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Archive for June, 2011

Have you ever had leftover food that you really didn’t feel good about throwing out, but still you didn’t look forward to having to eat the re-heated version?

I came from a long line of very ‘scotch’ people who cannot abide waste, nor can we usually afford much waste.  And so…we eat leftovers.  Now setting up housekeeping myself years and years ago, I have intentionally created meals that were large enough to feed us at least twice, and my sweet husband never complains—in fact, he encourages it.  It saves so much time in the kitchen, and though I enjoy cooking and baking to a certain degree, it can also often become a tiresome chore.

However, one dish I really don’t care for in its re-heated version is macaroni and cheese.  We seldom have that dish, but occasionally, for variety, I do indulge.  This week I made it because I knew our granddaughter loves cheese and thought she would enjoy it.  She did, but still, we have leftovers.  I pushed them to the back of the refrigerator for a day or two, but yesterday decided we must have it.  I took out the dish and stared at it.  It was simply too much to waste, and I really did not look forward to having to eat it warmed over.  As I stared into the dish, I suddenly felt inspired.  Why warm it over as mac and cheese?  Why not incorporate it into something more exciting?

So…soon my brain was working.  What could I do with it?  Well, I decided to make it sort of ‘Mexican’.  First I grabbed a pound of hamburger and started it browning in a skillet.  Then I chopped the cold mass of macaroni into hunks to cover the bottom of a casserole dish, and looked into the refrigerator.  Salsa!  So I drizzled salsa over the cold macaroni chunks.  Hmmm…chopped onion…and, yum!  Olives!  I sprinkled chopped onion over that and then chopped some olives and sprinkled  those on also.  Next I opened a can of refried beans and dropped spoonfuls in dollops over the top of the other things in the dish.  Meanwhile, the hamburger was finished browning, so I drained and rinsed it and returned it to the skillet, adding some chilli powder, garlic salt, and cumin and just a bit of water.  I stirred it a bit over the still-hot burner until I felt it was coated well, then dumped it over the refried beans in the casserole dish.  Now, I was afraid it was a bit dry, so I cleaned out a half-used jar of spaghetti sauce that was in the back of my fridge over the whole thing and topped it with grated cheddar and finally sprinkled a few more chopped olives on top.  I stuck it into the oven and baked it for ½ hour at 350.

I had earlier picked, cleaned and canned green beans, and had a pan full of beans cooking to go alongside the casserole, so I set the table and waited to see what I had created.

When Rick got home and we sat down to dinner, he looked at the casserole and said, “What’s this?”  “Leftover mac and cheese,” I replied.  “Try it!”  I could tell he thought it didn’t look anything at all like mac and cheese, but always cheerful about my cooking experiments, he dug in.  And so did I.  And guess what?  It was delicious!  And guess what else!  We have enough left over for tonight!  Who’d have ever thought I’d look forward to leftover macaroni and cheese?  But today I do!

This morning as I gave thought to the day, and the leftover casserole ahead for the evening, I had to smile.  I thought of all the times I’ve made unsavory ‘messes’ in my life and then prayed and asked God to ‘fix it’ for me.  And He always does it.  Not because I’ve ordered Him, but because I’ve repented, and admitted my failure; admitted to Him that I tried to do something on my own without consulting Him.  Or that I got impatient waiting and tried to ‘fix’ something I felt needed fixing, without waiting for His direction.  How thankful I am that He is always there.  And do you know what?  Many times He makes something absolutely wonderful out of my messes!  I look back at some of the amazing things He has done in my life, and I simply worship Him for His great love for me and patience with my foolish ways.  And trust me!  The things He does for me is a lot better than leftover mac and cheese!

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Through All Generations

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.  I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.” (Psalm 89:1,2)

This morning in my time with God I was reading Psalm 89.  As I opened my Bible and began reading, that first verse was particularly poignant because we have a very special visitor in our home right now who is not of my generation.  Nor of the next generation after me.  She is our precious granddaughter and God cares enough about her to remind me that our time together must not only be about playing together and watching her precious cuteness, nor even about me setting an example of godliness for her.  No, it is imperative that we teach our children and grandchildren of God’s great love and mercy with our words.  We MUST speak of it to them regularly and faithfully.

When I think back a generation or two, I realize how very careful my elders were to teach God’s rules and commands.  However, it took a lot of years for me to comprehend (and I’m not sure I ever will completely) His GREAT love for me, His gifts to me, and His patience with me and His total forgiveness.  And now I finally understand that it isn’t until I begin to understand His love and His total forgiveness and His patience that I can begin to enjoy a close relationship with Him.

As I peeked into the guest room before retiring myself last night, I saw the sweet innocence of childhood; the precious repose of one who knows she is completely loved and my heart felt tight within my breast.  I want her to know God’s love.  I want her to experience His forgiveness.  And I want her to live out His joy.  Only then will she ever know complete peace.  This is my prayer for her and for our other grandchildren.

And it’s a huge challenge that God has given to us.  But He will not leave us to do it alone.  Of that I am perfectly confident!

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This morning when I turned on my online music station, the first song it played was a Gaither Vocal Band song called ‘Sitting at the Feet of Jesus.’  It was particularly poignant at that moment because that’s exactly where I’d been for the previous hour and a half.  It’s probably my favorite place to be, and I’m quite particular to guard that time of my day.

One phrase that they repeat several times in the song is this: “He is all my righteousness.”  It makes me think of a type of rose-colored glasses that God uses when He looks at me.  Because He looks at me through Jesus, all my defects, all my blemishes, and all my sins are hidden and I look nothing short of lovely and perfect to my precious Father.

These glasses were extremely expensive.  They cost Jesus everything—His very life—and they cost me nothing at all, and yet I am the one that benefits!  How could I not love Him and enjoy every moment I can snatch to be with Him?  We have such delightful conversations, and He teaches me so very patiently and yet diligently.

I have journaled our times together for more than thirty years and occasionally will pull out an old journal to read a few snatches here and there.  It’s like looking through an old photo album.  In my younger years I worked hard at being who God wanted me to be; at getting it right.  As I’ve aged, I’ve let go of it all and just enjoyed our relationship.  He and I both know I’ll never get it right.  But now I can obey more readily, I hear His voice more regularly, and I know Him much more intimately, and I repent more quickly and defenselessly.

And as I grow in Him, His joy fills more and more of me.  My life with Him feels more like two innocent children holding hands and skipping through the world together.  The color of the flowers are richer; the shade of the trees cooler, the strength of His arms as He carries me over the rough spots and through the tight places more secure as I relax in them.

And even as I close my Bible and journal each day, as I drain my cup and leave the soft corner where I repose with Him each morning, I smile and am at peace because I know that I’m not leaving Him there.  He is with me every moment of every day.  We are the all-time most inseparable friends and His grace will ever amaze me.  God is SO good!!!

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Laundry Day

I love laundry day.  It’s almost my favorite day of the week.  As I grew up, my family used an old wringer washer, so laundry day was a major production.  When all of us kids were still home, it was quite a houseful and the laundry piled up rather quickly, so Mother did laundry twice a week:  Mondays and Fridays.  I loved those days—especially in the summer.

We kids were home from school in the summer and always expected to help with all the chores.  What a glorious education that was!  I value that ‘degree’ more than any other!  I learned so very much from my Mother about running a household; organizational skills that have benefited me in everything I’ve done in my lifetime.

Laundry day on Mondays was exciting and fun—if somewhat chaotic at the beginning of the day.  The day started with Mother sorting the laundry into piles all over the kitchen and bathroom.  She looked over each piece and laid some to the side.  She started this procedure while most of us were still at the breakfast table, and I loved sitting there and watching her.

After the sorting, she rolled out the washer to the middle of an enclosed back porch, and then rolled the double rinse tubs up behind it.  She pulled out the hose and fastened one end to the water faucet at the back porch sink and began filling those tubs.  While they filled, she began taking the heavily soiled pieces of clothing or linens and put the offensive spot under the kitchen or bathroom sink faucet and proceeded to scrub it together adding a good ‘rubbing’ of Daddy’s Lava soap for extra power.

I can still see it.  Mother always leaned a bit to one side as she scrubbed the offensive spot.  She would rub it hard and fast with her brows drawn together, and periodically she would look to see if the spot was fading.  If not, she added some Lava and rubbed harder and faster.  I don’t know how she could help rubbing blisters onto her hands, but I guess she’d done it long enough that her hands were hardened to that rough treatment.  When she was satisfied, she would rinse out the soap and lay the item on the appropriate pile, picking up the next item swiftly.

With the wringer washers, ALL the laundry was washed in the same water, so it was imperative that the least dirty items were washed first.  She would start the first load washing while the hose was moved to the rinse tubs and they began to fill.  It was actually quite a science to get just the right amount of soap in the washer so that the rinse tubs would not become filled with suds before all the rinsing of all the loads was completed, and yet enough soap so that the clothes actually came clean.

When a load had agitated to her satisfaction, the washer was stopped and the wringer was dropped into place and activated.  Oh, I loved putting the clothes through the wringer!  She took pains to warn me about getting my hand too close to the wringers as well as making certain all buttons were laying flat and all zippers were cushioned between layers of fabric.  One time I did indeed get my hand caught in a piece of clothing going through the wringer and my hand and arm went with it—all the way up to the elbow!  That was not fun at all, and the black and blue marks stayed for the longest time to remind me.  After that I was more than cautious!

One of the best parts was hanging the clothes on the clothesline.  We sorted the items so that all socks were hung with pairs side by side, all pants were in a row together, all shirts likewise, etc.  It would NEVER do to have a shirt hanging in the midst of the pants!  Or vice versa!  If we missed a shirt and found it after all the rest were hung, we had to take down whatever was in the way to make room for the last shirt to hang with its comrades.  After taking down a clothesline of laundry a time or two to make room for a newcomer a few times, I learned well to sort those items BEFORE hanging them!

By afternoon we began taking the clean clothes down off of the clothesline.  We brought them into the house by the basketful and Mother would stand and dip her hand in water, sprinkling it onto the freshly dried laundry one by one.  It took me a while to understand why we left them on the clothesline until they were completely dry, only to bring them into the house and re-dampen them!  But Mother showed me that each seam must be completely dry or it would draw up and wrinkle again after being ironed, so I learned.

As I got old enough to manage a hot iron, my very favorite day of the week was Tuesday!  Tuesday was ironing day!  I don’t remember ever feeling daunted by the large basketsful of dampened laundry waiting time on the ironing board.  I loved to iron.  There was something almost magical about taking that damp, rumpled thing and making a freshly pressed, almost new-looking garment out of it.  At first, my sister Nancy and I were given equal stacks of ironing for the day, but at some point we discovered that Nancy hated to iron and I hated wielding the heavy old lawnmower, so we swapped chores.  I did all the ironing, and she did all the mowing.  It worked well for us; both jobs got done and we got to do what we loved most.

So many times today I hear people say they don’t even own an ironing board.  I can’t fathom such deprivation!  I still iron our clothes.  And I smile the whole time I’m doing it.  Yes, I learned a lot from my mother.  I have many more conveniences than she had for a long, long time, but I cherish the memories and still practice that Monday ritual to this day–albeit with the convenience of today’s appliances and today’s detergents.  Is it any wonder I love doing laundry?

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God’s Art Work

Have you ever seen a painting that simply took your breath away with its beauty?  Or a particularly artistic arrangement or creative display perhaps that made you pause?  A poignant poem or thoughtful essay?  I am often touched by the gifts of a fellow being and relish the beauty of such things, and even the memory of such experiences.

But to me, nothing equals God’s amazing artwork.  Where is there an equal to what He can create?  Whether I walk in my gardens, sit under the shade of a spreading oak, rest on the screened porch during a storm, hold a child in my arms…it all makes me wonder at His unfathomable creativity.

When I was young, I seemed to work from sunup to sundown; always pressing on; always a step behind in my goals.  It seemed it would be at the most inopportune times I would be stopped in my gardening by a downpour—only to be rewarded with a breathless rainbow or the quivering of a droplet of dew on a petal reflecting the glory of a setting sun.  God has His ways of slowing us down.  Of making us stop to worship Him.

I heard a pastor say once that God craves our worship.  I thought at the time, why does He need my worship?  Who am I to stroke HIM?  And then…I remembered the many times I ask my husband ‘do you like it?’; ‘did you see it?’; ‘what do you think???’ and I realize how much I love calling attention to something I’ve done.  No, I really don’t NEED the approval, but I enjoy it.  It pleases me to please my husband; to see him smile; to make him happy.  Why would God not feel this way about His children?

And so…as I walk in my gardens and look at the glorious blend of colors and shapes and scents and textures…well, I just can’t help myself from smiling and talking to my Father.  Sometimes I laugh out loud at the surprises He tucks in for me.  And if you happen to hear me laugh when you see me there alone, or hear me saying ‘Hot diggety!  Great job, Father!’ well, I’m not really crazy.  It’s just our ongoing conversation.  You see, when God makes me smile, I love to return the favor!

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God’s Family

Have you ever had a ‘hangover’?  Not the kind from too much alcohol, but the kind that is simply the after-effects of a wonderful evening.  That is the kind of hangover I have today and there’s no headache or misery at all.  In fact, I can’t stop humming and smiling.

Our church has grown enough to where we just can’t be really close to everyone, and so, to make sure we’re all ‘connected’ and cared for, we have what many churches have today:  smaller cluster groups within the larger body; a place where you can really ‘belong’ and be known and nurtured; where we can share our burdens and our joys and be an active part of the Body of Christ; a place where we dig deeper into God’s Word and spend time in prayer together.

Last evening our small group had our now-traditional summer ‘bash’.  We have a cook-out at the home of one of the couples who live out on the lake.  We all love going out there.  Their home is lovely and spacious—laid out so that we can all be together whether we are still doing food preparation or chatting and sipping and munching while awaiting the main course.

After the meal, during which there is much chatter and laughter and sharing of recipes and enjoying of good food and good fellowship, we usually go out onto the lake in Bonz’s boat and watch the sun set over the water, behind the distant shore.

Last night as we settled into our places in the boat, I became very aware of the gift of senses which God has given us.  I listened to the conversations around me, I felt the warmth of the summer air and moisture from the water, I smelled the richness of the earth and water as it comes together, and I looked into the heavens and beheld one of the most amazing sunsets I can remember.

There were ripples in the white evening clouds that narrowed as it reached the brightness of the evening sun still glowing its white brightness in the gathering dusk.  It truly looked like a magical staircase that reached up to the brightness of heaven.  I watched that stairway for a little while until the moving clouds and speeding boat pushed it out of my line of sight.  Even after it was gone, and still this morning, I can close my eyes and see the vision of it.  It seems so very welcoming.

And I am peacefully aware that I will get to climb that stairway one day.  I will get to enter into the glory at the top of it and sit at Jesus’ feet enjoying the splendor of His glorious majesty for all of eternity.  In moments like that it feels so close.  In moments like that I can touch it ever so briefly.  Someday…yes, some day…

But meanwhile, I have the joys of dinners with our small group and other sweet friends.  God is SO good!

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Neighbors

Have you ever considered the gift God has given us in neighbors?  There is much to be said for community.  Especially, it seems to me, in the south.

Moving here a few years ago from the Midwest, I have to confess that at first I was a bit taken aback by the outgoing ways of the people around us.  No, I was not offended in the least—I just didn’t know how to respond to their ‘forwardness’.  But…did that stop them?  Not in the least!

It started on the very day we were unloading the trucks and moving into our new (to us) home after having caravanned two semis, a pick-up and a car halfway across the continent.  We were blessed to be able to move into our new home on the very day we closed, and so, after signing the documents, as our realtor walked us to the car she told us that she had a group from her church that would meet us at our house to help unload the trucks.  Our two grown sons had come to help us, but by the end of the day, we were so very, very grateful for the outpouring of love in the form of strong arms and plentiful food from total strangers!

In the midst of the scurrying and noise and commotion of many people working hard, suddenly there was a lady with a basket introducing herself to me (in my new basement) as a ‘neighbor across the street’.  She stayed to chat a bit while the others worked on.  Several times she mentioned that if there was ever anything they could do to help us, to be sure to call or drop over.  I thought that was very nice, but hoped there would never need to be such an emergency…

Late that night, when the realtor and her church family had gone and our sons and daughter-in-law (we only had one at that time) sat down to rest our tired bodies, I looked again at our neighbor’s basket and pulled out the card.  In the card was a note to call if they could help—including their home phone number and cell phone numbers!  That woman meant it!  I smiled, and as I drifted into a deep slumber that night, I dreamed of perhaps a friendship across the street…

That was several years ago now, and I quickly learned that it was not just words.  Julie and Richard have proven to be not only precious neighbors, but dear friends.  And within a few months we had met other neighbors as well.

I think it was still that same winter when I first met the widow lady directly across the street from us.  Lillie has a grown family that mostly live within an hour or less from her house.  They come and go quite frequently, and yet they have welcomed us right into their midst and allowed us to almost feel like part of the family.  When Lillie’s sister comes to visit from Kentucky, I always get to be included in some of the fun.

Through the past few years, Lillie and I have grown to be close friends.  We usually know where each other is and most all of what is going on in each others’ lives.  We think out loud together, pray for one another, share our burdens and our joys.  Lillie’s daughters are my age, but somehow, our friendship has crossed the gap of a generation.  I treasure our times together.

Lillie has taught me to enjoy the slower lifestyle of the south.  We finish our work in time to spend an hour or so sitting together in the late afternoons visiting, chatting, swinging in the evening breeze on her swing under the awning.  I look forward to those ‘down times’ now.  (How did I ever work so long and hard every day before moving here?)

This past spring Lillie’s daughter began building a new house.  The plan is that Lillie will move in with her in the new house, putting Lillie’s cottage across the street up for sale.  I go with them to watch the progress on the new house from time to time.  It’s exciting to watch, but I have to admit, as the finishing touches are added and I know moving day is only a matter of weeks away, well, even though I’m really happy for Lillie and for Connie, I grieve for my loss.  Yes, we’ll still be friends.  Yes, we’ll still chat and get together.  But I know it will never be quite the same.

Someone new will move into the little tan cottage across the street.  I will have the opportunity to be the welcoming neighbor.  But it will never be the same.  It will always be ‘Lillie’s house’ in my heart.

A few weeks ago we had torrential rains and suddenly I had water (and mud) in the basement and my husband was out of state for work.  Several of the men in the neighborhood came over to offer help and advice.  One stayed to figure out the source of the problem and to advise about homeowners insurance.  (I’d never thought of that!)

When we are gone, we feel safe leaving our home in this neighborhood.  We know it is being watched.  Once soon after we had moved here we were gone and had not thought to tell the neighbors that we were having some work done on the house while we were gone.  A neighbor man called to tell us a van had pulled up to our house and someone had gone inside.  He was watching to make sure they didn’t take anything out of the house that they hadn’t taken in!  From then on, we knew to tell the neighbors when we were leaving and what to watch for and expect.  It’s a comfortable feeling to know someone cares.

Proverbs 27:10 says “Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you—better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.

Now that my brothers (and sisters) are truly far away, and I have discovered the gift of neighbors, I think I finally understand the true meaning of this verse.  And I, for one, say “Thank You, God, for neighbors!”

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