Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Let Us Not be Idle

The majority of us are in a "lockdown" state, meaning that we are supposed to stay home and away from others who are not in our own households. Right now, things might seem bleak and it can be difficult to look on the sunny side.

But believe me, there is a bright side. For me, the ability to stay home for a few weeks is something I have actually been craving. Do I want that at the expense of people being very ill? NO! I wish I could stay home just because we had enough money to make do without me working an outside job. Freelance writing has never brought in enough money to allow that. The years that I stayed home while homeschooling our children were very lean - too lean.

These days, I don't homeschool anymore as our youngest child graduated last May. We have started a home business (actually a farm) and we are living the homestead life while still working day jobs.

For the next three weeks, I am off work from the library. Hmmm, how to make the best use of my time? Will I become bored? 

The other day, I made homemade three bean soup with the canned goods I put up last fall. Black beans, navy beans, and cranberry (pinto) beans with celery, canned tomatoes, carrots, a quart of vegetable broth (also home canned), artichokes (ok, from the store - can't grow those up north too well), dehydrated kale crumbled in, black pepper, onion, and a bay leaf. That's all.

Yesterday, I baked a keto blueberry bread (cake) with almond flour for my husband following the diet. I also baked a gluten-free rye type bread (using caraway seeds, not rye flour) for me. Wowsa! That gluten-free bread is just like the expensive stuff I was buying for $5.99 a loaf at the store! I did not use the olives it called for, and I did not have superfine rice flour; just used the regular. I also subbed out oat flour for the sorghum flour. 

I made a large batch of sweet potato pancakes on Sunday to have on hand for quick breakfasts. 

Today, I made a vegan, gluten free batch of brownies for myself. Nobody else will touch them (because they have a vegan fear). I love the brownies because they are full of fiber, something we all need and probably don't get enough of.

Also today, I planted a 72 cell tray of plant starts - tomatoes, tomatillos, celery, watermelon, a golden melon, bee balm (lemon), and some Pampas and purple fountain grasses for Jeff's bird pens. In the coming weeks, I will begin other plant starts. If all goes to plan and we actually get a warm spring, I will be ready to get some things straight into the garden.

Keeping busy while confined to your own property can be challenging if you aren't used to it. But the alternative is anxiety and a breakdown of mental and spiritual health. It's important to stay positive even in times such as these. 

If you have a prayer request, feel free to leave me a comment. I have found that praying for others is one of the biggest stress relievers for me. Remember that God is ultimately in control. Nothing surprises Him and nothing can overcome Him.

Wishing you health and happiness - and productivity 🙋

Friday, March 06, 2020

Kindness - and Prayer

Kindness seems to be a trend these days. Facebook has different kindness groups on the roster, one of them in my county. I joined the group to see what they have to say and what they are doing.  Encouraging people to be kind at a time when our political climate is something other than that is a great thing.

However, I think there is always the danger of sharing your random acts of kindness on a social media page and then slapping yourself on the back for it.

So, how can we encourage people to spread kindness without it becoming a self-serving, egotistical project?

I'm not sure, but I think praying would help. In fact, I think prayer is crucial to any endeavor we decide to undertake, whether it be random acts of kindness or anything else. 

Because being kind doesn't get one to heaven. That's right. Only by God's saving work on the Cross can one reach an eternal life with Him. Jesus gave His all when He allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross and laden with every sin that had been or ever would be committed. And we receive that grace by admitting that we are sinners and that we cannot save ourselves. We must believe in Jesus Christ and that He died in our place and then rose from the dead to live forever. And we must confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness - then turn away from sin. 

It's called REPENTANCE. And it's what gets us to heaven.

I want to share with you something I began doing in December when something happened in our immediate family that caused me such great concern that I could not sleep. Anxiety had me in its grip. 

I decided I needed something to take my mind off of myself and my problems. When I perused Facebook, I realized that so many people need Jesus, whether they know it or not. So I committed myself to praying for two Facebook friends each day until I had exhausted my friends list. To date, I still have two full pages of friends for which to pray.

When I pray for these friends, I let them know right away that I am praying for them throughout the day. I can't tell you what a difference it is making in some peoples' lives. I have received specific prayer requests for some. Others have messaged me to tell me that on their day they were going through difficult times and that prayer made the difference for them. Others have replied that they had been waiting for their special day. And the list goes on.

As I reach the end of this commitment in the next month or two, can I encourage you to take up where I have left off? I would really love to see this praying thing continue and spread through Facebook. People need prayer. To date, NOBODY, even those who are the furthest from Christianity (and admit that) have refused to let me pray for them. I think that, deep inside, people have a deep rooted need for the spiritual, specifically for the living God. 

If you will commit to printing off your friends list and praying for your Facebook (or any other social media) friends, please share in the comment section on this post. In this world, at this time in history, prayer is more critical than ever.

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 Iñaki 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." (merriam-webster.com)

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.*