The Danger in Comparing

 

Our girls have always sung: all over the house, at church, in the store… it shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was the child who clogged through every store my mother took me.

I remember our oldest 3 girls singing VBS songs in a grocery store and getting a bit loud, I thought, to serenade a woman standing nearby.  I tried to hush them a little, but as the woman passed me to leave she leaned in close and in a low tone she said, “Just think, they might be the next Point of Grace.”

It took my breath away, the way you know God just used someone to speak important truth to you.  The truth was that they were made to sing out loud, and it wasn’t my place to muffle them. I felt a little panicked, suddenly wondering if I was equipped to teach them what they would need to know.  I started praying right then and there that God would provide by enabling me or sending whatever teachers He will, and He has done both over the years.

My husband started them singing at the camp Annual Banquet each year, and I don’t remember how they began singing at church, but nowadays they sing at no less than 20 churches or events a year.  Their harmony is beautiful.  I don’t turn on the radio at home very often because who needs that when you have live music most of the day?

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It is a joy to watch and see how each one of the children develop in their gift each year, and even the older kids notice and appreciate as their younger siblings reach new levels. Lilly is 14 now, and has been coming into her own.  She is developing her own style and writing her own music.  I’ve seen our oldest listening, shake her head in wonderment, and I’ve known that she was comparing.

“My voice isn’t anything special,” she began to believe.

She forgot about the man who said that whichever sister is singing alto is “Amazing”.

She didn’t think about the woman at church who said she knew my Angel Girl would be able to pick out the elusive harmony.

She never considered how she has been becoming the teacher her sisters all go to when they need help understanding music theory.

I encourage her, but sometimes you need to hear it from someone who isn’t ‘just Mom’.

The comparing… it chokes dreams.  It kills confidence.  Instead of trail blazing, you fall to the rear because that is where you feel more comfortable. You might even talk yourself right out of the plans God has for you, but you and I, we’ve been chosen to be the bearer of the blessing others need.

In the Old Testament, God chose Esther.  He used Esther’s humility to save an entire nation.  He used her position: as the king’s favorite she had potential sway. He used her wisdom: a young woman who respected and listened to the uncle who told her that if she refused, God would use another way and she would forfeit the plan for her life.  He used her Jewish influence–the nation of Israel fasted and prayed with her in preparation for a risk that was greater than any you and I are likely to encounter: to go to the king without an invitation, and it could have cost her life.  She gave what she had to God as an offering.  She said, “If I perish, I perish.”  She didn’t say someone else was better equipped.  She risked everything and history documents how she blazed that trail.

While my Angel Girl was counseling at camp this summer, they put her on worship team. Every chapel, she had the opportunity to lead the singing with her peers while playing the keyboard and/or singing for worship.  I was glad.  I knew it would be a good experience, and I just kept praying God would use it as He weaves together his will for her life.

Angel on Worship Team

She said she played so often that the nervousness which normally paralyzes her concentration and her hands when she plays in public had disappeared by the end of summer camps. And then there was that voice she kept hearing over the monitor… the one she didn’t recognize as belonging to any of the other singers, and then one day she realized it was her own.  “In a good way,” she smiled.

Angel at bleachers

My daughter has been given a song to sing out loud.  So have you, whether literally or figuratively.

Your abilities? They don’t belong to you, as much as society will tell you that they do and that it’s your right to do with them as you please.  No, they were given to you by God and for God.  Don’t think about what other people think. Don’t belittle your gifts.  Don’t allow your song, whatever it is, to be muffled by comparing it to the abilities He has given to others.

Don’t fall back.

Don’t forfeit the plan.

Keep your gaze on the King.  He is your compass.  Orientate your thoughts, your feelings and your feet toward Him, and Keep. Moving. Forward.

You may never know all the lives you touch, but someday you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself the way God sees you.  You’ll hear your own voice in the so called monitor and be surprised {in a good way 🙂 } and you’ll be glad you chose to sing.

 

 

 

Recipe: Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread

If you have a bubbly, thriving brown rice sourdough starter, then you are ready to start baking!

I recently took this bread to a church fellowship meal and an out of town guest who has suffered from Celiac Disease for 20 years said that after trying many gluten free bread recipes, her long search was over!  This gluten-free sourdough bread is it!  She wasn’t the only one who thought so because there wasn’t any left!

It is a beautiful, good tasting bread that slices well.  To print, download the recipe PDF: Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread.

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice starter

3 eggs

4 TBS melted butter, not too hot

1-1/4 cups or your choice of milk

2 TBS honey

1 cup sorghum flour

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

3/4 cup tapioca starch

4 tsp. psyllium husks, finely ground–not all brands are the same; I use THIS BRAND  (alternative: 1 TBS xanthum gum)

2 tsp. salt

1/2 TBS  (1- 1/2 tsp. baking soda)

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, melt butter and stir in water.  Add starter, eggs, and honey.
  • In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients (NOT baking soda!! Reserve soda for just before baking.) Use a whisk or beaters to thoroughly blend in the psyllium husks.
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients, beating with a mixer until very well combined.
  • Cover with a lid, or plate, or plastic wrap and allow to ferment a minimum of 7 hours (12 hours is ideal).  If you need to bake bread in less time, place in the oven (turned off) and turn on the oven light to warm things up and speed the fermentation process.

{The bread batter before fermenting}

After Fermenting:

  • After fermenting, when ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

{The bread batter “sponge” after fermenting}

  • Place bread pan in oven with oil or butter in it and allow it to melt.  While it is melting, add baking soda to bread batter and mix thoroughly.

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{This is how it looks after mixing in the soda.}

  • Remove hot bread pan from oven and distribute oil around the pan, greasing all the sides.
  • Scrape bread batter into bread pan and smooth the top.

sandwich bread in pan

  • Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake bread for 50-55 minutes.
  • After removing bread from the oven, allow to sit a few minutes.  Run a knife around the outside to release from the pan if necessary, and then transfer to a cooling rack.
  • Allow to cool and then slice.

sandwich bread 2

sandwich bread

Makes 1 loaf.  Enjoy!

This bread was inspired by a sandwich bread at Cultures for Health.  The original recipe uses xanthum gum, contains more starch, and a few other differences.

 

The Best Thing We Gained at the Fair

Have you ever noticed how kids have a very accurate internal clock, like, from the get go?

We took our oldest to the county fair when she was about three and the next summer, days before the fair was going to start, she started asking me about that place with lights and food and rides? We definitely went to the fair again that year,

and the next,

and every year.  🙂

Nowadays the fair falls the weekend after youth camps end so it’s easy for all of us to anticipate.  It’s a tradition.

When our oldest kids were little, and there were just a handful of them (instead of 2 hands-full) we would buy a sheet of tickets and let them ride a few kiddie rides.  As they got older, the more mature rides cost more.  With more children, one sheet didn’t provide enough tickets to go around.  We learned to be content walking through all the exhibits, petting the animals and having a treat.  My husband loves the malted milk shakes… it’s once a year. 😉

{Farm to Table Children’s Exhibit}

 

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{Miss our goats this year!}

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{Still wearing the camp swimming arm band… and look at that adorable face!}

This year, the big kids were hankering to do some rides and I promised them we’d save up for them to buy an arm band to do unlimited rides.  Tuesday of this week was that day.  However, rather than simply purchase the arm bands and send them off to get hot, dizzy and tired, we gave them the $20 we’d saved for each one of our flock.  We told them that they could pay for the arm bands themselves, or…  they could spend it (or save it) on whatever they pleased.

Somehow, with the $20 they gained in their hands, fair rides didn’t sound so appealing to them anymore. They suddenly appreciated the effort that it would take for them to earn that money back themselves.  Somebody mentioned having money for Christmas presents.

Fair 2017- 05

No one went on rides.  When dad bought his malt, they bought their own ice cream (while mom *cringe* said nothing about all the sugar) and they enjoyed eating them together.  Dad got to taste every flavor because dads are good at sweet talking a taste.

We took in the exhibits.  We petted the animals.  C2 won a frisbee from The Pulse Radio. We won a $10 gift card for Cub Foods.

Yes, we brought home a lot of extra stuff, but the best thing we gained was the reminder that God is a Good Father when we lost. a. child!

Yes! Standing in a crowd with other people, holding tickets as the union for the grocery stores had a big drawing, Ella had a winning #.  She claimed her prize.  The giveaway ended, and as we started to walk away from the booth, I did what I always do:  I counted heads.

“5, 6, 7…” someone was missing.  I have had kids coming and going from camp all summer.  Every week we’ve had a different number at home, so the counting thing has been a little strange.  This is the first week we’ve had all the kids home since the beginning of June.

I re-counted with names and I panicked.  C2 is 4, and I didn’t see his little buzzed head or tye dye shirt.  We had been standing there, all together, the whole time!  How did he slip away?  Where could he have gone?

It’s amazing the clarity with which one can remember the details of a beloved in a moment of bereavement.  His big, tender eyes, full of wide wonderment filled my mind as I hollered his name and scanned the crowd.

I prayed.

While hubby turned the whole crew around, I spoke with the man at the grocery booth, and he said someone had taken a child to the fair office –{he pointed}– >>> that way.

We found him with an older couple, sitting in front of the information booth, and quietly crying as hard as he could.  He was hugging 2 stuffed animals from someone’s game booth.  When he saw us he flung himself into Dad’s arms and held on for dear life, and I silently praised God for keeping him safe.  As we walked away, the older couple who had cared for him said to him,

“Now, remember, your parents will always come for you.”

It was all I could do to restrain myself from snatching him up.  I let my husband hold on to him, but my arms ached to hold him, and I know that is how God feels about every son and daughter who wanders away from the safety of His will.  I can picture Him at the ready, even watching us as we consider stepping away; how he wants to snatch us from danger, but allows us to choose our own footing.

He’s the Good Father.

You’re never really a lost child when you belong to the King.  You can be rebellious, and you can suffer the consequences, but your Father knows where you are.  He has his eye on you and He’s listening for your repentant cry.  When you’re ready to find your way home, He will always come for you.

Always.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost?  And if it turns out that he finds it, I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost.  So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14 (emphasis mine)

Always.

 

Caring For Your Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

 

 

gluten-free starter care

If you have never baked with sourdough, there are a few good things to know.

What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a mixture of flour and water that contains wild yeasts and lactobacilli. These naturally occurring cultures actually “eat” the simple sugars in the grains, beginning the process of breaking it down.  During this process, they produce carbon dioxide, which appears as bubbles, that helps rise your dough.  These cultures also produce lactic acid which prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.

Sourdough is an efficient way to bake for your family.  As long as you save some some “starter” each time you use it, and continue to “feed” it, giving it more flour and water, it will continue to multiply and serve you indefinitely. Because using sourdough incorporates the use of these wild yeasts as leavening in your baked products, this means you do not need to buy instant dry yeast from the store… so you may expect to save time and money.

Since the wild yeasts feed on the sugars in the grains, properly prepared sourdough products are lower on the glycemic index than non-sourdough goods.   Now, let me be clear here… I said it is low-er on the glycemic index… I didn’t say it’s safe to pig out  😉 Grains are still starches that provide quick energy to the body.  Moderation, as always, please.

Also, because the sourdough yeasts begin the process of breaking down the flours you bake with, the finished product is easier on the digestive system.  The wild yeasts and bacteria neutralize anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors that are naturally occurring in grains, and actually produce some vitamins themselves, which means more nutrition is readily available.

Other Advantages

Gluten free grains are often more dry and gritty than their glutenous counterparts, and recipes can require more starch.  As the yeasts begin to break down the grains, they are softened, giving baked goods a more pleasant texture, and our family thinks they have a richer flavor.

How to Care for Your Starter

  • Wild yeasts do not like metal.  Whether you are cultivating sourdough, kefir or kombucha, please do not store your cultures in metal–it will kill them.  You can use metal fork/spoon for mixing your baked goods; just don’t store it in metal. Keep your sourdough starter, and unbaked products, in glass.  Except for dipping, as shown in the featured photo, avoid storing in plastics as you do not want your culture to leach chemicals for your family to later consume.
  • If you are perpetuating more than one type of culture in your kitchen: ie, kombucha…  it is a good idea to keep a few feet between them.
  • Cover, but do not seal air tight.  Fruit flies and other insects just love fermented goodness.  If your sourdough is not covered, it will turn into an insect trap.  (yuck!)
  • Sourdough is more active in warmer temperatures, and slows down in colder temps.  If you keep your starter out on the counter in a moderate temps, it will probably need fed every 12 hours.  If you use it daily, then this is perfect.  If, however, you do not want to use it daily, store your freshly fed starter in the refrigerator and it will not have to be fed for at least a week.
  • After sitting, if there is a layer of liquid on top (may be clearish, pinkish or brownish), this is called hooch.  Just pour it off, down the sink, and freshen your starter: assuming your gluten free starter is brown rice, so feed it some brown rice flour and water.  Stir well, cover, and give a few hours for your starter to get all bubbly and active before using in a recipe.  If you are used to glutenous sourdough which can get frothy on top, it’s helpful to know that the rice starter does not get bubbly on top, but you can see the gas pockets all through the “sponge” through the side of your glass storage container.  (In the past, I did maintain a buckwheat starter, which I began following the same directions as the boosted rice starter.  It was easy to maintain.  I eventually threw it out because buckwheat is stronger smelling and the rice worked equally well.)
  • It is important to know guidelines for how much to feed starter.  Do not exceed 4:1. Four parts new flour and water to one part active starter.  You may feed your starter less, but do not feed it more than this at once because you do not want to weaken it. If your starter will be sitting on the counter all day, do not feed it less than a 1:1 ratio; One part starter to one part fresh brown rice flour and water.  So, for example, if I have had 1/2 cup of starter in the fridge all week and I take it out to use it, I am going to feed it 1/2 cup of fresh brown rice flour and stir in enough water to make it the consistency I want it.  If you make it too thin, the extra water will rise to the top.
  • If your starter sits too long and the top gets dry and pinkish, use a spoon to ladle off the top and discard.  Transfer to a clean glass container and then feed.
  • What about discarding down the sink?  The yeast is amazing for your pipes and septic.  A friend of ours is a septic designer and he highly recommends it!  😉
  • Recipes are mixed up ahead of time, and ferment to allow the wild yeasts to do their magic.  They should not ferment for less than 7 hours before baking.  If you are in a time pinch, remember that sourdough is more active in warmer temperatures.  You can place dough next to a slow cooker or place in an oven that is OFF: if you have a gas oven that is kept warm by a pilot light, or if you have an electric oven you can turn the light on to keep warm.  If you feel the oven is too warm, just prop door open a smidge by placing an oven mitt in the way so it doesn’t close completely.  Remove to complete and bake when ready.  If you have a cool kitchen in the winter, then again, you will want to let your goods sour longer, or find a warm spot for them.  If you have a HOT kitchen, your products will be ready to bake sooner rather than later.

If you have questions or need clarification, please ask about it in the comments.  If you are wondering, someone else is bound to question the same thing!

Well, now you are ready to begin baking with your starter, and I am ready to begin sharing recipes!

Care instructions are available as a PDF for download here: How to care for your gluten free starter

 

Making a Gluten Free Sourdough Starter

It was 7 years ago that I decided to delve into the world of sourdough!  I was pregnant with Precious #6, and I took a sourdough e-course from GNOWFGLINS Traditional Cooking School.  The class was awesome!  The series began with teaching how to make a starter from scratch and then how to use that starter to make everything from breads to cakes.  The course included a pdf for those who learn best from reading, and it featured videos for visual junkies like me–I learn best from watching and doing.  I was able to cultivate a starter from spelt flour (a glutenous ancient grain), tried the recipes in the e-course, and soon converted my own recipes to this more healthful method of preparing breads.

At the time, we ate a lot of gluten free foods as well.  I had been wheat free for many years, but everything I read about gluten free sourdough, which used a brown rice starter, said it could be difficult to maintain and that it may require re-starting a starter now and then.  I am all for easy, so  No, thank you!  And so I was too intimidated to try.

When I HAD to go gluten free, I missed my sourdough!  Gluten free grains can be more gritty, and I knew my baked goods would not be as nutritious or digestible without the benefits of fermentation.  Eventually I decided to just try it, and I’m so glad I did!  No more guilt for whipping up quick breads, lol!  This gluten free sourdough thing is good, and as it turns out, it’s easy too!  My starter has been going strong for about two years and I have never had an issue.

After sharing a picture of some fresh bread on Facebook, I received a lot of requests for a recipe.  I plan to teach a local class in September, and will give starter to participants, but for anyone who is in a hurry or not local, I decided to share the steps to going gluten free sourdough with you.  The first thing you need is a starter!

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You will need:

Filtered water,

Clean glass mason jar  (for starting your starter!),

a paper towel or clean piece of fabric with a rubber band or jar ring to cover the jar,

brown rice flour,

and coconut water kefir.  If you do not have coconut water kefir, you can learn what that is and how to make it HERE.

Since I didn’t invent this Boosted Brown Rice Sourdough Starter, I’m going to send you to the web site that taught me.  You can find instructions over HERE at The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking.

One thing I will add to her directions is:  Follow her directions exactly on the first day. However,  on the second day–on the second feeding and following when you feed your newly fermenting starter, before you add the 1/3 to 1/2 cup of brown rice and water, first remove and discard 1/3 to 1/2 cup of starter.  If you do not remove starter before feeding, you are going to be swimming in starter, and larger quantities of starter require being fed larger amounts.  So simplify and remove some starter before feeding.  You will know if your starter is healthy if it develops lots of airy bubbles throughout the jar.  You will be able to see these developing as it ages… less after being fed and more before the next feeding.

Here is a look at my thriving starter:

GF sourdough starter 1

And here is a top view.  The top looks a little dry.  It has been sitting, covered on my counter all day.  I’m ready to use some in a recipe for breakfast and then I will feed it.

GF sourdough starter 2

If creating your own gluten free sourdough starter is not something you feel like tackling right now, but you want to get started baking, you can buy a starter from Cultures for Health.  It will come with instructions that are easy to follow.

Starters are fermented, so definitely expect a sour smell.  It is unpleasant to some people, but I promise your finished baked goods will smell heavenly and taste yummy… rarely ever a sour flavor when you actually eat it!

If you have questions, please let me know in the comments below… someone else is bound to be wondering the same thing!

Good luck, have fun, and when you have a thriving starter you can come back here to try out some recipes with me!

 

 

 

One of the Most Valuable Lessons You’ll Ever Learn About Ministry

this treasure

I will never forget the first Ladies’ Retreat that Camp JIM hosted after our family joined the staff.  It was the first time I had ever helped plan a retreat, and to say I learned a lot would be an understatement!

Our theme that year was “Beauty for All Seasons,” and our speaker, a pastor’s wife, was sharing about how God works in the different seasons of our lives. Little did I know she was in a very difficult season herself, and it was because of this that she unintentionally shared one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned about ministry.

That year was one of the biggest retreats we’ve ever had, and to be honest, I think quite a few of the women were there to check out the new director and size up the direction the ministry might take.  Many seemed guarded, and the mood was pretty serious, though I noticed some “reunions” taking place as old campers were seeing each other for the first time in years. We had a hilarious group of older women sing as a special Saturday event, and their comedic music was the bright spot in the afternoon.  All in all, it was pretty standard, for a ladies’ retreat.

And then, something happened that changed everything.  During our Saturday evening session our speaker got real.  As she talked about the autumn of our lives, the season she was living, she began to share the struggles her family was going through.  They were the kind of struggles that no one wishes to experience.  The kind you don’t get through without faith.  The kind you can’t talk about without sobbing.  The kind that showcases God’s glory because He is right there in the middle of the mess, rolling up His sleeves and working side by side with you–pruning your life and polishing all your rough places.

As she struggled to speak through gutteral tears, every protective wall in the room came down that night,  like Jericho, truth spilling and stories tumbling out as the pretense and fear of being “less than” fell away.  Those women stayed up all night sharing their stories; every woman had one.

Every woman HAS one.

You have a story.

Your story has been instrumental in shaping you, but it doesn’t define you;

it changes you, but it doesn’t make you.

Your story is God’s glory.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

You are an overcomer through Christ.  And the thing is that your story, God’s glory, isn’t meant to be hidden away, but shared because someone else is right now walking a similar path to the one you have already grown familiar.

Have you overcome depression?  Someone else is experiencing despair.

Are you experiencing the freedom of forgiveness?  Someone else is living in shame.

Have you recovered from a financial disaster?  Someone else has lost everything.

Have you survived miscarriage?  Someone else has empty arms.

Was your daughter among the 1 in 3 who is sexually assaulted, and you have walked that path with her?  Someone else’s world just caved in.

Have you forgiven the unforgivable?  Someone else is embittered.

Have you lost a loved one to cancer?  Someone else’s beloved is still in the battle.

Been abandoned?  Broken?

Isn’t it out of our brokenness that God does a new thing?  He said to comfort others with the comfort you have received.  2 Corinthians 1:4

What is your story?

Sharing your story, comforting someone else with the comfort Christ has given you, it reaffirms your victory in Christ.

It softens hearts.

It breaks down walls.

It establishes safe zones.

It declares hope.

It precedes victory.

It cleanses wounds.

Treasure in Jars of Clay.  One of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn about ministry?  Be REAL.  TRANSPARENT.  Your story becomes your testimony.  You are not “less than” because of what has happened to you; you are “more than” because of the Christ treasure in you.  Instead of pretense that showcases how great you are, your brokenness allows others see HIM.  And that is what ministry is all about.

 

Photo credit goes to Pixabay.

 

From King Size to Twin Size, Breathing Usefulness into a Worn Quilt

One of the ways we are able to provide for the needs of our large family while keeping a reasonable budget is by thrift shopping, and I have discovered I really enjoy it.  It feels good to provide for a need (or want) and not break the budget.

We have a little local shop that supports a school, and it’s one of my favorite places to browse.  It is astounding, really.  If I think of something I know I’m going to want, or I pray about a need, it’s not uncommon to find it the next time I visit.  Other times I may keep my eyes peeled longer, but God always provides, one way or another!

Last year when we had a cold snap I realized that C1 needed a real bed quilt instead of the over-sized baby blanket and throws I had layered on his bed.  I started watching for a cotton twin sized bed quilt, and found a Target brand quilt with automobiles on it,  but a couple of the applique`s had begun to pull away so they were only asking $2.00.  This is something I can fix, so I was thrilled and thankful!

Then last winter that annual cold snap hit and I realized C2 also needed a real, bed sized quilt, but I wasn’t find anything.

My own bed quilt was a king sized quilt.  Our bed is a queen, but I like my quilts to hang long and cover the sides of the bed.  The top edge and whole first row of blocks had grown ratty from 12 years of wear, and my husband mentioned how nice it would be to replace it.  It did occur to me that our old quilt, a mix of blocks in the green and brown spectrum, could make a very nice boy blanket.

Sometimes using what you have is the most creative endeavor of all!!

I laid it out on the roomiest floor I could find, and spread C1’s quilt on top for a template, avoiding the ratty side of the old quilt.  C1’s quilt was a little shorter than I like, so I cut C2’s longer so that it will tuck under the bottom of his bunk mattress.  I just cut along the rows and pinned as I went to hold the layers together.

quilt 1

Using a heavy cotton camouflage fabric from Joanne’s, I cut strips and made a binding.  I used this tutorial as a guide to piece the binding and sew it on the quilt.  I’ve done a lot of bindings, but this is my favorite method by far!  The tutorial is clear and easy to follow, and it saved me a lot of time.  I did the whole project in one day.

quilt 2

 

quilt 3

I wasn’t sure I was going to like the camo fabric.  It had the browns like the quilt, but it was a completely different style.  However, when I put the quilt on the bed, I loved it!  The dark browns in the binding match the dark brown of the wood in the bed and make it look like I gave the project more forethought than I actually did.  (Really, I just didn’t find anything I liked better.)

C2 bed

I’d like to do a little woodsy theme in the boys’ room, with stars and some camp inspired decor.  There are old, green and flannel marine sleeping bags on the bottom of the beds for colder nights.  They’re fun to crawl around inside too, if you’re 4 and 6 years old.  🙂

Back at the thrift store I found a pair of matching pillow shams for 75 cents that also contribute to this woodsy theme and I’m keeping my eyes open for small stuffed animals that match the sham.

C2 pillow

For $15.00 I replaced my quilt at the Salvation Army.  I still have some camo fabric to make the boys some hot and cold pack/bean bags (if I ever get around to it!) 😉

The best part?  C2 loves his new blanket, and seeing me make it for him makes him feel special too!

Growing in Gentleness

gentleness

Gentleness is not weakness.  Gentleness is strength under control.

In our books, Chapter 11, titled “Growing Strong Through Gentleness,” teaches us that Gentleness:

  • Trusts the Lord
  • Submits to God
  • Follows Christ’s example
  • Bows the soul–worshiping God in humility
  • Makes the decision to put on Gentleness–we’re faced with this decision every day
  • Gentleness “takes it”–endures ill treatment

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Gentleness looks like humility, but from where does humility come?  James 3:13 says that humility comes from wisdom.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

How do we get wisdom?  Proverbs 9:10 tells us.

 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” ESV

The Amplified Version puts it this way: “The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of wisdom [its starting point and its essence],
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding and spiritual insight.”

Wisdom is merely seeing life from God’s perspective and responding accordingly.   In humility or gentleness, respond accordingly.

James tells us there are different kinds of wisdom.  There is worldly wisdom:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

And there is wisdom from above… Godly wisdom:

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Stop and think about the type of circumstances you find yourself when you are NOT being gentle… What is the sin nature that is showing itself in these circumstances?

  • I tend not to be gentle when I’m not being patient. (too tired, too hungry, stressed out, when I’m offended)
  • When I’m disappointed.  (That just ruined my whole day!) (You ruined my life! {My small children like to use this one}) Maybe I’m feeling crabby over having to change my plans.  Perhaps I’m lacking faith in these circumstances?  And the result is that I do not respond to life in a spirit of gentleness.
  • When I’m inconvenienced…
  • When I’ frustrated with people or difficult circumstances (not getting my own way)

Getting REAL, what is the sin issue in these examples?  PRIDE, self-centered-ness (is that a word?), selfishness!   In these examples I’m forgetting to trust God has things under control, lacking the faith that He’s going to work things out in my best interest despite my disappointments, or not stopping to make the intentional decision to have an attitude of gentleness.

Jesus is our perfect example of gentleness.  In John 12 he was preparing his disciples for his crucifixion.  He knew that in order to bear many into the kingdom of God, he first had to die.  This is what he told them:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”  verses 24-26

Jesus gave up self, and submitted to the Father, dying in order to bear fruit–in order to bear souls into the kingdom of God.  He birthed every believer into the kingdom.  Every mother knows what a sacrifice it is to give birth to another and put their child’s welfare first.

Philippians 2 calls us to follow Christ’s example of humility.

Lets put Gentleness into 2 categories.

1.) Gentleness with GOD: Obedience to God

This TRUSTS His plans for me are good!

This has FAITH in Christ’s sacrifice, BELIEVING I am truly free–he has broken my chains, so I should not keep walking like I wear them!

This dies to self DAILY.

2.)  Gentleness Toward Others

Philippians 2:3 tells us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

When the kids are being difficult, I am to count them as more significant than myself.

When people in my job situation are demanding and hard to get along with, or persecuting me because of my beliefs, I am to count them as more significant than myself.

When someone cuts me off in traffic,

fails to follow through on a promise,

says something hurtful to me,

wrongly judges my intentions,

YOU NAME IT—Whoever they are, and no matter what they’ve done, I am to count them as more significant than myself, and respond (NOT react) in gentleness, remembering it is my responsibility to point them to Christ.

Hard, hard stuff!  That is why it’s a Fruit of the SPIRIT who is living in me… I can’t do it on my own.  I can do it only when I submit to Him.

1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. ” (Concerning not offending others or causing them to sin)

When I have difficult people in my life I am to call on that fruit of LOVE,

Convinced that it is not about me (part of that Fruit of Peace),

remembering that God is working in their lives and is concerned for their sanctification (or salvation) as much as mine.  I need to do well and put on a spirit of Gentleness instead of being offended so that I don’t get in the way of what God wants to do in them, regardless of whether they are being cooperative.

I am not talking about being a door mat.  I am not saying we should deliberately place ourselves in a position to be hurt over and over, or that we should stay in abusive relationships.  I am saying that when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances or have no choice about the people who are around us, we are to conduct ourselves in a Christ-like manner.  In the event that it is prudent to remove ourselves from a relationship, we may do so humbly, and with grace.

Remember, James 3:17 gives us a check list based on the wisdom from above to help us evaluate our responses before we respond:

  • Is my response coming from a pure heart?
  • Is my response peace loving?
  • gentle?
  • willing to yield to others?
  • Is my response full of mercy?
  • Is my response full of the fruit of good deeds? (yikes!)
  • Is my response free of favoritism?
  • Is it sincere?

“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” verse 18

I can wisely do this when I lose my life in Christ; I can ask for God’s exchange–HIS character for mine.

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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How to Make Coconut Water Kefir

In my journey to health I spent a long time eating Body Ecology style, which eliminated some foods, included some lesser known foods, and incorporated proper food combining.   I still apply some of its principles to the meals I prepare for my family.  Body Ecology founder, Donna Gates, highly recommends coconut water kefir.  She sells it on her web site, but being who I am, I opted for affordability and the challenge of making it myself.

Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is found in young green coconuts, before it is replaced with coconut meat.

I was told by a “sample lady” at Costco about one of her customers who had served in the military.  He said that in times of war, when no IV fluid was available, they used straight coconut water in the IV’s of the wounded due its purity and high electrolyte content. Bottled coconut water is not as ideal as fresh, but this is what I have to use.

Kefir 4

Coconut water contains some B vitamins, and is high in potassium and sodium which are good for adrenal health.  It is sweet, as it contains easily digested carbohydrates which is what makes it suitable, temporarily, for kefir grains.

The name Kefir means “feel good” in Turkish.  Kefir contains the essential amino acid tryptophan which helps calm the nervous system and is also used by the body to produce serotonin.  Serotonin affects mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, and memory.

There are two types of kefir grains.  One thrives in milk and the other in sugar water (called water kefir).  I have not made water kefir, though I someday hope to try it.  I already had dairy kefir grains and so I use them to make my coconut water kefir.  If you have an allergy or intolerance to milk, you may want to use water kefir.

A mixture of live yeasts and bacteria, kefir grains digest sugars in the beverage they are added to, fermenting it into a sour but probiotic rich drink.  Combining the coconut water and kefir gains you the benefits of both, but with less natural sugars.  It provides good bacteria to populate your gut where most of your immune system resides and it improves digestion along the way.

Kefir 1

Here you can see my kefir grains have been busy turning this milk into a thick kefir. They tend to float up toward the top.

I use a plastic mesh strainer that came with the Kefir Kit I bought from Cultures From Health to rinse my grains.  Never use metal with your kefir grains.  Use a plastic strainer, but store your grains in glass so that your kefir does not leach chemicals from the plastic.

Kefir 3

When I wash the grains under cool water, I use a wooden spoon or clean hands to rinse the milk off as best as possible.

Because milk kefir grains thrive in milk, it is important not to keep them out for too long. They do not convert the coconut water as quickly as they do milk.  The grains will float up and down in the liquid.  Milk kefir is ready to consume 12-24 hours after adding grains, depending on how thick and how sour you want it.  I leave my kefir grains in coconut water between 2-3 full days.  I often do 2 batches in a row so my fridge is stocked and then I promptly put the grains back into milk for one or two cycles to make sure they are fed well and strong before placing them back into the refrigerator to store.  If they spend too much time in the refrigerator they will lose their ability to ferment.  As long as I give mine a couple of days in milk on the counter every two or three weeks they are fine.

Kefir 6

Once your coconut water kefir is done fermenting, strain the grains out and add to a clean glass container to either make more coconut water kefir or refresh with milk. Store your finished products in the refrigerator.

Drink 1/4 cup in your Plexus Slim for a lemonaidy taste or with meals for better digestion.  My little ones beg to drink it anytime as they are accustomed to sour flavors and enjoy them.  I love this since I know I am giving them something that will protect their immune system and benefit them in many ways.

Are you ready to add this to your wellness routine?

If you do not already have kefir grains, or don’t know anyone who can share (they multiply over time) you can order a starter from Cultures For Health.  The grains come dehydrated with detailed directions on rehydrating and using.  The website also has many video tutorials and recipes for using their cultured products.

If you would like to read about more of the health protecting benefits of kefir, Dr. Axe has a good article.

If you plan to make a boosted rice sourdough starter, this coconut water kefir is what I used to create the starter.  Look for instructions in a future post!

Can you use milk kefir grains to make kefir from coconut milk?  Umm, yes.  I did it once with canned coconut milk.  It worked.  It was also one of the few things that ever made me gag!  😉  So, you can try it if you want to.  Maybe you will like it better than I!!

How to Minister to the Lord

Several years ago, a women’s pastor who sometimes spoke at our camp Ladies’ Retreats was in the area and stopped by my home for a brief visit.  When I asked her how she was doing she glowed, explaining that she had just returned from a quiet retreat where she had fasted and prayed, “and,” she said, “just really ministered to the Lord.”

Ministered to the Lord…

I got stuck right there.  I had never heard anyone say that before.  Of course, God ministers to us and we minister to others on His behalf, but to minister to a God who already has everything and doesn’t need anything captured my attention…

earnestly I seek you photo

This week Ella came to me asking, “Mom, was Lazarus good?”

I knew she had just finished her devotions but, not knowing what she was searching out, I let her question settle while saying a prayer for His guidance.

“He was a sinner, just like us,” I ventured.

She was quiet a moment.  “But,” she continued, “he was Jesus’s friend.  Jesus cried when Lazarus died.”

“Yes, he was Jesus’ friend.  When Jesus traveled to his town, he and his sisters gave Him a place to stay.  They provided His meals… I’m sure they laughed together.  They sat at His feet and He taught them.”

I smiled.  There it was, on the tip of my tongue.  “They ministered to the Lord.”

None of us are good.  The Bible tells us that the heart of man is desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9)  Yet, Jesus took our punishment for our sin and gave us His righteousness in order to make us friends of God.  This is the gift of God (Ephesians 2), not a result of anything we can ever do, but God’s grace extended to us.  His Holy Spirit lives with those who are saved.  He our counselor, our comforter, our Friend.  When we choose to sin~to live like we’re still spiritually dead~he is grieved like Jesus was when Lazarus died, but we bless Him when we choose to walk by His Spirit, seeking His will for our lives, and ABIDING in Him (John 15).

John tells us we love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)  He is our friend and, like Lazarus, we can minister to Him!

We minister to Him when we remember His greatness,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”  Psalm 103

when we seek Him,

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Psalm 63:1     

when we sing to Him,

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!”  Psalm 96:1

when we praise Him,

“Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!”  Psalm 135:3

when we talk with Him,

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:12 (Read here for context.)

when we obey Him,

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'” John 14:23

when we follow His example,
“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” John 13:15

 

when we serve others…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

We can minister to the Lord.  Today, many of you will be meeting with your local church assembly.  You will hear God’s Word, have opportunity to encourage and help your brothers and sisters, praise God through song… let it not just be an act of going through the motions and checking it off of your to-do list.  Be aware of the attitude you put on. Make it your goal to minister to the Lord!  You also will be blessed when you do.