Friday, February 14, 2020

Book Review and Giveaway: Parable of the Brown Girl by Khristi Lauren Adams

Parable of the Brown Girl: The Sacred Lives of Girls of Color is a brand spanking new book by Khristi Lauren Adams. This is not a fictional book based upon a parable. Rather, it is a book that looks at real life girls whose personal stories teach us a lesson. The author, Khristi Lauren Adams is a chaplain and teacher who knows the subject well because she herself is a "brown girl".

February is Black History Month, a month that celebrates black women. I like that Adams uses the word brown to describe black skin color. After all, aren't we all some shade of brown - from the lightest person in the world to the darkest?

I have enjoyed reading Parable of the Brown Girl. Through the girls' stories, I felt the same thought hit me over and over. Women are the same inside. We all want to be loved. We all want to be accepted. We all want to know that we aren't the only ones dealing with "stuff" in our lives.

Adams does a great job of letting the reader know that listening to each other is key. God is using the brown girls of this world to make a difference. Let's listen to their voices and help them to know that they are a vital part of God's great story.

GIVEAWAY: I have a copy of Parable of the Brown Girl to give away to a Following31 reader. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post and be sure to include your email address so I can let you know if you win. I will randomly choose a winner on February 29.

In the meantime, be sure to check out the book with clever videos on YouTube. #parableofthebrowngirl

Monday, January 27, 2020

Garbage In - Garbage Out

Remember that old saying, "Garbage in, garbage out"? Essentially, it means that what you put into your body is what, eventually, comes out. The saying also applies to the mind. What you watch or read (or listen to) eventually manifests itself somehow. For a select few, it has resulted in people addicted to violent gaming committing violent real-life crimes.

These days, as I try to eat cleaner for my body, I am also trying my best to keep the garbage out of the rest of me. In the past, this really wasn't too hard to do. I have lived in a bubble where my social life consisted of church and homeschool group activities - and I am no way sorry for that!

But we own a television and we are hooked up to the internet. I work a job where I am around other people on a daily basis. Yes, I work in a library, but that doesn't mean I don't hear things that I shouldn't. There are a few ladies in our book discussion group who are very liberal in more ways than one and they are extremely loud about it. Yikes.

I can control what I see and hear while I am at home. I can choose to watch on our internet enabled television only that which is good and clean. I can choose to read only the books and other materials that are clean and wholesome. What I cannot often control is what I hear while at work or the grocery store - or anywhere else where the public is involved.

And that's what I struggle with. I cringe when someone swears. I don't enjoy crude jokes. I especially get angry when my Savior is cursed.

I think that the key to receiving garbage that you never wanted anyway and then not allowing it come out of you and harm someone else is to pray every day about it and to surround yourself with that which uplifts Christ as much as you can, like reading your Bible daily. Knowing Scripture by heart is a powerful weapon against the enemy.

Jesus was around vile people while He walked this earth. He did not allow them to corrupt Him. He will not allow the vile people in my life to corrupt me - or you - either.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Following 31 as a Baby Boomer

I will admit it - I am a baby boomer, just having gotten in there at the tail end. I'm getting older and all of my five children have reached age 18 or older. In many ways, getting older is not a whole lot of fun. To be fair, there are some perks. Senior discounts anyone?

What has been popping up on my radar these days has to do with baby boomers and their children, specifically finances. Consumer's Reports has published an interesting article concerning the "gifts" many parents have given their grown children. The majority of these gifts are in the form of cash. The magazine calls this an epidemic.

I know that oftentimes seniors are split between wanting to help their children and wanting them to "just grow up". This is a touchy subject for the many boomers who find themselves in the situation of giving to adult kids who keep holding out their hands for more.

My question is, would you consider it loving to continue to give and give until you have nothing left to give - then find yourself in the position of being penniless and, maybe, find yourself with no resources to sustain you in your retirement? From all that I've read, that seems to be where many boomers are heading or have actually gone in the United States today. And that's sad because, from all people tell me, Social Security isn't all that secure, or lucrative.

Forbes Magazine has also published an article on this "epidemic". The author states that giving to adult kids who fully able to work and earn their own incomes is "unhealthy". She states, "The unhealthy result of too much leads to dependency and to your own possible financial destruction in your later years." 

I am a sucker for the elderly. Put me in a room full of small children and I immediately feel my anxiety rise. I love children, I really do. But I seem to be more at ease with the elderly. Perhaps it's because I know I'm reaching that place sooner than later. Maybe I just love to hear their stories (the very old can tell you things about which you could never imagine!) Whatever the reason, they have a special place in my heart. And my heart breaks for those who have given to their children out of love just to find that their life savings is now depleted. 

Don't even get me started on the tragedy that has befallen so many American veterans who gave and gave, and now find themselves homeless and alone.

My question is, who will step in and take care of these old people who gave so much? Will it be the grown kids who "borrowed" from Mom and Dad? Will it be the Americans who owe their very lives to those homeless vets? 

And what if it happens to me?

As my husband and I make plans for our future retirement years, we talk about this. Our kids are no different than anyone else's. They are not perfect. We are taking steps to provide a home business that will supplement Social Security. We are also taking steps to make sure that our children don't fall into the trap of dependency upon aging parents. And if that means that our kids fall on their faces, it will also mean that they have learned something.

The Proverbs 31 Woman is someone who I think works with her husband to ensure that the children are mature and able to survive this harsh world by relying upon God and not on aging parents. 

"She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue." Proverbs 31:26 (NIV)

I don't think it's ever too early to teach financial responsibility and the value of hard work to our children. Along with that, maybe we need to remind those children of the fifth Commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." (KJV)

Friday, January 03, 2020

Resources to Guide You in your Writing Career

Photo by IƱaki del Olmo on Unsplash

Many times we find we have a natural aptitude to something and we really want to make a real go of it. For those of us who love the written word, that desire to put words to the page and, many times, see it published and get things moving can be overwhelming. With that desire to write and publish, we would be crazy to not hope to see some sort of an income come out of it.

The first step to any career is research. There are a good number of write for hire opportunities out there, but the competition is fierce. Fiercer yet is the competition for freelancers. We often find publications that want to publish our work, but that competition will not pay us anything other than putting our words into print - and on top of that, they want to keep all rights to our words.

For me, the desire to write is only overcome by the desire to read. Those two desires go hand in hand. In order to be a good writer, one must read like crazy, and not just in the genre in which he or she writes. Expanding knowledge in creative writing happens when we read lots of words that we, perhaps, have never before seen. These days, it's still important to have a vast vocabulary on which to draw when writing.

I prefer reading and writing historical fiction. Do you know that the English language in 1692 varies greatly from the English language of today? Yeah, you do. I subscribe to word of the day by Word Genius. I can't tell you how many new words I have learned, as well as the origins and history of the words. It's a great way to expand your writing vocabulary. Other places would be to, well, peruse a good thesaurus. Did you know that the word "peruse" does not mean to casually glance down a row of something as we were previously taught to believe? Here's the real meaning: "to examine or consider with attention and in detail : study." (

Keep learning the craft. Writing a novel or a good short story is more than simply sitting down at a computer and tapping out 100,000 words or more. Some of my favorite learning tools are:

Writer's Digest - a fantastic magazine that has been helping writers learn and keep abreast of current writing events and contests

The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray and Bret Norris

NaNoWriMo - Writing a complete draft in 30 days in the month of November

First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner

I have also joined a local writing group as well as the American Christian Fiction Writers group. Both have come to be invaluable sources of encouragement as well as learning experiences.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Book Review: Love Changes Everything by Micah Berteau

This past month, I read a book about love - God's love. I know there are a lot of books out there on this same subject, so I was not initially thrilled about reading yet another one. After all, this topic seems to have been overdone in Christian circles. My specific wariness was due to the increasing feel good, lukewarm church ideology that we must just love everyone to pieces and ignore sin. So, when I was asked if I would review Micah Berteau's book about love changing everything, my suspicions were up.

I am glad to report to you that this book is not just about God's love and acceptance but nothing of the need for repentance. I found that many times Pastor Berteau points the reader toward a faith that includes repentance without being legalistic or giving the impression that one can buy his or her way into heaven.

There is a world of fake out there and I think that everyone can agree that it's difficult to know who to believe and what to believe, even when news comes from what we first think is from a reliable source. I appreciate that Berteau points his readers to the only One who IS truth, who speaks only the truth, who really embodies what truth is all about. After all, Jesus Christ is God, right? And God is truth.

I read Love Changes Everything cover to cover. I didn't find anything that I feel is not Scriptural. And that is what keeps me reading a religious book about love. I can wholeheartedly say that I can recommend this book to others.

*I received a copy of Love Changes Everything in exchange for my honest opinion. My thoughts are my own.*

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Homemade Vegetable Broth

It's that time of the year when we are all cleaning out our gardens and prepping them for winter. That is, those of us in the northern part of the country are. We have already had a frost or two and most of the stuff in the garden doesn't look so hot. We had a terrible tomato year, as the spring took forever to warm up and most of the summer weather was less than summery. Cabbage and greens did great, as usual. For prepping the garden, I have been tearing out most of the bigger stuff and just tossing it on top of the ground, then layering hay and straw from the goat barn. 

This year I found an old garbage can (rubber), and my husband cut out the bottom of it. I scrounged around until I found a lid that fit it. I guess finding what you need is a good reason to keep some things around that you normally would dispose of. At any rate, I have placed the bottomless garbage can just outside of my garden (it's fenced in) so that I can easily reach it for putting in garbage scraps and what have you all winter long. The lid is necessary to keep snow out. The can is a blue but I wish I had a black one. I want the stuff to heat up. The theory is that I will have some usable compost come spring.

A couple of weeks ago I gathered up some last of the season produce out of the garden, veggies such as green beans, zucchini, rutabagas (add some zing), oregano, and onions. I had some organic celery from the store, as well as dehydrated morel mushrooms that we found a couple of years ago. 

Throw everything into a large stock pot, cover it with plenty of water, bring it to a boil, and then simmer for a couple of hours. Strain out the veggies, twice if you don't want any "sediment" on the bottom of your jars, and you're ready to can it. 

Vegetable broth is low acid, so I pressure can it. It takes 25 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure for quarts, or 30 minutes for those of us over 1000 feet in altitude. Add 5 minutes for every 1000 feet.

My broth comes out a pretty color due to the mushrooms. This is a good food item to have during the winter and is a great way to use up a little of this and a little of that at season's end.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Summer Canning Warm-up with Cranberry Beans

This is the time of year that canning becomes a nearly daily activity for me. Last week, I saw that the green beans in my garden were nearly ready to pick. That was when I decided I had best get the dried cranberry beans that I had bought earlier canned and put away. In other words, I wanted my other "projects" completed before the busy green bean cycle began. And began it did! I have already picked my three rows of pole beans twice in the last three days, canning seven quarts and freezing another two, all the while cooking up a large stockpot of fresh beans for the week.

If you have never canned dried beans (pinto, black, navy, cannellini, etc.) before, keep reading as I "walk" you through the process of putting up the cranberry beans.

Years ago, I began using a "jiggler" pressure regulator with my Presto pressure canner. The pressure gauge can go "off" at times, and I didn't want to spend the money to send it to Presto - we don't have anyone close who will test the gauges anymore. What I like about this type of regulator is that I don't have to keep my eyes on the canner constantly to make sure that the pressure isn't building up too much. I can tell by listening - you sort of get the feel for it after time. I DO stay in the kitchen while using the canner, however.

Please refer to your canner's user manual before pressure canning for the first time.

The first step to canning dried beans is to soak them for at least 12 hours and then cook for 30 minutes. Make sure that you sort the beans, taking out any stones or bad beans, and rinse well. Cover the beans with plenty of water, as they will really swell in size. Rinse after soaking and fill with fresh water, enough to cover the beans, and cook with a gentle boil.

Since I did so many of them, I had two stockpots going.

While the beans are cooking, it's a good time to wash your jars and lids/rings. I wash in pretty hot water, but I don't bother to sterilize the jars. The canning process is so long and the pressure so much, that the jars and food inside get "sterilized" enough. If you are concerned, go ahead and sterilize them first.

Using a funnel, ladle the beans and cooking liquid into your jars, allowing about 1/2 inch at the top. Make sure you get out air bubbles as necessary.
Wipe each jar's rim with a clean wash rag and place a lid with screw band on each. Fill the pressure canner with water as recommended. My canner uses three quarts of water (I add a splash of vinegar to keep my jars cleaner - I have really hard water). Go ahead and place it on high heat.

 Put your jars into the canner and put the cover on, being sure that it is "latched" and secure. Reminder: Have you checked the lid as recommended in your instruction booklet? Everything needs to be in good order before using! Exhaust the air once steam blows freely from the valve stem - set the the timer for 10 minutes. The air will be exhausted from the canner and the pressure plugs "popped". 

Then, you can put the pressure valve (I use the 15 lb.) on the stem and begin to build pressure.

Once the jiggler is swaying easily back and forth gently and not showing stress (rocking hard), or the pressure gauge shows 15 lbs. pressure, begin timing.

Dried beans take 65 minutes for those who are below 1000 feet below sea level. Since we are a bit over 1000 feet, I have to add 10 minutes, making total canning time 75 minutes. 

If the pressure wants to go over the 15 lbs., lower the heat a little at a time in order to maintain pressure. If it goes below 15 lbs., you will have to start timing all over again, so keep an eye on it. Also, you don't want it to get so high that the lid blows. This happened to a friend of mine several years ago. She was canning tomatoes and the lid blew off and through the roof. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Glass was everywhere. Again, keep a close eye on the amount of pressure and don't allow it to get too high or under the 15 lbs.

When your timer goes off and the required time is up, turn off the burner and wait for the pressure to return to zero. The pressure plugs will deflate and go down. Wait a few extra minutes to be sure! Open the canner carefully and use a jar lifter to remove the jars. Place on a towel away from any drafts. Allow the lids to seal on their own and don't attempt to force a seal by thumping on them. Let them cool for 24 hours and don't move them before that. Then, test the seals, label, and store away from direct lighting or excess heat. Use up or freeze any that didn't seal.

I ended up with nine canned pints and another two in the freezer.

Canned beans are a great asset in the winter. You don't want to have to resort to canned beans from the store if you can help it. They are not soaked for twelve hours before canning, which improves digestibility. Also, they are usually canned with sodium. You can always add salt if you want it, but having too much already added makes it a pain.