Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Finding God's Blessings in Brokenness, a review


The subtitle of this small gift book by Charles Stanley is How Pain Reveals His Deepest Love.  Now, I am not usually a fan of gift books but this volume, which is an abridged version of Stanley's The Blessings of Brokenness, is a rare exception. I loved it from the moment I opened the cover and saw the beautiful photography.

Charles Stanley is not only a gifted speaker, writer, and pastor but his passion for photography comes through to enhance the words of the book.  I found peace just looking at the photographs.  Each one seems to belong perfectly to the chapter it accompanies.

Another difference with this gift book is the depth of the writing, while a short abridgement to a larger book there is still plenty of truth on these pages.  The words can bring healing to a broken soul even more than the photographs for they are based on God's Word.

Chapters are:
  • Broken and Blessed?
  • God Wants the Best for Us
  • Why We are Broken
  • Obstacles to Accepting Our Brokenness
  • What Does It Mean to Be Made Whole
  • The Development of Spiritual Maturity
  • The Process of Breaking
  • Our Protest Against Brokenness
  • Preparation to Bear Much Fruit
  • The Promise of Blessing
  • My Prayer for You
If you are going through severe trials, this book is for you.  If you know someone who is suffering, this is the perfect small volume for them.  It is the kind of book which would be good to purchase a couple copies to have on hand when you want to share God's truth and His love to a person but you are not sure what to say.  Personally, I have enjoyed just picking it up and perusing it off and on.  It is highly recommended.

Finding God's Blessings in Brokenness was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found... here.

Disclaimer: Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Story Behind My Bigfoot Obsession


Okay, you asked for it and I will tell you the story.  Actually, I did tell a shorter version long ago, embedded in a blog post about fear.  It all started with a movie I saw as a teenager.  I think it was probably The Legend of Boggy Creek from what other people have said about the movie.  For many Bigfoot researchers, it was what began their interest into Bigfoot.  For me it was what brought about a terrifying fear that lasted for years and years.

The movie is a documentary based on the true stories which came out of Fouke, Arkansas about a large, hairy beast that was terrorizing people in that part of the country.  I saw the film at the movie theater with my (then) stepsister, it probably wouldn't have had the same affect if it were on TV.  Even though I had to be around seventeen or eighteen, there was something about it that planted a deep root of fear.

After seeing that movie, I could not be in or near a forest without getting on edge and thinking their was a monster there.  That would be fine if one lived in a large city but most of my life I have lived in heavily forested areas.  Oh, I would remind myself that it was silly to feel this way but if one has a deeply embedded fear, logic does not prevail.

It didn't affect my every day life all that much.  Even when we lived in Western Michigan where I would hear the tales of Bigfoot living in the Upper Peninsula.  I felt a little creepy but at that time, when we went hiking my husband was usually with us. Not that he could take on Bigfoot even though he is quite tall but remember... fear is not logical.

However, when we started homeschooling, Christopher and I hiked on trails a lot.  It was a way to calm down a hyperactive boy and we both enjoyed hiking. I felt like someone or something was always staring at us.  I recall many times looking through the forest thinking I saw... something.  It didn't stop me from hiking or picnicking by the forested area but it did make me feel uncomfortable.

Somewhere around that time, I read about or heard a sermon on facing our fears head on.  How the best way to rid ourselves of those embedded fears is to shine God's light in the darkness.  So I decided to go head to toe with Bigfoot... not literally, of course.

I still avoided movies about evil and monsters (as I still do today) but I no longer avoided anything just because it was about Bigfoot.  I remembered how our family had watched and enjoyed Harry and the Hendersons (the furry cute guy in the photo above).   I decided that would be my image of Bigfoot from that moment on.

I started learning more about Bigfoot and knowledge is empowering.  I learned that Harry (aka: Bigfoot) sightings were extremely rare and that it was highly unlikely that if Harry exists, it would be in any forest where I hike.  You would think that would be obvious but has fear of anything ever gripped you?

About ten years ago, a good friend told me how much she had enjoyed Frank Peretti's (then) new novel called Monster.  Who is the monster?  You guessed it.  Her only warning was not to read it alone or at night.  I decided to try reading it to see how that whole fear thing was going.  If I could handle Peretti writing about Bigfoot, I had come a long way.  It was very good and I was fine but I would not suggest reading it at night, especially if you are alone.

In my quest to continue facing my fear head on, I watched documentaries and real life shows about Bigfoot (never monster movies).  That is when I fell in love with Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet.  It was really just what the fear doctor ordered.  Not only did I learn more about Bigfoot than I ever anticipated, the four Bigfoot researchers are fun to watch.  The three long time researchers have all had alleged sightings, the one skeptic has not.

It was Finding Bigfoot that led to watching other documentary style shows on the subject.  Even Survivor Man now has a Bigfoot related series.  He has not seen one but he decided to do a series because of unexplained events that happened when he was deep in some forest areas.

Do I believe Bigfoot exists?  Well, there have been hundreds if not thousands of sightings of Bigfoot like creatures through the centuries so it is entirely possible.  Speculation abounds as to what the creatures would be although most researchers believe they are an unidentified primate. Documentaries have suggested anything from aliens to Biblical Nephilim to just plain old overgrown apes.

However, what facing my fears has done... besides developing a real fondness for Harry-like creatures, not that I would want to see one in person mind you... is to overcome deeply embedded fear.  I can walk past the forest on the gravel road and not "see" monsters like I once did.  I still wouldn't want to walk past the forest at night just because it is creepy at dark.  Just saying...

I believe it was God given wisdom to stop running away from monsters in my mind and shine a light on them.  Fear exists in darkness even when that darkness is all in your mind.  Thoughts can seem real.  Most of what we fear never happens.

Most fears are what the enemy of our soul has planted in our minds and our thoughts play it out as a movie that is truth.

Don't get me wrong, this world is still fallen and there is evil.  Bad things do happen to good people.  But God doesn't want us to give evil more than its' due.  God and Satan are not equal.  Only one of them is the Omnipotent Creator.  We are to keep our thoughts on God and read His Word, not giving in to the possibilities that are in our thought life.

Now when friends and family send me Bigfoot related items (like last week, thank you, Carol), it brings a smile instead of fear.  Do you have any embedded fears?  Those which have taken root and in some way bring hindrances to your life?   Ask God for wisdom and He will give it to you.  Perfect love cast out fear and He loves you.  I don't promise it will be easy and for me it happened over a period of time but God wants to pull up those roots of fear and give you freedom.

Mentioned in this Post
Monster by Frank Peretti... here.
Harry and the Hendersons... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate Links.  I thank you.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Getting life back to normal


The above photo shows the Jewel Cookies I made for Valentine's Day.  I had promised my husband lemon bars but there was no way I felt like making them.  They aren't hard to make but it does take time.  Then I remembered I had lemon curd in the pantry and it would make a great filling for Jewel Cookies.  Since I fill the cookies before baking them, they don't look all that lovely so I let confectioner's sugar snow fall on them.  Gently.

Yesterday was the first time in two weeks I felt human again so this post will most likely be another rambling about things on my mind.  I wish I could say the virus has left the building but no... Hubby came down with it yesterday evening.  He lost our cell phone last week (it fell out of his pocket when getting his gloves on a cold day) and there was one place he hadn't looked, yet.  So he had gone to the home of the elderly farmer he helps out and looked around there.  Unfortunately, he didn't find it.

However, he had just arrived home when he got a funny look on his face and ran to the bathroom.  Poor guy!  It came on him as quickly as it did me.  He was suppose to take part in a military funeral this morning and had a busy day planned but instead had to cancel everything.  Currently he is on the sofa with Florentine stretched out on his legs.  She is loving it that he has to stay quiet.  At least someone is happy.

I defrosted a whole chicken (the last of my stash in the deep freeze but this is a good cause) so at the moment it is taking a hot bath with some onions, celery, carrots, whole garlic cloves, salt, and peppercorns.  Just what the doctor ordered if he or she was into natural medicine.  I'm hoping Hubby can keep soup down.

I must admit, watching Alaska: The Last Frontier and reading their cookbook has reinforced my love of cooking from scratch and when possible, making healthy alternatives to get well (like soup).  Of course, there are no alternatives to what I have to take for the autoimmune diseases but there are ways to help the immune system.  Thus, the reason I've added quite a few whole cloves of garlic and a whole onion with everything else to my chicken soup stock.

We first began to get into natural foods and such in the early years of our marriage in the 1970s, as a way of helping my husband's environmental illness symptoms.  I laugh now because back then the answer to everything was roughage!  Whole foods have come a long way since then as a lot of people realized true healthy eating is the way great grandmother cooked.

Having said that, I wished I had a few cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup on the shelves when I was first sick.  When the kids were both still at home, I used to keep a Rubbermaid style container labeled something like "Colds and Flu" and everything I could store together for illnesses was in that container.  I always had Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup after reading an article that it is actually good for when you have the flu due to its' high salt content (go figure).

I thought of that when I was feeling so sick at first.  I actually craved potato chips.  That was all I could keep down the first day of the virus. Thankfully, the high carbs kept me from plunging into low blood sugar. A friend suggested it could be to the salt content and I thought back on my Campbell's soup days.  Most likely!

After going through this reminder, I am going to once again stock a cold and flu container on the pantry shelves.  Except for a bag of potato chips and some crackers, I was totally unprepared for not being able to cook and needing food and drink I could keep down for awhile.  I also need to fix some make ahead meals for the freezer.

My favorite cookbook that combines healthy recipes and advice is Karey Swan's Hearth & Home: Recipes for Life.  Long time homeschoolers will probably recognize it.  It is a simple book, fun to read as well as cook from.  It's an old fashioned kind of cookbook with no photos but that is okay.

So once again, excuse the rambling blog post.  It's what I can handle today now that I have a patient.  I have been working on the soup off and on while writing this and it is now time to finish it.

Items mentioned in this post:
Homestead Kitchen cookbook... here.
Hearth & Home: Recipes for Life cookbook... here.

Links I liked this week:
Stocking a Pantry Like a Pro... here.
Freezing Spinach and Other Greens... here.

Jewel Cookie recipe... here.

Disclosure:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate Links.  I thank you.
Photo from: @coffeeteabooksandme on Instagram

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

An Amish Home, a review


This book continues the series of books which contain four novellas surrounding a subject.  In this book, the subject of a house or home is the thread between the stories.  Although the short nature of each story prevents going into depth on the storyline, it does provide a nice and quick read when that is what you want.

The four novellas are:

A Cup Half Full by Beth Wiseman
A buggy accident leaves newlywed Sarah unable to walk.  This story is about her coming to accept her limitations as well as learning to get around the house that her husband has made wheelchair friendly.  The story also leads us through the way such an accident affects a marriage as we see Sarah and her husband learn to deal with both bitterness and guilt.

Home Sweet Home by Amy Clipston
I loved this story about a young non-Amish couple who are in a financial mess brought about by the birth of their baby when they had no insurance.  The husband's Amish boss invites them to stay in the daadihaus on his family's property.  This is a story of how the influence of love and compassion can change lives.

A Flicker of Hope by Ruth Reid
This is the story of an Amish couple who have been married fifteen years whose house burns down in the beginning of the book.  An event that happened early in their marriage left them bitter toward each other and this story is how God uses tragedy for a better purpose as the reader learns of the original tragedy and the redemption of a marriage brought about by losing everything.

Building Faith by Kathleen Fuller
This is the story of Faith Miller, who loves to work with wood and the affect her grandfather's death had on her life.  Through the story, we learn of her broken engagement two years earlier and lessons learned as she must work with  her former fiance to build cabinets for a friend's new house.  The couple only then learn the truth behind what both of them were going through that led to the broken engagement.

One of the things I appreciate about these books is how each story highlights a difficulty an Amish person is going through and how there are not always easy answers.  Except that their faith, when challenged, will grow if they allow it to and not become bitter.  Very good!

An Amish Home was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

More information can be located... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to Amazon.com are Associate links.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday and I'm still here...


It is highly unusual for me to miss a Sunday Afternoon Tea post two weeks in a row but I had a bit of a relapse Saturday evening.  Nothing horrible, just the return of queasiness and the cold symptoms getting a little worse.  Typical winter stuff... and I have been very fortunate.  There was a "super cold" that was going around and my husband had it (he is still coughing) as did Christopher (he ended up with pneumonia).  This is not even close to what they experienced.

So instead of writing yesterday, I spent the day with a box of tissues, multiple cups of tea, and a cat sleeping on the back of the recliner.  I still can't get used to a kitty asleep behind me because Victoria was too large of a cat to be comfortable there (even though she kept her girlie figure but Maine Coons are big cats).

Florentine is so little compared to Victoria.  While she is still skittish, she now loves to be around us and anyone spending hours on the recliner makes her very happy.  I'd love to bottle her energy.  One of the toys her Auntie B. sent her was a kind of a fishing rod thing with feathers on the end of it.  That was wonderful yesterday as I could stay in the recliner and "play" with Florentine. 

Today I saw her with the feathers in her teeth, walking into another room with the "fishing rod" following on the carpet.  If that happens when I have the camera near, I will take a photo.  Hilarious.  Even when you don't feel well!

Thankfully, there was both an Alaska: The Last Frontier marathon and a Finding Bigfoot marathon yesterday.  So if one had to choose a day to be down and out, it was a good one.  I know, I do have odd taste in TV programs.  Although both shows take place in wilderness or forested areas.  Come to think of it, I've never been to a psychiatrist.  I expect someone could have a field day with my Bigfoot obsession.  There is a story behind it by the way...

I need to return to the sofa and my pillow.  The more I rest (except for dinner and dishes!), the faster my weakened immune system will heal.  I have a publisher's book review due in a day or two.  I had planned a Book Talk this week but it probably will be put off until next week.  

Hot tea sounds really good right now.  Perhaps Candy Cane Lane. Yes, that is just what the doctor ordered.  ;)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Organics on a tight budget


I feel a little better today, well enough to write but without the time to edit everything.  So please forgive this very rambling post... and any typos I missed. 

Probably the question I am asked the most is how I can buy organic food with a very tight budget.  Ummmm... it is a challenge but the longer I've done it and the more experience I've gained, the easier it gets.  Neither of us can earn any extra income or I'd lose my health insurance so instead we need to cut costs wherever we can.  Thus, learning to cook for two different health issues with as little spent as possible.

First of all, except for the rare magazine or "pretty accessory for the house", all gifts received go to filling the pantry in some way.  Having stocking the pantry as a priority makes a big difference those months when there is a lot more month than money.

This year I used most of my Christmas cash to stash the deep freeze with meat and veggies found on sale.  I used a gift "credit" card surprise last year for the pantry, including the purchase of five bags of various nuts from my favorite nut supplier in Georgia, a gift that kept on giving for months!  I've used birthday cash gifts to purchase honey at the Farmer's Market.

Amazon credit is sometimes used for pantry basics.  For instance, last month I used it to purchase a large size of maple syrup that I couldn't purchase with cash.  I often use it for kitchen supplies, spices, tea, and the rare times I need an out-of-budget gourmet item (like sherry vinegar).  I rarely use it for ordinary pantry items because it tends to be more expensive than buying on sale locally.

I have also simplified meals and the pantry a great deal over the years.  When the kids were both home and I had more discretionary income, my pantry was often full for the way I cooked then.  However, even when we had more money to spend I have always tried to get the most for the least amount of money.  Back then I collected all the grocery sales inserts from the Sunday paper and made my menu plan from what was on sale, as well as stocking the pantry with items when they were on a "stock up" price.

Once you have done this awhile, you realize many items are on a rotating sale calendar.  If you pay attention (and write it down if you must to remember),  it is possible to stock a lot of your favorite pantry items cheaper this way.  For instance Kroger have had their brand of organic canned tomatoes on their rotational $10 for 10 sale this week, which is my stock up price.  We bought ten cans this time and we've been known to buy twenty when the budget is not as tight.

I had to change my cooking to less carbs (less pasta meals than I once cooked) and less meat.  Since we now buy ground beef that is more expensive than what I once bought (the Kroger brand of meat that contains no added hormones, etc.), I only purchase one pound for each week and I prefer to make a dish that can be extended to more than one meal.

If I do purchase ground beef for something like a meatloaf for company, my husband asks that I warn him.  Since it would take about $25.00 worth of "almost as good as organic ground beef" to make a large meatloaf, there is no way I can use it for company.  Instead as a treat, I will make meat loaf burgers for the two of us so he can have the taste of the larger meatloaf once in awhile.

I do the same by purchasing whole chickens and saving the carcass for soup and extra meat for another meal.  Meijers brand of hormone free "almost organic" chickens tend to be less than other stores and I watch to see if any are on sale or on a manager's clearance.  Otherwise, I have to use their regular chicken.

We prioritize produce using the "dirty dozen" list* so my husband has pretty much nothing on that list if it isn't organic.  Otherwise, I buy the non-organic usually.  On the link I'm providing, they state that green beans are moving up to almost be on the list but right now I don't buy organic green beans (I do, however, grow them in summer).  Citrus fruit is not on the list so we only purchase organic citrus fruit if 1) it is on sale, or 2) I'm going to use the zest in cooking.

The list contains the items he never eats unless they are organic.  They are strawberries, apples, grapes, any kind of salad green, cucumbers, celery, peaches, tomatoes, and blueberries.  The good news is that organic products have come down in price if you know where to shop.  We shop at Aldi's, Kroger, and Meijers most of the time.

Each of those store chains have their own organic line of foods that are very good and a fraction of the cost at places like Whole Foods.  I've also found some organics are cheaper in various stores.  For instance, locally I like Meijers best for organic produce prices, Aldi's has excellent frozen organic fruit prices, and Kroger has very good prices on canned items.  Sometimes the best prices are at other places do to sales.

Some organic foods are normally not that much higher in price than those that are not organic so I purchase them organic all the time.  Locally I can get organic carrots, celery, and potatoes at a very reasonable price.  Sometimes in-season the organics can be purchased at pretty good prices, too.  I found bags of organic apples last fall at a great price in October.  Otherwise, they are just too expensive for everyday use.

Since there are just two of us, I buy organic hormone free milk for me (Hubby uses almond milk and I only go through a half gallon every few weeks), organic cream for him, organic butter (unless I am doing a lot of Holiday baking then I stock up on whatever is on sale), and he sometimes buys one package of organic cheese a month for his use. 

There are some items we can only get at the health food store so he stops by there on Senior Citizen Day for a 20% savings. We don't buy organic eggs but we do get free range eggs from a local farmer, either at the health food store or from him directly when the Farmer's Market is available.

In the summer, I will purchase non-organic items at the Farmer's Market as they tend to be either not sprayed at all or sprayed less since the growers eat what they sell.  I read an article about eating organic that said eating food from the Farmer's Market is the next best thing to organic.

It takes a lot to be able to put the organic label on your food and many small growers cannot go to that extent of certification but if you talk to the grower, they are (usually) honest about how anything edible is grown.  The one problem (for a tight budget) is that Farmer's Market foods can be costly but it is so worth it if you can shop there.  I love supporting the local farmer!

I do buy some non-organic food if it is just for me because to be honest... I have bigger fat to fry (so to speak) than if something is sprayed.  My husband is so sensitive to pesticides and additives that he can tell almost instantly.  Much like MSG affects him and our kids.  I rarely notice anything at all.  Carbs... yes.  Chemicals... not so much.

I also fill in the rest of the menu with regular split chicken breasts, pork loins, ham, non-MSG sausage, and turkey (all purchased for the freezer when on sale) as well as some non-organic produce once in awhile.  I have to!  This month I purchased one bag of organic new potatoes and one bag of non-organics so at least half of the potatoes have not been sprayed.

Cold weather cooking is the easiest for me to stretch the grocery budget.  I make a lot of various kinds of soups.  Soup also makes for leftovers with just two of us, so the next day there are less dinner dishes!  When possible, I think of different ways to use the "leftovers".

Tonight we are having leftover chili but I'm serving it over a whole baked potato for Hubby, a half a baked potato for me (they are large potatoes!).  Last night the chili was served with some organic corn chips (bought on sale) broken up and sprinkled on the bowl of chili and a tiny amount of non-organic shredded cheese.  (Hint, if you are going to use just a little cheese go for the sharp cheddar... lots of flavor with less cheese.)

Sometimes I'll peruse a cookbook and try something new just because I find that fun to do.  Usually, though, my menus are in season and made to incorporate organics for as little as possible.  We are definitely eating far less meat than we once did and rarely eat out (which is a no brainer on a tight budget, anyway).  I still do some baking but not nearly as much as in years past.

Although... sometimes we cheat and have a fast food sausage egg McMuffin or go to Cracker Barrel for breakfast (especially if one of us has received a gift card for a birthday or Christmas).  After all, some things in life are just too good to live without!

I hope this helps a little.  It takes a lot more thinking ahead and planning when you are eating organic on a tight budget but it can be done.  Not perfectly.  But good enough.

*Dirty Dozen and Clean 15... here.
If you have trouble getting that link to load, the EWG official dirty dozen list is... here.

Image:  The Fruit Company

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Still under the weather


Apparently this virus that has been going around is reacting about the same in everyone.  I had one day of being really sick and since then there have been days of feeling slightly queasy and too fatigued to do just about anything.  Not terrible but neither do I feel well enough to do anything requiring more energy than stirring a pot or washing dishes.

I blame the roller coaster weather and the time spent in the reception area of the doctor's office when I was there for my three month A1C checkup.  Speaking of which, they can now get a three month reading with a simple blood draw about the same size as when one checks their blood sugar at home!  Until recently, I would have to wait three months to know the readings.

We are in the deep freeze side of roller coaster weather today.  There was a layer of ice under the snow when I walked out to get our newspaper.  But with the drop in temps came a beautiful snowfall.  I couldn't help help looking out the window during the snowfall yesterday and this morning while the snow clung to the trees. 

I find snowfall to be beautiful when there is no need to drive the slick roads.  We have had rain since Christmas and very few snowflakes.  Which is also why people are sick. Yesterday's snow was a delight.  Yes, I had to take a photo of my neighbor's barn this morning.  What a blessing to have it be what I see from my front porch, although this photo was taken from the road while I also kept an eye on the pickup truck in the distance.

I'm hoping to be here on Saturday so I'm off to brew a small teapot full of herbal tea to stay hydrated. 

Image: First appeared on Instagram @coffeeteabooksandme.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Flu

I'm getting over a mild case of flu. Still feeling too icky to write today. Hopefully tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

This, That, and Florentine


It has been awhile since I wrote a "just hello" kind of post.  Frankly, there is not a whole lot to write about.  We experienced February-like weather in January so I'm kinda' hoping we will receive more sunshine this month.  It was just cold enough to feel the damp chill so I needed copious amounts of hot beverages and a warm throw.

I used Amazon credit to purchase Season 3 of Shetland (for some reason, it has not shown on our PBS channel) but instead of a DVD, I purchased it for Amazon video.  It was cheaper that way and I could watch it on the iPad under said throw.  Since my DSL is not very fast... okay, it is really slow here in the country... it is hard to stream video and it takes about an hour to download each episode (my iPad only has storage room for one episode at a time).

However, it was entirely worth it as I enjoyed watching each episode all warm and cozy.  I loved this season, very different than the first two because it revolves around one crime and everything that happens as a result of the first murder.  Shetland is gritty and there is the BBC necessary implied "alternative lifestyle" couple in it but I do like brooding mysteries.  Which may or may not say something about my personality!  It's similar to Wallander that way.


On a more cheerful note, I want to thank everyone who sent Christmas cards.  I enjoyed each one of them and I usually respond to each but I got a little carried away cleaning my desk one day and threw away envelopes before transferring addresses to my address book.

Sigh... So if you did not hear back from me, that is the reason.  I do want to thank my bloggy friend who slipped the $5.00 in her card!  I got away for a much needed coffee break with it and I was miffed that I couldn't tell you about it.  ;)

Florie playing with a gift from her Auntie B.

Of course, I have to give you an update on Florentine (aka: Florie).  She is beginning to settle into her own place in the household nicely.  Actually, like the three kitties who went before her... I think she plans to take over completely.  We are getting used to having a very young cat around and for the most part she is well behaved and brings a lot of laughter.  She has filled the kitty void nicely.

I still mourn very much for my Victoria.  Perhaps that is part of the quiet around here, too.  I especially feel her absence here in the Study where I now (thank you, Jesus!) have the computer to write blog posts.  Florentine is a big help in getting through the grief that I know will continue to fade.  Victoria's memory never will for I have lots of photos throughout this blog of my "super model" Maine Coon but the hurt heals.  Eventually.

Thank you very much to Susan, whose kitty gifts  helped me in the grief... and to Bonnie, whose gifts to Florentine have made her one happy kitty!  Both are kitty loving blog friends who experienced their own loss recently.

Not to mention all the comments, prayers, and condolences.  We have a special bond with our animals, which began in Eden.  We also get to know animals online just as we do humans.  I cried when the Pioneer Woman's Charlie diedHe was part of her blog from the beginning.

I only have one review book on the way so far and I'm in the midst of reading an e-book on the Kindle to review... so I'm thinking there will be time for a Book Talk next week!  I'm reading through a series of four books, something I haven't done in awhile.  One right after the other.  With a warm throw around me and a hot beverage on the coffee table!  I know... I'll think of this cold weather kindly in mid-July.

Items Mentioned in This Post
Shetland series 3... here.
Wallander... here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - When our weakness is our message


Have you ever compared yourself to others, your life to that of your friends?  Of course, we all have.  It's human nature to do so... even if it isn't wise.  We tend to be in awe of people who are doing "great things for God" when our life seems so small. 

It got me thinking of how so often we say we are "just" a... wife, husband, single person, teenager, senior citizen, college student, parent, etc.  While in God's eyes we are His unique creation, each one of us an individual like no other who has ever lived or who will ever live on the planet.  We are His workmanship.  We are His Art.  We are part of His Story.  

There is nothing "just" or small about us.

We don't have a problem accepting that all the good stuff in our life comes from Him but what about the circumstances we would just as soon not walk through or live with?  Sigh... yes, we know they are allowed to mold us into who we are on this journey called life.  We are a compilation of the good and the gifts and the trials and the failures and the successes and the joys and the tears that He has allowed.

Sometimes it is the unwelcome news that has sent us on the direction we find ourselves in our journey.  For instance, if my son didn't have ADHD then I would have missed the enjoyment of homeschooling.  But I wasn't thinking joy that day we pulled him out of school to teach him at home.  The word I was thinking was... why?  That decision completely changed where I thought I'd be at that time in my life.

I know without a doubt that God uses our weakness as well as our strength to be His light in the world.  He understands our "why" questions but sometimes the answer is... because this is where I need you. That's hard for some Christians to accept but the truth is that God wants to use us where we are willing to go and sometimes where we are not so willing.

He wants those of us who know Him to be His salt and light in the special needs support group.  He wants those who love Him who have survived cancer or who live with chronic illness to listen to those just beginning to walk that path.  He needs the person in her 20s to share with the teenager how she stayed true to her faith in high school and the graduate student to help the freshman make good choices in that first year of college.

He knows that the parent who seemed to do everything right and loved God and knows His Word but finds herself with a prodigal in jail is just the person who can find peace and share it with other parents in the same situation.  He needs the couple who have stayed together over many years to assure the newlyweds they will get through the tough times with Jesus as the center of their marriage.

Everyone has gone through something and survived.  No Christian goes through this life without struggles.  We live in a fallen world.  This isn't Heaven, yet.  How can God use you?  When you have gained the wisdom He wants you to have in the midst of each trial.  Then he has someone who can step along side another to give encouragement and His Word.  Sometimes to a fellow Christian but quite often to one who would never step foot into a church. 

Sometimes I grow weary on this journey and I find encouragement in writings by those who have walked the path.  Then there are days when only The Book offers solace.  But I'm old enough to look back and know for certain that God never left me alone, that He has always provided what I need whether it is finances, or a friend, or that peace that passes understanding.

So if you think you are someone whose life is too small to be used by Him... know that if there is breath within you then He has you here for a reason.  A purpose which only you can accomplish.