Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A helpless old woman? Or a mistaken young girl?

I know I've neglected you lately, but it hasn't been for lack of post ideas. I've had many things I wanted to write, but I put them off, because I know I promised you a post about beans.

Who cares, right? I doubt any of you are biting your nails or losing sleep at night, waiting for Amber to post about beans.

So, if you'll forgive me for putting that off until another time, we'll continue on different strain of conversation. (Actually, I have a special surprise concerning kitchen posts, but that's for later.)

I want to tell you about my day.

At the moment, my day is terrible. This morning I would have told you my day was fantastic. Mid-afternoon, I would have said it was fine.

Funny, isn't it, how we rate our days by moments? In reality, my day isn't good or bad - it's just there. It's a span of time. God chooses - and, to a degree, I choose - what it is filled with, and those things can be good or bad..

So when I was filled with thoughts of praise and thanksgiving, it wasn't my day that was fantastic; it was my actions toward God that made me happy...or, rather, the spirit of gladness He sent into my heart that made me happy. And when my dog was making my heart ache, it wasn't my day that was rotten; it was my reaction to circumstances that was awful.

And now, a few moments later, my day is good again. I'm so changeable. ...I'm glad God never changes.

But on to my day. I must hurry, or I'll be out of time to write.

Mom and my youngest sister were planning a visit to a nursing home this morning, to carol there with another family of young girls from our church. For one reason or another, all our other family members weren't going, just Mom and Lezley, and I had planned to stay home as well.

I hate confessing it, but I have an aversion to nursing homes. They can be depressing...and hot...and sad. In my mind, they are full of deserted parents - people who have been turned over to the care of strangers because their own family wouldn't take time to be there for them when the going got tough. Of course, it's easy for me to say that because I've never faced that situation, but I am deeply passionate about children caring for their parents in old age if it is at ALL possible, not dumping them off on an institution just because it's inconvenient to have them around, or they are boring to you. I hate seeing the loneliness in the eyes. I hate seeing the physical suffering. I hate having to shout to be heard (would you believe I'm shy?). Most of all, I hate the artificial atmosphere of a place that is populated by a single, solitary, age category. It's so unnatural....and unhealthy. Like should be a flavorful mix of all ages, interacting and loving and learning from one another. Isolation of separate ages is unhealthy and unhelpful - whether it's a classroom of several dozen 9-year olds, or a nursing home full of 90-year olds.

Okay. Jump off soapbox now.

With all my passion about the topic, one would think I'd jump at every chance to visit these forsaken older folks. Uhh....not so. I chicken out. I hate seeing what I cannot change. I hate to admit it, but I'm being honest here.

So I wasn't planning on going.

During my morning devotion time, however, the Lord spoke to my heart (O, how wonderful to hear His dear voice!) and impressed upon me that I needed to go. I needed to be His hands and voice, loving these folks.

So I went. Cringing, but trusting Him to get me through it. And you know what? That's all I could think about - being His hands and voice. I had no time to be shy. I had no time to think about whether I was comfortable or not. All I could think about was loving those dear people the way He did.

And I liked it. I actually had fun. ME - having fun in a nursing home! I am positive it was the Holy Spirit giving me the ability to do something I can't do on my own.

 But all of this still isn't what I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell you about a woman I met there. I just wanted you to first understand how close I came to not meeting her. What if I hadn't obeyed that still small voice, and gone caroling? 

I met her after we finished singing, and were going around the room passing out little gifts and talking with the residents. She was dressed neatly and sat up with a bright twinkle in her eye and a small smile that popped out every now and then. We talked about churches. I told her about mine. She told me she knew my pastor. I asked if she ever went to church now, and she told me about the pastor who comes to do services there. He has a church elsewhere, but he gives of his time every Sunday to come preach to them.

"But we have Bible Study here, too!" she told me. She picked up her Bible, which lay on a table nearby. "We are almost done - see? We just have a little bit left for the year," she said, indicating the red bookmark that must have laid somewhere in Revelation.

I was surprised that a secular nursing home would have a Bible Study on their daily events list.

Then I found out that she led the study. She said she talks to a group of about 20 every day, reading a bit of scripture, and explaining what she can. She encourages people to come to the services on Sundays, and could see for myself that she interacts kindly with her fellow residents.

I first laid eyes on this woman with pity. A lonely old lady, shut up in a nursing home, away from life, condemned to a life of boredom and half-existence until old age is finished with her.

What a un-Christian worldview I can find myself endorsing sometimes! How could I honestly think that the life of a Christian - ANY Christian - could be worthless? How could I forget that God always has a job for His children, while they are still on this earth? Shame, shame on me!

When I left that place, I felt no pity for that woman; only awe. I was humbled by her ministry, and her determination to bloom where God has planted her. And indeed, she was blooming. She stood out from the others like a rose among clover.

May I be as fully engaged in my Master's service as she is, when I am her age!

Forget that....

May I be as dedicated to His service right NOW, and right HERE, as she is where she is right NOW and right HERE! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sprout and Cook

I hope all you lovely readers are in the mood to cook, because I have a feeling that my next few posts are going to center around the kitchen.

As I've shared previously, I've been experimenting with new recipes the past two months. Mostly, this is due to my temporary restrictive diet, but the results have been (mostly!) so yummy that I think these recipes will find a permanent place in my "favorites" list. They are all super healthy, too, so I'm excited to share them with you!

One of the main reasons most people in America don't have a healthy diet is because of the extra effort and time involved in eating right. (Of course, "right" depends on what your own body needs, and what your state of health is.) Preparing nutritious food does take a bit of extra effort, but I've found a few ways to speed things up.

The trick is two-fold; number one, think ahead. Not "think ahead" as in "four hours before supper," but as in two days before supper. Sound hard to do? Like everything else in life, it's habit. The nice thing is that if you do form this habit, you can cook supper on the spur of the moment; you just walk into the kitchen, warm up your food, and eat it! Sounds just as easy as prepackaged convenience food, doesn't it?

The second trick is going to be the key in a lot of the recipes I plan to share. It's this: sprout and cook.

Whether you're going low-carb, gluten-free, or just want to add some extra nutrients to your baked goods, "Sprout and Cook" is the way to go. It's also super, super, super cheap. I'm all about cheap. Forget those complicated health food recipes that require trips to special stores and spices I've never heard of. Or flours that cost $5 a cup. (Well, almost.) "Sprout and Cook" won't break the bank, and you can even shop at WalMart for your supplies. 

So what is Sprout and Cook?

It's the basic idea of using beans as a foundational ingredient in recipes that usually require flour. (Think muffins, pizza dough, etc.) It's also the idea of coming up with brand new casseroles, soups, and fried foods that feature beans as a major component. Yummy beans, not tolerated beans.

Beans have carbohydrates, but they are on the low end of the carb scale. Thankfully, I've been able to tolerate them throughout this diet (some can't). They can be a bit hard on the body's digestive system, though. The concept of sprouting them before use gives you a huge wallop of extra nutrients (sprouts are the most compact source of nutrients!), and essentially turns a seed (hard to digest) into a plant (easy to digest!) .

Now, if you're like me, you're not too super excited about sprouts. Maybe once in a while....in a sandwich...but not as a basis for all my cooking, thank you very much! In Sprout and Cook, the sprouting process is halted at the first stage, just when the beans are starting to grow minuscule tails. After they're cooked, you can hardly tell the difference between the sprouted beans and canned beans from the store.

Healthy? Check. (They're SPROUTS!)
Cheap? Check. (Dried beans from the grocery store!)


Really. Yes, if you sprouted and cooked beans for every recipe, it would be a PAIN. But don't do it that way. Too hard. You're going to love this method so much that you'll be constantly sprouting and cooking. All my recipes call for pre-cooked sprouted beans. The key is to sprout and cook a big batch ahead of time, then keep them in a big bowl in the fridge. (Or freeze them, if you make enough to last longer than a week.) Whenever you're ready to bake, there they are; your lovely friends, the sprouted beans. Already cooked. Just scoop and use. Easy-peesy.

I've been living this way for over a month now. Trust me; you need a bowl of beans in your fridge.

But how do you Sprout and Cook?

Stay tuned for my next post!

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Recipes and Ideas

I'm still on this restricted diet; it's been two months now! And I must say, it's gotten harder ...and easier.

Easier because it's more of a habit now. Harder because my mind keeps telling me "you've waited long enough! It's time to got back to regular food now!" while my body says, "no you haven't healed all the way yet."

I'm so ready to just be DONE. Really. truly. Can I gripe for a minute? Thank you. Some days I'm so SICK of self control. "Unhealthy" food isn't the biggest temptation. It's the other stuff. Like the bowl of rosy, crisp pink lady apples on the counter. And the crunchy, luscious granola everybody else has for breakfast. And the steamed peas, salted and buttered to perfection. And homemade bread, with cheese. And cheese. And...you know...granola. And chocolate. And granola. ...And cooked carrots, the sweet things. And molasses on my oatmeal! And cream cheese. And butter. Oh, butter is good. 

So I'm ready to be done. I wish my body would hurry up and heal. But even after all this is over, I'll definitely make some changes to my "regular diet." My system has become extremely sensitive to sweetness and carbs. Tonight, my sister made a DELICIOUS looking (and smelling!) three layered pumpkin-caramel-marshmellow-meringue pie. (Calories? 500+ per serving! But that's besides the point.) She's practicing for Thanksgiving - this is not a normal dessert in our house. :) :)

After everyone else was served, I licked the pie server (the utensil, not my sister!), and ran a spoon around the edge of the dish. (Yes, I've started allowing myself to cheat once in awhile, just to keep sane. But that's my "cheat;" licking the spoon, not eating a whole slice!)

As soon as I finishing licking, I felt sick to my stomach. I didn't actually get sick, but I felt like it. Wow. So. Sweet. Overpowering.

So I guess that's a good side effect of this diet. No doubt I will be less able to handle sugar. That's a good thing.

I've also lost weight - in the double digits. That's kinda cool, although I'd better not lose too much more. I think I've leveled off. Haven't lost any more in a couple of weeks.

But I think my favorite part (other than the healing that's going on, of course!) is the new recipes I'm coming up with or finding. Seriously, I love, love, love kitchen challenges, and I love creating healthy dishes!

So far in this adventure, I've done the following... Oh - for those of you who missed my earlier post, these recipes have to be sugar-free, grain-free (aside from oats), dairy-free (aside from kefir), no oil except olive and coconut, no starchy veggies like corn and potatoes, no sweet potatoes, no sweet squashes like butternut, no fruit except berries and citrus, no distilled vinegars, no citrus acid, limited beef, no peanuts, no cashews, no cheese except tiny amounts of mozzarella, no peas, no carrots, no beets, and no coffee or cocoa. I did used to cheat early on in the game, with that last item. :)

So, with those limits to drive my creativity, I have:

- Made my own apple cider vinegar; raw, unpasteurized, with the "mother." SO good for you - and SO easy and cheap to make! Having vinegar I can eat also opens up a bunch of new recipe opportunities.
- Learned how to use dried beans to make gluten-free baked goods, like savory muffins and pizza crust. LOVE how cheap that is compared to "gluten-free" mixes in the store!!!!!
- Accidentally made an alcoholic beverage on our kitchen counter (but that's a looong story!)
- Made homemade mayo that was actually yummy! (sugar-free, of course)
-  Tried 1,001 ways to fix lentils. (Not really 1,001.) :) :)
- Made sausage out of lentils. (honest)
- Invented/Discovered fried oatmeal. (Seriously good!)
- Become a total convert to the benefits of oregano oil
- Soaked, sprouted, and toasted raw almonds from our almond tree
- Made sugar-free tomato sauce
- Cheated and watered down pumpkin puree into a delicious hot drink not unlike hot apple cider, with cinnamon and allspice.
- Sprouted, cooked, and eaten approx. 30 lbs. dried beans and lentils. :) Not kidding.
- Made hummus from chickpea sprouts and kefir. So yummy!
- Made subs using cucumbers as the loaf of bread.
- Made lasagna using zucchini sliced thinly instead of noodles. It was really good!
- Eaten about 24+ zucchini.

Upcoming ideas:
- Making Pumpkin-Seed butter (I miss my peanut butter!)
- Get my homemade sauerkraut to finish ripening so I can eat it!
- Try making other condiments, like ketchup (though what I'd eat it on, I don't know!)

I've also made pumpkin donuts, pasta dishes, apple danishes, helped with pumpkin pies, and various other goodies....but those weren't for me. :) I know I really love my family when I can bake for them and not eat it myself! Oh well. Good exercise in self-control.

So, tell me, would you be interested in some recipes? Tips for how to cut up a pumpkin and make pumpkin puree? How to use dried beans to make cheap gluten-free food? How to make apple cider vinegar? Are you interested in that sort of thing, or would these "healthy recipes" be boring?

And do you have any suggestions for how to keep one's self from going into hysterics at the smell of granola? My sister took one look at my red, teary face, my fluttering hands, and promptly pronounced me crazy. :)  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

He is a different Being

I'm sitting in a warm living room on a cold evening. I'm listening to sisters (well, just "sister" now) play the piano. I've just eaten a yummy meal. My feet are encased in cozy boots. I feel the urge to write.

I've been needing to sit down and collect my thoughts for awhile now. Writing is the way I do that. If I go for several days without writing, I begin to notice that something is wrong. The back of my mind has a tickle; an irritating nudge, telling me I'm forgetting something. But I'm stuck on a treadmill and can't slow down to figure out what's stuck in my shoe. ...Until I sit down to write and think.

Of course, I can't publicize all my thought-collecting. That would be just plain terrifying (not sure whether more so to you, or to me!), but I decided I'd share a few of my thoughts.

- Thought number one; I'm so grateful to be sitting here, warm and safe, with electricity running my laptop and the light above my head. My heart goes out to those in the North who have lost homes and loved ones in the recent storm. May God be with them.

- That reminds me of what I heard at church yesterday; one of the ladies told of her co-worker's sad state of affairs. She had a son who was trying to commit suicide, and she surprised him in the act. She wrestled with him to get the gun away. He was stronger than her, and ended up killing himself right in front of her. How sad. How awful. God be merciful!

- I've been thinking a lot lately about the names of God. Our Sunday-school lesson this week was on the third commandment. It's such a blessing to study the laws of God as see how much love they contain - but also how much they tell us about God Himself. This one reminded us of how holy God is; we should treat even His name with awe and respect.

That led me to thinking how little we think about what God is. Not Who, but what. He isn't US.

That seems obvious, but, really, it's....everything! He isn't a human. He isn't a creature. He isn't an angel. He isn't like anything else. I can look at another girl and say "I'm like you." An angel can look at another angel and say "I'm like you," but God can't do that. He's another "Being" entirely. His very essence is different. His make-up. His....whatever it is that makes one being different from another. 

Think of what this means! All your life, you've dealt with other humans. Sometimes you deal with other beings - animals, for instance. You are familiar with a limited variety of "being" types. Every once in awhile, a human interacts with a supernatural being, such as an angel or evil spirit. The Bible is quite clear that both of those are real beings, and we have numerous accounts of times when they have interacted with human beings; some in the past, and some in the present. Whenever they make themselves know - whether they be a godly or ungodly spirit - they results are tremendous. Coming into contact with a "being" we aren't familiar with terrifies us - and with good cause! It also fascinates us.

I find it interesting that even "uncivilized" natives in a deep jungle are aware of the spirit world. Every tribe, no matter how remote, has made some sort of connection with the super-natural world (most of the time, the devilish side of it, unfortunately). They know. We're born knowing.

But in all that knowing, no creature, no being, is so terrifying as God. There is nothing else to compare Him to. Everything that we are, He's not. We are limited. He's not. We die. He's always been. We are anchored in the present. He not only knows the future and past, but is in them. He can do anything.


And what of His nature? He defines what is good and what is bad. He is the source of our moral code. Something is good because it is "like Him." Something is bad because it is not like Him. Hatred is wrong because He is love. Lying is wrong because He is Truth. Treating the Sabbath day as a ordinary working day is wrong because He rested on the Sabbath. Treating His Word flippantly is wrong because He honors His Word. He is God-focused, therefore we must be.

He doesn't get tired. He doesn't lie. He doesn't change. He doesn't grow. He doesn't forget. He is a real, true, actual Person. This isn't a fairy story - He's real! And He really is a totally different Being. Such a thing can happen. He exists.

And because of all this - and more - we ought to tremble before Him. I understand that His children are commanded to come boldly before Him - such a precious verse! - but that should not diminish our awe of Him. I think that if I truly kept in mind what little I know of Him, and always remembered that He is such a great, different Being, I would speak differently to Him. So many times I talk to Him as if He's a human, you know? But He isn't. He thinks differently than I do. He sees differently than I do. Not just because He's wiser, and "gooder" and purer, but because He is a different Being.

If I always remembered this, I would cry over that verse which allows me such an awesome privilege, to come before this God and be permitted to speak a word to Him. I would be speechless at the news that He loves me. I would take care that every word I spoke in His hearing would be just right.

Why do we treat His name lightly? Why do we tack "in Jesus' name" on the end of a prayer as if it didn't matter that we've been given the awesome honor of being able to ask in His name? Why do so many "praise songs" repeat His name over and over again like a chant in a commercial instead of a title of the Sovereign Ruler of earth?

Why do we treat His names lightly? He is our Lord - why do some songs or people throw that word in to fill up space in a verse or sentence? He is our goodness; why do we talk about "my goodness" when we want to express surprise?

Oh, how I want to treasure His names - all of them!

- I've also been thinking about .....

...Forget it. All the other stuff I was thinking about suddenly doesn't seem that exciting or important.

How can I complain about _______, when I just talked about this wonderful Being I am allowed to know?
How can I sound enthralled about _________, when I just sat here and described a God who is better than  a fairy story, and actually exists?

I'm overwhelmed.

I think I'll stop for now.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I never knew, until recently, how much fear has dominated my life.

When I played on the playground as a youngster, I was always the one who couldn't do the monkey bars. The reason? Was I not strong enough? Not athletic enough?

I have no idea if I was or not. I didn't try. I was terrified of either falling, or looking like a klutz, or worse.

I never played many sports, either - even in the back yard. I couldn't help dunking when I was supposed to swing the bat, or diving out of the way when the Frisbee came toward me. In volley ball, I hung back, unwilling to challenge the crowd fighting at the net, lest I get an elbow in my face, or step on someone's foot - or, even worse, actually contact the ball and send it flying in the wrong direction.

I didn't label it as fear. I called it "being un-athletic." Fear? No, that wasn't me. I was talkative, outgoing, loud - certainly not shy. Afraid of what people thought of me? Of course not. I was full of conviction and determination. I could - and almost always would - debate with anybody, regardless of age. 

No, I wasn't a fearful, shy little girl. ....Was I?

As I grew, I learned to be quieter (don't laugh, family members!). I wasn't quite as ready to pipe up with my point of view in the company of strangers. I thought of this as a good thing, and I think it was. A meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great worth.

...But was I meek and quiet inside? Or was I withdrawing because I fear rejection? I was old enough to realize that people evaluated you based on your words, and so I began to limit my words in order that they should have less to judge.

I never was good at making decisions. It wasn't because I sat and analyzed everything from all directions. I wasn't wise enough to sit there and speculate where each road would take me. No, I was slow because I just sat there spinning my wheels with a glazed look in my eyes, afraid to commit to action, afraid to stay where I was...afraid of making the wrong choice, and therefore making no choice at all. ....which was actually a choice.

I've always had issues deciding what to wear. Is it because I'm vain, or self-conscious, or out-of-fashion? Well, I'm probably a bit of all of those, but the root of the matter is that I'm constantly thinking, "Who will see me in this? What will they think? Will the judge me? Will they like it? Will they disapprove? What should I wear to please the most people as possible?" ....Yes, I know I shouldn't be thinking that way. But it IS my default train of thought.

When I begin a conversation and realize I'm talking to someone who disagrees with me - whether witnessing to a non-believer, or talking with a Christian who believes differently from me - and we aren't just debating, but rather earnestly trying to "convert" each other, I instantly break out in sweat  (to an embarrassing extent!) and my heart pounds my ribcage. After such a conversation, I leave with a soaked shirt and damp palms, feeling as if I'm catching my breath. I'm terrified of making them angry with me. I can't stand to displease people - even if they're wrong and I'm right.

I love to write, but sharing my stories with real people makes me flutter nervously, or completely fall apart with a case of nerves.

I LOVE to bake things for people, but I will avoid doing it, or taking dishes to a church get together, for fear someone won't like it, and then despise me as a cook. Right now I've volunteered to take pasta salad to an event, for 30 people, and I'm absolutely terrified. What if they don't like it?

Balancing my checkbook scares me enough to make me put it off for months when I possibly can. What if I find out I'm broke?

...I could go on. The last year or so I have seen hundreds and hundreds of examples in my life of instances where fear is controlling me. I never thought of myself as fearful or controlled by fear before, so it's unsettling, to say the least. Actually, it's a little scary.

Ahem. Yes. I'm afraid about being afraid.

I rebel against this mental picture of myself. It goes against everything I thought I was. But I have to accept reality if I'm going to change things. Slowly, I'm taking the first steps.

First, I'm learning to admit that I am fearful about almost everything. My future. My body. My bank account. My family. My friends. My writing. Everything. When I see an instance in which I've acted based on fear, I'm learning to admit it. To say,  "Yes, I acted that way because I was scared." No more super-spiritual-bold-never-conquered image of myself. I can't let my dreams ruin my reality.

Second, I'm learning that fear is wrong. Has not He commanded me? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be ashamed, for the Lord your God is with you withersoever thou goest. Perfect love casts out fear. There is no fear in love. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. Fear not, for I am with thee.

Fear is my enemy. It is not to be tolerated, or put up with, or allowed to grow or fester in any way in my life. Admit to it, yes, but never embrace it. This is my mission now. To take every thought captive, and to lose my fear in love. To obey instantly, without fear of consequences. To find joy in everything - for joy and fear do not make good roommates.

He has come that I might have life. True, abundant life. When I picture this, I instantly think of a life without fear. No hesitancy - always knowing the right thing, and feeling no qualms about doing it. To have no fear of the future. A perfect trust in God. To leap out, into a glorious breath-taking view, and enjoy the fall, positive that He will catch me at the bottom. Like a child, tossed in the air, secure in the conviction that their daddy will be there when they come down again. Complete and utter abandonment to joy - THE Joy. My precious Jesus. HE is my joy.

Oh, what a life. I want it!

By God's grace, I shall have it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

She Made Me Smile

Riding home from church this Sunday:

My younger sister: "You know what?"

Me: "What?"

Sister: "We're pretty well set up, don't you think?"

Me: "What do you mean?"

Sister: "We have everything in our church! Electricians, mechanics, doctors, nurses, lawyers, builders, politic-people, mothers, fathers, children..." (as an afterthought) "...we even have a pastor!"

I tried to hide a smile. But then she look sideways at me and grinned.

Silly Amber - your siblings are growing up! She knew she'd made a joke! :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I learned another lesson from my dog today.

I was - or, rather, we were - practicing the "wait" before eating. I know many dogs live with unlimited access to the food bowl, and eat whenever they feel hungry, but I am strongly in the camp that says "dogs should learn that all good things come from their masters," and I don't give Reya a free buffet. She doesn't just find food in her bowl - I give it to her.

Or rather, I allow her to have it.

However you prefer to feed your dog, if you have ever once sat by a heaping food bowl with deep, hungry, eager, brown eyes riveted to yours - waiting for your command before eating....adoring you....you won't soon forget the experience.

So there we were, sitting on the back deck, waiting. The lesson for this afternoon was to wait a long period of time - calmly - with the food sitting very close.

So we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Reya was hungry. She couldn't wait to eat. But she knew I claimed the food, and I would not allow her to so much as touch the bowl. (She wasn't actually starving - I'm not cruel!) I didn't touch her, but my voice and body language made her keep her distance.

Even though she was obeying me - waiting - she wasn't really waiting inside. Inside her brain, she was jumping up and down, begging, crying, pleading to be able to devour the food. I wanted her to be calm - patient inside and outside.

When she finally quieted, and as I finally released her with an "okay!", she stepped forward to calmly enjoy her well-earned meal. I couldn't help thinking of God - the Ultimate Giver of all good gifts. How many times has He wanted to give me something good, but not been able to because I wasn't calm? How many times have I waited impatiently, and wondered why He wouldn't answer?

Reya waits because I tell her to. Somehow, in her doggy brain, she understands that I'm a higher power; I am the boss. But that knowledge wouldn't be enough, if she didn't trust me.

After all - what if the food vanished, after all that waiting? What if she starved to death because I made her wait? What if a big, hungry dog comes along and takes the food from me, before I can give it to her? What if? What if?

Lots of bad things could happen because she obeyed me. But she trusted me to keep them from happening.

Wow. She trusted me. That truly just dawned on me as I wrote it. She obeyed because she trusted.

I think my dog understands the spirit world better than I do, sometimes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Make Sugar-free Chocolate. Honest.


....This. Is. Dangerous.

I just made chocolate.

Did you hear me? I JUST MADE CHOCOLATE! 

Like....real chocolate. Myself. From scratch. And I just ate half the batch, in under three minutes. 

(Okay - I only made two small bars, but still!)

Oooooh, it was so good.

Why was I bothering to make chocolate when, in my room, in the not-so-secret basket on my bookshelf, lies a small mountain of chocolate bonbons?

Let me explain. But hold on - *grabs readers' sleeve* - I promise to share the recipe if you just hang in with me.

Almost three weeks ago, I discovered - through a chain of events that I won't take the time to relate here - that I have a certain health problem. It was making my life miserable in several apparently unrelated ways; all non-life threatening, and none of them too terrible a calamity in moderation or on their own, but when taken together, enough to make me take notice. When I realized they were all related, a breeze of sweet relief/excitement/dread/hesitation/apprehension swept over me. At last I had answers! ....But the implications of my answers filled me with dread.

This "minor" (though very annoying and socially-awkward) set of problems (including a rash all over my face and scalp - yay for helping me fight pride!) was just the tip of the iceburg. The bump of the potato underground. (Okay - so my metaphors aren't so good today.)

These "issues" were all being caused by a source that could lead to more serious things. Things that start with a "D" and a"C", and end in "iabetes" and "ancer."

I got a little scared. And hopeless.

One avenue was open. And it's an avenue I've thought about taking before, but would not venture down until this set of circumstances herded me down the alley with no option of a different road.

Change of Diet.

Oh yes. The thing we Americans hate to mess with; our food.

I was in denial at first. After all, I eat healthy! Really, I do. (Aside from that little mountain of chocolate, that is.) I hate soda. I hate pop tarts. I love fruit. I love steamed veggies. I eat very little pasta. I love soaked oatmeal, made from Old Fashioned oats. I prefer molasses and honey over white or brown sugar. I like fish. I don't eat much pork at all. We eat grass-fed beef whenever possible. We have fresh eggs from our own chickens. We drink raw milk, fresh from the farm.

I eat healthy! Really.

So WHY, God? Why put me through extra self-denial? Couldn't You go pop this lovely little problem on somebody who could really use a wake-up call? How 'bout that family down the street that lives on TV dinners and soda? Yeah - that sounds more logical.

But His ways are not our ways. And you know what? I think I'm finally okay with that. I smile to think how much smarter He is than me. :)

But on to practicalities.

For almost three weeks now, I've been living on a diet that contains none of the following:
- No milk (except kefir or almond)
- No cheese
- No butter
- No other dairy products
- No grains except oats (no rice, no wheat, etc.)
- No fruit except berries and citrus
- No nuts except almonds
- No oils except olive and coconut
- No potatoes
- No corn
- No carrots
- No peas
- No sweet potatoes
- No winter squash
- No legumes except navy beans and lentils
- No refined sugar
- No honey
- No molasses

...Have I forgotten anything? No, I don't think so.  

Yes, this is a limited diet! It's been a long three weeks. Thankfully, the Lord is beginning to heal me, and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope to be able to add dairy, fruit, and some other vegetables back into my diet in a few weeks. After that....we'll see!

Why am I sharing all this?

I almost didn't. Health is kinda personal, ya know? But I am actually enjoying the challenge of coming up with new recipes, and I want to share them with you! Maybe some of you are gluten-free, or dairy-free, and you'd like some ideas. Maybe you can share ideas!

But let's get 'round to the point...finally.


Yes. That's a good point, isn't it?

I'm not technically "supposed" to have chocolate on this diet. It contains sugar. And bad fats. As well as whatever additives are inside those brown bars.

But who says you can't make your own?

This way: 
Coconut Oil
Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder

Make molds with foil. Little bar shapes. Sprinkle Almonds inside. Melt Coconut oil. Add cocoa powder to taste. (You could also add sweetener at this point; honey, or sugar.) I made mine really dark. Pour melted mixture into molds. Place in freezer for one hour.

Pop out of molds. Break off pieces.


(*Tip: You will enjoy even more if you go without sugar for three weeks*)

If there WERE any leftovers, they are best stored in the freezer, or at least the refrigerator. Coconut oil gets soft at room temperature.
P.S. Mom says this is REALLY dark chocolate. I love it. For those of you who can add some form of sweetener, you will probably want to. Just to taste.

Edited 3.5 hours later to add:
Just for future reference....when a person has not had caffeine in several weeks....eating roughly 2 tsp. of pure cocoa powder in one sitting will probably lead to a racing heartbeat. Just saying. Hypothetically.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dear God...

...Thank You for a slow computer. It makes computer addiction SO much less appealing.

Thank You for the rainy, dreary day outside. It smells so good. And it kept me from wasting time outside this morning.

Thank You that I'm getting older. Every day is a day closer to Heaven - and YOU.

Thank You for health issues. They make me realize that everything I have is Yours already.

Thank You for taking away things I love. It makes me focus on You.

Thank You for giving me challenges. They work patience, and patience worketh experience, and experience worketh hope. And hope maketh us not ashamed, because Your love has shined abroad in our hearts.

Thank You that nothing lasts forever - not even people. I don't want anyone to become an idol for me.

Thank You that I'm not rich. I want to be able to ask You for my daily bread. And I want to watch You supply my needs.

Thank You for giving me work to do.

Thank You that I'm not a perfect beauty. I have a hard enough struggle with pride without that complicating matters.

Thank You that I'm not a perfect Christian. I want to rest in YOU, not me.

Thank You for my family.

Thank You for my church.

Thank You for Your Word. Thank You, thank You, thank You!

Thank You for my puppy. Thank You for puppy kisses.

Thank You for knowing the future. Thank You for not telling me everything You know.

Thank You for holding me.

Thank You for being trust-worthy.

Thank You for always making everything work out okay.

Thank You for putting a thankful spirit in my heart - it can only come from You.

I love You.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"I could be a great missionary if it weren't for you natives!"

Have you ever felt that way?

Missionary Otto Koning uses the phrase in his famous Pineapple Story; "I could be....if it weren't for..." In his case, it was missionary and natives, but did you ever find yourself substituting your own nouns?

"I could be a great sister if it weren't for my younger siblings!"
"I could be a great student if it weren't for my confusing textbook."
"I could be a great musician if it weren't for my packed schedule that keeps me from practicing."
"I could be a great daughter if my parents were more understanding."
"I could be a great Christian if it weren't for temptation!"

Yes. Ahem. ...Well, welcome to the real world. Things go wrong here. Life is not centered around making it easy for you (or me) to be "good."  ...At anything.

Seriously - due to the natural order of things since the entrance of sin into this world, nothing good just happens.

....Actually, forget that. Even BEFORE sin, nothing good just "happened." This wonderful world of ours required the spoken Word of God to call it forth into existence. Every good thing has a source. And since the arrival of sin, it's an uphill battle, all the way. Gardens have to be planted, watered, and weeded. Even wild plants require rain, and sunshine. They have to survive animals that smash them down, eat them, or uproot them. Training an animal takes work. Dogs aren't born knowing how to sit on command (much to the general publics' dismay). Learning a skill or a sport doesn't just happen. It takes committed hours of practice.

Why should our spiritual life be any different?

Yes, God could smooth the way for us; remove all temptation, remove headaches that make us cranky, remove annoying relatives, remove that knat buzzing around my face while I try to type....anything He wants to do, He can do. But would that really do us good?

What's our definition of good?

Does good = easy? 
Does good = fun?
Does good = rewarding?
Does good = satisfying?
Does good = pleasant?
Does good = stress-free?

Or does good equal anything that draws me nearer to God? Anything that makes me more like Christ? Anything that shows me what He is like?

Sometimes those things can be wonderful experiences. More often, they are hard ones. Think about it; these things that we think "hinder us" or make it harder to "be good" are designed to chip away at a part of us that we were born with; our sin problem. That doesn't come off easy. It's like scrubbing burnt eggs off a stainless steel pan....only harder.
So, are we destined to go through life miserable, hanging our heads and saying, "yes, these annoyances and trials are for my good, and I'm going to suffer through because I know it's good for me"? Do we pinch our nose shut, close our eyes, and swallow the medicine?

Yet...what about the joy of the Lord? Abundant life? Love overflowing? Joy unspeakable and full of glory?

How do we reconcile these two separate pictures of the Christian life? Do they describe two different kinds of Christians?

A resounding "no!" echoes within my spirit. Surely not. Surely that's not His plan.

I find the answer to this apparent contradiction in Paul's life. No one could deny that he had his share of trials that made it hard to be kind, loving, unselfish and "good." I've never tried smiling at a soldier who is chained to my wrist, but I imagine it isn't easy. I've never suffered a day and a night in the ocean because the captain of a boat wouldn't take my advice about the weather, but I imagine that when your ship wrecks, it's hard to keep from thumbing your nose in his face and shouting "told you so!" I've never been betrayed by a church that I gave my heart and soul to found, but I can imagine it takes a lot of strength to write to them and tell them I still love them and care about their welfare.

All in all, Paul had every excuse you could want. He could have been the perfect grumpy Christian. But he WASN'T! Why? Because he was super spiritual? Because he knew all the right verses to quote to himself? Because he was naturally even-tempered? (Ha!)

I think the answer is that he was able to rejoice because he trusted.

Just that. A childlike confidence that everything was going to work out. That there was a reason behind every little thing that seemed to be a bother or annoyance. He even learned to REJOICE in his weaknesses, because they made Christ look all the stronger - and He is. Paul didn't mope about his sin - and I'm sure he was just as capable of feeling pain as the rest of us when God starting chipping the layers off - but he REJOICED that God was purifying him. And he identified the process. He knew what was going on; God had caused or allowed this annoyance, and He had done it for a reason.

That trust. That rest. Ooooo, I want that.

What's more (can you stand any more excitement?), He actually gives us the grace to meet these trials and WIN! We don't HAVE to be grumpy or annoyed. We don't! Believe it or not, He doesn't bring every trial for the sole purpose of watching us fall flat on our faces and bemoan our weakness. Yes, there have been times when I needed to be humbled and fall flat on my face, but most of the time I believe God wants us to win. And He provides us with the grace - if we'll just use it. He's rooting for us.

Just something to think about. ...For me as well as the rest of you. I wrote this post because I kept catching myself using the "native excuse," as I've dubbed it, and I needed a place to collect my thoughts on the matter. I think I've just convicted myself.

Lord, teach us to rejoice in all Your works!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Please Have Mercy

I hope you miss me.

But please be patient. You have no idea what life is like right now.

In 5 short weeks, somehow I've managed to schedule the following:

- 3 Weddings (1 out-of-town)
- 3 Wedding rehearsals
- 8 Dresses to be finished (6 of them bridesmaid dresses, with all but one having 27 pieces each)
- 2 Wedding Showers (1 hosted by me)
- 1 Day-trip to a conference (can't wait!)
- Time to practice wedding music (when?)
- Typical bridesmaid duties (honors, really!)
- 1 Vet appointment
- 1 Chiropractor appointment
- Shopping for wedding showers
- Hopefully helping 1 friend move
- ....And normal life duties, like running two home businesses, taking care of my puppy, doing the dishes, going to church, and trying to find time to work on my book manuscript.

I'm thankful to be involved in each of these things (except maybe the dishes. :) - especially the weddings. So exciting! But my time is VERY tight right now, and when I do get free time, I spend it on other things....requiring less thought than blogging.

But I thought I should pop in and let you know what's going on.

What's happening in your life right now? I know y'all are a bunch of busy, hard-working ladies! I'd love to hear about your adventures and projects!

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Cool Thing

When was the last time you took a good look at someone close to you? A parent, for instance? Have you ever stepped back and saw your mother or father as another human, rather than your mother or father?

As I've entered into my adult years, those moments are occurring more often. I'm realizing that, just like me, Mom and Daddy are having new experiences all the time. They didn't get a practice run, to hone their skills, then decide to hit rewind and do life again - this time with kids. It doesn't work like that.

More than that - my parents are people. When was the last time I tried to get to know them as people, the way I'd try to get to know a new friend?

I thought of this tonight as I watched Mom play badminton with one of my sisters. I stood on the deck, head tilted to one side. With my eyes squinted, I could imagine I saw in the gathering dusk, not a mother, but a young girl, playing on a side lawn in New York, years ago.

From what I understand, Mom could hold her own quite nicely with the neighborhood boys in most any sport, be it softball, kickball, or ping-pong. She was quite the tomboy back then. And musical, too - spending hours practicing clarinet or guitar. Now she never plays anything - just listens to us, and encourages us to practice.

I never stopped to think, until the last few years, about mothers having hobbies. After all, is that allowed? They cook, and raise children, and play taxi, and counsel daughters and sons, and make appointments, and help their husbands, and clean the house, and organize the schedule,....and a million other things that we couldn't do without. ...But do you mean mothers actually have playful little quirks, and likes and dislikes, and hobbies and inside jokes, and secret dreams and desires....just like me?

You mean she's just like any other woman....like me, in fact? She may be super, but she's not a super woman, immune to the little details that make up a real person?

Does it sound odd that such a fact has dawned on me slowly, over the last several years? But it has.

And you know what?

I like it.

It's like when you read a book by an amateur, and it's okay, but the characters are flat, 2-dimensional, predictable things. They all sound the same...you know what they're going to do before they do it...they sound like bad actors, reading a script with too much emphasis in the wrong parts....They are people because they have a head and two legs, but deep inside you know they aren't people.

Then you open the covers of a really good book, written by a master storyteller; and the characters jump off the page to walk and breathe in the room around you while you listen and watch, spellbound. You know, deep inside, that these....these, my friend, are people.

And I've finally woken up to the fact that my parents are people. Wonderful, living, emotional, history-filled, genuine people. They were children. They were young adults. They met and fell in love. They had to learn how to be a husband and wife to each other.

And God actually gave them babies! He sent one after another....and my parents had to learn how to change diapers and wipe baby food off chubby cheeks. They had to stumble through groggy days because of short, noisy nights. Then they learned how to teach, and how to counsel, and comfort, and lead. All the while that I was growing up....so were they.

God gave me to these two people. He could have picked anybody....but He picked them.

It's the coolest thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Meet the Distraction:

It's time for me to confess a major reason for my late absence on this blog. 

A small object has been consuming a great deal of my thought and time. I haven't really visited y'all at all since obtaining this small thing. 

I don't apologize. I mean....I do....but I don't. It was worth it. I think you'll understand what I mean:  

Now, look at that little face, those tiny paws, and tell me it doesn't melt your heart. :) 

My older sister, Heather, rescued a stray puppy shortly after marrying Eugene two and a half years ago. Dogs grow fast, and back in January, this puppy was no longer a puppy, and was attracting attention from not one but two neighborhood gentlemen. Ahem. :) The same week Heather gave birth to my adorable nephew, Daisy the dog got pregnant by two dogs. (Yes, that CAN happen!) Several weeks later, she gave birth to TWELVE puppies. 

I've wanted a dog of my own for years. At first it was just a little girl saying "I want a puppy, Daddy!" Then I grew older, understood the responsibility (I thought), and recognized it was not the right timing for me to have a dog. I could almost feel God saying "wait." In November 2011, I felt the Lord saying it was okay for me to start thinking about it again, and I spent a lot of time wondering if it would ever be possible for me to have a dog. I've long studied dog-training as a hobby, and I longed to put my research into practical use. Plus, I wanted a companion. I love my family to death, but sometimes it's a bit lonely being the only older girl in the household.

Slight problem. Dad's always had a rule; one dog at a time, and only family dogs allowed. How could my dreams work? Time for prayer. I told God what I desired, but I also understood that my dreams weren't worth dishonoring my dad or disrupting peace in the family. At least, I thought that's how my attitude would be. But I guess I didn't know my own heart. The Lord had to do some open-heart-surgery before things were right between Him and me. Then I went to prayer again.    

Well, through a small set of miracles (are miracles ever small?) both of my parents had a change of heart, and the very week Heather's puppies were old enough to leave their mother, I celebrated my birthday with what might possibly be the best present EVER:  

May 14th, the evening of my birthday. Thanks, Heather!!!! 

 The puppies' mother, Daisy, was a pitbull-terrier mut, and at least half of them 
were sired by what appeared to be a full-bred lab. Not sure what the father of the other ones was!

It wasn't love at first sight. Too many choices - I loved them all!! At first I wasn't sure I'd selected the right puppy. There were two I had narrowed it down to - the two most submissive puppies - and in the end I went with this little fuzzy-headed girl. I noticed she was always the last one out of the dog house, and always stood back respectfully and waited for everyone else to finish before she went for the bowl at feeding time. She was very hyper, but caught onto things quick, and was smarter than some of her siblings. She allowed me to turn her belly-up, like a mother dog would when disciplining her puppies, and she loved to be around humans.

I picked her name even before I brought her home. That took awhile, deciding on a name. It had to be perfect. I knew I wanted a Hebrew word - I just love the sound of Hebrew. And I wanted something reflective of the lessons God was teaching me about my life. My sister Tiffany helped me go through the Hebrew section of the concordance, looking for words like "joy," "peace," "laughter," "gentle,"...and then we came to "friend, or companion."

"How do you say this word?" Tiffany asked.
"Let me see....'Reya.' Like 'ray-a.' What does it mean, again?"
"Friend or companion."
I thought for a minute. "That's it. We've found it. That's perfect. I love it!"

So Reya it was.

It took only two days for me to be overwhelmed by the thought of all that I was responsible for. I had committed to take care of this adorable creature for 12-14 YEARS! And she wasn't perfect. She was scared to go through doors and up or down steps, and had to go to the bathroom 4 times a night, and she thought 5:15am was the perfect time to start the day. And she wouldn't walk on a leash. And she had worms. And vets don't work for free.

But you know what? I loved Reya. Every time I looked at her, my heart swelled with the knowledge that she was mine. Mine alone. She depended on me for everything. Not only did I have to feed her, but teach her how to behave - even when to use the bathroom or sleep. Every time she chose to come lay down beside me and sleep on my feet, my pleasure knew no bounds. I knew she wasn't perfect. I knew she smelled like a dog. I knew she would misbehave before the day was over. But she was mine, and she knew it.

I don't smell the doggie breath. I don't mind that she misbehaves occasionally - though every time I must correct her, it breaks my heart. She can be terribly hyper, and that drives me crazy. I know her flaws, but I also see what I will make her. When I say her name, I know it is my name - the name I chose for her, and put upon her. Her behavior is shaped by my desires - I choose what is acceptable, and what is wrong for her. Her disobedience grieves me deeply, but it does not shock me - I expect it. She is a dog. I knew she would be that way. But I am changing her, ever so slowly. She is not just a dog; she is my dog.

Every little way she shows affection for me brings me more joy than I can describe. She has a little habit of coming close to me and laying her chin on my knee when she is unsure of something. I know her timid personality would naturally tell her to run far away, rather than go to a human for reassurance, but she comes to me, and stays still beside me, rather than running. That means the world to me. When I have a big sewing project, I'll often block off the kitchen doorway, and keep her in there with me while I sew at the kitchen table. I put her dog bed in one corner, and she usually takes a nap there, but never a sewing session goes by when she doesn't leave her bed eventually and come sleep at my feet instead. I want to sit there and cry all over my fabric.

 Remember all that prayer I put into asking for a dog, and seeking God's face in the matter? Part of that prayer was asking God to make me a good dog owner, and asking Him to teach me about Himself through my dog. I asked Him to reveal Himself in a whole new way.

He has. I can't begin to describe it.

I've often struggled with believing the kind of love God has for me. My personality is driven by a desire to people-please, and be perfect. That used to mean doing a lot of camouflaging, so my filth couldn't be seen. I even applied it to my relationship with my Savior. I knew I wasn't saved through works...but I thought I could be loved because of works. To be loved by Someone who has a full knowledge of my flaws and sin.....that wasn't logical to me.

Now it is. Now I understand. O, how great a Saviour I have! O, how He loves me!

Because I'm His. Because He knows my flaws, and chooses not to see them. He sees what He will make me - and what I am in Him, already. He sees His name upon me. 

God showed this to me exactly two years ago, this month. He delivered me from 9 miserable, striving, never-good-enough-to-please-myself, depressing years, in July of 2010.

I thought then I understood.

Then I met Reya. And I didn't just understand.

All of the sudden....

I knew.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eyes of Faith

Today I've been pondering the blessed assurance that I will not remain as I am forever.

Sometimes I fear change - most of the time, in fact - but I almost always have wanted myself to change. I want to be better, more loving, less selfish, more Christlike. I long to be less bothered by worry and stress. I want to be carefree, joyful, overflowing with life and love! I can see the picture in my mind's eye, but compared to my actual self.....well, the comparison is discouraging.

This week I have struggled with worry, and hated the fact, even while I was doing it. I realize I should be joyful that I am struggling - struggling means life. If I were to lay down and accept these feelings, now that would prove that I am dead, without the Spirit of life. But to fight - that proves who I am, and Whose I am.

So, truthfully, I'm glad I'm struggling, but I'm also tired. Why can't I be different? Why can't I be joyful all the time? Why must I be so depressing? Why can't I be one of those people who sails through life, rarely thinking deeply about it all, happily skimming the surface, as it were?

These were my thoughts yesterday and this morning. I felt doomed by the personality that I have. I sighed and wished I didn't have to keep myself company for an entire lifetime.

Then came that blessed reminder: God saved me to change me! He promised an abundant life. He commands joy - and He equips when He commands. He is not done with me yet.

I've been amazed, over the last year, to see how my own younger siblings are blooming and blossoming into such wonderful young people. The faults and flaws that were so (blush) annoying to me when they were little have, in many cases, been smoothed and softened by the lessons the Lord has been teaching them. I could almost feel Him nudging me; "See? Don't judge them until I'm done with My work - and I'm not done even yet!"

Today I felt that reminder applied to myself - or rather, I felt myself included in His work; "I'm not done with you yet, child! Do you honest think I would permit My own child to remain in such a sorry state her whole life? The idea! Give it time - I'm working out the flaws in your character, and the more you trust Me, the quicker the work will go. I promised to finish every work I begin, and, child, I started a work in you!"

Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Day of Wrath Working NOT

I simply must tell you about my day.

Oh yes - by the way, I know I've been slack with my blogging. What better way to get back into the swing of things than by giving you a laugh?

I've been told numerous times not to constantly use the internet as a place to vent, complain, and rant about your terrible moments or troubles. I agree. Bad idea. Pointless. Depressing for others.

I'm often tempted to do it. Don't think I gave in today, however. Oh no. I haven't. I've waited until the humorous side of the situation (there always is one) has struck me. Now I can write tongue-in-cheek, confidant that there is a point to it all.

So, about my day...

It began with me turning off my alarm clock. And going back to sleep.

For 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Looking back, I could have done without the extra sleep; it was filled with a strange and loathsome dream that hung around and irritated me throughout the rest of the day, if you know what I mean.

But I finally propped my eyelids open and fumbled my way to the kitchen. (I'm usually a morning person, so the mere fact that I was stumbling around groggily was not a good sign.) I knew I had exactly 30 minutes to fix breakfast and eat it; today was a treadmill schedule.

I fixed myself an egg and ate it without too much drama. But I was still hungry, so I grabbed some cereal and a banana, and went to the fridge for milk. Mom asked me to get her a grapefruit while I was there. In the process of trying to hold one banana and grab one pitcher of milk, I dumped a bowl full of shredded turkey.

All over the floor.

Shut fridge door. Fetch broom and dust pan. Explain to mother and sister how I made such a mess. Clean up mess. Return to fridge for grapefruit. Open door.

Jump as bottle of ketchup hits the floor.

I should have guessed right then and there that the day was going to be interesting.

I read James chapter one this morning, and claimed verse 20 as my key to the day, "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." I even highlighted it. I asked God to help me be sweet-tempered today - if, by some rare chance, I was tempted to be angry or loose my temper. As I replaced my journal on the shelf, I thanked Him for making me naturally laid-back.


Did you hear me?

HAH!! The irony grips me.

Never, ever, do that. Today, without any particular regard to order of importance, I have suffered the following:

- Tried to pack a order for our business, and could not locate the needed item.
- While preparing to leave the house to go pick strawberries for a local farm, I could not find my boots, and subsequently was late in leaving.
- Before I left the house, my mother told me at least seven times to "be careful on those back roads!" To which I replied every time, "I will!"
- I've broken my sunglasses, so the drive was accomplished with a lot of squinting into the morning sun.
- Told my mother I wouldn't get cold, and then proceeded to freeze for the first 1/2 an hour while picking strawberries
- Was assigned to pick my brother up from work and made it there 20 minutes LATE.
- Also caused my sister to arrive at piano lessons 10 minutes late.
- Wanted VERY badly to do a certain activity, and was deprived of the opportunity because I had to rush home and get ready to leave again for a 2:00 appointment.
- Returned home frantically.
- Was told the appointment was not until 3:00.
- Was also told I should NOT have left my sister at my last location.
- Every time I entered or left the house today, a certain younger sibling has been banging away - skillfully, but noisily - on the piano just inside the front door. Which is also just outside my bedroom door. You do not understand this unless you have younger siblings who play an instrument.
- Made it to the appointment on time, but without a needed item. ....It was sitting at home on my bed.
- On the drive home, a water bottle spilled all over my shoes and purse.
- Back at home, I entered my bedroom and heard a "clunk" of a random item falling off the shelf in my closet. Just because I came into the room, I'm sure.

Hmm....listed like this, the events seem moderately amusing, but not angering. In real life, however, I lost patience when I couldn't find my boots and was repeated warned about back roads. I practically hyperventilated about being late. I cried oceans of tears over loosing the opportunity to do the activity I had to miss because of my "2:00 appointment." Smacked myself in the head for forgetting the needed item.

...But by the time the water bottle spilled all over my purse, I had to laugh. This really hasn't been a bad day. I've had two wonderful conversations about the Lord with two ladies I met while out and about. I didn't accomplish much in the way of business, but I got some good reading done. I loved picking strawberries. I spent a lot of time with my siblings. The weather is finally sunny here instead of cloudy.

I was silly to spend anger on these things. I was fully conscious that I had a choice; to hold onto the anger, or let go and relax. Sometimes I forget I have a choice, but not today. Today I knew it. Clearly.

It took me until about 2:45 to give in and "let go," but it was after that I was able to laugh. To find the humor. To look realistically at the situation and know my life was not ruined.

The wrath of man does NOT work the righteousness of God, and it doesn't do much for the good of the man, either.

Just a friend bit of advice based on personal experience.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time Management?

Since losing my computer (temporarily, thank the Lord!) to a virus over a week ago, (...or was it two weeks?) I have been limited to using the family machine for all my computer-related activities.

Since I have two blogs, an online business, and lots of email correspondents, it's been challenging to keep up with everything while sharing the computer with everyone else. No longer can I plop down to work on something when I feel like it or if I just have a few minutes. Instead, I must wait until Mom and Dad are not using the computer, and if a sibling already has permission to be on, I must wait for them, as well. Then, when I'm on, I've got to be fast!

Maybe you don't have to worry about sharing your computer, but if you're like most of us, you know you give too much of your day to that Time Trap. You browse a little, jump from one site to another, and before you know it an hour is gone. Five minutes later, once you've gotten busy with something else, you remember what you really should have done while you were on the computer. That email that needs a reply. That website you meant to check. That quote you meant to research. And you spent all your computer time frittering around.

Sound familiar? Please tell me I'm not the only one who has had this problem.

So here's a tip for the day. A good way to make sure you get everything done on the computer in a timely manner is to think ahead of time, "what do I need to do on there?" and write it down.

As in; "old-fashioned-pencil-and-paper-writing-it-down." (Trust me. Sitting in front of the screen, you will never remember everything you meant to do on there. Something about that chair zaps your mind.)

Take that list with you to the computer, and begin by opening up a tab for each task you need to do. (Or windows, for non-Internet-related jobs.) One tab for your email, one tab for your blog, ect. (So many tabs open at the same time would drive my computer-savvy brother insane, but as long as your Internet connection can handle it, it DOES work splendidly to manange your time!)

Then start with the quickest task and do it.

Exit that tab. (Very important. Don't click onto another page, don't hop to another blog. EXIT THE TAB.)

Go to the next tab/task. Do it.

Exit that tab.

And so on and so forth until you've completed every task and are down to one tab. Now you know you've completed everything you need to do on the computer. If you have extra time, you can open up "fun tabs."

This principle of giving myself a "list of tabs" to accomplish at the beginning of my computer time, and working my way through them before moving on to "fun" computer time has really helped me make the most of limited time on the computer.

And, to be quite honest, even time on my personal computer is limited. I don't want to spend all day online. I have other things to do.

Do you find this idea helpful?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Just a Thought...

Would you want the world to see the secret details of your heart and life?

What if your friends could investigate certain things about you?

Would you want them seeing your Internet history? Every page?

How 'bout your bookmarked links?

Your texting inbox and outbox?

The songs you have loaded on your MP3 player, or Ipod, or whatever you might use?

A list of all the books you have ever checked out from the library?

A time log of when you went to bed every night so far this year?

A list of everything you've eaten this year?

Would you want them looking at your bank account summary, and a list of all purchases you have made in the last 12 months?

Would you like the world to know every movie you've ever seen? Every book you've ever read?

What about a recording of every phone conversation you've ever had?

It has been in my mind lately that someday every secret thing will be made manifest, and what has been done in secret will be shouted from the housetops. I do have a best friend who knows not only everything I have seen and said, but also ever thought and considered. I'm going to have to face Him someday and give a reason - an account - for every idle word I've spoken, not to mention every moment I haven't redeemed.

To be quite honest, I don't want the world knowing everything in the above list. I've done some stuff I shouldn't have. I don't want people to think I'm a hypocrite; saying one thing and doing another.

But the reality is that it doesn't matter if the world sees it right now or not: I am what I am, in secret, or before others. Jesus knows that real me. He isn't taken in by my outward behavior. And if I would be ashamed for others to know "the real me," then I ought to feel a great deal of shame this very moment, for there is someone who knows "the real me."

That thought is very heavy and saddening. For, you see, I love this Jesus. I want Him to be pleased with me.

But even as my heart sinks, it skips a beat and remembers that Christ died for this very sinner who sits in this chair. He died already knowing that I would commit countless sins. And He has committed Himself to purifying me, and making me like Him. He's not going to give up. He shall complete whatever work He begins. He IS changing me, and He isn't going to get discouraged and give up. I am His, and that precious reality means I am forever His.

And, regal King that He is, He wants everything that is His to be the best. Including me.

So here I am, Lord Jesus. Take me, shape me, and teach me to do Your will. Thank You that You are honest with Me, and show me exactly who I am. And thank You for loving me in spite of all that, and removing the guilt for all of that.

I've never known anyone like You!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I haven't deserted you...

...I've just lost my computer! Viruses are nasty. What diabolical mind would create something like that and send it out to ruin the lives of total strangers?
My laptop is in the shop right now, and I'm praying that I haven't lost all my files! I have stuff on there that I really, really, really don't want to lose. I've had the computer for 5 years, and I write books and run two businesses from it, so there's quite a bit of data on there!
I praise the Lord for what He is teaching me through this experience. Patience. Trust. Time management. Trust. Priorities. Trust. I am thankful for His loving heart, and His tender teaching!
But I'm still praying that I'll get my files back. Would you pray too?
Meanwhile, maybe you'll get a post or two, from my parent's computer....but not right now. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Three strikes....

...and I'm out.

Double points for almost bonking my head against a wall while leaning back on my bed five minutes ago.

Triple points for scratching myself with my own nails twice inside of ten minutes.

Accidentally, of course.

I also get points for giving into worry and fretting, for running away from problems instead of dealing with them, and for blaming other people when circumstances make me unhappy. Lots and lots of points.

And in this game, like golf (though I've never played the game and have no interest in it), we're trying for the lower end of the score card.

So, if I make mix my metaphors, I've struck out. So0000 glad it's bedtime! Kinda.

(Which, incidentally, means I should be in bed, not here, especially since I have to get up at 5:00 am [which is my own fault] but who's paying attention to little details like that? I could use another point.)

Don't you just love run-on parenthetical remarks?

I admit it; I am NOT writing this blog post because I have any remarkable bit of wisdom or advice to share, or a funny story, or a heart-warming tale. I'm clattering away at the keyboard because I need to release a bit of frustration and grief, and you poor readers are always so sweet, to hear me out.

I had "one of those days" today. From start to finish, things went wrong, I didn't have enough time to do what I wanted. The computer was slow, I woke up late, I didn't have ingredients, I double-booked my schedule...you know how it goes.

But that wasn't what was so hard. We all have days like that. Sometimes they just give us a day to laugh at ourselves, and everything is okay. Other times we learn through struggles, and we're okay.

I didn't feel okay.

All day long, a fluttering panic-y feeling was growing in my heart. Worry. Fretting. Anxious. I couldn't stop thinking about issues as small as, "WhatEVER am I going to find to wear tomorrow when my closet is empty and I don't have time to do laundry today?" or as big as, "How in the WORLD am I going to pay for everything I have to pay for next month?"

I was a failure. I knew it. I was miserable. My life wasn't going anywhere. I was on a treadmill and couldn't get off. I could feel my emotions getting the better of me, and that was what bothered me. Difficulties are a part of life, and it's just part of being an adult to expect them, but when I succumb to them instead of facing them, that.....that is horrible.

Sometimes the problems are not truly world-threatening issues - like "what am I going to wear?" Other times they are truly problems; like, "what are my customers going to think of me if I can't bake their order because I don't have the ingredients?!?!"

But my response is real in either case. If I fall into tears and frustration and worry because of clothes, it's just as much of a pit as if it were something more important. And I'm not supposed to live in pits. I'm a child of the King.

And I knew that. I kept telling myself that. "Snap out of it, Amber - you're silly to mope like this with all Christ has done for you!" But I didn't want to snap out of it. I was miserable and wanted to mope. ...Sorta.

The only verse that kept going through my mind was, "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Okay, Lord. This is Your will. And that is Your will. And that too? Okay, that too. All this stuff is happening to me because You let it. And it's going to be okay. All right. Okay. If You say so.

I held onto that idea like a lifeline, for that is what it was.

I lived long enough to know that if I hold on long enough, all the sudden my eyes adjust and I can see the Son again. He is there all along, but I just have to be patient. It seemed a long wait today.

So I sat down to vent while I was waiting.

You know what's funny? As I wrote my list of "point achievements," I started noticing what I couldn't write down. Strange, huh?

I wrote down "Rotten Attitude," then thought "well, I was tired and sad, and sighed a lot, but I wasn't exactly rotten. God gave me grace to have several kind moments toward others, actually, now that I think about it." Backspace that.

I typed out "Being Lazy," and remembered the hour I wanted to spend doing something - anything - mindless on my computer, but instead forced myself to be glued to a chair working on measuring garments for my website. And I remembered the photos of those same garments I wanted to put off doing, and didn't. And I cleaned the living room. And printed out flyers for my bakery business. And wrote a blog post on my other blog. And made breakfast. And practiced my fiddle.

I may not have accomplished everything I wanted to today, but I know in my heart I wasn't lazy. That started a warm flutter in my chest.

Maybe today wasn't a waste. Maybe God answered my prayer of this morning - that He would use this day for His purposes. And tomorrow isn't going to be so bad - even if I have to get up at 5:00. God is in control. This is a beautiful life. The weather is gorgeous. My bedroom window is open. The crickets are chirping, and cool air is flowing through the screen. No cats fighting beneath it tonight, unlike last night. :)

God has whispered to my heart. Circumstances haven't changed. I don't have an extra hour in my day tomorrow, and I'm certainly no richer, but I'm okay. In fact...I feel a smile coming on. My first smile in several hours.

I did. I smiled. And what's this? Tears? I managed not to really cry today. But now I am. I'm happy. It feels so good to smile. It feels so good to let go and know that He is God. The big things, and the little things, are in His hands.

I think I'll sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Sunday afternoon....

Four generations of my family together....Sunday dinner...laughter....discussion....

After lunch, Grandpa and Mom wash dishes together. Father and daughter, talking while they work.

Daddy and my three youngest siblings sprawl out on the nearby living room carpet and play a game.

My brother-in-law and the brother closest to me in age sit side-by-side on the plush sofa, heads together over a laptop, deep in a discussion of some sort.

I turn around a dining room seat to face the living room, where Heather cuddles her baby and Grandma sits near by. The three of us bounce from topic to topic, making remarks about whatever is on our minds. Sometimes we just sit.

Heather passes Byron to me. I let him snuggle into my shoulder, and I rock back and forth slightly. Conversation lags. I just enjoy the warmth and weight in my arms. I press my cheek against his soft hair, and hum contentedly.

I suddenly feel so rich. From the sunshine outside, to the radiance within, everything around me is satisfied. I am surround by family. I never dreamed my grandparents would live close enough to come over for Sunday dinners. I never imagined my sister passing me a baby boy that belongs to her. I couldn't have fathomed a brother-in-law who fits so well with our family. I can hardly believe my senses when they tell me my younger siblings have blossomed in such fantastic ways and grown into such fine young folks. All these riches have come to pass in such a short time.

And it's happened to me, of all people! I belong here, with these folks, in this family. I am one of them. They are mine. And I am theirs. This is our world. Who knows how long this golden age will last? No matter how many years, it will be but a vapor when it is passed. And I know that. But I do not think of it just now. For the moment, I am content to bask in the simple joys, and know that God will be just as present in the future as He is in the present.

And all I want to say, Lord Jesus, is thank You.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Never Say Never

I was walking through the Dollar Store when I saw it. (I know, I shop in the most glamorous places.)

It was sold in small packages, inside a flimsy cardboard box.

Chocolate Cream of Wheat.

Now, I love, love, love, chocolate, but I am no fan of cream of wheat. And the idea of adding chocolate...well, chocolate may be able to cover a multitude of faults, but not a multitude of wheat.

Disgusted with a capital "D". Never was going to try that one.

Well....remember I told you I'm going without refined sugars for two weeks? I was getting desperate for breakfasts without sugar.

A few weeks ago I soaked and coarsely ground some wheat berries. I hadn't used them for bread because our blender didn't grind them fine enough. They were sitting in a baggie in the corner of the refrigerator. I was hungry...I looked at the baggie, and thought...why not? I'll put a lot of maple syrup on it.

...Then I thought about chocolate.

I missed chocolate. Two weeks without chocolate is hard.

...But baking cocoa doesn't have sugar in it. Just cocoa.

Okay - long story short, I mixed a big scoop of baking cocoa with my home-ground cream of wheat, a big scoop of peanut butter, a splash of milk, and a generous drizzle of maple syrup.

Oh. Wow.

So. Good.

Never say never.

Monday, February 27, 2012

New Recipe and a New Blog

Well, I'm doing it again.

Going without sugar for 2 weeks, that is. This time my two younger sisters are doing this with me, so it's been much more fun.

Last week I invented a new recipe for a breakfast without sugar, and I thought you might enjoy trying it, too:

Pumpkin Raisin Oatmeal
(Hey, you like Pumpkin Raisin cookies, right? So try it before you say "huh?")
(serves about 4)

- 2 cups quick oats
- 4 cups water (you can do less or more, depending on how thick you like your oatmeal.)
- 1 TBS kefir (or other acid substance, like lemon juice or vinegar, but if you use those decrease the amount to 1 tsp.)
Combine the above in a sauce pan with lid. Stir, cover, and let soak at room temperature overnight.
In the morning, uncover, place on burner over medium heat, and as it starts to warm, add the following:
- 1-2 capfuls of imitation vanilla extract
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup pumpkin
- 1/3 cup molasses (you can do a little less, but I really love molasses)
- Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
Now, you should add the spices to taste, but remember that because oatmeal is mostly liquid, you'll need to add a LOT of spices to carry through the taste. Be very generous. I do about 1/2 tsp. each of ginger and nutmeg, and probably at least 1 TSB cinnamon....but I never measure, so those estimates may be wrong.

Anyway, add those ingredients, and cover the pot again until it begins to "pop" bubbles. You want it to boil, but keep an eye on it, because as soon as it starts boiling, uncover the pot and begin to stir constantly. You can turn the heat down. Stir for 2 minutes. The oatmeal should turn from looking like soup to...well...oatmeal.

Once you remove it from the heat, stir in a LOT of raisins. This is where you are really sweetening your oatmeal, and they are yummy, so add as much as you like!

Serve hot. Add milk if desired.

Let me know what you think! Don't expect the sugary sweetness of your typical store-bought flavored instant oatmeal packs. This is heartier, and packs more of other flavors, but I like it. If you really can't stand the absence of sugar, you could add a tsp. to the top of each bowl, and pour milk over it, and I'm sure it would be really yummy.

My sisters? One says she likes it as long as the raisins are there to sweeten it. The other doesn't like raisins, but she does love to add peanut butter to her oatmeal. I got her started on that, but I don't like peanut and pumpkin together. Oh well. Each to her own!

Oh yes - my post title said new recipe AND a new blog, didn't it?

Don't worry - I'm not quitting The Fruit of Her Hands. But I have started a new blog! It's all about....well, I'll let the title speak for itself:

Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

I'm convinced I have the sweetest family in the world.

Need proof?

I'm sitting here at my computer, nibbling chocolate from my brother. Out on the kitchen table sits a vase filled with roses; from the same brother. Gifts to my sisters and myself. He gave some to Mom, too.

My parents gave me the nicest card ever today, wishing me a day filled with love, and telling me how much I am loved.

My youngest sister gave me two Hershey kisses, and a cookie dough spoon to lick - and a pink construction-paper card.

As I sat here writing, I had to get up and answer a knock on my bedroom door - my other sister stood there with a beautiful handmade card. And two more chocolate kisses. The red paper heart was filled with carefully-written words, all sweeter than the sweetest chocolate.

But it goes beyond today.

Yesterday Mom gave me an iron. An iron. Do you remember my last post? She read it, too. Little did I know she had an iron tucked away for my birthday. She impulsively, spontaneously, and generously, and lovingly, gave it to me yesterday. I used it for hours today, as I sewed, and I love it. My own iron! Incidentally, it does not spit water, and it does not have automatic shut-off; it will stay on for hours!

A couple of weeks ago, my older sister gave me a thank-you note, for a baby shower gift. But this was no routinely stated, stiffly polite, typical thank-you note. She took time, in her flowing handwriting, to list just about every single thing I've helped her with or given her during the entire time she was pregnant! She had noticed everything, and taken the time to remember it. And even write it out.

I was out with one of my brothers tonight, and we drove pass a brightly-lit store window in a plaza. I saw a dress I loved, and said I wished we could pass it again so I could see better how it was made. (Hoping to someday copy it.) Without missing a beat, that brother of mine turned around and drove pass the window again!

I'm telling you, I have the sweetest family ever. Every single one of them astounds me with their thoughtfulness and generosity. I know that's Christ in them. And I'm so glad He's in them. He makes our family work, ya know? Life would be so wrong without Him.

Today is Valentine's Day. I've heard it called "singles' awareness day." I don't really do much to celebrate Valentine's Day - maybe someday, when I have a sweetheart, I will. But I don't feel lonely or depressed today. I'm not single. I'm surrounded by a loving family unit, and they make my heart sing.

Did you see the sun today? Did you feel the breeze? Your Heavenly Father loves you, and He's showing you it every moment, if you'll only take the time to look!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How to Iron

Our iron and I have a love-hate relationship.

I use the thing a lot, of course, because of my sewing. And it's a very handy invention. I'm glad I don't have to stand over a hot stove every time I want wrinkle-free clothing or smooth fabric.

But I really can't stand our iron.

It's fussy. Nit-picky. Spits at me. Lets loose a puddle ...right on top of the skirt I'm ironing and want to wear to church in 30 minutes.

At first, I thought it was just him. Couldn't behave. Was defective.

A tiny part of my brain started beating me over the head with certain phrases I had read in the instruction manual for the thing. Specific instructions on how to fill the iron with water - and how NOT to fill it.

But our old iron - bless its dear departed machinery - could be filled with water at any time and any way and work just fine. Never ruined moisture-sensitive fabric. Never spit out rust-colored droplets on my white shirt. Why couldn't our new iron be just as friendly? It's new after all! High tech. Who care about instructions?

What's so hard about putting water in an iron, anyway? You just pour some in, being careful not to overfill, and wala! You're done. Why must the iron be unplugged? And why must it be cold? And why must it be sitting on a perfectly level surface?

I compromised. "Fine. When I run out of water in the middle of an ironing session, I'll unplug you before I refill you. But as for letting you cool and setting you face-down before filling you...no. Not happening. I'm in a hurry. I'll dump it in while you're sitting upright, and it's not too important to shut the "steam" switch off while I'm filling you, either."

He said "Yeah, right. If that's the way you feel, see what kind of results you get. How would you like a puddle of warm water leaking through the ironing board onto your bare feet?"

Actually, he didn't say that. And I didn't talk to him, either. I'm not that far gone. But I thought it. And I'm almost positive he thought it too. ...No, I can't lie. I do know irons don't think.

But on with my story. I finally got fed-up and desperate, and decided to do everything according to the book. Steam switch "off." Iron cool and unplugged. Sitting face down on a level surface. Water poured into spout at correct angle. Lid flipped closed. Iron plugged in. Heat turned "on." Iron heats up. Steam switched "on."

Big breath.

Ironing begins.

Iron spits NOT.

Clothes get steamed perfectly.

Amber sticks tongue out at iron.

...No, that part is a lie. Actually, what Amber did was sit the iron down and think to herself that she's a lot like that little machine. She's been given specific instructions on how to operate herself, and she doesn't bother reading the book. She fills herself with water, of course, but at her own pace and on her own terms. She doesn't bother to slow down and fill herself properly, and she sure doesn't humble herself face-down to receive that water. She likes to take it standing up, on the go, when she wants it.

And then I think that iron stuck his tongue out at me.

Aren't we like that, though? God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, in His Word. His Word is so precious that we cannot live life properly without it. Like an iron without steam. Many of us realize that, yet want to use His Word on our own terms, at our own pace. He didn't just give us His Word, then walk away - anymore than we would give a sharp sword to a child and tell her to go play. He has given us instructions on how to use it:

We are to be doers, not hearers only.
We are to meditate on it day and night.
We are to treasure it.
We are to obey it.
We are to receive it meekly.
We are to believe it.
We are to READ it. Often.
We are to hide it in our hearts.
We are to hear it.
We are to teach it to others.

Can you think of any other ways we are to use the Word of God? Any other commands? Any thoughts you'd like to share on the topic?

By the way, thank you for all the congratulations on the arrival of my nephew. We went to see him yesterday (again!) and I have to say I just adore cuddling him.

But...anyway...thoughts on an iron. Who knew you could be taught a lesson from an appliance? An enemy appliance, at that. :)