Saturday, March 30, 2013

Healing on the Streets

Unbelieving believers believe enough to get to heaven but not enough for heaven to get into them. So what we need to be is believing believers and walk this thing. Jesus paid a price for us not for us to just go to heaven but for heaven to get into us, so that we could represent heaven on earth. ~Todd White

Whew! What a quote! Amen and amen!

If you have been reading along, you may remember just two weeks ago that I prayed for a woman's back to be healed when I was at my favorite health food store. I wrote about it in A Healer Stepping Out from Cessationism. I saw her again this Thursday and she still has not had any back pain at all.

I am writing about this because I am both amazed in how God heals through me and at the same time it is a frequent occurrence in my life. I wish more Christians would experience the miracle of healing and believe it is God's will that we pray in belief for healing of others!

I came across these videos and I felt I should share them here on my blog. They reveal an amazing story about an amazing man, Todd White, through whom God heals people in the most amazing ways...and he is out there doing it on the streets, healing unbelievers! Turning them into believers! WOW!!!! That is my God!

This man's ministry has cause me to rethink a few things about a healing ministry. In my own experience, more have been healed when I prayed over them outside of the church than inside. There is something that just does not seem right about that, but I want to be willing to go and do as God desires, not what gives me a false sense of safety.

~ My Lord, thank you for this amazing ministry and please continue to bless Todd White and others who are street missionaries healing people. May I, my Lord, be so willing to be used by You, showing Your love for all people wherever I meet them meeting them where they are.  ~

Friday, March 29, 2013

Condemnation or Conviction

If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience.
~Henry Blackaby

Reading over some of my past posts in regards to my former church, I have wondered how any one of the members, who used to read here from time to time, would feel about what I have written. Would they feel that I have been judgmental and condemning? Hmm. If the same came from God directly they would say they were convicted by the Spirit.

The deciding factor is between the two is not in who is giving the message, as throughout time God has used people to deliver His messages, but from whom did the message come, my Lord or me. Should we expect all of God's messages to come from the pulpit through ordained ministers while we are sitting in pews? The problem is that if others are not hearing Him, then they would most likely think that I was acting on my own and not under my Lord's direction. Opposition in such a case might be the right response, but if I was acting in obedience to my Lord, then why would there be opposition from fellow believers?

I initially opposed my husband when he first announced that we would be doubling our tithe for six months once to church board members. I was far beyond just being reluctant and I really did not want to hear my Lord say to do it, like a bratty child wanting my own way, but after seeking my Lord's heart in surrender to His will with faith in Him of the things I could not see, I was given confirmation from my Lord directly. I realized then that my husband was acting in obedience to a calling from our Lord and my opposition came out of out of my fear and not listening to my Lord on the issue at that time. I would have been in disobedience to Him to further oppose it or even resist by complaining, instead of embracing it in faith and trust, and many things happened during that time about which I could have complained, but what a blessing we received in the last month of that commitment, a job offer with an increase of 50%!

I wonder though, if God is not being heard, what do people think He would do to get His message out to be heard by the people? I cannot count the number of times over the years that I have given advice to different people and they did not choose to follow it...until later when they either thought it was their own idea or some stranger told them the same thing—and they even forgot that I had given them the advice in the first place! Now imagine how it is when God is trying to get us to listen and we are not hearing Him; don't you think He just might use another person to deliver the message?

I do not always hear my Lord or I question what I have heard and that is why I have prayer partners, ask for intercessors to pray for me, ask the Lord for confirmation through them and signs, and have faith with expectancy that His message for me will be delivered. And because I truly wish to be in His will, if I have displeased my Lord with disobedience, I want Him to convict me...I, of course, would like to escape the judgment though.

Jonah's battle with God over Nineveh has been on my mind much lately. I have been comparing myself to Jonah as the reluctant message-bearer. I really did not want to confront fellow believers, but God kept laying it on my heart how He wanted the church to change. When the prophets were giving God's messages to people who would not hear, a judgment would follow. I just do not know how prophets did this! It breaks my heart.

Even after we left, I really wanted to see my Lord's will be done within and without the church. I am human with my frailties, but I did not want to be like Jonah, expecting a judgment regardless of any change or even no change. There has been changes within the church just due to our leaving, but the question is if the changes they are now making are in obedience to the Lord or if they are just for survival under judgment? Are they now hearing God or continuing to do what they think is right in their own eyes? If survival of the church is the priority, what has it replaced? If only we had used one/tenth of our efforts, resources, and resolve to save the unsaved as we had to save the church! Can the church survive by sitting in a favorite seat comforted by nostalgia of old hymns waiting for God to do something to keep it from dying off?

If it isn't about saving souls, what is God's purpose for any church? Worshiping Him? Yes, absolutely that is a huge part. Praise and worship brings life to His Bride! And, shouldn't the church body ask God what kind praise and worship He would like within their particular church? Surely, He would know what He wants as well as what we need better than we ourselves do, right?

It is far more than a social gathering, but a gathering to learn about God from each other and through each other as well. A place to come together in prayer, ask the Lord to work miracles, and experience miracles in our midst. When did God tell us to no longer ask Him for complete healing when we have an illness or injury?

It is a place that is to lovingly restore and comfort us when we are poor in spirit, to encourage and strengthen us in our beliefs and faith, and also challenge us to have an intimidate relationship with God so that we will hear Him and act in obedience. Because, if we are not hearing Him, how can there be complete obedience?

Is it condemnation or conviction that I now write?

That is the question and the answer is in who is giving the message. Seek the Source for the answer. If you cannot hear Him or question what you are hearing, ask for confirmation. Ask intercessors to pray and give you the message they receive. Hear God what has to tell you...then accept it and act on it.

~ My Lord, I  pray that Your message is being heard and Your will is done. ~

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In All Things, Purpose

It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men. ~C.S. Lewis

I had written this blog post out and was just about to press the "Publish" button when...poof! Yeah, it just disappeared. I have a very sensitive touch pad on my laptop so this happens sometimes, but I usually can recover all my work. Not this time. Anyway, I found it quite ironic considering my subject so I decided to write it in as my introduction. I usually think the framing of the first draft is better than an entire rewrite, but perhaps not this time, and knowing myself as I do, this would be the only way I would rewrite the entire thing and so I get to put this belief of all things have purpose into practice as did a friend of mine just two days ago.

Not all things are pleasant in this life, nor did God ever promise they would be since the moment of the first disobedience when Adam and Eve were sent out from Eden, however there is purpose. I was talking on the phone to a friend, the mother of my daughter's friend in the neighborhood, to have my daughter come home for evening chores and dinner. I was telling her about the Seder meal and that my husband mentioned getting the Princess her own praise and worship flags for her upcoming birthday—Wow! I was thinking my friend might not even know about this practice, but instead she told me that she had some flags that she would love to give the Princess as their calling for the past several years has been to be highly service-entrenched in the children's ministry at a church which does not use this form of worship.

Not finding them where she thought they should be, she continued to look as we wound down the conversation. She did not find the flags, but she did find something else: a leaking hot water heater. We ended the call abruptly so that she could turn off the water and call her husband. She called me back to say that the leak was a bad one that would have caused considerable flooding in a short time, but it must have started just minutes before she discovered it. Her husband was stopping on the way home to get the needed replacement hose and she had already cleaned up the water. She wanted to say thank you to God and me, as she rarely goes in the basement and would not have if she had not been looking for the flags, which she might have given away some time ago. She often says that she does not believe in coincidences and believes God has a purpose in everything.

Back to the worship flags, I am still amazed my husband even suggested getting the Princess her own flags! I am pretty expressive, creative, and open to a freer form of worship, but I half expected my husband would want to run out the door and never return when we visited Charismatic and Pentecostal churches...and there is a difference between the two, I just learned recently. My husband and I were both raised in traditional, cessationist denominations; he was Lutheran and I was Baptist. I used to think there were major differences between those two, but now...not so much.

Even though I feel led to the charismatic worship, I don't think either one of us is entirely comfortable with it. The Princess obviously is! However, I think we need this time to acclimate ourselves. The Lord is wise as I think we would be tempted to fall back to a traditional church service because it is familiar, even though I do not think we would truly be comfortable there now either. This is a time of change for us and that became very apparent to me Tuesday morning when my husband sent this email message to me:

I was praying this morning and was reminded how blessed I am to have a wife with heart for God. I was trying to encourage people at the Nazarene church but when you took over worship you truly took it up a notch.

Thank you, for lifting my spirit. My worship has been unleashed. Even if it was only you and I laying it out each Sunday, it was worth the pain and struggle. You will be rewarded for faithfulness.

Love always

My eyes teared as I read these words: My worship has been unleashed.

I was there 22 years ago when my husband finally accepted the Lord as his Savior and I was there at his baptism to publicize his decision. I saw him change so much in the following six months and continually grow in his faith all these years. At times, he has surpassed me when I have been poor in spirit. Still, I would not have dared to dream that my husband would ever write something like this. It came out of that short time that I was struggling between being obedient to my Lord and pleasing the congregation as praise and worship leader. If only the whole church had recognized this blessing that has so changed my husband...and me also. I know what God wanted for all the church, but even if only one embraced His message, it was worth the trial. It had purpose. That is the God I serve!

~ My Lord, how my heart ached in desire that our former church would have had its worship unleashed! Thank you for this one. Thank you for preparing us to hear and be lead by Your Spirit as we have not been before. Thank you that all things through You has purpose, even this blog. ~

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Our First Seder

The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. ~Mark 14:16

We went back to Church #2 the Sunday night before last and learned that they would be having a Seder on Palm Sunday. I would like to say here that it is truly amazing how the Lord provides as my husband and I have been wanting to do a Seder, but just had not for various reasons. We both were eager for our daughter to participate in this tradition with many other believers and signed up to bring a roast and unleavened bread, so yesterday we arrived at 4:45pm and were given some duties to help prepare the meal.

My husband prepared the water in bowls for cleansing our fingers and the salt water in which the bitter herbs are dipped. I poured drinking water along with a woman pour the grape juice (instead of wine) from which we would drink four times during the meal in observances of specific things. One man prepared the Seder plates with parsley, prepared horseradish, and a sweet apple mixture.

In the beginning we took the matzah (unleaven bread) and broke it so we would have three pieces. At one time we were to take some of the horseradish on the matzah to eat. Many had a reaction to that, but it did not bother me as much as I like wasabi with my sushi, which is basically the same thing. My husband told me that it is traditional that they take enough horseradish to cause the eyes to tear, but few did that and even those seemed unintentional. I actually liked the sweet apple mixture with the horseradish which we had on the second piece of the matzah. This Seder was done with a Messianic style as we believe the Messiah has come so the last piece of matzah was after the main meal as the communion service.

The Princess being under 13 years old was asked to read a portion that were four questions that a child should ask and that are answered during this precious observance of the Passover. The pastor asked all the children under 13 to cover their eyes while he hid the afikomen, matzah placed in a cover or bag for which they will search after the main meal. There were two boys and the Princess, they did not have a chance. She found it and was given a dollar.

Afterward there was just praise and worship. I should not say "just" as it was very moving. The Princess immediately grabbed a pair of flags and later she when for a large one with "holy" written on it. She is quite the flag waver. There were three that came forth with prophetic words and visions. My Princess approached the pastor and told him that she has had an ear out of which she has not been able to hear for a few days possibly from water being trapped and she has learned that asking for people to pray over her is not being selfish, and that at our old church three people had not asked to be prayed over for healing when they knew they had to have surgery. The pastor prayer over her closed ear and also the closed ears in the churches. She is not at all shy and I am so glad that she has had the opportunity experience this freer form of worship. People love that child and she does not even realize how much she is used by God!

Later we were asked to pray over a woman who had just come out of ICU just a couple of days before. When everyone else began cleaning up, I went back to her and prayed over her some more. I knew all kinds of things about her, like she had trouble sleeping, but I also knew she would sleep better that night. A little later she was able to breathe without any pain and just before she left I saw her walking without her cane and oxygen. She told me that she has died a couple of times but came back from heaven because she did not feel that she was done here. I would like to hear more from her. Another woman there had been burned by steam a week before at her job, but it still looked terribly red so I prayed over her for that and the sciatic nerve problem I felt from her as well. there was a place on her leg that was completely numb, but it began tingling as I prayed. She thanked me  for being obedient to God. I cannot fully tell you how wonderful it is to be with people who are believing believers.

After my husband finished up in the kitchen (that man loves cooking and kitchens), he talked with two men who hunt and one raised rabbits for the family as we do. They have New Zealand blacks and we have whites, but it is good to know someone with whom you can trade for a non-related breeder.

Church #2 will not be having services next Sunday night, which is Resurrection Day. Most of the people who gather there, as they do not have members, are members of churches. Some will be going to sunrise services so that would make for a long day for them, particularly if they have a family get-together also, but they are going to be starting a series on healing of abuses. I am interested. Last night my husband wanted to find a book I reviewed nearly a year ago on healing, The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick, so that he can take it with him while he is away for work this week. It seems that the Lord is leading us all to understanding how to be obedient in praying for healing. I think I know a bit how Jesus felt when He said that He had not seen such faith in all of Israel as I have rarely seen it in any church.

We arrived home very late and the Princess did not get an early start today, but I think what she learned and experienced last night was far better than textbooks, so we had shorter lessons than usual. Her ear is fine today also.

~ My Lord, thank you for providing us the opportunity to observe a Seder with You and our brothers and sisters. ~

Monday, March 25, 2013

Adventures with Cheesecakes and Cold Storage

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart. ~Erma Bombeck

I am not much for labels but since others are I am sure that there is some psychiatric term for this issue. I am not so much a food hoarder as I am a "cannot pass up a food bargain and must buy it in bulk" person. The question is if it is actually a compulsive problem. I do not trust myself to be objective about this, so just let me explain to you how this happens to me.

My daughter and I had some extra time some weeks ago before her piano lesson so we drove around and I saw this store with a huge sign reading "CLOSEOUTS" in red letters. Maybe I was in trouble already? Then I saw some large pet crates outside the store. I had sold a rabbit over a year ago to the guy that cleans our carpets and he still has not returned the crate, so I hoped they were have small ones too. That was my justification for stopping in to look around, as if I would not have thought of another if the crates had not been there.

No small crates but—oh, my!—light fixtures. I have been wanting to replace the one in the master bathroom since we moved in over 15 years ago. The price was so very low and I really liked two of them, but we did not have the time nor the budget envelope for household items, so I began to plan coming back the next week. As we were leaving the cashier calls out and asks if I had seen the cheesecakes in the freezer for $5. Not just plain old cheesecakes she tells us, but 10" Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes that go for about $7 to $8 per slice in the restaurant and from $42 to $52 for one whole.

Now I ask you, what would you do if you were me? Would you not even look? Would you tell yourself that there is absolutely no way cheesecakes would fit into your full freezers, or would you begin thinking that you would find a way to fit them in? Yeah, that is exactly what I thought too.

The cheesecakes there were already sliced and just a few were a mix of flavors among several plain but just a bit brown on the top. I could not resist, but knowing that my freezers may not close, I reluctantly limited myself to two. If there had been more space, I probably would have bought five or six. (Apparently, I was not the only one with such aspirations, as the clerk told me I just missed the lady who bought 15 of them.) We shared one with friends about two weeks ago and everyone else had two pieces but I only had one: a caramel top with mini dark chocolate chips to die for. I just could not see anything that would surpass that one luscious piece. Mmm.

Hence, my problem of wishing I had gotten more. I really dislike that feeling, which is probably why I much prefer getting more than enough along with the feelings of guilt for having so many. Unfortunately, "more than enough along with feelings of guilt" are associated with several items, which is why my freezers are full (of my guilt).

Over a week ago I decided to tackle my refrigerator for a thorough cleaning and reorganization. We have been making raw dog food for nearly a year, but it was put in an inconvenient place. We also have been juicing or making smoothies for nearly as long so I decided to change where some items are kept. I confess that I have not done the door yet, but it could use a bit of the same.

Instead of finishing the refrigerator, I decided to work on the freezers in the garage on the following Friday; that would be the Friday before last. We have a deep chest and an upright. The upright is used mostly for frozen vegetables and fruit and small frozen pastas. I also used it for storing butter, cream cheese, shredded cheese, bags of flour, and some seeds and grains. The upright is far more convenient to organize and find for what you are looking, but it is also far more work to defrost because the frost builds up between the grates sandwiching the cooling coils. However, a warm air blower does help to speed up the process. Also, my husband was home and had some time to help out.

I marked all the bags with the sell-by dates on the front with a marker and put them in order of oldest to newest. I planned to inventory them with my Out of Milk app on my Kindle, but I have not done it yet. I decided that since the butter could have things placed on top of it, that I could move it to the deep freezer for a time, but I have been thinking of moving it back and stacking some of the vegetable bags on top of them on the top shelve since there is some space to do so there. I use cardboard crates saved from bulk purchases of Santa Cruz lemonades from Whole Foods the last few years. They fit well, keep the items organized, and are easy to remove and restock...when the frost is not overwhelming. I also decided to move the raw milk to the upright on the second shelf for easier access.

Each freezer is nearly an all day job, not because of the defrosting so much, but it takes time to organize them when so many bags of frozen fruit and vegetables had been tossed into the chest freezer where I knew, of course, they did not belong and I would get to them sometime...later. This was that all so dreaded later. I began on the chest freezer the next day, Saturday. Unfortunately, there was a great deal of ice built up inside the lid of the freezer. That ended up taking far longer than I planned as I waited for it to melt enough to break it up and reach it to pull it out through the hole where the light was supposed to be. I did it, though.

I placed the three gallons of frozen organic pasteurized milk, this I buy for half price when it is near the sell-by date and only use for making yogurt, in the bottom crate where the raw milk used to go and stacked the short crate on top. Just fitting inside the short crate, I stack filled three lock top round plastic containers that protect my pie crusts and other crushable baked goods. Everything just fits in height so that the  freezer lid will close. I used four of the five thick, strong, short, plastic crates for soda cans and bottles bought for a  $1 each at a yard sale earlier that week to organize other areas and items as they can be lifted out.

However, one problem is that we have too many rabbit pelts plus a deer one taking up about a 20% of the chest freezer that need to be either tanned or tossed. I was hoping that we would learn to tan them ourselves and we made one attempt with the rabbit hides, but they did not turn out as pliable as they should have. I would like to try again, as we have plenty with which to experiment, but we may trade some for having them tanned by someone who has the experience.

Another problem is simply that I have too much food. The chest freezer is completely full—completely! No amount of organizing really helps when there is just too much stuffed in the freezer. And, I have not even begun to buy the grain for grinding in my grain mill (which I do not have yet either but more on that story later). We were a bit low on some frozen vegetables and I have no homemade biscuits or rolls or pizza crusts in the freezer, but other than that, I need to stop buying foods that will go into the freezer for a while—unless that place gets more cheesecakes. I know it's crazy, but it is just so hard to pass up a tasty bargain!

So, now I have all my cold storage organized, defrosted, and clean, or I will have as I am about to tackle the door of the refrigerator today. I have added a new favorite store to shop on our errand day as if we did not have enough to do on that day already. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, I did get the new light fixture for the bathroom. We will not be putting it up until—well, the master bathroom still has the same decor it did when we moved here and needs redecorated so....uh, yeah, I haven't even got the areas I wanted reorganized yet and now I am already contemplating another project that will tear up a room for awhile. I am sure there is another psychiatric term for this as well. It seems I am hopeless!

~ My Lord, sometimes I want to seize the day and other times what the days bring seem to have seized me. Make me productive in the lasting, spiritual things, my Lord, but also help me to not procrastinate with the material needs in the present moment and enjoy sharing that working moment resting in You. ~

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Product Review: Simple Truth

As a Bzzagent, I received a few of Simple Truth products that can be found at some Krogers, but as I found my closest store does not have most of the products available.

First we tried the cucumber melon soda that we received in the mailer. My daughter thought it had an off taste reminiscent of castor oil. I thought it was a light refreshing taste, but it would not be my favorite and it was a bit too sweet.

With coupons for free product, I was able to get the Vanilla Almond Milk. My daughter loved it probably for the same reason I did not like it. It was way too sweet. The idea of a child adding it to  sweetened cereal makes me cringe.

I liked the taste of the Fudge Graham Flavor, but again I thought it was too sweet. It really did not qualify as a nutrition bar by my standards.

I did like the Natural Sweet Potato Chips but if they had not been free I probably would not buy them as they are a bit pricey for not even being organic.

I did have a free coupon for frozen berries, but my Kroger did not have any and I noticed that they often move some of the Simple Truth and Private Selection products around so much that they are rarely in the same place from month to the next. I was disappointed that I could not find the place where the Simple Truth Frozen Berry Medley was supposed to be and when I asked I was told where they usually are, although I have never seen them there, and that they could not keep them in stock because they sell so well. After three weeks of looking for them, I gave up.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Budget System

There were times my pants were so thin I could sit on a dime and tell if it was heads or tails. ~Spencer Tracy

Now most people would wonder why Spencer Tracy did not buy those much needed new pants with a credit card. Ever notice how cashiers today ask if you will be paying by credit or debit? Whatever happened to cash money? You know, legal tender?

When people see me handing over cash out of an envelope, they often ask about Dave Ramsey. I usually laugh. My husband and I have been cash-envelope people long before Dave Ramsey was giving budget advice. Actually, I started this system around the time Mr. Ramsey was in bankruptcy. Although his system is well known now, he has always said that nothing he advises is new and probably close to how our grandparents used to handle money (before credit cards). My husband and I got the envelope idea from a friend and it just stuck. That is not to say that we had not used credit cards, we had, and it took us years to pay them completely off, but we did get there. When we moved to Georgia over fifteen years ago, we were completely debt free—completely. That changed, however, the moment we signed the papers for our first house.

We did not remain debt-free except for the mortgage as I wished we had, but I still had an envelope system. I have never paid a utility bill with plastic—really, never. We did not even have any monthly direct bill pay until we got Netflix about a year ago. We stay as low tech as we can. I do use a credit card for online purchases and transfer from an account to pay the balance off before accruing any interest charges. I do not even write checks except for charities and that was on the strong advice of a tax attorney. Some people think we are a bit old fashion in how we handle our finances, but it does minimize our exposure to identify theft and employees of companies having access to our bank accounts. Plus, it helps our credit card company and our bank to recognize suspicious behavior; over the years, twice they caught a thief using our credit card number before the charges even posted to our account online.

Going to a cash system is not a lifestyle that works for everyone. I pay the bills I can in person and the few others are paid with postal money orders that I buy with cash. I keep receipts. The actual money is in my hands and goes out from my hands. I see the exchange. I feel it. I decide if the item is really worth what I am handing over. It is not an invisible exchange of numbers, as it is with plastic. I can look in my budget envelope and see exactly how much money I have left and make decisions based on that see-it-right-there reality.

I have a system that is frugal and simple. My budget is designed on a per paycheck basis which is bi-monthly for us so that is 24 paychecks a year. First, I take the utility bills for the last twelve months and add them together, then I divide that number by 24 (the number of paychecks in a year) and add 10% more. This gives me an average amount with a bit extra just in case the bills are higher than they were due to more usage and/or cost increases.

My water bill looks something like this. Last year we paid $276.45 exactly, but another way would be just to use rounded numbers for each month's bill to the nearest dollar, which is usually within just a few dollars of the actual figure. In this case, the rounded monthly numbers equaled $277, and that is as close as it gets. Dividing $277 by 24 is $11.54 plus that extra 10% (or times 110%) making it 12.69. I do not put coins in my budget envelopes so this number becomes $13 per pay check.

When I first began this system I kept a separate envelope for each the utility bill, but as I gained confidence with it, I began grouping all the utility budgets in one envelope. In that case, I would just use the average amounts per pay for each company adding them all together and then adding an extra 10%. Each year about this time, I clean out the file cabinet of the bills from two years ago to place in storage, keeping last year's receipts handy but clipped together and the figure written on a sticky note of the average monthly cost.

My system starts with No. 6¾ envelopes. I first tuck in the flap.

I label the envelope at the top of the flap with the category and the amount that I will be putting in it from each pay check. Again, for us this is based on our bimonthly paychecks being that we are a one-income family. (It is a bit more complicated to do it this way with two incomes paid at differing times, but I have done it even with a home business when I was paid randomly. Even then I still separated the money twice a month or every two weeks, depending on the timing of my husband's paychecks.)

The top one is my new envelope for utilities and the bottom one was used for the last year. Actually both the electric and the gas bills were less this past year than the year before because we had a mild summer and a mild winter for the most part, plus we turned off our hot tub because it was leaking. However, I decided to keep them at the same levels as the year before because we plan to fix the hot tub in the next few months and weather is far too unpredictable; I rather budget too high than too low. I do not like to mess with $1 bills so I always round up to $5 for the per pay budget figure at the top of the envelope. For personal expenses, I estimate and label the expenses for which I expect the money to be used, like hair cuts, clothing, and gifts.

Along the bottom side of the envelope, (where the camera strap is hiding the corner) I keep a tab of how much money is in the envelope after I have separated the money. I used put the amount of what is left after taking money out, but now I just leave the receipts that fit in the envelope until the next time I separate the money. I can easily see how much money is in the envelope because it is not closed up.

When I started this over two decades ago I bought a large black leather wallet that is longer than the envelopes and just folds over so they fit in it snugly and yet are accessible. It has served me well. I have never lost any money out of it.

The biggest drawback to this system is that I have to plan ahead and make sure that I have every envelope that I will need as I go out shopping. There have been times that I did not plan to find a homeschooling item and did not have my envelope for homeschooling, but knew I had enough money it to cover the cost. (Yes, I do confess that I have been know to use money from another envelope for things like that, but the receipt is in the envelope from which I took the money and I can either transfer the money when I get home or the next time I am preparing the envelopes.)

Now for the benefits of a cash envelope system like this, we have never had to put off paying a bill because we lacked the funds which happened when we both were dipping into the checking account the first few years of our marriage. We had many lively discussions about how to handle the money then before my husband relinquished the home money managing to me; being that his first wife had maxed out all their credit, it was a huge step toward trusting me, but I knew that I leaned more the saver and he more the spender. I also knew that he had to have his own "mad money" to spend however he wished to be happy. Once he realized that he could spend some money however he wanted; I had talked our credit card companies down to low interest rates; bills were being paid before their due dates with no extra charges; our debts were being paid off and we were not accruing new debt; and even saving some money all at the same time, he relaxed a little.

For the last four years we worked on getting debt-free except for our mortgages even through a very tough financial time and after charging the cost of a mini van and we reached that goal in October 2012. We are now saving money to replace the siding and windows of our house, without going into debt to do it...hopefully! I am concerned about the mileage on my husband's work van, we may need to replace it soon, but I am just trusting God that He will guide us as He has done.

That is really where the budget all starts, with prayer and listening. You cannot plan for everything, but I have learned that God knows what is coming and will provide. There have been times I had saved up money for one thing, only to end up spending it for something unplanned. I would be disappointed that our plans were changed, yet thankful that we had the money at the same time. If we had already spent it on the plan, then it would not have been there for the unplanned. God has this really amazing timing and I am most thankful that He is my Lord.

~ My Lord, thank you for all that you have given us in material things. I could ask You to guide us to use the money wisely, but I would rather that You just guide us in how we are to use it, period. ~

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kitchen Counter Spaces

Hands to work, hearts to God. ~ Ann Lee, known as Mother Ann to the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, also known as the Shakers.

The Shakers have always fascinated me. They were charismatic Christians, but now most people know them for their craftsmanship, particularly in furniture with simple lines, and for their architecture. A religious society with a doctrine of celibacy is one that does not flourish and in 2012 there were only three Shakers left according to Wikipedia. Still, I do agree with the quote above.

I know that it seems like my posts are flipping back and forth from the shallowness of the material world (reorganizing my home) to the depths of some spiritual issues, but I find that home projects often provide my mind time to rest on my Lord. It is as if He is given me a season, without a church home, to straighten out my home and enlighten me on some spiritual matters at the same time. I have many home projects to do and, apparently, a great deal of spiritual matters to work on as well.
For just a few dollars I bought these at a Goodwill store. I think it all was for around $6. I did not exactly had a plan for how I would use them at the time, but I knew that I would use them.

The first thing that was used was the napkin holder (front), just to corral the small bottles and other odds and ends used for our pets that end up on the counter instead of the pet supplies basket in the utility room. This was one of those things that I planned to not have there in the long term, but would do until I could get to rearranging some other things so they would have a better and yet convenient place.

The place I had it on the counter turned out to be more short lived than I hoped, because my husband had purchased another juicer, a NutriBullet that would fit best where my little corral of pet stuff was. Of course, when my husband goes on a trip for work, his new juicer goes with him, but he uses it daily now, even when he is home, (even though we have had a VitaMix that will do the same) so it needs to be on the counter for convenience. So, temporarily the corral is on the now-not-so-organized bar and we have a counter to the left of the stove that is practically devoted to juicing, even with its own cutting board.

Before you wonder why we now have three juicers, the new one as I mentioned is like the VitaMix but smaller and will not always be here; both are basically high-power blenders. The other is an extractor but unlike most extractors, this one grinds between two gears so that it can even be used to make freshly exacted wheat grass juice. We have been using all our juicers more lately, much like when we used to do for several years, but years ago. I really do not know how and why we stopped for such a long time perhaps it was during the baby-toddler years, but we are into juicing being a daily dietary routine again.

Back to my thrift finds, I have no idea just yet for what I will use the wire basket, but I leaning towards using it for a plant somehow. I had several possibilities for the small wooden crate for CDs, but it ended up in my kitchen placed on its side to house a food scale and a small timer, allowing the shelf to sit on top to use the vertical space. It may not stay there, but for now I like what it is doing.

That little green wire and wicker corral on top of the crate holds a major change in convenience for me. I mentioned that we have mixes that were in packets previously and we use some of them quite often. These were in a cabinet where my oils are now and when one was opened, it would be folded up and held with a rubber band. There was always some powder in the cabinet from the mixes and they just looked messy. I had been keeping a few smaller jars that were originally for jams and baby food. I decided that opening the packets and pouring the contents in jars would be far more convenient; the jam jars hold four full packets. I labeled the front side as well as taped the ingredients and instructions on the back that I had cut off a packet. I even measured the volume of the contents so we would know how much to use in portion to the other ingredients to be added. Now my ranch and Casear dressing mixes are very convenient as well as a fajita mix and what was left over from a chili mix, because my daughter does not like chili full strength. I am just loving this change! (The other smaller jars have treats for the dog and cats. One had my own ground and shifted stevia, a sweetener, from the herb garden, but it is nearly gone now.)

I am very pleased that, so far, my family is adjusting to the changes and not undermining them by putting things back the way they were or just leaving things out.

~ My Lord, I thank you for this time of rest so that I can sort out my home and spend time listening to You more. ~

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Healer Stepping Out from Cessationism

You can't have healing without sickness. ~T.D. Jakes

A week ago, when I was shopping at my favorite little health store, one of the mangers was walking in obvious pain. I really cannot stand to see people in pain and I often feel it from them even when I do not see the obvious signs. I asked her about it and she said she had a doctor's appointment later that day. I asked her to take my hand and we both just simply prayed silently, without fanfare, right next to the cracker section. I felt her pain in my own body as is common with my gift, although it does not always happen. When I was done, much of her pain was gone and she could move freely. I told her it would improve more that day. When I saw her this last Thursday, she thanked me for praying over her, but I said that she should just thank our God, which I know she did. She also said she did not go to the doctor at all, as she was completely healed that day. She is a believing believer.

That is all it takes, a believing believer willing to receive healing.

When I was very young and not often in any church, I did not understand what the differences in denominations were or the differences in philosophies that created them. When you are young there are only the Bible stories of Abraham, Noah, Moses, Samson, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and Jesus. There are miracles of a sea parting, a virgin birth, sick being healed, oil never running out, angel encounters, even the dead being restored to life. There were people being healed in the name of Jesus and prophecies written. All those things are believed by a little child, they were believed by me, but somewhere along the way I guess I was suppose to grow up and give up my childish faith. I was suppose to figure out, just like there is no Santa Claus, that such miracles happened 2000 years ago and God no longer gave gifts to people as He did then. This is called cessationism; its opposite is continuationism.

I guess I never really grew up or at least I never grew into cessationism although it surrounded me in the churches to which I attended. I thank God that I kept my child-like faith in Him. He can do anything and any way He wants and through anyone He chooses. One thing I noticed is that most miracles were done through people, people who were ordinary except in their faith and willingness to obey their Lord. What I never read in the Bible was that God would stop using miracles through ordinary but surrendered people.

Years ago I had an encounter with my Lord that changed my perspective even more. It happened on the last day of a twelve day fast when I was completely surrendered. It was then that God made me aware of the gift He had given me: healing and words of knowledge in an empathic sense where I can feel another's pain or know what area of the body is in distress or is diseased.

My friends who are not Christian say I am an empathic healer. Some of my Christian friends say that I have the gift of healing prayer. A few Christian friends will call upon me asking for healing, but tell me not to call myself a healer because all healing comes from God and to say "I am a healer," even if I given all the credit of that statement to God, is not proper, or is prideful, or suggests I am not really giving God the glory. It is okay to say you are a priest, rabbi, reverend, or pastor, if you have the credentials, but titles given by God manifested in His works through you, as with a prophet, prophetess, or healer, are basically taboo in mainstream Christianity, or so it seems to me.

I wonder when Jesus said He was the Son of Man if anyone thought He was not giving God the glory, but if He had said He was the Son of God, He would have been thought of as a heretic, even though both titles were true. Sometimes no matter what title used, it will be the wrong way to say it: I could say God gave me the gift of healing prayer or that I am a healer, and both are true. God gave me the gift and the title "healer" identifies it and connects it to me.

So many years I hid this gift because the roots of cessationism runs through many Christian denominations. Even in denominations that believe these gifts of the Spirit are still given, it is just not believed it would be given to them or anyone they know. I have been in cessationist denominations from the time I was a teen until around the age of 30; it was then that my Lord called us to the Church of the Nazarene. Eventually, I found that this was a denomination that branched off the charismatic movement, but toned down as they do not believe in tongues, unless the purpose was to speak to people of a language that was unknown to the one speaking it.

In the Church of the Nazarene, I found a safe haven and even encouragement to use my gift of healing by the pastor and other leaders, but in a quiet way that kept the attention off me and sensationalizing the act. When we moved from Florida into Georgia, I soon learned that at least some of the Nazarene churches here were even more influenced with cessationism. The pastor of closest and first Nazarene church we visited rejected my claims saying that the empathic knowledge was not a named gift in the Bible. We were without a home church for about two years after that.

Having learned to again keep my gift quiet, we tried another Nazarene church that was just too difficult in distance to really be involved, but even there I was not seeing people coming up to the alter for prayer of healing. After much prayer, we were led to a non-denominational church and I suppose many believed in a healing gift there, but I still kept it quiet, never really using it as a ministry.

Later we were led back a Nazarene church that had moved closed to us. It was timely as within just a couple of months the pastor woke one morning and could not use the right side of her body, but it would take a year before they could diagnose her illness that came and went. I prayed over her many times. She would often feel electrical sensations from my hands and get instant relief, but she was never completely healed of it and I think at the heart of it was a demonic attack. I prayed over others at various times, a few were healed completely and immediately, and more were relieved of pain. It was a very small church, so once used there I could not have hidden my gift even if I wanted to do so and I did not feel the Lord wanted me to do so. However, I was the one approaching them, asking them if they would allow me to pray for them, and no one came to me asking for healing—and once when praying over one member she asked me to stop.

Please understand that I am not saying this to make claims of my importance, but I noticed a formula that happened with nearly every healing in the Bible: the healer was asked to heal. The one who needed healing was present and asking for healing or someone came asking for a person who was not present. I have learned through my Lord that healing does not happen if the person who needs it is not willing to receive it. A sign that they are willing to receive is that they will ask.

One of the things that confirmed to me that we were called out of the little Nazarene church we have been for four years and I did not list in the resignation letter is that three people within four months had scheduled surgeries and not one of them asked for healing. Not one came to the altar asking others to pray with them for healing. Even knowing I was a healer, they did not ask me to pray over them. Over the course of the four years we were there, there were several surgeries, but no petitions for healing before them, only asking for prayer that the surgery and recovery went well. Healing so that surgery was not even needed? That was not going to happen. They never gave God the opportunity! I gave up even offering prayer for healing unless strongly prodded by the Spirit, because I knew they were not willing to receive the healing they needed. It was right there. God would not have withheld it from them. He gave every opportunity to them, even to providing a healer among them, and all they had to do was reach out to Him so He could hand this precious gift to them but they would not stretch out their hands in simply asking for the healing. Can you imagine the outreach that little church would have had if people were being healed there?

Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown." (Luke 4:24) Now you would think that a healing would be welcomed, but if Jesus, the Healer, was rejected in his hometown, how can He not know my heartbreak?

Cessionationism has kept so many Christian people suffering because it is a doctrine of unbelieving believers. So many of them cannot be healed because they lack the faith to receive the healing God would have for them. They have proven cessationism to themselves with their own lack of faith of God's works through fellow believers; this is the trap of circular reasoning. It began to trap me also. I began to doubt that I even still had the gift. I wondered often if I am using it in the wrong way and that is why some were not healed. Even though I can feel most of the time, when someone is receiving the healing, I often have felt that I could have done more when they were not receiving it. I have often felt as if I lack the ability to meet a person at his faith level and raise it to the point he will receive the healing—Jesus was so good at this and I have done it, but the believers I was around the most were the ones on which my healing prayers were the least effective. I realize now that I had lost much of my confidence in healing and felt lost as to what the Lord wanted from me.

All it took was a believing believer needing and willing to receive healing in a grocery store and about a three-minute prayer.

Imagine how Jesus felt when He was right there among the people who needed Him so desperately, who thought they were experts on the whole religion thing, yet could not recognize the Son of God, even through the miracles He did! I understand fully why Jesus was angry with them and I was angry as well with my former church, because I saw, I felt, how much they had squelched the Spirit of God, which caused me to doubt myself, my hearing His words to me, this wonderful gift, and my even own beliefs. Now I am just saddened for them. This is a terrible infectious illness that must be cleansed in the churches. Cessationism is a deceptive lie, a sickness to be healed, that comforts those who believe in it so that they will not discover their own lack of faith in God.

It is so very heartbreaking, but today I am thanking God for the one woman who was willing to receive healing, because it was not only she who received something from that healing prayer, but I did as well: I received His purpose back into my life. Perhaps healing is to be my ministry now. Perhaps I am now ready to stop reigning this gift back to appease the cessationists and use it as it pleases my Lord. He gave it to me for a purpose.

~ My Lord, today I pray for the cessationists. I pray that You will heal them and spiritually enlighten them so that they are willing to receive physical healing as needed. I ask You, my Lord, to guide me and use me. Thank you for showing me that I was too concerned about what people would think if they were not healed and to rejoice with the ones who are willing to receive healing. I still need help with this, but I trust in You. ~

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Proverbs 31 Does Not Say

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~Galatians 3:26

There is an idealism that has taken deep roots particularly with Christian homeschooling families and that is woven in many books on homeschooling. It is somewhere between Complementarianism and Biblical or Christian Patriarchy, leaning mostly toward the latter. I personally felt the draw of it a decade ago and seriously considered if I had been missing out on blessings for not covering my head or just wearing jeans, instead of long skirts all the time, or treating my husband as lord of the manor. Why I did not crossover to this lifestyle was because I did not feel convicted by my Lord to do so and I prayed sincerely about this often for about two years, yet at the same time, as I read books by Christian authors on homeschooling, I felt almost convinced that I should feel convicted by the Lord and I just was not hearing Him. Sometimes it is difficult to discern what is from God and what is man's addition to God's Law, even the Pharisees were convinced of their righteousness until Jesus came along.

The thing is when I do not trust my own judgement, I do not turn my trust to the judgement of others either, but I prefer to go to the Source. The only One who is truly trustworthy and knows exactly what He wants from me. The only One who has the right to convict me and no need to convince me...well, sometimes I can be rather reluctant, but this post is not about that. God just was not saying for me to embrace either philosophy.

Perception is always interesting to me. I could write about every verse in Proverbs 31 in detail, as other bloggers have, but I would rather address the parts that are looked over as being irrelevant today and what it does not say, but many mistakenly think it does.

It does not say that the mother should homeschool her children or instruct any children in academics. Was it even allowed that Hebrew women were taught to read then? It also does not say that a man is to expect his wife to be his servant and the man to handle all the financial decisions. In fact, it states the wife considers a field, buys it, and plants a vineyard (verse 16), which sounds to me like she manages finances and it also does not say how or even if her husband is involved at all in such a decision.

The Proverbs 31 wife has servants (verse 15). Now it does not say she must have servants, it is just assumed that she does and that she should give portions of food to them after her household, of which servants are not a part apparently, so the household would be the woman's family. I personally do not have any servants and I do not know any Christian women who do, but it does not say "if" she has servants, so maybe we are suppose to have servants and are not doing our Biblical duty if we do not?

It also states very clearly that the Proverbs 31 wife spins as that was for what the distaff and spindle were used (verse 19). Well, I did see a Christian woman at a spindle at a historical reenactment once, but I do not know any Christian women personally, who even own a distaff and spindle let alone know how to use one.

I know a few Christian women who sew, but not many and I think it would be rare to find those who make linen garments and sell them (verse 24). If every Christian woman supplied belts to the tradesmen, I think there would be no market for belts left in just a few days. All that aside though, how can we be the Christian wives we are meant to be if we do not follow this Biblical standard?

Oh, I love this one too. It states that women should wear purple (verse 22) and their families should wear red (verse 21). Even the Amish are missing out on this one!

I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture now. Cultures change. While I take the Bible literally, I cannot ignore that some things are written for the culture at that time and Proverbs 31 was advice to a son in choosing a wife of that time, rather than God given duties for women of all time to live by, as some use them. I would also point out that Proverbs 31 says nothing of the woman loving the Lord with all her heart or serving her husband like a servant would. It talks of a woman making the clothing, but not about laundering and mending—maybe that is what the servants were for? I strongly believe that the general concepts of the Proverbs 31 wife are still desirable, but not the specific duties as stated.

The question then is what parts of the Bible are culturally related and what ones are not, therein is the division of certain Christian ideals. I personally believe that there are differences in the genders, but just because my husband is a man I would not deprive him of his love of cooking. It just so happens that cooking is something I rarely enjoy and who but God could better balance one's dislike for a thing than choosing a spouse who would love it?

Now let's us look at what Paul wrote to the Galatians that definitely was not based on the culture of that time, but all cultures for all time:

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~Galatians 3:23-26

Something changed with the coming of Christ in regards to the law. The law was to be our tutor to lead us to Christ, but we are no longer under the law because all believers are sons of God: there is neither male or female. Not there will be neither male or female as in heaven, but that there is, in this present time under faith, no difference between the genders. There is equality.

Years ago now, I used to have severe back pain and could do so little. My husband washed, folded, and put way the laundry; prepared meals; washed dishes; cleaned whatever needed cleaning; helped me get around; and worked 60 to 90 hours a week for his job outside of our home. He never thought that the work he did at home was work for only women. He thought of it as what was necessary to be done and I was unable to do. No job is beneath him and because of this and his love for God, he is a man is completely worthy of my respect and trust.

When my back was healed, I did most of the housework and managing our finances (which I like to do) with the exception of making investments, but my husband still does his laundry after he returns from a business trip and he likes to cook, which he finds relaxing, and I still like for him to cook! No, he could never have birthed and nursed babies as only a woman could, but most everything else is a matter of necessity, personal preference, and ability between us. He likes to work on cars and I do not, but neither of us would think of it as wrong if it was the other way around and the Bible does not tell us whether being a car mechanic is woman's or man's work. Our perceptions on that are cultural and, although I readily admit that in general men seem more interested in mechanics than women, I also think more women would be if it was not thought culturally to be a man thing also.

As I see it the Bible was not written so that we would aspire to have cookie-cutter Christian families and Stepford-like wives or husbands, but to be a guide to Christ. What duty each performs does not have any bearing on who is the head of the family, even Jesus washed his disciples feet after walking with them all day! As long as the couple surrender to His reign over the marriage and the family, the who does what duty in and out of the home is of so little importance...except to those who prefer to live under the law (or laws not even defined in the Bible) instead of under faith.

~ My Lord, a family is such a precious gift and we each have our duties to each other in service to You. Guide us to do all according to Your will only and love You with all our hearts above all things. ~

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spicing It Up!

What are young women made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice.
~Robert Southey

The one thing I was really excited about doing was organizing my spices and flavorings. Well, to be honest, I was not excited to do this, but I was excited about having it done to to alleviate the frustration of looking for a particular spice because some people just cannot put things in the same place that they were found...not naming anyone specifically, mind you, as whoever it is, is in denial and I would not want to confront the person with the truth causing a psychotic break. (Forgive me. The last few days have been a bit too spicy for my taste. That is, it has been a rough, emotionally-charged week, but this post is scheduled to be published a few days from now, so I might be back to "normal" by the time you read it...maybe...hopefully.)

Some of our herbs no longer need to be bought from the store as I grow them myself, so my husband thought the contemporary, stainless steel, swivel spice rack he bought would be ideal, but neither of us really used it. The bottles that came with it did not seal air tight and about half the size of most spice jars. I could not fit all the contents from a store bought jar in them, so I would have spice left over in the larger bottle after filling. It was not efficient, so the spice rack mostly took up space on the counter and gathered dust. Cleaning something that is of no use is just not logical, so after five or six years I happily donated it to Goodwill. (I never really liked the thing anyway and would have gotten rid of it sooner, but my husband bought it, so I felt he needed realize its lack of potential before I tossed it out. Now that I think about it, I might have used it for craft supplies...probably not though.)

My aunt used to have a spice drawer as she bought most of her spices in tin boxes, laying them face up so that you could easily read them, but I have yet to see organic spices sold that way today. I have been looking for spice racks, which I used to see often in thrift stores, but thanks to crafty women and Pinterest, more people have caught on that they can be re-purposed for many things, like storing small craft supplies or nail polish. I have had my spices on the lower shelf of the cabinet left of the stove, which is where I still like them for now, but something had to be done with organizing that shelf!

I looked for solutions that would better use the vertical space, but everything I found so far just is not going to work well because the spices would have been less accessible or it was costly, as in buying many metal box containers with windows to label. I removed the toothpicks and put them in to the junk drawer just below this cabinet, which is also organized now. I threw away some old food coloring as I usually use Wilton's food color and then usually only for cake decorating: those supplies are in a Wilton tool caddy. I took out the straws and put them in the cabinet next to the sink. I moved a couple of the protein supplements to put with the other ones we use in smoothies.

What I had left was just spices and flavorings. I also had a few mix packets that I had removed from another cabinet. Now the question was how to organize the spices. My husband was in favor of  alphabetical order, but I had always liked the baking spices grouped together and the others I use most toward the front. Experience suggested to me that there needed to be some kind of labeling to indicate this new organization of the spices, for those who resist the notion.

I decided to use our label maker and place the labels on the wall in the back. This is how I arranged them from left to right: flavorings (front), mix packets (back), misc. herbs (front), Italian herbs and spices (front), meat seasonings (back), hot spices, peppers, salts (front), seeds (back), alliums, baking spices, and popcorn seasonings (front).

Although we have spices that are not organic, the majority that I have are from Frontier and Simply Organic. What I like about Simply Organic is that the lids are labeled with the name of the spice so on a step stool I can read the lids. I may write the spice names on the other lids also.

As it is, I cannot tell you how much better this cabinet looks. Sometimes I open it just to motivate me to do another area! Who would have thought that my smile was in an organized spice cabinet!

~ My Lord, the smallest accomplishments can bring great pleasure when the uncontrollable harshness of life is all around. Thank you for this ability that You have given to us. ~

Monday, March 11, 2013

Organizing Food Storage in My Kitchen - Part 5

Happiness is a place between too little and too much. ~Finnish Proverb

Are you still with me? When I began this series, I did explain that the reason I was not blogging much in February was because I had been very busy. As I looked over our food stock, I realized just how much we had on hand of the foods of which we used to eat very little and how little on hand we had of the foods we used to eat very much. It was the reason I wanted to rearrange all my food storage, to help me get a perspective on what we really had and how it was affecting our eating habits.

The cabinet to the right of the rice, pastas, and mixes and left of the window over the sink. It is partially above a dish rack for drying next to the sink which leaves very little counter space directly below it, yet it goes into a very deep corner. These shelves used to house the box mixes, crackers, cookies, smoothie supplements, juices, and other odds and ends in a haphazard way for the most part.

I decided that cookies would be brought up from the pantry only no more than two boxes at a time and crackers about the same. There has not been a sale on our favorite crackers lately so we are low on them anyway. Those things would go on the lower left side stacked on their sides for now although that could change. We have some taco shells left over and some broken sugar cone pieces still good tasting mixed in with ice cream, so I decided to place them both in a tall plastic contain with a yellow lid that used to be used to store snack and protein bars.

On the upper left side is rice milk and broths, left over marshmallows in a small plastic jar, straws, and our favorite chewing gum that I also got on sale. It is still a bunch of odds and ends, but at least now we can see what we have better than before.

The right side of this cabinet is breakfast foods, mostly. Last summer the Princess and I began to have smoothies for our breakfast. The top shelf has supplements that we can add to our smoothies. We stopped having smoothies when it got cold, but we are now juicing more—I will get to that in a later post.

In the past, we did not buy cereal in boxes often, but the Princess was introduced to boxed cereals once when staying at her grandparents. I refuse to get the puffed cereals even in organic because she is always hungry in as little as an hour later; thankfully she likes things like shredded wheat and it sticks with her better. Just a few months ago, the Kroger store near us discontinued carrying some of the Cascadian Farms organic cereals and marked them half price. I do so like those Manager's Special labels! I bought them all, which was nearly thirty boxes. Later my favorite health food store did the same with Kashi boxed cereals and I bought all the organic ones. (A caution is that not all Kashi is organic and I am still a bit leery of the possible GMO content in their "natural" products that tested rather high about a year ago, but to be able to legally use the organic label means no GMOs.)

Now something else I have learned since my daughter is eating some cereals is that she does not reseal them well, practically asking for a pest problem. Also, she is not particularly careful when she pours it into a bowl nor does she wipe the counter afterward of the crumbs. My solution was to place cereal in a container that seals and pours better. I had two 12-cup Rubbermaid Servin' Savers that I think my husband had when we married so I used one of them for the cereal. (I used to have brown rice in one and rolled oats in the other, but if you have been following along, you know that I found something smaller for the rice and something larger for the oats.)

The other large one Servin' Saver gets filled with granola, that is the granola that I make and my daughter does not particularly like—not sweet enough for her, perhaps. I used to place my granola in a large re-purposed plastic jar, but sometimes there was a bit more than it could hold so this way I do not have to used another small container or be concerned about it fitting. The only thing I do not like about the large Servin' Savers is that they are too tall to stack and they waste space side by side because of the lid lip.

I had quite a bit of couscous in two or three different containers, so I placed it in the last smaller Servin' Saver and labeled it because my daughter just could not remember what it was. It could go in the cabinet with the rice and pastas, but we use it mostly as a warm cereal or even a dessert. There is just enough space in front of the large ones for it to fit and the cabinet door close completely.

The one awkward feature about this cabinet is that it is deep to the corner and it is not that accessible. However, I decided to stop thinking of it as a waste of space or just a place to put things that will be forgotten (like it was used before) and to use its good hiding place attribute. Out of sight to the left, past the straws, on the top shelf are bottles of alcohols we use for marinating, cooking, preserving homemade remedies, and other medicinal purposes. They used to be in the same area on the lower shelf, but now that the Princess is taller, I decided that even though she knows we have them they do not need to be so obvious.

The deep dark corner on the lower shelf is for bulky bags of chips and I do not really mind how they are stuffed in as there will only be four bags at any time. These get resealed with our FoodSaver, at this time.

One of my hopes with this rearranging of the foods was to drift our focus back to eating to live healthy. When my husband lost his job, started working again at a considerable reduction in pay four years ago, and began traveling so much ever since, I had shifted into eating cheaply for substance, which ended up being more carbohydrates because those foods go on sale more often and generally cost less. I also just felt more secure having more food on hand. Even though we are out of all debt except for our two mortgages, I still feel the need to be quite frugal because we really need to have the siding replaced on our home and most of the windows replaced with new construction windows, not just insert replacements. Also, my husband's minivan will probably need to be replaced soon also, just because it has so many miles on it.

Yet, I have been feeling the physical affects of my eating habits. When we did the 40-day fast over two years ago, I remember how it felt to wake up in the morning completely free of any and all pain. You never really notice all the little aches and pains until you are completely free of them. As time passed and I returned to eating the way I was, all those little aches became back and I generally was not feeling well off and on. I knew that I needed to change my course. My husband needed it as well, because he was eating out most of the time and our daughter needs us to be her role models, so she can see the benefits of eating healthy. I will write more about this subject in the future.

And...if you thought my pantry was much with food for three people, you should see my two large freezers and my supplement cabinets! One area at a time....I will get to rearranging them as well.

~ My Lord, thank you for answering my prayers, all those little things that I ask You to help me accomplish that go unnoticed by others but mean so much to me. ~

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Organizing Food Storage in My Kitchen - Part 4

The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.
~ Thomas Moore

To the right of the cans and jars cabinet, which has no divider by design, is the pasta, rice, and box mixes cabinet. I used to have the box mixes in another cabinet yet to be seen. Previously the lower shelf had granola and bags of pasta resealed as we have a FoodSaver and we would also have bags of chips also resealed. This did not make for an organized look at all, however all the items were protected from pests!

I used to have the brown rice in a larger container when we used to make dog food for two dogs, but now a smaller one would do well. I also had no container for my favorite wild rices so I used two of those aforementioned (earlier post) five 6-cup Rubbermaid Servin' Savers purchased from Goodwill for each of these. I filled my Creamette tin in the corner with fettuccine, as I am currently out of spaghetti. This is one of the tins I have in my collection that actually gets used in the cabinets. Instead of resealing the bags of pasta. I decided that they would be better stored in re-purposed plastic containers that may not be as air tight, but suitable for pasta. Stacking the boxes face down is just an easier way to see everything and uses the vertical space more efficiently.

The reason I placed these all together is that the Princess is able to read instructions on a box and make these foods—following the directions is an entirely different issue with a tween brain, but let's just not go there right now. She also is particularly fond of macaroni and cheese as well as tuna noodle casserole, so this is mostly set up for her. The containers are not labeled because the ingredients can be easily identified and the containers may not always have the same kind of pasta or rice in them—there's some of that that fluidity I was mentioning earlier.

~ My Lord, as I went through one cabinet at a time, I kept thinking if only I would be better at taking one moment at a time with You. ~

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Organizing Food Storage in My Kitchen - Part 3

Who ever said that pleasure wasn't functional?
~Charles Eames

Although there is no right and wrong in organizing a kitchen, there should be functionality. (Whew! My spellchecker says that really is a word!) Functionality differs according to the habit and purpose. Kitchens are the family centers of the home where the lifestyle of the family is highly evident.

To the right of the baking cabinet and the stove is the one that I use for cooking goods or just most used kinds of things that are in jars and cans. This is the cabinet opened the most often and here is where the bag of infested almonds had been placed, so you can image my embarrassment of tiny moths flying out every time it was opened! Also, some of the baking items were encroaching into the top shelf of this cabinet solely because things would get forced into the front pushing around other items without discretion. That is what happens when things are not organized and there is no specific place for the item.

One other thing I picked up from my perceptions of my aunt was not necessarily a good habit and it may not have been her nature, but when I lived with her we were in the middle of planning a large wedding for her oldest daughter and the next year my aunt was taking a full schedule at a technical college, so she was rather busy and she did not rearrange things much at all. So, at that time, it seemed to me that once she had determined a place for a thing or a use for a thing, it rarely changed. She was very efficient at fitting things just so and she had a place for everything, but some things had become inconvenient to our lifestyle at the time.

I am trying to identify things that work like mental barriers for me and change them so that they are inspirational and motivating. I started with the pantry because of the traffic it gets and the bags of pantry items on the floor that was a barrier to me, but also so that I could reorganize the highest traffic area, the kitchen. Also, I am trying to be open to see things more fluidly, as in nothing is set in stone. If something better comes along or there is a better use for something somewhere else, I want to be open and willing to change it.

The major change in this cabinet was that all the oils were on the top shelf and, as I wrote before, that is a stretch for me and I need a step stool unless the item was right in front. Now there were two reasons I placed them there when I first arranged my kitchen: one, was that the oil bottles were too tall to go under the half shelve insert so it just seemed practical to place them on the top shelf, and, two, I did not use oil very often then.

How often and how much I use oil and what kinds has changed. In part the change was based on newer research about the benefits of oils rich in Omega 3 ALA to counterbalance the too rich in Omega 6 Western diet, not a bad oil unless you get too much of it and not enough of the right Omega 3 to balance it. Omega 3 ALA, which converts to EPA and DHA, is high in canola oil. Also, for years we were told to avoid saturated fats, like coconut oil, but now research reveals that saturated fats are beneficial. I was never of the oil-free cooking mind set even when it was the rage in natural and conventional health, but I did use as little oil as possible. Armed with the knowledge of the later research on dietary oils and my husband's smaller paychecks for two years, I began making my own sourdough bread and I oil the pans usually with a canola oil spray. Also, I began making my own Omega 3 rich mayonnaise and ranch dressing. Both of these items are used heavily in our home, but rarely go on sale, while the oils go on sale at least two to three times a year.

Now when I think that I have been stretching or pulling over a step stool sometimes as many as five times times a day to get the oil I needed for the last four years, I realize how ridiculous that would seem to someone looking in from the outside. I really wanted to bring the oils down to the lower shelf, so I moved the shelf insert over instead of having it flush to the side of the cabinet. I moved the cat food down so it would be easier for the Princess to reach as feeding the cats has been one of her chores. I moved the beans from the top of the shelf insert to the top shelf so that I can see them, although I do not use them as often. The things that we used the most often or condiments that are refrigerated after opening are in the on the left.

I suppose it is silly, but just having those oils down on the lower shelf has given me much pleasure with its convenience. I used to have packets of mixes there, like a salad dressing and fajita mixes, but it just looked messy and I would have to look through them all to see how much I had of each one. I found another solution for them that works wonderfully...but if I gave all my secrets away at once, what fun would that be?

~ My Lord, I thank you that I am able to find pleasure in the little things. ~

Friday, March 8, 2013

Organizing Food Storage in My Kitchen - Part 2

If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life. ~Louis Parrish

With the bulk of the flour removed (and buggy ones thrown out) I now had some space in that cabinet above the stove. I decided that the baking ingredients should remain there because they are not needed as often as the other items. You can see part of my collection of tins on top. I am thinking of reducing that collection down, but that will be decided at a later time. For now, I am writing about the baking cabinet.

Long ago I had purchased two plastic containers meant for 5lb. bags of flour but they were never convenient when measuring out the flour, so while I used them, I did not really like them for that purpose. Now that my flour is in the jumbo canisters, I had these containers available. In one I placed powdered sugar in its original resealable bag and the other have cornmeal and cornstarch.

I recently purchased five "vintage" 6-cup Rubbermaid Servin' Savers, a Goodwill find for 97¢ each, of which two are in this cabinet. (Would you believe that someone has one listed for $14.99 on eBay just now? Oh, yes, I do know about BPA but even if these containers have them they are being used for dry food only so leaching is not as much as a concern.) One has Buckwheat and Waffle Mix and the other Cornbread Mix. Each is labeled and very accessible, as well as easy to measure out. I even cut the instructions and ingredients off their original bags and taped them on the back of the containers. These stack well enough, but the one thing I do not like about them is that the lid lip sticks out around the top so that placing them next to each other wastes space, but for less than a dollar, that thrifty side of me says I can work with it until I find another low priced solution.

If you look hard you will notice the large yellow and orange Kroger's Manger Special label on a bottle of agave, which was half the price just because they reorganized the Nature's Market section of the store and discontinued it. The same happened with the box of organic chocolate icing mix at my favorite little health store. The many extra cans of baking powder was a low price buy at Big Lots which was cheaper than I could get even with my discount at the health store. (I suppose technically the extra cans should be in the pantry now that I think about it.) The flour mixes in the containers where also bought marked down for being close to their sell-by dates, but where kept in the freezer until opened. I usually buy most everything that goes into baking goods on in bulk while on sale or marked down, and with even with the added reduction of coupons when I have them.

~ My Lord, it is a small pleasure to open cabinets that are arranged well and to have its contents be easily to use. I quite imagine You might feel the same when You open our hearts and put things in order for us. ~

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Organizing Food Storage in My Kitchen - Part 1

No matter where I serve my guests,
it seems they like my kitchen best. ~Unknown

My aunt had this trivet hanging on the wall near her stove for so many years. I liked the saying but the trivet itself just looked too old fashion to me with a woman running in an apron flipping a pancake. That was so un-me as a teenager and I did not like the thing at all then. However, when I saw one just like it in a Goodwill store, it gave me such strong feelings of nostalgia that I snatched it up. Funny how things like that, things I hated as well as things I loved, both are sentimentally pleasing. I have not yet hung it in my own kitchen, but I most likely will right above my own stove. The saying was very true in my aunt's home as she had a large country eat-in kitchen, but my home has a bar with a pot rack hanging over it between the dining area and the kitchen, so technically it is my dining room that seems to be the hang out, apart from the kitchen yet open to it. Still some of the best conversations are during the making of a meal!

However, my kitchen is has not been the place I like best and, after beginning to inventory the pantry, it just seemed to be logical to also work on food storage areas in my kitchen as well.

I was too ashamed to take pictures of my cabinets where I store food previously. For one, besides being messy, we had been having an Indianmeal Moth problem. This pest is rather common when buying bulk foods like nuts, grains, popcorn, and flour, particularly with organics because the foods are not treated with insecticides. However, this infestation was different in that it was not contained in a container and I often had a few fly out whenever I opened my cabinets—not the kind of thing you ever want a guest to see. I had removed the source of the infestation or at least what they were going after for food mostly, a bag of almonds, but by then they had also found other things to sustain themselves. Another very common pest in organic grains and flours is the Grain Weevil. I have had them upon occasion also, which is why my flours and grains usually are stored in the freezer. It is said it kills the eggs, but I have even had some infestations break out after freezing, although it does limit any infestation better.

All of the flours and such were sealed in zip lock bags to discourage or contain pests, but apparently both of these bugs can eat through them as well, to my surprise. (Previously, I though only the weevil could.) So, I had a few more things to toss. Just a few, thankfully. Obviously, we needed better storage solutions.

My daughter and I have been searching for items to help us organize as cheaply as possible, which means that I have been shopping at every Goodwill, Big Lots, and other closeout stores near my errand route. I have found some new favorite stores and some very handy things!

There are three things that I have wanted to have in larger containers: rolled oats, whole wheat flour, and unbleached white flour. (Rolled oats are for my husband's oatmeal, my homemade granola, part of our homemade dog food, and treats for the rabbits. Yeah, we go through it pretty fast.) I found these jumbo stainless steel canisters at Big Lots, actually a Target Room Essentials brand with very minor deflects, for $12 each, which is probably half its original price since now they can only be purchased from Target online so there is additional shipping costs. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately because I would have bought I don't know how many more if they had them), they only had three. An entire 5lb bag of flour fits with room to spare!

Now the problem with these huge canisters is that they did not really fit in my cabinets, which is to say they fit into them but were huge space hogs and nothing else would fit in with them. These canisters were so large that they also took up too much space on my counters; besides I do not bake so often that they would not need to that quite accessible. Previously I had the flours in the cabinet above the oven, which was a stretch for me, but we have an Amish made wooden ironing board, step stool, and chair in one that moves easily around and is highly used for such things in our kitchen. It was my husband who suggested the top of the pot rack which is close to the step stool. I had to remove a few things from that, hang the stainless steel strainer, and arrange the pots we needed to have there, but I have been very pleased with this solution. I even labeled the canisters so I could easily identify their contents.

My Lord, thank you for spending time with me when I am immersed into projects like this. ~