Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wanted: Spiritual Compass

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. ~William Shedd

I am not one to point fingers at Satan and his fallen angels as being the cause of all my troubles. Often, I see people who just make bad choices blaming it on the devil, like Eve did in Eden. I am one to take personal responsibility for my wrong doings instead of looking for someone to blame...and it took me some years with guidance from my Lord to undo a childhood where someone else honestly was to blame, because I tended to use that same excuse to cover my own behavior, my own choices, years later.

Abuse has a way of skewing one's perspective of people, of the world, of life, of even God for both victims of it, so it is easy to play the blame game. I learned that at some point in one's spiritual growth, a person should realize that he must accept the blame and ask forgiveness for his actions, regardless of what another person has done to him.

With that said, perhaps you can understand a bit about why the last place I look to in times of trouble in my life is to the spiritual realm. I constantly am seeking my Lord and trying to please Him...trying... but I am referring to the other side. I basically ignore Satan and his followers. I am not ignorant of them, I just do not believe that they can do anything without God allowing it, as seen in Job, so I try keep my focus on my Lord, the Light, and do not look to the darkness at all.

Some of my friends with very good discernment seem to be in agreement that my family is presently under spiritual attack and I spoken to my Lord on this issue also receiving confirmation. Things very spiritual occurred surrounding the 40-day fast my church did, but the church financial situation did not improve and more was required of us. My husband and I felt led by the Lord afterward to make a commitment to double our tithe for six months, putting ourselves financially vulnerable. We also planned to do more outreach work, which we have not been able to do because things just keep getting in the way, like going to Florida to help family twice since the fast.

I suppose I should not be surprised that here we are with several problems requiring money to fix and trying to make decisions about which has priority, which we will live with for now, and all the typical decisions one has to make at such times. Having car problems definitely hampers our outreach plans. On top of that I am fighting my own emotions nearly daily and just when I think I have a handle on it, something else crops up. I readily admit that finances are security to me. Even though we went through something of complete financial reliance on my Lord three years ago when my husband lost his job, I have been wondering if this is more of the same. Is my Lord trying to wrestle the reliance on money out of me? Or is this just a spiritual attack because of the fast and tithe and service commitment?

Yet, I now feel strongly this is not really about money; that part is just is a method of undermining our purpose.

Spiritual warfare....I have been in it at times praying for illnesses with demonic involvement, those illnesses that would not respond as they normally would to treatments, or did something not seen before and obviously aberrant things like that. However, I feel like a babe in the woods with this one: alone, isolated, and without a compass. I have friends, mostly you, who are reading this, praying for me and I do thank each one of you. On the other hand, I am not sure that it is even safe to be friends with me right now; I am concern for people I care so much getting caught in the fallout.

I really have to spend some time in prayer about all this. I wondered if my fight really is with Satan because I believe he really cannot have power unless my Lord allows it; He is Master of All. This reminds me of something my grandfather used to say: "God never puts more on you than you can take, but I wish He did not think so much of me."

So, the real question is what would my Lord have me do? I would like a spiritual compass!

My Lord, whatever is from You I accept readily and ask that You protect my church, my friends, and my family from what is not. Show me the way I am to go and I will keep trying to get there.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Divine Whisperer

Blessed are the ears that hear the pulse of the divine whisperer, and give no heed to the many whisperings of the world. ~Thomas Kempis

I have been contemplating different ways we approach God and how, even my most devoted aunt, did not give me list of things I should do, as she would with housekeeping, to teach me about how to have a relationship with God. She would readily talk about her special prayer place, miracles she has seen, and conversations she had with God, but we did not have a daily family devotion or anything like that. We were very involved with church! We also had a Christian band with practice on Thursday nights and we performed at places now and then. One would often hear my aunt singing a Christian song throughout the house. I suppose to her it was so natural, just an integral part of herself that she felt was too personal and/or, perhaps, she just trusted the Lord to lead others according to how He needed to do so and she was only to be a living example.

For me, a bit more guidance would have been helpful since I lacked churching much of my life until then, but I found my way. I would sit in the quiet of the library quite early in the morning before anyone else was awake and just talk with God.

I have been attempting to relate to my daughter an awareness of God and that prayer is speaking with Him, not at Him, and, since it is a conversation, that He has things He will be saying to her, so she should be listening as well. She now tells me that she hears Him give yes and no answers, but she says she has to ask questions so the answer is just yes or no. I have told her that there will be times that God has more to say than yes or no, but it is a start. I am very pleased with her trying to really hear God—some life-long Christians do not learn this discipline!

This is an improvement over when she asked me how I hear God some years ago while I was driving to her piano lesson. I remember telling her that she needed to try to listen. She said she had been trying but she still could not hear Him. I was still contemplating on how to respond since she seemed so serious. Then, she quickly decided that the solution was simple: she would asked God to speak louder. I remember smiling at the simplicity and pureness of her faith.

In this era, it is particularly difficult not to fill our time and minds with all the conveniences technology has made so readily available to us: telephones, radio, TV, computers, Internet, video games, email, even blogging, and more. On what do we spend the most time of our day?

The best way to learn to hear God is to practice daily at listening to Him. That is what we should be doing all day. Yes, that constant prayer (conversation) which includes Him in every moment of our lives. In turn, we are included in His every moment as well.

That is the place to be: in each moment with the Lord, in the kingdom at hand as Jesus described. It could start humbly, like a child would do, with simple questions begging yes-or-no answers and listening for God speak them...with great anticipation!

~ My Lord, thank you for hearing me and help me to hear You. I am definitely trying to listen right now. Please talk to me. ~

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Perserving Pegasus

Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. ~Psalms 16:1

After we returned from Florida, we began to see some problems with Pegasus. She is sickly and needs some tending. I have been a bit worried this time she may not pull through.

I suppose it is odd to name a vehicle, but we had good a reason to do so. When the Princess had just turned four years old, she began piano lessons with the only teacher who would consider taking a child so young that I could find. I have written about all this previously at Thursday's Child Has Far to Go. What I did not tell about in that story, after the second lesson, Sarah and I were in an accident on the way home.

I was making a left hand turn at a light and I am the type of driver that does not pull out into the intersection until I can make the turn. There were no cars coming and I began to pull out to make the turn. My eye caught motion on the right side and I realized in that nanosecond we were going to be hit broadside. Not only we were hit, but we began tipping over rather gently and the next thing I knew the van was resting on the driver' side and my daughter was screaming behind me. Neither one of us was hurt...well, in my hurry to get back to my daughter, I placed my hand down on broken glass and a day later I had those normal slight aches and pains that happen with things like that. I had to be helped out through the passenger side window after I had handed my daughter to someone to get her out. The Princess was not hurt at all but it was horribly hot that day, and later she was rather upset that they hauled our van away.

The police officer told me I was at fault but that he was not going to cite me. At the time I thought it was strange, but I was still shaken up and concerned about the Princess and my husband was at least an hour away. Traffic was very bad so by the time my husband got there, the accident scene had been completely cleaned up and I was cooling off in the corner store where I had the time to think it all out with a clearer head. During that time it dawned on me that there was no sound before the jeep was crunching metal in the side of my van. You know, you tend to hear the screech of tires and look around hoping you at not the one they are going to hit, right? There was no sound, no warning, just that motion I saw in my peripheral vision.

My husband inspected the crash site for himself and confirmed that the other driver had not touched her brakes at all. The only rubber on the road was from our own tires were she pushed us sideways before we tipped. Obviously, she had not tried to avoid the accident and had her foot on the acceleration as she hit, which made her push on it harder. That and the fact that she had a vehicle that is higher off the road and I had a conversion van that is more top heavy...well, we tipped over.

The other thing that bothered me is that I knew the road was clear before I started my turn, but I remember two vehicles in the right turn lane and the second one might have been hers as the first one was still there after the accident. I think she had popped out of the turn lane, and obviously was not looking straight ahead, where this huge, white, hi-top conversion van was broadside in front of her, when she come into the intersection. Maybe she was looking behind to be sure she was clear that way...?

Now I feel I should tell you why I was rather relaxed as we were being hit. The Lord had been preparing me through dreams and feelings about being hit on that very side and tipping over gently with just the Princess and me for about six months before it happened. My husband during that time moved the car seat from the driver's side to the passenger side and, because of these dreams, I moved it back. I knew we were going to be fine, but I also knew that if the Princess had been on that side, she would have been hurt. The chair had taken the greatest impact and ended up askew in the middle of the van. God's warning protected her.

Anyway, the result was our conversion van was totaled, we had a few extra visits to the chiropractor, and the Princess had fears about tipping over every time we turned, especially if I was driving. We replaced that vehicle with another conversion van, a black one, and I named it "The Panther" so that she would feel a bit more secure because the Panther was strong and protective. It worked well for the following year and, in time, her fears subsided. As much as I wanted to keep the Panther, as it was a great van, I felt the Lord's calling for us to downside about two years later, so we sold it and purchased a white mini-van; all this before we even knew that my husband was to be let go from his job.

Since our last vehicle had a name, this one would need one as well, so the Princess felt, and Pegasus seemed to be appealing to all. Pegasus was only meant to be a second vehicle, as my husband had always had a company vehicle most of the years of our marriage. However, after he lost his job, Pegasus has been our main and only vehicle, as the new job required traveling more by plane. It concerned me when we found out, after the sale, that she was a repo and had been in an accident, but I had prayed about the van and I felt this is the one we were to get. She has her quirks and had a great deal of miles when we first got her, but she has been rather dependable as we put a great deal more miles on her.

Back to you know, we just returned from Florida and we knew it was time for some regular maintenance, changing the timing belt and water pump, but the Pegasus began leaking oil too. I was supposed to take the Princess to piano lessons and go grocery shopping today, so my husband suggested that I stop on the way at the garage we have do our servicing—great Christian people—to have them give her a look-see. We were very concerned because Pegasus is over ten years old with high mileage, so anything really major is probably not going to be worth repairing.

There may be a day that we will have to make a decision to give up on her...I am happy to say that today is not that day after all. Yes, she needs some repairs and she is going to be in the shop all day tomorrow and it will cost us more than we hoped but also far less than we feared. Because of the possible results with her problem, we did not go out for errands after all, but just came back home to let her rest.

~ My Lord, thank you for giving us a dependable vehicle and that we have been able to afford its maintenance and repairs. You know our needs, my Lord, and we are trusting you to provide them. ~

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stretched Thin

“What is the source of sadness, but feebleness of the mind? What giveth it power but the want of reason? Rouse thyself to the combat, and she quitteth the field before thou strikest. ~Akhenaton

I am sad to write that my mood has not much improved since I wrote Stay Away Today! I am battling my emotions. Now I am the one wanting to stay away, to retreat from life, to hide in a dark corner and just not be anything. I was trying to think of how to describe my feelings when I ventured onto some familiar blogs and found that Ember at Kindred of the Quiet Way was also dealing with some thing of her own quite similar in the emotional realm and had the perfect description of how I felt: stretched thin.

Stretched so v-e-r-y thin.

Yesterday I went to pay our water bill, which was late because we have been gone for two weeks. All our bills were paid before we left and I knew that as long as we were gone only two weeks that none would be paid late, except possibly the water bill, because that is a county government controlled thing and barely gives a week from the time of receiving it to the day it is due. The office is not that far and I usually pay at the drive-in window. This day someone I had not seen at that window was working. I gave the entire bill, as I usually do, and the payment. She tore off the stub and asked me if I wanted to pay the extra 10% for the late fee. (Not really, but what choice do I have?) "Yes, that will be fine," I said. "Because the bill is past its due date," she says holding the billing statement up so I could see that through the window. "I said I would pay the late fee now." I finally get back my change and a register receipt, but not my billing statement...the very one she had just held up in the window for me to see just moments ago is now lost...she cannot find it anywhere.

Here I was with the Princess, who had just informed me as we arrived there that she needed to go the bathroom because, like a typical nine-year-old, she had forgotten to go before we left; with a dinging noise from my van because it was low on gas; and my water bill cannot be found even though the woman had just waved it around in her hands. Usually, I would find such things comical....

Suddenly, I was fighting back tears.

I do not want to write. I did not even want to write this. I am now debating whether to delete it or to post it. I do not want sympathy...I am being quite honest here. I just want to understand why I feel this way and to be rid of it. Yes, there was a death in the family, but this began before that so I am not sure it is part of that or something else...maybe I am just in denial it is.

My daughter asked me to check her spelling in an email she wrote recently and the last line read "I am not in the mood to write." It was kind of funny to me, because she had a few lines before it so she had just been writing, but here I am doing the same. I am not in the mood write and yet I have written. I am not even in the mood to read and yet I have read...only a little though, as it seems overwhelming to read anything of depth. (Sorry, Ganeida, but I will recover eventually—I hope!—and give your secret blog the attention I would like when I am a bit more stable and certain it will not push me over the edge.)

~ My Lord, here I am again, not even knowing for what to pray but asking for You to provide whatever it is that I need. ~

Friday, October 22, 2010

On the Road Again!

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
~Matsuo Basho

We are packing up tonight and should be on the road in the morning to go back home with a cat in a pillowcase, a hamster who tends to sleep in the strangest positions when traveling, and a dog who is nicknamed "Tail of Destruction" for a good reason. I am just wondering how it all will go. You see, on our way here, the cat peeked out the pillowcase and immediately got hot and began panting as he does just before getting carsick. However, I covered him up and moved him to the floor so he calmed down; the pillowcase has been the only method of transportation that worked with him. Now before that near-miss incident at a gas station and before we actually started the trip, Jamie did something completely unexpected and new just after I got him into the pillowcase and was placing him in my lap: he peed.

After a delay of about twenty minutes with cleaning up, changing pillowcases, and thanking the Lord for the Febreze made especially for animal smells since an area on the car seat was victimized, we were officially on our way. After lunch, the Tail of Destruction, living up to her name, knocked over the Princess' lemonade. Thankfully most of it landed on the towel on the floor of the van, but some areas of the carpet were soaked. As we were cleaning that up, we noticed the hamster in his most comical sleeping position with his feet and tail in the air, had a good laugh, and eventually we were on our way again.

What will happen on our trip tomorrow? I am almost afraid to think of the possibilities!

We have been in Florida for two weeks, long enough to get most paperwork rolling with the financial business after Dad's passing. We picked up the simple and beautiful cherry wood box containing Dad's ashes on Wednesday along with death certificates and mailed them out with necessary paperwork that same afternoon. Mom has decided to stay in her home at least for now and it looks to be affordable at this time, but we are concerned about her getting lonely, taking care of the house alone, and, oh, just everything complicated with us being a day's drive away and the only remaining family. As the holidays are approaching, we are thinking that the first Christmas after a love one passes is particularly difficult and we cannot visit on every upcoming holiday.

Regardless, at this time tomorrow we should be home!

Home...I really am looking forward to being home again. We usually are completely unpacked the evening of our return with a load of clothes in the washer, whites this time. Hopefully, we are returning in the prime of autumn's color explosion and maybe we can still make a trip to the apple country, as we usually do about this time of year. So far, my husband is not being asked to travel on Monday and I am looking forward to Sunday services at our church as well as making a loaf of sourdough bread and a batch of yogurt perhaps on Sunday or Monday in my own kitchen.

Monday morning the Princess will groan when I remind her that we shall be doing lessons and I will again hear her nimble fingers playing tunes on her piano, even though we did bring my keyboard so she would not lose practice time. Then all will be back into order...with some changes, perhaps better order than before. Whenever I have a break like this, I tend to reassess my goals and I hope to make some changes in my lifestyle to achieve them.

~ My Lord, please drawn close to my husband's mother, so she feels Your presence in her life and so she will not feel so lonely. Please bless our trip home. ~

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Answers for Birbitt

Reason can answer questions, but imagination has to ask them. ~Dr. Ralph Gerard

Birbitt was tagged by Ganeida, as I was, and she made up some questions so this is for her.

1. What one talent do you not have, that you very much wish you did?

Everything with music. I love to sing for the Lord, but really do not have the voice for it. I probably could have with training when I was younger, but some years ago I stressed my vocal cords speaking in lectures. I sing anyway, but I am very limited.

Also, playing piano, guitar, and others. I have some knowledge but not that driving desire that musicians need, I suppose. I am learning much along with my daughter as she takes piano, but I do not practice like she does.

2. What is the one thing people do that bothers you most?

I am so trying not to go there in my thoughts right now. The one thing I do that bothers me is that I so readily see what bothers me in other people instead of seeing past it.

3. Where is the one place you'd like most to visit before you leave this earth behind, and what about that place most draws you to it?

This one, I am not so sure about. My husband wanted to see Israel and God gave him a job where he has to go to Israel now and then! We all have passports and I love seeing new places, but I cannot think of a place I really just want to go to see. I rather have my little ranch, I guess, and see what I can around me...on horseback!

4. What flaw do you most dislike in yourself?

See number #2.

5. What career did you most want as a child, and if you are not doing that now, what changed your mind?

I wanted to be an artist, a teacher, a doctor, a veterinarian, a lawyer, a singer, an actor, and a writer. What changed my mind was money, either money for schooling for things that would make a good living or insecurity of making a good living in the arts. However, you know the Lord is good. I have been all those things through educating myself, sometimes out of necessity, and always through listening to the Lord when He provided the opportunity, just without any degrees.

6. Why do you blog, what purpose to you hope to achieve by blogging?

I wrote about this some time ago: Why I blog...?

I would add to that lengthy post that I like looking back and seeing what I was doing, what I hoped to do, what I was going through, et cetera. After writing a blog for about a year and a half, I am intrigued by the changes and those things unchanged in my life; there is a greater awareness in the passage of time.

7. What one modern invention would you mind giving up the most, and why did you choose that one?

How modern are we talking about here? I mean, I would not want to go back to washing clothes by hand or not have a refrigerator! Other than that it would be my computer and Internet service for obvious reasons.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for friends who care about me and please bless them. ~

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Critical Point

Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be.
~Henry David Thoreau

What I really want to write about here, I cannot—well, should not, to be more accurate—so I am going to write about the thing behind what I should not write about.

I recently wrote a post on hypocrisy in Guilty as Judged. I am living in a sea of my own hypocrisies...and some hypocrisies of others as well, but that is the ironic part of it all. I cannot write about another person's hypocrisy without adding to my own.

Yes, I am going in circles. Are you lost? I will try to clarify within the vagueness I must maintain for the sake of propriety.

I have been very keenly aware of how I fall short as a witness for the Lord ever since that 40-day fast. What might have been viewed previously as little sins (if there are such things) have just been eating at me and somehow seem far bigger now.

The critical point is that I have been pointing critically at the faults of other people. I have been complaining....

Now here is the ironic part, which I want to critically point it out so you will not miss it: I want to complain mostly about how other people complain!

There it is! That hypocrisy staring back at me in the mirror. I have caught myself writing emails and talking on the phone to friends about other people (they do not know) in a complaining way. I suppose you could throw in gossip too. It is just unbelievable how the hypocrisy abounds in me. I have even gossiped about gossipers! How twisted is that?

I am sensing the Lord is making this so obvious to me because He wants me to change this. Now, it is far easier to bite the tongue than to stop the thought process that precedes it, but nothing is too great for the Lord. So, if I were advising someone about this problem (and, yes, I have done some advising in my time) I would say that the Lord has given me everything I need to be pleasing to Him because I have the Holy Spirit to advise me.

Now, for the worst part of all...I even felt nudges from the Lord to stop before I started and I did it anyway! Why do I ignore the Lord when He is clearly telling me not to do something? How far I will go to displease the Lord I profess I wish to please!

~ Forgive me, my Lord, for not obeying You when You are giving me directions that will bring me closer to you. Take from me the desire to complain about others. Help me to think only on the good things You have provided for me and see them through Your Eyes of Love. ~

Monday, October 18, 2010

When in Blogland, Do as the Bloggers Do

Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ganeida tagged me here, I think it was just a ploy to get me to start blogging again, as I must seem to be out of practice...?

1. What is the one moment in your life you would love to live over again & why?

Hm, most people want to do things different when they look back, but I am one to never look back and certainly not to change it but move on with the wisdom gained. However, I have never really considered what moment I would like to live over, I mean, isn't that what memories are, a reliving of moments? I really don't know that I could pick one or...perhaps I have not had that "one moment" yet?

2. Which historical figure would you like to meet & what is the one thing you'd really like to ask them? [yes, I know I'm sorta cheating. lol]

One? That is just so difficult. I would love to have seen and listened to Jesus in the flesh, but what would I ask Him? I would like to ask Paul what exactly was that thorn in the flesh. Eve, just why did you listen to that serpent? Solomon, where was the wisdom in marrying idol worshipers? Noah, so were there really dinosaurs on the ark?

3. What is your Heart's Desire?

My heart's desire is to please my Lord. Actually, all along the way He has given me my heart's desire: a good marriage to a Christian man, good health, a talented, home-educated child, a home, security, and gifts for which I asked. I am content. If He would grant me three more things on this earth that would be very pleasing to me: publish my book on my research in an alternative health method; my artwork, to be motivated to work on it regularly, do some shows, and actually sell some of it; and own a bit of land with milking and meat goats, rabbits, a couple of horses, a food garden, and a large country kitchen.

4. What is your most irrational fear ~ & are you game to share it here?

My deepest fear is that the talks I have had with my Lord are just all made up in my mind.

5. Cat person or Dog lover?

I am both, but my current cat has definitely lessened my love for indoor-only cats. I like them better outside, as they seem to be healthier and do useful things like keeping the rodent population down or the squirrels from stealing peaches out of the tree before they are ripe and we get any. I would like a couple of good barn cats, but I also like having a well-trained guard dog.

6. If you could be a tree what would you be & why?

LOL! I am trying to imagine why I would even want to be a tree! I suppose I would like to be a weeping willow, because they have very strong trunks; slender, flexible branches that move gracefully with the smallest of breezes and give way to the most turbulent gusts of winds; an impressive root system, which is known to go up to five times the width of the tree, but also will go quite deep in the right type of soil; they look so peacefully serene near water; and their leaves and bark contain salicylic acid, a precursor to aspirin that has been used for centuries by many cultures to relieve pain and fever. It could be all that or just that my grandfather had a huge one in his yard and my aunt did as well, so I have fond memories of them.

7. When you meet Jesus what is the one thing you really, really want to say to Him?

If I have really been talking to Him, as I believe I have, I probably have already said everything I can think to say. Anything at that point would be repeated, so I think I would just say, "Thank you, my Lord."

Now I do not have seven blogs that I follow nor do I have seven questions to ask at this time. However, Ganeida, I will get back to you with some questions of my own one day.

~ Thank you, my Lord. ~

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another Heaven Bound Soul!

My husband's father passed away on October 14th in afternoon while in transport to a Hospice facility. There will no services and he requested his ashes to be at rest in New York near his family also resting there, eventually, as there is no hurry in that. The good news is that my husband spent most of the days and nights with him, just hours upon hours, so he was able to pray with him and we feel his salvation has been secured. God gave him every opportunity and he accepted it. We are very thankful for this.

Please pray for my husband's mother as she has many decisions to make while adjusting to this change in her life and having so much more time in her day without much outside activity to fill it. We do not know what she is planning to do, stay or move, but this will be the first time in her life that she will have control over all the finances and we have concerns for her about that...actually, I have many unspoken concerns about her and appreciate your prayers.

~ Lord, you know what is in my heart. Please help me to be helpful and encouraging, worthy of being a witness for You. ~

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Time to Live and a Time to Die

For some moments in life there are no words.
~David Seltzer, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

My dear friends, it seems my husband's father is coming to the end of his days, perhaps hours. He was admitted to the hospital yesterday and the doctor has said he is in God's hands now. My husband's plane was just about to land, as he was coming home from working in Boston, when I received a call from his mother with this news. I was late picking him up and we had to wait another hour for his tool case to arrive as it did not make his flight. Now we are home scrambling in preparation of the ten hour trip by car with all our pets in the morning. The saddest part for me is that this is one soul, who seems to be still lost, who seems to have not yet embraced my Lord. I hope I am wrong, but like King David for his son, I am in mourning and prayer before his life ends, because once done, tis done.

~ My Lord, give him every opportunity to hear you. Talk to him in his dreams, my Lord, please. Show him the love and peace You have for him. ~

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Stay Away Today!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ~Philippians 4:6

I have fallen into a shameful, sulky, selfish mood. I have so many things about which I want to write floating in my head, but I just do not want to share anything that is worthy to be shared. No, instead I just want retreat, feel sorry for myself, and boo-hoo in my special little prayer spot (which is why I am avoiding it). Anyone who is foolish enough to fall into my little pity-party snare will do...and please do not let it be you. Save yourself right now by clicking on to another cheerful blog and go merrily on your way.

Go on now! This is not a good place for you to be.

Go away for your own good!

Okay, if you stay, I expect you to give me a good kick in the pants for being just what I am being: an ungrateful grumbler, a complainer. So here it goes....

I feel invisible. Sigh! We fasted and prayed and now we are giving 20% in tithe to the church and we are going to try to give more time and effort to outreach. I should be grateful that we are able to do it! I should feel that I made these sacrifices out of commitment because of my love for the Lord. Yes, I know how I should feel. I should rejoice when people are not placing their attention on me, because I do not wish to be one of a number of distractions from the Lord...but now I feel just...invisible.

Everyone has their problems, I know. I have no real reason to complain when I compare my problems with theirs...perhaps yours too! I am even ashamed that I consider my problems to even be problems when I hear about the problems of other people. God cannot be very pleased with me for not trusting Him with our finances and being grateful for what I have, for not having the mindset that He is sufficient in all ways and in all things.

Yet, a part of me also says: Did we not give money and help to people not that long ago when they had these very same problems we are now having?

Whine, whine, whine. Who am I to think I should have more than the Lord has given! I am the poster child for the parable that Jesus gave found in Matthew 20:1-16. (Do you not see me in this picture?)

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?' They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.' When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.' But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' So the last shall be first, and the first last."

Hm, what else is there for me to do now, but go to my little prayer spot and repent of my envious eye and hope that I am worthy to be last?

~ My Lord, I need to stop hiding away and trying avoiding You, as if that is even possible. That I feel invisible is of my own making and I desperately need to spend some time in my special little prayer spot today. Be there soon. ~

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Daughter Said the "H" Word...Again!

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. ~Franklin P. Jones

It started a month ago. My daughter again became fascinated with it and since then I have heard this word at least once a day, more often most days, and it makes me cringe every single time she says it. I have explained how horrible it is, how it cannot be pleasing to God, and certainly is not pleasing to her mother! I have given all the reasons she should put it out of her mind. I have tried to not make a big deal of it thinking that she will give up, that it is a phase...but it appears to be bigger than the both of us.

I truly despise...Halloween!

If you are new to reading my blog, here are some thoughts I wrote down last year on this subject:
October's Thorn
Are We Standing Firm?

The Princess begins tactfully telling me she is not trying to upset me and that she is just curious, but day after day from the first of September the name of this unholy-day has been voiced. I thought it would be a bit easier this year because we have our TV service turned off, so no commercials about horror movies—I cannot tell you what a blessing it is not to have any invitation available to that ghastly invasion that normally crashes into my living room and stays unwelcomed for weeks upon weeks this year!—but apparently it seeps in anyway. First it was in a magazine that she gets regularly. Then the catalogs with costumes began coming. Then the stores had easily recognized black and orange items and scary green faces and cracking laughs, screams, hollow footsteps, heartbeats, or moans set off unexpectedly when you walk near those hi-tech motion sensor decorations. I am tired of it already and we still have the entire month of October to go through!

Finally, I said it. I said it in complete frustration of not being able to stop it from ruining another beautiful autumn season for me, from stealing my peace, from coming into my home, and from going into my child's mind and heart. I said we would celebrate Halloween. I was just as shocked that my lips formed the words with my tongue cooperating as I am seeing the words appear as my fingers are typing it out right now. I felt a wretched twist inside of myself, that warning that you have done something terribly harmful and wicked that you will never be able to take back. It was as if I betrayed someone by breaking a solemn oath, as if I cursed out loud in front of my daughter, as if I had spit on my Lord. I was immediately sick and in tears, but I hid this from my daughter thinking the next words I would hear: "Really? You mean it? I would like to be a princess!"

Then my daughter said, "Mama, no!"

Usually, she is not allowed to say no to me, but these were sweet sounds...ones that I will cherish, because in those words she gave me peace again.

I am not sure if she is just trying to please me, because she does do that sometimes, when she knows I am strongly against something. I am hoping she understands what we have explained as to why her father and I are against anything to do with it, even some church alternatives borrowing some of the traditions that seem fun and innocent.

We had planned to watch a movie and make popcorn balls and caramel apples, but we had not looked at the calendar. This year October 31st falls on Sunday and our church will be having a potluck dinner and games. There has been no mention of a trunk and treat kind of thing and I am hoping it stays that way. We can do the movie thing another day and I am sure the Princess will remind us.

~ My Lord, help us worship You daily in all we do. ~

Friday, October 1, 2010

Yogurt, Homemade a la Me!

When we decode a cookbook, every one of us is a practicing chemist. Cooking is really the oldest, most basic application of physical and chemical forces to natural materials. ~Arthur E. Grosser

Everyone who knows me, even just a little, knows I dislike to cook in general. I am the type of person who would rather chop it up to juice, blend into a smoothie, or toss it in a salad. I do like to bake and I particularly like the challenge of baking with sourdough, as it is really an art. Perhaps I like preparing food only if resembles a chemistry experiment in my kitchen, because I have this growing enjoyment for the challenge of making dairy products from milk. I would like to have some Nubian milk goats for milk, but being in a subdivision, that is just not possible, so I buy raw cow milk from a farm about 25 minutes away, usually getting eight gallons at a time and freezing them to thaw each as needed.

My latest experiments have been with making homemade yogurt in a slow cooker. You see, we really like our yogurt, the Princess and I and, yes, even my husband. The Princess has eaten it since she was a baby; even now she and I both have it most mornings with granola and sometimes fruit. My husband and I use it in cooking and baking as a substitute for butter, sour cream, or buttermilk. We use it on Belgium waffles and pancakes. I add it to the dry cheese mix for mac and cheese from the box! (Yeah, we do have some of those processed, boxed, convenience foods, but they are organic too at least.)

Yogurt never goes to waste here and we go through quite a bit of it, in fact we practically consume some yogurt every day. The volume of yogurt we use is why it is one of the items I thought I might be able to save some money making it myself. Stonyfield Organic Cream Top (Whole Milk) Yogurt in a 32 ounce container at my favorite health food store retails for $4.09. I get a discount being a member of the co-op and a writer for their newspaper that brings the cost down to $3.28 without any sales or coupons, which is close to the price I would get it at a discount super store like Target or Walmart. On the Stonyfield website, I can usually get a coupon for 50¢ off, but my co-op store does not accept printed coupons; while the other stores do, unfortunately that is also just one more stop and those discount stores closest to where we live usually only have the lowfat, while I prefer whole milk yogurt. For some reason, lowfat just does not have the "body" that whole milk yogurt does—actually, it has the look and feel of white gelatin to me—which is probably why people prefer fruit or other flavors as added sweeteners. Good whole milk yogurt is a pleasure to eat all by itself.

I researched the many suggestions of making homemade yogurt in a slow cooker on the Internet. I have read that if I wanted it nice and thick, as is the favorite consistency in my part of the world, that I would need to either add powered milk or strain it some, so I chose the powdered milk, but that is a rather costly item in organic form actually. To date, I have made four attempts to turn raw milk into yogurt.

I tested my small slow cooker to see what temperatures it would maintain water at the lowest setting and I thought I could use it. It is not a "crock pot" in the traditional sense, but rather a more like a rectangular metal pot on top of a griddle and I would have more control with the temperature settings than a regular crockpot. Three mason jars fit inside so I decided to do a water bath kind of thing with the yogurt in each jar. I placed the probe of a digital temperature gauge in one of the jars.

Now there are two main schools of thought about making yogurt from raw milk. One is to heat it to 180°F to purposely kill off all the natural, favorable cultures so that the cultures added from a yogurt are not in competition; all the cultures in the milk have the same goal, to digest the milk. (Yeah, basically what makes yogurt and raw milk so healthy is that you are eating microscopic creatures that are eating the milk or predigesting it to a better form for you to digest. Weird, I know, but that is one of the wonders of God's creation.) Then the milk is allowed to cool to just under 120°F before adding the active yogurt cultures.

The other method, which is less common, has the milk just heated to 110°-120°F which encourages the yogurt culture to grow. Reportedly, this makes for a thinner consistency because the other cultures are also still active and working to break down the milk so the yogurt culture does not get a good running start on the food source.

Regardless of which method used, afterward it is a matter of maintaining the temperature of the milk at about 110°F for several hours and that is tricky part since I do not have a yogurt maker: they do this automatically. People have made this stuff for centuries without all the fancy equipment so I should be able to do this, right? Plus, I wanted to make it in large batches or else I would be making yogurt every other day and one of the advantages of yogurt is that it lasts a long time.

Being a raw milk advocate, I decided on the less common method and added a bit of powdered milk to thicken it. I checked the temperature often during the day and found that I had to move the jars around as one area tended to get hotter than another. The first batch seem thin but I thought it might thicken when refrigerated. It did but it was about the consistency of a smoothie, not as thick as I like. The taste was nice, mild and buttery, and it was great with granola.

The second time, I added a bit more powdered milk as most suggested. The temperature at one point was a bit too high and what I ended up with was edible but separated into a soft feta-type cheese and whey.

The biggest problem with the water bath in a crock pot method was keeping the temperature consistent without getting it too hot, which meant I had to check it nearly every thirty minutes or be close to hear the warning from the digital temperature gauge, which does not work well when we are working on lessons in another part of the house.

I decided to try the all out crockpot method. Into a large crockpot we had just brought at a great deal, I poured in an entire gallon of milk adding some powdered milk, this time heating it to 180°F and then letting it cool before adding some yogurt with active cultures. It took nearly three hours to cool to 120°F. I ladled some of the milk out and mixed in the yogurt culture in it before mixing it with the remaining the milk in the crockpot. This lowered the temperature to just above 110°F. At that point, I wrapped the crockpot with large thick bath towels to keep it warm overnight. In the morning I had a thin yogurt, perhaps a bit thicker than my very first batch, but still not scoopable. In the refrigerater, it thicken a bit but it was still not the consistency I wanted.

This week I tried it again starting out as I did the last time, adding even less powdered milk and less yogurt as I was thinking this is like feeding my sourdough starter, so I planned to have more patience and give the yogurt cultures more time to multiply themselves. In the morning I checked the temperature and it was 93°F. I stirred it and found it was the same consistency I had previously and noticing it was thicker around bottom and sides of the crockpot. I then again wrapped the towels around the crockpot and set it to "warm" for just a few minutes, basically just until the outside was warm, and then I turned it off. Several minutes later the temperature of the yogurt had risen to just under 110°F. The towels really kept the temperature well as I checked it a few times during the day and turned it on warm for a few minutes just twice. Nearly 24 hours after I began, I decided that it looked about the consistency of the previous batch after it had been refrigerated so maybe...?

Yes, this batch was perfect!

Thankfully, it took far less fussing on my part too. I think I am going to try it without any powdered milk next time, because I added so little that I really do not think it helped much at all. I may even try the "keeping it raw" method using this crockpot-towel wrap method and just give it more time to see how that works in a smaller batch.

I began this venture thinking I might save about half of my costs and that probably would be close if I did not get my writer's discount. We buy raw milk at the farm for $6 a gallon; it is not certified organic, but I know the farm and they could probably pass the certification if they wanted to spend the money to get it. So, if the powdered milk is unnecessary, I can make a gallon of yogurt for $6 plus the cost of a bit of electricity to warm, hot water to wash, gasoline cost and car cost split on eight gallons of milk per trip to the farm, and other regular household stuff, which would be difficult to break down and figure, so an estimate will have to do. A gallon of homemade would be maybe $8.00 to $8.50 compared to Stonyfield for $13.12. A gallon of yogurt in my home gets used up in two to four weeks, so on average we are saving about $5 every three weeks or about $85 a year (although I suppose if I can make room in my freezer that I could get two to four more gallons at time to cut the travel costs) and we save about that much with making my own sourdough breads too.

I guess that is not much, but it is just enough to make it worthwhile it to me.

~ My Lord, such wondrous things You have made. The tiniest of creatures do amazing things, some so beneficial to us! I thank you that I am able to purchase raw milk, learn about its amazing qualities, and experiment with it. ~