Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blessings are Gluten-free and Not Processed

 Okay, I'm a slacker. It has been about 2 weeks since my last post. But can you forgive me? I have been going gluten-free. Bye bye wheat, barley, and rye.

  The doctor confirmed that my bio daughter has a gluten allergy. It takes a lot of research to have a child with a gluten allergy. No more going to the grocery store all willy nilly putting whatever I want in the basket. Now, I have to read each and every label like a food stalker. Thankfully there are people who are much more patient that have helped me. One friend has given us the low down on restaurants and places to shop and of course, the internet has been a wealth of information. If you need to be grain-free then go to Against All Grain. She has the most fabulous recipes that taste almost like the original grain recipe.

  At first I was trying to keep grain for the rest of us but it has become too tedious (at least for now) to make different meals and not to cross contaminate. So I am re-learning baking. It is a new season for us.

  Then we said goodbye to our pastor and his family and that was not easy so I will refrain from saying anything else about it at this time. My face is water-logged.

  But all those tears are not overlooked by God. He knows each one. 

Psalm 56:8
"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?"

  May I remain focused on God and His sovereignty over ALL things because in that is hope found. Hope should produce joy even in sadness. When a toilet overflows, what was inside comes out. My life should overflow so that what is inside comes out and I really want it to be joy and not sewage. 

  God has done too much that deserves praise. One, I was taught by a preacher that was deep in the Truth for 4 years. Two, my daughter is feeling better and who really needs grain when you have the Bread of Life? Three, the sun rose and set and it was spectacular. We had food to eat and clothes to keep us warm. My church doors were open and I could sing and praise God all I wanted. God has made me new and given me hope. Come on, who else would have taken in a poor, lying, thieving, manipulating, drinking, drug-using, suicidal, lust addicted person? God did and He gave me all these blessings, not because I had an inkling of good but because He purposed it. So, my only question is, "What will you do next, God? Show me more of Your wonderful glory and how I can serve You."

Psalm 56:10-13
"In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
 I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life."

Isn't it amazing that God's blessings fit perfectly, come at the perfect time, and completely refresh you?

Monday, January 14, 2013

You Want to Do What????

  At times in life, you get surprises.

Sometimes they are good. The hubby cleans the kitchen, takes care of all the animals and does the laundry. Your bio daughter spontaneously tells you of her passion for Christ.

Sometimes they are random. Your foster daughter decides to become a vegetarian at lunchtime when you have already made chicken tenders and fruit. You get a different movie than the one you were expecting from Netflix (Could you all please send "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" back to Netflix?) Your wildlife camera reveals that there is practically no wildlife activity in the back of your property but there are nightly critter parties right near your house.

Sometimes the surprises are shocking. The new doctor puts your bio daughter on a restrictive diet until you see him again in six weeks. The ob/gyn sends you off to have a mammogram and several ultrasounds.

Other times, they are sad. The wonderful pastor you have had for 4-1/2 years is moving back to his home church hundreds of miles away.

My bio daughter wants to go to Honduras on a mission trip for two weeks and one or both of those weeks may be without me and I said, "You want to do what????" But, how can you deny your teen such a thing when her heart just starts overflowing love for Christ and hurting people.

My foster daughter is doing pretty well...I think. Therein lies most of the problem. The communication has been difficult. Just when you think you have made some connection, you find out that it is as delicate as  a thread from a spider web. The other day right as I finish making lunch, she comes downstairs and informs me that she is now a vegetarian to which I reply in my most puzzled tone, " want to do what??? 'Cuz lunch may be a bit disappointing." She surveyed the plate of chicken tenders and fruit and then proclaims that she will start at dinner and that I should not forget. Ok.

Later in the week, we visit a new doctor for all my bio daughter's weird, unresolved symptoms. He really listened but then he announces that he wants to put her on a no grain, no dairy, no chicken diet for 2 weeks then no grain, no dairy, no chicken, no fruit diet for 2 weeks until we see him again. My bio daughter and I were both thinking, "You want to do what???" Ok.

After that doctor visit, I bravely drag myself in for my woman checkup. Admittedly, it has been a while, like years. I was so nervous that I would get chewed out that my stomach was upset which, if you are a woman, you can imagine how it added to my anxiety. I would die right on that table if a gastrointestinal upset happened during the checkup, instantly die I tell you. This is why I wish Titus 2 was put into action because no one told me about these things and it has always been one shocking surprise after another since my teenage years. Anyway, I digress. So, I bravely go in and try to focus on other things when the doctor informs me that I need a mammogram and an ultrasound. She did not scold me for not coming in yearly. She knows why women avoid these checkups but she happily tells me that she would prefer I went that day, just real quick to get it done. In and out she says. Arriving at the clinic, I sign in and hand the receptionist my sheet from the doctor at which point she informs me that I am having three ultrasounds. She names them loud enough for the entire waiting room to hear. "You want to do what?!!!" 
(This is exciting and even fun. This is not what I had done.)
While turning maroon, I explain that she must be confused. She directs me to sit down and fill out the five pages of paperwork. My heart pounds when a nurse quietly calls my name and I prepare to plead my case. Possibly sensing my rising protestations, she quickly informs me of the list of procedures again and that the mammogram is first. My resolve sinks defeated into my stomach. She hands me what looks to be a Bounty Select-a-size paper towel, the smallest section, and tells me to put it on so the opening is in the front. They must get a good chuckle knowing that it is not possible for it to close at all. (Note to self: go green & make my own hospital exam gown) Dressed in the napkin, I expose myself to the jaws of the machine and she tells me to look left at which point I get a good view of an extremely large painting of a young Victorian woman arm behind her head, relaxing on a chaise whilst dreamily looking off in the distance. Apparently, she forgot to put on anything under her sheer dress. Who in their right mind thought that women would like to see this while having a mammogram??? Afterward, I am left to reflect on it all while waiting for the ultraviolation...I mean ultrasounds. Ah, surprises. Let's just say I had several moments of "You want to do what!!!" Poor ultrasound technician.

Needless to say, I lived to tell about it and I am so thankful to be done with it all. In the face of any surprise - good, bad, random, or embarrassing; how thankful I am that I have God. He is definitely long-suffering with my many "You want to do what?" moments. Today I heard a radio sermon say, "God does not change us so that He can love us. He loves us so that He can change us." Thank you Lord because I could not pull off anything that would even amount to a hill of beans. Without a doubt God took me when I was a worthless rogue and He has changed me and still is changing me. My procrastination and protesting is lessening but I am SO glad that my salvation is not dependent upon me dressing in a baby wipe and being squeezed in vice grips. 

Matthew 9:17
"Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Grandmothers Should be on the Endangered Species List Pt. 2

   Our society was once flourishing with grandmotherly activity but today, the landscape of our culture has changed drastically. Mostly gone are the wizened faces of maternal perfection. We are so caught up in being young and hip that being elderly in public is almost a crime. Grandmothers have lost their desire to teach their precious grandchildren life lessons and instead look to learn text lingo and find the coolest cut of jeans. I guess I am a fuddy dud. I do not like when a woman in her late 60s is prancing around the wholesale club in her skinny jeans with spiky hot pink-tipped hair. Maybe I feel like they should be showing the rest of us that life is not so shallow. Instead, I am finding it more common to be literally faced with an aging woman's decolletage exposing more than I care to see. Is no one else depressed that the message they are sending is that we need to put more time into looking like a tramp? No, granny I do not want to see your bra, the back of your thong, or your belly button!

  My grandmothers were beautiful and they did no such things. I respect them still today. They hold a place of honor in my life. This week I want to introduce you to my other grandmother. She was a jewel for sure and she did not even have a lip piercing.

"Grandma Ruby"
  My grandmother lived about six hours away from us so we would usually get to see her once or twice a year. She was amazing. Her husband had left her and then he died of cancer. Two weeks before I was born, she remarried. They were so in love and did the craziest things. Once they took a small fishing boat and floated down the Mississippi River. They stopped along the way and had the wildest adventures. When I was about 9, my mother was pretty much single and working all the time. We lived in government housing and she did not allow us to go outside while she was not home. Grandma Ruby was so sad that we would have to spend our summer in our little rectangle apartment that she suggested we come stay with her. It was hard for me to leave my mother. I worried about her being alone but man, was it wonderful to be able to play.

  Grandma Ruby was the queen of free activities. She could find the best things to do and it never cost a dime. She enrolled us in the Girls' Club and we learned to swim, do gymnastics, and make crafts. She took us fishing and taught us how to bait our own hook and remove the fish. Later, she taught me how to clean a fish. We went cave exploring at state parks and had picnics. She let us trim the bushes in front of her house. Now this may not sound fun to you but if you grew up without a yard of your own and had the chance to use clippers, well, you would understand. She let us play office and taught us how to make our own lunches. We learned how to make butter and homemade ice cream and how amazingly cool garage sales are even if you only have a dollar.

  One important aspect of her life was caring for others and she did not leave us out of this area either. She checked in on the sick and elderly neighbors on her street and took them food. Grandma Ruby taught us that sometimes just sitting next to someone quietly was the best gift. It is a rare thing for people to even wave at their neighbors nowadays, much less, know them by name. Everyone on her street loved her.

  Grandma Ruby also taught us that it is never too late to learn something new. She had never learned to swim or ride a bike and she always wanted to do both. During our summer stays, we spent an hour a week at her swim lessons. She loved the water. She never did learn how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle but my grandfather bought her a big three-wheeled one with a large basket on the back and she would ride all over.
She was determined and she was no quitter. You have to work hard and keep pressing forward and above all, you read the Bible, which she did with us every night during the summer.

  As I entered my rebellious teenage years, it became hard for her to keep us entertained. We gave her a run for her money and eventually, she had to retire from keeping us all summer. I was not very nice but she was never afraid to call me out or tell me about God. I know that woman prayed for me A LOT. Once I had kids of my own, she helped me out and I took her on adventures. She still wasn't afraid to call me out when I was being a stubborn wife or stressed-out mother. We had great times together. My last visit with her, she was not talking and I knew it was her time. This time I prayed for her and read her the Bible. Slowly and peacefully, she slipped away.

  One thing I will never ever forget is that she told me that I have to die to self everyday. You cannot complain, be rude, or whine if you have died to self. God knew I needed someone to tell me that A LOT.

  Where are the grandmas who are teaching? We are losing our grip on values and even reality without these women. Let's forget the whales and the pandas and save the grandmothers. It is my goal to find a woman, preferably with gray or white hair, who has not given up on life or grabbed so tight onto the world that they are trying to be 18. I am watching for that woman who is strong enough to embrace the season she is in and use her wisdom to bless others. Are you out there? Or should I just pierce my chin?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Grandmothers Should be on the Endangered Species List Pt.1

  The rare, elusive, and amazing grandmother was common just 3 decades ago. They could be seen in kitchens baking cookies, in the libraries with packs of grandchildren, at the banks ensuring that children were given suckers before lunch, and at bedsides reading stories. Where have they gone? Why are their numbers decreasing? Today we will examine one of the rare breeds of amazing grandmothers.

  The cold has brought on nostalgic and weepy feelings, so as I passed from my kitchen into my living room, the old pictures of my grandmothers caught my eye and caused me to pause. Those women were awesome and I miss them terribly! It is sad that many people I have spoken with have not had the experience that I did with my grandparents.

  God blessed me with wonderful grandparents I think because I needed something to keep me grounded in sanity. They were a big part of my life up until I was 12. They each had different qualities and yet, they were so perfect for me. It is my goal to dedicate a post to each one in hopes that by sharing their characteristics and awesomeness we can see an increase in amazing grandmothers.

  The name was there long before I was born. The first grandchild was a girl  but then after that was a long string of boys. Ten years after that first girl, I helped add a little more estrogen to the mix then my sister came along a few years later.  Meemaw was overjoyed because she loved to sew, make crafts, and bake and none of the boys wanted any part of it except the by-product of the baking. After all, they had 20 mostly wooded acres that needed exploring. They would eat their pancakes and disappear until lunch only to vanish again. She made the best pancakes and if you asked, she would cut them into bite-sized shapes. We would eat stacks of pancakes and then eagerly await whatever magic she had for the day. Homemade pudding pops, a  chapter from "Through Looking Glass," making a Barbie mansion from a box (those old bandaid tins made great washing machines), or just a walk through the woods to see what was there. She was brave. Meemaw never ran from a snake or big barking dogs. She was a woman of small stature, 5'1" at her tallest, but she seemed like a super hero. My sister and I were afraid to walk up her quarter mile long driveway alone but one day we decided to try, barefoot nonetheless. Along the way we encountered a snake and ran like the wind across the rocks back to the house. Meemaw gently took us by the hand and walked us right up to the snake. She showed us that it was not even poisonous and that it was injured. The lesson was to be careful and take time to understand what is really going on in situations. You do not mess with the snake, especially if you do not know what it is but you can observe it and see creation in all its wonder.

  Meemaw played games with us and ran around crazy. Never had I laughed as much as we did together. She knew how to be quiet with us, too. Sometimes no words were needed. She was a master at redirecting energy and it taught us how to think creatively on our own. The menagerie of paper bag puppets spawned many skits. She listened to our ideas and stories with genuine interest. Meemaw would stop what she was doing just for you if you needed her to do so. Somehow, at her house chores and bedtime were fun. We polished the wood floors by sliding on them with our socks or dragging each other on a blanket. At night, she would tuck us in, read us a story, and say a prayer. We felt safe. Then, you never  knew when or how, the bedbug would visit. One night, after we had been lying quietly in bed for at least 10 minutes, we heard this slow dragging sound in the hallway. It was getting closer and closer. Shhhhhkkkkk, shhhhhhkkkk, shhhhhhkkkk.
  As it neared our room, we huddled together watching the door when a lump appears sliding towards the bed. Beyond ourselves with excitement, we squeal then our grandmother springs up and tickles us. She had pulled herself down the hall on a piece of cardboard, wrapped in a blanket. It was hysterical. With Meemaw, you never could cause a problem unless you disobeyed and did something dangerous. If you  broke something accidentally, it was ok. If you fought with your sister, she gave you time to get yourself back to your senses and then she explained why you should not fight. Meemaw took us to church and she lovingly encouraged us to dress like a young lady, even going as far as letting you borrow a pin or necklace. And if you just so happened to lose that pin that was so dear to her, she would hug you as you cried and tell you that even though it was special, she loved you more than that pin.

  On your birthday, Meemaw made any cake you wanted, even decorated it the way you wanted. If you wanted to help, she patiently showed you how to make the roses and pipe beautiful scalloped trim around the bottom. The world was limitless. Botany, literature, music, science, art was intriguing. She had a child-like wonder about creation. It is one thing I think I got from her.

  Meemaw cared for people and she did it her whole life. Her actions were incredible examples of living like Christ. She took time to visit girls who were in her Sunday School class. She took in, ministered to, and cared for her brother who had AIDS until he died when everyone else was too afraid. Her parents came to live with her until they passed away and just when I thought she would have a rest, she became ill. That was very hard for me to watch but she never lost her  grace and compassion. She ministered to others even more. Meemaw prepared her home and then rested in God's care. My grandfather never left her side. It was the only time I remember that he missed church.

  One of things she did with us every as kids was make Christmas cookies and we do this as a family still at Christmastime. Below is my grandma's recipe for making wonderfully, perfect decorated cookies and do not skimp by smearing on frosting, using the icing recipe below and paint your cookies with paintbrushes. Of course, you also have to add sprinkles.
(some of our creations this year)
Old-fashioned Tea Cakes
- 3/4 c. shortening
- 1/4 c. milk (sometimes I use eggnog or custard)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 c. sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 4 c. flour
- 1/4 c. tsp nutmeg (omit if you use eggnog or custard)

Cream shortening, sugar. Beat eggs, add milk, vanilla and add to shortening.
Mix flour, baking powder, nutmeg together. Slowly, add to shortening. Mix
until blended. Roll out and cut into shapes. Bake 10-12 min.

-4 c. powdered sugar
-4 Tbsp warm water
-2 Tbsp milk (or for vibrant color use 6 Tbsp. water and 3 Tbsp. meringue
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Sift powdered sugar. Beat with water, milk, vanilla
. (I like using the meringue powder best)