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 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!