Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Some days, God is like a fountain

its been an...interesting...year. Lots of changes - good and bad - and lots of stress - also good and bad. And I have repeatedly found myself burning out on trying to do everything myself - leaning on no one but myself. I've been forgetting to let God in. And it shows.

Today, I sat by this fountain during a lunchbreak, and felt suddenly stuck by a longing - the longing to be renewed, refreshed, cleansed of needless care. The fountain with its lovely sparkling water spraying into the pond spoke to my parched soul. I want to be pulled into God's cleansing embrace and then shot back out into the world to sparkle - I want to be stirred up, cleaned up, refreshed. I want to lean on Him - for real. I want to let go and let His Grace soothe and strengthen me.

Thank you, God for showing me today - for always - that all I have to do is lean into you and you will ease my burdens, and refresh me to begin anew.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Weekend Reading June 22 '14

This has been a hectic weekend - my wee nieces had a class party at their home for their friends on Friday, then we had "girl night" which consisted of a little barbeque, painting a sticky solution on 2 nearby trees in the hopes of attracting interesting moths and bugs in the deep of the night, many trips outside with flashlight in the deep of the night to look at same bugs, and a Dr Who marathon. Saturday, the girls (ages 8 and 10) each cooked their own eggs and helped make breakfast in bed for their parents - and then I headed to my parent's house for some intensive garden work with my youngest brother. Dad has been in hospital (nothing too serious) so I also did a few loads of laundry and some general household tidying so Mom wouldn't be burdened. Today - Sunday - I caught up on my Bible reading, and visited these lovely places before heading out for a long visit with Dad:

Melissa at The Inspired Room always has something lovely to share - my favorite today is her post on 5 Minute Baking Drawer Organisation (Using What You Have). She
inspired me to rethink my kitchen storage - no reason things cannot be both pretty and organised - and I love love LOVE that she repurposes *what she already has* in her home to achieve this!

I discovered this lovely blog, Grandma Lessons: A Grandmother's Blog on Life, written by Grandma Mema.

I enjoyed Rebecca's breathtakingly lovely nature photos and a slice of life in her Morning Chores post on the homestead at Renaissance.

What are you reading this weekend?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

No More Dragons, by Jim Burgen - Book Review

No More Dragons by Jim Burgen

"I finally saw that, in spite of the long list of reasons God could hate me, he didn't."-Jim Burgen

I meant to read this in little bites - a few pages of a chapter at a time - because I was busy and wanted to make sure I read well for the book review. But once I started I could not put this book down until the end - and even then I kept turning back to re-read sections. Yep, I was up til 3am - on a work night - reading this! No More Dragons is part sermon, part confessional, and all inspiring. Jim Burgen takes you through his journey from "the Pastor's kid" to his loss of faith to the moment where God "undragoned" him - and he does this in an incredibly engaging manner. 

As many will recognize, the title and key concept of No More Dragons comes from the classic moment in C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Eustace is "undragoned" by Aslan. For those not familiar with the tale, Eustace Scrubb is a not-very-nice little boy who becomes a dragon through his own greed and "dragonish thoughts". Initially, Eustace gleefully imagines terrorizing people, and then that recognition of what has really happened dawns on him - he is a dragon - he will never be a little boy again, he will never go home again. He is a monster, and that realization changes his heart. Aslan takes pity on the boy and - in a model of God's redemption of sinners - guides the boy to try and remove his dragon skin. Eustace cannot remove his skin (just as we cannot alone remove our sin), but Aslan can remove the skin if the boy is willing. Aslan removes the dragon skin and brings the boy to a pool where he bathes away the filth of his "dragon-ness" and from that moment he "began to be a different boy" according to the book.

Burgen takes this to the next level, showing how, with the love of God, we can undragon our own lives. He does not claim to have all the answers, and defers to Biblical truth and examples repeatedly - and applies them to "real world" examples any modern person can easily relate to. "Undragoning" is not easy - this isn't a magical process where we say a few token prayers and poof we are healed. No, this is real healing, real change - deep down, inside out. And it requires thoughtful reflection, prayer, and work. We will slip, but we will pull ourselves back up because God is before us, holding out His hand, over and over.

Burgen not only encourages each of us to shed our dragons, and to avoid the dangers of dragons in our lives, but encourages us to "undragon" our very churches - to create real, fruitful communities that support all people in finding the role God meant for them. Even the unsavory people we might shun. 

We read of Jesus with lepers and prostitutes and tax collectors and criminals and those "afflicted of demons," but we all too often shy away from those people - for fear, for distaste, for disgust, for lack of love. I found myself convicted - having at times turned away.

I highly recommend this book to teens and adults looking to turn away from destructive behaviors, looking to create healthier relationships, looking to create a richer relationship with God. Burgen answers hard questions about God, about sin, about living in a broken world - and he doesn't accept anything less than full participation, heart and soul.

Jim Burgen is the Senior Pastor of the Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Co. Burgen has also written two books for students: What's the Big Deal About Sex? and What's the Big Deal About my Parents? Burgen co-wrote three books with Scott Nickel: PB&J: Key Ingredients for a Better Marriage All my Life, and Grow a Pair.

No More Dragons is published by Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson. It can be purchased for $15.99 directly from Nelson Books, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other fine booksellers.

Religion, Christian Life, General; Teen/Adult

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trace Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Children and Nature

This is more a rough drafting of ideas that are inspired by my current re-reading of Last Child in the Woods. A book review will be posted in the next 2 weeks, and I'll likely have more posts inspired by this very important work.

* Children need nature more than they need tablets, iPads, laptops, television, video games, computers.

* In my experience, even young infants are naturally observant of and often delighted by animals and creatures of all sorts, from ants to dogs to squirrels to cheetahs at the zoo.

* All children, from newborn on up, need time outside every day - even in inclement weather (even if only for a few moments in very bad weather). Every child needs to skip thru raindrops, watch clouds roll by, feel ice and snow (if ice and snow happen in their area of the world) and learn the local cycles that tell of weather-to-come, of seasons turning, and of time passing in the day.

* Children best learn many things - but most especially about their world - by experiencing, by touching and smelling and hearing and tasting. A video of "nature" cannot replace walking barefoot in a meadow: feeling soft grass and bumpy rocks and damp earth underfoot while warm sun or soft rain or chill snow falls on your face - breathing in the scents of grasses and flowers and warm earth - hearing the whisper of gentle breezes or the roar of blustery winds thru the leaves of trees, and or hearing varied birdsong, or the scree of a hunting hawk, or the chittering of squirrels...

* Children need time and space to get muddy and dirty.

More to come as I continue reading and pondering!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mulberries and Syrup

The mulberries are almost in season, unripe green and red berries tease the birds and tease me with promises of the dark purple gems of sweet juicy goodness to come!

Mulberries are very common in my area - the trees I picked from as a child are still bearing berries. I brought my son there, and in another year I will bring my grandson and once again enjoy the sticky fun of berries being picked off the tree and then smooshed in little fingers. Mulberries are fragile, they bruise and rot too quickly to sell at market - but if you have a dry day and a few hours, you can pick a few sackfuls of these healthy and delicious berries - and then freeze or preserve what you can't stuff right into your mouth (smile). One quick and easy tip? Lay a clean sheet under the tree...and shake the branches. Berries will fall right into your hands.

I usually pick carefully, but if children are helping you will want to look through for any bits of stem or leaves (which can make you sick). You also want to ensure you *only* pick ripe berries, as unripe berries will give you a tummy ache.

I give my berries a quick swirl in a water/vinegar bath (1 part white or cider vinegar to 10 parts water) and then gently shake them dry in a colander lined with paper towel. Once dried off, you can lay the berries on waxed paper or parchment lined cookie sheets for freezing (once frozen, pop them into labeled freezer bags).

Mulberry Syrup

For a delicious syrup, gently simmer berries in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a small amount of water (figure about 1/4 cup to 4-5 cups of berries) to keep them from scorching. Gently press down on the berries as they cook, to release the juice. Strain the juice into a bowl, being sure to gently press the berries to extract all the juice. For each cup of juice, I add about 1/2 cup organic sugar or honey, to taste. Return to the saucepan, simmer and stir til well combined. Pour into a hot jar, cover, and cool. This will store well in the refrigerator. To store larger quantities, you will want to process in a hot water bath - and I would add 1 Tsp lemon juice to each pint if I were doing that.

How do you like to enjoy mulberry season? Comment below!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Commonplace Book: On Fairy Stories, JRR Tolkien

“Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they ever get into that state (it would not seem at all impossible), Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion.

For creative Fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun; on a recognition of fact, but not a slavery to it. So upon logic was founded the nonsense that displays itself in the tales and rhymes of Lewis Carroll. If men really could not distinguish between frogs and men, fairy-stories about frog-kings would not have arisen.” 

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Monday, June 9, 2014


This week, I am trying to focus on FINISHING the undone craft projects ... finishing all those bits and pieces of projects that are cluttering my desktop, cluttering my craft room, cluttering my mind. Finishing all the half-started or on-my-TO-DO-list-for-months projects, like "why don't I... knit the grandbaby a 3-color cardigan, sew new spring/summer curtains for our bedroom,  make 5 identical aprons as gifts, paint my desk lamp spring leaf green, sew up my scraps into a quilt, make a pinwheel quilt for the grandbaby..."

So far this week, the aprons are finished!

The cardi is still on the needles, but is the number one priority for the week - as well as finishing the bedroom curtains and painting the lamp. The quilts will take longer, but now they are on a time-table, and not just popped onto one of my endless TO DO lists.

I find that these projects really weigh me down if I let them linger too long, and the thrill of finishing a project is just too enjoyable to keep putting off. 

But why? Why do I end up with all of these started-but-not-finished projects? I'm not lazy, and I am pretty darned organized - so is it about priorities? Maybe I underestimate the importance of finishing my craft projects, because they are mine? Maybe my time skills need work, so that I do not underestimate how much time I can realistically give to a project at any given time? or...maybe (heck - not maybe) this is perfectionism raising its ugly head? Perhaps I have these unfinished projects because I am afraid they won't be perfect when I am done? That they won't reflect the time, love, effort and amazingly great taste (smile) that went into making them?

Maybe, just may, its time for me to pray on this. Perfectionism is a sinful state, a state where we try to place ourselves on par with God. It is a state based in pride and that leads to envy, hypocrisy, malice...ugly weeds in any spiritual garden...not weeds I like in my own. 

Bible Verse for Reflection:

"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." Colossians 3:23  

I'll be reflecting on this verse - and ensuring that any projects I take on are indeed for my good and God's glory (and yes, I believe God is glorified in a soft sweater knitted in love - or a snuggly quilt - or a hospitable home).

What projects do you have to UNprocrastinate on?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ten Little Things to Love about Thyme

I love my garden it lends pretty greenery and soft spicy scents, in my cookery thyme adds a piquant note. But thyme is more than just another pretty face!

1 - Bouquet garni.  Thyme is an integral component to the classic French flavoring bundle...and there are many variation.My favorite includes a few springs of thyme and parsley, a sprig of lavender, a bay leaf or two - and maybe a small sprig of rosemary or tarragon, depending on the dish.

2 - Dried thyme retains it flavor better than most herbs - and since fresh thyme does not store well, this is a blessing for cooks everywhere! I dry thyme from my garden during the summer. I regularly snip sprigs and lay them out or hang them up to dry. Once dry, store in a glass jar away from light (in a cupboard will do nicely).

3 - The essential oil made from thyme has antiseptic, microbial, and medicinal properties - properly speaking, it is a "biocide" - it renders pathogens harmless. Before modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was often used to treat woulds to prevent infection.

4 - Creeping thyme (also known as wild thyme) is a very important source of nectar for honeybees in places with rocky soil (and therefore not many other flowers). No wonder Greece (which is famous for its wild thyme) has a cuisine that features this savoury herb!

5 - Thymol (derived from thyme) has been shown to make certain antibiotic-resistant pathogens once-again susceptible to antibiotics. Studies are still on-going to determine which bacteria are most impacted, and if this effect will still work outside the "lab conditions" - but...WOW!

6 - Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine" touted thyme for the relief of respiratory illness as well as for its culinary delights. Thyme tea can be made by steeping a teaspoon of fresh or dried leaves in hot water - or make a "steam bath" by pouring hot water into a large shallow bowl, toss in thyme leaves, and drape a towel over it. Do not get close enough to feel burned, but breathe in the fragrant steam - it relieves congestion and can feel quite soothing as well.

7 - Thyme can kill athlete's foot fungus  - it is a strong anti-fungal and a foot-bath of thyme leaves infused in warm water can relieve itching and will kill the actual fungus causing the itchiness.

8 - Thyme is an anti-oxidant and has many immune-boosting components - toss some into your salad!

9 - Cleansing. Thyme has been used for millennia to scent rooms, to clean the air. Dried thyme can be burned or "smudged" as part of a cleansing ritual, fresh thyme can be tied into small bundles and left on the pillows to promote sweet dreams. Fresh thyme and roses were used in Ancient Rome to freshen the air...thyme was felt to promote courage, so it was used as incense, as air fresheners, in name it!

10 - Cookery. Thyme adds an unmistakable savoury flavor to foods...the Ancient Romans added it to cheeses and to alcoholic beverages, the Ancient Greeks flavored many dishes (and still do!)...the herb is used extensively in the Mediterranean where ancient cultures discovered it - and modern cultures continue the tradition. One of my favorite uses is a simply roasted chicken that has been stuffed with a few cloves of garlic, a few slices of lemon, and a few sprigs each of rosemary and thyme. Simple, elegant, and delicious!

What do you love about thyme?

Monday, June 2, 2014

The People Factor, by Van Moody - Book Review

"When people show you who they are, pay attention."-Van Moody

The People Factor is subtitled, "How building great relationships and enduring bad ones unlocks your God-given purpose" - a hefty premise, and one that Van Moody takes on with ease. This is *not* your typical self-help-with-a-Christian-twist book, but rather an engaging journey. Moody uses personal examples and Biblical examples of good and bad relationships - models that we all share in one way or another. He then examines *why* each example is good or bad - all the underpinnings - so that we learn to recognize when we ourselves fall into these same patterns.  

Moody's guide stone is the Bible - and his advice is not that of a secular pop-psychologist or pundit, but that of a caring pastor who understands that we are all imperfect, we all make mistakes, and we all can ask forgiveness, learn and move on. His advice is based on principles he derives from the Bible and his years of counseling - this is advice he himself has taken. His counsel starts with learning to *honestly* know oneself.  We all have a tendency to want to blame others when relationships go wrong, but are we being honest? Moody invites us to explore ourselves, to explore our personal ways of relating - to ourselves, to God, and to others - and determine which are healthy and which are not. He invites us to release the past, to be selective, and to end relationships that are truly toxic and unrepairable. His advice is not only for "the lovelorn" - but rather he encompasses all the relationships in our lives: work, family, friends, acquaintances, partners, and more.

What I found most interesting - and useful - was Moody's concept of "covenant partners" - again, a concept based in Biblical truths.  According to Moody, a covenant partner has six specific characteristics: the person can accept change, does not run away during difficulty, trusts God, trusts you, trusts himself or herself, will help you and not harm you. This is a powerful relationship - and one to be valued. It is also one we often mistakenly believe we have found when we have not - ie, we often assume relationships that are *not* covenant to be covenant - which leads to pain and dysfunction.

I learned a lot from the self-examination that the book demands...I am currently in a sort of "career and life changes" limbo, figuring out anew who and what my priorities must be. I found Moody to be an apt and sensitive guide - and again, his foundation in Biblical truth is important for me, because I find the "self help" genre as a whole tends to encourage a great deal of selfishness and self-absorption.  Moody's book forces one to look within so that one can then honestly look out.

Van Moody is a pastor of the Worship Center in Birmingham, Al. He also serves on the board of Joel Osteen's Champions Network, and is an associate trainer for Dr. John Maxwell's EQUIP leadership organization.

The People Factor is published by Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson. It can be purchased for $16.99 directly from Nelson Books, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other fine booksellers.

Religion, Christian Life, Relationships; Teen/Adult

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trace Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Garden Update, May 14 '14

This has been a cold, wet the garden has gotten off to a slow start. Last year, I was already harvesting English peas...this year the vines are still only a few inches tall, with a ways to go. I planted gladioli bulbs for the first time, in a large put under my kitchen window, and they are growing nicely...and I can't wait for summer blooms! I potted up a celery "bottom" from a store-purchased celery about 2 weeks ago, and shoots are now over an inch tall (I love the homely "magic" of re-growing plants!). Radishes are setting lovely plump red roots...I see the bright flash of color and can't wait until the are big enough to eat! Mmm....crunch radishes, and spicy sauteed radish greens! The lettuces and scallions are just now sending up wee sprouts and "first leaves"...promises, promises!

This weekend, I'm planting my sunflowers and nasturtiums and other goodies. How does your garden grow?