Sunday, April 20, 2014

A blessed Easter to you!

Image courtesy Vintage Holiday
Mr. T and I would like to wish all of our friends a blessed day of celebrating Christ's resurrection.  "He is risen, as He said"!  (Matthew 28:7)  Our day will begin with a meaningful outdoor service and a bountiful breakfast with our church family.  We hope that all of you will have as lovely a day and that you will spend time pondering on what Christ's resurrection means for you personally. 

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Easter Matters

 (This lovely and meaningful graphic is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings.)

I am going to do just one or two posts concerning the "Why Easter Matters" study I've been doing from Good Morning Girls.  Since Easter is coming up on Sunday, and since it really does matter tremendously to us, I felt it was important to share some of my study with you.

With today being what we think of as Good Friday, I thought it was a perfect time to share this study from Day 8 -- last Wednesday, April 9.  I trust it will be as meaningful to you as it was to me.

S [Scripture]= "And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the spirit.
"And the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom.
"And when the centurion, who stood facing Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the spirit, he said, Truly, this man was the Son of God."  (Mark 15:37-39)

O [Observation]=  What was it that Jesus "cried with a loud voice" before giving up the spirit?  It must have been, "It is finished!" because Luke's account of the crucifixion tells us in Luke 23:46 that "when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit, and having said this, He gave up the spirit."  The cry "It is finished!" was  not simply a statement that Jesus' suffering was ended or that His earthly life was over.  No, it was a shout of triumph that with His sacrifice, the sinner's debt was paid in full.  He had accomplished what He had come to earth to do.

At this moment when Jesus' atoning work was indeed finished, God tore the thick veil of the temple in two, from the top to the bottom.  The tearing of that veil signified that a new and living way was now opened for all who will come to God by faith in Christ.  Nothing other than Christ's sacrificial death could ever have accomplished this.

The centurion facing Jesus observed His death and heard His triumphant cry.  In response he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God."  We see also in this account that Jesus "gave up" the spirit.  No one took His life from Him.  He willingly gave it up so that we might have eternal life.

A [Application]= From my vantage point, the only real response to such a sacrifice can be heartfelt gratitude and a desire to live a life pleasing to God that will bring honor and glory to Him.  He has saved me, and called me with a holy calling, not according to my works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which He had in mind for me before the foundation of the world (2 Timothy 1:9).  For me, the only possible response is to spend the rest of my life seeking -- in His wisdom and strength -- to fulfill those purposes.

P [Prayer]=  "Lord, I cannot even begin to thank You for Your sacrifice on my behalf.  'Thank You' is a pitifully inadequate response for all that You sacrificed in order to make me right with a holy God.   Truly, it is my 'reasonable service' to present myself to You as a 'living sacrifice' for Your purposes (Romans 12:1-2).  I pray, Lord, that You will help me to forget things which are behind, to reach forth unto those things which are before me, and to press toward the mark for the prize of Your high calling (Philippians 3:13-14).  Help me not to miss any of the purposes for which You have called me.  I pray in Jesus' name, Amen."

I hope that these simple thoughts concerning why Easter matters have been a blessing to someone else today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A surprising spring snow

Graphic from Baptist Bible Hour
We're lifelong New Englanders here -- and so nothing the weather does should surprise us.  There's a saying in New England: "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute."  And that is very true.  Saturday was sunny and beautiful.  Sunday was pouring rain but still fairly warm.  Monday -- mostly sunny and nice.  Tuesday -- rainy but not cold.  And then there was Tuesday night.  It was 25º when we got up this morning, with a coating of snow on everything.

It's remained chilly, too.  Now, around 11:30 in the  morning, it is still only 28º!  However, the sun has come out and much of the snow has melted.  And I did read on the National Weather Service site that the midwest and western Great Lakes region are expecting a major snowstorm.  So we can be thankful we're here and not out there!  Here in our locality, the hazardous weather outlooks involve rivers flooding due to snow melt and yesterday's rain.  And tonight may get as cold as 18º!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 39

The lovely graphic is from Little Birdie Blessings.
As promised, this is the last post I'll do concerning my "Intentionally Focused" Bible study which I finished back in mid-March.  I may, next week, do a post or two concerning my Easter study, but this is the last of the Intentionally Focused posts.  This one was from Week 8, when the focus of the study was our health.  Here goes:

S [Scripture]= "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband, and he did eat."  (Genesis 3:6)

O [Observation]=  This verse records what Eve did with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil:
1) She saw that the tree was good for food;
2) She saw that the tree was pleasant to the eyes;
3) She saw that it was a tree to be desired to make one wise.
When she saw all this, then:
1) Eve took of the fruit of this tree;
2) Eve ate the fruit of this tree;
3) Eve gave the fruit of this tree to her husband, and
4) He also ate of the fruit of this tree.

The only problem was that God had told them not to do this.  In verses 16-17 of chapter 2, "The LORD God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

A [Application]=  Although God has not given me dietary guidelines as such, He has told me that my body is the temple of His Holy Spirit.  He wants me to take proper care of His temple, which certainly includes things like a healthy diet, plenty of water, adequate exercise and sleep, and so on.  I obviously shouldn't fill God's temple full of junk food.

I think the verse for today speaks to me most in that I need to remember what God has said about my stewardship of my body.  I need to keep it as healthy as possible so I'll have the energy I need to serve Him and others.

So I can't be like Eve and go by how things look:
"That looks delicious!"
"That looks so good!"
"That looks as if it would lift my spirits/comfort me/make me feel better, etc. etc."

Instead, I need to simply remember what God has said.  It's required of stewards that they be found faithful -- and that applies to stewardship of my body as it does to anything else He has blessed me with.

P [Prayer]=  "Lord, I thank You for this verse today.  I have looked at Genesis 3:6 a little bit differently today than ever before.  Help me each day as I plan meals and make choices about what to eat.  May I make the best choices, the ones that will give me optimum health, energy, and stamina for praising and serving You.  Help me to remember and pay attention to what You've said about by body: it's the temple of Your Holy Spirit.  Help me to care for it accordingly and to be a wise and faithful steward.  I thank You for all You will do.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

So that was my study for March 13.  I found it a blessing and hope that others will, too.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Delightful dish towels

A recently finished flour sack towel
I love dish towels!  The vintage ones are often in such fun designs ... which reminds me that I have a bunch I have never taken pictures of.  I want to give some away to my daughters, but some of them are pretty badly stained from age.  I will need to get some of that soak that one uses for such items and see if I can get the worst stains out.

Nifty seasonal dish towels are often available, especially if you get them on clearance after a holiday.  Or you can make your own by purchasing dish towel fabric.  Moda is one source.  Here's a link: Moda dish toweling.    (You can click on "Fabrics" and then "Specialty Fabrics" and then "Toweling" to reach this page if need be.)  A friend of mine in PA tells me she can purchase dish toweling at Mennonite stores at very reasonable prices.  So there are a number of sources out there if you are so minded to make your own.

More than any of these, I love embroidering flour sack towels.  I've posted about them here before -- check the "dish towels" label in the word cloud -- but have just done four new ones for a birthday gift.  I buy the very large flour sack towels from Wal*Mart, cut them in half and hem the cut edge before adding a design.  For these, I also added a simple fabric trim after embroidering.  These are from the Java Break design set by Aunt Martha's.  I had fun working with the same basic color palette for each design, yet making each one look unique.

If you love needlework but think you don't have time, I encourage you to try embroidering a flour sack towel.  They can be done quickly in little bits of time here and there.  Because you are only outlining the design, not filling it in, the work really does go fast.  Best of all, you end up with something pretty and useful.
Caffe Latte
Cafe au Lait
And those are some of my simple embroidered flour sack towels!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Mud season meanderings

From Photos Public Domain
 Well, I certainly haven't posted as much as I intended to in April.  I decided I'd better put up a short, random post so everyone will know I'm still here!  Just busy ...

We are planning a trip to NV this spring to see family and I have a certain number of things that I want to accomplish before that takes place.  Spring decorating, for one.  I have put up my Easter ribbon board

and taken down the St. Patrick's things (of which I have only a few).  The maple sugaring items are still in place because that is still ongoing here.  It's been a very odd sugaring season, the sugar
makers say.
Scene from a syrup can
Yesterday was cool and rainy. 
From Photos Public Domain
 Not a very nice day, but the rain has brought the snowbanks down some more (and increased the mud, but oh well) so I'm happy about that.

I also have some handmade birthday gifts to finish.  Sadly, three spring birthdays will take place while we are away.  I want to get those gifts finished before we go.

 Just finished up a set of four embroidered flour sack towels with simple fabric trim as a birthday gift.  I used one of the "Aunt Martha" transfer sets -- this one titled "Java Break" and including designs featuring all things coffee.  I hope to post pictures soon.

Another project I'm working on is homemade natural sachets to use in vacuum cleaner bags.  Don't you love it when you can make things like this yourself?  I do.  I put together the mixture (which includes rosemary, lavender, cedar, cloves and baking soda) yesterday and it is currently residing in a sealed jar for a week.  Then I'll package it up in coffee filters and tie with string to make the sachets.  They stay in the sealed jar until they are all used up, to keep the fragrance fresh.  I made a batch of these previously and the last sachet is in the vacuum cleaner bag right now.  This time I decided to make a double batch.  The fragrance is fresh and natural and it works really well, especially in our older, somewhat stinky vacuum cleaner.

The homemade Tub and Shower Magic -- using the two simple ingredients of Dawn® dish soap and warmed white vinegar -- is another of my favorite household helpers.
  Now that I've tried it, I mix up a new batch whenever it runs low, and keep a spray bottle of it in each bathroom.

Our local supermarket has shank portion hams for 79¢ a pound this week.  A great deal!  For years, when I bought an Easter ham, I would splurge on a spiral cut one.  (And I didn't buy hams -- or any other type of roast -- for many years before that because, even though the price per pound was cheap, I just couldn't spend that amount of money on a hunk of meat.)   But it seemed that no matter how I cooked it, it was not as juicy and flavorful as I like a ham to be.  Then one Sunday our pastor's wife brought one of the shank portion type to the potluck.  I couldn't believe how tasty it was and asked her about it.  After that, we started buying a shank portion whenever they went on sale for 99¢.  We eat it as baked ham the first day, then use it in sandwiches, casseroles, egg dishes and the like before turning it into soup.  Pea soup is traditional in New England, and sometimes I make that, but this Ham & Bean Chowder is the best of the best in our book.
Photo from Taste of Home
Last night I made some of these gluten free Brazilian Cheese Buns to accompany clam chowder.  I know I've shared the recipe before, but these are good and so different.  They use tapioca starch as the main ingredient.
Photo from King Arthur
 Yesterday I baked another loaf of gluten free sandwich bread from
The Baking Beauties .  If you have never visited Jeanine's site and you need to bake gluten free for any reason, check it out.  The sandwich bread is the best of its kind I've ever tasted and is easy to make.  She has all manner of other recipes too and I have been thrilled with every recipe I've tried from her site.  I'll probably be baking her Best Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls  for the Easter breakfast at church again this year.  They were fantastic!
Photo by The Baking Beauties
I've been doing the "Why Easter Matters" Bible study from Good Morning Girls and am in the middle of the second week.  If you'd like to get in on this, it's really not too late.  You will just finish a couple of weeks later.  To get started, you need to go to the Good Morning Girls site to sign up for their emails.  Then, at the bottom of the first email, you can find the links to download the reading guide and the study guide.  I've been so pleased with this study.  It is helping me to focus so much more than ever before on the real meaning of Easter.  I'm sure others would be encouraged as well.  I'm basically just meditating on the passages suggested using the SOAP method.  It's great.

I've also been working away on a writing project -- a simple re-write of one of my older summer devotionals for kids.  This one -- Riding a Mountain Railway -- has, as you might guess, a railroad theme.  I hope to finish it this week.
Some of the books from years past

Okay, enough meandering!  I'm off to work on some of these projects!

Card from my personal collection

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 35

Graphic by Little Birdie Blessings
This is my "Intentionally Focused" study from the last day of week 7, focusing on our ministries.  If you are used to thinking of ministry as teaching, mission work, music, or the like, you may be surprised at this one!

S [Scripture]= "Every wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands."  (Proverbs 14:1)

O [Observation]= This is another of the many verses in Proverbs which presents a contrast between wise and foolish behavior.  Here, the wise woman -- actually, every wise woman -- builds her house.  The foolish woman plucks down her house with her own hands.  We seriously do need to see our homes and families as a ministry and to be sure we are doing the things that will build them up.

We must be very careful that we are not harming our families by our actions.  It seems to me that such harm can be done in many ways, but one of the most obvious is by setting a bad example with our own actions and attitudes.  Another way would be having our priorities out of order and allowing other things to crowd out our care of home and family.

A [Application]= I do see my care of home and family as a ministry.  I try to minister to my husband [and family when they are here] with good, nutritious food, with memory-making times, clean clothes, an orderly home, and so  on.  I know that I often fail miserably in the "orderly home department",  and that's an area I need to work on.  I also need to pay far more attention to my attitudes and tone of voice.

P [Prayer]= "Lord, I thank You so much for my husband and family and for my home.  I know that both of these are rich blessings from You.  When I think about all of the people in this world who don't have a home -- and the many others who live in inadequate homes like cardboard boxes or packing containers -- I am overwhelmed.  You've given me a home that -- although modest by many standards -- is large and luxurious by other standards.  I pray that you will help me to take proper care of the home You have blessed me with.  Even more important, I pray that You will help me with my ministry to the people in my home, especially my husband, who is here every day.  May I minister to him not only with clean clothes and good food and an orderly home, but with a sweet attitude and with the continual aim that our home will be a refuge from the world.  I thank You for all You will do!  In Jesus' name, Amen."

As you can tell, this verse led to a convicting study for me!  I hope it blesses someone else as well.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layered Dessert

(This photo, from Taste of Home, resembles my dessert a little bit, but is not the same.  Mine has a thinner layer of peanut butter, a thicker layer of chocolate pudding, and chocolate whipped cream on the top.  I include this photo only to give you a general idea what the dessert looks like.)
 It's that time of week again -- time to prepare a main dish, salad and/or dessert for our weekly church potluck.  I often bring all three, because we occasionally find there's a week with no salads, or only a couple of desserts.  Layered desserts -- often made in a 13 x9 dish,  with a bottom crust and layers of pudding and cream or whipped topping -- are one of my favorite things to bring to a potluck because they are simple to make and serve quite a few people.

Last week, I happened to be thinking about what I would make for a dessert and was struck by a mild inspiration.  We have, in our family, a favorite pie which we call "Reese's Pie" after one which we enjoyed years ago at a truck stop.  I decided to try and translate that pie into a layered dessert to provide more servings.  It turned out well and so I thought I would share with you all how I did it.

I started with my favorite *gluten-free crust for such desserts:
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I use a blend of 1/2 c. brown rice flour, 1/4 c. plus 2 T. potato starch or cornstarch, and 2 T. tapioca starch.)
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. xanthan gum
1/3 cup melted butter

I melt the butter in a bowl and sift in the dry ingredients so all will be well mixed, then stir until crumbly and press evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish.  (This time I got really lazy and melted the butter in the oven, right in the glass dish, then sifted the dry ingredients into the dish too and mixed the crust right in the dish.  It worked okay, but the dish was really too hot to press the crust in place right away, and the mixing left the edges of the dish sort of messy looking.)  A metal pan will work but I prefer glass.  Bake at 350º until set.  Cool before adding next layer.

Peanut butter crumbs: In a larger bowl than you really need, combine 1 cup powdered sugar and and 1/4 to 1/3 cup peanut butter.  Use a pastry blender to produce fairly fine crumbs.  This will make quite a mess if you use too small a bowl.  Reserve about 3 T. crumbs for topping later.  Spread the remaining crumbs over the cooled, baked crust.

Empty 2 boxes (4-serving size) cook-and-serve type chocolate pudding into a large saucepan.  Gradually stir in 3 3/4 cups milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture comes to a full boil.  Cook and stir constantly for 1 more minute, then remove from heat.  Let pudding stand for just a few minutes, then pour the hot pudding over the peanut butter crumbs.  Cool for a few minutes, then place the filled baking dish in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Topping: Make chocolate whipped cream by mixing 3 T. baking cocoa into 1 pint whipping cream.  Beat until cream begins to thicken, then gradually beat in 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 t. vanilla until stiff peaks form.  Spread the whipped cream over the chilled pudding, and then sprinkle those reserved peanut butter crumbs on top.

Chill until ready to serve.  The powdered sugar in the whipped cream will stabilize it for up to 24 hours or so.  Makes about 15 to 16 servings depending on the size of the squares.

This was very easy to put together; it's just the waiting time between steps, but you can easily go off and do other things while you're waiting to do the next step for the dessert.  Best of all, it tasted yummy and went over very well at the potluck.  I was so pleased with how it came out that I'm making the same dessert again this week!

* Oh, and if you don't want or need to make the crust gluten-free, just substitute regular all-purpose flour and leave out the xanthan gum.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Intentionally Focused, Day 34

This lovely graphic is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
Here is my "Intentionally Focused" study from Thursday, March 6.  This was still week 7 of the study, which focused on our ministries.  This verse points out the importance of the ministries of sharing, giving, and showing hospitality.  Did you realize those activities come under the heading of ministry?  They certainly do!  Here goes:

S [Scripture]= "Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality."  (Romans 12:13)

O [Observation]=  Chapter 12 of Romans is part of a section titled by Scofield "Christian Life and Service for the Glory of God".  Verse 13 is part of a section (verses 9-16) titled "The Christian and those within God's family."  This verse lists two things that believers need to do:
1) Distribute to the necessity of saints;
2) Give themselves to the ministry of hospitality.
Two cross-references are given for "distributing to the necessity of saints":
"But to do good and to share forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."  (Hebrews 13:16)
"Use hospitality one to another without grudging."  (1 Peter 4:9)
So, sharing what we have with others -- both by way of  hospitality, and sharing in myriad other ways -- is a ministry we're to be involved in.

A [Application]= I'm thankful that God has given both my husband and me [especially my husband] "open hands".  We've always been very willing to share what we have with others -- not just our home, but even items like cars -- with others.  It  hasn't always been easy, but it's been, in general, our heart attitude.  I must admit that in years past there were a few times when my hospitality was somewhat grudging.  Thankfully, the Lord has helped me grow much in this area since then.

P [Prayer]=  "Lord, I am so thankful for Your Word and its clear teaching concerning how You want Your people to conduct themselves.  I thank You for the many opportunities You give us to be involved in the lives of other believers.  I pray that You will continue to give my husband and me open eyes to see needs -- and open hearts and hands to help meet those needs. I praise You so much for the opportunities to minister to people -- and thank You for all You are doing in hearts and lives.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

Just one or two more Bible study posts!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April Goals

* Read through the April portion of the One-Year Devotional Bible.
*  Read 4 chapters in The Power of a Godly Grandparent
 * Continue to implement some of the ideas from the above book
* Finish re-reading Say Goodbye to Survival Mode
* Begin to implement some of the ideas and strategies from the above book.
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones.
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook
* Complete "Why Easter Matters"  Bible study
* Keep up with my Sunday School study -- The Heart of a Woman Who Prays
* Exercise or walk at least 20 times.
* Get to bed by 9:45 pm each night.
* Limit sugar.
* Drink enough water each day.
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week.
* Take an overnight getaway with my husband
* Travel to visit family
* Post in both of my blogs as often as possible
* Reduce grocery bill by $5 per week consistently
* Spend several hours updating my A-store.
* Do research for setting up an Etsy shop (I've already joined Etsy)
* Make at least a dozen items for sale at craft fairs.
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family.
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal
* Make some winter banners
* Make gift tags from last year's Christmas cards.
* Complete several handcrafted birthday gifts for April birthdays.



And here is how March went:
* Read through the March  portion of the One-Year Devotional Bible -- DONE!
*  Read 4 chapters in The Power of a Godly Grandparent -- not done; only managed to read 2.
* Finish reading Say Goodbye to Survival Mode -- DONE!  (but now I am re-reading it and trying to implement some of what I'm learning)
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones -- DONE!
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook -- DONE!
* Continue with "Intentionally Focused" Bible study -- DONE!
* Keep up with my Sunday School study -- The Heart of a Woman Who Prays -- DONE!
* Exercise at least 20 times -- aargh, not done.  I'd share my excuses, but why bother?  One of the biggest reasons is the snow and ice.  I'm hoping for better conditions in April.
* Get to bed by 9:45 pm each night -- not done consistently.
* Limit sugar -- DONE!
* Drink enough water each day -- -- DONE! (but could do even better)
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week -- not done consistently, but progress is being made.
* Take an overnight getaway with my husband -- not done
* Watch grandkids so their parents can get away -- DONE!
* Post in both of my blogs as often as possible -- DONE!
* Reduce grocery bill by $5 per week (just a place to start!) -- managed this twice, but I'd like it to be consistent each week
* Spend several hours updating my A-store -- not done -- at least not the several hours.  I may have spent a total of an hour on this. 
* Do research for setting up an Etsy shop (I've already joined Etsy) -- not done.
* Make at least a dozen items for sale at craft fairs -- not done.
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family -- -- DONE!
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal -- DONE!
* Make some winter banners -- not done
* Make gift tags from last year's Christmas cards -- not done
* Complete several handcrafted birthday gifts for March and April birthdays -- DONE!

MARCH'S HEALTHY HABIT:  Exercise -- a miserable fail, but I did manage to stick with a healthy habit or two; limiting sugar and drinking more water.

WORD FOR 2014: BALANCE -- still striving for this, obviously.

So ... things could have gone better for March, but still I'm fairly pleased with what's been accomplished.  Onward and upward ... I'm optimistic about April!