Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Princess and Peer-Pressure

If it's very painful for you to criticize your friends - you're safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that's the time to hold your tongue. ~Alice Duer Miller

I remember the playgrounds at two different elementary schools. From first through third grade, I went to a school provided for a few small towns in a mostly rural area, except for the lake which was also a summer resort area, and then we moved to a small city where I finished my elementary years. I have to tell you that I was not prepared for the culture shock.

In those earlier years, the worst part of the playground was a group of boys who liked to think they owned the monkey bars and would often not let a girl on them, until the teacher would intervene, and there were barely a hundred children on the playground at the same time. The city school playground, on the other hand, had a few hundred children and was brutal with bullies. The language I had heard from my father, but I found it shocking to hear from such young children openly, without fear of the hopelessly outnumbered two or three teachers watching over us.

My daughter is homeschooled so she has not had such experiences. She has had very little exposure to bullies, a few times at the playgrounds of nearby parks, I suppose, but either her father or I have been close by. She knows that the only defense against bullies is simply not to be where they are so that has not been much of a problem. In the last couple of years, the Princess has been struggling the most with peer-pressure from neighborhood children. We did not use that term ourselves as we typically associate it with things like drugs, promiscuity, shoplifting, and bullying.

The Princess was struggling to understand why her friends were pushing her to do things, not bad things, just things she did not feel comfortable trying to do, and she just could not get a handle how to deal with it, regardless of how her father and I tried to explain it. However, she found a book at a consignment sale last spring that is meant for junior high school and up. In it she read about peer-pressure and identified that was what her friends were doing. Basically, children use peer-pressure as just means to try to make another child conform to whatever they want her to do. My child loves to make people happy, but she also has well-defined morals about right and wrong. This, however, was in one of those gray areas and she just knew it made her feel bad no matter what she did.

Outside the Princess likes to climb trees, ride her bike, have picnics, draw with sidewalk chalk, and play make-believe kinds of things. In fact, we currently have a make-believe house in the front yard she built using a few long branches propped by low branches of a tree to mark its corners and door. She is one to believe that she will uncover a dinosaur in the backyard or every piece of trash found in the dirt is evidence of some big mystery to be solved or there is treasure buried...somewhere—I do wish she would find it! The Princess likes some gymnastics (as I did) but she is not highly athletic, she prefers the idea of solitary exercises like lifting weights and stretching (not that we have done either lately). Normally, she is quite confident with her abilities and her interests and our differing lifestyle until...she is told that she is not any fun, or is stupid, or just to go home, or made fun of, or being called a cry-baby.

I have overheard how the girls play when they did not know I was listening, just to see if my daughter was being over-sensitive or even starting these episodes that make her feel rejected later. I know, at times, she can seem to be bit bossy when she thinks someone is doing something wrong—not just wanting her way, but the plainly wrong thing to do—because she is protective and sees rules in black and white with very little gray. However, most of the time, one of the girls just decides she wants things done her way and pressures the Princess. I also admit that my daughter is rather sensitive, she has a strong desire for everyone to be happy, but she is learning that she cannot be responsible for another person's happiness, particularly with moody girls, who change their minds on a whim.

No matter how mean they would get toward her, she did not retaliate. The one thing she had been doing in the past, to add to the problem, was staying too long after it started, empowering them to continue until she was in tears. She would stay because she was more concerned about being impolite or hurting their feelings if she left. I think because her heart works that way, she just does not understand that not everyone else has the same heart. We have spent hours explaining, just like horses and dogs need training, children do as well. Even friends, she must train them that their treatment toward her is not to be tolerated by simply leaving or coming to me so that I can say playtime is over. She had been handling it better for some months now.

Remember her last piano recital in the spring? The Princess was not upset about her frozen moments on stage afterward, instead she talked about her life off-stage. How her friends had been making her feel so belittled those last few weeks, and we think that may have been weakening her self-confidence then. She has asked me often in the past year before, if I had friends who did some of the things that her friends had been doing. I would say that children that did those things were not my friends and that I had very few friends even at her age, but I think friendships are far more important to her.

The Princess has decided she just does not want to play with one of the neighbor girls much anymore, the one who goes to public school. The other homeschooled girl and she get along well together alone. Even her mother has expressed to me over and over again lately how much she just loves my daughter. We talked about some of the issues our girls had been having with the third one and they were much the same, but they live in the same cul de sac so it is more difficult for her daughter to avoid the other, who seems to be, as she put it, manipulative, and her daughter is the youngest of the three, two years younger than the Princess.

The public school girl has been calling almost every day during the Christmas break to play but the Princess declines. I had been dealing with the mixture of emotions it stirs in me: sadness that she ever would need to feel that way, happy that she was regained her self-confidence, proud that she recognized she would do well without friends like that, and more.

She is finally learning how to build and hold in place those precious boundaries necessary to have good and healthy relationships. It has been painful for her and so very painful for me to watch for the past two years, but I also know it is a necessary step in her growing up and I am thankful that she had so many more years to enjoy childhood without such pressures than most children in schools do. She has a very sweet and kind heart, and she is now beginning to guard it on her own in a way that is honorable and becoming of a young lady.

~ My Lord, please continue to guide my daughter to make good decisions and live a life in honor of You. ~

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Christmas Blues

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
~Burton Hillis

I become rather philosophical in a bluesy way at Christmas time, just in case you have not noticed. I think it is in part because I have family...but not really. The only family members who actually talk to me regularly are my husband's mother and my mother's sister and her husband, now and then a cousin or two, my aunt's adult children. I have felt on the outs most of my life, not even fitting in with my own family. Then, we are small in number. My father was an only child. My mother had one sister. My husband family has a similar situation in that husband's mother was an only child and his father had one sister.

When I lived in Florida, we spent some part of the holidays with my husband's family as my family is in Ohio. I was sad every Christmas season. I was sad because of the things that led up to my mother not talking to me for years...five actually. From the time my daughter was one until she was six. She finally called me (without hanging up on me) and we resumed having the type of one-sided conversations that made her comfortable and happy. As long as I did not talk, we could talk.

I forgave my father of the past and although the harm he did was far worse, it was easier in a way because it ended and he was no longer in my life. My mother, however, was an ongoing exercise in forgiveness of numerous things with which I struggled all my life until her death about three years ago.

My mother had been the center holding all the family strings. The connections I had with my sisters and my half-brother were mostly through her. My mother had some control issues, particularly with me. She would tell me she did nothing to hurt the relationships I had with my siblings, but somehow they always knew her side of the story in how I treated her badly and yet they knew only what my mother was willing to tell them. She would tell people I always brought up the past and there was a time that was true as I was often cut picking up the lasting shards of emotions from that past. However, at some point about twenty years ago when I was healing of it, I stopped. I had no need to talk about the past after the healing and forgiving, but I was still accused of doing so. At that point, I knew how to deal with my past whenever I stumbled onto a remaining shard, but the present was another issue. I was trying to find peace in it among people obviously still broken and being cut with their own shards of the past.

I wish I had recorded our phone conversations because no one believed me that it was my mother who brought up the past, not me. I found out, through my aunt, that my mother had told people we had the best conversation once...it was one in which I did not talk! So whenever she called I let her talk and I stayed silent about my own thoughts, my own hopes, my own fears...while she rattled on about hers for hours sometimes. I once counted that I spoke five whole sentences not counting the "hello" and "good-bye" and the occasional "oh" and "uh-huh" just so she knew I was still there on the phone. Actually, four of those sentences were questions and one sentence was to answer her question. As I began the second sentence, still in answer to the question, she interrupted me and talked another 20 minutes non-stop before asking if I was still there, so I guess she did not really want to know the answer. It became a game for me to say as little as possible and try to only ask her questions about what interested her--not to be mean, but for me to endure being a sounding board only. I could not help her so I tried to make her as comfortable as possible. She was still a hurt, broken woman carrying so much guilt and I seemed to bring the memories of her burdens back to her anytime she talked to me, even though I said nothing to cause it.

I think my mother made me the monster of the family to my siblings, just as she made her sister the monster to me. My aunt was always used as the measuring stick that things could be worse for me if I lived with my aunt. "I could send you to your aunt's and then you would learn how easy you have it here. You would find out what work really is there." My aunt did organize and her family did lots of hard work, but I did end up living with her for two years during high school and I loved it! I found out I was not lazy after all, as my mother often called me, I was just not well directed.

I have reached out to my brother and sisters over the years, less more recently. I helped each one of them financially in the past. There was a time it got to the place that seemed to be expected and may have been the only reason I was called, so my husband asked me to stop it. One sister would not accept my phone calls and, whether intentionally or not, she did not talk to me for twelve years after I told her I would not be giving her money to help with her bills one winter.

Not once have I been given assistance when I really could have used it or even just a sympathetic ear. I am not upset with them. I do not expect them to give me anything. I am sorry for them because it seems that they have not even considered offering anything just because I am their sister, as I offered them just because I am their sister.

There are also other big differences that did not help in us having common threads. Although one sister is just three years younger than I am, my youngest sister is eleven years younger than I and my half-brother is eleven years younger than she (twenty-two younger than I). The younger two grew up very differently than the older two. We just feel we do not have much in common.

This year I have decided to allow myself to grieve about my siblings. You see, I still secretly hoped that after our mother past away that we might connect as we had not done in the past. When I have reached out to them over the years, it was not mutual. I am going to be crying for the little sister who used to look up to me with her blue eyes and sweet smile in the blue butterfly skirt I made for her--she has grown up and has two teenagers. I will remember the day my mother with postpartum depression begged me to come to the hospital and I stayed with her for hours (while I had been dealing with a terrible long-term depression of my own); I will mourn at the memory of being the first in the family to hold my baby half-brother--he is now married with two children, last I knew. My other sister once told me that she blamed me for not protecting her from our father and I will be in tears thinking of the times she never knew that I did--she has a teenage daughter.

I know the steps I must take. I have done this before, but not about them. I held on to this hope that has been hurting me for years that we will connect and being reminded, as I address Christmas cards, that another year has past without change. I will keep the door open, ready to accept them with a healthier expectation that will allow them to be comfortable, like I did with Mom, because it will not disappoint or hurt me anymore. My expectation for us to be like a family will be gone. This will be the last year I will have my Christmas blues over the family of my youth that I never had, over nieces and nephews I will not know.

After I have gone through this grieving, I will be able to truly enjoy the presence of my family all wrapped up in each other, without that feeling that something is missing. That is the gift I am giving to myself, my husband, and my daughter this year.

Update:
After I had written this post out, but had not yet posted it, my youngest sister called me on Christmas Eve. I had sent all my contact information in the Christmas card I sent leaving that door open. During the conversation I found out that while she had talked to our brother and other sister more recently than she had with me, it was still months ago.

My brother has two young girls but is divorcing his wife and is involved with another woman who has children also. The sister closest to me in age left her husband and teenage daughter a few years back and had been living with another man, but it is unknown if she is divorced yet. My youngest sister accepted the Lord into her heart just eighteen months ago, truly good news to me!

~ My Lord, thank you for urging my sister to call me and tell me she has chosen to accept You as her Lord. I still need to grieve what was lost, what never has been, and probably will not be. Each year I have more distractions with my own family, but I have held on to this pain. I am ready to let it go now and give more of myself to my husband and daughter...and to You, my Lord. ~

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blue Note or Blue Screen Christmas?

I can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become... but there are always a few saving graces and finally they make up for all the bother and distress. ~May Sarton

The Blue Note Christmas 2005
I have an eighth note cookie cutter and every Christmas we always color them a pretty blue to remind us of Christmas 2005. Have a cup of rich, hot chocolate and a sit while I describe what I thought was the worse (and the best) Christmas of my life.

The Princess was just four and a half years old. She had been taking piano lessons for about six months and it was obvious from the beginning that she was destined to be a good pianist. Her tiny hands had been practicing on my Roland keyboard all that time, but we knew that to strengthen her fingers and develop her ear that she would need a real piano. I had seen an advertisement to sell off used pianos at a well known piano store in Atlanta, so we went to look hoping to find something worthwhile for under $2000 just a few hours before her very first recital--a casual coffee shop recital. We looked at the used ones and realized there was nothing worth having, but the salesman suggested a new one close to our price, just a bit more, but with a cast iron harp that would not warp.

At the recital she played simple songs with her right hand only, but she was just so relaxed yet poised--such a performer! Even one of the oldest students, who had taken piano lessons with Miss Trudy most of his life, expressed his surprise at how well that this petite four year old could play.

We returned to the store later as they had a very good sale going on because their Labor Day sale weeks before was terrible, since it was right around the time of the Katrina hurricane and the entire Southeast was impacted with trying to provide aid, bursting at the seams giving shelter, and dealing with gasoline shortages. The tone of the piano was nice, but after listening to the acoustics of a Steinway, costing as much as a house, nothing really compares. Still, it was a good piano and we purchased it.

Now my husband wanted this piano to be from Santa, so he devised this elaborate plan to have the piano suddenly appear on Christmas Day. First he would get a piano box from the store and place it in the living room covered up with a sheet. He would cut out a backside so we could simply slide it over the piano when it came. The Princess would see us put up this empty box and it would sit there for a few weeks until Christmas Day and then we would open it. This way the piano could be delivered at any time as long as I could keep her from seeing it being delivered.

So, we set a date for delivery with our salesman. Then we were asked to finalize everything with the sales manager, who listened to my husband's plan and suggested to have the piano delivered on Christmas Eve instead of two weeks before it, as that was a very common request. I had this strange feeling about that new plan. I thought our plan would be the best one as we would know the piano was there and we could have it tuned and ready by Christmas Day, but my husband decided that a Christmas Eve delivery would be better. So, the delivery date was reset.

My husband got a box later and we did as we planned. About a week or so later the salesman called and asked when would we like to set up the tuning. I told him that the piano had not been delivered yet, thinking that he may not have realized the date change. He called again about a week or so later and asked how we were enjoying the piano and again I told him the piano had not yet been delivered, but we were expecting it on Christmas Eve.

My husband's parents came to visit during Christmas so we were a bit distracted, but I began getting concerned when we did not get the phone call the day before giving us confirmation and an approximate time that the piano would be delivered. My husband said that they were probably very busy and would call that morning as they are supposed to do. Morning came, no call. By noon I began calling the delivery company, but after hours of trying to get a hold of someone, we were told all the deliveries had been made in the morning. There was no piano to be delivered to us.

This was the big present! The one we had planned so much around. My daughter had sat on a mall Santa's lap and told him she would leave a key for him so he could bring the piano through the front door--she has always been one to work things out like that, even then. Now those dreams shattered before me. That huge box in the living room was going to be empty on Christmas. I just went into my bedroom and cried and prayed and cried some more on my husband's shoulder. My husband had called the salesman, who was on his way to visit family out of state. The salesman told us that the computer records showed the piano had already been delivered and that is why he had called us, but he realized his mistake in not catching the error when I told him it had not been delivered, twice.

The salesman made some calls and after a few hours of trying to get past this terrible disappointment and stop weeping--this is what happens often when I rely on plans and have high expectations--we were told our piano would be delivered around 8:00 PM. I again went into my bedroom and thanked my Lord with more weeping yet fearing to hope.

Instead of going out to shop as we planned when the piano was to be delivered in the morning, I would have the Princess taking a bath in our big garden tub at the back of the house so she would not see or hear anything. The delivery men arrived later than eight and it took quite a bit of time to get the piano inside. The salesman probably paid lots of extra cash out of his own pocket to get the delivery company to deliver the exact model piano in cherry wood that was not the one set aside in the warehouse for us, the serial numbers did not match what was on our sales receipt and the delivery receipt, but the piano was in excellent condition.

In the morning we placed a large red bow on the sheet-covered box. After opening all her other presents, she was delighted to see her new piano, out of tune, but definitely materialized from her hopes into reality. To this day, the Princess does not know what a horrible-happy day that was for her parents, known to us as Blue Note Christmas.

The Blue Screen Christmas 2011
I hope you have some hot chocolate left because I may have another story that rivals the first one.

This Christmas had its similarities with the one six years ago. I call it the Blue Screen Christmas because the big present was in technology and everyone knows what the blue screen of death is, but instead of being focused on one thing, the real problems where mostly circumfluous of the new additions in technology and the Princess being sick.

Last year we had a very meager Christmas. As I was promised by God, this year has been a bit easier financially, but we had much to catch up, not with bills, thankfully, but taking care of broken things like the dishwasher and the vans and many other things. For this Christmas, my husband and I planned to get a Wii and Netflix. That was to be the big present.

However, my husband had this idea: while our twenty-some year old TV could be used, it would all be so much better on a HD, flat screen, wide screen TV. The prices were very good and we could get one that was Netflix ready, so we did not have to stream through the Wii. Technology is just advancing at lightning speed these days! My husband also mentioned getting a Blu Ray/DVD player; he had seen one for just $88. I just looked at him saying that we only have one Blu Ray movie that he had bought two years ago by mistake and they were too expensive, besides we were getting Netflix! We only really needed the Wii to stream it and play the sports games.

You have to live with my husband to know that when he merely mentions such things that often he has already gotten them. That is why whenever he just talks about something, I get nervous, and then he will say that I am getting upset over nothing, that he is just talking and he would not do anything without my agreement--Oh, yeah! What about the iguanas, the riding lawn mower,...(this list goes on and each has a long story)? Now I can add, the TV and the Blu Ray Player and...well, this is the story.

He did give me a bit of advance warning. He told me two weeks ago on Saturday evening about the TV and player. The next day's Sunday School lesson was about confessing to each other--such wondrous timing! So we had the TV in our closet and the first thing I thought of was that we now needed to go shopping for a console, because our old TV was a build in the console type. Another thing to buy, but he assured me he had it covered with the extra money he was making being on call the last two months. (His biggest confession was not the presents but what happened to the money he made that was supposed to be used to pay down our debts that I never did see.)

We went shopping at furniture stores on Thursday this past week after sending the Princess to her friend's house for a few hours, the one who had the cold; the Princess had already been well-exposed and was showing some signs of it so at that point it did not matter much. We found a cherry wood console for the price we wanted and purchased it. The console would be brought from the warehouse to the store for pick up on Friday the day before Christmas Eve. I began having a déjà vu moment there, but my husband assures me again it all will go well this time. It is obvious that the Princess is becoming sicker, so we did not go to our pastor's surprise birthday party that night.

Friday we wait for the call; no call. I asked my husband to please not wait until it gets too late as we did on the Blue Note Christmas. He makes the call. The console was not sent to the store--déjà vu. (I think we are cursed in this particular way.) Later on they contact us saying they had one we can pick up and my husband does that, leaving it in the van. The Princess is too sick to be playing outside, she was lying down, so she would not be seeing it there.

Friday night the Princess sleeps well and we wrap presents until 2:00 AM. Saturday she is lying around still coughing and sneezing, so it is obvious we will not be going to church that evening or the next day, which was a big disappointment for all of us. She had worked for weeks on "Still, Still, Still" to play Christmas morning. I will also have to cancel a horse riding lesson on Monday and find someone else to do chores at the horse barn on Tuesday.

Christmas Eve night, we hoped to set up the TV and all the components that night to have her see them first thing in the morning as if Santa brought it and everything was set up and working, even though the Princess informed us that she did not think Santa was "an electronics kind of guy." The problem: the Princess cannot sleep. At midnight, my husband gets antsy to begin moving things around. I decided that something needed to be done to keep the Princess from wandering out of bed in case she heard curious noises, so I lay with her in the daybed trying to help her sleep with my presence.

My daughter's room is situated so that she can hear way too much and we determined that it must be Santa so we need to go to sleep. My husband gets everything set up and the old TV in the garage. At 3:00 AM, when I am nearly at the end of my rope and in tears for my sick child and my own lack of sleep, he walks down the hall with a little blue pill, a OTC sinus medication that he says will help her sleep...I am not a violent person but at that moment I wanted to punch him in the face. Three hours since midnight, I have been staying up with my daughter while she suffered with coughing and difficulty breathing; NOW he brings something to help her sleep. He said he forgot he had them. We try not to use synthetic drugs, but he keeps some with him to use sparingly with his traveling and working in dusty environments. I agree there is a time that they are beneficial and, in this case, that would have been hours before he looked for them. Child was sleeping soundly in fifteen minutes and parents were out five minutes later.

Christmas morning was a late start, a very late start although I got up early to feed the furry ones and drizzle icing on the cranberry breakfast cake. All morning, though, I felt like something was missing, because we would not be going to church, I suppose. The Princess did not want to get out of bed, not typical ten year old behavior with presents waiting to be unwrapped, even with little sleep. She was obviously not her energetic self and she did not play with the Wii. We watched A Christmas Story DVD, a present to my husband to replace the one we used to have; we lost it letting someone borrow it, we think. The Blu Ray player enhances to near HD quality so the colors, details, and even the sound was just amazing. Yes, a very big difference! It is like when we went from a black and white TV with two snowy stations to color TV with cable, but in a 21st century way. We watched Avatar on it too--WOW!

Oh, and we found out that our Netflix-ready TV would work if we had a faster wireless router, so my husband went out this morning to get one. With electronics, it is never just this one thing and it all will work--never! Thankfully, some gift cards should cover the bulk of that cost and with that new router I will be able to move some things off my computer onto an external hard drive that I will access easily when home. My computer has been starting to have some problems because of hard drive space.

My husband is leaving early for the airport tomorrow morning, but he still got the new router in and working. He set up all the computers and the TV, which he did not think he would have time to do. The Princess and I watched a show streamed through Netflix and it worked quite well! Still, I wish she felt better and could play the Wii too.

Blue Note or Blue Screen Christmas?
My dilemma is my child is still sick so the latter is too fresh for me to be objective, so I am not so sure which one is worse. That is why I am asking you: Which Christmas do you think was the worse one, Blue Note or Blue Screen?

~ My Lord, thank you for the good and the bad years. One cannot be appreciated as well without the other. Please heal my daughter. ~

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Princess has a Christmas Eve Cold

The giving of gifts is not something man invented. God started the giving spree when he gave a gift beyond words, the unspeakable gift of His Son. ~Robert Flatt

Christmas Eve service is at 4:30 pm tonight, but we will not be there. The Princess has a cold with a slight fever and is lying on the couch alternately coughing, sneezing, and sniffling. She has been working for weeks on the song "Still, Still, Still" to play for the Christmas service tomorrow and I am not sure she will be able to go and even more concerned about her performing it well if she did. Of course, everyone there would be happy for her to play it after Christmas as well since it is such a lovely lullaby type of song.

I was looking forward to our church services this evening and tomorrow. We planned our entire Christmas around it. Today we are making our Christmas dinner, which we planned to eat around 2:30 PM. I froze the apple pies I made this week to bake one later today. My husband put the turkey in a brine overnight and it is now on the grill. I made the best sweet potato casserole I have ever made...not too sweet with pears and pecans in it. I never measure; it is a go-by-taste kind of thing.

Last night my husband and I wrapped presents until 2:00 AM and the Princess and I finished her daddy's this morning when he was out finding a replacement for our broken temperature probe that he uses for the turkey and I for my yogurt. We are ready...almost.

Tonight we will be up late again. We will be removing our twenty-some year old TV and replacing it with a cherry wood console and a modest flat, wide screen, HD TV. We will be adding our new Wii and DVD/Blue Ray Player. The TV, Wii, and Player are all Netflix ready and as of last night we have Netflix too. I tried it on my computer and was very happy with the selection and the definition. We hope to connect everything while my little Princess sleeps and have it all in place in the morning as if Santa brought it.

Yes, she still believes or, at least, she likes to pretend she does, it is hard to tell. She has a close friend, who is also homeschooled, but their family do not have anything to do with magic or Santa, so I think the Princess is just playing along with us at this point. Still, she wrote Santa three letters, one about what she would like, and then one for my husband and another for me. She asks for things she thought we would like, which was sweet, but not necessarily what we desired.

Anyway, the plan was she would see the new entertainment center first thing in the morning and we would go on to church--we are having a real birthday party for Jesus with cake, ice cream and games instead of a service!--then opening presents afterward, but that may all be different now. I almost wish we had it set up today so she could watch some new things while she is lying to rest and heal, but we have done without this sort of thing so long and she can watch DVDs. She did watch a few yesterday and this morning, but has chosen not to for now.

I am torn about the TV thing, though. We have been without TV service for about eighteen months and now we spent all this money for one. However, I do like watching what we wish to see on demand without commercials and we are running out of options with the DVDs we have. We also went for the Netflix DVD option. This service is so much cheaper than a regular TV service. Still, I am hoping we use it wisely.


This evening we will read the story of the Christ child’s birth. Then we will open vials of frankincense and myrrh oil essences to smell them before placing them in the Nativity set under the tree at the front, before the presents. This is a set I hand painted years ago. For gold, we use a gold plated bracelet. We do this to remind us that Christmas is in celebration of the birth of our Savior and that we only reason we give and receive presents to each other is because He was given these gifts.

I think it has helped my daughter to place more importance on the Gift more than the gifts and it has worked well for she has asked for very little in the form of presents all of her young life. The Princess decided to place a red sign on our front door under the wreath. It reads: We may have very few presents under the tree but the one in the manger is bigger than all the presents in the world combined.

~ My Lord, help us to give gifts with a loving heart and to use our gifts wisely and to always be thankful for the Gift you have given us. Please heal my daughter so she can attend church service on Christmas Day. ~

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One Blog, Two Blog, Three Blog, Four

Your blog is your unedited version of yourself.
~Joshua Porter

Some friends of mine have more than one blog. To be honest, I have more than one myself, but the other two...well, I just never got around to starting them so I have them in name only, so to speak. One was to be devoted to homeschooling and the other was to be a daily devotional...but there is not one post on either one of them.

I frequently warn my readers that I am a mass of conflicted ideas. I like to organize, set up schedules, and even compartmentalize...but I get bored with the daily maintenance of keeping things organized, I tire of routines quickly, and I often feel compartments are too disconnected. Bottom line, I like setting up blogs, but I barely have enough motivation or time to keep up with just one...so how would I do three or even just two?

Knowing this about myself, I was surprised some weeks ago that I was again thinking that some people might be more interested in just homeschooling and less about the journaling of my daily life. Maybe I would snag more readers if I organized my blogs according to these main interests...it always sounds like a good idea. I have added book and product reviews because I enjoy doing them, but I was thinking that these things should have a separate blog perhaps. I recently disclosed one of my gifts and some of my thoughts on healing--a very big leap for me fearing I would yet again lose friends or at least readers. Oh, what about my favorite recipes, face painting, and art projects?

The more I thought about having multiple blogs, the more indecisive I became. Most people who have more than one usually do majority of their posting on one and the other(s) are not given much attention. Sometimes I wish I would just go have a talk with my Lord about such things first. I would waste much less time and spend time better focusing on what is important to Him. At some point I finally did that and God told me simply I am who I am. I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, a homeschooling parent, a writer (and blogger), a healer, an artist, a health and fasting advocate, and more. You see, the real thing was that I wanted to put that healer thing in another blog with a different identity, and even though I would disclose to some of my close friends of the other blog, I would (in my mind) still have a wall of secrecy about the whole thing.

Did my Lord think that was a good idea too? No. Why would He give a gift to any person and wish it to be hidden? How can God be glorified with gifts kept in secret?

As I read the first chapters of Healing is a Choice, a book I will review later, I had one of those moments of realization when I could see something from a differing perspective as if I were seeing if for the very first time. I was reading about how God always used people to bring about healing, that there was a connection between people for healing to occur. Throughout the book, thus far, connection is a key theme to all healing. I see this as an answer to a question that has plagued me for years.

Does God need people to heal people? Probably not any more than He needs us to pray when He already knows our needs better than we do, but how would it glorify Him if ordinary people could not do extraordinary things in His name?

My blog is ordinary and not popular, but it is about this one ordinary woman with many interests, gifts, talents, thoughts, beliefs, fears, desires, hopes, worries, activities, and duties, who has at times been a part of some very extraordinary things. If I separate the extraordinary from the ordinary, how can it really glorify God? How can I show people the gifts of the Spirit are real in the here and now if I do not use them or tell others about them? How can I help others to learn to listen to God if I keep silent about what my Lord has said to me? If I never report any of the signs and visions I have been given, who will believe God gave them and praise Him for answers to prayers?

~ My Lord, blogging has been one of those things that I hope I do to glorify You. Please let it continue to do so on this one ordinary blog. ~

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Looking Truth in the Eye

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it. ~Blaise Pascal

Have I come to God with the faith of a child, trusting and honest? Would my beliefs withstand His scrutiny? Can I be as fearlessly honest with my Lord, with myself, with everyone, as my Lord has always been?

Ever since reading the book, To Be Perfectly Honest, I have been toying with the idea of making a resolution to be absolutely truthful for one year, actually for the rest of my life but I might chronicle my struggle with the first year here on this blog.

I usually do not make New Year's resolutions...well, I should say that when I have made such resolutions in more recent years, I did not make them public so that my failures would remain unknown. Resolutions are about changing habits, so the question would be is do I make a habit of lying? In all honesty, I have lied--such a very strange confession now that I see it in writing. I try not to lie, but when I have made the choice to do so I had a good rationalization like it would hurt someone more to tell the truth or it could be used against me. I pretty sure that my Lord would see my rationalizations as a thin veil attempting to cover the sin in my heart.

I do not like making oaths because I feel I would not agree to do anything that I should already be doing, but...again, in all honesty, I have not been doing what I should or else I would not consider making this commitment.

How honest have I been? Mostly, I am an honest person, but not all the time. I will tell myself that I was being tactful or just stretching the truth a bit or telling the story as I wish it had happened or protecting someone's feelings or just acting to make it work better for everyone. I have probably dozens of rationalizations that I have used to calm any guilt feelings.

I do not like hurting people's feelings with honesty, as righteous as it is. I have done it. I have lost friends by doing it--I have so few friends these days. I suppose I should think it is better to lose a few friends by being honest than to hurt my relationship with God through dishonesty.

Where does one draw the line with honesty? I suppose there should be no line, but...you know, this is far more complicated than it should be and I suspect that is because of my denial of dishonesty. I believe being honest will simplify my life and maybe it does after the veils of lies are shed.

You know that old axiom: Be careful for what you pray? I am almost afraid to pray about being honest. I just know that numerous situations will emerge in which I will struggle with being honest. Yet, I also believe I am being led to do this.

So, here I am ready to continue on with my journey to be more like Jesus than I have been. Would you like to come along...honestly?

~ My Lord, my faith is in You. I am unable to be honest on my own, only through You can I attempt to be a disciple of Your Truth. ~

Saturday, December 17, 2011

40 Years Ago and Now

Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence.
~Joan Mills

I love Christmas time, but I also do not like what Christmas has become. My husband and I often talk about how much the world has changed within our lifetime and have sorrows for our daughter, for the world she has been born into. It is so very different. She cannot have the world as we did as children.

Was it that we were so innocent? It was difficult for me to be innocent with an abusive father, who used manipulation and lies so regularly, but the world itself...I guess, in a way, I might have been sheltered from it. When I was ten, the age of the Princess, we did not have home computers and the Internet. Many phones were still on party lines and we did not have one. Some of the more fortunate people had color TV, but we had black and white. What did that matter, because there were few shows and only two stations that came in clear enough to watch at all.

It is so different now.

So many choices.

So much information.

So little personal interaction.

So much fear of people.

I knew our neighbors when I was ten. I did not know the term "community" but I lived it. We did not fear the world. Children were still encouraged to be polite when talking to strangers, instead being told not to talk to them or to run away from them.

Oh, I remember hearing about threats of war and fear of missiles and communism, but that was adult talk. The news may have been biased as it is now and I was unaware, but it seemed to me that mostly reporters just reported the news, but much of it then sheltered us in a way. I do not remember the words "rape" or "sex abuse" or details of a violent murder given on a newscast, certainly not like they are now. I supposed some would say there was more censorship, but I always felt it was out of respect for the family and friends that such details were not broadcasted. The news is not something I like for my daughter to hear in this day in age.

Christmas time is when I tend to remember the best things of my childhood and there were some good things even in my troubled home. Some of it was the presents, but what I remember most is that one special thing I wished for and making cookies with my mother. She and I had a difficult relationship, but I do remember making cookies with her.

I have shifted away from the "things" of Christmas. In fact, now the commercialism of it sickens me and even more so the secularism.

We cannot have Nativity scenes on public property without lawsuits.

We cannot call them "Christmas" trees because it offends someone.

I have nothing against saying "Happy Holidays" because "Merry Christmas" also sounds...well, I guess it sounds superficial to me, but it is the traditional good sentiment.

I do still like picking out a tree, decorating it, and having it light up my living room even though I know its pagan beginnings; God made the tree first. I still like setting up our Nativity sets of which we do have many, even a half-size one outside that you would expect to see displayed at a large church--my husband's present to himself to make his stand against wiping out Christianity from Christmas. I still like making cookies and candies to give away to our families, church family, and the few neighbors we do know. I still like having a few presents under the tree for my daughter, just for her, and a present or two for the family.

I am just so very thankful that we chose to turn off our TV service. I do not miss it at all now.

I am thankful that we have connected more with neighbors and our community.

I am thankful for the Internet and computers. I think we use them responsibly for the most part. My daughter has an email pen-pal that she met this summer at the Cave Spring Fishing Rodeo and they write to each other often. She also writes to her grandmother often. She does not even know how to surf the Internet, but I bookmarked safe websites for her. She has only a few computer games and plays them seldom.

Our Christmas has been downsized these past few years and I am glad for it.

I am also very glad that Christmas falls on Sunday this year. We are having a come-as-you-are casual, relaxed, family-oriented, home church style Christmas service. Our pastor wrote that he is coming in jeans, which if you knew him, you would realize how much that is just not like him. He wears suits and stepped down to wear a polo top with a casual slack and large cross necklace just recently. My daughter is thinking she would like to go in her pajamas, but I told her that I think we will have plenty of time to change clothes, but then she does have a very nice flannel red and green plaid gown....

We are holding off opening presents until after church. Actually, I wish that there was a church service on every Christmas day. I know that it cuts into family time, but I think it helps bring focus to what it really is all about. We have traditions on Christmas eve to remind us here in our home, but I am really looking forward to worshiping with my church family as a family. Perhaps that is because we have no family around? No...it is more than that. I want a piece of what I had as a child and some pieces I did not have. My father was against anything to do with church, but we as children did go to one now and then. I always liked it.

I want every Christmas to be a good memory for my daughter and this one in particular because she is emerging from childhood and beginning that awkward bloom into being a young lady. I know that one day, like me, she will wish she could recapture that which she would readily discard now in her struggle to adulthood. I know that our customs and traditions will influence her on the decisions she will make for her own family. I know that she will one day reflect on her childhood memories of this Christmas and I hope she remembers that we placed our worship of our Lord first, and the gathering with friends and family second, the joy for baking and giving third, and the most important present we receive is a symbolism of the gifts Christ received.

~ My Lord, I get caught every year in the hurry-worry of what Christmas has become. I tell myself it will be different next year and each year is a bit different, not always as I hoped. I wonder, my Lord, have I done in a way that pleases You? I feel pulled further away in the preparation and all the activities when I think I should feel closer to You instead. Help me to give my daughter the memories and pass on traditions that are pleasing to You and that she will hold close to her heart to pass on to her children and they to theirs. ~

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Product Review: Private Selection


As a BzzAgent, I was given three coupons to cover the total cost of one frozen appetizer, one frozen pizza, and one frozen dessert of my choosing out of the Private Selection® line of products found at my local Kroger store in exchange for this review. One thing I can say in favor of the Private Selection® products is they have wholesome ingredients, but individual items can be disappointing.

The appetizer, Southwestern Style Chicken Trumpets, was the tasty favorite of all three items. There were nine with a suggested serving of three per person. They were easy to prepare by placing on a baking sheet in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes. The trumpets were spicy enough to be flavorful, but not too spicy that my daughter would not eat them. In fact, she really liked them.

For the pizza, we chose the Margherita Napolitana. It was described as a "thin and flaky crust topped with grape tomatoes, perlini mozzarella, basil and stravecchio parmesan." I will say here that when it was described as a thin and flaky crust, it was very accurate. The perlini mozzarella was basically small blobs of cheese scattered on the pizza--I would not even call it a pizza actually. It bakes on the oven rack at 425° in just 8 to 9 minutes. It was suggested to serve three people. I suppose if one is on a low carbohydrates diet, this would be a good choice as it was tasty, but not filling and certainly not enough as an entrée for three people. I would put this in the appetizer category personally, cut in small squares.

Chocolate Dipped Cream Puffs were the dessert pick my daughter made. The 18-count box suggested serving of four per person and described its contents as "Delicious Bite-size Cream Puffs Filled with Whipped Dairy Cream, Sugar and Pure Vanilla and Drenched with a Chocolate Coating." These simply need about 30 minutes to thaw and serve. Anything coated with chocolate is good, but these definitely could have been so much better than they were. I thought they were basically tasteless, except for the chocolate. My husband, who did not read the box, said that they needed more vanilla and I concur. The vanilla flavoring advertised on the box is not noticed much on the taste buds.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tis the Season?

And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
~D.H. Lawrence

It has been warm for November and now December here, cool enough to wear sweaters, but not cold. My garden is still producing foods that seem to be happy with these temperatures. Yesterday it began raining lightly but all the day and today is much the same. I am glad to see puddles everywhere because we have been in another mini drought.

As the earth's wobble slows approaching the winter solstice, the days are long with darkness and short with light. Clouds have heavily filtered the blaze of sunlight for the last few days. It is the making of lazy days; ones that beckon sleeping in, taking naps, and going to bed early, generally just wrapping up sleeping at any time. I would like to do that today.

Most of my life I have been an early to bed and early to rise type, but it seems that this year I have made a seasonal shift...not that I start my mornings so late compared to others, just late for me. I would rise in the last hours of blackness and I now rise up before the sun is seen but its dawning is obvious. I also am ready to go to bed within just a few hours after night's blanket smothers out the daylight. Perhaps it is the not the season of the earth, but the season of my life...? Perhaps...

It could also be that I tend to wake up every night around 3:00 AM and sometimes it takes me a couple of hours to go back to sleep. My Lord and I have some good conversations, but it can make mornings a bit challenging at times, some times more than others.

Maybe is it the flu season thing, so many people are ill with colds, flues, and bronchitis. We are not sick but our friends are. I received a call from one two days ago and my own sinuses began draining within a minute as if I had her illness. She asked me to pray for her. She felt better the rest of the day, so she reported to me later. (I felt better as soon we had hung up and my mind busied on other things.) I was glad for her, but I felt that I was being affected by too many people. The Princess and I both just have low energy levels. We decided to pass on the 4-H activity last night of caroling at an assisted living home and going out to Chick-Fil-A for a free meal, one of our most favorite outings, but I just felt I could not be with all those people last night.

I really have so much to do. We had our carpets cleaned last week, even the art and craft room! We cleared everything out of that room and closet (actually it was my husband as I have been having a bit of back pain), placed the items in our garage where I usually keep our van, Dragon Heart, and we took trailer load to Goodwill. We brought other things back in and rearranged the office/homeschool room also. However, we have lots of odds and ends that are not yet put away, so those rooms are still a wreck. I could probably clear up everything in just one day, if I had more energy to do so.

Also we have Christmas baking to do and cards to get out. I need to get up now and get started doing something or just give into the nap...not sure which. I would rather like curling up with a book and nod off whenever. Yes...that would be ideal for me, maybe too self-serving.

~ My Lord, I thank you for days when I do not have to be anywhere or have to do anything but I really do have much to do. Help me choose wisely as to what I should do with the energy I have...and if You would be kind in giving me just a bit more, I would appreciate that also.~

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Review: To Be Perfectly Honest

Some people have imaginary friends. When I cut the grass, I have imaginary enemies. ~Phil Callaway, from Day 2 of To Be Perfectly Honest: One Man's Year of Almost Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie.

Few books make me laugh out loud as many times as To Be Perfectly Honest: One Man's Year of Almost Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie.--a book I received for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. Imagine a Christian man taking an oath to be truthful for 365 days with the intention to write a book about his experiences! I enjoyed quips of the author's life immersed in his unique twists of humor very much. I will never forget Day 182 when I could not stop laughing for twenty minutes, but it would not be funny unless you had read the days before about the ordeal of a watch bought at the Mongkok Market in Hong Kong. That is all I am going to say on the matter; you just have to read it for yourself.

Now, to be honest, since we are on the subject of truthfulness, I thought, at first, that Christians are truthful or at least try to be, but I learned through these journal entries written nearly every day that I could relate with this man's shortcomings, perhaps way more than I would like to admit. Who knew that a piece of me was inside Phil Callaway's mind!

This book really made me evaluate my truthfulness, not with profound wisdom and deep meaning, but with humor and even those embarrassing circumstances when we tend to avoid the truth the most. I will say that even though I could relate well, I do believe this is a book that men might enjoy even better. However, it was definitely worth the read and the only thing that would have made somewhat more to my liking would have been that it had a bit more depth at times.

~ My Lord, thank you for this lighthearted nudge to help me look deeper at my own twist of truthfulness and help me to be truthful without my on twist on it. May my truthfulness be Your Truthfulness. ~

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh, Fudge!

I'd give up chocolate, but I'm no quitter!
~Author Unknown

My husband's all time favorite Christmas movie is A Christmas Story. It must be a guy-thing. I think its only rival is It's a Wonderful Life, which obviously has a much better message. However, my topic today is fudge, the real stuff that melts in your mouth with sweet flavors.

There are really easy ways, even foolproof ways, to make creamy fudge in these modern times. I do not use them. No, I am compelled to do it the old fashion way or perhaps I am just entrapped by my illogical need for complexities. Then, the two candy thermometers I have are not that helpful. I calibrate them by boiling water and one reads 4 degrees lower than it should be and the other 10 degrees lower, but that is at the boiling point and I suspect that I cannot rely on that at the higher temperatures so when I think the temperature is close, I still do my soft ball test the old fashion way also.

I have to tell you that I rarely have a batch of fudge turn out perfectly the first time and that could be in part because I only make fudge at this time of the year. Fortunately, I found out that by adding a tablespoon or two of milk fudge can be reheated to the soft ball stage again whether it is grainy, not setting, or it seized before it was poured in the pan and then cooled to 110 degrees (for me that is 120) and then beat until it just begins to lose its gloss. Do not hesitate at this point to pour in into a prepared pan, as I tend to do thinking it really has not lost its gloss enough...rolling my eyes! I have been making fudge for over thirty years; you would think I would learn by now.

Go ahead and laugh, because when I finally get it, it is soooo right. It makes the process of redoing it worth while.

I think God must see us in that way. We can appeared completely ruined, but God has the mastery to take where we are and start the process over again until we are just the way He wanted.... Hmm, I am not so sure we ever reach that point actually, but at least we have the potential to do so.

~ My Lord, may my fudge turn out well...this time, please. I really need to get to bed soon. ~

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Message

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. ~1 Peter 4:10

Today I slept in a bit having stayed up too late the previous night. My husband and daughter began the morning chores as I rested just a few minutes still snuggled in bed. I spent those few moments with my Lord. I was thinking of a friend to whom I had talked with the day before, one who has had many difficulties and recently was diagnosed with a condition that causes extreme fatigue. She has been discouraged and I can see her path, at least a portion of it. Still, I wondered why someone has to go the harder way, when the easier one is before him but he just thinks it is the most difficult.

It was then I clearly heard these words in my heart: "I cannot give what one cannot use."

Such odd words to hear from my Lord and yet they held more meaning than what they seem to say. I have pondered on then first "cannot." God is certainly able to give whatever He desires to anyone. I would have thought that "will not" would be more accurate, but as I thought about that more deeply, I realized that it was inaccurate also. It may be more likely that God not only will give but perhaps already has given. I began to see that from our perspective it seems that God had not and will not, but the answer is in the second "cannot."

What can we not use that comes from God?
What do we not need that He can provide?
What would we not use if God gives it?

Ah, the last question is the heart of the matter. I believe we receive more than we use, but have we received it really, if we do not use it? It is not that God has withheld it, but that we have not used it, therefore we do not accept He has given it.

I wondered then about the question: What can we not use that comes from God? Perhaps there is nothing...yet I am sure that I do not use all that God has given to me.

In the process of a healing prayer, I feel as if I am truly an instrument. I use the gift as I pass on the healing given from God. I know when someone is taking a healing, accepting it. Sadly, I also know when they are rejecting it. It is often a willful act that they will say they are not willfully doing. It seems that "I cannot give what one cannot use." It is not that I know of anyone who cannot use healing as if everyone is in perfect health, but I have known quite a few who could not use healing in the sense that they could not accept it.

Now I am wondering what I am not using that my Lord has given me. Aren't you too?

~ My Lord thank you for the moments You spend with me and the talks that we have had. ~

Friday, November 25, 2011

This Pain is Not My Own

The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure,
but to avoid pain.
~Aristotle

I took the mitten kittens, Sharii and Midnight, to have their rabies shot about two weeks ago to a mobile veterinarian unit that does this service and others at greatly reduced rates. They suggested other shots as well, but I am not one to like loading the body with all kinds of things at the same time as I think it can overwhelm natural healing processes. I gave them both two pellets of the homeopathic remedy Thuja 30x immediately after the shot and another pellet later that day. Then they were given one twice a day for two more days and they had none of the ill effects that I usually see in our animals in the following days.

I also made an appointment for the kittens to be fixed--odd term, as they were not broken--the day before Thanksgiving (two days ago) with the same mobile service. I hated doing this, really hated it, but we simply cannot have two litters a year of kittens. Besides, I had concerns about how closely related the two kittens are.

I gave them a bath the night before and placed them in a large area penned off in our garage removing all food and water. We had to be there by 7:30 AM with each cat in a separate carrier. I put Sharii in the the sturdier one for good reasons. As we were told what we should expect post surgery, I wanted to scoop up my kittens and drive back home...fast, but I left them and drove home dealing with my mixed feelings. Later, when I thought of them I felt one of them under anesthesia.

When I picked up the kittens, they were lively and awake. I gave them two pellets of Arnica 30c and placed them back in the pen. We were not supposed to give them water for another two hours, but I felt they were ready for a little after the Arnica and they kept it down well. We were told to keep each cat separate, but I felt the kittens would not be playing hard with each other, they just rarely do now that they are older.

I peeked in on them several times and gave them some food and another pellet of Arnica that evening. Most of the time they were curled up together sleeping. Apparently, the Arnica was helping with the healing and the pain. I say this because last night, just before I gave them their pellet, I was beginning to feel quite a bit of pain in my own abdomen--being empathic has its downside--but it was better after they were treated. This morning when I awoke, however, I was nearly doubled over and I realized this was mostly Midnight's pain. For the female cat, it is like a hysterectomy for a woman and is very painful. The male is probably nearly as painful, but lacking the corresponding parts, I can only get a feel of the pain in a general area. I also think Sharii was benefiting from the Arnica more than Midnight.

The problem with being empathic is that I cannot get rid of pain that I am feeling from other people or animals. There is no way to guard myself and I have no control over what I will feel or not feel, or to what degree. The only way to alleviate the pain I feel is to relieve or heal the one from whom it is coming and not everyone is receptive of being healed. So, I can be stuck with their pain. Thankfully, cats are not complicated in that way--many other ways, yes, but not that way. Actually, animals and children are far more receptive to receive healing than adult humans.

So, little Midnight and I cuddled up together for a few minutes and I prayed for her. In just a few minutes the pain I felt began lifting and now is mostly gone. I prayed for Sharii also. The kittens are sleeping together now and I am able to bake today as I planned.

~ My Lord, thank you for my awareness of others' pains so that I motivated to help them and may they be more receptive to healing. ~

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review: Has God Spoken?

The synergistic harmony of the Bible is a powerful testimony and an enduring reminder that God has spoken--that these are his very words. ~Hank Hanegraff, Has God Spoken?

It is easier to reach those without knowledge of the scriptures, but when we encounter those with such knowledge are we really prepared? I thought I was until I began reading this book!

I am in a quandary as to where I even start in trying to review Has God Spoken? Proof of the Bible's Divine Inspiration by Hank Hanegraff, Host of Bible Answer Man! It is packed with information: external history, Noah's flood, copyist practices, archeology, the dead sea scrolls, prophecies, and so much more--definitely not a light read. Thankfully, the author used acronyms throughout the book to maintain structure and to brace against any wanderings in memory. One of my favorites was L-I-G-H-T-S: Literal Principle, Illumination Principle, Grammatical Principle, Historical Principle, Typology Principle, and Synergy Principle.

This book is Christian apologetics above and beyond. It took me quite some time to finish mostly because I wanted think through each segment thoroughly before continuing. The amount of in-depth information could be overwhelming, but the writing style is accommodating and enjoyable.

I think the subject that I found the most interesting was the explanation of typology prophecy and antitypes. For instance, Matthew 1:22-23 (NASB) reads "Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,' which translated means, 'GOD WITH US.'” This was in reference to Isaiah 7:14 (NASB) translated "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." However, the word almah translated "virgin" here would be more accurately "maiden." The word betulah, which would refer to virginity, was not used.

Not only that but Isaiah 7:14 was actually fulfilled in Isaiah 8 with the birth of Isaiah's son Maher-Shala-Hash-Baz, so was it wrongly quoted in Matthew? No. This was one example of the typological correspondences described, in this case, between the birth of one child and the birth of the Messiah.

I felt I could identify with how someone of differing beliefs yet knowledgeable in the Bible would see certain areas in scripture as misinterpretations and misconceptions on the part of Christians and how that those same areas could be used to prove Jesus was the fulfillment of those prophecies because of typology.

This book is worth the read if you really want to understand scriptures from a view outside what is taught in Christian churches and how to convincingly change people's perspective of Christianity through the use of the scriptures, particularly those who are in agreement with the writings of Professor Bart Ehrman, who "deemed the historical Jesus as a false apocalyptic prophet."

Lastly, I will let the book speak for itself:
Finally, we should carefully note the elegant tapestry that serves as an internal evidence for the divine authorship of the biblical text. The tapestry of Scripture is a divine composite of surpassing brilliance and beauty. It is simply incredible that this exquisite masterpiece is fashioned from sixty-six books, written by forty different human authors in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), over a period of fifteen hundred years, on thousands of different subjects, and yet is unified and consistent throughout. How is that possible? The individual writers had no idea that their message would eventually be assembled into one Book, yet each work fits perfectly into place with a unique purpose as a synergistic component of an elegant masterpiece.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

~ My Lord, thank you for teaching me, through this book, about how unprepared I am to defend my beliefs based on scripture and how I can improve in this area. ~

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thanksgiving Wish

That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,
And declare all Your wonders. ~Psalm 26:7

May you have a Thanksgiving surrounding you and your family with the love of the Lord.


~ My Lord, thank you most of all for being my Lord. ~

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Product Review: Kroger's The Truly Awesome™ Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies



As a BzzAgent, I accepted the campaign for Kroger's The Truly Awesome™ Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies in exchange for an honest review. My daughter and I opened a box just minutes after its arrival and enjoyed them with a glass of cold milk. These cookies are almost "sandy" in texture with a light flavor, which make them an excellent dip-in-milk cookie but it lacks that butter-rich, softer texture that we prefer in a chocolate chip cookie. On the box, one of the suggestions is to microwave the cookies for a few minutes for that fresh out of the oven sensation. I do not own a microwave (I just do not believe in radiating my food) so I do not know how well that would work.

On the front of the box there are three claims and I would like to address these in particular:

CHOCOLATE CHIPS ARE THE #1 INGREDIENT
According to the list of ingredients on the side of the box, that is true. This is one of the best features of the cookies. You just cannot go wrong with having lots of chocolate chips in a chocolate chip cookie.

MADE WITH REAL BUTTER
Although there is butter in the ingredients, it is low on the list: chocolate chips, flour, margarine, sugar, brown sugar, butter, eggs, leavening, natural flavor, and salt. Did you notice the amount of margarine was far more than the amount of butter? It seems to me that real butter was added only as a sales gimmick.

NO ADDED PRESERVATIVES OR ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS
Technically, as stated on the list of ingredients, citric acid is a preservative, although a natural one, which is added the making of the added margarine. I suppose I am being nick-picky to point out that margarine itself is an unnatural ingredient, but then the claim was not that the cookies were all natural.

On the back of the box:
JUST LIKE HOMEMADE, THESE IRRESISTIBLE COOKIES ARE BURSTING WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND ARE MADE WITH RICH, CREAMY BUTTER FOR AN OVER-THE-TOP MELT IN YOUR MOUTH CHOCOLATE, CRUNCH DELIGHT.
They are really selling the butter! Too bad they did not use enough butter to give it that real homemade quality. Most of that butter flavor must be coming from the butter flavoring added in the margarine.

Overall, I would not refuse to eat one if offered--the chocolate chips are definitely the better selling point--but this one is not a cookie I would choose to buy. Putting aside that they are not organic, at $2.79 for a package of eight large cookies, it just seems a tad pricy for cookies made mostly with margarine and just a smack of butter.

I also have a suggestion because the packaging is not appealing, not at all. It is plain and does not sell the product. Also, blue is a color that suppresses hunger--ever notice that no natural foods are blue? Blue and white are not the colors to use predominately on a food package to get people to want to buy it, even if they are the store's logo colors.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Disclaimer: Fasting Experiences Will Vary

Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in Him a source of sustenance beyond food.
~Dallas Willard

Paula commented on my last post stating she would like to read more about the results of my fasting experiences. I smiled thinking of the paradoxical knowledge I have acquired, wondering to how to write it so that it would offer her and others the core-essence answer for which she truly seeks: the purpose of fasting. Why fast? Why do it unless you get something from it, right? Can we be even so transparent as to confess we wish to be convinced it is worth doing before we suffer missing even one day of meals?

As I was thinking over how to answer, I was reminded that I read on a Christian message board once about a young man's experience with a 40-day fast in the wilderness. He went alone. All he had taken with him was a sleeping bag. He drank directly from streams, walked and prayed, rested and prayed, heard the wild animals in the forest and prayed. At one point, he wrote about how he worried about being lost and realizing that he could die out there--who would even know? He was asked if he would ever do it again and he wrote if he had considered everything, he probably would not have done it at all, but having done it, he would do it again. I marveled at this! I realized then that I have only fasted in the comforts of my home with the distractions of my everyday life and I considered that a sacrifice...? This man removed himself from all that he knew, with not even a cell phone, and fasted! It certainly gave me a differing perspective of Jesus' fast.

Fasting is just not understood by those who have not yet fasted. The argument would be we can pray without fasting and God can answer our prayers without fasting, so why fast? Is there some mysticism involved with fasting? Perhaps. At least, I believe there is.

Remember the moment you asked Jesus into your heart? That moment something within you changed. You felt it. It was real to you. Before that moment your spiritual aspect was empty. You had life and thought, much like any other animal in God's creation, but you were created to be more: a vessel for the Spirit of your Lord. At that moment, the Comforter filled that emptiness. It is not something you can acquire and then show to other people like a new cell phone, but you then had a direct connection with your Lord wherever you were. Even praying was different somehow.

You cannot explain that transformation--not really--to someone who has never experienced it himself and especially not to someone with no inclination of experiencing it for himself. An atheist will just shake his head at your "delusions," thinking that you needed to feel something, so you did. I say this because fasting is like that and perhaps more understandably so. From the unbeliever's point of view, whatever you would experience is due to low blood sugar or lack of nutrients to the brain--you even get this from fellow Christians!

Many books have been written on fasting: how to do it, its benefits, and even why one should fast. On the flip side, I rarely find anyone who fasts in need of convincing or asking why it should be done. That is because the answers are found in the fasting itself.

~ My Lord, may those seeking answers about fasting find them through You. ~

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Much Left to Give

Do you have a hunger for God? If we don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. If we are full of what the world offers, then perhaps a fast might express, or even increase, our soul's appetite for God. Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence is the path of pleasant pain called fasting. ~John Piper

In my last post, I mentioned how our church had fasted for forty days last year and how many did not fast food, but things like "Starbucks, the Internet, TV, and electronic games." I do not mean to minimize these commitments, but they easily could have been New Year's resolutions. My point is how most people were willing to temporarily give up what are the excesses of their lives, but not real necessities and I would say that at least some of them, seeing how their lives could be without those things which crowd out time with God, still returned to them.

Many of those options were completely unavailable to my family. We are not coffee drinkers and definitely not into Starbucks. We had made a decision to turn off our TV service over a year ago, although we watch a few shows some weeks (and some weeks not at all) on the computer or a DVD movie, we just feel they take up so much time. We have a few computer games, although you will rarely see us playing them, but we do not have a Wii (although we might soon?) or anything else like that. We have so many other things to do that we just do not have much time to fit such things in and when we do not have something that needs to be done (actually, that never is a possibility, it is more like when we are purposely avoiding what we could be doing), there is always a good book to read, or a board game to play, or something to research on the Internet, or an scientific experiment to try (as the Princess is into that right now), or a mitten kitten who needs to be cuddled, or...well there just is always something to do other than play a game all by yourself on a box.

My point is that I think it is important to consider what fasting really is. I do not think that when Jesus fasted that He fasted excesses. He probably did not even have excesses! However, in fasting He suffered and denied Himself one of the things most required by the body to survive: food.

Now I know that some people cannot fast food because of medications they are taking or due to blood sugar problems, but self-sacrifice is the heart of fasting and fasting excesses is not fasting. Fasting should not just be a minor inconvenience, but something that will gnaw at you, something that allows you to suffer a bit, something that alters your perspective when you look at your own life. I understand that for those who have never done it, baby stepping into the practice of fasting is a path of learning to trust God, but it should be a progressive process, one that is continued throughout one's lifetime.

Jesus fasted. His disciples fasted. Many of the most influential Christians throughout history fasted. I think very few Christians sitting in comfortable pews fast, too few. So many people miss the blessing of the sacrifice, of tasting what Jesus chose to suffer, of this special way of communing with our Lord.

Each time I have fasted, I have been shown glimpses of my life from a differing perspective, God's perspective; I have better identified the excesses and determined free myself of them, not that I am always successful, but then human beings are a work in progress and God is patient.

~ My Lord, You have given me such wonderful gifts during and after fasts. I wish more Christians would devote themselves to fasting and sacrificing in honoring You. ~

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Healing Choice

When we have learned the process of faith for receiving healing, we have learned how to receive everything else God promises us in His Word. ~F. F. Bosworth

I am not so sure that our advances in medicine have been advantageous. I have no doubt both Western and Eastern medicine, although far apart in philosophy and techniques, have improved quality of life, cured diseases, and saved lives...but my question is to what end? Has it brought us closer to God or farther away, more dependent on God or more independent of Him?

This is the dilemma for me as a healer and the source of one of my own hypocrisies. I believe in divine healing. I have witnessed divine healing. I have been directly involved with divine healing. Yet, I also have been led and shown what would heal me personally, because I have found that I cannot facilitate healing for myself...perhaps God designed it that way for me so that I would not become too self-reliant? Perhaps that is how it is so for all healers so that we must rely on God? The answers elude me.

A friend recently mentioned that she if she had the gift of healing, she would not call herself a "healer," because all healing comes from God. I understand her thoughts very well for I felt the same way for many years, as I hid in my prayer closet. However, just lately I have begun to notice that I am less patience with this double standard I see before me. I should not call myself a healer, even though I tell how I was given this gift and that it most definitely comes from God, from Whom all healing comes as every Christian believes, yet it is acceptable for Christians to put their faith in modern medicine and a doctor, even if an atheist, and pray to God on the side to guide the doctor, rather than to wait on the Lord for His healing.

Think about that for a moment.... To do nothing but just wait on the Lord God for divine and direct healing...well, that is just crazy talk!

So, just how much faith do we REALLY have in God? We say we trust Him with our lives, believing we do until...we realize we never really have, that is, until the time we have had to do so.

Last year when my husband and I chose to refrain from eating any food for the forty days of fasting called by our church, a number of the members probably thought we were crazy. Most of them had never fasted food before and of those who did, it was one meal a day or perhaps a day. Most believe it is unhealthy, but actually it is quite healthy. Most of our church members chose to fast Starbucks, the Internet, TV, and electronic games. My husband and I both had fasted before, although never so long as forty days. While my husband dropped pounds he did not need, I dropped down to the point that I was showing too much in the ribs. Sometime after the fast ended, one of the members mentioned something about trusting God for your very life and he looked at my husband and me. He had been left with the impression that we had done just that. Perhaps we had.

However, because we had exercised fasting in the past, we were familiar with it. Not just how we would fair physically, but how it would affect us spiritually. It was something we welcomed and felt was worth the suffering and waiting. It is far easier, in a way, to practice fasting, because you know that you could end it just by beginning to eat. You are in control of it. The only thing that keeps you in the fast is your commitment and your purpose.

However, that moment when a doctor says surgery is necessary or cancer has been detected, you realize you have no control over what you are about to suffer. You did not choose it and you cannot see any purpose in it. Yes, there will be prayers to God at those times, but there also will not be much waiting for the prayers to be answered. Whatever the doctor suggests is probably what you will do immediately, asking God to bless it as you make appointments for the very thing you would prefer to be spared through healing, but you doubt that it can be any other way.

Where is that trust, that faith, in the Healer then? I have heard for years the rationalizing that Christians make that God can heal through doctors and perhaps He does, but maybe it is only because we are not patient to wait on His healing in His timing, we do not trust Him first and foremost. Perhaps we are unwilling to suffer and wait, so that His healing will be doubtlessly evident, even to the unbeliever--what an opportunity missed!

Divine healing does happen to people everywhere, but I do not think it is a coincidence that I have heard of far more miraculous healings happening in parts of the world where modern medicine is less available, where people do not have a choice, where waiting on the Lord is the only option. Where else would faith be any greater than in those who must rely on the Lord completely for their very lives?

I write this knowing I myself might not have that strength in my own faith, as I ponder this question: Have you trusted the Lord, your God, for your life...really?

~ My Lord, I have struggled with this so much. I have only questions awaiting Your answers. ~

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This Week in Review

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees. ~Victor Hugo

I think I have been in calling out to my Lord quite a bit in the last few months, even though I have, at times, avoided prayer. I think part of me knew I was being stubborn, stuck in the mire and wanting out but my way. God was showing me not the path of least resistance, but the one He had prepared for me and I for it. The difference in my attitude is not just the schedule change, although that was a large part of it, but something more...something more like trusting Him more with the Princess' education and allowing myself to enjoy both her talents and my own. I had just gotten off track with the whole thing, but now...ahhh, so much the better now!

Saturday
My daughter cleaned her room and her hamster's cage. I dusted and vacuumed most of the house because the fleas had finally died down and the diatomaceous earth I used to treat for them for the last three weeks was everywhere in my house--and I do mean everywhere, on everything and in everything.

My husband was out hunting for the day and came home late in the dark with a deer. Although past her bedtime, my daughter was as excited as the outside mitten kittens, but for differing reasons. There was an outside party next door and we were trying to be discreet, just in case the children would be upset.

We had to process the deer that night in our garage, at least in part, which took a few hours being it was the first we have ever done. My husband was given the deer by his hunting partner, who had shot it and felt it was not worth taking to a processor because it was too small. Actually it was average size for a doe in our area. It is not like my husband did not earn it, at least, a portion of it, for it was he who tracked the deer, since it ran away, and hauled it back.

Sunday
Because we all were up late the night before, we left for Sunday School late. There was a dinner after church as it was Pastor Appreciation Day and there would be no evening service, which suit us fine as we had more processing to do. Once done, my husband packed as he would be leaving after work to fly out to Boston on Monday night.

Monday
After my husband had left for work, the day unraveled. First thing in the morning when I was feeding the rabbits I noticed a freakish accident in which a bunny's back leg got caught in the wiring of the cage. The leg was obviously broken or dislocated. While trying to get him freed, with my daughter holding him, she expressed concern for one of the mitten kittens. Midnight, the prissy, long-haired one who rather be a lap cat and carried everywhere, was on the ground and from the description given by my dramatic Princess, because my focus was on the bunny, the kitten could have had a seizure. I called my husband about the bunny, this before I understood what may have happened to the cat.

We began lessons a bit late, but all was going well, although I was a bit frazzled on the edges about the bunny. The Princess finished her pastel drawing of a horse for an art show and we went to the arts and craft store to get a can of fixative spray. After I realized that I had gotten "workable" fixative instead of the "final" one, I called to find out that the final fixative was one aisle over. Of course, the cans of final fixative and working fixative were in separate aisles! What was I thinking?

Then my daughter saw the next door neighbors walking their dog in costumes and began getting upset about treat or trick already starting. She never has like people being in full costumes with masks, but I thought she had grown out of it. I am still not sure if she was just being dramatic or truly upset.

This year she had a plan to keep children from stomping on the porch. What she did not plan is slipping on acorns while trying to move a heavy trash can to block the front steps and falling hard on her knee. About twenty minutes later she was fine and sweeping the sidewalk. The trash can, with a "no trick or treating" sign, was to stop the children from walking up to our door, which they always do even when we have porch lights off and drapes drawn close. It drives our dog crazy and we tend to hide downstairs, but this year we decided to enjoy sitting in our living room without closing the drapes, enjoying an episode of SG-1 while eating dinner and munching on a few treats. The Princess is proud that she came up with a way to keep those trick or treating off our porch.

Tuesday
The horses decided to be mischievous and play musical stalls...without the music. We got them situated and had no other incidents. After our chores there, I changed clothes because we needed to do some errands, including exchanging the fixative, but I left an article of clothing by accident, which I did not realize until we had returned home.

We went to the bank, got our refills of water from Kroger, filled the van with gas, exchanged the fixative, and stopped in at Target to look over the marked down candy. Several times I found myself thinking how much more I am enjoying the freedom on Tuesdays with the new homeschooling schedule. At home, the Princess had a shower, then we had a large lunch. I then showered while the Princess began working on her horse curriculum and the Latin she did not get done the day before.

All seemed to go so well, but later I realized I forgot to remind her of piano practice. I was distracted because I was trying to finish matting, mounting, shrink wrapping and placing a card on her artwork, as required so that we could turn it in at the 4-H meeting that evening. The meeting place is just a few minutes from my home, thankfully, because I realized on the way there that not only had I forgotten to take a picture of the pastel drawing my daughter did, but I had forgotten my camera as well, and the artwork is to be donated and sold to raise money to be split by the county animal control and an animal rescue group. I left the Princess and went back home for my camera and when I came back I was asked by a mother I know to take pictures of her daughter's presentation for her 4-H portfolio, which helps her qualify for scholarships. This is the same girl who has given the Princess a few riding lessons.

My husband returns home from Boston late, just before I had fallen asleep, which I did soon afterward.

Wednesday
Lessons go well. On Monday we covered Stonehenge, so for art in the afternoon I asked that she do a pencil drawing of Stonehenge from an elevated perspective so that the top was elliptical and also to begin a drawing for our Christmas cards. She felt it was too early, but I reminded her how rush we get when we wait until December.

We received Beautiful Feet's History of Classical Music. At first glance, each lesson looks to be more involved than the History of the Horse curriculum, perhaps better geared for an older child, so I think I will break up the lessons a bit so that the Princess can do them in the van between errands more easily. I want more than just a day to look through it, so I decided not to begin it until next week.

I relaxed in the afternoon, worked on separating money into the budget envelopes, viewing sales flyers online for my health food store, and organizing my coupons. I was particularly excited to find the 32 oz. organic canola oil regularly around $13.00 is on sale for $8.49 and there is also a $2.00 off coupon, so the $10.40 normally would pay with my 20% discount would be $5.19--half the price. Besides cooking, I use canola oil to make mayonnaise and ranch dressing, and because it is higher in Omega 3 than most vegetable oils, it is a healthier choice. Organic white flour normally around $7.00 for five pounds is also on sale for $4.99 with a $1.00 off coupon, my price of $5.60 down to $3.19. The whole wheat would be about 80¢ more. Also on sale is various soups and flavorings with coupons and sugar without. This is when I really stock up on baking goods and soups for my hunting man, but I try to hold back enough for two turkeys also.

Thursday
My husband's van had a flat tire, because one of his accounts has a building still under construction and the workers cleaned up by blowing around the debris in the parking lot. A couple of screws found their way into the most worn tires, fortunately, but they may have lasted another 25,000. My husband filled the tires with air and asked me to follow him to the place where he would have the tires replaced on our way out to do errands.

I thought I would then double back and drop off one of the Princess' books at the library as well pay for one overdue and renew it. I really wish I would stop forgeting that the library's hours have changed, so it was not opened and we would do that on the way home.

Stopped at Walmart to look at marked down candy and got a little. Then we went to the health food store. (I know that sounds counterproductive, candy and health food, but we eat very little candy. A few bags keep well in my freezer for months. Besides, organic chocolate is very expensive.) At Life Grocery, I bought my bargains and a few staples like eggs and fruit. The Princess has taken up helping in the store the last few weeks. She asks what she can do and they usually have her front items or locate items where the labels are missing on the shelves. This time they "paid" her with a bag of natural milk chocolate, which she shared with me. Isn't she sweet? It tasted more like something between milk and dark chocolate and I really liked it very much, but then I never met a chocolate I did not like.

We also stopped at Big Lots and bought 16 oz. organic Newman-O's, a sandwich cookie, for just $2.00, which is the best price I have ever seen, but for some reason I have found them only at one Big Lots of the three closest on our errand run.

During the piano lessons, I read several chapters of a book. Afterward, we started the drive home with a stop at the Post Office. Because of an accident on the highway, we were delayed about 20 minutes and this time we did not stop for a Happy Hour half-priced milk shake at Steak-n-Shake. We stopped at the Target closest to home and bought five (all that was there) Sweet Leaf Organic Tea in the 64 oz. size for $1.99 (with the 8 oz. near it for about $1.49). We have plenty of organic spring salad mix so I did not stop at Sam's Club for it this time.

Then we made it to the library. The Princess placed two of the remaining Ramona books by Beverly Cleary on hold, which means they were ordered from other libraries.

At home we unpack and I begin dinner, which is usually just a salad, especially if my husband is working late and he did. The Princess and I watched a Stargate SG-1 episode during dinner.

Friday
Thinking my husband would be working on Saturday, I focused on lessons with the Princess and planned to work on reorganizing my pantry, kitchen cabinets for food, and upright freezer on Saturday. Of course, plans around here are never worth writing in pen and my husband will be home on Saturday after all which means he will not get a comp day so we can go to the apple country (North Georgia) on Monday as we had penciled in.

We had a nice dinner, rabbit with black beans and rice. I am still trying to get use to cooking rabbit, because it has so little fat, it can be a bit chewy in comparison to chicken, which is what it tastes like for the most part.

Saturday
My daughter cleaned her room and swept the back deck and sidewalks. I defrosted the upright freezer and organized it with older items in the front and everything more easily accessible. My husband decided that he would like to move the pantry from the garage to one end of the arts and crafts room, because we had a mouse problem that we think has been corrected, but why encourage more? Also, that way we can use those shelves in our garage as our mud room area with hunting supplies and gardening items. To make room in the arts and craft room, he is now moving his computer and hobby work bench to another wall and clearing it out of all the outdated computer stuff not needed anymore.

I am half way done with the pantry, checking all the dates to move the oldest to the front and making mental notes of what we have, need, and should be used. I have not even started in the kitchen and I have my doubts that I will get to it today. We need to stop at a store tomorrow after church and perhaps then I will relax...while I prepare lessons for the week, that is.

And, we have to change the clocks now too!

You know what is the most amazing thing is: I am feeling so much better emotionally (and a little tired physically). I don't know if it is the new schedule or just a phase or maybe I just slapped myself in the face with reality, but I actually feel I am trusting God again and the rest, the bad along with the good, has had a very different feel for the last two weeks and even when I look at the next few weeks which are always very hectic with extra 4-H activities.

Still, I just have been feeling at more peace. Thank you for the prayers.

~ My Lord, thank you...just thank You. ~