Thursday, April 30, 2009

Taking a walk before it rains

Rainy season has finally come to our side of the mountains, and everything is greening up.

The neighbors have done their planting, and the thirsty earth is grateful for the soft rains the Lord has sent.

The promise of a corn harvest...

Pumpkin sprouts in our back yard...

This cutie is in my back yard, too. :o)

A pretty something-or-other nearby. I do not know what these are!

The clouds start to gather around 2 o'clock each afternoon. They don't look like much at first but when we see them, we know it will be raining within the hour.

I love the comfortable, predictable rhythm of rainy season.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday musings: Leah and Rachel

From Genesis 29 and 30:1-24

Daniel's Sunday sermon inspired me to set the record straight!

Sisters. I never had one, but have often wished I did. Many times when I've expressed that wish to someone, they emphatically say something to the effect of, "Be glad you didn't have a sister!" While I still think it would have been neat to have had a sister, now that I have daughters of my own I have an idea of the unique complexities that present themselves between sisters.

Two well-known sisters in Bible history are Leah and Rachel. I actually had to change the title of this post, because I originally listed them, "Rachel and Leah". Isn't that the order in which they are always mentioned? Why is that? Leah was the firstborn. She also became Jacob's wife first. Upon the most casual Bible study, one realizes that she was by far the more virtuous of the two sisters. But the fact is that Rachel was the favored one, in spite of the fact that all the good we see in her is her beauty.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain...

It is not recorded that Jacob ever consulted the Lord in choosing a wife. Evidently, Rachel's charm and beauty were blinding to Jacob, and she maintained the facade for seven years while Jacob worked in order to gain her for his wife. Either he didn't really know her character, or he didn't care that he was marrying a spoiled brat, albeit a beautiful one.

(I know, I know, Jacob deserved her. His character wasn't exactly flawless, but that's another post.)

But take a look at Leah. "Tender-eyed," yes, but also quiet, long-suffering, and acknowledging the hand of the Lord in her life. Jehovah opened her womb and blessed her with sons. She named her children with her eye on the Lord and/or her husband. (Rachel named hers with a green eye on her sister.)

I believe Leah was God's choice wife for Jacob, and he should have been content with her, even if he was fooled by Laban into marrying her first instead of Rachel. We know that from the beginning, God created one woman for one man, and that is His perfect design.

God in His sovereignty and goodness gave Jacob the better woman. Jacob bought himself a lot of trouble when he married the second time. (That's a lesson in being content with what God gives us!) It is true that Rachel and the handmaids brought forth some of the twelve sons of Israel, but there is no doubt in my mind that God could have given all twelve tribes of Israel through Leah alone.

Setting the record straight: Though Rachel was favored by those around her, Leah was favored by Jehovah!

...But a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Food on Fridays ~ Making Butter

We get fresh cream from the dairy farm down the road, and our favorite thing to make with it is fresh butter. Recently, they gave us a really good price on a big bucket of cream, so we whipped up several pounds of butter and stocked our freezer! This is how we make it:

A good old-fashioned butter churn would be more picturesque, but since we don't have one we use my stand mixer. We put the cream into the bowl and beat at high speed for a few minutes. How much time it takes depends on how heavy the cream is. This time, it only took a minute or two, but with "milkier" cream, it can take up to fifteen minutes.

Once the butter fat has separated from the buttermilk (it will sound sloshy in the mixer or churn), we stop the mixer and pour off the liquid, patting the butter to squeeze out drops of buttermilk. (We save all the buttermilk for making pancakes or biscuits.) At this point, Caroline Ingalls would rinse the butter in cold water. This makes it keep longer. But we have a freezer, so we skip that part...

Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt to the butter (depending on how much you have) and mix again. Then press the butter into a mould of some sort. We line the mould with plastic wrap with which to wrap the butter up for storage.

Since this was not for immediate consumption, it went into a paper bag and then to the freezer.

What's great about making our own butter:

** Our children know how butter is made.

** We know what's in it, that the cream was fresh and hormone-free.

** It is as salted (or un-salted) as we want it.

** It's fun to make our own!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ Addendum ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Making Butter From Your Cream

You may have never come across such a good deal on cream as we did. However, I'm sure you have seen great deals on certain grocery items, especially produce and perishables, that were hard to pass up. Well, don't pass them up! If it is something that you can use, then buy it and "make butter".

Those bananas that are half-black and sacked up for quick sale at a fraction of the regular price? Buy them, take them home and peel them. Freeze them in plastic containers or Ziploc bags in portions that are just right for your favorite Banana Nut Bread recipe. "Make butter"!

Found marked-down yogurt a little past its freshness date? It's likely still good, but needs to be consumed quickly, or frozen... Hmmm, frozen yogurt pops, anyone? "Make butter"!

Onions and peppers can be chopped and stored in the freezer, ready for your recipes. Broccoli and other veggies a little past their prime may not be good for eating raw, but are still fine for steaming and putting into soups. "Make butter"!

They don't just put items on sale for the freshness date, but also for other reasons, such as overstocking the item. If it is something that your family will use, then stock up! Change up your weekly menu a bit to accommodate the goodies you found, and freeze what you do not use.

..."Make butter"!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trip to the Market

My big girls went with me to the market today. I was glad they came with me, because we carried all this home:

Potatoes (2 lbs), strawberries (2 lbs), chopped mixed veggies (2 lbs), cauliflower, peas (2lbs, shelled), onions, carrots (12), cucumbers, farmer's cheese (2 lbs), avocados, squash, tomatoes (2 lbs), and lettuce. For all that I paid Q85.50, which is right about $10. How does this compare to prices where you live?

I'm so glad the fresh fruits and veggies are so economical here! I'm thankful for our market. :o)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to Get Children to Remember

How many times have you heard something like this from your child: "I'm sorry, I forgot to _____"? Or, "I forgot I wasn't supposed to _____"?

A lot? Yes, me too. I came across the following helpful article on this subject at the No Greater Joy Ministries website. Read this...

If you are a parent, hundreds of times you have stood in front of a child and heard the excuse, “I forgot,” in a weak, singsong begging voice. That is when you need the wisdom of Solomon. He is only eight years old, and his life is full of stimulation and distractions. So you reason, “It is possible that he did forget; but on the other hand, how could he forget after two hundred consecutive days of my nagging, rebuking, and threatening him every one of those exasperating days?” You may even have tried spanking several times, until you began to feel guilty in the face of his apparent sincerity: “I just forgot, Mama, please, Mama, I forgot, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again… I mean, I will try to remember.”

How do you get kids to remember and to be thankful? The same way you get a 63-year-old man to remember to wash his oatmeal pan and bowl immediately after use....

Read the rest of the article for helpful suggestions at this link: How to Get Kids to Remember (by Michael Pearl)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Food on Fridays ~ Making Vinegar at Home

We use vinegar for many purposes, not the least of which is for cooking and making dressings. Raw apple cider vinegar renders many health benefits, and I would not be without it if I could help it! When we came back from our furlough in 2007, I brought with me a big jug of Bragg's Vinegar, which I think might be the best on the market.

...But as you can see, my jug is just about empty. I searched for a source of raw apple cider vinegar in the markets here, but all I could find was pineapple vinegar. I'm partial to the flavor of apple cider vinegar, so my only option seemed to be to learn to make it myself!

What forms vinegar from apple cider (or any other juice) is called the "mother". It is a living mass of good bacteria (and other critters), and while it is not a pretty sight, it is necessary. I asked around, and found a woman who makes vinegar, and she was willing to give me a piece of her mother (my piece pictured above).

Hers is massive. She keeps it in a big bucket and feeds it once a week with panela (a raw form of sugar) and water. As I said, I want vinegar made of apple cider, but I thought a mother is a mother... It should work with my juice, right?

So I brought it home and rinsed it out. I made fresh apple juice with my wonderful juicer and settled that little mother down into my juice, covering it loosely with a cloth. That was a little over a week ago. This is what I have now:

It has a clear, leathery film on top, which is a new mother forming. I have no idea how much time it needs to convert from juice to wine to vinegar. Anybody have an idea?

Anyway, it seems to be working, and I'm so excited!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Little boy blue...

Ever since you were born,
It has been your delight
Your little self to adorn...

With such colors brilliant,
Pink, orange and BLUE!
What shall I do
With a boy like you?

Not content just to paint,
You also must savor
That yummy, non-toxic,
Crayola marker flavor.

But that's no conclusion
Of this exasperating rhyme.
We'll see blue again
Next diaper-change time...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Food on Fridays: My Dough Boy

While the Pillsbury dough boy is pretty cute, he doesn't even compare to this little kitchen helper.

Anytime I make anything that involves dough (tortillas, in this case), and J.B. knows about it, he's right there, climbing up to the table and asking, "May I help?" He loves to mix and knead, make balls and flatten the dough.

Granted, he's really not that much help yet, but he is learning to work, and is eager to help. I don't want to squelch his desire to help out!

...Besides, how could I say no thanks to these big, brown eyes?

He's my little dough boy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

God's Provision for the Task

When one becomes a Christian, one has not yet "arrived". We are redeemed, bought by the blood of Jesus, and called to serve a purpose in His kingdom. What is yours?

Like many others who read here, I am called to be the help meet for a husband, and mother to our children. And while the world downplays the importance of those roles, they are still the most important roles a married woman can fulfill.

Reading from Matthew 10 this morning, I found so much encouragement that I wanted to share it! Jesus was commissioning his disciples to do a task that was humanly impossible, but He made it clear that they would never be alone. While I am not called to go out and preach and heal all manner of diseases, my calling at home is just as important in the eyes of God. (Come to think of it, I do preach a little, as well as do a little healing. ;o)

** "He gave them power" to do what He commanded them to do. Are there not times when the task seems overwhelming? Sometimes I tell myself, "I just can't do it all!!" and then I hear Someone whisper in my ear, "Then just let Me do it through you." He doesn't tell His disciples to go out and do a great work in their own power, but the power to do His will comes from the Lord. We are to seek the Source, and upon receiving, we are to spread it all over our families. If we don't seek the Source, however, in whose power do we perform the task we are called to do? Forced to draw upon our own meager resources, we soon exhaust ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. We must not try to do God's work without God's power.

** I am to "freely give", and not hold back. Jesus said, "Freely ye have received, freely give." Wives and mothers, too, are to be a conduit of God's power and the Holy Spirit. A good word to sum up a wife & mother's calling is "Giving". This does not come naturally for most (it doesn't for me), but a woman who gives and does by faith will joyfully realize that every effort put forth to do the task is equally replenished by the Source of her strength!

** "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." (No, the wolves aren't the children. ;o) But Satan is the wiley one that we have to watch for. Ungodly influences tend to sneak into the home and snag the hearts of our children. We are to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Be careful what music you allow into the home, what you set before their eyes, and what attitudes you allow them to harbor in their hearts. Get your wisdom from the Lord and his Word! Share it with your children.

** "It shall be given you...what ye shall speak." What power the tongue wields! With it, we can build up our families, or tear them down. Death and life are in the power of it. The virtuous wife and mother "openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."

** "Fear ye not therefore." If God sees and takes care of the sparrow, then He certainly knows you, and cares for you! It is our loving Heavenly Father who sets the task before us, and He "knoweth our frame, that we are dust". Fear not.

** "He that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Loving the Lord supremely is not neglecting husband and children. Rather, it makes us better wives and mothers. Putting God first will always be the best thing for our families!

** "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Many a woman today struggles with "losing" her identity, saying she wants to "have a life". Many for this reason pursue careers outside the home, preferring meeting her own wants instead of her family's needs. A Christian woman can trust that when she loses her life in Christ, therein will she find real Life!

** "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water...shall in no wise lose his reward." Being a wife and mother often does not involve many huge, monumental tasks, but rather many small, menial tasks. Be Jesus to your family when preparing a meal, or straightening up the living room, or wiping a nose. It is not so much the enormity or "importance" of the task that concerns Him, but it is our faithfulness in the little things. Just do it in His name... there will surely be a reward!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Don't be an April Fool!

"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient [proper]: but rather giving of thanks." Ephesians 5:3-4

"But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." Matthew 5:37

Not too long ago, my husband and I discussed these words of Jesus from the book of Matthew, and just this morning they were in my daily reading. Only late in life have I attempted to become a "Yea or Nay" person; I am a natural kidder, and a tad sarcastic. All in fun, of course!

But is it okay for a Christian to jest? Is sarcasm becoming of a saint? Not according to the above Scriptures, and several others. In fact, the verses in Ephesians puts jesting and foolish talk in some pretty bad company: covetousness? filthiness? fornication?? Ouch!

It's not that a Christian can't say funny things. Many times it's the true things that are the funniest! (You should live in my house and watch my children sometime, ha, ha.) But fooling a person with a joke, or being known as someone who speaks the opposite of what they mean (which is sarcasm), is simply being untruthful when you break it down.

"Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it." ~Emily Dickinson

Have you ever seen a jokester who it seemed could never be serious? They might be funny for a little while, but it quickly starts to wear on people in their presence. The mirth they bring is not the same thing as true joy, and I suspect for many it is only a mask to hide something.

On the other hand, do you know someone who is candid and truthful, and says things that edify, and knows how to use light humor, weaving it appropriately throughout the conversation? Refreshing! I think this is how Christians ought to be.

So, I won't be an April Fool. And I won't make one out of you, either.