Monday, February 28, 2011

Ten Kits at Five Days Old

Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift. ~Albert Einstein

Miss Doe is an excellent mother rabbit. On the night it dipped down to freezing, she pulled out more of her fur and piled it high; the babes were quite toasty. She takes out any little bunny berries and cleans her kits up nicely. A few look as if they may getting firsts at nursing, so I am watching the ones that seem a bit thinner, but all in all they are growing and getting in fuzzy white fur.

~ My Lord, thank you for nature and all it provides us. ~

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Very Bad Examples for Public School Children

The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.
~Tom Bodett

I usually do not comment about current events in my sanctuary, because when I come here my world is a smaller, more peaceful place. My sanctuary is a place for those who are very close to me (or becoming so) and my Lord. I write about things that are just interesting to me or that are in my heart, but every now and then things from the outside come in with me, things I cannot leave behind and that I would talk over with my Lord, things that trouble me greatly, and I have many such things on my heart of late.

One of those things is how elected representatives in other states have shamefully abandoned their posts to undermine the voting process in their states because their opposition, voted in greater numbers in the last election, will win. I am not loyal to a party, but to an idealism that our Constitution was meant to restrain government, however even if my favored state representative did this I would be equally displeased... actually, more so.

But, that is not the worse of it....

Teachers of a union in Wisconsin, who have agreements that they will not strike, have abandoned their jobs feigning sickness while they openly protest at the state capitol. Some schools have had to close completely and a few doctors even came to the protest to write them fake sick notes! These are the people who are teaching children! How can they report a child as truant when they are showing them just how to play hooky and they get by doing it too?

All this, they say, because a bill will pass into law that will do away with collective bargaining, basically weakening the power of the teachers' union. Is there anyone collectively bargaining for the children they are suppose to be teaching? Hmmm.

I suppose they do not see that they just armed their students with permission to stage a major walk out of their classes and I believe if they do that the parents should stand up for them all if even one teacher dare to write them up! Did they think this chaos they chose to encourage would not infiltrate their classrooms too?

I have mentioned a few times on my blog how easy it is for me to see hypocrisy and this is it...with so many so angles in glaring arrogance that I cannot believe the blatant ignorance of it all! These teachers have collectively agreed not to even honor a no-strike agreement that they made...collectively! Basically, their "collective" is just mob rule and their mob decides what is the rule at the time?

It is laughable to me now that I used to drive a school bus and I got very upset with some other bus drivers because of how they drive. Give 35 feet of vehicle packed with children and some drivers act as if they own the road—pity the driver of a car who would dare hit a school bus loaded with children! I have seen buses blow through stop signs, not just a one-time mistake, but daily while carrying future drivers. (Even bus drivers are teachers of young minds...think about it!)

That is nothing compared to this mass debacle! If these teachers were students, the police could round them up and take them to school where they are supposed to be, however compulsory attendance laws are only for students. Personally, I would not want any one of those teachers teaching any children, especially not mine. I am not even going to explore the fact that only one third of Wisconsin 8th grade students can read or that Wisconsin teachers are well-paid collectively. (Apparently so is their union...?)

I am so thankful I homeschool, so that my child can never be used as a pawn in the political wars between teachers' unions and government or government and taxpayers. My sanctuary is not in placing my daughter hostage in a government-run institution at the hands of union employees, who constantly complain about why children do not do well in school is because of the parents—parents whose taxes pay their salaries so they can pay union dues, of which part will be used to fund political campaigns for pro-union representatives with whose politics I strongly disagree! (Taking a breath....)

Home education for my child is apart from the world but still in it, part of my peaceful sanctuary, a place to honor my Lord, a place where learning is a natural progression of life, encouraged and enjoyed.

~ My Lord, thank you so very much that I can educate my daughter a home. It seems that that world is coming apart at the seams politically and even financially, but I have placed my trust in You. Thank you for the peace You have given me. ~

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

There's one thing for which you should be abundantly thankful--only you and God have all the facts about yourself. ~Unknown

Thank you Penny at Knee Deep in Grace for this award. The rules are simple:

* Thank and link back to the person who nominated you for this award.
(Been there, done that.)

* Share 7 things about yourself.
(Since this blog is mostly about me, I would think most regular readers would know me pretty well by now so I will see if I can give some answers you may not know.)

* Select 15 recently discovered, great bloggers, to receive this award.
(I am not one to visit many blogs, so here is where I bend the rules.)

* Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.
(I would rather just keep it a secret...just kidding!)

Okay, here it goes!

1. I use the name seekingmyLord to remind me that in all things I should seek to please my Lord first and foremost.

2. I would rather wear boots or go barefoot than wear dress shoes.

3. I have used a cash envelope system for our budget for nearly twenty years.

4. I enjoy playing my bowed psaltery now and then, and I wish I could learn to play the hammered dulcimer like my aunt...I do so like Celtic music.

5. I actually enjoy aging and my graying hair...perhaps I think it makes me look wiser than I am. LOL!

6. I still bounce up stairs two steps at a time!

7. Oh, and I had my one and only daughter at the age of 40 years. You do the math. (Hint: See my profile.)

Now after prayer, I am again reminded that the purpose of my blog is not in gaining popularity, but just allowing my Lord to guide those He has chosen to be readers and friends, so with that in mind I do have one blog that immediately comes to mind as noteworthy that was started just recently: Stedfast and Whimsey

~ My Lord, thank you for each reader You have guided to my sanctuary and may it be a blessing to them. ~

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ten Kits in a Kindle!

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.
~Bern Williams

Not an E-book device and having nothing to do with starting a fire, this kindle has to do with kits...okay, that probably is not a familiar term for most people. Well, here are the pictures. See if you can figure it out on your own!

~ My Lord, thank you for spring, life, and hope. ~

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fearing God Will Say "No"

The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have lived in fear most of my life. I feared for myself when I was young because I had an unstable, abusive, controlling parent. When the situation changed, I feared what everyone knew about it, or thought they knew, or what I thought they knew. My grandfather, who was supporting us at the time, died and I feared what would happen to us then. Two years I lived with my aunt's family and I feared, even though this threat was never made, that I would be kicked out to go back to my mother, who did not want me.

I could go on and on and on with my list of fears....

I talked with a friend this week, too late into the night, but it was a good talk. I heard my friend say something that I have heard voiced in my own thoughts, my fears: What if God says "no"? What if I really want this certain thing and God just says "no"?

I cannot say that has never happened in my life, God saying "no", but I can say that if it did, I have no lasting memory of it. I have had God take away things from me, even things that He gave me, and sometimes it was quite painful, but in retrospect I could see how giving up those things gave room in my life for something else, something He wanted me to do then that served His purpose but also something that gave me as great or greater enjoyment in doing. He has helped me see that some things are meant only for a season, but that I should not fear the ending of one because it allows the beginning of another. And sometimes...all the time, really...God's plan is far better than my own.

I have often pondered if my Lord puts the desire to do what He has for us to do in us or if we have the desire and so He uses that or even grants us our desire. What made my husband desire to go to Israel? About a year before he began working for a worldwide company with his division headquartered in Israel, he seemed to have this sudden, strong desire and was talking to me about his ideal vacation would be to go to Israel, something outside of our means. I did not really have that desire, but I would have gone if we had the finances to do so. My husband has been there several times for training in the last three years. He did not really do God's work in Israel, at least nothing that stood out. He learned much about the culture as it is today and visited historical places with profound religious associations, but why? What was God's purpose? Was it because it did expose him to something he will need to use for God later or was it just giving a gift that he desired? No matter which, once done, it would have a lasting effect on him.

I have had many desires in my life and I can say that most of my desires, my Lord has provided. Perhaps they were His desires for His purpose or perhaps they were just a gift for me just because He loves me. Perhaps both. I mean, if I am living in His Kingdom and becoming more Christlike as I should, my desires would be His desires for me, would they not?

So...why fear? Why fear that if we needed a second vehicle and we desired that vehicle to be another used mini-van that had low miles within a certain price range AND in good working order, and we asked our Lord to make it absolutely clear which one He has chosen for us (all of which my husband and I did recently), why would I fear He might say "no"? (Notice I did not ask for a Jaguar or a Hummer, which are not only outside of our price range but would be completely unsuitable for our needs and rather irresponsible requests, but...what a really cool vehicles!)

I have a friend who has this same need and desire. She would like a mini-van and the size of their family makes this a reasonable request, but she told me that she is afraid to really talk to God about it because He might say "no". She knows that if she goes out to get one of her choosing without the Lord's blessing that it could be worse than being denied, but....well, I so understand this. I hear this same mind-talk. I know better and yet I am afraid to ask because I have not yet come to that point of surrender with that particular strong desire. I am afraid that if I surrender this thing I really, really want, give up that control, that God will completely disregard my desire...but that just does not make sense when I take it out from the dark place I have hidden it in my heart and look at it in the Loving Light.

That is why I am always wondering: Did God give me the desire or is He just giving the gift we desired? I believe that if God has placed the desire on one's heart, He is just waiting to provide it and all He wants is for us trust Him for it.

In a recent post, I admitted that I have faith in God that He can do all things, but I was struggling with trusting Him at that time. I am always afraid that God will one day ask me to do something that will be some unbearable great sacrifice...and He might. I honestly do fear that, but I when I look back on my life, I see some sacrifices, some were beyond what other people have made yet seem little to me now (although I also see others have made bigger ones than I), and I see amazing works, things fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle and the untangling of all the knots I created doing things my way without seeking my Lord first. I think I fear hoping, I fear that what I want is not aligned with God's purpose and then the answer would definitely be "no" and should be (and I should be willing to accept that).

Please pray that my friend is able to surrender her desire to God willingly and that our Loving Lord provides what He desires for her.

~ My Lord, at times I think we all struggle with the fear that You will say "no." While that is an indication of our faith in You, it is also an indication of our lack of trusting You. Please help us all to trust You more and fear Your answers to our prayers less. ~

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bursting Bubbles

I wonder how much it would take to buy a soap bubble, if there were only one in the world. ~Mark Twain

I love homemade soaps and I have been buying homemade soap locally for some years. The soapmaker, whose soaps I prefered, moved away from being just six miles away a couple of years ago and although I could still buy her soap online and have it shipped, it was a more expensive soap without those expenses on top, plus there is something far more fun in smelling and selecting the soaps in person. After the first one moved, I began getting my soap from another soapmaker just four miles away, whose soaps are less expensive and I did not like quite as well, but they were sufficient for the last few years.

Although I stopped by for soap sometime before Thanksgiving, I again forgot the phone number, so I looked up the website online only to find it was no longer there. Not so easily discouraged, I found it the Google cached site and called but the phone service disconnected. I eventually looked around some more and found a number that was working and talked to the soapmaker. Because of her health, she is no longer going to be able to make soap in quantity, but more as a hobby to sell to local established customers, like me, but then that also means I may not be able to count on her continuing to make the soap and, even if she continues, my favorites will most likely not be available as was the case this week.

You might be wondering what is the big deal. Why do I not just go to a regular store and buy commercial soap. I will explain why homemade soaps work much better for my sensitive and dry skin:

Many commercial soaps are made from petroleum distillates and remove the natural occurring glycerin, a humectant that attracts moisture. This creates a skin drying detergent. (Did you know that the extracted glycerin is then sold to manufacturers of lotions and creams, which are almost necessary after bathing with commercial soaps?)

Although the term “glycerin soap” typically refers to clear soaps, technically all soaps that do not have the glycerin harvested out are glycerin rich. The benefit is that skin washed with this soap is left with a thin layer of glycerin, which draws moisture to the skin and leaves skin with a wonderful feel that is not greasy or oily.

Hot processed soaps can produce clear soap (aka glycerin soap), but cold process is the most popular among soapmakers of yesteryears and today. Cold process soaps are made using lye, animal fats and/or vegetable oils, and water forming a chemical reaction called saponification. The natural emollients in the fats and oils are retained. In fact, some soaps are supper fatted by adding emollients such as jojoba oil or shea butter after most of the oils have saponified. Essential oils can be added as well as natural coloring and other ingredients, like bits of oatmeal and herbs, for more appeal and therapeutic values.

There was a time I mistakenly thought that all Castile soaps were liquid, but they can be bar soaps too. Soap that is made without animal fat and exclusively with vegetable oils is Castile soap. The most commonly used oils are olive, coconut, almond, hemp, and jojoba. Castile soaps have a very high alkalinity, usually around 9 pH, therefore are not recommended for hair, as hair typically needs between 5 to 6 pH.

Although bar soaps are known to be messier to deal with than liquids, I am convinced that the little bit of extra care that is required of a cold processed bar of soap is worth the benefits. I like the how they lather well, leave the skin moisturized, and have a wonderful scent. Now that I have found just the right soap for my skin type, I have not had to use lotion after a shower for three winters saving making the little extra I spent in soap well worth the savings! An added plus, a fresh bar of soap can scent the entire bathroom as well as a candle and they make memorable gifts too.

Now the odd thing is that I have been reading about how to make my own homemade soap so much when I began buying it that I could probably write a step-by-step manual at this point, but I have not been brave enough to just do it. I even bought lye in the last six months, which is not so easy find these days because it is used in drug production, I am told, however I found that Ace Hardware is still selling it locally. So, for the last few months, I have the lye and instructions and all the kitchen utensils I need, and I just needed oils (or lard or tallow) and scents, which can be the costly parts. Our finances have been really tight, and even though it would save us in the long run, I have to think about the short term also. Plus, it was just easier to pick up some soap on my errand day than to do all that preparation but with my soap source becoming unreliable, it now seems I have a more motivating reason to begin making soap myself.

I also think it is interesting that I have been rather intrigued with making things in my kitchen that seem to have an experimental quality to me. I even almost enjoy cooking!? (I am sure I am just hormonal.) So, as soon as I have a budget again, perhaps within two months, I am determined—de-ter-mined—to make my first batch of homemade soap. Well, that is the plan and I bought just enough soap to last just about that long, a self-imposed incentive.

~ My Lord, I am continually amazed by the things man makes with the elements You provided. Some things are very good and useful, while others get me concern and should be used with care, as is the case with lye. Please help me to be well prepared and protected in making homemade soap. I am really looking forward to finally doing it. ~

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Daffodil Game!

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

On the way to church this bright, warm day, the Princess and I played our annual daffodil game that we have played ever since she could say the word "daffodil"!

~ My Lord, thank you for the promise warm sunny days and the oncoming spring! ~

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Perfect Marriage

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. ~C.S. Lewis

I have started writing on this subject several times, deleted some of it, and rewrote it several more. I suppose it is an important topic to me because I have a soft spot for marriages, more to the point, for mentoring young wives and mothers, wives and mothers of any age with troubled marriages, and even single ladies who wish to be married. I am not sure what my Lord wants me to do with it exactly because we have a very small church and the women's ministry that is doing well. What I would like to do is a bit more specialized and perhaps not a large group ministry type of thing.

About two years ago we had more members in our church and some were having martial problems. The pastor began a Sunday night study based on Fireproof, a Christian movie about a couple whose marriage was falling apart. I remember one of the questions asked in the first part of the study was if anyone had a "perfect marriage." Immediately, everyone rolled their eyes and shifted in their seats: young and old, short term and long term couples, couples who had only been married once and couples had been divorced and remarried. Everyone had the same reaction and everyone agreed that there was no such thing as a "perfect marriage." Everyone, that is, but me.

Perhaps my motivation was that I have this aversion to going along with the crowd, or that I like to shock people so they will consider different ideas on the subject, or maybe I just see things from a different perspective. In all honesty, I myself am not always certain of my reasons, but I was praying it out to make sure whatever the reason that it would be to serve my Lord's purpose. So, I hesitated in giving my opinion as I sorted it out until after most everyone else had voiced their opinion on the matter. Then I said something to the effect that I believed in the perfect marriage but my expectations of a perfect marriage probably differs from the expectations of everyone else.

You see, I believe a perfect marriage is not where the couple never argues and gets along all the time and is always in agreement. To me, the perfect marriage is about good communication and sometimes there will be a bit of arguing. In the movie Jerry McGuire, Jerry is frustrated with his client, Rod Tidwell, who says: "See, man, that's the difference between us. You think we're fighting, I think we're finally talking!" If done with respect and with the goal of not just expressing one's thoughts but relating them so the other will understand the motives behind the thoughts, arguing, to me, is just working out some kinks in communication. I rather not argue, but I do not see it as an evil thing that will split my marriage apart. Some of our arguments end with laughter, some have involved door slamming, most ended with an apology, but all of them never really end until both of us felt that the other understood why we held the position we did on the matter, even if we still disagreed. Some would call that agreeing to disagree, which is a term that I personally find irritating, but it works for some people, I suppose. I do not have a term for it; I just consider it a part of life that my ideas will not always meet with approval from everyone else, including my husband.

Set aside the arguments, a perfect marriage is simply one based on the Lord being Master of over the couple, family, and home. Between the couple, there is trust, respect, compassion, and edification—you probably noticed I did not write "love" in that list.

Most people think love is necessary for a good marriage and I agree on that point, but I do not agree with most people about what love is. In truth, love is a choice. It is choosing to be committed to a person each day regardless of how life turns out. To me, it is not a feeling, for feelings change; I have fallen in love with my husband many times, which means that I have often not felt "in love" with him, and yet I have always loved him.

Love places a binding connection between people that can never be severed even when the two part ways completely. Ask anyone who has been divorced about their ex-spouse. I have known many people who did not have children and after their divorce had nothing to do with their former spouses, yet I can still hear the remnants of love, that unsevered connection, when they talk of them. Whether good or bad or even feigned indifference, there is still an underlying emotional connection, if only one of regret.

Anyone who has lived through abuse knows that love can be twisted into a confining straitjacket or manipulative puppet strings. Some would say that is not real love, but it is love that binds us into such situations at least in the beginning, because one can love and not be loved back; it is always a hurtful situation for the one loving the other who does not reciprocate even when the relationship is pleasant.

I once knew a Christian woman whose drinking husband ridiculed her beliefs and generally made her life miserable. She stayed with him and prayed for him. She felt the Lord wanted her to continue in the marriage and try to help him see Christ in her sacrifice and service to his cruel and demanding ways. I wish I could say the story had a happy ending, but the truth is I moved away and we did not stay in touch. I used to think she was just crazy, but I was very young then. I have changed my mind on that issue, because I since have seen some marriages just like hers completely changed by my Lord's Hand and, if not the marriage, the believing person in it. This woman kept her focus on God even though her home was at times a punishing place. She relied on Him more for her emotional needs than on her situation or any person, and it gave others the opportunity to minster to her also. She trusted Him more on a daily basis to provide the love she needed than most people with good marriages. So, I see that she had something that I may have lacked at the time and, if our goal is to keep our focus on God, to trust Him completely, and grow in discipleship, then we should have Paul's attitude when he was in prison of thanking God for all of it and rejoice when suffering because we are being purified.

My husband and I had a very rocky start to our marriage even though I was certain God had chosen him for me. The first three years...we often say that the wedding was x years ago, but the marriage started x - 3 years ago. Those first three years seem unreal to me now, and I am still not sure how either one of us survived it. We both had more than the average baggage from our pasts and some of it was still involved in our lives right then also. My husband nearly had a breakdown while he was losing the battle in seeing his daughter and I felt I was ignored and alone holding on to a sheer cliff by my fingernails trying not to fall back into an abysmal depression, as I had just a few years before. However, with God's guidance through that time we grew very close and we learned to communicate. My husband knew I would not leave him when things got rough and I knew that he would place me before his own interests. Eventually those wounds inflicted by our former lives healed, fusing us in marriage together with God. That was when we began to realize we had a perfect marriage.

A perfect marriage does not just happen. In truth, our perfect marriage did not really begin three years after the wedding; it began the day I asked my Lord to provide the man He wanted me to marry and that I would not rely on my own judgment but His only. My husband was not saved during those years, although both he and I thought he was. He will tell you that he asked the Lord into his heart because of our marriage and the next six months things changed significantly. Our marriage had to be refined and is still being refined.

The perfect marriage is not an unattainable goal, nor is it an easy marriage, nor is it ever stagnant; it is an ever-changing living entity created by a man and a woman seeking to please their Perfect God. The perfect marriage is the one that serves God's purpose and helps us to see God's purpose and helps us to desire God's purpose, even if only one person in the marriage is willing to accept this.

Lately, I have been asked to pray about some troubled marriages, some families I know and some I do not. From the ones I know, I hear things like "I am fed up..." or "He/She did [this and this and that]," such things, no doubt, that I once said myself. I do not hear surrendering the marriage to the Lord or the willingness to accept the Lord's purification of the marriage and these are indicators to me when even Christian marriages are falling apart. I hear things that cause more and deeper wounds to both themselves and their spouses and their children. I hear hate-filled hearts. And, there are times when even I think the couple or their children would be better off if the couple would separate...but that is very difficult for me to admit because I do not agree with divorce, even though (or perhaps especially because) I have been divorced. However, the decision is not one that should be made on how one feels. Love as a feeling is a wickedly volatile vapor and divorce never severs the binding connection of love.

I do not have all the answers about what makes a perfect marriage, but this one thing I do know: All wounds can be healed, fusing the couple in marriage with God, but if God is not the focus, if the "what I want in a marriage" has priority to what God wants or has provided in the marriage, then it is not serving God's purpose and one must get his/her heart right with God first, before one will accept how He will purify and perfect the marriage.

~ My Lord, thank you for purifying my marriage, for making it perfect. Help us to honor You in our marriage always. ~

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Too Many F's!

If there be, therefore, perpetual failure in your life, it cannot arise from any weakness or impotence in the Mighty God; but from some failure on your part. That failure may probably be discovered in one of three hiding places--imperfect surrender, deficient faith; or neglected communion. But when the intention of the soul is right with God, without doubt He will save.
~F.B. Meyer

February = Flat Broke + Further in Debt.

We made it through Five months of double tithing and have just two more weeks to go. We have been blessed, so very blessed this month, but we also still have to get through the month and next month also. We have not made even one bill payment late so far. We did not go further in debt (just did not pay off debt as much as we would have liked to have done)—I should say that we had not gone further into debt until when we had to buy the mini-van, but was a necessity with the new job. We have not run out of food but we did not eat as much meat as my husband would prefer. We have been fairly warm, although I keep the temperature set between 66° to 68°F for the house and layer our clothing. We have been thrifty, we have put to use what we had as much as we could, we stretched our finances as far as we could, and we have gotten by, but we now also have no cash reserves left to speak of.

You may be thinking that I am complaining—have been complaining? (perhaps I have at times...more times than I would like to admit)—but my purpose today is to explain our situation so that you will understand how everything and anything can be use to glorify the Lord. My husband was the one who felt called to double our tithe for six months. We had talked about 15% for three months and that seemed doable, but 20% of his gross salary for half a year? I, who pride myself (yes, I am confessing) on hearing my Lord and trying to be obedient, sad to say, was the reluctant one.

My husband felt this calling during our church's 40-day fast that ended in mid-August and after talking to my Lord about it, I also came to understand that it was what He was calling us to do. Because I am the one who pays the bills and manages the budget, I knew that this commitment was beyond our means...we could do it if we used our reserves and if we kept Christmas giving down to nearly nothing, but at some point we would not have anything left. I watched our reserves deplete each month and predicted that at the end of the sixth month, this month, February, we would be broke, flat broke or just about as close to it as we have ever been since our marriage that I can remember.

You know, I have marveled at the stories of missionaries. How they rely on the Lord for everything, a place to worship, their finances, even their lives, but I have not been called to be a missionary. Some people need to have "regular" lives so they can give money to missionaries, and my husband and I feel strongly about doing that, but this lifestyle does not seem to have that awe-inspiring element of self-sacrificing. In fact, in some ways, I have envied missionaries because they have such an amazing faith and I knew in my heart that I had not stepped out of the boat onto the water as they had...I wanted to have what they had, but I had not taken the risk to get it.

So, I began to see this double tithe calling was just that: God had invited us to step out of the boat and walk on the water...and just like Peter, the further I walked out and looked at the circumstances, the more I began to sink.... If there was such a thing as a stepping-out-in-faith grade card, I would have received a big red "F." Another "F"! But I also had been given a promise! My Lord had told me that things would be easier this year (and there is one other promise that I have heard from Him for the last three years that seems so unbelievable that it must be from Him, but it remains secreted in my heart for now).

Then, out of the blue, my husband gets a job offer for a position that fit him like tailor-made suit with far better pay. The Lord pointed us to this great deal of a vehicle, just what we wanted and needed and could afford, however we have spent a bit of money on it for some minor things common with a used vehicle. Do you remember that the bank that appraised our house for half of what it used to be worth? Well, they also credited us back the $400 fee a few days ago, even though we had not asked for it, but after my husband had written an email to them with details of how they either were either incompetent or fraudulent in their dealings. How amazing is all of this?

Still, the most amazing part of all is how we have changed this last year, even before the fast we felt the Lord urging us to make some changes, and between the fast and the double tithing, we have grown spiritually even more. We sacrificed, really sacrificed, and yet we did not do without anything of real necessity. Even though I thought we lived rather thrifty already, we stripped off even more of the worldly unessentials. We turned off our TV for good and I realize not only how much time we gave to it, but also how much it influences our society as a whole and God's church, in particular.

My husband and I both changed our perspective about money but in differing ways. Christians will say it is all God's money, but do we really give Him reign over it? We did not. I felt just being thrifty and having a budget and paying a regular tithe and, once in awhile, a special offering or gift was doing my part, but really, I was only giving God reign over the 10% I gave, not the 90% I kept. We did not really ask Him what we should be doing with it. I am not sure that I have made a complete transformation in this area, but I know that my perspective has changed and I hope to continue seeking my Lord in this area of my life that I obviously have been trying to keep in my control instead of surrendering it to Him. Whenever He calls us to give more, I will have this reminder that He provides what is needed and even rewards us when we are faithful and asks us to distribute His money according to His plan. I am sure my Lord will have to remind me of this many times in the future...many times....

~ My Lord, I am a failure and I fail often. You know this, although I try to hide this even from myself. Thank you for making my failure so obvious to me and forgive me of my imperfect surrender, deficient faith and neglected communion with You, my Lord. ~

Monday, February 14, 2011

Judging the Princess

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. ~ Frederic Chopin

The Princess has been working on two piano pieces for the last few months: one Baroque piece called "Polonaise" by J.S. Bach (this was the speed she played it actually) and a Romantic piece called "A Little Flower" by Cornelius Gurlitt. She was to not only play them, but to memorize them for a judging, which took place Saturday.

She played Polonaise a bit too fast, according to the judge, although at the same speed of the CD that came with the book, but he also said that he was impressed that her technique was so good that she was able to do it at that speed rather well.

Then we had to wait for the call from her piano teacher, Miss Trudy, to find out how she did. When the phone rang Saturday night, the Princess was all over me asking if this was about her rating. It was Miss Trudy. Her scored was 92 out of a possible 100, which gave her a superior rating of five points, the most she can get in one year. When she accumulates fifteen points, she will be awarded a trophy, so it will be at least two more years before this can happen.

She also played the same songs at church yesterday. Everyone complimented her.

After church, we splurged by going out to eat at the restaurant of her choice, Ruby Tuesday's this time.

Need I say how proud her father and I are of her? It was a great Valentine's gift!

~ My Lord, thank you for giving my daughter such a wonderful gift and a wonderful teacher to help her develop her skills. May she use this talent to glorify You always. ~

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We've Gone a Long Way, Baby!

If automobiles had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside. ~Robert Cringely

I went downstairs to our garage to put on my barn shoes—no, we don't have a barn, but that is what they would be if I did—which I do each day to feed the rabbits and I was just thinking about what I might make for dinner tonight since my husband would be home for dinner. I looked up surprised to see Pegasus (our white mini-van) in the garage and for a fleeting moment I thought: "Now how is my husband going to get home?"

It is so strange to realize that as of this morning, we now have two vehicles!

Until three years ago, we had a company car and our own; it had been that way for many years, until he lost that job. For the last three years, we have had only one vehicle. Often it has caused a juggling act of our time and resources with his traveling. For instance, when he worked in town and I needed the van most of the day on Thursdays, I would have to drop him off at the office and either fill the time or go back home, picking him up at the end of the day after my errands. If he was flying in, I would do my shopping after the Princess' piano lessons and then go on to the airport. Somehow, it always worked out.

I really did not think we would have only one car for so long, but it just was not within our budget to have two and we adapted so it was not really necessary. I could not be involved in some things that I would have like to have been. I could not go out just because I would like to do so. Although, I must admit here that even when I could, because my husband had flown to another state or country, I did not use the van much unless it was necessary just because our finances were so tight.

Having a second car is a necessity now because of the change of employment that will take place next week for my husband. He will not really need the van until he gets back from training in the U.K. in about three weeks, but this way he can get the van checked out and have any repairs done that need to be before he leaves.

I am hoping we have chosen wisely, that we have chosen the vehicle my Lord prepared for us. It seemed right. It was in the price range we wanted and with the mileage we wanted and all went well with the purchase...well, they did overcharge us for something we did not need, something that their computer system automatically added in, but they caught the mistake themselves and made the $500 correction before we left. It looks much like an updated version of Pegasus, white on the outside, but with a sand interior rather than gray. It is a bit longer also. It is ten years old, two years younger than Pegasus, but with just 45,000 miles on it!

It has some nice additions that Pegasus does not: keyless entry, built-in garage door opener, outside temperature gauge, compass directions, and a CD player. I really missed having a CD player and the keyless entry is so nice! Eventually, I will be driving this one and my husband will be taking Pegasus, who also needs some work first.

~ My Lord, thank you for all that You provide, those things You have provided long before we were aware of our need. ~

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Me, Myself, and Not I

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking. ~Albert Einstein

I guess I am just a follower because Ganieda posted "Me, Myself, I" and invited others to do the same. It is difficult to get past all the I's, but if truth be told, it is the one word we all use the most when we speak, so...I will take a risk in boring my poor readers in hopes that I will not scare off the few I have. These things are kind of a barometer indicating where you are emotionally and spiritually when you take them though...first, my serious answer and then my...uh, other side?

I Am...
(here on the planet Earth with you. Where do you think you are?)

I want...
to stop thinking in the terms of "I want."
(to win the lottery just once, just to see if it will really ruin my life. I suppose it will not happen because I do not buy the tickets.)

I Should...
be praying.
(be making dinner instead of trying to think of a witty answer.)

I Wish...
I could sleep with tigers.
(I could top the "sleeping with tigers" answer.)

I Hate...
hearing the words "I hate" unless it comes from my Lord.
(hate...not original but true.)

I Fear...
having regrets.
(trains when I am tied up on the tracks, stampedes when they are coming at me, bridges falling down when I am on them...on second thought, it would be a shorter list to name what I do not fear.)

I Hear...
songs in my head most of the time.
(other people gossip way too much, but I am not one to talk about it. You need to listen to the lady over there to know what I mean.)

I Search...
for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
(for my lost mind, although I am never sure when or if it is lost.)

I Wonder...
how God bears hearing every sorrow and seeing every tear every moment.
(if my cat really thinks that beginning his demands for food at two o'clock in the afternoon will motivate me to feed him even one second earlier than five o'clock.)

I Regret...
wanting to do things my way instead of my Lord's and being anxious for nearly everything instead of for nothing.
(not eating more ice cream, cheesecake, brownies, and chocolate...without regrets!)

I Love...
my Lord, my husband, my daughter, and my friends.
(everyone and everything for at least a few seconds every day before I am really awake.)

I Always...
feel I should be doing more than I am.
(wish someone else could do my work so I could just do the fun stuff.)

I Usually...
try not to have expectations of other people, so I am not easily disappointed.
(am disappointed by the people in whom I have expectations and I really wish they would stop doing that.)

I Am Not...
comfortable in groups, but I love getting to know individuals.
(really who people think I am, but I can live with their delusions.)

I Dance...
nearly every day just because I like it.
(but Nazarenes do not dance. This is where our theologies part ways. Too bad, so sad for them.)

I Sing...
not as well as I would like, but I do enjoy it.
(just to torture people.)

I Never...
say never.
(have met a chocolate I did not like.)

I Rarely...
do the things I would really like to do.
(turn off my computer...pathetic, isn't it?)

I Cry...
when something makes me happy or sad, when I pray, when I have not had enough sleep, and sometimes for no known reason.
(whenever I really want sympathy and it actually works! Word of caution: Overuse reduces effectiveness.)

I Am Not Always...
as compassionate as I believe I should be.
(all that interesting. Duh!)

I Lose...
myself in reading.
(that mind of mine, but I am sure it is around here somewhere.)

I’m Confused...
by immoral people and liberals.
(probably because I have lost my mind. What would you expect?)

I Need...
less than I think I do.
(everything I could buy if I won the lottery!)

I Have...
(my mind after all...I think.)

~ My Lord, You know me better than I know myself and You know what I need more than I do. ~

Monday, February 7, 2011

Turning Off From One Highway to Another

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey. ~Fitzhugh Mullan

I see my life as a journey. The destination is the home of my Master. On the road I have distractions, diversions, detours, obstructions, and even roadblocks. I have resting places and my little sanctuaries where I meet with my Lord. I have freedom to do things I enjoy as well as things I must and should do for my Master. People may be walking along with me in the same direction for a time, sometimes a short time and sometimes we enjoy each other's company for a long time. I often get very comfortable with my fellow journeymen and do not wish to part ways, but sometimes my work for my Master requires just that. Sometimes the road is smooth and easy to walk and other times I wonder why it is so difficult to travel.

It seems it has been a rough road for us in the last few months. Now I am grateful and amazed at the ease of the journey. In fact, I look forward to each step as though my Lord is personally guiding me, showing me exactly where to step.

The change in my husband's job seems to have some similarity. He handed over his resignation last week and they are treating him well, quite well. Seeing how others have been treated in the past, he is really surprised and here again my Lord has shown us that He has prepared the way as my husband goes from one highway to another. Previously his current job was exactly where he was to the time. My Lord provided him the job when he was let go and before his severance pay ran out. It was in a place that was respectful of religious beliefs, for which my husband had prayed, with many Jews and Christians in the workplace. He even visited Israel several times, which was a strong desire and an answer to his prayers. My husband was recognized and promoted for which I had prayed and my Lord promised me.

However, I have begun to see that even in God's blessings there is a time and place, that they sometimes are only for a season, or the means to another end, or perhaps...a means to another means. Now I see that my Lord planned this current job to only be a connecting highway to another. My husband was trained and learned skills while in that job that made him an even better match for the new company once he updated his résumé, so well-matched that they were willing to pay him well to get him. I must say that there is a certain obligation one feels when offered good pay for a job. One cannot help but wonder if he will meet their expectations, but I have confidence in my Lord and His preparations.

Next week my husband officially turns off one highway as he connects with another. He has to leave those who were traveling in the same direction and meet new sojourners. He has not told anyone other than his immediate managers and one former manager, that is the former manager who was forced to let him go at the last company and then he left himself within weeks also for his present job. Ironically, that is happening again but a bit differently. Last time, he had to let my husband go and this time my husband has been offered a job before leaving and he has a different manager. The similarity is in this: his former boss is also planning his own exodus in a few weeks. Like my husband, he also is going to a smaller company different from the one my husband will be, but still one that treats their customers and employees better.

My husband was asked by his manager if it was just the money. You see, I had forgotten to write here about how my husband and others without excellent reviews were not going to get the five percent cut back as the company had promised. This cut was a company wide cut taken two years ago that had nothing to do with performance and there was no mention in the November email of the proposal to reinstate the pay levels that it would be based on reviews...even the managers writing the reviews did not know. So, my husband did not get a raise with his promotion, did not get a bonus at the end of the year, did not get even a cost of living raise, and now also had no hope of getting back the money they cut from his salary two years ago. I think the Lord made it really easy for my husband, who is rather loyal, to know the offer from the other company was His will.

The later part of next week, my husband will be in Chicago and then the next three weeks he will be in training in the United Kingdom. This week he is working on helping set up machines in the demo room and logging all the parts and items he needs to return to end his employment.

On the home front, my husband is now looking at used mini-vans with low mileage. I usually get so anxious about spending money, but we are in agreement about the general amount and I feel this odd sense of "I should be more worried than I am." I just have so much confidence that the Lord is going to make that choice just as obvious and easy for us.

It is such a deliciously strange feeling to have so much faith and trust, to feel wrapped in His Kingdom as if it were a soft, warm blanket against the chill of the world...I so hope it lasts and lasts!

~ My Lord, thank you so much for Your blessings, but mostly thank you for the peace You have given us during this time of change. Please continue to guide us.~

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thank you, my Lord!

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! ~Psalm 105:1

I wish to thank my Lord and thank you for your prayers for which I asked nearly one month ago. (I cannot believe it has been that long!)

Yesterday was a very interesting day. We were out all day from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. We drove to drop my husband off at the new demo center because he was involved with moving some of the machines from the old demo center to the new facility. Afterward I had the van to do my usual errands: grocery shopping, paying bills, and piano lesson. After finding out we had some money in a medical saving account through my husband's work, we added an way overdue and much-needed chiropractor visit for both the Princess and me. Also, Shadow had broken his exercise wheel so we stopped at a pet store for a replacement, which the Princess bought with her own money out of the envelop for her hamster budget. (Great timing too as it was on sale for $2.00 off.)

It was raining with sleet mixed in and temperatures near freezing so traffic was terrible on the way home, as people were in a rush to get home and did not want to get stranded or abandon their cars as many did the last ice storm we had. Even though the roads were not at all icy, it took us over two hours to make the typical hour trip. Thinking it would be a long day, we had already planned to stop along the way at a supermarket to pick up a family dinner package of fried chicken, cole slaw, baked beans, and rolls (it tastes better and is cheaper than the fast good chicken restaurants). Unfortunately, I had developed an irritating headache on the way, probably from the combination of the day being too long, meals being too far apart, and my neck adjusting to being straightened to its proper placement. I kept thinking on the way that the job offer came that day, while we were away, but when I checked phone messages, there had not been a call.

After the flurry of unpacking, feeding furry ones, realizing that we forgot to put the trash out for the pick up that morning, eating, cleaning up, and washing dishes, we finally slowed the pace to our regular before bedtime routine. I was fussing in the bathroom, washing the day off my face, while the Princess was changing in her bedroom, when my husband came in to say he had received the offer by email, the job offer for which we have been waiting.

The way he looked made me think that we would have a tougher decision than we hoped. Maybe they were offering the lowest end of the pay scale? I should explain here that have been very concerned about our church. We committed to doubling our tithe for six months and we are in the sixth month, but we both knew that we honestly could not continue giving that much afterward. At the end of this month, we will be broke and may be able to pay just ten percent without having difficulties in paying bills. It bothered me that this also meant that the church might not meet its budget. I have been wondering how the Lord would work this out and I thought the job offer might be the solution.

Well, praise the Lord! The company offered more than we both thought they would. They actually matched what he said he would like to make! We had not expected that. I wanted someone to pinch me to be sure I was not dreaming, but then I was aware of that nagging headache must be real! After four years of basically the same pay, even loss of pay; being in the sixth and last month of doubling our tithe to the church; and knowing that the end of this month we are going to be broke (not kidding here), suddenly we will be nearly back to what he used to make before all of this! It is almost too surreal and a bit scary!

They would like him to start as soon as he can give his present employer proper notice and arrangements. He will be going to the U.K. for training for two weeks soon, one of the countries he has not been to yet.

Again, I wish to thank you for your prayers. There will be many changes and procedures he needs to learn, of course. One thing most pressing is now we need the Lord to point us to the vehicle He has for us because we need another one for his work and I am sure He has this covered also. We are also asking for prayer and guidance about resigning on good see, my husband never has resigned from a job since the temporary jobs he had for college expenses, which is not the same. One more thing, we ask you pray with us about being very good stewards with the increase of income the Lord has blessed us. We feel that we need to give extra support to our church in some manner. We also have some serious issues with our house that need to be addressed...very serious issues that I will write about in the future perhaps. We will have to go further in debt for a vehicle because we literally have no reserves left, so it is going to take some time to build up an emergency fund, start over with a budget, and again work toward getting debt-free.

At this point in my life, I view having more money as having more responsibility to the Lord in how we use it. It is a blessing that, if not used to honor the Lord, could become a curse. We have been down that road before and we don't want to ever go that way again.

I am probably rambling, but I cannot tell you just how thankful I am right now...I just have to spend some time with my Lord telling Him!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for blessing us. Help us to use this blessing in the way that pleases You. Guide us to the vehicle You have chosen for us. Please help my husband to resign in an honorable fashion and that he be remembered favorably. Help him to excel at this new job and be recognized. Help us to be good stewards and generous givers according to Your will. ~

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Own Happy Place

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. ~Albert Camus

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about my "happy place." The place I am now was my happy place thirty years ago. In it I had a loyal Christian husband, a daughter with long brown hair, and a nice house. I dreamed of this for years because I did not have any hope of having it, or so I thought at the time.

Soon after turning twenty years old, I suffered for about two years with a debilitating depression. I had survived child abuse, but I was not yet whole. My first husband had left me twice and, as a condition on me for him to return the first time, I was to be his ideal wife. I tried to do that, but something in me began to die. After nearly a year, I realized I was ill and I did not have a clue how to get better. I decided to visit my grandmother in Florida for a week. It was difficult to get on the plane and leave. When I got there, I did not want to go anywhere, see anything, to do anything at all, except play Scrabble, which I never played at all before. I did not talk about my problem at all.

What I vividly remember is as difficult as it was for me to leave home to take a break, I was surprised that it was far more difficult for me to get on the plane to go back home. I cried for the entire two hour flight not understanding why. I realized on that flight that I needed professional help and made an appointment with the one and only psychiatrist in the city so it took weeks to get seen. Medication helped but I began to realize as the months dragged on that it had to be adjusted periodically for me to be able to function and we were not making any progress with finding the underlying cause. I had to cut my hours to part-time and even then I remember driving to work sitting in the parking lot and falling apart so that I would just have to drive back home and call in my apologies.

Nothing made me happy. Nothing. I had no hope, no enjoyment, no desire to live. My spirit was broken. I remember not being able to sleep at night until four o'clock in the morning and then not being able to wake during the day. I remember waking up and being angry because I was still alive and would have to suffer through another day: "Lord, why am I still breathing? Why don't You end this? After all, I am not of any good for You on this earth."

Suicide was not an option for me. I had a brother who died when I was only ten, an accidental suicide they called it. I saw how it tore up my family and I could not leave my little sister at nine years old that way with her alone to watch our mother go through it all again. Besides, I did not want to take the chance that I would end up in hell, thinking it might actually be even worse than where I was at the time.

I also did not want to talk to my Lord. I would tell Him, "I know You are there, but please just leave me alone for now." Can you imagine? Of course, I remember these things in awe that I ever even thought them. It seemed like an entirely different person so distant, so long ago, so unlike me.

One night, after my husband left the second and last time, I finally gave in and talked to God. It was as if He had been waiting so close just for me to do that and I told Him that all I wanted was a house and a good husband. Do you know what He said? He told me that because I had asked for so little that I would have that and more. That I would have a life beyond what I could imagine. God knew I was a practical woman at heart and that anything beyond my hourly struggles with depression then was just incompressible to me.

It took some years for me to get here and sometimes I forget that I am in my happy place, the one that was just a dream many years ago. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I like my life. It is not a perfect place and sometimes I am sad or depressed for short bouts, but this is my happy place on earth. This is what God promised me.

There is one thing...just one thing that I have not been doing that helped me hold onto my sanity those years ago. I have been avoiding it, desiring to do it without doing it, probably because of those memories. I would like to get back into my artwork and I think my Lord has been asking me of late for what am I waiting? I am always thinking I will do it later when things are better or when I get something else done first or.... For what am I waiting? Truth is I am not waiting, I am avoiding. I think have been fearing the memories of my depression, which left soon after my husband did, because since then I really have not done any artwork to speak of...all these years the one thing I loved to do so much I have avoided.

I think, though, I am now ready to make new memories associated with my artwork and I am wondering what direction it will take. Making new memories of the Princess and I both learning and working on our art together are encouraging to me now. I am ready to add one more thing to my "happy place," the one my Lord promised me and the one I should be enjoying more than I have been to honor Him.

~ My Lord, shatter the fear, let the memories of depression be replaced with new memories of delight. Help me to stop avoiding to begin drawing and painting again. ~

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Homemade Yogurt in a Slow Cooker

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons. ~Alfred E. Newman

You may be thinking I went off to my "happy place" and forgot about my blog, right? Actually, I am holding off my own answer to my previous post for now. In the meantime, both my favorite aunt (okay, she is my only aunt but I am sure she would be my favorite if I had others) and a friend dear to me asked for me to write it out my secrets for making yogurt in a slow cooker on my blog so here it is.

I just started making yogurt in recent months, which I wrote about previously here. Before my experimentation with yogurt, I would make clabbered milk, which is far less fussing. I think I now have a method of making yogurt for reliable results, at least for me in my own kitchen. The first thing is I use raw milk, because that is the only type I have been buying for last twenty years. However, since the milk must be heated to at least 180°F, just about any kind of milk can be used: whole, low fat, non-fat, even powdered. It also can be pasteurized or not, since you are going to be heating it anyway.

It seems counterproductive to heat raw milk, but if it is not heated to kill back most of the natural cultures, these will be in competition with the desired yogurt cultures when they are added back, so this is not the way to make raw milk yogurt—I am still working on that one. I have made raw milk yogurt a few times, only heating to between 110°-120°F, and the results are not the same consistency as the yogurt bought in stores, something between clabbered milk and yogurt in taste, but it seems a bit thinner than clabbered milk to me. Also, it is less predictable, I think; I had a few batches that separated into something like a soft cheese and whey, which was an edible addition to our salad. The rule with raw milk is that it is always in an edible state, unless contaminated with harmful bacteria, that is. So, if you are of the mind to experiment and share your method, I would be interested.

I pour in one gallon of milk into a six-quart slow cooker with a removable crock. (You can use less milk if you are making a smaller batch.) I set my slow cooker on high and place the probe of a digital cooking thermometer into the milk. Although the milk needs only to be heated to 180°F, the last time I made it I heated it to 185°F and the yogurt came out much thicker than usual, however that could have been due to other factors also. Yogurt making, I have found, is much like sourdough bread making: it is an art and much depends on humidity and other factors within and beyond my control.

One thing I believe works in favor of a thicker yogurt is not using a lid on the slow cooker; I wrap the slow cooker in two heavy bath towels instead. This not only speeds up the heating process, but allows the moisture to escape. Some people suggest venting the lid by using chopsticks, but I have two reasons for not doing this: one, my lid is oval and would not be stable enough, and two, I always see condensation on the inside of the lid, which may be a factor in thickness.

After the milk has been heated to the desired temperature, I usually like it to cool as quickly as possible. I turn off the slow cooker, remove the heavy towels, and immediately remove the crock, placing it on a rack. I place a lighter dish towel over the top to cover it. If it has not already, a skin will develop on the top, which is normal.

When it gets down to under 120°F, I add fresh yogurt, specifically Stonyfield Organic Yogurt, to the milk, although any well-cultured yogurt will do. You can add yogurt from a previous batch, but I have not done this personally as I have read that after two batches fresh cultures should be introduced anyway. (Maybe that is not really necessary? Something to experiment with later on perhaps.) I really don't measure the amount of my yogurt starter, but I probably add between ¼ to ½ cup. I whisk it in, which also breaks up the skin on top. Then I place the crock back into the slow cooker, wrap it up with the two heavy bath towels, and turn it to the "keep warm" setting for a few minutes. This is just because I noticed it cools a few more degrees if the slow cooker is not warm. The temperature of the milk should be between 110°F and 120°F, although I usually like it heated no higher than 110°F because the temperature will continue to rise after I have turned the slow cooker off and 115°F is the highest temperature I prefer. If it gets over 120°F, you can allow it to cool and add more yogurt, but if the temperature goes over 130°F the consistency may not be as smooth regardless—yes, this happened to me once or twice as the beeper is not very loud on my digital thermometer.

You can leave it all wrapped up and turned off overnight. In the morning, the temperature is usually around 90°-95°F for me. If you are making it during the day, you might check the temperature and turn on the slow cooker for a few minutes until it again reaches 110°F. If it is not as thick as you would like, you can continue this process for a few more hours. I have had some batches that were done in just eight hours and others took nearly 24 hours. Again, making yogurt is an art and you can leave it for hours if you must.

If you just cannot seem to get it as thick as you would like, you can add one to four tablespoons of powdered milk and whisk well or use a hand mixer. This is best done when adding the starter, but it can be done at any time and then give it a few hours for the cultures to...uh, cultivate, I guess would be the term.

To finish up, I use a ladle and a funnel to fill up four one-quart canning jars, while the yogurt is still warm. This results in a good seal when placed in the refrigerator. Yogurt lasts weeks that way.

I use yogurt in cooking quite a bit, but the reason that gallon of yogurt only lasts about ten days or less most times is my daughter and I have yogurt and granola with fruit nearly every morning for breakfast. Speaking about granola, I have not seen my favorite granola on sale for sometime and we were nearly out of stock at home so...just this week, I made my first batch of granola also in my slow cooker! It tasted good, but just not quite as flavorful nor did it have the cluster consistency I would like so you will have to wait until I have perfected my granola technique before you will see a post on it here.

~ I am reminded, my Lord, that like yogurt, we have to be cultivated often according to conditions unique to each of us, that for me to become as You wish for me to be is no less due to Your patience and skill, my Master. ~