This creates a dilemma when flying or going on roller coasters. (Just for the record, I've only done those one time each.)
- I am semi-fluent in ASL (American Sign Language)
- My spine is crooked. I have to wear a lift in one shoe.
- I love hugs.
- I usually prefer TV shows (old ones, please!) to movies.
- I have a phobia of sitting with my back to a door.
- I am not afraid of public speaking.
- I am afraid of the dentist. Seriously afraid. Ridiculously afraid.
- My favorite music is full orchestra.
- I despise Veggie Tales.
- I can make homemade bread, noodles, donuts, fig nutons (GREAT. It's 10:48 pm, and I cannot think of how to spell that word, to save my life), toothpaste, laundry soap, face wash, and candles. I cannot make hair gel. Tried that. Twice. Ick.
- I love to write historical fiction.
- Spelling and Grammar were my worst subjects in school. ....Sorta. Math and Science weren't so good, either. But I loved school. Just went along my merry way, knowing I wasn't so good, but having fun anyway!
- I drive with my thumbs and pinkies on the steering wheel.
- I love to grill.
- I do NOT like soda.
- As of this past fall, I have my own sewing business (More about that coming up soon, I hope!)

Okay. Enough about me. Tell me some random things about yourself!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Life and Death

Ladies, what really matters in life?

It's 10:11pm, and I am ready for bed....sorta. My body is exhausted and ready for sleep, but my mind is rolling on and on and on. It's been a

I wasn't sure what word to put there; "hard" day? "difficult" day? "unique" day? It's not quite describable.

I know I'm not writing very well right now. Kinda aimless and vague. I'm trying to gather my thoughts.

Last night, about this time, I was sitting in this exact same spot when the phone rang. Mom answered it.

The house was already quiet. Some of the family was already asleep. Mom and I had just been laughing our heads off over a funny predicament that I had gotten myself into. We laughed so hard we cried.

Then the phone rang.

It was our pastor.

....There is a family in our church that I've kinda grown up with. Met them when I was 14. They have 7 children; close to the ages of my siblings and myself. Four girls in their twenties. Three boys in their teens.

A happy family; the kind that always has their corner of the room roaring in laughter over something every Sunday afternoon.

A dramatic family; the kind that always has something happening, whether it's a car accident, a new birth in the family, emergency tonsil operation, or somebody rolling the car over somebody else's foot.

A Christian family; the kind that has one daughter married to a preacher boy, one daughter married to a Romanian missionary, one daughter working for a ministry that reaches out to orphans, and other children who have a heart for God and long to witness for Him and serve him.

A generous family; the kind that welcomes new-comers and wants to make them feel at home.

The mother of the family is our pastor's oldest child. We have a lot of people in our church who are related to each other. ....And the rest of us feel like we're related anyway.

The father of the family is a former marine. A big man - towering over most of the other men, at several inches past 6 feet. A man with a deep voice, but a quiet one. A man who can run a backhoe and lead music for the congregation. A man who can boss his boys around like a drill Sargent and constantly tease his wife, but who does it all with a heart of love and who has a soft spot for any hurting thing.

Pastor called to say this man - his son-in-law - had died.

The rest of the evening stands out sharply in my mind. Every moment. Every word ....every silence. For, indeed, we could hardly speak to each other. We sat there, waiting for the phone to ring again, to hear someone say it was just a terrible April Fool's Day joke. We looked at the floor and asked one another how this could be happening. How could he be dead? We just saw him at church on Sunday, the day before. He had stood in front of the sanctuary as his little granddaughter - his first granddaughter - was dedicated. Dad had just shaken hands with him as they left church. He had just been saying how he is recovering from his minor heart surgery several weeks ago, and hasn't felt so healthy and full of energy in years. How could he be dead?

God knew this was coming. He prepared our whole church. The Sunday School lesson on Sunday was about trusting God when bad things are allowed to come into your life. The sermon was about how we have the hope of resurrection, because Christ rose.

But we were still in shock.

His poor wife. ....A widow, so young. And his daughters - my dear friends. Two of them are unmarried. Then will never have their daddy walk them down the aisle. Their boys....still growing up....without a dad.

Oh, my heart breaks.

I didn't process the thought that night; just held it in my mind and turned it over and over, like a morsel of food too hot to put in my mouth and chew. I envied him, in heaven at last. The reality of heaven was burned in my mind. The reality of life and death. I thought of all the things he will miss here. I thought. And thought.

But I couldn't believe.

This morning, I saw a picture on facebook of my friend - his daughter. She published the picture of her and her dad, taken a several months ago. Her smiling face, looking at the camera. He stands behind her, with both arms around her shoulders and protectively clasped in front of her, grinning at the camera too.

I felt a lump rise in my throat, and my eyes grew moist. My mouth got tight and I had to walk away.

My dad called just then. He calls every morning to say hello to us, since he leaves the house before we wake up.

I took the phone. And I said good morning. ...But I couldn't really talk. As soon as I heard his voice - my daddy, alive and well - I couldn't keep talking. All I could do was pass the phone on, grab some tissues, and run outside. I sat on the back deck and wept my heart out. Wept for my friends, and all they will miss.

I do not grieve for him. Not at all. I envy him. I long to be where he is.

I trust the Lord. He is wise beyond my understanding, and He will bring beauty from ashes.

But I grieve for my friends. My heart breaks for them. And I'm writing right now because I can't help it. I have to release my thoughts somewhere.

Death touches us all, sooner or later. Are you ready? Is death a reality to you, or do you push it to the back of your mind, refusing to touch it, afraid of the unknown? Heaven is real. Death is real. Jesus is real. 

Do you understand that? Do you really understand that you don't cease to exist when you die? Do you really believe in your deepest heart of hearts that you will die some day? Don't deny it. It will happen. Be ready for it!  Prepare for it now, while you can.

Eternity is so much longer than life here.

Do you know how to know what happens after death? Do you know that God is the sovereign Judge, and will be true and just? Do you know that every human stands condemned before Him, and is in need of help? Do you know Who wants to help you, and what He requires of you?

Think about it. Have you considered these questions?

If you know Jesus - truly know Him - have you faced the idea of death? Have you realized that life is about what happens after life? We say we believe in Heaven, but do we LIVE like we believe in Heaven? Do we beg people to consider? Do we cease to care what men think of us? Do we store up treasures where it counts?

Don't lose reality because you are chasing after the shadow.

Girls.....hug your daddy hard tonight, and thank God for every day He gives you with your loved ones.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reminders for when other people just don't understand

Hello, lovely readers!

I was just doing some blog reading, and I came across someone commenting on another blog. The topic of the blog post was "how to respond to negativity when living the life of a stay-at-home daughter." This young woman who commented was asking how to respond when all the traditional explanations of your choices simply don't "work," and folks around you keep giving you grief about your decisions.

I couldn't help putting in my two cents, since that topic has been on my mind a lot recently. I don't consider myself part of the stay-at-home-daughters movement, (I follow Christ, not fads or movements!) but I do agree that a woman flourishes and prospers when she choses to submit to the loving authorities God has put in her life, and she is in the center of His design for women when she pursues a life of joyful servanthood,  instead of the wear and tear of a career. (Not to say she can't make money, or pursue her own passions, under God, but she is free from the bondage of being a provider. She can be a joyful help to so many people!)

...And I have been "given grief" about my choices lately, so I really felt for this other young woman. Here is what I wrote to her: 

"I'm sure ____ (the author of the blog) will have some wise words to offer you, but I'd like to share something that a friend used to encourage me just yesterday; "A joyful life baffles them." I was "ranting" to my friend a bit, about someone who had just been very patronizing to me (because I'm still living at home, and I'm not in college), and that's when she reminded me that it doesn't help to respond in our flesh by becoming defensive and feeling like we must explain ourselves to everyone and get their approval. Do we seek to please men, or God? ...Yet it IS hard to constantly be going against the grain. I like to focus on telling people what I AM doing, rather than what I'm NOT doing. Sometimes they are just so stuck in the traditional mode of things that they can't see past that. They see a "non-college" life as a wasted one, because that's what they've been trained to think. They need to have their view renewed, and one way for that to happen is for them to see what your life IS, rather than what it is NOT. Talk about how you serve, your passions, your visions for ways that you want God to use you, the people you help, the skills you are learning (or using at home or to build a home business!), etc. If your life ISN'T full, then I would encourage you to the joyful pursuit of making it so! God has a fullness and an area of service for every girl, and when you are in that role you can truly be joyful. Like my wise friend said, "A joyful life baffles them." :) Blessings!"

I know that a lot of my readers have convictions that are similar to mine. I hope that if you are also struggling with joy, as I was recently, you will find this encouraging. Your life is not about what you choose not to do. You have the world before you. You need only to follow God's rules for your life - His are the only ones that matter.   

Remember, it's not about a "lifestyle". It's not about having the perfect family situation. It's not about knowing how to cook and serve a 10-course meal, or having a certain set of skills. It's not about being "traditional". It's not even (gasp!) about being conservative. (Much as I may like those things.)

It's about a relationship.

It's about knowing God. The Bible says "let him that glorieth glory in this; that he knows ME." (paraphrased, I know!) We need to seek God with all our heart, embrace His plan for our lives, and then be JOYFUL about it!!!  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why I Don't Really Care that I'm Still At Home

I spent some time the last few days doing the Forbidden Activity.

I compared myself to others.

First, I thought about various friends, and how their lives have changed over the past 5 years.

...This friend is now married. ...That one now has children. ...This one is expecting. ...This one is married and expecting. ...That one just finished college. ...This one graduated from high school last year. ...This one changed from being a girl to being a young woman. ...This one moved to a new city. ...This one traveled the world. ...This one went on a missions trip. ...That one started college two years ago. ...This other one started a new job. ...That one gained two new siblings. ....

This list goes on. They all seem to have fascinating changes happen in their lives. They have gone somewhere in the last five years. They have grown, had experiences, become richer in their lives.

Me? I felt pretty boring. What have I done? How have I changed? How have I gained? I'm still doing the same-old same-old.

There are two side to that feeling.

#1 - Falsehood. I know, when I'm honest with myself, that I HAVE had experiences the last five years. I've traveled a little bit. I've met new people. I've tried various ways of making money. I've been given new responsibilities. I've become crazy busy, keeping up with my expanding sewing business. I've helped with lots of things at church - children's choir, banquets, etc. I got to be on staff at a ministry for a few months.

#2 -  Truth. I haven't done as MUCH as I would like in the past five years. No matter how busy I get, I stay the same person, living in the same place, with the same work, and the same responsibilities. Sometimes I feel like a car stuck in the snow, spinning my wheels, splattering muddy slush everywhere, but going nowhere. That's depressing.

But this is where I am. God has made this a time of waiting in my life....even though I'm so busy. This is what God has for me right now. It's okay. God isn't going to judge me for not going halfway around the world, or not being married by the time I turn 30, or not going to college. He only is displeased when I become discontent with what He has chosen for me.

And He's the only Person I need to please.

That's freedom. Smile! :) :) :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to Freeze One-size Portions

I don't know how many of you will find this useful, but since writing my post yesterday, I realized that it wasn't a very informative one. ...So here's a "how to" post, to supplement the brain-dead blurb I wrote yesterday (can't blame a person, after spending 8.5 hours in the kitchen, right?).

What do you do if you want use the convenience of freezer meals, but don't want to defrost a whole 9"x13" pan of lasagna just for one meal for yourself? It's rather hard, doing this "freezer meal" thing for only one person, yet if you are making special-diet meals, you are really only cooking for one or two people.

There are several solutions to this dilemma;

- You could divide each pan into serving-size portions, and then buy a ton of little plastic containers to freeze each portion separately.

- You could really, actually, thaw out that whole 9"x13" pan of chicken casserole, and then eat nothing but chicken casserole for six days. (Chicken oatmeal, anyone?)

- You could freeze the whole lasagna in the big pan, then keep a hack saw, hammer, and chisel on top of the freezer, and use them each time you want to hack off a portion to thaw.

- OR you could do it this way:

Amber's One-Person Freezer-Meals Freezing Secret 
(The secret isn't freezing, of course; just the meals. ...Actually, that was pretty corny. It's past my bedtime, okay?) 

You will need
- Freezer paper
- A large cookie sheet
- Large spatula and knife
- A freezer (*grin*)
- Handiwrap
- Freezer bags
- 9x9 Aluminum pan (optional)
- One 9"x13" pan of whatever you want to freeze. This method will work will with just about anything you'd normally bake in a 9x13. Even "looser" casseroles, like rice and chicken. (I'm going on faith, there, actually; my first batch of that casserole is still in the freezer for the first step right now. But I'm sure it's going to work.)

It's pretty simple. First, bake the casserole. (This won't work with things that have to be frozen before baking. Sorry.)

Let the casserole cool completely. Almost every casserole will "firm up" a bit as it cools, which means it holds together much better cool than hot.

Once cooled, slice neatly into serving-size portions. (About 12 squares, for a typical casserole in a 9x13.)

Line your large cookie sheet with freezer paper, waxy side up. Do not substitute wax paper for the freezer paper. Unless, of course, you enjoy picking wax paper out of your spaghetti pie, or you like the taste of wax paper. I won't tell you how I know that won't work.

Ever so carefully, lift each square of casserole out of the pan, and set it on the freezer paper on the cookie sheet. (The freezer paper will want to roll up on itself, so I usually start out by putting one square in each corner, to hold it down. Bonus tip; no charge. :) )

If your cookie sheet is nice and large, you should be able to fit a whole casserole on one sheet. You can put the squares as close as you like so long as they are not touching. There's gotta be some space there. If the casserole is a bit soft, you may have to carefully press it into neat squares again after you transport it to the cookie sheet, but just be sure that in the end the squares aren't touching.

Cover the squares with another sheet of freezer paper - waxy side down, this time. Move the cookie sheet to the freezer, and make sure it's level on the shelf before you shut the door. (Why, no, our freezer is never crowded and I would never stack the cookie sheet on top of a uneven mound of bags in there. Why do you ask?)

After two or three hours - or however it takes for the casserole to freeze solid - take the cookie sheet out, and carefully pry the squares off the freezer paper. (Don't leave it in the freezer longer than overnight; it will begin to taste like the freezer.) Wrap each square tightly in handiwrap, and stack neatly in an aluminum pan, then slide the pan into a freezer bag. The pan is actually optional; I just use it because it makes the whole stack more sturdy in the freezer. A 9x9 square pan fits perfectly into a gallon-size freezer bag, if it's not loaded too far above the edge.

Now comes the fun part. Seal the bag almost all the way, leaving a space just big enough to insert a straw. Now (guess what?!) insert a straw in that hole. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Put your mouth on the straw and suck. You'll have the pleasure of seeing the whole bag shrink-wrap around your stack of squares, and look very professional. Slide the straw out and seal the bag in one quick motion.

You're done! (Probably in less time that it took to read that wordy batch of instructions. Don't you love all my parenthesis?) Now, anytime you want a freezer meal, pull out the amount of servings you need and unwrap them before putting them in a covered dish in the fridge to thaw. (The unwrapping part is important.) Once thawed, use your method of choice to re-heat them; microwave, toaster oven, oven, stove top, or whatever you want to do.

Enjoy a freezer meal just your size!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Once-a-Month Cooking for One Person

With a blog called "Fruit of Her Hands," I really ought to blog more about actual "fruit producing" that I do around the house. Sorry about that. I'm just so busy with real life that I rarely take time to mention it on here!

However, I'm happy to pop in today (er, tonight), and tell you that I've been quite productive today! I figured it was about time for a "housekeeping" post. :)

Have you ever done once-a-month baking? I've always wanted to try it. I've done LOTS of cooking-for-a-crowd, and figured once-a-month cooking couldn't be too much harder. The idea of saving so much time and money - at the same time - enthralls me.

Mom didn't think right now was good timing to try month-cooking for the family, but because I am on a special diet, I decided to make up a bunch of stuff that I can eat - once-a-month cooking for myself! Mom gave the go-ahead, and I started my experience.

I spent over a week planning my menu and cooking-plan-of-action. Today, after a long day in the kitchen (9:30am -6:00pm), I can sit here with aching feet and tell you that the hardest part really was the planning. My initial menu was WAY too complicated. And expensive. I wanted to challenge myself to spend less than $80.00 on food for the whole month. That's plenty for one person, right?

Well...that depends. When your diet consists of a lot of fresh foods, cheap can be very illusive. I finally decided not to worry about buying every single item I'll be putting in my mouth this month, but to focus on three things; making up a few breakfasts, ingredients for smoothies, and making most of the main dishes. On my third attempt, the menu looked doable. I spent MUCH less than $80.00. Like...less than half of that. Less than $30.00.

I went shopping yesterday. I hit two stores - Walmart and Kroger - to get the best bang for my buck. I was very pleased with the results. Even Mom complimented me on how much food I made for the amount of money I spent; and, coming from the Queen of Penny-stretching, that's a compliment indeed. :)

Today was baking day. Like I said above, I spent about 8.5 hours straight in the kitchen today; and I do mean straight. I didn't even take a break for lunch. ....Just nibbled a bit as I went. :)

Honesty compels me to admit that even though my legs hurt right now, those hours in the kitchen today were not a burden. I love cooking and baking. I just kept on a'rollin', churning out dishes and getting tired, but enjoying myself. :) So glad God made me to enjoy that kind of work!

Anyway...would you like to see what I got done today? I'm so happy with what's been finished, and I have only a few things to finish up tomorrow. I hope the stuff that I'm freezing does well. Any of you ever frozen cabbage before? I hope it doesn't get too soggy when thawed. ....Oh well. :)

Here's what I did!

 - 4 containers of Chili (about 12 servings or more)
- 12 servings of Cabbage Lasagna (gluten free!)
- 12 Black Bean Brownies (gluten free, and yummy!)
- 1 bag of Lentils, cooked (for future projects)
- 1 bag shredded cabbage (for future soups. It was on sale. Couldn't resist.)
- Rice (for a casserole I'll put together tomorrow)
- Potatoes and carrots roasted (for soup, to be assembled tomorrow)
- 1 chicken, cooked and shredded (for the casserole and soup)
- Milk for kefir, divided and frozen so it will stay good all month long
- 12 Orange Poppy-seed muffins (gluten-and-sugar-free and yummy!)
- 4 bananas sliced and frozen, for smoothies
- 13 lentil sausage patties (they're delicious, really!)
- Chicken bones for bone broth ready for simmering tomorrow
- 16 (?) Cornwaffles (Ever had these? Basically cornbread batter made into waffles. DeLICIOUS topped with chili! Gluten free, too.)

I think that's everything. I still have things to do, as you can see, but the great majority of work has been done. I'm heading off to the kitchen now to wrap portions of the lasagna and package them for freezing.

I didn't actually do huge batches of cooking today - it was all what I'm accustomed to, cooking for 7 people - but because it's just for one person, I really ended up making a lot of meals! Someday I'd like to try making stuff for the whole family. I like making huge batches of stuff. :) :)

I'm off to the kitchen again! Hope you have a splendid week.

P.S. If you want to read how I freeze portion-sized meals for just one person, check out this post.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

People grow up

I thought a lot about patience today, as I walked my dog. She's going to be one year old in just a couple of weeks. I have no idea how many times I've walked her up and down our road in that year, but it's been many, many, many times. Probably close to 250 times, since I walk her 4-6 days a week.

It's so important for her, that walking time. It's important for me, too. It's a time of bonding, of learning about each other, and about the world of our little road.

It's taken me nearly 9 months to teach Reya to walk on a leash with me - or maybe it's taken me that long to learn how to teach her. When we began - the second day I owned her - she was afraid, and unsure of everything. The leash was new. This big, scary black pavement was new. The cars were monsters. She tiptoed behind me, sitting down on her little furry bottom every few steps and looking at me as if I was crazy for wanting to be out in this big, scary world.

I didn't want to frighten her more by coaxing, so I waited patiently (most of the time) for her to decide to get up and follow me again. I used dog talk - body language - to convince her that everything was all right. I pretended I didn't have a care in the world. I pretended I didn't notice that she was afraid. I hoped she'd pick up on my unspoken message. It took several weeks, but as she adjusted to our family and our environment, the road was no longer quite so scary. She would trot behind me fairly confidently, only sitting down occasionally.

Then Reya began to discover her nose.

She had a nose! God had given her a wonderful nose, and - look! - He had put all these wonderful smells in the world! There was something in the ditch! There was something in that mud puddle! There was something over there, in that driveway....

She wanted to go everywhere and smell everything. She'd walk contentedly enough with me until her nose touched the pavement and she picked up a scent. Then - whoosh! - she was off to find the source of the smell. ...Until the leash stopped her.

Walking Reya began to be quite a task. I would come inside every morning with sore arms, and blistered - sometimes bleeding - fingers, where the leash had rubbed them raw. I determined not to "choke" my dog into walking beside me - the leash is for corrections, not the steering wheel - but continual corrections left me drained and discouraged. Would she ever learn? I marched up and down the road every morning, tense and upset, face straight ahead, correcting my dog with the leash every few steps, swallowing down the lump in my throat and calling myself all sorts of names for not being able to handle my own dog, and crying silently every time I had to hurt her a little to correct her. I despaired over ever being a good mother some day - if I lost my temper over my dog, how could I mother children?!

I've heard the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results, so, based on that definition, I suppose I was being stupid. I needed to try new teaching tactics.

Eventually I got the point, and I began to try different ways of walking her. The first change was huge.

Before I got a dog, I walked a mile or two every morning by myself, and I didn't like the loneliness. I pictured my dog and I exercising together every morning - her trotting submissively by my side. This new puppy didn't want to stay by my side, and she grabbed the leash to play tug-of-war every time we started to run. Instead of a profitable exercise time, I had to stop every few seconds and correct her, or drag her away from cat poo. How was I supposed to get my heart rate up for decent cardio, if I had to stop every few feet? And how were we supposed to walk a mile in 15 minutes if she didn't behave? 

My first change was a change in attitude and priority. This wasn't about me getting my morning mile in. This was about teaching my dog, and I would take it as slow as I needed to, and stop as many times as I needed to until she learned. I knew it'd pay off in the future. I turned off the internal stop watch in my head.

As I did so, I thought about all the times I've heard older mothers advise younger mothers; "just slow down and let your children be a part of your life. Take the time to teach them to do things, even if it takes longer than doing it yourself. It will pay off later." I always thought that was great advice. Pity it took so long for me to apply it to my situation.

That was huge. It took a lot of stress out of my walk. And Reya behaves better when I'm not stressed. I think I'm a good actor, but she always smells my moods - maybe literally - and reacts like a mirror.

I continued learning new ways to teach her - holding the leash differently, using voice commands, practicing in restricted areas, putting the leash higher on her neck, using a different collar, using treats. ....Some things worked (like holding the leash differently), some things didn't (like the treats). But I learned. I laughed and told myself that Reya wasn't learning to walk on the leash - I was learning to walk Reya! 

I saw small improvements, but over all I just kept seeing the continual corrections every morning, and the fact that she always jerks my shoulder when we passed that certain tree, and that she always tries to chase the grey and white cat. 

This morning, I compared her walk with me to our walks of three months ago. Ya know what? She's improved. I looked down at her fuzzy black head, bobbing along by my knee, her white paws (looking like kid gloves), padding next to my feet, and I was pleased. So what if her ears were pricked, and she was looking for the next cat to chase? She hadn't touched her nose to the pavement in several minutes. So what if that was the dreaded cat up ahead, and I would have to spend several minutes in the middle of the road teaching Reya what submission means? I knew it was coming, and I'd do it. I wouldn't let myself worry about what the neighbors think of me, or wonder when Reya would learn. I know she is learning. I know that each battle takes us one step further on the road to being the perfect team.

Sure enough - the cat was temptation enough for Reya to break her beautiful "heel," and dart to the end of the short leash. I was pained, hearing her choke a little, but stayed calm, and brought her back to me, and we practiced laying down and keeping her gaze on me, not the cat, right there in the middle of the road. (Thankfully we have a quiet road in the morning.) It took longer than I thought it would, but that was okay. She wasn't perfectly obedient, and that was okay too. I didn't expect her to be. But we stayed there until she was.

She's learning. And so am I. I'm learning that dogs - and people - grow up slowly, and you mustn't judge them before God is finished growing them up. You must be patient, and also you must be happy and excited over the little victories, because those lead to bigger ones. You must trust God to work in His time, and you must remember that He's never in a hurry. You must look ahead with eyes of faith, and see that this creature - this person - is going to be a wonderful team mate by the time God is through with them.

Yes, Reya is learning. But I'm learning more than she is.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Fruitful Old Age

We are blessed to live on a (semi) quiet road that is populated by at least 50% older folks. (By older, I mean "grandparent age.") There are some younger families or couples at either end of the road, but our house is smack in the middle of the road, where most of the older generation lives. We like that.

One exception to the "young folks at the end of the road" rule is the second-oldest lady here, who lives on one end of the road. (The oldest is 101 years old.) This woman is a widow, and lives alone, but despite her apparent age and limitations, she is one of the most active older folks I know. She has a small garden, on a very sloped yard, and you can spot her stooped over there 'most any cool summer morning, wearing a hat, holding her cane in one hand, and pulling up weeds and staking tomatoes with the other. She loves to sit on her front porch, on her very green, very vintage, metal porch furniture, and she is often seen waiting there for a friend to pick her up so they can go out and do something together (shopping, church, etc.). I've stopped on that front porch and sat on the cement step before, chatting a bit, and discovered that her mind is still sharp and her hearing not bad at all for a lady her age.  

She's different from the other older folks on our road. Some of them are much younger than her, and they are still active in small ways, like planting flowers in the yard or going out with friends. But those who are in her age bracket don't seem to get out of the house much. Or even do much in the house. Some of them are hard-of-hearing, and their life seems to revolve around watching other folks live.

We have good relationships with several of the older folks. A couple of them are Christians (I think the lady I talked about above is). Most are not. We sometimes Christmas carol, sometimes take them Valentine cards, and sometimes share garden produce, and try to win a way to their hearts so that we can witness to them.

So I've been into many of their homes. And you know something I've noticed? Almost all of them play the TV ...a lot. It's just the thing to do when you live alone and want some noise in the house, I guess.

That's why I stared so hard when the gloomy weather today allowed my to see right through this lady's clean window into her lamp-lit living room early this morning while I was walking my dog. I saw something there that took me by surprise, and yet shouldn't have surprised me at all. I think I've discovered her secret.

She was reading.

She sat on a comfy-looking couch, in a spotless living room, with a side lamp pouring light over her shoulder, and she was reading. I couldn't see what kind of book it was - only that it was black-and-white print, so it wasn't a magazine. Was it her Bible? Another book? Don't know. But she was reading.

That early morning living room looked so peaceful. So quiet.

I think I know now why she is so independent, and still has a sharp mind, and still gets out in her garden every summer. She hasn't succumbed to letting life go by, and settled down to just watching other people live. She hasn't finished living her own life yet!

Monday, February 18, 2013

How to Make Your Own Toothpaste

I'm not a dentist, a doctor, a surgeon, a physical therapist, or a certified nutritionist. I have no health credentials that say I'm qualified to tell you anything about anything concerning your body.

I suppose that's a standard disclaimer, but as I was typing it, I thought to myself, "How strange. Everybody in the human race has a body, but only a handful of people want to learn more about such a marvelous machine. And only a handful are considered qualified to talk about it. But we all have one."

I think that the marvel of the human body is one of the strongest evidences for the existence of a God. Whether we're talking about the mechanical wonder of the skeletal structure, or the psychological intrigues of the brain, the case that carries our soul is amazing. And it proves how amazing our Maker is.

I love to study the body, and I am passionate about caring for our body in a way that complements the original design, and follows the pattern and thought process of the Maker. That means embracing the idea that when God made the perfect world He gave us what we need to care for our bodies, and although sin has created many problems since then, many of those resources are still widely available to us.

I believe in following the thought processes that recognizes God as sovereign over our health; not doctors, not surgeons, not specialists, not special diets, or strict lifestyles. He alone controls life, death, and health.

But I also believe in "owning your health," and taking responsibility for the stewardship you've been granted over that body of yours. It's your machine, and it's your only one, and you ought to care about how it runs, and how what you do affects it.

I'm not a big fan of the modern medical mindset. In fact, you could say I'm pretty opposed to it. Please note that I said the modern medical mindset. The research and discoveries modern medicine has done or made have been astounding, and I wouldn't want to miss out on all that! But the modern medical mindset in general says that everything can be cured with the right drug, if it doesn't work, cut it out, and, by the way, doctors are fail-proof. 

To illustrate my point...let me tell you about the last time I visited a doctor. It's not a frequent occurrence, so we'll have to go back awhile. About a year and a half ago, I caught what my family and I were pretty sure was pink-eye. We hadn't had it in the house for many years, and it can be a very contagious disease. My mom was concerned, and wanted me to go to the doctor right away. I asked for time, and researched the disease. I found out that there are several strains of it, and only some of them can be treated with medicines. From reading about the different symptoms, I suspected I had the strain that is not affected by and can't be helped with antibiotics. I told Mom I would just wait it out. I felt pretty sick, but didn't mind suffering through a couple of days, and it wasn't the end of the world. But she insisted that I go, out of concern for everybody else in the family, as well as for me. She's a pretty cool mom. :) I figured that being an obedient daughter was more important than being right about my health, and even though I was gritting my teeth against the idea, I went to see a friendly doctor.

He spent maybe 20-30 seconds looking at my eyes, and told me, "Yup, that's pink eye. I'll give you a prescription to take - two, actually. One to kill the bacteria, and another to soothe the eyes."

I asked him what strain of pink eye I had, and he laughed "Oh, you're like my wife. You like to research your own problems." I smiled, but I was thinking "Duh. It's MY body."

When I pressed him for an answer, he said that he wasn't sure which kind of pink eye I had, but he was prescribing the drug "just in case." That made me feel wonderfully secure, ya know?

I paid for the medicine, and took it home. I told mom I wasn't going to take it. ....But I'd paid for it, and she really wanted me to I took it. Just one of them - I didn't bother with the "soothing drops," if I remember correctly. I took the other one ....twice.

I improved a bit - enough to go out a few days later. On the way home, I was sitting in the car and felt a bad ache in the left side of my chest, just about where my heart is. That happened several times for two days - I'd get a random pain in the chest for a few moments, then it would go away. I believe to this day that it was caused by that medicine. I didn't take another drop. ...And I got better anyway.

I do believe we should have doctors. They've done wonders with medical missions! And they are wonderfully helpful in diagnosing many diseases. I just think that their responses are a little out of tune with the body's natural design.

All that being said...guess what my latest health interest has been? I've enjoyed researching and learning about dental health. One of my biggest concerns about dental health is the amount of fluoride we are exposed to, and the way it is touted as beneficial, when the research on it is in fact very conflicting.

Did you know that the body can't process fluoride? It can't pass through the body. Whatever gets in, stays in, unless you do a major detox with certain substances that pull fluoride out of the body. It can build up to quite toxic amounts in a lifetime. It's dangerous to have it floating around in the bloodstream, so fluoride - which has an INSANE amount of bonding power - binds to the bones in our bodies, making them very brittle.

Through my research, as I've listened to seminars, and looked at photos of bones that have been saturated with flouride (they look like a spiderwebby piece of swiss cheese next to lovely, health dense bones), I've developed a heath fear of the stuff. At this point, I can't do anything about the fluoride the government puts in my water (withOUT my permission), but I can make choices to reduce exposure elsewhere (although drinking water is the biggest exposure source).

That means not using fluoride-based toothpaste. Now, sure, many health companies make fluoride-free toothpaste, but who wants to pay such steep prices? Not me.

So I've made mine own. I'm very pleased with it. Like I said, I'm no dentist, but to the best of my understanding, good teeth-cleaners should contain at least two things:
   - An anti-bacterial agent
   - A slightly abrasive substance, to scrub the teeth

Rinsing the mouth thoroughly and often is helpful, as are flossing, and Oil-Pulling (not enough time to discuss that here), but for the toothpaste itself, it sounds pretty basic. I used:

- 1/3 cup Coconut oil, for my anti-bacterial agent (Non-refined is best)
- 1 TBS Baking soda, as a slightly abrasive substance (at this ratio, it's not overly abrasive on the teeth, I'm pretty sure)
- Roughly 10 drops Essential Oil of Mint, or to taste (I like a very strong mint taste) Be sure to use good quality oil, since it's going in your mouth. (I recommend the Young Living brand)

Melt the coconut oil until it's completely dissolved. You don't need to - and don't want to - get it super hot. putting the outside of the bowl in contact with hot water will do the trick. Stir in the baking soda and mint oil. The baking soda will dissolve a little bit, but most of it will puddle in the bottom of a bowl. Transfer the mixture to a plastic baggie, and let it cool. As it solidifies - which will take several hours - spend a few minutes every so often massaging the bag, mixing the baking soda with the oil so that it's thoroughly incorporated and spread out evenly. After the mixture is solidified, cut off a tiny tip from one corner of the baggie, and use as your new toothpaste tube! Store in a sealed container when not in use.

Wala! Try it and let me know what you think!  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ways to Celebrate Sunday

It all starts with the attitude. This is the most legitimate holiday in the world! (If you're wondering WHY the Lord's Day is such a big deal, read this post.)

You know that feeling you get when you open your eyes on Christmas morning? It's finally here! Or that jumping-up-and-down-can't-wait-'til-we're-all-gathered-'round-the-table feeling you get on Thanksgiving? There's nothing magical about those squares on the calendar - we get excited because we have made those days special. We've created traditions, we've talked about the day for weeks, we've made plans, we have special clothes, special food, or special activities....we've created a holiday. And it's fun!

But Sunday, the Lord's Day, the Sabbath, is special. This is a day God has told us to celebrate - and to keep special and holy. We have the official sanction to do no work, to shut our minds to the business side of life, and focus just on Him. We are free to do nothing else but worship, and we have no reason to feel guilty about shutting off normal life for a day - God Himself has told us to do so!

Doesn't that make you feel amazingly free? I mean, honestly, when the God of the universe tells you that you can take a day off....that's pretty cool. 'Specially for somebody like me, who struggles with guilt if I don't keep busy every single minute. I asked my brother once for suggestions about where I needed to work on things in my life and, after thinking a minute, he replied, "you need to learn to relax and just enjoy life once in awhile and not worry about all the projects you want to work on."

But I feel guilty when I'm not busy! (Don't get me wrong - I definitely have my struggles with laziness - but I always feel terribly guilty while I'm indulging in it.)

So how can it be okay to stop working for a whole 24 hours? YIKES! I'll get SO behind!

Nope. ...God Himself said I can take the day off. No guilt.

So that's one reason to love Sundays. But there's more to it than that. Sunday is for rest, yes, but also for worship. It's not for "thinking our own thoughts," and entertaining and partying all day long. No, this is different. This is a sacred, set-apart day.

Think of it as a date. Your Beloved One has asked you to spend the whole day with Him.

Here are some ideas for ways to celebrate and make that date the best it possibly can be:

- Greet all the family with "Happy Sunday!" when you see them first thing in the morning.
- Make all the food you can ahead of time, on Saturday, so you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen. (Think about Christmas - don't you make a TON of stuff ahead of time so you can take it easy day-of?)
- Go to all the church services you possibly can. This is the Lord's Day. Be in His house!
- Plan your outfit the night before. Make it special. This is His DAY! Look your best for Him. Please Him with what you wear.
- Take time during the afternoon to be completely alone with Him. Sure, it's a day for fellowship with His people, but you need one-on-one time with Him too. Quiet your mind. Pray. Sit and enjoy His company.
- Pray for the services as you head to church.
- Have certain foods that you make JUST for Sunday. Your favorites.
- Ditto for books. Have appropriate ones that you save for Sunday night, just before you fall asleep.
- Wake up early enough (and go to bed on Saturday night early enough) that you can get ready for church peacefully, and not be stressed out as you're walking out the door.
- Pop in a CD, and play hymns softly in the background all day long, when you're at the house.
- Pray that God would show you how to delight in His day.

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but I'd like to stop for now, and give you the floor. What do YOU do to make Sunday special? How do you plan your "date with God?"